On Shifting Ground

It is often assumed that the advancement of technology will give rise to solutions for all of humankind's problems. With the rise of smart phones and wearable technology we are now able to track everything about ourselves, from our health and biological functions to our work, exercise, sleep and eating habits. Soon technology will go even further in its integration in every facet of our lives. Everything about us will be recorded, saved and made available to us anywhere at any time. Long gone will be the days of waiting in line to vote, instead selections will be made instantly on your phone or computer. Crime prevention will not need people, but will be left to complex algorithms that predict who, where and when crime will occur. Newspapers will be fully customized to each individual reader's views and preferences. Some say this is the way of the future and the path to an efficient, transparent and perfect society. One of today's most respected cyber-philosophers, Evgeny Morozov, takes a different view. While technology can improve our lives, it is not a panacea for all our problems, and the blind acceptance of the technological elimination of the frictions, opacity, ambiguity and imperfection inherent in human life poses a serious threat to society and the democracy we cherish.

Speaker: Evgeny Morozov, Contributing Editor, The New Republic

Moderator: Andrew Woods, Cybersecurity Fellow, CISC, Stanford University

Direct download: 5_15_13_Evgeny_Morozov.mp3
Category:News & Politics -- posted at: 9:00am PST

The civil war and humanitarian crisis in Syria has produced more than 1 million refugees, and within this staggering statistic is a more troublesome number: 51% of those refugees are children. Other recent disasters, from the earthquake in Haiti to flooding in the Philippines, have produced similar situations. As UNICEF’s Chief of Child Protection, Susan Bissell has seen firsthand how children in disasters and humanitarian crises become easy targets for human trafficking, recruitment by armed forces, and child labor. Working across 170 countries, Bissell guides UNICEF’s programs which work to prevent and respond to children affected by armed conflicts and humanitarian disasters.

Speaker: Susan Bissell, Chief of Child Protection, UNICEF

Direct download: 5_9_13_Susan_Bissell_v2.mp3
Category:News & Politics -- posted at: 6:00pm PST

On March 5 Hugo Chávez passed away after succumbing to a long battle with cancer, leaving behind a complex legacy, a political movement often referred to as 'Chavismo.' Many around the world mourned the loss of the leader, while others looked ahead to a new future for Venezuela. Indeed his rise to fame and eventual occupation of Venezuela's most powerful position was nothing short of legendary. Democratically elected by wide margins, Chávez was president for fourteen years. During this time he pulled thousands of citizens out of poverty with his '21st Century Socialism' mandate that provided, among other things, healthcare to the poor and massive gas subsidies. Throughout this time he also consolidated government authority under the presidency, jailed and excommunicated political opponents, and courted world leaders such as Ahmadinejad, Gadhafi and Castro. Even though the country sat atop vast oil wealth, Chávez presided over a crumbling infrastructure, a significant rise in crime rates and food shortages. His successor will have huge shoes to fill, and will face the challenging task of rebuilding the country. Rory Carroll, the former Latin America Bureau Chief for The Guardian, is well positioned to speak about the future of Venezuela after Chávez.

Speaker: Rory Carroll, US West Coast Bureau Chief, The Guardian

Moderator: Terry Vogt, Trustee, World Affairs Council of Northern California

Direct download: 5_6_13_Rory_Carroll.mp3
Category:News & Politics -- posted at: 11:30am PST

Saudi Arabia is the world's largest exporter of oil, a key US ally and one of the last absolute monarchies. It is a country of extremes; while it is controlled by a small group of ruling princes with an average age of 81, 60% of its population is under 20. Healthcare and education are free, gasoline is cheaper than water, there are no taxes and everyone receives subsidized energy. It is considered key to stability in the Middle East, yet it is known for producing terrorists, most notoriously Osama Bin Laden. Only recently were women granted the right to get photo identification and start a business, but they are still not allowed to drive or take on most jobs. Despite all of this Karen Elliot House argues that the majority of Saudis do not want democracy per se, but more transparency and a government based on law instead of royal fiat. House will discuss her assessment of Saudi Arabia's future and the choices facing the next generation of Saudi ruling princes.

Speaker: Karen House, Adjunct Fellow, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

Direct download: 5_2_13_Karen_House.mp3
Category:News & Politics -- posted at: 1:00pm PST

Reviewing the past few decades of Burmese history, 2012 might come to pass as one of its most significant years. What started with a visit by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton quickly evolved into a historic visit by President Barack Obama this past November, and as political prisoners have been released and US sanctions eased Burma has shown signs of improved respect for democratic values, but continued ethnic conflict and military resistance to civilian authority still threaten progress. Tom Malinowski will discuss his recent trip to Burma and what the US can do to encourage a full transition to democracy.

Speaker: Tom Malinowski, Washington Director, Human Rights Watc

Direct download: 4_30_13_Tom_Malinowski.mp3
Category:News & Politics -- posted at: 10:30am PST

Eighty five percent of the world’s population has access to mobile networks, with emerging economies representing the fastest growing markets. China and India alone account for 30 percent of the global subscribers, and there were more mobile connections than people on Earth at the end of 2012. The rapid spread of wireless technology across the planet has the potential to foster economic development in myriad ways, opening students to new avenues of learning, giving entrepreneurs unprecedented access to capital and market data and helping grassroots organizations more effectively agitate for change and transparency. Carriers, developers, electronics makers and equipment manufacturers are harnessing this expansion and adapting their services to reach billions of users, many of them new. Yet barriers remain - be they government restrictions on the wireless Web, a dearth of locally relevant mobile applications or a pervasive mobile gender gap that limits women’s access to mobile technology in some regions.

Speakers: Nelson Mattos, Head of Emerging Markets, Google Katie Jacobs Stanton, Head of International Strategy, Twitter Rodger Voorhies, Director of Financial Services for the Poor Initiative, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Moderator: Tom Giles, U.S. Technology Editor, Bloomberg News

Introduction by: Former Ambassador Terry Kramer, U.S. Head of Delegation for the World Conference on International Telecommunications 2012; Trustee of the World Affairs Council of Northern California

Direct download: 4_23_13_Bloomberg_Event.mp3
Category:News & Politics -- posted at: 11:30am PST

In the aftermath of the 2007 financial crisis, many argued for stronger banking regulations and more fiscal oversight; yet as the recession carried on some worried that new regulations would hamper an economic recovery and dissuade banks from lending. Are fiscal oversight and a strong banking system mutually exclusive?

Anat Admati suggests that a safer and healthier economic system will not require a sacrifice of our current institutions and can come at no cost to society. She will explore how weak regulations and ineffective enforcement led to a buildup of risks that unleashed the financial crisis, as well as what lessons we have, and have not, learned.

Speaker: Anat Admati, George Parker Professor of Finance and Economics, Stanford Graduate School of Business

Moderator: Sedge Dienst, Trustee, World Affairs Council of Northern California

Direct download: 4_23_13_Anat_Admati.mp3
Category:News & Politics -- posted at: 11:00am PST

Climate change presents the global community with one of its greatest challenges and one of its greatest opportunities. The choices we make today will determine the future state of the environment, for good or ill.

Christiana Figueres will discuss her unique perspective on what changes will transform the world of tomorrow and how we can make a positive impact.


Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

Direct download: 4_18_13_Christiana_Figueres.mp3
Category:News & Politics -- posted at: 3:00pm PST