Universe 101 – humanity’s entropic abyss

I just wanted to share this magically brilliant podcast episode with Joscha Bach.

I’m so stoked after listening to it (twice), that I’m actually considering starting an entire podcast, based on just this single episode with Lex Fridman.

The series would go through concept after concept (AI, consciousness, world building, societal construction, great thinkers, love, law, meaning, intelligent gas giants constructing living cells to use as Von Neumann Probes, Wittgenstein, the sense of self, intelligence, modelling the universe, Mandelbrot fractals, automata, the end of the current civilization), trying to elaborate and comment on Joscha Bach’s thoughtful, genius, amazing, original, and inspiring analysis of everything worth considering.

Yes, you heard me.


If 42 isn’t the answer, Joscha probably knows what is.

My 3-hour morning walk round Stockholm this morning became the most perfect exercise of intellectual flow I think I’ve ever experienced, thanks to Joscha and Fridman. This episode has it all, especially if you’re already reasonably well versed in current ideas about consciousness, existence, mind, large language models, emergence, entropy, category theory, and much more.


I’m seriously considering it. Making a series of podcast episodes delving into one topic at a time, based on Joscha’s anwers in the Lex Fridman Episode #101.

This is NOT the 101 course of existence

It’s the really Deep End.

Now it’s time to hit replay once more

Let them win!

Cynical summary: look smart by letting them win

I once wrote a story about how you can get more out of trying to get as wet as possible in the rain, rather than futilely try to stay dry.

In the same vein, I recommend you actively search for arguments you can lose (and execute on those), in order to make friends and influence people long term, rather than just try to win the occasional ad hoc party conversation to feel good in the moment.

A few simple tips for handling arguments, and winning friends and influencing people, at, e.g., parties

How?: Simply let them win whatever discussion or argument you’re having. Their winning is not the same as you losing. The truth is still what it is.

Or are you too hot-headed (dare I say stupid) for that?

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Admit you are wrong

Do it swiftly and sincerely – with a smile

Actually, do it even if you aren’t sure you’re wrong, or if it’s kind of a close call.

If you happen to be unequivocally right, the truth will reveal itself sooner or later. But you will never get the chance to correct the revolting know-it-all image you projected if you couldn’t admit your mistake.

If you want to be strategic about it, here is level 2:

Let yourself be won over 

There is nothing the other part in a conversation wants more than to persuade you with his or her clever arguments and rhetoric.

Let it happen.

If they are wrong, the worst thing that could happen is you look a little thick in their eyes – but then again, who was the thicker one?

Just let it go

(leave them alone)

Unless you are a professional politician, there are almost never any good reasons for pursuing a sensitive argument.

In particular not in a discussion with the friend of a friend at the friend’s house party. Nobody benefits from a heated, inebriated and useless WWI style trench warfare. Leave it, change the subject. If needed, clearly state that you won’t talk politics, taxes, weight lifting, nutrition/dieting, or whatever the sensitive subject happens to be. Remember to do it with a smile.

I hold certain principles very dearly, not least Ahimsa, the practice of non-violence. I am about as open to discussion in these cases as I am regarding the existence of “God”, and if I can help it I save that for a sober and quiet talk with a close friend.

Anyway, I have no interest in trying to win over a career politician, ignorant kid or their like, that can’t see the asymmetry of their beliefs, when we can simply get drunk together, talk about the accelerating technological progress, David Simpson’s book Dawn Of The Singularity, or the unbearable shortness of the skirts at the party.

Summary: not two-faced

No, there is nothing insincere or fork-tongued about this.

Know your purpose. Choose your battles.

If you really want to get to the philosophical bottom of an argument, make sure to pick the right timevenue and person for it. An acquaintance at a dinner party, or worse yet, a stranger at a club, is not a fitting opportunity.

TIP: begin your answers with acknowledging their points: “You are right. I agree that…“, before saying anything remotely contrary to their position. But best refrain from countering altogether.

NOTE: this isn’t quite as cynical as you might think. By letting them win, you might actually find you understand their perspective and learn something new for real.

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Coin toss decisions

Thinking slow fast — how to combine reasoned and intuitive thinking in practical ways to arrive at high quality decisions. This chapter of “The Playbook” (or “Just One” as my book might eventually be named) presents my best practices for effective decision making, such as minimizing the risk of a total loss, the coin toss, always saying yes, Just-Say-No, the non-pros-cons list, pre mortems, the trust-no-one imperative, and the art of indefinite postponement.

Why and how intuitive decision making works

The Master And His Emissary: the right side hemisphere of the brain (RBH) tells you what the right decision is. Left brain tries to make a linear, logical decision based on pros and cons (that really don’t mean anything without RBH context). RBH only supplies the story to the LBH for it to have something of a narrative to pretend to understand, and to dig deeper into details of respective item, then it hands it all back to the RBH which then knows which argument is THE important one. Don’t let your LBH kidnap the decision!

The decision quality illusion

An acquaintance sets you up on a blind date. It turns out to be the love of your life. Was going on the date a good quality decision?

Probably not. Going on a blind date set up by somebody who hardly knows you is much more likely to lead to a complete waste of time. On the other hand, it completely depends on your particular constraints regarding time, money, friends and “game[ How good you are with the initial attraction of a potential partner]”

If you lend someone $20

and never see that person again,

it was probably well worth it

You bet hard on a poker hand with a 98 per cent win chance. You lose. Was it a bad quality decision?

Nope! It was just bad luck, that the 2 per cent probability of losing happened to manifest itself in this universe. The outcome of a decision has very little to do with the quality of the decision, since more things can happen than actually do happen. Sometimes the unlikely happen, no matter the quality of the decision process. Adverse outcomes that only have 1% probability of happening still occur around 1% of the time.

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