Society shapes technology based on the state of play among the competing interests which make up society. However, technological developments can and do have unforeseen consequences and impacts on societal development. Nevertheless, human agency and technology cannot be separated. It is human agency, manifested in technology, which plays the decisive role in history.
These were some of the sentiments shared at the JIAS seminar on Tuesday, 9 October 2018, when Prof Alan Chan, Vice President of Nanyang Technological University (NTU) Singapore, led a seminar entitled ‘Science and Technology for Humanity: A Report from Singapore.’
Prof Chan reported on the activities of the NTU Institute of Science and Technology for Humanity (NISTH), a newly established Interdisciplinary Centre of Excellence at NTU, Singapore.
“At NTU, we seek to make sense of how technological advances impact societies, cultures and human behaviour,” said Prof Chan.
“We have adopted a thematic approach that cuts across broad subject areas such as artificial intelligence, big data and the life sciences.”
Prof Chan elaborated further focusing on Responsible Innovation and its impact on society; Governance and Leadership in the Technological Age and also looked at how technology is transforming the urban landscape in Asia, and how it is affecting the lives of people in the world’s most populous continent.
Prof Chan added that the impact of technology and on the human condition needs to be critically appraised and examined.
“To this end, the NISTH propels research and public discourse on the social context of scientific and technological innovation, as well as the consequences of technological interventions in society.”
A philosopher by training, Prof Chan — who hails from Hong Kong and has been teaching in Singapore since 1991 — firmly believes that students in Singapore and across the world should contribute in making their universities become smart campuses.
Technology and innovation may be the twin forces to power Singapore’s new economy but increasingly, social sciences and humanities are getting some unexpected attention and gaining importance in the workplace and helping policymakers as they tackle complex issues.