12 episodes

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.

Ben Yeoh Chats Benjamin Yeoh

    • Arts
    • 5.0 • 2 Ratings

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.

    Tassos Stevens on making theatre, play and creative processes

    Tassos Stevens on making theatre, play and creative processes

    Tassos Stevens is artistic director of Coney. The transcript of the podcast here.  Prior to Coney, he did a doctorate in Psychology, won the inaugural James Menzies-Kitchin Award for theatre directors, did the NT Studio Directors Course, ran the ROAR platform to support new work and new artists on the London fringe, and also worked as critic, teacher, many flavours of researcher, salesman, and chef.

    We chat about pivotal moments of theatre and explore what interactive and immersive mean for theatre.

    The importance of play and “making belief’ as opposed to “suspending disbelief”

    How to involved audiences in agency and what Tassos advises for young people interested in theatre.

    • 56 min
    Matt Clancy on innovation, progress studies and remote work.

    Matt Clancy on innovation, progress studies and remote work.

    Matt Clancy is a progress fellow at Emergent Ventures. He teaches at Iowa State University and writes on Substack a newsletter called New Things Under the Sun, which you should subscribe to if you are interested in anything innovation related. Matt has also synthesised many of the emerging studies on remote working. Transcript and video links here.

    We discuss whether progress has been stagnating and the importance of moral and social progress as well as technological.

    Whether small team or large teams are better for invention.

    How important are agglomeration effects and how a declining agglomeration impact might make the case for remote work stronger.

    The role of innovation prizes and patents for incentivising innovation and if copyright is too long.

    Whether innovation agencies (eg ARPA)  are the answer and what Matt would do as an executive director of one.

    Differences between UK and US university systems and advice for young people.

    Matt’s thinking on remote work. 

    • 2 hrs 5 min
    Trailer: Ben Yeoh Chats for people curious about the world.

    Trailer: Ben Yeoh Chats for people curious about the world.

    Short introduction to Ben Yeoh Chats.

    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.

    Episodes include:

    -What is like to go to Columbia University at 15 and be valedictorian with Leopold Aschenbrenner?

    -What should worry us about gamification with philosopher Thi Nguyen ?

    -What sparks invention with innovation historian, Anton Howes ?

    -What do story telling and improvisation tell us about being human with Lee Simpson.

    -I’ve learned a tremendous amount doing these shows and hope you enjoy and learn too.

    Enjoy.

    • 57 sec
    Lee Simpson on improvisation, story telling and what improv tells us about being human.

    Lee Simpson on improvisation, story telling and what improv tells us about being human.

    Lee Simpson is a founder member of Improbable (theatre makers and improvisers), a long time Comedy Store Player (since the 1980s) and one of Paul Merton's Impro Chums. He’s also been a croupier, cinema projectionist and breakfast show DJ. He’s written plays, appeared in sit-coms and in some films, been on some Radio 4 panel shows and once did a very poor poodle act at the London Palladium.  That vast range highlights two strong threads one in the world of improv and another in the world of theatre making. Transcript available here and video version available here.

    -I speak to Lee on his roots in theatre and improv and the importance of  Keith Johnstone’s work.

    -Lee outlines his thoughts on on his drama school experience, two schools of improv (US and UK) andhow improv and theatre misunderstand one another.

    -We discuss the  infrastructure (or lack of) behind improv and theatre and techniques on listening to the audience and feedback loops in performing.

    -We sketch out ideas on structure and story form, on being human and Lee explains status structure as a technique.

    -We chat about how  humans understand the world and how we view our lives as story that changes through time.

    -Lee reflects on being part of a comedy group for a long time and shares a stroy on Mo Mowlam.

    -We talk on how to “build back better” in the arts and what Open Space is and techniques for listening and genuine connections to art.

    -We end with advice Lee has for young people. 

    Contents: 


    01:17 Lee on his roots in theat re and improv and Keith Johnstone. 
    04:07 Lee on his drama school experience and two schools of improv 
    09:43 How improv and theatre misunderstand one another. 
    13:32 Lee on the infrastructure (or lack of) behind improv and theatre. On listening to the audience and feedback loops in performing. 
    21:27 Lee on current UK Improv organisations
    26:56 Money no issue… what the work of Improbable would do 
    29:01 Ben on language of improv and comedy, repetition and twist 
    32:29 Lee on structure and story form, on being human. Explains status structure. 
    36:44 Lee on how humans understand the world. Viewing our lives as story that changes through time. 
    42:47 On being part of a comedy group for a long time. 
    43:00 On Mo Mowlam being involved with the comedy store players 
    47:37 Mo Mowlam’s final months and concerns on anti-democracy
    53:33 Lee on “Build Back Better” 
    57:46 Lee on Open Space, techniques for listening and genuine connections to art 
    1:05:07 Improv teaching you to listen to yourself 
    1:07:46 More on OpenSpace 
    1:15:34 Advice for young people, Ben channeling phantom Lee 
    1:17:15 Lee’s advice: step outside your path a little. 

    • 1 hr 20 min
    Leopold Aschenbrenner on existential risk, German Culture, Valedictorian efficiency

    Leopold Aschenbrenner on existential risk, German Culture, Valedictorian efficiency

    I had an excellent chat with Leopold Aschenbrenner. Leopold is a grant winner from Tyler Cowen’s  Emergent Ventures. He went to Columbia University, aged 15, and graduated in 2021 as valedictorian. (Contents below ↓ ↓ ). He is a researcher  at the Global Priorities Institute, thinking about long-termism. He has drafted a provocative paper encompassing ideas of long-termisim, existential risk and growth.

    For some of our conversation we were joined by phantom Tyler Cowen imagining what he might think.   We discussed Leopold’s critique of German culture and whether he’d swap German infrastructure for the American entrepreneurial spirit.   

    Whether being a valedictorian is efficient, if going to University at 15 is underrated and life at Columbia University.   

    What you can learn from speed solving Rubik’s cubes and if Leopold had to make the choice today if he’d still be vegetarian.  

    Thinking about existential risk, Leopold considers whether nuclear or biological warfare risk is a bigger threat than climate change and how growth matters and if the rate of growth matters as much depending on how long you think humanity survives.    

    Considering possible under rated existential risk Leopold sketches out several concerns over the falling global birth rate, how sticky that might be and whether policy would be effective.  We consider what is worth seeing in Germany, how good or not GDP is as a measure and what we should do with our lives.   

    Leopold has wide ranging thoughts and in thinking and working on fat tail existential ruin risks is working on saving the human world. Fascinating thoughts.

    Transcript Here with links and  a video version here.  Ben Yeoh's microgrants here.

    1:35 How to think about a future career (80000 hours) 

    4:10 Is going to university at 15 years old  underrated? 

    6:22 In favour of college and liberal arts vs Thiel fellowships 

    9:14 Is being a valedictorian efficient (H/T Tyler Cowen) 

    13:01 Leopold on externalities and how to sort smart people 

    15:08 Learnings from Columbia. The importance of work ethic. 

    19:50 Leopold learning from Adam Tooze and German history 

    22:16 Leopold critiques German culture on standing out. 

    23:08 Observations on decline of German universities 

    25:22 Leopold concerns on the German leadership class 30:25 German infrastructure and if it feels poor 

    34:13 Critique of too much netflix 

    35:27 What to learn from speed cubing Rubik’s cubes and weird communities 

    38:04 Leopold’s story of Emergent Ventures and what he found valuable 

    40:08 Embracing weirdness and disagreeableness  

    42:20  Leopold considering whether US entrepreneurial culture worth swapping for German infrastructure

    44:44 Leopold on social ills of alcohol 

    44:59 Examining Leopold’s ideas of existential risk and growth 

    48:49 Different views depending on time frame:700 years or millions of years 

    52:18 Leopold’s view on importance of growth and risk of dark ages  

    57:07 Climate as a real risk but not a top existential risk 1:01:02 Nuclear weapons as an underrated existential risk 

    1:01:45 View on emergent AI risk 1:03:20 Falling fertility as an underrated risk 

    1:15:35 Mormon and eternal family 

    1:17:29 Underrated/overrated with phantom Tyler Cowen  

    1:36:10 What EA gets right/wrong, EA as religion? 1:44:56 Advice: Being independent, creative and writing blogs

    • 1 hr 47 min
    C Thi Nguyen on games philosophy, agency, real world gamification and what drinking games tell you about humanity

    C Thi Nguyen on games philosophy, agency, real world gamification and what drinking games tell you about humanity

    I chat with C. Thi Nguyen who used to be a food writer and is now a philosophy professor at University of Utah.   Thi thinks about trust, art, games, and communities.   

    We discuss his first book, Games: Agency as Art. The book is about how games are the art form that work in the medium of agency.   We chat about the difference between play and games and wider games philosophy.  

    Thi worries about the problems on trusting experts, if oneself is not an expert and how none of us are experts in most domains.  We discuss making tea, process art and how we should be thinking about making food.  Fascinating topics across food and philosophy.  

    Transcript and links available here.   Contents and Youtube links below.

    06:13 Thi on Gamification

    12:15 Thi on Trust and what to be worried about a gamified system 

    16:25 Thi on philosophy of expertise and the challenge of finding experts to trust 

    20:58 Thi on board games recommendations 

    26:05 Is “play” better or “games” better? Thi answers on how games are different from play. 

    31:20 The importance of drinking games 

    34:13 The four types of games 

    36:35 How constraints are useful 

    45:47 What is process art 

    50:02 Games and cooking 

    57:39 How to make tea 

    1:02:16 Thi on creative productivity (don't kill the weird ideas)

    • 1 hr 8 min

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