Slate recently published an article arguing we should not worry about porn. This episode is, in part, an answer to that question, and in it I argue that the unparalleled access to "sex-films", is so unprecedented that taking a firm stand that we shouldn't worry, is unwarranted given the data we have available.
I argue that past moral panics have correctly predicted what will happen, but predicted it happening sooner and more dramatically than it actually did, which causes people to undervalue the points they made.
Rather than covering one big talk I decided to cover several:
1- Some impressions of the Sunstone Symposium I was just at.
2- I discuss irreconcilable value differences, and whether they're a problem.
3- The Putin-Trump summit and whether it increased or decreased the chance of nuclear war.
Nietzsche claimed that "God is dead", and predicted that as this became apparent the world would descend into nihilism. But what if there are god-like extraterrestrials out there? Or what if we can create our own gods using AI? How does that change his prediction of nihilism? The question seems to depend on whether there is some universal system of morality. If not, I argue, the consequences will be every bit as bad as Nietzsche predicted.
The coming fight over who will replace Anthony Kennedy has once again brought up the subject of whether all values should determined at the highest level possible. People are worried that if Kennedy is replaced that Roe v Wade will be overturned. But of course what isn't emphasized is that this will just move the issue back to the states. Are we sure that this and other issues really have to be all the same across the entire nation? Or that doing it this way has not made things worse?
I introduce the idea of "The Mistake of Dramatic Timing" which affects most of the thinking about Fermi's Paradox. I review a particularly egregious example of it in the Bobiverse series. I then go on to discuss my issues with a recent paper which claimed to "Dissolve Fermi's Paradox".
It's the 100th Episode! Okay don't get too excited, mostly I'm using this to question why I even do this. <spoiler alert>Hubris!</spoiler alert> And whether I should change anything going forward. (Probably, but nothing big.) The upshot is I think I have at least 100 more in me so I'll be here for awhile.
In a recent detailed critique, Phil Torres lays out all the ways in which Pinker's chapter on existential risks from Enlightenment Now, gets the discipline of existential risks entirely wrong. As this one of my areas of interest I examine Torres' arguments, but also I add a religious aspect to the entire thing which Torres intentionally avoids. In the end it's apparent that Pinker made repeated errors in the chapter, and that Torres despite being in a much better position could also probably learn something from looking at religion.
I start off by telling of an amazing crime involving pizza delivery. From there I wonder about the incidence of crime in general, and whether there's any relationship to homelessness.
My own impression is that homelessness is increasing, this doesn't appear to correlate to an increase in crime, nor does it correlate to an improving economy. Why is that? Why has homelessness not declined significantly during this most recent economic expansion?
I discuss Taleb's new book Skin in the Game, and how it connects to recent themes of survival and religion. But I guess you get all that from the title... I wonder if anyone even reads theses. I'm guessing not. If you do and you email me I'll give you a prize!
Every single person alive today makes a choice about how to live their life, specifically whether to believe in God and an existence beyond this one or not. Though, rather than being two choices I think it’s best to think of there being four possible choices:
Despite convention wisdom, the data says that the first choices is far and away the best.
Most modern thinkers prioritize happiness over survival. Some take this prioritization to such an extreme that they advocate that the entire human race go extinct. Using this as a jumping off point I discuss happiness vs. survival, why survival is more important and why the recent focus on happiness is endangering it.
Incels, or the involuntarily celibate have been much discussed since the Toronto Van Attack in April by someone who claimed that title. Obviously advocating the initiation of violence for nearly any reason is a bad thing. And that covers the Van Attack and one or two other instances, but what about people who are frustrated and sad, but not violent? What about people who are just sad? What if they're so sad they're suicidal? How should we treat these people?
If your worried about climate change you should be a huge advocate of nuclear power, but that's actually not the case. Here we look at the case for nuclear power, and why it hasn't gained more traction, particularly in light of people's worries about global warming.
Steven Pinker makes a powerful case for progress and enlightenment, but when you look closer you see that he oversimplifies the potential challenges we might face, and calls any caution pessimism. I understand things are going well right now, historically, but that's no reason to ignore the potential risks...
The book Who We Are and How We Got Here, has up-ended some of the more recent thinking on how the Indo-Europeans spread. Since this was a subject I'd covered previously I decided to revisit it in this episode. In particular to see how it relates to what's happening with science and in a larger sense whether our ability to uncover truth is outstripping our ability to generate errors.
My prognosis is that there is cause for alarm on this front.
In my ongoing series on the Mormon Transhumanist Association, I review and comment on the conference I just attended and presented at. I speak of similarities in our view points, but most of all differences. Like Buddha and Hume we appear to have arrived at the same philosophy, but from that derived entirely different conclusions as to how to act.
If dealing with AI Risk allows us to arrive at something very similar to the LDS Plan of Salvation, what lessons can we draw from that with respect to how we should behave in this life? In this episode we dig deeper into that question as a follow-up to a presentation I gave at the annual conference of the Mormon Transhumanist Association.
Have you actually browsed the official report of Rotherham? It's pretty appalling stuff. I didn't think I was going to, but this week I ended up returning to a discussion of Rotherham, Telford, etc. I answer some of the objections which were raised in the previous post, and talk about the role of culture in the whole affair.
1000's of girls, some as young 11, raped as part of large child sex abuse rings. Why haven't you heard about it? That's the question we ask in this episode...
This episode is largely a review of The Great Leveler by Walter Scheidel. In the book Scheidel asserts that the only thing which has ever reduced inequality is some form of violence, either modern war, extreme revolutions, state collapse or pandemics. He backs up this assertion with loads of historical data, leading to the depressing conclusion that we either have to put up with periodic large scale violence or extreme inequality. This podcast is a discussion of that bleak conclusion.
Continuing with the subject I was covering in the last episode I go into more depth on the increase in transgender and gender non-conforming identity. I offer one final theory and then move on to a discussion of suicide risk, and other potential harm.
Last episode I talked about trends, and in this episode I want to talk about a specific trend, the increase in people who identify as transgender or gender non-conforming. I offer six theories for why it might be increasing.
Tiny trends are all around us. Some of these trends compound, like compound interest, exponential growth that works like a juggernaut destroying whatever came before. Other trends are slower, and harder to notice, and generally only noticed once their impact is already obvious. Like the opioid epidemic and deaths of despair.
Sometimes humans can reverse the trends. Sometimes they reverse naturally and sometimes the only way to reverse them is through instability and violence.
Once again (though perhaps for the last time) John Brockman of Edge.org has asked a variety of intellectuals to answer his question of the year. This year it was "What is the Last Question?" I spend this episode discussing some of the responses, specifically how they relate to things I've mentioned in previous podcasts and how well they fit into the category of a "last question." And then at the end I give my "last question."
After reading a significant number of books from the early 19th century, I noticed that a lot of the better known authors were "communist sympathizers". Which prompted me to examine what communism must have looked like back then, before the full horror of Stalin, and the excesses of the Cultural Revolution. My conclusion is that it must have looked pretty good.
But then we all know how the story turned out, and however good it looked back then, that was an illusion. And if you had banned criticism based on how bad it looked you would have missed out on the chance to avoid some communism's excesses and failures.