Public Release: 

Video series explores the state and future of technological convergence

Leading scientists discuss potential benefits and impacts

Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars/Science and Technology Innovation Program

WASHINGTON -- You may have come across the acronyms -- NBIC (nano-bio-info-cogno) or BANG (bits-atoms-neurons-genes) -- but what exactly do these grammatical mash-ups mean for our economy and society? They refer to "technological convergence," a concept where different scientific disciplines and communities collaborate to promote discovery and innovation.

In a new series of videos, leading scientists from across the United States discuss the idea of convergence and how it affects their work. The series was produced by the Science and Technology Innovation Program of the Wilson Center and supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

"Convergence of knowledge and technology allows society to answer questions that isolated capabilities and disciplines cannot," says Mihail Roco, Senior Advisor for Nanotechnology at NSF. "At the same time, it can also create entirely new technologies and knowledge. We hope this set of videos will help explain this concept to a larger group of stakeholders and interested members of the public." Roco and William Bainbridge of the Division of Information and Intelligent Systems at NSF were the coordinators of a 2013 study on the issue, "Convergence of Knowledge, Technology and Society: Beyond Convergence of Nano-Bio-Info-Cognitive Technologies."

The scientists interviewed for the video series discuss their definition of technological convergence, how other scientific fields are affecting their work and what obstacles must be addressed to reach convergence's full potential.

Interview subjects include George Whitesides of Harvard University, Paul Alivisatos of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Bruce Tonn of the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, Jian Cao of Northwestern University, Mark Lundstrom of Purdue University, Robert Urban of the Johnson & Johnson Boston Innovation Center, Piotr Grodzinski of the National Cancer Institute, Stanley Williams of Hewlett-Packard Laboratories, Aude Oliva of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Eli Yablonovitch of the University of California-Berkeley, Sangtae Kim of ProWD Sciences, Clement Bezold of the Institute for Alternative Futures and Roger Howe of Stanford University

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This video series is part of the international study, "Societal Convergence for Human Progress," sponsored by NSF, the National Institutes of Health, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Defense and U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The full set of videos can be seen on the Wilson Center's website: http://wilsoncenter.org/convergence

The full citation for the final report is "Convergence of Knowledge, Technology and Society: Beyond Convergence of Nano-Bio-Info-Cognitive Technologies (M.C. Roco, W.S. Bainbridge, B. Tonn and G. Whitesides; Springer, 2013)." It can be downloaded here: http://www.wtec.org/NBIC2/Docs/FinalReport/Pdf-secured/NBIC2-FinalReport-WEB.pdf

About the Science and Technology Innovation Program

The Wilson Center's Science and Technology Innovation Program (STIP) explores the scientific and technological frontier, stimulating discovery and bringing new tools to bear on public policy challenges that emerge as science advances. Work includes synthetic biology, nanotechnology, participatory technology assessment, geoengineering and additive manufacturing, as well as the application of information technologies, video games and social media to public policy challenges. For more information, visit: http://www.wilsoncenter.org/program/science-and-technology-innovation-program

About the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

The Wilson Center provides a strictly nonpartisan space for the worlds of policymaking and scholarship to interact. By conducting relevant and timely research and promoting dialogue from all perspectives, it works to address the critical current and emerging challenges confronting the United States and the world. For more information, visit: http://www.wilsoncenter.org

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