Elizabeth Kolbert on Climate Change: Impacts and Mitigation Technologies – #33

Steve and Corey talk to Elizabeth Kolbert, author of the Sixth Extinction, about the current state of the climate debate. All three are pessimistic about the possibility that emissions will be substantively reduced in the near term, and they discuss technologies for removing carbon from the atmosphere. They explore uncertainty in the models regarding temperatures rise and precipitation, and contemplate a billion people are on the move in response to climate change and population increase. They ask: what is more of a threat to humanity in the coming century, runaway AI or runaway climate change?

Meghan Daum on the New Culture Wars – #32

Corey and Steve talk to Meghan Daum about her new book “The Problem With Everything: My Journey Through The New Culture Wars”. Meghan describes how she became aware of the “Red Pill” through what she calls “free speech YouTube” videos. The three ask whether their feeling of alienation from Gen-Z wokeness is just a sign of getting old or reflects principles of free speech and open debate. Megan argues that Gen-Z’s focus on fairness leads to difficult compromises. They discuss social interactions in the pre-internet, early-internet, and woke-internet eras.

Steven Broglio on Concussions, Football and Informed Choice – #31

Steve and Corey talk with Steven Broglio, Director of the Michigan Concussion Center, about concussion risk, prevention and treatment. Broglio describes how the NCAA emerged from the deaths that almost led Theodore Roosevelt to outlaw college football. He also explains recent findings on CTE, why females may be at greater concussion risk, and why sleep is critical to avoiding long-term brain injury. They discuss how new rules probably make football safer and debate why New England is so down on kids playing football. Steve wonders whether skills are in decline now that some schools have eliminated “contact” in practices.

Barbara O’Brien on Race, Reform and Wrongful Conviction Rate Estimates- #30

Our guest, Barbara O’Brien, explains why we don’t know much about conviction error outside of murder cases, making error rates for the vast majority of crimes: misdemeanors, sexual assaults, armed robbery, etc. a “dark ocean”. She explains factors that contribute to wrongful convictions including mistaken cross-racial identification in sexual assault cases. Barbara also talks about the surprising frequency of “rain damage” to evidence rooms and why Texas leads the way in both executions and criminal justice reform. The two consider why having your death sentence commuted to life in prison means you are actually less likely to ever to be released.

Sebastian Junger: Meaning from War and Technological Isolation in America – #29

This conversation occurred just after President Trump withdrew US forces from Northern Syria. Steve, Corey and Sebastian debate ISIS and the Kurds. Sebastian argues that men who went to war after 9/11 wanted to experience communal masculinity, as their fathers and grandfathers had in Vietnam and WWII, a tradition dating back millennia. When they came home, they faced the isolation of affluent contemporary American society, leading to high rates of addiction, depression, and suicide. War veterans in less developed countries may be psychologically better off, supported by a more traditional social fabric.

Zach Hambrick on Psychometrics and the Science of Expertise – #28

MSU Psychology Professor Zach Hambrick joins Corey and Steve to discuss general cognitive ability, the science of personnel selection, and research on the development of skills and expertise. Is IQ really the single best predictor of job performance? Corey questions whether g is the best predictor across all fields and whether its utility declines at a certain skill level. What does the experience of the US military tell us about talent selection? Is the 10,000 hour rule for skill development valid? What happened to the guy who tried to make himself into a professional golfer through 10,000 hours of golf practice?

Andrew Hartman: The Culture Wars Then and Now – #27

Steve and Corey talk to Andrew about his new introduction to his book “The War for the Soul of America.” While the left largely won the culture wars, the three wonder whether the pendulum has swung so far left that many liberals are alienated by today’s cultural norms.

Other topics: Was the left’s victory in the debate over the college curriculum pyrrhic? Is identity politics a necessary step in liberation or a problematic slide toward greater division or both? Are current students too sensitive, and easily triggered, to take the fight to the Billionaire class?

Bruno Maçães: China, Russia and the Future of Eurasia – #26

Originally from Portugal, Bruno Maçães earned a PhD in Political Science at Harvard under Harvey Mansfield, and served as Portugal’s Secretary of State for European Affairs from 2013-2015. He is regarded as a leading geopolitical thinker with deep insights concerning the future of Eurasia and relations between the West and China. He is the author of two widely acclaimed books published in 2018: The Dawn of Eurasia and Belt and Road.

Topics discussed include: China’s Belt and Road Initiative, the Middle Income Trap, A Chinese World Order, Techno-Optimism in East and West, China-Russia alliance and geopolitics, the future of Eurasia and the EU.

Ted Conover on Immigration, Prisons and 21st Century Homesteading – #25

Steve and Corey talk to Ted about his article for the August issue of Harper’s Magazine, “The Last Frontier”. Ted describes how Trump’s election led him to seek out his new project on people living off the grid in Colorado’s San Luis Valley (“Appalachia without the Trees”). The three discuss how immigration has changed since he wrote Coyotes in 1987. Ted explains how working as a prison guard in Sing Sing led to the uncomfortable realization that he was getting comfortable with unnecessary violence and offers advice to young people seeking to write interesting stories in the new media landscape.

Jason Snyder on Neurogenesis – #24

Steve and Corey talk to Jason about a fundamental question of neuroscience: Do humans grow new neurons as adults? The dogma that humans do not, gave way to the dogma that they do, which is now being questioned. Adult neurogenesis has been associated with learning, better cognitive function and resistance to depression. Jason suggests that a simple error of treating young mice as models for adult humans led to excessive optimism regarding the potential for later neuronal growth. Recent findings suggest that adults grow few, if any, new neurons but that what little neurogenesis occurs can probably be enhanced by exercise.