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 68: The Holidays and Commercialism

How is the United States at once the most conservative and commercial AND the most revolutionary society on Earth?
— Christopher Hitchens
I think commercialism helps Christmas and I think that the more capitalism we can inject into the Christmas holiday the more spiritual I feel about it.
— Craig Ferguson

As we conclude the 2015 holiday season, we felt it worthwhile to discuss our modern commercial relationship with these annual celebrations. How do they affect our relationships and perceptions of compassion, generosity and gift-giving? We reflect upon our own experiences with gifts around the holiday season and what they say about us as individuals and as a larger culture.

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 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.