From pebble tools & fire to biotechnologies & nuclear fission, technology has always affected humanity’s development. It has improved our likelihood of survival early on in human history and has contributed to longer, more comfortable lives for many in modern society. Nevertheless, we have also been harmed from the clumsy and nefarious use of some technologies. Throughout history, institutional mechanisms have been developed to ensure that we make the most of technology while avoiding its potential abuse.
However, 21st-century technological progress overwhelms the regulatory capacity of nation states worldwide and that of the international community. Indeed, some technologies, that I refer to as “disruptive technologies”, have the potential for sudden and significant impact on society. The repercussions of these technologies are difficult to predict. It can be irreversibly beneficial or -if they are not developed and used with adequate care- irreversibly harmful. How can we then make sure they do not result in adverse outcomes such as public health issues, economic inequality, widespread environmental degradation or plain genocide? More generally :
How can we ensure disruptive technologies generate the greatest benefits for society ?
This is the key question – and I devote my career to finding and implementing its many answers.