xuenay: (Default)
Haven't posted in a while, again. Here's an interview with Mike Blume, a long-time Visiting Fellow. I'll shortly be making a more personal post, as well describing the new points system we've began using recently.


The description of Mike on the 2009 Visiting Fellows page says that he 'is a Ph.D. student in experimental particle physics at the University of  California at Santa Barbara. He holds a B.S. in Physics from the University of California at Irvine.' As you can probably guess, he's been around here for a while, as he was already in last summer's Visiting Fellows program. When I got here he was taking care of SIAI's sysadmin needs while at the same time interning with Rolf Nelson and his startup. Recently he's been moving some of the sysadmin duties over to Louie Helm, as Mike is currently seeking to test his l33t coding skillz in the greater Silicon Valley economy.

Mike, would you say that this description is accurate, or is there something you'd like to add to it?

Mike Blume:
I think it's fairly accurate, though obviously I'm not really a PhD student anymore.

Kaj: I could ask about something else, but I don't think our readers would appreciate being left hanging right that. So a few words on how come you stopped with that?

Mike: Hmm, that's a good question. One answer would be that upon reflection, it didn't seem like the best way to reduce existential risk. I'd gotten into physics with a sort of "knowledge for its own sake" ethos. And I still love that ethos, and find it beautiful, but it turned out there were things that needed to be taken care of first.

Kaj: So how have you been reorienting yourself to actually reduce existential risk better?
Read more... )
xuenay: (Default)
As promised, here's the first part of my interview series. It's meant to give you a feeling of what kinds of people I'm spending my time with in the Visiting Fellows program.

Alicorn ([livejournal.com profile] alicorn24 on LJ) was already here when I got here, and will in all likelihood still be here after I leave. Less Wrongers will know her as being one of the people with the highest karma on the site. I was kinda surprised when I met her, because somehow I'd gotten the impression that she'd be really shy and stuff, but she turned out to be really outgoing and extroverted and not shy after all. Her school allowed people to make up their own degrees so long as they also completed some 'real' degree, and as a result she has degrees both in Philosophy and World-Building, which is totally awesome.

She writes serial fiction together with Tethys at elcenia.com, and has her own webcomic (which is cute and which I like) at htht.elcenia.com. Alicorn also makes good food (see her cooking blog) and likes petting people's hair, if they allow it.

Kaj: So, tell our readers, how did you come to be here?
Alicorn: I originally sent an e-mail last fall, asking about the summer, because at the time I expected to be in grad school for the forseeable future. I didn't get a firm response because there were so many summer applications to sort through and no clear idea of how many spots there were. Then, come the spring semester, I decided I wasn't happy, discerned no school-compatible way to fix that, and asked Anna if I could come out if I were able to leave right away instead of at the end of the school year. After some consideration and discussion, the answer turned out to be "yes"; I withdrew from school, packed up, flew out here, and proved useful enough to be kept around.
Kaj: 'Useful enough to be kept around' leads us pretty naturally to the next question, which is, what are the things that you do around here?
Alicorn: I write Less Wrong posts sometimes, although lately while I have lots of ideas, they aren't gelling properly. I've started doing a lot of outreach, because I love to chat with people, including the people SIAI wants someone to stay in touch with. I've also been doing some human capital development projects, absorbing more content and developing new skills.
Kaj: Too many potential lines of interr... uhh, interviewing that I could pursue, I have difficulty picking which ones. The outreach thing sounds interesting - do you generally get to talk with people about Singularity-type stuff a lot, or is it more general conversation? What kinds of people do you talk with that you count as outreach?
Alicorn: I have a pretty low ratio of Singularity-stuff to general conversation. For one thing, this probably increases my long-term quantity of Singularity conversations: people will be more willing to listen to me pontificate on that sometimes if it's not all I ever talk about! A lot of my contacts are people I was already friends with before I got involved with SIAI - some through Less Wrong, some not. In order to count for outreach at all, they have to have relevant interests, though - I can't include every one of my friends on my list of contacts for this reason.Read more... )

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