EP 209 C. Owen Paepke on the Purple Presidency



Jim talks with C. Owen Paepke in part three of a mini-series on the No Labels potential third-party presidential campaign. They discuss Owen’s early chemistry career, being without a political party, the situation of voting against instead of for candidates, the distribution of conservatism between parties over time, the Ross Perot 1992 campaign, the nomination of Antonin Scalia, primaries as the root of all partisan evil, the 2022 elections, the percentage of voters who want neither Biden nor Trump, the value of vetoing spending bills, solving the electrical storage problem, No Labels’ commitment to pulling a spoiler candidate, what spoiling means, No Labels’ visibility problem, possible candidates, the timing of the convention, the desire to avoid gamesmanship, recent Biden vs Trump polls, and much more.
C. Owen Paepke is the author of The Evolution of Progress (named best nonfiction book of 1993 by NPR’s Talk of the Nation) and the three-volume series The Seinfeld Election, which was praised by reviewers as “a provocative investigation into the American political divide.” He has written and spoken widely on technology and science policy, including a keynote address on the future of science to the fiftieth-anniversary meeting of the Federation of American Scientists and a speech on the prospects for technological and economic progress at the Smithsonian Institution. He lives in Arizona, where he practiced for many years as an attorney specializing in antitrust and intellectual property, and is a graduate of Stanford and the University of Chicago.

EP 208 Jack Visnjic on Anacyclosis



Jim talks with Jack Visnjic, aka Lantern Jack, about Polybius’s theory of anacyclosis and cyclical history. They discuss the origins of the name Lantern Jack, cyclical patterns in history, a one-minute history of the first millennium B.C., public gain vs private gain, Polybius’s concept of anacyclosis, great man theory vs processes & institutions, examples of anacyclosis, whether Rome was ever a democracy, critiques of anacyclosis, corruption & collective reaction, imperialistic growth, the Glorious Revolution in 1688, why Spain & France didn’t transition to aristocracy, anacyclosis in the modern world, Polybius’s influence on the Founding Fathers of the U.S., the impressiveness of the Founding Fathers, mobocracy, fighting to the death over second- and third-order issues, the crisis epoch, factional division as a feature not a bug, and much more.
Jack Visnjic is a classicist and historian of philosophy interested in uncovering long-term patterns in history. He earned his PhD from Princeton University with a dissertation on the origins of the notion of moral duty. He later expanded that project into a book titled The Invention of Duty: Stoicism as Deontology. For several years he was director of research at the Anacyclosis Institute, a think tank which seeks to understand the trajectory of modern democracy by studying the long history of democracies. And his biggest passion is his podcast Ancient Greece Declassified, through which he strives to make the Classics accessible and relevant to a broad audience.

EP 207 Paul Watson on Adventures in Eco-Activism



Jim talks with Paul Watson about his recent book Hit Man for the Kindness Club: High Seas Escapades and Heroic Adventures of an Eco-Activist. They discuss an early friendship with a family of beavers, cruelty to animals, the Kindness Club, moral commitments, rescuing cattle from a slaughterhouse, less cow farts & more whale poop, the 3 laws of ecology, the issue of eating animals, the growth of the vegetarian/vegan movement, an occupation at Stanley Park, co-founding Greenpeace, the strategy of aggressive non-violence, killing baby Hitler, painting baby seals, creating Whale Wars, history of the whaling moratorium, the absence of enforcement, Canada’s Seal Protection Act, Edward Abbey, the Southern Ocean campaigns, escaping arrest in Germany, targeting illegal activities, inventing tree spiking, the importance of good legal defense, funding sources, founding Sea Shepherd, current pursuits, and much more.

Captain Paul Watson is a marine wildlife conservation and environmental activist. Watson was one of the founding members and directors of Greenpeace. In 1977, he left Greenpeace and founded the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. A renowned speaker, accomplished author, master mariner, and lifelong environmentalist, Captain Watson has been awarded many honors for his dedication to the oceans and to the planet.


EP 206 Ryan Clancy on No Labels



Jim talks with Ryan Clancy, the chief strategist for No Labels, in the second of a 3-part series exploring different aspects of the No Labels possible third-party presidential campaign. They discuss the origins & history of the campaign, the idea of an independent unity presidential ticket, increasing polarization, realistic energy policy, avoiding a second Trump term, an open process for nomination to the ticket, proper environmental conditions for running, the problem with fixing democracy by having less democracy, the history of third party runs, vote shrinkage, how to estimate plausibility, a likely final decision point in July, plans for a convention, the odds of a Biden-Harris ticket beating Trump, building transparent exit triggers into the post-convention process, and much more.

Ryan Clancy has been a speechwriter, a spokesperson and a storytelling partner for some of the world’s most respected leaders and organizations: writing for then U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, Sir Elton John and Shaquille O’Neal; developing corporate narratives, and executive positioning plans for Fortune 500 companies and CEOs, and investment memos for start-up companies and entrepreneurs; and advising political reform groups and candidates on all facets of fundraising, communications and political strategy. He is currently the chief strategist at No Labels.


EP 205 Matthew Pirkowski on Time Preference and Cooperation



Jim talks with Matthew Pirkowski about the ideas in a recent tweet thread on time preference and its relationship with cooperation. They discuss the definition of time preference, defining parasitism, asymmetrical relationships, mutualism, commensalism, the increase in short-term thinking, a decrease in qualitative change, realization & potential, an increase in uncertainty, the interruption of attentional loops, a gossip protocol, the complexity catastrophe, the maximum number of daily interruptions, short-term money-on-money return, disintegration of network statistics, trustless infrastructure & cognitive chunking, coordinating at a higher level, zero-knowledge proofs, social immune systems, structural prerequisites of parasitism, Bitcoin as a metacentralizing attractor, building the modeling toolkit to understand causal closures within networks, and much more.

Matthew Pirkowski works at the intersection of software, psychology, and complex systems. These interests first took root while studying Evolutionary Psychology and assisting with Behavioral Economic research at Yale’s Comparative Cognition Laboratory. From there Matthew began a career in software engineering, where he applied these interests to the development of software interfaces used by millions around the world, most notably as a member of Netflix’s Television UI team, where he worked on experimental initiatives conceptualizing and prototyping the future of entertainment software.

Presently, Matthew is building the underlying modeling architecture at Bioform Labs, a company focused on using the Active Inference toolkit to model organizations as emergent cybernetic organisms. He believes these models can help organizations manage their deployment of and interaction with AI-based agents, as well as more adaptively manage their own emergent complexity.


EP 204 Matt Bennett on the Case Against No Labels



Jim talks with Matt Bennett about his arguments against the third-party political campaign No Labels. They discuss Matt’s steelman of the campaign, being politically homeless, nuclear energy & the American left’s unrealistic energy policies, the problem with No Labels’ theory about moving candidates in their direction, the credibility of winning the election, two theories of preventing another Trump presidency, the 1992 Ross Perot campaign, candidates for the No Labels ticket, growing disgust with the political establishment, the No Labels policy platform, the epistemology of the decision, independents as leaners, Teddy Roosevelt’s third-party bid, the difficulty of finding a candidate more appealing than Trump to Trump supporters, the plausibility attractor, consequences of Robert F. Kennedy & Cornel West’s decision to run as independents, and much more.

Matt Bennett is Senior Vice President for Public Affairs and a co-founder of Third Way. He previously served in the White House as a Deputy Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs for President Clinton, where he was the principal White House liaison to governors and covered a wide range of issues, including disaster response, Medicaid, immigration, education and others. Prior to that, he served in Vice President Al Gore’s office. He was Communications Director of the Clark for President Campaign in 2004, and from 2001-2004 was Director of Public Affairs for Americans for Gun Safety. Mr. Bennett appears frequently as a political commentator on television and radio and is quoted frequently in newspapers including The New York Times and The Washington Post. He has appeared on 60 Minutes, Today, Good Morning America, Meet the Press, NPR and almost all major cable political programs. Mr. Bennett practiced law in Washington D.C. from 1993-1997. He earned his JD from the University of Virginia School of Law and has a Bachelor’s degree in History from the University of Pennsylvania.


EP 203 Robert Sapolsky on Life Without Free Will



Jim talks with Robert Sapolsky about the ideas in his book Determined: A Science of Life Without Free Will. They discuss what motivates his writing about the topic, turtles all the way down, closing off the escape valves, the general critique of determinism, 4 positions on free will, naturalism vs determinism, intent, free will vs agency, Phineas Gage’s famous brain injury, disruption of cognitive abilities, the limitations of metacognition, Benjamin Libet’s volition experiments, why consciousness research doesn’t have to do with free will, free won’t, the theory of grit, an update to the marshmallow test, cusp decisions, deterministic chaos, the De Broglie-Bohm theory, New Age quantum bullshit, emergent complexity, downward causality, how attention determines who we become, the noble lie, why rejecting free will doesn’t make people less ethical, and much more.

Robert M. Sapolsky is the author of several works of nonfiction, including A Primate’s Memoir, The Trouble with Testosterone, and Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers. His most recent book, Behave, was a New York Times bestseller and named a best book of the year by The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal. He is a professor of biology and neurology at Stanford University and the recipient of a MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant.” He and his wife live in San Francisco.


EP 202 Neil Howe on the Fourth Turning



Jim talks with Neil Howe about the ideas in his new book, The Fourth Turning Is Here: What the Seasons of History Tell Us About How and When This Crisis Will End. They discuss 3 ways humans have understood time, the break with cyclical time, how linear progress gives rise to social cycles, generational change, how phase of life alters the impact of events, coining the term Millennial, generational cycles, the meaning and nature of saecula, the Great Awakenings, Turnings & commonalities between them, imagining Turnings as seasons, supply & demand for order, collective generational personalities, the current strengthening of families & multi-generational living, opposite experiences in the same phase of living, the growing gender divide, stages of a Fourth Turning, the recent primacy of political differences, extreme mobilization of publics, the acquiring of executive authority, the chances that an endogenous cataclysm kills .1 percent of the U.S. population, commonality through difference, why Fourth Turnings are not horrible accidents, Ekpyrosis, what a new spring might look like, why huge reforms are only enacted in times of crisis, and much more.
Neil Howe is the Managing Director of Demography at Hedgeye Risk Management, an independent financial research firm, as well as President of LifeCourse Associates. Howe is a renowned authority on generations and social change in America. An acclaimed bestselling author and speaker, he is the nation’s leading thinker on today’s generations—who they are, what motivates them, and how they will shape America’s future.

EP 201 Tobias Dengel on the Age of Voice Technology



Jim talks with Tobias Dengel about the ideas in his book The Sound of the Future: The Coming Age of Voice Technology. They discuss the idea that voice tech will be the biggest shift since mobile, the problem of public babble, positives & negatives of current voice tech, changing norms around speaking to devices, Wireless Application Protocol (WAP), using LLMs through a voice interface, improving communication cycles for incapacitated people, smart speakers vs smart mics, problems with the voice-to-voice paradigm, multimodal use cases, using voice interfaces for writing, finetuned LLMs in combination with voice tech, using LLMs to check each other, Jim’s method for reducing LLM hallucinations, improving agent performance in customer service, the state of the art in voice-to-text, Baumol’s cost disease, the Jevons paradox, a golden age of innovation, Talon hands-free input, the possibility of a pushback against public babble, coming changes in medicine, privacy issues & the industry’s violation of trust, the uncanny valley, concurrent communication, a new horizon for video games, low-hanging fruit, interfaces between humans and robots, innovations in model testing & training, selecting models, an arms race between models creating content & models curating content, the info agent opportunity, the human capacity for interruptions, defending attention & flow, whether voice tech will make interruptions better or worse, and much more.

Tobias Dengel is president of WillowTree, a TELUS International Company, a global leader in digital product design and development, with 13 offices in North America, South America and Europe, headquartered in Charlottesville VA. The company has been named by Inc. magazine to the Inc. 5000 list of America’s fastest growing companies for 11 straight years. WillowTree’s clients include some of the best-known brands in the world, such as T Mobile, Mastercard, Capital One, HBO, Fox, Time Warner, PepsiCo, Regal Cinemas, Charles Schwab, Johnson & Johnson, Lidl, Wyndham Hotels, Hilton Hotels, Holiday Inn, Canadian Broadcasting Corp, Synchrony Bank, Edward Jones Investments, and National Geographic. These industry leaders trust WillowTree to design and develop their websites, apps, internal systems and voice interfaces.


EP 200 Brian Chau on AI Pluralism



Jim talks with Brian Chau about recent advancements in AI and viewing AI’s relationship to society and politics through a pluralistic lens. They discuss fixed frames on AI, the horseless carriage fallacy, AI as a million dumb people, how LLMs invert the film archetype, Jim’s ScriptHelper project, intuitive recombination, creating a fake political party, why AI threatens the legacy press, the significance of house style, incentivizing pluralism, why AI could power the periphery, the information agent concept, billboard measures in music, AI voice covers, the stultification of consensus, liquid democracy, applying statistical ML to prompt engineering, the need for on-the-ground testing of LLM applications, the problem of nanny rails, corrections in AI regulation, 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.