Sasakawa USA alumna Bina Venkataraman publishes book, The Optimist’s Telescope


September 25, 2019

Congratulations to Sasakawa USA Emerging Experts Delegation (SEED) alumna, Bina Venkataraman (Director of Global Policy Initiatives, Broad Institute of MIT & Harvard; Senior Lecturer at MIT in the program on science, technology, & society), on the publication of her new book, The Optimist’s Telescope: Thinking Ahead in a Reckless Age.

Venkataraman gave a talk on September 24 at New America in Washington, D.C., as part of the “Future Tense” program to discuss the book. In her remarks, Venkataraman mentioned the example of Fukushima, and how TEPCO’s preparedness model unfortunately didn’t show or encapsulate the risk of disaster. In contrast, Onegawa Station stood resilient in face of natural disasters because it was built on a more realistic risk model. One of its engineers had reflected on history and used his imagination to innovate for future disasters.

Venkataraman presented this example among others as a lesson of the importance of taking history into account when imagining the future. Venkataraman rejects the idea that humans are reckless by nature and argues that we can adopt practices to help us confront the future as individuals and as a society to leave the best world for those who will come after us.

Venkataraman participated in the Sasakawa USA Emerging Experts Program (SEED) trip to Japan in March 2017. That year, Sasakawa USA partnered with the New America Foundation to take eight policy experts on energy and environment for a week-long study trip. Their visit included trips to Tokyo and Fukushima, where the delegates met with a range of Japanese government officials and experts from the Prime Minister’s Office, government ministries, the Diet, corporations, and research institutions.

— Juliane Doscher, Executive Assistant & Alumni Program Coordinator, Sasakawa USA

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