EP 240 Stuart Kauffman on a New Approach to Cosmology

Jim talks with Stuart Kauffman about cosmology, fundamental physics, and the nature of dark matter, dark energy, and inflation. They discuss how Stuart moved into these fields, the Michelson-Morley experiment, special relativity, cosmic background radiation, the new period of precision cosmology, dark energy, why the universe is expanding faster, the Hubble tension, the baryonic Tully-Fisher relation, entanglement, nonlocality & whether it is fundamental, quantum gravity, why particle physics is collectively autocatalytic, stepping through the delay hypothesis, Planck time, the past hypothesis problem, the life ensemble, dark matter as a Ricci soliton, requirements for the rate of inflation, why cold dark matter may explain the cosmic web, Mach’s principle, and much more.

Stuart Alan Kauffman is an American theoretical biologist and complex systems researcher who studies the origin of life on Earth. Kauffman graduated from Dartmouth in 1960, was awarded the BA (Hons) by Oxford University (where he was a Marshall Scholar) in 1963, and completed a medical degree (MD) at the University of California, San Francisco in 1968. After completing his residency in Emergency Medicine, he moved into developmental genetics of the fruit fly, holding appointments first at the University of Chicago, then at the University of Pennsylvania, where he rose to Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics. Kauffman held a MacArthur Fellowship from 1987–1992.

EP 239 Alex Fink on Improving Information Quality

Jim talks with Alex Fink about his company Otherweb, which uses AI to filter out fake news and create a more reliable news ecosystem. They discuss how Alex came to care about this problem, the decline of news media, how advertising wrecked the internet, the idea of an info agent, Otherweb’s curation engine, information filtering systems, unhooking the internet from advertising, the fight between AdBlock and Facebook, the decision to disinclude paywalled websites, economic tradeoffs of paywalling, AI in movie production, money-on-money return, initial results of the printing press, watermarking images, fair witnesses, how porn has driven internet innovation, catering to the seven deadly sins, social media addiction, binding the future of the company, public benefit corporations, the stewardship capital model, the crowdfunding process, and much more.

Alex Fink is a Tech Executive, Silicon Valley Expat, and the Founder and CEO of the Otherweb, a Public Benefit Corporation that uses AI to help people read news and commentary, listen to podcasts and search the web without paywalls, clickbait, ads, autoplaying videos, affiliate links, or any other junk. The Otherweb is available as an app (ios and android), a website, a newsletter, or a standalone browser extension.


EP 238 Sam Sammane on Humanity’s Role in an AI-Dominated Future

Jim talks with Sam Sammane about the ideas in his new book The Singularity of Hope: Humanity’s Role in an AI-Dominated Future. They discuss the hype around generative AI, obstacles to AGI, reinforcement learning, intuition & emotion, human-AI augmentation, rules of thumb, the plausibility of the brain as a quantum computer, Jim’s ScriptHelper project, machine-like jobs that will likely be automated, the age of retraining, using AI to self-augment, the digital proletariat, a compassionate approach to rethinking society, a priesthood for investing, AI-augmented drug discovery, a major uplift in education, love as an engine of learning, the danger of considering AI in education as cheating, personal info agents, advances in tuning of LLMs, brain-computer interfaces, roads toward AGI, the pure AI singularity, the limits of our understanding of intelligence, collecting wisdom, and much more.

Sam Sammane envisions a world in which rapid advancements in AI and technology have been harnessed for the greater good, creating a new age of global prosperity. He is a seasoned entrepreneur with multiple successful exits and an academician with a rich blend of expertise in applied physics, digital circuit design, nanotechnology, formal methods, life science, and business. Sam’s book The Singularity of Hope reflects his experiences and thoughts on the evolving relationship between AI, the economy, and the workforce.

EP 237 Simon DeDeo on the Odds of Major Civil Violence

Jim talks with Simon DeDeo about their wager concerning the likelihood of civil violence and mass killings in America in the next decade. They discuss the terms of the wager, the appropriate orders of magnitude, Alex Garland’s Civil War, the American readiness to use violence, honor cultures, the movement from violence to political violence, industrial mass murder, polarization, the one-dimensionality of current elites, basins of attraction, statistical distributions of violence, Rene Girard’s theory of mimetic desire, measuring political distance, the constant motion of contemporary American political views, tribalization around red-blue politics, door-holding & just-so stories, sexual signaling, the unreality of woke debates, accumulating factors that could lead to a brushfire, gun rights, the dilettantism of extremist groups, 3 specific scenarios of inciting conflicts, making sense of a post-ideological world, the question of who rules, and much more.

Simon DeDeo is an Assistant Professor at Carnegie Mellon University in the Department of Social and Decision Sciences, and External Professor at the Santa Fe Institute. He is also affiliated with the Cognitive Science program at Indiana University, where he runs the Laboratory for Social Minds. For three years, from 2010 to 2013, he was an Omidyar Fellow at the Santa Fe Institute. He and his collaborators study how people use words and signals, and the ideas they represent, to create a world. They have studied a diverse set of systems that includes the French Revolution, the courtrooms of Victorian London, the research strategies of Charles Darwin, the insurgency of modern-day Afghanistan, the emergent bureaucracy of Wikipedia, the creation of power hierarchies among the social animals, and the collusions and conspiracies of petrol stations in the American Midwest. They combine data from the contemporary world, archives from the deep past, statistical tools from cosmology, and models of human cognition from Bayesian reasoning and information theory to understand how cultures grow, flourish, innovate, and evolve.

EP 236 Gregg Henriques on Free Will vs Determinism

Jim talks with Gregg Henriques about his take on the free will versus determinism debate. They discuss the importance of definitions, the enlightenment gap, the complexity lens, why “will” is confusing & choice is a better referent, free choice vs determinism, levels of analysis, description vs explanation, freedom as description, the tree of knowledge system, ontological jumps in evolutionary complexification, a stack of emergences, systems of justification, the concept of agency, layered agency, animal decision-making, Mind2 consciousness, freedom as recursive self-awareness, the emergence of personhood, explicit self-consciousness with awareness of consequence, top-down causation, minimal elements of the debate, why Sapolsky’s arguments may be dangerous, and much more.

Dr. Gregg Henriques is Professor of Graduate Psychology at James Madison University in the Combined Doctoral Program in Clinical and School Psychology. He received his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Vermont and did his post-doctoral training at the University of Pennsylvania. He is a theoretical psychologist and has developed the “Unified Theory of Knowledge,” which is a consilient scientific humanistic worldview to unify psychology. He is the author of A New Unified Theory of Psychology (Springer, 2011), and A New Synthesis for Solving the Problem of Psychology: Addressing the Enlightenment Gap (Palgrave McMillian, November 2022). His scholarly work has been published in the field’s best journals, and he has developed a popular blog on Psychology Today, Theory of Knowledge, which has received over eight million views. He is a fellow of the American Psychological Association, the 2022 President of the Society for the Exploration of Psychotherapy Integration, and founded the Theory of Knowledge academic society.

EP 235 Robin Hanson on Beware Cultural Drift

Jim talks with Robin Hanson about the ideas in his essay “Beware Cultural Drift: Thoughts on modernity’s monoculture mistake.” They discuss drift in fundamental cultural values, the current unprecedented rate of change, boutique multiculturalism, weak selection pressures, drift without selection, understanding small cultures, agency risk, comparing corporate cultures with macro-cultures, the decrease in macro-cultures, the convergence of global elite culture, worldwide norms vs cultural sphere norms, fertility habits & falling fertility, fertility decline as a symptom, 2 kinds of stories cultural elites tell, context-dependent vs learning-based drivers, the connection between deeper goals & subgoals, turning the ship vs getting on lifeboats, joining the opposition, differential reproduction & the fall of Rome, conservatism, totalitarianism, deep multiculturalism, coherent pluralism, getting to the stars, artificial minds, why Robin is pro-cult, pressure to collapse into red-blue tribalism, rates of innovation, and much more.

Robin Hanson is an Associate Professor of Economics, and received his Ph.D in 1997 in social sciences from Caltech. He joined George Mason’s economics faculty in 1999 after completing a two-year post-doc at U.C Berkely. His major fields of interest include health policy, regulation, and formal political theory.

EP 234 Richard Bartlett on an Experiment in Co-Living

Jim talks with Richard Bartlett about the ideas in his essay “What we learned from a 3-month co-living experiment.” They discuss Jim’s visit to a co-living house, community & its recent decline, starting small & iterating, the co-living experiment in Andalusia, pre-registration, co-living plus events, finding the right place, the importance of landscape, the vibe, finances, membrane design, organizing transit, events, the emergent TPOT network, paying community organizers what they’re worth, weaving weak links & strong links, social transitivity, curation, selection criteria, containment vs ejection, a pluralistic attitude toward respect, assuming good faith, focusing on what you want to see more of, systems for participation & coordination, the danger of oversystematizing, resentment minimization, just-in-time system design, increasing capacity for hosting, the arrival process, mastering hospitality, biasing toward small-group participation, unscheduled time, what’s next, GameB finance, and much more.

Richard Bartlett helps people grow high-trust communities and decentralised organizations. He is a co-founder of the tech co-op Loomio, the community building network Microsolidarity, and the non-hierarchical management consultancy The Hum, as well as director of the social impact collective Enspiral.

EP 233 Robert Conan Ryan on Seven Ethical Perspectives

Jim talks with Robert Conan Ryan about seven ethical perspectives and why everyone should know them. They discuss why understanding ethical stances is valuable, a horseshoe spectrum, pragmatism, virtue ethics, consequentialism, deontology, elitist power, deification, social justice, stacking up ethical stances, Aristotle’s golden mean, sociopaths in the military, running the polis, coherent pluralism, the multi-perspectival lens, Cornel West’s positional complexity, paideia, DEI (Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion), liberal universal humanism, pragmatism vs neo-pragmatism, the long run vs the short run, the transaction cost theory of ethics, inclusive entrepreneurship, the Main Street problem, and much more.
Robert Conan Ryan is a professor of business administration and emerging public intellectual. His current scholarly projects include work with a diverse roster of world-leading strategists, economists, and futurists such as Jordan Hall, Michel Bauwens, Ravi Madhavan, Barry Mitnick, Matthew McCaffrey, and Michael Rectenwald. His current papers tackle competitive industry dynamics; grey market economics; the history of technology; Neo-Schumpeterian economics; artificial vs. natural cognition; paradigmatic strategic design; and, how sensemaking systems evolve and change.

EP 232 Matthew David Segall on Process Philosophy and the Origin of Life

Jim talks with Matthew David Segall about the ideas in his and Bruce Damer‘s new essay, “The Cosmological Context of the Origin of Life: Process Philosophy and the Hot Spring Hypothesis.” They discuss the “philosophy as footnotes to Plato” idea, the hot springs origin of life hypothesis, closing the gap between chemistry & life, Whitehead’s idea of concrescence, metaphysics in philosophy, minimum viable metaphysics, why physical law doesn’t imply biological organisms, process-relational philosophy, deep-seated cosmic habits, the hero’s answer, the type 1a supernova, rigorous speculation, the incalculability of the adjacent possible, the nature of matter, autocatalysis, the tension between the actual & possible, the rate of evolution, getting past the error catastrophe, Prigogine’s ideas about dissipative systems, teleology & the second law of thermodynamics, why DNA is not a blueprint, the Fermi paradox, bringing the universe to life, social implications of the origin of life, panpsychism & panexperientialism, integrated information theory, why matter & energy must have an endogenous telos, prehension, life wanting to live better, necessity & openness, questioning falsifiability, and much more.

Matthew David Segall, Phd, is a transdisciplinary researcher, writer, teacher, and philosopher applying process-relational thought across the natural and social sciences, as well as to the study of consciousness. He is Associate Professor in the Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness Department at California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, and the Chair of the Science Advisory Committee for the Cobb Institute.

EP 231 Vance Crowe Interviews Jim Rutt on AI Risk

Vance Crowe interviews Jim about how he maps the problem-space of current and future AI risk. They discuss the beginnings of AI, the era of broad AI, artificial general intelligence, the Wozniak test, artificial superintelligence, the paperclip maximizer problem, the timeline of AGI, FOOM, limitations of current governance structure, bad uses of narrow AI, personalized political propaganda, nanny rails, the multipolar trap, the spark of human ingenuity, Daniel Dennett’s proposal to make human impersonation illegal, taking moral ownership of LLM outputs, loss of human cognitive capacity, Idiocracy, economic inequality & unemployment, David Graeber’s bullshit jobs idea, Marx’s concept of alienation, the flood of sludge, the idea of an AI information agent, epistemological decay, techno-hygiene tactics, GameA’s self-terminating & accelerating curve, GameB, the importance of governance capacity, changing our political operating system, and much more.

Vance Crowe is a communications strategist who has worked for corporations and international organizations around the world, including the World Bank, Monsanto, and the US Peace Corps. He hosts The Vance Crowe Podcast and is the founder of Legacy Interviews, where he privately records video interviews with individuals and couples to give future generations the opportunity to know their family history.