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CUSP Distinguished Speaker Series 2020-21

The CUSP Distinguished Speaker Series follows an intellectual theme that is the foundation of our year-long inquiry. This year's talks explore the theme of “Disruption.” We will consider this theme within the fields of music, psychology and behavioral science, technology, philosophy and ethics, health and medicine, the biological sciences, and economics.

2020-21 Theme: Disruption

“Move fast and break things” was Facebook’s internal motto until 2014; move fast, break things, disrupt the world’s stale status quo. In retrospect we can only understand the irony. For a long time “disruption” was both a corporate buzzword and one of our society’s guiding tenets – what Jill Lepore, writing for the New Yorker, called our “theory of nature.” Entrepreneurs, artists, and scholars alike sought to disrupt their fields with the latest and greatest technologies, techniques, and thoughts. Things seem different, now. We live intimately with unavoidable disruptions: to our living habits and habitats, to our families and occupations, to our relationships with our political and social institutions, to our understandings of ourselves in the context of our world. And dislocation for many of us is not metaphorical, as much of our Columbia community is no longer situated in New York. What does it mean to live in such a world – one where disruption keeps us apart but also makes our togetherness possible, even across oceans? Where disruptive technologies serve to both connect and to divide and surveille? How can we embrace changes and innovations without hurting our communities? How can we live like this? Now seems like a good time to think critically about our “theory of nature” – both its detriments and its possibilities. ​

Upcoming Talks

William Deresiewicz — Wednesday, September 30, 2020: The Fate of Art and Artists in the Age of Disruption — “CUSP Inaugural Lecture”

William Deresiewicz
Author, Essayist and Literary Critic

6:00-8:00 p.m. EST
Online

Silicon Valley says there’s never been a better time to be an artist. Artists say they've hardly ever had it worse. So who is right? And since people are still making a living as artists today, how are they managing to do it? If artists were artisans in the Renaissance, bohemians in the nineteenth century, and professionals in the twentieth, a new paradigm is emerging in the digital age, one that is changing our fundamental ideas about both the nature of art and the role of the artist in society. 

Biography

William Deresiewicz is an award-winning essayist and critic, a frequent speaker at educational and other venues, and a former professor of English of Yale. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Atlantic, Harper’s Magazine, and many other publications. He is the recipient of a National Book Critics Circle award for excellence in reviewing and is the best-selling author of Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life. His new book is The Death of the Artist: How Creators Are Struggling to Survive in the Age of Billionaires and Big Tech.

Maury Harris — Thursday, October 22, 2020: COVID-19 Economics

Maury Harris
Economist

6:00-8:00 p.m. EST
Online

The COVID-19 crisis has spawned a huge amount of new and exciting economic analysis. For example, exploiting big data has enhanced understanding the relative roles of lockdown policies and the COVID19 infection and death rates in driving consumer spending and economic activity.  A variety of macroeconomic stabilization policies have provided a laboratory for testing major theories of household behavior. Also, the debates over Federal deficits and Federal Reserve balance sheet expansion/monetization have been revisited in a totally unprecedented environment for macroeconomic stabilization policies.

Biography

Dr. Maury Harris for 36 years was the Chief US Economist for UBS and PaineWebber. Prior to his Wall Street career, Dr. Harris worked at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the Bank for International Settlements in Basel, Switzerland. He earned his PhD in economics from Columbia University after graduating Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Texas. Dr. Harris has served as President of the Forecasters Club of New York and in 2015 published Inside the Crystal Ball: How to Make and Use Forecasts.

Lyle Owerko — Wednesday, November 11, 2020: Lyle Owerko, Photographer

Lyle Owerko
Photojournalist, Artist and Filmmaker

6:00-8:00 p.m. EST
Online

Lyle Owerko is a photographer and filmmaker with a diverse roster of clients including major brands, corporations and human rights groups. Perceptive and knowledgeable of urban movements, his intuitive and technically crafted images have found their way in to the lexicons of both pop culture and photo journalism. On September 11, 2001, he shot the cover image for Time magazine's coverage of 9/11. Framed in somber black, instead of Time's usual all-red border, his picture delivered one of the most iconic moments in history through unforgettable detail. Lyle's current projects seek to bridge social and political gaps while celebrating the unique perspectives and dialogues of our modern world.

Biography

A photojournalist, artist and filmmaker, Lyle Owerko has documented a diverse range of subjects, from early 80s neon-colored BMX bikes to members of Kenya’s Samburu tribe. However, his most iconic image is the 2001 photograph The Second Plane, capturing Flight 175 as it struck the second tower of the World Trade Center on September 11. This image appeared on the cover of the September 14, 2001 issue of Time magazine, and stands as an unforgettable record of a national tragedy. Often working with human rights organizations, such as Charity:Water and the United Nations Millennium Promise, Owerko frequently merges art with a social mission in his work. His seminal body of work, The Boombox Project, began in 2005 as documentation of vintage portable stereos and now includes a series of sculptures and a documentary on the subject. In 2010, Abrams Image published a book of those photos, which included a foreword by Spike Lee and interviews with some of the most distinct contributors of that era. Owerko’s work is included in the permanent collection of the Library of Congress, and is included in the permanent collection at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, among other galleries and institutions globally.

Caroline Marvin — Monday, November 30, 2020: Topic TBA

Caroline Marvin
Professor of Psychology and Director of Academic Affairs
Department of Psychology, Columbia University

6:00-8:00 p.m. EST
Online

Please check back soon for more information!

Biography

Caroline Marvin teaches in the Department of Psychology, where she also serves as Director of Academic Affairs and Director of Undergraduate Studies for the Neuroscience & Behavior major. Her research examines curiosity and its neural substrates, aiming to understand how curiosity motivates information-seeking and drives learning.

Jennifer S. Hirsch and Shamus Khan — Tuesday, January 26, 2021: Sexual Citizens: Sex, Power, and Assault on Campus

Jennifer S. Hirsch
Professor of Sociomedical Sciences
Columbia University

Shamus Khan
Professor of Sociology
Columbia University

6:00-8:00 p.m. EST
Online

In Sexual Citizens: A Landmark Study of Sex, Power, and Assault on Campus, Columbia professors Jennifer S. Hirsch and Shamus Khan lay out an expansive, empirically-grounded vision for campus sexual assault prevention. The book is rich with the testimonies of over 150 Columbia students who participated in the Sexual Health Initiative to Foster Transformation. Hirsch and Khan’s goal, in sharing these stories, is not to make moral judgments or decide what the ideal legal ramifications of assault should be. Rather, with empathy and compassion for the many struggles that young people face, they approach sexual assault as a public health problem and explain it by setting out a broader understanding of how sex is organized and what it means to young people in college.

Grounded in the intimate, often painful accounts of the human beings at its center, Sexual Citizens is a bold and comprehensive analysis of a social ecosystem where sexual assault is a regular feature, concluding with a bracing set of recommendations for what families, teachers, policy makers, and leaders in higher education can do to prevent it.

Biography

Jennifer S. Hirsch is a Professor of Sociomedical Sciences at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health. Shamus Khan is a Professor of Sociology at Columbia. Together they are co-authors of Sexual Citizens: A Landmark Study of Sex, Power and Assault on Campus, published by WW Norton.

Patricia Cruz — Tuesday, February 9, 2021: Reckoning With Our History: America at the Crossroads Again

Patricia Cruz
Executive Director
Harlem Stage

6:00-8:00 p.m. EST
Online

Please check back soon for more information!

Biography

Patricia Cruz began her term as Executive Director of Harlem Stage in 1998. Ms. Cruz is a member of the Board of Directors and is responsible for overseeing Board Development, long-range planning, fundraising, and program development. The highlight of her tenure has been the $26 million renovation of the Gatehouse for use as Harlem Stage’s new home. Cruz serves on The CalArts Board of Overseers.

Cruz has also served on the Tony Nominating Committee and the Board of Urban Assembly. She is also past President of The New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), an organization that supports and nurtures the work of artists and arts organizations throughout the state, and ArtTable, a national organization of women in the arts.

Indrani Das — Wednesday, February 17, 2021: Topic TBA

Indrani Das, PhD
Lamont Associate Research Professor
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Columbia University

6:00-8:00 p.m. EST
Online

Please check back soon for more information!

Biography

Please check back soon for more information!

Denise Cruz — Date TBA: Topic TBA

6:00-8:00 p.m. EST
Online

Please check back soon for more information!

Biography

Please check back soon for more information!

Past Talks

Gareth Williams — Friday, August 30, 2019: The Core and More: The What, Why and How of a Columbia Education — “CUSP/ASP Annual NSOP Lecture

Gareth Williams
Anthon Professor of Latin Language and Literature
Director of Undergraduate Studies
Department of Classics, Columbia University

10:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m.
Faculty Room, Low Memorial Library

This talk is designed to describe how the Core contributes to your larger intellectual trajectory at Columbia; how it fits in with and strengthens the competencies that a Columbia education aims to foster; and what you can expect to find when you enter the classroom in such courses as Literature Humanities, Contemporary Civilization and the other Core offerings. A period of question and answer will follow the talk.

Biography

Gareth Williams has taught at Columbia since 1992. He received a Ph.D. in 1990 from Cambridge University for a dissertation on Ovid’s exilic writings that subsequently resulted in two books: the first, Banished Voices: Readings in Ovid’s Exile Poetry (Cambridge, 1994), and the second, The Curse of Exile: A Study of Ovid’s Ibis, Proceedings of the Cambridge Philological Society Supplementary Volume 19 (Cambridge, 1996). Two distinct research phases followed, the first of which focused on the Latin ethical writings of Lucius Annaeus Seneca. Two monographs resulted, the first an edition with commentary of L. Annaeus Seneca: Selected Moral Dialogues. De OtioDe Brevitate Vitae (Cambridge, 2003); the second, The Cosmic Viewpoint: A Study of Seneca’s Natural Questions (Oxford, 2012), was awarded the Goodwin Award of Merit by the Society for Classical Studies in 2014. Most recently, among various other projects and edited volumes in the area of Roman philosophy, his research has focused on the socio-literary culture of Renaissance Venice, an interest that recently resulted in the publication of Pietro Bembo on Etna: The Ascent of a Venetian Humanist (Oxford, 2017).

Ravi Kailas and Cathy Guo — Wednesday, September 11, 2019: The Striver vs. The Witness: An Entrepreneur's Search for Value — “CUSP Inaugural Lecture/Alumni Journeys”

Ravi Kailas, Entrepreneur
Cathy Guo '17CC, John Jay Scholar

6:00–8:00 p.m.
Davis Auditorium, Schapiro CEPSR

The "Myth of the Entrepreneur" is a critique of assumptions which are commonly held about the role of the entrepreneur. Specifically, that the differentiated ability of the entrepreneur rightfully deserves the majority of rewards (financial and otherwise) from a venture's success; that entrepreneurial ventures are net social impact positive by creating employment and productivity increases in the economy; and that the system of prioritizing rewards to shareholders creates aligned incentives at the firm level and the broader economy. What happens when an entrepreneur begins questioning these assumptions – and acknowledging the structural inequalities which are perpetuated by this model of entrepreneurship? What other models for designing firms can bring an entrepreneurial venture closer to positive social impact? As a serial entrepreneur, Kailas has built multi-billion dollar ventures in India throughout his career. At age 35, he experiences a catalyzing moment of dissonance – between his conception of an entrepreneur and how value is actually created and distributed. Leaving all three of his active ventures behind, he embarks on a five-year journey of meditation, introspection, and global research of the history of capitalism and various experimental structures of the firm. What emerges from that searching is an ongoing process of working through dissonance and contradiction – both personal and societal.

Biography

Ravi Kailas is a serial entrepreneur who has built and scaled ventures spanning telecom, software, financial options, infrastructure and more. He currently serves as the Chairman of the Board of Mytrah Group, one of India's largest independent renewable power producers. He spends much of his remaining time on Pravaha Trust, an open philanthropic foundation.

Cathy Guo graduated from Columbia in 2017 as a John Jay Scholar, summa cum laude, with a degree in Philosophy and Economics. She lives in Bangalore. 

Katja Maria Vogt — Thursday, October 10, 2019: Disagreement and Relativism

Katja Maria Vogt
Professor of Philosophy
Columbia University

6:00-8:00 p.m.
Davis Auditorium, Schapiro CEPSR

If we disagree about how many people are in the room, we count them. If we disagree how the people in the room should act  whether someone's views are offensive, someone's actions hurtful, and so on  what do we do? We don't seem to have a method of resolving the disagreement. And typically, we are invested in our views. We care about what we see as good and bad, right and wrong. This talk examines what's special about value disagreement, why it is so persistent and so pervasive, and what, if any, the truth in relativism might be.

Biography

Katja Maria Vogt, Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University, is a specialist in ancient philosophy, ethics, and normative epistemology. She is a recipient of the Columbia Distinguished Faculty Award, and currently works on externally funded projects on Agency Imagination and Dogmatism and Skepticism. In her books and papers, she focuses on questions that figure both in ancient and contemporary discussions: What are values? What kinds of values are knowledge and truth? What does it mean to want one's life to go well? Vogt has published widely on skepticism and relativism. Her most recent book – Desiring the Good: Ancient Proposals and Contemporary Theory (Oxford University Press, 2017) – focuses on questions about human motivation and agency. She is an editor of Nous and serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of PhilosophyApeiron, and Rhizomata, and as Associate Editor for philosophy of language, epistemology, and logic of Dialogoi: Ancient Philosophy Today. For more information, please visit her website.

Scott B. Kaufman — Wednesday, October 23, 2019: The Light vs. The Dark Triad of Personality

Scott B. Kaufman
Psychologist, Author and Podcaster

6:00-8:00 p.m.
Davis Auditorium, Schapiro CEPSR

We all have a light and a dark side. However, we all vary in the extent to which we consistently exhibit light vs. dark patterns of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in our daily lives. Over the past 15 years, psychologists have studied the “dark traits” that are associated with ethnically, morally, and socially aversive beliefs and behaviors. This includes traits such as narcissism, psychopathy, sadism, and spitefulness. However, in only the past few years have psychologists begun to investigate the light side of personality, and our capacities for forgiveness, trust, honesty, caring, acceptance, and seeing the best in others. In this talk, Kaufman will review his recent research on "everyday saints," and discuss implications of the light side of personality for healing the many divides we are seeing in the world today.

Biography

Scott Barry Kaufman is a psychologist at Columbia University who is interested in using psychological science to help all kinds of minds live a creative, fulfilling, and meaningful life. Kaufman has over 60 scientific publications on intelligence, creativity, personality, and well-being. In addition to writing the column Beautiful Minds for Scientific American, he also hosts The Psychology Podcast, which was named by Business Insider a podcast that “will change how you think about human behavior.” Kaufman is author and/or editor of 8 books, including Twice Exceptional: Supporting and Educating Bright and Creative Students with Learning DifficultiesWired to Create: Unravelling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind (with Carolyn Gregoire), Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined, and The Complexity of Greatness: Beyond Talent or Practice. Kaufman received a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology from Yale University, and an M. Phil in experimental psychology from the University of Cambridge under a Gates Cambridge Scholarship. You can find out more on his website.

Brad Garton — Wednesday, October 30, 2019: Computer Music: A Dissonance of Disciplines?

Brad Garton
Professor of Music, Columbia University
Director, Columbia University Computer Music Center

6:00-8:00 p.m.
Davis Auditorium, Schapiro CEPSR

What exactly is computer music?  What makes a contemporary computer musician? Brad Garton will describe how different, perhaps "dissonant," disciplines such as music, art, computer science, data science (and others!) can harmonize to form an exciting area of technological creativity.

Biography

Brad Garton received his BS in Pharmacology from Purdue University, where he also worked towards an MS in Psychoacoustics. He eventually entered the graduate music composition program at Princeton University and was awarded a PhD in Music Composition in 1989.  He is currently a Professor on the composition faculty of Columbia University, where he has served as the Director of the Computer Music Center since 1995.

He has assisted in the establishment and development of more than fifty computer music research studios throughout the world. He is an active contributor to the greater community of computer musicians/researchers, formerly serving on the Board of Directors of the International Computer Music Association as editor (with Robert Rowe) of the ICMA newsletter. Garton has been the artistic director or co-organizer of many high-profile festivals and conferences of new computer music. 

His past work encompassed research on the modeling and enhancement of acoustic spaces as well as the modeling of human musical performance on various virtual "instruments." He is also the primary developer (with Dave Topper) of RTcmix, a real-time music synthesis/signal-processing language. His recent work has focused upon the use of these tools in musical settings, especially in collaboration with Terry Pender and Gregory Taylor in the internationally-known improvisatory group "PGT." He has written a number of 'language objects' for the Max/MSP authoring environment, melding the capabilities of diverse music and general-purpose programming languages with the extensive music and graphics processing of the Max platform. He has also embedded the RTcmix language inside the Unity Development Environment, making it the first fully-featured generative/algorthmic music package available for VR and AR work.

Jonny Podell — Wednesday, November 6, 2019: Consciousness Is the New Rock ‘N’ Roll

Jonny Podell
Music Agent
Owner, Podell Talent Agency

6:00-8:00 p.m.
Davis Auditorium, Schapiro CEPSR

Join Jonny as he divulges never-before-told stories from behind the scenes of rock ‘n’ roll’s greatest era, to the awakening that changed his life forever. “Rock ‘n’ roll is a great laboratory to study darkness and light” and amazing music was born out of this clash. In addition, Jonny will share some of the lessons he learned along the way.

Biography

One of the most legendary behind-the-scenes figures in rock ‘n’ roll history, “Jonny Podell changed the way people listen to music” as per New York Magazine. In a career spanning more than four decades, Podell has built a string of successful companies, including the most recent Podell Agency. As creator of the first “boutique agency,” BMF Enterprises in 1974, he is credited for single-handedly transforming the concert business. Among the numerous Hall of Fame artists Podell has represented are The Allman Brothers Band, Alice Cooper, George Harrison, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, Lou Reed, and Blondie, to name a few. In 1974, Podell collaborated with his mentor and long-time friend Bill Graham to produce the historic trek by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young – the first stadium tour ever, selling out 50,000 seats in every city and establishing a new way to present rock ‘n’ roll. As Head of Music for William Morris Agency, and then as Worldwide Head of Music for International Creative Management, Podell continued to add to his roster of stars, discovering illusionist David Blaine and signing long-time hero Peter Gabriel. Helping the singer realize his dream, Podell brought Gabriel’s WOMAD Festival to America. The festival drew 100,000 concert goers to Golden Gate Park, the first time that the city of San Francisco had ever allowed a paid event in that location.

Evolution Talent was the next step for Podell and his new partner, David Zedeck. Together they helped guide the careers of pop sensations NSYNC, Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears, at one point in 2001 booking stadium tours for all three acts at the same time.

After exiting Evolution in 2004, Podell added stars Van Halen, Gipsy Kings and Cyndi Lauper to the Hall of Fame artists that continued to follow him, and turned his attention to creating franchises for his clients. Cyndi Lauper’s True Colors benefit concerts and tours engage audiences to take part in the advancement of LGBTQ equality. Among other initiatives, True Colors is now the number-one website for homeless youth. Having already built housing for this community in Harlem, the 40 to NONE project leads the way in fighting the epidemic of homeless gay youth. Podell also created two ongoing festivals – WANEE Festival in Norther Florida and PEACH Festival in Scranton Pennsylvania – for The Allman Brothers. These franchises continue to generate income for the founding artists after they have stopped touring.

Chapter Two of Podell’s life began in 2012 when he finally tamed his high-flying lifestyle. What began with a simple meditation grew into a full-on spiritual awakening. Inspired by the words of his idol, Muhammad Ali – “service to others is our rent for being on the planet” – he embarked on a personal journey of consciousness and truth, searching for a way to best serve the world. In this spirit, Podell initially merged his new desire to serve with his existing infrastructure and music business acumen. The primary purpose was “to serve existing spiritual teachers, healers and consciousness-based artists by expanding their outreach to a wider audience through events, workshops, lectures, books, live-streaming, education and media throughout the world.” By connecting to existing spiritual practices from Kabbalah and Transcendental Meditation to receiving divine energy from Amma and John of God, Podell is helping to raise their collective visibility and impact, furthering the planet’s already existing movement towards spiritual evolution and growth.

Podell’s latest project, inspired by the Women’s March in 2016, is the IRIS Fest, a three-day event in Oct 2020 to celebrate and empower women. Approximately 75,000 women will enjoy yoga by day and the most important woman’s voices of our time speaking throughout. In the evening, a music event will feature the most powerful and uplifting women artists of this generation.

“I am here to serve” is Podell’s fight song.

Jason Flom — Wednesday, November 20, 2019: Why I Care About Criminal Justice

Jason Flom
Music Industry Executive and Social Activist
Founder and CEO of Lava Records

6:00-8:00 p.m.
Davis Auditorium, Schapiro CEPSR

This is the story of Jason Flom's crazy journey from a wannabe Jimi Hendrix to the Chairman & CEO of three of the biggest record companies in the world, and more importantly from being a drug-addicted college dropout to a pioneer in criminal justice reform. Flom's talk will focus on his career in music and how he found his true calling in fighting to end the disastrous failed social policy of mass incarceration.

Biography

Jason Flom is the Founder and CEO of Lava Records, Lava Music Publishing and Lava Media LLC. Flom previously served as Chairman and CEO at Atlantic Records, Virgin Records and Capitol Music Group, and he is personally responsible for launching acts such as Katy Perry, Kid Rock, Lorde and Greta Van Fleet. He is a leading philanthropist and expert on criminal justice issues and an internationally recognized and celebrated public speaker. Flom is the founding board member of the Innocence Project and serves on the boards of numerous criminal justice reform organizations. He is the host of the hit podcast, Wrongful Conviction, now in its seventh season, which features interviews with men and women who have spent decades in prison for crimes they did not commit, some even sentenced to death. Flom’s love for animals inspired his latest project, the children’s book Lulu Is a Rhinoceros, co-written with his daughter Allison Flom and released in June 2018. The book explores social themes addressing individuality, tolerance, and most importantly, acceptance, and launched with partnerships including Bonobos, Zappos and the African Wildlife Foundation.

Linda P. Fried — Tuesday, December 3, 2019: Public Health's Success  Our Longer Lives  Requires Changing Public Health

Linda P. Fried
Dean and DeLamar Professor of Public Health Practice
Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University

6:00-8:00 p.m.
Davis Auditorium, Schapiro CEPSR

In the past century, an unprecedented, historic transformation of society has occurred as life expectancy has increased by 30 years. Around the world, we expect 80-90% of babies born to survive past 65 years. Public health underlies three-quarters of this success, and is the basis for maintaining it for future generations. This phenomenon demands that we build a society that enables every person to arrive at old age healthy and remain healthy. Public health needs to be at the center of this transformation, as health is the key in the lock that will unlock the opportunities of longer lives. This will take 40 years to build, during which time Columbia students can lead and personally benefit from this.

Biography

Linda P. Fried, MD, MPH, is Dean and DeLamar Professor of Public Health Practice at the Mailman School. Dr. Fried is a geriatrician, epidemiologist, and internationally renowned scientist who has propelled our understanding of how to create healthy aging. She has led the scientific work to define the medical syndrome of frailty and its causes and prevention as keys to optimizing health. She is the recipient of numerous international awards and was named a “Living Legend in Medicine” by the U.S. Congress and one of the most influential scientific minds of the past decade by Thompson Reuters.

Robert G. OMeally — Thursday, February 13, 2020: Antagonistic Cooperation: Dissonance, Jazz and American Culture

Robert G. O'Meally
Zora Neale Hurston Professor of English and Comparative Literature
Founder and Director, Center for Jazz Studies, Columbia University

6:00-8:00 p.m.
Davis Auditorium, Schapiro CEPSR

For this talk, Professor Robert G. OMeally will consider this statement by the composer-pianist-bandleader Duke Ellington: “Ours is an American band, because it is a democratic band. Each player is an individual with a personality and a voice.” Asked about being a Black American musician, Ellington turned to his piano. “Hear that chord?” he said. “That’s us. Dissonance is our way of life in America. We are something apart, yet an integral part.”

Biography

Robert G. O’Meally is the Zora Neale Hurston Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, where he has served on the faculty for twenty-five years. The founder and director of Columbia’s Center for Jazz Studies, O'Meally is the author of The Craft of Ralph EllisonLady Day: The Many Faces of Billie HolidayThe Jazz Singers, and Romare Bearden: A Black Odyssey. His edited volumes include The Jazz Cadence of American CultureLiving With Music: Ralph Ellison’s Essays on Jazz, History and Memory in African American CultureThe Norton Anthology of African American Literature (co-editor), and the Barnes and Noble editions of Mark TwainHerman Melville, and Frederick Douglass. For his production of a Smithsonian record set called The Jazz Singers, he was nominated for a Grammy Award. O’Meally has co-curated exhibitions for The Smithsonian Institution, Jazz at Lincoln Center and The High Museum of Art (Atlanta). He has held Guggenheim and Cullman Fellowships, and was a recent fellow at Columbia's new Institute for Ideas and Imagination at the Global Center/Paris. His new books are The Romare Bearden Reader (edited for Duke University Press, 2019) and Antagonistic Cooperation: Collage, Jazz, and American Fiction (Columbia University Press, 2020).

Venkat Venkatasubramanian — Monday, March 2, 2020: How Much Income Inequality Is Fair?

Venkat Venkatasubramanian
Samuel Ruben-Peter G. Viele Professor of Engineering
Department of Chemical Engineering, Columbia University

6:00-8:00 p.m.
Davis Auditorium, Schapiro CEPSR

Extreme economic inequality is widely seen as a serious threat to the future of stable and vibrant capitalist democracies. In 2015, the World Economic Forum in Davos identified deepening income inequality as the number one challenge of our time. Yet some inequality is inevitable, even desirable and necessary, for capitalist societies to work productively. As different people have different skills, and different capacities for work, they make different contributions in a society, some more, others less. Therefore, it is only fair that those who contribute more earn more.

But how much more? What is the fairest inequality of income?

This critical question is at the heart of the inequality debate. The debate is not so much about inequality per se as it is about fairness. This central question about fair inequality has remained unanswered in economics and in political philosophy for over two centuries. Mainstream economics has offered little guidance on fairness and the ideal distribution of income in a free-market society. Political philosophy, meanwhile, has much to say about fairness, yet relies on qualitative theories, such as the ones by Rawls and by Nozick, which cannot be verified by empirical data.

In this talk, Professor Venkatasubramanian will discuss his recent work on answering this question quantitatively. His theory leads to surprising insights into political philosophy, economics, game theory, statistical mechanics, information theory, and systems engineering perspectives to this question.

Biography

Professor Venkat Venkatasubramanian is Samuel Ruben-Peter G. Viele Professor of Engineering in the Department of Chemical Engineering, Professor of Computer Science (Affiliate), and Professor of Industrial Engineering and Operations Research (Affiliate) at Columbia University. He earned his Ph. D. in Chemical Engineering at Cornell, M.S. in Physics at Vanderbilt, and B. Tech. in Chemical Engineering at the University of Madras, India.

Venkat is a complex dynamical systems theorist interested in developing mathematical models of their structure, function, and behavior from fundamental conceptual principles. His natural tendency is to conduct curiosity-driven research in a style that might be considered impressionistic, emphasizing conceptual issues over mere techniques. He strives to create a simplified but essentially correct model of the reality that he studies. Venkat's research interests are diverse, ranging from AI to systems engineering to theoretical physics to economics, but they are generally focused on the theme of understanding complexity and emergent behavior in different domains. Venkat’s new book, How Much Inequality is Fair? Mathematical Principles of a Moral, Optimal and Stable Capitalist Society, was published by Columbia University Press in 2017.

Professor Venkatasubramanian received the Norris Shreve Award for Outstanding Teaching in Chemical Engineering three times at Purdue University. He won the Computing in Chemical Engineering Award from AIChE and is a Fellow of AIChE. In 2011, the College of Engineering at Purdue University recognized his contributions with the Research Excellence Award. He currently serves as an editor for Computers and Chemical Engineering. Venkat’s non-academic interests include comparative theology, classical music and cricket.

Gareth Williams — Tuesday, September 1, 2020: The Columbia Core 2020 and COVID-19 — “CUSP/ASP Annual NSOP Lecture”

Gareth Williams
Anthon Professor of Latin Language and Literature
Director of Undergraduate Studies
Department of Classics, Columbia University

1:00-3:00 p.m. EST
Online

We have all experienced the major upheaval caused by this year's global coronavirus pandemic, and as the new academic year begins we all have to adjust to instructional methodologies that are shaped by that upheaval. Core teaching will be remote for all students entering Columbia College. But in what ways might the Core itself reflect or inform the stresses that have resulted from the drastic changes to everyday life in recent months? More generally, in what ways does the Core provide an apparatus for very practical reflection on the shaping of our daily lives amid all of the urgent socio-political challenges and crises that we have witnessed in recent times?

Biography

Gareth Williams has taught at Columbia since 1992. He received a Ph.D. in 1990 from Cambridge University for a dissertation on Ovid’s exilic writings that subsequently resulted in two books: the first, Banished Voices: Readings in Ovid’s Exile Poetry (Cambridge, 1994), and the second, The Curse of Exile: A Study of Ovid’s Ibis, Proceedings of the Cambridge Philological Society Supplementary Volume 19 (Cambridge, 1996). Two distinct research phases followed, the first of which focused on the Latin ethical writings of Lucius Annaeus Seneca. Two monographs resulted, the first an edition with commentary of L. Annaeus Seneca: Selected Moral Dialogues. De OtioDe Brevitate Vitae (Cambridge, 2003); the second, The Cosmic Viewpoint: A Study of Seneca’s Natural Questions (Oxford, 2012), was awarded the Goodwin Award of Merit by the Society for Classical Studies in 2014. Most recently, among various other projects and edited volumes in the area of Roman philosophy, his research has focused on the socio-literary culture of Renaissance Venice, an interest that recently resulted in the publication of Pietro Bembo on Etna: The Ascent of a Venetian Humanist (Oxford, 2017).

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