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Jenks speakers address optimization of major decision making and current events shaping the Commonwealth’s energy and environmental future.

By John Brown, Ron Latanision, and Walter Hubbard

 On March 8, Rich Adler, founder of DecisionPath, joined us to follow up on his February 2023 presentation, speaking this time on “Revisiting ‘Bending the Law of Unintended Consequences’: More Decision Support Models.”  And, on March 22, Boston Globe business writer Jon Chesto gave us a summary of current happenings in Massachusetts regarding climate and energy issues.

Software architect, management consultant, and start-up executive Richard Adler spoke about avoiding unintended consequences of critical decisions – for example, Elon Musk’s management of Twitter, or the disastrous outcomes for both sides in the war in Gaza. In his presentation for the Wilson Science & Technology group back In February 2023, he had described a “test drive” method for improving critical policy and business decisions. Much like consumers try out cars before buying one, a decision test drive helps leaders explore possible outcomes before committing to one path, with the intention of avoiding unintended outcomes. Rich explained how this method improves upon existing decision support techniques. He concluded by presenting a test drive case study of a pharmaceutical company facing the choice of several possible marketing strategies, a timely topic given the recent movement in Washington to control the cost of drugs to Medicare recipients.   

On March 22, Boston Globe business reporter Jon Chesto, who has been reporting on business and politics in New England for the past two decades, gave a wide-ranging review of events and decisions shaping Massachusetts’ Energy and Environmental Future. Some topics he touched on included the deregulation of the electric generation sector, which he described as having been “a blessing and a curse”; New England’s shift from coal to natural gas as the primary fuel for electricity generation (facilitated both by emission regulations and the low cost of fracked Marcellus gas); the tenuousness of our current supply of natural gas (due to our overreliance on natural gas in the face of insufficient large-pipeline capacity and increased foreign competition for LNG imports), with danger of a disastrous New England-wide power blackout in the midst of a prolonged winter cold spell; the imminent retirement of the Mystic power plant in Everett (and likely its adjacent LNG terminal); the closure of aged New England nuclear power plants; the abortive attempts to secure hydropower from Quebec; and renewable solar and wind power – particularly the hopes for success of an emergent New England offshore wind industry, despite recent setbacks due to rising finance costs.

At its best, technology should serve a useful social purpose.  We have invited Jon to meet with the Forum from time to time to help us navigate the interface between technological, economic and social risks that he sees in his reporting.

All Wilson Science & Technology Forum presentations are recorded and can be streamed free on demand at the Wilson Forum’s website, https://jenksst.blogspot.com/ 

WinCAM broadcasts recordings of Forum presentations at 3 pm on Mondays and Fridays. For the schedule, go to https://wincam.org/schedule/education/ and search for “Wilson.”

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The Wilson Forum’s meetings are via Zoom, usually at 10:30 am on the second and fourth Fridays of each month.

To learn of upcoming Forum speakers, you can check the Jenks Center’s website https://www.jenkscenter.org/ (events > daytime > Wilson Forum).

Alternatively, you can receive notifications of upcoming talks by emailing a request to be added to the Forum’s roster to rlatanision@alum.mit.edu.  

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