The Bigger Picture

Roni Firon

Conversations that go beyond the everyday, where big ideas and life stories meet. Join us as we speak with leaders in business, research, and culture to hear about their journeys, discoveries, and the big ideas that drive their life’s work.

Ep. 21 - Tara Stiles: How To Feel Better With Strala Yoga
Dec 22 2021
Ep. 21 - Tara Stiles: How To Feel Better With Strala Yoga
In today’s episode, I spoke with Tara Stiles, the founder of Strala Yoga, a revolutionary approach to being, moving, and healing. Strala Yoga is not like other styles of yoga. Strala combines the principles of tai-chi with yoga and delivers an easy-going flow, that allows you to sync with your breath, tune inwards, really listen to your body, and ultimately, to become good friends with yourself. Finally, there’s a style of yoga that really feels like you. In Strala, the focus isn’t on getting the alignment of the pose just right. Instead, poses are thought of as waypoints to move and flow through. This way of practicing yoga shifts your attention from how the pose looks to how you feel as you’re moving and breathing.Tara Stiles was private yoga teacher to Deepak Chopra, walked the red carpet with Jane Fonda, and along with her husband, Mike Taylor, Tara has devoted herself to making yoga accessible for everyone. Strala is all about slowing down, softening, moving with your breath, and practicing being kind to yourself, on and off the mat. There’s no pretentiousness, no strict rules or codes of dress. Strala is open to everyone.In our conversation, we spoke about how Strala Yoga was born, where the philosophy came from, and how the Strala community has developed and grown over the years. I feel really lucky that my introduction into the world of yoga was through Tara’s Strala Yoga videos, and I hope that after hearing today’s conversation, you’ll invite a bit of Strala Magic into your own lives as well. So without further ado, here’s my conversation with Tara Stiles.
Ep. 17 - Prof. David Buss: On His New Book "When Men Behave Badly" & Taking an Evolutionary Look at Human Sexuality
Nov 17 2021
Ep. 17 - Prof. David Buss: On His New Book "When Men Behave Badly" & Taking an Evolutionary Look at Human Sexuality
In today’s episode, I spoke with Prof. David Buss, an evolutionary psychologist from UT Austin, about his latest book - When Men Behave Badly: The Hidden Roots of Sexual Deception, Harassment, and Assault. This conversation was incredibly enlightening. David employs an evolutionary framework to better understand the dynamics of human mating. What I love about the evolutionary approach is that it allows us to really understand the motives of our actions and why we behave the way we do. Evolutionary psychology lets us look at human emotion, cognition, and behavior through a historic lens. And so we can understand how the environments of our far past shaped us to what we are today. And how in our modern world, certain evolved tendencies may no longer serve us and may seem maladaptive, but really, for the majority of human history, they had a very purposeful function.So by studying human mating and sexual conflict through the evolutionary lens, we can take a hard look at the darker sides of human sexuality, from cheating and deception, to outright sexual assault, and to ask - why in the world do these behaviors exist? What was the evolutionary purpose and benefit of these behavioral tendencies? And how can understanding the evolutionary background of these drives help us overcome them and evolve past them? David has devoted his career to understanding the full scope of human mating - and his commitment to discovering the truths at the core, even in the most dangerous and taboo of topics, is exceptional. And in my opinion, true understanding must occur before change can take place.So now, let’s talk about what happens when men behave badly.
Ep. 16 - Prof. Sam Gosling: What Your Room Says About Your Personality, and How Physical Spaces Affect Our Psychology
Oct 13 2021
Ep. 16 - Prof. Sam Gosling: What Your Room Says About Your Personality, and How Physical Spaces Affect Our Psychology
In today’s episode, I spoke with Prof. Sam Gosling, a personality researcher from UT Austin. To start with - we should first ask ourselves - what is personality? There are endless theories and frameworks that try to describe, explain, and predict a person’s characteristic nature - as well as many different approaches to studying and measuring an individual’s personality.In this episode, Sam gave us his take on what personality actually means and explained the different levels of analysis that we should pay attention to when venturing into this field. Throughout his career, Sam has studied how our personalities are reflected in the physical spaces that we inhabit. What do our rooms, offices, and homes say about who we are? How can we learn more about someone’s personality, just by observing their room or office for instance? We spoke about all of the different clues we should look for when observing someone’s space - as well as which personality traits are the most easily detectable. Sam’s fascination with physical spaces doesn’t stop there however. Recently, he’s focused on the question of how can architecture after our psychology? How can the layout and design of a physical space influence our moods, cognitions, and behavior? What kinds of rooms promote inspiration and creativity on the one hand, or rest and rejuvenation on the other. Our physical environments can have a profound impact on our psychological states, but to this day, little research has focused on systematically asking and answering these questions. We explored how architects can use psychology research to design spaces that take these psychological effects into account - and how, hopefully, one day, this could mean an evolution in the entire field of architecture itself. So if you’d like to know how our personalities shape the spaces we inhabit, as well as how these same spaces can affect us - stay tuned for today’s episode.
Ep. 15 - Prof. Bernard Berofsky: Having Free-Will in a Somewhat Determined World, A Compatibilist's View
Sep 30 2021
Ep. 15 - Prof. Bernard Berofsky: Having Free-Will in a Somewhat Determined World, A Compatibilist's View
In today’s episode, I had the pleasure of speaking with Prof. Bernard Berofsky, an Emeritus Professor of Philosophy from Columbia University, who in his career has explored topics such as free-will, determinism, liberation, autonomy, and creativity. Bernard is an exceptional philosophical thinker, and his devotion to the pursuit of knowledge and truth is an inspiring one. This conversation was a deep dive into the mind of an analytical philosopher. In some parts, we explored the deeper philosophical arguments around these ideas, and in others we spoke about how they can be related and applied to our everyday lives. First of all, you might be asking yourself, what is this idea of free-will and determinism? What is the big dilemma here? Well this is a huge question that has been occupying philosophers for ages - and it asks - do we, as humans, have free-will over our choices? Or is the universe we live in already predetermined, which would mean that everything that ever was and ever will be is like a play with a clear script that’s just waiting to play out. And in this predetermined world, the choices we feel we have full control over are just an illusion and are actually a result of all of these different forces unfolding. There are different schools of thought around this matter - some philosophers are incompatibilists, meaning they believe that we can’t have both free-will and determinism, it must be either or. Of these, we have the determinists, who are adamant about there being no free-will whatsoever, and that if we do have any feeling of being able to freely make decisions in our lives - this is simply an illusion. Other philosophers believe that nothing is determined and that everything is up for grabs so to speak, that we are free, autonomous agents able to freely make decisions and to control our own fates. Prof. Berofsky, on the other hand, is a compatibilist. He believes that free-will and determinism can coexist. Certain things about our world and our existence are indeed determined, however, we still have quite a bit of free-will that allows us to actively participate in the shaping of our destinies.
Ep. 14 - Prof. Ran Barkai: The Life of Prehistoric Man, Cave Paintings, & Altered States of Consciousness
Sep 12 2021
Ep. 14 - Prof. Ran Barkai: The Life of Prehistoric Man, Cave Paintings, & Altered States of Consciousness
In today’s episode, I got to speak to Prof. Ran Barkai, an archeologist from Tel Aviv university. Archeology is a fascinating field that provides us with a very real, physical, sensory connection with our past. By uncovering certain objects, remnants, and markings left behind by prehistoric man, we can paint a picture of what the life of our early ancestors was really like. Each new discovery adds to this tapestry of history, and the new technological advancements we have today help make our estimations of the past even more accurate. One of the exciting discoveries that Ran and his team have found is that of cave paintings - that were so deep within the caves - that the prehistoric humans that ventured in there must have used fire to light their way. What Ran and his colleagues were able to show was that at such depths - due to the lack of circulation - lighting a fire would cause oxygen levels to lower to such a degree - that a state of hypoxia would be induced in these early painters. In other words, early humans were no strangers to altered states of consciousness.  They would enter these trance-like states in which they would embark on spiritual journeys and paint on the cave walls. We spoke about the possible meanings behind these cave paintings, and Ran’s ideas on how these altered states of consciousness were intentional and deliberate, and were used by prehistoric man to expand their awareness, call forth insights, and ultimately - to find solutions to different existential problems they may have been facing. We ventured into some Jungian territory in this episode as well, discussing how in the psyche of early man, there was much less distinction between the subject and the object, or the internal world and the external world. Early humans were most likely much more in tune with their environments. There always remains the question though of whether or not we’re romanticizing the past and wishfully projecting characteristics onto early humans - such as their heightened awareness and respect for nature and strong sense of community. We can only do the best we can in painting this picture of the life of our early ancestors. But I believe that even if we are romanticizing certain elements of our history, this longing for simpler times - in which we were more connected with nature, family, and community - can help shed light on precisely those elements that we are most hungry for today in our modern world.
Ep. 13 - Prof. Nicholas Dirks: Science for the Public Good, the Future of Innovation, and Uniting the Humanities and the Sciences
Aug 12 2021
Ep. 13 - Prof. Nicholas Dirks: Science for the Public Good, the Future of Innovation, and Uniting the Humanities and the Sciences
How can scientific innovations transform society? What can learning about different cultures teach us about ourselves?  What can learning about our past  teach us about our future? And what do we truly need in order to drive scientific progress?In today’s episode, I spoke with Prof. Nicholas Dirks, the President of the New York Academy of Sciences, former Chancellor of UC Berkeley, and former dean of the Humanities at Columbia university. Nicholas started his academic journey in history and anthropology, having been fascinated with Eastern cultures, especially India, from a young age. Throughout his career, Nick has embodied the spirit of the interdisciplinary approach and the pursuit of furthering human knowledge through investigation and exploration. This conversation was definitely a hopeful one. We spoke about the role of science in our society, the wonderful innovations that science is able to produce, and we also spoke about the importance of interdisciplinary dialogue and collaboration, for true scientific progress to be made. Another theme we explored is that science cannot exist on its own, it must be grounded in fundamental questions of how it can benefit the public good. Some questions came up of how we can communicate the principles of science to the public in a better, more effective way and we explored the question of where the public’s mistrust for science actually comes from. One thing that really hit home for me was Nick’s call for an open minded, curious, and exploratory approach to the scientific pursuit. It’s easy for us to lose that child-like curiosity for the world when met with the demands of daily lives, but Nick has found a way to keep that spirit of inquiry very much alive in his own career, and helps instill it in those around him, now in a large and meaningful scale through his role as President of the Academy. Science is beautiful, and I hope that this conversation in some small way helps to get that message out there. When Nick refers to the New York Academy of Sciences as the Academy, for me it brings forth images of Ancient Greece and Plato’s Academy - which was devoted to the pursuit of knowledge and understanding the mysteries of the universe. The movement of the Enlightenment - on which our modern world of science is based on, was inspired by the philosophy of the Ancient Greeks, who held up the principles of reason, virtue, and liberty. The New York Academy of Sciences is carrying that legacy onward, working to further science and our understanding of the universe - with the goal being to better society and to improve our lives here as humans on this Earth.
Ep. 12 - Prof. Reuven Dar: A New Outlook on OCD, How It Differs from OCPD, and Why Internal Awareness Matters
Aug 1 2021
Ep. 12 - Prof. Reuven Dar: A New Outlook on OCD, How It Differs from OCPD, and Why Internal Awareness Matters
In today’s episode, I spoke with Prof. Reuven Dar, a clinical psychologist and researcher, who studies OCD. Ruvi and his colleagues have developed a model that approaches OCD in a different way from the mainstream consensus. They’ve come up with a framework for OCD called “Seeking Proxies for Internal States”. The idea behind this is that individuals suffering from OCD have a harder time accessing their own internal states. And in order to deal with this, they seek proxies, or things that are external to them, in order to gauge what exactly their internal states are. This is quite a different way of looking at OCD, and it shines a light on the difficulties that these individuals often experience when trying to understand what exactly they themselves are feeling. And so their ritualized and compulsive behavior become these kinds of external crutches that help them gain more certainty around their uncertain evaluations of their own internal worlds. We talked about the different symptoms of OCD and how they can manifest on a spectrum. One of the important notes that came from this was that, like other psychological disorders, a diagnosis of OCD is only made when the symptoms are truly interfering with the individual’s life, functioning, and well-being.Ruvi and his colleagues have done something that I particularly admire. They’ve looked at a certain accepted consensus and said “we’re not quite sure it’s accurate”. When ideas are widely accepted in any field in science, it’s hard to reopen that area of inquiry for further examination and to perhaps reevaluate certain things that were held to be true. Any endeavor that takes a second look at things with fresh eyes is a laudable step towards the pursuit of truth and is in my opinion, embodying the true spirit of science.
Ep. 10 - Dr. Yulia Golland: Synchronizing with Others, Social Neuroscience, and the Individual & the Collective
Jul 12 2021
Ep. 10 - Dr. Yulia Golland: Synchronizing with Others, Social Neuroscience, and the Individual & the Collective
What does it really mean to be on the same wavelength with someone? Is there any truth to these kinds of metaphors? Dr. Yulia Golland shows that on a certain level - yes there is.Dr. Yulia Golland is a social neuroscientist who studies interpersonal synchrony. In other words, she studies how people get in-sync with one another. Human beings are inherently social creatures, and we are constantly shaping and being shaped by our social environments. A lot of this communication happens verbally, but the majority of it happens below our conscious radar, on levels that we may not be aware of. When we interact with someone else, sometimes we can have the feeling that we’re clicking or that we’re on the same wavelength, so to speak. What these metaphors help us describe is that feeling when we feel a sense of rapport and connectedness with the other person. We’ve all had these experiences, but what Yulia does is show that not only do we experience these moments of connectedness subjectively, but she also shows that objectively there are neurological and physiological markers that also become synchronized during such interactions. So, to a certain extent, the saying that “you and I are on the same wavelength” is much more literal than we would have thought. Yulia and I spoke about the different ways in which this propensity to synchronize with others affects us, and we really got into the good, the bad, and the ugly of interpersonal synchrony. We spoke about the social nature of humans, and how there is no individual without a community around him. The interplay between the individual and the collective is eternal and the boundaries between self and the other are never quite clear. In a sense, we’re immersed in a social network, that network is a part of who we are and we define ourselves based on the social context we’re in. This social nature means that we have evolved to be so sensitive and receptive to the social cues around us that we do this subconsciously and automatically. I personally love research that takes mysterious phenomena like our propensity to sync up with one another - and grounds it in a secure scientific base of research - and that’s exactly what Yulia does in her research.
Ep. 9 - Dr. Elran Haber: The Microbiome, Computational Biology, & Integrating Business and Science
Jun 20 2021
Ep. 9 - Dr. Elran Haber: The Microbiome, Computational Biology, & Integrating Business and Science
Did you know we have trillions of bacteria, yeast, and virus cells living within us?  How does this "microbiome" affect our health and well-being? Today we spoke about the microbiome with Dr. Elran Haber, who is the CEO of Biomica, an emerging biopharmaceutical company developing innovative microbiome-based therapeutics for the treatment of immune-mediated and infectious diseases, with a specific focus on immuno-oncology and GI related disorders. Their company is composed of an A-Team of brilliant scientists from Israel and from around the world. Elran and I spoke about the microbiome at large, what it is, why it’s a fascinating new frontier of research, and how we can apply this new knowledge in our own lives to improve our health and longevity. We got to hear about the exciting new interventions that Biomica are developing, as well as other success stories that have been popping up in the field. It’s amazing to think that there’s an entire ecosystem living within us, and that our body and that ecosystem are in constant dialogue and are constantly affecting each other. What’s particularly cool about this new discovery is that it gives us a new framework through which we can judge whether something will be beneficial to our health or not. For instance, maybe we eat something that has a lot of vitamins and low calories, so we think it’s good for us - but if it messes with our microbiome, we’re going to have a problem. Now that's only one way in which this field is creating an entire shift of how we look at health, disease, and treatments. Dr. Haber serves as Biomica’s Chief Executive Officer. Prior to joining Biomica, he served as Therapix Biosciences (Nasdaq, TASE: TRPX) CEO leading the company to a successful IPO on Nasdaq and advancing the Company's programs to clinical stage. He spent more than 10 years as Chairman and board member of several privately held, and publicly traded companies. He’s served in senior executive roles in various life science companies and a private investment firm. Dr. Haber holds a PhD in Pharmaceutical Science and an MBA in Finance & Financial Engineering, both from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel.
Ep. 8 - Nir Minerbi & Amir Naveh: Quantum Computing, Founding a Start-Up, & Work-Life Balance
May 28 2021
Ep. 8 - Nir Minerbi & Amir Naveh: Quantum Computing, Founding a Start-Up, & Work-Life Balance
Nir Minerbi and Amir Naveh are two of the founders of a quantum computing company called Classiq. So it turns out, quantum computing is a thing. Quantum computing is an exciting new approach that integrates computers as we know them today with the principles of quantum physics.  An important distinction between the classic Newtonian physics and quantum physics is that, in Newtonian physics, things are considered causal, meaning, one thing causes the other. So if we have complete knowledge of the past, that means that we can compute the future, and vice versa. But in quantum physics, things get a little more complicated. Objects, such as atoms, are neither particles nor waves, but instead, are a weird combination of the two. We can’t be 100% certain where things actually are and how they move. So in this paradigm, if we have complete knowledge of the past, we can only make probabilistic predictions of the future. And so quantum computing introduces this probability factor into the mix.The way regular computers are built today, the entire system is built on the binary code, just a string of ones and zeros can make everything that our laptops and phones do possible. In quantum computing, things get a little more complicated. Because we no longer have ones and zeros, but instead, the entire machinery is based on probabilities. Sounds like science fiction, I know.Nir and Amir did an amazing job in simplifying this complex topic, starting from a background of how quantum physics evolved, to the emerging industry of quantum computing, and the role they hope their company Classiq will play in this new field.  We also got into their journey being founders of a start-up, and spoke at length about their philosophies around work-life balance, personal growth, and how to cultivate a company culture of family and excellence.