Technology Assessment

Technology Assessment

Armin Grunwald (Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS), Germany)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5888-2.ch394
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Technology Assessment has its roots in specific historical circumstances in the 1960s and 1970s. Activities and concerns in the U.S. political system, in particular in the U.S. Congress, led to the creation of the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) in 1972 (Bimber, 1996). This origin of TA found a lot of successors in Europe which succeeded in establishing the European Parliamentary Technology Assessment network (EPTA, see

Parallel to this development in the political system, far-ranging intellectual changes were taking place. The optimistic belief in scientific and technical progress, which had predominated in the post-Second World War period, came under pressure. Western societies were deeply unsettled by the “Limits of Growth” published by the Club of Rome in 1972, which addressed the limitedness of natural resources. In many fields, problems with unintended side effects of technology such as pollution and severe accidents became a matter of public debate on further scientific and technological progress. In many countries, social conflicts arose at the occasion of controversial technologies such as nuclear power (from the 1970s on) and genetically modified organisms (from the 1990s on). Ethical questions led to conflicts on the development and use of new technology, in particular in the field of health and human reproduction. Issues of privacy and data protection became a field of controversy, in particular following measures of homeland protection and surveillance strategies after the 9/11 attacks. The challenges led to a complex and multi-dimensional set of objectives and rationales of TA (Grunwald, 2009).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Responsible Innovation: A term pointing to the need for shaping technology and innovation with respect to criteria of responsibility and human values.

Privacy: The ability of individuals or groups to keep information about themselves in a defined space and to prevent to make them visible to a broader audience. Privacy sometimes conflicts with security issues.

Information Society: The creation, distribution, use, integration and manipulation of information is of major economic, political, and cultural importance. Its main medium is the widespread use of information technology.

E-participation: Using ICTs for supporting participation processes in government and governance. Processes. The need for broader participation has emerged over the past decades predominantly in Western societies. ICTs provide means to allow a much larger number of people to participate.

Governance: The process of opinion-forming and decision-making. In nation-states, these processes and systems are traditionally administered by the government. Currently we witness a strong movement to better involvement of citizens, stakeholders and civic society in those processes.

Technology Assessment (TA): A scientific, interactive, and communicative process which aims to contribute to the formation of public and political opinion on societal aspects of science and technology ( Decker & Ladikas, 2004 ).

Sustainable Development: The kind of development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (WCED, 1987).

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