The Tim Ferriss Show Ep 662: David Deutsch and Naval Ravikant – The Fabric of Reality, The Importance of Disobedience, The Inevitability of Artificial General Intelligence
David Deutsch (@DavidDeutschOxf) is a visiting professor of physics at the Centre for Quantum Computation, a part of the Clarendon Laboratory at Oxford University, and an honorary fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford.
He works on fundamental issues in physics, particularly the quantum theory of computation and information, and especially the constructor theory, which he is proposing as a new way of formulating laws of nature. He is the author of The Fabric of Reality and The Beginning of Infinity, and he is an advocate of the philosophy of Karl Popper.
Naval Ravikant (@naval) is the co-founder of AirChat and AngelList. He has invested in more than 100 companies, including many mega-successes such as Twitter, Uber, Notion, Opendoor, Postmates, and Wish.
Key discussions from the podcast between David Deutsch and Naval Ravikant
- The Fabric of Reality consists of four strands: the theory of knowledge, the theory of evolution, quantum theory, and the theory of computation.
- The scientific method has been institutionalized in the institutions of science.
- All knowledge begins with a problem and continues with conjectures.
- Rejection of supernatural explanations is crucial.
- The principle of optimism is the belief that there is no limit to what humans can do other than the laws of physics.
AGI and other near future concepts: Core discussions between David and Naval Contd.
- Artificial general intelligence (AGI) is possible but not yet close to being realized.
- Alignment in AGI should be achieved through learning from humans and other sources, not by physically crippling their thinking.
- Knowledge is a powerful thing, and humans have an outsized role to play in the universe.
The fabric of reality
David explains his book The Fabric of Reality and how it proposes a unified theory of reality based on four strands: quantum physics, epistemology, computation, and evolution.
He argues that these strands are not separate domains of knowledge, but different aspects of the same underlying reality. He also discusses how his theory challenges some of the common misconceptions and myths about science, such as determinism, reductionism, and empiricism.
Naval and David discuss how disobedience and dissent are essential for scientific progress and human flourishing. They share their views on why authority and tradition should not be blindly followed, but questioned and challenged.
They also talk about how they cultivate their own independence of mind and spirit, and how they deal with criticism and opposition from others.
The Inevitability of Artificial General Intelligence
Naval and David explore the topic of artificial intelligence (AI) and its implications for humanity. They explain the difference between narrow AI (which performs specific tasks) and general AI (which can perform any intellectual task).
They argue that general AI is inevitable and desirable, as it will enable us to solve many problems and create new possibilities. They also address some of the common fears and objections about general AI, such as ethical issues, existential risks, and loss of control.
Finding good problems
Naval and David share their insights on how to find good problems to work on, both in science and in life.
They define good problems as those that are important, interesting, solvable, and original. They also give examples of how they approach problem-solving in their own domains, such as using intuition, creativity, logic, experimentation, and collaboration.
Naval and David discuss how they think about wealth and success in a broader and deeper sense than money or fame. They suggest that wealth is not a number or a status, but a set of transformations that one can bring about in the world.
They also talk about how they measure their own wealth and success, such as by the quality of their relationships, the impact of their work, the freedom of their time, and the joy of their experiences.
Foundations of true knowledge
Naval and David delve into the philosophy of knowledge and how they seek to discover true knowledge about reality.
They explain how they use the principles of fallibilism (the recognition that any knowledge can be mistaken) and critical rationalism (the method of conjectures and refutations) to test their ideas and beliefs against reality.
They also discuss how they deal with uncertainty, doubt, error, and ignorance in their quest for truth.
Nature has no boundaries… Nature doesn’t divide things up into sub-disciplines.
So you’re basically saying this: unless the laws of physics explicitly forbid it, we can figure it out. And if we can figure it out, we can build it.