Debating Europe, along with our partner think-tank Friends of Europe, is holding another live event on 20 March 2012 between 13h00 and 14h00 Central European Time (CET). We’ve invited Anne Glover, Chief Scientific Advisor to EU Commission President José Manuel Barroso, and Dan Reed, Corporate Vice President of the Technology Policy Group, Microsoft Research, to answer questions about how new technologies might affect Europe by the year 2050. What do YOU think? We’ll be putting questions from users to our panelists, and you can click HERE to submit yours.

Technology today is already revolutionising the way Europeans live, work and play, but what might things look like by the century’s mid-point? Will we have a Green Europe of smart energy grids and an “internet of things” to conserve resources? Could ubiquitous high-speed internet and open data lead to a golden age of democracy and freedom of speech? Might personalised medicine help us slash healthcare costs and save the “European social model”? Or do new technologies deliver as many dangers as opportunities? What are some of the ethical challenges around civil liberties, privacy and human rights that we may face in 2050, and what can Europe do today to plan for the future?

We’ve already touched on some of these topics, including a question sent in on Twitter from @10comm suggesting “It would be good to debate why EU [Information Technology] is not visible / not there.” Why are all the most successful ICT start-ups from the US and not the EU?!/10comm/status/170167425738866688

Another commenter, Paul, suggested steps that could be taken to help encourage Europe’s tech industry:

I think looking at technology hubs, based around universities, would work well in Greece.  Montpelier in France is a good example – a lovely place to live – small technology companies move nearby and soon you are developing many other companies supporting the hard tech ones. 

What about how technology might transform other aspects of European life? Eric Lagally has also suggested ways technology could affect health-care:

Technologies like rapid diagnostics and integrated electronic medical records could play a major role [in health-care].  If you only see a patient once, as is often the case with immigrants, the poor, and transient populations, medical records need to follow the person, not the other way around. 

Could this help protect the “European social model” from increasing public-sector cuts? Eric thinks not. He warns that technology is not a magic bullet:

Spend the money and technology on reinforcing access to primary health care (as promised in the Millennium Development Goals anyway) and in the long run, the health care dollars will go a lot further.

Finally, John suggests a few ways technology might impact democracy:

They fear that the electorate may well get a taste for referenda, which would seriously undermine the need for so many of them.  they can see that, with progress in technology, government by consensus is just around the corner.  Then there will be no more second home allowances and the like.  Just good old democracy.

The theme running throughout many of the more hopeful comments we’ve received is one of revolution, change and renewal. Old systems are seen as crumbling and unable to cope with the challenges of modern life. Corrupt politicians will be swept away and replaced with direct internet democracy; old business models (such as those pursued by the entertainment industry) will eventually succumb to the ravages of online piracy and allow artists to sell directly to their fans; struggling energy and welfare systems will be re-invigorated with shiny new technology. Is this wishful thinking? What about the dangers and the risks?

What do YOU think? What will Europe’s tech revolution look like? Let us know your ideas and questions in the form below.

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – Kurtis Scalleta

21 comments Post a commentcomment

  1. avatar
    Nico Keppens

    Will the tech revolution serve in the first place to create new ‘needs’ and consumerism, or to ensure a sustainable way of improving daily life and working methods? Both lead to creating work and economic growth, but the latter may not exhaust all the world’s resources.
    Who can assure that the priority of the tech revolution is to find sustainable ways to bring the living conditions of people in developing countries closer to the ones in the richer countries?

  2. avatar
    Christos Mouzeviris

    We got to diversify our economies, and create a European economy not just have smaller fragmented incompatible economies in Europe..Ireland is already established as the Silicon Valley of Europe, we should turn Greece Portugal and other countries of the Mediterranean into the Green Powerhouse of renewable energy of Europe. Other countries like Estonia that we saw them contributing to the developing of Skype could do more on this sphere.

    But instead of relying solely on foreign investors (mainly from America and China) that might interfere with the local internal politics of a small country in order to invest in it, thus influencing indirectly European politics, why doesn’t the EU invest in creating or developing those new industries in cooperation with local investors and create European companies of enterprise that will include all or most EU members participating in the funding, research, and exploiting of those new industries.

    In other words we could create a panel of EU “public sector”..!! No it won’t be the public sector that we know of, the EU won’t control solely those new sectors of industries, it will just fund and stimulate the research and development, in cooperation and the linking in of all European Universities, attracting investors from all countries that would like to participate and invest in those new projects.

    So all countries can benefit from this project. We could see industrial activity, development and job creation in all EU states, both north and south, east and west, harmonizing the European economies and giving equal opportunities in all countries.

    Exploration in telecommunications in Finland and Estonia, Solar energy in Greece Portugal Italy and later even Croatia, new farming industries in Poland, Romania and France and so on…Exploit every resources, knowledge, brain power, academic establishment, land, and workforce in every country, depending whatever each country has and can offer or contribute…But of course will the rich nations like to share the monopolies and benefits with the newest EU states? Now that is a challenge!!

  3. avatar
    Ivan Burrows

    Europe in 2050?

    There?s a good chance it will be a 3rd world waste land full of visitors looking at the relics of once great nations.

  4. avatar

    “harmonizing the European economies”-ok. But … is necessary harmonizing of educational systems

  5. avatar
    Scary Devil Monastery

    I foresee several problems with the rosy pink scenarios conjured by the commentators.

    1) It is most decidedly NOT in the interests of established major players on the EU markets to allow gaps to open for small and more agile competition providing these decentralized solutions. Competition is only beneficial if you are trying to climb to the top. If you are already at the top, kicking the ladder away is the easiest way to ensure you stay there.

    2) Most of the hardware to be developed in order to ensure many of these solutions first needs to be invented. Which in turn several very big stakeholders who hold the relevant patent portfolios will have to sit down and think about whether they want to bring consumer-friendly alternatives to market which will in in many cases abolish their own older business models in favor of new ones likely to generate less GM. I don’t see much chance of that happening.

    I believe civil rights activist organizations may set up secondary, noncentralized solutions. In 50 years the 3D-printers may be able to churn out things useful in manufacture. If we thought the current struggles over copyright and Intellectual “Property” was bad, well, here’s a level 5 s**tstorm looming over the horizon…

    3) Direct democracy. Honestly, the EU today has managed to undercut the impact of the electorate in such a way that de facto some 90-95% of every executive decisions actually lies on a conglomeration of unelected civil servants, in one form or another. The only way we will see citizens input in that process is if that input actually has no weight to make decisions.
    Anyone who has studied the EU parliament and the way they can be efficiently and effortlessly stymied even when they are all in agreement over the last four years will very swiftly have realized that the EU is a “democracy” in name only.

    If I have any predictions to add here it would be that within the span of the next decade we will see all of these technological marvels and changes in infrastructure proposed and heartily welcomed by the public – and we will see them all drown miserably in an undecipherable mess of bureaucracy, IP-legislation and national last-gap protectionism.

    It remains to be seen to what extent the general citizen will be roused from his/her apathy once they start realizing how little impact their votes have today. If any change is to come, the general citizenry is where it’ll be coming from.

  6. avatar
    Samo Košmrlj

    One of the challenges the entire society, not just the education system, will have to face is every generation losing the … how to call it … the feeling of belonging to a community. I think it is a very important part of human life to feel you belong to a certain group of people, especially in the young age. Not just in the virtual world, but also in real world. With the development of technology, people tend to transfer their lives into virtual world, so we will have to take very good care to encourage the young to establish social connections in real world. Otherwise, the very society may start falling apart because of too much egoism and egocentrism. Because no one will really know how to behave in real world anymore :)

  7. avatar
    Christos Mouzeviris

    Ema, I did not say “harmonize” the educational systems, meaning making them all the same…I said linking the Universities and promote further cooperation in research….

  8. avatar
    Marius Matei

    Who knows…?! 2050 is 38 years away!!! Did you know how the Education would be affected by Technology 38 years ago???

  9. avatar
    Zoétán Jenei

    n olyan oktatst kbzelek el ahol a tanrok hatrozk meg milyen modszertanal oktatnak s vgi vizsga rendszer keretben rtkelnm a tanulok tudst s kerlnm a ktelez vals oktatst brminek is nevezik azt valst csak nkntes alapon engedlyeznm mirt irom ezt mert ma magyarorszgon bevezetk a ktelez vals oktatst ezzel megsrtetk a tanulok valls szabadsghoz valo jogt mert nem valsosnak leni is joguk van

  10. avatar
    Debating Europe

    Digital Agenda for Europe Thanks for letting us know! And you’re welcome to watch our debate with Anne Glover, Chief Scientific Advisor to President Barroso, and Dan Reed, Corporate Vice President of the Technology Policy Group, Microsoft Research, live streamed tomorrow at 13:00 CET on!

  11. avatar
    Dirk Weimer

    Except thet, technology will increase the economic situation of everybody and that can increase the democracy in mind

  12. avatar
    Andy Price

    There will be positive and negative effects on democracy via technology in the future. A higher speed internet and open data could mean more transparency from government and also more authoritarianism from government.

  13. avatar
    Andrew Cook

    really tackle the controversial subjects here! I suggest your next poll is do people like higher wages?

  14. avatar
    Debating Europe

    Hi Andrew! Is it such a simple question? The flip-side could be the very same technologies might be abused by governments. We can already see this in the way technology is being used by autocratic regimes to spy on their citizens and censor information. However, if you have another tough question, then let us know and we’ll try to ask it today!

  15. avatar
    Karel Van Isacker

    Spying … the terminology used here is more based on movies that scare people, than real facts. Technology is a mean towards a greater democracy. Now, it is a total different issue if our dear democratically elected politicians decide to use it against their fellow citizens just because they can. If they use it to avoid disasters like the Toulouse shooting, then they should use it. But to know who is cheating on his wife, or knowing the personal tastes of people, that is an entirely different story.

  16. avatar
    Andy Price

    Debating Europe, I have some questions and it’s based on the maxim of Five Ws (and one H) and relates to data linked to me:

    Who has access to data linked to me?
    What do they do with this data linked to me?
    Where is this data linked to me held?
    When did they start using data linked to me?
    Why have they got data linked to me?
    How did they get data linked to me?

    I get the impression that there are many organisations and companies that have data linked to me. I would like to understand the who/what/where/when/why/how so I can control that data linked to me.

    It’s all very well with these European Commission proposals including the right to be forgotten, but I would need to know who holds data on me before I can tell them to forget me. I would want to know what they want to do with data linked to me before I could give informed concent. I would want to know where data linked to me is held so I can feel secure it is in a jurisdiction I trust. etc etc.

    The EU-U.S. joint statement on data protection by European Commission Vice-President Viviane Reding and U.S. Secretary of Commerce John Bryson yesterday was long on aims and short on data protection:

  17. avatar
    Andy Price

    @Karel Van Isacker, do you believe governments/organizations/companies should hold as much data as they can on people just-in-case it could be used for “good” (ala avoiding disasters like the Toulouse shooting)? And how would you ensure governments/organizations/companies could not use said data for “bad”?

    Digital “Spying” to me is data related to me being used by I third party (gov’, company, organization, etc) that I am not aware of.

  18. avatar
    Debating Europe

    btw, Karel – thank you for your point yesterday about accessibility and the “digital gap”. We’ll also try to get some responses to your point during the debate.

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