SCU THOUGHT LEADERS’ PREDICTIONS FOR 2020

A nail-biting U.S. Presidential election. A Summer Olympics with we-kid-you-not-events in surfing, skateboarding, sports climbing and karate. A mission to Mars to study the potential for human life there—because you never know.

To learn what a group of Santa Clara University thought leaders are most anticipating at the turn of 2020, we asked each: “What innovative product, idea, trend, concept, or development are you are most excited about, or intrigued by, in 2020?”

Here’s what they had to say:

ANN SKEET, Director of Leadership Ethics, Markkula Center for Applied Ethics
“Toxic workplace cultures are everywhere in America. With one in five Americans having left a job in the past five years due to unhealthy work culture, and with 49 percent of employees having thought about leaving their current organization, it all adds up to a poisonous churn, according to a new report from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) examining workplace culture and how it impacted the cost of doing business. In the coming year, understanding and measuring ethical risk also is going to get real for companies. Managing culture, reputational risk, and exposure to unintended, harmful uses of products will be areas companies home in on to better understand their footprint in society and what it means to their bottom line.”

KURT WAGNER ’12, tech reporter, Bloomberg News
“I’m concerned about the spread of misinformation online. It’s already a problem, and it’s going to be tougher to spot and stop once artificial intelligence is used to doctor images and videos beyond basic human detection. It’s bad for journalism as a profession, and it’s really bad for democracy. I think the 2020 election is going to be a testing ground for a lot of new disinformation tactics; see this New York Times story about bad actors using AI to create fake profile pictures for Facebook accounts.”

EMRE ARACI, Assistant Professor, Department of Bioengineering
“I think in 2020 we are going to hear more about innovative wearable biomedical devices. The technologies that can improve the patient’s quality of life through personalized medical treatments and by providing continuous data on their health status will especially make a big impact. In my group, we contribute to this area by developing novel microfluidic biosensing methods that allow extremely flexible and soft devices. Our imperceptible microfluidic sensors can easily be integrated with the biological tissue and wirelessly communicate with smartphones for applications such as glaucoma management and physical activity monitoring.”

Miller Center’s Keith Warner OFM and Catholic Sisters from East Africa

Miller Center’s Keith Warner OFM and Catholic Sisters from East Africa

PAMELA ROUSSOS, Chief Innovation Officer, Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship
“With the start of a new decade, there are only 10 more years left to solve the audacious Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) the UN put forth and all member nations adopted. There is still a lot to accomplish to achieve the ending of poverty, ensuring equitable access, and protecting our planet. Business as usual won’t get us there, hence the need for unlikely partners to join in the pursuit and help solve the SDGs. And, we are seeing that happen with congregations of sisters like the Association of Consecrated Women in East and Central Africa (ACWECA), who represent approximately 30,000 sisters in 10 countries in Africa, adopting social enterprise principles to support sustainable agricultural practices, education, and health care.”

ERIC GOLDMAN, Professor, SCU School of Law, Co-Director of SCU’s High Tech Law Institute, and a vegetarian since 1984
“It’s not directly related to my professional interests, but I’m excited about the innovation taking place in plant-based foods. We live in a golden age of vegan options, much of which has been led by technological innovation in the food manufacturing process. This shift can’t come fast enough—switching to a plant-based diet is one of the most impactful things people can do to help save the earth. Many of the innovations are, in fact, being driven by Silicon Valley technologies. For example, Impossible Burger is located in Redwood City.”

NANCY UNGER, Professor and Chair of Department of History
“In 2020, I’m excited for the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment, granting women the vote. I hope this occasion on Aug. 18 will prompt recognition of some of the shortcomings of that movement, as well as launch celebrations of women’s achievements over the last century. This anniversary will be the time to redouble efforts to achieve true gender equity.”

A NASA photograph of the Mars Rover

A NASA photograph of the Mars Rover

PHIL KESTEN, Associate Professor of Physics, Associate Vice Provost of Undergraduate Studies
“NASA’s Mars 2020 mission launches in July, sending a souped-up exploration rover to Jezero Crater, the site of a huge, ancient lake on Mars. Where better to look for evidence of life that may have existed billions of years ago than this crater, when Mars was warmer and wetter? Exciting! Check out the clear signature of the river that fed the lake, and the massive delta formed by sediment deposition, on the upper left of this image of the lakebed.”

JOANNA THOMPSON, Director of the Office for Multicultural Learning
“Three words: Black Girl Magic. From politics (Lori Lightfoot) to sports (Serena Williams), pop culture (Lena Waithe) to beauty pageants (all Black women winners for the first time in history—Miss America, Miss USA, Miss Teen USA, Miss Universe and Miss World), Black women have unapologetically made their voices heard in the last decade. As we approach the dawn of a new decade, I am looking forward to all women of color continuing to be at the forefront of political, social, and economic change.”

ENRIQUE S. PUMAR, Fay Boyle Professor, Chair of Department of Sociology
“I am excited about the development of 5G technologies. The deployment of this technology promises to change the way we live for the better since 5G will facilitate our connectivity and mobility. Think about how many people today depend on communication technologies to work, move around, or even communicate with family and friends. As a sociologist, I know that if we improve the way we socialize with one another there is a real chance that we’ll collaborate more frequently and even show solidarity with one another.”

ELIZABETH DRESCHER, Adjunct Associate Professor, Department of Religious Studies, Director of the Living Religions Collaborative
“I’m interested in the impact of the growth of religious ambivalence. The increase in people who answer None when asked with what religious group they identify or affiliate has been much on the minds of religious leaders and communities since the early 2000s. Among young adults ages 18-30, the most recent demographic data shows that more than 40 percent identify as Nones.

A new development among younger Nones that’s emerging from my research and teaching is that, whereas previous generations of the Nones were likely to have been raised in a religious family, carrying some measure of religious tradition and experience into their nonreligious lives, younger Nones are more often from families that did not practice or identify with any religious tradition.

What this trend will mean for the spiritual and moral development of young adults will be well worth watching over the coming decade.”

BEHNAM DEZFOULI, Assistant Professor, Department of Computer Science and Engineering
“I am excited about edge and fog computing to support time-sensitive Internet of Things (IoT) applications. Several IoT application domains, such as medical monitoring, autonomous vehicles, and industrial control, require timely exchange and processing of the data generated by IoT devices. To address this concern, instead of relying on cloud computing platforms, we need to deploy edge and fog computing platforms close to IoT devices.”

Hydrogen fuel cell bus with zero emissions

Hydrogen fuel cell bus with zero emissions

CATHERINE J. SANDOVAL, Associate Professor, SCU School of Law, specializing in telecommunications, antitrust, energy and contracting issues
“What interests me most in 2020 is pushing to create safer, more reliable, clean energy by using communications and information technology, and layered-risk analysis informed by data and experience. I’d also like to see the the United States deploying renewable natural gas, hydrogen, and battery storage to complement other renewables as a way of energizing the economy.”

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