Mass media from around the world is constantly heralding new scientific and technological breakthroughs that bring upon the promise of healthier, longer, more fulfilling lives: partially restoring the sight of blind people with the aid of artificial retinas, restoring partial movement of previously non-responsive limbs by linking a paralyzed person’s brain to a computer chip, artificial bones, skin, blood, along with more controversial endeavors: editing the human genome through gene-splitting techniques, stem cells primed to promote regeneration, cryogenics and many, many others. The transhumanist movement regards breakthroughs like these as springboards not only to healing people, but to changing and improving humanity. Thanks to scientific developments in converging technologies such as biotechnology, neurotechnology, information technology and nanotechnology, humanity may be on the cusp of an enhancement revolution.
Our new paper proposes 12 scenarios informed by transhumanism, portraying futures in which the human condition – our bodies, functions, and lives – and the features of societies are fundamentally transformed by technology. We propose these narratives as exploratory scenarios, describing futures where both positive and negative consequences are palpable. They are not normative, outlining a vision of the future deemed desirable. We invite readers to regard them as devices for imagining the future and debating the future.
You can read more on the context and download the full paper here.
What is data? How is data relevant for human and natural ecosystems? The answers depend on the perspective – in a recent paper we propose three scenarios, going from techno-optimism, to equal species recognition, to the philosophy of biocentrism.
In brief, the scenarios are:
- To the maxx – in which the technological trends of the early 2020s (pattern recognition through AI, greener and FAIR data, digital twins etc.) have reached maximal expansion. In this scenario, science supplies data and algorithms for decision-making, but scientific techno-optimism is confronted with the challenge of understanding and of justifying decisions.
- Radical responsibility – in which a social technology (equal recognition through a system of rights) is extended to virtually all beings, human and nonhuman. Here, science is enlisted in support of bringing in the perspectives of different species but is confronted with the challenge of integrating these perspectives into broad models accepted by all.
- We, the life – in which the driving force is a new level of consciousness gained by a growing number of biocentric scientists. Humanity relies on them to inspire ethically grounded worldviews, influencing the design of socio-techno-environmental systems.
Access the full paper here.
Human performance has long been a dominant pursuit and driver of progress in science and technology. As notions of performance are still guiding STI research, discussions on its nature are relevant and shape STI directions. Human needs and performance are inextricably linked to challenges related to the health of the planet. Considering that, a debate is warranted to shift the attention from human performance to a more inclusive performance of flourishing ecosystems.
In this context, the vision of the project “S&T&I FOR 2050. Science, Technology and Innovation for Ecosystem Performance – Accelerating Sustainability Transitions” is driven by the desire for STI efforts to place ecosystem performance on par with human performance. This broadens the focus of STI to encompass multiple conceptualisations of human-nature relations and to contribute to sustainability transitions.
The project’s overarching goal is to identify and map future scientific and technological developments, which can radically improve ecosystem performance. In doing so, it provides reflections on the 2nd strategic plan of Horizon Europe (HE), in its broad direction to support the Sustainable Development Goals.
Institutul de Prospectiva brought a number of contributions to this project:
- carried out a two-round Dynamic Argumentative Delphi survey, between December 2021 and February 2022. The survey engaged over 600 experts globally in enriching, assessing and prioritizing STI directions in terms of their potential to contribute to the capability of planetary ecosystems to flourish from now to 2050. The full report of the survey is available here.
- a synthetic report highlighting: the most promising STI directions, considering their potential to contribute to the capability of planetary ecosystems to flourish from now to 2050; and the potential significant harms that STI could inflict on the capability of planetary ecosystems to flourish from now to 2050. The synthetic report is available here.
- elaborated the case study “Data as representation“, which proposes three scenarios on the way data is understood and used in relation to the human and natural ecosystems by 2050. The final aim is to suggest the implications for the way R&I is organized and its challenges in each scenario. The case study is available here.
- elaborated the case study “Soil to Soul“, which proposes three scenarios exploring human-soils relations. As sense-making devices, these scenarios discuss how different ontologies of soils shape different actions, be them soil management practices in agriculture contexts or Research and Innovation (R&I) practices. The case study is available here.
The project “S&T&I FOR 2050. Science, Technology and Innovation for Ecosystem Performance – Accelerating Sustainability Transitions” is conducted on behalf of the European Commission. The project team comprises experts from the following organizations: Austrian Institute of Technology (lead), Institutul de Prospectiva, Fraunhofer ISI, ISINNOVA, Visionary Analytics.