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.

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!

Alex Tabarrok on Innovation and The Baumol Effect

Episode Page: https://www.buzzsprout.com/126848/1374250

Youtube Channel Link: https://youtu.be/5snA_ooF2bE

Why did I do this show: I am a massive fan of Alex’s blog and I found out he released a book on innovation!

What did I learn: That policing is a massive opportunity for reform!

What was my favorite part: talking to Alex about his work in online education, marginal revolution university!

Matt Moore on Analyzing Highway Safety

Episode Link: https://www.buzzsprout.com/126848/1215494

Youtube channel link: https://youtu.be/TKPARbHCg10

Why did I do this show? Matt is a very common speaker at actuarial conferences and he’s has fantastic, analytically driven insights into automobile safety. It’s the biggest risk to us all!

What did I learn? I learned about all the ways that AI fails on self-driving cars. And that speed is really the big problem on highways!

What was my favorite part? Having Matt dodge questions about what those JD Power awards are all about!

Monica Mason on Catastrophe Modeling

Episode Link: https://www.buzzsprout.com/126848/2113065

Youtube link: https://youtu.be/5UvEnRpNeSA

Why did I do this show: Catastrophe modeling is a big part of what makes property reinsurance the most dynamic and innovative market in the insurance industry. Yet there are a lot of misconceptions to explore!

What did I learn: I learned that the core value of the catastrophe modeling vendors is their scrubbing of a variety of data sources.

What was my favorite part? I got to talk about how the models aren’t really all that important, ironically enough!

Melissa Perri on Escaping The Software Build Trap

Episode Link: https://www.buzzsprout.com/126848/1452406

Youtube Channel Link: https://youtu.be/nswFpj2LrKE

Why did I do this show: I had been fascinated by how great software is made and what really makes great tech companies so much better at software than anyone else. This show came about as part of me trying to figure out how to think about technology.

What did I learn: I learned way too much and had to recognize what I learned only over the years following this interview. In a certain sense I did learn about software but I wasn’t ready to learn about it. I needed to try to build real software at a real software company to genuinely understand what Melissa taught me. So the thing I learned was that we can’t always learn the easy way.

What was my favorite part: This was the beginning of me figuring out that strategy is about constraints. Melissa’s book is entirely about how to effectively constrain an organization to make great things. It’s a very deep thing that I am still working to grasp!

Stan McChrystal on Risk and Leadership

Episode page: https://podcast.notunreasonable.com/126848/9951392-stan-mcchrystal-on-risk-and-leadership

Youtube link: https://youtu.be/QW5QrbBXaPk

Why did I do this show?

I’ve been thinking a lot about the relationship between leadership and risk. Then holy cow I learn that one of the most celebrated military leaders in a generation wrote a book about leadership disguised as a book about risk!? An incredible opportunity for me!

What did I learn?

I learned that the most distinguishing characteristic of Special Forces is (what I call) their moral clarity. An astounding and profound thing.

What was my favorite part?

Definitely Stan’s reaction to how President Bush judges leaders. Deeper than it seems!