In fact, I now relish my daily walk to and from my son's nursery, because I get to listen to Podcasts on the solo legs. The zenith of the long-form podcast to my mind, is Sam Harris' Making Sense. Sam is a neuroscientist, philosopher, and author of several books, including five New York Times Best Sellers. He's a phenomenally bright, erudite and considered man, but best of all, he's almost singularly gifted at making the very complex, eminently intelligible to people without PhDs. Sam's guests regularly include the smartest, most progressive, most interesting people on the planet, often coinciding with the publication of their latest book. From his guest's perspective, as opposed to a few rushed and snatched moments they might get on a TV network, Sam gives his guest a platform of an hour or two, sometimes more, to really listen to them, and interact. One of my greatest admirations of the man, is the grace and egoless patience with which he listens to great people expound on difficult ideas, without constantly needing to interject. Modern-day TV talk-show hosts to my perpetual frustration lack this ability, unable to let a guest speak for more than a few seconds. That is not to say however, that Sam is just an earpiece or a conduit, he is our better-informed proxy, with one ear on making the content broadly accessible, and the other on representing the questions and even pushback on novel ideas that any listener might feel emerging.
His guests, quite befittingly, are fascinating giants of their respective fields. And it turns out, that if you listen to cutting edge ideas, laid out and explained by the very people who willed them into being, with a proxy who'll help navigate the waters, you can learn an incredible amount. Making Sense contains over 250 episodes (with between 1 and 4 episodes arriving every month) of between 1 and 4 hours each. They're fascinating, mind-expanding, horizon-broadening audiences with the best minds on earth. Sam meets you where you are, his content is accessible on many levels, regardless of your expertise. To a novice, they're a fascinating crash-course on a subject, yet still relevant and cutting edge to experts in the field. Put simply, Making Sense makes you smarter. But lest you fear that they're dry episodes, they never are. Sam is witty without being egotistical about the humour, and the conversation is always entertaining as well as interesting; the podcasts sound as if they were scripted by Aaron Sorkin, but with the reassurance that the dialogue is not just artifice, but full of tremendous substance.
So give the gift of knowledge, of entertainment, of fascination and of learning, to someone who'll thank you for this introduction.
(Sam's books include The End of Faith, The Moral Landscape, Free Will, Lying, and Waking Up. He holds a degree in philosophy from Stanford University and a Ph.D. in neuroscience from UCLA.)