Saturday, 24 October 2020

053 – Is seeing believing? Deepfakes and the information apocalypse

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When you watch the news these days, do you trust your eyes and ears? Do you think what you’re seeing is real and happened the way it is being shown? Or is your first reaction to think: Hmm, I wonder if this video is fake? That’s what today’s episode is about, so stay tuned.

TRANSCRIPT PREVIEW – Get the full transcript here:

Before we get started, I hope you’ll indulge me in a little Better at English background info. I don’t do Better at English for the money, but some of you have been going out of your way to send me thank-you gifts. So thank you so much to Charles for his very generous Paypal donation, and to the mystery person who sent me the Handbook of Self-Determination research from my Amazon wish list. I honestly didn’t know that it was even possible to find my Amazon wish list anymore, so getting a mystery book delivered was a real surprise! I’d also like to thank Zhuo Tao (I hope I’m saying that right) who wrote my favorite review this month: It goes like this “This podcast is getting better and better by every episode. It’s no longer just some language learning material, but food for thought as well.” That is indeed what I’m trying to do, so that was really nice to get that feedback.

You can say thanks here:

All feedback from you lovely listeners, whether it’s reviews, email, voice messages, donations, Amazon wish list gifts…it’s all positive feedback that fuels my motivation to keep doing this…it’s a sign that you’re getting value from the episodes, which is what it’s all about. So thank you!

OK, thank you for indulging me…let’s get on with today’s topic.

Deepfakes and the Information Apocalypse
Today we’re looking at misinformation and disinformation in our modern age, and how technologies like deepfake are making it increasingly harder for us to know what is really happening in the world, to separate fact from fiction. This episode builds on my earlier episodes about AI—that’s artificial intelligence—which you can find further down the podcast feed as episodes 47 and 48.

Before we go any further, take a moment to ask yourself how much you trust what you see, hear, and read these days, whether it’s online, in a newspaper, or coming from an expert or politician in a live televised address. Is seeing believing, as the expression goes? Go ahead, think of some recent examples that are personally relevant to you. Now ask yourself how your beliefs about what is true influence your actions, how much they shape what you actually do as you move through life. How do these beliefs influence, for example, who you vote for, what you buy, what you eat, which books you read, which car you drive?

You don’t need to be a Ph.D. in psychology to understand that our beliefs about what is true or false affect our actions. Nobody wants to make decisions based on lies or misinformation, so we all want information that we can trust. Just to give a current example, look at what’s happening regarding masks and the Corona-virus. If you think masks do help stop the spread and protect others, you’re likely to wear one even though they are uncomfortable and it’s kind of a pain in the butt. And if you think masks don’t help at all, you are more likely to resist wearing a mask or even flat out refuse. I mean, why bother if they don’t work, right? And if you have really strong beliefs about this, you might even march in protest against the rules that require you to wear a mask. The point is, your chosen path will be based on what you believe is right and true.

We are living in a pretty crazy time right now, and humanity is facing huge challenges. And it’s no secret that many of the big issues are extremely polarizing. And if you try to build an informed opinion by examining the information and arguments of both sides, you make a frustrating discovery, or at least I did:
Both sides seem to have completely different interpretations of facts and reality. And each side believes it sees things correctly and the other side is hallucinating. Or crazy. Or just plain evil.

To borrow an analogy from the author Scott Adams, it’s as if we’re all watching the same movie screen, but we’re seeing two completely different movies at the same time. And each of us is convinced that our movie is the truth.

This “two movies on one screen” phenomenon is already happening with events that we all can agree really happened. We might not agree on what these events mean, who is responsible, what should be done about them etc., but we basically accept that they actually occurred in the physical world. Seeing is believing, right?

But what happens when the things we are seeing and hearing, the video, audio, and photos are 100% fake? And what happens when these fakes are everywhere? If we can have such serious disagreements, such polarization about genuine, real events, what is going to happen when we truly can’t be sure if the media we are seeing and hearing is real?

Some experts think that this is going to happen really soon. We are entering the era of deepfakes. If you’re not sure what a deepfake is, you will understand it by the end of this episode.

You are going to hear experts discussing this topic in English, and I’ll pop in from time to time to guide you through the examples.

The link to the full transcript of this episode is in the show notes, and there are also links to the audio you hear and the examples that the speakers mention, like videos, websites, books, etc. So if you find this topic interesting, there is plenty of supplementary material so you can learn more.

All right, let’s get started. First of all, what is deepfake?

So a deep fake is a type of synthetic media. And what synthetic media essentially is, is any type of media, it can be an image, it can be a video, it can be a text, that is generated by AI.

That was Nina Schick, who is, to put it mildly, a pretty impressive woman with a very interesting background:

I’m half German, and I’m half Nepalese. And so I’ve this background in geopolitics, politics, and information warfare. And my area of interest is really how the exponential changes in technology, and particularly in AI are rewriting not only politics, but society at large as well.

She’s also proficient in 7 languages. All I can say is, wow. You’ll now hear Nina talking to Sam Harris about deepfakes. It’s from an episode of Sam Harris’s podcast “Making Sense,” which is another great podcast for you to add to your list of interesting podcasts in English. Here we go:

So much of this is a matter of our entertaining ourselves into a kind of collective madness, and what seems like it could be a coming social collapse, I realized that if you’re not in touch with these trends, you know, if anyone in the audience who isn’t this kind of language coming from me, or anyone else can sound hyperbolic. But we’re really going over some kind of precipice here, with respect to our ability to understand what’s going on in the world, and to converge on a common picture of a shared reality. [EDIT] And again, we built the, the very tools of our derangement ourselves. And in particular, I’m talking about social media here. So your book goes into this. And it’s organized around this, this new piece of technology that we call deepfakes. And the book is Deepfakes: The Coming Infocalypse, which umm, that’s not your coinage, it…on the page is very easy to parse. When you say it, it’s hard to understand what’s being said there, but it’s really, you’re talking about an information apocalypse. Just remind people what deepfakes are, and suggest what’s at stake here in terms of, of how difficult it could be to make sense of our world in the presence of this technology.

This ability of AI to generate fake or synthetic media is really, really nascent. We’re only at the very, very beginning of the synthetic media revolution. It was only probably in about the last four or five years that this has been possible. And for the last two years that we’ve been seeing how the real-world applications of this have been leaching out from beyond the AI research community. So the first thing to say about synthetic media is that it is completely going to transform how we perceive the world, because in future, all media is going to be synthetic, because it means that anybody can create content to a degree of fidelity that is only possible for Hollywood studios right now, right? And they can do this for little to no cost using apps or software, various interfaces, which will make it so accessible to, to anyone. And the reason why this is so interesting.

Another reason why synthetic media is so interesting is until now, the best kind of computer effects CGI, do you still can’t quite get humans right. So when you use CGI to do effects where you’re trying to create robotic humans, it still doesn’t look right…it’s called, you know, uncanny valley. But it turns out that AI when you train your machine learning systems with enough data, they’re really really good at generating fake humans or synthetic humans, both in images, I mean, and when it comes to generating fake human faces, so images, still images, it’s already perfected that and if you want to kind of test that you can go and look at Every time you refresh the page, you’ll see a new human face that to the human eye, to you, or, or me, Sam, we’ll look at that and we’ll think that’s an authentic human, whereas that is just something that’s generated by AI. That human literally doesn’t exist. And also now increasingly in other types of media like audio, and film. So I could take essentially a clip of a recording with you, Sam, and I could use that to train my machine learning system and then I can synthesize your voice so I can literally hijack your biometrics, I can take your voice, synthesize it, get my AI kind of machine learning system to recreate that. I can do the same with your digital likeness.

Obviously, this is going to have tremendous commercial applications; entire industries are going to be transformed. For example, corporate communications, advertising, the future of all movies, video games. But this is also the most potent form of mis- and disinformation, which are democratizing for almost anyone in the world at a time when our information ecosystem has already become increasingly dangerous and corrupt. [Edit] So we have to distinguish between the legitimate use cases of synthetic media and how we draw the line. So I very broad brush in my book say that the use of and intent behind synthetic media really matters and how we define it. So I refer to deepfake, as when a piece of synthetic media is used as a piece of mis- or disinformation. And, you know, there is so much more that you could delve into there with regards to the kind of the ethical implications on the taxonomy. But broadly speaking, that’s how I define it and that’s my definition between synthetic media and deep fakes.

Hmm. Well, so umm, as you point out, all of this would be good, clean, fun if it weren’t for the fact that we know there are people intent upon spreading misinformation and disinformation and doing it with a truly sinister political purpose. I mean, not not just for amusement, although that can be harmful enough. It’s it’s something that state actors and people internal to various states are going to leverage to further divide society from itself and increase political polarization. But it would, it’s amazing that it is so promising in the fun department that we can’t possibly even contemplate putting this cat back in the bag. I mean, it’s just, that’s the problem we’re seeing on all fronts. It is, so it is with social media. So it is with the, the ad revenue model that is selecting for so many of its harmful effects. I mean, we just can’t break the spell wherein people want the cheapest, most fun media, and they want it endlessly.

And yet the, the harms that are accruing, are so large that it’s, it’s amazing. Just to see that there is just no there’s no handhold here, whereby we can resist our slide toward the precipice. Just to underscore how quickly this technology is developing. In your book, you point out what happened with the…once Martin Scorsese released his film, The Irishman which had this exceedingly expensive, and laborious process of trying to DE-age its principal actors, Robert de Niro and Joe Pesci. And that was met with something like derision for the the imperfection of what was achieved there — again, at great cost. And then very, very quickly, someone on YouTube, using free software, did a nearly perfect de-aging of the same film. [You can see it here: ] It’s just amazing what what’s happening here. And, again, these tools are going to be free, right? I mean, they’re already free and and ultimately, the best tools will be free.

Absolutely. So you already have various kind of software platforms online. And so the barriers to entry have come down tremendously. Right now, if you wanted to make a convincing deepfake video, you would still need to have some knowledge, some knowledge of machine learning, but you wouldn’t have to be an AI expert by any means. But already now we have apps that allow people to do certain things like swap their faces into scenes, for example, Reface I don’t know if you’ve come across that app. I don’t know how old your children are. But if you have a teenager you’ve probably come across it. You can basically put your own face into a popular scene from a film like Titanic or something. This is using the power of synthetic media. But experts who I speak to on the generation side — because it’s so hugely exciting to people who are generating synthetic media — think that by the end of the decade, any YouTuber, any teenager, will have the ability to create special effects in film that are better than anything a Hollywood studio can do now. And that’s really why I put that anecdote about the Irishman into the book because it just demonstrates the power of synthetic media. I mean, Scorsese was working on this project from 2015. He filmed with a special three-rig camera, he had this best special effects artists, post-production work, multi-million dollar budget, and still the effect at the end wasn’t that convincing. It didn’t look quite right. And now one YouTuber, free software, takes a clip from Scorsese’s film in 2020. So Scorsese’s film came out in 2019. This year, he can already create something that’s far more…when you look at it…looks far more realistic than what Scorsese did. This is just in the realm of video. As I already mentioned, with images, it can already do it perfectly. There is also the case of audio. There is another YouTuber, for example, who makes a lot of the kind of early pieces of synthetic media have sprung up on YouTube. There’s a YouTuber called Vocal Synthesis, who uses an open-sourced AI model to train a…trained on celebrities voices

END TRANSCRIPT PREVIEW — You can find the full transcript here

Material used in this episode

The Making Sense Podcast with Sam Harris
Episode #220 The Information Apocalypse: A Conversation with Nina Schick

Deepfakes: Is This Video Even Real? Claire Wardle of the New York Times

Vocal Synthesis Youtube Channel –
6 presidents read the Twilight Zone intro

Donald Trump reads the Darth Plagueis copypasta –

Supplementary Material

Nina Schick’s Book: Deepfakes: The Coming Infocalypse

Deepfakes: A threat to democracy or just a bit of fun?

The Irishman – de-Aging of Robert de Niro

Here’s why deepfakes are the perfect weapon for the ‘infocalypse’ – By Nina Schick

Deepfakes: How to prepare your organization for a new type of threat

A deepfake porn bot is being used to abuse thousands of women

Deepfake video of Vladimir Putin

Deepfake video of Kim Jong-Un

Access Hollywood tape with Donald Trump and Billy Bush (2016) – vulgar, profanity, not safe for work

Actress in Trump’s ‘Access Hollywood’ Tape reacts to Trump’s claim that he’s not sure he “actually said that”.

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Wednesday, 7 October 2020

052 – The Other F-word: talking about fat

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Talking about fat and fat bodies is a tricky area to navigate in English because the word FAT is so laden with meaning, associations, emotions, and feelings — and these are different for everyone. In this episode, you’ll hear a wide variety of people who self-identify as fat talking about their experiences. You’ll hear how they think, feel and talk about their own bodies and how they experience things as a person of size. There are many registers (styles) of English represented here, as well as many different regional dialects. Links to all sources are provided, and most of these are videos. I encourage you to watch the videos to see the language being used in context. A transcript preview is below. You can find a pdf of the full transcript here:

I hope you find this episode thought provoking and useful.


Hi English learners, Lori here, your teacher from In today’s episode you are going to hear various people’s thoughts, opinions and feelings related to the f-word. No, not the swear word you hear all the time in movies and TV. I’m talking about the other F-word: fat. Yes, fat.

Madison A Krall

Let’s talk about fat bias and thin privilege | Madison A. Krall | TEDxMileHigh

Madison: When you hear the word fat what thoughts and images come to mind? Some of you might think of fat as the extra 10 pounds you’re currently trying to lose. Others might be thinking, “Hmm, I wonder what the fat content was in the bag of potato chips I had for lunch?” And some of you when you hear the word fat, might think back to that time in middle school when someone called you fat, and how it has affected the rest of your life. Let’s just admit it. Fat can be a pretty loaded word, no matter who you are.

Kelli Jean Drinkwater
Enough with the fear of fat | Kelli Jean Drinkwater

Kelli: I’m here today to talk to you about a very powerful little word, one that people will do almost anything to avoid becoming. Billion-dollar industries thrive because of the fear of it, and those of us who undeniably are it are left to navigate a relentless storm surrounding it. I’m not sure if any of you have noticed, but I’m fat. Not the lowercase, muttered-behind-my-back kind, or the seemingly harmless chubby or cuddly. I’m not even the more sophisticated voluptuous or curvaceous kind. Let’s not sugarcoat it. I am the capital F-A-T kind of fat. I am the elephant in the room.

Fat | Eating Disorders | One Word | Cut

Speaker 1: There are lots of good fats, and I don’t think fat on your body is a bad thing. And I don’t think fat in your food means fat on your body but it’s been used as hate speech.

Speaker 2: Fat can be a hateful word. It can destroy some people. But in some ways fat can be good. And depending on how you image yourself, your fat can actually be great.

Speaker 3: I see a lot of mothers with their daughters say, don’t eat that or else you’re gonna get fat. It’s like, is that really the one thing that you don’t want your daughter to be?


Yes, a fat is a loaded word that raises a lot of feelings, emotions, and associations. I’m taking a risk with this episode, because, as you’ll hear, conversations around fat and body size can quickly lead you into precarious territory, even if you have the best of intentions. It’s a highly charged topic. But I think that’s all the more reason to understand different people’s perspectives on fat and being fat, and to have language to talk about it sensitively.

Apart from vocabulary related to the topic, in this episode you’ll hear many registers or styles of English: conversations, extracts from prepared talks like TED talks, segments from interviews, and even monologues from people on Youtube. You’ll also hear many regional varieties of English, as well as at least one non-native speaker of English.

All in all, you will hear a wide variety of authentic English, illustrating many of the ways people talk, think and feel about fat bodies. You’ll also be hearing people describe concepts such as body positivity, body shaming, concern trolling, and lots general vocabulary related to the overall topic.

I have put links to all the sources you are going to hear in the transcript for this episode, which you can find at . They all come from videos, so I encourage you to follow the links so you can see as well as hear the language in context.

So let’s get started. We’ll begin with a question. Is it appropriate to tell someone, “You look great! Have you lost weight?” At first glance, it seems like it could be a compliment. But is it really? I’m going to play an extract from the podcast “Inappropriate questions.” Listening to this podcast is what sent me down the rabbit hole of inquiry that led to this episode. In this podcast, the two hosts, Elena and Harv, talk to people who identify as fat or plus size to find out what they think about this question.

Elena is from the U.S.A., and Harv is from India. They start off by talking about people’s general attitudes toward weight in their different home countries.


Inappropriate Questions podcast

Harv, when you were growing up in India, what were people’s attitudes about weight like?

Oh, India had different beauty standard, at least at that time…


So if somebody was a little, what is considered an overweight here [it] was considered good. Because that person had enough money to eat food.


So so they used to use the word healthy. Then again, things have changed there as well, because again, obesity have, has become a problem in India. So again, the attitudes have changed. But at that time, it was very, very different.

Huh! That’s interesting. Do you think right now India’s beauty standards are kind of, like, the way they are here? [In the U.S.A.]

Pretty much, pretty much.

So thinness is really valued.

Now, yes.

And thinness is kind of associated with beauty and health.

Yeah, all those good things you, you know, even if you don’t go to the gym, it’s assumed that…


…you work out.

Yes. You get the automatic


benefit of the doubt.

Absolutely. Absolutely.

I love seeing more body positive stuff on the internet these days. I love seeing people who are trying to encourage more self love and self care. But sometimes I can’t put that into practice. I go home and I look at Instagram. And then I look at myself in the mirror. And I’m like, I know in my head that every body is beautiful. But then I look at my body. I’m like, no, I still feel bad about it.

So sometimes they say ignorance is bliss.


Where I am, millennials have a whole lot of tools. The social media tools.


All I have is a mirror.


That helps me tie my turban.

Yeah, so I don’t even look at my body.


Next you’ll hear Elena and Harv talking to a woman of size for her perspective on the question “Have you lost weight?” Her name is Steph Conover, but she likes to go by her state name, Ivory. Here is how Ivory describes herself:

I am a mixed-race, six-foot, dragon lady. I’m a fire breather, stage performer, and a whole lot of woman.

Ivory is also an athlete, a plus size model, and is an active promoter of self love and body positivity. You’ll hear more about body positivity later. In the following extract, you’ll hear what Ivory thinks about the question “Have you lost weight?” You’ll also hear her talk about what it was like growing up and living in a larger body, and how the way she describes her own body has evolved over time.

Can you tell us about a time someone asked you, “Have you lost weight?”

Oh boy. It happens all the time. It happens so often that I actually don’t take it in anymore.


You know, I’ll style my hair differently. I’ll wear a different article of clothing. And people think that it’s complimentary to say Wow, you look great! Have you lost weight? And it’s weird because as somebody who’s recovered from eating disorders, as somebody who still battles depression, there’s part of me that actually has that instant boost of serotonin where I go, “Ah! I look great! I’m skinny”

[Sounds of sympathy]

I’m like, “Bitch, you are a plus sized lady, you have not lost any weight and if you have it will probably find you and that’s okay. You can exist at whatever size you exist at and be happy there.”



Fat shaming

Body positivity

Body positive

Fat acceptance

Concern trolling

Body shaming


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Monday, 5 October 2020

Puke up

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Tieng Anh Vui

Thursday, 1 October 2020

Throw in the sponge

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If you throw in the sponge, you give in and admit defeat.

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Tuesday, 29 September 2020

Get FREE podcast transcriptions with (it’s super cool, I promise).

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Did you know that you can get FREE transcriptions of any podcast in English, and that it’s fast and easy to do? That’s right, ANY PODCAST! And did I say FREE? If you are serious about your English learning, you will love — a FREE online service that transcribes audio files. This means podcasts, audio taken from videos, anything at all where the language is fairly clear. All you do is upload the file to, and then let the A.I do the rest. It’s unbelievably awesome. You can watch my little YouTube demo video demo here:

You can find here:

Note: This is not a sales pitch, I don’t have any involvement with other than being a very satisfied customer (I use their paid plan because I need the extra features. You won’t need extra features unless you want to transcribe more than 10 hours of audio per month, or if you need to transcribe files that are longer than 40 minutes each.)

The transcript of this audio podcast is below.

If you get value from my podcasts, please leave a rating or review. It really helps me a lot!


Hi, English learners, Lori here, your teacher from Today, I don’t have a conversation for you, I’m actually working on the next conversational episode. And that should be up in the next couple of days. But as I was working on it, I realized that the online service, the tool that I use to transcribe the conversations would be super, super useful for your English learning. So I just wanted to share that with you today, and let you know about it so you can try it yourself.

First of all, let’s get this out of the way. It’s completely free. And I don’t make any money for recommending it to you. No one is asking me to tell you this. It’s simply something that I use myself and that I think, is really awesome. And I think it would almost be a crime for me to not let you know about it.

“Okay, okay, Lori. All right, fine, get on with it, let us know what it is.”

Okay, the tool is called That’s O T T E R dot A I. And what it is, is an online service where you can upload audio files, and it, the artificial intelligence will create a transcript of the audio.

But that’s not even the best part. For me, I think the most useful thing, the thing that makes it so awesome for learning English, is that once the AI is finished with your transcript, you can listen to the audio as you’re reading the transcript, and then you can click anywhere in the transcript, and the audio will jump to that section.

So just imagine the implications of this. Now you can take any audio file with spoken English, and you can upload it, have it transcribed for free, and then listen to it, click anywhere in the transcript, and listen to just that part. So if you find a section that you want to do some kind of listen-and-repeat practice for your pronunciation or your intonation, or just to kind of “wrap your mouth around” a new piece of language, it’s super, super easy to do now.

I think it’s just so great that you can go and find any podcast in English, anything that you want to listen to anything that you want to learn from, and it doesn’t matter if they have already given you a transcript or not. You can just upload the file and make your own which is super, super awesome.

The free plan on does have some limitations. And one of those is that you can only transcribe 10 hours’ worth of audio per month. So every month it resets and you get another 10 hours. And the files that you upload can only be up to 40 minutes long. So if you have a super long, say, an epic Joe Rogan podcast that’s three hours long, you’re going to have to –before you upload it for transcription — you are going to have to cut that up into 40 minute segments if you want to transcribe the whole thing.

kind of difficult to explain these things in an audio podcast. So I have made a YouTube video where I just do a quick little demo to show you what it is and how you can use it and I’ve put the link to that in the show notes. So I hope I’ve managed to get you excited about the idea of giving try.

all I had for this time. I’m going to get back to work now and try to finish up that new episode for you, so you can look for that in the next couple of days. Until then, this is Lori signing off from Better at English headquarters, wishing you and inspired and productive day.
Bye for now!

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Monday, 21 September 2020

051 – The good, the bad, and the flat-out liars. Real English Conversation

Nguồn tin:

Imagine if you will, the following scenario. You’ve volunteered to take part in a psychology study, say, at your university. All you have to do is show up to the lab, sit by yourself in a little booth and play a very simple game of chance, something like flipping a coin, where there’s no skill involved, only luck. You get paid one dollar just for showing up, that’s guaranteed. And if you’re lucky and win the game, you’ll get paid 5 dollars cash. But if you lose, you get nothing.

Here’s the kicker: it’s up to you to tell the researchers if you won or lost, they won’t be able to tell.

So there are three possible outcomes: you can win and get 5 dollars, you can lose and get nothing, or….you can lose, but lie and still get the 5 dollars. And nobody will know. What would you do? What do you think other people would do?

As it happens, a recent study just looked at this, and there was a cunning little twist: those crafty researchers actually DID know if people won or lost. So they also knew if people told the truth about it or if they lied.

The study, called “Cheaters, Liars, or Both? A New Classification of Dishonesty Profiles” is absolutely fascinating. And today you’ll hear a conversation ‒ in American English – with some people discussing it. The conversation is from one of my favorite podcasts, The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe. It’s a podcast featuring smart people having interesting discussions about science, technology, and critical thinking. If you are at all interested in those topics, I highly recommend it for your English listening practice. This is definitely a show that will make you smarter, and will teach you lots of vocabulary. The episodes don’t always have transcripts, but I’ve transcribed the part you’re going to hear today and put it in the show notes, which you can find at

You know, if you like, you can turn this episode into a more challenging task for yourself. In the show notes you’ll also find a link to a New York Times article about the study. In the conversation you’ll hear a woman summarizing this same article to her friends. So before you continue listening, you can hit pause and go read the article yourself. Then imagine how you might summarize it for friend and what you might discuss. What language would you use? What vocabulary would you need? Spend a few moments imagining how you might talk about it with a group of friends. Then listen to the rest of this podcast and compare your ideas with what you hear in the conversation.

All right, let’s get to it. You’ll hear a woman named Cara doing most of the talking. She explains the study’s findings to her friends Steve, Bob, Jay, and Evan. They they all discuss what they make of it. Are you ready? Let’s go:

Get the full transcript here

Steve: All right, Cara, you’re gonna tell us about the psychology of lying and cheating.

Cara: Right! So this is a field of psychological inquiry that goes back basically to the beginning of experimental psychology, right? Psychologists, psychologists have always been interested in deception. So a new paper said, OK, well, we want to do is we want to see if we can sort of beef up and retest some old concepts in the kind of construct of lying, cheating deception, but we want to go beyond that. And we want to say, Okay, this is not an all or nothing phenomenon, right? Like, you could say, That person’s a liar, or that person lied, or that person’s a cheater, that person’s dishonest, but there are shades of grey, aren’t there?

Steve: Mm hmm.

Evan: Of course, of course.

Bob: Yeah, absolutely. Little white lies.

Cara: Totally. There lies that actually help us.

Bob: There are lies that actually get people killed.

Cara: Yep. Lies to get people killed and lies that we can’t help but but commit, that’s not a good word. But tell? Yeah, because they’re the only they’re the best of a bad situation we’re dealing with or something like that. So they set up, you know, a standard classic laboratory psychology paradigm, which does not necessarily translate to the real world. So let’s keep that in mind. And they set up two paradigms. One of them was a coin flip paradigm, and one of them was a die roll paradigm.

And basically, they said, you know, if you roll heads, you get money. If you roll tails, you get no money. Or if you flip heads, if you flip tails, and then on the die paradigm, they went into levels. So they said, you know, if you roll a one, you get $1, a two, you get $2, a three $3. But if you roll a six, that’s unlucky, so you get no dollars. So those are basically the two experiments that they ran.

And they found that people by and large, had similar response. There were people who were totally honest. So they would flip the coin, they would hit heads, and they would say, got heads, give me my five bucks. Or they would flip tails and they would say, you know, I flipped tails. I don’t get any money. Okay, cool. All right. So you could flip a coin, and you’re gonna be lucky enough that you flip heads you’re, and that’s where you get a $5 payout, you’re probably gonna say, hey, look, I flipped heads, you’re gonna be honest about that, because you want the money.

So they decided, let’s take all those people out of the equation. And let’s just look at the people who flip tails. Because now all the sudden there’s incentive, right? You could either flip tails, and not get the money and be honest about it. And that is what 41% of the people in the lab setting where they did it in front of actual researchers said, only 37% of people in a Mechanical Turk situation.

So Mechanical Turk, have you guys ever used that? I think it’s Amazon’s like survey, study software. And so this is like it’s a coin flip simulation online. So it was this slightly lower number, it was 37%. But still, less than half of the people who flipped tails reported honestly that they flipped tails.

Then there was another group that they called the “cheating non liars.” I love this. So these people flip the coin got tails, and were like, “Crap, I’m just gonna keep flipping until I get heads,” which was breaking the rules, the rules was you flip once, but they said, screw it. I’m just gonna keep flipping. And then when they finally got heads, they were like, Hey, I got heads, let me have my $5.

So this was 17% of the people in front of researchers. 7% of the people online, and another group were what they called “the liars.” So these people flipped the coin got tails, and just straight up, go, “No, I got heads.” 23% of people just straight up lied. And then they found a fourth group. And this group is fascinating, you guys. They called them the “radically dishonest people.” And this is the group that I’m really interested in, like, can we develop a psychometric tool so that we can test these people and then start learning about them? So these people didn’t even bother to flip the coin!

Group: Wow! Whoa!

Cara: They just go, “Oh, yeah, I got heads.”

Group: Wow. Whoa.

Cara: So it’s like, they were like double liars. They lied about participating, and they lied about the outcome.

Steve: What about “lying sack of shit?” What group were they in?

Group: [Laughter]

Cara: I think that’s radically dishonest, the lying sack of shits.

Evan: Oh, man.

Cara: And so this is really fascinating, because I think there are two components here that we we maybe intuitively thought about, just like Bob mentioned earlier, you know, there’s the lies that could get you killed. There’s also the lies that just feel cruel, or they feel like pathologically dishonest and then there are the lies where it’s like, I understand the ethical or moral reason that this person lied. And I think we can start to dig deep into just this very clean laboratory experiment to tease out some of those issues. For example, you’ve got your straight-up honest people, you’ve got straight-up lucky people, then you’ve got your just straight-up liars.


If you are enjoying this Better at English podcast, please take a moment to rate it, review it, or share the love :-)


PDF transcript of this podcast episode

Link to the Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe Podcast episode
The Good, the Bad and the ‘Radically Dishonest’ – New York Times article

Link to full text of the actual study “ Cheaters, Liars, or Both? A New Classification of Dishonesty Profiles.”

Link to the actual game website used in the study. Try playing it yourself!



This is a great book by Scott Adams (creator of the Dilbert cartoons) about critical thinking and all the ways our brain tries to fool us by Scott Adams. This link is to the summary version on Blinkist, which contains audio so you can listen as you read.

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Thursday, 17 September 2020

050 – Help! I have a horrible neighbor (fixed)

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Neighbors can be great friends, but let’s face it: sometimes they can be absolutely horrible. But what do you do when you’re stuck living next to a neighbor who you just can’t get along with, no matter what you try? In this episode of Better at English, Lori introduces you to the “How To” podcast with Charles Duhigg. It’s a conversational podcast that covers ways to deal with all kinds of life problems, and does so in an entertaining and fun way. And best of all, it has free transcripts that you can use for your English learning. Lori plays some extracts from the conversation, and looks at some of the interesting language.

The full transcript of this episode is here:

Hi English learners! Lori here, your teacher from So nice that you’re here! Come on in, kick off your shoes, sit back and get ready for some English listening practice.

Today I’m going to play you some bits of conversation from one of my current favorite podcasts. It’s not a special English learning podcast; it’s a podcast for native speakers of English. But if you can follow along with the conversations in my own podcast, you should be able to follow this one as well. Just like I do, they have free transcripts available on their website, so you can use them to support your English learning. I’ve put links to everything in the show notes.

The name of the podcast is “How to with Charles Duhigg”. If the name Charles Duhigg is familiar to you, it could be that you’ve heard of his book “T he Power of Habit.” If you’re an upper-intermediate or advanced learner and you’re interested in psychology, I can highly recommend it. The Power of Habit is one of those books that teaches you something useful and just makes your life better. Charles’s podcast is the same: it’s entertaining, of course, but it also teaches you useful strategies that you can apply in your own life.

“How to” is an interview show, so it’s very conversational. Charles helps people figure out how to deal with difficult or awkward problems. He usually has a co-host who is either a celebrity or some kind of expert.

In the episode called “How to confront a crazy neighbor,” Charles’s co-host is comedian and actor Tig Notaro. Their guest is a woman named Sarah. Sarah is in the middle of a very unpleasant and stressful conflict with her neighbor. Charles and Tig are going to help her figure out what to do. First let’s listen to Sarah giving some background information about her living situation:

“My name is Sarah and I’m a college counselor. I work with high school students who are low income, and I just bought a condo this year. This is the first time I’ve ever owned a house or anything. So that was pretty exciting. It’s a small building, there are just three units in it. So it’s me living on the first floor and then a guy who lives behind me and then a family who lives upstairs.”

Sara mentions that she lives in a condo. Condo is short for condominium. In the US, a condo is like an apartment or flat, but with one big difference. Do you know what it is? Can you guess from what you heard? Listen again:

“I just bought a condo this year. This is the first time I’ve ever owned a house or anything. So that was pretty exciting.“

The key word is bought. Sarah said she bought the condo, not that she rents it. So the difference between a condo and an apartment or flat is that in a condo, you own the space that you live in – the unit. You actually buy it, and you can sell it. But in an apartment you just pay rent every month. You don’t actually own an apartment unit. So buying a condo is a much bigger deal than just renting an apartment because it’s such a big financial investment.

In Sarah’s condo building, there are three living units – it sounds like they are all attached. She shares a common front porch area with the other people who live there.

So you’re probably wondering, “What’s the problem?” Sarah had bought a plant – a fern – to hang on the front porch, but she didn’t ask the other neighbors if it was OK. That was the start of the whole trouble. Let’s listen to what happened. You’ll hear Tig, Sarah and Charles in this little extract.

TIG: …what happened?

SARAH: So one day I got this note in my mailbox from the wife who lives upstairs and it said, “I am done trying to communicate with you. It is clear that you, um, are just going to, like, disregard my feelings and you don’t care about anybody but yourself. So from now on, I am only going to communicate with you through condo meetings.”

Charles: Whoa! Did you have any idea what she was talking…like, this is literally the first…?

Sarah: No.No. So this is what was so wild about it, was that I just got this letter and I had no idea what it was about. And it just said, “I’m anti power trips. Don’t involve my family in this. If you have any frustrations, you need to bring it up in the condo meeting.”

Tig: First of all, when somebody says “I’m anti power trips,” the translation is “I am all about power trips.”

Wow, I don’t know about you, but I would feel pretty upset if I got a note like that from a neighbor. The language is just so confrontational. Did you notice Sarah’s tone of voice as she read the note? She used a very angry tone of voice. She probably imagines that her neighbor felt very angry when she wrote the note.

And what about this:

Tig: First of all, when somebody says “I’m anti power trips,” the translation is “I am all about power trips.”

Power trip. If somebody enjoys controlling other people, or showing that they have power over them, you can say that they’re on a power trip. Or that they’re power tripping. The feeling of having the power to control other people makes them feel good somehow. They often exert their power in inappropriate ways that make other people feel bad.

Let’s go on and see how Sarah feels about this note.



The How to with Charles Duhigg podcast
How To is a conversational podcast that features smart people talking about interesting things and tackling tricky problems.
Charles Duhigg is a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist, and the author one of my favorite books, a bestseller titles The Power of Habit (Try the audio book summary of The Power of Habit on Blinkist)

The episode featured in this episode, “How to deal with a Crazy Neighbor,” is here:

You can find the episode transcript here:

How to deal with neighbor harassment
This is an interesting article about how to deal with a neighbor who is harassing you

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