Increments

Increments

Vaden Masrani, a PhD student in machine learning at UBC and Ben Chugg, a research fellow at Stanford Law School, get into trouble arguing about everything except machine learning and law. Coherence is somewhere on the horizon. Bribes, suggestions, love-mail and hate-mail all welcome at incrementspodcast@gmail.com.

Episodes

June 20, 2022 78 min

We're joined by the wonderful Lulie Tanett to talk about effective altruism, pulling spouses out of burning buildings, and why you should prefer critical rationalism to Bayesianism for your mom's sake. Buckle up!

We discuss:

  • Lulie's recent experience at EA Global
  • Bayesianism and how it differs from critical rationalism
  • Common arguments in favor of Bayesianism
  • Taking Children Seriously
  • What it was like for Lulie growi...
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    Is there any possibility of fruitful dialogue with your mildly crazy, significantly intoxicated uncle at Thanksgiving dinner? We turn to Karl Popper's essay, The Myth of the Framework, to find out. Popper argues that it's wrong to assume that fruitful conversation is only possible among those who share an underlying framework of beliefs and assumptions. In fact, there's more to learn in difficult conversations which lac...

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    April 27, 2022 61 min

    The most reasonable and well-reasoned discussion of reason you can be reasonably expected to hear. Today we talk about the book The Enigma of Reason by Dan Sperber and Hugo Mercier. But first, get ready for dogs, modern art, and babies!

    *We discuss *

  • Reason as a social phenomenon
  • The two roles of reason: To justify our actions, and to evaluate the reasons of others
  • Reason as module of inference, and how that contrasts with dual-...
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    We cover the spicy showdown between the two of the world's most headstrong philosophers: Ludwig Wittgenstein and Karl Popper. In a dingy Cambridge classroom Wittgenstein once threatened Popper with a fireplace poker. What led to the disagreement? In this episode, we continue with the Conjectures and Refutations series by analyzing Chapter 2: The Nature of Philosophical Problems And Their Roots In Science, where Popper outlines...

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    February 16, 2022 81 min

    We're joined today by Matt Bateman, one of the founders of Higher Ground Education, to discuss the Montessori method of education and how it compares to other teaching methodologies. Get ready for tiny furniture, putting on your jacket upside down, and teaching your toddler to make eggs benedict. We discuss:

  • Maria Montessori
  • What is a Montessori education (besides tiny furniture)?
  • How Montessori classrooms differ from regular...
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    In what is hopefully the last installment of Vaden and Ben debate Effective Altruism, we ask if EA lies on the cultishness (yes, that's a word) spectrum. We discuss:

  • The potential pitfall of having goodness as a core value
  • Aspects of Effective Altruism (EA) that put it on the cultishness spectrum
  • Does EA focus on good over truth?
  • Ben's experience with EA
  • Making criticism a core value
  • How does one resist the allure of groupth...
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    November 29, 2021 47 min

    Come experience the thrill of the shill as we discuss the somewhat-controversial natural resource called "fossil fuels". In this episode, we drill deep into opto-pessimist Vaclav Smil's excellent book Oil: A Beginner's Guide, in what is possibly our only episode to feature heterodox Russian-Ukrainian science, subterranean sound waves, and that goop lady - what's her name? It's unbelievable, right?

    We disc...

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    In this episode Ben convinces Vaden to become a degrowther. We plan how to live out the rest of our lives on an organic tomato farm in Canada in December, sewing our own clothes and waxing our own candles. Step away from the thermostat Jimmy.

    We discuss:

  • The degrowth movement
  • The basics of economic growth, and why it's good for developing economies in particular
  • How growth enables resilience in the face of environmental disa...
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    Galileo vs the church - whose side are you on? Today we discuss Chapter 3 of Conjectures and Refutations, Three Views Concerning Human Knowledge. This is a juicy one, as Popper manages to simultaneously attack both philosophers and physicists, as he takes on instrumentalism and essentialism, two alternatives to his 'conjecture and refutation' approach to knowledge. We discuss:

  • The conflict between Galileo and the church
  • W...
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    After the immensely positive response to our previous episode on the Weinstein brothers - thanks @robertwiblin! - we thought we would keep giving the people what they want, and what they want is a long discussion on climate change. Specifically, the subject for today is: "The State of the Climate Debate". We touch on:

  • The near perfect partisan split on climate change
  • Will there be a climate apocalypse?
  • The promise of n...
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    September 14, 2021 54 min

    Today we take your twitter questions before doing a deep dive into the Weinstein fiasco (Bret and Eric, not Harvey.) If you haven't heard of the Weinstein's before, then we suggest you run away before we drag you down into a rabbit hole filled with acronyms, anti-vaxxers, and theories of ... everything? anything? literally anything at all?

    Topics we touch:

  • We take your twitter questions!
  • Filos with a weird one: I have a...
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    Christofer Lövgren, host of the marvelous Do Explain podcast and world's most famous Swede (second perhaps only to that Alfred fellow with the peace prize), joins us on the pod to teach us how podcasting is really done. And how to pronounce his last name. When we're not all sobbing, we touch on:

  • Does Deutschian epistemology give us with Free Will?
  • Should one identify as a critical rationalist?
  • Does membership in a communi...
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    We're back! Apologies for the delay, but Vaden got married and Ben was summoned to be an astronaut on the next billionaire's vacation to Venus. This week we're talking about how to forecast the future (with this one simple and easy trick! Astrologers hate them!). Specifically, we're diving into Philip Tetlock's work on Superforecasting.

    So what's the deal? Is it possible to "harness the wisdom of the c...

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    Why do logic and mathematics work so well in the world? Why do they seem to describe reality? Why do they they enable us to design circuit boards, build airplanes, and listen remotely to handsome and charming podcast hosts who rarely go off topic?

    To answer these questions, we dive into Chapter 9 of Conjectures and Refutations: Why are the Calculi of Logic and Arithmetic Applicable to Reality?.

    But before we get to that, we tou...

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    June 28, 2021 121 min

    There are many overused internet keywords that could be associated with this conversation, but none of them quite seem right. So here's a poem instead:

    The Ogre does what ogres can,
    Deeds quite impossible for Man,
    But one prize is beyond his reach:
    The Ogre cannot master speech.

    About a subjugated plain,
    Among its desperate and slain,
    The Ogre stalks with hands on hips,
    While drivel gushes from his lips

    - August 1968, W H Au...

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    In a rare turn of events, it just so happened that one or perhaps both of your charming co-hosts spewed a bit of nonsense about Derek Parfit in a previous episode, and we had to bring in a heavy hitter to sort us out. Today we're joined by friend of the podcast Mr. Dan Hageman, immuno-oncologist by day and aspiring ethicist by night, who gently takes us to task for misunderstanding Parfit and the role of ethical theorizing, and...

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    We often talk of explanation in the context of empirical sciences, but what about explanation in logic and mathematics? Is there such a thing? If so, what does it look like and what are the consequences? In this episode we sit down with professor of philosophy Mark Colyvan and explore

  • How mathematical explanation differs from explanation in the natural sciences
  • Counterfactual reasoning in mathematics
  • Intra versus extra mathematica...
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    May 11, 2021 73 min

    This episode begins with a big announcement! Ben has officially become a cat person, and is now Taking Cats Seriously. Vaden follows up with some news of his own, before diving into the main subject for today's episode - Popper's Three Worlds.
    In this episode we discuss:

  • The TCS parenting movement 
  • Chesto's tweet to Deutsch
  • How Popper's Three Worlds differs from Deutsch's Things/Qualia/Abstractions classification
  • Wo...
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    We are joined by the great Sam Kuypers for a conversation on physics, philosophy, and free will. 

    Vaden spends most of the episode preparing for a huge debate on free-will, and Ben spends it worried about what alternate versions of himself are up to in parallel universes. Still, we manage to touch on a few topics: 

  • Realism and antirealist interpretations of quantum theory
  • The advisory styles of Dennis Sciama and John Wheeler and the s...
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    In this episode, we discuss Peter Singer's famous drowning child thought experiment, the role of moral theories, and the role of thought experiments in moral reasoning. From our perspectives, the conversation went something like this: 

    Ben's POV: Bravely and boldly trying to think through problems, Ben puts forward a stunningly insightful theory about the role of moral argumentation. Vaden, jealous of the profundity of Ben&...

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