The year 2020 is an opportunity to look ahead towards the future.  If perfect 20:20 forward vision hypothetically existed, engineers and technologists might look forward into the future and know the consequences of their design actions today.  With 20:20 future vision, technologists could avoid all the unintended mistakes in designs and deliver only the good parts. Engineers could create the world we all want to live in.

In 2020, The Warren Centre will curate a series of discussions aimed to imagine what could be, what future scenarios society aspires to build, and how the profession of engineers and digital technologists can collectively deliver that aspiration.

We’re calling this series Vision 20:20.  Each month, The Warren Centre will turn the dial and change the discussion to a different topic within a list of ten themes to imagine decade-by-decade, where do we all want to be in 2030, 2040 and 2050 as a global society.

February: Artificial Intelligence and Robotics

The decade of “The Roaring 20s” promises to display a dramatic expansion in applied artificial intelligence.  Massive volumes of data are available to businesses and governments. User information, consumer records and abundant, ever-present sensors are expanding the volume of information available for machine learning and AI decision making.

Artificial intelligence has enormous potential to benefit humanity, but recent experience proves that corporations and governments implementing AI systems have frequently delivered systems with seriously unanticipated gaps in performance.  Systems and tasks are getting ever more sophisticated. The use of speech recognition, image identification, software chatbot applications, and complex controls such as autonomous driving systems continue to expand.

On February 18, in collaboration with the Sydney Knowledge Hub, the Warren Centre will host a forum to explore a range of issues confronting engineers who are designing artificial intelligence systems.  Join our moderator, Dr Bill Simpson-Young, CEO of the Gradient Institute for a front-line look at issues confronting an expert panel of Sydney’s leading artificial intelligence developers.

What considerations should designers contemplate to deliver robust AI systems?  How can programmers prove to themselves that systems deliver the proper functionality?  How can developers avoid undesirable consequences when coding? How can engineers make human needs the centre of AI design?

Join The Warren Centre for this panel-format dialogue among hands-on AI developers and computer science experts to discuss these and other issues at the forefront of artificial intelligence development.

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March: Sustainable Development Goals

By a United Nations Assembly resolution, March 4 has been designated World Engineering Day for Sustainable Development.  For the first time ever, every country in the world will acknowledge the contributions of engineers for delivering the wonderful technologies of the past, but also more importantly, this will be a day to look forward to the future and determine how engineers will lead the sustainable development for mankind’s future.  The seventeen UN Sustainable Development Goals provide a great template for asking: “What are society’s aspirations in the coming decades?” and “How will engineers deliver those aspirations?”

To celebrate World Engineering Day, the Warren Centre is inviting 60 young engineering leaders to consider where to invest their talents and intellect to engineer their own legacy and make the world a better place.  “Designing a Career with Impact” will feature a panel of prominent engineers who are building an impact that will persist beyond their days on Earth. Invited panellists for this student-focussed event include a Project Manager who is delivering sustainable zero-carbon energy solutions, an engineering researcher focussed on social networks and global engineering, and the Australian inventor of the cochlear implant.

World Engineering Day will also officially mark the opening for entries to the 2020 Humanitarian Innovation Awards.  Student teams are challenged to imagine an SDG-related problem and deliver their solution in a succinct video pitch with engineering to back up why their solution works.  Winning contestants from across Australian universities will win cash prizes, travel stipends, and entry to the Humanitarian Innovation Hackathon in July.

April: The Home of the Future

Digitally connected, 5G wifi, augmented reality entertainment?  Check! Zero carbon, self-generated and locally stored energy? Check!  Rapidly constructed, low cost, high amenity? Check! Health, nutrition and medical diagnostics built into baths and kitchens?  Check! An artificial intelligence chatbot to remind you to ring Mom on her birthday and a robot to change nappies? Probably those, too.  The concept Home of the Future is in the minds of innovator-entrepreneurs who promise that Home 2.0 will blow you away!

May: Biomedical Engineering

The University of Sydney officially launched its new School of Biomedical Engineering in 2019, and even before the School launched, graduate growth in biomed was remarkable.  Researchers undertaking bionic eye technology, new plasma applications and artificial bone tissue aim to deliver revolutionary innovations that improve human health. With mature companies like Resmed, Cochlear, Nanosonics and Saluda in the Sydney area, medical devices are a field of relative specialisation.  New spin outs and new start-ups at Cicada Innovations and the Sydney Knowledge Hub show what is possible for commercialisation that moves from the university footbridge over to the ASX on Bridge Street. Improving health, wellness and well-being is core to the Knowledge Economy of the future.

June: Smart Cities & Transportation

New light rail, a train tunnel under Sydney Harbour and new motorways are now part of the city’s urban transport infrastructure.  On the horizon, Silicon Valley developers and local companies are commercialising components, systems and whole motor transport systems aimed at autonomous and highly connected end-to-end and last-mile passenger transport.  As sensors, next-gen wireless connectivity and satellites enable ever-greater data collection, machine learning and AI improvements, the Smart City of the future promises greater energy and resources efficiency necessary to sustain development in Australia and globally.

July: Humanitarian Innovation

The Warren Centre’s 2020 Humanitarian Innovation Hackathon will welcome 100 innovators to turn their imagination towards the Pacific islands context to solve humanitarian challenges alongside disaster relief agency RedR and supporting partners this year from the Pacific Telecommunications Council.  Join us the weekend of July 24-26 to see the brilliant creativity that results when teams of young innovators work alongside seasoned field teams and technology mentors to solve the greatest challenges in Australia’s international back garden on the seas.

August: The Circular Economy

For society and for industry to develop sustainably, engineers must abandon yesterday’s linear economy.  The TAKE-MAKE-USE-DISPOSE model of the consumer era is being replaced with new Circular Economy models that focus on resources efficiencies, new product design, new industrial symbiosis, biomimicry, re-manufacturing, the refurbishment economy, the share economy and performance economic models.  From materials recycling to fundamentally new business method innovations, the Warren Centre will curate a month-long on how to reform manufacturing and services to deliver high quality goods, operated at peak use efficiency and minimal waste to deliver the Circular Economy.

September: Computing for 2050

A new generation of technologies and machines utilising quantum physics promises remarkable opportunities.  Digital computers from the past century will be supplemented by new devices tapping into “quantum spookiness” to solve mathematical problems that are insoluble with thousands of years of computation from today’s best machines.  The ramifications in biology, chemistry, encryption, banking and defence are broad. The city of Sydney, with its strong history in physics and computing, could be a world leader as quantum computing emerges globally.

October: Materials for the Future

Engineers are building whole new classes of materials and highly innovative manufacturing processes from the atomic level up to real world components and production factories.  From 3D printing of consumer and industrial goods to nano-scale fine tuning of new molecules and metal crystals, the possibilities are endless.

November: Energy

Climate scientists warn that the world must achieve zero net carbon emissions by 2050 or risk irreversible damage to the planet.  Economists and business leaders are increasingly reconsidering the role of fossil fuels in the future energy mix. Australia has been wandering in a desert of energy policy vacuum for a decade now, but engineers can see clearly that a zero-carbon future is essential.  Solar, wind, battery storage, hydrogen and maybe even next-gen safer nuclear technologies will part of Australia’s energy future. The nation’s low-carbon future could yield a cleaner domestic footprint and drive a new generation of global exports that overtakes coal or LNG.

That’s the Warren Centre program for 2020.  We will consider ten themes in ten months from February to November.  

Join our Vision 20:20 conversation here in The Prototype and in live events at the Sydney University campus and in the city.  We’re also still engaging with sponsors and partners to co-produce events and guide the discussion. Where does society want to go in 2030, 2040 and 2050?  Engineers and technologists will take us there. Buckle in for a marvellous ride this year, and let’s co-create the world we all want to live in!!

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