Q&A: the difference between elitism & anti-intellectualism – and the ethics of switching off your mother

A conversational Q&A session between Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins made for an entertaining listen, yet in my opinion had less information value than a one-on-one discussion between these two gentlemen would have had. Richard Dawkins was clearly in entertainment mode: his focus was more on funny anecdotes and making tongue-in-cheek comments towards the audience than conveying information. I applaud Sam for his devotion to serious conversation. Still many topics contained food for thought, what follows now is my pick of quotes, a lot of paraphrasing and some of my own opinion.

the two horsemen

On science and religion:

Richard (RD): “This is a unidirectional conquest of territory. You never see a point about which science was once the authority, but now the best answer is religious. But you always see the reverse of that.”

BB: This does not justify extrapolation ad infinitum though, so one would have to come up with a different line of arguments if the goal was to convince someone that a theistic world view is not the most probable explanation of our universe.

On AI

Q: Does mere scaling of intelligence and information processing get you consciousness?
Why do we need to be conscious?

SH: The conscious part of you is generally the last to find out about what your mind just did. Continue reading “Q&A: the difference between elitism & anti-intellectualism – and the ethics of switching off your mother”

An ode to the podcast

The main perk of having a fairly long daily bike commute – though true in The Netherlands, especially more so in the California sun – is the fact that I can spend around 100 minutes of each day listening to people who have something interesting to say. Whether it is hearing spectacular accounts of historical events (e.g. Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History), versatile, insightful documentaries on people from all walks of life (e.g. This American Life), or in depth conversations with interesting people (e.g. the Tim Ferriss show): podcasts make it possible to do this all at times when you would otherwise be forced to stare into the distance.*

In addition to the above-mentioned element of personal knowledge gain, a group of my closest friends and I have experienced how being active listeners sparks all kinds of interesting discussions. Like sharing the latest books one has read, we are continuously sharing anecdotes, insights, or things that podcasts made us ponder about. To my experience, the podcast as a medium can provide a sensible, stable source of knowledge at paces much higher than books can give me. Not that this prompts me to give up on this hardcopy medium directly (though some friends have switched to audio books and podcasts entirely), but I find it difficult to find or make the time to sit down and read non-academic literature these days.

So there you have it: podcasts have changed my life (Thank you Olja!), and so might they change yours. Forget feeding a senseless addiction to anxiety-spreading factual or non-factual daily news. Gone are the commercial breaks** and time limits of the ordinary TV or radio shows. The times to jump in have never been better: though a listener for several years***, I have the impression that podcast quantity and quality has increased as this medium reached maturity. To further share my enthusiasm and help anyone getting started, this site will contain a new page dedicated to podcasts: links to – and short descriptions of – the ones I thought worthy of my time. And most importantly: if anyone feels like I should listen to anything in particular: please drop me a message, I have commute-time on my hands as you now know. Personally, I would recommend to try out several, as liking one’s voice or manner of speech is a very personal matter. Continue reading “An ode to the podcast”