ASU Now: Conference explores innovations affecting our future

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

ASU Now reported that Arizona State University’s futurist in residence has a message about technology disrupting our lives at an ever increasing pace: Don’t be afraid.

Johnson spoke at the State of Our State Conference on Tuesday, the ninth one held by Morrison Institute for Public Policy at ASU. The annual conference explores issues affecting Arizona; this year’s event focused on innovation and disruption by technology.

“I’m an optimist,” said Brian David Johnson, whose title encompasses his roles as a professor in the ASU Center for Science and the Imagination and as director of the ASU Threatcasting Lab.

Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Johnson said that autonomy in land, sea and air transportation is coming, as is industrial artificial intelligence, which will not only process information but will be social, “knowing” the people it encounters.

“Are we educating the workforce to interact with sentient tools 10 to 15 years from now?” Johnson asked. “We’re not, but we need to.”

Panelists agreed that education must focus on critical-thinking skills to keep up with the changes.

Tekedra Mawakana, vice president of public policy and government affairs for Waymo, said she doesn’t expect autonomous cars to take over.

“People will always love their cars and it’s not an either/or. I think for a long time we will have both. I love driving when I want to drive. I love the idea of not having to drive,” she said.

A surprise at the conference, Mawakana said that Waymo announced on Tuesday that its self-driving cars operating in Arizona will now be truly driverless. Previously, the vehicles were operating autonomously but still had a driver behind the wheel.

Grady Gammage Jr., senior research fellow for Morrison Institute for Public Policy, said that knee-jerk political reactions can get in the way of meaningful discussion about important issues, and that’s why events like the State of Our State are important.

READ: Technology may be disruptive but don't fear it, ASU's futurist says