Panel V: The Future is Now
Data-Driven Authoritarianism: A Case Study of the Chinese Social Credit System
The world of information we engage with is now digital. The rapid expansion of information systems and their data gathering capabilities have created an entirely new domain of human interaction. Financial institutions, government agencies, technology companies which are now some of the largest and most influential organizations in history, all of these different bodies have partial access into the lives of Americans through the collection of personal data. One’s financial status, criminal history, phone and e-mail records, friendships, professional relations, favorite activities, frequently visited places, and current or past locations are all categories of data that are translated and stored by various state and non-state bodies. For the most part, people recognize that giving up their control over their own information is a necessary cost to participate in the digital world. However, the trust that these institutions will use personal data in a benevolent way is beginning to fade.
Policies of reasonable transparency and human oversight are the necessary conditions under which our scoring systems can be just and without corruption. One needs to look no further than the Social Credit System in China to witness how close the world is to entering an age of data-driven authoritarianism. To do everything possible to avoid the least desirable future is the first step towards creating a better one.
Political Science / Philosophy
Capture, Conversion, and Utilization of Abundant CO2 and Various Martian Natural Resources for in situ Energy Production for Research and Short-Term Habitation
The practice of ISRU comes from the concept of being able to generate lifesustaining products, such as food, air, water, energy, etc., with naturally abundant local materials. When data from NASA’s first Mars lander, Viking, was returned, important information about the Martian atmosphere was revealed; most importantly, that it is made up of carbon dioxide (CO2). Its atmosphere is composed of about 96% CO2 gas, unlike Earth’s atmosphere in which CO2 is roughly 0.117% of its total composition. CO2 gas is a colorless greenhouse gas usually produced as a waste product of breathing and the burning and 5 consumption of fossil fuels. Fortunately, it can also be used to make more useful products and resources via chemical conversion. Most importantly, CO2 can be converted into liquid oxygen (O2 (l)) used with methane (CH4) in rocket fuels, into breathable oxygen gas (O2 (g)), and into life’s favorite drinkable solvent, water (H2O). The CO2-rich Martian atmosphere provides the essential at-exploration site resource; therefore, a proper ISRU system architecture must be employed to take advantage of this resource to significantly reduce launch weight, size, and cost, but still provide high efficiency in the conversion of CO2 to human consumables.
Continuing to build an understanding of CO2 utilization is essential to being able to apply these methods, and improved ones, to reducing the effect of climate change from increasing levels of atmospheric CO2 on Earth. Like the space race in the 50’s and 60’s, the impact of CO2 utilization research will promote science and technology on this planet that will benefit future generations and potentially save the planet mankind currently inhabits.
Chemistry / Mathematics