Welcome back friends! Cue the kazoos and the champagne—after a short summer snooze, we’re much revived and ready for a third season of Many Minds!
I could not be more thrilled about the guest we have to help kick things off: Dr. Alison Gopnik. Alison is a Professor of Psychology and Affiliate Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley. She’s the author of several books, including most recently The Gardener and the Carpenter, and she writes the “Mind and Matter” column for the Wall Street Journal. She also recently became the president-elect of the Association for Psychological Science.
As many of you know, Alison is a distinguished developmental psychologist—she’s been thinking deeply about children and writing insightfully about them for decades. But more recently she’s stepped back to think also about childhood itself: that long period where we’re kind of needy, messy, dreamy, and blissfully unproductive. She notes that childhood may be one of the most puzzling and distinctive things about our species. Though it is perhaps rivaled by the other extreme of the human lifespan: old age, or as she calls it, “elderhood.”
Here Alison and I talk about childhood and elderhood and how they go hand in hand. We discuss how they evolved, and, of course, why. We consider how they are associated with different modes of thinking and different ways of being. We talk about Alison’s radical suggestion that it’s during these bookends of life—our first act and last act—that we are, in fact, at our most human.
Something I especially enjoyed about this conversation—and you’ll definitely notice it if you’ve been listening to the show for awhile—is how often we hit on themes and topics from past episodes. We touch on cephalopods, orcas, bees, and Neanderthals; we talk about the tension between imitation and innovation and about why adults don’t change their minds. But here, of course, we’re seeing all this familiar terrain from new angles.
But before we get to the episode, just wanted to say a quick but heartfelt thanks for all your support over our first two seasons. The best way to keep supporting the show is just to keep listening, to rate and review us if you haven’t already, and, of course, to recommend us to a friend or colleague.
Alright folks, looking forward to spending more time with you in the coming months. Here’s my conversation with Dr. Alison Gopnik. Enjoy!