Think Again – a Big Think Podcast

Think Again – a Big Think Podcast

United States

We surprise some of the world's brightest minds with ideas they're not at all prepared to discuss. With host Jason Gots and special guests Salman Rushdie, Saul Williams, Henry Rollins, Bill Nye, George Takei, Maira Kalman, Sam Harris, Junot Diaz, Maria Konnikova, and many more . . . You've got 10 minutes with Einstein. What do you talk about? Black holes? Time travel? Why not gambling? The Art of War? Contemporary parenting? Some of the best conversations happen when we're pushed outside of our comfort zones. So each week on Think Again, we surprise smart people you've probably heard of with hand-picked gems from Big Think's interview archives on every imaginable subject. The conversation could go anywhere. SINCE 2008, BIG THINK has captured on video the best ideas of the world’s leading thinkers and doers in every field, renowned experts including neurologist Oliver Sacks, physicist Stephen Hawking, behavioral psychologist Daniel Kahneman, authors Margaret Atwood and Marylinne Robinson, entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, painter Chuck Close, and philosopher Daniel Dennett.

Episodes

103. Liza Jessie Peterson (Playwright, Arts-Educator) – The Sleeping Giant  

Since 2008, Big Think has been sharing big ideas from creative and curious minds. Since 2015, the Think Again podcast has been taking us out of our comfort zone, surprising our guests and Jason Gots, your host, with unexpected conversation starters from Big Think’s interview archives.
Liza Jessie Peterson is an actress, poet, playwright, and arts-educator who’s been working with adolescent boys and girls incarcerated on Rikers Island for the past 18 years. Her fierce, funny, powerfully written new book is All Day: A Year of Love and Survival Teaching Incarcerated Kids At Rikers Island. The loving and specific portraits she paints of her students highlight the cruelty of the systems (economic, school, police, prison) that fail so many young black men, landing them and keeping them in prison.

In this episode we talk about cultural icons and the realities behind them, hip-hop, the trauma of poverty and the tragedy of the American prison system, and how to make impossible situations better. 

Surprise conversation starter interview clips in this episode:

Marie Gottschalk on solitary confinement


102. Paul Theroux (Writer) – Saintly & Scowling  

Since 2008, Big Think has been sharing big ideas from creative and curious minds. Since 2015, the Think Again podcast has been taking us out of our comfort zone, surprising our guests and Jason Gots, your host, with unexpected conversation starters from Big Think’s interview archives. 100 episodes in, like the universe itself, the show continues to expand and accelerate at speeds that boggle the imagination.
One of seven siblings, Paul Theroux is the author of over 50 works of fiction and non-fiction, including The Great Railway Bazaar and The Mosquito Coast. His latest novel Mother Land is a scathing, semi-autobiographical, often painfully funny portrait of a mother’s long and insidious reign over her seven children.

In this episode, Paul talks about the claustrophobia of big families, the mass migrations of peoples, colonizing Mars, and an important difference between humans and cockroaches.

Surprise conversation starter interview clips:

Anders Fogh Rasmussen on the geopolitical challenges of climate change, Stephen Petranek on colonizing Mars




101. Ariel Levy (Writer) – Big Things That Are Not Talked About  

Since 2008, Big Think has been sharing big ideas from creative and curious minds. Since 2015, the Think Again podcast has been taking us out of our comfort zone, surprising our guests and Jason Gots, your host, with unexpected conversation starters from Big Think’s interview archives. 100 episodes in, like the universe itself, the show continues to expand and accelerate at speeds that boggle the imagination.

After 12 years at New York Magazine, Ariel Levy became a staff writer at The New Yorker, where she’s written about remarkable women, sex, Ayahuasca, madness and Silvio Berlusconi. Her new book The Rules Do Not Apply is a memoir that grew out of the loss of her son soon after his birth and the subsequent collapse of her marriage.

Here she talks with Jason about assertiveness and doubt, the silence around the animal facts of women's physical lives, her comically awkward experience with the shamanic hallucinogen Ayahuasca, and much more.

Surprise conversation starter interview clips:

Lexicographer Kory Stamper on the word 'bitch", Gish Jen on imitation in China vs. the West




100. Neil deGrasse Tyson (Astrophysicist) – The Only "-ist" I Am  

Since 2008, Big Think has been sharing big ideas from creative and curious minds. Since 2015, the Think Again podcast has been taking us out of our comfort zone, surprising our guests and Jason Gots, your host, with unexpected conversation starters from Big Think’s interview archives. 100 episodes in, like the universe itself, the show continues to expand and accelerate at speeds that boggle the imagination.
Neil DeGrasse Tyson is an astrophysicist and the director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City and the spiritual heir to Carl Sagan in getting us all worked up about the Cosmos. He’s been appointed to special NASA commissions, hosted multiple TV specials and podcasts, and written many excellent books, the latest of which is Astrophysics for People in A Hurry – a succinct, wryly funny book that’s surprisingly informative for its size - it has the informational density of a black hole.

In This, Our 100th Episode: Can Neil tell the entire history of the universe in 30 seconds? When is it possible to move faster than the speed of light? Why is "dark matter" a terrible name for dark matter? And what does Neil's esteemed colleague Lawrence Krauss have in common with a pit bull?

Surprise conversation starter interview clips:

Lawrence Krauss on Optimism, Dean Buonomano on "Presentism" and "Eternalism"




99. Mary Gaitskill (Writer) – Their Animal Being  

Since 2008, Big Think has been sharing big ideas from creative and curious minds. The Think Again podcast takes us out of our comfort zone, surprising our guests and Jason Gots, your host, with unexpected conversation starters from Big Think’s interview archives.“How strange it is to be anything at all.” – from the song In the Aeroplane Over the Seaby Neutral Milk Hotel Mary Gaitskill is the author of three short story collections including Bad Behavior and Don’t Cry, and three novels, including Veronica and Two Girls, Fat and Thin. Her latest book is a collection of essays and reviews called Somebody With a Little Hammer. The topics are diverse, from the Hollywood version of Mary’s story Secretary, to date rape, to Celine Dion, to Mary’s experience losing her cat, Gattino. In every case Mary writes with startling, otherworldly clarity, peeling back the surface of things we might think we understand to peer into the slippery psychological realities underneath.

In this episode: Threaded through with personal anecdotes, relevant moments from Gaitskill’s novels and essays, and striking observations about human nature, this intimate, starkly honest conversation goes wide and deep. So deep, in fact, that there’s barely time to get to the surprise clips! 

Surprise conversation starter interview clips: Google's Tristan Harris on the attention economy


98. Lawrence Krauss (Physicist) – Lux Ex Machina  

Since 2008, Big Think has been sharing big ideas from creative and curious minds. The Think Again podcast takes us out of our comfort zone, surprising our guests and Jason Gots, your host, with unexpected conversation starters from Big Think’s interview archives.
Physicist Lawrence Krauss directs the Origins Project at Arizona State University, which fosters scientific research and collaborations on origins – of life, the universe, and everything. His own research focuses on the interface between elementary particle physics and cosmology, including investigations into dark matter and the origin of all mass in the universe. His latest book The Greatest Story Ever Told - So Far is a deeply entertaining and informative account of the progress of knowledge in modern physics.

In this episode: To what extent and in what sense does science represent "reality"? You don't have to paint like Picasso to enjoy a Picasso...so why are non-scientists often reluctant to engage with complex scientific concepts? Is tribalism an essential part of human nature?

A passionate, witty back-and-forth with a leading physicist who is also one of our most poetic defenders and explainers of science.

Surprise conversation starter interview clips:

Sebastian Junger on tribalism and democracy, Kevin Kelly on “cognification”, David Bodanis on Einstein’s rejection of a random universe


97. Dean Buonomano (Neuroscientist) – This is Your Brain on Time  

Since 2008, Big Think has been sharing big ideas from creative and curious minds. The Think Again podcast takes us out of our comfort zone, surprising our guests and Jason Gots, your host, with unexpected conversation starters from Big Think’s interview archives.

Dean Buonomano is a professor of neurobiology and psychology at UCLA and a leading theorist on (and researcher into) the neuroscience of time. His latest book, Your Brain is a Time Machine, the Neuroscience and Physics of Time convinced Jason that time is far weirder than he knew it to be (and he already knew it was mind-bogglingly weird).
In this episode: Does time exist at all, or is it an illusion of consciousness? If the latter, what's the evolutionary advantage of seeing time as linear and one-directional? Which is right: the Einsteinian view that the universe is a four dimensional box in which all time is already present, or the "common-sense" view that time is uni-directional? How does comic timing work? What's the evolutionary advantage of comedy? And oh so much more. 

Surprise conversation starter interview clips:

Scott Aukerman on comedy as a survival skill, Kevin Kelly on optimism as an engine of progress

96. Sarah W. Goldhagen (Architecture Critic) – Souls & Spaces  

Since 2008, Big Think has been sharing big ideas from creative and curious minds. The Think Again podcast takes us out of our comfort zone, surprising our guests and Jason Gots, your host, with unexpected conversation starters from Big Think’s interview archives.

Sarah W. Goldhagen taught for ten years at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design and spent many years as the Architecture Critic for the New Republic. She’s written about buildings, cities, and landscapes for publications all over the world. Sarah’s new book Welcome To Your World: How the Built Environment Shapes Our Lives is a thoroughly entertaining, eye-opening manifesto arguing that the buildings we live and work in deeply affect us, physically and psychologically, and that we can’t afford the soul-crushing architecture we mostly subject ourselves to.

In this episode: why we tolerate design that’s bad for us, startling parallels between a passage from a Chekhov short story and Sarah's book, the many ways concrete can be beautiful, and why schools shouldn’t look like prisons (maybe prisons shouldn’t, either?).

"Surprise idea" clips in this show:

Jeffrey Sachs on optimism in America and Alison Gopnik on School and the Developing Mind




95. Kory Stamper (Lexicographer) – Lair of the Level 10 Word Mage  

Since 2008, Big Think has been sharing big ideas from creative and curious minds. The Think Again podcast takes us out of our comfort zone, surprising our guests and Jason Gots, your host, with unexpected conversation starters from Big Think’s interview archives.

Kory Stamper is a lexicographer at Merriam-Webster, often seen on their “Ask the Editor” video series. Her funny and fascinating book Word By Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries is about the how the sausage of dictionaries is made, and about the slipperiness of words themselves. This is not a “prescriptivist” manifesto, fussily criticizing people’s misuse of apostrophes or words like “irregardless.” On the contrary, like any lexicographer worth her salt (and salt, as Kory will tell you, was once so valuable it was used as money, which is where we get the word “salary” from…) Kory’s a professional “descriptivist”, painstakingly trying to pin down how words are actually used even as they try to wriggle away from her. 

Surprise conversation starter interview clips:

Adam Mansbach on the term "political correctness" and Rob Bell on the word "Hell"



94. Joyce Carol Oates (Writer) – Oh, That's Socialism  

Since 2008, Big Think has been sharing big ideas from creative and curious minds. The Think Again podcast takes us out of our comfort zone, surprising our guests and Jason Gots, your host, with unexpected conversation starters from Big Think’s interview archives.
The writer Joyce Carol Oates grew up on a farm, tending chickens in what she describes as a very desolate part of upstate New York, and grew up to write around 90 (and counting) novels and collections of essays and short stories, many of them while teaching at Princeton University. She’s won many, many awards, including the National Book Award, the Pen/Malamud Award and the National Humanities Medal. Her powerful new novel, A Book of American Martyrs, begins with a terrible act of violence – and then deals with its complex aftermath.

Today's conversation starts there, weaving through the political and religious landscape of America, past and present. We also talk about whether writing, for Joyce, is as "effortless" as critics have described the experience of reading her. Trump comes, up, inevitably but briefly. Stick around for a fascinating discussion of the challenges early success can pose for young writers, including Oates' former student, Jonathan Safran Foer.

Surprise conversation starter interview clips:

Gish Jen on Identity and Choice in the West, Nicole Mason on Poverty in America


93. Adam Alter (Social Psychologist) – Ping!  

Since 2008, Big Think has been sharing big ideas from creative and curious minds. The Think Again podcast takes us out of our comfort zone, surprising our guests and Jason Gots, your host, with unexpected conversation starters from Big Think’s interview archives.
Adam Alter is the author of the New York Times bestseller, Drunk Tank Pink: And Other Unexpected Forces That Shape How We Think, Feel, and Behave, and has written for the New York Times, New Yorker, Atlantic, WIRED, Slate, Washington Post, and Popular Science, among other publications. He’s an associate professor of marketing at New York University and also teaches in the psychology department. His fascinating and chilling new book, Irresistible: the Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping us Hooked has, among other things, convinced Jason to stop charging his cellphone in his bedroom.

Surprise conversation starter interview clips:

James Fallon on Voting for an Actual Psychopath and Margaret Atwood on Anti-Science Sentiment


92. Elif Batuman (Writer) – The Worst Appetizer in America  

Since 2008, Big Think has been sharing big ideas from creative and curious minds. The Think Again podcast takes us out of our comfort zone, surprising our guests and Jason Gots, your host, with unexpected conversation starters from Big Think’s interview archives.
Elif Batuman has written articles for the New Yorker on everything from the horrible-smelling "corpse flower" to the complex politics of present day Turkey, her parents' native country. Her first book, The Possessed, was a series of "comic, interconnected essays about Russian Literature." Her latest, "The Idiot", is a lucid, disarmingly funny coming of age novel set in 1995. Jason calls it "one of the most delightful books" he's read in years. 

Surprise conversation starter clips in this episode:

Maria Popova on an Unsung Hero of Children's Literature and Salman Rushdie on the Left's Taboo Against Criticizing Islam 

91. Daniel Dennett (Philosopher) – Thinking About Thinking About Thinking  

Since 2008, Big Think has been sharing big ideas from creative and curious minds. The Think Again podcast takes us out of our comfort zone, surprising our guests and Jason Gots, your host, with unexpected conversation starters from Big Think’s interview archives.

Daniel Dennett is one of the foremost philosophers of mind working today to unravel the puzzle of what minds are and what they’re for, and Co-Director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University. His latest book of many is called From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds, and it’s a sweeping (but detailed) attempt to demystify how we get from inanimate matter to cathedrals, symphonies, and of course, podcasts.

In this fun and meaty episode of Think Again, Dennett waxes wicked and wise on consciousness, Dolphins, Artificial Intelligence, and much, much more.

Surprise conversation starter interview clips:

Andrew Keen on the Internet and social isolation and Ben Goertzel on Artificial General Intelligence






90. Scott Aukerman (Comedy Writer) – The Buttons You Push  

Since 2008, Big Think has been sharing big ideas from creative and curious minds. The Think Again podcast takes us out of our comfort zone, surprising our guests and Jason Gots, your host, with unexpected conversation starters from Big Think’s interview archives.

Scott Aukerman is a comedy writer, director, and producer who started out on HBO’s Mr. Show with Bob and David. He’s the creator of Comedy Bang Bang - the podcast and the long running IFC show, and he co-created and directs Between Two Ferns with Zach Galafanakis, for which he’s won two Emmys.

In this episode, Scott and Jason talk Michael Bolton, transgression in comedy, and a United States in cultural turmoil.

Surprise conversation starter interview clips:

Jelani Cobb on military vs. moral power and Chris Gethard on comedy and political correctness



89. George Saunders (Author) – Self-Googling In Hell  

“If I died right now, I’d still be self-Googling in hell.” – George Saunders, in this episode.

George Saunders' new book - his first novel, after many acclaimed collections of short stories including the NY Times bestselling 10th of December – is called Lincoln in the Bardo. A kind of play for voices about the death and afterlife of Abraham Lincoln’s son Willie, who died at age 10. It's a strange, wise, funny and beautiful book about impermanence and the tenacity of the self.
In this episode, George and Jason talk writing, death, and how much easier it is to talk about kindness than to live it.

Since 2008, Big Think has been sharing big ideas from creative and curious minds. The Think Again podcast takes us out of our comfort zone, surprising our guests and Jason Gots, your host, with unexpected conversation starters from Big Think’s interview archives.

88. Gish Jen (Author) – The Self in the World  

Since 2008, Big Think has been sharing big ideas from creative and curious minds. The Think Again podcast takes us out of our comfort zone, surprising our guests and Jason Gots, your host, with unexpected conversation starters from Big Think’s interview archives.

Novelist and essayist Gish Jen's work has appeared in The Best American Short Stories four times, including The Best American Short Stories of the Century, edited by John Updike. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and her work was featured in a PBS American Masters’ special on the American novel. Her 2017 book, The Girl at the Baggage Claim: Explaining the East-West Culture Gap, takes an unflinching, funny, and deeply insightful look at how fundamental East-West differences in the sense of self play out in art, culture, business, education, and more.

In this episode, Gish and Jason discuss the benefits and downsides of our fundamental assumptions about who we are, and what's to be gained by escaping your cultural bubble, even for a moment.

Surprise conversation starter interview clips:

Nato Thompson on individualism as a corporate product. Paul Root Wolpe on self-enhancement & culture


87. Yuval Noah Harari (Historian) – Time's Up  

Since 2008, Big Think has been sharing big ideas from creative and curious minds. The Think Again podcast takes us out of our comfort zone, surprising our guests and Jason Gots, your host, with unexpected conversation starters from Big Think’s interview archives.

Yuval Noah Harari holds a PhD in History from the University of Oxford and now lectures at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, specializing in World History. His 2014 New York Times bestselling book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, is published in nearly 40 languages worldwide. His new book Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, uses historical and current trends to look at where we might we headed as a species.

In this conversation, Harari and Jason discuss giving credit where it's due to genuine signs of human progress, and the dizzying ethical questions that surround what's coming next –– from superhuman cyborgs to algorithms that know us better than we know ourselves.
Surprise conversation starter interview clips:

Lawrence Levy on Pixar, mindfulness, and the Middle Way. Daniel Dennett on the evolution of cultural memes




86. Ayelet Waldman (Author) – Yourself, Only Better  

Since 2008, Big Think has been sharing big ideas from creative and curious minds. The Think Again podcast takes us out of our comfort zone, surprising our guests and Jason Gots, your host, with unexpected conversation starters from Big Think’s interview archives.

Ayelet Waldman is a novelist and essayist, a former federal public defender who taught at Loyola and UC Berkeley schools of Law. Her latest book, A Really Good Day: How Microdosing Made a Mega difference in My Mood, My Marriage, and My Life is an honest, funny, informative account of her month-long experience “microdosing” on LSD – after a ton of research into the practice and potential psychological benefits of taking subperceptual doses of the chemical. Spoiler: overall it helped her. The book also digs into the history and ramifications of the criminalization of psychoactive drugs, and the philosophy of "harm reduction" in parenting.

In a funny, free-ranging, rapid-fire dialogue, Ayelet and Jason dive into topics as diverse as the split between art and science, how not to mess up your kids too badly, and the benefits of neuroplasticity.

Surprise conversation starter interview clips:

Bill Nye on Art vs. Science, Andrew Solomon on Parenting and Empathy



85. Ben Goertzel (A.I. Inventor) – The State of the Art of Artificial General Intelligence  

Since 2008, Big Think has been sharing big ideas from creative and curious minds. The Think Again podcast takes us out of our comfort zone, surprising our guests and Jason Gots, your host, with unexpected conversation starters from Big Think’s interview archives.

Ben Goertzel is a hugely influential computer scientist and author in the area of artificial general intelligence, among others. Just a few of the many hats Ben wears or has worn: Chief Scientist of Hanson Robotics which makes some of the most advanced robots in the world, Co-founder of AIDYA – artificial intelligence for financial trading, and Chairman of the OpenCog Foundation, an open source project to build a radically new form of artificial intelligence.

What's real and what's hype in all the talk about artificial intelligence these days? Will teaching AI to solve humanity's biggest problems keep robots from harming us if and when they become autonomous? Is the human brain, with all its limitations, a good model for AI at all?

In this episode, Ben explains to Jason some of the theory behind various existing and potential AI systems, weighs in on the idea of the Singularity, and touches on his "panpsychist" belief that consciousness is an omnipresent force of nature, suggesting that they drop LSD together at some point to discuss it in depth. 

Surprise conversation starter interview clips in this episode:

Alva Noë: “You are Not Your Brain”




84. Nato Thompson (Artistic Director) The Friendly Face  

Since 2008, Big Think has been sharing big ideas from creative and curious minds. The Think Again podcast takes us out of our comfort zone, surprising our guests and Jason Gots, your host, with unexpected conversation starters from Big Think’s interview archives.

Nato Thompson is the Artistic Director of Creative Time, which commissions and presents ambitious public art projects with thousands of artists throughout New York City, across the country, around the world—and now even in outer space. They did Waiting for Godot in New Orleans, a free public performance in hard-hit New Orleans neighborhoods after the flood that Jason talked about with actor Wendell Pierce on this show (episode 22). Nato’s new book is called Culture as Weapon: The Art of Influence in Everyday Life

In this episode he and Jason talk about the ways the tools of art now permeate every aspect of our culture, from advertising to politics to always-on digital entertainment. They also discuss uploading human consciousness onto computer chips, the DIY, anti-"selling out" discourse of punk and hardcore music, and the weird relationship between art and commerce. 




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