The First Amendment, though most closely associated with freedom of speech, actually extends to works of visual art, music, poetry and some, but not all, forms of expression. It’s left for courts to draw the line in cases of apparent threat to community’s standarts of propriety. Harvard Law professor Mark Tushnet joins us to talk about the freedoms covered and omitted at the top of the Bill of Rights, which he writes about in “Free Speech Beyond Words: The Surprising Reach of the First Amendment”.
Our lives are controlled by invisible hands from the grave. Trillions of dollars of the US economy are devoted to executing the wishes of people who died long ago, rather than satisfying the needs, preferences, and values of those living now. Philosopher Barry Lam follows the story of the Hershey fortune to show how a 19th century industrialist constructed the oddest business structure to ensure that his idiosyncratic wishes would be fulfilled hundreds of years after his death. The story raises questions about why we give the dead so much power over our lives, and what this says about how we find meaning in our own lives given foreknowledge of our mortality.
Empathy leads us to make flawed moral decisions, claims Yale psychologist Paul Bloom. But others think that empathy is a valuable tool. In this episode, two experts — Chuck Pezeshski and Indi Young — argue for the role of empathy in solving engineering problems, in thinking through complex systems, and designing highly desirable products.
Swearing matters, argues Benjamin K. Bergen – cognitive scientist, linguist, and author of “What the F: What Swearing Reveals About Our Language, Our Brains, and Ourselves” – a book-length love letter to swearing. Young people are so chill about swearing, and Bergen studies it as an rebellious form of creative expression. Nevertheless, “we’re getting more casual about swearing when the words themselves have low stakes, but… we’re getting less casual about profanity of the slur type… when the stakes are high, because people perceive those words as causing harm.”
Finally, learn some proper English. “You are the expert, doctor Bergen. What’s your favorite swearword?” – “Here is one that’s inspired by ‘shitgibbon’ discussion. I’s ‘douchewaffle’.”
Also featured: writer Roxana Robinson, who traces the subversive path of a sexist slur, and performer/activist Jess Thom explains what it’s like to live with coprolalia — involuntarily swearing out loud.
While everything positive in life is short-lived, so too is everything negative. Tom Shakespeare argues that believing the best is behind us stops us making the most of present opportunities. “To wallow in the past is to be sentimental, to seek an impossible return… Our task is to create something different but equally fulfilling in future”.
Photo: Nude swimming in Regents canal during a heatwave in 1911
Most of people feel they face more headwinds and obstacles than everyone else — which breeds resentment. We also undervalue the tailwinds that help us — which leaves us ungrateful and unhappy. How can we avoid this trap?
Tom Gilovich and Shai Davidai recently published a paper called “The Headwinds/ Tailwinds Asymmetry.” In addition to being a clever piece of experimental research, it has the amazing capacity to make you feel both much better about your life – and much worse. In this episode Gilovich and Davidai tells it all.
Ideas of universal basic income, 15 hour workweek and opening of all boarders apparently have a remarkable history. Writer and thinker Rutger Bregman in his new book Utopia for Realists reasons that the time has come to propose them again. He is our guest in this episode. Meanwhile, BBC radio producer Julian May talks about the aftermath of the Torrey Canyon disaster, when a huge oil tanker ran aground in 1967.
So, the C.I.A. has a back door to your phone. At least, according to the Vault 7 data dump from WikiLeaks. The documents say that if your device is connected to the internet, the American government wants in. And has a few tricky tools to do it. But they’ve had some sneaky tools for a while now. Just ask Daniel Rigmaiden.
Malcolm Gladwell in a conversation on running fast, satire as a weapon, Daniel Ellsberg and Edward Snowden, Harvard’s under-theorized endowment, why early childhood intervention is overrated, long-distance running, and Malcolm’s happy risk-averse career going from one “fur-lined rat hole to the next.”
The most puzzling airplane crashes, plausible explanations, and corners cut by airline companies. All revealed by a crash investigator, journalist and documentary producer Christine Negroni . Christine has more than fifteen years’ experience participating in the international effort to create safer skies. She is the author of “The Crash Detectives: Investigating the World’s Most Mysterious Air Disasters”.