Promises, Expectations and Visions: On Appraising the Plausibility of Socio-Technical Futures
When a scientific and technological field is still emerging, promises of its social desirability and warnings about its potential negative effects are wide spread. The dawn of the Human Genome Project (HGP) is an exemplar in this respect. The high expectations that emerged from the early stage of genomics research have been drastically deflated while the field has continued to develop. Difficulties, uncertainty and unanticipated constraints arose at later stages of research to challenge the initial expectations of scientists, investors, policy makers, clinicians, patients and other social groups. These projections into the future described an individual or collective belief in the possibility that a certain state of affairs would come into being. Drawing on a diverse set of literature, this chapter discusses the strategic, performative and normative character of visions of technological futures. It argues that if, on the one hand, visions are morally characterized as implicitly normative, while, on the other, technologies and our morality mutual shape each other, the analysis of their “plausibility”, rather than their “desirability”, becomes crucial. The chapter concludes by outlining an approach to the reconstruction of plausible expectations around emerging technologies consisting of thickening, zooming in/out and situating visions of emerging technologies.