123 episodes

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.

Conversations with Tyler Mercatus Center at George Mason University

    • Self Help
    • 5.0 • 18 Ratings

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.

    Noubar Afeyan on the Permission to Leap

    Noubar Afeyan on the Permission to Leap

    “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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    • 55 min
    Conversations with Tyler 2020 Retrospective

    Conversations with Tyler 2020 Retrospective

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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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    • 53 min
    John O. Brennan on Life in the CIA

    John O. Brennan on Life in the CIA

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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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    • 58 min
    Zach Carter on the Life and Legacy of John Maynard Keynes

    Zach Carter on the Life and Legacy of John Maynard Keynes

    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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    • 54 min
    Jimmy Wales on Systems and Incentives

    Jimmy Wales on Systems and Incentives

    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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    • 57 min
    Edwidge Danticat on Haitian Art and Literature

    Edwidge Danticat on Haitian Art and Literature

    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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    Image credit: Carl Juste

    • 51 min

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5
18 Ratings

18 Ratings

GerC1 ,

I learn so much

Brings such variety in perspectives and personalities but the high quality of conversation is consistent.

Pr_lim ,

High-Quality Converstions

Extremely well-researched, thoughtful, educational, inspirational, and often quite funny. This podcast has many of the best conversations I’ve ever heard and it’s clear that Tyler puts a lot of effort into preparing for them.

Bearyphotography ,

Educational & informative

Some of the best conversations around ... I enjoy these immensely

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