Podcasts?

I dis­cov­ered pod­casts last year, and I love them! Why not be hear­ing about new ideas while I’m walk­ing to where I’m go­ing? (Some of you might shout “in­sight porn!”, and I think that I largely agree. How­ever, 1) I don’t have any par­tic­u­lar prob­lem with in­sight porn and 2) I have fre­quently been ex­posed to an idea or been recom­menced a book through a pod­cast, on which I lat­ter fol­lowed up, lead­ing to more sub­stan­tive in­tel­lec­tual growth.)

I won­der if any­one has fa­vorites that they might want to share with me.

I’ll start:

Ra­dio­lab is, hands down, the best of all the pod­casts. This seems uni­ver­sally rec­og­nized: I’ve yet to meet any­one who dis­agrees. Even the peo­ple who make other pod­casts think that Ra­dio­lab is bet­ter than their own. This one reg­u­larly in­vokes a profound sense of won­der at the uni­verse and grat­i­tude for be­ing able to ap­pre­ci­ate it. If you missed it some­how, you’re prob­a­bly miss­ing out.

The Freako­nomics pod­cast, in my opinion, comes close to Ra­dio­lab. All the things that you thought you knew, but didn’t, and all the things you never knew you wanted to know, but do, in typ­i­cal Freako­nomics style. Listen­ing to their pod­cast is one of the two things that makes me happy.

There’s one other pod­cast that I con­sider to be in the same league (and this one you’ve prob­a­bly never heard of) : The Me­mory Palace. 5-10 minute sto­ries form his­tory, it is re­ally well done. It’s all the more im­pres­sive be­cause while Ra­dio­lab and Freako­nomics are both made by pro­fes­sional pro­duc­tion teams in ra­dio stu­dios, The Me­mory Palace is just some guy who makes a pod­cast.

Those are my three top picks (and they are the only pod­casts that I listen to at “nor­mal” speed in­stead of x1.5 or x2.0, since their au­dio pro­duc­tion is so good).

I dis­cov­ered Ra­tion­ally Speak­ing: Ex­plor­ing the Border­lands Between Rea­son and Non­sense re­cently and I’m lov­ing it. It is my kind of skep­tics pod­cast, in­ves­ti­gat­ing top­ics that are on the fringe but not straight out bunk (I don’t need to listen to yet an­other pod­cast about how as­trol­ogy doesn’t work). The in­ter­play be­tween the hosts, Mas­simo (who has a PhD in Philos­o­phy, but also one in Biol­ogy, which ex­cuses it) and Ju­lia (who I only just re­al­ized is a founder of the CFAR), is great.

I also some­times en­joy the Cracked pod­cast, which has top­ics that touch on cog­ni­tive bias and statis­tics but also anal­y­sis of (pop) cul­ture and in­ter­est­ing things about the world in gen­eral. They are co­me­di­ans, not philoso­phers or so­cial sci­en­tists, and some­times their lack of ex­per­tise shows (es­pe­cially when they are dis­cussing top­ics about which I, and I think the av­er­age LW reader, know more than they do), but co­me­di­ans of­ten have worth­while in­sights and I have been in­trigued by ideas they in­tro­duced me to or got­ten books at the library on their recom­men­da­tion.

To what is ev­ery­one else listen­ing?

Edit: On sug­ges­tion from sev­eral mem­bers on LessWrong I’ve be­gun listen­ing to Hard­core His­tory and it’s com­pan­ion pod­cast Com­mon Sense. They’re both great. I have a good knowl­edge of his­tory from my school days (I liked the sub­ject, and I seem to have strong a propen­sity to re­tain ex­tra­ne­ous in­for­ma­tion, par­tic­u­larly in­for­ma­tion in nar­ra­tive form), and Hard­core His­tory epi­sodes are a great re­fresher course, re­view­ing that which I’m already fa­mil­iar, but from a slightly differ­ent per­spec­tive, yield­ing new in­sights and a greater con­nec­tivity of his­tory. I think it has al­most cer­tainly sup­planted the Cracked pod­cast as num­ber 5 on my list.