ASU's Project Hieroglyph provides a blueprint for better dreams


September 9, 2014

What if we could build a tower so tall that the stratosphere was just an elevator ride away? How might we use drones to protect endangered wildlife from poachers and other criminals? Could 3-D printers help us explore space, mine asteroids and build infrastructure on the moon?

"Hieroglyph: Stories and Visions for a Better Future," the first anthology from ASU’s Project Hieroglyph, aims to reignite humanity’s grand ambitions for the future through the power of storytelling. Hieroglyph dares us to imagine a better future, and to explore how we can harness the potential of science and technology to achieve real change and real hope in a world that seems to have lost sight of ambitious scientific creativity, trapped in status quo thinking. Hieroglyph book cover Download Full Image

The Hieroglyph anthology translates flights of fancy into the realm of the possible. Why the title? Hieroglyphics is the ancient Egyptian system of writing that tells stories through pictographs. The Egyptians created a language based on powerful symbols intended to stand the test of time, using it to tell future generations about their dreams, their hopes and their prophecies. We have hieroglyphs too – symbols like the rocket ship and the robot that have shaped decades of innovation. But most of them are showing their age. Hieroglyph is a collection of big ideas and inspiring icons for the 21st century.

“Somewhere in the time between the Apollo Program in the 1960s and paying other countries to fly stuff into space for us today, between the Interstate Highway System and giving our bridges failing grades for safety, we lost our connection to the future. Hieroglyph is an effort to reboot the imagination and get people thinking big again,” says Ed Finn, director of ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination, who co-edited the 532-page book along with writer, critic and anthologist Kathryn Cramer. (Listen to Finn read an excerpt from the book, a piece from Vandana Singh's story 'Entanglement,' here. To hear the full interview with Finn, including the reading of the excerpt, click here.)

Hieroglyph also features a foreword by renowned physicist and cosmologist Lawrence M. Krauss, director of ASU’s Origins Project and Foundation Professor at the School of Earth and Space Exploration and Department of Physics; an interview with Paul Davies, the director of ASU’s Beyond Center and a Regents’ Professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration and the Department of Physics; and 17 stories shaped by more than 20 ASU scientists, engineers, social scientists, humanists, technologists and artists.

Project Hieroglyph was founded by New York Times best-selling author Neal Stephenson after he served on a 2011 panel for ASU’s Future Tense partnership, “Can Technology Policy Be Democratic?” with ASU President Michael M. Crow. The two men began to discuss how to encourage science fiction writers to get actively involved in shaping the future in a persistent, organized way while creating new blueprints for audacious, visionary “moonshot” thinking.

Crow argued that science fiction “needed to supply ideas that scientists and engineers could actually implement,” remembers Stephenson. “[He] basically told me that I needed to get off my duff and start writing science fiction in a more constructive and optimistic vein.”

The conversation launched both the Center for Science and the Imagination and Project Hieroglyph in 2012, with the shared goal of bringing together writers, artists, scientists, engineers and others to reinvent our society’s relationship with the future through storytelling, research and radical new collaborations.

Another goal of the center is to leverage the talent of ASU’s faculty and encourage researchers across disciplinary and institutional boundaries to take creative approaches and create broad public engagement around scientific challenges.

“This anthology is not an endpoint for this project but rather an invitation,” says Finn. “We hope these bold and exciting stories will encourage broad public engagement and fresh thinking about the world we want to live in. Everyone is welcome to join the conversation at hieroglyph.asu.edu, where our hundreds of community participants are cooking up new ideas and projects all the time.”

Project Hieroglyph is not only about telling new stories about the future; it’s also about driving innovative collaborations and generating ambitious research projects. For example, Neal Stephenson’s story for the anthology, which centers on a 20-kilometer tall steel tower, was created in collaboration with Keith Hjelmstad, a professor of structural engineering at ASU’s School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment. (Listen to Hjelmstad talk about their collaboration and read an excerpt from the story, 'Atmosphaera Incognita,' here.) The project has raised a number of intriguing new research questions – including how to design super-tall structures to deal with the intense wind speeds and exotic weather conditions in the upper atmosphere that are being investigated by Hjelmstad’s students. Meanwhile, ongoing collaborations with organizations including NASA and the World Bank are exploring how science fiction stories can be used to inform and accelerate real-world innovation.

Hieroglyph is also at the center of exciting new courses, including an upcoming graduate course at ASU’s School of Sustainability on the future of water, energy and food in the American Southwest, and a course this semester at Northern Arizona University’s Honors Program titled “Into the Future – Visions of Tomorrow.”

Engaging, mind-bending, provocative and imaginative, Hieroglyph offers a forward-thinking approach to the intersection of art and technology that has the power to change the world.

"Hieroglyph: Stories and Visions for a Better Future"

Authors:

• Paul Davies – School of Earth and Space Exploration, BEYOND Center and Department of Physics, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
• Ed Finn – Center for Science and the Imagination; Department of English, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; School of Arts, Media and Engineering, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts
• Lawrence M. Krauss – School of Earth and Space Exploration and Department of Physics, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Collaborators, consultants and respondents:

• Brad Allenby – School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering; Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law; Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability
• Ariel Anbar – School of Earth and Space Exploration and Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability
• Jean Andino – School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering; Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability
• Michael Barton – School of Human Evolution and Social Change and Center for Social Dynamics and Complexity, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability
• George Basile – School of Sustainability; Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability
• Ron Broglio – Department of English, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability
• Randy Cerveny – School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
• Netra Chhetri – School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning and Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
• Joel Garreau – Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics and Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law
• David Guston – School of Politics and Global Studies and Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability
• Keith Hjelmstad – School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering
• Stephen Macknik – Neuroscience Program, Barrow Neurological Institute
• Susana Martinez-Conde – Neuroscience Program, Barrow Neurological Institute
• Darren Petrucci – The Design School, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts
• Sri Saripalli – School of Earth and Space Exploration, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
• Jekan Thanga – School of Earth and Space Exploration, College of Liberal Arts and SciencesErin Walker, School of Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering
• Zhihua Wang – School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering; Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability
• Ruth Wylie – Center for Science and the Imagination; Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College

Click here to listen to "Hieroglyph" contributor Darren Petrucci discuss his collaboration with author Madeline Ashby on her science fiction story 'By the Time We Get to Arizona.' Petrucci also discusses the meeting of design, science and the imagination, and reads an excerpt from Ashby's story.

Reporter , ASU Now

480-727-5176

ASU Cronkite School accepting applicants for Knight Innovation Grant


September 9, 2014

Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication is now accepting applications for the Knight-Cronkite Alumni Innovation Grant, which awards up to $15,000 to Cronkite School graduates who are professional journalists looking to pioneer cutting-edge technologies and practices in their newsrooms.

The support, made possible by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, is available to Cronkite School alumni as a way to accelerate newsroom innovation across the country. Download Full Image

Applications will be accepted on an ongoing basis with periodic deadlines – the first on Oct. 15. Finalists for first-round applications will be announced Oct. 31. Cronkite School graduates can apply at https://cronkite.asu.edu/knight-cronkite-alumni-innovation-grant-application.

To be eligible for the grant, applicants must be a Cronkite School graduate, working in a newsroom. They must also have support from their news organizations, showing a commitment to implement the proposal within six months of the development period’s conclusion. Those selected will have to report project outcomes to the Cronkite School.

Knight Foundation President Alberto Ibargüen announced the Knight-Cronkite Alumni Innovation program during the Cronkite School’s May 2014 convocation ceremony. Ibargüen pledged $250,000 from Knight Foundation, challenging Cronkite graduates to disrupt the status quo in newsrooms.

“We’ve been waiting for your generation of digital natives, driven to tell stories, to become the leaders of newsrooms in America,” Ibargüen said at the convocation, “and maybe this will help that generational turn go even faster.”

Christopher Callahan, dean of the Cronkite School, said the generous grant comes at a much needed time in journalism as newsrooms face new challenges in the digital age.

“Our alumni are passionate leaders and ambitious innovators in journalism,” Callahan said. “I encourage Cronkite Nation to take up President Ibargüen’s challenge and use this grant as a way to spark much needed change in our profession.”

Some of the Cronkite School’s most important programs are supported by Knight Foundation, including Carnegie-Knight News21, a national fellowship program where top journalism students conduct investigations into issues critical to Americans; the Public Insight Network Bureau, a specialized news bureau where students work with professional news organizations to deepen their connections to audiences; and the Knight Chair in Journalism, a tenured professorship at Cronkite currently held by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Steve Doig.

Reporter , ASU Now

480-727-5176