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03: Human Enhancement Technologies: Amplifying or Reducing Inequality

Breakout / Working Group
english language

Technologies facilitate various forms of enhancement in human characteristics (physical, cognitive, emotional, social). “Ordinary” human capabilities are optimised (e.g. neuro-enhancement, robotics, Google Glass, prostheses). A specific fusion of human and artefact takes place and appropriate technological design is critical. This breakout session will focus on the limits of enhanced performance: where do these limits bring more inequality but also a potential for enhancing societal benefit. What fundamental aspects of this development and its design considerations are most important for our future?


Principal Scientist, Philips Research Eindhoven; Professor of Human Interaction with Intelligent Systems, Radboud University, Nijmegen Abstract
While the Internet of Things (IoT) is expected to reach 50 billion Internet connected devices in just a couple of years from now we see that already today as 60% of the US population is tracking their weight, diet or exercise routines through technologies embedded in their everyday life. Technology, through different applications for enhancing our health and well-being, is well embedded into our daily lives.

At Philips we are aiming to improve the lives of three billion people a year by 2025. With our understanding of many of the longer-term challenges our world faces, we see major opportunities to apply our innovative competencies and create value for our stakeholders. Trends in healthcare, personal well-being, and sustainability inspire application scenarios for technologies that support human enhancement. In this presentation I will provide an overview of such application scenarios from both the lighting and personal healthcare domain.

In the lighting domain I will present two case studies of human enhancement through spectral properties of light. The first case is about cold-bright light deployed in classrooms of schools. Several longitudinal field studies have provided evidence for a significant increase of cognitive concentration in children exposed to this light. The second case of human enhancement through lighting relates to the exposure of hospitalized patients to dynamic lighting mimicking both the dynamics and spectral properties of sunlight. A longitudinal field study with hospitalized patients provided scientific evidence for a regulating effect of the circadian rhythm resulting in better sleep throughout their hospitalization. Interesting in the lighting scenarios is the presence of lighting technology embedded in an environment not requiring any specific behavior from the end-user while having a significant impact on their cognitive and physiological functioning.

For the personal healthcare domain I will focus on data-driven value propositions for behavior change. More specific I will discuss the case of developing a predictive model of adherence in a behavior change application. Following a data-analytics approach, semantic information is generated from sensor data collected in a domestic context. This semantic information is deployed in a coaching service that is using user - system interaction data for predicting end-user adherence. As with the lighting case studies it is important to learn that the behavior change solutions can enhance a person’s health and well-being.

In the discussion I would like to argue that approaches for technical innovation are changing. From an innovation perspective we are confronted with a market in search for solutions that address societal needs. This market is not looking for products and services with long lists of technical features but is rather searching for validated claims about the effects products and services will have on them. We notice the shift from usability as a differentiator towards end-user experiences and more recent towards applications of technology that have a validated impact on people.
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Department of Developmental and Comparative Psychology, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig Abstract
From an early age children are remarkably prosocial and spontaneously provide benefits to others in a variety of ways. This early spontaneity has made people wonder how this motivation develops and whether it is possible to preserve this prosocial impulse over the course of development.

But social behavior is complicated and children’s own prosociality progresses through a series of crucial developmental phases in which their motivation to help is challenged when their own immediate interests are at odds with those of others. These phases may be crucial for a human sense of equality to mature.

One critical step is children’s interactions with same-age peers beginning in the second year of life. Peers are equals and the individual child has to learn how to negotiate her own interests with those of others. This involves respecting others and sharing resources equitably, even though most children might initially prefer to have everything to themselves.

A second crucial step involves children not only acknowledging peers but comparing their own needs and contributions to those of others. The complexity of the tasks that children collectively undertake increases with age giving rise to situations where one party contributes more than another. Here the most fair decision may be to not share equitably and take into account the deservingness of each party involved.

Children’s social development is then anything but trivial and understanding the underlying mechanisms is one of the central tasks of developmental psychology. This involves understanding the interplay of phylogenetically shared emotions and a suite of developing socio-cognitive abilities. These internal processes can be made visible through applying recent advances in imaging technology as new scientific lenses to study children’s emerging prosocial behavior.
Professor, School of Computer Science and Communication, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm Abstract
We are surrounded by a plethora of new technologies-biosensors worn on the body, interactive clothes, and wearable computers, such as mobiles equipped with accelerometers. A whole space of possibilities for gesture-, physical-, and body-based interaction has been opened. But despite all the work we have seen on designing for embodiment, the actual corporeal, pulsating, live, felt body has been notably absent from both theory and practical design work. Most design work has taken a quite instrumental view on interaction: Our bodies are there to be trimmed, perfected, and kept free from illnesses and bad influences. By placing some sensors on our body and then having the data fed back to us, we are supposed to be able to change our bad habits, become healthy, beautiful and live a long life.
Apart from the obvious risks of forgetting any deviations from the „normal body“, such as gender differences or disabilities, this design stance risks enforcing a simplistic view: any bodily issues can be solved by the technology-empowered user. If we limit our design concepts to the instrumental ones, forgetting the diversity of aesthetic, playful, and enjoyment experiences we could be engaging with, we will fail to create for that which is essentially human. A growing body of research is therefore directed towards other ways of designing with and for the body: somaesthetic design, design for uncomfortable interactions, movement-based games, or designing for sex.
Scientist, Dynamic Transportation Systems, Mobility Department, AIT Austrian Institute of Technology GmbH, Vienna Abstract
Transportation-related technologies and innovations have always been of extreme importance: the invention of the wheel marks one of mankind’s most significant innovations and has revolutionised the way human beings travelled and transported goods from one place to another, from earliest times on human settlements used to be located at important trading routes, and the way space in cities and regions is structured nowadays is significantly influenced by our transportation systems.
Technological progress has empowered people to be out and about almost as much as they wish. However, the development of today’s mobility systems has also lead to several unexpected reactions and undesired side-effects, like urban sprawl, increasing environmental stress, and inequalities in mobility access.
In this context, the potential benefits of innovations focusing on transportation-related (and transportation-induced) problems are difficult to assess. Will automated vehicles be able to improve safety, efficiency and accessibility as expected? Can mobile information systems support people in adapting to sustainable multimodal lifestyles? How can we actually assess short-, mid-, and long-term effects of mobility-related technological innovations on the quality of life?
Based on existing findings on the characteristics and needs of different social groups as well as discoveries from behaviour research, we will discuss fundamental questions like what defines disadvantage or equality in mobility, which societal consequences can potentially be expected when introducing new technologies, and how can behavioural reactions to technological innovations be anticipated in order to improve the quality of life in future urban and rural areas.
Head, Department of Translational Research, Research and Development, Otto Bock Healthcare Products GmbH, Vienna Abstract
Otto Bock Healthcare Products is the world-leading manufacturer of prostheses and orthoses for the upper and lower extremity. Technology of such devices is often on the edge of the technical feasible. In almost all cases prostheses return lost functionality to the people who use them. Nevertheless marked differences in their daily use in upper and lower extremity amputees can be observed.
In lower extremity prostheses restore gait to a very high functional degree under conditions of daily living (though not perfectly under all circumstances). In some special cases such as athletic runners even a functional advantage has been discussed. In upper extremity, as a result of the high dexterity of our arm and hand, a functional result is often more limited and will generally depend on the amputee’s definition. Under certain circumstances, such as brachial plexus injuries, even this sometimes limited functionality can be a lot in comparison to the abilities still available to a person.
So already now, depending on the view-point and the group compared against, a prosthesis can at the same time have very different effects and thus reduce and amplify inequality. This inequality can have in a number of different expressions, such as functional inequality or social inequality.
Further improvement in design and technology, and here foremost in control of prostheses, might tip the functional balance towards the reduction of inequality even when compared to a healthy population. On the other hand, despite the progress made in manufacturing and technology in general; prostheses remain expensive, limiting their availability to a wide user-group. This could be considered an amplification of social inequality. This poses an interesting and challenging question to society in general, as to whether such devices shouldn’t be made easier available to all amputees.
Current research tends to widen this gap. In the area of lower extremities concentration lies on actively powered leg-prostheses and the development of exoskeletons or orthoses which could push the functional barriers of current devices. In the area of upper extremities improved control and sensory feedback is of increased recent interest. While these developments will make prostheses functionally more appealing, it could also raise difficult questions in the future, once these devices perform "better" than the human body.
Already now, scientists heavily research the question how autonomous devices should react in daily life under critical circumstances. As a final consequence we - as a society - might face the difficult question if human enhancement by means of prostheses and orthoses is something we want or not.
Professor of Philosophy, Division of Law and Philosophy, University of Stirling Abstract
In this presentation, I shall begin by laying out a general framework from which we may productively discuss cognitive enhancement through technology. It is tempting to think of such enhancement as being a consequence of a world populated by clever computational kit. But that would be to ignore the following fact: it is human nature to create tools which support and enhance our raw organic intelligence by dovetailing with our brains and bodies to form shifting human-artefact coalitions operating over various time-scales. This is as true of the abacus, the book or the slide-rule, as it is of the tablet, the smartphone or Google glass.

The key phenomenon here is cognitive niche construction (CNC), the process by which human beings build external structures that, in combination with culturally transmitted practices, transform problem spaces in ways that aid (or sometimes impede) thinking and reasoning. From the CNC perspective, human beings are, and always have been, dynamically assembled organic-technological hybrids - systems in which a squishy organic brain routinely sits at the centre of complex performance-enhancing loops that include external technological props and scaffolds: technologies are, it seems, (part of) us. It may seem that this last claim - that technology is part of us - must be no more than a metaphorical flourish, but, as I shall explain, there are good reasons to hear it literally. Sometimes, and under certain circumstances, the role played by technology in underpinning cognitive performance is such that it becomes literally true to say that the external elements in question are constitutive parts of our cognitive machinery, alongside, and in fundamentally the same sense as, our inner neural resources. This is the so-called extended mind hypothesis (ExM).

In the second part of the talk I shall use the CNC/ExM framework to address three issues concerning the future trajectory of cognitive enhancement through technology in which issues of design and social impact (in terms of power, ‘progress’ and inequality) are intertwined. First, I shall explore the future of education in an increasingly wired, wireless and networked world, a world in which the skill of being able to find, in real time, the right networked information (not just facts, but information about how to solve problems) is arguably more important than being able to retain such information in one’s organic memory. Secondly, I shall raise issue of knowledge (who has it? who deserves the credit for it?) in cases of technologically augmented cognition. Finally I shall investigate the question of what we really want from our cognitive enhancements - seamless and transparent integration into our everyday lives or a kind of ongoing dialogue with the augmenting technology.
Professor of Human-Computer Interaction, Center for Human-Computer Interaction, University of Salzburg; Head, Center Technology Experience, AIT Austrian Institute of Technology GmbH, Vienna Chair
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Center for Human-Computer Interaction, University of Salzburg Coordination


Principal Scientist, Philips Research Eindhoven; Professor of Human Interaction with Intelligent Systems, Radboud University, Nijmegen

1994-1995 Research Scientist, University of Antwerp
1995-2006 Senior Scientist, Philips Research Eindhoven
since 2006 Principal Scientist, Philips Research Eindhoven
since 2014 Chair, Human Interaction with Intelligent Systems, Faculty of Social Sciences, Radboud University, Nijmegen

Dr. Robert HEPACH

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Department of Developmental and Comparative Psychology, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig

2005-2007 BSc - Bachelor of Science
2008-2009 MRes - Master of Research
2009-2013 PhD - Doctor of Philosophy

Kristina HÖÖK

Professor, School of Computer Science and Communication, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm

1996 PhD, Computer and System Sciences
2002 Associate Professor, Computer and System Sciences
2003 Professor, Human-Computer Interaction, Stockholm University, Stockholm
2012 Professor, Interaction Design, KTH - Kungliga Tekniska Högskolan, Stockholm

Dr. Alexandra MILLONIG

Scientist, Dynamic Transportation Systems, Mobility Department, AIT Austrian Institute of Technology GmbH, Vienna

since 2005 Scientist at AIT Austrian Institute of Technology, Mobility Department
2005-2006 Lecturer at Danube University Krems and University of Applied Sciences Technikum Wien
2007-2010 Project assistant & Lecturer at University of Technology, Department of Geoinformation and Cartography, Vienna
2010-2012 Expert advisor, Joint Programming Initiative Urban Europe
since 2012 Lecturer at Danube University Krems and University of Applied Sciences Technikum Wien

Dr. Michael Friedrich RUSSOLD

Head, Department of Translational Research, Research and Development, Otto Bock Healthcare Products GmbH, Vienna

1994-2001 MSc, Electrical Engineering, Specialization in Biomedical Engineering, Vienna University of Technology, Vienna
2001-2005 PhD, School of Human Anatomy and Cell Biology, University of Liverpool
2005-2007 Postdoctoral Fellow and Holder of Individual Marie Curie Fellowship, University of Sydney
since 2008 Otto Bock Healthcare Products GmbH
2008-2011 Project Leader, International Research Project, Research and Development, Otto Bock Healthcare Products GmbH, Vienna
2011-2014 Programme Manager, Neurostimulation and Product Development, Research and Development, Otto Bock Healthcare Products GmbH, Vienna
since 2014 Head of Translational Research, Research and Development, Otto Bock Healthcare Products GmbH, Vienna

Ph.D. Michael WHEELER

Professor of Philosophy, Division of Law and Philosophy, University of Stirling

1992-1995 DPhil (awarded in 1996), University of Sussex, Brighton
1995-1999 Junior Research Fellow, Philosophy, Christ Church, University of Oxford
1995-1999 Member, Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford
1995-1999 Fellow, McDonnell-Pew Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience, University of Oxford
1999-2000 Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, Philosophy, University of Stirling
2000-2004 Lecturer, Department of Philosophy, University of Dundee
since 2004 Senior Lecturer, Reader, and then Professor of Philosophy, University of Stirling

Mag. Dr. Manfred TSCHELIGI

Professor of Human-Computer Interaction, Center for Human-Computer Interaction, University of Salzburg; Head, Center Technology Experience, AIT Austrian Institute of Technology GmbH, Vienna

1985 Master, Business Informatics; 1991 Ph.D., Social and Economic Science
1995 Habilitation for Applied Computer Science (Venia Docendi) from the Faculty of Social and Economic Science University of Vienna
1986-2002 Institute for Computer Science and Business Informatics (formerly Institute for Applied Computer Science and Information Systems, formerly Institute for Statistics and Informatics), University of Vienna Research Associate, Lecturer, Associate Professor, Head of Working Group on Human-Computer Interaction
1995-1996 Professor (C4) for Business Informatics, University of Magdeburg, Germany
since 1986 Founder and Director, CURE - Center for Usability Research & Engineering
since 2001 Founder and Managing Partner, USECON - The Usability Consultants GmbH
since 2004 Univ.-Prof of Human-Computer Interaction & Usability, University of Salzburg
since 2009 Director Christian Doppler Labor for Contextual Interfaces, University of Salzburg
2011-2014 Academic Director ICT&S - Center for Advanced Studies in Information and Communication Technologies & Society (ICT&S), University of Salzburg
since 2013 Head, Business Unit Technology Experience, Innovation Systems Department, AIT Austrian Institute of Technology
2012-2015 Co-Head, Department of Computer Sciences, University of Salzburg
since 2015 Director, Center for Human-Computer Interaction, University of Salzburg


Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Center for Human-Computer Interaction, University of Salzburg

2002-2007 Studies in Educational Science (University of Salzburg and University of Innsbruck, Austria)
2008-2013 Studies in Psychology (University of Innsbruck, Austria)
2010- 2012 Project Assistant (ICT&S Center, University of Salzburg, Austria)
2012- 2015 PhD Student; Dissertation on Interrelating Materials Artifacts, Interaction Designers, and Users, Center for Human-Computer Interaction, University of Salzburg, Austria
since 2015 Post-Doctoral Research Fellow (Center for Human-Computer Interaction, University of Salzburg, Austria)

Technology Symposium

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10:00 - 12:30Technology BrunchSocial
13:00 - 13:10Opening of the Alpbach Technology Symposium 2015Plenary
13:10 - 14:00RTI Policy TalkPlenary
14:00 - 15:30Living with the Machine in the FuturePlenary
16:00 - 17:30Cyber Physical SystemsPlenary
19:45 - 21:15Regional Debate Central Eastern EuropePlenary
21:15 - 23:30Career LoungeSocial
21:15 - 23:30Evening ReceptionSocial


09:00 - 10:30BioeconomyPlenary
09:00 - 18:00Junior Alpbach - Science and Technology for Young PeopleBreakout
09:00 - 15:00Ö1 Children's University Alpbach - Science and Technology for KidsBreakout
10:50 - 12:15Complexity SciencePlenary
12:15 - 13:00Lunch Snacks for the Participants of the Breakout SessionSocial
13:00 - 18:00Breakout Session 01: 2015: The End of Energy RevolutionBreakout
13:00 - 18:00Breakout Session 02: Bio-Economy in Action: National Bio-Economy Strategies in ComparisonBreakout
13:00 - 18:00Breakout Session 03: Human Enhancement Technologies: Amplifying or Reducing InequalityBreakout
13:00 - 18:00Breakout Session 04: Research Promotion at the Interfaces of Risk, Creativity and MainstreamBreakout
13:00 - 18:00Breakout Session 05: Market Upheavals: Challenges and Opportunities for Innovation?Breakout
13:00 - 18:00Breakout Session 06: Entrepreneurship: What Can Science Contribute?Breakout
13:00 - 18:00Breakout Session 07: Games of InEqualityBreakout
13:00 - 18:00Breakout Session 08: Physical Internet: A Seismic Shift for Logistics and MobilityBreakout
13:00 - 18:00Breakout Session 09: Dynamics by Heterogeneity: How Economy and Research Profit from DiversityBreakout
13:00 - 18:00Breakout Session 10: Energy Transition: Same Goal - Different WaysBreakout
13:00 - 18:00Breakout Session 11: Hydrogen and Fuel Cells: A Market Breakthrough Ahead?Breakout
13:00 - 18:00Breakout Session 12: A Bright Future? Challenges and Opportunities for LED LightingBreakout
13:00 - 18:00Breakout Session 13: Truth and Reality: The Importance of Models in Economy, Science and PhilosophyBreakout
13:00 - 18:00Breakout Session 14: Virtual Learning: InEquality in Education?Breakout
20:00 - 21:30Urban Innovators Challenge - Start Up Your CompanyPartner


09:00 - 10:30MIT and its Media Lab, Special Guest at this Year's Technology SymposiumPlenary
10:30 - 11:30InEquality: The New Silk RoadPlenary
11:50 - 13:15Art, Design and Architecture as a Laboratory of Digital ModernityPlenary
13:15 - 13:30Closing Statement of the Alpbach Technology SymposiumPlenary
13:30 - 14:00Snack ReceptionSocial