446. “We Get All Our Great Stuff from Europe — Including Witch Hunting.”Freakonomics Radio
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- 7 Jan 2021
We’ve collected some of our favorite moments from People I (Mostly) Admire, the latest show from the Freakonomics Radio Network. Host Steve Levitt seeks advice from scientists and inventors, memory wizards and basketball champions — even his fellow economists. He also asks about quitting, witch trials, and whether we need a Manhattan Project for climate change.
You've hit that midday slump, I need a pick me up. Imagine if you worked 30 percent less, you'd be getting ready to come home now. I'm sorry, we can't shorten your working day. A Cadbury dairy milk, 30 percent less sugar, and your favorite music stream should help Cadbury dairy milk, 30 percent less sugar just as irresistable. If you'd like to listen to Freakonomics Radio without ads, the place to do that is stitcher premium. It's five dollars a month and you can get a free month trial by going to stitcher premium dotcom and use the promo code freekeh.
You'll also get access to all our bonus episodes and you'll be supporting our show to that stitcher. Premium dotcom promo code. Freekeh, thanks. Hey there, Stephen Dubner, we've been using this holiday break to play you some of the new shows that we've been making for the Freakonomics Radio Network today, a sampler of Steve Levitt's new show, People I Mostly Admire. You'll hear Levit in conversation with the vaccine researcher Moncef Slaoui, who's been running Operation Warp Speed, and Susan Wood, just the CEO of YouTube.
You'll hear Levit talk mindfulness with Sam Harris and Caverly Morgan and how to stretch the mind with Ken Jennings and Nelson Dellis for Time USA memory champion. He will discuss Clutch performance with Sue Bird, one of the most decorated basketball players in history, and the art of quitting with serial quitter and Nobel laureate Paul Romer. Some of the clips you'll hear are from shows we've already released, but many are from upcoming episodes to make sure you don't miss any of them.
Go subscribe right now to people I mostly admire. You can get it on any podcast app. It is quite a different show from Freakonomics Radio. Levit is weirder than me, for starters, in a good way. And a lot of people I mostly admire is dedicated to advice giving and advice seeking, as you'll hear starting right now. So whenever young people ask my advice about getting a Ph.D., I almost always try to talk them out of it.
Getting it sounds fun and romantic. It's not fun. It seems like it will open all sorts of doors.
But the truth really is it's brutal.
It destroys many people's self-confidence and sense of self-worth. And in the end, your job prospects aren't even very good. So does that describe your experience at all?
Yes, it literally near broke my spirit. And imagine also, you know, giving birth to a human in that time.
So I didn't party. I studied all the time.
But I'm a person who wants to understand deeply the mysteries of the universe.
And even if you're a stay at home mom after that, even if you become an actor on a TV show, the knowledge that I have as a scientist has transformed my understanding of my religious life, my parenting life and really everything about the world that I live in. I'm Steve Levitt, and that was me talking with Mayim Bialik, the Emmy nominated actress from The Big Bang Theory.
We both have parties, although neither one of us is really putting them to much use these days after decades doing academic research.
I decided a few years back that I needed a change. I wanted to think about more practical problems, to have some real world impact.
So even though I'm not so at home in front of the microphone, I bit the bullet and I started this podcast.
People I mostly admire what the goal of showcasing the ideas of people I admire and also maybe slipping in my own views on the world here and there. For instance, I'm a firm believer there should be a lot more quiting. We would all be much better off. And it turns out I'm not alone in that belief. Here's Paul Romer, a Nobel Prize winning economist. The way I've tried to offer advice is by saying there's always something else you can do.
So if you reach a roadblock, and especially if you feel like your notion of right and wrong is going to require a compromise to get past the roadblock, go do something else.
So I'm going to call you a quitter. And for most people, those would be fighting words. But I think you'll actually be one of the few people who would consider that a compliment. So do you have some insight into what makes you such a quitter?
Well, I'd never framed it the way you do. But I like that in-your-face description of quitter. Romer was a physicist before he became an economist.
He's also worked in Silicon Valley and was even ever so briefly the chief economist at the World Bank, a dream job for a lot of people.
But with the World Bank, I actually tried to quit. I did think it was a waste of time, but I was persuaded that it would be very damaging to the bank if I quit. So I figured out I get myself fired and it worked.
Do not consider sunk costs in your career. And that is Peter Attia, a boxer turned surgeon turned management consultant turned longevity researcher.
So I've done a lot of different things and that makes me a master of nothing. But life isn't really about necessarily being the master of something in many ways is the advice I give everyone is not to be afraid of change.
It's just so hard to quit stuff.
It might be that it's the rigidity of thought that is really the biggest problem. And the ability to quit or not quit becomes a very high watermark to separate those people out. Do you have any advice on knowing when to quit something we're all familiar with the story of perseverance, winning out. I tend to not advocate that, actually. And that is Nathan Myhrvold, the former chief technology officer at Microsoft, an expert on the science of cooking, who, like Paul Romer, started out in physics until he ran into a bit of a wall.
There's no point in beating your head against a wall after you've given the wall a few good cracks. Move over and try to find a softer spot on the wall, for God's sake.
I don't mean you should always be a quitter. It's hard to know where that tradeoff is since I sort of quit the life of a typical academic.
I started a research center. It's called Radical Innovation for Social Change or Risk for short. We're a team of us. Try to think of ways to make the world better. It's something Nathan Myhrvold has dedicated his life to by starting a big invention firm. And it's not easy.
There's two big frustrations of being an inventor. The first is when you can't solve a problem. And of course, most of your ideas do fail. It takes a lot of iteration before you hit on something that really succeeds. And then this is the second one that you can't get the world to adopt it. Having influence on policy is something we all think that we're going to do.
That's economist Emily Oster of Brown University.
And then it sort of often turns out that people don't listen like we hope that they will.
Oftentimes an idea isn't enough to win the day. And academics have this view that when you have an idea, you put it out there and it's not our job to do the implementation. That's the job of the people in the field.
We sort of lack a translational ability. And I think that that is something that we certainly don't think of as very valuable.
What the profession rewards creation and publication, but not translation. It doesn't reward it.
Yeah, I can certainly empathize with Nathan and Emily's frustrations. In many ways, risk is designed to be that kind of intermediary between academic ideas and real world application. But even with that focus on the one year anniversary of the center, I sat down to tell you how many lives we had meaningfully affected. Unfortunately, the honest answer was zero between failed ideas and longlegs getting our occasional good ideas implemented. We had literally nothing to show for our hard work, and that's when I decided to start this podcast.
I realized my best avenue for doing good in the world was to bring attention to the brilliant people who, in their own very different ways were having an impact. And the podcast gives me the chance to ask those folks the questions I really want to learn the answers to.
I'm really curious if you have any advice, as someone who obviously thinks logically and scientifically about how to change the minds of people who don't think logically and scientifically, I always say I'm not trying to change their mind.
I'm actually mostly trying to understand how they think and start from there.
That's Munsif Slaoui, who's the chief adviser for Operation Warp Speed, the US government's 18 billion dollar effort to fast track a covid-19 vaccine.
Because in order to really convince somebody of something, you need to truly exchange views, which means understanding why they say something. My advice is A, active listening, and B, once you have some grasp of the problem, think of solutions that creates energy and momentum to move forward.
If you continue describing the problem, you stay still.
My appetite for debate has diminished more or less, along with the realization that it doesn't work all that well.
And that is Sam Harris, the Stanford trained, neuroscientist turned philosopher and meditation advocate, perhaps best known these days as the author of Waking Up and the founder of the meditation app of the same name.
It's really hard to change people's mind in real time. People tend to change their minds in private. They can count on one hand the number of times I've witnessed somebody relinquish fairly core cherished beliefs. It's like witnessing a supernova burst or something. And I'm surprised.
Hear you've ever convinced anyone to change a core belief? I can't think of a case I've ever been that persuasive.
An educated person before the scientific revolution could very well believe that there are unicorns and werewolves, that comets and eclipses are portents of the future beliefs that now we think of as primitive, superstitious, magical. But they were the conventional understanding of the day.
That is Steven Pinker, the Harvard psychologist and linguist.
But once there is science, once there is scholarship, once there is history, then you can expand the domain of the real to realms where common sense have a place for it. And that revelation that our everyday experience is not a reliable guide to the ultimate nature of reality is a major transition in thought.
We don't have this unbounded faith in our own observations, our own ability to understand things. Paul Romer, again, to get the benefits we want from discovery and collective learning, it's important to have incentives for a wider range of views that get expressed so that when a new bit of information shows up, it at least gets entered into the conversation rather than having somebody's self censor it because they don't want to be too far outside of the norm. For me, one of the learnings is science can help humanity, that, again, is massive.
Slowey, the vaccine researcher who's been running Operation Warp Speed, designing a vaccine is the most stringent demonstration of it because the impact happens on a short period of time that we can see it and live it. But if I take global warming where we impact our livelihood but on a much slower pace and science tells us it's going in the wrong direction, we should be listening to it.
I have been arguing for years that what we need on climate change is something very much like the exercise we just did with Operation Warp Speed, where we take the best scientists in the world and devote them to tackling climate change.
There's been very few problems that mankind has put its scientific might towards and not been able to solve. So are you willing to volunteer for the job of running the exercise when you're finished with this man?
If I had expertise, I would definitely consider it. But I do think one of the ingredients that's very important, particularly when timelines are fast, is what I call educated intuition, which is really anchored in knowledge and experience. You don't know the answer to the question, but somehow your instincts drive you in a particular direction. And the other thing that's really important and it's unfortunate that it takes a crisis for that to happen is the intrinsic alignment of all the players that rather than spending whatever percentage of our time arguing for the last five percent of alignment, everybody's aligned global warming.
Unfortunately, not everybody is around this proposal, something the Manhattan Project for Climate Change pest, Nathan Myhrvold, you know, bearing on the intellectual output of a bunch of really smart, motivated people that are in a context where you're not constraining their creativity. That's a bet that almost always pays off. I've been on the board of trustees, the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study, which is an amazing place for basically very pure academic research in a number of fields.
They set this up in nineteen thirty nine and by nineteen forty five, John von Neumann, one of the people they'd hired, literally invents the computer.
One thing that often comes up in these discussions is my belief that how we teach students in school is completely wrong.
Imagine we were given the chance to start from scratch with the goal of designing the best possible educational experience. No constraints. I'm pretty confident that the math and science we would teach would be much more interesting, much more inspiring and much more relevant to people's everyday lives rather than torturing high schoolers with trigonometry that they'll never use.
I couldn't agree more. There are only so many hours in the day, and if it's a choice between trigonometry and conditional probability, it's just obvious what kinds of mathematics have the greatest impact, both on our responsibilities as citizens and the decisions that we make in our everyday lives. Any educated person should know what Bayesian reasoning is, or making a decision under uncertainty in a way that trades off the harm of false alarms with the harm of missiles, or how to tell a correlation from causation, how to avoid logical fallacies and critical thinking fallacies.
But it's not just math and science. I think our overall approach to education could use an overhaul.
Well, my children happen to be home schooled. Actress Mayim Bialik again.
One of the reasons that we homeschool is that we want to raise thinkers and not regurgitate. I'm interested in not raising children who essentially are soldiers, you know, soldiers of education.
I was about as good a student as a person could be through high school and college. But it wasn't until my first day in the real world on the job in management consulting, where my boss actually gave me a stack of documents that had some numbers about new drug applications to the FDA.
And he said, so by the end of the week, I want you to tell me how our client can get their drugs approved faster. And I said, but I don't know anything about the FDA.
How how do you want me to do it? And he said, look, we're not paying you to tell you the answers. And I broke out in a cold sweat. And it was the first time, really, that anyone had asked me to think rather than regurgitate.
But what I realized it. I love to think. So I couldn't agree more about the regurgitation versus thinking, Steve, we just became best friends. Look at that.
Our education system was designed in the 19th century and these students were not being taught how to deal with uncertainty or how to be adaptable or how to access resilience.
That is Caverly Morgan, a former Zen monk and the founder of Peace and Schools, a program that managed to introduce mindfulness studies into the curriculum of Portland, Oregon, public schools.
I couldn't agree more that a redesigned educational system should put much more emphasis on mental health, well-being and emotional resilience, physical education.
And I mean, that was only introduced, what, 100 years ago or something. So it doesn't seem to me to be an outlandish vision that at some point we'll think it's crazy to have an educational structure that doesn't include well, being tools of resilience, social, emotional learning, healthy coping mechanisms.
One hundred and fifty years ago, the only person lifting weights was the crazy guy in the circus with the handlebar mustache and the leopard skin singlet.
Right. Sam Harris, again, the idea that you would arbitrarily pick up heavy objects repeatedly as a way of change in your body and when you don't understand the logic of it, it's a completely bizarre project. And yet we all now know that physical exercise is one of the best things you can do. And most people feel like their minds are more or less whatever they wound up with when they stumbled into adulthood. Right. I mean, the idea that through training you could really change your mind, that's not understood.
Another topic that's long fascinated me also having to do with the mind is memory. When I was young, I prided myself on having a great memory. But after a decade of sleep deprivation while raising six kids, it seemed like I could barely remember my own name, which is the problem because I'm part of this invitation only trivia league and I'm obsessed with it. Every morning they send me a set of questions and sometimes I'll sit there for an hour staring off into space, trying to probe the deepest recesses of my mind, searching for those answers, which I admit is pretty sad.
That is not sad at all. That is Ken Jennings, the greatest of all time Jeopardy! Champion and currently the interim Jeopardy!
Host. It's incredibly validating to have something emerge from your mind and actually pay off in some real world sense. I was surprised that when you were prepping for Jeopardy!
You and your wife, many were working with flash cards, I would think. And most people probably think that you to excel the way you have must have a memory that's so good that you don't need flash cards because you just need to learn something once and you remember it forever. Is that not true?
I would say the general rule is if I learned something once and I find it interesting, I think it's more likely to stick. But again, I think that's near Universal. Somebody who thinks they have an unremarkable memory or a kid who can't learn their times tables, they still know every word of every song on their favorite album and they know every player on the roster of their favorite team. The memory is working just fine when engaged, like the people you see on Jeopardy don't have photographic memories.
That's not a real thing. They're just interested in like ten times the things you are. So I think people mistakenly think they have a bad memory. They mistakenly think things are boring. It just hasn't quite been explained to them. Right.
So you get 30 minutes to look at pages and pages of ones and zeros, the binary numbers, that is four time U.S. memory champion Nelson Dellis.
And you have to remember as many as you can in order to get an hour to write down as many of them as you can. I can do about two to three thousand. I started with one digit every two seconds. And that's a practice doing that very quickly and learning how to do that without hesitation.
So you claim to have only an average memory before you started doing this.
He's just making that up or is that is every year I've been telling you, it's it's the way it is. If you look at my transcripts, you'll see it's I mean, I may not have had a good memory, but I had a really good work ethic for something that I was passionate about. But I've taught many people how to get to a really high level of improving their memory with just some of these basic techniques.
We get into some of those techniques in the episode with Nelson Dellis, which will be out soon, and I will tell you I was skeptical, but I have been amazed at how well they work, even from memory challenged old guy like me.
You might suspect, given the clips you've heard so far, that my guests and I always agree. In fact, we often argue and I usually come out on the losing end. After the break, you'll hear a few of those arguments and some great stories, like how the neuroscientist and primatologist Robert Sapolsky perfected the art of shooting baboons in the rear end with a tranquilizer dart.
You spend an absurd amount of time trying to figure out how to look nonchalant around baboons.
That and much more coming up right after this.
You've hit that midday slump. I need a pick me up. Imagine if you worked 30 percent less, you'd be getting ready to come home now. I'm sorry we can't shorten your working day. I Capri Dairy milk, 30 percent less sugar and your favorite music stream should help Cadbury dairy milk, 30 percent less sugar, just as irresistible. You are listening to a special episode of Steve Levitt's podcast, People, I mostly admire what you can get wherever you listen to podcasts.
Here's Leavitt again.
You'll notice that I do, in fact, mostly admire my guess and, well, I mostly agree with them. That's often why I invite them onto my show. I'm also happy to challenge them on things that I think they're doing wrong or could be doing better.
Like in my conversation with Operation Warp Speed had massive SLOWEY.
So there's something called a challenge trial where people are given an experimental vaccine and were actually intentionally expose people who got the vaccine to covid to see if they get sick. And the huge benefit of the trial is that it yields the answers quickly. And I suspect that if we don't challenge trials uncovered, we probably could have speeded up approval of a vaccine by two to four months. Maybe it would have saved one hundred thousand US lives and five hundred billion dollars in government deficit.
Why didn't we do chanterelles? And do you regret that choice?
The first thing is you cannot take wild type virus and challenge people with it. That's totally unethical.
Let me stop you there, because there's a weird dichotomy for me between what medical ethics believes and what common sense says, which is if you can save one hundred thousand lives by maybe killing 10 volunteers who you could pay very generously a million dollars apiece to take a one in 100 chance to die, I don't understand why that's unethical.
Well, you are going to have to take people with comorbidities, old people, Albie's, et cetera, very complex. And the issue of the ethics, it gets very important. If this was Ebola, where exposure to the virus means 90 percent chance of death, it's a different story. If there is an airborne virus that kills 90 percent of people that it gets in. Yes, Challenge tried and volunteered to save the others.
I also pushed back on something that YouTube CEO Susan Waterski and I were discussing.
Shouldn't YouTube strategy reflect the fact that you care not about how much hate speech is on the platform today, but you care about how much hate speech is on the platform a month from now, a year from now or five years from now?
There's a whole menu of strategies that it seems to me that you and the other tech companies have punted on to achieve a short term goal.
I would say that I don't think we have necessarily gone after a short term goal. So last quarter we removed 11 million videos and you can look and see what percentage have come from hate.
But that's kind of my point, which is a really short term way to deal with hate speech, is to take down people's videos and then let them start a new account and put it up again.
When people create content on YouTube, they have two goals. One is that lots of people see it, and the second is that they generate revenue. So basically there's a whole gray scale in terms of how we approach these different types of content. It's not just black or white on or off the platform. And so there'll be some content that will allow on the platform, but they can't monetize it and we won't recommend it. And at the end, if you can't generate any revenue and no one's going to watch it, you've taken away a lot of the incentives for people to create that content.
In the interest of fairness, I did admit to ATC how wrong I was when it came to YouTube being bought by Google in the first place.
I just want to go on record as saying that I remember vividly a lunch conversation I had in the days after Google acquired YouTube, and I was sitting in the faculty club at the University of Chicago with a bunch of other economists, including some Nobel Prize winners. And honestly, we almost never agreed on anything, but all of us collectively agreed 100 percent around the room that that was the stupidest business move that had ever been made in the history of mankind.
And history has proven 15 years later that actually might have been the single best acquisition of our time.
Just to let you know, we only had like a day to go through the whole process. And so I probably did the model in an hour at the most. And I wound up getting asked a lot of questions about it. And why did you assume all these things? And I always have to remind people I really couldn't do it without much detail.
And I fessed up to Monsef Slowey to when Operation WebSphere was announced back in May of twenty. I will admit that I and honestly, everybody intelligent that I knew predicted it would be a complete disaster, that there's no way you would hit your timeline of January 20 21.
I am so delighted to be sitting here today completely wrong in my predictions. Yes, it is amazing.
With all the teams and the companies, the hundreds and thousands of volunteers have participated in a trial.
Having been part of it is incredibly rewarding.
Since I'm an economist, this show is part of the Freakonomics family, from time to time, we discuss economic research, including on some important topics such as race, the share of African-American men and the whole population.
Who are not working today, meaning you take into account the institutionalized, the unemployed and the out of the labor force is more than 30 percent. That's astoundingly OK.
That's Kerwin Charles, the Guyana born economist and dean of the Yale School of Management.
In one share of American school districts, larger than 50000 does at least the majority of African-American children read at grade level. If a handful. That's a national disgrace, and you're not just talking anecdotally, you've done this profoundly important research that has shown you exactly what you're saying, which is at the very top, African-American success has been fantastic. But and the bottom part of the distribution, blacks have even lost ground relative to whites.
Exactly correct. Think about the decline of manufacturing, the rise of automation, all of which especially adversely affect blacks at the median and below.
In other episodes, we touch on some less important, but no less interesting economic topics like this one with economist Emily Oster. One topic, she studied witch trials.
So that paper is really about what is driving witch trials in Europe is actually a period called the Little Ice Age. And of course, colder weather means more crop failures. And the idea was, if we think that this is a feeling of things are not going well and I need someone to blame, maybe those things would be linked.
OK, and what you showed in really simple ways was that there was an incredibly strong correlation between periods of unexpected cold and the number of unfortunate women who were murdered as witches.
Yes, I would add is actually there were some men, which is true. But yes, it was actually a big phenomenon in Europe, much bigger than the one incident people know about in Salem.
So we imported the witch hunting from Europe. We get all our great stuff on there, including witch hunt and.
A huge part of the show is just hearing stories from people who've done unusual things. For instance, for more than a decade, Robert Topolski ran a neuroscience lab at Stanford University for half the year.
For the other half of the year, he would live among a troop of baboons in Kenya, secretly trying to knock them out to study their biology.
You spend an absurd amount of your time trying to figure out how to look nonchalant around baboons. So these were animals I was spending, you know, all day long with, just following around with a walking stick thing, which every now and then would turn into a blowgun and then get somebody in the rear when he wasn't looking. And so would you.
Diadem they would fall over or it took a while. He'd react as if, you know, maybe it's stung him or sat on Thorn get up, scratches rear for a second and go back to what he was doing. And then about a minute later, he would sit down. And the anesthetic that I used was Fense Cyclades, also known as PCP, also known as Angel Dust, which meant I was spending a lot of time filling out forms and being interviewed by skeptical agents from the Drug Enforcement Agency for getting my PCP each year.
So what you would see PCP when used at street levels is a robust hallucinogen, maybe 30 seconds before the guy would go down, he'd be making facial expressions that other baboons who were not there, things of that sort suddenly plop. He goes down and you quickly run in and get a blood sample as fast as possible.
How long would it take them to recover afterwards? Dependent on the experiment, they would recover overnight in a cage that I would let them out of the next morning.
There was this ironic thing in that at that dose, PCP is a retrograde amnestic, which means his memory of the entire day is wiped out. So the next morning he wakes up and he's in this cage at dawn and he's freaking out. And who is it who comes and lets him out? It's me. I was getting all of this unearned affinity with these guys for heroically freeing them from the strange circumstance. If they ever recovered memory, I was completely screwed.
One of my favorite episodes, which will be coming out soon, is with the basketball champion, Sue Bird, who's an especially insightful athlete. I think pressure affects everybody. It just affects some people differently.
But I would think that in order to be the player you are, you would have to be a person who actually gets better under pressure rather than worth.
So now we're kind of getting into this world of the clutch gene. It's argued a lot. You wouldn't take a guy on your team or a woman on your team just for that reason. I don't think the difference is great enough, but obviously there are people who are known for hitting big shots, are known for playing well in big games that exists for sure.
I had a student who wrote a paper about free throw shooting. And believe it or not, it turns out that at the end of a game, if the game is on the line, that the NBA shooters do worse from the free throw line than they do at other parts of the game.
But that was totally absent in the WNBA.
It's really, I think, the opposite of public perception about men and women. But women seem to have ice water in their veins and the men in the NBA really, really didn't.
That's really interesting. The only other thing I was going to add was I think we kind of frame it the wrong way. We expect the person to be hitting those shots or making those free throws in this case. And it's actually the reverse. It's that you might make three out of ten, but somebody else is making zero. It's not who's most successful. It's like who's the most successful of the least successful.
So you're saying there are people who cannot maintain the level when the pressure gets really high and then there are people who maintain it. But it's not like there's a whole lot of folks who will get better when the pressure is on.
And that's what this academic paper showed, that it wasn't that there were a set of people who were clutch in the sense they were even better at the end. It was a difference between maintaining versus losing, getting worse.
You can as someone who thrives under pressure, he's a senior product manager at Google who recently led Google's side in the development of a covered contact tracing app made in partnership with Apple and used by health authorities around the world. But if you recognize your name, it's most likely because he won season 13 of the TV show Survivor. You're heading into Survivor.
You've been a lifelong analyst of social dynamics and Game three.
So what strategy or strategies did you adopted? You headed into the game.
So from a game theory perspective, I was I was a fan of Robert Axelrod's work are around the evolution of. Operation, and so one thing he did around 1980 was to host a tournament where he invited some of the most prominent researchers to submit a strategy for playing iterated prisoner's dilemma in the form of some sort of a computer program. And all of these programs would essentially compete against each other in a round robin tournament.
And some were pretty complicated, like, you know, that tried to do an analysis of what the other program was doing.
The thing that ended up winning was submitted by this mathematical psychologist and Anatole Rappoport, and his strategy was something called tit for tat. It starts off cooperating. So it starts off being nice and then it just copies whatever the other guy did the last time. So if the other program cooperated, then the next time tit for tat was like, OK, I'm going to cooperate, too. If the other program backstabs, then to pretend like, OK, I'm going to get retribution.
But then if the other program starts cooperating again, then tit for tat would cooperate.
I teach a class to undergrads that is an economics course for non econ majors and one of my lectures is on game theory and in particular on prisoners dilemma.
And indeed, I try to tell them at the end of the lecture that tit for tat is a pretty good strategy for life.
If you want to hear about the single most brilliant real world application of game theory I've ever encountered and tune in to the upcoming episode with your Ülgen, it absolutely blew my mind.
Susan Waterski, who we heard from earlier, is like Yul Kwon, a senior level employee at Google. But years before that, when Google was just starting out, she was actually their landlord.
So is it common for people in Menlo Park to rent out their garages?
No, it's definitely not common. I was just looking to rent it. So I had rent income and could pay the mortgage as a just graduated from business school student with a lot of student loans. And it just so happened to be that it was a startup that found me and it was Sergei and Larry, the founders of Google, who wound up renting our house.
So you just put an ad in the local newspaper or something and we have a garage or how does that work?
I did put an ad, but it turned out I had a friend who was good friends with Sergei and they were getting started at the same time and they were looking for office space. And this was during the first boom of technology. And so they really struggled to find any space. And I said, well, you know, we have three rooms here in the garage. They're really tiny rooms. And they thought it was great because they were living in their dorm and there was a washer and dryer and there was a hot tub in the backyard.
And they really thought this was the best thing ever. And at the time it seemed totally normal. All my friends would come over and say, like, who are those guys? I'd be like, Oh, they're just some Internet guys in my house. And then afterwards they found out they were Google. It's hard to imagine in today's world, but that's the way it was 20 years ago.
Often in my interviews by asking my guests for advice, all right, last question, last question. All right, last question. It seems to me you've lived a really good life. Do you have advice about living a good life?
So what advice would you give on leading a life worth living?
So how about I'm living a great life?
And so to end this episode, we've compiled some of those responses. But first, let me make an observation. If you're still listening this far into the podcast, that's a pretty good sign. You're enjoying it, which makes me think you should subscribe to people I mostly admire if you haven't already. We've released 10 episodes since August, and because of the amazing response, we're planning to start releasing new episodes weekly. If you're thinking about subscribing, here's a piece of friendly advice.
Do it right now. If there's one thing we've learned from behavioral economics and a lifetime of TV infomercials, it said if you don't act immediately, chances are good, you will never act at all. So don't miss out. Thanks for listening. And now here's the advice from In Order, Ken Jennings, Sue Bird and Nathan Myhrvold.
The secret is not necessarily to follow your bliss. It does not follow that just because I was able to pay for a house on game show winnings that every Jeopardy fan should quit their job and train for Jeopardy. But the root principle is sound, but like the talents you have, those things you really should treat as just a sacred, essential part of you. Make sure that the thing you're good at is central to your life. And maybe it means you pick a career that leaves you time at the end of the day to indulge it.
But just don't neglect the thing about you that makes you weird.
Growing up, I was just happy to get what I got. And I think that's an issue with women. I really like to tell younger women we need to expect to be paid well. We need to expect to have opportunity, because when you expect it, that can change how you're viewed and how women are viewed.
It's so corny, but being true to yourself is part of it. And I am interested in lots of things. And the world is much better at rewarding specialization than they are at generalisation only, I just am interested in everything and at some point trying to deny who you really are just isn't a smart strategy. That, again, was a highlight reel episode of people I mostly admire, you can subscribe to it on any podcast app people I mostly Maya is a production of the Freakonomics Radio Network and Stitcher.
We can be reached at Radio at Freakonomics Dotcom. This episode was produced by Matt Hicky. Our staff also includes Alison Crichlow, Mark McCluskey, Greg Rippin, Zach Lapinsky, Daphne Chen and Mary Duke. Our intern is immaterial and we had help this week from Dan Zula. The music you hear on people I mostly admire, like the music you hear on Freakonomics Radio was composed by Louise Garrett. We will be back next week with a brand new episode of Freakonomics Radio.
Until then, take care of yourself and when you can, someone else to. Stitcher. You've hit that midday slump. I need a pick me up. Imagine if you worked 30 percent less, you'd be getting ready to come home now. I'm sorry we can't shorten your working day. I carbury dairy milk, 30 percent less sugar. And your favorite music stream should help Cadbury dairy milk, 30 percent less sugar just as irresistable.