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European Visions for the Knowledge Age

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European Visions for the Knowledge Age

A Quest for New Horizons in the Information Society

Paul T Kidd (Ed)
ISBN 978-1-901864-08-3 (Paperback)
Price: See buy on-line link




History of the Book

Thinking about the future
ICTs are increasingly playing an underpinning role in many aspects of our lives. To date GSM and Internet have already started influencing patterns of human activity. What more will the future hold as new generations of ICTs emerge? Ultimately the future is in our hands and we must decide which way we want to go. By looking to the future, the book aims to offer a range of possibilities of where we may want - or not want - to go. The Vision Book explores new ways of thinking about the future.


The role of vision
A premise of book is that vision development is an important and often neglected process. Thinking about where we are going and why, is important - but not necessarily easy. The aim of the book is help in this respect: to present a range of ideas, thoughts and images of the future relating to ICTs, in a way that is engaging, visually stimulating, and easy to understand. In this way readers can get a glimpse of future possibilities, so as to inspire or guide their way of thinking and decisions today. Future concepts can help to create a breakthrough in thinking for minds that are stuck in the present, and often also in the past. Rather than offering facts, figures and statistics - visions and concepts may give people inspiration and open up new thoughts.


The Vision Book Project

The Vision Book was a project run by the European Commission, Directorate-General Information Society. It explored a series of 'visions of the future' ranging from 5 to 25 years from the present, including technological, human and societal perspectives. Some were utopian, some disturbing, some reasonable and some impossible. Yet the purpose of these landscapes of future Information Societies was not to predict exactly what will happen, but rather to provoke thinking, promote an interactive and open debate with the public, and provide inspiration for strategic decision-making.

Over 20 international leading figures of science, technology and humanities were commissioned to write articles for the book. Written in the form of critiques, essays and scenarios, authors describe and analyse the possible futures they think could be or should be. An intriguing diversity of areas was covered: healthcare, sustainable development, emerging forms of governance, privacy, as well as sociological, cultural and economic views.

The book is aimed at a range of readers: decision-makers in business and the public sector; people involved in research and development; those interested in European affairs; and above all, anybody interested in the future!

The intention was that the publication of the actual book would set the scene for the second phase of the project, which aimed to create a debate around our future during the current shift from the Information Age to the Knowledge Age. Readers were to be invited to react with comments, feedback or to send in their own contributions.


The collection of articles planned for publication in the book is aimed at opening up thinking about the future.

Both knowledge and imagination are needed for such an enterprise. The power of the imagination is greatly underestimated - visions are often lacking in what is done in research. Yet, we cannot deliberate nor act on ideas that have not been imagined.

Many advances in history have been driven by visionary ideas. Leonardo da Vinci's huge arrays of inventions were doodled in his notebooks. Einstein deliberately tried to imagine what it would be like to ride on a beam of light and famously said, "Imagination is more important than knowledge."

Of course, if we only fantasise then we lose touch with reality - but if we can move between fantasy and reality then we can create a future for ourselves that is more meaningful and relevant. The advantage of playing with the future in this way, is that once something is imagined it can be altered at will, by a range of people.

The aim of the project was to bring together a diverse range of leading figures, and to ask them to write about what they think could be, or should be, in the future. To describe a topic for which they are well recognised as experts, but also to reflect on issues and to imagine.

And of course such a process of thinking, reflecting and imagining should be open to everybody.

Creating the Book
A set of workshops were held in 2003 to prepare material, exchange ideas, select themes, form groups. Most of the work took place electronically among authors, in groups, and with the editor. After the contributors had produced their articles they were copyedited to improve the English and to make them accessible to a wide non-specialist audience.

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