4 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 • 9 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.

    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
    Rebuilding Trust in Institutions

    Rebuilding Trust in Institutions

    "I think Facebook may be one of these broken institutions, where we actually need to replace it with something different," says Ethan Zuckerman, an early internet pioneer and scholar examining the intersection of social media and democracy.

    You might also know Ethan as the inventor of the pop-up ad (and yes, he has officially apologized for it.) He went on to reflect on the myth of social media being one big community, adding that "there is no such thing as a community of three billion people. And I don't know that three billion people are governable as a group in any sort of  healthy fashion."

    Most western liberal democracies face a common challenge: high levels of mistrust in government and other large institutions. Our traditional levers of enacting change - at the ballot box, through legislation - are faltering. But can we harness alternative methods and venues like social media or protest movements to rebuild faith in our democracies? In this episode, Ethan discusses his recent book Mistrust, which diagnoses the challenges facing our political and economic institutions, and prescribes new tools for rebuilding trust.

    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.
     
    We also want to credit Malcolm Farnsworth and watergate.info for the little snippet of Richard Nixon you heard, as well as Addiopizzo Travel and TedXPalermo for the two audio clips in Italian.  

    • 24 min

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5
9 Ratings

9 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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