2020. 10. 05.

Insights on Co-Change impact on research and innovation in research funding and performing organisations

We invited our partners, innovation ecosystem actors and stakeholders, Advisory and Sounding Board members for a Forum to co-create possible futures and impressionistic visions for 2035 about the four most pressing praxis fields of the Co-Change labs: 

Artificial Intelligence: As we seem to remain technically incapable of controlling AI, unanticipated side-effects become unavoidable, leading to more social isolation and digitalised lifeworlds. As trust-based relations are becoming completely digitised and technologically controlled, desirable behaviour patterns gain higher social credit. Human needs, personal plans and development goals are pre-moulded by AI owned and catered by large corporations. Our dependence on technologies becomes pervasive, contributing to power concentration. Life on our planet as we know it now becomes completely disastrous. Can we use AI to put it right?

Agrobiotechnology: Technological knowledge and dedicated funding help entrepreneurs to innovate, and business support networks are also available to foster change. Still, many challenges and regulatory uncertainties make it difficult to gain public confidence and benefit from agrobiotechnology. There seems to be a growing recognition of controversies and power imbalances behind the current development of agrobiotechnology. Can we use technology development to provide a fairer distribution of and access to food?

Autonomous Systems: Data ownership and privacy rules become decisive with new autonomous types of equipment and smart environments. Human lifeworld provides all necessary flexibility and freedom and agility in the work environments. However, social contact and closeness become a scarcity, and most people only afford machines and human relationship only at a distance. How smart tools and autonomous systems will provide more human flourishing and happiness?

Digital Humanism: Digitalisation struggles to trace the real human needs and creative potentials. As people’s needs and goals are quite different, social diversity presses for tailor-made innovative solutions supported by AI and digital commons. Digital Humanism generates questions about its use in the lives of many other people. How could digital humanism trigger better public engagement modalities?

The Forum resulted in a shared critical standpoint about existing socio-technical imaginaries, the democratic control of technological development, human self-determination and citizen empowerment, preparing for the unexpected, critically unpacking taken-for-granted terms (e.g. society), citizen engagement in research funding. High hopes for a radical transformation of science-society relations are still there, relying on stakeholders interested in the futureproofing of the R&I sector. Several ingredients of a successful change have been mapped. A whole range of changes are regarded as already happening in our lives, and many difficulties are imminently confronted.

Some highlights and policy implications

Climate and extinction crises, the COVID-19 pandemic left their shadows on how we live and work. Technology is becoming pervasive, a high degree of digitisation with a range of digitalised environments (enabling - assisting - controlling - misusing) is already taken-for-granted and marginalise critical thinking about the consequences. Environmental impacts are often disregarded, the degradation leads to harsh life-conditions and values nature only as a resource for efficient production. Social results are also disproportionately underrepresented: socio-economic tensions, divisions lead to a world without intimacy community and human happiness.

The multiple crises already revealed the vulnerabilities of the research and innovation systems anew. Changing the dominant research and innovation system looks indispensable to reorient the science-society relationships and to overcome multiple crises stemming from the systemic way societies exploit humans and nature.

Co-Change Labs seek entry points and learning spaces for systemic solutions to the multiple and interrelated crises and build on the innovations in their local contexts. Contextual factors, e.g. institutional self-understanding and values, are becoming decisive in handling structural and political dependencies that lockin the research and innovation systems and also persistently reproduce power relations.

Possible future scenarios in four praxis fields (digital humanism, AI, agbiotech, Autonomous Systems) are controversial, and the above distinctions are mostly stuck in our current thinking. Despite the belief that these will much improve people’s everyday lives, participants fear that most of these smart technology-driven innovations are distinct from our real human needs. Technologies can help in addressing environmental harms and societal equity. The challenge is finding ways to enhance our human capabilities, without risking to replace them.

Featured image: Edho Pratama/Unsplash