In this episode, science journalist Dave Levitan talks about his new book: Not a Scientist: How Politicians Mistake, Misrepresent, and Utterly Mangle Science.

In the book, Levitan takes us through 12 repeating patterns that politicians fall into when they talk about scientific research. Some are nefarious and intentional, some are based on ignorance, and some are just part of the normal business of politicians managing their public image or trying to appeal to their base. Not only do they often get the science wrong, they sometimes fail to communicate the nature of scientific inquiry and the goals of the scientific process itself.

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Now that algorithms are everywhere, helping us to both run and make sense of the world, a strange question has emerged among artificial intelligence researchers: When is it ok to predict the future based on the past? When is it ok to be biased?

“I want a machine-learning algorithm to learn what tumors looked like in the past, and I want it to become biased toward selecting those kind of tumors in the future,” explains philosopher Shannon Vallor at Santa Clara University.  “But I don’t want a machine-learning algorithm to learn what successful engineers and doctors looked like in the past and then become biased toward selecting those kinds of people when sorting and ranking resumes.”

On this episode, journalist Kate Leaver talks about her new book, The Friendship Cure: Reconnecting in the Modern Worldin which she explores the crippling, damaging, life-threatening impact of loneliness and the severe mental health costs of living a life disconnected from a support network of close contacts. But…as she explains in the episode, there is a cure…learning how to connect with others and curate better friendships.

In the interview we talk about loneliness, how to make friends, the difference between male and female friendship, platonic friendships, friends with benefits and lots, lots, more, including the Sardinian secret to a long life surrounded by friends, family, and lovable assholes.

In this episode, we sit down with psychologist Julia Shaw, an expert in memory and criminal psychology, to discuss her new book – Evil.

In the book, she makes a case for something she calls “evil empathy,” seeing people who do heinous things as fellow human beings instead of as monsters.

According to Shaw, othering criminals by categorizing them as a separate kind of human allows us to put them out of our minds and disappear them to institutions or prisons. The result is we become less-able to prevent the sort of behavior the harms others from happening again and again.

In fact, she says “there’s no such thing as evil,” and sees the term as an antiquated, magical label that dehumanizes others, preventing us from accumulating the sort of scientific evidence that could lead to a better society.

One of the most effective ways to change people’s minds is to put your argument into a narrative format — a story — but not just any story. The most persuasive narratives are those that transport us. Once departed from normal reality into the imagined world of a story, we become highly susceptible to belief and attitude change.

In this episode, you’ll learn from psychologist Melanie C. Green the four secrets to creating the most persuasive narratives possible.

In this episode we explore prevalence induced concept change with psychologist David Levari.

In a nutshell, when we set out to change the world by reducing examples of something we have deemed problematic, and we succeed, a host of psychological phenomena can mask our progress and make those problems seem intractable — as if we are only treading water when, in fact, we’ve created the change we set out to make.

When you think about your future health, career, finances, and even longevity — you imagine a rosy, hopeful future. For everyone else, though, you tend to be far more realistic.

In other words, if you are a smoker, everyone else is going to get cancer. You’ll probably be in the that lucky portion who smokes into your 90s, or so you think. Similarly, the odds of success for a new restaurant change depending on who starts that venture. If its you, the odds are pretty good. If it is someone else, you see the odds as pretty bad.