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Razib Khan's Unsupervised Learning

Jun 4, 2023

On this week’s Unsupervised Learning Razib welcomes back a favorite repeat guest, Samo Burja, to discuss matters future, present and past. Burja founded the consulting firm Bismarck Analysis and developed the “great founder theory.” He contributes to Palladium MagazineAsia TimesCity Journal, and The National Interest. Burja’s first appearance on the podcast, recorded in the fall of 2020, spiraled into a long discussion on the Chinese past and future, and Razib follows up to find out where he thinks the Peoples’ Republic is in 2023 and where it will go in the near future. Though Burja acknowledges that bullishness on Chinese power has abated, and Xi’s leadership has left much to be desired in its outcomes during the tail end of the COVID-19 pandemic, he asserts that China’s capacity as a manufacturing power cannot be underestimated. Even if the vision of a Chinese hyperpower that prevailed at the end of the 2010’s has receded, Bujra foresees a multipolar world. Jumping to the present, Razib also revisits the Russia-Ukraine war, a topic they discussed in a subsequent podcast last year. Burja notes that the rise of Ukrainian nationalism over the last few years is a somewhat unexpected and novel development, and Putin clearly made a misstep. That being said, Razib and Burja agree that the war seems likely to drag on indefinitely as neither participant has a plausible clean exit strategy.

Finally, the second half of the conversation jumps back to the past, as they discuss a piece Burja co-authored for Palladium two years ago, Why Civilization Is Older Than We Thought. Here Burja believes he is now on firmer ground than in 2021, as new findings even more ancient than Göbekli Tepe have since been uncovered. Razib and Burja discuss the difficulty of navigating between the excessive conservatism of archaeological science and the flights of fantasy that some popularizers like Graham Hancock indulge in when it comes to the idea of “Ice Age civilizations.” All that being said, Burja believes it is not outside of the realm of possibility that a civilization as complex as ancient Egypt may have existed during the Ice Age.