Forecasting how technology and people will mix in 2020 will need more than the "gee-whiz optimism of the technophiles", concludes a Foresight report from the Economic and Social Research Council out next week.
The report, Towards the Future: An Agenda for Debate, is a summary of a Foresight seminar jointly held by the ESRC and the Office of Science and Technology earlier this year.
The report explains that technological abilities do not automatically lead to large-scale take-up and lessons from the past tell us that if we are to predict the future we must take social and economic factors into consideration.
Richard Scase, visiting professor at the University of Essex and the report's main author, explains: "For the construction of meaningful scenarios it is necessary to include the findings of social science research as well as the exciting speculations of technologists communicating from their virtual laboratories."
The seminar considered expert opinions on the ageing society, global business, human capital and electronic government.
Professor Scase is now researching alternative economic and social scenarios and their effect on new technologies, which will be the subject of a report towards the end of the year.
This will address key issues such as who will take up new technologies, whether new political agendas are being created and how a new demographic profile will shape social institutions and lifestyles.