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Imagining sustainability through the eyes of future generations
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Imagining sustainability through the eyes of future generations
by Riko Seibo
Tokyo, Japan (SPX) Mar 25, 2024

In a study featured in Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Osaka University's team, led by Keishiro Hara, proposes a novel approach for evaluating sustainable technology and societal trends. By embracing the viewpoint of "imaginary future generations" (IFGs), the study unlocks new insights into the long-term implications of today's environmental and technological decisions.

The initiative involved four workshops hosted by the Graduate School of Engineering at Osaka University, attracting faculty and students alike. A focal point of discussion was the sustainable application and future viability of hydrothermally produced porous glass, a material celebrated for its filtration and insulation capabilities. Despite its benefits, the production of porous glass demands significant energy resources, presenting a classic dilemma of immediate costs versus future gains.

"Porous glass can virtually be recycled indefinitely. However, its manufacturing process, which involves pulverizing waste glass and heating water to extreme temperatures, is energy-intensive," notes Hara. This paradox underscores the challenges faced in balancing present-day resource consumption with future environmental sustainability.

Workshop participants, tasked with considering the technology from an IFG standpoint, envisioned a future deeply integrated with sustainability principles. Predictions included an era where renewable energy is abundant, and human exploration has expanded to the moon and the ocean depths, making the production of porous glass viable and environmentally friendly.

The study reveals that adopting an IFG perspective markedly shifts perceptions regarding the feasibility and desirability of technologies, potentially redirecting research and development priorities towards more sustainable outcomes. "Seeing through the lens of future generations allows for a reevaluation of technology's role in achieving long-term sustainability," explains senior author Toshihiro Tanaka.

This research not only underscores the importance of forward-thinking in technological development but also demonstrates how a shift in perspective can reveal innovative paths to sustainability. It challenges researchers, policymakers, and the public to consider the legacy of their environmental and technological choices for generations to come.

Research Report:Assessing Future Potentiality of Technologies from the Perspective of "Imaginary Future Generations" - A Case Study of Hydrothermal Technology

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