DiscoverPlain English with Derek Thompson
Plain English with Derek Thompson
Claim Ownership

Plain English with Derek Thompson

Author: The Ringer

Subscribed: 1,639Played: 79,085
Share

Description

Longtime Atlantic tech, culture and political writer Derek Thompson cuts through all the noise surrounding the big questions and headlines that matter to you in his new podcast Plain English. Hear Derek and guests engage the news with clear viewpoints and memorable takeaways. New episodes drop every Tuesday and Friday, and if you've got a topic you want discussed, shoot us an email at plainenglish@spotify.com! You can also find us on tiktok at www.tiktok.com/@plainenglish_

128 Episodes
Reverse
"Productivity is a trap. Nobody in the history of humanity has ever achieved work-life balance. The real problem isn’t our limited time. The real problem—or so I hope to convince you—is that we’ve unwittingly inherited, and feel pressured to live by, a troublesome set of ideas about how to use our limited time, all of which are pretty much guaranteed to make things worse." That's how Oliver Burkeman, the author of 'Four Thousand Weeks,' explains our relationship to happiness and time. In this episode, he and Derek talk about his philosophy, the downside of constantly living for some future achievement, goals versus habits, and making peace with our finitude. Host: Derek Thompson Guest: Oliver Burkeman Producer: Devon Manze Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
“The story of 2022 was the emergence of AI," wrote Ben Thompson, the author of the Stratechery newsletter and podcast. "It seems clear to me that this is a new epoch in technology.” Ben and Derek talk about ChatGPT, Stable Diffusion, the state of generative AI, and how the biggest tech companies will try to wrangle this fascinating suite of new tools. If you have questions, observations, or ideas for future episodes, email us at PlainEnglish@Spotify.com. You can find us on TikTok at www.tiktok.com/@plainenglish_ Host: Derek Thompson Guest: Ben Thompson  Producer: Devon Manze Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Derek breaks down the biggest economic mystery of the moment: Why are the most successful tech companies collectively laying off more than 130,000 people if the overall unemployment rate is still historically low? Then award-winning Puck journalist William Cohan rejoins the podcast to talk about the biggest unanswered questions swirling around disgraced billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried, his FTX bankruptcy proceedings, and his forthcoming criminal case. Host: Derek Thompson Guest: William Cohan Producer: Devon Manze Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
We have historically thought about weight as the mere outcome of our deliberate choices about diet and exercise. We have not typically thought about weight like a disease. But in the past 18 months, there’s been an extraordinary revolution in weight-loss medication that's putting in our hands a therapy that can help people easily shed weight without major side effects. You may have heard these drugs go by the name Wegovy or Ozempic. What happens when you take a country obsessed with self-image and diet and tell them that the mystery of weight loss has now been reduced to a daily injection? You change a lot more than body mass index. You change society. Today’s guest is Susan Z. Yanovski. She is the co-director of the Office of Obesity Research and the program director of the Division of Digestive Diseases and Nutrition at NIH. We talk about the stakes of anti-obesity medication, why diet and exercise doesn’t work for so many people, how these weight-loss drugs could help American health care, strain American insurance, and revolutionize America’s sense of willpower, responsibility, and diet. Host: Derek Thompson Guest: Susan Z. Yanovski Producer: Devon Manze Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Today’s episode is about what Americans don’t get about food—and the historical origins of our diet delusions. Our guest is Dr. David Ludwig, an endocrinologist who has researched and written on obesity and diet. He explains why scientists still haven't arrived at a consensus on obesity, why he thinks the conventional wisdom about calories and fat is wrong, what he thinks is really going on, and why the history of diet advice has been so wrong in the last half-century. On Friday, we'll continue the conversation on diet and obesity with an episode on the next generation of weight-loss medication, which could change the way America thinks about self-image and obesity forever. If you have questions, observations, or ideas for future episodes, email us at PlainEnglish@Spotify.com. You can find us on TikTok at www.tiktok.com/@plainenglish_ Host: Derek Thompson Guest: David Ludwig Producer: Devon Manze Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Last year was a bloodbath for media of all stripes. Netflix crashed, the advertising market cratered, Disney fired a CEOBob and replaced him with a CEOBob, and meanwhile, the domestic box office for films remained dormant. Outside of a handful of huge hits like 'Top Gun: Maverick,' the movie business is struggling to get people to see original movies that aren’t just the latest installation of familiar franchises. But one mistake that media people, like me, can often make is that we mistake current trends for permanent trends. So I thought what we’d do today is run through several predictions and provocations that I’m hearing from my friends and sources in the media and entertainment space, throw all of them at a smart media analyst, and see what they have to say about the prevailing wisdom. Today’s smart media analyst is return guest Rich Greenfield from Lightshed. Host: Derek Thompson Guest: Rich Greenfield Producer: Devon Manze Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
We should be living in a golden age of creativity in science and technology. We know more about the universe and ourselves than we did in any other period in history, and with easy access to superior research tools, our pace of discovery should be accelerating. But as one group of researchers from Stanford put it: “Everywhere we look we find that ideas … are getting harder to find.” Another paper found that “scientific knowledge has been in clear secular decline since the early 1970s,” and yet another concluded that “new ideas no longer fuel economic growth the way they once did.” As regular listeners of this podcast know, I am obsessed with this topic—why it seems like in industries as different as music and film and physics, new ideas are losing ground. It is harder to sell an original script, harder to make an original hit song, and harder to publish a groundbreaking paper, and while these trends are NOT all the same, they rhyme in a way I can’t stop thinking about. How did we build a world where new ideas are so endangered? This year, a new study titled “Papers and Patents Are Becoming Less Disruptive Over Time” inches us closer to an explanation for why this is happening in science. The upshot is that any given paper today is much less likely to become influential than a paper in the same field from several decades ago. Progress is slowing down, not just in one or two places, but across many domains of science and technology. Today, I speak to one of the study’s coauthors. Russell Funk is a professor at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota. We talk about the decline of progress in science, why it matters, and why it’s happening—and we give special attention to a particular theory of mine, which is that the incentive structure of modern science encourages too much research that doesn’t serve any purpose except to get published. In other words, science has a bullsh*t paper problem. And because science is the wellspring from which all progress flows, its crap problem is our problem. Host: Derek Thompson Guest: Russell Funk Producer: Devon Manze Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Michael Batnick and Ben Carlson of Ritholtz Wealth Management rejoin the pod to talk about what they learned from the topsy-turvy 2022 economy and make predictions about 2023 markets. If you have questions, observations, or ideas for future episodes, email us at PlainEnglish@Spotify.com. You can find us on TikTok at www.tiktok.com/@plainenglish_ Host: Derek Thompson Guests: Michael Batnick and Ben Carlson Producer: Devon Manze Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
This has been an amazing year for the show, and I’m so grateful for everybody who has listened. I’m off the last two weeks of the year but I wanted to keep something in your feed over the holidays, so this week I’m reboosting one of our most popular episodes of the year. Maybe you listened and want to listen again. Maybe you missed this one, and want to check it out. Or you’re looking at this feed for the first time and trying to figure out whether this is your kind of show. I think these episodes offer a great snapshot of what we try to do here on 'Plain English.' Range widely across topics. Synthesize complicated ideas. Frame breaking news and big ideas in ways that you’ll remember when the show is over. And do it all relatively quickly. No BS. No filler. An espresso shot of news analysis. In today’s episode, I talk with the author Chuck Klosterman about why society has gotten so negative, ranging from TV and film to politics and social media. Maybe the most wide-ranging conversation of the year and, in terms of online reception, probably the single episode that I got the most positive feedback from … Ironically. I hope you enjoy! Happy holidays, and if you feel like giving this show a small gift, head to Spotify or Apple Podcasts and leave a five-star rating and review. It goes a long way. See you in the new year! Host: Derek Thompson Guest: Chuck Klosterman Producer: Devon Manze Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
This has been an amazing year for the show, and I’m so grateful for everybody who has listened. I’m off the last two weeks, but I wanted to keep something in your feed over the holidays, so this week I’m re-boosting one of our most popular episodes of the year. Maybe you listened and want to listen again. Maybe you missed this one and want to check it out. Or you’re looking at this feed for the first time and trying to figure out if this is your kind of show. I think these episodes offer a great snapshot of what we try to do here on 'Plain English.' Range widely across topics. Synthesize complicated ideas. Frame breaking news and big ideas in ways that you’ll remember when the show is over. And do it all relatively quickly. No BS. No filler. An espresso shot of news analysis. In today’s episode, I talk with The Ringer’s Ryen Russillo about the most impressive sports statistic of all time. This is of course wildly subjective. And that’s the fun of it. Happy holidays, and if you feel like giving this show a small gift, head to Spotify or Apple Podcasts and leave a five-star rating and review. It goes a long way. See you in the new year! Host: Derek Thompson Guest: Ryen Russillo Producer: Devon Manze Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Derek talks to economist and writer Eli Dourado about the most exciting scientific and technological discoveries of the year, from the AI toys that everybody seems to be playing with to lesser-known breakthroughs in bioscience, clean energy hardware, and precise atomic manipulation. Due to the holidays, we will be skipping our Friday episode this week. However, we’ll be back next Tuesday to revisit one of our favorite interviews from the past year as we inch closer to 2023. Host: Derek Thompson Guest: Eli Dourado Producer: Devon Manze Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
In the last 50 years, average sperm counts have fallen by 50 percent. This isn’t just happening in the U.S. or Europe or Asia. It seems to be happening everywhere. If the current rate of decline continues, researchers concluded, the average male sperm count will fall so low that the typical guy in every advanced economy will be infertile by 2050. Harvard's Jorge Chavarro, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology, breaks down the data on declining sperm counts and tells us what it means, what might be causing it, what men can reasonably do to avoid it, and how bad it could get. If you have questions, observations, or ideas for future episodes, email us at PlainEnglish@Spotify.com. You can find us on TikTok at www.tiktok.com/@plainenglish_ Host: Derek Thompson Guest: Jorge Chavarro Producer: Devon Manze Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
4 Day Week Global is a nonprofit organization that recently conducted a trial with 33 companies and 900 workers that replaced the typical five-day week with a four-day work week with no change in pay. After the six-month trial ended, 97 percent of employees who responded said they didn’t want to go back to five days per week, and most employers rated the overall experience 9 out of 10. The pandemic showed us that so much about the way we work is an accident of history, solidified by familiarity and the passage of time. Maybe the office is where we should do all white-collar work. Or maybe that’s wrong. Maybe a two-day weekend is all people need to feel perfectly recharged. Or maybe that’s wrong. Maybe, in some cases, four is greater than five. Juliet Schor is an economist at Boston College and a lead researcher on the four-day work week trial. We talked about how work and the economy might be reorganized in her vision of a four-day work week, why even employers might appreciate an extra day off, and why Americans’ relationship to work, time, and well-being needs some kind of revolution. If you have questions, observations, or ideas for future episodes, email us at PlainEnglish@Spotify.com. You can find us on TikTok at www.tiktok.com/@plainenglish_ Host: Derek Thompson  Guest: Juliet Schor Producer: Devon Manze Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
One year ago, we had Anne Applebaum on the podcast to talk about her essay, "The Bad Guys Are Winning." And I think you could have made an argument that this was the most important story in geopolitics. Across the world, the rise of authoritarianism—in Russia, China, Turkey, Venezuela, India, and even right here in the U.S. authoritarianism was ascendant. Illiberalism was rising. Anti-democratic forces were assembling. But at this very moment, the opposite narrative seems like it might just be the most important story in the world. The fall of the authoritarians. Look at China, where the ruler Xi Jinping's "zero-COVID" policy is sparking a wave of protests. Look at Russia, which is losing its war against Ukraine. Look at Iran, which is rife with protests for women’s rights. Today’s guest is Francis Fukuyama, the author of the very famous (and very misunderstood) book, 'The End of History and the Last Man.' In this episode we take a first-class tour of what’s happening in China, Russia, Iran, and the U.S., ending with some thoughts on the future of liberalism in America. If you have questions, observations, or ideas for future episodes, email us at PlainEnglish@Spotify.com. You can find us on TikTok at www.tiktok.com/@plainenglish_ Host: Derek Thompson Guest: Francis Fukuyama Producer: Devon Manze Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Americans have never spent so much time alone. And alone time is rising sharply for every demographic—young and old, male and female, white and non-white, metro and rural. But is aloneness the same as loneliness? And can we really blame technology for it? Derek talks with economist Bryce Ward about the causes and consequences of the rise of alone time in America. If you have questions, observations, or ideas for future episodes, email us at PlainEnglish@Spotify.com. You can find us on TikTok at www.tiktok.com/@plainenglish_ Host: Derek Thompson Guest: Bryce Ward Producer: Devon Manze Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Today’s episode is a Thanksgiving feast of corporate scandal and media gossip. Derek kicks things off with a big-picture theory for why everything in tech and media seems to be falling apart at the same time. Then, we turn to the corporate shocker of the week: Bob Iger stunned the entertainment and media world by announcing his return to Disney as CEO, not even three years after the coronation of his hand-picked replacement, Bob Chapek. Matt Belloni of The Ringer and Puck joins to respond to some hot takes about the future of the streaming wars and the Mouse. Then, Derek revisits the FTX scandal. We're joined by Matthew Yglesias, author of the Slow Boring newsletter, to take a fresh look at the downfall of Sam Bankman-Fried by analyzing the philosophy he supported, or at least claimed to support: effective altruism. Host: Derek Thompson Guests: Matthew Belloni and Matthew Yglesias  Producer: Devon Manze Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Today’s episode is about China’s turn toward authoritarianism—and why it might be one of the most important stories in the world. If you don’t know a lot about China—if you’ve been interested or astonished from afar by its Zero-COVID policy or its alarming saber-rattling toward Taiwan—then you and I are in the same boat. I am not at all an expert on China. But I am fascinated and alarmed by the country’s politics and by the character of its leader, Xi Jinping. Today’s guest is an expert in all things China: Bill Bishop, who writes the incredibly popular Sinocism newsletter. And he has a new podcast out called 'Sharp China.' In this episode, we discuss my biggest fears and questions: What is happening to the Chinese economy right now? Is Xi Jinping a tyrant? And if he chooses to invade Taiwan, is that World War III? Host: Derek Thompson Guest: Bill Bishop  Producer: Devon Manze Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Derek shares his thoughts on the meltdown of crypto exchange FTX and the disgrace of its founder, Sam Bankman-Fried, before welcoming veteran finance journalist William D. Cohan to discuss the history of finance frauds, what comes next for FTX, the media’s relationship to CEO royalty, and his new book, 'Power Failure,' on the rise and fall of GE. Host: Derek Thompson  Guest: William D. Cohan Producer: Devon Manze Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
The polls were right; the vibes were wrong. Democrats seem to have blocked the Republican wave by riding “Dobbs and democracy.” Trump lost, and extremism lost. DeSantis won, and Florida is a red state now. Also: Why is America so terrible at counting votes? Host: Derek Thompson Producer: Devon Manze Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
The Musk regime is off to a chaotic start at Twitter. In barely a week or two of ownership, Elon has already overseen a collapse in advertising revenue, announced a pivot to subscriptions, attempted to fire about half of the staff, and then attempted to rehire some of the fired staff. It would be one thing if Elon were flailing at Twitter while the rest of social media was on a rocket ship. The opposite is true. At Meta, the parent company of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg has embarked on a truly audacious and possibly suicidal plan to spend somewhere between $100 billion and $200 billion building out a metaverse platform. What the hell is happening at these companies and, beyond the lurid details and gossip, what does it say about the larger ecosystem of social media? Today’s guests are the co-hosts of the new New York Times tech podcast 'Hard Fork': Kevin Roose is a reporter at the Times and a frequent guest on this show. And Casey Newton is the author of the Platformer newsletter. Host: Derek Thompson Guests: Kevin Roose and Casey Newton Producer: Devon Manze Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
loading
Comments (8)

Rani Thakur

Music has a long history. It’s been around for thousands of years, and yet its very https://phongleusa.com/collections/vocopro-microphones existence is as new as the dawn of man. But in recent decades, there’s been a real change in music. In the past 20 years, there hasn’t been a great surge in the production of new popular music (though that doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened). The top-selling albums each year tend to be made up of classic rock albums (think ‘80s or ‘90s) and then a large collection of indie-rock albums. The genre with the most artists has traditionally been rap, but it seems to have fallen out of fashion — at least until Kanye West transformed it into something close to what we now know as hip-hop. Take country music as another example: while country music was once widely popular in North America and South America, it has now become more popular in Japan than anywhere else in the world (with some countries such as Japan taking over from North America as the world’s top market for country). It seems that people who grew up listening to traditional country didn’t have much trouble adjusting to the sound of hip-hop — they just don’t know it any more.

Aug 7th
Reply

Rani Thakur

The '80s were the first decade in which pop music was https://shopmegadj.com/collections/mega-friday-cyber-monday-2020-vinyl-sale literally shaped by technology. New kinds of music were created for new ways of hearing and experiencing music using new equipment: cassette tapes, tape decks, speakers, amps, headphones. New technologies were used to create new forms of expression: sampling and looping, drum machines, sequencers, samplers. These technologies allowed musicians to create music that was uniquely their own—an expression that wasn’t just evocative but also fundamentally new.

Aug 6th
Reply

skidL Guice

How can you possibly agrue for “believe all women”? Last time I checked women are human, and humans are infallible. I have no doubt that most women who report abuse are being truthful. But to say ALL women is not only naive and illogical, but sets a dangerous precedent.

Jun 5th
Reply

C M

Music is insipid...stupid.

Mar 3rd
Reply

Jon Schlottig

when I heard you were going to have someone else from the ringer on to debate with, I was like "oh I hope it's russillo, he's the perfect guy for this particular episode " lol. true story. nice work!

Mar 2nd
Reply

Sam sms

it was fascinating

Feb 15th
Reply

Clint Hudson

Have you guys ever actually spoken to a conservative? There are so many things that you completely ignored in this conversation. It's as if you think that Democrats are educated, and conservatives are uneducated rednecks who know nothing of science or critical thinking, oor that we're more willing to bypass science. That people who live in rural areas are stupid and unscientific. This is such a simplified view of a complex issue, and this perspective encourages polarization. I'm a conservative and I wanted to hear this podcast to learn something. All I learned is that your approach to this discussion is horribly biased. You used Plain English to express your polarized notions about America. If you call yourself a news program, get a view from the other perspective and somewhere in between you may find the truth. I was disappointed. Reach out if you want to talk.

Jan 8th
Reply

Alison Porter

Love this podcast! is it possible to list the book recommendations?

Dec 21st
Reply
Download from Google Play
Download from App Store