A list of podcasts I listened to. 358
2018 5
Date Name # Episode
Very Bad Wizards 131 I Have No Genitals and I Must Scream

According to the paper mentioned in that episode, children that lie tend to be more intelligent than others. Should we encourage our children to lie more? Of course not. Lying is just one of many metrics you can use as a correlate for intelligence. There are many other things that you should encourage before lying.

About the Black Mirror episodes: I was expecting a discussion about the feasibility of artificial consciousness, philosophical zombies, etc., but I guess Dave and Tamler's discussion was a good start. They mentioned the fact that it's impossible to duplicate a person with all her/his memories using just her/his DNA (it's so obvious I don't know what the writers were thinking...). Sam Harris' idea that morality matters only when we're talking about conscious creatures/entities was, I think, briefly mentioned. The part of the discussion about punishment and what it means to punish a (conscious) digital copy of a person was interesting. I think that, at this point, they should have mentioned free will, though. If it doesn't make any sense to punish a copy of someone, does it make sense to punish the "original"? Of course, here, it's all about the psychological "benefits" of revenge, not about its effects on the "guilty" persons and on society as a whole. I already mentioned that artificially conscious agents created with the goal of maximizing suffering is one of my worst nightmares. Think about a conscious entity suffering at the maximum level at all time, continually, for billion of years, in a virtual environment where this entity cannot do anything but suffer (including choosing to die / committing suicide). Now think about a billion of those entities. What's the limit? "USS Callister" and "Black Museum" came pretty close to this idea of "artificial torture". It's important to have those very abstract / difficult concepts presented in a TV show. I think they might introduce them to more people and that the vital discussion about consciousness, morality, artificial intelligence/consciousness, etc. will grow.

Very Bad Wizards 130 Dehumanization and Disintegration (with Paul Bloom)

About personal identity: I was glad/intrigued to hear Paul Bloom talk about some people that have different intuitions, in particular about what matters or what should matter (if I understood correctly). Should we fear death by a teleporter, knowing that we're usually okay with sleeping and that we lose consciousness every night? Knowing that we're not really the same persons as we were 20-30 years ago? Yes, there's a physical continuity in the case of sleep, but without being a dualist, if I understand correctly (again), particles/atoms don't have what we could call an identity, so there's nothing special about the fact that our brains are made of a certain set of particles/atoms. Is there anything intrinsically bad about death knowing that we're all going to die someday? Also, should we be that interested in mind uploading if we're making copies of ourselves and not "transfering" any dualist soul? In summary, I still can't wrap my head around the fact that: 1) the soul doesn't exist 2) we seem to be our brains 3) the actual matter in our brains change over time (really?). I think our intuitions are wrong here, including Dave and Tamler's. I really need to read Derek Parfit.

About Mr. Robot: I guess I'm starting to agree that there should be only four seasons. I really hope that Sam Esmail has a real ending in mind and that the show won't end in a disappointing way like Lost.

About dehumanization: one the one hand, being more humane doesn't magically leads to more good; violence often comes from lack of control. On the other hand, as someone wrote on Facebook: "We have glaring examples all around us that indicate that understanding the humanity of another individual is a laborious and skillful process; we shouldn't assume that everybody has completed this process for everybody on the planet. [...] We are born being able to see individuals as agentic beings and therefore consider strategies about how to interact with them to our advantage (whether through violent or pro-social behaviors), but seeing their humanity (and the "humanity" of animals) is a process which relies on a seed (of varying viability for different people) of empathy and cultivation of that seed (both by the individual and the society)."

Waking Up with Sam Harris 111 The Science of Meditation
Quite a technical episode. What I retain from it is that meditation is probably not useful for physical problems and barely useful for mental problems such as regular depression, for example. Also, using meditation specifically for its side effects on well-being, relaxation, etc. might be counterproductive, as it can lead to unrealistic expectations. I guess we should focus on its usefulness as a tool to better understand ourselves.
Waking Up with Sam Harris 110 The Change Artist - A Conversation with A.J. Jacobs
I like the idea of changing habits, trying out new things, in a kind of extreme way, and seeing what works and what doesn't. Timothy Ferriss does that, too, but I like him less and less with time. Jacobs is a vegetarian, so I definitely feel closer to him (i.e. there is an ethical / empathic sensitivity to his approach that I don't find in Ferriss'). I might be interested in his book Drop Dead Healthy, but it seems that Jacobs feels that there aren't many pieces of health advice to give and they're always the same (exercise, eat well, mostly vegetables, sleep enough, regulate your stress, etc.), so reading another book on health might not be very useful to me at this point. Hearing Jacobs talk about germophobia made me think about the fact that I wash my hands very often. I'm not sure it's a bad thing, though. The bit about radical honesty was fun. I guess a simple rule might be that we should say something if it is true, useful, and, in the case of a fact or judgement about a person, if it is something we would say in the presence of that person. About genealogy: I haven't been very interested in that subject so far. I have been more intrigued by the idea of analyzing my DNA to get some insights about my health. But the idea of a huge family tree with billions of persons sounds intriguing. If I remember correctly, Sam used his "happy cow farm" ethical argument once again in this episode. I wish someone would explain to him why it's not a good argument (because we're so far from a "happy cow" situation that it's a misleading argument, because it's not practical/scalable, because a cow, happy or not, is still using energy and emitting greenhouse gases, etc.).
Waking Up with Sam Harris 109 Biology and Culture - A Conversation with Bret Weinstein
A lot of interesting ideas in this episode. Daniel Miessler has a summary on his blog. This is old news for many people, but don't talk about races; talk about populations. It's a difficult concept, but one that makes sense from a biological point of view. Some differences between populations do exist and can be explained in evolutionary terms (e.g. Ethiopians and Kenyans marathon runners). Differences between sexes exist as well, but we shouldn't assume that they are biological differences. They most probably are cultural differences, as "we are the most nurture-based creatures in history." The concept of metaphorical truth is important. As Daniel put it: "Metaphorical truth is a belief that is factually wrong but you come out ahead if you believe in it." Religion: it used to be useful, but "we're now at a point where it (often) hurts more than it helps". I'm disappointed by Sam going back to eating meat. He sounds like he didn't take this seriously and didn't discuss his problems with a doctor. He doesn't mention any blood analysis or rigorous testing. He even admits that he might be victim of a placebo effect. Yep: disappointing. "If you stop eating farm animals they go extinct." Weinstein says this like this is a bad thing, but it's not, unless I'm missing something. It sounds like an excuse from someone who doesn't want to change. I like Daniel's conclusion: "Evolution's purpose for us is bad. It's basically to survive and reproduce at the expense of everyone else." All in all, Bret Weinstein sounds like a very smart and articulate person. I will keep an eye on him.
2017 114
Date Name # Episode
Very Bad Wizards 107 Winking Under Oppression (with Manuel Vargas)
This was a hard one. First of all, because I didn't think the discussion/interview was particularly well structured; it was really hard to follow. Then, when it comes to free will, I'm a determinist more than a compatibilist, although I think I understand the compatibilist position pretty well. I also understand that the determinist position is not very useful in practice, when we're talking about justice. So one of the main questions in this episode was: does oppression reduce the number of degrees of freedom of an agent/person? Does it reduce his/her culpability? If so, in what way? Maybe I was too tired, but I didn't think the discussion was very illuminating.
Very Bad Wizards 129 Dystopias
Not much to say about this one. Most of the movies about dystopias mentioned during this episode and that I haven't seen are apparently "average" movies (according to my strict standards about IMDb ratings), the exceptions being Children of Men and The Trial (but, having read Kafka's book, I'm not sure I want to watch Welles' movie). I really need to watch A Clockwork Orange again, though.
Very Bad Wizards 106 American Grandstand
I learned a new word: grandstand ("to behave dramatically or showily to impress an audience or observers; to pander to a crowd."). In French, we could say "jouer pour la galerie" or "faire l'intéressant". "Moral grandstanding" would be translated to "grandiloquence morale". This is something I have to resist doing, especially when it comes to vegetarianism/veganism (am I doing this again, right here?). I'm always torn between just doing the right thing, giving money to associations ("fighting" for me), and shutting up, on the one hand, and preaching (and, thus, annoying people), on the other hand. There's a hard balance to find between the two. Moral signaling is probably something deeply ingrained in us. We want to belong to groups that think like us. I guess the lesson is that we have to try and to be as humble as possible.
Waking Up with Sam Harris 107 Is Life Actually Worth Living? - A Conversation with David Benatar
Antinatalism is something I had already heard about, but this is the first time I hear somebody defending the position. I'm sympathetic to the idea that having children is something that people do way too easily, without even thinking about it. There are way too many people on this planet. We're polluting it, exhausting its resources, etc. Also, at any moment, there are more than 100 million orphans in the world. So my reasoning has more to do with the negative impact of a child on the world, including existing people and, in particular, the parents themselves. Benatar's position is based on several asymmetries. A good explanation (I think) of one of those asymmetries was given on Reddit. A good refutation is also given (by the same person). So this is one of the problems I see with this assumption that there's a fundamental asymmetry: it's only an asymmetry because you intuitively think it is one (?). Or at least because you're asking a biased question. Sam was, I think, right to ask Benatar if his personal experience was tainting his reasoning/intuition. Benatar refused to answer. I also didn't understand why Benatar can be an anti-natalist but not a pro-mortalist. Not going from non-existing to existing is good, but going from existing to non-existing is inherently bad? Benatar used the movie analogy to explain his position. If you're at a movie theatre, watching a bad movie, you will probably resist the urge to get up and exit, because, maybe, you think, the movie is going to get better at some point. Now, if at the end of the movie, you realize that the movie was really bad, then you probably think that you shouldn't have started watching the movie in the first place. It's another asymmetry, according to him. But how does Benatar come to the conclusion that we're watching a bad movie? That our lives are barely worth living or not worth living at all? It's not clear. He also didn't answer clearly when Sam presented its instant/painless death thought experiment. This was frustrating. I also agree with another person on Reddit: the Mars analogy was not helpful. We don't think much about the absence of lives on Mars, but we actually don't think much equally about the absence of lives, happiness, or suffering on Mars. I don't think there's an asymmetry here or at least not a strong or useful asymmetry. All in all, I'm not convinced by Benatar. I agree that it's not obvious that we should have children. I agree that it's not obvious that life has meaning. But I don't agree with his reasoning. Of course, there's still the very likely possibility that I don't understand what he's actually saying. One thing is certain: this is a somewhat depressing topic, but a very imporant one. Also, I realize that it's very hard to reason clearly about non-existing consciousness / non-existing conscious beings.
Peach & Black Podcast - Mr. Hayes Interview
Morris Hayes has been in Prince's band or entourage for more than 20 years, until 2012, but he's definitely not Prince's most well-known and/or visible musician. He played on many studio sessions for songs I love, though (mainly in the 90s). He's also very humble and knows that he's no Herbie Hancock (to paraphrase him). I find those interviews interesting (musicians, engineers, etc.), but I wish somebody would write books with all those anecdotes, all those facts.
Alex & Erik's Podcast 40 Patriotism
I agree with pretty much everything that's been said during the episode. You don't choose where you were born. If you live in a good country, with a good education system, a good economy, etc., then, great, be happy you were not born in North Korea. But being proud of something you didn't do is just weird. If you live in a great country, then you probably have nothing to do with it. And there are other countries on the planet. Some of them are good as well. Some are even better than your country, possibly. Now, patriotism certainly had some utility from a historic point of view, when nations were born, to gather communities/tribes together, but it's like religion: yes, it might have had some utility, at some point, but it's currently suboptimal (in the better case). I don't agree that there can be "cute" patriotism or religion. There's always a downside to those simplistic views.
Very Bad Wizards 128 Fragmented Values and Sex Panics (with Christina Hoff Sommers)
I kind of struggled with what Louis CK did (I wrote an article about it). This episode helped me clarify my position. I agree that we're not in a "sex panic" yet, but I see how we could get there, so we have to be careful. Not all men are bad. Not all women can be trusted. The part about Thomas Nagel' paper was interesting, but harder for me to follow. Again, I think the point of view of a computer scientist can help. I disagree with Tamler (and David?) about the fact that our intuitions and our wisdom cannot be modeled by algorithms. Not by simple, naive algorithms, no, but by more complex algorithms, such as neural networks. Modern machine learning / deep learning algorithms are still crude, but they can already learn and model complex and fuzzy data sets. The problem is that they then become "black boxes": we don't know how they learned what they learned. So, yes, it's easier for humans to come up with simple, discrete, "fragmented" values, but it doesn't mean, in my opinion, that a more complex, harder-to-understand unified system is not possible, in principle. If utilitarianism is about simple utility functions, then, yes, utilitarianism is wrong. If utilitarianism can use complex utility functions that don't necessarily make sense to humans, then I think it can still be true. That's my intuition, at least. Again, Nagel sounds like someone I should read. He doesn't seem put off by hard, (currently) unsolvable problems.
Waking Up with Sam Harris 106 Humanity 2.0 - A Conversation with Jennifer A. Doudna
Again, I think Kurzweil was onto something. It took 15 years for the Human Genome Project to be completed. And then, during more than 10 years, almost nothing happened (I'm oversimplifying, here). But now, CRISPR-Cas9 is there and it looks like it could change everything, very quickly. So, this is the usual slow-phase-followed-by-rapid-change Kurzweil has always been talking about. Doudna is not convinced that we will be able to change things such as intelligence in the short term (because it depends on dozens or hundreds of genes and changing them could lead to unexpected downsides), but there are a lot of clear applications that could appear in a few years already. Again, Kurzweil warned that experts are often less worried about advances in their field (it was the case with artificial intelligence and it appears to be the case here as well). So, as usual, technology advances and the public debate is lagging behind. Most people have absolutely no idea what's happening. This is frightening, in a sense.
Alex & Erik's Podcast 39 Scott Adam's interview by Sam Harris
Scott Adams "is playing a game". I agree with that. What's frustrating is that it's hard to understand which game, whereas before he simply was provocative, purposefully. You could even say he was thought-provoking, which is positive. To quote myself: "In the end, I still don't know why Scott Adams defends Trump as much as he does. Is he trying to make people (on the left, especially) see things from a different perspective? Is he trying to sell as many ads on his blog as possible? Is he trying to make his next book as successful as possible? I don't know. It doesn't really make sense." In that respect, I find Alex's view a bit too charitable.
Peach & Black Podcast - Duane Tudahl Interview
I've started reading Prince and the Purple Rain Era Studio Sessions: 1983 and 1984 last week. Tudahl sounds like a very nice and knowledgeable person. He's the kind of geek I kind relate to (attentive to details, etc.). I'm glad to hear that he'd like to work on further volumes (1985-86, 1987-88, and 1981-82, mainly).
Very Bad Wizards 105 Wizards With (Reactive) Attitudes
Not a very good episode. Tamler is constantly reminding the listener that he used to be a free will incompatibilist/skeptic, but that he's now an "enlightened" compatibilist. Yes, I know, this is supposed to be funny (maybe), but it's also annoying, because of another problem: when talking about Sam Harris' position, they're actually attacking a straw man, unless I'm really missing something. They're doing exactly what Dennett has been doing in the past, pretending that "[Harris, Coyne, etc.] want us to completely abandon punishment". Quoting Harris and proving that it's a straw man: "I agree that punishment might be practically necessary in certain cases (as it might be the only way to get people to behave)". So Tamler, and maybe David as well, are annoyingly condescending, here. And factually incorrect. Also, I'm tired of the "Nahmias" position on people's intuitions about free will. It really doesn't make any sense. Some people on Facebook are apparently also a bit frustrated. Another problem with this episode (or with me?): I still don't know what Strawson's position about reactive attitudes is. Finally, the fight at the end was weird. Yeah, definitely not a good episode...
Very Bad Wizards 102 Red, Black, and Blue
I enjoyed the part about the Black Mirror episode San Junipero, which was an episode I really liked. It's partly dark, partly happy, but not in a clear way. You don't really know what to think of it. It's about healthcare, death, love, the meaning of life, virtual reality, mind uploading, and probably many other things as well. The way virtual reality is portrayed is plausible. Simulating whole universes where real people can meet and interact is already a thing. Doing it in a more realistic way, with more complex brain-machine interfaces that could lead to "simulated" pain, pleasure, etc. is, I bet, something that will happen. Now, mind uploading is another problem. David and Tamler are not convinced that it's possible. The argument is the same as the "teleporter as a suicide machine". I still don't know what to think. Another intriguing question, raised by the Black Mirror episode, is the following: can life be meaningful if it doesn't really end? Can an artificial life or artificial "heaven" where you cannot die be meaningful? My current answer would be: yes, but probably not with our current psychology. Still, I think you can have your cake (immortality) and eat it (meaning).
Very Bad Wizards 101 Having Desert and Eating It Too
The parallel between free will and art/sports didn't really work for me, but it's interesting. I usually don't care whether artists or athletes deserve blame/praise or awards/medals. I don't have any interest in sport, but I listen to music, watch movies, visit museums, etc., because I enjoy good music, good movies, good paintings, etc. I associate artists with what they produce only in the sense that it helps me discover more good music, good movies, etc., but I don't feel the need to blame artists if they produce bad art. I just ignore them. Now, bad moral behavior is something entirely different: it can be dangerous to society. So we use blame as a signal: don't do that; we don't want you to do that. So, am I a compatibilist? I don't know. Maybe. I still think determinism is a very important concept when talking about ethics and not when talking about art, because if we blame somebody, we have to do it pragmatically, but we have to do it very carefuly, recognizing that if she did what she did, at a given point in time, she couldn't have done otherwise in the "absolute" sense, only in the "local" / "degrees of freedom" sense. A good quote from Facebook: "the key difference, which you somewhat hovered around is that in the aesthetic case we are using accolades and calling for recognition, not making statements regarding character attributions, on top of encouragement which is common to both."
Waking Up with Sam Harris 105 Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Matt Dillahunty - A Live Recording from the Orpheum Theatre in Vancouver
I'm less familiar with Matt Dillahunty and, judging by the audience questions at the end, most people are way more familiar with Sam and Richard. If I have the opportunity, I might want to go to one of those "live events" one day, but hearing an audio recording of this event is a weird experience. It sometimes sounds like a rock concert or a stand-up comedy show, to the point of being a bit cringeworthy at times. I wouldn't want a non-agnostic/atheist/humanist person to hear this.
Very Bad Wizards 127 Moral Luck
For once, I didn't disagree with David and Tamler about free will. Yes, we have to accept both the reality of determinism (microscopic/physical view) and the reality that our brains don't see people as things and don't see people's actions as just physical events (macroscopic/societal view). Our brains evolved to understand the world as a place with agents having intentions, not as a place composed of a large number of particles interacting in a very complex and chaotic way. Are we completely constrained by our brains? Maybe. Maybe not. Apparently, some people can use meditation to really see that there's no limit between the self and the rest of the world, and that thoughts just happen (i.e. that there's no thinking self having those thoughts). Anyway, Thomas Nagel really sounds like a very clever philosopher. I should read one of his books or papers someday. I like how he doesn't feel the need to resolve the tension he describes in his paper.
Waking Up with Sam Harris 104 The Lessons of Death - A Conversation with Frank Ostaseski
Not a fun topic, but something I think about a lot, especially lately. I guess we need more people like Ostaseski, who help people who are very ill and going to die soon. But we're all going to die soon, if we really think about it. So I agree that it should change how we choose to live. And most people prefer not to think about it. Because, yes, it's not fun. The only thing in this conversation that I found a bit cringeworthy is Ostaseski's idea that "we don't know" what happens after we die. Well, yes, technically, we don't know. Just like we don't know if God exists, if Russell's teapot exists, etc. But we can have a pretty good idea. So far, science tells us that there's nothing, because we are our bodies, we are our brains, and our bodies and brains decompose after we die. It's not complicated, actually. It's the usual agnosticism vs atheism debate. Come on: you're probably not really agnostic, you're an atheist; just admit it!
Very Bad Wizards 125 Can You Feel It?
The more I think about the "teleporter as a suicide machine" concept, the less I'm sure what I think about it. Isn't the fact that our intuition tells us that teleporting somebody is equivalent to killing her/him the same as having a dualistic view of the mind/body (substance dualism)? I should probably write a blog post about this (consciousness, identity, teleporting, mind uploading, death, etc.). The part of the episode about emotions was interesting to me, because I realized there's a parallel to be made between the emotion-language or color-language mapping problems and the algorithmic problem of clustering n-dimensional points/vectors (e.g. k-means clustering, etc.). How do you choose the number of clusters? How do you define the distance between two points/vectors? And, then, how do you map those clusters to human concepts? Could you use a neural network to do that? Isn't that approximately how our brains map raw emotions or sensory perceptions to linguistic concepts?
Very Bad Wizards 83 Ego Trip
Cognitive biases are a way for our brains to keep a set of more coherent beliefs, to have more "easily retrievable" beliefs. Complex sets of nuanced or even contradictory beliefs are harder to manage for our brains. This has the obvious drawback of making our beliefs harder to change. There's a parallel to be made with governments or tribes, who tend to be resistant to changes coming from the outside but also from the inside (intolerance for individuals that behave differently, against the rules, etc.), which makes them easier to govern. This is a question of trade-off, as cognitive biases also make us hold beliefs that are simply not true. I guess I should read The Totalitarian Ego. It sounds like an interesting paper.
Very Bad Wizards 126 The Absurd
The moral dilemmas at the beginning were fun. People have very different moral intuitions. As often, I tend to agree more with David. I would also pay $100 to make my next child more intelligent (by one standard deviation), but I'm ready to bet that a lot of people I know would be against it. Another proof that appeal to nature is hard to escape, I guess. The case of the anti-gay baker was definitely not a "no-brainer" for me. Absurdism is a topic I'm highly interested in. I read Le Mythe de Sisyphe by Camus in 2013. Like David (again), I tend to be regularly depressed when realizing the absurdity of life (i.e. the absence of "ultimate" meaning in life). Some people find it easy to not think too much about it. Or have commited a philosophical suicide (to use a terminology introduced by Camus) by embracing religions. Not me. I liked the interpretation that "nothing is important" can be depressing, but it can also help us overcome arguments and put our problem in perspective.
Very Bad Wizards 121 The Beauty of Illusion - David Lynch's "Mulholland Drive"
I've watched Mulholland Drive only twice, the first time in 2001 and the second time in 2011. I'm surprised how much I remember about the movie and its "correct" interpretation. The part about the diner scene was interesting, because I hadn't thought too much about it. I like Tamler and David's interpretation (i.e. Lynch, the director, talking almost directly to the audience, via different scenes, the most obvious one being the Club Silencio scene).
Waking Up with Sam Harris - Ask Me Anything #9
Sam's distinction between acts of terrorism (where the intention of the killer is to harm/kill in the name of an ideology, e.g. a religion) and acts of violence commited by mentally ill people (not motivated by an ideology) makes sense to me. I don't see the controversy there. His answers about Black Lives Matter and feminism boil down to: identity politics is generally bad. His answers about guns, free will, and Hume's Is-Ought distinction are nothing new and are consistent with his books and blog posts / F.A.Q.
Waking Up with Sam Harris 102 Is Buddhism True? - A Conversation with Robert Wright
A lot of discussion about meditation, consciousness, the illusion of the self, etc. What we can learn by meditating makes sense when seen from a materialist (not dualist) and evolutionist point of view. In that sense, Buddhism is probably the most clear-sighted of the major religions.
Waking Up with Sam Harris 101 Defending the Republic - A Conversation with Cass R. Sunstein
About the importance of serendipity: it sounds like the exploitation-exploration dilemma, again (e.g. in reinforcement learning) and is actually similar to what Christakis explained in the previous episode. We sometimes need to do "random" stuff to discover new or better things. Being irritated while reading/hearing an argument can lead to new insights. About the importance of face-to-face discussions: I agree and it's something I've slowly changed my mind about over the last ten years or so. About direct democracy: I'm surprised they didn't mention Switzerland. Or were they talking about a more extreme form of direct democracy?
Peach & Black Podcast - The Family - Album Review
One of my favorite "related artist" project. Another fun episode. The Peach & Black team is right: this is a weird project. The band only performed live once. It's actually a Prince-Eric Leeds-Clare Fisher collaboration, not a band effort. Yes and Susannah's Pajamas are prototypes of what Madhouse would do later. Another weird thing: the version of Nothing Compares 2 U on that album is the first version of that song that was ever released, 5 years before Sinéad O'Connor's version and 8 years before Prince's own live version. This is also the weakest of those three versions.
Waking Up with Sam Harris 100 Facing the Crowd - A Conversation with Nicholas Christakis
I've always thought that, as human beings, we have more in common than not. More than that, we have a lot in common with non-human animals and even plants! I don't like it when people say or imply that I cannot understand them because I haven't had the same life path as them. It doesn't make sense. About freedom of speech on US campuses: Sam is agnostic about the current trend; an article from The Economist seems to indicate that "young Americans who have attended college are in fact more accommodating of controversial speakers", but that a "vocal minority can have a chilling effect on what everyone else thinks they can say". I like how Christakis thinks it's important to listen to students, answer them in the best possible way, stay civil, etc. He's setting an excellent example. His research about how we can influence the behaviour of a group of people, using artificial agents, sounds exciting. This has so many applications in "real life", as well as online (Twitter mobbing, etc.). I personally would be interested in knowking how to convince people to become more interested in ethical concerns (veganism, etc.), for example. The way Christakis explained how we can escape local optima in optimization problems (i.e. by adding some kind of noise) was pretty good. This is nothing new, of course, and this is a concept we find in many processes (mutations in genetic algorithms, simulated annealing, etc.).
Waking Up with Sam Harris - The "After On" Interview - A Conversation with Rob Reid
An excellent interview! Many topics were covered. Like someone said on Reddit, this was like a "greatest hits". If someone needs to be introduced to Sam Harris, this is an excellent starting point. The part about Sam "dropping out" of college and then going back to school was something I had not heard in such detail before. I'm not sure I agree with Sam about phones and encryption. I understand his point of view, but he seems to underestimate the dangers of introducing any backdoor in an encryption mechanism.
Very Bad Wizards 44 Killer Robots
I'm convinced that we will be able to create perfectly moral AI agents. Conscious or not, they will be able to replicate or simulate the effects of emotions, if needed. Now I'm not sure I'm convinced that any country would really want to "play nice" during an armed conflict. Yes, I'm aware of the Geneva Conventions, but I'm not sure the concept of ethical war really makes sense... The idea of simulating a war (instead of actually, physically going to war) is intriguing, but, ultimately, could only work in a context where countries have become mature enough to realize that war is useless. Isn't that what sports are about, anyway?
Very Bad Wizards 42 Reason, Responsibility, and Roombas (With Paul Bloom)
It's interesting to think about our intuitions about teleportation, identity, and death. The movie The Prestige is illuminating in that respect. I agree that a teleporter is basically a suicide machine. It doesn't matter if the reconstructed person at the other end of the teleporter says he's me. It could be an entirely different person; my intuitions shouldn't change. I agree with that. I've always wondered what this means for mind uploading. The logical conclusion seems to be that mind uploading is impossible (it would be another kind of suicide machine, after all). But, at the same time, this all sounds too dualist to me. I don't know how to completely reconcile the suicide machine intuition with the materialist view of the mind (i.e. we don't have a soul). I don't have much to say about the reason vs biases/impulses discussion. I agree with most of what was being said. Finally, is "biochemical Roombas" (Tamler) better than "biochemical puppets" (Sam Harris) as a metaphor for the fact that we don't have libertarian free will? I get it that in the case of the Roombas, it makes it clear that the decisions are made by an "internal algorithm" and not an "external agent", but internally or not, it doesn't really matter: the laws of physics are everywhere. And that's, in my opinion, the whole point of insisting that we're never completely free (absolute/libertarian freedom).
Waking Up with Sam Harris 98 Into the Dark Land - A Conversation with Siddhartha Mukherjee
The way a doctor communicates a diagnosis to a patient is very important, especially when it comes to cancer. He has to be understanding, but not too empathic (really empathic or faking empathy, both are bad). He also has the very difficult task of explaining the statistics. Where the patient is located on a bell curve and why, etc. Other than that, I don't know what to retain from this episode. Statistically speaking, a lot of people around me will get cancer. I will maybe get cancer. This is depressing. And we still don't know how to treat it efficiently even though we know a lot more about cancer than we did only 20 years ago (thanks to genome sequencing).
Very Bad Wizards 124 Dr. Strawson or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Episodic Life
Am I episodic or diachronic, i.e. do I see my life as a series of separable events or as a consistent, continuous story? I guess I don't have a strong opinion one way or the other. Can I answer "both"?
Very Bad Wizards 123 What Chilling Effect? (Intelligence Pt. 2)
Race is a fuzzy term. It doesn't correlate exactly with biological features. Sometimes it correlates more with cultural features. Sometimes, it's not clear which "race" (or, more exactly, ethnicity) you should belong to (e.g. latin vs black). For studies about intelligence, the race that is used is the self-reported race. Which means that it will sometimes include ethnicity or other more cultural concepts. Also, the obvious biological features we use to determine the race of a person (color of the skin, shape of the mouth, nose or eyes, hair color and texture, etc.) are just a small subset of the biological features we could actually use. So, that's one problem. Then, the scientific evidence shows that there are significant differences in mean IQ between races. This is a very sensitive topic. The question is: do those differences come from genetic differences or from environmental differences? If I understand correctly, this is an open question. David thinks that this is highly unlikely those differences come from genetic differences, because it is completely unlikely that the genes that encode visible differences that are clustered into races would be the same genes that influence intelligence. I'm not sure I understand his argument correctly, but I'm not convinced. Quoting a comment on Facebook: "If you have a stable population for many generations, you should expect them to exhibit many internal similarities relative to other populations." So, in other words and if I understand correctly, is there a third (still genetic) variable to explain the correlation between race and IQ? Alessandro Vernet also wrote a post on why he found David's argument unconvincing. So the question remains, I think: is the race/IQ correlation explained by genetic or environmental differences (or both)?
Peach & Black Podcast - Carmen Electra Review
One of my least favorite Prince albums/projects of all time (I think I like it even less than Vanity 6 and Apollonia 6 - but it's still better than Kamasutra). But the review, as always, was a lot of fun. And it sometimes gave me a new perspective on the songs and the project as a whole. I don't know if it's a conscious decision or not, but I think it's a good thing they're reviewing some of the weakest Prince projects "as a batch" (i.e. in 2017). It will be even more fun to hear their reviews of the better projects (The Family, Jill Jones, the Sheila E. albums, the Madhouse albums, etc.) knowing that the bad ones are "out of the way".
Very Bad Wizards 122 Nothing but a "G" Thing (Intelligence Pt. 1)
The first part about the paper on dogs' desires and fMRI was interesting, in that it shows that research using fMRI often leads to simplistic conclusions. What does it mean to desire something? Are we "allowed" to have conflicting desires? In such cases, what does "real desire" mean? What does it mean for a dog to desire something? Is fMRI more robust than simply observing the dog's behavior? Anyway, it's a good thing that we're starting to take our pets' preferences when deciding who gets to keep them in a divorce, for example. The rest of the episode is about intelligence, the definition(s) of intelligence (e.g. "the ability to solve problems and learn"), the heritability of intelligence (which depends very roughly 50% on genes and 50% on the environment - but we don't know how precisely), IQ, how IQ is computed (normalized around 100), what IQ is correlated with (school/job performances, income, health, etc.), how IQ is determined (standardized, somewhat "well-guarded" tests), the Flynn effect, the fact that IQ depends on more "static" things (e.g. vocabulary) and more "dynamic" things (e.g. reaction times), that it's difficult to change the environment to make IQ higher, etc. There are specific differences between sexes, but not overall (i.e. only when you consider particular types of intelligences, such as verbal vs spatial).
Waking Up with Sam Harris 96 The Nature of Consciousness - A Conversation with Thomas Metzinger
A great discussion about consciousness, meditation, the self, etc. The existence bias mentioned by Metzinger is a useful concept (from an ethical point of view). I think I had never encountered it before. From Reddit: "existence bias is the tendency that conscious creatures have toward both continuing to live themselves and continuing the species in the future". From another comment (about Metzinger's thought experiment): "a god-like super-intelligence with perfect ethics and a perfect allignment of values with our own, determines that non-existence is ethically and even subjectively preferable to existence and [...] our own evolved bias towards continued conscious states is an illusion". I don't think I would completely agree with Metzinger about death and technology/AI, but another podcast would be needed for him to better explain his position. I agree with him that we should accept the reality of death more (this is the main idea in Life in Light of Death by James A. Lindsay), but I also agree with Yuval Noah Harari, who explains in Homo Deus that technology will eventually allow us to become gods. I agree that atheism (and "New Atheism" in particular) is somewhat shallow and that more is needed (a new kind of secular "spirituality" - see Waking Up by Sam Harris). The same thing can be said of some skeptics communities online. I don't know if Metzinger is correct to say that the hard problem of consciousness is maybe not that worthy of our attention. But I'm glad that people as clever as him are still studying consciousness seriously. We need a model of consciousness to have better, more universal ethical theories.
Very Bad Wizards 100 It's a Celebration
The first part, about the driverless car moral dilemmas, was funny, but it also highlights the fact that "trolley-like" thought experiments are often too simplistic and that it's hard to conclude anything useful from them. The rest of the episode was an Ask Me Anything / Q&A.
Waking Up with Sam Harris 95 What You Need to Know About Climate Change - A Conversation with Joseph Romm
The fact that hundreds of millions of people will need to move because of sea level rise is frightening. For some reasons, I hadn't really realized this until now. Also, I must admit I was not aware that the fact that humans are the cause of climate change was such a scientific "consensus". Yes, I'm really ignorant when it comes to climate change, probably because it's such a politicized topic. It was refreshing to hear that we're on the right track when it comes to clean energy, electric cars, batteries, etc.
The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe 634 Podcast #634 - September 2nd, 2017
This podcast has been recommended to me several times, so I'm giving it a chance, although I don't really have the time to listen to it regularly. This particular episode was about the 40 years of the Voyager space probes, among other things. The Voyager program has really cemented my interest in space and astronomy. The first pictures of Neptune I saw from Voyager II were absolutely gorgeous. These were really exciting times! All in all, this podcast seems interesting. I'm not sure I'll be able to listen to it regularly, but I'll try.
Very Bad Wizards 99 Mockingbirds, Destructo-Critics, and Mr. Robot
Should To Kill a Mockingbird be censored in a middle school (because of the "N-word")? I agree that it shouldn't and that it's the opportunity to talk about a lot of complex and serious issues with the children and their parents (racism, language, art, etc.). Easier said than done, I guess. The part about "methodological terrorists" was also interesting. How should we handle methodological problems in a given field? Should people be more tactful? Should they express themselves on social media or use "official" channels only? At the end of the day, science is not about being nice, it's about discovering what's true or not in our world, so drama should be avoided as much as possible. The part about season 2 of Mr. Robot was especially interesting, because I'm not reading forums, blog posts, interviews, etc. about this show. Some of the theories discussed by Tamler and David were intriguing. It was the first time I really thought about this, actually. I watched season 2 in a short period of time this summer (over a bit more than two weeks) and put myself more in a kind of "contemplative mode", rather than an analytical mode. This is maybe a defense mechanism indirectly caused by Lost, among other things. Like many people, I was really disappointed by how that show ended (let's just say that it was not a particularly clever and/or coherent ending). I don't want Mr. Robot to be another Lost, so I unconsciously avoided thinking too much about it, about how it could make sense (i.e. what's real? what's not?).
Very Bad Wizards 98 Mind the Gap
An episode about the is-ought problem. So, yes, there is a gap between facts and values, and people disagree about the size of that gap. Is it a large gap? Or a very narrow gap? I'm not totally convinced by Sam Harris' argument and I guess it would be stronger if he accepted to engage in actual philosophy and meta-ethics (instead of dismissing that branch), but I tend to agree with him. He's on the right track. The fact-value gap is not that big. At least in principle. And that's maybe part of the problem when we're talking about meta-ethics. It's often not clear if we're talking about the ability to determine values in principle or in practice. This is a distinction I've not heard from David and Tamler. But at the end of the day, I think Harris is right: the gap we're talking about is not that wide and it's very likely that it can be bridged with a few axiomatic ideas (see Harris' health/medicine analogy).
Waking Up with Sam Harris 94 The Future of Intelligence - A Conversation with Max Tegmark
I was just wondering if I should buy Life 3.0 or not. After listening to this episode, I think it might be an interesting book. Let's see if the reviews are good. The discussion about the concept of substrate independence and the wave anology was illuminating, at least for me. I'm glad Tegmark seems to think it's important to think about consciousness (and artificial consciousness). One of my worst nightmares would be humanity creating AI agents that are considered unconscious (i.e. "zombies"), but that actually are conscious and suffering since they would be slaves having to work for us. My worst nightmare is people willingly creating artificially conscious agents with the goal of maximizing their suffering (i.e. "artificial suffering"). We need to come up with a good theory of how consciousness works, even if it's a really hard problem. Another important point is the fact that we need to start thinking positively about artificial intelligence, especially in science fiction, where a lot (most?) of the stories are about dystopias (e.g. killing robots, etc.).
Waking Up with Sam Harris 93 Identity & Terror - A Conversation with Douglas Murray
I liked how Sam tried to apply the "uncanny valley" concept to another domain (discussions between people on different locations on the "moral spectrum" - or "moral landscape"). The part about why it's difficult/problematic to find values and meaning in a secular society (e.g. atheism, secularism and even humanism are not enough) was thought-provoking. We currently don't really have an alternative to religions, in particular when it comes to morality. And, according to my own, perfectly anecdotal experience, most people seem morally confused (i.e. for them, morality is some kind of fuzzy concept, everybody can have an opinion about what's good or not, etc.). I can't say I retained much from the rest of the discussion (about identity politics, etc.).
Waking Up with Sam Harris 92 The Limits of Persuasion - A Conversation with David Pizarro and Tamler Sommers
This was a pretty good episode, until Sam basically started explaining Buddhism to David and Tamler. This last part was way too long. I liked the discussion about how Very Bad Wizards affects (or not) David and Tamler's professional life (i.e. how you can be irreverent, publically, on a podcast, and still have a "serious" professional position, with students, etc.). The discussion about mockery hasn't convinced me one way or the other. I guess it depends on the context. I also liked the part about how technology can change how we assess a moral dilemma (e.g. abortion).
Waking Up with Sam Harris 91 The Biology of Good and Evil - A Conversation with Robert Sapolsky
The discussion about free will was, of course, interesting. But I'm not sure it will advance the debate between compatibilists and determinists. We're doing good things or bad things because of how things are wired in our brains. "It's tumors all the way down", as Sam would say. But I don't think compatibilists would deny that. I really would like the discussion to go further (as I explained in a blog post in French). Apart from that, this was a very enjoyable discussion. Sapolsky sounds like a clear thinker/speaker. I should probably read his book.
Waking Up with Sam Harris 90 Living With Violence - A Conversation with Gavin de Becker
de Becker's message is perhaps not that bad, but the way he presents it is sometimes off-putting. For example: "I hate statistics." Me? I like good statistics. They're useful. If you know how to interpret them. Also, the way he seems to think we should listen to our intuitions more is weird. Intuitions are heuristics. They're a way to quickly come to a conclusion. But the speed of our intuitions comes at a price: intuitions are often wrong (e.g. we're all biased). So, yes, I understand that distrusting people more will lead to less "tissue damage", but I'm not concinved that we need a society where people distrust each other more. And I also understand that it's not exactly what de Becker is saying. But he should probably insist less on the intuition/reason dichotomy. I guess my takeaway is that we should learn how to use our in-the-moment intuitions as inputs, among other inputs, to decide whether a situation is dangerous or not. But it's not a very practical piece of advice. How do we tune our intuitions?
Waking Up with Sam Harris 89 On Becoming a Better Person - A Conversation with David Brooks
David Brooks seems to defend virtue ethics and uses words such as "sin", arguing that they can be used in a non-religious sense. I didn't retain much from this discussion, as I see myself more as a consequentialist. I guess I accept the fact that virtues can have some value, but I see them more as heuristics that have survived the test of time. Like Sam, I'm pretty much convinced that you should lie as little as possible. But exceptions are always possible. The discussion about Patreon (before the actual interview) was also interesting: the community aspect of a platform such as Patreon is important.
Waking Up with Sam Harris 88 Must We Accept a Nuclear North Korea? - A Conversation with Mark Bowden
The current situation in North Korea is an ethical nightmare. If nobody does anything, million of North Koreans are already starving/suffering. If anybody does anything, we risk a nuclear war and hundreds of thousands or millions of deaths. About Trump: according to Bowden, an impeachment procedure is unlikely and not desirable; the Democrats should focus on finding a good candidate for the next elections.
Peach & Black Podcast - Purple Rain Deluxe Review Part 2
Another long (almost four hours!), fun episode, about the second disc (From The Vault & Previously Unreleased) of the Purple Rain Deluxe release. Again, there are a lot of sound glitches/problems and errors in the liner notes for this disc, but, as Captain would say, "it is what it is". Most of the songs probably come from old cassettes stored at Warner Bros., so this was to be expected. All in all, this is the first official album of previously unreleased music by Prince, so this is an important release.
Waking Up with Sam Harris 87 Triggered - A Conversation with Scott Adams
Scott Adams likes to see the world through filters, patterns, etc. Using an analogy? You've run out of argument. This sometimes leads to lazy, frustrating oversimplifications. Other than that, Scott Adams is intelligent, but he gives a way too charitable interpretation of how Trump operates. I agree with Sam that Trump, more often than not, operates in a "whatever sticks, sticks" mode. He's not using a method. Unless you think the absence of a method is in itself a method. But Scott Adams will always find a way to justify what Trump does, using his "master persuader" filter. As someone said on Reddit, Scott Adams is "setting himself up to always be right". Also, the idea that something can be "not exactly true", but "true enough" (à la Jordan Peterson) or "emotionally true" is really an annoying idea. In the end, I still don't know why Scott Adams defends Trump as much as he does. Is he trying to make people (on the left, especially) see things from a different perspective? Is he trying to sell as many ads on his blog as possible? Is he trying to make his next book as successful as possible? I don't know. It doesn't really make sense.
Very Bad Wizards 97 Dogmatic Slumber Party
I'm not sure what to think about the part on Neal deGrasse Tyson's Rationalia. I had never heard/read anything about it before. So, the problem is that governments, politics, and, particularly, politicians suck. What can we do about it? Neal deGrasse Tyson's answer is to "inject" more science, more reason into governments. Yes, this is a bit naive: "The debate then ends quickly in the face of evidence, and we move on to other questions." My conclusion is that the idea, the intention is better than the (proposed) implementation. It's still better to have more reason, more evidence-based thinking, than not. But it won't be enough, as the second part shows: "David and Tamler discuss a recent paper by Dan Kahan and colleagues showing how prone people are to make errors in processing information to favor positions they are predisposed to believe. And even more shocking: the higher your numeracy skills, the more prone you are to fall prey to this bias." That's depressing. We're all biased. So, how do we know what's true and what's not? There's no silver bullet. Intelligent people are wrong. All the time. So we have to keep having civil discussions, with respect, humility, no sense of superiority, etc. And, yes, humor can be seen as a sign of humility (but not always, I would say).
Waking Up with Sam Harris 86 From Cells to Cities - A Conversation with Geoffrey West
I absolutely love this idea that there are "simple" rules that we find at different scales of reality. The world is complex, but this is somewhat reassuring to know that some basic, underlying principles are simple. That's why I've always loved fractals, I guess. Now, does West's theory work or is he oversimplifying how biology and cities actually work (mandatory xkcd reference)? There seems to be some problems with the charts in his book, among other things. Anyway, it's encouraging to hear that some principles can be found at various scales and work at least to some degree. I don't really expect longevity to be stricly linked with the size of an organism, but if there is a relationship between the two on average, then this is already intriguing.
Very Bad Wizards 96 Memory and Meaning in "Memento" (with Paul Bloom)
I saw Memento only once, in 2014. I thought it was excellent, but, ironically, I don't remember much about the movie itself... I should watch it again, obviously. What's the relationship between memory and personal identity? Even though we forget things, can we intuitively know/learn them? We constantly "rewrite" our past, consciously or not (e.g. self-deception), because we cannot remember everything. How can we know what's real or not? Can other people also manipulate us like we manipulate ourselves? Those are some of the many questions this movie raises.
Waking Up with Sam Harris - Ask Me Anything #8
An episode "for supporters only". Not sure I like the idea. Sam answers my question about how he reads books at 56:00. The answer is not really illuminating. He doesn't really take many notes or organize them in a "rational" way. Basically, he reads on Kindle a lot and relies on his memory (whatever sticks, sticks). I like some of the advice he gave in other parts of the episode: don't be afraid to ask for help, ditch perfectionism (which is the same as fear, for him) and just do things, don't hesitate to change your mind about decisions you made earlier (almost nothing's for life), don't be afraid to not finish books you don't like, don't think too much about the meaning of life (be mindful instead), be as honest as possible (see Lying), etc. Sam doesn't listen much to music (not enough time, cannot work to music). He prefers non-fiction books (I do, too). He doesn't adhere to a strict daily schedule (but he's self-employed, so that's easier to work that way, I guess). He seems to like Aubrey de Grey, so he should really invite him.
Waking Up with Sam Harris 85 Is this the End of Europe? - A Conversation with Douglas Murray
Is Europe commiting suicide by accepting too many immigrants? Should we defend our values more? What are "our values"? To quote a comment on Reddit: "The death of Europe being presented is not about the number of immigrants or the rate of such crimes, it's about the failure of our societies to react appropriately and instead to either acquiesce to, or even simply endorse, abandonment of our core values and moral principles in the name of tolerance and pluralism, no matter the cost." Sensitive topic, of course. The "western values" are not necessarily the "Judeo-Christian values" I often hear about (a weak and divisive concept, to say the least). We're talking about free speech (including the right to criticize religions), women's rights, LGBT rights, etc. It seems clear to me that we have a moral duty to accept as many people that need to flee their country as possible (refugees). It also seems clear to me that immigration has practical impacts, including negative ones. I don't know what the limit should be, but there needs to be one. No practical solutions were discussed in this episode, which is a bit frustrating.
Peach & Black Podcast - Purple Rain Deluxe Review Part 1
This is a review of discs 1 and 3, i.e. the remastered album, as well as the B-sides and edits. Nothing really exciting on these discs. The second part will be about the unreleased tracks (the most interesting part of the set). The remaster is not impressive. It's overcompressed (see loudness war on Wikipedia), like all Prince albums since The Gold Experience (1995). There are sound glitches (end of "Let's Go Crazy", start of "Erotic City", etc.). Captain is right to say that it is unforgivable. Overall, a light and fun episode, as always.
Peach & Black Podcast - John Blackwell - A Tribute
John Blackwell is probably my second favorite Prince drummer, after Michael Bland. He died on July 4, 2017. I was not even aware that he played so much with Prince (from 2000 to 2004 and from 2010 to 2013). I saw him live only once, in Zürich in 2002. I really like his studio work with Prince (The Rainbow Children, Xpectation, N.E.W.S., and some of the tracks on Musicology). The Montreux 2009 concerts are also a highlight. I don't have much to say about the episode itself. The anecdotes were fun. The rest of the episode was serious, as expected.
Very Bad Wizards 95 The Repugnance of Repugnance
Disgust can be literal (the emotion) or metaphorical (e.g. used in a value judgement). In the second case, we don't really feel disgusted. It's easy to see how disgust has been selected by evolution to protect us against potentially dangerous foods or substances. What's interesting is that there's also a link between disgust, morality, and politics (e.g. liberals are less easily disgusted than conservatives on average). David did a TED talk about this. Interestingly, the presence or absence of a feeling of disgust can even change a person's opinion about morality or politics. Emotions change how we think, even if we don't realize it.
Very Bad Wizards 94 Buttery Friendships
Another episode I didn't retain much from (I don't know why). I've just started reading A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy, so I was under the impression that David and Tamler's description of Stoicism might be a bit incomplete (or even wrong?). Are there really people that can totally suppress their sadness when they lose somebody they love? I'm not sure that's what Stoics were aiming for... Anyway, unsurprisingly, Tamler and I seem to disagree about the importance of emotions (I would describe them as heuristics, in the computer science meaning of the term, leading to quick, but often wrong, "conclusions"), about Peter Singer, etc.
Waking Up with Sam Harris 84 Landscapes of Mind - A Conversation with Kevin Kelly
I somehow feel that Sam is not too comfortable discussing Kurzweil's ideas. I know that Kurzweil can sound like a religious prophet to some, but I thought that Sam was a bit more nuanced than that. About the dangers of AI (the alignment problem, etc.): I don't agree with Kelly about the fact that "we have time to figure everything out". He keeps repeating that things won't happen overnight, but even if that's the case, it doesn't necessarily mean that we have plenty of time to think about those problems. Also, we'll know that people such as Sam Harris and Elon Musk, who think that we have to be very careful about AI, will have succeeded when, indeed, nothing too bad will have happened. But it's precisely because some people say we have to be very careful that things will go well. It won't mean they're wrong. I'm also disappointed by Kelly's reaction about automation and job losses: he seems to agree with the mainstream idea that we'll always find other tasks to do (I can't see how, unless we merge with machines) and that we can train almost everybody to do something else when a profession (e.g. truck driver) disappears. This is overly optimistic and dangerously wrong. His idea that we should experiment with universal basic income before implementing it at a large scale is also not very useful. Yes, maybe so, but, theoretically, what's the alternative? So, yes, a very disappointing episode. Also, I'd really like to hear Sam discuss the idea of artificial consciousness more. It's a very important topic.
Very Bad Wizards 93 Avalanches, Blame, and Cowardice (With Yoel Inbar)
I slowly realized that I had seen the movie they're talking about (Turist, aka Force Majeure) more than two years ago. I gave it a rather high score (4 out of 5). So, yes, this is a very good movie. At the time, I probably didn't think of all the themes discussed in this episode (the moral dilemma in the most important scene of the movie, the question of cowardice, instinctive vs conscious character, what can be or cannot be forgiven, what it means to forgive, etc.). Good movies are movies than can be watched several times and trigger rich discussions. I definitely need to watch it again.
Very Bad Wizards 92 Jonathan Edwards' Basement
I must have been tired, because most of this episode went over my head. Some emotions (e.g. a white person having a negative reaction when seing a black person) are not necessarily representative of who we are, so, yes, emotions can be dumb (and often are). They tell us more about our (stupid) biases than about what we really believe to be true or good. I liked the first bit about what it means to be offended. How much of a given population needs to be offended for the offense to be "serious enough". One person? 10% 50% More? Do you really need to be offended to say that something is offensive?
Waking Up with Sam Harris 83 The Politics of Emergency - A Conversation with Fareed Zakaria
A quote from Ali A. Rizvi: "The left is wrong about Islam. The right is wrong about Muslims." Is "telling the truth" the best way to help Muslims reforming their religion? This is a hard question. Sam's goal has never been to help "Muslims on the ground" so different approaches can coexist, e.g. Sam's and Maajid Nawaz'.
Waking Up with Sam Harris 82 The End of the World According to ISIS - A Conversation with Graeme Wood
I didn't know of Al-Masih ad-Dajjal ("the anti-christ") and the role of Jesus in Islam. That part was really entertaining. The fact that well-eduated people can become members of ISIS, because they're attracted/motivated by their ideas, not because they're poor, stupid or crazy, is frightening. But it's a reality. Wood reminds us that there aren't that many members of ISIS, though ("only" about 40,000, according to him) and that ISIS is slowly but surely becoming weaker, so it's still a worrying organization, but things will eventually get better. It was also interesting to hear that members of ISIS crave attention and will "gladly" give interviews to journalists (or even welcome a German journalist to ISIS-controlled territories and let him leave safely).
Peach & Black Podcast - Goldnigga Review
The first New Power Generation album. According to my notes, I received it on March 21, 1996, after ordering it by fax (!) from the New Power Generation Store in Chanhassen/Minneapolis. Good memories! This is not a bad album. Way better than Apollonia 6. So, as usual, the review was fun.
Very Bad Wizards 91 Rage Against the Machines
"Should we use algorithms to influence decisions about criminal sentencing or parole decisions?" Yes, we should, as long as the algorithms work. And I agree with David that algorithms can be as good or better than humans at almost any task (and will be better at any task in the near future). The problem is the data you use to feed your machine learning / deep learning algorithms. If your data is "biased", then your algorithm will be biased, so you have to be very careful, especially when the life of people depends on it.
Very Bad Wizards 90 Of Mice and Morals
As a vegetarian, I'm slightly "shocked" by the mouse/money experiment mentioned in this episode. At the same time, I'm not shocked at all that we associate different values/prices to different persons, animals, species, etc. This is expected when you introduce a market (i.e. capitalism). What's more interesting is that the value/price you associate with something (e.g. the life of a mouse) goes down when you deal with somebody and goes even lower when you deal with several persons (i.e. when you introduce more and more complex markets). This is not completely surprising. After all, not buying an iPhone won't change the fact that sweatshops exist, because, if you don't buy an iPhone, millions will buy one anyway. In other words, in a market, your moral responsability is somehow attenuated. About the swapping-baby thought experiment: I tend to agree with Tamler here; I'm not sure that it leads to particularly interesting conclusions / useful actions. At the same time, I'm convinced that we should tend as much as possible to a Singerian morality. I'm more and more annoyed with this tendency to favor local people, local enterprises, etc. just because it's fashionable. It makes sense in a lot of cases, but not always.
Waking Up with Sam Harris 81 Leaving Islam - A Conversation with Sarah Haider
Life is not easy for ex-Muslims. We need more people like Haider. And like Maajid Nawaz, even if he's attacking the problem from a completely different angle. I've always been on the fence about this, but banning the burqa/niqab would probably lead to more isolation for the women having to wear it. I'm still not convinced that openly allowing the burqa/niqab in the public space is a good idea, though. This is a complex issue.
Waking Up with Sam Harris 80 The Unraveling - A Conversation with David Frum
I didn't retain much from that episode, apart from the fact that, according to Frum, an impeachment is not very likely to succeed or to have any effect at this point. He thinks that Trump will finish his term.
Unsupervised Learning with Daniel Miessler 81 Unsupervised Learning: No. 81
Show notes / newsletter. "Scientists have almost perfectly re-created images of human faces just by reading the minds of monkeys who saw them." This is indeed very impressive. And a good sign, since we're currently worrying that artificial neural networks are just black boxes that "magically work" without us knowing how.
Waking Up with Sam Harris 79 The Road to Tyranny - A Conversation with Timothy Snyder
It's useful to remember how people such as Hitler, Stalin, etc. came to power, how the press reacted at the time, how the populations progressively accepted to lose their freedoms without even realizing it, etc. It's a bit frightening. It can sound a bit too hyperbolic at times. But to quote a comment on Reddit: "comparing Trump in 2020 with Hitler in 1945 is ridiculous at this point, but comparing Trump in 2017 with Hitler in 1933, when Hitler wasn't yet a monster but merely an authoritarian, can teach us useful lessons on how to perserve democracy".
Waking Up with Sam Harris 78 Persuasion and Control - A Conversation with Zeynep Tufekci
This sounded more like a monologue than a real discussion, but Tufekci sounds knowledgeable, although the part about internet connectivity, iOS vs Android, Microsoft vs Apple, etc. was a bit cringeworthy (from a software engineer standpoint). The potential for mass manipulation by companies such as Facebook, Google, etc., using their data and deep learning, is a bit frightening.
Waking Up with Sam Harris 77 The Moral Complexity of Genetics - A Conversation with Siddhartha Mukherjee
I don't know what to make of the Boghossian/Lindsay hoax. Sam's discussion with Mukherjee was interesting/dense and, in particular, the part about intelligence. I'm not sure I agree with Mukherjee's position on this (that intelligence is a kind of cultural construct, that it cannot really be defined, etc.). Genetic engineering is exciting and at the same time frightening (just like artificial intelligence).
Unsupervised Learning with Daniel Miessler 79 Unsupervised Learning: No. 79
Show notes / newsletter. This is a good thing that the creators of WannaCry didn't receive too much money ("only" 100'000 USD). This might discourage an explosion of future attacks. About remote working: companies shouldn't ban remote working, but I understand why they also don't want to have people always working from home.
Waking Up with Sam Harris 76 The Path to Impeachment - Conversations with Anne Applebaum and Juliette Kayyem
Donald Trump's idiocy/incompetence never ceases to amaze. I'm not American, but I'd love to see him go before 2021.
Very Bad Wizards 89 Shame on You (with Jennifer Jacquet)
I agree with Tamler and David: some people are not clear enough when writing a paper, article, or book And it's not because some fields are really complex and difficult to understand (physics) that you should deliberately use obscure words or concepts to make your field or topic sound more "important" or "serious". I had never really thought about the difference between guilt (more private) and shame (more public), as well as their relationship. Also, it's interesting to think about how shame can be constructively used in public policies, etc. Being anonymous on the internet leads to less shame. That's a problem.
Waking Up with Sam Harris 75 Ask Me Anything 7
A shorter episode. The most intriguing topic for me is something I've already been thinking about regularly: the welfare of wild animals. Ethically, should we intervene in nature to help animals? My answer would be "why not?", but as Sam explained, it's not a simple problem (e.g. preventing some animals from being killed might cause the death of other animals, etc.).
Unsupervised Learning with Daniel Miessler 78 Unsupervised Learning: No. 78
Show notes / newsletter. The WannaCry ransomware worm is yet another reminder that you should backup your data. And be serious about security. I like the "swap TV time for reading time" idea, but, for me, it's not enough.
Waking Up with Sam Harris 74 What Should We Eat? - A Conversation with Gary Taubes
I found this episode to be confusing, not very clear and illuminating (I'm not alone, apparently), so I didn't take a lot of notes. Sugar is bad. Fats are not that bad. Science is hard. Nutrition science is also hard. We don't know much. More research is needed. But sugar is bad.
Waking Up with Sam Harris 73 Forbidden Knowledge - A Conversation with Charles Murray
A very controversial topic. Again, I'm happy that other people are discussing (toxic) topics such as this one. IQ tests predict something else than just the ability to do IQ tests (i.e. IQ is correlated with many other things). IQ tests don't seem to be biased toward a given culture. Race can be a valid biological concept, but a fuzzy one. You can see race as a kind of extended family. From a genetic point of view, we should probably use the word "population" instead of the (very) charged word "race". According to Murray, the difference between the mean IQ of whites and blacks is significant, but there's a huge overlap between the two bell curves, so you should never discriminate based on that knowledge (that there's a difference in the mean value). So the question remains: why discuss this topic at all? If you say something true, but very controversial/taboo and not very useful, shouldn't you expect the backlash you're getting? I don't think I understood Murray's answer (about positive discrimination, etc.). I had to read several comments on Reddit to get an idea of what his position might be. Nevertheless, Murray's motivations don't seem bad. And I agree with Sam that the negative reactions he has received since 1994 are unjustified. In particular, what happened at Middlebury College is completely unacceptable. Finally, Murray's positive position on basic income is interesting, as he's a conservative and it contradicts the idea that people on the left are more in favor of basic income than people on the right.
Very Bad Wizards 88 A Doobie for Elijah
The small excerpt from a Prince interview at the beginning was nice. Tamler and David explain later in the episode that they're Prince fans (although not hardcore fans, I suspect). What can or should be discussed in philosophy: I tend to disagree with Tamler, here. Everything should be up for discussion. Even (especially!) things that are obvious (to "normal human beings"). Now, that doesn't mean that the book and review they're talking about in that episode are good. Tamler recommends "A History of Western Philosophy" by Bertrand Russel. I bought this book a few years ago. It's on my "to-read" list. I guess I really should read it, but I don't really know how (it's pretty long!). Tamler is not bothered by his finitude. It's not the first time he says that. I guess it explains why we have different positions on some topics (free will, maybe vengeance, etc.). The question of how we should (or can) appreciate the work of Roman Polanski, Woody Allen, or Bill Cosby is discussed again. An important (psychological) difference is whether you see the person in his work or not (e.g. it's impossible to watch "The Cosby Show" without actually seeing Bill Cosby). Is justice in part a substitute for vengeance?
Waking Up with Sam Harris 71 What is Technology Doing to Us? - A Conversation with Tristan Harris
Attention economy is a fascinating topic! It's linked with many other topics: free will, cognitive biases, epistemology, skepticism, fake news, advertisement, psychological manipulation, etc. And, also, in a more indirect way: effective altruism, the meaning of life, etc. "What should I do next?" or "How can I best spend my time?" are the most important questions we should ask ourselves. For me, the answer is never "spend 3 hours on Facebook", "play a game on my smartphone for the next 2 hours" or "watch live television". My time is precious and I'm getting more and more serious about how I want to spend it. The fact that people want to make us waste our time is revolting. Facebook and others are guilty of this, of course, but pre-Internet things such as television have been time wasters for a long time. In a completely different domain, I've also refused to serve in the Swiss army (a completely useless organization), for example. Some tools/systems I use to fight time wasters: GTD/to-do lists and reviews, diary/lifelogging, Feedly, lists on Twitter, Demetricator plugin for Facebook, not buying things without thinking about it for some time (e.g. 30 days), etc. An important thing is to become aware of our limitations (what Tristan Harris calls "human architecture"), which include cognitive biases, among other things, and how people can exploit those limitations. I've only been aware of this since reading Petit traité de manipulation à l'usage des honnêtes gens" ten years ago.
Peach & Black Podcast - Apollonia 6 Review
This is a "forgettable" album, but it's always illuminating to hear the Peach & Black Podcast review an album, even a bad album, track by track. As usual, it gave me a slightly different/new perspective.
Peach & Black Podcast - Deliverance EP Review
The announcement/"accidental" release of the "Deliverance" EP in April 2017, including five previously unreleased songs from 2006, was a very good surprise. So it's a real pleasure to hear the Peach & Black Podcast reviewing a new/recent release once again (the last time was "Hitnrun Phase Two" in January 2016).
Waking Up with Sam Harris 70 Beauty and Terror - A Conversation with Lawrence Krauss
Some ideas that stood out for me: 1) The "debate format is a very poor format. It's a rethorical format."; the goal is to convince the audience, not your opponents. 2) Scientists are humans, biased as all other humans, but science is an error-correcting process, so those biases are not really important. The part about quantum mechanics was a nice refresher, but, having already read quite a lot about the topic, I realize that I still don't undertand anything... The last part, about the danger of Christian vs Islamic fundamentalisms, was also interesting in the sense that Harris and Krauss seem to largely agree and, at the same time, arrive at different conclusions.
Very Bad Wizards 86 Guns, Shame, and the Meaning of Punishment
I had never really thought about the fact that the way a criminal punishment is presented (to criminals, to society), the "story" behind it, its meaning, matters. Community service, for example, is problematic. Do we want to convey the idea, to criminals, to society, that serving our communities is a punishment (i.e. a bad thing)? Of course not, so we have to be careful in how we present this kind of alternative punishments (in that case, in insisting that this is a symbolic way to restitute something to society). About shame: I'm not convinced that it has to be part of punishments.
Waking Up with Sam Harris 72 Privacy and Security - A Conversation with Gen. Michael V. Hayden
A very short episode (unusual for Harris). I guess I learnt the difference between the different intelligence agencies (NSA and CIA, mainly). I also realized that I don't really know what to think about Snowden. By default, I'm going to align my opinion on Daniel Miessler's ("In short, it’s complicated, and be cautious of thinking you have all the information.").
Very Bad Wizards 75 A Golden Shower of Guests
A few discussions were related to how to do good science and good research. I had already mentioned a book I read 10 years ago, "Petit traité de manipulation à l'usage des honnêtes gens", which is mostly about priming studies (if I recall correctly) and I already was under the impression that most of those studies probably only indicate a weak effect. So, yes, priming studies are probably a bit "overrated". And often conducted using too few research participants, as many psychological studies. Speaking of "overrated", this probably applies to a lot of neuroscience studies as well, as was discussed with Laurie Santos. The discussion with Sam Harris was good, as usual. The two discussed topics are "old news" to me (artificial intelligence and vegetarianism). I mostly agree with Sam. As did Tamler and David, apparently.
Waking Up with Sam Harris 69 The Russia Connection - A Conversation with Anne Applebaum
An episode about politics. And again about Trump. I agree with some of the comments on Reddit: when it comes to politics, Sam seems to be a little out of his depth. There was nothing really bad about this episode, but nothing really good either. Yes, people such as Harris and Applebaum need to learn how to have better discussions with people who disagree with them. Maybe we need more psychological research in that direction. Some (simplistic) points I retain from this episode: Trumps likes Putin/Russia; in particular, Trump likes how Putin became a politician and used his political power to get even richer; Trump doesn't care about the United States' historical friends/allies; this can have a destabilizing effect on the rest of the world; the constant lies from Trump is something new for the US, but it's a tactic that has already been used many times in other parts of the world.
Very Bad Wizards 73 Lies, Damned Lies, and Ashley Madison
Part of this episode is about the "Estimating the reproducibility of psychological science" study from 2015, which attempted "to replicate 100 original studies that had been published in one of three top-tier psychology journals in 2008". "Depending on the criterion used, only 36 to 47% of the original studies were successfully replicated". Good science is hard. Good studies are hard. This is explained at length in Ben Goldacre's two excellent books "Bad Science" and "Bad Pharma". I guess this is a good thing that psychology is trying to get better as a scientific field. Ever since I read "Petit traité de manipulation à l'usage des honnêtes gens", I've been under the impression that psychological studies are usually conducted in universities with 20-30 students as research participants. This is a cliché, of course, but I'm not particularly surprised by the results of the 2015 study. We need more serious studies and we also need meta-analyses to reach serious conclusions. Maybe we also need more educated researchers, as bad research is probably more often the result of incompetence than fraud (cf Hanlon's razor). Other questions that have been discussed: is it moral to lie to children about Santa Claus? is it moral to lie to people in order to conduct a psychological study (which is done on a regular basis)? Personally, I think they have to be understood from a consequentialist standpoint.
Waking Up with Sam Harris 68 Reality and the Imagination - A Conversation with Yuval Noah Harari

The introduction about how Sam's "fans" should or should not behave online (e.g. how they should be respectful of all the guests on Sam's podcast, even if their views don't make sense) was a bit weird. But I guess he's right. Discussions should always stay civil and constructive, online or not. The part about how Sam doesn't like ads and how only 1% of his listeners are giving money via Patreon, etc. was more interesting. I hate ads. Listening to the Tim Ferriss Show is painful to me in part because of ads. Currently, I'm giving money to five persons on Patreon. Sam is one of them. I really like this system. I actually wish I could support more people in that way (musicians, bloggers, etc.).

Harari tends to use words a bit loosely, so, for him, religions and ideologies have the same role from a historical perspective. Sam retorts that religions rely on supernatural claims, whereas ideologies usually rely on natural claims. They then discuss an example I've been thinking about for years: the technological singularity. Many people see this concept as a "techno-religion" (eternal life, mind uploading, etc.), so I've always been careful not to be too enthusiastic about it. At the same time, it's difficult not to believe that it will happen at some point. I agree that loss of meaning will be one of the hardest challenges to come (e.g. when people won't have to work, at least not as much as they currently have to). The disconnect between what we're "supposed" to do according to evolution and what we'll actually do will get larger with time. Things will probably get weirder. I'm also a bit concerned about virtual reality: I've met several people throughout my life who play video games a lot. Let's just say that I'm far from convinced that this is the best use of your time if you want to become someone interesting...

Very Bad Wizards 73 Authentic Apes and Infinite Torture
Can animals consent to anything at all? In particular, is there any way to justify zoophilia? My personal answer would be: no, probably not. I agree that corrida is torture. It's difficult to understand why it still exists in 2017. I also agree that we should be honest with children, as much as possible, even (especially!) when it comes to religious beliefs, and that children are probably more comfortable with ambiguity than we might imagine.
Very Bad Wizards 72 Tweenie Turing Tests, AI, and Ex Machina (with Joshua Weisberg)
The more I think about the Chinese room thought experiment, the more I think it's useful in showing how not to think about artificial intelligence. Our neurons, individually, do not "understand" our thoughts. Does IBM Watson "understand" the hypotheses it formulates when providing health recommendations? Where's the threshold? What makes us understand things? Ex Machina is more interesting in that it shows what an artificial intelligence can do when it is not (completely) aligned with human moral values. Or aligned with "psychopathic" values. This is the AI control problem. Ask an AI to maximize the number of paperclips in its collection and it could become a dangerous paperclip maximizer. Ask an AI to maximize its score in a video game and it might exploit weird flaws in the video game. Let an AI develop the desire to escape from a room and it might exploit the sexual attraction of a man towards her to manipulate him, kill people, and finally escape. Ok, that last one was a bit more complex, but it's also more intriguing. And entertaining.
Waking Up with Sam Harris 67 Meaning and Chaos - A Conversation with Jordan Peterson
It's impressive that two persons who really disagreed about something (during more than one hour!) can find the time and patience to make a second attempt at a constructive/civil discussion. This is a good example for everybody. A lot of thought-provoking questions are discussed. Can we transcend our genetic/evolutionary predispositions? As was discussed in episode 61 of Very Bad Wizards: if a person or a group of persons suffers from a pathology, can she/they still be said to have a meaningful experience? What's the relationship between truth and fiction? Sam's brilliant deep/spiritual/philosophical interpretation of a fish recipe was absolutely funny and at the same time weakened Peterson's position. Yes, there are "truths" to be found in fiction, including religious fictions, but those patterns are to be expected, as our brains all share the same structure, more or less. I still don't understand why Peterson insists that Christianity has a special value/role here. There are "truths" (or illuminating patterns, to be more precise) in almost all works of fiction, good ones (e.g. Dostoyevsky), but also bad ones. This is just a question of interpretation, as was demonstrated by Harris' fish recipe example.
Very Bad Wizards 61 Putting a Little Meaning in Your Life
If we feel that our life is meaningful, is it a sufficient condition to say that our life is meaningful? Or are there more objective criteria to determine whether it is meaningful or not? I'm not sure there's any takeaway from this episode. My personal view is that life is "ultimately" meaningless. We will all die. Everybody we know will die. As I wrote in my comments for "Life in Light of Death": "Even if we manage to live longer and/or to upload our minds to machines, Earth will be destroyed by the Sun at some point in the future. And even if we manage to move to another planetary system and/or galaxy, the universe will most probably die as well." Can life be "locally meaningful" (e.g. as a social construct)? Yes, I think so. If so, is there any objective criterion for "local meaningfulness"? Such as what others think of what we do (our friends, our family, society in general, etc.)? Is it compatible with the fact that most of us are actually insignificant and will be completely forgotten in a few generations? As Tamler said, "For every van Gogh, there's a million people who just suck.". The conclusion is that I don't really know how to embrace the fact that I'm both "locally meaningful" and "ultimately insignificant".
Very Bad Wizards 41 Moral Dilemmas at the Movies
The question of how we should approach the work of movie directors, for example, who did questionable things in their life (like Roman Polanski or Woody Allen) is important. I don't have a definitive answer. What I know for sure is that I like a lot of Polanski's movies (I've seen most of them). The fact that false memories can be "easily" implanted in people's memories is intriguing (in the case of Allen, not Polanski). Conclusion: we will probably never know what happened. I don't have much to say about Tamler's and David's top 5, as I've only seen two movies from their list (Minority Report and The Dark Knight). I agree they're good choices.
Very Bad Wizards 40 How Many Moralities Are There? Pt. 2 (with Jesse Graham)
I don't have much to say about the part about free will: as I've said many times before, I agree with Sam Harris, Jerry Coyne, etc. more than I agree with Daniel Dennett. The discussion with Jesse Graham sheds some clarity on the "foundations of morality". Graham's work is supposed to be descriptive more than normative, but the frontier between the two is a bit fuzzy and it's hard to be purely descriptive. It's maybe useful to think about those "foundations" as moral intuitions. As far as I am concerned, moral questions should be solved using reason as often as possible, and intuition only when time is very limited.
Very Bad Wizards 39 How Many Moralities Are There? (Pt. 1)
I'm still not sure what I think about the "six foundations" of morality (care, fairness/proportionality, liberty, loyalty/ingroup, authority/respect, and sanctity/purity). Most of them still looks "nonaxiomatic" to me. I'm certainly more on the liberal side of the spectrum than the conservative side. Maybe even more than Sommers and Pizarro, as I probably don't agree with them about the loyalty/ingroup foundation. It makes sense for family/friends (for psychological reasons), but I fail to see why I should care more about a random citizen in my country than about a random person anywhere on the planet. And, yes, I understand the evolutionary explanation behind in-group loyalty and how it might have made sense from a survival standpoint a long time ago.
Very Bad Wizards 37 Porn, Poop, and Personal Identity (with Nina Strohminger)
The discussion about the link between disgust and humor, and between disgust and sexuality was somewhat illuminating (mainly because I hadn't really thought about it before). The part about personal identity (e.g. what's more important for personal identity, memories or moral values?) was thought-provoking but too short.
Waking Up with Sam Harris 66 Living with Robots - A Conversation with Kate Darling
"We are only homo sapiens more or less by accident and we're not going to be them for long." This was a refreshing discussion. Ethics and artificial intelligence are two of my favorite topics. Some very sensitive subtopics were discussed (sex robots, sex toys, paedophilia, beastiality, etc.). The role of empathy and how it can be triggered even with non-humanlike/realistic robots is fascinating.
Waking Up with Sam Harris 65 We're All Cucks Now - A Conversation with David Frum
Another episode about Trump. Actually, this one is relatively "original" in the sense that Harris is interviewing a ("moderate") Republican. We need more discussions like this (i.e. across political parties).
Waking Up with Sam Harris 64 Ask Me Anything #6
I'm a bit tired of hearing about Trump or Islam, but some answers were about more original topics (for Harris). I especially liked the parts about the ethics of life extension and his frustrating discussion with Jordan B. Peterson (I like how Harris insists on having a discussion with people, an exchange of ideas, not simply asking questions and superficially reacting to the answers).
Waking Up with Sam Harris 63 Why Meditate? - A Conversation with Joseph Goldstein
This is a bit ironic as this is an episode about mindfulness, but I had to listen to this episode twice. I really had a hard time focusing on the discussion. I guess it's intriguing to think that there's more to meditation than what I've experienced from it so far (using Headspace, mainly) - the loss of the sense of self, etc.
The Prince Podcast - Eric Leeds Interview Part 2
Surprising to learn that Eric "suffered through" the Lovesexy tour (because the show was very repetitive, because it started after months of boring rehearsals, etc.), when, from a fan perspective, it's just a fantastic tour. The fact that Eric came from a jazz/R&B background and was not particularly interested in the pop/rock dimension of Prince's music, in particular, but is very grateful of all the opportunities Prince gave him, is refreshing. I like the way Alan and Eric have never been afraid to say positive, as well as negative things about Prince. The parts about the dinner with Miles Davis at Prince's home and Prince listening to Coltrane's "A Love Supreme" on repeat were fun. Also, the background story of the Madhouse albums and Eric's own first two albums, even if largely known, was also nice to hear. It's a shame they didn't talk about "N.E.W.S.", though.
The Prince Podcast - Eric Leeds Interview Part 1
I've always liked what Eric added to Prince's music, especially in 1985-1988. I've never been impressed by what I've heard from him outside of Prince's work, though, so it's kind of weird to hear him talk about all his musical idols (Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Eric Dolphy, Wayne Shorter, James Brown, etc.). He sounds like he really knows his stuff. The only frustrating thing is that Michael & Co. don't seem to ask particularly clever questions. Lots of "wow" and "fan reactions", when Eric is in fact talking about well-known facts. This was also a frustrating thing about the Susan Rogers interview. A bit more research before the interview would have helped. Fortunately, Eric talks a lot. Many fun anecdotes make this interview (which sometimes sounds like a monologue) very enjoyable.
Very Bad Wizards 35 Douchebags and Desert
This episode somehow failed to held my interest. I don't know why exactly. I'd say that, yes, we do have biases when it comes to attribute blame and those biases should be systematically avoided as much as possible.
Waking Up with Sam Harris 62 What is True? - A Conversation with Jordan B. Peterson
What a weird episode/discussion about epistemology, morality, and (briefly) gender-neutral pronouns. After two hours, I still don't understand Peterson's position. I don't know if that's his fault or Harris'. At this point and after reading some of the comments on Reddit ("What is True? A conversation with Jordan B Peterson" and "Sam Harris vs. Jordan Peterson on Defining Truth"), I have the feeling that Peterson is trying to redefine "truth" and I'm not sure that's particularly helpful. I still don't know why he's doing it.
Alex & Erik's Podcast 38 Democracy, a new era of demagoguery, or just a fluke?
Is the rise of populism (and the election of people such as Trump) caused by more democratic, less elitist societies? What role does technology have when it comes to democracy? Those are intriguing questions. I agree that the "fake news" phenomenon is similar to spam and can probably be fixed, technologically, in a similar way. The "echo chamber" phenomenon is a bit harder to fix, as people are on social networks such as Facebook for fun, not to be challenged. But I have the intuition that it can also be fixed (via psychology, deep learning, etc.). Another factor is the rise of inequalities. Here, I don't completely agree with Daniel Miessler: you have to "fix" the people, but you also have to fix (by fine-tuning or radically changing?) the system.
Peach & Black Podcast - Vanity 6 Review
"Vanity 6" is far from being my favorite "protégé" album. Two of the songs are good to very good and the rest is average or simply mediocre. But it was still fun to hear the Peach and Black team discuss this album, with a lot of humor, as usual.
Waking Up with Sam Harris 61 The Power of Belief - A Conversation with Lawrence Wright
Surprising to learn that many women in Saudi Arabia are very conservative. Instructive exchange about conspiracy theories and fake news: we need more skepticism, as cognitive biases can be dangerous. We have an ethical obligation to help refugees, but at the same time we can't help everybody: this is a hard problem. The situation in the Middle East is the worst Wright has seen in all his life. The discussion about scientology was instructive as well. What a dangerous, powerful, and hence worrying sect!
Waking Up with Sam Harris 60 An Evening with Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris (2)
I really like hearing Dawkins speak about evolution and biology. This episode made me want to read more of his books.
The Prince Podcast - Susan Rogers Interview
Susan Rogers is a fantastic source of information about Prince. A few missed "opportunities" during the interview (a copy of the original version of "Wally" was made on a cassette tape before the multitrack was completely erased? come on, let's talk about that!) and average (or even bad) questions made listening to this episode a bit frustrating, though.
Waking Up with Sam Harris 59 Friend & Foe - A Conversation with Maajid Nawaz
Another episode that went over my head. I'm a bit tired of this topic (Islam, etc.) at this point. I understand this is a very important one, though.
Very Bad Wizards 30 The Greatest Books Ever Written
Several of the books were already on my to-read list ("The Extended Phenotype", "Gödel, Escher, Bach", and "Guns, Germs, and Steel"). I guess I should really read "Passions Within Reason" (but it's not available on Kindle...) and "Jacques le fataliste et son maître". The only book I had already read is "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!".
Waking Up with Sam Harris 58 The Putin Question - A Conversation with Garry Kasparov
"You know." Kasparov sounds like somebody who is knowledgeable, but I can't say I'm really that interested in politics. Most of that episode went way over my head. The part about chess and artificial intelligence (AI) could have been interesting, but Kasparov doesn't sound particularly knowledgeable in that area (artificial intelligence, not chess, obviously). His book on the topic might be interesting, though.
Peach & Black Podcast - 2016 - Epilogue
It was nice to hear the Peach & Black team again, even if it was not an episode about a particular album or topic. 2016 has been a tough year for Prince fans...
2016 122
Date Name # Episode
The Dr Funk Podcast 31 Episode 31
Very Bad Wizards 26 Evolution and Sexual Perversion (with Jesse Bering)
Waking Up with Sam Harris 57 An Evening with Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris (1)
Waking Up with Sam Harris 56 Abusing Dolores - A Conversation with Paul Bloom
Waking Up with Sam Harris 55 Islamism vs Secularism - A Conversation with Shadi Hamid
The Dr Funk Podcast 30 Adrian Crutchfield Part 2
The Dr Funk Podcast 29 Adrian Crutchfield Part 1
Waking Up with Sam Harris 54 Trumping the World - A Conversation with James Kirchick
The Dr Funk Podcast 28 Dave H & Scott P Part 2
Very Bad Wizards 24 The Perils of Empathy (with Paul Bloom)
BBC Music Jazz - Alyn Shipton in conversation with Keith Jarrett
Waking Up with Sam Harris 53 The Dawn of Artificial Intelligence - A Conversation with Stuart Russell
Peach & Black Podcast - Tony M: The Interview
Waking Up with Sam Harris 52 Finding Our Way in the Cosmos - A Conversation with David Deutsch
Very Bad Wizards 22 An Enquiry Concerning Slurs and Offensiveness
The Dr Funk Podcast 27 Dave H Scott B Part 1
The Dr Funk Podcast 25 Morris Hayes
Waking Up with Sam Harris 51 The Most Powerful Clown
Very Bad Wizards 19 The Burning Bridges Episode (Pt. 2)
Very Bad Wizards 15 The Burning Bridges Episode (Pt. 1)
Peach & Black Podcast - Ida Nielsen Interview
Waking Up with Sam Harris 50 The Borders of Tolerance - A Conversation with Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Peach & Black Podcast - Come - The Album Review
Waking Up with Sam Harris 49 The Lesser Evil - A Conversation with Andrew Sullivan
Very Bad Wizards 13 Beanballs, Blood Feuds, and Collective Moral Responsibility (With Fiery Cushman)
Waking Up with Sam Harris 48 What Is Moral Progress? - A Conversation with Peter Singer
The Dr Funk Podcast 26 Scott Baldwin Part 3
The Joe Rogan Experience 804 Sam Harris
The Tim Ferriss Show 50 Dr. Peter Attia on Ultra-Endurance, Drinking Jet Fuel, Human Foie Gras, and More
Alex & Erik's Podcast 37 Democracy and elections
The Dr Funk Podcast 24 Scott Baldwin Part 2
The Dr Funk Podcast 23 Scott Baldwin Part 1
Waking Up with Sam Harris 47 The Frontiers of Political Correctness - A Conversation with Gad Saad
Peach & Black Podcast - Black - The Album Review
The Dr Funk Podcast 22 Dave Hampton (part 2)
Waking Up with Sam Harris 46 The End of Faith Sessions 3
The Tim Ferriss Show 68 Lazy: A Manifesto
The Tim Ferriss Show 65 Supplements, Blood Tests, and Near-Death Experiences (Dr. Peter Attia)
The Tim Ferriss Show 56 How to Think Like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos
The Tim Ferriss Show 44 How to Avoid Decision Fatigue
The Tim Ferriss Show 23 The Truth About "Homeopathic" Medicine
The Dr Funk Podcast 21 Dave Hampton
The Tim Ferriss Show 14 Sam Harris, PhD on Spirituality, Neuroscience, Meditation, and More
The Tim Ferriss Show 9 The Not-To-Do List: 9 Habits to Stop Now
Waking Up with Sam Harris 45 Ask Me Anything #5
Alex & Erik's Podcast 36 Follow-up on vegetarianism
Very Bad Wizards 12 Justice for #!$@ ?
Peach & Black Podcast - The Gold Experience Review
Peach & Black Podcast - Ask Peach & Black
Peach & Black Podcast - Controversy - 30th Anniversary Review
The Tim Ferriss Show 120 Will MacAskill on Effective Altruism, Y Combinator, and Artificial Intelligence
Waking Up with Sam Harris 44 Being Good and Doing Good - A Conversation with William MacAskill
Waking Up with Sam Harris 43 What Do Jihadists Really Want?
Alex & Erik's Podcast 35 Public vs private image
Waking Up with Sam Harris 42 Racism and Violence in America - A Conversation with Glenn C. Loury
Waking Up with Sam Harris 41 Faith in Reason - A Conversation with Eric R. Weinstein
Peach & Black Podcast - Parade Review - 25th Anniversary Edition!
Very Bad Wizards 57 Free Willie
Very Bad Wizards 9 Social Psychology, Situationism, and Moral Character
Waking Up with Sam Harris 40 Complexity & Stupidity - A Conversation with David Krakauer
Waking Up with Sam Harris 39 Free Will Revisited - A Conversation with Daniel Dennett
Peach & Black Podcast - 20Ten Review
Peach & Black Podcast - The Slaughterhouse Review
Very Bad Wizards 5 Revenge, Pt. 2: The Revenge
Very Bad Wizards 4 Revenge, Pt. 1
Very Bad Wizards 3 "We believe in nothing!" (Cultural diversity, relativism, and moral truth)
Alex & Erik's Podcast 34 Clarifying the thesis
Waking Up with Sam Harris 38 The End of Faith Sessions 2
Alex & Erik's Podcast 33 Long or short
Very Bad Wizards 52 Thought Experiments (Huh!) What Are They Good For? (Pt. 2)
Waking Up with Sam Harris - Morality and the Christian God - An Invitation to Animators and Filmmakers
Very Bad Wizards 51 Zombies, Trolleys, and Galileo's Balls (Pt. 1)
Very Bad Wizards 38 The Greatest Movies Ever Made about Personal Identity
Very Bad Wizards 27 You, Your Self, and Your Brain (with Eddy Nahmias)
Peach & Black Podcast - Prince: A Tribute
Waking Up with Sam Harris 37 Thinking in Public - A Conversation with Neil deGrasse Tyson
Very Bad Wizards 10 Religion, Meaning, and Morality
Alex & Erik's Podcast 32 Universal Basic Income
Very Bad Wizards 2 The Dangerous Truth about Free Will (Free Will Pt. 2)
Very Bad Wizards 1 Brains, Robots, and Free Will (Free Will Pt. 1)
Alex & Erik's Podcast 31 IoT
Very Bad Wizards 65 Stalemates and Closets (with Sam Harris)
Waking Up with Sam Harris 36 What Makes Us Safer? - A Conversation with Juliette Kayyem
Very Bad Wizards 7 Psychopaths and Utilitarians Pt. 2
Very Bad Wizards 6 Trolleys, Utilitarians, and Psychopaths
Waking Up with Sam Harris 35 The End of Faith Sessions 1
The Tim Ferriss Show 106 Scott Adams: The Man Behind Dilbert
Waking Up with Sam Harris 34 The Light of the Mind - A Conversation with David Chalmers
Peach & Black Podcast - The Chocolate Invasion Review
Compared To What Podcast 26 The Vince Wilburn Conversation
Peach & Black Podcast - Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Batman Review!
Alex & Erik's Podcast 30 Thoughts on LambdaConf
Waking Up with Sam Harris 31 Evolving Minds - A Conversation with Jonathan Haidt
Peach & Black Podcast - Prince: Piano & A Microphone - The Autralia Shows review
Waking Up with Sam Harris 33 Ask Me Anything #4
Waking Up with Sam Harris 23 Islam and the Future of Tolerance: A Dialogue
Waking Up with Sam Harris 30 Inside the Crucible: Syria and the Islamic State - A Conversation with Michael Weiss
Waking Up with Sam Harris 29 Throw Open the Gates - A Conversation with Maryam Namazie
Alex & Erik's Podcast 29 Internet addiction
Waking Up with Sam Harris 26 The Logic of Violence - A Conversation with Jocko Willink
Waking Up with Sam Harris 25 Behind the Gun - A Conversation with Scott Reitz
Peach & Black Podcast - 3121 Review
Alex & Erik's Podcast 28 Apple vs. FBI
Waking Up with Sam Harris 28 Meat Without Misery - A Conversation with Uma Valeti
Alex & Erik's Podcast 27 What education should be about
Waking Up with Sam Harris 27 Ask Me Anything #3
Alex & Erik's Podcast 26 The future of computing
Peach & Black Podcast - Lotusflow3r Review
Peach & Black Podcast - MPLSound Review
Peach & Black Podcast - Musicology Review
Peach & Black Podcast - The Time - The First Two Albums Review
Alex & Erik's Podcast 25 We don't know anything
Peach & Black Podcast - 2 New Prince Albums - P&B Discussion
Peach & Black Podcast - Larry Graham: The Interview
Alex & Erik's Podcast 24 Uninteresting
Peach & Black Podcast - Hit n Run: Phase 2 Review
Peach & Black Podcast - Rob Esse (MC) Presents... Harts
Peach & Black Podcast - London 2014 Review
Alex & Erik's Podcast 23 The retractable wheel (on autonomous cars)
Peach & Black Podcast - Clare Fischer Tribute
Peach & Black Podcast - May 2014 News Episode
Waking Up with Sam Harris 24 Ask Me Anything #2
2015 117
Date Name # Episode
Peach & Black Podcast - Talking For The Fun(k) Of It
Waking Up with Sam Harris 21 On the Maintenance of Civilization - A Conversation with Douglas Murray
Waking Up with Sam Harris 22 Surviving the Cosmos - A Conversation with David Deutsch
Alex & Erik's Podcast 22 On rent control and minimum wage
Alex & Erik's Podcast 21 On education
Peach & Black Podcast - The Xmas Show & 'One Song' Episode 1
Peach & Black Podcast - The Greatest Prince TV Performances
Peach & Black Podcast - Prince & 'Peach' & Black' In NYC
Peach & Black Podcast - The Top 20 Greatest Prince Songs....Ever!
Peach & Black Podcast - 20TEN - First Impressions!
Peach & Black Podcast - Sydney Opera House Challenge!
Peach & Black Podcast - MJF Review
Peach & Black Podcast - Michael Jackson (and Prince) Show
Alex & Erik's Podcast 20 The future of work
Peach & Black Podcast - Lotusflow3r - First Impressions Podcast!
Peach & Black Podcast - Lotusflow3r Anticipation Podcast
Alex & Erik's Podcast 19 Follow-ups
Waking Up with Sam Harris 20 Still Sleepwalking Toward Armageddon
Waking Up with Sam Harris 19 The Riddle of the Gun (Revisited)
Waking Up with Sam Harris 18 The Multiverse & You (& You & You & You…) - A Conversation with Max Tegmark
Waking Up with Sam Harris 17 What I Really Think About Profiling
Alex & Erik's Podcast 18 The colonization of the universe
Alex & Erik's Podcast 17 Slowly being replaced
Waking Up with Sam Harris 16 The Dark Side - A Conversation with Paul Bloom
Vacarme - Faut-il craindre les ondes électromagnétiques? (5/5)
Vacarme - Faut-il craindre les ondes électromagnétiques? (4/5)
Vacarme - Faut-il craindre les ondes électromagnétiques? (3/5)
Vacarme - Faut-il craindre les ondes électromagnétiques? (2/5)
Vacarme - Faut-il craindre les ondes électromagnétiques? (1/5)
Alex & Erik's Podcast 16 The Facebook spouse (on the future of humanity)
Waking Up with Sam Harris 15 Questions Along the Path - Further Reflections on the Practice of Meditation with Joseph Goldstein
Alex & Erik's Podcast 15 We're done for (on the Turing test)
Alex & Erik's Podcast 14 Follow-up on vegetarianism
Alex & Erik's Podcast 13 Too busy with your hands (follow-up on ad blocking)
Alex & Erik's Podcast 7 Advertising and iPhone 6S follow-ups
Alex & Erik's Podcast 6 Ad blocking on iOS
Waking Up with Sam Harris 14 The Virtues of Cold Blood - A Conversation with Paul Bloom
Waking Up with Sam Harris 13 The Moral Gaze - A Conversation with Joshua Oppenheimer
Alex & Erik's Podcast 5 Schools
Alex & Erik's Podcast 4 Privacy
Alex & Erik's Podcast 3 September 9 Apple Event
Peach & Black Podcast - Hit n Run Review
Alex & Erik's Podcast 12 Evaluating Sam Harris
Alex & Erik's Podcast 11 The limits of conversation
Alex & Erik's Podcast 2 Rumors ahead of September 9 Apple Event
Alex & Erik's Podcast 10 Alex's 30-day experiment
Alex & Erik's Podcast 9 One of those moments that will never happen again, hopefully
Alex & Erik's Podcast 1 The ethics of advertising
Alex & Erik's Podcast 8 Harm in the category of cows
Waking Up with Sam Harris 12 Leaving the Church - A Conversation with Megan Phelps-Roper
Waking Up with Sam Harris 11 Shouldering the Burden of History - A Crosscast with Dan Carlin
The Tim Ferriss Show 87 Sam Harris on Daily Routines, The Trolley Scenario, and 5 Books Everyone Should Read
Peach & Black Podcast - Welcome 2 Australia Tour Report
Peach & Black Podcast - Welcome 2 Australia Preview Show
Peach & Black Podcast - October News Episode
Peach & Black Podcast - News Episode - September
Peach & Black Podcast - June News Episode
Peach & Black Podcast - Cause & Effect?
Peach & Black Podcast - Hot Summer! (it's gonna be a...)
Peach & Black Podcast - One Nite Alone Era (02/03)
Peach & Black Podcast - The 20 greatest Prince songs of the 90's
Peach & Black Podcast - Montreux 2013 Review (with Niki)
Peach & Black Podcast - July 2015 News & (Re)views
Peach & Black Podcast - The B Sides - Part 2
Peach & Black Podcast - The B Sides - Part 1
Peach & Black Podcast - The Vault... Old Friends 4 Sale - Reviewed
Peach & Black Podcast - Symbolic Beginnings
Peach & Black Podcast - Sign 'O' The Times review - Part Two
Peach & Black Podcast - Sign 'O' The Times 25th Anniversary Episode!
Peach & Black Podcast - Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic Review
Peach & Black Podcast - The Rainbow Children Review - Part 1
Peach & Black Podcast - The Rainbow Children Review - Part 2
Peach & Black Podcast - Superconductor Review
Peach & Black Podcast - North Sea Jazz Review
Peach & Black Podcast - Newpower Soul Review
Peach & Black Podcast - Lovesexy - 25th Anniversary Review
Daniel Miessler - Absolute vs. Practical Free Will
Peach & Black Podcast - Indigo Nights - Remixed And Remastered
Peach & Black Podcast - For You - The Album Review
Peach & Black Podcast - Emancipation Review - Disc 3
Peach & Black Podcast - Emancipation Review - Disc 2
Peach & Black Podcast - Emancipation - 15th Anniversary Review
Peach & Black Podcast - Diamonds & Pearls - The Album Review
Peach & Black Podcast - Chaos & Disorder Review
Peach & Black Podcast - Around The World In A Day Review
Waking Up with Sam Harris 10 Faith vs. Fact - An Interview with Jerry Coyne
Waking Up with Sam Harris 9 Final Thoughts on Chomsky
Peach & Black Podcast - Love Symbol - The Album Review
Peach & Black Podcast - Prince - The Album Review
Peach & Black Podcast - Graffiti Bridge - The Album Review
Waking Up with Sam Harris 8 Ask Me Anything #1
Waking Up with Sam Harris 7 Through the Eyes of a Cult
Waking Up with Sam Harris 6 The Chapel Hill Murders and ‘Militant’ Atheism
Waking Up with Sam Harris 5 After Charlie Hebdo and Other Thoughts
Waking Up with Sam Harris 4 The Path and the Goal - A Conversation with Joseph Goldstein
Waking Up with Sam Harris 2 Why Don’t I Criticize Israel?
Waking Up with Sam Harris 1 Drugs and the Meaning of Life
Peach & Black Podcast - Purple Rain Review
Peach & Black Podcast - The Truth Review
Peach & Black Podcast - Planet Earth: The New Master
Peach & Black Podcast - Crystal Ball Review: Part Two
Peach & Black Podcast - Crystal Ball Review: Part One
Peach & Black Podcast - Dirty Mind Review
Peach & Black Podcast - Black - The Album Review
Peach & Black Podcast - Exodus Review
Peach & Black Podcast - 1999 Review - Part 2
Peach & Black Podcast - 1999 Review - Part 1
Peach & Black Podcast - Art Official Age / Plectrumelectrum - First Impressions
Peach & Black Podcast - Plectrumelectrum Review
Peach & Black Podcast - Art Official Age Review - Part 2
Peach & Black Podcast - Art Official Age Review - Part 1
The Prince Podcast - What If You Never Heard Unreleased Music?
The Prince Podcast - The Ultimate Prince Band
The Prince Podcast - When The Music Changed
The Prince Podcast - The Bottom 5 Prince Songs
Very Bad Wizards 59 Tumors All the Way Down (With Sam Harris)
Compared To What Podcast 42 The Marcus Miller Conversation