Monthly Archives: December 2023

EP 215 Cody Moser on Inequality and Innovation

Jim talks with Cody Moser about the ideas and findings in his and Paul Smaldino’s paper “Innovation-Facilitating Networks Create Inequality.” They discuss transient diversity, group performance vs the agent level, taking an agent-based modeling approach, Derex & Boyd’s group potion-mixing experiment, no free lunch theorem, random network structures, an inverse correlation between network connectivity & performance, effects of sharing intermediate results, Fisher’s fundamental theorem of natural selection, measuring inequality with the Gini coefficient, higher performance in less equal networks, connected caveman networks, ring networks, Ashby’s good regulator theorem, exploration vs exploitation, randomly allocating lifetime endowed academic chairs to 25-year-olds, institutional design, generative entrenchment, implications for internet platform design, the parochial pyramid, tribalism at the Dunbar number, and much more.
Cody Moser is a PhD student in the Department of Cognitive and Information Sciences. His research examines the origins of individual and institutional behavior where he uses approaches from complex systems and evolutionary dynamics to study collective problem-solving, systems collapse, cultural evolution, and innovation. Before coming to UC Merced, he studied primatology where he worked with capuchin monkeys, dwarf and mouse lemurs, lorises, and aye-ayes. He obtained a B.S. in Anthropology with minors in statistics and biology from Florida State University, a Master’s in Anthropology from Texas A&M University, and worked for two years with The Music Lab in the Harvard Department of Psychology. He is interested in the history and philosophy of science and has written for a number of popular science venues on the applications of research from his field.

EP 214 Douglas Rushkoff on Leaving Social Media

Jim talks with Douglas Rushkoff about the ideas in his podcast monologue/Substack post “Why I’m Finally Leaving X and Probably All Social Media.” They discuss Douglas’s history with social media, the early social internet, Facebook’s parasitism of legacy news, the decontextualization of content, The WELL, owning your own words, leaving Facebook in 2013, Jim’s social media sabbaticals, the opportunity to create an info agent, the number of daily interruptions, attention-deficit disorder as an adaptive strategy, books versus articles, effects of long-term social media use, the quest for nominal identity, how careful curation improves X, using social media as a professional writer, the organic in-between, strong vs weak social links, the ability of strong links to hold & metabolize, how the internet spawns billionaires, airline subsidies, Girardian mimesis, liberal universal humanism, rebuilding embodied life at the Dunbar number, John Vervaeke’s “religion that is not a religion,” starting where you are, and much more.

Named one of the “world’s ten most influential intellectuals” by MIT, Douglas Rushkoff is an author and documentarian who studies human autonomy in a digital age. His twenty books include the just-published Survival of the Richest: Escape Fantasies of the Tech Billionaires, as well as the recent Team Human, based on his podcast, and the bestsellers Present ShockThrowing Rocks at the Google BusProgram or Be ProgrammedLife Inc, and Media Virus. He also made the PBS Frontline documentaries Generation LikeThe Persuaders, and Merchants of Cool. His book Coercion won the Marshall McLuhan Award, and the Media Ecology Association honored him with the first Neil Postman Award for Career Achievement in Public Intellectual Activity.

Rushkoff’s work explores how different technological environments change our relationship to narrative, money, power, and one another. He coined such concepts as “viral media,” “screenagers,” and “social currency,” and has been a leading voice for applying digital media toward social and economic justice. He is a research fellow of the Institute for the Future, and founder of the Laboratory for Digital Humanism at CUNY/Queens, where he is a Professor of Media Theory and Digital Economics. He is a columnist for Medium, and his novels and comics, Ecstasy ClubA.D.D, and Aleister & Adolf, are all being developed for the screen.

EP 213 Robin Hanson on Declining Fertility Rates

Jim talks with Robin Hanson about the ideas in his recent Substack writings on human fertility rates. They discuss why the fertility rate is important, fertility decline as a harbinger of societal decline, how income impacts fertility rate, investing in status markers vs fertility, runaway selection effects, copying elites, absolute vs relative levels of wealth, South Korea’s low fertility rate, implications of the decline, losing scale economies, pay-as-you-go retirement plans, innovation as linear to population, effects of declining innovation, likely dominant ethnicities of the future, insular high-fertility religious communities, what happens in a scenario of worldwide population decline, the main trends causing low fertility, high-effort parenting standards, legal protections for religious groups, capstone vs cornerstone marriages, learning from the winners, Robin’s childhood cult experience, promoting less crazy insular subcultures, 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.