127 episodes

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_

Plain English with Derek Thompson The Ringer

    • News
    • 4.8 • 792 Ratings

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_

    How AI Could Change Apple and Google, Writing and Music, and Everything Else

    How AI Could Change Apple and Google, Writing and Music, and Everything Else

    “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
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    • 1 hr 3 min
    Why Big Tech's Jobs Bubble Burst. Plus, SBF's Scandal Deepens.

    Why Big Tech's Jobs Bubble Burst. Plus, SBF's Scandal Deepens.

    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
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    • 49 min
    America Isn’t Ready for the Weight-Loss-Drug Revolution That’s Coming

    America Isn’t Ready for the Weight-Loss-Drug Revolution That’s Coming

    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
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    • 55 min
    How Americans Got Everything About Food—Fat, Sugar, and Obesity—‘Entirely Backwards’

    How Americans Got Everything About Food—Fat, Sugar, and Obesity—‘Entirely Backwards’

    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
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    • 49 min
    True or False: 10 Controversial Predictions About the Future of Streaming, Tech, and Media

    True or False: 10 Controversial Predictions About the Future of Streaming, Tech, and Media

    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
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    • 42 min
    Why There Is So Much Bullsh*t in Science

    Why There Is So Much Bullsh*t in Science

    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
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    • 1 hr 2 min

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
792 Ratings

792 Ratings

RCollins ,

Among the very best podcasts out there

My favorite podcast, hands down. I always listen and often like the episode even if I’m a bit lukewarm at the outset (which is it often). English is a great and thoughtful host, also. Highly recommended.

Jo Ko ,

My favorite podcast

Even when I’m not interested in the topic Derek Thompson can often make it interesting.

long time listener 42 ,

Best podcast discovery of 2022

Intelligent and nuanced discussion is unfortunately rare these days so Plain English has been a breath of fresh air.

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