Episode 222: A Pale Blue Launch I

What would you send into outer space to commemorate Earth and humanity, to a potential audience of alien life? This week, we begin a new interview series to tackle that question. In each entry, we’ll interview someone about the five objects - with a stipulation - they would place in a space capsule to launch into the starry beyond. For our inaugural episode, we spoke with Leland Holcomb about the five objects that he would launch - all of which had to contain glass.

Episode 208: The Chains of Privacy

When we consider the concept of "privacy," we typically imagine what we do or do not share or reveal to the world. But in an increasingly digital and interconnected world, the idea of privacy bears more heavily in communal or mutual spaces than it may have in the past. This week, we welcome Ian Fox to explore how interwoven the idea of privacy has become in modern society. What do recent scandals and revelations teach us about privacy as it relates to courtesy and compassion? What do the topics we want to keep private reveal about us?

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Episode 70: "The End of Thirst"

According to the United Nations, 1.2 billion people already suffer from severe water shortages, and that number is expected to increase to 1.8 billion over the next decade, in part because of climate change.
— Sam Kean, "The End of Thirst", December 2015 issue of The Atlantic
Water recycling is a proven technology: California recycles hundreds of millions of gallons each day for irrigation and other uses. So what’s stopping recycled wastewater from going directly to our taps? Human psychology. The very idea of drinking it disgusts many people. They view such water as irredeemably dirty, little better than toilet water.
— Sam Kean, "The End of Thirst", December 2015 issue of The Atlantic

Although many of us may not think about it, water has always been and continues to be a precious resource for life on Earth - human and otherwise. As the global population has increased, however, supplies of fresh water have begun to dwindle. Various scientists, governments and communities around the world have started to think of solutions in response to the potential problem. This week, we react to an article in The Atlantic which deals with this issue. What are our preconceptions surrounding water and what ends would we consider pursuing for our own survival as a species? 

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 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.