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Rationally Speaking is the official podcast of New York City Skeptics. Join Julia Galef and guests as they explore the borderlands between reason and nonsense, likely and unlikely, science and pseudoscience. Rationally Speaking was co-created with Massimo Pigliucci.

Current Episodes


Tuesday
Nov132018

RS 221 - Rob Reich on "Is philanthropy bad for democracy?"

Release date: November 13th, 2018

Rob Reich

This episode features political scientist Rob Reich, author of "Just Giving: Why Philanthropy is Failing Democracy, and How it Can Do Better". Rob and Julia debate his criticisms of philanthropy: Does it deserve to be tax-deductible? Is it a violation of the autonomy of recipients to attach strings to their charitable gifts? And do philanthropists have too much power in society?

Links 

Rob's book: "Just Giving: Why Philanthropy is Failing Democracy, and How it Can Do Better"

"Famine, Affluence, and Morality" by Peter Singer

"Doing Good Better" by Will MacAskill

Edited by Brent Silk

Music by Miracles of Modern Science

Full Transcripts 

Sunday
Oct282018

Rationally Speaking #220 - Peter Eckersley on "Tough choices on privacy and artificial intelligence"

Release date: October 28th, 2018

Peter Eckersley

This episode features Peter Eckersley, an expert in law and computer science, who has worked with the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Partnership on AI. Peter and Julia first delve into some of the most fundamental questions about privacy: What are the risks of losing privacy? Do we have more to fear from governments or industry? Which companies do a good job of protecting their users' privacy? Are there tradeoffs between supporting privacy and supporting competitive markets? Next, they discuss Peter's work measuring recent progress in AI, and debate to what extent recent progress is cause for optimism.

Links 

Electronic Frontier Foundation

Partnership on AI

Peter's survey of AI progress

"Debt: The First 5,000 Years" by David Graeber

"The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence has Declined" by Steven Pinker

Aceso Under Glass, the blog that does epistemic spot checks

Edited by Brent Silk

Music by Miracles of Modern Science

Full Transcripts 

Sunday
Oct142018

RS 219 - Jason Collins on "A skeptical take on behavioral economics"

Release date: October 14th, 2018

Jason Collins

In this episode, economist Jason Collins discusses some of the problems with behavioral economics: Why governments have started to rely too much on the field, and why that's bad; why it's suspicious that there are over 100 cognitive biases; when "nudges" are problematic; and more.

Links 

Jason Collins' Blog

"MacArthur 'Genius' Angela Duckworth Responds To A New Critique Of Grit" by Anna Kamenetz

"Angela Duckworth on Grit" from Econtalk

"On the Reality of Cognitive Illusions" by Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky

"How to Make Cognitive Illusions Disappear: Beyond 'Heuristics and Biases'" by Gerd Gigerenzer

"On Narrow Norms and Vague Heuristics: A Reply to Kahneman and Tversky" by Gerd Gigerenzer

"Putting nudges in perspective" by George Loewenstein and Nick Chater

"Much Ado About Nudging" by Tony Hockley

"Do people really want to be nudged towards healthy lifestyles?" by Robert Sugden

"'Better Off, as Judged by Themselves': A Comment on Evaluating Nudges" by Cass R. Sunstein

"‘Better off, as judged by themselves’: a reply to Cass Sunstein" by Robert Sugden

"Nudging and the Problem of Context Dependent Preferences" by Jason Collins

"Overrepresentation of extreme events in decision making reflects rational use of cognitive resources." by Lieder, Falk,Griffiths, Thomas L.,Hsu, Ming

Edited by Brent Silk

Music by Miracles of Modern Science

Full Transcripts 

Sunday
Sep302018

RS 218 - Chris Auld on "Good and bad critiques of economics"

Release date: September 30th, 2018

Chris Auld

In this episode, economist Chris Auld describes some common criticisms of his field and why they're wrong. Julia and Chris also discuss whether there are any good critiques of the field, and whether economists think that people with an addiction to alcohol or drugs are behaving rationally.

Links 

"18 Signs You're Reading Bad Criticism of Economics" by Chris Auld

"The Price of Inequality" by Joseph E. Stiglitz

Edited by Brent Silk

Music by Miracles of Modern Science

Full Transcripts 

Sunday
Sep162018

RS 217 - Aviv Ovadya on "The problem of false, biased, and artificial news"

Release date: September 16th, 2018

Aviv Ovadya

Aviv Ovadya, an expert on misinformation, talks with Julia about the multiple phenomena that get lumped together as "fake news": articles that are straightforwardly false, misleading, or artificially created (think "Deepfakes," videos that make a politician appear to say something he didn't say). Aviv and Julia discuss questions like: Which of those problems are more dangerous for our civilization? Are any of them tractable? And what might a solution look like?

Links 

Aviv's Website

"Is the First Amendment Obsolete?" by Tim Wu

"What Hath We Wrought" by Danah Boyd

Edited by Brent Silk

Music by Miracles of Modern Science

Full Transcripts 

Sunday
Sep022018

RS 216 - Diana Fleischman on "Being a transhumanist evolutionary psychologist"

Release date: September 2nd, 2018

Diana Fleischman

On this episode of Rationally Speaking, professor Diana Fleischman makes the case for transhumanist evolutionary psychology: understanding our evolved drives, so that we can better overcome them. Diana and Julia discuss sexual preferences, jealousy, and other drives -- how immutable are they? How do we know? And how would it change society, if we could change the distribution of people we find attractive, or normalize new relationship structures such as polyamory?

Links 

"Uncanny Vulvas" by Diana Fleischman

"Essays on Reducing Suffering" by Brian Tomasik (includes essays on animal suffering)

"The Manipulated Man" by Esther Vilar

Edited by Brent Silk

Music by Miracles of Modern Science

Full Transcripts