Innovation Hub Innovation Hub features today's most creative thinkers - from authors to researchers to business leaders. It explores new avenues in education, science, medicine, transportation, and more. Guests have included Michael Pollan, Sal Khan, Marissa Mayer, Clayton Christensen, Jared Diamond, Paul Farmer, Sherry Turkle, and Brian Greene.
Innovation Hub

Innovation Hub

From WGBH Radio

Innovation Hub features today's most creative thinkers - from authors to researchers to business leaders. It explores new avenues in education, science, medicine, transportation, and more. Guests have included Michael Pollan, Sal Khan, Marissa Mayer, Clayton Christensen, Jared Diamond, Paul Farmer, Sherry Turkle, and Brian Greene.

Most Recent Episodes

The Secret Agency that Created Agent Orange, Self-Driving Cars, and the Internet

DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, has been developing new military technologies for the United States since shortly after the launch of Sputnik in 1957. But Sharon Weinberger, the Washington Bureau Chief for Yahoo News and the author of The Imagineers of War: The Untold Story of DARPA, the Pentagon Agency that Changed the World, says there's more to the Agency than new weapons and military strategies. DARPA, Weinberger explains, not only incubated the internet, but it has also worked on self-driving cars and extra-sensory perception, and explored the potential for developing super soldiers.

The Secret Agency that Created Agent Orange, Self-Driving Cars, and the Internet

Building An Inclusive Innovation Economy

In recent years, some American cities, like Pittsburgh, have been transformed by legions of tech jobs. But even as these one-time industrial cities reinvented themselves, many residents - including those who are part of communities of color - have been excluded from the prosperity and growth that have been ushered in along with the influx of jobs and investment. Andre Perry, a fellow in the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution, and Tawanna Black, founder and CEO of the Center for Economic Inclusion, explain some of the reasons for these sorts of disparities in wealth, wages and opportunity between minority and white communities, and propose a radically different way forward.

Marinating In Plastics

Plastics are colorful, shiny, and flexible. They can also be sturdy, monochrome, and opaque. They come in different shapes and sizes, too. In fact, we've become so good at creating and molding plastics into whatever we want them to be that author Susan Freinkel says: it's hard to imagine a world without them. In her book, Plastics: A Toxic Love Story, Freinkel chronicles the history of plastics and explores how, for better or worse, the material shapes our lives.

The Long History Of The Gig Economy

When you hear the term "gig economy," you probably think of Uber or Lyft or Postmates - companies that have used apps to disrupt industries and create an army of 1099 workers. But according to Louis Hyman, a Cornell University historian and author of Temp: How American Work, American Business, and the American Dream Became Temporary, the gig economy is a lot bigger than Silicon Valley. And it has a much longer history than you might think.

The Rise of the Sea Barons

Back in the mid-19th century, some American entrepreneurs sailed halfway around the world - to China - to make their fortunes. These merchants would later build dynasties back home by investing money in promising American industries, including railroads and coal, as well as new technologies, like the telegraph. It was the invention of the clipper ship that made it all possible. These were ships that were built for speed and profit, a profit that came not just by importing goods like tea to the U.S., but also by smuggling opium to China. We talk with Steven Ujifusa, a historian and author of "Barons of the Sea: And their Race to Build the World's Fastest Clipper Ship," about these vessels - which once raced across the ocean - and the owners who used them to reshape America.

The American Family - Older And Smaller

The American family is changing in many different ways. But perhaps one of the most significant is that, on average, American women are giving birth later. And birth rates have hit a 30-year low. In the early 1970s, the average age of first-time moms was 21... it's now 26. The same trend is impacting fathers - their age has gone from 27 to 31 over the same time period. But why did this change happen? And what does it mean for our society, our economy, and our families? To find out, we talked to Caitlin Knowles Myers, an economist at Middlebury College who's studied female fertility, and Claire Cain Miller, a correspondent for the New York Times who's written extensively about the topic.

The Brains Behind Automation

We constantly hear that technology is killing opportunities in the workplace. But reports by the World Economic Forum and Deloitte have shown that automation is creating — and will continue to create — millions of jobs in fields like sales, IT services, and big data. But to really know how tech is affecting our lives, experts like Daniel Theobald and Melissa Flagg say we need to focus less on the 30,000-foot view of the industry and more on what is going on at the ground level. We talk to Theobald, Vecna Robotics' co-founder and Chief Innovation Officer as well as Flagg, the Northeast regional lead at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, about how we should be taking a ground-up approach to America's technological development.

China: Pharmacy To The World

In the 1990s, most of the world's medicines were manufactured in the United States, Europe and Japan. Today, almost 80% of them come from China. In her book, "China Rx: Exposing The Risks Of America's Dependence On China For Medicine," Rosemary Gibson says that China is becoming the world's pharmacy, but that development, she argues, comes with many risks.

Why Aren't We Happier?

Experiences of mental illness are common in the United States and behind each individual case is a history. In his book, Good Reasons for Bad Feelings: Insights from the Frontier of Evolutionary Psychiatry, Randolph Nesse, the director of the Center for Evolution and Medicine at Arizona State University, looks at emotional and mental disorders from an evolutionary perspective, and considers why natural selection left us with fragile minds.

How To Get Older, Better

Older, wiser and perhaps healthier? It may sound too good to be true, but Sue Armstrong, author of Borrowed Time: The Science of How and Why We Age, says that growing older doesn't have to lead to infirmity. Science is finding ways to intervene in the aging process, and to improve the quality of our later years. After all, some organisms on Earth live for centuries, so there may be good models for rethinking and easing the process of getting older. Armstrong says that while there's no magic elixir for aging, there is a more hopeful future ahead.

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