Monthly Archives: February 2021

Currents 028: Simon DeDeo on Explaining Explanation



In this currents episode, Jim talks to Simon DeDeo about his recently co-authored (with Zachary Wojtowicz) paper, “From Probability to Consilience: How Explanatory Values Implement Bayesian Reasoning“. They cover its connection to AI & human development, description vs power in explanation, the value & challenge of using multiple conceptual lenses, the difference between powerful & unifying explanations, co-explanation, the Aristotelian aspect of this work, conspiracies, the value & complexity of simplicity, choosing explanation approaches, understanding their vices, and more.

Simon DeDeo is an Assistant Professor at Carnegie Mellon University in the Department of Social and Decision Sciences, and External Professor at the Santa Fe Institute. He is also affiliated with the Cognitive Science program at Indiana University, where he runs the Laboratory for Social Minds. For three years, from 2010 to 2013, he was an Omidyar Fellow at the Santa Fe Institute. He and his collaborators study how people use words and signals, and the ideas they represent, to create a world. They have studied a diverse set of systems that includes the French Revolution, the courtrooms of Victorian London, the research strategies of Charles Darwin, the insurgency of modern-day Afghanistan, the emergent bureaucracy of Wikipedia, the creation of power hierarchies among the social animals, and the collusions and conspiracies of petrol stations in the American Midwest. They combine data from the contemporary world, archives from the deep past, statistical tools from cosmology, and models of human cognition from Bayesian reasoning and information theory to understand how cultures grow, flourish, innovate, and evolve.


EP113 Zak Stein on Hierarchical Complexity



Zak Stein

Zak Stein & Jim have a wide-ranging talk about hierarchical complexity: its history, horizontal vs vertical development, the chunking property in development, emergence & evolution, success vs understanding, child development, the development advantage of youth, representational thinking & abstraction, the connection of social complexity & hierarchical development, limitation of measures of general intelligence, core dynamics of the levels of the model of hierarchical complexity, Lectica assessments use in education & business, key leadership skills, and much more.

Episode Transcript

Mentions & Recommendations

Zachary Stein is a writer, educator, and futurist working to bring a greater sense of sanity and justice to education. He studied philosophy and religion at Hampshire College, and then educational neuroscience, human development, and the philosophy of education at Harvard University. While a student at Harvard, he co-founded what would become Lectica, Inc., a non-profit dedicated to the research-based, justice-oriented reform of large-scale standardized testing in K-12, higher-education, and business.

He has published two books. Social Justice and Educational Measurement which was based on his dissertation and traces the history of standardized testing and its ethical implications. His second book, Education in a Time Between Worlds, expands the philosophical work to include grappling with the relations between schooling and technology more broadly. He writes for peer-reviewed academic journals across a range of topics including the philosophy of learning, educational technology, and integral theory. He’s a scholar at the Ronin Institute, Co-President and Academic Director of the activist think-tank at the Center for Integral Wisdom, and scientific advisor to the board of the Neurohacker Collective and other technology start-ups.