Technology Foresight

Analyses of technological developments have already helped prepare possible scenarios for the future. In this way, they have had an influence on our present. TA is looking more and more at how our visions can help design our future.

Futurology – actually a self-contradiction

In general, we cannot predict the future. How is it possible to plan the result of a mixture of the different interests of policymakers, society, science and technology development? It is precisely this challenge that makes technology forecasting so interesting that it has become a major technology policy tool worldwide. The purpose of foresight studies is to use methods and controls to assess development trends in science and technology – particularly where they promise to generate significant commercial and social benefits. One example would be the possible future energy technologies. These projects are also important in communicating the different interests of society and achieving a balance between them.

Experts and the public have their say

Today, a variety of methods are used as the basis for projects. In expert-focused foresight studies, the experience and knowledge of experts are expected to eliminate uncertainties and to rationalise the future. In a new generation of foresight studies known as participatory foresight, the process by which we come to a result is as important as the result itself. Communication, the consultative elements and the feedback to those responsible for technology policies improve networks and improve the way the projects are implemented. There are plenty of other methods such as adaptive foresight, regulatory foresight or sustainability foresight.

All these foresight activities have one thing in common – they rely on the views of experts. There are many ways in which we can get useful information about long-term trends in technology and the opportunities they create. The commonest are broad-based Delphi expert polls and analyses by groups of experts, as well as scenario analyses, trend analyses and relevance tree-analyses.

The ITA uses expert-focussed and participatory foresight methods. Its interdisciplinary research makes an important contribution to the further development of methods at national and international level. One of our most recent achievements is the CIVISTI method, an EU cooperation for evaluating topics concerning the future of importance to EU citizens.

How we look at our future affects our present reality