This paper 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.

In brief, the resulting aspirational 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.

This paper was elaborated within the project “S&T&I FOR 2050. Science, Technology and Innovation for Ecosystem Performance – Accelerating Sustainability Transitions”, conducted on behalf of the European Commission.

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