7 episodes

With recent health, environmental, and economic crises, the capacity of humankind to innovate its way to a better future is, at times, in doubt. How are science and technology confronting our most foundational global challenges? How can we increase public trust in science? And what are the ethical and political challenges to charting a path of human progress in the 21st century? In this podcast, host Brendan Karch interviews thinkers, writers, scientists, policymakers, and researchers who are tackling these seismic questions. Tectonic is a production of Swissnex in Boston and New York, whose aim is to bring the leading ideas from our hub of academic inquiry to Switzerland and the world, in order to inspire new thinking across disciplinary and national boundaries.

Tectonic Swissnex

    • Society & Culture
    • 5.0 • 12 Ratings

With recent health, environmental, and economic crises, the capacity of humankind to innovate its way to a better future is, at times, in doubt. How are science and technology confronting our most foundational global challenges? How can we increase public trust in science? And what are the ethical and political challenges to charting a path of human progress in the 21st century? In this podcast, host Brendan Karch interviews thinkers, writers, scientists, policymakers, and researchers who are tackling these seismic questions. Tectonic is a production of Swissnex in Boston and New York, whose aim is to bring the leading ideas from our hub of academic inquiry to Switzerland and the world, in order to inspire new thinking across disciplinary and national boundaries.

    The Most Innovative Square Mile on Earth

    The Most Innovative Square Mile on Earth

    Massachusetts and Switzerland both often rank near the top of state and country innovation rankings. Key to this success are innovation zones, and none is more influential than Kendall Square – a small strip of former swampland in Cambridge, just across the river from Boston. These days it’s home to MIT and some of the most important biotech research on the planet, as well as pharmaceutical giants like Novartis and Moderna. Little wonder it’s been called ‘the most innovative square mile on earth.’
    Our guest on this episode, Bob Buderi, has just written a book on Kendall Square, Where Futures Converge. We talk with Bob about Kendall’s progression from marsh to factory zone to biotech hub, and how constant change was necessary to maintain a vibrant urban innovation ecosystem. We explore the Swiss connections in Kendall Square, and what makes the small, unofficial innovation zone tick. We also delve into the shortcomings of Kendall Square’s imbalanced growth. While it’s an amazing place to invent and innovate, it’s not a great community to live in. Bob explores how plans for affordable housing and artist space can transform Kendall Square into a more livable urban landscape in the future.

    • 25 min
    The Foundations of Sustainable Construction

    The Foundations of Sustainable Construction

    Switzerland famously lacks natural resources, especially wood. To build its modern economy, the mountainous country came to rely heavily on concrete – and today has become a world leader in the concrete industry. But the building material has come under heavy scrutiny for its carbon footprint. Concrete production emits at least five percent of all human greenhouse gas emissions. As we face the urgent need for more sustainable built environments, does concrete have a future?
    In this episode, we hear from Marc Angélil, the Swiss architect responsible for such buildings as Zurich Airport Terminal E. Marc has dedicated his career to sustainable construction, and he sees building materials as just one component in the full life cycle of a building – from construction, to use, and even disassembly. Concrete, he says, can be used to achieve energy savings that no other affordable material can match. He explores how efficient and hybrid buildings can work with nature to create low-tech, passive solutions for sustainability. Ultimately, Marc is designing for a world where even our lifestyles, such as how we cook and commute, are affected by the quality of our architecture.

    • 29 min
    Democratizing Innovation in Cities

    Democratizing Innovation in Cities

    The problems of the globe are also the problems of our major cities, especially post-industrial ones: environmental damage, economic inequality, public health crises. Can we solve these problems one city at a time, through renewal and innovation? We talk with Katie Stebbins, who has spent her career working to revive some of Massachusetts' most economically challenged towns. Her mission? To democratize innovation.
    Katie explores how a community garden, or a small business growing coral in a garage, can and should count as innovation. "I think in any community you go into, you'll be surprised when you start knocking on doors, going in buildings, meeting people, the kind of assets you have on your roof that you never thought you had," says Katie. She says we have to work with the new populations that have migrated to our cities rather than attempt to re-create the factory town of old - a model she says is out-of-touch with our 21st-century workforces.
    Katie also discusses public-private partnerships, her work in food innovation, and the 'circular economy' of best practices that allow ideas to migrate between cities and big national or supranational organizations. In her many roles, she emphasizes the need to 'get proximate' to people in order to democratize engagement.

    • 25 min
    Is the Future of Meat in the Lab?

    Is the Future of Meat in the Lab?

    As our global population continues to expand, and developing societies grow wealthier, our food supply is being stretched thin. In particular, global demand for meat continues to rise – and with it the stress on our land and freshwater ecosystems. One new technology being touted as a future solution is animal protein grown in a bioreactor. Is laboratory meat our future?

    Historian and writer Ben Wurgaft spent over a half-decade researching and writing about the lab-grown meat industry, still in its infancy. In his book Meat Planet, he emerged a skeptic about lab meat’s  potential to transform our future food systems. In this episode, Ben discusses the technological challenges to scaling up production, and the way that the profit-driven hype machine around laboratory meat lauds techno-utopian solutions over hard social choices.

    “There is plenty of protein already,” Ben says. “Why not redistribute it better? Why not treat food scarcity as a problem of distribution and justice rather than as a problem of production?” For Ben, hoping for a lab meat revolution only lets us avoid these deeper challenges. “The broader question here is about the human imagination, and what's available to us and what isn't, in order to imagine a better collective future.”

    Tectonic is a production of Swissnex in Boston and New York, whose aim is to bring the leading ideas from our hub of academic inquiry to Switzerland and the world, in order to inspire new thinking across disciplinary and national boundaries.

    This episode was written and hosted by Brendan Karch, with production, sound design, and editing by Anour Esa.

    Credits for clips used in episode:
    On Demand News, “Taste test: World's first test-tube burger revealed in London”
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jJrSdKk3YVY
     
    ABC Action News, “The Paleo Diet helped one Tampa Bay family lose weight and live healthier” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRJsuQiGuEs

    CBSDFW, '"Impossible Burger': Veggie Burger That Claims To Taste Like Real Beef Now Served In Denver" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9q8wUpHxq5M

    Basque Culinary Center, "Gastroarmony"
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JC7EC6FJJiQ&t=1s

    United Nations News, “Stop the waste: UN food agencies call for action to reduce global hunger”
    https://news.un.org/en/story/2019/10/1049181

    • 25 min
    Renewing our Governance Systems

    Renewing our Governance Systems

    What’s ailing American politics, and can the underlying ideals of US democracy be renewed? How should the US change its role in the world, and are there alternatives to solving global challenges that exploit resources beyond our current UN system of nation-states? 
    To answer such big-picture and wide-ranging questions, we spoke with a prodigious thinker. Anne-Marie Slaughter has worn many hats: lawyer, Ivy League academic, foreign policy leader, and now CEO of the think tank New America. Throughout her career, she’s asked big questions about our global political order, and America’s place in it. More recently, she’s turned to domestic issues, which are the topic of her new book Renewal.
    “So there's a profound paradox, at least to most people the first time they encounter it, that if we want people to take more risks, we have to provide them with more security,” says Slaughter. “And if we're going to be the entrepreneurial society, we pride ourselves on, we need to provide more security.”
    In this episode, Anne-Marie argues that making key political reforms and devoting attention to people’s welfare can renew the tattered promises of American democracy. And to tackle our biggest global challenges like the pandemic, she suggests we create new impact hubs that draw together resources from governments, the private sector, and non-profit activists.

    Tectonic is a production of Swissnex in Boston and New York, whose aim is to bring the leading ideas from our hub of academic inquiry to Switzerland and the world, in order to inspire new thinking across disciplinary and national boundaries.

    This episode was written and hosted by Brendan Karch, with production, sound design, and editing by Anour Esa.

    Credits for audio clips used in this episode:  CBS News, “America's growing student loan debt crisis”, Montague Community Television, “Black Lives Matter Protest, Greenfield MA 6/6/20”

    • 25 min
    Making Science Work for Policy and the Public

    Making Science Work for Policy and the Public

    We live an era where we need science more than ever to solve our global challenges, from global warming to pandemics. And yet science often feels under attack from multiple directions. How can scientists, the public, and policymakers create lasting relationships of trust and collaboration? This question has occupied our guest, Noelle Selin, Professor in Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences at MIT, and director of MIT’s Technology and Policy Program.
    “If you’re sort of starting at the ‘I already have my science and I need to figure out a way for public to accept it,’ you're starting already too late,” says Selin. Instead, she argues for more transparent and lasting relationships between science and the public. By defining the problems together, being transparent about the scientific process, and engaging diverse stakeholders in affected communities, Selin believes scientists can co-create solutions with greater public trust and buy-in.
    In this episode, Selin draws on her own research and advocacy experience around mercury pollution. As an element used by humans for thousands of years, mercury has served essential functions for humans, but also had toxic effects on our bodies. Selin traces the various ways mercury circulates in our planetary systems, and the path to successful international regulation of mercury.
    Tectonic is a production of Swissnex in Boston and New York, whose aim is to bring the leading ideas from our hub of academic inquiry to Switzerland and the world, in order to inspire new thinking across disciplinary and national boundaries.

    This episode was written and hosted by Brendan Karch, with production, sound design, and editing by Anour Esa.

    Credits for news clips used in this episode: WWLP-22News, CBS Mornings, 民視英語新聞 Formosa TV English News

    • 22 min

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5
12 Ratings

12 Ratings

Emmie Lacy ,

High production quality & engaging content

As a person with a non-scientific background, I like that the scientific nature of the content is easy to digest and is engaging. The production style of the podcast has a nice back and forth between the host and the guest in a way that flows seamlessly. Looking forward to the rest of the first season.

Andrea Shalal ,

Thought-provoking new podcast

Excellent podcast that delves deep into the crisis of trust afflicting democracies around the world. As a journalist with a mainstream news organization, I appreciate Ethan Zuckermann’s careful analysis, and his insights on rebuilding trust in institutions that has been eroding since the 1970s. Kudos to Swissnex for tackling this issue. Can’t wait to hear the next podcasts.

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