Every week we conduct edifying interviews with interesting figures, all of which are collected below in order of recency.
Maggie Lieu on China going to Mars
James Dillard | 21st November 2021
China will land a live human on Mars by 2035, says Maggie Lieu, in conversation with Browser Bets about the future of space, robotics, and the universe. Maggie is a past fellow at the European Space Agency and now researches machine learning and cosmology at the University of Nottingham.
Andrew Hunter Murray On Dystopias
Sylvia Bishop | 17th November 2021
The Browser's Sylvia Bishop talks to Andrew Hunter Murray about his book The Last Day, a dystopian world in which the earth’s orbit had been disrupted and the planet moves in lock-step with the sun. "Really it’s a story about human nature in a world which is starting to change dramatically, and where nations have retreated to look after only their own citizens rather than looking outwards" (1,866 words)
Edgar Gerrard Hughes On Lost And Found Emotions
Uri Bram | 13th November 2021
The author of The Book Of Emotions talks to The Browser's Uri Bram. "A lost emotion would be something like acedia. It's a feeling that fifth century monks in North Africa used to have. They'd be sitting in their cells, meditating and praying, but then a complete languor and listlessness would come over them all of a sudden. It's an afternoon slump with a very intense spiritual crisis attached.
Elizabeth Minkel On Fanfiction
Uri Bram | 10th November 2021
"When we talk about novelists, we tend to play up the solo element—it's our romantic vision of what a "writer" is. But huge portions of art that gets written in the world," including much TV, "is in fact written communally." In modern fanfiction, authors "prompt each other into writing specific things, exchange works as gifts, and comment on works-in-progress in real time as the author is posting" (3,292 words)
L.M. Sacasas On Instant Messenger
Uri Bram | 3rd November 2021
Interviewed here over instant messenger, philosopher L.M. Sacasas reflects on the ways that that technology shapes the conversations that are had on it. In writing, "we can't quite lose ourselves in conversation the way we might in person because writing forces us to not only speak but also think about speaking." The natural rhythm and cues of speech are replaced by three fluctuating dots (2,328 words)
The Browser Goes Betting With Sebastian Park
James Dillard | 31 October 2021
Sebastian Park is an investor at BITKRAFT Ventures and Infinite Canvas, and was previously VP of Esports for the Houston Rockets. In this conversation with James Dillard he discusses probabilities and possibilities concerning the future of NFTs, the creator economy and user generated content — and how his experience of poker-playing, sabermetrics and Bayesian updating shapes how he makes his bets.
Transcript: 11,366 words | Video: 59m 05s
Byrne Hobart On Finance
Applied Divinity Studies | 27th October 2021
Interesting throughout. For high earners, the opportunity cost of reading newsletters is higher than the financial cost of a subscription; this puts a premium on novelty, decision-relevance and concision. "Moby-Dick has a scene where Ishmael is negotiating his equity comp package (he gets 33 bps)." Meme stocks represent both earnestness and nihilism about efforts to get rich (3,960 words)
Jodi Ettenberg on living the granular life after a CSF leak
24th October 2021
Jodi Ettenberg, aka Legal Nomad, gave up a first career as a corporate lawyer to turn herself into a much-admired travel and food writer. Now disabled, she writes about resilience, curiosity, and loss. In this interview, Jodi speaks candidly about the day-to-day of living with a disability, losing close friends along the way, and the importance of community. Transcript: 6,212 words | Video: 33m 16s
Jon Ingold On Archaeology And Video Games
20th October 2021
Often archaeology brings to mind Indiana Jones, looted treasure, and derring-do, but the discipline is "a way for a culture to look at its own position in the world", a perspective infused in the "suspiciously book-like" video game Heaven's Vault. The idea of using translation and decipherment as gameplay activities ultimately unites "the with the narrative, directly and coherently" (3,406 words)
Eugene Wei on product building, the left brain, and film
17 October 2021
Product executive and filmmaker Eugene Wei—whose writing occasionally graces our recommendations—talks to Baiqu about how we often misclassify choices led by intuition as luck, the benefits of always being a beginner at something, and thinking in infinite timescales despite our finite human lives. Wei is known for his considered writing on tech, but here he speaks lithely on the philosophy of film and mortality.
Transcript: 4,662 words | Video: 33m 16s
A Literal Banana on the problems with social science
13th October 2021
Even beyond fraud and the replication crisis, the problem in social science is "using abstractions poorly." Neither surveys nor "reductive laboratory protocols" are actually capable of meaningfully measuring abstractions like trust or happiness. Study results are often seen as high status, when in fact "stories from yourself and trusted people are almost the only kind of evidence that’s real" (2,218 words)
Chris Williamson on how Love Island cured his existential crisis
10th October 2021
Baiqu sits down with Chris Williamson, host of the Modern Wisdom podcast to discuss finding meaning in life, figuring out masculinity as a working-class northern man, having an existential crisis on Love Island, and cooling mattress pads. (6,297 words)
Transcript: 6,297 words | Video: 33m16s
QNTM on knowledge that resists spreading
6th October 2021
The classical definition of a meme is a piece of information with a propensity for contagious proliferation. Thus an anti-meme is an idea that doesn't spread, whether intentionally—due to government injunction or social taboo—or unintentionally—due to complexity or unpalatability. In this Browser interview, science fiction author QNTM explores the ramifications of self-erasing knowledge
Transcript: 5,242 words | Podcast: 39m 44s
Uri Bram on massage school, importing chilli, and email coaching
1st October 2021
Uri Bram is the publisher of The Browser, and author of Thinking Statistically and The Business of Big Data. This week Uri tells Baiqu about massage school, importing Rwandan chilli, and the benefits of email coaching.
Transcript: 3,364 words | Video: 30m 23s
Slime Mold Time Mold on the obesity epidemic
29th September 2021
Historically, only 1% of people were obese regardless of diet. But obesity spiked sharply and suddenly from the 1980s, across all countries, and anorexia paradoxically increased at the same time. None of the traditional theories explain this fact pattern convincingly. Here, pseudonymous bloggers Slime Mold Time Mold speak about their alternative model: environmental contaminants (3,604 words)
Oliver Burkeman on making the most of life
22 September 2021
Oliver Burkeman, author of the new book Four Thousand Weeks, on the finitude of life. "We have a short amount of time and not much ability to control how it unfolds. We have to drop back down into reality on these matters and to withstand some of the discomfort of that in order to do some things that matter instead of pursuing this futile dream of doing everything one day, but not yet".
Transcript: 3,691 words | Video: 24m 04s
Ada Palmer on science fiction and Machiavelli's laundry
18 September 2021
Ada Palmer is a cultural historian and the author of science fiction novels, including the award-winning Terra Ignota series. This week, she talks to Baiqu about big tech’s censorship problem, the false narrative of the singular hero in history, and Machiavelli's laundry.
Transcript: 15,563 words | Video: 42m 19s
Pamela Hobart on the existential sandwich
16th September 2021
Pamela Hobart is a philosopher turned philosophical life coach, aka "the life coach for smart people," and mother of three. This week she discusses how to deal with an existential sandwich, why small innovations are valuable, and the deathbed fallacy.
Transcript: 5647 words | Video: 30m 23s
Lyz Lenz on keeping balance on the internet
15th September 2021
Caroline Crampton talks to Lyz Lenz, a journalist and author based in Iowa, about religion, marriage, keeping your balance on the internet, and more. "It's this whole idea of writing that I have about chiaroscuro, that idea of balancing in art, light and dark. You can't just be dark all the time, because nobody will want it. And you can't just be light all the time – well, you can, but that's bananas".
Transcript: 15,738 words | Podcast: 53m 29s
Steve R. Waldman on the fallacy of composition
13 September 2021
Steve Randy Waldman writes about finance, economics, and politics at interfluidity.com. He talks to Baiqu Gonkar about wading in the river of intellectual life, the dynamics of capitalism, and the evolution of the blogosphere.
Transcript: 3,523 words | Video: 24m 15s
Three Stanford professors on where Big Tech went wrong
8th September 2021
Uri Bram talks to three Stanford professors – philosopher Rob Reich, political scientist Jeremy Weinstein and computer scientist Mehran Sahami – about their brand new book System Error: Where Big Tech Went Wrong and How We Can Reboot, discussing sensible regulation, democratic values and the future of technology in under ten words each.
Transcript: 4,136 words | Video: 26m 39s | Podcast: 26m 34s
Spencer Greenberg on rational thinking and the scout mindset
5th September 2021
Spencer Greenberg is a mathematician and the Founder of Clearthinking.com. He unpacks what it means to be in a scout mindset, and how to apply rational thinking to Amazon purchases.
Transcript: 4,881 words | Video: 22m 49s
Applied Divinity Studies on air monitors
1st September 2021
Uri Bram talks to the pseudonymous blogger Applied Divinity Studies about tech culture writing, how to embrace variance, and why everyone should get an air monitor (7,931 words)
Sylvia Bishop on killing the parents
27th August 2021
Sylvia Bishop is a children's book writer with nine titles translated into 16 languages, part of the musical improv duo Peablossom Cabaret, and (not least) Assistant Publisher of The Browser.
Transcript: 2,830 words | Video: 17m 03s
Jordan Schneider on staging Hamilton in Beijing
20th August 2021
Jordan is a China technology analyst at The Rhodium Group, as well as the host of the ChinaTalk podcast and newsletter. Jordan shares the joy of Chinese landscape painting whilst listening to Anna Karenina, learning to dribble like Devin Booker, and staging Hamilton in Beijing.
Transcript: 3,573 words | Video: 20m 56s
Laura McInerney on education, journalism and Teacher Tapp
14th August 2021
Laura McInerney is an education journalist, app founder and former high school teacher. She was once taken to court by the UK government for asking a question. This week Laura and Baiqu discuss teaching teenagers, how the London Olympics brought people together, and tornados in Missouri.
Transcript: 6,213 words | Video: 32m 18s
Stella Zawistowski on deadlifting and crossword solving
6th August 2021
Stella is a cryptic-crossword evangelist and puzzle maker for The Browser and the New Yorker. She tells Baiqu how she comes to be "the only person in the world, man or woman, who can say both of those things: that they've solved in New York Times crossword in under five minutes, and can lift 325 pounds".
Transcript: 3,299 words | Video: 19m 2s
Ian Leslie on creating the adversary you want
1st August 2021
Ian Leslie, author of Conflicted and editor of The Ruffian, talks to The Browser's Baiqu Gonkar about the Darwinian nature of disagreements, how to create the adversary you want, and the joy of small gadgets.
Transcript: 3,923 words | Video: 23m 16s
Dan Wang on Mozart, California and Avalon
25th July 2021
Dan Wang is a Shanghai-based writer who covers technology at Gavekal Dragonomics. He talks here to The Browser's Baiqu Gonkar about understanding Xi Jinping, the development of cities in China and America, why Cosi Fan Tutte is Mozart's best Italian opera, the joys of Yunnan cooking, and what board games reveal about human nature.
Transcript: 4,051 words | Video: 26m 15s
Soumaya Keynes on the secrets of economics
18th July 2021
Soumaya Keynes, Europe Economics Editor at The Economist, on the best way to learn economics, how to combine home treadmills with insightfully trashy TV, and the value of cheesy-sounding self-improvement habits.
Transcript: 3,442 words | Video: 23m 22s
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