Episode #14: Kyle Olson


This week on the podcast, I’m talking with Kyle Olson, a research policy analyst at Illinois State University. He just recently finished his graduate degree in cognitive psychology and got his job through the back door of data analytics for his graduate research. Today, he’s here as a friend to talk about spirituality and life. 

Kyle and I have been friends for a long while now. We get together from time to time and talk philosophy. I wanted to bring something like that to the podcast as well, something that’s maybe a little less tech-focused and a little more like two friends sitting around having coffee and discussing the inevitability of our Robot Overlords.

A lot of discussions about spirituality take a long time to get to one of the meatiest bits of our experiences with emotions – love. Not so, with Kyle and I today. We broached that subject early on, and I asked Kyle what he thought about the way love relates to or is part of, his spirituality.

“Anecdotally, based on my own experiences, love and spirituality are connected. I think spirituality is a powerful gift – there are things in life you cannot measure, and those don’t lend themselves to science or rationality. Just because you can’t measure it doesn’t mean it’s not relevant, important, or real.”

As we talked about our own meditative practices, I mentioned what it feels like when I ‘flow’, and Kyle had a good callback to what ‘flow’ means to him. We might have had slightly different definitions, but I thought his definition was one that merited some extra work.

“I’m familiar with ‘flow’ as a psychology term, and it’s talked about a state when abilities meet level of challenge. It’s whenever there’s a good match between what’s being asked of you, and what you’re capable of doing. Flow is one of the greatest feelings in the world. It’s when you’re being adequately challenged and you’re getting into it because you’re more focused."

As any conversation on spirituality will do, we did eventually hit on the topic of atheism and what it means, and Kyle had a question he wanted to pose to atheists – so if any of you out there would like to take a stab at answering him, feel free to do so in the comments below.

“I have a question to atheists – has life gotten any less complicated? Do we really need less spirituality now?”

Later, Kyle had a really good point to make about organized faiths as compared to individual spirituality, and why he thinks that though there is an overall downward trend for church attendance and people willing to state that they believe the specifics of the dogmas of their faiths, there are just as many self-described spiritual people in the world:

“People recognize the institution itself is not the critical factor, and can be getting in the way of a connection to the deity [generic] ‘God’. And the reason that that doesn’t always make sense to us is because we’re objectifying him, or her, or whoever. We’re turning them into an object. It doesn’t relate back to science or religion in any way shape or form. The more we try and objectify this God the way organized religion does the further away from them we feel. Personal relationships with a God or spirituality brings god down into a way that we can comprehend it.”

And because robots will eventually, one day, rule us all, I asked Kyle how he felt about robot eventually taking over his job as a scientist and analyst in the future:

“I don’t think an AI would be a good scientist. Computers cannot do it better than humans. Any coding language is more efficient but is essentially sped-up human cognition.  It will follow the same logical train of thought as human cognition, with more repetition, and faster, without fatigue or needing motivation. But with science, there’s judgment calls involved. Computers, as we conventionally know them, are not good at judgment calls.”

Show Notes