Journal of Nanoparticle Research

, 15:1946 | Cite as

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

  • Mihail C. Roco
  • William S. Bainbridge


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.


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Copyright information

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

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National Science FoundationArlingtonUSA

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