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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    As ASU leads the way in innovation, UA lags behind

    The UA does a lot when it comes to research and developing new technologies — just look at the HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter — but the university isn’t necessarily leading the state in innovation. An argument could be made that Arizona State University holds, or will soon have, the top spot.

    ASU is about to launch a brand-new series of interconnected programs that have the potential to revolutionize technology around the world.

    The two main parts are the Center for Science and the Imagination and the Hieroglyph program. The goal is “to be a platform for new kinds of thinking and collaboration at the university level,” said Ed Finn, director of the Center for Science and Imagination.

    “We want to bring together people in the sciences and the humanities and the arts to work on really ambitious, creative thinking about the future,” he added.

    It’s not the first time someone has tried to do something like this, Finn said, but ASU is trying to take a new approach by serving as a network, connecting the various groups and exploring new partnerships.

    Everything started in Washington, D.C., when science fiction author Neal Stephenson gave a talk that questioned the prevalence of a dystopian worldview of the future while wondering where the big, new innovations were.

    Hearing this, ASU President Michael Crow said the blame fell on the writers.

    “It’s the science fiction writers who should be inspiring [people] to think more ambitiously, more creatively about the future,” Finn added.

    Stephenson happened to think Crow had a point, and so the two decided to change everything with the center and Hieroglyph project.

    Already Stephenson is working with structural engineers at ASU to make his vision of a 20-kilometer high steel tower a reality. Stephenson believes it can help planes refuel without needing to land, and more importantly, it will make launching missions into space far easier.

    Finn also said multiple authors will collaborate to write a short story anthology depicting various important innovations in a positive light, ideally to further inspire a new generation of scientists.
    There is still a lot of work to be done with the tower and the programs themselves, but the potential is staggering. ASU is taking a huge step into the future by using a novel approach.

    By uniting the creativity of writers with scientists’ ability to create what they read about, the Center for Science and the Imagination and Hieroglyph are fixing a system that once upon a time inspired humanity to go into space.

    The UA does a lot of good for the world, but it will get left behind if ASU’s new programs live up to their promise. Plus, there’s no reason the UA can’t try something similar, as we have our own talented scientists and writers.

    Regardless of rival athletic teams, the UA should look to ASU as a role model for collaboration in art and science. We need to emulate its push for progress and innovation, or risk being left out of the future.

    — Jason Krell is the copy chief for the Arizona Daily Wildcat. He can be reached at or on Twitter via @Jason_Krell.

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