Technical and scientific knowledge is growing at a fast speed. This allows for a lot of experimentation and innovation but in order to do it, you need first to acquire very specific knowledge, to educate yourself in many technical disciplines.
This is not at everybody’s reach. In particular, it is hardly at reach of non-technical decision-makers, as business managers or politicians. How can we expect politicians and the general public to be able to take an ethical or societal position, to legislate, on issues they don’t have the background knowledge nor the time (or will) to learn?
Nevertheless, some of these new inventions need legislation, and definitely you need to be aware of it as a business decision maker. Here’s a practical approach to tackle this issue: use critical thinking, using contextual knowledge instead of technical one.
I’m extrapolating here from Miguel Aznar’s 9 questions to tackle the nanotechnology issue, in order to get a contextual comprehension of any technical issue:
- What is this new technique?
- Why do we use it?
- Where does it come from?
- How does it work? (just roughly, you don’t have to get too technical, exploit analogies )
- How is it evolving?
- How is this technology changing us (as an individual, as a society)?
- How could we change/adapt it?
- What are the pros and cons?
- How to evaluate/measure it?
This is a good set of questions to remember before taking action, don’t you agree?