Today I took a journey to the outer edges of physics and cosmology. A world of precise mathematics but striking imagination. A world where not one, but many universes may exist. A world of theory, but also a world of deeps laws. A place where everything is different, but the goal is to find out how everything is, in fact, the same. It’s a world in which renowned physicist and mathematician Brian Greene lives. In his new work The Hidden Reality, he takes us all there. My conversation with Brian Greene:
Tuesday night, the President talked a great deal about the future. About what the world might look like for the next generation. For most of us, speculating about the future is just that; idle speculation based on opinion and intuition. For George Friedman, founder and CEO of Stratfor, the future is his reality. George Friedman spends his life thinking about he future. His previous book The Next 100 Years took us to a 30,000 ft. view of the coming century. Now, in The Next Decade, he comes down to earth, to look at what’s changing on the ground as he views a future within our grasp. My conversation with George Friedman.
Last night the President spoke of the ways in which our economic world is changing. In fact, that change is taking place inside of and impacting on the natural world. What should our understanding and response be to those changes? 2010 was a year in which natural disasters took place at an alarming and unprecedented rate. In his new book The View from Lazy Point: A Natural Year in an Unnatural World, ecologist and MacArthur and Guggenheim fellow Carl Safina takes us on a journey through the intricacy and interconnectedness of our economic world, our social institutions and the natural world which surrounds us. My conversation with Carl Safina:
It’s safe to say that the one thing that the left and the right both have in common, with respect to the role of religion in public life, is that they are both wrong. The defining mythology of separation of church and state was never what progressives thought it was and the Christian influence and power that the right fantasizes about, was never all it was cracked up to me. The truth and the history is far more complex, nuanced and some would argue troubling. David Sehat, in his new book The Myth of American Religious Freedom takes us through the history. My conversation with David Sehat:
Last week the President proved once again that words and speeches matter. That they have the potential to move people and even reset a debate. While many of us remember, or have studied great speeches, few rise to the level of JFK's Inaugural Address. That speech, given 50 years ago today, truly changed a nation. It was a speech that would define a new, post war generation of leadership and arguably would set the stage for the 60’s and 70’s. Historian and journalist Thurston Clarke has captured that moment in his his book Ask Not:The Inauguration of John F. Kennedy and the Speech That Changed America. My conversation with Thurston Clarke:
Discussion never seems to end about the rise and growth of China. On this program alone, we've talked about everything from outsourcing to immigration. About food, foreign policy, spectacle, sport and how Americans are falling behind. If any one theme has emerged it is that while we all may have shared goals and aspirations, there are indeed profound cultural differences. Perhaps nowhere is that difference felt or seen or more controversial, then in the realm of parenting; specifically in how Western mothers vs. Chinese mothers raise their children. Time vs. money, sleepovers vs. success, play dates vs. practice drills, choice vs. conformity. These are just a few of the issues that separate the Chinese Way from the Western Way of parenting.
On this very day in which we mark the 50 anniversary of JFK's Inauguration, we’re reminded of a quote by Jackie Kennedy who said simply, "if we bungle raising our children, I don't think whatever else we do matters very much.” What’s not so simple, is how we do that.
Amy Chuahas not only written her new book about how Chinese mothers practice parenting, but she has lived it, raising her own two daughters her own way. Her new book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, is about the way that Chua has lived, practiced and adapted the Chinese model of parenting and her own personal journey in that effort. My conversation with Amy Chua:
It has been an almost universal truth since Horace Greeley first uttered the worlds "go West young man," that the West offers opportunity and fortune. Today, all that has changed. For many, particularly the children of immigrants from China and India, the decision to go East has been the road to riches. Back in 2008, New York Times and International Herald Tribune columnist Anand Giridharadas did exactly that. He headed to India, to find what he saw as the frontier of the future.
Imagine, you go though life for almost seventy years with a good name, a stellar reputation and then one day that good name is gone. Instead, they give you a number. They reclassify you as something less then what you thought you were. It probably wouldn't feel very good. Yet this is exactly what happened to the planet Pluto, as Mike Brown led the charge to take away Pluto's good name. Dr. Michel Brown brags How He Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming. My conversation with astronomer and Cal Tech Professor Dr. Mike Brown.
This has been an amazing month for speeches and anniversaries of speeches. Last week the current President of the United States gave perhaps his greatest speech to date. On Thursday we will mark the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's Inaugural Address, and yesterday we also marked the 50th anniversary of perhaps the most important farewell address ever given by any President, including Washington. Dwight David Eisenhower, whose place in history is still evolving, warned us about an all to pervasive Military Industrial Complex; an idea that is still relevant and still part of our collective political consciousness. Journalist James Ledbetter, in his book Unwarranted Influence: Dwight D. Eisenhower and the Military-Industrial Complex, gives us the definitive analysis of that speech and it's place in history. My conversation with James Ledbetter:
In spite of all the trouble inherent in our most intimate relationships, we still keep trying! Why is it that our quest for attachment seemingly has a life of its own? Woody Allen once said, that it’s because "we all need the eggs.” The truth, is both a lot more complicated and also a lot simpler. We are simply hardwired, by millions of years of evolution, to seek intimate attachment. But how and why is the question for modern science. Dr. Amir Levine, in his book Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Findand KeepLove,distills years of "attachment theory" and helps us to understand the science of intimate human relationships. My conversation with Dr. Amir Levine:
As the events of the past week have shown, a nation or a house divided against itself cannot stand. While it's really easy to see why dramatic economic and social changes cause people to cling to old fashion tribal ideas, its also easy to see, especially now, that we must reach out to better understand each other, to respect each other and most of all bring compassion to our daily discourse. The truth is, people have been preaching compassion for centuries. It has been part of the religious and secular cannon for thousands of years. Yet today, religion itself is part of the problem. How then do we reaffirm compassion in the wake of violence, fear, ignorance and rapid change?
Religious scholar Karen Armstrong, in her new book Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life, argues that we need a new Charter for Compassion; that we need to lay out, codify and reaffirm the core principals of a compassionate life. My conversation with Karen Armstrong:
Everywhere we turn today we see a kind of cynicism about all of our institutions. From Governance, to business to banking and education, we have lost faith in how things work and why. We fear change yet damn the status quo. We know something is wrong, yet practically speaking, we know we must integrate change and modernity into how we see the world. How do we begin to get a handle on this? We know that its not as simple as a set of rules, or even a change of leaders. Professor Barry Schwartz argues that the answer lies in what he calls Practical Wisdom. Something in short supply these days. My conversation with Barry Schwartz:
We continue our series of conversations about technology with the remarkable Kevin Kelly, the founding editor of WIRED Magazine. Like it or not, in the 21st Century, much of how we view the world, is a product of how we view technology and whether we see it simply as some collection of man made gadgets, or as a fundamental by product of human development. Do we see it as something as organic as evolution itself or simply a neutral forces, until shaped by the hands of man? Is technology a force unto itself, one to be reckoned with or simply understood? In his new book What Technology Wants, Kelly presents on unconventional view of technology, as if it were an almost autonomous system. My conversation with Kevin Kelly:
Much as the printing press and later the telegraph & telephone transformed the speed and transmission of information, so the Internet may be even more profound. In fact, it may very well be the biggest transformation in human connectivity since the invention of language itself. The question today, is that while we live and work amidst the impact of this transformation, there is so much we do not know, in real time, about its challenges and its long term impact on our economies, our governance, our laws and our business.
Are we more efficient today, or merely more stressed? Are we better managers or just better jugglers? Do we control our new found connectivity, or does it control us? These are just some of the questions asked by William Davidow in his groundbreaking book OVERCONNECTED: The Promise and Threat of the Internet. My conversation with William H. Davidow:
Today millions of people are truly living part of their lives in a virtual world. People are playing games, building communities, making friends and even making real money. Literary billions of dollars are paid in exchange for virtual goods. But what if something goes wrong? What are the rules, the laws, the codes of conduct that govern these worlds? Rutgers University law professor Greg Lastowka, in Virtual Justice: The New Laws of Online Worlds, lays out the problems posed and explains how the government and courts might respond and asks important questions about law, artifice and technology. My conversation with Greg Lastowka:
Before congress thinks about tampering with the new health care laws, they need to take a close look at what former Cigna PR Executive Wendell Potter says about what's really going on inside the insurance industry. He was the very well respected former head of Corporate Communications for Cigna until his conscience led him to turn on his former colleagues and testify before congressional committees about what he viewed as the health-insurance industry's "duplicitous" behavior. He openly talks about how insurers would have no problems with "dumping the sick" to protect the stock price above all else. Now, Wendell Potter, in his book Deadly Spin: An Insurance Company Insider Speaks Out on How Corporate PR Is Killing Health Care and Deceiving Americans, gives us a true profile in courage. My conversation with Wendell Potter: