Promises can be made about almost anything. From promising to be a knight of God, to promising to talk about sex… to promising to stay together until death do us part. In this show, eight different promises are made. Some are kept, many are broken. But even when broken, these promises changed something. Because even a failed promise has the power to change the world.

Host: Nina Foushee

Producers: Nina Foushee, Hadley Reid, Christy Hartman

Featuring: Nina Foushee, Will Hamilton, Liz Matus, Professor Jorah Dannenberg, Hadley Reid, Don Reid, Holly Russell, and Matt Rothe

Release Date: 16 July 2014

Music used during transitions: Chris Zabriskie, Kevin MacLeod, A Smile for Timbuctu, The Kyoto Connection

image via flickr


Intro Story: Nina, from Tucson

Nina tells the story of a promise she made to remember where she comes from, Tucson Arizona.

Producers: Nina Foushee and Christy Hartman

Featuring: Nina Foushee

Music: Chris Zabriskie

Image courtesy of Nina Foushee


Story 1: Knight of God

At the age of 13, Stanford Junior Will Hamilton made a promise to Pir Vilayat Khan. He’s the former spiritual leader of Sufism.

Producer: Nina Foushee

Featuring: Will Hamilton

Music: Arizono Kazuhiro, The Chicago Modern Orchestra Project, Marty Erlich, and Kei Engel

Image via wikipedia


Story 2: A Cold Walk

Stanford Senior, Liz Matus makes a promise to herself after a cold winter walk across her hometown of Cedar Rapids.

Recorded at Activist Story Night at the Haas Center for Public Service in March, 2014

Featuring: Liz Matus

Image courtesy of Liz Matus


Story 3: Ella

Stanford Philosophy Professor Jorah Dannanburg reveals a promise he made to care for an enormous dog named Ella– A mastiff who likes to eat shoes and couches.

Producer: Nina Foushee

Featuring: Jorah Dannenberg

Music: Podington Bear


Story 4: ‘Til Death

Hadley Reid tells us about a time when wedding vows were only the beginning of another promise.

Producer: Hadley Reid

Featuring: Don Reid PhD 1981 and Holly Russell 1978

Music: Chris Zabriskie, Edoardo Romani Capelo

Image courtesy of Holly Russell


Story 5: How the Tractor Ruined Farming

Matt Rothe, a lecturer at Stanford, shares two broken promises. One’s an unspoken societal promise. The other’s the promise of technology, specifically, the tractor.

Producer: Erik Olesund, MSc 2014

Featuring: Matt Rothe, MBA 2007, Lecturer at the School of Earth Sciences and at the (Hasso Plattner Institute of Design)

Music: Antony Raijekov, Blear Moon, Chris Zabriskie, Mountain Range), Jason Shaw, Arizono Kazuhiro

Image courtesy of Matt Rothe


Control : The Stanford Prison Experiment

In 1971, Dr. Philip Zimbardo created a mock prison in the basement of Jordan Hall, the psychology building at Stanford. Mentally healthy college students were randomly assigned the roles of prisoner and guard. Dr. Zimbardo was trying to test how situations control human behavior, but within days, the situation spun out of control.


In this special episode, Drs. Philip Zimbardo and Christina Maslach tell the story of what ended up being one of the most infamous psychology studies in history – where young, mentally healthy participants turned brutal and desperate in only a few days. You’ll learn surprising details of what inspired the Stanford Prison Experiment and how it ended, and hear how the experiment helped contribute to understanding the relationship between individuals and the situations they find themselves in.

Host: Bojan Srbinovski

Producers: Rachel Hamburg, Bojan Srbinovski, Mischa Shoni, Charlie Mintz, Natacha Ruck, Victoria Hurst

Featuring: Dr. Philip Zimbardo, Dr. Christina Maslach

Additional production help from: Justine Beed, Kate Nelson, Will Rogers

Original Music by Rob Voigt

Other music: Chris Zabriskie, Billy Gomberg, Gillicuddy, Tearpalm

Audio clips of the Stanford and Toyon Prison Experiments are from The Philip G. Zimbardo Papers at the Stanford University ArchivesThe Philip G. Zimbardo Papers at the Stanford University Archives.


Note: The original version of this episode mis-identified the location of the pilot study that inspired the Prison Experiment. The Stanford Storytelling Project regrets this error.


Photo credit: Chuck Painter



Today, we generate data with every mouse click, phone call, and even every breath. This week on State of the Human, you’ll hear about how an 18th century historian, a poet, a computer scientist, a composer, and a mysterious future being are all trying to interpret that data to understand something about the human experience. We’re asking: what do we learn from seeing ourselves as data? And what is lost in translation?


Host: Kate Nelson

Producers: Rachel Hamburg, Miles S, Charlie Mintz, Kate Nelson, Rosie La Puma

Featuring: Dr. Daniel Rosenberg, Naomi Shihab Nye, Jonathan Berger, Raven Jiang, Alec Glassford

Release Date: 18 June 2014

Music used during transitions: Aboombong (Drag Along Behind), Chuzausen, Koona (Starkey), Kai Engel

image via wikimedia



Story 1: Straws on the River of Time

Joseph Priestley was an 18th Renaissance man who helped discover oxygen. But he also invented something: the Chart of Biography. Here’s why he shouldn’t get too much credit for doing either of those things. It’s a story about one of the first times that people were turned into data.


Producers: Jess Peterson and Charlie Mintz

Featuring: Dr. Daniel Rosenberg

Music: Jared C Balogh, Ergo Phizmiz, Dexter Britain, and Circus Marcus



Story 2: Exposed

Kyle is on a mission to scrape every last piece of his data off the internet. He’s devoted to navigating cyberspace without leaving a trace – but privacy has a cost.


Producers: Niuniu Teo and Charlie Mintz

Featuring: “Kyle”

Music: Rod Hamilton (Bird); Pork Secret (Cool Crocs); Podington Bear (Operatives, Clouds Pass Softly); Marcel Pequel (Seven)

Image via wikimedia



Story 3: Search Terms Leading to a Bigger Life

Naomi Shihab Nye is a novelist, songwriter, and wandering poet. She tells a story about staring at people on planes, and how googling strangers can lead to a bigger life.


Producers: Justine Beed and Will Rogers

Featuring: Naomi Shihab Nye

Music and Sounds: Podington Bear (Deep Pools, Respiration), Airport Ambience

Image via wikimedia



Story 4: Breathing Data

Jonathan Berger, a composer, teams up with a radiologist who needs to figure out a way to help calm anxious patients. His solution – have patients listen to their own data.


Producer: Kate Nelson

Featuring: Dr. Jonathan Berger

Music and Sounds: Advent Chamber Orchestra, SJ Mellia, deef, Plurabelle, ZOE.LEELA, Gustav Landin, Coffee Shop, Deep Breath

Image via flickr



Story 5: A Single Lifetime

A new consciousness has just emerged – a product of all data and the interactions between it. That consciousness exists as a detached force, until falling in love teaches it to be human.


Producer: Alec Glassford and Rachel Hamburg

Featuring: Alec Glassford, Raven Jiang

Music and Sounds: YACHT (Ring the Bell (Instrumental), The Afterlife), Podington Bear (Rythn), The Shivers (Kisses, Only Mine), Owl (Uppsala Streetbusker accordion 1.wav), Damsteegt (Thai Island Beach II), hanstimm (URSU01.ffB.m7.f2.ed.aiff)

Image via wikimedia





Sometimes you’re in your own country, your own home, and you know in your bones you don’t belong. That feeling pushes you to change something. This week we bring you four stories of people who don’t quite belong in the world where they live, and who take matters in their own hands to construct their own belonging. A very young girl finds a sense of belonging while running away from an angry mob. A student creates a bridge between the Jewish and Irish sides of her family. Seven gender-defying divas share what it means to belong to yourself. And a young man discovers how to prove you belong, when the numbers are against you.


Host: Leslie Nguyen-Okwu

Producers: Will Rogers and Natacha Ruck

Featuring: Justine Beed, Carla Lewis, Eileen Williams, Josh Hoyt, Winona Azure, Raya Light, Macy Rodman, Peaches Christ, Alexis Blair Penney, Heklina, Sissy Spastik, Mathu Andersen, and Cher Noble.

Release Date: 3 June 2014

Music used during transitions: Welcome Wizard, Monk Turner, Johnny Ripper, Zachary Cale, Mighty Moon, & Ethan Schmid, Blue Ducks

image via flickr



Story 1: Owning It

Carla Lewis grew up in the baptist south, feeling very much like an outsider. As a child, Carla knew she didn’t believe in God, but she still believed in something bigger than herself and the world she grew up in. This is the story of the day she shared her beliefs with her classmates, and how violently they reacted. Carla reflects on this event in her life with wisdom and grace and she shows how to achieve a sense of belonging from within.


Producer: Justine Beed

Featuring: Carla Lewis

Music and sounds: Kids Laughing, Books Hitting Floor, Pages Flipping, Church Bells, Transition Piano, Backflip Woosh, Synth Music, Retimbrage, Noah’s Stark  by krackatoa (build-up Soundtrack), Water Splash 1, Water Splash 2, Organ, Kids YellingAmbient drone, Chimes, Breeze, Sounds of Me by Malt. Tabulated Sounds, (Rough) sketch for Autumn by Freiband (running soundtrack), Bought an old twelve string anno 2009 by BeatMeister (main soundtrack), Fire burning, Wild horses running, Kids yelling, Mob yelling, Throwing books

Image courtesy of Carla Lewis


Story 2: In on the Joke

In this story, we’ll travel from broom closets to carousels and witness a public arrest and the destruction of an expensive Lexus. Associate Producer Eileen Williams explores how these shenanigans come to pass–and how they helped her to belong.


Producer/Featuring: Eileen Williams

Links: Ligandal

Music: Podington Bear, Jaze Baqti, Sláinte, Steffen Basho-Junghans, Kevin MacLeod, Zoe Leela, Markus Strübbe

Image via flickr



Story 3: Beyond the Rainbow

What is the trajectory from misfit to show-stopper, fringe to the spotlight, boy to beautiful woman or creature? Is drag the sparkling manifestation of an less-pretty past, the alchemy of the alienated? Brittany Newell has sought to record the oral history of 7 dazzling American queens and gender-artists working today. This is a tale of the other, the queer, the blunt, and the brave. Their stories investigate how to belong against the grain and beyond the rainbow.


Narrator: Raya Light

Producer: Brittany Newell

Featuring: Macy Rodman, Peaches Christ, Alexis Blair Penney, Heklina, Sissy Spastik, Mathu Andersen, & Cher Noble.

Special thanks: to all the beautiful people and amazing artists who made this possible! The Braden Grant for the Study of Oral Narrative, the Stanford Storytelling Project, Ziva Schatz, and Eric Eich

Image via Ziva Schatz (of drag queen Alaska Thunderf*ck)



Story 4: Blood Quantum

How do you prove you belong when the numbers are against you? Producer for State of the Human Joshua Hoyt Investigates what makes him a true Native American, beyond blood culture, family and language. He discovers that belonging sometimes means to long, and to be.

Producer: Joshua Hoyt

Featuring: Winona Azure

Music: Bensound (Better Days, Funky Suspense), Podington Bear,Vavrek, The Architect, and Jahzza

Beyond Human

Humans aren’t the fastest or strongest animal, but we do make the best tools. From plows to pacemakers, we’ve always used technology to transcend our human limits. This week, we ask how far that project can go. We’ll tell you how the first farmers in history transcended the limits of meat and muscle, only to create a very different kind of boundary. And we’ll present the story of two scientists excited to leave their human skin behind. Also, the story of a man who cannot walk, but who can fly; why PCs can be our friends; and finally, robot phenomenology.


Host: Mischa Shoni

Producers: Charlie Mintz and Rachel Hamburg

Featuring: Ian Morris, Byron Reeves, BJ Fogg, Edward Maibach, Shyam Sundar, Laurie Mason, Henry Evans, Jackson Roach

Release Date: 20 May 2014

Music used during transitions: Fabrizio Paterlini (Veloma); Gillicuddy (Porthlaze Glove); Podington Bear (Delphi); Latché Swing (Hungaria)

image via flickr



Intro story: Feeding Back Into Us

After the last ice age, we humans moved from hunting and gathering to farming. With the plow, farming became a whole lot easier — but there was a dark side too.



Producer: Charlie Mintz, Bojan Srbinovski

Featuring: Ian Morris 

Music:  Broke For Free (Night Owl, The Gold Lining, Only Knows); Wilted Woman (Turing); Podington Bear (Dole It Out); Black Hoods (Talking Cure)

image via web



Story 1: Robots Are My Freedom

As an adult, Henry Evans suffered a medical trauma that left him paralyzed and unable to speak. Then the second half of his life began. 


Producers: Eileen Williams, Miles S.

Featuring: Henry Evans

Links: Robots For Humanity

Music: Broke For Free (My Always MoodOne And, Budding), Audionautix (Atlantis)

Image via web



Story 2: With 18 Arms and Compound Eyes

A scientist visits a relative in the hospital and finds the best available cures lacking. He and a partner go to work at the next frontier of medicine. They wind up bumping into the question of what makes us human.


Producer: Rachel Hamburg

Featuring: Xander Honkala, Andre Watson

Links: Ligandal

Music: Podington BearChristian BjoerklundRolemusic

Image via wikimedia



Story 3: Sympathy for the Dell

This story is a tribute to the late Stanford professor Clifford Nass. Friends and colleagues described him as one of the most human humans you could ever meet. He discovered ways that computers can be human too, and one consequence of that research is coming to a hospital near you.


Producers: Charlie Mintz, Josh Hoyt

Featuring: Clifford Nass, Byron Reeves, BJ Fogg, Laurie Mason, Edward Maibach, Shyam Sundar, Chris Corio

Link: Engineered Care

Music: Podington Bear (Lake Victoria, Formless)Broke For Free (Note Drop, Like Swimming, Luminous, Blown Out, One And); memotone (This Is The Room, Fractal, Sleeping With the Insects); 2ndMOUSE (Arc Reactor); Audionautix (Namaste);

Image via wikimedia



Story 4: The Simulation Deck

A radio play about the strawberry-sized gap between humans and machines.


Producer: Jackson Roach

Featuring: Andrew Brassel, Matthew Libby

Links: Robot voice created by Cepstral Voices


When we joke with our friends, our coworkers and our family, it’s not just about hearing them laugh. More often than not we’re looking for something beyond laughter. We’re after acceptance, bonding, release, shaming… and sometimes even more. This week on State of the Human we’re investigating how people use joking to create new realities for themselves and the people around them.


We have six stories, exploring the way jokes, pranks, and even puns can change our lives. We’ll hear stories from stand up comedian Tig Notaro and humor theorist Marvin Diogenes, and we’ll travel from Stanford’s cafeterias to the presidential suite on Air Force One. We’ll hear stories about how jokes can help us and synchronize our minds, stare cancer in the face and make us question our humanity along with everything we take for granted. And also, we’ll laugh a lot.

Producers: Natacha Ruck and Nina Foushee

Featuring: Rosie La Puma, Jackson Roach, Nina Foushee, Miles S., Justine Beed, Charlie Mintz, Ken Grobe, Lora Kelley, Marvin Diogenes, David Demarest, Sam Roach, Jay Roach, the La Puma family, Claire Slattery, Nathaniel Nelson, Reggie Watts, and Tig Notaro.

Release Date: 8 April 2014


Music used during transitions: BLEO, Candlegravity, LASERS, Will Bangs

image via flickr



Intro story: The Joking Revolution

Marvin Diogenes explores how some comedians use jokes to change the world. 


Featuring: Marvin Diogenes

Music: Podington bear (Pretty Build, Fantasy and Movin On Up)

Image via Neebo



Story 1: Joking Material 

Justine Beed interviews comedian Tig Notaro about how turning hardships into joking material changed her life.


music: Origamibiro

Image via flickr



Story 2: The Android Among Us

A bizarre running joke makes Sam Roach worry that he might not be a human. Jackson Roach, his older brother, investigates.


Producer: Jackson Roach

Featuring: Sam Roach and Jay Roach

Music: Deef, Slowmotions, Chris Zabriskie

Image via flickr



Story 3: A Strange Kind of Love

Nina Foushee knows why she fell in love with comedian Reggie Watts: He saved her from her world. But falling for an absurdist is like finger painting on a jellyfish: confusing, messy, and a little painful.


Producer: Nina Foushee

Featuring: Reggie Watts

Music: Slowmotions, Chris Zabriskie, Nicolas Chientaroli Trio, Michal Hambourg

Image via flickr



Story 4: All Puns Intended

Join Rosie La Puma as she scours historical humor to try and find a “good” pun. Along the way, she discovers that these joking underdogs may have a hidden ability.


Producer: Rosie La Puma

Featuring: Julia, Cece, Debbie, Chris, Phil and Cyndy La Puma

and Sheila, Karen, Addison, Tynan, Gerardo, Bianca, Jackson and Connor

Music: Kevin McLeod (Batty McFaddin, Monkeys Spinning Monkeys, Pamgaea)

Simon Mathewson (Convergence Point)

Image via Rosie La Puma



Story 5: For all the Wrong Reasons 

Miles S., a producer for State of the Human sits with the former White House Communications Director for the 40th President of the United States. Together they discuss how presidents use jokes (and speech writers) to make you like them.


Producer: Miles S.

Featuring: David Demarest, Vice President of Public Affairs for Stanford University and Professor of Political Communications in the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Former White House Communications Director for the 40th President of the United States, George H.W. Bush.


Music: Modern Antiques, Thiaz Itch (Ghost n’ Goblins, Hailfire Peaks, Super Mario 2), Kevin MacLeod

Image via Wikipedia



Story 6: The Best Medicine 

We all know that sometimes practical jokes hurt. In our next story, we learn how they can also heal. Or can they?


Producer: Charlie Mintz and Ken Grobe

Featuring: Stanford Alumni Claire Slattery and Nathaniel Nelson

Music: Silence is Sexy, Person, Lulo