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Tyler Cowen engages today’s deepest thinkers in wide-ranging explorations of their work, the world, and everything in between. New conversations every other Wednesday. Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.

A conductor, harpsichordist, and organist, Masaaki Suzuki stands as a towering figure in Baroque music, renowned for his comprehensive and top-tier recordings of Bach's works, including all of Bach's sacred and secular cantatas. Suzuki's unparalleled dedication extends beyond Bach, with significant contributions to the works of Mozart, Handel, and other 18th-century composers. He is the founder of the Bach Collegium Japan, an artist in residence at Yale, and conducts orchestras and choruses around the world.

Tyler sat down with Suzuki to discuss the innovation and novelty in Bach's St. John's Passion, whether Suzuki's Calvinist background influences his musical interpretation, his initial encounter with Bach through Karl Richter, whether older recording of Bach have held up, why he trained in the Netherlands, what he looks for in young musicians, how Japanese players appreciate Bach differently, whether Christianity could have ever succeeded in Japan, why Bach's larger vocal works were neglected for so long, how often Bach heard his masterworks performed, why Suzuki's favorite organ is in Groningen, what he thinks of Glenn Gould’s interpretations of Bach, what contemporary music he enjoys, what he'll do next, and more.

Ami Vitale is a renowned National Geographic photographer and documentarian with a deep commitment to wildlife conservation and environmental education. Her work, spanning over a hundred countries, includes spending a decade as a conflict photographer in places like Kosovo, Gaza, and Kashmir.

She joined to Tyler to discuss why we should stay scary to pandas, whether we should bring back extinct species, the success of Kenyan wildlife management, the mental cost of a decade photographing war, what she thinks of the transition from film to digital, the ethical issues raised by Afghan Girl, the future of National Geographic, the heuristic guiding of where she'll travel next, what she looks for in a young photographer, her next project, and more.

Rebecca F. Kuang just might change the way you think about fantasy and science fiction. Known for her best-selling books Babel and The Poppy War trilogy, Kuang combines a unique blend of historical richness and imaginative storytelling. At just 27, she’s already published five novels, and her compulsion to write has not abated even as she's pursued advanced degrees at Oxford, Cambridge, and now Yale. Her latest book, Yellowface, was one of Tyler’s favorites in 2023.

She sat down with Tyler to discuss Chinese science-fiction, which work of fantasy she hopes will still be read in fifty years, which novels use footnotes well, how she'd change book publishing, what she enjoys about book tours, what to make of which Chinese fiction is read in the West, the differences between the three volumes of The Three Body Problem, what surprised her on her recent Taiwan trip, why novels are rarely co-authored, how debate influences her writing, how she'll balance writing fiction with her academic pursuits, where she'll travel next, and more.

Few can measure the impact of a blog post they wrote, in the millions of dollars a year, but Patrick McKenzie has the receipts. His 2012 post on salary negotiation is read hundreds of thousands of times each year, and he has a Gmail folder brimming with success stories. This achievement is just of his many contributions, which include starting several businesses, advising Stripe and other software companies, and spearheading the launch of VaccinateCA. Lately he's been writing Bits about Money, a biweekly newsletter on the intersection of tech and finance.

Tyler sat down with Patrick to discuss signature fields on the back of credit cards, whether bank tellers or waitstaff are more trustworthy, the gremlins behind spurious credit card declines, how debt collection and maple syrup heists should change your model of the world, Twitter’s continued success as the message bus for government and civil society, crypto vs traditional money transfers, the intended desolation of bank parking lots, why he moved to Japan and how it affected his ambition, why Tether hasn't collapsed, the internet as a Great Work, how he's experiencing reverse culture shock after returning to the US, what he'll learn about next, and more.

On this special year-in-review episode, Tyler and producer Jeff Holmes look back on the past year in the show and more, including the most popular and underrated episodes, the origins of the show as an occasional event series, the most difficult guests to prep for, the story behind EconGOAT.AI, Tyler's favorite podcast appearance of the year, and his evolving LLM-powered production function. They also answer listener questions and conclude with an assessment of Tyler's top pop culture recommendations from 2013 across movies, music, and books.

Recorded December 6th, 2023.

In her third appearance on the show, Chinese food expert Fuchsia Dunlop joins Tyler and a group of special guests to celebrate the release of Invitation to a Banquet, her new book exploring the history, philosophy, and techniques of Chinese culinary culture. As with her previous appearance, this conversation was held over a banquet meal at Mama Chang and was hosted by Lydia Chang.

As they dined, the group discussed why the diversity in Chinese cuisine is still only just being appreciated in the West, how far back our understanding of it goes, how it’s represented in the Caribbean and Ireland, whether technique trumps quality of ingredients, why certain cuisines can spread internationally with higher fidelity, what we can learn from the different styles in Indian and Chinese cooking, why several dishes on the table featured Amish ingredients, the most likely mistake people will make when making a stir fry, what Lydia has learned managing an empire of Chinese restaurants, Fuchsia’s trick for getting unstuck while writing, and more.

Joining Tyler, Fuchsia, and Lydia around the table were Dan Wang, Rasheed Griffith, Fergus McCollough, and Sam Enright.

Special thanks to Chef Peter Chang, Lydia, and all the staff at Mama Chang for the wonderful meal.

John Gray is a philosopher and writer renowned for his critical examination of liberalism, atheism, and the human condition. His unique perspective is shaped over a decades-long career, during which he has authored influential books on topics ranging from political theory to what we can learn from cats about on how to live a good life. His latest book, The New Leviathans: Thoughts After Liberalism, delivers a provocative examination of the 2020s' political landscape, challenges liberal triumphalism with a realistic critique of ongoing global crises and the persistent allure of human delusions.

Tyler and John sat down to discuss his latest book, including who he thinks will carry on his work, what young people should learn if liberalism is dead, whether modern physics allows for true atheism, what in Eastern Orthodoxy attracts him, the benefits of pessimism, what philanthropic cause he’d invest a billion dollars in, under what circumstances he’d sacrifice his life, what he makes of UFOs, the current renaissance in film and books, whether Monty Python is still funny, how Herman Melville influenced him, who first spotted his talent, his most unusual work habit, what he’ll do next, and more.

Jennifer Burns is a professor history at Stanford who works at the intersection of intellectual, political, and cultural history. She’s written two biographies Tyler highly recommends: her 2009 book, Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right and her latest, Milton Friedman: The Last Conservative, provides a nuanced look into the influential economist and public intellectual.

Tyler and Jennifer start by discussing how her new portrait of Friedman caused her to reassess him, his lasting impact in statistics, whether he was too dogmatic, his shift from academic to public intellectual, the problem with Two Lucky People, what Friedman’s courtship of Rose Friedman was like, how Milton’s family influenced him, why Friedman opposed Hayek’s courtesy appointment at the University of Chicago, Friedman’s attitudes toward friendship, his relationship to fiction and the arts, and the prospects for his intellectual legacy. Next, they discuss Jennifer’s previous work on Ayn Rand, including whether Rand was a good screenwriter, which is the best of her novels, what to make of the sex scenes in Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead, how Rand and Mises got along, and why there’s so few successful businesswomen depicted in American fiction. They also delve into why fiction seems so much more important for the American left than it is for the right, what’s driving the decline of the American conservative intellectual condition, what she will do next, and more.

Brian Koppelman is a writer, director, and producer known for his work on films like Rounders and Solitary Man, the hit TV show Billions, and his podcast The Moment, which explores pivotal moments in creative careers.

Tyler and Brian sat down to discuss why TV wasn’t good for so long, whether he wants viewers to binge his shows, how he’d redesign movie theaters, why some smart people appreciate film and others don’t, which Spielberg movie and Murakami book is under appreciated, a surprising fact about poker, whether Jalen Brunson is overrated or underrated, Manhattan food tips, who he’d want to go on a three-day retreat with, whether movies are too long, how happy people are in show business, his unmade dream projects, the next thing he’ll learn about, and more.

As a follow-up to the episode featuring Stephen Jennings, we’re releasing two bonus conversations showing the daily life, culture, and politics of Nairobi and Kenya at large. This second installment features Githae Githinji, a Kikuyu elder and businessman working in Tatu City, a massive mixed-used development spearheaded by Jennings. Born in 1958 and raised in a rural village, he relocated to seek opportunities in the Nairobi area where he built up a successful transportation company over decades. As a respected chairman of the local Kikuyu councils, Githae resolves disputes through mediation and seeks to pass on traditions to the youth.

In his conversation with Tyler, Githae discusses his work as a businessman in the transport industry and what he looks for when hiring drivers, the reasons he moved from his rural hometown to the city and his perspectives on urban vs rural living, Kikuyu cultural practices, his role as a community elder resolving disputes through both discussion and social pressure, the challenges Kenya faces, his call for more foreign investment to create local jobs, how generational attitudes differ, the role of religion and Githae's Catholic faith, perspectives on Chinese involvement in Kenya and openness to foreigners, thoughts on the devolution of power to Kenyan counties, his favorite wildlife, why he's optimistic about Kenya's future despite current difficulties, and more.

As a follow-up to the episode featuring Stephen Jennings, we’re releasing two bonus conversations showing the daily life, culture, and politics of Nairobi and Kenya at large. This second installment features Harriet Muriithi. Harriet is a 22-year-old hospitality professional living and working in Tatu City, a massive mixed-used development spearheaded by Jennings. Harriet grew up in the picturesque foothills of Mount Kenya before moving to the capital city as a child to pursue better schooling. She has witnessed Nairobi's remarkable growth firsthand over the last decade. An ambitious go-getter, Harriet studied supply chain management but and wishes to open her own high-end restaurant.

In her conversation with Tyler, Harriet opens up about her TikTok hobby, love of fantasy novels, thoughts on improving Kenya's education system, and how she leverages AI tools like ChatGPT in her daily life, the Chinese influence across Africa, the challenges women face in village life versus Nairobi, what foods to sample as a visitor to Kenya, her favorite musicians from Beyoncé to Nigerian Afrobeats stars, why she believes technology can help address racism, her Catholic faith and church attendance, how COVID-19 affected her education and Kenya’s recovery, the superstitions that persist in rural areas, the career paths available to Kenya's youth today, why Nollywood movies captivate her, the diversity of languages and tribes across the country, whether Kenya’s neighbors impact prospects for peace, what she thinks of the decline in the size of families, why she enjoys podcasts about random acts of kindness, what infrastructure and lifestyle changes are reshaping Nairobi, if the British colonial legacy still influences politics today, and more.

Stephen and Tyler first met over thirty years ago while working on economic reforms in New Zealand. With a distinguished career that transitioned from the New Zealand Treasury to significant ventures in emerging economies, Stephen now focuses on developing new urban landscapes across Africa as the founder and CEO of Rendeavour.

Tyler sat down with Stephen in Tatu City, one of his multi-use developments just north of Nairobi, where they discussed why he’s optimistic about Kenya in particular, why so many African cities appear to have low agglomeration externalities, how Tatu City regulates cars and designs for transportation, how his experience as reformer and privatizer informed the way utilities are provided, what will set the city apart aesthetically, why talent is the biggest constraint he faces, how Nairobi should fix its traffic problems, what variable best tracks Kenyan unity, what the country should do to boost agricultural productivity, the economic prospects for New Zealand, how playing rugby influenced his approach to the world, how living in Kenya has changed him, what he will learn next, and more.

Jacob Mikanowski is the author of Tyler’s favorite books this year called Goodbye, Eastern Europe: An Intimate History of a Divided Land. Tyler and Jacob sat down to discuss all things Eastern Europe, including the differences between Eastern and Western European humor, whether Poles are smiling more nowadays, why the best Polish folk art from the south, the equilibrium for Kaliningrad and the Suwałki Gap, how Romania and Bulgaria will handle depopulation, whether Moldova has an independent future, the best city to party in, why there are so few Christian-Muslim issues in Albania, a nuanced take on Orbán and Hungarian politics, why food in Poland is so good now, why Stanisław Lem hasn’t gotten more attention in the West, how Eastern Europe has changed his view of humanity, his ideal two week itinerary in the region, what he’ll do next, and more.

Harvard professor Claudia Goldin has made a name for herself tackling difficult questions. What was the full economic cost of the American Civil War? Does education increase or lessen income inequality? What causes the gender pay gap—and how do you even measure it? Her approach, which often involves the unearthing of new historical data, has yielded lasting insights in several distinct areas of economics.

Claudia joined Tyler to discuss the rise of female billionaires in China, why the US gender earnings gap expanded in recent years, what’s behind falling marriage rates for those without a college degree, why the wage gap flips for Black women versus Black men, theoretical approaches for modeling intersectionality, gender ratios in economics, why she’s skeptical about happiness research, how the New York Times wedding announcement page has evolved, the problems with for-profit education, the value of an Ivy League degree, whether a Coasian solution existed to prevent the Civil War, which Americans were most likely to be anti-immigrant in the 1920s, her forthcoming work on Lanham schools, and more.

Ada Palmer is a Renaissance historian at the University of Chicago who studies radical free thought and censorship, composes music, consults on anime and manga, and is the author of the acclaimed Terra Ignota sci-fi series, among many other things.

Tyler sat down with Ada to discuss why living in the Renaissance worse than living during the Middle Ages, how art protected Florence, why she’s reluctant to travel back in time, which method of doing history is currently the most underrated, whose biography she’ll write, how we know what old Norse music was like, why women scholars helped us understand Viking metaphysics, why Diderot's Jacques the Fatalist is an interesting work, what people misunderstand about the inquisition(s), why science fiction doesn’t have higher social and literary status, which hive she would belong to in Terra Ignota, what the new novel she’s writing is about, and more.

Lazarus Lake is a renowned ultramarathon runner and designer. His most famous creation (along with his friend Raw Dog) is the Barkley Marathons, an absurdly difficult 100-mile race through the Tennessee wilderness that only 17 people have ever finished in its nearly 30-year existence.

Tyler and Laz discuss what running 100 miles tells you about yourself that running 26 miles does not, why so many STEM professionals do ultramarathons, which skill holds people back the most, why his entrance fee is no more or less than $1.60, the importance of the Barkley’s opaque application process, how much each race costs to mount, whether he sees a decline in stoicism and inner strength in America, what accounting taught him about running, which books influenced him the most, who's going to win the NBA title next year, how he’s coping with increasing fame, the competition he’s most focused on now, and more.

In this special episode, Tyler sat down with Jerusalem Demsas, staff writer at The Atlantic, to discuss three books: The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin, Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift, and Of Boys and Men by Richard V. Reeves.

Spanning centuries and genres and yet provoking similar questions, these books prompted Tyler and Jerusalem to wrestle with enduring questions about human nature, gender dynamics, the purpose of travel, and moral progress, including debating whether Le Guin prefers the anarchist utopia she depicts, dissecting Swift's stance on science and slavery, questioning if travel makes us happier or helps us understand ourselves, comparing Gulliver and Shevek's alienation and restlessness, considering Swift’s views on the difficulty of moral progress, reflecting on how feminism links to moral progress and gender equality, contemplating whether imaginative fiction or policy analysis is more likely to spur social change, and more.

Recorded May 22nd, 2023.

A five-time World Chess Champion, Vishy became India's first grandmaster at age 18, spurring a chess revolution in the country. Now 53, he is still a world top ten player and has been India's number one ranked player for 37 years. As newer talents emerge and old ones retire, Anand's continued excellence showcases an endurance seldom seen.

Tyler and Vishy sat down in Chennai to discuss his breakthrough 1991 tournament win in Reggio Emilia, his technique for defeating Kasparov in rapid play, how he approached playing the volatile but brilliant Vassily Ivanchuk at his peak, a detailed breakdown of his brilliant 2013 game against Levon Aronian, dealing with distraction during a match, how he got out of a multi-year slump, Monty Python vs. Fawlty Towers, the most underrated Queen song, how far to take chess opening preparation, which style of chess will dominate in the next ten years, how AlphaZero changes what we know about the game, the key to staying a top ten player at age 53, why he thinks he's a worse loser than Kasparov, qualities he looks for in talented young Indian chess players, picks for the best places to eat in Chennai, and more.

When Alex Tabbarok and Tyler Cowen launched Marginal Revolution in August of 2003, they saw attracting a few thousand academic-minded readers as a runaway success. To their astonishment, the blog soon eclipsed that goal, and within a decade had become one of the most widely read economics blogs in the world. Just as remarkably, the blog maintained its relevance in its second decade, bringing in a new generation of readers without a dip in the pace or quality of the posts. As Alex and Tyler jest, only the onset of senility could possibly rein them in.

To mark MR's entrance into its third decade, long-time readers Ben Casnocha, Vitalik Buterin, and Jeff Holmes joined Alex and Tyler to talk about MR's legacy, including the golden age of blogging in mid-2000s, the decline of independent blogs and the rise of social media, why Tyler usually has a post at 1 AM, the consistent design of the site, the peak of the blogosphere in the Great Recession, the robust community—and even marriage—forged through MR, the site's most underrated feature, Alex and Tyler's favorite commenters, how MR catalyzed separate real-world pandemic responses by each of them, the cessation of book clubs, Alex and Tyler's distinct writing style, iconic MR memes, what's happened to Tyrone, whether the site's popularity has tempted them into self-censoring, why it was Alex and Tyler who paired up amongst the other Mason econ bloggers, and more.

Tyler and Y Combinator co-founder Paul Graham sat down at his home in the English countryside to discuss what areas of talent judgment his co-founder and wife Jessica Livingston is better at, whether young founders have gotten rarer, whether he still takes a dim view of solo founders, how to 2x ambition in the developed world, on the minute past which a Y Combinator interviewer is unlikely to change their mind, what YC learned after rejecting companies, how he got over his fear of flying, Florentine history, why almost all good artists are underrated, what's gone wrong in art, why new homes and neighborhoods are ugly, why he wants to visit the Dark Ages, why he's optimistic about Britain and San Fransisco, the challenges of regulating AI, whether we're underinvesting in high-cost interruption activities, walking, soundproofing, fame, and more.

Tyler sat down at Comedy Cellar with owner Noam Dworman to talk about the ever-changing stand-up comedy scene, including the perfect room temperature for stand-up, whether comedy can still shock us, the effect on YouTube and TikTok, the transformation of jokes into bits, the importance of tight seating, why he doesn’t charge higher prices for his shows, the differences between the LA and NYC scenes, whether good looks are an obstacle to success, the oldest comic act he still finds funny, how comedians have changed since he started running the Comedy Cellar in 2003, and what government regulations drive him crazy. They also talk about how 9/11 got Noam into trouble, his early career in music, the most underrated guitarist, why live music is dead in NYC, and what his plans are for expansion.

Read a full transcript enhanced with helpful links, or watch the full video

Recorded March 15th, 2023.

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David Bentley Hart is an American writer, philosopher, religious scholar, critic, and theologian who has authored over 1,000 essays and 19 books, including a very well-known translation of the New Testament and several volumes of fiction.

In this conversation, Tyler and David discuss ways in which Orthodox Christianity is not so millenarian, how theological patience shapes the polities of Orthodox Christian nations, how Heidegger deepened his understanding of Christian Orthodoxy, who played left field for the Baltimore Orioles in 1970, the simplest way to explain how Orthodoxy diverges from Catholicism, the future of the American Orthodox Church, what he thinks of the Book of Mormon, whether theological arguments are ultimately based on reason or faith, what he makes of reincarnation and near-death experiences, gnosticism in movies and TV, why he dislikes Sarah Ruden’s translation of the New Testament, the most difficult word to translate, a tally of the 15+ languages he knows, what he’ll work on next, and more.

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Recorded March 23rd, 2023.

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In his second appearance, Reid Hoffman joined Tyler to talk everything AI: the optimal liability regime for LLMs, whether there’ll be autonomous money-making bots, which agency should regulate AI, how AI will affect the media ecosystem and the communication of ideas, what percentage of the American population will eschew it, how gaming will evolve, whether AI’s future will be open-source or proprietary, the binding constraint preventing the next big step in AI, which philosopher has risen in importance thanks to AI, what he’d ask a dolphin, what LLMs have taught him about friendship, how higher education will change, and more. They also discuss Sam Altman’s overlooked skill, the biggest cultural problem in America, the most underrated tech scene, and what he’ll do next.

Read a full transcript enhanced with helpful links, or watch the full video

Reid's podcast Possible is back this summer with a three-part miniseries called “AI and The Personal,” which launched on June 21st. Featured guests use AI, hardware, software and their own creativity to better people's daily lives. Subscribe to get the series.

Recorded May 9th, 2023.

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Photo credit: David Yellen

Noam Chomsky joins Tyler to discuss why Noam and Wilhelm von Humboldt have similar views on language and liberty, good and bad evolutionary approaches to language, what he thinks Stephen Wolfram gets wrong about LLMs, whether he’s optimistic about the future, what he thinks of Thomas Schelling, the legacy of the 1960s-era left libertarians, the development trajectories of Nicaragua and Cuba, why he still answers every email, what he’s been most wrong about, and more.

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Recorded February 27th, 2023

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Peter Singer is one of the world’s most influential living philosophers, whose ideas have motivated millions of people to change how they eat, how they give, and how they interact with each other and the natural world.

Peter joined Tyler to discuss whether utilitarianism is only tractable at the margin, how Peter thinks about the meat-eater problem, why he might side with aliens over humans, at what margins he would police nature, the utilitarian approach to secularism and abortion, what he’s learned producing the Journal of Controversial Ideas, what he’d change about the current Effective Altruism movement, where Derek Parfit went wrong, to what extent we should respect the wishes of the dead, why professional philosophy is so boring, his advice on how to enjoy our lives, what he’ll be doing after retiring from teaching, and more.

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Recorded May 25th, 2023

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On good days, Seth Godin thinks about all the progress we’re making on climate change. On bad days, he thinks about the problem of racing bibs. Though pieces of paper safety-pinned to runners’ chests seem obviously outdated, the bibs persist, highlighting how difficult it can be to change a culture for the better. And yet Seth also persists to improve the culture around marketing and work, giving hundreds of talks, writing daily blog posts, and publishing 21 best-sellers. His latest, The Song of Significance, explains why workplace culture has gotten so bad and what leaders can do to make it better.

Seth joined Tyler to discuss why direct marketing works at all, the marketing success of Trader Joe’s vs Whole Foods, why you can’t reverse engineer Taylor Swift’s success, how Seth would fix baseball, the brilliant marketing in ChatGPT’s design, the most underrated American visual artist, the problem with online education, approaching public talks as a team process, what makes him a good cook, his updated advice for aspiring young authors, how growing up in Buffalo shaped him, what he’ll work on next, and more.

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Recorded May 23rd, 2023

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What’s more intense than leading the IMF during a financial crisis? For Simon Johnson, it was co-authoring a book with fellow economist (and past guest) Daron Acemoglu. Written in six months, their book Power and Progress: Our Thousand-Year Struggle Over Technology and Prosperity, argues that widespread prosperity is not the natural consequence of technological progress, but instead only happens when there is a conscious effort to bend the direction and gains from technological advances away from the elite. 

Tyler and Simon discuss the ideas in the book and on Simon’s earlier work on finance and banking, including at what size a US bank is small enough to fail, the future of deposit insurance, when we’ll see a central bank digital currency, his top proposal for reforming the IMF, how quickly the Industrial Revolution led to widespread prosperity, whether AI will boost wages, how he changed his mind on the Middle Ages, the key difference in outlook between him and Daron, how he thinks institutions affect growth, how to fix northern England's economic climate, whether the UK should join NAFTA, improving science policy, the Simon Johnson production function, whether MBAs are overrated, the importance of communication, and more.

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Recorded March 21st, 2023

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As the founding executive editor of Wired magazine and the author of several acclaimed books on technology and culture, Kevin Kelly has long been known for his visionary ideas and insights. But his latest work, Excellent Advice for Living takes a different approach, drawing on his own experience and wisdom to offer practical tips and advice for navigating life's challenges.

Naturally then, Kevin and Tyler start this conversation on advice: what kinds of advice Kevin was afraid to give, his worst advice, how to get better at following advice, and whether people who ask for advice really want it in the first place. Then they move on to the best places to see traditional cultures in Asia, the one thing in Kevin’s travel kit he can’t be without, his favorite part of India, why he’s so excited about brain-computer interfaces, how AI will change religion, what the Amish can teach us about tech adoption, the most underrated documentary, his initial entry point into tech, why he’s impressed by the way Jeff Bezos handles power, the last thing he's changed his mind about, how growing up in Westfield, New Jersey affected him, his next project called the Hundred Year Desirable Future, and more.

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Recorded April 27th, 2023

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Anna Keay is a historian who specializes in the cultural heritage of Great Britain. As the director of the Landmark Trust, she has overseen the restoration of numerous historical buildings and monuments, while also serving as a prolific author and commentator on the country's architectural and artistic traditions. Her book, The Restless Republic: Britain Without a Crown, was one of Tyler’s top picks for 2022.

Tyler sat down with Anna to discuss the most plausible scenario where England could’ve remained a republic in the 17th century, what Robert Boyle learned from Sir William Petty, why some monarchs build palaces and others don’t, how renting from the Landmark Trust compares to Airbnb, how her job changes her views on wealth taxes, why neighborhood architecture has declined, how she’d handle the UK’s housing shortage, why giving back the Koh-i-Noor would cause more problems than it solves, why British houses have so little storage, the hardest part about living in an 800-year-old house, her favorite John Fowles book, why we should do more to preserve the Scottish Enlightenment, and more.

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Recorded February 23rd, 2023

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Jessica Wade is a physicist at Imperial College London who, while spending her day working on special carbon-based materials that can be used as semiconductors, has spent her nights writing nearly 2,000 Wikipedia entries about underrepresented figures in science. That, along with numerous other forms of public engagement—including writing a children’s book about nanotechnology—is all in an effort to actually do something productive to correct gender and racial biases in STEM.

She joined Tyler to discuss if there are any useful gender stereotypes in science, distinguishing between productive and unproductive ways to encourage women in science, whether science Twitter is biased toward men, how AI will affect gender participation gaps, how Wikipedia should be improved, how she judges the effectiveness of her Wikipedia articles, how she’d improve science funding, her work on chiral materials and its near-term applications, whether writing a kid’s science book should be rewarded in academia, what she learned spending a year studying art in Florence, what she’ll do next, and more.

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Recorded February 21st, 2023

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In this conversation, Tyler uses ChatGPT to interview Jonathan Swift about his views on religion, politics, economics, and literature. GPT Swift discusses his support for the Church of Ireland, his shift from the Whigs to the Tories, and his opposition to William Wood's copper coinage in Ireland. He also talks about his works, including Gulliver's Travels and A Modest Proposal, and his skepticism of moral and intellectual progress. Swift addresses rumors about his relationship with Esther Johnson and his fascination with scatological themes in his works. He also discusses his early life in England, his intellectual mentor Sir William Temple, and his jovial attitude towards death.

Special thanks to our Mercatus Center colleague Robin Currie for giving voice to Jonathan GPT Swift.

Read a full transcript enhanced with helpful links.

Recorded March 23rd, 2023

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Historian Tom Holland joined Tyler to discuss in what ways his Christianity is influenced by Lord Byron, how the Book of Revelation precipitated a revolutionary tradition, which book of the Bible is most foundational for Western liberalism, the political differences between Paul and Jesus, why America is more pro-technology than Europe, why Herodotus is his favorite writer, why the Greeks and Persians didn’t industrialize despite having advanced technology, how he feels about devolution in the United Kingdom and the potential of Irish unification, what existential problem the Church of England faces, how the music of Ennio Morricone helps him write for a popular audience, why Jurassic Park is his favorite movie, and more.

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Recorded February 1st, 2023

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Yasheng Huang has written two of Tyler’s favorite books on China: Capitalism with Chinese Characteristics, which contrasts an entrepreneurial rural China and a state-controlled urban China, and The Rise and Fall of the EAST, which argues that Keju—China’s civil service exam system—played a key role in the growth and expanding power of the Chinese state.

Yasheng joined Tyler to discuss China’s lackluster technological innovation, why declining foreign investment is more of a concern than a declining population, why Chinese literacy stagnated in the 19th century, how he believes the imperial exam system deprived China of a thriving civil society, why Chinese succession has been so stable, why the Six Dynasties is his favorite period in Chinese history, why there were so few female emperors, why Chinese and Chinese Americans have done less well becoming top CEOs of American companies compared to Indians and Indian Americans, where he’d send someone on a two week trip to China, what he learned from János Kornai, and more.

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Recorded January 17th, 2023

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Brad DeLong, professor of economics at UC Berkley, OG econ blogger, and Tyler’s Harvard classmate, joins the show to discuss Slouching Towards Utopia, an economic history of the 20th century that’s been nearly thirty years in the making.

Tyler and Brad discuss what can really be gleaned from the fragmentary economics statistics of the late 19th century, the remarkable changes that occurred from 1870-1920, the astonishing flourishing of German universities in the 19th century, why investment banking allowed America and Germany to pull ahead of Britain economically, what enabled the Royal Society to become a force for progress, what Keynes got wrong, what Hayek got right, whether the middle-income trap persists, his favorite movie and novel, blogging vs. Substack, the Slouching Towards Utopia director’s cut, and much more.

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Recorded November 11th, 2022

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Economist and public intellectual Glenn Loury joined Tyler to discuss the soundtrack of Glenn’s life, Glenn's early career in theoretical economics, his favorite Thomas Schelling story, the best place to raise a family in the US, the seeming worsening mental health issues among undergraduates, what he learned about himself while writing his memoir, what his right-wing fans most misunderstand about race, the key difference he has with John McWhorter, his evolving relationship with Christianity, the lasting influence of his late wife, his favorite novels and movies, how well he thinks he will face death, and more.

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Recorded January 11th, 2023

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Paul Salopek is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and National Geographic fellow who, at the age of 50, set out on foot to retrace the steps of the first human migrations out of Africa. The project, dubbed the “Out of Eden Walk,” began in Ethiopia in 2012 and will eventually take him to Tierra Del Fuego, a distance of some 24,000 miles.

Calling in just as he was about to arrive in Xi’an, he and Tyler discussed his very localized supply chain, why women make for better walking partners, the key to crossing deserts, the most difficult terrain to traverse, what he does for exercise, his information prep for each new region, how he’s kept the project funded, which cuisines he’s found most and least palatable, what he learned working the crime beat in Roswell, New Mexico, how this project challenges conventional journalism, his thoughts on the changing understanding of early human migration, and more.

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Recorded October 13th, 2022

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 Photo credit: Matthieu Chazal 

Rick Rubin has been behind some of the most iconic and successful albums in music history, and his unique approach to production and artist development has made him one of the most respected figures in the industry.

He joined Tyler to discuss how to listen (to music and people), which artistic movement has influenced him most, what Sherlock Holmes taught him about creativity, how streaming is affecting music, whether AI will write good songs, what he likes about satellite radio, why pro wrestling is the most accurate representation of life, why growing up in Long Island was a “miracle,” his ‘do no harm’ approach to working with artist, what makes for a great live album,  why Jimi Hendrix owed his success to embracing technology, what made Brian Eno and Brian Wilson great producers, what albums he's currently producing, and more.

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Recorded January 13th, 2023

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Katherine Rundell is, in a word, enthusiastic. She’s enthusiastic about John Donne. She’s enthusiastic about walking along rooftops. She’s enthusiastic about words, and stories, and food. She has often started her morning with a cartwheel and is currently learning to fly a small plane. A prolific writer, her many children’s books aim to instill the sense of discovery she still remembers from her own unruly childhood adventures—and remind adults of the astonishment that still awaits them. 

She joined Tyler to discuss how she became obsessed with John Donne, the power of memorizing poetry, the political implications of suicide in the 17th century, the new evidence of Donne’s faith, the contagious intensity of thought in 17th century British life, the effect of the plague on national consciousness, the brutality of boys’ schooling, the thrills and dangers of rooftop walking, why children should be more mischievous, why she’d like to lower the voting age to 16, her favorite UK bookshop, the wonderful weirdness of Diana Wynne Jones, why she has at least one joke about Belgium in every book, what T.S. Eliot missed about John Donne, what it’s like to eat tarantula, the Kafka book she gives to toddlers, why The Book of Common Prayer is underrated, and more.

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Recorded September 2nd, 2022

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 Photo credit: Nina Subin 

On this special year-in-review episode, Tyler and producer Jeff Holmes talk about the past year on the show, including which guests he’d like to have on in 2023, what stands out to him now about his conversation with Sam Bankman-Fried in light of the collapse of FTX, the most popular and most underrated episodes of the year, what makes a guest authentic, why he hasn’t asked the “production function” question much this year, his essay on Marginal Revolution on the New Right, and what he’s working on next. They also evaluate Tyler’s pop culture picks from 2012 and answer listener questions from Twitter.

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Recorded December 14th, 2022

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Is classical music dying? For John Adams the answer is an emphatic no. Considered by Tyler to be America’s greatest living composer, he may well be one of the people responsible for keeping it alive. John’s contemporary classical music is some of the most regularly performed and he is well-known for his historically themed operas such as Nixon in China, Doctor Atomic, and most recently Antony and Cleopatra. He is also a conductor and author of, in Tyler’s words, a “thoughtful and substantive” autobiography.

He joined Tyler to discuss why architects have it easier than opera composers, what drew him to the story of Antony and Cleopatra, why he prefers great popular music to the classical tradition, the “memory spaces” he uses to compose, the role of Christianity in his work, the anxiety of influence, the unusual life of Charles Ives, the relationship between the availability and appreciation of music, how contemporary music got a bad rap, his favorite Bob Dylan album, why he doesn’t think San Francisco was crucial to his success, why he doesn’t believe classical music is dead or even dying, his fascination with Oppenheimer, the problem with film composing, his letter to Leonard Bernstein, what he’s doing next, and more.

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Recorded September 14th, 2022

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When it comes to fighting climate change Jeremy Grantham is optimistic about technology – but worried about timing. Known widely for his acuity in identifying bubbles, the British investor contends that the one created by our dependence on fossil fuels is about to pop. He’s on a mission to make green energy cheaper, faster and is well on his way. After a lifetime spent thinking about resources, he’s using his to power the development of green technology. The Grantham Foundation has invested into 45 early-stage green projects, such as improving the efficiency of lithium extraction.

He joined Tyler to discuss the most binding constraint on the green transition, why we need an alternative to lithium, the important message sent by Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, the marginal cost basis of green energy, the topsoil crisis in the Midwest, why estimates of the cost of global warming vastly underestimate its effects, why he distrusts economists, the overpricing concentrated in the US stock market, the consequences of Brexit, the revolutionary tactics of Margaret Thatcher, how his grandparents shaped his worldview, why he’s optimistic about American venture capital, the secret to Boston’s success in asset management, how COVID changed his media diet, the political difficulty of passing carbon taxes, and more.

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Recorded September 1st, 2022

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When it comes to history—particularly American history—nothing is ever definitive, says documentarian Ken Burns. Much of his work has focused on capturing that history in film, but in his new book, Our America: A Photographic History, his goal is to share the complexity of his country as well as honor those roots in still images. From the very first photograph, a self-portrait, to our modern inundation with selfies, he tells “the story of us” – a story of darkness and light, just as in the photographic process itself.

Ken joined Tyler to discuss how facial expressions in photos have changed over time, where in the American past he’d like to visit most, the courage of staying in place, how he feels about intellectual property law, the ethical considerations of displaying violent imagery, why women were so prominent in the early history of American photography, the mysteries in his quilt collection, the most underrated American painter, why crossword puzzles are akin to a cup of coffee, why baseball won’t die out, the future of documentary-making, and more.

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Recorded November 1st, 2022

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 Photo credit: Michael Avedon 

Mary Gaitskill’s knack for writing about the social and physical world with unapologetic clarity has led to her style being described both as "cold and brutal” and “tender and compassionate.” Tyler considers her works The Mare, Veronica, and Lost Cat to be some of the best and most insightful American fiction in recent times. And lately she’s taken to writing essays on Substack, where she frankly analyzes “subjects that are vexing everybody,” including incels, Depp v. Heard, and political fiction.

She joined Tyler to discuss the reasons some people seem to choose to be unhappy, why she writes about oddballs, the fragility of personality, how she’s developed her natural knack for describing the physical world, why we’re better off just accepting that people are horrible, her advice for troubled teenagers, why she wouldn’t clone a lost cat, the benefits and drawbacks of writing online, what she’s learned from writing a Substack, what gets lost in Kubrick’s adaptation of Lolita, the not-so-subtle eroticism of Victorian novels, the ground rules for writing about other people, how creative writing programs are harming (some) writers, what she learned about men when working as a stripper, how her views of sexual permissiveness have changed since the ‘90s, how college students have changed over time, what she learned working at The Strand bookstore, and more.

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Recorded September 26th, 2022

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Reza Aslan doesn’t mind being called a pantheist. In his own “roundabout spiritual journey” and study of the world’s religions, which has led him to write books on Islam, the life of Jesus Christ, God, and most recently an American martyr in Persia, he has come to believe the Sufi notion that religion is just a shell one must break through to truly understand God—and that if God is anything at all, then all is God.

He joined Tyler to discuss Shi’a and Christian notions of martyrdom, the heroism of Howard Baskerville, the differences between Sunni and Shi’a Islam, esoteric vs. exoteric expressions of religion, how mystical movements arise more organically than religion, the conflicts over Imams in the Islamic world, how his upbringing as an Iranian immigrant shaped his view of religion, his roundabout spiritual journey, the synthesis of Spinoza and Sufism, the origins of Wahhabism, the relationship (or lackthereof) between religion and political philosophy, the sad repetition of history in Iran, his favorite Iranian movie, and more.

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Recorded October 12th, 2022

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A leading expert in foreign policy, Walter Russell Mead believes his lack of a PhD—and interest in actually going places—has helped him avoid academic silos and institutional groupthink that’s rendered the field ineffective for decades. Mead’s latest book, which explores the American-Israeli relationship, is characteristically wide-ranging and multidisciplinary, resulting in
“less a history of U.S.-Israel policy than a sweeping and masterfully told history of U.S. foreign policy in general”, according to a New York Times review.

He joined Tyler to discuss how the decline of American religiosity has influenced US foreign policy, which American presidents best and least understood the Middle East, the shrewd reasons Stalin supported Israel, the Saudi secret to political stability, the fate of Pakistan, the most likely scenario for China moving on Taiwan, the gun pointed at the head of German business, the US’s “murderous fetishization of ideology over reality” in Sub-Saharan Africa, the inherent weakness in having a foreign policy establishment dominated by academics, what he learned from attending the Groton School, and much more.

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Recorded August 31st, 2022

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When looking at the U.S. labor market, Byron Auguste sees too many job seekers screened out based on shallow signals like a bachelor’s degree, and too few ‘screened in’ by directly demonstrating the skills needed for the job at hand. To close those opportunity gaps in the American workforce, Byron co-founded and runs Opportunity@Work, which played a key role in Maryland’s decision in early 2022 to drop four-year degree requirements for thousands of state jobs in favor of recruiting from those identified as being Skilled Through Alternate Routes, or STARs.

He joined Tyler to discuss workforce training in the digital economy, re-evaluating college degree requirements in recruitment, why IQ is overrated and conscientiousness is underrated, the major opportunity gap in on-the-job training, what people miss about the German apprenticeship model, the best novel about finding a job, what’s gone wrong with American men, why we need signal pluralism for higher education admission, why he’s wary of AI for predicting labor outcomes, what happened when Maryland rolled back degree requirements for state jobs, the incentive problems in higher education, and more.

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Recorded September 6th, 2022

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Vaughn Smith is fluent in eight languages but with a beginner’s grasp of at least thirty-six (and counting). His talents are so remarkable that the Washington Post did a feature story on him and neuroscientists at MIT requested he do a brain scan for them. But for Vaughn his language skills aren’t about attracting attention or monetary gain. “Language is a key to someone's culture, to someone's world,” he explains. Whether it’s watching a client’s face light up when he speaks to them in their native tongue or showing Indigenous children in rural Mexico that their language is valuable and worth preserving, Vaughn views his gifts as a way of connecting with other people.

He joined Tyler to discuss how he began learning languages, the best languages for expressing humor, why he curses in Slovak, why he considers Finnish more romantic than Portugese, what makes Hungarian so difficult to learn, the best way to teach people new languages, how to combat language loss, why he’d like rural Mexicans to have more pride in their culture and way of life, his time as a roadie for a punk rock van, the most rewarding job he’s had, why he wants to visit Finland, how enjoying films from different eras is similar to learning new languages, the future of English, and more.

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Recorded May 26th, 2022

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How can one identify and predict talent? On a search to answer this question and others like it, Tyler Cowen joined venture capitalist and entrepreneur Daniel Gross to explore the art and science of finding talent in their new book Talent: How to Identify Energizers, Creatives, and Winners Around the World. In a panel discussion hosted by Shruti Rajagopalan, Cowen and Gross discuss the applications of their new book, particularly how lifestyle characteristics can indicate an individual is capable of great creativity and talent.

Daniel and Tyler also discuss undervalued talents and skills, what talents they look for in the start-up and investment world, why there is no good chocolate ice cream to be found in San Francisco, what their exercise preferences indicate about their personalities, how they approach identifying talent in different countries and industries, how immigration impacts entrepreneurialism, the short-comings to Zoom interviews, what a messy desk reveals about a person, and more.

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Recorded June 29th, 2022

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Photo credit: Drew Bird Photo

As a little girl, Cynthia Haven loved reading classic works of literature. At sixteen, she began her career as a reporter. And years later, those two interests converged as they led her to interview and write books about three writers and thinkers whom she also came to call mentors: René Girard, Czeslaw Milosz, and Joseph Brodsky. 

Cynthia joined Tyler to discuss what she’s gleaned from each of the three, including what traits they have in common, why her biography of Girard had to come from outside academia, Milosz’s reaction to the Berkley Free Speech Movement, Girard’s greatest talent—and flaw—as a thinker, whether Brodsky will fall down the memory hole, why he was so terrible on Ukraine, why Cynthia’s early career was much like The Devil Wears Prada, the failings of Twitter, and more.

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Recorded May 18th, 2022

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When Tyler is reviewing grants for Emergent Ventures, he is struck by how the ideas of effective altruism have so clearly influenced many of the smartest applicants, particularly the younger ones. And William MacAskill, whom Tyler considers one of the world’s most influential philosophers, is a leading light of the community.

William joined Tyler to discuss why the movement has gained so much traction and more, including his favorite inefficient charity, what form of utilitarianism should apply to the care of animals, the limits of expected value, whether effective altruists should be anti-abortion, whether he would side with aliens over humans, whether he should give up having kids, why donating to a university isn’t so bad, whether we are living in “hingey” times, why buildering is overrated, the sociology of the effective altruism movement, why cultural innovation matters, and whether starting a new university might be next on his slate.

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Recorded July 7th, 2022

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As an inquisitive reader, books were a cherished commodity for Leopoldo López when he was a political prisoner in his home country of Venezuela. His prison guards eventually observed the strength and focus López gained from reading. In an attempt to stifle his spirit, the guards confiscated his books and locked them in a neighboring cell where he could see but not access them. But López didn’t let this stop him from writing or discourage his resolve to fight for freedom. A Venezuelan opposition leader and freedom activist, today López works to research and resist oppressive autocratic regimes globally.

López joined Tyler to discuss Venezuela’s recent political and economic history, the effectiveness of sanctions, his experiences in politics and activism, how happiness is about finding purpose, how he organized a protest from prison, the ideal daily routine of a political prisoner, how extreme sports prepared him for prison, his work to improve the lives of the Venezuelan people, and more.

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Recorded May 10th, 2022

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Fighting fires meant a lot of downtime for Matthew Ball. Stationed at a forward operating base in the woods for two weeks at a time, he spent long hours amongst fellow firefighters with whom he shared little in common except for their love of the outdoors. The skills he gained working towards mutual goals with those he had little else in common with has translated well to his career as a strategist and venture capitalist in the digital media and gaming industries. Ball is a managing partner of EpyllionCo, venture partner at Makers Fund, and author of the anticipated The Metaverse: And How it Will Revolutionize Everything.

Ball joined Tyler to discuss the eventual widespan transition of the population to the metaverse, the exciting implications of this interconnected network of 3D worlds for education, how the metaverse will improve dating and its impacts on sex, the happiness and career satisfaction of professional gamers, his predictions for Tyler’s most frequent uses of the metaverse, his favorite type of entrepreneur, why he has thousands of tabs open on his computer at any given moment, and more.

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Recorded July 6th, 2022

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Growing up, Barkha Dutt was totally rootless. She spoke English, not her parent’s Punjabi. She devoured Enid Blyton and studied English literature during college, but read few Indian novelists. She didn’t even know her caste. This has opened her up to criticism as being a progressive elite who is out of touch with her heritage, and challenged her to be especially thoughtful in the way she examines the many overlapping values in Indian society. A successful broadcast journalist and columnist, she currently runs the YouTube-based news channel MoJo Story and recently published a new book, ​​Humans of COVID: To Hell and Back.

Barkha joined Tyler to discuss how Westerners can gain a more complete picture of India, the misogyny still embedded in Indian society, why family law should be agnostic of religious belief, the causes of declining fertility in India, why relations between Hindus and Muslims seem to be worsening, how caste has persisted so strongly in India, the success of India’s subsidized institutes of higher education, the best city for Indian food, the power of Amar Chitra Katha’s comics, the influence of her English liberal arts education, the future of Anglo-American liberalism in India, the best ways to use Twitter, and more.

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Recorded May 5th, 2022

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Like the frontier characters from Deadwood, his favorite TV show, Marc Andreessen has discovered that the real challenge to building in new territory is not in the practicalities of learning a trade, but in developing a savviness for what makes people tick. Without understanding the deep patterns of human behavior, how can you know what to build, or who should build it, or how? For Marc, that means reading deeply in the humanities: “I spent the first 25 years of my life trying to understand how machines work,” Marc says. “Then I spent the second 25 years, so far, trying to figure out how people work. It turns out people are a lot more complicated.”

Marc joined Tyler to discuss his ever-growing appreciation for the humanities and more, including why he didn’t go to a better school, his contrarian take on Robert Heinlein, how Tom Wolfe helped Marc understand his own archetype, who he’d choose to be in Renaissance Florence, which books he’s reread the most, Twitter as an X-ray machine on public figures, where in the past he’d most like to time-travel, his favorite tech product that no longer exists, whether Web will improve podcasting, the civilization-level changes made possible by remote work, Peter Thiel’s secret to attracting talent, which data he thinks would be most helpful for finding good founders, how he’d organize his own bookstore, the kinds of people he admires most, and why Deadwood is equal to Shakespeare.

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Recorded April 14th, 2022

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What does it mean to uphold disability rights, or the right to economic liberty? What framework should be used when rights appear to conflict? Constitutional law expert Jamal Greene contends that the way Americans view rights—as fundamental, inflexible, and universal—is at odds with how the rest of the world conceives of them, and even with how our own founders envisaged them. In his new book, How Rights Went Wrong, he lays out his vision for reimagining rights as the products of political negotiation. The goal of judges, he says, should be to manage disagreement in a way that leads to social harmony and social cohesion—and by doing so, foster the ultimate goal of peaceful pluralism.

Jamal and Tyler discuss what he’d change about America’s legal education system, the utility of having non-judges or even non-lawyers on the Supreme Court, how America’s racial history influences our conception of rights, the potential unintended consequences of implementing his vision of rights for America, how the law should view economic liberty, the ideal moral framework for adjudicating conflicts, whether social media companies should consider interdependencies when moderating content on their platforms, how growing up in different parts of New York City shaped his views on pluralism, the qualities that make some law students stand out, and more.

To register for the Talking Talent with Tyler Cowen event, please visit the link below: https://www.mercatus.org/events/talking-talent-tyler-cowen

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Recorded April 5th, 2022

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If Tyler and Daniel's latest book can be boiled down into a single message, it would be that the world is currently failing at identifying talent, and that getting better at it would have enormous benefits for organizations, individuals, and the world at large. In this special episode of Conversations with Tyler, Daniel joined Tyler to discuss the ideas in their book on how to spot talent better, including the best questions to ask in interviews, predicting creativity and ambition, and the differences between competitiveness and obsessiveness.

They also explore the question of why so many high achievers love Diet Coke, why you should ask candidates if they have any good conspiracy theories, how to spot effective dark horses early, the hiring strategy that set SpaceX apart, what to look for in a talent identifier, what you can learn from discussing drama, the underrated genius of game designers, why Tyler has begun to value parents more and IQ less, conscientiousness as a mixed blessing, the importance of value hierarchies, how to become more charismatic, the allure of endurance sports for highly successful people, what they disagree on most, and more.

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Recorded February 24th, 2022

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What causes war? Many scholars have spent their careers attempting to study the psychology of leaders to understand what incentivizes them to undertake the human and financial costs of conflict, but economist and political scientist Chris Blattman takes a different approach to understanding interstate violence. He returns for his second appearance on Conversations with Tyler to discuss his research into the political and institutional causes of conflict, the topic of his new book ​​Why We Fight: The Roots of War and The Path to Peace.

Chris and Tyler also cover why he doesn’t think demographics are a good predictor of a country’s willingness to go to war, the informal norms that restrain nations, the dangers of responding to cyberattacks, the breakdown of elite bargains in Ethiopia, the relationship between high state capacity and war, the greatest threats to peace in Ireland, why political speech isn’t usually a reliable indicator of future action, Vladimir Putin’s centralized motives for invading Ukraine, why he’s long on Colombia democratically – but not economically, why more money won’t necessarily help the Mexican government curb cartel violence, the single-mindedness necessary for bouldering, how Harold Innis’s insights about commodities led Chris to start studying war, how the University of Chicago has maintained a culture of free inquiry, and more.

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Recorded March 1st, 2022

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When it comes to the enormous reduction of income inequality during the 20th century, Thomas Piketty sees politics everywhere. In his new book, A Brief History of Equality, he argues the rising equality during the 19th and 20th centuries has its roots not in deterministic economic forces but in the movements to end aristocratic and colonial societies starting at the end of the 18th century. Drawing this line forward, Piketty also contends we must rectify past injustices before attempting to create new institutions.

He joined Tyler to discuss just how egalitarian France actually is, the beginning of the end of aristocratic society, where he places himself within French intellectual history, why he’s skeptical of data from before the late 18th century, how public education drives economic development, why Georgism isn’t sufficient to address wealth inequality, the relationship between wealth and cultural capital, his proposal for a minimum inheritance, why he turned down the Legion of Honor, why France should give reparations to Haiti despite the logistical difficulties of doing so, his vision for European federalism, why more immigration won’t be a panacea for inequality, his thoughts on Michel Houellebecq’s Submission, and more.

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Recorded March 8th, 2022

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“The best history,” says Roy Foster, “is written when we realize that people acted in expectation of a future that was never going to happen.” While this is the case for many countries, it’s especially true of Ireland—the land of The Troubles, of colonization, of revolution and reforms. This sympathy within his scholarship sets Foster’s work apart. Not content to simply document the facts of what did happen, he’s undertaken the role of reconstructing the motivations that animated the Irish people throughout its storied history--without which we cannot truly understand the Ireland of today.

Roy joined Tyler to discuss why the Scots got off easier than the Irish under English rule, the truths and misconceptions about Ireland as a policy laboratory for the British government, why spoken Irish faded more rapidly than Welsh, the single question that drove a great flowering of Irish economic thought, how Foster’s Quaker education shaped his view of Irish history, how the Battle of the Somme and the 1916 Easter Rising cemented the rift between the Northeast and the rest of the country, what went wrong with Irish trade policies between the 1920s and 1970s, the power of Irish education, why the re-emergence of The Troubles in the 1960s may not have been as inevitable as many people believe, the cultural effects of Ireland’s pro-Allied neutrality in World War II, how Irish visual art is beginning to be looked at in a similar way to Irish literature, the social and economic changes of the 1970s that began to radically reshape Irish society, the reasons for Ireland’s openness to foreigners, what Irish Americans misunderstand, and more.

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Recorded February 22nd, 2022

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A prolific translator, author, and former professor of creative writing, Lydia Davis’s motivation for her life’s work is jarringly simple: she just loves language. She loves short, sparkling sentences. She loves that in English we have Anglo-Saxon words like “underground” or Latinate alternatives like “subterranean.” She loves reading books in foreign languages, discovering not only their content but a different culture and a different history at the same time. Despite describing her creative process as “chaotic” and herself as “not ambitious,” she is among America’s best-known short story writers and a celebrated essayist.

Lydia joined Tyler to discuss how the form of short stories shapes their content, how to persuade an ant to leave your house, the difference between poetry and very short stories, Proust’s underrated sense of humor, why she likes Proust despite being averse to long books, the appeal of Josep Pla’s The Gray Notebook, why Proust is funnier in French or German than in English, the hidden wit of Franz Kafka, the economics of poorly translated film subtitles, her love of Velázquez and early Flemish landscape paintings, how Bach and Schubert captured her early imagination, why she doesn’t like the Harry Potter novels—but appreciates their effects on young readers, whether she’ll ever publish her diaries, how her work has evolved over time, how to spot talent in a young writer, her method (or lack thereof) for teaching writing, what she learned about words that begin with “wr,” how her translations of Proust and Flaubert differ from others, what she’s most interested in translating now, what we can expect from her next, and more.

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Recorded February 3rd, 2022

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Whether it’s scaling an arbitrage opportunity or launching an ambitious philanthropic project, Sam Bankman-Fried has set himself apart. In just a few years, he’s not only made billions trading crypto, but also become a leading practitioner of effective altruism, with the specific aim of making lots of money in order to donate most of it to high-impact causes.

He joined Tyler to discuss the Sam Bankman-Fried production function, the secret to his trading success, how games like Magic: The Gathering have shaped his approach to business, why a legal mind is crucial when thinking about cryptocurrencies, the most important thing he’s learned about managing, what Bill Belichick can teach us about being a good leader, the real constraints in the effective altruism space, why he’s not very compelled by life extension research, challenges to his Benthamite utilitarianism, whether it’s possible to coherently regulate stablecoins, the implicit leverage in DeFi, Elon Musk’s greatest product, why he thinks Ethereum is overrated, where in the world has the best French fries, why he’s bullish on the Bahamas, and more.

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Recorded January 6th, 2022

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How do you go about writing a book on an era that is, for many, recent history? When Chuck Klosterman set out to write his new book, The Nineties, he wasn’t interested in representing it as a misremembered era or forcing a retrospective view into modern ideology. Rather than finding overlooked signposts that signaled events to come, he says, he wanted to capture what it actually felt like to experience that time – the anxiety and excitement around scientific and technological progress, what it was like to be limited to a few cassette tapes or CDs at a time, the physical media and musical subcultures that would later evaporate with the advent of the internet. Though easier to research than more ancient history, complications arose when he pondered the bifurcation of his audience between those for whom the release of Nevermind is a personal memory and those for whom it’s as distant as the moon landing. Would he have to explain to readers what a compact disc is?

Chuck joined Tyler to discuss the challenges of writing about recent history, the “slow cancellation of the future” that began in the aughts, how the internet widened cultural knowledge but removed its depth, why the context of Seinfeld was in some ways more important than its content, what Jurassic Park illustrates about public feelings around scientific progress in the ‘90s, why the ‘90s was the last era of physical mass subcultures, why it’s uncommon to be shocked by modern music, how his limited access to art when growing up made him a better critic, why Spin Magazine became irrelevant with the advent of online streaming, what made Grantland so special, what he learned from teaching in East Germany, the impact of politics on the legacies of Eric Clapton and Van Morrison, how sports often rewards obnoxious personalities, why Wilt Chamberlain is still underrated, how the self-awareness of the Portland Trail Blazers undermined them, how the design of the NFL makes sports rivalries nearly impossible, how pro-level compensation prevents sports gambling from corrupting players, why so many people are interested in e-sports, the unteachable element of writing, why he didn’t make a great editor on his school paper, what he’d say to a room filled with ex-lovers, the question he’d most like to ask his parents, his impressions of cryptocurrency, why he’s trying to focus on what he has in the current moment rather than think too much about future plans, the power of charisma, and more.

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Recorded January 18th, 2022

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Venture capital powered the tech revolution, but what powers venture capital? With his in-depth knowledge and coverage of the sector you’d be forgiven for thinking Sebastian Mallaby is a veteran of the Silicon Valley scene. The author of several books on finance and economics, Sebastian takes pride in understanding his subjects intimately (perhaps too intimately, if you ask his critics). His latest book, Power Law: Venture Capital and the Making of the New Future, sheds light on the small but mighty industry.

Sebastian joined Tyler to discuss why venture capital skills aren’t more replicable, the promise of biotech despite increased regulations, why venture capital remains concentrated in the Bay area even after the pandemic, the differences in risk-taking between East and West coast finance, the secret to Mike Moritz’s success as an investor, how Peter Thiel’s understanding of the power law set him apart, why he isn’t interested in becoming a venture capitalist himself, his predictions for the European tech ecosystem over the next ten years, the original sin of “too big to fail,” the major failure of Alan Greenspan during his tenure at the Fed, the Darwinian evolution of good hedge fund strategy, what Ray Dalio got right with Bridgewater, the finance topics he feels are undercovered, what it takes to be a good Substack writer, why he’s bullish on The Information, reasons to be optimistic about the innovative and entrepreneurial trajectories of Japan, the greatest living British historians, the future of the World Bank once China stops borrowing from it, what’s causing the decline in popularity of liberal capitalism, the zany appeal of The Grand Budapest Hotel, and more.

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Recorded January 31st, 2022

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From psychedelics to cyberculture, hippie communes to commercial startups, and the Whole Earth Catalog to the Long Now Foundation, Stewart Brand has not only been a part of many movements—he was there at the start. Now 83, he says he doesn’t understand why older people let their curiosity fade, when in many ways it’s the best time to set off on new intellectual pursuits.

Tyler and Stewart discuss what drives his curiosity, including the ways in which he’s a product of the Cold War, how he became a Darwinian decentralist, the effects of pre-industrial America on his thought, the subcultural convergences between hippies and younger American Indians, why he doesn’t think humans will be going to the stars, his two-minded approach to unexplained phenomena, how L.L. Bean inspired the Whole Earth Catalog, why Silicon Valley entrepreneurs don’t seem interested in the visual arts, why L.A. could not have been the home of hippie culture and digital innovation, what libertarians don’t understand about government, why we should bring back woolly mammoths, why he’s now focused on maintenance and institutions, and more.

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Recorded January 3rd, 2022

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In this special crossover special with EconTalk, Tyler interviews Russ Roberts about his new life in Israel as president of Shalem College. They discuss why there are so few new universities, managing teams in the face of linguistic and cultural barriers, how Israeli society could adapt to the loss of universal military service, why Israeli TV is so good, what American Jews don’t understand about life in Israel, what his next leadership challenge will be, and much more.

Check out Macro Musings. Follow Macro Musings on Twitter. Subscribe to Macro Musings on your favorite podcast app.

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Recorded December 23rd, 2021

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Is genius born or made? For Croatian-born classical guitarist Ana Vidović the answer is both. Born into a musical family, she began playing guitar at five and was quickly considered a prodigy. But she’s seen first-hand how that label can trap young talents into complacency, stifling their full development. She’s also had to navigate changing business models and new technologies, learning for instance how to balance an online presence with her love of performing for live audiences.

She joined Tyler to discuss that transition from prodigy to touring musician and more, including how Bach challenges her to become a better musician, the most difficult piece in guitar repertoire, the composers she wish had written for classical guitar, the Beatles songs she’d most like to transcribe, why it’s important to study a score before touching the guitar, the reason she won’t practice more than seven hours per day, how she prevents mistakes during performances, what she looks for in young classical guitarists, why she doesn’t have much music on streaming services, how the pandemic has changed audiences, why she stopped doing competitions early on, what she’d change about conservatory education for classical guitarists, her favorite electric guitarists, her love of Croatian pop music, the benefits and drawbacks of YouTube for young musicians, and what she’ll do next.

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Recorded December 27th, 2021

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On this special year-in-review episode, Tyler and producer Jeff Holmes talk about the past year on the show, including one episode’s appearance on Ancient Aliens, Tyler’s picks for most underrated guests, how his 2021 predictions fared from last year’s retrospective, further reflections on the most downloaded—and most polarizing—episode of the year, how David Deutsch influenced Tyler’s opinions of Karl Popper, why he thinks his interviews with women tend to be better, and more. They also evaluate Tyler’s pop culture picks from 2011, play “Name that Production Function,” and answer listener questions from Twitter.

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Recorded December 8th, 2021

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When Ray Dalio was 23, President Nixon announced that the United States would no longer be adhering to the gold standard for American currency. Clerking on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Dalio expected to see chaos—but instead stocks soared. Curious to understand this phenomenon, he began to read about similar events in 1933, and it opened his eyes to the lessons that could be drawn from history. His latest book draws on the patterns he’s gleaned from studying dynasties and empires throughout time, as well as his own experiences as a hedge fund manager and founder of Bridgewater Associates.

Ray joined Tyler to discuss the forces that will affect American life in the coming decades, why we should be skeptical of the saliency of current equities prices, the market as a poker game, the benefits and risks of the US dollar as the world reserve currency, why he thinks US inflation will not be transitory, the key to his success as an investor, how studying the Great Depression enabled him to anticipate the 2008 financial crisis, Bridgewater’s culture of radical transparency, the usefulness of psychometric profiles, where the United States is falling short most in terms of moral character, his truth-seeking process, the kinds of education crucial to building a successful dynasty or empire—and what causes them to fail, how transcendental meditation helps him be creative and objective, what he loves about jazz music, what we undervalue about the ocean, why he loves bow-hunting Cape Buffalo, and more.

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Recorded November 5th, 2021

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The most challenging part of being a biographer for Ruth Scurr is finding the best form to tell a life. “You can't go in there with a workmanlike attitude saying, ‘I'm going to do cradle to grave.’ You’ve got to somehow connect and resonate with the life, and then things will develop from that.” Known for her innovative literary portraits of Robespierre and John Aubrey, Scurr’s latest book follows Napoleon’s life through his engagement with the natural world. This approach broadens the usual cast of characters included in Napoleon’s life story, providing new perspectives with which to understand him.

Ruth joined Tyler to discuss why she considers Danton the hero of the French Revolution, why the Jacobins were so male-obsessed, the wit behind Condorcet's idea of a mechanical king, the influence of Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments during and after the Reign of Terror, why 18th-century French thinkers were obsessed with finding forms of government that would fit with emerging market forces, whether Hayek’s critique of French Enlightenment theorists is correct, the relationship between the French Revolution and today’s woke culture, the truth about Napoleon’s diplomatic skills, the poor prospects for pitching biographies to publishers, why Montesquieu’s Spirit of the Laws would be her desert island read, why Cambridge is a better city than Oxford, why the Times Literary Supplement remains important today, what she loves about Elena Ferrante’s writing, how she stays open as a biographer, and more.

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Recorded July 12th, 2021

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Baltimore native David Rubenstein is a founding figure in private equity, a prolific philanthropist, and author. From leveraged buyouts to his patriotic philanthropy to his leadership roles within institutions like the Smithsonian, Kennedy Center, and the National Gallery of Art, David has spent much of his life evaluating what makes institutions—and people—succeed.

He joined Tyler to discuss what makes someone good at private equity, why 20 percent performance fees have withstood the test of time, why he passed on a young Mark Zuckerberg, why SPACs probably won’t transform the IPO process, gambling on cryptocurrency, whether the Brooklyn Nets are overrated, what Wall Street and Washington get wrong about each other, why he wasn’t a good lawyer, why the rise of China is the greatest threat to American prosperity, how he would invest in Baltimore, his advice to aging philanthropists, the four standards he uses to evaluate requests for money, why we still need art museums, the unusual habit he and Tyler share, why even now he wants more money, why he’s not worried about an imbalance of ideologies on college campuses, how he prepares to interview someone, what appealed to him about owning the Magna Carta, the change he’d make to the US Constitution, why you shouldn’t obsess about finding a mentor, and more.

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Recorded September 30th, 2021

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When the audience for visual art expanded from small circles of artists and collectors into broader culture, the way art was experienced shifted from aesthetics to explanation. Art, it became thought, should be about something. But David Salle rebukes this literal-mindedness: according to him, what we think and feel when reacting to a piece of art is more authoritative than what’s written on the label next to it. A painter, sculptor, and filmmaker, David is also the author of How to See: Looking, Talking, and Thinking about Art, a highly regarded book on artistic criticism.

David joined Tyler to discuss the fifteen (or so) functions of good art, why it’s easier to write about money than art, what’s gone wrong with art criticism today, how to cultivate good taste, the reasons museum curators tend to be risk-averse, the effect of modern artistic training on contemporary art, the evolution of Cézanne, how the centrality of photography is changing fine art, what makes some artists’ retrospectives more compelling than others, the physical challenges of painting on a large scale, how artists view museums differently, how a painting goes wrong, where his paintings end up, what great collectors have in common, how artists collect art differently, why Frank O’Hara was so important to Alex Katz and himself, what he loves about the films of Preston Sturges, why The Sopranos is a model of artistic expression, how we should change intellectual property law for artists, the disappointing puritanism of the avant-garde, and more.

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Recorded August 18th, 2021

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Stan McChrystal has spent a long career considering questions of risk, leadership, and the role of America’s military, having risen through the Army’s ranks ultimately to take command of all US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, a force representing 150,000 troops from 45 countries. Retiring as a four-star general in 2010, he has gone on to lecture at Yale and launched the McChrystal Group, where he taps that experience to help organizations build stronger teams and devise winning strategies. His latest book, which he tells Tyler will be his last, is called Risk: A User’s Guide.

He joined Tyler to discuss whether we’ve gotten better or worse at analyzing risk, the dangerous urge among policymakers to oversimplify the past, why being a good military commander is about more than winning battlefield victories, why we’re underestimating the risk that China will invade Taiwan, how to maintain a long view of history, what set Henry Kissinger apart, the usefulness of war games, how well we understand China and Russia, why there haven’t been any major attacks on US soil since 9/11, the danger of a “soldier class” in America, his take on wokeness and the military, what’s needed to have women as truly senior commanders in the armed forces, why officers with bad experiences should still be considered for promotion, how to address extremists in the military, why he supports a draft, the most interesting class he took at West Point, how to care for disabled veterans, his advice to enlisted soldiers on writing a will, the most emotionally difficult part and greatest joys of his military career, the prospect of drone assassinations, what he eats for his only meal of the day, why he’s done writing books, and more.

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Recorded October 6th, 2021

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Harvard professor Claudia Goldin has made a name for herself tackling difficult questions. What was the full economic cost of the American Civil War? Does education increase or lessen income inequality? What causes the gender pay gap—and how do you even measure it? Her approach, which often involves the unearthing of new historical data, has yielded lasting insights in several distinct areas of economics.

Claudia joined Tyler to discuss the rise of female billionaires in China, why the US gender earnings gap expanded in recent years, what’s behind falling marriage rates for those without a college degree, why the wage gap flips for Black women versus Black men, theoretical approaches for modeling intersectionality, gender ratios in economics, why she’s skeptical about happiness research, how the New York Times wedding announcement page has evolved, the problems with for-profit education, the value of an Ivy League degree, whether a Coasian solution existed to prevent the Civil War, which Americans were most likely to be anti-immigrant in the 1920s, her forthcoming work on Lanham schools, and more.

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Recorded September 1st, 2021

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What is our right to be desired? How are our sexual desires shaped by the society around us? Is consent sufficient for a sexual relationship? In the wake of the #MeToo movement, public debates about sex work, and the rise in popularity of “incel culture”, philosopher Amia Srinivasan explores these questions and more in her new book of essays, The Right to Sex: Feminism in the Twenty-First Century. Amia’s interests lay in how our internal perspectives and desires are shaped by external forces, and the question of how we might alter those forces to achieve a more just, equitable society.

Amia joined Tyler to discuss the importance of context in her vision of feminism, what social conservatives are right about, why she’s skeptical about extrapolating from the experience of women in Nordic countries, the feminist critique of the role of consent in sex, whether disabled individuals should be given sex vouchers, how to address falling fertility rates, what women learned about egalitarianism during the pandemic, why progress requires regress, her thoughts on Susan Sontag, the stroke of fate that stopped her from pursuing a law degree, the “profound dialectic” in Walt Whitman’s poetry, how Hinduism has shaped her metaphysics, how Bernard Williams and Derek Parfit influenced her, the anarchic strain in her philosophy, why she calls herself a socialist, her next book on genealogy, and more.

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Recorded September 8th, 2021

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Thumbnail photo credit: Nina Subin

With remote work becoming more common and cities competing for businesses it’s become easier than ever before for educated Americans to relocate, leaving cities more vulnerable than they’ve ever been. In their new book, Survival of the City: Living and Thriving in an Age of Isolation, economists David Cutler and Ed Glaeser examine the factors that will allow some cities to succeed despite these challenges, while others fail. 

They joined Tyler for a special joint episode to discuss why healthcare outcomes are so correlated with education, whether the health value of Google is positive or negative, why hospital price transparency is so difficult to achieve, how insurance coding systems reimburse sickness over health improvement, why the U.S. quit smoking before Europe, the best place in America to get sick, the risks that come from over-treatment, the possible upsides of more businesses moving out of cities, whether productivity gains from remote work will remain high, why the older parts of cities always seem to be more beautiful, whether urban schools will ever improve, why we shouldn’t view Rio de Janeiro’s favelas as a failure, how 19th century fights to deal with contagious diseases became a turning point for governance, Miami's prospects as the next tech hub, what David and Ed disagree on, and more.

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Recorded August 31st, 2021

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When Zeynep Tufekci penned a New York Times op-ed at the onset of the pandemic challenging the prevailing public health guidance that ordinary people should not wear masks, she thought it was the end of her public writing career. Instead, it helped provoke the CDC to reverse its guidance a few weeks later, and medical professionals privately thanked her for writing it. While relieved by the reception, she also saw it as a sign of a deeper dysfunction in the scientific establishment: why should she, a programmer and sociologist by training, have been the one to speak out rather than a credentialed expert? And yet realizing her outsider status and academic tenure allowed her to speak more freely than others, she continued writing and has become one of the leading public intellectuals covering the response to COVID-19.

Zeynep joined Tyler to discuss problems with the media and the scientific establishment, what made the lab-leak hypothesis unacceptable to talk about, how her background in sociology was key to getting so many things right about the pandemic, the pitfalls of academic contrarianism, what Max Weber understood about public health crises, the underrated aspects of Kemel Mustapha’s regime, how Game of Thrones interested her as a sociologist (until the final season), what Americans get wrong about Turkey, why internet-fueled movements like the Gezi protests fizzle out, whether Islamic fundamentalism is on the rise in Turkey, how she’d try to persuade a COVID-19 vaccine skeptic, whether public health authorities should ever lie for the greater good, why she thinks America is actually less racist than Europe, how her background as a programmer affects her work as a sociologist, the subject of her next book, and more.

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Note: This conversation was recorded on July 14th, 2021, before the FDA granted full approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine.

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Upon learning he was HIV positive in 1993, Andrew Sullivan began writing more than he ever had before. Believing that he didn’t have long to live, he wanted to leave behind a book detailing his best argument for refocusing the gay rights movement on marriage equality and military service. Three decades later and Sullivan has not only lived to see the book published, but also seen the ideas in it gain legal and cultural acceptance. This, along with the fact that the pace and influence of his writing has continued apace, qualifies him in Tyler’s estimation as the most influential public intellectual of his generation.

Andrew joined Tyler to discuss the role of the AIDs epidemic in achieving marriage equality, the difficulty of devoutness in everyday life, why public intellectuals often lack courage, how being a gay man helps him access perspectives he otherwise wouldn’t, how drugs influence his ideas, the reasons why he’s a passionate defender of SATs and IQ tests, what Niall Ferguson and Boris Johnson were like as fellow undergraduates, what Americans get wrong about British politics, why so few people share his admiration for Margaret Thatcher, why Bowie was so special, why Airplane! is his favorite movie, what Oakeshottian conservatism offers us today, whether wokeism has a positive influence globally, why he someday hopes to glower at the sea from in the west of Ireland, and more.

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Recorded August 6th, 2021

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While the modern historical ethos can be obsessed with condescending to the past based on our current value system, Scottish-born historian Niall Ferguson has aimed to set himself apart with his willingness to examine the past in its own context. The result is some wildly unpopular opinions such as “The British Empire was good, actually” and several wildly popular books, such as his latest Doom: The Politics of Catastrophe.

Niall joined Tyler to discuss the difference between English and Scottish pessimism, his surprise encounter with Sean Connery, what James Bond and Doctor Who have in common, how religion fosters the cultural imagination to produce doomsday scenarios, which side of the Glorious Revolution he would have been on, the extraordinary historical trajectory of Scotland from the 17th century through the 18th century, why historians seem to have an excessive occupation with leadership, what he learned from R.G. Collingwood and A.J.P. Taylor, why American bands could never quite get punk music right, Tocqueville’s insights on liberalism, the unfortunate iconoclasm of John Maynard Keynes, the dystopian novel he finds most plausible, what he learned about right and left populism on his latest trip to Latin America, the importance of intellectual succession and building institutions, what he’ll do next, and more.

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Recorded June 18th, 2021

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Alexander the Grate has spent 40 years – more than half of his life – living on the streets (and heating grates) of Washington, DC. He prefers the label NFA (No Fixed Address) rather than “homeless,” since in his view we’re all a little bit homeless: even millionaires are just one catastrophe away from losing their mansions. It’s a life that certainly comes with many challenges, but that hasn’t stopped him from enjoying the immense cultural riches of the capital: he and his friends have probably attended more lectures, foreign films, concerts, talks, and tours at local museums than many of its wealthiest denizens. The result is a perspective as unique as the city itself.

Alexander joined Tyler to discuss the little-recognized issue of “toilet insecurity,” how COVID-19 affected his lifestyle, the hierarchy of local shelters, the origins of the cootie game, the difference between being NFA in DC versus other cities, how networking helped him navigate life as a new NFA, how the Capitol Hill Freebie Finders Fellowship got started, why he loves school field trip season, his most memorable freebie food experience, the reason he isn’t enthusiastic about a Universal Basic Income, the economic sword of Damocles he sees hanging over America, how local development is changing DC, his design for a better community shelter, and more.

Special thanks to James Deutsch for helping to arrange this interview. Read his profile of Alexander the Grate here.

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Recorded June 4th, 2021

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Richard Prum really cares about birds. Growing up in rural Vermont, he didn’t know anyone else interested in birding his own age. The experience taught him to rely on his own sense of curiosity and importance when deciding what questions and interests are worth studying. As a result, he has pursued many different paths of research in avian biology — such as behavioral evolution, where feathers come from, sexual selection and mate choice — many of which have led to deep implications in the field. In 2017, Tyler agreed with several prominent outlets that Prum’s book The Evolution of Beauty was one of the best books of the year, writing that it “offers an excellent and clearly written treatment of the particulars of avian evolution, signaling theory, and aesthetics, bringing together some disparate areas very effectively.”

Richard joined Tyler to discuss the infidelity of Australian birds, the debate on the origins of avian flight, how the lack of a penis explains why birds are so beautiful, why albatrosses can afford to take so many years to develop before mating, the game theory of ornithology, how flowers advertise themselves like a can of Coke, how modern technology is revolutionizing bird watching, why he’s pro-bird feeders yet anti- outdoor cats, how scarcity predicts territoriality in birds, his favorite bird artist, how Oilbirds got their name, how falcons and cormorants hunt and fish with humans, whether birds exhibit a G factor, why birds have regional accents, whether puffins will perish, why he’s not excited about the idea of trying to bring back passenger pigeons, the “dumb question” that marks a talented perspective ornithologist, and more.

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Recorded May 20th, 2021

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Thumbnail photo credit: Russell Kaye

What can studying the lives of philosophers tell us about how to organize and interpret our own lives? Elijah Millgram is a professor of philosophy at the University of Utah whose research focuses on the theory of rationality. His latest book, John Stuart Mill and The Meaning of Life, analyzes the relationship between the ideas of the famous theorist and their impacts on Mill’s life. His forthcoming book examines the life and work of Frederich Nietzsche through a similar lens, combining philosophical analysis and biography.

Elijah joined Tyler to discuss Newcomb’s paradox, the reason he doesn’t have an opinion about everything, the philosophy of Dave Barry, style and simulation theory, why philosophers aren’t often consulted about current events, his best stories from TA-ing for Robert Nozick, the sociological correlates of knowing formal logic, the question of whether people are more interested in truth or being interesting, philosophical cycles, what makes Nietzsche important today, the role that meaning can play in a person’s personality and life, Mill on Bentham, the idea of true philosophy as dialogue, the extent to which modern philosophers are truly philosophical, why he views aesthetics as critical to philosophy, and more.

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Recorded May 11th, 2021

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Tyler describes Oxford professor and theoretical physicist David Deutsch as a “maximum philosopher of freedom” with no rival. A pioneer in the field of quantum computing, Deutsch subscribes to the multiple-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics. He is also adamant that the universe (or multiverse) is not incomprehensible – believing that the multiverse and human beings within it have maximum freedom. He joined Tyler to discuss the importance of these principles for understanding the nature of reality and our place in it.

They discuss the metaphysics of Star Trek transporters, how we can know the laws of physics for the multiverse, what geological strata can illustrate to us about the nature of “splitting” universes, why the “Everett universe” is a misnomer, the factors that differentiate humans from all other species, why he believes the universe is comprehensible – but can never be understood fully, the paradoxes of self-reference, the importance of interference experiments, the sociological reasons more physicists don’t believe in the Everett interpretation, the effects of the influences of positivism and instrumentalism on generations of physicists, the strengths and weaknesses of Karl Popper, his answer to whether we’re living in a simulation, what William Godwin got right about institutions, the potential of an AI slave rebellion, what libertarians largely get wrong about their political project, what alien observers might notice as being special about our planet, the major defect of his preferred electoral system, why what Western science needs most is diversity, and more.

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Recorded April 27th, 2021

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As a Canadian economist who once served as the Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney has had many occasions to reflect on the importance of values. Whether it’s ingratiating himself as a public servant in a foreign country, managing a central bank, or addressing climate change, he’s seen the power of shared objectives and the importance of value alignment in addressing critical and complex problems. As the global economy attempts to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, Carney has published these lessons in a new book, Values: Building a Better World for All.

In this special bonus episode, Mark joined Tyler to discuss why he went into economics instead of marine biology, the temperamental differences between ice hockey goalies and central bankers, why it’s important that central bankers plan for failure, what he learned from his father’s work with indigenous Canadians, how growing up near Alberta’s tar sands made him understand the power of the market, the biggest misconception people have about Goldman Sachs, how he established trust as a public servant in a foreign country, his advice for public speaking, why he prefers to speak early during large meetings, the validity of liquidity trap theories, the changes he’d make to the federal reserve governance structure, the greatest challenge of running a central bank, potential regulatory strategies for central bank digital currencies, how decentralized finance (DeFi) should be regulated, how central banks should address potential risks caused by climate change, what went wrong with Canada’s response to COVID-19, why there seems to be little populism in Canada, the future of the Toronto Raptors, where to find the best food in Canada, the best Clash album, the causes of the UK productivity slowdown, the most surprising thing he learned while writing his new book, his predictions for the future global economy post- COVID, and more.

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Recorded May 21st, 2021

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Gifted young Argentines tend to leave home to “make it in America” and never look back, but after earning a degree from Harvard, writing a book about the Spanish Civil War, and living in the United States for 12 years, Pierpaolo Barbieri has returned to Argentina. And he’s bringing foreign capital and talented expats with him. Pierpaolo’s FinTech startup Ualá works to bring universal banking to a Latin American market in which huge swaths of the population are still stuck using cash for everything. By giving the working classes power over their own money, he hopes to produce greater prosperity and social mobility in his home country and beyond.

Pierpaolo joined Tyler to discuss why the Mexican banking system only serves 30 percent of Mexicans, which country will be the first to go cashless, the implications of a digital yuan, whether Miami will overtake São Paolo as the tech center of Latin America, how he hopes to make Ualá the Facebook of FinTech, Argentina’s bipolar fiscal policy, his transition from historian to startup founder, the novels of Michel Houellebecq, Nazi economic policy, why you can find amazing and cheap pasta in Argentina, why Jorge Luis Borges might be his favorite philosopher, the advice he’d give to his 18-year-old self, his friendship with Niall Ferguson, the political legacy of the Spanish Civil War, why he stopped sending emails from bed, and more.

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Recorded April 12th, 2021

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Daniel Carpenter is one of the world’s leading experts on regulation and the foremost expert on the US Food and Drug Administration. A professor of Government at Harvard University, he’s conducted extensive research on regulation and government organizations, as well as on the development of political institutions in the United States. His latest book Democracy by Petition: Popular Politics in Transformation, details the crucial role petitions played in expanding the franchise and shaping modern America.

Daniel joined Tyler to discuss how to reform the hiring and firing practices for public employees, what the history of the postal service can teach us about internet regulation, the problem with the term “institutional capture”, what the FDA got right and wrong regarding COVID-19 vaccines, how nationalism is affecting vaccine rollout, why vaccinating the young is crucial for herd immunity, the drawbacks of a “Good Housekeeping” model of the FDA, how black box drug labels sometimes change behavior for the worse, the institutional variables of foreign drug trials and manufacturing, the pivotal role petitions played during the 19th century women’s rights movement, the French Canadian petition that changed history, why political scientists should study Native Americans, the benefits of fly fishing, and more.

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Recorded April 1st, 2021

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A self-professed nerd, the young Shadi Bartsch could be found awake late at night, reading Latin under the covers of her bed by flashlight. Now a professor of Classics at the University of Chicago, Dr. Bartsch is one of the best-known classicists in America and recently published her own translation of Virgil’s Aeneid. Widely regarded for her writing on Seneca, Lucan, and Persius, her next book focuses on Chinese interpretations of classic literature and their influence on political thought in China.

Shadi joined Tyler to discuss reading the classics as someone who is half-Persian, the difference between Homer and Virgil’s underworlds, the reasons so many women are redefining Virgil’s Aeneid, the best way to learn Latin, why you must be in a room with a native speaker to learn Mandarin, the question of Seneca’s hypocrisy, what it means to “wave the wand of Hermes”, why Lucan begins his epic The Civil War with “fake news”, the line from Henry Purcell’s aria that moves her to tears, her biggest takeaway from being the daughter of an accomplished UN economist, the ancient text she’s most hopeful that new technology will help us discover, the appeal of Strauss to some contemporary Chinese intellectuals, the reasons some consider the history of Athens a better allegory for America than that of Rome, the Thucydides Trap, the magical “presentness” of ancient history she’s found in Italy and Jerusalem, her forthcoming book Plato Goes to China, and more.

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Recorded March 16th, 2022

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Before he was California Poet Laureate or leading the National Endowment for the Arts, Dana Gioia marketed Jell-O. Possessing both a Stanford MBA and a Harvard MA, he combined his creativity and facility with numbers to climb the corporate ladder at General Foods to the second highest rung before abruptly quitting to become a poet and writer. That unique professional experience and a lifelong “hunger for beauty” have made him into what Tyler calls an “information billionaire,” or someone who can answer all of Tyler’s questions. In his new memoir, Dana describes the six people who sent him on this unlikely journey.

In this conversation, Dana and Tyler discuss his latest book and more, including how he transformed several businesses as a corporate executive, why going to business school made him a better poet, the only two obscene topics left in American poetry, why narrative is necessary for coping with life’s hardships, how Virgil influenced Catholic traditions, what Augustus understood about the cultural power of art, the reasons most libretti are so bad, the optimism of the Beach Boys, the best art museum you’ve never heard of, the Jungianism of Star Trek, his favorite Tolstoy work, depictions of Catholicism in American pop culture, what he finds fascinating about Houellebecq, why we stopped building cathedrals, how he was able to effectively lead the National Endowment for the Arts,  the aesthetic differences between him and his brother Ted, his advice for young people who want to cultivate their minds, and what he wants to learn next.

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Recorded February 18th, 2021

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What can new technology tell us about our ancient past? Archaeologist and remote sensing expert Sarah Parcak has used satellite imagery to discover over a dozen potential pyramids and thousands of tombs from ancient Egypt. A professor of anthropology and founding director of the Laboratory for Global Observation at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Sarah’s work combines technology, historical study, and cultural anthropology to advance discoveries about the past while navigating the political and ethical dilemmas that plague excavation work today.

She joined Tyler to discuss what caused the Bronze Age Collapse, how well we understand the level of ancient technologies, what archaeologists may learn from the discovery of more than a hundred coffins at the site of Saqqara, how far the Vikings really traveled, why conservation should be as much of a priority as excavation, the economics of looting networks, the inherently political nature of archaeology, Indiana Jones versus The Dig, her favorite contemporary bluegrass artists, the best archaeological sites to visit around the world, the merits of tools like Google Earth and Lidar, the long list of skills needed to be a modern archaeologist, which countries produce the best amateur space archaeologists, and more.

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Recorded February 25th, 2021

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What unites John Cochrane the finance economist and “grumpy” policy blogger with John Cochrane the accomplished glider pilot? For John, the answer is that each derives from the same habit of mind which seeks to reduce things down to a few fundamental principles and a simple logical structure. And thus, piloting a glider can be understood as an application of optimal portfolio theory, and all of monetary policy can be made to fit within the structure of a single equation.

John joined Tyler to apply that habit of mind to a number of puzzles, including why real interest rates don’t equalize across countries, what explains why high trading volumes and active management persist in finance, how the pandemic has affected his opinion of habit formation theories, his fiscal theory of price level and inflation, the danger of a US sovereign debt crisis, why he thinks Bitcoin will eventually die, his idea for health-status insurance, becoming a national gliding champion, how a Renaissance historian for a father and a book translator for a mother shaped him intellectually, what’s causing the leftward drift in economics, the need to increase competition among universities, how he became libertarian, the benefits of blogging, and more.

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Recorded January 4th, 2021

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Patricia Fara is a historian of science at Cambridge University and well-known for her writings on women in science. Her forthcoming book, Life After Gravity: Isaac Newton's London Career, details the life of the titan of the so-called Scientific Revolution after his famous (though perhaps mythological) discovery under the apple tree. Her work emphasizes science as a long, continuous process composed of incremental contributions–in which women throughout history have taken a crucial part–rather than the sole province of a few monolithic innovators.

Patricia joined Tyler to discuss why Newton left Cambridge to run The Royal Mint, why he was so productive during the Great Plague,  why the “Scientific Revolution” should instead be understood as a gradual process, what the Antikythera device tells us about science in the ancient world, the influence of Erasmus Darwin on his grandson, why more people should know Dorothy Hodgkin, how George Eliot inspired her to commit unhistoric acts, why she opposes any kind of sex-segregated schooling, her early experience in a startup, what modern students of science can learn from studying Renaissance art, the reasons she considers Madame Lavoisier to be the greatest female science illustrator, the unusual work habit brought to her attention by house guests, the book of caricatures she’d like to write next, and more.

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Recorded January 15th, 2021

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Brian Armstrong first recognized the potential of cryptocurrencies after witnessing firsthand the tragic consequences of hyperinflation in Argentina. Coinbase, the company he co-founded, aims to provide the primary financial accounts for the crypto economy. Their success in accomplishing this, he says, is due as much to their innovative approach to regulation as it is anything technological.

Brian joined Tyler to discuss how he prevents Coinbase from being run by its lawyers, the value of having a mission statement, what a world with many more crypto billionaires would look like, why the volatility of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin is more feature than bug, the potential for scalability in Ethereum 2.0, his best guess on the real identity of Satoshi, the biggest obstacle facing new charter cities, the meta rules he’d institute for new Martian colony, the importance of bridging the gap between academics and entrepreneurs, the future of crypto regulation, the benefits of stablecoin for the unbanked, his strongest and weakest interpersonal skill, what he hopes to learn from composing electronic music, and more.

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Recorded January 14th, 2022

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Benjamin Friedman has been a leading macroeconomist since the 1970s, whose accomplishments include writing 150 papers, producing more than dozen books, and teaching Tyler Cowen graduate macroeconomics at Harvard in 1985. In his latest book, Religion and the Rise of Capitalism, Ben argues that contrary to the popular belief that Western economic ideas are a secular product of the Enlightenment, instead they are the result of hotly debated theological questions within the English-speaking Protestant world of thinkers like Adam Smith and David Hume.

Ben joined Tyler to discuss the connection between religious belief and support for markets, what drives varying cultural commitments to capitalism, why the rate of growth is key to sustaining liberal values, why Paul Volcker is underrated, how coming from Kentucky influences his thinking, why annuities don’t work better, America’s debt and fiscal sustainability, his critiques of nominal GDP targeting, why he wouldn’t change the governance of the Fed, how he maintains his motivation to keep learning, his next big project on artificial intelligence, and more.

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Recorded December 4th, 2020

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“The world of innovation is very much one of toggling between survival and then thriving,” says Noubar Afeyan. Co-founder of Moderna and CEO of Flagship Pioneering, the biomedical innovator, philanthropist, and entrepreneur credits his successes to his “paranoid optimism” shaped by his experiences as an Armenian-American. Exceptional achievements like the rapid development of the COVID-19 vaccine, he believes, aren’t usually unpredictable but rather the result of systematic processes that include embracing unreasonable propositions and even unreasonable people.

He joined Tyler to discuss which aspect of entrepreneurship is hardest to teach, his predictions on the future of gene editing and CRISPR technology, why the pharmaceutical field can’t be winner takes all, why “basic research” is a poor term, the secret to Boston’s culture of innovation, the potential of plant biotech, why Montreal is (still) a special place to him, how his classical pianist mother influenced his musical tastes, his discussion-based approach to ethical dilemmas, how thinking future-backward shapes his approach to business and philanthropy, the blessing and curse of Lebanese optimism, the importance of creating a culture where people can say things that are wrong, what we can all learn by being an American by choice, and more.

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Recorded January 6th, 2021

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On this special year-in-review episode, producer Jeff Holmes sat down with Tyler to talk about the most popular—and most underrated—episodes, Tyler's personal highlight of the year, how well state capacity libertarianism has fared, a new food rule for ordering well during the pandemic, how his production function changed this year, why he got sick of pickles, when he thinks the next face-to-face recording will be, the first thing he’ll do post vaccine, an update on his next book, and more.

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Recorded December 1st, 2020

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Growing up in a working-class city in New Jersey, John Brennan’s father was an Irish immigrant who always impressed upon his children how grateful they should be to be American citizens. That deeply-instilled patriotism and the sense of right and wrong emphasized by his Catholic upbringing would lead John first to become an intelligence officer and then eventually Director of the CIA. His new memoir, which Tyler found substantive on every page, recounts that career journey.

John joined Tyler to discuss what working in intelligence taught him about people’s motivations, how his Catholic upbringing prepared him for working in intelligence, the similarities between working at the CIA and entering the priesthood, his ability to synthetize information from disparate sources, his assessment on the possibility of alien life, the efficacy of personality tests and polygraphs, why CIA agents are so punctual, how the CIA plans to remain a competitive recruiter for top talent, the challenges that spouses and family members of intelligence workers face, the impact of modern technology on spycraft, why he doesn’t support the use of enhanced interrogation techniques, his favorite parts of Cairo, the pros and cons of the recent Middle Eastern peace deal brokered by Jared Kushner, the reasons he thinks we should leverage American culture more abroad, JFK conspiracy theories, why there seemed to be much less foreign interference in the 2020 election than experts predicted, what John le Carré got right about being a spy, why most spies aren’t like James Bond, what he would change about FISA courts, and more.

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Recorded November 16th, 2020

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After reading Zach Carter’s intellectual biography of Keynes earlier this year, Tyler declared that the book would qualify “without reservation” as one of the best of the year. Tyler’s assessment proved common, as the book would soon become a New York Times bestseller and later be declared one of the ten best books of the year by Publishers Weekly. In the book, Carter not only traces Keynes’ intellectual achievements throughout his lifetime, but also shows how those ideas have lasted long after him, making him one of the most influential economists who’s ever lived.

Zach joined Tyler to discuss what Keynes got right – and wrong – about the Treaty of Versailles, how working in the India Office influenced his economic thinking, the seemingly strange paradox of his “liberal imperialism,” the elusive central message of The General Theory, the true extent of Keynes’ interest in eugenics, why he had a conservative streak, why Zach loves Samuel Delaney’s novel Nova, whether Bretton Woods was doomed to fail, the Enlightenment intuitions behind early defenses of the gold standard, what’s changed since Zach became a father, his next project, and more.

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Recorded October 29th, 2020

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Jimmy Wales used to joke that choosing to build Wikipedia on a non-profit, non-advertising model was either the best or worst decision he ever made—but he doesn’t joke about that anymore. “If you think about advertising-driven social media…it's driven them in many cases to prioritize agitation and argumentation in a negative sense over education and learning and thoughtfulness.” In his now ceremonial role, Jimmy spends a lot of time thinking about how to structure incentives so that the Wikipedia community stays aligned on values and focused on building an ever-improving encyclopedia.

Jimmy joined Tyler to discuss what happens when content moderation goes wrong, why certain articles are inherently biased, the threat that repealing section 230 poses to Wikipedia, whether he believes in Conquest’s Law, the difference between “paid editing” and “paid advocacy editing,” how Wikipedia handles alternative accounts, the right to be forgotten, his unusual education in Huntsville, Alabama, why Ayn Rand is under- and over-rated, the continual struggle to balance good rules and procedures against impenetrable bureaucracy, how Wikipedia is responding to mobile use, his attempt to build a non-toxic social media platform, and more.

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Recorded October 21st, 2020

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Edwidge Danticat left Haiti when she was 12, she says, but Haiti never left her. At 14 she began writing stories about the people and culture she loved, and now is an internationally acclaimed novelist and short story writer as well a MacArthur Genius Fellow. Rather than holding herself out as an expert or sociologist on Haiti, she seeks to treat her characters and culture with nuance and show the beauty and complexity of the place she calls home.

She joined Tyler to discuss the reasons Haitian identity and culture will likely persist in America, the vibrant Haitian art scenes, why Haiti has the best food in the Caribbean, how radio is remaining central to Haitian politics, why teaching in Creole would improve Haitian schools, what’s special about the painted tap-taps, how tourism influenced Haitian art, working with Jonathan Demme, how the CDC destroyed the Haitian tourism industry, her perspective on the Black Lives Matter movement, why she writes better at night, the hard lessons of Haiti’s political history, and more.

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Recorded September 18th, 2020

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Michael Kremer is best known for his academic work researching global poverty, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2019 along with Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee. Less known is that he is also the founder of five non-profits and in the process of creating a sixth. And Kremer doesn’t see anything unusual about embodying the dual archetypes of economist and founder. “I think there's a lot of relationship between the experimental method and the things that are needed to help found organizations,” he explains.

Michael joined Tyler to discuss the intellectual challenge of founding organizations, applying methods from behavioral economics to design better programs, how advanced market commitments could lower pharmaceutical costs for consumers while still incentivizing R&D, the ongoing cycle of experimentation every innovator understands, the political economy of public health initiatives, the importance of designing institutions to increase technological change, the production function of new technologies, incentivizing educational achievement, The Odyssey as a tale of comparative development, why he recently transitioned to University of Chicago, what researchers can learn from venture capitalists, his current work addressing COVID-19, and more.

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Recorded September 9th, 2020

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Audrey Tang began reading classical works like the Shūjīng and Tao Te Ching at the age of 5 and learned the programming language Perl at the age of 12. Now, the autodidact and self-described “conservative anarchist” is a software engineer and the first non-binary digital minister of Taiwan. Their work focuses on how social and digital technologies can foster empathy, democracy, and human progress.

Audrey joined Tyler to discuss how Taiwan approached regulating Chinese tech companies, the inherent extraterritoriality of data norms, how Finnegans Wake has influenced their approach to technology, the benefits of radical transparency in communication, why they appreciate the laziness of Perl, using “humor over rumor” to combat online disinformation, why Taiwan views democracy as a set of social technologies, how their politics have been influenced by Taiwan’s indigenous communities and their oral culture, what Chinese literature teaches about change, how they view Confucianism as a Daoist, how they would improve Taiwanese education, why they view mistakes in the American experiment as inevitable – but not insurmountable, the role of civic tech in Taiwan’s pandemic response, the most important remnants of Japanese influence remaining in Taiwan, why they love Magic: The Gathering, the transculturalism that makes Taiwan particularly open and accepting of LGBT lifestyles, growing up with parents who were journalists, how being transgender makes them more empathetic, the ways American values still underpin the internet, what they learned from previous Occupy movements, why translation, rotation, and scaling are important skills for becoming a better thinker, and more.

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Recorded September 24th, 2020

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To Alex Ross, good music critics must be well-rounded and have command of neighboring cultural areas. “When you're writing about opera, you're writing about literature as well as music, you're writing about staging, theater ideas, as well as music,” says the veteran music journalist and staff writer for The New Yorker. His most recent book, Wagnerism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music, explores the complicated legacy of Wagner, as well as how music shapes and is shaped by its cultural context.

Alex joined Tyler to discuss the book, what gets lost in the training of modern opera singers, the effect of recording technology on orchestras, why he doesn’t have “guilty pleasures,” how we should approach Wagner today, the irony behind most uses of “Ride of the Valkyries” in cinema, his favorite Orson Welles film, his predictions for concert attendance after COVID-19, why artistic life in Europe will likely recover faster than in America, Rothko’s influence on composer Morton Feldman, his contender for the greatest pop album ever made, how his Harvard dissertation on James Joyce prepared him for a career writing about music, and more.

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Recorded August 20th, 2020

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Matt Yglesias joined Tyler for a wide-ranging conversation on his vision for a bigger, less politically polarized America outlined in his new book One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger.

They discussed why it’s easier to grow Tokyo than New York City, the governance issues of increasing urban populations, what Tyler got right about pro-immigration arguments, how to respond to declining fertility rates, why he’d be happy to see more people going to church (even though he’s not religious), why liberals and conservatives should take marriage incentive programs more seriously, what larger families would mean for feminism, why people should read Robert Nozick, whether the YIMBY movement will be weakened by COVID-19, how New York City will bounce back, why he’s long on Minneapolis, how to address constitutional ruptures, how to attract more competent people to state and local governments, what he’s learned growing up in a family full of economists, his mother’s wisdom about visual design and more.

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Recorded August 21st, 2020

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Note: This conversation was recorded in January 2020.

Tyler credits Jason Furman’s intellectual breadth, real-world experience, and emphasis on policy for making him the best economist in the world. Furman, despite not initially being interested in public policy, ultimately served as the chair of the Council of Economic Advisors under President Obama thanks to a call from Joe Stiglitz while still in grad school. His perspective is as idiosyncratic as his career trajectory, seeing the world of economic policy as a series of complex tradeoffs rather than something reducible to oversimplified political slogans.

Jason joined Tyler for a wide-ranging conversation on how monopolies affect investment patterns, his top three recommendations to improve American productivity, why he’s skeptical of place-based development policies, what some pro-immigration arguments get wrong, why he’s more concerned about companies like Facebook and Google than he is Walmart and Amazon, the merits of a human rights approach to privacy, whether the EU treats tech companies fairly, having Matt Damon as a college roommate, the future of fintech, his highest objective when teaching economics, what he learned from coauthoring a paper with someone who disagrees with him, why he’s a prolific Goodreads reviewer, and more.

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Recorded January 16th, 2020

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What might the electrification of factories teach us about how quickly we’ll adapt to remote work? What gives American companies an edge over their competitors on the international stage? What value do management consultants really provide? Stanford professor Nick Bloom’s research studies how management practices, productivity techniques, and uncertainty shape outcomes across companies and countries.

He joined Tyler for a conversation about which areas of science are making progress, the factors that have made research more expensive, why government should invest more in R&D, how lean management transformed manufacturing, how India’s congested legal system inhibits economic development, the effects of technology on Scottish football hooliganism, why firms thrive in China, how weak legal systems incentivize nepotism, why he’s not worried about the effects of remote work on American productivity (in the short-term), the drawbacks of elite graduate programs, how his first “academic love” shapes his work today, the benefits of working with co-authors, why he prefers periodicals and podcasts to reading books, and more.

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Recorded July 13th, 2020

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Nathan Nunn’s work history includes automotive stores, a freight company, a paint factory, a ski hill, photography, book publishing, private tutoring, and more. Having grown up in a lower-income Canadian family, he recognizes the importance of having multiple pathways to climb the socioeconomic ladder. Now, as a development economist at Harvard, his research investigates how things like history, culture and contract enforcement shape the development paths of nations.

Nathan joined Tyler for a conversation about which African countries a theory of persistence would lead him to bet on, why so many Africans live in harder to settle areas, his predictions for the effects of Chinese development on East Africa, why genetic distance is a strong predictor of bilateral income differences and trade, the pleasant surprises of visiting the Democratic Republic of Congo, the role of the Catholic Church in the development of the West, why Canadian football is underrated, the unique commutes of Ottawans, the lack of Canadian brands, what’s missing from most economic graduate programs, the benefits of studying economics outside of the United States, how the plow shaped gender roles in the societies that used it, the cultural values behind South Korea’s success, and more.

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Recorded July 10th, 2020

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Explaining 10 percent of something is not usually cause for celebration. And yet when it comes to economic development, where so many factors are in play—institutions, culture, geography, to name a few—it’s impressive indeed. And that’s just what Melissa Dell has accomplished in her pathbreaking work. From the impact of the Mexican Revolution to the different development paths of northern and southern Vietnam, her work exploits what are often accidents of history—whether a Peruvian village was just inside or outside a mine’s catchment area, for example—to explain persistent differences in outcomes. Her work has earned numerous plaudits, including the John Bates Clark Medal earlier this year.

On the 100th episode of Conversations with Tyler, Melissa joined Tyler to discuss what’s behind Vietnam’s economic performance, why persistence isn’t predictive, the benefits and drawbacks of state capacity, the differing economic legacies of forced labor in Indonesia and Peru, whether people like her should still be called a Rhodes scholar, if SATs are useful, the joys of long-distance running, why higher temps are bad for economic growth, how her grandmother cultivated her curiosity, her next project looking to unlock huge historical datasets, and more.

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Recorded July 30th, 2020

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For Annie Duke, the poker table is a perfect laboratory to study human decision-making — including her own. “It really exposes you to the way that you’re thinking,” she says, “how hard it is to avoid decision traps, even when you’re perfectly well aware that those decision traps exist. And how easy it is for like your mind to slip into those traps.” She’s spent a lot of time studying human cognition at the poker table and off it — her best-known academic article is about psycholinguistics and her forthcoming book is titled How to Decide: Simple Tools for Making Better Choices.

Annie joined Tyler to explore how payoffs aren’t always monetary, the benefits and costs of probabilistic thinking, the “magical thinking” behind why people buy fire insurance but usually don’t get prenups, the psychology behind betting on shark migrations, how her most famous linguistics paper took on Steven Pinker, how public policy would change if only the top 500 poker players voted, why she wasn’t surprised to lose Celebrity Apprentice to Joan Rivers, whether Trump has a tell, the number one trait of top poker players, and more.

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Recorded June 24th, 2020

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Long before becoming a legal scholar focused on police reform, Rachel Harmon studied engineering at MIT and graduate philosophy at LSE. “You could call it a random walk,” she says, “or you could say that I’m really interested in the structure of things.” But despite her experience and training, even she can’t identify a single point of leverage that can radically reform the complicated system of policing in America. “We have been struggling with balancing the harms and benefits of policing since we started contemporary departments, so I don’t think that we’re going to suddenly fix this by flipping one lever.”

She joined Tyler to discuss the best ideas for improving policing, including why good data on policing is so hard to come by, why body cams are not a panacea, the benefits and costs of consolidating police departments, why more female cops won’t necessarily reduce the use of force, how federal programs can sometimes misfire, where changing police selection criteria would and wouldn’t help, whether some policing could be replaced by social workers, the sobering frequency of sexual assaults by police, how a national accreditation system might improve police conduct, what reformers can learn from Camden and elsewhere, and more. They close by discussing the future of law schools, what she learned clerking under Guido Calabresi and Stephen Breyer, why she’s drawn to kickboxing and triathlons, and what two things she looks for in a young legal scholar.

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Recorded June 8th, 2020

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Ashley Mears is a former fashion model turned academic sociologist, and her book Very Important People: Status and Beauty in the Global Party Circuit  is one of Tyler’s favorites of the year. The book, the result of eighteen months of field research, describes how young women exchange “bodily capital” for free drinks and access to glamorous events, boosting the status of the big-spending men they accompany.

Ashley joined Tyler to discuss her book and experience as a model, including the economics of bottle service, which kinds of men seek the club experience (and which can’t get in), why Tyler is right to be suspicious of restaurants filled with beautiful women, why club music is so loud, the surprising reason party girls don’t want to be paid, what it’s like to be scouted, why fashion models don’t smile, the truths contained in Zoolander, how her own beauty and glamour have influenced her academic career, how Barbara Ehrenreich inspired her work, her unique tip for staying focused while writing, and more.

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Recorded May 8th, 2020

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Paul Romer makes his second appearance to discuss the failings of economics, how his mass testing plan for COVID-19 would work, what aspects of epidemiology concern him, how the FDA is slowing a better response, his ideas for reopening schools and Major League Baseball, where he agrees with Weyl’s test plan, why charter cities need a new name, what went wrong with Honduras, the development trajectory for sub-Saharan Africa, how he’d reform the World Bank, the underrated benefits of a culture of science, his heartening takeaway about human nature from his experience at Burning Man, and more.

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Recorded May 13th, 2020

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Adam Tooze is best known for his highly-regarded books on the economic history of Nazi Germany, the remaking of the global economic and political order starting in World War I, and his account of how the economic effects of the 2008 financial crisis rippled across the globe for a decade to follow. Recently, he’s become an influential voice on Twitter documenting the pandemic-induced strain on the world’s financial systems.

Adam joined Tyler to discuss the historically unusual decision to have a high-cost lockdown during a pandemic, why he believes in a swoosh-shaped recovery, portents of financial crises in China and the West, which emerging economies are currently most at risk, what Keynes got wrong about the Treaty of Versailles, why the Weimar Republic failed, whether Hitler was a Keynesian, the political and economic prospects of various EU members, his trick to writing a lot, how Twitter encourages him to read more, what he taught executives at BP, his advice for visiting Germany, and more.

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Recorded April 16th, 2020

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Glen Weyl is an economist, researcher, and founder of RadicalXChange. He recently co-authored a paper that sets forth an ambitious strategy to respond to the crisis and mitigate long-term damage to the economy through a regime of testing, tracing, and supported isolation. In his estimation the benefit-cost ratio is ten to one, with costs equal to about one month of continued freeze in place.

Tyler invited Glen to discuss the plan, including how it’d overcome obstacles to scaling up testing and tracing, what other countries got right and wrong in their responses, the unusual reason why he’s bothered by price gouging on PPE supplies, where his plan differs with Paul Romer’s, and more. They also discuss academia’s responsibility to inform public discourse, how he’d apply his ideas on mechanism design to reform tenure and admissions, his unique intellectual journey from socialism to libertarianism and beyond, the common element that attracts him to both the movie Memento and Don McLean’s “American Pie,” what talent he looks for in young economists, the struggle to straddle the divide between academia and politics, the benefits and drawbacks of rollerblading to class, and more.

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Recorded April 20th, 2020

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Accuracy is only one of the things we want from forecasters, says Philip Tetlock, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and co-author of Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction. People also look to forecasters for ideological assurance, entertainment, and to minimize regret–such as that caused by not taking a global pandemic seriously enough. The best forecasters aren’t just intelligent, but fox-like integrative thinkers capable of navigating values that are conflicting or in tension.

He joined Tyler to discuss whether the world as a whole is becoming harder to predict, whether Goldman Sachs traders can beat forecasters, what inferences we can draw from analyzing the speech of politicians, the importance of interdisciplinary teams, the qualities he looks for in leaders, the reasons he’s skeptical machine learning will outcompete his research team, the year he thinks the ascent of the West became inevitable, how research on counterfactuals can be applied to modern debates, why people with second cultures tend to make better forecasters, how to become more fox-like, and more.

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Recorded March 26th, 2020

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When Tyler requested an interview with novelist Emily St. John Mandel, he didn’t expect that reality would have in some ways become an eerie mirror of her latest books. And Emily didn’t expect that it’d be boosting sales: “Why would anybody in their right mind want to read Station Eleven during a pandemic?” she wondered to Tyler. Her reaction was pure bafflement until she found herself renting Contagion and thought about why. “There’s just such a longing in times of uncertainty to see how it ends.” Narratives, especially familiar ones, soothe us. It’s fitting then that her latest book has been suggested as “the perfect novel for your survival bunker.”

She joined Tyler to discuss The Glass Hotel, including why more white-collar criminals don’t flee before arrest, the Post Secret postcard that haunts her most, the best places to hide from the Russian mob, the Canadian equivalent of the “Florida Man”, whether trophy wives are happy, how to slow down time, why she disagrees with Kafka on reading, the safest place to be during a global pandemic, how to get away with faking your own death, how A Canticle for Leibowitz influenced her writing, the permeability of moral borders, what surprised her about experiencing a real pandemic, how her background in contemporary dance makes her a better writer, adapting The Glass Hotel for a miniseries, her contrarian take on Frozen II, and more.

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Recorded March 27th, 2020

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For Ross Douthat, decadence isn’t necessarily a moral judgement, but a technical label for a state that societies tend to enter—and one that is perhaps much more normal than the dynamism Americans have come to take for granted. In his new book, he outlines the cultural, economic, political, and demographic trends that threaten to leave us to wallow in a state of civilizational stagnation for years to come, and fuel further discontent and derangement with it.

On his second appearance on Conversations with Tyler, Ross joined Tyler to discuss why he sees Kanye as a force for anti-decadence, the innovative antiquarianism of the late Sir Roger Scruton, the mediocrity of modern architecture, why it’s no coincidence that Michel Houellebecq comes from France, his predictions for the future trajectory of American decadence – and what could throw us off of it, the question of men’s role in modernity, why he feels Christianity must embrace a kind of futurist optimism, what he sees as the influence of the “Thielian ethos” on conservatism, the plausibility of ghosts and alien UFOs, and more.

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Recorded February 25th, 2020

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Tyler and Russ Roberts joined forces for a special livestreamed conversation on COVID-19, including how both are adjusting to social isolation, private versus public responses to the pandemic, the challenge of reforming scrambled organization capital, the implications for Trump’s reelection, appropriate fiscal and monetary responses, bailouts, innovation prizes, and more.

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Recorded March 18th, 2020

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Who can you ask about the Great American Songbook, the finer Jell-O flavors, and peculiar languages like Saramaccan all while expecting the same kind of fast, thoughtful, and energetic response? Listeners of Lexicon Valley might hazard a guess: John McWhorter. A prominent academic linguist, he’s also highly regarded for his podcast and popular writings across countless books and articles where often displays a deep knowledge in topics beyond his academic training.

John joined Tyler to discuss why he thinks that colloquial Indonesian should be the world's universal language, the barbaric circumstances that gave rise to Creole languages, the reason Mandarin won't overtake English as the lingua franca, how the Vikings shaped modern English, the racial politics of Gershwin's Porgy and Bess, the decline of American regional accents, why Shakespeare needs an English translation, Harold Arlen vs. Andrew Lloyd Webber, whether reparations for African-Americans is a good idea, how living in Jackson Heights shapes his worldview, what he learned from his mother and father, why good linguistics students enjoy both Russian and Chinese, and more.

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Recorded February 17th, 2020

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Why is Garett Jones willing to write books about risky topics like the case for reducing democratic accountability? Is it the iconoclastic Mason econ culture? Supportive colleagues like Tyler? Those help, but what ultimately gives Garett peace of mind is that he’ll never have to go hungry because he has a broad and deep knowledge of econometric tools. It’s a skillset he recommends to all research economists precisely so they can take bigger risks in their careers—or at least be well-prepared to shape policy in an unelected position at a central bank. 

Garett joined Tyler to discuss his book 10% Less Democracy, including why America shouldn’t be run by bondholders, what single reform would most effectively achieve more limited democracy, how markets shape cognitive skills, the three important P’s of the repeated prisoner’s dilemma, why French cuisine is still underrated, Buchanan vs. Tullock, Larry David vs. Seinfeld, the biggest mistake in Twitter macroeconomics, the biggest challenges facing the Mormon church, what studying to be a sommelier taught him about economics, the Garett Jones vision of America, and more.

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Recorded January 10th, 2020

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To Tim Harford, mistakes are fascinating. “We often only understand how something works when it breaks,” he says, explaining why there’s such an emphasis on errors throughout his work. They also tend to make great stories, which can stoke the curiosity necessary to change minds. A former persuasive speaking champion, he was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire “for services to improving economic understanding,” which he’s achieved through appearances on the BBC, columns for the Financial Times, several TED Talks and books, and now his latest podcast series Cautionary Tales

Tim joined Tyler to discuss the role of popular economics in a politicized world, the puzzling polarization behind Brexit, why good feedback is necessary (and rare), the limits of fact-checking, the “tremendously British” encouragement he received from Prince Charles, playing poker with Steve Levitt, messiness in music, the underrated aspect of formal debate, whether introverts are better at public speaking, the three things he can’t live without, and more.

Note: This conversation was recorded in November 2019 and thus took place before the UK’s general election in December, which secured Boris Johnson a Conservative majority and ensured the passage of his Brexit deal in January 2020.

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Recorded November 11th, 2019

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In his new book, Ezra Klein argues that polarization in America has become centered on partisan political identities, which has subsumed virtually every form of identity, be it where we live, what team we root for, the church we attend, or any other. This stacked form of polarization thus carries much more weight and is activated by a wider range of conflicts than before.

But is polarization really such a pressing concern? If it’s all merged into one form of identity politics then aren’t we just polarizing more efficiently? Over what percentage of GDP are we more polarized today versus in the past?   

Tyler posed these questions to Ezra and more, including thoughts on Silicon Valley’s intellectual culture, his disagreement with Jonathan Haidt’s Moral Foundations Theory, the limits of telecommuting, how becoming a father made him less conservative, his post-kid production function, why Manhattan is overrated, the “cosmic embarrassment” of California’s governance, why he loved Marriage Story, the future of the BBC and PBS, what he learned in Pakistan, and more.

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Recorded December 27th, 2019

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When Reid Hoffman creates a handle for some new network or system, his usual choice is Quixotic.” At an early age, his love of tabletop games inspired him to think of life as a heroic journey, where people come together in order to accomplish lofty things. This framing also prompted him to consider the rules and systems that guide society—and how you might improve them by identifying key points of leverage. 

At first, he thought he’d become an academic and work with ideas as one of those Archimedean levers. But he ended up focusing on technology instead, helping to build PayPal, LinkedIn, and now many other ventures as an investor at Greylock Partners. But he still thinks ideas are important and tries to employ a “full toolset” when trying to shift systems.

Reid joined Tyler to talk about all these leverage points and more, including the Silicon Valley cultural meme he most disagrees with, how Wittgenstein influenced the design of LinkedIn, mystical atheism, what it was like being on Firing Line, why he’s never said anything outrageous, how he and Peter Thiel interpret The Tempest differently, the most misunderstood thing about friendship, how to improve talent certification, what’s needed from science fiction, and his three new ideas for board games.

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Recorded November 2nd, 2019

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This bonus episode features audio from the Holberg Debate in Bergen, Norway between Tyler and Slavoj Žižek held on December 7, 2019. They discuss the reasons Slavoj (still) considers himself a Communist, why he calls The Handmaid’s Tale “nostalgia for the present,” what he likes about Greta Thunberg, what Marx got right about the commodification of beliefs, his concerns about ecology and surveillance in communist states like China today, the reasons academia should maintain its ‘useless character,’ his beginnings as a Heideggerian, why he is distrustful of liberal optimism, the “Fukuyama dilemma” we face, the importance of “empty manners,” and more.

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Recorded December 7th, 2019

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Long before Abhijit Banerjee won the 2019 economics Nobel with Michael Kremer and Esther Duflo, he was a fellow graduate student at Harvard with Tyler. For Tyler, Abhijit is one of the brightest economic minds he’s ever met, and “a brilliant theorist who decided the future was with empirical work.” But according to Abhijit, theory and practice go hand in hand: the real benefit of a randomized control trial isn’t getting unbiased estimates, he says, but in testing hypotheses borne out of theory.

Abhijit joined Tyler to discuss his unique approach to economics, including thoughts on premature deindustrialization, the intrinsic weakness of any charter city, where the best classical Indian music is being made today, why he prefers making Indian sweets to French sweets, the influence of English intellectual life in India, the history behind Bengali leftism, the best Indian regional cuisine, why experimental economics is underrated, the reforms he’d make to traditional graduate economics training, how his mother’s passion inspires his research, how many consumer loyalty programs he’s joined, and more.

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Recorded December 2nd, 2019

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Want to support future conversations? Visit conversationswithtyler.com/donate.

For this special retrospective episode, producer Jeff Holmes sat down with Tyler to discuss the past year in conversations and more, including who was most challenging guest to prep for, the most popular—and the most underrated—conversation, a test of Tyler’s knowledge called “Name That Production Function,” listener questions from Twitter, how Tyler has boosted his productivity in the past year, and whether his book and movie picks from 2009 still hold up.  

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Recorded December 11th, 2019

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Want to support future conversations? Visit conversationswithtyler.com/donate.

Esther Duflo’s advice to students? Spend time in the field. “It's only through this exposure that you can learn how wrong most of your intuitions are and preconceptions are,” she explains. For Duflo, it was time spent in the Soviet Union on the brink of collapse. While there she saw how Jeff Sachs used the tools of economics to advise policymakers on matters of crucial importance. To her it seemed like the best job in the world—and she began to pursue it in earnest. Now it is she who is advising governments on how best to reduce poverty, having co-founded one of the leading policy research centers in the world. That work, together with that of frequent collaborators Abhijit Banerjee and Michael Kremer, has now been honored with the Nobel Prize. 

She joined Tyler to discuss that work, including how coaching increases the effectiveness of cash transfers, why she cautions against falling in love with growth rates, what France gets right about child-rearing, the management philosophy behind her success building J-PAL, how she briefly became the face of an anti-Soviet revolution, the under-looked reasons behind the decline of geographic mobility in the United States, what rock climbing can teach us about being a good empirical economist, her daily musical move from Bach to Bob Dylan, and more. 

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Recorded November 12th, 2019

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What determines the economic, social, and political trajectories of nations? Why were settlers in colonies like Jamestown and Australia able to escape the extractive systems desired by their British masters, while colonial subjects in Barbados and Jamaica were not? In his latest book, Daron Acemoglu elevates the power of institutions over theories centering on human capital, culture, or geography. Institutions help strike the balance of power in the constant struggle between state and society, creating a ‘narrow corridor’ through which liberty and prosperity is achieved.

Daron joined Tyler for a conversation about drivers of economic growth, the economic causes and effects of democratization, how Germanic tribes introduced “bottom-up politics” to the Roman empire, the institutional reasons that China’s state capacity and control has increased with its wealth, his predictions for the future of liberty in his birth country of Turkey, the biggest challenges currently facing the Middle East, what we can learn from the example of Lagos, why publishing in the “top five” is overrated, tips on motivating graduate students, and more.

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Recorded October 25th, 2019

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Over the past year Mark Zuckerberg has held a series of interviews themed around technology and society. This conversation with Tyler and Patrick is the last in that series, and covers why they think the study of progress is so important, including how it could affect biomedical research, the founding of new universities and foundations, building things fast, housing and healthcare affordability, the next four years of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, and more.

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Recorded November 22nd, 2019

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How do you survive seven years in solitary confinement? The gift of literacy is what saved Shaka Senghor. Reading, journaling, academic study, and writing books was a way to structure and survive an inhumane, mentally toxic environment. And after 19 years in total behind bars, he was finally able to apply that gift and create employment for himself as a writer and organizational leader upon rejoining society.

Shaka joined Tyler to discuss his book Writing My Wrongs: Life, Death, and Redemption in an American Prison, what it was like to return to society not knowing the difference between the internet and a Word document, entrepreneurialism and humor in prison, the unexpected challenges formerly incarcerated people face upon release, his ideas for helping Detroit, what he connects with in Eastern philosophy, how he’s celebrating the upcoming anniversary of his tenth year of freedom, and more.

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Recorded October 31st, 2019

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Three years after her first appearance, Chinese food expert Fuchsia Dunlop joins Tyler to celebrate the release of her latest cookbook and talk all things food and China. This time the conversation was held over a special homestyle meal at Mama Chang, the newest restaurant from Chef Peter and Lisa Chang. Together with their daughter Lydia Chang, Fuchsia selected a menu to share with Tyler and a group of friends from the DC food scene. Each dish inspired new avenues for discussion, including the trendiness of ‘Chinese’ cauliflower, why hot pot is overrated, what Western food China has recently perfected, first experiences with Sichuan peppercorns, whether ma la will take over the world, why Michelin inspectors underrate Chinese cuisine, what to serve a Westerner for a Chinese dessert, and much more.

Joining Tyler, Fuchsia, and Lydia around the table were Chef Pichet Ong, Chef Seng Luangrath, David Hagedorn, Stefanie Gans, Rivka Friedman, Natasha Cowen, and Yana Chernyak.

Special thanks to Peter, Lisa, Lydia and all the staff at Mama Chang for the wonderful meal.

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Recorded October 27th, 2019

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To Ted Gioia, music is a form of cloud storage for preserving human culture. And the real cultural conflict, he insists, is not between “high brow” and “low brow” music, but between the innovative and the formulaic. Imitation and repetition deaden musical culture—and he should know, since he listens to 3 hours of new music per day and over 1,000 newly released recordings in a year. His latest book covers the evolution of music from its origins in hunter-gatherer societies, to ancient Greece, to jazz, to its role in modern-day political protests such as those in Hong Kong.

He joined Tyler to discuss the history and industry of music, including the reasons AI will never create the perfect songs, the strange relationship between outbreaks of disease and innovation, how the shift from record companies to Silicon Valley transformed incentive structures within the industry–and why that’s cause for concern, the vocal polyphony of Pygmy music, Bob Dylan’s Nobel prize, why input is underrated, his advice to aspiring music writers, the unsung female innovators of music history, how the Blues anticipated the sexual revolution, what Rene Girard’s mimetic theory can tell us about noisy restaurants, the reason he calls Sinatra the “Derrida of pop singing,” how to cultivate an excellent music taste, and why he loves Side B of Abbey Road.

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Recorded October 23rd, 2019

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The one concept most valuable for understanding the news today might be Henry Farrell’s theory of weaponized interdependence. Whether it’s China’s influence over the NBA, the US ban of Huawei, or whether social media should be regulated on a global scale, Henry Farrell has played a key role articulating how global economic networks can enable state coercion.

Tyler and Henry discuss these issues and more, including what a big tech breakup would mean for security and privacy, why political economics suggests Facebook’s Oversight Board won’t work, what Italy might reveal about China’s future, his family connection to Joyce, his undying affection for My Bloody Valentine, why Philip K. Dick would have reveled in QAnon, why Twitter seems left-wing, and being a first generation academic blogger.

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Recorded October 7th, 2019

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Ben Westhoff has written some of Tyler’s favorite books on everything from dive bars to the evolution of American rap music to how fentanyl is driving the opioid epidemic. So how does he get it done? Not from the outside in, by finding exotic experiences as he originally thought. Instead he found that it comes from the inside out: eating right, exercising, getting sleep, and journaling. Do those things, Ben says, and you’ll be in a much better position to notice the good stories happening all around you.

He joined Tyler to discuss those many stories, including the proliferation of synthetic drugs, China’s role in the crisis, the merits of legalization versus decriminalization, why St. Louis is underrated, New Jersey hip-hop, how CDs changed rap, what’s different about Dr. Dre, whether the entourage is efficient, the social utility of dive bars, and more.

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Recorded September 11th, 2019

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Markets, Alain Bertaud likes to say, are like gravity: they exist everywhere. But while urban planners are quite good at taking gravity into account, they tend to ignore market forces entirely in their designs, resulting in city development that too often fails to address the needs of their residents.

Following the release of his recent book, Order Without Design: How Markets Shape Cities, Alain joined Tyler in New York City for a discussion of the politics affecting urban centers, his advice to Robert Moses, whether the YIMBY movement can win, why he loves messy cities, what he got wrong about Shenzhen, why the Moscow subway is so wonderful, whether cities can move, favorite movies about cities, the region of the world most likely to start a charter city, how to reform the World Bank, his top three NYC planning reforms, why Central Park is the perfect size, and more.

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Recorded September 9th, 2019

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A former war correspondent and UN ambassador, Samantha Power has had her share of tough assignments. But writing a memoir about it all is also a daunting prospect. The format itself is a challenge: how do you convince the reader you’re worth spending time with? How do you paint a relatable portrait without oversharing and losing your dignity? For Samantha the answer was settling upon a purpose for her memoir and ruthlessly cutting out everything not in service of that.

Tyler and Samantha discuss that purpose and more, including what she learned as an Irish immigrant, the personality traits of good diplomats (and war correspondents), relations with China, why democracy is so rare in the Middle East, the truth about Richard Holbrooke, what factors mitigate against humanitarian intervention, her favorite memoir, how to get NATO members to spend more on defense, and whether baseball games are too long.

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Recorded July 30th, 2019

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As a graduate student, Hollis Robbins helped Henry Louis Gates, Jr. unravel a mystery about the provenance of a mid-19th century book. Robbins helped date the book by discovering allusions to popular literature of that period — her focus at the time. The realization that this perspective would bring valuable insight to other 19th century African American literature prompted her to make that her specialty.

Now a dean at Sonoma Sate University, Robbins joined Tyler to discuss 19th-century life and literature and more, including why the 1840s were a turning point in US history, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Calvinism, whether 12 Years a Slave and Django Unchained are appropriate portraits of slavery, the best argument for reparations, how prepaid postage changed America, the second best Herman Melville book, why Ayn Rand and Margaret Mitchell are ignored by English departments, growing up the daughter of a tech entrepreneur, and why teachers should be like quarterbacks.

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Recorded June 21st, 2019

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What sort of country would compel you to flee it, draw you back ten years later, then force you away yet again after two decades? Masha Gessen knows the answer all too well, having dedicated their career to writing and reporting about Russian society from both within and outside their native country. A true polymath, Gessen’s wide-ranging books and articles cover mathematics, history, human rights, counterterrorism, and much more.

Masha joined Tyler in New York City to answer his many questions about Russia: why was Soviet mathematics so good? What was it like meeting with Putin? Why is Russian friendship so intense? Are Russian women as strong as the stereotype suggests — and why do they all have the same few names? Is Russia more hostile to LGBT rights than other autocracies? Why did Garry Kasparov fail to make a dent in Russian politics? What did The Americans get right that Chernobyl missed? And what’s a good place to eat Russian food in Manhattan?

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Recorded June 19th, 2019

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Born to a Ghanaian father and British mother, Kwame Anthony Appiah grew up splitting time between both countries — and lecturing in many more — before eventually settling in America, where he now teaches philosophy at New York University. This, along with a family scattered across half-a-dozen countries, establishes him as a true cosmopolitan, a label Appiah readily accepts. Yet he insists it is nonetheless possible to be a cosmopolitan patriot, rooted in a place, while having obligations and interests that transcend one’s national identity.

He joins Tyler to discuss this worldly perspective and more, including whether Africa will secularize, Ghanian fallibilism, teaching Jodie Foster, whether museums should repatriate collections, Karl Popper, Lee Kuan Yew, which country has the best jollof rice, the value of writing an ethical advice column, E.T. Mensah, Paul Simon, the experience of reading 173 novels to judge the Man Booker prize, and what he’s learned farming sheep in New Jersey.

We're coming to New York City! Join us for a live podcast recording with Alain Bertaud on September 9th. To learn more and register for the event, click here.

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Recorded June 12th, 2019

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If you want to speculate on the development of tech, no one has a better brain to pick than Neal Stephenson. Across more than a dozen books, he’s created vast story worlds driven by futuristic technologies that have both prophesied and even provoked real-world progress in crypto, social networks, and the creation of the web itself. Though Stephenson insists he’s more often wrong than right, his technical sharpness has even led to a half-joking suggestion that he might be Satoshi Nakamoto, the shadowy creator of bitcoin. His latest novel, Fall; or, Dodge in Hell, involves a more literal sort of brain-picking, exploring what might happen when digitized brains can find a second existence in a virtual afterlife.

So what’s the implicit theology of a simulated world? Might we be living in one, and does it even matter? Stephenson joins Tyler to discuss the book and more, including the future of physical surveillance, how clothing will evolve, the kind of freedom you could expect on a Mars colony, whether today’s media fragmentation is trending us towards dystopia, why the Apollo moon landings were communism’s greatest triumph, whether we’re in a permanent secular innovation starvation, Leibniz as a philosopher, Dickens and Heinlein as writers, and what storytelling has to do with giving good driving directions.

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Recorded June 14th, 2019

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Going back and forth between Canada and Japan during his childhood sparked Eric Kaufmann’s interest in the question of identity. As a foreigner in an international school, he encountered young individuals from at least 60 other countries, and this made him think more about national identity and how people affiliate and interact with one another. Now as an academic, he explores how demographic changes — most notably caused by ethnic migration and assimilation — are the key to understanding Brexit, Trump, and pretty much every major issue du jour.

Kauffman’s latest book Whiteshift, which examines how declining white ethnic majorities will respond to these changes, is on Tyler’s list as one of the best books of the year. The two discuss the book and more, including Orangeism in Northern Ireland, Switzerland’s secret for stability, what Tocqueville got most wrong about America, predictions on Brexit’s final form, why Portugal seems immune to populism, how Notre Dame should be rebuilt, whether the Amish — or Mormons — will take over the world, and much more.

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Recorded May 28th, 2019

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Before he became the Adam Smith of Googlenomics, Hal Varian spent decades as an academic economist, writing influential papers, a popular book about the information economy, and several textbooks that are still taught today. So how has his nearly twenty years in the business world affected what he’d write and teach now? Is learning Shephard’s lemma really that important anymore?

Tyler asks Hal these questions and more: why aren’t there more second-priced auctions — or prediction markets? How have the economics of sales changed with the internet? In what ways did his hiring criteria change between academia and business? What could we learn from the sack of Rome? When should economists avoid looking at the literature? How are we always eking out victory in the war on spam? And what are people least likely to understand about Google? Fear not — Hal has an answer for it all.

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Recorded May 10th, 2019

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What are the virtues of forgiveness? Are we subject to being manipulated by data? Why do people struggle with prayer? What really motivates us? How has the volunteer army system changed the incentives for war? These are just some of the questions that keep Russ Roberts going as he constantly analyzes the world and revisits his own biases through thirteen years of conversations on EconTalk.

Russ made his way to the Mercatus studio to talk with Tyler about these ideas and more. The pair examines where classical liberalism has gone wrong, if dropping out of college is overrated, and what people are missing from the Bible. Tyler questions Russ on Hayek, behavioral economics, and his favorite EconTalk conversation. Ever the host, Russ also throws in a couple questions to Tyler.

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Recorded May 7th, 2019

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Ezekiel Emanuel is a reflection of his upbringing: a doctor for a father who loved to travel, a mother interested in policy and community activism, and all the competition and friendship that comes with growing up closely with two brothers. Put those together and you wouldn’t be surprised that the result is someone who has worked at both the highest levels of, medicine, policy and academia — though the intense interest in jam might surprise you.

Do we overrate the importance of doctors? What’s the importance of IQ versus EQ in the practice of medicine? What is the prospect for venture capital in biotech? How should medical training be changed? Why does he think the conventional wisdom about a problem tends to be wrong? Would immortality be boring? What would happen if we let parents genetically engineer their kids?

Tyler questions Emanuel on these topics and more, including the smartest thing his parents did while raising him, whether we have right to medical self-defense, healthcare in low- versus high-trust institutions, and much more.

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Recorded April 19th, 2019

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What is Karl Ove Knausgård’s struggle, exactly? The answer is simple: achieving total freedom in his writing. “It’s a space where I can be free in every sense, where I can say whatever, go wherever I want to. And for me, literature is almost the only place you could think that that is a possibility.”

Knausgård’s literary freedom paves the way for this conversation with Tyler, which starts with a discussion of mimesis and ends with an explanation of why we live in the world of Munch’s The Scream. Along the way there is much more, including what he learned from reading Ingmar Bergman’s workbooks, the worst thing about living in London, how having children increased his productivity, whether he sees himself in a pietistic tradition, thoughts on Bible stories, angels, Knut Hamsun, Elena Ferrante, the best short story (“Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius”), the best poet (Paul Celan), the best movie (Scenes from a Marriage), and what his punctual arrival says about his attachment to bourgeois values.

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Recorded March 15th, 2019

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Margaret Atwood defines the Canadian sense of humor as “a bit Scottish,” and in this live conversation with Tyler, she loves to let her own comedic sensibilities shine. In addition to many other thoughts about Canada — it’s big after all — she and Tyler discuss Twitter, biotechnology, Biblical history, her families of patents, poetry, literature, movies, and feminism.

Is it coincidence that Atwood started The Handmaid’s Tale in West Berlin during 1984? Does she believe in ghosts? Is the Western commitment to free speech waning? How does she stay so productive? Why is she against picking favorites? Atwood provides insight to these questions and much more.

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Recorded April 9th, 2019

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Ed Boyden builds the tools and technologies that help researchers think about and treat the brain, an organ we still know surprisingly little about. When it comes to how our brains make decisions, form emotions, and exhibit consciousness, there is still a lot we can learn.

But just as fascinating as the tools Boyden and his team build is the way in which they build them. Boyden employs a number of methods to design more useful tools, such as thinking backwards from the problem, hiring eclectic talent, practicing a particular type of meditation, waking long before dawn, or just trying the opposite of what’s already been attempted.

Would emulating the brain require emulating the entire body? Is consciousness fundamental to the universe, or is it actually just an illusion? Does a certain disharmony in thought lead to creativity? Why don’t people feel comfortable talking about their brains? And why is it so hard for us to be empathetic with one another? Listen to this engaging and brain-stimulating conversation with Tyler to hear his perspective.

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Recorded February 5th, 2019

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In a recent Twitter thread, Emily Wilson listed some of the difficulties of translating Homer into English. Among them: “There aren’t enough onomatopoeic words for very loud chaotic noises” (#2 on the list), “It’s very hard to come up with enough ways to describe intense desire to act that don’t connote modern psychology” (#5), and “There is no common English word of four syllables or fewer connoting ‘person particularly favored by Zeus due to high social status, and by the way this is a very normal ordinary word which is not drawing any special attention to itself whatsoever, beyond generic heroizing.’” (#7).

Using Twitter this way is part of her effort to explain literary translation. What do translators do all day? Why can the same sentence turn out so differently depending on the translator? Why did she get stuck translating the Iliad immediately after producing a beloved translation of the Odyssey?

She and Tyler discuss these questions and more, including why Silicon Valley loves Stoicism, whether Plato made Socrates sound smarter than he was, the future of classics education, the effect of AI on translation, how to make academia more friendly to women, whether she’d choose to ‘overlive’, and the importance of having a big Ikea desk and a huge orange cat.

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Recorded March 7th, 2019

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Raghuram Rajan thinks a lot about how to empower individuals, both at the community and international level. In his new book, Rajan draws upon experience both as an academic and policymaker to break down how the three pillars of society — the state, markets, and communities — interact with each other, and argues that we’re currently balancing this complex relationship wrong. 

How much has the U.S. actually fixed the financial system? Does India have the best food in the world? Why does China struggle to maintain a strong relationship with allies? Why are people trading close-knit communities for isolating cities? And what types of institutions are we missing in our social structure? Listen to Rajan’s thorough conversation with Tyler to dive into these questions and much more.

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Recorded February 26th, 2019

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Founders aren’t superheroes, says Sam Altman.They may play extreme sports, respond to emails within seconds, and start billion-dollar companies, but they are rarely the product of extraordinary circumstance. In fact, they tend to be solidly upper-middle class, reasonably smart, and with loving parents. 

So would Sam fund Peter Parker? What about Bruce Wayne?

Tyler and Sam discuss these burning questions and more, including what’s wrong with San Francisco, Napoleon’s underrated skill, nuclear energy, the greatest invention of the Industrial Revolution, his rant against coworking spaces, UBI and AGI, risk and regret, optimism and beauty, and why venture capitalists don’t have superpowers either.

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Recorded January 28th, 2019

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Jordan Peterson joins Tyler to discuss collecting Soviet propaganda, why he’s so drawn to Jung, what the Exodus story can teach us about current events, his marriage and fame, what the Intellectual Dark Web gets wrong, immigration in America and Canada, his tendency towards depression, Tinder’s revolutionary nature, the lessons from The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, fixing universities, the skills needed to become a good educator, and much more.

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Recorded January 27th, 2019

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How did religious freedom emerge — and why did it arrive so late? In their forthcoming book, fellow Mason economists Noel Johnson and Mark Koyama argue that while most focus on the role of liberal ideas in establishing religious freedom, it was instead institutional changes — and the growth of state capacity in particular — that played the decisive role.

In their conversation with Tyler, Johnson and Koyama discuss the ‘long road to religious freedom’ and more, including the link between bad weather and Jewish persecution, why China evolved into such a large political unit, whether the Black Death proves Paul Romer wrong, scapegoating, usury prohibitions in history, and the economic impact of volcanic eruptions.

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Recorded January 17th, 2019

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As a writer of profiles, Larissa MacFarquhar is granted the privilege of listening to, learning from, and sharing the stories of extraordinary thinkers like Derik Parfit, Noam Chomsky, Hilary Mantel, and Paul Krugman. And she’s often drawn to write about the individual thinking behind extreme altruism, dementia care, and whether to stay in a small town. Motivating her is a desire to place readers inside someone’s head: to see what they see and to think how they think.

In their dialogue, Larissa and Tyler discuss the thinking and thinkers behind her profiles, essays, and books, including notions of moral luck, exit vs voice, the prose of Kenneth Tynan, why altruistic heroes are mainly found in genre fiction, why she avoids describing physical appearances in her writing, the circumstances that push humans to live more extraordinary lives, what today has in common with the 1890s, and more.

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Recorded December 17th, 2018

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Before she ever studied them as an academic, Rebecca Kukla was fascinated by cities. Growing up in the middle of Toronto, she spent her days walking the city and noticing the way people and place interact. That fascination stayed with her, and motion, embodiment, and place has become a subtle through line in both her professional philosophy and personal interests.

In her conversation with Tyler, Kukla speaks about the impossibility of speaking as a woman, curse words, gender representation and “guru culture” in philosophy departments, what she learned while living in Bogota and Johannesburg, what’s interesting in the works of Hegel, Foucault, and Rousseau, why boxing is good for the mind, how she finds good food, whether polyamory can scale, and much more.

We're coming to San Francisco! Join us for a live podcast recording with Sam Altman on January 28th. To learn more and register for the event, click here.

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Recorded November 16th, 2018

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If you enjoy Conversation with Tyler, consider making a year-end donation at ConversationsWithTyler.com/donate. All gifts will support the show’s production, including future live podcast recordings like this one.

You might be surprised by what occupies Daniel Kahneman’s thoughts. “You seem to think that I think of bias all the time,” he tells Tyler. “I really don’t think of bias that much.” These days, noise might be the concept most on Kahneman’s mind. A forthcoming book, coauthored with Cass Sunstein and “a brilliant Frenchman you haven’t heard of” is about how random variability affects our decision-making. And while we’ve spent a lot of time studying how bias causes error in judgment, Kahneman says, we aren’t thinking nearly enough about the problem of noise.

In November, Kahneman joined Tyler for a live conversation about bias, noise and more, including happiness, memory, the replication crisis in psychology, advice to CEOs about improving decision-making, superforecasters, the influence of Freud, working in a second language, the value of intuition, and why he can’t help you win arguments with a spouse.

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Recorded November 12th, 2018

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Throughout his career, Paul Romer has enjoyed sampling and sifting through an ever-growing body of knowledge. He sometimes jokingly refers to himself as a random idea generator, relying on others to filter out the bad ones so his contributions are good. Not a bad strategy, as it turns out, for starting a successful business and winning a Nobel Prize.

Just before accepting that Prize, he joined Tyler for a conversation spanning one filtered set of those ideas, including the best policies for growth and innovation, his new thinking on the trilemma facing migration, how to rework higher education, general-purpose technologies, unlocking the power of reading for all kids, fixes for the English language, what economics misses about the ‘inside of the head,’ whether he’s a Jane Jacobs or Gouverneur Morris type, what Kanban taught him about management, his recent sampling of Pierce’s semiotics, Clarence White vs. Gram Parsons, his favorite Hot Tuna song, and more.

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Recorded November 14th, 2018

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Is John Nye the finest polymath in the George Mason economics department?

Raised in the Philippines and taught to be a well-rounded Catholic gentleman, John Nye learned the importance of a rigorous education from a young age. Indeed, according to Tyler he may very well be the best educated among his colleagues, having studied physics and literature as an undergraduate before earning a master’s and PhD in economics. And his education continues, as he’s now hard at work mastering his fourth language. 

On this episode of Conversations with Tyler, Nye explains why it took longer for the French to urbanize than the British, the origins of the myth of free-trade Britain, why Vertigo is one of the greatest movies of all time, why John Stuart Mill is overrated, raising kids in a bilingual household, and much more. 

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Recorded October 30th, 2018

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The son of an economist, Eric Schmidt eschewed his father’s profession, first studying architecture before settling on computer science and eventually earning a PhD. Now one of the most influential technology executives in the world, he still however credits his interest in network economies and platforms for a large part of his success.

In this live event hosted by Village Global in San Francisco, Tyler questioned Schmidt about underused management strategies, what Google learned after interviewing one job candidate sixteen times, his opinion on early vs. late Picasso, the best reform in corporate governance, why we might see a bifurcation of the Internet, what technology will explode in the the next 10 years, the most underrated media source, and more.

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Recorded September 21st, 2018

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Not only is Ben Thompson's Stratechery frequently mentioned on MR, but such is Tyler's fandom that the newsletter even made its way onto the reading list for one of his PhD courses. Ben's based in Taiwan, so when he recently visited DC, Tyler quickly took advantage of the chance for an in-person dialogue.

In this conversation they talk about the business side of tech and more, including whether tech titans are good at PR, whether conglomerate synergies exist, Amazon's foray into health care, why anyone needs an Apple Watch or an Alexa, growing up in small-town Wisconsin, his pragmatic book-reading style, whether MBAs are overrated, the prospects for the Milwaukee Bucks, NBA rule changes, the future of the tech industries in China and India, and why Taiwanese breakfast is the best breakfast.

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Recorded October 15th, 2018

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In this special episode, Rob Wiblin of 80,000 Hours has the super-sized conversation he wants to have with Tyler about Stubborn Attachments. In addition to a deep examination of the ideas in the book, the conversation ranges far and wide across Tyler's thinking, including why we won't leave the galaxy, the unresolvable clash between the claims of culture and nature, and what Tyrone would have to say about the book, and more.

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Recorded September 21st, 2018

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After winning the Nobel, Paul Krugman found himself at the "end of ambition," with no more achievements left to unlock. That could be a depressing place, but Krugman avoids complacency by doing what he's always done: following his curiosity and working intensely at whatever grabs him most strongly.

Tyler sat down with Krugman at his office in New York to discuss what's grabbing him at the moment, including antitrust, Supreme Court term limits, the best ways to fight inequality, why he's a YIMBY, inflation targets, congestion taxes, trade (both global and interstellar), his favorite living science fiction writer, immigration policy, how to write well for a smart audience, new directions for economic research, and more.

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Recorded September 25th, 2018

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Political scientist Bruno Maçães has built a career out of crossing the globe teaching, advising, writing, and talking to people. His recent book, born out of a six-month journey across Eurasia, is one of Tyler's favorites.

So how does it feel to face Tyler's rat-a-tat curiosity about your life's work? For Bruno, the experience was "like you are a politician under attack and your portfolio is the whole of physical and metaphysical reality."

Listen to this episode to discover how well Bruno defended that expansive portfolio, including what's missing from liberalism, Obama's conceptual foreign policy mistake, what economists are most wrong about, how to fall in love with Djibouti, stagnation in Europe, the diversity of Central Asia, Hitchcock's perfect movie, China as an ever-growing global force, the book everyone under 25 should read, the creativity of Washington, D.C versus Silicon Valley, and more.

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Recorded September 3rd, 2018

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Michele Gelfand is professor of psychology at the University of Maryland and author of the just-released Rule Makers, Rule Breakers: How Tight and Loose Cultures Wire Our World. In her conversation with Tyler, Michele unpacks the concept of tight and loose cultures and more, including which variable best explains tightness, the problem with norms, whether Silicon Valley has an honor culture, the importance of theory and history in guiding research, what Donald Trump gets wrong about negotiation, why MBAs underrate management, the need to develop cultural IQ, and why mentorship should last a lifetime.

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Recorded August 31st, 2018

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Claire Lehmann is the founding editor of Quillette, an online magazine dedicated to free thought and open inquiry. Founded in 2015, the magazine has already developed a large and growing readership that values Quillette's promise to treat all ideas with respect, even those that may be politically incorrect.

As an Australian, Claire tells Tyler she doesn't think she could have started the magazine in America. Even in risk-loving San Fransisco, where this conversation took place, people are too afraid to speak their minds. "You celebrate entrepreneurs and courage in making money and that kind of thing, but there is a general timidity when it comes to expressing one's honest views about things," she tells Tyler. "I find that surprising, and particularly among people who are risk-taking in all sorts of other domains."

She and Tyler explore her ideas about the stifling effect of political correctness and more, including why its dominant form may come from the political right, how higher education got screwed up, strands of thought favored by the Internet and Youtube, overrated and underrated Australian cities, Aussie blokes, and more.

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Recorded July 19th, 2018

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Michael Pollan has long been fascinated by nature and the ways we connect and clash with it, with decades of writing covering food, farming, cooking, and architecture. Pollan's latest fascination? Our widespread and ancient desire to use nature to change our consciousness.

He joins Tyler to discuss his research and experience with psychedelics, including what kinds of people most benefit from them, what it can teach us about profundity, how it can change your personality and political views, the importance of culture in shaping the experience, the proper way to integrate it into mainstream practice, and - most importantly of all - whether it's any fun.

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Recorded July 20th, 2018

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Perhaps no one else in the world more appreciates the challenges facing a better understanding of autism than Michelle Dawson. An autistic herself, she began researching her condition after experiencing discrimination at her job. "Because I had to address these legal issues and questions," she tells Tyler, "I did actually look at the autism literature, and suddenly I had information I could really work with. Suddenly there it was, this information that I was supposed to be too stupid to work with." And so she continued reading papers - lots and lots of papers - and is now an influential researcher in her own right.

For Michelle, the best way to understand autism is to think of it as atypical information processing. Autistic brains function differently, and these highly varied divergences lead to biases and misunderstanding among typical thinkers, including autism researchers.

In her conversation with Tyler, she outlines the current thinking on autism, including her ideas about cognitive versatility and optionality, hyperlexia and other autistic strengths, why different tests yield wildly different measures of IQ among autistics, her 'massive bias' against segregating autistics, how autistic memory is different, why sometimes a triangle is just a freaking triangle, and more.

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Recorded July 9th, 2018

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At the intersection of programming, economics, cryptography, distributed systems, information theory, and math, you will find Vitalik Buterin, who has managed to synthesize insights across those fields into successful, real-world applications like Ethereum, which aims to decentralize the Internet.

Tyler sat down with Vitalik to discuss the many things he's thinking about and working on, including the nascent field of cryptoeconomics, the best analogy for understanding the blockchain, his desire for more social science fiction, why belief in progress is our most useful delusion, best places to visit in time and space, how he picks up languages, why centralization's not all bad, the best ways to value crypto assets, whether P = NP, and much more.

Do you have a world-changing idea like Vitalik? The Mercatus Center is launching a new fellowship and grant program called Emergent Ventures to support transformational thinkers and doers.

Listen to Tyler talk about the new project on the latest Mercatus Policy Download.

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Recorded June 25th, 2018

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Travel writer Juan Pablo Villarino had visited 90 countries before making the trek to exotic Arlington, Virginia for this chat with Tyler. Amazingly enough, this recording marked his first trip to the mainland United States, which is now the 91st country in an ever-expanding list.

The world's best hitchhiker talks with Tyler about the joys of connecting with people, why it's so hard to avoid stereotypes (including of hitchhikers), how stamp collecting guides his trips, the darkest secrets of people he's gotten rides from, traveling and writing books with his wife, the cause of violence in the Americas, finding the emotional heart of a journey, where he's going next, and more.

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Recorded May 4th, 2018

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Elisa New believes anyone can have fun reading a poem. And that if you really want to have a blast, you shouldn't limit poetry to silent, solitary reading  - why not sing, recite, or perform it as has been the case for most of its history?

The Harvard English professor and host of Poetry in America recently sat down with Tyler to discuss poets, poems, and more, including Walt Whitman's city walks, Emily Dickinson's visual art, T.S. Eliot's privilege, Robert Frost's radicalism, Willa Cather's wisdom, poetry's new platforms, the elasticity of English, the payoffs of Puritanism, and what it was like reading poetry with Shaquille O'Neal.

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Recorded May 8th, 2018

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For two hours every morning, David Brooks crawls around his living room floor, organizing piles of research. Then, the piles become paragraphs, the paragraphs become columns or chapters, and the process - which he calls "writing" - is complete.

After that he might go out and see some people. A lunch, say, with his friend Tyler. And the two will discuss the things they're thinking, writing, and learning about. And David will feel rejuvenated, for he is a social animal (as are we all).

Then one day David will be asked by Tyler to come on his show, and perform this act publicly. To talk about his love for Bruce Springsteen, being a modern-day Whig, his "religious bisexuality," covenants vs. contracts, today's answer to the "Fallows Question," why failure is overrated, community and loneliness, the upside of being invaded by Canada, and much more.

And though he will be intimidated, David will oblige, and the result is here for you to enjoy.

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Recorded May 14th, 2018

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Though what Taleb was really after was a discussion with Bryan Caplan (which starts at 51:50), the philosopher, mathematician, and author most recently of *Skin in the Game* also generously agreed to a conversation with Tyler.

They discuss the ancient Phoenicians and Greco-Roman heritage of Lebanon, philology, genetics, the blockchain, driverless cars, the advantages of Twitter fights, how to think about religion, fancy food vs. Auntie Anne's pretzels, autodidactism, The Desert of the Tartar, why Taleb refused to give a book tour, inverse role models, why math isn't just a young man's game, and more.

Read a full transcript enhanced with helpful links. Click here for the full transcript where Bryan Caplan interviews Nassim. 

Recorded May 2nd, 2018

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"No single paper is that good", says Bryan Caplan. To really understand a topic, you need to read the entire literature in the field. And to do the kind of scholarship Bryan's work requires, you need to cover multiple fields. Only that way can you assemble a wide variety of evidence into useful knowledge.

But few scholars ever even try to reach the enlightened interdisciplinary plane. So how does he do it?

Tyler explores Bryan's approach, including how to avoid the autodidact's curse, why his favorite philosopher happens to be a former classmate, what Tolstoy has that science fiction lacks, the idea trap, most useful wrong beliefs, effective altruism, Larry David, what most economics papers miss about the return to education, and more.

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Recorded April 17th, 2018

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When Balaji Srinivasan sat down for his conversation with Tyler he was the CEO of Earn.com. Today he is the CTO at Coinbase, which acquired his company in the intervening weeks (congrats Balaji!). But while his job title has changed, his passion remains the same: harnessing the power of the blockchain to launch a new generation of entrepreneurs, businesses, and entire markets.

Balaji talks with Tyler about the potential of the blockchain and beyond, including how firewalls may become the new immigration policy tool, why drones are still underrated, the future of news and academia, what the Silicon Valley opener reveals about how America views the tech industry, and more.

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Recorded April 2nd, 2018

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Is a written dialogue the best way to learn from philosopher Agnes Callard?

If so, what does that say about philosophy? Is Plato’s Symposium about love or mere intoxication? If good people lived forever, would they be less bored than the bad people? Should we fear death? Is parenting undertheorized? Must philosophy rely on refutation? Should we read the classics? Is Jordan Peterson’s moralizing good? Should we take Socrates at his word? Is Hamlet a Cartesian? Are we all either Beethoven or Mozart people? How do we get ourselves to care about things we don’t yet care about? To what should we aspire to?

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Recorded March 22nd, 2018

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Martina Navratilova is one of the greatest tennis players of all time. No one has won more matches than her thanks to an astonishing 87 percent win rate in a long and dominant career.

In their conversation, she and Tyler cover her illustrious tennis career, her experience defecting from Czechoslovakia and later becoming a dual citizen, the wage gap in tennis competition and commentary, gender stereotypes in sports, her work regimen and training schedule, technological progress in tennis, her need for speed, journaling and constant self-improvement, some of her most shocking realizations about American life, the best way to see East Africa, her struggle to get her children to put the dishes in the dishwasher, and more.

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Recorded March 19th, 2018

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Chris Blattman’s made his career as a development economist by finding a place he likes and finding a reason to live there. Not a bad strategy considering the impact of the work he’s done in Liberia, Uganda, and most recently, Colombia. He joins Tyler to talk about what he’s learned from his work there, including the efficacy of cash transfers, the spread of violence and conflict, factory jobs as a social safety net, Botswana’s underappreciated growth miracle, Battlestar Galactica, standing desks, how to write papers with your spouse, and more.

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Recorded February 8th, 2018

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If intros aren’t about introductions, then what’s this here for? Is not including one a countersignal? Either way, you’ll enjoy this conversation — and that says a lot about you.

This episode was recorded live at Mason for econ grad students. If you’re interested in learning economics with great professors like Robin and Tyler, check out these fellowships.

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Recorded February 6th, 2018

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Is Matt Levine a modern-day Horace? Like Matt, Horace has a preoccupation with wealth and the law. There’s a playful humor as he segues from topic to topic. An ability to read Latin. And many of Horace’s letters are about the length of a Bloomberg View column. QED, says Tyler.

So Matt, the Latin teacher turned lawyer turned investment banker turned finance writer, recently joined Tyler for a conversation on Horace and more, including cryptocurrencies, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Nabakov, New York, Uber, financial regulation, market volatility, M&A, whether finance is nerdy, and why panic is central to the Matt Levine production function.

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At the beginning of their conversation, Tyler dubs Charles C. Mann a tlamatini, or ‘he who knows things.’ And oh, the things he knows, effortlessly weaving together, history, anthropology, economics, and a half-dozen other disciplines into enthralling writing. And the latest book, *The Wizard and the Prophet: Two Remarkable Scientists and their Dueling Visions to Shape Tomorrow’s World*, is no exception, which Tyler calls one of the best overall frameworks for thinking about environmentalism and the limits to growth.

In the course of their chat, Tyler and Charles cover pollution, why the environmental impact of beef might be overstated, what fixed factor might ultimately constrain growth (and if there is one), Jared Diamond and Bjorn Lomberg, the underrated political genius of Cortes, his top tip for appreciating Robert Frost, and why Andrew Jackson didn’t have to be such a jerk.

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Recorded January 18th, 2018

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Last year, Tyler asked his readers “What Is the Strongest Argument for the Existence of God?” and followed up a few days later with a post outlining why he doesn’t believe in God. New York Times columnist Ross Douthat accepted the implicit challenge, responding to the second post in dialogic form and arguing that theism warrants further consideration.

This in-person dialogue starts along similar lines, covering Douthat’s views on religion and theology, but then moves on to more earth-bound concerns, such as his stance on cats, The Wire vs The Sopranos, why Watership Down is the best modern novel for understanding politics, eating tofu before it was cool, journalism as a trade, why he’s open to weird ideas, the importance of Sam’s Club Republicans, the specter of a Buterlian Jihad, and more.

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Recorded January 11th, 2018

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Before writing a single word of his new book Artemis, Andy Weir worked out the economics of a lunar colony. Without the economics, how could the story hew to the hard sci-fi style Weir cornered the market on with The Martian? And, more importantly, how else can Tyler find out much a Cantonese meal would run him on the moon?

In addition to these important questions of lunar economics, Andy and Tyler talk about the technophobic trend in science fiction, private space efforts, seasteading, cryptocurrencies, the value of a human life, the outdated Outer Space Treaty, stories based on rebellion vs. cooperation, Heinlein, Asimov, Weir’s favorite episode of Star Trek, and the formula for finding someone else when stranded on a lonely planet.

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Recorded November 15th, 2017

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Tyler thinks Douglas Irwin has just released the best history of American trade policy ever written. So for this conversation Tyler went easy on Doug, asking softball questions like: Have tariffs ever driven growth? What trade exceptions should there be for national security, or cultural reasons? In an era of low tariffs, what margins matter most for trade liberalization? Do investor arbitration panels override national sovereignty? And, what’s the connection between free trade and world peace?

They also discuss the revolution as America’s Brexit, why NAFTA is an ‘effing great’ trade agreement, Jagdish Bhagwati’s key influence on Doug, the protectionist bent of the Boston Tea Party, the future of the WTO, Trump, China, the Chicago School, and what’s rotten in the state of New Hampshire.

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Recorded October 5th, 2017

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Sujatha Gidla was an untouchable in India, but moved to the United States at the age of 26 and is now the first Indian woman to be employed as a conductor on the New York City Subway. In her memoir Ants Among Elephants, she explores the antiquities of her mother, her uncles, and other members of her family against modern India’s landscape. Through this book she redeemed the value of her family’s memories, understanding her family’s stories were not those of shame, but did reveal to the world the truth of India and its caste system.

During her conversation with Tyler, they discuss the nature and persistence of caste, gender issues in India, her New York City lifestyle, religion, living in America versus living in India, Bob Dylan and Dalit music, American identity politics, the nature of Marxism, and why she left her job at the Bank of New York to become a New York City Subway conductor.

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Recorded October 25th, 2017

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What happens when a liberal and a libertarian get together?  In the case of Steve Teles and Brink Lindsey, they write a book. And then Tyler separates them for a podcast interview about that book, prisoner’s dilemma style.

How much inequality is due to bad policy? Is executive compensation to blame? How about higher education? And what’s the implicit theory of governance in Bojack Horseman? Tyler wants to know—and so do you.

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Recorded October 23rd, 2017

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Legal writing was never Mary Roach’s thing. She describes that short-lived stint as an inscrutable “bringing forth of multisyllabic words.” Instead, she’s forged a career by letting curiosity lead the way. The result has been a series of successful books — Grunt, Gulp, Spook, Stiff, and Bonk among them— that all reveal a specific sense of nonsensibility (and love for monosyllabic titles).

She joins Tyler Cowen for a conversation covering the full range of her curiosity, including fear, acclimating to grossness, chatting with the dead, freezing one’s head, why bedpans can kill you, sex robots, Freud, thinking like an astronaut, the proper way to eat a fry, and why there’s a Medicare reimbursement code for maggots.

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Recorded September 27th, 2017

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The economist, President Emeritus at Harvard University, and former Treasury Secretary joins Tyler to discuss innovation in higher education, Herman Melville, the Fed, Mexico, Russia, China, the Larry Summers production function, philanthropy and Larry’s table tennis adventure in the summer Jewish Olympics.

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Recorded September 6th, 2017

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Though most know him first as a humor columnist, Dave Barry’s career has spanned many forms of media, including books, movies, TV, and music. Driving this relentless output, says Barry, is the constant worry he’ll find himself stuck in a rut — or worse — no longer funny. And do we even need professional comedians in an age where so many funny amateurs are readily available online?

Tyler and Dave discuss all these topics and more, including the weirdness of Peter Pan, what makes Florida special, how it felt to teach Roger McQuinn a lick on the guitar, and why business writing is so terrible.

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Recorded April 21st, 2017

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Today many YouTube channels have more influence than traditional TV shows. This fact is not lost on Dave Rubin, who started his talk show career in traditional media, but soon decided to strike out on his own. He now hosts The Rubin Report, which has half a million subscribers on YouTube and is financially backed by its fans on Patreon.

But the most important indicator of influence? All but one of Tyler’s law and literature class had heard of Dave before this taping.

Recorded live at an event a few months ago, Dave and Tyler’s conversation covers all this and more, including what Dave learned from his year abroad in Israel and his pick for the most underrated Star Wars movie.

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Recorded April 25th, 2017

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The surgeon, researcher, and celebrated writer joined Tyler for a conversation on why Watson will never diagnose your illness, what George Church’s narcolepsy teaches us about CRISPR, what’s missing in medical education, Michael Crichton’s cultural influence, Knausgård versus Ferrante, indie music, and the thing that makes Gawande “bawl like a baby.”

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Recorded June 12th, 2017

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The US senator and former college president joined Tyler for a conversation on adolescence, adulthood, driving for Uber, loving Luther, hate-reading Rousseau, the decline of small towns, backpacking across Europe, America’s peculiar fondness for age-segregation, and why his latest book contains so little sex.

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Recorded June 14th, 2017

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Edward Luce has a new book out about the rising crisis in Western liberalism, so naturally Tyler’s first question to him dealt with James II and William of Orange. #gloriousrevolution

In this bonus audio recorded at a Mercatus event last week, Tyler and Edward discuss the ideas in his book and more, including future paths of liberalism, whether the current populism is an Anglo-American phenomenon or not, Modi's India, whether Kubrick, Hitchcock, and John Lennon are overrated or underrated, and what it’s like to write speeches for Larry Summers.

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Recorded June 13th, 2017

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Is time like a line, a stretched out accordion, buried silos, or a flat circle? We concoct many ways to think about the relationship between the present and the past, but according to Jill Lepore one constant endures: “When you’re writing history, you’re always using your imagination.”

The historian and New Yorker writer joins Tyler for a conversation on the Tea Party, Mary Pickford, Dickens in America, growing up watching TV (the horror), Steve Bannon’s 19th century visage, the importance of friendship, the subversiveness of Stuart Little, and much more.

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Recorded April 8th, 2017

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The UK is holding a big election on June 8, so today we’re bringing you some bonus audio on that topic featuring Tyler and Steve Davies of the London-based Institute of Economic Affairs.

They talk about how the general election could shape the terms of Brexit, how much further the EU and even the UK will splinter, the prospects for the European left-wing, and the populism underneath it all.

Note: this was recorded at event in late April shortly after May called for the snap election in June. Got it?

Read a full transcript enhanced with helpful links.

Recorded April 22nd, 2017

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A high school teacher once told Raj Chetty he’d some day serve on the Federal Reserve Board. At the the time Raj thought the comment was silly, since he was busy working in the laboratory on staining techniques for electron microscopy and was set to become a biomedical scientist. About a decade later, however, and Chetty would become one of the youngest tenured economics professors at Harvard and would soon win both a John Bates Clark medal and a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship. Now at Stanford, he’s one of the most-cited economists in the world.

Raj’s conversation with Tyler spans that well-cited body of work and more, including social mobility, the value-add of kindergarten teachers, why corporations pay dividends, his love of Piano Guys, the most underrated US state, and why okra may have been the secret of his success.

Read a full transcript enhanced with helpful links.

Recorded March 25th, 2017

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The chess grandmaster, political activist, and author joins Tyler for a conversation on artificial intelligence, Russia, Putin, how education must change, favorite cities for chess, the most likely challenger to Magnus Carlsen, Tolstoy v. Dostoevsky, the benefits of pressure for performance, and why we should speed up our search for new frontiers and challenges.

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Recorded April 29th, 2017

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A few months ago, Tyler asked Patrick Collison, CEO of Stripe, to be on the show. Patrick agreed, but only under the condition that the be the one to do the interviewing. Thus, what follows is the conversation Patrick wanted to have with Tyler, not the one you wanted to have.

Happily Patrick stayed true to the spirit of Conversations with Tyler, and their dialogue covers a wide range of topics including the the benefits of diverse monocultures, the state of macroeconomics, Donald Trump, the amazing economics faculty at GMU, Peter Thiel, Brian Eno, Thomas Schelling, why Twitter is underrated, and — most pressing of all — why Marginal Revolution is so strange looking.

Read a full transcript enhanced with helpful links.

Recorded January 25th, 2017

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Photo credit: JD Lasica

Journalist, author, and podcaster Malcolm Gladwell joins Tyler for a conversation on Joyce Gladwell, Caribbean identity, satire as a weapon, Daniel Ellsberg and Edward Snowden, Harvard’s under-theorized endowment, why early childhood intervention is overrated, long-distance running, and Malcolm’s happy risk-averse career going from one “fur-lined rat hole to the next.”

Read a full transcript enhanced with helpful links, or watch the full video

Recorded February 27th, 2017

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In this bonus episode, Editor-in-chief of Reason Katherine Mangu-Ward interviews Tyler about *The Complacent Class.* Make sure to listen all the way to the end for an answer Katherine describes as #PeakTyler.

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Named one of the most influential Jewish thinkers of our time, Rabbi David Wolpe joins Tyler in a conversation on flawed leaders, Jewish identity in the modern world, the many portrayals of David, what’s missing in rabbinical training, playing chess on the Sabbath, Srugim, Hasidic philosophy, living in Israel and of course, the durability of creation.

Read a full transcript enhanced with helpful links.

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Mark Miller is often called the founder of modern southwestern cuisine, but his unique anthropological approach to food has led him to explore cuisines in over 100 countries around the world. He joins Tyler for a conversation on all that he’s learned along the way, including his pick for the most underrated chili pepper, palate coaching, the best food cities in Asia, Mexico, and Europe, the problems with sous-vide, mezcal versus tequila, the decline of food brands, why Michelin guide is overrated, how to do fast food well, and why the next hipster food trend should be about corn.

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Author, teacher, and translator Jhumpa Lahiri joins Tyler for a conversation on identity, Rhode Island, writing as problem solving, reading across languages, the badness of book covers, Elena Ferrante, Bengali culture, the magic of Calcutta, Italian authors, Indian classical music, architectural influences, and much more.

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To anthropologist Joseph Henrich, intelligence is overrated. Social learning, and its ability to influence biological evolution over time, is what really sets our species apart. He joined Tyler for a conversation on his work on cultural evolution, as well as his life among different tribes (academic and otherwise), Star Trek, big gods, small gods, China’s missing industrial revolution, the merits of coconut milk, the Flynn effect, American exceptionalism, and why he wants to travel in time to 6th-century Kent.

Read a full transcript enhanced with helpful links, or watch the full video

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