Episode 140: Transcendent Man

No matter what problem you encounter, whether it’s a grand challenge for humanity or a personal problem of your own, there’s an idea out there that can overcome it. And you can find that idea.
— Ray Kurzweil
When you talk to a human in 2035, you’ll be talking to someone that’s a combination of biological and non-biological intelligence.
— Ray Kurzweil
Biology is a software process. Our bodies are made up of trillions of cells, each governed by this process. You and I are walking around with outdated software running in our bodies, which evolved in a very different era.
— Ray Kurzweil
If I was asked if god exists, I would say ‘Not yet.’
— Ray Kurzweil, at the end of Transcendent Man

As technology advances at a rapid pace, many have pointed out its effects on our social, professional and personal lives. The intersection of technology and biology is often overlooked in these conversations, but it’s worth further examination. In the 2009 documentary Transcendent Man, futurist Ray Kurzweil plays a key role in describing this intersection. His central thesis leans upon “The Singularity,” in which humanity will merge with technology because of its accelerated pace and progress. He and various experts speak on memory, the possibility of immortality and other influences of such advanced technology. This week we welcome Tim Connolly to review the film’s main arguments and theories. What effect would technological immortality have on our society? How would this new threshold shift our definitions of humans and humanity?

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Episode 139: The Funny/Serious Divide

If a man insisted always on being serious, and never allowed himself a bit of fun and relaxation, he would go mad or become unstable without knowing it.
— Herodotus
I’m very, very serious - I’m serious enough not to take myself too seriously. That means I can be completely wedded to the moment. But when I leave that moment, I want to be completely wedded to the next moment.
— Maya Angelou

Our interpretations and responses to circumstances and other people say a great deal about who we are. Do we respond with confusion, apathy, fear, delight or any number of other emotions? Time and again, a polarity emerges between those who greet circumstances in jest or solemnity. What does this "Funny/Serious divide," however nascent an idea, say about our personalities? We're joined this week by Yara Farahmand to explore the phenomenon and how it affects our perceptions of others and ourselves. How might our society prefer one of these two patterns of thought and behavior? What might each of these poles misjudge or presume about the other?

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Episode 138: Every Thought a Rational One

The Enlightenment view of mankind is a complete myth. It leads us into thinking we’re sane and rational creatures most of the time, and we’re not.
— J. G. Ballard
Respect for another man’s opinion is worthy. It is the realization that any opinion is valuable, for it is the sign of a rational being.
— Sargent Shriver

If you asked most people about their thought-processes, they probably wouldn't question their train of thought. We do not always think about thinking. Generally, we appear quite capable of finding and defending the logic behind our internal decisions. But we do not always envision others within this broad framework and often judge their reasoning through our mental schema and thinking habits. This week we welcome Taylor Scult to discuss an uncommon believe that all thoughts have a basis in rationale. How can we push ourselves to see the logic that others apply to their decisions and behavior? Why might we be more inclined to see the world in terms of black and white logic? Does a belief in truly illogical behavior encourage us to abandon thinking we do not understand?

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Episode 137: A Veteran's Transition

Transitions are often interesting occasions in our lives which force us to confront the self on a critical level and evaluate our apparent trajectories. This is particularly true of military veterans, whose transitions home from military operations of all kinds can be jarring given the stark contrast of military procedures and civilian life. We're particularly grateful to speak with Travis Partington this week about some of his experiences as a Marine and his shift out of the military. How can civilians better welcome and support those making this journey? What do our preconceptions of those in the military suggest about our impressions of their times and perspectives? How do we collectively lose stories and insight in failing to ask about their experiences?

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Episode 136: The Friend Zone

Girls are not machines that you put kindness coins into until sex falls out.
— Sylvia Plath
I definitely think the idea of the friend zone is men going, ‘This woman won’t have sex with me.’
— Daniel Radcliffe
Sure, we were friends who exchanged soulful glances, friends who slept in a bed filled with sexual tension, friends who found any excuse to touch, but I worried that we’d never take that perilous leap of faith toward becoming a real couple, a permanent team.
— Emily Giffin, Something Blue

The interactions that comprise our world are built upon how we communicate with one another and what we expect of those around us. This is particularly evident in the phenomenon of "The Friend Zone," a state often lamented by those whose sexual or romantic desires are not reciprocated. But what does this expression of dissatisfaction say about our cultural teachings? This week we welcome Chandler Davis to discuss the concept and some of its problematic implications. Why is the term often used by men to describe their relationships with women? How does a reliance upon this belief diminish more nuanced and complex understandings of others? What are other cultural values attendant to a belief in the Friend Zone?

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