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Utility + Function

Utility + Function

By Matthew Putman
Utility + Function, a multifaceted, eclectic, and probing podcast hosted by Nanotronics co-founder and CEO, Matthew Putman, covers subjects from Machine Learning, to Jazz, to Community Development.

Utility Function, a definition: individual preferences for goods or services. It calculates desire, and therefore, is relative.
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5. Michael Vassar - Does Michael Vassar Dream of Electric Sheep?

Utility + Function

2. Lee Smolin - Discovering New Methods
Lee Smolin is a theoretical physicist who has been since 2001 a founding and senior faculty member at Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. His main contributions have been so far to the quantum theory of gravity, to which he has been a co-inventor and major contributor to two major directions, loop quantum gravity and deformed special relativity. He also contributes to cosmology, through his proposal of cosmological natural selection: a falsifiable mechanism to explain the choice of the laws of physics. He has also contributed to quantum field theory, the foundations of quantum mechanics, theoretical biology, the philosophy of science and economics. He is the author of more than 150 scientific papers and numerous essays and writings for the public on science. He also has written four books which explore philosophical issues raised by contemporary physics and cosmology. These are Life of the Cosmos (1997), Three Roads to Quantum Gravity (2001), The Trouble with Physics (2006) and Time Reborn (2013).  Most recently, he coauthored The Singular Universe and The Reality of Time with Roberto Mangabeira Unger. Born in New York City, Smolin attended Hampshire College and Harvard University. After postdocs at IAS Princeton, ITP Santa Barbara, and the University of Chicago he held faculty positions at Yale, Syracuse and Penn State University. A Fellow of the American Physical Society and of the Royal Society of Canada, Smolin was awarded the 2009 Klopsteg Memorial Award from the American Association of Physics Teachers and in 2008 was voted 21st on a list of the 100 most influential public intellectuals by Prospect and Foreign Policy Magazines. He is again on that list in 2015.   This year Marina Cortes and he were also awarded the Inaugural Buchalter Cosmology Prize.  He is also adjunct professor of physics at the University of Waterloo and a member of the graduate faculty of the philosophy department at the University of Toronto.
October 20, 2020
1. Caroline Buckee - Digging Through The Data
Dr. Caroline Buckee joined Harvard School of Public Health in the summer of 2010 as an Assistant Professor of Epidemiology, and was promoted to Associate Professor in 2017. In 2013, Dr. Buckee was named the Associate Director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics. The Buckee Lab uses mathematical models and data science to understand the mechanisms driving the spread of infectious diseases, with a focus on pathogens like malaria that effect vulnerable populations in low income countries. After receiving a D.Phil from the University of Oxford, Caroline worked at the Kenya Medical Research Institute to analyze clinical and epidemiological aspects of malaria as a Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Fellow. Her work led to an Omidyar Fellowship at the Santa Fe Institute, where she developed theoretical approaches to understanding malaria parasite evolution and ecology. In 2013 Dr. Buckee was named one of MIT Tech Review’s 35 Innovators under 35, a CNN Top 10: Thinker, and Foreign Policy Magazine’s Global Thinkers. Her work has appeared in high profile scientific journals such as Science and PNAS, as well as being featured in the popular press, including CNN, The New Scientist, Voice of America, NPR, and ABC.  Dr. Buckee’s group uses a range of mathematical models, experimental and pathogen genomic data, and “Big Data” from mobile phones and satellites to understand how human pathogens spread and may be controlled. A major focus of the group is the human malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum, which is still a major global killer of children under 5. Dr. Buckees work spans both the within-host processes that determine pathogenesis in individual hosts, and the population processes that sustain transmission and disease, working with vector biologists to understand the impacts of novel vector control approaches, and with mobile phone operators to track the migration patterns of people that import infections and drug resistant parasites when they travel. Dr. Buckee’s group is also interested in how to predict and contain the spatial spread of emerging pandemics.
October 6, 2020
26. James Gimzewski - Faith in Rarity
Dr. James Gimzewski is a Distinguished Professor of Chemistry at the University of California, Los Angeles; Faculty Director of the Nano & Pico Characterization Core Facility of the California NanoSystems Institute; Scientific Director of the Art|Sci Center and Principal Investigator and Satellites Co-Director of the WPI Center for Materials NanoArchitectonics (MANA) in Japan.  Prior to joining the UCLA faculty, he was a group leader at IBM Zurich Research Laboratory, where he researched nanoscale science and technology from 1983 to 2001. Dr. Gimzewski pioneered research on mechanical and electrical contacts with single atoms and molecules using scanning tunneling microscopy (STM) and was one of the first persons to image molecules with STM. In 2001 Gimzewski became Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, and in 2009 was elected Fellow of the Royal Society, the highest award in Britain for excellence in Science. He received the 1997 Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology, the 1997 The Discover Award for Emerging Fields, the 1998 “Wired 25” Award from Wired magazine and the Institute of Physics 2001 Duddell Medal and Prize for his work in nanoscale science. He holds two IBM “Outstanding Innovation Awards” and is a Fellow of the Institute of Physics and a Chartered Physicist.
September 17, 2020
25. Joscha Bach - Asking The Right Questions
Joscha Bach, Ph.D., is the VP of Research at the AI Foundation. He formerly held research positions in Cognitive Artificial Intelligence at MIT and Harvard. Joscha’s work explores the workings of the human mind, intelligence, consciousness, life on Earth, and the possibly simulated fabric of our universe. He has been called the leading philosopher of AI today.
September 10, 2020
24. Scott Aaronson - Before and After The Machine
Scott Aaronson is a David J. Bruton Centennial Professor of Computer Science at The University of Texas at Austin, and director of its Quantum Information Center. Prior to coming to UT Austin, Aaronson taught for nine years in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT. His interests center around the capabilities and limits of quantum computers and, more generally, computational complexity theory
September 3, 2020
23. Jill Neimark - Marveling at Nature’s Resilience
Jill Neimark is a veteran science journalist and author of adult and children's fiction. She is a former contributing editor at Discover Magazine, she also written for Scientific American, Science, Nautilus, Aeon, The New York Times, NPR, Quartz, and Psychology Today. She published the adult nonfiction book, coauthored with bioethicist Stephen Post, PhD, Why Good Things Happen to Good People. She has also written five children’s books and one novel, Bloodsong. "Humans truly are part god part devil," - Jill Neimark.  The theme of this episode is resilience.  Jill Neimark invites us to marvel at nature.  She speaks of the failure of the human species to quell overpopulation and overconsumption in the face of climate change,  and the flaws that snag us despite our talent for planning and foresight.  She also delves into the potential post traumatic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing, as well as the way giving is written into our DNA--and how genetic hardwiring contributes to our ability to face adversity as a species. 
August 27, 2020
22. Stephon Alexander - The Music of Spheres
Physicist and musician Stephon Alexander has straddled the worlds of theoretical physics and jazz music over the last two decades. He works on the connection between the smallest and largest entities in the universe pushing Einstein’s theory of curved space-time to extremes, beyond the big bang with subatomic phenomena. Alexander is a Professor of Physics at Brown University, with previous appointments at Stanford University, Imperial College, Penn State, Dartmouth College and Haverford College. Alexander is a specialist in the field of string cosmology, where the physics of superstrings are applied to address longstanding questions in cosmology. In 2001, he co-invented the model of inflation based on higher dimensional hypersurfaces in string theory called D-Branes. In such models the early universe emerged from the destruction of a higher dimensional D-brane which ignites a period of rapid expansion of space often referred to as cosmic inflation. In his bestselling book, The Jazz of Physics, Alexander revisits the ancient interconnection between music and the evolution of astrophysics and the laws of motion. He explores new ways music, in particular jazz music, mirrors modern physics, such as quantum mechanics, general relativity, and the physics of the early universe. He also discusses ways that innovations in physics have been and can be inspired from “improvisational logic” exemplified in Jazz performance and practice. Alexander also recently served as a scientific advisor for the Walt Disney film A Wrinkle In Time, directed by Ava DuVernay, and currently serves as President of the National Society of Black Physicists (NSPB).
August 20, 2020
21. Gary Marcus - AI Builder, AI Skeptic
Gary Marcus is a scientist, best-selling author, and entrepreneur. He is Founder and CEO of Robust.AI, and was Founder and CEO of Geometric Intelligence, a machine learning company acquired by Uber in 2016. He is the author of five books, including The Algebraic Mind, Kluge, The Birth of the Mind, and The New York Times best seller Guitar Zero, as well as editor of The Future of the Brain and The Norton Psychology Reader. He has published extensively in fields ranging from human and animal behavior to neuroscience, genetics, linguistics, evolutionary psychology and artificial intelligence, often in leading journals such as Science and Nature, and is perhaps the youngest Professor Emeritus at NYU. His newest book, co-authored with Ernest Davis, Rebooting AI: Building Machines We Can Trust aims to shake up the field of artificial intelligence
August 13, 2020
20. Anima Anandkumar - The Immediate and Future Impact of How We Build AI
Anima Anandkumar is Director of Machine Learning at NVIDIA and Bren professor at Caltech. Anima has led research in tensor-algebraic methods, large-scale learning, deep learning, probabilistic models, and non-convex optimization, among others. She is the youngest named professor at Caltech, the highest honor bestowed to an individual faculty. She is part of the World Economic Forum's Expert Network consisting of leading experts from academia, business, government, and the media. She is the recipient of several awards including Alfred. P. Sloan Fellowship, NSF Career Award, Young investigator awards from the Air Force and Army research offices, Faculty fellowships from Microsoft, Google and Adobe, and several best paper awards. Anima Anandkumar is also deeply passionate about democratizing AI and eliminating bias in the data we use to build AI systems as well as the other subtle ways bias infiltrates research, device-building, and industry. She is spearheading important research and groundbreaking work that is changing our model for AI and its impact on the world we all live in.
August 6, 2020
19. Pamela McCorduck - History of Artificial Intelligence
Pamela McCorduck has authored and co-authored several books, including the iconic Machines Who Think, her personal, original, and groundbreaking inquiry into the history and possibilities of AI, first published in 1979. Through her writing, Pamela has worked alongside Marvin Minsky, John McCarthy, Ed Feigenbaum, and other seminal figures of artificial intelligence. McCorduck has also consulted for a wide range of firms and other organizations in the high technology, financial, and transportation sectors. She served on a panel to advise the National Academy of Engineering and has co-authored studies on women in information technology and women in design.
August 1, 2020
18. Joe Pistone, the Real Donnie Brasco
Joseph Dominick Pistone (born September 17, 1939), also known by his undercover alias Donnie Brasco, is an American former FBI agent who worked undercover between September 1976 and July 1981, as part of an infiltration primarily into the Bonanno crime family, and to a lesser extent the Colombo crime family, two of the Five Families of the Mafia in New York City. Pistone was a pioneer in long-term undercover work, and the evidence he collected led to over 200 indictments and over 100 convictions of Mafia members. Pistone's work later helped convince the FBI that using undercover agents in lieu of relying exclusively on informants was a crucial tool in law enforcement Pistone detailed his undercover experience in his 1988 book Donnie Brasco: My Undercover Life in the Mafia, the basis of the 1997 film about his life Donnie Brasco.
July 9, 2020
17. Najee Dorsey - Building Together
Najee Dorsey is an Artist, a Collector, and the CEO / Founder of Black Art In America. Najee's work has been exhibited in multiple museum shows, including his first major solo exhibition at the Columbus Museum in Columbus Georgia, entitled: Leaving Mississippi -- Reflections on Heroes and Folklore in 2014. In addition, Dorsey has shown his work in numerous solo and group exhibitions. He has been the recipient of awards that include a 2006 Patrons Purchase Award from the Polk Museum of Art. BLACK ART IN AMERICA™ (BAIA) is the leading online portal and social network focused on African-American Art with visitors from over 100 countries visiting our site each month and about half a million visitors to our social media pages for Black Art In America™ and Do You Basel?™. Black Art In America™, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr and Twitter comprise our online virtual network and resource. BAIA amplifies thought-provoking commentary on today's visual arts news from a variety of perspectives, including breaking news, gallery meet-ups, market trends, and profiling leading (and emerging) Black visual artists in the country. In addition, BAIA offers stories about collecting and provides a weekly eNewsletter that helps art enthusiasts worldwide keep up to date on the changing and forever evolving Black visual arts market. Visit and join
July 2, 2020
16. Stephen Wolfram - Inevitable, Beautiful Connections
Stephen Wolfram is a scientist, physicist, and businessman best known for his work in computer science, mathematics, and theoretical physics. Over more than four decades, Wolfram has been a pioneer in the development and application of computational thinking—and has been responsible for many discoveries, inventions, and innovations. Based on both his practical and theoretical thinking, Wolfram has emerged as an authority on the implications of computation and artificial intelligence for society and the future, and the importance of computational language as a bridge between the capabilities of computation and human objectives. He is the creator of Mathematica, the creator of Wolfram|Alpha, and the founder and CEO of Wolfram Research. He is the author of Cellular Automata And Complexity, Adventures of a Computational Explorer, The Mathematica Book, How to Teach Computational Thinking, On the Quest for Computable Knowledge, A New Kind of Science, An Elementary Introduction to the Wolfram Language, and most recently, Idea Makers: Personal Perspectives on the Lives & Ideas of Some Notable People.
June 25, 2020
15. Tom X. Lee, MD - A Path Toward Healthcare For All
Tom X. Lee, MD, is the CEO and founder behind Galileo Health, a telemedicine company that aims to provide quality healthcare that is affordable and accessible to everyone. He has a track record of innovation that bridges technology and healthcare. Before founding Galileo, he created Epocrates, the very first medical app on Apple's mobile platform, currently used by millions of healthcare professionals to reduce medical errors. He later went on to create One Medical Group, a membership-based primary care practice which IPO’d earlier this year, valued at more than $1.5 billion. From 2000 to 2007, Lee served as an associate at the University of California, San Francisco. Before that, he was a senior program officer at California HealthCare Foundation. Lee holds a bachelor’s degree from Yale University and master’s degree from Stanford University Graduate School of Business. He also holds a medical degree from the University of Washington School of Medicine. Tom Lee is a true health pioneer whose passion and professional interests are driven by his internal desire to help people. He believes in elevating the quality of healthcare for all. During the fight against COVID-19, he strives to give access to good healthcare to those who need it most.
April 22, 2020
14. Smriti Keshari - Energy Doesn’t Die
Artist and director Smriti Keshari’s work covers a spectrum of the moving image and explores under-represented themes and experiences. Smriti is known for her acclaimed film, the bomb, which has been shown throughout the world and was heralded as a stunning approach to the plea for nuclear disarmament. She is currently working on a five-part multi-media series that delves into the ethical questions surrounding Artificial Intelligence. Her film within this series film debuts this summer. In this interview, Keshari discusses the artist’s role as conduit or translator and the ability to transcend philosophical questions through creation.
March 11, 2020
13. Steve Hanke - And then, there is the 95% Rule
In this episode of Utility + Function, Matthew sits down with world-renowned economist, Prof. Steve Hanke, at his offices at Johns Hopkins University. Prof. Hanke is a leading expert on currency boards, measuring and stopping hyperinflation, privatization, currency and commodity trading, as well as water resource economics. He has advised heads of state, public and private institutions, and U.S. presidents on these issues for several decades. Dr. Hanke is a Professor of Applied Economics and Founder & Co-Director of the Institute for Applied Economics, Global Health, and the Study of Business Enterprise at The Johns Hopkins University. He is also a Senior Fellow and Director of the Troubled Currencies Project at the Cato Institute, a Senior Advisor at the Renmin University of China’s International Monetary Research Institute, and a Special Counselor to the Center for Financial Stability. As a senior economist on President Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisers, he led a team of economists in re-writing the federal government’s Principles and Guidelines for Water and Land Related Resources Implementation Studies. Prof. Hanke was responsible for designing President Reagan’s major privatization initiatives. Prof. Steve Hanke is known for popularizing the term “privatization” and addresses in this episode how the private sector, not government, will innovate to solve the globes most pressing issues. Listen to hear his theories on carbon reduction, open free trade, and reliance on China.
March 4, 2020
12. Angeline Butler - Civil Rights Icon, Musical Force, Living Legend
When asked if she is ever disappointed in the way the world is going, Living Legend Professor Angeline Butler is unwavering. "The revolution is never over."  Angeline Butler is a founding SNCC activist, performer, director, and teacher who has consistently fought for change, whether through her creativity or her activism. Her legacy continues to inspire as a professor at John Jay College and in her involvement in theater production, music, and storytelling.  *** Angeline Butler is an original coordinator and participant the Nashville Sit-Ins, a founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). She is a coordinator of the 1961 Freedom Rides, a coordinator of voter education and registration drives. Participant in the 1960 Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) “Miami Summer” with James Farmer, an organizer of the 1963 March on Washington, and a participant in the Crisfield, Maryland Movement in December 1961. Angeline Butler has performed theatrically was featured in over 146 television appearances including “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson” (NBC),” “The Dick Cavett Show” (ABC), “The Virginia Graham Show,” “The Steve Allen Show,” The Mike Douglass Show, The Joey Bishop Show (ABC), A TV Special “Presenting Davy Jones and Angeline Butler”(Syndicated TV), “Nightlife” with Jan Murray and William B Williams (Syndicated TV). She is currently on the faculty of John Jay College for Criminal Justice in New York. She previously taught as an instructor of Ethnic Studies at the University of Southern California.  Butler also created and coordinated the Ellington Tree Project (1981), and as a director in theatre, she revived Lorraine Hansberry’s Les Blancs.  She was, also, a company member at the Metropolitan Opera from 2003 to 2011 and previously worked at the Los Angeles Opera in 1996-97. Ms. Butler also recorded two albums, one in pop-rock music and one in folk music:  Angeline Butler/Impressions on CoBurt-MGM Records and The Pilgrims/ Just Arrived on Columbia Records (Producer Tom Wilson) with Robert Guilluame, Gilbert Price (and later Millard Williams).
February 20, 2020
11. Jeff Holden - Inventions Lifeline
On today’s episode, Matthew talks to Jeff Holden, the CEO and Co-Founder of Atomic Machines and former CPO of Uber, Senior Vice President of Groupon, and the Senior Vice President of Consumer Websites Worldwide at Amazon. During their conversation, the friends share their thoughts on invention, fatherhood, and big tech. How do children mold one’s thinking? How does one navigate being a mentor that pushes ideas forward? How can large companies keep pushing innovation?
January 13, 2020
10. Stephen Delaporte - To Bot or Not
On today’s episode, Matthew talks to  Stephen Delaporte, Founder & CEO of Avar Robotics--whose goal is to create the most high-functioning and efficient robots. During their conversation, the friends share their thoughts on the art of invention. What are the barriers to creating something? What is scientific lineage--an exchange of energy? Delaporte delineates the iteration of the robots his company builds, and what defines a human task versus one that can be easily automated. Sometimes what we don't think of as a human task is incredibly human and  emotionally valuable. 
January 7, 2020
9. Dan Widmaier - Threads to Sustainability
Bolt Threads' CEO Dan Widmaier sits down with Matthew to discuss their individual evolution from scientist to CEO, the timelines of Startups, how to build a team, and create partnerships.
December 16, 2019
8. Alexis Gambis - Butterfly Blues
Matthew talks to Alexis Gambis, French-Venezuelan biologist and filmmaker, about feeling small when you look through a microscope and how being a director allows one to put a spotlight on our own vulnerabilities. How does science open new territories for film and vice versa?
November 15, 2019
7. Beth Comstock - That's My Van Gogh!
This week, Matthew interviews Beth Comstock about creativity, freedom, and investigation: how do these impulses translate within an organization and within a life? How does one “justify” or capitalize on creative endeavors in our society? How does one return to childlike creative wonder? Beth Comstock is an American business executive and the former vice chair of General Electric.She is a member of Nike, Inc's Board of Directors and Trustee president of the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. Forbes named her one of “The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women” in 2015 and 2016 and PRWeek ranked her among their “Top 20 Most Influential Communicators.” Beth graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Biology from The College of William and Mary in 1982 and began her career doing local television production in Virginia.
November 8, 2019
6. Andrew Shearer - How to Grow a Company
Today marks Nanotronics' sixth podcast and we are looking inward. It is time for us to ask what makes a startup tick, and who better to talk to than Farmshelf founder and fellow Navy Yard resident, Andrew Shearer. Matthew Putman speaks to Shearer about his experience working in a cherry-packing facility and the twists and turns that led him on his quest to allow everyone to grow their own fresh produce. As a founder, how do you push beyond doubt? Is there a magic formula? "The best founders go that extra mile to help someone else," Shearer says. 
October 23, 2019
5. Michael Vassar - Does Michael Vassar Dream of Electric Sheep?
Michael Vassar, founder of the Singularity Institute among many other accomplishments, speaks to Matthew about Thomas Edison, Climate Change, Railroads, President Lincoln, Modern Times, Alien Invasion, and searches for a happy ending. Thank you for listening!
October 16, 2019
4. Julie Orlando - I Didn't Think There Was Any Way I Couldn't Do it
Builder, Mentor, Business Leader. Julie Orlando, Nanotronics CPO, talks to Matthew about building a wooden box for her rare rock collection in kindergarten, taking apart complex machinery at twelve, managing a windshield-wiper factory at 19, cosigning her first patent before graduating college, finding impactful stories to tell about process control, her training in mechanical and polymer engineering, taking over advanced software projects, being a hands-on American manufacturer, nonlinear thinker, world traveller, and so much more.  A phenomenal person. A wonderful listen. Production and Direction: Antoine Blake and Cameron Conover, Sound and photography: James Williams
October 10, 2019
3. Antoinette Roberson - Mentorship by Creative Collaboration
Matthew sits with grammy-nominated, singer song-writer, Antoinette Roberson, his partner in helping to mold our next generation of leaders. Here, they discuss personal success, how to motivate and propel our youth, while also sharing their deep love for music.
October 1, 2019
2. David Belt - They're Not All Evil, Right?
Two Brooklyn-based CEO’s, Matthew Putman and David Belt, friends and partners in philanthropy and technology discuss the zeitgeist in all its incarnations, a shared history, and creativity in action.
September 28, 2019
1. John Putman - A Grander Vision
Nanotronics co-founders Matthew Putman and John Putman discuss their influences, the drive to invent, starting new ventures, the importance of walking, building new toolkits, and a search for a four-leaf clover.
September 23, 2019