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The Michael Shermer Show

A series of conversations between Dr. Michael Shermer and leading scientists, philosophers, historians, scholars, writers and thinkers about the most important issues of our time.

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EPISODE # 281

Moneyball For Your Life: Seth Stephens-Davidowitz on Using Data to Get What You Really Want

Dont Trust Your Gut (book cover)

Most people rely on their gut instinct to decide how to date, who to marry, where to live, what career path to take, how to find happiness, but what if our gut is wrong? Biased, unpredictable, and misinformed, our gut, it turns out, is not all that reliable. Data from hundreds of thousands of dating profiles have revealed surprising successful strategies to get a date; data from hundreds of millions of tax records have uncovered the best places to raise children; data from millions of career trajectories have found previously unknown reasons why some rise to the top.

Hard facts and figures consistently contradict our instincts and demonstrate self-help that actually works — whether it involves the best time in life to start a business or how happy it actually makes us to skip a friend’s birthday party for a night of Netflix on the couch. From the boring careers that produce the most wealth, to the old-school, data-backed relationship advice so well-worn it’s become a literal joke, Stephens-Davidowitz unearths the startling conclusions that the right data can teach us about who we are and what will make our lives better.

Seth Stephens-Davidowitz is a contributing op-ed writer for the New York Times, a lecturer at The Wharton School, and a former Google data scientist. He received a BA from Stanford and a PhD from Harvard. His research has appeared in the Journal of Public Economics and other prestigious publications. His previous book, Everybody Lies, was a New York Times bestseller and an Economist Book of the Year. He lives in Brooklyn and is a passionate fan of the Mets, Knicks, Jets, and Leonard Cohen.

Shermer and Stephens-Davidowitz discuss:

  • How do we know everybody lies?
  • Big data tracking racism through searches
  • the Moneyball revolution in sports
  • how to apply the Moneyball system in life
  • What makes a good parent?
  • Who is secretly rich-and why?
  • What are the odds of becoming a celebrity or sports star?
  • how to use data to improve your dating life
  • What predicts a happy marriage?
  • What makes people happy?
  • How much do good looks matter?
  • How much does height and competent faces influence elections?
  • happiness vs. meaningfulness and living a purpose-driven life
  • raising children: short-term vs. long-term outcomes
  • dataism as the new religion (Homo Deus, Yuval Noah Harari): “algorithms know us better than we know ourselves.”

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This episode was released on June 18, 2022.

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