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Steve Levitt

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Are We Under Threat from a New Kind of Terror? (Replay)

Amaryllis Fox is a former C.I.A. operative and host of the Netflix show The Business of Drugs. She explains why intelligence work requires empathy, and she soothes Steve’s fears about weapons of mass destruction.

1/14/22
58:23

Why Is Richard Thaler Such a ****ing Optimist?

The Nobel laureate and pioneering behavioral economist spars with Steve over what makes a nudge a nudge, and admits that even economists have plenty of blind spots.

12/31/21
46:48

Does Death Have to Be a Death Sentence?

In this special episode of People I (Mostly) Admire, Steve Levitt speaks with the palliative physician B.J. Miller about modern medicine’s goal of “protecting a pulse at all costs.” Is there a better, even beautiful way to think about death and dying?

12/29/21
57:45

Claudia Goldin: What’s “Greedy Work” and Why Is It a Problem?

Harvard economist Claudia Goldin and Steve talk about how inflexible jobs and family responsibilities make it harder for women to earn wages equal to their male counterparts. But could Covid actually level the playing field?

12/17/21
48:38

Jared Diamond on the Downfall of Civilizations — and His Optimism for Ours

He’s the award-winning author of hugely popular books like Guns, Germs, and Steel; Collapse; and Upheaval. But Jared actually started his varied career as an expert on gallbladders and birds. The physiologist turned geographer talks with Steve about his brushes with death, why the Norse Greenlanders wouldn’t eat fish, and why he has never been invited to a cannibal ceremony.

12/10/21
48:27

When Bapu Met Levitt

Once upon a time, Bapu Jena was a graduate student at the University of Chicago. His most interesting teacher? The economist Steve Levitt. This week on Freakonomics, M.D., a replay of a conversation between Steve and Bapu from Steve’s podcast, People I (Mostly) Admire, where they cover everything from the ethics of human-challenge trials to why Bapu decided to start his own show.

11/25/21
34:53

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.

11/19/21
31:46

Where Do All the Bad Ideas Go?

Ideas are currency. This couldn’t be more true in academia, where it’s the job of researchers to think of questions and, hopefully, find answers. Bapu talks with economists Steve Levitt and Emily Oster about how they come up with ideas for studies, why most never make it off the ground, and what should be done with scrapped projects.

11/18/21
35:59

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).

11/12/21
47:56

Season 11, Episode 10

In one of the earliest Freakonomics Radio episodes (No. 39!), we asked a bunch of economists with young kids how they approached child-rearing. Now the kids are old enough to talk — and they have a lot to say. We hear about nature vs. nurture, capitalism vs. Marxism, and why you sometimes don’t tell your friends that your father is an economist. . . .

11/4/21

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.

10/29/21
48:31

The Economist’s Guide to Parenting: 10 Years Later

In one of the earliest Freakonomics Radio episodes (No. 39!), we asked a bunch of economists with young kids how they approached child-rearing. Now the kids are old enough to talk — and they have a lot to say. We hear about nature vs. nurture, capitalism vs. Marxism, and why you sometimes don’t tell your friends that your father is an economist.

10/20/21
55:15

Ken Jennings on How a Midlife Crisis Led Him to Jeopardy! (Replay)

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.

10/15/21
49:11

Mayim Bialik on the Surprising Risks of Academia and Stability of Show Biz (Replay)

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.

10/8/21
51:11

Season 11, Episode 6

Do more expensive wines taste better? They should! It’s a cardinal rule: more expensive items are supposed to be qualitatively better than their cheaper versions. But is that true for wine? And: The state-by-state rollout of legalized weed has given economists a perfect natural experiment to measure its effects. Here’s what we know so far — and don’t know — about . . .

10/7/21

Season 11, Episode 5

The U.S. is an outlier when it comes to policing, as evidenced by more than 1,000 fatal shootings by police each year. But we’re an outlier in other ways too: a heavily-armed populace, a fragile mental-health system, and the fact that we spend so much time in our cars. Add in a history of racism and it’s no surprise that . . .

9/30/21

That’s a Great Question! (Replay)

Verbal tic or strategic rejoinder? Whatever the case: it’s rare to come across an interview these days where at least one question isn’t a “great” one. 

9/29/21
22:49

This Is Your Brain on Pollution

Air pollution is estimated to cause 7 million deaths a year and cost the global economy nearly $3 trillion. But is the true cost even higher? Stephen Dubner explores the links between pollution and cognitive function, and enlists two fellow Freakonomics Radio Network hosts in a homegrown experiment.

8/11/21
46:01

Daniel Kahneman on Why Our Judgment is Flawed — and What to Do About It

Nobel laureate, best-selling author, and groundbreaking psychologist Daniel Kahneman is also a friend and former business partner of Steve’s. In discussing Danny’s new book Noise: A Flaw in Human Judgment, the two spar over inconsistencies in criminal sentencing and Danny tells Steve that “Your attitude is unusual” — no surprise there.

5/14/21
46:00

Memory Champion Nelson Dellis Helps Steve Train His Brain

He’s one of the world’s leading competitors, having won four U.S. memory tournaments and holding the record for most names memorized in 15 minutes (235!). But Nelson Dellis claims he was born with an average memory and that anyone can learn his tricks. Steve gives Nelson’s techniques a shot, without much hope — and is surprised by the result.

5/7/21
38:28

Sam Harris: “Spirituality Is a Loaded Term.”

He’s a cognitive neuroscientist and philosopher who has written five best-selling books. Sam Harris also hosts the Making Sense podcast and helps people discover meditation through his Waking Up app. Sam explains to Steve how to become spiritual as a skeptic and commit to never lying again.

4/30/21
43:49

How to Manage Your Goal Hierarchy

In this special crossover episode, People I (Mostly) Admire host Steve Levitt admits to No Stupid Questions co-host Angela Duckworth that he knows almost nothing about psychology. But once Angela gives Steve a quick tutorial on “goal conflict,” he is suddenly a fan. They also talk parenting, self-esteem, and how easy it is to learn econometrics if you feel like it.

4/14/21
51:26

Season 10, Episode 26

Most of us are are afraid to ask sensitive questions about money, sex, politics, etc. New research shows this fear is largely unfounded. Time for some interesting conversations! To find out more, check out the podcasts from which this hour was drawn: “Can I Ask You a Ridiculously Personal Question?” and “That’s a Great Question!”

2/25/21

Season 10, Episode 20

They can’t vote or hire lobbyists. The policies we create to help them aren’t always so helpful. Consider the car seat: parents hate it, the safety data are unconvincing, and new evidence suggests an unintended consequence that is as anti-child as it gets. To find out more, check out the podcast from which this hour was drawn: “How Much Do . . .

1/14/21

How Much Do We Really Care About Children?

They can’t vote or hire lobbyists. The policies we create to help them aren’t always so helpful. Consider the car seat: parents hate it, the safety data are unconvincing, and new evidence suggests an unintended consequence that is as anti-child as it gets.

1/13/21
47:45

Season 10, Episode 15

Google and Facebook are worth a combined $2 trillion, with the vast majority of their revenue coming from advertising. In our previous episode, we learned that TV advertising is much less effective than the industry says. Is digital any better? Some say yes, some say no — and some say we’re in a full-blown digital-ad bubble. And: the endless pursuit . . .

12/10/20

Season 10, Episode 14

Companies around the world spend more than half-a-trillion dollars each year on ads. The ad industry swears by its efficacy — but a massive new study tells a different story. To find out more, check out the podcasts from which this hour was drawn: “Does Advertising Actually Work? (Part 1: TV)” and “Does Advertising Actually Work? (Part 2: Digital).”

12/3/20

Does Advertising Actually Work? (Part 2: Digital)

Google and Facebook are worth a combined $2 trillion, with the vast majority of their revenue coming from advertising. In our previous episode, we learned that TV advertising is much less effective than the industry says. Is digital any better? Some say yes, some say no — and some say we’re in a full-blown digital-ad bubble.

11/25/20
51:19

Extra: Steve Levitt: “I’m Not as Childlike as I’d Like to Be”

Steve Levitt has so far occupied the interviewer chair on his new show, but in a special live event — recorded over Zoom and presented by WNYC and the Greene Space — the microphone is turned toward him. His Freakonomics friend and co-author Stephen Dubner checks in on the wisdom Levitt has extracted from his interviews, finds out why Levitt is happiest when angering everyone across the political spectrum, and asks Levitt why he ends every interview with the same question.

10/9/20
38:21

Season 10, Episode 4

The families of U.S. troops killed and wounded in Afghanistan are suing several companies that did reconstruction there. Why? These companies, they say, paid the Taliban protection money, which gave them the funding — and opportunity — to attack U.S. soldiers instead. A look at the messy, complicated, and heart-breaking tradeoffs of conflict-zone economies. To find out more, check out . . .

9/24/20

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