Eliezer Yudkowsky happens to be one of the most interesting people I know of. In addition to his work on friendly AI, he helped found the community blog Less Wrong. The material in his Sequences there describes what Yudkowsky calls “the art of rationality,” but if you’re not up to reading several long sequences of blog posts, you might be interested in his enormously popular Harry Potter fanfic, Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, which explores many of the same ideas in a more fun and accessible setting. I think this was an enormously clever ploy on his part.
Since this is a math blog, I’d also like to highlight the following part of the interview above:
In Silicon Valley a failed entrepreneur still gets plenty of respect, which Paul Graham thinks is one of the primary reasons why Silicon Valley produces a lot of entrepreneurs and other places don’t. Robin Hanson is a truly excellent cynical economist and one of his more cynical suggestions is that the function of academia is best regarded as the production of prestige, with the production of knowledge being something of a byproduct. I can’t do justice to his development of that thesis in a few words (keywords: hansom academia prestige) but the key point I want to take away is that if you work on a famous problem that lots of other people are working on, your marginal contribution to human knowledge may be small, but you’ll get to affiliate with all the other prestigious people working on it.
Words to ponder in light of the refusal of famous mathematicians like Grothendieck and Perelman to associate with academia.
Edit, 3/14/11: Part two of the interview is up.