Philosophy Podcasts

Vaden Masrani, a PhD alum in machine learning at UBC, and Ben Chugg, a PhD student in statistics at CMU, get into trouble arguing about everything except machine learning and statistics. Coherence is somewhere on the horizon. Bribes, suggestions, love-mail and hate-mail all welcome at




Vaden Masrani, a PhD alum in machine learning at UBC, and Ben Chugg, a PhD student in statistics at CMU, get into trouble arguing about everything except machine learning and statistics. Coherence is somewhere on the horizon. Bribes, suggestions, love-mail and hate-mail all welcome at



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#66 - Sex Research, Addiction, and Financial Domination (w/ Aella)

What do you get when you mix nerds and sex research? A deep dive into the world of fetish statistics, men's calibration about women's sexual preferences, and the crazy underground world of financial domination. Stay tuned as Aella walks the boys through the world of gangbangs, camming, OnlyFans, escorting, findom, and even live-tests Vaden's wild hypothesis against her huge, thick, dataset. We discuss How to describe what Aella does Aella's bangin' birthday party The state of sex research Conservative and neo-trad pushback and whether Aella is immune from cancellation Are men calibrated when it comes to predicting women's sexual preferences? The wild world of findom (financial domination) Is findom addiction worse than other addictions? Differences between camming and OnlyFans Can a fetish ever be considered self-harm? Plus some live hypothesis testing! Does Vaden's hypothesis survive...? Aella's forthcoming journal based on Rationalist principles References from the ep Aella's good at sex ( series Aella's website ( Aella's blogpost on Fetish Tabooness vs Popularity ( "I spent $3,400 in a single day on financial domination": financial-domination addict James ( Clip starts at 12:25 Findom Addicts Anonymous ( Fetlife bans Findom ( Domme won't let me quit (unethical), addicted to findom, please help | Reddit ( I don't feel bad for subs that are addicted to findom. ( Findom References (additional sources used for episode prep that weren't mention in the episode) Random Men Pay My Bills | BBC Podcast ( Interview with a Recovering Paypig - A Financial Domination Addict ( FINDOM is not FEMDOM ( Confessions of a 'Pay Pig': Why I Give Away Money to Dominant Women I Meet Online ( Special Episode on Findoms... | The Kink Perspective Podcast ( She Gets Paid Just to Humiliate Her Fans | New York Times ( Socials Follow us on Twitter at @IncrementsPod, @BennyChugg, @VadenMasrani Come join our discord server! DM us on twitter or send us an email to get a supersecret link Help us put heads in toilets and get exclusive bonus content by becoming a patreon subscriber here ( Or give us one-time cash donations to help cover our lack of cash donations here ( Click dem like buttons on youtube ( Send us $500 and call us your Queen, you steaming pile of s***: Special Guest: Aella.


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#65 - Libertarianism II: Economic Issues (w/ Bruce Nielson)

Back at it again, as we coerce you into listening to Part 2 of our four part series on Libertarianism, with Mr. Bruce Nielson (@bnielson01). In this episode we cover the Economic Issues section of Scott Alexander's (non-aggressive and principled) non-libertarian FAQ (, and discuss his four major economic critiques of the libertarian view that free and voluntary trade between consenting, informed, rational individuals is the best possible thing ever, with no downsides at all. Also, can we interest you in buying some wasps? We discuss Loose ends from last episode - coercion and the Non-Aggression Principle What distinguishes a conservative like Bruce from a libertarian? Externalities Boycotts and Coordination Problems Irrational Choices Lack of Information References The Non-libertarian FAQ ( Planet Money on the Porcupine Freedom Festival ( Vaden's blog posts on Libertarianism / Austrian Economics / Anarcho-Captialism / Whateveryawannacallit First: Is Austrian Economics the Best Explanation of Economics? ( Second: Can we predict human behaviour? A discussion with Brett Hall ( Quotes The Argument: In a free market, all trade has to be voluntary, so you will never agree to a trade unless it benefits you. Further, you won’t make a trade unless you think it’s the best possible trade you can make. If you knew you could make a better one, you’d hold out for that. So trades in a free market are not only better than nothing, they’re also the best possible transaction you could make at that time. Labor is no different from any other commercial transaction in this respect. You won’t agree to a job unless it benefits you more than anything else you can do with your time, and your employer won’t hire you unless it benefits her more than anything else she can do with her money. So a voluntarily agreed labor contract must benefit both parties, and must do so more than any other alternative. If every trade in a free market benefits both parties, then any time the government tries to restrict trade in some way, it must hurt both parties. Or, to put it another way, you can help someone by giving them more options, but you can’t help them by taking away options. And in a free market, where everyone starts with all options, all the government can do is take options away. The Counterargument: This treats the world as a series of producer-consumer dyads instead of as a system in which every transaction affects everyone else. Also, it treats consumers as coherent entities who have specific variables like “utility” and “demand” and know exactly what they are, which doesn’t always work. - What is an externality? 1.1: What is an externality? An externality is when I make a trade with you, but it has some accidental effect on other people who weren’t involved in the trade. Suppose for example that I sell my house to an amateur wasp farmer. Only he’s not a very good wasp farmer, so his wasps usually get loose and sting people all over the neighborhood every couple of days. This trade between the wasp farmer and myself has benefited both of us, but it’s harmed people who weren’t consulted; namely, my neighbors, who are now locked indoors clutching cans of industrial-strength insect repellent. Although the trade was voluntary for both the wasp farmer and myself, it wasn’t voluntary for my neighbors. Another example of externalities would be a widget factory that spews carcinogenic chemicals into the air. When I trade with the widget factory I’m benefiting – I get widgets – and they’re benefiting – they get money. But the people who breathe in...


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#64 - Libertarianism I: Intro and Moral Issues (w/ Bruce Nielson)

Liberty! Freedom! Coercion! Taxes are theft! The State is The Enemy! Bitcoin! Crypto! Down with the central banks! Let's all return to the Gold Standard! Have you encountered such phrases in the wild? Confused, perhaps, as to why an afternoon beer with a friend become an extended diatribe against John Maynard Kaynes? Us too, which is why we're diving into the ideological source of such views: Libertarianism. Welcome to Part 1 of a four part series where we, with Bruce Nielson (@bnielson01) as our battle-hardened guide, dive into Scott Alexander's non-libertarian FAQ ( Ought George help, or ought George respect the government's property rights? Let's find out. And make sure to check out Bruce's excellent The Theory Of Anything podcast here: We discuss Varieties of libertarianism Why are some libertarians so ideological? Is taxation theft? The problem of public goods "Proprietary communities" and the perfect libertarian society Why the perfect libertarian society doesn't escape taxation Are we living in the libertarian utopia right now? Taxes as membership fees References The Non-libertarian FAQ ( George ought to help ( The Machinery of Freedom ( by David Friedman Vaden's blog posts on Libertarianism / Austrian Economics / Anarcho-Captialism / Whateveryawannacallit First: Is Austrian Economics the Best Explanation of Economics? ( Second: Can we predict human behaviour? A discussion with Brett Hall ( Quotes 0.2: Do you hate libertarianism? No. To many people, libertarianism is a reaction against an over-regulated society, and an attempt to spread the word that some seemingly intractable problems can be solved by a hands-off approach. Many libertarians have made excellent arguments for why certain libertarian policies are the best options, and I agree with many of them. I think this kind of libertarianism is a valuable strain of political thought that deserves more attention, and I have no quarrel whatsoever with it and find myself leaning more and more in that direction myself. However, there’s a certain more aggressive, very American strain of libertarianism with which I do have a quarrel. This is the strain which, rather than analyzing specific policies and often deciding a more laissez-faire approach is best, starts with the tenet that government can do no right and private industry can do no wrong and uses this faith in place of more careful analysis. This faction is not averse to discussing politics, but tends to trot out the same few arguments about why less regulation has to be better. I wish I could blame this all on Ayn Rand, but a lot of it seems to come from people who have never heard of her. I suppose I could just add it to the bottom of the list of things I blame Reagan for. - Socials Follow us on Twitter at @IncrementsPod, @BennyChugg, @VadenMasrani Come join our discord server! DM us on twitter or send us an email to get a supersecret link Help us curtail freedom and get exclusive bonus content by becoming a patreon subscriber here ( Or give us one-time cash donations to help cover our lack of cash donations here ( Click dem like buttons on youtube ( How do you summon libertarians at a party? Finish the punchline and tell us over at Special Guest: Bruce Nielson.


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#63 - Recycling is the Dumps

Close your eyes, and think of a bright and pristine, clean and immaculately run recycling center, green'r than a giant's thumb. Now think of a dirty, ugly, rotting landfill, stinking in the mid-day sun. Of these two scenarios, which, do you reckon, is worse for the environment? In this episode, Ben and Vaden attempt to reduce and refute a few reused canards about recycling and refuse, by rereading Rob Wiblin's excellent piece which addresses the aformentioned question: What you think about landfill and recycling is probably totally wrong ( Steel yourselves for this one folks, because you may need to paper over arguments with loved ones, trash old opinions, and shatter previous misconceptions. Check out more of Rob's writing here ( We discuss The origins of recycling and some of the earliest instances Energy efficiency of recycling plastics, aluminium, paper, steel, and electronic waste (e-waste) Why your peanut butter jars and plastic coffee cups are not recyclable Modern landfills and why they're awesome How landfills can be used to create energy Building stuff on top of landfills Why we're not even close to running out of space for landfills Economic incentives for recycling vs top-down regulation The modern recycling movement and its emergence in the 1990s > - Guiyu, China, where e-waste goes to die. That a lot of your "recycling" ends up as garbage in the Philippines Error Correction Vaden misremembered what Smil wrote regarding four categories of recycling (Metals and Aluminum / Plastics / Paper / Electronic Waste ("e-waste")). He incorrectly quoted Smil as saying these four categories were exhaustive, and represented the four major categories recycling into which the majority of recycled material can be bucketed. This is incorrect- what Smil actually wrote was: I will devote the rest of this section (and of this chapter) to brief appraisals of the recycling efforts for four materials — two key metals (steel and aluminum) and plastics and paper—and of electronic waste, a category of discarded material that would most benefit from much enhanced rates of recycling. - Making the Modern World: Materials and De-materialization, Smill, p.179 A list of the top 9 recycled materials can be found here: Sources / Citations Share of plastic waste that is recycled, landfilled, incinerated and mismanaged, 2019 ( Source for the claim that recycling glass is not energy efficient (and thus not necessarily better for the environment than landfilling): Glass bottles can be more pleasant to drink out of, but they also require more energy to manufacture and recycle. Glass bottles consume 170 to 250 percent more energy and emit 200 to 400 percent more carbon than plastic bottles, due mostly to the heat energy required in the manufacturing process. Of course, if the extra energy required by glass were produced from emissions-free sources, it wouldn’t necessarily matter that glass bottles required more energy to make and move. “If the energy is nuclear power or renewables there should be less of an environmental impact,” notes Figgener. - Apocalypse Never, Shellenburger, p.66 Cloth bags need to be reused 173 times ( to be more eco-friendly than a plastic bag: Source for claim that majority of e-waste ends up in China ( Puckett’s organization partnered with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to put 200 geolocating tracking devices inside old computers, TVs and printers. They dropped them off nationwide at donation centers, recyclers and electronic take-back programs — enterprises that advertise themselves as “green,”...


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#62 (Bonus) - The Principle of Optimism (Vaden on the Theory of Anything Podcast)

Vaden has selfishly gone on vacation with his family, leaving beloved listeners to fend for themselves in the wide world of epistemological confusion. To repair some of the damage, we're releasing an episode of The Theory of Anything Podcast from last June in which Vaden contributed to a roundtable discussion on the principle of optimism. Featuring Bruce Nielson, Peter Johansen, Sam Kuypers, Hervé Eulacia, Micah Redding, Bill Rugolsky, and Daniel Buchfink. Enjoy! From The Theory of Anything Podcast description: Are all evils due to a lack of knowledge? Are all interesting problems soluble? ALL the problems, really?!?! And what exactly is meant by interesting? Also, should “good guys” ignore the precautionary principle, and do they always win? What is the difference between cynicism, pessimism, and skepticism? And why is pessimism so attractive to so many humans? Socials Follow us on Twitter at @IncrementsPod, @BennyChugg, @VadenMasrani Come join our discord server! DM us on twitter or send us an email to get a supersecret link Help us solve problems and get exclusive bonus content by becoming a patreon subscriber here ( Or give us one-time cash donations to help cover our lack of cash donations here ( Click dem like buttons on youtube ( Which unsolvable problem would you most like to solve? Send your answer via quantum tunneling to Special Guests: Bruce Nielson and Sam Kuypers.


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#61 - Debating Free Will: Frankenstein's Monster and a Filmstrip of the Universe (with Lucas Smalldon)

While you're reading this you're having a thought. Something like "wow, I love the Increments podcast", or "those hosts are some handsome" or "I really wish people would stop talking about free will." Do you have a choice in the matter? Are you free to choose what you're thinking in any given moment, or is it determined by your genetics, environment, and existing ideas? Is the universe determined, are we all Frankenstein's monster? How does one profitably think about that question? Today we have Lucas Smalldon on to help us think through these questions. We reference Lucas's blog post titled reconciling-determinism-and-free-will ( Because it's is barely more than a tweet, we've included the entire post here as well: Reconciling Free Will with Determinism Free will and determinism seem to conflict with each other. But the apparent conflict disappears when we understand that determinism and free will simply describe the world from radically different perspectives and at fundamentally different levels. Free will makes sense only within the context of the physical world, whereas determinism makes sense only from a perspective that is outside the physical world. Consider the determinist statement, “The future exists and has always existed”. It seems like a contradiction in terms, but only because our language forces us to express the idea misleadingly in terms of the past and future. If we assign special meanings to the temporal words in the statement—namely, if by the future we mean “objectively real events that from the perspective of our present have not yet happened”; and if by always we mean “transcending time itself” rather than the usual “existing across all time”—then the contradiction resolves. Assigning these special meanings allows us to express determinism as atemporal and objective: as a description of a physical reality of which time is an attribute. Conversely, free will, which is by far the more intuitive concept, is needed to explain certain kinds of events (i.e., choices) that occur within time, and thus within the physical world that determinism describes from the outside. Determinism and free will are compatible. We really do make choices. It’s just that, from an atemporal determinist perspective, these choices have “always” existed. Follow Lucas on twitter ( or check out his blog ( We discuss Levels of explanation regarding free will The (in)compatibility of different levels of explanation Why the lack of free will does not hinge on reductionism Memetic arguments for the non-existence of free will Whether we can have moral responsibility without free will The universe as a filmstrip Whether we're all just Frankenstein's monster Socials Follow us on Twitter at @IncrementsPod, @BennyChugg, @VadenMasrani Come join our discord server! DM us on twitter or send us an email to get a supersecret link Help us find freedom and get exclusive bonus content by becoming a patreon subscriber here ( Or give us one-time cash donations to help cover our lack of cash donations here ( Click dem like buttons on youtube ( How much do you want to want Frankenstein's monster? Send your answer down the tubes and over to Special Guest: Lucas Smalldon.


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#60 - Creativity and Computational Universality (with Bruce Nielson)

Today we [finally] have on someone who actually knows what they're actually talking about: Mr. Bruce Nielson of the excellent Theory of Anything Podcast. We bring him on to straighten us out on the topics of creativity, machine intelligence, Turing machines, and computational universality - We build upon our previous conversation way back in Ask Us Anything I: Computation and Creativity (, and suggest listening to that episode first. Go follow Bruce on twitter ( and check out his Theory of Anything Podcast here ( (Also Vaden's audio was acting up a bit in this episode, we humbly seek forgiveness.) We discuss Does theorem proving count as creativity? Is AlphaGo creative? Determinism, predictability, and chaos theory Essentialism and a misunderstanding of definitions Animal memes and understanding Turing Machines and computational universality Penrose's "proof" that we need new physics References Ask Us Anything I: Computation and Creativity ( (Listen first!) Logic theorist ( AlphaGo movie ( Socials Follow us on Twitter at @IncrementsPod, @BennyChugg, @VadenMasrani Come join our discord server! DM us on twitter or send us an email to get a supersecret link Help us fund more 64 minute-long blog posts and get exclusive bonus content by becoming a patreon subscriber here ( Or give us one-time cash donations to help cover our lack of cash donations here ( Click dem like buttons on youtube ( Create us up an email with something imaginatively rote, cliche and formulaic, and mail that creative stinker over to Special Guest: Bruce Nielson.


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#59 (C&R, Chap 8) - On the Status of Science and Metaphysics (Plus reflections on the Brett Hall blog exchange)

Back to the C&R series baby! Feels goooooood. Need some bar-room explanations for why induction is impossible? We gotchu. Need some historical background on where your boy Isaac got his ideas? We gotchu. Need to know how to refute the irrefutable? Gotchu there too homie, because today we're diving into Conjectures and Refutations, Chapter 8: On the Status of Science and Metaphysics. Oh, and we also discuss, in admittedly frustrated tones, the failed blog exchange between Brett Hall and Vaden on prediction and Austrianism. If you want the full listening experience, we suggest reading both posts before hearing our kvetching: Vaden's post ( Brett's "response" ( Hold on to your hats for this one listeners, because she starts off rather spicy. We discuss Why Kant believed in the truth of Newtonian mechanics Newton and his assertion that he arrived at his theory via induction Why this isn't true and is logically impossible Was Copernicus influenced by Platonic ideals? How Kepler came up with the idea of elliptical orbits Why finite observations are always compatible with infinitely many theories Kant's paradox and his solution Popper's updated solution to Kant's paradox The irrefutability of philosophical theories How can we say that irrefutable theories are false? Annnnnd perhaps a few cheap shots here and there about Austrian Economics as well. # References Some background history ( on Copernicus and why Ben thinks Popper is wrong Quotes Listening to this statement you may well wonder how I can possibly hold a theory to be false and irrefutable at one and the same time—I who claim to be a rationalist. For how can a rationalist say of a theory that it is false and irrefutable? Is he not bound, as a rationalist, to refute a theory before he asserts that it is false? And conversely, is he not bound to admit that if a theory is irrefutable, it is true? Now if we look upon a theory as a proposed solution to a set of problems, then the theory immediately lends itself to critical discussion—even if it is non-empirical and irrefutable. For we can now ask questions such as, Does it solve the problem? Does it solve it better than other theories? Has it perhaps merely shifted the problem? Is the solution simple? Is it fruitful? Does it perhaps contradict other philosophical theories needed for solving other problems? Because, as you [Kant] said, we are not passive receptors of sense data, but active organisms. Because we react to our environment not always merely instinctively, but sometimes con- sciously and freely. Because we can invent myths, stories, theories; because we have a thirst for explanation, an insatiable curiosity, a wish to know. Because we not only invent stories and theories, but try them out and see whether they work and how they work. Because by a great effort, by trying hard and making many mistakes, we may sometimes, if we are lucky, succeed in hitting upon a story, an explanation, which ‘saves the phenomena’; perhaps by making up a myth about ‘invisibles’, such as atoms or gravitational forces, which explain the visible. Because knowledge is an adventure of ideas. These ideas, it is true, are produced by us, and not by the world around us; they are not merely the traces of repeated sensations or stimuli or what not; here you were right. But we are more active and free than even you believed; for similar observations or similar environmental situations do not, as your theory implied, produce similar explanations in different men. Nor is the fact that we create our theories, and that we attempt to impose them upon the world, an explanation of their success, as you believed. For the overwhelming majority of our theories, of our freely invented ideas, are unsuccessful; they do not stand up to searching tests, and are discarded as falsified by...


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#58 - Ask Us Anything V: How to Read and What to Read

Alright people, we made it. Six months, a few breaks, some uncontrollable laughter, some philosophy, many unhinged takes, a little bit of diarrhea and we're here, the last Ask Us Anything. After this we're never answering another God D*** question. Ever. We discuss Do you wish you could change your own interests? Methods of information ingestion Taking books off their pedestal bit Intellectual influences Veganism (why Ben is, why Vaden isn't) Anti-rational memes Fricken Andrew Huberman again Stoicism Are e-fuels the best of the best or the worst of the worst? Questions (Andrew) Any suggested methods of reading Popper (or others) and getting the most out of it? I'm not from a philosophy background, and although I get a lot out of the books, I think there's probably ways of reading them (notes etc?) where I could invest the same time and get more return. (Andrew) Any other books you'd say added to your personal philosophical development as DD, KP have? Who and why? (Alex) Are you aware of general types of insidious anti-rational memes which are hard to recognise as such? Any ideas on how we can go about recognising them in our own thinking? (I do realise that perhaps no general method exists, but still, if you have any thoughts on this...) (Lorcan) What do you think about efuels? Listen to this take ( by Fully Charged. References Lying ( and Free Will ( by Sam Harris Doing Good Better ( by MacAskill Animal Liberation ( by Peter Singer Mortal Questions ('s%20Mortal%20Questions%20explore,%2C%20consciousness%2C%20freedom%20and%20value.) by Thomas Nagel Death and Life of Great American Cities ( by Jane Jacobs Peace is Every Step ( and True Love ( by Thich Nhat Hanh Seeing like a State (,accordance%20with%20purported%20scientific%20laws.) by James Scott The Truth Behind Cage-Free and Free-Range | STUFF YOU SHOULD KNOW ( People Producers of rational memes: - Everything: Christopher Hitchens, Vladimir Nabokov, Sam Harris, George Orwell, Scott Alexander, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Steven Pinker - Sex and Relationships: Dan Savage - Environment/Progress: Vaclav Smil, Matt Ridley, Steven Pinker, Hans Rosling, Bjorn Lomborg, Michael Shellenburger, Alex Epstein - Race: Glenn Loury, John Mcwhorter, Coleman Hughes, Kmele Foster, Chloe Valdery - Woke: John Mcwhorter, Yasha Mounk, Coleman Hughes, Sam Harris, Douglas Murrey, Jordan Peterson, Steven Hicks, James Lindsay, Ben Shapiro - Feminism: Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Christina Hoff Summers, Camille Paglia (Note: Then follow each thinker's favorite thinker, and never stop. ) Producers of anti-rational memes: - Eric Weinstein - Bret Weinstein - Noam Chomsky (See A Potpourri Of Chomskyan Nonsense: - Glenn Greenwald - Reza Aslan - Medhi Hassan - Robin Diangelo - Ibraam x Kendi - George Galloway - Judith Butler Socials Follow us on Twitter at @IncrementsPod, @BennyChugg, @VadenMasrani Come join our discord server! DM us on twitter or send us an email to get a supersecret link Help us fund the anti-book campaign and get exclusive bonus content by becoming a patreon subscriber here ( Or give us one-time cash donations to help therapy costs here...


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#57 (Bonus) - A calm and soothing discussion of The Patriarchy

We we're looking for a nice light topic for our patron only episode, so Vaden naturally chosen to chat about the patriarchy. I guess he didn't get into enough trouble in his personal life talking about it so he wanted to make his support and admiration for the patriarchy public. This is a sneak preview into the land of patreon bonus episodes, so be sure to fork over some cold hard cash if you'd like a bit more mansplaining in your life. We discuss Harassment of women in various spheres of life The patriarchy as a set of facts versus a causal explanation Why conflating these two notions of the patriarchy harms progress Domains where women are doing better than men (hint: education, mental health, and psychopathy) Why it's so hard to talk about this Why Canada is different than Afghanistan (OR IS IT) Socials Follow us on Twitter at @IncrementsPod, @BennyChugg, @VadenMasrani Come join our discord server! DM us on twitter or send us an email to get a supersecret link Help us pay for men's rights posters and get exclusive bonus content by becoming a patreon subscriber here ( Or give us one-time cash donations to help with upholding the patriarchy here ( Click dem like buttons on youtube over hur ( Who is a better meninist? Tell us at


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#56 - Ask Us Anything IV: Certainty, Emergence, and Popperian Imperatives

Perhaps you thought, in your infinite ignorance, that the release of the previous episode marked the end of the age of the AMA! But nay my friends, the age of the AMA has just begun! We'll answer your questions until the cows come home; until Godot arrives; until all the world's babies are potty-trained. Or, at least, until we stop laughing. We discuss Potty training, taking babies seriously, and adult diapers Why Vaden never daydreams, fantasizes, or minds spending 10 hours in a car Whether the subjective notions of certainty, belief, or confidence deserve a spot in the objective world of epistemology Whether sports are authoritarian Whether spreading Popper's epistemology is a moral imperative The role of school and educational institutions Whether emergence is the result of the interplay between physical reality and the reality of abstraction Questions (Tom) Can any thinking take place completely independent of any certainty (explicitly acknowledged or inexplicit) whatsoever? Or can we introduce alternative terms to 'certainty' and 'confidence' to describe how individuals process their convictions, consent, and agreement? If 'certainty' and 'confidence' connote justificationism, can a fallibilist dismiss these terms entirely? (Tom) Can fallibilism, anti-authoritarianism, anti-justificationism, and critical rationalism overall operate effectively in the highly competitive space of sports, especially professional sports? (Andrew) If our best theory of how to make rapid progress comes from Popper's epistemology, should making it more widely known/understood be considered a moral imperative? If not, why? If so, thoughts? (Andrew) This one has been hanging about in my notes for a couple of years so I'm not sure it's a great question any more, but something zingy about the interplay between reality, abstractions and their effects on each other has pushed me to add it here: Is emergence the result of the interplay between physical reality and the reality of abstractions? Socials Follow us on Twitter at @IncrementsPod, @BennyChugg, @VadenMasrani Come join our discord server! DM us on twitter or send us an email to get a supersecret link Help us pay for diapers and get exclusive bonus content by becoming a patreon subscriber here ( Or give us one-time cash donations to help with Diarrhea removal here ( Click dem like buttons on youtube over hur ( Who is more annoying in the mornings? Tell us at


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#55 - Is all thought problem-solving?

Our argument at the end of last episode spilled over into discord, DMs, and world news, so we felt compelled to dedicate a full episode to addressing the question "Is all thought problem solving?" Some arguments make history, like whether atomic bombs were required in WWII, whether all philosophy is simply a language game, and whether the chicken did indeed come before the egg. Will this be one of them? We cover: - How Vaden listens to podcasts and why he thinks Andrew Huberman sucks (but studies show that Andrew Huberman is great!) - Popper's evolutionary take on problem-solving - Problems defined as "disappointed expectations" - Whether all volitional thought is problem-solving - Are irrefutable theories ever valuable, or should they all be discarded a-priori? References All life is problem-solving ( In Search of a Better World ( Episode 51 of Increments (, where we discuss "implicit definitions". Quotes Men, animals, plants, even unicellular organisms are constantly active. They are trying to improve their situation, or at least to avoid its deterioration. Even when asleep, the organism is actively maintaining the state of sleep: the depth (or else the shallowness) of sleep is a condition actively created by the organism, which sustains sleep (or else keeps the organism on the alert). Every organism is constantly preoccupied with the task of solving prob- lems. These problems arise from its own assessments of its condition and of its environment; conditions which the organism seeks to improve. - In Search Of A Better World, p.vii At bottom, this procedure seems to be the only logical one. It is also the procedure that a lower organism, even a single-cell amoeba, uses when trying to solve a problem. In this case we speak of testing movements through which the organism tries to rid itself of a troublesome problem. Higher organisms are able to learn through trial and error how a certain problem should be solved. We may say that they too make testing movements - mental testings - and that to learn is essentially to tryout one testing movement after another until one is found that solves the problem. We might compare the animal's successful solution to an expectation and hence to a hypothesis or a theory. For the animal's behaviour shows us that it expects (perhaps unconsciously or dispositionally) that in a similar case the same testing movements will again solve the problem in question. The behaviour of animals, and of plants too, shows that organisms are geared to laws or regularities. They expect laws or regularities in their surroundings, and I conjecture that most of these expectations are genetically determined - which is to say that they are innate. - All Life is Problem Solving, p.3 Socials Follow us on Twitter at @IncrementsPod, @BennyChugg, @VadenMasrani Come join our discord server! DM us on twitter or send us an email to get a supersecret link Solve all our problems and get exclusive bonus content by becoming a patreon subscriber here ( Toss us some coin over hur (patreon subscription approach ( or the ko-fi, the "just give us cash you animals" approach (, and click dem like buttons on youtube over hur ( Do studies show that Ben or Vaden is correct? Tell us at


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#54 - Ask Us Anything III: Emotional Epistemology

Back again with AUA #3 - we're getting there people! Only, uhh, seven questions to go? Incremental progress baby. Plus, we see a good old Vaden and Ben fight in this one! Thank God, because things were getting a little stale with Vaden hammering on longtermism and Ben on cliodynamics. We cover: Is hypnosis a real thing? Types of universality contained within the genetic code Pressures associated with turning political/philosophical ideas into personal identities How do emotions/feelings interface with our rational/logical mind? How should they? Vaden's (hopefully one-off) experience with Bipolar Type-1 and psychosis Is problem solving the sole purpose of thinking? Vaden says yes (with many caveats!) and Ben says wtf no you fool. Then we argue about how to watch TV. Questions (Neil Hudson) Are there any theories as to the type of universality achievable via the genetic code (in BOI it is presumed to fall short of coding for all possible life forms)? (Neil Hudson) Wd be gd to get your take on: riffing on the Sperber/Mercier social thesis v. individual, if one is scarce private space/time then the need to constantly avow one’s public identity may “swamp” the critical evaluation of arguments one hears? Goes to seeking truth v status (Arun Kannan) What are your thoughts on inexplicit knowledge (David Deutsch jargon) and more broadly emotions/feelings in the mind ? How do these interplay with explicit ideas / thoughts ? What should we prioritize ? If we don't prioritize one over the other, how to resolve conflicts between them ? Any tips, literature, Popperian wisdom you can share on this ? (Tom Nassis) Is the sole purpose of all forms of thinking problem-solving? Or can thinking have purposes other than solving a problem? Quotes Reach always has an explanation. But this time, to the best of my knowledge, the explanation is not yet known. If the reason for the jump in reach was that it was a jump to universality, what was the universality? The genetic code is presumably not universal for specifying life forms, since it relies on specific types of chemicals, such as proteins. Could it be a universal constructor? Perhaps. It does manage to build with inorganic materials sometimes, such as the calcium phosphate in bones, or the magnetite in the navigation system inside a pigeon’s brain. Biotechnologists are already using it to manufacture hydrogen and to extract uranium from seawater. It can also program organisms to perform constructions outside their bodies: birds build nests; beavers build dams. Perhaps it would it be possible to specify, in the genetic code, an organism whose life cycle includes building a nuclear-powered spaceship. Or perhaps not. I guess it has some lesser, and not yet understood, universality. In 1994 the computer scientist and molecular biologist Leonard Adleman designed and built a computer composed of DNA together with some simple enzymes, and demonstrated that it was capable of performing some sophisticated computations. At the time, Adleman’s DNA computer was arguably the fastest computer in the world. Further, it was clear that a universal classical computer could be made in a similar way. Hence we know that, whatever that other universality of the DNA system was, the universality of computation had also been inherent in it for billions of years, without ever being used – until Adleman used it. Beginning of Infinity, p.158 (emph added) References Derren brown makes people forget their stop ( Bari Weiss's conversation ( with Freddie deBoer on psychosis, bipolar, and mental health. This conversation addresses the New York Times article ( which views having schizophrenia, bipolar, etc as no better or worse than not having schizophrenia, bipolar, etc. Also contains Vaden's favorite euphemism of 2022: "Nonconsensus...


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#53 - Ask Us Anything II: Disagreements and Decisions

Ask us anything? Ask us everything! Back at it again with AUA Part 2/N. We wax poetic and wane dramatic on a number of subjects, including: - Ben's dark and despicable hidden historicist tendencies - Expounding upon (one of our many) critiques of Bayesian Epistemology - Ben's total abandonment of all of his principles - Similarities and differences between human and computer decision making - What can the critical rationalist community learn from Effective Altruism? - Ben's new best friend Peter Turchin - How to have effective disagreements and not take gleeful petty jabs at friends and co-hosts. Questions (Michael) A critique of Bayesian epistemology is that it "assigns scalars to feelings" in an ungrounded way. It's not clear to me that the problem-solving approach of Deutsch and Popper avoid this, because even during the conjecture-refutation process, the person needs to at some point decide whether the current problem has been solved satisfactorily enough to move on to the next problem. How is this satisfaction determined, if not via summarizing one's internal belief as a scalar that surpasses some threshold? If not this (which is essentially assigning scalars to feelings), by what mechanism is a problem determined to be solved? (Michael) Is the claim that "humans create new choices whereas machines are constrained to choose within the event-space defined by the human" equivalent to saying "humans can perform abstraction while machines cannot?" Not clear what "create new choices" means, given that humans are also constrained in their vocabulary (and thus their event-space of possible thoughts) (Lulie) In what ways could the critical rationalist culture improve by looking to EA? (Scott) What principles do the @IncrementsPod duo apply to navigating effective conversations involving deep disagreement? (Scott) Are there any contexts where bayesianism has utility? (steelman) (Scott) What is Vaden going to do post graduation? Quotes “The words or the language, as they are written or spoken,” he wrote, “do not seem to play any role in my mechanism of thought. The psychical entities which seem to serve as elements in thought are certain signs and more or less clear images which can be ‘voluntarily’ reproduced and combined...this combinatory play seems to be the essential feature in productive thought— before there is any connection with logical construction in words or other kinds of signs which can be communicated to others.” (Einstein) Contact us Follow us on Twitter at @IncrementsPod, @BennyChugg, @VadenMasrani Check us out on youtube at Come join our discord server! DM us on twitter or send us an email to get a supersecret link Send Ben an email asking him why god why over at


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#52 - Ask Us Anything I: Computation and Creativity

We debated calling this episode "An ode to Michael," because we set out to do an AMA but only get through his first two questions. But never fear, there are only 20 questions, so at this rate we should be done the AMA by the end of 2024. Who said we weren't fans of longtermism? Questions: Hey do you guys have a Patreon page or anyway to support you? (Michael) Not clear that humans are universal explainers. Standard argument for this is "to assume o.w. is to appeal to the supernatural," but this argument is weak b/c it does not explain why humans could in principle explain everything. But all Deutch's ideas rests on this axiom. It's almost tautological - there could be things humans cannot explain, but we wouldn't even know about these things b/c we wouldn't be able to explain them. I think this argument that humans are universal explainers and thus can achieve indefinite progress needs more rigor.It might be a step jump from animals to humans, but why could there not be more step jumps in intelligence beyond human intelligence that we do not even know about? I'd love to get your thoughts on this. (Michael) Another pt I'd love to get your perspectives on is the idea of the "creative program." Standard discussion is "humans are special because we are creative, and we don't know what the creative program is." But we need to make progress on creativity at some point and it kind of feels like we are using the word "creativity" as a vague suitcase word to encapsulate "everything we don't yet know about intelligence." Simply saying "humans are creative" without properly defining what it means to be creative in a way that we can evaluate in machines is not helping us make progress on developing creative AI. It's unsatisfying to hear critiques of AI that say "this AI model is not 'truly intelligent' because it is not creative" without also proposing a way to evaluate its creativity. In this sense, critiques of AI that say AI is "not creative" are bad explanations because these critiques are easy to vary. Without a proposing a proper test for creativity that can actually evaluated, it is not possible for us to conduct a test to refute the critique. I'd love to get your thoughts on how we can construct evaluations for creativity in a way that enables us to make scientific progress on understanding the creative algorithm! References: - Episode 9: Introduction to Computational Theory (, Theory of Anything podcast ( - David Deutsch on Coleman Hughes' podcast: Multiverse of Madness ( - John Cleese's excellent new book Creativity ( Contact us - Follow us on Twitter at @IncrementsPod, @BennyChugg, @VadenMasrani - Check us out on youtube at - Come join our discord server! DM us on twitter or send us an email to get a supersecret link Support You can support the project on Patreon (monthly donations, or Ko-fi (one time donation, Thank you! How much explaining could a universal explainer explain if a universal explainer could explain explaining? Tell us at


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#51 - Truth, Moose, and Refrigerated Eggplant: Critiquing Chapman's Meta-Rationality

Vaden comes out swinging against David Chapman's work on meta-rationality. Is Chapman pointing out a fatal flaw, or has Popper solved these problems long ago? Do moose see cups? Does Ben see cups? What the f*** is a cup? We discuss - Chapman's concept of nebulosity - Whether this concept is covered by Popper - The relationship of nebulosity and the vagueness of language - The correspondence theory of truth - If the concept of "problem situation" saves us from Chapman's critique - Why "conjecture and criticism" isn't everything References - The excellent Do Explain ( podcast. Go listen, right now! - In the cells of the eggplant (, David Chapman - Chapman's website ( - Jake Orthwein on Do Explain (, Part I Chapman Quotes Reasonableness is not interested in universality. It aims to get practical work done in specific situations. Precise definitions and absolute truths are rarely necessary or helpful for that. Is this thing an eggplant? Depends on what you are trying to do with it. Is there water in the refrigerator? Well, what do you want it for? What counts as baldness, fruit, red, or water depends on your purposes, and on all sorts of details of the situation. Those details are so numerous and various that they can’t all be taken into account ahead of time to make a general formal theory. Any factor might matter in some situation. On the other hand, nearly all are irrelevant in any specific situation, so determining whether the water in an eggplant counts, or if Alain is bald, is usually easy. David Chapman, When will you go bald? ( Do cow hairs that have come out of the follicle but that are stuck to the cow by friction, sweat, or blood count as part of the cow? How about ones that are on the verge of falling out, but are stuck in the follicle by only the weakest of bonds? The reasonable answer is “Dude! It doesn’t matter!” David Chapman, Objects, objectively ( We use words as tools to get things done; and to get things done, we improvise, making use of whatever materials are ready to hand. If you want to whack a piece of sheet metal to bend it, and don’t know or care what the “right” tool is (if there even is one), you might take a quick look around the garage, grab a large screwdriver at the “wrong” end, and hit the target with its hard rubber handle. A hand tool may have one or two standard uses; some less common but pretty obvious ones; and unusual, creative ones. But these are not clearly distinct categories of usage. David Chapman, The purpose of meaning ( Popper Quotes Observation is always selective. It needs a chosen object, a definite task, an interest, a point of view, a problem. And its description presupposes a descriptive language, with property words; it presupposes similarity and classification, which in their turn presuppose interests, points of view, and problems. ‘A hungry animal’, writes Katz, ‘divides the environment into edible and inedible things. An animal in flight sees roads to escape and hiding places . . . Generally speaking, objects change . . . according to the needs of the animal.’ We may add that objects can be classified, and can become similar or dissimilar, only in this way—by being related to needs and interests. This rule applies not only to animals but also to scientists. For the animal a point of view is provided by its needs, the task of the moment, and its expectations; for the scientist by his theoretical interests, the special problem under investigation, his conjectures and anticipations, and the theories which he accepts as a kind of background: his frame of reference, his "horizon of expectations". Conjectures and Refutations p. 61 (italics added) I believe that...


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#50 - On the Evolutionary Origins of Storytelling, Art, and Science

Fifty godd*** episodes! 'Tis been a ride full of debate, drinks, questionable arguments, Ben becoming both a dualist and a social media addict, and Vaden stalwartly not changing his mind about a single thing. To celebrate, we dive into a thesis which connects many strands of what we've discussed over the years: Brian Boyd's work on art and fiction. Boyd provides an evolutionary account of why we're heavily invested in both creating and consuming fictional narratives. If this was simply a fun habit without any real advantage, such a propensity would have been selected against long ago because creating fiction requires an enormous amount of time. This raises the question: What is the advantage of fiction? Why is producing it adaptive? Brian Boyd ( is a distinguished professor emeritus at the University of Auckland. His most well-known for his scholarship on Vladimir Nabokov, and is currently writing a biography on Karl Popper. You can understand why Vaden got so excited about him. Note: We spend a lot of time giving background context for Boyd's theory - if you want to skip all that and get right to the theory itself, we've added chapter markers to take you there. Added after publishing : Looks like chapter markers aren't working correctly on some players, discussion of theory begins at 00:40:43 We discuss - Reflections on our 50th episode! - Non-evolutionary theories of art and fiction, and why they fail - Boyd's thesis that art results from playing with pattern and information - Fiction as a kind of art which results from playing with social information - How these theories explain why art is adaptive - The link between art and creativity - How Boyd's theory improves on the two other major evolutionary theories of art References - On the Origin of Stories ( - Stacks of Stories, Stories of Stacks. Essay from the book Stalking Nabokov ( - Steven Pinker's thesis on art ( - Geoffrey Miller's thesis ( Quotes We crave information. But because we have a much more open-ended curiosity than other animals, we have a special appetite for pattern. We crave the high yield of novel kinds of pattern. So we not only chase and tussle, we not only play physically, but we also play cognitively, with patterns of the kinds of information that matter most to us: sound, sight, and, in our ultrasocial species, social information. We play with the rhythm and pitch and shape of sounds in music and song; with colors and shapes in drawing and painting and mudpies or sandcastles; and with patterns of social information in pretend play and story. In the social world, we see patterns of identity (who are they?), personality (what are they like?), society (whom are they related to? whom do they team up with? how do they rank?). In the world of events, we see patterns of cause and effect. In the world of social events, we see patterns of intention, action, and outcome. (Stacks of Stories, Stories of Stacks - Boyd) To sum up: I’ve explored the hypothesis that art—or at least many forms of art—exploit visual aesthetics for no direct adaptive reason. Making and looking at art does not, and probably never did, result in more surviving offspring. There are, to be sure, adaptive explanations why certain visual patterns give human beings aesthetic, intellectual and sexual pleasure: they are cues to understandable, safe, productive, nutritious or fertile things in the world. And since we are a toolmaking, technological species, one of the things that we can do...


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#49 - AGI: Could The End Be Nigh? (With Rosie Campbell)

When big bearded men wearing fedoras begin yelling at you that the end is nigh ( and superintelligence is about to kill us all, what should you do? Vaden says don't panic, and Ben is simply awestruck by the ability to grow a beard in the first place. To help us think through the potential risks and rewards of ever more impressive machine learning models, we invited Rosie Campbell on the podcast. Rosie is on the safety team at OpenAI and, while she's more worried about the existential risks of AI than we are, she's just as keen on some debate over a bottle of wine. We discuss: - Whether machine learning poses an existential threat - How concerned we should be about existing AI - Whether deep learning can get us to artificial general intelligence (AGI) - If AI safety is simply quality assurance - How can we test if an AI system is creative? References: - Mathgen: Randomly generated math papers ( Contact us - Follow us on Twitter at @IncrementsPod, @BennyChugg, @VadenMasrani - Follow Rosie at @RosieCampbell or - Check us out on youtube at - Come join our discord server! DM us on twitter or send us an email to get a supersecret link Prove you're creative by inventing the next big thing and then send it to us at Special Guest: Rosie Campbell.


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#48 (C&R Chap. 18) - Utopia and Violence

You may, perchance, have noticed that the sweeping utopian movements of the past did not end well. And most of them involved an horrific amount of violence. Is this connection just chance, or is there something inherent to utopian thinking which leads to violent ends? We turn to Chapter 18 of Conjectures and Refutations where Popper gives us his spicy take. We discuss - How do you "see" your early memories? - Vaden corrects the record on a few points - Rationality grounded in humility versus goal-oriented rationality - If ends can be decided rationally - How and if goal-oriented rationality leads to violence - Working to reduce concrete evils versus working to achieve abstract goods ** Link to chapter **: - Quotes A rationalist, as I use the word, is a man who attempts to reach decisions by argument and perhaps, in certain cases, by compromise, rather than by violence. He is a man who would rather be unsuccessful in convincing another man by argument than successful in crushing him by force, by intimidation and threats, or even by persuasive propaganda. Pg. 478 I believe that we can avoid violence only in so far as we practise this attitude of reasonableness when dealing with one another in social life; and that any other attitude is likely to produce violence—even a one-sided attempt to deal with others by gentle persuasion, and to convince them by argument and example of those insights we are proud of possessing, and of whose truth we are absolutely certain. We all remember how many religious wars were fought for a religion of love and gentleness; how many bodies were burned alive with the genuinely kind intention of saving souls from the eternal fire of hell. Only if we give up our authoritarian attitude in the realm of opinion, only if we establish the attitude of give and take, of readiness to learn from other people, can we hope to control acts of violence inspired by piety and duty. Pg. 479 In the latter case political action will be rational only if we first determine the final ends of the political changes which we intend to bring about. It will be rational only relative to certain ideas of what a state ought to be like. Thus it appears that as a preliminary to any rational political action we must first attempt to become as clear as possible about our ultimate political ends; for example the kind of state which we should consider the best; and only afterwards can we begin to determine the means which may best help us to realize this state, or to move slowly towards it, taking it as the aim of a historical process which we may to some extent influence and steer towards the goal selected. Now it is precisely this view which I call Utopianism. Any rational and non-selfish political action, on this view, must be preceded by a determination of our ultimate ends, not merely of intermediate or partial aims which are only steps towards our ultimate end, and which therefore should be considered as means rather than as ends; therefore rational political action must be based upon a more or less clear and detailed description or blueprint of our ideal state, and also upon a plan or blueprint of the historical path that leads towards this goal. Pg. 481-482 The Utopian method, which chooses an ideal state of society as the aim which all our political actions should serve, is likely to produce violence can be shown thus. Since we cannot determine the ultimate ends of political actions scientifically, or by purely rational methods, differences of opinion concerning what the ideal state should be like cannot always be smoothed out by the method of argument. They will at least partly have the character of religious differences. And there can hardly be tolerance between these different Utopian religions. Utopian aims are designed to serve as a basis for rational political action and discussion, and such action appears to be possible only if the aim is definitely decided upon. Thus the...


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#47 (Bonus) - Dualism, Reductionism, and Explanation Pancakes

Second holiday season bonus episode! Vaden joins Chesto on The Declaration ( podcast to talk about monism, dualism, the reality of abstractions, emergence, and reductionism. This convo was recorded in 2019, but much of the content is evergreen and we think it still makes for interestin' listenin'. Except the sound quality, which leaves much to be desired. Thanks Blue Yeti. We discuss: - The mind-body problem - Why Vaden is a filthy pluralist and Chesto is a sober, sane, rational materialist - Reductonism vs dualism vs pluralism - The reality of abstractions - Why explanations are central to science - Would you get into a Star Trek transporter? - And, a little bit out of left field, some advice for talking about mental health References: - Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid ( - Beginning of Infinity ( - Chesto's instagram ( for your eyes and soundcloud ( for your ears. Errata: - In the Domino example from BOI the prime number was 641, not whatever number Vaden said - The Voyager spacecraft launched in 1977, not 1972 Contact us - Follow us on Twitter at @IncrementsPod, @BennyChugg, @VadenMasrani - Check us out on youtube at - Come join our discord server! DM us on twitter or send us an email to get a supersecret link Are emails real? Tell us at Photo credit: