Organization: Center for Policy on Emerging Technologies
The opening years of the 21st century have already been marked by developments in technology that would have been hard to comprehend just a decade earlier. For many people, Facebook and other social media have changed their lives. The main focus has been on digital advances enabled by the internet. Yet parallel developments in biology, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, virtual reality, and other fields have been equally revolutionary if less evident. And these technologies are “converging,” powered by the exponential advances in computing power symbolized by Moore’s Law, breaking down the barriers between traditional disciplines as our knowledge vastly expands and our capacity to control nature increases. Together with growing benefits for human health and well-being come threats to security and more subtle threats to our values. While those who are most optimistic about the speed of technological change may be mistaken, it is moving faster every year.
At the same time, the world is facing a series of crises. The recent disasters in Japan remind us how difficult people and their governments find it to cope when things go badly wrong, despite wealth and technology. The unfolding “Arab spring” has reminded us of the complexity of human societies, and demonstrated the impact of digital technologies in raising expectations and accelerating change. Energy, climate change, the growing impact of robotics and artificial intelligence, the prospect of “personalized medicine,” the promise and threat of synthetic biology . . . technology-related questions frame the agenda for politics, the economy, and the social order. Read more
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