Monthly Archives: April 2023

Currents 092: Peter Wang on The Meaning Crisis and Consequentiality

Jim talks with Peter Wang about his idea that meaning comes from making consequential choices. They discuss the immediacy of consequences, the modeling of causal loops, the subjective aspect of causality, two hundred varieties of shampoo, the intersubjective realm, middle-class consumer culture, the desire to be a live player, examples from Succession and Mad Men, the manufacture & commodification of desire, alternative systems of meaning, levels of patterns, false consequence, atomized individualism & the roots of the meaning crisis, the Ruttian meaning of life, negative vs positive freedom, Krishnamurti’s choiceless awareness, the new ability to create networked tribes, the liminal, clockwork oranges, facing the Hofstadter terror, taking our place in the mandala of the universe, and much more.

Peter Wang is the co-founder and CEO of Anaconda and one of the most impactful leaders and developers in the Python community. He is also a physicist and philosopher.

Currents 091: Bruce Damer on Psychedelics as Tools for Discovery

Jim talks with Bruce Damer about genius and the use of psychedelics for creative thinking. They discuss the roots of genius, the discovery of fire, Einstein’s four great discoveries, building blocks of genius, endotripping vs exotripping, set, setting, & setup, the danger of over-relying on LLMs for knowledge, geniuses in the scanner, crosstalk in the brain, the prepared mind, Bruce’s lifelong experience of endotripping, rapid retripping, lucid dreaming, getting psilocybin from Terence McKenna, ayahuasca, Steve Jobs’s LSD experience, external constraints, Bruce’s epiphany about the origins of life, hypothesizing as a non-rational process, the stoned ape theory, psychedelics in Eleusis, human brain sizes & assisted birth, hypnagogic trip states, casualties of the early psychedelic era, a call for serious practitioners, a proposal for string theorists, Charles Manson & the importance of screening for wisdom, the increasing need for genius, 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.

EP 185 Daniel Suarez on the Near Future of Space Exploration

Jim talks with Daniel Suarez about his science-fiction imaginings in the near future of space exploration, Delta-V and Critical Mass. They discuss the inspiration for the novels, the beginning of a renaissance in private space exploration, characters in the series, space law, choice-making at the beginning, the nature of explorers, the research process, a frontier economy, experiments with money systems, the Age of Exploration, the debate over asteroid mining, robots vs humans in space missions, speed of light lags, the meaning of delta-V, the nexus of Luxembourg City, carbonyl metallurgy, climate change & economic disruptions, mining operations on the moon, the Shackleton crater, how space exploration is of benefit to Earth, space station design, space-based solar energy, cryptocurrency on the moon, money vs wealth, bringing the universe to life, the responsibility of stewardship, the minimum dose of gravity, and much more.

Daniel Suarez is a New York Times bestselling author, TEDGlobal speaker, and former systems analyst whose unique brand of high-tech fiction explores the causes and impacts of rapid technological change. The author of seven novels, he has a track record of anticipating what’s next, and his latest book, Critical Mass brings readers on a daring journey to the new frontier of private space exploration. Second book in the Delta-v series, Critical Mass realistically portrays humanity’s urgent transition from an Earthbound to a spacefaring civilization — and brings home why that’s critical to our future.

EP 184 Dave Snowden on Managing Complexity in Times of Crisis

Jim talks with Dave Snowden about the document he co-authored, “Managing Complexity (And Chaos) In Times of Crisis.” They discuss the Cynefin framework, its development into a complexity-informed framework, distinguishing complex from complicated, emergence, enabling constraints vs governing constraints, openness in complex systems, short-term teleology vs top-down causality, lines of flight, six sigma, Taylorism, distributed decision-making, the meaning of crisis, preparing for unknowable unknowns, plagues & heat deaths, false learnings of Covid, the order of origin of language & semiotics, building informal networks, exaptation, the right level of granularity, setting Draconian constraints, preserving optionality, anticipatory thinking, comprehensive journaling, LLMs & the recent open letter, the need for ethical awareness, scales of group decision-making, documenters & doers, the aporetic, Covid as a boon to complexity work, cadence vs velocity, ritual in American football, designing strategic interventions with stories, vector theory of change, constructor theory, making the cost of virtue less than the cost of sin, dispositional management, an upcoming book, and much more.

Dave Snowden divides his time between two roles: founder Chief Scientific Officer of Cognitive Edge and the founder and Director of the Centre for Applied Complexity at the University of Wales. His work is international in nature and covers government and industry looking at complex issues relating to strategy, organisational decision making and decision making. He has pioneered a science based approach to organisations drawing on anthropology, neuroscience and complex adaptive systems theory. He is a popular and passionate keynote speaker on a range of subjects, and is well known for his pragmatic cynicism and iconoclastic style.

Currents 090: BJ Campbell and Patrick Ryan on Egregores

Jim talks with BJ Campbell and Patrick Ryan about understanding the present moment through the concept of egregores. They discuss the meaning of the term, its roots in early occultism, social media as the fertile ground, an analogy with neural nets, measuring egregores with grammar velocity, LLMs as a Broca’s area for tech, how guns have won the culture war, translating word frequency distributions into psychological profiles, one grand egregore vs multiple competitive egregores, NPC speedrunning, experiments in influence automation, QAnon & piggybacking on reality, egregore update rates, Shiri’s scissor, LLMs as necromancy, multipolar traps, the impedance matching problem, an apex predator egregore, and much more.

BJ Campbell is a licensed professional civil engineer and practicing hydrologist who consults in the land development and environmental industries. In addition to his Substack Handwaving Freakoutery, he writes for Open Source Defense, Quillette, and Recoil Magazine.

Patrick Ryan is a seasoned programmer with over 20 years of experience in the full web stack development field, a career which concluded at Hulu. He is also an AI warfare specialist and provided valuable assistance to Zach Vorheis, a Google whistleblower, during the Department of Justice’s anti-trust case against Google. His knowledge and experience are sought after by diverse organizations, including defense, think tanks, and policy outfits. He has provided guidance on measuring existential risk where AI warfare and infrastructure weakness intersect, as well as for a White House Coronavirus Task force.

Currents 089: Erik Torenberg on Status Games

Jim talks with Erik Torenberg about the ideas in his Substack series on navigating the status games of today. They discuss status as reputation allocation, cyclical change in status mobility over time, status in the world of social media, beliefs as fashions, the status games of adolescent girls, therapy as a status signal, status games around changes of gender, the metaphysics of trauma, luxury beliefs, college as the biggest differentiator in belief, universalism & the ban on cousin marriage, the U.S.’s anomalously high religious population, the arms race for crazy ideas, the societal value of status mobility, sincere irony, the Israeli kibbutz system, cryptocurrency initiatives in GameB, the religion that’s not a religion, money & beauty, heretics vs apostates, cancel culture as a status pump-and-dump scheme, the peak & coming decline of wokism, Trump as a boon for wokism, and much more.

Erik Torenberg is the Founder and the Co-founder/General Partner at Village Global. Before building On Deck, Erik was a member of the founding team at Product Hunt and the Founder of

EP 183 Forrest Landry Part 2: AI Risk

Forrest Landry
Jim continues his conversation with recurring guest Forrest Landry on his arguments that continued AI development poses certain catastrophic risk to humanity. They discuss the liminal feeling of the current moment in AI, Rice’s theorem & the unknowability of alignment, the analogy & disanalogy of bridge-building, external ensemble testing, the emergence of a feedback curve, the danger of replacing human oversight with machine oversight, Eliezer Yudkowsky’s AI risk work, instrumental convergence risk, inequity issues, deepening multipolar traps, substrate needs convergence, environmental degradation, developing collective choice-making among humans, economic decoupling, the Luddite movement, fully automated luxury communism, the calculation problem, the principal-agent problem, corruption, agency through autonomous military devices, implicit agency, institutional design, the need for caring, hierarchy & transaction, care relationships at scale, using tech to correct the damages of tech, love as that which enables choice, institutions vs communities, techniques of discernment, enlivenment, empowering the periphery, and much more.

Forrest Landry is a philosopher, writer, researcher, scientist, engineer, craftsman, and teacher focused on metaphysics, the manner in which software applications, tools, and techniques influence the design and management of very large scale complex systems, and the thriving of all forms of life on this planet. Forrest is also the founder and CEO of Magic Flight, a third-generation master woodworker who found that he had a unique set of skills in large-scale software systems design. Which led him to work in the production of several federal classified and unclassified systems, including various FBI investigative projects, TSC, IDW, DARPA, the Library of Congress Congressional Records System, and many others.