Episode 53

#53 - Ask Us Anything II: Disagreements and Decisions


August 14th, 2023

1 hr 34 mins 10 secs

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About this Episode

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.


  1. (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?
  2. (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)
  3. (Lulie) In what ways could the critical rationalist culture improve by looking to EA?
  4. (Scott) What principles do the @IncrementsPod duo apply to navigating effective conversations involving deep disagreement?
  5. (Scott) Are there any contexts where bayesianism has utility? (steelman)
  6. (Scott) What is Vaden going to do post graduation?


“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)

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