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What if we didn't need cows for our beef?

12-07-2019

With the help of cells from a single cow, scientists can produce 175 million hamburgers. What if we didn’t need cows for our beef? Technologies for producing cultured meat and dairy products will help feeding the world in a sustainable way. What if we could produce meat without farming? New technology within reach to produce meat with a very low eco-footprint

With the help of cells from a single cow, scientists can produce 175 million hamburgers. What if we didn’t need cows for our beef? Technologies for producing cultured meat and dairy products will help feeding the world in a sustainable way. What if we could produce meat without farming? New technology within reach to produce meat with a very low eco-footprint

What if policy anticipated advances in science and technology?

26-06-2019

What if blockchain revolutionised voting? What if your emotions were tracked to spy on you? And what if we genetically engineered an entire species? Science and policy are intricately connected. Via monthly 'What if' publications, the Scientific Foresight Unit (STOA; part of the European Parliamentary Research Service) draws Members of the European Parliament's attention to new scientific and technological developments relevant for policy-making. The unit also provides administrative support to the ...

What if blockchain revolutionised voting? What if your emotions were tracked to spy on you? And what if we genetically engineered an entire species? Science and policy are intricately connected. Via monthly 'What if' publications, the Scientific Foresight Unit (STOA; part of the European Parliamentary Research Service) draws Members of the European Parliament's attention to new scientific and technological developments relevant for policy-making. The unit also provides administrative support to the Panel for the Future of Science and Technology (STOA), which brings together 25 Members from nine different parliamentary committees who share a strong interest in science and technology in the context of policy-making.

What if a simple DNA test could predict your future?

22-03-2019

What if new-born babies were given a DNA report card that predicted their intelligence, their odds of getting a PhD, their chances of becoming a chain smoker or suffering depression, a heart attack or cancer? Thanks to ongoing genetic studies, a large amount of genetic data is available today involving millions of people. The wealth of information available to researchers allows them to create a polygenic risk score based on the DNA test of a person. This can be used to predict a person's chances ...

What if new-born babies were given a DNA report card that predicted their intelligence, their odds of getting a PhD, their chances of becoming a chain smoker or suffering depression, a heart attack or cancer? Thanks to ongoing genetic studies, a large amount of genetic data is available today involving millions of people. The wealth of information available to researchers allows them to create a polygenic risk score based on the DNA test of a person. This can be used to predict a person's chances of getting a disease, his or her traits and behaviour, and many other things about their future. Are these predictions flawless? Who would benefit from them? What are their implications for a person's life in general?

What if your emotions were tracked to spy on you?

13-03-2019

Recent reports of celebrity singer, Taylor Swift, deploying facial recognition technology to spot stalkers at her concerts raised many eyebrows. What started out as a tool to unlock your smartphone or tag photos for you on social media is surreptitiously becoming a means of monitoring people in their daily lives without their consent. What impact and implications are facial recognition technology applications likely to have, and what can be done to ensure the fair engagement of this technology with ...

Recent reports of celebrity singer, Taylor Swift, deploying facial recognition technology to spot stalkers at her concerts raised many eyebrows. What started out as a tool to unlock your smartphone or tag photos for you on social media is surreptitiously becoming a means of monitoring people in their daily lives without their consent. What impact and implications are facial recognition technology applications likely to have, and what can be done to ensure the fair engagement of this technology with its users and the public at large?

What if we genetically engineered an entire species?

07-12-2018

‘Gene drives’ are best known for their capacity to suppress malaria by eradicating mosquito populations. However, its applications reach even further, including the potential to eliminate other insect-transmitted diseases, erasing herbicide and pesticide resistance in weeds and pests, and removing invasive species from ecosystems. How do we navigate the potential benefits and significant risks that are involved in gene drive use?

‘Gene drives’ are best known for their capacity to suppress malaria by eradicating mosquito populations. However, its applications reach even further, including the potential to eliminate other insect-transmitted diseases, erasing herbicide and pesticide resistance in weeds and pests, and removing invasive species from ecosystems. How do we navigate the potential benefits and significant risks that are involved in gene drive use?

Forward-looking policy-making at the European Parliament through scientific foresight

31-08-2017

The European Parliament's Science and Technology Options Assessment (STOA) Panel, supported by the Scientific Foresight Unit (STOA), decided two years ago to experiment with a process involving scenario development and assessment to explore possible future techno-scientific developments and their potential impacts, while backcasting possible future opportunities and concerns to options available to policy-makers today. This was achieved with the involvement of experts from a variety of backgrounds ...

The European Parliament's Science and Technology Options Assessment (STOA) Panel, supported by the Scientific Foresight Unit (STOA), decided two years ago to experiment with a process involving scenario development and assessment to explore possible future techno-scientific developments and their potential impacts, while backcasting possible future opportunities and concerns to options available to policy-makers today. This was achieved with the involvement of experts from a variety of backgrounds, together with stakeholders, using a multi-perspective approach. In this setting, various types of possible impacts are explored, which provide the foundations for imagined exploratory scenarios. From these scenarios we can learn about the possible challenges and opportunities arising from them. By communicating these challenges and opportunities to the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), together with related legal and ethical reflections, the MEPs are provided with potential insights into how to anticipate future policy issues. The MEPs might thus be able to identify options for working towards the most desirable futures and avoiding undesirable futures, and even for anticipating undesirable scenarios. Therefore, foresight-based policy preparation can help the European Parliament stay well prepared for what might lie ahead, allowing informed, anticipatory action.

What if intensification of farming could enhance biodiversity?

06-03-2017

Could introducing more precision agriculture in Europe allow us to obtain food resilience, while ensuring sustainability and jobs, and taking into account the EU’s wide agricultural diversity? Precision agriculture (PA), or precision farming, involves using technology to improve the ratio between agricultural output (usually food) and agricultural input (land, energy, water, fertilisers, pesticides, etc.). PA consists of using sensors to identify crop or livestock needs precisely (in space or time ...

Could introducing more precision agriculture in Europe allow us to obtain food resilience, while ensuring sustainability and jobs, and taking into account the EU’s wide agricultural diversity? Precision agriculture (PA), or precision farming, involves using technology to improve the ratio between agricultural output (usually food) and agricultural input (land, energy, water, fertilisers, pesticides, etc.). PA consists of using sensors to identify crop or livestock needs precisely (in space or time), and then intervening in a targeted way to maximise the productivity of each plant and animal, whilst minimising any waste of resources.

What if animal farming were not so bad for the environment?

08-02-2017

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 ...

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.

What if computers were trillions of times faster?

17-01-2017

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 ...

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.

What if I had to put my safety in the hands of a robot?

18-11-2016

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 ...

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?

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