Homage to Catalonia

In this episode (recorded 10/4/17), we begin with a discussion of the Catalan independence referendum (Catalan President Carles Puigdemont just issued a confusing suspended declaration of independence while we were posting this). We go on to talk about how we can reduce the impact fake news in the wake of fake stories that emerged after the Las Vegas Strip shooting. We close with a conversation about the chance of a copycat shooting and the prospects for gun control in the US.

The intro music is a clip from “Ibitha” by Lonely Island. You can find NonProphets on BlubrryiTunesStitcher and Google Play. As always, if you have questions, ideas for future episodes, or would like to suggest a possible black swan event, you can use our contact page or e-mail us at (nonprophetspod [at] gmail.com). If you enjoy this podcast, please rate us and recommend us to your friends.

Shahar Avin on Artificial Intelligence

In this episode (recorded 9/27/17), we interview Dr. Shahar Avin of the University of Cambridge’s Centre for the Study of Existential Risk (CSER).

We discuss the prospects for the development of artificial general intelligence; why general intelligence might be harder to control than narrow intelligence; how we can forecast the development of new, unprecedented technologies; what the greatest threats to human survival are; the “value-alignment problem” and why developing AI might be dangerous; what form AI is likely to take; recursive self-improvement and “the singularity”; whether we can regulate or limit the development of AI; the prospect of an AI arms race;  how AI could be used to be undermine political security; Open AI and the prospects for protective AI; tackling AI safety and control problems; why it matters what data is used to train AI; when will have self-driving cars; the potential benefits of AI; and why scientific research should be funded by lottery.

Learn about the related work Robert does with the Global Catastrophic Risk Institute. Papers and articles mentioned in this episode include Mike Rogers, “Artificial Intelligence—The Arms Race We May Not Be Able to Control”, Dario Amodei et al., “Concrete Problems in AI Safety”, and Paul Christiano et al., “Deep Reinforcement Learning from Human Preferences”. The Asilomar AI Principles are available here.

You can find NonProphets on BlubrryiTunesStitcher and Google Play. As always, if you have questions, ideas for future episodes, or would like to suggest a possible black swan event, you can use our contact page or e-mail us at (nonprophetspod [at] gmail.com). If you enjoy this podcast, please rate us and recommend us to your friends.

Welton Chang Interview

In this episode (recorded 9/20/17), we interview superforecaster Welton Chang. Welton is a Ph.D. candidate in psychology at Penn in Philip Tetlock and Barb Mellers’ Good Judgment Laboratory. He served in Iraq and South Korea as an intelligence officer in the US Army and as analyst for the Department of Defense.

We start by talking with Welton about how he got involved the Good Judgment Project and the Good Judgment Laboratory. Then we talk about uncertainty in forecasting and Vizzini’s Princess Bride conundrum, the value of algorithmic forecasts (which we also talked about on another recent podcast), the limits of modern warfare, and whether Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump are rational actors.

We go on to talk about designing training materials for Good Judgment Project forecasters, IARPA’s CREATE program on improving analytic reasoning, avoiding groupthink, the importance of diversity in forecasting, and the art and practice of applying Bayes’ Theorem. We close with a shout out to Welton’s rescue cats, Percy and Portia.

You can read Welton Chang’s essay on the Iran deal, “Go Set a Watchdog on Iran” here. You can read Evan Osnos’ “The Risk of Nuclear War With North Korea” here. You can follow Welton (@WeltonChang) on Twitter here. You can follow Welton’s cats (@percyandportia) on Instagram here.

You can find NonProphets on BlubrryiTunesStitcher and Google Play. As always, if you have questions, ideas for future episodes, or would like to suggest a possible black swan event, you can use our contact page or e-mail us at (nonprophetspod [at] gmail.com). If you enjoy this podcast, please rate us and recommend us to your friends.

Too WEIRD

In this episode (recorded 9/13/17), we review our summer movie and music forecasts. We also discuss predictions we made about US catastrophe losses.

Next we talk about Harvard’s retraction of its offer to Michelle Jones of admission to its graduate history program and Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ suggestion that Jemele Hill should be fired for saying that President Trump is a “white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself with other white supremacists.”

We go on to talk about the importance of diversity and collegiality in forecasting teams. We argue that homogenous groups tend to be biased in something like the way conducting research primarily on subjects who are“WEIRD” (western, educated, and from industrialized, rich, democratic countries) has biased academic psychology. Then we discuss recent research that suggests that decentralized, egalitarian groups are less prone to groupthink and the value of the Delphi method in forecasting.

We close with a discussion of Atief’s find-unlucky-people-and-do-the-opposite decision-making strategy and his general inability to take anything seriously.

You can find NonProphets on BlubrryiTunesStitcher, and Google Play. As always, if you have questions, ideas for future episodes, or would like to suggest a possible black swan event, you can use our contact page or e-mail us at (nonprophetspod [at] gmail.com). If you enjoy this podcast, please rate us and recommend us to your friends.

Can We Trust AI Judgments?

We start this episode (recorded 8/16/17) by announcing the Hybrid Forecasting Competition (HFC). Good Judgment is collaborating with IARPA to run a tournament designed to study whether human forecasters can work with machine systems to improve geopolitical forecasting. You can sign up to volunteer as a forecaster in the competition here.

We then interrupt the podcast briefly to explain that some of the podcast audio was lost due to what we believe was an attack by a rogue artificial intelligence named “Super Bert”.

Next we discuss to what extent we can believe the forecasts of AI forecasters. Robert argues that it can be hard even to know when trust human forecasters and recommends a recent Harvard Business Review interview with former US National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection and Counter-terrorism Richard Clarke on “Cassandras”, whose warnings of disasters aren’t believed. Atief makes the case that our unfamiliarity with the behavior of AI should it harder to trust AI when it gives surprising results.

We go on to talk about the “value-alignment problem” in AI design, Microsoft’s racist chatbot, Isaac Asimov’s three laws of robotics. We then return to the question of how much we can trust AI judgments but our discussion ends suddenly when Super Bert destroys the rest of our recording.

You can find NonProphets on BlubrryiTunesStitcher and Google Play. As always, if you have questions, ideas for future episodes, or would like to suggest a possible black swan event, you can use our contact page or e-mail us at (nonprophetspod [at] gmail.com). If you enjoy this podcast, please rate us and recommend us to your friends.

Overtaken By Events

We start this episode (recorded (8/22/17) by talking about the difference between what President Trump says and what he believes and whether it matters. Next we discuss US policy on Afghanistan and North Korea. Then we consider whether another top white house official would leave the administration soon—Deputy Assistant to the President Sebastian Gorka was subsequently fired while were editing the podcast. We end the podcast by asking whether Trump would pardon Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio for refusing to obey a judicial orders—and two days later Trump did pardon Arpaio.

You can find NonProphets on BlubrryiTunesStitcher and Google Play. As always, if you have questions, ideas for future episodes, or would like to suggest a possible black swan event, you can use our contact page or e-mail us at (nonprophetspod [at] gmail.com). If you enjoy this podcast, please rate us and recommend us to your friends.

Colin Teichholtz Interview

In this episode (recorded 8/3/17), Robert and Scott interview Colin Teichholtz, a partner and portfolio manager at global investment firm Pine River Capital. We begin by talking about how he was able to make money in college arbitraging used books and what makes someone good at identifying value in markets. We go on to talk about whether people who trade with major investment firms are suckers, what the value of financial advice is, and the advantages and disadvantages of risk parity funds.

Next we talk with Colin about what drives changes in market volatility and why political events often have little effect on markets. We go on to discuss what will happen if Congress fails to raise the debt ceiling and why market volatility has been low recently. Then we look at why inflation hasn’t been going up much in the US even though the unemployment rate is low and whether productivity growth in the US has stalled.

We close the podcast by asking Colin whether he thinks Mark Zuckerberg will run for president in 2020, what it’s like to work next to Trump Tower, and how he ended up introducing Michael J. Fox to Anthony Scaramucci (donate to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research here).

The exit music is a clip from “Word Up” by Cameo. You can find NonProphets on BlubrryiTunesStitcher and Google Play. As always, if you have questions, ideas for future episodes, or would like to suggest a possible black swan event, you can use our contact page or e-mail us at (nonprophetspod [at] gmail.com). If you enjoy this podcast, please rate us and recommend us to your friends.

Twice As Bright, Half As Long

In this episode (recorded 7/26/17), we discuss the probability that Donald Trump will leave office sometime in the first two years of his term. Scott thinks PredictIt’s markets—which currently give Trump a 17% chance of leaving office before the end of 2017 and a 35% chance of leaving office before the end of 2018—are pretty well priced, but Atief thinks PredictIt’s odds of Trump leaving are too high.

We end the podcast by considering the possibility that voter suppression will have a significant effect on the midterm elections in the US; whether there is likely to be compelling evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia; and the danger of a North Korean nuclear attack on Hawaii.

You can find NonProphets on BlubrryiTunes, Stitcher and Google Play. As always, if you have questions, ideas for future episodes, or would like to suggest a possible black swan event, you can use our contact page or e-mail us at (nonprophetspod [at] gmail.com). If you enjoy this podcast, please rate us and recommend us to your friends.

Elaine Rich Interview

In this episode (recorded 7/12/17), we interview superforecaster and pharmacist Elaine Rich. Elaine started with Good Judgment in the first year of IARPA-ACE forecasting tournament after reading about the project on FiveThirtyEight. She was interviewed by NPR in 2014 about her experience with Good Judgment in a segment called “So You Think You’re Smarter Than a CIA Agent”.

We start by talking with Elaine about her experience forecasting at the beginning of the Good Judgment Project, the advantages of forecasting anonymously, why she doesn’t like forecasting subjects close to her professional expertise, and whether accurate forecasting really matters. We also talk about whether forecasting ability is something innate you are born with or something you learn or can train, whether gut instincts are any good, and the value of good journalism for forecasting. Elaine ends the interview by recommending the Joni Mitchell album Hejira—and in particular the song “Amelia”—as forecasting music.

You can find NonProphets on BlubrryiTunes, Stitcher and Google Play. As always, if you have questions, ideas for future episodes, or would like to suggest a possible black swan event, you can use our contact page or e-mail us at (nonprophetspod [at] gmail.com). If you enjoy this podcast, please rate us and recommend us to your friends.

Football With Knives

We kick off this episode (recorded 6/21/17) with a discussion of Romanian politics and tax policy. We move on to the recent special election in Georgia’s 6th congressional district to replace Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price, the Republican healthcare bill’s prospects in the Senate, whether military action could make President Trump more popular, and whether Nancy Pelosi makes it harder for Democrats to win elections. We close the episode by talking about  “Trump’s Mirror”, Kansas’s experiment in conservative economics, and how the Supreme Court might rule in the upcoming partisan gerrymandering case.

Here’s a link to the Frank Rich interview of Chris Rock we mention in the podcast. You can find NonProphets on BlubrryiTunes and Google Play. As always, if you have questions, ideas for future episodes, or would like to suggest a possible black swan event, you can use our contact page or e-mail us at (nonprophetspod [at] gmail.com). If you enjoy this podcast, please rate us and recommend us to your friends.