Hey everybody, hey everybody, welcome to another episode of All In, the podcast episode eight.
Besties are here to talk about tech, economy, politics, the election, and our lives in Silicon
Valley. Welcome back to the pod, David Friedberg, the Queen of Kinwai is here from an undisclosed
Always a joy.
Undisclosed location somewhere in the Midwest.
You bailed on SF after the smoke. You lasted how many days into the barbecue, into the
I left on the Wednesday of the orange cloud and took, it was crazy, took my kiddos and
we’re waiting it out, the fires in the Midwest.
Well, it’s beautiful the last two days here. Also from an undisclosed bestie location,
David Sachs back on the program. Rain Man is here.
Good to be here.
All right. Well, there you go, man of many words. And speaking of the man of many words,
hot off of seven keynotes this week, talking about SPACs, the Prince of SPACs, Chamath
Palihapitiya back on the pod.
How are you besties?
Well, we had a little bestie reunion, which I think we can talk about. Chamath invited us over
to have an outdoor bestie reunion.
Yeah. And you gave one of them gonorrhea and you gave the other two.
Well, it’s crazy to say, but I literally had to call Chamath two or three days after he hosted-
Oh, a socially, by the way, a socially distanced dinner outdoors.
Socially distant dinner outdoors. Wonderful. We had some great ribeye. Fantastic. Cracked
open a nice bottle or two of wine and the port.
And, but then what did you do?
But then what did you do?
Well, then a family member of mine, who shall remain nameless,
decided to go to a party in San Francisco and possibly got the Rona and he tested positive.
And then I had to get everybody in my house tested twice. Everybody came back negative,
but I had to call Chamath and tell him, listen, I wasn’t exposed, but some members of my family
were, therefore I might have secondhand exposure. I took two tests, came back negative two times in
Can I just say though, it’s really crazy. We have to develop all these new social norms
and you’re not sure what to say and you’re not sure how to react. And it’s like, it must’ve been
like when you got a call and it’s like, hey, listen, your girlfriend’s like, I may be pregnant
or somebody’s like, hey, listen, I have an STD. You’re just like, what is going on?
I felt like that when I was texting the group chat. It was like three of us
and I had to text my tail between my legs. I think I’ve been exposed. I’m really sorry, guys.
I think Calcannus is the Greek word for a turd in the punch bowl.
Yeah, exactly. I don’t know if we can tell the code 13 story.
Oh, I’m going to tell the code 13 story. I wasn’t even there, but I
The code 13 story is legendary.
Jason Calcannus gets invited by David Sachs out of his benevolence to come to stay
in Hawaii at the Four Seasons. And at some point during this week-long vacation,
Christmas Day, you hear a shout from the pool from the lifeguard.
Well, no, no. It was even before that. We were sitting at the bar. So me and Jason and his
brother-in-law were sitting at the bar having drinks and all of a sudden there’s a commotion
and the bartenders and the staff and we started hearing people on walkie-talkie saying code 13,
People are running.
People are running.
We don’t know what to make of that.
We think it’s a terrorist attack.
I mean, literally the Four Seasons is on a high alert. Alarms are going off.
And then we hear, okay, well, we were like, we said to the bartender,
well, what’s the code 13? And he’s like, well, it means that some kid,
you know, crapped in the pool.
Did a number two in the pool. And we’re like, you know, and then we’re like, okay, well, you know.
It was Jason’s kid.
Well, then I started hearing something about like the Sachs kids and I’m like,
Sachs code 13.
They thought it was us.
And then it turns out it was, it was Jacob’s kid.
And we were, we were never able to get a reservation again.
Well, it’s so funny.
It’s like, I went there at one point a few years later and it’s a whole ordeal.
Cause they said, so how do you guys deal with like, you know, a code 13?
They’re like, oh, code 13, you have to evacuate the whole hotel.
Half the island gets sent away.
Here’s what had to happen.
This is just to put the code 13 in perspective.
I think my 10 year old at the time was two years old.
My sister-in-law takes the baby in the pool without telling anybody.
And the baby’s not wearing a swim diaper.
And so basically a Snickers bar floats out of the, and there’s a Snickers bar in the pool.
And you guys have kids, you know, how big these things could get.
You’re like, how is that possible?
You know, like a movie theater size Snicker,
a king size Snicker pool is floating in the middle of the pool.
But this is on December 25th.
These poor people are spending $3,000 a night.
There is not a single chaise lounge by the pool that’s not occupied.
It is peak capacity at the Four Seasons Hotel on the big island or wherever it was.
The pool has to be shut down for four hours.
The person has to get in with a hazmat suit, retrieve the Snickers bar.
King size Snickers has to get out of the pool.
Then they have to throw in every chemical known to man
so much so that the pool is ruined for Christmas day.
And that’s the Code 13 story.
All right, getting back to our topics.
TikTok is on the verge of being banned from additional U.S. downloads.
The Commerce Department has announced that it will ban U.S. downloads
and business transactions with TikTok and WeChat.
Somehow WeChat got pulled into this on Sunday.
Seemingly, we’re going to allow TikTok to operate until November 12th.
So they got a little bit of a stay of execution.
But of course, if they can’t update in the App Store,
that means there could be any security vulnerabilities
that get found between now and then would not be able to be updated.
And Steve Mucin is attempting to push through a TikTok deal
that will enable retaining some Chinese ownership.
And there’s some sort of agreement now with Oracle
will have some kind of an oversight board to do continuous third party audits.
What does this say, Chamath, about where we’re at?
And do you believe that a Democratic leader, let’s say Obama or Biden,
would have taken the same approach here?
Does it worry you that the government’s getting this involved?
Or is this inspiring that the government’s putting their foot down
and saying, hey, we’re not going to do this?
Is it inspiring that the government’s putting their foot down and saying,
hey, listen, we’re going to need to have some basic level of reciprocity from China
if we’re going to allow you in our App Store?
You know, I think it’s kind of like, you know,
like if you’ve ever been driving someplace with your significant other,
and they’re like, turn left.
And you’re like, no, no, I’m going to turn right.
And then you realize you should have turned left.
But then you keep turning right a few more times.
Then you take a couple more laps.
But then you end up at the same place.
But it was complete shit, dumb luck.
I feel like we’re going to end up in the same place here with TikTok,
which is that I think that the Trump administration probably is doing this.
And Donald Trump specifically probably does this more as a demonstration of power
and American exceptionalism, which I’m not sure is the right reason to do it.
But I think the outcome is right, which is that for years,
China has essentially been shut out to American companies,
unless you effectively just kowtow to these guys.
And, you know, some companies have and some companies like,
you know, Google have not and other companies like Facebook
have been totally basically blocked from entering.
And so I think it’s completely right.
It’s unfair to have the asymmetric market advantages that Chinese companies have had.
And so you have to play hardball to create a different set of rules.
And I think this probably gets us to that place.
The reason why it’s happening is probably more because the TikTok people
played that joke on Trump at the Tulsa rally, if I had to guess.
Yeah. What do you think, Friedberg?
Is this a good sign for America and the globe that, you know,
and the democratic nations of the world that we’re going to put our foot down with China and say,
hey, some reciprocity or you’re not going to be able to participate in our marketplace?
Or is this a personal vendetta from Trump or a little bit of both?
I don’t see how it’s anything but a slippery slope forward in the escalation of,
you know, what’s going to be kind of transpiring between these two nations in the
next couple of years and maybe decades.
You know, this goes back to the, you know, early 2000s when Google and others wanted
to enter China and China has, for those who don’t know, China has this great firewall,
right? Chinese citizens can’t openly access the rest of the Internet.
And China wanted to censor content and censor what their citizens are accessing.
And so there’s been a back and forth between the tech industry and China going back almost
20 years now to try and figure out how we can bring our services to China.
And then China launches a service that’s very successful in the U.S. in TikTok.
And I think it’s just a, you know, a part of the reciprocity equation,
which doesn’t resolve anything. It only escalates things.
So it’s unfortunate, but it’s just kind of another step in the path
that I think is inevitable in front of us here.
Sachs, we’ll give you the final word here. Is this a good thing for humanity,
for international relations that China is, you know, having a little bit of a hand check here,
like, hey, there’s going to be a limit to how you can operate in the West?
Or is this a personal vendetta from Trump? And then what do you see going forward?
It’s true that, I mean, first of all, our social networks are not allowed over there.
So I don’t think we need to feel bad about, you know, not allowing their social networks over here.
But besides reciprocity or the lack of it, I think the deeper reason for this is just around
data security and how the, you know, and I think that the CCP has given us adequate grounds here
to ban not just TikTok, but, you know, apps like that.
Because President Xi himself declared this policy of civil military fusion,
which means that any business in China, any business asset there, including data,
can be appropriated to serve the ends of the Chinese military or the Communist Party.
And, you know, the CCP has set up this vast surveillance apparatus over its own citizens.
It’s asserted extraterritorial sovereignty over former Chinese citizens, meaning dissidents.
So the Chinese diaspora anywhere in the world, they’ve asserted sovereignty over that.
And, you know, recently there was a pretty remarkable speech by the FBI director Christopher
Wray describing, you know, Operation Fox Hunt, which is the Chinese effort to track down
and presumably ultimately punish Chinese dissidents anywhere in the world.
And as part of that, the Chinese have sort of weaponized AI and social media.
And so he also described, I mean, this is like pretty amazing, you know, that the Equifax hack,
which collected data on something like, sensitive data on over 100 million Americans,
the Chinese were behind that. I didn’t know that. And so, you know, it’s true that, you know,
no one piece of data poses by itself a risk to the security of America or Americans, but
it’s sort of this systematic collection and aggregation of the data and the hacking
collectively that I do think pose a security threat. And, and I think.
You got to stop right there, Saks. Actually, an individual’s data could absolutely be compromised
if they have access to your passwords, because through the clipboard, they have access to your
phone roll. If a young person had photos that were, say, compromising in their photo roll,
the phone is, you know, basically given access to that, they upload that.
Now you could use that as compromise against a senator’s child or against a senator themselves.
And this seems like an abstract thing, but this is exactly what the Chinese and Russians have been
doing for a very long time. If you’ve seen the series, The Americans, and you go back to the 80s
to see the weaponization of, you know, somebody who was in the closet, who was gay during that
time, or somebody who was having an extramarital affair, you could compromise anybody with just
sexual compromise. And you hear we’re giving access to hundreds of millions of people’s photo
libraries, by the way, clipboards, by the way, you just said something that’s really scary,
which is like, if you’re if you’re the Chinese, and you know, they have the patience to play the
long game. You just aggregate and collect this thing for 30 years, on the off chance that one
of these people becomes important. I mean, what is the real terrain candidate just you just surveil
300 million Americans and just say, you know what, we’ll take our shot. I mean, it’s going to cost
us a few billion dollars a year in storage, who cares? Yeah, I’m not like, is there really a case
that what they’re doing in the tick tock app? I don’t know how much you guys have read some of
the studies on on what they are actually pulling. But is there really a case that what they’re
pulling is particularly different than what would be pulled by pretty much any other social app or
photo sharing app on your phone. There was some, you know, kind of insight that, hey, they were
capturing the MAC address. But that was up until last November, after November, they the app kind
of refresh and stopped doing that. And it was a hack that some number of apps out there were already
doing. But my understanding is the way that they’ve built the app, it’s the same kind of
ad tracking type approach that a lot of apps are taking. I think it is a naive position that because
we haven’t caught them doing something nefarious that they aren’t actually doing something nefarious
right now. If you look at what MBS did to Jeff Bezos, sending that, I guess it was a movie file
or an image that then wound up hacking his WeChat and his phone. Like, I think they’ve built the
software. I think it’s purpose built, whether it’s WeChat or tick tock to have these back doors.
There’s no way the Chinese government is not influencing that, guys. Look, if you if you had
to bet David, what do you think the odds are between zero and 100 with 100 being absolute
certainty that there are foreign national spies that work at Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft?
That’s my point. It’s is it? I mean, look, I think that there are no, but do you think
it’s 100%? Oh, of course. It’s 100. Yeah, I think at every one of them. It’s probably 100%. Yeah,
at least one, you know, for national that has a connection to intelligence in China. Yeah,
it’s probably 100%. 100%. So my point is, tick tock is 100. Chinese 100% Chinese. So you don’t
even have to guess whether it’s my point is, like, if there is some, you know, access to
personal data that we’re all concerned about being compromised at literally every other
fucking app company. Yeah, every app is not connected to, you know, the point that Chamath
just made is that they very well could be the fact is, we as individuals have exposed all of
our personal and private data to six or seven companies. I think you’re saying it’d be really
right thing. It is a this is a canary in the coal mine for a bigger issue. This is why I’m saying I
think that, you know, Trump is probably acting out of an expression of power. But I think what
we’re realizing is actually this is about core fundamental privacy and the safety and security
of each of us as individuals. And it should start a bigger conversation like privacy. I really do
think this privacy is the killer feature of the 2020. Right. You know, what David just said about
like, you know, if you’re, if you’re a Chinese ex national, the idea that you’re like, look, I’ve
been a citizen of three countries, the idea that the Sri Lankan government all of a sudden may not
like what I have to say and can spy on me or, you know, root my phone or steal my data. It really
disturbs me like, I’m sorry, but no, go fuck yourself. Like I left that country for a reason.
Yeah. So I think I think the Republican to watch on this is, well, besides Trump, I guess,
is there’s Senator Josh Hawley, who is crazy. Well, he’s, he’s sort of a critic of big tech.
And I think he’s got some interesting things to say. But, but in this particular area,
he is proposing legislation to regulate the types of information that can be collected by
applications that are based in countries that are fundamentally hostile or adversarial to the US.
And that, to me, seems like the right policy, because, you know, it’s not just about TikTok,
it’s about all the apps that collect information on Americans that can be appropriated by,
you know, the Chinese Communist Party or Russia or Iran, places like that. And so,
I think we need a more holistic policy here than just banning TikTok. And it may not be necessary
to ban TikTok, if you had the right limitations placed on them. But, but I do think this,
this whole sort of compromise solution with Larry Ellison and Oracle, that makes no sense to me,
this idea that, you know, Ellison will own 20% of the company, but nothing else really changes,
it’ll still be based in China, a Chinese company will still be Chinese engineers based in China,
who, you know, and they still own 80% of it. I mean, how does that really address the data
Don’t you think, David, that that’s just basically a way of just, it’s a wealth transfer to Larry
Ellison, which I think is amazing. I mean, if I could do it, I would do it.
Yeah, it’s ByteDance. It’s ByteDance paying political protection money to Larry Ellison
to be their bodyguard in this political process. But I don’t think it’s going to fly. I mean,
Hawley has already said that it’s not good enough for him. And so even if, I think,
and it doesn’t live up to Trump stated criteria, even though he seems to be supporting it.
Is this ultimately a CFIUS ruling, Sax? Is that who’s going to make the final call on this? Or
does Trump have sole executive kind of authority on foreign security, on security grounds to kind
of block it? Does it go to CFIUS?
I don’t know. That’s a good question. I think CFIUS disapproves M&A, right?
It has to approve it. Yeah. I mean, so you’re right. I mean,
there are members of Congress that are all going to need to be convinced to get this thing done.
Well, but CFIUS approves M&A. I didn’t think they could like block applications.
As of last year, every investment triggers CFIUS. It’s a weird new thing that happened.
I was involved in a company recently.
Yeah, but that seems secondary to the national security power that…
That Trump may have.
So this is almost like a two-tier kind of thing. One is for Trump to be cool with it,
national security terms. And then second is the antitrust issues.
If we just go back a second, talking about the broad, as Chamath called it,
kind of this canary in a coal mine. I don’t know how many of you guys use an Amazon Echo,
or a Google Home, or Amazon Fire TV, or Nest thermostat. Every single one of them has ambient
audio listening on it. Every single one of them, even… And another thing people don’t realize is
every speaker is actually a microphone as well as a speaker. You can actually listen on any
house speaker, whether it’s a Sonos device or what have you. And so we’ve got… Our homes
are already wired. Amazon Fire TV runs on fucking Android. I mean, there’s 100 ways into your home,
as it is. It seems to me like there’s a significant concern about how much data we
are already exposing that’s being highlighted here. I don’t think that there’s… It’s sort
of like playing where you try and pop the hamsters in the game. It’s like at some point,
we’re going to realize these things are here everywhere. And it’s not just a company, but it
is how we are living our lives now and how technology is kind of capturing every piece
of information about everything we do. This is… I go back to this. Somebody will take this,
or many people will take this and run with it. But I think that there is an enormous amount of money
that consumers will pay for the assurance of anonymity and privacy. I don’t really know how
it’s expressed, David, but for example, if I could get a phone that was completely locked down
and encrypted and- Like a burner phone is what you’re talking about. And a lot of people are
now doing this. They take a second phone, they put a VP. VPNs are the first step. And you’re
seeing VPNs becoming very popular. Well, I try to use Signal. I try to
use FaceTime audio. I’ll even use WhatsApp now just because these things are end-to-end encrypted.
And I have nothing particularly important or interesting to say or hide, but I just don’t
like the idea that in the open wild, I just feel very vulnerable to data breaches more than any
other kind of breach. I mean, I had this conversation with somebody that was sort of
helping me lock down my Wi-Fi network. And for a long time, I only had one endpoint. And all of a
sudden, he’s like, look, let’s have a home and a guest. But in that conversation, what he was
saying is the biggest form of theft isn’t like burglaries anymore. It’s basically people just
having packet sniffers outside your house because they can get access to everything and anything.
And- Can I ask you a question? There’s a book by a guy named Stephen Baxter. It’s a
science fiction book from years ago and Arthur Clarke called The Light of Other Days. And these
guys developed a wormhole technology. They could put it in any house, and they could see and listen
to everything. And suddenly, the technology became kind of ubiquitous. So everyone could create a
wormhole anywhere and see and hear everything. So effectively, information was completely
transferable and free and available to everyone. And the book kind of highlights how society
changed in that context. So in a world where you see where everyone is and what everyone is doing
and saying, there’s no longer any notion of information asymmetry. And the way people operate
and behave changes because so much of our life is dependent on people not knowing things about us
that we know. So when you’re good, when your employee is going to go interview for another job,
and they tell you they’re going to the dentist, you can say like, hey, that’s not true. And the
guy says, you know what, I’m actually thinking about looking for another job because I hate
working for you. You suck. So everyone starts changing kind of how they behave. Do you think
that 50 years from now, that’s where the world heads? Do you really think it’s possible to stop
this train in its tracks and not end up in a world of what I would call kind of like hyper
transparency, where all information becomes kind of because it’s already being collected
everywhere about everyone, and it’s only I think it’s rising exponentially, people are going to
start, I think that people are going to start turning their homes into like those skiffs,
you know, sensitive, compartmented information facilities, you always hear about like senators
going into the skiff kind of situation for private stuff. I think like people are going to start
taking this very seriously, as they get compromised, you know, time after time,
and embarrassing. And you can see with Apple making it their marketing strategy, Apple’s
you don’t, you don’t, you don’t think society changes? Oh, I think it’s already changed already
with like people getting their phones hacked. And they’re, you know, news being leaked,
people are now begin to normalize that. I think it makes the world a much shittier place,
because it basically robs us of our own independence and our fundamental right to
privacy. And I just think that’s a really bad outcome. And so you know what, like, if like,
the need for likes, and tweets, and followers, leads me to a place where I lose privacy,
I would just say shut them all down now. Because I think that people’s self worth is much bigger
than what they understand it to be if they’re willing to make that trade off.
But yeah, most people appreciate that.
Well, I would also, I would also just add that just because there’s more transparency doesn’t
mean that it serves the interests of truth. Like Jason said earlier, this information can be used
to create, you know, ops, you know, and manipulate and, you know, it’s, and so, yeah, I don’t you
know, like, like Trotsky said, just because you’re not interested in war doesn’t mean war
isn’t interested in you. I mean, this data can be collected to run operations on people
that don’t serve, you know, the interests of greater transparency or the truth.
I think I think people don’t think from first principles on this topic, this is sort of like
the idiotic orthodoxy of Silicon Valley, which is like they, they wrap themselves in the flag
of transparency, like it means something, but they have no real idea what it really means
at scale and at the limit. And, you know, there’s one thing about getting access to a
fucking looker dashboard, who cares, you know, and, but the word transparency is used for that
the same way that it’s used for David, exactly what you just said. And they’re two completely
different things. They have completely different meanings and the latter’s implications are so
much more important. And we need to think about this from first principles because I think people’s
inherent identity as human beings ultimately gets put at risk over time.
It should absolutely be the case that these social networks or anybody collecting data
gives an op, this is the way I would form the legislation. If you are running a service like
Facebook, Twitter, Google for free, and you’re monetizing through advertising, you must provide
a subscription. So for example, if Facebook makes $80 per person,
you lost, you lost this monetization, Jason. Sorry. I think let’s it’s over. It’s over.
Next segment, next segment, next segment,
all right. Well, just as we wrap up here on this segment, Kevin Systrom, he’s in the running,
apparently to take over for TikTok. Is that a good idea, Saks? I think you know Systrom.
I think it’s a pretty, it’s a dumb idea unless the company literally becomes an American company. I
don’t know why you’ve made this point in the context of Kevin Mayer. Like if he’s working
for ByteDance, he’s working for the ByteDance board directors, which reports to the CCP.
Why would someone who’s in his position want to sacrifice his independence to do that?
Yeah, it makes no sense. I mean, this is becoming the big test on everybody’s
moral compass, especially Hollywood, which is changing the ending of movies to satisfy the
CCP. Like literally the people who are the biggest virtue signals in the world, celebrities,
Hollywood. China knows how to use its market access. We don’t. We just threw open our markets
to their products, which caused us to lose our whole industrial manufacturing capacity.
We didn’t demand anything really in exchange for that. Whereas in order to get access to China,
you have to say and do the right things or certainly to not criticize them. And so they
know how to use, as we saw with the NBA and the whole Daryl Morey thing, they know how to use
their market access. All right, well, let’s go on to the economy here. We’ve been sheltering in place
essentially for six months. And now people are starting to talk about, hey, maybe we need to do
another lockdown. And obviously, this economic challenge is being felt very differently. In some
places, it’s an opportunity. Obviously, a lot of people with SaaS software and people who work
behind keyboards are having a renaissance and a lot of the economy is pouring into their keyboards
while restaurants, retail, and anybody who has to work in the real world is part of what’s becoming
essentially a permanent unemployed class that perhaps this is starting to look like a dry run
of UBI. What are your thoughts, Chamath, on this permanent unemployment situation?
I have a bunch of thoughts here. Let me just go kind of give you the stream of consciousness.
Jerome Powell gave a speech, I think it was two or three weeks ago, in Jackson Hole
and he basically said like, look, the Federal Reserve is taking a completely new posture on
rates. And they basically clarified that in explicit detail just a few days ago. And they
basically said we’re keeping rates where they are until at least 2023. My personal views for rates
are going to stay basically at zero for the next half decade. And I think it’s probably pretty
likely that we’re going to see rates stay at zero probably a full decade. So what does that mean?
Okay, well, in a typical recession, what happens is you don’t know where the bottom is, right?
Things sort of decay, they get a little bit worse, they get a little bit worse,
they get a little bit worse, then things bottom out and then you start to grow. And you can use
interest rate policy to kind of help navigate how soft the landing is as well as how fast the
recovery is. That’s sort of like classic economics and how bankers and the markets and all these
folks used to work and it eventually would trickle into Main Street. Now, we just have none of those
things. We have rates zero, they’re not going to go anywhere, they’re not going to go up,
they’re probably not going to go down, they’re going to kind of just stay where they are.
That’s one thing. Second is we priced in the bottom, which was the first month of the coronavirus,
we took the markets basically assuming, oh, there’s no growth. And now we’ve priced things
back as if they’ll recover. The rating agencies are out to lunch. They basically said, you know
what, I’m going to look out till 2021 or 2022, give me a reason to justify not to downgrade you
so that you can continue to raise more debt, which by the way, is free. So you have all these dynamics
where I think the capital markets are in an expansive mood and an expansive mode. And in that,
I actually think there’s a real bid to employment because there isn’t really that many ways now you
can without just getting completely ripped apart, put money to work. And so the real earnest capital
allocation strategy that’s left for most CEOs is to actually buy things, invest in things,
try more things, and all of those I think lead to net employment. So in general, I’m kind of
constructive and bullish. And I don’t think that this idea that there’s a permanent unemployment
class sticks around.
Freiburg, what are your thoughts? Obviously, a lot of Americans work in retail.
We obviously have all these restaurant workers who are out of work and travel is now hitting
the end of the furloughs at a lot of these different airlines, et cetera. What’s your
thought on this unemployment, middle America catastrophe?
I don’t think happiness comes from absolute standards of living. I think happiness arises
from one’s relative standard of living, whether that’s relative to how you lived last year or
how you’re living relative to your neighbor. And seeing some progression over time is the
only thing that keeps people happy. Otherwise, society decays. So the notion of some sort of
flatlined or even flatlined and inflation adjusted basic income level for a large number
of people will inevitably result in kind of what we’re trying to prevent, which is some sort of
societal decay. We have to resolve the opportunity framework for people,
which is how do you give people an opportunity to kind of progress in their lives
and earn more over time and have access to doing more with themselves while they’re here on planet
earth? I mean, that’s just what humans need. So, you know, maybe there’s a short term fix,
but I think we’ve got some structural things to fix to kind of enable opportunities and give people
kind of an inherent, you know, kind of step ladder in life. I heard a really dark theory a few years
ago, which is if we do this, we’re going to resolve to a world where we’re going to have a
bunch of people playing video games, because then the only way you can get people to feel like
they’re progressing in their lives is to give them more medals on their video games and give
them a higher ranking and score. And that’s where society kind of gets to, to kind of keep people
psychologically kind of satiated. And it’s a pretty dark, you know, sad place if that’s where
we end up. It’s like a bad episode of Black Mirror, but we’ve had a few episodes of Black Mirror this
year. So, you know, we’ll see. It sounds like Ready Player One, where the masters were playing
video games instead of actually going out in the real world. That’s right. Totally. Sax, what’s
your thought on, you know, just the next two years, let’s say, and how this all shakes out?
And this will give us a good segue into the coronavirus and where we stand right now with
this potential second lockdown and the impact that might have psychologically on people
and also on the economy. There’s not going to be a second lockdown. It doesn’t make any sense.
And even if there were, people aren’t going to support it. Certainly any of the red states
aren’t going to do it. I guess the blue states may, they still haven’t, you know, sort of unlocked
down. So maybe that gets more protracted in places like California, but we’re not going to go back
into lockdowns and people won’t support it. And I think the thing that we’ve basically figured out
that should have been obvious months ago now is that coronavirus is really like two different
diseases in terms of its effects on people. So for elderly people and for people with risk factors,
it’s very dangerous. You know, I’m very worried about my parents. And, you know, for people in
that group, they have to take, you know, extreme precautions. But for young, healthy people without
risk factors, it’s not been that deadly. It’s very unpleasant. It’s a very bad two weeks.
But, you know, for example, if you look at the data now on colleges coming back,
there’s been some reports that the virus is spreading like wildfire on college campuses.
That’s true. But hospitalizations and deaths have not gone up. And so because it’s just not that
deadly to younger people. And so I think this idea of shutting down the whole economy to protect
people at risk just seems like overkill. And I think if we had to do it all over again,
we wouldn’t have done lockdowns. We just would have protected at risk people.
We’ve still consistently had a thousand deaths a day. We thought this might go
down. What are your thoughts on Americans just being okay with that basic death toll, Sax?
Well, I mean, any death is obviously bad and tragic. And, you know, and statistically,
there are going to be people who die even who are in the, you know, low risk group. So for sure. But,
you know, but we’ve had about 200,000 deaths. The original estimates from this virus were
two to 3 million. So it’s, I guess my point is not that it’s not bad, but it’s, you know,
but that it’s, you know, much less deadly than I think was originally thought.
There’s an argument that that’s not deaths directly attributable to coronavirus,
right? And that the vast majority of those folks had comorbidities. And that, you know,
the primary driver, this is an argument many have made, I’m not gonna take a strong point.
But, you know, 85% plus of folks have significant comorbidities. And, you know, this virus maybe
kind of has a contributing factor to their death. But if let’s assume everyone in the United States
had coronavirus today, then every death that was reported today would be reported as a coronavirus
death. And so they’re testing a lot of folks, you know, in the hospital finding that they have
coronavirus. It’s, you know, it’s very difficult to then prove that the reason that they died or
the sole reason that they died was coronavirus. If you had to pick a percentage, Friedberg,
where would you put it? Half of all deaths? If you just had to guess?
But that’s my point is I don’t think it’s one thing, right? I’m not sure that it’s someone
goes into the hospital with coronavirus. And they’ve also got severe diabetes, heart disease,
cancer. They’re on chemotherapy. I mean, you could list the other things that they might have.
What caused their death, you know, you can’t as a corner, it’s very difficult to say this one thing
caused the death. But when they test that person, and they find that their coronavirus positive,
they are that number is now being counted in the statistics that say that was a coronavirus death
that day. And coronavirus is so prevalent in the United States right now. It’s such a significant
part of the population. It’s also very difficult to say, hey, guys, like, you know, these deaths
are. So I’m not trying to belittle the fact that people are absolutely dying. And they wouldn’t
have died if not for coronavirus. That is absolutely happening. But it’s very difficult
to say what is the net effect on life right now. We’re still learning a lot about how this virus
interacts with different people based on their genetics, and based on their disease state and
other factors. Let me ask you one more way for you, Freeberg, and then I’ll give it over to Chamath,
which is Freeberg, in your estimation, as a scientist, and somebody who’s a, I would say,
a man of science on the call here. Are you optimistic about us coming out of coronavirus
in 2021? And what’s your best outlook for a return to normalcy if you had to pick a time
when it feels like we can go to a Warriors game or play cards regularly, or go to the World Series
of Poker? Wendy, do you have a time period where you think that could possibly happen?
It’s all politics and social behavior. It has nothing to do with science. Like after 9-11,
there were no more serious terrorist attacks on the United States. But our fucking lives
changed dramatically. We go sit in TSA lines and get our asses swabbed when we get on an airplane
now. And that’s still going on 20 years later. So I’m pretty sure there’s a lot of change that’s
here to stay in the US because of coronavirus, and will be even after everyone gets vaccines,
and the deaths drop below 10 a day, and yada yada. So I’m not convinced that this is like,
hey, here’s the date, we’re all going to be out of it, and then we’re safe. Because people are
psychologically scarred. Behavior has changed, businesses have changed, the landscape of how
we work as a society has changed, and that’s not going away. So it’s not like we’re going to go
back. I think it’s like we’re going forward into a different world where we operate differently,
much as what happened after 9-11. What’s your take on that, Shama?
I think that David’s right that, you know, were it but for coronavirus, I think a lot of these
people that died would still be alive. And so, you know, I don’t think it really matters how
much of the blame we’re trying to ascribe to it. It’s just that it was a meaningful,
non-trivial contributing factor. So these deaths are avoidable, and we have to deal with that.
The second is, I don’t think what we know what the peak to trough looks like because we haven’t
really gone through a real full-blown flu season yet. You know, coronavirus came to America at the
tail end of the winter. And it’s going to be, I think, tough to figure out what it’s going to do
in October, November, December, January, or February when it’s really cold in many parts
of the United States. And, you know, whatever effects, again, we still don’t know it in
totality, but whatever effects the warm weather had in muting it or whatever mutation muted it
may change. So I tend to think it’s another 18 to 24 months of this posture. But Friedberg is
really right, which is like this is what’s so sad, which is when you could point a finger
and look at somebody and say, you, you’re the cause, it was much easier to react and create
rules and create boundaries as uncomfortable or as inconvenient as they were and live by them.
And because this is more nameless and faceless, it’s impossible. So…
All right. Well, here’s some good news I was able to acquire. I’ve been on a little investigative
journalism kick, asking people if they have access to rapid testing kits, i.e. they have
them in Korea. And I was able to get, and I’m curious your thoughts on this, Friedberg,
the rapid response Liberty COVID-19 IgG slash IgM test cassettes. And they cost 15 to 20 bucks each,
and they take 10 minutes. They’re easy to use. I mean, I’ve had those since March,
and they cost 50 cents each. So… So these are now officially available, though,
in the United States. You had those from some other country, correct?
I got from China, and I got from the US, and I got from Korea. And these things are just made
everywhere. And they’re like, these are the antibody tests, right?
Yes. Yeah. So there’s a paper that was published at UCSF. I got an acknowledgement because of my
donations to support the research. And it showed that these tests have actually very good specificity,
and the sensitivity is going to be, call it 85%. But these are antibody tests. And further research
has shown that not everyone has the same antibody response after getting infected. And there’s a
relationship between how severe the disease is for you and various other factors. So… And these will
only show up typically, you know, days to weeks after you get infected. The antigen tests, which
are the more common kind of ones that everyone’s looking for now, are these tests that can actually
find the virus itself. And so they’ll take a swab of your nose or some saliva from your mouth and
see if there’s any virus in there. And it’s a much, much lower sensitivity than the PCR test,
which is the expensive, you know, lab test. But it can be done on a stick, and it’s a good enough
thing for letting people into, say, a football game. And a good friend of ours just texted me
and told me that they’re doing this at the UT Austin game. They’re using this antigen test
to let people into the football game today, so… Or this weekend. So it’s getting kind of more
widespread use. And so when we have those tests at scales, what will the world look like, Freeberg?
I don’t know. You’ll… Just like the TSA, you’ll get swabbed. And, you know, these things… It’s
great business to be in, by the way, if you guys, you know, want to SPAC a Korean antigen test
business. These things are going to sell like crazy. There’s a company that I heard of through
a friend which had… It’s an Israeli company. I never followed up on it, which was effectively a
breathalyzer, which would be… Could you just imagine? That would be incredible, right? You
just breathe in a few seconds. We’ve talked about this in our chat group. There are startups like
was it Quidel, Amodius, Q, who’ve got these little, you know, $200, $300 little handheld
readers and the cartridges are basically mouth swabs or lower nasal swabs, you know, cost 10
bucks. And I think, you know, I think they’re going to be rolling out over the next few months.
And assuming we can scale the production of them, I think they will be everywhere.
And, you know, I don’t think it’ll be a government mandated thing. So I don’t think the government
will get its act together, but it’ll be the kind of thing where you go shopping at a store or
whatever, and there’ll be early adopters or a restaurant. They’ll start using it. People will
realize, well, wait, I don’t want to get swabbed three times a day. So then they’ll get some sort
of like receipt or voucher they can take with them to the next place. And so I think, you know,
I’m like actually like, I think I’m more optimistic than you guys about COVID right now. I think that
whether it’s because of these rapid tests or because of treatments coming, or just this
fundamental fact about comorbidities, again, not absolving, not saying that COVID isn’t serious,
but the fact that we’ve learned that it’s, you know, that it’s really deadly, primarily for
people who have comorbidities. I think for all of these reasons, I think COVID is going to be
a distant memory by next summer. I really do. I think-
Do you think behavior changes as well, like businesses and movie theaters?
Yeah, I think people will largely be back to what they were doing last summer or by next summer.
I think we’re going to have like, you know, call it a six month period where, you know,
we do these rapid tests just to make sure. But I think as the case rate starts dropping off,
things will kind of revert back to where they were. I mean, the question to ask is kind of,
you know, which trends were there before COVID and have been accelerated? Like I would say
the move from like death of retail, the shift to e-commerce, that feels to me like it’s here to
stay. But, you know, food delivery, things like that. But there was no trend of people not going
to sports games anymore. You know, and I think like stuff like that will just snap right back.
I don’t know. I don’t know about you guys. I’m still like feeling fucked up by the whole thing.
You don’t really realize how much your psychology has changed until you kind of reflect on
decisions and behaviors. Like there’s still a fear factor that I think needs to kind of be
ironed out. But, you know, we’ll see how long it takes for people. It’s just like,
it’s so different when you’re so used to just waking up and hopping on Zoom for work and
avoiding people and putting a mask on when you go walk your fucking dog. I mean, it’s like,
you know, it’s going to be hard to kind of change out of that overnight.
Well, I think this idea of the greater flexibility around working arrangements,
ability to work from home, I think offices will become a little bit more like co-working spaces
for a single company where people come in three days a week and work from home a couple days a
week. I think there’ll be a permanent flexibility. But I also think that people want to get back to
back to offices and they want to interact with people. And I think everyone’s going to be excited
to do that again. It’s not like everyone’s just going to be working from home forever.
So I think, again, next summer is kind of my date for when things are back to normal.
Well, this has been certainly driving a lot of our politics right now. You probably saw
the book that came out with the tapes of Trump saying that he was trying to play it down,
Sachs as a lifelong Republican. What were your thoughts when the Republican presidential
candidate, the Republican president said, hey, I’m trying to play this down when he was at the
same time saying it was deadly serious? Does that make you worry about Trump as a candidate? And
what do you think that’s going to, how that might play into the election? It must have been
disappointing for you to hear your candidate Trump say at the same time, this is deadly and
I want to play it down. Well, Trump’s leadership on this has been a little bit erratic for sure.
And by the way, let’s go back and remind the viewers here that in the first pods we were
doing back in April, I think we kind of nailed what the right policy response should be. I wrote
a blog on April 2nd talking about that mass should be required, that that was the right response.
But we also said that lockdowns, very quickly after the start of lockdown said that it was
excessive and that what we should do is be going all in on mass, not lockdowns.
I certainly would have liked to have seen Trump get that right several months earlier. That being
said, let’s not forget everybody else who got this stuff wrong too. I mean, you look at CDC
or WHO, we had talked about this in our previous pod. I mean, WHO was also unclear about mass and
Fauci, I guess, now retroactively saying that he didn’t think that mass were necessary because
he’s trying to prevent a run on supplies. I mean, the whole response of the healthcare
establishment, they were all like really bad. And so, I have a greater degree of forgiveness
for people who made mistakes back in March or April. But what I think is hard to forgive now
are these people who are promoting the wrong policies now that we know so much more.
And I mean, at this point, I think that COVID policy is a net plus for Trump in this campaign
because the other side of it is these permanent lockdowns. There’s just an article in foreign
policy saying that we need to go back to lockdowns. And I think Biden’s said that we need to have
lockdowns again. And his policy would be to listen to the experts, but all these experts, again,
were wrong about so many things. And so, again, I think this idea of permanent lockdowns,
if that is the alternative to Trump, will help Trump win.
And so, you don’t think that this Woodward book and that kind of stuff plays into the election
or the debates in the coming weeks? I think it’s sort of priced into the stock.
I mean, look, if it weren’t for COVID, I think that if you go back to like January, February,
when Trump gave that State of the Union speech, his ratings were the highest they had been,
the economy was on fire. It looked like he was on cruise control to winning re-election,
and then COVID happened and his ratings went down to their lowest point. And so, I think he already
paid the price for the, let’s call it inconsistent leadership that Woodward described. So, I think
that’s priced in. And now the question is if the economy gets good enough, fast enough,
and the other side is on the side of lockdowns and Trump is on the side of reopening,
again, I think COVID policy becomes a net plus for him.
Chamatha, 538 has in its simulation 77 wins and 100 for Biden. You think that’s accurate?
Yeah. I mean, I think that until the debates, I think that this thing is basically where it’s
been for a long time. And if Biden flubs the debate and basically comes out as
intellectually too inconsistent to be voted in by a plurality of Americans, he’s done for and
Trump’s going to win. So, he can’t have these verbal gaffes and basically seem like he’s
a senile octogenarian. If he does come off that way, he’s going to lose. But if he doesn’t,
look, many of the moments you see him now, he’s actually pretty crisp.
That probably gets the job done. Because like I said, I think more people just want a
non-Trump alternative than want the Trump alternative, even within the Republican Party.
And look, preference falsification can cut both ways. All the people that said they weren’t going
to vote for him but then did, there’s also probably a cohort of people that now feel
obligated when they came out of the woodwork as supporting him. Now, they just feel like it’s
easier to be publicly supporting him, but then they may go the other way. So, it all works in
both directions. But I still think on the margin, Biden is the favorite.
How different will the world look, Chamath, in your estimation,
under a Biden presidency? We get to January 1st, how different does the country feel? Is it going
to be some great relief? Is it going to be some great joy like when Obama won?
No, no, no.
What do you think the feeling is in the country and the reality is?
No, all these things are emotional overreactions in both directions. The reality is that if you
actually graft substantive policy that affects your everyday life, the magnitude of the impact
of the presidency has been shrinking since the 1980s. I think the most impactful president of
our lifetimes, our lifetimes, so 70s onwards, was Reagan. And it’s basically been decaying ever
since. And so, I think that the job of the presidency is mostly window dressing except
for foreign policy. That matters less and less. And I’ll tell you why that matters less and less,
because all the things that the president used to really govern, like foreign policy was a byproduct
of a whole bunch of other things. For example, our entire posture on the Middle East, which has
been a fucking shit show, or our entire posture on Russia was in part because of our energy policy.
And in a world of sustainable energy, those entire regions are not important anymore.
So, it doesn’t matter.
We can let them basically fend for themselves. We do not need to be involved.
They’re going to. They’re going to devolve because they’re going to have to suck out all the oil out
of the ground to try to monetize it before wind and solar and everything else become the dominant
form of energy. And so, if you take energy policy off the table, all of a sudden,
the national security interests to care about large swaths of the world go to zero, right?
So, then there’s less and less for the president to do.
It’s pretty short, isn’t it?
Yes. So, my point is the surface area of the impact of the president is shrinking.
And it shrinks as technology, like if you think about it, what is driving foreign policy and
national security policy changes over the last 10, 15 years, definitely over the next 40 or 50,
is technology, right? If we get, for example, if we get any form of like carbon sequestration
at scale, broadly available, you’re going to have a complete resurgence of Western economies,
if that technology is invented in the United States or Western Europe.
Freeberg, quickly, you’d think that Biden is going to win. And then what do you think the
country feels and looks like into a Biden presidency? And then let’s move over to
energy and sustainable energy and carbon after that.
I don’t know. You know, I’ll say the same thing I’ve said in the past. I don’t think
the notion of a sense of relief is realistic. I don’t think this is about,
people think it’s about Trump, but Trump is the product of what it’s all really about.
So, I’ll just, you know, kind of highlight, I think, you know, Biden is a column, instead of
thinking about things as Democrats and Republicans and left and right, if we think about it as kind
of populism and free market-ism, and in the middle of centrism, you know, we’re probably
taking a notch towards centrism. And at the end of the day, the march towards populism seems to
be continuing. And, you know, whether Trump is kind of the product of that march, or maybe the
next one will be Elizabeth Warren or AOC, it’s kind of the same thing, in my opinion. But I think
that’s the bigger kind of concern is, you know, how do we, again, keep, generally keep most people
in the United States feeling like they can progress in life, feeling like they can find
happiness in life, and feeling like there’s opportunity for them to kind of, you know,
achieve their objectives. And if they don’t feel like they’re getting it, they’re going to try and
wrap it all up. And unions will continue to scale and AOC will become the vice presidential
nominee in 2024, and yada, yada.
Freebird, what are your thoughts on the wildfires, global warming, and the politics of all that? And
then we’ll go to cancel culture with you, Saxon.
California has 33 million acres of forest land, it’s about 100 million acres in total land. So
for us to make up about a third of our land, so far, we’re burning three and a half million,
so about 10% of our acres. When we burn an acre, we release about 15% of the carbon that’s stored
in that acre into the atmosphere. So thus far, if you do the math on that, we’ve released about as
much CO2 as we’ve as the California cars released in a year by the wildfires, and the politics we’re
seeing play out. So it’s it’s it’s a significant problem. But over the last 40 years, we’ve added
about a quarter ton of carbon to each acre per year. And the reason we’ve done that is we haven’t
kind of, you know, lit fires and managed the forests and cut down trees. And there’s been all
these restrictions in California. So there’s an argument that some are making that this is about
forest management. And then there’s an argument that others are making that this is about climate
change and dry weather and hot weather causing the fires. And the reality is, it’s both. But it’s as
everything else in this country right now becoming highly politicized that and you know,
Trump visited Newsom in a very kind of symbolic gathering this week. I don’t know if you guys
saw the packet that was handed out to Trump. It was awesome. It was like 24 point font. And it
was like bad. Yeah. Why are good temperature weather? Fire is burning state. And it was
you guys got to see it. It’s awesome. The little packet he got. And then use some sat like exactly
six feet from him with a mask on and Trump sitting there without the mask on. I mean,
it’s such a fucking political circus. And, you know, I think all things are true and all things
are false. And we can move on. Well, the debate on the fires is I mean, what it’s the debate has
has become sort of climate change versus forest management. You know, that’s sort of the debate
about it. And like most of these debates, you don’t necessarily have to choose. There can be
an element of truth on both sides. You know, regardless of how much climate change has caused
these fires, we’ve done a very, very poor job in the state managing them. And, you know, this idea
that we can just fix global warming and or wait, you know, not have good forest management until,
you know, and just kind of wait for global warming to be fixes. I mean, that’s a really
stupid idea. So regardless of how much climate change is to the cause of this, I think we
need a much more competent state reaction to, you know, to the fact these fires
Do you believe in global warming, David Sachs? I believe in the, you know, in greenhouse,
the greenhouse gas theory, and that, yeah, that it’s, you know, that manmade CO2 emissions are
going to have an impact on the environment. I think that, you know, what’s a little bit
hard to know is the exact timing and magnitudes of some of these things. But I agree with what
Elon said, which is that we’re running a very high risk experiment here, continually putting
out, you know, CO2 greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Why is it so difficult for the
Republican Party? And I feel like you’re almost straining and couching your words there, David,
that you believe in global warming, you believe in what Elon is saying, it’s not worth doing this
for risk. Why do Republicans seem to have such an aversion to just saying, hey, global warming
is a thing, and we need to fix it? Because Democrats wrapped those words around them
like a flag. And so it became a political issue, like with everything else. I mean, I think,
so again, we have this false choice now of whether you want to save the environment or
save the economy. And the problem is, I think, a lot of Republicans don’t want to concede the issue.
Hey, little guy. A lot of Republicans don’t want to concede the issue, because they’re afraid it’ll
lead to something like the Green New Deal. And so what we need to do is figure out some responses
to the problem that don’t require us to destroy the economy. Right. And for you, if we did
incentives, if the country spent incentive sacks to get solar on roofs and stuff like that, you
wouldn’t be opposed to it, would you? You mean like taxing carbon emissions?
Or just giving discounts on putting solar in, subsidizing solar for people’s houses,
or maybe the middle ground of creating more nuclear reactors, which seems like something
that neither party can agree to. Hold on, little guy. Sorry. I’m doing a podcast, okay?
Sorry. No problem. Yeah. Look, I think to the extent that carbon emissions are an externality,
the traditional way of dealing with this is you would internalize the externality by placing
some sort of tax or penalty on that. But so look, would I rather tax carbon emissions than
something else? Yes. I mean, but the only way you’re going to get something like that
through is if you agree to something like a one-for-one tax reduction in other areas,
right? Because there’s this other larger debate about what else should be taxed.
What about you, Chamath? What are your thoughts on solving global warming and
this polarized sort of Republican-Democrat, if you believe in global warming, you’re not
a Republican? I think that this is the most correlated thing with a healthy economy,
because I think that whoever solves climate change or the set of solutions that solve
climate change, first of all, they’ll be unbelievably economically successful. They
will employ enormous numbers of people, and they’ll have a really profound legacy in the world. So
the question is how to do it. And I think the problem is right now there’s, as David, I think,
actually puts the best lens on the topic, which is right now, we don’t even have enough canonical
data so that there’s a single source of truth that we can all rely on. And not having to judge
it as climate change, I think, is an important step, which would just mean having a longitudinal
measurement of temperature. And having a longitudinal measurement of everything from
PM2.5 to PM10 to carbon, methane, all of the other normal sort of emissions, nitrous oxide,
all this stuff, so that then you can just understand what men and women as part of the
human race are doing to fuck with the counterfactual, because the counterfactual is if
we were just living normal, chill lives. And so once you understand that, then you can figure
out how to at least mitigate that back to what the counterfactual would have been or do it even
better. I think the best thing, again, we talked about this in a pod a couple of weeks ago,
or a couple months ago. The best thing the governments can do is introduce incentives.
And I think the most meaningful incentives here are not at the consumer level, but they’re more
upstream. So if you take something like cement, cement, which is responsible for, I think,
20% of all the carbon emissions, is a really pernicious industry because they are very local.
They operate within 300 local kilometers of every place where you ship cement to make concrete and
whatnot. And when you look at sort of where the emissions are, they’re at a very specific part
of the chain, which is effectively impossible to mitigate. So you have to have a level of material
science improvement to really move things away from cement altogether. Well, just knowing that,
you’re going to have to have the incentives that a government creates to pull that forward. Another
example is when you look at manufacturing. All the shit that we all love, I don’t care whether
you like fucking normal pants or hemp pants. When you go back and you look at how H&M makes those
pants, there’s our high temperature processes that are burning fossil fuels. They’re emitting all
kinds of really terrible junk into the environment. And so it doesn’t matter whether you’re vegan, per
se. You’re not going to go around unclothed. You’re not going to not use spoons. So all of that,
the totality of all of that, we need to completely reinvent high temperature manufacturing.
That’s not going to happen unless the government steps in. Because for example,
take something as simple as steel. It’s a tragedy of the commons, right? I mean,
basically, if no individual can make a major impact, maybe they won’t.
Friedberg, you think we have all the technology we need to do this, and it’s really just a matter
of incentives and deployment right now in terms of global warming or stemming global warming?
Is that a correct statement, that we have the technology, we just haven’t deployed it?
Correct. Correct. And I think it’s-
It’s 100% correct. Unpack it.
Well, what I will say is we have the science, the engineering, and the resourcing,
and then the market are the kind of unresolved, right? And so resourcing is capital. The market
can be created artificially by putting in place government subsidies or having the government be
a customer, or you just have to wait a long enough period of time. If you listen to the
Tim Ferriss interview with Coke, which one was it? Charles Coke. He talks about how ultimately,
consumers will vote with their dollars if climate change is real and global warming is starting to
have an effect on planet Earth. And we’re seeing that, right? We’re seeing people make a switch to
a vegetarian diet. We’re seeing people buy Teslas. We’re seeing people make choices for sustainability.
So the free market is resolving and will resolve climate change is the argument that some
libertarians might make. And then I think the science-
Is that true in your mind, Friberg? Do you buy that?
I think it’s- I’ll be honest with you. I’ve been fucking shocked by how many people are
choosing to pay a premium for vegetarian meat alternatives. I was wrong on this. I bet against
these companies eight years ago. I didn’t bet against them, but I chose not to bet for them
because I made the argument consumers will only buy stuff that’s cheaper and taste as good. And
I was wrong. Millions of consumers are going to Burger King and buying a veggie burger now,
which wasn’t the case. And we’re seeing this across the world.
And they’re doing this out of a crisis of consciousness, right? Like you’re saying.
That’s right. It’s a behavioral change.
Because yeah, that’s what they want in the market. That’s what they want to spend their
money on. They want to spend their money on having a nicer world. It’s just like when people will
spend a premium amount of money on a nice suit, it makes them look good and feel good. It’s the
same sort of notion. I feel good when I’m buying a Tesla. I feel good when I’m buying a veggie
burger instead of a meat burger, knowing that it is harming my people around me.
I couldn’t bring myself to buy a carbon-based ice engine. Recently, I was thinking about
if I’m in Tahoe and I need to go off-road or there’s snow conditions, I need to have a car
for it. And I’m picking up the Model Y with the dual engine and putting snow tires on it as
opposed to getting the new Jeep Wrangler or the new Defender.
But whether it’s biomanufacturing or synthetic meats, I think we’re not just in a point where
we have to create luxury markets. I think we are going to disrupt commodity markets.
And I think we’re going to do that this decade. And it’s going to blow people’s fucking mind
when everything you’re eating looks, tastes, and feels the same, and it’s cheaper,
and it was just made in a more sustainable way using bioengineering, which is the ability to
write the physical world with software, except it’s realized through genomics. And it’s an
incredible thing that we’re seeing now. How much of this is the generational shift?
I mean, Gen X seemed pretty absorbed with our own projects and a little bit of consciousness.
But these millennials are now getting into their 30s, and they’re 35 years old, the oldest
millennials. And they seem to be incredibly focused on the environment and doing what’s
right. This is a generational shift in your mind, Friedberg?
No, I think this is just the slow march of humanity’s ability to master our world and
technology. And, you know, look, let me just give you a scenario. Chamath kind of says,
we’re going to decarbonize the atmosphere. If we could build an algae or a seaweed from scratch,
or using some basis and use software to resolve what’s the right sort of seaweed to create
that will grow like crazy in the oceans, when it gets heavy, it sinks to the bottom of the ocean.
And it literally just pulls carbon out of the atmosphere and drops to these 40,000 foot
deep or, you know, 4000 foot deep kind of wells we have already built around 70% of planet Earth.
We have the tools to do that, again, the engineering and the capital to do that. And
then the market for is there a market for that it doesn’t, if governments are like,
it’s a crisis, let’s put a billion dollars into this, like we did in the Apollo program,
we will get that done in five years. I mean, there’s just, there’s no shortage of tools and
science to be able to resolve that sort of a problem today, much like we’re about to produce
a Coronavirus vaccine in a matter of months after discovering the virus, which is unprecedented.
So our ability to kind of read genomics and write genomics, and as a result, create biological
machines that can do things in the physical world and self propagate, gives us this incredible
toolkit humans never had at its disposal before. And it will be the way that will resolve climate
change. And it will, in the meantime, we’re going to bridge the gap between here and there by
creating these nice luxury market, by the way, here’s a and so on. Here’s an incredible example.
So when you look at sort of where, you know, methane is a really problematic greenhouse gas,
and most of the methane emissions are from cows. But it’s from enteric fermentation,
which is, you know, fancy language for burping. And what’s incredible is there are now efforts to
use CRISPR to genetically engineer, you know, cows that don’t necessarily have that same
gut biome, you know, dynamic so that you’re burping methane, that there’s also feed that
you can actually give a cow that will minimize methane emissions burping by 30 or 40%. All these
things are to your point, David, they’re, they’re so fantastical, if you think about it, but they’re
possible today. And we just need to organize and get a kind of like a center of gravity around
these things and they’ll happen. Can we get can we get Jason the human version of that?
Does it also cover tooting? Does it work for flatulence?
Interestingly, Chris Saka tweeted about investing in a company called running tide,
which grows kelp, and will suck carbon from the atmosphere. And he just sinks it to the ocean
floor. And they’re selling carbon offsets by putting seaweed on the ocean floor. So
such such a no brainer, right? I mean, like the ocean is so big, and it’s this and like,
it’s not getting in the way of land where you don’t have to go figure out licenses and rights,
you got it, you got to basically get carbon to go into the ocean. And so then you basically need an
organism that can grow and self propagate quickly and radically accumulate biomass in the ocean,
and then figure out how to get rid of it. So the best way to get rid of it is have it sink.
It’s got to be some sort of seaweed or kelp or algae. And you just put it in the open ocean,
it’ll propagate. I mean, that’s just such a great, obvious. And there’s 1000 scenarios like
that, that I think, you know, we’re going to kind of creatively come up with and resolve.
Why is nuclear not even on the discussion? Freeberg? I’m curious, like, is it just
too tainted? We can’t
do the work I’ve done the work I’ve done on nuclear, it used to cost something like some
number of dollars to get a nuclear power plant through the regulatory barriers in the United
States. And now it is so cost prohibitive. It’s something like $10 billion now,
from maybe, you know, 100 million, you know, two decades ago, there’s something about the
regulatory barriers. Yeah, well, there’s a huge, there’s a huge NIMBY problem, right? I mean,
who wants a nuclear power plant in their backyard? Nobody. I mean, nobody wants it, Jason. But I
agree with like the larger point here that the solution to the problem is ultimately going to be
all these new technologies, these innovative solutions, not making people feel bad for
consuming and, you know, being alive. You know, you look at Tesla, and it’s moving the whole
world to electric cars, not with a government mandate, but just by creating a better car.
And so it’s ultimately going to be technology companies, you know, increasing the solution set
and giving people new choices. That’s how we’re going to ultimately solve the problem.
And interestingly, in the news, NuScale is creating small nuclear reactors,
and they just got approval. This is a the Portland based NuScale powers, they had a small
modular reactor that has been approved by the US Department of Energy for a site in eastern Idaho,
we’ll see if that ever comes online. But it does seem like small nuclear reactors could solve part
of the NIMBY problem in that they’re smaller. So if something were to go wrong, we would have
some ability to contain or have a smaller footprint in a disaster like situation. Let’s
wrap with the Overton window. Chamath talked about it closing, and Sax, there was a good
article, A Taxonomy of Fear, that you shared with the group. Tell us a little bit about that article,
A Taxonomy of Fear, by Emily Youf. I think it’s her name.
Yeah, she’s a writer for The Atlantic who wrote this, I guess, called Taxonomy of Fear and
Persuasion. I think it’s an important article. What it does is analyze cancel culture and the
language that’s used to cancel people. And one of the things she diagnoses is what she calls
safetyism, which is anytime somebody doesn’t like what an idea or what somebody else is saying,
they claim that their safety is being threatened by that idea. And it’s kind of invoking these
magic words that HR has come up with where if anyone is creating an unsafe work environment,
or an unsafe college campus, well, the source of the problem has to be removed immediately.
And so, this is the language of cancel culture. And the problem with it is that it doesn’t really
matter what the intent of the person was, or intent is sort of irrelevant, or whether the
objection is reasonable or not, whether it actually threatens anyone’s safety. And so,
there’s an example of this when 50 prominent writers, intellectuals wrote a letter to
Harper’s Magazine, including J.K. Rowling and Matt Iglesias, who’s a co-founder of
Vox. And so, there’s a trans writer, there’s a writer who’s a trans person at Vox who claims
that her safety was threatened because one of the co-founders had signed this letter.
The letter didn’t discuss trans issues, it was simply the fact that Iglesias had signed it along
with J.K. Rowling. And so, J.K. Rowling apparently is- Radioactive.
Yeah, I missed this part of Harry Potter, but apparently the trans movement is-
Well, yeah, her position is that women who were born biologically female are different than women
who transition. But that’s J.K. Rowling.
Right, and that’s her position, but her position is being attributed to Iglesias by association,
yeah, exactly. And so, Yafi calls this- That would be like saying that I’m in
support of Trump just because I’m on this podcast with you, Seth, to be clear.
Yes, it’s contamination by association is what she calls it.
This will be- If Trump wins in November, it’ll be because this whole thing
just gets too much for too many people. There is a massive plurality of people in the middle
who think this over-retching sensitivity by the extreme left and the extreme right
are just completely out to lunch. And-
100% agree. 100% agree.
And I think that, by the way, the extreme left and the extreme right, they should all just get
a room and just have one big huge orgy because they’re all just useless fuckwits anyways,
all of them, both of them, on the extreme right. When Antifa and the alt-right are fighting with
each other, it’s like this sexual tension that they just need to release somehow.
But- Thanks for tuning in to the All In Podcast.
I mean, most people are in the middle. Most people don’t need to have this us or them,
it’s like you’re not allowed to have an opinion. I actually learn more from people that I disagree
with just by hearing them and not trying to judge them. And I think that most of us, as well,
have our views that are sort of moderately in the middle. So, for example, there was a USC
professor that got sanctioned because he was teaching a language class and he used the Chinese
word for that, which sounds like the N-word. And I think he didn’t preface it correctly or what
have you, but then he apologized, he was suspended, and folks wrote a letter. Now,
everybody has a right. The people who felt offended have the right to write the letter.
The administration had the right to react. And then I think people read that article and think
to themselves, is this actually the – has the pendulum swung too far or not? And mark my words,
if people feel that the pendulum has swung too far, they will elect Donald Trump because he is
the complete antithesis of giving a shit about any of this stuff. So, that will be the bellwether.
No, that’s exactly right. So, I think it’s really important. I think there’s a large part of the
country that feels that Trump is a shield, not a sword, that he is their protector against this
type of cancel culture. And I know Trump seems like an instigator and he’s very threatening to
a lot of people on the other side. But again, to these people, he’s more of a shield. And I think
it’s not just the fact that he speaks out and denounces cancel culture that makes him a hero
to these people. It’s his – his superpower is his uncancelability. It’s this, you know,
it’s the fact that the left has done everything they can to try and get rid of this guy to impeach
him, what have you. And he keeps surviving. And so, it’s his very, you know, uncancelability that
makes him such a hero to these people. And I think this is the thing that the left or the media
doesn’t quite understand is that denouncing Trump in ever more hysterical terms doesn’t, you know,
it doesn’t work because it kind of feeds into this. It actually hurts. It adds more people
to his cohort who say you’re overreacting. And the hystericalness of overreacting, like I tweeted,
I’ve been on this, you know, mini tweet effort to tell people, listen, there are Chromebooks
in the world. They’re very cheap. 90% of the Americans are, excuse me, on the internet high
speed. And there are so many online resources for you to get ahead in life. Go try to be a marketer.
Go to Khan Academy. Go learn UX and design. These are the clearest paths into the technology
industry. And I get hysterical liberals who say, people don’t have access to the internet. People
don’t have access to Chromebooks. And people don’t have the free time or the motivation
to improve their lot in life. And it’s like, who are you talking about? Because 90% of the
country has access to the internet and uses it already. And if you go and do a search for a
Chromebook on eBay, a used one, you can find one for 50 to 150 bucks. So we have this narrative
that people cannot rise up. And people cannot improve themselves. And every time I say, I
believe people can improve themselves, people say that I’m like a racist, that I believe that people
can improve themselves. And it just makes me further away from the Democratic Party. It makes
me further away from the left. I think this, I’m going to put out a crazy idea, which is that
I think if Donald Trump wins in a meaningful way in November, I don’t think he will. But if he does,
the actual silver lining for everybody is I think the Republican Party will disintegrate
and the Democratic Party will disintegrate. And in its place, I think you’ll probably have
three or four parties. And I think that that would be amazing.
So it’s the burn it all down vote, which was Peter Thiel’s idea in the beginning,
I think Sachs and Thiel, when they coordinated this Trump election, it was all burn it down,
right Sachs? That was your star chamber discussion with Thiel? You guys wanted to
burn it all down? I think what you’re doing is
contamination by association there. Yeah, just because you went to college
with Peter Thiel. When’s the last time you talked to Peter Thiel?
No, Peter’s a friend of mine, but again, and I agree with him about some things. I disagree with
him about other things, but this idea, but this idea that we can’t hang out with people,
you know, or that hanging out with people means that we must endorse every view they have.
Like, why is it even relevant that I’m friends with Peter?
Like we’re like, for example, we’re friends in our group chat with a couple guys who are
very far right, we’re not going to name who they are. But I would say that I think that the group
chat is better off for them being able to say what they believe and push back. And just like
there’s a bunch of us who are in the middle, and we waffle back and forth between the left and the
right. And then there are folks that are more on the far right or far left, or on the left. So I
just think that we forget that there is enormous value in the diversity of thought. And, and people
think that there is some sort of safety and conformity. And in fact, I will tell you,
that’s actually the exact opposite, you’re more likely to be in conflict with someone that you
are very similar to. Because eventually, you will always end up competing for the exact same resource
and that resource becomes scarce. If you’re actually spending time with people that are
divergent and different from you, you actually end up not competing for the same resources,
because you’re, one second, you’re built differently. So there’s just less conflict.
So this is why multi party systems work. This is why you have less fighting when there’s,
you know, in Canada, and, and Europe than you do in the United States, because the United States
tries to reduce things down to two choices. And so we all of a sudden, like just glom into these
pools that are seemingly similar, and we just we end up hating each other.
Freeberg, any final thoughts on cancel culture?
Yeah, I think it’s just gonna be bad.
I totally, I totally agree with Jamath that if Trump wins the election, this will be the reason
that the same thing happened when the Republicans overplayed their hand with Bill Clinton.
And it was said at that time that, you know, Clinton was always very fortunate in who his
enemies were. Because no matter, you know, what he did wrong, or how badly he screwed up,
his enemies always made too big a deal of it, or they overreacted. And it played into his hands.
And I, you know, I have to wonder if that’s what’s happening right now with this whole
Yeah. All right. Well, we’ll leave it at that. We’ve gone over an hour. If you’re listening
to the all in podcast, and you’d like to advertise, it’s not possible. There’s no ads on
this podcast. And if you’d like to be a guest on the podcast, that’s also not possible. There’s no
guests. So send your advertising and guest requests to Jamath at SPAC, SPAC, SPAC.org.
Breaking news right now, there is a tech crunch story that just broke while we’re on air.
Can’t stop, won’t stop, social capital just followed for its fourth SPAC. If you’re into
No, that’s not the article. The article…
Oh, no, the article is Jamath launches SPAC. SPAC and SPAC. As he SPACs,
the world with SPACs.
Yeah, we just announced three. Yeah.
Oh, you just announced number three.
No, no, no. Three, three, D, E, and F.
Oh, D, E, and F got approved?
No, yeah, they’re filed with the SEC now.
Yeah. And when would D, E, and F be available for people to buy shares in it then? Is that
like a 60 day, 100 day?
Oh, okay, great. All right. Well, there you have it. And then you confirmed that the second SPAC
was open door, right? Is that confirmed? Or is that…
Yeah, that was announced on Tuesday. Yeah.
Congratulations on that.
Thank you, sir.
And then how do you feel about all these people stealing your thunder with SPACs?
I think it’s great.
Is that annoying or is it inspiring?
No, it’s great. I think it’s growing the market. It’s good for entrepreneurs.
It’s amazing. I mean, this is going to mean that companies with 50 to
150 million will be able to go public on a clear path?
I hope so. I’ve said this before. We’ve gone from 8,000 public companies to 4,000 in 20 years. So
let’s reverse the tide. Let’s go back to 8,000.
It should be double the number of companies, right? I mean, we should have gone down,
we should have gone up. You would think we’ve gone…
In a world with 0% interest rates, it has to.
Yeah. Yeah. All right. Well, here we go. Please, for the love of God, somebody convince
Kahm, Robin Hood, Thumbtack, and David Sachs to go public because I’ve got kids to put through school.
All right, everybody. For Bestie C,
the Rain Man himself, David Sachs, and the Queen of Quinoa,
Fried Burgers. This is the All In Podcast. We’ll see you next time. Bye-bye.
Love you, Besties.
I love you, Besties.