Think Again – a Big Think Podcast

Think Again – a Big Think Podcast Podcast

We surprise some of the world's brightest minds with ideas they're not at all prepared to discuss. With host Jason Gots and special guests Neil Gaiman, Alan Alda, Salman Rushdie, Mary-Louise Parker, Richard Dawkins, Margaret Atwood, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Saul Williams, Henry Rollins, Bill Nye, George Takei, Maria Popova, and many more . . . 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. So each week on Think Again, we surprise smart people you've probably heard of with hand-picked gems from Big Think's interview archives on every imaginable subject. The conversation could go anywhere. SINCE 2008, BIG THINK has captured on video the best ideas of the world’s leading thinkers and doers in every field, renowned experts including neurologist Oliver Sacks, physicist Stephen Hawking, behavioral psychologist Daniel Kahneman, authors Margaret Atwood and Marylinne Robinson, entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, painter Chuck Close, and philosopher Daniel Dennett.

[SPECIAL] Clever Creature with Jason Gots - Episode 1: DESERT
NOTE: This is a special guest episode of Jason's new podcast Clever Creature. Please subscribe on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts! The Moleskine is open, the page is staring back accusingly/ Like 'come on, Punk, what makes you think you possibly could fill the likes of me? Reflections on a big creative leap of faith: the making of this podcast. A staples manufacturer on the brink of death, taking solace in his gut flora and the memory of his daughter's love for LOL Surprise do...

235. Neil Gaiman (Jason Plays Favorites #7) – and then it gets darker
[From February through March 22, 2020 (his last day hosting Think Again) Jason will be revisiting favorite past episodes. Jason's new show, starting May 12th, is Clever Creature with Jason Gots.] Adult life, with all its schedules and responsibilities, can turn into a kind of library of locked boxes. The ones we open every day sit on a shelf at eye level, their keys clipped to a carabiner at our waist: Set the alarm. Pack a gym bag. Pick up milk for the kids. But on the lower shelves and in the dusty back r...

234. Robert MacFarlane (Jason Plays Favorites #7) – deep time rising
[From February through March 22, 2020 (his last day hosting Think Again) Jason will be revisiting favorite past episodes. Jason's new show, starting May 12th, is Clever Creature with Jason Gots.] I’m underground as I write this, one day before taping the conversation you’re about to hear, speeding through New York City subway tunnels that aren’t all that ancient but whose darkness, and rats, and crumbling, esoteric infrastructure holds fear and fascination enough for anyone who contemplates them. Waking up ...


234. Robert MacFarlane (Jason Plays Favorites #7) – deep time rising
[From February through March 22, 2020 (his last day hosting Think Again) Jason will be revisiting favorite past episodes. Jason's new show, starting May 12th, is Clever Creature with Jason Gots.] I’m underground as I write this, one day before taping the conversation you’re about to hear, speeding through New York City subway tunnels that aren’t all that ancient but whose darkness, and rats, and crumbling, esoteric infrastructure holds fear and fascination enough for anyone who contemplates them. Waking up ...

233. Terry Gilliam (Jason Plays Favorites #5) – the impossible dream
[From February through March 22, 2020 (his last day hosting Think Again) Jason will be revisiting favorite past episodes. Jason's new show, starting May 12th, is Clever Creature with Jason Gots.] -- Faith in anything is its own special form of madness. It’s a challenge to entropy, and entropy takes no challenge lightly. If there’s any better metaphor for this struggle than trying to make a big budget movie with even a shred of integrity, I haven’t found it. On the one hand, you’ve got this impossible dream....

232. Anaïs Mitchell (Jason Plays Favorites #4) – sometimes the god speaks through you
[From February through March 22, 2020 (his last day hosting Think Again) Jason will be revisiting favorite past episodes. Jason's new show, starting May 12th, is Clever Creature with Jason Gots.] -- Among other things, music can be medicine. Like a vaccine, it sometimes works by giving your body a little taste of the disease. Other times, of course, you just wanna dance, and James Brown might be just what you need. But the medicine songs I’m talking about are the ones that break your heart open no matter ma...


231. Marlon James (Jason Plays Favorites #3) – don't get too comfortable
[From February through March 22, 2020 (his last day hosting Think Again) Jason will be revisiting favorite past episodes. Jason's new show, starting May 12th, is Clever Creature with Jason Gots.] -- At this point, it’s very rare to read something and find myself thinking: This is something new. This is unlike anything I’ve ever read before. It doesn’t have to be written in hieroglyphs or be some kind of three-dimensional interactive reading experience with pull-out tabs and half the pages upside down. That ...

230. Eve Ensler (Jason Plays Favorites #2) – no way out but through
[From February through March 22, 2020 (his last day hosting Think Again) Jason will be revisiting favorite past episodes. Jason's new show, starting May 12th, is Clever Creature with Jason Gots.] -- Note: I feel I should let listeners know that this episode of Think Again is about surviving and thriving in the face of unspeakable trauma and sexual violence. And in order to get to the thriving, we have talk about the trauma, which may be painful for some listeners and inappropriate for kids. But I don’t want...

229. David Sedaris (Jason Plays Favorites #1) – Sir David of the Spotless Roadways
[From February through March 22, 2020 (his last day hosting Think Again) Jason will be revisiting favorite past episodes. Jason's new show, starting May 12th, is Clever Creature with Jason Gots.] Life is full of horrible things. I dare you to deny it. Things like death, sickness, and alcoholism. And did I mention death, which lies in wait for us all? But if you talk about these things at dinner parties, or at work, or to someone you have just met in line at the grocery store, you risk being branded a negat...


228. Sharon Salzberg (meditation and mindfulness teacher) – on balance
Since 1976, Sharon Salzberg has been sharing ancient meditation and mindfulness practices in a voice the contemporary West can understand. Her warm, funny, down-to-earth books, dharma talks, and guided meditations have helped struggling meditators worldwide establish a strong practice and reduce the suffering in their lives. In this episode master teacher Sharon Salzberg considers whether it's ok to teach mindfulness to the armed forces, how practitioners of meditation and mindfulness should balance opennes...

227. Roz Chast and Patricia Marx (cartoons, words, ukuleles) – The Beatles stole everything from us
Thelma and Louise, Ponch and John, Pancho and Lefty, Quixote and Sancho Panza, Marx and Engels, Marx and Chast…history and literature are full of magical buddy stories. Every now and then, for reasons no one can explain, Two people come together and produce something greater, or at least very different, from the sum of their parts. I’m here today with one such team: the writer-cartoonist duo of Patricia Marx and Roz Chast. They’re both longtime contributors to the New Yorker and fearsome humorists in their ...

226. Joseph Goldstein (dharma teacher) – doubt comes masquerading as wisdom
Freedom. Everyone wants it, but knowing where to look for it is another matter. And to make matters worse, the world is full of things that feel like freedom but might just get us more tangled up in everything we’re trying to escape. How much freedom can money buy? How much money? How free are you on a tropical vacation? Would uploading your consciousness into the cloud and downloading it into a robot avatar on Alpha Centauri make you more free? How about falling in love again? How about three margaritas wi...


225. Jad Abumrad (Radiolab, Dolly Parton's America) – American Multiverse
If you’d told me a couple months ago that a podcast about Dolly Parton could move me deeply and raise all kinds of questions that go straight to the wounded heart of America today, I guess I would have been skeptical to say the least. But that skepticism might be exactly the point. America is an image factory. Country music. Rock and Roll. New York City. Nashville. We paint with big, broad brushes. And if we’re not careful, we miss a lot of the details.  My guest today is audio storytelling wizard Jad Abumr...

224. Norman Fischer (zen priest, poet) – the only way out of the catastrophe we’re in
The other day on social media a friend asked what the heck is up with this Mr. Rogers revival. Why does everyone suddenly love this guy so much? Moments before, I had been listening to a new podcast about Dolly Parton, and her weird, almost saintlike ability to bring people together across cultural divides. In a moment of deep mistrust and cynicism, there’s this hunger for people and things worth believing in.  I’ve also got Bodhisattvas on the brain lately. In Mahayana Buddhism, Bodhisattvas are the embodi...

223. Karen Armstrong (theologian) – the art of getting outside of yourself
I’ve spent more of my life than most people I know immersed by choice in what my guest today would call “scripture”. I was never much of a Roman Catholic, in spite of being dragged weekly to church until I was about 13 and could no longer be dragged, and, in my boredom, sometimes believing I saw the statue of Jesus moving on the cross. But in late adulthood, the need for spiritual meaning gripped me tight and wouldn’t let go. It led first into Judaism and Jerusalem, and then, for the past couple decades, mo...


222. Deborah Levy (writer) – it's those thoughts that are slightly awkward that need an airing
While reading Deborah Levy’s novel THE MAN WHO SAW EVERYTHING and her recent “working autobiography” THE COST OF LIVING I often found myself pausing and kind of sinking into a passage I’d just read. Going back and rereading it not because my attention had wandered nor exactly to unpack an idea but because I felt the need to experience it over again. To have it happen to me.  Levy started her career writing plays that have been staged by the Royal Shakespeare Company and broadcast by the BBC. She is the auth...

221. Yancey Strickler (Kickstarter co-founder) – you, me, us: now and in the future
The phrase “common sense” can be misleading. The way we use it in casual conversation, it means something like “that which is obvious to any sensible person, of course”. It’s like what philosopher Daniel Dennett says about the word “surely”. Surely we can all agree that it’s just an innocent word, right? Surely I’m not manipulating you by starting this sentence with a positive conclusion? Common sense, in fact, is just what it sounds like: the commonly agreed upon sense of how things are at any given time. ...

220. Elif Shafak (writer) – the cemetery of the companionless
“Maybe the opposite of goodness is not evil. Maybe the opposite of goodness is, in fact, numbness.”  There are so many questions we never ask. So many assumptions we make every second of every day because our minds and our lives are sealed off from one another, accessible only through time, patience, and the slow work of trust—all of which are often in short supply while we’re running around trying to stick to schedules. And there are some questions we don’t ask for other reasons—because the answers might t...


219. Reginald Dwayne Betts (poet) – nothing to resurrect after prison
Some experiences change you so completely that you’re left with a choice: either spend your life running from them or spend your life turning them over in memory, trying to find new ways in, through, and out the other side. The power of the impulse to explain or somehow articulate these experiences is inversely proportionate to other people’s ability to understand them. They’re everything all at once. It seems to me that my guest today has made that second choice, the hard choice not to run away. Or maybe i...

218. Bill Bryson (writer) – the most extraordinary machine
Do you have a body? I do, but I was mostly unaware of this fact until somewhere in my mid-30s, when my life strategy of living like a bourbon-loving brain-in-a-vat became increasingly untenable. Since then, I’ve come to understand something that might have been obvious to you all along. The body’s not just a convenient support system for coming up with clever things to say—it’s how we experience the world. It’s most of what we mean by living. And for all its marvelous autonomy, it’s also wonderfully, baffli...

217. Ibram X. Kendi (author, activist) – Antiracism 101
I grew up in the almost entirely white suburbs of 1980’s Bethesda, Maryland thinking of myself and my world as 100% not racist. It’s hard to notice what’s missing: for example pretty much any black or brown people anywhere I went except on vacation, in spite of the fact that we were right next to Washington DC. At some point in middle school I learned that my Jewish dad had been unwelcome at the most popular local country club, and so chosen another, less popular one that admitted Jews at the time. But this...


216. Gail Collins (NY Times columnist) – The brief social media life of Glam-ma
In 1972, the year I was born, there was apparently a famous TV ad for Geritol. My guest today describes it thus: “…a husband spoke to the camera while his wife draped herself over his shoulder, smiling like something between a model and the brainwashed resident of a creepy commune…”My wife’s incredible. She took care of the baby all day, cooked a great dinner and even went to a school meeting—and look at her!” Her potion of eternal youth, of course, is Geritol. It’s got all the vitamins and iron she needs. ...

215. Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie: the cognitive segregation of America
I don’t even know where to begin with this one. You’ve probably heard of Cambridge Analytica. Maybe you know they’re a company that did some nefarious things involving facebook and the 2016 US presidential elections. If you’re anything like me, you don’t know the half of it. If you get through this episode without wanting to move to a remote hut in the Arctic circle, I will personally refund this hour of your life. My guest today is Christopher Wylie, author of MindF*ck: Cambridge Analytica and the Plot to ...

214. Liz Plank (journalist) – men, masculinity, and the unfinished conversation
In the past half century or so feminism has had its hands plenty full dealing with the abuse and inequality women suffer at the hands of horribly behaved men and the systems they build. Too full to worry much about what the hell is going on inside those men and why. And there are powerful arguments to be made for the fact that it is not women’s responsibility to help men figure out how not to be monsters. But I’ve noticed an interesting shift in the discourse lately. In the wake of the #MeToo movement (thi...


214. Liz Plank (journalist) – men, masculinity, and the unfinished conversation
In the past half century or so feminism has had its hands plenty full dealing with the abuse and inequality women suffer at the hands of horribly behaved men and the systems they build. Too full to worry much about what the hell is going on inside those men and why. And there are powerful arguments to be made for the fact that it is not women’s responsibility to help men figure out how not to be monsters. But I’ve noticed an interesting shift in the discourse lately. In the wake of the #MeToo movement (thin...

213. Catherine Wilson (philosopher) – the Epicurean cure for what ails ya
If the word ‘epicurean’ brings to mind a porcine man in a toga reclining on a velvet couch and dropping fat juicy grapes into his open mouth, one by one, you are not alone. But this caricature, probably the descendent of some ancient propaganda by rival philosophers, tells us very little in fact about Epicureanism - the worldview of the 4th century BCE Greek philosopher Epicurus and his later disciple Lucretius, whose ideas prefigured and shaped much of the modern world. My guest today is philosopher Cathe...

212. Downton Abbey film director Michael Engler – the best idea in the room
Like too many of us, I hated history classes throughout my school career, and only realized as an adult that there are few things more interesting to ponder than the ways people lived and thought in different times and places than my own. After all, we’re all stuck in our own time, limited by our culture, consciousness, and whatever knowledge we may possess of what came before. Maybe that explains part of the appeal of historical fiction like the series Downton Abbey, set in a great Edwardian country hous...


211. Etgar Keret (writer) – a tunnel dug under the prison floor
“A conversation is like a tunnel dug under the prison floor that you—patiently and painstakingly—scoop out with a spoon. It has one purpose: to get you away from where you are right now.” That is from the very, very weird tale Car Concentrate from Israeli writer Etgar Keret’s wonderful new collection of short stories called FLY ALREADY. It’s not a bad description of the situation most of Keret’s characters find themselves in—wriggling like butterflies stuck on the pins of their own minds or circumstances, ...

210. one night in Istanbul, with chef Musa Dağdeviren
There’s a pattern that happens with any new thing. First it’s scary, then you settle in to a rhythm, then you hit your stride, then you get too attached to things being the way they are. For a while there I thought I could only record an episode of this show sitting in a particular chair facing a particular direction. When that kind of thing happens, it’s time to shake things up. So today’s show was recorded 5000 miles away from my comfy New York studio, in my wife’s hometown of Istanbul, Turkey. We took a ...

209. a mixtape for 2019
When I was a teenager and music was still on cassettes, a mixtape was an act of love. The selection and sequence of songs were a kind of message to the listener that left plenty of space for their own thoughts and feelings. Back in June Think Again hit its fourth year and its 200th show and it feels like the right time to take a step back and revisit some of the places the conversation has gone this past year. I’m intuitive rather than strategic about choosing guests for the show and books to read—when it w...


208. Antonio Damasio (biologist) – this incredibly rich machinery
Quick question. Answer without thinking too hard. Ready? Where is your mind? What is your mind? Ok, Raise your hand if you thought of your brain. If you did, you’re in good company. For centuries, Western science, culture, and language has been obsessed with the head as the center of thought and the body as the center of feeling. This split can get hierarchical, attaching ideas like “sin” and  to the body and the emotions while putting the brain, along with rationality, up on a pedestal. I’m very happy to...

207. Lisa Brennan-Jobs (writer) – on growing up without, with, and in spite of her dad
The first computer I ever had was the first Apple Macintosh, back in the mid 80’s. I can still remember the sense of friendly reassurance from that smiling little icon that popped up on the screen when you turned it on—a cute, tiny computer smiling back at you. This device, it suggested, knew you. Understood you. Was someone you could trust. Since then, we’ve come a long way, baby. The cold, black, addictive rectangle in my pocket—a gleaming window into all the hopes and terrors of the known world—is a far...

206. Jenny Odell (artist) – attention as an act of resistance
When I think of my childhood home in Bethesda, Maryland, depending on what kind of mood I’m in, I think either of the mall or of the woods. Although there were some fun moments looking at the inappropriate novelty items like at Spencer Gifts, such as edible underwear, the mall in my memory is a symbol of suburban anomie and alienation. A place, as my guest today would put it, without context. The woods, on the other hand, were endless and full of surprises. We’d follow the twisting creek, overturn rocks to...


205. Jeffrey Israel (religious studies scholar, old friend) – Private hate, public love, and everything in between
A Rabbi, a Priest, and an Imam walk into a bar. No, wait. Imams don’t drink. Most rabbis don’t drink much either, come to think of it. Priests drink—at least in the movies—but mostly not in bars . . . So maybe nobody walks into a bar? How, when, and where are we all supposed to figure out how to get along? My guest today, who also happens to be an old, good friend of mine, has an answer, or several. He’s Jeffrey Israel—a professor of Religion at Williams College and the author of a new book Living with Ha...

204. The Butler Sisters (filmmakers) – identity, intolerance, and change in the American heartland
In spite of all the weird ways the word has been abused since the 2016 elections, I think of myself as a liberal. As a basic value, I try to be open-minded. And like many liberals, I live in a big, liberal city where I rarely meet anyone who doesn’t share my values, religious outlook, and political beliefs. As a result, like it or not, I’m in a bubble. And when I’m not being careful about it, I’m vulnerable to seeing “the Bible Belt” and the American South as one monolithic, mostly white, evangelical, anti-...

203. Elif Shafak (novelist) – The story no one hears
After four years and just over 200 conversations for this podcast, I’m feeling the need for a new kind of politics. One that would champion uncertainty, fragility, emotional vulnerability against the tyranny of opinions that push us one way or another. I used to think that art was sufficient for this purpose. After all, it was books like J.D. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey or Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov, bands like the Smiths and the Velvet Underground that gave a much younger me courage to embrace amb...


202. Tracy Edwards, MBE (British sailor) – If you don't like the way the world looks, change it
What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done? The thing everyone said was impossible,  that you knew you had to do anyway, and that you doubted a thousand times while it was underway that you’d be able to see through to the end? There’s a good chance you can think of at least one example. And an even better chance it doesn’t even come close in monumental, soul-smelting intensity to what Tracy Edwards put herself through back in 1989 to 1990, along with the all-female crew of her racing yacht Maiden. In that y...

201. Chris Moukarbel (WIG and GAGA FIVE FOOT TWO filmmaker) – The closest thing to actual magic
When I was in middle school in the suburbs of Maryland, a man—let’s call him Robert—started doing some occasional gardening and housecleaning for my parents. By high school, Robert was our full-time housekeeper and a nanny for me and my sister, a family member, really. And he had become a she—let’s call her Tina. My sister and I learned to use her new pronouns and we watched as her clothes and then, with the help of hormones and surgery, her body changed to that of a woman. At the same time, the transition...

200. Robert MacFarlane (writer) – deep time rising
I’m underground as I write this, one day before taping the conversation you’re about to hear, speeding through New York City subway tunnels that aren’t all that ancient but whose darkness, and rats, and crumbling, esoteric infrastructure holds fear and fascination enough for anyone who contemplates them. Waking up this morning—notice how you wake up, not down—I felt my already barely remembered dreams sliding off of me in layers, like leaves, or hands. And the longing to submit to those hands and slide back...


199. Lama Rod Owens (RADICAL DHARMA co-author, Buddhist teacher) – the price of the ticket to freedom
Like Mick Jagger, the Indian prince we know as The Buddha taught that we can’t get no satisfaction from this world, though we try and we try, and we try, and we try . . . Buddha means “awakened one”. Awake to the fact that the world is impermanent and we suffer and cause suffering to one another because of that. “Woke” is a newer word for something similar. Waking up to pervasive social injustice. To racism, economic disparity, homophobia, and other forces that poison and destroy people’s lives and relatio...

198. Barbara Tversky (cognitive psychologist) – World makes mind
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...

197. Eve Ensler (author, activist) – No way out but through
Note: I feel I should let listeners know that this episode of Think Again is about surviving and thriving in the face of unspeakable trauma and sexual violence. And in order to get to the thriving, we have talk about the trauma, which may be painful for some listeners and inappropriate for kids. But I don’t want to scare anybody off—I think it’s one of the most valuable conversations we’ve ever had on the show.  -- For a human child growing up, trust is the foundation of everything. We learn how to regulat...


196. Susan Hockfield (MIT president emerita, neuroscientist) – Extraordinary machines
“Are we in the best of times? Or the end of times? One of the oddities of the current era is that extreme pessimism about the world coexists with extreme optimism — and both have a plausible case to make.” I’m quoting Gideon Rachman from a recent Financial Times piece about Bill Gates and David Attenborough. Broadly speaking, Gates is a technooptimist: convinced, like his friend Steven Pinker, that the world’s getting better all the time due to technological and scientific progress, and that our problems ar...

195. Adam Gopnik (essayist) – the rhinoceros of liberalism vs. the unicorns of everything else
If I had to choose one word to capture this moment in American (and maybe world) history, “patience” wouldn’t be it. From every direction, everything demands our urgent attention. Everything is a ticking time bomb, or one that’s just exploded, and we’re all the poorly-trained volunteer ambulance squad. I don’t mean to dismiss the challenges we face: climate change, families being ripped apart while seeking asylum, a school shooting every other week, just to name a few. These are very real. Very urgent inde...

194. Jared Diamond (Historian) – Look inward, Nation
Imagine yourself a German citizen the day after the end of World War II. Much of your city is bombed to ruins. A good part of the population is dead. The Nazi ideology that has dominated your nation for the past decade has been repudiated as definitively as Bambi in “Bambi Meets Godzilla”. Basically, it’s the end of the world. Now consider Berlin today. It’s the biggest economy in Europe. The center of the European Union. A progressive welfare state where the old racial and nationalist resentments have bee...


193. Anaïs Mitchell (HADESTOWN creator, songwriter/singer) – sometimes the god speaks through you
Among other things, music can be medicine. Like a vaccine, it sometimes works by giving your body a little taste of the disease. Other times, of course, you just wanna dance, and James Brown might be just what you need. But the medicine songs I’m talking about are the ones that break your heart open no matter many times you hear them. And you want them to—because that’s what it feels like to be alive. Nobody knows this better than my guest today, singer-songwriter Anaïs Mitchell. Like the centuries of blues...

192. Delphine Minoui (journalist) – Land of paradoxes: the inner and outer Iran
I remember visiting New York when I was 18 and thinking about coming here for college. How badly I wanted to be “from” New York. How cool, how real, how substantial that would be. What does it mean to be “from” any place? At what point do you own the culture like you own your native language? Your very own little shard of the broken mirror that adds up to New York. Or Irkutsk. Or Tehran? Actually, you can’t own a culture: it owns you. And you can’t immerse yourself in a different culture without turning i...

191. Simon Critchley (philosopher) – the philosophy of tragedy & the tragedy of philosophy
Well into her 90’s, my grandma Selma and I had this running conversation about the state of the world. She’d escaped Polish pogroms as a 5 year old, lived through the loss of half her relatives in World War II, and saw the founding of the UN in 1945 and NATO in 1949 as signs of a world sick of chaos and finally ready to be sensible and humane. Well, that’s not really how things turned out, is it. And I spent a lot of time trying and failing to reassure Selma that there was still hope in the world, just on ...


190. Terry Gilliam (filmmaker) - The impossible dream
Faith in anything is its own special form of madness. It’s a challenge to entropy, and entropy takes no challenge lightly. If there’s any better metaphor for this struggle than trying to make a big budget movie with even a shred of integrity, I haven’t found it. On the one hand, you’ve got this impossible dream. This faith in the beautiful thing that’s supposed to emerge at at the end of the process. On the other hand, the process is a hellish sausage-making machine of studio bosses, financing, and acts o...

189. Ross Kauffman (Oscar-winning filmmaker) – Tigers and the humans who love them
I was thinking this morning that It’s funny how “humane” is the only word we have for that idea, since so much that’s inhumane has been created by us humans. When we talk about the humane treatment of animals, considering the ways we’ve treated animals for most of our history, what can we possibly mean? Anyway... It’s a fair guess that prehistoric humans spent most of their time in awe of something or other. Mountains, oceans, the Earth, the Sun. And also of big cats with the power to hunt and kill us: lio...

188. Frans de Waal (primatologist) – You're such a social animal
When I was a kid, there used to be a TV commercial for this series of animal videos you could order that were basically nothing but killing and sex. The tagline was “Find out why we call them . . . ANIMALS”! “Wait a minute . . .“ I used to think: “That’s not why we call them animals. Also, we’re animals too, aren’t we? What exactly are you trying to say?” That video series was a cynical cash grab, but it’s not too far removed from how science has approached animal research, with some very recent exception...


187. Aml Ameen (actor) - how the world teaches you who you are
They say Confucius said “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.” I did the research. Confucius probably didn’t say that. But whoever said it was right—revenge bites back. Victor Headley’s 1992 book YARDIE launched a genre of Jamaican pulp fiction. It’s the story of a life driven and destroyed by revenge, from the Kingston gang wars of the 70’s to the international drug trade of the 80’s. And it’s the basis for Idris Elba’s directorial debut—a movie of the same name staring my guest today...

186. Josh Clark (podcaster) - It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine
I like to think. If I didn’t, this would be the wrong job for me. But I realize that as open-minded as I like to consider myself, I’ve taken a thick, black sharpie to certain areas of the philosophical map, scrawling “here there be monsters” and leaving them be. We’re all like this to some extent—it’s the flip side of interest—even if you’re super-curious, the things that interest you most become safe spaces. Comfort zones. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But if you want to keep learning, it’s necessa...

185. Martin Hägglund (philosopher) – What happens to freedom when time is money
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 i...


184. Mitchell S. Jackson (writer) – Notes from the other America
We’re all living inside concentric circles of private and public, inner and outer. From the time we’re small we start to understand that these circles aren’t always friendly to one another. There’s friction at their borders. The stuffed bunny that keeps your heart whole gets you tormented at school. The people you love most don’t look or sound like the cool people on TV. And neither do you. This is true to some extent for all of us, but if you’re growing up black in the other America—the one where everyday ...

183. Will Hunt (explorer) – into the Earth: the mysteries and meanings of underground spaces
The first time I attempted to play Minecraft with my then-seven-year-old son, we immediately dug ourselves into a pit deep in the Earth and could not get out. In spite of the crappy 8-bit graphics, all of our primal, H.P. Lovecraftian terrors of the underground were activated. We were trapped! We were lost! We might die down here! Will Hunt, on the other hand, has been climbing eagerly since childhood into dank and disorienting tunnels, caves, sewers, and other underground spaces, from abandoned New York C...