Today, we’re launching “season two” of Ars on your Lunch Break, in which we take episodes from the After On Podcast and break them into two or three segments of roughly a half hour each. You can then listen to them while having lunch at your desk, while partaking of other meals, or while eating nothing whatsoever.
It’s that interactive!
We ran the first set of these episodes on Ars in the summertime. They included in-depth conversations with folks including George Church (one of the world’s top bioengineers), Rodney Brooks (one of the world’s top roboticists) and Tim O’Reilly (one of tech’s top thinkers and commentators—and certainly its top publisher).
Your host in the audio segments is me, Rob Reid—a long-time entrepreneur who now podcasts and writes science fiction. My show is built around deep-dive interviews with world-class thinkers, founders, and scientists. I talk about my podcast’s approach in the introduction to today’s segment, and I won’t repeat all that here.
Instead I’ll tell you a bit of about today’s guest: UC Irvine quantitative psychologist Don Hoffman. Don has spent the last few decades honing an extraordinary theory about the nature of reality. And I can almost guarantee that it will violate every intuition you have about the physical world you inhabit.
In today’s installment, he lays the foundation of this wildly contrarian worldview. An ardent Darwinist, Don argues that evolutionary forces will almost always favor perceptive systems that present a simplified, even dumbed-down take on reality. The point is propagation, after all. Critters achieve this by avoiding predation and surviving long enough to pass down their genes. A pristine and wholly accurate view of reality may be terrific for scientific or philosophical reasons. But if having one conflicts with those prime directives, the critters who enjoy it will be outcompeted by those with distorted views, which can maximize fitness payoffs.
An analogy is your computer desktop. It’s covered with icons, whose purpose is not to depict reality to you—but rather to mask its overwhelming complexity and let you get on with your life. This makes a garbage can icon infinitely preferable to a full awareness of all the voltages, bit states, and software lawyers that go into deleting a file.
This is the start of a pretty wild ride, which I believe any curious mind will enjoy—even ones which fully reject Don’s perspective. So I hope you’ll give this opening installment a listen, and join us for more tomorrow.
This special edition of the Ars Technicast podcast can be accessed in the following places:
https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-ars-technicast/id522504024?mt=2 (Might take several hours after publication to appear.)