Andrew Maynard and Risk Science for Sustainability


Last week, I livetweeted Andrew Maynard’s inaugural presentation as the “Charles and Rita Gelman Endowed Professorship in Risk Science.” I was going to link to the official event page, but evidently the School of Public Health calendar deletes events as soon as they happen, making it rather a challenge to preserve the record of their activities! Lucky for me, I had snipped a portion of the posting before it happened, so to preserve it, I am going to repost it here. Hope that is OK with them.

Andrew Maynard: Background: Risk is intimately intertwined with human life. From the earliest beginnings of life, risk has been part and parcel of natural selection; forcing evolution along paths that minimize risk while maximizing benefits. Risk has by turns stimulated and limited our own achievements as a species for thousands of years. In fact everything we do–or don’t do–as individuals and as a society has the potential to lead to beneficial or adverse consequences. So it’s not surprising that we have evolved sharp instincts for dealing with possible risks. These instincts have served us well in the past. But they have proven increasingly unreliable as we have become ever more reliant on complex technologies. To overcome these limitations, we have turned to science as a means of developing systematic and evidence-based approaches risks that aren’t compromised by human vagaries. The resulting “risk science”–built on sound scientific principles–has supported the rapid development of many significant technologies over the past hundred years. But heading into the 21st century, it is increasingly doubtful whether this “old” risk science will continue provide the necessary support to build a sustainable future. We are entering a unique time in humanity’s history: We face a future dominated by complex and rapidly developing technologies; unprecedented global interconnectedness; and dwindling natural resources. These three factors are converging to shake up not only the challenges and opportunities we face as a global society, but also the very methodologies we use to get to where we need to be. As we embrace this future, we will need a “new” risk science–one that draws on “science” in the broadest possible sense to enable evidence-informed and socially responsive decision-making in an increasingly complex and interconnected world.

I think I’ll save my reactions to the presentation for a separate post, since this will be long enough. I do want to share the Twitter stream for the event, retweets deleted. Note that the event actually occurred from 3:30-4:30pm local time, and that the What the Hashtag service shifts the time (evidently to GMT).

November 17, 2010
8:35 pm pfanderson: WARNING: I’m about to start live-tweeting the Gelman lecture by @2020science with hashtag #risksci Building a Sustainable Future
8:37 pm pfanderson: RT @2020science Afternoon’s installation lecture draws inspiration from Terminator, Iron Man & … Hitchhiker’s Guide – deep stuff! #risksci
8:38 pm UM_SPH: New UM SPH professor and Risk Science Center director Andrew Maynard about to speak on Building a Sustainable Future. Follow #risksci .
8:43 pm UM_SPH: Chuck and Rita Gelman made the professorship and lecture possible; SPH Dean Ken Warner presents medal keepsakes of the event. #risksci
8:45 pm UM_SPH: Andrew Maynard is leading authority on development and use of emerging techs; author of over 100 papers, blogs at @2020Science #risksci
8:47 pm UM_SPH: Maynard came to UM SPH in April, has been running news aggregation on Gulf Oil Spill http://www.sph.umich.edu/riskcenter/ #risksci
8:49 pm UM_SPH: How to develop sustainable future? social, technical solutions, sure–we need to think about how we work and live in a risky world #risksci
8:50 pm pfanderson: Speaker praising @2020science’s blog & ability to write quickly & elegantly. “We’re all bitter about that.” [Laughter] #risksci
8:53 pm UM_SPH: Risk deconstructed: inaction & indecision lead to consequences, as do processes & causes. Intervention key to balance of outcomes #risksci
8:53 pm pfanderson: Very amusing, quotes from Terminator, comics. Video will be available later. Mt Vesuvius, Sheffield ~1874 (human risk vs nature) #risksci
8:54 pm pfanderson: “Risk ultimately leads to harm to people.” “If we get things wrong, consequences can be devastating.” @2020science #risksci
8:56 pm pfanderson: We’re hardwired 2B risk-averse. If uncertain, we assume risk is present. @2020science #risksci “Simultaneously curious & afraid” Whitesides
8:56 pm UM_SPH: When we see something we don’t understand, we assume possible danger. With enough familiarity, we ignore true risks. #risksci
8:56 pm pfanderson: “How do we prevent human instincts from causing more harm than good in a technologically complex environment?” @2020science #risksci
8:58 pm pfanderson: Very logical structure to talk. Define risk. Define science. Overlap becomes obvious. #risksci
8:59 pm pfanderson: A framework to allow us to modulate events to facilitate better rather than worse outcomes. #risksci
8:59 pm markhawker: @pfanderson Risk is also positive, yes? #risksci
9:00 pm UM_SPH: Science: observation, prediction, testing & re-eval. #risksci is systematic, evidence-based decoupling from instinct for harm.
9:00 pm pfanderson: Science & Decisions (2008) from @nationalacademies http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12209 #risksci
9:01 pm pfanderson: He is using a prop of a pendulum to illustrate CLASSIC approach to risk science. #risksci
9:02 pm pfanderson: @markhawker Absolutely can be. @2020science’s point is that humanity often assumes the worst, and then creates it. LOL! #risksci
9:03 pm pfanderson: “There is an intimate coupling between what we (humanity) do and how the environment responds.” @2020science #risksci
9:04 pm pfanderson: Old thinking: “Dilution is the solution to pollution” no longer true, if it ever was. #risksci Future of water=”Coupling on a global level”
9:05 pm pfanderson: 95% of rare earth elements are mined in China (NYT October 19, 2010) #risksci
9:06 pm UM_SPH: Coupling on global level: humanity’s need for water etc is great, can impact environment #risksci
9:07 pm pfanderson: He’s mentioning Twitter. Schematic of people listening to his acct @2020science New information flows, idea FLOWS, influence flows #risksci
9:08 pm pfanderson: Graphic of one week’s Twitter conversation by @boraz horizontal global conversation, vertically small groups, connections between #risksci
9:09 pm UM_SPH: Coupling is relationships, so is communication. Think of social network and flow of ideas in Twitter, not constrained in trad ways #risksci
9:10 pm pfanderson: Chilean miners as example of human interest touching people around the globe, engaging broader communities #risksci
9:10 pm UM_SPH: “We live in a world now where things happen that transcend boundaries of the past.” #risksci
9:12 pm UM_SPH: Control: new engineering of particles working at fine scale to influence environment, world’s atmosphere. #risksci
9:13 pm UM_SPH: UM’s Raoul Kopelman and Martin Philbert work in nanoparticles that can destroy cancer cells on command #risksci
9:16 pm pfanderson: Example: David Keith http://people.ucalgary.ca/~keith/geo.html Aerosol geoengineering http://is.gd/hj530 #risksci
9:16 pm UM_SPH: We’re seeing control over matter in biological and inorganic spheres as never before, human DNA sequencing getting faster, <$$ #risksci
9:17 pm pfanderson: Coupling + Communication + Control / we move from something predictable to far more complex. Harder to make sustainable decisions #risksci
9:17 pm pfanderson: 10 Pressure point technologies coming up. #risksci
9:18 pm UM_SPH: Confluence between coupling, communication, control at root of new challenges, technologies (regenerative medicine, for ex) #risksci
9:19 pm pfanderson: 1 Bioconstruction. 2 Regenerative medicine; 3 Synthetic biology; 4 Multifunctional drugs; 5 printable electronics; … #risksci
9:20 pm UM_SPH: Printable electronics being advanced now, for cheap versatile solar energy… #risksci
9:22 pm pfanderson: Printable elec used for new solar cells! 6 Energy scavenging; 7 Geoengineering; 8 smart grids; 9 Machine-human interface #risksci
9:22 pm UM_SPH: Smart grids: rethinking how we generate and use #electricity, at needed sources, times. #risksci
9:23 pm pfanderson: 10 Cognitive enhancers (social / ethical challenges) #risksci
9:24 pm UM_SPH: Final pressure point technology: Cognitive enhancers–designer drugs for aspiring high achievers. Will increase memory in future? #risksci
9:26 pm pfanderson: Why risk science needs to CHANGE: complexity, imterconnectedness, distributed decision making #risksci
9:26 pm UM_SPH: The #risk challenge: how to ensure evidence-informed, socially responsible, proactive decisions in complex, interconnected world? #risksci
9:27 pm pfanderson: Agents of harm increasingly complex, innovation cycle FAST #risksci
9:28 pm pfanderson: Incorporate expertise across diverse disciplines to support integrative approaches to decisionmaking #risksci
9:28 pm pfanderson: Engaging FULLY with stakeholders (including citizens) #risksci
9:29 pm pfanderson: Building on established risk science, w/ EB decisionmaking #risksci @2020science
9:29 pm UM_SPH: New stakeholders in #risk science: Need to go beyond trad scientists and bring in social scientists, economists, citizens(!) #risksci
9:29 pm pfanderson: Enable evidence-informed decisions that are socially responsive, sustainable, ultimately preventative @2020science #risksci
9:31 pm UM_SPH: We're beginning to understand challenges, need to figure out solutions for sustainable future. UM Risk Science Center to work here. #risksci
9:32 pm pfanderson: IMAGE: Hitchhiker's gd to the galaxy, Douglas Adams, 1981 (BBC) People R bored w/life. Build Deep Thought. 7mil yrs l8r Answer: 42 #risksci
9:33 pm pfanderson: "the problem is that you never actually know what the question is" #risksci "numbers aren't everything"
9:34 pm pfanderson: Q: How do people react to misinformation? This relates to convo abt how pats react to perceived misdiagnosis. #risksci
9:36 pm pfanderson: Q: What abt politics & society (beyond tech)? #risksci A: Don't work in a vacuum. Tech is a starting place.
9:37 pm UM_SPH: Question: Is it all about tech? Answer: Much that affects human health is about technology, but of course more is in play. END #risksci
12:46 am pfanderson: The article fr @2020science's #risksci pt abt China mining 95% of rare earths http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/20/business/global/20rare.html
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