Journal of Nanoparticle Research

, 15:1946 | Cite as

The new world of discovery, invention, and innovation: convergence of knowledge, technology, and society



Convergence of knowledge and technology for the benefit of society (CKTS) is the core opportunity for progress in the twenty-first century. CKTS is defined as the escalating and transformative interactions among seemingly different disciplines, technologies, communities, and domains of human activity to achieve mutual compatibility, synergism, and integration, and through this process to create added value and branch out to meet shared goals. Convergence has been progressing by stages over the past several decades, beginning with nanotechnology for the material world, followed by convergence of nanotechnology, biotechnology, information, and cognitive science (NBIC) for emerging technologies. CKTS is the third level of convergence. It suggests a general process to advance creativity, innovation, and societal progress based on five general purpose principles: (1) the interdependence of all components of nature and society, (2) decision analysis for research, development, and applications based on dynamic system-logic deduction, (3) enhancement of creativity and innovation through evolutionary processes of convergence that combines existing principles and divergence that generates new ones, (4) the utility of higher-level cross-domain languages to generate new solutions and support transfer of new knowledge, and (5) the value of vision-inspired basic research embodied in grand challenges. CKTS is a general purpose approach in knowledge society. It allows society to answer questions and resolve problems that isolated capabilities cannot, as well as to create new competencies, knowledge, and technologies on this basis. Possible solutions are outlined for key societal challenges in the next decade, including support for foundational emerging technologies NBIC to penetrate essential platforms of human activity and create new industries and jobs, improve lifelong wellness and human potential, achieve personalized and integrated healthcare and education, and secure a sustainable quality of life for all. This paper provides a 10-year “NBIC2” vision within a longer-term framework for converging technology and human progress outlined in a previous study of unifying principles across “NBIC” fields that began with nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology, and technologies based on and enabling cognitive science (Roco and Bainbridge, Converging technologies for improving human performance: nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology and cognitive sciences, 2003).


Nanotechnology Biotechnology Information technology Cognitive science Research and development system Innovation Vision-inspired research Governance Societal implications 



The National Science Foundation (NSF)/World Technology Evaluation Center (WTEC) international study was completed with panel members and expert contributions from U.S., and abroad ( The opinions, findings, and conclusions expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation or National Science and Technology Council/Nanoscale Science, Engineering and Technology committee.


  1. AAAS American Association for the Advancement of Science (1989) Science for all Americans: Project 2061. Oxford University Press, New York. Accessed 27 Aug 2013
  2. Alivisatos, AP, Chun M, Church GM, Greenspan RJ, Roukes ML, Yuste R (2012) The brain activity map project and the challenge of functional connectomics. Neuron 74(21):1–5Google Scholar
  3. Bainbridge WS, Roco MC (eds) (2006a) Managing Nano-bio-info-cogno Innovations. Springer, BerlinGoogle Scholar
  4. Bainbridge WS, Roco MC (eds) (2006b) Progress in convergence: technologies for human wellbeing. New York Academy of Sciences, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  5. Dunbar RIM (2003) The social brain: mind, language, and society in evolutionary perspective. Ann Rev Anthropol 32:163–181CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Fichman RG (2004) Going beyond the dominant paradigm for information technology innovation research: emerging concepts and methods. J Assoc Inf Syst 5(8):314–355Google Scholar
  7. Gregorian V (2004) Colleges must reconstruct the unity of knowledge. Chron High Education 50(39):B2Google Scholar
  8. Hood L, Flores M (2012) A personal view on systems medicine and the emergence of proactive P4 medicine: predictive, preventive, personalized and participatory. New Biotechnol 29(6):613–724CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Hey T, Tansley S, Tolle K (eds) (2009) The fourth paradigm, data-intensive scientific discovery. Redmond, PhiladelphiaGoogle Scholar
  10. Kurzweil R (1999) The age of spiritual machines: when computers exceed human intelligence. Viking, Penguin Group, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  11. Langer EJ (1997) The power of mindful learning. Addison-Wesley, BostonGoogle Scholar
  12. Mouw T, Kalleberg AL (2010) Occupations and the structure of wage inequality in the United States, 1980s to 2000s. Am Sociol Rev 75(3):402–431CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. National Science Board (2012) Science and engineering indicators. National Science Foundation, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  14. NRC (National Research Council) (2010) Research at the intersection of the physical and life sciences. The National Academies Press, Washington, D.CGoogle Scholar
  15. NRC (National Research Council) (2012) Research Universities and the Future of America: ten breakthrough Actions vital to our nation’s prosperity and security. The National Academies Press, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  16. Reif, R, Barrett C (2013) Science must be spared Washington’s axe. Financial Times, Upper Saddle RiverGoogle Scholar
  17. Roco MC (2002) Coherence and divergence of megatrends in science and engineering. J Nanoparticle Res 4:9–19CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Roco MC (2011) The long view of nanotechnology development: the National Nanotechnology Initiative at 10 years. J Nanoparticle Res 13:427–445CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Roco MC (2012) Technology convergence, Ch. 24. In: Bainbridge WS (ed) Leadership in science and technology. Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, pp 210–219CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Roco MC, Bainbridge WS (eds) (2001) Societal implications of nanoscience and nanotechnology. Springer, Dordrecht. Accessed 27 Aug 2013
  21. Roco MC, Bainbridge WS (2002) Converging technologies for improving human performance: integrating from the nanoscale. J Nanoparticle Res 4:281–295CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Roco MC, Bainbridge WS (eds) (2003) Converging technologies for improving human performance: nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology and cognitive sciences. Springer, New York Accessed 27 Aug 2013
  23. Roco MC, Bainbridge WS (eds) (2007) Nanotechnology: societal implications. Springer, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  24. Roco MC, Montemagno C (2004) The co-evolution of human potential and converging technologies. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  25. Roco MC, Williams RS, Alivisatos P (eds) (1999) Nanotechnology research directions: vision for the next decade. IWGN Workshop report 1999. National Science and Technology Council, Springer (2000), Washington, DC. Accessed 27 Aug 2013
  26. Roco MC, Mirkin CA, Hersam MC (2011) Nanotechnology research directions for societal needs in 2020: retrospective and outlook. Springer, New York. Accessed 27 Aug 2013
  27. Roco MC, Bainbridge WS, Tonn B, Whitesides G (2013) Converging knowledge, technology and society: beyond convergence of Nano-Bio-Info-Cognitive Technologies. Springer, Boston Accessed 27 Aug 2013
  28. Sadava D, Oh J (2000) Clinton speaks of science, technology. Calif Tech 1(14):1–2Google Scholar
  29. Shapiro C, Varian HR (1999) Information rules. Harvard Business Press, BostonGoogle Scholar
  30. Sharp PA, Langer R (2011) Promoting convergence in biomedical science. Science 222(6042):527CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Stokes DE (1997) Pasteur’s quadrant: basic Science and technological innovation. Brookings Institution Press, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  32. UN (United Nations) (2011) Sustainability and equity: a better future for all. United Nations, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  33. UN (United Nations) (2012a) Millennium development goals report. United Nations, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  34. UN (United Nations) (2012b) Realizing the future we want for all. United Nations, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  35. UN (United Nations) (2012c) Report of the United Nations conference on sustainable development. United Nations, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  36. UN (United Nations) (2012d) Building a sustainable and desirable economy-in-society-in-nature. United Nations, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  37. Wilson EO (1999) Consilience: the unity of knowledge. Random House, New YorkGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht (outside the USA) 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National Science FoundationArlingtonUSA

Personalised recommendations