Progress – and its direction – has always been a contested subject. From the rise of the Luddites during the Industrial Revolution through to more bucolic objections of such prominent thinkers as John Maynard Keynes to electricity pylons, technology and its consequences have provoked understandable debate. Invariably though, pessimism has been a poor guide to the future, as population bombs or other catastrophes turn out to be solvable as new technology is invented.
As the world of information increases, many of the challenges we face have also become better understood. And with this understanding, fears about our future have increased. For some these are either insurmountable and for others they are waved away. As a result, our politics seems to have got stuck somewhere between the tyranny of low expectations and the allure of magical thinking.
This should not be the case. We should take encouragement from the history of human ingenuity and build new coalitions of the people willing to develop the ideas that will win the future. With this in mind, this summer we launched our 2022 fellowship programme. We wanted to encourage new and fresh voices to develop ideas to solve some of some of the most pressing tech policy challenges. We asked for pitches across seven key areas:
AI and Machine Learning
Web3 & Inclusion
Web3 & Future of Work
Digital Government and Citizen Engagement
We did so in the belief that if you look under the surface, there are some positive signs to be found everywhere: breakthroughs in biotech such as in mRNA, CAR T and CRISPR; the exponential growth in renewables that means their adoption and affordability have surpassed forecasts; the flow of $5 billion in private funding for fusion, almost all in the past two years; and frontier-pushing advances such as OpenAI’s DALL-E 2, Google’s MINERVA and DeepMind’s AlphaFold.
Together it presents a backdrop – in the words of Paul Romer – of conditional optimism. We believe that a better future is possible, but we need to get better at speeding up how these innovations feed through and make lives better. Some of these challenges are scientific or technical in their nature, but many are also policy related. This is why in building our Progress Fellows programme we look to find people who not only have radical ideas, but also a practical sense of how we make them happen.
This year, I was amazed by the breadth and depth of our entrants – and for the way they wanted to design actionable ideas that seek to deliver on the transformative potential of technology. We had hundreds of people apply from more than 60 countries, from the US to Lesotho to Samoa. Ideas ranged from the microbiome to the extra-terrestrial.
Many of them pushed the boundaries of our thinking, and I am genuinely grateful to everyone who applied. I say with great pleasure: it was a hard task to select seven.
But we did – and I am delighted to announce those who were successful.
Tascha Che - Web3 and Inclusion
Tascha is a macroeconomist and entrepreneur with a PhD from Georgetown University and her own software company. She’s worked in macroeconomic policy consulting for over ten years, advising governments around the world on monetary and fiscal policies.
As automation threatens the manual job market, Tascha’s project will explore the future of universal basic income via a programmable, public central bank digital currency ledger network, which gives people a stake in their own economy via a virtual wallet.
Russ Tucker - Biotech
Russ is the founder of Ivy Farm Technologies, a cultivated-meat company based in Oxford, UK. Prior to Ivy Farm, he advised supermarkets around the globe with Boston Consulting Group, after completing his DPhil in Biomedical Engineering at Oxford University.
Russ is passionate about solving the world’s biggest problems with technology and believes that thoughtful and clear dialogue are the keys to policymakers and political leaders seeing its potential.
Russ’s project will explore a policy model that creates a regulatory environment for food biotech companies to raise capital, grow, test and innovate for environmentally friendly food.
Josh Entsminger - Clean Energy
Josh is a doctoral dandidate at UCL and co-founder of Net Positive Labs, a circular economy venture builder and think-tank. His background has been split between sustainable production systems and emerging technologies, with a focus on the history, development, and governance of platform economics and artificial intelligence.
For his fellowship, Josh will focus on the capacity for the creation of a global circular economy commons by which data sets, product eco labels and best practices for IT integration into production systems can be assessed and facilitated.
Meredith Leston - AI and Machine Learning
Meredith is currently working towards her DPhil in Primary Health Care at the University of Oxford as an Oxford-MRC Enterprise iCASE Award Winner. Her research is focused on developing a real-time vaccine benefit-risk platform capable of monitoring and differentiating seasonal vaccine effectiveness, uptake and adverse effects among immunocompromised patient groups. For her fellowship she will look at the UK health-data landscape and explore ways to enable more frictionless data sharing and linkage.
Mohit Chawdhry - Web3 and the Future of Work
Mohit is the lead consultant at Treemouse, a systems-design firm, where he looks at emerging technologies. He is also a Fellow at the Esya Centre.
Mohit has contributed to policy discourse around key technological issues such as web3, AR/VR/XR, data protection, and antitrust, engaging with technologists, policymakers and consumers.
While the remote-first and flexible nature of gig work makes it attractive for working professionals, the uncertainty of payment affects financial stability for this growing workforce. Mohit will unpack how blockchain-based central-bank digital currencies (CBDC) can provide the infrastructure for real-time payments, enabling continuous payment to workers at a minimal transaction cost.
Amelia Mae Wolf - Space
Amelia is project manager for US government programmes at Capella Space with a background in satellite technology companies, primarily working on customer-facing geospatial products.
Amelia’s fellowship will encourage the governments and the private sector – including tech, space and venture-capital companies – to think outside the box for policymaking and governance in the satellite industry. By providing support, rewards and penalties, Amelia believes space security can finally enter the 21st century.
Emil Skandul - Digital Government
Emil is principal, founder and head of design at Capitol Foundry. An experienced commentator on technology and economic policy topics, Emil has contributed to several US publications including Business Insider, Quartz, BuzzFeed Inc, Crain's New York Business, New York Daily News and AMNY. His work aims to be sharply predictive by identifying new trends in technology and its effects on government, people and the economy.
Emil’s report will uncover how putting budgets on the blockchain could bring transparency to organisational accounting and reporting across the board, from non-profits to international agencies. For governments, open-source visualisation of budget data would help people to better understand public services and where their tax dollars are being spent.
Stay in touch
Reports will be published on our Fellows Hub at the end of the year.
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