College of Engineering and Atlantic Council host workshop on strategic foresight

February 05, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The College of Engineering partnered with the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security to host a three-day workshop, a joint initiative to understand the evolving interactions between technology and our economic, political and social institutions, in spring 2018.

A goal for participants at the workshop — titled "Shaping the Future of Human-Technology Systems Frontier: A Workshop in Strategic Foresight, Deep Uncertainty, and Leadership" — was to learn how leaders use strategic foresight to better understand and anticipate changes that human-technology systems create and how to design strategies and develop options to better navigate those changes.   

The workshop brought together a diverse group of thinkers and practitioners from across policy, business, journalism, education, law, science, engineering, technology and related fields. The objective was to address the rapid pace of technological change, innovation and the complex, sociotechnical systems challenges of our time.

Participants included early, mid-career and senior executives from government, the non-governmental sector and industry, including Penn State alumni. Graduate and undergraduate students from across the University participated in the workshop to broaden their education in this emerging area of scholarship and societal importance. The workshop was held at the Atlantic Council in Washington, D.C., with an evening conversation and reception in the Great Hall of the National Academy of Sciences Building. Nineteen colleges, institutes and departments from across the University co-sponsored the program.  

The evening conversation and reception, "Socioengineering Systems Innovation: Forces of Disruption and Leadership," featured Norman Augustine, retired chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin, and a distinguished panel led by Mathew Burrows, director of the Scowcroft Center’s Foresight, Strategy, and Risks Initiative.

“A staggering amount of change is occurring within the fields of science and technology. It is important to systematically think about how such forces will shape our future,” Burrows said. “Through the innovative workshop hosted at the Atlantic Council, future leaders will analyze and model interactions among technological innovations connected to socio-political-economic trends.”

The workshop brought together a diverse group of thinkers and practitioners from across policy, business, journalism, education, law, science, engineering, technology and related fields. The objective was to address the rapid pace of technological change, innovation and the complex, sociotechnical systems challenges of our time.

The College of Engineering’s Senior Associate Dean Anthony Atchley welcomed participants to the workshop.

“How we shape the human-technology frontier, and what it means for the future of work, is one of the National Science Foundation's 10 Big Ideas. So this workshop is addressing a timely and important issue with broad-reaching, societal implications,” Atchley said. “We need strategic foresight to help us think clearly, especially given deep uncertainty about how we shape the systems frontier.”

In his remarks, Penn State President Eric Barron discussed a lesson he had learned when learning to drive with this father.

“It was an experience of constantly correcting and over-correcting as I tried to steer the car without swerving. And at some point, calmly, he said, ‘Eric, if you take your eyes off the hood ornament and look down the road, you will find that it's easier to get to where you want to go,’” Barron said. “And of course, I lifted my eyes off the hood ornament, and all of a sudden I was driving remarkably straight. It took me a little while, but I realized he had given me a philosophy lesson and not just a driving lesson. And I believe that in this day and age, that lifting our head above the hood ornament and looking down the road makes a tremendous difference.”

For more information about the workshop, reports, and the Penn State co-sponsors, visit http://strategicforesight.psu.edu or contact Darryl Farber in the College of Engineering at dlf112@psu.edu.

Last Updated February 06, 2019