Chew on This

Chew on This is an Indiana Humanities program designed to use the power of food and drink as a convener and catalyst for conversation. We hosted several Quantum Leap-inspired "dinner parties" throughout 2017 and 2018 to inspire thoughtful discussion on a number of engaging topics.

Previous events

Chew on This: Are You Sure? | May 9, 2017 | Statewide

How do we know if something is true? What counts as evidence? How we answer these questions as individuals and as a society affects the choices we make—everything from how we read the news and vote, to how we choose the foods we eat and make healthcare decisions, to how our leaders set policy for the economy, the environment and more.

Those are some of the questions we explored at seven sites around the state, while we shared a meal and had a fun yet in-depth conversation with other curious Hoosiers. Each table was led by an expert facilitator, someone who grapples with questions about evidence, truth and validity every day. Locations included Bloomington, Fort Wayne, Indianapolis, Muncie and the Region. Special thanks to Yelp for partnering on this event.

Facilitators and restaurants included:

  • Jane Ellery, Wellness Management, Ball State University

  • Jonathan Elmer, English, and William Hetrick, Neuroscience, Indiana University

  • Mel Fox, Indiana State Museum and Central Indiana Science Outreach

  • David Hoppe, Writer and Editor

  • Jason Kelly, IUPUI Arts & Humanities Institute

  • Stephen J. Ruberg, Advanced Analytics & Global Statistical Sciences, Eli Lilly and Company

  • Winni Sullivan, Religious Studies, and Elaine Monaghan, Media Studies, Indiana University

  • Deanna Wooley, IPFW Department of History

Chew on This: Are We Our Data? | Feb. 20, 2018 | Statewide | Read a recap of the event

“Cogito ergo sum.” Rene Decartes’ dictum “I think, therefore I am” is one of the most recognizable dictums in Western philosophy. It’s one of many attempts—by philosophers, by psychologists, by artists, by scientists—to distill the tricky, slippery idea of the self. And now, in the era of big data, it’s getting even more complicated. Perhaps, in the 21st century, we need a new phrase: “I click, therefore I am.”

The advent of powerful computers means it’s possible to track and analyze so many human behaviors—what we read and say online, where we drive or walk, what we purchase, who we talk to, and more. The possibilities are exciting—better targeting healthcare interventions to the people and places that need them most, uncovering evidence of a criminal conspiracy and preventing it before it happens, even the serendipitous delight of a great suggestion for what to read next on your Amazon page or Twitter feed. But there is no shortage of concerns about privacy and consent, about ownership and profit from our personal data. There’s also the disconcerting idea that while we think about ourselves one way—I keep up with current events, I consider all points of view, I get enough steps every day—big data reveals something else entirely—I read a lot of celebrity news, everyone in my newsfeed votes the same way, I need to get off the couch.

Facilitators included:

  • Jason Kelly, director of the IUPUI Arts & Humanities Institute & associate professor of British history, IUPUI

  • David Craig, professor of religous studies, IUPUI and Peter Schwartz, director of the Center for Bioethics, Indiana University

  • Lindsay Ems, associate professor of communications, Butler University

  • Micah Towery, assistant professor of English, Goshen College

  • Matt Bechdol, President of GeoSilos

  • Steve Horwitz, economics professor, Ball State

Chew on This: Will Machines Replace Us? |Sept. 12, 2018 | Statewide | Recap

When’s the last time you spoke to a teller at your bank? To a travel agent? When you go to the grocery, how often do you have an actual cashier check you out? We see the effects of automation all around us, from service and manufacturing, to the legal profession and trucking. Though only 6% of adults report losing hours or a job to automation, according to the Pew Research Center, another report by McKinsey Global predicts that 400 million jobs will be displaced by automation by 2030.

There’s no doubt that artificial intelligence and robotics are relieving workers of some kinds of repetitive, tedious and maybe even back-breaking labor. What may be less clear is what new jobs will arrive to provide income and a sense of purpose for those displaced by technology. Can new jobs be generated to replace those that are displaced? Is automation safe? Can we imagine income without work—and if so, what will we do with all this new free time?

 On Wednesday, September 12 as we asked the question “Will Machines Replace Us?” during a special Quantum Leap-themed Chew on This.  At one of seven locations around the state, we shared a meal and had a fun yet in-depth conversation with other curious Hoosiers. Each table was led by an expert facilitator, someone who grapples with questions about the risks and rewards afforded by automation. 

Facilitators included:  

  • Molly Martin, director of New America Indianapolis
  • Dr. Lindsay Ems, associate professor of communication, Butler University
  • Max Grinnell, Urbanologist
  • Rufus Cochran, executive director of Indiana Sciences 
  • Dr. Sally Jameson, instructional consultant, IUPUC
  • John Richards Jr., Business Startup & Growth Coach, Solutions Frameworks
  • The Honorable Jonathan Weinzapfel, Chancellor at Ivy Tech Community College Southwest region