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We live in a society driven by a relentless pursuit of greatness, where we are constantly pushed to attain the highest levels of wealth, power, and fame. This relentless fixation on greatness leads to stress and anxiety, strains our interpersonal connections, fosters extensive political and economic disparities, and contributes to the deterioration of our natural environment. In his book “The Good-Enough Life” author and educator Avram Alpert explores the idea of whether embracing our limitations could pave the way to a more satisfying existence and a more harmonious society. He explains why the relentless pursuit of competition within our social structure ultimately yields no real advantages for anyone and offers a vision of an alternative way of life—an inclusive, good-enough life for all. In this episode of Bridging the Gaps I speak with Dr Avram Alpert Dr Avram Alpert is a writer and teacher. He has worked at Princeton and Rutgers Universities, and is currently a research fellow at the New Institute in Hamburg. His work has appeared in publications such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Aeon. We begin our conversation by discussing the concept of 'Good-Enough,' a central theme in the book. Following that, we explore the notion of 'greatness.' In particular, I engage Dr. Avram Alpert in a conversation about his perspective on the achievements of individuals who attain success and fame through their dedication and hard work. We also talk about people who have done great things and made society better. Then our discussion shifts toward the idea of fostering a more equitable and just society, emphasising the potential benefits of reduced competition among individuals. We explore the possibility of a society where each person can rediscover a sense of purpose and meaning, and have their material and emotional needs met. Complement this discussion with “Reclaiming Human Intelligence and “How to Stay Smart in a Smart World” with Prof. Gerd Gigerenzer” available at: And then listen to “Cloud Empires: Governing State-like Digital Platforms and Regaining Control with Professor Vili Lehdonvirta” available at:
We experience, thus we exist. Our conscious perceptions form the foundation of our self-awareness. They play a vital role in shaping our understanding of ourselves as sentient beings: present, alive, and significant. However, what is the origin of consciousness, and how does the process of experiencing sensations and developing a sense of awareness contribute to its emergence? Is this capacity limited solely to humans? Do other animals share this ability? And what about the potential for future machines? In his book “Sentience: The Invention of Consciousness” neuropsychologist Professor Nicholas Humphrey uncovers the evolutionary history of consciousness and argues that consciousness evolved to make us feel that life is worth living. Drawing upon his groundbreaking research on social intelligence, as well as his intriguing findings on blindsight in monkeys and profound insights into the philosophy of mind, Professor Humphrey outlines a fascinating narrative to unveil the evolutionary origins of consciousness. In this episode of Bridging the Gaps, I speak with Professor Nicholas Humphrey. Nicholas Humphrey, Emeritus Professor of Psychology at the London School of Economics, is a theoretical psychologist, who studies the evolution of intelligence and consciousness. He was the first to demonstrate the existence of “blindsight” in monkeys. He has also studied mountain gorillas with Dian Fossey in Rwanda, and proposed the celebrated theory of the “social function of intellect,”. His research holds profound significance in exploring and unravelling the mysteries of the mind and its evolutionary underpinnings. We start off by discussing the enigma surrounding the emergence of consciousness and the challenges encountered when attempting to understand its nature and origins. Professor Nicholas Humphrey's book introduces the intriguing concepts of cognitive consciousness and phenomenal consciousness, which we thoroughly explore during our conversation. We then discuss in detail the concept of sentience as presented and explained in this book. We delve into the evolutionary perspective, examining why consciousness became an adaptive trait and how it evolved within living organisms. An intriguing question arises: if our early animal ancestors possessed cognitive consciousness, how did it transition into phenomenal consciousness? Could there exist an observable threshold, such as brain size, neuron count, or processing capacity, at which cognitive consciousness transforms into phenomenal consciousness? We then discuss the fascinating notion of blindsight and its relevance to the theory of consciousness presented in the book. We then delve into the complex concept of sensations, exploring how the firing of neurons and the movement of electric signals within the brain give rise to our subjective experience of consciousness. Lastly, we explore the possibility of consciousness emerging within machines, contemplating its potential evolution beyond organic life. Complement this discussion with ““The Case Against Reality” and The Hard Problem of Consciousness with Professor Donald Hoffman” available at: And then listen to “From Consciousness to Synthetic Consciousness: From One Unknown to Another Unknown with David Chalmers” available at:
Smartness has permeated our lives in the form of smartphones, smart cars, smart homes, and smart cities. It has become a mandate, a pervasive force that governs politics, economics, and the environment. As our world faces increasingly complex challenges, the drive for ubiquitous computing raises important questions. What exactly is this 'smartness mandate'? How did it emerge, and what does it reveal about our evolving understanding and management of reality? How did we come to view the planet and its inhabitants primarily as instruments for data collection? In the book 'The Smartness Mandate,' co-authored by Professor Orit Halpern, the notion of 'smartness' is presented as more than just a technology, it is presented as an epistemology — a way of knowing. In this episode of Bridging the Gaps, I speak with Professor Orit Halpern, where we delve into the concept of smartness. We explore its historical roots and its cultural implications, particularly its emphasis on data-driven technologies and decision-making processes across domains such as urban planning, healthcare, and education. Orit Halpern is Lighthouse Professor and Chair of Digital Cultures and Societal Change at Technische Universität Dresden. She completed her Ph.D. at Harvard. She has held numerous visiting scholar positions including at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, IKKM Weimar, and at Duke University. At present she is working on two projects. The first project is about the history of automation, intelligence, and freedom; and the second project examines extreme infrastructures and the history of experimentation at planetary scales in design, science, and engineering. Our conversation begins by discussing the idea of “smartness” as presented in the book. To understand it better, we look at a few examples. The book suggests that the smartness paradigm relies a lot on collecting data, analysing it, as well as monitoring people through surveillance. We talk about the possible risks and consequences of this data-focused approach for personal privacy and individual rights. Next, we talk about how the smartness idea connects with the concept of resilience. We also touch on the fact, as presented in the book, that the smartness paradigm often reinforces existing power structures and inequalities. We explore the biases and ethical concerns that may arise with the use of these technologies. Furthermore, we explore the possibility of using the smartness approach to promote fairness and equality. We talk about how it could be applied to create a more just society. We discuss the significance of multidisciplinarity, and the role of higher education institutions and educators to create an enabling environment for an informed discourse to address these questions. Professor Orit Halpren emphasises the importance of exploring these questions and addressing relevant concerns to make sure we create the kind of world we truly want for ourselves. Complement this discussion with “Cloud Empires: Governing State-like Digital Platforms and Regaining Control with Professor Vili Lehdonvirta” available at: And then listen to “Reclaiming Human Intelligence and “How to Stay Smart in a Smart World” with Prof. Gerd Gigerenzer” available at:
It is difficult to imagine a not-so-distant past when deadly diseases were a routine part of life. Even more astonishing is the fact that during that time, prevailing medical beliefs attributed these diseases to harmful miasmas, bodily humors, and divine dyspepsia. However, a groundbreaking revelation occurred with the discovery of the world of microorganisms, which led to the understanding that these tiny organisms might be responsible for transmitting and spreading diseases. These pivotal discoveries and understandings paved the way for numerous measures and techniques to prevent the transmission of infectious diseases. The history of epidemics and humanity's progress in combating these diseases is full of captivating stories. In his new book, "Ending Epidemics: A History of Escape from Contagion," prolific author Richard Conniff outlines how our comprehension and prevention of some of the most devastating infectious diseases have advanced, consequently doubling the average life expectancy. In this episode of Bridging the Gaps, I speak with Richard Conniff, delving into moments of inspiration and innovation, decades marked by unwavering determination, and periods of profound suffering that have spurred individuals, institutions, and governments to take action in the pursuit of public health. Richard Conniff is a prolific author of several non-fiction books and many articles for magazines such as National Geographic, Simthsonian, and Time. He is a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times, and a former commentator on NPR's “All Things Considered”. He has won the National Magazine Award. He has also written and presented nature programmes for National Geographic television, the Discovery channel and the BBC. Our conversation begins with an exploration of how communities in old days grappled with epidemics, given their limited understanding of the causes behind such widespread outbreaks. We delve into the intricate ways in which communities tried to comprehend and interpret illnesses before the pivotal discoveries of microorganisms and germs. An engaging segment follows, chronicling the efforts of early pioneers who harnessed the power of microscopes to identify microorganisms believed to be responsible for various diseases. One captivating narrative we explore revolves around the remarkable utilization of cowpox to foster immunity against smallpox—an extraordinary breakthrough in the history of medicine. However, we also address the resistance encountered by these novel ideas and concepts. We then delve into the emergence of the concept of immunity, the discovery of microorganisms, and the subsequent development of vaccines and antibiotics. Additionally, we discuss the profound realization that improved sanitary conditions are indispensable for safeguarding public health. Naturally, our conversation turns towards the recent Covid-19 epidemic, examining humanity's response to this global crisis. Richard offers a significant insight that despite our enhanced capabilities in dealing with epidemics, these formidable diseases persist and may pose future threats if we fail to remain vigilant to the dangers they present. Complement this discussion with “Cloud Empires: Governing State-like Digital Platforms and Regaining Control with Professor Vili Lehdonvirta” available at: And then listen to ““Kendall Square and the Making of a Global Innovation Hub” with Robert Buderi” available at:
Kendall Square, situated in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has earned the reputation of being "the most innovative square mile on the planet." It serves as a vibrant epicentre for life sciences, housing renowned companies such as Biogen, Moderna, Pfizer, Takeda, and many others. Additionally, it stands as a prominent hub for technology, with giants like Google, Microsoft, IBM, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple occupying substantial portions of valuable office space within its bounds. The square is also home to a thriving community of startups, with convenient proximity to leading venture capital firms. Moreover, its proximity to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) further enhances its status as a centre for cutting-edge ideas. In his book "Where Futures Converge: Kendall Square and the Making of a Global Innovation Hub," Robert Buderi shares interesting accounts of visionary innovators and their groundbreaking creations, spanning a remarkable two centuries. In this episode of Bridging the Gaps, I speak with Robert Buderi, exploring the distinctive ecosystem that defines Kendall Square. We discuss various cycles of transformation and reinvention that have propelled its evolution over time. Robert Buderi is an author, journalist, and entrepreneur. He is the author of “Engines of Tomorrow, The Invention That Changed the World”, and other books. He is former Editor-in-Chief of “Technology Review”, and founder of the media company Xconomy. We begin our conversation by talking about Kendall Square's geography, which means where it's located, and its history as a place known for business and innovation. We then take a closer look at the first innovators who chose Kendall Square to start their businesses and create new products and services. We also talk about the advantages of having important academic and research institutions close by and explore the relationship between industry and academia. After that, we shift our focus to the present and talk about what Kendall Square is like today. We explore the different industries, products, and services that are based there. Overall, this is an interesting and informative discussion. Complement this discussion with ““The Technology Trap” and the Future of Work” with Dr Carl Frey” available at: And then listen to “Asking Better Questions for Creative Problem Solving, Innovation and Effective Leadership with Hal Gregersen” available at:
When considering the long-term survival and sustainability of human civilization, two developments hold significant implications. Firstly, humanity has been recklessly depleting resources, causing species extinctions, and degrading essential elements for life on Earth for centuries. Secondly, advancements in the science of discovering habitable planets outside our solar system have opened up the possibility of establishing human civilization beyond our increasingly inhospitable planetary home. In his latest book, "Worlds Without End: Exoplanets, Habitability, and the Future of Humanity," Professor Chris Impey takes readers on a thrilling journey through the frontiers of astronomy and the search for planets that can potentially support life. In this episode of Bridging the Gaps, I speak with Professor Impey about the science behind finding habitable exoplanets, the evolution of space exploration, and the prospect of humans inhabiting a planet far away from our solar system. Chris Impey is a University Distinguished Professor of Astronomy at the University of Arizona. He has made significant contributions to the fields of observational cosmology, astrophysics, particularly in the area of exoplanet research. His expertise and passion for the subject have led to many publications and appearances in documentaries, news outlets, and popular science programmes. He has won numerous teaching awards and authored textbooks and many popular science books. We begin our discussion by examining the historical perspectives on exoplanets, planets beyond our solar system. We then delve into the discovery of the first exoplanet and explore the various methods that scientists have employed to detect these far-off worlds. The Kepler Space Telescope played a pivotal role in this field, and we explore how the James Webb Telescope presents new opportunities for advancing exoplanet research. The diversity of exoplanets is astounding, with variations in size, composition, and orbital characteristics. We delve into these differences and their implications. Additionally, we thoroughly examine the concept of habitability, including how scientists are studying the atmospheric characteristics of these alien worlds. We also touch on the intriguing possibility of orphan planets - large planets without a star - that may sustain habitability characteristics without a sun. We then contemplate the prospect of travelling to these distant planets and potentially establishing human settlements there. We explore the magnitude of such a journey and the challenges involved in interstellar travel. Lastly, we consider the possibility of extraterrestrial life in the universe. Complement this discussion with “Search for Exoplanets: A Discussion with Professor Sara Seager” available at: And then listen to ““The End of Astronauts”, Robotic Space Exploration and Our Future on Earth and Beyond with Professor Martin Rees” available at:
The future of technology is a subject of debate among experts. Some predict a bleak future where robots become dominant, leaving humans behind. Others, known as tech industry boosters, believe that replacing humans with software can lead to a better world. Critics of the tech industry express concern about the negative consequences of surveillance capitalism. Despite these differences, there is a shared belief that machines will eventually surpass humans in most areas. In his recent book "How to Stay Smart in a Smart World: Why Human Intelligence Still Beats Algorithms" professor Gerd Gigerenzer argues against this notion and offers insights on how we can maintain control in a world where algorithms are prevalent. In this episode of Bridging the Gaps, I speak with professor Gerd Gigerenzer to discuss challenges posed by rapid developments in the tech sector, particularly in the field of artificial intelligence. We discuss different approaches that individuals can adopt to enhance their awareness of the potential hazards that come with using such systems and explore strategies to maintain control in a world where algorithms play a significant role. Gerd Gigerenzer is a psychologist and researcher who has made significant contributions to the fields of cognitive psychology and decision-making. He is director emeritus at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, and is director of the Harding Center for Risk Literacy at the University of Potsdam. He is a professor of psychology at the University of Chicago and is a visiting professor at the University of Virginia. His research focuses on how people make decisions under conditions of uncertainty and how to improve people's understanding of risk and probability. He has trained judges, physicians, and managers in decision-making and understanding risk. Our discussion begins by exploring the limitations of present-day narrow and task-specific artificial intelligence systems in dealing with complex scenarios. Professor Gerd Gigerenzer's argument that simple heuristics may outperform complex algorithms in solving complex problems is particularly noteworthy. In fact, in some complex scenarios, relying on our intuition or "gut feelings" may result in better decisions than relying on sophisticated technological systems. We then discuss the importance of assessing the risks associated with using seemingly free services that actually collect and exploit users' data and information to sustain their business models. We delve into the topic of recommender systems that subtly influence users' choices by nudging them towards certain features, services, or information. Next, we examine various strategies for individuals to become more mindful of the potential risks associated with using such systems, and consider ways to maintain control in a world where algorithms wield considerable influence. This has been an insightful discussion. Complement this discussion with ““Machines like Us: TOWARD AI WITH COMMON SENSE” with Professor Ronald Brachman” available at: And then listen to ““Philosophy of Technology” with Professor Peter-Paul Verbeek” available at:
The ancient ambition of exploring the cosmos and possibly even inhabiting other planets may one day come true, as we discover more and more exoplanets and intend to develop innovative propulsion techniques suitable for interstellar travel. Projects like 100 Year Starship and Breakthrough Starshot enable us to study the challenges involved with a view to develop solutions, furthering the idea of interstellar travel. In his new book “A Traveller’s Guide to the Stars” physicist and Nasa Technologist Les Johnson takes the readers on an exciting journey through the science and innovations that could help us get to the stars.The book gives a thorough account of the next great frontier of human exploration, outlining exclusive inside look at the amazing advances in science and technology that will aid today's astronauts in setting out for the stars. Les Johnson is a physicist, author, and NASA technologist. He leads the development of advanced, in-space spacecraft propulsion technologies at the NASA George C. Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. During his career at NASA, Les served as the Manager for the Space Science Programs and Projects Office, the In-Space Propulsion Technology Project, and the Interstellar Propulsion Research Project. We begin by reviewing the impact of discovery of exoplanets on the ambition of travelling to and inhibiting these distant alien worlds. Next we look at the precursors that we must take into consideration before building the ships and embarking on interstellar journeys. We discuss in detail the presently used propulsion technologies and evaluate their shortcomings for interstellar journeys. While discussing the future, we first discuss in detail two rocket technologies of the future: nuclear fusion and antimatter. Then we discuss in detail the innovative and promising propulsion approaches such as solar sails and laser-beamed energy. We discuss in detail how these technologies may one day enable us to embark on interstellar journeys. Les Johnson has written a number of science fiction books; I ask him to expand on his view that science fiction is an effective tool to imagine future technologies. No discussion on the topic of space exploration is complete without discussing the possibility of life out there; we discuss this as I ask Les to give us his views on the possibility of life out there and on the question “are we alone”. This has been a fantastic discussion. Complement this discussion with ““The Next 500 Years: Engineering Life to Reach New Worlds” with Professor Christopher Mason” available at: And then listen to ““The End of Astronauts”, Robotic Space Exploration and Our Future on Earth and Beyond with Professor Martin Rees” available at:
Looking for the earliest galaxies is like travelling back in time. Something that astronomers do all the time. Astronomers use huge and powerful telescopes to see not only farther and deeper into space, but also back in time. The hunt for the oldest galaxies using observational astronomy needs not only a thorough grasp of the physics and chemistry of the early cosmos, but also the human ingenuity of building large size telescopes and designing innovative instrumentation. Large and complicated telescopes, as well as supporting processes, techniques, and devices, allow astronomers to make more clear and accurate observations in their search for the first galaxies. In his new book “When Galaxies Were Born: The Quest for Cosmic Dawn” professor Richard Ellis presents a firsthand narrative of how a pioneering group of scientists used the world's greatest telescopes to unravel the history of the universe and witness cosmic dawn, when starlight first illuminated the cosmos and galaxies formed from darkness. The book also gives a narrative of a golden age of astronomy, outlining many achievements and disappointments, and discussing rivalries with competing teams. This is also an account of professor Elis’s remarkable career spanning more than forty years. In this episode of Bridging the Gaps I speak with professor Richard Ellis. We discuss amazing progres that astronomers have made in building ever larger and more powerful telescopes; we also dig deep on the fascinating research on the birth of galaxies and our quest for the cosmic dawn. Richard S. Ellis is professor of astrophysics at University College London and a world-renowned observational astronomer who has made numerous discoveries about the nature and evolution of the universe. We start off discussing the human aspects of observational astronomy where teams from all over the world first compete for participating in constructing large telescopes and then compete for securing blocks of time to make observations. We review the taxonomy of large and most powerful ground based telescopes and discuss effectiveness and contribution of space telescopes towards observational astronomy. First light in the universe and the assembly of galaxies in the early universe are among the four main areas that the James Webb Space Telescope will focus on. We dig deep on these points, and what expectations researchers have from this new space telescope. We then discuss how human ingenuity has led to the development of techniques such as adaptive mirrors and application of gravitational lensing to improve our observations. We then focus on the cutting edge research on the quest for cosmic dawn and dig deep on the physics and chemistry of the early universe. We discuss the role dark matter might have played in the formation of early galaxies. We also touch upon the origin of life in the universe, and briefly debate the question “are we alone”. This has been a fun discussion that is highly informative. Complement this discussion with ""Exploring the Mysteries of Our Universe’s First Seconds" with Dr Dan Hooper” available at: And then listen to ""The End of Everything (Astrophysically Speaking)” with Dr Katie Mack” available at:
The rise of the platform economy puts state-like power in the hands of platform owners with little or no accountability. Over the past few decades, the chaotic and lawless early Internet evolved into a digital reality where e-commerce and digital services platform owners dictate decisions that affect millions living in different countries and jurisdictions. In his book “Cloud Empires: How Digital Platforms Are Overtaking the State and How We Can Regain Control” professor Vili Lehdonvirta explains how tech platforms got to where they are. The book outlines the history and evolution of tech platforms by telling the stories of individuals, the role they played in shaping and reshaping the Internet leading to the present day digital reality. Lehdonvirta emphasises that we can only begin to democratise digital platforms if we recognize them for what they are: institutions as powerful as the state. In this episode of Bridging the Gaps, I speak with Professor Vili Lehdonvirta; we discuss the book, the new social order established by the digital platform companies, and how the accumulated power of platforms could be challenged to hold them more accountable and to regain control. Vili Lehdonvirta is Professor of Economic Sociology and Digital Social Research at the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford. His research examines how digital technologies are used to reshape the organisation of economic activities in society. His research focuses on the questions such as what are the implications to workers, entrepreneurs, and states, and how can this digital economy be governed? His research draws on theories and approaches from economic sociology, political economy, industrial relations, new institutional economics, and science and technology studies. We begin by discussing the chaotic and lawless days of the early Internet. We explore the emergence of the underlying theme to resist the undue influence of outsiders and to resist government regulations in favour of giving users more control, even in the early days of Usenet. We then discuss the emergence of Bitcoin in the context of a number of historic parallels such as the medieval economy and the Athenian peasant revolt. We explore the possibility, or perhaps the impossibility, of achieving true neutrality and privacy using BitCoin. At this point we start looking at the true nature of state-like powers accumulated by today’s cloud empires. An interesting point we touch upon is that similar to independent states and sovereign countries, are these state-like cloud empires protecting their users. We then look at the legal rights of employees working in these giant organisations. Finally we look at the two questions that emerge from the subtitle of the book “How digital platforms are overtaking the state and how we can regain control”. The first question is why it is important that we take back control, and the second question is, how should we do this. This has been an enlightening and thought provoking discussion. Complement this discussion with ““Working with AI: Real Stories of Human-Machine Collaboration” with Professor Thomas Davenport and Professor Steven Miller” available at: And then listen to ““Philosophy of Technology” with Professor Peter-Paul Verbeek” available at:
The heartbeat may be the first physical manifestation of an unborn child that can be seen six weeks after conception, and it continues roughly 100,000 times per day for as long as we are alive. Scientists and researchers have attempted to recreate the heart's flawless engineering for decades in labs all around the world, but have been unsuccessful. Its exact operation and capacity to meet both our bodily and emotional demands makes it a marvel of engineering that is unmatched by anything built by humans. Any damage to this vital organ of the human body could result in problems that are potentially fatal. In this episode of Bridging the Gaps I speak with professor Sian Harding about new scientific developments that are opening up the mysteries of the heart, as outlined in her new book “The Exquisite Machine: The New Science of the Heart”. We discuss cutting-edge technologies such as stem cells, gene editing, artificial intelligence and big data that have crucial real-world consequences for health and well-being.These technologies are enabling experiments and clinical trials that will lead to the development of new treatments for heart diseases. Professor Sian Harding is a leading authority in cardiac science, and emeritus professor of cardiac pharmacology in Imperial College London. She was special advisor to the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee on Regenerative Medicine, and has been awarded the Imperial College Medal and a lifetime achievement award from the European Society of Cardiology. We start off with a detailed discussion of how our present day understanding of the functioning of the human heart developed. We then discuss the cutting edge research on cardiac stem cells, touching upon the experiments where a small number of beating cells were created in the labs. The application of Artificial Intelligence and Big Data Analytics are playing an important role in the field of cardiac research; we go through these topics in detail. Plasticity is a concept that we associate with the brain and its ability to rewire itself to manage any damage or other changes; We discuss the term plastic brain that Sian Harding uses in the book while explaining the resilience of our heart. We then discuss the nervous system that ensures that the heart responds to changing needs. We look into the relation between the emotions and functioning of the heart, discussing that the heart not only responds to our emotions but creates emotions as well. And finally we touch upon the importance of keeping “gender” in mind when developing and implementing solutions for heart related diseases and problems. This has been a highly informative discussion. Complement this discussion with ““Zero to Birth: How the Human Brain Is Built” with Professor William Harris” available at: And then listen to ““The Next 500 Years: Engineering Life to Reach New Worlds” with Professor Christopher Mason” available at:
There is a widespread view that artificial intelligence is a job destroyer technical endeavour. There is both enthusiasm and doom around automation and the use of artificial intelligence-enabled "smart" solutions at work. In their latest book “Working with AI: Real Stories of Human-Machine Collaboration”, management and technology experts professor Thomas Davenport and professor Steven Miller explain that AI is not primarily a job destroyer, despite popular predictions, prescriptions, and condemnation. Rather, AI alters the way we work by automating specific tasks but not entire careers, and thus freeing people to do more important and difficult work. In the book, they demonstrate that AI in the workplace is not the stuff of science fiction; it is currently happening to many businesses and workers. They provide extensive, real-world case studies of AI-augmented occupations in contexts ranging from finance to the manufacturing floor. In this episode of Bridging the Gaps I speak with professor Thomas Davenport and professor Steven Miller to discuss their fascinating research, and to talk through various case studies and real work use cases that they outline in the book. We discuss the impact of Artificial intelligence technologies on the job market and on the future of work. We also discuss future hybrid working environments where AI and Humans will work side by side. Professor Thomas Davenport is a Distinguished Professor of Information Technology and Management at Babson College, a visiting professor at the Oxford University and a Fellow of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy. Steven Miller is Professor Emeritus of Information Systems at Singapore Management University. We begin our discussion by looking at various aspects of the environments where AI and human workers work side by side, and then discuss the concept of Hybrid Intelligence. Then we talk about the challenges that organisations are faced with while developing and implementing Artificial Intelligence enabled technologies and solutions in enterprise environments. An important question that I raise during our discussion is, are the organisations ready for large scale deployment of AI solutions. The book is full of real world case studies and covers a wide variety of use cases. We delve into a number of these real world case studies and use cases. This has been a very informative discussion. Complement this discussion with ““The Technology Trap” and the Future of Work” with Dr Carl Frey” available at: And then listen to ““Machines like Us: TOWARD AI WITH COMMON SENSE” with Professor Ronald Brachman” available at:
A single fertilised egg generates an embryo. Different cell types in this embryo develop into various organs of a new human being, including a new human brain. Everything starts with a single fertilised egg, and in the embryo, some embryonic cells develop into neural stem cells that construct the brain. By the time a baby is born, its brain is already made up of billions of precisely designed neurons that are connected by trillions of synapses to form a small, compact but incredibly powerful supercomputer. In his recent book “Zero to Birth: How the Human Brain Is Built” pioneering experimental neurobiologist professor William Harris takes the reader on an incredible journey to the very edge of creation, from the moment an egg is fertilised to every stage of a human brain's development in the womb — and even a bit beyond. In this episode of Bridging the Gaps, I speak with Professor William Harris the process of how the brain is built. William Harris is professor emeritus of anatomy at the University of Cambridge. He is the coauthor of Development of the Nervous System and Genetic Neurobiology and the co-editor of Retinal Development. He is a fellow of the Royal Society. We begin by examining the evolutionary history of the brain, which spans billions of years and in the Proterozoic eon, when multicellular animals first descended from single-celled organisms, and then we discuss how the development of a fetal brain over the course of nine months reflects the brain's evolution through the ages. We discuss the emergence of first neural stem cells and how the formation of the neural plate and then its progress to the neural tube give the first glimpses of the development of the brain in an embryo. We discuss in detail how cells divide and create neural stem cells and then how these stem cells start producing neurons. A fascinating topic that we then cover is how individual neurons form connections with other neurons. Professor Harris explains how comparative animal studies have been crucial to understanding what makes a human brain human, and how advances in science are assisting us in understanding many qualities that don't manifest until later in life. This has been a fascinating discussion on an intriguing topic. Complement this discussion with “The Spike: Journey of Electric Signals in Brain from Perception to Action with Professor Mark Humphries” available at: And then listen to “The Self-Assembling Brain” and the Quest for Artificial General Intelligence with Professor Peter Robin Hiesinger available at:
What is the true nature of reality? Does the objective reality reported back by our senses paint a complete picture of the true reality? Is it possible that the world we see is not objective reality and it is just an interface to a deeper, true reality. In his book “The Case Against Reality: Why Evolution Hid the Truth from Our Eyes” cognitive scientist Donald Hoffman Challenges leading scientific theories that claim that our senses report back objective reality. He argues that while we should take our perceptions seriously, we should not take them literally. He presents the evolutionary concept of "Fitness Beats Truth" to demonstrate that evolution very probably moulded our minds for fitness rather than accuracy, resulting in the mismatch between "things-in-themselves" and our perceptions of them. In this episode of Bridging the Gaps I speak with professor Donal Hoffman; we discuss his “Interface Theory of Perception” and dig deep on latest research in cognitive science and perception, and how it relates to our understanding of the true nature of reality. Donald Hoffman is a professor of Cognitive Sciences at the University of California, Irvine. He is a cognitive psychologist and popular science author. His research focuses on perception, evolution, and consciousness. We begin by discussing the present understanding of the hard problem of consciousness. Then we talk about Hoffman’s view that all main scientific theories, such as Einstein's theory, theories and our present understanding of Quantum Physics and the theory of natural selection, all inform us that our present approach of trying to understand reality is not working. I then ask him that why in his view we have evolved in a manner that we don’t see the real underlying reality and we just perceive a superficial realty. We then discuss in detail his theory and ideas about the nature of reality. We touch upon the question that do we live in a simulation. We also discuss Panpsychism. Finally I ask that how the research on the question of the true nature of reality should proceed. Complement this discussion with “From Consciousness to Synthetic Consciousness: From One Unknown to Another Unknown with David Chalmers” available at: And then listen to “Why You Are Not Your Brain? A Conversation on Consciousness with Alva Noe” available at:
We live in an age of increasing complexity and uncertainty. We live in a time when humanity faces extremely complex challenges. Our ability, or lack thereof, to create solutions to such extremely complicated challenges may determine our long-term survival as a civilization. The question is: is our existing style of thinking adequate, or do we require a new style of thinking in order to innovate and lead into the future. In their recent book Julio Ottino and Bruce Mau make a case for “The Nexus”, a radically new way of thinking — one in which art, technology, and science converge to expand our creativity and augment our insight. In this episode or Bridging the Gaps I speak with Julio Ottino who explains “the Nexus” and guides us how to embrace the powerful idea of complementarity, where opposing extremes coexist. We discuss how blurring the lines between the three major realms of human creation — art, technology, and science — results in a significant expansion of thinking spaces and a richness of potential ideas. Julio Ottino is Dean of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and a professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Northwestern University, in Illinois. He is also the founding co-director of Northwestern University's Institute on Complex Systems. He is a thought leader, author, artist, and internationally recognized researcher in chaos theory and complex systems whose work has been featured in “Nature”, “Science”, and “Scientific American”. We begin our discussion by looking back at the time before the divergence of disciplines and how key figures in science immensely benefited from talents and skills in a variety of fields. Then we talk about how, when, and why the disciplines diverged. We delve into the concept of "the Nexus" and discuss whole-brain thinking. The book is jam-packed with wonderful photographs and diagrams. I ask Professor Ottino to describe the process that he followed to write this book. This has been a wonderful discussion. Complement this discussion with “Asking Better Questions for Creative Problem Solving, Innovation and Effective Leadership with Hal Gregersen” available at: And with ““Learning How to Learn”: Techniques to Help You Learn with Dr Barbra Oakley” available at: And the listen to “Multiple Intelligences, Future Minds and Educating The App Generation: A discussion with Dr Howard Gardner” available at:
There is a consensus among the researchers in the field of artificial intelligence and machine learning that today’s artificial intelligence systems are narrowly focused, are designed to tackle specialised tasks and cannot operate in general settings. An important feature of the human brain that enables us to operate in general settings, and in unfamiliar situations is our common sense. In their new book “Machines like Us: TOWARD AI WITH COMMON SENSE” Hector Levesque and Ronald Brachman explain “why current AI systems hopelessly lack common sense, why they desperately need it, and how they can get it”. In this episode of Bridging the Gaps, I speak with Professor Ronald Brachman, one of the authors of this book. We discuss various topics covered in the book and explore the question, how we can create artificial intelligence with broad, robust common sense rather than narrow, specialised expertise. Professor Ron Brachman is the director of the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute and is a professor of computer science at Cornell University. Previously, he was the Chief Scientist of Yahoo! and head of Yahoo! Labs. Prior to that, he was the Associate Head of Yahoo! Labs and Head of Worldwide Labs and Research Operations. We start off with a detailed discussion about the progress that we have made in recent decades, in developing narrowly focused and task oriented artificial intelligence systems. Some of these systems outperform humans; however we do acknowledge and discuss the need for developing artificial intelligence systems that can operate in general settings. We discuss the concept of artificial general intelligence and explore how understanding “human common sense” and equipping AI with common sense is an extremely important milestone in our journey toward developing artificial general intelligence. We discuss the challenge of developing a clear and thorough understanding of the nature and working of human common sense. We explore how “common sense” might be modelled and incorporated in future artificial intelligence systems. We then discuss the future of artificial general intelligence. Complement this discussion with ““Artificial Intelligence: A Guide for Thinking Humans” with Professor Melanie Mitchell” available at: And with “Artificial Intelligence: Fascinating Opportunities and Emerging Challenges with Professor Bart Selman” available at: And the listen to ““2062: The World That AI Made” with Professor Toby Walsh” available at:
We are the only known species that understands species go extinct. We also understand that climate calamity, apocalyptic war, or the demise of the sun in a few billion years will all inevitably bring life on Earth to an end. So it is extremely important we do whatever we can to avoid extinction. We have a moral obligation to prevent extinction, and we have a responsibility to act as life-form shepherds—not just for our species, but for all species on which we rely, as well as those yet to come. This may involve finding a new home planet, developing innovative ways to undertake long haul space journeys. This may also involve re-engineering life and human genetics for travelling to, and for surviving on other worlds. Dr Christopher Mason argues in his provocative and engaging book “The Next 500 Years: Engineering Life to Reach New Worlds” that we have a moral duty to do just that. In this episode of Bridging the Gaps I speak with Dr Christopher Mason and we discuss his inspiring vision of the next 500 years of spaceflight and human exploration. Dr Christopher Mason is a professor of genomics, physiology, and biophysics at Weill Cornell Medicine and the Director of the WorldQuant Initiative for Quantitative Prediction. He is a geneticist and computational biologist who has been a Principal Investigator and Co-investigator of 11 NASA missions and projects. We start by discussing the moral obligation, moral duty that we must protect our species against extinction and to ensure that life continues. We discuss the impact of living in hard and unfamiliar environment of space on the human body and talk through the findings of “the Twin Study” which examines the impact of nearly a full year in space on astronaut Scott Kelly, using his identical brother Mark as control. We then discuss moral and ethical dimensions of engineering life and making changes in human genome and undertaking genetic modifications of humans. We review the 500 years plan that Dr Chris Mason presents in this book and go through various phases of this plan. We talk about engineering of genomes, cellular engineering, synthetic biology and preparing humans for long haul space flights. We discuss in detail how CRISPR tool works and what it enables us to do. We also discuss feature and functional re-engineering of the human genome by borrowing features and functions from other species. We once again touch upon moral, ethical, and social implications of re-engineering life and try to imagine a future full of variety of life forms evolved through directed and iterative re-engineering of life, coming from the same source that is human. Complement this discussion with ""The End of Astronauts”, Robotic Space Exploration and Our Future on Earth and Beyond with Professor Martin Rees” available at: And then listen to ""Nano Comes to Life”: DNA NanoTech, Medicine and the Future of Biology with Professor Sonia Contera” available at:
Can living scientifically empower us to navigate the complexities of today’s complex and unpredictable world? Can the joy of critical thinking and the effectiveness of the scientific method assist us in making better decisions? Can living a more rational life help us navigate modern life more confidently? In his new book “The Joy of Science” acclaimed physicist Jim Al-Khalili invites readers to engage with the world as scientists have been trained to do. He shows how the fundamental principles at the heart of scientific thinking, as well as the scientific process, are profoundly relevant to the perplexing times we live in and the tough choices we make. In this episode of Bridging the Gaps, I speak with professor Jim Al-Khalili and we thoroughly discuss very interesting and deeply intriguing ideas that he presents in this book. Professor Jim Al-Khalili is a theoretical physicist at the University of Surrey where he holds a Distinguished Chair in physics as well as a university chair in the public engagement in science. He is a prominent author, broadcaster and one of Britain’s best-known science communicators. I start our discussion with the question that how the discipline of science should be perceived. We acknowledge that there are many ways scientific work is carried out in many different disciplines. We discuss the issue of “relative truth” and how biases held by individuals impact their opinions and distort their view and lead them to their own version of truth. We explore how science deals with the issue of relative truth. We probe how the scientific method enables us to continue researching in the presence of uncertainty. We investigate the impact of misinformation and disinformation on the disciple and cause of science. We also touch upon how rational humans can become; can we think rationally only up to certain point. We discuss in detail how scientific information should be presented to policy makers that should enable and empower them to make better decisions and to make the right choices. Finally, I ask Professor Jim Al-Khalili to tell us about his research in the field of open quantum systems. This has been a fantastic discussion. Complement this with “Asking Better Questions for Creative Problem Solving, Innovation and Effective Leadership with Hal Gregersen” available at: And then listen to “On Public Communication of Science and Technology with Professor Bruce Lewenstein” available at:
Recent developments in the field of Artificial Intelligence are fascinating as well as terrifying; there are extravagant promises as well as frustrating setbacks; there is great progress in narrowly focused AI applications, and there is lack of progress in the field of Artificial General Intelligence. In this episode of Bridging the Gaps I speak with professor Melanie Mitchell and we discuss the history, recent successes, huge expectations and emerging fears and frustrations in the field of Artificial Intelligence. We discuss fascinating and intriguing research that professor Melanie Mitchell discusses in her book "Artificial Intelligence: A Guide for Thinking Humans". Melanie Mitchell is a professor of complexity at the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico. Her research focuses on genetic algorithms, conceptual abstraction, analogy-making and visual recognition in Artificial Intelligence Systems. Professor Mitchell originated the Santa Fe Institute's Complexity Explorer project, an online learning resource for complex systems. We begin our discussion by reviewing the history of this fascinating field and by discussing initial claims and hype that emerged at the start. We then discuss the transition from rule-based AI systems to machine learning approaches. We look into the successes of AI in narrowly defined task-based systems; we discuss the anomalies that emerge when the data is mildly changed. We then discuss the future development in this field and the challenges involved in making any meaningful progress towards Artificial General Intelligence and creating common sense in AI systems. The challenge of creating common sense seems similar to the challenge of finding and understanding dark matter in the field of physics, we discuss this. We look into the profound disconnect between the continuing hype and the actual achievements in AI, what the field has accomplished and how much further it has to go. We also discuss the approach of conceptual abstraction and incorporating analogy-making in AI systems. This has been a fascinating discussion about this ambitious and thought-provoking field. Complement this discussion with Artificial Intelligence: Fascinating Opportunities and Emerging Challenges with Professor Bart Selman available at: And then listen to “2062: The World That AI Made” with Professor Toby Walsh available at:
Human space exploration is challenging as well as fascinating. However, the excitement of space flight for astronauts comes at a high cost and is riddled with danger. As our robot explorers become more capable, governments and corporations must consider whether the ambition to send astronauts to the Moon and Mars is worth the cost and risk. In this episode of Bridging the Gaps, I speak with professor Martin Rees who is one of the authors of “The End of Astronauts: Why Robots Are the Future of Exploration”. The book makes the provocative argument for space exploration without astronauts and suggests that beyond low-Earth orbit, space exploration should proceed without humans. In this discussion, we also touch upon some intriguing points the professor Martin Rees discusses in one of his previous books “On the Future: Prospects for Humanity”. Martin Rees is an emeritus professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics at the University of Cambridge. He is the UK’s Astronomer Royal, a fellow of Trinity College and a co-founder of the Centre for the Study of Existential Risks at Cambridge University (CSER). We start by discussing our fascination with human space journeys and exploration. We discuss the title of the book “The End of Astronauts” which seems a bit strong. We then discuss the progress in developing better and smarter robots for robotic space exploration. We discuss the progress made by private space companies in reducing the cost for space missions. Professor Rees emphasise the point that space is hostile and difficult environment and we should avoid using terms as space tourism, instead you should call it space adventures. We then discuss the book “On the Future: Prospects for Humanity” and touch upon topics such as colonisations of Mars, post human era; genetic engineering and our future on earth and beyond. Complement this discussion by listening to “Everything a Curious Mind Should Know About Planetary Ring Systems” with Dr Mark Showalter available at: And then listen to “Spitzer Space Telescope: Discovering “More Things in the Heavens”” with NASA’s Spitzer Project Scientist Michael Werner available at:
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