THUNK – 129. Immortality

Coping with the knowledge of our own mortality is often tricky – what if we just tried a different angle? #YOLO

If you’re struggling with suicidal ideation or depression call the national suicide prevention hotline right now: 1-800-273-8255
Also see: suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

-Links for the Curious-

Terror Management Theory Overview (Wikipedia) – en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terror_management_theory#Criticisms

Is Death Always a Misfortune? (SEP, 2014) – plato.stanford.edu/entries/death/#DeaAlwMis

Descartes projected that his newfound rationalist version of medicine would result in people living a thousand years. Let’s just say he was optimistic. (Shapin, 2000) – dash.harvard.edu/handle/1/3219884

Scientists up stakes in bet on whether humans will live to 150 (Fleming, 2016) – www.nature.com/news/scientists-up-stakes-in-bet-on-whether-humans-will-live-to-150-1.20818

Some history of hype regarding the human genome project and genomics (Eisen, 2014) – phylogenomics.blogspot.co.uk/2014/12/some-history-of-hype-regarding-human.html

Evidence for a limit to human lifespan (Dong et al, 2016) – www.nature.com/nature/journal/v538/n7624/full/nature19793.html

Human age limit claim sparks debate (Geddes, 2016) – www.nature.com/news/human-age-limit-claim-sparks-debate-1.20750

Many possible maximum lifespan trajectories (Hughes & Hekimi, 2017) – www.nature.com/nature/journal/v546/n7660/full/nature22786.html?foxtrotcallback=true

Evolution of the human lifespan and diseases of aging: Roles of infection, inflammation, and nutrition (Finch, 2009) – www.pnas.org/content/107/suppl_1/1718.full

Lust for life: breaking the 120-year barrier in human ageing (Roy, 2013) – theconversation.com/lust-for-life-breaking-the-120-year-barrier-in-human-ageing-14911

THUNK – 128. Boredom

 

Boredom isn’t just murderously frustrating, it’s a psychological trait with surprisingly far-reaching effects.

-Links for the Curious-

Boredom Proneness Test, by Science of Us – nymag.com/scienceofus/2016/09/how-easily-bored-are-you-take-this-quiz-to-find-out.html

Boredom Proneness – The Development & Correlates of a New Scale (Farmer & Sundburg, 1986) – static1.squarespace.com/static/53a79084e4b01786c921de45/t/53a85547e4b0cd712a48205b/1403540807167/Boredeom+Proneness+-+The+Development+and+Correlates+of+a+New+Scale+%28Farmer+%26+Sundberg%2C+1986%29.pdf

Why boredom is anything but boring (Koerth-Baker, 2016) – www.nature.com/news/why-boredom-is-anything-but-boring-1.19140

The History of Boredom (McRobbie, 2012) – www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/the-history-of-boredom-138176427/

Relations between brain chemistry and problem-solving among rats raised in enriched and impoverished environments (Rosenzweig & Bennett, 1962) – psycnet.apa.org/record/1964-03801-001

Relationships between boredom proneness, mindfulness, anxiety, depression, and substance use (LePera, 2011) –
www.nspb.net/index.php/nspb/article/download/159/88

The Relationships Between Need for Cognition, Boredom Proneness, Task Engagement, and Test Performance (Diehl & Wyrick, 2015) – journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/2158244015585606

Cognitive Correlates of Boredom Proneness: The Role of Private Self-Consciousness and Absorption (Seib & Vodanovich, 2010) – www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00223989809599295

The Bright Side of Boredom (Elpidorou, 2014) – www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4217352/

THUNK – 127. Overfitting & Reference Class Forecasting

Predicting the future is hard. Weirdly enough, you can sometimes do better with *less* information!

-Links for the Curious-

Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk (Kahneman & Tversky, 1979) –
www.princeton.edu/~kahneman/docs/Publications/prospect_theory.pdf

“Curbing Optimism Bias and Strategic Misrepresentation in Planning: Reference Class Forecasting in Practice” (Flyvbjerg, 2008) – www.researchgate.net/publication/233258056_Curbing_Optimism_Bias_and_Strategic_Misrepresentation_in_Planning_Reference_Class_Forecasting_in_Practice

“The accuracy of hybrid estimating approaches? Case study of an Australian state road & traffic authority” (Liu, Wehbe, & Sisovic, 2010) – www.pmi.org/learning/library/accuracy-hybrid-reference-class-forecasting-6456

THUNK – 126. Debiasing: How to Change Your Mind

Critical thinking is well and good, but it only really helps if you’re willing & able to change your mind!

-Links for the Curious-

Giving Debiasing Away: Can Psychological Research on Correcting Cognitive Errors Promote Human Welfare? (Lilienfeld et al, 2009) – www3.nd.edu/~ghaeffel/Lilienfeld2009%20Perspectives%20on%20Psychological%20Science.pdf

Debiasing (Larrick, 2004) – psych.colorado.edu/~vanboven/teaching/p7536_heurbias/p7536_readings/larrick_debias.pdf

A User’s Guide to Debiasing (Soll et al, 2013) – opim.wharton.upenn.edu/~kmilkman/Soll_et_al_2013.pdf

The Polarizing Impact of Science Literacy and Numeracy on Perceived Climate Change Risks (Braman et al, 2012) – scholarship.law.gwu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1298&context=faculty_publications

Considering the opposite: a corrective strategy for social judgment (Lord et al, 1984) – www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6527215

Overcoming Intuition: Metacognitive Difficulty Activates Analytic Reasoning (Alter et al, 2007) – pdfs.semanticscholar.org/526d/fb9f8715d48fa79d0f766caa5cd9151cf074.pdf

The Foreign-Language Effect: Thinking in a Foreign Tongue Reduces Decision Biases (Keysar et al, 2012) – mdl.uchicago.edu/sites/keysarlab.uchicago.edu/files/uploads/Keysar%202012.pdf

Neural correlates of maintaining one’s political beliefs in the face of counterevidence (Kaplan et al, 2016) – www.nature.com/articles/srep39589

Evaluating the Effectiveness of the PreMortem Technique on Plan Confidence (Veinott et al, 2010) – idl.iscram.org/files/veinott/2010/1049_Veinott_etal2010.pdf

A Scientist-Practitioner Model of Psychological Assessment: Implications for Training, Practice and Research (Spengler et al, 1995) – journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0011000095233009

The effects of perspective-taking on prejudice: the moderating role of self-evaluation (Galinsky & Ku, 2004) – citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.588.9179&rep=rep1&type=pdf

Debiasing Decisions: Improved Decision Making With a Single Training Intervention (Morwedge et al, 2015) – careymorewedge.com/papers/Morewedgeetal2015DebiasingwithTraining.pdf

LessWrong, an online community & blog archive for fans of debiasing & rationality – lesswrong.com/

The Center for Applied Rationality – rationality.org/

THUNK – 125. What Is Consciousness?

There’s much ado about “consciousness,” but what even is it? What’s the big deal? How hard could it be? @_@

-Links for the Curious-

If you are *at all* interested in this topic, please please please read the SEP entry on consciousness, it’s just fantastic – plato.stanford.edu/entries/consciousness/

What It Is Like to Be a Bat (Nagel, 1974) – organizations.utep.edu/portals/1475/nagel_bat.pdf

Facing Up to the Problem of Consciousness (Chalmers, 1995) – consc.net/papers/facing.html

A summary of Paul Churchland’s “Matter and Consciousness,” specifically oriented at summarizing common positions about the mind/body problem (Blackman) – reidblackman.com/pdf/reidBlackman.churchland.pdf

Continuity, Consciousness, and Identity in Hume’s Philosophy (Yandell) – www.humesociety.org/hs/issues/v18n2/yandell/yandell–v18n2.pdf

Telling More Than We Can Know: Verbal Reports on Mental Processes (Nisbett & Wilson, 1977) – people.virginia.edu/~tdw/nisbett&wilson.pdf

Introspection and verbal reports on cognitive processes—Two approaches to the study of thinking: A response to Howe (Ericsson & Crutcher, 1991) –
www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0732118X9190041J

For a contrasting opinion: “When Does Introspection Bear Fruit? Self-Reflection, Self-Insight, and Interpersonal Choices” (Hixon & Swann, 1993) – www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8421251

What is Consciousness? (Vsauce, 2012) – www.youtube.com/watch?v=qjfaoe847qQ

 

THUNK – 124. Play Theory

All work & no play make Jack not only dull, but also less productive, healthy, neurologically developed…

QUICK NOTE: The most commonly-cited explanation for animal play (practicing direct analogs of survival behavior) doesn’t square with all the evidence. Check out this paper: www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0163104780924565

-Links for the Curious-

“Taking Play Seriously,” by Robin Marantz Henig – www.nytimes.com/2008/02/17/magazine/17play.html?pagewanted=all

Juvenile peer play experience and the development of the orbitofrontal and medial prefrontal cortices (Bell, Pellis, & Kolb 2009) – www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0166432809005609

“More Play, Please – The Perspective of Kindergarten Teachers on Play in the Classroom” (Lynch 2015) – www.journalofplay.org/sites/www.journalofplay.org/files/pdf-articles/7-3-article-more-play-please.pdf

“Vygotsky Meets Neuroscience – The Cerebellum and the Rise of Culture through Play” (Vandervert 2015)
www.journalofplay.org/sites/www.journalofplay.org/files/pdf-articles/9-2-article-3-vygotsky-meets-neuroscience.pdf

“Plans Unveiled for Star Wars-Inspired Themed Resort at Walt Disney World,” by Jennifer Fickley-Baker – disneyparks.disney.go.com/blog/2017/07/plans-unveiled-for-star-wars-inspired-themed-resort-at-walt-disney-world/

The National Institute for Play, a nonprofit dedicated to advocating play for adults & children – www.nifplay.org/science/pattern-play/

“Symbolic Play: The Development of Social Understanding” (Bretherton 1984) – goo.gl/J1hMxe

“The Ambiguity of Play” (Sutton-Smith, 1987) – goo.gl/H7oZNz

“How Play Makes for a More Adaptable Brain, a Comparative & Neural Perspective” (Pellis, Pellis, & Himmler 2015) – files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1043959.pdf

“The Nature of Play – An Overview” (Henricks 2008) –
www.journalofplay.org/sites/www.journalofplay.org/files/pdf-articles/1-2-article-the-nature-of-play.pdf

“Animal Play: Evolutionary, Comparative, and Ecological Perspectives” (Summary by Bekoff & Beyers, 1998) – cogweb.ucla.edu/Abstracts/Bekoff_Byers_98.html

“Examining playfulness in adults: Testing its correlates with personality, positive psychological functioning, goal aspirations, and multi-methodically assessed ingenuity” (Proyer 2012) – www.psychologie-aktuell.com/fileadmin/download/ptam/2-2012_20120628/01_proyer.pdf

 

THUNK – 123. Personal Identity & the Transporter Paradox

What makes me “me?” How can I still be me, even though I change over time? Is Starfleet taking applications yet?

-Links for the Curious-

CGP Grey’s amazing “The Trouble with Transporters” – www.youtube.com/watch?v=nQHBAdShgYI

PhilosophyTube’s very thorough (& speedy!) coverage of personal identity – www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYVFep0xFYs

The SEP’s brilliant article on personal identity (including major problems & possible solutions) – plato.stanford.edu/entries/identity-personal/#ProPerIde

“Teletransportation Paradox,” via Wikipedia – en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teletransportation_paradox

Thomas Reid’s scathing letter to Lord Kames regarding the Resurrection (the OG transporter paradox) – goo.gl/KREL2F

A brief summary of Hume’s work on personal identity (aka bundle theory) – www3.nd.edu/~jspeaks/courses/2006-7/20208/hume-personal-identity.html

THUNK – 121. Teleological Bias

Teleology: explaining things via their intended purpose. Turns out we’ve a tendency to use it *everywhere.*

-Links for the Curious-

“Why Are Rocks Pointy? Children’s Preference for Teleological
Explanations of the Natural World” (Kelemen, 1999) – www.bu.edu/cdl/files/2013/08/1999_Kelemen_PointyRocks.pdf

“Intuitions About Origins: Purpose and Intelligent Design in Children’s Reasoning About Nature” (Kelemen & DiYanni, 2005) – www.bu.edu/cdl/files/2013/08/2005_KelemenDiYanni.pdf

“The Human Function Compunction: Teleological explanation in adults” (Kelemen 2009)

Students’ preconceptions in introductory mechanics (Clement, 1981) –
www.physics.utoronto.ca/~key/PHY1600/PER%20Papers/Student%20Preconceptions%20-%20Clement.pdf

“Why we evolved the urge to explain,” via the Rationally Speaking Podcast – rationallyspeakingpodcast.org/show/rs-186-tania-lombrozo-on-why-we-evolved-the-urge-to-explain.html

“Explanada,” Tania Lombrozo’s Blog- www.psychologytoday.com/blog/explananda

THUNK – 120. Business Networking

Networking is an essential part of career advancement in business today, but should it be?

-Links for the Curious-

Networking, Corruption, and Subversion (Ned Dobos, 2015) – papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2771599

A general summary by Dobos on his paper – www.canberratimes.com.au/national/public-service/just-what-are-you-trying-to-pull-20130928-2ul2m.html

Orchestrating Impartiality: The Impact of “Blind” Auditions on Female Musicians (Goldin & Rouse, 1997) – www.nber.org/papers/w5903

Do informal contacts increase labor market inequality? Social ties, job access and wages for the unemployed (Oesch & von Ow, 2015) – www.lives-nccr.ch/sites/default/files/pdf/publication/38_lives_wp_oesch_informalcontacts_ip4.pdf

The Impact of Social Structure on Economic Outcomes (Granovetter, 2005) – web.stanford.edu/group/scspi/_media/pdf/Reference%20Media/Granovetter_2005_Social%20Networks.pdf

Sifting and Sorting: Personal Contacts and Hiring in a Retail Bank (Fernandez & Weinberg, 1997) – www.jstor.org/stable/2657345?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

Three quarters of whites don’t have any non-white friends (WSJ, Christopher Ingraham, 2014) – www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2014/08/25/three-quarters-of-whites-dont-have-any-non-white-friends/

Manager Race and the Race of New Hires (Giuliano, Levine, & Leonard, 2006) – irle.berkeley.edu/files/2006/Manager-Race-and-the-Race-of-New-Hires.pdf

Labor Force Characteristics by Race and Ethnicity (BLS Reports, 2012) – www.bls.gov/opub/reports/race-and-ethnicity/archive/race_ethnicity_2012.pdf

41 CFR 60-300.5 – Equal opportunity clause (Via Cornell Law School) – www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/41/60-300.5

Structured Interviewing: Avoiding Selection Problems (Pursell, Camplon, & Gaylord, 1980) – www.krannert.purdue.edu/faculty/campionm/Structured_Interviewing_Avoiding.pdf

Summary of Research on the Selection Interview Since 1964 (Wright Jr., 1969) – onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1744-6570.1969.tb00340.x/abstract

How AI Is Changing Your Job Hunt (Fortune, Alsever, 2017) – fortune.com/2017/05/19/ai-changing-jobs-hiring-recruiting/

THUNK – 119. The Limits of Order & Harmony

Un/satisfying gif albums are scratching a very human itch. Where does it come from, & does it mean anything?

-Links for the Curious-

Perception of Symmetry in Infancy, Bornstein et al – www.princeton.edu/~cggross/Dev_Psych_1981.pdf

Bilateral symmetry & sexual selection: a meta-analysis, Møller & Thornhill www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18811416

Sorting preference in children with autism: the dominance of concrete features, Ropar & Peebles – www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16897382

The Existential Satisfaction of Things Fitting Perfectly Into Other Things, Julie Beck – www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/08/the-existential-satisfaction-of-things-fitting-perfectly-into-other-things/401213/

The Dollar Auction Game: A Paradox in Noncooperative Behavior & Escalation, Martin Shubik – www.math.toronto.edu/mpugh/Teaching/Sci199_03/dollar_auction_1.pdf

What is Godel’s Theorem?, Melvin Henriksen – www.scientificamerican.com/article/what-is-godels-theorem/

Pythagorean Tuning – www.youtube.com/watch?v=ehmXCaJ8-Ts

The Square Root of Two, Numberphile – www.youtube.com/watch?v=5sKah3pJnHI

Creepy Out of Tune Piano – www.youtube.com/watch?v=qv2my4a331A

THUNK Episodes Now Available as MP3’s!

I’ve been meaning to do this for a while: if you’d like to listen to an episode of THUNK on the go, I’ve converted all the YouTube videos into MP3 format. I’ll try to keep it updated as I release more episodes, although I’ll reiterate: I’ve been meaning to do this for a while.

Enjoy!

THUNK – 117. SETI & Dyson Spheres

Why are so many smart people interested in finding alien intelligence…and where should we look for them?

*Links for the Curious*

“Search for Artificial Stellar Sources of Infrared Radiation,” by Freeman Dyson – science.sciencemag.org/content/131/3414/1667

“How Japan Plans to Build an Orbital Solar Farm,” by Susumu Sasaki – spectrum.ieee.org/green-tech/solar/how-japan-plans-to-build-an-orbital-solar-farm

The SETI Institute YouTube Channel (Very Highly Recommended!) – www.youtube.com/user/setiinstitute

“Frontiers in Artifact SETI: Waste Heat, Alien Megastructures & Tabbys Star,” by Jason Wright – www.youtube.com/watch?v=XEDR-G2EDRM

THUNK – 116. The War on Science

The so-called “War on Science” isn’t about hostility, it’s a simple case of forgetting how science is different.

-Links for the Curious-

The March for Science Website – www.marchforscience.com/

“The War on Science,” by Shawn Otto, a very thorough analysis of the history & causes of the political & social efforts to deliberately undermine scientific authority – www.amazon.com/War-Science-Waging-Matters-About/dp/1571313532

Scientific American: “Is There Really a War on Science?” – www.scientificamerican.com/article/is-there-really-a-war-on-science/

Slate: “The war on science is a trap. The science march should step carefully.” – www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2017/02/the_war_on_science_is_a_trap.html

91. Spanking & Anecdotal Evidence – www.youtube.com/watch?v=-hlGKudCCnc

88. Hume’s Guillotine & Rational Morality – www.youtube.com/watch?v=UwkSA8nqmdI

90. Science vs. Philosophy, an Ancient (Non-)Debate – www.youtube.com/watch?v=8CGQrt_5n60

79. Science, Pseudoscience, & the Demarcation Problem – www.youtube.com/watch?v=8dmOmprI0v4

Some great examples of how bias can cause us to wander away from the scientific method (thanks Your2ndPlanB!):

Gender bias in research: how does it affect evidence based medicine? by Anita Holdcroft – journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/014107680710000102

A framework to analyse gender bias in epidemiological research – jech.bmj.com/content/61/Suppl_2/ii46.short

THUNK – 115. The Motte & Bailey Fallacy

Motte & Bailey Arguments: because defending your actual position is *way* harder than defending a trivial one.

-Links for the Curious-

“The Vacuity of Postmodernist Methodology,” by Nicholas Shackel – philpapers.org/archive/SHATVO-2.pdf

“Archaeology of Knowledge,” by Michel Foucault, Shackel’s ur-punching bag for Motte-and-Bailey-ing – monoskop.org/images/9/90/Foucault_Michel_Archaeology_of_Knowledge.pdf

“The Social Construction of Reality,” by Berger & Luckmann – perflensburg.se/Berger%20social-construction-of-reality.pdf

“All in All, Another Brick in the Motte,” by Scott Alexander – slatestarcodex.com/2014/11/03/all-in-all-another-brick-in-the-motte/

“Motte & Baileys Explained,” by Lagan History – www.youtube.com/watch?v=yxANUa0XHkA

THUNK – 114. Shades of Skepticism

Skepticism is an essential tool for rational thought, but knowing when & how to use it is hard…I think???

(NOTE: the form of skepticism described here is sometimes known as “radical skepticism.”)

-Links for the Curious-

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Skepticism – plato.stanford.edu/entries/skepticism/

Science Curiosity and Political Information Processing, Kahan et al, 2017 – onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/pops.12396/full

Skepticism on RationalWiki (a resourse of the “skeptic” community, essentially advocates of scientific primacy) – rationalwiki.org/wiki/Skepticism

THUNK 18 – Skepticism & Empiricism (where I cover an alternate version of skepticism called Pyrrhonian skepticism) – www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y78EScMnTsk

THUNK 86 – Cognitive Biases & the Socratic Method – www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZO-CGN78gdY

THUNK 58 – The Problem of Induction – www.youtube.com/watch?v=xu6kkLJ58Z0

THUNK – 113. Memetics & Punching Nazis


In the constant struggle between memes, the punching of Nazis barely scratches the surface of the conflict.

CW: Physical assault

-Links for the Curious-

Spencer punched while explaining his Pepe the Frog pin – www.youtube.com/watch?v=9rh1dhur4aI

Dawkins on Memes – www.youtube.com/watch?v=4BVpEoQ4T2M

CGP Grey on Complementary Outrage – www.youtube.com/watch?v=rE3j_RHkqJc

PBS Idea Channel on Pepe the Frog – www.youtube.com/watch?v=9uXYIdvV1CU

Dan Dennett on Dangerous Memes – www.youtube.com/watch?v=KzGjEkp772s

“On Liberty,” by John Stuart Mill, an important building block of our current understanding of free speech & harm – www.gutenberg.org/files/34901/34901-h/34901-h.htm

The SEP’s fantastic summary of the nuances of freedom of speech – plato.stanford.edu/entries/freedom-speech/

THUNK – 111. Populism


Donald Trump’s election is another victory for a worldwide trend of populism…what is it & why is it happening?

QUICK NOTE: I really gloss over the identity component of populist rhetoric here – the “purity” of the groups in question (be they red-blooded ‘Muricans or blonde blue-eyed “Aryans”) is a critical component of a lot of this rhetoric. I didn’t want to invoke tribal sensitivity to accusations of racism – race frequently serves this role, but it’s a broader effect than that.

*Links for the Curious*

Foreign Affairs, “The Power of Populism,” a collection of neat articles highlighting some of the potential causes of the global populist trend – www.foreignaffairs.com/issues/2016/95/6

The Economist Explains: What is Populism? – www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2016/12/economist-explains-18

“Right-wing vs. progressive populism: How to win in these populist Trump times” by Jonathan Matthew Smucker – www.salon.com/2016/11/13/right-wing-vs-progressive-populism-how-to-win-in-these-populist-trump-times_partner/