Philosophy Podcasts

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. Love, bribes, suggestions, and hate-mail all welcome at

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. Love, bribes, suggestions, and hate-mail all welcome at




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. Love, bribes, suggestions, and hate-mail all welcome at




#23 - Physics, Philosophy, and Free Will with Sam Kuypers

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: Links: recent paperFrom Micro to MacroConstitution of Liberty Sam Kuypers is a DPhil student at the University of Oxford, where he researches foundational issues in quantum...


#22 - Thinking Through Thought Experiments

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's message, reflexively tries to disagree but can't. Vaden's POV:...


# 21 (C&R Series, Ch.1) - The Problem of Induction

After a long digression, we finally return to the Conjectures and Refutations series. In this episode we cover Chapter 1: Science: Conjectures and Refutations. In particular, we focus on one of the trickiest Popperian concepts to wrap one's head around - the problem of induction. References:'s dialogues concerning natural religionProof of the impossibility of probability inductionYouTube videosAnd in case you were wondering what happened...


#20 (HTI crossover episode) - Roundtable Longtermism Discussion

Hello and sorry for the delay! We finally got together with Fin and Luca from the excellent HearThisIdea podcast for a nice roundtable discussion on longtermism. We laughed, we cried, and tried our best to communicate across the divide. Material referenced in the discussion: - 80k Hours Problem Profiles - Jon Hamm imprisons us in an Alexa - The Case for Strong Longtermism - A Case Against Strong Longtermism - Nick Bostrom's seminal paper on existential risks Quote: "[Events like...


#19 - Against Longtermism FAQ

Back in the ring for round two on longtermism! We (Ben somewhat drunkenly) respond to some of the criticism of episode #17 and our two essays (Ben's, Vaden's) We touch on: piece on cliodynamicsThe Pasadena gameYou will, dear listener, be either pleased or horrified to learn that this will not be our last foray into longtermism. It's like choose your own adventure ... except we're choosing the adventure, and the adventure is longtermism. Next stop is the Hear this Idea podcast! Send us your...


#18 - Work Addiction

Bit of a personal episode this one is! Ben learns how to be a twitter warrior while Vaden has a full-on breakdown during quarantine. Who knew work addiction was actually a real thing? And that there are 12 step programs for people who identify as being "powerless over compulsive work, worry, or activity"? And that mathematics can create compulsive behavior indistinguishable from drug addiction? Vaden does, now. People mentioned in this episode: - Andrew Wiles (look at his face! the face of...


#17 - Against Longtermism

Well, there's no avoiding controversy with this one. We explain, examine, and attempt to refute the shiny new moral philosophy of longtermism. Our critique focuses on The Case for Strong Longtermism by Hilary Greaves and Will MacAskill. We say so in the episode, but it's important to emphasize that we harbour no animosity towards anyone in the effective altruism community. However, we both think that longtermism is pretty f***ing scary and do our best to communicate why. Confused as to why...


# 16 - Social Media II: Conversation, Privacy, and Odds & Ends

Vaden comes battle-hardened and ready to debate and is met with ... a big soft hug from Ben. Ben repents his apocalyptic sins and admits that Vaden changed his mind. Again. God dammit this is getting annoying. To his credit, Vaden only gloats for 10 minutes. Eventually we touch on some other topics: Much love to everyone and stay safe out there! Send us some feedback at


#15 - Social Media I: Manipulation, Outrage, and Documentaries

Alright spiders, point this at your brain. Ben and Vaden do a deep dive into the recent Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma and have a genuine debate, just like the good ol' days. Topics touched: Outraged? Polarized? Radicalized, even? We want to hear about it at Quotes referenced in episode: "This point being crossed is at the root of addiction, polarization, radicalization, outrageification, vanityification, the entire thing. This is overpowering human...


#14 (C&R Series, Ch.16) - Prediction, Prophecy, and Fascism

The third in the Conjectures and Refutations series, we cover Chapter 16: Prediction And Prophecy in the Social Sciences. There's a bit more Hitler stuff in this one than usual (retweets ≠ endorsements), but only because he provides a clear example of the motherlode of all bad ideas - historicism. We discuss: Plus a little easter egg! As always send us a little sumptin' sumptin' at Quotes: "In memory of the countless men, women and children of all creeds or...


#13 - Privacy with Stephen Caines

Stephen is back for round two! In this episode we learn that Vaden wants to live in a panopticon and Ben in a high tech surveillance state. Also, we're all going to use Bing from now on. Stephen Caines is a research fellow at Stanford law school's CodeX centre for legal informatics, where he specializes in the domestic use of facial recognition technology. He received a J.D. from the University of Miami with a concentration in the Business of Innovation, Law, and Technology. Bring on da...


#12 (C&R Series, Ch. 17) - Public Opinion and Liberal Principles

In the lead up to the American presidential election, one of the largest and most consequential expressions of public opinion, Ben and Vaden do what they always do and ask: "What does Popper say about this?" The second in the Conjectures and Refutations series, we cover Chapter 17: Public Opinion and Liberal Principles. Largely irrelevant and probably unhelpful, we touch Send us some hate or some love at Chapter excerpt: The following remarks were designed to...


#11 - Debating Existential Risk w/ Mauricio

Vaden's arguments against Bayesian philosophy and existential risk are examined by someone who might actually know what they're talking about, i.e., not Ben. After writing a critique of our conversation in Episode 7, which started off a series of blog posts, our good friend Mauricio kindly agrees to come on the podcast and try to figure out who's more confused. Does Vaden convert? Mauricio studies political science, economics, and philosophy at Stanford University. He is one of the...


#10 (C&R Series, Ch. 4) - Tradition

Traditions, what are you good for? Absolutely nothing? In this episode of Increments, Ben and Vaden begin their series on Conjectures and Refutations by looking at the role tradition plays in society, and examine one tradition in particular - the critical tradition. No monkeys were harmed in the making of this episode. References: - C&R, Chapter 4: Towards a Rational Theory of Tradition Podcast shoutout: - Jennifer Doleac and Rob Wiblin on policing, law and incarceration - James Foreman...


#9 - Facial Recognition Technology with Stephen Caines

The talented Stephen Caines punctures the cloud of confusion that is Ben and Vaden's conception of facial recognition technology. We talk about the development and usage of facial recognition in the private and public spheres, the dangers and merits of the technology, and Vaden's plan to use it a bars. For God's sake don't give that man a GPU. Stephen is a legal technologist with a passion for access to justice. He is a 2019 graduate of the University of Miami School of Law with a...


#8 - Philosophy of Probability III: Conjectures and Refutations

On the same page at last! Ben comes to the philosophical confessional to announce his probabilistic sins. The Bayesians will be pissed (with high probability). At least Vaden doesn't make him kiss anything. After too much agreement and self-congratulation, Ben and Vaden conclude the mini-series on the philosophy of probability, and "announce" an upcoming mega-series on Conjectures and Refutations. References: - My Bayesian Enlightenment by Eliezer Yudkowsky Rationalist community blogs: -...


#7 - Philosophy of Probability II: Existential Risks

Back down to earth we go! Or try to, at least. In this episode Ben and Vaden attempt to ground their previous discussion on the philosophy of probability by focusing on a real-world example, namely the book The Precipice by Toby Ord, recently featured on the Making Sense podcast. Vaden believes in arguments, and Ben argues for beliefs. Quotes "A common approach to estimating the chance of an unprecedented event with earth-shaking consequences is to take a skeptical stance: to start with an...


#6 - Philosophy of Probability I: Introduction

Don't leave yet - we swear this will be more interesting than it sounds ... ... But a drink will definitely help. Ben and Vaden dive into the interpretations behind probability. What do people mean when they use the word, and why do we use this one tool to describe different concepts. The rowdiness truly kicks in when Vaden releases his pent-up critique of Bayesianism, thereby losing both his friends and PhD position. But at least he's ingratiated himself with Karl...


#5 - Incrementalism Revisited: Defund the Police

In their first somber episode, Ben and Vaden discuss the protests and political tensions surrounding the murder of George Floyd. They talk about defunding the police, the importance of philosophy in politics, and honest conversation as the only peaceful means of error-correction. References: Things That Make White People UncomfortableLove and complaints both welcome at


#4 - The Hubris of Computer Scientists

Are computer scientists recklessly applying their methods to other fields without sufficient thoughtfulness? What are computer scientists good for anyway? Ben, in true masochistic fashion, worries that computer scientists are overstepping their bounds. Vaden analysis his worries with a random forest and determines that they are only 10% accurate, but then proceeds to piss of his entire field by arguing that we're nowhere close to true artificial intelligence. References Good" isn't good...