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What It Means to be Curious in Life—Beyond Googling


Episode Description

As we head into another new year, we wonder what lies ahead in the coming months. We’re “curious,” we say, about what will happen in the November elections; what’s in store for us in new TV shows and movie premiers; the outcomes of our favorite sports teams; and what events will unfold in our lives, both traditional and unexpected. But curiosity is much more than simply striving to acquire information about things we’d like to know. 

In today’s episode, Perry Zurn, a professor of philosophy, and Dani S. Basset, a professor of bioengineering will talk about the compelling thesis they present in their book, “Curious Minds”: that curiosity is fundamentally a practice of making connections. “Relational curiosity” connects ideas into networks of knowledge, and it connects the knowers themselves, both to the knowledge they seek, and to each other. The co-authors—who are also identical twins—will spell out three main styles of curiosity, which they’ve called the “butterfly,” the “hunter,” and the “dancer.” They’ll talk about what neuroscientists think is happening in the brain when people are curious, and  they’ll describe the debate among educators as to how curiosity is related to learning.  And Professors Zurn and Bassett will set out some thought-provoking arguments about how we should foster curiosity in the workplace, in schools, and more broadly in our culture—as a potentially important tool to help us navigate these challenging times. Curious to hear more? Listen in to the show.

Guest Descriptions

Perry Zurn is Provost Associate Professor of Philosophy at American University, and affiliate faculty in the Department of Critical Race, Gender, and Culture Studies, the Honors Program, and the Antiracist Research and Policy Center. Prof. Zurn is the author of “Curiosity and Power: The Politics of Inquiry” and co-author of “Curious Minds: The Power of Connection,” as well as the author or coauthor of more than 85 additional publications in philosophy, political theory, trans studies, and network science.

Dani S. Bassett is the J. Peter Skirkanich Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, with appointments in the Departments of Bioengineering, Electrical & Systems Engineering, Physics & Astronomy, Neurology, and Psychiatry. Prof. Bassett is most well-known for blending neural and systems engineering to identify fundamental mechanisms of cognition and disease in human brain networks. Prof. Bassett has received multiple prestigious awards, including American Psychological Association's “Rising Star,” Alfred P Sloan Research Fellow, MacArthur Fellow Genius Grant, Popular Science Brilliant 10, and the Erdos-Renyi Prize in Network Science. Bassett is the author of more than 300 peer-reviewed publications and has co-authored with philosopher and twin Perry Zurn, “Curious Minds: The Power of Connection.”

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