Monthly Archives: October 2022

EP 168 Nate Hagens on Collective Futures



Jim talks with Nate Hagens about his new book co-authored with DJ White, Reality Blind: Integrating the Systems Science Underpinning Our Collective Futures, volume 1. They discuss Nate’s Reality 101 course, the core fundamental drivers of our current situation, writing “through an alien lens,” steering away from optimism and pessimism, the tradeoff between accuracy and helpfulness, telling the truth & letting the chips fall, the buildup of underground carbon, the carbon pulse, a bank account of ancient sunlight, invention of the Newcomen atmospheric engine, the Jevons paradox, exponential growth in a finite world, disliking the word “degrowth,” how humanity became a heat engine, gene agendas, advertising as the most deleterious invention, fast fashion, hypernovelty, trophic pyramids, the sixth great extinction, building a post-carbon life, energy as the currency of life, energy return on investment, why we don’t want free energy, thinking about the future probabilistically, predicting a drop in the resource economy, hitting the reset button on finance, consumer abundance as a peacock’s tail, and much more.

Dr. Nate Hagens is the Executive Director of The Institute for the Study of Energy & Our Future (ISEOF) an organization focused on educating and preparing society for the coming cultural transition. Formerly in the finance industry at Lehman Brothers and Salomon Brothers, since 2003 Nate has shifted his focus to understanding the interrelationships between energy, environment, and finance and the implication this synthesis has for human futures. Nate hosts the podcast The Great Simplification with Nate Hagens, in which he has conversations with experts in energy, ecology, government, technology, and the economy to provide a systemic view of the world around us.


Currents 072: Ben Goertzel on Viable Paths to True AGI



Jim talks with Ben Goertzel about the ideas in his recent essay “Three Viable Paths to True AGI.” They discuss the meaning of artificial general intelligence, Steve Wozniak’s basic AGI test, whether common tasks actually require AGI, a conversation with Joscha Bach, why deep neural nets are unsuited for human-level AGI, the challenge of extrapolating world-models, why imaginative improvisation might not be interesting to corporations, the 3 approaches that might have merit (cognition-level, brain-level, and chemistry-level), the OpenCog system Ben is working on, whether it’s a case of “good old-fashioned AI,” where evolution fits into the approach, why deep neural nets aren’t brain simulations & attempts to make them more realistic, a hypothesis about how to improve generalization, neural nets for music & the psychological landscape of AGI research, algorithmic chemistry & the origins of life problem, why AGI deserves more resources than it’s getting, why we may need better parallel architectures, how & how much society should invest in new approaches, the possibility of a cultural shift toward AGI viability, and much more.

Dr. Ben Goertzel is a cross-disciplinary scientist, entrepreneur and author.  Born in Brazil to American parents, in 2020 after a long stretch living in Hong Kong he relocated his primary base of operations to a rural island near Seattle. He leads the SingularityNET Foundation, the OpenCog Foundation, and the AGI Society which runs the annual Artificial General Intelligence conference. Dr. Goertzel’s research work encompasses multiple areas including artificial general intelligence, natural language processing, cognitive science, machine learning, computational finance, bioinformatics, virtual worlds, gaming, parapsychology, theoretical physics and more. He also chairs the futurist nonprofit Humanity+,  serves as Chief Scientist of AI firms  Rejuve, Mindplex, Cogito and Jam Galaxy, all parts of the SingularityNET ecosystem, and serves as keyboardist and vocalist in the Jam Galaxy Band, the first-ever band led by a humanoid robot.


EP 167 Bruce Damer on the Origins of Life



Jim talks with Bruce Damer about the origins of life. They discuss what Earth was like 4 billion years ago, how the oceans formed, the new concept of urability, the distinction between supporting life & bringing it into being, the source of organic building blocks, combinatorial selection, the ocean vents theory vs the warm little pond hypothesis, the Murchison meteorite, wet-dry cycling, the water problem, using stromatolites & other natural analogs to test conjectures, finding the oldest evidence of life in a hot spring setting, shouting matches as evidence of paradigm shifts, what warm pools were made of, a one-pot solution that’s testable at every stage, the source of vesicles, why the ocean is implausible as a starting point, chemical gardens, the great search for the origins of emergence, semipermeable membranes, “the ignoble sludge of the Progenitor,” the jacuzzi origin of life, the origin of life as a communal unit, the ratchet to greater complexity, thermal change in near-real time, the error catastrophe in evolutionary computing, actual experiments being performed, the Fermi paradox & astrobiological implications, a hot spring on Mars, urability scores, the Drake equation, where complexity theory meets biology, the rarity of complex life & the responsibility that comes with it, bringing the universe to life, and much more.

Canadian-born Dr. Bruce Damer has spent his life pursuing two questions: how did life on Earth begin? and how can we give that life (and ourselves) a sustainable pathway into the future and a presence beyond the Earth? A decade of laboratory and field research with his collaborator Prof. David Deamer at UCSC and teams around the world resulted in the Hot Spring Hypothesis for an Origin of Life, published in Scientific American in 2017 and the journal Astrobiology in 2020. The scenario has now passed its first key experimental tests in the laboratory and at volcanic hot springs around the world and has emerged as a leading contender for a general theory of abiogenesis. Implications of the work are now spreading through evolutionary biology, philosophy, AI and the search for life beyond Earth. New work with collaborators has proposed the urability framework, how life can start on many different worlds, and addresses some aspects of the Fermi Paradox.


Currents 071: Liam Madden on Rebirthing Democracy



Jim talks with Liam Madden, a congressional candidate in Vermont who strongly resonates with the GameB ethos. They discuss Liam’s decision to run as a Republican, Vermont’s primary laws, personal responsibility & community as reciprocal values, stewarding complex & godlike technologies, the Consilience Project, the sacredness of life, the meaning crisis, Ted Kaczynski’s critiques, ending war mentality, multipolar traps, fixing the machinery of democracy, liquid democracy, ranked-choice voting, proportional representation, election finance reform, qualified democracy, the possibility of a constitutional convention, an alternative to universal basic income, monetary reform, ending the growth imperative, creating a Public Service Corps, risks of exponential technology, how the campaign is going so far, what Liam would need to win, Jim’s endorsement, and much more.

Liam Madden is a Marine Corps veteran who became the leader of America’s largest antiwar organization of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, and winner of the Institute for Policy Studies Human Rights Award. As an entrepreneur Liam won M.I.T.’s Solve award for organizations innovating solutions to climate change. His work has been covered by 60 Minutes, the NY Times, & most other major media. Liam is an independent who won a Congressional primary election on a platform centered around reforms to the two-party system.


Currents 070: Brian Chau on Propaganda & Populism



Jim talks with Brian Chau about seeing the world as it is, not as we wish it to be. They discuss the firehose of bullshit, how modern-day propaganda works, QAnon & Pizzagate, the idea of egregores, adapting our biases against a drastically increased sample size, paranoia about child safety & kidnapping, why the vast majority of Americans are populist, the perception that our institutions are bankrupt, the golden rule of institutions, the CDC’s banning of Covid tests, status as the ability to efficiently align with power, mainstream media as status engine, why populism is growing & where it might lead, the Edelman Trust Barometer, the difficulty of converting public sentiment into actual policy, 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.