Emerging technologies have the potential to transform society, representing tremendous opportunities as well as incredible challenges. The true social, economic, and environmental impacts of a new technology on society are usually understood only in hindsight. Future scenarios of technology adoption can be constructed that allow us to estimate potential impacts of a system at an early design stage, offering the greatest opportunities for improvement.
This presentation will discuss two case studies that highlight how different technology adoption patterns can lead to dissimilar outcomes, and how early intervention can increase the likelihood of favorable results. The first case study will investigate adoption scenarios of autonomous vehicles (i.e. self-driving cars) and their potential to either increase or decrease overall greenhouse gas emissions in transportation. The second case study will analyze the introduction of refrigeration into developing countries and the potential implications on food waste, water stress, and energy consumption. The presentation will focus largely on environmental sustainability; however, the overall framework can be adapted to analyze a range of societal factors.