getAbstract: Kirsten, the first episode of our podcast the }getGo is about to air soon, with you hosting it. Before we turn to a content preview of the show: You’re new with the team, what was your first impression of getAbstract?
Kirsten Müller-Daubermann: I first heard about getAbstract through my husband, who had former colleagues who worked there. As I glimpsed into the library, I was simply blown away by the sheer amount of content offered and the diversity of subjects. I felt like I could spend hours on the site or app, jumping from book to book. Then, as I got to know some staff and editors, I felt myself wanting to download all of their knowledge somehow into my head. And that is an ideal basis for developing a format that makes this possible, at least to some extent, right?
You bet! It’s no exaggeration to say that you will be the new voice of the company. You’ve often stood in front of TV cameras before, but now it’s all about your voice: Is that unusual for you?
Not really, because I’ve hosted a podcast and radio in the past. As a host, it is nice because you can focus on creating focused and interesting content, without then also having to worry about getting “camera-ready” beforehand – which involves a lot of time in the hair and makeup chair, professionals getting you all done up and so on, and wardrobe concerns. And I don’t have to wear heels, which is always a bonus. Additionally, with podcasts and radio, you don’t have the time constraints like you do on television, so you have the opportunity to dive deeper with your guests and don’t have to be constantly thinking in the back of your head, “When might I have to cut this person off to go to a commercial break?”
What does your team want to achieve with the podcast?
We want to provide interesting, engaging conversations about pressing issues in the workplace and in people’s lives that help them learn something, understand a current topic or controversial issue from a different perspective, or spark an interest in something they might not expect.
One of the reasons I love podcasts is that they’re an opportunity to learn these precious nuggets of information or inspiration that stay with me throughout the day – or they make me look at the world a little differently or more holistically when I take my headphones off my ears.
So, I hope that after listening to the first season of the }getGo, our listeners will feel like this is a show where they can always tune in to be fascinated and inspired. They might learn some life hack they can implement immediately at their office desk, but can also be inspired by the personal stories they hear from our author interviews or a classic work of literature. The show offers up constant discovery.
How did you prepare for the show, the topics and your guests in season one?
I have been using the getAbstract library extensively! It is a built-in research tool. And not only the book summaries – the journal articles, the TED talks, the sketch notes – it has made the job of finding the best, most current and relevant information on each topic a lot easier and the time used to research much more efficient. In that way, getAbstract is very Swiss – all about precision and efficiency, like a good watch.
One of the first episodes will be about learning and memory. As a guest, you will receive Science & Tech Managing Editor and neuroscience specialist Hendrik Dietrich. Can you briefly describe what a hands-on preparation for such a specific but still abstract topic looks like?
We really wanted to launch the podcast with an in-depth look at how the brain learns, what role the different types of memory play in that process, and offer very practical tools to help us better learn and stay motivated to cultivate new skills and habits. Learning well so that we can develop personally and professionally, and make better decisions, is the core of what getAbstract is all about, which is why this is the perfect place to start. And it’s also just fascinating. Hendrik Dietrich and I had several long conversations before the recording, deciding on what parts of the story of neuroscience to include, and how to find the most practical tools to offer our listeners. And with my background in mental health, figuring out how to bring the role of emotions, motivation and behavioral health concepts into the conversation as well.
How do you make such a resonant topic easier to digest – is there a trick?
Well, we know that there will be people who are listening who work in the field of IT or digitalization and have daily interaction with this topic, and so will already have a working knowledge base, but also people who think they have no interaction with AI in their daily lives and no reference point for how it impacts them. Taking this into consideration, I try to keep the human element front and center – we dive into the latest trends and the outlook for the future of AI, but also the very relevant touchpoints for those without a deep knowledge of the issue, like ethical concerns, how we can interact with technology in ways that make our lives better, how we can reduce fears related to technological innovation, and offer real-life examples of how humans and machines can work better together.
You already named it: Most people refer to public fears when it comes to digitization, robots, AI, and the whole digital transformation-issue. How do you personally tackle the topic? Will podcasts stay a “humans-only business” in the future?
Will robots eventually host podcasts, television shows, YouTube videos? I don’t think so. From everything that I’ve learned, robots and AI do very well at performing the tasks assigned, but we’re still far away from them being able to process meaning – and doing so is a key element of maintaining and creating an interesting dialogue or conversation. Plus, a conversation on a podcast or other interview setting involves all the senses, and responding in the moment takes a kind of emotional intelligence crafted from hormones at work in the brain, memory, sense perception, social awareness and many other contextual cues that AI is still far away from being able to emulate. Therefore, I’m not worried yet about being replaced by a robot.
One of the next episodes will then come up with a topic that is also unimaginable without genuine human creativity: Classics in Literature. Sounds like the contrast, when it comes to topics and themes, is pretty high from episode to episode.
Yes, that is the goal!
The range of expertise among the staff at getAbstract is so diverse, as is the library.
We’ll reflect that in the show. However, it is important to recognize that a discussion about AI and its effect on the human condition and the enduring themes of a work of classic literature might not be so different as one would think. The goal is to provide useful and inspiring content, so not only do we want to capture listeners who might have very different interests, but also show that these diverse topics have many connection points.
What’s your favorite literature classic in our library?
I love so many classics, but one of my favorites in the library is Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert. I read the book when I was a teenager, and was captivated by the style, the tragedy of the story, and the emotional realism that made it feel so modern, as if the characters in the novel weren’t from 19th century France, but could be living in the present day. That kind of emotional resonance across time and place is something only classics can provide, and Flaubert does it brilliantly. However, the abstract in the library was such a joy to read, because it provided so much more context, details about Flaubert’s life, the original, highly controversial publication, and the philosophical and political forces at work at the time that made the work so revolutionary. I wish I had had the abstract when I read it the first time!
And which classic do you still miss in the library?
J.R.R Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.
Since we don’t have an abstract of it yet: What is your favorite take-away from the book?
No matter how dark the world may seem, no matter how bleak the outlook, there is always hope. There is always beauty to be seen, found and fought for. And that hope can be often found in the most unexpected places and the most unexpected people. Strength and courage can be found in mighty heroes but also in ordinary people without titles, rank or privilege. I think that is a message that resonates to this day. And to think that Tolkien was able to outline parts of this overall hopeful message when fighting in the trenches of World War One – losing many of his dearest friends in battle – is even more impressive and moving to me.
Classics like The Lord of the Rings are classics because their topics and learnings don’t go out of fashion. Do you think we should read more timeless pieces – and maybe not in our free-time only?
Yes, yes, and more yes. I believe firmly that in a world with so much busyness, so much reliance on technology and so much focus on quantifying results, we need to consistently and actively engage our imaginations.
We need to create space for our minds to wander, to wonder at things, to imagine ourselves in other people’s shoes, in other times, in other worlds.
It does not only help to provide a much-needed escape, but it also challenges us, inspires creativity and does indeed provide a perspective that can have an impact on our social and work environments as well. It is simply a matter of making the time. And we all can make time for the things that truly matter to us – it is just deciding actually to do it. Providing summaries of classics is a good start to gain this attention.
So, which author would you like to meet and to discuss with on-air?
My dream guest is Malcolm Gladwell. He is a brilliant author and conversationalist and has this incredible ability to be both insanely intelligent and funny and down-to-earth at the same time. That is not an easy thing to achieve.
We are coming to the end of our talk. May I ask about your personal goals for 2020?
To drink more water and to go to sleep earlier on weeknights. And to call my mother back in the United States more consistently. I like to keep things simple.
Mind learning “Swiss German”?
(Laughing) I already get along quite well with High German. As someone who has always worked in communication, whether through the arts or radio, television and journalism, I realize that learning someone’s language is essential in being able to communicate well, deepen understanding, and participate in the culture. However, I will admit I was surprised how prevalent Swiss German was upon moving to Switzerland two years ago, and how difficult it would be to understand, even as I learned German. And then of course, the dialect changes from valley to valley, city to city. I’m still training my ear to understand it better, but I’ve accepted it will be a while before I move beyond the basic vocabulary. I’m a work in progress! One language at a time. And as soon as my Swiss German is “parat” – which means “ready” – I will do a short on air-presentation in Lucerne dialect. I promise.
Kirsten Müller-Daubermann is the host of the }getGo podcast and also works as a communications consultant with a focus on digital media marketing and content production. She spent the last 10 years working in television, radio and news in New York City, and as an advocate for mental health awareness, policy and prevention. Kirsten loves her new home of Zürich, Switzerland, where she enjoys learning new things from the team at getAbstract, hiking, biking, and being mom to her toy poodle, Elsa.