On the Edge of a New Frontier

Our world is undergoing a technological explosion. Echoing J.F. Kennedy’s famous vision, it truly seems that “we stand today on the edge of a New Frontier”. Since the turn of the 21st century nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology, and cognitive sciences (NBIC) are converging and changing the elementary building blocks of matter and machines, our bodies and brains, and even our societies and environment. As our understanding and control over these elements dramatically increases in the coming decades, our societies will be confronted with an array of crucial ethical questions and policy choices.

The technological explosion

The NBIC convergence is already exacting serious consequences: John McAfee and Eric Brynjolfsson of MIT have demonstrated how increasing automation across factory shop floors enabled by the rise of robotics and artificial intelligence has resulted in the impoverishment of less-qualified workers. Tyler Cowen of George Mason University similarly argues that, unlike earlier spells of technological disruptions, recent developments in artificial intelligence and robotics may render large swaths of the population permanently unemployable.

Other big trends point towards an additional set of towering challenges and opportunities for progress: the launch of wearable computers, the Internet of Everything, Big Data, augmented/virtual reality and advanced manufacturing all promise a fresh wave of upheavals in the way humans and machines cooperate, compete and merge. These technologies are opening up new markets in critical areas such as health, education, energy, and the environment with great promises. One potential risk is a widening digital divide between generations and economic classes, resulting in significant economic, social, and cognitive disadvantages for the less young and the less wealthy.

The rapid rise of artificial intelligence -enabled by super-computing, advances in machine learning techniques and availability of massive volumes of data- may disrupt our social contracts within the next decade. The most visible illustration of this current surge is the emergence of self-driving cars, which promise to revolutionize road transportation. In parallel, the plummeting cost of genome sequencing and the emergence of new gene editing technologies such as CRISPR Cas/9 have led many world-class experts to revisit existential topics such as human life expectancy, agriculture and controlled procreation. Many believe we are on the verge of a radical transformation of healthcare systems, from diagnosis, to treatment, to insurance.

Troubled by the speed and magnitude of the aforementioned developments, a growing number of global leaders and experts – including Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Georges Church and Stephen Hawking – have publicly voiced their concern.

Our Goals

The Future Society (TFS) works to better understand the context, dynamics and consequences of the NBIC techno-scientific revolution by placing key policymaking questions at the center of its work. Anchored in the long term, we rely on a reflexive definition of “technology” that goes beyond the material fashion of times. For us, the Law, Finance, the Nation, Ideologies, Religion and other imagined orders and communities should also be analyzed as “technologies”. Over the millennia, they have increased mankind’s prosperity and leverage over the world, and laid the foundation for the modern techno-scientific revolution that we find ourselves engulfed into.
​With specialized initiatives (e.g. AI Initiative) and local chapters across the world (Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Mexico, Spain, the UAE, India…) we endeavor to study broad-ranging fields including education, growth and development, security, climate change, inter-generational solidarity, food, healthcare, transport, budgetary & monetary policy, industry, unemployment, gender equality, innovation, and governance. TFS works in close cooperation with Harvard University and MIT rich ecosystems -from which we emerged in 2014- to help identify and discuss key challenges and opportunities. By taking advantage of new cognitive and collective intelligence tools, TFS endeavors to engage citizens, experts and practitioners in a collective effort which is crucial given the stakes, complexity and velocity of the current techno-scientific explosion.

  • NBIC (Nanotech, Biotech, IT, Cognitive Sciences)
  • Acceleration & Convergence
  • Science & Technology Studies
  • Bioethics
  • Post Humanism
  • Enhancement
  • Blockchain
  • Self-governing protocols
  • Civic Tech
  • Gov Tech
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Effective Altruism
  • Existential risks
  • Co-Evolution
  • Mobility
  • Radicalization
  • Conferences
  • Workshops
  • Seminars
  • Panels
  • Policy Papers
  • Collective Intelligence Consultation
  • Briefs and Opeds
  • Interdisciplinary / Cross Pollination of fields with experts & practitioners
  • Collaborative Research Projects
  • Study Groups
  • Excursions and Field visits