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Limits and options for sustaining technological development through systems renewal

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The article explains why sustainable technology development needs fundamentally new strategies in process-architecture, management and policy. The concepts for developing new technologies that claim to contribute to a more sustainable future have great options but also limits. Such limits can be seen as disadvantages just as well as important challenges to be taken. Limit 1. resource efficiency requires real cost verity; limit 2. consumerism and the rebound-effect overcompensate all economizing effects; limit 3. velocity of innovation kills the possibility of feed-back and learning; limit 4. sustainable development requires a change in individual life-styles; limit 5. institutional obstacles act as impediments for renewing the system; limit 6. regional economies and local initiatives are the basis for sustainability but are heavily under the pressure ofglobalisation. The main lacks and hindrances within the development concepts for new technologies themselves are: hindrance 1. problem-oriented strategies instead of option 1. working with vision-oriented strategies; hindrance 2. repairing principle instead of option 2. precautionary principles; hindrance 3. strategies that concentrate on product- and technology-orientation instead of option 3. system- and impact- oriented strategies; hindrance 4. strategies that focus on technical restrictions instead ofoption 4. clarifying restrictions of awareness; hindrance 5. strategies for conserving the economic-technological structures instead of option 5. learning and evolving concepts including reflection and feed-back; and last but not least hindrance 6. great lack of knowledge, wisdom or even courage in taking ecological and ethical principles into politics and technosphere as opposed to option 6, which would be the opposite. To give a positive contribution I suggest a technology development concept with a si x step architecture. It consists of a loop with six steps and after step 6 the cycle starts again with step 1: 1) Networking: Forming and positioning a network 2) Visioning: Creating long-term guiding visions and future scenarios 3) Backcasting: Planning objectives and actions (long-, mid- and short-term) 4) Innovating: Definition of short term action and goals 5) Experiencing: Gaining experiences by concreting the ideas through projects 6) Reflecting: Integration of feed-back loops and learning methods 1) Networking: Establish operational participation and communication structures The proposed process tries to stimulate the dialogue of creating a new vision that might have the power to turn around our unsustainable technological systems. Hereby also national andEUpoliticians are directly addressed and called upon to establish opportunities for real system renewal through a new, open and participatory process in sustainable product and technology development.


Strigl, Alfred W. (2001): Limits and options for sustaining technological development through systems renewal. Sustainability in the Information Society. Marburg: Metropolis. Workshop: The Rebound Effect in the Information Society. Zürich. 2001