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Rationally Speaking Podcast
63 minutes | Jun 10, 2021
How to be a data detective (Tim Harford)
When you see a statistic reported in the news, like "10% of University of California Berkeley students were homeless this year," how do you evaluate it? You shouldn't blindly accept every statistic you read. But neither should you reject everything that sounds surprising. Tim Harford, economist and author of The Data Detective: Ten Easy Rules to Make Sense of Statistics, talks about the heuristics he recommends using, and the mistakes people tend to make.
62 minutes | Apr 9, 2021
Are Uber and Lyft drivers being exploited?
How much do Uber and Lyft drivers really earn, after expenses? Are they getting a raw deal by being classified as 'independent contractors' instead of employees? I explore the debate over these questions with three guests: Louis Hyman (Cornell), Veena Dubal (UC Hastings College of the Law), and Harry Campbell (The Rideshare Guy).
63 minutes | Mar 19, 2021
Unfair laws / Why judges should be originalists (William Baude)
Is there any justification for seemingly unjust laws like "qualified immunity," which allows cops to get away with bad behavior? William Baude, a leading scholar of constitutional law, explores how these laws came to be and why they're so hard to change. Also, Baude makes the case for originalism, the view that judges should base their rulings on the original meaning of the Constitution. And Baude explains how rationalist principles have influenced his teaching and legal scholarship.
77 minutes | Mar 4, 2021
Intellectual honesty, cryptocurrency, & more (Vitalik Buterin)
Julia and guest Vitalik Buterin (creator of the open-source blockchain platform Ethereum) explore a wide range of topics, including: Vitalik's intellectually honest approach to leadership, why prediction markets appear to be biased in favor of Trump, whether it was rational to invest in Bitcoin ten years ago, Vitalik's defense of life extension research against its critics, and more.
66 minutes | Feb 18, 2021
Understanding moral disagreements (Jonathan Haidt)
Julia and social psychologist Jonathan Haidt (The Righteous Mind) discuss his moral foundations theory and argue about whether liberals should “expand their moral horizons” by learning to think like conservatives. Julia solicits Jon’s help in understanding her disagreement with philosopher Michael Sandel, in episode 247, over the morality of consensual cannibalism.
101 minutes | Feb 3, 2021
The case for one billion Americans, & more (Matt Yglesias)
Matt Yglesias talks about One Billion Americans, his book arguing that it’s in the United States’ national interest to dramatically boost its population, by expanding immigration and having more babies. Matt and Julia also discuss arguments for and against the “YIMBY” movement, which pushes for building more housing; what they’ve both learned from reflecting on their misguided support for the Iraq War in 2003; and why (and how) Matt is trying to be more of a rationalist.
57 minutes | Jan 20, 2021
What’s wrong with tech companies banning people? (Julian Sanchez)
Companies like Twitter and Facebook are increasingly willing to ban users -- and even if you agree with their decisions, is it worrying that a few companies have so much power? Julia discusses with Julian Sanchez, expert on tech and civil liberties.
70 minutes | Jan 5, 2021
The case for racial colorblindness (Coleman Hughes)
Coleman Hughes explains why he favors a "colorblind" ideal and why the "race-conscious" camp disagrees with him. Coleman and Julia also discuss whether reparations are just, and what counts as racism.
82 minutes | Dec 22, 2020
Are Democrats being irrational? (David Shor)
Data scientist David Shor discusses some of the bad choices made by Democratic political campaigns. What's the cause of the errors? Is it irrationality, coordination problems, or something else?
59 minutes | Dec 8, 2020
The moral limits of markets / The problem with meritocracy (Michael Sandel)
Harvard philosopher Michael Sandel argues with Julia about human dignity, consensual cannibalism, and the case in his new book, The Tyranny of Merit, that meritocracy is to blame for recent populist backlashes in the U.S.
64 minutes | Nov 23, 2020
Deaths of despair / Effective altruism (Angus Deaton)
Economist and Nobel Laureate Angus Deaton discusses the rise in “deaths of despair” in the U.S. – deaths from drugs, alcohol or suicide. What's causing it, and how do we know? Also, Julia and Angus debate whether effective altruism can help the poor.
60 minutes | Nov 9, 2020
Are Boomers to blame for Millennials' struggles?
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 that their situation is the result of misguided and irresponsible policy choices made by the Boomers themselves. Are they right? Are Boomers to blame for Millennials' current economic struggles? To answer this question, Julia gets three different perspectives: Jill Filipovic, author of OK Boomer, Let's Talk: How My Generation Got Left Behind, Joseph C. Sternberg, author of The Theft of a Decade: How the Baby Boomers Stole Millennials' Economic Future, and Patrick Fisher, author of Demographic Gaps in American Political Behavior.
42 minutes | Nov 30, 2019
Rationally Speaking #244 - Stephanie Lepp and Buster Benson on "Seeing other perspectives, with compassion"
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 Yelling? The art of productive disagreement) shares his tips for coming away from a disagreement feeling more alive -- for example, don't just focus on the literal arguments the other person is making; drill deeper. Buster and Julia debate whether there's a downside to approaching disagreements emotionally, rather than intellectually.
49 minutes | Nov 11, 2019
Rationally Speaking #243 - Bryan Caplan on "The Case for Open Borders"
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 cartoonist Zach Weinersmith. In this episode, Julia questions Bryan about several aspects of his case.
43 minutes | Oct 28, 2019
Rationally Speaking #242 - Keith Frankish on "Why consciousness is an illusion"
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 and why he rejects them.
55 minutes | Oct 14, 2019
Rationally Speaking #241 - Thibault Le Texier on "Debunking the Stanford Prison Experiment"
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 and learned that the "prison guards" were actually told how to behave in order to support the experimenters' thesis. On this episode, Thibault and Julia discuss his findings, how the experimenters got away with such a significant misrepresentation for so long, and what this whole affair says about the field of psychology.
59 minutes | Sep 16, 2019
Rationally Speaking #240 - David Manheim on "Goodhart's Law and why metrics fail"
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.
48 minutes | Sep 2, 2019
Rationally Speaking #239 - Saloni Dattani on "The debate over whether male and female brains are different"
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.
51 minutes | Aug 19, 2019
Rationally Speaking #238 - Razib Khan on "Stuff I've Been Wrong About"
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 list -- why did he change his mind, and what lessons does he feel he's learned from his past errors?
53 minutes | Aug 5, 2019
Rationally Speaking #237 - Andy Przybylski on "Is screen time bad for you?"
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 the Oxford Internet Institute.
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