Steve Levitt, the iconoclastic University of Chicago economist and co-author of the Freakonomics book series, tracks down other high achievers and asks questions that only he would think to ask. Guests include all-time Jeopardy! champion Ken Jennings, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, WNBA champion Sue Bird, Operation Warp Speed chief Moncef Slaoui, and neuroscientist/actress Mayim Bialik. People I (Mostly) Admire is a production of the Freakonomics Radio Network.
54. Andrew Yang Is Not Giving Up on Politics — or the U.S. — Yet
He’s tried to shake up the status quo — as a Democratic presidential candidate, a New York City mayoral candidate, and now the founder of the Forward party. Will his third try be the charm? Andrew talks with Steve about what it’s like to lose an election and why a third political party might be the best chance for avoiding a new civil war.
53. The Simple Economics of Saving the Amazon Rainforest
Everyone agrees that massive deforestation is an environmental disaster. But most of the standard solutions — scolding the Brazilians, invoking universal morality — ignore the one solution that might actually work. Originally released on Freakonomics Radio, Steve gives an update on what’s happened in the two years since this episode first ran.
52. Max Tegmark on Why Superhuman Artificial Intelligence Won’t be Our Slave (Part 2)
He’s an M.I.T. cosmologist, physicist, and machine-learning expert, and once upon a time, almost an economist. Max and Steve continue their conversation about the existential threats facing humanity, and what Max is doing to mitigate our risk. The co-founder of the Future of Life Institute thinks that artificial intelligence can be the greatest thing to ever happen to humanity — if we don’t screw it up.
51. Max Tegmark on Why Treating Humanity Like a Child Will Save Us All
How likely is it that this conversation is happening in more than one universe? Should we worry more about Covid or about nuclear war? Is economics a form of “intellectual prostitution?” Steve discusses these questions, and more, with Max, an M.I.T cosmologist, physicist, and machine-learning expert — who was once almost an economist. He also tells Steve why we should be optimistic about the future of humanity (assuming we move Earth to a larger orbit before the sun evaporates our oceans).
50. Edward Miguel on Collecting Economic Data by Canoe and Correlating Conflict with Rainfall
He’s a pioneer of using randomized control experiments in economics — studying the long-term benefits of a $1 health intervention in Africa. Steve asks Edward, a Berkeley professor, about Africa’s long-term economic prospects, and how a parking-ticket-scandal in New York City led to a major finding on corruption around the world.
49. Mathematician Sarah Hart on Why Numbers are Music to Our Ears
Playing notes on her piano, she demonstrates for Steve why whole numbers sound pleasing, why octaves are mathematically imperfect, and how math underlies musical composition. Sarah, a professor at the University of London and Gresham College, also talks with Steve about the gender gap in mathematics and why being interested in everything can be a problem.
Whether in his discussions with cultural stars such as Ken Jennings and Mayim Bialik or in more private and deeply moving ones with his daughters (Episode 46!), Steve (and Morgan, his producer) do a great job engaging both the subjects and the audience in a discussion that is always interesting, thought provoking, and entertaining. Great work!
Listened to episode 46 on the recommendation of Stephen Dubner on his podcast. Wow. A wonderful episode and I will follow the show now.
This is a beautiful discussion. Thank you to you and your daughters.