What it’s like going to a Conversation with Tyler

I forgot to post this expeditiously, but I was at this conversation between Tyler Cowen and Matt Levine. You may listen to Conversations with Tyler, as I do, and wonder what they’re like live. I suspect they’re all different from each other, because some occur on university campuses, some are one-on-one, and this happened at what I think is Bloomberg News’s headquarters.

Some last-minute work things meant that I only arrived just before the start, but I did get a chance to chat before the chat, so to speak. Of the half dozen or so people I talked to, all were there for Matt, not Tyler, so they knew finance, and I often got that sense of turning off when they found out I wasn’t in the guild: there is no good business or networking opportunity here, so it’s time to move on—this isn’t a bad thing and in some circumstances I’ve done the same thing (“this isn’t what I’m here for, so let me keep looking”). But I was in “intellectual curiosity” mode more than “job networking” mode and in that mode I’m broader minded.

Almost everyone looked the same, but in a way hard to describe. If you’ve ever been to gatherings of consultants or finance people in New York (or similar places?), you’ll know what I mean: either light pastel colors or very dark clothes, lots of tucked-in dress shirts, a sense of restraint. It’s a little different, though, than similar gatherings in L.A., where people are not just more tan but more… glossy? Wearing short-sleeved shirts? The audience was almost all guys.

Bloomberg central feels like a combination of Deathstar and sleek Silicon Valley moguldom. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a better-designed space, but enough good design starts to feel oppressive. Security guys were all over the place, though not, I think, to protect the speakers. I think they’re just… there. Very visibly there.

During the talk itself, every time the word “risk” was mentioned, I thought of Nassim Taleb. How much do we really understand about derivatives and swaps? In my case very little, but even in the case of experts and “experts” I wonder if the answer is very much. I could be totally wrong, of course.

After the talk I had to leave quickly, alas, but maybe the crowd was less interest-seeky after a couple drinks.

If you get a chance to go, you totally should. Live events are good for many reasons, one being that they act as a reminder about why educational utopians who think online education is likely to upend live education may be wrong. The real world is very high resolution. I discovered that, when I listen to podcasts, I’m almost always moving, most often but not exclusively when I’m making dinner. It’s hard for me to sit still and purely listen for an entire hour, even to very engaging conversation. This is similar to my thinking about most modern classical music venues: they’re usually too hushed, too cerebral, too little audience movement, and too little beer.

Live audience events also do complex status transfers that I don’t entirely get, but they’re easy to feel in the moment. That’s obvious on some level but I very rarely see it stated as such.

One response

  1. Pingback: Wednesday assorted links - Marginal REVOLUTION

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