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Posted: Jul 30, 2008

The debate about converging technologies: Options for action and the possible requirements of research

Previous chapter: Political Initiatives and Activities
So far there have not been any reasons for urgent political action on the subject of converging sciences and technologies. The CT debate could however be viewed as an opportunity for political action, especially at the level of strategic issues in research, educational, and technology policy, in support of accompanying research, and possibly with reference to certain strongly interdisciplinary or transdisciplinary areas of research and development.  
In principle, however, the question as to who might possibly profit from the concept of convergence is still waiting to be answered. Each of the so-called converging technologies and sciences already occupies a firm place in German research and in funding programs. Included there are also interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary aspects and technology developments affecting multiple fields. The results of research and analyses about CT initiatives in Europe and elsewhere only suggest that German strategies should periodically be verified by viewing them in the overall context of such international activities. The uniquely ideological and visionary character of the debate on convergence, especially in the United States, should give us pause for careful reflection before proceeding with a realignment of policy on research, education, science, and technology along the lines of CT. In anchoring the concept of CT in a subfield of microsystems technology, German research policy reacted faster and more concretely to the enigmatic CT issue than was the case in any other country.  
The following options for policy measures that are directly related to the concept of convergence and the subject of CT must be emphasized:  
  • Convergence as an aspect of the funding measures for nanotechnology and microsystems technology;
  • The convergence perspective as a new approach to promoting multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary, and transdisciplinary research and the development of technology that can be used in various fields;
  • Enrichment of the political and social discussion and possibly dedicated funding to converging technologies and sciences for work on advanced and anticipated options for human enhancement;
  • The issue of convergence as the starting point for a broad and critical political and social dialogue on current scientific and technological developments and on their perspectives.
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    It is important to note for all of these options that the concept of convergence was strongly normatively loaded in a posthumanist, futurist sense, especially in the United States. It is therefore advisable for there to be a critical handling of the visionary aspects of the debate on convergence, including its place in the historical traditions and its ideological aspects, even if, as in the first two options, the focus is on scientific and technical research and development in a narrow sense and without any particular reference to human enhancement.
    Next chapter: Nanoconvergence and Microsystems Technology
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