10 Totally Random Questions for… Tim Kokotajlo



Mariah Davis


1. Where would your dream vacation take place and what would it entail?

Preferably to space. Anything not Earth gets first choice. A bit more realistically though, I do like Iceland. Volcanos, cool rock formations, geysers, awesome names like Reykjanesbaer and Hafnarfjordur and even possibly trolls. A vacation there would mean 24-hour daylight (or darkness) which, as a nocturnal creature, I think is awesome.  

2. Speaking of dreams, what is one of the most random, nonsensical dreams that you’ve ever had?

Well, I always used to want to be a video game tester. My farthest reaching dream at the age of around 10 was to be a video game tester, who had a part time job testing ice cream flavors. Interestingly enough, now that I have become educated I know how much I would hate both those jobs. Video game testing is actually one of the worst jobs out there, and ice cream flavors only taste good after they pass the testers. 

3. What would be your ideal breakfast?

I have eaten beef jerky and root beer at 4 in the morning before. I would not recommend it. I think the type of food matters less than how it is consumed. For the ideal breakfast I would like to have it served to me in bed by someone while they tell me that all final projects are canceled due to snow. 

4. Who is your hero and why?

Perhaps I am too cynical, but there is no one person who I really look up to. There are elements of a lot of people that I perhaps can condense into a super-version of myself. So Me, with the work ethic of my brother idealized, the rationality of Eliezer Yudkowsky at his best, the raw brain power of Tesla (but not his insanity), and the fortitude of some of the soldiers I have met. 

5. What is your opinion on the afterlife?

Long and theologically iffy. Basically I have a hard time seeing how a loving God can create a hell of suffering, for eternity, with no option to leave. The way I see it, the description of hell as physical suffering was a metaphor to make people understand just how bad separation from God is. In reality, hell must be like the atheist’s version of death: if you do not choose/be allowed to eternally be in God’s presence, you are deleted—cease to exist. That would be incredibly bad, but not in a tangible way, but also fulfil the requirements of being permanent and a complete separation from God. 

6. What is the most creative thing you’ve done to have fun on a day off?

So, for about $15 at Home Depot you can buy pieces of foam pipe insulation and PVC pipes. Grab those and some duct tape, and you can easily put together some foam swords/axes/flails/spears. Use the PVC pipe as a base, then cover any part that is used to smack someone with large quantities of the foam insulation. Duct tape the whole thing up and voila! (I do not recommend doing this for anyone who is over the age of 15, because it then starts to hurt, no matter the amount of foam).

7. What is one experiment you’ve always wanted to conduct but didn’t have the money/resources required?

I’m going to add to the question, and make it “money/resources/lack of morals.” The nature/nurture argument has been around for a long time, and really has no clear end in sight. To resolve this, we would have to set aside morals and perform some sort of test like this: clone someone, make many many baby clones with the same DNA, and send them out for adoption. Monitor them, see how each of them differs. In addition, also make clones of a separate source and have them occasionally be presented as the twin of the first. That way we see same nature/different nurture, and same nurture/different nature. And of course for validity we would have to repeat this over and over again. 

8. From where does your motivation stem?

These truly are random questions. Well, probably from either long term or short term goals. Short term usually is just to have fun: I do something because it looks like fun, or I don’t do something because it looks like no fun. Long term motivation is usually more calculated. It’s why I’m in school, to eventually get a job, a career, do some good in the world. 

9. If you had to write an essay on a Disney movie, which would you pick and what would be your thesis statement?

“Frozen:” I liked that movie, but for none of the reasons other people do. “Entertaining the masses: why luck and poor decision making are crucial elements in popular storylines.”

10. If the title was all you knew of “The Grapes of Wrath,” but you had to guess the plot, what would be your first guess?

Well, I don’t know, sounds kinda piratey to me. Maybe a story about a pirate crew with a sarcastic streak? Named their ship Grapes of Wrath…