As the natural habitat of our planet continues to transform due to challenges like climate change, breakthroughs made in space research are being leveraged to provide high-tech solutions to critical problems here on Earth. As a futurist, tech investor and space architecture pioneer, Ariel Ekblaw, Ph.D., is helping organizations forge sustainable paths forward with the assistance of the latest technology including cutting-edge artificial intelligence (AI) programs such as GPT-4, as she recently explained to tech entrepreneur Reid Hoffman.
CEO of the Aurelia Institute, founder and general partner of deep tech venture capital fund Aurelia Foundry, and founding director of the MIT Space Exploration Initiative (SEI), Ekblaw is a trailblazing researcher and experienced technology leader who offers strategies for inspiring teams working on moonshot ideas. With the rise of increasingly innovative technology, Ekblaw is able to expertly help leaders understand where to invest resources.
“Earth-based markets are going to have huge opportunities,” says Ekblaw, a member of the XPRIZE Space + Exploration Brain Trust. “Space research can help us transform the planet, transform humanity and address some of our most pressing concerns and challenges.”
A visionary thinker, Ekblaw has led programs at organizations as large as NASA – which she appears in an upcoming IMAX documentary about – and is involved in ground-level funding for small deep tech startups. Her expertise helps leaders in the biggest businesses and the earliest-stage companies alike identify the powerful use cases today for the latest aerospace research of tomorrow.
From the Stars to the Earth, AI for Everyday Environments
Editor of the SEI’s “Into the Anthropocosmos” (2021) and author of an upcoming book with the MIT Press, “Space at Scale: Architecture for Interplanetary Civilization,” Ekblaw emphasizes that research on building habitats in space – which she recently discussed with Neil deGrasse Tyson – isn’t just relegated to the stars and astronauts, but is more relevant than ever to businesses and governments on Earth.
As AI continues to capture the imaginations of executives, policymakers and everyday citizens alike, Ekblaw skillfully describes how the use of AI in space architecture will be just as important to how we design spaces on Earth, from commercial and residential real estate to healthcare facilities and more. “We are building space habitats and infrastructure that will embrace many aspects of AI agents that can be applied to Earth dwellings as well,” explains Ekblaw, who serves on the NASA Lunar Surface Innovation Consortium (LSIC) Executive Committee. “AI is going to be central to the operation of a responsive habitat – a home or office living in symbiosis with you. The lighting, the temperature and even the life support systems, like air filtration, will all be tuned to the human occupants, which will be able to help us be more climate efficient.”
Inspiring Tech’s Up-and-Coming Women Leaders
Founder of the MIT Space Exploration Initiative in 2016 and co-founder of the Aurelia Institute in 2021, Ekblaw is committed to getting more women into tech management roles. With leadership truly in her blood – her mother, a trailblazing Air Force pilot instructor, modeled breaking glass ceilings and unlocking life’s possibilities for women leaders – Ekblaw understands the powerful role models women leaders can be.
“’I’m really dedicated to building the pipeline for young women and underrepresented populations in tech and aerospace,” explains Ekblaw, an entrepreneur who is equally nimble in partnering with large institutions and agile start-ups. “It’s vital to increase representation and to teach young women to feel empowered to stay in an organization once they’ve gotten in the door.”
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