Clearer Thinking is the brand-new podcast about ideas that truly matter. If you enjoy learning about powerful, practical concepts and frameworks, or wish you had more deep, intellectual conversations in your life, then we think you'll love this podcast!
Join Spencer Greenberg each week as he has fun, in-depth conversations with brilliant people, exploring useful ideas related to psychology, society, behavior change, philosophy, science, artificial intelligence, math, economics, self-help, mental health, and technology.
Because this is the podcast about "ideas that matter," we prioritize ideas that can be applied right now to make life better and that can help you better understand yourself and the world. In other words, we want to highlight the very best tools to enhance your learning, self-improvement efforts, and decision-making.
We take on important, thorny questions like:
What's the best way to help a friend or loved one going through a difficult time? How can we make our worldviews more accurate, and how can we hone the accuracy of our thinking? What are the advantages of using our "gut" to make decisions, and when should we expect careful, analytical reflection to be more effective? Why do societies sometimes collapse, and what can we do to reduce the chance that ours collapses? Why is the world today so much worse than it could be, and what can we do to make it better? What is good and what is bad about tradition, and are there more meaningful and ethical ways of carrying out important rituals, such as honoring the dead? How can we move beyond zero-sum, adversarial negotiations, and create more positive-sum interactions?
Psychedelics and Comedy with Sarah Rose Siskind
What are the pros and cons of taking psychedelics? What goes into creating a good setting for psychedelic use? How can experiencing depression change someone's political views? What is comedy? What is the relationship between comedy and social status? Why is it that comedians can get away with saying things that other people can't say?
Sarah Rose Siskind is a science comedy writer based in New York City. She's the cofounder of HelloSci.Com, a consulting group that makes smart people funny, and the producer of Drug Test, a show about Psychedelics. Previously, she wrote comedy for Hanson Robotics, StarTalk with Neil deGrasse Tyson on Fox, and several shows on Facebook Watch. She's written jokes for the White House Press Correspondents dinner and spoken at Comic Con! In the words of Marie Curie, "follow me on Twitter."
Comfort Languages and Nuanced Thinking with Kat Woods
What's the best way to help someone who's going through a difficult situation? What are the four states of distress? What are "comfort languages"? How can we introduce more nuance into our everyday thinking habits? When gathering information and forming opinions, how do you know who to trust? What's the difference between intelligence and wisdom?
Kat Woods is the co-founder of Charity Entrepreneurship, a startup incubator for effective altruist charities. It provides training, seed funding, and the other things necessary to kickstart an effective nonprofit. Previously, Kat co-founded Charity Science Outreach, a meta-organization that raised nine counterfactual dollars for high impact charities for every dollar spent. Subsequently she co-founded Charity Science Health, a direct poverty charity that received multiple grants from GiveWell and has served hundreds of thousands of families in India. You can find more about Kat at her website or on Twitter at @kat__woods.
Education and Charity with Uri Bram
Are universities a cult? Do charitable interventions like de-worming work? How much should we trust the conclusion of well-respected charity evaluators like GiveWell?
Uri is the publisher of The Browser and The Listener, the world's favourite curation newsletters, and the author of Thinking Statistically and The Business of Big Data. Uri can be found at uribram.com or email@example.com.
As we mention in the audio, this episode includes a critique of Givewell. Givewell were kind enough to listen to our recording and send us a reply. Here's their reply:
We're excited to see this level of detailed engagement with our research. As Uri and Spencer note, one of the key reasons we share the full analysis behind our recommendations is precisely this: inviting fresh perspectives and debate on the conclusions we reach.
We operate in an expected value framework when recommending top charities. We recommend deworming programs because of the possibility that deworming may have a large impact on long-term economic well-being. At less than $1 per treatment, we think it's a pretty good bet. We've discussed our views publicly over the years, such as in our blog post titled "Deworming might have huge impact, but might have close to zero impact."
The case for deworming's long-term benefits does rely on a relatively small number of studies. And the mechanisms by which it has long-term impact are unclear. But when we account for these uncertainties in our impact estimates, it still remains promising.
We've also supported research to better understand the impacts of deworming. We funded part of a study that measured the economic welfare of children who received deworming treatments 20 years later. This work was recently published, and at a high level, seems to support the story of deworming's long-term effects.
Thanks again for discussing this topic—it's an important and thorny one!
Givewell also mentioned some corrections to some of the claims made in the episode. They said:
[We] noticed some comments outside of the deworming conversation that didn't reflect our views and flagged a few of the more important ones below.
In addition to the groups you listed, our current list of top charities includes Malaria Consortium's seasonal malaria chemoprevention program and Helen Keller International's vitamin A supplementation program. The full list is here: https://www.givewell.org/charities/top-charities.
The two outcomes we recommend our current list of top charities for are averting deaths (not improving nutrition) and increasing incomes/consumption. We are open to considering additional outcomes in the future.
Uri said the following in regards to cash transfers: "I might be wrong but I think GiveWell doesn't count—if you took the money and spent it on a one-off way that didn't increase your long-term wealth or income—then GiveWell wouldn't count that." This is not accurate. We model short-term as well as longer-term benefits to cash transfers. This is reflected in our cost-effectiveness model and discussed in this blog post.
Negotiation and Psychological Immune Systems with Julie Kheyfets
How can we move beyond zero-sum, adversarial negotiations? What are some tools we can use to overcome physical and psychological pain? How can we develop psychological resilience and stability?
Julie is an executive at an A.I. company and winner of the 2019 USA Track & Field's Women's 100-Mile Trail Championship. You can find more about her on LinkedIn.
Life Experiments and Philosophical Thinking with Arden Koehler
What is 80,000 Hours? What sorts of people should become entrepreneurs? How can you run cheap experiments on yourself? What are some beneficial modes of philosophical thinking?
Arden Koehler is a researcher and writer at 80,000 Hours, a nonprofit whose mission is to help people use their careers to help solve the world's most pressing problems, and an active member of the effective altruism community. Arden has a PhD in philosophy from New York University, with a specialisation in ethics and attitudes toward time, and a B.A. in philosophy from University of California, Berkeley. You can check out her work at 80,000 Hours, and you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Death and Story-Telling with A.J. Jacobs
Are there more meaningful and ethical ways of honoring the dead than our traditional rituals? Why is it useful to adopt probabilistic thinking in our everyday lives? What sorts of things do we value intrinsically (i.e., that we would value even if they had no other positive benefits)? What do stories do well and not so well?
A.J. Jacobs is an author, lecturer, and human guinea pig. He has written four New York Times bestsellers, including The Year of Living Biblically and Drop Dead Healthy. He is a contributor to NPR, Esquire, and the New York Times, among others. His most recent book is Thanks a Thousand, which chronicled his quest to thank a thousand people who had even the smallest role in his morning cup of coffee. You can find A.J. on Facebook and Twitter, or you can email him at email@example.com.