DiscoverSean Carroll's Mindscape: Science, Society, Philosophy, Culture, Arts, and Ideas
Sean Carroll's Mindscape: Science, Society, Philosophy, Culture, Arts, and Ideas

Sean Carroll's Mindscape: Science, Society, Philosophy, Culture, Arts, and Ideas

Author: Sean Carroll

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Sean Carroll hosts conversations with the world's most interesting thinkers. Science, society, philosophy, culture, arts, and ideas.
48 Episodes
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Most of us have no trouble telling the difference between a robot and a living, feeling organism. Nevertheless, our brains often treat robots as if they were alive. We give them names, imagine that they have emotions and inner mental states, get mad at them when they do the wrong thing or feel bad for them when they seem to be in distress. Kate Darling is a research at the MIT Media Lab who specializes in social robotics, the interactions between humans and machines. We talk about why we cannot help but anthropomorphize even very non-human-appearing robots, and what that means for legal and social issues now and in the future, including robot companions and helpers in various forms. Support Mindscape on Patreon or Paypal. Kate Darling has a degree in law as well as a doctorate of sciences from ETH Zurich. She currently works at the Media Lab at MIT, where she conducts research in social robotics and serves as an advisor on intellectual property policy. She is an affiliate at the Harvard Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society and at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. Among her awards are the Mark T. Banner award in Intellectual Property from the American Bar Association. She is a contributing writer to Robohub and IEEE Spectrum. Web page Publications Twitter TED talk on why we have an emotional connection to robots
For decades now physicists have been struggling to reconcile two great ideas from a century ago: general relativity and quantum mechanics. We don’t yet know the final answer, but the journey has taken us to some amazing places. A leader in this quest has been Leonard Susskind, who has helped illuminate some of the most mind-blowing ideas in quantum gravity: the holographic principle, the string theory landscape, black-hole complementarity, and others. He has also become celebrated as a writer, speaker, and expositor of mind-blowing ideas. We talk about black holes, quantum mechanics, and the most exciting new directions in quantum gravity. Support Mindscape on Patreon or Paypal. Leonard Susskind received his Ph.D. in physics from Cornell University. He is currently the Felix Bloch Professor of Physics at Stanford University. He has made important contributions to numerous ideas in theoretical physics, including string theory, lattice gauge theory, dynamical symmetry breaking, the holographic principle, black hole complementarity, matrix theory, the cosmological multiverse, and quantum information. He is the author of several books, including a series of pedagogical physics texts called The Theoretical Minimum. Among his numerous awards are the J.J. Sakurai Prize and the Oskar Klein Medal. Web page Theoretical Minimum page Susskind Lectures on YouTube TED Talk about Richard Feynman Publications at Inspire Amazon author page Wikipedia
  When we talk about the mind, we are constantly talking about consciousness and cognition. Antonio Damasio wants us to talk about our feelings. But it’s not in an effort to be more touchy-feely; Damasio, one of the world’s leading neuroscientists, believes that feelings generated by the body are a crucial part of how we achieve and maintain homeostasis, which in turn is a key driver in understanding who we are. His most recent book, The Strange Order of Things: Life, Feeling, and the Making of Cultures, is an ambitious attempt to trace the role of feelings and our biological impulses in the origin of life, the nature of consciousness, and our flourishing as social, cultural beings. Support Mindscape on Patreon or Paypal. Antonio Damasio received his M.D. and Ph.D. from the University of Lisbon, Portugal. He is currently University Professor, David Dornsife Professor of Neuroscience, Professor of Psychology, Professor of Philosophy, and (along with his wife and frequent collaborator, Prof. Hannah Damasio) Director of the Brain and Creativity Institute at the University of Southern California. He is also an adjunct professor at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, and the European Academy of Sciences and Arts. Among his numerous awards are the Grawemeyer Award, the Honda Prize, the Prince of Asturias Award in Science and Technology, and the Beaumont Medal from the American Medical Association. USC web page Brain and Creativity Institute Google Scholar page Amazon.com author page Wikipedia TED talk on The Quest to Understand Consciousness Twitter
Some people never drink wine; for others, it’s an indispensable part of an enjoyable meal. Whatever your personal feelings might be, wine seems to exhibit a degree of complexity and nuance that can be intimidating to the non-expert. Where does that complexity come from, and how can we best approach wine? To answer these questions, we talk to Matthew Luczy, sommelier and wine director at Mélisse, one of the top fine-dining restaurants in the Los Angeles area. Matthew insisted that we actually drink wine rather than just talking about it, so drink we do. Therefore, in a Mindscape first, I recruited a third party to join us and add her own impressions of the tasting: science writer Jennifer Ouellette, who I knew would be available because we’re married to each other. We talk about what makes different wines distinct, the effects of aging, and what’s the right bottle to have with pizza. You are free to drink along at home, with exactly these wines or some other choices, but I think the podcast will be enjoyable whether you do or not. Support Mindscape on Patreon or Paypal. Mattew Luczy is a Certified Sommelier as judged by the Court of Master Sommeliers. He currently works as the Wine Director at Mélisse in Santa Monica, California. He is also active in photography and music. Mélisse home page Personal/photography page Instagram Ask a Somm: When Should I Decant Wine?
The space age officially began in 1957 with the launch of the Sputnik 1 satellite. But recent years have seen the beginning of a boom in the number of objects orbiting Earth, as satellite tracking and communications have assumed enormous importance in the modern world. This raises obvious concerns for the control and eventual fate of these orbiting artifacts. Natalya Bailey is pioneering a novel approach to satellite propulsion, building tiny ion engines at her company Accion Systems. We talk about how satellite technology is rapidly changing, and what that means for the future of space travel inside and outside the Solar System.             Support Mindscape on Patreon or Paypal. Natalya Bailey received her Ph.D. in aeronautics and astronautics from MIT, where she helped invent a new kind of ion engine. She is currently co-founder and chief executive officer of Accion Systems Inc. She has been included in 30 Under 30 lists from Forbes, Inc, and MIT Technology Review. Accion Systems Wikipedia page Twitter Talk on the Human Side of Rocket Science Real-time map of satellites currently in orbit
One of the most important insights in the history of science is the fact that complex behavior can arise from the undirected movements of small, simple systems. Despite the fact that we know this, we’re still working to truly understand it — to uncover the mechanisms by which, and conditions under which, complexity can emerge from simplicity. (Coincidentally, a new feature in Quanta on this precise topic came out while this episode was being edited.) Steven Strogatz is a leading researcher in this field, a pioneer both in the subject of synchronization and in that of small-world networks. He’s also an avid writer and wide-ranging thinker, so we also talk about problems with the way we educate young scientists, and the importance of calculus, the subject of his new book.             Support Mindscape on Patreon or Paypal. Steven Strogatz received his Ph.D. in applied mathematics from Harvard, and is currently the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor of Applied Mathematics at Cornell. His work has ranged over a wide variety of topics in mathematical biology, nonlinear dynamics, networks, and complex systems. He is the author of a number of books, including SYNC, The Joy of x, and most recently Infinite Powers. His awards include teaching prizes at MIT and Cornell, as well as major prizes from the Joint Policy Board for Mathematics, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Mathematical Association of America, and the Lewis Thomas Prize. Web site Cornell web page Google scholar page Amazon author page Wikipedia TED talk on synchronization Twitter
The modern world is full of technology, and also with anxiety about technology. We worry about robot uprisings and artificial intelligence taking over, and we contemplate what it would mean for a computer to be conscious or truly human. It should probably come as no surprise that these ideas aren’t new to modern society — they go way back, at least to the stories and mythologies of ancient Greece. Today’s guest, Adrienne Mayor, is a folklorist and historian of science, whose recent work has been on robots and artificial humans in ancient mythology. From the bronze warrior Talos to the evil fembot Pandora, mythology is rife with stories of artificial beings. It’s both fun and useful to think about our contemporary concerns in light of these ancient tales. Support Mindscape on Patreon or Paypal. Adrienne Mayor is a Research Scholar Classics and History and Philosophy of Science at Stanford University. She is also a Berggruen Fellow at Stanford’s Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. Her work has encompasses fossil traditions in classical antiquity and Native America, the origins of biological weapons, and the historical precursors of the stories of Amazon warriors. In 2009 she was a finalist for the National Book Award. Web page at Stanford Amazon author page Wikipedia Google Scholar Video of a talk on Amazons Twitter
Consciousness has many aspects, from experience to wakefulness to self-awareness. One aspect is imagination: our minds can conjure up multiple hypothetical futures to help us decide which choices we should make. Where did that ability come from? Today’s guest, Malcolm MacIver, pinpoints an important transition in the evolution of consciousness to when fish first climbed on to land, and could suddenly see much farther, which in turn made it advantageous to plan further in advance. If this idea is true, it might help us understand some of the abilities and limitations of our cognitive capacities, with potentially important ramifications for our future as a species.            Support Mindscape on Patreon or Paypal. Malcolm MacIver received his Ph.D. in neuroscience in 2001 from the University of Illinois and the Beckman Institute of Advanced Science and Technology. (This was after an unconventional childhood where he dropped out of school at age 9 and later talked his way into a community college program.) He is currently a professor of Mechanical Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, and Neurobiology at Northwestern University. In 2009 he was awarded the Presidential Early Career Award for Science and Engineering. Northwestern Web Page Google Scholar Talk on sensing and planning Paper: “The Shift to Life on Land Selected for Planning” Twitter
Let’s say, for sake of argument, that you don’t believe in God or the supernatural. Is there still a place for talking about transcendence, the sacred, and meaning in life? Some of the above, but not all? Today’s guest, Alan Lightman, brings a unique perspective to these questions, as someone who has worked within both the sciences and the humanities at the highest level. In his most recent book, Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine, he makes the case that naturalists should take transcendence seriously. We talk about the assumptions underlying scientific practice, and the implications that the finitude of our lives has for our search for meaning. Support Mindscape on Patreon or Paypal. Alan Lightman received his Ph.D. in physics from the California Institute of Technology. After a number of years working as a theoretical astrophysicist specializing in black holes and high-energy processes, he scored an international bestseller with his novel Einstein’s Dreams. Increasingly concentrating on writing, he moved from Harvard to MIT, where he became the first professor to be jointly appointed in the sciences and the humanities. He later was made the John Burchard Professor of Humanities at MIT, which he has subsequently stepped down from to devote more time to writing. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Gemant Award from the American Institute of Physics. He is also the founder of the Harpswell Foundation, which supports young women leaders in Southeast Asia. Web page Wikipedia Amazon author page Harpswell Foundation
When many of us think “Ancient Rome,” we think of the Empire and the Caesars. But the Empire was preceded by the Roman Republic, which flourished for a full five centuries. Why, after such a long and prosperous run, would an essentially democratic form of government change — with a good deal of approval from its citizens — into an autocracy? That’s the question I discuss with today’s guest, historian Edward Watts. It’s a fascinating story with many contemporary resonances, especially how reformers choose to balance working within the system to overthrowing it entirely. Lessons for modern politics are left largely for listeners to draw for themselves. Support Mindscape on Patreon or Paypal. Edward Watts received his Ph.D. in history from Yale University. He is presently the Vassiliadis Professor of Byzantine Greek History at UC San Diego, where he was formerly Co-Director of the Center for Hellenistic Studies. He is the author of several books on ancient history, the most recent of which is Mortal Republic: How Rome Fell Into Tyranny. UC San Diego Web Page Center for Hellenistic Studies Page Mortal Republic on Amazon Academia.edu page
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Comments (93)

Ares

If you want a good podcast check out AMERICAN NIGHTMARE PODCAST. ROLAND FLAGG is an orphaned African-American left in the care of YVONNE FLETCHER, a treacherous single mother who is on the edge of a mental breakdown. In order to escape his reality, ROLAND creates a fictional character called the Golden Ninja.

May 17th
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Joseph Mohmed

Who else had to run it back a sec at 22:06? 😁 fascinating episode!

May 13th
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Mit Aderam

I must say I have been deeply moved by the plumber dad story near the end. Thinking about the world will never fully fit in any ivory tower. Thus it is wonderful to have great minds such as those two reaching outward, towards all. Thank you!

May 7th
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taylor bush

ugh,

May 7th
Reply

taylor bush

taylor bush love this podcast in general. love you S.C.

May 7th
Reply

Chris Howes

Been waiting for this!

May 6th
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Jeremy Dixon

you need to have him on constantly. Can we purchase him? If we start a GoFundMe can we just purchase Leonard Susskind and make him do podcasts all the time?

May 6th
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jack mchogoff

lost me at mentioning Lisa abbudea'...... liberalism is a mental disorder.

May 5th
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John Gelis

really enjoyed this topic. I so much agree with Jessica's mission here! Thx for having her on.

May 3rd
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Jeremy Dixon

did you guys really just say that human-level artificial intelligence isn't possible because robots aren't vulnerable and don't have feelings? This is quite possibly the dumbest thing I have ever heard two smart people agree on. I think you are equating human level with human-like

Apr 29th
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Pedro Abreu

Julian Janes True. Any good model of the robot itself will by definition have these implicit vulnerabilities in mind. If it impairs its functioning, it can simply send a distress signal similar to how animals do. however this does not imply feelings AND the robot has a rudimentar notion of its own vulnerabilties.

May 4th
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Julian Janes

Pedro Abreu It sounds to me like they are saying merely that such vulnerabilities need to be programmed. The computer won't care about being destroyed unless you tell it to

May 4th
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Pat Hart

Success a Mindscape . … more Please!

Apr 12th
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Woodstock Jon

These gentlemen really love they're work. To be fair, their not poor and like the sound of their own voices! but They really Do not get very much recognition here in the comment section anyway. Juzsayin!!! That said... I love both these guys!! They literally are like the "nicest "guys in science...and maybe even all of academia! Still Juzsayin ☺😎

Apr 8th
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Dante Arevalo

Great show!!!! Hope he keeps collaborating with Hollywood to make great sci-fi movies!!!💯💯

Mar 28th
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Malik Baptiste

great podcast I learned a lot

Mar 19th
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Jeremy Dixon

this gentleman seems to Grant religion default ownership over "nonphysical" discussions. which reminds me, what the hell even is non-physical? when you say you believe in the material world I don't even understand what you are saying. I don't think the distinction makes any sense. If there actually was a Casper the ghost in my house right now and we found him we would be able to interact with him physically and so it seems to be less about material vs immaterial and more about known vs unknown vs unknowable

Mar 18th
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Jeremy Dixon

I don't think your guest is representing his side of the argument very well. Have this talk again but with a philosopher

Mar 18th
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Pedro Abreu

His talk about faith makes me think about the Three Body Problem sci-fi book

Mar 18th
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Pedro Abreu

get Jonathan Haidt pls

Mar 12th
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Jeremy Dixon

so this is day 2 of listening to this podcast. I've listened to quite a few podcasts on quantum mechanics and this makes me way more confused which based on the advice I've gotten from other sources means I'm starting to understand it more 😂 for real though it would be great to hear this all again with a bit more structure because this is my third time listening

Mar 6th
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Pedro Abreu

Jeremy Dixon Exactly. I'm a researcher in AI and the only video on quantum stuff I ever understood was this https://youtu.be/F_Riqjdh2oM because it's mostly accessible maths :)

Mar 21st
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Jeremy Dixon

Pedro Abreu LOL seems like that's because we have no fucking clue what's going on we just know the math works out

Mar 21st
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Matt Jarvis

I have a lot of Sean Carroll's books and audio books and I wish he narrated all of them. I could listen to him talk all day!

Feb 21st
Reply

Rey ITA

Very interesting, thanks Sean and Brian

Feb 7th
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