The Future of Reading: Stanford

The Future of Reading: Stanford

Our next book sprint takes us to Palo Alto, California for an exploration of reading, technology, networks and design. May 12- 14, you can follow along on twitter.
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  • Author Margaret Atwood to discuss creative writing, science at ASU

    Author Margaret Atwood to discuss creative writing, science at ASU

    This article originally appeared in ASU News. Internationally renowned novelist and environmental activist Margaret Atwood will visit Arizona State University this November to discuss the relationship…

    Author Margaret Atwood to discuss creative writing, science at ASU

    This article originally appeared in ASU News.

    Internationally renowned novelist and environmental activist Margaret Atwood will visit Arizona State University this November to discuss the relationship between art and science, and the importance of creative writing and imagination for addressing social and environmental challenges.

    Atwood’s visit will mark the launch of the Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative, a new collaborative venture at ASU among the Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives, the Center for Science and the Imagination and the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing. Atwood, author of the MaddAddam trilogy of novels that have become central to the emerging literary genre of climate fiction, or “CliFi,” will offer the inaugural lecture for the initiative on Nov. 5.

    “We are proud to welcome Margaret Atwood, one of the world’s most celebrated living writers, to ASU and engage her in these discussions around climate, science and creative writing,” said Jewell Parker Rhodes, founding artistic director for the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing and the Piper Endowed Chair at Arizona State University. “A poet, novelist, literary critic and essayist, Ms. Atwood epitomizes the creative and professional excellence our students aspire to achieve.”

    Focusing in particular on CliFi, the Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative will explore how imaginative skills can be harnessed to create solutions to climate challenges, and question whether and how creative writing can affect political decisions and behavior by influencing our social, political and scientific imagination.

    “ASU is a leader in exploring how creativity and the imagination drive the arts, sciences, engineering and humanities,” said Ed Finn, director of the Center for Science and the Imagination. “The Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative will use the thriving CliFi genre to ask the hard questions about our cultural relationship to climate change and offer compelling visions for sustainable futures.”

    The multidisciplinary Initiative will bring together researchers, artists, writers, decision-makers and the public to engage in research projects, teaching activities and events at ASU and beyond. The three ASU programs behind the Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative have a track record for academic and public engagement around innovative programs, including the Sustainability Solutions Festival; Emerge; and the Desert Nights, Rising Stars Writers Conference.

    “Imagining how the future could unfold in a climatically changing world is key to making good policy and governance decisions today,” said Manjana Milkoreit, a postdoctoral fellow with the Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives. “We need to know more about the nature of imagination, its relationship to scientific knowledge and the effect of cultural phenomena such as CliFi on our imaginative capabilities and, ultimately, our collective ability to create a safe and prosperous future.”

    For more information, please visit climateimagination.asu.edu or join the Twitter conversation at #climatefutures.

    Media Contact: Jason Franz, jason.franz@asu.edu
    (480) 727-4072

  • The Refurbished Me

    The Refurbished Me

    “Who wants to live forever?” The late, great lead singer of Queen, Freddie Mercury, crooned. “Well, I wouldn’t mind the option.” I responded flatly, the guy…

    The Refurbished Me

    “Who wants to live forever?” The late, great lead singer of Queen, Freddie Mercury, crooned.

    “Well, I wouldn’t mind the option.” I responded flatly, the guy parking his car at ASU.

    While on campus, I pondered that recent conversation with my stereo. I surmised that Dr. Doris Taylor, Director of Regenerative Medicine Research at Texas Heart Institute, heard the same tune. She is at the bleeding edge of a new frontier: whole organ decellularization (a.k.a. prepping organs for transplant). Her techniques are disquieting for some, almost Promethean, but intriguing nonetheless.

    Dr. Taylor started with a rat-heart. She inserted a catheter into the recently harvested organ and slowly drained its original cells. Then, after cleansing the heart, only its connective tissue remained. She proceeded to fill its empty spaces with fresh cells acquired from the body of its new host.

    The lifeless organ also needed an electrical signal, mechanical blood pressure, and oxygen. A bioreactor sufficed; an artificial body that resembled a pickle jar on life support. However, that’s no pickle inside. They could tell because after merely a week of lying dormant, the heart spontaneously began to beat…on its own.

    It was 2005 when Dr. Taylor forged that organic, thumping “Ghost Heart.” It was a first for laboratory scientists, as well. What’s more, Dr. Taylor has shown her process works with other organs, like a set of lungs. Her efforts have reanimated the dead organs of rats and pigs. She sees this technology working in humans in years, not decades.

    The arch-nemesis of a successful organ transplant is tissue rejection. Dr. Taylor’s phenomenal technique could allow for organ transplantation from cadaver to patient without such concerns. It could negate the need for a lifetime of anti-rejection medications that suppress the immune system, cause nausea, tremors, and more.

    Humans are creatures of life, but all of history implies that we’re built for death. Yet, here we are, at the brink of reconfiguration with lifespans no longer truncated by decay. There is an entire torso crammed with life-sustaining goodies, which ripen and long for replacement. The potential of Dr. Taylor’s labors are a means to that end – and a pathway to immortality.

     

    Image courtesy of 2il org, used under a Creative Commons license

  • ASU, NGA to address national security risks of climate change

    ASU, NGA to address national security risks of climate change

    Arizona State University was selected for a competitive, five-year award of $20 million by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) to launch a research partnership, effective June 1, to explore approaches for anticipating and mitigating national security risks associated with climate change.

    ASU, NGA to address national security risks of climate change

    This article originally appeared in ASU News, and was written by Amelia Huggins of ASU’s Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development. The Center for Science and the Imagination will be contributing to the Foresight Initiative by developing design principles, prototypes and tools for geo-narratives and other interventions at the nexus of storytelling and geospatial data. 

    Arizona State University was selected for a competitive, five-year award of $20 million by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) to launch a research partnership, effective June 1, to explore approaches for anticipating and mitigating national security risks associated with climate change.

    Known as the Foresight Initiative, the cooperative agreement venture will explore how the effects of climate change on resources, such as water, food and energy, could contribute to political unrest and instability, and gain insights to sustainability and resilience strategies for mitigating the effects.

    This initiative will play a key role in collaborative research efforts to accelerate the evolution of Activity-Based Intelligence addressing system level activities, dynamics and interdependent network effects in the context of global climate risks to water security. This multi-year research partnership leverages ASU expertise and thought leadership in visual analytics, complex modeling and transdisciplinary decision-making evolving from years of internal and external investments at ASU.

    “NGA’s investment and partnership with ASU is a game-changing relationship,” said ASU President Michael Crow. “This innovative research initiative will develop solutions and be a catalyst for the critical and creative thinking needed to address the complex challenges that come with climate change.”

    Leveraging computing and system modeling initiatives at ASU and partner organizations, the Foresight Initiative will apply ubiquitous cloud computing and storage technologies, advances in natural user interfaces and machine learning to address unique geospatial data handling and visual analytic challenges driven by the volume and character of future persistent data flows. The resulting capabilities will allow analysts and decision-makers to dynamically interact with diverse data sets in a real-time modeling and simulation environment. This will help them assess the effectiveness of plans, policies and decisions; discover second- and third-order causal relationships; and understand spatial and temporal patterns that reveal non-obvious underlying interconnections and dependencies.

    “I am very proud to announce our partnership with ASU, a world-class research university,” said Letitia Long, NGA director. “Our partnership is a prime example of the intelligence community working smartly with academia to address strategic global issues and to create capabilities that benefit everyone.”

    Key areas at ASU that will be integral to this work include the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, College of Public Programs, Decision Theater Network and Decision Center for a Desert City.

    For example, ASU’s Decision Theater provides advanced modeling and simulation that allows diverse groups of stakeholders to visualize large amounts of data, policy parameters and environmental uncertainties on panoramic HD displays. Scientists, analysts and decision-makers can easily interact in real-time to tweak the rules and data sets to account for new insights and deeper understanding of relationships, providing a range of outcomes based on the changes. This allows for more effective decision-making among people from different backgrounds.

    “This is a tremendous partnership and opportunity for a real, tangible impact in addressing strategic security and humanitarian needs,” said Nadya Bliss, principal investigator of the Foresight Initiative and assistant vice president, research strategy with ASU’s Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development. “It is also pioneering how the academic and government research communities can leverage each other’s strengths to seek solutions to these global-scale issues while advancing fundamental transdisciplinary research. ASU is the perfect place for this initiative because of the culture of use-inspired research and exceptional quality faculty working across traditional disciplinary boundaries.”

  • Ed Finn at the Congress on the Future of Engineering Software 2014

    Ed Finn at the Congress on the Future of Engineering Software 2014

    On April 25, 2014, Ed Finn spoke at the 2014 Congress on the Future of Engineering Software, in Scottsdale, Arizona, about the Center about thinking big, science, technology and the power of narratives to shape the future.

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    Ed Finn at the Congress on the Future of Engineering Software 2014

    On April 25, 2014, Ed Finn spoke at the 2014 Congress on the Future of Engineering Software, in Scottsdale, Arizona, about the Center about thinking big, science, technology and the power of narratives to shape the future.

    Watch the video to learn more about the cultural imaginary, “science fiction of the present,” 20km tall steel towers, flying drone routers, 3D printing with Moon dust, and how science fiction storytelling sets targets for our technological future.

  • Shaping the future through sci-fi at ASU

    Shaping the future through sci-fi at ASU

    From the geostationary satellite to the Taser, the submarine to virtual reality, many technologies we use today were originally conceived of by writers and artists. These visionaries imagined future inventions with remarkable accuracy, even if they didn’t know how to actually make them.

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    Shaping the future through sci-fi at ASU

    This piece was originally published at ASU News, and written by Lorraine Longhi of ASU’s Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development. 

    The next time you call your boss from a traffic jam to say you’ll be late for work, offer a silent “thank you” to Captain Kirk. The fictional hero of television’s “Star Trek,” Kirk often talked to his crew through a handheld communicator. Martin Cooper, the man who invented the cell phone, says the show was the inspiration for his idea.

    From the geostationary satellite to the Taser, the submarine to virtual reality, many technologies we use today were originally conceived of by writers and artists. These visionaries imagined future inventions with remarkable accuracy, even if they didn’t know how to actually make them.

    Science fiction books, movies, TV shows and art also allow us to explore the social implications of these advances. Do clones have rights? What about sentient robots? How might advances in genetics and behavioral prediction affect privacy?

    The Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University brings together writers, artists, scientists and other creative thinkers to reignite humanity’s grand ambitions for innovation and discovery. They link human narratives to scientific questions and explore the full social implications of cutting-edge research. Ed Finn, director of the center, says that science fiction continues to influence science today, leading to fascinating discussions at the center.

    “Science fiction is a kind of laboratory to experiment intellectually with all sorts of ideas, and whether they’re technical or social changes, it allows you to examine all sorts of cultural assumptions about everything from justice to gender to physics,” says Finn, who is also an assistant professor in the School of Arts, Media and Engineering and the Department of English.

    The center experiments with these changes and ideas through several of its own projects. Project Hieroglyph, a collaboration with author Neal Stephenson, allows scientists and researchers to write their own works of science fiction that envision futures shaped by technological innovation. Additionally, the center co-hosts Emerge, an annual festival that brings scientists and writers together to create tangible, visceral depictions of the future.

    “The most important thing science fiction gives us is a sense of possibility and a more active relationship with the future,” says Finn. “The big problem is that our time horizon is very small, and it’s very difficult to think beyond the next few years or beyond the next election cycle. Science fiction is an important tool to show us the full spectrum of possibilities for the future and to paint it as a series of choices that we’re all invested in.”

    The center also explores data-mining works of science fiction to look for technical ideas that might not have made their way into scientific literature. What was once merely a work of fiction could now be a plausible research question.

    In the realm of social impact, Finn and David Guston, co-director of ASU’s Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes, are leading a multi-institutional, bicentennial celebration of the novel “Frankenstein” that will take place from 2016-2018. This seminal work of science fiction demonstrates the unintended consequences that our creations can wreak upon society.

    “‘Frankenstein’ beautifully captures issues such as creativity and responsibility, and the difficult balance between letting your imagination run wild and dealing with ownership and parental responsibility of that idea,” says Finn.

    These ideas have permeated our culture in all sorts of ways and spawned countless derivatives and adaptations of the iconic monster. Indeed, Frankenstein’s own name has become shorthand for the delicate relationship between creativity and responsibility.

    Joey Eschrich, editor and program manager for the center, is also working on the “Frankenstein” bicentennial and grappling with the important questions the novel raises.

    “‘Frankenstein’ allows us to come together around a shared point of reference. One of our main goals is to create arenas for conversation where everyone feels like they have a voice in shaping the future and that their opinion is valuable,” says Eschrich. “‘Frankenstein’ and other science fiction stories are platforms where individuals can feel connected to other fields and feel comfortable expressing their thoughts and ideas.”

    One of Eschrich’s personal influences is the neo-noir thriller “Minority Report.” The movie presents a world in which a hyper-effective law enforcement system can predict – and punish – crimes before they even happen.

    “‘Minority Report’ captures the way that science fiction can be deliberative about ethics and how our technological systems affect the way we interact with one another,” said Eschrich. “We can see how the technological landscape and infrastructure of the film’s fictional world shapes people’s lives and relationships.”

    Finn cites “The Diamond Age,” a cyberpunk novel by Neal Stephenson, as one of his own influences. The novel takes place in a future where nanotechnology pervades all aspects of life, and is a coming-of-age story that explores education, social class and ethnicity.

    “The novel excels at asking profound questions about social structure and education,” says Finn. “In my field, it’s especially relevant for reflecting on, and putting into practice, different forms of education. Why have we not yet created some of the technologies he’s imagined?”

    Researchers and faculty at the center believe there is great value in keeping scientists and engineers engaged with these imaginary worlds, as well as keeping writers and artists connected with science and technology. This interaction helps us to stay conscious of the broader implications and consequences of our scientific advances.

    “What resonates most with us is that moment of estrangement when you realize there’s something in this world that you’ve never experienced in your own life, combined with real human stories,” says Finn. “The story itself is really a blueprint for the universe, and we’re creating it with our own imaginations and agency.”