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Best known as the co-author of Freakonomics, Stephen J. Dubner is a multi-talented author who writes for New York Times and The New Yorker. He’s also writing a children’s book and continues to be involved in the world of curious economics as the co-editor of Freakonomics.com.
Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you know that Freakonomics is the best-selling book in which, â€œA Rogue Economist Explores The Hidden Science of Everything.â€ What you might not know is that Freakonomics is now being adapted for classroom use. You can even acquire a Freakonomics Study Guide!
When asked about Trend Hunter, Stephen suggested, â€œTrend Hunter is cooler than all the rest of us combined.â€ Touche.
12 Questions with Stephen Dubner
1. How did you get involved in co-writing Freakonomics and what motivates you to continue with Freakonomics.com?
I was researching a book on the psychology of money when I wrote a profile of Steve Levitt, a University of Chicago economist, for the N.Y. Times Magazine. Levitt’s reserach was about 5 times more interesting that the other stuff I’d been looking into, so we decided to write a book together. Our website is a nice way to keep the book alive.
2. In the course of writing Freakonomics, what was the most interesting tid bit that was never published?
The bit about how Trend Hunter is actually funded by drug money from—oh, wait, sorry.
3. How do you define a trend?
Something that proves irresistible to a lot of people who a month earlier would have found it totally resistible.
4. How do you define cool?
Something that I don’t know about yet, and am not supposed to.
5. How has Freakonomics changed your approach to Trend Spotting?
You start looking for patterns in the data, especially anomalies and quirks and red flags. They are everywhere.
6. What types of trends interest you the most?
Mostly in the social sciences but also medicine, sports, web behavior—anything, really, that humans get their hands on.
7. How and where do you discover trends?
I am in the almost perversely fortunate situation of having Freakonomics readers regularly send in trends, ideas, etc., to the tune of perhaps 10 a day. At least 2 or 3 of them are generally very interesting, and I never would have found them on my own. That’s another advantage of the blog.
8. What is the best way to create an infectious idea, product or service?
I have no idea. I like writing and thinking and ideas—I believe this is known today as content generation—and if it happens to become infectious somehow, well, that’s terrific. But I am a terrible judge of what articles or books will resonate with people.
About Stephen Dubner
9. In addition to Freakonomics, you’ve written for the NY Times and The New Yorker, taught English at Columbia University, been a member of a signed rock band and have an upcoming children’s book. What do you want to be doing or studying in 10 years?
Something different. By then I will have been writing for a long time, and I’ve always loved doing something for a while and then moving on. I loved playing in a punky rock band during and after college, I loved trying to be a baseball player when I was a kid, I love being a dad now with young kids, etc. But I hope I’m doing something very very different 10 years from now—maybe philanthropic, almost certainly collaborative. (But listen to me! How greedy I am: I hope above all that, 10 years from now, I’ll still be alive and well—and, of course, still living in NYC.) And I also want to write a book someday with my friend Maira Kalman, who needs me as a collaborator much less than I need her.
10. How do you reset yourself to be creative?
The only time my mind is truly calm is early in the morning, which is why I usually get up at 5:15 to write. Also on airplanes.
11. What are your most important hobbies?
I love traveling to good places, playing certain games, visiting certain people, hearing certain songs, but mostly I like a sort of studied randomness of not knowing exactly what I want to do next.
12. How many people have asked you to spell ‘Jasmine’?
You are the 96th.