Thought-provoking episodes from 6 months of our podcast, Clearer Thinking with Spencer Greenberg
Our podcast, Clearer Thinking with Spencer Greenberg, has been running for six months! To help you figure out the episodes that you personally will find most valuable, this article contains a quick guide to some of the most thought-provoking discussions!
If you haven’t listened to it yet, you can look forward to a fun, in-depth conversation between our founder Spencer and a brilliant guest on a powerful idea or framework, in fields ranging from psychology, self-help, behavior change, and philosophy, to artificial intelligence, math, economics, and scientific progress in each episode. These discussions are designed to help you learn new concepts for improving the quality of your life and better understanding the world.
There are now almost 50 hour-long episodes that can be found on our website (or by searching your favourite podcasting platform) for you to listen to. Check out our guide below to some of our most popular podcast episodes so far and make sure to bookmark the ones that you like!
Episodes on Rationality
Scout and Soldier Mindsets with Julia Galef: this episode discusses what it is to hold a scout mindset as opposed to a soldier mindset. It explores whether we can have productive disagreements with someone in the opposite mindset, when each mindset is beneficial or harmful, and some practical strategies for shifting our perspective between the two mindsets. It also features a discussion on whether humans are "rationally irrational".
Moral Foundations Theory and Constructive Dialogue with Caroline Mehl: this episode explores Moral Foundations Theory and whether this theory makes any claims about what’s actually true about reality (as opposed to just describing human behavior and psychology). It also covers questions like: why does morality exist in the first place? What (if anything) helps groups to cohere successfully as they increase in size?
Lines of Retreat and Incomplete Maps with Anna Salamon: this episode explores how to plan for unappealing scenarios so as to better avoid motivated cognition, i.e. to leave yourself “lines of retreat” so you don’t get stuck with a particular worldview because the alternative is unimaginable. It also examines how to make sense of the world when we get into uncharted experiential or emotional territory, i.e. when we run out of “map”, and features a discussion of the book The Elephant in the Brain: Hidden Motives in Everyday Life.
Rationality Education and Dating with Jacob Falkovich: this episode considers the best ways to teach rationality and communicate rationalist principles to those who aren’t already interested. It also asks how the rationalist community can improve and whether rationalist principles can help us learn about parts of the human experience that they aren’t normally applied to.
Episodes on Education
Antagonistic Learning and Civilization with Duncan Sabien: this episode looks into the trope of “antagonistic” teachers: why do they exist in popular culture but not in the classroom? What happens to student outcomes when this kind of teaching is practiced in real classrooms? It also asks questions like: What are things that we can do for others but can't do for ourselves? What is the core definition of civilization? How can we influence others ethically? Is explicit communication always better than implicit?
Episodes on Philosophy
Moral Discourse and the Value of Philosophy with Ronny Fernandez: this episode explores normative hedonism, moral discourse, and the difference between wanting something and wanting to want something. The conversation also covers progress within philosophy, the role of intuition in making judgments, and ways to increase the amount of rationality or wisdom in the world.
Utilitarianism and Its Flavors with Nick Beckstead: this episode is an in-depth look into the ethical theory of utilitarianism. It explores different kinds of utilitarianism, considers alternative ethical theories that don’t have utilitarianism's counterintuitive conclusions, and asks when it is appropriate to perform actual utilitarian calculations to determine the best outcome (as opposed to going with your gut).
Episodes on Meditation
Meditation and Enlightenment with Jeremy Stevenson: this episode looks at what might make a good definition of meditation and examines the various techniques, skills, and insights associated with the practice. This includes exploring how meditation is related to religion and spirituality and what enlightenment might look like.
Meditation and Ontology with Daniel Ingram: this episode looks at why we should meditate. What are the typical developmental stages as one progresses along the contemplative path? Are some meditative techniques inappropriate for some practitioners? Are there risks associated with meditation?
Episodes on Politics
Liberalism and Conservatism with Cassandra Xia and Hank Racette: this episode is a moderated conversation between two people whose political beliefs are at opposite ends of the spectrum. It explores why liberals and conservatives disagree so vehemently, which core values are held by these political camps, and their opposing beliefs about climate change, free speech, and political correctness.
Episodes on Technology
Cryptocurrency Pros and Cons with Sam Bankman-Fried: this episode looks at the current state of cryptocurrency, including its good and bad aspects, to what extent its potential has been fulfilled, and how blockchain works in the first place. It also includes a discussion of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and the exciting, positive things that might be coming up on the crypto horizon.
Superintelligence and Consciousness with Roman Yampolskiy: this episode explores the concept of a superintelligent artificial intelligence (AI). The conversation includes questions like: can a superintelligence be controlled? Why aren't people more worried about superintelligence alignment problems? How do artificial superintelligence and artificial general intelligence differ? What sort of threats do malevolent actors pose over and above those posed by the usual problems in AI safety?
AI Safety and Solutions with Robert Miles: this episode looks at the problem of safe AI, asking questions like: why is the creation of an artificial general intelligence essentially risky for humans? Why is it so hard to specify what we want in the utility functions of AI algorithms? What are some of the proposed strategies (and their limitations) for controlling AGI? What is instrumental convergence?
Episodes on Self-improvement
Self-Improvement and Research Ethics with Rob Wiblin: this episode is a deep dive into the best strategies for improving our everyday behavior. It also includes a discussion on the usefulness of line managers, long-form content podcasts, what humans value and why, and failures in research ethics.
Learning and Goal-Setting with Michael Simmons: this episode examines methodologies for learning, including the most effective ways of illustrating and communicating ideas. It also covers different goal-setting processes; for example, should we set long-term goals for ourselves or allow our goals to emerge slowly over time?
Comfort Languages and Nuanced Thinking with Kat Woods: this episode explores a specific framework for supporting someone who is experiencing a difficult situation: comfort languages and the four states of distress. It also includes discussion on how we can introduce nuance into our everyday thinking habits and who to trust when gathering information and forming opinions.
Happiness and Hedonic Adaptation with Rob Smith: this episode looks at the phenomenon of receiving less pleasure from the same thing over time and whether anything can be done about it. It also asks how we should think about the pursuit of long-term happiness when it requires us to sacrifice short-term happiness and features a discussion of needs and incentives in cults.
Poker and Productivity with Chris Sparks: this episode features a discussion on poker and decision-making. It covers questions like: what can people learn from playing poker? What makes someone good at playing games? How should we think about decisions that aren't easily (or even possibly) reversible? What do people get wrong when they're trying to be more productive?
Knowledge Management and Deugenesis with Jeremy Nixon: this episode explores knowledge management, specifically, externally compiling and organizing one’s knowledge. It looks into strategies for boosting memory, how and when we should move up and down the ladder of abstraction, and whether constraints can improve our creativity.
Episodes on Psychedelics
Psychedelics and Comedy with Sarah Rose Siskind: this episode explores the pros and cons of taking psychedelics and the settings that make for a positive psychedelic experience. It also looks at whether experiencing depression can change someone's political views, comedy and social status, and why comedians can get away with saying things that other people can't.
Enlightenment and Sex Work with Aella: this episode examines enlightenment and the different kinds of enlightenment that might exist. It also features a discussion of psychedelics, losing one’s faith, and what a career as a sex worker is like.
Episodes on Science
Intelligence and Creativity with Scott Barry Kaufman: this episode is all about intelligence. How does it relate to IQ? Can IQ be trained or improved? It also looks at the relationship between creativity and intelligence, whether creativity be trained or improved, and the practice of self-actualization.
Social Science and Science Journalism with Jesse Singal: this episode features a discussion on whether we can trust social science research. It looks at the open science movement, how social science can escape the replicability crisis, whether Western social science is too focused on the individual, how journalists can communicate skepticism about scientific results, and what incentive structures stand in the way of critiquing scientific findings.
Scientific Progress and Political Feedback Loops with Michael Nielsen: this episode explores scientific progress: is it slowing down or speeding up? It also includes discussion of questions like: what are the best strategies for funding research? What is "para-academia," and what are the pros and cons of being a para-academic researcher?
History and Longevity with Will Eden: this episode features a discussion on the benefits of studying history. It looks at the value of historical analyses, explores what causes empires to fail, and considers whether the USA is a leading world power or a nation in decline. It also examines why organisms age, decay, and die and what kind of research is being done into extending the lifespan of organic bodies.
We hope that you check out the episodes above that sound interesting to you, if you haven’t already! There will be even more fascinating conversations about ideas that truly matter coming up over the next six months. In fact, we will now be releasing two podcast episodes a week—happy listening!