chapter  5
16 Pages

The Industrial Ecology of Emerging Technologies

Complexity and the Reconstruction of the World
WithBraden Allenby

The modern world increasingly reflects human activities, to the point that many scientists are referring to this era as the “Anthropocene,” the Age of Humans. A major domain of human activity involves sociotechnical systems, which can be characterized as occurring in constellations of coevolving technological, cultural, institutional, economic, and psychological systems lasting over many decades. The current constellation, still in its early stages of development, brings together five powerful technology systems—nanotechnology, biotechnology, robotics, information and communication technology, and cognitive science—that are even more complex than historical precedents because they enable not just far more powerful capabilities to design domains external to humans but also the potential to design individual humans themselves. Understanding the implications of this sociotechnical landscape for industrial ecology suggests profound theoretical challenges as well as important new areas of research.