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Three Eras of Technology Foresight. Harold A. Linstone University Professor Emeritus of Systems Science Portland State University TECHNOLOGY. The Agricultural Era U.S. farm labor force 1790: 90%; 1970 4%.

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Three Eras of Technology Foresight

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three eras of technology foresight

Three Eras of Technology Foresight

Harold A. Linstone

University Professor Emeritus of Systems Science

Portland State University


The Agricultural Era

U.S. farm labor force 1790: 90%; 1970 4%

1. The Industrial Era 1800-1970

2. The Information Era 1970-2024

Computers Communications Networks

3. The Molecular Era 2024-2080Biotechnology Nanotechnology Materials Science

glocalization local global

facebook, desktop publishing

• Technology

Distributed (internet)

• Religion

small sects

• Conflict

individual can incite protests

“Everyman as Faust”

• Governance

tribalism, separation

• Corporations

product customization

– in sales: Amazon, Netflix

- in manufacturing.: 3D printing

CNN, giant media conglomerates

Centralized (coal, oil, nuclear energy)

quasi-global “Islamic nation”

social networks can rapidly spread

and amplify local to global scale

integration (EU)

global markets -McDonald, Starbucks

new concepts
New Concepts

1. Complexity science –>

nonlinear complex adaptive systems (CAS)

Phase states: stable, stably oscillating, chaotic with predictable boundaries, and unstable

Many interacting elements (agents), simple rules

agents interact locally (cooperating/competing)

-> their behavior cannot be decomposed

result: self-organizing patterns and emergence

new concepts1
New Concepts

2. Multiple perspectives

To bridge the gap between models and the real world

T: the technical perspective

O: the organizational/institutional perspective

P: the personal/individual perspective

Each offers insights not attainable with the others.

O and P vital for link to action.


World view science/technologygroup/institution individual, self

problem solvingprocess, action power, prestige

Ethical basis objectivityfairness, justice morality

Mode of inquiryanalysissatisficing intuition

observationbargaining learning

cause - effectagendachallenge - response

Planning horizon far - no discounting moderate discounting high discounting

for most

Uncertainty view uncertainties noteduncertainties used aversion to uncertainty

Risk criteria logical soundnesspolitical acceptability aversion to loss

Scenarios exploratorypreferable visionary

four characteristics
Four Characteristics
  • 1. Pervasive, small

an invisible technical infrastructure

• 2. Unlimited reach

IT > everything becomes information

MT > everything controllable at the molecular level

  • 3. Specificity

MT > custom tailored materials, drugs and sensors

• 4. Engineering for the human mind as well as the body

IT, MT > prostheses to extend capabilities

implantable biocomputers (“molecular doctors”)

it mt impacts on tfa
IT + MT: Impacts on TFA
  • CAS phase states– chaos: forecast limits. emergence
  • TOP: O and P essential

Technology-basedtoscience-based foresight

Traditionaltobiology-based foresight

Exploratorytonormative foresight

Foresight to rapid adaptability and robust planning

it and mt eras more implications
IT and MT Eras: More implications

Governments becoming unmanageable->

The social rate of change may for a while be faster than the technological rate

Need to rebalance

globalization  localization

centralization  decentralization

Need to balance perspectives