• Breakthrough Institute

Episode 1: Wizards and prophets with Charles Mann

Charles Mann is a historian and a journalist, whose books include 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus and 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created. His most recent work is The Wizard and the Prophet: Two Remarkable Scientists and Their Dueling Visions to Shape Tomorrow’s World. It’s a book about how humans use science, technology, and policy to confront our impact on the planet and, ultimately, our own survival as a species. Charles offered an excerpt of his book to the latest issue of the Breakthrough Journal, which you can find here.

In this interview, you’ll learn what wizards and prophets are, why the scale of a given technology might be more important to us than the technology itself, and whether humans have a special role in the Universe.

Find a full transcript of the interview here.

Mentioned in this episode:

  • Thomas Malthus and limits to growth; is there an infinite number of resources? Here.

  • The drama around Sulfanilamide, and how that led to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act; here.

  • The C4 Rice Initiative, a huge international project that aims to change the way photosynthesis works in rice; here.

  • The outcry from the environmental community against the Ivanpah solar plant and other large-scale renewable projects; here.

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