Podcasts, videos, and links to make you think
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Hey there, it's been a while! Too long in fact.

Here are some podcasts and other links that will make you think. Let's start with a podcast episode that I've been thinking about every day since listening to it. One that explains so much of the craziness around us.
A good You Are Not So Smart episode to me is one that walks the line between fascinating and frightening. Fascinating because it uses new and interesting research as the framework of the discussion/interviews, and frightening because of how not in control of our psychology we are. The recent Tribal Psychology fits squarely in this arena. 

Humans are incredibly tribal. In fact it may be one of our most defining features (bugs?) as a species. This is obvious if you just look around the internet or examine conflicts of any kind. As a trivial example, look at any video game related comment section on sites like IGN or YouTube and you'll see an embarrassing amount of tribalism around video game systems.

But how easy do we go into tribal mode? What kinds of things do we form groups of us vs them around? This is the frightening part.

Researchers like to test this idea by splitting people up into all sorts of groups and seeing what will cause them to see others as others. Of all the studies that scientists have done looking at this, humans have so far formed in group/out group tribes around everything tested.

Like hats. You could take two groups of random people that are identical in every way possible. 

This is group 1.
And this is group 2. The exact same as group 1, except they all have hats.
Surprisingly, or perhaps unsurprisingly, this one difference is enough to start making the groups rate themselves better than the other group, and when given the ability to ration resources, will allocate less to the other group than they could. 
Forming tribes is our specialty. We are all experts in it. We are better than them.

On top of that, we will literally invent stories out of thin air both unconsciously and consciously to justify our positions.

From the episode: “We are living in an age in which it has become easier than ever to transmute an evidence based issue into a political one, and once that happens, the desire to be correct becomes far less important than the desire to be a good member of your tribe."
Social media allows us to signal our tribe membership more than we otherwise would, which is just part of the reason why our culture seems so divided.

Listen to the full episode here to learn more about social identity theory, the error of the information deficit model, and other things to make you judge us as a species.


-The Constant is a great little indie podcast that focuses on the limitless times we were completely wrong throughout history. The season one finale is a walk through why Einstein deserves his title of the greatest genius of all time, and how even he made major blunders. “What makes you think you’re right, when everyone else ever has been wrong?”

-With the help of The Sporkful, Planet Money goes to the lab and to the bar to settle a common debate once and for all. Is there really any difference between the vodka brands? Short answer: stop buying Grey Goose you silly goose.

Education mini-playlist: I love a good critique on the US education system, and these two episodes are a great pairing to give yourself some outside the box thinking:

-Akimbo: I See You. “If we all love learning, why do we all hate school?”. Seth Godin is a long time critic of the industrialized approach to schooling, and offers some refreshing insights, including an interesting defense of the argument that everyone is a special snowflake. 

-EconTalk: Bryan Caplan on the Case Against Education. “Some of the kinds of evidence you use in your book I find totally unpersuasive.” One of my favorite things about EconTalk interviews is host Russ Roberts’ willingness to actually challenge the ideas of his guests, and not just serve as a softball stop on a podcast book tour. Here’s an interesting question from the interview. If you could only pick one, would you rather have the education you get from attending Princeton but no degree, or simply the piece of paper saying that you attended Princeton but no education?


I wrote an article with some drawings: Radiolab is still the best podcast at instilling Wonder (when it feels like it)

An excellent article from Buzzfeed (I know right?) examining how Cornell’s food lab has produced some very biased results. 

I think most people understand the value of NASA, without necessarily being able to put it into words. The next time someone goes off on how worthless NASA is though, send them this short video from Mark Rober, who succinctly sums up the amazing investment that it actually is. 

A super short video from BBC Earth about how Owls fly with incredible silence, with other birds looking downright ridiculous in comparison.

I’ve been recently rewatching all the Star Wars movies with my wife and went down a rabbit hole of short documentaries about Star Wars on YouTube. This short one about how George Lucas’s editors and his wife completely saved the first Star Wars is great.

That's all for this week!

Connect with me @erikthejones on twitter and if you've learned anything interesting, please forward this link to any curious natured friends or family so they can subscribe. Many thanks!

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