The research component of PoET features faculty-student panels of technologists, social scientists, and humanists to identify potential effects, highlight critical sources of uncertainty, and evaluate limits of their knowledge. Panelists will combine insights into directions of technological change, applications of technologies, and implications for society, economy, security and environment. The panels will critically examine past efforts to anticipate effects of technological changes, then focus sequentially on micro and nanotechnologies, ubiquitous computing, and genetic engineering with a fourth technology to be selected.

PoET PI Dan Hastings, MIT President Susan Hockfield,
PoET PI Dava Newman

Working Papers

The Laser and its Implications: How Accurate Was Foresight in the First Ten Years?
by Lawrence E. McCray

The Metaphors of Emerging Technologies: Unpacking the disconnects between the “what” and the “how” in the world of “online shopping”
by Jason Black, Kieran Downes, Frank Field, Aleksandra Mozdzanowska, and Katherine Steel

More Than “Just Shopping:” personalization, privacy and the (ab)use of data
by Jason Black, Kieran Downs, Frank Field, Aleksandra Mozdzanowska

War Upon the Map: The Politics of Military User Innovation
by Jon R. Lindsay

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Retrospective Cases

To supplement the major research initiatives on ubiquitous computing and biotechnology, the PoET program is conducting summary reviews of three earlier technologies; the automobile, the laser, and the global positioning system [GPS]. Professor M. Roe Smith and students are examining early forecasts of the impact of the automobile, Larry McCray is reviewing early forecasts of the military and civilian impacts of laser technology, and Daniel Hastings is conducting a review of key decisions in the design and deployment of GPS capabilities.

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Ubiquitous Computing Research

PoET is participating in the CMI initiative (link) with the University of Cambridge to assess the implications of ubiquitous computing. As part of this research, PoET held a workshop in the Fall of 2004 (link) and participated in the Oxford Internet Institute’s symposium in the Spring of 2005 (link). There are 2 research foci within this effort: location and personalization. The location group, led by Dave Clark, is assessing the implications of GPS, RFID and other technologies that will enable the knowledge of where everyone and everything is at all times. The personalization group, led by Frank Field, is investigating the development of software agents that attempt to predict the preferences of users and tailor their experiences accordingly. Dave Clark is also leading an investigation into the implications of several design choices surrounding the development of the next generation internet.

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Biotechnology Research

PoET kicked off its biotech research with a workshop in the Fall of 2005 on the implications of personalized biotechnologies (link). Building upon the discussions in the workshop, two primary research foci have emerged: bio-security and Certification. The bio-security group, led by Dan Hastings, is investigating issues of information control; prevention, detection, and response; and global access to emerging bio technologies. The certification group is concerned with methods for testing and clinical trails for personalized pharmaceuticals; intellectual property rights; therapeutic treatments versus enhancements, and the evolution of health insurance as genetic markers and information become widespread.

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Uncertainty and Decision Making

PoET research in uncertainty and decision making is currently focused on the development of methods and policies for facilitating adaptation in both public and private policy. The adaptation research involves several case studies of policy successes and failures due to adaptation or the lack thereof. The group, led by Larry McCray, Ken Oye, and Dava Newman, is developing a framework for recommending the type and level of adaptation that is appropriate for various types of uncertainty.

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Energy Research

The PoET energy group, led by Ken Oye and Jason Black, is assessing the cultural, political and economic factors that have inhibited or facilitated the application of emerging technologies to energy problems. The research is first focusing on past examples of emerging energy technologies, both successes and failures. The lessons learned from past experiences will be applied to current emerging energy technologies in order to determine potential critical barriers, such as political backlash, concentrated interests, or misallocation of risk.

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