Rebecca Rutstein and the Ocean Memory Project, "Blue Dreams" (2023), still from the 2 minute and 40 second digital video.

Adding to the Policy Toolbox

What happens when innovation slips the bounds and intent of its makers? Many experts worry that the result could be destabilization and mayhem. This is perfectly reasonable for intelligence and defense innovation that deals in powerful, potentially dangerous technologies. And in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, during which people died because of bad information about vaccines and misuse of inappropriate drugs, a security lens on health seems warranted. But there are other ways to consider what happens when innovation moves outside the confines of its creators. We might stand the question on its head: How could a program be appropriated by groups of people, scaled, and used to accomplish things that surpass creators’ intentions and wildest hopes? What might be possible when the walls around the church of innovation come down?

Editor's Journal

  • Innovation’s New Catechism

    For decades, DARPA has used the Heilmeier Catechism—a series of eight questions including “Who cares?”—to steer investment decisions. But when ARPA-H, the new health-focused innovation agency, launched recently, it added two new questions that take equity and security concerns into account. Issues editor-in-chief Lisa Margonelli considers what these additions might mean for the future of innovation.

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