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Dwayne Betts was a 16-year-old in solitary confinement when a fellow inmate slid a book of poetry under his cell door. What happened next is an astounding story of transformation: from desperation to the discovery of beauty, even behind bars. Listen as the lawyer, prison reform advocate, and award-winning poet explains to EconTalk host Russ Roberts why he's on a mission to bring books--and beauty--into prisons. They also discuss Betts's latest book, Redaction, a collaboration with the artist Titus Kaphar.
Should the British Museum return the Elgin Marbles, taken from the Parthenon in Athens about 200 years ago? What should be the purpose of museums, education or social justice? Listen as Tiffany Jenkins, author of Keeping Their Marbles, discusses these questions and more with EconTalk host Russ Roberts.
When OpenAI launched its conversational chatbot this past November, author Ian Leslie was struck by the humanness of the computer's dialogue. Then he realized that he had it exactly backward: In an age that favors the formulaic and generic to the ambiguous, complex, and unexpected, it's no wonder that computers can sound eerily lifelike. Leslie tells EconTalk host Russ Roberts that we should worry less about the lifelike nature of AI and worry more that human beings are being more robotic and predictable. Leslie bolsters his argument with evidence from music and movies. The conversation includes a discussion of the role of education in wearing down the mind's rougher, but more interesting and more authentic, edges as well as how we might strive to be more human in the age of AI.
Having completed several degrees in environmental science, Hannah Ritchie nearly left the field out of helplessness and frustration, worried she would never make a real difference. Today, she's a passionate advocate for changing climate messaging, replacing what she believes are paralyzing--and often false--claims with empowering arguments that people can embrace. Listen as the head of research at Our World in Data talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about food emissions, low-carbon technologies, and what the data shows about what matters (and what matters much less) when it comes to climate change.
Economic historian Judge Glock talks to EconTalk host Russ Roberts about zoning and the housing market. Glock argues the impact on zoning on housing affordability is small and that we should learn to love property taxes as long as they're administered properly. The conversation includes a discussion of the environmental impact of urban sprawl--Glock argues sprawl has certain environmental benefits.
Economist and author Arnold Kling talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the recent drama in the tech world--Elon Musk's acquisition of Twitter, the collapse of FTX, and the appearance of ChatGPT. Underlying topics discussed include the potential for price discrimination to make social media profitable, whether you could tell Jeff Bezos from Sam Bankman-Fried early on, and the role of human beings in the world of artificial intelligence.
In our highly polarized times, everyone seems obsessed with the truth: what is it, who has it, and which side's got it all wrong. What we don't seem to care about, says journalist Monica Guzman, is the truth behind perspectives other than our own. Listen as Guzman and host Russ Roberts discuss Guzman's book I Never Thought of It That Way, a call to get interested in the people behind the positions, and the experiences, hopes, and fears that lead to their beliefs. Guzman and Roberts also discuss the role of great questions in sparking meaningful conversations, and how we can not only get along with, but even learn from, those with whom we ardently disagree.
How does the mind work? What makes us sad? What makes us laugh? Despite advances in neuroscience, the answers to these questions remain elusive. Neuroscientist Patrick House talks about these mysteries and about his book Nineteen Ways of Looking at Consciousness with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. House's insights illuminate not just what we know and don't know about our minds--he also helps us understand what it means to be human.
Annie Duke is angry that quitting gets such a bad rap. Instead of our relentless focus on grit and "going for it," the former professional poker player, decision strategist, and author of Quit wants us to recognize the costs associated with sticking to a losing outcome. Listen as she explains to EconTalk host Russ Roberts how society's conflation of grit with character has made quitting unnecessarily hard, and why our desire for certainty harms our decision-making ability. Additional topics include the flawed mental accounting that makes us confuse wins for losses, what we can learn from ants, and the tragic story of how the refusal to quit cost 16 lives one terrible night at the top of Mt. Everest.
When the 20-year-old overachiever Johnathan Bi's first startup crashed and burned, he headed to a Zen retreat in the Catskills to "debug himself." He discovered René Girard and his mimetic theory--the idea that imitation is a key and often unconscious driver of human behavior. Listen as entrepreneur and philosopher Bi shares with EconTalk host Russ Roberts what he learned from Girard and Girard's insights into how we meet our primal need for money, fame, and power. The conversation includes the contrasts between economics and Girard's perspective.
Suppose all of humanity was infected by a virus that left us all infertile--no one will come along after us. How would you react to such a world? Agnes Callard of the University of Chicago says she would be filled with despair. But why does this seem worse than our own inevitable deaths? Callard speaks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the meaning of life, and what exactly about the end of humanity is so demoralizing. The conversation concludes with a discussion of whether humanity is making progress.
When everyone is carrying a camera in their pocket, what raises the act of taking pictures to the level of fine art photography? Jessica Todd Harper, the award-winning portrait photographer, says that it's equal parts mindset and technique--and lots of setting the stage to seize that perfect light. Listen as Harper speaks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about her desire to capture the complexity of life in a single image, why family relationships and home life are her chosen subjects, and the integral role beauty plays in her images, despite its diminished status in art today.
Economist and political scientist Michael Munger of Duke University talks about industrial policy with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Munger argues that in a democracy, the default outcome for industrial policy is crony capitalism--attempts to improve on that outcome either by appointing experts or eliminating cronyism are going to fail for political reasons. The conversation concludes with a discussion of the reliability of Munger's claim and what options are left for dissatisfied reformers.
Author Ryan Holiday talks about his book, Discipline Is Destiny, with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Holiday discusses the mentor who taught him discipline, the self-control of Queen Elizabeth, the world-champion boxer who counseled the man who defeated him in the ring, and the forgotten Roman emperor who helped make Marcus Aurelius the man he would become.
Devon Zuegel talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the crazy world of money and finance in Argentina. When inflation is often high and unpredictable, people look for unusual ways to hold their savings. And when banks are unreliable because of public policy, people look for unusual ways to keep their savings safe and to make financial transactions. Welcome to Argentina, where Zuegel finds surprising applications of cryptocurrency for solving problems.
The good news about educational reform, says Harvard economist Roland Fryer, is that we know what it takes to turn a school around. The bad news is that it's hard work--and implementing it won't win you any popularity contests. Listen as the MacArthur Genius Award Winner and John Bates Clark medalist speaks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about how pizza parties revealed the potential of incentives to improve students' test scores, and why he's far more concerned about closing the racial achievement gap than keeping the love of learning pure. He also discusses the five best practices of successful schools, and why it's his failures far more than his successes that keep him in this fight.
Scholar and distiller Sonat Birnecker Hart of the Koval Distillery talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about her career move from academia to whiskey-making. She explains that the heart is the key to great flavor--when making whiskey, and when making the right choices in life.
Neuroscientist Erik Hoel talks about why he is not an "effective altruist" with EconTalk host, Russ Roberts. Hoel argues that the utilitarianism that underlies effective altruism--a movement co-founded by Will MacAskill and Peter Singer--is a poison that inevitably leads to repugnant conclusions and thereby weakens the case for the strongest claims made by effective altruists.
Kieran Setiya on Midlife

Kieran Setiya on Midlife

2022-09-1901:39:491

John Stuart Mill's midlife crisis came at 20 when he realized that if he got what he desired he still wouldn't be happy. Art and poetry (and maybe love) saved the day for him. In this week's episode, philosopher Kieran Setiya of MIT talks about his book Midlife with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Setiya argues we can learn from Mill to help deal with the ennui to which so many midlifers succumb--along with regrets for roads not taken and wistfulness for what could have been. Setiya argues that a well-lived life needs fewer projects and more pursuits that don't have goals or endpoints. He explains why past mistakes can turn out to be good things and how lost chances can help us appreciate the richness of life.
To the Founding Fathers it was free libraries. To the 19th century rationalist philosophers it was a system of public schools. Today it's access to the internet. Since its beginnings, Americans have believed that if facts and information were available to all, a democratic utopia would prevail. But missing from these well-intentioned efforts, says author and journalist David McRaney, is the awareness that people's opinions are unrelated to their knowledge and intelligence. In fact, he explains, the better educated we become, the better we are at rationalizing what we already believe. Listen as the author of How Minds Change speaks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about why it's so hard to change someone's mind, the best way to make it happen (if you absolutely must), and why teens are hard-wired not to take good advice from older people even if they are actually wiser.
Comments (113)

Jorge Cueto

So many bad colonialist takes in this episode 💀💀💀

Jan 19th
Reply

Reza Gholi

it's kind of funny how you both skipped the later edit cohen did to "lovers" song and deleted the phrase he was calling Israelis as brothers.

Jun 7th
Reply

Reza Gholi

Immediately after he wrote [that verse], he apparently frightened himself and crossed out the word ‘my brothers.’ You can see the line in the notebook, and he replaced it with the words “the children.”

Jun 7th
Reply

Reza Gholi

He writes about an incident where he is evacuating wounded and he was very emotional, and then they say to him, ‘Don’t worry those are Egyptians,’ and he is relieved. And then he catches himself and says ‘Why am I relieved that it’s only Egyptians,’ and he later writes ‘This is blood on my hands,'” Friedman recounted, noting that Cohen hardly ever mentioned the war afterward

Jun 7th
Reply

Captain Creditor

Dog's breakfast bit needs to be on the best of '22 list. 😆

May 18th
Reply

Reza Gholi

there is a day called "nikbah". the day that nearly 1 milion Palestinian were thrown out of their house, and the state of israel was stablished. the occupation and oppression has just gone up since that day. it's really odd to sea pro Israelis talking about the oddness of human's capacity for cruelty and oppression.

May 4th
Reply

Eric

good show

Jan 29th
Reply (1)

Dan Kaiser

If poor people knew what they really needed they wouldn't be poor.

Dec 16th
Reply

Prabhat kumar

So much pretension...this guy talks like Donald Trump

Oct 21st
Reply

Dan Kaiser

Reminder that George Floyd died from a fentanyl overdose. No autopsy evidence of suffocation.

Oct 11th
Reply (1)

Reza Gholi

how do yo feel working in an apartheid system?

Jul 10th
Reply

Prajay Maganlal

this was such a great episode

Mar 19th
Reply

Dan Kaiser

Sounds like a good book for elementary school age kids who are still learning that "Not all X people are X problem."

Feb 23rd
Reply

Dan Kaiser

Any person who unironically uses the term latinx does not speak for the latino community and should be dismissed entirely. Also note Katherine's blatant racism in that every white neighborhood needs to subsidize homes for blacks, but all black neighborhoods need the right to prevent whites from moving in. As well as her extremely racist assertion that low income housing is synonymous for housing for blacks.

Dec 21st
Reply

stinky rex

I'm going back to the beginning of the archives and listening to every episode. the Munger ones are my favorites. irs like I'm in the room watching two old friends chat. excellent episode!

Dec 9th
Reply

Paola Montes De Oca

you guys are asking all the right questions

Nov 20th
Reply

Paola Montes De Oca

I wish humans behaved as smart at they could. fkn disinformation

Nov 20th
Reply

Paola Montes De Oca

how is this a hot theme? humans are much more symplisymt

Nov 20th
Reply

Paola Montes De Oca

this blows my mind

Nov 20th
Reply

Dan Kaiser

Freakonomics is a shell of what it used to be. All they do now is pander to progressives and push thoroughly debunked myths like the wage gap.

Nov 11th
Reply
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