I am put off by the mainstream media, the American president, and Twitter these days. We’re living in a media world that lacks nuance. Nearly all discussions are polarized. That polarization results in a mockery of clear thought. A polarized world views issues as binary. Good or evil. Red or blue. Masks or freedom. Shelter at home or open it all up.
No more anger, agendas, or simple-minded retweets for me. I want facts without bias and reflection on what that data might mean. I want difficult conversations with no clear answers today, in the hopes of progressing towards a decent answer eventually.
Thankfully, I’ve discovered a few folks having nuanced, engaging discussions that attempt to analyze the difficulties of our world honestly and thoroughly. If these sorts of conversations might be interesting to you, here’s what I’ve found so far.
Eric Weinstein’s The Portal Podcast
On this long-form podcast, Eric interviews heterodox thinkers about both current events and goings-on in the scientific community, physics especially. Eric is a brutal interviewer at times, refusing to let folks go down obvious trains of thought, instead forcing them to get to the point with haste. This tactic, although often uncomfortable to listen to, allows the conversation to be maximally engaging.
Bret Weinstein’s Dark Horse Podcast
Bret Weinstein is Eric’s brother, although his expertise is as an evolutionary biologist, not as a physicist. Bret, paired with his wife Dr. Heather Heying, has been delivering a series of live streams with audience Q&A sessions on his YouTube and podcast channels.
Bret and Heather have covered the global pandemic, among other issues, from a standpoint of research. What do studies about the novel coronavirus tell us? What is the true severity of the virus for those that contract it? What are common sense precautions to protect other people from us and ourselves from others, should any of us become infected? What is the likelihood of a vaccine and in what time frame? What do breakouts in various parts of the world tell us about how the virus spreads?
I’ve especially appreciated Bret and Heather’s transparency about what they know and do not know. This is evidenced both by their disclaimers when appropriate and frequent updates to what they might have stated in a previous episode that turned out to be wrong (or at least not quite right).
Dr. Been Medical Lectures
Of late, Dr. Been has been discussing medical issues related to the pandemic. He reviews studies and explains what they mean in a way that laypeople can understand, while at the same time not dumbing down the content overly much. I’ve only watched a few episodes so far, but as best as I can tell, Dr. Been is the real deal. His voice is a sane one, delivering complex content with clarity and a sense of humor.
The Joe Rogan Experience
Joe Rogan, the most notable person in podcasting at the moment, interviews people for 2-3 hours at a time, publishing multiple episodes per week. I don’t have that kind of time, and you probably don’t either.
However, most of the folks Joe interviews are involved in entertainment or mixed martial arts–not content I want to spend much time on. Therefore, problem solved. I simply download the small percentage of conversations that I want to engage with. For instance, I’ve grabbed shows from Joe’s back catalog where he talks to Lawrence Lessig, Andrew Yang, Eric Weinstein, Andy Ngo, John Carmack, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Edward Snowden, Malcolm Gladwell, and Elon Musk.
If you read up on Joe, you might assume he’s a Hollywood yahoo with the intellect of a leg press. You’d be wrong, at least about the intellect part. Whatever Joe’s yahooishness (he’s an entertainer first and foremost), he’s a man with a curious mind who is knowledgeable on a variety of topics and a skilled interviewer.
Part of his interview prowess is due to being a good listener. Joe is not worried about his next question. He’s focused on what the human across the table from him is saying and then extracting meaning. That leads to nuanced discussions I’ve gained insight from.