Thought leadership

Much of my career over the past 20 years has focused on working through various networks, organizations, and platforms, to help guide and inform decision making around advanced technology transitions and socially responsible innovation.

This includes testifying before congressional committees, working closely with organizations such as the World Economic Forum, OECD and others, contributing to National Academies studies, working widely with print and broadcast media, and writing extensively for a public audience – including through articles, blogs and newsletters.

You can read more about my thought leadership in the drop down menu above, but here’s a broader picture of what I do, and why:

Empowering others and catalyzing public value creation through knowledge mobilization and thought leadership

My influence and impact as a thought leader, communicator, and public intellectual, are driven by a conviction that academics – especially academics at a public university – have a societal responsibility to ensure knowledge and the insights associated with it are made as accessible, meaningful, and impactful, to as many people as possible, whether these are business leaders, policy makers, civil society, educators, members of the public, or others. They are also underpinned by a deeply transdisciplinary approach to exploring and addressing emerging challenges and opportunities. Through my work I intentionally and strategically leverage my expertise, networks, platforms, and skills, in numerous and often novel ways to mobilize knowledge, understanding, and insights, in the service of empowering others to be part of building a positive future together.

The following provide some sense of the domains I cut across, but this is by no means an exhaustive list:

Responsible and beneficial development of nanotechnology

Through my work with government agencies, industry, civil society, and other organizations, I have had a global impact on research, policy, and decision making around the safe and beneficial development of nanotechnology over the past two plus decades. In the early 2000’s I was responsible for co-leading the US federal government’s strategic initiatives around nanotechnology safety. Between 2005 – 2010 I was one of the most influential thought leaders globally in the responsible development of nanotechnology in my role as Chief Science Advisor to the Woodrow Wilson International center for Scholars’ Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies. I have testified begore congressional committees, served on National Academies committees, worked with organizations that include OSTP, OECD, and the World Economic Forum, and become one of the go-to experts on nanotechnology safety for journalists and policy makers. Although my work now extends far beyond nanotechnology, I continue to contribute to thought leadership here.

Responsible innovation and emerging technologies

My work over the past 15 years has increasingly focused on supporting decision making around responsible innovation and emerging technologies. Since 2008 I have worked extensively with the World Economic Forum, including participating in and chairing Global Agenda Councils and Global Futures Councils, being an invited speaker at Davos and the Annual Meeting of New Champions in China (the “Summer Davos”), and participating since its inception in the working group behind the World Economic Forum’s annual list of top ten emerging technologies. I was influential in informing the ideas that led to the concept of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and continue to be a leading public thinker around responsible innovation and emerging technologies. My writing and academic publications continue to push the boundaries of thinking around socially responsible and beneficial innovation.

Advanced Technology Transitions

For over two decades my research and thought leadership have broadly encompassed what may be described as “advanced technology transitions.” This is a field I have highlighted through my public-facing work, and one that represents a unique and broad framework for approaching the beneficial development and use of potentially disruptive new technologies. It is a framework that is becoming increasingly relevant in my thought leadership around advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence and quantum technologies. I founded and direct the ASU Future of Being Human initiative that is explicitly focused on catalyzing conversations around advanced technology transitions, and building thought leadership capacity around technology, society, and the future.

Risk Innovation

Much of my professional career has touched on risk, and has ranged from conventional risk assessment and management (especially within the context of occupational and public health), to grappling with novel risks and innovative ways of thinking about and addressing risk. The latter has led to the emergence of “risk innovation” as a unique approach to understanding and navigating complex social risks in particular that are not covered by existing risk frameworks, and yet are critical to advanced technology transitions. My work around risk innovation is reflected in my time as Director of the University of Michigan Risk Science Center and the Arizona State University Risk Innovation Lab, and has focused on engaging with multiple stakeholders. This includes one of the most successful YouTube learning channels on understanding risk – Risk Bites. The channel provides a unique and highly accessible source of content on understanding risk, and includes some of the top-ranked YouTube videos in areas such as nanotechnology, epidemiology, and the fourth industrial revolution.

Public Engagement

I am known internationally for my work as a highly effective communicator, convener, moderator, and facilitator of public engagement. As well as being a sought-after speaker, I am regularly invited to talk about emerging technologies and responsible innovation by journalists and media outlets. I am a regular contributor to platforms such as Slate Future Tense, World Economic Forum Agenda, and The Conversation, and have written for outlets that include the Washington Post, Discover Magazine, Salon, Scientific American, and The Guardian. In addition, I write extensively for my own public-facing platforms, including a highly successful Substack newsletter. I approach my public engagement activities as integral to my position as a tenured professor at a public university, and deeply integrated with my scholarship and teaching. I focus specifically on knowledge mobilization, and opening up pathways and opportunities for emerging knowledge and insights to have far-reaching public accessibility, relevance, and impact.

Connecting with broad audiences

I have written two popular books on technology, society, and the future, that are designed to facilitate knowledge mobilization at scale around future-building in a technologically complex world. These books – “Films from the Future” and “Future Rising” – uniquely bring complex ideas around emerging technologies, society, and the future, to a broad audience. They are written to be engaging and accessible to a broad audience, while taking readers on a transdisciplinary journey of discovery that opens their eyes to new possibilities and ways of thinking as transformative technologies become increasingly complex and influential. Importantly, this has become a transformative avenue for scaling the national and global reach of my thought leadership and work around knowledge mobilization.

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