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Deliberate futures: precaution and progress in social choice of sustainable technology


  • Andy Stirling

    (SPRU, University of Sussex, UK)


There is much high profile concern over apparent tensions between sustainability and precaution on the one hand, and 'competitive innovation' and 'technological progress' on the other. How can we balance risk with opportunity and public engagement with 'sound science'? The outcomes of such debates may undoubtedly be serious for particular technologies, but are there really grounds for concern over the implications for innovation in general? This paper argues that such anxieties often stem from impoverished understandings and strategic misrepresentations of the real nature of scientific creativity and technological possibilities. This can obscure possibilities for achieving more truly sustainable and socially deliberate technological futures. Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment.

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  • Andy Stirling, 2007. "Deliberate futures: precaution and progress in social choice of sustainable technology," Sustainable Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 15(5), pages 286-295.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:sustdv:v:15:y:2007:i:5:p:286-295
    DOI: 10.1002/sd.347

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Smith, Adrian & Stirling, Andy & Berkhout, Frans, 2005. "The governance of sustainable socio-technical transitions," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 34(10), pages 1491-1510, December.
    2. Mokyr, Joel, 1992. "The Lever of Riches: Technological Creativity and Economic Progress," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195074772.
    3. David, Paul A, 1985. "Clio and the Economics of QWERTY," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(2), pages 332-337, May.
    4. Walker, William, 2000. "Entrapment in large technology systems: institutional commitment and power relations," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 29(7-8), pages 833-846, August.
    5. Williams, Robin & Edge, David, 1996. "The social shaping of technology," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 25(6), pages 865-899, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. van Geenhuizen, Marina & Ye, Qing, 2014. "Responsible innovators: open networks on the way to sustainability transitions," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 87(C), pages 28-40.
    2. Dixon, Tim & Eames, Malcolm & Britnell, Judith & Watson, Georgia Butina & Hunt, Miriam, 2014. "Urban retrofitting: Identifying disruptive and sustaining technologies using performative and foresight techniques," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 89(C), pages 131-144.
    3. Geels, Frank W., 2010. "Ontologies, socio-technical transitions (to sustainability), and the multi-level perspective," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(4), pages 495-510, May.
    4. Einsiedel, Edna F. & Boyd, Amanda D. & Medlock, Jennifer & Ashworth, Peta, 2013. "Assessing socio-technical mindsets: Public deliberations on carbon capture and storage in the context of energy sources and climate change," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 149-158.
    5. Rodwell, L.D. & Fletcher, S. & Glegg, G.A. & Campbell, M. & Rees, S.E & Ashley, M. & Linley, E.A. & Frost, M. & Earll, B. & Wynn, R.B. & Mee, L. & Almada-Villela, P. & Lear, D. & Stanger, P. & Colenut, 2014. "Marine and coastal policy in the UK: Challenges and opportunities in a new era," Marine Policy, Elsevier, vol. 45(C), pages 251-258.
    6. Anup Sam Ninan, 2009. "Gandhi's technoscience: sustainability and technology as themes of politics," Sustainable Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 17(3), pages 183-196.
    7. Mei-Fang Fan, 2009. "Stakeholder perceptions and responses to GM crops and foods: the case of Taiwan," Sustainable Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 17(6), pages 391-399.
    8. Louise Shaxson & Michael Harrison & Molly Morgan, 2009. "Developing an evidence-based approach to environmental policy making: insights from Defra’s Evidence & Innovation Strategy," SPRU Working Paper Series 181, SPRU - Science and Technology Policy Research, University of Sussex.
    9. Christian Webersik & Clarice Wilson, 2009. "Achieving environmental sustainability and growth in Africa: the role of science, technology and innovation," Sustainable Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 17(6), pages 400-413.
    10. Kerschner, Christian & Ehlers, Melf-Hinrich, 2016. "A framework of attitudes towards technology in theory and practice," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 126(C), pages 139-151.

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