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.

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.

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.

Roman Hagelstein Interview

In part one of our interview with German economist and superforecaster Roman Hagelstein (recorded 4/14/17), we discuss how Roman’s German background affects his forecasting, how he gamed one of the Good Judgment Project’s forecasting markets, the value of “extremizing” forecasts, and why civil wars tend to last a long time.

In part two of our interview with Roman, we discuss American policy in Syria and what Germans think about German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Then we talk about the Brier Fund, a private investment fund run by superforecasters, and about the challenge of forecasting financial markets. After a digression on who will win Most Valuable Player in the NBA this year, we finish up by talking about the chance of a crisis related to North Korea in the near future.

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.

Episode 22: Sander Wagner on European Elections

In this episode (recorded 3/7/17), we interview superforecaster and “citizen of nowhere” Sander Wagner. Sander is an assistant professor of quantitative sociology in at Ensae ParisTech.

We start by talking with Sander about his research on intergenerational mobility. We then talk about the upcoming elections in France, the Netherlands, and Germany. We end with a discussion of future of Europe now that Trump is the president of the US.

The closing music is a clip from Wu-Tang Clan, “Clan in Da Front”. 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.

Episode 17: Michael Story Interview

In episode 17 (recorded 1/26/17), we interview Good Judgment director and friend of the podcast Michael Story. Michael is a British superforecaster with an MSc. in public policy research from the London School of Economics.

We talk with Michael about his approach to forecasting and about his experience training forecasters. We go on to discuss the class politics of Brexit, the rise of nationalism in Europe, what happens if the US support for NATO weakens, and who would win in a rematch between the UK and Argentina. We close by considering whether there is realistic chance that a country uses a nuclear weapon in 2017.

The article on training forecasters Michael mentioned is

Mellers, Barbara, et al. “Psychological strategies for winning a geopolitical forecasting tournament.” Psychological Science 25.5 (2014): 1106-1115.

You can also find NonProphets on iTunes 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 the contact page or e-mail us at (nonprophetspod [at] gmail.com). And if you enjoy this podcast, please rate us on iTunes and recommend us to your friends.

Episode 14: Seth Baum on Trump Presidency Risk

In our last podcast of 2016 (recorded on 12/22/16), we talk for a second time to Global Catastrophic Risk Institute Executive Director Seth Baum (our first interview with Dr. Baum is here). We discuss Dr. Baum’s recent column in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists on the risks associated with a Trump presidency. We discussed whether Trump believes in Nixon’s “Madman Theory”of foreign policy, how much damage Trump could do to the global climate change regime, and what ordinary citizens could do to mitigate the risk of catastrophe.

We also look back at our holiday-season predictions. The Pantone 2017 color of the year was “greenery”, which was the color that Scott thought was second most likely. Robert managed to come within $5 million of the opening weekend domestic box office of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. We finish up by talking about our holiday plans and also about vampires. Happy New Year and thanks for listening to NonProphets!

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

Episode 7: Seth Baum on the Risk of Global Catastrophe

In this episode we interview Dr. Seth Baum, the executive director and co-f0under of the Global Catastrophic Risk Institute about how to forecast the possibility of catastrophes that could threaten human civilization. We also talk briefly about the US election, discuss how to forecast a few technological questions, and consider whether Atief is likely to die on Mars. We end by previewing next week’s podcast, in which we will give our “best bets” on US election questions taken from political betting sites and submitted by listeners.

As always, if you have questions, ideas for future episodes, or would like to suggest a possible black swan event, use the contact page or e-mail us at (nonprophetspod [at] gmail.com). And if you enjoy this podcast, please rate us on iTunes and recommend us to your friends.