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What on Earth is Going on?

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...according to "The Knowledge Illusion" (Ep. 24)

“How is it possible that people can simultaneously bowl us over with their ingenuity and disappoint us with their ignorance? How have we mastered so much despite how limited our understanding often is? These are the questions we will try to answer in this book.” "The Knowledge Illusion: Why We Never Think Alone" was written in 2017 by cognitive scientists Steven Sloman and Philip Fernbach. Ben chats with Sean Fenlon to find out what on earth is going on according to their provocative and...


...with the Decline of American Soft Power (Ep. 23)

We all know hard power: tanks, planes, guns, even cyberwarfare units. But since the end of the Second World War, the normal method for a country to achieve its goals has been through openness, dialogue and mutual agreement. War, and the threat of war, has taken a backseat to what Joseph Nye defined as "soft power": the ability to get the other side to want to do what you want. Is this starting to shift? Are we being forced to embrace Donald Trump's harder, zero-sum approach to global...


...with City Planning and Design (Ep. 22)

Cities are the principal engines of growth and innovation, not just in the west but all over the world. Crowded and sprawling, manic and beautiful, these gravity wells for the human experience constitute our future. But what is the future of the city? Whether it's rising inequality, affordable housing, or the intensifying mashup of language and culture, how do cities adapt and renew? Ben is in Toronto, a city that faces intense pressures and where such conversations are at the forefront,...


...with the Movies (Ep. 21)

The #MeToo movement struck hard and fast in the film industry, capturing international attention for much more than a few news cycles. It exposed some of the men who abuse their power, and highlighted what women have dealt with for decades. But is it enough to truly change an image-based industry? What are the deeper forces at play? Are we changing the way we watch movies in the face of technological as well as social disruption? What on earth is going on with the movies? Ben chats with...


...with Social Change (Ep. 20)

Institutions and norms, both written and unwritten, underpin our rule-of-law, human rights-respecting democracies. Some of these have evolved to serve a dynamic and diverse society. Others have withstanded centuries of disruption and change. But it seems that many of them are now under threat in an era of flux and populism. What are the deeper forces at play, and what's beneath the constant churn of consumer partisanship and identity politics? Ben is in Toronto to speak with Dr. Miriam...


...according to "Mindset" (Ep. 19)

“Why waste time proving over and over how great you are, when you could be getting better? Why hide deficiencies instead of overcoming them? Why look for friends or partners who will just shore up your self-esteem instead of ones who will also challenge you to grow? And why seek out the tried and true, instead of experiences that will stretch you? The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset....


...with Women in Leadership (Ep. 18)

Glass ceilings are being shattered everywhere. Women now shape the world in every field and discipline. The archetype of leadership is less and less the old white male. But big problems remain, whether it's big picture pay equity or the guy you know who mansplains in budget meetings. What are the next steps? Ben has a powerful, insightful and surprising chat with Laurie VandeSchoot, a senior public servant at the City of Calgary.


...with Classical Music (Ep. 17)

Gustav Mahler once said that a symphony must be like the world, in that it must contain everything. But when it comes to classical music, is that 'container' (think of the pageantry, the dressing up, the protocols of when to clap or cough) getting in the way? Ben sits down with the young, ambitious and innovative Music Director of the Kingston Symphony, Evan Mitchell, for a conversation about the meaning and power of music, the responsibility of those who make it, and the onus on us in...


...with Education (Ep. 16)

Is education the closest thing we have to a silver bullet for the ills and ailments of our society, even if it takes generations to have a real impact? What's the history of education and where might we be headed? What are the forces that compete to shape our schools, our students and our minds? Ben chats with Ted Christou, a teacher, historian and educator of educators at Queen's University.


...according to "The Retreat of Western Liberalism" (Ep. 15)

"Since the turn of the millennium, and particularly over the last decade, no fewer than twenty-five democracies have failed around the world, three of them in Europe (Russia, Turkey and Hungary)... Can the West regain its optimism? If the answer is no – and most of the portents are skewing the wrong way – liberal democracy will follow. If the next few years resemble the last, it is questionable whether Western democracy can take the strain. People have lost faith that their systems can...


...with Terrorism (Ep. 14)

On July 22 a lone gunman opened fire on pedestrians and crowded restaurants on Danforth Avenue in the Greektown District of Toronto. He killed two and wounded ten others before turning the gun on himself. Three months earlier, just a subway ride away, a man drove a rental van onto busy sidewalks, killing ten and injuring 16. What is driving people, particularly young men, to throw away their lives and those of others? Were these incidents of terrorism or just mad acts of violence? What's...


...with the Division of Political Power (Ep. 13)

What is the nature of political power and how is it distributed? What are the pros and cons of a federal system like Canada's, where power is shared between governments? Is it possible that Justin Trudeau and Donald Trump are singing from the same "make our country great again" song-sheets, just on opposite sides of the populist choir? And how likely is it that the American president will be impeached? Ben addresses these questions and more with Dr. Anthony Sayers, Professor of Political...


...with the Role the Arts Play (Ep. 12)

What is the role of art and music in our society? Is art supposed to effect change or simply represent it after the fact? Is all good art subversive, and is all subversive art good? What does it mean for an arts organization to be responsible to its audience: give them what they want, or help them develop newer, deeper, unexpected tastes? How do you nurture art and artists who work on a cutting edge that is not always popular or immediately accessible, yet still keep it commercially...


...according to "Selfie" (Ep. 11)

"We live in the age of the individual. Every day, we're bombarded with depictions of the beautiful, successful, slim, socially conscious, and extroverted individual that our culture has decided is the perfect self, and we berate ourselves when we don't measure up." So begins the publisher's description of Will Storr's new book, "Selfie: How We Became So Self-Obsessed and What It's Doing to Us". It's a fascinating and timely read about the whole notion and history of the self, and how our...


...with History, and a little Jazz (Ep. 10)

What can we learn from the trials, tribulations and shipwrecks of our collective human past? How does that past shape the human story today? How can we liberate history from its eurocentric roots? And, most importantly, what's the link between history and jazz? Ben chats with the Principal and Vice-Chancellor of Queen's University, and renowned historian/historiographer, Daniel Woolf.


...with Artificial Intelligence in Business (Ep. 9)

Artificial Intelligence, or AI, is going to change everything. From self-driving cars to deliveries to your online retailers that can predict and deliver your order before you make it, businesses are already cashing in on the AI revolution, which will soon be worth trillions. Where are we headed, what are the risks and opportunities, and what is it all going to look like? Ben chats with Dr. Stephen Thomas, Director of the new one-of-a-kind and first-of-its-kind Master of Management in...


...with Renewable Energy (Ep. 8)

There is a pressing need to rethink how we produce, consume and transmit energy, to diversify our energy sources, and to reorder our daily lives as well as the larger structures of our economies. These shifts, whether in the form of self-driving cars or backyard geothermal plants, are coming regardless of climate change – they’re happening naturally. But such changes are not just about convenience and leisure. They may transform the way we conceive of our ecology, our society, and our...


...with Free Trade & NAFTA (Ep. 7)

Are we on the verge of a trade war, or already in the midst of one? Is NAFTA doomed to the same fate as the Iran Nuclear Deal? What is behind the US president's unprecedented attacks on free trade and the rules-based order that his own country once helped create and champion? Are the motivations purely instinctive, or political, or is there a deeper world-shaping agenda at play? Joining Ben is Robert Wolfe, expert in international relations and trade and Professor Emeritus of Policy...


...with Climate Change & Science Literacy (Ep. 6)

Climate change is real, and we are causing it. At least, that’s the consensus among scientists around the world. A tiny handful of academics disagree, and that is a critical feature of science, but does this mean we should debate it as if it were an open question? Part of the reason we seem to so freely and so brazenly challenge those who have done their homework is because we lack the tools to distinguish between fact and fiction. We, as citizens, need to be literate in science in order...


...with Taxes (Ep. 5)

There's an election coming up in Ontario, and as always, one of the big dividers is taxes. Cut them, raise them, change them, fix them. A lot of the arguments are weary (Doug Ford's PCs want to make gas and beer cheaper; the surging NDP want the wealthy to cough up more cash) -- but some want to change the fundamentals. There is lots of talk about a universal basic income, in a province with the largest real-life study of such a program in the world. Joining Ben for an analysis of this...