2.7 Constructive Technology Assessment

Stefan Kuhlmann

University of Twente, Department of Science, Technology, and Policy Studies, P.O. Box 217, The Netherlands

2.7.1 Introduction

Technology assessment (TA) aims to support the designing and shaping of technology in society. TA is supposed “to reduce the human costs of trial and error learning in society's handling of new technologies, and to do so by anticipating potential impacts and feeding these insights back into decision making, and into actors' strategies” (Schot and Rip, 1997, p. 251). TA practices are intended to create, communicate, and apply knowledge about and reflection on the potential and actual interaction of (new) technology and societal actors and forces.1 An overarching definition is offered by the TAMI project, a joint effort of European TA agents, to summarize the state of the art of TA: “Technology assessment is a scientific, interactive and communicative process which aims to contribute to the formation of public and political opinion on societal aspects of science and technology” (TAMI project, 2003, p. 4).

The first concepts of TA were developed in the United States at the end of the 1960s. At that time a need to assess the potential, normally unexpected negative effects of new technologies was perceived that led in 1972 to the creation of the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) as a research-based service and early warning mechanism of the US Congress; OTA worked for more than 20 years with quite some ...

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