This year, I’m listening again to selections from the archive of long-form interviews I conducted on the public radio program The Marketplace of Ideas and podcast Notebook on Cities and Culture between 2007 and 2015.
More than a decade ago, I read a post by economist Tyler Cowen on Marginal Revolution — still one of my favorite blogs, and indeed one of my few favorite blogs now left standing — called “Hire Ben Casnocha.” Cowen described this eighteen-year-old entrepreneur as “a living test of whether college education signals the dedication of students to hard work. If Ben does not get or indeed even start his degree, does it mean he is undisciplined?”
Despite having only, at that point, spent three minutes with Ben, Cowen declared that “I will bet my reputation as a judge of talent that Ben will be a future star of some kind. He is already a star. And someday he will own you.” Intrigued, I immediately caught up on Ben’s blog. As luck would have it, his first book My Start-Up Life came out the same year I launched my first interview show The Marketplace of Ideas, so I invited him on for a chat. We talked over the phone, with me in the KCSB-FM studio in Santa Barbara and him at Claremont McKenna College, a school he would soon leave behind for less conventional pursuits.
Having at first envisioned the show as a balance between cultural types and entrepreneurs, hence the name, I soon found out that many of the latter lack the willingness, and often the ability, to engage in the sort of talks I want to have. Not Ben, though — very much not Ben, who has always displayed an impatience with standard thinking practices, be they laid down by academia, Silicon Valley, or any other cathedral, of which I heartily approve.
Since that first interview, we’ve found times and places to meet up for intensive exchanges of ideas every few years: in Mendocino, in Burbank, in San Francisco (where we recorded an early episode of Notebook on Cities and Culture), and most recently here in Seoul. I look forward to our next conversation, podcastable or otherwise, but until then I’ll keep any eye on his blog — which, like Cowen, still maintains, and on which he writes more intriguingly than ever. (It’s probably too late to hire him now, though.)