From Gattaca to X-Men – How will gene editing effect our real future?with Larni Salathiel and Eben Kirksey
Scientists are rushing headlong into experimenting with gene editing technology. Eben Kirksey – one of the world’s most promising young anthropologists – is urging us to pause and consider “what makes us human?” in this provocative podcast.Listen to "From “Gattaca” to “X-Men” - How will gene editing effect our real future?" on Spreaker.
The science fiction film “Gattaca” portrays a terrifying future of “super humans” created by eugenics, while “Brave New World” brings us to hatcheries where humans are predestined to a social cast before they are born.
In our final podcast for this series, one of the world’s most progressive anthropologists, Associate Professor Eben Kirksey, discusses gene editing tools (such as CRISPR-cas9). Ethical issues have been sidelined as scientists rush headlong into experimenting with the technology.
Cautiously optimistic about the medical potential, Eben explains that most people are unaware of the risks and challenges of gene editing, including mutations, developing and policing international regulations, and potential loss of human diversity and equality.
“Everyone aspires to have the perfect child, but if we did there would be no room for diversity, for variation and the sort of unconditional love that a parent would develop for a child who has flaws, like every human has flaws. The flaw is part of the human condition. It’s what’s important,” he said.
“Let’s look at what this tool can do, but also be very cautious and not let these ‘techno future’ dreams get in the way of more important values and more important ethical considerations that we already know how to deal with in the present.”
Based within the Alfred Deakin Institute at Deakin University, Eben has authored/edited three books and is an established curator. After graduating from New College, Florida, he studied the history of medicine at the University of Oxford before completing his PhD at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He is currently continuing his research on gene editing, the innovation economy, and social inequality through a 12-month program at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, NJ.
This podcast features insights from “The Mutant Project,” Eben’s latest book, which is slated for a September 2020 release with St Martin’s Press.
Delve into the fascinating question of what makes us human.
Take a deeper look:
- “Salt Fish Girl” (2002) by American-born Canadian novelist and literary critic Loressa Lai.
- Emergent Ecologies (2015), by Eben Kirksey – book
- The Multispecies Salon (2014), edited by Eben Kirksey – book
- The Multispecies Salon, Eben Kirksey – blog
- Freedom in Entangled Worlds: West Papua and the Architecture of Global Power (2012), by Eben Kirksey – book
- “The Emergence of Multispecies Ethnography,” (with Stefan Helmreich) – article
- Chasing the molecule – disruptr
- Changemakers – A/Prof Eben Kirksey – video
- Deakin to host Anthropocene Campus 2018 – disruptr
Diabetes – the silent pandemic battering Australiawith Larni Salathiel and Kathryn Aston-Mourney
By 2031, 3.3 million Australians are expected to have type 2 diabetes. In this podcast, world-leading diabetes researcher Dr Kathryn Aston-Mourney shares her perspective on the disease and makes the case for a full-scaled approach to combat the problem.Listen to "Diabetes – the silent pandemic battering Australia" on Spreaker.
By 2031, 3.3 million Australians are expected to have type 2 diabetes. In this podcast, world-leading diabetes researcher Dr Kathryn Aston-Mourney explains that curbing the pandemic will require more than lifestyle interventions. It will need a full-scaled approach that includes identifying those most at risk and prescribing treatment before individuals develop the disease.
Kathryn explains the types of diabetes, the causes and some of the strategies scientists are pursuing to improve prevention and treatment.
“The golden bullet is to prevent people from becoming diabetics in the first place,” she said.
“In Australia about 280 people a day are diagnosed with diabetes and that number is increasing. If we don’t do something to change this, the healthcare system will be overwhelmed. Research happens slowly, but we are in a race to find better ways to treat people before too many acquire the disease.”
Based within Deakin University’s Centre for Molecular and Medical Research, Kathryn and her team are focussing on the potential of existing drugs. This is a world-first approach to diabetes research, but the strategy is proving successful in other health areas, with treatment breakthroughs discovered for conditions such as epilepsy and cancer.
“This means we have drugs to screen that are FDA approved, cheap to synthesise, and don’t need a long safety testing process, so we can treat patients more quickly,” said Kathryn. “We have already had an international success story in our lab, finding that a treatment for glaucoma also works for diabetes.”
Geelong-born and bred, Kathryn spent five years undertaking post-doctoral research at the University of Washington. She is a passionate science communicator, an accomplished musician (a former “Sweetheart of Swing”) and has received a slew of awards and accolades.
Find out more:
- “The subtle art of not giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life” (2016) by blogger and author Mark Manson
From the frontier wars to terra nullius – why we need to lift the lid on Australia’s pastwith Larni Salathiel and Professor Emma Kowal
Anthropologist Professor Emma Kowal fearlessly pries open some of Australia’s most challenging problems. Hear how she became motivated to improve life for Indigenous Australians and other marginalised groups.Listen to "From the frontier wars to terra nullius - why we need to lift the lid on Australia’s past" on Spreaker.
Whether it be the politics of DNA testing or calling out the structural racism that has existed since colonisation, anthropologist Professor Emma Kowal fearlessly pries open some of Australia’s most challenging problems, in the hope she can improve life for Indigenous Australians and other marginalised groups.
Based within the Alfred Deakin Institute at Deakin University, Emma shares her story in this podcast, including her experience as a young medical doctor working with the Indigenous in the Northern Territory and the influence of her four grandparents – all Holocaust refugees – which has led her to become one of Australia’s most respected cultural and medical anthropologists.
“Since colonisation, the Aboriginal population has been decimated over and over again, from disease and frontier wars, to the slow violence of poor services and poor access to services, to inter-generational trauma, to the stolen generation. The list goes on,” she said.
“For all Australians, whether they are engaged in Indigenous issues or not, we all benefit from the fact the land and resources were stolen and people were murdered. We need to acknowledge that … We can’t go back to 1788, but we need to take seriously the effects of colonisation on everything we do.”
Emma was recently elected a Fellow of the prestigious Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia. She was the Deputy Director for the National Centre for Indigenous Genomics at the Australian National University (2013-2017), while also at Deakin, and has been a visiting scholar at Yale and several other world-class universities, amongst many achievements.
Many other topics are covered in this podcast, from cryopolitics to climate change. Prepare to have your heart touched – and your conscience.
Take a deeper look:
- “The Lorax” (1971) by Dr Seuss
- The Killing Times, “The Guardian” – a map of sites where violence occurred on the Australian frontier
- “The Other Side of the Frontier: Aboriginal Resistance to the European invasion of Australia” (1981) by Australian historian Henry Reynolds
- Professor Emma Kowal – Wikipedia
- Cryopolitics: Frozen Life in a Melting World,” (2017) edited by Emma Kowal and Joanna Radin – book
- “Trapped in the Gap: Doing Good in Indigenous Australia”, (2015) by Emma Kowal – book
- “Force, Movement, Intensity: The Newtonian Imagination in the Humanities and Social Sciences” (2011) by Emma Kowal and Ghassan Hage – book
- The Dark Side of Cooling – disruptr
- Cobalt and the Congo? Disciplines unite for ethical renewable energy – video
- National recognition for top female researchers – disruptr
- Deakin academic joins Genomics Health Futures Mission – disruptr
- Deakin University receives over $8 million in research funding – disruptr
- Bridging the gap – finding ways forward with Indigenous Australians – Research News
Robots to the rescuewith Larni Salathiel and Dr Michael Fielding
From tunnelling into dangerous mines, to defusing bombs, robots are making life easier and safer for humans. The father of Australia’s police OzBot, Dr Michael Fielding tells Larni how he develops robots and the tasks they are likely to perform.Listen to "Robots to the rescue" on Spreaker.
From tunnelling into dangerous mines, to defusing bombs, robots are making life easier and safer for humans. The father of Australia’s popular police OzBot, Dr Michael ‘Mick’ Fielding tells Larni about his approach to developing robots – and the types of tasks we can expect them to perform.
Mick calls it “Macgyvering a solution” — using available resources creatively to achieve a goal. His ability to mix cutting edge technology with “good old ingenuity” has allowed him “to replace problems with technological solutions that people love”. As Principal Research and Development Fellow (Advanced Mechatronics Systems) at Deakin University’s world-leading Institute for Intelligent Systems Research and Innovation, he is a pioneer in haptics, augmented reality and robotics technology – working with a team of over 100 engineers, scientists, mathematicians, programmers and machinists.
“I’m not passionate about technology for technology’s sake,” he said. “My work is about finding clever solutions with technology that consider user experience and involve close collaboration with colleagues and end users.”
Over his 20-year career, Mick has created seven patented inventions and contributed to more than 150 commercial projects. He’s worked alongside the world’s leading research organisations, and delivered strategic and defence projects that have directly resulted in research and commercial income of over AU$50 million.
Prepare to glimpse the brave new world of robotics.
Challenge your comfort zone:
- “The Martian” (2014) by American novelist Andy Weir (also a Hollywood movie)
- “When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing” (2018) by Daniel H. Pink, US author, journalist and TV host
- “Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking” (2006) by Malcolm Gladwell, Canadian journalist, author, and public speaker
- “The Alchemist: A Fable about Following Your Dream” (2005) by Paulo Coelho, influential Brazilian author
Read about Mick’s research projects:
- OzBot Titan: the lifesaving police robot – disruptr
- OzBot Raider mobile target system to revolutionise safer defence training – disruptr
- Go Aussie OzBot – Deakin Research News
- Energy storage boost for nation – disruptr
- IISRI signs major research contract with Australian Navy – disruptr
Connect with him on LinkedIn
Planet under pressure – a science watchdog shares her storywith Larni Salathiel and Emily Nicholson
From coral reefs, to the Brazilian rainforests, to the Antarctic shelf, scientist Emily Nicholson is part of a global team that assesses the conservation values of the world’s ecosystems. She shares some important facts about climate change and how you too can make a difference.Listen to "Planet under pressure – a science watchdog shares her story" on Spreaker.
From coral reefs, to the Brazilian rainforests, to the Antarctic shelf, scientist Emily Nicholson is part of a global team that assesses the conservation values of the world’s ecosystems. Emily co-leads the Red List of Ecosystems team of the world’s most significant environmental watchdog IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature). IUCN sets the global standards on conservation for species, ecosystems and protected areas, providing important information on how biodiversity is under pressure around the world, and what can be done to safeguard nature.
Emily is living proof that research can make a difference. One of her recent papers showed the impact of the Red List of Ecosystems on conservation policy and practice, and she is set to extend this work to examine the links between ecosystems and human well-being. Funded by the Australian Research Council, her work will improve the tracking of Australia’s progress in meeting its international environmental commitments. But beyond that, on the global stage, it will provide a global evidence base for all governments to meet United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
“Sixty per cent of Australians rate climate change as the greatest threat to our national interest,” she says. “But that is only the first step. We all need to be engaged and active. There are practical tips that everyone can do to help, including ensuring our politicians understand the urgency of this crisis.”
Emily is an Associate Professor of Conservation Science at Deakin University and a mother of three young children. Her story will inspire you to make a difference.
Books to fire your soul:
- “Thinking, fast and slow” (2011) by Daniel Kahneman, Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences Laureate.
- “The snail and the whale” by Julia Donaldson, 2011-2013 UK Children’s Laureate.
- Emily’s blog
- Emily Nicholson – an inspiring woman – disruptr
- Dreaming of a future worth living in – disruptr
- Researchers seek true value of ocean wealth – disruptr
- Defining collapse – step forward for ecosystems – disruptr
- ARC green light for pioneering, sustainable projects – disruptr
- Conservation policy works for endangered ecosystems – disruptr
- 2019 Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services - IPBES website
- IUCN Red List of Threatened Species – home page
Our future entwined – robots are comingwith Larni Salathiel and James Mullins
A world where robots are common-place is almost here, as technology is no longer the limiting factor. Associate Prof James Mullins suggests where we'll see robots, how they'll benefit us and the ethical questions we need to consider.Listen to "Our future entwined – robots are coming" on Spreaker.
Autonomous vehicles, robot-assisted rehabilitation, robot companions… A world where robots are common-place is just around the corner. In fact, technology is no longer the limiting factor. Haptics pioneer Associate Professor James Mullins says the limitations today are more to do with ideas and inspiration than technical capacity.
An applied robotics engineer and entrepreneur, James is based within Deakin University’s Institute for Intelligent Systems Research and Innovation. He tells Larni where we can expect to see robots in the near future and discusses the social and ethical implications of AI, suggested by Isaac Asimov’s “three laws of robotics” (1942), which still influence thought on ethics and robots.
After building robots for security, medical, industrial and other uses, James has achieved spectacular success with his haptic firefighter training tool, FLAIM Trainer. The VR system gives firefighters all the sensations of fighting a fire – including force kickback and heat – in a safe environment. It has been embraced by emergency services globally and led to a spin-out company FLAIM Systems (with James Mullins as CEO), which was recently named “Small Business Exporter of the Year” at the Victorian Governor’s Export Awards.
Prepare to glimpse the future.
Inspiration for the 21st Century:
- Popular Mechanics Robots: A New Age of Bionics, Drones & Artificial Intelligence, by Daniel H Wilson, author of “The New York Times” bestselling “Robopocalypse”, and its sequel, “Robogenesis”, and seven other books.
- FLAIM: Victoria’s Small Business Exporter of the Year – FLAIM Systems
- FLAIM Systems wins national Startup of the Year Award – FLAIM Systems
- Start-up marks new phase for FLAIM Trainer – disruptr
- The AI dilemma: can we trust robots? – disruptr
- ManuFutures marks new phase in innovation at Waurn Ponds – disruptr
- IISRI signs major research contract with Australian Navy – disruptr
- OzBot Titan: the lifesaving police robot – disruptr
- The AI dilemma: can we trust robots? – disruptr
- FLAIM Systems – Developing and supporting the next step in skills training for emergency services.
- Institute for Intelligent Systems Research and Innovation – Deakin University
- “Three Laws of Robotics”, from short story “Runaround” (1942), by one of the 20th century’s most influential science fiction authors, Isaac Asimov.
Including all abilities – the world can be made to fitwith Larni Salathiel and Nicole Rinehart
Nicole Rinehart is living proof that one person can make a difference. Hear how her AllPlay social movement is giving children with disabilities access to organised sport and cultural opportunities that most children take for granted.Listen to "Including all abilities – the world can be made to fit" on Spreaker.
Nicole Rinehart is living proof that one person can make a difference to the lives of many. Director of the Deakin University Child Study Centre and a world expert on autism spectrum disorder, Nicole founded the AllPlay social movement to give children with disabilities access to organised sport and cultural opportunities that most children take for granted.
“One in five children has developmental challenges or disabilities,” she said. “This is a huge number of children who have been excluded from normal parts of life that play a major role in well-being. I realised that I could only solve these problems by stepping out of the research lab and connecting with the world.”
In this podcast, Nicole shares her inspirational personal and professional journeys. She tells Larni about the recent leaps in scientific understanding of neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism, Asperger’s Disorder and ADHD, and how, when she was a mother of young children, she was shocked by the absence of children with disabilities in her children’s sporting club.
Drawing on her expertise as a professor of clinical psychology, she started a crusade for inclusion that began with NAB AFL Auskick and led to partnerships with Moose Toys, the National Disability Insurance Agency, Queensland Ballet and its Director, “Mao’s Last Dancer” author Li Cunxin, the Victorian Department of Education and Training, and many other organisations.
The community response has been phenomenal. The evidence-based, user-friendly AllPlay program is now the world’s biggest game changer for children with a disability in sport. It is also being taken up by education systems, from early learning through to secondary schools, as AllPlay Learn.
Inspiration for the 21st Century:
- “Mao’s last dancer” (2003), a Memoir written by Chinese-Australian author Li Cunxin, released as a film in 2009.
- All Playing Together, Nicole Rinehart – TedX Deakin University (YouTube video).
- Making science real for all children – disruptr
- Deakin program helps kids with disabilities hit the dancefloor – disruptr
- Levelling the field so all can play – disruptr
- Trial to address sleep problems in children with autism – disruptr
- Autism research leads to start-up – disruptr
- Global partnership to improve children’s lives – disruptr
Cybercrime – Is this the battle we are destined to lose?with Larni Salathiel and Damien Manuel
Australians lost $10 million to scammers last year. Cybercrime seems headed in one direction, but Damien Manuel is bringing together the best minds and best ideas to combat threats to our wallets, privacy and national security.Listen to "Cybercrime – Is this the battle we are destined to lose?" on Spreaker.
Australians lost $10 million to scammers last year. One in three Australians were impacted. Cybercrime seems headed in one direction – and we need the best brains to combat threats to our wallets, privacy and national security.
At age eleven, Damien Manuel joined a hacker collective with some friends. This sparked his interest in breaking systems to see how they work and discover their flaws. From those humble beginnings, Damien turned his cyber super-smarts to security and is now Director of Deakin University’s Centre for Cyber Security Research and Innovation.
Damien and Larnie consider new trends in cybercrime, the best ways to thwart the criminals and the reams of new honest jobs emerging in the cyber world.
Reading for the 21st Century:
- 21 Lessons for the 21st Century (2018) by Yuval Noah Hararis, historian, philosopher and the bestselling author of “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” and “Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow.”
- Seven things small businesses must do to prevent cyber-attacks – disruptr
- Staying ahead of cybercrime – disruptr
- Accelerating cyber security – Deakin Research Showcase
- Think your metadata is only visible to national security agencies? Think again – The Conversation
- Roboticist extraordinaire – James Mulllins podcast
Movies, popcorn and pop stars – why celebrity matterswith Larni Salathiel and Professor Sean Redmond
We love them, we hate them, or they might be our guilty pleasure, but do celebrities and popular culture really matter? Prof Sean Redmond explains why they do and we should all be celebrity literate.Listen to "Movies, popcorn and pop stars – why celebrity matters" on Spreaker.
We love them, we hate them, or they might just be our guilty pleasure, but do movie stars, movies and popular culture really matter? Is there more than entertainment and escapism to the delirious dreams and fantasies they offer us? One of Australia’s leading cinephiles, Sean Redmond, Professor of Screen and Design at Deakin University, tells Larni why taking popular entertainment seriously does matter and why we should all be celebrity literate.
Sean’s own boyhood enchantment with the likes of Laurel and Hardy, Elvis Presley and David Bowie led him on a lifelong quest to understand the role celebrity plays in our lives. “It’s on our screens, devices, newspapers and social media. Its writ large across our everyday lives,” he says. “It matters because it matters to people and if we don’t try to understand it, then we’re doing a disservice to culture, to reality, to how knowledge is increasingly communicated.”
From body image, to the Kardashians, to loneliness and science fiction, Sean unpacks the seductive power of cinema, stardom and celebrity, including its role as “social glue” – connecting people and providing meaning in a time when buffers like religion and community have vanished for swathes of people across society.
Be dazzled by Sean and Larni’s wide-ranging, deep-dive discussion into cinema, stardom and celebrity and the highs and lows of modern life.
Beyond the smoke and mirrors:
- “Station 11” (2014) by Emily St. John Mandel, winner of Arthur C. Clarke Award (2015) – book.
- “What My Fingers Knew: The Cinesthetic Subject, or Vision in the Flesh” by Vivian Sobchack (screen phenomenologist) – article.
- The loneliness of science fiction – disruptr
- The art of science – disruptr
- “Celebrity” (2018) – book
- “Liquid Space: Digital Age Science, Film and Television” (2017) – book
- David Bowie (2015, Bloomsbury) co-edited with Toija Cinque and Christopher Moore – book
- Constellations Bladerunner (2016) – book
- “Sounding Loneliness in Under the Skin” – article
- “Celebrity Studies,” peer-reviewed journal, Sean Redmond, founding editor
- “The Ear That Dreams: Eye Tracking Sound in the Moving Image” – video essay
- Michael Rogin: American, University of California, Berkeley, with interests in American literature and cinema.
- “Sleeping with the enemy: Audience studies and critical literacy” by Professor Joke Hermes, Professor of Media and Culture at University of Amsterdam (Netherlands) – article.
Trials and tribulations – energy and lawwith Larni Salathiel and Professor Samantha Hepburn
Prof Samantha Hepburn is a modern-day ‘Athena’ – wielding the law to protect nature. Hear how she became an expert on Queensland’s Adani coal mine case and why we all need to care about climate change.Listen to "Trials and tribulations – energy and law" on Spreaker.
Larni meets a modern-day “Athena,” Deakin University Law Professor Samantha Hepburn, who wields the law to protect nature. You will be shocked, yet galvanised by this frank conversation with Samantha.
“The Gladiator” movie, starring Russell Crowe, is her favourite and you can see why. Hero General Maximus Decimus Meridius wins over the Colosseum crowd. With similar heroism, Samantha takes on heavy hitters like Adani – projecting her voice and knowledge in the courts and news media.
As a student, Samantha saw how law could improve land rights and protect the environment. The Mabo case was pivotal – showing Australia wouldn’t be “frozen in an age of discrimination”. Now she is Director of Deakin’s Centre for Energy and Natural Resources Law and a world expert on the environmental and energy frameworks governing the Adani approval to mine coal in Queensland. She can explain the science behind the dire straits facing Australia’s World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef, and the food / water / energy nexus associated with the worstening impacts of global Climate Change – from droughts in Africa, to sea level rises in the Pacific, to loss of sea ice – and fish.
Be stirred to find your own inner warrior.
Reading to fire your soul:
- “The Road” (2006) by Cormac McCarthy, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
- The morality of Adani – disruptr
- In their own words – Professor Samantha Hepburn – disruptr
- Adani’s new mini version of its mega mine still faces some big hurdles – The Conversation
- It’s clear why coal struggles for finance – and the government can’t change that – The Conversation
- With a billion reasons not to trust super trustees, we need regulators to act in the public interest – The Conversation
- Explainer: what is energy security, and how has it changed? – The Conversation
- Edmund Rice Foundation – Sustainable community-based education programs in developing countries and projects for marginalised and disadvantaged groups in Australia.
- “Our Planet,” with David Attenborough
- Environmental crusader – Emily Nicholson podcast