Ben Yeoh chats to a variety of thinkers and doers about their curiosities, ideas and passions.
If you are curious about the world this show is for you.
I have extended conversations across humanities and science with artists, philosophers, writers, theatre makers, activists, economists and all walks of life.
Disclaimer: Personal podcast, no organisational affiliation or endorsement.
Kanjun Qiu: AI, metascience, institutional knowledge, trauma models, structure of knowledge, creativity and dance
Kanjun is co-founder and CEO of Generally Intelligent, an AI research company. She works on metascience ideas often with Michael Nielsen, a previous podcast guest. She’s a VC investor and co-hosts her own podcast for Generally Intelligent. She is part of building the Neighborhood, which is intergenerational campus in a square mile of central San Francisco. Generally Intelligent (as of podcast date ) are looking for great talent looking to work on AI.
We get a little nerdy on the podcast but we cover AI thinking, fears on rogue AI, and the breakthroughs of Chat AI. We discuss some of her latest ideas in meta science based on the work she has done with Michael Nielsen (previous podcast here) and what are the important questions we should be looking at.
We chat about the challenge of old institutions, the value of dance and creativity and why her friends use “to kanjun” as a verb.
We cover her ideas on models of trauma and why EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy) and cognitive therapies might work.
We discuss why dinosaurs didn’t develop more.
We chat around “what is meaning” and “what is the structure of knowledge”, what are the strengths and weakness of old institutions; culture vs knowledge vs history and other confusing questions.
Kanjun gives her advice on how to think about dance (dance like you are moving through molasses).
"Dance is inside of you. It just needs to be unlocked."
We play underrated/overrated on: having agency, city planning, death of institutions, innovation agencies, high frequency trading; diversity
Kanjun thinks on how capitalism might want to be augmented and what excites Kanjun about AI and complex systems.
Kanjun asks me questions and I offer my critique on Effective Altruism.
This is quirky long form conversation on a range of fascinating topics.
Transcript and video available here: https://www.thendobetter.com/arts/2023/1/17/kanjun-qiu-ai-metascience-institutional-knowledge-trauma-models-podcast
Florence Evans: Mud Larking, Art Collecting, Dealing and Curating
Florence Evans is an art dealer, historian, curator, collector and mud larker. We chat on what does mudlarking tell us about history ? What does art tell us about being human ?
…we mustn't forget is that ultimately there's a real human connection with beauty. So conceptual art aside which serves an important purpose and helps us to think and challenges us in many ways. On the other hand, there's a human need, I think, a kind of nesting instinct to have art for the home, things of beauty to lift your spirits. I think that's really elemental. …
Florrie chats on the cultural history of mudlarking, the stories found objects represent from the both the darker side of human history such as beads and the slave trade, as well as the lighter sides of found items.
We discuss one of her favourite finds, a whole child’s shoe from the Tudor era.
We chat on what we’ve puzzled out from our river finds including a hand blown glass apothecary bottle from the 1600s.
We discuss: bottles, beads, coins, stories, Roman items, buttons and costumes and more…
We touch on her philosophy as an art collector and what art means to us as humans.
One of my happiest achievements in my career thus far was curating an exhibition on mudlarking and mudlarked art in 2019 for the Totally Thames Festival. That was an exhibition that I put on showing art by artists featuring mudlark finds, still life photographs by Hannah Smiles; a photographer of mudlarked finds and portraits of mudlarks as well that she had taken. That was in the Bargehouse which is a massive warehouse space on the South Bank by the Oxo Tower; so right by the river.That was a joy to be asked to do that and it felt like it was a fusion of both my passion, hobby; mudlarking and what I do in work which is curate and look at art. So that was a fusion of art and mudlarking and looking at craft and elevating it to art. Looking at history and saying, "This is part of who we are as human beings. We create-- There is an impulse and an urge to make things of beauty. Even things that are utilitarian, there's beauty to be found." And that kind of links back to the philosophy of someone like William Morris who believed that art should always be useful and beautiful.
What art Florrie likes and collects and the challenge of modern art.
Florrie gives her advice on art collecting and life.
I've always done what I love and it gives me great satisfaction. You can always find your people, you can always find your niche even just by going online. It's amazing how the world opens up. As long as you are doing something that you're passionate about, you should be okay.
Transcript and links available here: www.thendobetter.com/arts/2022/12/27/florence-evans-mud-larking-art-collecting-and-art-dealing-podcast
Michael Nielsen: metascience, how to improve science, open science, and decentralisation
Michael Nielsen is a scientist at the Astera Institute. He helped pioneer quantum computing and the modern open science movement. He is a leading thinker on the topic of meta science and how to improve science, in particular, the social processes of science. His latest co-authored work is ‘A Vision of metascience: An engine of improvement for the social processes of Science’ co-authored with Kanjun Qiu . His website notebook is here, with further links to his books including on quantum, memory systems, deep learning, open science and the future of matter.
I ask: What is the most important question in science or meta science we should be seeking to understand at the moment ?
We discuss his vision for what a metascience ecosystem could be; what progress could be and ideas for improving the the culture of science and social processes.
We imagine what an alien might think about our social processes and discuss failure audits, high variance funding and whether organisations really fund ‘high risk’ projects if not that many fail, and how we might measure this.
We discuss how these ideas might not work and be wrong; the difficulty of (the lack of) language for new forming fields; how an interdisciplinary institute might work.
The possible importance of serendipity and agglomeration effects; what to do about attracting outsiders, and funding unusual ideas.
We touch on the stories of Einstein, Katalin Kariko (mRNA) and Doug Prasher (molecular biologist turned van driver) and what they might tell us.
We discuss how metascience can be treated as a research field and also as an entrepreneurial discipline.
We discuss how decentralisation may help. How new institutions may help. The challenges funders face in wanting to wait until ideas become clearer.
We discuss the opportunity that developing nations such as Indonesia might have.
We chat about rationality and critical rationality.
Michael gives some insights into how AI art might be used and how we might never master certain languages, like the languages of early computing.
We end on some thoughts Michael might give his younger self:
The one thing I wish I'd understood much earlier is the extent to which there's kind of an asymmetry in what you see, which is you're always tempted not to make a jump because you see very clearly what you're giving up and you don't see very clearly what it is you're going to gain. So almost all of the interesting opportunities on the other side of that are opaque to you now. You have a very limited kind of a vision into them. You can get around it a little bit by chatting with people who maybe are doing something similar, but it's so much more limited. And yet I know when reasoning about it, I want to treat them like my views of the two are somehow parallel but they're just not.
Transcript/Video available here: https://www.thendobetter.com/arts/2022/11/15/michael-nielsen-metascience-how-to-improve-science-open-science-podcast
Saloni Dattani: making science better, important questions in science, open science, reforming peer review, vaccines and optimism.
Saloni Dattani is a founding editor at Works in Progress, a researcher at Our World in Data and a commissioning editor at Stripe Press. She has recently been profiled by Vox as part of the Future Perfect 50. Saloni is an excellent thinker on progress and science with recent articles for Wired (on making science better) and Guardian (on challenge trials).
Saloni tells me what are the most important questions in science that we should be working on.
We discuss making science better and thinking around challenge trials, making science more open source, reforming peer review and thinking around experimental clinical trial design.
We talk about vaccines, why Saloni tends to optimism and what risks and opportunities she is thinking about.
Borrowing from Tyler Cowen, I ask:
How ambitious are you ?
Which of your beliefs are you least rational about?” (Or what is she most irrational about?)
What is something esoteric you do ?
We play over rated / under rated on:
Substack, Misinformation, Doing a PhD, Women in Science; Vaccines and Drugs
We end on Saloni’s current projects and advice.
Transcript and video available here: www.thendobetter.com/arts/2022/11/8/saloni-dattani-improving-science-important-questions-in-science-open-science-reforming-peer-review-podcast
Jérôme Tagger: sustainability, ESG as a negotiation, impact, investing, preventable surprises
Jérôme Tagger is CEO of Preventable Surprises. Jérôme is a thinker on long term ESG trends (a catch-all phrase for extra-financial environment, social and governance) and systemic risks. He was a Director at the Global Impact Investing Network, the founding COO of the UN-backed Principles for Responsible Investment, Head of Research at Eurosif and Chief Revenue Officer at ImpactAlpha.
Link to video and transcript: www.thendobetter.com/investing/2022/11/2/jrme-tagger-sustainability-esg-as-a-negotiation-impact-investing-podcast
We chat about the differing roles of companies, civil society and government. What Jérôme thinks about the most important levers and theories of change.
Why ESG could be thought of as a form of negotiation.
Whether we have an idea on what the neglected issues or under rated ESG challenges are.
What you should be thinking of as the chief exec of a think tank start-up. How we should think about building institutional capital. The importance of relationships and “social capital”.
Whether we should consider “less democracy, technocractics rather than democratic decision making.
What Jérôme thinks about billionaire philanthropy.
What Jérôme is hearing about views on regulation on greenwashing and, in particular, on SFDR (Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation, EU).
I haven't talked to a single person whether on the finance side, on the NGO side, civil society or otherwise that is happy with this regulation.”
Jérôme ends with advice and current projects.
Mark Koyama: How the World Became Rich, economic history, intangibles, culture, progress
Mark Koyama is an Associate Professor of Economics at George Mason. Mark researches comparative national state economic development and the rise of religious tolerance. He is interested in how historical institutions functioned and in the relationship between culture and economic performance.
I ask why it has taken economists and historians so long to form central views on how we have become rich?
Mark discusses what historic progress might tells us about economic development today. I ask about the interaction between the main factors behind economic progress such as: institutions, culture, infrastructure, geography, energy.
I question the role of common law and ask about living constitutions. Mark discusses his reading of the literature and how the UK is relatively unique in its living constitutions.
I query the role of intangibles and the patent system and briefly lay out the case (after Brad De Long) for importance of industrial labs and the corporate form. Mark discusses these factors and their importance from the 1870s but also what was important pre-1870.
We chat about culture (using Joe Henrich’s terms) as a set of heuristics. Mark discusses the literature on the importance and role of slavery (probably not the most major facotr in the UK’s industrialization, but still heavily argued), and the role and roots of social progress such as women’s rights.
We cover impacts of war and also the black death from an economic history view and we discuss the challenge on climate.
We play over/underrated on : GDP, carbon tax, representative democracy governance mechanisms, universal basic income.
Mark ends with current projects and advice.
"….So podcasts; everything is online basically. The young person who's ambitious and interested can actually get to speed quickly. So you can teach yourself econometrics by watching tons of YouTube videos. Most people won't because there's other stuff to watch on YouTube, there's other stuff to do. I could be teaching myself foreign languages on YouTube and I'm not doing it because my opportunity costs I guess is maybe high. But if you're young and wanted to study this stuff, you can get a huge head start just by use of the internet cleverly. Tyler Cowen’s advice is find the right mentors. Find some people and learn from them. But you get a huge amount early on to give yourself a head start before you go to university because to be honest, the university experience isn't necessarily going to be all that…"
Love it !
keep up the good work!❤️
It was a joy having Benjamin Yeoh host such a gentle conversation.He is a sunburst of joy and an enthusiast for understanding, tolerance and love for mankind.Here we always get great educational topic with lots of inspireation.
Thank you Jonathan Wolff
I think this episode is great example of great parson and work .I lern a lot of this episode .Now i am a big fllower of Jonbathon please keep continiue your good work..🎁🎁