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Rationally Speaking is the bi-weekly podcast of New York City Skeptics. Join host Julia Galef and guests as they explore the borderlands between reason and nonsense, likely from unlikely, and science from pseudoscience. Any topic is fair game as long as we can bring reason to bear upon it, with both a skeptical eye and a good dose of humor! We agree with the Marquis de Condorcet, who said that in an open society we ought to devote ourselves to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding p ...
 
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Rationally Speaking returns from hiatus with a look at a clash between two generations: Millennials, and their parents' generation, the Baby Boomers. Faced with stagnant wages and rising costs of education, rent, and health care, Millennials have a tougher path to economic security than Boomers did. And a growing number of millennial writers argue …
 
This episode features a pair of interviews on a similar topic: First, Stephanie Lepp (host of the Reckonings podcast) discusses what she's learned from interviewing people who had a serious change of heart, or "reckoning," including a former Neo-nazi and a former sex offender. What causes a reckoning? Second, Buster Benson (author of Why Are We Yel…
 
The idea of open borders -- letting people move freely between countries, taking a job wherever they can find a job they want -- is still a pretty fringe position, politically speaking. But economist Bryan Caplan makes a compelling case for it in his new graphic nonfiction book, "Open Borders: The Science and Ethics of Immigration," illustrated by …
 
Philosopher of mind Keith Frankish is one of the leading proponents of "illusionism," the theory that argues that your subjective experience -- i.e., the "what it is like" to be you -- is a trick of the mind. It's a counterintuitive theory, but Keith makes the case for it in this episode, while explaining the other leading theories of consciousness…
 
The Stanford Prison Experiment is one of the most famous psychology experiments in history. For decades, we've been told that it proves how regular people easily turn sadistic when they are asked to role play as prison guards. But the story now appears to be mostly fraudulent. Thibault Le Texier is a researcher who dug into the Stanford archives an…
 
If you want to understand why things go wrong in business, government, education, psychology, AI, and more, you need to know Goodhart's Law: "When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to become a good measure." In this episode, decision theorist David Manheim explains the dynamics behind Goodhart's Law and some potential solutions to it.…
 
Several recent books have argued there's no difference between male and female brains. Saloni Dattani, a PhD in psychiatric genetics, discusses some of the problems with the argument, and what we really know so far about gender and the brain.By NYC Skeptics
 
It's rare for public intellectuals to talk about things they've gotten wrong, but geneticist Razib Khan is an exception. He recently published list of 28 things he's changed his mind about in the last decade, not just in genetics, but in other fields of science, politics, society, and religion. Julia interviews Razib about some of the items on the …
 
It's common wisdom that spending a lot of time on your smartphone, or checking social media like Facebook and Twitter, takes a psychological toll. It makes us depressed, insecure, anxious, and isolated -- or so people say. But is there any research to back that up? Julia discusses the evidence with professor Andy Przybylski, director of research at…
 
Over the last two decades, the prices of consumer goods like toys and electronics have gone way down, but the prices of health care and education have gone up roughly 200%. Why? In this episode, economist Alex Tabarrok discusses his latest book, co-authored with Eric Heller, "Why are the Prices So D*mn High?," which blames rising costs on a phenome…
 
We typically think of violence as being caused by a lack of control, or by selfish motives. But what if, more often than not, violence is intended to be morally righteous? That's the thesis of the book Virtuous Violence: Hurting and Killing to Create, Sustain, End, and Honor Social Relationships. Author Tage Rai debates his book's thesis with Julia…
 
The global poverty rate has fallen significantly over the last few decades. But there's a heated debate, between people like psychologist Steven Pinker and anthropologist Jason Hickel, over how to view that fact. Is it a triumph for capitalism? Should we celebrate it, or lament the fact that rich countries aren't doing more to close the poverty gap…
 
Technology writer Clive Thompson discusses his latest book, Coders: The Making of a New Tribe and the Remaking of the World. Topics Clive and Julia cover include: - Why coders love efficiency so much - Are there downsides to efficiency? - Do coders have particular blindspots when it comes to human nature? - What is a "10x Coder," and why do people …
 
Economist Tyler Cowen discusses his latest book, "Big Business: A love-letter to an American anti-hero." Why has anti-capitalist sentiment increased recently, and to what extent is it justified? How much are corporations to blame for wage stagnation, climbing cost of living, or the slow response to climate change? Tyler and Julia also explore their…
 
Helen Toner, the director of strategy at Georgetown's Center for Security and Emerging Technology (CSET), shares her observations from the last few years of talking with AI scientists and policymakers in the US and China. Helen and Julia discuss, among other things: How do the views of Chinese and American AI scientists differ? How is media coverag…
 
This episode features journalist Kelsey Piper, blogger and journalist for "Future Perfect," a new site focused on topics that impact the long-term future of the world. Kelsey and Julia discuss some of her recent stories, including why people disagree about AI risk, and how she came up with her probabilistic predictions for 2018. They also discuss t…
 
This episode features John Nerst, data scientist and blogger at everythingstudies.com, discussing a potential new field called "erisology," the study of disagreement. John and Julia discuss why Twitter makes disagreement so hard; whether there's anything to learn from postmodernism; John's "signal and corrective" model that explains why disagreemen…
 
In the wake of the University of California's decision to end their contract with Elsevier, the world's largest scientific publisher, a lot of people have been talking about the effect that publishers like Elsevier have on the progress of science. William Gunn, director of scholarly communications for Elsevier, and Alex Holcombe, cognitive scientis…
 
This episode features Sarah Haider, the president of Ex-Muslims of North America. Julia and Sarah discuss why it's important to talk about the challenges of leaving Islam, and why that makes people uncomfortable or angry. They also explore whether being intellectually honest helps or hurts your effectiveness as an activist; Sarah's concerns with th…
 
If you want to do as much good as possible with your career, what problems should you work on, and what jobs should you consider? This episode features Rob Wiblin, director of research for effective altruist organization 80,000 Hours, and the host of the 80,000 Hours podcast. Julia and Rob discuss how the career advice 80,000 Hours gives has change…
 
This episode features Neerav Kingsland, who helped rebuild New Orleans' public school system after Hurricane Katrina, converting it into the country's first nearly-100% charter school system. Neerav and Julia discuss: why Neerav believes the evidence shows charter schools work better than regular public schools, his responses to the main arguments …
 
This episode features Rick Nevin, an economist who is known for his research suggesting that lead is one of the main causes of crime. Rick and Julia discuss: how do we know the correlation between lead and crime is a sign of a causal relationship? Has the lead-crime theory made any successful predictions? And is it possible that getting rid of lead…
 
Not enough people know about the Mohists, a strikingly modern group of Chinese philosophers active in 479-221 BCE. This episode features Chris Fraser, expert on Mohism and professor of philosophy at the University of Hong Kong. Chris and Julia discuss how the Mohists put their philosophy into practice and got Chinese leaders to hold off on starting…
 
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…
 
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 philanthropists …
 
This episode features Peter Eckersley, an expert in law and computer science, who has worked with the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Partnership on AI. Peter and Julia first delve into some of the most fundamental questions about privacy: What are the risks of losing privacy? Do we have more to fear from governments or industry? Which compa…
 
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.By NYC Skeptics
 
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.By NYC Skeptics
 
Aviv Ovadya, an expert on misinformation, talks with Julia about the multiple phenomena that get lumped together as "fake news." For example, articles that are straightforwardly false, misleading, or artificially created (think "Deepfakes," videos that make a politician appear to say something he didn't say). Which of those problems are more danger…
 
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 c…
 
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.…
 
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 An…
 
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 accurate, and …
 
This episode features neuroscientist Ed Boyden discussing two inventions of his that have revolutionized neuroscience: optogenetics and expansion microscopy. Ed and Julia talk about Ed's approach to coming up with good ideas, why he prefers reading old science to new science, his big-picture plan for what he wants to solve in his career, and his ta…
 
This episode features physicist Sabine Hossenfelder, author of Lost in Math, arguing that fundamental physics is too enamored of "beauty" as a criterion for evaluating theories of how the universe works. She and Julia discuss the three components of beauty (simplicity, naturalness, and elegance), why physicists think it's reasonable to put their tr…
 
This episode features Stuart Ritchie, intelligence researcher and author of the book "Intelligence: All That Matters." Stuart responds to some of the most common conceptual objections to the science of IQ testing. Can we even define intelligence? Aren't there lots of different kinds of intelligence? How do we know the tests are measuring intelligen…
 
This episode features cognitive psychologist Christopher Chabris discussing his research on "collective intelligence" -- why do some teams perform better than others at a wide variety of tasks? Julia discusses potential objections to the findings and how gender-related publication bias should affect our interpretation of them. In the second half of…
 
This episode features Annie Duke, former pro poker player and author of the book Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don't Have All the Facts. Julia and Annie debate why people tend to ignore the role of luck in their decisions, whether expressing uncertainty makes you seem weak, and how people end up engaging in "defensive decision…
 
Developmental psychologist Alison Gopnik explains why modern parenting is too goal-oriented. Alison and Julia discuss whether anything parents do matters, whether kids should go to school, and how kids learn discipline if you don't force them to do things. They also discuss Alison's reservations about Steven Pinker's book Enlightenment Now, and her…
 
When people argue on the internet, you never expect anyone to actually say "You know what, that's a good point, you've changed my view somewhat." But Change My View, a fast-growing subreddit founded by Kal Turnbull, is an exception to the rule. Julia and Kal discuss the culture of Change My View, what makes it such an oasis for reasonable discussio…
 
This episode features economist Michael Webb, who recently co-authored a paper titled "Are ideas getting harder to find?" It demonstrates that the number of researchers it takes to produce a technological innovation has gone up dramatically over time. Michael and Julia discuss various possible explanations for why this is happening, along with seve…
 
Simine Vazire is a professor of psychology, the author of the blog, "Sometimes I'm Wrong," and a major advocate for improving the field of psychology. She and Julia discuss several potential objections to Simine's goal, how to handle criticism, and Simine's psychology research on the question: How self-aware are people about the way they behave?…
 
In 1950, the great physicist Enrico Fermi posed a question that people have been puzzling over ever since: Where is everybody? The universe has been around for billions of years, so why haven't we seen any signs of alien civilizations? This episode features physicist Stephen Webb, who describes some of the potential solutions to the puzzle. Stephen…
 
In this episode, economist Bryan Caplan argues that the main reason getting a college degree is valuable is because of signaling (i.e., it proves that you have traits that employers value, like conscientiousness and conformity), and not because college teaches you useful knowledge or skills. Julia proposes several potential challenges to Bryan's ar…
 
The security dilemma is a classic problem in geopolitics: Often when one nation takes measures to protect itself from attack (like adding to their stockpile of missiles), other nations see that and worry it means the first nation is preparing to attack them, which leads to a dangerous feedback loop of escalation. In this episode, Ben Buchanan (post…
 
This episode features tech and policy journalist Timothy Lee, discussing a question that's increasingly in the spotlight: How much should tech companies be actively moderating their users' speech? For example, should Facebook be trying to fight fake news? Should Twitter ban bullying? Should Reddit ban subreddits that they consider hate speech? Timo…
 
This episode features Jessica Flanigan, professor of normative and applied ethics, making the case that patients should have the right to take pharmaceutical drugs without needing to get a prescription from a doctor. Jessica and Julia discuss a series of related questions, such as: Should there be exceptions made for drugs that have negative reperc…
 
In this episode, economist Timur Kuran explains the ubiquitous phenomenon of "preference falsification" -- in which people claim to support something publicly even though they don't support it privately -- and describes its harmful effects on society. He and Julia explore questions like: Is preference falsification all bad? Are there ways to reduce…
 
In this episode Julia talks with Doug Hubbard, author of How to Measure Anything, about why people so often believe things are impossible to quantify like "innovation" or "quality of life." For example, because people often have a deep misunderstanding of the meaning of probability. Or because they're reluctant to violate "sacred taboos" by putting…
 
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