PARLIAMENT - DIRECTORATE GENERAL FOR INTERNAL POLICIES OF THE UNION -
Economic and Scientific Policy Directorate and STOA
Technological Options Assessment] decided to organise a workshop at the European Parliament in
the topic of Converging Technologies in the afternoon of 18 October 2005.
The Workshop, hosted
by Malcolm HARBOUR MEP, Vice-Chairman of STOA, brought together relevant
experts in this field from Europe and concentrated on strategic aspects in
relation with the European Research Area and the 7th Framework
The format of the Workshop comprised short presentations from each of the experts followed
by questions from members and a discussion open to all participants.
The NewPOL Consortium
Network was represented in person by its Principal Coordinator,
Professor Vivian R. F. Linssen, Founding Director of the International
Multidisciplinary Neuroscience Research Center asbl/vzw.
Please visit the STOA
and EPTA Websites.
- REPORT II - REPORT
October 2005. Comments in
To be perfectly
honest, I liked the title "Converging Technologies" (CT) but was a
little skeptical regarding the Workshop itself. I had therefore prepared a
whole series of questions for the Panel.
These were not needed.
All the speakers
without exception gave compelling lectures. Such avant-garde presentations
of the material take courage, even in 2005 it is sad to say.
may be more important than "Technologies" remarked one of the
Rationale for the
Report <<Converging Technologies - Shaping the Future of European
Societies>> [The latter should not be considered
without the Non European Societies]:
i) The idea that there
is a convergence between important and radical technologies; that their
present and future trajectories are linked. Advances in one area depends on
advances in another; so they should be looked at together. These
technological convergences, resting on interdependence, are important in
shaping the overall knowledge economy.
ii) The idea that
technologies are shaped by social and economic contexts; that they are
embedded in society. So to understand the evolution and possibilities of
these converging technologies, social science research is needed as much as
scientific or engineering research.
Vision and Strategy:
create a research community [Ideal activity for
NewPOL Network National Coordinating Teams]
integrate CT in FP6 calls [Interface issues for
the NewPOL Network]
launch national CT research [This could be
undertaken and further developed by the NewPOL Network National Coordinating
establish centres of excellence (in FP7) [I personally disagree here:
approach too fragmented]
I would add the organisation of a CWIN whenever one may be needed.
strengthen inter-disciplinarity [NewPOL Network NC
strengthen commitment to cognitive sciences [NewPOL
Network NC Teams]
use social sciences [NewPOL Network NC Teams]
establish societal observatory [How? NewPOL
Network NC Teams]
develop European design [I would add: AND non-European design]
integrate social research into CT development [NewPOL
Network NC Teams]
Ethics - Society:
keep military separate
integrate CT in ethics [Define Ethics...]
address IPR issues [Hopefully, these shall cease to be considered as an
issue after the IMIRC]
start national discussions [NewPOL Network
include CT in education [NewPOL Network NC Teams]
during the CT Workshop: Interdisciplinarity - multidisciplinarity -
coordination - present education incompatibility with integrated
interdisciplinarity - fusion
& cross linking of the "hard" and "soft" sciences -
adapting research to the needs of the people and society - creating
useful(!) projects - the meaning of life: perhaps something more than JUST
cash: a vision for the future, our future and that of our children -
integration - awareness - enhancement of the Human Being - Trust....
This is fine, but.
As the President of
the EPTA so rightly said, we must go beyond words...
1) The basic problem
regarding "Converging Technologies" seems to be essentially an
This is where the NewPOL Network shall be able to help
STOA, EPTA and the European Commission in their endeavours.
ideal way of catalysing an integrated understanding of the necessity to
combine the "hard" and "soft" sciences for the benefit
of World Society Well Being and Quality of Life is setting up CWINs for
focussed issues of World importance.
The NewPOL Network
shall be making presentations to the International Press + European
Research Area (ERA) + Apple. A European Parliament presentation would
certainly enable us to explain the NewPOL Network Paradigm at the highest
Come to think of it, why
not the UN? That would be nice!
Now if this help could
2) Academia and The
As long as Academia
and The People are considered as two different worlds, as long as this
cleavage is maintained, integrated interdisciplinarity shall fail to benefit
humanity and fail to improve world society well being and quality of life.
This World of
violence, indifference, social unrest, economic crisis and global
incompetence has been so far administered by leaders (teams, experts, ...) -
many of whom have "top qualifications" some from
"outstanding" Universities - who are responsible for this
I therefore question
their qualifications and the institutions that gave them their
Are these examples to
I would think not.
The NewPOL Network is
not making any charges against a particular person, but against the mould
that The System has created.
The World Educational
System must be entirely revised and restructured. This shall be discussed
during the International Multidisciplinary
Interface Research Congress (IMIRC).
3) Regular follow-ups of the CT Workshop should be
Time passes by ever so
considerations are typically what one would classify as "grass-root level", but
the truth is that if we try to deal with the CT issues "higher
up", we shall fail.
[N.B. I dislike this condescending expression
"grass-root level", because it is indeed extremely rich in
potential and content.]
The NewPOL Network
works beyond the conventional scheme "Idea ---> Project": we
are basically interested in what leads up to an Idea, "before"
the Idea...and not just the Idea itself.
Sciences are not
intrinsically "hard", "soft" or whatever. This judgement
(or category, impression) is made by the human being.
The clash between the
"hard" and "soft" sciences has multiple origins. One
put, "hard" sciences = à priori hard to understand for the
majority. "Soft" sciences and non-scientific material = à priori
soft/easy to understand for most. Add to this the fierce and sometimes
unhealthy competition between "hard" scientists - actually between
any specialist in the Academic arena - and you get quite an explosive
Of course, what is
considered as science and what is not, is debatable. Were it not for
the Neurosciences, you would not be able to understand what I am writing
now. So literature (soft science) cannot be dissociated from Neuroscience, a
"hard" sciences were made as easy to understand as the
"soft" and non-sciences, perhaps this emotional pseudo superiority
would disappear quite naturally. Considering that the human being is largely
made up of - and functions on - what society largely considers as
"hard" science, it is surprising that we should have so much
difficulty understanding what we are made of and how we function in the
Educational System doesn't go about it the right way...
It is commonly
considered that understanding abstract
notions (like mathematics, physics, ...) MUST be difficult and
"painful" for most, just as for a long time and according to many
still in countless regions of the world, a mother MUST feel pain when giving
birth to her child.
Perhaps we should
question common wisdom more often.
This arrogance of many
who come from a scientific/medical background with regard to the more
"Arts" oriented, and I would even go much further, this
condescending attitude of those who "know" with regard those who
do "not know" shall cease to exist once knowledge of whatever nature
has been made easily accessible to all.
This shall be one of
the main themes of our Interface Assimilation
Program (IAP) during the
International Multidisciplinary Interface Research Congress (IMIRC)
hopefully held in China in 2008 immediately before the Olympic Games.
I was wondering... How
about considering "Converging Resources" or "Converging
Minds" instead of "Converging Technology"?
One of the CT
Workshop's goals is to create links between fields that are conventionally
considered as separate; more specifically, trying to integrate the
social/human sciences in the high tech world: a kind of defragmentation
"Converging Technology" - even though it does facilitate cross
thinking (and cross linking) between different technologies - nonetheless
still remains in the technological domain and thus enforces the barrier
between the two worlds: the tech and the non tech, the "hard" and
the "soft" sciences.
It seems that an
expression like "Converging Resources" (meaning ALSO human
potential from all possible sources, social condition and background, not to
forget the education/business interface and financial sources) could better
integrate the notion of technology with World Society Well Being and Quality
[26 October 2005]
NewPOL Network Reports I & II
point in the same direction: the FP research structure/programs, the
selection procedure and funding policy must all be entirely revised.
World Society Well
Being and Quality of Life is an Urgent Issue that Must be given
Priority Everywhere (EU and Non EU)!
interdisciplinarity (implying necessarily the "hard" and
"soft" sciences) is now Openly and Officially considered as
essential for the Well Being of Humanity.
But how is one going
to make the hard "hard" scientists step down...?
Since MONEY is the
only incentive that matters/motivates for most researchers, the
NewPOL Network shall propose that only
those projects that can be linked to World Society Well Being and Quality of
Life should be funded.
Now these new projects
are likely to be very expensive because of the training required [the
NewPOL Network can provide that] and of the
number of participants.
A considerable economy
can be made by taking ALL the FP Projects (ideally, ALL Projects throughout
the World) from scratch, finding out how
these could be linked within a given research area and
synchronise/coordinate the common efforts. A further link would then have to
be established between the global project and the World Society Well Being
and Quality of Life. Which of these may be considered as CWINs
shall have to be discussed.
One of the objectives
here is to eliminate inaccessible Ivory Towers that consider themselves above such lowly
considerations as the World Society Well Being and Quality of Life. These
Closed Sanctuaries often require enormous funds paid by
private/public investors and society; in fine, you and me. They are
therefore accountable to society and should(*):
- intelligibly explain to the general population just what Their research is
about and make sure They are understood.
- convincingly explain to the public (and international audit) just how Their research shall contribute to improve
the everyday life (and future) of the population.
- invite direct interactive public participation in Their efforts thereby
creating a collective enterprise with the people.
(*): The basic idea
here is not to just stimulate the interest of the lay public in a particular
field but to give them the taste of discovery and perhaps give a new meaning
to their lives - making the latter more interesting - thereby improving
their well being and quality of life, i.e. their State of Mind. This implies
understanding - and integrating - the fundamental interconnectedness of
knowledge. The NewPOL Network can provide training here.
If unable to do so, these
Research Institutions (Laboratories, Organisations and Universities) have no place in
this World. Funds could then be used more profitably
Future Human Well
Being and Quality of Life ALSO means exploring the Universe... The
Planet Earth shall become too crowded some day...