Ideas

IDEAS schedule for January 2022

Highlights: The BBC Reith Lectures examines how Artificial Intelligence is rapidly becoming integral to the economy, military, and daily life; advocates of the “good enough” life explain why adequate is more than adequate; and award-winning novelist Esi Edugyan's 2021 CBC Massey Lectures illuminates the Black experience in global culture and history.
Award-winning novelist Esi Edugyan illuminates the Black experience in global culture and history in her 2021 CBC Massey Lectures, 'Out of the Sun: On Race and Storytelling.' (Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press)

* Please note this schedule is subject to change.

Monday, January 3

A HISTORY IN ART: ESI EDUGYAN
"The great power of art" says Esi Edugyan, "is to enlarge our collective histories." Author of the prize-winning novels Washington Black and Half-Blood Blues, Esi Edugyan delivers the 2021 CBC Massey Lectures, airing on IDEAS later this month. In a wide-ranging interview with Nahlah Ayed, and as a prequel to her Massey Lectures, Esi Edugyan talks about the factors that have made her as an artist — the influence of her Ghanaian-born parents, her sense of herself as a 'lapsed African' and the power of art to add richness to all our lives.


Tuesday, January 4

FIRST GOOD POEM IN ENGLISH
Several English-language literary works survive from the first millennium A.D. and it is still uncertain which is the oldest. However, a short elegy called The Wanderer stands out as English's oldest-surviving good poem, according to IDEAS producer, Tom Howell. Experts in 'Old English' help explain the appeal and the complexity of this ancient but strangely accessible work. *This episode originally aired on March 15, 2021. 


Wednesday, January 5

THE GREENEST METAPHOR
There are many ways to think about reducing carbon emissions. Is it a 'war' on climate change? Or is it a 'race'? Are we trying to cure a sickness in the earth? Or rescue the world from impending doom, as thought it's a damsel in distress? Metaphors are deeply embedded in science, media, and politics. Sometimes, picking the right metaphor can lead to rapid progress, while using the wrong one can backfire spectacularly. This episode parses the power of metaphor when it comes to climate change. *This episode originally aired on April 1, 2021. 


Thursday, January 6

FLAMETHROWERS: THE TALK RADIO PRESIDENT
One year ago today, hundreds of Donald Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol building under the false belief that the 2020 presidential election had been stolen. In this episode adapting the podcast The Flamethrowers, presenter Justin Ling traces the relationship between American right-wing radio and Donald Trump's style and tactics in garnering support.


Friday, January 7

VIU LECTURE: CONNIE WALKER 
Connie Walker, award-winning investigative journalist and host of CBC's Missing and Murdered podcast, delivered the seventh annual Indigenous Speakers Series Lecture at Vancouver Island University in late November 2021. Her talk was called Exposing the Truth: Journalism's Role in Reconciliation, in which she shares her observations and experiences, both professional and personal, on the evolution of journalistic coverage of Indigenous stories. It is at once shocking to listen to the history of racism in Canadian reporting over the years but also hopeful to hear her insights into the progress being made in newsrooms, particularly in the hiring of Indigenous journalists to tell stories informed by lived experiences.



Monday, January 10

BBC REITH LECTURES: ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE AND HUMAN EXISTENCE, PT 1
The founder of University of California Berkeley's Artificial Intelligence lab wants journalists to stop using images from The Terminator when writing about autonomous weapons. Stuart Russell, founder of the Center for Human-Compatible Artificial Intelligence, is this year's presenter of the BBC Reith Lectures. He says the movie franchise, where an AI entity called 'Skynet' becomes self-aware and turns on humanity, gives people three wrong impressions about AI and war. The first is that autonomous killing machines are still science fiction. Second: that moral responsibility lies with Skynet, instead of its creators. And third: when firing weapons, sometimes Skynet misses. The lecture series is entitled Artificial Intelligence and Human Existence, and examines how AI is rapidly becoming integral to the economy, military, and daily life. Russell argues that we have a responsibility to put moral limits on AI, as we continue to cede ethical decision-making to machines.


Tuesday, January 11

BBC REITH LECTURES: ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE AND HUMAN EXISTENCE, PT 2
In part two of the BBC Reith Lectures, professor Stuart Russell examines the future of work, as Artificial Intelligence takes over more and more of the economy. People have been worried about robots displacing workers since at least Aristotle. But in this lecture, Russell argues there's reason for optimism. He says that for 10,000 years, most workers have been treated just like robots: to do simple, repetitive tasks. The challenge, and opportunity, as AI takes over is figuring out how we can become happy and fulfilled humans, once we humans are no longer working like robots.


Wednesday, January 12

A GOOD ENOUGH LIFE
Once upon a time, just before global circumstances changed, an IDEAS episode called The Joy of Mediocrity aired. It argued that Western society's emphasis on achievement and individually "living your best life" was making the majority of us wildly miserable. Now, two more-than-mediocre years on, producer Lisa Godfrey checks in with several of the original participants. Is their own advocacy for an alternative to excellence — the "good enough" life — still intact? They'll explain why "good enough" is a useful goal, even in a time of extended crisis.


Thursday, January 13

THE WESTERN STONE AGE
Algoma University professor Paulette Steeves guides us through the mounting evidence suggesting the standard history of human presence in North and South America must be wrong. Drawing from archaeological studies and oral sources, Steeves attempts to reclaim the story of the Pleistocene Epoch from colonial scholars, who have traditionally dated human settlement on this continent to approximately 12,000 years ago. In her book, The Indigenous Paleolithic of the Western Hemisphere, Steeves argues that human migration may have occurred closer to 130,000 ago. She also recommends more humility on the part of the archaeology profession.


Friday, January 14

TOUCH DEPRIVATION
The pandemic upended much of our normal way of interacting with others. Intuitive activities like hugging loved ones and bonding over shared meals had to stop because of distancing protocols. And people for whom touch is a central part of their work — nurses, social workers, dancers — have become acutely aware of how the absence of touch affects their sense of wellbeing and connection. Contributor Johnny Spence explores both the emotional and neurological impact of touch deprivation. 



Monday, January 17 

IDEAS FROM THE TRENCHES: TABOO RELIC
It's a relic deemed so taboo, that the Vatican threatened ex-communication to anyone who speaks of it or writes about it. But for nearly a thousand years the 'holy foreskin' of Jesus Christ was widely considered to be the holiest of relics. Eighteen churches across western Europe claimed to possess the real thing. University of Alberta PhD student James White is researching the relic's history, seeking to understand medieval Christian logic and attitudes to the body. *This episode originally aired on April 27, 2021.


Tuesday, January 18

LLOYD PERCIVAL: SPORTS PROPHET, PART ONE
Lloyd Percival was arguably Canada's most successful coach. He helped revolutionize the way hockey was played around the world, but was rejected by the NHL establishment. He coached track athletes to championships — yet never coached a national team. He applied scientific research and principles decades before they became commonplace, but was never taken seriously by the academy. Yet he's largely forgotten now. This two-part series, Lloyd Percival: Sports Prophet, examines the life and legacy of Percival the man, the coach — and the legend he helped build around himself.


Tuesday, January 19

LLOYD PERCIVAL: SPORTS PROPHET, PART TWO
Lloyd Percival was arguably Canada's most successful coach. He helped revolutionize the way hockey was played around the world, but was rejected by the NHL establishment. He coached track athletes to championships — yet never coached a national team. He applied scientific research and principles decades before they became commonplace, but was never taken seriously by the academy. Yet he's largely forgotten now. This two-part series, Lloyd Percival: Sports Prophet, examines the life and legacy of Percival the man, the coach — and the legend he helped build around himself.


Thursday, January 20

SHAKESPEARE'S RICHARD III
In Shakespeare's Richard III, the tyrant seduces his followers — and the audience as well. In the wake of the January 6 attack on the U.S. capitol in 2021, IDEAS explores what the play has to say to us today about the allure of tyranny, the complicity of enablers, and why conscience is a critical weapon in the fight against tyrants. Nahlah Ayed's guests include Colm Feore and Jessica B. Hill, who were preparing to perform Richard III at Stratford before the COVID-19 pandemic closed theatres. *This episode originally aired on April 2, 2021.


Friday, January 21

LANDSCAPE OF DISGRACE
Like many countries in the West and elsewhere, Poland has experienced an upsurge in far-right, ultra-nationalist movements. Part of that political tack is homophobia. Attacks on the rights and standing of LGBT people, as they're predominantly referred to in Poland, are commonplace. But they're fighting and resisting. The central question for Poland, and throughout many countries in our historical moment is this: who's a "real" citizen, who isn't, and who gets to decide?



Monday, January 24

THE 2021 CBC MASSEY LECTURES | OUT OF THE SUN: ON RACE AND STORYTELLING
What happens when we begin to consider stories, and lives, at the margins of society? How does that complicate what we think we know about who we are — as individuals, as nations, as human beings? Through visual art, literature and film, as well as her own personal experience, award-winning novelist Esi Edugyan's 2021 CBC Massey Lectures Out of the Sun: On Race and Storytelling illuminates the Black experience in global culture and history.

MASSEY LECTURE 1: EUROPE AND THE ART OF SEEING
Black subjects in European art are generally marginal figures, but even as such, they tell a rich tale about cultural assumptions. In the art of our own time, Black artists such as Harmonia Rosales and Kehinde Wiley have been re-imagining visual art, putting Black lives squarely in the centre. "To look at a portrait", Esi Edugyan says "is to be forced to build a human life out of our own imaginations." Art can both freeze a narrative and remove ambiguity, but it can also suggest layers of perhaps unintended meaning.


Tuesday, January 25

MASSEY LECTURE 2: CANADA AND THE ART OF GHOSTS
"The stories we tell about the dead" Esi Edugyan argues, "act as clarifying narratives to explain what has shaped us, and what continues to make us who we are." However, she asks "If ghost stories reflect to us our histories, our yearning for a connection across time, who is being forgotten, and why?" When some histories are forgotten, we all lose. What is remembered becomes the only history we have, the only framework for who we are. Recovering our ghosts is a way of redressing the narrative.


Wednesday, January 26

MASSEY LECTURE 3: AMERICA AND THE ART OF EMPATHY: WHAT IT MEANS TO 'PASS'
"We all construct our own identities," Esi Edugyan says, "but we all understand, sooner or later, the limits of doing so — that there are ways in which our practical, economic, and physical realities are fixed." Black people who pass as white — and to a lesser extent, whites who pass as Black — are a phenomenon that challenge us to think about what things are fixed in our understanding of identity. Both, Rachel Dolezal and Clarence King passed as Black — but to profoundly different ends.


Thursday, January 27

MASSEY LECTURE 4: AMERICA AND THE ART OF EMPATHY: THE POST-RACIAL SOCIETY
Esi Edugyan argues "To talk of transracialism instead of racial passing is, I think, to shear off its past of darkness, of illicitness." Transracialism implies that we've gone beyond the limiting values of racial passing, allowing us to define for ourselves what our race is. It's a controversial concept — for a Black person, the body may be in itself a metaphor, carrying the weight of history, not something fluid and open to interpretation. So where do our rights to define ourselves begin and end?

Friday, January 28

MASSEY LECTURE 5: AFRICA AND THE ART OF THE FUTURE
"It is enough, I think, to say that certain Western thinkers saw technological progress as a future bound by race." Esi Edugyan argues for alternative readings of the history of the future — we are constrained, she thinks, by a largely white, Eurocentric idea of progress. African thinkers and artists might suggest other realities: the Zambian Space Program, the films Black Panther and District 9, and Nnedi Okorafor's novel Lagoon, are all possible parables of the future. 



Monday, January 31

MASSEY LECTURE 6: ASIA AND THE ART OF STORYTELLING
Esi Edugyan says "Because… both China and Japan lacked strong expansionism into pre-twentieth-century Africa, their ideas of Blackness were sometimes informed by imported stories..." shaping cultural expectations, and in turn shaping the Black history and experience in Asia. For Esi Edugyan herself, going to Asia is also a lesson in the power of storytelling and the dangers of Othering on an individual level: the assumptions go both ways.

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