Today humanity is reaching new heights of scientific understanding – and appears to be losing its mind. How can a species that doubled its lifespan, sequenced its genome, and developed vaccines for Covid-19 in less than a year produce so much fake news, quack cures, conspiracy theories, and “post-truth” rhetoric? In this interview, I speak to Professor Steven Pinker about rationality. We discuss how he rejects the cynical cliché that humans are simply irrational cavemen out of time saddled with biases, fallacies, and illusions (after all, we discovered the laws of nature, and set out the benchmarks for rationality itself). We discuss how we (as a species) think in ways that are sensible in the low-tech contexts in which we spend most of our lives but fail to take advantage of the powerful tools of reasoning we’ve discovered over the millennia: logic, critical thinking, probability, correlation and causation, and optimal ways to update beliefs and commit to choices individually and with others
. Steven also takes time to discuss how the rational pursuit of self-interest, sectarian solidarity, and uplifting mythology can add up to crippling irrationality in a society.

Thought Economics

Anil Seth’s quest to understand the biological basis of conscious experience is one of the most exciting contributions to twenty-first-century science. What does it mean to “be you”—that is, to have a specific, conscious experience of the world around you and yourself within it? There may be no more elusive or fascinating question. Historically, humanity has considered the nature of consciousness to be a primarily spiritual or philosophical inquiry, but scientific research is now mapping out compelling biological theories and explanations for consciousness and selfhood. Anil Seth is Professor of cognitive and computational neuroscience at the University of Sussex, co-director of the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science and in his new book, BEING YOU: A New Science of Consciousness, he argues that we do not perceive the world as it objectively is, but rather that we are prediction machines, constantly inventing our world and correcting our mistakes by the microsecond, and that we can now observe the biological mechanisms in the brain that accomplish this process of consciousness. In this interview, I speak to Anil Seth about the fundamental nature of consciousness, how we perceive the world around us, our selves, and how the science of consciousness is helping to unlock who we are.

Thought Economics

In The Extended Mind: The Power of Thinking Outside the Brain, acclaimed science writer Annie Murphy Paul explodes the myth that the brain is an all-powerful, all-purpose thinking machine that works best in silence and isolation. We are often told that the human brain is an awe-inspiring wonder, but its capacities are remarkably limited and specific. Humanity has achieved its most impressive feats only by thinking outside the brain: by “extending” the brain’s power with resources borrowed from the body, other people, and the material world. Annie’s research tells the stories of scientists and artists, authors and inventors, leaders, and entrepreneurs—Jackson Pollock, Charles Darwin, Jonas Salk, Friedrich Nietzsche, Watson and Crick, among others—who have mastered the art of thinking outside the brain. In this interview, I speak to Annie Murphy Paul on her ground-breaking work exploring how our minds work, how extra-neural resources play a role in our thinking, and how understanding the extended mind can give us ground-breaking insights into harnessing our potential.

Thought Economics

Angela Duckworth is the founder and CEO of Character Lab, a non-profit whose mission is to advance scientific insights that help children thrive. She is also the Rosa Lee and Egbert Chang Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, faculty co-director of the Penn-Wharton Behavior Change for Good Initiative, and faculty co-director of Wharton People Analytics. Angela’s TED talk is among the most viewed of all time. Her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance is a #1 New York Times best seller. Angela is also co-host, with Stephen Dubner, of the podcast No Stupid Questions. In this interview, I talk to Angela Duckworth about the true nature of grit, passion and perseverance. We talk about what it takes to succeed in life, to achieve great things, and the importance of goals in reaching the pinnacle of accomplishment.

Thought Economics

In this interview, I speak to Daniel Goleman, Ph.D., author of the New York Times bestseller Emotional Intelligence and Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships. Dr. Goleman is an internationally known psychologist who lectures frequently to professional groups, business audiences, and on college campuses. Working as a science journalist, Goleman reported on the brain and behavioral sciences for The New York Times for many years. His 1995 book, Emotional Intelligence (Bantam Books) was on The New York Times bestseller list for a year-and-a-half; it is available around the world in 40 languages, and has been a best seller in many countries. I speak to Daniel Goleman about the purpose of emotions, the importance of emotional intelligence and why leaders need to understand emotions & emotional intelligence.

Thought Economics

Double Academy Award winner Dr. Mark Sagar is the CEO and co-founder of Soul Machines – the world leader in humanizing AI to create astonishing Digital People. Driven by deep research into neuroscience, psychology and cognitive science- they create autonomous, hyper realistic, digital characters with whom we can interact like any other human being. Built around their Human OS platform, and with a patented Digital Brain, Soul Machines are at the forefront of some of the most exciting advances in computing. In this exclusive interview, I speak to Mark Sagar about creating digital people, how technology is helping us to understand humanity, and how interaction with intelligent machines will open up the next era of our civilisation.

Thought Economics

If you are lucky enough to live to 79 (the global average lifespan) you will have spent around 25 of those years (roughly one third of your entire life) asleep. Scientific advances over the past quarter of a century have created a renaissance in sleep research, giving us greater insights into the role and importance of sleep in our lives. To learn more, I spoke to Dr. Matthew Walker, Professor of Neuroscience and Founder & Director of The Center for Human Sleep Science at the University of California, Berkeley.

Thought Economics

In this exclusive series of interviews, we speak to four world experts on religion and science.  Fr. José G. Funes (Director of the Vatican Observatory), Prof. Alister McGrath (Director, Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion at Oxford University), Dr. Deborah Haarsma (President of the BioLogos Foundation), Prof. Justin Barrett (Director, Thrive Centre – Fuller’s Graduate School of Psychology) and Bishop Dr. Rowan Williams (104th Archbishop of Canterbury).  We discuss the fundamental roles of religion and science in society together with their roles in shaping our history, and our future.

Thought Economics

How Creativity, Animation and Stories define us. In these exclusive interviews we speak to Ed Catmull (Co-Founder of Pixar Animation, and President of Walt Disney Animation Studios), Nick Park (Oscar Winning Writer, Director and Animator with Aardman Animation) and Jonathan Gottschall (A world expert in storytelling and Distinguished Research Fellow in the English Department at Washington & Jefferson College). We discuss the fundamental role of storytelling in human existence, and learn the secrets of creativity, animation and great stories.

Thought Economics

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