Ted Chiang on Free Will, Time Travel, Many Worlds, Genetic Engineering, and Hard Science Fiction – #19

Steve and Corey speak with Ted Chiang about his recent story collection “Exhalation” and his inaugural essay for the New York Times series, Op-Eds from the Future. Chiang has won Nebula and Hugo awards for his widely influential science fiction writing. His short story “Story of Your Life,” was the basis of the film Arrival (2016). Their discussion explores the scientific and philosophical ideas in Ted’s work, including whether free will is possible, and implications of AI, neuroscience, and time travel. Ted explains why his skepticism about whether the US is truly a meritocracy leads him to believe that the government-funded genetic modification he envisages in his Op-Ed would not solve the problem of inequality.

Ted Chiang on Free Will, Time Travel, Many Worlds, Genetic Engineering, and Hard Science Fiction – #19

Steve and Corey speak with Ted Chiang about his recent story collection “Exhalation” and his inaugural essay for the New York Times series, Op-Eds from the Future. Chiang has won Nebula and Hugo awards for his widely influential science fiction writing. His short story “Story of Your Life,” was the basis of the film Arrival (2016). Their discussion explores the scientific and philosophical ideas in Ted’s work, including whether free will is possible, and implications of AI, neuroscience, and time travel. Ted explains why his skepticism about whether the US is truly a meritocracy leads him to believe that the government-funded genetic modification he envisages in his Op-Ed would not solve the problem of inequality.

Transcript: Ted Chiang on Free Will, Time Travel, Many Worlds, Genetic Engineering, and Hard Science Fiction – #19

Steve: Thanks for joining us, I’m Steve Shoe. Corey: And I’m Corey Washington. And we’re your hosts for Manifold. Steve: Our guest today is Ted Chang. He is one of my favorite science fiction writers, and also one of Corey’s. His work has won, I’m now reading from his Wikipedia entry, which I hope is […]

Rebecca Campbell on Identifying Serial Perpetrators, Rape Investigations and Untested Rape Kits – #18

Dr. Rebecca Campbell is a Professor of Psychology at Michigan State University, whose research focuses on violence against women and children with an emphasis on sexual assault. Steve and Corey discuss her recent National Institute of Justice-funded project to study Detroit’s untested rape kits. Dr. Campbell describes the problem of untested kits and her work with police departments around the country to reduce the backlog. She explains how the use of the national CODIS database has led to sharply higher estimates of the proportion of rapes committed by serial perpetrators and how many rapists appear to be criminal “generalists”, committing a wide range of offenses. She describes the dynamics of sexual assault investigations, the factors that lead police to put more effort into investigating certain cases over others, and how common ways of questioning women can lead them to disengage from the process. Other topics include the incentives at work in law enforcement, the slow pace at which new research in DNA testing and treatment of victims is incorporated into police training, and Dr. Campbell’s efforts to engage with law enforcement agencies to improve investigative practices.

Rebecca Campbell on Identifying Serial Perpetrators, Rape Investigations and Untested Rape Kits – #18

Dr. Rebecca Campbell is a Professor of Psychology at Michigan State University, whose research focuses on violence against women and children with an emphasis on sexual assault. Steve and Corey discuss her recent National Institute of Justice-funded project to study Detroit’s untested rape kits. Dr. Campbell describes the problem of untested kits and her work with police departments around the country to reduce the backlog. She explains how the use of the national CODIS database has led to sharply higher estimates of the proportion of rapes committed by serial perpetrators and how many rapists appear to be criminal “generalists”, committing a wide range of offenses. She describes the dynamics of sexual assault investigations, the factors that lead police to put more effort into investigating certain cases over others, and how common ways of questioning women can lead them to disengage from the process. Other topics include the incentives at work in law enforcement, the slow pace at which new research in DNA testing and treatment of victims is incorporated into police training, and Dr. Campbell’s efforts to engage with law enforcement agencies to improve investigative practices.

Transcript: Rebecca Campbell on Identifying Serial Perpetrators, Rape Investigations and Untested Rape Kits – #18

Steve: Thanks for joining us. I’m Steve Hsu. Corey: And I’m Corey Washington and we’re your host for Manifold. Our guest today is Doctor Rebecca Campbell, professor of psychology at Michigan State University. Her research focuses on violence against women and children with an emphasis on sexual assault and specifically understanding how contact with the […]

Mark Moffett on the Life and Death of Human Societies – #17

Steve and Corey talk with Mark Moffett, Photographer and Research Fellow at the Smithsonian Institute, about his new book The Human Swarm: How our Societies Arise, Thrive and Fall. They discuss Mark’s view that being able walk into a cafe filled with others and not be attacked illustrates what makes human societies distinct and so successful. Mark explains why he is far more interested in questions about when war and other events occur than with traditional issues such as the genetic origins of human behavior. The three discuss Dehumanization and its Chimp equivalent, Dechimpanizeeization, and how they lead to the division of societies, friend turning against friend, and genocide. They discuss the conditions under which foreigners are embraced and whether the US might ever enter into a post-racial society where group differences don’t matter and immigrants are more easily accepted.

Mark Moffett on the Life and Death of Human Societies – #17

Steve and Corey talk with Mark Moffett, Photographer and Research Fellow at the Smithsonian Institute, about his new book The Human Swarm: How our Societies Arise, Thrive and Fall. They discuss Mark’s view that being able walk into a cafe filled with others and not be attacked illustrates what makes human societies distinct and so successful. Mark explains why he is far more interested in questions about when war and other events occur than with traditional issues such as the genetic origins of human behavior. The three discuss Dehumanization and its Chimp equivalent, Dechimpanizeeization, and how they lead to the division of societies, friend turning against friend, and genocide. They discuss the conditions under which foreigners are embraced and whether the US might ever enter into a post-racial society where group differences don’t matter and immigrants are more easily accepted.

Transcript: Mark Moffett on the Life and Death of Human Societies – #17

Steve: Thanks for joining us. I’m Steve Hsu. Corey: I’m Corey Washington. We’re your hosts of Manifold. Today, our guest is Mark Moffett. Mark is a research associate in the Department of Entomology at the National Museum of Natural History Smithsonian Institute. He is also one of E.O. Wilson’s last students. As I’ve talked about […]

John Schulman: OpenAI and recent advances in Artificial Intelligence – #16

John Schulman is a research scientist at OpenAI. He co-leads the Reinforcement Learning group and works on agent learning in virtual game worlds (e.g., Dota) as well as in robotics. John, Corey, and Steve talk about AI, AGI (Artifical General Intelligence), the Singularity (self-reinforcing advances in AI which lead to runaway behavior that is incomprehensible to humans), and the creation and goals of OpenAI. They discuss recent advances in language models (GPT-2) and whether these results raise doubts about the usefulness of linguistic research over the past 60 years. Does GPT-2 imply that neural networks trained using large amounts of human-generated text can encode “common sense” knowledge about the world? They also discuss what humans are better at than current AI systems, and near term examples of what is already feasible: for example, using AI drones to kill people.