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...
World makes mind – with Barbara Tversky
With MIND IN MOTION, psychologist Barbara Tversky offers a stunning account of movement in the world as the foundation of abstract thought, from logical problem-solving to taking other people's perspectives. We discuss gesture, abstract art, animal intelligence and much more.
- "Our feet take us from place to place. A place is a dot and the path between places is a relation. And if you think about thought, it's the same."
- "There's all this work done now on how you can preserve an aging mind. Crossword puzzles…brain training…none of that works as well as moving in the world. Just keep moving."
You're a body in the world. From the moment you're born, from that very first gasp of air, you're taking in sensations, trying to get a handle on things and the relationships between them. There's a lot of things to get a handle on. Too many. So your brain needs to simplify. It makes boxes for objects, maps them onto grids to track their motion. Through this process, the physical world enters your mind. It makes your mind. And that's where things start to get really interesting.
My guest today is cognitive psychologist Barbara Tversky. Her new book MIND IN MOTION: How Action Shapes Thought, upends everything most of us think we know about thinking. Tversky's first law of cognition is that there are no benefits without costs. We simplify the physical world—reduce it to lines and boxes. We build abstract thought—everything from Shakespeare to string theory to how to design a pair of sneakers—on top of that same flawed foundation. And that explains all of our superpowers and all of our blind spots.
Surprise conversation starters 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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