ASU's Center for Science and the Imagination Introduces Project Hieroglyph

The Hieroglyph project at ASU is challenging people to think creatively about big ideas.
The Hieroglyph project at ASU is challenging people to think creatively about big ideas.
Still from Tower Project video

Right now the creative thinkers at Arizona State University are inviting some of the world's best thinkers to challenge the status quo and think creatively about the future.

Their project, called Project Hieroglyph, is a challenge to expand our minds and push ourselves closer to the next, big innovation.

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Ed Finn, director for the center, says the project is about thinking both creatively and ambitiously about the future, using science fiction as way to approach new ideas.

He says the concept sprung from writer Neal Stephenson and ASU President Michael Crow, who were discussing the idea that the world hasn't been very ambitious about doing "big stuff." In the video above you can see Stephen talk about how little we've been innovating on a big scale changed in recent years -- and about the need to get "big stuff" done.

To change that, they started Project Hieroglyph, which takes its name from the idea that "certain iconic inventions in science fiction stories serve as modern 'hieroglyphs.'"

The basis of the project is to facilitate conversation and collaboration between thinkers who might not otherwise have been in touch. That's why you'll find forums on the Hieroglyph website that are open to the public.

But what do they mean by "big stuff"? Well, for example, they're trying to answer a simple question in a big way (literally). Stephenson asked: How tall can we build something?


He started working with structural engineer Keith Hjelmstad of Arizona State University and they discovered it might be possible to build a pretty gigantic structure. Hjelmstad developed models to explore the structural requirements of a super tall tower while Stephenson began thinking about where such a tower could be placed. The tower conversation continues on the Hieroglyph website and now the team of collaborators includes aerospace engineering, digital modeling and architectural design.

Finn says he hopes to produce an anthology of stories that come out of the project by next year. But that won't be the end of the conversation.

"I'd like to see it continue indefinitely," he says. "We are expecting to get people from everywhere involved."

To get involved with project Hieroglyph you just have to register on the website. For more information visit the Center for Science and the Imagination website and click on the project Hieroglyph tab.

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