[Paleopsych] Cordis: Technology could grow beyond human control, warns Millennium report

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Technology could grow beyond human control, warns Millennium report

[Only the 2004 report, which costs $50, is on the site.]

    [Date: 2005-06-28]

    Many people still do not appreciate how fast science and technology
    (S&T) will change over the next 25 years, and given this rapid
    development along several different fronts, the possibility of
    technology growing beyond human control must now be taken seriously,
    according to a new report.
    The State of the Future 2005 report is produced by the United Nations
    University's Millennium Project - a global think tank of foresight
    experts, academics and policy makers. It analyses current global
    trends and examines in detail some of the current and future
    challenges facing the world.
    Setting the scene, the report states: 'Future synergies among
    nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology and cognitive
    science can dramatically improve the human condition by increasing the
    availability of food, energy and water and by connecting people and
    information anywhere. The effect will be to increase collective
    intelligence and create value and efficiency while lowering costs.'
    However, it warns that 'a previous and troubling finding from the
    Millennium Project still remains unsolved: although it is increasingly
    clear that humanity has the resources to address its global
    challenges, unfortunately it is not increasingly clear how much
    wisdom, goodwill and intelligence will be focussed on these
    The report argues that because the factors that caused the
    acceleration of S&T are themselves accelerating, the rate of change in
    the past 25 years will appear slow compared to the rate of change in
    the next 25 years. 'To help the world cope with the acceleration of
    change, it may be necessary to create an international S&T
    organisation to arrange the world's science and technology knowledge
    as well as forecasts of potential consequences in a better
    Internet-human interface,' it argues.
    Taking one particular example - that of nanotechnology - the report
    predicts that this field will deliver extraordinary benefits for
    humanity, but warns that little is currently known about the
    environmental and health risks of nanomaterials. Since the military is
    currently a major player in the development of nanotechnology, the
    report proposes military research to help understand and manage these
    The most important questions to pursue, according to the report, are:
    how are nanoparticles absorbed into the body through the skin, lungs,
    eyes, ears and alimentary canal? Once in the body, can nanoparticles
    evade natural defences of humans and other animals? What are the
    potential exposure routes of nanomaterials - both airborne and
    waterborne? How biodegradable are nanotube-based structures?
    The authors suggest that a classification system will be needed to
    provide a framework within which to make research judgements and keep
    track of the knowledge regarding potential nanotech pollution.
    'Toxicologists and pharmaceutical scientists will have to be brought
    together to investigate nanoparticles' ability to evade cell defences
    to target disease,' they add.
    Returning to the wider challenges facing humanity, the report notes
    that national decision makers are rarely trained in the theory and
    practice of decision making, and argues that advanced decision support
    software could help. 'Formalized ethics and decision training for
    decision makers could result in a significant improvement in the
    quality of global decisions,' it concludes.

    For further information, please consult the following web address:
    Category: Publication
    Data Source Provider: American Council for the United Nations
    Document Reference: Based on the State of the Future 2005 report
    Subject Index : Scientific Research; Social Aspects; Forecasting;
    Materials Technology

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