Show Notes for Ep. 39 "Ted Chiang and the Metrics of Personhood"

Surprise! It’s a bonus season 1 episode we’ve been keeping on the back burner! Ted Chiang comes onto the show to have a discussion with Ben about what it means to be a person, whether Alan Turing’s test for artificial intelligence still holds up, and the persistent themes of parenting and religion in Chiang’s work.

Link to upcoming Ben and Ted virtual event for Skylight Books:

Content warning for a potentially ableist use of a congenital disease as an example of the theological problem of innocent suffering.

Recorded February 20, 2021 / Published July 22, 2022


  • 0:00:00: Start of episode and how Ben and Ted met
  •  0:06:16: On the introverted nature of writing
  • 0:08:37: On Ben and Ted’s conversational style
  •  0:16:40: On the themes Ben and Ted find themselves writing about
  •  0:31:18: On personhood, computerhood, and nanotechnology in sci fi
  •  0:46:49: On the Alan Turing test
  • 1:29:19: Intermission, followed by discussion on corporations as intelligent beings
  • 1:34:15: Rapid fire questions begin, starting with why The Lifecycle of Software Objects is written in the present tense
  •  1:43:50: On the real world postulation within Ted’s fictional worlds
  •  1:49:49: On the theme of religion in Ted’s work
  •  2:12:15: On Jonah and Job
  • 2:20:01: Last question on Ted’s Omphalos and conclusion

Notes and Links