CNS Seminar (In-house)

Thursday, March 7, 2013
2:00 - 4:00pm
Girvetz 2320
Dr. Harro van Lente

Harro van Lente is Associate Professor of Emerging Technologies at Utrecht University. Since 2010 he also is the Socrates Professor of Philosophy of Sustainable Development at ICIS, Maastricht University and currently is the Program Director of Technology Assessment of the NanoNextNL, the leading Dutch research consortium in nanotechnology. 

Dr. Harro van Lente will be giving a talk titled "Novelty, needs and rights: anticipating needs in society"

Typically, when an innovation is successful, the argument is that there must have been a need for this, albeit 'latent'. Yet, empirical studies show that when technologies are promised, developed and used, many things change in the same movement, including needs and, eventually, rights. The malleability of needs and rights raises the intriguing question how novelty and needs are co-produced and whether such changes can be anticipated. When needs are not pre-given, but dependent upon socio-technical configurations, and, in fact, both cause and effect of technological change, a range of philosophical, sociological and anticipatory questions come to the fore.I will address this question in three steps. First, the various uses of the concept of 'need' in technical change are studied and categorized. Then three case studies of the co-evolution of needs and novelty are compared and contrasted: water supply around 1800, the Kodak compact camera around 1900, Internet around 2000. This allows a partial reconstruction of a co-evolutionary process of technical, social and moral change. The third step is to discuss how to anticipate emerging needs in society. Here I focus on the possibilities of TA of nanotechnology and introduce the various research lines in NanoNextNL, the major Dutch research consortium of nanotechnology