Joe Edelman on Designing Meaningful Things

youtube: https://youtu.be/Sjennrn5LNA

episode page: https://www.buzzsprout.com/126848/11585772

Why did I do this show?

I am looking for a way that we might be able to design a new insurance system. By “insurance system” I mean a way for us to make decisions about what kinds of risks we want to face and what we want to ignore. The amount of information we need to process to make these decisions is too much for an individual to handle so we make them socially. Social decision making is another way of saying “politics” and “regulation”. Does Joe open the door to a better way of regulation?

What did I learn?

In preparing for this and in doing this interview I learned how incredibly powerful it is to have your values identified and named and discussed. There really is something to this!

What was my favorite part?

Hearing about what the most common values are in people. I had thought that there was a lot of similarity and I think that’s right. “contributing” “showing up”. Interesting!

Joe Petrelli on Trouble with Insurance in Florida

episode link: https://www.buzzsprout.com/126848/11547382

youtube: https://youtu.be/Cd9JpHsjDr8

Why did I do this show?

Insurance companies operate based on trust. Probably the single most important gatekeepers of trust of insurance companies are rating agencies. Some will find that surprising! Rating agencies are a dominant force in insurance especially in supremely dysfunctional markets like homeowners insurance in Florida where Joe’s company, Demotech, is the dominant rating agency. Florida is a mess and then that mess got hit with the largest hurricane in its long history of hurricanes!

What did I learn?

That litigation reform is very, very hard!

What was my favorite part?

I learn again and again, entrepreneurs are pretty similar everywhere, even those in the weird business of rating agencies!

Clips:

Brian Nosek on The Gap Between Values and Practice

podcast link: https://www.buzzsprout.com/126848/11461396

youtube link: https://youtu.be/NkKuF–5V60

Why did I do this show?

Brian has been at the center of two massive social shifts in the last 20 years, first the investigation of implicit bias and second the replication crisis in social sciences.

What did I learn?

Incredibly, I had underestimated Brian Nosek! His real contribution was to build technology that massively reduced the cost of conducting empirical studies, paving the way to increased power for studies and massively easier efforts at replication.

What was my favorite part?

“People aren’t happy to get an email from me” he says. Mostly if you are a researcher and get a cold email from Brian it means he’s about to put your research to the replication test. Better be real!

Clips

Why should insurance people watch this episode?

https://www.linkedin.com/posts/david-wright-73661214_brian-nosek-has-been-at-the-forefront-of-activity-6985586967119863808-Z1F7

Jen Brady Gives us Hope

episode page: https://www.buzzsprout.com/126848/11087306

youtube: https://youtu.be/aWS7tSIe68Q

Why did I do this show?

Jen Brady (https://oasisnj.org/) is a tremendously successful executive in an industry (non-profit) that I know virtually nothing about but which has a very many links to my insurance.

What did I learn?

A very many things. One that nearly everyone who enters these programs drops out. Working with that fact in a graceful way to bring people in and out is a cornerstone of succeeding at the very difficult work Oasis does.

What was my favorite part?

I was delighted to hear about all the experiments they’r running at Oasis and generally how similar the problems of delivering organizational impact (Learn as a team! Don’t create bureaucracy! Move fast! Focus on the customer!) are no matter what kind of organization you run.

Chris Blattman on Why We Fight

episode page: https://www.buzzsprout.com/126848/10773529

youtube link: https://youtu.be/H-bcj1LJy80

Why did I do this show?

There are a lot of social problems in the world and Chris combines a track record of discovering ways to meaningfully and persistently change very poor societies on some of the most important dimensions. This is very important stuff!

What did I learn?

One of the great things about talking to Chris is a discrete separation of analyzing morality from violence. Sometimes we must sacrifice morals to eliminate violence. Historically, our societies have often had to choose between peace or justice.

What was my favorite part?

In our discussion for how to persistently encode social transformation Chris mentioned the congressional testimony of Fred (Mr.) Rogers. Holy cow.

Clips:

Tyler Cowen on *Talent*

episode page: https://www.buzzsprout.com/126848/10628363

youtube link: https://youtu.be/mr2jrM0fkt0

Why did I do this show?

Tyler is an intellectual hero of mine. He’s now a three-time guest! He’s pretty much guaranteed to teach you something every day.

What was my favorite part?

I went 0 for 2 on Straussian readings. Tyler isn’t disagreeing with me, he just thinks I’m being obvious. I shall work harder for the next one!

What did I learn?

The the most important academic result, the one that drives a lot of Tyler’s own work, is that the market test is the most important test of truth. It’s kind of the end of history for academics! At least for those that ignore markets of various kinds.

Clips


Howard Kunreuther on Behavioral Economics of Risk

episode page: https://www.buzzsprout.com/126848/10485147

youtube link: https://youtu.be/wxSsddUAIFU

Why did I do this show?

Howard is the foremost expert on behavioral economics of insurance. I mean… I still can’t get over how it took me 20 years in this business to learn his work exists. I’m embarrassed this wasn’t my first episode!

What did I learn?

Howard has a lot of ideas for ‘hacking’ our lives to overcome cognitive biases and bring about a better world.

What was my favorite part?

Our discussion of hope. Howard’s bet is that we have genuinely learned things about how humans work that can translate into action and ways to improve the world. Very hard!

Robin Hanson on Distant Futures and Aliens

Episode link: https://www.buzzsprout.com/126848/10289422
Youtube link: https://youtu.be/oYCEo3LnGFE

Why did I do this show?

Social science is brutally hard to do well. I got one of my guests to admit there has been no progress on it ever and another one to say that moral progress is literally impossible. I think there’s a deeper link to morality and social science than most so this is depressing stuff for me. This episode was part of an effort of mine to get back to first principles. But, uh.. what ARE the first principles of social science? Enter Robin!

What did I learn?

Competition, competition and more competition. That’s the most central concept that Robin uses when reasoning about what might be. Indeed, you may or may not like some cultural feature or another but to predict how successful it will be requires a mechanism for it to be outcompeted in the cultural marketplace. No small feat!

What was my favorite part?

Straightaway we got into a disagreement about generality vs immutability. That was fun. He didn’t convince me I was off base. There was another spot where I disagreed with Robin on speculation about the state of past social science. Again he didn’t convince me! I read somewhere that Robin is ‘not the kind of person you sorta agree with on everything’. It’s such a treat to talk to as creative and deep and original a thinker as Robin.

Joshua Gans on Prediction Machines

Episode link: https://www.buzzsprout.com/126848/780074

Youtube link: https://youtu.be/Oe2ig72rhO4

Why did I do this episode? I first heard about the book from this review by Robin Hanson (podcast guest!) where the authors frame the rise in AI as a drop in the price of prediction. Forecasting is a very important idea to me so I checked it out!

What did I learn? The concept of AI and intelligence generally as a prediction machine is a pretty interesting and useful one.

What was my favorite part? We had a conversation about how useful academic economics and economists are in private companies. A lot of the big tech companies employ economists and one could argue that most cryptocurrency is, in a social sense, an innovation in behavioral economics!

Social Media Changes Politics with Martin Gurri

Episode Link: https://www.buzzsprout.com/126848/986604-social-media-changes-politics-with-martin-gurri

Youtube Link: https://youtu.be/gv37RMaQndU

Why did I do this show? Martin has been studying the effects of information on politics around the world for decades and released a book describing how the democratization of access to information corrodes our political decision making process.

What did I learn? My biggest takeaway is that in some weird way, people actually don’t want the information they’re given because we don’t like the resulting destabilization. It’s one reason why I’m a bit more optimistic than most that this latest round of information-overload will self-correct somehow.

What was my favorite part? Immediately, right out of the gates Martin disagreed with me! Calling me out on my American-centered view of social media when I base some conclusions on Twitter. Twitter is not a big deal elsewhere!

Clips: