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Promises and Pitfalls of Technology

Politics and privacy, private-sector influence and big tech, state competition and conflict, author biography, how is technology changing the world, and how should the world change technology.

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Josephine Wolff; How Is Technology Changing the World, and How Should the World Change Technology?. Global Perspectives 1 February 2021; 2 (1): 27353. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/gp.2021.27353

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Technologies are becoming increasingly complicated and increasingly interconnected. Cars, airplanes, medical devices, financial transactions, and electricity systems all rely on more computer software than they ever have before, making them seem both harder to understand and, in some cases, harder to control. Government and corporate surveillance of individuals and information processing relies largely on digital technologies and artificial intelligence, and therefore involves less human-to-human contact than ever before and more opportunities for biases to be embedded and codified in our technological systems in ways we may not even be able to identify or recognize. Bioengineering advances are opening up new terrain for challenging philosophical, political, and economic questions regarding human-natural relations. Additionally, the management of these large and small devices and systems is increasingly done through the cloud, so that control over them is both very remote and removed from direct human or social control. The study of how to make technologies like artificial intelligence or the Internet of Things “explainable” has become its own area of research because it is so difficult to understand how they work or what is at fault when something goes wrong (Gunning and Aha 2019) .

This growing complexity makes it more difficult than ever—and more imperative than ever—for scholars to probe how technological advancements are altering life around the world in both positive and negative ways and what social, political, and legal tools are needed to help shape the development and design of technology in beneficial directions. This can seem like an impossible task in light of the rapid pace of technological change and the sense that its continued advancement is inevitable, but many countries around the world are only just beginning to take significant steps toward regulating computer technologies and are still in the process of radically rethinking the rules governing global data flows and exchange of technology across borders.

These are exciting times not just for technological development but also for technology policy—our technologies may be more advanced and complicated than ever but so, too, are our understandings of how they can best be leveraged, protected, and even constrained. The structures of technological systems as determined largely by government and institutional policies and those structures have tremendous implications for social organization and agency, ranging from open source, open systems that are highly distributed and decentralized, to those that are tightly controlled and closed, structured according to stricter and more hierarchical models. And just as our understanding of the governance of technology is developing in new and interesting ways, so, too, is our understanding of the social, cultural, environmental, and political dimensions of emerging technologies. We are realizing both the challenges and the importance of mapping out the full range of ways that technology is changing our society, what we want those changes to look like, and what tools we have to try to influence and guide those shifts.

Technology can be a source of tremendous optimism. It can help overcome some of the greatest challenges our society faces, including climate change, famine, and disease. For those who believe in the power of innovation and the promise of creative destruction to advance economic development and lead to better quality of life, technology is a vital economic driver (Schumpeter 1942) . But it can also be a tool of tremendous fear and oppression, embedding biases in automated decision-making processes and information-processing algorithms, exacerbating economic and social inequalities within and between countries to a staggering degree, or creating new weapons and avenues for attack unlike any we have had to face in the past. Scholars have even contended that the emergence of the term technology in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries marked a shift from viewing individual pieces of machinery as a means to achieving political and social progress to the more dangerous, or hazardous, view that larger-scale, more complex technological systems were a semiautonomous form of progress in and of themselves (Marx 2010) . More recently, technologists have sharply criticized what they view as a wave of new Luddites, people intent on slowing the development of technology and turning back the clock on innovation as a means of mitigating the societal impacts of technological change (Marlowe 1970) .

At the heart of fights over new technologies and their resulting global changes are often two conflicting visions of technology: a fundamentally optimistic one that believes humans use it as a tool to achieve greater goals, and a fundamentally pessimistic one that holds that technological systems have reached a point beyond our control. Technology philosophers have argued that neither of these views is wholly accurate and that a purely optimistic or pessimistic view of technology is insufficient to capture the nuances and complexity of our relationship to technology (Oberdiek and Tiles 1995) . Understanding technology and how we can make better decisions about designing, deploying, and refining it requires capturing that nuance and complexity through in-depth analysis of the impacts of different technological advancements and the ways they have played out in all their complicated and controversial messiness across the world.

These impacts are often unpredictable as technologies are adopted in new contexts and come to be used in ways that sometimes diverge significantly from the use cases envisioned by their designers. The internet, designed to help transmit information between computer networks, became a crucial vehicle for commerce, introducing unexpected avenues for crime and financial fraud. Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, designed to connect friends and families through sharing photographs and life updates, became focal points of election controversies and political influence. Cryptocurrencies, originally intended as a means of decentralized digital cash, have become a significant environmental hazard as more and more computing resources are devoted to mining these forms of virtual money. One of the crucial challenges in this area is therefore recognizing, documenting, and even anticipating some of these unexpected consequences and providing mechanisms to technologists for how to think through the impacts of their work, as well as possible other paths to different outcomes (Verbeek 2006) . And just as technological innovations can cause unexpected harm, they can also bring about extraordinary benefits—new vaccines and medicines to address global pandemics and save thousands of lives, new sources of energy that can drastically reduce emissions and help combat climate change, new modes of education that can reach people who would otherwise have no access to schooling. Regulating technology therefore requires a careful balance of mitigating risks without overly restricting potentially beneficial innovations.

Nations around the world have taken very different approaches to governing emerging technologies and have adopted a range of different technologies themselves in pursuit of more modern governance structures and processes (Braman 2009) . In Europe, the precautionary principle has guided much more anticipatory regulation aimed at addressing the risks presented by technologies even before they are fully realized. For instance, the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation focuses on the responsibilities of data controllers and processors to provide individuals with access to their data and information about how that data is being used not just as a means of addressing existing security and privacy threats, such as data breaches, but also to protect against future developments and uses of that data for artificial intelligence and automated decision-making purposes. In Germany, Technische Überwachungsvereine, or TÜVs, perform regular tests and inspections of technological systems to assess and minimize risks over time, as the tech landscape evolves. In the United States, by contrast, there is much greater reliance on litigation and liability regimes to address safety and security failings after-the-fact. These different approaches reflect not just the different legal and regulatory mechanisms and philosophies of different nations but also the different ways those nations prioritize rapid development of the technology industry versus safety, security, and individual control. Typically, governance innovations move much more slowly than technological innovations, and regulations can lag years, or even decades, behind the technologies they aim to govern.

In addition to this varied set of national regulatory approaches, a variety of international and nongovernmental organizations also contribute to the process of developing standards, rules, and norms for new technologies, including the International Organization for Standardization­ and the International Telecommunication Union. These multilateral and NGO actors play an especially important role in trying to define appropriate boundaries for the use of new technologies by governments as instruments of control for the state.

At the same time that policymakers are under scrutiny both for their decisions about how to regulate technology as well as their decisions about how and when to adopt technologies like facial recognition themselves, technology firms and designers have also come under increasing criticism. Growing recognition that the design of technologies can have far-reaching social and political implications means that there is more pressure on technologists to take into consideration the consequences of their decisions early on in the design process (Vincenti 1993; Winner 1980) . The question of how technologists should incorporate these social dimensions into their design and development processes is an old one, and debate on these issues dates back to the 1970s, but it remains an urgent and often overlooked part of the puzzle because so many of the supposedly systematic mechanisms for assessing the impacts of new technologies in both the private and public sectors are primarily bureaucratic, symbolic processes rather than carrying any real weight or influence.

Technologists are often ill-equipped or unwilling to respond to the sorts of social problems that their creations have—often unwittingly—exacerbated, and instead point to governments and lawmakers to address those problems (Zuckerberg 2019) . But governments often have few incentives to engage in this area. This is because setting clear standards and rules for an ever-evolving technological landscape can be extremely challenging, because enforcement of those rules can be a significant undertaking requiring considerable expertise, and because the tech sector is a major source of jobs and revenue for many countries that may fear losing those benefits if they constrain companies too much. This indicates not just a need for clearer incentives and better policies for both private- and public-sector entities but also a need for new mechanisms whereby the technology development and design process can be influenced and assessed by people with a wider range of experiences and expertise. If we want technologies to be designed with an eye to their impacts, who is responsible for predicting, measuring, and mitigating those impacts throughout the design process? Involving policymakers in that process in a more meaningful way will also require training them to have the analytic and technical capacity to more fully engage with technologists and understand more fully the implications of their decisions.

At the same time that tech companies seem unwilling or unable to rein in their creations, many also fear they wield too much power, in some cases all but replacing governments and international organizations in their ability to make decisions that affect millions of people worldwide and control access to information, platforms, and audiences (Kilovaty 2020) . Regulators around the world have begun considering whether some of these companies have become so powerful that they violate the tenets of antitrust laws, but it can be difficult for governments to identify exactly what those violations are, especially in the context of an industry where the largest players often provide their customers with free services. And the platforms and services developed by tech companies are often wielded most powerfully and dangerously not directly by their private-sector creators and operators but instead by states themselves for widespread misinformation campaigns that serve political purposes (Nye 2018) .

Since the largest private entities in the tech sector operate in many countries, they are often better poised to implement global changes to the technological ecosystem than individual states or regulatory bodies, creating new challenges to existing governance structures and hierarchies. Just as it can be challenging to provide oversight for government use of technologies, so, too, oversight of the biggest tech companies, which have more resources, reach, and power than many nations, can prove to be a daunting task. The rise of network forms of organization and the growing gig economy have added to these challenges, making it even harder for regulators to fully address the breadth of these companies’ operations (Powell 1990) . The private-public partnerships that have emerged around energy, transportation, medical, and cyber technologies further complicate this picture, blurring the line between the public and private sectors and raising critical questions about the role of each in providing critical infrastructure, health care, and security. How can and should private tech companies operating in these different sectors be governed, and what types of influence do they exert over regulators? How feasible are different policy proposals aimed at technological innovation, and what potential unintended consequences might they have?

Conflict between countries has also spilled over significantly into the private sector in recent years, most notably in the case of tensions between the United States and China over which technologies developed in each country will be permitted by the other and which will be purchased by other customers, outside those two countries. Countries competing to develop the best technology is not a new phenomenon, but the current conflicts have major international ramifications and will influence the infrastructure that is installed and used around the world for years to come. Untangling the different factors that feed into these tussles as well as whom they benefit and whom they leave at a disadvantage is crucial for understanding how governments can most effectively foster technological innovation and invention domestically as well as the global consequences of those efforts. As much of the world is forced to choose between buying technology from the United States or from China, how should we understand the long-term impacts of those choices and the options available to people in countries without robust domestic tech industries? Does the global spread of technologies help fuel further innovation in countries with smaller tech markets, or does it reinforce the dominance of the states that are already most prominent in this sector? How can research universities maintain global collaborations and research communities in light of these national competitions, and what role does government research and development spending play in fostering innovation within its own borders and worldwide? How should intellectual property protections evolve to meet the demands of the technology industry, and how can those protections be enforced globally?

These conflicts between countries sometimes appear to challenge the feasibility of truly global technologies and networks that operate across all countries through standardized protocols and design features. Organizations like the International Organization for Standardization, the World Intellectual Property Organization, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, and many others have tried to harmonize these policies and protocols across different countries for years, but have met with limited success when it comes to resolving the issues of greatest tension and disagreement among nations. For technology to operate in a global environment, there is a need for a much greater degree of coordination among countries and the development of common standards and norms, but governments continue to struggle to agree not just on those norms themselves but even the appropriate venue and processes for developing them. Without greater global cooperation, is it possible to maintain a global network like the internet or to promote the spread of new technologies around the world to address challenges of sustainability? What might help incentivize that cooperation moving forward, and what could new structures and process for governance of global technologies look like? Why has the tech industry’s self-regulation culture persisted? Do the same traditional drivers for public policy, such as politics of harmonization and path dependency in policy-making, still sufficiently explain policy outcomes in this space? As new technologies and their applications spread across the globe in uneven ways, how and when do they create forces of change from unexpected places?

These are some of the questions that we hope to address in the Technology and Global Change section through articles that tackle new dimensions of the global landscape of designing, developing, deploying, and assessing new technologies to address major challenges the world faces. Understanding these processes requires synthesizing knowledge from a range of different fields, including sociology, political science, economics, and history, as well as technical fields such as engineering, climate science, and computer science. A crucial part of understanding how technology has created global change and, in turn, how global changes have influenced the development of new technologies is understanding the technologies themselves in all their richness and complexity—how they work, the limits of what they can do, what they were designed to do, how they are actually used. Just as technologies themselves are becoming more complicated, so are their embeddings and relationships to the larger social, political, and legal contexts in which they exist. Scholars across all disciplines are encouraged to join us in untangling those complexities.

Josephine Wolff is an associate professor of cybersecurity policy at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. Her book You’ll See This Message When It Is Too Late: The Legal and Economic Aftermath of Cybersecurity Breaches was published by MIT Press in 2018.

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Education Technology: An Evidence-Based Review

In recent years, there has been widespread excitement around the potential for technology to transform learning. As investments in education technology continue to grow, students, parents, and teachers face a seemingly endless array of education technologies from which to choose—from digital personalized learning platforms to educational games to online courses. Amidst the excitement, it is important to step back and understand how technology can help—or in some cases hinder—how students learn. This review paper synthesizes and discusses experimental evidence on the effectiveness of technology-based approaches in education and outlines areas for future inquiry. In particular, we examine RCTs across the following categories of education technology: (1) access to technology, (2) computer-assisted learning, (3) technology-enabled behavioral interventions in education, and (4) online learning. While this review focuses on literature from developed countries, it also draws upon extensive research from developing countries. We hope this literature review will advance the knowledge base of how technology can be used to support education, outline key areas for new experimental research, and help drive improvements to the policies, programs, and structures that contribute to successful teaching and learning.

We are extremely grateful to Caitlin Anzelone, Rekha Balu, Peter Bergman, Brad Bernatek, Ben Castleman, Luke Crowley, Angela Duckworth, Jonathan Guryan, Alex Haslam, Andrew Ho, Ben Jones, Matthew Kraft, Kory Kroft, David Laibson, Susanna Loeb, Andrew Magliozzi, Ignacio Martinez, Susan Mayer, Steve Mintz, Piotr Mitros, Lindsay Page, Amanda Pallais, John Pane, Justin Reich, Jonah Rockoff, Sylvi Rzepka, Kirby Smith, and Oscar Sweeten-Lopez for providing helpful and detailed comments as we put together this review. We also thank Rachel Glennerster for detailed support throughout the project, Jessica Mardo and Sophie Shank for edits, and to the Spencer Foundation for financial support. Any errors or omissions are our own. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.

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Man’s relation to technology: a brief history, technology and biological anthropology, the sts approach, classical philosophical anthropology, philosophy of technology, the continental approach to the philosophy of technology, the analytic approach to the philosophy of technology, recent developments: bridging the gap, conclusion and future directions.

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The term technology is derived from the Greek word techné. The Greek word refers to all forms of skillful, rule-based mastery in any field of human praxis, originally encompassing both arts (like painting, sculpture, writing, and the like) and craftsmanship (like carpentry, shipbuilding, architecture, and the like). The Roman culture uses the Latin word arts for these domains. Accordingly the medieval terminology distinguishes between the seven free arts (grammar, rhetoric, logic, geometry, arithmetic, music, astronomy) and the mechanical arts (e.g., agriculture, architecture, tailoring), thus prefiguring the later distinction between arts (as linked to the study of humans and the humanities) and technology (as linked to engineering and the study and science of nature).

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The modern word technology finally refers either to procedures and skillful application of sciences for the production of industrial or manual products or to the products of these processes themselves. In this sense, technology nowadays encompasses only a part of the original Greek definition. The place of technology as being on the one hand a product of humans (being thus rooted in human anthropology and human tool usage), and being on the other hand based on a solid scientific understanding of the laws of nature (modern technology), can be seen as the two key features of contemporary and recent approaches to analyze and understand technology. Technology is then in one respect as old as humankind: Many approaches in anthropology thus refer to the general structure of technology in all of human history and relate it to the biological condition of humans. But recent anthropological thinking also reflects on the specific details of modern technology. It has often been argued that there is a structural difference between modern, science-based technology and older forms of craftsmanship of ancient or medieval types of technology. Therefore, a central question for modern anthropology is to analyze the consequences modern technology has for our picture of humankind: how to define man in the age of technology.

Reflection about the anthropological function of technology is probably as old as human self-reflection itself, since the ability to use tools and create cultural products has always been seen as a unique human feature, distinguishing humankind from most other animals (see also the next section on biological anthropology). But an analysis of technology was not at the center of political, social, anthropological, or philosophical thoughts before the development of the modern natural sciences and their counterpart, modern technology. Following Carl Mitcham (1994) one can roughly distinguish three approaches to technology before the 20th century, encompassing many topics that later became essential parts of contemporary discussions about technology (p. 275). The three approaches are as follows:

  • In the ancient world, technology is looked at with certain skepticism. The use of tools is seen as necessary for survival, but also regarded as dangerous, since it might lead to human hubris and might raise the envy and anger of the gods. In this sense, mythological thinking envisions technology as, for example, stolen from the gods (the myth of Prometheus), and thus not properly belonging to humans. The extensive use of technology is often seen as leading to megalomaniac fantasies or unjustified overstepping of religious and ethical boundaries (e.g., myth of the Tower of Babel, myth of Icarus). Philosophical reflection, however, acknowledges the value of technology for an otherwise defenseless human being. Already Plato anticipates a central thought of modern anthropology: Human beings are poorly equipped for survival in nature. They need to compensate for this lack by developing skills of rational thinking and the usage of tools (this idea later becomes a central thesis of the famous anthropology of Arnold Gehlen [1988]). But the emphasis in ancient philosophical anthropology lies not so much on man’s capacities to invent technology, but on man’s moral character (exemplified by ancient wisdom or medieval religiosity). The usage of technical knowledge should thus be kept within strict ethical boundaries.
  • In the hierarchy of knowledge, ethical wisdom is regarded in principle as higher than and superior to technological skills. Socrates points to the question that we should not only seek knowledge about how to do certain things (technical knowledge), but rather about whether we should perform certain actions (ethical knowledge); this idea can also be found in the medieval distinction between the (superior form of a) life in contemplation ( vita contemplativa ) and the (lower) life in active involvement ( vita activa ). Ancient and medieval technology is thus embedded in an anthropological vision, in which human virtues play an important role. Different forms of virtues are combined in the original crafts, as opposed to the later, modern differentiation of these virtues: In craftmanship one can find a union of economical virtues (e.g., efficient usage of limited resources), technical virtues (creating new entities that did not exist before), and often also aesthetic virtues (a sense of beauty that adds an aesthetic component to these newly created entities going beyond the modern idea that “form follows function”). In the Greek world, these three skills are combined in the realm of poiesis, while in modernity they are separated in the three domains of economy, technology, and art—each relatively independent of the others (Hösle, 2004, p. 366).
  • A profound change in the evaluation of technology emerges with modernity, a position that Mitcham (1994) summarizes as Enlightenment optimism. Already in the writings of Francis Bacon (1620), the new science of nature and its application to experimental and technological research is highly welcomed. Progress in technology is seen as very beneficial to humankind, as it may lead to the cure of diseases, mastery over nature, and a constant progress toward a more human society. Many utopian writings mark the beginning of early modern thoughts in which technology is seen as essential in leading to a brighter future for humankind (e.g., Thomas More’s Utopia [1516], J. V. Andreae’s Christianopolis [1619], F. Bacon’s New Atlantis [1627]). In a similar line of thought, Enlightenment thinkers defend science and modern technology against attacks from religious conservatism, pointing at the beneficial consequences of technological and scientific progress.
  • A countermovement to the Enlightenment is Romanticism, which accordingly has a different view on technology, referred to by Mitcham (1994) as Romantic uneasiness. Again, the central thought is an anthropological perspective in which man is seen as being good by nature, while it is civilization that poses the danger of alienating man from nature and from his fellow man, focusing only on his rational capacities and suppressing his emotional and social skills. Already Vico (1709) opposed Cartesian rationalism and feared that the new interest in science would lead to a neglect of traditional humanistic education. Rousseau’s critique of modern societies then became influential, seeing an advancement of knowledge and science, but a decay of virtues and immediacy ( Discourse on the Arts and Sciences; Rousseau, 1750). With the age of industrialism, the negative social consequences of modern labor work become the scope of interest of social theorists, leading up to Marx’s famous analysis of modern societies (see subsequent section on cultural and sociological anthropology). In opposition to the positive utopias centered on technology in early modernity, the 20th century then sees the literary success of pessimistic dystopias, in which often technological means of suppression or control play an important role (e.g., already in M. W. Schelley’s Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus [1818] and later in H. G. Wells’s The Island of Doctor Moreau [1896], A. Huxley’s Brave New World [1932], George Orwell’s 1984 [1948], and Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 [1953]).

The tension between approaches praising the benefits of technology (in the spirit of the Enlightenment) and approaches focusing on negative consequences (in the spirit of Romanticism) still forms the background of most of the contemporary philosophical and anthropological debate; this debate circles around an understanding of modern technology, often rooted in the different “cultures” of the humanities and the sciences. It can be regarded as being a particularly vivid opposition at the beginning of the 20th century, that only later gave room for more detailed and balanced accounts of technology (some classics of the debate being Snow, 1959; McDermott, 1969).

Recent contributions toward a deeper understanding of the usage and development of technology stem from such different disciplines as biology, sociology, philosophical anthropology, metaphysics, ethics, theory of science, and religious worldviews. This research paper aims at a brief overview of important topics in the debate over technology during the 20th century to the present time. Three anthropological perspectives will be distinguished, depending on the main focus of anthropological interest. This will start with a brief summary of the biological anthropological perspective on technology, move on to those theories which focus more on social or cultural aspects, and conclude with more general philosophical anthropologies. This research paper is thus not chronologically organized, but tries to identify common themes of the debate, even though sometimes the topics might overlap (e.g., the case of Gehlen, a philosophical anthropologist who starts from a biological perspective and then moves on toward a more social view on technology).

In contemporary anthropology, technology becomes a central issue for at least two different reasons:

  • From a biological perspective the usage of tools is regarded (next to the development of language and a cognitive rational apparatus) as one of the key features of humanization. Biological anthropology thus initially focuses on the differences and similarities of tool usage in humans and animals, trying to understand the role technology plays in general for an understanding of humans’ biological and social nature. With the focus on human evolution, attention is often drawn to the question of which role technology played at the beginning of humankind.
  • While in this way always being a part of human culture, technology becomes arguably one of the single most influential key features of society only in modernity. According to Max Weber, science, technology, and economy form the “superstructure” of modernity, while they all share a common “rationality” (mainly of means-ends reasoning in economy and technology). The experience of the powers and dangers of modern technology (as in industrialized labor work, medical progress, nuclear energy and weapon technology, environmental problems due to pollution, and extensive usage of resources, etc.) has triggered many social, political, and philosophical reflections that—in opposition to biological anthropology—aim primarily at understanding the specifics of modern

Let us look at these two tendencies in turn, starting with the biological perspective, before moving to the social or cultural anthropology of technology.

Biological anthropologists are interested in the role technology played during humanization, and they attempt to give evolutionary accounts of the development of tool usage and technology and compare tool usage in man with tool usage in other animals. The development of technology has often been regarded as an evolutionarily necessary form of adaption or compensation. Since most of man’s organs are less developed than those of other species, he needed to compensate for this disadvantage in the evolutionary struggle for life (see Gehlen, 1980). Initially the usage of tools was considered a unique human feature, distinguishing the genus Homo from other animals (Oakley, 1957), but research on tool usage in different animals, especially chimpanzees, led to a more or less complete revision of this thesis (Schaik, Deaner, & Merrill, 1999).

Nowadays, many examples of tool usage in the animal kingdom are known (Beck, 1980). For example, chimpanzees use sticks to fish for termites, and elephants have been described as having a remarkable capacity for tool usage. Even though tool usage must thus be regarded as more common among animals, attention still needs to be drawn to the specifics of man’s tool usage, which arguably in scope and quality goes beyond what is known from the animal kingdom. It has been pointed out that our biological anatomy offers us several advantages for an extended usage of tools: walking erectly frees the two hands, which can then be used for other purposes. Furthermore, the position of the human thumb and short straight finger are of great benefit, especially in making and using stone tools (Ambrose, 2001). Still debated, however, is whether social and technological developments go hand in hand or whether one of the two factors is prior.

Even though many anthropologists tended to see social behaviors and cultural revolutions mostly as a consequence of a change in tool usage or a development of new technologies, it has also occasionally been argued that the development of social skills precedes the development of technical skills (e.g., in joint group hunting). It has additionally been acknowledged that chimpanzees also pass over some of their technical knowledge through the mechanism of learning and establishing cultural “traditions” that resemble, to some extent, human traditions (Wrangham, 1994; Laland, 2009). But there seems to be a specific difference in human and primate learning, namely in the fact that human children learn tool usage mainly via imitation and by simply copying a shown behavior, even if it is not the most efficient solution to a given problem. Opposed to this, chimpanzees seem to learn through a process called emulation, which implies that they diverge from the paradigmatic solution that has been “taught” to them. It has been argued that learning through imitation has been selected in humans, even though it is a less flexible strategy, because it is a more social strategy of learning (Tomasello, 1999, p. 28). In this way, biological anthropology mirrors a debate in social anthropology about the role of technology; this can be seen either as a driving force born out of necessity that calls for social changes (technical determinism), or as highly mediated or even constructed by culture (social constructivism).

Technology and Social/Cultural Anthropology

As already mentioned, technology was identified early on as a key feature of modern society (Misa, Brey, & Feenberg, 2004). Many studies have been written about the impact of modern technology on society, focusing mainly on the industrial revolution (e.g., Haferkamp, 1992; Pressnell, 1960; Smelser, 1969) or on the more recent revolution of the information society (e.g., Castells, 1999; Nora, 1980), as well as on the impact of technological change on traditional societies.

The analyses of Karl Marx and the Frankfurt School are influential, not only in trying to grasp the role of modern technology in society, but also in hinting on potential anthropological roots of technology and their essential interrelation with social aspects of the human condition. Marx insisted that the study of technology holds the highest relevance for human sciences, since it reveals the way humans deal with nature and sustain life (Marx, 1938). An essential feature of man’s nature is that he has to work in order to sustain his life, that he is the “toolmaking animal” or—as he has later been called—the Homo faber. Marx analyzes the role of technology in Chapter 13 of his first volume of Das Kapital. He argues that the division of labor becomes fostered through machines, which at the same time replace more and more traditional manpower and can furthermore be operated by less skilled employees, thus leading to very bad labor conditions for the working class. Technology in general is, however, still greeted as an option to make humans’ lives easier; it is mainly the social distribution of the possession of the means of production that Marx regards as problematic. (Also later thinkers, inspired by Marxian thought, tend to see technology as an important means toward establishing a better future.) On the other hand, at the same time, technology is seen as rooted in man’s will to dominate nature.

Following this later insight in particular, Theodor Adorno argues that Western civilization has developed powerful tools to ensure its self-preservation against nature. Technical rationality is regarded as the exercise of strategic power to dominate (external) nature, but it is at the same time also leading to a suppression of the inner nature of man (Adorno, 1979). The main strategy of this rationality is quantification, which lies at the heart of the mathematical-scientific interpretation of nature and the development of modern technology. At the same time it brings forth a type of rationality, which leads to a selfmutilation. The will to exercise power becomes the main feature of modern rationality, thus leading to a dialectic that turns the noble aims of the Age of Enlightenment into a morality of humankind that is its very opposite: A new barbaric system of oppression and dictatorship arises, using technology for totalitarian purposes.

While Adorno seeks redemption mainly in the arts (Adorno, 1999), seeming to promise the possibility of a completely different kind of subjectivity, Jürgen Habermas (1971) tries to propose an antidote; this does not lie outside of modern-Enlightenment rationality, but rather returns to its original intention. Habermas argues with Marx and Adorno, asserting that technological knowledge has its anthropological roots in the will to dominate nature and therefore serves a strategic interest of man. With this, man is not only Homo faber but also a social animal. Besides the strategic means-end rationality he also possesses a communicative rationality, aimed at defining common moral values and engaging in discourse over ethically acceptable principles of actions. In thus distinguishing two types of rationality, Habermas tries to incorporate much of the German tradition of cognitivistic ethics into his approach. It is important for Habermas that technology be brought under the control of democratic decision-making processes; his discourse ethics has thus helped to inspire ideas of participatory technology assessment.

Outside the Frankfurt School, technology has not been at the center of social and cultural anthropology, as has been often complained (Pfaffenberger, 1988, 1992). Langdon Winner (1986) coined the term technological somnambulism to refer to those theories that neglect the social dimension of technology. According to this dominant tradition, the human-technology relation is “too obvious” to merit serious reflection. Technology is seen as an independent factor of the material and social world, one that forms a relatively autonomous realm of ethically neutral tools to acquire human ends. But already Winner argues that technology is essentially social and is shaped by cultural conditions and underlying value decisions. He claims in a famous article (Winner, 1980) that Long Island’s low bridges were intentionally built in a way that would keep buses away, making it more difficult for the poor, and mainly the black population, to reach the island. Even though this particular claim has been challenged, Winner seems to be correct in pointing out that value decisions play a role in creating technology, and that the social value system leaves its trace in technological artifacts.

In line with this renewed interest in social issues, a new field of studies related to technology emerged in the 1980s, focusing explicitly on this neglected relation between society and technology: the so-called STS approach. Having been labeled the “turn to technology” (Woolgar, 1991), science and technology studies (STS) analyzes society’s impact on science and technology, and science and technology’s impact on society. Several writers draw attention to the social shaping of technology. An influential author is Bruno Latour, who contributed to both the initial appeal to social constructivism (that he later gave up) and the development of the actor-network theory; both are at the center of the debate about the theoretical underpinnings of STS.

Social Constructivism

Woolgar and Latour employ a social-constructivist perspective in their early case study on the production of scientific results, in which they analyze scientists’ attempt to establish and accumulate recognition and credibility of their research through the “cycle of credibility” (Latour, 1979). The main idea of social constructivism is the attempt to interpret alleged objective “facts” in the social world as being socially constructed, so that knowledge of the world and its interpretation depends on social mechanisms and cannot be traced back to objective facts (Berger & Luckmann, 1966). In this sense technology is also not an objective, independent given, but shaped by social ideas and societal interpretations.

Actor-Network Theory

In the 1980s and 1990s, Latour became one of the main proponents of the actor-network theory (Latour, 2005); this is also attractive to scholars who reject social constructivism, since it can be combined with the idea that not all of technology is socially constructed. The social-constructive interpretation of this theory aims to develop a framework in which society and nature, or society and technology, are not separated. The idea of technology as a sociotechnical system implies that agent and tool form a unity, which cannot be explained completely by referring to one of the two elements in isolation. According to this idea, technological artifacts dispose over some form of agency and can be—to some extent—regarded as actants. This ascription of intentionality and agency to technical systems is, however, highly debated. The debate between realism and social constructivism has thus not been settled.

Philosophical Anthropology and the Philosophy of Technology

Research in philosophical anthropology peaked in early 20th-century Germany, discussed in the next section. But outside of anthropological discussions, the topic of technology became an important issue for philosophy, so in this brief overview, important contributions and themes of the continental and analytic tradition will be discussed next. Finally, more recent developments and topics in the philosophy of technology will be sketched that do not try to revitalize a philosophical anthropology, but that nevertheless do touch in one way or another on anthropological perspectives on technology.

Classical philosophical anthropology was mainly interested in understanding the essence of human nature and often draws specific attention to the role of technology. Important contributions came from Gehlen, Plessner, and Scheler during the first half of the 20th century. The attempt to link technology to a biological interpretation of man in Gehlen’s early works especially deserves attention. Given his biological constitution, man must be seen as deficient by nature ( Mängelwesen ), since he is not endowed with instinctive routines and is not adapted well to a specific natural environment, but rather is open to the world ( weltoffen ). He compensates for this deficiency with the help of his mental capacities and tool usage. Gehlen interprets human language and human institutions as relief mechanisms ( Entlastungen ) that help him to interpret and organize the plentitude of impressions (the sensory overload, Reizüberflutung ) that he is exposed to. Most technologies can thus be regarded to be either organ-amplification ( Organverstärkung ) or organ-replacement ( Organersatz ) (Gehlen, 1988). In Man in the Age of Technology (1980), Gehlen focuses more on sociological perspectives of technology. He identifies two essential cultural breaks marking principle changes in humans’ world interpretation and social organization, both of which are linked to technological developments: (1) the neolithic revolution of sedentism, marking the passage from a hunter’s culture to a society of agriculture and cattle breeding, and (2) the industrial revolution in modernity (Gehlen, 1980).

Scheler also analyzes man’s rational capacities from a biological perspective, but he concludes that a purely naturalistic approach does not render justice to our selfunderstanding. The human ways of sustaining life are from an often inefficient biological perspective. Therefore, it must be pointed out that the main function of human knowledge is not only to strategically ensure humans’ own survival, but also to be directed toward the discovery of moral values and toward the process of self-education ( Bildung ). Humans not only live in an environment, but also reflect on their place in the world—a capacity that marks a fundamental difference between humans and animals (Scheler, 1961).

This type of philosophical anthropology came to a certain end when the main interest of philosophers shifted from understanding “man” to understanding “society” during the 1960s. With the recent developments of sociobiology, philosophers have taken a renewed interest in the linkage between biological and cultural interpretations of man. Let us look at some tendencies of later research in the philosophy of technology.

If we look at a philosophical interpretation of technology, we find the first origins of a discipline of the philosophy of technology by the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century (see Kapp, 1877, and Dessauer, 1933). During the first half of the 20th century, the philosophical analysis of technology can, roughly speaking, be divided into two main schools of thought: the continental, often skeptical approach, and the analytical, often optimistic approach . As with all such very generic typologies, this distinction likewise does not claim to be more than an approximation, while the general tendency of recent research seems precisely to be to overcome this gap and to aim for a convergence or crossfertilization of these two approaches. Therefore, what follows is an ideal-type distinction that tries to make some of the basic ideas of these two approaches more visible and aims at understanding their more general features.

The continental approach originally focused on a humanities-centered perspective on technology, its (mainly negative) consequences for society, and its rootedness in a problematic feature of human anthropology (the will to power), and finally tried to understand technology as such (its “essence”). The analytic approach, on the other hand, originally focused on a more science-based understanding of technology, its (mostly beneficial) potential for the progress of societies, and its rootedness in a rational (scientific) way to approach nature, and it finally tried to look not at technology as such but at specific problems or specific types of technologies.

In the continental philosophy of technology, technology is often interpreted as closely linked to a certain form of consciousness, a form of approaching nature (and also human interaction) from a perspective that is rooted in a scientific understanding of the world, which itself is rooted in the will to dominate nature. This approach is seen to replace or at least to endanger a value-based approach to reality. In this sense, Edmund Husserl’s phenomenology regards science and technology as a mere abstraction from the fullfledged real experience of the world we live in. In this way, the sphere of technical knowledge is limited and needs to be guided by value decisions, which do not have their basis in scientific or technical knowledge, but stem from our ethical knowledge of our life-world.

While technology is not at the center of Husserl’s interest, José Ortega y Gasset (1914/1961) was one of the first philosophers who aimed at a deeper understanding of the relation between human nature and technology. Rejecting Husserl’s later emphasis on the transcendental subject, he insists that human nature can only be understood by the formula “I am I plus my circumstances.” Philosophy can thus neither start from the isolated subject (as in idealism), nor can it interpret everything from the perspective of the material conditions (as in materialism). Rather, it must find a middle ground. The essence of humans is for Ortega not determined by nature; this distinguishes humans from plants or animals or from physical objects—all having a defined, specific given nature. Man must determine his own nature by himself by way of the creative imagination. Technology is interpreted as the material realization of this self-image; it is a projection of an inner invention into nature. According to Ortega, technology evolved in three phases: It started as a collection of accidental findings of means toward ends by pure chance. In a later state, these findings became traditions and skills that were passed on to the next generation. Modern technology marks a radical difference, since it is based on a systematic scientific approach, which forms the third phase. This approach, however, tends to become the dominant mode of thinking, so that man’s creative capacity for imagination (which is at the heart of man’s very essence) is in danger of being replaced or losing its importance (Ortega y Gasset, 1914/1961).

Martin Heidegger’s (1977) analysis of technology in his essay “The Question Concerning Technology” is also very influential. His philosophy aims at understanding the notion of being, which—so claims Heidegger—has been misinterpreted or neglected by traditional European philosophy. Since man is the only known being that can ask for the meaning of being, Heidegger’s analysis in Sein und Zeit starts from an interpretation of the existence of such a being ( Da-sein ). Even though his book is meant to be an exercise in philosophical (fundamental) ontology, it offers many anthropological insights about the specific human form of existence, in which the knowledge and the denial of one’s own mortality form essential human features.

In his later work, Heidegger (1977) understands technology as a specific form of disclosing reality. Asked for the essence of technology, people usually refer to it as a means to achieve an end (instrumental definition), or they define technology as an essential human activity (anthropological definition). Even though Heidegger admits that these definitions are “correct,” they do not disclose the essential truth about technology for two reasons. Essentially, (1) technology is not a tool for achieving an end, but rather the perspective under which everything that exists is seen only as a potential resource to achieve an (external) end. Furthermore, (2) this disclosure of reality is not a human-directed practice: Humans are driven objects rather than being themselves the active subjects. According to these conclusions, the instrumental and the anthropological definitions of technology do not capture the whole truth of technology. Let us look at these two points in turn, as follows:

  • The essence of technology lies, according to Heidegger, in its capacity to disclose reality ( entbergen ) under a very specific, limited perspective. This perspective reduces everything to a potential object for manipulation, a resource ( Bestand ) for further activity. Technology is thus a way to disclose something hidden. Following his analysis of the Greek word for truth ( aletheia ) as referring to something undisclosed, he sees thus a “truth” at work, under which reality presents itself as a mere collection of resources for external purposes, rid of all inner logic and teleology that was so prominent in traditional understandings of nature. Heidegger points at the different ways in which a river is seen by a poet in an artwork ( Kunst werk), on the one hand, and, on the other hand, in which the same river is seen by an engineer as a potential resource for energy generation in a power plant ( Kraft werk).
  • Heidegger then goes on to claim that opposed to the image of man being in control of technology and using it for his purposes, he should rather be seen as being provoked ( herausgefordert ) by this coming to pass. Heidegger clearly wants to reject the optimistic idea of “man being in control” through the help of modern technology and, rather, revert it to its opposite: man being driven by a force greater than himself. He calls this driving force the essence of technology, the en-framing ( Ge-stell ) that prompts humans to look at nature under the idea of its usability. In doing so, man is in highest danger, but not because of potential hazards or specific negative consequence of modern technology. The danger is, rather, that he loses sight of understanding nature in a different way and that he might finally end up understanding also himself and other humans only as potential “resources” or potential material for manipulation and instrumentalization. Heidegger suspects that art might be a potential antidote to this development: In Greek, techne originally encompassed also the production of beautiful objects in art. Thus, a deeper understanding of technology might reveal its relation to art and might point to the fact that art offers a potential answer to the challenge that modern technology poses to human self-understanding.

Certainly, Heidegger’s contribution to the modern philosophy of technology lies more in highlighting this essential dimension of technology as a threat, rather than in elaborating strategies to counter these inherent dangers. Heidegger’s article is arguably the single most influential essay written in the philosophy of technology, although his mannered, often dark language allows for different interpretations and often lacks the clarity of philosophical contributions from the analytical school. But the idea that “technology” and technological rationality is a limited form of looking at reality—one that is in strong need of a countervision, and that might further lead to a deformation of intersubjective human relations and that finally affects human self-understanding—has ever since been a prominent topic in different thinkers from Adorno and Marcuse to Jürgen Habermas, as illustrated earlier. This idea has often been linked with an ethical concern: Modern technology calls for new ethical guidelines, and despite some beneficial consequence, poses a potential threat to human existence. Much of this ethical debate about modern technology was triggered by its potential to radically destroy human life, be it through nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons or by consequences of environmental pollution and climate change.

Heidegger’s pupil Hans Jonas (1984) was one of the first philosophers to emphasize the need for a specific “ethics for the age of technology,” feeling that modern technology urges us to radically reconsider our ethical intuitions in order to meet the new challenges. Nevertheless, based on humans’ anthropological need to seek protection against nature, classical technology never fully reached this aim. Nature remained always more powerful than men, and the consequences of human actions were mostly not far-reaching. Traditional ethics could therefore focus on the “near and dear.” Modern technology, however, radically changes the picture: Its scope is unknown in premodern times; its consequences and potential dangers could be fatal, far-reaching, and irreversible. Focusing on the environmental problems of modern societies with, as the darkest perspective, the possible extinction of humankind, Jonas suggests broadening the scope of our ethical obligations: If our actions are more far-reaching than ever before in the history of humankind, we need to acquire a new ethical countervision. Jonas finds this remedy in the anthropological feature of our feelings of responsibility. Responsibility often expresses an asymmetrical relation, as in parents who feel responsible to care for their children. The old ethical intuition to derive obligations from the rights of free and conscious individuals, able to participate in argumentation and democratic decisions, seems to be too narrow to account for most environmental problems: Future generations are not yet born, animals and nature cannot in the same sense be regarded as having rights, as has been established in previous ethical approaches to the idea of universal human rights. But obligations may also stem from the idea of responsibility, from the idea that something has been given into our care.

Analytic philosophy is rooted in the quest for clear conceptualization, sound argumentation, and scientific precision. For early analytical philosophy in the Vienna Circle, the mathematical nature of scientific knowledge could serve as a role model for knowledge as such: hence, the need for and the extended usage of logical formalization within analytic philosophy. Skeptical of the quest to address the essence of things like “the technology” in general, analytic philosophers very often focus on concrete problems linked to very specific technologies. Even though many thinkers in the line of logical positivism thus greeted scientific knowledge as the highest form of knowledge, this did not always lead to an unbalanced embrace of technology. In Bertrand Russell (1951), we find a skeptical attitude toward the social benefits of technology, especially if it is linked with totalitarian ideology. Thus, he stresses the importance of democratic education; if placed in a democratic context and applied in well-defined careful steps, technology is, however, beneficial for progress in a way in which Karl Popper (1957) typically advertises as piecemeal social engineering. Important early contributions to an analytic philosophy of technology stem further from Mario Bunge (1979), whose ideas closely link to the program of logical empiricism and oppose the “romantic wailings about the alleged evils of technology” (p. 68).

Even though this distinction between humanities’ philosophy of technology and engineering’s philosophy of technology (Mitcham, 1994) marks the background of the philosophical discussion on technology in the early 20th century, the debate soon moved beyond this opposition. Three tendencies seem to be of importance.

First, continental philosophy was moving away from the attempt to come up with metaphysical, religious, or anthropological answers to the big questions. With the emergence of postmodernism, the alleged end of the “big stories” was proclaimed, thus making a metaphysical approach less fashionable. Appealing to ontology (as in Heidegger), to metaphysics, or to religious ideals (as in Jonas) seemed less promising. Even though early continental philosophy was very critical with regard to strategic rationality and technology, it has been criticized by postmodernism as not moving radically beyond the central modernistic Western ideal of a rational philosophical synthesis or universal world interpretation.

Second, the focus within the philosophy of technology moved toward a renewed interest in looking at concrete technologies and the challenges they pose for analytical and ethical reflection, a movement that has been called the empirical turn in the philosophy of technology (Kroes, 2001).

Third, different attempts were soon made to bridge the gap between the two camps. In post-world-war Germany, the Society of German Engineers (VDI) established a dialogue about the responsibilities of scientists and engineers, addressing topics and worries of the humanities. The experience of the massive and systematic use of technology for organized mass murder during the holocaust and the development of technology for modern warfare, including the development of the nuclear bomb, raised issues about the responsibilities of engineers. The debate of the VDI meetings resulted in a series of important publications on the philosophy of technology (Rapp, 1981); these must be recognized as an important attempt to synthesize different strands of philosophical thinking, even though it can be asked how far the VDI school was really successful in transcending its engineering-philosophical origins (Mitcham, 1994, p. 71).

Along a similar line, authors have tried to combine the phenomenological approach with American pragmatism, thus bridging insights of a more continental and a more analytical tradition. Common to phenomenology and pragmatism is the idea of the priority of praxis over theory and thus the tendency not to see technology as applied science but, rather, science as a purified or abstract form of (technological) praxis. Following the works of John Dewey, thinkers like Paul T. Durbin (1992), Larry Hickman (1990), and Don Ihde (1979) have tried to establish a pragmatist phenomenological approach to technology. The insights of Don Ihde that each technology either extends human bodily experience (e.g., the microscope) or calls for human interpretations (e.g., the thermometer) are of particular anthropological interest. If technology amplifies our experience, then it always does so at the cost of a reduction: In highlighting or amplifying certain aspects of reality, it makes invisible other aspects of this very same reality (as in an ultrasonic picture) (Ihde, 1979). The way technology thus “mediates” our interpretation of the world, and our actions within it, has been a further object of extended research (e.g., Verbeek, 2005).

A further attempt to bridge humanist and engineering tradition has been made by Carl Mitcham (1994), who nevertheless tries to defend the priority of the humanist perspective, but at the same time develops an analytic framework that should serve for further investigation within the philosophy of technology. He distinguishes among technology as object (tools), as type of knowledge, as activity, and as volition (expression of man’s intention or will). The 1980s and 1990s saw an increased interest, especially in the analyses of the first three aspects of this distinction.

With regard to the fourth aspect, ethical issues have been a central topic for many philosophers of technology, ranging from debates about the responsibility of scientists and engineers, medical and bioethics, business ethics, technology assessment, risk assessment and decision under uncertainty, to environmental ethics. Two of these fields are of particular interest from an anthropological perspective: In environmental ethics, those theories might shed light on anthropological questions seeking to interpret the environmental crisis as essentially rooted in human nature. It has been argued that it is a human tendency to value short-term (individual) interests more highly than long-term (collective) interests, thus putting a pessimistic neo-Hobbesian anthropology in the middle of the debate. According to Garrett Hardin (1968), it is this very human tendency (together with a mismatch in the growth of the human population that exceeds the growth of the supply of the food or other resources) that leads to the “tragedy of the commons.” Research in game theory and environmental sociobiology indicates the possibility of holding a more optimistic view of the development of cooperative strategies in humans (Axelrod, 1984), though the issue is still debated and there is room for a more pessimistic perspective, as has been defended early on by some sociobiologists (Dawkins, 1978) or recently by some philosophers (Gardiner, 2001).

In the ethical debate on transhumanism, finally, many links can be found to classical anthropological questions about the essence of man (e.g., Baillie, 2005; Fukuyama, 2004). The central debated question is whether it is morally allowed, forbidden, or even demanded from us to enhance our human capacities through new technologies, ranging from short-term nonevasive ways (like taking performanceenhancing drugs) to fundamental irreversible changes (like genetic engineering). While bioconservativists argue against an extended usage of enhancement technologies, transhumanists point to the potential benefits of these new options. It is reasonable to assume that these issues will be with us as technology advances and opens new possibilities to alter the human condition. This opens a radical new challenge to anthropology, which until recently dedicated itself to understanding the given human nature, while it now has to face the normative question of which we should choose as our future nature, once technology offers radical new options of changing human nature (e.g., as by slowing down or even stopping the process of aging). It seems that the anthropology of the future must take into consideration, more and more, normative claims and it must reach out to incorporate ethics to prepare itself for the challenges modern technology poses.

Looking at recent tendencies in research, it can be argued that the initial focus on linking technology with a universal, philosophical anthropological vision, also rooted in biological knowledge, was one of the key achievements of early philosophical anthropology in the works of Gehlen and others. What made these anthropologies remarkable was their attempt to bring together the different traditions of anthropological thought, ranging from philosophy to sociology and biology. A turn toward a more social perspective was established first by Gehlen himself, the Frankfurt school, and later STS studies, sometimes leading away from or even lacking both an underlying philosophical vision and an interest in our biological nature. Very recently, however, sociologists and philosophers have shown an increased interest in biology (as is visible in the ever-growing numbers of publications in sociobiology and the philosophy of biology). This increased attention has not yet led to a revival of an interest in the links between anthropology and technology. But in order to understand man—both in his evolutionary origins and (maybe even more) in his current historical situation—it seems to demand attention to man’s amazing capacity to develop technology.

It can reasonably be argued that what is thus needed is a new vision of how to synthesize the different fields of biological, social, and cultural anthropology. It seems that after the empirical turn to gather extended details over the biological and social aspects of technology, there is now a call for a new philosophical turn, seeking a new discourse synthesis. Many classical questions of anthropology will tend to remain unanswered, if academic research remains focused only on disciplinary perspectives, which always look at only a part of the whole picture. It is certainly true that man is a social animal, that he has biological roots and that he can ask ethical and philosophical questions about the good and about his place in this universe. The disciplinary separations in biology, sociology, and philosophy (to name just a few) tend, however, to distract from the fact that man in reality is a unity, meaning that a true answer to the most fundamental question of anthropology (What is man?) calls for a plausible combination of these approaches. To synthesize the different aspects of our knowledge about our own human nature is certainly far from being an easy task, but it seems more needed than ever.

But if this is not yet a big enough challenge, there is even a second aspect that makes the quest for a synthesis even more challenging. It seems that a new anthropological vision of humankind must answer a question that classical anthropology has not been dealing with: If technology soon allows us to alter our very nature, then we must know not only what the human condition is, but also what the human condition should be.

Ethics might again enter anthropological reflection, as has been hinted at already by early thinkers such as Scheler and Jonas. Recent attempts to place man in the middle of both a normative vision of ideals, on the one side, and against a profound overview of our descriptive knowledge about our essence, on the other side (as in the voluminous attempt at a synthesis in Hösle, 2004), deserve attention, as they might be the first steps toward a renewed synthetic anthropology that tries to bridge the gaps among the different disciplines. A deepened understanding of technology must be a central part of these efforts, since the way we use tools and produce artifacts is one of the remarkable features of humankind—a feature in much need of guidance by descriptive knowledge and ethical wisdom, especially in our age in which technology (of which humans have been the subject) is about to discover the condition humana as its potential object in a way more radical than ever before.

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Mechanical stimulation and electrophysiological monitoring at subcellular resolution reveals differential mechanosensation of neurons within networks

Here, the authors combined and synchronized single-cell nanoindentation, electrophysiology and functional fluorescence imaging to evaluate the responses of neuronal networks to mechanical stimuli with piconewton force sensitivity and nanometre precision, enabling the exploration of nanomechanobiology and manipulation of neuronal systems.

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Chimeric nanobody-decorated liposomes by self-assembly

Manufacturing complexities, low yield and stability issues have hampered the clinical translation and scaling-up of immunoliposomes to meet the needs of pharmaceutical-grade products. The authors propose a one-step method of incorporating chimeric nanobodies tagged to hydrophobic linkers into liposomes, allowing targeted delivery of small-molecule anti-cancer drugs to tumours.

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Cellular uptake and in vivo distribution of mesenchymal-stem-cell-derived extracellular vesicles are protein corona dependent

In regenerative medicine, stem-cell-derived extracellular vesicles are emerging as cell-free nanotherapeutics. Here, the authors show that coating these nanovesicles with blood proteins such as albumin improves their uptake by liver cells, offering a better treatment strategy for liver diseases.

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Developing high-power Li||S batteries via transition metal/carbon nanocomposite electrocatalyst engineering

A transition metal/carbon nanocomposite material has been designed for positive electrodes in Li||S batteries. It enables Li||S batteries to be fast charged–discharged in <5 min, which represents a breakthrough in the development of high-power Li||S batteries.

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First-in-human controlled inhalation of thin graphene oxide nanosheets to study acute cardiorespiratory responses

Assessment of the health risks of exposure to anthropogenic nanomaterials is crucial to maximize their potential applications. This double-blind, randomized controlled study in healthy humans evaluates the impact of inhalation of graphene oxide nanosheets on acute pulmonary and cardiovascular functions.

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A non-FRET DNA reporter that changes fluorescence colour upon nuclease digestion

Here the authors present a non-FRET DNA-templated silver nanocluster probe that exhibits a distinct colour switch from green to red upon nuclease digestion, visible under UV excitation, offering a low-cost, effective alternative to fluorescent reporters for detecting nuclease activities.

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Full-length single-molecule protein fingerprinting

Distinguishing proteoforms and post-translational modifications has remained a challenge. Here the authors explore single-molecule fluorescence resonance energy transfer to probe amino acids via DNA exchange and map the location of individual amino acids and post-translational modifications within single full-length protein molecules.

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High-fidelity initialization and control of electron and nuclear spins in a four-qubit register

An electric dipole spin resonance protocol making use of hyperfine interaction enacts high-fidelity initialization of a four-qubit nuclear spin register in silicon. This protocol allows for high-fidelity qubit control and a path towards a register-based quantum computer using the exceptional coherence properties of donors in silicon.

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A magnetically powered nanomachine with a DNA clutch

The nanospace confinement of a magnetic nanoparticle within a porous cage, coupled with an encodable DNA clutch interface, enables a remotely powered and controlled rotary nanomotor that is autoresponsive to its microenvironment.

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  • Jung-uk Lee
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Coherent electronic coupling in quantum dot solids induces cooperative enhancement of nonlinear optoelectronic responses

Synchronized dynamics of quantum dot ensembles are essential for the generation of giant optical responses. To this end, coherent electronic coupling in quantum dot solids induces cooperative enhancement of nonlinear optoelectronic responses.

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Mapping charge excitations in generalized Wigner crystals

A novel scanning single-electron charging spectroscopy enables nanometre-scale imaging of quasiparticle excitations and thermodynamic gaps in generalized Wigner crystals.

  • Hongyuan Li

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Local-orbital ptychography for ultrahigh-resolution imaging

Ptychography is a coherent diffractive imaging method that enables atomic resolution in four-dimensional scanning transmission electron microscopy. Taking advantage of the nature of the investigated object, and therefore using atomic-orbital-like functions for the reconstruction of the object, the resolution can be further improved to an information limit of 14 pm.

  • Wenfeng Yang

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Augmenting insect olfaction performance through nano-neuromodulation

Insects have been shown to have the ability to detect different chemical agents. Here, the authors present a nanomaterial-assisted neuromodulation strategy to augment the chemosensory abilities of insects via photothermal effect and on-demand neurotransmitter release from cargo-loaded nanovehicles to augment natural sensory function.

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In vivo real-time positron emission particle tracking (PEPT) and single particle PET

In vivo positron emission particle tracking (PEPT) remains a challenge due to the lack of single-particle tracers. Here a sub-micrometre silica particle has been radiolabelled and isolated with high specific activity, allowing the dynamic tracing of a single particle in vivo using PEPT in mice.

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Carbon-nanotube field-effect transistors for resolving single-molecule aptamer–ligand binding kinetics

Resolving interactions of negligibly charged or neutral small molecules with their binding partners in a label-free manner is challenging. Here the authors present a single-molecule carbon-nanotube biosensor device for capturing aptamer–neurotransmitter kinetics at high temporal resolution, uncovering four-state structural transitions.

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Controlled adsorption of multiple bioactive proteins enables targeted mast cell nanotherapy

Proteins absorbed on nanomaterials often lose function due to denaturation. A poly(propylene sulfone) nanoparticle with site-specific dipole relaxation has been reported, which allows proteins to anchor to the nanoparticle without disrupting the hydrogen bonding or structure maintaining the protein functionality.

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Valley-centre tandem perovskite light-emitting diodes

A hybrid valley-centre tandem optical structure that combines perovskites and organic light-emitting diodes is demonstrated to obtain an efficient emitting device, showing the commercial potential of perovskite displays.

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Urease-powered nanobots for radionuclide bladder cancer therapy

Bladder cancer treatment suffers from low therapeutic efficacy. Here the authors present radioactive 131 I-labelled urease-powered nanobots that exhibit enhanced accumulation at the tumour site, enabling effective radionuclide therapy at low doses as an alternative treatment option for bladder cancer.

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Liquid-metal-based three-dimensional microelectrode arrays integrated with implantable ultrathin retinal prosthesis for vision restoration

A soft artificial retina with flexible phototransistors and three-dimensional liquid-metal microelectrodes is used to enhance proximity to retinal ganglion cells and minimize damage to soft tissue as well as improve charge injection for vision restoration in retinal degenerative in vivo models.

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Third-order exceptional line in a nitrogen-vacancy spin system

As singularities in non-Hermitian systems, exceptional points exhibit rich topological characteristics and have potential for sensing applications. Now, a nitrogen-vacancy spin in diamond exhibits a third-order exceptional line upon the introduction of multiple symmetries in the non-Hermitian Hamiltonian of the spin system.

  • Yunhan Wang
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How technology is reinventing education

Stanford Graduate School of Education Dean Dan Schwartz and other education scholars weigh in on what's next for some of the technology trends taking center stage in the classroom.

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Image credit: Claire Scully

New advances in technology are upending education, from the recent debut of new artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots like ChatGPT to the growing accessibility of virtual-reality tools that expand the boundaries of the classroom. For educators, at the heart of it all is the hope that every learner gets an equal chance to develop the skills they need to succeed. But that promise is not without its pitfalls.

“Technology is a game-changer for education – it offers the prospect of universal access to high-quality learning experiences, and it creates fundamentally new ways of teaching,” said Dan Schwartz, dean of Stanford Graduate School of Education (GSE), who is also a professor of educational technology at the GSE and faculty director of the Stanford Accelerator for Learning . “But there are a lot of ways we teach that aren’t great, and a big fear with AI in particular is that we just get more efficient at teaching badly. This is a moment to pay attention, to do things differently.”

For K-12 schools, this year also marks the end of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding program, which has provided pandemic recovery funds that many districts used to invest in educational software and systems. With these funds running out in September 2024, schools are trying to determine their best use of technology as they face the prospect of diminishing resources.

Here, Schwartz and other Stanford education scholars weigh in on some of the technology trends taking center stage in the classroom this year.

AI in the classroom

In 2023, the big story in technology and education was generative AI, following the introduction of ChatGPT and other chatbots that produce text seemingly written by a human in response to a question or prompt. Educators immediately worried that students would use the chatbot to cheat by trying to pass its writing off as their own. As schools move to adopt policies around students’ use of the tool, many are also beginning to explore potential opportunities – for example, to generate reading assignments or coach students during the writing process.

AI can also help automate tasks like grading and lesson planning, freeing teachers to do the human work that drew them into the profession in the first place, said Victor Lee, an associate professor at the GSE and faculty lead for the AI + Education initiative at the Stanford Accelerator for Learning. “I’m heartened to see some movement toward creating AI tools that make teachers’ lives better – not to replace them, but to give them the time to do the work that only teachers are able to do,” he said. “I hope to see more on that front.”

He also emphasized the need to teach students now to begin questioning and critiquing the development and use of AI. “AI is not going away,” said Lee, who is also director of CRAFT (Classroom-Ready Resources about AI for Teaching), which provides free resources to help teach AI literacy to high school students across subject areas. “We need to teach students how to understand and think critically about this technology.”

Immersive environments

The use of immersive technologies like augmented reality, virtual reality, and mixed reality is also expected to surge in the classroom, especially as new high-profile devices integrating these realities hit the marketplace in 2024.

The educational possibilities now go beyond putting on a headset and experiencing life in a distant location. With new technologies, students can create their own local interactive 360-degree scenarios, using just a cell phone or inexpensive camera and simple online tools.

“This is an area that’s really going to explode over the next couple of years,” said Kristen Pilner Blair, director of research for the Digital Learning initiative at the Stanford Accelerator for Learning, which runs a program exploring the use of virtual field trips to promote learning. “Students can learn about the effects of climate change, say, by virtually experiencing the impact on a particular environment. But they can also become creators, documenting and sharing immersive media that shows the effects where they live.”

Integrating AI into virtual simulations could also soon take the experience to another level, Schwartz said. “If your VR experience brings me to a redwood tree, you could have a window pop up that allows me to ask questions about the tree, and AI can deliver the answers.”

Gamification

Another trend expected to intensify this year is the gamification of learning activities, often featuring dynamic videos with interactive elements to engage and hold students’ attention.

“Gamification is a good motivator, because one key aspect is reward, which is very powerful,” said Schwartz. The downside? Rewards are specific to the activity at hand, which may not extend to learning more generally. “If I get rewarded for doing math in a space-age video game, it doesn’t mean I’m going to be motivated to do math anywhere else.”

Gamification sometimes tries to make “chocolate-covered broccoli,” Schwartz said, by adding art and rewards to make speeded response tasks involving single-answer, factual questions more fun. He hopes to see more creative play patterns that give students points for rethinking an approach or adapting their strategy, rather than only rewarding them for quickly producing a correct response.

Data-gathering and analysis

The growing use of technology in schools is producing massive amounts of data on students’ activities in the classroom and online. “We’re now able to capture moment-to-moment data, every keystroke a kid makes,” said Schwartz – data that can reveal areas of struggle and different learning opportunities, from solving a math problem to approaching a writing assignment.

But outside of research settings, he said, that type of granular data – now owned by tech companies – is more likely used to refine the design of the software than to provide teachers with actionable information.

The promise of personalized learning is being able to generate content aligned with students’ interests and skill levels, and making lessons more accessible for multilingual learners and students with disabilities. Realizing that promise requires that educators can make sense of the data that’s being collected, said Schwartz – and while advances in AI are making it easier to identify patterns and findings, the data also needs to be in a system and form educators can access and analyze for decision-making. Developing a usable infrastructure for that data, Schwartz said, is an important next step.

With the accumulation of student data comes privacy concerns: How is the data being collected? Are there regulations or guidelines around its use in decision-making? What steps are being taken to prevent unauthorized access? In 2023 K-12 schools experienced a rise in cyberattacks, underscoring the need to implement strong systems to safeguard student data.

Technology is “requiring people to check their assumptions about education,” said Schwartz, noting that AI in particular is very efficient at replicating biases and automating the way things have been done in the past, including poor models of instruction. “But it’s also opening up new possibilities for students producing material, and for being able to identify children who are not average so we can customize toward them. It’s an opportunity to think of entirely new ways of teaching – this is the path I hope to see.”

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Article Contents

Introduction, 1 installed capacity and application of solar energy worldwide, 2 the role of solar energy in sustainable development, 3 the perspective of solar energy, 4 conclusions, conflict of interest statement.

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Solar energy technology and its roles in sustainable development

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Ali O M Maka, Jamal M Alabid, Solar energy technology and its roles in sustainable development, Clean Energy , Volume 6, Issue 3, June 2022, Pages 476–483, https://doi.org/10.1093/ce/zkac023

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Solar energy is environmentally friendly technology, a great energy supply and one of the most significant renewable and green energy sources. It plays a substantial role in achieving sustainable development energy solutions. Therefore, the massive amount of solar energy attainable daily makes it a very attractive resource for generating electricity. Both technologies, applications of concentrated solar power or solar photovoltaics, are always under continuous development to fulfil our energy needs. Hence, a large installed capacity of solar energy applications worldwide, in the same context, supports the energy sector and meets the employment market to gain sufficient development. This paper highlights solar energy applications and their role in sustainable development and considers renewable energy’s overall employment potential. Thus, it provides insights and analysis on solar energy sustainability, including environmental and economic development. Furthermore, it has identified the contributions of solar energy applications in sustainable development by providing energy needs, creating jobs opportunities and enhancing environmental protection. Finally, the perspective of solar energy technology is drawn up in the application of the energy sector and affords a vision of future development in this domain.

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With reference to the recommendations of the UN, the Climate Change Conference, COP26, was held in Glasgow , UK, in 2021. They reached an agreement through the representatives of the 197 countries, where they concurred to move towards reducing dependency on coal and fossil-fuel sources. Furthermore, the conference stated ‘the various opportunities for governments to prioritize health and equity in the international climate movement and sustainable development agenda’. Also, one of the testaments is the necessity to ‘create energy systems that protect and improve climate and health’ [ 1 , 2 ].

The Paris Climate Accords is a worldwide agreement on climate change signed in 2015, which addressed the mitigation of climate change, adaptation and finance. Consequently, the representatives of 196 countries concurred to decrease their greenhouse gas emissions [ 3 ]. The Paris Agreement is essential for present and future generations to attain a more secure and stable environment. In essence, the Paris Agreement has been about safeguarding people from such an uncertain and progressively dangerous environment and ensuring everyone can have the right to live in a healthy, pollutant-free environment without the negative impacts of climate change [ 3 , 4 ].

In recent decades, there has been an increase in demand for cleaner energy resources. Based on that, decision-makers of all countries have drawn up plans that depend on renewable sources through a long-term strategy. Thus, such plans reduce the reliance of dependence on traditional energy sources and substitute traditional energy sources with alternative energy technology. As a result, the global community is starting to shift towards utilizing sustainable energy sources and reducing dependence on traditional fossil fuels as a source of energy [ 5 , 6 ].

In 2015, the UN adopted the sustainable development goals (SDGs) and recognized them as international legislation, which demands a global effort to end poverty, safeguard the environment and guarantee that by 2030, humanity lives in prosperity and peace. Consequently, progress needs to be balanced among economic, social and environmental sustainability models [ 7 ].

Many national and international regulations have been established to control the gas emissions and pollutants that impact the environment [ 8 ]. However, the negative effects of increased carbon in the atmosphere have grown in the last 10 years. Production and use of fossil fuels emit methane (CH 4 ), carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) and carbon monoxide (CO), which are the most significant contributors to environmental emissions on our planet. Additionally, coal and oil, including gasoline, coal, oil and methane, are commonly used in energy for transport or for generating electricity. Therefore, burning these fossil fuel s is deemed the largest emitter when used for electricity generation, transport, etc. However, these energy resources are considered depleted energy sources being consumed to an unsustainable degree [ 9–11 ].

Energy is an essential need for the existence and growth of human communities. Consequently, the need for energy has increased gradually as human civilization has progressed. Additionally, in the past few decades, the rapid rise of the world’s population and its reliance on technological developments have increased energy demands. Furthermore, green technology sources play an important role in sustainably providing energy supplies, especially in mitigating climate change [ 5 , 6 , 8 ].

Currently, fossil fuels remain dominant and will continue to be the primary source of large-scale energy for the foreseeable future; however, renewable energy should play a vital role in the future of global energy. The global energy system is undergoing a movement towards more sustainable sources of energy [ 12 , 13 ].

Power generation by fossil-fuel resources has peaked, whilst solar energy is predicted to be at the vanguard of energy generation in the near future. Moreover, it is predicted that by 2050, the generation of solar energy will have increased to 48% due to economic and industrial growth [ 13 , 14 ].

In recent years, it has become increasingly obvious that the globe must decrease greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, ideally towards net zero, if we are to fulfil the Paris Agreement’s goal to reduce global temperature increases [ 3 , 4 ]. The net-zero emissions complement the scenario of sustainable development assessment by 2050. According to the agreed scenario of sustainable development, many industrialized economies must achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. However, the net-zero emissions 2050 brought the first detailed International Energy Agency (IEA) modelling of what strategy will be required over the next 10 years to achieve net-zero carbon emissions worldwide by 2050 [ 15–17 ].

The global statistics of greenhouse gas emissions have been identified; in 2019, there was a 1% decrease in CO 2 emissions from the power industry; that figure dropped by 7% in 2020 due to the COVID-19 crisis, thus indicating a drop in coal-fired energy generation that is being squeezed by decreasing energy needs, growth of renewables and the shift away from fossil fuels. As a result, in 2020, the energy industry was expected to generate ~13 Gt CO 2 , representing ~40% of total world energy sector emissions related to CO 2 . The annual electricity generation stepped back to pre-crisis levels by 2021, although due to a changing ‘fuel mix’, the CO 2 emissions in the power sector will grow just a little before remaining roughly steady until 2030 [ 15 ].

Therefore, based on the information mentioned above, the advantages of solar energy technology are a renewable and clean energy source that is plentiful, cheaper costs, less maintenance and environmentally friendly, to name but a few. The significance of this paper is to highlight solar energy applications to ensure sustainable development; thus, it is vital to researchers, engineers and customers alike. The article’s primary aim is to raise public awareness and disseminate the culture of solar energy usage in daily life, since moving forward, it is the best. The scope of this paper is as follows. Section 1 represents a summary of the introduction. Section 2 represents a summary of installed capacity and the application of solar energy worldwide. Section 3 presents the role of solar energy in the sustainable development and employment of renewable energy. Section 4 represents the perspective of solar energy. Finally, Section 5 outlines the conclusions and recommendations for future work.

1.1 Installed capacity of solar energy

The history of solar energy can be traced back to the seventh century when mirrors with solar power were used. In 1893, the photovoltaic (PV) effect was discovered; after many decades, scientists developed this technology for electricity generation [ 18 ]. Based on that, after many years of research and development from scientists worldwide, solar energy technology is classified into two key applications: solar thermal and solar PV.

PV systems convert the Sun’s energy into electricity by utilizing solar panels. These PV devices have quickly become the cheapest option for new electricity generation in numerous world locations due to their ubiquitous deployment. For example, during the period from 2010 to 2018, the cost of generating electricity by solar PV plants decreased by 77%. However, solar PV installed capacity progress expanded 100-fold between 2005 and 2018. Consequently, solar PV has emerged as a key component in the low-carbon sustainable energy system required to provide access to affordable and dependable electricity, assisting in fulfilling the Paris climate agreement and in achieving the 2030 SDG targets [ 19 ].

The installed capacity of solar energy worldwide has been rapidly increased to meet energy demands. The installed capacity of PV technology from 2010 to 2020 increased from 40 334 to 709 674 MW, whereas the installed capacity of concentrated solar power (CSP) applications, which was 1266 MW in 2010, after 10 years had increased to 6479 MW. Therefore, solar PV technology has more deployed installations than CSP applications. So, the stand-alone solar PV and large-scale grid-connected PV plants are widely used worldwide and used in space applications. Fig. 1 represents the installation of solar energy worldwide.

Installation capacity of solar energy worldwide [20].

Installation capacity of solar energy worldwide [ 20 ].

1.2 Application of solar energy

Energy can be obtained directly from the Sun—so-called solar energy. Globally, there has been growth in solar energy applications, as it can be used to generate electricity, desalinate water and generate heat, etc. The taxonomy of applications of solar energy is as follows: (i) PVs and (ii) CSP. Fig. 2 details the taxonomy of solar energy applications.

The taxonomy of solar energy applications.

The taxonomy of solar energy applications.

Solar cells are devices that convert sunlight directly into electricity; typical semiconductor materials are utilized to form a PV solar cell device. These materials’ characteristics are based on atoms with four electrons in their outer orbit or shell. Semiconductor materials are from the periodic table’s group ‘IV’ or a mixture of groups ‘IV’ and ‘II’, the latter known as ‘II–VI’ semiconductors [ 21 ]. Additionally, a periodic table mixture of elements from groups ‘III’ and ‘V’ can create ‘III–V’ materials [ 22 ].

PV devices, sometimes called solar cells, are electronic devices that convert sunlight into electrical power. PVs are also one of the rapidly growing renewable-energy technologies of today. It is therefore anticipated to play a significant role in the long-term world electricity-generating mixture moving forward.

Solar PV systems can be incorporated to supply electricity on a commercial level or installed in smaller clusters for mini-grids or individual usage. Utilizing PV modules to power mini-grids is a great way to offer electricity to those who do not live close to power-transmission lines, especially in developing countries with abundant solar energy resources. In the most recent decade, the cost of producing PV modules has dropped drastically, giving them not only accessibility but sometimes making them the least expensive energy form. PV arrays have a 30-year lifetime and come in various shades based on the type of material utilized in their production.

The most typical method for solar PV desalination technology that is used for desalinating sea or salty water is electrodialysis (ED). Therefore, solar PV modules are directly connected to the desalination process. This technique employs the direct-current electricity to remove salt from the sea or salty water.

The technology of PV–thermal (PV–T) comprises conventional solar PV modules coupled with a thermal collector mounted on the rear side of the PV module to pre-heat domestic hot water. Accordingly, this enables a larger portion of the incident solar energy on the collector to be converted into beneficial electrical and thermal energy.

A zero-energy building is a building that is designed for zero net energy emissions and emits no carbon dioxide. Building-integrated PV (BIPV) technology is coupled with solar energy sources and devices in buildings that are utilized to supply energy needs. Thus, building-integrated PVs utilizing thermal energy (BIPV/T) incorporate creative technologies such as solar cooling [ 23 ].

A PV water-pumping system is typically used to pump water in rural, isolated and desert areas. The system consists of PV modules to power a water pump to the location of water need. The water-pumping rate depends on many factors such as pumping head, solar intensity, etc.

A PV-powered cathodic protection (CP) system is designed to supply a CP system to control the corrosion of a metal surface. This technique is based on the impressive current acquired from PV solar energy systems and is utilized for burying pipelines, tanks, concrete structures, etc.

Concentrated PV (CPV) technology uses either the refractive or the reflective concentrators to increase sunlight to PV cells [ 24 , 25 ]. High-efficiency solar cells are usually used, consisting of many layers of semiconductor materials that stack on top of each other. This technology has an efficiency of >47%. In addition, the devices produce electricity and the heat can be used for other purposes [ 26 , 27 ].

For CSP systems, the solar rays are concentrated using mirrors in this application. These rays will heat a fluid, resulting in steam used to power a turbine and generate electricity. Large-scale power stations employ CSP to generate electricity. A field of mirrors typically redirect rays to a tall thin tower in a CSP power station. Thus, numerous large flat heliostats (mirrors) are used to track the Sun and concentrate its light onto a receiver in power tower systems, sometimes known as central receivers. The hot fluid could be utilized right away to produce steam or stored for later usage. Another of the great benefits of a CSP power station is that it may be built with molten salts to store heat and generate electricity outside of daylight hours.

Mirrored dishes are used in dish engine systems to focus and concentrate sunlight onto a receiver. The dish assembly tracks the Sun’s movement to capture as much solar energy as possible. The engine includes thin tubes that work outside the four-piston cylinders and it opens into the cylinders containing hydrogen or helium gas. The pistons are driven by the expanding gas. Finally, the pistons drive an electric generator by turning a crankshaft.

A further water-treatment technique, using reverse osmosis, depends on the solar-thermal and using solar concentrated power through the parabolic trough technique. The desalination employs CSP technology that utilizes hybrid integration and thermal storage allows continuous operation and is a cost-effective solution. Solar thermal can be used for domestic purposes such as a dryer. In some countries or societies, the so-called food dehydration is traditionally used to preserve some food materials such as meats, fruits and vegetables.

Sustainable energy development is defined as the development of the energy sector in terms of energy generating, distributing and utilizing that are based on sustainability rules [ 28 ]. Energy systems will significantly impact the environment in both developed and developing countries. Consequently, the global sustainable energy system must optimize efficiency and reduce emissions [ 29 ].

The sustainable development scenario is built based on the economic perspective. It also examines what activities will be required to meet shared long-term climate benefits, clean air and energy access targets. The short-term details are based on the IEA’s sustainable recovery strategy, which aims to promote economies and employment through developing a cleaner and more reliable energy infrastructure [ 15 ]. In addition, sustainable development includes utilizing renewable-energy applications, smart-grid technologies, energy security, and energy pricing, and having a sound energy policy [ 29 ].

The demand-side response can help meet the flexibility requirements in electricity systems by moving demand over time. As a result, the integration of renewable technologies for helping facilitate the peak demand is reduced, system stability is maintained, and total costs and CO 2 emissions are reduced. The demand-side response is currently used mostly in Europe and North America, where it is primarily aimed at huge commercial and industrial electricity customers [ 15 ].

International standards are an essential component of high-quality infrastructure. Establishing legislative convergence, increasing competition and supporting innovation will allow participants to take part in a global world PV market [ 30 ]. Numerous additional countries might benefit from more actively engaging in developing global solar PV standards. The leading countries in solar PV manufacturing and deployment have embraced global standards for PV systems and highly contributed to clean-energy development. Additional assistance and capacity-building to enhance quality infrastructure in developing economies might also help support wider implementation and compliance with international solar PV standards. Thus, support can bring legal requirements and frameworks into consistency and give additional impetus for the trade of secure and high-quality solar PV products [ 19 ].

Continuous trade-led dissemination of solar PV and other renewable technologies will strengthen the national infrastructure. For instance, off-grid solar energy alternatives, such as stand-alone systems and mini-grids, could be easily deployed to assist healthcare facilities in improving their degree of services and powering portable testing sites and vaccination coolers. In addition to helping in the immediate medical crisis, trade-led solar PV adoption could aid in the improving economy from the COVID-19 outbreak, not least by providing jobs in the renewable-energy sector, which are estimated to reach >40 million by 2050 [ 19 ].

The framework for energy sustainability development, by the application of solar energy, is one way to achieve that goal. With the large availability of solar energy resources for PV and CSP energy applications, we can move towards energy sustainability. Fig. 3 illustrates plans for solar energy sustainability.

Framework for solar energy applications in energy sustainability.

Framework for solar energy applications in energy sustainability.

The environmental consideration of such applications, including an aspect of the environmental conditions, operating conditions, etc., have been assessed. It is clean, friendly to the environment and also energy-saving. Moreover, this technology has no removable parts, low maintenance procedures and longevity.

Economic and social development are considered by offering job opportunities to the community and providing cheaper energy options. It can also improve people’s income; in turn, living standards will be enhanced. Therefore, energy is paramount, considered to be the most vital element of human life, society’s progress and economic development.

As efforts are made to increase the energy transition towards sustainable energy systems, it is anticipated that the next decade will see a continued booming of solar energy and all clean-energy technology. Scholars worldwide consider research and innovation to be substantial drivers to enhance the potency of such solar application technology.

2.1 Employment from renewable energy

The employment market has also boomed with the deployment of renewable-energy technology. Renewable-energy technology applications have created >12 million jobs worldwide. The solar PV application came as the pioneer, which created >3 million jobs. At the same time, while the solar thermal applications (solar heating and cooling) created >819 000 jobs, the CSP attained >31 000 jobs [ 20 ].

According to the reports, although top markets such as the USA, the EU and China had the highest investment in renewables jobs, other Asian countries have emerged as players in the solar PV panel manufacturers’ industry [ 31 ].

Solar energy employment has offered more employment than other renewable sources. For example, in the developing countries, there was a growth in employment chances in solar applications that powered ‘micro-enterprises’. Hence, it has been significant in eliminating poverty, which is considered the key goal of sustainable energy development. Therefore, solar energy plays a critical part in fulfilling the sustainability targets for a better plant and environment [ 31 , 32 ]. Fig. 4 illustrates distributions of world renewable-energy employment.

World renewable-energy employment [20].

World renewable-energy employment [ 20 ].

The world distribution of PV jobs is disseminated across the continents as follows. There was 70% employment in PV applications available in Asia, while 10% is available in North America, 10% available in South America and 10% availability in Europe. Table 1 details the top 10 countries that have relevant jobs in Asia, North America, South America and Europe.

List of the top 10 countries that created jobs in solar PV applications [ 19 , 33 ]

Solar energy investments can meet energy targets and environmental protection by reducing carbon emissions while having no detrimental influence on the country’s development [ 32 , 34 ]. In countries located in the ‘Sunbelt’, there is huge potential for solar energy, where there is a year-round abundance of solar global horizontal irradiation. Consequently, these countries, including the Middle East, Australia, North Africa, China, the USA and Southern Africa, to name a few, have a lot of potential for solar energy technology. The average yearly solar intensity is >2800 kWh/m 2 and the average daily solar intensity is >7.5 kWh/m 2 . Fig. 5 illustrates the optimum areas for global solar irradiation.

World global solar irradiation map [35].

World global solar irradiation map [ 35 ].

The distribution of solar radiation and its intensity are two important factors that influence the efficiency of solar PV technology and these two parameters vary among different countries. Therefore, it is essential to realize that some solar energy is wasted since it is not utilized. On the other hand, solar radiation is abundant in several countries, especially in developing ones, which makes it invaluable [ 36 , 37 ].

Worldwide, the PV industry has benefited recently from globalization, which has allowed huge improvements in economies of scale, while vertical integration has created strong value chains: as manufacturers source materials from an increasing number of suppliers, prices have dropped while quality has been maintained. Furthermore, the worldwide incorporated PV solar device market is growing fast, creating opportunities enabling solar energy firms to benefit from significant government help with underwriting, subsides, beneficial trading licences and training of a competent workforce, while the increased rivalry has reinforced the motivation to continue investing in research and development, both public and private [ 19 , 33 ].

The global outbreak of COVID-19 has impacted ‘cross-border supply chains’ and those investors working in the renewable-energy sector. As a result, more diversity of solar PV supply-chain processes may be required in the future to enhance long-term flexibility versus exogenous shocks [ 19 , 33 ].

It is vital to establish a well-functioning quality infrastructure to expand the distribution of solar PV technologies beyond borders and make it easier for new enterprises to enter solar PV value chains. In addition, a strong quality infrastructure system is a significant instrument for assisting local firms in meeting the demands of trade markets. Furthermore, high-quality infrastructure can help reduce associated risks with the worldwide PV project value chain, such as underperforming, inefficient and failing goods, limiting the development, improvement and export of these technologies. Governments worldwide are, at various levels, creating quality infrastructure, including the usage of metrology i.e. the science of measurement and its application, regulations, testing procedures, accreditation, certification and market monitoring [ 33 , 38 ].

The perspective is based on a continuous process of technological advancement and learning. Its speed is determined by its deployment, which varies depending on the scenario [ 39 , 40 ]. The expense trends support policy preferences for low-carbon energy sources, particularly in increased energy-alteration scenarios. Emerging technologies are introduced and implemented as quickly as they ever have been before in energy history [ 15 , 33 ].

The CSP stations have been in use since the early 1980s and are currently found all over the world. The CSP power stations in the USA currently produce >800 MW of electricity yearly, which is sufficient to power ~500 000 houses. New CSP heat-transfer fluids being developed can function at ~1288 o C, which is greater than existing fluids, to improve the efficiency of CSP systems and, as a result, to lower the cost of energy generated using this technology. Thus, as a result, CSP is considered to have a bright future, with the ability to offer large-scale renewable energy that can supplement and soon replace traditional electricity-production technologies [ 41 ]. The DESERTEC project has drawn out the possibility of CSP in the Sahara Desert regions. When completed, this investment project will have the world’s biggest energy-generation capacity through the CSP plant, which aims to transport energy from North Africa to Europe [ 42 , 43 ].

The costs of manufacturing materials for PV devices have recently decreased, which is predicted to compensate for the requirements and increase the globe’s electricity demand [ 44 ]. Solar energy is a renewable, clean and environmentally friendly source of energy. Therefore, solar PV application techniques should be widely utilized. Although PV technology has always been under development for a variety of purposes, the fact that PV solar cells convert the radiant energy from the Sun directly into electrical power means it can be applied in space and in terrestrial applications [ 38 , 45 ].

In one way or another, the whole renewable-energy sector has a benefit over other energy industries. A long-term energy development plan needs an energy source that is inexhaustible, virtually accessible and simple to gather. The Sun rises over the horizon every day around the globe and leaves behind ~108–1018 kWh of energy; consequently, it is more than humanity will ever require to fulfil its desire for electricity [ 46 ].

The technology that converts solar radiation into electricity is well known and utilizes PV cells, which are already in use worldwide. In addition, various solar PV technologies are available today, including hybrid solar cells, inorganic solar cells and organic solar cells. So far, solar PV devices made from silicon have led the solar market; however, these PVs have certain drawbacks, such as expenditure of material, time-consuming production, etc. It is important to mention here the operational challenges of solar energy in that it does not work at night, has less output in cloudy weather and does not work in sandstorm conditions. PV battery storage is widely used to reduce the challenges to gain high reliability. Therefore, attempts have been made to find alternative materials to address these constraints. Currently, this domination is challenged by the evolution of the emerging generation of solar PV devices based on perovskite, organic and organic/inorganic hybrid materials.

This paper highlights the significance of sustainable energy development. Solar energy would help steady energy prices and give numerous social, environmental and economic benefits. This has been indicated by solar energy’s contribution to achieving sustainable development through meeting energy demands, creating jobs and protecting the environment. Hence, a paramount critical component of long-term sustainability should be investigated. Based on the current condition of fossil-fuel resources, which are deemed to be depleting energy sources, finding an innovative technique to deploy clean-energy technology is both essential and expected. Notwithstanding, solar energy has yet to reach maturity in development, especially CSP technology. Also, with growing developments in PV systems, there has been a huge rise in demand for PV technology applications all over the globe. Further work needs to be undertaken to develop energy sustainably and consider other clean energy resources. Moreover, a comprehensive experimental and validation process for such applications is required to develop cleaner energy sources to decarbonize our planet.

The authors declare that they have no known competing financial interests or personal relationships that could have appeared to influence the work reported in this paper.

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OpenAI teases an amazing new generative video model called Sora

The firm is sharing Sora with a small group of safety testers but the rest of us will have to wait to learn more.

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OpenAI has built a striking new generative video model called Sora that can take a short text description and turn it into a detailed, high-definition film clip up to a minute long.

Based on four sample videos that OpenAI shared with MIT Technology Review ahead of today’s announcement, the San Francisco–based firm has pushed the envelope of what’s possible with text-to-video generation (a hot new research direction that we flagged as a trend to watch in 2024 ).

“We think building models that can understand video, and understand all these very complex interactions of our world, is an important step for all future AI systems,” says Tim Brooks, a scientist at OpenAI.

But there’s a disclaimer. OpenAI gave us a preview of Sora (which means sky in Japanese) under conditions of strict secrecy. In an unusual move, the firm would only share information about Sora if we agreed to wait until after news of the model was made public to seek the opinions of outside experts. [Editor’s note: We’ve updated this story with outside comment below.] OpenAI has not yet released a technical report or demonstrated the model actually working. And it says it won’t be releasing Sora anytime soon. [ Update: OpenAI has now shared more technical details on its website.]

The first generative models that could produce video from snippets of text appeared in late 2022. But early examples from Meta , Google, and a startup called Runway were glitchy and grainy. Since then, the tech has been getting better fast. Runway’s gen-2 model, released last year, can produce short clips that come close to matching big-studio animation in their quality. But most of these examples are still only a few seconds long.  

The sample videos from OpenAI’s Sora are high-definition and full of detail. OpenAI also says it can generate videos up to a minute long. One video of a Tokyo street scene shows that Sora has learned how objects fit together in 3D: the camera swoops into the scene to follow a couple as they walk past a row of shops.

OpenAI also claims that Sora handles occlusion well. One problem with existing models is that they can fail to keep track of objects when they drop out of view. For example, if a truck passes in front of a street sign, the sign might not reappear afterward.  

In a video of a papercraft underwater scene, Sora has added what look like cuts between different pieces of footage, and the model has maintained a consistent style between them.

It’s not perfect. In the Tokyo video, cars to the left look smaller than the people walking beside them. They also pop in and out between the tree branches. “There’s definitely some work to be done in terms of long-term coherence,” says Brooks. “For example, if someone goes out of view for a long time, they won’t come back. The model kind of forgets that they were supposed to be there.”

Impressive as they are, the sample videos shown here were no doubt cherry-picked to show Sora at its best. Without more information, it is hard to know how representative they are of the model’s typical output.   

It may be some time before we find out. OpenAI’s announcement of Sora today is a tech tease, and the company says it has no current plans to release it to the public. Instead, OpenAI will today begin sharing the model with third-party safety testers for the first time.

In particular, the firm is worried about the potential misuses of fake but photorealistic video . “We’re being careful about deployment here and making sure we have all our bases covered before we put this in the hands of the general public,” says Aditya Ramesh, a scientist at OpenAI, who created the firm’s text-to-image model DALL-E .

But OpenAI is eyeing a product launch sometime in the future. As well as safety testers, the company is also sharing the model with a select group of video makers and artists to get feedback on how to make Sora as useful as possible to creative professionals. “The other goal is to show everyone what is on the horizon, to give a preview of what these models will be capable of,” says Ramesh.

To build Sora, the team adapted the tech behind DALL-E 3, the latest version of OpenAI’s flagship text-to-image model. Like most text-to-image models, DALL-E 3 uses what’s known as a diffusion model. These are trained to turn a fuzz of random pixels into a picture.

Sora takes this approach and applies it to videos rather than still images. But the researchers also added another technique to the mix. Unlike DALL-E or most other generative video models, Sora combines its diffusion model with a type of neural network called a transformer.

Transformers are great at processing long sequences of data, like words. That has made them the special sauce inside large language models like OpenAI’s GPT-4 and Google DeepMind’s Gemini . But videos are not made of words. Instead, the researchers had to find a way to cut videos into chunks that could be treated as if they were. The approach they came up with was to dice videos up across both space and time. “It’s like if you were to have a stack of all the video frames and you cut little cubes from it,” says Brooks.

The transformer inside Sora can then process these chunks of video data in much the same way that the transformer inside a large language model processes words in a block of text. The researchers say that this let them train Sora on many more types of video than other text-to-video models, varied in terms of resolution, duration, aspect ratio, and orientation. “It really helps the model,” says Brooks. “That is something that we’re not aware of any existing work on.”

“From a technical perspective it seems like a very significant leap forward,” says Sam Gregory, executive director at Witness, a human rights organization that specializes in the use and misuse of video technology. “But there are two sides to the coin,” he says. “The expressive capabilities offer the potential for many more people to be storytellers using video. And there are also real potential avenues for misuse.” 

OpenAI is well aware of the risks that come with a generative video model. We are already seeing the large-scale misuse of deepfake images . Photorealistic video takes this to another level.

Gregory notes that you could use technology like this to misinform people about conflict zones or protests. The range of styles is also interesting, he says. If you could generate shaky footage that looked like something shot with a phone, it would come across as more authentic.

The tech is not there yet, but generative video has gone from zero to Sora in just 18 months. “We’re going to be entering a universe where there will be fully synthetic content, human-generated content and a mix of the two,” says Gregory.

The OpenAI team plans to draw on the safety testing it did last year for DALL-E 3. Sora already includes a filter that runs on all prompts sent to the model that will block requests for violent, sexual, or hateful images, as well as images of known people. Another filter will look at frames of generated videos and block material that violates OpenAI’s safety policies.

OpenAI says it is also adapting a fake-image detector developed for DALL-E 3 to use with Sora. And the company will embed industry-standard C2PA tags , metadata that states how an image was generated, into all of Sora’s output. But these steps are far from foolproof. Fake-image detectors are hit-or-miss. Metadata is easy to remove, and most social media sites strip it from uploaded images by default.  

“We’ll definitely need to get more feedback and learn more about the types of risks that need to be addressed with video before it would make sense for us to release this,” says Ramesh.

Brooks agrees. “Part of the reason that we’re talking about this research now is so that we can start getting the input that we need to do the work necessary to figure out how it could be safely deployed,” he says.

Update 2/15: Comments from Sam Gregory were added .

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'Scientists' warning' on climate and technology

Academics explore roles of clean energy and ai in combating global warming.

Throughout human history, technologies have been used to make peoples' lives richer and more comfortable, but they have also contributed to a global crisis threatening Earth's climate, ecosystems and even our own survival. Researchers at the University of California, Irvine, the University of Kansas and Oregon State University have suggested that industrial civilization's best way forward may entail embracing further technological advancements but doing so with greater awareness of their potential drawbacks.

In a paper titled "Scientists' Warning on Technology," published recently in the Journal of Cleaner Production , the researchers, including Bill Tomlinson, UCI professor of informatics, stress that innovations, particularly in the fields of clean energy and artificial intelligence, will come with risks but may be the most effective way to ensure a sustainable future.

"Since prehistoric times, technologies have been created to solve problems and benefit people; think of the improvements that have been made in agriculture, manufacturing and transportation," Tomlinson said. "But these developments have had a dual nature. While addressing the human need for food, farming has led to environmental degradation, and our factories and vehicles have caused a massive buildup of atmospheric carbon dioxide, which is causing climate change."

Co-author Andrew W. Torrance, the Paul E. Wilson Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Kansas, said: "Technology is often offered as a panacea for environmental crises. It is not. Nevertheless, it will play a crucial role in any solution. That is why the role of technology must be taken seriously, rigorously measured, modeled and understood -- and then interpreted in light of population and affluence."

He added, "I am extremely optimistic about the beneficial role technology could play in helping humanity find its sustainable niche in the biosphere, but [I'm also] stone-cold sober that other, less hopeful outcomes remain possible."

The scientists' warning concept dates to the early 1990s, when the Union of Concerned Scientists published a letter exhorting people to change their habits regarding stewardship of Earth and its resources "if vast human misery is to be avoided and our global home on this planet is not to be irretrievably mutilated." A second warning, in 2017, was signed by more than 15,000 scholars in different scientific fields. Since then, dozens of additional admonitions have been published, with over 50 currently in preparation.

"The scientists' warnings weave a compelling narrative of humanity at a crossroads, urging us to acknowledge the fragility of our biosphere and embrace a collective responsibility for safeguarding our future through proper, science-based actions," said co-author William Ripple, Oregon State University Distinguished Professor of ecology, who led the project to write the article.

The Journal of Cleaner Production warning outlines two main methods for reducing, mitigating or eliminating fossil fuel use. The first is infrastructural substitution, replacing coal- and natural gas-fired power plants with renewable resources such as wind and solar, and abandoning internal combustion engines in favor of electric motors. This shift would also involve widespread adoption of electric appliances in homes and swapping out gas furnaces and water heaters for heat pumps.

A second method to steer humanity away from fossil fuel burning centers on a concept known as "undesign," the intentional negation of technology and consideration of alternatives that do not rely on labor-saving human inventions.

"People are often resistant to change, though, especially in contexts where they have come to depend strongly on particular goods and services," Tomlinson said. "Embracing undesign will require people to be guided to new cultural narratives that are not so reliant on heavily impactful systems."

In addition to clean energy technologies, the warning's authors look to artificial intelligence as a way to point human civilization toward a more sustainable tomorrow. They mention how AI is being used currently to connect wildlife habitats, monitor methane emissions and optimize supply chains. Tomlinson and his colleagues said AI presents far less energy-intensive alternatives to laborious tasks like writing and illustration and is becoming adept at writing computer code, which could come in handy in managing the "complexities of 8 billion-plus people cohabiting on Earth," according to the paper.

But Tomlinson noted that AI is not without risks, such as the possibility of runaway energy consumption, perpetuating biases in human societies and AI systems becoming independent and powerful enough that they pose a real danger to humanity.

"It's important that humans deploy new technologies to replace those that are environmentally harmful," he said. "But we need to remain vigilant for potential future harm and attempt to mitigate that as much as possible.

"In our scientists' warning, we identify an array of potential future risks from both electrification and AI. We believe that these outcomes are substantially less problematic than these technologies' potential benefits from addressing the pressing environmental crises that humanity is currently facing."

This project received funding from the National Science Foundation.

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  • Bill Tomlinson, Andrew W. Torrance, William J. Ripple. Scientists’ warning on technology . Journal of Cleaner Production , 2024; 434: 140074 DOI: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2023.140074

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Bridging Innovation and Integrity: Meghasai Bodimani's Exploration of Transparent AI Systems

The content provided is sourced from the research paper titled " Assessing The Impact of Transparent AI Systems in Enhancing User Trust and Privacy " by author Meghasai Bodimani, published in the International Journal of Management, IT & Engineering (Vol. 14, Issue 03, March 2024).

In an era where technology's exponential growth intersects with critical concerns for privacy and trust, Meghasai Bodimani, a seasoned software developer with a rich history of crafting scalable solutions, turns the spotlight on the pivotal role of transparency in AI systems. With a robust background that spans over six years across the full Software Development Life Cycle, Meghasai's journey from architecting cloud-based applications to enhancing user experiences with agile methodologies sets the stage for a deeper exploration of ethical AI.

His latest paper, "Assessing the Impact of Transparent AI Systems in Enhancing User Trust and Privacy," emerges not just as an academic contribution but as a beacon for the industry's forward march. The paper delves into the nuanced ways in which transparency in AI can serve as a cornerstone for building user trust, a theme that resonates deeply with Meghasai's professional ethos of employing cutting-edge solutions to enhance application performance and user experience.

Meghasai's inquiry into transparent AI systems is informed by his comprehensive understanding of cloud infrastructure, data processing, and programming languages, coupled with his hands-on experience in deploying agile methodologies and TDD practices. This multidisciplinary expertise enables him to provide a unique perspective on how transparent AI practices can mitigate privacy concerns, enhance user trust, and ultimately lead to the development of more robust and ethical AI systems.

Drawing parallels between his practical experiences at leading technology firms and the theoretical underpinnings of his research, Meghasai argues for a paradigm where technology developers and AI researchers work hand in hand to prioritize ethical considerations. His work underscores the importance of integrating transparency from the ground up in AI development processes, advocating for a future where technology not only pushes the boundaries of what's possible but does so with integrity and accountability.

As the conversation around AI ethics continues to evolve, Meghasai Bodimani's contributions stand out as a testament to the critical role that seasoned technology professionals can play in shaping a future where trust and privacy are not just afterthoughts but foundational elements of technological innovation.

For a comprehensive understanding of the impactful research on transparent AI systems and its implications for user trust and privacy, I encourage you to delve into the full document . This exploration not only illuminates the technical intricacies and ethical considerations of AI but also positions Meghasai Bodimani's work within a broader discourse on technological transparency and accountability. The insights from this research underscore the necessity of integrating ethical frameworks into AI development, a call to action for both practitioners and theorists in the field.

Bridging Innovation and Integrity: Meghasai Bodimani's Exploration of Transparent AI Systems

research papers on technology

Journal of Materials Chemistry C

A non-fullerene acceptor as an interfacial modified layer for enhancing efficiency and stability of inverted perovskite solar cells †.

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* Corresponding authors

a State Key Laboratory of Electronic Thin Films and Integrated Devices, School of Optoelectronic Science and Engineering, University of Electronic Science and Technology of China (UESTC), Chengdu, P. R. China E-mail: [email protected] , [email protected]

b Chemistry Department, National Central University, Taoyuan, Taiwan

c Department of Chemistry and Advanced Materials Chemistry Centre (AMCC), Khalifa University, Abu Dhabi 127788, United Arab Emirates E-mail: [email protected]

d Yangtze Delta Region Institute of University of Electronic Science and Technology of China, Huzhou (UESTCYDRI), Huzhou, P. R. China

With the rapid development in the advanced research of perovskite solar cells (PSCs), the regulation of perovskite crystallinity and defect states has become increasingly crucial to further enhance the performance of PSCs. Here, we introduced a novel non-fullerene acceptor (NFA) material, INDCDT-b8-Cl, as an ultra-thin interfacial modified layer (IML) to optimize the quality of the perovskite active layer by passivating surface, reducing defects and grain boundaries. As a result, the optimized PSCs exhibited excellent PCE, V OC and FF. Furthermore, the optimized PSCs with NFA IML show an outstanding stability compared to the control devices under the same working conditions. This work provides a facile method to tune the crystallization and reduce the defects to improve the performance of PSCs.

Graphical abstract: A non-fullerene acceptor as an interfacial modified layer for enhancing efficiency and stability of inverted perovskite solar cells

  • This article is part of the themed collection: Journal of Materials Chemistry C HOT Papers

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research papers on technology

A non-fullerene acceptor as an interfacial modified layer for enhancing efficiency and stability of inverted perovskite solar cells

G. Yang, S. N. Afraj, J. Li, D. Zhang, P. Fan, M. Chen, D. Zheng and J. Yu, J. Mater. Chem. C , 2024, Advance Article , DOI: 10.1039/D3TC04663J

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Digital Transformation in Healthcare: Technology Acceptance and Its Applications

Angelos i. stoumpos.

1 Healthcare Management Postgraduate Program, Open University Cyprus, P.O. Box 12794, Nicosia 2252, Cyprus

Fotis Kitsios

2 Department of Applied Informatics, University of Macedonia, 156 Egnatia Street, GR54636 Thessaloniki, Greece

Michael A. Talias

Associated data.

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Technological innovation has become an integral aspect of our daily life, such as wearable and information technology, virtual reality and the Internet of Things which have contributed to transforming healthcare business and operations. Patients will now have a broader range and more mindful healthcare choices and experience a new era of healthcare with a patient-centric culture. Digital transformation determines personal and institutional health care. This paper aims to analyse the changes taking place in the field of healthcare due to digital transformation. For this purpose, a systematic bibliographic review is performed, utilising Scopus, Science Direct and PubMed databases from 2008 to 2021. Our methodology is based on the approach by Wester and Watson, which classify the related articles based on a concept-centric method and an ad hoc classification system which identify the categories used to describe areas of literature. The search was made during August 2022 and identified 5847 papers, of which 321 fulfilled the inclusion criteria for further process. Finally, by removing and adding additional studies, we ended with 287 articles grouped into five themes: information technology in health, the educational impact of e-health, the acceptance of e-health, telemedicine and security issues.

1. Introduction

Digital transformation refers to the digital technology changes used to benefit society and the healthcare industry. Healthcare systems need to use digital technology for innovative solutions to improve healthcare delivery and to achieve improvement in medical problems. The digital transformation of healthcare includes changes related to the internet, digital technologies, and their relation to new therapies and best practices for better health management procedures. The quality control of massive data collected can help improve patients’ well-being and reduce the cost of services. Digital technologies will also impact medical education, and experts will deceive new ways to train people. Now in this way, practitioners will face new opportunities.

Digital transformation is an ongoing process that can create opportunities in the health sector, provided the necessary infrastructure and training are available. Under Regulation (EU) 2021/694 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2021, establishing the Digital Europe Program and repealing Decision (EU) 2015/2240, digital transformation is defined as the use of digital technologies for the transformation of businesses and services. Some technologies that contribute to digital transformation are the digital platform of the Internet of Things, cloud computing and artificial intelligence. At the same time, the sectors of society that are almost affected are telecommunications, financial services and healthcare.

Digital health can play a role in innovation in health, as it facilitates the participation of patients in the process of providing health care [ 1 ]. The patient can overcome his poor state of health when they are no longer in a state of well-being. In this case, the patient is given the to participate in the decision-making regarding their health care. Searching for information through the patient’s internet or using digital health applications (e.g., via mobile phone) is essential for the patient to make the right decision about their health.

In the coming years, health change is expected to focus primarily on the patient, who will take on the “health service consumer” role as the patient seeks control over their health management. The healthcare industry will be shaped based on the needs and expectations of this new “consumer of health services”, which will require upgraded experiences with the main characteristics of personalisation, comfort, speed and immediacy in the provision of services. Gjellebaek C. et al. argue that new digital technologies will shift healthcare towards digitalisation, bringing significant benefits to patients and healthcare infrastructure [ 2 ]. Some of the benefits listed by Gjellebaek C. are the increase in employee productivity, the improvement of the efficiency and effectiveness of the operation of the health units, and the reduction of their operating costs.

On the other hand, in terms of health infrastructure, a typical example is the United States, where 75% of hospitals use electronic health record systems, according to Rebekah E. et al. [ 3 ]. However, clinicians often report side effects using digital technologies, which can be attributed to their misuse [ 3 ]. In addition, some health professionals oppose using these systems and develop solutions that jeopardise patient care. In some countries, such as the United States, the government provides incentives for the “effective use” of e-health technologies, but their results remain uncertain [ 3 ].

Rebekah E. et al. focus more specifically on U.S. hospitals, observing that the remaining countries are relatively in the early stages of transformation [ 4 ]. The United Kingdom, for example, has recently pursued troubled e-health initiatives, and Australian hospitals have only recently participated in investments in the digitalisation of their hospital services [ 4 ]. At the European Union level, digital health is a critical key strategic priority, in line with the European Strategic Plan 2019–2024 (European Commission).

Today, digital transformation in health is spreading and consolidating rapidly [ 5 ]. The purpose of this paper is to provide an assessment of the current literature on digital health transformation, as well as to identify potential vulnerabilities that make its implementation impossible. The ultimate goal is to see how digital technologies facilitate patients’ participation in health and their health.

Due to the rapid development of e-health and digitalisation, data from previous studies are becoming potentially irrelevant. Most studies evaluating digitalisation have relied heavily on quantitative research-based methods. Although quantitative evaluations are required, some of their effects could be omitted.

According to Gopal G. et al., healthcare has the lowest level of digital innovation compared to other industries, such as media, finance, insurance and retail, contributing to limited labour productivity growth [ 6 ]. With this article, we seek to reverse this picture and contribute to the emergence of digitalisation as a factor of health innovation while optimising patient outcomes and the cost of services provided. However, to achieve this innovation, systemic changes are needed in healthcare finances, the education of healthcare staff and healthcare infrastructure.

The following section analyses the methodology and its steps, which then contributed to the emergence of our results.

2. Material and Methods

2.1. search strategy and bibliography reviews.

Our research approach is based on the methodology of Webster and Watson, who developed a concept-centric method and an ad hoc classification system in which categories are used to describe areas of literature [ 7 ]. Initially, the existing bibliographic reviews were searched to select the databases based on keywords. A retrospective search was then performed to examine the reports of the selected works. Finally, the references of selected works were investigated to increase the search sample through the future search. After selecting the articles, they were grouped according to their content.

Systematic reviews were conducted to place this paper on existing knowledge of digital health, as well as to review prior knowledge in this area and to discuss recognised research questions based on the results of previous studies. A comprehensive review of the published literature was reported by Marques, I. C., & Ferreira, J. J. [ 8 ]. The authors explored the potential of existing digital solutions to improve healthcare quality and analysed the emerging trend in digital medicine to evaluate the research question of how stakeholders apply and manage digital technologies for business purposes [ 9 ]. The main question is: How and what could be done sustainably and inclusively through innovation to achieve sustainable development goals by taking advantage of Information and Communication Technologies? Recently, researchers have expressed concern about secure communication and user authentication within providing information to patients. In contrast with data storage, information exchange, and system integration, new approaches and uses of patient care processes are envisaged with the prospect of monitoring not only diagnostic statistics but also in-depth analysis of signs and symptoms before and after treatment, essential sources for new research. Table 1 presents the previous bibliographic reviews on which our study was based.

Previous Bibliographic Reviews.

2.2. Network Analysis

Network analysis is considered a branch of graph theory. Our network analysis is based on the similarity of keywords found in identifying the eligible papers. We used visualisation of similarities (VOS) software, version 1.6.18, to construct graphical networks to understand the clustering of the keywords and their degree of dissimilarity. Our network analysis is based on the similarity of keywords found in identifying the eligible papers.

Initial Search

The search was performed on the following databases: Scopus, Science Direct, and PubMed, using the keywords “digital transformation”, “digitalisation”, “Ehealth or e-health”, “mhealth or m-health”, “healthcare” and “health economics”. We selected publications from the search of international journals and conference proceedings. We collected papers from 2008 until 2021. The documents sought belonged to strategy, management, computer science, medicine, and health professions. Finally, the published works were in English only. The total number of articles collected using the keywords as shown in Table 2 was 5847.

Search Strategy.

We systematically checked the total number of papers 5847 by reading their titles, abstracts, and, whenever necessary, the article’s first page to conclude if each document was relevant as a first step as shown in the Figure 1 .

An external file that holds a picture, illustration, etc.
Object name is ijerph-20-03407-g001.jpg

The diagram for the first phase of the selection process.

Then, we looked at the titles of the 378 articles, and after reading their summary, we accepted 321 articles. Further studies were rejected because their full text was not accessible. As a result, there were 255 articles in our last search. Of the selected 255 articles, 32 more were added based on backward and forward research. The investigation was completed by collecting common standards from all databases using different keyword combinations. According to the systematic literature review, we follow the standards of Webster and Watson (2002) to reject an article. Since then, we have collected the critical mass of the relevant publications, as shown in Figure 2 .

An external file that holds a picture, illustration, etc.
Object name is ijerph-20-03407-g002.jpg

The diagram of the article selection process.

3.1. Chronological Development of the Publications

The categorisation of the articles was based on their content and the concepts discussed within them. As a result, we classify articles into the following categories: information technology in health, the educational impact on e-health, the acceptance of e-health, telemedicine, and e-health security.

Although researchers in Information and Communication Technology and digitalisation conducted studies almost two decades ago, most publications have been published in the last eight years. This exciting finding highlights the importance of this field and its continuous development. Figure 3 shows a clear upward trend in recent years. More specifically, the research field of Information and Communication Technology, in combination with digital transformation, appeared in 2008. However, the most significant number of articles was found in 2019, 2020 and 2021. The number of articles decreased to the lowest in 2009–2011 and 2013–2014. Due to the expansion of the field to new technologies, the researchers studied whether the existing technological solutions are sufficient for implementing digital transformation and what problems they may face.

An external file that holds a picture, illustration, etc.
Object name is ijerph-20-03407-g003.jpg

Number of articles and citations per publication by year.

Figure 3 shows a combination of the articles per year and the number of citations per publication per year.

3.2. Document Type

Of the document types, 59.51 per cent of the articles were categorised as “survey”, while a smaller percentage were in: “case study” (32.53%), “literature review” (5.88%) and “report” (2.08%). However, these documents focused on specific concepts: “information technology in health” (45%), “education impact of e-health” (11%), “acceptance of e-health” (19%), “telemedicine” (7%), “security of e-health” (18%).

As we can see from the following Figure 4 , we used network analysis, where the keywords related to digitalisation and digital transformation were identified in the research study. Network analysis, using keywords, came with VOSviewer software to find more breadth and information on healthcare digitalisation and transformation exploration. It was created by analysing the coexistence of keywords author and index. This analysis’s importance lies in the structure of the specific research field is highlighted. In addition, it helped map the intellectual structure of scientific literature. Keywords were obtained from the title and summary of a document. However, there was a limit to the number of individual words. The figure represents a grid focused on reproducing keywords in the literature on the general dimensions of digitalisation. The digitalisation network analysis showed that e-health, telemedicine, telehealth, mobile health, electronic health/medical record, and information systems were the main relevant backgrounds in the literature we perceived. In the healthcare literature, keywords such as “empowerment” and “multicenter study” usually do not lead to a bibliographic search on digitalisation. Figure 4 shows how e-health and telemedicine have gone beyond the essential and most crucial research framework on how they can affect hospitals and the health sector. The potentially small gaps in network analysis can be filled by utilising data in our research study, contributing to future research.

An external file that holds a picture, illustration, etc.
Object name is ijerph-20-03407-g004.jpg

Bibliometric map of the digital transformation and healthcare.

Figure 5 shows the network analysis with the keywords concerning time publication. The yellow colour indicates keywords for most recent years.

An external file that holds a picture, illustration, etc.
Object name is ijerph-20-03407-g005.jpg

Network visualisation of keywords per year.

Figure 6 presents the density visualisation of keywords.

An external file that holds a picture, illustration, etc.
Object name is ijerph-20-03407-g006.jpg

Heat map of keywords.

Figure 7 shows the number of articles per each method (survey, literature review etc.) for each year.

An external file that holds a picture, illustration, etc.
Object name is ijerph-20-03407-g007.jpg

The map of number of articles per method for each year.

It is evident from Figure 7 that the most used method paper is the survey type and that in the year 2021, we have a high number of surveys compared to previous years.

3.3. Summary of the Included Articles

In Figure 2 , we have explained how we collected the critical mass of the 255 relevant publications. We added another 32 articles based on further research with the backward and research methods, which resulted in a total number of 287 articles.

Then, the articles were categorised according to their content. The concepts discussed in the papers are related to information technology in health, the educational impact of e-health, the acceptance of e-health, telemedicine, and e-health security. For this purpose, the following table was created, called the concept matrix table.

4. Concept Matrix

In this section, we provide the Concept matrix table. Academic resources are classified according to if each article belongs or not to any of the five concepts shown in Table 3 .

Concept Matrix Table.

5. Analysis of Concepts

From the articles included in the present study between 2008 and 2021, they were grouped into five categories identified: (i) information technology in health, (ii) acceptance of e-health, (iii) telemedicine, (iv) security of e-health, and (v) education impact of e-health.

5.1. Information Technology in Health

Researchers have studied several factors to maximise the effectiveness and success of adopting new technology to benefit patients. Hospitals can benefit from information technology when designing or modifying new service procedures. Health units can use information and communication technology applications to analyse and identify patients’ needs and preferences, enhancing their service innovation processes. Previous findings conclude that technological capability positively influences patient service and innovation in the service process [ 301 ]. These results have significant management implications as managers seek to increase technology resources’ efficiency to achieve patient-centred care as the cornerstone of medical practice [ 207 ].

Informatics facilitates the exchange of knowledge necessary for creating ideas and the development process. The internet supports health organisations in developing and distributing their services more efficiently [ 206 ]. Also, Information Technology improves the quality of services, reduces costs, and helps increase patient satisfaction. As new technologies have created opportunities for companies developing high-tech services, healthcare units can increase customer value, personalise services and adapt to their patient’s needs [ 209 ]. To this end, the “smart hospitals” should represent the latest investment frontiers impacting healthcare. Their technological characteristics are so advanced that the public authorities need know-how for their conception, construction, and operation [ 228 ].

A new example is reshaping global healthcare services in their infancy, emphasising the transition from sporadic acute healthcare to continuous and comprehensive healthcare. This approach is further refined by “anytime and everywhere access to safe eHealth services.” Recent developments in eHealth, digital transformation and remote data interchange, mobile communication, and medical technology are driving this new paradigm. Follow-up and timely intervention, comprehensive care, self-care, and social support are four added features in providing health care anywhere and anytime [ 289 ]. However, the healthcare sector’s already precarious security and privacy conditions are expected to be exacerbated in this new example due to the much greater monitoring, collection, storage, exchange, and retrieval of patient information and the cooperation required between different users, institutions, and systems.

The use of mobile telephony technologies to support health goals contributes to the transformation of healthcare benefits worldwide. The same goes for small and medium-sized healthcare companies, such as pharmacies. A potent combination of factors between companies and customers is the reason for creating new relationships. In particular, mobile technology applications represent new opportunities for integrating mobile health into existing services, facilitating the continued growth of quality service management. Service-based, service-focused strategies have changed distribution patterns and the relationship between resellers and consumers in the healthcare industry, resulting in mobile health and significant pharmacy opportunities. It has been an important research topic in the last decade because it has influenced and changed traditional communication between professionals and patients [ 211 ]. An example of a mobile healthcare platform is “Thymun”, designed and developed by Salamah et al. aiming to create intelligent health communities to improve the health and well-being of autoimmune people in Indonesia [ 225 ].

5.2. Acceptance of E-Health

In a long-term project and a population study (1999–2002), Hsu et al. evaluated e-health usage patterns [ 302 ]. The authors conclude that access to and use of e-health services are rapidly increasing. These services are more significant in people with more medical needs. Fang (2015) shows that scientific techniques can be an essential tool for revealing patterns in medical research that could not be apparent with traditional methods of reviewing the medical literature [ 303 ]. Teleradiology and telediagnosis, electronic health records, and Computer-Aided Diagnosis (CAD) are examples of digital medical technology. France is an example of a country that invests and leads in electronic health records, based on what is written by Manard S. et al. [ 243 ]. However, the impact of technological innovation is reflected in the availability of equipment and new technical services in different or specialised healthcare sectors.

On the other hand, Mariusz Duplaga (2013) argues that the expansion of e-health solutions is related to the growing demand for flexible, integrated and cost-effective models of chronic care [ 304 ]. The scope of applications that can support patients with chronic diseases is broad. In addition to accessing educational resources, patients with chronic diseases can use various electronic diaries and systems for long-term disease monitoring. Depending on the disease and the symptoms, the devices used to assess the patient’s condition vary. However, the need to report symptoms and measurements remains the same. According to Duplaga, the success of treatments depends on the patient’s involvement in monitoring and managing the disease. The emphasis on the role of the patient is parallel to the general tendency of people and patients to participate in decisions made about their health. Involving patients in monitoring their symptoms leads to improved awareness and ability to manage diseases. Duplaga argues that the widespread use of e-health systems depends on several factors, including the acceptance and ability to use information technology tools, combined with an understanding of disease and treatment.

Sumedha Chauhan & Mahadeo Jaiswal (2017) are on the same wavelength. They claim that e-health applications provide tools, processes and communication systems to support e-health practices [ 305 ]. These applications enable the transmission and management of information related to health care and thus contribute to improving patient’s health and physicians’ performance. The human element plays a critical role in the use of e-health, according to the authors. In addition, researchers have studied the acceptance of e-health applications among patients and the general public, as they use services such as home care and search for information online. The meta-analysis they use combines and analyzes quantitative findings of multiple empirical studies providing essential knowledge. However, the reason for their research was the study of Holden and Karsh (2010) [ 306 ].

To provide a comprehensive view of the literature acceptance of e-health applications, Holden and Karsh reviewed 16 studies based on healthcare technology acceptance models [ 306 ]. Findings show them that the use and acceptance of technological medical solutions bring improvements but can be adopted by those involved in the medical field.

5.3. Telemedicine

On the other hand, telemedicine is considered one of the most important innovations in health services, not only from a technological but also from a cultural and social point of view. It benefits the accessibility of healthcare services and organisational efficiency [ 215 ]. Its role is to meet the challenges posed by the socio-economic change in the 21st century (higher demands for health care, ageing population, increased mobility of citizens, need to manage large volumes of information, global competitiveness, and improved health care provision) in an environment with limited budgets and costs. Nevertheless, there are significant obstacles to its standardisation and complete consolidation and expansion [ 300 ].

At present, there are Telemedicine centres that mediate between the patient and the hospital or doctor. However, many factors make this communication impossible [ 300 ]. Such factors include equipment costs, connectivity problems, the patient’s trust or belief in the system or centre that applies telemedicine, and resistance to new and modern diagnostics, especially in rural and island areas. Therefore, telemedicine would make it easier to provide healthcare systems in remote areas than having a specialist in all the country’s remote regions [ 300 ]. Analysing the concept further, one can easily argue that the pros outweigh the disadvantages. Therefore, telemedicine must be adopted in a concerted effort to resolve all the obstacles we are currently facing. Telemedicine centres and services such as teleradiology, teledermatology, teleneurology, and telemonitoring will soon be included. This means that a few years from now, the patient will not have to go to a central hospital and can benefit remotely from the increased quality of health services. This will save valuable time, make good use of available resources, save patient costs, and adequately develop existing and new infrastructure.

In 2007, the World Health Organisation adopted the following broad description of telemedicine: “The delivery of health care services, where distance is a critical factor, by all health care professionals using information and communication technologies for the exchange of valid information for the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease and injuries, research and evaluation, and for the continuing education of health care providers, all in the interests of advancing the health of individuals and their communities ” [ 307 ]

According to the Wayback Machine, Canadian Telehealth Forum, other terms similar to telemedicine are telehealth and e-health, which are used as broader concepts of remote medical therapy. It is appropriate to clarify that telemedicine refers to providing clinical services. In contrast, telehealth refers to clinical and non-clinical services, including education, management and research in medical science. On the other hand, the term eHealth, most commonly used in the Americas and Europe, consists of telehealth and other elements of medicine that use information technology, according to the American Telemedicine Association [ 308 ].

The American Telemedicine Association divides telemedicine into three categories: storage-promotion, remote monitoring, and interactive services. The first category includes medical data, such as medical photographs, cardiograms, etc., which are transferred through new technologies to the specialist doctor to assess the patient’s condition and suggest the appropriate medication. Remote monitoring allows remote observation of the patient. This method is used mainly for chronic diseases like heart disease, asthma, diabetes, etc. Its interactive services enable direct communication between the patient and the treating doctor [ 309 ].

Telemedicine is a valuable and efficient tool for people living or working in remote areas. Its usefulness lies in the health access it provides to patients. In addition, it can be used as an educational tool for learning students and medical staff [ 310 ].

Telemedicine is an open and constantly evolving science, as it incorporates new technological developments and responds to and adapts to the necessary health changes within societies.

According to J.J. Moffatt, the most common obstacles to the spread of telemedicine are found in the high cost of equipment, the required technical training of staff and the estimated time of a meeting with the doctor, which can often be longer than the use of a standard doctor [ 311 ]. On the other hand, the World Health Organisation states that telemedicine offers excellent potential for reducing the variability of diagnoses and improving clinical management and the provision of health care services worldwide. The World Health Organisation claims, according to Craig et al. and Heinzelmann PJ, that telemedicine improves access, quality, efficiency and cost-effectiveness [ 312 , 313 ]. In particular, telemedicine can help traditionally under-served communities by overcoming barriers to the distance between healthcare providers and patients [ 314 ]. In addition, Jennett PA et al. highlight significant socio-economic benefits for patients, families, health professionals and the health system, including improved patient-provider communication and educational opportunities [ 315 ].

On the other hand, Wootton R. argues that telemedicine applications have achieved different levels of success. In both industrial and developing countries, telemedicine has yet to be used consistently in the healthcare system, and few pilot projects have been able to be maintained after the end of their initial funding [ 316 ].

However, many challenges are regularly mentioned and responsible for the need for more longevity in many efforts to adopt telemedicine. One such challenge is the complexity of human and cultural factors. Some patients and healthcare workers resist adopting healthcare models that differ from traditional approaches or home practices. In contrast, others need to have the appropriate educational background in Information and Communication Technologies to make effective use of telemedicine approaches [ 314 ]. The need for studies documenting telemedicine applications’ economic benefits and cost-effectiveness is also a challenge. Strong business acumen to persuade policymakers to embrace and invest in telemedicine has contributed to a need for more infrastructure and program funding [ 312 ]. Legal issues are also significant obstacles to the adoption of telemedicine. These include the need for an international legal framework that allows health professionals to provide services in different jurisdictions and countries. Furthermore, the lack of policies governing data confidentiality, authentication and the risk of medical liability for health professionals providing telemedicine services [ 314 ]. In any case, the technological challenges are related to legal issues. In addition, the systems used are complex, and there is a possibility of malfunction, which could cause software or hardware failure. The result is an increase in patient morbidity or mortality as well as the liability of healthcare providers [ 317 ].

According to Stanberry B., to overcome these challenges, telemedicine must be regulated by definitive and comprehensive guidelines, which are ideally and widely applied worldwide [ 318 ]. At the same time, legislation must be enacted governing health confidentiality, data access, and providers’ responsibility [ 314 ].

5.4. Security of eHealth

The possibility of the patients looking at the electronic patient folder in a cloud environment, through mobile devices anytime and anywhere, is significant. On the one hand, the advantages of cloud computing are essential, and on the other hand, a security mechanism is critical to ensure the confidentiality of this environment. Five methods are used to protect data in such environments: (1) users must encrypt the information before storing it; (2) users must transmit information through secure channels; (3) the user ID must be verified before accessing data; (4) the information is divided into small portions for handling and storage, retrieved when necessary; (5) digital signatures are added to verify that a suitable person has created the file to which a user has access. On the other hand, users of these environments will implement self-encryption to protect data and reduce over-reliance on providers [ 210 ].

At the same time, Maliha S. et al. [ 227 ] proposed the blockchain to preserve sensitive medical information. This technology ensures data integrity by maintaining a trace of control over each transaction. At the same time, zero trusts provide that medical data is encrypted and that only certified users and devices interact with the network. In this way, this model solves many vulnerabilities related to data security [ 227 ]. Another alternative approach is the KONFIDO project, which aims at the safe cross-border exchange of health data. A European H2020 project aims to address security issues through a holistic example at the system level. The project combines various cutting-edge technologies in its toolbox (such as blockchain, photonic Physical Unclonable Functions, homomorphic encryption, and trusted execution) [ 234 ]. Finally, Coppolino L. et al. [ 271 ] proposed using a SIEM framework for an e-healthcare portal developed under the Italian National eHealth Net Program. This framework allows real-time monitoring of access to the portal to identify potential threats and anomalies that could cause significant security issues [ 271 ].

5.5. Education Impact of E-Health

But all this would only be feasible with the necessary education of both users and patients [ 11 ]. As the volume and quality of evidence in medical education continue to expand, the need for evidence synthesis will increase [ 295 ]. On the other hand, Brockers C. et al. argued that digitalisation changes jobs and significantly impacts medical work. The quality of medical data provided for support depends on telemedicine’s medical specialisation and knowledge. Adjustments to primary and further education are inevitable because physicians are well trained to support their patients satisfactorily and confidently in the increasingly complex digitalisation of healthcare. The ultimate goal of the educational community is the closest approach of students to the issues of telemedicine and e-health, the creation of a spirit of trust, and the acceptance and transmission of essential knowledge [ 268 ].

Noor also moved in this direction, seeking to discover the gaps in Saudi education for digital transformation in health [ 248 ]. The growing complexity of healthcare systems worldwide and the growing reliance of the medical profession on information technology for precise practices and treatments require specific standardised training in Information Technology (IT) health planning. Accreditation of core Information Technology (IT) is advancing internationally. Noor A. examined the state of Information Technology health programmes in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) to determine (1) how well international standards are met and (2) what further development is required in the light of recent initiatives of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on e-health [ 248 ]. Of the 109 institutions that participated in his research, only a few offered programmes specifically in Health Information Technology. As part of Saudi Vision 2030, Saudi digital transformation was deemed an urgent need. This initiative calls for applying internationally accepted Information Technology skills in education programmes and healthcare practices, which can only happen through greater collaboration between medical and technology educators and strategic partnerships with companies, medical centres and government agencies.

Another study by Diviani N. et al. adds to the knowledge of e-health education, demonstrating how online health information affects a person’s overall behaviour and enhances patients’ ability to understand, live and prepare for various health challenges. The increasing digitalisation of communication and healthcare requires further research into the digital divide and patients’ relationships with health professionals. Healthcare professionals must recognise the online information they seek and engage with patients to evaluate online health information and support joint healthcare-making [ 235 ].

6. Discussion

The selected studies comprise a conceptual model based on bibliographic research. Using an open-ended technique, we analyse the selected 287 articles, which are grouped into categories based on their context. This methodology provides readers with a good indication of issues concerning the timeliness of health digitalisation. A limitation of the methodology is that selected criteria of the method might be subjective in terms of the search terms and how the papers are selected. The articles indicate that this field is initial, and further research is needed. Although several articles have created a theoretical basis for corporate sustainability and strategic digital management, only limited studies provided guidelines on the strategic digital transformation process and its health implementation stages. However, studies have also developed sustainable models, software or applications in this area. This is also the reason for creating opportunities for future researchers, who will be closed to investigate this gap and improve the viability of digital health strategies. In addition, any work carried out in case studies provides fruitful results by facilitating researchers through deep penetration into sustainable digitalisation. No generalised frameworks are available to guide the wording and implementation of digital action plans. Thus, the need for quantitative or qualitative research is created, providing conclusions on the impact of internal or external factors in the sustainability process, implementation, adoption, planning, and challenges of digital health solutions in general, as well as the impact of digital transformation. Most existing studies explore the issue of digitalisation in a particular part of a nursing institution or a disease rather than the management strategy perspective. In this way, researchers ignore a debate on obstacles and problems that often face in practice during integration. Such an analysis could lead to more profound knowledge.

7. Conclusions

In conclusion, our research observed a timeless analysis of systematised studies focusing on digital health developments. These studies broaden the researchers’ vision and provide vital information for further investigation. This article focuses on understanding digitalisation in healthcare, including, for the most part, the digitalisation of information and adopting appropriate parameters for further development. To build a more holistic view of digital health transformation, there is a great need for research on the management implications of digitalisation by different stakeholders. Finally, the development of telemedicine, the further enhancement of digital security and the strengthening of technological information systems will contribute to the universal acceptance of the digital health transformation by all involved.

Funding Statement

This research received no external funding.

Author Contributions

Conceptualisation, A.I.S., F.K. and M.A.T.; methodology, F.K. and M.A.T.; software, A.I.S.; validation, A.I.S.; data curation, A.I.S.; writing—original draft preparation, A.I.S. and M.A.T.; writing—review and editing, A.I.S. and M.A.T.; visualisation, A.I.S.; supervision, M.A.T.; project administration, M.A.T. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.

Institutional Review Board Statement

Informed consent statement, data availability statement, conflicts of interest.

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

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