222: Ask a Mathematician, Ask a Physicist (Spencer Greenberg and Seth Cottrell)

December 2, 2018 This episode features the hosts of “Ask a Mathematician, Ask a Physicist,” a blog that grew out of a Burning Man booth in which a good-natured mathematician (Spencer Greenberg) and physicist (Seth Cottrell) answer people’s questions about life, the universe, and everything. Spencer and Seth discuss the weirdest and most controversial questions they’ve answered, … Read more

221: Is philanthropy bad for democracy (Rob Reich)

November 13, 2018 This episode features political scientist Rob Reich, author of “Just Giving: Why Philanthropy is Failing Democracy, and How it Can Do Better”. Rob and Julia debate his criticisms of philanthropy: Does it deserve to be tax-deductible? Is it a violation of the autonomy of recipients to attach strings to their charitable gifts? And do … Read more

219: A skeptical take on behavioral economics (Jason Collins)

October 14, 2018 In this episode, economist Jason Collins discusses some of the problems with behavioral economics: Why governments have started to rely too much on the field, and why that’s bad; why it’s suspicious that there are over 100 cognitive biases; when “nudges” are problematic; and more. Transcript (PDF)

218: Good and bad critiques of economics (Chris Auld)

September 30, 2018 In this episode, economist Chris Auld describes some common criticisms of his field and why they’re wrong. Julia and Chris also discuss whether there are any good critiques of the field, and whether economists think that people with an addiction to alcohol or drugs are behaving rationally. Transcript (PDF)

217: The problem of false, biased, and artificial news (Aviv Ovadya)

September 16, 2018 Aviv Ovadya, an expert on misinformation, talks with Julia about the multiple phenomena that get lumped together as “fake news”: articles that are straightforwardly false, misleading, or artificially created (think “Deepfakes,” videos that make a politician appear to say something he didn’t say). Aviv and Julia discuss questions like: Which of those … Read more

216: Being a transhumanist evolutionary psychologist (Diana Fleischman)

September 2, 2018 On this episode of Rationally Speaking, professor Diana Fleischman makes the case for transhumanist evolutionary psychology: understanding our evolved drives, so that we can better overcome them. Diana and Julia discuss sexual preferences, jealousy, and other drives — how immutable are they? How do we know? And how would it change society, if we … Read more

215: The long-term future of humanity (Anders Sandberg)

August 19, 2018 This episode features Anders Sandberg, a researcher at Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute, explaining several reasons why it’s valuable to think about humanity’s long-term future. Julia and Anders discuss the common objection that we can’t predict or steer the future, and explore whether people really care if humanity dies out. Transcript (PDF)

214: Predicting the future of science and tech, with Metaculus (Anthony Aguirre)

August 5, 2018 This episode features physicist Anthony Aguirre discussing Metaculus, the site he created to crowd-source accurate predictions about science and technology. For example, will SpaceX land on Mars by 2030? Anthony and Julia discuss details such as: why it’s useful to have predictions on questions like these, how to measure Metaculus’ accuracy, why Anthony chose … Read more

213: The causes of scientific and artistic genius (Dean Simonton)

July 22, 2018 This episode features Professor Dean Simonton, who has spent his life quantitatively studying geniuses, from Einstein to Mozart. Dean and Julia discuss his views on whether IQ is important, whether some innovations are “in the air” at given points in history, whether the “10,000 hours = mastery” theory promoted by Malcolm Gladwell is … Read more