Upcoming Events

Mon 5/18

Image - Middle East Discussion Group

Middle East Discussion Group

Date: Mon, May 18, 2015
Time: 5:30 PM

Make your voice heard in an enriching, provocative and fun discussion with Club members as you weigh in on events shaping the face of the Middle East, North Africa and Afghanistan. Each month, the Middle East Member-Led Forum hosts an informal roundtable discussion on a topic frequently suggested by recent headlines. After a brief introduction, the floor will be open for discussion. All interested members are encouraged to attend. There will also be a brief planning session.

Tue 5/19

Image - Ken Walsh: Presidents and the Cult of Celebrity

Ken Walsh: Presidents and the Cult of Celebrity

Date: Tue, May 19, 2015
Time: 12:00 PM
With long-time Chief White House Correspondent

Ken Walsh, Chief White House Correspondent, U.S. News & World Report; Author, Celebrity in Chief: A History of the Presidents

Walsh joined the U.S. News & World Report in 1984 as a congressional correspondent and has covered presidential politics since 1986. Walsh is one of the longest-serving White House correspondents in history, having traveled to more than 70 countries and conducting numerous interviews with presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H. Bush and Ronald Reagan.

Walsh says, since the beginning of the Republic, presidents have needed to be celebrities and build on their fame. This fame has allowed them to get things done by propelling their agendas and rallying public support for themselves as national leaders. Come hear behind the scenes tales about the intersection of the presidency and pop culture.

Wed 5/20

Image - Elder Financial Abuse Prevention

Elder Financial Abuse Prevention

Date: Wed, May 20, 2015
Time: 5:15 PM
With San Francisco D.A. George Gascón

Elizabeth Landsverk, M.D., Founder, ElderConsult
George Gascón, San Francisco District Attorney
Helen Karr, Elder Abuse Specialist - Moderator

May is the month to focus on the prevention of elder financial abuse. The city’s top legal authority, D.A. George Gascón, has made combating elder abuse a top priority. To take a proactive approach to halting abuse and bringing offenders to justice, he made the White Collar Economic Crimes Unit responsible for prosecuting financial crimes against seniors. Just last year, his office became the first in the country to successfully convict in two blessing scam cases, schemes that target elderly Chinese women. Gascón is joined by Dr. Elizabeth Landsverk, a private practitioner who has collaborated with the D.A. to addresses elders’ needs, and moderator Helen Karr, who has focused her entire law career on the issue of elder abuse.

Thu 5/21

Image - San Francisco Architecture Walking Tour

San Francisco Architecture Walking Tour

Date: Thu, May 21, 2015
Time: 1:45 PM

Explore San Francisco’s Financial District with historian Rick Evans and learn the history and stories behind some of our city’s remarkable structures, streets, and public squares. Hear about the famous architects that influenced the building of San Francisco after the 1906 Earthquake. Discover hard-to-find rooftop gardens, Art Deco lobbies, unique open spaces, and historic landmarks. This is a tour for locals, with hidden gems you can only find on foot!

Image - Kelly McGonigal: The Upside of Stress

Kelly McGonigal: The Upside of Stress

Date: Thu, May 21, 2015
Time: 7:00 PM

Kelly McGonigal, Health Psychologist; Lecturer, Stanford University; Author, The Upside of Stress: Why Stress Is Good for You, and How to Get Good at It

We’ve all heard stress can make us sick, but can it be a good thing? McGonigal debunks stress myths and shares how it can make us stronger, smarter and happier.

So stop losing sleep – you don’t need to get rid of stress, she says, just learn how to embrace it.

Tue 5/26

Image - Andrew Hodges: Alan Turing - The Man Who Inspired "The Imitation Game"

Andrew Hodges: Alan Turing - The Man Who Inspired "The Imitation Game"

Date: Tue, May 26, 2015
Time: 12:00 PM

Andrew Hodges, Professor, Senior Research Fellow, University of Oxford; Author, Alan Turing: The Enigma

It is only a slight exaggeration to say that the British mathematician Alan Turing saved the Allies from the Nazis, invented the computer, and anticipated gay liberation by decades – all before his suicide at age 41. Turing’s revolutionary concept of a universal machine, which he realized in 1945 with his electronic design, laid the foundation for the modern computer. Even more critical at the time, Turing played a leading role in breaking the German Enigma ciphers during World War II, a scientific triumph that helped to swing the course of the war in the Atlantic. At the same time, Turing, despite his wartime service, was eventually arrested and forced to undergo a humiliating treatment program – all for trying to live honestly in a society that defined homosexuality as a crime. Join us for insights into this remarkable man with the author of the book behind the Oscar-nominated film The Imitation Game.

Image - Richard Thaler and Hal Varian: Behavioral Economics

Richard Thaler and Hal Varian: Behavioral Economics

Date: Tue, May 26, 2015
Time: 6:00 PM

Richard Thaler, Behavioral Science and Economics Professor, University of Chicago; Author, Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics; Twitter @R_Thaler
Hal Varian, Chief Economist, Google; Twitter @halvarian
Andrew Keen, Columnist, TechCrunch; Twitter @ajkeen – Moderator

Traditional economics assumes rational actors. Our lived experiences, however, tell us otherwise: real people are often error-prone individuals rather than Spock-like automatons. Whether buying concert tickets or applying for a mortgage, we all make decisions that deviate from assumed rationality standards. We misbehave, and our misbehavior has serious consequences. Dismissed at first by economists as an amusing sideshow, the study of human miscalculations and their effects on markets now drives efforts to make smarter decisions in our personal lives, our businesses and our governments. Thaler and Varian, economists of the information age, discuss the intersection of economics and psychology, and offer innovative strategies to approach an increasingly complex world.

Wed 5/27

Image - Rise of the Robots

Rise of the Robots

Date: Wed, May 27, 2015
Time: 6:00 PM
What course will our future will take?

Martin Ford, Author; Software Developer; Computer Designer

Artificial intelligence is already well on its way to making “good jobs” obsolete: many paralegals, physicians and even – ironically – computer programmers are poised to be replaced by robots. As technology continues to develop, more and more traditional jobs will be shed. Unless we radically reassess our economic and political systems, some fear that this transition to extreme automation could result in massive unemployment, stark inequality and the implosion of the economy itself. Martin Ford, a successful Silicon Valley entrepreneur, offers both a vision of this new technology and a call to arms to face its implications, made more potent by Ford’s own integral role in creating the automated future he describes. His warning rings clearly: robots are coming, and we must decide now what course our future will take.

Image - Dr Sylvia Earle and David de Rothschild: Two Generations, One Big Ocean

Dr Sylvia Earle and David de Rothschild: Two Generations, One Big Ocean

Date: Wed, May 27, 2015
Time: 6:30 PM
An intergenerational conversation between two adventurers.

Sylvia Earle, Ocean Explorer; National Geographic Explorer in Residence; Founder, Mission Blue and SEAlliance
David de Rothschild, National Geographic Explorer; Environmentalist
Greg Dalton, Founder, Climate One – Moderator

Dr. Sylvia Earle—fondly dubbed “Her Deepness” by the New York Times—holds the women’s record for the deepest ocean dive and has led more than 100 undersea expeditions, logging more than 7000 hours underwater. Formerly Chief Scientist of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Dr. Earle has garnered countless international honors and played a leading role as researcher and educator capable of crossing any barrier—whether it be linguistic, geographic, or a seemingly impassible ocean depth. In the same vein, David de Rothschild is an adventurer and activist who utilizes voyages to the world's remote reaches to bring attention to global environmental issues—his recent exploits include a 2010 crossing of the Pacific Ocean in The Plastiki, a catamaran constructed out of 12,500 recycled plastic bottles. De Rothschild, who was designated as a Climate Hero and a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum, has also demonstrated his ability to cut across mediums as the founder of MYOO, an online community dedicated to giving nature a voice. We hope you can join us for an intergenerational conversation between these two adventurers devoted to saving the oceans.

Thu 5/28

Image - Russian Hill Walking Tour

Russian Hill Walking Tour

Date: Thu, May 28, 2015
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 two-hour 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.

Wed 6/3

Image - A Passion for Paris: Romanticism and Romance in the City of Light

A Passion for Paris: Romanticism and Romance in the City of Light

Date: Wed, June 03, 2015
Time: 12:00 PM
With author David Downie

David Downie, Author, A Passion for Paris

Downie seeks to uncover why Paris has reigned as the world's most romantic city for over 150 years. In his combined memoir, history text and travelogue, Downie takes us through Paris' secluded parks, artists' studios, cafés and streets—many unchanged in centuries—while walking hand-in-hand with Victor Hugo, Flaubert, Georges Sand, Baudelaire, Balzac and many others. Downie finds hidden sources of Paris' chic, glamorous allure in its bizarre culture of heroic negativity, and in the carefree atmosphere created by its subversive literature extolling rebellion, mayhem and melancholy.

Sun 6/7

Image - A Sunday with Judy Blume

A Sunday with Judy Blume

Date: Sun, June 07, 2015
Time: 6:30 PM
Called "the queen of YA" by The Washington Post

Judy Blume, Author

“My only advice is to stay aware, listen carefully, and yell for help if you need it.” — Judy Blume

Judy Blume, called “the Queen of YA” by The Washington Post, releases her first book in 15 years, In the Unlikely Event, this June. Blume — prolific, controversial, beloved — is a literary iconoclast whose novels have been among the first to discuss teen sex, masturbation, menstruation and divorce. For two generations of preteen girls, Blume’s books have addressed the most intimate questions of love, loss and growing up.

Judy Blume will discuss her latest book, her career spanning eight decades of writing, children empowerment and her favorite stories about the young and young at heart.

Mon 6/8

Image - A God That Could Be Real

A God That Could Be Real

Date: Mon, June 08, 2015
Time: 6:00 PM
A fresh approach to an ancient topic.

Nancy Ellen Abrams, Author 

Many people find it hard to put their faith in a god that is based upon their own beliefs, without any external evidence. As a philosopher of science, lawyer, atheist, environmental activist and wife of the astrophysicist Joel Primack, Nancy Ellen Abrams was one of them – until she surprised herself by asking the question: "Could anything actually exist in our strange and counterintuitive universe that is worthy of the name God?" Shedding traditional religious conceptions, she builds on the idea of emergence, a powerful new scientific concept that cuts across many fields and hones in on the complex relations inherent in our universe. Come experience a fresh approach to an ancient topic that has intrigued scientists and theologians.

Thu 6/25

Image - How to Clone a Mammoth--The Science of De-Extinction

How to Clone a Mammoth--The Science of De-Extinction

Date: Thu, June 25, 2015
Time: 6:00 PM
Could mammoths and passenger pigeons, be brought back to life?
Beth Shapiro, Associate Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Santa Cruz.
 
Could extinct species, like mammoths and passenger pigeons, be brought back to life? The science says yes. Beth Shapiro, evolutionary biologist and pioneer in "ancient DNA" research, will discuss the astonishing and controversial process of de-extinction. From deciding which species should be restored, to sequencing their genomes, to anticipating how revived populations might be overseen in the wild, Shapiro explores the extraordinary cutting-edge science that is being used to resurrect the past. Journeying to far-flung Siberian locales in search of ice age bones and delving into her own research – as well as those of fellow experts such as Svante Paabo, George Church and Craig Venter – Shapiro considers de-extinction's practical benefits and ethical challenges. Would de-extinction change the way we live? Is this really cloning? What are the costs and risks? And what is the ultimate goal? Shapiro's work has appeared in numerous publications, including Nature and Science, and she is a 2009 recipient of a MacArthur Award.

Tue 7/14

Image - San Francisco's Jewel City

San Francisco's Jewel City

Date: Tue, July 14, 2015
Time: 6:00 PM

Laura Ackley, Architectural Historian; Author, San Francisco's Jewel City

San Francisco’s Panama-Pacific International Exposition opened its doors to much acclaim a century ago. The fantastic goings-on in each of the 11 neoclassical palaces that transformed the Presidio found their way into many of the pages of the Commonwealth Club’s reports during that summer of 1915. The exposition, which attracted such renowned American figures as Theodore Roosevelt and Thomas Edison, served as a poignant symbol for both San Francisco’s resurgence from the catastrophic 1906 earthquake and its irrepressible spirit of innovation that continues through today. Come celebrate this remarkable centennial with Laura Ackley, the author of San Francisco's Jewel City, which details the history of one of the most elaborate fairs ever held in our city.

Mon 8/3

Image - Why Do People Reject Good Science?

Why Do People Reject Good Science?

Date: Mon, August 03, 2015
Time: 5:15 PM
With Dr. Eugenie Scott, Physical Anthropologist

Dr. Eugenie Scott, Physical Anthropologist; Former Executive Director, National Center for Science Education; Author, Evolution vs. Creationism; Co-editor, Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design Is Wrong for Our Schools

Scientists are often puzzled when members of the public reject what they consider to be well-founded explanations. They can’t understand why the presentation of scientific data and theory doesn’t suffice to convince others of the validity of “controversial” topics like evolution and climate change. Recent research highlights the importance of ideology in shaping what scientific conclusions are considered reliable and acceptable. This research is quite relevant to the evolution wars and public opposition to climate change, and to other questions of the rejection of empirical evidence. Scott has received national recognition for her NCSE activities, including awards from scientific societies, educational societies, skeptics groups and humanist groups.