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 Evolution of American Privacy

Every day, it seems like there's a new story about privacy: A Facebook hack that puts the private data of millions at risk. A years-long surveillance program of personal communications by the government. Endless concerns about how much of our lives we share on social media. With all this in the air, it can certainly feel like we have a lot less privacy nowadays. But is that really the case? Well, according to Vanderbilt professor Sarah Igo, author of The Known Citizen: A History of Privacy in Modern America, the answer is actually pretty complicated.

Selfies And The Self

Twitter. Selfie-sticks. Reality TV. It can seem like our society is becoming more narcissistic and self-involved. (Just read a few of the boatload of articles and think-pieces on this topic) But are we really more self-centered? The answer involves Aristotle, Ayn Rand, and 80s-era California. At least, that's according to Will Storr, author of the book, Selfie: How We Became Self-Obsessed and What It's Doing To Us. He explains how our conception of self has changed throughout human history, and why we're so self-involved today.

Kids These Days...And Yesterday, And Tomorrow

Economist John Quiggin wants to change the way we talk about millennials. That is, he thinks we should stop talking about them altogether. In a recent New York Times editorial, Quiggin argued that the notion of generations is a pop-culture myth. He thinks we should focus on how people are affected by more significant traits like class, gender, and age.

Loons that Shoot for the Moon

We all know of moonshots, a grand idea we can get behind. But we sat down with Safi Bahcall, a physicist and former biotech entrepreneur, to understand a counter term he came up with: loonshots. Bahcall claims many ideas and innovations, when they are first proposed, are seen as mere fantasies from the minds of slightly (or very) crazy people. From the telephone to the computer, several game-changing ideas were turned down — in fact, microwave radar, which detected German U-boats at sea and helped us gain the upper hand during WWII, also, initially, fell under the radar. Who knows how many countless, similar innovative ideas have been dismissed? In his new book, "Loonshots - How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries", Bahcall wants to change the structure of how we accept and cultivate these possibly, life-changing ideas.

When Tech Gets Talkative

Technology has become more hands-free, thanks to voice-activated digital assistants like Alexa and Siri. Have a question? Ask away. But in the future it won't be just a matter of using this technology to find out facts or to determine the best route home. James Vlahos, author of "Talk to Me - How Voice Computing Will Transform the Way We Live, Work and Think," explains how companies are trying to make the Alexas and Siris of the world more sociable. Voice tech that can apply background knowledge and understand context will be able to have more complex conversations with users. Vlahos says that these devices will create a more human-like experience, and could be used in customer service, healthcare, counseling and industries which require a robot with a more social side.

Humans: We May Not Be As Special As We Think

It's easy to see ourselves as separate from the animal kingdom, but Adam Rutherford, author of "Humanimal: How Homo sapiens Became Nature's Most Paradoxical Creature - A New Evolutionary History," believes that we aren't as different as we might think. Fashion design, interacting with fire, and making multi-step plans all seem like qualities that are unique to humans. But according to Rutherford, species across the animal kingdom - from crabs to birds of prey - exhibit many of these complex behaviors too.

You Really Push My Buttons

Buttons make the world go round. How else would you tell an elevator to whisk you up to the sixth floor, or get a candy bar out of a vending machine? Buttons are the simple interface for how we interact with more complex technology. They cover up the wires and inner workings of your TV and microwave, and make tech accessible at, you guessed it, the push of a button. Rachel Plotnick, author of "Power Button: A History of Pleasure, Panic, And the Politics of Pushing," explains the origin of buttons, their role throughout history, and how they continue to evolve in our world today. We also have an update for our segment about WWI from a couple of weeks ago.

The Guitar Makers That Made Modern Music

In 1957, Buddy Holly appeared on "The Ed Sullivan Show" on CBS, strumming his tunes on a Fender Stratocaster, which was casually slung across his body. The instrument had - and would - fundamentally change American culture and music. And, to a lot of people, it was a shock. But behind the technological innovations inherent in the solid-body electric guitar is a story of two friends and rivals, people whose legacies have been inscribed on the guitars they created. Leo Fender and Les Paul, though, had little idea of the new genre of music this invention would instigate: rock 'n' roll.

A Big, Bloody Business

You might guess that the United States is the world's biggest exporter of corn, but did you know that it is also one of the biggest exporters of blood? In fact, the U.S. exports more blood than it does corn, soybeans, or gold. More specifically, blood plasma - the yellow liquid that separates out, once your blood is in a tube or a bag - since it is a critical component in many pharmaceutical products and medicines. Rose George, author of "Nine Pints: A Journey Through the Money, Medicine, and Mysteries of Blood" walks us through the economics, science, and ethics behind the blood industry.

Crime Is Declining. So Why Don't We Feel Safer?

Talk to anyone who lived in New York City in the 1970s, and they will probably highlight the city's widespread crime. Times Square wasn't yet Disney-fied and Brooklyn hadn't been taken over by hipsters. Most people agreed that New York was a dangerous place. But then something happened: murders, and violent crime in general, began to drop. And that trend wasn't unique to New York: It happened in many places across America. So who do we have to thank for the crime decline? To find out, we talk with NYU sociology professor Patrick Sharkey about his book, "Uneasy Peace: The Great Crime Decline, the Renewal of City Life, and the Next War on Violence."

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