Sam Harris Making Sense Podcast Ep 151 Notes (Books, People, Concepts, Articles Mentioned)

In episode 151 of the Making Sense podcast, Sam Harris talks to Nick Bostrom about the future of humanity. However, the podcast had a lengthy preface to talk about the Christchurch massacre.


Nick Bostrom - Swedish-born philosopher with a background in theoretical physics and computational neuroscience. The author of the book Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies and current professor of philosophy at Oxford.

Pierre Omidyar - A founder of eBay and The Intercept

Medhi Hassan - A British political journalist and currently hosts Al Jezeera's Upfront and the Intercept's Deconstructed podcast

Glenn Greenwald - Author and journalist best known for his series of reports in 2013 about the far-reaching government surveillance program, via materials supplied by Edward Snowden.

Murtaza Hussain - He is a journalist at The Intercept who focuses on issues of national security and foreign policy.

Omer Aziz - A Canadian who writes for Salon, Huffpost, and recently contributed to the NY Times the article titled Our Brother, Our Executioner.

Stuart Russell - A professor of computer science heavily involved in the field of artificial intelligence.

Eliezer Yudkowsky - An American AI researcher and writer best known for the concept of friendly artificial intelligence.

Brandon Carter - An Australian astrophysicist known for his work on the properties of black holes.

Books Mentioned

Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies by Nick Bostrom

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

The End of The World: The Science and Ethics of Human Extinction by John Leslie

Articles, Concepts, and Sites Mentioned

Our Brother, Our Executioner - A NY Times article written by Omer Aziz that specifically blame Jordan Peterson and Sam Harris for spreading ideas that promote Islamophobia that, according to the author, led to the Christchurch massarce in New Zealand.

The Intercept - A magazine owned by Murtaza Hussain

Vulnerable World Hypothesis - Paper published by Nick Bostrom. Bostrom termed the coin vulnerable world hypothesis (VWH) to describe a level of technology at which point civilization will get destroyed.

urn of possible inventions - A concept developed by Nick Bostrom in his paper Vulnerable World Hypothesis. It is used to described human creativity, as a process of pulling balls out of the urn---and the balls represent ideas, discoveries, and inventions.

semi-anarchic default condition - A term Nick Bostrom used in Vulnerable World Hypothesis. A world that is in the semi-anarchi default condition is defined by these three distinct features:

(a) Limited capacity for preventive policing. States do not have sufficiently reliable means of real-time surveillance and interception to make it virtually impossible for any individual or small group within their territory to carry out illegal actions—particularly actions that are very strongly disfavored by >99% of the population.

(b) Limited capacity for global governance. There is no reliable mechanism for solving global coordination problems and protecting global commons—particularly in high-stakes situations where vital national security interests are involved.

(c) Diverse motivations. There is a wide and recognizably human distribution of motives represented by a large population of actors (at both the individual and state level)—in particular, there are many actors motivated, to a substantial degree, by perceived self-interest (e.g. money, power, status, comfort and convenience) and there are some actors (“the apocalyptic residual”) who would act in ways that destroy civilization even at high cost to themselves.

Are You Living in a Computer Simulation? - A paper by Nick Bostrom. According to the abstract of the article, at least one of the following is true:

1) the human species is very likely to go extinct before reaching the "posthuman" stage

2) any posthuman civilization is extremely unlikely to run a signification number of simulations of their evolutionary history (or variation thereof)

3) we are almost certainly living in a computer simulation

Where Are They? - A paper published by Nick Bostrom that seeks to address the Fermi paradox.

Turnkey totalitarianism - A society in which we are effectively living in a totalitarian system because surveillance capabilities of the government is so intrusive that it can observe and monitor every part of our life, for better or worse.

Effective altruism - A philosophy and movement to find out the most effective way to help the world. This philosophy is championed by the likes of philosopher Peter Singer and Facebook founder Dustin Moskovitz.

The Great Filter - Robin Hanson's hypothesis to explain the Fermi Paradox, why we haven't seen intelligent life yet.

Doomsday argument - An argument championed by John Leslie, in his paper and later his book The End of the World: The Science and Ethics of Human Extinction. Based on probability theory, it states that humans will go extinct soon.

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