Blockchain technology is of increasing interest to citizens, businesses and legislators across the European Union. This report is aimed at providing a point of entry for those curious about blockchain technology, so as to stimulate interest and provoke discussion around its potential impact. A general introduction is followed by a closer look at eight areas in which blockchain has been described as having a substantial potential impact. For each of these, an explanation is given of how the technology could be developed in that particular area, the possible impacts this development might have, and what potential policy issues are to be anticipated.
What options exist, especially in terms of new technologies, for reducing the carbon footprint of the livestock industry, how effective might they be, and what could be done to encourage their implementation? The livestock industry is responsible for around 14.5 % of global greenhouse gas emissions. The magnitude of this percentage is due to the emission of large amounts of methane and nitrous oxide, which both result in greater global warming than carbon dioxide per gram of gas released. The main cause of livestock methane emissions is the digestive process in ruminants, such as cattle and sheep. In these animals, food is fermented, generating methane which is burped out. Nitrous oxide is generated through the application of fertilisers for animal feed production. This is also the case with crops grown for human consumption, but, as most of the energy stored in crops is lost when they are fed to animals, emissions due to fertilisers are much greater per calorie of animal produce than of plant produce. Both gases are produced by the storage of manure and its application as a fertiliser. In addition, carbon dioxide is emitted through burning fossil fuels for purposes such as fertiliser production, operation of farm machinery and transport of goods.
Could the theory of quantum mechanics one day revolutionise commonplace technical devices such as sensors, communication devices and computers? Quantum mechanics is a scientific theory that has revolutionised our understanding of the Universe. In the world of classical physics, a system is always in one particular state (e.g. at rest or in motion) while in the quantum world, a system can be in a superposition of two or more states. Performing a measurement on such a superposition causes it to collapse into a single state. Furthermore, in contrast to the classical world, where a system can be measured without changing it, in the quantum world a measurement can have an impact on the state of the system.
This study resulted in the identification of four main future opportunities and concerns regarding precision agriculture (PA), or precision farming, in the EU, on which the European Parliament could take anticipatory action now: 1. PA can actively contribute to food security and safety; 2. PA supports sustainable farming; 3. PA will trigger societal changes along with its uptake; 4. PA requires new skills to be learned. The wide diversity of agriculture throughout the EU, regarding particularly farm size, types of farming, farming practices, output and employment, presents a challenge for European policy-makers. European policy measures therefore should differentiate between Member States, taking into account that the opportunities and concerns vary highly from one country to another.
This study reviews existing scientific evidence regarding the impact of organic food on human health from an EU perspective, with a focus on public health. The development of environmentally sustainable and healthy food systems is an international priority. The study examines how organic food and organic agriculture can contribute to this in relation to public health. Human and animal studies directly addressing the health effects of organic food are reviewed. Furthermore, evidence linking principles and rules of organic production to human health effects is discussed.
Are electric cars on the verge of becoming the norm, should we encourage this transition, and what would be the consequences for the environment, the automobile industry and our electricity grid? Over the past century, cars have become an integral part of our society. They generally offer greater flexibility than alternative modes of transport, and they are affordable to a large proportion of people. Ever since cars were first mass-produced, they have almost exclusively been powered by ICEs (internal combustion engines), which burn fossil fuels, such as petrol and diesel, to provide the energy required to turn the cars’ wheels and perform auxiliary tasks. However, in recent years concerns about climate change and dependence on oil have led to a great deal of effort and attention being invested in developing alternative ways of providing this energy.
Will intelligent robots bring us benefits in relation to security and safety, or will the vulnerabilities within these systems mean that they cause more problems than they solve? Cyber-physical systems (CPS) are currently found in a wide range of services and applications, and their numbers are rapidly increasing. CPS are intelligent robotic systems linked to the Internet of Things. They make decisions based on the ability to sense their environment. Their actions have a physical impact on either the environment or themselves. This is what sets CPS apart: they are not solely smart systems, but rather, they have physical aspects to them. These robots are likely to infiltrate our everyday lives in the coming years. Due to this, we must look at what impact they will have on citizens’ safety and security. The question remains, how safe are these technologies?
Is blockchain the revolution in security and transparency that is needed to enable e-voting and, if so, what are the implications for the future of democracy? Despite the digitalisation of several important aspects of modern life, elections are still largely conducted offline, on paper. Since the turn of the century, e-voting has been considered a promising and (eventually) inevitable development, which could speed up, simplify and reduce the cost of elections, and might even lead to higher voter turnouts and the development of stronger democracies. E-voting could take many forms: using the internet or a dedicated, isolated network; requiring voters to attend a polling station or allowing unsupervised voting; using existing devices, such as mobile phones and laptops, or requiring specialist equipment. Now we have a further choice; to continue trusting central authorities to manage elections or to use blockchain technology to distribute an open voting record among citizens. Many experts agree that e-voting would require revolutionary developments in security systems. The debate is whether blockchain will represent a transformative or merely incremental development, and what its implications could be for the future of democracy.
Smart transportation is widely seen as creating a world in which the vehicles of the future have the ability to make decisions without human input. But in addition, car batteries can serve as an electricity storage mechanism, supporting stabilisation of the electricity grid through vehicle-to-grid technology. Please click here for the full publication in PDF format
Cyber-physical systems (CPS) are intelligent robotics systems, linked with the Internet of Things, or technical systems of networked computers, robots and artificial intelligence that interact with the physical world.The project 'Ethical aspects of CPS' aims to provide insights into the potential ethical concerns and related unintended impacts of the possible evolution of CPS technology by 2050. The overarching purpose is to support the European Parliament, the parliamentary bodies, and the individual Members in their anticipation of possible future concerns regarding developments in CPS, robotics and artificial intelligence.The Scientific Foresight study was conducted in three phases:1. A 'technical horizon scan', in the form of briefing papers describing the technical trends and their possible societal, ethical, economic, environmental, political/legal and demographic impacts, and this in seven application domains. 2. The 'soft impact and scenario phase', which analysed soft impacts of CPS, on the basis of the technical horizon scan, for pointing out possible future public concerns via an envisioning exercise and using exploratory scenarios.3. The 'legal backcasting' phase, which resulted in a briefing for the European Parliament identifying the legal instruments that may need to be modified or reviewed, including — where appropriate — areas identified for anticipatory parliamentary work, in accordance with the conclusions reached within the project.The outcome of the study is a policy briefing for MEPs describing legal instruments to anticipate impacts of future developments in the area of cyber-physical systems, such as intelligent robotics systems, linked with the Internet of Things. It is important to note that not all impacts of CPS are easily translated into legislation, as it is often contested whether they are in effect harmful, who is to be held accountable, and to what extent these impacts constitute a public rather than a private concern.