Scenario study for Science and Technology Options Assessment Panel
At the request of the Science and Technology Options Assessment Panel (STOA) of the EU, and in collaboration with Technopolis, Tsjalling Swierstra, Ike Kamphof and Tamar Sharon conducted a scenario study highlighting the ”soft impacts” of cyber-physical systems: systems of networked computers, robots and artificial intelligence that interact with the physical world. Soft impact is a concept introduced by Swierstra, and refers to all those impacts of technologies that are often discarded by (technology and) policy actors, as being too “soft” to merit serious public attention. Whereas ”hard” impacts are quantitative, clearly linked to non-controversial conceptions of harm, and causally linked to the technology, soft impacts, in contrast, are qualitative, morally ambiguous, and coproduced by the users of the technology, so that it is difficult to hold a specific party accountable.
In this interactive foresight exercise the involved researchers developed four scenarios highlighting plausible soft impacts of the introduction of cyber-physical systems into the areas of manufacturing, (health/disability)care, agriculture, safety, and transportation. For example, they explored how established (normative) meanings of being human, agriculture, disease, vulnerability, or solidarity might plausibly be affected by the spread of cyber-physical systems, and how identities and (power)relations might plausibly be affected. These concerns were worked into a video for a larger audience, but also provided input for a ‘legal back casting’ procedure that served as link between the scenarios and the policy makers, in particular the parliamentary group preparing legislation with regard to robots.
No author. (2016) Scientific Foresight Study. Ethical Aspects of Cyber-Physical Systems. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2861/68949