This episode features Annie Duke, former pro poker player and author of the book Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts. Julia and Annie debate why people tend to ignore the role of luck in their decisions, whether expressing uncertainty makes you seem weak, and how people end up engaging in “defensive decision-making,” where they’re not trying to make the best call so much as simply avoid being blamed for bad outcomes.
It may be tempting to think human civilization is on the verge of collapse: environmental degradation, the rise in authoritarianism, ballooning income disparities. But Harvard psychologist and linguist Steven Pinker is having none of it. He argues that the Enlightenment has given us so much that we can hardly see it anymore. And he believes it’s now time to champion Enlightenment values once again: rationality, verifiability, and above all: the ideal of progress itself.
It is in fact the top 0.1 percent who have been the big winners in the growing concentration of wealth over the past half century. If you’re looking for the kind of money that can buy elections, you’ll find it inside the top 0.1 percent — the 160,000 or so households.
Every piece of the pie picked up by the 0.1 percent, in relative terms, had to come from the people below. But not everyone in the 99.9 percent gave up a slice. Only those in the bottom 90 percent did. At their peak, in the mid-1980s, people in this group held 35 percent of the nation’s wealth. Three decades later that had fallen 12 points—exactly as much as the wealth of the 0.1 percent rose.
In between the top 0.1 percent and the bottom 90 percent is a group that has been doing just fine. It has held on to its share of a growing pie decade after decade. And as a group, it owns substantially more wealth than do the other two combined. In the tale of three classes, it is represented by the gold line floating high and steady while the other two duke it out. You’ll find the new aristocracy there. We are the 9.9 percent.
How far can we go in self defence? In war, is it sometimes acceptable to target civilians who are helping the war effort? David Edmonds speaks to Helen Frowe.
Helen Frowe is Professor of Practical Philosophy and Wallenberg Academy Research Fellow at Stockholm University, where she directs the Stockholm Centre for the Ethics of War and Peace. She is also a Research Associate at the Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict and at the Institute for Futures Studies. Her Books include “The Ethics of War” and “Peace and Defensive Killing”.
“We fancy ourselves outlaws while we shape laws, and consider ourselves disruptive without sufficient consideration for the people and institutions we disrupt,” writes Anil Dash, tech entrepreneur, and Silicon Valley influencer, about the industry he helped create. “I think we’re really going to face a reckoning as the economic impacts of that get stronger, as the cultural impacts of that get stronger. The idea that the halo around tech as “the good guys” is gonna sustain seems increasingly unlikely,” and other thoughtful observations in this episode.
In 2016 two research groups announced a breakthrough: they each grew human embryos, in the lab, longer than ever before. In doing so, they witnessed a period of human development no one had ever seen. But in the process, they crashed up against something called the ’14-day rule,’ a guideline set over 30 years ago that dictates what we do, and possibly how we feel, about human embryos in the lab.
September 3rd, 1967, also known as H-Day, is etched in the collective memory of Sweden. That morning, millions of Swedes switched from driving on the left side of the road to driving on the right. The changeover was an unprecedented undertaking, involving national infrastructural overhauls, extensive educational campaigns, and pop music.
What happens in the absence of government and who or what comes in to fill the void? Sometimes, it’s a strongman enforcing his will; other times, it’s just anarchy, and occasionally it’s something completely unexpected.
This episode starts in Libya, where police no longer can maintain the rule of law, and the only thing people can do is call for help from the dozens of armed groups that keep order – but they operate according to their own rules.
Next, we head to the rural West – Josephine County in Oregon – where budget cuts have stretched law enforcement to the breaking point. There’s no detectives division, the jail runs on a skeleton crew, and deputies patrol just 10 hours a day. Fixing the problem would mean raising local taxes, but residents refuse to do so.
Then follows Crystal City in Texas. The town’s mayor has been arrested – several times – and the FBI took away most of the city council in handcuffs after they allegedly accepted bribes in exchange for awarding permits and city contracts. Without a functioning government, things have spiraled out of control.
The final stop is a swath of desert wedged between Sudan and southern Egypt – Bir Tawil (beer tah-WEEL) – the last unclaimed territory on earth, and it’s been that way for more than 100 years due to a dispute over competing maps and a neighboring stretch of desert. A farmer from Virginia has decided to make this place his very own kingdom.
The how’s and why’s of consciousness, from an evolutionary and neurological standpoint, and through the lenses of computer science and human culture. Beyerstein and Dennett catch up to discuss Dennett’s newest book, “From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds”. It’s a fresh look at Dennett’s earlier work on the subject of consciousness, taken in new directions as he seeks a “bottom-up view of creation.”
Daniel C. Dennett is best known in cognitive science for his multiple drafts (or “fame in the brain”) model of human consciousness, and to the secular community for his 2006 book “Breaking the Spell”. Author and co-author of two-dozen books, he’s the Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy, and Co-Director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University, where he taught our very own Point of Inquiry host Lindsay Beyerstein.
To understand why Edward Snowden leaked top-secret documents revealing that the National Security Agency was spying on hundreds of millions of people across the world, you have to know the stories of two other men.
“The first is Thomas Drake, who blew the whistle on the very same NSA activities 10 years before Snowden did. Drake was a much higher-ranking NSA official than Snowden, and he obeyed US whistleblower laws, raising his concerns through official channels. And he got crushed. Drake was fired, arrested at dawn by gun-wielding FBI agents, stripped of his security clearance, charged with crimes that could have sent him to prison for the rest of his life, and all but ruined financially and professionally. The only job he could find afterwards was working in an Apple store in suburban Washington, where he remains today. Adding insult to injury, his warnings about the dangers of the NSA’s surveillance programme were largely ignored. “The government spent many years trying to break me, and the more I resisted, the nastier they got.”” Illustration by Nathalie Lees