Carpe Futurum: Seize the future, drive the research

11 July 2022

Authored by Rishi Goel and Max Foreman

Andrew Liveris Academy Scholars studying a Bachelor of Advanced Science at The University of Queensland.

What does 2032 look like for you?

Maybe you thought of flying cars, hoverboards and a beautiful DeLorean? Perhaps you thought of the Olympics, the Paralympics and the amazing stadiums we are going to build? Or maybe you thought of rising inequality, climate crises and life confined to the realms of technology?

Regardless of what you thought of, one thing is clear; we cannot know what will eventuate nor what our future will look like with complete certainty. 
This was the opening message of the inaugural Carpe Futurum summit - aptly named as "seize the future". Liveris Scholars Max Foreman and Rishi Goel, both studying Physics at The University of Queensland and aiming to progress into research, had the opportunity to represent the Academy at this half-day seminar. 

This event, hosted by the UQ Life Team and facilitated by creative writing extraordinaire Professor Kim Wilkins was a chance for youth to share their perspective on where research funding should be allocated. The central idea permeating the discussion was "what we want 2032 to look like?". As well as being able to influence the future of research, participants can apply for a supported place as a research assistant to work with UQ researchers who are investigating ideas deemed similar to those discussed. Wilkins began the day with an introduction to creative thinking and why research is dominated by the ability to think differently. In order to research for the future, we must first be able to imagine it. To warm up for a day of intense conversation the group began by brainstorming 20 different uses for a fork. This process was surprisingly helpful in thinking about the scope of ideas that researchers should be considering. The uses for a fork could generally be categorised in three ways, probable (like eating pasta), possible (like using it as a catapult) or plausible (like using hundreds of forks as scaffolding for a building). Wilkins taught the group that in research you should “focus on the ideas that are just barely inside the scope of plausibility”. 

The idea of scope carried through the rest of the seminar where discussion covered what a day in 2032 might look like, from the moment you wake up until you fall asleep. Will classes and workspaces be run in Virtual Reality? Will private transport become obsolete? How will healthcare operate? All these questions directed the audience to think about what changes they want to see, and how these changes can come about. Importantly, they spent time to recollect after brainstorming their exciting future lifestyles to populate each idea with questions. This forced reflection on the possibility of realising these ideas and what barriers there are to overcome. An interesting exercise was to focus on one specific idea – say “we have achieved the sustainable energy transition” – and consider why we might not achieve this goal by 2032. This again encouraged reflection around what systemic barriers exist to enacting change – such as short political terms – and how we they might be overcome in the future. 

By the end of the day over 100 targeted directions had been generated to help determine future areas of research and how research funding can be used to address issues. 
Research is a key driver of innovation, and innovation drives societal progression. Being able to participate and voice their opinions for where research should be directed now, was a valuable experience for Max and Rishi. This seminar highlighted the deeper workings of innovation and was empowering for youth to take some control of their future.