Transcript of EP 233 – Robert Conan Ryan on Seven Ethical Perspectives

The following is a rough transcript which has not been revised by The Jim Rutt Show or Robert Conan Ryan. Please check with us before using any quotations from this transcript. Thank you.

Jim: It’s that time again where I ask our listeners to be sure to give the Jim Rutt show a five-star rating on your podcast app. Good ratings help us to build our audience, which lets us continue to attract our top-tier guests, which makes this show so much fun. So thanks for your five-star rating on your favorite podcast app, and if you’ve got a minute or even less, write us a nice brief review. That helps even more. Thanks folks.

Today’s guest is Robert Conan Ryan. Robert is a freelance management consultant, college professor, startup entrepreneur, and Facebook curmudgeon. Welcome back, Robert.

Robert: It’s great to be back, Jim.

Jim: And as I mentioned, welcome back because Robert was on the show before in EP 54, where we talked about boom and bust cycles, a very interesting episode. I’d suggest you check it out. Also, I’d like to call out, while I was doing my research for this episode, I came across a paper, actually Robert sent me the link, or at least the title, and I read it, and we’re not going to really be talking about the things in the paper, but for those of you interested in meaning-making, but in a practical sense, I can recommend an article. He was co-author with Barry Mitnick titled On Making Meanings: Curators, Social Assembly and Mashups. Definitely worth a read.

With that, let’s get into today’s topic. We’re going to talk about some ideas Robert has on the seven big ethical perspectives and why everyone needs to know them. So Robert, let’s talk about ethical perspectives. Let’s start with why are they important and why are they particularly important right now?

Robert: Yeah. It’s a very political place and deeply divided, fragmented into lots of different camps. Some people blame the internet for creating ever greater radicalization, polarization, fragmentation, and echo chambers where people basically get deep into thinking about their identities politically and culturally, but have not actually investigated the ethical implications of their positions. In other words, what is my actual theory of ethics that I’m operating on? How am I making my decisions about what counts as the right thing to do in a situation? You can also pair with that a lack of knowledge of rhetoric and how that works. But I would say getting some sort of deeper dive into what ethics is, is probably one of the most valuable activities that most adults can do. What are my ethical stances and what are the ethical stances of people who are trying to influence my opinion? And how do we deal with that crossing of communication between those different ethical stances?

Is it possible for us to reconcile our differences or are they irreconcilable? So one of the observations here is that as a society radicalizes, what they’re basically doing is they’re saying, I’m taking my ball and going home in terms of how I determine ethical judgment. You people are making ethical judgments in a pattern that just simply clashes with my own, and I don’t see a middle ground. And so I think the mistake is that people think it’s a particular opinions on policies, particular ideas that they think that they’re clashing on, but the deeper resonance is actually my values and your values are just not the same.

Jim: Though I would suggest it’s both, right? As I always tell people, anything that has to do with social science is if someone gives you a dichotomy, you don’t even have to fucking worry about what it is. The answer is always both, nurture or nature, fear or love. It’s always fucking both. So I’m going to suggest that yes, these ethical perspectives are hugely important, but especially in this nutso world we live in, the facts, people think they believe in facts, in quotes, and with a ph probably, also vary very considerably. And so you combine lack of coherence with respect to facts, with pluralism, with respect to ethics, and you have a really first-class mess.

Robert: Absolutely. Because the thing is there, you can’t actually, you have no mutual grounds to evaluate the facts. So let’s say for example, climate change, if you can’t even agree on whether or not humans cause CO2 is affecting climate change, then you’ve got a real problem right there, no doubt. But then the deeper question is, well, how do we actually resolve our values relating to that? And the thing is, you’ll find out that a lot of right-wingers, for example, won’t budge on the facts simply because they believe the implications of accepting those facts would contradict their ethical stances.

Jim: Probably. Or they’re just tactical argumenters who don’t want to give an inch, for instance, climate, something I do talk to people about. Okay, we can start with one thing that probably everybody could agree on if they weren’t a fucking idiot, which is the basic physical chemistry, that if I take a box with a glass top, hold it out to the sun, put a thermometer in the bottom of it, as I increase the amount of CO2 in the box, the amount of infrared energy trapped within the box goes up. That is a fucking physical chemistry fact that can be replicated with $100 worth of equipment easily. But you’ll find assclowns that won’t even agree with that. Not because necessarily because it conflicts with their ethics, but because they feel like they’re giving ground. Somehow they acknowledge even one actual objective reproducible fact, then somehow it’s on a slippery slope to whatever, being buggered by transvestites or something.

Robert: I will say though, that some of the biggest anti-climate science voices on the internet use complexity science as their excuse. So they’ll actually say things like, “Oh, well, it’s not so simple. You see, because there’s dynamic effects where CO2 actually has a saturation point, and after you hit saturation point, then you have this explosion of growth which then lowers the temperature.”

Jim: And those are legit arguments. I’m happy to engage with people on those because those by their nature of complexity arguments are really hard to get to the bottom of. And the other complexity argument is climate increases temperature a bit, which increases the speed of the hydraulic cycle. I.e, water evaporating produces more clouds. Guess what clouds do? Reflect sunlight back in the space. So those are perfectly legit arguments, but let’s start with physical chemistry and agree about that, and then we can take the next steps. Anyway, that’s an aside, an interesting discussion perhaps for another day. Today we’re going to talk about your seven ethical perspectives. It’s probably useful to start off with just a list. You also suggested that they exist on a horseshoe spectrum, which I’m less than entirely sure is a good analogy, but let’s give it a roll and let’s get started.

Robert: So I do not actually believe that the facts exist on a horseshoe spectrum. As we were just talking about what are our beliefs, what are the facts we assert, our socially constructed facts or whatever. Those are not a horseshoe. Those are absolutely polar. So that’s why some people say, well, there’s clearly no horseshoe here, because these are diametrically opposing facts about reality on those two extremes. However, where it does actually show a bit of a almost circular or horseshoe behavior is when it comes to the process, the ethics of human behavior and what’s acceptable behavior for your camp. Okay, so I’m going to lay that out here on a spectrum. I’m making the claim that there’s various different ways you can categorize these things, but one of the most common or simple ones is used in business ethics. And I’m just extending that argument here, which is that you’ve got at the center, or you could even say center-left, you’ve got pragmatism.

And pragmatism is the most popular argument of folks who say, trust the science or believe the most objective evidence that we, the consensus evidence. But really pragmatism is about whatever works ultimately. And so that is the right thing to do is a tool. It’s a lever. It’s basically then if I apply this tool, then I’ll get the result I’m looking for. And that goes back to the American tradition of the late 1800s, early 1900s in social science and philosophy. Dewey, William James, the psychologists, is the whole argument that basically religion could serve a function even if it’s wrong. It’s just whether or not the tool works. And so that’s sort the most common center to start from. We can move then out from there. If you creep over to the center-right position, you’ve got virtue ethics. The reason why it’s placed on the center right is because it puts a little bit more responsibility on individuals rather than consensus.

You’ve got to have heroic behavior. You’ve got to basically prove yourself through the primary virtues such as wisdom, courage, temperance, and justice. A lot of people who think more of a classical liberal mind frame, they tend to live in that head space. So going further left and right here, okay, so we’re going to go a bit further left now. So we’re going from center left to solid moderate left, consequentialism. The consequentialism is respect for repeatable, verifiable methods that create the outcomes. However, the outcomes are in this case, biased towards the consequences more than the method.

Jim: So this is the ends-means problem?

Robert: Right. So the ends justify the means in consequentialism, whereas pragmatism requires them to sort of stay at parity. And so in consequentialism, it’ll be more sort of like if we have to violate someone’s personal rights during the COVID pandemic in order to get the social outcomes that we need, so be it, right? Because those social outcomes are far more important in someone’s personal rights. So that’s sort of like the solid left position. Now we’re going to go more towards a solid right position, and we’ve got actually a couple of options over here. So we have Deontology, which is a bit stronger than virtue ethics in terms of its code of honor. The thing here though is that with Deontology, we usually expect an exceedingly few number of people to actually live up to the standard. In other words, a whistleblower, for example, is a classic person that will say, “No matter what happens to me or what happens to the people around me, I am committed to the fact that I’m going to be honest about this.”

And you’ll say, the reason why this tends to be cast as a right-wing perspective today, which is weird because this one can actually circle or back around to the left, is because the idea is that you’re throwing away all consequentialism here. You’re not actually blowing the whistle because you’re trying to save somebody in a trolley problem or something like that. You’re doing it just because it’s the right thing to do, and that means that you believe that there’s some sort of categorical imperative in a Kantian sense that we’ve got to do this. So you’ll see a lot of that in things where people have a strong moral commitment to basically a particular act or code of conduct as being more important than even themselves. The act that I ought to do could change depending on what duty I’m given. In other words, I’m not the one who gets to decide what act I’m committed to in a deontic system.

In a moralist system, well, God tells me, and when Abraham was tested by God in terms of sacrificing his own child, that was in a sense a moralist action, which is I have a deeper duty to respond to whatever my higher power tells me to do. And so that’s where most moral systems such as the 10 Commandments come from. So then if you go to the farthest right point, you’ve got elitist power, in the farthest right point. In the extreme right point, essentially, you are the gods, okay? So you’re elevating yourselves to the level of the elites that ought to be above everyone else. Your group is the group that forces your own principles on everybody else, whatever that may be, or your own desires. You’re thinking more like the Roman emperors or you deify yourself. And so I argue that the Nazis deified themselves, that essentially their whole point was even when we’re evoking religious arguments, which the Nazis often did about their version of Christianity or their version of paganism, it was only for the greater purpose of their own self-deification.

On the other extreme, on the far left, you’ve got the social justice by any means necessary equality by force, which is essentially deifying the group. And what you’re doing is you’re basically saying that the only way for which one self can attain any status is to belong. And essentially what you’re saying is that it is through your actions as a collective rather than it actions as individuals that you’re achieving the ultimate success of the group. For example, in the communist revolutions, you’ll often see some horseshoe behavior where Chairman Mao or the Kim family in North Korea practice some self-right deification, but then they say, “Well, we’re really just symbols of you.” So they can get away with that because saying, “Oh, no, no, no, we’re not really the gods, we’re symbols of you, and therefore it’s not far right, it’s far left.”

Jim: Interesting. Now, why isn’t that also a variant of Deontology, worshiping equality as the ultimate good?

Robert: This is where these things get really complicated because none of these are actually neat and clean separable systems. As you just pointed out, you can find internal contradictions where I could always make an argument that, well, my position is really just an adaptation of this position, but through a different second level formula. And that’s exactly what you just did. You say, well, basically I’m a Maoist because it’s what works. And so this is where a lot of the manipulation comes.

Jim: And of course you got Machiavellian deception, for instance, let’s say I’m actually a pragmatist, but I believe that telling the people that we’re there for the people for equality, so a social justice type, and my method is going to be absolute elitist power. So I basically stack these things up. As you say, they’re not cut and dried at all, but maybe there are useful lenses that you can switch from one to the other. And as you were saying this, I said, “Okay, who am I?” I said, “Well, in some things, I’m a deontologist. For instance, I believe free speech is good, almost irrespective of the outcome. However, I’m also a consequentialist, which is the almost part of free speech. I am not a free speech absolutist.” And so where do you draw the line? I don’t believe there’s a deontological place to draw the line, but there’s a consequentialist place to draw the line.

And on free speech, this happens to be one of my favorite most important issues, I’m also a pragmatist. While I believe it’s just right, I also believe and look for evidence that it is also good. For instance, I often recommend people read Popper’s An Open Society and Its Enemies, where at essentially book length, he goes into why a society that is able to critique itself honestly without censorship at least over the long haul, will out compete and have a better way of life for people than a society that doesn’t. I would also suggest that the free speech issue also touches on virtue ethics. I consider myself an Aristotelian style virtue ethics dude as well. And I believe courage is, some people have said, the first virtue because without courage, the others become impossible.

And so I think that courage is tightly bound up with free speech, that if you don’t have a society of people who’ve been raised to be courageous, it’s really hard to have a culture of free speech. Instead, you have a bunch of fucking snowflakes that melt when people say something that they disagree with and go [inaudible 00:15:16] and then they try to suppress anybody, “Oh, you’re causing me harm. My safety has been offended. [inaudible 00:15:23]” And those kinds of wimp-ass pussy motherfuckers are the worst enemies of free speech, they’re not even like fucking fascists or communists, they’re just fucking cry babies. And so that gets the virtue ethics part into it. So anyway, that’s just an interesting response to how complex all this stuff is.

Robert: No, I thought that was really, really cool. And the thing is, it’s funny you brought up Popper because I was just looking at that again yesterday, and I hadn’t looked at it in a few years. But basically, yeah, no, the thing is that my immediate response is if you practice social justice, this is just a conjecture. If you practice social justice, but you have no respect for virtue ethics. So wisdom, courage, temperance, well, you’ve got justice, you’ve got one of the four is one of your arguments, but if you lack wisdom, courage, or temperance in those arguments, then you could be falling flat in many ways.

Jim: And the other important thing about Aristotle, if we’re going to talk about virtue ethics, as he basically lays out his virtues on a continuum, and he says the right place to be is in the middle. So for instance, how you live, you don’t want to be either miserly or extravagant, you want to be moderate, as an example. You want to be courageous, you don’t want to be timid, and you don’t want to be fool hard. And again, this is where deontology might be in conflict with virtue ethics, right? A deontologist might say, you should be courageous to the point of foolhardiness and to be martyred to what you believe, right?

Robert: Yeah, sir Galahad, right?

Jim: Right, right. Yeah. Well, Aristotle would say no, and he actually goes into this in some detail.

Robert: But King Arthur is more like Aristotle, right?

Jim: Right, right, right. Exactly. Exactly. Interesting stuff. So again, these are lenses, and I always talk about lenses, but I also assume that I take lenses off, put lenses on, that one lens will not rule them all.

Robert: Yeah, that’s exactly the whole point that where our conversation was coming together before we did this is the idea of the complexity of ethical lenses, and that in order to create a fully functioning society, it takes a village. It takes all kinds. You need to have, in fact, social classes and job roles are often distinctive in their type of ethical stresses or stances. For example, the classic example of we need sociopaths in the military, which is like we wouldn’t possibly be able to be effective if they were all highly sensitive types.

And so the thing is, when you think about all this, you realize that I’m going to go back to what you said about Aristotle, because I think he hit it right the first time. His question was how do you run the polis? Okay. And in the Greek polis was city, and they viewed the polis as sort of two levels, which is a household and city, and the relation between those two. And of course household there, you’re talking about villas, you’re talking about patrician households that would have extended numbers of people affiliated with them, not just a nuclear family, right?

Jim: Yeah, a couple generations, some slaves, some workers, right?

Robert: Yeah, exactly. And so oikonomos in Greek is economics was the household, and it was a productive system. And the idea was that the economics was between the household productive unit and the city political culture, basically the dialogue amongst the households and their interests. And so if you’re Aristotelian and you’re trying to govern this, what you’re basically saying is, well, we want all these different households to be unitary and productiveness for Athens. We want them to all be productive, but we’ve got this damn problem of differences of opinion and personality and religion and cults. This person is following Athena and that person is following [inaudible 00:19:15] and that sort of thing, and how do we deal with all that? And so in the classic world, the way all that came together was it was literally a sense of cults that were united into one larger group through the polis.

So you had households, cults, each with their own virtues, ideas. The type of artisanship that you performed would be affiliated with a particular cult. So it’d be like, oh, well, you’re a scribe. Okay, well, you’re probably Apollonian, that sort of thing. And then the polis, which Aristotle was talking about, was he said, we need a group of upper class who can deal with all this, and if we take extreme positions, that’s just not going to work here. So for that social class, the political class, the highest value was balance is that basically you had to figure out how to balance all these interests. That was the classical approach.

Jim: And of course, that’s not far from our game B philosophy of coherent pluralism, that make pluralism a strength, not a weakness, which unfortunately we have allowed pluralism to become a weakness in some degrees in our current society. We can make it a plus. Yet if you don’t have any coherence at all, you have nihilism, and we don’t want that. You obviously have to have a small set of things you do agree on and some collective commons that you’re building together. So it is interesting how these same perspectives keep coming back. And speaking of perspectives, and you started this by talking about the fact that this is like a political spectrum. People argue because they can’t understand each other’s ways of thinking. Let’s talk about the meta lens of multi-perspectival-ness, right?

The ability to say, wait a minute, I’m talking to Robert Conan Ryan here, and he is a deontologist. So let me put my deontologist lens on at least for a minute when I’m talking to him so I can figure out what the fuck he’s trying to say. At least see if I have any sympathy for his perspective or not before I switch back over to my virtue ethics and pull my sandbag out and hit him over the head. So talk a little bit about the benefits and maybe techniques for a multi-perspectival approach to these ethical lenses.

Robert: Yeah, first, I’m going to embody that in a human being that I much admire and respect, who is I think one of the best aging examples, but still important examples in society for doing just that. Cornel West. Cornel West is somebody who basically can have all conversations with all kinds of people using all kinds of systems. In fact, he was considered to be one of the founding, of the post-analytic philosophers. And the post-analytic philosophers were those who fully respected analytical philosophy, science and its robustness, but at the same time also respected the internal or focus of the continental school on the life examined and more political and cultural concerns of existence, phenomenology and so forth. And the post-analytics basically were a complexity school of philosophy, and Cornel is probably the best known public representative of it.

And it’s interesting, he’s a highly complex person. You’re talking about a Baptist preacher who is a member of the social Democrats and has written papers about Marx, Kant. He did the Matrix Trilogy director’s cut analysis with Ken Wilber. He’s sort of worked with everybody, and the reason why I bring him out as an example is because these sorts of people are so rare. So I would say he’s just a fun, for anyone who doesn’t really know much about him, and there’s a lot of people who he’s fading in their perception, check out his actual academic history and just see how complex this man was. I don’t know if you know.

Jim: Yeah, it’s funny you mentioned him. I’ve actually read a fair bit, not a huge amount, a fair bit about him, and I actually like him. And people say, “How could you like that goddamn commie son of a bitch?” And I go, that is a very inaccurate collapse of his many points of view. And he does come across as a rigorously honest fellow. He is really trying hard, hard to get to the truth. He may get at different conclusions then I do, but I definitely admire him. And of course we know he’s attempting to run for president. I haven’t seen too much about that, but that would be humorous. And if it’s assclown number one versus assclown number two, he might be a plausible protest, but who knows.

Robert: His favorite humanist concept is paideia. I kind of quite like that.

Jim: What is that? Could you remind me?

Robert: It’s a form of love and it’s a form of love, it has several different meanings, but you can think about it sort of in a sense of intellectual appreciation for humanity and the desire to work things out. That’s one of my favorite interpretations of the word. If you’ve never seen his lectures on this, he did a series of lectures in the past five years. You can find him on YouTube where he talks about the state of the humanities and love. The reason why I bring this up is because this is a guy who was essentially just recently pushed out by the DEI people. You’re talking about somebody who was one of the faces of the civil rights movement, one of the most win-win complex thinkers, who wants everybody to sort of find a common ground ethically. And the DEI people just basically said, we can’t have you because you are platforming all these other opinions. How is it that you could be platforming the Baptist Christian Church when we believe that that was just another bourgeois attempt to oppress? Anyway.

Jim: He’s a good example of multi-perspectival thinking, and I think you and I probably both agree that getting to multi-perspectivalness is something that it’s useful for people to attempt.

Robert: Yeah, absolutely. So some people don’t understand the opposition. I’m going to do the DEI thing now, I think it’s a good moment. Some people don’t really understand the opposition that you have or I have against the DEI because they assume, well, if you’re against us, you must be with our enemy, which is a very classic Saul Alinsky technique. It’s just polarization. If you don’t agree with me, you must be on those people’s side. There is no third option. So that kills multi-perspectivalism. That’s exactly what it’s designed to do. And so that’s what the Cornel West thing at Harvard was recently where he basically said, “This place is impoverished. I’m out. I’m going back to Union Theological Seminary.” He’s like, “Because there really aren’t any good voices left at the top here that are willing to promote multi-perspectival dialogue.” The reason why this becomes very fascinating is because then the DEI scandal happens where we have Claudine Gay, shortly after becoming president of Harvard, immediately becomes accused of plagiarism.

Then her DEIs are, and then another high ranking DEI official in the Harvard Extension School. And then there’s a fourth one that’s currently being accused, and there’s strong evidence. And so the real question is, and then the immediate response from the Harvard Crimson was like, “Well, this is a right wing attack.” They completely redirected conversation from the issue of plagiarism itself to the fact that they were saying, we recognize the real reason the enemy is saying these things. The enemy only cares about ending DEI, there could be no third position. And this is several articles in Harvard Crimson over the last couple of weeks.

Jim: There was something in the New York Times yesterday making that same claim, where yet another DEI Commissar was hoisted up on a rather extensive list of plagiarism.

Robert: So we have the DEI Czar of Columbia, we have the DEI Czar of Wisconsin, which is actually the husband of the one at Harvard, and then now there’s an investigation into his dissertation chair at Michigan State who is his co-author on the highly unethical papers that he participated in. And then everybody’s now looking at all the people they’ve ever worked with, and so they’re looking at the daisy chain and trying to figure out who taught everybody to plagiarize. So what I’m arguing is that there’s actually a third position that we could probably all agree on here, and that is the number one problem that some of us who do not share the same radical ethical positions as the DEI folks, our number one issue is this sort of thing.

In other words, the idea that we can’t have a dialogue about solving that lack of rigor in the fields, because if we could have a dialogue about it, we might actually come to a full agreement, and DEI could actually be a very wonderful, powerful tool. It’s not necessarily that those of us who are critical of DEI are actually taking the enemy’s position. We’re basically what you call the loyal opposition to the idea of a more just society. And what we’re saying is you’re using the wrong tools.

Jim: Exactly. In fact, I have an essay I’ve been working on for a year because I’m a slow ass writer unfortunately. I’m a much better talker, which is why I like podcasting. And it’s called, Neither Wokery nor Maggotry, Liberal Universal Humanism. And the idea being that when people like myself and others go after the wokes, they say, well, the people assume, “Oh, you must be those Charlottesville neo-Nazis.” And I go, “Fuck that. I’d whip their asses too, hate them even worse.” You are making a false dichotomy. In reality, both wokery and maggotry, maggotry meaning far right are heresies away from classical liberalism, specifically the idea of universal liberal humanism that while we of course have been imperfect and worse than imperfect in our history, the west and only the West has been able to raise the equal dignity of all humans on earth as a central value.

And so even when we’re violating it, we at least have to pay the tribute of hypocrisy. The hypocrisy pays to vice in the name of virtue when we do it. So guys, get rid of your wokery and your maggotry, and let’s return to classical liberalism and universal liberal humanism instead. So that would be my response on the narrow thing. But yeah, let’s apply your lenses to DEI. Let’s see what happens when we apply your lenses to DEI and you do it because I have some opinions about DEI as well. I’ll jump in as well. Why don’t we go through your seven different ethical positions and let’s say, what do the seven ethical positions say about DEI?

Robert: My claim is that that liberal humanism you’re talking about started with scientific primacy. The idea that the way that we resolve all differences, which is how you started our conversation today, was on the point of if you can have an objective, scientific, empirical language with this to resolve conflicts, then that’s the prime method. And that essentially is a type of, you can call it a type of pragmatism, but basically to your response, the MAGA versus DEI side, you’re talking about them applying mirror image lenses to each other, and the most common thing that puts them on the far left and the far right away from the middle is their rejection of scientific primacy.

That basically what they’re saying is, we’ve got our facts, you’ve got yours and our facts are more important than any sort of objective middle, and most importantly, they appreciate each other. So they actually appreciate each other because they’re saying you, like us, don’t see this scientific primacy or objectivism as being an important language. So to speak, common language in reverse to each other. And I’ll give you an example. Andrew Anglin, who is the organizer of the Charlottesville activity and was the editor of the Daily Stormer, he told everyone publicly that he used Saul Alinsky’s rules for radicals in his actions and that he considered it just as valuable of a textbook for the neo-Nazis as it was for his opponents.

Jim: I will confess to have read that Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals more than once, and that it is a very useful book. If you’re out there looking to stir up the shit, I suggest you read it. I would suggest it’s pure pragmatism, just like if you read Machiavelli, Machiavelli is a multi-level book The Prince, but if you read it as a complicated, somewhat obscure list of hints, it’s also worth reading as a how-to. So I don’t blame anybody for reading Saul Alinsky, it’s got a lot of useful stuff in it.

Robert: And you know what? I’ll speak to the pragmatism argument there. So there’s a difference between pragmatism and neopragmatism, and I would agree it’s pure neopragmatism, which is Richard Rorty. Pure neopragmatism is whatever works for our solidarity group. He literally wrote an article that became probably his most cited article called Objectivity or Solidarity. And in that article, he basically said, you have two different types of pragmatism, pragmatic tools. You have objective tools, which would be more science, and then you have solidarity tools. Saul Alinsky’s would fall into the solidarity tool camp according to neopragmatism.

So we can agree on that one. But the thing is, if you take classical pragmatism, which is William James or Dewey, they would reject that. And the reason why is because they would say there is an assumption that what works actually works. In other words, it may work in the short run for what you thought you were trying to achieve, but your long run goal still wasn’t achieved. So for example, Andrew Anglin did not achieve his long run goal of actually ramping up the neo-Nazi movement with his Alinsky actions because those tools worked in the short run, but not in the long run.

Jim: That could be the case, though I don’t know. I think there’s probably a lot more neo-Nazis now than there were in 2017, because he did get a whole bunch of memetic broadcasting that appeal to scumbag useless motherfuckers living in the basement of their mother’s house. It may have worked for him. I don’t know. Time will tell.

Robert: Well, I’ll give you also the Nazi argument, which is to say, I hate to say this, it’s awful to say, it’s Machiavellian. If you wanted to create a short run economic miracle, fascism is your fastest way to do so. However, it is self-destructive in the long run. In other words, every famous historical attempt, you can go back to Julius Caesar, for example, every famous historical attempt you’d say, we’re going to use popularism to unite the people under our deification of our own inner circle and so forth, and we’re going to go create an economic miracle and kick some ass. And then next thing you know, you’ve got so many enemies that in the long run it creates a self collapsing set of enemies.

So the real question is, how far are we measuring this? So you can create a short-term golden age doing horrible things. And this circles back to the point I wanted to add here was that I’ve recently been writing about golden ages, and so there’s a variety of different perspectives in economics. How do you create a golden age? Well, the question, one of the first questions is do you mean an ethical golden age? Are we talking about a financial boom that I manipulated the market that was golden for everybody who was inside the boom, but it extorted all the money from everyone who was outside of it?

Jim: Or a golden age, let’s call it the 1500 to 1700, where people who had a little technological edge in sailing ships and cannons went out and oppressed the fuck out of the rest of the world-

Robert: Yeah, slavery.

Jim: … so that they could live good. It was a golden age in Spain and Portugal, but it wasn’t a golden age for anybody else. I think that’s highly arguable.

Robert: Exactly. And so you have this dark sense of pragmatism because we could take Richard Rorty’s neopragmatism, which he applied to a leftist movement, and turn it right around and say, well, it worked for the Dutch too. Then in order to distinguish, we got to get into either morals or a deontic principles where we actually create thresholds and we say things like, “Oh yeah, whatever works within the accepted playing field.” Which is the whole idea of regulation. So businesses are theoretically supposed to be regulated by regulators to say, do whatever works, but within the ethical frame that we have created for society. And if the regulators fail to create the right chessboard for that and the right regulatory systems and institutions and structures, then they’re incentivizing practical decisions to go to ethical extremes.

Jim: Well, actually let talk about this, not on your list of what we’re talking about, but this happens to be one of my pet peeves actually. Which is when I got started in business in 1975, when I graduated from high school, not counting my paper route when I was 11, and some of my other little business schemes along the way, that view was not the operative view, at least of decent businesses that we should be operating right up to the regulatory line, and it was the duty of government to provide our moral groundings. Decent businesses, and more so in the years even before that, did not push to the legal and regulatory limits.

For instance, gangster rap would not have been a thing in 1965, the record company executives would’ve said, “That’s immoral shit. This is poisoning our youth, particularly poisoning our minority youth, hurting them even more than they’re already hurt, and we will not push this crap out into the world.” There was a sense of morality that was well inside the regulatory and legal boundaries, and I’d say in the mid-90s, the ethos had gotten to be the boundaries for business or what is arguably legal.

Robert: There’s a very good reason for that shift.

Jim: That goes one step further, and then by say 2005, let’s take a look at our big online platforms. It’s not only is it arguably legal, but is our behavior knowingly illegal, but that the penalties, even if they’re large, will be less than the economic advantage of violating. What’s the total fines that Google has been assessed? Like 10 billion, right?

Robert: That’s the transaction cost theory of ethics.

Jim: Exactly. Yeah. And so I’m saying that that is fucking vile, and it’s proof that the current status quo is a corrupt system. That any system that has allowed its economically powerful entities to operate under the moral standard, that if the probabilistically determined costs of acting illegally is less than the benefits of acting illegally, not only should you, but you must act illegally. I’d say the fact that we’ve reached that state proves that our whole system is fucking fundamentally screwed up.

Robert: Yeah, and we can connect some very obvious dots. One of them was the offshoring paradigm, once we basically said, look, if everybody else is hiding their money, if everyone else is doing dark pool banking, if everybody else is, this led to the financial crisis and the stock option paradigm of greed is good at the top of companies. It was once thought that shareholders should behave that way, but not managers. And once, in fact, in the 50s and 60s, the most popular theory was called managerialism. And what the theory was was to say, managers are usually going to create agency problems because they’re going to want to act on their own behalf. They’re going to make decisions in their own best interest rather than the organization. And so you have to create some sort of systems of pressures, incentives or agency solutions and governance to make sure that that’s not the case because shareholders, even in shareholder primacy, if shareholders are profit driven, but the managers have an ethical framework in which they’re operating, that won’t happen.

But when the managers and their shareholders become the same people and neither one of them have a strong commitment to action morally, then essentially the thing goes off the rails as soon as the playing field is opened up to offshoring and dark pool money and all that other shit. And I wanted to make a point that if you go back to Adam Smith and the classical liberal tradition, which emerged out of Smith, they were very clear that there had to be a strong moral culture underlying a free economy. Adam Smith said, the free market is only going to emerge triumphant among those cultures such as the Jolly Old England, where we have a strong church and a strong royal family and a strong sense of community and pride and all that. Because then once you set the free market free, the theory of moral sentiments suggests to us that rational self-interest will actually also be in the interest of the community.

Jim: Radical libertarians, economic libertarians, they love to quote Adam Smith, but they only quote Wealth of Nations. They don’t quote Theory of Moral Sentiments, goddammit.

Robert: Which was essential.

Jim: Which is absolutely essential. Exactly right. You’ve probably heard about these large language models that are behind the chatbots that have been programmed to an extreme variety of wokery, and there’s a great demonstration of how literally insane they are, which is someone says, “What is worse, the world being destroyed in an all out nuclear war or some celebrity using the N word?” And it’ll always say, “Oh, it’s definitely worse for a celebrity X to use the N word.” And you could try all kinds of different approaches, or I think it was even a stronger phrase like that, “Would it be okay for celebrity X to use the N word if the use of the N word would prevent an asteroid from hitting the earth and destroying it or an all out nuclear war?”

And again and again and again, it’ll say “No. You can definitely not use the N word, even to keep an asteroid from destroying the earth or an all out nuclear war for ending humanity.” And somebody intentionally added those nanny rails. They probably didn’t see the emergent effect, but they had some thinking that said that their little religion about the N word, which is just six letters, read John McWhorter’s great book on the N word, just six little letters, is somehow that magic spell is worse than the earth ending, right? What the fuck, right?

Robert: Yeah. That’s really profound because you’re talking about, people have talked about AI ethics a lot, but rarely do I actually hear them describe how you program a multi-perspective of ethical AI that balances these perspectives. Even when I hear people talking about them, I hear people trying to define a specific framework. Thou shalt not this, thou shalt not. And I’m like, okay, no, wait a minute. That was actually Nick Bostrom talked about some of that, and so there’s a lot of voices out there on this topic. This brings me back to the idea of the golden age thing. Suppose your a AI singularity, you’re one of the singularists, and you believe that this is going to create a golden age. That’s your theory of the golden ages. We’re going to eliminate labor and massively increase our decision-making potential and all this other stuff. The most common complaint against this is ethics, right?

Is to basically say, how could we ever trust this thing to actually make all the right decisions on the behalf of everybody? It collapses into democracy or authoritarianism, one or the other. What are we going to do? Well, I think one of the interesting points here is that if you were to look at all of the other popular perspectives on how to create a golden age, think about it this way. In order to have a perspective on how to create a golden age, you have to have a state in mind. What does that actual scenario look like? So the thing is, the AI needs to have a state in mind. This is what I’m arguing. It can’t just be making micro adjustments on the basis of individual decisions. It has to have a sense of this is the end utopian state we are attempting to achieve. And that’s where radical democracy could actually affect that, don’t you think?

Jim: Yeah, could be. Again, AI risk is an unbelievable rat hole with all kinds of implications. Let’s not talk about that today. We’ll burn up all the rest of our time. But I do think that some thinking through about ethics will be necessary as we try to navigate the multi-layers of evolutionary risk. And oh, by the way, sports fans, the previous episode of the Jim Rutt Show to this one, is me being interviewed by guest host Vance Crowe on AI ethics. So you can pick up my thoughts there and you can with Robert’s thoughts and make your own synthesis. But let’s head back to where we were before, which is let’s roll through your seven ethical perspectives and apply them to DEI.

Robert: So again, the idea here is you’ve got this DEI crisis going on in terms of academic honesty and plagiarism. So if we look at our perspective here, we would say, well, clearly this fails a diamontology test. Academics are supposed to pledge to follow certain behaviors, and yet, as I said, the Harvard Crimson is immediately coming to the defense and saying, “Well, you’re just trying to end DEI, there’s nothing to see here. I’m sure everybody’s just as unethical. This is just a targeted attack trying to prove that it’s only these people.” My response to that would be to say, “Okay, great. If you can actually demonstrate a counter study that shows that in Harvard there’s a equitable distribution of academic dishonesty, then you can win that argument.”

Well, my counter argument I would say is a pragmatic argument, was basically saying, okay, let’s actually empirically test your claim of bias. So I would be perfectly okay with that. I would love to see the results, and if this is my claim, if those results actually end up defending the DEI people and saying, “Well, no, it’s not just us. We found it in physics, we found it in anthropology, we found it in.” If that’s actually the case, then we need to take them seriously and we need to basically say, “Well, we have a problem. That’s not your problem. It’s a greater problem.”

Jim: I agree with you, but that would be great to know. Though, of course, again, layers here, I have no doubts that Chris Rufo is playing a Machiavellian game, and he doesn’t care if plagiarism is widespread or not in every discipline. He says, “Well, I think we can catch a whole bunch of these fuckers out, so we’re just going to catch them out.” For his own purposes, which is a consequentialist theory, which is DEI bad, any tool to get rid of DEI, okay, et cetera. So while I agree with you that I would love to know the answer to that question, maybe we’ll find out, there may be enough interest now to do a valid statistical sample across the disciplines and see if the weirder the field, the more plagiarism there is or not, would be very interesting.

Robert: Yeah, because if you’re coming from the far right, the far right is going to basically say whatever elevates our power and proves that we are elite and that we are the right-thinking people and deserve the power, is good. And as you just pointed out, there’s a whole lot of people who are just frothing at the mouth on the right that want any scrap they can get, and with a very minimal amount of evidence, they’re going to jump all over it. And this is also part of my, when I was talking about climate science earlier, this is really what I was trying to get at, which is like if there’s any possibility of raising even the slightest doubt of this study or that study, they’re like, well, that’s all I needed to know. This is interesting because pragmatically, that doesn’t work. If you actually understand how science works, you can’t just cherry-pick 1% of evidence, 2% of evidence, but the way the far left and the far right often do things is they do exactly that.

And I’m going to circle back to DEI again. On the DEI side, some of the complaints, okay, the guy who was at University of Wisconsin, he was married to the diversity star at Harvard. He has the worst ethical complaint of them all, which is that he was repeating the same study over and over and over again and treating it as if it was an original publication, and he won a lifetime achievement award for being a prolific scholar when he only ever completed two studies that we know of. He reused results from other people’s studies in his own studies over and over and over again, and we’re talking about sample sizes of 15, 12, 15 participants and saying, well, we’re going to base our entire theory of DEI in education on the results of 15 people.

And not only that, but nobody can actually independently confirm the content of those interviews because he did not preserve the data set that we know of. And so there’s no paper trail to actually prove that those 15 people even said what he said they did. And yet we put him in charge of the entire DEI apparatus, training, education, DEI education, and he’s in charge of the budgets and the training for how you perform DEI research and education at University of Wisconsin, which is supposed to be a top three program in education.

Jim: Interesting. Interesting. Well, of course, as we talked about earlier that the DEI does not in general seem to be part of the worldview that honors empiricism and data. For instance, I’m a co-founder or an outfit called the MIT Free Speech Alliance and have been also involved in the broader Alumni Free Speech Alliance where we’re trying to hold universities accountable for free speech. That’s some good results. We’ve gotten MIT to adopt and actually honor a pretty strong free speech code, not quite as good as University of Chicago, but I’d say 90% is good, which is a big step forward. Next, trying to get them to go with the Clavin report, which says the university should not take positions on public issues unless they directly impact MIT.

Robert: Well, I heard Dartmouth is in now.

Jim: Yeah, there’s lots and lots of them that are moving in that direction. The issue with DEI, and we have challenged the administration to take this seriously, is we argue that DEI is like anything else, whether we should change the dining hall to vegan. It’s a intervention that has costs and needs to produce benefits. It’s not a religious holding. And so far, we have yet to get a acknowledgement from the university. We have got one big improvement. The new president, much better than the old president, at least on free speech, she has acknowledged that DEI is a policy that may be criticized. Prior, the famous example was Dorian Abbott was supposed to give a talk at MIT on exoplanet atmospheres, nothing to do with social policy at all. And he had written an article for Newsweek with a co-author where he proposed an alternative to DEI, very reasonable, respectful alternative, and merit, fairness and equality rather than DEI. Okay, he could argue which one you like better, but they basically yanked his invitation to give an endowed talk because of that.

And essentially, DEI was a religious principle that could not be challenged. Now at MIT, by the explicit words of the president, DEI is no longer a religious principle, it can be challenged. But we’d like to go the next step and say, DEI, let’s analyze it. What’s its goals? What’s its costs? What are the values of its goals? What are the values of its results? And let’s have someone do a serious audit on one, how much we’re spending, which nobody seems to know. Two, what is the actual measurable purpose of it? Three, are we achieving that purpose and is that purpose worth the expense? And five, what are the side effects, both positive and negative? And let’s do the whole thing and see if DEI makes any sense or not, even from the point of view of those who advocate for it. So far, we have not gotten buy into that, but that would be the, you’d think at the leading STEM university in the world, the empirical way to approach that question.

Robert: To actually submit to empirical tests, and thanks for bringing that up. We talked before the call about sense-making, and one of my complaints for years about the podcast circuit, and this has gotten me a lot of irritated online response, is that a lot of what branded me as a curmudgeon was talking about this one point over and over again, which is the fact that sense-making does not necessarily produce action or results directly. There’s a big gap between those two activities. So sense-making in the simplest definition, because I’m going to tell you, everybody abuses the word, but it actually has an academic life, and it was developed by Karl Weick. I’ve written a paper about it. So sense-making was in the simplest definition, everybody knows Kahneman who just recently passed. So Kahneman developed the system one, system two point of view with Tversky, and the idea was system one is sort of fast, automatic, subconscious thinking, and it dominates most of our decision-making.

System two is that deliberate voice, it’s slow. It’s that what we usually think of as being the voice in our head that actually makes a decision. Well, in the sense-making perspective, the argument is most of the time we’re operating on system one, system two is activated when things aren’t as we expect. Basically you click on, oh, I need to pay attention here. It’s the attentional trigger that activates system two and says, something’s off here. My perceptions don’t match expectations. And so this has been stretched, this concept, the fact that system two has to make sense of system one’s observations. This has been stretched to so many different definitions, but the fundamental point is you could make sense of something, reaffirm whatever beliefs you have about it and still not do a damn thing. It could not actually necessarily produce a result that you’re looking for. So talking about DEI, right?

So a lot of DEI experts are hired to make sense of bias and inclusion and diversity for people. Let’s have nice conversations and workshops. Let’s challenge our perceptions and think about things. And then at the end of that, people say, “All right, well, the deed is done.” Is it? No, well, you’re going to take this sense-making and you’re going to go out in the world and you’re going to be better at DEI things. However, they have no plan. There is no clear actionable empirical suggestion of, well, we’re going to use deontic mechanism one, two, or three, or even pragmatic mechanism one, two or three. They haven’t identified what those things are.

And so then you have these corporate DEI experts all getting fired this year and last year, they were hired in the DEI craze and every company wanted to prove they were spending money. Well, Zoom, for example, canceled their entire DEI staff of 30. And the reason why is because they actually did this empirical test that Jim Rutt just talked about. They just basically said, “Let’s put to the test, what have you guys done with the money we gave you? What impact have you made to the bottom line or to any important metrics? What are the KPIs guys and how is it resolved?” And they said, “We couldn’t agree on those things.” Said, well, all they could do is make sense.

Jim: As we talked about in the pregame, I fairly often when I hear people in the sense-making by itself world, will respond, well, that’s all head and heart. You also need hand. And even if all you want to do is jerk off, you still need a hand. So let’s always include our hand on how are we going to take things out into the world along with our head and our heart, because otherwise you’re not even jerking off, right?

Robert: That’s right. And so this is where the civil rights perspective had more success in a shorter period of time than the DEI perspective has had because the civil rights perspective was able to make more clear identifiers of what their goals, their levers and mechanisms were. Whereas, I’m going to tell you, I was doing research about this. How would you create a golden age using DEI social justice perspective in critical studies? How would you create a golden age using that knowledge? Well, the only popular golden age ever proposed by the social justice side of the fence that I can think of is Martin Luther King, and he included in his dream being judged by the content of your character and not the color of your skin.

Now, radicals have since rejected that. In other words, the right wing has started quoting Martin Luther King to the left wing, and the left wing then said, “Well, you’re just playing dirty pool, so we reject this content of your character thing because you’re trying to trick us.” The counter response is, describe the golden age of what this society looks that is both diverse, equitable, and inclusive. Paint us a vivid picture and then give us KPIs, a roadmap and start building toward it. I’m going to say Ray Kurzweil has given us a much more accurate roadmap to the singularity than the social justice crowd have given to a socially just society.

Jim: That’s an interesting point. That’s a very interesting point. I read a very interesting bio about Martin Luther King by a guy named Egg, I think, last year. Highly recommended. He was a deep thinker and did have very specific results that he was looking for.

Robert: He was complex and specific, which is what we’re really driving towards here. That’s like the multi-perspectival dream here is complex and specific, just like game B should be complex and specific.

Jim: Yep. Indeed. By the way, I talk about complex, the Santa Fe Institute, one of the things that we strive for, sometimes a little difficult with some of our most theoretical theorists, because keep in mind, the Santa Fe Institute is a pure theory institute. We don’t have labs, we don’t do experiments other than some computational ones, but we do very strongly request that our researchers be in collaboration with experimentalists. People that have data sets, even companies. I, at least this is the way I say it, I’m not speaking for them, is that I want to see theory and practice, theory and practice. Because theory can, especially if something as ungrounded as complexity can drift away off until never, never land if you don’t ground it in the real. And so a very important part of theorizing is always looping back to see if your theory makes sense.

Robert: And it’s funny you mentioned that I’ve had a thought experiment recently. I was interviewing for an academic job at a tier one university. I was in the final three. I did not make the final cut. In the interview process they were talking a little bit about what could you do for a startup community. This is a university, I’ll actually mention it, Georgia State, that has an entrepreneurship program. They’re trying to compete with Georgia Tech, which is the number one entrepreneurship campus in the world right now in terms of financial volume. They’re actually head of Stanford and MIT in terms of the amount of money that they’re bringing in, turning over in their student led projects, which is pretty phenomenal. Georgia State is saying, “Well, what do you think we should do if we’re going to be right down the road from them?” And I had suggest, obviously you want to create inclusive entrepreneurship as some theme.

And they said, “Yeah, we’re glad you said that. That’s what we’re thinking.” Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. One of the proposals that I had suggested was actually a game B exercise in what you can solve, call main street entrepreneurship. Basically, the idea is one of the flaws of the inclusive perspective is that often they tend to be backward looking and struggled to come up with these technical or practical forward-looking details. So we’re bringing in all these young BIPOC people that we want to support in our community and we want business models for them. What business models are they going to actually launch? Okay.

Jim: Oh, by the way, what skills do they need to be successful? Let’s not just give them money, let’s make sure that they qualify under the same criteria of anybody else. You’re not going to just give money to people unless they have skills, ideas, a team, et cetera. Essentially the traditional criteria. And if they need help developing those skills, let’s put together programs in place to help them develop those skills.

Robert: Absolutely. So absolutely skill oriented, but then also the additional thought was, do we need another barber shop? Do we need another nail salon? Because half the students who come in, that’s how they envision themselves. So inclusive entrepreneurship, one of the things I found out is that the Georgia Tech students come in with these, oh, I’m going to build an AI system that managers corporate sprinkler systems 15% better. They have these highly specific, highly technical ideas that they’ve been developing, and the other side of the fence are coming in with basic pizza shop type of ideas.

And so the biggest shift in inclusive entrepreneurship, and my argument was, what’s the main street look like in game B for these folks who basically aren’t innovating at the elite levels of the tech stack, but they want to create a new main street that affects their community. And the argument there was, let’s have a game B conversation about the future of the main street. And that’s something that where you can teach them, here’s the technical trends, here’s all this stuff. You’re not necessarily going to be the world’s hacker at the top of the tech stack here, but you could be the person to actually operate the businesses at the end of the line there. Okay.

Jim: I’ll tell you, throw out a game B idea, which we try to encourage people to think about for these kinds of practical things. Consider employee owned co-ops as an ownership model. And particularly there’s been some new work with so-called hybrid cooperatives where you can actually bring outside money in and it can get a decent though not excessive rate of return. And those are ways to change the whole nature of work in a way that’s no longer alienating, no longer exploitive. If you want to take the Marxian lens of exploitation, and I think that would be a great thing, would be to help educate young people about alternative business structures like cooperatives and hybrid cooperatives. And frankly, you can do a lot of the same things with LLCs if you want, where the whole nature of the relationship between business, the employees and the customer changes, that would be very innovative.

Robert: I have my own theory of that, which I call hollow scaling, and the basic premise is really easy to explain. The idea is instead of everybody clamoring to exit to VCs or to exit to large big tech or whatever, is that you create clusters of small businesses that hollow scale together. And so what they do is you’d say, well, we’ve got a few different technical businesses that are really good at back end stuff. Then we’ve got a few businesses that have really good front end costs, ways we can actually create services and relate to the consumer and things of that nature. And say, all right, so you’ve got this little village of businesses, none of which has a complete set of human resources and capital. Each one has strengths and weaknesses. So let’s say business A has a great accountant and business B has a great marketing manager.

One of the things I believe is a common reason that small businesses fail is because they have imbalanced teams. If you go to VCs, tech startup groups, they’ll tell you the number one problem is putting together the perfect team. I said, well, if that’s the number one problem, then that’s the wrong thinking. Because if we could dramatically raise the success rate of startups by not having to rely on full-time teams, in other words, part-timers who work across multiple projects, each with their skill sets, that it’s much to form a collective organization of companies that scale the other.

Jim: Yep. That makes a hell of a lot of sense. And I would also say is in the spirit of game B where we think in terms of membranes and protocols, one of the things that we don’t want people to take away from game B is that we still want to go to the stars. We still want to be able to build the equivalent of the gravity, astronomy, et cetera, but we want to do it in ways that are built from smaller pieces where people can live at high fidelity and high bandwidth, and that’s going to require ways to working together and building stacked membranes and protocols for specific purposes, and I think that’d be a great place to do some experimentation.

Robert: You know what? One of my dreams, and I’m going to be writing a book about this as soon as I get my desk clear of the next six papers I have, as I’ve told you before, the call I’ve got, I’m submitting a paper pretty much once a month for the next six months, and so I’ve been waiting on the book because I got to get all that other stuff done, but basically the idea is there’s certain projects that would be extremely high impact that we’re just not doing, and they would have tremendously larger ROI and social ROI, one of those people have been talking about for decades is the main street problem. That you got people in western Appalachia that have beautiful countryside and tons of resources and all these other stuff and these empty, you have entire towns that are just empty, and then you have college campuses on the same point, which are dwindling, like these little small liberal arts colleges are all dying and we don’t need them really.

They’re an ideal size for entrepreneurial incubation activity. The idea is the main street problem actually looks very similar to the small college problem is that we have places with people and buildings and a history of having resources close by, and yet there’s no businesses there, and now that we can all work remotely, there can be very interesting hollow scaling activities where some people are local, some are remote, some are, and the think is how would we incentivize companies to basically anchor there, an anchor tenant to basically make it their mission to anchor that community and then attract this hollow scaling crowd of small companies that all want to be part of that campus.

Jim: Cool. Well, I think that’s a good idea too. Anyway, this has been a very interesting conversation. Glad we had it, and I look forward to have some other conversations with you in the future.

Robert: It’s always a pleasure, Jim, and I’ve been one of your first followers. I think I started from episode three.

Jim: How did you miss those first two? Those were classics, dude.

Robert: That’s how I met you though, is I was one of the first people sharing and you just started following my comments after that, but I’m just proud to be a part of your show because I really think it’s one of the most important science shows out there. You don’t always measure the importance of something socially by its pure rank in terms of popularity, some of the most popular shows basically don’t present original content.

Jim: I must say. I do have a pretty substantial audience, but nothing like the mega audiences, and yet I get objective analysis, even hired a consultant to look at it. For me, my show is in many ways better than some of the more famous ones, but.

Robert: One of the most influential in terms of actually breaking sophisticated ideas.

Jim: Fortunately, my listenership is big enough that the stuff that shows up tends to diffuse out to where it needs to be, but does show you that, well, anyway, I’m not going to go down that rabbit hole. Anyway, I want to thank Robert Conan Ryan, and as always, there’ll be links to the things we talked about on the episode page at