The debate about converging technologies: Nanoconvergence and microsystems technology

Previous chapter: Options for action and the possible requirements of research
The first option (i.e., largely restricting the convergence perspective to basic research in the nanosciences and to micro-nano integration that is oriented to system applications) is concerned especially with the continuation and extension of the relevant previous activities of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. It continues to appear sensible to evaluate similar activities outside Germany, particularly at the EU level and in the United States, and to continue networking. It is questionable how the desired stronger inclusion of the cognitive sciences and of neurotechnology can be meaningfully possible if the comprehensive aspects of the CT debate are not taken into account. It would seem desirable first to:  
  • Increasingly establish systematic connections to the present and past financial support given to strongly interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research and development (e.g., in the fields of neuroscience and cognitive science, and of ubiquitous computing and research in artificial intelligence);
  • Re-examine in a comprehensive manner the existing and possible strategies for promoting cognitive science;
  • Examine more intensely the social, ethical, and economic aspects of brain research and human enhancement, and discuss them publicly, including on the basis of knowledge that has been gained in research currently supported by the German federal government and by numerous other actors;
  • Intensify the social dialogue about CT, and include the relevant experts from the social sciences and humanities.
    Among the advantages of the approach oriented on micro-nano integration and the development of smart systems are its strong and immediate applied nature, the relatively high degree of concreteness, and the link to an established tradition in research and development. Whether it is advantageous to increase the extent to which cognitive science is included appears uncertain, however. The American NBIC initiative might be an example that urges us to be cautious. At any rate it teaches us that the inclusion of human potential can only lead to the desired push if it is done on the basis of real expertise from cognitive science. Furthermore, precisely for smart systems integration, which was chosen as the focus in Germany, it is sensible for the results of research in the social sciences and humanities to carry more weight, as should their approaches.
    Next chapter: Multidisciplinary, Interdisciplinary and Transdisciplinary Research
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