Monday, October 22, 2007

Philosophy on the Radio

What is philosophy? Well, in Greek it means a love of wisdom. The contemporary definition is not so easy to summarize. I would posit that philosophy is the practice of asking, "Why is it this way?" in regards to how we perceive life and the cosmos. See, it's getting complicated already...but not really. Another way to put it might be: "What are my assumptions, and how did I get them?"

If your brain is booted up by 10:00 on Sunday morning, and you are philosophically inclined, tune into PHILOSOPHY TALK on KALW (Bay Area) at 91.7 FM. It is held by two Stanford philosophers, Ken Taylor and John Perry. Here is a blurb they posted for yesterday's show:



October 21: Predicting the Future. People who predict the future well are sometimes said to be psychic. But we all make predictions about the future, with more or less success. We confidently predict the sun will rise tomorrow, that ice will be cold, etc. But maybe we're not quite as good at predicting the future as we think. Is the stock market predictable? The weather? Political upheavals? Or is life just too random to make good predictions? John and Ken predict that Nassim Taleb, author of The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, will join them to consider the extent to which we can forecast the future.



I was particularly interested in this show, since I had read Taleb's book this past summer. Taleb's book is concerned with how the direction of life/society has (in his theory) become increasingly ruled by unpredictable developments "Black Swans," such as the rise of the Internet and companies such as Google. He calls this phenomenon "Extremistan," and maintains that biologically we are adapted to less frequent discontinuities ("Mediocristan"). The most interesting part of Taleb's thesis for me was about how financial markets cannot be predicted using the Gaussian bell curve and that most stock predictions are at best pseudo-science. He's getting a lot of press on this.



For more on Philosophy Talk, go to: http://www.philosophytalk.org/.

For more on Taleb, go to: http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/bios/taleb.html

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