Lex Fridman Interview

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of sitting down to be interviewed by Lex Fridman, a former MIT roboticist and current podcaster. The interview went on for almost three hours without a break, and it is a testament to Lex’s skills as an interviewer that I never once wanted to stop. The conversation was primarily about Existentialism, Nihilism, and the Search for Meaning, although we did talk a little bit about AI at the end. If you haven’t seen it already, you can find the interview on Youtube here.

I found the interview/discussion format to be both fun and rewarding, and I am considering looking for other ways to have more public events of that sort. I am spending a lot of time writing nowadays, and I’m really looking forward to sharing some of that. But there’s something about the way that philosophy thrives in conversation. Anyhow, if you have ideas about whether that’s a good idea, and if so what way to pursue it, let me know!

About Sean D. Kelly

Sean Dorrance Kelly is the Teresa G. and Ferdinand F. Martignetti Professor of Philosophy at Harvard University. He is also Faculty Dean at Dunster House, one of the twelve undergraduate Houses at Harvard. He served for six years as chair of Harvard's Department of Philosophy. Kelly earned an Sc.B. in Mathematics and Computer Science and an M.S. in Cognitive and Linguistic Sciences from Brown University in 1989. After three years as a Ph.D. student in Logic and Methodology of Science, he received his Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of California at Berkeley in 1998. Before arriving at Harvard in 2006, Kelly taught at Stanford and Princeton, and he was a Visiting Professor at the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris. Sean Kelly's work focuses on various aspects of the philosophical, phenomenological, and cognitive neuroscientific nature of human experience. He is a world authority on 20th century European Philosophy, specializing in the work of Martin Heidegger and Maurice Merleau-Ponty. He has also done influential work in philosophy of mind and philosophy of perception. Kelly has published articles in numerous journals and anthologies and he has received fellowships or awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, the NEH, the NSF and the James S. McDonnell Foundation, among others. Fun fact: He appeared on The Colbert Show in 2011 to talk about All Things Shining. Sean Kelly lives at Dunster House with his wife, the Harvard Philosopher Cheryl Kelly Chen, and their two boys, Benjamin and Nathaniel.
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4 Responses to Lex Fridman Interview

  1. dmf says:

    hi Sean thanks for the link looking forward to checking it out, I think the more that public conversations are tied to specific examples/readings/etc the longer lasting the impacts/impressions, I used to take part in a public TED talk series that we tried (and largely failed) to ground in the work and exhibitions of a combined maker-space, library, and art studio&gallery and while people where very entertained by the talks when it came to the small discussions it was obvious that they hadn’t grasped much of what had been discussed and a similar unfortunate phenomenon can be observed in the comment section of podcasts like the Partially Examined Life. Contrast this with what happened here with folks who had clearly read your and Bert’s book or with the really excellent blog, lecture+Q&A, and reading group hosted by http://www.ensoseminars.com/ and I think you can get the gist of my comment/suggestion.

  2. dmf says:

    this interviewer is much better then most, especially to the degree that he helps you to explicate matters that you likely (as someone in the know) take for granted. This gets at some serious issues about how to educate folks about things that they are largely ignorant about from a position of expertise, including how to help them grasp some aspects that allow them to continue in their studies while also grasping how little they really know. The model for me remains something like the largely long-lost practice of a close reading seminar where one is teaching a way of reading more then one is teaching some specific takeaway content (of the sort administrators want faculty to be able to give an accounting of after a semester finishes), but how to do this with interviews/conversations that the lay person/student is in the relatively passive role of being an audience for isn’t clear. I’m doing some work with some mainline protestant ministers who have become understandably discontented with business as usual but they are in a similar dilemma as they have taken on the role of professional providers of Christian services (pun intended) to be consumed by a paying audience that would likely be familiar to professors who now have to provide content for consumers (instead of idealized/classical students).

  3. dmf says:

    so in the discussion of languages and translation I think we get a possibly useful spur for thought, in that I’ve spent a lot of time listening to (and asking questions of) both literary translators and people working on machine “interpreters”, and the work of a human (or humans) working to translate a work of literature (poem, play novel, etc) is like your example of Miles Davis in that there is no means of coming to decisions ahead of time (by calculative reasoning) and nothing (not rules of grammar or sociology or the like, which by the way I think suggests that your own reification of A Language as something that exists and algorithmic that could order a life-world or culture is akin to the errors of structuralism) that could settle the matter beyond the interests/receptions of whomever is assembled as an audience worth attending to. This is why AI has come to some serious dead-ends (not so far from Bert’s earlier work along these lines tho with some new nuances/complexities) and while google can give me the gist of something like simple travel instructions or get me to a bathroom it is far from satisfactory for much more. So Lex is quite wrong to think that he could plot out something re-presentative by comparing differences in text analysis that wouldn’t be an artifact of choices he made as a programmer. Along these lines his desire to connect to some deep roots may well push him to invent new things but can’t literally be a work of arche-ology and if he ascribes and Author-ity to them other then his own he will be in a kind of bad faith (as would we all).
    As you can see I’ve already run into a number of issues along these lines that at least for me give rise to a need for conversation and limit the value of carrying on viewing this solo.
    cheers, d.

  4. Miranda Slaughter says:

    I think it would be awesome if you guys skip semantics, metaANYTHING and double speak. I’m tired of decoding.

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