I’m shipping out today to sunny Rio de Janeiro, where I’ll be giving a weeklong course about BosonSampling, at the invitation of Ernesto Galvão. Then it’s on to Pennsylvania (where I’ll celebrate Christmas Eve with old family friends), Israel (where I’ll drop off Dana and Lily with Dana’s family in Tel Aviv, then lecture at the Jerusalem Winter School in Theoretical Physics), Puerto Rico (where I’ll speak at the FQXi conference on Physics of Information), back to Israel, and then New York before returning to Boston at the beginning of February. Given this travel schedule, it’s possible that blogging will be even lighter than usual for the next month and a half (or not—we’ll see).
In the meantime, however, I’ve got the equivalent of at least five new blog posts to tide over Shtetl-Optimized fans. Luke Muehlhauser, the Executive Director of the Machine Intelligence Research Institute (formerly the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence), did an in-depth interview with me about “philosophical progress,” in which he prodded me to expand on certain comments in Why Philosophers Should Care About Computational Complexity and The Ghost in the Quantum Turing Machine. Here are (abridged versions of) Luke’s five questions:
1. Why are you so interested in philosophy? And what is the social value of philosophy, from your perspective?
2. What are some of your favorite examples of illuminating Q-primes [i.e., scientifically-addressable pieces of big philosophical questions] that were solved within your own field, theoretical computer science?
3. Do you wish philosophy-the-field would be reformed in certain ways? Would you like to see more crosstalk between disciplines about philosophical issues? Do you think that, as Clark Glymour suggested, philosophy departments should be defunded unless they produce work that is directly useful to other fields … ?
4. Suppose a mathematically and analytically skilled student wanted to make progress, in roughly the way you describe, on the Big Questions of philosophy. What would you recommend they study? What should they read to be inspired? What skills should they develop? Where should they go to study?
5. Which object-level thinking tactics … do you use in your own theoretical (especially philosophical) research? Are there tactics you suspect might be helpful, which you haven’t yet used much yourself?
For the answers—or at least my answers—click here!
PS. In case you missed it before, Quantum Computing Since Democritus was chosen by Scientific American blogger Jennifer Ouellette (via the “Time Lord,” Sean Carroll) as the top physics book of 2013. Woohoo!!