Pitt Preps for President Obama's Visit, White House Conference

Issue Date: 
October 3, 2016

The University of Pittsburgh is gearing up for an Oct. 13 visit from President Barack Obama who, along with Carnegie Mellon University, will cohost the White House Frontiers Conference.

The event will explore the future of innovation here and around the world. Its focus will be on building U.S. capacity in science, technology, and innovation, as well as the new technologies and challenges that will continue to shape the 21st century and beyond. The conference will bring together some of the world’s leading innovators in Pittsburgh.

“We at Pitt are very pleased to partner with Carnegie Mellon to host the White House Frontiers Conference in Pittsburgh, a city developing a reputation as an innovation hub,” said Pitt Chancellor Patrick Gallagher. “This is a welcomed opportunity to bring notice to the city and its commitment to the importance of supporting research and development, and to further the message of the need for continued support of science at a national level.” 

Much of the conference agenda will reflect topics in the upcoming November issue of WIRED, which will be guest edited by President Obama on the theme of “Frontiers.” WIRED, a monthly online and print magazine published by Condé Nast, explores the effect of emerging technologies on everyday life, including culture, politics, and business. 

Why invite a president to guest edit an issue? 

“Like WIRED, our 44th president is a relentless optimist. For this completely bespoke issue, he wants to focus on the future—on the next hurdles that humanity will need to overcome to move forward,” wrote Robert Capps, the publication’s editorial director, in a recent WIRED article online.

“When the Founders wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, they were at the bleeding edge of Enlightenment philosophy and technology,” WIRED Editor In Chief Scott Dadich said in the article. “Franklin was talking about crazy stuff like electricity and communications networks. … Jefferson was radically rethinking design and land use. We want to wrestle with the idea of how today’s technology can influence political leadership. And who better to help us explore these ideas than President Obama?”

The conference will include programming featuring five “Frontiers” of innovation:

  • Personal frontiers in health care innovation and precision medicine;
  • Local frontiers in building smart, inclusive communities, including through investments in open data and the Internet of things;
  • National frontiers in harnessing the potential of artificial intelligence, data science, machine learning, automation, and robotics to engage and benefit all Americans;
  • Global frontiers in accelerating the clean energy revolution and developing advanced climate information, tools, services, and collaborations; and
  • Interplanetary frontiers in space exploration, including our journey to Mars.

Additional themes will cut across the conference’s programming, including the importance of cross-sector collaboration for solving difficult challenges; education innovation to develop skills for Americans at all levels; job creation across these sectors; and equity, to ensure all Americans have access to these innovations and benefit from advances in these frontiers.