The Gradient
The Gradient: Perspectives on AI
C. Thi Nguyen: Values, Legibility, and Gamification

C. Thi Nguyen: Values, Legibility, and Gamification

On legibility, projectivism a la Hume, value capture, and epistemic arms races.

Episode 127

I spoke with Christopher Thi Nguyen about:

  • How we lose control of our values

  • The tradeoffs of legibility, aggregation, and simplification

  • Gamification and its risks

Enjoy—and let me know what you think!

C. Thi Nguyen as of July 2020 is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Utah. His research focuses on how social structures and technology can shape our rationality and our agency. He has published on trust, expertise, group agency, community art, cultural appropriation, aesthetic value, echo chambers, moral outrage porn, and games. He received his PhD from UCLA. Once, he was a food writer for the Los Angeles Times.

I spend a lot of time on this podcast—if you like my work, you can support me on Patreon :)

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  • (00:00) Intro

  • (01:10) The ubiquity of James C. Scott

    • (06:03) Legibility and measurement

  • (12:50) Value capture, classes and measurement

  • (17:30) Political value choice in ML

  • (23:30) Why value collapse happens

  • (33:00) Blackburn, “Hume and Thick Connexions” — projectivism and legibility

    • (36:20) Heuristics and decision-making

    • (40:08) Institutional classification systems

    • (46:55) Back to Hume

  • (48:27) Epistemic arms races, stepping outside our conceptual architectures

  • (56:40) The “what to do” question

  • (1:04:00) Gamification, aesthetic engagement

  • (1:14:51) Echo chambers and defining utility

  • (1:22:10) Progress, AGI millenarianism

    • (disclaimer: I don’t know what’s going to happen with the world, either.)

  • (1:26:04) Parting visions

  • (1:30:02) Outro


The Gradient
The Gradient: Perspectives on AI
Deeply researched, technical interviews with experts thinking about AI and technology. Hosted, recorded, researched, and produced by Daniel Bashir.