EP 248 Timothy Clancy on the Israel-Hamas War

Jim talks with Timothy Clancy about the Israel-Hamas War following Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel. They discuss the sorting-out period that follows the end of an empire, Jerusalem as a perpetual battleground, 3 questions for understanding conflict, a missed opportunity for Jordan to take back the West Bank, what happened on October 7, recovering the sense of security, the scale of the atrocity, strategic limitations of bloodlust, unconditional surrender, grievance, pulling weeds vs addressing root grievances, the civil war between Fatah and Hamas, the story behind Yasser Arafat’s rejection of the potential settlement between the Palestine Liberation Organization & Israel, ways to invade a city, the increasing likelihood of a ceasefire, the difference between conventional & asymmetric warfare, the importance of contingencies & constraints, the arms supply from the U.S. to Israel, the increase of Western support for Hamas, alignment with grievance, the role of Indian & Bangladeshi bot farms in increasing Palestine-Israel tensions, the colonial narrative, a system for analyzing grievances, Timothy’s prediction for long-term trajectory, contingent factors of the rise of Iran, employment as a cure for grievance, Gaza as a feral city, and much more.

Timothy Clancy is an Assistant Research Scientist at START specializing in studying wicked mess problems, including violence and instability, as complex systems. Current research topics include understanding violent radicalization as a system, the terror contagion hypothesis for public mass killings, the emerging-state actor hypothesis for asymmetric and irregular warfare conflicts, and advancing methods for modeling social complexity through computer simulations integrated with AI.

EP 247 Sergey Kuprienko on Drone Warfare in Ukraine

Jim talks with Sergey Kuprienko, CEO and co-founder of Swarmer, about drone warfare in the Russo-Ukrainian War. They discuss the parallels between drones in Ukraine & the advance in aviation during World War I, the history of drone warfare in the conflict, Russia’s electronic countermeasures, the niche Swarmer occupies, autonomy for coordinated robots, pilots vs operators, swarm vs swarm warfare, AI vs human decision-making, greener warfare, distribution of ability among drone pilots, current production rates, the kill ratio, Russia’s brute-force industrial capacity, the mix of symbolic AI vs machine learning, working with D3 Capital, collective intelligence, computing hardware, the Russian use of smoke as a countermeasure, cybersecurity, extra-military applications, and much more.

Sergey Kuprienko is the CEO and co-founder of Swarmer, a software company for drone software.

EP 246 A.M. Hickman on Hitchhiking in America

Jim and A.M. Hickman trade stories about the pleasures and tribulations of hitchhiking. They discuss Andy & his wife’s recent hitchhiking honeymoon, how he started hitchhiking as a teenager, growing up in Utica, New York, the Adirondacks, multi-generational itchy-foot syndrome, “hobo college,” Jim’s earliest hitchhiking experience, hitchhiking on the East Coast, crazy happenings, fertilized chicken eggs, a four-year-old driver, psychoactive chemicals, a shift against hitchhiking in the Eighties, post-Covid leeriness, the decline in hitchhiking, finding odd jobs, the low cost of living on the road, Mormon country, ultra-light gear, the diversity of America’s traveling homeless, sleeping in a Honda Civic on a freight train, rescuing a fourteen-year-old hitchhiker in Eureka, California, and much more.

A.M. Hickman is an itinerant geographer from the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains. He writes on Substack at Hickman‘s Hinterlands.

EP 245 Bob Levy on the Second Amendment and the Supreme Court

Jim talks with Bob Levy about the Second Amendment, the right to keep and bear arms, in the Supreme Court. They discuss Bob’s late-career move to law, never being too old to reinvent yourself, how Bob got involved in a pivotal Supreme Court case in establishing the modern interpretation of the Second Amendment, the text of the Second Amendment, District of Columbia v. HellerUnited States v. MillerUnited States v. Emerson, the scholarship around framing the Second Amendment as an individual right, the state of play of gun control in D.C. at the time, the handgun ban, handguns in the home for self-defense, the NRA case & a rookie error by the NRA’s lawyers, legal strategy in the Heller case, sufficient vs necessary conditions for exercising the right, the meaning of “well-regulated,” the specific holdings in Heller, the meaning of fundamental rights, Breyer’s dissent against Scalia’s opinion, the rational basis standard, McDonald v. City of ChicagoNew York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen, “good moral character,” the murky precedent of striking down laws that weren’t present during the framing era, a strict scrutiny approach, speculations on the future of Second Amendment jurisprudence, ghost guns, and much more.

Bob Levy was, for 14 years, chairman of the board of directors at the Cato Institute. He is now chairman emeritus. Bob joined Cato as senior fellow in constitutional studies in 1997 after 25 years in business. The Institute’s Robert A. Levy Center for Constitutional Studies is named in his honor. He has also served on boards of the Federalist Society, the Foundation for Government Accountability, and the Institute for Justice. Bob received his PhD in business from the American University in 1966, then founded CDA Investment Technologies, a major provider of investment information and software. At age 50, after leaving CDA in 1991, Bob went to George Mason law school, where he was chief articles editor of the law review and class valedictorian. He received his JD degree in 1994. The next two years he clerked for Judge Royce Lamberth on the US District Court and Judge Douglas Ginsburg on the US Court of Appeals, both in Washington, DC.

EP 244 Samo Burja on Lessons from the Russo-Ukrainian War

Jim talks with Samo Burja about lessons military strategists should take from the Russo-Ukrainian War so far. They discuss why military stockpiles are less useful than previously assumed, the scaling up of drone production, the impossibility of envisioning what tech will be needed, 4 factors that caused Russian miscalculation, offensive vs defensive dominance, the possibility of a U.S. military draft, the changing role of conscription, the high average age in Russia & Ukraine, the rapid evolution of drones, a comparison between drone pilots & snipers, the muted relevance of the air force, empty symbols of military strength, the progress of autonomous drones, the reevaluation of civilian casualties with changing tech, the information complexity of drone warfare, the importance of artillery, the need for a new George Marshall figure in the U.S., a war of production, how the Ukraine War can inform the Taiwan situation, the idea of an amphibious assault, autonomous submersible vehicles, and much more.

Samo Burja is the founder and President of Bismarck Analysis, a consulting firm that specializes in institutional analysis for clients in North America and Europe. Bismarck uses the foundational sociological research that Samo and his team have conducted over the past decade to deliver unique insights to clients about institutional design and strategy. Samo’s studies focus on the social and material technologies that provide the foundation for healthy human societies, with an eye to engineering and restoring the structures that produce functional institutions. He has authored articles and papers on his findings. His manuscript, Great Founder Theory, is available online. He is also a Research Fellow at the Long Now Foundation and Senior Research Fellow in Political Science at the Foresight Institute. Samo has spoken about his findings at the World Economic Forum at Davos, Y Combinator’s YC 120 conference, the Reboot American Innovation conference in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere. He spends most of his time in California and his native Slovenia.

EP 243 Yaroslav Trofimov on Ukraine’s War of Independence

Jim talks with Yaroslav Trofimov about his new book Our Enemies Will Vanish: The Russian Invasion and Ukraine’s War of Independence. They discuss the reporting that went into the book, Yaroslav’s connection to Ukraine, a brief history of Ukraine, the Golden Horde’s conquering of modern-day Ukraine, Russia’s inheritance of the Tatar-Mongol state, Ukraine’s brief period of independence at the end of WWI, the complexity of Ukrainian identity, the Orange Revolution, the Maidan Revolution & its outcome, a period of low-intensity conflict, what caused full-scale war to break out, how Putin drank his own kool-aid, his expectation that there would be little resistance, the widespread underestimation of Ukraine, Russia’s initial thrusts, the pivotal battle at Hostomel Airfields, the Bucha massacre, the negotiations in Istanbul, the siege at Mariupol, what made the Ukrainians so tough, the role of Zelensky in inspiring the resistance & rallying international support, the Russian drought, the counter-offensives of August-September 2022, the Republican party’s stalling of aid to Ukraine, the arguments for supporting aid, Yaroslav’s prognosis, possible endgames, the likelihood of a frozen conflict, and much more.

Yaroslav Trofimov is the author of three books of narrative non-fiction and one novel. He has worked around the world as a foreign correspondent of The Wall Street Journal since 1999, and has served as the newspaper’s chief foreign-affairs correspondent since 2018. Born in Kyiv, Ukraine, he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in international reporting in 2023, for his work on Ukraine, and in 2022, for his work on Afghanistan. His honors include an Overseas Press Club award for coverage of India as well as the Washington Institute gold medal for the best book on the Middle East. His latest non-fiction book, Our Enemies Will Vanish, was a finalist of the 2024 Orwell Prize.

EP 242 Magatte Wade on a Vision for African Economic Development

Jim talks with Magatte Wade about the ideas in her book The Heart of A Cheetah: How We Have Been Lied to about African Poverty, and What That Means for Human Flourishing. They discuss the origins of the book’s title, the issue with aid, George Ayittey’s “cheetahs vs hippos” frame, a leapfrogging strategy, Magatte’s childhood in Senegal, recognizing lies about African poverty, business school in France, nine months in Columbus, Indiana, the meaning of African prosperity, criticizing by creating, creating a soft drink company around traditional African ingredients, rules & regulations of forming a business in Senegal, free enterprise in pre-colonial Africa, why fully rejecting the West is a wrong fork, special economic zones, Africa as the greatest victim of socialism, supporting African entrepreneurs, possible results of Africa’s coming population boom, charter cities, special economic zones, and much more.

Magatte Wade is the Director of the Center for African Prosperity at Atlas Network, the leading organization of African free-market think tanks. She was listed as a Forbes “20 Youngest Power Women in Africa,” a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum, and a TED Global Africa Fellow. Magatte’s passion for the role of free markets in overcoming poverty and the power of enterprise to tackle social issues and promote entrepreneurial education make her a sought-after speaker and thought leader at major conferences, events, and universities around the world.

EP 241 Tor Nørretranders on the User Illusion of Consciousness

Jim talks with Tor Nørretranders about the ideas in his 1991 book The User Illusion: Cutting Consciousness Down to Size. They discuss the dialogue between Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein, defining consciousness, primary vs extended consciousness, the origins of the user illusion in computer interface design, the mind as an attempt to create a relevant myth, measuring the human mind in terms of information theory, consciousness as a story of reduction & compression, the physics of information, Maxwell’s demon, I & me, Benjamin Libet’s experiments on the delay of consciousness, being the spectator of our own acts, delayed auditory feedback, the veto theory, moving free will to the “me,” Robert Sapolsky’s arguments against free will, the reality of emergence, exformation, a simple translation of The Iliad, Julian Jaynes’s theory of the origins of consciousness, why modern lives have less information, the problem with a subtractive approach to happiness, and much more.

Tor Nørretranders is an independent author, thinker and speaker based in Denmark, serving an international audience. Generally seen as a leading science communicator of Denmark, Tor has involved himself in numerous activities in the public arena, from newspaper journalism through books and magazine articles to hosting and producing television shows on science and the general world view. His lecture tours, gathering tens of thousands of people, have been major events on the Scandinavian scene.

EP 240 Stuart Kauffman on a New Approach to Cosmology

Jim talks with Stuart Kauffman about cosmology, fundamental physics, and the nature of dark matter, dark energy, and inflation. They discuss how Stuart moved into these fields, the Michelson-Morley experiment, special relativity, cosmic background radiation, the new period of precision cosmology, dark energy, why the universe is expanding faster, the Hubble tension, the baryonic Tully-Fisher relation, entanglement, nonlocality & whether it is fundamental, quantum gravity, why particle physics is collectively autocatalytic, stepping through the delay hypothesis, Planck time, the past hypothesis problem, the life ensemble, dark matter as a Ricci soliton, requirements for the rate of inflation, why cold dark matter may explain the cosmic web, Mach’s principle, and much more.

Stuart Alan Kauffman is an American theoretical biologist and complex systems researcher who studies the origin of life on Earth. Kauffman graduated from Dartmouth in 1960, was awarded the BA (Hons) by Oxford University (where he was a Marshall Scholar) in 1963, and completed a medical degree (MD) at the University of California, San Francisco in 1968. After completing his residency in Emergency Medicine, he moved into developmental genetics of the fruit fly, holding appointments first at the University of Chicago, then at the University of Pennsylvania, where he rose to Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics. Kauffman held a MacArthur Fellowship from 1987–1992.

EP 239 Alex Fink on Improving Information Quality

Jim talks with Alex Fink about his company Otherweb, which uses AI to filter out fake news and create a more reliable news ecosystem. They discuss how Alex came to care about this problem, the decline of news media, how advertising wrecked the internet, the idea of an info agent, Otherweb’s curation engine, information filtering systems, unhooking the internet from advertising, the fight between AdBlock and Facebook, the decision to disinclude paywalled websites, economic tradeoffs of paywalling, AI in movie production, money-on-money return, initial results of the printing press, watermarking images, fair witnesses, how porn has driven internet innovation, catering to the seven deadly sins, social media addiction, binding the future of the company, public benefit corporations, the stewardship capital model, the crowdfunding process, and much more.

Alex Fink is a Tech Executive, Silicon Valley Expat, and the Founder and CEO of the Otherweb, a Public Benefit Corporation that uses AI to help people read news and commentary, listen to podcasts and search the web without paywalls, clickbait, ads, autoplaying videos, affiliate links, or any other junk. The Otherweb is available as an app (ios and android), a website, a newsletter, or a standalone browser extension.