It is easy to assume that every leap forward in technology is a leap forward in benefit, but this is not always the case.
Ancient and modern human civilizations have both benefited from and been challenged by the technological innovations, inventions and engineering applications used within societies to perform specific tasks. For societies to thrive and evolve, technological innovations have become necessary, while at the same time technologies have become shaping tools of the culture, ideals and aspirations of human societies.
We have witnessed the emergence of new technologies that do not directly answer to societal challenges, such as cryptocurrencies. While they impact our consumption and increase our ecological footprint, they seem less likely to improve our ways of living and the society as a whole.
Other technologies, while being able to bring huge benefits, such as biotechnology or robotics, could also alter our ways of living. They can increase inequalities, sometimes hold ethical dilemmas or have the potential to greatly increase our use of natural resources. On the other hand, progress achieved through the development of these technologies could add to the social good.
More generally, how does technology and technological change impact our society? What can we learn from the literature on how to deal with the fragile balance between risk and benefit when it comes to technological change?
Contributors: Valentina Di Girolamo, Alessio Mitra, Océane Peiffer-Smadja and Julien Ravet.