36 episodes

Host Dwarkesh Patel interviews intellectuals, scientists, and founders about their big ideas.

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/DwarkeshPatel
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www.dwarkeshpatel.com

The Lunar Society Dwarkesh Patel

    • Society & Culture
    • 4.8 • 13 Ratings

Host Dwarkesh Patel interviews intellectuals, scientists, and founders about their big ideas.

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/DwarkeshPatel
Apple Podcasts: https://apple.co/3oBack9
Spotify: https://spoti.fi/3S5g2YK

www.dwarkeshpatel.com

    36: Will MacAskill - Longtermism, Altruism, History, & Technology

    36: Will MacAskill - Longtermism, Altruism, History, & Technology

    Will MacAskill is one of the founders of the Effective Altruist movement and the author of the upcoming book, What We Owe The Future.

    We talk about improving the future, risk of extinction & collapse, technological & moral change, problems of academia, who changes history, and much more.

    Watch on YouTube. Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or any other podcast platform.

    Subscribe to find out about future episodes!

    Read the full transcript here.

    Follow Will on Twitter. Follow me on Twitter for updates on future episodes.

    Please share if you enjoyed this episode! Helps out a ton!

    Timestamps

    (00:23) - Effective Altruism and Western values

    (07:47) - The contingency of technology

    (12:02) - Who changes history?

    (18:00) - Longtermist institutional reform

    (25:56) - Are companies longtermist?

    (28:57) - Living in an era of plasticity

    (34:52) - How good can the future be?

    (39:18) - Contra Tyler Cowen on what’s most important

    (45:36) - AI and the centralization of power

    (51:34) - The problems with academia

    Transcript

    Dwarkesh Patel 0:06

    Okay, today I have the pleasure of interviewing William McCaskill. Will is one of the founders of the Effective Altruism movement, and most recently, the author of the upcoming book, What We Owe The Future. Will, thanks for coming on the podcast.

    Will MacAskill 0:20

    Thanks so much for having me on.

    Effective Altruism and Western values

    Dwarkesh Patel 0:23

    My first question is: What is the high-level explanation for the success of the Effective Altruism movement? Is it itself an example of the contingencies you talk about in the book?

    Will MacAskill 0:32

    Yeah, I think it is contingent. Maybe not on the order of, “this would never have happened,” but at least on the order of decades. Evidence that Effective Altruism is somewhat contingent is that similar ideas have been promoted many times during history, and not taken on.

    We can go back to ancient China, the Mohists defended an impartial view of morality, and took very strategic actions to help all people. In particular, providing defensive assistance to cities under siege. Then, there were early utilitarians. Effective Altruism is broader than utilitarianism, but has some similarities. Even Peter Singer in the 70s had been promoting the idea that we should be giving most of our income to help the very poor — and didn’t get a lot of traction until early 2010 after GiveWell and Giving What We Can launched.

    What explains the rise of it? I think it was a good idea waiting to happen. At some point, the internet helped to gather together a lot of like-minded people which wasn’t possible otherwise. There were some particularly lucky events like Alex meeting Holden and me meeting Toby that helped catalyze it at the particular time it did.

    Dwarkesh Patel 1:49

    If it's true, as you say, in the book, that moral values are very contingent, then shouldn't that make us suspect that modern Western values aren't that good? They're mediocre, or worse, because ex ante, you would expect to end up with a median of all the values we could have had at this point. Obviously, we'd be biased in favor of whatever values we were brought up in.

    Will MacAskill 2:09

    Absolutely. Taking history seriously and appreciating the contingency of values, appreciating that if the Nazis had won the World War, we would all be thinking, “wow, I'm so glad that moral progress happened the way it did, and we don't have Jewish people around anymore. What huge moral progress we had then!” That's a terrifying thought. I think it should make us take seriously the fact that we're very far away from the moral truth.

    One of the lessons I draw in the book is that we should not think we're at the end of moral progress. We should not think, “Oh, we should lock in the Western values we have.” Instead, we should spend a lot of time trying to figure out what's actually morally right, so that the future is guided by the right values, rather than whichever happ

    • 56 min
    35: Joseph Carlsmith - Utopia, AI, & Infinite Ethics

    35: Joseph Carlsmith - Utopia, AI, & Infinite Ethics

    Joseph Carlsmith is a senior research analyst at Open Philanthropy and a doctoral student in philosophy at the University of Oxford.

    We discuss utopia, artificial intelligence, computational power of the brain, infinite ethics, learning from the fact that you exist, perils of futurism, and blogging.

    Watch on YouTube. Listen on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, etc.

    Follow Joseph on Twitter. Follow me on Twitter.

    Subscribe to find out about future episodes!

    Timestamps

    (0:00:06) - Introduction

    (0:02:53) - How to Define a Better Future?

    (0:09:19) - Utopia

    (0:25:12) - Robin Hanson’s EMs

    (0:27:35) - Human Computational Capacity

    (0:34:15) - FLOPS to Emulate Human Cognition?

    (0:40:15) - Infinite Ethics

    (1:00:51) - SIA vs SSA

    (1:17:53) - Futurism & Unreality

    (1:23:36) - Blogging & Productivity

    (1:28:43) - Book Recommendations

    (1:30:04) - Conclusion

    This is a public episode. If you would like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit www.dwarkeshpatel.com

    • 1 hr 31 min
    34: Fin Moorhouse - Longtermism, Space, & Entrepreneurship

    34: Fin Moorhouse - Longtermism, Space, & Entrepreneurship

    Fin Moorhouse is a Research Scholar and assistant to Toby Ord at Oxford University's Future of Humanity Institute. He co-hosts the Hear This Idea podcast, which showcases new thinking in philosophy, the social sciences, and effective altruism.

    We discuss for-profit entrepreneurship for altruism, space governance, morality in the multiverse, podcasting, the long reflection, and the Effective Ideas & EA criticism blog prize.

    Watch on YouTube. Listen on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, etc.

    Follow Fin on Twitter. Follow me on Twitter.

    Subscribe to find out about future episodes!

    Timestamps

    (0:00:10) - Introduction

    (0:02:45) - EA Prizes & Criticism

    (0:09:47) - Longtermism

    (0:12:52) - Improving Mental Models

    (0:20:50) - EA & Profit vs Nonprofit Entrepreneurship

    (0:30:46) - Backtesting EA

    (0:35:54) - EA Billionares

    (0:38:32) - EA Decisions & Many Worlds Interpretation

    (0:50:46) - EA Talent Search

    (0:52:38) - EA & Encouraging Youth

    (0:59:17) - Long Reflection

    (1:03:56) - Long Term Coordination

    (1:21:06) - On Podcasting

    (1:23:40) - Audiobooks Imitating Conversation

    (1:27:04) - Underappreciated Podcasting Skills

    (1:38:08) - Space Governance

    (1:42:09) - Space Safety & 1st Principles

    (1:46:44) - Von Neuman Probes

    (1:50:12) - Space Race & First Strike

    (1:51:45) - Space Colonization & AI

    (1:56:36) - Building a Startup

    (1:59:08) - What is EA Underrating?

    (2:10:07) - EA Career Steps

    (2:15:16) - Closing Remarks

    This is a public episode. If you would like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit www.dwarkeshpatel.com

    • 2 hr 19 min
    33: Alexander Mikaberidze - Napoleon, War, Progress, and Global Order

    33: Alexander Mikaberidze - Napoleon, War, Progress, and Global Order

    Alexander Mikaberidze is Professor of History at Louisiana State University and the author of The Napoleonic Wars: A Global History.

    He explains the global ramifications of the Napoleonic Wars - from India to Egypt to America. He also talks about how Napoleon was the last of the enlightened despots, whether he would have made a good startup founder, how the Napoleonic Wars accelerated the industrial revolution, the roots of the war in Ukraine, and much more!

    Watch on YouTube, or listen on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or any other podcast platform.

    Follow Professor Mikaberidze on Twitter. Follow me on Twitter for updates on future episodes.

    Timestamps:

    (0:00:00) Alexander Mikaberidze - Professor of history and author of “The Napoleonic Wars”

    (0:01:19) - The allure of Napoleon

    (0:13:48) - The advantages of multiple colonies

    (0:27:33) - The Continental System and the industrial revolution

    (0:34:49) - Napoleon’s legacy.

    (0:50:38) - The impact of Napoleonic Wars

    (1:01:23) - Napoleon as a startup founder

    (1:14:02) The advantages of war and how it shaped international government and to some extent, political structures.

    This is a public episode. If you would like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit www.dwarkeshpatel.com

    • 1 hr 23 min
    32: Sam Bankman-Fried - Crypto, Altruism, and Leadership

    32: Sam Bankman-Fried - Crypto, Altruism, and Leadership

    I flew to the Bahamas to interview Sam Bankman-Fried, the CEO of FTX! He talks about FTX’s plan to infiltrate traditional finance, giving $100m this year to AI + pandemic risk, scaling slowly + hiring A-players, and much more.

    Watch on YouTube.

    Read the full transcript here

    Follow me on Twitter for updates on future episodes

    Timestamps

    (00:18) - How inefficient is the world?

    (01:11) - Choosing a career

    (04:15) - The difficulty of being a founder

    (06:21) - Is effective altruism too narrowminded?

    (09:57) - Political giving

    (12:55) - FTX Future Fund

    (16:41) - Adverse selection in philanthropy

    (18:06) - Correlation between different causes

    (22:15) - Great founders do difficult things

    (25:51) - Pitcher fatigue and the importance of focus

    (28:30) - How SBF identifies talent

    (31:09) - Why scaling too fast kills companies

    (33:51) - The future of crypto

    (35:46) - Risk, efficiency, and human discretion in derivatives

    (41:00) - Jane Street vs FTX

    (41:56) - Conflict of interest between broker and exchange

    (42:59) - Bahamas and Charter Cities

    (43:47) - SBF’s RAM-skewed mind

    Unfortunately, audio quality abruptly drops from 17:50-19:15

    Transcript

    Dwarkesh Patel 0:09

    Today on The Lunar Science Society Podcast, I have the pleasure of interviewing Sam Bankman-Fried, CEO of FTX. Thanks for coming on The Lunar Society.

    Sam Bankman-Fried 0:17

    Thanks for having me.

    How inefficient is the world?

    Dwarkesh Patel 0:18

    Alright, first question. Does the consecutive success of FTX and Alameda suggest to you that the world has all kinds of low-hanging opportunities? Or was that a property of the inefficiencies of crypto markets at one particular point in history?

    Sam Bankman-Fried 0:31

    I think it's more of the former, there are just a lot of inefficiencies.

    Dwarkesh Patel 0:35

    So then another part of the question is: if you had to restart earning to give again, what are the odds you become a billionaire, but you can't do it in crypto?

    Sam Bankman-Fried 0:42

    I think they're pretty decent. A lot of it depends on what I ended up choosing and how aggressive I end up deciding to be. There were a lot of safe and secure career paths before me that definitely would not have ended there. But if I dedicated myself to starting up some businesses, there would have been a pretty decent chance of it.

    Choosing a career

    Dwarkesh Patel 1:11

    So that leads to the next question—which is that you've cited Will MacAskill's lunch with you while you were at MIT as being very important in deciding your career. He suggested you earn-to-give by going to a quant firm like Jane Street. In retrospect, given the success you've had as a founder, was that maybe bad advice? And maybe you should’ve been advised to start a startup or nonprofit?

    Sam Bankman-Fried 1:31

    I don't think it was literally the best possible advice because this was in 2012. Starting a crypto exchange then would have been…. I think it was definitely helpful advice. Relative to not having gotten advice at all, I think it helps quite a bit.

    Dwarkesh Patel 1:50

    Right. But then there's a broader question: are people like you who could become founders advised to take lower variance, lower risk careers that in, expected value, are less valuable?

    Sam Bankman-Fried 2:02

    Yeah, I think that's probably true. I think people are advised too strongly to go down safe career paths. But I think it's worth noting that there's a big difference between what makes sense altruistically and personally for this. To the extent you're just thinking of personal criteria, that's going to argue heavily in favor of a safer career path because you have much more quickly declining marginal utility of money than the world does. So, this kind of path is specifically for altruistically-minded people.

    The other thing is that when you think about advising people, I think people will often try and reference career advice that others got. “What were some of these outward-facing factors of success

    • 46 min
    31: Agustin Lebron - Trading, Crypto, and Adverse Selection

    31: Agustin Lebron - Trading, Crypto, and Adverse Selection

    Agustin Lebron began his career as a trader and researcher at Jane Street Capital, one of the largest market-making firms in the world. He currently runs the consulting firm Essilen Research, where he is dedicated to helping clients integrate modern decision-making approaches in their business.

    We discuss how AI will change finance, why adverse selection makes trading and hiring so difficult, & what the future of crypto holds.

    Watch on YouTube, or listen on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or any other podcast platform.

    Buy The Laws of Trading: https://www.amazon.com/Laws-Trading-Traders-Decision-Making-Everyone/dp/1119574218

    Follow Agustin on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AgustinLebron3

    Follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/dwarkesh_sp

    Check out my blog: https://www.dwarkeshpatel.com/

    (00:00) - Introduction

    (04:18) - What happens in adverse selection?

    (09:22) - Why is having domain expertise in trading not important?

    (15:09) - How do you deal when you're on the other side of the adverse selection?

    (21:16) - Why you should invest in training your people?

    (25:37) - Is finance too big at 9% of GDP?

    (31:06) - Trading is very labor intensive

    (36:16) - Overlap of rationality community and trading

    (48:00) - The age of startup founders

    (50:43) - The role of market makers in crypto

    (57:31) - Three books that you recommend

    (58:47) - Life is long, not short

    (1:03:01) - Short history of Lunar Society

    This is a public episode. If you would like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit www.dwarkeshpatel.com

    • 1 hr 4 min

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
13 Ratings

13 Ratings

Joesdaking ,

Smart conversations deep in tech-think land

Great podcast. Love that you’re doing this.

AJS52newyork ,

Dwarkesh is incredible

These interviews are driven by intelligent and probing questions that give the listener the insight of the interviewee AND the hard work of the interviewer. Very high yield.

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