Scott Adams on Trump, and his book Loserthink – #47

Corey and Steve talk to Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert and author of Loserthink. Steve reviews some of Scott’s predictions, including of Trump’s 2016 victory. Scott (who once semi-humorously described himself as “left of Bernie”) describes what he describes as Trump’s unique “skill stack”. Scott highlights Trump’s grasp of the role of psychology in economics, and maintains that honesty requires admitting that we do not know whether many of Trump’s policies are good or bad. Scott explains why he thinks it is mistaken to assume leaders are irrational.

James Oakes on What’s Wrong with The 1619 Project – #46

Steve and Corey talk to James Oakes, Distinguished Professor of History and Graduate School Humanities Professor at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, about “The 1619 Project” developed by The New York Times Magazine. The project argues that slavery was the defining event of US history. Jim argues that slavery was actually the least exceptional feature of the US and that what makes the US exceptional is that it is where abolition first begins. Steve wonders about the views of Thomas Jefferson who wrote that “all men are created equal” but still held slaves. Jim maintains many founders were hypocrites, but Jefferson believed what he wrote.

Robert Atkinson on US-China Competition and Industrial Policy – #45

Steve and Corey talk with Robert Atkinson, President of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation about his philosophy of National Developmentalism. They discuss the history of industrial policy and mercantilism in the US and China. Why did the US lose 1/3 of its manufacturing jobs in the 2000s? How much was due to automation and how much to Chinese competition? Atkinson discusses US R&D and recommends policies that will help the US compete with China.

Raman Sundrum: Physics and the Universe – #44

Steve and Corey talk with theoretical physicist Raman Sundrum. They discuss the last 30 years in fundamental physics, and look toward the next. Raman argues that Physics is a marketplace of ideas. While many theories did not stand the test of time, they represented avenues that needed to be explored. Corey expresses skepticism about the possibility of answering questions such as why the laws of physics have the form they do. Raman and Steve argue that attempts to answer such questions have led to great advances. Topics: models and experiments, Naturalness, the anthropic principle, dark matter and energy, and imagination.

Vineer Bhansali: Physics, Tail Risk Hedging, and 900% Coronavirus Returns – #43

Steve and Corey talk with theoretical physicist turned hedge fund investor Vineer Bhansali. Bhansali describes his transition from physics to finance, his firm LongTail Alpha, and his recent outsize returns from the coronavirus financial crisis. Also discussed: derivatives pricing, random walks, helicopter money, and Modern Monetary Theory.

Jaan Tallinn: Coronavirus, Existential Risk, and AI – #42

Steve talks with Skype founder and global tech investor Jaan Tallinn. Will the coronavirus pandemic lead to better planning for future global risks? Jaan gives his list of top existential risks and describes his efforts to call attention to AI risk. They discuss AGI, the Simulation Question, the Fermi Paradox and how these are all connected. Do we live in a simulation of a quantum multiverse?

Dan Gable: Legendary NCAA and Olympic Wrestler & Coach – #41

Steve and Corey talk to legendary NCAA and Olympic wrestler and coach Dan Gable. Gable describes the final match of his collegiate career, an NCAA championship upset which spoiled his undefeated high school and college record. The Coach explains how the loss led him to take a more scientific approach to training and was critical for his later success. They discuss the tragic murder of Gable’s sister, and the steps 15-year old Gable took try to save his parents’ marriage. Gable describes his eye for talent and philosophy of developing athletes. Steve gets Gable’s reaction to ultimate fighting and jiujitsu.

Klaus Lackner on Carbon Capture, Climate Change, and Physics – #40

Steve and Corey talk to Klaus Lackner, director of the Center for Negative Carbon Emissions (CNCE) at Arizona State University and the first person to suggest removing CO2 from air to address climate change. Steve asks whether Klaus’ research was motivated by a tail risk of catastrophic outcomes due to CO2 build up. Klaus explains that he sees atmospheric CO2 as a waste management problem. Calculations show that removing human-produced carbon is energetically and economically viable. Klaus describes his invention, a “mechanical tree”, that passively collects CO2 from the air, allowing it to be stored or converted to fuel.

COVID-19, Blockchain, and the Global Startup Scene – #39

Steve and Corey talk to Kieren James-Lubin and Victor Wong of the blockchain technology startup, BlockApps. They begin with a discussion of the COVID-19 epidemic (~25m): lockdown, predictions of ICU overload, and helicopter money. Will personal contact tracking become the new normal? Transitioning to blockchain, a technology many view as viable even in times of widespread societal disruption, they give a basic explanation of the underlying cryptographic and consensus algorithms. Kieren and Victor explain how BlockApps was founded, its business model, and history as a startup. They conclude with a comparison of startup ecosystems in China, Silicon Valley, and NYC.

Claude Steele on the Challenges of Multi-Cultural Societies – #38

Corey and Steve talk to Claude Steele of Stanford about his article “Why Campuses are So Tense”. The essay explores stereotype threats across racial lines. Colorblindness is a standard of fairness, but what are the costs of ignoring our differences? Claude describes his research on minority underperformance and why single sex colleges may contribute to women’s success. Corey describes why he believes his daughter’s experience is a counterexample to the findings of the experiments that led the Supreme Court to outlaw segregation. The three discuss parenting in a diverse world and how ethnic integration differs between Europe and the US.