HBR: You and Larry David wrote Seinfeld together, without a traditional writers’ room, and burnout was one reason you stopped. Was there a more sustainable way to do it? Could McKinsey or someone have helped you find a better model?
Jerry: Who’s McKinsey?
HBR: It’s a consulting firm.
Jerry: Are they funny?
Jerry: Then I don’t need them. If you’re efficient, you’re doing it the wrong way. The right way is the hard way. The...
This is a phenomenal interview with Richard Rhodes, author of the legendary The Making of the Atomic Bomb, an expansive history of the Manhattan Project and the development of nuclear weapons technology.
Dwarkesh Shah’s show The Lunar Society is generally excellent and highly recommended. Just listen to how long he lets Rhodes answer and expound on questions without interruption. These are my favorite types of long-form interviews.
An interesting discussion between Patrick Collison and OpenAI founder Sam Altman on a predictably fascinating assortment of subjects. AI developments, stagnation, long-term bets, and what’s preventing us from having more founders.
Argentina has become infamous for its decades-long struggles with inflation and economic instability. For an otherwise fairly well-off nation, it’s surprising to outsiders how deep the problem on this has been.
In this episode of EconTalk, Devon Zuegel talks about an article she wrote on this topic, after spending time there and investigating the problems for herself. What’s most surprising about all this is how pervasive a problem it is. Inflation touches everyone; everyone is hyper-aware of money issues and constantly thinking about...
This interview was one of the best overviews and deep dives on the current state of AI / machine learning I’ve heard yet. Daniel was at Apple in the early work on machine learning in iOS, and Nat Friedman was CEO of GitHub during their development of the excellent Copilot product.
Nat on the previously-predicted tendency toward centralization in AI:
The centralization/decentralization thing is fascinating because I also bought the narrative that AI was going to be this rare case where this technology breakthrough was not going to diffuse through the industry and would be locked...
Tyler Cowen hosted Moderna’s co-founder Noubar Afeyan for a conversation on mRNA technology, their COVID vaccine, and what’s going on in the biotech space.
A ton of great insights in this one. Tyler raised the now-famous story of the vaccine being “designed in 2 days”, and I loved this response from Afeyan:
Well, Moderna is a company that was already 10 years old by the time the virus appeared. Unfortunately for the virus, there has been quite a lot of time to get ready with a platform and with a team that was assembled, even though it was still...
This week Stripe launched two new major products in their ever-expanding mission to build the economic and financial backbone for the internet.
Ben Thompson was one of two (along with the Wall Street Journal) to have embargoed early access to their launch of Stripe Treasury, their latest major product category. This interview with Stripe co-founder John Collison dives into the background on the product launches, Stripe’s strategy, and where these fit into the wider Stripe mission.
They’re extending their Capital product, which originally launched in 2019 to give Stripe customers access to capital for...
The Guardian’s extensive profile and Q&A with Arsène Wenger, legendary Arsenal manager.
“Arsenal had a style of play that was criticised, but there was a style of play,” he says. “I can understand that people want only to win, but you need to have the desire to transform the team expression into art. When the supporter wakes up in the morning, he has to think: ‘Oh, maybe I’ll have a fantastic experience today!’ He wants to win the game but as well to see something beautiful.”
There are so many good little pieces in this brief interview with Alicia Juarrero, who studies complex systems and complexity theory.
Three options are possible once a complex system reaches a threshold of instability: adaptation, evolution, or disintegration. There is never a guarantee that the whole will not collapse, which it will do if we are unable to adapt and evolve to achieve a new coherence or fit. I think of adaptation as modifications within a given space of possibilities. You either expand your adaptive capacity or move to a more stable location within that adaptive space.
This conversation with José Luis Ricón Fernández de la Puente on Erik Torenberg’s podcast was an expansive cover of more topics than I think I’ve ever heard discussed on a single podcast. A brief sampling of the subjects touched: scientific progress, economics, GDP growth, health care, regulations, longevity research.
Also see José’s blog for more in-depth coverage on his research topics.
One of my favorite games hit its 20th birthday. Two decades ago Deus Ex was an amazing achievement in open narrative, emergent game design.
In this piece, Rock Paper Shotgun gathered up a bunch of the original team from John Romero’s Ion Storm studio to look back on the process of creating the game:
Harvey Smith (lead designer): We were very influenced by three games: Thief, System Shock 2 and Half-Life. There was a lot of discussion around whether it was more elegant to get through a level without being spotted and killing everybody. But there...
I enjoyed this interview with Stripe co-founder John Collison. The range of topics covered in this discussion is wild. Always impressive to see someone that’s been so objectively successful still maintain the level of curiosity he does, motivated to constantly fill knowledge gaps.
A sampling of the discussion topics:
Value of writing skill and clear internal communication
This is the second episode of the “Torch of Progress” series that the Progress Studies for Young Scholars program is putting on, hosted by Jason Crawford. Tyler Cowen is unbelievably prolific in projects he’s got going on, so it’s great to see him making the time for things like this.
Read more here from last year on the progress studies movement.
I’ve been following Gurri’s work closely since I read The Revolt of a Public a couple months back. I think he’s one of the sharpest minds we have right now thinking and writing about what’s going on in politics, media, and public opinion.
He was on this week’s EconTalk talking to Russ Roberts about his book. The show notes for the episode provide excellent additional material on his core ideas.
Stephen Kotkin is a historian that has studied and written mostly about Soviet history and Josef Stalin. This was an excellent interview with him by Lex Fridman — Lex asks simple, broad questions and let’s Kotkin go deep.
Kotkin is incredibly articulate here. I would love to get to a depth of knowledge on a subject to be able to speak uninterrupted about it for an hour and a half.
I ran across this interview with physicist David Deutsch, with his thoughts on Brexit. A lot of great stuff here on resilience, error correction, individualism vs. collectivism, Karl Popper, and Britain’s first-past-the-post system.
This was a fascinating interview with Dr. Michele Gelfand from Jonah Goldberg’s The Remnant podcast. It mostly covers the subject of her book Rule Makers, Rule Breakers, on the differences between “tight” vs. “loose” cultures — think Singapore or China vs. Spain or Italy. It’s a timely subject in this time of global response to a pandemic, seeing how different cultures respond to the crisis.
If you’re holed up in quarantine and have some extra time, Russ Roberts’s website has a nice browsable list of all the EconTalk episodes in the archives. So many timeless interviews in here, which is unique for podcasts, many of which are timely and outdated after a couple of years.
A discussion between economist Arnold Kling and author Martin Gurri about the erosion of institutions and what that means for polarization and cultural instability.
Martin Gurri doesn’t like to make predictions. But if you were lucky enough to read his groundbreaking 2014 book, The Revolt of the Public, when it was first published, you’d have an excellent guide for understanding much of what subsequently happened in the United States and around the world. Gurri’s thesis—that information technology, particularly social media, has helped to dramatically widen the distance between ordinary people and elites—has proven invaluable in explaining not only the...
I enjoyed a couple of notes from this interview with Atlassian President Jay Simons. They’ve famously built a business with bottom-up adoption dynamics, allowing them to hit the $1bn revenue milestone without a traditional sales-led model. It’s especially impressive how they’ve been able to do that while also successfully going upmarket to larger and larger customers, who are typically high-touch by default.
My favorite comment:
“We think of the funnel as a product. Potentially when a customer raises their hand, when they actually need to talk to you, that’s...
This is a great conversation from EconTalk with advertising exec Rory Sutherland on his new book Alchemy. He’s got interesting ideas on the role of psychology and human emotion when it comes to decision making, markets, choice, and governance. A very entertaining and humorous discussion, as well.
“Waldenponding” is a phrase coined by Rao to describe the growing backlash movement against hyperconnectedness, driving people to disconnect completely and long for a life of lower information overload and deeper meaning — a reincarnation of Thoreau’s idea from Walden. This podcast interview is about an essay Rao wrote last year that argues against this idea, a contrarian viewpoint considering the “right” or “intelligent” thing to do is considered to be disconnecting from the vapid, toxic environments of Twitter and Facebook. He makes a compelling case about a continuum of information-light vs. information-dense sources of data, and...
I enjoyed this interview with author Ted Chiang. It covers his recent short story collection Exhalation: Stories with nice context and background on the ideas behind each one. I just finished the book last week, and would have to say that The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling was my favorite. A story about the fallibility of memory and what it would be like if our memories were recorded...
I thought this was a fantastic interview on EconTalk. David Deppner is a listener of the podcast that sent Russ a thought-provoking email question on the subject of leadership and what traits make for “good” qualities in a leader — whether a CEO, presidential candidate, or parent.
Anyone in a form of leadership role like this (which likely includes everyone in some context) struggles with this question. Do those you lead that look to you for guidance really want the truth? The truth is that no leader really has it all figured...
This is a new notes app from Brett Terpstra (creator of nvALT) and Fletcher Penney (creator of MultiMarkdown). I used nvALT for years for note taking on my Mac. This new version looks like a slick reboot of that with some more power features. In private beta right now, but hopefully dropping soon.
Dr. Keith Flaherty is an oncologist specializing in targeted therapy treatments, with a background in studying and treating varieties of melanoma. I listened to this extended interview with him on Peter Attia’s The Drive podcast, which was an excellent deep dive into lots of oncology subjects.
Keith dives into the topic of immunotherapy, probably the most exciting recent development in cancer therapy, and also provides us a rundown of his notion of a different approach to cancer that attacks all the essential pillars of cancer growth and survival.
Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind was one of my favorite recent nonfiction books I’ve read in the last few years. It’s one of the most objective, deep analyses of a question that’s interested me for years: why do people have such fundamental and deep disagreements on how the world works or should work? Why are political left and right seemingly so far apart from one another on such fundamental levels? Haidt’s perspective as an expert in moral psychology provides insights into the foundations of how we’re different and how we’re the same.
I always enjoy conversations with Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz. This interview (conducted by Slack founder Steward Butterfield) reviews their experiences as founders back in the pre-bubble era and compares and contrasts that thematically with the tech landscape today.
Most of the popular conversation around intelligence these days (at least in circles I follow) is about the artificial variety — AI, deep learning, neural networks, and the like. Neuroscientists Jeff Hawkins and his company Numenta have been studying intelligence since 2005, but oriented on how the brain itself works. Hawkins’s belief is that true “general AI” won’t be possible at all if we can’t first understand deeply how the brain works.
He recently published a paper on the “Thousand Brains Theory of Intelligence”, which posits that the brain is simultaneously generating predictions on multiple threads from different...
Naval’s thoughtful, measured perspective on most issues I find insightful and novel in a sea of people with hot takes and commentary around political issues in the zeitgeist. He’s got an interesting “long view” on a range of things from automation to economics to thinking and more.
There is a cult of personality around him, especially on Twitter, that seems to think he’s a “philosopher king” of the internet. While that position is wildly overblown, he does have unique and unconventional point of view that’s refreshing. Worth...
I’m currently reading David Foster Wallace’s collection of essays, A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, so I went back to look at some interview clips with him on his nonfiction writing. This one with Charlie Rose was excellent — I could listen to his thoughts on any subject, for hours:
Clearly a tormented guy, but his brain was on another level separate from the rest of us.
Ben Hoen from the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab gave a lightning talk at Geo2050 about this project, a map and database of the operational wind generation capacity in the US. The map currently reports the country producing around 90 gigawatts of wind power. They also publish the raw dataset for download.