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

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. 




83. Matt Taibbi (Journalist) Bread and Circus  

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.

Hard-hitting, darkly funny journalist Matt Taibbi has reported on on politics, media, finance, and sports, winning the National Magazine Award for Commentary in 2008 and is the author of three NYTimes bestsellers on politics and culture. For Rolling Stone, continuing in the tradition the magazine started with Hunter S. Thompson’s coverage of Nixon’s 1972 presidential campaign, Taibbi has covered the last four election cycles. His dispatches from the 2016 election circus are the basis of his new book Insane Clown President.In this week's Think Again, Jason and Matt talk about Hunter S. Thompson, family, career, media, and, inevitably, President Donald Trump. Surprise conversation starter interview clips in this episode: Susan David on our unhealthy obsession with happiness, and Tim Wu on celebrities as modern-day gods.

About Think Again - A Big Think Podcast: 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. Each week on Think Again, we surprise smart people you may have heard of with short clips from Big Think's interview archives on every imaginable subject. These conversations could, and do, go anywhere.






82. Bernard-Henri Lévy (Philosopher) The Mirror of Our Better Selves  

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 Washington Post has this to say about today's guest: "There is no American equivalent of Bernard-Henri Lévy. Known as “BHL,” he is among the last of a quintessentially French breed, the 20th century intellectuel engagé. As a “nouveau philosophe” disenchanted with Marxism, communism and the excesses of 1968, when civil unrest roiled France, Levy has enjoyed a long and theatrical career since the 1970s, embracing journalism, philosophy, film and an outspoken advocacy for human rights."

BHL's films include the documentaries Bosna! And A Day in the Death of Sarajevo. Lévy is co-founder of the antiracist group SOS Racisme and has served on diplomatic missions for the French government. His newest book The Genius of Judaism explores what he sees as the crucial metaphysical role of Jewish thought and the Jewish people in the life of nations.

Today's episode addresses torture, the question of evil, and the tipping point at which democracy becomes something else. 

Surprise conversation starter interview clips in this episode: Paul Bloom on Torture, and Ian Bremmer on America as a Superpower.

About Think Again - A Big Think Podcast: 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. Each week on Think Again, we surprise smart people you may have heard of with short clips from Big Think's interview archives on every imaginable subject. These conversations could, and do, go anywhere.



81. Isy Suttie (Comedian) There's Something a Bit Smug about the Sea  

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.

Isy Suttie is a comedian, actress, and writer who played the character Dobby in the British TV comedy Peep Show, of which Jason has watched all 54 episodes. Isy has written for the Guardian, the Observer, and Glamour, and is a regular writer and performer on BBC Radio 4. Her book The Actual One: How I Tried and Failed to Avoid Adulthood Forever will be released on January 31st, 2017 in the United States, but thousands of British people will have already read and enjoyed it, three days earlier. So there.

Surprise conversation starter interview clips in this episode: Maysoon Zayid on the media representation of people with disabilities, Slavoj Žižek on love, and Paul Bloom on empathy and politics

About Think Again - A Big Think Podcast: 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. Each week on Think Again, we surprise smart people you may have heard of with short clips from Big Think's interview archives on every imaginable subject. These conversations could, and do, go anywhere.



80. Amani Al-Khatahtbeh (founder: MuslimGirl) – Who Tells Your Story?  

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.

Amani Al -Khatatbeh is the founder and editor of Muslimgirl.com, the number one Muslim women’s blog in the United States. She regularly provides commentary on social, cultural, and political issues through outlets such as CNN, Al Jazeera, and the BBC, and has been featured in the New York Times, the Guardian, and made Forbes’ 30 under 30 list. Her new book is called Muslim Girl: A Coming of Age.

In this episode, Amani and Jason wrestle with tough questions about identity, power, and Islamic feminism.

Surprise conversation starter interview clips: Oliver Luckett on the 2016 election and a "divided America"

79. Paul Bloom (Psychologist) – Cold-Blooded Kindness  

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.

Paul Bloom is an internationally recognized expert on the the psychology of child development, social reasoning, and morality, and the author of numerous books including Just Babies: The Origins of Good and Evil. His newest book is Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion. Is managing a hedge-fund a better way to do good in the world than joining the Peace Corps? Does donating for disaster-relief (without really thinking it through) often make matters worse? At the risk of being mistaken for a Scrooge-like figure, Paul Bloom advances a smart, nuanced argument that empathy, in the sense of feeling others' suffering, is a terrible guide to moral decision-making.

Surprise conversation starter interview clips in this episode: Juanita Rilling on the psychology and the realities of disaster relief, David Eagleman on mass shootings, Wesley Lowery on freedom of the press


78. Peter Godfrey-Smith (Philosopher) – Alien 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.

Peter Godfrey-Smith is a distinguished professor of philosophy at the Graduate Center, City University of New York, and a professor of the history and philosophy of science at the University of Sydney in Australia. He has also spent a lot of time floating around in an octopus colony in Australia, studying smart cephalopods and taking photos and videos that have been used by National Geographic. His fascinating new book is Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness.In today's episode, Peter and Jason discuss free will, what it might be like to be an octopus, and which prehistoric animal would be the most interesting to resurrect.

Surprise conversation starter interview clips in this episode: Bill Nye on extinct animal cloning, Michio Kaku on free will and physics

77. Anne Rice (Author) – In the Blood  

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.

Anne Rice is the author of over 30 novels. Her first, Interview with the Vampire, was published in 1976 and has gone on to become one of the best-selling novels of all time. Her latest book, Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis, continues the story of Lestat while also reaching back millennia to a mysterious, vanished empire -- the lost realms of Atlantis. A past that is inextricably linked to the fate of Lestat and the Vampire kingdom he rules. In today's episode, Anne shares many thoughts on superstition, science, and why, in spite of everything, she believes humanity's going to figure things out.

Surprise conversation starter interview clips in this episode: Alison Gopnik on the Science of Ghosts, Kathleen McAuliffe on the Biological Origins of Vampire Stories, Wesley Lowery on Facebook's responsibility for fake news

76. Tim Ferriss (Author, Podcaster) – Productively Frivolous  

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.

Above all else,  Author, Podcaster, and "Human Guinea Pig" Tim Ferriss is focused on learning how to learn, then applying those lessons to everyday life -- aiming at increased productivity, efficiency, and success, however you may define it. His books The Four Hour Workweek, the Four-Hour Body, and the Four-Hour Chef shared his learning experiments in the culinary, physical, and business realms. His latest book “Tools of Titans” distills lessons learned from guests like Maria Popova, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Rick Rubin in conversation on his podcast, The Tim Ferriss Show.

Surprise conversation starter interview clips in this episode: Tim Wu on "the attention merchants" of social media, Simon Sinek on the idea of having "a vision" 

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