Role of Converging Technologies

Converging technologies designed to benefit society will involve trading zones with a shared mental model at the point of convergence. "Waste equals food" created a clear image of an environmental goal for the fabric network. Similar shared mental models will have to evolve among the NBIC areas.

The process of technological convergence will not only benefit from trading zones, it can play a major role in facilitating them. Consider how much easier it is to maintain a transglobal trading zone with the Internet, cell phones, and air transport. Imagine a future in which convergent technologies make it possible for people to co-locate in virtual space for knowledge exchange, with the full range of nonverbal cues and sensations available. Prototypes of new technological systems could be created rapidly in this virtual space and tested by representatives of stakeholders, who could actually make changes on the fly, creating new possibilities. The danger, of course, is that these virtual prototypes would simply become an advanced form of vaporware, creating an inequitable trading zone where technology is pushed on users who never have full information. But in that case, new trading zones for information would emerge, as they have now — witness the success of Consumer Reports. It is essential that powerful new technologies for disseminating and creating knowledge be widely accessible, not limited to an elite.

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