EP 206 Ryan Clancy on No Labels

Jim talks with Ryan Clancy, the chief strategist for No Labels, in the second of a 3-part series exploring different aspects of the No Labels possible third-party presidential campaign. They discuss the origins & history of the campaign, the idea of an independent unity presidential ticket, increasing polarization, realistic energy policy, avoiding a second Trump term, an open process for nomination to the ticket, proper environmental conditions for running, the problem with fixing democracy by having less democracy, the history of third party runs, vote shrinkage, how to estimate plausibility, a likely final decision point in July, plans for a convention, the odds of a Biden-Harris ticket beating Trump, building transparent exit triggers into the post-convention process, and much more.

Ryan Clancy has been a speechwriter, a spokesperson and a storytelling partner for some of the world’s most respected leaders and organizations: writing for then U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, Sir Elton John and Shaquille O’Neal; developing corporate narratives, and executive positioning plans for Fortune 500 companies and CEOs, and investment memos for start-up companies and entrepreneurs; and advising political reform groups and candidates on all facets of fundraising, communications and political strategy. He is currently the chief strategist at No Labels.

EP 205 Matthew Pirkowski on Time Preference and Cooperation

Jim talks with Matthew Pirkowski about the ideas in a recent tweet thread on time preference and its relationship with cooperation. They discuss the definition of time preference, defining parasitism, asymmetrical relationships, mutualism, commensalism, the increase in short-term thinking, a decrease in qualitative change, realization & potential, an increase in uncertainty, the interruption of attentional loops, a gossip protocol, the complexity catastrophe, the maximum number of daily interruptions, short-term money-on-money return, disintegration of network statistics, trustless infrastructure & cognitive chunking, coordinating at a higher level, zero-knowledge proofs, social immune systems, structural prerequisites of parasitism, Bitcoin as a metacentralizing attractor, building the modeling toolkit to understand causal closures within networks, and much more.

Matthew Pirkowski works at the intersection of software, psychology, and complex systems. These interests first took root while studying Evolutionary Psychology and assisting with Behavioral Economic research at Yale’s Comparative Cognition Laboratory. From there Matthew began a career in software engineering, where he applied these interests to the development of software interfaces used by millions around the world, most notably as a member of Netflix’s Television UI team, where he worked on experimental initiatives conceptualizing and prototyping the future of entertainment software.

Presently, Matthew is building the underlying modeling architecture at Bioform Labs, a company focused on using the Active Inference toolkit to model organizations as emergent cybernetic organisms. He believes these models can help organizations manage their deployment of and interaction with AI-based agents, as well as more adaptively manage their own emergent complexity.

EP 204 Matt Bennett on the Case Against No Labels

Jim talks with Matt Bennett about his arguments against the third-party political campaign No Labels. They discuss Matt’s steelman of the campaign, being politically homeless, nuclear energy & the American left’s unrealistic energy policies, the problem with No Labels’ theory about moving candidates in their direction, the credibility of winning the election, two theories of preventing another Trump presidency, the 1992 Ross Perot campaign, candidates for the No Labels ticket, growing disgust with the political establishment, the No Labels policy platform, the epistemology of the decision, independents as leaners, Teddy Roosevelt’s third-party bid, the difficulty of finding a candidate more appealing than Trump to Trump supporters, the plausibility attractor, consequences of Robert F. Kennedy & Cornel West’s decision to run as independents, and much more.

Matt Bennett is Senior Vice President for Public Affairs and a co-founder of Third Way. He previously served in the White House as a Deputy Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs for President Clinton, where he was the principal White House liaison to governors and covered a wide range of issues, including disaster response, Medicaid, immigration, education and others. Prior to that, he served in Vice President Al Gore’s office. He was Communications Director of the Clark for President Campaign in 2004, and from 2001-2004 was Director of Public Affairs for Americans for Gun Safety. Mr. Bennett appears frequently as a political commentator on television and radio and is quoted frequently in newspapers including The New York Times and The Washington Post. He has appeared on 60 Minutes, Today, Good Morning America, Meet the Press, NPR and almost all major cable political programs. Mr. Bennett practiced law in Washington D.C. from 1993-1997. He earned his JD from the University of Virginia School of Law and has a Bachelor’s degree in History from the University of Pennsylvania.

EP 203 Robert Sapolsky on Life Without Free Will

Jim talks with Robert Sapolsky about the ideas in his book Determined: A Science of Life Without Free Will. They discuss what motivates his writing about the topic, turtles all the way down, closing off the escape valves, the general critique of determinism, 4 positions on free will, naturalism vs determinism, intent, free will vs agency, Phineas Gage’s famous brain injury, disruption of cognitive abilities, the limitations of metacognition, Benjamin Libet’s volition experiments, why consciousness research doesn’t have to do with free will, free won’t, the theory of grit, an update to the marshmallow test, cusp decisions, deterministic chaos, the De Broglie-Bohm theory, New Age quantum bullshit, emergent complexity, downward causality, how attention determines who we become, the noble lie, why rejecting free will doesn’t make people less ethical, and much more.

Robert M. Sapolsky is the author of several works of nonfiction, including A Primate’s Memoir, The Trouble with Testosterone, and Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers. His most recent book, Behave, was a New York Times bestseller and named a best book of the year by The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal. He is a professor of biology and neurology at Stanford University and the recipient of a MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant.” He and his wife live in San Francisco.

EP 202 Neil Howe on the Fourth Turning

Jim talks with Neil Howe about the ideas in his new book, The Fourth Turning Is Here: What the Seasons of History Tell Us About How and When This Crisis Will End. They discuss 3 ways humans have understood time, the break with cyclical time, how linear progress gives rise to social cycles, generational change, how phase of life alters the impact of events, coining the term Millennial, generational cycles, the meaning and nature of saecula, the Great Awakenings, Turnings & commonalities between them, imagining Turnings as seasons, supply & demand for order, collective generational personalities, the current strengthening of families & multi-generational living, opposite experiences in the same phase of living, the growing gender divide, stages of a Fourth Turning, the recent primacy of political differences, extreme mobilization of publics, the acquiring of executive authority, the chances that an endogenous cataclysm kills .1 percent of the U.S. population, commonality through difference, why Fourth Turnings are not horrible accidents, Ekpyrosis, what a new spring might look like, why huge reforms are only enacted in times of crisis, and much more.
Neil Howe is the Managing Director of Demography at Hedgeye Risk Management, an independent financial research firm, as well as President of LifeCourse Associates. Howe is a renowned authority on generations and social change in America. An acclaimed bestselling author and speaker, he is the nation’s leading thinker on today’s generations—who they are, what motivates them, and how they will shape America’s future.

EP 201 Tobias Dengel on the Age of Voice Technology

Jim talks with Tobias Dengel about the ideas in his book The Sound of the Future: The Coming Age of Voice Technology. They discuss the idea that voice tech will be the biggest shift since mobile, the problem of public babble, positives & negatives of current voice tech, changing norms around speaking to devices, Wireless Application Protocol (WAP), using LLMs through a voice interface, improving communication cycles for incapacitated people, smart speakers vs smart mics, problems with the voice-to-voice paradigm, multimodal use cases, using voice interfaces for writing, finetuned LLMs in combination with voice tech, using LLMs to check each other, Jim’s method for reducing LLM hallucinations, improving agent performance in customer service, the state of the art in voice-to-text, Baumol’s cost disease, the Jevons paradox, a golden age of innovation, Talon hands-free input, the possibility of a pushback against public babble, coming changes in medicine, privacy issues & the industry’s violation of trust, the uncanny valley, concurrent communication, a new horizon for video games, low-hanging fruit, interfaces between humans and robots, innovations in model testing & training, selecting models, an arms race between models creating content & models curating content, the info agent opportunity, the human capacity for interruptions, defending attention & flow, whether voice tech will make interruptions better or worse, and much more.

Tobias Dengel is president of WillowTree, a TELUS International Company, a global leader in digital product design and development, with 13 offices in North America, South America and Europe, headquartered in Charlottesville VA. The company has been named by Inc. magazine to the Inc. 5000 list of America’s fastest growing companies for 11 straight years. WillowTree’s clients include some of the best-known brands in the world, such as T Mobile, Mastercard, Capital One, HBO, Fox, Time Warner, PepsiCo, Regal Cinemas, Charles Schwab, Johnson & Johnson, Lidl, Wyndham Hotels, Hilton Hotels, Holiday Inn, Canadian Broadcasting Corp, Synchrony Bank, Edward Jones Investments, and National Geographic. These industry leaders trust WillowTree to design and develop their websites, apps, internal systems and voice interfaces.

EP 200 Brian Chau on AI Pluralism

Jim talks with Brian Chau about recent advancements in AI and viewing AI’s relationship to society and politics through a pluralistic lens. They discuss fixed frames on AI, the horseless carriage fallacy, AI as a million dumb people, how LLMs invert the film archetype, Jim’s ScriptHelper project, intuitive recombination, creating a fake political party, why AI threatens the legacy press, the significance of house style, incentivizing pluralism, why AI could power the periphery, the information agent concept, billboard measures in music, AI voice covers, the stultification of consensus, liquid democracy, applying statistical ML to prompt engineering, the need for on-the-ground testing of LLM applications, the problem of nanny rails, corrections in AI regulation, and much more.

Brian Chau is a mathematician by training and is tied for the youngest Canadian to win a gold medal at the International Olympiad in Informatics. He writes software for a living while posting on his spare time. He writes independently on American bureaucracy and political theory and has contributed to Tablet Magazine. His political philosophy can be summed up as “see the world as it is, not as you wish it to be.” Everything else is application.

EP 199 Yascha Mounk on the Identity Trap

Jim talks with Yascha Mounk about the ideas in his new book The Identity Trap: A Story of Ideas and Power. They discuss tribalism among progressives, universalism, the story of Kila Posey, how over-emphasizing ethnic identity fosters zero-sum racial conflicts, how identitarianism led to excess Covid deaths, Foucault’s rejection of grand narratives, Edward Said’s post-colonialism, Gayatri Spivak’s strategic essentialism, being blind to race vs being blind to racism, critical race theory, Derrick Bell’s idea of the permanence of racism, how the rejection of universalism escaped college campuses, why progressive organizations are tearing themselves apart, the logic of collective action, how progressive activists have passed off their ideas as those of all non-white people, statistics on police violence, Frederick Douglass’s 4th of July speech, cultural appropriation, retaining trust in persuasion, fighting for liberalism, personal & political aspects of the identity trap, and much more.

Yascha Mounk is a writer and academic known for his work on the rise of populism and the crisis of liberal democracy. Born in Germany to Polish parents, Mounk received his BA in history from Trinity College Cambridge, and his PhD in government from Harvard University. He is a professor of the practice of international affairs at Johns Hopkins University, the founder of the digital magazine Persuasion, a contributing editor at The Atlantic, host of the podcast “The Good Fight,” a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, and the author of The Great Experiment and The Identity Trap.

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.