SCU THOUGHT LEADERS' PREDICTIONS FOR 2022
COVID’s Omicron variant continues to upend our lives, but that hasn’t stopped important progress in a variety of fields.
From fantastical advances in physics, to solving the supply chain tsunami, to innovative approaches for healing in this stressful time—it's all coming our way in 2022.
A new year filled with hope and optimism is up to every one of us, and who better to remind the Santa Clara University community than a group of SCU faculty experts and contributors to our Illuminate Thought Leaders blog?
When we asked them: “What innovative product, idea, trend, concept, or development are you most excited about, or intrigued by, in 2022?” here’s what they told us:
PHIL KESTEN, Associate Professor, Physics
STEALTH TECHNOLOGY: Romulans on Star Trek can hide their spaceships with a cloaking device. Harry Potter can slip away unseen while wearing an “invisibility cloak.” What about us? No, we don't yet have these stealth capabilities. But–surprise! We’re closer than you might think, especially after a recent announcement from scientists at MIT, which involves how the human eye works.
We see an object when light reflects from a surface and back to our eyes. The first experiments in stealth technology involved creating materials that would not reflect light—usually light not visible to humans—but rather cause it to bend around an object and then return to its initial path. While tricky, this is not impossible for relatively small objects of specific surface characteristics and light of specific wavelengths.
Hiding a larger object isn’t as easy, but the MIT research suggests we’re getting closer. For now, they can only hide atoms, but it’s a start. Squeeze a group of atoms into a tightly confined space, so small that atoms cannot wiggle in order to absorb the energy carried by incoming light. The light cannot, then, be deflected, scattered, or reflected…and you would have no way of knowing that the object is there!
CHRISTOPHER KITTS, Professor, Mechanical Engineering | Director, SCU Robotics Systems Laboratory
ROBOTS RISING: You may have seen some already, scanning shelves in a big box store or offering to show you where a specific product is. The underlying technology for these robots has dramatically improved over the past three to five years, allowing these robots to precisely navigate indoors, avoid running into obstacles, recognize objects, and interact with people. As a result, robots are being used more and more in environments ranging from manufacturing plants to agriculture fields. But their capability has matured such that they’re becoming viable in more public settings. Expect to see more of them in supermarkets, hotels, hospitals, and even on the sidewalk!
ERIC GOLDMAN, Law Professor | Co-Director SCU High Tech Law Institute
ONE TOKEN OVER THE LINE: I’m intrigued by the recent success of Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs). Unquestionably, NFTs are plagued by unsupportable hype and irrational investor activity. Nevertheless, there is a potentially important phenomenon taking place below the froth.
NFTs are unique and easily tradable assets, something that appeals to investors. NFTs also give creators another option to monetize their work, which could help spur more creative productions by them. However, NFT assets have no intrinsic value; they are “valuable” only so long as buyers consider them valuable.
I believe 2022 should reveal if buyers remain enthusiastic about this type of asset—or if buyers move onto the next investment fad, which could cause the whole NFT ecosystem to collapse.
KIRTHI KALYANAM, L.J. Skaggs Distinguished Professor | Executive Director, Retail Management Institute, Leavey School of Business
AMERICA POST-COVID: RED, BLUE, AND A LOT OF PURPLE? It is generally accepted that Americans are divided along political lines; red versus blue is something that has now become part of our popular vernacular.
It’s also long been understood that one of the reasons for this polarization is that people tend to live in communities that are like themselves. Some of this is due to the types of retail services people want. People interested in Thai food and yoga classes might want to live in a community that has restaurants with many cuisines, and that has a wide variety of yoga classes available. Birds of a feather indeed flock together.
However, too much of this flocking together can also have some undesirable effects. It can lead to monocultures where extreme views are valued and dissenting views are ostracized. It can lead to a bubble that can be out of touch.
Over the past decade, the growth in technology may have accelerated this phenomenon, forcing people to move and live in technology hubs like Silicon Valley. Innovation is a contact sport, and it is hard to participate remotely in the technology revolution. But COVID-19 and technology itself might be reversing this trend.
Our ability to work remotely using video conferencing is now allowing people to relocate to other parts of the country. As Austin, Texas has shown, such relocations can create islands of political diversity.
Will individuals who start living among others who are dissimilar to themselves start developing more of an understanding of these opposing views? Will that have an impact of making their own views less polarized? Will America of the future not only be red and blue, but with a lot of purple?
JO-ELLEN POZNER, Assistant Professor, Leavey School of Business Faculty Scholar, Markkula Center for Applied For Applied Ethics
THE END OF OFFICE WEAR? Of the many issues around returning to the workplace, I am most looking forward to unpacking the evolution of the professional wardrobe. Now that we’ve seen our colleagues working from home in looks ranging from business casual to “executive pajamas,” have our expectations of professional attire been upended? Will they again be readjusted when we go back to the office, or will we revert to 2019 norms? More importantly, what impact will that have on our work?
Changes in dress are telltale signs of changing organizational culture and can alter perceptions of organizational structure, power dynamics, and social networks. Those informal organizational forces, in turn, affect work flows, employee engagement and retention, feelings of inclusion and belonging, and even strategy implementation. What we wear will tell us a lot about where the workplace is heading!
NAREN AGRAWAL, Benjamin and Mae Swig Professor, Information Systems and Analytics
BETTER SUPPLY CHAIN STRATEGIES: Continued frustration over supply chain disruptions and shortages of products has provided valuable lessons for business executives about the importance of agility and resilience in supply chains. These refer to the ability of supply chains to respond to short-term disruptions and significant structural disruptions respectively.
But a one-size-fits-all approach to achieving both capabilities is bound to fail.
Companies will need to devise differentiated strategies for agility and resilience that depend on the complexity of their product portfolio, supply chain network, and inter- and intra-company processes.
That means digitization of supply chains, leveraging cloud-based infrastructure, and the use of advanced analytics and optimization techniques. I expect, and hope, that companies across all industries will direct significant resources toward these efforts.
In fact, we’ve already seen a significant uptick in venture investments (about $25 billion in just the first three quarters of 2021) in supply chain tech startups that provide solutions to help companies streamline and automate their logistics functions.
JERROLD LEE SHAPIRO, Professor, School of Education and Counseling Psychology
THERAPY FOR A COVID WORLD: Since the start of COVID and the reactions to the virus, reports of anxiety, depression, domestic violence, suicide, etc. are all at the highest level ever recorded. Therapists around the country and internationally are reporting full case-loads and long waiting lists for treatment.
My current focus is primarily on existentially-oriented psychotherapy for COVID and its sequelae. My student Isabell Lo and I recently published a paper on existential approaches to individual treatment, and with another CPSY student Azra Tucic, we are working on innovative group therapy treatments to deal with both the mortal threat of the disease and also the implications of isolation and other impacts of responses to COVID. Recommended interventions include acknowledgment and normalizing of existential anxieties around mortality, rebalancing the tension between security and freedom, addressing loneliness from isolation, and exploring life-meaning.
HERSH SHEFRIN, Mario L. Belotti Professor of Finance
CAPTURING CARBON—FOR KEEPS: The short answer is carbon dioxide removal—CDR, the process of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and keeping it out of the atmosphere for as long as necessary. It has been millions of years since atmospheric carbon concentration has been as high as it is now, and unless we reverse the direction, the prospects for human life on planet Earth are bleak. In spite of dire warnings from climate scientists, humans continue to emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere at excessively high rates, and moreover show no signs of pulling back sufficiently to prevent true catastrophe. As a result, CDR is the path we absolutely need to follow, and promising CDR technology is being developed right here in the Bay Area. Very exciting!
DREW STARBIRD, Executive Director, My Own Business Institute, Professor of Information Systems & Analytics
SMALL BUSINESS BOOM: I am most intrigued by the evolution of the “Great Resignation” into a boom in small businesses. The pandemic showed people that our assumptions about employment are now obsolete. We don't need to spend time commuting to large buildings where we attend meetings of questionable value. We can turn our inspiration, creativity, and passion into opportunities by starting our own businesses.