Currents 075: Michael Nielsen on Metascience

Jim talks with Michael Nielsen about the ideas in his and Kanjun Qiu’s recent essay, “A Vision of Metascience: An Engine of Improvement for the Social Processes of Science.” They discuss the meaning of metascience, a vivid example in Genovese maritime insurance, attracting intellectual dark matter, creation & limitations of the h-index, frozen accidents in our scientific operating system, what allowed the original DARPA to be so productive, funding-by-variance, failure audits, changing the unit of evaluation from papers to software, at-the-bench fellowships, science funders as detectors & predictors, endowed professorships by age 25, eliciting the secret thesis, metascience as an imaginative design practice, bottlenecks to decentralized improvement, the Open Science Collaboration, pre-registered study designs, metascience entrepreneurship, the arXiv preprint server, and much more.
Michael Nielsen is a scientist who helped pioneer quantum computing and the modern open science movement. His main current projects are in metascience, programmable matter, and tools for thought.  He is the recent co-author of a book-long essay, “A Vision of Metascience”, outlining the ways in which the institutions of science can become self-improving.  All his work is united by a broader interest in tools that help people think and create, both individually and collectively. He is a research fellow at the Astera Institute in the San Francisco Bay Area.

EP 170 John Vervaeke and Jordan Hall on The Religion That Is Not a Religion

Jim talks with John Vervaeke and Jordan Hall about Vervaeke’s concept of “the religion that is not a religion.” They discuss the need to create a home for ecologies of practices, Jordan and John’s ongoing collaboration, the meaning crisis & our wisdom famine, meaning of life vs meaning in life, the category error of prioritizing propositions, limitations of the Axial Age religions, the two worlds mythology, a series of major conceptual involutions, the arising of social engineering, recursion & multi-part toolmaking, challenging the idea that the sacred is supernatural, the imaginal vs the imaginary, disambiguating notions of truth, defining sacred experience, the important & the dangerous, interpreting epiphanies, the ecological notion of rationality, living in the collapse of 19th-century epistemology, the Cartesian promise of certainty, defining religio & equivocation, relevance realization & fundamental connectedness, parallel interventions, the need for both meditative & contemplative practices, folk psychotechnologies, ecologies for communities, religion as the essence of culture, creating birth & death rituals, breastfeeding as religious practice, the question of scaling, creating developmental sequences & pedagogical continuity, embedding Metcalf’s law, how practices that increase relationship propagate themselves, the combinatorial feedback loop afforded by shit being fucked, a final sales pitch for young men, and much more.

Currents 074: Serge Faguet on Building Metacommunity

Jim talks with Serge Faguet about emerging transnational networks of cooperation. They discuss the mismatch between rates of technological development & cooperation abilities, building a good Singularity, uniting an already-existing movement, “the right way to live” as a root of evil, coherent pluralism as a basis for metacommunity, taking responsibility for the world, a coming fork in humanity’s future, bringing the universe to life, examples of decentralized community-building, opportunities for applying large language models, technological tools for communities, psychological issues & the insanity of society, TikTok as pure monetization without virtue, the possibility of unlimited energy, omni-consideration, a coming point where money is irrelevant, radical abundance, why we’ll have to think about AI as sentient, disappointing dynamics in drug approval, reforming by playing a different game, charter cities, a call to action, and much more.

Serge looks forward to receiving any feedback or expressions of interest at first.last@gmail or (better) first_last on Telegram.

Serge Faguet is a Russian-Ukrainian entrepreneur and prolific thinker. He has founded multiple tech companies including multi-billion-dollar B2B online travel company Emerging Travel Group, concierge medicine care delivery company Novami, AI drug discovery company Multiomic Health, automated clinical trial recruitment company Nexus and Web2 ⇒ Web3 onboarding product Identix. A proponent of biohacking, his vision is to build a large-scale commercial data/biobank that gathers healthcare data to make major progress for increasing productivity, longevity, and quality of life. As a philosopher-entrepreneur, Serge believes that we need to adopt a syncretic approach to innovation and use entrepreneurial ideation to enact enduring material change and eventually construct a more hospitable future for all of humanity. Serge is interested in implementing the principles of Web3 and crypto to build decentralized institutions, govern ourselves, and control our own data. His greatest passions lie in inspiring others to discover their authentic selves through communal collaboration and encouraging political action by creating a healthier, more self-aware society.

Currents 073: Owen Cox and Daniel Fraga on Game C

Jim talks with Owen Cox and Daniel Fraga of the Technosocial podcast about their critique that the GameB movement has underestimated the importance of sex and violence. They discuss the attempt to deal logically with illogical forces, the origins of the Game C joke, the limits of analytical systematization, coherent pluralism, whether GameB is a neo-Benthamism, sex & conflict as spiritual practice, how limits create pleasure clusters, Twitter wars as unacknowledged kink, the social operating systems of Kibbutzes, a norm against pornography, being sophisticated about sexual norms & whether it’s possible in a movement designed for everyone, building night-club-style dynamics in GameB, social conviviality, the sublimation of war & violence, allowing ritualized violence, designing social containers that take hidden motivations into account, the end of American hegemony, investigating the moral question of energy usage, Game B’s need for more artists & social designers, building more institutions for weirdos, and much more.

There is an occult axis connecting technology and our darkest desires. Creativity cannot be thought through without including psychoanalysis. Philosophy must not escape from pain, violence and sexuality: it must include them. These are the backdoors to the future. That’s what interests Owen Cox and Daniel Fraga, hosts of the Technosocial podcast. Technosocial is a space for thinking about the fringes of the internet and exploring how technology is reshaping society. Only from this excess does “Project” become possible.

EP 169 Roar Bjonnes on Growing a New Economy

Jim talks with Roar Bjonnes about the ideas in his new book co-authored with Caroline Hargreaves, Growing a New Economy: Beyond Crisis Capitalism and Environmental Destruction. They talk about a quote from Naomi Klein, interlocking crises, COP27, the collective cognition problem, replacing the real economy with a financial economy, the idea of inherent selfishness, 4 integrated circles, the carbon pulse, nature as a machine, the misnomer of de-growth, why the U.S. is a debtor economy, dividend money, how the Eurozone made the rich richer, Greece’s high military spending, private corporate ownership as a driver of inequality, Doughnut economics, reforming co-op laws, where government ownership comes in, what would happen if finance collapsed, a global jubilee, an approach to eliminating public debt, increasing alternative energy responsibly, resacrilizing economics, rehypothecating collateral, how nation-states should manage their economies, a refutation of comparative advantage, caps on wealth & income, the coming storm, and much more.

Roar Bjonnes is the co-founder of Systems Change Alliance, a long-time environmental activist, and a writer on ecology and alternative economics, which he terms eco-economics. He was the editor of the American Common Future magazine in the mid-90s, a magazine that featured some of the first articles taking a critical look at green capitalism and the sustainable development model. He is the co-author of the book Growing a New Economy, which critiques the multiple crises caused by growth-capitalism and outlines the macro-economic framework for a new eco-economy. World-renowned environmentalist Bill McKibben called the book “a hopeful account of the possibilities contained in our current crisis.”

EP 168 Nate Hagens on Collective Futures

Jim talks with Nate Hagens about his new book co-authored with DJ White, Reality Blind: Integrating the Systems Science Underpinning Our Collective Futures, volume 1. They discuss Nate’s Reality 101 course, the core fundamental drivers of our current situation, writing “through an alien lens,” steering away from optimism and pessimism, the tradeoff between accuracy and helpfulness, telling the truth & letting the chips fall, the buildup of underground carbon, the carbon pulse, a bank account of ancient sunlight, invention of the Newcomen atmospheric engine, the Jevons paradox, exponential growth in a finite world, disliking the word “degrowth,” how humanity became a heat engine, gene agendas, advertising as the most deleterious invention, fast fashion, hypernovelty, trophic pyramids, the sixth great extinction, building a post-carbon life, energy as the currency of life, energy return on investment, why we don’t want free energy, thinking about the future probabilistically, predicting a drop in the resource economy, hitting the reset button on finance, consumer abundance as a peacock’s tail, and much more.

Dr. Nate Hagens is the Executive Director of The Institute for the Study of Energy & Our Future (ISEOF) an organization focused on educating and preparing society for the coming cultural transition. Formerly in the finance industry at Lehman Brothers and Salomon Brothers, since 2003 Nate has shifted his focus to understanding the interrelationships between energy, environment, and finance and the implication this synthesis has for human futures. Nate hosts the podcast The Great Simplification with Nate Hagens, in which he has conversations with experts in energy, ecology, government, technology, and the economy to provide a systemic view of the world around us.

Currents 072: Ben Goertzel on Viable Paths to True AGI

Jim talks with Ben Goertzel about the ideas in his recent essay “Three Viable Paths to True AGI.” They discuss the meaning of artificial general intelligence, Steve Wozniak’s basic AGI test, whether common tasks actually require AGI, a conversation with Joscha Bach, why deep neural nets are unsuited for human-level AGI, the challenge of extrapolating world-models, why imaginative improvisation might not be interesting to corporations, the 3 approaches that might have merit (cognition-level, brain-level, and chemistry-level), the OpenCog system Ben is working on, whether it’s a case of “good old-fashioned AI,” where evolution fits into the approach, why deep neural nets aren’t brain simulations & attempts to make them more realistic, a hypothesis about how to improve generalization, neural nets for music & the psychological landscape of AGI research, algorithmic chemistry & the origins of life problem, why AGI deserves more resources than it’s getting, why we may need better parallel architectures, how & how much society should invest in new approaches, the possibility of a cultural shift toward AGI viability, and much more.

Dr. Ben Goertzel is a cross-disciplinary scientist, entrepreneur and author.  Born in Brazil to American parents, in 2020 after a long stretch living in Hong Kong he relocated his primary base of operations to a rural island near Seattle. He leads the SingularityNET Foundation, the OpenCog Foundation, and the AGI Society which runs the annual Artificial General Intelligence conference. Dr. Goertzel’s research work encompasses multiple areas including artificial general intelligence, natural language processing, cognitive science, machine learning, computational finance, bioinformatics, virtual worlds, gaming, parapsychology, theoretical physics and more. He also chairs the futurist nonprofit Humanity+,  serves as Chief Scientist of AI firms  Rejuve, Mindplex, Cogito and Jam Galaxy, all parts of the SingularityNET ecosystem, and serves as keyboardist and vocalist in the Jam Galaxy Band, the first-ever band led by a humanoid robot.

EP 167 Bruce Damer on the Origins of Life

Jim talks with Bruce Damer about the origins of life. They discuss what Earth was like 4 billion years ago, how the oceans formed, the new concept of urability, the distinction between supporting life & bringing it into being, the source of organic building blocks, combinatorial selection, the ocean vents theory vs the warm little pond hypothesis, the Murchison meteorite, wet-dry cycling, the water problem, using stromatolites & other natural analogs to test conjectures, finding the oldest evidence of life in a hot spring setting, shouting matches as evidence of paradigm shifts, what warm pools were made of, a one-pot solution that’s testable at every stage, the source of vesicles, why the ocean is implausible as a starting point, chemical gardens, the great search for the origins of emergence, semipermeable membranes, “the ignoble sludge of the Progenitor,” the jacuzzi origin of life, the origin of life as a communal unit, the ratchet to greater complexity, thermal change in near-real time, the error catastrophe in evolutionary computing, actual experiments being performed, the Fermi paradox & astrobiological implications, a hot spring on Mars, urability scores, the Drake equation, where complexity theory meets biology, the rarity of complex life & the responsibility that comes with it, bringing the universe to life, and much more.

Canadian-born Dr. Bruce Damer has spent his life pursuing two questions: how did life on Earth begin? and how can we give that life (and ourselves) a sustainable pathway into the future and a presence beyond the Earth? A decade of laboratory and field research with his collaborator Prof. David Deamer at UCSC and teams around the world resulted in the Hot Spring Hypothesis for an Origin of Life, published in Scientific American in 2017 and the journal Astrobiology in 2020. The scenario has now passed its first key experimental tests in the laboratory and at volcanic hot springs around the world and has emerged as a leading contender for a general theory of abiogenesis. Implications of the work are now spreading through evolutionary biology, philosophy, AI and the search for life beyond Earth. New work with collaborators has proposed the urability framework, how life can start on many different worlds, and addresses some aspects of the Fermi Paradox.

Currents 071: Liam Madden on Rebirthing Democracy

Jim talks with Liam Madden, a congressional candidate in Vermont who strongly resonates with the GameB ethos. They discuss Liam’s decision to run as a Republican, Vermont’s primary laws, personal responsibility & community as reciprocal values, stewarding complex & godlike technologies, the Consilience Project, the sacredness of life, the meaning crisis, Ted Kaczynski’s critiques, ending war mentality, multipolar traps, fixing the machinery of democracy, liquid democracy, ranked-choice voting, proportional representation, election finance reform, qualified democracy, the possibility of a constitutional convention, an alternative to universal basic income, monetary reform, ending the growth imperative, creating a Public Service Corps, risks of exponential technology, how the campaign is going so far, what Liam would need to win, Jim’s endorsement, and much more.

Liam Madden is a Marine Corps veteran who became the leader of America’s largest antiwar organization of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, and winner of the Institute for Policy Studies Human Rights Award. As an entrepreneur Liam won M.I.T.’s Solve award for organizations innovating solutions to climate change. His work has been covered by 60 Minutes, the NY Times, & most other major media. Liam is an independent who won a Congressional primary election on a platform centered around reforms to the two-party system.

Currents 070: Brian Chau on Propaganda & Populism

Jim talks with Brian Chau about seeing the world as it is, not as we wish it to be. They discuss the firehose of bullshit, how modern-day propaganda works, QAnon & Pizzagate, the idea of egregores, adapting our biases against a drastically increased sample size, paranoia about child safety & kidnapping, why the vast majority of Americans are populist, the perception that our institutions are bankrupt, the golden rule of institutions, the CDC’s banning of Covid tests, status as the ability to efficiently align with power, mainstream media as status engine, why populism is growing & where it might lead, the Edelman Trust Barometer, the difficulty of converting public sentiment into actual policy, and much more.

Brian Chau is a mathematician by training and is tied for the youngest Canadian to win a gold medal at the International Olympiad in Informatics. He writes software for a living while posting on his spare time. He writes independently on American bureaucracy and political theory and has contributed to Tablet Magazine. His political philosophy can be summed up as “see the world as it is, not as you wish it to be.” Everything else is application.