What is the impact of new technologies on humans and society?

Theoretical research

This challenge aims to gather new knowledge on a topic, which contributes and adds value to the already existing knowledge on this topic.


Technology is advancing at an increasingly rapid pace and impacting human existence more and more. That sometimes puts pressure on core societal and ethical values, for example our responsibility for the environment, respect for privacy and security, autonomy, attention and concentration, and the quality of social relationships. New technologies raise questions about privacy, quality of life, the possibility of super intelligent robots making human beings redundant, and the issue of who is responsible if a self-driving automobile takes the wrong decision.

The impact and advantages of technology on our lives today, can simply, not be ignored. The 21st century has been called the era of science and technology (and now data), especially with the new technology developments and advancements over the last few decades. A new society has already been defined recently, the so-called Society 5.0, which was proposed in the 5th Science and Technology Basic Plan as a future society that Japan should aspire to. It follows the hunting society (Society 1.0), agricultural society (Society 2.0), industrial society (Society 3.0), and information society (Society 4.0). This society will feature enhanced forms of robotics, AI, nanotechnology, and biotechnology, an enhanced Internet of Things, and further exploitation of Big Data.

On the one hand, technology has made it easier to farm, more feasible to build cities, and more convenient to travel, among many other things, effectively linking together all countries on earth, helping to create globalization, and making it easier for economies to grow and for companies to do business.

On the other hand, it has generated a fierce debate among policy-makers, economists and industry leaders about its societal impact. As digitalization disrupts society ever more profoundly, concern is growing about how it is affecting issues such as jobs, wages, inequality, health, resource efficiency and security.

The main goal of this challenge is to explore and describe the impact of new technologies on humans and society.

Perspectives and possible directions

Describing and evaluating the impact of technology on society can provide input for policymaking, business operations in technology firms, and the methods used by technology researchers or engineers. Methodology issues, for example how best to analyse the impact of technology, will inform evaluative questions about the wished-for impact.

There is almost no area in which technology does not impact our current day lives, for better or worse. Since Covid-19, is has become evident how relatively easy we can switch to a new way of learning, living and working thanks to technology. We can monitor our health and keep our physicians informed using data technology, we can stay socially connected even under quarantine thanks to social media, entertainment and reading options have exploded exponentially because of new technologies, and our groceries are delivered on our doorstep with just a click of a button.

Technology is so broad today as to encompass almost everything. No product is made today, no person moves, nothing is collected, analyzed or communicated without some ‘new technology’ being an integral part of it.  What does that mean for society, and how will things turn out in five, or ten, or twenty-five years’ time? Who will gain from new opportunities, and who will lose out and perhaps have to hunt for another job? How much is our privacy worth to us? What is the effect on human connection and the human factor in general.

It might also include the topic of Society 5.0, a human-centered society that balances economic advancement with the resolution of social problems by a system that highly integrates cyberspace and physical space. In such a society that integrates both the cyber and physical spaces, what is the exact role that human beings will play within it. What relationship is there between bio-science, high-tech disruptive technologies and human beings? What does this do to us as human beings? How do perceptions of AI and their application influence our identity, our ‘humanity’, ethics, morality, social relationships and equality? How can we align for example technological innovations more closely to key societal and moral values?

Serious gaming is an example of an interesting method for simulating projected changes in technology and their impact on society. Can we use for example serious gaming and gamification to teach 21st century skills, and in what way? What hurdles are there?

Many questions that you might focus on, are normative in nature and require a study of ethics. Medical or health care technology, for example, often raises questions about responsibility. Once the norm has been established, the question is how to design technologies that achieve the wished-for impact. The answers to these questions then provide input for designing legislation or policy ensuring broad adherence to those norms. Finding these answers means first exploring a host of basic research questions concerning the relationship between humans and technology.

Questions connected to this challenge can cover many different domains. They could include questions about jurisprudence, privacy and freedom, food supply, health care, learning and development, social systems, big data, trust in institutions, the smart city, gaming, liability, democracy, labour market trends, and industry.