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Conversations with Tyler

Author: Mercatus Center at George Mason University

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Tyler Cowen engages today’s deepest thinkers in wide-ranging explorations of their work, the world, and everything in between. New conversations every other Wednesday. Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.
76 Episodes
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Before he became the Adam Smith of Googlenomics, Hal Varian spent decades as an academic economist, writing influential papers, a popular book about the information economy, and several textbooks that are still taught today. So how has his nearly twenty years in the business world affected what he’d write and teach now? Is learning Shephard’s lemma really that important anymore? Tyler asks Hal these questions and more: why aren’t there more second-priced auctions — or prediction markets? How have the economics of sales changed with the internet? In what ways did his hiring criteria change between academia and business? What could we learn from the sack of Rome? When should economists avoid looking at the literature? How are we always eking out victory in the war on spam? And what are people least likely to understand about Google? Fear not — Hal has an answer for it all. Follow Hal on Twitter Follow Tyler on Twitter More CWT goodness: Facebook Twitter Instagram Email
What are the virtues of forgiveness? Are we subject to being manipulated by data? Why do people struggle with prayer? What really motivates us? How has the volunteer army system changed the incentives for war? These are just some of the questions that keep Russ Roberts going as he constantly analyzes the world and revisits his own biases through thirteen years of conversations on EconTalk. Russ made his way to the Mercatus studio to talk with Tyler about these ideas and more. The pair examines where classical liberalism has gone wrong, if dropping out of college is overrated, and what people are missing from the Bible. Tyler questions Russ on Hayek, behavioral economics, and his favorite EconTalk conversation. Ever the host, Russ also throws in a couple questions to Tyler. Follow Russ on Twitter Follow Tyler on Twitter More CWT goodness: Facebook Twitter Instagram Email
Ezekiel Emanuel is a reflection of his upbringing: a doctor for a father who loved to travel, a mother interested in policy and community activism, and all the competition and friendship that comes with growing up closely with two brothers. Put those together and you wouldn’t be surprised that the result is someone who has worked at both the highest levels of, medicine, policy and academia — though the intense interest in jam might surprise you. Do we overrate the importance of doctors? What’s the importance of IQ versus EQ in the practice of medicine? What is the prospect for venture capital in biotech? How should medical training be changed? Why does he think the conventional wisdom about a problem tends to be wrong? Would immortality be boring? What would happen if we let parents genetically engineer their kids? Tyler questions Emanuel on these topics and more, including the smartest thing his parents did while raising him, whether we have right to medical self-defense, healthcare in low- versus high-trust institutions, and much more. Follow Tyler on Twitter More CWT goodness: Facebook Twitter Instagram Email
What is Karl Ove Knausgård’s struggle, exactly? The answer is simple: achieving total freedom in his writing. “It’s a space where I can be free in every sense, where I can say whatever, go wherever I want to. And for me, literature is almost the only place you could think that that is a possibility.” Knausgård’s literary freedom paves the way for this conversation with Tyler, which starts with a discussion of mimesis and ends with an explanation of why we live in the world of Munch’s The Scream. Along the way there is much more, including what he learned from reading Ingmar Bergman’s workbooks, the worst thing about living in London, how having children increased his productivity, whether he sees himself in a pietistic tradition, thoughts on Bible stories, angels, Knut Hamsun, Elena Ferrante, the best short story (“Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius”), the best poet (Paul Celan), the best movie (Scenes from a Marriage), and what his punctual arrival says about his attachment to bourgeois values. Follow Tyler on Twitter More CWT goodness: Facebook Twitter Instagram Email
Margaret Atwood defines the Canadian sense of humor as “a bit Scottish,” and in this live conversation with Tyler, she loves to let her own comedic sensibilities shine. In addition to many other thoughts about Canada — it’s big after all — she and Tyler discuss Twitter, biotechnology, Biblical history, her families of patents, poetry, literature, movies, and feminism. Is it coincidence that Atwood started The Handmaid’s Tale in West Berlin during 1984? Does she believe in ghosts? Is the Western commitment to free speech waning? How does she stay so productive? Why is she against picking favorites? Atwood provides insight to these questions and much more. Follow Margaret on Twitter Follow Tyler on Twitter More CWT goodness: Facebook Twitter Instagram Email
Ed Boyden builds the tools and technologies that help researchers think about and treat the brain, an organ we still know surprisingly little about. When it comes to how our brains make decisions, form emotions, and exhibit consciousness, there is still a lot we can learn. But just as fascinating as the tools Boyden and his team build is the way in which they build them. Boyden employs a number of methods to design more useful tools, such as thinking backwards from the problem, hiring eclectic talent, practicing a particular type of meditation, waking long before dawn, or just trying the opposite of what’s already been attempted. Would emulating the brain require emulating the entire body? Is consciousness fundamental to the universe, or is it actually just an illusion? Does a certain disharmony in thought lead to creativity? Why don’t people don’t feel comfortable talking about their brains? And why is it so hard for us to be empathetic with one another? Listen to this engaging and brain-stimulating conversation with Tyler to hear his perspective. Follow Ed on Twitter Follow Tyler on Twitter More CWT goodness: Facebook Twitter Instagram Email
In a recent Twitter thread, Emily Wilson listed some of the difficulties of translating Homer into English. Among them: “There aren’t enough onomatopoeic words for very loud chaotic noises” (#2 on the list), “It’s very hard to come up with enough ways to describe intense desire to act that don’t connote modern psychology” (#5), and “There is no common English word of four syllables or fewer connoting ‘person particularly favored by Zeus due to high social status, and by the way this is a very normal ordinary word which is not drawing any special attention to itself whatsoever, beyond generic heroizing.’” (#7). Using Twitter this way is part of her effort to explain literary translation. What do translators do all day? Why can the same sentence turn out so differently depending on the translator? Why did she get stuck translating the Iliad immediately after producing a beloved translation of the Odyssey? She and Tyler discuss these questions and more, including why Silicon Valley loves Stoicism, whether Plato made Socrates sound smarter than he was, the future of classics education, the effect of AI on translation, how to make academia more friendly to women, whether she’d choose to ‘overlive’, and the importance of having a big Ikea desk and a huge orange cat. Follow Emily on Twitter Follow Tyler on Twitter More CWT goodness: Facebook Twitter Instagram Email
Raghuram Rajan thinks a lot about how to empower individuals, both at the community and international level. In his new book, Rajan draws upon experience both as an academic and policymaker to break down how the three pillars of society — the state, markets, and communities — interact with each other, and argues that we’re currently balancing this complex relationship wrong.  How much has the U.S. actually fixed the financial system? Does India have the best food in the world? Why does China struggle to maintain a strong relationship with allies? Why are people trading close-knit communities for isolating cities? And what types of institutions are we missing in our social structure? Listen to Rajan’s thorough conversation with Tyler to dive into these questions and much more. Follow Raghuram on Twitter Follow Tyler on Twitter More CWT goodness: Facebook Twitter Instagram Email
Founders aren’t superheroes, says Sam Altman.They may play extreme sports, respond to emails within seconds, and start billion-dollar companies, but they are rarely the product of extraordinary circumstance. In fact, they tend to be solidly upper-middle class, reasonably smart, and with loving parents.  So would Sam fund Peter Parker? What about Bruce Wayne? Tyler and Sam discuss these burning questions and more, including what’s wrong with San Francisco, Napoleon’s underrated skill, nuclear energy, the greatest invention of the Industrial Revolution, his rant against coworking spaces, UBI and AGI, risk and regret, optimism and beauty, and why venture capitalists don’t have superpowers either. Follow Sam on Twitter Follow Tyler on Twitter More CWT goodness: Facebook Twitter Instagram Email
Jordan Peterson joins Tyler to discuss collecting Soviet propaganda, why he’s so drawn to Jung, what the Exodus story can teach us about current events, his marriage and fame, what the Intellectual Dark Web gets wrong, immigration in America and Canada, his tendency towards depression, Tinder’s revolutionary nature, the lessons from The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, fixing universities, the skills needed to become a good educator, and much more. Follow Jordan on Twitter Follow Tyler on Twitter More CWT goodness: Facebook Twitter Instagram Email
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Comments (5)

Nimit Kathuria

Raghuram Rajan's twitter handle link is wrong.

May 18th
Reply

Anthony Rossi

He said the number one killer was malaria when deciding to find the theoretical cure over cancer, alluding to saving more lifes when cancer kills roughly 9 million more people worldwide per year.

Apr 24th
Reply

Anthony Rossi

awesome

Apr 24th
Reply

Anthony Rossi

great

Apr 5th
Reply

Ali Salem

good

Mar 1st
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