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Open Source with Christopher Lydon

The End of Work

The jobless economy: a fully automated, engineered, robotic system that doesn’t need YOU, or me either. Anything we can do, machines can do better - surgery, warfare, farming, finance. What’s to do: shall we smash the machines, or go to the beach, or finally learn to play the piano?

Ai Weiwei, China's Artist/Enemy #1

Not perhaps since Alexander Solzhenitsyn in the Soviet Gulag has there been a dissenting artist who got to be as famous as the government that hounds him. But Ai Weiwei’s situation is one-of-a-kind.He’s a scathing ...

Andrew Bacevich: America's War for the Greater Middle East

How do you end an endless war? Thirty years ago Jimmy Carter declared the Persian Gulf a "vital" focus of American foreign policy. Since then, U.S. forces have invaded, occupied, garrisoned, bombed or raided 18 nations, absorbing thousands of casualties and getting little in return in terms of peace or goodwill.

At Peking University: the Rising Generation

What I went least prepared for was the openness of Chinese people in what we call a closed society. So the last audio postcard from this trip is a 10-minute distillation of a conversation that sprang up like music to my ears in a dormitory room with five students at the venerable Peking University in Beijing. These are aspiring middle-class kids – a random sample of the top of the heap

Help Wanted: Department of Revenue

We're nine months into our Open Source re-launch and making plans for a bigger and better Year 2! Every week on our radio show we talk to the most interesting people we can find on hot topics ...

WWI: The War of the Century

This week we’re talking about the guns of August, fired one hundred years ago this month. And we’re wondering what kind of century we inherited from the First World War. Alongside power politics and industrial killing, there was a revolution in art, in the novel, in music and in antiwar ideas in exhausted Europe and over here.

WWI: Adam Tooze Reviews "The Deluge"

In 1916, two years into the war, Americans reelected the president who’d kept us out of the battle. But by the summer of 1917, the same Woodrow Wilson had committed the US to fighting alongside Britain and France against Germany. For me the hair-raising fascination in our conversation here, on the eve of publication, is in the foreshadowings — of a century of horrific hot and cold sequels of the Great War, but also of the very-2014 tensions between democracy and capitalism, and of course the rise of a new giant in China.

WWI: The Shock of the New

Out of the wreckage of World War 1 come the incandescent modernists -- none burning brighter than James Joyce and his Ulysses. And don't forget Virginia Woolf, Ezra Pound and Pablo Picasso, too. It’s a rebel alliance of high-art anarchists. A century later, their lights are still on. Do you still hear the rebellious voice in the modernist masterpieces?

WWI: Remaking Music

In the last show in our series on the Great War, we're listening to the sounds that emerged from its ashes. In Vienna concert halls and New York jazz clubs, from Maurice Ravel’s piano elegies to Igor Stravinsky’s explosive symphonies, we’re coursing through the composers who defined a modern era, reacting to the terrible violence of total warfare through art.

WWI, In 12 Photos

The World War I photographs are as horrible as any current-events coverage Taylor might post, but they're also weird. They have a mood; they are uncanny. You don't know how to dismiss them, and so you can't. Looking at the French priest blessing a prop plane in the mire, you have to ask, “What was he thinking?”

Hacking Democracy

Do we dare look under the hood of American democracy? Or do we have the suspicion that Supreme Court decisions and political battles conceal a drift into corruption? This week we're asking our panel of estimable guests where the problems lie with our government, and how to go about fixing it.

What's Left of Liberal Zionism?

We're looking at liberal Zionism, enduring a crisis after a brutal summer in Gaza. It's prompted handwringing for American Jews and Israelis who are still looking for a way to peace, and still worried about the clash of democratic and Jewish ideals in the political culture of Israel.

Rick Perlstein's Second Draft of History

Rick Perlstein is the hyperkinetic close reader of politics just yesterday. The Invisible Bridge is his third big brick of a book — an 800-page magnifying glass on just three abysmal years between Richard Nixon’s ...

The End of the Lone Genius

Joshua Wolf Shenk's new book, completely fascinating and a safe indoor sport for any number of parlor players, is called Powers of Two. The core idea is that the creative spark that rules our lives — in music, comedy, sports, even scientific discovery — is not a single flame, it’s almost always pair of creators sparking off each other. Whether you’re talking about Watson and Crick, Gilbert and Sullivan, Bird and Magic, or the Wright Brothers—it takes two.

Inside the Islamic State

We're looking inside the Islamic State: as a phenomenon and as America's latest enemy in the endless war on terror. Do we know who they are, or how we plan to defeat them? President Obama says they aren't Islamic and aren't a state. It's clear they're a dangerous mad storm of Arab anger armed, in part, with hand-me-down American weapons. Could this be the coming Caliphate that Dick Cheney warned us against? What if it’s blowback that his Iraq War fired up?

America's War of Ideas

In the run up to another war in the Middle East, after stalemate in Afghanistan and Iraq, what is it in the American DNA that makes us think it it will be different the next time? What is the story we continually tell ourselves about our indispensable nation that seems to cloud the facts on the ground?

James vs. Roosevelt: Letters to the Crimson

Jackson Lears has dramatized the relationship between Theodore Roosevelt and William James, but evidence of that conversation is actually hard to find. We turned up one interesting chapter in the conversation turning around the Venezuelan Crisis of 1895, and playing out in the pages of the Harvard Crimson.

Hacking Climate Change

Can we hack our way toward solutions for climate change? While governments dither, Congress negates and the world warms, how about deploying private finance, atmospheric chemistry and every kind of ingenuity to tackle the problem that’s too big to solve?

Jeremy Grantham: In a Climate of Risk

Jeremy Grantham is a Boston financier who has found himself in the thick of the fight over climate change for more than twenty years. He's the founder and chief strategist of Grantham Mayo van Otterloo, or GMO, which manages ...

Give Peace a Chance

In the late-night impromptu dialogs, the play of character, mood and role reversals, in the petty bickering and grand stakes -- it’s small wonder that Wright wrote this story first as a stage play. He is re-hatching the only (and unviolated) peace treaty between Israelis and Arabs, “one of the great diplomatic triumphs of the twentieth century.”

Report: The People's Climate March

The march announced itself by force of numbers, and by its feel. No one seemed angry. This is not to say that the marchers had been bought off, or didn't understand the long odds facing them, or even that they aren't angry. But they are taking a clever rhetorical detour around a problem.

Sounding the Sea

Composers of classical music often put performance directions or notes throughout their scores. John Luther Adams, a composer known for expansive, landscape-themed music, includes only one word on the score of Become Ocean, a 42-minute ...

Big Data: Who Are We On The Web?

On a corporatized Web, we’re often the sum of our all data — packaged and sold to data brokers for pennies. But the dream of the Internet was that we would be the producers, not the product: participants in a conversation outside of the force of gravity of moneyed media.

Risa Puno: "Please Enable Cookies"

Last weekend, in one of Brooklyn's hippest neighborhoods, DUMBO, interactive installation artist Risa Puno sold cookies at an unusual cost: your personal data. Want a homemade Pink Peppercorn Pistachio cookie? Try giving up your home address and driver's license number. Would ...

Is Capitalism Working?

Casey Stengel raised the question about baseball’s miserable Mets long ago: anybody here know how to play this game? It’s the question more and more of us ask about economists and some of them ask about one another.

Breaking the Fever

With Ophelia Dahl just back from Liberia and Sierra Leone, Jeffrey Sachs, the economist and poverty guru, and Dr. Jim Cunningham, the virus detective, we’re reckoning with Ebola, still the world's biggest story. We're looking for long-term cures that will outlast this feverish moment in American media.

Daniel Bausch, Ebola Doctor

For almost twenty years Dr. Daniel Bausch — director of the Emerging Infections Department at the U.S. Naval Medical Research facility in Peru — has been back and forth to West Africa, treating cases of hemorrhagic fever caused by Ebola and viruses like it (Lassa and Marburg among them). Bausch may know Ebola, up-close and personal, better than any American doctor working today.

American Horror Stories

165 Halloweens on, we still call on Edgar Allan Poe when we want a disturbing kind of classic — all of the horror with none of the guilt. His most famous stories are taught and read and all but buried ...

Jill Lepore: The Feminist and the Superhero

The Harvard historian Jill Lepore – prolific, impish, a super-mom, politically engaged and still professorial – is giving us the kinky inside story of Wonder Woman that you never suspected reading the old comic book.

The Big-Money Midterm

The news from the big-money midterm is: meh! Democrats are out, the Republicans are in, and the country's feeling bluer than ever. Six years after the rise of Obama, we are coming together as a country: not around the ‘hopey, ...

Cornel West's View From Ferguson

"To be on fire is to have a deep love that ignites a holy anger and a righteous indignation and moral outrage at unemployment, decrepit schools, wealth inequality and callousness toward poor and working people."

Back in the U.S.S.R.

The Berlin Wall came down twenty five years ago this week — kicking off the collapse of the Soviet Union, ending the Cold War chapter of world history (or so it seemed), and breaking the heart of ...

Stephen Kotkin: Who's Bigger Than Stalin?

Princeton historian Stephen Kotkin has taken on the most important biography he can imagine: the life, rise and thirty-year reign of Josef Stalin. The first book of a trilogy (out now) goes from Stalin's birth in ...

Capitalism and Chains

We're continuing our series on capitalism by going back to its unspeakable origins. A new wave of  historians say that the  "peculiar institution" of slavery explains more about the present than we'd care to admit: not ...

In Memoriam: Richard Eder, The Exemplary Reader

The beloved Richard Eder had the gift he admired in John Updike and that that sparkled in his own prize-winning book reviews: he “snored” metaphors and similes the way J. S. Bach could “snore” fugues. ...

The BSO's Andris Nelsons: Maestro of ‘Emotionality'

The Boston Symphony’s new maestro Andris Nelsons is a boisterous young athlete in an old man’s job – one of the rising 30-somethings in front of the great orchestras of the world. And still he ...

Ferguson is Everywhere

We’re all caught in the floodlights of Ferguson, Missouri, still reeling from the death of Michael Brown and the non-indictment of Darren Wilson, the man who shot him. We seem to be seeing American society ...

Boston Noir

Noir heroes tend not to be gangsters of Whitey Bulger’s grandeur; not tough cops either: they’re punched-out boxers and junkies, little perps, prisoners, victims reduced to victimizing each other and themselves.

Steve Pinker's Prose Guide

Our friend the linguist and psychologist Steven Pinker has written a manual on prose style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century, as he calls it. We asked Steve to bring along some samples of his favorite lines and paragraphs and we tried out some of ours on him, too. We invite you to play along.

The New Kids On The Block

The protests chanting "Black Lives Matter" and "I Can't Breathe" in the wake of the police killings in Missouri, New York, and elsewhere, will draw comparisons. They're less pious than the Civil Rights Movement and they have the same ...

Beethoven at the Piano

We're getting the Beethoven fundamentals, as never before, at my own piano. At a short safe distance from the keyboard, I’m learning, among other things: As volcanic was the man's painful life and descent into ...

"Why, it's Christmas"

After the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 2, which our mama always read to us on Christmas Eve -- and maybe O. Henry’s story, “The Gift of the Magi” – I don’t know an account of ...

Seeking Super-Interns

Open Source is a weekly radio show on WBUR in Boston and a podcast on the iTunes hit parade. And we need your help! We relaunched the show at the beginning of 2014, and now ...

Vijay Iyer: Jazz in the 21st Century

Where is jazz headed in a new century? With the pianist Vijay Iyer as guide, newly tenured as a professor at Harvard, it tends toward the experimental, with drummers, young musicians and slam poets. If it doesn’t always swing, it’s surprising and takes you in new directions. Will jazz be forgotten or just re-shaped by new, emerging artists like Vijay Iyer?

Rediscovering Cuba

Starting last month, the American freeze-out of Communist Cuba, which long outlasted the Cold War, began to come to an end. It may have been a small thrill in a bleak political year, but take it ...

Sven Beckert's Cotton: Guilty Fabric of our Lives

For the Delta to become the chief grower of the industrial world’s most important commodity – a kind of Saudi Arabia of the early 19th century – its land had to be taken from its ...

Learning from Paris

The story of the massacre at Charlie Hebdo has gone everywhere in the past week: into meditations on free speech and blasphemy, into declarations of cultural and actual war, and high-wire geopolitics. It's a fresh attack, meaning high emotion and demands for ‘moral ...

Hacking ‘Affordable Care'

On this Kickstarter-launch week we're diagnosing America’s healthcare woes with the meta-journalist and heart patient, Steve Brill. In a new book he calls the Affordable Care Act "America's Bitter Pill", a rationalizing redo of health insurance ...

Steve Brill's Bitter Pill

Steve Brill is our guest. He’s an old-fashioned reporter at book length – out of the David Halberstam school. He’s taken apart the passage of Obamacare in an investigation he titled America’s Bitter Pill: Money, ...

The Challenge of Our Time

We're continuing our "money machine" series on the cost of carbon capitalism. Gas gets cheaper, the weather gets warmer, and for our guests the environmental activists Naomi Klein and Bill McKibben, the choice is clear: ...

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