Here’s an excerpt from a piece I coauthored with Jay Lloyd, my colleague at Arizona State University’s School for the Future of Innovation in Society.
Imagining what the world will be like in a decade or two can feel like flipping through a catalog of dystopian visions rooted in today’s dismaying headlines. Will smartphones make our children depressed and lonely? Are we on the brink of making the world nearly uninhabitable for humans? Will hacking and cyberterrorism lead to real-world warfare? Can bioterrorists use precision gene-editing to kill millions of people? Will technological innovations produce mass unemployment?
That many of these anxieties are connected to scientific advances and technological breakthroughs is no coincidence. The forces of science and technology that drive large parts of today’s economy catalyze vast social changes. Innovations emerge from corporations, universities, and laboratories that are remote from most people’s everyday experiences. Understanding them often requires specialized knowledge and training. And while these innovations can be enormously beneficial, they often come with tradeoffs. For example, social media platforms offer greater connectedness, but they can also allow information to be weaponized as a tool of asymmetric warfare.