Today, we’re launching ‘season two’ of Ars on your Lunch Break, where we’ll be recording episodes of the After On Podcast and breaking it down into two or three parts of about half an hour. You can then listen to it while having lunch at your desk, eating other meals, or eating nothing at all. It’s so interactive!
We shot the first set of these episodes on Ars over the summer. They include in-depth conversations with people 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 technology’s top thinkers and commentators — and definitely the best publisher).
Your host in the audio segments is me, Rob Reid, a longtime entrepreneur who now creates podcasts and writes science fiction. My show is built around in-depth 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 of that here.
Instead, I’ll tell you about today’s guest, UC Irvine quantitative psychologist Don Hoffman. Don has spent the past few decades honing an extraordinary theory about the nature of reality. And I can almost guarantee that it will violate any intuition you have about the physical world you inhabit.
In today’s episode, Hoffman lays the groundwork for this hugely contrarian worldview. Don, a staunch Darwinist, argues that evolutionary forces will almost always favor perception systems that provide a simplified, even toned down, view of reality. After all, the point is diffusion. Critters achieve this by avoiding predation and surviving long enough to pass on their genes. A clean and completely accurate view of reality can be wonderful for scientific or philosophical reasons. But if having one goes against those key guidelines, the critters that enjoy it will be outcompeted by those with biased views, which can maximize fitness payoffs.
An analogy is your computer’s desktop. It is covered in icons, whose purpose is not to represent reality for you, but rather to mask its overwhelming complexity and let you move on with your life. This makes a trash can icon infinitely preferable to a full awareness of all the voltages, bit states, and software layers required to delete a file.
This is the start of a pretty wild ride, which I think any curious mind will enjoy – even those who completely reject Don’s perspective. I hope you enjoy listening to this first episode. When you’re done, you can move on to part two!
This special edition of the Ars Technicast podcast can be accessed at the following locations:
https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-ars-technicast/id522504024?mt=2 (May take several hours after publication to appear.)