For episode 50 (something I neglected to mention while actually recording the podcast) we return to look at the point of the podcast, why it's sometimes important to be pessimist and why rationalists dismiss religion to both their peril and detriment.
If you were to look at the 1911 Encyclopedia Brittanica, as John Derbyshire did in 2006 you would find 152 countries listed. How many of them survived intact to the present day, meaning no change in government, no civil wars or revolutions, no significant loss of territory and no foreign occupation. We examine that question, and the answer might surprise you.
In this podcast I introduce the concept of supernormal stimuli. Originally uncovered when scientists discovered that some birds prefer artificial eggs as large as they are to their own eggs. From there I examine whether pornography might be supernormal stimuli, and whether that's harmful, and especially whether it will get worse.
One of the major things coming down the pike is job automation. Robots and AI are getting better and better at doing jobs that used to be only available for humans. In this podcast I examine that phenomenon and the effect it has on people, specifically their need to feel valuable.
One of my fundamental positions is that we are in a race between societal collapse on one hand and a technological singularity on the other. But there are some who think it will be neither and others who paradoxically expect both. This podcast examines the impossibility of those two options.
What is civilization? And how do we preserve it? In this episode I connect the idea of time preference to civilization and point out how we are becoming more and more short term in our desires and actions. All civilizations collapse eventually the question is how close are we to collapse and is there anything which can be done to delay it.
I examine whether we should still be worried about overpopulation. I also look at the phenomenon of falling birth rates and what it says about the societies that experience falling fertility. Also what the movie Tommy Boy has to say about the whole thing.
A review and discussion of the book Tribe by Sebastian Junger. In particular an examination of how stress and struggle can improve mental health, and how by removing both struggle and community modern society creates a situation where psychological problems, particularly in the military, become more acute.
In my continuing obsession with the Mormon Transhumanist Association I report back from their annual conference. Specifically I look at their vision of the future vs. mine, the limits of growth and whether the MTA is schismatic. Fun for the whole family!
Having recently gone to the MTA Conference I ended up with more commentary than could fit in the normal episode. So this is a bonus episode. Additionally as part of the patreon rewards I committed to do a bonus podcast every month, so this is the first of those as well.
Pascal's wager is one of those things that you find either ridiculous or intriguing. There appears to be no middle ground. But most people yearn for some form of immortality and the wager is one of the few things which have a chance of providing it, and perhaps it shouldn't be dismissed so easily. Also Pascal's wager is frequently applied as a thought experiment with no practical application. Viewing the wager from the standpoint of a believer is far more productive.
As something of a follow-up to the "But What If We're Wrong?" episode, I look at the connection between the integration of sexes and sexual violence. In particular I focus on the effectiveness of education and how education might be done differently, particularly if approached from a religious perspective. The I ask if integration does cause more sexual violence are we sure that's a good trade off?
In this weeks episode I tackle the subject of global warming. First I start by breaking down the various questions we have to ask, and then I turn to what must be done to keep warming in check, and finally I look at what's really at stake with Global Warming.
I start with a review of Chuck Klosterman's book "But What If We're Wrong?", which was disappointing. Primarily because he didn't really grapple with anything consequential. I go on to talk about ways we could be wrong which would be a big deal. And use the example of women in the military.
It's possible I'm too pessimistic. And after reading something from Gordon B. Hinckley I decide to examine whether that's the case. I think it probably is, but I think on the big things I'm still on target. In particular how keeping the commandments give people the stability to be happy and optimistic.
Continuing my discussion of the Mormon Transhumanist Association. I point out through the metaphor of the chocolate covered asparagus that we actually have a lot in common, and that in most cases I hope they're right and I'm wrong, but that in the end because of the far worse consequences which come from the MTA being wrong, that it's best to assume they are and prepare accordingly.
Many people think that technology will save us. Some of these people are religious. Of particular note is the Mormon Transhumanist Association. Many people, including including my friend the Catholic Priest, feel that these people have entirely missed the point of the Tower of Babel story. In this podcast we examine whether that's the case.
The immigration debate has become exceptionally polarized. Obviously the election of Trump hasn't helped, but it was polarized long before that. As part of this polarization rational considerations of feasibility, and long-term goals, and even what standard to apply have all been lost in the yelling. This episode hopes to get back to a rational discussion of how many people can we really let in, and what sort of standard should we use?
Continuing the discussion of Fermi's Paradox I turn to an examination of Liu Cixin's Three Body Trilogy and his Dark Forest explanation of Fermi's Paradox, which assumes that any aliens will shoot you on sight if they become aware of your existence. In other words most aliens are malevolent. I argue that most likely the exact opposite is the case. That it is in fact hard to imagine how you could end up with an extraterrestrial civilization that isn't extremely benevolent.
Returning to a discussion of Fermi's Paradox. I use (and abuse) the movie Interstellar to examine some explanations for the paradox. In particular how culture can act to give people an incorrect view of how probable or improbable certain things are.
I discuss the possibility of violence erupting in the wake of the recent election with four reasons why I think it might be more likely than in the past. In particular I found the strength of the reaction right from day one to be particularly alarming. Also I examine the common misperception that violence will be limited and easy, when in reality it's like Godzilla trudging back and forth through your town.
The world and particularly the elites on the left have fallen pray to a new ideology. The idea that progress is locked in, that it will go on forever, and that in many cases that it is supernaturally driven. The human consciousness is evolving and that through that evolution we're waking up and realizing that certain things which seemed acceptable are not intolerable. This is a shallow and largely selfish way of thinking.
There are three groups. First the Actively Religious who believe we will be saved by God. The Radical Humanists who believe we will be saved by technology. And the Disengaged Middle who aren't actively in either camp. For us to be saved by technology we have to get off the planet. This podcast explores how difficult that is.
I offer a bunch of predictions. Not for 2017, but forever. I also talk about the difficulty of prediction in general and the issues that can arrive from being mostly right, but about inconsequential stuff, and only slightly wrong, but about the big stuff.
A review of Pinker's book The Better Angels of Our Nature. While enjoying the book, I feel that he did a lot of subtle things to lead you to believe that the trend of decreasing violence has been going on longer and is more durable than it actually is. In particular I think some of the things he mentions have not been going on long enough for us to truly asses their duration or impact.