Finally, formally, this is where The Conversation ends. If you’ve been a contemporaneous listener, thanks for joining on this epic trip. If you’re just discovering The Conversation, welcome! This might be a more interesting place to begin than the beginning, though you should go there next.]]>
Lisa “Tiny” Gray-Garcia is a writer, organizer, activist, poet, and self-proclaimed poverty scholar. She is the only interviewee in The Conversation who has spent a good portion of her life houseless (a term she prefers over homeless), and a lot of her work has addressed issues of poverty. In addition to being a prolific writer of articles she is the author of Criminal of Poverty, the founder of Poor Magazine, the driving force behind the Homefulness Project.
When I recorded this interview in the summer of 2013, I did not expect it to be the final interview I would record for The Conversation, yet it makes a better conclusion that I could have anticipated. Lisa’s voice at the end of the project casts the earlier episodes in a different light. This interview reminds us that grand speculation about the distant future—and even mundane speculation about the near future—is often the privilege of affluence, just as it is beset by the blind spots of the affluent. That doesn’t cheapen any of the fascinating interviewees in The Conversation, but it does remind us that The Conversation is, almost by definition, not as inclusive as we want it to be. A lot of people are too busy surviving to join in The Conversation.
Though this is the final interview, it is not the final episode. Expect that soon.]]>
Rebecca Solnit is an author, activist, historian, and geographer, among other things. Her books include A Paradise Built in Hell, A Field Guide to Getting Lost, and Men Explain Things to Me. She’s also a regular contributor to Harpers, The Nation, and The Guardian.
This interview was recorded on June 19th, 2013.]]>
Peter Gleick researches water and water policy at the Pacific Institute. In addition to co-founding the Pacific Institute, Gleick is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, has won a MacArthur Genius Fellowship for his work, and has been instrumental in the United Nation’s designation of water as a human right. If you want to learn more about what he has been up to since this interview, you should check out his Twitter feed–it’s voluminous. I learned about Peter through Lawrence Torcello, who you can hear in episode 29.
Unsurprisingly, this conversation is generally about water, though we also spoke about population in more detail than any interview since John Seager. You will also catch a few oblique glimpses of the philosophy of science as I ask Peter about the importance of cultural beliefs versus scientific knowledge in determining policy.]]>
Kim Stanley Robinson is one of the biggest names in current science fiction. His most famous work is, arguably, the Mars Trilogy, but he is the author of seventeen novels and several collections of short stories. I could easily overburden you with biographical details and lists of his accolades, but I’ll leave that to this very comprehensive fan page.
I learned about Stan through my interview with Tim Morton in 2012—they are friends and, at the time, both lived in Davis. It took a year but, when I next passed through Davis, I was fortunate enough to get three hours to sit down with Stan and talk about the future. I was especially interested in Stan’s work because he is an incredible researcher and regularly uses his fiction to explore a variety of plausible economic, scientific, ecological, and social futures. In other words, he uses fiction to ask many of the same questions that we have been asking our interviewees throughout the project. The result, I think, is one of the strongest and most wide-ranging interviews in The Conversation.]]>
Rebecca Costa is a self-proclaimed sociobiologist, author of The Watchman’s Rattle: A Radical New Theory of Collapse, and host of the radio program The Costa Report.
Throughout The Conversation we have regularly talked about the question of cognitive limits in an increasingly complex society, but we have only addressed the idea in passing. Wanting to dedicate a full episode to cognitive limits, we launched a search for interviewees that lead us straight to Rebecca Costa. There are lots of connections in this episode, but the most developed ones are with Joseph Tainter and George Lakoff.
The Lakoff connection is especially interesting because, like him, Rebecca calls our attention to the biology of the mind—in essence, calling us to recognize what kind of animal we truly are. Both cite science to support their claims about how we think and behave, yet both have radically different conceptions of what the human animal is and the scope of reason in the mind.]]>
Rainey Reitman is the Activism Director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation and a co-founder of both the Freedom of the Press Foundation and Chelsea Manning Support Network. My conversation with Rainey is, in many ways, the logical extension of my conversation with James Bamford about digital surveillance and privacy. But while Bamford discussed the extent and mechanisms of surveillance, that conversation didn’t get far from diagnosis into treatment. Enter Rainey, who spends her days trying to make issues of digital liberties comprehensible and relevant.
We only had an hour for our interview so I wasn’t able to pivot from digital liberties towards the bigger picture issues that I usually aim for, but there’s still a ton of good material in here. Neil and I were especially interested in analogies between physical and digital space and questions of public versus private ownership. More about that in the outtro.]]>
George Lakoff is one of the most influential living linguists. He has revolutionized how we think about metaphor’s role in cognition, the grounding of metaphor in the human body, and the metaphorical basis of mathemetics. Equally important, Lakoff is extremely active outside of the lab, as a teacher, author, speaker, and political consultant. His books include Metaphors We Live By, Don’t Think of an Elephant, and Moral Politics.
I spoke to George for two hours and, I think it’s fair to say, he constructs the largest system of interconnected theories yet featured in The Conversation—which is something you can do when you’re a polymath with four decades of research under your belt. Our first hour was spent with me trying to get a comprehensive outline of the system and its various moving parts, while our second hour had a more conversational rhythm as we discussed the philosophy of science and implications of his research. As always, I’ve edited the full interview down to a manageable size.
There were a lot of potential connections between Lakoff and other interviewees in The Conversation but, unfortunately, time constraints made it hard to explore most of the paths that opened up. Despite that, this is an epic conversation and, whether you find it revelatory or maddening, it is worth every minute of your time.]]>
Charles Hugh Smith is an economics writer, former builder, and general renaissance man who blogs at oftwominds.com. In 2012 CNBC dubbed Charles as one of their top alternative financial bloggers.
I learned about Charles when a listener sent me a link to his blog—and I’m quite happy he did. My conversation with Charles was one of the most conversational interviews I’ve recorded, which wasn’t just fun for me, it also makes for a very dynamic episode. We talk about (comparatively) rosy collapse scenerios, parallel economies, the possibilities and limits of desktop fabrication, and why you should be out paving a bike lane. Listen for connections to Joseph Tainter and Douglas Ruskoff.
After our conversation, Charles engaged further with some of the questions we discussed in his short essay An Abundance of Bad Decisions.]]>
We’ve been away for a long, long time. But now we’re back with the remaining nine episodes of The Conversation. All of these were recorded in 2013 but we don’t feel that they’re remotely dated–this is the beauty of talking about philosophy rather than daily news grist. Jason Kelly Johnson is one of the co-founders of Future Cities Lab, an experimental architecture and design firm in San Francisco, CA. Among other things, we spoke about cities, buildings, permeability, and nostalgia.]]>