Free 24 min read

Sophie Roell On Books

Uri Bram: I’m delighted to be here today with Sophie Roell, co-founder and editor of, certainly the best book curation site on the internet. Sophie, thanks for joining  –– could you guess for us how many books you have read at this point?

Sophie Roell: It’s very hard to come up with a number because there are different levels of reading books. So some books I really read properly word for word and some I just skim and everywhere in between. So I’ve certainly read – I’ve certainly skimmed and looked at – I probably look at about seven books a week and I’ve been doing this for about a decade so you do the math.

Uri Bram: I'm doing the math and I make that somewhere around 4,000 books, which is incredible.

Sophie Roell: Yeah, that’s possible. But the other aspect is that

Free 12 min read

A.J. Jacobs on Puzzles

Uri: I'm delighted to be here today with AJ Jacobs, author of The Puzzler, a fantastic new book about puzzling in all its forms -- crosswords, jigsaws, mazes and more -- and also about the meaning of life. So, I thought I'd ask A.J. some things that have been puzzling me lately. A.J., what goes on four legs in the morning, two in the afternoon and three at night?

A.J.: I do happen to know that classic riddle — traditionally it’s a human. In the morning of life there’s a baby crawling around, in the afternoon there's an adult on two legs, in the evening you have a cane as well.

But I have heard alternate answers, and I’m a big fan of alternative answers. When I was a teenager, my friend said you could take a dog and chop off two legs and glue

Free 4 min read

Browser Interview: Abe Callard

Uri: I'm excited to talk today with Abe Callard, who edited our wonderful video-recommending Viewer newsletter that wrapped up last week.

Abe, after two years of choosing videos, can you tell us what you’ve learned about the world of YouTube?

Abe: If you want more views and more engagement, the most important thing is to display a voracious interest in your subject matter. Many videos on hot topics fail to get traction because of the creator’s impassive tone and editing style (just look at r/videoessay for a litany of these), while a creator like BobbyBroccoli regularly pulls hundreds of thousands of views on videos about obscure scientific scandals from the 70s because he seems genuinely obsessed with them. That obsession is contagious.

Uri: Are there any types of video that seem especially easy or hard to find on YouTube?

Abe: This is probably selfish (it happens to

Free 15 min read

Adrienne Raphel on Crosswords

Uri: I'm delighted to be here today with Adrienne Raphel, the author of Thinking Inside the Box, a brilliant book about crosswords. Adrienne, you’ve been enjoying crosswords since your youth – can you tell us a little bit about how you came to them?

Getting Into Crosswords

Adrienne: I think I should start off by just laying out that I am not a super crossword expert. I’m no Dan Feyer. I’m not Stella Zawistowski. I bow to those people: it’s amazing to meet them all. It’s an incredible community of people.

I’ve been a word enthusiast since before I can remember. I don’t really have any memory of a time when I couldn’t read, which is probably because I have a slightly older brother who I was very competitive with and he read fairly early; and just because my family likes competition and

Free 6 min read

Tomiwa Owolade On Social And Moral Movements

Uri: I’m delighted to be here today with writer and critic Tomiwa Owolade. Tomiwa, you seem to have an ongoing interest in social and moral movements and how they happen. In one piece, you write “the means through which our moral norms spread will always be somewhat imperfect, haphazard, bungling,” which I really respect. But still I want to ask you – do you have an overall model of social change? When moral movements do succeed, what makes the difference?

Tomiwa: I espouse the view expressed by the French social theorist and literary critic René Girard that we are mimetic creatures; we like to imitate other people. Which raises the question: who do we often imitate in particular? I think, as Thorstein Veblein noted, we imitate the fashions of high-status people.

I think moral movements typically succeed when they are adopted by high-status people. This is why I’m not

Free 29 min read

Helen Toner On Chinese Growth, AI Milkshakes And Making Bets

James: Hey, everyone. Welcome back to Browser Bets. Today I'm with Helen Toner, the Director of Strategy at Georgetown Center for Security and Emerging Technologies. She's also on the board of OpenAI and has a wealth of knowledge and experience both about China, technology and artificial intelligence and we're so excited to have her on the show with us today. Anything I missed in your bio there?

Helen: No, I think that covered the basics.

James: Awesome. So, you have a little bit of experience during forecasting as a part of your professional experience. What do you want to forecast with us today?

Helen: Yeah, I am a huge fan of forecasting and using bets as a way to make our opinions, beliefs and ideas about the world more concrete and make it easier to engage with them. I work in Washington so there's a lot of social pressure to

Free 6 min read

Phares Kariuki

Uri Bram: I'm very glad to be here today with Phares Kariuki, technologist and entrepreneur -- I've been telling people for years that you're my favourite philosopher of technology and it's great to be able to interview you. Phares, what are you thinking about these days?

Phares Kariuki: Thank you Uri for the very kind introduction. My thoughts of late have been focused primarily on the role that trust / justice plays in growing an economy.

There's a direct correlation between trust and economic progress: society isn't trying to ensure that people do what they promise, they simply cooperate.

The secret to the human race isn't so much our intelligence, rather it's our cooperation. The best hunters cooperate; persistence hunting is how human beings evolved in the savannah. Killer whales and African wild dogs also persistence hunt and this leads to some of the highest kill rates of any predators.


Free 13 min read

Adam Ozimek On Remote Work

Uri Bram: I’m excited to be here today with Adam Ozimek, economist and writer, and now chief economist at Upwork and a leading expert on remote work. Adam you’re also one of the original econbloggers and I feel like I’ve been reading you for more than a decade, which feels wild.

I want to start with a slightly weird question for you: if we had perfect teleports for humans, so we could instantly and costlessly move from any place to any other, what would our work and living patterns look like? Would we all live in the countryside and just pop into the city for meetings and restaurants? Would we even have cities?

Adam Ozimek: That causes so many pieces to move at once that it's actually less telling than you'd think, because you end up in such a weird hypothetical. For example, cities have value that

Free 3 min read

A Year Of Living Thoughtfully

The French have a nice term for what has been lacking in journalism this year: grand reportage, which I mentally subdivide into two categories, blockbusters and yarns. Blockbusters are news stories writ large, the kind that win Pulitzers. Yarns are offbeat stories pursed to the point at which they become fascinating. The greatest yarn ever told is either Frank Sinatra Has A Cold, by Gay Talese (the making of which has since been recounted by Talese himself); or Orchid Fever (which became a book called The Orchid Thief), by Susan Orlean.

This was a thin year for grand reportage partly because it was so difficult for reporters (and everybody else) to get out and about, and partly because so much of the media was a monoculture of Covid updates. But every cloud has a silver lining: Stuck at home, we did a lot of thinking. The quantity and quality of

Free 8 min read

The Fallacy Of Success, by G. K. Chesterton (1915)

Part of our Browser Classics series, recommending outstanding essays from centuries past.

G.K. Chesterton. was an English writer, philosopher, lay theologian, and literary and art critic. He has been referred to as the "prince of paradox" He was the author of around 80 books including All Things Considered, from which this essay is taken.

Text courtesy of Project Gutenberg

There has appeared in our time a particular class of books and articles which I sincerely and solemnly think may be called the silliest ever known among men. They are much more wild than the wildest romances of chivalry and much more dull than the dullest religious tract. Moreover, the romances of chivalry were at least about chivalry; the religious tracts are about religion. But these things are about nothing; they are about what is called Success. On every bookstall, in every magazine, you may find works telling people how

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