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Physical Attraction

Physical Attraction

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Physical Attraction is the show that explores topics in science, technology, and the future - from a physicist's perspective. From the birth of stars to the end of the world, from interviews with experts to meticulously-researched deep dives, we'll explore the topics that shape our world.
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To close our series on Softbank's Vision Fund, I interviewed tech journalist and scholar Edward Ongweso Jr. of "This Machine Kills" podcast about Softbank, the corrosive nature of VC on the tech sector and our society, and the Vision that Masoyoshi Son really dreams of... along with whether it will all fall apart, and how we can build a society that uses technological innovations in a less destructive way.
Over the course of this series, we've described how Softbank's $100bn Vision Fund promised to invest in the future and failed to deliver. In this episode, we ask: why should we care? We discuss the wider landscape of technology and innovation, and question why it can't deliver the things we really need.
In this episode of our series on Softbank's Vision Fund, we talk about how their investment in fintech company Greensill Capital is potentially part of a series of investments that might create conditions for a new financial crisis, much like that seen in 2008-9.
In this episode, we talk about why the stock market is increasingly divorced from economic reality, and the fact that COVID-19 is proving to be a great accelerator rather than a great leveller - accelerating the trends towards income and wealth inequality that we have seen over the last 30-40 years, as well as internationally. We also discuss where the show is going in the future, and respond to listener emails.
We go further into Softbank's investments, including the $2bn-valued company that promised to develop an army of robots to cook and deliver pizzas and ended up just creating a round pizza box.
In this episode, we discuss the leaked FinCEN files - which illustrate trillions of dollars in suspicious financial flows - as well as Nikola, the wannabe Tesla whose "hydrogen truck" was actually just rolling down a gentle slope.
Very excited to say we have a special guest on the show today. Tom Collina has had a long and storied career in nuclear disarmament for many years, in the Director of Policy at the Plougshares Fund, a non-profit foundation dedicated to trying to prevent the spread and use of nuclear weapons. With former Secretary of Defence Bill Perry, he has just written a book called "The Button: The New Nuclear Arms Race and Presidential Power from Truman To Trump", which is about the past, present, and future of nuclear weapons. This is an area long-term listeners will remember from our TEOTWAWKI series, and the interviews with Martin Pfeiffer and Stephen Schwartz. If you're interested in this, there are plenty of things you can do. Ploughshares has their own podcast on nuclear issues, Press The Button, which Tom co-hosts, as does Bill Perry, "At The Brink", which both discuss incidents from nuclear history and nuclear policy in more detail. You can of course obtain the book The Button - there's also a great audiobook which I can personally attest is well-done. There's so much fascinating nuclear history and details of policy in there which we didn't have time to get to in this interview, so it's well worth your while to pick that book up. You can follow Tom Collina @TomCollina on Twitter, and you can get involved with the Ploughshares Foundation as well. There are plenty of ways to stay engaged with these issues, but ultimately I think it is a question of demanding the simple changes that need to take place to make us all safer. We don't need ICBMs, we don't need first strike authority, and we don't need launch on warning: the world would be vastly better off without these things, and you could still easily have a nuclear deterrent that would be capable of retaliation.     https://old.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/j6u3et/i_am_former_secretary_of_defense_william_perry/
Hello and welcome to this episode of Physical Attraction. We have a special couple of guests on the show today. Listeners to our episodes about QE for the People will remember that we briefly mentioned Modern Monetary Theory as a new perspective on how economics works, and I'd talked about getting some MMT speakers on the show to explore that in more detail. I was lucky enough to get the hosts of the MMT Podcast, Patricia Pino and Christian Reilly, who have interviewed many of the founding scholars and most active economists in MMT as part of that brilliant podcast. We had a very wide-ranging discussion, they were incredibly generous with their time, which I am grateful for. In our discussion, we'll be talking about some of Modern Monetary Theory's big ideas, including: Why everything you were taught about where money came from, and comes from is wrong Why your taxes technically don't pay for the things you think they pay for Why the US and UK governments cannot "run out of money", and why you maybe shouldn't be so afraid of the national debt What the real limits on government spending actually are Why the current economic theories require millions of people to be long-term unemployed, and why   I've divided the podcast into two episodes. The first deals with a background of MMT, exploring the historical and anthropological question "Where does money come from?". The second episode (which is longer!) deals with the consequences of Modern Monetary Theory for our society, some ideas of how it can be used to run economies more effectively and solve many of the biggest problems that we face in the world, and is therefore slightly more political, so there is a content warning there if you don't want to hear any discussion of politics. I realise that this podcast is not an economics podcast, and it's not billed as such. But I have become convinced, especially recently, that so many of the concerns that we have been talking about recently - this intersection between technology, inequality, and global catastrophic risks, the necessity of dealing with climate change, and so much else in the world - it is necessary to have a deeper understanding of economics, which is in the background of so much that is going on in the world. MMT, to my mind, when it's properly interpreted and described, makes some points that the "classical" understanding of economics misses out on. And even if you disagree with it, I think it's a fascinating area: I have certainly been fascinated by it - and I hope that you find it valuable. As ever - if not, you can always get in touch with me via the contact form on physicspodcast.com and let me know what you think... or just wait a few days and we'll have a different episode available for you on a different subject. Just don't ask for your money back.               Thanks very much for listening to this episode. You can find the Modern Monetary Theory podcast where-ever you're listening to this, and I really do recommend it if you want to hear about much more details on MMT directly from the economists who are working on this stuff; they are on Twitter at MMTPodcast, where you can also find Christian and Patricia's own accounts if you want to follow them. They also have a Patreon with bonus episodes, just like we do, so do check that out as well. And many thanks again to them for coming on the show. As for our show, we are on the web at physicspodcast.com. Any comments, questions, concerns, things you'd like to hear about, feedback for this episode which I know is a little outside what we often talk about - please do let me know, I'd love to hear what you think, and the contact form is there, it goes to my email and I try to respond to everything people send. If you've found this useful, you can support the show on PayPal, subscribe to the Patreon at Patreon.com/PhysicalAttraction, where you will find many bonus episodes, including the complete Softbank Series and some Climate 201 episodes ahead of their general release, as well as some episodes that are only on the Patreon for subscribers there. Thanks to those of you who have done that already; all of the details, alongside where to find us on social media, are on the website at physicspodcast.com.
We have a special couple of guests on the show today. Listeners to our episodes about QE for the People will remember that we briefly mentioned Modern Monetary Theory as a new perspective on how economics works, and I'd talked about getting some MMT speakers on the show to explore that in more detail. I was lucky enough to get the hosts of the MMT Podcast, Patricia Pino and Christian Reilly, who have interviewed many of the founding scholars and most active economists in MMT as part of that brilliant podcast. We had a very wide-ranging discussion, they were incredibly generous with their time, which I am grateful for. In our discussion, we'll be talking about some of Modern Monetary Theory's big ideas, including: Why everything you were taught about where money came from, and comes from is wrong Why your taxes technically don't pay for the things you think they pay for Why the US and UK governments cannot "run out of money", and why you maybe shouldn't be so afraid of the national debt What the real limits on government spending actually are Why the current economic theories require millions of people to be long-term unemployed, and why I've divided the podcast into two episodes. The first deals with a background of MMT, exploring the historical and anthropological question "Where does money come from?". The second episode (which is longer!) deals with the consequences of Modern Monetary Theory for our society, some ideas of how it can be used to run economies more effectively and solve many of the biggest problems that we face in the world, and is therefore slightly more political, so there is a content warning there if you don't want to hear any discussion of politics. I realise that this podcast is not an economics podcast, and it's not billed as such. But I have become convinced, especially recently, that so many of the concerns that we have been talking about recently - this intersection between technology, inequality, and global catastrophic risks, the necessity of dealing with climate change, and so much else in the world - it is necessary to have a deeper understanding of economics, which is in the background of so much that is going on in the world. MMT, to my mind, when it's properly interpreted and described, makes some points that the "classical" understanding of economics misses out on. And even if you disagree with it, I think it's a fascinating area: I have certainly been fascinated by it - and I hope that you find it valuable. As ever - if not, you can always get in touch with me via the contact form on physicspodcast.com and let me know what you think... or just wait a few days and we'll have a different episode available for you on a different subject. Just don't ask for your money back.
In this episode of Physical Attraction, we'll be discussing the recent announcement by China that they will aim for zero net CO2 emissions by the year 2060 - a massive upgrade to their climate pledge. What would it mean for the world, and what does it mean for China?
In this episode, as part of our series on the Softbank Vision Fund and its risky investments, we're talking about the rise and fall of a real-estate company that posed as a tech company... WeWork (and how it lost Softbank $9bn)
In this, the second part of our series on the Softbank Vision Fund, we discuss Softbank's $10bn bet on ride-sharing firm Uber - which burns through capital and regulations in an attempt to establish an unlikely monopoly over transportation-as-a-service.
So there's a big rumour going around that some scientists may have potentially detected a hint of evidence for phosphine gas on Venus, which they consider to be quite strong evidence of something unexplained, which may be an indicator of microbial life in Venus' atmosphere. As the saying goes, Huge If True. Because it's been such an awful year, I try to explain this story and indulge in some pretty rampant speculation.
This year, the UK assembled 108 citizens from across all demographics of the society and from around the country to discuss the best ways to address climate change. In September 2020, they reported back. In this second episode, we go over the Climate Assembly's mammoth 556-page report, and discuss its recommendations on how the UK should get to Net Zero emissions. You can read the report for yourself at www.climateassembly.uk
In this mini-series, we'll be discussing the Climate Assembly in the UK - what happens when 100 randomly-selected ordinary citizens are given time and space to debate UK climate change policy. In this first episode, I talk about what a Citizens' Assembly is, and some of the pros and cons of this democratic institution. Next time, we'll discuss this specific assembly, the report and recommendations they came up with. The Climate Assembly UK released its 556-page report on Thursday 10th September, and it can be read in full here: https://www.climateassembly.uk/
In this series, we'll be telling the story of the Softbank Vision Fund, the $100bn technology venture capital fund that was supposed to revolutionise the world and bring forward a glorious techno-future. The Vision Fund that now looks like it's inflated a massive, unsustainable bubble in tech companies (and companies that pretend to be tech companies). First - the story of Softbank, pre-Vision Fund, and its visionary founder, Masoyoshi Son, who made both the best and worst investments in living memory.
I’m very excited today to talk to Dr Robert Elliot Smith, who – after a thirty-year career working in AI and working with algorithms - has written one of the best books I’ve ever read about artificial intelligence and the impact of algorithms on society – Rage Inside the Machine. More than this, though, it’s really about… the dangers that can arise from trying to boil down complex aspects of what it means to be human, or what is valuable and important, to numbers and metrics which can be processed by these machines. Which I think is a much more fundamental issue, and lies at the heart of a great deal of systemic injustice and misunderstanding, even before the age of algorithms came along to turbo-charge all of these problems. We had a wonderful, wide-ranging interview and Dr Smith was very patient and willing to deal with my pretty scattershot questions attempting to cover a lot of what is in his book. I hope you enjoy listening as much as I enjoyed our conversation. Thank you for listening to this episode of Physical Attraction, and thanks again for Dr Smith for coming on the show. His book, Rage Inside The Machine, is one of the most brilliant texts you’ll read on AI – a glorious mix between technical detail explained in a way that’s not too oversimplified, personal stories profound insight into this interface between computers and algorithms and what it means to be human. It’s genuinely great, we just scratched the surface here really, and I know I’ll end up reading it multiple times for the full detail of what’s being said… and just because it’s also one of those books where you feel your brain expanding when you read it. In a good way. Do get a copy. You can find that at Rage Inside The Machine.com where you will also find Rob’s blog and some of his other appearances on podcasts if you are interested. He’s also an occasional Tweeter at Dr RE Smith, so go check it out. As for us, you know what to do! The website is physicspodcast.com, there’s a contact form there where you can get in touch with any comments, questions, concerns, things you liked, and didn’t like, and so forth. You can donate to the show via PayPal, or subscribe to our Patreon, where there are currently over a dozen bonus and early-release episodes for you to enjoy. You won’t be charged on the Patreon until a new paid bonus episode is released – and even then the pledge can be as low as a dollar or two I think – so if you want to support people who create the independent content you enjoy, that’s a good way to do it.
As a followup to our series on thermodynamics, the briefest of introductions to one of the most fascinating and beautiful areas of physics - Statistical Mechanics.
Well, I asked Twitter if they wouldn't mind more off-topic content, and although the electorate was pretty tiny, they said they didn't mind. So, with that shaky endorsement in place, I'm going to spend an hour talking about the psychology of conspiracy theories, US politics, the Anabaptist Siege of Munster, millennialist thinking, and satanic cabals that may or may not run the world. (Spoiler: they do not.)
This episode, we talk to Stewart Lansley, who co-edited the book "It's Basic Income" and has written reports on UBI in a UK context. Where is the debate on UBI in light of COVID-19?
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Comments (2)

The Cennoxx

Thank you so much for your series about Fusion. I fully apreciate you work! Keep going!

Jul 6th
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Maxsash

Dread it, Run from it, Reddit still arrives.

Feb 25th
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