FUTURE FOSSILS

Share

123 - David Weinberger on Everyday Chaos & Thriving Amidst the Complexity

Ep. 123

This week we’re joined by David Weinberger, Senior Researcher at the Harvard Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Technology exploring the effects of technology on how we think. David’s led a fascinating and nonlinear life, studying Heiddeger as a young philosopher, working in marketing for high technology, working as a journalist, and authoring four books on technology, creativity, and knowledge. His new book, Everyday Chaos: Technology, Complexity, and How We're Thriving in a New World of Possibility, explores what changes for us in the age of machine learning.


I have to admit, I was worried this was going to be just another technocratic puff piece when I started. Certainly it’s a Harvard Business Review Press volume, speaking largely to a business audience; but this is a book that doesn’t flinch at the weirdness of a world in which we know things we don’t know how we know. David’s argument is for a creative embrace of the complexity and mystery that has always surrounded us – that we are in fact made of – and that is becoming much more obvious in light of superhuman but opaque machine intelligences that rehab us from the delusions of our modern pretense that the world is knowable, transparent, and controllable. But unlike the doomsayers of the AI conversation, David has an enviable peace about the fact that we never actually had a lock on what is really going on – and argues eloquently for a fresh encounter with a world of wonder, possibility, and the unknown.


David at Harvard:

https://cyber.harvard.edu/people/dweinberger


David on Medium (“Machine Learning Might Render The Human Quest for Knowledge Pointless”):

https://onezero.medium.com/machine-learning-might-render-the-human-quest-for-knowledge-pointless-5425f8b00a45


With open APIs, open access journals, game modding, and other empowering information technologies, we are purposefully making the world less predictable.


Laws are not necessarily the most accurate way of describing reality.


The death knell for the theory of everything - letting go of unifying universal frameworks.


“It’s not really a three-body problem. It’s an every-body problem, because everything with gravity effects everything else.”


“Everything - EVERYTHING in our lives we basically don’t know, and can’t predict. But the picture of our lives has been, until recently, ‘It’s simple and law-like.’ The chaos, this is our lives. The laws, they are real, they are helpful, but they don’t govern as much as we like to think.”


“We think out in the world with tools. There’s no shame in this, but it does mean we’re not locked in our own heads. And now we have new tools.”


“…it depends on what you count as an explanation.”


“We need to leave room for the accidental, because that is the stuff of our lives.”


“I don’t know what a transparent algorithm is.”


Are we willing to trade a thousand auto deaths a year for the explicability of autonomous vehicle safety algorithms? Or fuel efficiency?


“An explanation is a tool. It’s not a state of the world.”


• Relatedly, we just read Liu Cixin’s The Three Body Problem in the Future Fossils Book Club:

https://www.patreon.com/posts/book-club-3-body-29353389?cid=26063131


• Theme Music: “God Detector” by Evan “Skytree” Snyder (feat. Michael Garfield).


• Additional Music: “Single & Feeling” by Michael Garfield.

More Episodes

6/6/2020

Weaving A New Prehistory to Rewild The Future - Michael Garfield at Earth Frequency Festival 2017

Ep. 145
"We are living through a health crisis, an economic crisis, a racial crisis, and a democratic crisis. Each would be historic on their own. All of them are connected. That they have struck together in this way just might be what compels our transformation."–Anand GiridharadasThis week’s episode is over three years in the making: my talk from Earth Frequency Festival 2017, about a revised narrative of prehistory from which we can grow new myths better suited for our times. I almost didn’t post this episode at all, even after nearly two full days of editing, because it felt tone deaf to zoom out so far and discuss topics like mass extinctions, the evolution of plant-pollinator symbiosis, my critiques of transhumanism and SpaceX, and how fish and clams represent complementary strategies for dealing with turbulent environments.But this feature-length rant erupted from me at a time that rhymes intensely with our current moment: I was scheduled to present on futurism immediately following a heart-wrenching and visceral presentation on the (then ongoing) Standing Rock protests, and it felt right then as it does now to wield what I know in service of new stories that better serve the work of social justice. After all, it is only the alienated and colonized mind that sees climate change, racism, economic inequality, and ecological devastation as separate issues.No: if we are to truly embrace our interbeing with the biosphere (and we must), then we cannot exclude other human beings —or even nonhuman sentient beings —from our maps and models of the nondual truth of who we are.One more disclaimer: This is the last unpublished talk I gave before I started work at the Santa Fe Institute, where my poetic intuitions and armchair science scholarship have been challenged to rise to far greater rigor and discernment.I regard this two-hour screed as both one of my most inspired riffs, the closest that I ever got to a Terence McKenna sermon…but it’s also full of embryonic, raw ideas that have evolved A LOT since this recording happened.I share it with you not as a completed document but as a snapshot of a story in the weaving, and I hope you hear it as the work in progress that it was and is.Thank you and I hope you’ll take a moment to read the supplementary materials below, and support the crucial social justice orgs helping protect the lives and freedom of your neighbors here on Earth, in this especially intense and pivotal moment.For the next few weeks I am donating 100% of the sales of my original paintings and inventory of canvas prints to ACLU and Unicorn Riot. If you would like to put your money to a good cause and get some cool art for doing so, please visit https://instagram.com/michaelgarfield for details.Support this show on Patreon for over a dozen secret episodes, the Future Fossils book club, and weekly community calls, and much more. Or, better, read and share the resources below.Theme Music: “God Detector” by Evan “Skytree” Snyder (feat. Michael Garfield).My embarrassingly white and male list of mentions from this talk:Bruce Damer, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Ernst Haeckel, Proteus (documentary), Charles Darwin, Alfred Russel Wallace, Diane Musho Hamilton, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Kary Mullis, Francis Crick, The Bardo Thodol (book), Ram Dass, Neem Karoli Baba, Biosphere 2, William Irwin Thompson, Marshall McLuhan, Alvin Toffler, Marie Toffler, Stewart Brand, Wall-E (film), Gregory Bateson, John Muir, Richard Doyle, Darwin’s Pharmacy (book), Thomas Henry Huxley, Gideon Mantell, Colin Elder, Arthur C. Clarke, Stephen Baxter, The Light of Other Days (book), Albert Einstein, John C. Wright, Timothy Leary, Elon MuskShare these resources:–––> Ally Tools <–––http://www.ally.tools“Whether or not you think you hold them, stereotypes shape the lives of everyone on Earth. As human beings, we lack the ability to judge each situation as unique and different…and how we group novel experiences by our past conditioning, as helpful as it often is, creates extraordinary complications in society. As modern life exposes us to an increasing number of encounters with the other in which we do not have time to form accurate models of someoneor some place’s true identity, we find ourselves in a downward spiral of self-reinforcing biases —transforming how we practice law enforcement, justice, and life online. Our polarized, irrational world calls for an intense look at what it will take to humanize each other— at traffic stops, in court, on social media, and anywhere our doubt about an unfamiliar face can lead to tragic consequences.”https://complexity.simplecast.com/episodes/7Complex systems science resources on algorithmic justice, moral economics, nonviolent policing, healing slums, countering hate on social media, and more:https://santafe.edu/news-center/news/sfis-statement-support-victims-injustice“One can’t claim to be an ally if one’s agenda is to prevent his or her own future dystopias through actions that also preserve today’s Indigenous dystopias. Indigenous environmental movements work to reject the ancestral dystopias and colonial fantasies of the present. This is why so many of our environmental movements are about stopping sexual and state violence against Indigenous people, reclaiming ethical self-determination across diverse urban and rural ecosystems, empowering gender justice and gender fluidity, transforming lawmaking to be consensual, healing intergenerational traumas, and calling out all practices that erase Indigenous histories, cultures, and experiences.”https://www.yesmagazine.org/issue/decolonize/2018/04/03/white-allies-lets-be-honest-about-decolonization/“Racial and economic inequities need to be tackled as this country seeks to recalibrate its economic and social compass in the weeks and months to come. Racism, in short, makes it impossible to live sustainably. Here’s what three prominent environmental defenders had to say in interviews this week about how the climate movement can be anti-racist.”https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/03/climate/black-environmentalists-talk-about-climate-and-anti-racism.htmlThank you for listening. Reach out any time.
5/19/2020

144 - On Dinosaurs & Holy Wars: Creationist Amusement Parks & America's Strange Relationship with Science, with Monica Long Ross & Clayton Brown

Ep. 144
This week I talk with film-makers Monica Long Ross and Clayton Brown about their bizarre and wonderful documentary, We Believe in Dinosaurs —and how a creationist amusement park in Kentucky provides a lens through which to examine the tense relationship between science, religion, and business in America. This is a conversation about what happens when premodern, modern, and postmodern worldviews duke it out on a landscape of rapid change for which none of them are sufficient. It’s about the surreal Young Earth dinosaur museums of Late Capitalism, but more, it is about our trust (or lack of trust) and where we put it when we lose the plot.Support this show on Patreon for over a dozen secret episodes, the Future Fossils book club and Discord server, weekly community calls, and much more.Grab the books we talk about on Future Fossils and Amazon will chip me a little of the proceeds, at no cost to you.Theme Music: “God Detector” by Evan “Skytree” Snyder (feat. Michael Garfield)Additional Intro Music: “Lambent” by Michael GarfieldTopics:How an Australian fundamentalist extremist ended up building a $200M “replica” of Noah’s Ark as a theme park in rural Kentucky.How Young Earth creationists can doubt geology but trust high-energy physics: their distinction between experimental versus observational science.The role of Big Money and economic development in the entire history of dinosaur science, and the use of dinosaurs as rhetorical tools (or “missionary lizards”).What’s really behind the culture wars between science and religion…and how it is that fundamentalists can come to believe they’re practicing better science than the scientists.The fractal weirdness of culture wars between different sects of American Christianity about matters of scientific investigation.Amusement parks and museums as architectural arguments for particular worldviews.Why so many people distrust science, and why people seek out preposterous but easy-to-understand narratives when history moves too fast for comfort.What it looks like when 21st Century global industry meets 1st Century religious zealotry: giant warehouses full of masterfully produced educational media for Bible propaganda.Why our origin story and Earth history will probably always be an issue of contention and an area where people will distrust scientists.How faith and hope appears in the science of the abstract and its practitioners: both legitimate high energy physics, and illegitimate cold fusion.Religious privilege versus religious freedom (and how trying to teach Genesis in high school biology is not about religious freedom, but power).Entering a recombinant flux of personal worldviews, thanks to the Web, in which all possible religions exist.What is the tipping point where an abstract risk becomes tangible enough for all of us to agree on its existence, much less a strategy for adaptation?Mentions:Bill Nye, Ken Ham, Mirta Galesic, Henrik Olsson, Walt Disney World, Universal Studios Florida, Isaac Newton, Aristophanes, Charles Darwin, Steve Brusatte, David B. Kinney, Santa Fe Institute, Large Hadron Collider, The Ark Encounter, The Smithsonian Institute, University of Kansas Natural History Museum

Comments