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Episodes

#32 - Bryan Caplan on whether his Case Against Education holds up, totalitarianism, & open borders

5/22/2018
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Bryan Caplan’s claim in *The Case Against Education* is striking: education doesn’t teach people much, we use little of what we learn, and college is mostly about trying to seem smarter than other people - so the government should slash education funding. It’s a dismaying - almost profane - idea, and one people are inclined to dismiss out of hand. But having read the book, I have to admit that Bryan can point to a surprising amount of evidence in his favour. After all, imagine this...

Duration:02:25:12

#31 - Prof Dafoe on defusing the political & economic risks posed by existing AI capabilities

5/18/2018
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The debate around the impacts of artificial intelligence often centres on ‘superintelligence’ - a general intellect that is much smarter than the best humans, in practically every field. But according to Allan Dafoe - Assistant Professor of Political Science at Yale University - even if we stopped at today's AI technology and simply collected more data, built more sensors, and added more computing capacity, extreme systemic risks could emerge, including: * Mass labor displacement,...

Duration:00:48:07

#30 - Dr Eva Vivalt on how little social science findings generalize from one study to another

5/15/2018
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If we have a study on the impact of a social program in a particular place and time, how confident can we be that we’ll get a similar result if we study the same program again somewhere else? Dr Eva Vivalt is a lecturer in the Research School of Economics at the Australian National University. She compiled a huge database of results from impact evaluations in global development to help answer this question - it includes 15,024 estimates from 635 papers, across 20 types of...

Duration:02:01:28

#29 - Dr Anders Sandberg on 3 new resolutions for the Fermi paradox & how to colonise the universe

5/8/2018
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The universe is so vast, but we don’t see any aliens civilizations. If they exist, where are they? Oxford University’s Dr Anders Sandberg has an original answer: they’re sleeping, and for a very compelling reason. Because of the thermodynamics of computation -- the colder it gets, the more computations you can do. The universe is getting exponentially colder as it expands, and as the universe cools, one Joule of energy gets worth more and more. If they wait long enough this can become a...

Duration:01:21:26

#28 - Dr Cotton-Barratt on why scientists should need insurance, PhD strategy & fast AI progresses

4/27/2018
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A researcher is working on creating a new virus – one more dangerous than any that exist naturally. They believe they’re being as careful as possible. After all, if things go wrong, their own life and the lives of everyone they care about might be in danger. But if an accident is capable of triggering a global pandemic – hundreds of millions of lives might be at risk. How much additional care will the researcher actually take in the face of such a staggering death toll? Dr Owen...

Duration:01:03:05

#27 - Dr Tom Inglesby on the importance of preparing for the consequences of pandemics

4/17/2018
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#27 - Dr Tom Inglesby on the importance of preparing for the consequences of pandemics by The 80,000 Hours team

Duration:02:16:40

#26 - Marie Gibbons on how exactly clean meat is made & what's needed to get it in every supermarket

4/10/2018
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First, decide on the type of animal. Next, pick the cell type. Then take a small, painless biopsy of cells, and put them in a solution that makes them think they're still in the body. Once the cells are in this ideal state, they proliferate. One cell becomes two, two becomes four, four becomes eight, and so on. Continue until you have enough to make a burger, a nugget, a sausage, or a piece of bacon, then concentrate the cells until they bind into solid meat. The process is surprisingly...

Duration:01:44:16

#25 - Prof Robin Hanson on why we have to lie to ourselves about why we do what we do

3/28/2018
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On February 2, 1685, England’s King Charles II was struck by a sudden illness. Fortunately his physicians were the best of the best. To reassure the public they kept the public abreast of the King’s treatment regimen. King Charles was made to swallow a toxic metal; had blistering agents applied to his scalp; had pigeon droppings attached to his feet; was prodded with a red-hot poker; given forty drops of ooze from “the skull of a man that was never buried”; and, finally, had crushed stones...

Duration:02:39:19

#24 - Stefan Schubert on why it’s a bad idea to break the rules, even if it’s for a good cause

3/20/2018
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How honest should we be? How helpful? How friendly? If our society claims to value honesty, for instance, but in reality accepts an awful lot of lying – should we go along with those lax standards? Or, should we attempt to set a new norm for ourselves? Dr Stefan Schubert, a researcher at the Social Behaviour and Ethics Lab at Oxford University, has been modelling this in the context of the effective altruism community. He thinks people trying to improve the world should hold themselves to...

Duration:00:55:00

#22 - Dr Leah Utyasheva on the non-profit that figured out how to massively cut suicide rates

3/7/2018
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How people kill themselves varies wildly dramatically depending on what means are most easily available. In the United States, half of suicides are by firearm. In Hong Kong, where most people live in high rise buildings, half of suicides are by jumping from a height. And in some countries in South-East Asia and Africa with large poor agricultural communities, the leading means is drinking pesticide. There’s a good chance you’ve never heard of this before. And yet, of the 800,000 people...

Duration:01:08:03

# 21 - Holden Karnofsky on how philanthropy can change the world

2/27/2018
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The Green Revolution averted mass famine during the 20th century. The contraceptive pill gave women unprecedented freedom in planning their own lives. Both are widely recognised as scientific breakthroughs that transformed the world. But few know that those breakthroughs only happened when they did because of a philanthropist willing to take a risky bet on a new idea. Today’s guest, Holden Karnofsky, has been looking for philanthropy’s biggest success stories because he’s Executive...

Duration:02:35:35

#20 - Bruce Friedrich on inventing outstanding meat substitutes to end speciesism & factory farming

2/18/2018
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Before the US Civil War, it was easier for the North to morally oppose slavery. Why? Because unlike the South they weren’t profiting much from its existence. The fight for abolition was partly won because many no longer saw themselves as having a selfish stake in its continuation. Bruce Friedrich, executive director of The Good Food Institute (GFI), thinks the same may be true in the fight against speciesism. 98% of people currently eat meat. But if eating meat stops being part of most...

Duration:01:17:59

#19 - Samantha Pitts-Kiefer On Being A Washington Lobbyist Against Nuclear War

2/14/2018
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Rogue elements within a state’s security forces enrich dozens of kilograms of uranium. It’s then assembled into a crude nuclear bomb. The bomb is transported on a civilian aircraft to Washington D.C, and loaded onto a delivery truck. The truck is driven by an American citizen midway between the White House and the Capitol Building. The driver casually steps out of the vehicle, and detonates the weapon. There are more than 80,000 instant deaths. There are also at least 100,000 seriously...

Duration:01:04:29

#18 - Ofir Reich on using data science to end poverty & the spurious action-inaction distinction

1/31/2018
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Ofir Reich started out as a mathematician in the military and spent 8 years in tech startups - but then made a big career shift to become a data scientist focussed on helping the global poor. At UC Berkeley’s Center for Effective Global Action he helps prevent tax evasion by identifying fake companies in India, enable Afghanistan to pay its teachers electronically, and raise yields for Ethiopian farmers by messaging them right when local conditions make it ideal to apply fertiliser. Or at...

Duration:01:18:48

#17 - Prof Will MacAskill On Moral Uncertainty, Utilitarianism & How To Avoid Being A Moral Monster

1/19/2018
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Immanuel Kant is a profoundly influential figure in modern philosophy, and was one of the earliest proponents for universal democracy and international cooperation. He [also thought](https://schwitzsplinters.blogspot.com/2010/03/kant-on-killing-bastards-on.html) that women have no place in civil society, that it was okay to kill illegitimate children, and that there was a ranking in the moral worth of different races. Throughout history we’ve consistently believed, as common sense, truly...

Duration:01:52:13

#15 - Prof Tetlock On How Chimps Beat Berkeley Undergrads And When It’s Wise To Defer To The Wise

11/20/2017
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Prof Philip Tetlock is a social science legend. Over forty years he has researched whose predictions we can trust, whose we can’t and why - and developed methods that allow all of us to be better at predicting the future. His insights have received huge attention from the intelligence community and media. Tetlock’s Good Judgement Project found forecasting methods so accurate they beat all-comers in open competition, including thousands of people in the intelligence services with access to...

Duration:01:30:07

#14 - Sharon Nuñez & Jose Valle On Going Undercover To Expose Animal Abuse

11/13/2017
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What if you knew that ducks were being killed with pitchforks? Rabbits dumped alive into containers? Or pigs being strangled with forklifts? Would you be willing to go undercover to expose the crime? That’s a real question that confronts volunteers at Animal Equality (AE). In this episode we speak to Sharon Nunez and Jose Valle, who founded AE in 2006 and then grew it into a multi-million dollar international animal rights organisation. They’ve been chosen as one of the most effective...

Duration:01:26:05

#13 - Claire Walsh on testing which policies work & how to get governments to listen to the results

10/31/2017
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In both rich and poor countries, government policy is often based on no evidence at all and many programs don’t work. This has particularly harsh effects on the global poor - in some countries governments only spend $100 on each citizen a year so they can’t afford to waste a single dollar. Enter MIT’s Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL). Since 2003 they’ve conduct experiments to figure out what policies actually help recipients, and then try to get them implemented by governments and...

Duration:00:52:26

#12 - Dr Cameron Works To Stop You Dying In A Pandemic. Here’s What Keeps Her Up At Night.

10/25/2017
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“When you're in the middle of a crisis and you have to ask for money, you're already too late.” That’s Dr Beth Cameron, who leads Global Biological Policy and Programs at the Nuclear Threat Initiative. Beth should know. She has years of experience preparing for and fighting the diseases of our nightmares, on the White House Ebola Taskforce, in the National Security Council staff, and as the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Defense...

Duration:01:45:15

#11 - Spencer Greenberg on speeding up social science 10-fold & why plenty of startups cause harm

10/17/2017
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Do most meat eaters think it’s wrong to hurt animals? Do Americans think climate change is likely to cause human extinction? What is the best, state-of-the-art therapy for depression? How can we make academics more intellectually honest, so we can actually trust their findings? How can we speed up social science research ten-fold? Do most startups improve the world, or make it worse? If you’re interested in these question, this interview is for you. A scientist, entrepreneur, writer and...

Duration:01:22:25

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