Episode 11. Just how “far to the right” will Europe swing? (with Matthaus Mittasch)

January 15, 2019

Dr. Matthaus Mittasch joins us to close the first season of Till The Bottom on a truly high note. Matthaus starts by re-telling some of the unsavory discriminatory incidents that he faced growing up in East Germany. Sooner than later the conversation became a hybrid between a thought exercise and a debate about the socio-political future of Germany and the rest of Europe. It is a fact that Europe is turning "right", but, how far will the continent sleepwalk into increasingly extreme forms of right wing politics? Just how commonplace is racism in (some parts) of modern day Europe? Our intuitions do not quite converge and that was all for the good, it made for an intense but always civil debate which literally ended on a couple of friendly handshakes. If only every disagreement could end like this!

Oh, and important and slightly distressing note. We recorded this episode when Trump's wall looked like a rather distant and implausible mirage... now it is plausible that our predictive abilities might let us down on that one!  

Thank you for sticking with us through our first season. We certainly enjoyed the ride and we hope you did too! 

The second season is coming soon and we are more than eager to welcome you for one more chatty ride!

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Episode 10. If the Matrix is conscious… bring it on! (with Dr. Till Korten)

December 17, 2018

In this episode Dr. Till Korten returns to talk about possible dystopian scenarios where a superintelligent Artificial Intelligence (AI) is suddenly unleashed upon this world. We argue that, although it is surely not a very pleasant thought, if the AI happens to be conscious then it would not be an absolute tragedy. But in order to get there we argue back and forth on what consciousness might be while trying to get rid of our anthropocentric biases. Easier said than done!

Oh, and apologies to Dr. Murray Shanahan for re-christening him as "Michael Shanahan"!

Thanks to Dr. Till Korten for joining us, we hope to get you back one of these days!

To Dr. Shanahan's essay: https://aeon.co/essays/beyond-humans-what-other-kinds-of-minds-might-be-out-there

To Thomas Nagel's landmark paper: https://www.jstor.org/stable/2183914?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents

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Episode 9 1/2. Should there be limits to speech? (with Nakul Gote)

December 17, 2018

This is the last part of a series of conversations with Nakul Gote and we could rightly say that some of the best topics were saved for last. The conversation starts pretty much where the last one ended, that is, with Islam and the prospects of its reformation. Nevertheless it quickly became a much broader discussion about free speech and the all too prescient issue of "free exchange of ideas". We played the role of devil's advocates to try to highlight the possible pitfalls into which free societies might fall if left totally to their own devices, that is, if they were constructed totally from the "bottom-up" and without intervention from the "top". In the end, we agreed that free speech is undoubtedly one of the cornerstones upon which any society which considers itself "free" must be built upon. Thanks to Nakul Gote for this round of conversations!

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Episode 9. Trigger-warning alarm: culture, mass immigration and reforms in Islam (with Nakul Gote)

November 27, 2018

In this second episode with Nakul Gote we could not catch a break. The argument starts right off the bat and simply refused to subside. We thought that starting by attempting to define "Culture" would be a rather terse beginning. How naive and wrong we were. From then, things kept on ramping up. We talked about the challenges and downsides of cultural mixing when immigration occurs at an unusually high rate. This is an incredibly relevant issue since it has shaped the politics and social landscape of Europe (particularly of Germany) in recent years due to the spike in immigration coming from the Middle East and North Africa. Then, because apparently we love to walk the tightrope, we delved into one of the most controversial debates of our times: Does Islam need a reformation? Is it even plausible? Do the histories of Christianity and Judaism offer hopes or do they rather emphasize the differences that could make Islam's reformation an exceptionally tougher project? If you are up for some triggering, then you are in the right place.

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Episode 8. Immigration, integration and the holiness of cows

November 12, 2018

In this episode we invited Nakul Gote to prove to everybody that there is an unlikely but nevertheless very real link between immigration and the sacredness of cows. Yes, that was totally the plan. We started by telling some stories about our personal experiences as immigrants in Germany. We discuss issues regarding integration, within the host culture but especially adapting to the multicultural ambient of academia in our new host country. That naturally took us to talk about the so-called "beef ban" imposed in some regions of India. Things got slightly controversial when tried to dig into the "true reasons" of why cows are regarded as sacred in Hinduism. Oh well, we suppose that controversy is encoded in the very DNA of sacred items.

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Episode 7. The intelligence landscape: from bacteria to machines

October 28, 2018

In this episode we invited Dr. Till Korten to talk about what is perhaps the single capability that elicits the most pride and frustration in humans: Intelligence. We explored the topic from multiple angles. We tried to establish what lies at the core of intelligent behavior. We talked about intelligence displayed in various types of biological systems and eventually got to discuss the likelihood of making machines possessing general intelligence and, at some point, a level of intelligence that far surpasses that of the most brilliant human: Superintelligence. Once we found ourselves in the middle of the topic of artificial intelligence, of course we explored the implications that its imminent explosion mean to society at large.

Oh, and by the way, apologies to Dr. Nick Bostrom for placing him with "the competition". He works in Oxford, not in Cambridge!

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Episode 6. Deconstructing the Guru effect… and Jordan Peterson

October 14, 2018

This episode is almost entirely inspired by Dan Sperber's seminal paper "The Guru effect", which can be thought as a sort of cognitive bug that often makes us judge deep what we have simply failed to grasp. We talk about the many ways in which complicated ways of expression fool us into thinking that we are in the presence of something transcendentally intelligent... if we could only understand it.The end of our path takes us to no other than to the Canadian Psychologist Dr. Jordan Peterson, who sometimes operates according to the Guru mechanic although seemingly unintentionally.

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Episode 5. A look into the Zaatari Syrian refugee camp

September 30, 2018

In this episode we hosted the "Architect turned Sociologist" Sara Al-Nassir to talk about the refugee crisis triggered by the Syrian civil war. The conversation centers around Zaatari, the Syrian refugee camp established in Jordan back in 2012. We talk about its structural and social transformation through the years of the military conflict and we also look at several aspects of the crisis from the European angle.

We hope you enjoy the conversation as much as we did and we would like to thank Sara for coming over!

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Episode 4. Where do minds and consciousness meet?

September 16, 2018

In this second episode with Santiago Cañon we try to get to some solid ground where to shore up the concept of what a mind is. Any kind of mind but especially the nature of a human mind. We then explore various ideas of what consciousness might be and wonder if it is a property that all types of minds have. We hope you enjoy this abstract but fascinating journey and would like to thank Santiago for accompanying us! We hope to get you back soon!

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Episode 3. The nature of reality

September 3, 2018

In this episode we got a hold of friend and fellow scientist Santiago Cañon to bounce between philosophical currents, thought experiments like the “simulation argument”, the weirdness of quantum mechanics and even out-of-body experiences in order to get a grip on what constitutes Reality… in case such a thing actually exists.

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