Michael Stevens: Vsauce | Lex Fridman Podcast #58 | Summary and Q&A

December 17, 2019
Lex Fridman Podcast
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Michael Stevens: Vsauce | Lex Fridman Podcast #58

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Michael Stevens, the creator of Vsauce, discusses a range of topics in this conversation. He addresses questions about the future of psychology, the nature of consciousness, determinism, the gap between perception and reality, the simulation hypothesis, artificial intelligence, and the responsibility that comes with scientific progress. He also shares his thoughts on the Flat Earth theory, the role of technology in human lives, and the potential dangers of AI and other technologies. Stevens emphasizes the importance of curiosity, humility, and embracing doubt in the pursuit of knowledge.

Questions & Answers

Q: How can psychology become more precise and rigorous like physics?

One approach could be finding the physical foundations of psychology and understanding the mechanical behaviors of atoms and molecules in the brain. However, the complexity of chaos theory and the uncertainty principle make this difficult. Nevertheless, by studying the physical and mathematical aspects of consciousness, we can gain deeper insights into self-reference and other cognitive processes.

Q: In your view, is consciousness a fundamental part of reality or a human construct?

While consciousness remains a speculative topic, I believe it can be fully explained within the laws of physics. The rich complexity of our bodies, brains, and the universe at the quantum level provide ample room for consciousness to arise. The question of why we are aware of ourselves and the significance of self-reference is intriguing but may require more time and faith to find definitive answers.

Q: What are your thoughts on determinism and free will?

I do not hold a strong belief in determinism, but I also do not place much importance on the question. While the concept of determinism has yielded great scientific progress, I find it more productive to focus on living life and making choices based on personal responsibility, rather than being constrained by theories about the predetermined nature of the universe.

Q: How big is the gap between our perception of the world and reality?

The subjective nature of perception and the limitations of the human mind make it impossible to completely bridge the gap between perception and reality. All our experiences are interpretations within our brains, and we cannot prove the existence of external objects. However, it is useful and essential to infer the existence of the external world to function and make sense of our surroundings.

Q: Do you find the thought experiment of living in a simulation useful?

Yes, the thought experiment about living in a simulation is valuable in sparking curiosity and exploring deeper questions about the nature of reality, consciousness, and perception. While it is unlikely that we live in a simulated reality, the discussion can provoke interest in various fields such as physics, psychology, consciousness, and philosophy.

Q: What is your view on Elon Musk's endeavors in space exploration, electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles, and neural interfaces?

I find Elon Musk's achievements inspiring and recognize the responsibility that comes with such influence. The ability to amass a large following raises questions about the psychological impact and ethical considerations. It would be intriguing to understand how he handles this responsibility and his thoughts on the power he holds.

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