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The Filan Cabinet

Author: Daniel Filan

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An interview podcast where I, Daniel Filan, interview guests about topics I'm interested in, with the aim of clarifying how the guest understands that topic.
13 Episodes
In this episode, I speak with Aaron Silverbook about the bacteria that cause cavities, and how different bacteria can prevent them: specifically, a type of bacterium that you can buy at This podcast episode has not been approved by the FDA. Specific topics we talk about include: How do bacteria cause cavities? How can you create an anti-cavity bacterium? What's going on with the competitive landscape of mouth bacteria? How dangerous is it to colonize your mouth with a novel bacterium? Why hasn't this product been available for 20 years already? Lumina Probiotic (the brand name of this new type of bacterium): Lantern Bioworks (the company making the bacterium): Jamie Wahls (Aaron's writing career):
In this episode, I talk to Holly Elmore about her advocacy around AI Pause - encouraging governments to pause the development of more and more powerful AI. Topics we discuss include: Why advocate specifically for AI pause? What costs of AI pause would be worth it? What might AI pause look like? What are the realistic downsides of AI pause? How the Effective Altruism community relates to AI labs. The shift in the alignment community from proving things about alignment to messing around with ML models. Holly's X (twitter) account PauseAI discord
In this episode, Divia Eden and Ronny Fernandez talk about the (strong) orthogonality thesis - that arbitrarily smart intelligences can be paired with arbitrary goals, without additional complication beyond that of specifying the goal - with light prompting from me. Topics they touch on include: Why aren't bees brilliant scientists? Can you efficiently make an AGI out of one part that predicts the future conditioned on some plans, and another that evaluates whether plans are good? If minds are made of smaller sub-agents with more primitive beliefs and desires, does that shape their terminal goals? Also, how would that even work? Which is cooler: rockets, or butterflies? What processes would make AIs terminally value integrity? Why do beavers build dams? Would these questions be easier to answer if we made octopuses really smart? Divia's twitter account: Divia's podcast: Ronny's twitter account: Arbital page for the orthogonality thesis: Crystal Society: Video of a rescue beaver building a dam inside a human house: AIXI: Kelly betting:  
In this episode I chat with Jeffrey Heninger about his religious beliefs and practices as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sometimes colloquially referred to as "the Mormon church" or "the LDS church". Topics we talk about include: Who or what is God? How can we know things about God? In particular, what role does religious experience play? To what degree is modern morality downstream of Jesus? What's in the Book of Mormon? What does modern-day prophecy look like? What do Sunday services look like in the LDS church? What happens after you die? Why don't Mormons drink coffee? What's the role of utopianism in Mormon life? Jeffrey's email address: jeffrey dot heninger at yahoo dot com. Please include "The Filan Cabinet" in the subject line so he knows you came from here. LDS church links: Website of the LDS church: Scriptures of the LDS church: LDS chapels close to you: Chat with LDS missionaries: Jeffrey's notes and corrections: 0:33:00    The combatant - noncombatant distinction did not start in Ireland in the 900s. It was started by Adomnán, an Irish abbot in Scotland, in 697, and was proclaimed throughout Western Christendom after the Council of Charroux in France in 989: 0:36:00    A better explanation for why the inverted hierarchy doesn’t lead to a different elite is: The king is told that he should be a servant for the poor, but the poor are also told that the king is their brother. This removes the push for violent revolutions to reverse the social order. 1:05:00    The Plat of Zion, with a Historical Introduction: 1:11:30        Shift to Home Centered, Church Supported learning: Nelson’s quote was “In coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost.” 1:17:00    Guide for the Perplexed by Moses Maimonides (1190). I should also note that Maimonides is more Aristotelian than Neo-Platonic, although he is still using a notion of God coming from Greek philosophy. 1:27:30    Here is the Church’s explanation of the Initiatory and Endowment in the temple, including the associated covenants: 1:46:00    I actually teach Elder’s Quorum, rather than Sunday School. I’m including Elder’s Quorum as a thing like Sunday School which happens during the second hour of church. I don’t think that the distinction is important for this conversation. 1:55:00    The Plan of Salvation is usually explained with the help of a diagram, like this one: 2:01:40    “Every knee shall bow … and every tongue shall confess” - Philippians 2:10-11. 2:15:20    The ‘EAs should be more Mormon’ talk is part of Tyler Cowen’s Fireside Chat from EAG DC 2022. 2:16:00    Pew has some data indicating the Mormons take our religion more seriously than most other denominations (although not Jehovah’s Witnesses): (esp Ch 1 & 2). 2:20:00    Over 70,000 Mormon pioneers walked across the plains to Utah: 2:23:15    The attempts at building utopian communities failed gracefully. The most communal of these towns, called ‘Orderville’, abandoned its collective economy after an enterprising young man got himself a new pair of pants: 2:27:15    The charter city planned by a Mormon is called New Vistas: 2:30:45    There is also empirical evidence that human brains do not function in a similar way to digital computers: 2:31:00    AI Alignment and the Plan of Salvation blog post:
Every year, the Centre for Effective Altruism runs a number of "Effective Altruism Global" (EA Global or EAG for short) conferences thru-out the world. This year, I attended the one held in the San Francisco Bay Area, and talked to a variety of participants about their relationship with effective altruism, the community around that idea, and the conference. Timestamps: 00:00:16 - interview 1 00:07:06 - interview 2 00:15:46 - interview 3 00:22:35 - interview 4 00:31:22 - interview 5 00:38:30 - interview 6 00:44:18 - interview 7 00:48:59 - interview 8 00:53:14 - interview 9 00:56:22 - interview 10 01:01:08 - interview 11 01:06:50 - interview 12 Website for EA Global conferences
In this episode I chat with John Halstead about whether climate change will kill us all. He thinks it won't. Topics we talk about include: How did the effective altrism community come to have someone dedicated to the question of whether climate change will kill us all? How bad will climate change likely be? How is the role of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere different from that of other greenhouse gasses? How big a volcano would have to go off to warm up the world by 10 degrees Celsius? How concerned should we be about climate change as a general stressor that makes other risks worse? John's report on climate change and longtermism
In this episode I speak with Shea Levy about Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism, and what it has to say about ethics and epistemology. Topics we talk about include: What is Objectivism? Can you be an Objectivist and disagree with Ayn Rand? What's the Objectivist theory of aesthetics? Why isn't there a biography of Ayn Rand approved of by orthodox Objectivists? What's so bad about altruism, or views like utilitarianism? What even is selfishness? Can we be mistaken about what we perceive? If so, how? What is consciousness? Could it just be computation? Note that the episode contains discussion of the ethics of suicide and vivid descriptions of painful deaths between minutes 36 and 47, followed by more discussion of the ethics of suicide up to minute 52. These sections could be skipped without making it too hard to understand the rest of the episode. Shea on Twitter Shea's personal website Objectivism links: Philosophy: Who Needs It Atlas Shrugged The Fountainhead The Ayn Rand Institute (ARI, for short) Ayn Rand University ARI on YouTube Yaron Brook on YouTube
In this episode I speak with Oliver Habryka, head of Lightcone Infrastructure, the organization that runs the internet forum LessWrong, about his projects in the rationality and existential risk spaces. Topics we talk about include: How did LessWrong get revived? How good is LessWrong? Is there anything that beats essays for making intellectual contributions on the internet? Why did the team behind LessWrong pivot to property development? What does the FTX situation tell us about the wider LessWrong and Effective Altruism communities? What projects could help improve the world's rationality? Oli on LessWrong Oli on the EA Forum Oli on Twitter An unofficial transcript of this episode
In this episode, I speak with Divia Eden about operant conditioning, and how relevant it is to human and non-human animal behaviour. Topics we cover include: How close are we to teaching grammar to dogs? What are the important differences between human and dog cognition? How important are unmodelled "trainer effects" in dog training? Why do people underrate positive reinforcement? How does operant conditioning relate to attachment theory? How much does successful dog training rely on the trainer being reinforced by the dog? Why is game theory so fake? Is everything really just about calmness? Divia's twitter account: The irregularly-updated blog she writes with her husband: Don't Shoot the Dog: Ken Ramirez Training: Love Is All You Need:
In this episode, Peter Jaworski talks about the practice of paid plasma donation, whether it's ethical to allow it, and his work to advocate for it to be legalized in more jurisdictions. He answers questions such as: Which country used to run clinics in a former colony to pay their former colonial subjects for their plasma? Why can't we just synthesize what we need out of plasma? What percentage of US exports by dollar value does plasma account for? If I want to gather plasma, is it cheaper to pay donors, or not pay them? Is legal paid plasma donation one step towards a dystopia? Peter's faculty page: His twitter account: His website on donation ethics: His white paper, Bloody Well Pay Them: The second edition of his book with Jason Brennan, Markets without Limits: The blood plushies behind his desk:
In this episode, cryptocurrency developer Ameen Soleimani talks about his vision of the cryptocurrency ecosystem, as well as his current project RAI: an ether-backed floating-price stablecoin. He answers questions such as: What's the point of cryptocurrency? If this is the beginning of the cryptocurrency world, what will the middle be? What would the sign be that cryptocurrency is working? How does RAI work? Does the design of RAI make it impossible for it to be widely used? What's wrong with how the US dollar works? Ameen on twitter: Reflexer Finance: Reflexer Finance on twitter: DeepDAO: Meditations on Moloch:
2 - Wayne Forkner on God

2 - Wayne Forkner on God


In this episode, Presbyterian Pastor Wayne Forkner talks about God, Christianity, and the Bible. He answers questions such as: What is 'God'? Why do people talk about Jesus so much more than the Father or the Holy Spirit? What is heaven actually like? If justification is by faith alone and not by works, why does the Bible say "A person is justified by works and not by faith alone"? How can people tell that out of all the religions, Christianity is the right one? His church's website: His podcast, Proclaiming the Truth in Love:
In this episode, Carrick Flynn talks about his campaign to be the Democratic nominee for Oregon's 6th congressional district. In particular, we talk about his policies on pandemic preparedness and semiconductor manufacturing. He answers questions such as: Was he surprised by the election results? Should we expect another Carrick campaign? What specific things should or could the government fund to limit the spread of pandemics? Why would those work? What is working at a semiconductor plant like? Carrick's campaign site: Andrea Salinas' campaign site:
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