image title

What's in the cards for making a community work on Mars?

May 17, 2019

ASU Interplanetary Initiative card game explores off-world colony cooperation — critical for sustaining social units in space

Living in space is going to present problems. Lots of them. Heat. Cold. Radiation. Is the company liable for overtime pay when the ship wakes you from cryosleep ahead of time?

One of the more significant problems will, of course, be each other. Don’t cooperate down here, and it just means the neighbors won’t be over for a Saturday barbecue again. Do it up there, and everyone dies.

What legal, political and social norms will govern space exploration? What social structures and practices are necessary to sustain a social unit in space indefinitely?

Port of Mars” is a card game created by Arizona State University’s Interplanetary Initiative to see how cooperation might shake out in an off-world colony.

Players are members of an early Martian settlement charged with working together to sustain the welfare of the community. Player actions are tracked and behavior analyzed. Researchers examine that data, looking for what behaviors, structures and systems worked, and what failed. Each instance of gameplay is a simulation, a modeling exercise for future space missions.

Project lead Lance Gharavi, an associate professor in the School of Film, Dance and Theatre and affiliated faculty with the School of Earth and Space Exploration, calls Port of Mars “a social science experiment cosplaying as a game.”

“As I like to say, Port of Mars is a rehearsal for the future,” Gharavi said.

In that future, resources will have to be managed and shared. At first glance that seems simple.

Look closer. Walk-only zones on campus are a shared resource that are a constant source of negotiation among travelers. Electric scooters and their ban are another example of how views differ on the management of shared resources.

Marco Janssen, lead social scientist on the project, is an expert in how communities manage shared resources, such as groundwater resources.

“When I got introduced to the Port of Mars project, I noticed that the problems future space explorers will experience are similar to farmers in India who use groundwater, or residents in Mexico City trying to derive potable water,” said Janssen, a professor in the School of Sustainability and director of the Center for Behavior, Institutions and the Environment. “They have to invest time and effort in building and maintaining shared infrastructure. However, there is an important difference on Mars. The consequences of not sufficient cooperation in building and maintaining shared infrastructure quickly end up to a lack of oxygen or another life support system. Hence the consequence of insufficient contributions can lead to the death of the Mars habitat.”

Players can invest in an opportunity with direct benefit to them, or they can invest in the health of the community.

“If the total investment in community health was not sufficient at any time, it was game over and nobody received any rewards,” Janssen said. (Janssen co-ran a project a couple of years ago where eight students lived in the Mohave desert on four gallons of water a day and no air conditioning.)

Space exploration is not, as is frequently stated, a way to start over again on another planet, Janssen said.

“The level of cooperation and coordination needed to succeed are much higher than we have observed in large-scale societies on planet Earth,” he said. “Although there might be a planet B, we need to be able to address problems like climate change and infectious diseases effectively on planet Earth before a society on Mars is a viable option. This demonstrates that space research also provide venues for social science to explore cooperation in extreme conditions which can help to solve existing problems at planet Earth.”

The game will help us understand some of the social aspects of inhabiting Mars, Tanya Harrison said. Mars is a familiar place to Harrison, a planetary scientist and member of the Mars Opportunity Rover’s science team.

“The technology is likely easier for us to deal with than the human factor, because traveling to and living on Mars will be something completely new to humanity,” Harrison said. “No level of simulations will truly be able to prepare us (in my opinion), but doing research like this can at least help us better understand the social challenges we might face so that we can find ways to mitigate the potential damages.”

Currently the game is only available to ASU students because data from results has to be collected.

ASU’s Interplanetary Initiative is a pan-university effort to build the future of humans in space and create a bolder and better society. Questions of our space future across the whole landscape of human inquiry need to be explored by teams integrating across the public-private-university sectors.

Top Illustration by Titus Lunter

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU News

image title

ASU grads make billion-dollar impact on Arizona economy

May 17, 2019

Sarah Phillips, a student at the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions, knew Arizona State University was home from the minute she stepped on campus. The criminal justice major graduated this May with a job offer already on the table, and she will continue to call Arizona home.

There were more than 238,000 ASU graduates working in Arizona in 2017, earning approximately $15 billion annually. Phillips is one of the thousands of ASU students graduating this May and contributing to the Arizona economy — spending, purchasing and paying taxes.

“I chose Arizona as home after graduation because I was able to get a great job after the internship with State Farm last summer,” she said. “I have also called Arizona home for the past four years, and I could not imagine a better place to begin my post-grad life.”

Educational attainment is strongly related to upward social mobility and a boost in earnings. Median weekly earnings were more than 60% higher for people with a bachelor's degree than those with a high school diploma. Additionally, the higher the level of education, the lower the unemployment rate.

ASU graduates employed in Arizona earned approximately $15 billion in 2017. Based on those earnings, individuals contributed between $1.065 billion and $1.217 billion in state and local government taxes, including between $613 million and $753 million in state government taxes.

Research suggests that having college graduates in the workforce increases productivity among all workers due to the sharing of knowledge and skills and from the shift to knowledge-based activities. These productivity gains translate into higher incomes and standards of living.

“When we graduate students and they work here, everyone’s wages go up as a result of these productive workers being here,” said Dennis Hoffman, ASU Office of the University Economist and L. William Seidman Research Institute director. “State revenue increases too.”

As an employer, ASU created an economic impact of $3.8 billion. All businesses generate jobs. ASU is unique in that creates jobs (at the university itself) and human capital — the university produces graduates, who then contribute to the state's economy.

According to a report from the L. William Seidman Research Institute at ASU, educational attainment is important to produce highly skilled, competitive individuals, key components of regional competitiveness. Regions competitive in the 21st-century economy are composed of competitive companies, which consist of competitive individuals. The more highly skilled the worker, the higher the worker’s productivity.

ASU has a diverse student body with different abilities, talents and skill sets that span across more than 800 degree programs, offering a large talent pool for Amazon, Intel Corporation, Make-A-Wish Arizona and State Farm Insurance, a few of ASU’s top employers.

Rich Ortiz, a State Farm college recruiter, said ASU’s innovative culture develops a rich talent pool that will help move State Farm forward. 

“ASU offers a diverse student population with regard to academic backgrounds and experiences,” he said. “This aligns with State Farm’s diverse workforce.”

Ortiz says he looks for students who have developed transferable skills through academics, internships and general work experience and who are in search of a career, not just a job. He looks for students who are willing to learn and those who enjoy helping people.

“State Farm is excited to find employees that match our internal culture. Giving back to the community is a major value of State Farm,” he said. “We’re known for doing good by our customers and our communities. It’s important for our employees to understand this type of culture and represent it with every interaction.”

He is in search of students like Phillips.

Phillips accepted a job offer at State Farm. She had an offer of employment before she even walked across the stage with her diploma in hand. Her goal? Get promoted to the special investigations unit, sharing that the company invests in its employees by providing opportunities to succeed and achieve their career goals.

“I am entering the workforce with a different mindset and a different set of goals than when I first came to ASU, thanks to my degree,” she said. “My degree gave me a new understanding of how the world works. My professors and my classes taught me to work hard to help others. I intend to work hard to help others throughout my career, wherever it may take me.”

ASU’s culture of social embeddedness and philanthropy also attracts nonprofit organizations.

Sawyer Kilen, volunteer manager at Make-A-Wish Arizona, says the organization provides children living with critical illnesses the opportunity to seize a dream, passion or goal in life — something they most desire, adding that a wish can be the turning point for a child, allowing them to see all the possibilities that life has to offer.

“One of the things I enjoy most about ASU students is the passion they have for success and making a difference in the world,” he said. “They come in with a passion to support our mission, a desire to learn and the work ethic to succeed in their role.”

Kilen says one of the reasons he looks to ASU for future interns is because of the diverse population at the university and the importance it places on bringing together individuals from diverse backgrounds, knowing that diversity and inclusion provide a rich foundation for innovation, success and togetherness. 

When students are at ASU, they work alongside students from different counties and backgrounds. Students engage with others, learn from different perspectives and leave prepared to engage with individuals from all walks of life, wherever their career takes them. 

Native Arizonan Nicole Barrett graduated in 2015 from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. She pursued a career with Make-A-Wish Arizona and landed a full-time position after graduation. Barrett loves everything about it — a career where she gets to engage with different families, children and life stories. 

“It means a lot to be part of an organization where everyone is so dedicated to our mission and we all play a part in fulfilling the wishes of children with critical illnesses,” she said. “The people I work with are some of the most dedicated and compassionate people I have ever met.”

Barrett, a digital marketing manager, writes content for the organization’s website and for its social media channels. Meeting wish kids and families, talking to them and having the opportunity to share their stories are her favorite parts of the job. Nearly four years later, she now oversees two marketing interns of her own. 

“The most valuable thing I learned in my years at Arizona State University was how to develop strong writing skills and work on deadline,” Barrett said. “I use these skills every day in my current job, and I think being a strong writer is an important skill for any job.”

When students graduate, they are prepared with the skills employers are looking for, making students not only marketable locally but also beyond the state. A vast majority, nearly 70%, of ASU graduates work in Arizona.

For others, they leave Arizona but are eager for the day when they can return to the community that they now call home. Robert Chandler, a recent computer science graduate from the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, is one of those students.

Originally from Georgia, Chandler visited the Tempe campus and immediately fell in love with the environment and the atmosphere. Most attractive was the vast engineering opportunities available to him. It made ASU the obvious choice.

“From undergraduate research to student organizations and internship opportunities, I knew that I would be able to find my own path through my degree and beyond,” he said.

Chandler’s biggest takeaway was the interdisciplinary collaboration — working on teams with diverse backgrounds helped him understand the impact that a variety of perspectives brings to the table, adding that no problem exists in a vacuum from a larger system. It’s important to keep all aspects of that system in mind when developing a solution.

That wise insight was not missed by the Honeywell team, who Chandler said reached out to him through the online career portal Handshake, offered by ASU’s Career and Professional Development Services.

He is briefly departing the state and heading to Honeywell’s Atlanta software center as part of a rotational program.

”I still love the desert,” he exclaimed. “More importantly, Phoenix is really booming in terms of the tech industry. More and more companies are getting in on the great city and taking advantage of the talent coming from the nearby massive research university that also happens to be No. 1 in innovation. Though I will be in Atlanta immediately after graduation, I’ll be coming back to the Valley and I hope to stay here when the two-year program is finished.”

Meenah Rincon

Communications Manager , Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law