Blue sky Policy Alert 008
|ERA goals||mobility||infrastucture||rtd institutions||knowledge sharing||joint programming||cooperation|
|Author(s)||Anthony Walker, Joe Ravetz, Rafael Popper, Thordis Sveinsdottir|
|Contributor(s)||Anna Kononiuk, Denis Loveridge, Andrej Magruk, Dorota Pawlak, Sally Randles, Ozcan Saritas, Phil Shapira, Alexander Sokolov|
Potential impacts in Europe
legislation & regulation
economy & business
defence & security
government & politics
environment & ecosystems
science & technology
|Importance for EU|
|Strategic attention||by 2030 by 2050|
|Type of impact||Extremely positive|
|Inspired by||EC research on Nanosciences(Selfassembling and self-organisation)|
|Related to||FP7 project: ENSEMBLE|
|Keywords||convergence, ICT, invisibility, nanotechnology, self-assembling, self-organisation|
This wild card relates to a situation whereby and invisibility spray is developed and the technology refined until it becomes available in most retail outlets and is affordable for the general public. Initially, this is seen as fun, however there are strong implications for security and the military as applications for warfare are exploited.
This wild card was inspired by ongoing research projects and ideas in FP7 regarding breakthroughs in the development of metamaterials and engineered 3-D materials that can reverse the natural direction of visible and near-infrared light rendering target objects ‘invisible’. It is clear that the ‘wild’ nature of this event is the further development of the technology so it can be used on human beings and also being readily available. Although this may seem like a harmless technology, there are radical implications, for instance, there would be a need for an ‘invisibility detector’ and security systems would have to be radically changed (to counter potential applications in espionage). This could open up a new market and provide a large boost to any private invisibility detection services. The potential to transfer this technology to other applications is huge. War would be revolutionised with the attack of the invisible soldiers, criminal activity rises as people are unable to be seen and cars and vehicles are invisible. In fact, there would be a need for a new traffic management system. In parallel with potential applications would be the radicalisation of social networks, and possible new communication techniques would be required. What would this mean for the fashion industry? Could this lead to the collapse of the fashion economy? Further questions regarding the long term safety of users are unanswered, and new legislation required.
There are numerous conditions that make this Wild Card important – ranging from technological applications to implications on society. For instance, the social quest for the ‘body beautiful’ would be removed, and greater confidence established for people traditionally seen as ‘different’, with more emphasis based on senses other than sight. Heightened awareness of smell and sound becomes apparent, and people could possibly become addicted to the phenomenon of being invisible causing a shift in attitude towards fellow humans. Clearly one of the interpretations and applications for this would be for use in warfare. Whoever developed this technology first would have a distinct advantage, and terrorist and criminal activity would rise until people are afraid to leave their own home without the fear of being attacked. Certainly, there would a need for legislation and regulation regarding the use of such technology.
This Wild Card has the potential to bring about a number of significant impacts. It is uncertain as to whether these would be positive or negative, and there a number of things that are impossible to predict. However, there would be huge implications for controlling traffic systems and thousands of cameras/CCTV security systems would be rendered obsolete in a very short period of time, as there is a new need to detect ‘invisibles’. There is the potential for new types of crime to emerge and the effects on society have the potential to be significant. New means of communication would be required whilst being invisible and there could be a fundamental damage to social networks.
There is already initial research underway regarding the development new kind of materials by bottom-up approach. Novel ideas are further being developed in attempts to make things invisible. For that reason, a number of early actions (pre-wild card) and early reactions (if the wild card occurs) should be considered:
Early actions: Legislation definitions, Regulations; Technology risks, risk analysis; Cooperation in funding between governments and military – otherwise maybe the weapons end only in the hands of armies; Claims to ban it for public use and military
Early reactions: Regulations, health and safety - long lasting effects
Early actions: Cooperation, technology and applications transfer; Money for self assembly research
Early reactions: Control on business in this area – otherwise high risks
Early actions: Possible social implications, Paradigm shift in public attitude; FP7 project Ensemble - self organised materials for/with extreme electromagnetic properties; Countermeasures; Adapting current research (technology); Glasses to see the invisibles.; Surveys of stakeholders, public, R&D attitude; Stakeholders and analysis; (post it crosses boundaries between before and after); Technology mapping, Risk analysis (post it crosses boundaries between before and after).
There is already research ongoing on metameterials and composite materials with extraordinary properties enabling them to bend light around objects. There is certainly the potential to advance this technology and as such there are a number of signals or observables warning us about the probability of occurrence of such a wild card. Interestingly, invisibility is a phenomenon that has been talked about for many years through various media. In the 19th Century H.G. Wells wrote about the invisible man, and popular rock band Queen had a hit with the invisible man in the 1980’s. More recently, the global success of the Harry Potter franchise has brought the vision of an invisibility cloak to a worldwide audience. Further signals include: (1) First experimental evidence in microwave have already been demonstrated based on transforming optics; (2) Panasonic announces spray-on wallpaper electronically controlled which changes physical appearance of walls; (3) Stealth technology is at the pre-invisibility stage; and (4) Military authorities are increasingly interested in this technology.
There are also a number of growing trends that could be an indication of the future possibility of this wild card including: Research on new security systems; Military advancements in stealth; and breakthroughs in ‘invisibility cloak’ research.