Fear and Loathing of Technological Progress? Leveraging Science and Innovation for the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

  • Pedro ConceiçãoEmail author


There is no questioning that scientific progress and technological innovation have been underlying drivers of the improvements in the standards of living through the history of humanity. There is also little doubt that more technological change will be needed to meet not only the challenge of continuing to increase productivity but also to enable us to transition to more sustainable patterns of production and consumption, mitigate and adapt to climate change, and continue to improve health and education. However, any discourse on technological change is always ambivalent. This chapter argues that this ambivalence is driven by overly simplistic framings of the impact of technological change, which can be described as techno-determinism. However, history shows that technological change co-evolves with economic, social, and political systems, and it never determines outcomes on its own. Still, evidence points to the breakdown of some key empirical regularities that do raise the question on whether, and how, technology can be harnessed to deliver the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The recent decrease across a wide number of countries of the labour share of income and the breakdown of the synchronous growth in average family earning and increases in labour productivity, coupled with rapid advances in automation and artificial intelligence, motivate this question. The answer proposed in this chapter is that there are two ways in which technological change can be leveraged to support the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The first is in the way in which technology, along with finance, is already recognised as one of the two key “means of implementation” of the 2030 Agenda. The second corresponds to a deeper and more fundamental perspective, in that all countries in the world, including developing countries, can have a more active and deliberate engagement with science, technology, and innovation. This second contribution implies the recognition that technology does not determine our future, but it is in our hands to invest in science, technology, and innovation and shape the policies and institutions that can harness technology for development. This kind of shift in mindset and engagement is needed to fully leverage technological innovation for the achievement of the SDGs.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.United Nations Development ProgrammeNew YorkUSA

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