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Posted: July 29, 2008
German report proposes policy options for converging technologies including nanotechnology
(Nanowerk News) The Office of Technology Assessment at the German Parliament (TAB) just released an
English summary to a recent report on Converging Technologies, by Christopher Coenen. He
is one of the key speakers during the EthicSchool on Ethics of Converging Technologies, September 21-28, 2008 at the Dormotel Vogelsberg in Alsfeld /Romrod, Germany. There are still some places available. Register quickly at www.ethicschool.eu!
Coenen explains that the term Converging Technologies may have been coined in the United
States in 2001, but that discussions and research programmes have now spread to Europe
(EU, Germany, Spain, Netherlands, etc) and other parts of the world including Canada,
Africa, Asia and Latin America. He distinguishes a debate on human enhancement; and
discussions about Converging Technologies (CT) research policy and scientific and
technological activities. Conceptions of the term “Convergence” are different in the USA
(nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology, cognitive sciences), Europe (CT for the European Knowledge Society), Germany
(Converging Technologies for Smart (Micro) Systems Technology) and other countries.
Utopian and dystopian long term visions for Converging Technologies and Human
Enhancement offer clear potential for social conflict. Most of the discussions have so far been
limited to academic circles, but some have reached political relevance. These focus on the
relationship between nature and technology and between the grown and the artificial.
Differences in views on what it means to be human are central to these disputes. The criticism
against promoters of convergence visions is that the feasibility is doubtful and that the views
are inspired by political and ideological motives.
Convergence processes in Research and Development are partly inspired by the policy debate
and non-scientific research activities, but can also be seen as a more general trend in trans- or
interdisciplinary research cooperation. Such convergence processes show up in the results of
bibliometric studies in a number of areas of research. These processes may require policy
initiatives stimulating interdisciplinary research.
Coenen analyses political initiatives and activities in the USA, European Union and Germany
as well as some other countries. He outlines options for actions and the possible requirements
for research in Nanoconvergence and Microsystems Technology; Multidisciplinary,
Interdisciplinary and Transdisciplinary Research; Human Enhancement; and Social Discourse
on Science and Technology. Finally, he ends by suggesting options for research funding.