Feb 24, 2024

Conversation topics

Things we could talk about :)

#meta #philosophy #ai • 876 words

The most interesting conversation topic to me is "what's your story" — what's your life like? How'd you end up in [x place I met you], what do you think about the future and your place in it?

I'm trying to do a better job of avoiding the tendency to outsource my identity to things external to me, like knowledge or awards. Common interests are great places to start, but I think the person behind them — that person's unique mix of influences and experiences, heuristics, etc. — are what makes the conversation importantly distinct from, say, a speech-to-text conversation with an LLM.

Well, anyway.


  • Can you systematize ethics
  • Thoughts on analytic philosophy vs. continental philosophy
  • What is the point of philosophy?
  • People I can probably talk about, in sort of descending order of competence: Wittgenstein, Sartre, de Beauvoir, Camus, Rorty, Kant, Plato, Nietzsche, maybe Russell, maybe Aristotle and a little Aquinas
  • Are aesthetics and morality the same thing (I think so)


  • Why do we read literature? (literature being some sort of writing that is valued for more than just entertainment/fluff)
  • Why do we write literature? is it related to why we read it, or is it a distinct motivation? What implications might that have for consuming literature?
  • Wtf is going on with Finnegans Wake... he can't be just trolling right? right???
  • Does it matter how the author intended you to interpret a work of art? Are all interpretations valid, even politically inconvenient ones?
  • Jorge Luis Borges :)


see also Music I like

  • Meaning in music: is it different from language?
  • Meaningless music, emotionally evocative without an intended concrete meaning (e.g. Ravel's Pavane)
  • Gaspard de la Nuit (I am so down bad for Ravel)
  • Love in harmony (Liebestraum)
  • The deconstruction of music as an art form; music that makes you suffer (e.g. 100 gecs xXXi_wud_nvrstøp_ÜXXx)
  • Melodic metal, the aesthetics of screaming lol (Loathe, Screaming)

Myths and anthropology

  • Religion as a pre-packaged sense of meaning for everyone (inc. community, self-transcendance/meaning, ritual, epistemic grounding, tradition/culture)
  • Religion as a memetically-evolved pre-packaged sense of meaning for everyone
  • Co-opting or respecting religious aesthetics: is "holiness" worthy of respect? Is it worthy of subversion?
  • Pantheons and stories: Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Aztec, Inca, Scandinavian, Indian, Chinese, etc.
  • Thoughts on ritual as a good in itself


  • What is intelligence
  • What does "aligned ai" even look like? AI with common sense? A benevolent god?
  • Alignment policy: how do we balance safe development of AI with risk of state monopolies on ai?
  • Is "objective morality" just an effective coordination mechanism between agents? Is supermoral AI a meaningful idea (banger)

AI-Human Analogs

  • Why are LLM prompting techniques useful on humans
  • Do inner and outer alignment have corresponding analogs in humans? (human alignment theory)
  • What is your value function? What is my value function? Is it some weird multidimensional piecewise function? Don't tell me it's a continuous high-dimensional surface


  • Sapir-whorf hypothesis
  • Toki pona; nahuatl; sign language; lojban
  • What is language?


  • Freud, Lacan, Jung, etc.: are these theories actually useful?
  • Is modern psychology actually useful?? I mean yes it has predictive power but maybe not explanatory power
  • Gender as a fundamental template for relationships with the people you interact with


  • What does "I" refer to
  • Where does the self reside, if it resides anywhere?
  • What is love/what are the constituent things bundled into "love"? is it really just evolutionary chemical soup?
  • What does it mean to be "rationalist"? Is that even a desirable thing to pursue?
  • Experiences with psychedelics -- I unfortunately do not have any, so you'd have to tell me about yours :P

Math and stuff

  • Cantor (set theory, diagonalization!!)
  • Whitehead and Russell (type theory, Principia Mathematica, the urge to find real foundations)
  • Gödel and Tarski (Incompleteness and indefinability in strong formal systems)
  • Category theory
  • What even is math? The study of abstract structures?

Computer Science

  • What do you actually use functional programming for I don't get it and am stubbornly unwilling to actually take time to figure it out
  • How do you get complex computers from electrical circuits? this isn't even, like, emergent behavior it's just crazy levels of abstraction
  • Are computers basically magic? Do we live in an era of magic (yeah)
  • Church and Turing (Computability, Lambda calculus, Church-Turing thesis, Halting problem)

Maybe technical stuff; I'm still skilling up but

  • Thoughts on, idk, transformers vs. mamba? better architectures? are there systematic judgments about what makes better architectures or are we just flailing around
  • Building RAGs (I mention this because I want to build my own, even though context windows are getting big enough that they probably will be pointless pretty soon)


  • American hegemony and its consequences
  • Voting reform
  • Can nationalism be wielded safely? can any allegiance be accepted wholly while still being critical of the institutions you accept along with it?
  • Security and defense policy; the military-industrial complex
  • Where is democracy headed


  • Basically history of any culture/civilization (I know significant american history but not much else with meaningful depth, please tell me about stuff you know)


  • Community building:
  • What is "culture" (in a community, in a society)
  • Interesting projects we/I/you could build
  • Personal knowledge management
  • Integrating LLMs into life effectively
  • Semiotics?
  • Antimemetics????

(this is an incomplete list obviously and it will be continually expanded)