Upcoming Events

Wed 6/22

Image - Janna Levin

Janna Levin: Black Hole Blues

Date: Wed, June 22, 2016
Time: 7:00 PM

Janna Levin, Professor of Physics and Astronomy, Barnard College; Author, Black Hole Blues and Other Songs from Outer Space

If black holes collide in outer space and no one can see it, does it make a sound?

A black hole collision is an event more powerful than any since the origin of the universe. But when black holes collide, they will do so unilluminated—emanating only gravitational waves. The only evidence would be the sound of spacetime ringing.
Levin shares the obsessions, the aspirations, and the trials of the scientists who embarked on an arduous, 50-year endeavor to capture these elusive waves and record the soundtrack of the universe.

Thu 6/23

Image - Beth Greer

How to Have a Holistic, Healthy, Happy Home: Solutions for Parents of Kids with Challenges

Date: Thu, June 23, 2016
Time: 12:00 PM

Beth Greer, Award-winning Journalist; Environmental Health Advocate; Holistic Lifestyle Educator; Author, Super Natural Home: Improve Your Health, Home and Planet … One Room at a Time

Beth Greer, known as the Super Natural Mom, bestselling author, holistic health coach and one of the foremost experts on sustainable and toxin-free living will give a talk on things you need to know to help kids who have challenges. She will offer powerful information on the toxins in everyday products that can have triggering reactions in a child’s nervous system; five things in the home to avoid to create a safe, healthy, toxin-free home; practical and convenient solutions that give dramatic results; and symptoms to look for in kids that indicate they’re being impacted by toxins in their home environment.

She’ll also discuss a non-psychological approach to behavioral changes in kids. Don’t miss this talk to help you enhance your child’s well-being as well as your own (caregiving can be stressful). 

Russian Hill Walking Tour

Date: Thu, June 23, 2016
Time: 1:45 PM

Join a more active Commonwealth Club Neighborhood Adventure! Russian Hill is a magical area with secret gardens and amazing views. Join Rick Evans for a hike up hills and staircases and learn about the history of this neighborhood. See where great artists and architects lived and worked, and walk down residential streets where some of the most historically significant houses in the Bay Area are located.

Spiral: Trapped in the Forever War

Date: Thu, June 23, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM
What the War on Terror has wrought.

Mark Danner, Author, Former Staff Writer, The New Yorker; Chancellor’s Professor of Journalism and English, UC Berkeley

In his latest book, Spiral, Danner describes a nation altered in fundamental ways by 9/11. Fourteen years of armed conflict makes the War on Terror the longest war in U.S. history, even though only a tiny percentage of our citizens fight in actual combat. Now Al Qaeda has been replaced by multiple jihadist and terror organizations, including the most notorious: ISIS.

Guantanamo, indefinite detention, drone warfare, enhanced interrogation, torture and warrantless wiretapping are all words that have become familiar and tolerated in the name of security. By defining the War on Terror as boundless, apocalyptic and unceasing, we have, Danner concludes, “let it define us as ideological crusaders caught in an endless war.”

Mon 6/27

Middle East Forum Discussion

Date: Mon, June 27, 2016
Time: 5:30 PM

The Middle East Forum discussion group that primarily covers the Middle East, North Africa and Afghanistan has been meeting for more than eight years. We do not debate. We exchange ideas and opinions. The discussion is considered a perk of membership but those interested, especially students, are welcome to attend.

Image - Public Health and Public Spaces

Public Health, Public Spaces

Date: Mon, June 27, 2016
Time: 6:30 PM

Lisa Chen, Planner, Citywide Division, San Francisco
Richard J. Jackson, M.D, Professor and Former Chair, Environmental Health Sciences, Fielding School of Public Health, UCLA
Fran Weld, Vice President of Strategy and Development, San Francisco Giants
Bill Worthen, Executive Director, Urban Fabrick

This program is underwritten by The California Wellness Foundation.

In recent years, there has been growing scientific evidence indicating a connection between public health and how places—particularly our cities and suburbs—are designed and built. From higher car use in suburban sprawl to urban neighborhoods lacking green space and walkways, every aspect of the built environment surrounding us impacts our health. What is being done to rethink the structure of our towns and cities? How can we improve the health of our communities through design? Come for a discussion on our cities, our health, and what we can do to increase the number of healthy spaces in our growing communities.

Thu 6/30

Image - David Burkus

The End of Business As Usual

Date: Thu, June 30, 2016
Time: 12:00 PM

David Burkus, Professor, Oral Roberts University; Founder and Host, "Radio Free Leader"; Author, Under New Management: How Leading Organizations Are Upending Business As Usual

Should employees know each others’ salaries? Can companies win by putting their employees’ welfare first, and their clients second? Are annual performance reviews necessary? Burkus challenges the traditional and widely accepted principles of business management—proving that they're outdated, outmoded and simply don’t work—and presents winning strategies using case studies and in-depth research. You'll learn how the nature of work is changing—and what that means for business, society and your own career.

Image - Fearless tech women

Fearless Women Founders on Succeeding in Tech World

Date: Thu, June 30, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM

Amanda Kahlow, Founder & CEO, 6sense
Mada Seghete, Co-Founder, Branch Metrics
Promise Phelon, CEO, TapInfluence

According to a 2015 North American study by McKinsey & Company, women are almost four times more likely than men to think they have fewer opportunities to advance because of their gender. How can we change this? During this candid discussion, you'll join three leading women in tech as they share their experiences of being a woman in the technology industry, what challenges they've faced along the way, how they overcame them and ways to encourage more women to pursue careers in tech.

Thu 7/7

Image - Chinatown

Chinatown Walking Tour

Date: Thu, July 07, 2016
Time: 1:45 PM

Enjoy a Commonwealth Club Neighborhood Adventure. Join Rick Evans for a memorable midday walk and discover the history and mysteries of Chinatown. Explore colorful alleys and side streets. Visit a Taoist temple, an herbal store, the site of the first public school in the state, and the famous Fortune Cookie Factory.

Tue 7/12

Images - Mary Elizabeth Williams

A Series of Catastrophes and Miracles

Date: Tue, July 12, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM

Mary Elizabeth Williams, Journalist; Author, A Series of Catastrophes and Miracles: A True Story of Love, Science, and Cancer
In conversation with Peggy Orenstein, Author

This program is part of our Good Lit series, underwritten by the Bernard Osher Foundation.

Journalist Mary Elizabeth Williams was one of the first people in the world to get a new form of treatment for her stage 4 cancer diagnosis that’s revolutionizing cancer care: immunotherapy. In October of 2015, her treatment protocol became the first immunotherapy combination approved by the FDA; it's the same treatment that former President Jimmy Carter underwent.

In her witty, wry, and deeply moving new memoir, A Series of Catastrophes and Miracles: A True Story of Love, Science, and Cancer, Williams shares her personal journey with malignant melanoma in her early forties and how—thanks to cutting-edge science—she was restored back to health with no signs of disease.

Image - Steve Blank

Hacking for Defense: Making the World a Safer Place

Date: Tue, July 12, 2016
Time: 7:00 PM
Founder of the Lean Startup movement

Steve Blank, Entrepreneur; Educator, Stanford University, UC Berkeley and Columbia University; Twitter
J.D. Schramm, Lecturer in Organizational Behavior, Stanford Graduate School of Business; Twitter —Moderator

In a crisis, national security initiatives move at the speed of a startup, yet in peacetime they default to decades-long cycles. Startups operate with continual speed and urgency and using Lean Startup methodologies have become extremely efficient with resources and time.

Steve Blank, father of the Lean Startup movement, has created a class, Hacking for Defense, that connects the Department of Defense and intelligence community with Silicon Valley’s innovation culture mindset. He will discuss how the class helps the U.S. protect the homeland and Americans around the world and prevents the need to put our brave men and women in harm's way.

Wed 7/13

The Brazen Age

Date: Wed, July 13, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM

David Reid, Author, The Brazen Age

The Brazen Age is a sweeping look at the rich culture and turbulent politics of New York City between 1945 and 1950. But David Reid also reaches back to the early 1900s to explore the city’s progressive politics, radical artistic experimentation and burgeoning bohemian culture, to the quickly growing media, movie and radio businesses in the 1920s, and to the influx of talented Europeans in the 1930s, vastly enriching the sciences and the arts. Reid also delves into the city's influence on the Dewey-Truman election, as he captures a complex and powerful moment in the post-war history of New York City.

Image - Don George

The Way of Wanderlust

Date: Wed, July 13, 2016
Time: 7:00 PM

Don George, Travel Writer; Editor; Author, The Way of Wanderlust: The Best Travel Writing of Don George
In Conversation with Kristina Nemeth, Travel Director, The Commonwealth Club of California

Join noted travel writer and editor Don George for a delightful, world-roaming evening discussing his new book, his life as a travel writer, and opportunities for meaningful travel around the world. Whether you are looking for adventure, culture, food or spirituality, George will offer inspiring stories, insights and advice.

The former travel editor for the San Francisco Examiner and the Chronicle, George founded the Wanderlust section of Salon.com, was global travel editor for Lonely Planet Publications and is currently editor-at-large for National Geographic Traveler. George's work has appeared in numerous publications around the globe, and he is a frequent guest on NPR and CNN, among other TV and radio outlets.

This program includes complimentary light hors d'oeuvres and a cash bar from 7-7:40.

Thu 7/14

Image - Matt Cohen

Off the Grid: The Disruptive, Japan-inspired Food Truck Revolution

Date: Thu, July 14, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM

Matt Cohen, Founder of Off the Grid Services, LLC

Off the Grid, curator of gatherings of street food and other amenities at Fort Mason Center, the Presidio, and 38 other locations, began in San Francisco six years ago and is a uniquely Bay Area re-creation of Asia’s vibrant night markets. Founder Matt Cohen developed the concept from his time living in Japan, and he added modern elements to build community spaces through temporary events in underused urban spaces using social media and partnerships with small businesses. Cohen will discuss how his experience living in Japan inspired and continues to influence the evolution of Off the Grid’s various businesses.

Image - Finding Your Wine Personality

Finding Your Wine Personality

Date: Thu, July 14, 2016
Time: 6:30 PM

The Boisset Wine Ambassadors will guide you through a wine tasting that explores your wine style. They’ll serve as your personal wine concierge—sharing exclusive new releases, the stories behind the wines and the vineyards, and the knowledge to guide you to wines best-suited for your palate. Join us as wine and style unite, and embrace l’art de vivre!

Image - Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths

Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths: The Computer Science of Human Decisions

Date: Thu, July 14, 2016
Time: 6:30 PM

Brian Christian, Author, The Most Human Human; Co-author, Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions
Tom Griffiths, Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Science, UC Berkeley; Co-author, Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions

All our lives are constrained by limited space and time, limits that give rise to a particular set of problems. What should we do, or leave undone, in a day or a lifetime? How much messiness should we accept? What balance of new activities and familiar favorites is the most fulfilling? These might seem like uniquely human quandaries, but they are not. Computers, too, face the same constraints, so computer scientists have been grappling with their version of such issues for decades. The solutions they've found have much to teach us.

In this interdisciplinary work, author Brian Christian and cognitive scientist Tom Griffiths show how the algorithms used by computers can also untangle very human questions. They explain how to have better hunches and when to leave things to chance, how to deal with overwhelming choices and how best to connect with others. From finding a spouse to finding a parking spot, from organizing one's inbox to understanding the workings of memory, Algorithms to Live By transforms the wisdom of computer science into strategies for human living.

Mon 7/18

Image - Socrates Café

Socrates Café

Date: Mon, July 18, 2016
Time: 6:30 PM

On one Monday evening of every month the Humanities Forum sponsors Socrates Café at The Commonwealth Club. Each meeting is devoted to the discussion of a philosophical topic chosen at that meeting. The group's facilitator, John Nyquist, invites participants to suggest topics, which are then voted on. The person who proposed the most popular topic is asked to briefly explain why she or he considers that topic interesting and important. An open discussion follows, and the meeting ends with a summary of the various perspectives participants expressed. Everyone is welcome to attend. 

Image - Kevin Kelly

Wired's Kevin Kelly: The Future of Tech

Date: Mon, July 18, 2016
Time: 6:30 PM

Kevin Kelly, Senior Maverick, Wired; Author, The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces that Will Shape Our Future; Twitter

Much of what will happen in the next 30 years is inevitable, driven by technological trends that are already in motion. In his provocative new book, Kevin Kelly provides an optimistic road map for the future, showing how the coming changes in our lives—from virtual reality in the home to an on-demand economy to artificial intelligence embedded in everything we manufacture—can be understood as the result of a few long-term, accelerating forces.

Kelly describes these deep trends—flowing, screening, accessing, sharing, filtering, remixing, tracking and questioning—and demonstrates how they overlap and are codependent on one another. He says that these larger forces will revolutionize the way people buy, work, learn, and communicate with each other. By understanding and embracing them, says Kelly, it will be easier to remain on top of the coming wave of changes and to arrange our day-to-day relationships with technology in ways that bring forth maximum benefits.

Kelly engages people who seek guidance on where their business, industry, or life is heading—what to invent, where to work, in what to invest, how to better reach customers, and what to begin to put into place—as this new world emerges.

Tue 7/19

Image - National Parks

Redefining National Parks and Family Farms in a Changing Climate

Date: Tue, July 19, 2016
Time: 6:30 PM

Jordan Fisher Smith, Author, Engineering Eden: The True Story of a Violent Death, a Trial, and the Fight over Controlling Nature
John Hart, Author, Farming on the Edge: Saving Family Farms in Marin County and An Island in Time: 50 Years as Point Reyes National Seashore

How will national parks adapt to volatile climate? Jordan Fisher Smith, a former park and wilderness ranger in the American West, writes about the futile, sometimes fatal, attempts to remake wilderness in the name of preserving it. Tracing a course from the founding of the national parks through the tangled 20th-century growth of the conservationist movement, Smith gives the lie to the portrayal of national parks as Edenic wonderlands unspoiled until the arrival of Europeans, and shows how virtually every attempt to manage nature in the parks has only created cascading effects that require even more management. Now climate change is presenting a new set of challenges to America’s best idea.

Family farms face a comparable and different challenge as they struggle to cope with a changing climate. Can farmers, ranchers and environmentalists come together to protect the environment and food supply as species migrate and weather changes? Join a conversation with two writers about how farms and parks are adapting to their new reality. 

Wed 7/20

North Beach Walking Tour

Date: Wed, July 20, 2016
Time: 1:45 PM

Join another Commonwealth Club Neighborhood Adventure! Explore vibrant North Beach with Rick Evans during a two-hour walk through this neighborhood with a colorful past, where food, culture, history and unexpected views all intersect in an Italian “urban village.” In addition to learning about Beat generation hangouts, you’ll discover authentic Italian cathedrals and coffee shops.