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Disruption by technology: Impacts on politics, economics and society

21-09-2020

Technological development has long been considered as a disruptive force, provoking change at many levels, from the routine daily activities of individuals to dramatic competition between global superpowers. This analysis examines disruption caused by technologies in a series of key areas of politics, economics and society. It focuses on seven fields: the economic system, the military and defence, democratic debates and the 'infosphere', social norms, values and identities, international relations ...

Technological development has long been considered as a disruptive force, provoking change at many levels, from the routine daily activities of individuals to dramatic competition between global superpowers. This analysis examines disruption caused by technologies in a series of key areas of politics, economics and society. It focuses on seven fields: the economic system, the military and defence, democratic debates and the 'infosphere', social norms, values and identities, international relations, and the legal and regulatory system. It also presents surveillance as an example of how technological disruption across these domains can converge to propel other phenomena. The key disruptive force of 2020 is non-technological, namely coronavirus. The pandemic is used here as an opportunity to examine how technological disruption interacts with other forms of disruption.

Artificial intelligence: How does it work, why does it matter, and what can we do about it?

28-06-2020

Artificial intelligence (AI) is probably the defining technology of the last decade, and perhaps also the next. The aim of this report is to support meaningful reflection and productive debate about AI by providing accessible information about the full range of current and speculative techniques and their associated impacts, and setting out a wide range of regulatory, technological and societal measures that could be mobilised in response.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is probably the defining technology of the last decade, and perhaps also the next. The aim of this report is to support meaningful reflection and productive debate about AI by providing accessible information about the full range of current and speculative techniques and their associated impacts, and setting out a wide range of regulatory, technological and societal measures that could be mobilised in response.

What if artificial intelligence made work obsolete?

02-03-2020

The world of work is regularly disrupted by technology development. From mass production to word processing, innovations have regularly transformed our working lives and, with them, the broader economic system. Artificial intelligence (AI) is the latest in a long line of such technologies. What would happen if AI worked just as well as (or perhaps better than) humans, without taking holidays, getting sick, joining unions or drawing salaries?

The world of work is regularly disrupted by technology development. From mass production to word processing, innovations have regularly transformed our working lives and, with them, the broader economic system. Artificial intelligence (AI) is the latest in a long line of such technologies. What would happen if AI worked just as well as (or perhaps better than) humans, without taking holidays, getting sick, joining unions or drawing salaries?

What if technologies replaced humans in elderly care?

08-10-2019

Europeans are ageing. In 2016, there were 3.3 people of working-age for each citizen over 65 years. By 2070, this will fall to only two. As the population lives longer, our care needs grow, but fewer people will be available to deliver them. Could assistive technologies (ATs) help us to meet the challenges of elderly care?

Europeans are ageing. In 2016, there were 3.3 people of working-age for each citizen over 65 years. By 2070, this will fall to only two. As the population lives longer, our care needs grow, but fewer people will be available to deliver them. Could assistive technologies (ATs) help us to meet the challenges of elderly care?

Technology and the arts: Past, present and future synergies

03-05-2019

From the first canvas paintings to the production of musical instruments and contemporary cinema, art as we know it would be simply impossible without resource to humanity’s historical cache of technology development. The reverse of this relationship is also important, with the arts creating driving innovation and generating substantial demand for technology products. In the course of their work, artists often develop new techniques and push the boundaries of the imagination in ways that can provoke ...

From the first canvas paintings to the production of musical instruments and contemporary cinema, art as we know it would be simply impossible without resource to humanity’s historical cache of technology development. The reverse of this relationship is also important, with the arts creating driving innovation and generating substantial demand for technology products. In the course of their work, artists often develop new techniques and push the boundaries of the imagination in ways that can provoke new directions in technology development.

How artificial intelligence works

14-03-2019

This briefing provides accessible introductions to some of the key techniques that come under the AI banner, grouped into three sections to give a sense the chronology of its development. The first describes early techniques, described as ‘symbolic AI’ while the second focusses on the ‘data driven’ approaches that currently dominate and the third looks towards possible future developments. By explaining what is ‘deep’ about deep learning and showing that AI is more maths than magic, the briefing ...

This briefing provides accessible introductions to some of the key techniques that come under the AI banner, grouped into three sections to give a sense the chronology of its development. The first describes early techniques, described as ‘symbolic AI’ while the second focusses on the ‘data driven’ approaches that currently dominate and the third looks towards possible future developments. By explaining what is ‘deep’ about deep learning and showing that AI is more maths than magic, the briefing aims to equip the reader with the understanding they need to engage in clear-headed reflection about AI’s opportunities and challenges, and meaningful debates about its development.

Why artificial intelligence matters

14-03-2019

This briefing explains why AI matters by reviewing some of the key opportunities and challenges it presents, but it does so with reference to the functionality and readiness of the technology. The first section focuses on the opportunities and challenges presented by today’s AI while the second explores longer-term speculative opportunities and challenges that are contingent upon future developments that may never happen.

This briefing explains why AI matters by reviewing some of the key opportunities and challenges it presents, but it does so with reference to the functionality and readiness of the technology. The first section focuses on the opportunities and challenges presented by today’s AI while the second explores longer-term speculative opportunities and challenges that are contingent upon future developments that may never happen.

Technology and social polarisation

07-03-2019

With the Cambridge Analytica scandal, it became clear how technologies such as social media and techniques such as psychological profiling can be combined in election campaigns with worrying effects. Personalised political messaging is highly automated. It starts and ends with social media, which provides both the data for categorising users and the medium for targeting them with personalised messages. Messages might be designed to favour a particular candidate or to encourage widespread discord ...

With the Cambridge Analytica scandal, it became clear how technologies such as social media and techniques such as psychological profiling can be combined in election campaigns with worrying effects. Personalised political messaging is highly automated. It starts and ends with social media, which provides both the data for categorising users and the medium for targeting them with personalised messages. Messages might be designed to favour a particular candidate or to encourage widespread discord and mistrust. In either case, it could lead to more polarised societies in which citizens share less common ground and are less understanding of those with different political ideologies, attitudes to populism, or perspectives on specific topics such as immigration. These same technologies and techniques also shape trends in news production and consumption. As newspaper sales dwindle, outlets increasingly rely upon ad-revenue generated by clicks, making extensive use of social media platforms and user profiling. Public debate increasingly occurs via these social media platforms in which citizens, politicians, companies and bots communicate directly to each other without the traditional filters of journalistic standards and editorial oversight. It has been suggested that, where citizens increasingly rely on such platforms for news, they risk entering so-called ‘filter bubbles’ in which they are exposed to a narrow range of perspectives oriented around their own profiles, shielded from contrasting views, in a broad trend that could also lead to more polarised societies. In this context, STOA launched two studies to explore the mechanisms by which these technologies and techniques may foster polarisation in Europe. One study approached the question with reference to trends in the production and consumption of news media, while the other focussed on trends in political campaigning and communication strategies.

What if we could design better technologies through dialogue?

30-01-2019

While we often talk about the need to achieve acceptance of technology in the face of real and potential public opposition, there are frequently gaps between how regulators, developers and experts conceptualise acceptance and opposition. Here, we examine some prominent conceptualisations and suggest that, rather than responding to public opposition with information campaigns designed to transform citizens into acceptors, strategies for managing public acceptability should include meaningful dialogues ...

While we often talk about the need to achieve acceptance of technology in the face of real and potential public opposition, there are frequently gaps between how regulators, developers and experts conceptualise acceptance and opposition. Here, we examine some prominent conceptualisations and suggest that, rather than responding to public opposition with information campaigns designed to transform citizens into acceptors, strategies for managing public acceptability should include meaningful dialogues that aim to create better technologies which are not only acceptable to citizens, but can even be actively supported by them.

3D bio-printing for medical and enhancement purposes

20-07-2018

3D bio-printing is defined here as the use of 3D printing technology for applications related to the body, whether the products themselves include biological material or not, and whether or not their purpose is medical. It includes any application for rehabilitating, supporting or augmenting any kind of biological functionality. The impacts of 3D bio-printing are uncertain, and it is not clear which actions may be required to foster responsible development of the technology. A STOA study, 'Additive ...

3D bio-printing is defined here as the use of 3D printing technology for applications related to the body, whether the products themselves include biological material or not, and whether or not their purpose is medical. It includes any application for rehabilitating, supporting or augmenting any kind of biological functionality. The impacts of 3D bio-printing are uncertain, and it is not clear which actions may be required to foster responsible development of the technology. A STOA study, 'Additive bio-manufacturing: 3D printing for medical recovery and human enhancement, responded to these uncertainties by describing the state of the art and future development prospects of 3D bio-printing technology, analysing their wide-ranging impacts – including social, ethical and economic aspects – and identifying key policy challenges along with options to respond to them. Key challenges and responsive options were identified in the approach to regulation, in managing the distribution of costs and benefits, and in the role of citizens in technology development. This In-depth Analysis draws upon the findings of the STOA Study, summarising and reflecting upon its key findings. The conclusions highlight key trends and offer further reflections on the study in the context of responsible research and innovation.

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