Indigenous memory codes, the wisdom of crowds, and other summer listening

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160725dialogueSurely in the holiday sunshine of a northern hemisphere summer we TOK teachers deserve to rest our minds — even as we nourish them. Do you share this belief? If so, you might, like me, enjoy listening to interviews or thoughtful conversations while preparing salmon for the barbecue, watering the garden, or walking on the beach. Often, podcasts treat ideas not with bullet-point-analytical-delivery but with chatty interviews and reflective conversation – more diffuse, more relaxing.

Recently, I’ve found myself particularly interested in programmes on psychology – on how our human minds actually work. With the media so full of dramatic political events, less and less am I persuaded that people reach conclusions on the basis of evidence and sound reasoning – and more and more do I think that TOK benefits from awareness of cognitive psychology. Similarly, in these mind-drifting days of sunshine, I find myself intrigued by discussions about memory.

I’ll pass on below three of the podcasts that have been my newest favourites in these summer days, and invite you to comment on any other TOK-relevant ones of your own. The descriptions I’ve given are those provided by the podcasts themselves.

1.The Human Zoo, British Broadcasting Corporation

“The series that looks at current events through the lens of psychology. Michael Blastland explores the quirky ways in which we human think, behave, and make decisions.”

e.g. “Democracy and the wisdom of crowds”. July 13, 2016

“Trust me…I’m an expert”. July 5, 2016.

“Short cuts to the simple life”. June 21, 2016.

“As a matter of fact… “June 14, 2016.

 I’ve only just discovered this BBC podcast, and I’m snacking my way with pleasure through back-episodes.

 2. All in the Mind,  Australian Broadcasting Corporation

“An exploration of all things mental, All in the Mind is about the brain and behaviour, and the fascinating connections between them.”

e.g. “The Indigenous memory code”. July 3, 2016

Traditional Aboriginal Australian songlines hold the key to a powerful memory technique used by indigenous people around the world. relevance: memory, indigenous knowledge

3. Hidden Brain, National Public Radio, USA

“The Hidden Brain helps curious people understand the world – and themselves. Using science and storytelling, Hidden Brain’s host Shankar Vedantam reveals the unconscious patterns that drive human behavior, the biases that shape our choices, and the triggers that direct the course of our relationships.”

e.g. “The Scientific Process, Episode 32”. May 24, 2016.

Lots of scientific studies fail to produce the same results when then are repeated. How do scientists know what’s true? relevance: human sciences

These three podcasts above stand out for me this summer. Four others that have a longer history as part of my background TOK-relevant listening include the following:

 1.Rationally Speaking.  New York, USA

 “Rationally Speaking is the official podcast of New York City Skeptics. Join Julia Galef and guests as they explore the borderlands between reason and nonsense, likely and unlikely, science and pseudoscience.”

2.Science Weekly, The Guardian, UK

“The award winning Science Weekly podcast is the best place to learn about the big discoveries and debates in biology, chemistry, physics, and sometimes even maths. The Guardian science team, Nicola DavisIan Sample, and Hannah Devlin, meet the great thinkers and doers in science and technology. Recent shows include discussions on the future of gene research, the truth about radiation, how the human voice works, and the psychology of money.”

3.Point of Inquiry. Amherst, New York.

“Point of Inquiry is the Center for Inquiry’s flagship podcast, where the brightest minds of our time sound off on all the things you’re not supposed to talk about at the dinner table: science, religion, and politics.”

4.Inquiring Minds. San Francisco, USA.

“Each week Inquiring Minds brings you a new, in-depth exploration of the places where science, politics, and society collide. We’re committed to the idea that making an effort to understand the world around you through science and critical thinking can benefit everyone—and lead to better decisions. We endeavor to find out what’s true, what’s left to discover, and why it all matters with weekly coverage of the latest headlines and probing discussions with leading scientists and thinkers. Inquiring Minds is hosted by neuroscientist and musician Indre Viskontas and science educator Kishore Hari.”

How did we ever manage in the days before internet radio, podcasts, and mp3 players? I recall ordering cassette tapes in the mail nearly 4 decades ago, so that I could listen to interesting programmes while washing dishes or folding mountains of cloth diapers – in those days long before the internet enriched our lives. But now – I revel in how easy it is to be connected with a larger world.

Of the two of us, it’s my husband Theo who is the more committed follower of podcasts, at all seasons. And perhaps an onlooker might find some comedy in seeing the two of us cross paths, me with a hot pink i-shuffle clipped to my shirt, he with one in lime green. But then we can unplug and talk about what we’ve heard. It’s just another one of the pleasures, and not just of summer.