The Turing Test #9: Lant Pritchett

In this episode, we interview Lant Pritchett, Professor of the Practice of International Development at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. After obtaining his PhD in Economics from MIT, he worked at the World Bank for many years, and was a contributor to the first Copenhagen consensus, a project that seeks to establish priorities in addressing environmental issues. In his book, Let Their People Come, Pritchett argues that the best way the developed world can help impoverished countries is to allow for immigration of low-skilled workers. We talk about this, and a whole lot more.

We found Lant to be an absolute hoot, and hope you will, too!

The Turing Test #8: Spencer Greenberg

How to introduce Spencer Greenberg? He’s a man who wears many hats– entrepreneur, doctorate in applied math from New York University, researcher, startup founder, and he’s extremely productive in his spare time, too! He founded Spark Wave, a startup foundry which creates novel software products designed to solve problems in the world. A few of the issues they’ve tackled are scalable care for depression, and technology for improving social science. He also founded, which offers free tools and training programs, that have been used by over 150,000 people, designed to help improve decision-making and reduce biases in people’s thinking.
I think the best way to get to know Spencer is by talking to him, so I hope you enjoy getting to know him as much as we did!

The Turing Test #7: Bryan Caplan

Bryan Caplan is an economist and professor of economics at George Mason University, research fellow at the Mercatus Center, adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute and a frequent contributor to Freakonomics as well as publishing his own blog, EconLog. He’s also the author of the books The Myth of the Rational Voter, Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids, and The Case Against Education. He is a self-described libertarian and anarchocapitalist, but in his popular works I mostly think of him as a contrarian.

Fans of Bryan’s blog may already know that he coined the phrase ‘Ideological Turing Test’, to which we owe the show’s title and theme.

The Turing Test #6: Scott Weathers

Scott is a student at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health and the Associate Project Director of Charity Science: Health – a new charity founded within the effective altruism community with the goal of becoming one of the most cost-effective organizations in the global health space.

Before joining the Charity Science team, Scott conducted cost­-effectiveness analyses on global health interventions as a summer intern at the WHO. He has experience working at the Center for Global Development and the US Department of State.

The Turing Test #5: Brian Tomasik

Brian Tomasik writes about ethics, animal welfare, and far-future scenarios from a suffering-focused perspective, all of which you can find on
He helped to found Foundational Research Institute, a think tank that explores crucial considerations for reducing suffering in the long-run future. (Full-disclosure, Holly is currently a contractor for FRI.)
Previously, Brian earned to give as a programmer at FlyHomes, and before that at Microsoft.
Brian is something of a cult figure in EA. You’ll see in the interview that he has an extremely thoroughly thought out viewpoint that still strikes a lot of EAs as very unituitive. That combination is pretty irresistable. Brian has changed our minds a lot and convinced me of the importance of a lot of things I previously overlooked. And he does it with such serenity and goodwill that you can’t help but like him while he’s dutifully showing you how wrong you are. Ales and I really loved the experience, and we hope you will, too.

The Turing Test #4: Josh Greene

Joshua Greene is a professor in the Harvard Department of Psychology where he runs the Moral Cognition Lab. He received his bachelor’s degree from Harvard and then a PhD in philosophy at Princeton where he was mentored by many bright lights of analytical philosophy, including Peter Singer, who served on his comittee. After doing a post-doc in a a cognitive neuroscience lab, Greene returned to Harvard to begin his own lab, the Moral Cognition Lab, which studies both descriptive and normative psyhcology and philosophy.

The Turing Test #3: Adam Marblestone

Adam Marblestone is Chief Strategy Officer of Kernel, and a part-time research scientist with the Synthetic Neurobiology group at MIT. His PhD was in Biophysics at Harvard, under George Church. There he co-authored experimental and theoretical papers on molecular recording devices and road-mapped approaches for whole-brain mapping.
He also participated in the development of new genome engineering and nanotechnology methods. With Ed Boyden at MIT, he helped to initiate the field of optical connectomics, the mapping of connections between neurons, using the combination of expansion microscopy, in-situ sequencing, and machine learning., which you’ll about in today’s episode. He is ALSO the co-founder of BioBright, a company aiming to create a “smart lab” to improve biological experimentation and a scientific advisor to the Open Philanthropy Project.

The Turing Test #2: Irene Pepperberg

In episode 2, we test Irene Pepperberg on animal cognition and symbolic communication. Dr. Pepperberg worked with Alex the African Grey Parrot for 30 years, until his untimely death, and continues to work with other African Greys (Athena and Griffin) to explore the limits of their congnitive abilities. Long story short: she still hasn’t reached the edge. The more we look, the more fascinating avian capabilities we find. Irene is an unconvential scientist in many ways, from her wrist bangles (which you’ll hear) to her background in theoretical chemistry (!), and she’s great at telling her story. Enjoy!

The Turing Test #1: Larry Summers

In our first episode, we “test” Larry Summers, the famous economist. Now a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, Dr. Summers has served as Vice President of Development Economics and Chief Economist of the World Bank, Secretary of the Treasury under the Clinton adminstration, Director of the National Economic Council under Obama. Since economics is so important to the logic of Effective Altruism, we’re going to ask him for his expert insight, as well as some insights on his career path. Stay tuned for Larry’s thoughts about EA as a movement!