As promised, here are more podcasts that I enjoy and, if you’re so inclined, you may enjoy, too. Or not. What am I, psychic?
Politics / Current Events
Like it or not, politics affects everything we do. Aside from finding the subject interesting, I think it’s important to stay informed and knowledgeable about the things going on around us. After all, knowledge is the antidote to fear.
The Daily: The New York Times puts out this podcast every morning. Each episode, hosted by Michael Barbaro, dives in depth to an issue dominating the news and ends with a quick recap of other important news items. Topics really run the gamut and once in a while there is a multi-part story about something important that may not be getting a lot of press, like their five-part “Charm City” series on a police shooting in Baltimore.
Crooked Media: There are multiple podcasts under the Crooked Media banner. Most are politics-driven, but not all. Some are limited series, others are interview-based, and all balance engaging hosts with humor and information (even if it is sometimes biased). My favorites are Pod Save America and Lovett or Leave It. I also recommend the new podcast Six Feet Apart, hosted by journalist Alex Wagner, for a look at how the Coronavirus is affecting everyday people.
This Day in Esoteric Political History: A newer podcast (only 14 episodes so far) with short episodes (15 minutes), this is an often fascinating look at the context around obscure, but often major, political events. For example, what did President Obama mean in 2008 when he made remarks about “bitter” votes who “cling to guns and religion”? Turns out, as with most things, he was making a nuanced point about the fear people feel when the government fails them and the things they turn to when that happens. Not exactly how it was covered at the time, though, was it? If you, like me, believe that the past informs the present then this podcast will contextualize what we’re living now through a historical lens.
Slow Burn: Following the theme from the last recommendation, the first two seasons of Slow Burn dive deep into the most important political events of the last 40 years: the impeachments of Nixon and Clinton, respectively. What’s amazing is how similar the mistakes of those impeachments are to the ones we’ve watched play out over the past year. The Watergate scandal, especially, closely mirrors the trajectory of the Trump impeachment trial, partisanship and propaganda included, until it doesn’t.
Drilled: Climate change is the single most important issue facing the world. It has the potential to be an extinction-level event, but short-sightedness and greed have kneecapped attempts to get ahead of it. Drilled looks closely at the propaganda, junk science, and failed policies over the past 40 years that have prevented progress in this important area.
There is a lot to know about the world. Much of it is overwhelming. I find educational podcasts to be an effective way of learning new things without feeling like my brain will explode.
Factually: Host Adam Conover is living the life I want. Hang out with the experts of different topics every week to explore them from various perspectives? Sign me up. Adam approaches each conversation with a solid foundation of knowledge to maintain the discussion, and enough curiosity and good humor to learn with us.
Should This Exist?: Let’s do a quick thought experiment. Think about the technological progress we’ve made in the last hundred or so years (say, the time just before and encompassing the Information Age). Widespread adoption of cars, electricity in every home, the interstate highway system, television, the internet. Now compare that with the prior hundred years before that (roughly the span of the first and second Industrial Revolutions). How big of a leap in technologies was there in the last hundred years versus the hundred years prior? Technological development is continually accelerating, and not always to our benefit. This podcast, hosted by tech entrepreneur Caterina Fake, asks whether the technologies we’re developing to ostensibly make our lives easier or the world better in some way, are actually having the opposite effect.
Sleepwalkers: A series developed by Wired magazine, this explores how Artificial Intelligence (AI) affects our lives. This isn’t about the robot revolution, though, but instead about the more subtle, insidious ways that AI has infiltrated our lives. From AI-augmented surveillance, to advertising using AI to target their products to you, it has begun to touch every piece of us, in ways good and bad.
Intelligence Squared Debates: Dedicated to the debate (Oxford-style, oh yeah!) of experts across a variety of topics, this podcast demonstrates how facts are often formed (or perverted by) your perspective. Each episode a panel on opposite sides of a topic is given the opportunity to argue why they’re right to an audience that votes once before the debate, and again after the debate. The winner of the debate is the side that gained the most percentage points to their side. Nothing like a bit of competition to inject some life into your intellectual discourse.
City of the Future: As someone that writes primarily speculative fiction, I seek out information on cutting-edge topics in order to inform my imagination. City of the Future focuses on potential changes to the way we design, build, and live in cities. For example, what if instead of streetlights one day the sidewalks lit up with non-intrusive light to guide you as you walked?
The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe: This is one of the first podcasts I discovered nearly 15 years ago. Hosted by a combination of working scientists and science communicators, each week they cover topics in the news, play games, and discuss the importance of skepticism and scientific literacy. In an era where we are less and less able to differentiate between facts and misinformation, the skills they preach are more important than ever.
Slice of Life
The world is made up of people. Crazy, I know. Every single one of those people have stories of their own–often interesting, heartbreaking, and hilarious in equal measure. These podcasts attempt to dig into those stories.
The Dream: We all want to make easy money. Not because we’re lazy, but because we each yearn for the security and freedom that easy money promises. You can understand, then, how so many people fall prey to con artists. The Dream began as a look a multi-level marketing schemes–how they begin, why they’re successful, and the people whose lives they destroy–and has since tackled the health and wellness industry.
All My Relations: Two Native American women, Matika Wilbur and Adrienne Keane, discuss their cultures, tackle issues important to Native Americans, and target how Native Americans are represented (or, more often, misrepresented) in media. Broadening our perspectives and actively listening to the stories of those from other cultures is important to our growth as people, but also to the sustainability of our society. Matika and Adrienne talk about their own in an engaging, welcoming way, making it easy to be swept into not only their concerns for Native issues, but their love for Native culture.
Boomtown: There is an oil boom happening in West Texas right now. It has the potential to reshape aspects of the economy, the landscape, and the climate. This 11-part series spends each episode speaking with the people actively working on and around the oil rig, delving into the life of an oil worker and how something like this affects the towns around it.
Without Fail: I’ve written about this on the blog before, but I’m terrified of failing. This podcast is an interview-based series where host Alex Blumberg speaks with successful people not about their successes, but the failures that got them to where they are today. It’s an enlightening hour to spend with interesting people that continually prove how a lot of work and a little luck can add to a breakthrough.
Money makes the world go ’round. So, ya know, you should probably learn a little something about it.
Planet Money: Another short, information-packed podcast, Planet Money explains a single aspect of the economy every episode. Sometimes this means buying junk bonds to learn what they actually are, and other times it means following the finances of a strange hotel somewhere in New York State to figure out just how they stay open. No matter what, it’s always a journey. Also check out their sister podcast, The Indicator, for daily economic updates.
Industry Focus: A daily podcast from The Motley Fool (a financial management company), each day tackles a new topic relevant to the stock market. Even a passive listen can inform you on how to make better investments, if that’s your thing.
Zero Sum Empire: This is a bit of a cheat. It’s not strictly a podcast about finances or the economy, but is instead a deep-dive into America’s billionaire class. The hosts’ original intent for the show was to unmask the people that control the vast majority of wealth in our country. They quickly learned that, surprise surprise, information on individuals is hard to come by, especially when they have a vested interest in privacy. They also learned that for those billionaires that there is some public information on, most are boring. They’re just normal people that happen to have a lot of money, often through luck or inheritance. Instead, the show often sidetracks to explore how our laws and economy benefit billionaires through tax and legal loopholes, becoming a primer on complex economic topics than about any individual. Either way, thank the gods someone is out there working to inform us on the billionaire class.
As you can tell, I listen to a lot of podcasts. The ones listed here and last post are just a sampling of my full playlist, and I consistently look to add more. Drop me some of your favorites.