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Making Sense with Sam Harris

Making Sense with Sam Harris

Join neuroscientist, philosopher, and best-selling author Sam Harris as he explores important and controversial questions about the human mind, society, and current events. Sam Harris is the author of five New York Times bestsellers. His books include The End of Faith, Letter to a Christian Nation, The Moral Landscape, Free Will, Lying, Waking Up, and Islam and the Future of Tolerance (with Maajid Nawaz). The End of Faith won the 2005 PEN Award for Nonfiction. His writing and public lectures cover a wide range of topics?neuroscience, moral philosophy, religion, meditation practice, human violence, rationality?but generally focus on how a growing understanding of ourselves and the world is changing our sense of how we should live. Harris's work has been published in more than 20 languages and has been discussed in The New York Times, Time, Scientific American, Nature, Newsweek, Rolling Stone, and many other journals. He has written for The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Economist, The Times (London), The Boston Globe, The Atlantic, The Annals of Neurology, and elsewhere. Sam Harris received a degree in philosophy from Stanford University and a Ph.D. in neuroscience from UCLA.

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Episodes

#248 ? Order & Freedom

In this episode of the podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Michele Gelfand about the difference between tight and loose cultures. They discuss the primacy of cultural norms in governing human behavior, the trade-offs between order and freedom, conservatism vs liberalism, sensitivity to threat, scarcity, the COVID pandemic, the Jeffrey Toobin affair, political polarization, the problem of extreme stereotypes, and other topics.

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2021-04-30
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Special Episode: Engineering the Apocalypse

In this nearly 4-hour SPECIAL EPISODE, Rob Reid delivers a 100-minute monologue (broken up into 4 segments, and interleaved with discussions with Sam) about the looming danger of a man-made pandemic, caused by an artificially-modified pathogen. The risk of this occurring is far higher and nearer-term than almost anyone realizes. 

Rob explains the science and motivations that could produce such a catastrophe and explores the steps that society must start taking today to prevent it. These measures are concrete, affordable, and scientifically fascinating?and almost all of them are applicable to future, natural pandemics as well. So if we take most of them, the odds of a future Covid-like outbreak would plummet?a priceless collateral benefit. 

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2021-04-24
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#247 ? Constructing Minds

In this episode of the podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Lisa Feldman Barrett about the origins and function of the human brain. They discuss how brains evolved, the myth of the ?triune brain,? the brain?s network organization, the predictive nature of perception and action, the construction of emotion, concepts as prescriptions for action, culture as an operating system, and other topics.

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2021-04-22
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#246 ? Police Training & Police Misconduct

In this episode of the podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Rener Gracie about police procedure and about the special relevance of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for safely controlling resisting suspects.

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2021-04-16
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#245 ? Can We Talk About Scary Ideas?

In this episode of the podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Peter Singer, Francesca Minerva, and Jeff McMahan about the newly launched Journal of Controversial Ideas. They discuss the ethics of discussing dangerous ideas, the possibility of having a market in vaccines, the taboo around the topic of race and IQ, the relationship between activism and academia, the shallow-pond argument for doing good, and other topics.

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2021-04-13
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#244 ? Food, Climate, and Pandemic Risk

In this episode of the podcast Sam Harris speaks with Bruce Friedrich and Liz Specht from the Good Food Institute about the way the problems of climate change and pandemic risk are directly connected to animal agriculture. The Good Food Institute is an international nonprofit reimagining protein production.

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2021-04-07
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#243 ? A Few Points of Confusion

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2021-03-28
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#242 ? Psychedelics and the Self

In this episode of the podcast, Sam Harris speaks with James Fadiman about the psychedelic experience. They discuss who should and shouldn?t take psychedelics, set and setting, the role of a guide, the effects of microdosing, the difference between MDMA and true psychedelics, ?good? and ?bad? trips, the power of thought, the fiction of a unified self, changing states of self, compassion, and other topics.

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2021-03-24
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#241 ? Final Thoughts on Free Will

In this episode of the podcast, Sam Harris presents his full argument on the illusoriness of free will?and explores its ethical and psychological implications.

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2021-03-13
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#240 ? The Boundaries of Self

In this episode of the podcast, Sam speaks with poet David Whyte about his new and on-going series for the Waking Up app, based on his book, Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words.

With the imagery of a poet and the reflection of a philosopher, David turns his attention to ordinary words, each a doorway into the underlying currents of human life.

They discuss 4 tracks from the first installment?Friendship, Honesty, Ambition, and Alone.

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2021-03-07
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#239 ? Yet Another Call from Ricky Gervais

Ricky Gervais calls Sam to ask if AI will replace comedians. They also discuss the implications of not having free will and if a chimp has ever asked, "what does it all mean?" They agree that bears are dangerous.

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2021-02-24
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#238 ? How to Build a Universe

In this episode of the podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Frank Wilczek about the fundamental nature of reality. They discuss the difference between science and non-science, the role of intuition in science, the nature of time, the prospect that possibility is an illusion, the current limits of quantum mechanics, the uncertainty principle, space-time as a substance, the ?unreasonable effectiveness? of mathematics in science, the possibility that we might be living in a simulation, the fundamental building blocks of matter, the structure of atoms, the four fundamental forces, wave-particle duality, the electromagnetic spectrum, the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, the implications of infinite space-time, dark energy and dark matter, and other topics.

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2021-02-23
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#237 ? Another Call from Ricky Gervais

Ricky Gervais calls to discuss Sam's monster joke from their last conversation and then other things happen...

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2021-02-17
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#236 ? Rebooting New York City

In this episode of the podcast, Sam Harris speaks with mayoral candidate, Andrew Yang, about the future of New York City.

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2021-02-11
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#235 ? A Call from Ricky Gervais

Ricky Gervais calls Sam to ask why we dream? They discuss why puns are terrible and breakdown some of the mechanics of comedy.

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2021-02-10
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#234 ? The Divided Mind

In this episode of the podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Iain McGilchrist about the differences between the right and left hemispheres of the human brain. They discuss the evolutionary history of the divided brain, research on surgically divided brains, popular misconceptions about the differences between the hemispheres, the left hemisphere's propensity for confabulation, the prospect that consciousness might be partitioned in an intact brain, the difference between consciousness and attention, the boundary between the conscious and unconscious mind, how face-to-face encounters differ between the hemispheres, the unique deficits resulting from damage to the left and right hemispheres, the ascendancy of the left-hemisphere in modern culture, the possibility that the brain is a mere receiver of mind, the prospect of surviving death, and other topics.

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2021-02-06
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#233 ? The Groves of Misinformation

In this episode of the podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Zeynep Tufekci about the problem of misinformation and group-think. They discuss the Covid-19 pandemic, the early failures of journalists and public health professionals to make sense of it, the sociology of mask wearing, the problem of correcting institutional errors, Covid as a dress rehearsal for something far worse, asymmetric information warfare, failures of messaging about vaccines, the paradox of scientific authority, the power of incentives, how to reform social media, and other topics.

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2021-02-02
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#232 ? Inequality and Revolution

In this episode of the podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Jack Goldstone about the rise in social inequality and political instability in the United States. They discuss how wealth is deployed, the loss of social mobility, comparative judgments of well-being, cosmopolitanism and the isolation of the rich, decreased life expectancy, taxation, the need for government to solve problems, success and social obligation, the causes of revolution, universal basic income (UBI), and other topics.

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2021-01-27
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#231 ? Crossing the Abyss

In this episode of the podcast, Sam Harris speaks with General Stanley McChrystal and Chris Fussell about the radicalization of the far Right under Trump. They discuss the events of January 6, 2021, the behavior of the Capitol police, the history of white supremacy in the US, the effect of banning extremists from social media, the logic of insurgency, the consequence of public lies, what should happen to Trump and his enablers, and other topics.

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2021-01-17
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#230 ? An Insurrection of Lies

In this episode of the podcast, Sam Harris discusses two dangerous misconceptions about the siege of the Capitol.

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2021-01-11
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#229 ? A Few Thoughts for a New Year

In this episode of the podcast, Sam Harris analyzes a few disturbing trends and shares his hopes for 2021.

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2021-01-06
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#228 ? Doing Good

In this episode of the podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Will MacAskill about how to do the most good in the world. They discuss the "effective altruism" movement, choosing causes to support, the apparent tension between wealth and altruism, how best to think about generosity over the course of one's lifetime, and other topics.

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2020-12-14
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#227 ? Knowing the Mind

In this episode of the podcast, Stephen Laureys interviews Sam Harris about meditation practice and the scientific study of the mind. They discuss why Sam began to practice meditation, the difference between dualistic and nondualistic mindfulness, the search for happiness, wisdom vs knowledge, our relationship with death, the Buddhist doctrine of rebirth, the hard problem of consciousness, the role of introspection in science, meditation and free will, the self and the brain, the difference between voluntary and involuntary actions, dangerous knowledge, the mystery of being, the power of hypnosis, and other topics.

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2020-12-07
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Making Sense with Sam Harris

Join Sam Harris as he explores some of the most important questions about the human mind, society, and current events.

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2020-12-07
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#226 ? The Price of Distraction

In this episode of the podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Adam Gazzaley about the way our technology is changing us. They discuss our limited ability to process information, our failures of multitasking, "top-down" vs "bottom-up" attention, self-interruptions and switching costs, anxiety, boredom, "digital medicine," neuroplasticity, video games for training the mind, the future of brain-machine interface, and other topics.

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2020-11-28
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#225 ? Republic of Lies

In this episode of the podcast, Sam Harris discusses President Trump's failure to concede the 2020 presidential election.

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2020-11-18
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#224 ? The Key to Trump's Appeal

In this episode of the podcast, Sam Harris describes his new understanding of why people support President Trump.

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2020-11-03
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#223 ? A Conversation with Andrew Sullivan

In this episode of the podcast, Sam Harris and Andrew Sullivan sing the praises of President Trump.

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2020-10-30
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#222 ? A Pandemic of Incompetence

In this episode of the podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Nicholas Christakis about the Covid-19 pandemic. They discuss the breakdown of trust in institutions and experts, the corruption of science by politics, the ineptitude of the Trump administration in handling the pandemic, whether the gravity of Covid-19 has been exaggerated, preparing for future pandemics, whether Covid deaths are being over-reported, bad incentives in the medical system, tracking "excess death" statistics, the prospect that the novel coronavirus will evolve to become more benign, the efficacy of current treatments, safety concerns about a rushed vaccine, the importance of public health communication, when life might return to normal, the economic impact of the pandemic, long term social changes, the future of universities, Nicholas's personal habits during the pandemic, the importance of rapid testing, and other topics.

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2020-10-28
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#221 ? Success, Failure, & the Common Good

In this episode of the podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Michael Sandel about the problem with meritocracy . They discuss the dark side of the concept of merit, the pernicious myth of the self-made man, the moral significance of luck, the backlash against "elites" and expertise, how we value human excellence, the connection between wealth and value creation, the ethics of the tax code, higher education as a sorting mechanism for a caste system, alternatives to 4-year colleges, and other topics.

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2020-10-22
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#220 - The Information Apocalypse

In this episode of the podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Nina Schick about the growing epidemic of misinformation and disinformation. They discuss the coming problem of ?deep fakes,? the history of Russian ?active measures? against the West, the weaponization of the EU migration crisis, Russian targeting of the African-American community, the future of Europe, Trump and rise of political cynicism, QAnon, the prospect of violence surrounding the 2020 Presidential election, and other topics.

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2020-10-17
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#219 ? The Power of Compassion

In this episode of the podcast, Sam Harris speaks with James R. Doty about his memoir ?Into the Magic Shop.? They discuss the significance of childhood stress, the possibility of changing one?s core beliefs about oneself, the relationship between surgeons and their patients, the nature of compassion, the Dalai Lama, the relationship between wealth and empathy, the worsening problem of social inequality, the physiology of compassion, the broken healthcare system in the U.S., and other topics.

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2020-10-09
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#218 ? Welcome to the Cult Factory

In this episode of the podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Tristan Harris about the ways in which social media is fracturing society. They discuss the rise in teen depression and suicide, political polarization, conspiracy theories, information warfare, the decoupling of power and responsibility, the distinctions between platforms and publishers, the cancellation of Alex Jones, social media-inspired ethnic cleansing, concerns about the upcoming presidential election, culture as an operating system, and other topics.

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2020-09-25
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#217 ? The New Religion of Anti-Racism

In this episode of the podcast, Sam Harris speaks with John McWhorter about race, racism, and ?anti-racism? in America. They discuss how conceptions of racism have changed, the ubiquitous threat of being branded a ?racist,? the contradictions within identity politics, recent echoes of the OJ verdict, willingness among progressives to lose the 2020 election, racism as the all-purpose explanation of racial disparities in the U.S., double standards for the black community, the war on drugs, the lure of identity politics, police violence, the enduring riddle of affirmative action, the politics of ?black face,? and other topics.

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2020-09-18
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#216 ? A Conversation with Graeme Wood

In this episode of the podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Graeme Wood about the breakdown of social order in the U.S. They discuss the recent eruptions of violence, the loss of trust in the media, the cases of Jacob Blake and Kyle Rittenhouse, how to understand police videos, the risks of vigilantism, the politicization of race, the problem of deep fakes, Trump not actually wanting to be president, the prospect that Trump might attempt to pardon himself, and other topics.

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2020-09-04
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#215 ? A Conversation with David Miliband

In this episode the podcast, Sam Harris speaks with David Miliband about his work with the International Rescue Committee. They discuss the crisis of internally displaced peoples and refugees, the problem with open borders, the vetting of refugees, the limits of nation-building and diplomacy, the realities of globalization, global risks, defending human rights, a ?post-values and post-competence? America, the breakdown of trust in institutions, the prospects of a second Trump term, and other topics.

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2020-08-21
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#214 ? A Conversation with Siddhartha Mukherjee

In this episode of the podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Siddhartha Mukherjee about our ongoing failure to adequately respond to the Covid-19 pandemic. They discuss the significance of asymptomatic spread, the lack of Chinese cooperation, the failures of testing, travel restrictions, the missteps of the FDA and the CDC, controversy around masks, the lack of coordination among the states, conspiracy thinking about mortality statistics, the political contamination of public health information, electronic medical records, preparing for the next pandemic, the immunology of Covid-19, the long term consequences of the disease, concerns about a vaccine, the coming prospect of school openings, and other topics.

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2020-08-13
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#213 ? The Worst Epidemic

In this episode the podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Gabriel Dance about the global epidemic of child sexual abuse. They discuss how misleading the concept of ?child pornography? is, the failure of governments and tech companies to grapple with the problem, the tradeoff between online privacy and protecting children, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, photo DNA, the roles played by specific tech companies, the ethics of encryption, ?sextortion,? the culture of pedophiles, and other topics.

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2020-08-04
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#212 ? A Conversation with Kathryn Paige Harden

In this episode of the podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Kathryn Paige Harden about public controversy over group differences in traits like intelligence and ongoing research in behavioral genetics. They discuss Harden?s criticism of the Making Sense episode featuring Charles Murray, the mingling of scientific thinking with politics and social activism, cancel culture, environmental and genetic contributions to individual and group differences, intellectual honesty, and other topics.

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2020-07-30
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#211 ? The Nature of Human Nature

In this episode of the podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Robert Plomin about the role that DNA plays in determining who we are. They discuss the birth of behavioral genetics, the taboo around studying the influence of genes on human psychology, controversies surrounding the topic of group differences, the first law of behavior genetics, heritability, nature and nurture, the mystery of non-shared environment, the way genes help determine a person's environment, epigenetics, the genetics of complex traits, dimensions vs disorders, the prospect of a GATTACA-like dystopia and genetic castes, heritability and equality of opportunity, the implications of genetics for parenting and education, DNA as a fortune-telling device, and other topics.

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2020-07-17
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#210 ? The Logic of Doomsday

In this episode of the podcast, Sam Harris speaks with William J. Perry and Lisa Perry about the ever-present threat of nuclear war. They discuss the history of nuclear weapons, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the present threat of accidental nuclear war, nuclear terrorism, unilateral disarmament, the psychology of deterrence, tactical nuclear weapons, cybersecurity, details of command and control, nuclear proliferation, the steps we could take toward safety, strategic missile defense, nuclear winter, and other topics.

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2020-07-09
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#209 ? A Good Life

In this episode of the podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Scott Barry Kaufman about human well-being. They discuss intelligence and creativity, wisdom and transcendence, the history of humanistic psychology, Maslow's hierarchy of needs, the connection between well-being and ethics, self-esteem, psychedelics and meditation, peak and plateau experiences, mortality salience, the pre-trans fallacy, fear of uncertainty, work and meaning, intrinsic vs. extrinsic rewards, pathological altruism, intimacy vs. belonging, two aspects of self-transcendence, and other topics.

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2020-07-04
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#208 ? Existential Risk

In this episode of the podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Toby Ord about preserving the long term future of humanity. They discuss moral biases with respect to distance in space and time, the psychology of effective altruism, feeling good vs doing good, possible blindspots in consequentialism, natural vs human-caused risk, asteroid impacts, nuclear war, pandemics, the potentially cosmic significance of human survival, the difference between bad things and the absence of good things, population ethics, Derek Parfit, the asymmetry between happiness and suffering, climate change, and other topics.

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2020-06-23
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#207 ? Can We Pull Back From The Brink?

In this episode of the podcast, Sam discusses the recent social protests and civil unrest, in light of what we know about racism and police violence in America.

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2020-06-13
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#206 ? A Conversation with David Frum

In this episode of the podcast, Sam Harris speaks with David Frum about the shifting political landscape. They discuss the secularization of politics, distrust of the media and other institutions, voter suppression, the 2020 elections, what happens if Trump gets a second term, the role of money in politics, conspiracy theories around Covid-19, the Michael Flynn controversy, the prospect that Trump will refuse to leave office, and other topics.

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2020-05-26
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#205 ? The Failure of Meritocracy

In this episode of the podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Daniel Markovits about the problems with meritocracy. They discuss the nature of inequality in the United States, the disappearance of the leisure class, the difference between labor and capital as sources of inequality, the way the education system amplifies inequality, the shrinking middle class, deaths of despair, differing social norms among the elite and the working class, the ethics of taxation, scales of philanthropy, universal basic income, the need for a wealth tax, the relationship between meritocracy and political polarization, the illusion of earned advantages, and other topics.

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2020-05-22
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#204 ? A Conversation with Jonathan Haidt

In this episode of the podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Jonathan Haidt about the maintenance of a healthy society. They discuss the problem of orthodoxy, the history of political polarization in the US, the breakdown of public conversation, remaining uncertainty about Covid-19, motivated reasoning, the 2020 election, the future prospects for Gen Z, the effect of social media on the mental health of girls, Jonathan's experience with psychedelics, positive psychology, loss of self, the experience of awe, and other topics.

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2020-05-18
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#203 ? A Conversation with Caitlin Flanagan

In this episode of the podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Caitlin Flanagan about her cancer recurrence and the response to her recent article in The Atlantic discussing it. They discuss the dynamics of apologies and forgiveness, the #MeToo movement and the allegations against Biden, modern feminism, and other topics.

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2020-05-14
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#202 ? A Conversation with Andrew Yang

In this episode of the podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Andrew Yang about the Covid-19 pandemic. They discuss the future of the middle class, Andrew?s experience campaigning for President, the need to build new digital infrastructure, universal basic income (UBI), concerns about the Biden?s age and #MeToo allegation, hostility between the United States and China, problems with the global supply chain, concerns about social cohesion, market failures, and other topics.

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2020-05-11
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#201 ? A Conversation with Yuval Noah Harari

In this episode of the podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Yuval Noah Harari about the Covid-19 pandemic and its future implications. They discuss the failures of global leadership, the widespread distrust of institutions, the benefits of nationalism and its current unraveling in the U.S., politics as a way of reconciling competing desires, the consequences of misinformation, the enduring respect for science, the future of surveillance, the changing role of religion, and other topics.

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2020-05-01
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