Barbara O’Brien on Race, Reform and Wrongful Conviction Rate Estimates- #30

Our guest, Barbara O’Brien, explains why we don’t know much about conviction error outside of murder cases, making error rates for the vast majority of crimes: misdemeanors, sexual assaults, armed robbery, etc. a “dark ocean”. She explains factors that contribute to wrongful convictions including mistaken cross-racial identification in sexual assault cases. Barbara also talks about the surprising frequency of “rain damage” to evidence rooms and why Texas leads the way in both executions and criminal justice reform. The two consider why having your death sentence commuted to life in prison means you are actually less likely to ever to be released.

Sebastian Junger: Meaning from War and Technological Isolation in America – #29

This conversation occurred just after President Trump withdrew US forces from Northern Syria. Steve, Corey and Sebastian debate ISIS and the Kurds. Sebastian argues that men who went to war after 9/11 wanted to experience communal masculinity, as their fathers and grandfathers had in Vietnam and WWII, a tradition dating back millennia. When they came home, they faced the isolation of affluent contemporary American society, leading to high rates of addiction, depression, and suicide. War veterans in less developed countries may be psychologically better off, supported by a more traditional social fabric.

Zach Hambrick on Psychometrics and the Science of Expertise – #28

MSU Psychology Professor Zach Hambrick joins Corey and Steve to discuss general cognitive ability, the science of personnel selection, and research on the development of skills and expertise. Is IQ really the single best predictor of job performance? Corey questions whether g is the best predictor across all fields and whether its utility declines at a certain skill level. What does the experience of the US military tell us about talent selection? Is the 10,000 hour rule for skill development valid? What happened to the guy who tried to make himself into a professional golfer through 10,000 hours of golf practice?

Andrew Hartman: The Culture Wars Then and Now – #27

Steve and Corey talk to Andrew about his new introduction to his book “The War for the Soul of America.” While the left largely won the culture wars, the three wonder whether the pendulum has swung so far left that many liberals are alienated by today’s cultural norms.

Other topics: Was the left’s victory in the debate over the college curriculum pyrrhic? Is identity politics a necessary step in liberation or a problematic slide toward greater division or both? Are current students too sensitive, and easily triggered, to take the fight to the Billionaire class?

Bruno Maçães: China, Russia and the Future of Eurasia – #26

Originally from Portugal, Bruno Maçães earned a PhD in Political Science at Harvard under Harvey Mansfield, and served as Portugal’s Secretary of State for European Affairs from 2013-2015. He is regarded as a leading geopolitical thinker with deep insights concerning the future of Eurasia and relations between the West and China. He is the author of two widely acclaimed books published in 2018: The Dawn of Eurasia and Belt and Road.

Topics discussed include: China’s Belt and Road Initiative, the Middle Income Trap, A Chinese World Order, Techno-Optimism in East and West, China-Russia alliance and geopolitics, the future of Eurasia and the EU.

Ted Conover on Immigration, Prisons and 21st Century Homesteading – #25

Steve and Corey talk to Ted about his article for the August issue of Harper’s Magazine, “The Last Frontier”. Ted describes how Trump’s election led him to seek out his new project on people living off the grid in Colorado’s San Luis Valley (“Appalachia without the Trees”). The three discuss how immigration has changed since he wrote Coyotes in 1987. Ted explains how working as a prison guard in Sing Sing led to the uncomfortable realization that he was getting comfortable with unnecessary violence and offers advice to young people seeking to write interesting stories in the new media landscape.

Jason Snyder on Neurogenesis – #24

Steve and Corey talk to Jason about a fundamental question of neuroscience: Do humans grow new neurons as adults? The dogma that humans do not, gave way to the dogma that they do, which is now being questioned. Adult neurogenesis has been associated with learning, better cognitive function and resistance to depression. Jason suggests that a simple error of treating young mice as models for adult humans led to excessive optimism regarding the potential for later neuronal growth. Recent findings suggest that adults grow few, if any, new neurons but that what little neurogenesis occurs can probably be enhanced by exercise.

Timothy Searchinger: Biofuels vs Foods and Major Climate Change Policy Errors – #23

Steve and Corey talk to Tim Searchinger about the unintended consequences of biofuels policies. Searchinger argues that these policies do not consider the opportunity costs of using plants for fuel rather than food. Combined with crazy carbon accounting principles, existing rules make cutting down trees in the US, shipping them to Europe and burning them in power plants count as carbon neutral under the Kyoto protocol. The three also discuss how eating less beef in the developed world along with educating women, family planning, and reducing child mortality in the developing world can decrease stress on land use and emissions.

Jamie Metzl on Hacking Darwin: Genetic Engineering and the Future of Humanity – #22

Jamie Metzl joins Corey and Steve to discuss his new book, Hacking Darwin. They discuss detailed predictions for the progress in genomic technology, particularly in human reproduction, over the coming decade: genetic screening of embryos will become commonplace, gene-editing may become practical and more widely accepted, stem cell technology may allow creation of unlimited numbers of eggs and embryos. Metzl is a Technology Futurist, Geopolitics Expert, and Sci-Fi Novelist. He was appointed to the World Health Organization expert advisory committee governance and oversight of human genome editing. Jamie previously served in the U.S. National Security Council, State Department, Senate Foreign Relations Committee and as a Human Rights Officer for the United Nations in Cambodia. He holds a Ph.D. in Southeast Asian history from Oxford University and a J.D. from Harvard Law School.

Tyler Cowen on Big Business, Socialism, Free Speech, and Stagnant Productivity Growth – #21

Polymath and economist Tyler Cowen (Holbert L. Harris Professor at GMU) joins Steve and Corey for a wide-ranging discussion. Are books just for advertising? Have blogs peaked? Are podcasts the future or just a bubble? Is technological change slowing? Is there less political correctness in China than the US? Tyler’s new book, an apologia for big business, inspires a discussion of CEO pay and changing public attitudes toward socialism. They investigate connections between populism, stagnant wage growth, income inequality and immigration. Finally, they discuss the future global order and trajectories of the US, EU, China, and Russia.