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...
Area 51 and the epistemology of the unexplained
30 years later, a new investigative documentary on Bob Lazar's claims about Area 51 raises some ghosts, some hell, and some unsettling questions.
- What if aliens have been visiting us all along?
- "Skeptical optimism" and investigations into the unknown
- Neurodiversity and deficiencies as sources of power
Between subjective experience and the things most people can accept as objective facts, there yawns a cavernous gulf. Imagine you're on a stage in front of 50,000 strangers trying to explain what it felt like to fall in love for the first time. There are ways of going about it, but it sure ain't easy. The facts most of us agree upon—things like gravity, our own mortality, global warming—they rest on reason, evidence, science. Clunky and fussy though they sometimes are, these are the best tools we have to test and replicate knowledge species-wide.
But what happens when someone claims that something's objectively true, but reason, evidence, and/or science are insufficient to test it? Claims of hauntings, cryptozoological wonders, or alien technology under US military lock and key? This is the stuff of endless subreddits and secret societies. Of conspiracies and shadow-wars between skeptics and believers. Where evidence is lacking or disputed, things can get hella heated.
My guest today wants to "weaponize your curiosity" in the realms of these extraordinary beliefs. He's Jeremy Kenyon Lockyer Corbell, a mixed-martial artist, a visual artist, and an investigative filmmaker. His new documentary is Bob Lazar: Area 51 and Flying Saucers. It raises some ghosts, some hell, and some unsettling questions.
Surprise conversation starter clips in this episode:
Want to be smarter than you were yesterday? Learn to have better conversations using these 3 design principles.
- What is a great conversation? They are the ones that leave us feeling smarter or more curious, with a sense that we have discovered something, understood something about another person, or have been challenged.
- There are 3 design principles that lead to great conversations: humility, critical thinking, and sympathetic listening.
- Critical thinking is the celebrated cornerstone of liberalism, but next time you're in a challenging and rewarding conversation, try to engage sympathetic listening too. Understanding why another intelligent person holds ideas that are at odds with your own is often more enlightening than merely hunting for logic errors.
Should all speech be free? How much intolerance should society tolerate?
- 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.
When I was a teenager and music was still on cassettes, a mixtape was an act of love. In this episode, I'm putting together some of my favorite moments of 2019, strung together with minimal interruption from me.
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.
- "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!"
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.
- "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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