The Gray Area with Sean Illing
The Gray Area with Sean Illing
Vox
The Gray Area with host Sean Illing is a philosophical take on culture, politics, and everything in between. We don’t pretend to have the answers, but we do offer a space for real dialogue. Resist certainty, embrace ambiguity, and get some cool takes on a very hot world. Formerly the Vox Conversations podcast. New episodes drop every Monday and Thursday.
The end of social media
Sean Illing talks with technology writer and philosopher Ian Bogost about the state of social media — especially in the wake of Elon Musk's recent acquisition of Twitter. They discuss the recent but surprising history of the platforms that have come to dominate the lives of so many, and note a crucial shift that made social media what is today. Sean and Ian also talk about how Silicon Valley views "scale," whether Twitter should be treated as a public utility, and how — as a society — we might be able to quit. Host: Sean Illing (@seanilling), host, The Gray Area Guest: Ian Bogost (@ibogost), contributing writer, The Atlantic; professor and director of film & media studies, Washington University of St. Louis References:  "The Age of Social Media Is Ending" by Ian Bogost (The Atlantic; Nov. 10) "The Madness of Twitter" by Ian Bogost (The Atlantic; Nov. 22) "People Aren't Meant to Talk This Much" by Ian Bogost (The Atlantic; Oct. 22, 2021) "Facebook Is A Doomsday Machine" by Adrienne LaFrance (The Atlantic; Dec. 15, 2020) Understanding Media by Marshall McLuhan (1964) The Paradox of Democracy: Free Speech, Open Media, and Perilous Persuasion by Zac Gershberg & Sean Illing (U. Chicago; 2022)   Enjoyed this episode? Rate The Gray Area ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ and leave a review on Apple Podcasts. Subscribe for free. Be the first to hear the next episode of The Gray Area. Subscribe in your favorite podcast app. Support The Gray Area by making a financial contribution to Vox! bit.ly/givepodcasts This episode was made by:  Producer: Erikk Geannikis Editor: Amy Drozdowska Engineer: Patrick Boyd Editorial Director, Vox Talk: A.M. Hall Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Dec 1
50 min
If society is making us sick, how can we heal?
Sean Illing talks with Dr. Gabor Maté, a physician, speaker, and bestselling author who has written on subjects like addiction, stress, and attention deficit disorder. In Maté's new book, The Myth of Normal, he argues that the Western paradigm of health is fundamentally flawed in its attempt to separate inner, emotional well-being from bodily health. Sean and Dr. Maté discuss how our society and culture can contribute to illness. They also talk about the adverse effects of trauma, the therapeutic potential of psychedelics, and parenting. Host: Sean Illing (@seanilling), host, The Gray Area Guest: Dr. Gabor Maté (@DrGaborMate), author; physician References:  The Myth of Normal: Trauma, Illness, and Healing in a Toxic Culture by Gabor Maté, MD, with Daniel Maté (Avery; 2022) "Mothers Are the 'Shock Absorbers' of Our Society" by Jessica Grose (New York Times; Oct. 14, 2020) "'It's Life or Death': The Mental Health Crisis Among U.S. Teens" by Matt Richtel (New York Times; Apr. 23) Scattered Minds: The Origin and Healing of Attention Deficit Disorder by Gabor Maté, MD (Jan. 2023; Avery. Previously published as Scattered, 2000) "The brutal mirror: What the psychedelic drug ayahuasca showed me about my life" by Sean Illing (Vox; Feb. 19, 2018) "How to discipline your child and toddler, without hitting - Jordan Peterson" (YouTube; Mar. 15, 2018) Hold On to Your Kids by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Maté, MD (Ballantine; 2006) "A Theory of Human Motivation" by Abraham H. Maslow (Psychological Review vol. 50; 1943)   Enjoyed this episode? Rate The Gray Area ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ and leave a review on Apple Podcasts. Subscribe for free. Be the first to hear the next episode of The Gray Area. Subscribe in your favorite podcast app. Support Vox Conversations by making a financial contribution to Vox! bit.ly/givepodcasts This episode was made by:  Producer: Erikk Geannikis Editor: Amy Drozdowska Engineer: Patrick Boyd Editorial Director, Vox Talk: A.M. Hall Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Nov 28
57 min
The free-market century is over
Sean Illing talks with economic historian Brad DeLong about his new book Slouching Towards Utopia. In it, DeLong claims that the "long twentieth century" was the most consequential period in human history, during which the institutions of rapid technological growth and globalization were created, setting humanity on a path towards improving life, defeating scarcity, and enabling real freedom. But... this ran into some problems. Sean and Brad talk about the power of markets, how the New Deal led to something approaching real social democracy, and why the Great Recession of 2008 and its aftermath signified the end of this momentous era. Host: Sean Illing (@seanilling), host, The Gray Area Guest: J. Bradford DeLong (@delong), author; professor of economics, U.C. Berkeley References:  Slouching Towards Utopia: An Economic History of the Twentieth Century by J. Bradford DeLong (Basic; 2022) The Road to Serfdom by Friedrich von Hayek (1944) The Great Transformation by Karl Polanyi (1944) Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy by Joseph Schumpeter (1942) "A Short History of Enclosure in Britain" by Simon Fairlie (This Land Magazine; 2009) "China's Great Leap Forward" by Clayton D. Brown (Association for Asian Studies; 2012) What Is Property? by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1840) The Rise and Fall of the Neoliberal Order by Gary Gerstle (Oxford University Press; 2022) Apple's "1984" ad (YouTube) The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money by John Maynard Keynes (1936) "The spectacular ongoing implosion of crypto's biggest star, explained" by Emily Stewart (Vox; Nov. 18) "Did Greenspan Add to Subprime Woes? Gramlich Says Ex-Colleague Blocked Crackdown" by Greg Ip (Wall Street Journal; June 9, 2007) "Families across the country are tightening their belts and making tough decisions. The federal government should do the same," from President Obama's 2010 State of the Union Address (Jan. 27, 2010) "The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte" by Karl Marx (1852) Why We're Polarized by Ezra Klein (Simon & Schuster; 2020) The Paradox of Democracy: Free Speech, Open Media, and Perilous Persuasion by Zac Gershberg and Sean Illing (U. Chicago; 2022)   Enjoyed this episode? Rate The Gray Area ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ and leave a review on Apple Podcasts. Subscribe for free. Be the first to hear the next episode of The Gray Area. Subscribe in your favorite podcast app. Support Vox Conversations by making a financial contribution to Vox! bit.ly/givepodcasts This episode was made by:  Producer: Erikk Geannikis Editor: Amy Drozdowska Engineer: Patrick Boyd Editorial Director, Vox Talk: A.M. Hall Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Nov 21
57 min
Your identity is a story you tell yourself
Sean Illing talks with neuroscientist Gregory Berns, author of The Self Delusion. Berns claims that the idea of a unified, persistent self is a kind of illusion, and that we are better understood as multiple selves at different moments in time, tied together by a story — which is what we call our identity. Sean and Greg also talk about whether the brain is a computer, how perception works, the limits of thinking too much about thinking, and what psychedelics can do to disrupt and change the stories we tell about ourselves. Host: Sean Illing (@seanilling), host, The Gray Area Guest: Gregory Berns (@gberns), author; professor of psychology and distinguished professor of neuroeconomics, Emory University References:  The Self Delusion: The New Neuroscience of How We Invent — and Reinvent — Our Identities by Gregory Berns (Basic; 2022) More on the "Ship of Theseus" by Noah Levin "Facing Up to the Problem of Consciousness" by David Chalmers (Journal of Consciousness Studies 2; 1995) More on "The Hard Problem of Consciousness" by Josh Weisberg (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy) "The extraordinary therapeutic potential of psychedelic drugs, explained" by Sean Illing (Vox; Mar. 8, 2019)   Enjoyed this episode? Rate The Gray Area ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ and leave a review on Apple Podcasts. Subscribe for free. Be the first to hear the next episode of The Gray Area. Subscribe in your favorite podcast app. Support Vox Conversations by making a financial contribution to Vox! bit.ly/givepodcasts This episode was made by:  Producer: Erikk Geannikis Editor: Amy Drozdowska Engineer: Patrick Boyd Editorial Director, Vox Talk: A.M. Hall Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Nov 17
45 min
James Carville unpacks the midterms
Sean Illing talks with veteran political strategist James Carville about the U.S. midterm elections — and the surprising success for Democrats that was a far cry from the "red wave" of Republican victories widely predicted by pundits. They talk about why the results differed so vastly from these expectations, what lessons both parties should be drawing from the outcomes, and whether or not the Democratic party, despite their victories, still have a systematic problem with political messaging. This conversation took place mid-day on Wednesday, November 9th. Host: Sean Illing (@seanilling), host, The Gray Area Guest: James Carville (@JamesCarville), political strategist; co-host, Politics War Room podcast References:  Fall 2022 Harvard Youth Poll (Oct. 27) Exit poll data from ABC News and CNN "'Wokeness is a problem and we all know it': James Carville on the state of Democratic politics" by Sean Illing (Vox; Apr. 27, 2021) "GOP to use debt limit to force spending cuts, McCarthy says" by Eugene Robinson (Washington Post; Oct. 18) 2022 abortion-related ballot measures (Ballotpedia) "Democrats' Long Goodbye to the Working Class" by Ruy Teixeira (The Atlantic; Nov. 6) "Is John Fetterman the Future of the Democratic Party?" by Michael Sokolove (New York Times; May 18) On Carville's role in the abortion referendum campaign in Kansas: "The Most Consequential Vote in Recent American History is Happening Today and the News Media Is Ignoring It" by Colby Hall (Mediaite; Aug. 2nd) "How a 10-Year-Old Rape Victim Who Traveled for an Abortion Became Part of a Political Firestorm" by Solcyre Burga (Time; July 15) "Democrats still have a path to keep the House — but it's tough" by Andrew Prokop (Vox; Nov. 10)   Enjoyed this episode? Rate The Gray Area ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ and leave a review on Apple Podcasts. Subscribe for free. Be the first to hear the next episode of The Gray Area. Subscribe in your favorite podcast app. Support Vox Conversations by making a financial contribution to Vox! bit.ly/givepodcasts This episode was made by:  Producer: Erikk Geannikis Editor: Amy Drozdowska Engineer: Patrick Boyd Editorial Director, Vox Talk: A.M. Hall Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Nov 14
49 min
Why are billionaires prepping for the apocalypse?
Sean Illing talks with technologist, media theorist, and author Douglas Rushkoff, whose new book Survival of the Richest explains how the ultra-wealthy are obsessed with preparing for the end of the world — and the troubling mindset that leads many rich and powerful people down this road. They discuss the blend of tech utopianism and fatalism behind this doomsday prepping, how Silicon Valley and "tech bro" culture have incentivized a kind of misanthropy, and why the world's billionaire class can't see that the catastrophes they fear are of their own making. Host: Sean Illing (@seanilling), host, The Gray Area Guest: Douglas Rushkoff (@rushkoff), author; professor, media studies, CUNY Queens College References:  Survival of the Richest: Escape Fantasies of the Tech Billionaires by Douglas Rushkoff (W.W. Norton; 2022) "Epson boobytrapped its printers" by Cory Doctorow (Medium; Aug. 7) "Cosmism: Russia's religion for the rocket age" by Benjamin Ramm (BBC; Apr. 20, 2021) The Selfish Gene (1976) and The God Delusion (2006) by Richard Dawkins Francis Bacon, Redargutio Philosophiarum (1608), tr. by Benjamin Farrington in The Philosophy of Francis Bacon (1964): "Nature must be taken by the forelock . . . lay hold of her and capture her" (p. 130). "Power changes how the brain responds to others" by Jeremy Hogeveen, et al., Journal of Experiential Psychology (Apr. 2014) What We Owe the Future by William MacAskill (Basic Books; 2022) Team Human by Douglas Rushkoff (W.W. Norton; 2021)   Enjoyed this episode? Rate The Gray Area ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ and leave a review on Apple Podcasts. Subscribe for free. Be the first to hear the next episode of The Gray Area. Subscribe in your favorite podcast app. Support Vox Conversations by making a financial contribution to Vox! bit.ly/givepodcasts This episode was made by:  Producer: Erikk Geannikis Editor: Amy Drozdowska Engineer: Patrick Boyd Editorial Director, Vox Talk: A.M. Hall Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Nov 10
55 min
Today's Republicans were made in the 1990s
Sean Illing talks with Nicole Hemmer, history professor and author of the new book Partisans. In it, she gives a reinterpretation of the Reagan presidency and what followed, and shows how the conservative political movement entangled with media figures and became what it is in the 1990s. They discuss the doomed but influential presidential campaigns of Pat Buchanan, the rise to dominance of conservative talk radio, and the enduring dangers of political violence. Host: Sean Illing (@seanilling), host, The Gray Area Guest: Nicole Hemmer (@pastpunditry), author; professor, Vanderbilt University References:  Partisans: The Conservative Revolutionaries Who Remade American Politics in the 1990s by Nicole Hemmer (Basic; 2022) "The Man Who Won the Republican Party Before Trump Did" by Nicole Hemmer (New York Times; Sept. 8) Talk Radio's America: How an Industry Took Over a Political Party That Took Over the United States by Brian Rosenwald (Harvard; 2019) On the Fairness Doctrine (First Amendment Center; MTSU) GOP Reagan Library Debate (CNN; Sept. 16, 2015)   Enjoyed this episode? Rate The Gray Area ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ and leave a review on Apple Podcasts. Subscribe for free. Be the first to hear the next episode of The Gray Area. Subscribe in your favorite podcast app. Support Vox Conversations by making a financial contribution to Vox! bit.ly/givepodcasts This episode was made by:  Producer: Erikk Geannikis Editor: Amy Drozdowska Engineer: Patrick Boyd Editorial Director, Vox Talk: A.M. Hall Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Nov 7
1 hr 6 min
Yuval Noah Harari thinks humans are unstoppable
Sean Illing talks with Yuval Noah Harari, historian and bestselling author, about how humanity came to be the dominant species on earth, and what our future might hold. Sean and Yuval discuss mankind's imaginative "superpower," the threats to democracy across the globe, the future of artificial intelligence — and plenty more. Yuval's new book Unstoppable Us adapts many of his macro-historical insights from Sapiens for younger readers, and is the first in a planned four-volume series. Host: Sean Illing (@seanilling), host, The Gray Area Guest: Yuval Noah Harari (@harari_yuval), author; professor, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem References:  Unstoppable Us, Volume 1: How Humans Took Over the World by Yuval Noah Harari; illustrated by Ricard Zaplana Ruiz (Bright Matter; 2022) Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari (Harper; 2017) Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari (Harper; 2015) "Nationalism vs. globalism: the new political divide | Yuval Noah Harari" (TED; YouTube)   Enjoyed this episode? Rate The Gray Area ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ and leave a review on Apple Podcasts. Subscribe for free. Be the first to hear the next episode of The Gray Area. Subscribe in your favorite podcast app. Support Vox Conversations by making a financial contribution to Vox! bit.ly/givepodcasts This episode was made by:  Producer: Erikk Geannikis Editor: Amy Drozdowska Engineer: Patrick Boyd Editorial Director, Vox Talk: A.M. Hall Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Nov 3
1 hr 2 min
Dying with dignity
Sean Illing talks with reporter Katie Engelhart, whose book The Inevitable is an up-close look at physician-assisted dying. This is the practice of receiving state-sanctioned medical aid to end one's life — a practice now legal in 10 U.S. states, Canada, and elsewhere around the world. They discuss the details of the procedure — including why people fight for this right and exercise it — as well as many of the moral and legal questions that it raises. Host: Sean Illing (@seanilling), host, The Gray Area Guest: Katie Engelhart (@katieengelhart), journalist; author References:  The Inevitable: Dispatches on the Right to Die by Katie Engelhart (St. Martin's; 2021) Brittany Maynard's legislative testimony   Enjoyed this episode? Rate The Gray Area ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ and leave a review on Apple Podcasts. Subscribe for free. Be the first to hear the next episode of The Gray Area. Subscribe in your favorite podcast app. Support Vox Conversations by making a financial contribution to Vox! bit.ly/givepodcasts This episode was made by:  Producer: Erikk Geannikis Editor: Amy Drozdowska Engineers: Patrick Boyd, Paul Robert Mounsey Editorial Director, Vox Talk: A.M. Hall Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Oct 31
59 min
Finding hope in a world on the brink
Sean Illing talks with Jonathan Lear, a psychoanalyst and philosopher, about his new book Imagining the End: Mourning and Ethical Life. How can we continue to live a good life in a world beset by catastrophe, crisis, and chaos? Sean and Jonathan discuss the role of imagination and culture in the ways we make meaning in the world, the idea of mourning as a confrontation with our uniquely human ability to love, and how to turn away from the path of despair, towards hope — and to what Lear calls "committed living towards the future." Host: Sean Illing (@seanilling), host, The Gray Area Guest: Jonathan Lear, author; professor, Committee on Social Thought & Dept. of Philosophy, University of Chicago References:  Imagining the End: Mourning and Ethical Life by Jonathan Lear (Harvard; Nov. 15, 2022) Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics Søren Kierkegaard, The Sickness unto Death (1849; published under the pseudonym Anti-Climacus) Sigmund Freud, Mourning and Melancholia (1917) "The Difficulty of Reality and the Difficulty of Philosophy" by Cora Diamond (2003) Radical Hope: Ethics in the Face of Cultural Devastation by Jonathan Lear (Harvard; 2008) "Envy and Gratitude" by Melanie Klein (1957; published in The Writings of Melanie Klein, Volume III, Hogarth Press; 1975) "A Lecture on Ethics" by Ludwig Wittgenstein (lecture notes from 1929-1930, published in The Philosophical Review v. 74 no. 1, 1965)   Enjoyed this episode? Rate The Gray Area ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ and leave a review on Apple Podcasts. Subscribe for free. Be the first to hear the next episode of The Gray Area. Subscribe in your favorite podcast app. Support Vox Conversations by making a financial contribution to Vox! bit.ly/givepodcasts This episode was made by:  Producer: Erikk Geannikis Editor: Amy Drozdowska Engineer: Patrick Boyd Editorial Director, Vox Talk: A.M. Hall Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Oct 27
58 min
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