The Gray Area with Sean Illing

Vox

A philosophical take on culture, politics, and everything in between.

  • 57 minutes 6 seconds
    The world after nuclear war

    A mile of pure fire. A flash that melts everything — titanium, steel, lead, people. A blast that mows down every structure in its path, 3 miles out in every direction. Journalist Annie Jacobsen spent years interviewing scientists, high-ranking military officials, politicians, and other experts to find out how a nuclear attack would be triggered, the devastation it would cause, the ruptures it would create in the social fabric, and how likely it is to happen today. She wrote about all of this in her new book Nuclear War: A Scenario. Jacobsen spends the hour clearly laying out the horrifying yet captivating specifics for Sean, and the prospects for avoiding catastrophe. 


    Host: Sean Illing (@seanilling), host, The Gray Area

    Guest: Annie Jacobsen. Her book is Nuclear War: A Scenario

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    17 June 2024, 9:30 am
  • 54 minutes 56 seconds
    Gaza, Camus, and the logic of violence

    Albert Camus was a Nobel-winning French writer and public intellectual. During Algeria’s bloody war for independence in the 1950s, Camus took a measured stance, calling for an end to the atrocities on each side. He was criticized widely for his so-called “moderation.” Philosophy professor Robert Zaretsky joins Sean to discuss Camus’s thoughts on that conflict and the parallels with the present moment.


    Host: Sean Illing (@seanilling), host, The Gray Area

    Guest: Robert Zaretsky

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    This episode was made by: 

    • Producer: Jon Ehrens 
    • Engineer: Patrick Boyd

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    10 June 2024, 9:30 am
  • 53 minutes 58 seconds
    This is your kid on smartphones

    Old people have always worried about young people. But psychologist Jonathan Haidt believes something genuinely different and troubling is happening right now. He argues that smartphones and social media have had disastrous effects on the mental health of young people, and derailed childhood from real world play to touchscreens. He joins Sean to talk about his research and some of the criticisms of it.


    Host: Sean Illing (@seanilling), host, The Gray Area

    Guest: Jonathan Haidt (@jonhaidt). His book is The Anxious Generation.

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    This episode was made by: 

    • Producer: Jon Ehrens 
    • Engineer: Patrick Boyd

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    3 June 2024, 9:30 am
  • 52 minutes 37 seconds
    Life after death?

    Sebastian Junger came as close as you possibly can to dying. While his doctors struggled to revive him, the veteran reporter and avowed rationalist experienced things that shocked and shook him, leaving him with profound questions and unexpected revelations. In his new book, In My Time of Dying, Junger explores the mysteries and commonalities of people’s near death experiences. He joins Sean to talk about what it’s like to die and what quantum physics can tell us about living that countless religions can’t.


    Host: Sean Illing (@seanilling), host, The Gray Area

    Guest: Sebastian Junger. His new book is In My Time of Dying.

    Enjoyed this episode? Rate The Gray Area ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ and leave a review on Apple Podcasts.

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    This episode was made by: 

    • Producer: Jon Ehrens 
    • Engineer: Patrick Boyd

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    20 May 2024, 9:30 am
  • 50 minutes 53 seconds
    The world after Ozempic

    Ozempic and other new weight loss drugs are being touted as potential miracle cures for diabetes and obesity. Journalist Johann Hari experimented with the drug and dropped 40 pounds. In his new book, Magic Pill, Hari discusses his experience with Ozempic and speaks to many of the leading scientists to better understand how the drug works. He joins Sean to talk about what he’s learned and the complicated trade-offs involved in the decision to take these drugs.


    Host: Sean Illing (@seanilling), host, The Gray Area

    Guest: Johann Hari (@johannhari101). His new book is Magic Pill.

    Enjoyed this episode? Rate The Gray Area ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ and leave a review on Apple Podcasts.

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    This episode was made by: 

    • Producer: Jon Ehrens 
    • Engineer: Cristian Ayala


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    13 May 2024, 9:30 am
  • 46 minutes 12 seconds
    UFOs, God, and the edge of understanding

    Religious studies professor Diana Pasulka was a total nonbeliever in alien life, but she began to question this after speaking with many people who claim to have had otherworldly encounters. She also noticed how these accounts parallel the foundational texts of many religions. She has since written two books on the topic, the most recent of which is Encounters: Experiences with Nonhuman Intelligences. She joins Sean to talk about extraterrestrial life, God, angels, and the renewed interest in UFOs. 


    Host: Sean Illing (@seanilling), host, The Gray Area

    Guest: Diana Pasulka (@dwpasulka). Her new book is Encounters: Experiences with Nonhuman Intelligences.

    Enjoyed this episode? Rate The Gray Area ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ and leave a review on Apple Podcasts.

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    This episode was made by: 

    • Producer: Jon Ehrens 
    • Engineer: Patrick Boyd


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    6 May 2024, 9:30 am
  • 55 minutes 3 seconds
    How to listen

    Most of us don’t know how to truly listen, and it’s causing all sorts of problems. Sean Illing is joined by journalist Kate Murphy, the author of You’re Not Listening: What You’re Missing and Why It Matters, to discuss what it means to be a good listener, the problems that are caused when we don’t listen to each other, and the positive impacts on our health when we do.


    Host: Sean Illing (@seanilling), host, The Gray Area

    Guest: Kate Murphy, author of You’re Not Listening: What You’re Missing and Why It Matters

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    This episode was made by: 

    • Engineer: Patrick Boyd
    • Editorial Director, Vox Talk: A.M. Hall

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    29 April 2024, 9:30 am
  • 53 minutes 48 seconds
    Everything's a cult now

    The internet has fractured our world into a million little subcultures catering to the specific identities and habits of everyone online. Writer Derek Thompson believes this has led to a widespread cult-like mentality that has crept into all facets of modern life — pop culture, media, politics, and religion itself. He joins Sean to explain this theory, and why it’s maybe not such a bad thing.


    Host: Sean Illing (@seanilling), host, The Gray Area

    Guest: Derek Thompson (@dkthomp). His podcast is Plain English, and he writes for The Atlantic.

    Enjoyed this episode? Rate The Gray Area ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ and leave a review on Apple Podcasts.

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    This episode was made by: 

    • Producer: Jon Ehrens 

    Engineer: Patrick Boyd

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    22 April 2024, 9:30 am
  • 45 minutes 8 seconds
    Fareed Zakaria on our revolutionary moment

    Is it possible that we are living through one of the most revolutionary periods in human history? CNN’s Fareed Zakaria believes that we are and argues that the convergence of AI and the global backlash against liberal democracy are upending political orders around the world. He joins Sean to talk about how this period relates to history’s most impactful revolutions, both political and technological. 

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    Host: Sean Illing (@seanilling), host, The Gray Area

    Guest: Fareed Zakaria (@fareedzakaria). His new book is Age of Revolutions.

    Enjoyed this episode? Rate The Gray Area ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ and leave a review on Apple Podcasts.

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    Please take a second to help us learn more about you! vox.com/podcastsurvey

    This episode was made by: 

    • Producer: Jon Ehrens 
    • Engineer: Patrick Boyd

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    15 April 2024, 9:30 am
  • 51 minutes
    Life is hard. Can philosophy help?

    Philosophy may seem like a theoretical or abstract discipline in which unanswerable questions are debated to the point of tedium. But MIT professor Kieran Setiya believes that philosophical inquiry has a very practical and applicable purpose outside of the classroom — to help guide us through life’s most challenging circumstances. He joins Sean to talk about self-help, FOMO, and midlife crises. 


    Host: Sean Illing (@seanilling), host, The Gray Area

    Guest: Kieran Setiya. His book is called Life is Hard.

    Enjoyed this episode? Rate The Gray Area ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ and leave a review on Apple Podcasts.

    Be the first to hear new episodes of The Gray Area by following us in your favorite podcast app. Links here: https://www.vox.com/the-gray-area

    Support The Gray Area by making a financial contribution to Vox! bit.ly/givepodcasts

    This episode was made by: 

    • Producer: Jon Ehrens 
    • Engineer: Patrick Boyd

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    8 April 2024, 9:30 am
  • 46 minutes 27 seconds
    The American dream is a pyramid scheme

    Jane Marie is an expert in American bullshit. Her podcast The Dream explores life coaching, wellness, marketing, and other fraudulent industries and exposes their exploitative practices. Her book, Selling the Dream, takes an even closer look at multilevel marketing schemes like Amway and Herbalife and gives historical context to this multibillion-dollar — and distinctly American — enterprise. 


    Host: Sean Illing (@seanilling), host, The Gray Area

    Guest: Jane Marie. Her podcast is The Dream and her book is Selling the Dream.

    Enjoyed this episode? Rate The Gray Area ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ and leave a review on Apple Podcasts.

    Be the first to hear new episodes of The Gray Area by following us in your favorite podcast app. Links here: https://www.vox.com/the-gray-area

    Support The Gray Area by making a financial contribution to Vox! bit.ly/givepodcasts

    This episode was made by: 

    • Producer: Jon Ehrens 
    • Engineer: Patrick Boyd

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    1 April 2024, 9:30 am
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