Imperial Boy

The status quo is seductive. The world works the way it does, and it’s hard to believe it could work differently. That’s all well and good, at least for a while. But then a pandemic hits or wildfires erupt or a new technology takes you by surprise and suddenly nothing you thought you knew applies anymore. You’re still playing, and the stakes are higher than ever, but the rules of the game have changed.

Navigating uncertainty is hard enough, but what if you aren’t satisfied with playing the game? What if you want to rewrite the rules? Disaster and disruption aren’t the only forces that change the world. Human ingenuity, resourcefulness, and collaboration are at least as powerful. They have enabled us to cure disease, forge international accords, unlock the secrets of quanta, carry supercomputers in our pockets, engineer genes, and stitch the planet together with strands of fiber and light.

This is where the status quo sneaks back in to sabotage human potential. It reins us in, constraining the possible to the merely plausible. But plausibility easily devolves into an excuse: It’s too difficult. It would take too long. It would cost too much.

We sell our dreams too cheaply. Everything important is hard, and to realize something, you must believe it’s possible. You can’t build a better future without imagining it first.

That’s why Epistemix is launching an event series called EnVision: to convene big thinkers who are building better futures. They might be working to improve early-childhood education, suck carbon out of the atmosphere, eradicate a deadly illness, cultivate human connection, advance scientific frontiers, or redesign cities for people instead of cars. They all have big ideas, but none of them stop there: these are people who put their ideas into action.

We have the immense privilege of working alongside many of these leaders, using our platform to simulate aspects of the futures they seek to realize and the risks they seek to manage. Their courage and conviction inspires us daily, and we hope to pass along that spark with EnVision.

Our first digital session explores how decision-makers across the public and private sector are using data to accelerate and improve how we manage COVID-19 and infectious disease epidemics in the future.

Speakers from the cutting edge of precision public health—National Minority Health Association executive director Burgess Harrison, Talus Analytics CEO Ellie Graeden, and Epistemix president Don Burke—will compare notes and share concrete lessons-learned from using computational modeling to empower everyone from school district superintendents to event organizers and state governors to navigate the pandemic.

Like the speakers it brings together, EnVision doesn’t stop at discussing what might be possible, but strives to implement those possibilities. So after the one-hour panel, Epistemix senior scientist Duncan Campbell will present a detailed national COVID-19 forecast for the United States, and participants will split up into breakout rooms to workshop how to apply key take-aways to the specific challenges facing health officials, health systems, enterprises, and researchers respectively.

Join us for the inaugural EnVision at noon ET on September 22, 2021. Registration is free and participation is fully remote. And remember: the first step toward reaching the moon was believing it was possible to get there.


Image credit: Imperial Boy (帝国少年). This famous illustration has become an anchor for solarpunk, a burgeoning cultural movement oriented toward building better futures. Bloomberg's Noah Smith provides excellent context and commentary here.


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