TNL v2.0 – Grand Challenge Edition

The Tech + Narrative Lab (TNL) was started in 2018 with the goal of facilitating hands-on experimentation at the intersection of emerging technology and policy. The TNL is a key part of the Technology Applications and Implications stream in the Pardee RAND Graduate School. With the tagline, “technology rules but policy matters,” the TNL was organized around four lablet areas: Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, Augmented/Virtual Reality, and Digital Gaming. This structure was helpful in signaling the particular tech areas of interest.

In 2023, we find a world profoundly changed by Covid and other events, and the TNL is changing with it. Building on the foundation of the past four years, the TNL is moving to add more context to the emerging technology explorations. Farewell lablets, hello Grand Challenges (GCs). Work in and around the TNL will evolve and refocus to work in three different, yet overlapping worlds where policy often struggles. The approaches of conceptual framing, rapid prototyping, and the importance of narrative remain. What is added is a richer contextualization of both the problems and the work to make progress on solving them.

“imagine a world…” (actually three of them)with limitless possibilities

and serious challenges

One thing that doesn’t change – using the lenses of equity, ethics, and sustainability in everything we do.  These worlds present myriad opportunities and risks. Initially the TNL will focus on the latter, as we have daunting challenges that require new energy, diverse perspectives, and creative approaches.

initial focus on big problems in three overlapping worlds

Disinformation GC

Disinformation and Truth Decay present the greatest existential threat to society since nuclear weapons. In some ways, disinformation is an even tougher problem to fight due to a variety of factors, all exacerbated by our increasing networked and virtual capabilities. But the very technologies that have driven disinformation can truth-decay can be used to combat toxic and false narratives. Using a combination of psychology, storytelling, and emerging technology, progress can be made towards a modern society that is equitable, ethical, and sustainable in an increasingly digital post-evidence world. Three initial sub-efforts :

  • Mutually Assured Deception – a conceptual model for today’s existential threat
  • Narrative Red Teaming – “think like a troll – fight like storyteller”
  • Creators, Consumers, Charlatans – deep fakes, shallow analysis, big problems

Mixed-Up Reality GC

If Covid did anything, it showed that digital/virtual capabilities are here to stay and will continue to reach broader and deeper into society. Current digital technologies already challenge policy/regulation. The next wave will increase complexity – it is imperative that we try and get ahead of the curve. The TNL is pursuing three sub-efforts:

BioRisk GC

Despite the increasing role of digital, humans, and the planet they inhabit, remain firmly analog, and clearly are at-risk. Some of these threats come from nature (exacerbated by human activities), others come from emerging technology. While some may dream of colonizing Mars, the TNL is focused on Earth. Three initial sub-efforts:

  • Fighting the next pandemic – nature gets the final vote
  • Dealing with climate instability – food, water, shelter, policy
  • Genetic modification of humanity – is better really better?

These Grand Challenges don’t encompass every area at the intersection of emerging technology and society.We think this is a combination of significant problems, particularly concerning policy and regulation questions, and these are areas where we can not only come up with creative solutions but can have a positive impact for society.

Technology still rules, and policy still matters. TNL v2.0 Grand Challenge Edition is looking forward to the next chapter of the lab, and helping to build equitable, ethical, and sustainable solutions to pieces of the world’s hardest problems. We can’t do it alone, and we look forward to building the transdisciplinary partnerships necessary to make a real difference.