Futurists of the past dreamed of tapping into the heat of the Earth’s mantle to supply our energy needs, but today’s geothermal provides only a tiny fraction of the power we use. In today’s episode, we’ll be discussing what’s next for geothermal, its possible advantages over solar and wind power, and the obstacles it faces. I’m joined by Jamie Beard to answer those questions and more.

Jamie is the founder and executive director of the Geothermal Entrepreneurship Organization at the University of Texas at Austin.

“Fusion power is the energy source of the future . . . and always will be,” skeptics joke. But a series of exciting breakthroughs have some experts convinced that we’re nearing a fusion revolution that could deliver abundant, clean energy for the future. My guest today is Arthur Turrell, and we’ll be discussing whether fusion power reactors are on the horizon, the advantages fusion may have over renewables, and what government’s role should be in developing this technology.

Arthur is Deputy Director at the Data Science Campus of the Office for National Statistics in the UK and the author of The Star Builders: Nuclear Fusion and the Race to Power the Planet.

Americans love rags-to-riches stories, believing hard work and talent — not connections — should be rewarded. But meritocracy has come under scrutiny, with some questioning how well America lives up to its ideals, while others ask if they’re even worth striving for. In this episode, we’ll discuss whether meritocracy succeeds in pulling talent up from the bottom, or if the system has become rigged by the already rich and powerful. To answer those questions, I’ve brought on Adrian Wooldridge.

Adrian is the political editor and Bagehot columnist at The Economist. His latest book is The Aristocracy of Talent: How Meritocracy Made the Modern World.

In 2017, the US announced its intent to return to the Moon for the first time in a half-century. NASA and its international partners in the Artemis program hope to land a crewed lunar mission in 2024, but some experts have cast their doubts. So how did America achieve such a feat in the ’60s? And why haven’t we been back since the Nixon era? My guest today, Charles Fishman, answers these questions and more.

Charles is a journalist and author of One Giant Leap: The Impossible Mission that Flew Us to the Moon as well as The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water, among other works.

In the past, great inventions like the internal combustion engine and electrification had huge economic and societal impacts. Today, computing power continues to advance at an exponential rate and artificial intelligence promises to revolutionize the future. But will these innovations transform American society? Or will pessimism and fear slow the pace of technological progress? My guest today is Azeem Azhar.

Azeem is an entrepreneur and investor, and the founder of Exponential View, where his podcast and newsletter deliver in-depth tech analysis. This month, Azeem released The Exponential Age: How Accelerating Technology is Transforming Business, Politics, and Society.

What will the American city look like one generation from now? While cities have always been hubs of opportunity, urban landscapes have faced an onslaught of difficulties in recent years. Soaring costs of living, the economic downturn of a global pandemic, and a recent uptick in violent crime are straining America’s urban engines of productivity. And trends toward remote work have some wondering whether cities are over. What can cities do to meet these challenges? And how can we prepare for the next pandemic? To answer these questions and more, I’m joined by Edward Glaeser.

Ed is the Chairman of the Department of Economics at Harvard University and co-author with David Cutler of Survival of the City: Living and Thriving in an Age of Isolation, released this week.

Today local governments compete to host growing companies in the hope that the opportunities they create will revitalize their home cities. But how much do these urban areas benefit from local innovations? And what changes should we expect given recent increases in working from home? Nicholas Bloom joins the podcast to discuss these questions and more.

Nick is the William Eberle Professor of Economics at Stanford University. This summer he co-authored, along with Tarek Hassan, Aakash Kalyani, Josh Lerner, and Ahmed Tahoun, the working paper “The Diffusion of Disruptive Technologies.” In the spring, he and Jose Maria Berrero and Steven Davis released a working paper titled “Why Working from Home Will Stick.”

July was an exciting month for space enthusiasts of all sorts. From Richard Branson’s suborbital flight to Jeff Bezos’ launch, the era of private space travel has truly arrived. SpaceX and Blue Origin may be making the headlines, but they are far from the only companies involved in the emerging space economy. And at the same time, NASA intends to continue manned missions to the Moon with its Artemis program.

In a recent event hosted by the American Enterprise Institute, John Roth, Rich Boling, Mike Gold, and Matthew Weinzierl discussed the present and future of space commerce, from tourism to manufacturing and beyond.

To some, Amazon is a great business that brings opportunity to over a million employees and generates value for hundreds of millions of customers. To others, it’s a company that exploits its workers and destroys small businesses. Similarly, some see Jeff Bezos as a successful visionary, and they look forward to seeing him apply his talents to exploring outer space. Others consider Bezos to be a policy failure, just as they view every other billionaire. Today, I’m speaking with Brad Stone to discuss the accuracy of these perceptions. We’ll also discuss how these views affect Amazon, how Bezos himself has viewed the company during his tenure as CEO, and what the future may hold for this retail giant.

Brad is the senior executive editor for global technology at Bloomberg News, as well as a writer for Bloomberg Businessweek. He is also the author of four books, the most recent of which is Amazon Unbound: Jeff Bezos and the Invention of a Global Empire, released last May.

Health safety measures related to the COVID-19 pandemic have shaken the American economy. Long term staples like indoor dining have taken a hit, while new opportunities have emerged in contactless services, telecommunications, and ecommerce. Just how have America’s entrepreneurs responded to these challenges and opportunities? Today, I’ve brought in John Haltiwanger to discuss.

John is the Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Economics at the University of Maryland. Last year, he was awarded the Global Entrepreneurship Research Award for his statistical work in studying firm dynamics.

Rivaling even the death toll of COVID-19, opioid abuse has wreaked havoc in countless American communities. Some have suggested that these deaths are the result of an economy that left Americans behind and feeling trapped. In their desperation, they reached to oxycontin and fentanyl to cope with the insecurity of a global economy. But is this the full story? My guest today is Ed Glaeser, whose analysis offers a different account.

Ed is the Chairman of the Department of Economics at Harvard University and co-author with David Cutler of “When Innovation Goes Wrong: Technological Regress and the Opioid Epidemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic unleashed an economic downturn on the United States, forcing workers and businesses to adapt. Now that Americans are getting vaccinated and the country is opening up, what is the state of the US economy? How has the pandemic — and our public policy responses to it — affected the labor market? Has the pandemic brought about new opportunities and entrepreneurship that will boost productivity going forward? Today, Michael Strain returns to the Political Economy podcast to discuss.

Mike is the Arthur F. Burns Scholar in Political Economy and the Director of Economic Policy Studies at AEI.

Is economic growth compatible with environmentalism? One key to answering this question is clean, renewable energy. The cheaper it becomes, the easier it is to reduce our impact on the planet while still raising living standards for people around the world. So what does the future of the energy industry look like? How affordable have solar and wind energy become? And how should that influence our willingness to embrace a more optimistic vision for humanity? Today’s episode discusses these questions with Ramez Naam.

Ramez is a computer scientist and futurist, as well as the Energy and Environment Co-Chair at Singularity University. He is also the author of the Nexus trilogy, an award-winning science fiction series that explores how neurotechnology could impact our society.

America’s biggest tech companies have revolutionized work, entertainment, and just about every aspect of life. But some in Washington are raising concerns about Big Tech, hoping to make the tech sector more competitive using antitrust action. Companies like Google, Amazon, and Facebook are seen as too powerful, anticompetitive, or politically biased. Today, I’m joined by Mark Jamison to discuss the possibility of antitrust action against some of our biggest companies.

Mark is the director and Gunter Professor of the Public Utility Research Center at the University of Florida’s Warrington College of Business and a visiting scholar at AEI.

Milton Friedman famously argued that the social responsibility of a company is to maximize its profits. Today, Friedman’s argument is coming under fire from both sides of the aisle. Shareholder capitalism is viewed with suspicion, and many Americans think workers and consumers are getting a raw deal. Greedy business practices are enriching the few but leaving the rest of us behind, the narrative goes. But are the interests of shareholders and the interests of workers and consumers really opposed? Is American capitalism really a zero-sum game? Alex Edmans, today’s guest, argues that companies can invest in people without sacrificing profits.

Alex is a professor of finance at London Business School and the Academic Director of the Centre for Corporate Governance. He is also the author of last year’s Grow the Pie: How Great Companies Deliver Both Purpose and Profit.

Should humanity become a space-faring species? Should we colonize the moon, Mars, and beyond? The vast benefits to society that could come from embracing this final frontier are not fully known, which is very exciting. At the same time, however, we do not fully understand the risks involved with this endeavor either. How certain can we really be that exploring space is the best path forward? Today’s guest, Daniel Deudney, is confident that it is not the right path — and that we should focus our efforts on improving the geopolitical and environmental situation on Earth before we even think about expanding into space.

Daniel is a professor of political science, international relations, and political theory at Johns Hopkins University. He’s the author of several books, including Dark Skies: Space Expansionism, Planetary Geopolitics, and the Ends of Humanity, released in March of last year.

To solve climate change, we need to do more than cut emissions. Almost all optimistic climate forecasts rely either on negative emissions or finding a way to mask the effects of emissions. In other words, carbon capture or some form of geoengineering. But of course, these are controversial, risky solutions. And the same can be said for other modern conservation projects, such as electrifying a river to keep out Asian Carp, or using gene-editing to combat an invasive species. These initiatives represent a new kind of environmentalism, which focuses less on reversing past human action and more on protecting the planet through more action. Today’s episode discusses this new approach with Elizabeth Kolbert.

Elizabeth is a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer at The New Yorker, as well as the author of several books, the most recent of which is Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future, released this past February.

We have a lot to learn from the COVID pandemic. From our success in rapidly generating vaccines, to our failure to implement a widespread test-and-trace system, to Americans’ responses to lockdown orders and other public health measures, the policy debates over the past year and a half have involved trade-offs, thinking on the margin, and accounting for many measures of public well-being. In other words, understanding the COVID pandemic necessitates an understanding of economics. That’s why I’m excited to have Ryan Bourne on the podcast today to discuss his new book, Economics in One Virus: An Introduction to Economic Reasoning through COVID-19.

Ryan is the R. Evan Scharf Chair for the Public Understanding of Economics at the Cato Institute. Previously, he was the head of public policy at the Institute of Economic Affairs and the head of economic research at the Centre for Policy Studies.

As the Biden administration continues to work with Congress on a massive overhaul of US infrastructure, several questions come to mind: How much should infrastructure policy focus on building new projects as opposed to maintaining and repairing our current assets? How can policymakers ensure that infrastructure is regularly maintained without difficulty? And how should promising new technologies — such as high-speed rail and autonomous vehicles — factor into future infrastructure plans? Today’s episode discusses these questions, and many more, with Rick Geddes.

Rick is a visiting scholar at AEI, where he focuses on infrastructure policy and corporate governance. He is also a professor of policy analysis and management at Cornell University, as well as the director of the Cornell Program in Infrastructure Policy.

As a share of GDP, federal support for science research in America has fallen from about 2 percent of GDP during the 1960s to about 0.6 percent today. Policymakers should reverse this trend in order to boost productivity growth, raise living standards, compete with Chinese innovation efforts, and manage future problems like climate change. Fortunately, Congress appears to be moving in this direction, and so I’m excited to discuss what the future of federal R&D policy should look like with Matt Hourihan.

Matt is the director of the R&D Budget and Policy Program for the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), where he focuses on past, present, and future federal science budgets.