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Random Talkers is the show where two data scientists (aka myself and Matt McKim) review tech books and analyze breaking news. New clips uploaded bi-weekly. Available in podcast form via iTunes or SoundCloud. Help Google's algorithms view us in a favorable light by subscribing on YouTube! Thank you for your support!


E20: China’s Social Credit System, “The Gray Rhino” Reviewed

This week’s episode is focused on China. First, we discuss China’s burgeoning social credit system, whereby citizens can be rated on their ability to pay bills, their college degrees, and even their choice in friends. While social credit might seem like a dystopian nightmare a la Black Mirror, Matt thinks the system could be rather useful! Next, we review Michele Wucker’s THE GRAY RHINO. A favorite of Chinese government leadership, this book tells us not to ignore obvious dangers hiding in plain sight…

E19: Blockchain Applications, “American Kingpin” Reviewed

It’s a crypto special! With our BTC holdings crashing, your hosts instead turn to the blockchain. Are there many practical applications for this new technology, and might it even return us to the decentralized idealism of the early Internet?

Next, we review “American Kingpin” by Nick Bilton, which recounts the rise and fall of Ross Ulbricht and the Silk Road. For the uninitiated, the Silk Road was an anonymous online marketplace primarily used to buy and sell drugs…while also being one of the first uses for Bitcoin. We breakdown how Ross’s unusual background empowered him to found the site, and how some early mistakes would lead to his eventual downfall.

E18: The Innovator's Solution

This week we breakdown "The Innovator's Solution," the 2003 follow-up to Clayton Christensen's business classic “The Innovator's Dilemma." Fifteen years on, do Christensen’s theories on growth and disruption still hold true? Adam is a believer. Matt?…not so much

E17: The Hard Thing About Hard Things

The show has returned! This week we review “The Hard Thing About Hard Things” by Ben Horowitz. Ben is a founding partner at Andreessen Horowitz, one of Silicon Valley’s most renowned venture capital firms. But this book isn’t about glamorous VC success stories. No, it’s about Ben’s CEO career before a16z, when everything usually seemed to be going wrong.

Hopefully long-time listeners notice a significant increase in sound quality on this one.

E16: Where Are The Aliens, What’s Up With The Octopus?

It’s our final episode of the year! This week we bring you two book reviews. First up: ”If the Universe Is Teeming with Aliens ... WHERE IS EVERYBODY?" by Stephen Webb. This work analyzes 75 possible explanations to the Fermi Paradox, a conundrum that’s been flummoxing space observers for over 60 years.

Next, we go beneath the ocean for “Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness” by Peter Gregory-Smith. Gregory-Smith is the rare philosophy professor who would rather go scuba diving than sit in an ivory tower. It turns out octopus and aliens have more in common than you might expect…

E15: Delivering Happiness, Debating Bitcoin

Our book review this week is “Delivering Happiness” by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh. Tony eschewed any ghostwriters for this book, and in their stead he’s delivered an entertaining tale of entrepreneurial ups and downs. Next, it’s the Random Talkers Bitcoin analysis for which all cryptocurrency investors have surely been waiting! We discuss whether Bitcoin can ever displace the government-backed currencies we use today, and we ponder how impending regulation may affect crypto adoption.

E14: Zero To One Review, Net Neutrality Debated

This week we review Peter Thiel’s “Zero To One.” The book has a neat origin story: when Thiel taught a class on startups at Stanford in 2012, Blake Masters, a student, took detailed notes and posted them online. When the notes went viral, Masters worked with Thiel to craft them into an entire book! The finished project is an interesting mix of down-to-earth startup advice and grandiose visions for the future. Next (6:10), we analyze FCC chairman Ajit Pai’s recent proposals to rollback net neutrality regulations. It’s a contentious segment! One of us thinks opposition concerns are overblown, while the other sees net neutrality as vital to the future of the internet. For unknown reasons we decided to end this episode with debate style closing statements...

E13: The Everything Store Reviewed, Waymo Surges Ahead

This week’s book review is “The Everything Store” by Brad Stone. Stone’s book tells the story of Jeff Bezos and Amazon, taking us from humble beginnings as a Seattle bookseller through its ascent into the e-commerce, media, and cloud computing colossus of today. Bezos doesn’t always come off well in the book (his wife actually gave it a one star review on Amazon) but we found “The Everything Store” an interesting read even four years after publication. In our second segment, we react to the stunning progress of Waymo, Alphabet’s self-driving project. How can self-driving cars be programmed to drive ethically, and which countries will likely see the fastest adoption?

E12: Superintelligence And The Future Of AI, ESPN Ditches Barstool

We start this episode by reviewing Nick Bostrom's “Superintelligence”, a book about what happens when artificial intelligence becomes smarter than humans. How dangerous is “superintelligent” AI, will it arrive sometime soon, and is there anything we can (or should) do to stop it? Next, it’s time for something completely different: a dissection of ESPN’s short-lived partnership with Barstool Sports. While we feel for the hosts of Pardon My Take, it’s hard to see how dealing with Dave Portnoy was ever a good move for the worldwide leader.