Converging technologies by divine providence

30/12/2008 at 23:39 Leave a comment

Also in Switzerland, experts have begun discussing ethical aspects of converging technologies. Even in a country with an ultra federalist tradition, nobody seems to escape the lure of convergence and to make a case for divergence.

One among other funny things about converging technologies is a modal-logic ambivalence, if not a dilemma: On the one hand, the convergence of technologies is drawn as a matter of fact, as if convergence already is or has been at work. The anxiously ‘prudent’ European answer to the ‘transhumanist’ US initiative draws such a picture, too: “Info-, bio-, and nanotechnologies complement each other and have begun to join forces with cognitive science, social psychology and other social sciences” ( p. 6). On the other hand, convergence is obviously a goal or a state of affairs that should be realized in the future – an end, its attainment hinges upon massive support from science policy, hence the existence of the relevant science policy initiatives.

At this point we might look at convergence in another way. Instead of discussing ethical aspects of converging technologies, it might be more interesting to question the conditions of existence of such initiatives, which base their legitimacy on various forms of technological determinism or what amounts to the same: on divine providence.

  • Firstly, there is hardly any evidence supporting the diagnosis of an already present convergence. The nano-initiatives already campaigned for it, yet even with the support of billions, ‘real interdisciplinarity’ largely remained wishful thinking. Thus, convergence as a matter of fact is likely to be a construction and little more than a mere construction of the initiatives supporting it.
  • Secondly, convergence appears to be a teleological concept, as Joachim Schummer claims in an article to be published soon. That is, the description of the presence or the future as giving rise to convergence either ascribes ‘harmonizing’ ends to the system of differentiated (!) scientific disciplines or it just expresses the political goals of science policy.
  • With respect to the latter, one might thirdly investigate current conditions of science policy, which operates on the basis of such empty signifiers like ‘converging technologies’. Accordingly, we might speculate about a loss of the grand old narratives and therefore about a loss of orientation that guided science policy until the late eighties. Since then, generic concepts like nano or convergence have emerged to symbolically fill the empty place. Maybe.

more on converging technologies soon…

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Entry filed under: Science policy. Tags: .

The Everetts Fear of the public or the taming of fearful publics?

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