We live in times marked by the omnipresence of the internet and instantaneous access to the accumulated knowledge of humanity. This leads us into relying on quick, narrow answers to large, complex questions. Are we going too far in our reliance on experts and, in the process, forgetting how to think for ourselves?

Brent talks to Vikram Mansharamani, a lecturer at Harvard University and the author of “Think for Yourself: Restoring Common Sense in An Age of Experts and Artificial Intelligence”. They discuss the need to reduce our reliance on experts living in the silos of their own professional fields, the importance of a liberal arts education, and the importance of staying focused on your mission.

Recent research from the American Enterprise Institute found that women and racial and ethnic minorities feel unwelcome in STEM fields, unlike their white male counterparts. It is clear that more work needs to be done to ensure that STEM careers continue to attract and retain a diverse workforce.

To discuss this and other findings of the report, Brent Orrell and Dan Cox hosted a webinar with Nicol Turner Lee, the Director of the Center for Technology Innovation at the Brookings Institution, and Audrey Van Belleghem, the Business Lead at Facebook.

While statistical models and probability scores can be useful for helping diagnose problems, they are not reliable information for predicting the future.

Brent is joined in this episode by two eminent economists, John Kay, a fellow at St. Johns College, Oxford and the first dean of Oxford’s Said Business School, and Mervyn King, former Governor of the Bank of England, for a conversation about their new book, Radical Uncertainty: Decision-Making Beyond the Numbers.

Community colleges serve a variety of purposes in our communities. They provide educational pathways to a four-year degree and non-credit courses for upskilling that are tied to the demands of local employers. We need improvements in both tracks.

Brent talks to Tamar Jacoby, President of Opportunity America, about her two most recent reports on these institutions: “The Indispensable Institution: Reimaging Community Colleges” and “Skills Wanted: CUNY As Engine of Economic Recovery”.

Can thinking through the arch of history assist modern thinkers in planning for the future? Or is the future uncertain and separate from the happenings of the past?

Brent cohosts today’s episode with Albert Zambone, an Oxford University-trained historian of colonial America and the host of the Historically Thinking podcast. Together, Brent and Al interview David Staley, an associate professor of history at the Ohio State University and the Director of the Humanities Institute. They discuss futurism, what we can learn from the past, and whether COVID-19 will change the future of work.

Contrary to the popular assumption that people who engage in criminal activity at some point in their life will always be dangerous and criminally-oriented, the data show that the majority of people who leave prison will never become re-incarcerated.

Brent talks to Shawn Bushway, a criminologist at the University of Albany and a Senior Policy Researcher at the Rand Corporation, about the maturational model of criminal desistance, mass incarceration, and recidivism.

Hundreds of thousands of workers are no longer working standard office hours in a corporate setting, but instead work freelance and gig jobs that allow for greater flexibility in hours, job type, and location. Is the future of the American labor market in gig work, and how are workers faring in the new, gig economy?

Brent talks to Sarah Kessler, a senior editor at OneZero and author of “Gigged: The End of the Job and the Future of Work” on some of the challenges and opportunities of these new flexible workplaces. They discuss the role of the safety net keeping these workers secure, job stability, and opportunity.

Technology has been rapidly advancing, and along with it has come an increased reliance on artificial intelligence, algorithms, and other forms of computer programming. Can we trust these programs to uphold our values of inclusion, diversity, and fairness?

Brent talks to Robert Elliot Smith, an artificial intelligence expert and author of “Rage Inside the Machine: The Prejudice of Algorithms, and How to Stop the Internet Making Bigots of Us All”, about the flaws of, and history behind, these complex and increasingly influential tools.

Nowhere was the economic shutdown caused by the spread of the coronavirus more apparent than in the nation’s the major cities that became the early epicenters of the pandemic. When cities reopen, will the people and businesses who left come back?

This episode of Hardly Working is an interview Brent Orrell did with Bob Zadek from the Bob Zadek Show. They discuss the changes cities underwent during the virus, the history of cities in times of pandemics, and reflections on what happens next in our urban centers.

Policymakers and parents alike have been encouraging young people for decades to pursue STEM degrees and careers so they could become financially and socially successful. Does the data support the assumption that going into STEM fields leads to a good career?

Brent talks to Dan Cox, a Research Fellow at AEI, and Kadeem Noray, a PhD candidate in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, about a recent AEI report on the long-term outcomes for STEM graduates. They discuss the earnings potential in STEM, the rate that people leave the field, and the barriers experienced by women and minorities.

In the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer, people across the nation have been urgently calling for meaningful police reform, and better treatment of minority groups by law enforcement.

Brent talks to Harry Holzer, the LaFarge SJ Professor at the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University and Nonresident Senior Fellow in Economic Studies at the Brookings Institution on the quantitative evidence surrounding racial disparities, crime, and policing. They also discuss the economic ramifications of the COVID-19 crisis, and what the path towards recovery looks like.

The nation’s prison systems have many demands on their limited resources. To use those resources effectively, we need to connect individuals with the right intervention for their needs and risks. Automated risk-need-responsivity (RNR) assessments help take the guess-work out of prisoner transitions, improve efficiency, and increase the chances for success.

Brent talks to Grant Duwe, Research Director for the Minnesota Department of Corrections and AEI Adjunct Scholar, about the role of algorithms in reducing criminal behavior and re-incarceration.

What started as working from home for a few weeks to flatten the curve of COVID-19, has instead turned into months of telecommuting with no end in sight. While working remotely has presented both benefits and challenges, many workers and employers are asking themselves, is this a permanent change in how we work?

Brent talks to Clive Thompson, a science and technology journalist, about his recent New York Times Magazine article, “What If Working From Home Goes On…Forever”. They discuss the academic research and anecdotal evidence on recent boosts in productivity, feelings of isolation, and challenges in implementing watercooler-style talk when your colleagues are no longer across the hall, but through a screen.

The past few months have brought an onslaught of new policies attempting to curb the spread of COVID-19, but were they the right decisions based upon the data we have about the virus?  And what comes next?

Brent talks to Lyman Stone, an Adjunct Fellow at AEI and a Research Fellow at the Institute for Family Studies, about his agreements and critiques on the way the United States handled the management of the pandemic. He also offers advice about how to handle future such outbreaks while avoiding widespread lockdowns.

The rapid advancement of artificial intelligence and machine learning in recent decades has had a ripple effect throughout the economy. As the economic landscape continues to change, we are once again asking ourselves about what the future of work looks like, and, when it comes to computers exactly who will be working for whom.

Brent talks to Amy Webb, CEO of the Future Today Institute and author of several books, including “The Big Nine: How the Tech Titans and Their Thinking Machines Could Warp Humanity”. They discuss the uncertainty surrounding artificial intelligence, its impact on how we work, and the importance of a liberal arts education in remaining competitive in a changing economy.

Local workforce boards are tasked with implementing federal and state policies to get their communities back to work. In a field burdened by red tape and regulations, their full potential is seldom realized. Local workforce leaders in Austin, Texas, however, developed the Austin Metro Area Master Community Workforce Plan to navigate the unique challenges facing their workforce.

Brent talks to a panel of experts from Austin, including Tamara Atkinson, Drew Scheberle, and Greg Cumpton, as well as AEI Adjunct Fellow Mason Bishop and former AEI Research Assistant Caleb Seibert. They discuss the importance of public and private sector collaboration, the role of good leadership, and the indispensable role of local data collection.

Millions of youth are neither in school nor working, falling through the cracks of the various systems put in place to help them transition into adulthood. The spread of COVID-19 will become another barrier in these young people’s lives as they pursue economic independence.

On this episode, Brent talks to Anne Kim, author of “Abandoned: America’s Lost Youth and the Crisis of Disconnection”. Together, they discuss the runway to adulthood, the role of public policy, and the potential impact of a global virus on emerging adults.

We use highly sophisticated algorithms and data to help us understand the world around us, but how much does the approach really tell us? The uncertainty and unpredictability of the world is not easily reducible to statistics.

Brent talks to Michael Blastland, author of “The Hidden Half: How the World Conceals its Secrets”, about the uncertainty of the world around us, the negative effects of false confidence, and the challenges of using data to guide COVID-19 policy.

People are natural problem solvers. When we work with low-income families to identify and tap into their resources and communities, we are laying the foundation for generational community change. It is time to develop alternative solutions in the fight against poverty that will empower people to become change agents in their own lives.

Brent talks to Mauricio Miller, author of “The Alternative: Most of What You Believe About Poverty is Wrong” for a conversation about focusing on people’s strengths, supporting “positive deviance”, and lifting up poor communities during COVID-19.

Federal, state, and local governments have a myriad of programs and initiatives to assist people in finding and retaining meaningful employment. Like most government programs, these systems are complicated and difficult to navigate. The question has to be asked, are these programs actually effective?

Brent talks with Mason Bishop, adjunct fellow at AEI and the owner and principal of WorkED Consulting, on the future of federal workforce development programs.