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...

Helen Riess, M.D. – Empathy in the brain and the world

Empathy makes us human. Humans make structures that rob us of empathy when we need it most. Helen Riess is trying to reverse that trend.

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  • The doctor burnout epidemic and how to fix it


Empathy is the basic stuff of human connection. It's how we hear and are heard by one another. It's how we deal with one another as people rather than objects. But with massive, relentless trouble in the world, the 24 hour news cycle, the pressure to choose political and social sides, and the struggles of our everyday lives, empathy is sometimes in short supply.

My guest today is the psychiatrist and research scientist Helen Riess. She's an associate clinical professor at Harvard and runs the relational science program at Massachusetts General Hospital as well as the company Empathetics, Inc. Her new book, THE EMPATHY EFFECT: 7 Neuroscience-based keys for transforming the way we live, love, work, and connect across differences, is all about empathy: where it comes from, what its effects are, and how we can develop more of it.

That breathtaking song I mention in the intro: "Compassion" by Lucinda Williams

Surprise conversation starter clips in this episode:

Timothy Snyder on how to get past partisan politics

Leland Melvin on hands on learning

Sponsored by the Institute for Humane Studies
  • The internet is parasitic on traditional media sources, says Keith Whittington. Traditional news outlets do the hard reporting to generate the facts and notable opinions that other outlets respond to.
  • The greatest challenge to truth in journalism is that social media presents news stories out of context; we no longer see news among other news articles, and we may only ever see the headline without the detail and nuance required.
  • Media institutions are working to tackle these challenges, but until then it is our responsibility as citizens and consumers to get smarter about how we navigate news feeds and the hyper-partisan press.
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Sponsored by the Institute for Humane Studies
  • For society to stay open and free, you don't need to eliminate prejudice. You need the opposite: All kinds of prejudice pitted against each other.
  • Intellectual diversity helps society as a whole learn the truth. And as long as society has rules that force ideas to be openly tested, the intolerant will not gain the upper hand.
  • "In America it's legal to be intolerant. It may not be right. It may not get you accepted or respected. But absolutely it's legal and it should be legal," says Jonathan Rauch.
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This incredibly rich machinery – with Antonio Damasio

Picking up where we left off a year ago, a conversation about the homeostatic imperative as it plays out in everything from bacteria to pharmaceutical companies—and how the marvelous apparatus of the human mind also gets us into all kinds of trouble.

Think Again Podcasts
  • "Prior to nervous systems: no mind, no consciousness, no intention in the full sense of the term. After nervous systems, gradually we ascend to this possibility of having to this possibility of having minds, having consciousness, and having reasoning that allows us to arrive at some of these very interesting decisions."
  • "We are fragile culturally and socially…but life is fragile to begin with. All that it takes is a little bit of bad luck in the management of those supports, and you're cooked…you can actually be cooked—with global warming!"



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Lisa Brennan-Jobs on growing up without, with, and in spite of her dad

How do you write away the personal hole in your heart when that hole was left by a man half the world idolizes? Steve Jobs' daughter, the writer Lisa Brennan-Jobs, on the process and effects of writing her beautiful memoir SMALL FRY.

Brigitte Lacombe
Think Again Podcasts
  • "If I hadn't gone back with a fine-toothed-comb, a lot of these assumptions I had would have just been the air I breathed into my future."
  • "There is something like theft in a memoir. If you want to write about yourself you have to write about other people who are unwitting and don't want to be written about…"
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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.

Ryan Meyer
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."
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