Monthly Archives: November 2023

EP 212 Joy Hirsch on How the Brain Responds to Zoom

Jim talks with Joy Hirsch about the findings in her paper “Separable Processes for Live ‘In-Person’ and Live ‘Zoom-like’ Faces,” which explores how humans respond at the neural level to Zoom calls versus in-person interactions. They discuss the advantages of near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) & how it works, the speed of imaging, brain imaging for social interactions, what fNIRS can do that fMRI can’t, previous work on face processing, the design of the experiment, controlling for distance, angles, & presence, the data collection process, longer eye fixation in in-person interactions, increased pupil size compared with Zoom calls, differences in neural activity between groups, EEG findings, decreased neural synchrony in Zoom interactions, what the results might indicate, social media & strength of social links, how this research might be used to make video calls more brain-friendly, and much more.

Joy Hirsch is the Elizabeth Mears and House Jameson Professor of Psychiatry, Comparative Medicine, and Neuroscience; and the Director of the Brain Function Laboratory at Yale School of Medicine. The overarching goal of her research is to understand the fundamental neural mechanisms that underlie live interactive social behaviors between individuals. Her laboratory has developed multi-modal two-person neuroimaging technology based on near infrared spectroscopy, fNIRS, configured for real-time live face-to-face and dialogue interactions between humans.

EP 211 Ben Goertzel on Generative AI vs. AGI

Jim talks with recurring guest Ben Goertzel about the ideas in his paper “Generative AI vs. AGI: The Cognitive Strengths and Weaknesses of Modern LLMs.” They discuss the exponential acceleration of AI development, why LLMs by themselves won’t lead to AGI, OpenAI’s integrative system, skyhooking, why LLMs may be useful for achieving AGI, solving LLM hallucinations, why Google hasn’t replicated GPT-4, LLM-tuning lore, what differentiates AGI from other forms of AI,  conceptualizing general intelligence, Weaver’s theory of open-ended intelligence, multiple intelligence, the Turing test & the Minsky prize, what LLMs aren’t good at, the danger of defining AGI as whatever LLMs can’t do, the derivative & imitative character of LLMs, banality, doing advanced math with GPT-4, why the human brain doesn’t form arbitrary abstractions, the duality of heuristics & abstractions, adding recurrence to transformers, OpenCog Hyperon, using a weighted labeled metagraph, orienting toward self-reflection & self-rewriting, the challenge of scalability of infrastructure, acceleration on non-LLM projects, 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 210 Frank Lantz on the Beauty of Games

Jim talks with Frank Lantz about the ideas in his new book, The Beauty of Games. They discuss Frank’s analysis of Benjamin Soule’s arcade game Serpentes, reflecting on the enjoyment of games, panicking & choking, levels of understanding, Jim and his wife’s experience playing Othello, Hanabi, partnership games, games as an aesthetic form, art vs aesthetics, playing for its own sake, thinking & doing, fulfilling the desire to be a coherent agent in the world, the performance of desire, games as systems, heuristics, strategy in military games, a game as a series of interesting decisions, overindexing on the flow state, going up the ladder of heuristics, maximizing for rate of learning, systems literacy, games as an art form for nerds, and much more.

Frank Lantz is a game designer with a focus on exploring emerging technology to create new kinds of gameplay. He is the Founding Chair of the NYU Game Center, the co-founder of Area/Code Games (acquired by Zynga in 2011), the co-founder of Everybody House Games and the creator of the game Universal Paperclips. He has taught game design for over 20 years at New York University, Parsons School of Design, and the School of Visual Arts and has created numerous influential talks and writings on the subject of games.

EP 209 C. Owen Paepke on the Purple Presidency

Jim talks with C. Owen Paepke in part three of a mini-series on the No Labels potential third-party presidential campaign. They discuss Owen’s early chemistry career, being without a political party, the situation of voting against instead of for candidates, the distribution of conservatism between parties over time, the Ross Perot 1992 campaign, the nomination of Antonin Scalia, primaries as the root of all partisan evil, the 2022 elections, the percentage of voters who want neither Biden nor Trump, the value of vetoing spending bills, solving the electrical storage problem, No Labels’ commitment to pulling a spoiler candidate, what spoiling means, No Labels’ visibility problem, possible candidates, the timing of the convention, the desire to avoid gamesmanship, recent Biden vs Trump polls, and much more.
C. Owen Paepke is the author of The Evolution of Progress (named best nonfiction book of 1993 by NPR’s Talk of the Nation) and the three-volume series The Seinfeld Election, which was praised by reviewers as “a provocative investigation into the American political divide.” He has written and spoken widely on technology and science policy, including a keynote address on the future of science to the fiftieth-anniversary meeting of the Federation of American Scientists and a speech on the prospects for technological and economic progress at the Smithsonian Institution. He lives in Arizona, where he practiced for many years as an attorney specializing in antitrust and intellectual property, and is a graduate of Stanford and the University of Chicago.

EP 208 Jack Visnjic on Anacyclosis

Jim talks with Jack Visnjic, aka Lantern Jack, about Polybius’s theory of anacyclosis and cyclical history. They discuss the origins of the name Lantern Jack, cyclical patterns in history, a one-minute history of the first millennium B.C., public gain vs private gain, Polybius’s concept of anacyclosis, great man theory vs processes & institutions, examples of anacyclosis, whether Rome was ever a democracy, critiques of anacyclosis, corruption & collective reaction, imperialistic growth, the Glorious Revolution in 1688, why Spain & France didn’t transition to aristocracy, anacyclosis in the modern world, Polybius’s influence on the Founding Fathers of the U.S., the impressiveness of the Founding Fathers, mobocracy, fighting to the death over second- and third-order issues, the crisis epoch, factional division as a feature not a bug, and much more.
Jack Visnjic is a classicist and historian of philosophy interested in uncovering long-term patterns in history. He earned his PhD from Princeton University with a dissertation on the origins of the notion of moral duty. He later expanded that project into a book titled The Invention of Duty: Stoicism as Deontology. For several years he was director of research at the Anacyclosis Institute, a think tank which seeks to understand the trajectory of modern democracy by studying the long history of democracies. And his biggest passion is his podcast Ancient Greece Declassified, through which he strives to make the Classics accessible and relevant to a broad audience.