Three (More) Podcasts Well Worth Your Time

Here are three more individual podcast episodes from my recent listening that I really enjoyed, and thought you might too!

(For those who don’t listen to podcasts, I have linked to transcripts where available.)

99% Invisible: “Breaking Bad News” (Overcast / Website, including a text version) 

When a doctor reveals a terminal diagnosis to a patient — that process is as delicate a procedure as any surgery, with potentially serious consequences if things go wrong. If the patient doesn’t understand their prognosis, for example, they could end up making uninformed decisions about their treatment.

That’s why many medical schools now offer training for students on how to break bad news, bringing in actors to help them learn how to navigate this critically important and very high-stakes moment.

And that’s not the only connection between acting and this particular facet of medicine. It turns out that one of the first doctors to recognize the challenges of this particular kind of doctor-patient communication wasn’t just a physician — he was also a comedian. And he drew on that experience to transform the way that doctors break bad news.

99PI (as it’s known) is a show about the design choices that we overlook in daily life. This episode talks about the deliberate design of a typical, but fraught, human interaction — and how, for example, none other than John Cleese tried to help it go more smoothly.

Hidden Brain: “When Everything Clicks” (Website / Overcast / Transcript)

There can be a lot of psychological noise involved in teaching. But what if we replaced all that mental chit chat….with a click?

This week, we explore an innovative idea about how we learn. It will take us from a dolphin exhibit in Hawaii to a top teaching hospital in New York.

It’s about a method to quiet the noise. The sort of clutter that can turn learning into a minefield of misery.

Hidden Brain is an NPR show that (like 80% of all public radio podcasts) is about sociology and the what we can learn about the strange ways people think.

It’s always interesting, but this particular episode I found particularly fascinating for its description of an unusual way that humans can teach and learn new things: using a dog training clicker.

Listen to find out how this sort of teaching might help learners of a new skill bypass various psychological blocks.

Waking Up with Sam Harris: “The Kindness of Strangers” (Website / Overcast)

In this episode of the Waking Up podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Tristan Harris about the arms race for human attention, the ethics of persuasion, the consequences of having an ad-based economy, the dynamics of regret, and other topics.

I’m not a regular listener to this podcast (and I listened to another episode I didn’t particularly enjoy), but I read an interview with Tristan Harris about his particular area of expertise, and went looking for other interviews to learn more. (Here’s yet another.)

His area of expertise is distraction, or more precisely, attention control – how apps and websites are increasingly designed to play our neurology like a fiddle to capture as much of our time and attention as possible. Tristan has also done a couple of TED talks on the subject.

While it’s a bit obvious in the broad strokes, it’s disturbing to learn about the details — but like my read of The Righteous Mind a few years ago, I found it was the sort of idea that sat in the back of my mind to help contextualize other things I saw and did (like Facebook, Netflix, and YouTube’s specific and purposeful decisions to autoload new videos after you finish watching one).

Related to that, I have since installed Chrome extensions to block the autoloading of new Facebook posts on scrolling (Social Fixer) and block YouTube’s recommendations from ever appearing (Remove Recommendations). The destructive power of YouTube’s recommendation engine is another, wholly different topic, but it’s no less dire.

I have a new podcast too!

It’s on Patreon. Here’s a teaser. I’ll talk about it more very soon!

[ Previous things well worth your time. ]

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