Today's Tech, Tomorrow's Problems August 2021
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In general, stakeholders view new technologies as positive developments that provide benefits for individuals or organizations. However, during the coming decades, scientists might discover that the revolutionary technologies of the present will eventually have negative impacts and externalities. Stakeholders could benefit from considering the long‑term knock‑on effects of new technologies while these technologies are still in development.
Although nanoparticle technology is promising and could have many potential applications—including in food, medicine, and beauty products—safety concerns exist. For example, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA; Parma, Italy) recently updated its safety assessment of food additive E171, which comprises both microscale and nanoscale titanium dioxide particles. The EFSA can no longer consider E171 safe as a food additive and cannot recommend a safe level for the daily intake of the additive because concerns exist that the additive can damage cellular DNA and thus result in mutations that have carcinogenic effects.
The introduction of much more efficient solar panels is challenging assumptions about the useful life of existing systems. New systems can be so much more efficient than older ones that users might soon have a financial incentive to rip out systems halfway through their useful lives and replace them with more efficient models, leading to a deluge of solar-panel trash that is uneconomic to recycle.
Automated-driving features promise to reduce the burden of driving; however, early studies by researchers from the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Davis (Davis, California), suggest that partial automation encourages vehicle owners to drive more. More driving could increase traffic congestion and accelerate wear on transportation infrastructure.
Although drones and AI have a seemingly infinite number of potential beneficial applications, combining drones and AI can enable new types of weapons systems that militaries and governments will need to consider. A March 2021 report by the United Nations Security Council (United Nations; New York, New York) claims that an unknown group may have used AI‑powered autonomous drones in Libya to kill combatants without human intervention for the first time.