W3.CSS

Eric Weinstein

Following on from the twitter thread here are the topics in more detail.
There are also topics here that were not covered in the thread.

We have to embrace the inconsistency of our own minds, not as a bug, but as a feature, that we are in essence, brought here by the forces of selection. We are the products of systems of selective pressures, and what they seem to do is, to create the ability to run many many different programs, and often contradictory programs within the same mind. The question is why have we put such an extraordinary emphasis on intellectual consistency, so that we are constantly alerted to the hypocrisy of others, but we are seemingly blind to it in ourselves.

Our mind is constructed with an architecture that allows us to run various sandboxes, where we can experiment with the ideas of others without actually becoming the other. Can we run another mind in emulation, perhaps not as well as its original owner? But can we run that mind well enough to understand it, to empathize with it, and to argue and spar with it, to achieve some kind of better outcome, where we are actually able to turn foes into dancing partners, as we come to show that we’ve actually understood perspectives different from our own.

The biggest objection to this way of thinking is that it’s somehow a kind of a cheat that hypocrisy is being summoned by another name. But I think this is actually incorrect. I think that we have these sandboxes, for example, so that we can fight more effectively a foe, that we feel we must defeat. So for example: recently I talked about the importance of being able to run a jihadi sandbox in our minds, if we want to understand the forces that are behind Islamic terror, and its effect, on what I think are relatively fragile western sensibilities about life and death.

And so if we choose not to empathize with the other, to say, that so much as beyond the pale, we are probably not going to be very effective in understanding that the other does not see itself as evil. It does not see itself as an enemy that must be fought. I don’t necessarily need to agree with it, but to demonstrate that I can’t even run the program, simply for the purpose of social signaling seems the height of folly.

How do we hope to become effective if we can’t guess what the other will do next? There are limits to this, we have to have a certain kind of consistency of mind. But the idea that you can’t be capable of running a diehard rationalist materialist atheist program, as well as a program that says perhaps I will open myself to transcendental states. And if I need to anthropomorphize those as coming from a deity.. perhaps the idea is that that architecture is not what a Richard Dawkins would suggest: as a kind of mind virus, but in fact, it’s a facility that we choose to deny ourselves at our peril.

What if we’re trapped on a local maximum of fitness, and in fact, we need to get to higher ground. But the idea is that the traversal of the so-called adaptive Valley, where we have to make things much much worse, before they get much better. What if the idea is that cannot generally be attempted rationally.. that we need a modicum of faith, a belief, that we cannot reference to any sort of information set. We could end up trapped on local maxima forever.

But I think it’s really important to consider that some people may be able to traverse the adaptive valley without belief in a deity — some may need a temporary belief in a deity; some may be able to reference some sort of a transcendental state, and steal ourselves, in order to make the journey.

But however it is accomplished, there are times, when it would appear that all hope is lost, and that if we are not to end our days stuck on these local maximum, whatever we have achieved, that we have to fundamentally experiment with ways of thinking, if only temporarily, to get us to higher ground.  

I think that very few people see the words excellence or consensus as anything other than the most positive words. These are the habits that most people seek to cultivate; they wish to be part of the consensus; they wish to be excellent in both their behavior and hope for excellent outcomes. I think the problem is that we didn’t realize that excellence, so far as it goes, is fine, but it’s involved in a tradeoff — and that tradeoff has to do with the fact that excellence is really about quality control. 

How quality control in the pursuit of excellence can be deadly, musicIt’s about the fact that if I’m going to go for, let’s say, a classical music concert I want to assume that the piece will be played flawlessly, and I will concentrate only on the interpretive aspects of the piece above that.

But in fact quality control can be deadly. For example in a jazz day where an improviser takes few risks, the music may be pleasant enough as background music, but it’s scarcely the sort of thing that would have animated the bebop generation, who played live dates under open mic conditions never knowing what would happen next. 

Perhaps the most famous jazz album of all time was Miles Davis Kind of Blue, and if you look at the sheet music for that day almost nothing was written down. It was just a question of bringing the most amazing minds together, and you can even hear a few flaws on that album, which make it so exciting. So I think that the problem is, is that we have to realize that excellence is about hill climbing. It’s about the fabled 10000 hours. It’s about practice making perfect, and this is something that to the credit of excellence, is something we do know how to teach. 

Perhaps we don’t know how to teach everyone how to achieve it, but there’s always a class of people who through dedicated repetition, will be able to bring their variance under extraordinary pressure, so that they are reliable members of our society. We want this in our surgeon’s often; we want this and our musical classical music performers. But the question is do we want it everywhere? And because we do know how to teach excellence, we’ve blinded ourselves to the role that a different thought process is involved, and which, I would associate with genius. 

I think many of us particularly in the West led by business have embraced their model of excellence in education without proper regard for its costs. In an essay I recently wrote for the edge.org website I tried to point out that excellence is really a low variance strategy. 

What is the highest mean output you can produce without much variation in your output? That’s a very different question than, what is the highest expected value an innovator can produce if we’re willing to tolerate a great deal of failure? 

In the Silicon Valley model, let’s say, and some of the research universities either in the US in places like Britain which use eccentricity to punch above their weight or, even paradoxically in the old Soviet Union where freedom was tolerated among mathematicians and physicists, provided they were good enough. 

I think that what happened is that people became tolerant of huge levels of variation and that those individuals have produced entire fields that provide jobs and provide research problems on a going-forward basis So it’s very important not to think that reducing the variance in output can be done for free. 

So genius and excellence are both worthwhile but they are distinct modalities, and not recognizing that it is a serious problem to take somebody in the genius idiom and to push them into a different idiom, which is to reduce their variance, is going to be very destructive and it’s going to keep us from founding the industries that will allow us to change paradigms and move forward.

So the entire culture of credentialism of professionalism is really a culture of excellence. But in fact society is run by power laws. The very thick tails of these distributions suggests that life isn’t normally distributed, but distributed by power laws, and we need a special class of people to play those tales, to get us the returns, to power us forward in advanced society. 

And so what I’m really interested in is not being blinded by excellence to the prospects, for other modalities — in particular genius. 

The key question is who are these high variance individuals? Why are our schools filled with dyslexics? Why are there so many kids diagnosed with A.D.H.D? My claim is these are giant and underserved populations who are not meant for the excellence model. They are meant to be the innovators – the people who bring us new forms of music that others will seek to perfect at home in their performance.

You’re looking for an education which makes students unteachable by standard methods, and this is where we get into the trouble. Which is we don’t talk about teaching disabilities, we talk about learning disabilities. A lot of the kids that I want are kids who have been labeled learning disabled, but they’re actually super learners. They’re like learners on steroids who have some deficits to pay for their superpower. And when teachers can’t deal with this we label those kids ‘learning disabled’ to cover up from the fact that the economics of teaching require that one central actor, the teacher, be able to lead a room of 20 or more people in lockstep. Well that’s not a good model.

On the learning disabled

Those of you who’ve been told that you’re learning disabled, or you’re not good at math, or that you’re terrible at music or something like that, seek out unconventional ways of proving that wrong. Believe not only in yourselves, but that there are structures that are powerful enough to make things that look very difficult much easier than you ever imagined.

These are the sorts of people who bring us new scientific vistas who explore new terrain. And what we’ve done is we’ve created a system which effectively demonizes these different patterns. We even call these things learning disabilities, when in fact if you look at the learning disabled population they very often are the most intellectual accomplished members of society. But we put them through a torture chamber of K through 12 education, where we attempt to convince the teachers, who have no idea how to serve this population. We tried to make sure that there is no indication that there are teaching disabilities, by pushing the responsibility onto the students. 

These are the people who are going to create the new multi-billion dollar industries, and in fact, the problem is that we don’t realize the genius is really about adaptive Valley crossing. It’s about taking on risk taking on cost doing things that make almost no sense to anyone else, and can only be shown to have been sensible after the fact, because in fact, and I think you know Jim Watson said this beautifully.. He said if you’re really going to do anything big you’re by definition unqualified to do it.

High agency

High agency is … well, are you constantly… when you’re told that something is impossible, is that the end of the conversation, or does that start a second dialogue in your mind how to get around whoever it is that’s just told you that you can’t do something. 

So, how am I gonna get past this bouncer who told me that I can’t come into this nightclub? How am I going to start a business when my credit is terrible and I have no experience. You’re constantly looking for what is possible in a kind of MacGyver-ish sort of a way, and that’s your approach to the world. 

I think (MacGyver on steroids) heralds a return, at least among Americans, to our previous way of being. I think there was some terrible thing that happened starting around 1970 and that is just cracking now. So, really, about 45 years of a low agency super-safe, timid, frightened kind of societal aspiration. If you just stay on track can we keep the American prosperity machine going. I think we now realize that you can’t do it without a bunch of really marginal characters – people who have might be described as disruptive have bad attitudes –  these are my people. They’re tough to deal with and I don’t always and enjoy them but I do think that without them it’s not much of a football team 

There are high agency people everywhere. What there isn’t necessarily is critical mass. Sometimes I refer to the Bay Area is the innovation ghetto so you have all of the people who are too high agency to behave properly and wait their turn and the rest of the country. So they’ve been given like the nicest piece of real estate an un-godly amount of cash and you know the pleasure of each other’s company. 

But they’ve been told ‘Okay, you have to stay at the terms of your probation, so you have to stay within the Bay area’ So what I’d love to see is, I’d love to see more of us violating our parole and going into the rest of the country and trying to bring that irreverent spirit. 

So I think it’s really important to start respecting our marginal citizens of greatest ability and looking for the unusual personality types that are irreverent and committed enough to making things happen and to really do things.

Build a culture for genius

R Buckminster Fuller “Everyone is born a genius, but the process of living de-geniuses us”.

Believe in the concept and see whether or not I think we have the opportunity to educate the genius or whether respect is becoming a necessity with the rise of automation of power of unity.  

Everyone has something in them that’s capable of making wild leaps, many of which are insightful if you’ve ever been around children you’ll notice this power is spooky strong early in life.

If genius is something prosaic and analytic and definable, it means we are even frightened of considering this.

Do we have a vibrant educational system or is it mostly trained on privileged presentation?

Why are we so highly conserved if it didn’t have an extraordinary function? 

On Self-taught Teachers and Kung Fu Panda

What I realized was that it was the only film that I’d ever seen that struggled with the issue that I felt almost defines my my quest which is : Why can’t a self teacher leave pupils?

If there was some way for a Newton to leave in Newton, dependably, the world would be a completely different place.

So my claim was that the original innovator in the film is a turtle which is an even more inappropriate kung fu archetype than a panda, because they’re obviously slow-moving. And the turtle works out the secrets of harmony and focus at the pool of sacred tears. But when the kingdom is threatened by a kung fu student of great ability who’s gone wrong all, that the kingdom can muster is the usual collection of over trained students. So think aspirants to Princeton and Stanford and Harvard. And so these are all the kids who get like perfect SATs and have amazing extracurricular activities. But fundamentally, what we don’t realize is that they’ve all been rendered incomplete in a way because they can’t tap into the self teaching modality, because they have been so thoroughly over taught.

So the turtle recognizes that the Panda is the only one who can save the day and all the turtle has to go on in choosing a successor is that the Panda has innovated one silly thing, which is to turn a fireworks cart into a makeshift rocket to jump a wall. So from this humble beginning the magic unfolds, and it’s really about the magic of how one self teacher leaves a successor and solves the problem

I think where I’m headed with this is that most of us who wind up using these sort of strange high agency hacks to negotiate the world, have some kind of a traumatic birth. We may flatter ourselves that were in touch with reality, but in fact, reality is a second best strategy.

If you’re lucky your family works pretty well and you never leave social reality. It’s only when something goes wrong that you discover, okay, the world doesn’t work in any way the way I was told. Here’s the underlying structure. What you then have to realize is, if you want to do this at scale, you’ve got to stop relying on these traumatic births it’s like you’re waiting for somebody to get bit by a spider to become spider-man. No you have to do this as a more controlled fashion.

So I think what we need to do is we need to create a completely secondary parallel educational structure for people who are going to be in the high agency creativity discovery idiom and realize that we know how to impart expertise, but we don’t know how to impart creativity in genius.

If we teach self-teachers, does our teaching, crowd out their self-teaching?

It’s because it’s about one self teacher who passes it on to another. Einstein left us no school. His genius died with him.
What if these great people are able to teach us how they self taught?… Once when the panda breaks into a kung foo competition, showing active improvisation. And the turtle appears to choose the panda who’s clearly inappropriate simply based on the fact that they did something original, unlike the highly trained competitors. The second time the panda is mostly pressing (growsing??) that he’s failing relative to the highly trained competitors. The turtle shows no interest in this problem what so ever.

On the book Zero to One

I think the problem is the average person has never had an idea, a really powerful personal idea. So most people don’t have a single secret. And so the real reason most people shouldn’t start a company is that they don’t know or believe anything that the rest of the world knows or thinks of as being nonsense. And so this is the engine behind the book.

What’s disturbing is to watch people reading this book, not realizing that it’s the whole thing is predicated on the idea that you must have a secret. Try to imagine somebody building a car with no engine, it doesn’t really matter how nice you get the upholstery it’s not going to work.
I think that in part this is why it’s so difficult coming back to the sort of kung-fu panda pedagogy question. Assumed that I hit one or two of these secrets and I am successful at them. It doesn’t have to be in business, it could be in science, it could be in literature, anywhere. The problem is, you want to lead someone through the process of succeeding at something and seeing what blocked the path.

I think I’m actually pretty good at that and I think I maintain different rooms in my mind.  

You’re camping and decamping constantly between these different modules and that was the hardest part about hearing this idea that I can’t change my beliefs as I change my clothes. 

Because it really matters to me if I’m going to go into a very deep state of thought to think that I am in some sense consulting the Creator and that my job is to listen, and to think that somehow this is all going to work out. I think that what I found is that this is how a subset of people who are quite rational behave. 

I believe that in fact in my least distorted states it’s usually achieved by having lots of different fictions, falsehoods and incomplete pictures, that together yield a fairly complete picture. But I’m fond of the double distortion of somebody wearing glasses, where their eyes are distorted, and their glasses are further distorted but the compound of the two is an undistorted picture. 

It’s very important for me for example on Friday nights to put away my atheism and go into a Jewish traditional Shabbat dinner. They asked her something about believing in God and she said ‘Oh, I only believe in God on Fridays’, and I think that’s actually a more healthy perspective. 

I would say that the the Atheist room in the house of my mind has space special significance, or at least the reliable knowledge room has special significance. Now it’s subject to updating. I mean, I was told that all ulcers came from stress, and to find out that they have different origin is shocking. 

But I believe that in some sense, some of the religious parts of my mind have extremely special significance and the atheist room is merely the first among equals, because I find that, let’s say the skeptic movement which is always tempting, the problem is that it often ends up as sort of the copyeditors of science preserving that which has been shown to be reliable, but being so eager to get rid of soft and squishy thinking that the creativity that we need to get ourselves from being trapped around appealing that incomplete ideas, in general, requires a lot of squishy thinking. 

I think it’s extremely important to realize that it’s the atheist module which may maintain a reliable view of the world, but is very often the faith modules which allow us to fight one against the many. Because fundamentally career suicide sounds like a self-extinguishing strategy but it’s often the people of faith who are willing to take those sorts of risks. Now sometimes that faith is religious, sometimes it’s a hunch, but getting in touch with that very different module.

Russell Conjugation (or Emotive Conjugation) is a presently obscure construction from linguistics, psychology and rhetoric which demonstrates how our rational minds are shielded from understanding the junior role factual information generally plays relative to empathy in our formation of opinions.

I am firm. [Positive empathy]You are obstinate. [Neutral to mildly negative empathy] He/She/It is pigheaded. [Very negative empathy]

The thing that I was searching for was what word should I use that sounds like synonym where two words are content synonyms but maybe emotionally antonym. So a good one is think and whistle blower right. Somebody inFlorida wrote and said you’re looking for a motive conjugation or Russell conjugation. Turns out Bertrand Russell had been here earlier and in 1948 he was on the BBC and he said ‘Let’s look at the construction:

’I am firm. You are obstinate. He, she or it is a pig headed fool’

That was just a moment where I said oh my gosh I don’t realize that I have been given no extra information about the three conjugations that he’s gone through, and yet I feel differently.


I liked the fact that somebody is firm and steadfast, and I dislike the fact that somebody is pigheaded. And then I realized that this could actually be weaponized and as part of an arms race that maybe the newspapers were in fact conjugating ‘President’ ‘strong-man’ ‘dictator’ and so I remembered this very strange phrase from years past. Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega. I thought who would come up with a construction that awkward and always invariant. And then everyone repeats it. 


A controversial businessman was applied to a friend of mine. Declan Ganley who had fought the Lisbon Treaty in the EU, and at some point they removed controversial businessman, so he just became businessman Declan Ganley.

Two reactions from the same person about the same thing
 

And so what I came to understand is that the big boys don’t play around with faking the facts. What they realized is that we have multiple opinions on everything but our emotional state selects which opinion, and the person who figured this out is Frank Luntz, and Frank Luntz was a Republican pollster. 

There’s video of him where he asks people you know what do you think about undocumented workers?  Oh you know they’re doing a great job and we have to recognize the contribution will you support illegal aliens, no no no. They should be deported. And in an instant and then you see that the mind doesn’t see itself it’s having two reactions to death tax and a state. It’s the same object and so we are both for and against everything. 



And so while we’re watching information they’re not looking at information, they’re looking at the emotional shading because our emotions pick out which of our multiple opinions were actually going to act. And so what I’m pointing to here is that this is the language that you need to get underneath the constructed world that you’re presented with.

Code (program) to figure out how people will respond


What I hope is that this essay is going to show people that you can code up a computer program to crawl text with it against a table of Russell conjugates, to figure out what the exact bias is of any news source. I don’t need to know about Breitbart is conservative. Let me crawl it. 

Write a python program, use regular expressions, grab the text, match it against the table, and I’ll tell you exactly what you’re being told to feel. Irrespective, you can be trusted with the knowledge, but you what you can’t be trusted with is your feelings, because the feelings determine the opinion. And so this is the great binary weapon – the information superhighway, had very little effect relative to what we were expecting, because it needs the second emotional component. There’s no emotional superhighway to go next to it. 

New York times and social media, VS real world experience
I’m trying to get the power tools into the hands of the people who’ve not been trusted with them, and say hey I want to upgrade my relationship. I don’t really want to kill the New York Times. I want the New York Times to learn how to respect people, who are as smart or smarter than the editors who drive the narratives, than the reporters who go out and report. I want them to come to see themselves as part of the problem, and part of the story, which is, please stop with the editorial headline, everything’s editorialized now. Right, stop with the narratives and you’re going to have to be in partnership because you don’t have the gatekeeping ability anymore. 

And previously we democratized information but we kept turning the New York Times. Please tell me how to feel those aren’t revolutions in Tahrir Square — those are demonstrations right. And so I was the one who was off of social media I was saying I’m watching a revolution, but in New York when I went to a party you would say, what you are talking about.. the demonstration right. And so these conjugates. 

It’s only when you actually hear the authoritative source that you’ve empowered, to switch the language, you actually feel safe because what happens is if you just take what you see, and then you go into your social group you will find that you will be instantly ostracized, and so what we’ve been depending on the New York Times not for information, we’ve been depending upon it for to tell us what’s safe to feel. Whom should I empathize? Who should I consider a pariah?  Who should i hug to my bosom

On the idea of the use of the word ‘war’ to initiate people to buy into a concept

Richard Nixon announced an over a billion dollar initiative to begin what was called the war on cancer. Of course war is a little bit of a weird metaphor, but it’s very hard to get large numbers of people to buy in together for anything that doesn’t have ‘war’ like characteristics. 

Did we loose the war on cancer for so many years because it always was actually a war on design constraints, and there were two of them, one of which was cancerous and the other of which senescent and the two of them were in fact playing off each other?


Also see www.edge.org/response-detail/27181 for Eric’s written essay on this.

Download the reference image from here: The 4 Quadrants

On the x­axis is some sort of elite rent­seeking policy. Something that the elite rent seekers want. Rent seeking is the ultimate insult from an economist.

It says that you’re trying to profit without really producing anything. And so if you’re, let’s say, what was the founding myth of the Carlyle Group? They figured out that Eskimos had some right to attacks right off from a failed Eskimo business. And so it turned out that you could sell those rights in some way and you could profit from it. So it probably wasn’t intended to be for a Jewish business man to figure this out. That would be some form of rent seeking.

And so the real villains of the story aren’t the elite, as we say, because I don’t think top intellectuals and great scientists and fantastic athletes are the problem. I think it’s the elite rent seekers. And they have certain things they’re trying to accomplish and most of us don’t really know who they are, they don’t really want a lot of publicity, but they’re very skilled operators in our system.

And when they want a policy, what happens is whatever organs are attached to that group, they tell a story that: where there’s smoke there is always fire. And the smoke is opposition to their proposal and the fire is some sort of moral failing. And so if you’ll permit me visually, imagine that you’re going counterclockwise around the ‘xy’ plane.

So the first quadrant I call the ‘Dupes’, sometimes the Ivy­league Dupes. These are people who have gone to, maybe elite schools, they think that they are the elite, but in fact they’re probably making less than half a million a year. They may have a second home, but they’re not really in control and they don’t realize that they are in fact being propagandised. It’s very difficult to work with this, because they’re convinced that they’re the ones in the know.

In the second quadrant you have ‘First Principle Thinkers, Contrarians, and people who are fiercely independent.

The third quadrant you have troglodytes ­ people who are opposed to the elite policies, but also may have the moral failings that the elite would wish to tar them with.

And then the fourth quadrant you have the shadowy rent­seeking elite.

And, so what happens is that the y­axis is the ‘Moral Virtue’ Vice axis. And the ‘Media Narrative’ is like a straight line running from the southwest to the Northeast. It says that there’s an absolute correlation between people who agree with the elite policy and moral virtue.

What’s happening constantly is if I’m a restrictionist on immigration, but I’m also a Xenophile. I have a lifelong love of travel, I care about learning languages, most of my friends come from foreign places. There’s some sort of a story that you couldn’t possibly be a restrictionist Xenofile. You couldn’t possibly both support the police and be absolutely outraged at their killing of innocence and unforgivable circumstances.

What we’re finding is that every time we try to tell a story about being in the second quadrant, we get mapped to the third quadrant because we oppose these things, but we don’t have the moral failings that they would expect.

And worse, people who aren’t putting the same kind of intellectual energy, but who have an instinct that the elite policies are wrong, they end up in the troglodyte quadrant in Quadrant three, unfortunately, because their intuition says ‘I think our immigration must be completely out of control. Who calls illegal aliens undocumented workers?

If I take an illegal drug, is that an undocumented drug? If I do an legal act of violence, is that an undocumented act? The Orwellian Newspeak triggers many people and if they can’t figure out how to hold the right long short position, they may just have an instinct to actually start behaving badly, and maybe believe that Mexicans are the source of our problems if they’re crossing illegally over the border, rather than becoming mostly landscapers or people in the service industry.

And so, in part, what I’m looking to do is to take the small number of people who are strong enough to try to voice this way of thinking and say ‘It’s entirely possible to oppose these policies which are nakedly rent­ seeking, and still be quite virtuous.’

That expansion of the left­right model to the four quadrant model, I think, is going to liberate a lot of people who’ve been drifting to the right, who wonder what happened to the left. What when did it become a crime to support liberal ideas within what is traditionally thought of as left­of­centre politics.

Further explanation while speaking with Dave Rubin

So it came out of a frustration with left verses right thinking which I think we all share, we still use it because it’s slightly useful, but it’s getting worse and worse as an approximation all the time.

So the idea is that you’ve got a collection of people that I want to concentrate on as living in the quadrant labeled “First Principles Thinkers and Contrarians”. Now these are people who are thinking for themselves and are not buying baked cakes, they’re buying the ingredients. They’re saying well I want more of this ingredient. I don’t like that ingredient. So they’re attempting to avoid having any pre baked idea put in front of them.

What you see on the x axis is some visible support for a policy initiative. Are you for the DREAM act? Do you believe in No Child Left Behind? Do you want the US to accept more refugees? These are things that we can measure, whether you’re supporting or opposing a particular policy prescription.

On the vertical axis, what you have is some implied moral virtue or vice so let’s start with somebody like Bret ok. So Bret, I think, lives in the second quadrant on the x axis, I’m going to put support for the equity agenda advanced by his college. So he clearly opposed that.

On the other hand, I’m gonna put ‘Absence of racism’ on the y­-axis, so I would say that Bret is a guy with like almost zero racism and completely opposed to this equity agenda sneak attack.

Now what they want to do is to say ‘Ah, we can infer from your opposition to the equity agenda that your real Y value is extremely negative that is you are a racist and you oppose these people because you singled out black female. Strong black women who are trying to advance a good cause. So that is the attempt to map from quadrant two, First principle Thinkers and Contrarians into quadrant three. You see this line actual position perceived position.

So that’s what they tried to do. They tried to create Bret the troglodyte, Bret the racist and in fact, that narrative which is. You can tell how good or bad somebody is on racial or gender issues depending upon how much they go along with the agenda. That is the media narrative and that’s what broke.

The New York Times probably would say ‘Look this is part of identity politics, this is part of the Democratic Party, this is how we do things. We can’t have people dining ala carte buying ingredients. This is a big cake, take it or leave it. You were either support the initiative and you’re virtuous on race or you oppose it and you’re a bastard.

Now, let’s take somebody else for example let’s take Sam Harris. So Sam Harris would normally live in quadrant 2, along with Bret, but here for example free thinkers. Sam might oppose opening our borders for refugees coming out of failed States, particularly with Muslim majority populations. You would like, if you were part of the control structure to say ‘Well that could only be because you’re an Islamaphobe’.

But my guess is, and I got Sam to admit this on his podcast, he seems to be a bit of an Islamophile. He’s aware of the poetry he’s aware of the music he’s aware of the culture he’s got very close friends and collaborators who are active practicing Muslims. I think Sam’s probably an Islamophilic guy who’s worried about the same thing his Muslim friends are worried about.

So the key point is is that the dupes are the people who say ’Well you know, I can tell, I can infer what Sam is really up to. He just wants a first strike against Muslims in the Middle East’. Well obviously he doesn’t, that’s stupid.

Now, who’s actually controlling this game? My claim is that it these people in the fourth quadrant which is rent­seeking elite. These are people who, for example, want to save a pension plan by increasing immigration because we’re not reproducing in growth ­ it’s at a low. So they, for example, may have a very kind of mercenary self­interested view of why they want a border opened.

So the dupe army is going to come after you relentlessly for breaking ranks and saying ‘I want to dine a la carte right’. So for example I don’t see you as a Trump supporter.

So in this case I might say ‘Dave is somebody who is opposed to the mainstream news narrative, but he is extremely intellectual and very analytical and trying to figure things out for himself.’ and they would like to say that he’s actually slid right. So you’ll see a ton of stuff like ‘Dave Rubin refuses to criticize x y&z; he’s actually a right winger he’s not a liberal bla bla bla nonsense. Now what is this? Again they’re angry at you for in some sense dining ala carte.

Over and over again it’s one trick, which is you we want to break out these long short positions, which is to say ‘I’m long Microsoft and I’m short Yahoo’ versus somebody else who says ‘No, you can only be long Tech or you have to be against Tech’. You can’t actually have a view that one Tech company is on the way up and one Tech company is on the way down.

So I believe that this diagram, we all need to understand it. What’s happening is is that we’re being attacked individually. Each one of us has a custom one of these fitted to us as to what’s wrong with us.

On waking up and viewing each new day

Each morning is basically a struggle against a new day, which I view as a series of opponents who must be defeated. I’m not a morning person. So every morning I get out of bed – I’m just astounded that I’ve done that. 

A line, a lesson, from a song

I grew up in Los Angeles and I dreamed about going into science. My mom went to Berkley and she brought home this crazy Call Berkley drinking song. If you know it, it’s a crazy patchwork of different tunes, but it’s got one line in the song which has guided my life, and the line is: “The hills send back the cry, we’re out to do or die, For California, for California, We’ll win the game or know the reason why.”

I think this is an extremely important lesson. 

Undergraduate degree

So my undergraduate wasn’t from Oxford, it was from Penn, and there was a language requirement the University of Pennsylvania and I at the time couldn’t figure out how to satisfy it. So I assumed that I would not graduate from Penn, and then I just broke all the rules. They had a program that actually helped you break all the rules, if you could find it.

So, Mike Zuckerman. He was a professor in the history department and he’s what we would call in Yiddish a shtarker. He’s the guy who breaks kneecaps for his people. It’s like German you know like the strong guy. So every time I would sign up for a class that had a prerequisite and I would be kept held back, he’d get on the phone he’d say I understand your holding back.

This is Mike Zuckerman at the office of university scholars, I understand that you’re holding one of my kids hostage with red tape. It wasn’t like he had any power but the sound of it caused other professors to let go.

It was a brilliant idea that he thought up and it was sort of a secret kind of a secret program so you didn’t know that it was there and it had power. It allowed you to immediate access to any of Penn’s graduate school is the program called University Scholars, so it sounded respectable.

On switching to Tech at 30

So, when I was 30, I guess I was still struggling to stay in or get out of academics. What I didn’t realize is that the structure of the Universities was that they were either hitting steady-state or growing very little or shrinking and that was a not a healthy place to be.

Most of the good seats in the musical chairs competition had already been found in the 60s and they had occupants and we were in some sort of a game where we were doing work for the system but we weren’t set to inherit it.  

What I needed to do was to decamp and to realize that technology was going to be a boom area. Even though I wanted to do science rather than technology, it’s better to be in an expanding world and not quite in exactly the right field, than to be in a contracting world where people’s worst behavior comes out and your mind is grooved in defensive and rent-seeking types of ways. 

Life is just too short to be petty and defensive and cruel to other people who are seeking to innovate alongside you.

On Atheism, On Judaism


So I think of myself as an atheist, but it’s only because there’s a room in my mind that I try to keep very very clean and analytical that I sort of make the first among equals. But I have needs for these other things.

There are times where the truth doesn’t give me enough meaning and I’ll start storytelling. Like, we’re surrounded, we’ve got to fight our way out, and all that kind of narrative, ..

On Fiction and its role within Truth

So my four things that I care about are truth, fitness, meaning and grace. All of those trade off among each other. I think I said something like this on Sam Harris’s program a lot of the people who wrote in said ‘Oh it shows that he doesn’t care about truth’. And I felt like, no it just shows that you guys just don’t understand 

Sam would like to make an argument that the better and more rational our thinking is, the more it can do everything that religion once did. So if you’ve had a DMT or an LSD experience that can give you meaning and transcendence. 

If you can think your way more accurately through a problem, that should increase your fitness. Maybe grace is something that’s independent and you have to figure out whether that’s something that’s important to you, but that’s a choice, an elected objective. And my belief is that a lot of these things are preset, and there’s actually more antagonism between them.

So I think of myself as an atheist, but it’s only because there’s a room in my mind that I try to keep very very clean and analytical that I sort of make the first among equals. But I have needs for these other things. 

When I go full Atheist in that compartment of my mind, I often have some trouble recovering as much meaning as I’d like. I can do more than the religious think that I can do, but there are some problems about repeated games with boundary conditions and reasons for heaven and hell are not necessarily stupid, even if they don’t exist. 

There are times where the truth doesn’t give me enough meaning and I’ll start storytelling. Like, we’re surrounded, we’ve got to fight our way out, and all that kind of narrative.

I do think there’s a very interesting interplay between rationality and faith between truth and fiction. 

I think once I remember hearing somebody ask John Updike: Why is it that you write fiction why don’t you write about the truth? and he said something like “My good man, what is it you think great fiction is?” To him, it was hyper Truth.

There are several things I care about other than truth and one of them is Fitness in the sort of sense of natural and sexual selection. I think that fitness is something which Dawkins has really wrong and the best version of this would probably be something coming for my brother, Bret Weinstein, an evolutionary theorist.

But I’ll give my version of his perspective, or sometimes our shared perspective, which is that it can’t be the case that religion is a virus in some sense of the mind. It’s clearly part of fitness because it’s just too expensive in most cases that it would be driven out. 

So when you have these mysterious things that are not obviously positive that seem to carry a burden for their for their host, in general they have to be delivering some kind of a benefit because it would be easy to excise them. And so because Dawkins seems to view this as this is a tax on Fitness.

So I think it’s very important to think about theater, to think about fiction and its role within Truth. 

On trying psychedelics

Relatively recently, and it was because I had been propagandized so thoroughly, that even to this day I don’t like the association. I don’t like the word cloud around them. There were all sorts of confusions, that the power of one of these substances must come from killing brain cells, like pouring acid on your brain and leaving it as Swiss cheese. 

It wasn’t until I started meeting some of the most intellectually gifted people in the sciences and beyond and I realized that this was sort of the open secret of what I call the hallucinogenic elite. Whether it’s billionaires or Nobel laureates or inventors and encoders, that a lot of these people were using these agents, either for creativity or to gain access to the things that are so difficult to get access to through therapy and other conventional means. 

Gong into Deep work

So I find that when we use words that are prohibited to us, it tells our brain that we are inhabiting unsafe space, and it’s a bit of a sign that you’re going into a different mode. 

So I tend to become sort of facultatively autistic. That is, I think I can be social and personable if I’m trying to do that, but when I’m going to do deep work, very often it has this kind of very powerful aggressive energy to it. It’s not easy to be around. It’s very exacting.

I think I would probably look very autistic, to people who know me to be social, were they ever to see me in work mode. It’s like an invariant mantra that I have to say. It probably takes me 7 seconds to say it.

You have to you have to decamp from normal reality, where you start thinking about everything in positive terms. Well how am I negatively going to impact my neighbor. No, this is your time, you’re stealing your time.

The act of creation is itself is a violent action.

An essay that changed his life

The most interesting thing about it is that it carries a publication date in the New York Times in 1944 and what it is a discussion of is the Holocaust before the world is ready to hear that it is going on. There is in particular a paragraph talks about what it is like to hold this position in a hostile universe which doesn’t wish to believe this because of various state interests.

Article mentioned in this podcast: A. Koestler. “The Nightmare That Is a Reality.” The New York Times Magazine. January 9, 1944.

“As to this country, I have been lecturing now for three years to the Troops and their attitude is the same. They don’t believe in concentration camps. They don’t believe in the starved children of Greece, in the shot hostages of France and the mass graves of Poland. They have never heard of Lidice Treblinka or Belzec. You can convince them for an hour, then they shake themselves. Their mental self defense begins to work, and in a week the shrug of incredulity has returned like a reflex temporarily weakened by a shock. 

Clearly all this is becoming a mania with me and my like. Clearly we must suffer from some morbid obsession, whereas the others are healthy and normal. But the characteristic symptom of maniacs is that they lose contact with reality and live in a fantasy world, so perhaps it is the other way round.

Perhaps it is we, the screamers, who react in a sound and healthy way to the reality which surrounds us, whereas you are the neurotics who totter about in a screen fantasy world because you lack the faculty to face the facts. Were it not so? This war would have been avoided, and those murdered within sight of your daydreaming eyes would still be alive.”

Family history


The family history has a few ingredients, and not all of them are about the nuclear family. There were four families that came out to California. They came out to make mayonnaise. It was the Gelfond who figured out how to make mayonnaise not separate properly. The Clinics the Marlins and the Rubens and the Rubens were the weakest branch. 

We were raised by Harry and Sophie Rubin as well as our parents. 

Harry Rubin was a chemist who couldn’t finish college. I think there’s a family history of learning issues, and there was a lot of question about how to how to ground one’s idealism and rationality, so that you’re fundamentally thinking with your head feeling, with your heart, and that the two of them remain connected. And I think that there was a lot of emphasis on not taking shortcuts to a better tomorrow and taking massive risks. 

Growing up outside standard channels / learning issues


Our family growing up, and I think that the learning issues in some sense disconnected us from standard institutional structures. People are now tuning into this conversation that Bret and I have been having for a long time. 

There were a lot of previous rounds where there just wasn’t anyone to talk to and there were a lot of different issues that got brought up, and it would be great to use this current passion where you may see it over free speech. Perhaps I see it a little bit less so over that but it would be great to talk about some of the previous battles that we’ve fought that involve things like drug testing or wealth transfer by using the CPI as a closet way of raising taxes and slashing benefits.

So we’ve been at this a long time, and the great new thing I think is that there’s so many new voices, and there’s this channel to go around and to disinter mediate this very strong thing, that I call the gated institutional narrative, which we’ve never been able to crack through so easily, and now we have channels where we can we can actually get to them. 

His brother Bret Weinstein describing their Grandfatehr

The concept of education was quite prominent, but neither Eric nor I had a comfortable experience in school. There were different uncomfortable experiences. But both of them were troubling in many ways. 

I think Eric figured out some mechanisms for getting through school that were more effective than what I did. In my case I actually remember being in the second grade and my hand writing and spelling, in particular, were so bad that I remember, somehow I remember school giving up on me and declaring me off in some way — and I know this is the adult me looking back. But I felt a choice I can either submit to what it’s judgment of me is, and I can try to confront it or I can stop playing ball, and that’s what I did which caused my academic life to come apart, and really it didn’t go back together arguably ever although I did find a home in graduate school. 

But the process of walking away from the formal education and then having our grandmother died relatively early. Harry, our grandfather was a really interesting intellectual person who had the unique characteristic of taking children very seriously. And that doesn’t mean he wasn’t fun, he was, and it was extremely fun. But it meant, if I think back on it, you could ask him any question. If it was a good question, he would do his best to answer it, and he would let you know at the point that you’d topped out what he could address.

That it was like having a personal intellectual tutor, and you know that was one facet that was particularly important, maybe especially for me, but it sort of picked up where school left off, and because he was an unusual mind in his own right. I think some of the stuff that Eric and I picked up from him ended up being sort of jumping off points to places that are hard to get to through the standard a standard model.

Back to Eric – Learning the Guitar


Our grandfather Harry Rubin in particular refused to teach, and in least in my case, you know I remember he gave me this guitar and he said all you need to do is tune it you don’t need to play it, and it was a very strange instruction like why would you have a guitar if you could only tune it and his point really was. 

It’ll be so frustrating to have a nice guitar that is tuned that you don’t know how to play that you will figure out that it’s a mystery, and that you do not need a teacher, and I remember going to UCLA music library and Xeroxing all these beautiful guitar pieces and I could barely read the notes on the page, but it turned out that you know this was a very strange and interesting form of teaching for two people who couldn’t actually and you know it really needs to be emphasized. 

You can think all you want about privilege about maleness or whiteness or this or that, but if you have a learning disability that is as conceived of by the educational system, it is almost impossible to lead a normal life, and so you either find some crazy way of overcompensating, and then you have an original perspective, because the system can’t serve you, or you sort of accept that you are the problem… and I think neither of us accepted that we were the problem. And it’s sort of a radical overreaction to the mismatch in education. 


I had met Peter when I had been sort of living in New York and playing in the Bay area a little bit with the tech crowd and I was told by some friends you have to come out for this crazy ‘Being Human’ conference. And so, any conference name ‘Being Human’ seemed too Californian to be a good idea, but I was forced into coming out. 

And there was a sort of a circle of people which Peter was in and I was in, talking about what it what it means to really look at the human condition from a rational, but also open-hearted perspective. Peter and I started talking and I told him that I was thinking that I might have a theory of everything that I should debut, and I think he probably thought, you know, haircut, the possibility that what I was saying was true. 

But then I was invited to give these lectures at Oxford. The Simonyi special lectures.

Charles Simonyi, I think he was like the original engineer at Microsoft and and he had endowed a professorship at Oxford where which is held now by Marcos de Soto, after Richard Dawkins held it, which has some lectures attached. 

I was invited to give lectures under this program. I was giving technical talks, but a story or two came out about how a potential theory of everything was being debuted. I guess Peter probably saw that. 

He invited me to a quiet conference he was holding in the South of France, and shortly afterwards he invited me to a breakfast after that, and at the breakfast, I think I was midway through some breakfast sausage, and he just blurts out, he says “You have to leave New York” I didn’t understand why, and I said “Really, and go where?”. He says “You could come here”. And I said “And do what?”. And he said “You could work for me”.

So, I didn’t know whether he was like suffering from too much sleep, but it turned out he was quite serious. And it’s been one of the most rewarding intellectual relationships of my life. He’s just a stunning, sparkling mind, and somebody who has not only the courage of his convictions, but has been right so many times and over enough things that he has had the freedom to break with all tradition when he thinks the world is wrong, and one or two people may have it right. which is that’s exactly my cup of tea.

Peter is just a stunning, sparkling mind, and somebody who has not only the courage of his convictions, but has been right so many times and over enough things that he has had the freedom to break with all tradition when he thinks the world is wrong, and one or two people may have it right. which is that’s exactly my cup of tea. The first issue is that, it’s so difficult to think for yourself. I mean, I find it very difficult to think for myself. I have all sorts of ideas in my head that aren’t mine I’m subjected to all sorts of pressures I find difficult to resist.

I think Peters looking for the tiny universe of people who are attempting to think things through from First Principles, and as it’s become very tough because socially constructed reality is so much a part of our lives. So I think first his feeling would be find the people who are capable of seeing something really new and then figure out what to do with them later. 

On Zero to One

I think the problem is the average person has never had an idea, a really powerful personal idea. So most people don’t have a single secret. And so the real reason most people shouldn’t start a company is that they don’t know or believe anything that the rest of the world knows or thinks of as being nonsense. And so this is the engine behind the book. 

What’s disturbing is to watch people reading this book, not realizing that it’s the whole thing is predicated on the idea that you must have a secret. Try to imagine somebody building a car with no engine, it doesn’t really matter how nice you get the upholstery it’s not going to work.

I think that in part this is why it’s so difficult coming back to the sort of kung-fu panda pedagogy question. Assumed that I hit one or two of these secrets and I am successful at them. It doesn’t have to be in business, it could be in science, it could be in literature, anywhere. The problem is, you want to lead someone through the process of succeeding at something and seeing what blocked the path.

Everybody wants to to be loved, to fit in. The fear that happens when you start swimming away from the shore, that you’re not going to find a next Island before your strength gives out. I think it’s very rational to be afraid of thinking for yourself because you may very, very easily find yourself at odds with the community on which you depend. I think for some of us is just a compulsive behavior, it’s not even necessarily the smartest evolutionary strategy. It’s just, it’s hard to do it any other way.

Very often we have some spectrum of difference that we’re allowed. Frequently in politics or news somebody will talk about the Overton Window – what can we discuss what can’t we discuss. ie when Donald Trump said that he wanted to temporary really ban Muslims from entering the US.

I think that a lot of us may benefit from the Overton Window – this idea that we’re going to make certain ideas too hot, too dangerous for people to express in polite company. But on the other hand what we’ve started to do is to hamstring all the cognitive power in our contrarian thinkers, where they don’t feel comfortable or safe thinking aloud. 


the top-down thinking tells us what’s acceptable and what isn’t, but the bottom-up leads us to ask all sorts of questions that are framed out, if you will, by the usual terms of discussion. 

I think that this is you know this is really animating a lot of people who feel that social justice, which they always thought was a positive, is starting to metastatize into kind of a thought police.

Everybody’s enjoying some privilege at the moment and so if you’re spending all of your time checking and you’re probably not going to be able to say much of anything. 

I’m trying to discourage attrition of the amazing people who have something deep and powerful and important to say. 

So Jimi Hendrix… you’re dealing with a super mind as well as an intuitive genius. He played the guitar amplification signal processing system as a whole.

There are these people who are just in some multidimensional space. Another one of my favourite’s is Roy Buchanan who somehow these guys who understand harmonics gravitate to telecasters and a pop song called ‘Roy’s blues’ and watch him go into a multiverse and start playing with things that you can’t even imagine are possible. 

I do think that there’s a very close relationship between algorithms and emotions. I wrote about a python program and put it in a tweet, and it only purpose was to generate the core progression for Pachobel’s Canon, which is if you want people to cry at a wedding that’s the core progression to play, but it’s actually an algorithm that breaks your heart is very frightening. 

I think at some point you learned that music is an abstraction, and that each particular instrument is just a way to instantiate the same common abstraction and so this was extremely powerful for me. 

I don’t really hear music very well. I don’t have a lot of intuitive feel for it. To me it looks like systems. And the idea that music was so highly systematized and that this was covered up by the standard relationship that we pick up where we take music lessons, we learned to read music in this country. Lots of people are bad at reading music, and lots of people are bad at following instructions, but you find that in other areas of the world in which notation isn’t a big part of musical education, people very casually pick up an instrument and start playing.

I think it’s because the systems, if you will the math behind the music, is so powerful that it allows you to improvise, it allows you to compose, and to understand that there are canonical songs. At some point for example, I wrote a tiny computer program in Python and put it in a tweet and it’s only purpose was to reproduce the chord progression for Pachelbel’s Canon as an algorithm.

In other words, that so much of our musical system is in the math and in the physics of a vibrating string. There’s really one crazy innovation which is even temperament, which the West figured out, which has to do with a strange math fact that if you raise the number two, for twice the frequency, which gives us the octave to the 19th power, and then take the twelfth root thereof, that’s almost exactly equal to three. And that weird numerical accident is what makes it possible to both have extremely beautiful intervals, but have them also so regular that you can do harmony and make chords. I don’t think most musicians probably even know why we use a 12-ton system. 

There’s like a five dimensional lattice in your mouth to produce the international phonemic alphabetic. So your nose could be on or off, that’s one degree of freedom.

The Sarangi, the Indian violin is the closest phonemic sound of the human voice.

The instruments I regularly check in with would be mandolin, harmonica, guitar, piano and occasionally some funkier stuff than that. Turkish and Indonesian were great fun to learn about and learn some of. Russian is extremely emotional but grammatically fairly unforgiving. I enjoyed the little bit of Thai that I started trying to learn, because tones. But when I tried a little bit of Vietnamese the tones were so hard that there was no satisfaction. I spent three weeks and I couldn’t say my first word convincingly. 

I think that these areas are so intrinsically human and we don’t even realize that there are these systems that are undergirding it. I think that there’s at least that as a formal similarity where you know until until Chomsky and his thoughts on grammar, we didn’t understand the way in which this could be potentially an innate process. these iconic intervals are really based on physics.

There are many ways to see faith. I don’t discount the importance of the very clean room in which reliable knowledge is the only thing that’s privileged. But how do we get all this reliable knowledge in part by people flinging themselves into the void when they had what would seem to be better options? 

I have to say that I think that some brains are more predisposed to transcendent states, to ecstatic States, to being willing to take rationality across one of these harrowing the valleys of death to to higher ground. What I don’t want to do is privilege that one room of atheism as ‘well that’s the real room and the rest of the house is kind of nonsense’, because it’s really the dialectic between… 

You’re camping and decamping constantly between these different modules and that was the hardest part about hearing this idea that I can’t change my beliefs as I change my clothes. 

Because it really matters to me if I’m going to go into a very deep state of thought to think that I am in some sense consulting the Creator and that my job is to listen, and to think that somehow this is all going to work out. I think that what I found is that this is how a subset of people who are quite rational behave. 

I think it’s probably the origin of a lot of religious faiths as a tool for out competing other groups that probably very healthy to have skeptics, mystics and this kind of a portfolio of diversity, in trying to tackle really important problems.

When I first heard the story of the burning bush, I didn’t appreciate it, because for Moses to come upon this spectacle sounded like nonsense. And then with the aid of chemicals you can have experiences that were probably within your brain’s capacity the entire time, but you had no idea that as its owner – it’s like buying a house and finding it has a panic room and at 17 years into living.

Its not that religion is usually a distortion, but that it is often instrumental in the architecture for taking the risks needed to advance reliable knowledge and rationality. 

I would be surprised if people who are willing to make giant leaps of faith, again usually when people don’t camp in decamp, those people don’t solve problems. Because it is this this tension between these modules in the mind that is the most productive. 

So I don’t want to suggest that faith based people who just believe in every conspiracy theory are doing the really hard and heavy lifting, but it is a subset of people who maintain tensions between these things who are often the most productive. 

But just the way you guys have made this very interesting point that the great atheist governmental experiment that ended in so many deaths in the 20th century were actually religious in some way, which i think is an interesting point. 

So the question about who gets to say what’s crazy and who gets to camp and decamp. We have had so many conspiracies that have been uncovered. I always find it really interesting. Somebody will say to me: ‘You’re not a conspiracy theorist, are you? and I had a tweet a while back, which was after MKUltra and Operation Paperclip and COINTELPRO. All smart people are conspiracy theorists. Do I look stupid?

So the question is, do you have enough self-authorship of your own mind to explore things that might be nutty, and then to do the editing to see whether or not you achieve something in the nutty state, and can you go back and forth?

So if you had told me for example that there was a super secret organization inside of the FBI that tried to induce Martin Luther King to kill himself that tried to get Jean Seberg, who was the star of Godard ‘Breathless’, to kill herself by claiming that she’d been impregnated with a Black Panther’s seed, even though she was married to a white man. And that Fred Hampton, inventor of the rainbow coalition, would be murdered in his bed orders of a shadowy organization. And Dick Gregory would be handed over to the blue La Cosa Nostra for them to do with with him what they would, I would call you insane. 

That thing turned out to be COINTELPRO and was discovered because somebody had faith enough to break into an FBI office in media Pennsylvania 1971. And through freedom of information we learned that this crazy conspiracy theory turned out to be true. 

Now my claim is, I wouldn’t have wanted to be the person designing that operation. So let me get this straight: We’re going to break into a federal office, we’re going to take some files, we’re going to read them and we’re going to try to make Freedom of Information requests to discover a multi-year conspiracy theory with hundreds and thousands of FBI agents somehow mysteriously able to keep quiet.

Well, the Church Commission had the easy part. They were able to say, ‘Yeah we did do that’. 

And, today if I say, ‘Did you know there was something called section A of the reserve index for people to be rounded up in times of national emergencies including professionals, professors, newscasters, the independently wealthy, that would sound crazy. 

So the problem with these things is that lots of things that sound nutty have to be explored in a faith-based context. Now the question is can you camp and decamp? So does that 9/11 Truther have the ability to say ‘Okay, so this is what I think happened. Now let me put on a different hat and try to Steel Man the counter argument about plausibility.’ 

And we just had this with Hillary Clinton and the claim that the Bernie Sanders people were crazy for thinking that the DNC had picked a candidate early, but immediately when these emails were released, immediately, it was the Russians that did it.

So the question about who gets to say what’s crazy and who gets to camp and decamp. We have had so many conspiracies that have been uncovered. I always find it really interesting. Somebody will say to me: ‘You’re not a conspiracy theorist, are you? and I had a tweet a while back, which was after MKUltra and Operation Paperclip and COINTELPRO. All smart people are conspiracy theorists. Do I look stupid?

So the question is, do you have enough self-authorship of your own mind to explore things that might be nutty, and then to do the editing to see whether or not you achieve something in the nutty state, and can you go back and forth?

I have a friend group that is disproportionately Islamic, and it’s been one of the great experiences of my life since I was 16. My closest friend welcomed me into his family, his culture, this was a completely eye-opening experience. He and his family engaged in traditional practices with the hand kissing, and touching feet and all sorts of – I guess the feet touching was a different kind of field of respect. But the family was so courageous. His sister was brutally gang-raped in India and the father supported his daughter talking about it openly, when you would imagine that the feelings of shame and the issues of Honor would have been dominant. 

In traveling abroad as a Jew to muslim countries

And so in my life I have traveled, always openly as a Jew in the Islamic world, and I’ve been treated incredibly well. I believe that if the Nazis were ever to recur the floorboards under which I would be hidden they would likely be Muslim floorboards. 

So it’s very painful to not have this long, short language, where in general… I’ve been in the largely Islamic social context since I was 16. People don’t ever address you as ‘Oh crusader’. I mean, that the kind of speech that you get used to watching Isis videos which most people don’t watch but I’ve watched a great deal of them just because I need to know about this.

You’re talking about two completely different worlds that are connected. And I think it’s really important to advertise more heart, more empathy, more emotion. Because otherwise, the very dry analytic way in which one can go about thinking about this, I think, it gets too much play in a certain sense.

One can be so logical that the fact that the texts say these very clear things or that there’s ambiguity, but there’s a hierarchy for resolving the ambiguities. And, so I think in part it’s a little bit perverse that some people almost have more sympathies with the literal versions of the religion than you do with what some call, and I think it’s somewhat disparaging, nominal members of these religions.  

To get some attention for the work we’ve done in economics I decided to start referring to myself as an economist. I figured if I got called out then I would get to push the work in front of a world that was asking for my credentials. 

Strangely, economists don’t call you out when you call yourself an economist, and so I ended up as an economist rather than having the attention that I was hoping to drag to this new theory of gauge theoretic and geometric economics.

Talking about the potential of the human mind and how to unlock it, I think I became very curious as to what the domain of applicability was and whether some of these techniques that would help you shoot baskets or learn tango could be applied to let’s say quantum field theory, which seemed like kind of the next logical place to go after tango dancing.

On Technology killing Capitalism

Interview with Pia Malaney (@PiaMalaney on twitter)

PIA: I’m going to start by reading your quote from a recent essay that you wrote. “Capitalism and Communism which briefly resembled victor and vanquished, increasingly look more like Thelma and Louise; a tragic couple sent over the edge by forces beyond their control. What comes next is anyone’s guess and the world hangs in the balance.”

Do you really think market capitalism is dead? 

ERIC: I can’t say that I started out thinking that market capitalism is dead, but I think I’ve been reluctantly pushed towards that conclusion. I think so many of the recent reports on our economy, with tech firms sitting on huge cash war chests, buybacks, recoveries without much progress in terms of wages, the middle class continually losing ground, young people unable to start families, and the propensity for first home purchases decreasing, have led me to question whether we have a million little fires that need to be put out, or some sort of central explanation. 

And I think that actually the world makes a lot more sense, if we think the unthinkable, which is that market capitalism was in fact an accident of the 20th century, and that there are certain preconditions that need to be present for it to function, which, we may have actually changed these conditions through technology, not through Rebel ideologies, so that well, market capitalism has always focused on totalitarian communism as its intellectual foe and dancing partner.. In fact, it was its child – technology that may have actually done it in. 

PIA: So you believe it’s really technology that is killing capitalism? In what way do you think this is happening? 

ERIC: So this is really interesting. I think that there are probably a variety of ways in which this is happening. On the one hand, software which is I think best understood by the people who code it, really excels at looped behavior – so whether it’s a for loop or a while loop, if you stop a computer program at random, it could stop either in the Rube Goldberg like sections, which unfold, once never to be repeated, or in the parts that continue to repeat the same behavior. And in fact almost always it will end up in a loop. Because that’s where the power of software comes from, and that’s where software spends most of its time. 

A lot of our training in fact almost all of the training that we know how to do repeat-ably, like in medicine or law or accounting, is predicated on the idea of expertise, that we should teach people through a one time major investment in their education, with a small amount of continuing education to keep them current, that they should do some looped repetitive pattern, in the pursuit of expertise in a field, in order to feed themselves and their families. 

And I think that the problem is that our educational system has maneuvered them into the crosshairs of software, so that they are in fact training to do what software does best, and if you imagine for example a radiologist who’s trained for many years in order to be able to make tricky diagnoses, potentially being obviated by a deep learning algorithm, and you’ll have a tiny number of radiologists at the top of the profession for the very tricky cases. But most of the work will be handled by a machine. This leads us to a very uncomfortable paradigm. 

I think the reason that few of us are talking about the death of capitalism is that we don’t want to leave the shore that we know, until we know there’s some landmass that we can swim to. And there is as yet no ‘ism’ not communism, not socialism, not capitalism, that I see is capable of taking over the management of these complex emergent systems that we see in our cities and in our economies. 

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On Universal Basic Income

So I think it’s really important to understand that where we are is that we may need a hybrid model in the future which is paradoxically more capitalistic than our capitalism of today and perhaps even more socialistic than our communism of yesteryear, because so many souls will require respect and hope and freedom and choice who may not be able to defend themselves in the market as our machines and our software gets better and better.

And this is one of the reasons why something like universal basic income comes out of a place fiercely capitalistic like Silicon Valley, because despite the fact that many view the technologists mercenary megalomaniacs, in fact, these are the folks who are closest to seeing the destruction that their work may visit upon the population.

And I don’t know, I think, of any 9, 10, or 11-figure individual at the moment that I’m familiar with who isn’t worrying about what we’re going to do to take care of those who may not be able to meet their expectations with training and jobs as in previous models. Truck and car driving is one of the largest employers of working-age men threatened by self-driving vehicles or any of the other examples. 

For example: computers that are capable of writing sports stories from the scores alone. So in all of these cases I think the technology is actually forcing those who are most familiar with it to become most compassionate. And whether or not we are going to leaven our capitalism with some communism or start from some sort of socialist ideal and realize that if we don’t find a way to grow our pie very aggressively with the tiny number of individuals who are capable of taking over operations of great complexity, I think that we are going to have some kind of a hybrid system. I wish I could tell you what it was going to look like but the fact is nobody knows. 

Universal basic income is very interesting but is clearly a first step and I would say really a first draft of a part of a theory that we just don’t have yet. Honestly I’m rather confused about whether to be optimistic or pessimistic. 

From the Big Think Video

I get asked a lot about the state of capitalism and I think that for those members of society of a certain age we think of capitalism as being locked in an ideological battle with Socialism perhaps or even Communism. But we never really saw the capitalism might be defeated by its own child : Technology.

And I think that what we find is that even the most die-hard free-market economists usually save place for what they call market failure. That is, markets really only work when the value of something and the price of that object or service coincide.So the key question: is what causes value in price to get out of alignment?

And, in fact, every government on earth has a form of levying taxes of some form, because at some level there are certain things that need to be paid for that cannot, in fact, be priced where they must be valued.So, for example, raising a standing army is tough because if somebody chooses not to pay for it it’s very difficult to exclude them from the protection of that army.

So that in general – what we find is that these market failures are found in every economy, but they are also hopefully a small portion of the economic activity so that we can deal with themas a special edge case.Now the problem with this is the technology appears to do something about figuring out the size of that small slice and making it rather large.

So, for example, if I record a piece of music, once upon a time if you wanted a high quality version of that music you had to go to the folks who actually press the record albums. But nowI can record music with arbitrary fidelity and share it as a small file. And my having a copy of that file doesn’t preclude anyone else from copying the file and using it themselves.

There’s no question that the number of times I use that file doesn’t really degrade the file because it’s, in fact, digital.So in that situation musicians were among the first to feel the earth crumble beneath their feet and they had to find new business models because, in fact, they found that they had gone from producing a private good where price and value coincided to producing a public good. And the idea of taxing people to pay for both an army and their diet of jazz and rock’n’roll probably didn’t make a lot of sense.

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Also here’s a link to Eric’s edge.org essay on “Anthropic Capitalism & the New Gimmick Economy

I’m in the very unusual position of being a PhD who did not really have an advisor. And I think that I learned a lot of what I needed to learn from very old texts relative to the speed at which people published. So Einstein, in his writings, I found an incredible source of inspiration and I watched very carefully how he talked about the Creator.

And the Creator stood in, if you will, for order that he presumed to be present, but could not yet prove. His debate with quantum about quantum mechanics wasn’t that he didn’t accept it but he didn’t accept it as bedrock the way perhaps someone like Bohr would have advanced to use it as a Shibboleth to separate those who could really do physics and those who just couldn’t accept things being really, really weird.

I think we have a very desperate situation in physics at the moment, which not all physicists will will admit, which is that we have more or less three or four equations that represent our top level, their bottom level understanding universe. In some sense, at least three of the four of them seem to be best possible in their categories, so we’re sort of it feels like we’re kind of at the end.

Nobody believes that we would be in this situation so to even work on this problem. It’s kind of intellectual suicide. We’ve gone for almost 40 years without an improvement validated by nature coming from theory in the standard model of physics. General relativity has said mostly inert since it was put in relatively final form around 1915 into the into the early 20s.

So why should you go into this? Why should you trade a career in management consulting or hedge funderie for almost certain doom. I think it requires something of a religious spirit to play with the outcomes on the thick right tail of a power-law of human existence where most most likely you’re going to fail. You’re going to lose. It’s the sort of maximum likelihood.

But the thick right tail is called us and speaks to our ability to improve the species and to increase our understanding of the cosmos. I would not be able to think about these things so easily if I couldn’t posit some version of the Creator, because I can’t solve the I can’t solve the question of why is there something rather than nothing?

My attempt is to say assuming that there’s calculus and linear algebra and nothing else how close can I get to four-dimensional space-time with three generations of fermions and the observed forces. Is there any way to get that out of emergence? It’s a very tall order and so it was almost certainly an insane thing to start a project like that for me.

But in my experience I would go into a closet in my mind and I would attempt to speak to this thing that could not speak. Einstein asked this one question which moved me where he said ‘I don’t care about the spectrum of this or that element. What really concerns me is whether the Creator had any choice.’

And that was really my research problem, which is: Is the Creator not all-powerful, all-knowing, but in fact all constrained a custodian whose only job is to switch on the light of reality? Trying to think about John Wheelers concept of the universe examining itself.

I view us, in some sense, as the emergent artificial intelligence which will animate the Creator when we turn in the source code, where the universe for the first time, uses us as its artificial intelligence to contemplate its own reality, which it’s never been able to do, at least in our little neighborhood.

So the question is, can you have a system self contemplates? Does that actually animate the Creator? Are we supposed to bring the Creator to some sentient perspective?

Now that sounds insane on some level. It doesn’t sound of a piece with here’s the Lagrangian, here are the equations, this differential operator over here.

Because it really matters to me if I’m going to go into a very deep state of thought to think that I am in some sense consulting the Creator and that my job is to listen, and to think that somehow this is all going to work out. I think that what I found is that this is how a subset of people who are quite rational behave. 

But the particular area of physics that I care most about, I use a faith module for intermediate steps in trying to figure out how to proceed. Because, our brains may be constructed for thinking about people, sometimes it helps to imagine nature as a Creator and to be in conversation with the Creator. 

And so the anthropomorphizing of design constraints, as a Creator, can be extremely liberating. It allows you to hand wave and to  sort of black box certain things that if you were in a sort of rigorous framework, you’d be trapped on a local maximum, and you could never cross the Adaptive landscape. And the Adaptive Valley is to borrow from the evolutionary theory of civil right. 

I think that L Ron Hubbard was interested in doing other terrestrial things and Elon is actually interested not in playing in religion. But just the way you guys have made this very interesting point that the great atheist governmental experiment that ended in so many deaths in the 20th century were actually religious in some way, which i think is an interesting point. I don’t quite get the same good feeling from that that you do, but it certainly needs to be entertained.

I think that there is something religious about this kind of faith. I don’t know him, I’ve never met him, but I do think that it is emblematic of the mindset that I would say would be permeable to faith and the speed with which he picked up on AI and this sort of artificial general intelligence apocalypse suggests that that mind is also permeable to things that are at least in the general neighborhood of faith.

Because the idea of building a golem that could in fact destroy you. There’s a very religious aspect to this singular act of violence creation. 

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So we worry a lot about Artificial Intelligence, but it turns out that there are a lot of species that use the intelligence of the target species that they’re parasitizing and make the victim do the thinking in the service of the predator. So we haven’t worried about evolving through artificial life because computer programs are about the only thing that human beings can manufacture where we can build in the reproductive system.

As soon as it involves atoms you can’t get two glasses to make a third tumbler. I believe that almost all the prerequisites needed to build a system that hijacks the intelligence of the prey and mimics an intelligent system using the intelligence of the victim, are in place. 

There are a bunch of questions next to or adjacent to general Artificial Intelligence that have not gotten enough alarm because, in fact, there’s a crowding out of mind share. I think that we don’t really appreciate how rare the concept of selection is in the machines and creations that we make.

So in general, if I have two cars in the driveway I don’t worry that if the moon is in the right place in the sky and the mood is just right that there will be a third car at a later point, because in general I have to go to a factory to get a new car. I don’t have a reproductive system built into my sedan.

Now almost all of the other physiological systems—what are there, perhaps11?—have a mirror. So my car has a brain, so it’s got a neurological system. It’s got a skeletal system in its steel, but it lacks a reproductive system. So you could ask the question: are humans capable of making any machines that are really self-replicative?

And the fact of the matter is that it’s very tough todo at the atomic layer but there is a command in many computer languages called Spawn. And Spawn can effectively create daughter programs from a running program.

Now as soon as you have the ability to reproduce you have the possibility that systems of selective pressures can act because the abstraction of life will be just as easily handled whether it’s based in our nucleotides, in our A, C, Ts and Gs, or whether it’s based in our bits and our computer programs.

So one of the great dangers is that what we will end up doing is creating artificial life, allowing systems of selective pressures to act on it and finding that we have been evolving computer programs that we may have no easy ability to terminate, even if they’re not fully intelligent.

Further if we look to natural selection and sexual selection in the biological world we find some very strange systems, plants or animals with no mature brain to speak of effectively outsmart species which do have a brain by hijacking the victim species’ brain to serve the non-thinking species.

So, for example, I’m very partial to the mirror orchid which is an orchid whose bottom petal typically resembles the female of a pollinator species. And because the male in that pollinator species detects a sexual possibility the flower does not need to give up costly and energetic nectar in order to attract the pollinator. And so if the plant can fool the pollinator to attempt to mate with this pseudo-female in the form of its bottom petal, it can effectively reproduce without having to offer a treat or a gift to the pollinator but, in fact, parasitizes its energy.

Now how is it able to do this? Because if a pollinator is fooled then that plant is rewarded. So the plant is actually using the brain of the pollinator species, let’s say a wasp or abee, to improve the wax replica, if you will, which it uses to seduce the males.That which is being fooled is the more neurologically advanced of the two species.

And so whatI’ve talked about, somewhat controversially, is what I call Artificial Out-telligence. Where instead of actually having an artificially intelligent species you can imagine a dumb computer program that uses the reward, through let’s say genetic algorithms and selection within a computer framework, to increasingly parasitize using better and better lures, fully intelligent humans.

And in the case of Artificial Intelligence I don’t think we’re there yet. But in the case of Artificial Out-telligence, I can’t find anything that’s missing from the equation.

So we have self-modifying code. You have Bitcoin so you could have a reward structure and Blockchains. And there’s nothing that I see that keeps us from creating.Now that’s such a such a strange and quixotic possibility. Now in this framework I don’t see an existential risk so that my friends who worry about machine intelligence being a terminal invention for the human species probably don’t need to be worried.

But I think that there’s a lot of exotica around Artificial Intelligence which hasn’t been explored and I think which is much closer to fruition. Perhaps that’s good. Maybe it’s a warning shot so that we’re going to find that we just as we woke up to Bitcoin as digital gold we may wake up to a precursor to artificial general intelligence which alerts us to the fact that we should probably be devoting more energy into this absolutely crazy sounding future problem which no humans have ever encountered

So, I don’t know how to solve the problem of the umbrella. There’s nothing I like about umbrellas. They blow up in wind so that they’re easily wrecked under the conditions that in which they’re supposed to be used, they have these long metal spikes at about eye level, so they’re clearly a safety hazard.

Everything about the umbrella strikes me as wrong. I’ve seen people try to innovate in the umbrella situation there are ones that have air blowers that blow the water away from you there are funky folding designs. But I am almost positive that there exists some very simple mechanical design that would improve the umbrella.

On the other hand, I don’t have that same confidence about the coffee mug. Yes, you could put some electronics in it. You can make it smarter than it is. But fundamentally it seems to be in such a simple stay, that I wouldn’t think that I should innovate there.

What I hate about those problems is if the if there are answers in the back of the book it’s not a good problem. It has to be an actual problem that the the asker doesn’t know.

So if I can give the example where there is a solution known. Luggage before 1989, so it turns out that nobody really knew how to do wheeled luggage before 1989. It was just mind-blowing. It’s hard to imagine that like the whole world had their heads wedged so far up there, that they couldn’t think to put in these large recessed wheels with a telescoping handle.

This was the invention of a guy named Robert Plath, who was a pilot for Northwest, I think. In one fell swoop he convinced everyone that their old luggage was terrible. So even though there wasn’t a lot of growth, he created the growth because nobody wanted their old luggage. 

You could compare these discrete brainwave innovations across field. So for example, in table tennis in the early 50s, the worst player on the Japanese team at the Bombay Table Tennis Championships was this guy Hiroji Satoh. He glued two foam expanses to both sides of a sandpaper table tennis bat and nobody could cue off of the sounds, because it changed the sound of the ball. It’s like if you put a suppressor on your paddle.

The the idea that the worst player on one of the lower rated teams would be the undisputed champion simply through an innovation that was that profound, shows you what the power of one of these ideas, is that the power laws are just so unbelievably in your favor if you win, that it makes it worthwhile.

Questions he find very useful when trying to spot these these breakthrough ideas?

Well it depends, it’s situation by situation. So for example in science I try to use various intellectual arbitrage techniques where if you have a bunch of smart people who have been focused on a problem, I try to look at what as a group their weaknesses are. 

How is the their bread buttered? What is it that they can’t afford to say or think? For example in theoretical physics there all sorts of shibboleths where if you can’t say that you believe that quantum mechanics is intrinsically probabilistic, you’re not a member of the club, because it’s assumed that you sort of can’t accept a difficult reality. Or if you can’t sign up for one of the major schools, you have no way to get funding because there’s no one who will support your grant applications. 

So you start to look at what causes, what should be a diverse portfolio of ideas, to collapse in terms of the diversity where everybody starts representing the same point of view with tiny variations. If you’re looking at a problem that’s never been attempted, you don’t want to use intellectual arbitrage because it’s just blue sky. There’s no reason that the first attempts to think through the problem won’t yield fruit. 

Very often, it’s a question of being the first person to connect to things that have never been connected before and that’s something that is a common place solution in one area, is not thought of in another. So I think that it involves recognizing when something is likely to allow an innovation, figuring out where the information might be, and as a last resort thinking really hard about what the form of the solution might be before you actually push yourself to be concrete.

I think very often you see people get very impatient with hand waving. Oh that’s a lot of hand waving for my tastes. Well if you stay practical you’ll probably be part of a lot of incremental improvements, but you may never be part of one of these moments where that idea changes everything

On Canonical Design

Let’s look at nature. There’s a great virus called T4 bacteriophage. If you look it up it looks like a lunar lander – it’s really cool. The genetic material is held in a capsule, called the capsid, that has the form of an icosahedron.

So it’s a little crazy to think that before Plato ever existed, nature had figured out this complicated 20-sided object. But because it was so natural at a mathematical level, even if it was complex, nature found the canonical design even though there was no canonical designer. Because it was a god-given form, it didn’t need to be thunk up, if you will, by any individual.

Or the recent discovery of grasshoppers that use gear mechanisms for jumping. You would think we’d invented gears but in fact gears are such a natural idea that natural selection found it long before we did.

On Innovation in Silicon Valley

Fundamentally you are zagging when other people are zigging. You’re not even thinking outside the box, you haven’t seen the box for years. If that’s who you are, my feeling is just get here. I can’t promise that your first week or your first month and a half is gonna be the greatest week or month and a half of your life but you will fall in with people. There’s enough open hearted assistance that’s given, there’s enough money, there’s a different culture of abundance now that may not last more than this particular cycle. 

But even if this is a bubble I think it’ll re-inflate in the same place, because fundamentally we’ve run out of all other options other than innovation. If we don’t create and we don’t think our way out of this, I don’t think we have a great plan for steady state. So it’s grow or die, and that means that we’ll have another bubble, and bubbles aren’t terrible things. A lot of wonderful things happen during them.

Do we expect these new innovations to come from Washington or do we expect them to come from strange places? 

I only recently moved here, and to me, more than any other place in the country, this is the place that has kept the faith with an older vision of our country in which we actually believe that we are actually going to be able to grow the pie. People do fight, they do compete, but in general, I’ve never had as good luck as I’ve had since moving here. Serendipity has been absolutely positive. The number of nice and well heeled people who wish to share their good fortune with others to create teams where fierce rivals think nothing but picking up the phone and talking to each other in order to collaborate. It feels real in a way that in every other place it’s always been lip service. 

On umbrellas and real problems
what I hate about those problems is if the if there are answers in the back of the book it’s not a good problem. It has to be an actual problem that the the asker doesn’t know.

So, I don’t know how to solve the problem of the umbrella. There’s nothing I like about umbrellas. They have (Tim laughs) No, seriously Tim, they blow up in wind so that they’re easily wrecked under the conditions that in which they’re supposed to be used, they have these long metal spikes at about eye level, so they’re clearly a safety hazard.

Everything about the umbrella strikes me as wrong. I’ve seen people try to innovate in the umbrella situation there are ones that have air blowers that blow the water away from you there are funky folding designs. But I am almost positive that there exists some very simple mechanical design that would improve the umbrella.

The power of one of these ideas, is that the power laws are just so unbelievably in your favor if you win, that it makes it worthwhile.

in science I try to use various intellectual arbitrage techniques where if you have a bunch of smart people who have been focused on a problem, I try to look at what as a group their weaknesses are. 

How is the their bread buttered? What is it that they can’t afford to say or think? For example in theoretical physics there all sorts of shibboleths where if you can’t say that you believe that quantum mechanics is intrinsically probabilistic, you’re not a member of the club, because it’s assumed that you sort of can’t accept a difficult reality. Or if you can’t sign up for one of the major schools, you have no way to get funding because there’s no one who will support your grant applications. 

So you start to look at what causes, what should be a diverse portfolio of ideas, to collapse in terms of the diversity where everybody starts representing the same point of view with tiny variations. If you’re looking at a problem that’s never been attempted, you don’t want to use intellectual arbitrage because it’s just blue sky. There’s no reason that the first attempts to think through the problem won’t yield fruit. 

But you know in the case of the umbrella, what made one think that this was a problematic object? So count the number of moving parts. Then in general, as things reach final form they they tend to get radically simple. So there’s too many moving parts, if there’s some innovation that’s happened since the problem was originally considered. 

So for example in the case of Oculus Rift and Virtual Reality maybe. Virtual Reality was considered years before Oculus, but nobody had rethought it in the presence of economies of scale that bring the screens and smartphones down in price. So suddenly you have the high quality screens that are affordable that way back when would have cost prohibitive amount. So ask yourself what’s changed recently? Where is the object that currently inhabits the space violating some sort of aspect of canonical design?

On techno-optimism-pessimism, genius, heroism, carbon based valueSo I think in fact is what we combine the techno optimism because we’ve seen amazing things work here with techno-pessimism, because we’ve seen busts and we’ve seen people loose money. In fact we’re converging on a kind of techno-realism. We’re going from Silicon Valley. It doesn’t have to be Silicon Valley based. You can easily take the same kind of belief in genius and heroism and make it a carbon based value as well. So I think this is extremely exciting. 

Technology giving back to the elder sibling, Science – QuoteSlide on board: “Technology as the younger sibling to science appears to be giving back to an elder who lost the faith with her earlier genius and heroism amidst a culture of accountability and extreme financial pressures”

So whether that’s the Atlantic, or National Public Radio, or the New York Times, these organizations have recently behaved quite differently than many of us remember them let’s say 20 years ago. 

If you’re going to trust somebody like a physician to put you under and operate on you, you want to have a lot of previous discussions, so that you feel that person is aligned with you. What I’m trying to do is I’m trying to get the power tools into the hands of the people who’ve not been trusted with them, and say hey I want to upgrade my relationship. I don’t really want to kill the New York Times. I want the New York Times to learn how to respect people, who are as smart or smarter than the editors who drive the narratives, than the reporters who go out and report.

And I want them to come to see themselves as part of the problem, and part of the story, which is, please stop with the editorial headline, everything’s editorialized now. Right, stop with the narratives and you’re going to have to be in partnership because you don’t have the gate-keeping ability anymore. And previously we democratized information but we kept turning the New York Times. Please tell me how to feel those aren’t revolutions in Tahrir Square — those are demonstrations right. And so I was the one who was off of social media I was saying I’m watching a revolution, but in New York when I went to a party you would say, what you are talking about.. the demonstration right. And so these conjugates.

It’s only when you actually hear the authoritative source that you’ve empowered, to switch the language, that you actually feel safe. Because what happens is if you just take what you see, and then you go into your social group you will find that you will be instantly ostracized.

We’ve been depending on the New York Times not for information, we’ve been depending upon it for to tell us what’s safe to feel. Whom should I empathize? Who should I consider a pariah?  Who should I hug to my bosom. And this is the thing that we are now going to break through so 2016 was the year when that started to crumble.

If you are trying to silence a small number of people, the thing to do is proximate them to a lot of really terrible stuff. So for people who don’t have time to say I neither condemn or condone, it’ll create enough fear & doubt in their minds. Tag that which you wish to neutralize, in a context that suits a given narrative. What u r seeing is the institutions treating us almost like an infection, but their immune system is weakened. The media doesn’t like competition & sense making.

The Intellectual Dark Web actually is an alternative sense making collective.

So in this case these so-called IDW will take what is ever happening in the world and will try to analyze it. But very often it sounds very different than what you see in typical mainstream publications, particularly those that we on the left and depended upon for curating the interpretations of what is happening in the world.

The so called commentary, and that is the people who regularly give their takes on what’s happening in the world, seem to have been somewhat captured by a new network which thinks in terms that are very different to the networks that have previously lived at these organizations. 

And as a result I believe that the Intellectual Dark Web is going to be perceived as rivals, and then therefore instead of the commentariat giving an accurate assessment of what we’re doing, they’re going to view us as a rival to their business model, and they’re going to attack on those terms.

One pattern, that is really interesting, which is you put a ton of pressure on a large group of people to salute some flag that shouldn’t be saluted, and most people make the calculation, do I really want to screw up my life just over whether or not I salute the flag whether that’s maybe it’s diversity or multiculturalism or something that sounds pretty good, and has a lot of good stuff in it, and then you’ve got like one person who will stand up and say you cannot compel me.

This is how we found Bret, It’s how we found Jordan Peterson, it’s how we found Lindsey Shepherd.. and in all cases the commonality seems to be that the person who doesn’t salute the flag usually has a very deep reason. It’s not just that it’s wrong. It’s that they’ve got an entire worldview. So what the least interesting thing about these people is the thing for which they came into the spotlight.

And so the whole idea is, isn’t it interesting that the only people willing to screw up their entire lives over these things, are people who the crowd will find — it’s like a truffle hound. You want to find the really interesting Professor at some not so interesting field or department, or it out of the way University.

You just have compelled, everybody is going to sing the following anthem every morning at 8:00 a.m. and the person who says no, that person’s research which is totally unrelated to singing the anthem at 8:00 am, wearing yellow or whatever thing you were you’re asking that person to do. That person is most likely to be the person who is doing groundbreaking research in an area that you would never know.

They are coming after the people who are the least racist, the most forward thinking the most thoughtful the most nuanced. This is no coincidence. When a guy like Bret Weinstein has literally given up an Ivy League education under death threats to stand up for those less fortunate, he’s probably not loosing a lot of sleep over his own racism.

Everyone’s a racist, everyone’s racially aware. We can show the neuroscience studies that show that people identify with, even if you put a bracelet around a hand to show that somebody is in your affinity group, and the bracelet says atheist, you know the reaction will spike through the roof. So we know that there’s an affinity. There’s some kind of latent kind of racism and everyone including blacks, not just limited to whites.

This guy, who’s the most aware he can give you the science, he can give even the introspection and that’s why this was also sort of hysterically funny when the dust settles and everybody’s out of harms way we’re going to look back on this and say wow they picked on Brett Weinstein, that’s how crazy this got.

When I came here to Silicon Valley I was thinking this idea of radical longevity was really stupid. I didn’t get it. I think it’s very much because it’s mis-portrayal is so powerful, that you have a bunch of children with billions of dollars to play with and they dream about things that make no sense, like life going on forever. 

I think I remember an old Twilight Zone where the curse was infinite life and gradually I came to understand that it wasn’t really what the media portrayal was at all.

I don’t think that there actually is much contradiction between trying to figure out how to do end-of-life well and trying to prolong it, if that is a meaningful thing to be doing. To try to avoid going gentle into that good night for as long as you can.

I was in a place in my life where there wasn’t that much going on that I was dying to extend. I mean, I had a nice life and I was happy to be here, but a lot of doors and avenues were blocked. 

You find a lot of things late in life, like, why didn’t I know that Indonesian is the language for me? You know? It’s an amazing language, but all I knew about was French and Spanish in high school. 

I think that one of the things that is happening out here is that things are so exciting, that you can find that you know at a relatively advanced point in your life that suddenly everything is new again. 

Every every day that slips through your fingers, you just want more time to do more things, because maybe you need to connect some aspect. Like, in my work with my wife, some aspect of economic theory, with some aspect of physics, with some harsh portion of evolutionary theory. 

It takes a lot of time to accumulate those things. So if you have people who have multiple wells of expertise, very often what they want is they want more time to explore the connections and creativity. 

It’s not just a question about extending life or extending ego. Dr Joon Yun, talks about the next frontier of radical longevity is radical fertility, because our women may need options later in life to have their children. 

It may be that what we’re talking about is enhanced creativity later in life. So there all sorts of aspects to longevity. I also think that there’s no way out that I know of. I mean, I don’t think that you can extend life indefinitely. There’s always insult, right? You always have the opportunity to step off the curb while talking on your cell phone, into a bus. 

So I don’t think that radical longevity gets you out of thinking about the good death, and I think that there are times when people have had enough and they want to check out and they want to check out gracefully. 

But I think that the problem is, is that the conversation has been misportrayed. The tabloid version of infinite life is pretty uninteresting, and I would agree with people that we shouldn’t waste our money, and our energy, and our precious brains pursuing some sort of ego gratification program for children with too much money and too little sense.

I remember when my son asked me what the definition of a paradox was when he was about three years old, and I said ‘Oh, it’s a question you can’t answer’, and he says, ‘Like what?, I said ‘Well, which came first: the chicken or the egg?’ 

He says ‘The egg’, and I said ‘Okay, now I got you.’

I said, ‘Then what laid the egg?’

And he said, ‘Some bird that was one mutation away from being a chicken.’

Be careful who you raise. 

But that’s not actually the chicken joke that I need to tell. The chicken joke which is less funny, but more important, is that the evolutionary biologists definition of a chicken is an egg’s way of making another egg. 

This is sort of this theory of the disposable soma that the only thing that really matters is that which is passable. So usually what you can pass is genes. 

Some other species have some things like tool use that can be taught. So there’s some ability to pass meaning, and memes, if you will. A primitive analog of literature.

But the problem is, is that the human animal, with the largest brain-to-body ratio in the animal kingdom, has a level of specificity of mind and depth of connection through language that is a complete and utter mismatch for the theory of disposable soma. 

We are not simply a sperm and egg’s way of making another sperm and egg. There’s just no way to reconcile that with the legacy of literature, and culture, and meaning, and what it takes to get past your youth and to deepen your appreciation for the world.

That we are here on a terrible frame for the beauty that an individual soul and life. And again, it’s not every soul and life that needs to be preserved. But at our best, these relationships are just so devastating when when you lose them. 

In particular, the loss of my grandfather. I continually talk to the dead, and it’s harder and harder to conjure him up, not because I’ve forgotten what he’s like, but because the world keeps changing and moving and he’s sort of frozen in time at 94 and a half. 

So when I seek his counsel, I’m really running him in emulation in my mind. I think that we just have to reconcile the fact that the ability to pass language between us leads to a depth of connection that is unknown elsewhere in the animal kingdom. 

That’s what makes death often such a terrible tragedy, is that we are so much more than than the evolutionary biology which brought us here. 

Well I mean, here’s a project that I haven’t gotten anybody interested enough in, which comes out of what we’re doing. 

Look at all of the edge cases where nature gets pretty darn close to something that looks like radical longevity. So for example, Syndrome X, where there was this one freak child who didn’t seem to mature developmentally and so remained an infant, I think died at age 20 or 21. We have no idea what that is, in terms of some sort of an error, but certainly very, very interesting. 

If you take Hydra – they may come in a – these tiny microscopic animals – they come in a sexual variety and a sexless variety. It always seems to be that the thing that reproduces sexually senesces and gets old and dies. But sometimes the thing that doesn’t reproduce sexually seems to have some sort of immortality properties. So there’s some relationship between sex and death that we don’t quite understand. 

You can look at Bristle cone Pines and you can start trying to aggregate all of these things that senesce very, very slowly. Or people who managed to have great productivity you know late in life. Freak edge cases like, I think Schrodinger (Erwin), didn’t really contribute into physics I think until his 40s and 50s, which was very late by the standards of the day. 

So sometimes you, at a personal level, you just have to get lucky in order to understand what it is that you’re supposed to be doing. 

Just out of curiosity, how many people in this room can raise their hand without embarrassment and say that you found the love of your life after age 40?

Right? So, in some sense, all right I bet some of you didn’t find the love of your life until after age 60, and if that’s what happens you want more time. You want more time. And somebody else doesn’t need more time but you, know you, you just started living late. 

Maybe you worked through some stuff. I have a relative who is one of Mangle’s twins, Eva Kor, who eventually forgave Dr. Mengele, which was a little bit of a controversy in the Jewish community. But the point was, is that the the resentment, and the hatred, and the anger was actually deforming her. 

What a courageous thing to do very late in life and to unburden yourself of that.

So I think that it’s just important to think about both the scientific angles, where you can look at something like, let’s say lobsters, which have this sort of obligate growth where they seem to senesce very little, but they they keep getting larger so that they end up killing themselves, because of the the size that they have to grow to.

We could aggregate all of these freak cases from the natural world and try to learn something about why nature can’t solve this problem. It’s bound up in a theory called antagonistic pleiotropy, where there’s a trade-off between length of life and vigor and youth. 

Then you can look at the personal versions of this. 

Why is it that, for example, hip hop culture is so vital? You have white suburban kids emulating the black inner city. It’s in part because lifespans are very uncertain. So life is front-loaded and much more exciting and vital and creative. 

So there are analogs at a cultural level, with a biology level. 

If you think about something like the worm C. elegans. This primitive nematode – we have a complete cell lineage diagram, even an entire map developmentally of this of this organism, as well as all the 300 neurons in its brain, and all the connections between them. So it’s the only complicated animal that we actually have a relatively complete map of. We still don’t understand how it works. 

So we’re coming very close to really learning why Nature has never chosen to solve this problem. If you want evidence for why we should be thinking about how to die well, certainly nature is not indicating that there’s any way of living forever. Whether it’s you know histological entropy and your tissues getting confused, the difficulty of preserving state.

So I think there’s good reason to think that we’re up against a pretty hard problem. I don’t think that it’s gonna get… I’m not particularly optimistic that we have a very fast solution coming. 

But I do think that you know it’s worthwhile thinking about both the science and the sort of freak analogs in culture and in in our interpersonal relationships that make radical longevity and also the ability to opt out gracefully, in a time and manner of your choosing, non antagonistic objectives. I don’t think that there has… and you can go back and forth between them. 

A beautiful story from India, where my wife is from. We went to visit a relative of hers who had gotten very sick. She was there. She said ‘It’s my time’, and ‘you in the West don’t understand’, and ‘we accept’, and ‘I was going to be with God’. 

Her sister said, ‘Yeah, I flew in from England and I realized that that was nuts and she just needed some blood plasma and some fancy drugs from Switzerland.’ And you know, sure enough, she was better. There are ways in which you can be graceful about it, and also choose to fight it when you have the opportunity. 

So, I think we need to stop thinking about these things as naturally antagonistic. Both communities need to learn from each other.

The idea that fundamentally your body is the hospital that you need most. It’s the most effective one.

During your youth you can do all sorts of ridiculous things to your body and it just sort of comes back to this kind of healthful state. Then as you accumulate more cell divisions, and the tissue gets a little bit confused, and your extracellular complex can’t figure out where things are, it makes sense that your skin starts to sag, and you start to forget things, and all of these things happen. 

But, it could well be that these things are mechanical problems. 

And if you found out that they were mechanical problems, imagine that we were a species where the most you could live to was 40 and somebody gave you our new limit which is about 120 for the hard stop. 

One person went to 122). But would that be horrible? I mean, everybody would be reconciled to 40, and suddenly you’d just be back to where we are now. 

I think you have to ask yourself you know the key question not about us but let’s say you could give radical longevity to people in the past. 

Would you want people looking at every all the craziness going on now?

Would you want to know how things worked out in the 30s? 

Would you would you want to be able to talk to people who’ve been through World War I, or the Civil War, or the Age of Exploration? 

Right now I think we’re living through a kind of weird low-grade revolution of a type we haven’t seen before and frankly I wish there were more old people around who I could talk to because mostly but what I’ve known my entire adult life at 52 is stasis coming out of World War II. I think that would be a huge help.

There was a news story that moved me and a lot of other people about a father who knew he was dying and came up with five years worth of birthday cards and flowers to send to the daughter, who then turned 21. She was sad that this was the last one she was getting.

I thought, why is this a news story? 

Why aren’t we all doing this? 

Why only five years? 

And I read this story and I still didn’t do anything about it. 

So I think that, in some sense, if you guys want to lead the way and talk about how we play with death, rather than whistling past the graveyard, how we dance past it, and how we you know develop a more mature relationship, how we get excited about planning our wake, and thinking about the order of people we want to speak, and you know what we want to reveal years after we’re gone so that we can continue to have these conversations.

I think everybody thinks very much about themselves up until they have children, and almost nobody believes ‘I don’t care what happens to my kids after I’m gone.’ 

So just try to try to think about the fact that death is simply part of a program that is already immortal, which is the theory of lineage. Whether it’s the lineage of your ideas or the lineage of your genes, these things matter to all of us while we’re here and it’s one of the most exciting things to think about, ‘well, what’s gonna be remembered about me while I’m gone?’ 

So how do we put some fun in this crazy topic?