This episode of Breaking the Fever features a podcast takeover by interdisciplinary researcher Nithya Iyer, who has been investigating existential risks and systemic change. The theme of the takeover is AFTERMATH, which starts from a fictional aftermath of systemic and ideological collapse, and seeks to interview thinkers acting at the apex of present and future technologies, mainstream and alternative philosophies, factual and fictional realities, asking: where do we go from here?
In this takeover finale, we feature Timothy Morton - a prolific writer, philosopher and interdisciplinary thinker. Tim has carved out a celebrity status through their pioneering ecological thought and the conception of the 'hyperobject' - a tool for thinking about the vastness of existential threats. We discuss what it means to live in a world where the individual is helplessly entangled in existential threats and the narrative of the 'End of the World', how to make sense out of the chaotic dismantling of meaning in 2021, 'panicking cheerfully' and the George Harrison method of trying to change stubborn minds.
You can read more about Tim's ideas at
- Wired: https://www.wired.com/story/timothy-morton-hyperobjects-all-the-way-down/
- Liberation: https://www.liberation.fr/idees-et-debats/cest-le-bon-moment-pour-paniquer-rencontre-avec-le-philosophe-timothy-morton-20211201_PZOWKJCHCVCUDPUSW36BZU2KBY/
In this episode of the podcast, we speak with Ian McCarthy about the many faces of bullshit — how it’s different from lies, the harmless and harmful forms it can take, and what organizations can do to measure and mitigate its effects.
- How McCarthy's background as an engineer, particularly engineering’s focus on authenticity and risk management, have shaped his approach to bullshit
- Why reading the seminal essay “On Bullshit” by Harry Frankfurt prompted his curiosity about the role of BS in the corporate world
- The many shapes of BS, from pub banter to persuasion tool
- What distinguishes BS from lying
- BS as a power strategy with career risks
- The effect of BS on organizational cultures, and how culture rewards BS
- The use of BS in the more visionary and creative stages or parts of an organization
- How organizational leaders can counter BS when it is destructive
- The place of BS in ESG
- How remote work shapes BS in organizations
Ian McCarthy is the W.J. VanDusen Professor of Innovation and Operations Management. He came to Simon Fraser University from the University of Warwick, England, where he was a Reader and Head of the Organizational Systems Strategy Unit. He worked for several years as a manufacturing engineer before earning his PhD in operations strategy from the University of Sheffield. His research and teaching focus on operations management, change and innovation management, and social media.
In this episode of the podcast, we speak with David Sloan Wilson about cooperation—how it evolved in social beings, how culture and norms can support and disrupt it, and how to sustain it across different levels (community, industry, nation, etc).
- How David got interested in the evolution of positive or prosocial cultural change
- The intellectual tradition of individualism
- The idea of society as an organism
- Why natural selection at the smallest scale is socially disruptive
- The game of Monopoly as an illustration of multilevel selection theory
- Polycentric governance in a nutshell
- Archipelagos of knowledge
- The spread of new norms, like those constituting the Me Too movement, online and off
- Elinor Ostrum’s Nobel Prize-winning core design principals of effective groups
- How nations approximate Ostrum’s core design principles
- The problem with the invisible hand, neoliberal model of globalization
- Changing norms in tight versus loose cultures
David Sloan Wilson is SUNY Distinguished Professor of Biology and Anthropology at Binghamton University. He applies evolutionary theory to all aspects of humanity in addition to the rest of life, both in his own research and as director of EvoS, a unique campus-wide evolutionary studies program that recently received NSF funding to expand into a nationwide consortium. His books include Darwin’s Cathedral: Evolution, Religion, and the Nature of Society, Evolution for Everyone: How Darwin’s Theory Can Change the Way We Think About Our Lives, and The Neighborhood Project: Using Evolution to Improve My City, One Block at a Time and Does Altruism Exist? Culture, Genes, and the Welfare of Others.
In this episode of the podcast, we speak with Alison Goldsworthy, Laura Osborne, and Alexandra Chesterfield about the manifestations of political polarization in our personal and professional lives and how we might best go about coping with it and mitigating it where possible.
- Signs of increasing polarization
- How polarization affects decision-making—who to marry, live with, and hire
- Whether business helps to bring people together who disagree politically
- Whether political or ideological neutrality might be tenable in business
- Facilitating constructive political conversations on polarizing topics
- How emphasizing similarity, identifying superordinate goals and identity can reduce animosity
- How puncturing the illusion of explanatory depth can help people to realize they know less than they actually do, inducing a more open mind
- Valuing intellectual honesty in leaders, and rewarding honesty about ignorance and the willingness to find out new information
- The importance of asking people how they arrived at the views you disagree with
- How personal ethics might affect what political positions people are willing to try to understand or empathize with
Alison Goldsworthy has been a political adviser and campaigner for more than 20 years. A former Deputy Chair of the Liberal Democrats, she led the team that built the fastest-growing campaigning organization in the United Kingdom. In 2017 she was a Sloan Fellow at Stanford, co-creating its first depolarization course. A board member of the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust, Alison has won numerous awards for her work. She has written for the Telegraph, Independent, New Statesman, The Times, and Financial Times.
Laura Osborne is a professional communicator, spokesperson, and podcaster, with a background in public affairs and government communications. Currently Corporate Affairs Director at London First, the voice of the city's largest employers, she was previously Communications Director at Which?, the U.K.’s consumer association. Laura has led large teams, working with some of the U.K.’s biggest corporations to apply lessons from communications, consumer insight, and behavioral science to making business a force for good.
Alexandra Chesterfield is a behavioral scientist with a master's degree in Cognitive and Decision Science. Forever curious about why we do what we do, she currently works in financial services, leading a team of behavioral scientists to help get better outcomes for employees and customers. For four years, she was an elected Councillor in Guildford for the Conservative Party. She has personally experienced the effects of affective polarization, both in and out of the workplace.
This episode of Breaking the Fever features a podcast takeover by Nithya Iyer — a Preventable Surprises Research Fellow investigating existential risks and systemic change.
This takeover episode features biophysicist and meta geneticist Dr Christopher Mason. He is a professor of physiology and biophysics at Weill Cornell Medicine, the director of the World Quantitative Initiative, was the lead researcher on the NASA Twin Study, and founder of MasonLab which is working towards a 500-year plan for humanity to inhabit other planets through genetic engineering.
We discuss the 500-year plan, how scientific visions move in the world and become reality, and the meaning of life.
The podcast refers to Chris's new book 'The Next 500 Years, Engineering Life to Reach New Worlds', by MIT Press which you can find here: https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/next-500-years
Also referenced are Oryx and Crake, by Margaret Atwood: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/6113/oryx-and-crake-by-margaret-atwood/
Immanuel Kant, John Rawls' Veil of Ignorance: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Original_position
and John Stuart Mills' Utilitarianism: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utilitarianism_(book)
You can read more about Chris's work here: https://www.masonlab.net/
This episode of Breaking the Fever features a podcast takeover by Nithya Iyer - a Preventable Surprises Research Fellow investigating existential risks and systemic change.
Over the course of three episodes, the takeover focuses on the AFTERMATH, starting from a fictional aftermath of systemic and ideological collapse to interview thinkers acting at the apex of present and future technologies, mainstream and alternative philosophies, factual and fictional realities, asking: where do we go from here?
This episode features global disaster relief expert and blockchain entrepreneur Vinay Gupta. We discuss the context of our current environmental predicaments, the grave risks humankind faces, and the types of futures that are possible if we dismantle false notions of green economies.
The podcast refers to Lester Brown's Plan B, which you can find here: http://www.earth-policy.org/books/pb4 and Jamais Cascio's (https://www.iftf.org/jamaiscascio/) work on geoengineering.
You can read more about Vinay Gupta's work here: https://www.forbes.com/sites/rahulsingireddy/2017/10/18/vinay-gupta-on-why-ethereum-is-the-future/
and here: https://mattereum.com/team/
In this episode of the podcast, we speak with Debra Mashek about how true collaboration emerges within and between groups, why it breaks down, and what companies can do to foster it.
- The stages leading to collaboration: separation, networking, coordination, cooperation, and, finally, collaboration
- How romantic relationship dynamics ground the psychology of effective group collaboration
- The impact of a communal orientation toward other groups as opposed to a short-term, self-interested one
- Why a focus on short-term profits disincentivizes collaboration
- The five things groups need to sustain their collaborations
- How conflict can spark and derail collaboration
- Why feelings of interconnectedness fortify collaboration
Debra Mashek has spent two decades studying how people form relationships with each other, as well as the challenges and rewards of doing so. She applies relationship theory to understand and improve how individuals relate to others and to help people achieve together that which cannot be achieved alone. Whether connecting higher-ed administrators with their faculties, higher-ed leaders with each other, philanthropists with organizations, or junior-faculty members with senior-faculty members, Mashek engages clients in careful analysis and problem solving, weaving deep relationship knowledge with tailored facilitation, genuine concern for the individuals in the room, and an unwavering commitment to her clients’ goals. She is an accomplished collaboration builder who sees pathways where others see tangled complexity.
In this episode of the podcast, we speak with Denise Hearn about the most significant opportunities and concerns with capitalism, the need for ESG and corporate governance to evolve, and the ideas behind her new project, Embodied Economics.
- How monopoly, competition dynamics, and instrumentalist thinking affect ESG investing
- Ways ESG investing has been shaped by the pandemic
- The problem with the idealized, abstract, self-interested logic of economics
- What good corporate regulation looks like in a contentious political climate
Denise Hearn is co-author of The Myth of Capitalism: Monopolies and the Death of Competition—named one of the Financial Times’ Best Books of 2018 and endorsed by two Nobel Prize winners. She is currently a Senior Fellow at the American Economic Liberties Project and a thought partner to SheEO. She is also Board Chair of The Predistribution Initiative—a multi-stakeholder project to improve investment structures and practices to address systemic risks like inequality and climate change. Denise helped launch the First Principles Forum, a platform to support and challenge technology company founders who want to use their wealth for good—now housed at Stanford's Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society. She has an MBA from the Oxford Saïd Business School, where she co-chaired the Social Impact Oxford Business Network and has a BA in International Studies from Baylor University.
In this episode, the third (and final) in our miniseries on climate finance, we speak with Colleen Orr and Graham Steele about how regulators in the United States can wield financial tools and soft power to set public- and private-sector organizations on a more climate-smart path.
- Theories of change for regulators in climate finance
- How the private and public sector can work together
- How the SEC, Treasury Dept, and other governmental bodies are setting their climate finance agenda
- The Fed’s robust financial tools are somewhat wasted by how it uses them narrowly, in ways that are market-neutral, for example
- Economic reasons why younger generations are much more drawn to sustainable finance
- The ways in which the US and EU differ in regulatory approaches to banks and investors
- The role of anti-trust legislation in climate finance regulation
- Reasons for optimism about climate finance providing effective solutions to the climate crisis
Colleen Orr is a Senior US Policy Analyst for the UN-supported Principles for Responsible Investment. In her role as Senior Policy Analyst, Colleen advocates for corporate disclosure of environmental, social, and governance factors to improve capital markets; analyzes and prepares comments and briefings on US and global policy regulations; and fosters relationships with the PRI’s global signatory base, US policymakers, regulators, and advocacy organizations to promote the PRI’s policy priorities.
Graham Steele is the director of the Corporations and Society Initiative at Stanford Graduate School of Business. Prior to joining Stanford GSB, Graham was a member of the staff of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. From 2015 to 2017, Graham was the Minority Chief Counsel for the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing & Urban Affairs.
In this episode, the second in our miniseries on climate finance, we speak with Peter Bosshard and Elana Sulakshana about the insurance sector’s role in maintaining status-quo climate policies, and what insurers can do to halt the development of more fossil-fuel infrastructure.
- What might happen if insurers didn’t provide insurance for new gas and oil pipelines
- The near-absolute confidentiality of who is insuring what
- The role coal plants in the EU have in premature deaths
- The hypocrisy of insurance companies’ stated aims and actions
- The uneven geographical distribution of insurance companies that want to phase out links to coal and other climate risks
- The touting of investments in green tech by insurance companies to divert attention away from investments in fossil fuel
- How most major insurance companies in Europe stopped insuring coal mining
- How the insurance industry is organized around climate issues
- The promise of insurance companies pressuring corporations on climate with share-holder resolutions
- How US insurance companies lag behind peers in Europe, Australia
- The role of insurance brokers
Peter Bosshard is the director of the Finance Program at the Sunrise Project, the aim of which is to grow social movements to drive the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy as fast as possible. He coordinates international campaigns to accelerate the transition of the insurance industry and other investors from fossil fuels to clean energy.
Elana Sulakshana leads Rainforest Action Network’s campaign to stop the U.S. insurance industry from driving the climate crisis. She has been active in the climate justice movement for the last eight years, most recently organizing for just and equitable climate policy in Washington State, fighting fracking in the U.K. and campaigning for universities to divest from fossil fuels and reinvest in communities.
In this episode, the first in our miniseries on climate finance, we speak with Ivan Frishberg, James Vaccaro, and Marilyn Waite about the banking sector and what it would take to scale its ambition and impact on helping to stem climate change.
· Incentives for banks to keep financing fossil fuels industry
· How banks can motivate their clients to improve climate performance
· The existential crisis the sector faces over the next decade
· Measuring the alignment of banks’ portfolios with climate goals
· How to get banks to say when they will divest from fossil fuels
· What shareholders and investors are doing to motivate banks to pursue climate goals
· How regulators enable long term harmful behavior such as the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure
Ivan Frishberg is the Director of Impact Policy for Amalgamated Bank, the U.S.’s largest B Corp bank and a member of the Global Alliance for Banking on Values. Ivan leads Amalgamated’s impact efforts by spearheading and proactively engaging in strategic initiatives at the bank, such as carbon and climate commitments.
James Vaccaro is the director of Re:Pattern, which works to catalyze business transformation and business-model innovation in service of positive social impact. James is a strategist and systems thinker with a background in sustainable finance. He acts as a Special Advisor to Triodos Bank. As part of a former strategy role there, he designed and facilitated learning, development, strategy and innovation programs to accelerate progress in sustainability sectors across Europe.
Marilyn Waite is a Program Officer in Environment at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Marilyn manages the foundation’s grant-making on climate and clean-energy finance with the ambitious goal of addressing climate change by accelerating the transition to a climate-friendly economy. Her grant-making mobilizes private capital investments in low-carbon and climate-friendly energy infrastructure and systems, seeking to redirect finance from high- to low-carbon activities and encourage wiser energy investments.
In this episode, Charles Hecker and Michele Wucker revisit their risk assessments from early 2020 and share their perspective for the year ahead. From political division to rising inequalities, from climate to debt:
- 2020 avoided the worst
- 2021 will be very challenging on all these fronts
- not every society is rising to the occasion and showcasing resilience; trust in institutions and personal agency are both needed for success.
- with the pandemic, we've all become daily practitioners of risk management.
In this episode of the podcast, we speak with Jessica Long about the global imperative to eliminate waste in the economy, and the progress people have made on this front—in companies, industries, cities, and nations.
- Sustainable growth
- Changing a “take, make, waste” linear economy to a “take, make” circular economy
- Modifying products to allow consumption to grow sustainably
- How sustainability will permeate organizations akin to widespread digitization
- Concrete signals of sustainability successes
- Avoiding politically polarizing approaches to sustainability
Jessica Long is a sustainable and responsible business expert. She is a former Managing Director with Accenture and has over 15 years of national and international experience in strategy, technology, and complex-program delivery within the corporate, government, and development sectors.
As Chair of the CFTC’s Climate-related Market Risk Sub-Committee, Bob Litterman led the publication of a critical report that framed climate as a systemic risk to the US economy and reaffirmed the necessity of putting a price on carbon. We discuss Bob's trajectory from risk pricing guru to climate advocate, the growing consensus for climate action among US financial leaders, and how to break the political deadlock with US policymakers.
In this episode of the podcast, we speak with Marsha Ershaghi Hames about how COVID-19 has shaped and continues to shape, the way corporate leaders respond to challenges not only to their business models but also how they are evolving their dialogue with their own workforces in a new era of employee activism.
Supply chain changes
Good leadership over a remote workforce
The adaptability of leadership
Activating robust DEI efforts amid the pandemic
Who gets to shape an organization’s moral narrative?
The promise of younger employees to shape better conversations
The future of corporate governance
Marsha Hames is a partner at Tapestry Networks, a stakeholder strategy firm that designs a variety of collaborative meetings, for senior leaders in a given industry, in order to help advance positive economic and societal outcomes. Hames leads Tapestry’s corporate governance practice, offering advice on issues related to culture transformation, board leadership, and stakeholder engagement. She also serves as an expert fellow on USC’s Neely Center for Ethical Leadership and Decision Making.
Uzodinma Iweala is the CEO of the Africa Center, a cultural institution in New York City that serves as an intellectual hub for ideas about culture, business, and policy related to the continent. A physician and the author of two novels, most recently Speak No Evil, about sexuality, race, and cultural dislocation, and Beasts of No Nation, about an African child forced to become a soldier (which became a feature film released on Netflix), Iweala is well placed to reflect on how race, culture and class have shaped the COVID-19 crisis and life, in Africa as well as in the United States.
In this episode, Breaking the Fever hears from Carlos Nobre, a climate scientist recognized for his work on biosphere-atmosphere interactions and climate impacts of Amazon deforestation. We speak about Covid-19, about the Brazilian people, the rainforest, biodiversity and climate, cattle and deforestation, and about changing global attitudes and the solutions investors, governments, companies and consumers from Sweden to China can promote.
What does it take for people and organizations to navigate uncertain times? Margaret Heffernan https://www.mheffernan.com/ took Breaking the Fever on a wild ride on the occasion of the US September release of her latest book, Uncharted. A timely, astute, energizing. much needed conversation.
Ayin Jambulingam, a culture and leadership consultant based in Malaysia, explores the historical, political and cultural factors driving the Covid-19 response across Asia. We explore how political leadership and structures have affected the trajectory of the virus, whether lessons from Sars have helped drive a more robust response, and the strengths and weaknesses of collectivist and individualist cultures in managing systemic risks.
Listeners may also be interested in this related article from NYU professor Christina Fang: https://www.ethicalsystems.org/an-organizational-scholar-explains-how-to-learn-from-covid-19/.
In episode 15, Rob Brotherton, a psychologist and science journalist, discussed the pandemic and conspiracy theories.