The TNL will be prototyping Visiting Fellow Residencies (VFR). These can take place remotely or in a hybrid model and can last anywhere from a few days to multiple months. Possible topic areas are listed below. The goal is to bring external technical expertise into the TNL to explore problems and solutions both big and small, working together with Pardee RAND graduate students and RAND researchers. This combination of disciplines, approaches, and perspectives will help us redefine how public policy is defined, understood, and implemented for real and sustainable change.
The lab has emphasis in four broad areas of emerging tech: Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning, Augmented/Virtual Reality and Digital Gaming. These have cross-cutting themes of ethics, social justice, racial equity, and communication.
For the next year, the TNL seeks to make progress on these “big problems/questions”
- Algorithmic bias and big data sets – what and who is missing?
- Crossing the Divide – how can technology serve equitably across society?
- Competing Narratives – why is evidence and science at-risk and what can be done?
- Sustainable Distancing – how can society function and thrive during and after a pandemic?
- Virtualization – in a hybrid world, what/why is an office, a classroom, and who gets to choose?
Some possible examples/use cases:
AI/ML – lablet lead: Gavin Hartnett
- Online Disinformation/Misinformation – Can we use creative visualizations and a narrative-based approach as part of a campaign to educate the public about online misinformation? The ultimate goal would be to encourage people to think more critically about the social media content they are exposed to, to question where it came from and why an algorithm might have suggested it to them. Additional, investigate how fake content and disinformation spreads throughout social networks. Past work has shown that false information or rumors spreads differently from legitimate information. Could these different propagation methods be used to identify (and thus fight) the spread of fake content online?
- Fairness, Accountability, and Transparency – There is by now a large and growing literature on how to make ML algorithms fair, and how to detect algorithms which are not fair. But what does this mean to a typical user? Can we use story-telling and narrative devices to illustrate the difference between fair and unfair algorithms? Can we teach a user how to recognize when they are being subjected to a biased or unfair algorithm?
- Humanitarian Earth Science – Can open-source datasets, especially satellite imagery, be used to help address urgent disasters and humanitarian crises? There is a wide range of possible projects that fit this description, and they will likely be determined by current events as well as by the availability of datasets.
AR/VR – labelet lead: Tim Marler
- What are the health effects of extensive VR use, what are the market implications, and how should industry respond? What research needs to be completed to explore this problem, and what resistance might the VR/AR industry offer to avoid negative results?
- What does it take (what kind and level of fidelity) to be “immersed”, what triggers addiction, and how detrimental would addiction to VR be? If users remain happy and healthy, and they continue to have a positive impact on society – albeit via a VR medium – is it a problem?
- What are the market and policy implications if/as the price of VR hardware and content decreases and the technology becomes more accessible? Is there a risk that it is used more frequently where it may not necessarily add value, with the “gimmick” of VR becoming more pervasive? To what extent might this perceived risk stifle more valuable applications and benefits?
- As with Serious Gaming, how might insufficient business models threaten more extensive but practical adoption? How can development and deployment of serious capabilities leverage massive investments and revenues in eth entertainment sector?
Digital Gaming – lablet lead: Jonathan Welburn
- How might digital gaming be used to address some of the fundamental challenges of systemic risk in our era – global economic crises, pandemics, cyber threats, climate change?
- From idea generation to development, what is the model for using digital games as a policy research tool? What is the model for research, policy, and industry partnership on game design and development?
- How might we use digital games to train the next generation of policy makers navigate complex problems with multiple stakeholders and differing objectives?
IoT – lablet lead: TNL staff
- How can low cost sensors be deployed by private citizens to help with scientific and policy efforts? For example, “hyper-local” air and/or water quality monitoring to augment government sensor platforms.
- How is the balance between privacy and security being perturbed by increasing types and numbers of IoT devices along with open-source data sets (e.g. Youtube)? How can we rethink and redefine these values for an increasingly digital and networked world? What are the current and future parameters that determine “Personally Identifiable Information”?
- As people and places become more instrumented, how do we make the data useful and actionable to individuals? Data can tell a story, but it can also overwhelm and confuse. What are the new ways that individuals can become informed by their world rather than controlled by it?
Funding: it is anticipated that participating companies would cover the time for their personnel. The return on investment would be exploration of interesting question from a different set of lenses, and prototyping possible solutions at the intersection of emerging technologies and policy/society.
Outcomes: the goal of the TNL is to freely share the work of the lab. As such, the default position is typically, “publish rather than patent.” The TNL is sensitive to issues around proprietary materials, and that will be navigated thoughtfully.
Technology from the private sector is driving change and both government and society are struggling to keep up. We need to move public policy forward in ways that are sustainable, inclusive, timely, and relevant. Working in partnership between public and private sectors, at the TNL we can ask, “what if…” questions, and prototype emerging technology to both solve problems and better understand the broader implications. We look forward to exploring new models for collaboration with technology leaders and bringing external expertise into the TNL through Visiting Fellow Residencies and other engagements to help make progress on tough challenges while having a positive impact on society.