You're Probably Wondering Why I've Called You Here Today
Play • 6 min


Welcome to Astral Codex Ten! Some of you are probably veterans of my old blog, Slate Star Codex. Others may be newbies wondering what this is all about.

I'm happy to finally be able to give a clear answer: this is a blog about ṛta.

Ṛta is a Sanskrit word, so ancient that it brushes up against the origin of Indo-European languages. It's related to English "rationality" and "arithmetic", but also "art" and "harmony". And "right", both in the senses of "natural rights" and "the right answer". And "order". And "arete" and "aristos" and all those other Greek words about morality. And "artificial", as in eg artificial intelligence. More speculatively "reign" and related words about rulership, and "rich" and related words about money.

(also "arthropod", but insects creep me out so I'll be skipping this one)

80,000 Hours Podcast with Rob Wiblin
80,000 Hours Podcast with Rob Wiblin
The 80000 Hours team
#91 – Lewis Bollard on big wins against factory farming and how they happened
I suspect today's guest, Lewis Bollard, might be the single best person in the world to interview to get an overview of all the methods that might be effective for putting an end to factory farming and what broader lessons we can learn from the experiences of people working to end cruelty in animal agriculture. That's why I interviewed him back in 2017, and it's why I've come back for an updated second dose four years later. That conversation became a touchstone resource for anyone wanting to understand why people might decide to focus their altruism on farmed animal welfare, what those people are up to, and why. Lewis leads Open Philanthropy’s strategy for farm animal welfare, and since he joined in 2015 they’ve disbursed about $130 million in grants to nonprofits as part of this program. This episode certainly isn't only for vegetarians or people whose primary focus is animal welfare. The farmed animal welfare movement has had a lot of big wins over the last five years, and many of the lessons animal activists and plant-based meat entrepreneurs have learned are of much broader interest. *Links to learn more, summary and full transcript.* Some of those include: • *Between 2019 and 2020, Beyond Meat's cost of goods sold fell from about $4.50 a pound to $3.50 a pound.* Will plant-based meat or clean meat displace animal meat, and if so when? How quickly can it reach price parity? • *One study reported that philosophy students reduced their meat consumption by 13% after going through a course on the ethics of factory farming.* But do studies like this replicate? And what happens several months later? • *One survey showed that 33% of people supported a ban on animal farming.* Should we take such findings seriously? Or is it as informative as the study which showed that 38% of Americans believe that Ted Cruz might be the Zodiac killer? • *Costco, the second largest retailer in the U.S., is now over 95% cage-free.* Why have they done that years before they had to? And can ethical individuals within these companies make a real difference? We also cover: • Switzerland’s ballot measure on eliminating factory farming • What a Biden administration could mean for reducing animal suffering • How chicken is cheaper than peanuts • The biggest recent wins for farmed animals • Things that haven’t gone to plan in animal advocacy • Political opportunities for farmed animal advocates in Europe • How the US is behind Brazil and Israel on animal welfare standards • The value of increasing media coverage of factory farming • The state of the animal welfare movement • And much more If you’d like an introduction to the nature of the problem and why Lewis is working on it, in addition to our 2017 interview with Lewis, you could check out this 2013 cause report from Open Philanthropy. Producer: Keiran Harris. Audio mastering: Ben Cordell. Transcriptions: Sofia Davis-Fogel.
2 hr 33 min
Santa Fe Institute, Michael Garfield
Alien Crash Site Invades Complexity: Tamara van der Does on Sci-Fi Science, with Guest Co-host Caitlin McShea
The consequence of living in a complex world: one tiny tweak can lead to massive transformation. Set the stage a slightly different way, and the entire play might unfold differently. This path-dependency shows up in both the science fiction premise and the hypothesis of scientific research: What can we learn about the hidden order of our cosmos by adjusting just a single variable? Welcome to COMPLEXITY, the official podcast of the Santa Fe Institute. I’m your host, Michael Garfield, and every other week we’ll bring you with us for far-ranging conversations with our worldwide network of rigorous researchers developing new frameworks to explain the deepest mysteries of the universe. This week, Complexity Podcast becomes its own experiment after an invasion by our sister podcast, InterPlanetary Festival’s Alien Crash Site. SFI Miller Omega Program Manager Caitlin McShea joins as guest co-host for a conversation with SFI Program Postdoctoral Fellow Tamara van der Does (who models belief change using techniques inspired by statistical physics) for a three-headed conversation totally befitting the subject matter: a work of speculative “sci-fi science” produced by SFI’s postdoctoral researchers during a 72-hour lock-in complex systems charette. Their question: how might an extraterrestrial civilization much like our own work if their biology required three-parent families? We discuss the interplay between individual and society, the role of counterfactuals and speculation in both scientific research and sci-fi, and what technology she’d hope to find left in the wake of an alien visitation. Tune in two weeks from now for a return to our regularly scheduled programming... If you value our research and communication efforts, please consider making a donation at — and/or rating and reviewing us at Apple Podcasts. You can find numerous other ways to engage with us at Thank you for listening! Join our Facebook discussion group to meet like minds and talk about each episode. Podcast theme music by Mitch Mignano. Follow us on social media: Twitter • YouTube • Facebook • Instagram • LinkedIn Go deeper with these additional resources: • Tamara’s Website, Google Scholar Page & Twitter • InterPlanetary Festival Website • Alien Crash Site Podcast • In 72 hours of sci-fi, postdocs transmit parental model of alien civilization [video] • Greetings from a Triparental Planet 72 Hours of Science Pre-Printby Gizem Bacaksizlar, Stefani Crabtree, Joshua Garland, Natalie Grefenstette, Albert Kao, David Kinney, Artemy Kolchinsky, Tyler Marghetis, Michael Price, Maria Riolo, Hajime Shimao, Ashley Teufel, Tamara van der Does, and Vicky Chuqiao Yang • Scale and information-processing thresholds in Holocene social evolution by Jaeweon Shin, Michael Holton Price, David H. Wolpert, Hajime Shimao, Brendan Tracey, and Timothy A. Kohler • SFI’s VP for Science Jennifer Dunne Remembers Ecologist Bob May • Complexity 43: Vicky Yang & Henrik Olsson on social science • Complexity 24: Laurent Hébert Dufresne on network epidemiology • Complexity 19: David Kinney on the philosophy of science • IPFest 2019 Worldbuilding Panel with Rebecca Roanhorse, Ty Franck, Daniel Abraham, Michael Drout, and Cris Moore • David Stout on Alien Crash Site Podcast • Roadside Picnic by the Strugatsky Brothers • Stalker (film adaptation of Roadside Picnic) by Andrei Tarkovsky • Anathem by former SFI Miller Scholar Neal Stephenson • Dark Integers by Greg Egan • Aliens comic series by Dark Horse • UFO sculpture in cover image by R.T. Davis
50 min
The Future of Life
The Future of Life
Future of Life Institute
John Prendergast on Non-dual Awareness and Wisdom for the 21st Century
John Prendergast, former adjunct professor of psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies, joins Lucas Perry for a discussion about the experience and effects of ego-identification, how to shift to new levels of identity, the nature of non-dual awareness, and the potential relationship between waking up and collective human problems. This is not an FLI Podcast, but a special release where Lucas shares a direction he feels has an important relationship with AI alignment and existential risk issues. Topics discussed in this episode include: -The experience of egocentricity and ego-identification -Waking up into heart awareness -The movement towards and qualities of non-dual consciousness -The ways in which the condition of our minds collectively affect the world -How waking up may be relevant to the creation of AGI You can find the page for this podcast here: Have any feedback about the podcast? You can share your thoughts here: Timestamps:  0:00 Intro 7:10 The modern human condition 9:29 What egocentricity and ego-identification are 15:38 Moving beyond the experience of self 17:38 The origins and structure of self 20:25 A pointing out instruction for noticing ego-identification and waking up out of it 24:34 A pointing out instruction for abiding in heart-mind or heart awareness 28:53 The qualities of and moving into heart awareness and pure awareness 33:48 An explanation of non-dual awareness 40:50 Exploring the relationship between awareness, belief, and action 46:25 Growing up and improving the egoic structure 48:29 Waking up as recognizing true nature 51:04 Exploring awareness as primitive and primary 53:56 John's dream of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj 57:57 The use and value of conceptual thought and the mind 1:00:57 The epistemics of heart-mind and the conceptual mind as we shift levels of identity 1:17:46 A pointing out instruction for inquiring into core beliefs 1:27:28 The universal heart, qualities of awakening, and the ethical implications of such shifts 1:31:38 Wisdom, waking up, and growing up for the transgenerational issues of the 21st century 1:38:44 Waking up and its applicability to the creation of AGI 1:43:25 Where to find, follow, and reach out to John 1:45:56 Outro This podcast is possible because of the support of listeners like you. If you found this conversation to be meaningful or valuable, consider supporting it directly by donating at Contributions like yours make these conversations possible.
1 hr 46 min
The Stephen Wolfram Podcast
The Stephen Wolfram Podcast
Wolfram Research
Stephen Wolfram Q&A, For Kids (and others) [November 13, 2020]
Stephen Wolfram answers general questions from his viewers about science and technology as part of an unscripted livestream series. Is there a physical principle that governs Moore's law? Why is there so much available computation? - If F=ma, and photons have a mass of 0, how can light sails work? Do photons have some properties of having mass? - As of right now, what do you anticipate will be the outcome of the Wolfram Physics Project? What practical applications will it have? - What is more difficult for you to create things or to explain how they work to others? - Has your physics project shed any light on the protein folding problem? If you squint right, there seems to be a connection. - How does black hole merging work? - Is there any theory about what type of particles a potential black hole would be made off? - What's your experience and opinion about Alchemy and is it possible to incorporate a modernized version of it into Mathematica? - What do we know about the nature of time travel? Will time machines as depicted in science fiction stories remain fiction for the foreseeable future? - Can there be architectures that do not seem to make sense that simply have higher order of complexity not dependent on binary arithmetic circuits? That will be used in future? - I am currently in high school, what advice would you give to an aspiring mathematician? See the full Q&A video playlist:
1 hr 30 min
Everything Hertz
Everything Hertz
Dan Quintana
126: The division of scientific labor (with Saloni Dattani)
We have a wide-ranging chat with Saloni Dattani (Kings College London and University of Hong Kong) about the benefits of dividing scientific labor, the magazine she co-founded (Works in Progress) that shares novel ideas and stories of progress, and fighting online misinformation Here are some links and other stuff we cover Follow Saloni on Twitter: Why Saloni started the Works in Progress ( magazine Overleaf (, for writing papers in LaTeX How science will benefit from the division of labour Public writing vs. scientific writing Why has behavioral science not been very useful in curbing the pandemic? A paper ( suggested a link between digit ratio (2D:4D) and sex differences in COVID fatalities, and another paper ( debunking this claim A paper ( suggesting baldness is a coronavirus risk factor, without controlling for age Should peer-review be abolished altogether? Paper link ( The Japanese mathematician ( who solved an "impossible" conjecture and posted the papers on his website Reforms are more likely by work by chipping away at smaller problems, rather trying to fix everyting Google dataset search The website Other links - Dan on twitter ( - James on twitter ( - Everything Hertz on twitter ( - Everything Hertz on Facebook ( Music credits: Lee Rosevere ( Support us on Patreon ( and get bonus stuff! $1 a month: 20% discount on Everything Hertz merchandise, a monthly newsletter, access to the occasional bonus episode, and the the warm feeling you're supporting the show - $5 a month or more: All the stuff you get in the one dollar tier PLUS a bonus episode every month Buy our Merch here: Episode citation Quintana, D.S., Heathers, J.A.J. (Hosts). (2021, February 15) "126: The division of scientific labor (with Saloni Dattani)", Everything Hertz [Audio podcast], DOI: 10.17605/OSF.IO/VJA4S Special Guest: Saloni Dattani.
52 min
New Books in Economics
New Books in Economics
Marshall Poe
L. Vinsel and A. L. Russell, "The Innovation Delusion: How Our Obsession with the New Has Disrupted the Work That Matters Most" (Currency, 2020)
It’s hard to avoid innovation these days. Nearly every product gets marketed as being disruptive, whether it’s genuinely a new invention or just a new toothbrush. But in this manifesto on the state of American work, historians of technology Lee Vinsel and Andrew L. Russell argue that our way of thinking about and pursuing innovation has made us poorer, less safe, and—ironically—less innovative. Drawing on years of original research and reporting, The Innovation Delusion: How Our Obsession with the New Has Disrupted the Work That Matters Most (Currency, 2020) shows how the ideology of change for its own sake has proved a disaster. Corporations have spent millions hiring chief innovation officers while their core businesses tank. Computer science programs have drilled their students on programming and design, even though the overwhelming majority of jobs are in IT and maintenance. In countless cities, suburban sprawl has left local governments with loads of deferred repairs that they can’t afford to fix. For anyone concerned by the crumbling state of our roads and bridges or the direction our economy is headed, The Innovation Delusion is a deeply necessary reevaluation of a trend we can still disrupt. Mathew Jordan is a university instructor, funk musician, and clear writing enthusiast. I study science and its history, in the hope that understanding the past can help us make sense of the present and build a better future. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!
54 min
Economics Explained
Economics Explained
Economics Explained
The "Perfect" Little Economy of New Zealand
This is new Zealand, a picturesque nation whos economy looks to exclusively rely on throwing their tourists off cliffs in increasingly imaginative ways and being left off of world maps. But Australia’s little brother is so much more than that and it might truely be the world’s best managed economy. Everything from the world banks ease of doing business index, from multiple quality of life assessments puts new zealand in the top spot. Move aside Norway. What’s more is that it has achieved this remarkable prosperity despite not having a huge supply of natural resources, or acting as some tax haven for global businesses like so many other apparent economic miracles we have explored before. No New Zealand has got to where it is today by carefully managing a market economy and providing a safe, stable and confidence inspiring place to start a family, a business, and a career. Of course there are still some problems and we will certainly get to them but after exploring the Economy of Argentina last week, it’s now time to get out your pen and paper and take notes on how to actually run an economy. And to do this as always we are going to break the economy into some important categories. What are the primary drivers of New Zealand's economic prosperity? How has the nation been able to accommodate these where other nations fail to do so? And what are the challenges the nation might face to keep this success going? Once thats all done we can then put New zealand on the economics explained national leaderboard.
18 min
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