24 episodes

My name is Paras Chopra and in the Bold Conjectures podcast, I interview experts from a variety of fields, asking them about unsolved questions in their field and what’s their conjecture for such open questions. Conjectures are ideas that are thought to be true but we neither have proof or disproof for them. Karl Popper, the famous philosopher of science, famously wrote the following in his debut book: “Bold ideas, unjustified anticipations, and speculative thought, are our only means for interpreting nature: our only organon, our only instrument, for grasping her.” All new groundbreaking ideas when initially proposed are in the form of a bold hypothesis. I love speculative thought which points to the direction of potential new knowledge. So, this is why I chose to focus on exploring what we don’t yet know for sure (rather what’s already settled consensus).

Bold Conjectures with Paras Chopra Paras Chopra

    • Science
    • 5.0 • 8 Ratings

My name is Paras Chopra and in the Bold Conjectures podcast, I interview experts from a variety of fields, asking them about unsolved questions in their field and what’s their conjecture for such open questions. Conjectures are ideas that are thought to be true but we neither have proof or disproof for them. Karl Popper, the famous philosopher of science, famously wrote the following in his debut book: “Bold ideas, unjustified anticipations, and speculative thought, are our only means for interpreting nature: our only organon, our only instrument, for grasping her.” All new groundbreaking ideas when initially proposed are in the form of a bold hypothesis. I love speculative thought which points to the direction of potential new knowledge. So, this is why I chose to focus on exploring what we don’t yet know for sure (rather what’s already settled consensus).

    #24 Jamie Harris - How to Expand Our Moral Circle Beyond Humans

    #24 Jamie Harris - How to Expand Our Moral Circle Beyond Humans

    Over the course of history, we've expanded our moral circle to arrive at equal rights for all humans in most countries in the world.

    Can we go beyond it and expand to include animals and other sentient beings?

    == What we talk about ==
    0:00 - Introduction
    1:38 - How did you get interested in effective altruism (EA) and what made you focus on animal advocacy?
    10:27 - The concept of replaceability, its connection with the EA community, and importance of scale of impact
    20:08 - Why do you prioritize animal advocacy against helping the suffering humans?
    31:05 - Do you see the number of users of animal products decreasing very slowly as demoralizing?
    39:06 - Why is the transition from supporting animal advocacy to actually making an impact on people's food habits difficult?
    41:15 - How would you guide someone who wants to pursue their career in animal advocacy?
    44:25 - What are some things animal advocates do which accidentally harm animals rather than benefitting them?
    54:24 - Being vegetarian and supporting pro-animal welfare are not the same thing
    57:26 - Some effective altruists say helping humans is better than helping animals. Your take on that?
    1:01:03 - Animals can’t protest for their rights and welfare / Animals can’t protest for their rights and welfare, Humans can
    1:07:02 - Artificial sentience in animal advocacy and welfare
    1:15:01 - What metrics do you use to keep a track of the impact you are making?

    == About the guest == 
    Jamie Harris is the co-founder of and researcher at the non-profit Animal Advocacy Careers, a non-profit that seeks to identify and remove bottlenecks in the animal advocacy movement, with a special focus on farmed animal advocacy. 

    Jamie is also a researcher at the Sentience Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to researching how we can expand humanity’s moral circle to include other non-human sentient beings like animals and, in the future, AI systems. 

    Jamie’s career is inspired by the effective altruism ideology which aims to figure out how we can do the most good in the world. It’s about being rational about figuring out which of our actions have the biggest bang for the buck when it comes to improving the world. As you can imagine from Jamie’s focus, he believes that alleviating suffering for farmed animals is a high-priority goal. 

    So, today I want to talk to him about why he believes that (v/s say helping poor or unhealthy humans), where is today’s animal advocacy focused, and what can we learn from previous social movements for achieving a world where animals are removing from the food supply chain (a cause that I very much believe in myself). 

    • 1 hr 19 min
    #23 Visakan Veerasamy - Kindness is More Important than Winning

    #23 Visakan Veerasamy - Kindness is More Important than Winning

    Winning feels great. But kindness feels even better.

    Visakan Veerasamy is the Internet's child. I call him that because he jokes that The Internet is his mum. In 2018, he quit his job in software marketing to write full-time. Today, he writes and tweets extensively on a variety of topics, which all converge on recurring themes around friendships, life, love, ambition, and nerdiness.

    Having interacted with Visakan before on Twitter, I reached out to him for a conversation after someone responded to my tweet where I asked which two people will enjoy being friends. That person said Visa and I will likely enjoy talking to each other, so here we are.

    Visa (as he's known) has a unique take on life and I try to capture all of it in our hour-long conversation.

    == What we talk about ==
    0:04 - Introduction
    1:27 - What does ‘Friendly Ambitious Nerd’ mean?
    5:05 - EVERYONE should write their own book
    9:57 - Do you think about the words you want to use while writing?
    13:38 - Who is your audience? Who are you writing for?
    17:45 - The value of friendships
    22:58 - How do you maintain the friendships you have or build new ones?
    27:58 - How have your friendships helped you personally?
    35:04 - Do you nurture your friendships in a specific way or is it a natural process?
    46:46 - Being authentic is the best compounding game you want to play
    55:25 - Can being friendly and being ambitious go together?
    1:01:27 - The feedback loop in friendships
    1:10:21 - How do you define taste?
    1:17:33 - Have you seen anyone completely changing from being a negative person to a positive one?

    == Useful links ==
    Visa's book (Friendly Ambitious Nerd): https://visakanv.gumroad.com/l/friendlynerdbook
    Visa's homepage: http://visakanv.com/

    • 1 hr 22 min
    #22 Ethan Perlstein - Decentralized Biology and Indie Scientists

    #22 Ethan Perlstein - Decentralized Biology and Indie Scientists

    DeFi is all rage these days, but have you heard of DeBi?

    DeBi stands for decentralized bio. In this podcast, I talk to Ethan Perlstein who is the founder and CEO of Perlara, a biotech startup that runs in a completely decentralized fashion.

    == What we talk about ==
    0:04 - Introduction
    1:27 - Who is an indie-scientist?
    2:59 - How did you go from being in academia to being an indie-scientist?
    7:03 - While moving away from academia, what concerns did you have?
    8:30 - As an indie-scientist, did you miss the academia’s collaborative science and affordable resources like labs?
    11:39 - What is decentralized bio? And the three pillars of decentralized bio
    28:46 - What does Perlara do? And the idea behind it.
    33:04 - Since the scientists working on problems have different skillsets and expertise, how do you form teams and strategies?
    40:08 - With the unpredictable nature of progress in science, how do you devise a step-wise roadmap?
    44:08 - What is decentralized finance?
    50:39 - Have you explored non-traditional ways of financing at Perlara?
    52:16 - Why did you set Perlara up as a public benefit company?

    == About the guest ==
    Ethan is an aspiring orphan drug discoverer, evolutionary pharmacologist, and indie scientist. He has a PhD in molecular and cell biology from Harvard University, and was a Lewis-Sigler Fellow at Princeton University. He is the founder and CEO of Perlara.

    • 55 min
    #21 Antti Revonsuo - Dreams are a Gateway to Understanding Consciousness

    #21 Antti Revonsuo - Dreams are a Gateway to Understanding Consciousness

    Why do dreams feel so real?

    It's because the same mechanisms that generate are waking reality also generate our dreams. However, unlike the awake state, during dreams, we're disconnected from sensory input and locomotor actions. This isolation from the real world makes dreams a perfect model system for investigating the nature of consciousness.

    I talk to Antti Revonsuo who is a philosopher and a scientist investigating dreams and their relationship with consciousness.

    == What we talk about ==
    0:04 - Introduction
    1:54 - Why are you interested in consciousness? What aspect of it intrigued you to be interested in it?
    4:55 - Is the mystery of consciousness a subject worth deep-diving into or is it a dead-end?
    13:13 - The dreaming phenomenon
    16:58 - We are dreaming all the time!
    23:23 - All experiences are built inside our brains
    28:30 - If it can be perceived, it is not consciousness
    36:54 - Is consciousness a biological phenomenon?
    43:50 - Psychophysical mapping of experiences
    56:50 - Can we use your Dreamcatcher experiment in other species?
    1:05:20 - The multiple levels of structures in our brain - and what makes them experienceable
    1:18:00 - Views on panpsychism

    == About the guest == 
    Antti Revonsuo is a cognitive neuroscientist who’s interested in understanding consciousness as a purely biological phenomenon. He believes we shouldn’t invoke unnecessary metaphysics until we’ve given a good shot at understanding consciousness fully in biological terms. 

    Currently, he is a professor of cognitive neuroscience at the University of Skövde in Sweden and of psychology at the University of Turku in Finland. His work focuses on altered states of consciousness in general and dreaming in particular. He is best known for his Threat Simulation Theory, which states that dreams serve the biological function of rehearsing possibly threatening situations in order to aid survival. 

    Antti Revonsuo is an advocate of the dreaming brain as a model of consciousness and he’s written a book on the same, which I thoroughly enjoyed. 

    • 1 hr 23 min
    #20 Jeff Booth - Deflation is the Key to Creating a Paradise

    #20 Jeff Booth - Deflation is the Key to Creating a Paradise

    What if everything continuously gets cheaper?

    Common sense suggests that is what paradise looks like. It's a world where everyone is able to afford more and more using less and less money. But why isn't our world like that? I talk to Jeff Booth, author of the popular book "The Price of Tomorrow", how to create a deflationary world.

    == What we talk about ==
    0:04 - Introduction
    1:21 - As a tech entrepreneur, how did you get interested in economics?
    4:33 - The game of inflation and deflation
    14:47 - Why inflation is a theft
    20:21 - If we can reset the debt to zero, will it be easier for governments to pursue deflation?
    23:04 - The inflation and climate change connection
    26:42 - Money as a unit of information
    28:46 - Is the government’s ability to print money beneficial for the poor?
    37:52 - Is the free market a better system?
    49:23 - How do we create a better world?
    1:00:39 - How does the new deflationary system solve the problems of the world?

    == About the guest == 
    Jeff Booth is the author of the popular book: “The Price of Tomorrow” where he analyzes the effects of technology-led deflation and monetary-policy-led inflation. He is also the founder of BuildDirect, a technology company that aimed to simplify the building industry, for nearly two decades through the dot-com meltdown, the 2008 financial crisis, and many waves of technological disruption. 

    For his thoughts on technology, economy and recently bitcoin, Jeff has been featured in many publications including Forbes, TechCrunch, and The Wall Street Journal.

    • 1 hr 4 min
    #19 Varun Deshpande - Alternative Proteins Can Fix the World

    #19 Varun Deshpande - Alternative Proteins Can Fix the World

    Can there be a single solution to all of the following problems: malnutrition, climate change, biodiversity loss, and animal suffering?

    Varun Deshpande thinks so. In this podcast, he makes a compelling case that alternative proteins (such as those derived from plants, fungi, or those that are cultivated in labs) can fix all these problems in one go.

    == What we talk about ==
    0:04 - Introduction
    1:29 - Journey of starting Good Food Institute (GFI) India
    6:01 - Decision of making a leveraged impact by starting GFI India
    11:00 - What are alternative proteins?
    16:55 - If we keep eating meat, can we get to a zero-emissions world that's required to keep the climate crisis from worsening?
    19:31 - Categories of alternative proteins
    25:17 - Cultivating alternative food and the connection of food we eat with status and prestige
    28:49 - How much should developing nations like India be responsible for emissions reduction?
    34:10 - What has been the progress like and what are the barriers you foresee in the uptake of alternative proteins?
    39:54 - Are you optimistic that consumers will make this switch to alternative food/proteins willingly?
    45:19 - How do you measure the progress you are making?
    48:07 - What advice will you give to someone who wants to enter this space?

    == About the guest ==
    Varun Deshpande is the managing director of Good Food Institute India. The Good Food Institute is an international network of non-profits that promote plant-based meat, dairy, and eggs as well as cultivated meat as alternatives to conventional animal products.

    Varun started GFI India in 2017 with an aim to answer one question: how can we feed 10 billion people by 2050 - a sixth of whom will be Indian - through systems that do not negatively impact climate, biodiversity, and scarce natural resources?

    According to research, close to 80 percent of Indians are protein deficient. Traditional answers to fixing this nutrition gap is more animal proteins - i.e. more eggs, milk, and meat. However, livestock is a disaster when it comes to environmental impact and causes needless animal suffering. Can we do better?

    Varun thinks so. Good Food Institute India is laser-focused on enabling an ecosystem in India for alternatives to animal proteins and in the process of doing so, fixing many of the world’s urgent problems such as public health, malnutrition, food security, climate change, and animal welfare.

    == Useful links ==
    GFI India: https://gfi.org.in/

    • 52 min

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