Converging Technologies - a Definition and an Overview of Some Different Viewpoints

Topics Covered

Background

What Converging Technology is All About - the USA Viewpoint

What Recent European Reports Have Said About Converging Technologies

What Environmentalist Groups Are Saying About Converging Technologies - the ETC Group

Background

In both Europe and the USA, researchers and policy makers have recognised the potential of converging technologies to transform every sector of the economy as well as our own understandings of what it means to be human.

What Converging Technology is All About - the USA Viewpoint

The US Government refers to convergence as NBIC (the integration of Nanotechnology, Biotechnology, Information Technology and Cognitive Science) and envisions that the mastery of the nano-scale domain will ultimately amount to the mastery of all of nature. At the molecular level, in the NBIC worldview, there exists a “material unity” so that all matter - life and non-life - is indistinguishable and can be seamlessly integrated. The goal of NBIC is to “improve human performance,” both physically and cognitively (e.g., on the battlefield, on the wheat field, on the job).

What Recent European Reports Have Said About Converging Technologies

The European Commission recently released a report on Converging Technologies, prepared by the High Level Expert Group, entitled “Foresighting the New Technology Wave.” Distancing itself from the US agenda of “improving human performance,” the Group emphasised a “specifically European approach to CTs.” The Group proposed Converging Technologies for the European Knowledge Society (CTEKS), envisioning different research programs that address specific problems such as “CTs for natural language processing” or “CTs for the treatment of obesity.” The Group notes that while CT applications offer “an opportunity to solve societal problems, to benefit individuals, and to generate wealth,” they also pose “threats to culture and tradition, to human integrity and autonomy, perhaps to political and economic stability.”

What Environmentalist Groups Are Saying About Converging Technologies - the ETC Group

ETC Group refers to converging technologies as BANG, an acronym derived from bits, atoms, neurons and genes, the basic units of transformative technologies. The operative unit in information science is the Bit; nanotechnology manipulates Atoms; cognitive science deals with Neurons and biotech exploits the Gene. Together they make B.A.N.G. In early 2003, ETC Group warned that BANG will profoundly affect national economies, trade and livelihoods - including food and agricultural production - in countries of both the South and North. BANG will allow human security and health - even cultural and genetic diversity - to be firmly in the hands of a convergent technocracy.

Source: ‘Down on the Farm: the Impact of Nano-Scale Technologies on Food and Agriculture’, ETC Group Report, November 2004.

For more information on this source please visit the ETC Group.

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