As new technologies constantly emerge, society is questioning the ethical aspects of these innovations, from all-seeing satellite systems to biometrics and gene therapy. Such technologies can radically change our lives and societies. Conversely, the ways that scientists, innovators and policymakers develop, shape and regulate new technologies depend on their sociotechnical imaginaries: how they imagine society and social life and how they imagine that technologies should be put to use. The EU-funded TECHNOLIFE (A transdisciplinary approach to the emerging challenges of novel technologies: Lifeworld and imaginaries in foresight and ethics) project studied a new way to bridge experts’ imaginaries with the broader public’s at early stages of science, technology and policy development. It investigated social imaginaries important for the ethics and politics of ICT, geographical information systems (GIS) and converging technologies in healthcare. To achieve its aims the project employed online platforms that were open to citizens and civil societies for a limited period. It then developed a framework that takes better account of ethical concerns and social imaginaries before specific technologies are fully adopted or put in use. Tackling the complex topic of biometrics and privacy, the project team published policy recommendations in a report titled ‘Biometrics and mobility in the European Union: Point of view of deliberation’. It also launched a YouTube channel with relevant videos. Part of examining how people imagine new technologies and their role in society led to three short movies about three controversial technologies: biometrics, GIS, and human enhancements. The movies expressed current technologies endorsed by official circles. The researchers invited interested individuals to discuss the technologies in three online forums. This raised concerns such as who gets to define policies, who will be excluded, with many questioning the roles of big corporations, the media and governments in these new technologies. TECHNOLIFE found that many citizens are concerned with social justice, equality and the distribution of power regarding new technologies. Usual ethical concerns such as privacy and confidentiality are important, however there remains a strong need to discuss and govern new technologies by asking if, how and why they are desirable for society.
Ethics, new technology, biometrics, TECHNOLIFE, imaginaries, privacy