between philosopher C Thi Nguyen and Sean Carroll might be the best podcast episode I’ve listened to this year. Nguyen is primarily a philosopher of games, and if you’re interested in games, gamification, epistemology, echo chambers (on which Nguyen has an excellent paper
) or societal trust, there’ll be something for you. (A transcript is available at the link
if you prefer reading to listening).
One of my favourite segments starts around 19 minutes in when Carroll and Nguyen talk about the problem of verifying knowledge (or, put differently, how viable is “do your own research” as an epistemological strategy?). Nguyen says:
Professional mathematicians have admitted sheepishly to the world that a proof of a really important mathematical theorem might be understood by 10 people, and the whole rest of the community just has to trust it, ’cause you’re not going to spend a year learning the proof
(For more on this, see this excellent thread
on how mathematical research works, which I linked to a couple of months ago)
I suggested back in TiB 106
that the fact that we’re all “dangling at the end of a supply chain” (Kieran Healey’s phrase) rather undermines any effort to become a Sovereign Individual
. In the same way, dangling at the end of what Nguyen calls “a fractal chain of trust” makes becoming a Sovereign Intellectual impossible too. Is there a better solution than what Scott Alexander has called epistemic learned helplessness
or just granting credence
to every conspiracy theory that comes your way? No one seems to have one (Nguyen included); that seems like a big problem.