People I (Mostly) Admire

By Freakonomics Radio + Stitcher

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Subscribers: 2118
Reviews: 6

RK Hall
 Mar 8, 2021
I love this podcast. So relaxed, but so intense. Great guests and wonderful interviews.


 Feb 14, 2021


 Feb 9, 2021

Figo
 Aug 23, 2020
Great interview. Fascinating subject matter and some laugh out loud stories!


 Aug 23, 2020

Description

Steve Levitt, the iconoclastic University of Chicago economist and co-author of the Freakonomics book series, tracks down other high achievers and asks questions that only he would think to ask. Guests include all-time Jeopardy! champion Ken Jennings, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, WNBA champion Sue Bird, Operation Warp Speed chief Moncef Slaoui, and neuroscientist/actress Mayim Bialik. People I (Mostly) Admire is a production of the Freakonomics Radio Network.

Episode Date
Ken Jennings on How a Midlife Crisis Led Him to Jeopardy! (People I (Mostly) Admire, Ep. 4 Replay)
00:47:46

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.

Oct 16, 2021
Mayim Bialik on the Surprising Risks of Academia and Stability of Show Biz (People I (Mostly) Admire, Ep. 2 Replay)
00:49:35

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.

Oct 09, 2021
47. Robert Axelrod on Why Being Nice, Forgiving, and Provokable are the Best Strategies for Life
00:44:59

The prisoner’s dilemma is a classic game-theory problem. Robert, a political scientist at the University of Michigan, has spent his career studying it — and the ways humans can cooperate, or betray each other, for their own benefit. He and Steve talk about the best way to play it and how it shows up in real world situations, from war zones to Steve’s own life.

Oct 02, 2021
46. Amanda & Lily Levitt Share What It’s Like to be Steve’s Daughters
00:47:54

Steve shows a different side of himself in very personal interviews with his two oldest daughters. Amanda talks about growing up with social anxiety and her decision to not go to college, while Lily speaks candidly about her battle with anorexia and the conversation she had with Steve that led her to finally seek treatment.

Sep 25, 2021
45. Leidy Klotz on Why the Best Solutions Involve Less — Not More
00:40:40

When we try to improve things, our first thought is often: What can we add to make this better? But Leidy, a professor of engineering, says we tend to overlook the fact that a better solution might be to take something away. He and Steve talk about examples from Leidy’s book Subtract: The Untapped Science of Less, and from their own lives.

Sep 18, 2021
44. Edward Glaeser Explains Why Some Cities Thrive While Others Fade Away
00:46:09

An expert on urban economics and co-author of the new book Survival of the City, Ed says cities have faced far worse than Covid. Steve talks with the Harvard professor about why the slums of Mumbai function so well, high-quality housing in China sits empty, and declining cities hang on for so long.

Sep 11, 2021
43. Arne Duncan Says All Kids Deserve a Chance — and Criminals Deserve a Second One
00:46:55

Former U.S. Secretary of Education, 3x3 basketball champion, and leader of an anti-gun violence organization are all on Arne’s resume. He’s also Steve’s neighbor. The two talk about teachers caught cheating in Chicago public schools and Steve shares a story he’s never told Arne, about a defining moment in the educator’s life.

Sep 04, 2021
42. America’s Math Curriculum Doesn’t Add Up
00:43:11

A special episode: Steve reports on a passion of his. Most high-school math classes are still preparing students for the Sputnik era. Steve wants to get rid of the “geometry sandwich” and instead have kids learn what they really need in the modern era: data fluency. Originally broadcast on Freakonomics Radio, this episode includes an update from Steve about a project he launched to revamp the education system.

Aug 28, 2021
41. Dr. Bapu Jena on Why Freakonomics Is the Best Medicine
00:41:21

He’s a Harvard physician and economist who just started a third job: host of the new podcast Freakonomics, M.D. He’s also Steve’s former student. The two discuss why medicine should embrace econ-style research, the ethics of human-challenge trials, and Bapu’s role in one of Steve’s, ahem, less-than-successful experiments.

Aug 21, 2021
40. Harold Pollack on Why Managing Your Money Is as Easy as Taking Out the Garbage
00:46:43

He argues that personal finance is so simple all you need to know can fit on an index card. How will he deal with Steve’s suggestion that Harold’s nine rules for managing money are overly complicated? Harold and Steve also talk about gun violence — a topic Harold researches as a public-policy professor at the University of Chicago — and they propose some radical ideas for reducing it.

Aug 14, 2021
39. Aicha Evans Wants You to Take Your Eyes Off the Road
00:49:00

She’s the C.E.O. of Zoox, an autonomous vehicle company. Steve asks Aicha about the big promises the A.V. industry hasn’t yet delivered — and the radical bet Zoox is making on a driverless future. Plus, Steve wants to know how she’s maintained her spark.

Aug 07, 2021
38. Sendhil Mullainathan Explains How to Generate an Idea a Minute (Part 2)
00:37:29

Steve continues his conversation with his good friend, MacArthur “Genius Grant” recipient, and fellow University of Chicago economist. Sendhil breaks down the hypothesis of his book Scarcity, explains why machines aren’t competition for human intelligence, and tells Steve why it’s important to appreciate other people’s good ideas before developing your own.

Jul 31, 2021
37. Sendhil Mullainathan Thinks Messing Around Is the Best Use of Your Time
00:52:10

He’s a professor of computation and behavioral science at the University of Chicago, MacArthur “Genius Grant” recipient, and author. Steve and Sendhil laugh their way through a conversation about the importance of play, the benefits of change, and why we remember so little about the books we’ve read — and how Sendhil’s new app solves this problem.

Jul 24, 2021
36. How Rahm Emanuel Would Run the World
00:42:30

In this interview, first heard on Freakonomics Radio last year, Steve talks with the former top adviser to presidents Clinton and Obama, about his record — and his reputation. And Rahm explains that while he believes in the power of the federal government, as former mayor of Chicago, he says that cities are where problems really get solved.

Jul 17, 2021
35. David Epstein Knows Something About Almost Everything
00:50:56

He’s been an Arctic scientist, a sports journalist, and is now a best-selling author of science books. His latest, Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, makes the argument that early specialization does not give you a head start in life. David and Steve talk about why frustration is a good sign, and why the 10,000-hour rule is definitely not a rule.

Jul 10, 2021
34. Maya Shankar Is Changing People’s Behavior — and Her Own
00:45:27

She used to run a behavioral unit in the Obama administration, and now has a similar role at Google. Maya and Steve talk about the power (and limits) of behavioral economics and also how people respond to change — the topic of her new podcast A Slight Change of Plans.

Jul 03, 2021
33. Travis Tygart Is Coming for Cheaters — Just Ask Lance Armstrong
00:45:42

He’s the C.E.O. of the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), which, under his charge, exposed the most celebrated American cyclist as a cheater. And Steve’s been studying cheaters for the last 25 years, so he’s also excited to talk to Travis about the incentives to cheat and the advances in testing technology — and offers his services as an anti-doping data detective for the sport of horse racing.

Jun 26, 2021
32. Angela Duckworth Explains How to Manage Your Goal Hierarchy
00:51:06

She’s the author of the bestselling book Grit, and a University of Pennsylvania professor of psychology — a field Steve says he knows nothing about. 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.

Jun 19, 2021
31. Peter Leeson on Why Trial-by-Fire Wasn’t Barbaric and Why Pirates Were Democratic
00:46:10

He’s an economist who studies even weirder things than Steve. They discuss whether economics is the best of the social sciences, and why it’s a good idea to get a tattoo of a demand curve on your bicep.

Jun 12, 2021
30. Dambisa Moyo Says Foreign Aid Can’t Solve Problems, but Maybe Corporations Can
00:44:03

The African-born economist has written four bestselling books, including Dead Aid, which Bill Gates described as “promoting evil.” In her new book about corporate boards, Dambisa uses her experience with global corporations to explore how they can better meet society’s demands. And she explains to Steve why, even as a Harvard and Oxford-educated economist, her goal in life might sound “a little bit like a Miss America pageant.”

Jun 05, 2021
29. Bruce Friedrich Thinks There’s a Better Way to Eat Meat
00:45:39

Levitt rarely interviews advocates, but the founder of the Good Food Institute is different. Once an outspoken — and sometimes outlandish — animal-rights activist, Bruce has come to believe that market-driven innovation and scientific advancement are the best ways to reduce global meat consumption. Steve and Bruce talk about the negative externalities of factory-farmed meat, and why Bruce gave up antics like streaking at Buckingham Palace.

May 29, 2021
28. Professor Carl Hart Argues All Drugs Should Be Legal — Can He Convince Steve?
00:44:59

As a neuroscientist and psychology professor at Columbia University who studies the immediate and long-term effects of illicit substances, Carl Hart believes that all drugs — including heroin, methamphetamines, and cocaine — should be legalized. Steve talks to Carl about his new book, Drug Use for Grown-Ups, and Carl tells Steve why decriminalizing drugs is as American as apple pie.

May 22, 2021
27. Daniel Kahneman on Why Our Judgment is Flawed — and What to Do About It
00:44:06

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.

May 15, 2021
26. Memory Champion Nelson Dellis Helps Steve Train His Brain
00:35:47

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.

May 08, 2021
25. Sam Harris: “Spirituality Is a Loaded Term.”
00:43:06

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.

May 01, 2021
Nathan Myhrvold: “I Am Interested in Lots of Things, and That's Actually a Bad Strategy.” (Episode 6 Rebroadcast)
00:49:36

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.

Apr 24, 2021
24. Amaryllis Fox: “What Does This New Version of Mutually Assured Destruction Look Like?”
00:58:23

She spent nearly a decade as an undercover C.I.A. operative working to prevent terrorism. More recently, she hosted The Business of Drugs on Netflix. Amaryllis Fox — now Kennedy — explains why intelligence work requires empathy, and she soothes Steve’s fears about weapons of mass destruction.

Apr 17, 2021
23. Greg Norman & Mark Broadie: Why Golf Beats an Orgasm and Why Data Beats Everything
00:42:30

Steve Levitt is obsessed with golf — and he’s pretty good at it too. As a thinly-veiled ploy to improve his own game, Steve talks to two titans of the sport: Greg “The Shark” Norman, who was the world’s top-ranked golfer for more than six years; and Mark Broadie, a Columbia professor whose data analysis changed how pros play the game.

Apr 10, 2021
22. Sal Khan: “If It Works for 15 Cousins, It Could Work for a Billion People.”
00:44:19

Khan Academy grew out of Sal Khan’s online math tutorials for his extended family. It’s now a platform used by more than 115 million people in 190 countries. So what does Khan want to do next? How about reinventing in-school learning, too? Find out why Steve nearly moved to Silicon Valley to be part of Khan's latest venture.

Apr 03, 2021
21. Pete Docter: “What If Monsters Really Do Exist?”
00:43:42

He’s the chief creative officer of Pixar, and the Academy Award-winning director of Soul, Inside Out, Up, and Monsters, Inc. Pete Docter and Steve talk about Pixar’s scrappy beginnings, why it costs $200 million to make an animated film, and the movie moment that changed Steve’s life.

Mar 27, 2021
20. John Donohue: “I'm Frequently Called a Treasonous Enemy of the Constitution.”
00:37:14

He’s a law professor with a Ph.D. in economics and a tendency for getting into fervid academic debates. Over 20 years ago, he and Steve began studying the impact of legalized abortion on crime. John and Steve talk about guns, the death penalty, the heat they took from their joint research, and why it’s frustratingly difficult to prove truth in the social sciences.

Mar 20, 2021
19. Marina Nitze: “If You Googled ‘Business Efficiency Consultant,’ I Was the Only Result.”
00:38:03

At 27— and without a college degree — she was named chief technology officer of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Today, Marina Nitze is trying to reform the foster care system. She tells Steve how she hacked the V.A.’s bureaucracy, opens up about her struggle with Type 1 diabetes, and explains how she was building websites for soap opera stars when she was just 12 years old.

Mar 13, 2021
18. Robert Sapolsky: “I Don’t Think We Have Any Free Will Whatsoever.”
00:41:55

He’s one of the world’s leading neuroscientists, with a focus on the physiological effects of stress. (For years, he spent his summers in Kenya, alone except for the baboons he was observing.) Steve asks Robert why we value human life over animals, why he’s lost faith in the criminal-justice system, and how to look casual when you’re about to blow-dart a very large and potentially unhappy primate.

Mar 06, 2021
17. Emily Oster: “I Am a Woman Who Is Prominently Discussing Vaginas.”
00:42:26

In addition to publishing best-selling books about pregnancy and child-rearing, Emily Oster is a respected economist at Brown University. Over the course of the pandemic, she’s become the primary collector of data about Covid-19 in schools. Steve and Emily discuss how she became an advocate for school reopening, how economists think differently from the average person, and whether pregnant women really need to avoid coffee.

Feb 27, 2021
16. Joshua Jay: “Humans Are So, So Easy to Fool.”
00:42:19

He’s a world-renowned magician who’s been performing since he was seven years old. But Joshua Jay is also an author, toy maker, and consultant for film and television. Steve Levitt talks to him about how magicians construct tricks, how Joshua’s academic studies of magic have influenced Levitt’s life, and whether Jesus might have been a magician.

Feb 20, 2021
15. Tim Harford: “If You Can Make Sure You're Not An Idiot, You've Done Well.”
00:42:30

He’s a former World Bank economist who became a prolific journalist and the author of one of Steve Levitt’s favorite books, The Undercover Economist. Tim Harford lives in England, where he’s made it his mission to help the public understand statistics. In their conversation, Steve gives Tim some feedback on his new book, The Data Detective, contemplates if it’s possible to tell great stories with data, and Tim explains how making mistakes can be fun.

Feb 13, 2021
14. Yul Kwon (Part 2): “Hey, Do You Have Any Bright Ideas?”
00:29:23

He’s so fascinating that Steve Levitt brought him back for a second conversation. Yul Kwon currently works at Google, but he’s been a lawyer, political organizer, government regulator, organ donation activist, and Survivor winner. Steve asks Yul why he’s so altruistic, how Google and Apple are helping track COVID-19, and whether the best way to pick a president might be a reality show.

Feb 06, 2021
13. Yul Kwon: “Don't Try to Change Yourself All at Once.”
00:35:13

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.

Jan 30, 2021
12. Sue Bird: “You Have to Pay the Superstars.”
00:40:26

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.

Jan 23, 2021
11. Paul Romer: “I Figured Out How to Get Myself Fired From the World Bank.”
00:34:11

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.

Jan 09, 2021
10. Suzanne Gluck: “I'm a Person Who Can Convince Other People to Do Things”
00:36:12

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.

Dec 26, 2020
9. Moncef Slaoui: "It’s Unfortunate That It Takes a Crisis for This to Happen"
00:36:37

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.

Dec 12, 2020
8. Peter Attia: “I Definitely Lost a Lot of IQ Points That Day”
00:38:25

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.

Nov 28, 2020
7. Caverly Morgan: "I Am Not This Voice. I Am Not This Narrative."
00:38:39

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.

Nov 14, 2020
6. Nathan Myhrvold: “I Am Interested in Lots of Things, and That's Actually a Bad Strategy”
00:47:31

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.

Oct 31, 2020
5. Susan Wojcicki: “Hey, Let’s Go Buy YouTube!”
00:30:37

She was the sixteenth employee at Google — a company once based in her garage — and now she's the C.E.O. of its best-known subsidiary, YouTube. But despite being one of the most powerful people in the tech industry, few outside of Silicon Valley know the name Susan Wojcicki. Levitt talks with her about the early days of Google, how her background in economics shapes the company's products, and why YouTube's success has created a range of unforeseen and serious issues.

Oct 17, 2020
Steve Levitt: “I'm Not as Childlike as I'd Like to Be” (Bonus Episode)
00:38:21

Steve Levitt has so far occupied the interviewer chair on this 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.

Oct 10, 2020
4. Ken Jennings: “Don’t Neglect the Thing That Makes You Weird”
00:42:19

It was only in his late twenties that America’s favorite brainiac began to seriously embrace his love of trivia. Now he holds the “Greatest of All Time” title on Jeopardy! Steve Levitt digs into how he trained for the show, what it means to have a "geographic memory," and why we lie to our children.

Oct 03, 2020
3. Kerwin Charles: “One Does Not Know Where an Insight Will Come From”
00:39:29

The dean of Yale’s School of Management grew up in a small village in Guyana. During his unlikely journey, he has researched video-gaming habits, communicable disease, and why so many African-Americans haven’t had the kind of success he’s had. Steve Levitt talks to Charles about his parents’ encouragement, his love of Sports Illustrated, and how he talks to his American-born kids about the complicated history of Blackness in America.

Sep 19, 2020
2. Mayim Bialik: “I Started Crying When I Realized How Beautiful the Universe Is”
00:45:28

She’s best known for playing neurobiologist Amy Farrah Fowler on The Big Bang Theory, but the award-winning actress has a rich life outside of her acting career, as a teacher, mother — and a real-life neuroscientist. Steve Levitt tries to learn more about this one-time academic and Hollywood non-conformist, who is both very similar to him and also quite his opposite.

Sep 05, 2020
1. Steven Pinker: "I Manage My Controversy Portfolio Carefully”
00:42:25

By cataloging the steady march of human progress, the Harvard psychologist and linguist has become a very public intellectual. But the self-declared “polite Canadian” has managed to enrage people on opposite ends of the political spectrum. Steve Levitt tries to understand why.

Aug 22, 2020
Introducing “People I (Mostly) Admire”
00:04:46

Steve Levitt has spent decades as an academic economist, “studying strange phenomena and human behavior in weird circumstances.” Now he’s turning his curiosity to something new: interviewing some of the most interesting, unorthodox people around — from actresses to athletes, authors to inventors. Here is a preview of Levitt’s new podcast, which premieres August 21st. New episodes every two weeks. “People I (Mostly) Admire” is a production of the Freakonomics Radio Network.

Jul 31, 2020