Monthly Archives: January 2024

EP 220 Lene Rachel Andersen on Polymodernity

Jim talks with Lene Rachel Andersen about the ideas in her book Polymodernity: Meaning and Hope in a Complex World. They discuss the meaning of polymodernism, working with four cultural codes, polymodernism vs metamodernism, the flaw in combining stage theories with cultural history, the problem with postmodernism’s deconstruction of guidance & boundaries, 3 factors leading to modernity, the beginnings of alienation, postmodernism as a critique of modernism, the danger of reifying theories, why a post-modern society would fall apart, learning from indigenous prehistoric cultures, the influence of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, Lene’s relationship to Christianity and conversion to Judaism, being a practicing doubting Jew, long-term consequences of having good narratives that people believe in, Jewish law vs Hammurabi’s Code, reading the Pentateuch, using post-modern tech to implement a pre-modern order, Emily Wilson’s translation of The Iliad, mining the social learnings of the past with discernment, why religious people have often led the resistance to authoritarian regimes, true encouragement, the bildung rose, the problem with hypermodernism, the eternal misery of hypermodernist success, learning as one of the essences of being human, and much more.

Lene Rachel Andersen is an economist, author, futurist, philosopher and Bildung activist. She heads the think tank Nordic Bildung in Copenhagen and is a member of the Club of Rome. After studying business economy for three years, she worked as a substitute teacher before studying theology. During her studies, she wrote entertainment for Danish television until she decided to quit theology, become a full-time writer, and focus on technological development, big history, and the future of humanity. Since 2005, she has written 20 books and received two Danish democracy awards: Ebbe Kløvedal-Reich Democracy Baton (2007) and Døssing Prisen, the Danish librarians’ democracy prize (2012). Among her books are The Nordic Secret (2017, new edition 2024), Bildung: Keep Growing (2020), What is Bildung? (2021), Libertism (2022), and Polymodernity (2023, previously Metamodernity (2019)).

EP 219 Katherine Gehl on Breaking Partisan Gridlock

Jim talks with Katherine Gehl about her and Michael Porter’s book, The Politics Industry: How Political Innovation Can Break Partisan Gridlock and Save Our Democracy. They discuss Jim’s past familiarity with Michael Porter’s work, Porter’s five forces, the “what the hell is water” phenomenon, the Schoolhouse Rock problem, political industry theory, political payback for unhelpful activities, why political competitors are doing better as “customers” become more dissatisfied, the current American party system as a protected duopoly, nonprofit investments in things that have no chance, non-constitutional problems, the reversible accident of plurality voting, whether more parties are essential, how Ross Perot’s 1992 election pressured the two parties to balance the budget, reforming the primary system, final-five voting, Alaska’s experiment in final-four voting, instant runoffs, freeing players to make good strategic choices, lowering the barrier to entry for new thinking, and much more.

Katherine Gehl is the originator of Final Five Voting (FFV)—a new election system designed to positively transform the incentives driving our dysfunctional politics. In 2020, Gehl published The Politics Industry: How Political Innovation Can Break Partisan Gridlock and Save Our Democracy (with co-author Michael Porter of Harvard Business School). Her work applied a competition lens and classic tools of industry analysis to politics for the first time. Today, Gehl leads the national Campaign for Final Five Voting which she co-founded with leaders across the political spectrum.

EP 218 Max Borders on Christopher Rufo’s New Right Manifesto

Jim talks with Max Borders about the ideas in his two-part essay series responding to Christopher Rufo’s recent manifesto “The New Right Activism.” They discuss the commentary form of the essays, pillar saints vs boy Pharoahs, the Gray Tribe, Rufo as a rockstar gladiator, the white-paper industrial complex, the Gramscian model of capturing the institutions, the tit-for-tat approach to politics, recapturing the power of the state to indoctrinate the youth, the wartime point of view, the means & ends problem, subversive innovation, the University of Austin, public universities as indoctrination factories, a Handmaid’s Tale vision of virtue, why Rufo is more Machiavellian than Aristotelian, the danger of rejecting an open society, changing the language & the case study of “equity,” defending abstract principles in politics, how Rufos misses the point about real power, re-enlivening the U.S.’s founding principles, and much more.

Max Borders is the author of The Social Singularity (2018) and The Decentralist (2021). His latest book is called Underthrow (2023). Currently, he is working on two major projects: a cosmopolitan constitution designed to open the era of open-source law, and a global fraternal society dedicated to the mission, morality, and mutualism of the “Gray Tribe.”

EP 217 Ben Goertzel on a New Framework for AGI

Jim talks with Ben Goertzel about a paper he co-wrote, “OpenCog Hyperon: A Framework for AGI at the Human Level and Beyond.” They discuss the way Ben defines AGI, problems with an economically oriented definition, the rate of advancement of a society, the history of OpenCog, mathematical models of intelligence, Jim’s early use of OpenCog, a distributed Atomspace, Atomese vs MeTTa languages, knowledge metagraphs, why Ben didn’t write a custom programming language for the original OpenCog, type theory, functional logic programming, moving from weirdly ugly to weirdly elegant, technical debt, grounding of Atoms, interfacing Hyperon with LLMs, nourishing a broader open-source community, hierarchical attention-based pattern recognition networks, heuristic induction, cognitive synergy, why scalability requires translating declarative representation into procedural form and vice versa, retrieval-augmented generation, predictive-coding-based learning as an alternative to back-propagation, the possibility of an InfoGAN-style transformer, 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 216 Kevin Dickinson on A Short History of the F-Word

Jim talks with Kevin Dickinson about the ideas in his recent essay “A Short History of the F-Word.” They discuss the mystery of the F-word’s origins, a damn fucking abbot in the sixteenth century, the hierarchy of curse words, religious profanities, the poet William Dunbar’s use of “fukkit,” the case of Roger Fuckedbythenavele, folk etymologies, false acronyms, movies with the most fucks, fucks per minute vs absolute number of fucks, a high Ngram watermark in 2017, the Lady Chatterley’s Lover obscenity trial, senses of fuck, veiling words, John McWhorter’s research, the history of fuck in the dictionary, language as fashion, and much more.
Kevin Dickinson is a staff writer and columnist at Big Think. His writing focuses on the intersection between education, psychology, business, and science. He holds a master’s in English and writing, and his articles have appeared in Agenda, RealClearScience, and the Washington Post.