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In this episode: 

Since 2008, Big Think has been sharing big ideas from creative and curious minds. The Think Again podcast takes us out of our comfort zone, surprising our guests and Jason Gots, your host, with unexpected conversation starters from Big Think’s interview archives. 

Historian and journalist Jelani Cobb is the author of Substance of Hope: Barack Obama and the Paradox of Progress and other books, and one of our most powerful writers on the complexities of race in America. Jelani is a staff writer at the New Yorker, where he’s given readers nuanced insight into gun culture, police brutality, the #blacklivesmatter movement, and much more, and a professor of Journalism at Columbia University.  

Although Jelani was hoping the surprise format might involve watching fun nature videos, the topics that came up included mathematical symmetry as a defining principle of the universe, whether and to what extent liberals should try to empathize with Trump supporters, and the ethics of human-animal and human-robot relations. Sorry, Jelani. 

Surprise conversation starter interview clips in this episode: Jim Gaffigan on Political Intolerance, Glenn Cohen on AI Ethics, and Frank Wilczek on Symmetry

Jelani Cobb Quote: I always keep in mind Frederick Douglass’ statement at the end of the Civil War, where an abolitionist society was disbanding because they had conceivably achieved their goals with the 13th Amendment. And Douglass says they should not disband. He says: “You think slavery is over?” And he uses this great phrase: “Let’s wait to see what new form this old snake takes.”

About Think Again - A Big Think Podcast: You've got 10 minutes with Einstein. What do you talk about? Black holes? Time travel? Why not gambling? The Art of War? Contemporary parenting? Some of the best conversations happen when we're pushed outside of our comfort zones. Each week on Think Again, we surprise smart people you may have heard of with short clips from Big Think's interview archives on every imaginable subject. These conversations could, and do, go anywhere.