263: Is cash the best way to help the poor? (Michael Faye)

The idea of giving poor people cash, no strings attached, is “very unappealing” for most donors, admits economist Michael Faye — but it’s still one of the best ways to help the poor. Michael and Julia discuss the philosophy behind his organization (GiveDirectly), the evidence we have so far about cash transfers as an anti-poverty … Read more

262: Humanity on the precipice (Toby Ord)

Humanity could thrive for millions of years — unless our future is cut short by an existential catastrophe. Oxford philosopher Toby Ord explains the possible existential risks we face, including climate change, pandemics, and artificial intelligence. Toby and Julia discuss what led him to take existential risk more seriously, which risks he considers underrated vs. … Read more

261: Dangerous biological research – is it worth it? (Kevin Esvelt)

Kevin Esvelt, a scientist at MIT, argues that research intended to prevent pandemics is actually putting us in a lot more danger. Also discussed: Kevin’s own research on engineering wild animal species. Are the risks worth the benefits? (November 30, 2021) Additional links: Kevin’s lab at MIT, Sculpting Evolution Kevin Esvelt on Twitter: @kesvelt “Manipulating … Read more

260: Why we’re polarized (Ezra Klein)

Ezra Klein explains how Republican and Democrats in the US became so different from each other, ideologically and demographically, and why that trend + our institutions =  political gridlock. Questions covered include: Is polarization necessarily bad? Has the left polarized more than the right? And what should we make of polls that seem to show … Read more

259: The genetic lottery (Kathryn Paige Harden)

Kathryn Paige Harden, author of “The Genetic Lottery: Why DNA Matters for Social Equality” explains what scientists have learned about how our genes affect our educational success. Why is this research so controversial? And is it worth doing anyway? (October 15, 2021) Links to things mentioned in the episode: Paige’s book, The Genetic Lottery: Why … Read more

258: How to reason about COVID, and other hard things (Kelsey Piper)

Journalist Kelsey Piper (Future Perfect / Vox) discusses lessons learned from covering COVID: What has she been wrong about, and why? How much can we trust the CDC’s advice? What does the evidence look like for different drugs like Fluvoxamine and Ivermectin? And should regular people really try to evaluate the evidence themselves instead of … Read more

256: How to be a data detective (Tim Harford)

When you see a statistic reported in the news, like “10% of University of California Berkeley students were homeless this year,” how do you evaluate it? You shouldn’t blindly accept every statistic you read. But neither should you reject everything that sounds surprising. Tim Harford, economist and author of The Data Detective: Ten Easy Rules … Read more

255: Are Uber and Lyft drivers being exploited?

How much do Uber and Lyft drivers really earn, after expenses? Are they getting a raw deal by being classified as ‘independent contractors’ instead of employees? I explore the debate over these questions with three guests: Louis Hyman (Cornell), Veena Dubal (UC Hastings College of the Law), and Harry Campbell (The Rideshare Guy). (April 9, … Read more