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podcast

Inherent aspects of social media that amplify divides and bad thinking

A reading of a piece I wrote called ‘How social media divides us.’ I recommend the written piece over the podcast version. Much of the mainstream focus on how social media may be amplifying our divides has been on product features (e.g., content recommendation algorithms, or reaction emoji choices). This piece examines the idea that there may be inherent aspects of internet communication that lead to more polarization, in a medium theory “medium is the message” type of way.

Links to this episode:

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podcast

Artificial intelligence & the nature of consciousness, with Hod Lipson

Hod Lipson (hodlipson.com) is a roboticist who works in the areas of artificial intelligence and digital manufacturing. I talk to Hod about the nature of self-awareness. Topics discussed include: how close we are to self-conscious machines; what he views as likely building strategies that will yield self-aware machines; what it takes for something to be considered self-aware; how artificial intelligence research might help us better understand the structure of our own minds and how we behave; and what he sees as the risks of AI.

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Resources related to this topic or mentioned in this episode:

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crime podcast

Does video surveillance decrease crime?, with Eric Piza

A talk with crime researcher Eric Piza (site: ericpiza.net, twitter: @pizaeric) about how the ability to record people’s actions (e.g., video surveillance, personal cameras) has affected people’s willingness to commit crimes. Topics discussed include: what research tells us about video surveillance and crime reduction; what factors make the presence of video surveillance more likely to be effective; the effectiveness of police body cams at preventing bad behaviors; some practical ideas for how one might discourage crime at one’s property; and the role guns may play in U.S. police violence. 

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Resources related to this topic or mentioned in this episode: 

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podcast

Rittenhouse verdict reactions and political polarization

In this episode, I give some thoughts on the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict and how some of the anger and emotion around that is caused by political us-vs-them polarization. If you’re someone who has a lot of emotion and anger about the verdict, and you’re someone who wants America to heal, I think you should give this episode a listen.

For a transcription of this episode, go here. If you’d like to check out other politics-related episodes of my show, go here.

Note: I’ve made several edits to this podcast in the first few days after its release. 

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podcast

Conversation analysis and ethnomethodology, with Saul Albert

In this episode of the People Who Read People podcast, I talk to sociology researcher Saul Albert (twitter @saul, website: saulalbert.net) about conversation analysis: the scientific analysis of how humans talk to each other. Topics discussed include: what conversation analysis (CA) is and how it’s done; some interesting CA findings described in Elizabeth Stokoe’s book Talk; Saul’s own research; the complexity and difficulty of human communication; the role of silence in conversation; transcription/notation methods used in CA; how conversation analysis relates to the broader field of ethnomethodology; and more.  

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Resources referenced in this episode: 

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podcast

Tracking humans and animals, aka “sign cutting,” with Rob Speiden

In this episode of the People Who Read People podcast, I talk to Rob Speiden (trackingschool.com), who’s an expert in “sign cutting,” which is the tracking of humans or animals over land using clues of physical disturbance. Rob teaches tracking and his site is at www.trackingschool.com. He wrote, along with Greg Fuller, a respected textbook on tracking called Foundations for Awareness, Signcutting, and Tracking (F.A.S.T.).

Topics discussed include: common methods of tracking; the different types of tracking jobs that come up; how tracking is used in search and rescue scenarios; addressing some common misconceptions about what’s possible with tracking; the importance of being fully aware and open to all sensory input; the role of the unconscious in giving us clues, and more. Rob also tells some interesting stories from his career.

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podcast

What does research say about social media effects on polarization?, with Emily Kubin

A talk with researcher Emily Kubin (twitter: @emily_kubin) about her and Christian von Sikorski’s recent study reviewing more than 100 studies on how social media may be affecting political polarization. Their paper is called “The role of (social) media in political polarization: a systematic review.” We discuss her research, why polarization is a problem in the first place, why people can be resistant to thinking that polarization is a problem, the two different types of polarization (affective and ideological), our psychology tendency to become us-versus-them in our thinking, her own opinions on what social media is doing to us, and the mechanisms by which social media may be amplifying polarization.

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Related resources:

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podcast

Understanding behavior and psychology as a drummer, with Ben Tyler

A conversation with Ben Tyler, professional musician, about how understanding behavior and psychology have played a role in his musical career. Ben’s own music project is called Small Skies (Twitter: @smallskies), and he has worked and toured with many other bands. Specific topics include: what cues and signals from other musicians is he making use of when playing jazz and other music?, Does being skilled at musical improvization result in being more flexible in life in general?

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podcast

Is paying so much attention to politics hurting us societally and emotionally?, with Chris Freiman

If you pay a lot of attention to politics, but doing so makes you miserable, this might be one you want to listen to. I talk with Christopher Freiman (Twitter @cafreiman), political philosopher and author of the book Why It’s OK to Ignore Politics. For many people, voting and paying attention to politics is a moral duty, a responsibility you have as a citizen of a democracy. But Freiman makes a strong case for why paying attention to politics is not a good use of our time, if our goal is to maximize the good we do in the world. And we talk about how our collective anger about politics makes us miserable and also drives us-versus-them polarization, which may be the root cause of our societal and governmental dysfunction.

Chris sometimes writes at 200proofliberals.blogspot.com and he teaches at William and Mary College.

Topics discussed:

  • Addressing common objects to political abstention, such as: it’s a privileged, entitled stance to ignore politics; that it’s dangerous to encourage people to not vote, and more.
  • How the act of voting, due to how unlikely your vote is to matter, may be perceived as a lost opportunity compared to doing other charitable acts.
  • How us-versus-them in-group-versus-out-group dynamics tend to give us distorted views of political issues and of our political opponents.
  • How effective altruism concepts encourage people to think more about maximizing their effect for the time or money they donate.
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podcast

How has polarization affected beliefs about U.S. election security?, with Jennifer Cohn

A talk with Jennifer Cohn (Twitter @jennycohn1), election integrity advocate, about American election security. Since 2016, Jennifer has been warning that our elections are insecure in many ways; you can read some of her writings on this topic on Medium. Her stance hasn’t changed but, after Biden won and Trump claimed that the election was rigged, it’s been understandably harder for her to get Democrats and liberal-leaning people and media interested in talking much about this problem.

I wanted to talk to Jennifer about how our politically polarized environment has changed things, how it’s affected her attempts to get attention for this problem, and how it’s changed her messaging. So there were some psychological aspects I was curious about, but I also just thought it’d be interesting to learn more about election security issues.

Topics discussed: 

  • How has Biden winning and Trump claiming the election was illegitimate affected our chances of improving election security?
  • What kinds of problems does she see with the election process? 
  • The difference between voter fraud (individuals voting) and more large-scale hacking/rigging attempts.
  • What were some signs of suspicious activity she saw in the 2016 election?
  • How do her concerns about election security differ from Trump and friends’ stated concerns? 
  • How credible were Trump and friends’ claims of election tampering? 
  • Is it possible to imagine an alternate reality where Trump won in 2020 and liberals/Democrats largely didn’t accept the election?

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podcast

Does blaming “media” help us avoid responsibility?, with Elizaveta Friesem

Elizaveta Friesem (www.elizavetafriesem.com) thinks and writes about media and our relationship to it. Her recently published book is Media Is Us and it examines the idea that media is not something “out there” but more something that is part of us, something that happens internally, similar to any other human communication. And perhaps this means that acting as if “media” (of whatever sort) is to blame for various problems we have is a simplistic way to view the world. And maybe it’s also a tempting way to see the world as it lets us humans off the hook for being responsible for what we believe and share.

Elizaveta opens her book with something we can all probably relate to: she shared an angry take on social media (in this case, about a Dove soap ad that was accused of being racist), but it turned out to be a bad take, based on something that was wrong and taken out of context. So we talk about that story, and how that phenomenon seems so common , with social media aiding so many people in over-reacting to bad or distorted or outright false information. We also talk about power dynamics in society, and how power is defined. And we talk about the power of empathy and understanding others. 

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podcast popular

Reading poker tells, with poker pro Dara O’Kearney

An interview with professional poker player Dara O’Kearney (twitter @daraokearney) on the subject of poker tells (poker behavioral patterns). Dara is also the co-host of The Chip Race, a very popular poker podcast. We talk about how important poker tells are versus strategy, about how Dara’s thoughts on poker tells have changed over time, and talk about some interesting poker hands where tells have played a role for us. (See the bottom of this post for more topics and resources.) Podcast links:

Other topics discussed include:

  • How some players (especially beginners) over-estimate the role of tells and some players underestimate them.
  • Some ways that poker players can get information from opponents, like insulting them or being nice to them.
  • How some well known players, like Phil Hellmuth, Andy Black, and Daniel Negreanu, use their celebrity and personalities to their advantage.
  • How early-hand tells, when the pot is small, are some of the most meaningful tells (with the big bet spots often not being as behaviorally interesting as many might think).
  • The complexity of poker, and how it’s a more complex game than chess.

Related resources: