Shifting the boundaries
of technology and biology
BMBF (Future Office of the Strategic Perspective)
Around the world, actors are already researching combinations of biological and technological systems. Many things that were previously unimaginable have since become a part of everyday life – neuroprosthetics, artificial organs, biocomputers, smart wearables, or cell research to produce artificial meat. The boundaries between biology and technology are increasingly dissolving. This blurring of lines is not a new phenomenon, but more recently there is a new dimension emerging with increasing numbers of companies developing products and solutions for this area. The combination of biological and technological systems is increasingly aimed at a mutual fusion.
The distribution and use, and thus the future dynamics of borderless technologies, requires an understanding of the future we want to live in.
Data protection and cyber security, the controllability of technologies as well as the – intentional or unintentional – external control of living beings, are central points for the necessary social discourse.
For our client, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), a Prognos team of foresight experts, together with Z_punkt, investigated how these new opportunities could impact the future. Current technological and societal developments that could contribute to the dissolution of the boundaries between biology and technology were illuminated.
For this purpose, six scenarios were created: For which areas of life could these technologies be used in the future? And what might people’s everyday lives look like as a result?
The consequences of dissolving the boundaries between biology and technology were reflected in six application scenarios. They show a broad spectrum of boundary removal dynamics. But there are also elements that are consistent in all scenarios:
Read study (PDF, in German)
More about our work in the Foresight process
Project team: Cordula Klaus, Lennart Galdiga, Jonathan-Aton Talamo (Prognos), Christian Grünwald, Max Irmer, Julian Sachs (Z_punkt)
Foresight describes the future space of what is possible whereas forecasts make concrete predictions.
Strategic foresight is intended to describe and analyse possible futures on the basis of different methods (qualitatively and quantitatively). The key question is: What could the future look like? In a forecast, on the other hand, a fixed anticipated state of the future is described on the basis of current framework conditions: What will the future look like? Foresight is long-term and asks, for example, how technological or climatic changes might affect our daily lives.
Scenarios describe possible futures that take already recognisable development paths as well as taking into consideration disruptive (= erratic) events and possible trend breaks. The development of scenarios is based on established and recognised methods and has an important field of application as an instrument of policy and strategy advice. The scenarios are based on an expert-based, qualitative approach based on pre-identified key factors. In the self-conception of strategic foresight, the scenarios are intended to describe a wide range of possible realities.
Scenarios are intended to provide impetus for public discourse on selected future topics.
The scenarios developed in the BMBF's Strategic Foresight process are exploratory and describe a wide range of possible future (societal) realities. Above all, they help us to deal with different conceivable worlds and to examine them with regard to their social, but also economic and political consequences.
It is precisely the sharpening of the individual lines of development or social phenomena that open up new political perspectives. This encourages breaking away from established paths and opens up new avenues of forward-looking policy making. Individual scenarios are not prioritised and evaluated in terms of their desirability. They are intended to provide impulses for discussion and to contribute to social discourse. Research and education policy in particular will need to be brave enough to deal with various and sometimes uncomfortable issues.
Scenarios are not predictions of the future and do not exclude options that may for whatever reason be less desirable.
The results are regularly presented on the project website (vorausschau.de): https://www.vorausschau.de/vorausschau/de/home/home_node.html#WasBringtDieZukunft.
In the first study “Future of the Values of the People in our Country,” the main influencing factors for the development of social values were first identified and systematised. In a second step, six scenarios were developed that describe different societal futures. In doing this it became apparent that different groups of values can dominate in these futures. Based on this, questions of openness to the use of technologies, the strength of solidarity forces in society, or the preferred economic model, can be discussed and reflected in the various scenarios. For policy making, this means deliberately dealing with different development options.
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