Bit of a Tangent
015 | You have no Choice in the Matter

015 | You have no Choice in the Matter

September 18, 2019

This is Part 1 of the series on Free Will. In this episode, Gianluca and Jared dispel the assumption that humans have Free Will by presenting the argument from Determinism—popularised by Sam Harris. They discuss the evidence from physics, neurology, and the famous Libet experiments; before laying the groundwork for later conversations about what this implies morally and societally. You have no choice but to listen.

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Shownotes:

Sam Harris’s “Free Will: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13259270-free-will

Ted Chiang’s Story of Your Life (and some of his other fantastic shorts): https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/223380.Stories_of_Your_Life_and_Others

Arrival, the film adaptation of Story of Your Life: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2543164

Principle of Least Action: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Principle_of_least_action

Chaos Theory: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chaos_theory

Good primer on the Libet experiments that preempted decision making: https://youtu.be/OjCt-L0Ph5o

The original Libet publication [paywalled]: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6640273

Details of more recent versions of the Libet experiments with 7 second preempting and some predictive capability: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mMDuakmEEV4

A recent “debunking” of the Libet results: https://www.pnas.org/content/109/42/e2904

A popular article on the Libet experiments in the light of the new model: https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2019/09/free-will-bereitschaftspotential/597736/

Great CGP Grey video on split brain experiments: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wfYbgdo8e-8

Decent primer on Sperry’s split-brain experiments: https://embryo.asu.edu/pages/roger-sperrys-split-brain-experiments-1959-1968

“Behave” by Robert Sopalsky: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/31170723-behave

 

014 | The Art of Looking - Part 1 of ??

014 | The Art of Looking - Part 1 of ??

September 9, 2019

Jared and Gianluca try something new on this episode! We read passages from Robert Pirsig’s wonderful novel Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, reacting and discussing as we go! Along the way, we explored the limits of conceptual understanding (a.k.a. Shut up and taste the wine!), how the words we use to describe reality also end up defining it, limiting it or expanding it, and why cliches are so easy to dismiss and when they shouldn’t be (hint: your gran was right - there’s nothing a good night’s sleep won’t solve). We also discuss what it means to truly understand something, and how our intuitive sense of what is excellent can guide us to cook great food, write beautiful code, and be delightful people!

 

As a bonus, we drop some hints about an exciting upcoming episode, and at the end we each share the advice we’ve heard that has the highest impact with the fewest words!

 

Listener feedback can be recorded here: https://www.speakpipe.com/podtangent

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Shownotes:

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/629.Zen_and_the_Art_of_Motorcycle_Maintenance 

The Stranger by Albert Camus: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/49552.The_Stranger 

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/662.Atlas_Shrugged 

Fountainhead by Ayn Rand: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2122.The_Fountainhead 

The Philosopher’s Toolkit by Julian Baggini: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/192414.The_Philosophers_Toolkit 

Fermat’s Enigma by Simon Singh: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38412.Fermat_s_Enigma 

The Cook & The Chef - Elon Musk’s Secret Sauce by Tim Urban: https://waitbutwhy.com/2015/11/the-cook-and-the-chef-musks-secret-sauce.html 

How To Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/4865.How_to_Win_Friends_and_Influence_People 

Michael Nielsen’s personal blog: http://michaelnielsen.org/ 

Venture Stories podcast with Michael Nielsen: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/what-michael-nielsen-thinks-about-basically-everything/id1316769266?i=1000436484320 

Tyler Cowen on The high-return activity of raising others’ aspirations: https://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2018/10/high-return-activity-raising-others-aspirations.html

013 | How To Learn Anything!

013 | How To Learn Anything!

September 2, 2019

We’ve all heard about the importance of learning. We’ve all heard about the importance of learning how to learn. Well, on this episode Gianluca and Jared dive into both of these topics. They discuss the philosophies of learning they’ve encountered on their own journeys, and share several key tricks that they’ve found most helpful over the years! Along the way they discovered a new way to think about how to keep your knowledge up to date in an ever changing world!

Listener feedback can be recorded here: https://www.speakpipe.com/podtangent

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Shownotes:

This essay by Michael Nielsen is what spurred me to say we might need a follow up. It’s definitely worth a read: http://augmentingcognition.com/ltm.html 

Cultural evolution primer by Scott Alexander: https://slatestarcodex.com/2019/06/04/book-review-the-secret-of-our-success/ 

Tim Urban’s Elon Musk blog posts: https://waitbutwhy.com/2017/03/elon-musk-post-series.html - the last post in the series changed Jared’s life https://waitbutwhy.com/2015/11/the-cook-and-the-chef-musks-secret-sauce.html

Poor Charlie’s Almanack: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/944652.Poor_Charlie_s_Almanack

Shane Parrish on Chauffeur knowledge: https://fs.blog/2015/09/two-types-of-knowledge/

The Sequences by Eliezer Yudkowski: https://www.lesswrong.com/rationality 

We’ve include some relevant essays from the sequences to today’s conversation below:

Taboo Your Words: https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/WBdvyyHLdxZSAMmoz/taboo-your-words

Cached Thoughts: https://www.lesswrong.com/s/pmHZDpak4NeRLLLCw/p/2MD3NMLBPCqPfnfre

Replace The Symbol with The Substance: https://www.lesswrong.com/s/SGB7Y5WERh4skwtnb/p/GKfPL6LQFgB49FEnv

Truly Part of You: https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/fg9fXrHpeaDD6pEPL/truly-part-of-you

Living By Your Own Strength: https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/dKGfNvjGjq4rqffyF/living-by-your-own-strength

Learning How to Learn course: https://www.coursera.org/learn/learning-how-to-learn/ 

Anki: https://apps.ankiweb.net/ 

r/medicalschoolanki decks: https://www.reddit.com/r/medicalschoolanki/ 

Jared used https://www.brosencephalon.com/flashcards/ in his earlier years of medschool

Testing effect: https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Testing_effect 

Deliberate practice: https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Practice_(learning_method) 

Desirable difficulty: https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Desirable_difficulty 

Method of Loci: https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Method_of_loci 

Expecting Short Inferential Distances by Eliezer Yudkowski: https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/HLqWn5LASfhhArZ7w/expecting-short-inferential-distances 

Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas Hofstadter: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24113.G_del_Escher_Bach 

Conversations with Tyler podcast: https://conversationswithtyler.com/

012 | How Deep Learning Does Magic

012 | How Deep Learning Does Magic

August 26, 2019

This is a discussion about why deep neural nets are unreasonably effective. Gianluca and Jared examine the relationships between neural architectures and the laws of physics that govern our Universe—exploring brains, human language, and linear functions. Nothing could have prepared them for the territories this episode expanded to, so strap yourself in!

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Shownotes:

AlphaGo beating Lee Sedol at Go: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AlphaGo_versus_Lee_Sedol

OpenAI Five: https://openai.com/blog/openai-five/

Taylor series/expansions video from 3Blue1Brown: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3d6DsjIBzJ4

Physicist Max Tegmark: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Max_Tegmark

Tegmark’s great talk on connections between physics and deep learning (which formed much of the inspiration for this conversation): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5MdSE-N0bxs

Universal Approximation Theorem: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_approximation_theorem

A refresher on “Map vs. Territory”: https://fs.blog/2015/11/map-and-territory/

Ada Lovelace (who worked on Babbage’s Analytical Engine): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ada_Lovelace

Manifolds and their topology: http://colah.github.io/posts/2014-03-NN-Manifolds-Topology/

Binary trees: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Binary_tree

Markov process: http://mathworld.wolfram.com/MarkovProcess.html

OpenAIs GPT-2: https://openai.com/blog/better-language-models/

Play with GPT-2 in your browser here: https://talktotransformer.com/

Lex Fridman’s MIT Artificial Intelligence podcast: https://lexfridman.com/ai/

The Scientific Odyssey podcast: https://thescientificodyssey.libsyn.com/

011 | Slack, attention and focus - or why more is less

011 | Slack, attention and focus - or why more is less

August 19, 2019

This week on Bit of A Tangent we discuss the little known but unbelievably important concept of ‘slack’ - what it is, why having too little of it can be deadly and how to get more of it!

We also discuss the difference between attention and awareness and how can help you live a more engaged life, a simple rule of thumb to know when you’re using your time on earth well, and a quick trick to train your mind to dive straight into deep focus when you need to!

Lastly, we discuss how we’ve set up our personal devices to get the most out of them while minimising distractions and as a bonus this episode we mention two other podcasts we’re loving at the moment!

 

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Shownotes:

Slack and the Sabbath sequence by Zvi on Lesswrong: https://www.lesswrong.com/s/HXkpm9b8o964jbQ89

Main Lesswrong post on ‘slack’: https://www.lesswrong.com/s/HXkpm9b8o964jbQ89/p/yLLkWMDbC9ZNKbjDG

Farnam Street Mental models: https://fs.blog/mental-models/ 

Lying by Sam Harris: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18869177-lying 

Jared’s essay on Algorithms: https://jaredtumiel.github.io/2019-08-11-use-algorithms/ 

Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40672036-digital-minimalism?ac=1&from_search=true 

The Mind Illuminated by Culadasa: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25942786-the-mind-illuminated?ac=1&from_search=true 

Naval Ravikant’s tweetstorm (some ideas mentioned definitely came from here): https://twitter.com/naval/status/1002103360646823936 

Deep work by Cal Newport:: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25744928-deep-work?ac=1&from_search=true 

Stayfocused (android app): https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.stayfocused&hl=en_US 

StayFocusd - chrome website blocker:  https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/stayfocusd/laankejkbhbdhmipfmgcngdelahlfoji 

David Epstein – Wide or Deep? - [Invest Like the Best, EP.133]https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/david-epstein-wide-or-deep-invest-like-the-best-ep-133/id1154105909?i=1000439925357 

Good One: A Podcast About Jokes: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/id1203393721 

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