Department of Informatics – Informatics and Sustainability Research

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Opportunities and Risks of the Information Society

Which methods can be used to assess opportunities and risks of new ICT applications? How can ICT contribute to the design and implementation of policies for sustainability? What conflicting goals and ethical implications will emerge from new technological possibilities?
Sustainable Information Society
Visions of the information society

Current Work

Technology Assessment on localization technologies: The ISR group and IZT Berlin are conducting a study on the societal opportunities and risks of the increasingly broad range of technologies that can be used to locate objects and people. Localization technologies include, among others, GPS, GSM and WLAN positioning and locating IP addresses. The study was commissioned by TA-SWISS. Results will be available in early 2012.
Project Description at TA-SWISS Website

Contact: Lorenz Hilty

Selected Earlier Work

A synopsis of our work on the ethics of a sustainable information society was published in the article: Claudia Som, Lorenz Hilty, Andreas Köhler (2009): The Precautionary Principle as a Framework for a Sustainable Information Society. Journal of Business Ethics 85: 3. 493-505

Technology assessment on pervasive computing: The study "The Precautionary Principle in the Information Society: Effects of Pervasive Computing on Society and Environment", commissioned by TA-SWISS, gave us the opportunity to develop methodologies of qualitative risk assessment applicable to technological visions such as pervasive computing. The report was later adopted by STOA, the Science and Technology Options Assessment centre of the European Parliament. Publications followed in the IEEE Technology and Society Magazine and in the Journal of Human and Ecological Risk Assessment.

Electronic waste as an emerging risk: The Technology and Society Lab at Empa, from which the ISR group emerged, was among the first to work on issues of e-waste. See also the E-Waste Guide for current work.

RFID systems – opportunities and risks: A technology assessment project on the implications of RFID (Radio Frequency IDentification) technology was conducted with our partner IZT on behalf of the German Federal Office for Information Security BSI.

Ethical issues of ICT and converging technologies: A series of projects and workshops for SATW, the Swiss Academy of Engineering Sciences, were conducted to initiate an interdisciplinary discourse in Switzerland on the ethical implications of future ICT and the convergence of Nano, Information, Bio, and Cognitive (NBIC) technologies.

Related publications