Three Eras of Technology Foresight

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Three Eras of
Technology Foresight
Harold A. Linstone
University Professor Emeritus of Systems Science
Portland State University
[email protected]
TECHNOLOGY
The Agricultural Era
U.S. farm labor force 1790: 90%; 1970 4%
1. The Industrial Era
2. The Information Era
1800-1970
1970-2024
Computers Communications Networks
3. The Molecular Era
2024-2080
Biotechnology Nanotechnology Materials Science
K WAVES 1800-2025
Glocalization
• Media
Local
facebook, desktop publishing
Global
CNN, giant media conglomerates
• Technology
Distributed (internet)
• Religion
Centralized (coal, oil, nuclear
energy)
small sects
quasi-global “Islamic nation”
individual can incite protests
“Everyman as Faust”
social networks can rapidly spread
and amplify local to global scale
tribalism, separation
integration (EU)
• Conflict
• Governance
• Corporations
product customization
– in sales: Amazon, Netflix
- in manufacturing.: 3D printing
global markets -McDonald,
Starbucks
New Concepts
1. Complexity science –>
nonlinear complex adaptive systems (CAS)
Phase states: stable, stably oscillating, chaotic with
predictable boundaries, and unstable
Many interacting elements (agents), simple rules
agents interact locally (cooperating/competing)
-> their behavior cannot be decomposed
result: self-organizing patterns and emergence
A cascade of S curves representing
major technological shifts
New Concepts
2. Multiple perspectives
To bridge the gap between models and the real world
T: the technical perspective
O: the organizational/institutional perspective
P: the personal/individual perspective
Each offers insights not attainable with the others.
O and P vital for link to action.
World view
T
O
P
science/technology group/institution individual, self
problem solving
process, action power, prestige
Ethical basis
objectivity
Mode of inquiry analysis
observation
cause - effect
Planning horizon far - no discounting
fairness, justice morality
satisficing
bargaining
agenda
intuition
learning
challenge - response
Uncertainty view uncertainties noted
moderate discounting high discounting
for most
uncertainties used aversion to uncertainty
Risk criteria
logical soundness
political acceptability aversion to loss
Scenarios
exploratory
preferable
visionary
A Comparison of Eras
4th to 5th peak
5th to 6th peak
Overarching
technologies
Major paradigm
shift
Management
Information
Communication
Time as critical
dimension
Nanotechnology
Biotechnology
Molecular scale
Nanomaterials
Glocalization
Virtual corporations
Adaptive enterprise
Self-assembly
Energy source
Industrial
commodity
Nanoenabled energy
Chemical
Silicon, software Home health
care
Genome based medicine
Threats
Nuclear, cyberwar
GNR-related risks
Four Characteristics
• 1. Pervasive, small
an invisible technical infrastructure
• 2. Unlimited reach
IT > everything becomes information
MT > everything controllable at the molecular level
+
• 3. Specificity
MT > custom tailored materials, drugs and sensors
• 4. Engineering for the human mind as
well as the body
IT, MT > prostheses to extend capabilities
implantable biocomputers (“molecular doctors”)
IT + MT: Impacts on TFA
• CAS phase states– chaos: forecast limits. emergence
• TOP: O and P essential
Technology-based to science-based foresight
Traditional to biology-based foresight
Exploratory to normative foresight
Foresight to rapid adaptability and robust planning
IT and MT Eras: More implications
Governments becoming unmanageable->
The social rate of change may for a while
be faster than the technological rate
Need to rebalance
globalization  localization
centralization  decentralization
Need to balance perspectives
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