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?

Each week, host Jason Gots surprises some of the world's brightest minds with ideas they're not at all prepared to discuss. Join us and special guests Neil Gaiman, Alan Alda, Salman Rushdie, Margaret Atwood, Richard Dawkins, Maria Popova, Mary-Louise Parker, Neil deGrasse Tyson and many more...

Attention as an act of resistance – with Jenny Odell

Artist, "bird noticer", and concerned citizen of the digital state of the world Jenny Odell looks at many different ways of resisting the attention economy, sinking into the reality of our lives, and finding solidarity and agency with others.

Think Again Podcasts
  • "Someone is defining the terms already by asking the question. And if you're not attentive, you will accept those terms."
  • "It's really hard to draw a hard line around an entity in any ecological system. And I think this is a great description of the self, too."


When I think of my childhood home in Bethesda, Maryland, depending on what kind of mood I'm in, I think either of the mall or of the woods. Although there were some fun moments looking at the inappropriate novelty items like at Spencer Gifts, such as edible underwear, the mall in my memory is a symbol of suburban anomie and alienation. A place, as my guest today would put it, without context.

The woods, on the other hand, were endless and full of surprises. We'd follow the twisting creek, overturn rocks to find crawfish, and eat sassafras leaves. Once we made Molotov cocktails out of my mom's nail polish and threw them into the creek with pure, anarchic joy. In the woods, I was always, utterly present—connected to every sound and attuned to the slightest movement. In the mall, I was mostly conscious of whether or not my jacket looked cool.

I'm here today with Jenny Odell. She's an artist and educator who grew up in Silicon Valley and teaches at Stanford, the heart of the attention economy that's colonizing more and more of the cultural woods. She's also an avid bird watcher—or "bird noticer", as she might put it. Her wonderful new book HOW TO DO NOTHING: RESISTING THE ATTENTION ECONOMY is something like a primer for growing the woods inside the mall. It's about carving out space for ourselves in a world that wants to put our time and our lives to other, more utilitarian uses.

Surprise conversation starters in this episode:

Edward Slingerland on the Taoist concept of Wu Wei and how it plays out in Chinese business culture

Open academic culture, more crucial than ever, is in peril

Why campuses are becoming polarized — and what we can do about it.

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Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • The narrowing of academic freedom is a major problem for institutions of higher education.
  • Social media, external pressures, and increasingly diverse student bodies — while providing some positives — create more opportunity for misunderstanding and miscommunication.
  • Reaffirming the value of and commitment to open debate ensures a more vibrant academic culture.
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  • 12min summarizes hundreds of best-selling books down to essential 12-minute microbooks.
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Elif Shafak (writer) – the cemetery of the companionless

Following the Booker shortlisting of her novel 10 Minutes, 38 Seconds in This Strange World, British-Turkish author and activist Elif Shafak returns to Think Again to talk about forgotten lives, the nature of evil, and what we mean by progress.

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Reginald Dwayne Betts - Nothing to resurrect after prison

"I think when you come to grips with what happened, it gives you a chance of doing something different. What's really dark is when you're going through something and you have no perspective." By revisiting—through poetry—his 9 years in prison for a teenage carjacking, Reginald Dwayne Betts finds freedoms most of us have never known.

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Some experiences change you so completely that you're left with a choice: either spend your life running from them or spend your life turning them over in memory, trying to find new ways in, through, and out the other side. The power of the impulse to explain or somehow articulate these experiences is inversely proportionate to other people's ability to understand them. They're everything all at once. It seems to me that my guest today has made that second choice, the hard choice not to run away. Or maybe it's a choice you have to keep making over and over again. His name is Reginald Dwayne Betts. He's 39 years old—an accomplished poet and essayist and a graduate of Yale Law School. But he spent most of his teenage years and young adulthood in prison and over a year in solitary confinement, experiences neither society, nor memory, nor his fellow feeling for the more than 2 million people behind bars in the United States, the vast majority of them black men and boys, has let him forget. Dwayne's beautiful and necessary new book of poems is called FELON, and I'm honored to have him with me here today to talk about it.



Bill Bryson on the most extraordinary machine in the known universe

Journeys of discovery and wonder in the inner and outer world.

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