She showed up late and confused to her first silent retreat, but Caverly Morgan eventually trained for eight years in silence at a Zen monastery. Now her mindfulness-education program Peace in Schools is part of the high-school curriculum in Portland, Ore. Steve Levitt finds out what daily life is like in a silent monastery, why teens find it easier than adults to learn meditation, and what happy children can teach their parents.
He’s been an engineer, a surgeon, a management consultant, and even a boxer. Now he’s a physician focused on the science of longevity. Peter Attia talks with Steve Levitt about the problem with immortality, what’s missing from our Covid response, and why nicotine is underrated.
Born in Morocco and raised mostly by a single mother, Moncef Slaoui is now one of the world’s most influential scientists. As the head of Operation Warp Speed — the U.S. government’s Covid-19 vaccine program — Slaoui has overseen the development and distribution of a new vaccine at a pace once deemed impossible. Steve Levitt finds out how the latest generation of vaccines improve on their predecessors, why “educated intuition” is important in innovation, and what we can do to be better prepared for future pandemics.
She might not be a household name, but Suzanne Gluck is one of the most powerful people in the book industry. Her slush pile is a key entry point to the biggest publishers in the U.S., and the authors she represents have sold more than 100 million books worldwide. Steve Levitt talks with Gluck — his own agent — about negotiating a deal, advising prospective authors, and convincing him to co-write Freakonomics.
We’ve collected some of our favorite moments from People I (Mostly) Admire, the latest show from the Freakonomics Radio Network. Host Steve Levitt seeks advice from scientists and inventors, memory wizards and basketball champions — even his fellow economists. He also asks about quitting, witch trials, and whether we need a Manhattan Project for climate change.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
He graduated high school at 14, and by 23 had several graduate degrees and was a research assistant with Stephen Hawking. He became the first chief technology officer at Microsoft (without having ever studied computer science) and then started a company focused on big questions — like how to provide the world with clean energy and how to optimize pizza-baking. Find out what makes Nathan Myhrvold’s fertile mind tick, and which of his many ideas Steve Levitt likes the most.
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.
Last week, the board upheld the ban of former President Donald Trump’s social media accounts. Sudhir talks to Noah Feldman, the constitutional law scholar who helped design this “supreme court” for content moderation. They reveal the inside story of how the idea came about, how the court was built, and ask big questions, like … will anyone trust it?
How has activism evolved in our digital society? In this episode, Sudhir talks to Jade Magnus Ogunnaike about the intersection of big tech and civil rights. She is a senior campaign director for Color of Change. It’s a racial justice organization that blends traditional organizing efforts with an updated playbook for how to make change.
This new Jeopardy! host is best known for playing neurobiologist Amy Farrah Fowler on The Big Bang Theory, but she has a rich life outside of her acting career too, as a teacher, mother — and a real-life neuroscientist. Steve learns more about this one-time academic and Hollywood non-conformist, who is both very similar to him and also quite his opposite.
It was only in his late twenties that America’s favorite brainiac began to seriously embrace his love of trivia. Jeopardy!’s newest host also holds the show’s “Greatest of All Time” title. Steve digs into how Ken trained for the show, what it means to have a “geographic memory,” and why we lie to our children.
There are a lot of barriers to changing your mind: ego, overconfidence, inertia — and cost. Politicians who flip-flop get mocked; family and friends who cross tribal borders are shunned. But shouldn’t we be encouraging people to change their minds? And how can we get better at it ourselves?
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