“I’ve always identified with the ‘Other'” – Adrian Tchaikovsky – Sci-Fi/Fantasy Author – Sentientism Episode 126

Find his Sentientist Conversation with me here on the Sentientism YouTube and here on the Sentientism Podcast.

Adrian is a multi-award winning fantasy and science fiction author. He is known best for his series Shadows of the Apt and for his novel Children of Time. Children of Time was awarded the 30th Arthur C. Clarke Award in 2016.

In Sentientist Conversations we talk about the two most important questions: “what’s real?” & “what matters?”

Sentientism is “evidence, reason & compassion for all sentient beings.” The audio is also on our Podcast here on Apple & here everywhere else.

We discuss:
00:00 Preview!
00:55 Welcome
02:15 Adrian’s Intro

  • “I write books about giant spiders from outer space”

03:45 What’s Real?

  • “I’m very much on the science end”
  • “We weren’t a religious household”
  • US/UK religiosity
  • “A fascination with the natural world”
  • Dabbling w/#spirituality “It’s amazing how many people have been King Arthur”
  • “I believed in every damn thing… desperate to find the ‘other'”
  • “The people who want to believe don’t examine it”
  • “Still… looking for that strange but within a scientific boundary”
  • #aliens
  • #evolution
  • “I am pretty much entirely naturalistic”
  • #briancox
  • #homeopathy & “special cases”
  • #scientificmethod
  • Tech & magic. Apt & Inapt
  • #telepathy , #psychics, #ghosts “people are out there trying to fake it is… tangential evidence that it is not real”
  • “I’m not saying ‘this cannot be’ but I am saying ‘show it to me'”
  • “There is no supernatural”
  • Do extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence?
  • #cryptids
  • “I don’t want to be fooled by some… snake-oil salesman”
  • “There’s a weird sort of science cosplay going on”
  • Folklore, fiction, speculation, narrative “this is a long way from saying ‘this is the case’

29:15 What Matters?

  • “Try to do no harm & don’t be a dick”
  • The Golden Rule & improvements
  • Autism, pronouns… considering others
  • Freedom & constraints on freedom
  • “Being considerate & egalitarian… if you have the luck & the resources to be able to”
  • “I get my morality from other people”
  • “I could so easily have fallen in with a very different group of people”
  • Divine command theory, relativism, nihilism, egoism
  • “Science can be mis-used… race theory for example”
  • “Religion defaults to a faith-based argument that effectively is not an argument”
  • “I accept the theory of relativity but I don’t understand it”
  • Studying animal behaviour: Skinnerian behaviourism: “Animals… can’t really feel pain”
  • Animal intelligence. Spiders dreaming
  • Phil of mind: #Illusionism, eliminativism, #panpsychism
  • Origins of sentience “those are the things that make life do what it does”
  • AI sentience (lacking bio evo drives)?
  • A #UniversalDeclarationofSentientRights ?
  • “Freedom to & freedom from”

51:14 Who Matters?

  • Does “do no harm” extend to non-humans?
  • Hypocrisy
  • Vegetarianism, eggs, dairy and veganism
  • “But I am very fond of a bacon sandwich in the morning… a philosophically untenable position”
  • Saving trapped insects from the conservatory “with as much care as possible… seems the right thing to do… the idea of them getting stuck & dying upsets me”
  • “I can construct an insect in my head – that I know what it feels like… I have an empathy there”
  • “I feel considerably more for insects… than most people ever will”
  • Sci-fi/fantasy & non-human sentience: “It’s a very good genre to explore these things in”
  • #starshiptroopers film & Adrian’s SpiderLight book. Dehumanisation. “The creeping realisation that we are the bad guys.”
  • #fascism , #colonialism , #anthropocentrism
  • “I’ve always had a brief for the other”
  • Battle Beyond the Stars film & a heroic alien lizard “You have the permission to make anything you want into a hero – it doesn’t have to be the guy from the Waltons”
  • What would aliens thing of animal farming? Who are the monsters?

57:50 A Better Future?

  • Utopias & distopias
  • Sci-fi / fantasy “They can be good fun, they can be very very serious philosophical tools”
  • #thehandmaidstale
  • “Getting people to think about an idea without immediately triggering all of their defenses”
  • Polarised culture & politics
  • “Make my own point of view the villain…”
  • Iain M. Banks’ #Culture series
  • “The domination of selfishness & greed” via dogma & hierarchy
  • Win-wins
  • “I’m a natural pessimist but there are limits… surely… the dam breaks”
  • “We have the resources & technology to turn things around”
  • Re-distribution & equality
  • Slavery, democracy, war, disease… “Things have actually got better”

Sentientism is “Evidence, reason & compassion for all sentient beings.” More at

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Thanks Graham for the post-production.

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