Matt and Chris’ Gurumeter

Matt Browne is a Professor of psychology for the School of Health, Medical and Applied Sciences at the University of Australia. He hosts the Decoding the Guru podcast, which AT praised recently, along with Chris Kavanaugh, cognitive anthropologist at Oxford University. A perfect academic duo: he plays Pierrot, and Chris plays Auguste. They also have a great subreddit and a secret Discord channel. Can’t tell you about the secret Discord channel; it’s secret!

Follows an edited transcript of our chat via Reddit. I’m W, he’s Matt.

[W]

happy new year!
it’s 2023 in australia, right?

[Matt]

Same to you!
Lol yep and upside down

[W]

so, dis u
https://orcid.org/0000-0002-2668-6229

[Matt]

It is
https://scholar.google.com.au/citations?user=g0Dr9csAAAAJ&hl=en

[W]

i saw the first paper on that list
it’s open access, love open access
this is the one i’d cite
i suppose it’s not the one that got some robust response from the industry

[Matt]

It’s a good one
Ah it’s kinda related to it. The lit review component. Want the report that annoyed them?

[W]

yes

[Matt]

K hang on – here
We did similar work in Australia, but the NZ gambling industry association was the one that paid for the hit piece. Yeah, so my general program of work has also attracted a lot of criticism from industry affiliated researchers generally

[W]

why

[Matt]

Reason why, simply, is that we’re measuring the total ‘cost’ of gambling in the population. In terms of impact to health and well-being. And it always comes out to a big number. And the people bearing the brunt are not just the 0.7% who meet clinical criteria for gambling. So it makes it look like the product is the problem, not the people with a ‘mental disorder.’ Although we make no recommendations as to policy, the implication is clear. At least to industry.

[W]

not unlike AGW

[Matt]

Yep, I’d say the parallel is pretty much perfect.

[W]

you worked on climate, corals and on wind models, it seems

[Matt]

Yep. Not on climate specifically, but GW is one of the known stressors of the Great Barrier Reef, part of the motivation for the monitoring program I worked on

[W]

that’s a depressing bit
is this what shaped your single-issue politics
i recall your tweet on this

[Matt]

Oh Righto. Yep, at the time my voting decision was pretty simple.

These days our centre left party is also pretty rubbish on the environment. So I often vote for the Greens, even though they’re actually a pretty useless, dysfunctional party. Labour at least did their best to implement a carbon credit /tax system. Blocked by the centre right. I’m not super duper left wing, so I’d consider voting centre right, that kind of thing is a deal breaker for me.

[W]

ah, i’m a vanilla social-democrat, i think
don’t care much about left-right issues, as long as things work
we still need to accept that the best tech we developed during the 20th century is social democracy

[Matt]

Yep me too, pretty boring vanilla centre left progressive overall

[W]

i wonder if arguing online could not fit your model of addiction

[Matt]

Yeah people argue about what’s a ‘real’ addiction and what’s not. I’m pretty laissez-faire about it, there’s a continuum and it’s just a reinforcing behaviour that can lead to too much consumption and harmful consequences

[W]

i liked your questionnaire, which is basically marie kondo’s “does it bring joy”

[Matt]

Heheh yeah. Measuring happiness / wellbeing / quality of life is an interesting little problem. There’s a strong tradition of it in public health now. I steal their tools.

[W]

nice, now about the gurumeter
will it get anywhere

[Matt]

Yep!?
Yeah definitely I think
We’ve been surprised at how well it’s stood the test of time. Eg the anti vax guy Malone fits it perfectly
Our resolution for 2022 is write articles about it, and maybe start on a book

[W]

michael shellenberger and patrick moore could fit, not sure about bjorn lomborg
perhaps it’s overfitting

[Matt]

Yeah, it makes specific predictions though. Eg the grievance backstory, their brilliance being ignored. Malone has that in spades, and we’d never heard of him when we devised it

[W]

if greta makes that list, you have found yourself a mortal enemy

[Matt]

You’d have to get in line ;D

[W]

glad about the idea of a book, and papers; that must have surprised you when starting that podcast

[Matt]

Articles were actually our intention. The podcast arose out of procrastination and wanting to get our thoughts in order. Then it developed a momentum of its own.

[W]

ah, well there is a niche for lightheartedness, and as you know chris is irresistible

[Matt]

Yeah he’s pretty damn charming – unless you get on his bad side LOL

[W]

i would say that’s his bad boy vibe that is the best

[Matt]

Blades of Glory situation

[W]

i appreciate that both of you can reformulate each other and your targets with a rich vocabulary

[Matt]

Yeah we’re definitely sympatico, but tend to phrase or conceptualise things differently. Turned out to be perhaps the best collaborative relationship of my career

And we met on twitter, so it just goes to show 😉

[W]

classic
anywho, there is an episode where we can know more about you, that saves us time

[Matt]

Yeah there’s that episode where I give the entire history of my research career

https://decoding-the-gurus.captivate.fm/episode/decoding-academia-matt-on-his-entire-research-career-patreon-sample

[W]

would you say that the podcast is a success

[Matt]

Yeah, it seems so. I forget the metrics, but apparently we’re in the top 0.5% of podcasts worldwide, and regularly sneak into the top 100 in UK, US, AUS and other places. Monthly downloads still curving upward / accelerating. It has to peak sooner or later, so we’ll see when.

[W] 

wow, impressive!
so that’s going to continue, i hope

[Matt]

This may sound disingenuous but we don’t really care that much. This isn’t our main job, and we never aimed to make a big podcast. We’re going to do our ‘decoding academia’ thing which we know won’t have as much appeal / not as clickbaity . But screw that. We want to enjoy ourselves

It’s been interesting to learn how most podcasters are obsessed with optimising metrics / revenue / audience capture. It’s really front of mind for them, and motivates a lot of their decisions. That’s the new information ecosystem for you

[W]

oh, i like that the decoding academia is patreon based – it is a good teaching tool, and i don’t have to listen to it 😉
tho i will listen to how you will survive presenting prisonner’s dilemmas

[Matt]

Haha
We recorded that this morning and our exposition is awkward! Hopefully good enough tho

[W]

so, now, for the toughest part
music?
i need some music suggestions
(it humanizes you, and i get to put a video, so it adds images to the post)

[Matt]

Ahhh OK
Just random stuff I like? I listen to virtually every genre

[W]

how about parcels
but yeah, what hits the spot currently

[Matt]

Righto, my memory is terrible, but I actually did a thread of what I was jamming to over Xmas. It has links to videos, and photos too I think, you’re welcome to use

[W]

ah, i still have my old nad in the basement
hifi might survive us, so cockroaches will have good gear

[Matt]

Audiophiles unite! And yeah I love that it lasts forever and doesn’t get obsolete. Now I just use headphones

[W]

i don’t regret losing my twitter account – reddit is the best
i follow hifi and headphones and fountain pens and asshats get kicked out

[Matt]

I genuinely think our DTG subreddit is great. I’m often impressed by what I read there

[W]

true, it’s long comment form, but then it’s a long podcast form

[Matt]

Haha well suited
If people are willing to listen to us for hours, I’m definitely willing to read an essay, if it’s well thought-out

[W]

those who have no other means to access academia profit from what you do
and i like how it rewards them

[Matt]

Yeah I’m coming to cautiously believe that it could be a great way for a kind of informal public University- if we can weed out the trash
It doesn’t have to be polished or professional. Just engaging, and no scammers or charlatans

[W]

it was great to chat with you
thank you for your time, for being a positive force in the world, and take care

[Matt]

Great talking to you too!

About Willard

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4 Responses to Matt and Chris’ Gurumeter

  1. angech says:

    [W] i wonder if arguing online could not fit your model of addiction.
    Stop right there.
    Explains everything except 42.

  2. Willard says:

    Here’s one thing it does not explain, Doc:

    Bill Benter did the impossible: He wrote an algorithm that couldn’t lose at the track. Close to a billion dollars later, he tells his story for the first time.

    https://getpocket.com/explore/item/the-gambler-who-cracked-the-horse-racing-code

    Being a formal guy, Matt questioned Bill’s method and conclusions. After a lengthy correspondence, Bill finally conceded that he may have been lucky. I wish I was that lucky! There might be less competition in markets centered on horse behavior: there are many, many, many algorithmic traders on stock exchanges. Bets on human behavior are notoriously tough.

    I could not fit that bit in the chat above, so there you go.

  3. russellseitz says:

    Which side of the Channel of Discord is the Sector of Uncertainty on ?

    https://vvattsupwiththat.blogspot.com/2021/07/the-origins-of-climateball-in-works-of.html

  4. Willard says:

    Listen to the music:

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