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It is clear that not all visions of the future will be accurate, and this goes for those debated by scientists as much as anyone else. Indeed many of the great revolutionary technologies prophesised by scientists have to date evidently failed to materialise. However, in a shift in approach, ‘Emerging Technologies’ is a new way of thinking which considers the convergence of fields such as nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology, cognitive science, robotics, and artificial intelligence. It is considered that the next wave of disruptive technologies will actually be a result of this domain fusion rather than from any one field in isolation. Within FIDIS, the term ‘emerging technologies’ is considered to be somewhat broader, and is defined as (identity related) technologies or applications whose practical usage is still far behind its potential. This, however, certainly includes those which fall under the more formalised description.

It has become evident that ‘Emerging Technologies’ pervade the work of FIDIS, and so the understanding of their potential impact is important. This is true both for the lay audience and experts from disparate disciplines. As such, here we have developed a series of hypothetical scenarios which illustrate such potential future impacts these may have on our daily lives. While being truly impossible to construct an exhaustive series, we have tried to give a good cross-section of the FIDIS work by drawing authors from varying disciplines. The scenarios conclude by linking to the more academic FIDIS work in the relevant areas.

The scenario topics covered vary, but are heavily influenced by the endeavours of FIDIS. We start with two scenarios which look at the potential impact of Ambient Intelligence environments, a subject well explored in the FIDIS network. The subsequent scenarios focus on biometrics, social networks, virtual identities, grid computing and forensics, all areas to which FIDIS dedicates much research effort. We end with two, more futuristic, scenarios which illustrate where the fields of human enhancement and robotics may take us.

The relatively informal form in which this content is presented (as narratives and scenarios) is a very effective means to propagate , to elicit , to capture, and to exchange complex ideas, and also to encourage collaboration, to generate new ideas  and to ignite change . As such, it is hoped that these scenarios will not only be enjoyable to read, but will help clarify the complex ideas, and aid further discussion on these topics.

Setting the scene

While developing the scenarios, it has been deliberately intended that the basic characters should remain consistent, i.e. the same characters are used where possible, although the situations vary depending on the scenario. Some ‘character development’ may, however, be needed, and in these cases extra background information will be given at the beginning of the scenario.

Introducing the characters

David Cragg is a 39-year-old humanities teacher and housemaster at a British public school in Royston Vasey, in the north of England. He first met his now wife Li-lian (née Cheung) while holidaying in mainland Greece. Li-lian’s family are originally from Hong Kong, but she is second generation in the UK. Li-lian works as a security director of a big hotel chain and frequently visits companies producing security devices.