The Local Maximum

By Max Sklar

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Join Max Sklar and guests in this podcast about AI, technology, and society. Email for questions and feedback. Show notes page on the website:

Episode Date
Ep. 102 - Logical Induction, Building Ordinals, and Compounding Errors
Max give his take on Logical Induction and the construction of mathematical objects, a topic that he's been interested in for years. Topics include: - Intro to Mathematical Induction - Tradition Induction vs Ordinal Induction vs Epslion Induction - The Dominos analogy - Logical arguments vs Physical Arguments - Problems with compound implications in the real world - Spotting arguments that hide compound errors
Jan 21, 2020
Ep. 101 - Robots Taking All Our Jobs? Antony Sammeroff’s Rebuttal
These days there’s a lot of angst about job loss due to automation, AI, and Robotics. This led to a formal debate at the SoHo forum in New York about the implications of robotics and automation technology on the job market and what our response should be. Today’s guest, Anthony Sameroff, successfully argued against the resolution which predicts widespread joblessness due to automation.
Jan 14, 2020
Ep. 100 - Milestones, Questions, and Wisdom from the First Hundred Episodes
Max talks about all the exciting developments from 100 episodes of producing The Local Maximum Podcast. He also answers listener questions relating to the first 100 episodes, the podcast as a whole, and where it can go in the future.
Jan 07, 2020
Ep. 99 - Tech Trends of the 2010s
Aaron and I start by responding to listener emails, and talking about how our predictions are faring on Metaculus and PredictIt. Then we go over our short list of technological trends of the decade which includes: - The ubiquity of mobile and cloud computing - Consolidation of Social Networks - Status of Wearables and Audio - Populist Movements of all kinds fuels by mass communication - Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency - AI, Machine Learning, and Personal Assistants - Success and Failures of the “Uber for X” trend
Dec 31, 2019
Ep. 98 - Bayesian Stats and Political Trends with Alexandre Andorra
Alex Andorra, host of the new podcast Learning Bayesian Statistics joins The Local Maximum today to talk about these fascinating issues: - The growing role of Bayesian Analysis in Science and Technology - How the pollsters and journalists cover election data, and how it can be improved - Ways to look at election polls from a Bayesian standpoint - Strategic voting, comparative political systems, and social choice theory - Approaches to explaining these topics in audio (podcast) form!
Dec 24, 2019
Ep. 97 - Classic Computer Science Problems with David Kopec
Today we dive into the world of Computer Science with David Kopec, author of Classic Computer Science Problems in Python. Topics include misconceptions about computer science, what the general public should know, stumbling blocks for students, graph algorithms, and genetic algorithms.
Dec 17, 2019
Ep. 96 - Climate Protests, Pascal’s Wager, and the Duplicitous Science Press
Ep. 96 - Climate Protests, Pascal’s Wager, and the Duplicitous Science Press Max gives a first hand account of the climate protests during the Yale Harvard football game which delayed the game by almost an hour. He breaks down the arguments made by climate activists, and relates it to Pascal’s Wager, a concept in probabilities that relates to infinite values, and how it can be abused. Max and Aaron discuss a couple of news articles on scientific discoveries and break down how they analyze them.
Dec 10, 2019
Ep. 95 - Ideas and Inspiration from Gaming
Panelists Craig Lorentzen and Foursquare Founder Dennis Crowley discuss inspiration, lessons learned, and career shifts they’ve obtained from playing video games as kids and as adults.
Dec 03, 2019
Ep. 94 - Dividing By Zero, Infinite Ratios, and Ice Cream Sales
Today Max talks about his long-term fascination with the concept of infinity, including several different forms and definitions that infinity can take on. Then, we do a deep dive into what it means to extend the real number line and divide by zero.
Nov 26, 2019
Ep. 93 - Innovation, Consolidation, and Entrenched Industry Doctrines
In our second November news update, we cover articles and stories on: - The consolidation of the internet - The dispute over whether Facebook centralized or decentralized speech - Calls to “re-decentralize” the internet with personal servers, and the practicality of that - How podcasting has been caught up in some internet trends, and left out of others. - A/B testing and shrinking emphasis on it Also, we go off on a bunch of tangents!
Nov 19, 2019
Ep. 92 - Political Game Theory and Self Driving Drama
This news update covers Ranked Choice Voting in New York City, Twitter’s decision to ban political advertising as we enter the 2020 political campaign season, and Waymo and Uber fighting it out for dominance in the self driving car market.
Nov 11, 2019
Ep. 91 - Ad Tech Intrigues with Shoshana Wodinsky
Max talks to Adweek reporter Shoshana Wodinsky about the fraud, the scandal, the propaganda, that goes out through online ad industry.
Nov 05, 2019
Ep. 90 - Narrative Confirmation Bias, Loaded Questions in Congress, Molyneux’s Misinformation
In this solo show, Max talks about Narrative building, and the confirmation bias that can be associated with it. To illustrate his points: The recent hearings in Congress of Mark Zuckerberg over the Libra Project A professor who claims to have the winning system to predict the presidential election Stefan Molyneux’s use of a combination of statistical and linguistic tricks to build his society narrative.
Oct 29, 2019
Ep. 89 - Building Liberland! How to claim Your own Sovereign Territory with Vit Jedlicka
Max interviews Vit Jedlicka, president and founder of Liberland, which is a project to create a new country on unclaimed territory between Serbia and Croatia. Liberland was founded as a free republic with the goal of building new institutions to safeguard personal and economic freedom in a way that isn’t being done in any country including the western democracies today. We discuss the legal and organizational challenges in pursuing this project, as well as the technologies - blockchain, mobile communication, and geo-location - that make this possible. Also present is Thomas Walls, Minister of Foreign Affairs for Liberland.
Oct 22, 2019
Ep. 88 - Occam's Razor, Hanlon's Razor, and Layers of Conspiracy
Today's Concept of the Week is Occam's Razor, along with other related ideas like Hanlon's Razor. - The Dragon in My Garage - Fermi Estimation - Why your iPhone is probably not recording all your conversations; but if it was what how it might do it. - How early is too early for Halloween?
Oct 15, 2019
Ep. 87 - Deep Learning and AI with Mark Ryan
This week’s guest is Mark Ryan, author of the upcoming book Deep Learning with Structured Data. We cover: - How machine learning has come to dominate Artificial Intelligence over the last few decades - How the deep learning, which can solve problems like natural language understanding and image recognition - is becoming more and more practical, and gets results even in more traditional datasets - How to learn to become a machine learning engineer through online tutorials and frameworks - Where this is going in the future, and discussions on superintelligence and the technological singularity Get 40% off the book with the discount code podlocalmax19, at Manning Publishing:
Oct 08, 2019
Ep. 86 - Audio Augmented Reality and More Metaculus Predictions
On the news that Amazon wants to put Alexa into wearable devices, we discuss the idea that the focus in consumer tech has moved to sound, including voice controls, augmented reality, and podcasting. Max gives an update on the Betaworks Hearing Voices conference that highlighted the latest tech, demos, and ideas in this area. Plus - we follow up on previous episodes, including Aaron’s predictions on the Metaculus engine, and how Max missed a subway stop because he was reading Reddit.
Oct 01, 2019
Ep. 85 - Metaculus: Aggregating emotions, expertise, and data into Prediction Engine
Part 2 of Max's discussion with Anthony Aguirre, cofounder of the Metaculus prediction engine. Topics include: - The difference between making short term, long term, and theoretical predictions - The human mind and human emotions - as imperfect as they are - being world's best tool for prediction making - Calibrating your probabilities, on an individual and group level - Predictions of humor-detecting AI, waking up after being cryogenically frozen, and political developments
Sep 24, 2019
Ep. 84 - Big Questions about the Universe with Anthony Aguirre
Max talks to cosmologist Anthony Aguirre about the fundamental nature of the universe, with the following questions: Is the Space Discrete or Continuous? How does our physics differ from Virtual Reality, or the model we have in our brain? What is Fourier space? What does it mean that the universe is made of information? Is there a fundamental bit? In most cases, things aren’t what they seem! Check out Anthony’s Book on the subject: Cosmological Koans.
Sep 17, 2019
Ep. 83 - Bitcoin Energy Alarmists, Musk and Ma in Different AI Universes, and Gab picks a fight
Max follows through on his promise to take down the big lie about Bitcoin - that it’ll consume all our energy and destroy the earth. He goes through the simple math that shows this won’t be a problem, and talk about how Bitcoin can encourage better energy technology. Jack Ma and Elon Musk were recently in a debate/discussion about AI in Shanghai, and they are in such opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to their philosophical outlook! We talk about what they said, and where they agreed. Finally, Max starts by responding to Gab CEO Andrew Torba, who threw shade at Foursquare in a recent blogpost.
Sep 10, 2019
Ep. 82 - Learning Should Be Free! Henry Abramson on Teaching Jewish History to the Global Classroom
Henry Abramson, Dean of Touro College in Brooklyn, tells us about how he took his Jewish History Lectures online. We talk a bit about the historical shift in communication, information, and education that the internet and YouTube represent and his dealings with feedback, trolling, and algorithms. Finally, we learn about his biggest influences, and some specific lectures and why the internet has gravitated towards them.
Sep 03, 2019
Ep. 81 - Junk Science, Click Bait, and Meaningless Experiments
Ever feel like there’s something wrong with all the news and information you consume, even when you get it from professional scientists and doctors? We tackle the reproducibility crisis in science today starting with taking a look at some mudslinging between high profile online academics Andrew Gelman and Cass Sunstein. We also talk about the probable over-publishing of studies in stock market prediction and elsewhere, and scientists reading too much when interpreting results to fit their narrative and ideology.
Aug 27, 2019
Ep. 80 - Tumblr and Fall: Challenges for the Quirky and Creative Platform
The recent sale of the creative and niche site Tumblr to Wordpress from Verizon shows an over 99% loss of value from it’s original sale to Yahoo in 2013. We look back at the phases Tumblr’s been through, and how this fits with the larger social, technological, and business trends.
Aug 20, 2019
Ep. 79 - Creating Virtual Worlds with Timoni West
This is a conversation with Timoni West at Unity Labs about the emerging tech of Virtual, Augmented, and Mixed reality. We talk about how these new worlds are being created, the challenges that need to be overcome, and how they will be different than you may have assumed from watching your favorite sci-fi movies.
Aug 13, 2019
Ep. 78 - Bayesian Thinking: Flat Earth Priors, The Mises Brothers, and Curb Your Analogy
As Max returns from Lviv Ukraine where he offered a course on Bayesian thinking, he shares his knowledge and insights. - What are the drawbacks and limitations to Bayes rule vs other approaches? - Is probability objective or subjective? - How did Larry David illustrates argument by analogy? - The von Mises brothers include one free market economist (Ludwig) and one statistician (Richard) - what did they have to say on this topic? - What’s the problem with a Flat Earth Prior?
Aug 06, 2019
Ep. 77 - Competitive Foosball
Frequent Local Maximum contributor Maryam Aly comes on to discuss her career into competitive foosball, and how she achieved a top ranking in the global foosball leaderboard. We also discuss lessons on teamwork and communication that Maryam has transferred from Foosball over to the software engineering realm!
Jul 30, 2019
Ep. 76 - Bitcoin and Google Invade Politics
Politicians and bureaucrats in the US are talking about Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency after Facebook announces that they’ll get in the game - including a Trump tweet. Some people are sending Bitcoin through the radio waves to prepare for an extreme scenario. Googlers clearly want to elect a democrat in 2020 - and this is affecting their product decisions. Researchers say an AI is learning science - but Max and Aaron break down what this really means. Plus - find out about Max’s new job!
Jul 23, 2019
Ep. 75 - The Market Loves You: Jeffrey Tucker on the nature of Innovation
I discuss with AIER director Jeffrey Tucker his new book, The Market Loves You, covering triumphs of markets and innovation such as the railroad, the word processor, and shoes. We turn to today’s big ideas in Bitcoin, Social Media, and the App Frenzy, and the unresolved problems that the next crop of entrepreneurs, engineers, and consumers will tackle. Finally, we cover the nature of innovation itself. Why do people become entrepreneurs? What is the role of engineers and product developers? And what is quality? There’s also something about a chicken stick at the airport, and big announcement for me!
Jul 16, 2019
Ep. 74 - Gerrymander USA, The End of Civilization, and Monkey Business
The US Supreme Court says that it can’t weigh in on Gerrymandered districts. We look at the idea of Gerrymandering in the United States, armed with the new social choice tools that we picked up in previous episodes. A Cloudflare outage temporarily takes down a portion of the internet. This may be evidence of a central point of failure, but could that central point be shrinking? Finally we talk about a Bayesian argument in the Wall Street Journal and recently released book that claims to predict the end of the world. We break down what it’s claiming, how the tools of Bayes and Lindy fit in, and how much weight to put on the prognosis. How can we avoid our Turkey Consumption Holiday of Choice? Then - we go completely off script, covering the possibility of continuing civilization on Mars and on pockets in Earth after a Nuclear disaster, the asteroid made of gold, and some monkeys finally reaching the stone age. You have reached another Local Maximum indeed!
Jul 09, 2019
Ep. 73 - Talking Python with Michael Kennedy
Talk Python To Me host Michael Kennedy discusses a range of issues with Max, including Python's popularity as a programming language and what we can learn from that, hosting a podcast as part of a business, and how programming skills can fit well with other careers and in our education system.
Jul 01, 2019
Ep. 72 - Voting Power, Consortiums, and Facebook's Currency
Facebook’s proposed cryptocurrency called Libra is supposed to aid international transactions. Does it compete with banks, or does it compete with Bitcoin? And what are the chances that Facebook and their 100-member consortium of companies will follow through on this over the next few years? We then turn to the idea of voting power, and learn about one important metric when it comes to analyzing voting systems: The Shapely Power Index. We’re dive into how it’s computed, what it means, and what it’s limitations are. Today’s co-host is Maryam Aly.
Jun 24, 2019
Ep. 71 - Science and The City: From Urban Theory to Mobile Apps with Tassos Noulas
We hear from Tassos Noulas, faculty fellow at the NYU Center for Data Science about Urban Data Science and the related theory and projects. In the age of big data, scientists have found a better understanding of how cities develop, how to improve transport networks, and some ideas for future products that can be built around taxis and AR. Topics include the Future Cities Challenge, Taxi price comparison apps, retail gravitation, central place theory, the relationship with fractal geometry, and wiki atlas.
Jun 18, 2019
Ep. 70 - Centralizers vs Extremists and an Ode to the Podoverse
I look at the woe’s of social media and YouTube today, and discover that similar problems have occurred throughout history. Covering the rise of radio in the 1920’s and 1930’s including Fascist orators and federal intervention of radio in the 1930s, Cable News Fights, the FCC worried about explicit content in the 1990s and 2000s. Finally, I compare the truly decentralized universe of podcasts - the podoverse - with the tech-giant run social media systems like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, and why their business models, and the complexity of running such systems have led to internet malaise while at the same time a golden age of podcasting commences.
Jun 11, 2019
Ep. 69 - Apple Unbundles iTunes, Cuba Update, and Content Distribution in the 21st century
Apple announces that they are unbundling iTunes into several apps at WWDC. Some feared this means the end of iTunes, but we discuss how it's actually a design upgrade. Foursquare and Placed brought together in a big spinoff-merger deal. What does that mean for the future of location, ads, and attribution? Lots of emphasis on privacy at WWDC. Cubans to get private wifi - are they slowing joining the 21st century? Finally, we look at the history of the content creation and distribution business (music, movies, tv, and podcasts) in the 21st century. P2P file sharing apps, to Apple's iTunes store, and a summary of the business models emerging as standard today.
Jun 04, 2019
Ep. 68 - 6 University Courses that Influenced Me in Surprising Ways
Aaron and I discuss my list of 6 university courses that in retrospect have influenced me in surprising and unexpected ways, even after many years. The list is: Yale's Writing Seminar (Yale) Functional Programming (Yale) Philosophy and Computer Science (Yale) Emerging Technology and Business Innovation (NYU Stern) Machine Learning (NYU Courant) Electronic Communities (NYU Stern)
May 28, 2019
Ep. 67 - Social Credit Scores and Re-education Camps in China
The episode starts with a game of thrones discussion for 2 minutes (how can it not)! And then Max discusses some related news items coming out of China: The Rise of The Social Credit Score The Re-Education Camps the Uighers and others in Western China are being forced into Causality Myths The Big Debate on Socialism vs Capitalism
May 21, 2019
Ep. 66 - Dennis Crowley, Hypertrending at Foursquare
I visited Foursquare HQ to check in with Executive Chairman Dennis Crowley. - Personal stories and the Innovative mind - Industry trends in consumer apps/big data - Foursquare's latest labs project: hypertrending at SXSW I also follow up on last weeks episode, with more details on voting affecting the outcome of an election, and the turkey vs email problem.
May 14, 2019
Ep. 65 - The chance of something that has never happened before
How can one estimate the probability of an unprecedented event - something that has never happened before - happening? It seems like a hopeless endeavor, but there actually are valid strategies to tackle this problem. We also recap the interviews that occurred in the 5 previous episodes, and the continuing closure and censorship of our social networks as they are increasingly becoming associated with violence in the real world - and how we're going to get out of this.
May 07, 2019
Ep. 64 - Pro Tips for Your Resume with Marc Cenedella
Marc Cenedella is the CEO of Ladders, Inc, and today he talks to Max about the Ladders Job Search service, and the job matching problem in the 21st century. After diving into The Ladders’ specific audience and product approach, the conversation turns to Max’s resume. The advice provided is invaluable to all job seekers - present and future - out there.
Apr 30, 2019
Ep. 63 - Transfer Learning, Career Cliffs, and Investing for the Future with Bethany Crystal of USV
Today’s interview is with Bethany Crystal at Union Square Ventures. We cover a lot of ground Building Network Effects as a means to Market Power Building Careers, avoiding the career cliff Inspiration from the Idea of Transfer Learning Diversification in investments and in the self Check out Bethany’s blog: I also talk about the launch of the Luminary Podcast Network: Also - get my take on Google’s ill-fated AI Ethics panel.
Apr 23, 2019
Ep. 62 - Capitalism, Competition, and Wealth: A Conversation with Denise Hearn
Today's interview was done at a Tech2025 event where participants were asked to think about wealth and the present state of the US and Global economy. I spoke to Denise Hearn, author of "The Myth of Capitalism" about the trend towards Oligopoly and its causes. Also included are discussions about the definition of capitalism, the definition of wealth, the price of a free good, regulatory capture, and the role of our monetary system in distorting the economy.
Apr 16, 2019
Ep. 61 - Facebook vs Capitalism
Michael Bronspigel runs the Facebook capitalism page and tells the story of how Facebook’s algorithm and policies affected his group. We also talk about - the nature of online properties - the story of how he started the group and turned it into a business - retro internet memes - the push to further crack down on content The group:, Show notes:
Apr 09, 2019
Ep. 60 - Hilary Mason, Machine Learning Research in Action
I caught up with Hilary Mason, GM of Machine Learning at Cloudera and former founder of Fast Forward Labs. We cover how to: - Generate ideas for Machine Learning Research - Hold a good brainstorm - Break into tech as a Data Scientist - Give an engaging and successful tech talk I also asked Hilary about the evolving role of Machine Learning and Data Science, and what she wants to build in the future!
Apr 02, 2019
Ep. 59 - Internet in Cuba, Bitcoin in Venezuela
Today we have a look at how information technology is affecting life in authoritarian socialist regimes such as Cuba and Venezuela. Particularly, we discuss the introduction of 3G cellular service in Cuba, and how it has needed to compromise on allowing more connectivity to its citizens over the last decade.In the case of Venezuela, we look at how cryptocurrency (and Bitcoin in particular) is being used to work around currency controls and hyperinflation. It’s still speculative on how much this is really going on, but we talk more generally about how crypto technology can be used in a social-upheaval type situation in the future.We also check in on Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s recent 3.5 hour long interview on Joe Rogan. The main topic, which we have covered here in the past, is on content moderation and bias at social media companies. We round up the different viewpoints expressed and continue to provide our ongoing analysis.
Mar 26, 2019
Ep. 58 - Using Reflection from Media to Engineering with Mark Weiss
Today's interview is with Mark Weiss, Data Engineer at Beeswax and host of Using Reflection which is a podcast where engineers talk about what they love and what they've learned in their careers. I asked him about what he personally has learned from his interviews and from his own career started in the news media. Then, we turn to the craft of data engineering - on which the viability of all the internet services you love (or hate) hinge upon. There is so much change going on in the data engineering world, and I asked Mark about that change, and where he hopes and thinks it can go in the future.
Mar 19, 2019
Ep. 57 - Data Science Glut, Analogies, and Nearest Neighbors
There's a lot of confusion over what a "data scientist" is these days, and the job titles can mean multiple things to multiple people. It's also getting tougher for new entrants into the job market. Max breaks it down and gives advice for those looking to break in. On the technical side, Max starts with the argument from analogy, a philosophical argument that works alongside Bayes which we use without knowing every single day. Then, a connection to machine learning is made with a description of the Nearest Neighbor (kNN) algorithm, and the specific use case at Foursquare.
Mar 12, 2019
Ep. 56 - True News, Fake Faces, and Adversarial Algorithms
Google's "VP of Trust and Safety" has put out Google's strategy for weeding out fake news. Do they have the right definition? Will it work? What is a VP of Trust and Safety? We'll discuss whether Google is looking out for their users. In that vein, we wanted to discuss new ways fake news might be generated, and found this site created images of people who are not real but look pretty convincing. They use Generative Adversarial Networks. After listened, you'll know how those work to create plausible images.
Mar 05, 2019
Ep. 55 - Bitwise: A Life in Code with author David Auerbach
Author David Auerbach covers Bitwise: A Life in Code. We discuss: - The consequences of data everywhere from the 1980s to today. - Taxonomies and their bias and imperfection. Applications to Mental Illness, personality (meyers-briggs + PI), marketing age buckets - Dealing with Bias in AI and Humans - David's Role in the fight for compatibility between MSN messenger and AIM Get the Book: Show notes page:
Feb 26, 2019
Ep. 54 - 5G and the AI AR VR Connection
We discuss 5G and what that means for mobile tech in the 2020s, as well as augmented reality, virtual reality, mesh networks, gaming, and self driving cars. See the show notes:
Feb 19, 2019
Ep. 53 - Live Behavioral Assessment Results with Swati Doshi
Swati Doshi, Founder and Managing Director of Human Results, has Max and Maryam take time-tested behavioral assessments. We learn about our results live and respond to them on-air. Also covering: - Why these assessments can be useful in forming teams. - Considering team chemistry - Examples from Foursquare Labs Take the assessment Swati gave to Max and Maryam here or write to Show notes:
Feb 12, 2019
Ep. 52 - A Look Back at Foursquare, What's Next, and Superuser Shoutout
Today I look back at my 7 years, 8 months, and 1 day working at Foursquare, including: - How my career splits into 2.5 year increments - The initial data team at Foursquare - More discussion on the Swarm/Foursquare app split - More on Marsbot and Recommender Systems - Superuser voting, and a shoutout to Foursquare Superusers - My new role starting February 6th
Feb 05, 2019
Ep. 51 - Swarm Lifelogging, Microsoft Evolving, and Sports Analyzing with Avneesh Kohli
Foursquare Swarm PM Avneesh Kohli tells us about the lifelogging app and more. We cover: - The controversial Foursquare/Swarm app split of 2014 - The importance of Slack reaction emojis - Editing and Storytelling in consumer apps - Timehop - The evolution and turnaround of Microsoft during Avneesh's time there - The growing role of data analytics in basketball strategy @avneeshk91 @maxsklar
Jan 29, 2019
Ep. 50 - Gatekeepers Bypassed, Anonymous Tips, and Facebook's Familiar Frustrations
Facebook is definitely not going to allow me to advertise this one! - Cryptocurrency/Bitcoin as the alternative to Patreon and the Credit Cards - Anonymous Reddit Users seems to know inside details about the Google Memo Situation - An article comes out about Facebook's internal problems among employees, but how much of this is common? Affiliate Link Trezor Hardware Wallet to hold your cryptocurrency: Show Notes:
Jan 22, 2019
Ep. 49 - Happier Maps, Better Routes, and the Tyranny of Efficiency with Daniele Quercia
Daniele Quercia, Professor of Urban Informatics, talks about his research into what makes a city and a travel route good. Our algorithms aren't measuring things like sights, smells, and ambiance, and these are the things that can affect our mood and overall wellbeing. We discussion: - The change in focus from Efficiency to Exploration - The Political Map (or technically accurate map) versus the phychological mind-map - Making daily habits more inspiring - Ideas for urban planners and for changes to the modern workplace Go to and for more information.
Jan 15, 2019
Ep. 48 - Chasing the Perfect Voting System with Daniel Kronovet
Today's discussion with Daniel Kronovet is about social choice theory and voting systems. The topics include: - The history of the theory versus the practice which is much older (American founder and ancient Greece) - Multi-party voting, ranked voting, and Condorcet - Arrow's Theorem - Relation to Surveys and Foursquare - Blockchain voting and allocating budget. The notes for this show are on
Jan 08, 2019
Ep. 47 - Max on Stage with the Year in Review
Today you'll hear Max's first attempt at newsroom-style standup comedy - taking place at the Foursquare 2018 talent show at Foursquare HQ in Flatiron. Afterwards, a discussion with Aaron about the bit, the previous 2 episodes, and our favorite and memorable episodes throughout the year. Also our hopes for 2019 on the Local Maximum. Have your own hopes for the show in 2019? Email
Jan 01, 2019
Ep. 46 - The Audio Internet with Shani Offen
The web was designed for text and images, and all of the interactive elements we use today, and all of the advertising technology backing it up was developed as such. Spotify Machine Learning Engineer Shani Offen asks how we can apply this to audio content like music, podcasts, and audiobooks. We cover: - The role of advertising in driving innovation. - The difficulties of building audio chatbots. - Brainstorming on interactive sound and voice.
Dec 25, 2018
Ep. 45 - Inside Google, Engineer Maryam Aly with a Comprehensive Account
A riveting long-form interview with former Google engineer Maryam Aly as she gives us a close-up insight into what it's like to work for the tech giant, and the culture and structures inside. We do not shy away from the hot topics which include: - Google’s Interview and Recruitment Process - Approach to security and privacy - Google's product decision-making and roadmaps - Gravity of search results and the potential for Bias or tampering - Atmosphere during and after the circulation of the James Damore Memo. - Google’s specific approach to running a diverse workplace
Dec 18, 2018
Ep. 44 - Ranking Foursquare Tips with Enrique Cruz
If you want to know how machine learning is used to solve real world problems (even first world problems like helping you out at restaurants) - then this episode is for you. Max and Enrique Cruz talk about how Foursquare ranks its tips, how we used machine learning in the process, and our takeaways from how content is ranked online generally.
Dec 11, 2018
Ep. 43 - Self Driving Cars and the Cycle of Adoption
Self Driving Cars are often in the news, and this month the chatter has picked up! Waymo wants to launch in Phoenix, and GM is investing heavily in it's self driving division. But what does this mean? Will we see true autonomous taxis soon, or will there be a transition period - and what will it look like? We cut through news articles that try to paint a positive or negative story based on the same facts. Aaron joins me today to discuss these issues. Also - Google Hangout's demise alongside Google Plus!
Dec 04, 2018
Ep. 42 - Untouched Civilizations, Media Evolution, and GPlus Collections
We discuss the story of an American missionary killed on North Sentinel Island - a forbidden Island off the coast of India which has been isolated for tens of thousands of years. Also: - Complaints about the trains in the northeast US - Some updates on my sabbatical projects - Followup on my discussion with David Pietrusza: Teddy Roosevelt, and the society at the turn-of-the-20th-century. - Answer a listeners question about Google Plus's strategy
Nov 27, 2018
Ep. 41 - The Presidents and Communication Technology with David Pietrusza
Discussion with political historian David Pietrusza about the Presidents and the changing political landscape. We cover how our political system was affected by the rise of radio, television, film, and connecting it to today's technological trends. - Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, Pre-1920 use of Phonographs. - the Rise of Radio in the 1920s, FDR's fireside chats - Television, late night, JFK, Nixon, and Reagan - Reality TV, Social Media, and targetted advertising in the age of Obama and Trump.
Nov 20, 2018
Ep. 40 - Charlie Oliver on Tech 2025, Open and Thought Provoking Conversations about our Near Future
Tech 2025's Charlie Oliver stops by the Foursquare office to discuss her approach to engaging and energizing the public with topics on emerging technology. We discuss: - The evolving attitudes of some of the industry leaders and technical experts, and the disconnect between themselves and the people affects by their creations. - How to engage the public on topics like Machine Learning, AI, and Blockchain without going the route of the "technical boring lecture" - How passions and emotions can be stirred up by product creation; and can take the creators completely by surprise. This is a packed episode. Check out, and enjoy!
Nov 13, 2018
Ep. 39 - Paradox
I explore logical paradoxes, especially those ultimately caused by circular logic, or circular definitions. Also includes the Twitter fight about the 2018 midterm elections between Nate Silver, Dinesh D'Souza, and Nassim Taleb. Paradoxes include: - Liar's Paradox - Russell's Paradox - Curry's Paradox - Berry's Paradox
Nov 06, 2018
Ep. 38 - Predictions Panel on Virtual Services, Rise of the Outer Suburbs, and Zombie Coins
During the Fall 2018 Local Maximum Tech Retreat, we did a panel on the predictions that we make about the future of technology, consumer applications, and society. Topics and analysis include virtual fitness training, online doctors visits, social media moderation, self driving cars, education, complex voice assistants, and more. Including panelists Aaron and Crystal Astrachan (Amazon).
Oct 30, 2018
Ep. 37 - Naomi Brockwell on Blockchain Tech and Producing for YouTube and TV
I talk to Naomi Brockwell about Bitcoin and Blockchain - the technology of freedom! In addition to her work in popularizing this emerging technology, and some of it's implications on human liberty and global human development, we also talk about her media career, moderating debates, interest in video, popularizing this emerging technology, and her work with John Stossel and on the Hard Fork TV series. Includes a promo for Swarm 6.0 and clips of Naomi's YouTube videos!
Oct 23, 2018
Ep. 36 - The Google Graveyard
With Google's announcement of the impending demise of Google Plus, we discuss various Google products that have succeeded and failed over the years, and what we can learn from it. Also: the security breaches from Facebook and Google Plus, Amazon's AI hiring program and the bias it sustains, and Tim Berners Lee's dream of a decentralized web.
Oct 16, 2018
Ep. 35 - Camille Fournier and the Manager's Path
Camille Fournier joins the Local Maximum today to discuss her book on engineering management, Rent the Runway, company culture, engineering ladders, and more! Plus, learn about Foursquare for Good and Max responds to listener messages about ads and censorship.
Oct 09, 2018
Ep. 34 - Data Engineering with Joe Crobak, Foundations of Smart Software
Now with extra mappers and reducers! I talk to Joe Crobak of the Data Engineering Weekly newsletter about data engineering, and it's importance in modern software projects. We cover: - The definition of data engineering - Hadoop, MapReduce, and Spark - How data engineering has evolved over the last decade. - Joe's experiences working in government vs. startups. The US Digital service, and the paperwork reduction act. Remember to check out the new website at, and Joe's site at
Oct 02, 2018
Ep. 33 - Ads, Bias, Censorship, Democracy
The Social Media giants can't handle the fact that they can't control the system they've created. Another "smart" podcaster backs us up on the futility of fixing internet moderation through Machine Learning alone. Also - how are our elections affected by new communications technology? It's possible that our current situation has been repeated many times in history - but it's also possible that the pendulum is swinging more wildly. And Facebook's ridiculous ads system finally hits me personally, where they'll block ads for asinine reasons, and push through bad ones.
Sep 25, 2018
Ep. 32 - Woohoo no work! Cross examining my sabbatical plans
Aaron interviews me about what I plan to work on while I take 6 weeks off from Foursquare. We'll talk about the future of this podcast, several prototype ideas that I want to build, and my reading list. Can I get all this done? Probably not ALL of it - but I hope a good chunk of it!
Sep 18, 2018
Ep. 31 - The Problem of Causality with Shirin Mojarad
We do things every in the hope that it will cause something good to happen as a result. And we're also bombarded with information trying to convince us on what to buy, who to vote for, and how to live. But most of the time, it's very difficult to tell whether A causes B, or if they are merely correlated. I talk to subject matter expert Shirin Mojarad of McGraw-Hill to break down how scientists can detect causality and what to look for in a causality study.
Sep 11, 2018
Ep. 30 - Entropy is a Decision Tree: Game of Thrones Predictions
Some data scientists are attempting to use data and machine learning to predict the outcome of the next season of game of thrones. In this solo show I discuss the merits of this approach, give an overview of decision trees, adversarial problems, and the role of information theory.
Sep 04, 2018
Ep. 29 - Bitcoin, Blockchain, and Decentralization with @clydevanel of the New York State Assembly
Assembly Member Clyde Vanel and I talk about new technology that affect the State of New York and the world! - The rise of Bitcoin and Cryptocurrencies - The possibility of blockchain technology being used to maintain state government records like birth, death, and voting registration. - Automation and Jobs - Entrepreneurship; the opportunities in the new economy - 3d printing and the Rubik's Cube
Aug 28, 2018
Ep. 28 - Alex Jones, Jack Dorsey, and the Censorious Social Media Reporters
Twitter's Jack Dorsey is being pressured by a bunch of social media reporters from CNN to silence voices like Alex Jones; and all of the big socials are caving in fast. It's time to unmask the seemingly reasonable justifications for these bans for what they are - censorship. I add to the voices calling for a freer flow of information, and I call for entrepreneurs, engineers, and product designers to come up with a new generation of platforms that will be better than the old. We also talk about millennial and their avocado toast, rip on Long Island, explain the difference between New York City and Long Island, talking about organizational bias as a way of dealing with it, and my answers on a public interview keeping me up at night. This is sure to be the most controversial Local Maximum to date. Check it out!
Aug 21, 2018
Ep. 27 - Big Algo, Fat Tails, and Converging Priors
Today we dive into the current Bayesian flame wars on Twitter. Do Bayesian priors converge? As Nassim Taleb (@nntaleb) points out, not necessarily until a fat tail or power law distribution. We'll talk about what that means, and the wonders worked by Bayes rule even under some seemingly preposterous priors. Also - the military wants to do machine learning with less data. Is the era of big data over and giving way to the era of the big algorithm? The results of the Twitter Shadow Ban poll, QA bias, the Streisand effect and the Alex Jones banning
Aug 14, 2018
Ep. 26 - Chris Messina on Conversational Commerce, Relationship Design, and the Future of Brands
Chris Messina and I go over a recent article of his on the evolution of conversational commerce and bots, and how to steer the industry towards better products. Relationship Design, Augmented Reality, and Natural Language.
Aug 07, 2018
Ep. 25 - The Great Twitter Purge of 2018
I may be on vacaction, but I still snuck in some time to put together a show! Decided to go solo this week and focus on Twitter's purging of bots and trolls. There is wide agreement that they need to do something to fix their platform, but there is not wide agreement on what exactly the problem is and what should be fixed. Can they focus on the experience and wellbeing of their enduser, or will they fall victim promoting fashionable political trends and end up with censorship?
Jul 31, 2018
Ep. 24 - Enjoying the A.I. Summer with Christian Hubbs
Artificially Intelligent Host Christian Hubbs talks to Max about what he's learning in the field of AI through his work. Industries and use cases for AI. When are self driving cars coming? And - what's the end game for humans and machines. We also talk about Christian's interest in reinforcement learning, and how that's being used to have computers play games like go.
Jul 24, 2018
Ep. 23 - NLP in the Lands of Foursquare with Kris Concepcion
Kris Conception talks about Natural Language Processing, Natural Language Understanding, and machine translation. We then go into how we build the taste ontology at Foursquare to supercharge the best city guide in the world, and how it connects concepts through languages and cultures.
Jul 17, 2018
Ep. 22 - Bayes Rulez, Death to P-Hacking!
So the overall theme of the show today is applying what we learned last time. Bayesian Probability is good. P-Value hacking - is where we get into trouble. Death to P-hacking! We start by following up on my monologue from last week about Beliefs and Probability. This leads us into an article about the Reverend Thomas Bayes himself, and how his ideas transformed our thinking on probability and belief. And finally, are most of the scientific studies that you hear about wrong? Worry about p-hacking, and think like a Bayesian, and maybe we won't be misled as often; let’s begin to attempt to figure out how to make sense of it all.
Jul 10, 2018
Ep. 21 - Probability, Belief, and The Truth
I explore the nature of probability, and my approach to thinking about facts and belief. I talk about problem solving a lot; here I go into the fundamentals and work to justify how I think about it. What problem does probability solve? Should we always think in terms of probability? What's the difference between an artificial language (code, math) and natural language? How many water molecules are in the Atlantic Ocean? Sometimes we have vague questions and make vague statements - should that be ok? This episode is a little different, but I hope this is the beginning of a back-and-forth conversation with the Local Maximum listenership to try to get to the bottom of these deep issues.
Jul 03, 2018
Ep. 20 - Imperfect Bots, Marketplaces, and the AI Economy
Aaron and Max have a stream-of-consciousness discussion where we look at some recent discussions on the tech web: Fred Ehrsam on Blockchain AI Marketplaces, and Chris Messina on the effect of AI agents on the economy.
Jun 26, 2018
Ep. 19 - Information Theory with Daniel Kronovet, Horse Racing, and Fractional Bits
Daniel Kronovet and Max discuss the world of information theory. We go into how it was invented by Claude Shannon at Bell Labs, the meaning of information and entropy, and the difference between measurement and processing. Catch references to a Jim Carrey movie and the Belmont stakes!
Jun 19, 2018
Ep 18 - AI Gone Psychopathic, Embellishment vs Fact
An article about MIT research claims that they've built a psychopathic AI. We think the article is a little off base, and try to determine what's actually going on. We cover related examples, of Microsofts Twitter Bot learning from the worst people, and a cool Google Image Program that sees animals everywhere. I also check in with Christian Hubbs, host of Artifically Intelligent, about his podcast. I was interviewed for todays episode, so check that out! I also define a Convolutional Neural Net, but only on the highest of high level! More on that could come in future episodes.
Jun 12, 2018
Ep. 17 - Comedy and Big Data Mixed Up with @robbiethefire
Run Your Mouth Podcaster and Stand-Up Comic Rob Bernstein joins me on the Local Maximum to talk about Comedy, Podcasting, Facebook, AI, Big Data, and of course MS Paint.
Jun 05, 2018
Ep. 16 - Overfitting Toddlers and Underfitting Curmudgeons
Today's concept is underfitting vs. overfitting. Someone who underfits doesn't adapt quickly enough to new data. But if you think that's bad, an overfitter will read TOO MUCH into new data and come up with wild ideas. How do you balance between them and what are some examples? We also talk about Warren Buffet's Recent statements on Bitcoin as Rat Poison Squared, and the response from Union Square Venure's Fred Wilson. How does Bitcoin get it's value? We look at underfitters and overfitters in the crypto space. Finally, the value of the Turing Test. When General AI comes, will it be the fabled machine that can pass as human, or will that idea be sidelined as more profitable uses taken precedent. Also, we learn what an Ornithopter is, and get an update on Yanny-Laurel.
May 29, 2018
Ep. 15 - Poke, Chipotle, Green Needle: Data to Headline with Sarah Spagnolo
Sarah Spagnolo tells us how we turn data insights into news stories. Does marijuana legalization affect bar-going? What's it like to go on TV? I also have to weight in on #teamyanny and #teamlaurel. Plus an update on the news stories we're tracking on Google and Facebook. How far along is Google's conversational AI demo?
May 22, 2018
Ep. 14 - Robot Communism Sucks, and AI on line one
A Washington Post OpEd believes that advances in AI will lead to a new centrally-planned economy. Google's Bots call unsuspecting businesses to save you time - but what are the implications? Bill Gates and Warren Buffet go sour on Bitcoin.
May 15, 2018
Ep 13 - Applied Artificial Intelligence with Mariya Yao
I talk to Mariya Yao about AI and Machine Learning as applied to a variety of business problems and across industries. We cover: - What are some of the misconceptions around AI? - If I have an AI product, how can I talk about it to business leaders? How do I sell it externally? How does it become a business? - Where are various industries on this? - And what are some of the pre-requisites for AI; I’m talking about data collection, and organizational issues.
May 08, 2018
Ep. 12 - Virtual Friends & Enemies, Building Products that look out for us with Marissa Chacko
Aren’t you getting tired of using an internet that’s built to waste YOUR time - I know I am! Product Manager Marissa Chacko and I discuss the promise and perils of these bots and push notifications. We worked on Foursquare's bot Marsbot together, and produced it to help the user first. What are some ways we can focus on building apps that help users, and what are some of the bad habits that have gotten us apps which aren't looking out for our interests?
May 01, 2018
Ep. 11 - Max speaks to CS Undergrads @ The Yale Computer Society
Engineer and Podcaster Max Sklar shares his story about building software from his time at Yale to the Foursquare Innovation Lab. He’ll cover: What he has learned about working on vast location databases, building large-scale machine learning algorithms, and designing chatbots and apps that people actually want to use. Different ways to approach career and on working in teams His thoughts about where the tech/software industry is going in the next decade and encourage Yalies to follow up on their ideas.
Apr 24, 2018
Ep. 10 - Zuckerberg Testifies, The Great Moderation War Continues
Aaron comes back on the program to discuss the Mark Zuckerberg testimony before congress, particularly the part pertaining to moderation and censorship. In the last episode, I described the current approach that companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Google have towards this problem and why it might be flawed. Today, we see this theory play out in the Facebook CEO's answers. We discuss the case of Diamond and Silk, which I mentioned last week but had no idea would appear in the hearings. Also, Facebook's approach of ensuring that it's tools are used for good, and what this directive means for Facebook's future and how the internet will look in a decade. Also, I finished the 10 episode challenge! This podcast is all grown up now.
Apr 17, 2018
Ep. 9 - Fixing Facebook and Lindy's Law
Today I answer the question of how I would handle moderation for Facebook and Twitter - and I break down the problems that they're facing and why. Don't hold your breath expecting them to try out my proposal! I also discuss Lindy's Law, which is a helpful rule of thumb in technological and social forecasting. As popularized by @nntaleb, it's another tool in your toolkit for understanding the world.
Apr 10, 2018
Ep. 8 - Bad Ideas, the Power of Suggestion, and Marsbot
Today I post-game my discussion with Dennis Crowley. I share his goal of wanting people to execute on their ideas, but what are the common blockers? I talk to Aaron about how it broke his code, and the AI couldn't do it on it's own but only with my help - all because my brain was influenced by the power of suggestion. Plus - answer to a listener question about Marsbot!
Apr 03, 2018
Ep. 7 - Dennis Crowley on Inspiration, Innovation, and Future Tech
Today I talk to famed Foursquare Founder Dennis Crowley. His approach to being a tech entrepreneur has inspired us all! Just listen. We talk about his approach to trying out new ideas, and also the current landscape for consumer technology and where we may be headed. Finally, we talk about Foursquare's recent foray into bots and beyond.
Mar 27, 2018
Ep. 6 - Facebook Data and the Election, Decentralization to the Rescue
The big news right now is around an analytics company that used a dataset from Facebook - gotten by the company under false pretenses - to help the Trump campaign in 2016. Everyone is SHOCKED - but this kind of data mining was glorified and extolled as a social good when it was used for Obama in 2012. The comparison of the coverage is stark. How are we going to get out of this? What exactly is the problem? I think that the vast centralization of data services has led to all sorts of problems, and the answer is well articulated in VC Chris Dixon's article from last month about the coming decentralized services. I summarize his article which adds to my optimism about the future.
Mar 20, 2018
Ep. 5 - Bitcoin, Ethereum, and What's a Smart Contract Anyway?
It seems like yesterday when we had to get used to Bitcoin, and now new currencies are cropping up all the time - including the crypto-juggernaut Ethereum. To help us keep up and understand what's going on, I have Ethereum developer Christian Lundkvist from ConsenSys on the show. We talk about why Ethereum is separate from Bitcoin, and what the world-changing applications of these cryptocurrencies might be in the next few years.
Mar 13, 2018
Ep. 4 - Codebreaking, Bizarro Harry Potter, and the Proper way to Gerrymander
Mar 06, 2018
Ep. 3 - The Perfect 10, Foursquare's rating system
I have a discussion with Stephanie Yang about how we used machine learning and sentiment analysis to build Foursquare's critically acclaimed venue rating system. Some anecdotes and what we learn along the way.
Feb 27, 2018
Ep. 2 - Maryam Aly on Building a Global User Base: Translation, Localization, and I18n
In my first interview, I speak to Google engineer Maryam Aly who worked on Foursquare's Internationalization Stack for several years. This includes making sure that the foursquare city guide and swarm apps work all around the world. Sometimes, a simple translation isn't enough - we had to deal with the quirks of each language, and puns and cultural references that don't carry through.
Feb 19, 2018
Ep. 1 - Bayesian Inference Applied to the Hawaii ICBM Scare
In the rest of my discussion with Aaron, we discuss the how Bayes rule can apply to news items like the Hawaii ICBM Scare, the murder of DNC Staffer Seth Rich, Medical Diagnosis, Conspiracy Theories, theology, and politics.
Feb 13, 2018
Ep. 0 - The great beginning, and how to Update Your Beliefs
Max Sklar starts off the Local Maximum podcast. He goes over the purpose of the podcast, and the push for 10 episodes. Aaron Bell interviews Max on Bayesian vs Frequentist Statistics. Mathematical reverends, German Enigma's, and Tampered Dice.
Feb 03, 2018