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RS114 - Massimo and Julia Go Freestyle

Release date: August 10, 2014

In this special episode of Rationally Speaking, Julia and Massimo go rogue: no guest, no pre-set topics, just conversation about things on their mind. Among other things, the duo discuss the questions of how to change your mind (Julia describes her "surprise journalling" method) and, importantly: How do you know if you're a jerk?

"A theory of jerks"

"On Bullshit
"If we're so rich, why aren't we happy?"

Reader Comments (11)

Since Massimo has mentioned reading Comments in previous podcasts, hopefully he'll read this one!

Just wanted to recommend the Movie Review Query Engine at, a way to easily search for multiple reviews of a movie.

August 11, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKevin

Excellent segment people! Please do more of these! I also have a topic suggestion: The effects of relative deprivation theory on stem major graduation rates and rates of publication by graduate students as illuminated by Malcolm Gladwell in this Google talk

August 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMichael Z.

I'd recommend movielense. It's almost exactly the site Julia describes wanting to exist. You usually have to rate around 100 or so movies before they get a good bead on your preferences.

August 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJason

This is my first comment on the podcast but I’ve listened to most of the episodes in a short period of time.

I’m interested in the articulation of means by which people can deliberately change (improve) what they believe and to change the way they think to acquire new beliefs or to modify old beliefs. In view of the popularization of research on the way so many forms of bias can constrain our thinking. When I say “people” I include – mostly – myself.

Listening to a conversation between two well-informed and thoughtful people who stay (more or less) on the same subject is engaging and entertaining and therefore rewarding regardless of the topic.

n this program I was especially interested in Julia’s description of informal methodologies she uses to detect inaccuracies in the way she constructs her world. In a previous episode she gave a very useful description of the way Bayesian statistics can work by describing how she lives her life by explicating [some of] her “priors” and subjecting them to continual revision as a way to avoid black and white decisions that will be very difficult to revise regardless of the strength of contrary evidence.

August 14, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBrian

Refreshingly candid and enjoyable conversation. I have a preference for harmonious compatibility without overwhelming dissonance. A relaxing atmosphere frees one to become immersed in the discussion or listening experience. As usual, it was a delightful experience and worth my invested time. Thank you for sharing.

August 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEsta Ann Ammerman

I am also in the set of people to whom Anathem was suggested. And I completely agree with Massimo about the beginning, which means, Julia, that we will have to modify the age heuristic for knowing when to either stop or continue reading. Perhaps it looks like a piece-wise function, with age being the relative domain.

August 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterChristopher

I really enjoyed the undirected conversation format of the show today. Certainly wouldn't mind occasionally having more of these.

September 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGerry Barone

Apropos your comments on "jerks". One can "be a jerk" as in engaging in such behavior at times without "being a jerk" as an identity. Of course some people do that more frequently than others. Perhaps the identity as jerk has to do with frequency of jerkish behavior.

September 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBrian Buchbinder

Julia pointed out that everyone believes that s/he is right most of the time. This was pretty much Hobbes' definition of equality in "Leviathan"

. For such is the nature of men that, howsoever they may acknowledge many others to be more witty or more eloquent or more learned, yet they will hardly believe there be many so wise as themselves, for they see their own wit at hand and other men’s at a distance. But this proveth rather that men are in that point equal than unequal. For there is not ordinarily a greater sign of the equal distribution of anything than that every man is contented with his share.

--Leviathan Ch XIII

September 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBrian Buchbinder

Really enjoyed this, hope you get enough positive feedback to do it again.

I did literally LOL when Massimo started talking about a very large book that was recommended that started really, really slowly but was totally worth it and then said the book was Anathem - it was the first book that popped into my head. I loved the continual philosophy references, especially the Mathematical Platonism stuff. I reckon Neal Stephenson is one of us.

October 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCraig Hooper
Julia and Massimo could not possibly belong to the jerk category. They spend enormous amounts of time and effort on making themselves and everyone around them more rational.

The surprise journal has many potential advantages in that it might allow you to expand your ideas and protect you from overconfidence.

When you consider the value of an activity you might consider not only the cost and time, but also the effort and risk. For instance, if your everyday work involves reading, you might enjoy a movie much more than reading since it involves less effort and stress. You could also consider the risk of injury and legal liability.

Trying to value a recreational activity by comparing it to the equivalent wages forfeited from abstaining from work will fail since in deciding in the first place to engage in recreation instead of work you have already valued recreation as more valuable than work. So for reading a particular book for fun you must compare that book to other books and other recreations such as hiking or watching plays.

The wisdom of crowds works. On the TV Show, "who wants to be a millionaire?", the "ask the crowd" hint usually worked better than the "ask a friend" hint.
December 27, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJameson

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