Annual NTA meeting
On the morning of 26 November, the members of the NTA workgroup "Information and Communication" (AG IuK) met with several other interested colleagues. The focus of this public session was on the active participation of the NTA in the DFG project "Fachportal openTA" (Expert portal openTA). The current status of the expert portal, which was established during the first funding period and is available at www.openta.net, was explained. Later Ulrich Riehm, openTA project coordinator and spokesman of the AG IuK, outlined the renewal proposal which was submitted in November 2015. The heads of the institutional members as well as the members of the coordinating team of the NTA who were present expressed their strong support for the proposal by signing a declaration on the renewal proposal.
During the annual meeting which followed in the afternoon, Michael Decker, spokesman of the coordinating team, gave an overview on the previous NTA conferences whose contributions were published in the respective proceedings. The willingness of the "EA European Academy of Technology and Innovation Assessment" to host the next conference – NTA7 – in Bonn in 2016 was explicitly appreciated (call). This was followed by a workshop entitled "Institutionalized TA" which discussed the advantages and disadvantages of the different forms of institutional embedding of NTA institutions. After the presentation of different variants started an open and lively discussion of the problems and opportunities related to the differences and commonalities of institutional settings.
The workshop on the topic area "Technology and Work from a TA Perspective", which was held in English and planned by Bettina-Johanna Krings, Linda Nierling, and Antonio Moniz, took place on 27 November. The impacts of robotics and industry 4.0 on society are of increasing importance for both the research and the political agenda. The workshop provided the framework for the presentation and discussion of TA studies on this topic. It started with some conceptual reflections by Bettina-Johanna Krings who explained the current state of discussions within the ITAS team. She developed the hypothesis that the interrelations between technological innovations and their impacts on working structures do not receive enough attention. This is also said to hold true for the processes of computerization of work that are currently taking place.
Rinie van Est (Rathenau Institute, the Netherlands) presented the findings of the study "Working on the Robot Society" which includes, among others, two of the visions prevailing in society regarding the connection between technological innovation and work: Does it result in more or less jobs in the future? According to the theory, a phase of technologization will come along with the spread of robot technologies. Regarding their design and implementation, it is important from the perspective of TA that the processes are carried out with the active participation of citizens and stakeholders. This is the only way to avoid long-term negative effects.
Georg Aichholzer from the Institute of Technology Assessment in Vienna assumed in his talk "Industry 4.0: New Challenges for Work and Qualification" that graduate changes of qualification profiles might be able to compensate for possible job losses in the long term. This assumption could be concluded from similar processes in the past. At the same time he pointed out that globalization processes, new forms of division of labor, and new forms of precarity of work may occur in the wake of such phases of technologization. This should be counteracted by political measures.
Sergio Belluci from TA Swiss in Bern presented the results of the study "Robotics and Autonomous Devices in Social and Health Care". This study investigated, among others, the use of the seal "Paro" (Companion) and assessed its functional significance for care work. It was emphasized that these are only assistive technologies which do not undertake tasks autonomously and can only support the carer. In the case of "Paro" only communicative and interactive effects in the interaction between patient and caretaker could be generated.
Last but not least, Linda Nierling presented some preliminary results of the project "Digitalization of Work: Visions versus Empirical Evidence" which is currently carried out at the Office of Technology Assessment at the German Bundestag. She proposed the hypothesis that the fears that the public relates to digitalization do not correspond to the empirical findings. Fundamental changes of working structures cannot be proven so far. However, new working models indicate new forms of work which differ significantly from institutionally embedded gainful employment. Here it is the turn of TA to deal with and assess these new developments.
The presentation was followed by an overall discussion chaired by António Moniz on the "new challenges" for TA. (15.01.2016)