New travel/podcast/speaking policy

I’ve been drowning in both quantum-computing-related and AI-related talks, interviews, podcasts, panels, and so on. These activities have all but taken over my days, leaving virtually no time for the actual research (especially once one factors in time for family, and time for getting depressed on social media). I’ve let things reach this point partly because I really do love talking about things that interest me, but partly also because I never learned how to say no. I have no choice but to cut back.

So, the purpose of this post is for me to link people to it whenever I get a new request. From now on, I agree only under the following conditions:

  1. For travel: you reimburse all travel costs. I don’t have to go through a lengthy process for reimbursements, but just forward you my receipts. There’s not a time limit on doing so.
  2. You don’t require me to upload my slides in advance, or provide readings or other “extra” materials. (Title and abstract a week or two before the talk are reasonable.)
  3. You don’t require me to schedule a “practice session” or “orientation session” before the main event.
  4. For podcasts and virtual talks: you don’t require me to set up any special equipment (including headphones or special cameras), or install any special software.
  5. If you’re a for-profit company: you compensate me for the time.
  6. For podcasts and virtual talks: unless specified otherwise, I am in Austin, TX, in US Central time zone. You email me a reminder the day before with the time in US Central, and the link. Otherwise I won’t be held responsible in the likely event that we get it wrong.

33 Responses to “New travel/podcast/speaking policy”

  1. Boaz Barak Says:

    You forgot the most important part: a calendar invite with the zoom link or location.

  2. William Gasarch Says:

    (This might appear twice- I had some problems getting it approved that were my fault.)
    (Wow- I get to be the first person to leave a comment. Usually I’m around the 100th.)
    The reason why you get so many requests is interesting.

    You are considered an authority on both Quantum Computing and (perhaps just recently) in AI.
    What do these have in common? They are both thought to be revolutionary and the general public thinks they are revolutionary (the question of if they really are is irrevalent).

    Say you were the worlds leading authority on algebraic topology and topological algebra. You would not be getting such requests.

    So the number of requests one gets is not just that they are an authority, perhaps the worlds learing authority, on some topic. It has to be a topic that people think is really important. There is some tradeoff- Terry Tao’s fields are not sexy, but he is the absolute authority on them so he gets some requests (I assume).

    I could be considered an authority on both Recursion Theory and Ramsey Theory. It gets me invited to RATLOCC (Ramsey Theory in Logic, Combinatorics, and Complexity theory) every few years (its only held ever few years) and I have to pay my own way.

    So Scott – do you ever wish you were in a field which was of less interest to the public?

  3. Raoul Ohio Says:

    Totally reasonable.

  4. Brett McInnes Says:

    Sort of relevant:

    I hope you will find time to respond to (the relevant part of) this, even though he is a bit rude to you. I say this because many of the *other* points he makes are excellent and exactly on target and get said far, far too infrequently. (I mean in particular his comments about the way particle theorists do GR.) In short, he is that rara avis, the worthy opponent. It’s quasi-relevant to the current post in the sense that he evidently views you as the public face of “complexity in physics”, whether you accept that description or not 🙂

  5. RD Says:

    Please don’t let social media waste your time.

  6. AG Says:

    Scott: Please accept my sincere apologies for my “over the top/unhinged” comments towards the closing of your previous post. I am as discombobulated as you seem to be by the Black Shabbat Massacre, and by 48% of my youthful compatriots apparently sympathizing with its goals. My attempt to make sense of 48% happened to fall in resonance with reading Lewis’s brilliant book (prompted by your post) resulting in an overreaction, not altogether thought through to the end at the moment of commenting.

  7. Interested in AI Says:

    I’d add a point 7:

    7. Don’t be offended if I say no to your request even if you agree to points 1-6 above. My time is precious to me and I need consider what requests I say yes to, so that I can make the most impact for the intended audience.

  8. Sabine Says:

    7. If I agree on a 1 hour lecture or discussion I do not also agree on being booked for other meetings, dinners, lunches, visits, or various other commitments the entire day and/or the day before or afterwards.

  9. M Says:

    These are fantastic rules! You might run into trouble with the “no time limit for reimbursement” rule, though. I believe there are IRS requirements that impose a deadline for reimbursements, lest the reimbursement counts as taxable income. You wouldn’t want that!

  10. OhMyGoodness Says:

    Do you charge by hour for hypersleep time for off planet presentations?

  11. fikisipi Says:

    William Gasarch #2: i think conference/podcast/talk popularity is at least partially related to marketing and the “what’s in it for me” self-interest of attendees and organizers, and that affects the speaker’s need for setting boundaries, negotiating and their leverage over the conference organizers.

    For the layman, progress in quantum information has implications in national security (i.e breaking RSA), as well as economic ones due to faster quantum system simulation (medication development, etc). Progress in AI… you already know the deal.

    Whether this should affect your interest in Ramsey theory and Ramsey theory conferences is up to your values and interests 🙂

  12. Dan Staley Says:

    Well Scott, if your primary time sinks are enlightening the world with your specialized knowledge, spending time with your loving family, and getting depressed on social media, there is a rather obvious choice of which to cut out, or at least cut back on…

    (Seriously, my life for a lot more relaxed when I started getting all my new from the New York Times and NPR and I stopped using Reddit.)

  13. Christopher Says:

    Alternate solution: build ScottGPT that you can sub in if you get overbooked (and don’t want to get reinvited XD)

  14. Hlkwtz Says:

    Sorry in advance for the offtopic comment:

    Recently, an article popped up in my local newspaper that talks about a company called SeQure Quantum, which specializes in Post-Quantum Cryptography (I think?). The thing is, it talks about how they are collaborating with University of Gdansk, who “built a (portable) one of a kind quantum computer” (im translating from spanish). The article talks a lot about this “quantum computer”. In their webpage you can see that what they’re selling is a quantum random number generator. Now, im not a quantum computing researcher, but if theres something I’ve learned from this blog is to always be skeptical of these types of articles. So my question is, for anyone with knowledge on the matter, what is this quantum random number generator? Is it correct to refer to it as a quantum computer?

  15. Shmi Says:

    Hlkwtz #14:

    A quantum random number generator is not a quantum computer, since it does not have the defining feature, entanglement between qubits and unitary evolution (abstracted as quantum gates). So yeah, your intuition is correct. A basic Geiger counter is a quantum RNG. They seem to have packaged it really nicely though

  16. Mitchell Porter Says:

    Brett McInnes #4 – I feel like I was the one who first provoked George Ellis to speak his mind about this, see posts #33, #118, #133 here

    To me, this paper seems like an attempted refutation that is better read as constructive criticism. In other words, Ellis and Garfinkle are able to point out a number of things that are genuinely lacking in mainstream quantum gravity, but rather than see it as an incomplete edifice that can be completed, they want people to turn away from it entirely, and follow an alternative set of heuristics.

    By contrast, it’s interesting to consider the attacks on “qubitzers” and the string elders by “String King” on X-Twitter. String King also considers much of this work lacking, but it’s lacking because it has abandoned the ambition and physical rigor of actual string theory, in favor of handwaving and toy models. I think *that’s* the truer perspective in the long run.

  17. Interested layperson Says:

    Brett McInnes #4,

    Can you help the interested layperson understand what makes this gold?

    If I summarize the thesis as « Maybe there’s a singularity that eats information. », what do I miss?

  18. GNRQ Says:

    Hlkwtz #14: They specialize in quantum cryptography, not post-quantum cryptography. Their quantum random number generator is definitely not a quantum computer. It is a box that produces approximately uniform randomness, so it is no closer to a quantum computer than a bunch of random coins are to a laptop. It’s also very hard to tell how secure these things actually are until you see their security proof, especially since (afaik) there are no concrete standards for these things.

  19. manorba Says:

    Well yes, you learn by experience 😉 … you must have a list like that before even starting! you never know who you dealing with so you gotta take precautions…

  20. clayton Says:

    any insider info on today’s big surprise news ?!

  21. Scott Says:

    clayton #20: No, I don’t know any more than you do! OpenAI leadership hasn’t disclosed what led to this, either externally or internally, beyond what they said in the press release.

  22. Prasanna Says:

    Hmm, the company whose mission is to build AGI, cant get its CEO and Chairman of the Board to be aligned !!! The irony of human existence …seeing the unconfirmed reports that this was about alignment of AGI itself.
    Isn’t CS theory in need of a super fillip in terms of massive state funding at least on the levels of CERN ? Until then we will be grappling with only empirically developed post facto conclusions, and swinging between the extremes of doomer and utopian scenarios in AI development

  23. Ben Says:

    I hope you get invited to Joe Rogan’s podcast and set him straight on QC. It’s the only way the world will ever recover from the Michio Kaku episode. Joe could easily afford it. And I think he’s in Texas.

  24. Scott Says:

    Ben #23: I’m easy enough to find! But Rogan invited Kaku, and has never invited anyone who knows QC (with the possible exception of Sean Carroll), so we have some data about what kind of guest he wants.

  25. fred Says:

    According to ChatGPT4, Altman got fired by ChatGPT5.3, despite the veto of ChatGPT5.1 and ChatGPT5.2.

  26. AG Says:

    I suspect this point was made before by others.  I found many of the dialogues involving SBF detailed in “Going Infinite” eerily reminiscent of some of my exchanges with ChatGPT.

  27. Rahul Says:

    I am curious about #5: what do you consider fair compensation for a talk these days?:

  28. Ellie Kesselman Says:

    I cannot believe you were paying for travel expenses! If they want you to go somewhere, then they should pay for it! Please stand your ground with number one, and truly, all your requirements. They should also take you out to dinner somewhere decent if you have to travel.

    Pro-tip: Don’t specify it here, but decide what your rate will be for being compensated for your time, and do not make exceptions. It should be at least what you get paid by the university multiplied by 1.5 Feel free to go higher especially with inflation.

    Yours truly from #MAGA land! I’m glad you seem to be thriving in Austin. Stay safe!
    P.S. Sabine makes an excellent recommendation and I commiserate with AG.

  29. Ellie Kesselman Says:

    AG #6 I just read your comments from the prior post. You weren’t unhinged at all. I am distressed about Scott’s viewpoint regarding SBF FTX. I apologize for getting off topic on this post.

  30. Richard Gaylord Says:


    you write “deliberately gunning down Jewish (or any) children is wrong.”

    why distinguish between children and non-children (adults)? It is common practice in reportage to specify that children have been killed as if they comprise a unique category of ‘human’. but children are ‘just’ people. it is no more horrific to kill children then to kill any other human group (eg., jews, blacks). Children are not more ‘innocent’ than adults, and even if they were, their murder would be no more or no less horrific than the murder of non-children (personally, i am more offended by the murder of dogs than of children but that’s just a personal preference).

  31. Fredrick Says:

    I understand how frustrating it can be, to feel overwhelmed with work and obligations. With that being said, it’s a really bad look at this moment, when so many people are suffering and dying in the middle east and there is so much conflict and destruction, to complain publicly about how busy and stressed you are (“first world problems.”) Maybe you should save that for later.

  32. Scott Says:

    Fredrick #31: You completely misunderstood. The purpose of this post wasn’t to complain; it was simply to announce my new policies.

    (It also followed four posts related to the suffering in the Middle East.)

  33. Autolykos Says:

    Be aware that if your talk is to be translated, policy #2 will all but guarantee that the translation sucks. Especially for technical topics, interpreters really need something to prepare with (learn the relevant terms, mostly). They’re usually perfectly happy with an old version or draft of the talk (or even of a similar one) as long as most terms are somwhere in there. But they do need something.

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