Last fall a group of, well, let’s just call them crypto-wizards, came together in an undisclosed location to launch a new currency that promised total anonymity to its users. It’s an undertaking that involves some of the most elaborate security and cryptography ever done (so we’ve been told). And lots of math. In the middle of it, something started to get weird.
“In sixteenth-century Paris, a popular form of entertainment was cat-burning, in which a cat was hoisted in a sling on a stage and slowly lowered into a fire. According to historian Norman Davies, “[T]he spectators, including kings and queens, shrieked with laughter as the animals, howling with pain, were singed, roasted, and finally carbonized.” Today, such sadism would be unthinkable in most of the world. This change in sensibilities is just one example of perhaps the most important and most underappreciated trend in the human saga: Violence has been in decline over long stretches of history, and today we are probably living in the most peaceful moment of our species’ time on earth.” Written in 2007 by Steven Pinker, Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University, this still holds true.
In the podcast Steven Pinker presents evidence that violence has decreased over time because our peaceable motives have overridden our violent ones, and that media induced illusions fool us into thinking that violence is on the rise.
There’s about 1,700 species of insects that are being eaten by local cultures around the world. In fact, 80 percent of the world’s population eats insects on a regular basis, though, in the United States and most of the developed world, they are not quite there yet.
Entomologist Brian Fisher talks about his new initiative to get people more directly involved in biodiversity conservation — a big part of which involves edible insects.
One of the things in life we currently can’t change is our DNA. Yet technological progress shows an exciting promise for significant alterations that would eradicate some of the genetic diseases and enhance certain traits in the genome before birth. In addition, modern research indicates that there is no single “cancer”, “IQ” or “infidelity” gene or that DNA would control our destiny contrary to popular beliefs. University of British Columbia psychology professor Steven Heine joins us to discuss his book “DNA is not Destiny: The Remarkable, Completely Misunderstood Relationship Between You and Your Genes” (W.W. Norton and Co.).
Due to a project funded by the World Bank to boost the local economy, Honduran military violently evicted local peasants to make way for a palm oil plantation. Their land had been stolen, and a local priest had been murdered.
Sasha Chavkin investigated the World Bank for months, and he is telling a story of how the World Bank has become complicit in violently displacing people from their lands in order to make way for development projects all over the world.
Brown v. Board of Education might be the most well-known Supreme Court decision that ordered desegregation of public schools for black and white students. Although considered to be a major victory in the fight for civil rights, the ruling left thousands of black teachers without a job. We hear from the Browns, the family behind the story.
If you were to ask a man living in 1920 what “manliness” meant, he’d probably give you roughly the same answer as a Greek or Roman man living 2,000 years ago. In ancient Greece, Achilles and Odysseus were held up as models of manhood. Furthermore, Athenian philosophers tried to tame Bronze Age manliness by making self-control an important element of being a man. Romans also borrowed elements of Greek manliness to shape their own culture of manhood. The virtue of self-control pops up in definitions of manliness not just in the West, but also in the Eastern cultures like Japan and China.
Laurie Taylor talks to Richard Ocejo, Associate Professor of Sociology at City University of New York and author of a study which explores the renaissance of bartending, distilling, barbering, and butchering, traditionally low status manual labour jobs which are being re-created as upscale careers by middle class, well educated young men. How does this complicate our notions of upward and downward mobility?
Expertise also provided by Professor Phil Hubbard from Kings College London and Professor Ruth Simpson from Brunel Business School.
What happens when a terrorist has a change of heart? An Islamic militant crosses over to work for the CIA, helps to catch the most wanted terrorist in the 90’s and then, one day, vanishes.
How has the oil rich Venezuela managed to fail as a state? Inflation is running at more than 700 per cent, food is scarce and more than 90 people have been killed by the security forces. David Aaronovitch questions the role former president Hugo Chavez and president Maduro played in compounding the crisis and investigates what might lie ahead.
Expertise provided by Dany Bahar from The Brookings Institution, Andrea Murta from Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center of the Atlantic Council and Miguel Tinker-Salas from Pomona College, California.