[EconTalk] Jessica Riskin on Life, Machinery, and the Restless Clock

Jessica Riskin on Life, Machinery, and the Restless Clock

11/02/2019 by EconTalk: Russ Roberts

Web player: http://podplayer.net/?id=63433571
Episode: http://files.libertyfund.org/econtalk/y2019/Riskinlife.mp3

Historian Jessica Riskin of Stanford University talks about her book The Restless Clock with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. What is the difference between human beings and machines? How has science thought about this distinction? When do we have agency and when are we constrained? Riskin discusses these issues and the implications for how we think about ourselves and the growth of artificial intelligence.

Listen Date: 2019-03-23


  • Listened to this in post-workout exhaustion / soreness and may not have absorbed enough. Perhaps I should re-listen.
  • I did notice though that it seemed to tie in to earlier episodes from the playlist these past few days – the discussion on telos with Aristotle’s Biology and the discussion on complexity with the Infinite Monkey Cage on Bionic Humans.
  • The passive clock vs active clock is a familiar enough model now after listening to EconTalk for so long; but the insight that the mechanistic view of human (or any) bodies itself has a theological origin was fascinating.
  • I really need to listen again – or read more about – Leibniz on clocks. And my Baroque Cycle reread is long overdue.
  • think this episode’s big question is the point at which clockwork turns into free will; but that there was no actual answer.
  • Also interesting and provocative: ‘Emergence is just a hand-waving filler word for a process we don’t understand.’ Like the god of the gaps.
  • Must read (and possibly set a question) about Scroedinger’s What is Life? essay.

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