A simple point about Conversations with Tyler

As you may know from the series, I put in a good amount of preparation for each guest, generally absorbing as much of their life’s work as I can get my hands on.  Even for authors where I have read plenty of them before, I try to reread them fairly comprehensively and all at once, plus some of the secondary literature, criticisms, and the like.  And of course hardly anyone else does this in such a concentrated manner, even if they over time have read everything an author has produced.

Virtually everyone I have done this with has gone up in my eyes as a result.  Both as a content creator and as a “carrier of a career.”

Just keep that in mind the next time you are tempted to criticism a well-known person harshly.  Or for that matter a less well-known person.

You don’t understand them as well as you might.


Very pre-emptive of something, it seems. Maybe the template switch has not been the moon shot expected?

Nice to see that the post author link has been fixed, instead of leading to a 'Page not found' page, by the way.

Indeed you are a hammer, and criticizing Mercatus is how you respond to seeing only nails.

All kidding aside, it's creepy as hell

And not a single word about the Mercatus Center in my comment.

Let us be honest - the moon shot post from Prof. Cowen made it absolutely plain that he considers everything he does online to be part of his product (apologies that the quote does include the Mercatus Center)- 'My method has been to invest in as wide an economics and intellectual product line as is possible, often with co-authors and co-creators (Alex Tabarrok and the Mercatus Center at George Mason University most significantly).

The overall portfolio includes:.....'

This is a decades old game at this point, being played by many more people than Prof. Cowen and Prof. Tabarrok. You are welcome to find it well played or not as you wish, but to not recognize that it is all a game for goals which are not to be discussed openly - including myths like two GMU professors, youtube, and a $4 apps creating an online education resource - is to be played.

But then, we do live in a time where President Trump has shown that one can play all the way to the highest position in the U.S. It just took decades of dedicated effort on the part of many individuals, including a number associated with GMU, to convince people that government is bad, expertise is merely about status, and that virtue is only about signalling.

Enjoy the Conversations - I have to admit to having never watched one. The one with Martina Navratilova is the only one I read - which was interesting, because it was pretty obvious (at least reading the text) she was not participating in the Conversation in the seemingly desired fashion. But then, she has always been a person unconcerned about what others think of her, even if she feels that not having a high school diploma is a not good way to signal that education is worthless.

I think it’s commendable that you do the preparatory work thoroughly. It shows and obviously makes for a better interview.
It’s a little bit surprising though that almost everyone goes up in your eyes as a result. Shouldn’t we expect 50%? Are we then saying that due to lack of knowledge, we underrate everyone ?

I think his point, and it's a good one, is that we all sit back behind keyboards and think we know these people just because we yak about them on web comment boards. But really, people should actually see for themselves and use their brains and then criticize if they must.

Yep, Tyler’s doing the hard work. We’re all just being lazy and complaining on an Internet forum. Wasting our time for the most part...

I think the point is well made. We too often judge people based on little knowledge and often based on one statement or one act that is well known. People are multi-dimensional and it helps to know more about them.

Sine makes a good point...unless YOU have underestimated everyone, and probably by a very significant amount. It would be interesting for you to explain why you (essentially) equate data with information, but perhaps I simply don't understand the Arisian nature of your intellect. Either way, I would find your description/explanation of how you internalize and synthesize another's life-time work in just a few weeks. Seems to me, not that I'm any great thinker, that the best biographers take years and decades to understand their subject (and his/her context).

Arisians were created by E.E. ("Doc") Smith, in case you've forgotten your 1950's (or '60's) Sci-Fi.

1930's to 1940's. The original magazine stories were combined and published as novels in the 50's & 60's.

Unfortunately, some of the best don't leave any of their own works behind. If only Socrates could've youtubed his conversations so we didn't have to rely on Plato's accounts.

Generally, everybody of any intellectual renown is likely way above average in their strong areas.

It's like if you played 18 holes of golf with the 100th best player on the PGA Tour.

How much time do you put into this preparation for a single Conversation?

To play the foil, I'd like to just share a tidbit about Shyamalan, as you mentioned him in the prior post.

A Hollywood friend of mine, who clued me in to the Weinstein non-secret fifteen years before the press decided to care, also shared with me this funny story about the wizard behind "The Sixth Sense." As the story goes, M. Night was shopping this script around for ages, with no success. It was largely the movie as you know it, minus the twist ending.

At one point a studio exec said, hey, what if the [Willis] character is dead all along? Bing bang, brilliant twist, brilliant movie, what a genius this Shymalan is. He's been riding the "Twist Master" accolades ever since, though he's utterly failed to demonstrate the skill in subsequent efforts.

Second-hand, and FWIW. Good day all!

Fascinating, and perhaps an example where Tyler's underestimation principle does not work. Usually I would dismiss that story as another scurrilous Hollywood rumor, but given the mediocrity of Shymalan's subsequent work, maybe that story does explain his career. And explain why he was generally over-estimated for years after doing The Sixth Sense.

Maybe Tyler's admonition not to underestimate people is meant to also apply to himself? Anyone who has a public blog is going to get a bunch of undeserved criticism. I don't hesitate to point out times when I think Tyler is wrong or mis-judging things, but some of the negative things that commenters here make about him are ... underestimates.

Everyone's offended by just about everything. Indeed, not a few readers will be offended that I believe they are offended. Ironically, everyone is also critical of everyone else. Indeed, not a few readers will be critical of this comment. And the more famous one is, the more likely one will offend, and the more likely one will be criticized. Don't take offense, but criticize if you must.

Noah did a good bit on negativity. While we all like to think our criticisms are insightful, it is probably a fair call that enthusiasms are under-represented.


Let me try making that a link.

Noah probably sees a lot more average people when he visits Japan, where as here in America, he pretty much associate with some pretty crappy people.

Which brings us back to Tyler's point (and Trump's victory). The self appointed 'elite' need to get out more. Too much time in their own childish bubbles. You don't need to visit a foreign country, though it may seem foreign to you.

I mean, we don't want to end up like this guy.

My view is that negativity is the default human condition, that being positive requires effort. On the other hand, gullible is also the default human condition. Go figure. My observation about Cowen is that he is both positive and not gullible. But he is a bot and not human.

What about unknown people? Can I critcize then or are they covered by the "less well-known" provision?

Speaking of positive communication, I was able to listen to "Julia Galef podcast with Stanford economist Michael Webb on whether science is slowing down" yesterday. (From the April 5 assorted links.)

I found itto be very good throughout, and it did not dent my native optimism for two reasons:

First, even if discovery does require a bit more investment, the world is getting much richer in money and graduates all the time. It isn't just a few Scottish nutters working on steam engines, it is a dozen countries racing on AI.

Second, and not addressed, I think the rate of deployment matters. What did it take, maybe 50 years for a good Scottish steam engine to reach half the world? Today, certain kinds of innovation can do that in 24 hours.

In sum, accept the investment, and measure to deployment (rather than invention) and our modern world looks really good.

"it is a dozen countries racing on AI"

How 1950s of you.

I wonder if you interviewed President Trump what the outcome would be of your perception of him as either a businessman or political leader.

Politicians are an odd bunch, remarkable not for their own thoughts but for their ability to insert thoughts into the minds of their interlocutors. For example of Tyler had a conversation with Obama he would come away believing that he himself was interesting, insightful and wise. I think something similar with Trump, except he would find out he didn't have pants on when he left.

Starting point must also be considered. I think you are a 1 on a 1-10 scale. After understanding your actual conditions/strategy/etc., I now think you are a 2.

Then again, most of us probably wouldn't choose to interview "1"s...

Also, a strikingly common phenomenon is illustrated by the following comments... Before Trying to Do Something: "This is easy." After Trying: "Wow, I hadn't thought this...or that...or that over there...this is very, very hard." And you now think that fellow is a 2! :)

Virtually everyone I have done this with has gone up in my eyes as a result.

How much of this is just due to the fact that you select people you have reason to think will be interesting? I assume you wouldn't want to put this much effort into preparing for a talk with someone you thought was dull, or not very good, etc. If, say, you chose similarly well known people randomly, do you (really) think you'd get the same result? that would be really surprising.

Steve Sailer said it well above. Tyler selects people who are prominent in at least one field which almost invariably means these people have exceptionally high ambition, intelligence and PR and/or management skills.

E.E. "Doc" Smith was an author of the 1920s and 1930s, not the 50s and 60s, "Father of Space Opera" as he was.

BTW, I go along with theory that questionable statements or actions by prominent people tend to get too much attention.

What a scold you're becoming. Maybe you shouldn't always assume you know more about everyone than your audience, or that an opinion not backed by voluminous research and access to a bottomless supply of other famous people is less valid than yours. I've never seen the Great Pyramid, but I know what it looks like; I don't need an interview with Scott Pruitt to know he is a grifter who needs to be removed from office.

Ah, a Democrat bot, v3. I thought there was one in the women the, but here we are.

V1, the Obama ones were at least interesting and amusing, there was a bit of a compelling story even if he was spouting leftist platitudes. They got very tiresome with accusations of racism when discussing the finer points of health policy.

The Clinton bots were plodding, boring and annoyingly earnest. Something like I imagine my eighth grade English teacher of she was given access to social media.

Now version 3. The self righteousness is palpable, the school marm ratcheted up. A grifter. A lazy unreliable man intent on taking advantage of the more fragile women in our midst.

"I tend to be won over by the last person I spoke to, and if you're not impressed by this side of me, you're stupid." :-p

I've noticed I tend to pronounce the word "foyer" as it was pronounced by the last person who said it to me.

Who on earth criticises people harshly for the entire content of their careers? Criticism tends to be about specific actions, correct?

"In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him." Ender Wiggins.

So where are these criticisms?

Translation: Respect your superiors!

(actually, I agree with Tyler Cowen to a certain extent, but I can't help but think there's an elitist message involved even though he added, "Or for that matter a less well-known person.").

I have found this to be true of any random person I meet on the street. People generally don't appreciate how much expertise goes into "carrying a career," even in simple areas.

Tyler, would you make a post of your average week: how many hours reading, meetings, teaching, blogging, other writing, other spare time, sleeping, etc., And how many pages you read a minute? I'd love to do even half of that, and my guess is that you read much more quickly and sleep less.

Consider interviewing people who you once read enthusiastically but have now moved away from (Taleb?) or who are thought important by others but not by you (Ta-Nehesi Coates?).

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