New, Technologies whose development and application are not completely realised or finished, and whose potential lies in the future. [...] are only now beginning to take shape and could be available anywhere within a five-to-ten-year horizon. They are expected to generate new opportunities and offer a wealth of socio-economic benefits.
However, due to their transformative potential, these technologies are also likely to pose a number of ethical challenges and societal consequences. We have a chance, now in the early stages of their development, to ensure that ethics is prioritised.
TechEthos scanned the horizon for those technologies which are likely to have a large socio-economic impact on society while also raising complex ethical issues.
Three families of technologies were selected based on clear indicators and with the contribution of experts from different fields. They concern fundamental relationships between technology and the planet, the digital world, and the human body respectively: Climate Engineering , Extended Digital Reality and Neurotechnologies.
The project is currently diving deeper into the ethical and social challenges they are likely to pose and will produce a range of outputs supporting their effective ethical governance at the national, EU and international levels.
Climate engineering represents a branch of technologies – from carbon capture to solar geoengineering – that could mitigate human-induced climate change. Key ethical concerns include irreversibility, social inequality and transparency (for example, its imposition on some communities or countries that may not choose them) and responsibility to future generations.
This cluster of technologies could change how people connect with each other and their surroundings in physical and virtual settings. Ethical concerns surround cybersecurity and how these technologies may impact human behavioural and social dynamics. For example technology mimicking human responses may give rise to responses as though it were actually human, while developments in Extended Reality may lead to undue influence from ‘nudging’ techniques.
This set of technologies directly involve the human brain in monitoring, assessing, emulating, and manipulating its function. An example are brain computer interfaces that can support more intuitive control of prosthetic devices and relay sensory information back to users. Ethical concerns include how we can ensure humans retain their free will and autonomy, and privacy issues regarding sensitive data.