#80 Why Science & Reason Are Under Assault: Michael Shermer

This week we go deep and we go long, considering the tide of human history. How science, reason, and rational inquiry contribute to human progress.

Dr. Michael Shermer is our guest. He's the Founding Publisher of Skeptic magazine, a monthly columnist for Scientific American and a regular contributor to Time.com.  

 

In his latest book, The Moral Arc: How Science and Reason Lead Humanity toward Truth, Justice, and Freedom, he claims that we are living in the most moral period of our history. 

Using data and the lessons of history, Michael shows that the arc of the moral universe bends toward truth, justice, and freedom.

When considering right and wrong, "most people separate scientific facts - facts about nature - from moral facts," says Michael in this episode of our podcast, "How Do We Fix It?"  "I'm pushing back against that saying moral truths are really no different from biological or physical truths about nature."

We consider the profound implications of his ideas for how we look at science, religion, politics, climate change, prison reform and our own moral choices. 

You can find out more about Steven Pinker, or his book, "The Better Angels of Our Nature" by clicking on the links provided.

#77 Fixes for Feminists in a Time of Trump: Sallie Krawcheck

Anyone who cares about diversity, feminism and closing the gender gap should be fired up about this show.

Author, entrepreneur and - yes provocateur - Sallie Krawcheck is our guest.  Her forthcoming 2017 book is "Own It: The Power of Women at Work."  Sallie is CEO and Co-Founder of Ellevest, a digital investment platform and wealth management site for women.  

For years, she has been well known as one of the most senior women on Wall Street and was called "the last honest analyst" by Fortune Magazine after the 2008 financial crisis.  She has deep experience in "the biggest boys club in the world" - the financial industry, where 86% of investment advisers are men.

 First off we talk about why the Trump Presidency could be good for feminists.  “It’s (locker room talk) on the table now,"  she says. The infamous conversation with Billie Bush, and the widely discussed New York Times column "How Wall Street Bro Talk Keeps Women Down" are both "a really important wake up call."

 Sallie lists the many benefits of true diversity. Organizations where many different voices are respected perform better than those with narrow like-minded leaders from the same gender and social class. 

 Being successful does not mean acting like men, Sallie tells us. "The power of diversity is not bringing a bunch of women or people of difference together and having them act like middle-aged white guys."

Sallie’s Solutions: 

  • For women: Make sure your work gets noticed your supervisors and make sure goals are quantified and acknowledged. 
  • For men:  Be a fully equal partner with your spouse:  do the laundry.
  • For companies: Diversity is a crucial ingredient to a firm's success, but it won't happen without clear leadership from the top. 
  • Investing: Diversify your portfolio and save for the long term.  Instead of trying to beat the market, invest in a range of mutual funds that include U.S. and international sources plus large and small companies.

#75 How Can We Get Better At Forecasting the Future: Mark Earls

Almost all of us do a poor job of predicting the future. 

This show looks at how we can adapt to the disruption and change the future inevitably brings.  Using examples from business and our personal lives, we consider how to be smarter and more successful.

"We over-estimate how bad we might feel if we lose something, and under-estimate how we will feel if something good happens,” says our guest, Mark Earls.

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Mark joins Jim and Richard at our living room table in New York. Usually Mark is based in London where he's a well-known author and consultant on marketing, communications and behavioral change.  His books include “Copy Copy Copy”, "HERD: How to Change Mass Behavior by Harnessing Our True Nature” and “I’ll Have What She’s Having

"We have to realize…we have to prepare for multiple futures," Mark tells us in this episode. Some additional takeaways:

Solutions:
Start small. For example Spotify began in a small market (Sweden) and it was able to be more agile, make mistakes and react to its competition more effectively than a larger company.
 
Product plus: some of the most successful companies are the ones that make a product AND deliver a service; Dollar Shave Club is a good example of this.  
 
Customer service is more important than ever. “You can’t have that ‘take a ticket and wait in line’ attitude towards customers; you need to fix it.
 
In our personal lives prepare for multiple future scenarios: what would happen if you had an unexpected expense, how would you deal with a serious illness or a absence from work, or a major housing expense?

#74 Fixes for an Insular World: Talk to Strangers. Kio Stark

"There are genuine emotional benefits when we connect with strangers," says our guest, Kio Stark. These fleeting interactions are important interruptions in the steady routine of our lives. "They bring connectedness and belonging."

Kio is the author of "When Strangers Meet: How People You Don't Know Can Transform You."  Her popular TED Talk has received more than 1,450,000 views. "My own interactions with strangers resonate with meaning for me," she writes in her book. "You find questions whose answers you thought you knew. You reject the ideas that make us so suspicious of each other."

"We live in pretty insular ways," Kio tells us in this episode of "How Do We Fix It?"  "When you talk to somebody who is different than you, you are forced to see this person as an individual in a way that you wouldn't have done before." 

This speaks to our divided politics at a time when it is often far to easy to vilify people we don't agree with.  Being more open to people of different races, social class and age groups can open us up to surprising moments of pleasure and transformative possibilities. 

Kio explains how shy, frightened or suspicious people can benefit from being more open to briefly allowing strangers into their lives.  We discuss how dogs and babies can make it easier to speak with people you don't know.

"There's an amazing power in being seen.  We live in cities we don't see each other," Kio tells us.  "When you are seen, when you notice someone is acknowledging you it's a momentary bond."

#70 Electile Dysfunction: A Cure For Our Campaign: Alan Dershowitz

Electile Dysfunction (is), “a terrible pun plus insightful commentary" is how TV host and wit Seth Myers describes" the new book by Professor Alan Dershowitz.

Dershowitz became a professor at Harvard Law when he was 25 years old. In his long and distinguished career, Newsweek described Dershowitz as "the nation's most peripatetic civil liberties lawyer and one of its most distinguished defenders of individual rights." We recorded this episode of "How Do We Fix It?" at his Manhattan home. "Electile Dysfunction" is his 35th book.

(Left to Right) Jim Meigs, Richard Davies and Alan Dershowitz

Voters are anxious, frustrated and they feel impotent. In this show we look at the strangest political campaign of our lifetime and what can be done to improve the way we elect Presidents.

We are not alone in facing a threat to our democracy.  "I'm afraid of what's going on in Europe today and what's going in the United States may reflect a trend rather than a pendulum swing," Alan Dershowitz tells us. "A trend toward extremes and we have to fight back."

Jim, Richard and Dershowitz discuss the rise of extremism on the right and left, the threat to free speech on college campuses and the virtue of compromise.

(Left to Right) Jim Meigs, Richard Davies and Alan Dershowitz

"I think centrist liberals and centrist conservatives have to get together and take back the center and stop the alt right from taking over the Republican Party and the alt left from taking over the Democratic Party," says Professor Dershowitz

We look at solutions:

A voter's Presidential checklist. Before voting, weigh where the candidates stand on the most important issues - from who will best protect us from terrorism to who will keep America's economy strong and produce more stability.

  • Shortening the nation's extremely long Presidential campaign with one national primary day in June, weeks before the party conventions.
  • Reducing the destructive power of the media to hype conflict and obscure the electorate's understanding of vital issues.
  • Encouraging free speech and open dialog that is now under threat at leading colleges and universities.

#68 Why Economic Growth Is Slowing Down: Ruchir Sharma

Get ready for slower economic growth and de-globalization, says investor and writer Ruchir Sharma. 

Ruchir invited us to his New York office, where he is the head of emerging markets and chief global strategist at Morgan Stanley Investment Management. He is also the author of "The Rise and Fall of Nations: Forces of Change in the Post-Crisis World."

Our interview looks at Ruchir's rules for spotting political, economic and social change. They include:

  • The depopulation bomb: If the working population shrinks, so does the economy.
  • Good versus bad billionaires: Wealth inequality is exploding, but some types of tycoons are viewed very differently than others.
  • The curse of the cover story: Ruchir looked at every Time Magazine cover on the economy going back to 1980. If the cover was downbeat the economy grew faster 55% of the time. If it was upbeat, the economy slowed in 66% in the following years.
  • Why democratic capitalism beats the Chinese brand: Postwar booms in democratic nations were usually stronger and longer than under authoritarian regimes. 

"What's very apparent and under-appreciated is the major drop off that we've seen in the world's working age population growth rate," Ruchir tells us. "I think that is a major drag on global economic growth currently."

#67 How Gratitude Can Transform Your Life - Janice Kaplan

On New Year's Eve, journalist and former Parade Editor-in-Chief Janice Kaplan made a promise to herself to be grateful during the coming year and look on the bright side of whatever happens.

As we find out in this episode, it made a big difference to her life. Janice discovered that how she feels has less to do with events than with her own attitude and perspective on life.

Her recent book "The Gratitude Diaries" began after a survey she had done found that 94% of Americans thought people who are grateful live richer lives.  But less than half those surveyed say they practiced gratitude on any regular basis. 

"It struck me that we have this great big gratitude gap," Janice tells us on "How Do We Fix It?" If we change our attitude, she says, "we're going to be a lot happier."

Solutions:

  • Say thanks to someone you love. It's easy to forget to appreciate your partner and your family. But the daily practice of saying something positive can transform almost any relationship.
  • Gratitude is an attitude, but it's also a daily practice. Each day write down something that you are grateful for.
  • Express gratitude at work. Many of us feel unappreciated at work, but we can change that for ourselves and our colleagues.  The start of the work week is a great time to tell fellow workers that they matter to you. 
  • At family dinners or when you are putting your kids to sleep at night, ask your kids what they were grateful for today. This can become part of what families do and how they think about their lives.

#62 Playdates & Class Divisions? Tamara Mose How Do We Fix It?

Remember when kids were allowed to play without supervision, when did that change? When did play turn into a playdate?

Today many parents organize playdates. Play is arranged, supervised and has the parental seal of approval. "

I think we could add more diversity into how our children play with other children,"says our guest, Tamara Mose, Associate Professor of Sociology at Brooklyn College. 

Tamara is the author of the new book "The Playdate: Parents, Children and the New Expectations of Play"  In this episode we look at how the shift to structured playdates reflects changes in parenting and class.  "Let's listen to our children's desires," Tamara urges parents. "I think we've lost the ability to do that because we're so afraid of everything our children interacts with.'

We discuss other solutions, including tips for successful playdates and being open a greater range of children from diverse backgrounds.