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People I (Mostly) Admire

Steve Levitt, the iconoclastic University of Chicago economist and co-author of the Freakonomics book series, tracks down other high achievers and asks questions that only he would think to ask. Guests include all-time Jeopardy! champion Ken Jennings, Harvard psychologist and linguist Steven Pinker, and top literary agent Suzanne Gluck. People I (Mostly) Admire is a production of the Freakonomics Radio Network.

22. Sal Khan: “If It Works for 15 Cousins, It Could Work for a Billion People.”

People I (Mostly) Admire

  • 320 views
  • 4 months ago
  • 44:18

Khan Academy grew out of Sal Khan’s online math tutorials for his extended family. It’s now a platform used by more than 115 million people in 190 countries. So what does Khan want to do next? How about reinventing in-school learning, too? Find out why Steve nearly moved to Silicon Valley to be part of Khan's latest venture. 

21. Pete Docter: “What If Monsters Really Do Exist?”

People I (Mostly) Admire

  • 400 views
  • 4 months ago
  • 43:42

He’s the chief creative officer of Pixar, and the Academy Award-winning director of Soul, Inside Out, Up, and Monsters, Inc. Pete Docter and Steve talk about Pixar’s scrappy beginnings, why it costs $200 million to make an animated film, and the movie moment that changed Steve’s life.

20. John Donohue: “I'm Frequently Called a Treasonous Enemy of the Constitution.”

People I (Mostly) Admire

  • 220 views
  • 4 months ago
  • 37:14

He’s a law professor with a Ph.D. in economics and a tendency for getting into fervid academic debates. Over 20 years ago, he and Steve began studying the impact of legalized abortion on crime. John and Steve talk about guns, the death penalty, the heat they took from their joint research,  and why it’s frustratingly difficult to prove truth in the social sciences.

19. Marina Nitze: “If You Googled ‘Business Efficiency Consultant,’ I Was the Only Result.”

People I (Mostly) Admire

  • 900 views
  • 5 months ago
  • 38:03

At 27— and without a college degree — she was named chief technology officer of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Today, Marina Nitze is trying to reform the foster care system. She tells Steve how she hacked the V.A.’s bureaucracy, opens up about her struggle with Type 1 diabetes, and explains how she was building websites for soap opera stars when she was just 12 years old.

18. Robert Sapolsky: “I Don’t Think We Have Any Free Will Whatsoever.”

People I (Mostly) Admire

  • 400 views
  • 5 months ago
  • 41:55

He’s one of the world’s leading neuroscientists, with a focus on the physiological effects of stress. (For years, he spent his summers in Kenya, alone except for the baboons he was observing.) Steve asks Robert why we value human life over animals, why he’s lost faith in the criminal-justice system, and how to look casual when you’re about to blow-dart a very large and potentially unhappy primate.

17. Emily Oster: “I Am a Woman Who Is Prominently Discussing Vaginas.”

People I (Mostly) Admire

  • 220 views
  • 5 months ago
  • 42:25

In addition to publishing best-selling books about pregnancy and child-rearing, Emily Oster is a respected economist at Brown University. Over the course of the pandemic, she’s become the primary collector of data about Covid-19 in schools. Steve and Emily discuss how she became an advocate for school reopening, how economists think differently from the average person, and whether pregnant women really need to avoid coffee.