An Interview with the Hope in Crisis Podcast — Rights, Democracy and Technology

(originally sent on Nov 30. Subscribe to our newsletter now)

Hi Everyone,

It’s been a stressful few weeks to start November for the United States. First, the election, to which some claim is not over. Then, the rampaging COVID outbreak, to which some act as if public health is not a big deal.

I won’t say more.

Instead, I’d like to highlight our team’s recent work on the Hope in Crisis Podcast, a collaboration with Girls in Tech, a global non-profit organization focused on the engagement, education, and empowerment of women in technology.

Subscribe via — Apple Podcasts, SoundOn, Spotify, Castbox, KKbox, Radio Public, YouTube.

You can check out the newest episode, a talk with Quartz Reporter Mary Hui on Hong Kong’s cultural revolution 2.0, the free press, and the role of big tech in the region’s future. It features Bitmark CEO Sean and Girls in Tech’s Renee Yeh contrasting their experiences with technology, rights, and democracy in the east and the west. You can also find our audio podcast links in the video description of the link above.

I’ve asked some questions from our two hosts and producer Vivian Chen:

Who is this podcast for and what should they expect from it?

Vivian: This podcast is for those who care about rights and democracy and are wondering how we can improve it.

What’s been the most interesting learning you’ve had so far?

Sean: The most interesting learning I’ve had was with the National Taiwan Treasure project on the Hsiao A episode. It was surprising to me that it has had no impact on Taiwanese People. Finding out how this single bad decision has been affecting Taiwan as a country should have been a constitutional moment, but I was shocked that Taiwnese people didn’t care as much as I expected. In the United States in 2013, when Edward Snowden leaked highly classified information from the National Security Agency, U.S. citizens thought of him as a traitor. After thinking deeper into the incident, people realized that what the government was doing was actually anti-democracy. But it seemed that people don’t really know what or how to change anymore, since these problems are so deeply rooted in our culture and governance.

I think that podcasts are, for now, the most important media to share information and educate the public. They can be independent without censorship and time limitations. During each episode’s discussions, we get to go as deep as we want. It’s unlike the current media, which is under the attention economy — eager for fast and short content. I feel privileged to talk with Renee and share things we care about, and getting people to start thinking about them. It’s basically pirate radio!

Renee: I enjoy communication and public speaking, and I would say that audience response is what drives me to share more. Podcasting is very different. It is like sailing in the dark for me. Producing each episode is like piloting Endurance (sorry for being an Interstellar nerd) into the unknown, and testifying to the truth, the cosmic truth — “Love is the one thing we’re capable of perceiving that transcends dimensions of time and space.”

In each episode, we project love. Love for the world, love for each other, love for a better future. We are not sure when or where such love will be perceived, but we keep projecting.

Vivian: At the beginning of this podcast program, I imagined that our show would be purely rational. Talking about technologies for good and how technology could be the engine of growth in modern crises, Covid-19 especially. After episodes of discussion, I realized our program can be more than that. We started to cover all different elements that form our society, problems that lead to crises and tools people use to get through the crises. I was amazed by the complexity of the world and hope to discover more in our future episodes.

With everything going on in the world, which crisis should we most have hope for and why?

Sean: Covid-19 of course! This crisis brings forward the importance of health, and it activates science. For example, traditionally, it would take around 10 years to fully develop a vaccine. But due to Covid-19, the U.S. government was encouraging the pharmaceutical industry to innovate by simplifying and amplifying the process of development, and the government is willing to take the risk of failing by covering the money lost in failure. This is what the government should do — protect people’s civil liberties, unlock innovation and make it safe to fail.

Renee: Democracy. I think democracy is a value but we humans have little knowledge about how to realize this value through political means. Democracy as a political system may be failing, or struggling — to put it in a more hopeful way — but it only suggests that human civilization needs optimization. I hope people will join me in defending mutual respect.

Is there a dream guest you’d like one day?

Sean: Edward Snowden — In a more radical sense — we should get to a place where we don’t need government. Tools should be engineered so that people have control of their rights and with more fairness and justice in society. Edward Snowden is best at articulating what’s wrong with democratic government.

Lex Fridman — I like his way of thinking. Not only in terms of AI and technology. I think he has some really deep thoughts on love, happiness and society. He is a rising star in the podcast world right now.

Renee: Joseph Gordon-Levitt! Duh, do you really need a reason to talk to him?

How can listeners help?


  • Subscribe: Subscribe to Hope in Crisis! We are available everywhere.
  • Interact: Leave us comments and give us 5 stars — we would love for more people to find our podcast!
  • Follow: Follow us on Twitter and Instagram for our updates
  • Share: Recommend the podcast to your friends, colleagues and family!
  • Suggest: Do not hesitate to give us any suggestions! We would love to improve ourselves!

Thanks to Sean, Renee, and Vivian for their time!

I’ve enjoyed listening to each podcast and see it improve significantly with each new episode. I hope you can check one out on your next walk, drive, train ride, or house cleaning and let us know what you’re interested in learning about next.

I appreciate your continued support. If you enjoy this newsletter or our work, please help us by sharing it with a friend. We’ll keep fighting for your #digitalrights.

Michael Nguyễn

Head of Operations, Bitmark



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