What is it that you do to practice on an almost everyday basis, that is akin to how a classical concert pianist would practice scales? How can you get others to notice this talent you hone- especially one who might fund your talent? In this episode, EconTalk host Russ Roberts welcomes back Tyler Cowen to talk about his new book Talent, co-authored with Daniel Gross.

The conversation also highlights Cowen’s new VC-esque project, Emergent Ventures, though which Cowen is seeking not just talent, but transformational talent. Along the way, Cowen describes his unconventional interviewing process, what he looks for in a grant recipient, and why he thinks knowing how many tabs are open on your computer might be the best indicator of interest.



1- Roberts and Cowen agree that finding talent is more an art than a science, but how does Cowen define  it? Why is the question of what and how much someone practices of such importance to Cowen?


2- Cowen and Roberts spend a good bit of time discussing the emotional side of interviewing, and Cowen’s own idiosyncratic style of “unstructured” interviews. To what extent are interviews overrated today? What makes someone a good interview for Cowen? (And perhaps of most interest, who amongst YOU wants to be the next Russ Roberts??? We’ll need to set up a Zoom…)


3- Is meritocracy- out of fashion in 2022? Do we overrate credentials in modern economies? When Cowen says of credentialism, “it’s a barrier to minorities,  a barrier to women who had children earlier, who had children at the wrong time, or who left school to raise families. And, it’s one of the worst things we do in American society,” what does he mean? To what extent do you think this is true?


4- What’s the difference between stamina and grit for Cowen, and why might stamina be a negative characteristic?


5- Cornucopia question; take your pick: What do confession and therapy have in common? How can Zoom interviews sometimes be better than in-person interviews? How is status different in Zoom than in person? How much does humor correlate with success?