This blog post is part of AEI’s Best Podcast series of 2020. Click here to see the favorite episodes of the year from other AEI podcast hosts.
On political economy, I chat with a variety of smart people every Wednesday about public policy, technological advancement, and economic history. And I’m convinced 2020 has been the podcast’s best year yet, with fascinating guests discussing the state of the American Dream, the effect of artificial intelligence on the economy, and the need for stories. optimistic about the future of Hollywood.
Here are my 10 favorite episodes of the year. Please check them. And if you’re already a regular listener, thank you for listening and get ready for an even better year 2021.
1. Kimberly Clausing: The Progressive Case of Globalization – Ep. # 163, January 15
It’s always interesting to talk to someone who comes to the same conclusions as you, but in a different direction. My conversation with Kimberly Clausing was no exception. His recent book, Open, pleads for the progressive center-left in favor of free trade and immigration. And this is a compelling case, for Clausing combines an acceptance of the economic benefits of globalization with concern for those left behind by the disruptions it necessarily brings about.
2. Alain Bertaud: How markets shape cities – Ep. # 164, January 22
Have you ever wondered how FA Hayek would rule a city? If so, this podcast is for you. Alain Bertaud – former World Bank urban planner and author of Order without design – explains how regulations hold back growth in cities and how strong local government can make a positive difference in providing high quality municipal infrastructure and services. In other words, the best mayors are “very good janitors” who maintain optimal growing conditions, rather than “inspired geniuses” who interfere with people’s freedom to build on their own property.
3. Michael Strain: The American Dream Isn’t Dead – Ep. # 166, February 5
My AEI colleague Michael Strain has joined the podcast five times this year (see also here, here, here and here), but my favorite conversation with him in 2020 was our first. We discussed his new book, The American dream is not dead, in which Strain pushes back the unfounded pessimism peddled by populists left and right. No, wages have not stagnated. No, the middle class is not empty. No, upward mobility is not a thing of the past. Strain explains why the evidence points to the contrary for each of these widely held claims, giving credit to the cautious and proactive optimism America currently needs.
4. Erik Brynjolfsson: Can AI help us overcome the productivity paradox? – Ep. # 168, February 19
There’s a lot of talk about productivity and innovation on this podcast. In particular, the productivity paradox: why aren’t the impressive capabilities of digital technology and artificial intelligence translating into strong productivity growth in the US economy? Stanford University economist Erik Brynjolfsson makes it clear that this is not unusual – past innovations such as the steam engine, electricity and the computer have also been slow to be implemented. in the economy and stimulate economic growth. So over time, says Brynjolfsson, we can expect today’s great innovations to do the same, as long as we redouble our efforts to promote education, entrepreneurship and scientific research. Few can explain these concepts as clearly, concisely and convincingly as Brynjolfsson – a real pleasure.
5. Chad Syverson: The COVID Crisis and Economic Growth – Ep. # 180, May 6
The COVID pandemic will affect the global economy for years to come, but it’s not entirely clear how. We don’t know whether we’ll see a decline in momentum due to a rise in post-COVID risk aversion, or whether accelerated digital adoption will usher in a new productivity boom sooner than expected. In the face of all this uncertainty, it has been a pleasure to explore these questions with University of Chicago economist Chad Syverson, who has explored these questions more thoroughly than almost anyone.
6. Matt Ridley: How Innovation Works – Ep. # 184, June 3
Matt Ridley was phenomenal – we explored the ins and outs of innovation in an extended episode discussing his new book, How innovation works. Among our many topics: Do the benefits of dynamism and creative destruction really outweigh the costs? Is the model of Chinese state capitalism conducive to innovation? Will COVID-19 lead humanity to redouble its commitment to technological advancement? And why do innovators actually innovate to begin with? Ridley has answered these questions and many more with a fascinating collection of historical examples and, of course, his signature optimism.
7. Mike Masnick: Exploring the Future of Work Through Science Fiction – Ep. # 187, June 17
When discussing how new technologies will affect the future of work, pessimists often anticipate mass unemployment due to automation and trucker riots. Meanwhile, most optimists tend to just assume that things will turn out well, as they have in the past, without providing a concrete vision of what the future will actually look like. Techdirt editor-in-chief Mike Masnick filled that gap with Term work – an excellent anthology of news speculating on how technological progress will suppress, modify and create various jobs over the next decades. It was great discussing these stories with him in the first half of the episode while exploring the difficult tradeoffs of moderating online content in the second half.
8. Toby Ord: Existential risk and future of humanity – Ep. # 189, July 1
If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that sometimes unexpected crises befall humanity. In particular, we have to keep in mind that the next surprise could be even worse – an asteroid strike could hit us, a nuclear war could break out or, I don’t know, we could maybe become subject to an intelligence. hyper-advanced artificial. Think about it! Toby Ord, the author of The Precipice, convincingly argued that we should take these potential threats seriously, as humanity has a one in six chance of encountering an extinction event within the next 100 years. It may sound alarming – and it is – but this episode ultimately delivers a message of hope: humanity’s best days are ahead, as long as we remember to guard against our vulnerabilities.
9. Kevin Davies: Genome Editing and CRISPR Revolution – Ep. # 203, September 30
Humanity may be entering a new era with the rise of CRISPR gene editing technology, which has the potential to cure terrible genetic diseases, revolutionize organ transplants and more. Kevin Davies, author of the new book, The edition of humanity, and I discussed all of these opportunities while looking at the risks, such as rogue researchers now having the ability to modify the human genome at the embryonic level. A fascinating and essential interview to understand the technology behind what could become the most difficult ethical question of the next decades.
10. Ronald D. Moore: The Sci-Fi Optimism of ‘For All Mankind’, ‘Battlestar Galactica’ and ‘Star Trek’ – Ep. # 206, October 21
I was delighted to chat with legendary sci-fi TV writer and producer Ronald D. Moore – known for his work on “Star Trek: The Next Generation”, “Deep Space Nine” and “Voyager”, as well as the early 2000s reinventing “Battlestar Galactica” and “Outlander” being Starz. To begin with, we discussed Moore’s fantastic new Apple TV + show, “For All Mankind,” which explores an alternate and ambitious story of how America could have adopted a more ambitious space program if the Soviets gave us had beaten on the moon. We then began to explore why our culture produces too many pessimistic stories about whether “Star Trek” is a Communist TV show and how to present “Star Wars” to your child. One of my favorite interviews since I started this podcast eight years ago.