E17 The Fermi Paradox

"The only thing that scares me more than aliens is the idea that there aren't any aliens"

According to scientists' best estimates, there are likely a great number of intelligent civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy, and many more throughout the rest of the observable universe. But if that's the case, where is everybody?

Maybe homo sapiens are the first of many intelligent civilizations that will one day explore the universe. Maybe intelligent life is more improbable than we'd thought. Or maybe aliens are really out there, but we haven't found them just yet.

Scientists and big thinkers have spent decades trying to get to the bottom of the Fermi Paradox, but they're yet to get to the bottom of this cosmic mystery. In this episode, we'll find out why many scientists predict that the universe is teeming with intelligent life, why we're still waiting for contact, and the ways in which our answers might radically alter the long-term prospects of the human race.

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E16 Why We Are Living Inside a Simulation and Why We Should Care

The blue pill or the red pill?

The idea that we are living inside a simulation used to be little more than the brainwave of pot-smoking teenagers and people who took The Matrix a bit too seriously. But since the early 2000s, the tide has started to change.

In 2003, Nick Bostrom published a paper arguing that if we accept a reasonable set of assumptions, we are almost certainly living in a simulation. To this day, philosophers and physicists alike have failed to find a good reason to reject this staggering conclusion. Could it really be the case that our universe is no more than code in the computer of some highly advanced civilization? And, if Bostrom is right, what effect might this discovery have upon our lives?

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E15 The Pessimism of Schopenhauer

The cause of suffering and the path to salvation

"Happiness lies always in the future, or else in the past, and the present may be compared to a small, dark cloud driven by the wind over the sunny plain; in front of and behind the cloud everything is bright, only it itself always casts a shadow. Consequently, the present is always inadequate, but the future uncertain, and the past irrecoverable.”

Schopenhauer paints a bleak, unforgiving picture of the human condition. Yet, Schopenhauer identifies a path away from the relentless suffering that consumes us all, and towards salvation. In this episode, we'll explore why Schopenhauer is so disillusioned by our very existence, and whether a better life is within our grasp.

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E14 Buddhism: Meditation and Mindfulness

Using meditation to open up the doors of perception

Meditation is sometimes thought to be a relaxation or an anti-stress technique - a get-out-of-jail-free card to play when you're not feeling your best. But that's just one small part of what meditation can do.

Last month, we saw how following the Buddhist path can lead us to Nirvana: a state beyond suffering and of pure contentment. In this episode, we'll explore how Vipassana meditation can be used to radically alter our worldview and discover the kinds of insights necessary for attaining Nirvana.

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E13 Buddhism: The Path to Nirvana

This episode has nothing to do with Kurt Cobain

Relative to our ancestors, we live in a very strange world. Food, sex, a holiday for 2 to Timbuktu - our every desire is available at the click of a button. But are we any happier than we were before?

Right at the other end of the spectrum, Buddhism offers us a path away from desire and towards contentment and tranquility. This episode will try to answer: how do Buddhists understand human nature? What is their alternative to the hedonic treadmill? And how can we attain Nirvana?

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E12 Anti-Natalism: Why Having Children Is Wrong

Better never to have been born at all?

Searching For It explores philosophies, ideas, and ways of life that can provide our lives with an overarching sense of purpose. But if anti-natalists had their way, we'd euthanize the human race as soon as possible because life is simply not worth living. In this episode, we'll investigate this provocative philosophy and try to understand why anti-natalists think it would be better never to have been born at all.

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E11 Sartre and Existentialism

Radical freedom, authenticity, and edgy Frenchmen in turtleneck sweaters

Communist, womanizer, and intellectual rebel: Jean-Paul Sartre wasn't just another grey, ageing philosopher, trudging his way through the academic establishment. Sartre was an existentialist, a fierce political campaigner, and he lived the philosophy he preached. In this episode, we'll be getting to grips with Sartre's brand of existentialism and discovering what it means to live as an authentic, radically free being.

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E10 Liam Ward on Camus and the Absurd

Discussing Camus, suicide, and the absurd with Liam Ward

In today's bonus October episode, Liam Ward joins Searching For It to discuss the philosophy of Albert Camus. Today's episode will see us revisiting the first episode of Searching For It and exploring Camus' notion of the absurd in more depth. Liam has a long-standing interest in Camus and all things existentialist, and brings to the table his thoughts on Camus' novel The Outsider and how we can apply Camus' philosophy to our day-to-day lives.

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E9 Altruism: How to do Good Effectively

Doing the most good we can with Effective Altruists

This episode brings the second instalment of the 2-part series on altruism. After having looked into why we should be so concerned about doing good in the last episode, today we'll be trying to figure out how we can do good the most effectively.

We'll be looking at a group of people called Effective Altruists who have spent a lot of time thinking about this question. We'll uncover the interesting and surprising conclusions that Effective Altruists have reached regarding which causes deserve our attention, and how we can go about supporting them the most effectively.

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E8 Altruism: The Case for Doing Good

What reasons to we have to be a good person?

This episode brings the first instalment of a 2-part series on altruism. Today we’ll be asking: what reasons do I have to be a good person? From a moral point of view, do I face any obligations to spend my time helping those in need? And from a self-interested point of view, can I find a sense of meaning and fulfilment in doing so?

In this episode you’ll find provocative thought experiments, interesting ways of making a positive difference to the world, and a lot of Peter Singer! Tune in, and Searching For It will be back on Monday 7 October with an episode on Effective Altruism and the most effective ways of doing good.

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