Reader Paul informed me that Steve Pinker has a YouTube channel, and he does and it looks official—run by Qualia.
It’s called “The Life of the Mind“, and there will be an episode every Wednesday. The first one is up and is 18½ minutes long; it’s a short history of psychological experiments beginning with behaviorism. (There’s also a short 50-second intro video, but the longer video has the same information.)
Steve’s own career in psychology mirrors the history from Skinnerian behaviorism until today, when cognitive psychology is a big deal. Throughout the narrative he interweaves his own career, and he winds up connecting experiments with rats getting rewards at “random” intervals with the intervals during which humans engage in war. The point there is that a truly random process, like the one used to give pellets to rats, looks to the layperson like they are clustered. Wars have seem clustered to many, but they aren’t.
This shows how Pinker’s involvement in classical psychology has fed into his more recent work on history and its trajectory.
I don’t know if Steve is being interviewed here (he seems to be looking at someone form time to time), but he’s extraordinarily eloquent (he never says “uh”), and I don’t think he’s reading from a script.
The guy is amazing, but, as he says, he’s hardly done anything that isn’t controversial. Because I happen to agree with most of what he’s written, and have spent time with him, learning that he’s a truly nice guy and not in the least arrogant, I find it hard to understand the animus against him. Maybe it’s because he believes in genuine progress, which of course angers people for a number of reasons.
Anyway, check the link above each Wednesday, or perhaps you can subscribe. But do listen to the history below, which I found enlightening.
Does everyone have a channel or podcast now? I fear that websites like this are simply going out of style. So it goes.