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What on Earth is Going on?

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...with Philosophy (Ep. 73)

What is consciousness? Where does the mind reside? Can we create artificial intelligence that can fake intelligence, or maybe just have it? What happened in 17th century Europe that led to such a fascinating time for deep thinkers? And are we going through a similar period of churn today? Ben has a fascinating and wide-ranging chat about these big questions with University of Alberta professor of philosophy Amy Schmitter. About the Guest Besides her position as Professor of Philosophy,...


...with Luck and Probability (Ep. 72)

It's Friday 13th! What does that mean? Is it an unlucky day? According to science—no, it means absolutely nothing. But there is one exception: the date has meaning if we think it does. As meaning-machines, we impart significance everywhere we look. We don't want to live in a world where randomness reigns. So what traps have we set? Ben has a fascinating chat with University of Toronto Professor Jeffrey Rosenthal, statistician and author of "Knock on Wood: Luck, Chance, and the Meaning of...


...with Democracy, Conversation and the Walrus (Ep. 71)

What does it mean to have a good conversation about politics, democracy, our place in the world, Donald Trump and sports? How do we bring disparate and distinct voices into that dialogue, and keep it fresh? The Walrus, a weekly Canadian magazine, has been trying to figure it out. Ben is in Toronto to chat with Jessica Johnson, executive editor and creative director of The Walrus, about democracy, conversation, and the magazine's unique and ever-evolving response to "what on earth is going...


...with Power, Colonialism and the San People (Ep. 70)

Is colonialism ongoing in the Kalahari Desert? What do the struggles of the San peoples tell us about democracy, tradition, adaptation to the environment, and the exercise and imbalances of power in today's world? What role does tourism take in all this, and is education still the silver bullet? And, can a people be truly free and fulfilled without meaningful sovereignty? Ben chats with higher education consultant, scholar and Program Director at the Kalahari Peoples Fund Fleming...


...with the Inside of Politics (Ep. 69)

What is social media doing to our politics from the inside? Are politicians themselves getting along, or are the deep partisan divisions in our culture also fraying the relationships of the people who we have elected to get things done? What does it take to run and win a political campaign these days? And how can democracy evolve. Or, should it? Ben chats with Stephanie Rea, longtime conservative political staffer and current communications director for the Ontario Minister of...


...with Higher Education (Ep. 68)

What is the future of the university and higher education? Will the local, broad-scope, brick-and-mortar campuses that form a critical part of our society give way to a fragmented system of hyper-focused online learning nodes? What is learning, anyways? And what's the purpose of an educational institution in the first place? Ben has a fascinating chat with a key thinker in this space: writer, strategist and higher education engagement specialist Mark Sollis, whom you might remember from...


...with Gender (Ep. 67)

How do we understand and engage in today's conversation about gender? What on earth is going on with gender and identity politics, and what is the personal dimension? Ben is at Queen's University in Kingston to chat with Dr. Lee Airton, author of Gender: Your Guide — A Gender-Friendly Primer on What to Know, What to Say, and What to Do in the New Gender Culture. It's a fascinating, important and unexpectedly fun conversation about the unique historical moment in which we live today. About...


...with Acting and Storytelling (Ep. 66)

What does it mean to be a storyteller? What happens when we look into the mirror after a long day, let the masks drop, and come face to face with who we really are? What does ownership mean in the arts, and what can theatre be when it isn't a commodity? Why do we act in the first place, and are our stories and audiences changing? And what's going on with Samuel Beckett? Ben is in Calgary for a funny, fascinating and quite unique conversation with local actor and theatre artist, Andy...


...with Travel, Story and Vulnerability (Ep. 65)

How important is culture to the long-term success of an organization? What role does being vulnerable play in leadership? How does story help weave and even make up our everyday experience? And what can putting ourselves out there with travel teach us about our own inner storyteller and context in the world? Ben is in Ottawa to chat with Jana Dybinski, consummate traveler, thinker, innovator and VP for Marketing and Culture at Rebel.com. About the Guest Jana's bio on her website is just...


...according to the novel, 1984 (Ep. 64)

George Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty-Four" (1984) is a touchstone of 20th-century English literature and a key piece of modern political thought and speculative fiction that continues to provoke conversation, and comparison, today. Orwell's novel from 1949 describes a bleak future where the state (Big Brother) has weaponized technology, language, propaganda and memory to exert near-total control over every person. Jaret Hargreaves joins Ben in Calgary to discuss this classic and frighteningly...


...according to the book, Quiet (Ep. 63)

What does it mean to be an introvert, and is it harder in our society to keep to oneself? Is there a pressure to conform to an Extrovert Ideal? How do introverts assert themselves in education, the workplace and daily life without giving up what makes them unique, thoughtful -- and just them? Ben brings back Jody MacPherson (Episode 11) to talk about "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking" by Susan Cain. About the Book The book that started the Quiet...


...with Creativity and Acting (Ep. 62)

What does it mean to be creative? Where does creative expression lie: in the individual, in the shared experience, or in the coming together of public and private? How can an actor be more than just an interpreter, but a creative artist in their own right? Ben is in Toronto to chat with Brian Smith, acting teacher, coach and Professor Emeritus from the University of Calgary, about his own journey, and the meaning and importance of finding one's creative voice in our difficult and...


...with Making Art in a Noisy World (Ep. 61)

Denise Clarke is one of Canada's most respected performing artists, perhaps best known for her work with One Yellow Rabbit. Since 1997 she has opened up the company's process with the Summer Lab Intensive. She recently published The Big Secret Book: An Intense Guide for Creating Performance Theatre. Ben talks with Denise about her book, the recent Calgary production of Waiting for Godot (which she directed for Black Radish Theatre), the life of an artist, the meaning of art in an age of...


...according to the book, Thank You For Being Late (Ep. 60)

Thomas Friedman has been explaining the modern predicament as an author and New York Times columnist for decades. With Thank You For Being Late, he turns his sights to the unprecedented rate of change today. His main focus here is on the three M's: Markets, Moore's Law and Mother Nature, and the book's scale is grand as it tries to answer our eternal question, what on earth is going on? Joining Ben to tackle the book is Mark Sollis, strategist, writer and engagement specialist in higher...


...with City Planning in Toronto (Ep. 59)

What are the challenges and pressures that face growing cities like Toronto? How do we make housing affordable in such places? And what does the future of the city look like? Ben is in Toronto to chat with a panel of experts on the past, present and future of the city: Adam Brind, managing partner and broker of record with Core Assets Real Estate; Pamela Robinson, Associate Professor at the School of Urban and Regional Planning at Ryerson University; and podcast alumnus Blair Scorgie,...


...with Filmmaking (Ep. 58)

Making films is often about balance: between the singular vision of the script and director and the ideas and impulses of the team; between getting the perfect shot and keeping the project on time and under budget. And yet the end result can be like a magic trick. How do they do it? Ben is in Toronto to chat with filmmaker Christopher MacBride, who has written and directed films such as "The Conspiracy" (2012). He is currently in the editing suite for "The Education of Fredrick...


...with Protesting (Ep. 57)

People take to the streets to change the world. Sometimes regimes fall and power shifts, yet too often nothing much happens -- it's business-as-usual the next day. But are we missing the spirit of activism? Are mass protests actually about changing the conversation and altering our perspectives? Or is disobedience the goal in itself? Ben is in Toronto to chat with Lesley Wood, activist and York University Professor of Sociology, about her work on how ideas travel and the true purpose of...


...with Men and Gender Equality (Ep. 56)

Michael Kaufman's newest book, The Time Has Come: Why Men Must Join the Gender Equality Revolution, is a stirring call for men to step up for women's rights, as well as a poignant analysis of what on earth is going on with gender equality today. Michael has been a prominent figure in promoting social justice and women’s rights for decades. He sits with Ben in Toronto for a timely and insightful conversation about why men should do more, what they have to gain, and how to get it done. About...


...with Alberta Politics (Ep. 55)

In April 2019, Jason Kenney returned the Conservatives to power in Alberta. Is this a return to normal in Alberta politics, where one party usually rules? What's happening underneath the platforms and rhetoric? And what do these events tell us about politics, populism and power elsewhere? Ben is in Calgary to address these questions with renowned pollster and political analyst Janet Brown, lawyer and former politico Denise Brunsdon, and University of Calgary political scientist Anthony...


...with the Renaissance (Ep. 54)

What does it mean to be human? Is the world a mirror or a window? Should our experience of reality be mediated, and if so, who should be the mediators? We ask these questions earnestly today, but they were tackled in revolutionary ways during the European Renaissance, an extraordinary period of progress and creativity. Ben's has a powerful and spirited conversation with a world-renowned historian of culture and the Renaissance, Professor Kenneth Bartlett of the University of Toronto. About...