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Bit of a Tangent

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Bit of a Tangent

Gianluca Truda and Jared Tumiel

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Each week, two aspiring rationalists bring you mind-bending ideas from science, philosophy, artificial intelligence, and medicine. Whether you enjoy wide-ranging discussions or are looking to upgrade your reasoning and critical thinking skills, this podcast will satisfy your intellectual hunger and sharpen your skeptical eye.
 
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In this episode, Gianluca and Jared discuss the neurobiology of predictive processing, the role of dopamine in reward signalling, satisfaction, and human desire. They also touch on the relation of reward to reinforcement learning and artificial intelligence. The podcast then shifts to discuss the clinical manifestations of the predictive brain, inc…
 
This week’s episode of Bit of a Tangent is a continuation of our 3 part series on Predictive Processing - a fascinating neuroscientific account of the way our brains come to understand the world. If you haven’t already listened to part 1 (episode 028), check that out first! In this episode Gianluca and Jared discuss the importance of sensory precis…
 
It's here. It's finally here! The first in a series of three episodes diving into the predictive processing theory of brain function! Jared and Gianluca discuss top-down versus bottom-up perception, Bayesian Brain hypotheses, the logic of caring only about prediction error, and the phenomenology of visual illusions!…
 
Gianluca and Jared have survived 2020 (so far) and are back for Season 3 of Bit of a Tangent. In this episode they bring you 7 new habits and techniques that can be used to iteratively upgrade yourself — even in lockdown. Forget everything else that’s going on in the world, and take a deep dive into personal optimisation. Or, as they’d put it, prep…
 
[Epistemic status: slightly intoxicated] Jared and Gianluca exchange rapid-fire questions whilst becoming increasingly inebriated. Think of this episode as the Ferriss/Rose “Random Show,” but with more references to Bayesian inference. It’s pretty likely to entertain you, but hopefully you’ll find it interesting too. Topics include Email response t…
 
On this episode of Bit of A Tangent, we discuss the emerging field of self-supervised machine learning. This is an immensely exciting area of active research in machine learning and AI - one which most people haven’t even heard about yet! We build up to the intuition for the topic by covering supervised and unsupervised learning; autoencoders and d…
 
Gianluca announces his latest project—the audio version of Nate Soares’ Replacing Guilt series—and Jared explains why it’s a notable contribution to the rationalist community. Together, they discuss how to gain the most from listening to the series and why it’s something you should strongly consider doing if you often find yourself binging Netflix …
 
Jared and Gianluca have an uncompromising exchange about computational neuroscience and its implications for life and AI research. --------------- Shownotes: --------------- Jared on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jnearestn Gianluca on Twitter: www.twitter.com/QVagabond Bit of a Tangent on Twitter (twitter.com/podtangent) and Instagram (instagram.com/pod…
 
Gianluca presents his much-requested three non-fiction and three fiction recommendations for 2020. Jared recommends a book so long and gripping that you should probably avoid it if you have anything productive to do in the next six months. --------------- Shownotes: --------------- Jared (twitter.com/jnearestn) and Gianluca (twitter.com/QVagabond) …
 
Bit of a Tangent is back! In this episode, Jared shares the 19 ideas he couldn’t stop thinking about in 2019, whilst Gianluca does two B-grade Joe Rogan impressions. Together, they discuss everything from mechanism design to personal fitness hacks, and throw in some recommendations for supercharging your learning in the new year. Strap yourselves i…
 
This is part 3 of the series on Mental Models, in which Gianluca and Jared discuss the cognitive biases that often impede aspiring rationalists. They discuss the idea of “System 1 and 2” thinking as a framing for the entire discussion, before exploring 12 of the most deadly thinking traps and how to avoid them. This includes everything from the Pla…
 
This is part 2 of our series on Mental Models. In it, we’re bringing you the most useful and applicable models we’ve encountered in everything we’ve read, heard or seen over the years! In part 2 we unpack models from Bayesian reasoning, calibration, and expected value. We also cover fat-tailed distributions, counterfactual reasoning, inversion, and…
 
This is part 1 of a new series on Mental Models - tips, tricks, and tools to add to your mental toolbox. In this episode we introduce the concept of a mental model but then quickly dive in to explanations of the most powerful models we’ve encountered. Join us and learn how to make better decisions (or know when a decision is not worth making), how …
 
This episode features the much-anticipated conversation with Bronwyn Williams on the topic of Universal Basic Income (UBI). Bronwyn is a futurist and trend analyst with a background in marketing and economics. Gianluca and Jared pick her brain about the economic viability of UBI, the influence of politics and big tech, and the trends in automation …
 
This is part 2 of our series on free will! In this episode we reconcile how it is that we can feel like we have free will (even when we don’t), give an evolutionary argument for why this might be the case and show how knowing this makes us more compassionate people who are (paradoxically) better at achieving our goals. Along the way, we explain wha…
 
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 th…
 
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…
 
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! Al…
 
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 yoursel…
 
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…
 
A deep-dive into the Flow state. Gianluca and Jared discuss the physiology and psychology of being in “the zone,” and the decades of research behind this state of optimal cognitive and physical performance. They also trade hypotheses about how and why the Flow state may have evolved, using the model of cultural evolution within hunter-gatherer trib…
 
This episode looks at how to disrupt social dynamics. Gianluca and Jared consider the properties of social modes and narratives, examine Don Hoffman’s theory of fictitious reality and its evolutionary origins, and discuss ways to overcome your social limits through psychological hacks like self-characterisation and frame shifting. ---------- Showno…
 
In this episode, Jared and Gianluca throw caution to the wind and discuss their most controversial topic yet: what they think might be the best way to exercise! Specifically, they summarise the thesis behind the book ‘Body By Science’ by John Little and Doug McGuff and reveal their own workout routines. Along the way they also explore the field of …
 
In this episode, Jared and Gianluca introduce the fundamentals of Game Theory; before examining the AI alignment problem, civilisational inadequacy, and Moloch—the mythical characterisation of all things suboptimal. This episode makes heavy reference to an article called "Meditations on Moloch", from Scott Alexander’s SlateStarCodex blog. We highly…
 
Gianluca and Jared are joined by crypto expert Thomas Tumiel in a discussion about the details of Facebook’s new Libra cryptocurrency. They give a brief primer on the fundamentals of blockchains and cryptography, examine how Libra is implemented (compared to Bitcoin and Ethereum), discuss Facebook’s strategy for rollout, consider possible failure m…
 
Gianluca outlines his new Habit Formation Framework and future habit-related projects, Jared discusses his heuristics and hacks for a good day, and they both examine the consequences of sleep deprivation—especially on (medical) students. ---------- Shownotes: “Atomic Habits” by James Clear : www.goodreads.com/book/show/40121378-atomic-habits Loving…
 
Gianluca and Jared speak about absurdism, existentialism, and an antidote to becoming bored with the world. They then think out loud about direction versus random walks as well as their visions for the long term future of humanity and how to even think about these kinds of massive questions. They also touch on attention and what it would mean to us…
 
Gianluca and Jared record their first face-to-face episode! They think out loud about how to deduce germ theory as a hunter gatherer, why having interesting conversations is about making people interesting, not meeting interesting people, and finally speculate about why we might have a sense of self and whether it's outlived its usefulness! Shownot…
 
Jared and Gianluca compare notes on their favourite productivity strategies and mindfulness techniques. They also explore the rhetorical bias of wisdom and the rationalist interpretation of cached thoughts; before making ill-advised attempts at explaining the nebulous concepts of "Idea Space" and "Short Inferential Distances". Shownotes: ‘Getting T…
 
Jared and Gianluca dive into the ethics of lying and the effects of trying really hard not to, as well as some of the concepts and thoughts which changed the course of their lives. They also discuss religion, Santa and whether you only have a limited window to overcome limiting beliefs. Shownotes: The book in which Sam Harris talks about the differ…
 
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