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...
Civilization and Its Discontents – Maya Jasanoff – Think Again - a Big Think Podcast #126
Terrorism. Technological disruption. Globalization. Life in the 1870’s was wild. Harvard historian Maya Jasanoff on Joseph Conrad, his times, and ours.
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Jason Gots: I want to read you a quote: “For reasons which can certainly use close psychological inquiry the West seems to suffer deep anxieties about the precariousness of its civilization and to have a need for constant reassurance by comparison with Africa.”
That’s Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe writing about Joseph Conrad and his famous book Heart of Darkness. We’ll come back to that. Born in Poland in 1857, Conrad, like us, lived at a time of rapid globalization, of technological disruption, and of all the wonders and horrors that unleashes. My guest today, Harvard historian Maya Jasanoff, has written all about it in her beautifully written, fascinating new book The Dawn Watch.
Surprise conversation-starter clips in this episode:
About Think Again - A Big Think Podcast: Since 2008, Big Think has been sharing big ideas from creative and curious minds. Since 2015, the Think Again podcast has been taking us out of our comfort zone, surprising our guests and Jason Gots, your host, with unexpected conversation starters from Big Think’s interview archives.
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? Some of the best conversations happen when we're pushed outside of our comfort zones. Each week on Think Again, we surprise smart people you may have heard of with short clips from Big Think's interview archives on every imaginable subject. These conversations could, and do, go anywhere.
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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