“Someone Needs to Save the World from Silicon Valley” (SBTI Ep. 3)

If the big social-media companies are unable or unwilling to make major changes from within, it may be up to outsiders to create better, healthier digital communities. Whether it’s smaller platforms for like-minded people, a publicly owned social network, self-policing by user groups, or activist campaigns to pressure Twitter and Facebook to improve, Sudhir explores what’s next for social media — and what makes societies function or fail.

The Garbage Can Model of Decision Making (SBTI Ep. 2)

What's it like to try and police millions of pieces of abusive content every day? Sudhir takes us inside Facebook, as he and his former colleagues recall how hard it was to encourage civility at a company obsessed with growth — especially when that growth was often driven by some of the most toxic behaviors.

Designed to Tear Us Apart (SBTI Ep. 1)

When online anger turned to offline violence at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, the big social media companies responded by kicking some users — including the president himself — off their platforms. What led to that decision? Was it an overreach? And what role did they really play in the events that took place? Sudhir explores how social media is built to encourage bad behavior, and why one afternoon of unrest can’t overcome a decades-old mindset in Silicon Valley that blinds them to this reality.

Policymaking Is Not a Science (Yet) (Ep. 405 Rebroadcast)

Why do so many promising solutions — in education, medicine, criminal justice, etc. — fail to scale up into great policy? And can a new breed of “implementation scientists” crack the code? Listen and subscribe to our podcast at Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or elsewhere. Below is a transcript of the episode, edited for readability. For more information on […]

Introducing Sudhir Breaks the Internet

Sudhir Venkatesh, a sociologist who has studied crack gangs, sex workers, and gun runners, suddenly found himself working at Facebook, and later at Twitter. Now he’s back from Silicon Valley to explore and explain our overheated digital universe. “Sudhir Breaks the Internet” is a production of the Freakonomics Radio Network.

Yul Kwon: “Don’t Try to Change Yourself All at Once.” (People I (Mostly) Admire, Ep. 13)

He has been a lawyer, an instructor at the F.B.I. Academy, the owner of a frozen-yogurt chain, and a winner of the TV show Survivor. Today, Kwon works at Google, where he helped build tools to track the spread of COVID-19. But things haven’t always come easily for him. Steve Levitt talks to Kwon about his debilitating childhood anxieties, his compulsion to choose the hardest path in life, and how Kwon used his obsession with game theory to stage a come-from-behind victory on Survivor.

How to Fix the Incentives in Cancer Research (Ep. 449)

For all the progress made in fighting cancer, it still kills 10 million people a year, and some types remain especially hard to detect and treat. Pancreatic cancer, for instance, is nearly always fatal. A new clinical-trial platform could change that by aligning institutions that typically compete against one another.

Sue Bird: “You Have to Pay the Superstars.” (People I (Mostly) Admire, Ep. 12)

She is one of the best basketball players ever. She’s won multiple championships, including four Olympic gold medals and four W.N.B.A. titles — the most recent in 2020, just before turning 40. She also helped negotiate a landmark contract for the league’s players. Sue Bird tells Steve Levitt the untold truth about clutch players, her thoughts about the pay gap between male and female athletes, and what it means to be part of the first gay couple in ESPN’s The Body Issue.

The Downside of Disgust (Ep. 448)

It’s a powerful biological response that has preserved our species for millennia. But now it may be keeping us from pursuing strategies that would improve the environment, the economy, even our own health. So is it time to dial down our disgust reflex? You can help fix things — as Stephen Dubner does in this episode — by chowing down on some delicious insects.

Paul Romer: “I Figured Out How to Get Myself Fired From the World Bank.” (People I (Mostly) Admire, Ep. 11)

For many economists — Steve Levitt included — there is perhaps no greater inspiration than Paul Romer, the now-Nobel Laureate who at a young age redefined the discipline and has maintained a passion for introducing new ideas to staid debates. Levitt finds out what makes Romer a serial “quitter,” why you can’t manufacture big ideas, and what happened when Romer tried to start a charter city.