122 episodes

FLI catalyzes and supports research and initiatives for safeguarding life and developing optimistic visions of the future, including positive ways for humanity to steer its own course considering new technologies and challenges.
Among our objectives is to inspire discussion and a sharing of ideas. As such, we interview researchers and thought leaders who we believe will help spur discussion within our community. The interviews do not necessarily represent FLI’s opinions or views.

The Future of Life Future of Life Institute

    • Technology
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FLI catalyzes and supports research and initiatives for safeguarding life and developing optimistic visions of the future, including positive ways for humanity to steer its own course considering new technologies and challenges.
Among our objectives is to inspire discussion and a sharing of ideas. As such, we interview researchers and thought leaders who we believe will help spur discussion within our community. The interviews do not necessarily represent FLI’s opinions or views.

    Max Tegmark and the FLI Team on 2020 and Existential Risk Reduction in the New Year

    Max Tegmark and the FLI Team on 2020 and Existential Risk Reduction in the New Year

    Max Tegmark and members of the FLI core team come together to discuss favorite projects from 2020, what we've learned from the past year, and what we think is needed for existential risk reduction in 2021.

    Topics discussed in this episode include:

    -FLI's perspectives on 2020 and hopes for 2021
    -What our favorite projects from 2020 were
    -The biggest lessons we've learned from 2020
    -What we see as crucial and needed in 2021 to ensure and make -improvements towards existential safety

    You can find the page for this podcast here: https://futureoflife.org/2021/01/08/max-tegmark-and-the-fli-team-on-2020-and-existential-risk-reduction-in-the-new-year/

    Timestamps: 

    0:00 Intro
    00:52 First question: What was your favorite project from 2020?
    1:03 Max Tegmark on the Future of Life Award
    4:15 Anthony Aguirre on AI Loyalty
    9:18 David Nicholson on the Future of Life Award
    12:23 Emilia Javorksy on being a co-champion for the UN Secretary-General's effort on digital cooperation
    14:03 Jared Brown on developing comments on the European Union's White Paper on AI through community collaboration
    16:40 Tucker Davey on editing the biography of Victor Zhdanov
    19:49 Lucas Perry on the podcast and Pindex video
    23:17 Second question: What lessons do you take away from 2020?
    23:26 Max Tegmark on human fragility and vulnerability
    25:14 Max Tegmark on learning from history
    26:47 Max Tegmark on the growing threats of AI
    29:45 Anthony Aguirre on the inability of present-day institutions to deal with large unexpected problems
    33:00 David Nicholson on the need for self-reflection on the use and development of technology
    38:05 Emilia Javorsky on the global community coming to awareness about tail risks
    39:48 Jared Brown on our vulnerability to low probability, high impact events and the importance of adaptability and policy engagement
    41:43 Tucker Davey on taking existential risks more seriously and ethics-washing
    43:57 Lucas Perry on the fragility of human systems
    45:40 Third question: What is needed in 2021 to make progress on existential risk mitigation
    45:50 Max Tegmark on holding Big Tech accountable, repairing geopolitics, and fighting the myth of the technological zero-sum game
    49:58 Anthony Aguirre on the importance of spreading understanding of expected value reasoning and fixing the information crisis
    53:41 David Nicholson on the need to reflect on our values and relationship with technology
    54:35 Emilia Javorksy on the importance of returning to multilateralism and global dialogue
    56:00 Jared Brown on the need for robust government engagement
    57:30 Lucas Perry on the need for creating institutions for existential risk mitigation and global cooperation
    1:00:10 Outro

    This podcast is possible because of the support of listeners like you. If you found this conversation to be meaningful or valuable, consider supporting it directly by donating at futureoflife.org/donate. Contributions like yours make these conversations possible.

    • 1 hr
    Future of Life Award 2020: Saving 200,000,000 Lives by Eradicating Smallpox

    Future of Life Award 2020: Saving 200,000,000 Lives by Eradicating Smallpox

    The recipients of the 2020 Future of Life Award, William Foege, Michael Burkinsky, and Victor Zhdanov Jr., join us on this episode of the FLI Podcast to recount the story of smallpox eradication, William Foege's and Victor Zhdanov Sr.'s involvement in the eradication, and their personal experience of the events.

     Topics discussed in this episode include:

    -William Foege's and Victor Zhdanov's efforts to eradicate smallpox
    -Personal stories from Foege's and Zhdanov's lives
    -The history of smallpox
    -Biological issues of the 21st century

    You can find the page for this podcast here: https://futureoflife.org/2020/12/11/future-of-life-award-2020-saving-200000000-lives-by-eradicating-smallpox/

    You can watch the 2020 Future of Life Award ceremony here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=73WQvR5iIgk&feature=emb_title&ab_channel=FutureofLifeInstitute

    You can learn more about the Future of Life Award here: https://futureoflife.org/future-of-life-award/

    Timestamps: 

    0:00 Intro
    3:13 Part 1: How William Foege got into smallpox efforts and his work in Eastern Nigeria
    14:12 The USSR's smallpox eradication efforts and convincing the WHO to take up global smallpox eradication
    15:46 William Foege's efforts in and with the WHO for smallpox eradication
    18:00 Surveillance and containment as a viable strategy
    18:51 Implementing surveillance and containment throughout the world after success in West Africa
    23:55 Wrapping up with eradication and dealing with the remnants of smallpox
    25:35 Lab escape of smallpox in Birmingham England and the final natural case
    27:20 Part 2: Introducing Michael Burkinsky as well as Victor and Katia Zhdanov
    29:45 Introducing Victor Zhdanov Sr. and Alissa Zhdanov
    31:05 Michael Burkinsky's memories of Victor Zhdanov Sr.
    39:26 Victor Zhdanov Jr.'s memories of Victor Zhdanov Sr.
    46:15 Mushrooms with meat
    47:56 Stealing the family car
    49:27 Victor Zhdanov Sr.'s efforts at the WHO for smallpox eradication
    58:27 Exploring Alissa's book on Victor Zhdanov Sr.'s life
    1:06:09 Michael's view that Victor Zhdanov Sr. is unsung, especially in Russia
    1:07:18 Part 3: William Foege on the history of smallpox and biology in the 21st century
    1:07:32 The origin and history of smallpox
    1:10:34 The origin and history of variolation and the vaccine
    1:20:15 West African "healers" who would create smallpox outbreaks
    1:22:25 The safety of the smallpox vaccine vs. modern vaccines
    1:29:40 A favorite story of William Foege's
    1:35:50 Larry Brilliant and people central to the eradication efforts
    1:37:33 Foege's perspective on modern pandemics and human bias
    1:47:56 What should we do after COVID-19 ends
    1:49:30 Bio-terrorism, existential risk, and synthetic pandemics
    1:53:20 Foege's final thoughts on the importance of global health experts in politics

    This podcast is possible because of the support of listeners like you. If you found this conversation to be meaningful or valuable, consider supporting it directly by donating at futureoflife.org/donate. Contributions like yours make these conversations possible.

    • 1 hr 54 min
    Sean Carroll on Consciousness, Physicalism, and the History of Intellectual Progress

    Sean Carroll on Consciousness, Physicalism, and the History of Intellectual Progress

    Sean Carroll, theoretical physicist at Caltech, joins us on this episode of the FLI Podcast to comb through the history of human thought, the strengths and weaknesses of various intellectual movements, and how we are to situate ourselves in the 21st century given progress thus far.

     Topics discussed in this episode include:

    -Important intellectual movements and their merits
    -The evolution of metaphysical and epistemological views over human history
    -Consciousness, free will, and philosophical blunders
    -Lessons for the 21st century

    You can find the page for this podcast here: https://futureoflife.org/2020/12/01/sean-carroll-on-consciousness-physicalism-and-the-history-of-intellectual-progress/

    You can find the video for this podcast here: https://youtu.be/6HNjL8_fsTk

    Timestamps: 

    0:00 Intro
    2:06 The problem of beliefs and the strengths and weaknesses of religion
    6:40 The Age of Enlightenment and importance of reason
    10:13 The importance of humility and the is--ought gap
    17:53 The advantages of religion and mysticism
    19:50 Materialism and Newtonianism
    28:00 Duality, self, suffering, and philosophical blunders
    36:56 Quantum physics as a paradigm shift
    39:24 Physicalism, the problem of consciousness, and free will
    01:01:50 What does it mean for something to be real?
    01:09:40 The hard problem of consciousness
    01:14:20 The multiple worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics and utilitarianism
    01:21:16 The importance of being charitable in conversation
    1:24:55 Sean's position in the philosophy of consciousness
    01:27:29 Sean's metaethical position
    01:29:36 Where to find and follow Sean

    This podcast is possible because of the support of listeners like you. If you found this conversation to be meaningful or valuable, consider supporting it directly by donating at futureoflife.org/donate. Contributions like yours make these conversations possible.

    • 1 hr 30 min
    Mohamed Abdalla on Big Tech, Ethics-washing, and the Threat on Academic Integrity

    Mohamed Abdalla on Big Tech, Ethics-washing, and the Threat on Academic Integrity

    Mohamed Abdalla, PhD student at the University of Toronto, joins us to discuss how Big Tobacco and Big Tech work to manipulate public opinion and academic institutions in order to maximize profits and avoid regulation.

    Topics discussed in this episode include:

    -How Big Tobacco uses it's wealth to obfuscate the harm of tobacco and appear socially responsible
    -The tactics shared by Big Tech and Big Tobacco to preform ethics-washing and avoid regulation
    -How Big Tech and Big Tobacco work to influence universities, scientists, researchers, and policy makers
    -How to combat the problem of ethics-washing in Big Tech

    You can find the page for this podcast here: https://futureoflife.org/2020/11/17/mohamed-abdalla-on-big-tech-ethics-washing-and-the-threat-on-academic-integrity/

    The Future of Life Institute AI policy page: https://futureoflife.org/AI-policy/

    Timestamps: 

    0:00 Intro
    1:55 How Big Tech actively distorts the academic landscape and what counts as big tech
    6:00 How Big Tobacco has shaped industry research
    12:17 The four tactics of Big Tobacco and Big Tech
    13:34 Big Tech and Big Tobacco working to appear socially responsible
    22:15 Big Tech and Big Tobacco working to influence the decisions made by funded universities
    32:25 Big Tech and Big Tobacco working to influence research questions and the plans of individual scientists
    51:53 Big Tech and Big Tobacco finding skeptics and critics of them and funding them to give the impression of social responsibility
    1:00:24 Big Tech and being authentically socially responsible
    1:11:41 Transformative AI, social responsibility, and the race to powerful AI systems
    1:16:56 Ethics-washing as systemic
    1:17:30 Action items for solving Ethics-washing
    1:19:42 Has Mohamed received criticism for this paper?
    1:20:07 Final thoughts from Mohamed

    This podcast is possible because of the support of listeners like you. If you found this conversation to be meaningful or valuable, consider supporting it directly by donating at futureoflife.org/donate. Contributions like yours make these conversations possible.

    • 1 hr 22 min
    Maria Arpa on the Power of Nonviolent Communication

    Maria Arpa on the Power of Nonviolent Communication

    Maria Arpa, Executive Director of the Center for Nonviolent Communication, joins the FLI Podcast to share the ins and outs of the powerful needs-based framework of nonviolent communication.

    Topics discussed in this episode include:

    -What nonviolent communication (NVC) consists of
    -How NVC is different from normal discourse
    -How NVC is composed of observations, feelings, needs, and requests
    -NVC for systemic change
    -Foundational assumptions in NVC
    -An NVC exercise

    You can find the page for this podcast here: https://futureoflife.org/2020/11/02/maria-arpa-on-the-power-of-nonviolent-communication/

    Timestamps:

    0:00 Intro
    2:50 What is nonviolent communication?
    4:05 How is NVC different from normal discourse?
    18:40 NVC’s four components: observations, feelings, needs, and requests
    34:50 NVC for systemic change
    54:20 The foundational assumptions of NVC
    58:00 An exercise in NVC

    This podcast is possible because of the support of listeners like you. If you found this conversation to be meaningful or valuable, consider supporting it directly by donating at futureoflife.org/donate. Contributions like yours make these conversations possible.

    • 1 hr 12 min
    Stephen Batchelor on Awakening, Embracing Existential Risk, and Secular Buddhism

    Stephen Batchelor on Awakening, Embracing Existential Risk, and Secular Buddhism

    Stephen Batchelor, a Secular Buddhist teacher and former monk, joins the FLI Podcast to discuss the project of awakening, the facets of human nature which contribute to extinction risk, and how we might better embrace existential threats.

     Topics discussed in this episode include:

    -The projects of awakening and growing the wisdom with which to manage technologies
    -What might be possible of embarking on the project of waking up
    -Facets of human nature that contribute to existential risk
    -The dangers of the problem solving mindset
    -Improving the effective altruism and existential risk communities

    You can find the page for this podcast here: https://futureoflife.org/2020/10/15/stephen-batchelor-on-awakening-embracing-existential-risk-and-secular-buddhism/

    Timestamps: 

    0:00 Intro
    3:40 Albert Einstein and the quest for awakening
    8:45 Non-self, emptiness, and non-duality
    25:48 Stephen's conception of awakening, and making the wise more powerful vs the powerful more wise
    33:32 The importance of insight
    49:45 The present moment, creativity, and suffering/pain/dukkha
    58:44 Stephen's article, Embracing Extinction
    1:04:48 The dangers of the problem solving mindset
    1:26:12 Improving the effective altruism and existential risk communities
    1:37:30 Where to find and follow Stephen

    This podcast is possible because of the support of listeners like you. If you found this conversation to be meaningful or valuable, consider supporting it directly by donating at futureoflife.org/donate. Contributions like yours make these conversations possible.

    • 1 hr 39 min

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