Clearer Thinking is the brand-new podcast about ideas that truly matter. 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. If you enjoy learning about powerful, practical concepts and frameworks, wish you had more deep, intellectual conversations in your life, or are looking for non-BS self-improvement, then we think you'll love this podcast! 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?
How meanings get words and social sciences get broken (with Literal Banana)
How do meanings get words? What is ethnomethodology? Some attempts at defining words are successful; but why do some words seem to become more slippery the more we try to pin down their meanings? What sorts of problems uniquely plague the social sciences? What subtle aspects of the placebo effect are not noticed or easily forgotten by researchers? How can social science researchers clarify and strengthen the meanings of words in their questionnaires? More broadly, what are some of the less-talked-about ways that the social sciences can become more robust and reliable? Literal Banana is literally a banana who became interested in human social science through trying to live among them. After escaping from a high-tech produce delivery start-up, she now lives among humans and attempts to understand them through their own sciences of themselves. Follow Literal Banana on Twitter at @literalbanana (https://twitter.com/literalbanana").
Dealing with our "groupstruckness" and "boundedness" (with Katja Grace)
Read the full transcript (https://clearerthinkingpodcast.com/episode/105/#transcript")What does it mean to be "groupstruck"? How does groupstruck-ness differ from the bystander effect, normalcy bias, and other related cognitive biases? How do we break people out of being groupstruck? What does it mean to be a "bounded" person? How can we build up better decision-making heuristics? What sorts of decisions do people usually not quantify but should (and vice versa)? How can we make rational relationship decisions without coming across as "calculating" or cold? How does anthropic reasoning affect our hypotheses about the nature of the universe and life within it (i.e., the Fermi paradox, the simulation hypothesis, etc.)? Katja Grace is a blogger at worldspiritsockpuppet.com (http://worldspiritsockpuppet.com/") and researcher at aiimpacts.org (http://aiimpacts.org/"). Follow her on Twitter at @KatjaGrace (https://twitter.com/katjagrace").
Math as a perspective on life (with Marcus du Sautoy)
How can we have System-2-type reflection but with System-1-type speed? How can math be considered to be a "fast" way of solving problems? Is math discovered or invented? How can we use math to think better in everyday life? How can math education be improved? Do mathematicians have a snobbish preference for "pure" maths over applied maths? How can math be used to tell stories? Marcus du Sautoy is the Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science and Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford. He is author of seven books including his most recent book, Thinking Better: the Art of the Shortcut. He has also published a play, I is a Strange Loop, which was performed at the Barbican in London in which he was also lead actor. He has presented numerous radio and TV series including a four-part landmark TV series for the BBC called The Story of Maths. He works extensively with a range of arts organisations bringing science alive for the public from The Royal Opera House to the Glastonbury Festival. He received an OBE for services to science in the 2010 New Year's Honours List and was made a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @MarcusduSautoy (https://twitter.com/marcusdusautoy") or find out more about him at www.simonyi.ox.ac.uk (https://www.simonyi.ox.ac.uk/").
A former Al-Qaeda recruiter speaks (with Jesse Morton)
NOTE: When we published this episode a few days ago, we were unaware that Jesse had passed away back in December of 2021. We only just learned of this fact today when a listener reached out to inform us. We're saddened by this news, and we apologize for any possible confusion or hurt we may have caused by linking to his Twitter handle, email address, etc. We have removed those items from his bio but left the link to the Light Upon Light website since it contains many of Jesse's writings and information about his life's work. What leads people to violent extremism? Is extremism a legitimate, rational response to trauma, hardship, and powerlessness? Do some holy books make it easier to justify violence than others, or are all violent movements equally capable of extracting justifications from their holy book? To what extent does recruitment to radical movements involve "brainwashing" or overriding people's beliefs versus hooking into, shaping, and strengthening their beliefs? Are cults and radical movements the same thing? What enables people to deradicalize? How can we most effectively interact with radicalized friends or family members? Jesse Morton was once a jihadist propagandist (then known as Younes Abdullah Muhammad) who ran Revolution Muslim, a New York City-based organization active in the 2000s that connected Muslims in the west to al-Qaeda's ideology, creating English language propaganda and collaborating with the most notorious jihadist preachers of that era. He deradicalized in 2011 and has worked since to become a leading commentator, interventionist, and innovator in the prevention and countering of violent extremism, focusing especially on jihadist, far-right, and far-left extremism. Jesse was included in Foreign Policy Magazine's 2017 "Global Thinkers" listing and holds a master's in Middle East studies from Columbia University along with licensure in substance-abuse and mental health counseling. Find more info at lightuponlight.online (https://lightuponlight.online").
Cognitive biases and animal welfare (with Leah Edgerton)
What are some of the tensions between short-term and long-term thinking about how best to reduce animal suffering? Why spend time and energy working on animal welfare when human welfare hasn't even been secured? Why do so many animal rights activists and organizations have such negative reputations and elicit such strongly negative emotional reactions from the population at large when they're just trying to reduce suffering? How does animal rights activism from an effective altruism perspective intersect with the more traditional forms of animal rights activism and social justice activism? Humans tend to be more capable of empathizing (for example) with a cow than with a fish, and more with a dog than with a cow; so how can animal rights activists motivate people in a way that works with or around human cognitive and emotional biases? What are some tools for dealing with chronic pain? Leah has been involved in the effective altruism community for a decade and in animal advocacy her whole life. She has 7 years of professional experience in farmed animal advocacy, primarily focused on movement growth and interfacing with funders. Most recently, she worked at Animal Charity Evaluators on the Communications team and then as Executive Director. Her previous work experience includes performing in the Zurich Opera, managing a small business, and founding and leading ProVeg International's China Program. She currently works as a freelance philanthropic advisor to high-net-worth individuals entering the farmed animal space. You can email Leah at email@example.com (mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org") or find out more about her on her LinkedIn profile (https://www.linkedin.com/in/leah-edgerton/"). Further reading: A tool to help you figure out what animal products are most harmful (https://foodimpacts.org/") (as well as some caveats about the methods of the tool (https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/KLqAiKpMpBCLCH6x7/ranking-animal-foods-based-on-suffering-and-ghg-emissions"))
Is it bad to coerce yourself to do unpleasant things? (with Matt Goldenberg)
What is non-self-coercion? What's so bad about coercing ourselves to do things we don't want to do? What is "the reconsolidation pyramid"? What are the differences between being heaven-oriented and enlightenment-oriented? What does it mean to scale trust? Matt Goldenberg is the creator of Procrastination Playbook and the Head of Marketing at the Monastic Academy for the Preservation of Life on Earth (https://www.monasticacademy.com/"). He spends his time meditating, helping people heal their emotional wounds, and working to prevent existential risks. Contact him via Twitter at @mattgoldenberg (https://twitter.com/mattgoldenberg") or via email at email@example.com (mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org").
Thoughtful and Entertaining
Spencer’s curiosity and introspection are infectious. If you’re interested in meta-cognition, thinking about thinking, you won’t find a better podcast.
Worth your time!
Spencer’s interview style is clear and friendly. While the specific topic varies, the mix is refreshing and thought provoking. You’ll come out learning something new every episode. I value this podcast greatly and encourage you to give it a try.
Interesting and useful
This podcast is incredibly interesting and above all useful. The guests are often singular people with great points of view that I wouldn't be able to find on other podcasts. I've repeatedly found myself taking notes and incorporating strategies and worldviews that I first heard about on this podcast into my everyday life, something that can't be said for most other audio content I listen to!