Narrator: The year is 2045. Scientific consensus predicts a 95% chance of human extinction within the next 15 years after a massive climate engineering failure in 2043…

Leigh: “This just in, the IPCC has just reported that the Large Scale Aerosol Project, or LSAP, has taken a devastating turn. Apparently, the aerosols have reacted with a small percentage of atmospheric catalysts, creating what their calling... a solar shield. Details about what this means are still coming in, but some scientists are calling it an extinction level event.”

The corporate conglomerate, Alphazon, is giving 3,000 people a one-way ticket to an Earth-like planet to restart human civilization. The planet, Earth 2.0, has been terraformed to have a breathable atmosphere, a stable ecosystem filled with Earth plants, animals, microorganisms, and the raw materials needed to build a human colony.

To determine who will be chosen to travel to Earth 2.0 (and to raise revenue for the project), Alphazon launched a game show that became an instant hit. On the game show, contestants make their case for how Earth 2.0’s society will work – including government, laws, economic structure and cultural norms. They must convince a panel of judges how to best run Earth 2.0.

Of course, none of these ideas will be used in the ACTUAL colony. This is just to entertain people.

START WITH BREATHS… vibration of the crowd…

You’re sitting in a chair. The lights are dimming…  You’re aware that you are in a large public space… you feel the vibration of the crowd... lots of people are quieting their chatter.  And you are clearly on a stage...

Then (SFX: FLOOM!) 4 spotlights reveal a man to your right.

HOST: Hello hello hello!

Narration: his large quiff of hair is beautifully sculpted.

HOST: Welcome! I'm Rex Pontificant

It’s 2045...and the Earth is fucked!


Narrator: This is Qualia. A thought experiment in sound. I’m Bishop Sand.

The process of making reasons… or reasoning… can be humanity’s superpower. Or it can undercut us. And in this episode, we will let you observe and feel both edges in this gameshow.

This is episode 3: reason.

Repeat: It’s 2045...and the Earth is fucked!


Announcer (JIM): We’re giving 3,000 people a one-way ticket to an Earth-like planet to restart human civilization. The planet, Earth 2.0, has a breathable atmosphere, abundant vegetation and the raw materials needed to build a colony.

How can we jumpstart the best civilization possible and make sure we don’t repeat the mistakes we made on Earth?   

HOST (Rex): Why… this show, of course! hahahaha!

The contestant with the best reasoning skills will receive two all-expense paid, one-way golden tickets to Earth 2.0. Their ideas will not be used in the colony, but it’s fun to discuss, am I right? Ha! ha!

The losers will immediately receive a painful shock, have all of your assets seized, and be publicly shamed alongside their family members!

(crowd roars)

Here’s how it works:

Our contestants will be given an issue facing the Earth 2.0 colony, and then…

It’s discussion time! They’ll need to persuade the other contestants that their choice is the best using their best reasons.

The players will be judged based on the strength of their reasoning by this small panel of judges…

Narrator: The host gestures toward you.

(cuts from broadcast audio to FLOODLIGHTS simmering focus on you with heartbeat racing)

Narrator: You are a judge.

Judges: Ok, alright.

Narrator: Those are your fellow judges sitting next to you. One to your left and one on your right side.

Judge: Ok.

Are you ready to play “The Earth IS FUCKED!?!?!”

(crowd roars)

HOST: Alright let’s begin.

Narrator: The host turns toward the contestants...

HOST: The goal of the round is to convince your fellow contestants of the choice you have made with good justification. Remember, this your chance to win that GOLDEN TICKET.

BOOMING LOW-VOICED ANNOUNCER: ROUND 1… Should the colony be multicultural or monocultural?

HOST: The contestants have 15 seconds to gather their thoughts…  

(15 seconds… crowd cheers, host cheerleads, heartbeat… slowly fade inside listener’s head..)



Cross-talk Reasoning clips from Rae, Nico, Aaron

Narrator: Take a moment to gather your thoughts.

We promised you’d hear reasoning that would find solutions and reasoning that undercuts our efforts. Think about this discourse… did the contestants reason well? And did they come to the best possible solutions? Let’s get back to the action… you’re about to judge the round.

(Hugo fades out and arguing and crowd noise rushes back in)

HOST: oooohhh ho ho ho! What an amazing exchange?! What a difficult job for our judges!!!, who must now come to an agreement… that could will bring one of contestants closer to the new colony!

[HOST turns out to the audience]

HOST: There are a lot of stakes for these judges as well! As we saw earlier this season, viewers, outraged by our judges’ decision, retaliated by burning down all of the judges’ homes! (barely containing his excitement) I think we have a clip… Jim?

[fire crackling] Crowd laughs

Host: oooo my oh my… (tut tut tut)

Narrator: Ok, so now you have to come to   a decision about who made the best case…

Narrator: You look to your fellow judges…

Do you find yourself just ever so slightly... leaning toward one person? Just a little more sympathetic to them? Maybe you find yourself defending their position in your mind?

If so, this is completely natural.

You’re starting to trust that person… even if it’s just a little bit.

When this person offers up a reason… we won’t engage with that extra step of deliberating and reflecting…

Fernbach: it’s hard to do that.

Sound design coming to climax

Fernbach: The problem is that we often don’t realize we’re doing it.

Narrator: That’s cognitive scientist, Philip Fernbach. And by the way, what are you doing? You should be paying attention to your fellow judges!

Rebecca: this is about ensuring our survival of a new species on a new planet vs. ideals that we’ve had the luxury of having.

Aaron starts to break away from the argument of culture to talk about genetic diversity. And I think that’s getting away from the original argument.

Judge 2: So uh, what are you defining as culture? It doesn’t make any sense to have three thousand biologists on a planet. (fade)

Narrator: Your attention drifts away from these judges

Something’s gnawing at you... it’s how these contestants just blindly clung to their position. I mean they were never going to give up their idea... even it became clear they were wrong.

Hugo: You know they’re not going to start voting for the other guy. And so the whole point is just to try to convince their base.

Narrator: That’s cognitive scientist, Hugo Mercier.

HUgo: And so in these cases, there’s not going to be any evaluation of arguments going on.

Narrator: When you hear an argument that goes against yours...

Hugo: You can’t help yourself but generate a bunch of reasons why they’re wrong

Narrator: And so there’s no pursuit of the best outcome.

HUGO: it’s going to be mostly fruitless.

Narrator: In fact, you and your fellow judges seem to be the only ones actually evaluating the contestants’ arguments.

Rebecca: You think that Aaron came out ahead?

Judge 2: Yeah, I’m gonna stick with Aaron. I’m gonna say Aaron came out ahead. You can’t have a population that works themself to death.

Rebecca: thats a very good point. I hadn’t thought about that.

Judge 2: the basis of nico’s argument is that a monocultural society will be more efficient and I just don’t think that that reasoning is sound at all.

Rebecca: I still think that he has a point there though. It’s if we start with a simialr culture, we’ll focus on surviving. And then as we establish survival, we’re naturally going to create new cultures that won’t necessarily be lost, they’ll just be different than we have here.

WHat do you think?

Narrator: Yes, you… what do you think?

Rebecca: Alright we have come up with a conclusion.

HOST: Alright, so far we’ve Nico on top, with Aaron close behind. Then last is Rae! Let’s move on to the second round! Help yourself get to Earth 2.0!!!

BOOMING LOW-VOICED ANNOUNCER: ROUND 2… Should we let AI make judicial decisions for us?

HOST: The contestants have 15 seconds to gather their thoughts…

(15 seconds)

Narrator: But something is just not sitting right with you. It feels like these contestants reasoning ability isn’t being used to do anything productive here. It’s like it’s not really driving towards the best solution.


Opening positions,

Cross-talk Reasoning clips from Rae, Nico, Aaron…

HOST: oooohhh ho ho ho! Again, our judges must come to a consensus about our contestant rankings after that discourse.

Rebecca: Well that was a very vivacious round.

Judge 2: I appreciate the fervor that Rae brought here.

Rebecca: But she goes back on her own argument on her own point to say, well yeah, this is going to mess up at some point.

Judge 2: Yeah she says Unfortunately, you’re going to have to wait for another generation…

(fade out)

Narrator: This round felt like it was even more etrenched. The discourse didn’t lead anywhere that was better, actually. And in fact, they just came up with more and more reasons to justify their own entrenched idea. It’s still very unclear which one is best solution.

Each contestant harshly criticized others’ arguments and stuck to their own. Generating new reasons new reasons new reasons. But it wasn’t clear they were better reasons. Is this really the pinnacle of reason?

Judge 2: but I don’t think that Aaron posed his argument as well as perhaps Rae did.

Rebbeca: I will concede with you with that. That is very true. He did not actually put up many arguments for his own system as much as he tore down everybody else’s, which while appreciated, is not making for a very strong reasoning for his supported system of government.

So in tallying up our points in this round, I think we have Rae coming out just ahead of Aaron with Nico coming in a very distant third.

Judge 2: distant third, you gotta come back with something better, Nico.

Rebecca: mmmhmm.

(speed returns and discussion clips from Rae, Nico, Aaron are noticeably different… people listen to each other, talk about outcomes/goals, think about the best way to implement and the effort is collaborative)


BOOMING LOW-VOICED ANNOUNCER (Johnny?): ROUND 3… Should abortion be allowed on the new colony?

HOST: The contestants have 15 seconds to gather their thoughts…

(15 seconds)


Reasoning clips from Rae, Nico, Aaron…


Narrator: Ok, I think we’ve heard enough of this.... Let’s intervene.


Since we are in control of this thought experiment, I’m going to have a little word with the host...

HOST: oh my god… we’ve never done this before…

Should we do it? Should we do iT???!?!

I’m going told yes, we will!

All three of our contestants are getting a one-way ticket to Earth 2.0!

For the remainder of the show, you must now work together and come to the best solution… that’s it!

Narrator: You shift in your seat. There is a new motivation. This feels so different! How will this work out? Will this generate better reasons? Or Worse?

Ready, BEGIN!

Reasoning clips from Rae, Nico, Aaron…

(obvious change in scoring)

Narrator: Ah, this seems so much better…

They’re working out their reasons… figuring their way to a better solution than they would’ve had before.

Hugo: They benefit from argumentation. Because you know, then if someone had a better idea they want to figure out who that person is and you know be convinced by them.

It’s working…

Reasoning clips from Rae, Nico, Aaron…

Narrator: Before, our contestants framed the issue with values. This makes discussion feel simple...

Fernbach: it seems more black and white, people are more extreme and they think compromise between the two sides is impossible.

Narrator: But here, the contestants focused on consequences and explanations..

Fernbach: The world’s much more complex than you thought it was. Maybe the other side could be right. Actually, maybe the two sides aren’t as far as part as you thought they were.

Narrator: Reason can be used to divide us and entrench us…

or... we can use it to achieve superhuman solutions.

We can work together and find a solution... that we could never have done individually.


Special thanks to cognitive scientist, Philip Fernbach, who has a book out called “The Knowledge Illusion: Why We Never Think Alone”... and Hugo Mercier, who wrote “The Enigma of Reason”

Thanks to Sarah Rosinsky

Thanks to our contestants: Jorge Nicholas Hernanddez Charpak, Rae Ellen Bichelle, and Aaron Leavy

Thanks to our judges: Rebecca Jacobsen and Robert Deroeck (deroak)

Thanks to our newsreaders: Leigh Paterson, Luke Runyon, and our foreign correspondents:

Jordan Wirfs-brock is our editor and co-creator. Our team also includes Dan Boyce, and Josh Vertucci.

I’m bishop Sand.

Thanks for listening.