Recently, the pretty great skeptic podcast, Skeptoid, celebrated its 13th anniversary with a 13 hour-long livestream, in which host and founder Brian Dunning wore a party hat and received video calls from 24 of his dearest friends and peers.
It was a bit of a wreck, and the simultanious viewers never topped 40, but it was also extremely cozy and intimate. It was great seeing Brian interacting with his friends and colleagues and reflecting on their shared projects. It also lined up perfectly with my Aotearoan timezone, so I uh, I actually watched the entire thing... o.o;
But I'm glad I did! I've watched much sillier streamed events! It was actually very informative.
Here are the notes I took.
- Comedian Rachel Bloom came by. The video call quality was terrible.
- Apparently Sony funded a pilot of a show called Truth Hurts. Where Brian Dunning and Shira Lazar made a fun time of testing woo. It felt a lot like Mythbusters, with a greater focus on, you know, busting myths, and mainly myths that might really matter to someone. I think I would have loved it, but obviously it didn't go into production and I don't think Sony are funding shows any more.
- Archaeologist Ken Feder apparently wrote a book about Weird archaeological sites and the eerie stories wooists tell about them. Usually these stories are something along the lines of "old humans couldn't have made these artefacts, so it must have been aliens". Ken notes that this theory is actually kind of racist, the old people were very clever. He then explains the techniques by which the old people did make those artefacts, which tend to be very interesting.
- Magician Brian Brushwood seemed to have a really good attitude about promoting rationality. He hosts something called Scam School where, if I've gathered correctly, he teaches people how to commit acts of fooling. He says that only once you've fooled someone yourself will you learn to spot the signs that someone is trying to fool you, and in many cases those signs will be obvious once you know what to look for. He seemed to have a lot of value to say.
- On this note, I recommend Penn and Teller's Fool Us. Magic is the study of wrong-seeing, it should be interesting to any aspiring rationalist, and Fool Us is a great place to see it.
- Kiki Sanford, host of the extremely long-running science news podcast Scishow, mentioned being a part of a show called What On Earth, where they'd all look at some of the weird/spooky things people find in google earth, and then investigate them, sometimes going so far as to visit those locations, and find out what's really there. This sounds extremely fun to me.
- Brian's special Principles of Curiosity was shown. It was a well polished short documentary about fundamental principles of scientific thinking, featuring the travelling stones of death valley as a central case. I hope it is/was shown in many schools, and I hope it has its intended effects.
- Former psychic Mark Edward was talking about his time working at a psychics' hotline (written about in Psychic Blues). He said that most of the people there were just cynical frauds, but he described a type of person... "intuitive", those who were just "telling their own truth", if I understood correctly... he was describing a type of person who passed for a psychic because they could cold-read, and they could cold-read because they could see through people in ways that their clients might find invasive if it weren't for the shrouds of ghosts and magic covering their shame. They'd tell their audience that the reason they could see so much, wasn't because people have streams of pathos overflowing out of their orifices that they're failing to hide from anyone who truly wants to see, no no, it's because of this here comforting illusion.. you have a guardian angel in the spirit realm and it is speaking to me now because it trusts me, now, here's how your angel says we can fix your problem, and improve your life. Again, I'm not giving this advice, no, far be it from me to give you advice, it's the angel. You have no reason to feel embarrassed, I'm not telling you incredibly basic things that anyone ought to know, these are esoteric predictions from the spirit realm. Now, that ought to cure your troubles. I hope you don't need to call me again, but if you do, I'll always be here.
- And I wept for a bit. The notion that there are these great souls who see so much more human truth than anyone could believe or accept, that they feel like the only way they can convey any of it is to cast these digestible illusions for us... I can believe it. I've got friends like that, and there's nothing a-priori unlikely about it. Some people, often through trauma, end up having a lot of introspection forced upon them. Being forced at an early age to look into dark places, lose someone when they're young, contend with monsters, or maybe mental illness visits them, and they have to sear their whole psyche with light. And sometimes those people take all of that strength and direct it towards helping the people around them.
- But idk I should read the book
Overall it was a lovely, awkward, interesting time, and Brian will probably never do it again. Here's to another 13 years!