May 2 • 2HR 34M

Steve Hsu: How We Learned, Then Forgot, About Human Intelligence

And Witnessing the Live Breakdown of Academia

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THE podcast on institutions.
Episode details

Steve Hsu is a professor of theoretical physics and professor of computational mathematics, science, and engineering at Michigan State University, as well as the former VP of Research. He was the founder of digital security companies Safeweb, acquired by Symantec, and Robot Genius, as well as genomics startups Othram and Genomic Prediction. He writes the blog Information Processing.

In this podcast, we discuss the history and politics of academia, individual differences in intelligence and athleticism, our experiences with high level mathematics, statistics as an anti-meme, the tension between merit and ideology, math education, theory of mind, differences between the Midwestern and immigrant suburb schools where Steve and I grew up, respectively, and informal networks as alternative credentials.

Steve Hsu on Twitter:

Information Processing:

On wordcels:

Bounded cognition (statistics and innumeracy):

Creators and Rulers:

Quantum GDP:

Terman studies:

Volume 1-3:

Volume 4:

Volume 5:

Wordcels and Shape Rotators:

Death’s End, by Liu Cixin:


3:24 Interview Starts

15:49 Cactus' Experience with High Math People

19:49 High School Sports

21:26 Comparison to Intelligence

26:29 Is Lack of Understanding due to Denial or Ignorance?

29:29 The Past and Present of Selection in Academia

37:02 How Universities Look from the Inside

44:19 Informal Networks Replacing Credentials

48:37 Capture of Research Positions

50:24 Progressivism as Demagoguery Against the Self-Made

55:31 Innumeracy is Common

1:06:53 Understanding Innumerate People

1:13:53 Skill Alignment at Cactus' High School

1:18:12 Free Speech in Academia

1:21:00 You Shouldn't Fire Exceptional People

1:23:03 The Anti-Excellence Progressives

1:28:42 Rawls, Nozick, and Technology

1:34:00 Freedom = Variance = Inequality

1:37:58 Dating Apps

1:41:27 Jumping Into Social Problems From a Technical Background

1:41:50 Steve's High School Pranks

1:46:43 996 and Cactus' High School

1:50:26 The Vietnam War and Social Change

1:53:07 Are Podcasts the Future?

1:59:37 The Power of New Things

2:02:56 The Birth of Twitter

2:07:27 Selection Creates Quality

2:10:21 Incentives of University Departments

2:16:29 Woke Bureaucrats

2:27:59 Building a New University

2:30:42 What needs more order?

2:31:56 What needs more chaos?