Two great podcasts

by on September 28, 2008 · 4 comments

Walking around campus has given me plenty of time to listen to podcasts lately, and I wanted to recommend the best of what I’ve listened to over the last couple of weeks:

  • Russell Roberts and Chris Anderson: I just recently started listening to Russ Roberts’s excellent podcast, EconTalk, and so I’ve been catching up on old episodes. In this installment from May, Roberts talks to Anderson about the themes of his forthcoming book “free.” I found it particularly interesting to listen to a smart libertarian economist who doesn’t focus on the economics of information industries work through these issues.
  • Russell Roberts and Hal Varian: Roberts talks to Hal Varian, Google’s top economist, about a wide range of issues. The most interesting for me was the discussion of open vs. closed platforms, but the whole thing is worth listening to.
  • This American Life on 419 vigilantes: This American Life is a radio show I’ve loved for years but only recently discovered they have a podcast available. Last week’s episode, which I unfortunately can’t link to because each episode is only up for a week, was a fascinating tale about people who bait African spammers (the ones who promise to send you EIGHT MILLION DOLLARS if you wire them $200 for business expenses). It focused on their greatest success to date: they managed to lure a guy into buying a one-way ticket from Nigeria to Chad, where he was promised that there would be someone waiting for him with a big sack of money. They then managed to send him on a wild goose chase lasting more than 100 days, which ended in a rebel-controlled town close to the Sudanese border. While the guy survived, his life was put in real danger by the incident.

    The host, Ira Glass, expressed moral qualms about the whole thing, pointing out that Chad is not a stable country, and the guy could easily have gotten caught up in civil unrest and been injured or killed. But the baiters had zero sympathy for the guy, arguing that they were just doing to him what he was trying to do to his own victims.

    Frankly, I’m with the baiters. While I don’t think I’d have the stomach to send a guy to Chad myself, I can’t work up any sympathy for the guy, even after hearing all the horrible things that happened to him. These people don’t have a bit of empathy for the people they defraud, and as far as I’m concerned, if others use the same tactics on them, they deserve whatever they get.

    Anyway, EconTalk and This American Life are two of my new favorite podcasts. They don’t focus primarily on tech policy, but the other content is also great. You should subscribe here and here, respectively.

    Update: A friend points out that the This American Life MP3s are available if you know where to look, so the link is now available. Thanks!

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