I thought this talk was great, maybe people have read the book or related book reviews, or are just familiar with Charles Mann's stuff more generally. I've been reading and liking 1491, moving on to 1493 soon.
This lecture, even in just the first 20 minutes, sets up the major fault lines for the ideological drama Mann recounts. That ideological drama is embodied in the stories of two rival scientists, Borlaug and Vogt, and their different backgrounds and worldviews, and how their different work. Borlaug authored the Green Revolution by cross-breeding wheat in Mexico; Vogt worked on Malthusian death-spirals in South America. Borlaug thought we could defy Malthus with technological and scientific innovation. Vogt thought the world's poor was doomed to live in hunger, and needed to live in a self-restrained ecological balance with nature—an austerity approach that involved withdrawing from the land. To Mann, they stand for the wizard vs prophet archetypes:
Wizard archetype: Build better tools. Coordination magic.
Prophet archetype: Apocalypse and limits, humility and repentance.
One thing I see here of interest is a potential synthesis of social leftist (i.e. pro-working class/labor/global south) and SV techno-optimism via a rejection of aristocratic aestheticism. That's probably my inclination, but I'm sympathetic to prophet and luddite and degrowth views.
Another is that the zoomed-out perspective; I think the macro view lends a layer of richness to thinking about the present.