I’m Just Not Myself

Buddhist thought holds that at core there is no real self. This strikes the western ear as thoroughly counterintuitive—after all, we have memories, bodies, thoughts and other forms of self continuity. Scottish sage David Hume had no qualms about such a radical thought, and his work points to the real possibility of integrating eastern and western insights. The Philosopher’s Zone talks with two philosophers at the intersection of self and mind.
Illustration: Hotei watching a cock fighting : God of Good Fortune : Miyamoto Musashi, (1504-1645)

The Philosopher’s Zone | 15th January 2017

Keith Frankish on Conscious Thought

Consciousness, as usually conceived, is illusory, argues Keith Frankish. He calls this view illusionism. Humans have learned a variety of subtle but powerful tricks — strategies of self-control, self-manipulation, and extended problem-solving — which vastly extend the power of our biological brains and give us the sense of having a unified, conscious mind. It is a virtual system, constituted by these activities — a trick of the biological mind.
According to illusionists, our sense that it is like something to undergo conscious experiences is due to the fact that we systematically misrepresent them (or, on some versions, their objects) as having phenomenal properties.
Daniel Dennett is supposedly nodding his approval.

Philosophy Bites | 14th January 2017


How and why trees ‘talk’ to each other and recognize their offspring. What if traffic flowed through our streets as smoothly and efficiently as blood flows through our veins? How can someone hack your pacemaker, compromise cars, smartphones and medical devices? Whats the number of people you can have meaningful relationships with?
Four topics, four experts tackle an aspect of connectivity.
“Mother trees colonize their kin with bigger mycorrhizal networks. They send them more carbon below ground. They even reduce their own root competition to make elbow room for their kids. When mother trees are injured or dying, they also send messages of wisdom on to the next generation of seedlings,” tells Suzanne Simard
Transportation geek Wanis Kabbaj thinks we can find inspiration in the genius of our biology to design the transit systems of the future. Furthermore, concepts like modular, detachable buses, flying taxis and networks of suspended magnetic pods could help make the dream of a dynamic, driverless world into a reality.
All your devices can be hacked, and we are living in the honeymoon phase of the internet, claims Avi Rubin, a computer science professor. In a very near future massive internet hacks and blackouts might happen more and more often. Online security guys are not going to run out of wholes to patch any time soon.
Anthropologist Robin Dunbar believes the evolutionary structure of social networks limits us to 150 meaningful relationships at a time, the size of an English village from the times of William the Conqueror – Facebook or no Facebook. He himself prefers a chat and a pint in the pub.
Photo: The Convair Model 118 ConvAirCar (also known as the Hall Flying Automobile) was a prototype flying car of which two were built, 1947

TED Radio Hour | 13th January 2017

The Man Who Sued Iran

One day in the Gaza Strip a suicide bomber blew a bus up. Steve Flatow’s daughter, twenty-year-old Alisa Flatow, who was studying abroad in Israel, died in the attack. The bomber was part of a group called Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which the U.S. State Department believed was funded by Iran. Flatow decided to sue Iran for monetary damages. But under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, U.S. citizens couldn’t sue countries. That didn’t stop Flatow. He called up Steve Perles, an international reparations lawyer. The two knocked on hundreds of doors on Capitol Hill, pitching the idea that if Flatow won his suit, and won it big, maybe they could make it too expensive for Iran to sponsor terror groups.
It worked. And in 1996, President Bill Clinton changed the law to say that an American could sue certain countries in terrorism cases. So they sued.
Today on the show, how Steve Flatow’s quest for justice put him up against both Iran and his own government—and how he shook up assumptions about international diplomacy.
Photo: Banksy’s artwork at the separation wall, Bethlehem

Planet Money | 13th January 2017

Is Time Management Is Ruining Our Lives?

The quest for increased personal productivity – for making the best possible use of your limited time – is a dominant motif of our age. And yet more often than not, techniques designed to enhance one’s personal productivity seem to exacerbate the very anxieties they were meant to allay. The better you get at managing time, the less of it you feel that you have. The allure of the doctrine of time management is that, one day, everything might finally be under control. Yet work in the modern economy is notable for its limitlessness. You’re still Sisyphus, rolling his boulder up that hill for all eternity – you’re just rolling it slightly faster.

The Guardian’s Audio Long Reads | 13th January 2017

Anil Dash on Tech’s Moral Reckoning

“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.

On Being with Krista Tippett | 12th january 2017

Didn’t We Solve This One?

Sarah, a former Iraqi housewife, worked with US forces in Baghdad. She gathered key information that became intel for the Alpha Company 177. At the time, it was a confusing churn of different militias who were trying to control the area. And the only way for the Americans to fight was to get tips from informants, ordinary local people who were frightened of the militias, of the Americans. Sarah’s job was to try to convince these frightened people to talk, and she was good at it.
Fast forward, Sarah and her two sons are trapped in Jordan. Her husband has been killed by militias in retribution for her collaboration with the foreign invaders. Furthermore, she had been accused, anonymously, by another Iraqi of betraying the Americans she was working with, and has spent months in prisons. All her savings have been stolen from a camp where she’d worked with the Americans.
Even though the case against her had been dismissed and Sarah had an exemplary work record, she had been blacklisted. The anonymous accusations that a judge had thrown out for lack of evidence and that she herself has never seen to this day became part of her US Defense Department file. It outweighed all the letters of praise and support signed by US military people who had worked and lived with Sarah for months. So she is no longer allowed to work for the US, and her visa to America has been denied.
“The moment happened when Sarah was interpreting for us during an interview with a former Sons of Iraq fighter. He pulled a tissue from a box next to him to make a point. Sarah: “[CRYING] I’m sorry. He says the American forces use us like a tissue. I feel the same thing. I’m sorry.””
Photo by Hadi Mizban: Iraqi children look at a U.S. Army soldier during a routine patrol in Baghdad

This American Life | 6th January 2017

America’s Digital Dumping Ground

On this episode environmentalists are following the global trail of America’s electronic castoffs.
Americans produce the most e-waste per person in the world. To show the effect this has had on the rest of the world, the Global Reporting Centre’s Allison Griner tells us about the small Chinese town of Guiyu, which once gained international notoriety as a graveyard for American electronics.  Once that stuff got there, workers dismantled it by hand and released poisonous chemicals into the atmosphere. It took a high toll on people’s health and the environment. Chinese and international environmentalists tried to stop this illegal and toxic business for years. In 2015, they finally succeeded: The Chinese government said it no longer would allow e-waste from other countries into Guiyu. But did the government stick to its word? Griner travels to the small Chinese town to find out.
Photo by Chien-ming Chung

Reveal | 7th January 2017

Overcoming Extreme Adversity

On Hkakabo Razi in Northern Myanmar, at the tail end of the Himalaya, Hilaree O’Neill led a team of explorers in an attempt to determine the highest peak in Southeast Asia. She speaks about making decisions under life and death stress and overcoming extreme adversity, and how depleted supplies, freezing temperatures and internal squabbles fractured the team and nearly cost O’Neill her life.
Photo by Cory Richards, Instagram: On Hkakabo Razi with the Tibetan Plateau blending towards the horizon

KERA’s Think | 5th January 2017

Is Addiction a Disease?

Is addiction to drugs, like ice or heroin, a disease of the brain? Neuroscientists can actually see how drug use alters the brain. Drug users, therefore, should not be blamed for their addiction: they are not weak, or bad, or morally flawed. It follows their condition should be medicalized and treated by clinicians. This, so called, ‘brain disease model’ of addiction is now being seriously questioned. Paul Barclay talks to some of dissenters.

Big Ideas – ABC Radio | 29th February 2016