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Crash Course

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Hosted by Bloomberg Opinion senior executive editor Tim O'Brien, Crash Course will bring listeners directly into the arenas where epic business and social upheavals occur. Every week, Crash Course will explore the lessons to be learned when creativity and ambition collide with competition and power -- on Wall Street and Main Street, and in Hollywood and Washington.
53 Episodes
OpenAI vs. Sam Altman

OpenAI vs. Sam Altman


OpenAI, which you may have heard a lot about lately, is the company that developed ChatGPT, a wildly popular AI bot which you most certainly have heard of. OpenAI’s board of directors recently purged the company’s CEO, Sam Altman, and various stakeholders – employees, investors, Microsoft – saw to it that Altman was reinstated. The board itself then faced a purge. This particular collision has it all: Silicon Valley innovation and Silicon Valley hubris, money, managerial snafus, ugly battles, promising outcomes, and, of course, artificial intelligence. AI is set to transform the world, we’re told. Ingenuity and upheaval at OpenAI offer a way for us to consider all of that. Parmy Olson and Dave Lee are both Bloomberg Opinion technology columnists.See for privacy information.
Digital disruption is knock knock knockin’ at the music industry’s door, 20 years after the MP3 and Napster made CD collections obsolete. Artificial intelligence is now filling playlists with ambient music and making pitch-perfect copies of human stars like Grimes, who Bloomberg Opinion columnist Lionel Laurent interviewed for this special episode of Crash Course. He dives into the risky race to make musical robots and how record labels and artists are fighting back with new business models, new types of music, and new ideas about copyright — which could serve as a guide for how the wider economy and the rest of society can deal with AI. NOTE: This episode incorrectly states the name of Grimes' manager. It is Daouda Leonard, not Leonard Daouda.See for privacy information.
Trump vs. Democracy

Trump vs. Democracy


Donald Trump’s political speeches of late are chock full of warnings about “the threat from within” posed by his myriad opponents – those he decries as “vermin” out to destroy the US and the American Dream. He routinely promises to crush his critics and “make America great again.” As always with Trump, there’s a method to his madness. Historian Heather Cox Richardson argues that Trumpism claws at American democracy’s true roots – at what she describes as “the idea that a nation can be based not in land or religion or race or hierarchies, but rather in the concept of human equality.”See for privacy information.
Speech has probably never been freer in the world than it is today: Multiple venues – especially social media – allow people’s perspectives to take flight fluently, globally, and frequently. The culture of free speech is also under steady and ever more sophisticated assaults, perhaps because its ubiquity is threatening to any person or institution that holds an opposing viewpoint. The very thing that makes speech so free right now – ease of motion – is, perhaps, what also makes it more threatening. Jameel Jaffer is an attorney and the director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University.See for privacy information.
At Bloomberg, we’re always talking about the biggest business stories, and no one is bigger than Elon Musk. In this new chat weekly show, host David Papadopoulos and a panel of guests including Businessweek’s Max Chafkin, Tesla reporter Dana Hull, Big Tech editor Sarah Frier, and more, will break down the most important stories on Musk and his empire. Listen wherever you get your podcasts.See for privacy information.
China is home to 1.4 billion people (about 18% of the planet’s total population), it has the world’s second-largest economy, and its geographic footprint covers more than 3.6 million square miles. China is home to a thriving technology sector, has lifted 800 million people out of poverty, and has also built a formidable military capacity featuring a world-class navy, air force, nuclear missiles, and cyber warfare proficiencies. But China’s economic growth may have plateaued, and its politics have been so reshaped by President Xi Jinping that a cult of personality and raw authoritarianism have recast the country’s image abroad and its direction at home. Karishma Vaswani is a political analyst and Shuli Ren covers markets and China’s economy, and both are columnists for Bloomberg Opinion. See for privacy information.
Alaska has been an object of fascination, exploration, and exploitation for nearly two centuries, but its most inhospitable reaches – those that creep toward the Arctic Circle mile by frozen mile – have managed to hold on to their secrets for a very long time. Ice, plunging temperatures, and brutal tundras have kept outsiders at bay. That’s all shifting now: Climate change has warmed the Arctic’s formidable barriers, sparking a geopolitical and commercial footrace. Liam Denning is an energy and climate columnist for Bloomberg Opinion who has repeatedly traveled to the Arctic to report on the military, oil and gas, and fisheries. See for privacy information.
Israel vs. Hamas

Israel vs. Hamas


Gaza is now a war zone. In the wake of Hamas’ recent grisly attack that left more than 1,400 Israelis dead and about another 200 taken hostage, Israel’s military forces appear poised to occupy Gaza to try obliterating the Islamist terrorist group. Ancient religious and cultural animosities and contemporary geopolitical jockeying are the backdrop for this conflict, but this newest iteration appears to have been sparked by Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the US seeking to normalize diplomatic relations. Hamas, apparently fearful of being isolated in the Middle East, may have opted for mass murder to derail those talks. Other factors are at play. Marc Champion and Andreas Kluth are Bloomberg Opinion columnists with deep experience covering the Middle East and international affairs. See for privacy information.
Polling – the very inexact science that is the lifeblood of political analysis and guesswork – is very much with us. Built upon a series of queries that asks respondents, essentially, “What do you think about X,” polling aims to make the intangible, concrete. It is the stuff from which predictions are made, the data that fuels a political marketplace aiming to artfully respond to voter’s preferences and priorities. But polling, via its siblings – “focus groups” and “messaging” – also aspires to shape voter’s preferences; to, in the best interpretation, understand and serve them with greater clarity. In the worst interpretation, messaging makes voters more malleable, more easily swayed. Frank Luntz is a political and communications strategist and pollster who has spent most of his career working for Republicans and specializes in leveraging the emotional content of language to win campaigns.See for privacy information.
“We White Christians no longer represent the majority of Americans,” writes Robert P. Jones, a White Christian. “We are no longer capable of setting the nation’s course by sheer cultural and political dominance. But there are more than enough of us to decisively derail the future of democracy in America.” That’s from Jones’ new book, “The Hidden Roots of White Supremacy,” an exploration of the historical foundations of White supremacy in the United States. The book is wide-ranging, incisive and, ultimately, a call to action – from someone steeped in the same culture and mores he examines. The fault lines Jones examines affect every facet of American life: individuals, families, communities, politics, the economy and institutions ranging from courts to corporations. Jones is a widely published and award-winning writer, a well-regarded pollster and president and founder of the Public Religious Research Institute.  See for privacy information.
There are no such things as alternative facts. We can disagree about how to interpret facts, but there they remain. Stubborn things. When stubborn people collide with stubborn things – when the likes of Rupert Murdoch assembles a media empire largely designed to embrace and disseminate disinformation – you have the makings of a Crash Course episode. Murdoch, the 92-year-old progenitor of the Fox News miasma, recently retired from his perch atop Fox Corp. and News Corp. Fox is likely to define Murdoch’s legacy – a legacy some of his former executives now reject. Three of them jointly noted in a recent public statement: "We never envisioned, and would not knowingly have enabled, the disinformation machine that, in our opinion, Fox has become.” For his part, Murdoch seems untroubled: “Bury your mistakes,” he likes to say. Molly Jong-Fast is a special correspondent for Vanity Fair and the host of the Fast Politics podcast. See for privacy information.
Have voters, politicos, analysts, and the media focused before with such intensity on a presidential race in the US more than a year before the actual vote? Perhaps. But I’m willing to say: Probably not. The reasons why this race is so magnetic are overt. Trump and Trumpism are in the air. Democracy is on the table. Pivotal policy issues are in play: reproductive rights, immigration, jobs and the economy, health care, public health and public safety, education, national security, the rule of law, and the funding and future shape of the federal government. Social media chews on all of this 24-7. Information – and disinformation – is ubiquitous. Partisanship is at a boiling point and Democrats and Republicans are maneuvering for position. Peggy Collins is the Washington bureau chief of Bloomberg News and a veteran national and local news reporter. See for privacy information.
Ever since Vladimir Putin sent Russian tanks rolling into Ukraine in early 2022, assumptions about the possibility of war in the 21st Century have been turned on their heads. A long absence of conflict in Europe gave way to a bloody and sustained ground war. Russia has even warned it might unleash nuclear missiles. China, rattling its own saber in Asia, looms large in the background – just as it did in the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s. Nukes are the new normal. Hal Brands is a foreign policy professor at Johns Hopkins University, co-author of "Danger Zone: The Coming Conflict with China," a member of the State Department's Foreign Affairs Policy Board, and a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. See for privacy information.
Silicon Valley is the centerpiece of a very specific kind of bro culture – a culture that has had a certain winner-take-all mojo over the years, but which may be running its course. To test this thesis, I present you with Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg, founders of such landmark companies as Tesla, SpaceX, and Meta (aka Facebook). They are both innovators, admirable risk-takers, and bazillionaires. They’ve also struggled to evolve; to have early, vaunted reputations as wise men correspond with equally wise management and wise decisions as the world around them changed. Kara Swisher is the host of the “On With Kara Swisher” and “Pivot” podcasts, and an editor-at-large at New York magazine. See for privacy information.
Weather is fickle and climate-related catastrophes have become all too common – in the US and around the globe. Deadly, rain-induced flooding, interspersed with deadly, heat-induced fires have also visited the Koreas, Ethiopia, Australia, Pakistan, India, Brazil, the UK, Canada, Greece, and other countries during this still new 21st century. We now live in a climate-changed world in which every season or region is host to the hottest, the driest, the coldest or the wettest moment of the modern human era. We are the authors of the disasters and victims of the consequences. Mother Nature has had enough. Mark Gongloff is a columnist with Bloomberg Opinion who specializes in covering the environment and climate change. See for privacy information.
Any time Tim O’Brien sees a Republican presidential candidate (other than Donald Trump) on television, he’s reminded that they and their party look like they’re in a hostage video. They are all trapped by Trump, and none of them have convinced Tim that they can escape. Trump's Republican challengers held their first national debate recently, offering an array of pols trying to make a case for themselves and the GOP’s future. Meanwhile, Trump counter-programmed, sitting down with former Fox News propagandist and conspiracy theorist Tucker Carlson. Susan Del Percio is a Republican political strategist and an adviser to a variety of political and corporate campaigns. See for privacy information.
“Barbie,” the summer blockbuster about the world’s most famous doll, has a lot to say about the intersection of art, commerce, gender, identity, and a life well lived. But one reason it has raked in more than $1 billion in global box office sales is because it offers a provocative and funny send-up of mind-numbing, soul-crushing corporate conformity. Barbie is totemic and has had the power to brainwash, inspire, derail, and draw in the girls who have played with her for decades. The movie explores all of that, largely unflinchingly, even if it does pull a few of its punches. Mattel may be having the last laugh: It’s raking in handsome piles of cash from all of this – at movie theaters, in sales of related merch, and in its newfound role as the purveyor of franchise toys that can be made into boffo, franchise films. Emma Gray is a columnist with MSNBC, co-hosts the podcast, “Love to See It,” and is the author of “A Girl’s Guide to Joining the Resistance.” See for privacy information.
The U.S. is now in the unprecedented position of having a man who has thus far been charged with 78 crimes being the clear front-runner for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination in 2024. There is a swamp of issues to unravel around all of this – including Trump’s legal perils, the character and policies of a Republican Party he owns, and the future of American democracy. Joining us today to make sense of all of this is Charlie Sykes. Charlie, a committed and confounded Republican, is the editor of the commentary site, The Bulwark, and host of the Bulwark Podcast. He’s also a political analyst for MSNBC and the author of several books, including “How the Right Lost Its Mind.”See for privacy information.
Kenya is home to some of the planet’s most glorious – and most threatened – wildlife. Like everything else on Earth, the animals that once thrived in this Eden are suffering through the cataclysm of climate change. Long droughts interspersed with violent and irregular flooding have altered migration patterns and essential sustenance. Local farmers and semi-nomadic herders are struggling to preserve their livelihoods. East Africa’s droughts, the worst in at least 40 years, have already brought waves of famine. And the clock is ticking as increasingly formidable environmental challenges bear down. Spiking temperatures mean that much of what has made Kenya, Kenya, may eventually disappear. To explore all of this, Tim spoke with guides at two of Kenya’s conservancies: Tom Njogu, the head guide at the Lewa Safari Camp; and Dickson Kereto, a veteran guide at the Mara Naboisho Conservancy. See for privacy information.
Americans bet about $165 billion a year, but here’s something Tim O’Brien worries about: When there’s billions of dollars on the line, how likely is it that your favorite sport is going to get corrupted? Gamblers and criminals have been trying to rig games since the Olympics first began – it still goes on all the time if you look for it. Enter SportRadar, where former intelligence operatives, police detectives, journalists, and computer geeks track 500,000 sporting matches around the world every year, on the hunt for potential fixes. We first published this episode around the Super Bowl as part of a three-part series about the past, present, and future of the multi-billion-dollar sports betting boom, and its impact on games, fans, and society. You can also listen to the other two episodes in the series: about the rise of mobile betting and the future of tribal casinos. See for privacy information.
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