"Tivo-ifies the web" Paul Kedrosky

Nassim Taleb (Black Swan) Interview

Charlie Rose interviews Nassim Taleb who famously compared investment bankers to turkeys. Taleb is best known for his book about the importance of seemingly impossible but inevitable events such as Black Swan sightings after the discovery of Australia, where they exist.

A turkey gets fed very well, until it gets slaughtered. Right up to turkey killing day, turkey analysts and advisors would recommend investing in relationships with farmers to feed and shelter them. So it has been with bankers from the 80s till now.

Rose asks Taleb for a balanced view of how bad the economy will really get, compared to the extreme doomsayers such as Nouriel Roubini, who correctly predicted each step of this ‘great recession’ and who worried Rose’s viewers by saying that it meant the end of American empire.

Taleb’s reply is that it will be worse than Roubini thinks. At which point there is an audible thud as Charlie Rose slams his hands on the desk, aghast.

Full interview, running time: 20 mins.

Via Calculated Risk

1 comment business, interviews

Niall Ferguson, the Ascent of Money

Unfortunately nobody has uploaded the excellent UK Channel 4 documentary version of Niall Ferguson’s timely book about the history of money, but this conversation is a good taster. Have a look out for the series of the same name.

Running time: 1 hour.

11 comments business, interviews

Inside The Economist Magazine

This interview with John Micklethwait, editor-in-chief at The Economist magazine may seem a little dull, after all, Micklethwait is hardly a celebrity. But that’s the point, The Economist does not print bylines, so the very nature of those who write for it is anonymity. However, in a period when traditional newspapers look extremely fragile, from local rags to the laurel resting, but dull and myopic New York Times, publications like the Economist, look like the only news properties with any future. And here Micklethwait talks about the future of newspapers.

If anyone wants to challenge me on the notion that the New York Times is boring, consider their recent-ish headline: “No Anthrax Found in Pond”. This roughly translates as: “Nothing Happened in an Insignificant Body of Water”. If I were teaching a journalism class, I would use this as a case study example of a poor headline.

Hoover Institution, Stanford University
42 min 47 sec Feb 5, 2007www.hoover.org


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John Carpenter: Fear Is Just the Beginning

A documentary about John Carpenter is the only setting where Kurt Russell’s appearance on screen doesn’t have me reaching for the off button.
Image Entertainment 59 min 58 sec Dec 11, 2007


1 comment biography, interviews

Luis Buñuel

What’s most interesting about this documentary is not just the subject, but how representative it is of a particular 60s French style. In other words a very 60s French documentary about a Spaniard who worked in France and made timeless movies. The interviewees include Max Ernst.
Office de Radiodiffusion Television Francaise 37 min 25 sec Dec 30, 2006


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Steve Jones Interview – (in light of the Watson controversy)

James Watson, co-discoverer of DNA, is in a lot of hot water after claiming that black people are less intelligent.
I was dismayed to see how many commenters on websites like Digg were saying things like ‘at least someone has the guts to say it’. It was equally worrying that there was a patronizing undercurrent of ‘perhaps this is true and we should censure science’.

Science may indeed create moral dilemmas – it has already with Darwinism. (Many apologists ignore the fact that Darwinism does in fact create an absolute moral dilemma for the religious. Darwinian creation is cruel, each perfected element being the result of the suffering of others, therefore, you cannot believe in a truly benign creator and the fact of Darwinism). It could have been true that some people are more stupid genetically. This would have been a moral dilemma, had it not been for the fact that the premise is wrong making it not worth examining the conclusion.

The statement ‘black people are more stupid genetically’ is meaningless, for the following reasons:

1. Black does not mean much genetically. Humans migrated out of Africa more than once. In other words, Non Africans are closer related to some Africans than those Africans are to other Africans. Even diseases like Sickle Cell Anemia are not black diseases, per se, just diseases that were inherited with a cultural grouping, having been predominant in malarial regions (thanks Tom).

2. It hasn’t always been black people that were looked down upon. The Romans, for example, had an African emperor and viewed Northern Europeans as being an inferior race.

3. Statistics that correlated lower intelligence with color, had that correlation removed if class were taken into account. I.e. being poor makes you less likely to do well in an IQ test. People who are looked down upon tend to be poorer, like Germans in the Roman Empire.

If accusation of lower intelligence just happens to correspond exactly to prejudice which is due to an irrational grouping of people, then its probably the grouping that is wrong and therefore it not worth looking into whether black people are less intelligent – no dilemma, stupid and biased premise.

Here Steve Jones, a sensible person, talks about genetics, the day after the author of the infamous ‘Bell Curve’ appeared on Charlie Rose.

Charlie Rose Inc. 57 min 47 sec Feb 20, 2007


2 comments interviews, politics, science, society

Al Gore: The Climate Crisis

I haven’t much time for the Nobel Peace prize, its previous nominees include some of the more barbaric and notorious of the world’s criminals.

However, in honor of Al Gore’s deserving win, which sends an amusing ‘fuck you’ to the knuckle scraping goons lolling around the White House, here is an excellent Channel 4 profile and interview of Gore. It is presented by the UK’s most savvy US correspondent, Johnathan Freedland.

Channel 4 46 min 41 sec Jun 5, 2006 www.climatecrisis.net


4 comments environment, interviews, politics, science

Crazy Rulers of the World (1/3) – The Men Who Stare at Goats

Channel 4
48 min 37 sec Aug 28, 2007


This is the first of a 3 part documentary series, by Jon Ronson (the rest are also on Google Video), which was 3 years in the making. Ronson uses his superficially nerdy demeanor and Gonzo style journalism to elicit candid responses from interviewees who have their guard down.

The topic here is the acceptance of crank ideas such as new age mysticism, by the military, due the openness to new methods after failing to win in Vietnam. At times the documentary seems like parody, but despite being about a lunatic fringe who believe that soldiers can be trained to do such things at communicate psychically with animals, it shows a serious point.

Each one of the, actually quite likable but mad, people that are interviewed represents a uniquely American cultural stereotype, Texan cowboy, West Coast hippie, Pro Wrestler style martial arts fan. As such they are able to take crazy ideas and make them palatable to a supposedly conservative organization such as the military, by making them feel American.

If this is a real, albeit extreme reflection of the reality of the military’s ability to be influenced by irrational ideas that seem culturally acceptable, then ideas that are more widespread in the US but not in the rest of the world, such as extremist Christianity could also damage its efficacy. When the majority of the worlds military expenditure cannot create armies that can win a relatively small war in Iraq, then perhaps the services should be looking at what ideas they are open to.

4 comments interviews, politics, society

J. G. Ballard


Great profile of the genre breaking Science Fiction author J.G. Ballard

1 comment biography, interviews, science fiction

Interview with Jim Brown about “Pete Seeger, the Power of Song”

Jim Brown, interviewed here, is the director of the film about Pete Seeger, that was recently shown at the Tribeca Film Festival (and which I unfortunately failed to get to see after queueing for 2 hours).

Running time: 27 mins

Full screen

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