EP 198 Cory Doctorow on Seizing the Means of Computation

Jim talks with Cory Doctorow about the ideas in his new book The Internet Con: How to Seize the Means of Computation. They discuss Cory‘s long affiliation with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, destroying Big Tech instead of “fixing” it, why tech lords are not evil geniuses, how Big Tech consolidated, antitrust law, the felony contempt of business model, interoperability, the high-speed shell game of digital, the kill zone, the case of Diapers.com, the falling fortunes of tech workers, defining IP, Grokster, “polite competition,” automated notice and takedown, Jim’s proposal for content moderation, the flexibility of fair use, Interoperable Facebook, prioritizing individual choice, and much more.

Cory Doctorow is a science fiction author, activist, and journalist. He is the author of many books, most recently The Internet Con: How to Seize the Means of Computation, a Big Tech disassembly manual; Red Team Blues, a science fiction crime thriller; Chokepoint Capitalism, nonfiction about monopoly and creative labor markets; the Little Brother series for young adults; In Real Life, a graphic novel; and the picture book Poesy the Monster Slayer. In 2020, he was inducted into the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame.

EP 197 Susan Neiman on Why Left Is Not Woke

Jim talks with Susan Neiman about the ideas in her latest book, Left Is Not Woke. They discuss the history & meaning of wokeness, the underlying reactionary assumptions of wokeness, making leftism & socialism acceptable terms, how the New Left of the Sixties set leftism back for a generation, disentangling left & woke, the right & tribalism, progressivism as a child of the Enlightenment, normative vs descriptive claims, refuting the idea of reason as an instrument of violence, why Hume doesn’t belong to the Enlightenment, the danger of sheer subjectivity, data & empiricism, rates of police killings by race, liberal universal humanism, the term liberalism, identitarianism, the blacklisting of Paul Robeson, the idea that altruism is simply power politics, the appeal to the Stone Age brain, hope vs optimism, and much more.

Susan Neiman is an American philosopher and writer. She has written extensively on the Enlightenment, moral philosophy, metaphysics, and politics. Her work shows that philosophy is a living force for contemporary thinking and action.

EP 196 Pamela Denise Long on Affirmative Action for Freedmen

Jim talks with Pamela Denise Long about the ideas in an open letter from the Coalition of Concerned Freedmen to college presidents, responding to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on race-based affirmative action. They discuss the organizational developmental consultancy Youthcentrix, the Coalition of Concerned Freedmen, the meaning of the freedmen moniker, the different types of manumission, the use of the term Negro, the four points of the Coalition’s press release, certification of lineage, the ratio of affirmative action beneficiaries who are freedmen, lineage-specific structuring, merit & restitution, the mismatch issue in higher education, developmental support of students, the left’s excoriation of Justice Clarence Thomas, Lincoln Republicanism, the impact of immigration on multi-generational Black Americans, skepticism of a Black-Brown Coalition, the blending of Black and LGBTQIA+ agendas, Denise’s view on the Republican presidential primaries, why Republicans should be leading reparations, cash vs institutional reparations, and much more.

Pamela Denise Long is a 7th+ generation American, principal consultant of Youthcentrix®, award winning business consultant for implementing trauma-informed diversity, equity, inclusion, and antiracism, a contributor at Newsweek and political commentator featured on FOX News, Hill TV, Real Clear Politics, The Grio Politics, Breitbart, and more. Denise is National Coordinator for the Coalition of Concerned Freedmen™, the issuer of a recent news release to college presidents regarding lineage based affirmative action.

EP 195 Michael R.J. Bonner on Civilization, Collapse, and Renewal

Jim talks with Michael R.J. Bonner about the ideas in his book In Defense of Civilization: How Our Past Can Renew Our Present. They discuss the meaning of civilization, Gobekli Tepe, why technological change didn’t bring about civilization, how civilization produces clarity, beauty, and order, why civilization is preferable to the alternatives, the limits of cities, the dynamics of collapse, Francis Fukuyama’s end of history idea, revivals, how interconnectivity leads to fragility, the Bronze Age collapse, the collapse of Rome, cultural pluralism & academic freedom in the 9th century, the paradoxical outcome of the Renaissance, the rediscovery of Aristotle, combining Enlightenment clarity with medieval expansiveness, the evils of postmodernism, the dark side of Romanticism, the basis of religious belief, public ritual vs religious belief, futurism, the limits of skepticism, wokism as a religion, the need for grand narratives, a common humanity, and much more.

Dr Michael Bonner is a Canadian communications and public-policy expert with more than a decade of service in federal and provincial government. He is a historian of ancient Iran, holds a doctorate in Oriental Studies from the University of Oxford, and is a contributing editor to The Dorchester Review. His new book In Defense of Civilization: How Our Past Can Renew Our Present was published by the Sutherland House in April of 2023.

EP 194 Bob Reid on User-Owned Identity

Jim talks with Bob Reid about identity verification and the financial stack behind his global financial platform Everest. They discuss decentralized user-owned identity, identity as a trillion-dollar opportunity, competing with customers, Know Your Customer, types of identity, the breakout fraud, biometric systems, building societal trust, India’s Aadhar system, Justin Trudeau’s freeze on protesters’ bank accounts, preventing governmental choke points, how to use Everest, the application stack, Facebook’s missed opportunity to build identity, the coming fake-identity AI tsunami, real names vs anonymity, levels of verification, preventing exploits, the likelihood of social revolution in Europe, the accuracy of biometrics, the difference between a social graph & identity, paying a contractor with crypto, understanding Automated Clearing House & Single Euro Payments Area, tokenizing securities, why the user needs to control digital identity, and much more.

Bob Reid is the CEO and co-founder of Everest, a licensed crypto custodian with its own high-speed blockchain, and the world’s first global, programmable stablecoin.

EP 193 Aydan Connor on Rethinking Food Systems

Jim talks with Aydan Connor about improving American food systems and reducing waste. They discuss Aydan’s experience in the craft brewing industry, extremification of beer styles, wastefulness in beer production, how Aydan became interested in food systems, the obsession with consumer choice, how the current system prices in waste, food waste ratios in different countries, where in the chain food waste occurs, the requirement of processed food, unintentional communities, maximizing communal freedom of choice, CSAs as a non-solution, creating tighter networks, decentralized processing systems, America’s low food expenditure, needed infrastructure & coordination, a network of networks, the scale advantage, the squeeze on wages, diversifying work tasks, tips for reducing domestic food waste, making a plan before you buy food, on-site food safety testing, bulk freezers with nitrogen flushing, and much more.
Aydan Connor has worked as a professional craft beer brewer in the Midwest for eight years, and has participated in the buildout of multiple brewery startups. At the beginning of his career, he was brewing batches as small as 10 gallons. Over the years, he worked directly with packaging equipment of various types, even leading as an operator of a mobile canning line to package onsite for other breweries. Currently, he works as a beer brewer at a regional craft brewery, brewing batches as large as 8,000 gallons. Employing direct knowledge of food processing, he has a vision for intelligent food systems which synthesize basic equipment and facilities technologies in combination with block chain inventory management towards decreasing food waste and increasing quality on any parameter. He believes these systems could act as a generative ground for building communities more awake and aware of the environments in which we can thrive.

EP 192 David Krakauer on Science, Complexity and AI

Jim has a wide-ranging talk with David Krakauer about the ideas in his forthcoming paper “The Structure of Complexity in Machine Learning Science” and how AI may alter the course of science. They discuss data-driven science vs theory-driven science, a bifurcation in science, the protein folding problem, brute force methods, the origin of induction in David Hume, the origin of neural networks in deductive thinking of the ’40s, super-Humean models, crossing the statistical uncanny valley, ultra-high-dimensionality, adaptive computation, why genetic algorithms might come back, Chomsky’s poverty of the stimulus, the lottery ticket hypothesis, neural nets as pre-processors for parsimonious science, how human expertise constrains model-building, GPT-4’s arithmetic problem, cognitive synergy, why LLMs aren’t AGIs, incompressible representations, gravitational lensing, the new sciences LLMs will lead to, encoding adaptive history, Jim’s ScriptWriter software, discovery engines vs libraries vs synthesizers, the history of science as a history of constraint, Occam’s razor & meta-Occam, assembly theory, whether existential risk is a marketing ploy, the Idiocracy risk, using empirical precedent in tech regulation, networks of info agents, the outsourcing of human judgment, and much more.

David Krakauer’s research explores the evolution of intelligence and stupidity on Earth. This includes studying the evolution of genetic, neural, linguistic, social, and cultural mechanisms supporting memory and information processing, and exploring their shared properties. President of the Santa Fe Institute since 2015, he served previously as the founding director of the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, the co-director of the Center for Complexity and Collective Computation, and professor of mathematical genetics, all at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

EP 191 Alicia Juarrero on Context, Constraints, and Coherence

Jim talks with Alicia Juarrero about her new book Context Changes Everything: How Constraints Create Coherence. They discuss Aristotle’s four causes, applying them to complex dynamical systems, the overfocus on efficient cause, naive Newtonianism, nothing-but-ism, reconceptualizing causality in terms of constraints, mereology, constraint regimes, ascribing causal powers to emergent properties, the roots of panpsychism, Searle’s comparison of consciousness with digestion, kinds of constraints, the Dysons’ notion of analog control, why analog is more efficient, identity as a set of interdependent constraints, surface vs deep dyslexia & early neural nets, the work of Geoffrey Hinton, the species competitive exclusion principle, cardinality vs ordinality, the social evolution of cassava, Rayleigh-Benard convection, dissipative systems, Alicia’s disagreement with Michael Polanyi, the architecture of the circulatory system, scaffolding, top-down causality, many-to-one transitions, degeneracy, pluripotentiality, the ship of Theseus, 4E cognitive science, and much more.

Alicia Juarrero, Professor Emerita of Philosophy at Prince George’s Community College (MD), is the author of Dynamics in Action: Intentional Behavior as a Complex System (MIT 1999) and co-editor of Reframing Complexity: Perspectives from North and South (ISCE Publishing, 2007), and Emergence, Self-Organization and Complexity: Precursors and Prototypes (ISCE Publishing, 2008).

EP 190 Peter Turchin on Cliodynamics and End Times

Jim talks with Peter Turchin about the field he founded, cliodynamics, which applies the scientific method to history. They discuss the meaning & origins of cliodynamics, distinguishing cliodynamics from previous approaches, regularizing historical data, the interface between models & data, average height as a proxy for biological well-being, the Seshat data collection project, observed patterns in collapsing societies, the overproduction of elites, relative vs absolute wage, the wealth pump, relative well-being, a top-heavy social pyramid, defining elites, failed aspirant elites as the raw material for radical movements, why lawyers are the most dangerous profession, the Musk-Zuckerman duel as a sign of increased intra-elite competition, the issue of prediction, the intensification of secessionist sentiment in the U.S., how the British Empire avoided the revolutions of 1848, shutting down the wealth pump, increasing minimum wage, the odds that a revolution would be good for society, and much more.

Peter Turchin is a complexity scientist who works in the field of historical social science that he and his colleagues call Cliodynamics. His research interests lie at the intersection of social and cultural evolution,  historical macrosociology, economic history and cliometrics, mathematical modeling of long-term social processes, and the construction and analysis of historical databases. Currently his main research effort is directing the Seshat Databank project (and its offshoot, CrisisDB) which builds and analyzes a massive historical database that enables us to empirically test predictions from theories attempting to explain why and how complex human societies evolved, and why they periodically experience political breakdown.

Currents 100: Sara Walker and Lee Cronin on Time as an Object

Jim talks with Sara Walker and Lee Cronin about the ideas in their Aeon essay “Time Is an Object.” They discuss the history of the idea of time, Newton’s clockwork universe, the capacity for things to happen, the impossibility of time travel, Einstein’s block universe theory, making time testable, conceptions of the arrow of time, irreversibility as an emergent property, the core of assembly theory, measures of complexity, recursive deconstruction, distinguishing random & complex, Kolmogorov complexity, the absence of a useful theory of complexity, counting steps in the assembly pathway, developing theories from measurement, the size of chemical possibility space, the role of memory in the creation of large organic chemicals, memory depth, the assembly index, the origins of life, a sharp phase transition between biotic & non-biotic molecules, life as a stack of objects, a phase transition between life & technology, techno-signatures, error correction in DNA, whether assembly theory is a theory of time, the temporal dimension as a physical feature of objects, implications for SETI & the Fermi paradox, spotting the difference between noise & assembly, the Great Perceptual Filter, looking for complexity in the universe, the probability of life originating, and much more.

Professor Sara Walker is an astrobiologist and theoretical physicist. Her work focuses on the origins and nature of life, and in particular whether or not there are universal ‘laws of life’ that would allow predicting when life emerges and can guide our search for other examples on other worlds.  Her research integrates diverse perspectives ranging from chemistry, biology, geology, astronomy and the foundations of physics, to computer science, cheminformatics, artificial life, artificial intelligence and consciousness. At Arizona State University she is Deputy Director of the Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science, Associate Director of the ASU-Santa Fe Institute Center for Biosocial Complex Systems and Professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration. She is also a member of the External Faculty at the Santa Fe Institute. She is active in public engagement in science, with appearances on “Through the Wormhole”, NPR’s Science Friday, and on a number of international science festivals and podcasts. She has published in leading research journals and is an internationally recognized thought leader in the study of the origins of life, alien life and the search for a deeper understanding of ourselves in our universe.

Leroy (Lee) Cronin is the Regius Professor of Chemistry in Glasgow. Since the age of 9 Lee has wanted to explore chemistry using electronics to control matter. His research spans many disciplines and has four main aims: the construction of an artificial life form; the digitization of chemistry; the use of artificial intelligence in chemistry including the construction of ‘wet’ chemical computers; the exploration of complexity and information in chemistry. His recent work on the digitization of chemistry has resulted in a new programming paradigm for matter and organic synthesis and discovery – chemputation – which uses the worlds first domain specific and universal programming language for chemistry – XDL, see XDL-standard.com. His team designs and builds all their own robots from the ground up and the team currently has 25 different robotic systems operating across four domains: Organic synthesis; Energy materials discovery; Nanomaterials discovery; Formulation discovery. All the systems use XDL and are easily programmable for both manufacture and discovery. His group is organised and assembled transparently around ideas, avoids hierarchy, and aims to mentor researchers using a problem-based approach. Nothing is impossible until it is tried.