Towards a better future. Technological opportunities and threats to the promotion of sustainable development
Linturi, R. (2021) Towards a better future. Technological opportunities and threats to the promotion of sustainable development. Publication of the Committee for the Future 1/ 2021. Committee for the Future: He
This report applies the Radical Technology Inquirer (RTI) method developed through the technology foresight projects of the Committee for the Future to assess how technology can help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals agreed in the UN Agenda 2030 Action Plan. This report approaches sustainable development specifically through the innovative potential of radical technologies. It applies a systematic method for the purpose and presents transparently the technology assessment criteria for each SDG goal. What comes to the results, especially the domains of learning and knowledge acquisition and energy and food production seem to have the most versatile potential to move towards sustainable development by utilising the potential of new technologies. The advancement of radical technologies is also anticipated to create a shift in work and income towards self- sufficiency, sharing and micro-entrepreneurship, which is controversial in terms of sustainable development: technologies supporting self-sufficiency help people to make a living, especially in developing regions. However, increasing independence from the financial system, jobs and social safety nets created with tax revenues reduces the direct reasons for self-employed people to be interested in common interests, social regulation and decision-making, and in the environment’s power of regeneration outside their own circle of life. This is problematic because globally sustainable development can hardly be achieved without a broad commitment to the necessary decisions and actions, especially as the world population is still expected to grow for several decades. However, the net impact of the transition towards self-sufficiency, at least in the context of the poverty eradication objective of Agenda 2030, has been assessed to be positive. Value creation related to virtual entertainment technologies have been estimated to benefit sustainable development relatively modestly, although digitalisation enables, for example, virtual experiences that involve more physical activity and thus have more health impacts than the current “screen time”. However, it is worth noting that the possibilities of supporting sustainable development through virtual community spirit and the rewarding nature of gamification have been estimated to be remarkably high, especially in relation to educational use, but also in terms of meaningful life experience and the maintenance of health. Certain types of technologies have a particularly high sustainability potential. As part of the work on this report, the following set of radical technologies have emerged, each linked to a particularly wide range of Agenda 2030 goals, thus acting as kinds of building blocks for a more sustainable future: o Energy reserves and electrification o Artificial intelligence and digital twins o Autonomously moving robots o 3D printing and smart robotics o Indoor farming and artificial meat o Solar power and solar fuels o Green industrial raw materials o VR & AR and telepresence o Personal measuring instruments o Computer-Aided Learning o Digitalisation of transactions o Platforms, crowdsourcing and the sharing economy All 17 UN Agenda 2030 goals are listed below in a descending order starting from the goals having the most numerous and advanced technology solutions related to it. The comparison figures of the goals (in brackets) reflect the diversity of the technological solutions linked to each goal. • End poverty in all its forms everywhere (3.9) • Promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all (3.9) • Ensure inclusive and equitable high-quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all (3.5) • Reduce inequality within and among countries (3.4) • Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable (3.2) • Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns (2.7) • Revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development (2.6) • Build resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialisation and foster innovation (2.3) • Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts (2.2) • Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages (2.1) • Promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies (2.0) • Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls (2.0) • End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture (1.9) • Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy (1.9) • Ensure access to water and sanitation for all (1.4) • Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss (1.3) • Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources (1.1)
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Committee for the Future of the Parliament of Finland (ComFuture)