After four years of COVID-19, are we safer against future pandemics?

This December marks four years since the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Wuhan, China. On this episode of Trending Globally, Dan Richards speaks with two experts from the Pandemic Center at Brown University’s School of Public Health about the ways our society’s approach to public health has changed since 2019. 

They discuss how we should be thinking about COVID-19 in our daily lives, the unexpected ways international conflicts have changed conversations around pandemic preparedness, and what the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904 can teach us about how societies learn from disasters.

Guest on today’s episode: 

  • Jennifer Nuzzo is an epidemiologist and director of the Pandemic Center at the Brown University’s School of Public Health
  • Wilmot James is an internationally recognized leader in the fields of global health, international security, and a Senior Advisor to the Pandemic Center. 

Watch Jennifer Nuzzo’s TED talk about how to prepare for future pandemics

Learn more about the Watson Institute’s other podcasts


[MUSIC PLAYING] CARRIE NORDLUND: Hello and welcome to Mark and Carrie brought to you by the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs. Hello, Blythe, lovely--


CARRIE NORDLUND: --to see you as always.

MARK BLYTH: Lovely to see you too. For some strange reason that I thought you were about to invent a sponsor.

CARRIE NORDLUND: No. I had a moment there when I thought, brought to you by, fill in the blank, product. But I remembered--

MARK BLYTH: Exactly, brought to you by Kraft cheesy products. Kraft cheesiness is the best bit or something like that. But anyway, it's not. It's the Watson Institute, our lovely employer. So that's that. All right. So what's been going on since the last time we met? I got quite a lot of feedback on the last podcast, basically people saying, well, that was depressing. Can't you lighten it up a bit? So are we going to be able to lighten it up today?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Let's try. I do have some stuff. I was actually thinking about that and did come up with some stuff that is less doom and gloom that I can try to help inject some happiness. But actually on that positive note, it looks like we aren't going to go-- the United States isn't going to go into default and send the rest of the world into a terrible economic downfall. It looks like the debt ceiling policy proposal package passed the Rules Committee this morning. So then it will hopefully-- unless something nuts goes on, which could make it to the floor of the House for a full vote.

MARK BLYTH: Do they have the votes?

CARRIE NORDLUND: It looks like they do. I was hearing this morning that there will be some Democrats on the progressive Democrats that may register their dislike of the policy of the bill by voting no. But all in all, I think that Kevin McCarthy will have the votes to get this passed-- well, McCarthy and Biden actually.

MARK BLYTH: It's a really interesting one. It makes me wonder if people on the Republican side understand the difference between real and nominal spending.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Oh, probably not.

MARK BLYTH: Because what they've actually agreed to is basically the same amount of spending down rather than actual cuts. But a lot of that goes to the fact that people keep saying this is theater. And it's theater because if you're on the Republican side, there's certain things that you will not touch. You will not touch the defense budget-- simple as that. You might like to touch social security, but you'll get murdered electorally if you do. So you can't.

And once you add in a few other big programs there, like, Medicare and all the rest of it, there's really not much to cut. And if at the end of the day, what you're doing is making people who are marginally attached to the most buoyant labor market in 40 years work for their benefits, it's really not joined-up thinking because those folks are so few in number. I mean, the unemployment rate is what, 3.4%. I mean, it's insane.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Clearly, it's hard.

MARK BLYTH: So the people who are doing this clearly can't work. There must be something wrong with them. Therefore, society should basically look after them. But we want them to have work requirements, instead. It's just petty and awful at the end of the day. So the other interesting part of it is, will we ever get rid of this in the-- it's such a great asymmetric tool.

The Democrats never hold the Republicans hostage on this one. And the Republicans always hold the Democrats hostage on this one. So whenever you have a Democratic administration, suddenly the people that blew through every deficit record in the world so long as it's for tax cuts become the fiscal hawks. And they have to stop spending.

Now here's an interesting thing is colleagues of mine at UCL actually tested this out and indirectly verified what's going on with the series of experiments on folks. I don't mean that in terms of they put them in a lab and did awful things to them. They just asked them questions, you know, survey experiment type stuff.

And what they found was really fascinating. There's an asymmetry in the way that people think about tax cuts, and benefit cuts, or spending cuts. So they totally understand that when you cut spending, you have a smaller deficit. And therefore, if the deficit is all the deficits added together is your debt, you'll end up with less debt. That's right.

But they don't see that tax cuts lead to exactly the same outcome. Now sometimes, they can explain it in terms of tax cuts or stimulatory. And that would overcome it-- almost a Laffer curve logic. But there is this asymmetry. Now what that means is, I think, if you're on the right, this gives you such a brilliant electoral advantage. And it goes some way to explaining whether Republicans can be the worst deficit offenders, and at the same time get away with it, and being deficit hawks.

Because if people don't think that tax cuts lead to deficits, just overspending leads to deficits, then you can completely hammer on the spending. And next time you get in, you can do massive tax cuts. And you get away with it. Is that not fascinating?

CARRIE NORDLUND: It's such a smart point because it really shows you that Republicans can out-communicate Democrats on this. Because even when you say it, I'm like, oh, cut means good. And that's going to do something versus spending is bad. And everything that you just said that somehow the more we spend-- and if I think about it in the household terms, like the worst my credit card bill is going to be, I need to cut spending in order to pay for that-- my credit card debt. And people use the analogy all the time. And that is really-- that's such a smart point.

I wanted to-- I was thinking about the politics, of course-- and it's no surprise to you-- this whole time. And I thought it was actually really interesting Kevin McCarthy-- I don't know if you follow him on Twitter. Maybe you do. He tweeted out that the president-- President Biden was, quote, "very professional and very smart". I was really surprised that he would actually go so far. Because you can imagine his constituency.

MARK BLYTH: Listen, he must be thinking about switching parties. He must have just dealt with the Freedom Caucus one too many times. And he's like, I'm joining the Democrats. I'm done with this.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Totally. And so I was really surprised by that. The other thing is, of course, he went back to being his total evil self later but-- or not evil, his total spineless self later. The other thing I thought was interesting or maybe not that interesting is that you really see that the Republicans are not at all unified in that he-- they're all just squabbling that they didn't want to do this. And McCarthy is able to get together enough Republicans and Democrats to do this, but not even behind the scenes.

I mean, they're just in-- they're in much more disarray than I would have thought. And it's not just between the far right. I mean, the entire house Republican caucus wants something else. And of course, McCarthy has to position himself to make all of those different elements happy with him. So I just thought that was interesting just in how not unified they are-- the Republicans are.

MARK BLYTH: Well, it also goes some way perhaps to explain it's like monomaniacal fixation on cutting spending, when you're trying to force a recession-- I mean, again, joined up thinking. So you've got the Fed. And the Fed's been raising rates. And the Fed sometimes admits it and sometimes denies it that what they're trying to do is cause a recession.

What they're effectively doing is trying to get people to save more and spend less. That's it, right? Now that's the private sector. Let's imagine you then go to the public sector, which is government spending. So we've run this experiment many times before. If you're encouraging the private sector to save, there'll be less private sector activity. And if you then start cutting government spending, there'll be less public activity.

So what happens if you cut private and public at the same time? The economy gets smaller. So in order to save ourselves from this terrible economy the Democrats have created, we must make things even worse than the Fed is trying to make it just now. And then when we do, because you've shrunk the economy, you'll have the same amount of debt on a smaller denominator so to speak. You'll have more debt rather than less.

So if you just take those steps through, none of this literally makes any sense. What you're saying is we need a super deep recession so we can have more debt rather than less. And yet, that seems to be what the entire Republican Party wants to do based upon the notion that we're somehow handing this on to our grandchildren.

So let's remember, the United States didn't fund through taxes fighting the Civil War. It did it through debt. And it never ever paid back the debt. It was probably worth winning the Civil War, all things considered, rather than not doing it because of the fiscal cost or worrying that your grandkids might have to pay the cost of saving the union. This is literally the type of logic that's being employed. And it's amazing they never get called on it.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Wait. So are we still paying off that debt from the Civil War?

MARK BLYTH: Yeah. But the economy is 100 times the size. So it doesn't make any difference. It's like if you took out a $5 loan, when you were 15 years old, from a friend. And they were charging you 5% interest. You might think that hurt. Now the notion of a $5 loan on your income is something that you literally can't forget. It's a rounding error. So basically, the only way you ever cure debt is through growth.

CARRIE NORDLUND: But this is when I have to take your class on money because I showed that I don't understand it. And I just want to put all my money in the mattress because it's so hard for me to understand the value of the dollar in Eighteen Fifty-Five, and the value of the dollar in Twenty Twenty-Three, and where that value actually goes, and when things just get written off the books.

MARK BLYTH: Put it this way. What if somebody was middle class in Eighteen Sixty-Five? They didn't have a toilet. They didn't have electricity. Average life expectancy was about 20 years shorter than where we are now. They didn't have any biotics. And somehow, we're talking to make a comparison between the value of a dollar and the value of a dollar. It doesn't make much sense really.

CARRIE NORDLUND: I also just was taken with your point about-- or I was reading into it, the American obsession with savings that we should save, save, save. But we should only save at the individual level. Because if you're a bank, you'll get bailed out. If you're a corporation, you may get bailed out as well. So it's really just, I should have a gigantic savings account and not-- up to a certain amount. So it's secured by the FDIC. But then after that, it's the-- I'll probably be if the bank loses this money, hopefully my savings account will be OK. But it's just a funny message in terms of who and what entity should be savings--

MARK BLYTH: But let's think about this one, Carrie. For you to save, somebody has to be spending. Otherwise, you'd have no money from which to save. So if everybody saved all at once, all you would do is cross any and all economic activity. It's like if you paid back 50% of the national debt, you would destroy half of national savings because that's what those things are. It's all the same balance sheet. It's just that we don't recognize it as such.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Oh, that's so-- no, I get it when you say-- when you lay it out like that. But of course, it's because everything's brought to your home and how your household works. And then that is where I get really--

MARK BLYTH: That's where it's totally wrong. Because if you ever invested in 10-year Mark Blyth bonds, you might see 10-year. But you're never going to see the 30. Let's change the subject. How is your favorite guy doing, big Ron Fingers. How's Fingers doing?

CARRIE NORDLUND: I have a new one for you, disaster.

MARK BLYTH: Disaster?


MARK BLYTH: Oh, OK, disaster.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Good, old, pudding Fingers. I don't know. Did you ever have a Twitter space? Did you ever use that?

MARK BLYTH: No. I know that such things exist. And I even know people that get together and do things in Twitter spaces. And to me, it's just like, Peak Geek. It's like, rather than even just having a big Zoom or whatever, you have a Twitter space, I suppose. And then loads of people can get together and talk about really, minorly interesting geeky things. That's how I think about it.

CARRIE NORDLUND: I mean, I think if I had decided-- or at whatever young age I was that I wanted to run for president, that I might not choose the Geeky Twitter space to make my grand announcement because I would really want the adoring crowd. And I would want the bunting and the flags and that sort of stuff. So unclear why DeSantis chooses this space as his big announcement place. Then also Elon was there-- not sure why your why Elon is there. And then of course, the 20 minute of glitches that--

MARK BLYTH: Because he fired all the engineers.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yes. Exactly. Right. So it just becomes irony after irony. The people who are able to count this say about 300,000 people maybe tuned into this. And there's the snarky piece from the New York Times that noted that BuzzFeed's blow, when they blew up a watermelon got 800,000 views. So it was a real missed opportunity for DeSantis.

MARK BLYTH: Here's an interesting one for you. What's in it apart from the fact that Musk basically is either a genius or just consistently lucky? And now the luck has run out. So he gets Twitter. He spends $45 billion on it. He destroys the value. He fires the company. He hands it off to someone else we don't even really know if she's really running it, et cetera, et cetera.

Or is it the case that basically, this guy's decided he just doesn't know he's doing it in the following sense? Why piss off Trump that much? Because don't you want him back? Don't you want him off the truth social and back on your platform? Because this is a really good way of making sure he's never coming back. Because you de facto just endorsed this main rival, right?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Oh, yeah. Or is it that you want to bait him into some back and forth to get-- I mean, the psychology of Trump, and Musk, and DeSantis is really like 10 clicks beyond me because I think they really think in ways that I can't quite understand. But I think that's an interesting point of how Musk is then trying to taunt Trump in some ways through Twitter.

The other thing that I thought was really interesting about the announcement is that the whole beef with DeSantis is that he's stiff. And he's not human. And he can't kiss babies or empathize. And so that the whole thing was transacted through a screen is like just then solidifies the whole thing.

MARK BLYTH: Well, let's also screen it-- didn't work for 20 minutes. If someone said to me, it's a bit like announcing your candidacy by coming down the escalator. Or the escalator stops halfway, and you don't know how to walk forward.

CARRIE NORDLUND: That's totally true. And so you just go back up--

MARK BLYTH: He's frozen there. Like, oh, what do I do?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Up the escalator. So I mean, I guess he's doing better maybe by shaking hands in Iowa. I mean, who knows? The conventional wisdom is that it's Trump. And I think right now just in terms of Republican primary is going to be a crowded field. You have Senator Tim Scott, former governor Nikki Haley, a few others. Hopefully, Chris Christie gets involved. But it's going to be crowded. And that benefits Trump. And so I mean, I think we're just in for a Trump versus Biden if we can stomach it. I guess we have to. We don't have a choice.

MARK BLYTH: So here's a question for you. I mean, if you really are in the MAGA base, if you really are 100% committed to that, then it really doesn't matter what Trump does. He's your guy. That's the end of it, right?


MARK BLYTH: But when we look at these presidential polls, the Trump versus Biden polls in which Trump is ahead, right?


MARK BLYTH: You're not just sampling the matter on spectrum. You might be sampling all voters. And just a wee while ago, that guy was found-- correct me if I'm wrong-- guilty in a civil suit of sexual assault.


MARK BLYTH: Now correct me if I'm wrong, again-- and then his vote share went up. What's your thoughts on that, Carrie?

CARRIE NORDLUND: For me, it's the more-- it's the grievance narrative. And it's that this poor guy, everything's against him. Look, he says everyone's against him. And everyone is against him. And so it just really-- it secures up-- it solidifies his support even further and then makes their voices even louder.

MARK BLYTH: No, I think you're right. I think you're right. And I follow this forward. He has pending charges coming from the IRS from Georgia, I think something else from New York. And the clock is ticking. And they were trying to get him right from the start of his presidency on the Russia stuff that was a busted flush. They then went after all the real estate deals or whatever. That didn't show up. So he's been living this, in a sense, for six years. Is there any way of convincing people that this is not just the establishment out to get him? Because it really looks like it.

CARRIE NORDLUND: I know, right? No, there's not. I mean, I think the more that happens, it just-- he's able to somehow deflect and be like, oh, those angry, fill in the blanks and whatever, fill in the blank state, or-- whatever that is, he's able to dodge it in ways that no one else seems to be able to do so. The true believers become even more true, even more mobilized, even more ready to buy those fake coins that-- from him that they believe--

MARK BLYTH: Oh, the Trump box.


MARK BLYTH: You saw about the Trump box? That was amazing. The idea that he unilaterally was printing legal tender and you could turn it in and swap it for dollars. Which would beg the question, if you could swap it for dollars, why you wanted to swap it for dollars in the first place? But that's, again, another bit of that money stuff that I just don't understand.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Totally. It's a good question. But I just think it's-- we're so-- they're so hardened and then it's like those that aren't mobilized, then get turned on even further when they see all the indictments coming down. I mean, he can be in prison and still win and still be president.

MARK BLYTH: Wow. That would be interesting. Speaking of interesting, what's the latest on Clarence in the Supreme?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Oh, yes, the Supreme Court. So I-- we talked about corruption last time. But there's a few cases that are still out there. I mean, we're starting to get to the summer. So the court's sitting will end. Or their season will end. And so we're waiting on these real-- the real hot cases are waiting to be decided. And then there's a few that are out there.

So one that just came in this week was having to do with the Environmental Protection Agency in the Clean Water Act. And the court in A64 decision said, essentially that wetlands can-- aren't protected by the Clean Water Act anymore so doing away with more environmental protections. I don't know that was particularly surprising. But there are a few others that are out there. And that's the Biden student loan case that's still out there and that's still pending. Also the independent state legislature is still out there. I think that's really interesting.

MARK BLYTH: Oh, is that still out there? I thought that one had been kicked into touch.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Not quite, no. And then the 303 creative, which is whether or not businesses have to provide their services for same sex marriage. And then the last one, which I think, pretty-- I mean, conventional wisdom says that the affirmative action at universities, people think that the court will undo that. So I put that on second tier only because not that feels like--

MARK BLYTH: All right. So let's do some-- let me-- let's do some prediction. Let's go back to the first one. And let's call it-- let's see which way we think it's going to go.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Student loans-- Biden student loans, is that--


CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah. Does he have the power?

MARK BLYTH: Oh, that's a tough one. Yeah. I mean, what does it really rest upon? Is it basically an expansion of executive authority? Is that what it is?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Exactly, yeah. It's that exactly.

MARK BLYTH: I see that one going down. They're not going to go for it.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Which is interesting, because most of the justices do believe in a big, broad executive power. But I'm with you on this. Independent state legislatures?

MARK BLYTH: That one goes nowhere. If they do that, we literally are in 17th century whackjob land.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Oh, yeah. And every state can pretty much do what they would like. I think that's a close one.

MARK BLYTH: I think it's a bridge too far. It's going to be a split. But I think Roberts and one other will be like, let's back off.

CARRIE NORDLUND: 303 creative, whether or not businesses have to provide their services for same sex marriage.

MARK BLYTH: No, they don't.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah, I think so too.

MARK BLYTH: That one's done.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Affirmative action? Done. I don't think--


CARRIE NORDLUND: All right. We'll see how we did. That's some really--

MARK BLYTH: Here we go. Absolutely.

CARRIE NORDLUND: --dire predictions there.

MARK BLYTH: So what else do you want to go? What's up now?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Well, I think we have to talk about China. And the US--

MARK BLYTH: Can we talk about China in the voice of Trump? China. China. China. It's strange. What about them?

CARRIE NORDLUND: It's hard to know what to say about China-US relations right now. I don't think that we're necessarily in a positive place. I'm not sure that we're-- has tension dialed down where-- I mean, I don't the summer, whether to expect more tension around Taiwan or if this is just where we are, is where we're going to be, which is medium to middle range tension, and especially of course, thinking about Russia

MARK BLYTH: Well, I mean, there's all this stuff that you see about Blinken gives this big speech. And Sullivan give this speech. And it's about a new form of detente. And we're not really out to get each other. And that's all heartening because there is literally no way of getting this in a military solution. I mean, as I keep asking people who talk about this all the time, what exactly is the end game?

Are you going to build 10,000 invasion barges, and move a $10 million army to Hawaii, and then invade the mainland? I mean, is that the game? Is that how you're going to win over China? Even if you defend Taiwan, of course, you're 60% of the fleet. Given that it took us 12 years to build a single Ford class aircraft carrier, what's your next trick once it's all at the bottom of the Solomon's? So I just don't see how this one works out in terms of, we will win this. I don't see what the criteria of winning is.

But that doesn't mean we can't do stupid shit. So one way of thinking about what G is doing, he doesn't seem to care about GDP per capita growth anymore. He's got a common prosperity agenda, which you can also cue into as essentially. We're rich enough now. We just have to figure out how to divide it.

Unemployment-- youth unemployment is up in a way that it hasn't been before, lots of battening down the hatches, securing China's Indigenous supply chains, et cetera, et cetera. So it's almost as if they're preparing for a slugfest. And if it did come down to it-- I mean, if it's ultimately over Taiwan and it's 86km away from you, and thousands, and thousands of kilometers away from the other guy, it's not very difficult for you to imagine the worst thing that happens to you as you scorch Earth Taiwan, and give the Americans a bloody nose, and declare victory.

So it's not-- to me, the momentum seems to be on that side rather than ours. What's worrying about the US side is you talk to some people about this in DC, and there's some real true believers there. This is almost evil empire too. And once you get that type of nonsense in the room, it can get a little bit dangerous. But we'll see how it goes.

CARRIE NORDLUND: You do wonder, though with all of the economic indicators you just mentioned, whether or not she really can withstand a lifetime appointment to his job, I mean, if the country goes through more economic upheaval. I saw Shanghai was like, 10,000 degrees last week, I mean, all of these different environmental climate change indicators as well. I mean, can he withstand that?

MARK BLYTH: Well, part of it is if you stop making as much stuff, then you kill your electricity demand. And then you can start to phase out coal. So an interesting tweet I saw today-- I can't speak to his veracity. But the source seemed good-- said that China's CO2 emissions will peak this year and will start declining six years before they estimated they would peak, which is Twenty Thirty.

Every year China installs as much solar as the rest of the world has more or less, they're also huge into wind, et cetera. I mean, the paradox of Chinese energy production is-- it's 50% carbon and 50% everything else. Everybody else is 10% everything else and 50%-- 90% carbon. So they're really dialing down on this one because they know have to, or they know they can't. There are no climate change deniers there in China.

And the United States, it's quite the opposite. As much as the IRA has been lauded, it's a drop in the ocean in comparison to what's needed to happen. And it's incredibly vulnerable to '24. Because if the Republicans come back, you can bet your bottom dollar, they're going to gut the IRA. So we're working on very different positions at this point.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Let me see if I can do this transition to the next topic, which is connected, and that's AI and the different ways that countries are thinking about AI. Did you have any students that you know for sure use ChatGPT to write an essay or a paper this semester?

MARK BLYTH: Well, if they did, then I wouldn't know.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Oh, that's right.

MARK BLYTH: Because it's so good. I wouldn't know. No. I mean, I remember a student. I had a meeting with a bunch of students at Brown about this. And the response was, do you think we need this to cheat?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Oh, that's a good point. That's a really good--



MARK BLYTH: Pretty smart.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Because I was going to say to you, well, did turn it in catch ChatGPT? But then that's-- your point is much better.

MARK BLYTH: No. I had a conversation a couple of weeks ago in New York with a very, very senior AI researcher. Actually, it was two of them. One was Google's head of ethics and then the other one was an actual AI scientist. And I said to both of them, you got three people that got the Turing prize for their work on neural nets, which are basically the underpinning of the large language models, which is the whole AI thing.

And what's happened since then is, what are the most common one today? A further statement has come out and said, I don't know what my life's work has been for. I'm deeply worried about this. Their original statement is that this is really dangerous stuff because if you think that misinformation is a problem, now just wait until this gets on top of it.

Then there's Jeff Hinton, who's the guy who resigned from Google. And his is a version of the same thing. But there's also people on the other side, to the left of him, if you want to put it that way. The left is wrong-- more extreme than him, shall we say, which is the Armageddon scenario. It will gain consciousness. It's Skynet. We're all going to die.

And then there's the one that most computer scientists like because it allows them to continue doing the cool shit that they're doing, which is called the stochastic parrot hypothesis. This thing is basically a parrot that predicts the frequency of words and spits it out. The problem is that humans, because it's a natural language, mistake this for a real person. It is not a real person. It's never a real person.

So I said to both of these esteemed folks, which version do you subscribe to? Skynet, bad people doing bad stuff or it's a stochastic parrot. And both of them said bad people in stochastic parrot. But then I said, well, here's the problem. As I understand it, you don't understand how this thing gets smarter. It's a classic black box. And every generation and every bit of more computing power you are putting out into it all the rest of it, it goes basically a standard deviation smarter, which means that the black box gets bigger and bigger. So there's an input. There's an output. And you have no idea what's going on in the middle of it. How do you know that it's not Skynet?

And both of them said, you're right. We can't know that. So it's not proof that it is. But you can't know that it's not. And how would you know me? You would know me through my actions if one day you wake up, and we're all dead.

CARRIE NORDLUND: That's what's so fascinating to me is that they don't seem to understand how it's getting smarter.

MARK BLYTH: Exactly. Because the connections in the neural nets are incredibly complex. And it's also not causal in a straightforward way that we think about it, I mean, the actual-- the math of the algorithms and the computing power applied to it. That's really not that difficult, but the fact that it basically is able to train itself, and use differential inputs.

I mean, one of the things that they worry about is if you train it on data that's out there on the web, that's fine. What happens if you start training on human input directly? What if every time we interface with it, it's learning from that? Does that give it another advantage, and then that gets scaled up? So it's super fascinating.

But there's also another part of me that just goes, all right, let's take a little bit of perspective on this. Let's go back a wee bit. In Two-Thousand Eight, we blew up the world because of mortgage derivatives. And then in Twenty Sixteen, inequality, and deindustrialization, and race, and everything came together to produce populism in various guises. And between that, we had unicorns. We had Silicon Valley going mental. We had endless frauds, and Ponzi schemes, and bullshitters.

And what happened a couple of days ago? The people that made the GP units-- the graphical processor units you need for doing this stuff is called Nvidia. And they were like, they were way behind Intel and everything in a few years ago. Now briefly, they were valued at $1 trillion.


MARK BLYTH: So now we have the AI bubble.


MARK BLYTH: And everybody's going to pump into that one. And regardless of what's happening on planet Earth; war in Taiwan, climate catastrophe, all the rest of it, the moneyed interest will just keep chucking money into the latest bubble. So think about it then from a regulatory point of view. You've got literally, the heads of these firms coming out to Congress and saying, please regulate us. For God's sake, regulate us. Do you think the investors want regulation?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Exactly. Well, exactly, even--

MARK BLYTH: No, I'm sure that's--

CARRIE NORDLUND: And I think this is interesting to think about. I've been hearing a little bit. What are going to be the implications of AI on the Twenty Twenty-Four election? We're not just going to have bots. We're going to have-- and because Americans, we believe anything if it comes from the right source, that we're going to have really sophisticated ways in which people are being-- getting in touch; text, phone, et cetera, if you still own a landline-- and with really believable stuff that's just-- that's created by AI.

So I mean, is that-- I think it's the disinformation, the malinformation. I mean, so many different ways that this could potentially really make the Twenty Twenty-Four election even more vulnerable than it might be. I guess, also what scares me is hearing my friends who know far about this than I do is that it's able to make decisions now on its own, where before exactly as you said, humans are saying point out the bunny rabbits. And now it's just deciding on its own to point out the bunny rabbit. I mean, that's-- really, that's a lot.

MARK BLYTH: Exactly. So anyway, segwaying away from the possible Skynet-like extinction of the species, what else is going on then? We've still got Ukraine going on. I think the only thing that I keep coming back to with that is, again, it's Twenty Twenty-Four. It all comes down to Twenty Twenty-Four. Trump gets back. And Ukraine stuff, it's over.

CARRIE NORDLUND: But here's my question about Ukraine and-- because I've been thinking about this just on the human level. Where does Putin-- where-- is Putin going to retire to the South of France or something? I mean, he's--


CARRIE NORDLUND: So therefore, I guess, my only point is that the incentive for him to end the war seems to be very, very small. And the incentive for him to continue the war seems to be very high. And so--

MARK BLYTH: Particularly, if he thinks that his buddy is coming back into power. And I don't mean that in any type of he controls him or whatever. The fact is they seem to go on quite well. Turns out-- think about the people that Trump like. Who do Trump actually have good words for? Putin and MBS in Saudi Arabia. Why? They're also carbon autocracies, which is what he'd like to run. So basically, he's just got to wait around for his buddy to come in.

The whole Ukraine thing is toxic to Democrats because of the Hunter-Biden connection. There's multiple conspiracy theories about the US being dragged into the war because it's all about the Bidens and all the rest of it. And it's just going to be very hard for them despite what Lindsey Graham says on a Tuesday, to actually continue to fund this once the Republicans get back into power.

I think that's-- the end game will be as it always is. And I think we've said this before. If you follow the history of United States involvement in foreign military excursions, what happens is a, sort of, intense necessity followed by a rush of patriotism for someone else's cause, followed by a bit of boredom and what's on TV this week, followed by revulsion at the cost, followed by more boredom and exit. And I think just this will just accelerate that process.

CARRIE NORDLUND: But, I mean-- and this proves your point, Blyth, is that you look at the list of people that Russia just banned from coming into the country; Obama, Stephen Colbert-- I mean, a bunch of people that Trump doesn't like. And so it was just you're like, wow, could you be a little bit more secretive about what your motive is?

MARK BLYTH: Did you see that the woman who accused Biden of sexual assault back in the '90s has now basically applied for asylum in Russia?

CARRIE NORDLUND: I did not see that. Oh, jeez! That's interesting. And I just wanted to highlight one last thing because I thought you'd find this funny if you didn't already see it. But the diplomat known around the world as Boris Johnson was recently in Dallas talking to Trump about Ukraine. So I'm sure that maybe he's on a secret mission to broker peace accords with them. I mean, what is he? He's doing corporate speeches for $300,000. So that's why he was in Dallas.

MARK BLYTH: I'm surprised he's getting 300. I mean, the thing is-- it's like trust. Nobody's going to-- you've got to serve at least one term. The basic rule on this-- I know because I've spoken to past prime minister about this, believe it or not. The basic rule is that if you do a full term, you get $300k. Theresa was getting $300k. But if you win an extra term, if you're Tony Blair, you can write your own check. So the real money is not being enforced out prematurely, like, Boris. I'd be surprised if Boris is pulling more than 200. It's being Blair. That's where the real money is.

CARRIE NORDLUND: I like that he's inflating his own corporate pay-- Johnson Boris.

MARK BLYTH: Exactly. Well, I wouldn't expect anything less.


MARK BLYTH: So what are we going to close with? What about Harry and Meghan's catastrophic car chase that probably wasn't.

CARRIE NORDLUND: And yeah, that was such a bizarre case of them putting this-- that quote out and then their Uber driver and other people being like, it seemed like it was pretty OK. I dropped them off. They seemed to be OK. Some cars were following us. But it wasn't-- didn't seem like it was particularly terrifying. I just thought, what is going on with these two?

MARK BLYTH: It was a bit weird, yes. What else? Anything else happened? Well, you said you've got nice stuff to end on. Come on.

CARRIE NORDLUND: I wanted to say something positive. And this comes from Minnesota state legislature. And just because we hear all the states doing-- banning books and all this anti-trans stuff, Minnesota state legislature passed the following; driver's licenses for all, free school lunches for all, codified abortion, approved recreational pot, voted yes on allowing pre-voter registration for 16-year-olds.

It was a really productive session. But also, I mean, it depends on what side of the aisle you're on. But they seem to pass some real bills with some substance as well. So I just thought that was worth mentioning because it's always easy to get caught up in all the doom and gloom.

MARK BLYTH: Sorry, that actually happened in the United States?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Of America, yes.

MARK BLYTH: In the state of Minnesota?



CARRIE NORDLUND: Can you Imagine? I know.

MARK BLYTH: So this is interesting. I wonder then if Minnesota is going to get a population influx. Because you've got all these blue states that don't work anymore, like California, New York. Apparently, Massachusetts still seems OK to me. What do I know? And you're meant to run down to Texas or Florida because that's what you're attracted to; cheap housing, and basically being nasty to the minorities, and against immigrants. So I wonder if basically, people like Yukari who are much more blue shall we say, are going to start thinking about moving to that new blue paradise-- not Vermont-- not the People's Republic of Vermont but to Minnesota. What do you think?

CARRIE NORDLUND: I mean, one, someday is going to be nice and balmy there. Two, I mean it's a small population. So I guess, in comparison to California, maybe it's easier to govern. But it is an interesting-- I did live there actually. I went to college there and then lived there for a year afterwards.

MARK BLYTH: And that's why I was mentioning. I was like, don't you remember you lived there? That was called a cue. Come on.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Oh, I did catch it. Thank you. All right but you do wonder sort of what happens in these blue states like this? Is Minnesota just one of those outliers? Or do you see states like-- or Massachusetts where you would think stuff like this would be being passed, but you don't see. So it is--

MARK BLYTH: Well, it'd be interesting. I mean, as they're-- you know in Europe they talk about the olive oil butter line. Basically, you can tell a lot of like politics as to whether it's olive oil or butter. And that's the saints and the sinners and the austere versus the spenders a whole lot. I wonder if there's now a pot line in the United States.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Oh, that's a really good one.

MARK BLYTH: Because a lot of the southern states have said no to pot, right?


MARK BLYTH: And pretty much all the northern states have passed the blow. So yeah, actually. And I wonder-- we'll see if we can draw a pot line across the country.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Get some research on that. I like that. The last thing just for your summer reading, Blyth, I just wanted to recommend Senator Hawley's book, Entitled Manhood, Masculine Virtues America Needs. I think this is probably something that you worry a lot about, which is American masculinity. And Josh Hawley is here to tell you about how to become more masculine and how the strength of our democracy really stands on American masculinity.

MARK BLYTH: I suddenly-- when you started talking and I thought you were saying that manhood was the title of his autobiography.

CARRIE NORDLUND: And it's not so much established.

MARK BLYTH: Somehow, that would be really appropriate.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yes, that's true. Anyway, put that on your hot reading list.

MARK BLYTH: Well, I think you've just written the title for this episode, Josh Hawley's manhood.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Sure. I like that.

MARK BLYTH: All right. So anyway, a couple of minutes left. What are you doing for the summer?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Well, I'm going to-- I might actually-- I'm going to-- ever since we talked about going to the movie theater, I've been thinking about that. So I actually want to go back to the movie theater, see a movie. My bar for exciting things is pretty low. Hopefully, go on holiday somewhere that isn't Europe because everybody in America seems to be going to Europe right now.

MARK BLYTH: And they're going to have another huge drought. And it's going to be ridiculously hot. But that's going to be ridiculously hot here as well. So I don't know. Maybe we'll go to Canada. We'll see how it goes.

CARRIE NORDLUND: I mean, maybe tickets are cheaper because, man, it's a lot of money. And maybe just enjoy the first summer where things feel back to pre-COVID stuff. What about you?

MARK BLYTH: Pretty much the same, going to be mainly here trying to write little day trips here and there. I'm actually on leave. I got my first sabbatical in a decade, which is very, very nice.


MARK BLYTH: And I have plans to finish a book that I've been writing for a while on inflation, which I want to get that killed with my colleague, Nicola Fraccaroli. And then I've got another one that I want to finish-- write and finish and get out in time for Twenty Twenty Four so-- and the election in November. So I'm up against a deadline. But for once, I don't actually have much in the way.


MARK BLYTH: So that's really good. So I'm going to really try and crack this out. Well, I will wish you a fantastic summer. And I will probably see you when we get back together, again, if we haven't all been murdered by AI sometime in early September.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Sounds great. Always great to see you.

MARK BLYTH: See you soon.




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Dan Richards

Host and Senior Producer, Trending Globally