Every Programme Director joins ARIA with a vision for what they think the future should look like. But to take a vision from impossible to inevitable, we need the input and inspiration of the broader R&D community.
This starts with programme development. Our process is iterative, but follows four basic stages:
Our founding Programme Directors are exploring spaces united by their potential to reimagine the future. From programmable plants, to thermodynamic computers, read on to see what they’re working on.
If you require any of the documents below in an accessible format, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Can we programme plants to do anything we want them to? For example – could we design a plant that created a rain-proof shelter from a single seed?
How do we overcome the trade-off between high yield of food products and high resilience to the environment in our crop plants?
Can we dramatically speed up the crop development cycle to stay one step ahead of forecast conditions?
Can we create edible vaccines made by plants?
My work to date has focused on food security: ensuring access to sufficient, nutritious food for all people at all times. I’ve spent my career building our understanding of what limits growth and productivity in crop plants.
Now, I want to explore what might happen if we removed the idea of limits altogether. In the uncertain climate of tomorrow, we’ll need transformative new approaches to food security. I’m motivated by the prospect of developing new technologies that not only alter our understanding of the plants within our food system, but help us use plants to reshape it.
What new technologies could enable us to interface with the human nervous system in a targeted manner that doesn’t require invasive brain surgery? Could we use electromagnetics, acoustics, nanotechnologies, or gene therapies, or something else?
Can we develop a portable, precise and programmable neuromodulator, such that the surgical procedure can routinely be performed in <1 hour? What types of neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders could benefit from this technology?
The firing of individual neurons in our brain gives rise to highly complex phenomena: perception, emotion and cognition. It follows that functional impairments must also be related to disordered patterns of neural activity. Currently, this information is very rarely used in a clinical setting. How could we change that?
What new technologies would enable high-bandwidth brain-machine interfaces for speech or motor control, so people living with disabilities could use the devices in their own homes?
I’m an applied physicist and neuroscientist. Having spent the best part of a decade building new kinds of computer chips to accelerate quantum computing and AI, I transitioned into neuroscience to apply these same technologies to understand how our brain processes information at the level of individual neurons.
During this transition into neuroscience, I was struck by the gap between the technologies that are used in advanced engineering (e.g. computing, telecommunications) and the technologies that are used to understand the brain. Put crudely: the devices we put in brains are decades behind the technologies we put in our pockets. Motivated by the desire to advance human health, I believe that closing this gap and building next-generation neurotechnologies will enable an entirely new suite of therapeutic tools to treat a variety of neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders, ultimately helping many more people living with disabilities.
What step-change in measurement capability would enable more accurate climate predictions and better human responses to climate change?
What new breakthrough would be needed to map the earth through the clouds? And could that technology be scaled up to image the whole ocean and everything in it?
Could a single advance in adaptive optics allow us to enhance monitoring of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere as well as diseased cells in the body?
We’re making huge advances in optics, from astronomy to telecommunications, but the knowledge is rarely shared between disciplines. How can we break the silos to improve human and planetary health?
We’re both passionate about the future health of our planet and the people on it. Working in the health tech space, we have created new tools to allow us to safely see inside humans in new ways using light. We believe that there are emerging optical technologies at the edge of the possible, which will disrupt the current landscape. As co-PDs, we’ll look to accelerate these technologies, initially by exploring ideas around non-invasive optical mapping and sensing across a range of applications – from monitoring human health to climate change.
Formulated a programme thesis
I’ve spent my career working on advanced computing from multiple vantage points. The dramatic rise and power of AI algorithms coupled with the near end of exponentially improving compute performance will have massive ramifications to our society, economy, and planet. I’ve always been enamoured with how transformative technologies originate, gather momentum, and ultimately make their mark on the world. Now, as an ARIA Programme Director, I’ll work to create alternative hardware paradigms that can allow us to sustainably scale AI compute to benefit everyone in society.
Formulating a programme thesis
We don’t yet have known technical solutions to ensure that powerful AI systems interact as intended with real-world systems and populations. A combination of scientific world-models and mathematical proofs may be the answer to ensuring AI provides transformational benefit without harm.
I have spent the past few years examining how mathematical approaches could be used to guarantee reliable and trustworthy artificial intelligence. As an ARIA Programme Director, I want to mobilise a concerted R&D effort to show this is possible. The first step is to create LLM-powered software tools that assist human scientists and engineers in developing and refining mathematical explanations of real-world phenomena, such as the dynamics of energy infrastructure, infectious disease, or the Earth climate system. If successful, these explanations would ground the semantics of a human-intelligible formal language in which to specify bounded tasks for future AI systems, so they perform safely and as intended.
What are the options for actively cooling the Earth, and how can we improve our monitor-measure-predict feedback loops to identify the most responsible choices?
How could we remove 1000 gigatons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by 2050, and what would we do with it all?
Can we develop the capability to control the weather and climate on a regional and global basis, to mitigate or obviate hurricanes, droughts, floods and heatwaves?
What new technology capabilities or communities would be most valuable to support responsible governance and deployment of climate intervention technologies?
As an electrochemist, I’ve spent the last 15 years developing sustainable fuels and chemical processes in the drive towards net zero. Now, as an ARIA Programme Director I want to explore technologies for actively reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and for climate intervention at the regional and global scale.
Limiting further increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels by achieving net zero is necessary but insufficient to prevent the worst consequences of climate change. The full effects of delaying action will be felt by our children and grandchildren. We need to know what our options are for responsible climate intervention technologies, and if, where and when we should deploy them. If we are serious about combating climate change, we need to evaluate these technologies now.
Formulating a programme thesis
Throughout history, humans have used tools and machines to reduce the burden of physical labour. We are entering a new era with robots smart enough to act independently in complex and dynamic environments. But smart machines with dumb bodies will only get us so far – to reap the transformative benefits of intelligent machines, we need better bodies.
Originally trained in physics, I’ve spent over 25 years as a computational visual neuroscientist, specialising in “3D” or stereo depth perception. Now, as an ARIA Programme Director, I plan to move to an adjacent area: robotics. I’ve long felt we could do science ‘better’, specifically through more effective, interdisciplinary collaboration. Coming into the field with fresh eyes, I’ll look to facilitate links between fields that too rarely connect. Most importantly, I believe there is enormous untapped potential for robots to help humans build a secure and prosperous future.