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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.

16. Joshua Jay: “Humans Are So, So Easy to Fool.”

People I (Mostly) Admire

  • 210 views
  • 4 months ago
  • 42:18

He’s a world-renowned magician who’s been performing since he was seven years old. But Joshua Jay is also an author, toy maker, and consultant for film and television. Steve Levitt talks to him about how magicians construct tricks, how Joshua’s academic studies of magic have influenced Levitt’s life, and whether Jesus might have been a magician.

15. Tim Harford: “If You Can Make Sure You're Not An Idiot, You've Done Well.”

People I (Mostly) Admire

  • 210 views
  • 4 months ago
  • 42:30

He’s a former World Bank economist who became a prolific journalist and the author of one of Steve Levitt’s favorite books, The Undercover Economist. Tim Harford lives in England, where he’s made it his mission to help the public understand statistics. In their conversation, Steve gives Tim some feedback on his new book, The Data Detective, contemplates if it’s possible to tell great stories with data, and Tim explains how making mistakes can be fun. 

14. Yul Kwon (Part 2): “Hey, Do You Have Any Bright Ideas?”

People I (Mostly) Admire

  • 110 views
  • 4 months ago
  • 29:22

He’s so fascinating that Steve Levitt brought him back for a second conversation. Yul Kwon currently works at Google, but he’s been a lawyer, political organizer, government regulator, organ donation activist, and Survivor winner. Steve asks Yul why he’s so altruistic, how Google and Apple are helping track COVID-19, and whether the best way to pick a president might be a reality show.

13. Yul Kwon: “Don't Try to Change Yourself All at Once.”

People I (Mostly) Admire

  • 230 views
  • 5 months ago
  • 36:43

He has been a lawyer, an instructor at the F.B.I. Academy, the owner of a frozen-yogurt chain, and a winner of the TV show Survivor. Today, Kwon works at Google, where he helped build tools to track the spread of COVID-19. But things haven’t always come easily for him. Steve Levitt talks to Kwon about his debilitating childhood anxieties, his compulsion to choose the hardest path in life, and how Kwon used his obsession with game theory to stage a come-from-behind victory on Survivor.

12. Sue Bird: “You Have to Pay the Superstars.”

People I (Mostly) Admire

  • 200 views
  • 5 months ago
  • 40:25

She is one of the best basketball players ever. She’s won multiple championships, including four Olympic gold medals and four W.N.B.A. titles — the most recent in 2020, just before turning 40. She also helped negotiate a landmark contract for the league’s players. Sue Bird tells Steve Levitt the untold truth about clutch players, her thoughts about the pay gap between male and female athletes, and what it means to be part of the first gay couple in ESPN’s The Body Issue.   

11. Paul Romer: “I Figured Out How to Get Myself Fired From the World Bank.”

People I (Mostly) Admire

  • 200 views
  • 5 months ago
  • 34:10

For many economists — Steve Levitt included — there is perhaps no greater inspiration than Paul Romer, the now-Nobel laureate who at a young age redefined the discipline and has maintained a passion for introducing new ideas to staid debates. Levitt finds out what makes Romer a serial “quitter,” why you can’t manufacture big ideas, and what happened when Romer tried to start a charter city.