Introduction: Technoscientific Governance - The Ethics and Citizenship of New and Emerging Technologies

The reader of this book will be familiar with, and perhaps even dazed by, recent ‘technoscientific events’. Some of these events have an air of science fiction, things we could have only imagined 10 years ago. In 2013, Facebook exceeded 1 billion active users. Facebook is a global platform for exchanging information and connecting people, a ‘social network’. It is also a reservoir of data, a collection of individual biographies and a type of collective digital memory. When users die, their Facebook identities remain as ghostly memorials. Like other social networks, Facebook has installed itself into the everyday lives of citizens. However, the intimate aspect of this technology mixes disturbingly with its global ambitions: When Facebook tried to go public in the stock market, what was truly being sold? Facebook, Twitter and similar online platforms have created doubt regarding what is public and what is private. These platforms have also served as channels with which to share concerns and enable movements to grow, such as the Arab Spring and the 15 M Movement in Spain. Somewhere between science and fiction, Wikileaks’ Edward Snowden wanders in airports around the world and iris scanners track people, indications that something may be changing. In tangible manners, such emerging technologies enable new forms and relations between body and mind, the manner in which we experience one another, our governments and even the spaces we inhabit. Digital maps are used by governments to control the masses in the event of natural catastrophes; however, such maps can also be used by citizens to design the spaces in which they want to live. This book suggests that there is something special, perhaps unique, about these types of emerging technologies as to the ways in which they interfere with politics. The book addresses technoscience as it enters the domains of the human body, the movement of citizens and space by providing descriptions at the intersection of technology, politics and ethics.

In their analysis of current technological changes, some authors have suggested a type of shift from modern science to current technoscientific research and innovation (Carrier and Nordmann 2010; Bensaude-Vincent et al. 2011). Although acknowledging that scientific enterprise has always been technological (Haraway 1991; Rheinberger 1997; Latour 1999) and oriented towards industrial production, Carrier and Nordmann emphasized that in the age of technoscience, research is increasingly driven by the ambition to radically transform nature and society. As Latour and other STS (Science and Technology Studies) scholars noticed some time ago (Latour 1993; Shapin and Schaffer 1985), modernity as an epoch counted on a number of devices and mechanisms to create the illusion that science and politics could work separately. Science would produce pure facts that are not polluted by values and interests. Whereas modern science and technology have been legitimized by claims of truth and progress, emerging technosciences such as nanotechnology and geo-engineering are predicated on the promise of novel and wonderful designs that will radically change people’s lives: nanorobots that, inserted into the body, will help to fight disease and an atmosphere that will behave according to designed plans. Perhaps more explicitly than ever before, nature and society have become the objects to be transformed by technological interventions in the pursuit of a desired future. Innovation works on the limits of what can be imagined. With the focus on novelty and transformation, scientific insistence on pure fact has become somewhat relaxed (Delgado 2016; Rommetveit and Wynne forthcoming).

Instead of portraying our times as a break with modernity and modern styles of governing science, this book identifies an increasing tendency towards an innovation- driven manner of conducting research that can be traced back to the period following World War II. Since that time, scientific research has become more explicitly targeted towards economic growth (see Chap. 1). The governing of science has followed those developments, specifically with increasing public investments in large- scale research programmes that are technology-driven. Largely, the spreading of digital infrastructures, platforms and tools enables a new ‘engineering’ mode of research that has ‘design’ as a core practice. In many ways, the digital era enables new types of technoscientific objects that exist somewhere between the technical and political intervention. ‘Privacy by design’ in the emerging field of biometrics and the visualization of future natural catastrophes related to climate change are but two examples of such emerging technoscientific objects. In Europe, the faith in technological solutions to control and transform nature and society informs the Horizon 2020 programme. Technological innovation is portrayed as the key to coping with European ‘grand challenges’ such as an ageing population, energy independence and climate change (JIIP 2012). Because scientific policies are (perhaps more than ever) invested with the hope that desired futures can be created, scientific research is oriented towards specific ‘contexts of application’ (Carrier and Nordmann 2010).

This book focuses on three sets of emerging technosciences: human enhancement technologies, biometrics and GIS (Geographical Information Systems). By including each of these themes as a thematic section, the book provides some insights into how the human body, space and the atmosphere reappear as territories to be reexplored and recomposed in the pursuit of promising technological interventions and transformations. With a primary focus on governance, the book provides insights into institutional developments as well as the public responses that accompany particular processes of technological emergence. Governance, as the encompassing theme of the book, favours a particular perspective of how technologies might enter people’s worlds to produce change. The book addresses processes of technological emergence and provides empirical descriptions of how transformations of citizens’ lives are already occurring as part of such occurrences. This perspective will enable a resituating of technological emergence and its governance in the present in an attempt to balance a policy tendency to orient the analysis of scientific governance towards the future. Finally, the book provides a particular approach to governance by combining STS and ethics. The life-world of citizens as intervened by technology is considered from this double approach to remind the reader that issues of institutional power, inclusion and exclusion simultaneously reveal ethical dilemmas and tensions.

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