Our Collective Search for Meaning And What Happens If We Can’t Find It

December 26th, 2017


From the time we first enter the world, to the moment we read or listen to the morning news, we are trying to make sense of the world. We are trying to discern patterns, to create a narrative, to fit the puzzle pieces together in ways that make sense. All the while creating the minimum amount of cognitive dissonance, so that we can move forward each day without having a complete nervous breakdown.

And so it is that societies and cultures do exactly the same things as part of a kind of collective effort to finding meaning. Be it in art, as we try to find metaphorical meaning in the equivalent of a grain of sand, or in the worship of religion, money, success or hierarchical achievement. The problem often comes when these patterns we internalize, run headlong into reality.

That’s a part of what I explore with Jeremy Lent as we look at The Patterning Instinct: A Cultural History of Humanity's Search for Meaning.

My conversation with Jeremy Lent:


Is the Keyboard The New F15?

December 26th, 2017

875291168.0.jpgYou may remember that during the cold war, particularly during the Vietnam conflict, we were told that the battle was for the “hearts and minds” of the enemy. We understood that in conflict, propaganda, particularly as told through narrative, was an important tool of warfare.

Narrative, if successful, was there to reinforce the battle. The ultimate expression of this was the phrase, sometimes attributed to both John Wayne and Chuck Colson, that “if you have them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow.”

Today, in our 24/7 always on, social media saturated world, the objective has changed. Now, the battle through social media and television, for the proverbial hearts and minds, is sometime the goal, in and of itself.

As we’ve seen with Russia in both the Ukraine, and in it’s new cold war with the US, sometimes control of the Twitter and Facebook narrative is enough to create disruption, to change the terms of the conflict itself and ultimately to win. Suddenly, in cold war 2.0, a keyboard has as much power as an F15. That's the reality that David Patrikarakos lays bear in War in 140 Characters: How Social Media Is Reshaping Conflict in the Twenty-First Century.

My WhoWhatWhy.org conversation with David Patrikarakos:




Sleep…It’s Not Just For Wimps Anymore

December 19th, 2017


Tune in to the news any day, and there is lots to lose sleep over. Not the least of which is the worry that if we are not sleeping correctly, we will age faster, increase our risk of Alzheimer's and be susceptible to a host of other illnesses.

It’s hard to imagine, that with all of the other crisis going on, how much time and conversation gets devoted to the subject of sleep. It must mean that it’s pretty important. At least Matthew Walker thinks so. He is a professor of neuroscience and psychology at UC Berkeley, the Director of its Sleep and Neuroimaging Lab, and a former professor of psychiatry at Harvard University, and the author of Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams.

My conversation with Matthew Walker:

The World Will Never Be The Same After AI

December 15th, 2017


 One of the criticisms of Silicon Valley is often that so much talent and engineering is going toward the creation of minor advancements. A new dating app, new forms of banking, or even games.

But all of this belies what’s really going on beneath the surface, in the world of Artificial Intelligence. A world that conjures up a whole host of fears and confusion. Perhaps it comes from too many science fiction movies, or maybe it’s just the fear of the ultimate change and loss of control. Either way, it is coming in every aspect of our lives. We can choose to have the conversation now, or complain, protest and get angry later.

One of the people leading the way in this arena is Amir Husain. He is a serial entrepreneur and inventor, and the author of The Sentient Machine: The Coming Age of Artificial Intelligence.

My WhoWhatWhy conversation with Amir Husain:



The Joys of Refugees

December 12th, 2017


In our hyper partisan and over politicized culture, we’re always quick and anxious to talk about DACA, Dreamers, immigration, deportation, etc. Too often even the most well meaning stories are often lost in the weeds of policy and politics.

What we often forget, or can’t personally understand, is that all of this is about real people. About kids who are caught up in events they can’t control while getting impressions of how they are accepted or not as refugees. The result will shape how they grow up, what they will always believe about this country.

Even in the best of environment refugee resettlement is hard work. Although as my guest Helen Thorpe show us, in her book The Newcomers: Finding Refuge, Friendship, and Hope in an American Classroom, it should be filled with joy. 

My conversation with Helen Thorpe:

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