Technology assessment

Karel Mulder*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedings/Edited volumeChapterScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


The state of technology is often used to characterise societies: the names of Stone-, Bronze-and Iron Age reflect this. The twentieth century has been called the “Automobile Age” (Flink, 1990), and our own time is often referred to as the “Information age” (Castells, 1997). Technology appears as a major determinant of society. This suggests that technical change has more far-reaching consequences than just replacing a device with something better: technological change creates structural change in society, which leads to new opportunities for some and new threats to others. Impacts of new technology are often unforeseen. At the moment of introduction, new technologies are generally just perceived as replacements of inferior predecessors. Impacts that a technology might have for society at large, as well as impacts that affect specific groups in society often come over time and unnoticed. An early awareness of these impacts might prevent later problems. However, it is not only relevant to assess impacts of new technology; it might be as important to translate societal problems into challenges for technological innovation, and involve stakeholders in the technological innovation process to create opportunities to mold innovations to their needs. The “fit” between technology supply and societal demand for new technology could be improved and social resistance might be prevented. Technology Assessment (TA) aims at societally optimizing the process of technological change. This chapter will first examine how various debates on technologies gradually broke the grounds for Technology Assessment in the 1970s (the second section of this chapter). Afterwards, Technology Impact Assessment is discussed, which aims at systematically analyzing the impacts of new technologies (the third section). These impact studies signaled problems, but were insufficient to guide developments toward solutions. Stakeholder involvement might both lead to adjustments of a technology and to more stakeholder appreciation of the technology. Some new technologies are important for everybody, as they relate to core human values. Especially in those cases it is very important to involve the general public in the debates. Stimulated public debates on emerging technologies are covered in the fourth section. Improving the fit between emerging technologies and the (future) stakeholders, called Constructive Technology Assessment, requires imagination and analysis as it is about a “world coming into being” and is covered in the fifth section.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationForesight in Organizations: Methods and Tools
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9781317543145
ISBN (Print)9781138844919
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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