Selected Podcasts from Mixed Mental Arts
Reproduced from: http://mixedmentalarts.libsyn.com
Jan 19, 2018
If you haven’t heard the name David Sloan Wilson, then you’re definitely new to Mixed Mental Arts. David Sloan Wilson has pioneered Multi-Level Selection which is one of the cornerstones of the Mixed Mental Arts worldview. It’s how he earned his place in the Holy Trinity of Cultural Evolution and why his book, Does Altruism Exist?, is one of the Four Gospels of the Scientific New Testament.
You can find more of the work of the community David has created at Evonomics.com.
Jan 12, 2018
Kate Raworth got into economics to change the world. She then found out that the discipline was full of men, in grey suits, who cared only about making GDP go up at all costs. She later left economics and worked for the UN, Oxfam, and other organizations focused on developing the world. Eventually she felt the disparity between the discipline of economics was and what is needed to actually solve problems was just too great. So she wrote a book called Doughnut Economics to model an ideal 21st century economic system.
Kate teaches at Oxford University. She gets to talk about seeming silly things like doughnuts while actually offering a potent critique of what modern economics has become.
Dec 22, 2017
Growing up in Soviet-controlled Romania, Adrian Bejan found himself living in system that tried to prevent of ideas, money, goods and people. It’s only fitting then that his career would not only see him bridging the divide between disciplines but studying flow itself. In 1995 while designing more efficient cooling systems for electronics, he was struck by the similarity between the systems that he was designing and those that occur naturally in riverbeds, capillary systems, leaves and much, much more. And so, the constructal law was born. It’s a real pleasure to have Professor Bejan on the show. He’s an OG Mixed Mental Artist from way back in the day. To learn more about Professor Bejan’s work check out his books Design in Nature and The Physics of Life. You can keep up with all the latest on Constructal Theory on Twitter at @constructal.
Dec 11, 2017
In 1759, while working as a tutor, Adam Smith wrote a book called The Theory of Moral Sentiments that begins as follows:
“How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortunes of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it, except the pleasure of seeing it. Of this kind is pity or compassion, the emotion we feel for the misery of others, when we either see it, or are made to conceive it in a very lively manner. That we often derive sorrow from the sorrows of others, is a matter of fact too obvious to require any instances to prove it; for this sentiment, like all the other original passions of human nature, is by no means confined to the virtuous or the humane, though they perhaps may feel it with the most exquisite sensibility. The greatest ruffian, the most hardened violator of the laws of society, is not altogether without it.”
In 1776, that same Adam Smith would write The Wealth of Nations, the book that would establish capitalism. To a modern audience, for whom the idea of selfishness is synonymous with capitalism, this seems incredibly strange. However, it wasn’t strange at all. Smith was primarily interested in improving the well-being of humanity. To him, it was clear that market forces were one of the great tools for doing this. However, this does not mean that Smith believed that humanity was entirely selfish.
Wilson Sensei will be on the podcast again in the near future. Tweet him @David_S_Wilson
Dec 4, 2017
Both Daron Acemoglu (MIT economist and co-author of Why Nations Fail) and Dacher Keltner (Berkeley psychologist and author of many books including Born to Be Good) have appeared on Mixed Mental Arts before. They both were amazing and Bryan Couldn’t pronounce either of their names. That is reason enough to bring them back and put them on together to see what happens. But, wait. There’s more. Because these two together have the power to do something unprecedented in human history.
At least since Plato’s Republic, humans have debated the best form of government. (Plato thought it was a “Philosopher King” aka give someone like Plato or Bryan absolute power but recognized that democracy was the least bad system.) However, this has long been an endless debate in which people make the case for the system of government they’re biased towards and then dismiss every other opinion as biased. In fact, this highly predictable criticism was leveled at Daron Acemoglu and his co-author James Robinson in the wake of Why Nations Fail.
Also, we’re starting a campaign to have them write a book together. James Robinson should come along too. Tweet them with #RealHolyTrinity if you want them to do it. Guest Links Website: greatergood.berkeley.edu/ Twitter: twitter.com/drdaronacemoglu
Jun 10, 2017
Andrew Hunt and I first got to know each other a decade ago doing stand up in Los Angeles. During the intervening decade, we both learned how to learn and how environment shapes behavior but in entirely different ways. Regular listeners to Mixed Mental Arts know my story all too well. Andrew’s though is more interesting. Andrew grew up in Los Angeles and was diagnosed with numerous learning disorders. Like a lot of kids I’ve worked with, rather than empowering him, school left him feeling disempowered and alienated from learning. Then, he got involved with Jacques Fresco of the Venus Project who among other things changed Andrew’s life by teaching him how to learn. The day after we recorded this episode, Jacques Fresco passed. Now, it’s on us to stand on his shoulders and see further. [mbm_book_grid id=”8450″]
Mar 26, 2016
Feb 13, 2016
In the age of the internet, the world seems to be full of conspiracy theories. 9/11 was an inside job. Obama is a secret Muslim. And Donald Trump is actually running for President as a favor to the Clintons. As Rule 1969 of the internet goes, if it happened then someone on the internet believes it was actually done by the government. Of course, while we think of the conspiracy theory as a modern phenomenon arising out of the internet, they’ve been around for a long time. Kennedy’s assassination and the moon landings inspired a host of them. And medieval Europeans were incredibly adept at believing that Jews were responsible for the most outlandish things possible. However, as today’s guest explains, even though conspiracy theories fascinate us very little work has been done to bring together the academic research on them and try and see the broad patterns that make them up. And as we’ll discover in this conversation, there are good evolutionary reasons why we are conspiracy theorists. And, yes, we are all conspiracy theorists but, of course, no conspiracy theorist thinks they are a conspiracy theorist. Instead, they believe that their view of the world is the real one. Joe Uscinski is the author of American Conspiracy Theories.
Nov 21, 2015
Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series, Hari Seldon figures out how to create a mathematical model that can predict the future. Well, Wired magazine has described today’s guest as a ‘real-life Hari Seldon.” Peter Turchin began his career as a biologist but is currently at the forefront of a field called cliodynamics which uses the past as a data set to develop mathematical models that can predict how societies behave. In his latest book Ultrasociety: How 10,000 Years of War Made Humans the Greatest Cooperators on Earth, Turchin examines how the forces of history have driven humans to forge the cultural tools that make the truly massive societies we see today possible. Besides providing a bold new view of history, Ultrasociety provides an excellent lens through which to understand human history informed by everything from evolutionary science to economics and anthropology.
Guest Links Website: http://peterturchin.com/
Sep 19, 2015
Both Daron Acemoglu (MIT economist and co-author of Why Nations Fail) and Dacher Keltner (Berkeley psychologist and author of many books including Born to Be Good) have appeared on The Bryan Callen Show before. They both were amazing and that is reason enough to bring them back and put them on together to see what happens. But, wait. There’s more. Because these two together have the power to do something unprecedented in human history. At least since Plato’s Republic, humans have debated the best form of government. (Plato thought it was a “Philosopher King” aka give someone like Plato or Bryan absolute power but recognized that democracy was the least bad system.) However, this has long been an endless debate in which people make the case for the system of government they’re biased towards and then dismiss every other opinion as biased. In fact, this highly predictable criticism was leveled at Daron Acemoglu and his co-author James Robinson in the wake of Why Nations Fail. Acemoglu and Robinson build a fantastic case for why politically and economically inclusive societies outperform societies that aren’t in their book. However, as American academics at MIT and Harvard respectively, it is easy (if you’re so inclined) to dismiss them as being biased towards democracy and capitalism. Acemoglu and Robinson have given the argument for politically and economically inclusive institutions new force but there is a way to make their argument irrefutable. And that ladies and gents is where Dacher Keltner comes in. Professor Keltner studies (among other things) the psychology of power. For a long time, humans have recognized as Lord Acton put it, “That absolute power corrupts absolutely.” What was mere observation has now (thanks to Keltner and others) become established scientific fact. We can now no longer deny that power changes the way people think. They become less empathetic and more impulsive. This problem was naturally solved in hunter-gatherer societies by mechanisms like teasing, gossip and nicknaming. These hardwired human desires exist to help bring ballooning egos back into check. However, as societies expanded, and leaders became more remote, it became easier for leaders to wall themselves off, proclaim themselves as Gods and to have people who had never seen them poop believe it. As communications technology has improved, the opportunity to check that power has improved. Martin Luther succeeded where other religious reformers failed, in part, because he was able to take advantage of the printing press. With the internet, we now have more of a mechanism to keep our leaders in check. In a village of 150 hunter-gatherers, it’s pretty much impossible to keep a secret for long. In the global village, the same is coming to be true. While the downsides of that are personally obvious, it may be the key to keeping our leaders from suffering the negative psychological effects of power. Of course, as Acemoglu makes clear in this interview, it is important that we never conclude that any of this is inevitable. Institutions are fragile and humans have a dual nature in them. We are capable of great kindness and terrible despotism. We must remain ever vigilant and that is why it is so essential that everyone on the planet read everything these guys have ever written right now. Also, I’m starting a campaign to have them write a book together. James Robinson should come along too. Tweet them with #RealHolyTrinity if you want them to do it.
Guest Links Website: http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/
Jul 11, 2015
In 1759, while working as a tutor, Adam Smith wrote a book called The Theory of Moral Sentiments that begins as follows: “How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortunes of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it, except the pleasure of seeing it. Of this kind is pity or compassion, the emotion we feel for the misery of others, when we either see it, or are made to conceive it in a very lively manner. That we often derive sorrow from the sorrows of others, is a matter of fact too obvious to require any instances to prove it; for this sentiment, like all the other original passions of human nature, is by no means confined to the virtuous or the humane, though they perhaps may feel it with the most exquisite sensibility. The greatest ruffian, the most hardened violator of the laws of society, is not altogether without it.” In 1776, that same Adam Smith would write The Wealth of Nations, the book that would establish capitalism. To a modern audience, for whom the idea of selfishness is synonymous with capitalism, this seems incredibly strange. However, it wasn’t strange at all. Smith was primarily interested in improving the well-being of humanity. To him, it was clear that market forces were one of the great tools for doing this. However, this does not mean that Smith believed that humanity was entirely selfish. In fact, as the opening of The Theory of Moral Sentiments makes clear, he rejected a view of humanity as purely selfish as absurd. We help others for no benefit other than the joy of seeing it. Some might argue that this is, in and of itself, selfish. After all, we give as a way of increasing our own happiness but that we are wired to derive joy from that shows that that sort of altruistic behavior confers an evolutionary advantage. And whether or not altruism exists has been a matter of some controversy for some time in evolutionary circles. In his book, Does Altruism Exist? David Sloan Wilson examines why this controversy existed and provides a clear and simple way to understand why altruism does exist. Selfishness will allow you to win within the group but when groups compete an altruistic group will always beat a selfish one. This argument is of more than academic issue because it strikes right at the core of how we structure the economy. Unbridled selfishness might allow you to win in your own society but a society dominated by selfish behavior won’t be able to beat societies whose members are more altruistic. Sometimes there are benefits to sacrificing for the common good. We all recognize that in times of war celebrating the soldiers willing to lay down their lives without hope of reward for the benefit of their country. If the willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice is good for your country, then might not lesser sacrifices also be good for your country? Selfishness is a part of who we are but it is not all of who we are and David Sloan Wilson’s Does Altruism Exist?: Culture, Genes and The Welfare of Others does a great job of challenging the idea that man is purely selfish. Capitalism has wandered far from the vision of its founder. David Sloan Wilson helps use the latest science to bring our view of human nature back into line with reality. Best of all, that view of humanity is far more hopeful than the purely selfish vision that so many economists articulate.
Guest Links Website: http://evolution.binghamton.edu/dswilson/
Guest Promo Product 1: http://www.amazon.com/Does-Altruism-Exist-Foundational-Questions/dp/0300189494
Aug 28, 2014
Darwin had a problem with bees. Understanding how evolution might work at the level of individuals was easy. Have an individual whose genes give them an advantage in resisting disease or avoiding predators and on average they will breed more and pass on more of their genes to the next generation. But bees and other social insects weren’t so easy. Kamikaze-like, bees will dive in and sting you, their barbs getting stuck in you and die to save the hive. Of course, when a human being sacrifices their life to save their child, that’s easy enough for evolution to explain. By sacrificing your life for your child, you are helping to ensure that your genes are passed on. But the bee that stings you at a picnic, can’t have children because those bees are sterile. In the Origin of Species, Darwin referred to sterile subgroups as the “one special difficulty, which at first appeared to me insuperable, and actually fatal to my theory.” Nowadays, evolutionary biologists have no problem providing an explanation for this behavior. In fact, the problem is that they have two competing explanations with explanations not just for bees but for how evolution makes sense of religion. Biologists like Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne argue that the bee gives its life because by defending the hive it is helping to pass on the genes of its closely related hive mates. They deny that natural selection can operate at the level of groups and so large human social organizations (like religion) have no function. Biologists like EO Wilson and today’s guest David Sloan Wilson argue that selection can happen not only at the level of individuals but also at the level of groups. If that’s the case, then our groupishness (including religion) are useful. As you can imagine, the idea that religion could be on balance or even sometimes useful is something that people like Dawkins take issue with. The consequences of this rift are beautifully summed up in Jon Haidt’s Righteous Mind: “To Dennett and Dawkins, religions are sets of memes that have undergone Darwinian selection. Like biological traits, religions are heritable, they mutate, and there is selection among these mutations. The selection occurs not on the basis of the benefits religions confer upon individuals or groups but on the basis of their ability to survive and reproduce themselves. Some religions are better than others at hijacking the human mind, burrowing in deeply, and then getting themselves transmitted to the next generation of host minds. Dennett opens Breaking the Spell with the story of a tiny parasite that commandeers the brains of ants, causing them to climb to the tops of blades of grass, where they can more easily be eaten by grazing animals. The behavior is suicide for the ant, but it’s adaptive for the parasite, which requires the digestive system of a ruminant to reproduce itself. Dennett proposes that religions survive because , like those parasites, they make their hosts do things that are bad for themselves (e.g., suicide bombing) but good for the parasite (e.g., Islam). Dawkins similarly describes religions as viruses. Just as a cold virus makes its host sneeze to spread itself, successful religions make their hosts expend precious resources to spread the “infection.” These analogies have clear implications for social change. If religion is a virus or a parasite that exploits a set of cognitive by-products for its benefit, not ours, then we ought to rid ourselves of it. Scientists , humanists, and the small number of others who have escaped infection and are still able to reason must work together to break the spell, lift the delusion, and bring about the end of faith.” To be clear, Professor Wilson is not saying that religion is here to stay. He is saying that our tendency towards groupishness (including religion) is an outcome of evolution and that in thinking about religion we have to recognize that. Once you understand that perspective, you begin to see how science and religion can finally start talking to each other. Professor Wilson is president of the Evolution Institute (http://evolution-institute.org ) and SUNY Distinguished Professor at Binghamton University. His books include Darwin’s Cathedral: Evolution, Religion, and the Nature of Society, Evolution for Everyone: How Darwin’s Theory Can Change the Way we Think About Our Lives, and The Neighborhood Project: Using Evolution to Improve My City, One Block at a Time. His next book, titled Does Altruism Exist? will be published in 2015 by Yale University Press. The Books Professor Wilson mentioned were Complexity and the art of public policy by David Colander and Roland Kupers, Give and Take by Adam Grant and Evil Genes by Barbara Oakley.
Jul 31, 2014
Daron Acemoglu is the co-author of one of Hunter’s five favorite books of all time, the incomparably brilliant Why Nations Fail in 2012. In a previous podcast, it was our pleasure to host Jared Diamond, whose masterpiece Guns, Germs and Steel looks at how access to different species is at the root of the world’s modern prosperity and poverty. Why Nations Fail attacks the same issue but from a different perspective, the perspective of institutions. In their book, Acemoglu and Robinson argue that the true roots of prosperity are politically and economically inclusive institutions like democracy and free markets which allow the ideas of many minds to compete. As the United States flounders under a massive debt and Europe faces its own woes, it’s easy to think that the politically uninclusive countries of Asia like China and Singapore offer significant benefits. However, in this interview, Acemoglu warns that the type of growth they produce is not sustainable and cannot generate innovation. It is an utter treat to have Daron Acemoglu on today’s podcast. Bryan and Hunter both strongly recommend everyone in the world read Why Nations Fail. It’s better than every cat video on YouTube put together! Website: whynationsfail.com Twitter: @whynationsfail Book: Why Nations Fail Origins Prosperity
Apr 10, 2014
Within its first week of publication, Confessions of An Economic Hitman hit #1 on Amazon. Then it hit The New York Times bestseller list. Within five weeks of its release, Confessions of An Economic Hitman was already in its fifth printing. In it, Perkins tells how as a consultant for one of the world’s most prominent firms he knowingly engaged in a subtle but deliberate strategy designed to extract the wealth of people far less fortunate than him. Perkins’ tale of unrestricted corporate greed working in collusion with a Machiavellian US government has resonated strongly with a broad audience especially in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. However, it has met with strong criticism from prestige media outlets like The New York Times and government agencies. Notably, Sebastian Mallaby, writing in The Washington Post, insisted that Mr. Perkins’ “basic contentions are flat wrong.” In a 2006 rebuttal, the State Department claimed that the book “appears to be a total fabrication.” Then again, given the criticism that Mr. Perkins sends the State Department’s way, you could hardly expect them to be asking for signed copies. Be sure to rate and comment in iTunes.
Feb 24, 2014
Dr. Ben Goldacre is the author of two excellent books, Bad Pharma and Bad Science, but he didn’t show up for this episode so there’s not much point telling you more about him. So, Bryan and Hunter just had a conversation the same way they would if a famous author/doctor wasn’t around…because he wasn’t. This episode features Bryan and Hunter talking a lot about Bad Pharma—because it really is an excellent book—and then more generally about the scientific method, how much regulation of the pharmaceutical industry is optimal and what exactly is going on inside Bryan’s pants. We’d actually really recommend both Bad Pharma and Bad Science. We’d also love to interview Dr. Ben, so send him a tweet and ask him to come on The Bryan Callen Show. @bengoldacre. Paging, Dr. Ben. Paging, Dr. Ben. Your presence is requested on The Bryan Callen Show.
Jan 23, 2014
Jared Mason Diamond is an American scientist and author best known for his popular science books The Third Chimpanzee (1991), Guns, Germs, and Steel (1997, awarded a Pulitzer Prize), Collapse (2005) and The World Until Yesterday (2012). Originally trained in physiology, Diamond’s work is known for drawing from a variety of fields, including anthropology, ecology, geography, and evolutionary biology. As of 2013, he is Professor of Geography at the University of California, Los Angeles. He has been described as “America’s best-known geographer”. Be sure to Rate and Comment on iTunes.
Nov 11, 2013
In Merchants of Doubt, Naomi Oreskes and Erik M Conway reveal that the same handful of individuals who have made a career out of selling doubt. Fred Singer, Fred Seitz and Bill Nierenberg began their career as physicists and Cold Warriors. Committed to doing anything they could to oppose a growth in governmental power, they created pseudoscience that denied the dangers of smoking, nuclear winter, the depletion of the ozone layer, acid rain and, most recently, global warming. From their positions well-respected physicists, they have used their credibility to sow doubt in the mind of the public on issues of health and the environment and thereby ensure that nothing is done to change the situation. In this week’s episode, Naomi and Erik tell the story of how “small numbers of people can have large, negative impacts, especially if they are organised, determined and have access to power.” They tell Bryan and Hunter the realities of global warming. They make it clear, as they say in the book that “there are many reasons why the United States has failed to act on global warming, but at least one is the confusion raised by Bill Nierenberg, Fred Seitz, and Fred Singer.” Before we can solve the problem of global warming, we have to agree that there is a problem. Merchants of Doubt can help us do just that.Merchants of Doubt is available from all good booksellers.
Aug 1, 2013
As a professor at the University of Virginia, Jonathan Haidt uses the scientific method to study human morality…which leads to asking people some pretty screwed up questions. Would it be wrong if a man bought a chicken from the store for dinner, had sex with it and then ate it? A brother and sister are on holiday together and they decide it would be fun to have sex. The sister is already on the pill, but the brother decides to use a condom just to be safe. They enjoy it, but they decide to just do it this one time and keep it as a secret between them. The secret brings them closer. You may or may not have a problem with having sex with your dinner, but you probably have a big problem with a brother and sister having sex. The question is why? Most people’s first reaction is to say that close relatives shouldn’t have children because of the high risk of genetic abnormalities, but with the sister on the pill and the brother using a condom is that really a risk. But wouldn’t it destroy their relationship? Well, in this situation, sharing a secret of their one-time fling brought them closer together. What hypotheticals like these reveal is that we feel that things are wrong first and then we struggle with reasons to justify those feelings. Are we rational creatures or are we primarily emotional creatures searching for reasons to justify what we feel? In his first book, The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom, Jon Haidt manages to draw ten great ideas from the world’s ancient religions and analyzes them through the lens of modern scientific research. Haidt does so much more than simply examine the practical benefits of ancient teachings from the perspective of neurology and psychology; he also reflects on the nature of religion itself. Is the propensity for religious experience born into us? If so, what function does it serve? While The Happiness Hypothesis compellingly answers these questions, it is Haidt’s second book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided By Politics and Religion he delves much more deeply into the consequences of modern research for a society. Religion, like politics, serves to draw us out of ourselves and bind us into a group that is larger than ourselves, but it also gives us the feeling that our view of the world is the truth whole and entire. By creating understanding of the universal tendency towards being blinded by our emotions, Haidt is on a mission to foster a dialogue between political and religious groups that operates from a place of humility and a genuine desire to understand the other person’s perspective. On the show, Bryan, Jonathan and Hunter discuss everything from why Washington is broken to why 1% of men give the rest of us a bad name to tribes in Papua New Guinea that believe a little homosexuality is essential for becoming a man. It’s an hour-long journey through the weird and wonderful world of human nature that will leave you with time-tested and science-tested wisdom for how you can be happier and more fulfilled. Jonathan Haidt can be followed on twitter at @JonHaidt. For more on his work check out The Happiness Hypothesis, The Righteous Mind and the following websites: www.RighteousMind.com www.YourMorals.com
May 22, 2012
Featuring the authors of “THE STRAIGHT-A CONSPIRACY,” Hunter Maats and Katie O’Brien. What if the only reason you aren’t doing well in school is that you’ve been lied to about your own brain? For centuries, students worldwide have been tricked into making school more difficult, more stressful, and less successful than it needs to be. In reality, you already have the ability to make anything that you do in school easy. From writing essays to mastering any math concept to acing even your most difficult final exam, The Straight-A Conspiracy takes you through the simple, stress-free ways to conquer any class in school. The truth about straight-A’s has been kept from you. It’s time you knew about The Straight-A Conspiracy.