Episode 69: Whole Foods, Race and the Englewood Food Desert

The grocer, which has built its fortunes and reputation anchoring condo developments in wealthy enclaves, has never gone into a neighborhood like this. But last year, to the disbelief of many, the company announced plans to open a store in 2016 here, in one of Chicago’s most economically depressed neighborhoods.
— Emily Badger of "The Washington Post" on Whole Foods
We wanted to know, Whole Foods, are you going to hire people with records? We had been previously told that hands-down no, they aren’t going to hire anybody with records...Whole Foods really heard our concerns as a community and they are now coming up with a program to hire people with records at that store.
— Sonya Harper, Executive Director of Grow Greater Englewood.

While the distinctions between healthy and unhealthy food products are often evident to consumers, some communities lack the resources to acquire and store nutritious items. This week, we take a look at Englewood, a formerly thriving commercial suburb of Chicago whose prosperity in the 1930's has become a modern food desert in 2015. It is a predominantly black community of approximately 60,000 faced with poverty and high crime and unemployment. The grocery chain Whole Foods sees an opportunity and plans to open a branch in 2016. We thought it pertinent to discuss this complex relationship between food, opportunity and race in our discussion this week.

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Episode 67: "Robots Have Emotions Too"

In our research, we showed how a simple, small robot could pressure people to continue a highly tedious task—even after the people expressed repeated desire to quit—simply with verbal prodding.
— Dr. James E. Young, "How to Manage Robots and People Working Together"
Research has shown people feel less comfortable around robots who break social norms, such as by having shifty eyes or mismatched facial expressions. A robot’s personality, voice pitch or even the use of whispering can affect feelings of trust and comfort.
— Dr. James E. Young, "How to Manage Robots and People Working Together"

This week we analyze and respond to an article written by Dr. James E. Young.  He and fellow researchers conducted studies to determine the current sentiments human beings have towards robots. Their research indicates that people have an inherent impulse to personalize robots and imbue them with intentions, emotions, social abilities and attachments. He theorizes that in future, steps should be taken to facilitate productive, prosperous working relationships between people and robots in a variety of settings, including combat and other dangerous environments. We use this article as an entry point to discussions about humanity as it relates to robotics and how robots may substantially affect our lives in the future.

Episode 66: Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Cultural Anticipation

I also feel like movies speak to a human desire, if not need, to congregate and to experience stories communally. They’re experiences that allow us to feel that connectivity, which is truly what ‘Star Wars’ is all about — the Force and the idea that we’re all connected. In whatever format it is, whatever screening, whatever the best available version is, I would just argue that, if possible, to try to see it with a crowd.
— J.J. Abrams, director of Star Wars: The Force Awakens
I was in the same room as all these legends and all these new people who I’m sure will go on to be legends.
— Domhnall Gleeson (General Hux) on set of Star Wars: The Force Awakens

The upcoming release of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens offers an unprecedented opportunity to discuss the historic, popular and influential film series as a greater whole. In anticipation of the climactic return to the franchise after 10 years, we welcome Sam Whipple to examine the impact Star Wars has had on global, cultural and generational levels.  We explore the past of the franchise and talk about our hopes and expectations of The Force Awakens, as well as the excitement, controversy and mysteries surrounding it. We would like to thank Trevor Hailey, Chris Katzmann, Nico Hargreaves-Heald and Haleh Kanani for their written contributions which are available to read below.

Episode 65: The Abolition of China's One-Child Policy

The abandonment of the one-child policy in China is a momentous change, and there is much to celebrate in the easing of restrictions on human freedom in a particularly private sphere of life. But we need to recognize that the big fall in fertility in China over the decades, for which the one-child policy is often credited, has, in fact, been less related to compulsion and much more to reasoned family decisions in favor of a new norm of smaller families.
— Amartya Sen, New York Times Op-Ed, November 2nd, 2015

Established in the 1970's to control population growth, China's One-Child Policy is likely to be repealed in coming months. The decision to end the restriction followed a four-day strategy meeting of senior Communist Party officials at a Beijing hotel in late October. This policy and its potential conclusion have had profound economic, social, psychological and personal effects on the Chinese people. We discuss our opinions on its impact and possible futures it might create. Of course, our primary lens is as Americans living on the outside and we acknowledge this.

Episode 64: The Paris Attacks

Once again we’ve seen an outrageous attempt to terrorize innocent civilians. This is an attack not just on Paris, it’s an attack not just on the people of France, but this is an attack on all of humanity and the universal values that we share.
— President Obama, in November 13th statement on the attacks
Terrorists wanted to show the world that we were brutal and unjust, and we did our best to help them do that. Terrorists wanted a war, and we gave them one. And we lost. We lost by giving them the stupid, fearful, angry response that they wanted.
— Hamilton Nolan, "Terrorism Works" on the September 11 attacks

With the recent terror attacks in Paris, we felt it worthwhile to discuss their political, social and personal impacts. Various news organizations have covered the details and both citizens and countries around the world have united to mourn and grieve, but several factors appear to be overlooked. Among the responses, Syrian refugees have been blamed, similar terror attacks (like those in Beirut) have been seemingly ignored by the press and ISIS's intentions and goals appear simplified. As always, we do not have the answers to the questions we ask, but we find the dialogue to be both invaluable and necessary. Our thoughts go out to all of the victims of these recent attacks, as well as their friends and families.