I am spending the next two weeks in Brazil visiting colleagues and developing research partnerships. I will deliver two research seminars:
Shaping the Future of Autonomous Systems in Society: Research with Impact
Emerging technologies are fundamentally impacting and transforming all aspects of our society. I am particularly concerned with how technological innovations impact 1) the design of our public institutions, 2) the apparatuses through which we shape, implement, and evaluate public policies, and 3) our governance frameworks for public goods. All indications suggest that we are moving toward a world where autonomous systems will dictate how we interface and interact with other agents and objects in our society. We can take advantage of emerging technologies to make our societies more livable, just, resilient, and sustainable. To realize this future, we need active and sustained engagement by scholars across a myriad of disciplines, especially public policy and management.
Public policy and governance scholars have largely been absent when it comes to engineering efforts related to the design and deployment of autonomous systems and policy debates that will shape their impact on our society. In this talk, I will outline why we need active engagement by public policy and management scholars during phases of autonomous systems development and implementation. Examples will be drawn from over a dozen research engagements that have studied emerging technologies in the public sector, from predictive analytic systems to blockchain, social media platforms, and machine learning algorithms. I will outline key governance dilemmas and policy challenges confronting public agencies as they try to keep up with the rapid pace of technological innovations.
Studying complex phenomena requires us to undertake research that 1) draws on multiple disciplines, 2) engages a diverse group of stakeholders, 3) appreciates a plurality of research approaches, and 4) generates actionable solutions. Executing inter-disciplinary research is no easy feat to accomplish. Researchers face daunting challenges from the onset; beginning with the inception of ideas, continuing to the crafting of problem statements, executing the research process, and then communicating the results via publications in academic and practitioner outlets. However, these challenges should not be viewed as an excuse to abandon inter-disciplinary research in favor of narrowly focused research exercises. Opportunities for use-inspired research will be discussed. In addition, I will present a working model for executing inter-disciplinary research that has served me well. I will openly share some of the trials and tribulations that I have encountered along the way.