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Podcast EconTalk

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  • Kevin Kelly on Advice, AI, and Technology
    Photographer, author, and visionary Kevin Kelly talks about his book Excellent Advice for Living with EconTalk's Russ Roberts. His advice includes how to have a deep conversation, why it's better to control time than money--and whether, in the end, we should give advice in the first place. Other topics of discussion include the right object of our aspirations, the reason for optimism when it comes to technology, and why Kelly is not worried about AI.
  • Megan McArdle on the Oedipus Trap
    When physician Walter Freeman died in 1972, he still believed that lobotomies were the best treatment for mental illness. A pioneer in the method, he was a deeply confident and charismatic man who eagerly spread the technique in America, long after the rise of alternative treatments that were less destructive. Listen as journalist Megan McArdle and EconTalk's Russ Roberts discuss what McArdle calls the "Oedipus Trap": mistakes that no one can live with, even if they were innocently made, and how admitting such mistakes to ourselves is nearly impossible. They also discuss the complexity of the credo, "follow the science."
  • Zach Weinersmith on Beowulf and Bea Wolf
    Tolkien read it as a tale about mortality. The poet David Whyte said it was a metaphor for the psychological demons deep in our minds. And that, insists the cartoonist and writer Zach Weinersmith, is precisely Beowulf's appeal: Its richness opens the door to endless interpretation. Listen as the author of Bea Wolf, a graphic novel for children based on the Old English poem, speaks with EconTalk's Russ Roberts about poetry in general, Beowulf in particular, whether we should require students to memorize poems, and the value of stories for children even without a moral lesson.
  • Omer Moav on the Emergence of the State
    Since at least Adam Smith, the common wisdom has been that the transition from hunter-gathering to farming allowed the creation of the State. Farming, so went the theory, led to agricultural surplus, and that surplus is the prerequisite for taxation and a State. But economist Omer Moav of the University of Warwick and Reichman University argues that it wasn't farming but the farming of a particular kind of crop (but not others) that led to hierarchy and the State. Moav explains to EconTalk host Russ Roberts storability is the key dimension that allows for taxation and a State. The conversation includes a discussion of why it's important to understand the past and the challenges of confirming or refuting theories about history.
  • Paul Bloom on Psych, Psychology, and the Human Mind
    Do psychologists know anything? Psychologist Paul Bloom says yes--but not the things that you might think. Bloom discusses his book Psych with EconTalk's Russ Roberts and what the field of psychology can teach us about human intelligence, consciousness, and unhelpful instincts. They also discuss just how far psychology is from a true understanding of the human mind, and why, according to Bloom, that might not be such a bad thing.

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