, Volume 4, Issue 1-2, pp 9-19

Coherence and Divergence of Megatrends in Science and Engineering

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Abstract

Scientific discoveries and technological innovations are at the core of human endeavor, and it is estimated that their role will only increase in time. Such advancements evolve in coherence, with areas of confluence and temporary divergences, which bring synergism and that stimulate further developments following in average an exponential growth. Six increasingly interconnected megatrends are perceived as dominating the scene for the next decades: (a) information and computing, (b) nanoscale science and engineering (S&E), (c) biology and bio-environmental approaches, (d) medical sciences and enhancing human physical capabilities, (e) cognitive sciences and enhancing intellectual abilities, and (f) collective behavior and system approach.

This paper presents a perspective on the process of identification, planning and program implementation of S&E megatrends, with illustration for the US research initiative on nanoscale science, engineering, and technology. The interplay between coherence and divergence, leading to unifying science and converging technologies, does not develop only among simultaneous scientific trends but also along time and across geopolitical boundaries. There is no single way of development of S&E, and here is the role of taking visionary measures. Societal implication scientists need to be involved from the conceptual phase of a program responding to a S&E megatrend.