Second Home x Berggruen Institute: Michael Sandel & Elif Shafak

September 14, 2020

11am Virtual


How has the divide between winners and losers poisoned our politics and driven us apart? What can we do about it?

Watch rock-star philosopher Michael Sandel and award-winning novelist Elif Shafak in an exclusive online conversation around the themes raised in Sandel’s new book The Tyranny of Merit: What’s Become of the Common Good?

Essential viewing for anyone who has been wondering:

• How can we emerge from this pandemic as a fairer and more inclusive society?
• How have our politics become so polarized?
• Can we restore social solidarity?
• Do we need to rethink our attitudes toward success?

This event is part of a new series presented by Second Home and Berggruen Institute – public events that bring together the most inspiring and celebrated figures of our time to exchange and discuss groundbreaking cultural, social and political ideas.

Michael Sandel: Optimism for a World After COVID-19
Michael Sandel's hope that coming out of the COVID-19 crisis we will be able to build a politics that better aligns the value of people's contribution to the rewards that they reap.

Elif Shafak: A Flawed Understanding of History
There was an assumption that thanks to the linear movement of history those countries that were lagging behind would catch up with the rest of the world. Elif Shafak shares why that was problematic.

Michael Sandel: The Tyranny of Merit
Michael Sandel addresses the dark side of the market-driven meritocratic hubris that accompanied mainstream politics over the last four decades.

Elif Shafak: Sharing the Stories of Those Who Have Been Silenced
Every nation-state has its own version of history. But Elif Shafak points out that what sets democracies apart is that in a democracy, regardless of the top-down narrative, you can walk into a bookstore and find the stories of those who have been silenced.

Michael Sandel: The Great Loss of Public Space
The loss of public spaces has been one of the great costs of inequality. To mend our fractured societies we must now go beyond equality of opportunity to creating the lived experience of a genuinely shared democratic way of life.

Elif Shafak: Why We Need Stories
Novelist Elif Shafak says that storytelling is what helps us to understand and empathize with those who think differently from us.


composed by Arswain
machine learning consultation by Anna Tskhovrebov
commissioned by the Berggruen Institute
premiered at the Bradbury Building
downtown Los Angeles
april 22, 2022

Human perception of what sounds “beautiful” is necessarily biased and exclusive. If we are to truly expand our hearing apparatus, and thus our notion of beauty, we must not only shed preconceived sonic associations but also invite creative participation from beings non-human and non-living. We must also begin to cede creative control away from ourselves and toward such beings by encouraging them to exercise their own standards of beauty and collaborate with each other.

Movement I: Alarm Call
‘Alarm Call’ is a long-form composition and sound collage that juxtaposes, combines, and manipulates alarm calls from various human, non-human, and non-living beings. Evolutionary biologists understand the alarm call to be an altruistic behavior between species, who, by warning others of danger, place themselves by instinct in a broader system of belonging. The piece poses the question: how might we hear better to broaden and enhance our sense of belonging in the universe? Might we behave more altruistically if we better heed the calls of – and call out to – non-human beings?

Using granular synthesis, biofeedback, and algorithmic modulation, I fold the human alarm call – the siren – into non-human alarm calls, generating novel “inter-being” sonic collaborations with increasing sophistication and complexity. 

Movement II: A.I.-Truism
A synthesizer piece co-written with an AI in the style of Vangelis’s Blade Runner score, to pay homage to the space of the Bradbury Building.

Movement III: Alarmism
A machine learning model “learns” A.I.Truism and recreates Alarm Call, generating an original fusion of the two.

Movement IV: A.I. Call
A machine learning model “learns” Alarm Call and recreates A.I.Truism, generating an original fusion of the two.