Title: Anticipating the future of technology and society by way of (plausible) scenarios: fruitful, futile or fraught with danger?

Authors: Marianne Boenink

Addresses: Department of Philosophy, Faculty of Behavioural Sciences, University of Twente, PO Box 217, 7500 AE Enschede, The Netherlands

Abstract: Scenarios of the future play a significant role in anticipatory governance of new and emerging science and technologies. Plausibility is generally considered an important criterion for high quality scenarios. Lately, the usefulness of anticipatory governance has come under attack. Some of this criticism is directed at the practice of framing normative reflection on emerging science and technology in terms of the 'future' they will eventually produce. Such 'future discourse' is claimed, among others, to maintain an a-historical conception of the future, to be lacking in imagination, to reify innovation processes and to ignore their contingency, and, ultimately, to share the hubris of technoscience. This paper investigates to what extent sociotechnical and techno-ethical scenario approaches are liable to this criticism of 'future talk', in particular as voiced by philosopher of technology Alfred Nordmann. In addition, it questions whether the aim to develop plausible scenarios increases or decreases such liability.

Keywords: scenario methods; sociotechnical scenarios; foresight; conceptions of the future; plausibility; moral imagination; hubris; techno-ethical scenarios; anticipatory governance; contingency; plausible scenarios.

DOI: 10.1504/IJFIP.2013.058608

International Journal of Foresight and Innovation Policy, 2013 Vol.9 No.2/3/4, pp.148 - 161

Received: 14 Dec 2012
Accepted: 06 Sep 2013

Published online: 10 Jan 2014 *

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