Institute for Technology Assessment and  Systems Analysis (ITAS)

Making Perfect Life

  • Project team:

    Decker, Michael; Knud Böhle; Christopher Coenen; Michael Rader

  • Funding:

    STOA (The Science Technology Options Assessment Panel of the European Parliament)

  • Start date:

    2009

  • End date:

    2011

  • Project partners:

    Rathenau Institute (project leader),
    Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research (ISI),
    Institute of Technology Assessment at the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ITA),

  • Research group:

    Innovation processes and impacts of technology

Project description

"Making perfect life" refers to a broad spectrum of developments in science and technology. In the 21st century we see the emergence of a new engineering approach to life which is shaped by the convergence of four key technologies: nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology, and the cognitive sciences (NBIC). An important aspect of NBIC convergence is the increasing interaction between the biological and the physical sciences.

This growing interaction can be described in terms of two megatrends: 'biology becoming technology' and 'technology becoming biology'. Biology becoming technology expresses the idea that scientists and engineers increasingly look at living organisms in mechanical terms. Technology becoming biology is driven by the convergence in the opposite direction whereby insights into biological and cognitive processes in the life sciences inspire and enable progress within the engineering sciences.

The STOA project 'Making Perfect Life' looked into four fields of 21st century bio-engineering:

  • Engineering of living artefacts
  • Engineering of the body
  • Engineering of the brain, and
  • Engineering of intelligent artefacts.

The project showed how developments in the four fields of bio-engineering are shaped by the two megatrends. These developments result in a broadening of the bio-engineering debate in our society. The project addressed the long term views that are inspiring this debate and discussed a multitude of ethical, legal, and social issues that arise from bio- engineering developments in the fields mentioned.

Four specific developments, one for each of the fields, were studied in more detail:

  • The rise of human genome sequencing
  • The market introduction of neurodevices
  • The capturing by information technology of the psychological and physiological states of users, and
  • The pursuit of standardization in synthetic biology.

The overall result is that there is an evident regulatory gap in urgent need of filling. Rather than waiting for the devices to get on the market, politicians should consider the regulatory framework while these products are still under development. Regulators are well-advised not to take a complacent or wait-and-see attitude.

ITAS was in particular responsible for studying the field of engineering of intelligent artefacts, which included the case study on biocybernetically adaptive computer applications such as affective and physiological computing as well as social robots and artificial companions.

The main publications of the project and an overview article in the VolTA-magazine are recommended for reading:

Publications


2014
Book Chapters
Böhle, K.; Coenen, C.; Decker, M.; Rader, M.
Biocybernetic adaptation and privacy.
2014. Privacy and security in the digital age. Ed.: M. Friedewald, 71–80, Routledge 
2013
Journal Articles
Böhle, K.; Coenen, C.; Decker, M.; Rader, M.
Biocybernetic adaptation and privacy.
2013. Innovation, 26 (1-2), 71–80. doi:10.1080/13511610.2013.723402
2012
Book Chapters
Böhle, K.; Coenen, C.; Decker, M.; Rader, M.
Biocybernetic adaptation and human computer interfaces: applications and concerns.
2012. van Est, R. [Hrsg.] Making Perfect Life : European Governance Challenges in 21st Century Bio-engineering Final Report Brussels : European Union, 2012 IP/A/STOA/FWC/2008-096/LOT6/C1/SC3 (December 2012), 130–158 
2011
Book Chapters
Böhle, K.; Coenen, C.; Decker, M.; Rader, M.
Engineering of intelligent artefacts.
2011. Making Perfect Life: Bio-Engineering (in) the 21st Century: Monitoring Report, Phase II Hrsg.: European Parliament - STOA, 136–176, European Parliament 
Presentations
Decker, M.
Making perfect life? Technology assessments on autonomous systems.
2011. Evolutionary Robotics, Organic Computing and Adaptive Ambience : Epistemological and Ethical Implications of Technomorphic Descriptions of Technologies, Karlsruhe, October 20-22, 2011 
Rader, M.
Monitoring mental states through information technology issues of privacy and autonomy.
2011. European Innovation Summit, STOA Workshop ’Making Perfect Life’, Bruxelles, B, October 11, 2011 
2010
Presentations
Decker, M.
Who is taking over? Technology Assessment of autonomous (Service-) Robots.
2010. International Workshop “Future of Robotics in GermanyJapan” (2010), Dresden, Germany, November 11–12, 2010 
Decker, M.
Vom Nutzen der Technik - und die Gefahren? Ethische Reflektion im Rahmen einer Technikfolgenbeurteilung.
2010. 4. Akademietage “Mensch und Technik - Was kann man, was soll man, was darf man?” (2010), Bietigheim-Bissingen, Germany, November 15–16, 2010 
2009
Journal Articles

Contact

Prof. Dr. Michael Decker
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)
Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS)
P.O. Box 3640
76021 Karlsruhe
Germany

Phone: +49 721 608-23007
E-mail