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...
What happens to freedom when time is money – with Martin Hägglund
- Why hasn't technology given us more freedom?
- Why is eternal life not desirable?
- Why don't Universal Basic Income and other forms of redistribution solve the underlying problem?
What gets a wolf or a pigeon up in the morning? No offense to wolves or to pigeons, but it's probably not the desire to make the world a better place. As far as we know, humans are unique in the freedom to decide what's worth doing with our finite time on Earth.
But as my guest today argues, we often steal that freedom from one another or sell it off without even realizing it—our finite lifetime, the one thing we have of real value, is devalued by capitalism and for those who have it, by religious faith in eternal life, or eternal everythingness, or eternal nothingness. . . .
It's a long story. These ideas are better expressed in a 400 page book than in a 60 second intro. Happily, philosopher Martin Hägglund has given us that much-needed book in This Life: Secular Faith and Spiritual Freedom. Martin is a professor of Comparative Literature and Humanities at Yale and a Guggenheim Fellowship recipient. And I'm delighted to have him here with me today.
Surprise conversation starters in this episode:
The 8th century AD was a tough time to be a genius from a poor family in China. Poet and novelist Ha Jin on the tortured life of the legendary drunken poet Li Bai. Also: panpsychism, the value of idleness, and humanities education in America today.
- "I knew in the case of Li Bai, I should follow the poems. Every masterpiece by him would be kind of a small crisis…a center for drama in his life."
- "There are people who want a different kind of fulfillment. Society should be open to that. In the long run, you don't know—maybe those idlers can produce more for the society."
Man-Booker prizewinning author Marlon James in a freewheeling game of verbal ping-pong on African mythology, '80's hip hop, heavy metal, tattoos, and billionaire philanthropy.
- "Black Leopard, Red Wolf" has been compared to "Lord of the Rings" and "Game of Thrones", but it's something entirely different.
- Growing up gay in a deeply religious Jamaica and writing his way out of there.
- Trickster narrators, truths you have to sort out for yourself.
Why does Faulkner use "inchoate" so much? Maybe because Benjamin Dreyer wasn't his copy editor. The author of DREYER'S ENGLISH is here to remind us that there's no absolute authority on the English language. Still, please avoid "onboarding".
- Hear! As we play "stump the host" with words everyone spells wrong.
- Marvel! With us at the exquisiteness of the word "twee"
- Absorb! Benjamin Dreyer's simple yet powerful advice about how to write better sentences.
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