#183 Our Many Perception Gaps: Sam Laine Perfas

What you think is true doesn't necessarily line up with reality. From the heated debate over gun violence deaths to our views about violent crime and global poverty, many of us have serious perception gaps. 

Democracy can be damaged when public opinion is out-of-step with the facts.

The opioid epidemic is often in the headlines and was recently declared a public health emergency. But did you know there's another substance that kills far more people every year? Another example: massacres at schools, malls and other public places get massive media coverage, but they account for a tiny percentage of gun deaths.

Our guest in this episode is Samantha Laine Perfas, host of the new podcast series, "Perception Gaps". She tells us "there are things we perceive to be true that are simply not. And challenging us to think about these misperceptions... begins to peel back the layers of why we believe what we believe."

We hear fascinating and deeply personal stories from several recent guests on "Perception Gaps," including addiction expert and former federal drug czar Michael BotticelliCaptain Perri Johnson, Commander of the Juvenile Division at the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, and Professor Jennifer Stuber of the University of Washington School of Social Work, who studies suicide prevention and mental health. 

#182 Has The Opioid Crisis Peaked? Sam Quinones

The opioid and heroin epidemic has caused massive destruction suffering and pain. 

After rising for many decades, America’s life expectancy rate has dropped for the past two years in a row. Nearly 50 thousand Americans last year were the victims of opioid overdose deaths--twice the rate of other wealthy nations.

But now, because of impressive initiatives to tackle the crisis, there are small glimmers of hope. The death-rate might be starting to fall. This month, a New York Times report highlighted a plunge in fatal overdoses in Dayton, Ohio, which had one of the highest rates in 2017.

Among the possible solutions we hear about is GROW, a local effort that dispatches teams of social workers, medics, police officers and recovery experts to the homes of people who've overdosed.  We also discuss the FDA's approval of the controversial synthetic opioid, Dsuvia, to treat cases of extreme pain, and the recent passage of a bipartisan bill to fight the epidemic.

For this episode, we include last year's "How Do We Fix It?" interview with journalist Sam Quinones, author of the highly praised book, "Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic."

#181: AI Will Change All of us Kai-Fu Lee

Artificial intelligence will lead to sweeping changes in our society, economy and relationship with work. China has suddenly caught up with The United States and will exercise much greater technological power in the future.

"We will not have to do routine jobs anymore," says our guest, Kai-Fu-Lee. "AI will take over in the next 15 to 20 years all the routine jobs that we have and work efficiently and essentially for free and 24/7 with no complaints."

This creates both daunting and exciting challenges for our future, argues Dr. Lee, who is one of the world's leading AI experts. He has been in AI research, development and investment for more than thirty years.

His new book is "AI Super-Powers: China, Silicon Valley and The New York Order."

We discuss deep learning and how AI can learn things by itself, recognizing faces, speech and patterns. Artificial can do sophisticated customer service, telemarketing, loan approvals and many forms of blue-collar work such as dishwashing, fruit picking and assembly line work.

This episode also discusses the AI revolution in China. While "The U.S. is stronger in research and technology, China is faster with implementation and has more data," says Dr. Lee. In a recent interview with Thomas Friedman of The New York Times he said: "If data is the new oil, then China is the new Saudi Arabia." 

#180 Thanks a Thousand. Gratitude: A.J. Jacobs

Just in time for Thanksgiving, we speak with best-selling author and "immersive journalist" A.J. Jacobs about his extraordinary gratitude project and brand new book, "Thanks a Thousand".

He decided to say "thank you" to every single person involved in producing his morning cup of coffee. "It turned out to be thousands of people," A.J. tells us. "I thanked the barista, the lid designer and the coffee bean farmer, but also the truck driver who delivered the beans. The idea is to show the interdependence and interconnectivity of our world."

We hear useful insights about gratitude, including tips that can be helpful and fun at Thanksgiving Day gatherings. 

This episode is a joint "simul-pod" with our friends at "Half Hour of Heterodoxy" podcast. Deb Mashek, Executive Director of the Heterodox Academy is the co-host  along with Richard and Jim. 

In our confrontational and troubled times, this episode is a reminder that cooperation plays a vital role in many of the most basic human rituals. "To make a cup of coffee, you need dozens of countries, and so it's partly an argument against this rise of nationalism and tribalism to show that we are so interconnected," says A.J.

Several books and lectures are mentioned, including "Enlightenment Now" by Stephen Pinker and "I Pencil" by economist Milton Friedman. A.J .recommends a worthwhile charity: Dispensers for Safe Water, an innovative low-cost approach to increase rates of household chlorination in East Africa.

#179 Election Special: Our Take

What are the most inspiring, exasperating, unique, important, and first-in-our-lifetime results from the Midterm Elections? In this special edition, Jim and Richard give their Quick Fixes take on how American voted.

We discuss: Donald Trump's turnout gift, why the economy played a far larger role than election analysts admit; the serious problems that now face both Republicans and Democrats, the insidious impact of gerrymandering, how celebrities failed to motivate voters, and why the handwringing about money in politics has been put on hold for now.

From Glenn Reynolds' view that the result was more of a purple puddle than a blue wave, to why the year of the woman shattered fund-raising and attention-getting glass ceilings, this record-setting election can be interpreted in a variety of interesting ways.

As for what's next? Jim and Richard discuss the power of small solutions and why the new Congress must focus on legislation as well as investigations.

#178 Bridging Divide. ReCity. Durham, North Carolina

How can America recover from hatred, distrust and resentment that have lead to deep divisions, the fraying of our civic institutions and even violence, such as the recent Pittsburgh synagogue shooting?

This episode, recorded at ReCity in Durham, North Carolina, is the third in our renewing democracy podcasts, where we report on collaborative efforts to promote respect and bridge divides.

The idea behind this series is that if we’re going to pull back from the political precipice, it’s going to come first locally, not nationally. We’ve seen what hate and fear and can do, perhaps it’s time to try love, or at least tolerance. 

ReCity is a shared office space-- similar to a We Works for dozens of local social action non-profits and companies-- where organizations are housed in an open-plan office under one roof. We look at how their hard work can bring people together and lead to social change. 

"I believe there is hope for our communities, but when you turn on the news right now, you don't find that," says ReCity's Executive Director, Rob Shields. "This is an opportunity to show that hope and unity are possible in a community, and I think right now that's not a message that we are hearing from a lot of the channels we absorb information through."

#177 Bridging Divide Renewing Democracy: Minnesota

Polarization is tearing us apart. Bullying and bluster are two of the most common ingredients in American democracy.

How can we renew democracy and restore the sort of trust that is essential for governance? This episode looks at the constructive and energetic responses of two local and national groups in Minnesota.

We visit a Living Room Conversation discussion on race at Minneapolis Community and Technical College, and speak with the co-founder of Better AngelsBill Doherty, a University of Minnesota Professor, who is working with others to bridge partisan divides.

We also meet Tiffany Wilson-Worsley, a family and community specialist in Minneapolis, who works as a facilitator for discussions on race relations.

"We have this pervasive need to be human with one another," she says. "There are so many divides, and I think the goal is to bring us all together to get to know one another, but also to grow together."

Both groups promote guided conversations in a safe space, and establish ground rules for difficult discussions. They aim to build trust among participants of various viewpoint, social class, gender, ethnic and racial backgrounds.

#176 Bridging Divide: The Case for Civility Iowa

American democracy is in crisis and politics have become weaponized with name calling and personal attacks. Trust in national institutions and the media is at an all-time low.

Congress and The Supreme Court are much more likely than in the past to cast predictable party-line votes. As a nation we are failing to make creative solutions, based on compromise.

This episode is the first of three to report on local efforts that push back against the toxic impact of tribalization and political polarization. 

"This is not just a shake our fists at what Donald Trump has brought to our national discourse," Kathie Obradovich, Opinion editor at The Des Moines Register, tells us. "It goes deeper to our ability to speak to and understand each other."

"People who used to put party politics aside and work for common interests are just fewer and fewer. The number of prominent moderates in Iowa politics I can count on one hand."

In this episode, we report on the work of Revive Civility Iowa, a project of the National Institute of Civil Discourse, to bring a series of tools that help people overcome the degradation of our public dialogue. A two-hour workshop in Des Moines was organized by The Ray Center at Drake University, which works to improve civility and promote ethical leadership. 

More than two-thirds of Americans feel our incivility is a crisis. "How Do We Fix It?" looks at how neighbors, family members and local communities are responding in positive ways.

This episode is partially funded by "Renewing Democracy", an initiative of Solutions Journalism Network

#175 Bridging Divide. Renewing Democracy: Carolyn Lukensmeyer

Never before in living memory has America been so deeply divided, and this paralysis threatens to weaken and corrode democracy. Ideological silos have become much more common among both conservatives and liberals.

One opinion poll says 7 in 10 Americans believe that our politics have reached a dangerous low point. And most say the climate is a new normal— not temporary.

This is the first of four “How Do We Fix It?” episodes leading up to the Midterm Elections that discuss local and national attempts to push back against political dysfunction and the lack of rational, respectful debate. Forthcoming episodes will report on new initiatives in Iowa, Minnesota and North Carolina.

Carolyn Lukensmeyer, is a leader in the field of deliberative democracy and social entrepreneurship. She is the Executive Director of the National Institute for Civil Discourse

“Voters are frustrated, worried, and angry with their leaders and ashamed of how our political process works these days. Heated rhetoric and a dramatic shift away from bipartisan collaboration pervade national politics, leaving us unable to solve the major challenges confronting our nation,” the group says.

#174 Lessons from Reagan: Bob Spitz

At a time of fractured politics and failed leadership, what lessons can be learned from Ronald Reagan-- one of the most significant presidents in our history?

Considered a dangerous outsider by critics when he was elected in 1980, he appeared to be enthralled with happy endings and disinterested in many of the finer details of economic and social policy. And yet America's fortieth president presided over an economic boom and successful peace talks with the Soviet Union that helped lead to the end of the Cold War.

Our guest, best-selling biographer Bob Spitz, is the author of "Reagan: An American Journey", a richly detailed, riveting, and carefully balanced account of a remarkable life. The book looks clearly at Reagan's policy failures on AIDS, Iran-Contra and Star Wars missile defense, as well as his achievements and great skill as a communicator. 

"Reagan came to power at a very important time in our history," Bob tells us. "We had come through the Vietnam War, Watergate, a succession of failed presidencies-- and the country needed someone to pick up its morale. Ronald Reagan was the right man at the right time."

Unlike Donald Trump, another outsider with the aim of shaking things up and overturning establishment views of government, "Ronald Reagan didn't have a hostile bone in his body," says Bob. "Reagan was not a narcissist in any shape or form. He thought about the good of the American people above everything."

#173 Fighting Back Against Fake News: Steven Brill

recent poll finds that two-thirds of Americans often get news from social media. But many consumers are highly skeptical of the information they see on Facebook and other sites, expecting it to be "largely inaccurate."

Now a new company, Newsguard, uses journalism to fight the epidemic of false stories, misinformation and outright propaganda, helping readers to navigate through online news sites. Newsguard's web browser extension rates websites that appear in searches on their reliability. The easy-to-use plug-in includes a red-green symbol that shows if a site is trying to get it right or instead has a hidden agenda.

"We apply common sense to a problem that algorithms haven't been able to resolve," says Newguard's co-CEO, Steven Brill. During an extraordinary career as a journalist, author and business executive, Steven was founder of Court TV, The American Lawyer Magazine, Brill's Content Magazine, and The Yale Journalism Initiative

Now, his latest passion is fighting fake news.

Newsguard provides "nutrition label" write-ups for news and information websites in the U.S. and plans to expand globally. Employing scores of journalists and analysts, the growing venture also identifies suddenly trending fake news sites and warns internet users about them in real time.

More information here.

#172 Identity Politics: Dignity and Resentment. Francis Fukuyama

Francis Fukuyama is a political scientist at Stanford University. His best-known book is "The End of History and the Last Man", published after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.  In his new book, "IdentityThe Demand for Dignity and The Politics of Resentment," he warns that unless we forge a universal understanding of human dignity, we will doom ourselves to continual conflict. 

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#171 Collaboration Beats Competition: Paul Skinner

Paul Skinner the founder of the U.K.-based Agency of the Future, and founder of Pimp My Cause, which uses cause-related marketing to boost the capabilities of teams and individuals. His new book is “Collaborative Advantage: How Collaboration Beats Competition as a Strategy for Success."

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#168 The Case for Space Travel: Neil deGrasse Tyson

Neil deGrasse Tyson, America’s most prominent spokesman for science and Director of New York City’s Hayden Planetarium, talks about the benefits of a cosmic perspective, the case for manned space flight and much more in this first part of our wide-ranging conversation. We also discussed Tyson's book, "Astrophysics for People in a Hurry."

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#166 Populism: Bigger Than Trump? Salena Zito

Most political experts did not think that Trump could win the 2016 election. Was Trump’s win a one-off event, or did it represent a fundamental realignment of American politics?

Our guest, Salena Zito, author of "The Great Revolt", argues that experts and elites are out of touch with Trump supporters. Zito has written extensively about Trump and populism. Her work has appeared in the New York Post, the Washington Examiner, and she has been a contributor to The Atlantic. 

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#164 The Fight For Free Expression: Deb Mashek

Deb Mashek is the first Executive Director of Heterodox Academy. For 13 years, she was a professor of psychology at Harvey Mudd College. Heterodox Academy was formed in 2015 to encourage political and ideological diversity on college campuses.

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