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On this episode of Unsupervised Learning, Razib talks with Curtis Yarvin. The host of the Grey Mirror Substack, Yarvin is the former Mencius Moldbug, a pseudonym under which he wrote extensively on culture, politics and history. Yarvin’s social and political views have been profiled widely, including by Vanity Fair and Vox. The intellectual father of neo-reactionary thought, Yarvin is also trained as a computer scientist, and in 2010, he released the first version of Urbit, a decentralized personal server platform, which has spawned an entire community and conferences like Urbit Assembly.
Yarvin’s interests extend beyond technology and politics. He is deeply invested in high culture and believes in the importance of the humanities to our civilization. Razib and Yarvin spend most of this episode on the role of poetry in our broader culture, why it is relevant, why it matters, and the works that Yarvin most values. Though his educational background is as a technologist, Yarvin believes that poetry is an essential ingredient in what makes us human. The question of humanity, along with some references to the Dune universe, moves the conversation to Yarvin’s reflections on the rise of A.I. via large language models, and whether it poses an existential threat to the human race (he does not believe it does). Yarvin also offers his opinions on Eliezer Yudkowsky’s trajectory of thought; Yudkowsky has in the last decade become the leader of the “A.I. doomer” faction within the futurist community. Like many observers with a strong computational background, Yarvin does not believe A.I. will lead to the abolition of man, though it may open up new possibilities, extending what humans are capable of in terms of innovation and productivity through cybernetics. Like all technology, its ultimate utility will be contingent on our decisions as humans.