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Episodes

Kai-Fu Lee

10/8/2018
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The United States has long been the global leader in Artificial Intelligence. Dr. Kai-Fu Lee—one of the world’s most respected experts on AI—reveals that China has suddenly caught up to the US at an astonishingly rapid pace. He joined us with insight from his provocative book AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order to envision China and the US forming a powerful duopoly in AI—one that is based on each nation’s unique and traditional cultural inclinations. Dr. Lee...

Duration:01:24:09

Thor Hanson

10/1/2018
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Bees are like oxygen: ubiquitous, essential, and, for the most part, unseen. While we might overlook them, they lie at the heart of relationships that bind the human and natural worlds. Environmentalist and author Thor Hanson took to Town Hall’s stage to share a critical wisdom from his book Buzz: The Nature and Necessity of Bees. He lead us on a journey that begins 125 million years ago, when a wasp first dared to feed pollen to its young. He outlined how bees have long been central to...

Duration:01:20:50

Marcia Bjornerud

9/24/2018
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Few of us have any conception of the enormous timescales of our planet’s long history. Geology professor and Fulbright Scholar Marcia Bjornerud steped onto Town Hall’s stage to outline the ways in which our everyday lives are shaped by processes that vastly predate us—and in turn, how our habits will have consequences that will outlast us by generations. With insight from her book Timefulness: How Thinking Like a Geologist Can Help Save the World she reveals how knowing the rhythms of...

Duration:00:49:49

David Quammen

9/17/2018
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In the mid-1970s, scientists began using DNA sequences to reexamine the history of all life. Perhaps the most startling discovery in this new field—the study of life’s diversity and relatedness at the molecular level—is horizontal gene transfer (HGT), the movement of genes across species lines. With insight to radically shift our understanding of the tree of life, we were joined by naturalist author and columnist David Quammen with wisdom from his book The Tangled Tree: A Radical New History...

Duration:00:53:13

Angela Garbes with Lindy West

7/2/2018
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Like most first-time mothers, food and culture writer Angela Garbes was filled with questions when she first became pregnant. And like many mothers, she sought satisfactory answers to the scientific mysteries and cultural myths that surround motherhood. She joined us with a compilation of the wisdom from her book Like a Mother: A Feminist Journey Through the Science and Culture of Pregnancy, debunking myths and dated assumptions. Garbes shared the results of her intensive search for...

Duration:01:07:26

Richard Prum

6/25/2018
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Deep in tropical jungles around the world are birds with a dizzying array of appearances and mating displays: Club-winged Manakins who sing with their wings, Great Argus Pheasants who dazzle prospective mates with a four-foot-wide cone of feathers covered in golden 3D spheres, Red-capped Manakins who moonwalk. In his thirty years of fieldwork, Yale University ornithologist Richard Prum has witnessed numerous such display traits that seem to contradict a classically upheld scientific...

Duration:01:06:09

Jason Colby

6/18/2018
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Since the release of the documentary Blackfish in 2013, millions around the world have focused on the plight of the orca, the most profitable and controversial display animal in history. Yet until now, no historical account has explained how we came to care about killer whales in the first place. In celebration of Orca Awareness Month, environmental professor Jason M. Colby drew on interviews, official records, private archives, and his own family history, to tell the exhilarating and...

Duration:01:12:42

Simon Winchester

6/11/2018
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Has the pursuit of the ultra-precise in so many facets of human life blinded us to other things of equal value, such as an appreciation for the age-old traditions of craftsmanship, art, and high culture? Acclaimed author Simon Winchester joined us to discuss this complex quandary with insight from his newest book The Perfectionists: How Precision Engineers Created the Modern World. He explored whether we are missing something that reflects the world as it is, rather than the world as we...

Duration:01:12:06

Michael Pollan with Ingrid K. Walker

6/4/2018
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LSD and psilocybin (the active ingredient in psychedelic mushrooms) have shown significant promise as tools to provide relief to people suffering from difficult-to-treat conditions such as depression, addiction, and anxiety. But, according to bestselling writer Michael Pollan, these remarkable substances are improving the lives not only of the mentally ill but also of healthy people coming to grips with the challenges of everyday life. Pollan—author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma—joined us to...

Duration:01:11:20

Human-Machine Interfaces & The Future of Interaction

5/29/2018
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As the Spring session of the MIT Enterprise Forum of the Northwest comes to a close, Town Hall invites you to join this panel and look forward into the future of human-machine interfaces. Consider the human and societal impacts of new machines and their interactions with humans. As our world becomes increasingly more technologically advanced and machines become a more core part of our society, what will change first and how will those changes impact our daily lives? Listen in for an...

Duration:01:18:31

Freeman Dyson with Neal Stephenson

5/21/2018
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While recognizing that quantum mechanics “demands serious attention,” Albert Einstein in 1926 admonished that the theory “does not bring us closer to the secrets of the Old One.” Aware that “there are deep mysteries that Nature intends to keep for herself,” 94-year-old theoretical physicist Freeman Dyson has chronicled the stories of those who were engaged in solving some of the most challenging quandaries of twentieth-century physics. To offer us a rare glimpse into scientific history,...

Duration:00:44:16

Edward Tenner with Wier Harman

5/14/2018
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One of the great promises of the Internet and big data revolutions is the idea that we can improve the processes and routines of our work and personal lives to get more done in less time than we ever have before. Technology has enabled a widespread increase of efficiency-enhancing algorithms, multitasking, a sharing economy, and life hacks, and has led our society to perform at higher levels and move at unprecedented speed. But Edward Tenner—distinguished scholar of the Smithsonian’s...

Duration:00:58:17

Barbara Ehrenreich with Ross Reynolds

5/7/2018
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How to live well, even joyously, while accepting our mortality is a vitally important philosophical challenge. Author and cellular immunologist Barbara Ehrenreich shared insight from her latest book Natural Causes: An Epidemic of Wellness, the Certainty of Dying, and Killing Ourselves to Live Longer, and tackled the seemingly unsolvable problem of how we might better prepare ourselves for the end—while still reveling in the lives that remain to us. We tend to believe we have agency over...

Duration:00:48:19

Christian Davenport with Alan Boyle

4/30/2018
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Nearly a half-century after Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of billionaire entrepreneurs, jocularly referred to as the “Space Barons,” are pouring their fortunes into the resurrection of the American space program. Washington Post staff writer Christian Davenport brought to our stage the remarkable accounts of risk and high adventure by these four billionaires—Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, and Paul Allen—sharing excerpts collected in his book The Space Barons: Elon Musk,...

Duration:00:54:47

Chris Clearfield and András Tilcsik

4/16/2018
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A crash on the Washington, D.C. metro system. An accidental overdose in a state-of-the-art hospital. An overcooked holiday meal. At first glance, these disasters seem to have little in common. But surprising new research shows that all these events—and the myriad failures that dominate headlines every day—share similar causes. With insight from their book Meltdown: Why Our Systems Fail and What We Can Do About It, Chris Clearfield and András Tilcsik joined us for an enlightening discussion...

Duration:01:02:38

Michael Gazzaniga with Bill Radke

4/9/2018
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The problem of consciousness has gnawed at us for millennia. How do neurons turn into minds? How does physical “stuff”―atoms, molecules, chemicals, and cells―create the vivid and various worlds inside our heads? In the last century there have been massive breakthroughs that have rewritten the science of the brain, and yet the puzzles faced by the ancient Greeks still perplex scientists to this day. To help us solve these puzzles, neuroscience pioneer Michael S. Gazzaniga brings us the latest...

Duration:01:06:38

A.I. and Automation in the Workforce of Tomorrow

4/2/2018
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Machines and equipment are already making inroads into the labor market. These changes have been brought on by the drive for companies to be more efficient. Undoubtedly, these forces will continue and will reshape the frontier to determine what is possible for automated machines to manage in the workforce of the 21st century. Join this installment of the MIT Enterprise Forum, featuring experts in automation technology, software engineering, and human-centered design practices as they...

Duration:01:19:59

Leonard Mlodinow with Jane C. Hu

3/26/2018
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With rapid technological innovation leading the charge, today’s world is transforming itself at an extraordinary and unprecedented pace. We are confronted every day with new challenges as jobs become more multifaceted, information streams multiply, and myriad devices place increasing demands on our attention. Theoretical physicist Leonard Mlodinow joined us with insight from his book Elastic: Flexible Thinking in a Time of Change, drawing on cutting-edge research in neuroscience and...

Duration:00:45:20

Scott L. Montgomery

3/19/2018
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Global threats of climate change and rising air pollution have led many experts to believe that we must transition away from carbon energy and pursue alternative energy sources. Sustainability author Scott L. Montgomery argued that nuclear power is not an option for the future but an absolute necessity, and he joined us with realities and implications for the coming decades from his new book Seeing The Light: The Case for Nuclear Power in the 21st Century. Montgomery took the stage to...

Duration:01:10:41

ISB Panel: The Future of Health

3/12/2018
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Seattle’s Institute for Systems Biology (ISB) is revolutionizing science with a powerful approach to predict and prevent disease, and enable a sustainable environment. Join a panel of experts as they explore the cross-disciplinary and collaborative approach of systems biology and how it is applied in the exploration of new frontiers in biology and medicine. This moderated forum will provide a focused discussion on the advances in major areas that affect human health, at both an individual...

Duration:01:11:33