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You Want the Future? You Can't Handle The Future
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You Want the Future? You Can't Handle The Future


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ASU Lincoln Center, sustainability

ASU Lincoln Center, sustainability

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  • 1. You Want the Future? You Can’t Handle the Future! Perspectives on Sustainability Brad AllenbyFounding Director, Center for Earth Systems Engineering and Management Lincoln Professor of Engineering and Ethics Professor of Civil, Environmental, and Sustainable Engineering USBCSD October 18, 2011
  • 2. Relevant Trends• Welcome to the Anthropocene – the human earth.• The world is becoming much more complex and information dense.• Natural systems become integrated with human and built systems, and subject to their dynamics – examples: genetic engineering and IP; carbon cycle.• Professionals and firms are being charged by society with responsibility not just for their actions, but for their technology systems (cf: Monsanto and EU on GMOs).• Sustainability is becoming important social myth.• Technology is critical locus of accelerating evolutionary pressures, and major framework for integrated natural/built/human Earth systems in Anthropocene.
  • 3. Straws in the Wind• Students and Google: why are you still teaching facts?• Augcog and distributed cognition.• ASU workshop with Sandia National Laboratories on cognitive enhancement.• Use of cognitive enhancement drugs to enhance routine academic performance.
  • 4. Straws in the Wind• Ambient atmosphere carbon capture technology: design your own world• Grow your own Neanderthal, and AI on the other side: the human as design space• Radical life extension• Privatization of governance: war and private military contractors; EU using NGOs to handleforeign aid; space (DARPA and 100 Year Starship Study)
  • 5. Sustainability• A highly normative, egalitarian scenario. – Note that many other scenarios are possible and, given current trends, perhaps even more probable• Has become increasingly ambiguous over time as different institutions adopt different definitions to suit their requirements.• What is to be sustained? The Earth? Biodiversity? Human life? Existing economic and power structures?• Mismatch between degrees of freedom of managers and technocrats, and global sustainability issues.• Oversimplifies complexity of current and future environments, especially given accelerating technological evolution – Focus on resource use, versus information structures – Fails to consider even very foreseeable trends such as radical life extension
  • 6. Sustainability and Basic Political Values Libertarian: justice is equality of opportunity U.S. polityCommunitarianisn: Corporatism: welfarewelfare is optimized by is optimized by freeindividual being economic activity ofabsorbed in community individuals Sustainable Development Egalitarian: justice is equality of outcome
  • 7. Problem Statement• Power of emerging technologies poses huge governance and social challenges – Sustainability and radical life extension? – Changing cognitive patterns among young? – Geoengineering? – Technological change as major unappreciated Earth system (no discipline of technology studies)?• Military and security needs major driver of technological evolution, especially of Five Horsemen (nano, bio, robotics, ICT, cogsci)• Military and security competence heavily dependent on society’s technological competence (US v. BRIC v. EU)
  • 8. Complex Issues at Many Scales• Struggle for long term cultural dominance, with technological competence a major factor (China versus US)• All assumptions become radically contingent – Psychological and individual: are we redesigning the human as an industrial-mil/sec strategy? – Governance: are we redesigning society as an industrial-mil/sec strategy? – Institutional: roles of different institutions shifting rapidly and unpredictably
  • 9. Some Ways Forward• Technology analysis: policy response matrix• Technical CSR: Industrial Ecology• Take charge of sustainability dialog for your firm – Unlike activists, you can’t afford to ignore your portfolio of obligations – You need to manage technological change: not just for firm, but for society as well
  • 10. Technical CSR• Themes: – Must try to understand lifecycle (easy for material in specific use; harder for complex product; harder for service – what is the “lifecycle” of the Net?) – Must include not just environmental, but social dimensions – Serious normative issues: who gets to define what is to be sustained, what social values to prioritize?• Services much harder to design, evaluate implications, than products – Where is boundary between product, service, and earth system (e.g., jet airplane, a product, enables tourism, a service, which is part of broader system of global travel including impacts on previously unreachable environments, airplane as disease vector, etc.)
  • 11. Information Infrastructure Boundary Issues Level Method of Study Main Impact Typical IE Design Issues (Physical v. Cultural)Artifact manufacture Traditional Physical Energy consumption in manufacture; toxics in manufacturing environment and processes; industrial hygiene issues safety compliance (end-of-pipe)Artifact over lifecycle DfE, LCA Physical Understanding conditions of use; energy consumption in use; end-of-life management; toxic in product Construction and Systems Physical Evolution of technology (from telephony to internet protocol, maintenance of engineering wireless); interactions of systems components; efficiency per networks unit service; systems boundary Services N/A Physical/Cultural Definition of “service”; relationship of service to physical (e.g., broadband to network and social practices home)Social practices based N/A Cultural Both short and long term impacts important (and may not on services align); difficult to predict because of cultural component; triple (e.g., teleworking) bottom line implications, especially social (“digital divide”)Knowledge economy/ N/A Cultural Impact on social constructs (“wilderness”, “environment”). infosphere Enable postmodernist fragmenting of values? Enable world as artifact (real time comprehensive monitoring systems)? Substitution of information for energy/materials? End of “natural history” w/ human contingency built into natural system?
  • 12. Changing Dimensions of Work Knowledge Economy Paradigm Flexible, virtual Dy time and space co nam ind m SK i IL d, ivid plex c, LS un ua , TIME/SPACE sta liz ble e cle S ar tab ly le Defined, clock time de , fin ed Firm PLACEKnowledge Manufacturing Dedicated, Non-place based,production, Facility-based, Paradigm co-located individual choicedefined by physical Ful production l E intranets d em -time MPL ixe plo ym OY ME , f ion ent NT L le ut E M tab tit Fixed, Se l D O R S ins impermeable full f-emp M FI rela spe loye F O LIFE tion ctrum d, s to of BOUNDRIES firm ng ithin olvi w n (e.g., family/work) io Ev ork zat s tw al i rk ne lob two Porous, constantly g ne shifting
  • 13. Policy Response Matrix: Cyborg Insects Policy Goals and Effects Policy Response ResponseTechnologyLevelLevel I: Reduce collateral damage and Goals and technology align; increase operational efficiency therefore adopt technologyMilitary effectiveness in counterinsurgency operationsLevel II: Protect civilian populations from Implement technology, but terrorists and, through mission technology alone may not leadSecurity effectiveness creep, criminals to achievement of stated goalLevel III: Ensure orderly society; likely to Optimistic goals likely to be reduce privacy and enable “soft” undercut as those in powerSocial and cultural or “hard” totalitarian state; shift adopt cybersect technology toeffects of power to technologically rich their own ends; Level I and organizations (e.g., private Level III implications potentially firms). in fundamental conflict
  • 14. “He, only, merits freedom and existenceWho wins them every day anew.”(Goethe, 1833, Faust, lines 11,575-76)