Huberman Lab - Dr. Lex Fridman: Navigating Conflict, Finding Purpose & Maintaining Drive

Welcome to the Huberman Lab Podcast,

where we discuss science

and science-based tools for everyday life.

I’m Andrew Huberman,

and I’m a professor of neurobiology and ophthalmology

at Stanford School of Medicine.

Today, my guest is Dr. Lex Friedman.

Dr. Lex Friedman is an expert

in electrical and computer engineering,

artificial intelligence, and robotics.

He is also the host of the Lex Friedman Podcast,

which initially started as a podcast

focused on technology and science of various kinds,

including computer science and physics,

but rapidly evolved to include guests

and other topics as a matter of focus, including sport.

For instance, Dr. Lex Friedman

is a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu,

and he’s had numerous guests on

who come from the fields of Brazilian jiu-jitsu,

both from the coaching side and from the competitor side.

He also has shown an active interest

in topics such as chess,

and essentially anything that involves intense activation

and engagement of the mind and or body.

In fact, the Lex Friedman Podcast has evolved

to take on very difficult topics such as mental health.

He’s had various psychiatrists and other guests on

that relate to mental health and mental illness,

as well as guests focused on geopolitics

and some of the more controversial issues

that face our times.

He’s had comedians, he’s had scientists, he’s had friends,

he’s had enemies on his podcast.

Lex has a phenomenal, I would say a one in an 8 billion

ability to find these people, make them comfortable,

and in that comfort, both try to understand them

and to confront them and to push them so that we all learn.

All of which is to say that Lex Friedman

is no longer just an accomplished scientist.

He certainly is that, but he has also become

one of the more preeminent thought leaders on the planet.

And if there’s anything that really captures the essence

of Lex Friedman, it’s his love of learning,

his desire to share with us the human experience

and to broaden that experience so that we all may benefit.

In many ways, our discussion during today’s episode

captures the many facets of Lex Friedman,

although no conversation of course, could capture them all.

We sit down to the conversation just days

after Lex returned from Ukraine,

where he deliberately placed himself into the tension

of that environment in order to understand

the geopolitics of the region and to understand

exactly what was happening at the level of the ground

and the people there.

You may notice that he carries quite a lot of both emotion

and knowledge and understanding,

and yet in a very classic Lex Friedman way,

you’ll notice that he’s able to zoom out

of his own experience around any number of different topics

and view them through a variety of lenses

so that first of all, everyone feel included,

but most of all, so that everyone learns something new.

That is to gain new perspective.

Our discussion also ventures into the waters of social media

and how that landscape is changing the way

that science and technology are communicated.

We also get into the topics of motivation,

drive and purpose, both finding it

and executing on that drive and purpose.

I should mention that this is episode 100

of the Huberman Lab podcast, and I would be remiss

if I did not tell you that there would be

no Huberman Lab podcast were it not for Lex Friedman.

I was a fan of the Lex Friedman podcast

long before I was ever invited on to the podcast as a guest,

and after our first recording,

Lex was the one that suggested that I start a podcast.

He only gave me two pieces of advice.

The first piece of advice was start a podcast,

and the second piece of advice was that I not just make it

me blabbing into the microphone and staring at the camera.

So I can safely say that I at least followed

half of his advice and that I am ever grateful for Lex,

both as a friend, a colleague in science,

and now fellow podcaster for making the suggestion

that we start this podcast.

I already mentioned a few of the topics

covered on today’s podcast, but I can assure you

that there is far more to the person

that many of us know as Lex Friedman.

If you are somebody interested in artificial intelligence,

engineering, or robotics,

today’s discussion is most certainly for you.

And if you are not, but you are somebody

who’s interested in world politics,

and more importantly, the human experience,

both the individual and the collective human experience,

Lex shares what can only be described as incredible insights

into what he views as the human experience

and what is optimal in order to derive

from our time on this planet.

Before we begin, I’d like to emphasize that this podcast

is separate from my teaching and research roles at Stanford.

It is, however, part of my desire and effort

to bring zero cost to consumer information about science

and science-related tools to the general public.

In keeping with that theme,

I’d like to thank the sponsors of today’s podcast.

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And now for my discussion with Dr. Lex Friedman.

Welcome back.

It’s good to be back in a bedroom.

This feels like a porn set.

I apologize to open that way.

I’ve never been in a porn set,

so I should admit this.

Our studio is being renovated.

So here we are for the monumental recording

of episode 100 of the Huberman Lab podcast,

which was inspired by the Lex Friedman podcast.

Some people already know this story,

but I’ll repeat it again for those that don’t.

There would not be a Huberman Lab podcast

were it not for Lex Friedman,

because after recording as a guest on his podcast

a few years ago,

he made the suggestion that I start a podcast,

and he explained to me how it works.

And he said, you should start a podcast,

but just make sure that it’s not you

labbing the whole time, Andrew.

And I only sort of followed the advice.

Yeah, well, you surprised me, surprised the world,

that you’re able to talk for hours

and cite some of the best science going on

and be able to give people advice

without many interruptions or edits or any of that.

I mean, that takes an incredible amount of skill

that you’re probably born with

and some of it is developed.

I mean, the whole science community is proud of you, man.

Stanford is proud of you.

So yeah, it’s a beautiful thing.

It was really surprising

because it’s unclear how a scientist can do a great podcast

that’s not just shooting the shit about random stuff,

but really is giving very structured, good advice

that’s boiling down the state-of-the-art science

into something that’s actually useful for people.

So that was impressive.

I was like, holy shit, he actually pulled this off.

And doing it every week on a different topic.

That, I mean, I’m usually positive,

especially for people I love and support,

but damn, I thought there’s no way

he’s gonna be able to pull this off week after week.

And it’s been only getting better and better and better.

I had a whole rant on a recent podcast,

I forget with who, of how awesome you are,

with Rana El-Khaloubi.

She’s a emotion recognition person, AI person.

And then she didn’t know who you were.

And I was like, what the hell do you mean?

And then I just went on this whole rant

of how awesome you are, it was hilarious.

Oh, well, I’m very gratified to hear this.

It’s a little uncomfortable for me to hear,

but listen, I’m just really happy

if people are getting information that they like

and can make actionable.

And it was inspired by you.

And look, right back at you,

I’ve followed a number of your structural formats, attire.

I don’t wear a tie.

I’m constantly reminded about this by my father

who says what he saw my podcast.

He was like, why don’t you dress properly

like your friend Lex?

He literally said that.

And it’s a debate that goes back and forth,

but nonetheless.

How does it feel episode 100?

How does it feel?

You know, I think-

Can you imagine you’re here?

You’re here after so many episodes and done so much.

I mean, the number of hours is just insane.

The amount of passion, the amount of work you put into this.

What’s it feel like?

It feels great.

And it feels very much like the horizon is still

at the same distance in front of me.

You know, every episode,

I just try and get information there.

And the process that we talked about on your podcast,

we won’t go into it, of collecting information,

distilling it down to some simple notes,

walking around, listening to music,

trying to, you know, figure out what the motifs are.

And then as just like you,

I don’t use a teleprompter or anything like that.

There’s very minimal notes.

So it feels great and I love it.

And again, I’m just grateful to you for inspiring it.

And I just want to keep going and do more of it.

And I should say,

I am also relieved that we’re sitting here

because you recently went overseas

to a very intense war zone, literally, the Ukraine.

And the entire time that you were there,

I was genuinely concerned.

You know, the world’s a unpredictable place in general,

and we don’t always get the only vote

in what happens to us.

So first of all, welcome back safely,

one piece, one alive piece.

And what was that like?

I mean, at a broad level, at a specific level,

what drew you there?

What surprised you?

And how do you think it changed you in coming back here?

I think there’s a lot to say,

but first it is really good to be back.

One of the things that when you go

to a difficult part of the world

or a part of the world

that’s going through something difficult,

you really appreciate how great it is to be an American.

Everything, the easy access to food,

despite what people think,

the stable, reliable rule of law,

the lack of corruption in that you can trust

that if you start a business

or if you take on various pursuits in life,

that there’s not going to be at scale

manipulation of your efforts such that you can’t succeed.

So that this kind of, you know,

capitalism and the ideal of capitalism

is really still burning bright in this country.

And it really makes you appreciate those aspects.

And also just the ability to have a home

for generations, across generations.

So you can have your grandfather live in,

I don’t know, Kentucky in a certain city,

and then his children lived there and you lived there.

And then it just continues on and on.

That’s the kind of thing you can have

when you don’t have war,

because war destroys entire communities.

It destroys histories, generations,

like life stories that stretch across the generations.

Yeah, I didn’t even think about that

until you said just now, but photographs,

hard drives get destroyed or just abandoned, right?


I mean, nowadays things exist in the cloud,

but there’s still a lot of material goods

that are irreplaceable, right?

Well, even in rural parts of the United States,

they don’t exist in the cloud, right?

A lot of people still, well, even in towns,

they still love the physical photo album of your family.

A lot of people still store their photographs

of families in the VHS tapes and all that kind of stuff.

Yeah, but I think there’s so many things I’ve learned

and really felt the lessons.

One of which is nobody gives a damn

when your photos are gone and all that kind of stuff.

Your house is gone.

The thing time and time again,

I saw for people that lost everything

is how happy they are for the people.

They love the friends, the family that are still alive.

That’s the only thing they talk about,

that in fact, they don’t mention actually

with much dramatic sort of vigor

about the trauma of losing your home.

They’re just nonstop saying how lucky they are

that person X, person Y is still here.

And that makes you realize that when you lose everything,

it makes you realize what really matters,

which is the people in your life.

I mean, a lot of people kind of realize that later in life

when you’re facing mortality, when you’re facing your death,

or you get a cancer diagnosis, that kind of stuff.

I think people here in America, in California,

with the fires, you can still lose your home.

You realize like, nah, it doesn’t really matter.

It’s a pain in the ass,

but what matters is still the family, the people, and so on.

I think the most intense thing,

I talked to several hundred people,

some of which is recorded.

I’ve really been struggling to put that out

because I have to edit it myself.

And so you’re talking about 30, 40 hours of footage.

Is it emotionally struggling?

Yeah, it’s extremely difficult.

So I talked to a lot of politicians,

the number two in the country, number three.

I’ll be back there to talk to the president,

to do a three-hour conversation.

Those are easy to edit.

You know, they’re really heartfelt and thoughtful folks

from different perspectives on the geopolitics of the war.

But the ones that are really hard to edit

is like grandmas that are like in the middle of nowhere.

They lost everything.

They still have hope.

They still have love.

And some of them have, some of them,

many of them unfortunately have now hate in their heart.

So in February, when Russia invaded Ukraine,

this is the thing I realized about war.

One of the most painful lessons

is that war creates generational hate.

You know, we sometimes think about war

as a thing that kills people,

kills civilians, kills soldiers,

takes away lives, injures people.

But we don’t directly think about

the secondary and tertiary effects of that,

which lasts decades,

which is anyone who’s lost a father or a mother

or a daughter or a son,

they now hate not just the individual soldiers

or the leaders that invaded their country,

but the entirety of the people.

So it’s not that they hate Vladimir Putin

or hate the Russian military.

They hate Russian people.

So that tears the fabric of a thing that,

for me, you know, half my family’s from Ukraine,

half my family’s from Russia.

But there’s, I remember the pain,

the triumph of World War II still resonates

through my entire family tree.

And so you remember when the Russians

and Ukrainians fought together against this Nazi invasion.

You remember a lot of that.

And now to see the fabric of this people’s

torn apart completely with hate

is really, really difficult for me,

just to realize that things will just never be the same

on this particular cultural historical aspect.

But also there’s so many painful ways

in which things will never be the same,

which is we’ve seen that it’s possible

to have a major hot war in the 21st century.

I think a lot of people are watching this.

China is watching this.

India is watching this.

United States is watching this

and thinking we can actually have a large-scale war.

And I think the lessons learned from that

might be the kind that lead to a major World War III

in the 21st century.

So like one of the things I realized

watching the whole scene is that we don’t know shit

about what’s gonna happen in the 21st century.

And it might, we kind of have this intuition,

like surely there’s not gonna be another war.

We’ll just coast.



Yeah, pandemic.


Back to normal.

Back to normal.

Whatever that is.

But you have to remember at the end of World War I,

as Woodrow Wilson called it, the war to end all wars,

nobody, ironically, in a dark way,

it was also the roaring 20s when people believed this,

there will never be another world war.

And 20 years after that, the rise of Nazi Germany,

a charismatic leader that captivated the minds of millions

and built up a military that can take on the whole world.

And so it makes you realize that this is still possible.

This is still possible.

And then the tension, you see the media machine,

the propaganda machine that I’ve gotten to see

every aspect of, it’s still fueling that division

between America and China, between Russia and India.

And then Africa has a complicated thing

that’s trying to figure out who are they with,

who are they against.

And just this tension is building and building.

And it makes you realize like we might,

the thing that might shake human civilization

may not be so far off.

That’s a realization you get to really feel.

I mean, there’s all kinds of other lessons.

And one of which is propaganda.

Is I got to, I get a lot of letters, emails,

and some of them are full of really intense language,

full of hate from every side toward me.

What, well, the hate is towards me as representing side X.

And X stands as a variable for every side.

So either I’m a Zelensky show, or I’m a Putin show,

or I’m a NATO show, or I’m an America show,

American empire show, or I’m a Democrat or a Republican,

because it’s already been in this country politicized.

I think there’s a sense of Ukraine is this place

that’s full of corruption.

Why are we sending money there?

I think that’s kind of the messaging

on the Republican side, on the Democratic side.

I’m not even keeping track of the actual messaging

and the conspiracy theories and the narratives,

but they are, the tension is there

and I get to feel it directly.

And what you get to really experience

is there’s a large number of narratives

that all are extremely confident in themselves

that they know the truth.

People are convinced, first of all,

that they’re not being lied to.

People in Russia think there’s no propaganda.

They think that, yes, yes,

there’s like state sponsored propaganda,

but we’re all smart enough to ignore

the sort of lame propaganda that’s everywhere.

They know that we can think on our own, we know the truth.

And everybody kind of speaks in this way.

In the United States says, well, yes,

there’s mainstream media,

they’re full of messaging and propaganda,

but we’re smart, we can think on our own.

Of course, we see through that.

Everybody says this.

And then the conclusion of their thought

is often hatred towards some group, whatever that group is.

And the more you’ve lost,

the more intense the feeling of hatred.

It’s a really difficult field to walk through calmly

and with an open mind and try to understand

what’s really going on.

It’s super intense.

That’s the only words that come to mind as I hear this.

You mentioned something that it seems that hate generalizes.

You know, it’s against an entire group or an entire country.

Why do you think it is that hate generalizes

and that love may or may not generalize?

I’ve had, so one of the, as you can imagine,

the kind of question I asked is,

do you have love or hate in your heart?

It’s a question I asked almost everybody.

And then I would dig into this exact question

that you’re asking.

I think some of the most beautiful things I’ve heard,

which is people that are full of hate

are able to self introspect about it.

They know they shouldn’t feel it,

but they can’t help it.

That’s not, they know that ultimately the thing

that helps them and helps everyone

is to feel love for fellow man,

but they can’t help it.

They know it’s like a drug.

They say like hate escalates.

It’s like a vicious spiral.

You just can’t help it.

And the question I also asked is,

do you think you’ll ever be able to forgive Russia?

And after much thought, almost,

it’s split, but most people will say, no.

I will never be able to forgive.

And because of the generalization

you talked about earlier,

that could even include all Russians.

In that statement, they mean all Russians.

Because if you do nothing,

that’s as bad or worse

than being part of the army that invades.

So the people that are just sitting there,

the good Germans,

the people that are just quietly going on with their lives,

you’re just as bad, if not worse, is their perspective.

Earlier you said that going over to the Ukraine

has now allowed you to realize

just so many of the positives

of being here in the United States.

I have a good friend.

We both know him.

We’ll name him by name,

but we’ve communicated, the three of us,

from tier one special operations.

He spent years doing deployments,

really amazing individual.

And I remember when the pandemic hit,

he said on a text thread,

Americans aren’t used to the government

interfering with their plans.

Around the world, many people are familiar with governments

dramatically interfering with their plans,

sometimes even in a seemingly random way.

Here, we were not braced for that.

We get speeding tickets and there’s lines to vote

and things like that.

But I think the pandemic was one of the first times,

at least in my life,

that I can remember where it really seemed like

the government was impeding

what people naturally wanted to do.

And that was a shock for people here.

And I have what might seem like a somewhat mundane question,

but it’s something that I saw on social media.

A lot of people were asking me to ask you.

And I was curious about too,

what was a typical day like over there?

Were you sleeping in a bed?

Were you sleeping on the ground?

Everyone seems to want to know, what were you eating?

Were you eating once a day?

Were you eating your steak?

Or were you in fairly deprived conditions over there?

I saw a couple photos that you posted

out of doors, in front of rubble,

with pith helmet on in one case.

What was a typical day like over there?

So there’s two modes.

One of them, I spent a lot of time in Kiev,

which is much safer than,

it may be obvious to state,

but for people who don’t know,

it’s in the middle of the country

and it’s much safer than the actual front,

that the where the battle is happening.

So the much, much safer than Kiev even is Lviv,

which is the Western part of the country.

So the times I spent in Kiev were fundamentally different

than the time I spent at the front.

And I went to the Kherson region,

which is where a lot of really heated battle was happening.

There’s several areas.

So there’s Kharkiv, it’s in the Northeast of the country.

And then there’s Donbass region,

which is the East of the country.

And then there’s Kherson region,

which by the way, I’m not good at geography.

So is the Southeast of the country.

And that’s where, at least when I was there,

was a lot of really heated fighting happening.

So when I was in the Kherson region,

there’s, it’s what you would imagine,

the place that I stayed in a hotel

where all the lights have to stay off.

So the entire town, all the lights are off.

You have to kind of navigate through the darkness

and then use your phone to shine and so on.

This is terrible for the circadian system.

Yeah, that’s exactly how can I do this?

Where’s my element in the flood of greens?

How can I function?

No, there’s, I think it was balanced

by the deep appreciation of being alive.

Right, no, I mean, this is the reason I asked.

This is the reason I ask is,

we get used to all these creature comforts

and we don’t need them,

but we often come to depend on them

in a way that makes us feel like we need them.

Yeah, but very quickly,

there’s something about the intensity of life

that you see in people’s eyes

because they’ve been living through war

that makes you forget all those creature comforts.

And it was actually,

I’m somebody who hates traveling and so on.

I love the creature habits.

I love the comfort of the ritual, right?

But all of that was forgotten very quickly.

Just the intensity of feeling,

the intensity of love that people have for each other.

That was obvious.

In terms of food,

so there’s a curfew.

So depends on what part of the country,

but usually you basically have to scammer home

at like 9 p.m.

So the hard curfew in a lot of places is 11 p.m. at night,

but by then you have to be home.

So in some places it’s 10.

So at 9 p.m. you start going home,

which for me was kind of wonderful also

because I get to spend,

I get to be forced to spend time alone

and think for many hours in wherever I’m staying,

which is really nice.

And everybody, there’s a calmness

and the quietness to the whole thing.

In terms of food, once a day,

just the food is incredibly cheap and incredibly delicious.

People are still,

one of the things they can still take pride in

is making the best possible food they can.

So meat, but they do admire American meat.

So the meat is not as great as it could be in that country,

but I eat borscht every day,

all that kind of stuff, mostly meat.

So spend the entire day,

wake up in the morning with coffee,

spend the entire day talking to people,

which for me is very difficult

because of the intensity of the stories,

one after the other, after the other,

we just talk to regular people,

talk to soldiers, talk to politicians,

all kinds of soldiers.

I talk to people there who are doing rescue missions,

so Americans, I hung out with Tim Kennedy.

Oh yeah, the great Tim Kennedy.

The great Tim Kennedy,

who also him and many others revealed to me

one of the many reasons I’m proud to be an American

is how trained and skilled

and effective American soldiers are.

And I guess for listeners of this podcast,

maybe we should familiarize them with who Tim Kennedy is

because I realized that a number of them will know.

How do you do that?

How do you try to summarize a man?

Right, and we can be accurate, but not exhaustive

as any good data are accurate, but not exhaustive.

Very skilled and accomplished MMA fighter,

very skilled and accomplished, former special operations.

Remember American patriot and a podcaster too, right?

Does he have his own podcast?

Maybe, maybe.

We know Andy Stumpf has his own podcast.

Yes, it’s an amazing podcast, yeah, it’s great.

Yeah, clearing hot podcasts with Andy Stumpf.

But also Tim Kennedy’s like the embodiment of America

and to the most beautiful and the most ridiculous degree.

So he’s like, would you imagine,

what is it, Team America?

That like, I just imagine him like shirtless on a tank

rolling into enemy territory,

just screaming at the top of his lungs.

That’s just his personality.

But not posturing, that’s it.

He actually does the work as they say.

So this is the thing, he really embodies that.

Now, some of that is just his personality and humor.

I’d like to sort of comment on the humor of things,

not just with him.

It’s very one other interesting thing I’ve learned.

But also when he’s actually helping people,

he’s extremely good at what he does,

which is building teams that rescue,

that go into the most dangerous areas of Ukraine,

dangerous areas anywhere else and they get the job done.

And one of the things I heard time and time again,

which really interesting to me

that Ukrainian soldiers said that,

comparing Ukrainian, Russian and American soldiers,

American soldiers are the bravest,

which was very interesting for me to hear,

given how high the morale is for the Ukrainian soldiers.

But that just reveals that training

enables you to be brave.

So it’s not just about how well trained they are and so on,

it’s how intense and ferocious they are in the fighting.

And that makes you realize like this is American army,

not just through the technology,

especially the special force guys,

they still is one of the most effective

and terrifying armies in the world.

And listen, just for context,

I’m somebody who’s for the most part anti-war, a pacifist,

but you get to see some of the realities of war

kind of wake you up to what needs to get done

to protect sovereignty,

to protect some of the values,

to protect civilians and homes and all that kind of stuff.

Sometimes war has to happen.

And I should also mention the Russian side,

because while I haven’t gotten to experience

the Russian side yet, I do fully plan to travel to Russia.

As I’ve told everybody,

I was very upfront with everybody about this.

I would like to hear the story of Russians,

but I do know from the Ukrainian side,

like the grandmas, I love grandmas.

They told me stories that the Russians really,

the ones that entered their villages,

they really, really believe they’re saving Ukraine

from Nazis, from Nazi occupation.

So they feel that there’s the Ukraine

is under control of Nazi organizations

and they believe they’re saving the country

that’s their brothers and sisters.

So I think propaganda,

and I think truth is a very difficult thing to arrive.

It’s in that war zone.

I think in the 21st century,

one of the things you realize that so much of war,

even more so than in the past is an information war.

And people that just use Twitter

for their source of information might be surprised

to know how much misinformation there is on Twitter,

like real narratives being sold.

And so it’s really hard to know

who to believe.

And through all of that,

you have to try to keep an open mind

and ultimately ignore the powerful

and listen to actual citizens, actual people.

That’s the other maybe obvious lesson is that

war is waged by powerful rich people

and it’s the poor people that suffer.

And that’s just visible time and time again.

You mentioned the fact that people still enjoy food

or the pleasure of cooking,

or there’s occasional humor or maybe frequent humor.

I know Jocko Willink has talked about this in warfare

and that all the elements of the human spirit

and condition still emerge at various times.

I find this amazing.

And you and I have had conversations about this before,

but the aperture of the mind,

the classic story that comes to mind

is the one of Viktor Frankl or Nelson Mandela.

You put somebody into a small box of confinement

and some people break under those conditions

and other people find entire stories

within a centimeter of concrete that can occupy them

and real stories and richness or humor or love

or fascination and surprise.

And I find this so interesting

that the mind is so adaptable.

We talked about creature comforts

and then lack of creature comforts

and the way that we can adapt.

And yet humans are always striving, it seems,

or one would hope for these better conditions

to better their conditions.

So as you’ve come back and you’ve been here now

back in the States for how long after your trip?

It depends on this podcast release,

but it felt like I’ve never left.

So practically speaking, a couple of months.

Yeah, and we won’t be shy.

We were recording this mid-September.

We actually recorded this several years ago.

So we’re anticipating the future.

This is where we’re going to start telling you

this is a simulation, you and Joe.

I’m still trying to figure out what that actually means.

I’d like to take a quick break

and acknowledge one of our sponsors, Athletic Greens.

Athletic Greens, now called AG1,

is a vitamin mineral probiotic drink

that covers all of your foundational nutritional needs.

I’ve been taking Athletic Greens since 2012.

So I’m delighted that they’re sponsoring the podcast.

The reason I started taking Athletic Greens

and the reason I still take Athletic Greens

once or usually twice a day

is that it gets me the probiotics that I need for gut health.

Our gut is very important.

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In addition, Athletic Greens contains a number

of adaptogens, vitamins, and minerals

that make sure that all of my foundational

nutritional needs are met, and it tastes great.

If you’d like to try Athletic Greens,

you can go to slash Huberman,

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And they’ll give you a year’s supply of vitamin D3K2.

Again, that’s slash Huberman

to get the five free travel packs

and the year’s supply of vitamin D3K2.

I know I speak for many people when I say

that we are very happy that you’re back.

We know that it’s not going to be the first and last trip,

that there will be others,

and that you’ll be going to Russia as well,

and presumably other places as well,

in order to explore.

And I have to say as a podcaster and as your friend,

I was really inspired that your sense of adventure

and your sense of not just adventure,

but thoughtful, respectful adventure,

you understood what you were doing.

You weren’t just going there to get some wartime footage

or something.

This wasn’t a kick or a thrill.

This was really serious and remained serious.

So thank you for doing it.

And please, next time you go, bring Tim Kennedy again.

I feel like Tim Kennedy gets you into,

we’ll take it,

because he really loves going to the most dangerous places

and helping people.

So I think he’d get me into more trouble than it’s worth.

And I should mention that,

I mean, there’s many reasons I went,

but it’s definitely not something

I take lightly or want to do again.

So I’m doing things that I don’t want to do.

I just feel like I have to.

You’re compelled.

So I don’t think there’s,

now I’ll definitely talk about it as we all should.

There’s different areas of the world

that are seeing a lot of suffering.

Yemen, there’s so many atrocities

going on in the world today,

but this one is just personal to me.

So I want to, I feel like I’m qualified

just because of the language.

So most of the talking, by the way,

I was doing it, it was in Russian.

And so because of the language,

because of my history,

I felt like I have to do this particular thing.

I think it’s in many ways stupid and dangerous.

And that was made clear to me,

but I do many things of this nature

because the heart pulls towards that.

But also there’s a freedom to not,

you know, I’m afraid of death,

but I think there’s a freedom to,

it’s almost like, okay, if I die,

I want to take full advantage

of not having a family currently.

I feel like when you have a family,

there’s a responsibility for others.

So you immediately become more conservative and careful.

I feel like I want to take full advantage

of this particular moment in my life

when you can be a little bit more accepting of risk.

Well, you should definitely reproduce at some point.

Maybe before next time you should just freeze some sperm.


Is that what you do with the ice bath?

Is that how that works?

You know, it’s interesting.

There’s always an opportunity to do some science protocols.

You know, there are products on the internet

and there are actually a few decent manuscripts

looking at how cold exposure

can increase testosterone levels,

but it doesn’t happen by the cold directly.

A good scientist, as the authors of those papers were

and are, realized that it’s the vasoconstriction

and then the vasodilation.

You know, as people warm up again,

there’s increased blood flow to the testicles.

And in women, it seems there’s probably increased blood flow

to the reproductive organs as well

after people warm back up.

So that seems to cause some sort of hypernourishment

of the various cells,

the sertoli and leydig cells of the testes

that lead to increased output of testosterone

in men and women, testosterone as well.

So the cold exposure in any case is obviously a…

Do you do the ice bath?

Are you into that?

As a Russian, you probably consider that a hot tub.

Yeah, exactly.

Yeah, it’s a nice thing to have fun

with every once in a while to warm up.

No, I haven’t done it.

I’ve been kind of waiting to maybe do it together

with you at some point.

Great, well, we have a guide.

No, we have one here.

It’ll be straightforward for you.

I always say that the adrenaline comes in waves

and so if you just think about it,

walls, like you’re going through a number of walls

of adrenaline as opposed to going for time,

becomes rather trivial.

With your jujitsu background and whatnot,

you’ll immediately recognize the physiological sensation,

even though it’s cold specifically,

it’s the adrenaline that makes you want to hop

out of the thing.

And you’ve seen Joe’s.

So Joe set up a really nice man cave

or it’s not even a cave because it’s so big.

It’s like a network of man caves,

but it has a ice bath and a sauna next to each other.

So we have one of those here, ice bath and sauna.

So we’ll have to get you in it when one of these days,

maybe tonight, maybe tomorrow.

No, although there is a,

I don’t know the underlying physiological basis,

but there does seem to be a trend

toward truth-telling in the sauna.

Some people refer to them as truth barrels.

Mine’s a barrel sauna shaped like a barrel.

Who knows why?

Maybe under intense heat duress,

people just feel compelled to share.

I have a complicated relationship with saunas

because of all the weight cutting.


Some of the deepest sufferings, sorry to interrupt,

I’ve done was in the sauna.

I mean, I’ve gone to some dark places in a sauna

because I wrestled my whole life, judo, jiu-jitsu.

And those weight cuts can really test the mind.

So you’re truth-telling.

Yeah, it’s a certain kind of truth-telling

because you’re sitting there

and the clock moves slower

than it has ever moved in your life.

Yeah, so I usually, for the most part,

I would try to have a bunch of sweats,

garbage bags and all that kind of stuff and run.

It’s easier because you can distract the mind.

In the sauna, you can’t distract the mind.

It’s just you and all the excuses

and all the weaknesses in your mind

just coming to the surface.

And you’re just sitting there and sweating or not sweating.

That’s the worst.

And to talk about visual aperture, you’re in a small box.

So it also inspires some claustrophobia,

even if you’re not claustrophobic.

That’s absolutely true.

And the desire to just get out of the thing

is where you get a pretty serious adrenaline surge

from in the sauna as well.

Now the sauna actually will,

it won’t deplete testosterone, but it kills sperm.

So for people that, sperm are on a 60-day sperm cycle.

So if you’re trying to donate sperm

or because that’s what got us onto this

or fertilize an egg or eggs in whatever format,

dish or in vivo, as we say in science,

that which means, well, you can look it up, folks.

The 60-day sperm cycle.

So if you go into a really hot sauna

or a hot bath or a hot tub,

in 60 days, those sperm are going to be

a significantly greater portion of them will be dead,

will be non-viable.

So there’s a simple solution

to be able to just put an ice pack down there

or a jar, not this jar, but a jar of cold fluid

between their legs and just sit there

or they go back and forth between the ice bath and the sauna.

But you probably, if you’re going to go back over there,

you should freeze sperm.

We’re going to do a couple episodes on fertility

when it’s relatively inexpensive and you’re young.

So you should probably do it now

because there is a association with autism

as males get older.

It’s not a strong one, it’s significant,

but it’s still a small contribution

to the autism phenotype.

As you age, don’t sperm get wiser or no?

There’s no science to back that.

No, but, you know, men can conceive healthy children

at a considerable age, but in any case,

but no, they don’t get wiser.

It’s like what happens is interesting.

Well, it’s a little bit like the maturation of the brain

in the sense that some of the sperm get much better

at swimming and then many of them get less good.

Motility is a strong correlate of the DNA of the sperm.

This is probably a good time to announce

that I’m selling my sperm as an NFTs.

I want to see how much that-

Oh my goodness.

I’m riding the-

Well, your children, your future children

and my future children are supposed to do jiu-jitsu together

since I’ve only done the one jiu-jitsu class.

So I’m strongly vested in you having children,

but only in the friendly kind of way.

Well, yes, the friendly competition kind of way, yeah.

Dominance of the clan, yeah, for sure.

So moving on to science,

but still with our minds in the Ukraine,

did you encounter any scientists or see any universities

or as we know in this country and in Europe

and in elsewhere, science takes infrastructure.

You need buildings, you need laboratories,

you need robots, you need a lot of equipment

and you need minus 80 freezers and you need incubators

and you need money and you need technicians

and typically it’s been the wealthier countries

that have been able to do more research

for sake of research and development and productization.

Certainly the Ukraine had some marvelous universities

and marvelous scientists.

What’s going on with science and scientists over there

and gosh, can we even calculate the loss of discovery

that is occurring as a consequence of this conflict?

So science goes on, before the war,

Ukraine had a very vibrant tech sector

that which means engineering and all that kind of stuff.

And Kiev has a lot of excellent universities

and they still go on.

The biggest hit, I would say,

is not the infrastructure of the science,

but the fact because of the high morale,

everybody is joining the military.

So everybody’s going to the front to fight,

including you, Andrew Huberman would be fighting

and not because you have to, but because you want to.

And everybody you know would be really proud

that you’re fighting,

even though everyone tries to convince Andrew Huberman,

you have much better ways to contribute.

There’s deep honor in fighting for your country, yes,

but there’s better ways to contribute to your country

than just picking up a gun that you’re not that trained with

and going to the front, still they do it.

Scientists, engineers, CEOs, professors, students,

men and women, actors, men and women,

obviously primarily men, but men and women,

like much more than you would see in other militaries,

women are everybody, everybody wants to fight,

everybody’s proud of fighting.

There’s no discussion of kind of pacifism,

should we be fighting, is this right,

is this, you know, everybody’s really proud of fighting.

So there’s this kind of black hole that pulls everything,

all the resource into the war effort,

that’s not just financial, but also psychological.

So it’s like, if you’re a scientist,

it feels like almost like you’re dishonoring humanity

by continuing to do things you were doing before.

There’s a lot of people that converted to being soldiers,

they literally watch a YouTube video

of how to shoot a particular gun,

how to arm a drone with a grenade, you know,

if you’re a tech person, you know how to work with drones,

so you’re gonna use that, use whatever skills you got,

figure out whatever skills you got and how to use them

to help the effort on the front, and so that’s a big hit.

But that said that, you know,

I’ve talked to a lot of folks in Kiev,

faculty primarily in the tech economics space,

so I didn’t get a chance to interact with folks

who are on the biology, chemistry,

neuroscience side of things, but that still goes on.

So one of the really impressive things about Ukraine

is that they’re able to maintain infrastructure,

like road, food supply, all that kind of stuff,

education while the war’s going on, especially in Kiev.

The war started where nobody knew

whether Kiev was gonna be taken by the Russian forces,

it was surrounded.

And a lot of experts from outside

were convinced that Russia would take Kiev and they didn’t.

And one of the really impressive things as a leader,

one of the things I really experienced

is that a lot of people criticized Zelensky before the war.

He only had about like 30% approval rate,

a lot of people didn’t like Zelensky.

But one of the great things he did as a leader,

which I’m not sure many leaders would be able to do,

is when Kiev was clearly being invaded,

he chose to stay, he stayed in the capital, everybody,

all the American military, the intelligence agencies,

NATO, his own staff, advisors all told him to flee

and he stayed.

And so that’s, I think that was a beacon,

a symbol for the rest, for the universities, for science,

for the infrastructure that we’re staying to.

And that kept the whole thing going.

There’s an interesting social experiment that happened.

I think for folks who are interested

in sort of gun control in this country in particular,

is one of the decisions they made early on

is to give guns to everybody, semi-automatics.

Early on in the war?

Early on in the war, yeah.

So everybody got a gun.

They also released a bunch of prisoners from prison

because there was no staff to keep the prisons running.

And so there’s a very interesting psychological experiment

of like, how is this gonna go?

Everybody has a gun.

Are they gonna start robbing places?

Are they going to start taking advantage

of a chaotic situation?

And what happened is that crime went to zero.

So it turned out that this,

as an experiment, worked wonderfully.

That’s a case where love generalized.


Or at least hate did not.

We don’t know if it’s love or it’s sort of lack

of initiative for self, you know,

common culture directed hate.

Yeah, I don’t, right.

I think that’s very correct to say

that it wasn’t hate that was unifying people.

It was love of country, love of community.

It’s probably the same thing that will happen to humans

when like aliens invade.

It’s the common effort.

Everybody puts everything else to the side.

Plus just the sheer amount of guns.

It’s similar to like Texas.

You realize like, well,

there’s going to be a self-correcting mechanism very quickly

because the rule of law was also put aside, right?

Like basically the police force lost a lot of power

because everybody else has guns

and they’re kind of taking the law into their own hands.

And that system, at least in this particular case,

in this particular moment in human history, worked.

So interesting lesson, you know.

It is.

I had an interesting contrast that I’ll share with you.

Because you mentioned Texas.

So not so long ago, I was in Austin.

I often visit you or others in Austin, as you know.

And many doors that I walked past, including a school,

said no firearms past this point.

You know, there’s a sticker on the door.

You see this on hospitals sometimes.

I saw this at Baylor College of Medicine, et cetera.

Relatively common to see in Texas.

Not so common in California.

And then I flew to the San Francisco Bay Area,

was walking by an elementary school in my old neighborhood

and saw a similar sticker and looked at it.

And it said no peanuts or other allergy-containing foods

past this point on the door of this elementary school.

So quite a different contrast, you know, guns and peanuts.

Now, peanut allergies, obviously,

are very serious for some people,

although there’s great research out of Stanford

showing that early exposure to peanuts

can prevent the allergies.

But don’t start rubbing yourself in peanut butter, folks,

if you have a peanut allergy.

That’s not the best way to deal with it.

In any case, the contrast of what’s dangerous,

the contrast of, you know,

familiarity with guns versus no familiarity,

you know, in Israel and elsewhere,

you see machine guns in the airport.

In Germany, Frankfurt, you see machine guns in the airport.

Not so common in the United States.

So again, I feel like there’s this aperture of vision.

There’s this aperture of pleasures

versus creature comforts and lack of creature comforts.

And then there’s this aperture of danger, right?

People who are familiar with guns, you know,

are familiar with people coming in

and setting their firearm on the table and eating dinner,

you know, but if you’re not accustomed to that,

it’s jarring, right?

I should mention, people know this throughout human history,

but the human ability to get assimilated,

no, get used to violence is incredible.

So like, you could be living in a peaceful time,

like we’re here now, and there’ll be one explosion,

like a 9-11 type of situation.

That’d be a huge shock, terrifying, everybody freaks out.

The second one is a huge drop-off

in how freaked out you get.

And in a matter of days, sometimes hours,

it becomes the normal.

I’ve talked to so many people in Kharkiv,

which is one of the towns

that’s seen a lot of heated battle.

You ask them, is it safe there?

In fact, when I went to the,

closer and closer to the war zone,

you ask people, is it safe?

And their answer’s usually, yeah, it’s pretty safe.

It’s all signal to noise.

Nobody has told me, except Western reporters

sitting in the west side of Ukraine,

it’s really dangerous here.

Everyone’s like, yeah, it’s good.

My uncle just died yesterday, he was shot.

But it’s pretty good, the farm’s still running.

They, how do I put it?

They focus on the positive, that’s one,

but there’s a deeper truth there,

which is you just get used to difficult situations

and the stuff that make you happy

and the stuff that make you upset

is relative to that new normal that you establish.

Well, I grew up in California

and there were a lot of earthquakes.

I remember the 89 quake,

I remember the Embarcadero freeway pancaking

on top of people and cars.

I remember I moved to Southern California,

there was a Northridge quake.

Wherever I moved, there seemed to be earthquakes.

I never worry about earthquakes, ever.

I just don’t.

In fact, I don’t like the destruction they cause,

but every once in a while, an earthquake will roll through

and it’s kind of exciting.

It sounds like a train coming through.

It’s like, wow, like the earth is moving.

Again, I don’t want anyone to get harmed,

but I enjoy a good rumble coming through nonetheless.

It’s signal to noise.

But if I saw a tornado, I’d freak out.

And people from the Midwest are probably comfortable

with Dan Gable, the great wrestler from the Midwest,

so that you know, and I’ve never met,

but I have great respect for.

He’s probably, you know, see the tornadoes,

like, ah, yeah, maybe, you know.

So I think signal to noise is real.

Before I neglect, although I won’t forget,

speaking of signal to noise and environment,

you are returning to, or have gone back to,

one of your original natural habitats,

which is the Massachusetts Institute of Technology,

which is-

It’s actually difficult to pronounce in full, MIT, right?

So you’ve been spending some time there teaching

and doing other things.

Tell us what you’re up to with MIT recently.

Well, it’s, I’m really glad that you,

being on the West Coast,

know the difference between like Boston, New York.

I feel like a lot of people think it’s like the East Coast.

It’s all-

Very different, especially to Bostonians and New Yorkers.

They get very aggressive.

Yeah, I love it.

I gave lectures there in front of an in-person crowd.

What were you talking about?

For the AI.

So different aspects of AI.

And, you know, robotics, machine learning.

So for people who know the artificial intelligence field,

they usually don’t use the term AI,

and people from outside use AIs.

The biggest breakthroughs in the machine learning field

was some discussion of robotics and so on.

Yeah, it was in-person, it was wonderful.

I’m a sucker for that.

I really avoided teaching

or any kind of interaction during COVID

because people put a lot of emphasis on,

but also got comfortable with remote teaching.

And I think nobody enjoyed it,

except sort of there’s a notion

that it’s much easier to do

because you don’t have to travel,

you don’t have to,

you can do it in your pajamas kind of thing.

But when you actually get to do it,

you don’t get the same kind of joy

that you do when you’re teaching.

As a student, you don’t get

the same kind of joy of learning.

It’s not as effective and all that kind of stuff.

So to be in-person together with people,

to see their eyes, to get their excitement,

to get the questions and all the interactions,

yeah, it was awesome.

And I’m still a sucker and a believer

in the ideal of MIT, of the university.

I think it’s an incredible place.

There’s something in the air still,

but it really hit, the pandemic hit universities hard

and I can say this, this is not you saying it,

this is me saying it,

that administrations, as in all cases,

when people criticize institutions,

the pandemic has given more power to the administration

and taken away power from the faculty and the students.

And that’s from everybody involved,

including the administration, that’s a concern

because the university is about the teachers

and the students, that should be primary.

And whenever you have a pandemic,

there’s an opportunity to increase the amount of rules.

Like one of the things that really bothered me

and I’ll scream from the top of the MIT Dome about this

is they’ve instituted a new Tim ticket system,

which is if you’re a visitor to the campus at MIT,

you have to register.

You have to, first of all, show that you’re vaccinated,

but more importantly, there’s a process to visiting.

You need to get permission to visit.

One of the reasons I loved MIT,

unlike some other institutions,

MIT just leaves the door open to anyone.

In classrooms, you can roll in the ridiculous characters,

the students that are kind of like

usually doing business stuff or economics

can roll into a physics class and just,

you’re kind of not allowed, but it’s a gray area.

So you let that happen.

And that creates a flourishing of a community

that was beautiful.

And I think adding extra rules puts a squeeze on

and limits some of the flourishing.

And I hope some of that dissipates over time

as we kind of let go of the risk aversion

that was created by the pandemic

as we kind of enter the new, the normal return back,

some of that flourishing can happen.

But when you’re actually in there with the students,

yeah, it was magic.

I love it. I love it.

Well, some of your earliest videos on your YouTube channel

were of you in the classroom, right?

That’s how this all started.

Yeah, that’s how YouTube,

like putting stuff on YouTube was terrifying, right?

Well, especially at the time when you did it again,

you’re a pioneer in that sense.

You did that, Jordan Peterson did that.

Putting up lectures is, yeah, I would,

I teach still every winter I teach, direct a course,

and I’ll be doing even more teaching going forward.

But the idea of those videos being on the web is,

yeah, that spikes my cortisol a little bit.

Yeah, it’s terrifying because you get to,

and everybody has a different experience.

Like for me being a junior research scientist,

the kind of natural concern is like, who am I?

And when I was given this lecture,

it’s like, I don’t deserve any of this.

Like why?

That’s your humility coming through.

And I actually think that humility

on the part of an instructor is good

because those that think that they are entitled

and who else could give this lecture, then I worry more.

I think it’s, I once heard,

I don’t know if it’s still true that at Caltech, right?

The great California Institute of Technology,

not far from here, that many of the faculty

are actually afraid of the students,

not physically afraid, but they’re intellectually afraid

because the students are so smart.

And teaching there can be downright frightening, I’ve heard.

But that’s great, keeps everybody on their toes.

And I think, and you know, I’ve been corrected

in lecture before at Stanford and elsewhere.

You know, when my lab was at UC San Diego,

where someone will say, hey, wait, you know,

last lecture, you said this, and now you said that,

and it were on the podcast, you know?

And I think it’s that moment where, you know,

you sometimes feel that urge to defend you,

oh, you’re right.

And I think it depends on how one was trained.

My graduate advisor was wonderful at saying,

I don’t know, all the time.

And she went to Harvard, Radcliffe, UCSF, and Caltech

and was a brilliant, brilliant woman

and had no problem saying, I don’t know.

I don’t have that problem.

So I usually have two guys that somebody speaks up,

grab them, drag them out of the room,

never see him again.

So everybody is really supportive.

I don’t understand the amount of love and support I get.

Especially when the last few students are there

and everybody seems to be nodding as we’re going.

No, I think that I’d love to sit in on one of your lectures.

I know very little about AI machine learning or robotics.

But gosh.

Have you ever talked at MIT?

Have you ever given lectures?

Oh yeah.

When I went on the job market as a faculty member,

my final two choices were between MIT Peek Hour.

I had an on-paper offer.

Wonderful place, wonderful place to do neuroscience.

And UC San Diego,

which is a wonderful neuroscience program.

In the end, it made sense for me

to be on the West Coast for personal reasons,

but there’s some amazing neuroscience going on there.


And that’s always been true and is going to continue.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been invited back there.

Oddly enough, when I started doing more podcasting

and I still run a lab,

but I shrunk my lab considerably when I was doing,

as I’ve done more podcasting.

I’ve received fewer academic lecture invites,

which makes sense.

But now they’re sort of coming back.

And so when people invite now, I always say,

do you want me to talk about the ventral thalamus

and its role in anxiety and aggression?

Or do you want me to talk about the podcast?

And my big fear is I’m going to go back to give a lecture

about the retina or something,

and I’ll start off with an athletic greens read

or something like that, just reflexively.

Just kidding, that wouldn’t happen.

But listen, I think it’s great to continue

to keep a foot in both places.

I was so happy to hear that you’re teaching at MIT

because podcasting is one thing, teaching is another,

and there’s overlap there in the Venn diagram.

But listen, the students,

they get to sit in on one of your lectures

and you may see me sitting there in the audience soon

when I creep into your class.


That’s right, wearing a red shirt.

You won’t recognize me.

Will are certainly receiving a great gift.

I’ve watched your lectures on YouTube,

even the early ones.

And listen, I know you to be a phenomenal teacher.

Yeah, there’s something about,

so I’m also doing, like I said,

I’m pretty late last night working

for a deadline on a paper.

One of the things that I hope to do

for hopefully the rest of my life

is to continue publishing.

And I think it’s really important to do that,

even if you continue the podcast

because you want to be just on your own intellectual

and scientific journey as you do podcasting.

As at least for me,

and especially on the engineering side,

because I want to build stuff.

And I think that’s like keeps your ego in check,

keeps you humble.

Because I think if you talk too much on the microphone,

you start getting,

you might lose track of the grounding

that comes from engineering and from science

and the scientific process

and the criticisms that you get,

all that kind of stuff.

And how slow and iterative it is.

We have two papers right now

that are in the revision stage.

It’s been a very long road.

And I was asked this recently

because I met with my chairman.

He said, do you want to continue to run a lab

or are you just going to go full-time on the podcast?

And Stanford has been very supportive, I must say,

as I know MIT has been a view of you.

And I said, oh,

I absolutely want to continue to be involved in research

and do research.

And we started talking about these papers

and we’re looking over my,

this was my yearly review and looking back,

I’m like, goodness,

these papers have been in play for a very long time.

So it’s a long road,

but you learn more and more.

And the more time you spend myopically

looking at a bunch of data,

the more you learn and the more you think.

I totally agree.

Talking into these devices for podcasts is wonderful

because it’s fun.

It relieves a certain itch that we both have.

And hopefully it lands some important information

out there for people.

But doing research is like the,

I guess if you know, you know,

there’s like the unpeeling of the onion,

knowing that there could be something there.

There’s just nothing like it.

I mean, you do, especially with the pandemic.

And for me, both Twitter and the podcast

have made me much more impatient

about the slowness of the review process.


Twitter will do that.

Twitter will do that.

Even with podcasts, you have a cool,

you’ll find something cool and then you have ideas

and you’ll just say them

and they’ll be out pretty quickly.

And we do a post right now about something

that we both found interesting and it’s out in the world.

And you can write up something like,

there is a culture in computer science

of posting stuff on archive and pre-prints

that don’t get in your review.

And sometimes they don’t even go through

the review process ever.

Because like people just start using them if it’s code.

And it’s like, what’s the point of this?

It works, it’s self evident that it works

because people are using it.

And that, I think, applies more to engineering fields

because it’s an actual tool that works.

It doesn’t matter if it,

you don’t have to scientifically prove that it works.

It works because it’s using for a lot of people.

Well, sorry to interrupt, but I just said,

for point of reference,

the famous paper describing the double helix,

which earned Watson and Crick the Nobel Prize

and should have earned

Rosalind Franklin Nobel Prize too, of course,

but they got it for the structure of DNA, of course.

That paper was never reviewed at Nature.

They published it because its importance

was self-evident or whatever they decided.

So like the editors-

It was that purely editorial decision, I believe.

I mean, that’s what I was told by someone

who’s currently an editor at Nature.

If that turns out to not be correct,

someone will tell us in the comments for sure.

Well, I think-

That’s pretty interesting, right?

That’s really interesting.

Perhaps the most significant discovery in biology

and bioengineering, leading to bioengineering as well,

of course, of the last century was not peer-reviewed.

Yeah, but so Eric Weinstein,

but many others have talked about this,

which is, I mean, I don’t think people understand

how poor the peer review process is.

Just the amount of,

because you think peer review,

it means all the best peers get together

and they review your stuff.

But it’s unpaid work

and it’s usually a small number of people.

And it’s a very, they have a very select perspective.

So they might not be the best person,

especially if it’s super novel work.

And it’s who has time to do it.

I’m on a bunch of editorial boards still.

Why, I don’t know,

but I enjoy the peer review process and sending papers out.

Oftentimes the best scientists are very busy

and don’t have time to review.

And oftentimes the more premier journals

will select from a kind of a unique kit

of very good scientists

who are very close to the work.

Sometimes the people are very far from the work.

It really depends.

And both have negatives, right?

If you’re very close to the work,

there’s jealousy and all those basic human things

very far from the work.

You might not appreciate the nuance, contribution,

all that kind of stuff.

And their psychology, sorry to interrupt again,

but a good friend of mine

who’s extremely successful neuroscientist,

Howard Hughes investigator, et cetera,

always told me that they,

I won’t even say whether or not who they are,

they select their reviewers on the basis

of who has been publishing very well recently,

because they assume that that person

is going to be more benevolent

because they’ve been doing well so that the love expands.

That’s a good point to that actually.

But the idea is that editors

might actually be the best reviewers.

So that was the traditional,

that’s the thing I wanted to mention

that Eric Weinstein talks about.

That back several decades ago,

editors had much more power.

And there’s something to be made for that

because they, editors are the ones

who are responsible for crafting the journal.

Like they really are invested in this.

And so, and they’re also often experts, right?

So it makes sense for an editor

to have a bit of power in this case.

Like usually if an idea is truly novel, you could see it.

And so it makes sense for an editor

to have more power in that regard.

Of course, for me, I think peer review

should be done the way tweets are done,

which is like crowdsourced or Amazon reviews.

Let the crowd decide.

Let the crowd decide.

And let the crowd add depth and breadth

in context for the contribution.

So, if the paper overstates the degree of contribution,

the crowd will check you on that.

If there’s not enough support or like the conclusions

are not supported by the evidence,

the crowd will check you on that.

There could be, of course, a political bickering

that enters the picture,

especially on very controversial topics.

But I think I trust the intelligence of human beings

to figure that out.

And I think most of us are trying

to figure this whole process out.

I just wish it was happening much faster

because on the important topics,

the review cycle could be faster.

And we learned that through COVID

that Twitter was actually pretty effective

at doing science communication.

It was really interesting.

Some of the best scientists took to Twitter

to communicate their own work and other people’s work

and always putting into sort of the caveats

that it’s not peer reviewed and so on,

but it’s all out there.

And the data just moves so fast.

And if you want stuff to move fast,

Twitter is the best medium of communication for that.

It’s cool to see.

I’m now on Twitter more regularly.

And initially it was just Instagram.

And I remember you and I used to have these

over dinner or drink conversations where I’d say,

I don’t understand Twitter.

And you’d say, I don’t understand Instagram.

And of course we understand how it worked

and how to work each respective platform.

But I think we were both trying to figure out,

what is driving the psychology of these different venues?

Because they are quite distinct psychologies

for whatever reason.

I think I’m finally starting to understand Twitter

and enjoy it a little bit.

Initially, I wasn’t prepared for the level

of kind of reflexive scrutiny.

It sounds a little bit oxymoronic,

but that people kind of like pick up on one small thing

and then drive it down that trajectory.

It didn’t seem to be happening quite as much on Instagram,

but I love your tweets.

I do have a question about your Twitter account

and how you, do you have sort of internal filters

of what you’ll put up and won’t put up?

Because sometimes you’ll put up things

that are about life and reflections.

Other times you’ll put up things

like what you’re excited about in AI,

or of course, point to various podcasts,

including your own, but others as well.

How do you approach social media?

Not how do you regulate your behavior on there

in terms of how much time, et cetera.

I know you’ve talked about that before,

but what’s your mindset around social media

when you go on there to either post or forage

or respond to information?

I think I try to add some, not to sound cliche,

but some love out there into the world,

into as OJ Simpson calls it, Twitter world.

I think there is this viral negativity that can take hold.

And I try to find the right language

to add good vibes out there.

And it’s actually really, really tricky

because there’s something about positivity

that sounds fake.

And I can’t quite put my finger on it,

but whenever I talk about love and the positive

and almost childlike in my curiosity and positivity,

people start to think like,

surely he has like skeletons in the closet.

Like there’s dead bodies in his basement.

Like this must be a fake.

It’s the attic.

It’s the attic?

The attic.

I keep mine in the basement.

That’s the details.

I was referring to your attic.

I don’t have an attic or a basement.

Nor dead bodies.

I just want to be very clear.

Yeah, I do have an attic

and actually haven’t been up there.

Maybe there is bodies up there, but yes,

I prefer the basement.

It’s colder down there.

I like it.

But there’s an assumption that this is not genuine

or it’s disingenuous in some kind of way.

And so I try to find the right language

for that kind of stuff, how to be positive.

Some of it, I was really inspired

by Elon’s approach to Twitter.

Not all of it, but the, when he just is silly.

I found that silliness, I think it’s Herman Hesse said,

something to paraphrase one of my favorite writers,

I think in Steppenwolf, said,

learn what is to be taken seriously and laugh at the rest.

I think I try to be silly, laugh at myself,

laugh at the absurdity of life.

And then in part, when I’m serious,

try to just be positive, just see a positive perspective.

But, and also, as you said,

people pick out certain words and so on

and they attack each other,

attack me over certain usage of words

in a particular tweet.

I think the thing I try to do

is think positively towards them.

Do not escalate.

So whenever somebody’s criticizing me and so on,

I just smile.

If there’s a lesson to be learned, I learn it.

And then I just send good vibes their way, don’t respond.

And just hopefully sort of through karma

and through kind of the ripple effect of positivity,

have an impact on them and the rest of Twitter.

And what you find is that builds your actions,

create the community.

So how I behave gets me surrounded by certain people.

But lately, especially Ukraine is one topic like this.

I also thought about talking to somebody

who reached out to me is Andrew Tate,

who’s extremely controversial.

From the perspective of a lot of people, he’s a misogynist.

And I’ve heard his name

and I know that there’s a lot of controversy around him.

Maybe you could familiarize me.

I’ve been pretty nosed down in podcast prep

and I tried to do this vacation thing

for about three, four weeks.

I’ve heard about that.

Yeah, and it sort of worked.

I did get some time in the Colorado wilderness by myself,

which was great.

I did get some downtime, but in any event,

I mainly consisted of reading and wasn’t-

In nature.

Reading in nature, sauna, ice bath, working out,

good food, a little extra sleep, these kinds of things.

I never really felt I needed it,

but I am pretty naive when it comes

to the kind of current controversies,

but I’ve heard his name

and I think he’s been de-platformed

on a couple of platforms.

Do I have that right?

Yeah, so I should also admit

that while I might know more than you, it’s not by much.

So it’s like a five-year-old talking

to a four-year-old right now.

Is he an athlete, a podcaster?

So basic summary, he used to be a fighter,

kickboxer, I believe, was pretty successful.

And then during that and after that,

I think he was in a reality show

and he had all these programs

that are basically like pickup artist advice.

He has this community of people where he gives advice

on how to pick up women,

how to be successful in relationships,

how to make a lot of money.

And there’s like, it costs money to enter those programs.

So a lot of the criticism that he gets

is kind of, it’s like a pyramid scheme

where you convince people to join

so that they can make more money

and then they convince others to join, that kind of stuff.

But that’s not why I’m interested in talking to him.

I’m interested because one of the guests,

maybe I shouldn’t mention who,

but one of the female guests I had,

really a big scientist, said that her two kids

that are 13 and 12 really look up to Andrew.

Is there male children?

Male, yeah, male.

And I hear this time and time again.

So like he is somebody that a lot of teens,

young teens look up to.

So I haven’t done serious research.

Like I usually try to avoid doing research

until I like agree to talk and then I go deep.

But there is an aspect to the way he talks about women

that while I understand,

and I understand certain dynamics

and relationships work for people

and he’s one of such person,

but I think him being really disrespectful towards women

is not how I see what it means to be a good man.

So the conversation I want to have with him

is about masculinity.

What does masculinity mean in the 21st century?

And so when I think about that kind of stuff,

and because we were talking about Twitter,

it’s like going into a war zone.

I’m like a happy go lucky person, but you’re not.

Send me to the Ukraine,

but I don’t want to have this conversation on Twitter.

Because it’s a really, really, really tricky one.

Because also, as you know, when you sit,

when you do a podcast,

everybody wants you to win.

Everything you do is positive.

Maybe you’ll say the wrong thing.

It’s like an inaccurate thing and you can correct yourself.

With Andrew Tate, with Donald Trump, with folks like this,

you have to, I mean, it’s a professional boxing match.

You have to push the person.

You have to be really eloquent.

You have to be all sympathetic

because you can’t just do what journalists do,

which is talk down to the person the entire time.

That’s easy.

The hard thing is to empathize with the person,

to understand them, to steel man their case,

but also to make your own case.

So in that case about what it means to be a man,

to me, a strong man is somebody who’s respectful to women.

Not out of weakness, not out of social justice,

where you’re signaling and all that kind of stuff,

but out of that’s what a strong man does.

Like they don’t need to be disrespectful

to prove their position in life.

Now, a lot of people say it’s a character.

He’s being misogynistic.

He’s being a misogynist for entertainment purposes.

So like an avatar.


But to me, that avatar has a lot of influence

on young folks.

So the character has impact.

No, I don’t think you can separate the avatar

and the person in terms of the impact, as you said.

In fact, there are a number of accounts

on Twitter and Instagram and elsewhere,

which people have only revealed their first names

or they give themselves another name

or they’re using a cartoon image.

And part of that, I believe,

and at least from some of these individuals

who actually know who they are,

I understand is A, an attempt to maintain their privacy,

which is important to many people.

And in some cases, so that they can be more inflammatory

and then just pop up elsewhere as something else

without anyone knowing that it’s the same person.

Some of the, this is the dark stuff.

I’ve been reading a lot about Ukraine and Nazi Germany,

so the 30s and the 40s and so on.

And you get to see how much the absurdity

turns to evil quickly.

One of the things I worry,

one of the things I really don’t like to see

on Twitter and the internet

is how many statements end with LOL.

It’s like you think just because something is kind of funny

or is funny or is legitimately funny,

it also doesn’t have a deep effect on society.

So that’s such a difficult gray area

because some of the best comedy is dark and mean,

but it reveals some important truth

that we need to consider.

But sometimes comedy is just covering up

for destructive ideology.

And you have to know the line between those two.

Hitler was seen as a joke in the late 20s and the 30s,

the Nazi Germany, until the joke became very serious.

You have to be careful to know the difference

between the joke and the reality and do all that.

I mean, in a conversation,

I’m just such a big believer in conversation

to be able to reveal something through conversation.

But I don’t know one of the big,

you and I challenge ourselves all the time.

I don’t know if I have what it takes

to have a good, empathetic, but adversarial conversation.

I need to learn more about this Tate person

or not learn about him.

Yeah, it sounds like maybe it’s something to skip.

I don’t know,

because again, I’m not familiar with the content,

but I was going to ask you whether or not you’ve seeked out

or whether or not you would ever consider having Donald Trump

as a guest on your podcast.

Yeah, I’ve talked to Joe a lot about this.

And I really believe I can have a good conversation

with Donald Trump,

but I haven’t seen many good conversations with him.

So like part of me thinks, part of me believes it’s possible,

but he often effectively runs over the interviewer.

Yeah, you can sit him down,

give him an element of athletic greens.

Just relax.

I mean, that nice, cool,

air-conditioned black curtain studio you’ve got,

and a different side might come out.

Context is powerful.

Well, Joe’s really good at this,

which is relaxing the person.

Like, here, have a drink, smoke a joint,

or whatever it is,

but this energy of just let’s relax,

and there’s laughter and so on.

I don’t think, as people know,

I’m just not good at that kind of stuff.

So I think the way I could have a good conversation with him

is to really understand his worldview,

be able to steal man’s worldview,

and those that support him,

which is, I’m sorry to say,

for people who seem to hate Donald Trump,

is a very large percentage of the country.

And so you have to really empathize with those people.

You have to empathize with Donald Trump, the human being,

and from that perspective, ask him hard questions.

Who do you think is the counterpoint?

If you’re going to seek balance in your guests,

if you’re going to have Trump on,

then you have to have who on?

Well, that’s interesting.

Anthony Fauci?

Seems to be strongly associated with sort of counter values,

at least in the eye of the public.

I think he’s retiring soon, but I, yeah,

I see he’s retiring soon.

That’s really interesting, Anthony Fauci.

Yeah, definitely.

But I don’t think he’s a counterbalance.

He’s a complicated, fascinating figure

who seems to have attracted a lot of hate and distrust,

but also-

And love from some people.

And love.

And love from some people.

I mean, I know people, not even necessarily scientists,

who have, you know, pro-Fauci shirts.

I’ve seen people with anti-Fauci shirts, excuse me,

but certainly, but who adore him.

There are people who adore him,

in the same way there are people that adore Trump.

It’s so interesting that, you know,

one species of animal gets such divergent neural circuitry.

It’s almost feels like it’s by design

and every single topic we find tension and division.

It’s fascinating to watch.

I mean, I got to really witness it

from zero to a hundred in Ukraine,

where there’s not huge, significant division.

There was in certain parts of Ukraine,

but across Europe, across the world,

there was not that much division

between Russia and Ukraine.

And it was just born overnight, this intense hatred.

So, and you see the same kind of stuff

with Fauci over the pandemic.

At first, we’re all kind of huddled in uncertainty,

kind of, there is a togetherness with a pandemic.

Of course, there is more difficult because you’re isolated,

but then you start to figure out,

probably the politicians and the media

try to figure out, how can I take a side here?

And how can I now start reporting on this side or that side

and say how the other side is wrong?

And so I think Anthony Fauci is a part of just being used

as a scapegoat for certain things

as part of that kind of narrative of division.

But I think, so Trump is a singular figure

that to me represents something important

in American history.

I’m not sure what that is,

but I think you have to think,

you put on your historian hat,

go forward in time and think back.

Like how will he be remembered 20, 30, 40, 50 years from now?

Who is the opposite of that?

You have to, I would really have to think about that

because Trump was so singular.

I think AOC is an interesting one,

but she’s so young, it’s unclear to know how,

if she represents a legitimately large-scale movement or not.

Bernie Sanders is an interesting option,

but I wish he would be 30, 40 years younger,

like the young Bernie would be a good.

There are scientists working on that.

Yeah, I think so.

Not him specifically, but.

Well, yeah, maybe him, we never know.

There is a big conspiracy theory that Putin is,

that’s a body double, it’s no longer.

Is Putin?

No, no, no.

I’m having a hard time emerging that image.

The conspiracy theory is no, no, no,

that the Putin you see on camera today is a body double.

Well, one thing that in science

and in particular in anatomy,

there’s a classification scheme

for different types of anatomists,

which they either say you’re a lumper or a splitter.

Some people like to call a whole structure something,

not necessarily just for simplicity,

but for a lot of reasons.

And then other people like to micro-divide the nucleus

into multiple names.

And of course, people used to be able

to name different brain structures after themselves.

So there’d be the nucleus of Lex

and then the Huberman fasciculus or whatever,

less of that nowadays.

But, and by the way,

those structures don’t actually exist just yet.

We haven’t defined those yet.

I was making those names up.

But what’s interesting is it seems like

in the last five years,

there’s been a lot of,

there’s been a trend, excuse me,

toward a requirement for lumping.

Like you can’t say,

it seems that it’s not allowed, if you will,

to say, hey, yeah, you know,

and here I’m not stating my,

I will never reveal my preferences

about pandemic-related things

for hopefully obvious reasons.

It, you know, some people will say vaccines, yes,

but masks, no, or vaccines and masks, yes,

but let people work.

And other people will say, no, everyone stay home.

And then other people will say, no, you know,

no vaccines, no masks, let everybody work.

No one was saying no vaccines, no masks and stay home,

I don’t think.

So there’s this sort of lumping, right?

The boundaries around ideology

really did start to defy science.

I mean, it wasn’t scientific.

It was one part science-ish at times,

and sometimes really hardcore science.

Other times it was politics, economics.

I mean, we really saw the confluence

of all these different domains of society

that use very different criteria to evaluate the world.

I mean, as a scientist, you know,

I remember when the vaccines first came out

and I asked somebody, you know,

one of the early concerns I had

that was actually satisfied for me

was how does this thing turn off?

You know, if you start generating mRNA,

how does it actually get turned off?

So I asked a friend, you know,

they know a lot about RNA biology and said,

you know, how does it turn off?

They explained it to me.

I was like, okay, makes sense.

I asked some other questions.

So, but most people aren’t going to think about it

at that level of detail necessarily,

but it did seem that there was just kind of amorphous blobs

of ideology that grabbed onto things.

And then there was this need for a chasm between them.

It was almost felt like it became illegal in some ways

to want, you know, two of the things from that menu

and one of the things from that menu.

I really felt like I was being constrained

by a kind of like bento box model

where I didn’t get to define what was in the bento box.

I can either add bento box A or bento box Z,

but nothing in between.

And I think on that topic,

and I think a lot of topics,

most people are in the middle with humility, uncertainty,

and they’re just kind of trying to figure it out.

And I think there is just the extremes

defining the nature of this division.

So I think it’s the role of a lot of us

in our individual lives.

And also if you have a platform of any kind,

I think you have to try to walk in the middle,

like with the empathy and humility.

And that’s actually what science is about, is the humility.

I’m still thinking about who’s the opposite of Trump.

Well, maybe it is not.

I mean, maybe Fauci is orthogonal to Trump.

I mean, not everything has an opposite.

I mean, it’s, you know, maybe he’s an N of one.

Maybe he’s in the minority of one

because he was an outsider from Washington

who then made it there.

But also I wonder, you know,

you have to pick your battles

because every battle you fight,

you should take very seriously.

And just the amount of hate I got,

and I still get for having sat down with the Pfizer CEO,

that was a very valuable lesson for me.

Well, that one got you a lot of heat.

Yeah, it still does.

Because you’ve had some pretty controversial guests on.

Yeah, but that one-

Is he still the Pfizer CEO?

I believe so.

CEOs turn over like crazy.

This is the thing I didn’t realize, you know,

in science, if somebody moves institutions like a big deal,

most people don’t have more than two moves in their career.

Maybe, but they often, you know,

move to the next building is a big deal.

But in biotech, it’s like,

I have a former colleague of mine from San Diego,

and he’s been a CEO here, then he’s a CEO there.

He went back to a company he was a CEO at before.

You know, he’s probably back at the university

he worked at for all I know.

It’s amazing how much moving around there is.

It is a very itinerant profession.

Yeah, I think there, in certain companies,

I guess in biotech would be the case,

the CEO is more of like a manager type.

So you can, someone who’s jumping around

benefits your experience.

So you get, become better and better being a manager.

There’s some like leader, revolutionary CEOs

that stick around for longer

because they’re so critical to pivoting a company

like the Microsoft CEO currently,

Sandra Brachai is somebody like that.

Obviously, Elon Musk is somebody like that,

that is part of pivoting a company

into new domains constantly.

But yeah, in biotech, there’s a machine.

And in the eyes of a lot of people,

big pharma is like big tobacco.

It’s the epitome of everything

that is wrong with capitalism.

It’s evil, right?

And so I showed up in the conversation

where I thought with a pretty open mind

and really asked what I thought

were difficult questions of him.

I don’t think he’s ever sat down

to a grilling of that kind.

In fact, I’m pretty sure they cut the interview short

because of that.

And I thought, literally it was hot in the room

and we’re sweating.

And I was asking tough questions

for somebody that like half the country

or a large percent of the country

believes he’s alleviated a lot of,

he helped through the financial resources

that Pfizer has helped alleviate

a lot of suffering in the world.

And so I thought for somebody like that,

I was asking pretty hard questions.

Boy, did I get to hear from the side.

Usually one of the sides is more intense in their anger.

So there are certain political topics

like with Andrew Tate, for example,

I would hear from a very,

it would probably be the left,

far left that would write very angrily.

And so that’s a group you’ll hear from.

The Pfizer CEO, I didn’t get almost any messages

from people saying, why did you go so hard on him?

He’s an incredible human, incredible leader

and CEO of a company that helped us with the vaccine

and nobody thought it would be possible

to develop so quickly.

You did not get letters of that sort.

I did not.

I mean, like here and there,

but the sea of people that said everything

from me being weak,

that I wasn’t able to call out this person.

How do you sit down?

How do you platform this evil person?

How do you make him look human?

All that kind of stuff.

And that you have to deal with that.

You have to, of course, it’s great.

Because I have to do some soul searching,

which is like, did I?

Like you have to ask some hard questions.

I love criticism like that.

You get to like, you know, I hit some low points.

There’s definitely some despair

and you start to wonder like, was I too weak?

Should I have talked to him?

What is true?

And you sit there alone and just like marinate in that.

And hopefully over time that makes you better.

But I still don’t know what the right answer

with that one is.

Well, I feel that money plays a role here.

You know, when people think big pharma,

they think billions of dollars,

maybe even trillions of dollars, really.

And certainly people who make a lot of money

get scrutiny that others don’t.

Part of it is that they are often not always visible.

But I think that there is a natural and reflexive,

and I’m not justifying it.

I certainly don’t feel this

because I know some people who are very wealthy,

some people who are very poor.

I can’t say it scales with happiness at all.

People are always shocked to hear that,

but that’s what I’ve observed in very wealthy people.

But that people who have a lot of money

are often held to a different standard

because people resent that.

Some people resent that,

and maybe there are other reasons as well.

I mean, among people who are very wealthy,

oftentimes the wish is for status, right, not money.

You get a bunch of billionaires in a room,

and unless one of them is Elon,

who also has immense status for his accomplishments,

typically if you put a Nobel Prize winner in a room

with a bunch of billionaires,

they’re all talking to that person, right?

And there are many very interesting billionaires.

But status is something that is often,

but not always associated with money,

but is a much rarer form of uniqueness out there,

a positive uniqueness, if one considers status positive,

because there’s a downside too.

So I wonder whether or not the Pfizer CEO

caught extra heat because people assume,

and I probably assume also,

that his salary is quite immense.

So because I have a lot of data on this,

I can answer, it’s a very good hypothesis.

Let’s test it scientifically.

He’s about to tell me it’s a great hypothesis,

but it’s wrong.

I know the smirk, I know the smirk.

I honestly think it’s wrong.

That effect is there for a lot of people,

but I think the distrust is not towards the CEO,

the distrust is towards the company.

One of the really difficult soul searching I had to do,

which is just having interacted with Pfizer folks

at every level from junior to the CEO,

they’re all really nice people.

They have a mission,

they talk about trying to really help people,

because that’s the best way to make money

is come up with a medicine that helps a lot of people.

The mission is clear, they’re all good people,

a lot of really brilliant people, PhDs.

So you can have a system where all the people are good,

including the CEO, and by good,

I mean people that really are trying to do everything,

they dedicate their whole life to do good.

And yet, you have to think that that system

can deviate from a path that does good,

because you start to deceive yourself of what is good,

you turn it into a game where money does come into play

from a company perspective,

where you convince yourself the more money you make,

the more good you’ll be able to do,

and then you start to focus more and more and more

on making more money,

and then you can really deviate and lose track

of what is actually good.

I’m not saying necessarily Pfizer does that,

but I think companies could do that.

You can apply that criticism to social media companies,

to big pharma companies,

that one of the big lessons for me,

that’s I don’t know what the answer is,

but that all the people inside a company could be good,

people you would wanna hang out with,

people you’d wanna work with,

but as a company is doing evil.

And that’s a possibility.

So the distrust I don’t think

is towards the billionaire individual,

which I do see a lot of in this case,

I think it’s like Wall Street distrust,

that the machinery of this particular organization

has gone off track.

It’s the generalization of hate again.


And then good luck figuring out what is true.

This is the tough stuff.

But I should say the individuals,

like individual scientists at the NIH and Pfizer,

are just incredible people.

Like they’re really brilliant people.

So I never trust the administration

or the business people, no offense, business people,

but the scientists are always good.

They have the right motivator in life.

But again, they can have blinders on

to focus on the science.

Nazi Germany has a history of people

just to focus on the science.

And then the politicians use the scientists

to achieve whatever end they want.

But if you just look narrowly

at the journey of a scientist,

it’s a beautiful one,

because they ultimately in it for the curiosity,

the moment of discovery versus money.

I mean, prestige probably does come into play

later in life, but especially young scientists,

they’re after the, it’s like pulling at the thread

of curiosity to try to discover something big.

They get excited by that kind of stuff.

And it’s beautiful to see.

It is beautiful to see.

I have a former graduate student,

now a postdoc at Caltech.

And I don’t even know if she had a cell phone.

She would come into the lab,

put her cell phone into the desk,

and she was tremendously productive.

But that wasn’t why I brought it up.

She was productive as a side effect

of just being absolutely committed and obsessed

to discover the answers to the questions she was asking.

As best she could.

And it was, you could feel it.

You could just feel the intensity

and just incredibly low activation energy.

If there was an experiment to do, she would just go do it.

You’re teaching at MIT.

You are obviously traveling the world.

You’re running the podcast,

a lot of coverage of chess recently, which is interesting.

I don’t play chess, but I-

Oh, I have some scientific questions to you about that.

Oh, okay, sure.

And then let’s get to those for sure.

And then-

You’re not going to like it.

And then also some very,

do I have to spell Massachusetts again?

Also, you still seem to have a proclivity

for finding guests that are controversial, right?

You’re thinking about Tate, we’re talking about Trump,

we’re talking about the Pfizer CEO,

we’re talking about Fauci.

These are intense people.

And so what we’re getting, folks,

is we’re not doing neuroimaging here

in the traditional sense of putting someone into a scanner.

What we’re doing here is we’re using

the great Karl Deisseroth, who was on your podcast.

Thank you for that.

Thank you for connecting us.

He’s an incredible person.

He’s an incredible psychiatrist, bioengineer,

and human being, and writer.

And your conversation with him was phenomenal.

I listened to it twice.

I actually have taken notes.

We talk about it in this household.

We really do.

His description of love is not to be missed.

I’ll just leave it at that

because if I try and say it, I won’t capture it well.

We’re getting a language-based map

of at least a portion of Lex Friedman’s brain here.

So what else is going on these days in that brain

as it relates to robotics, AI?

Our last conversation was a lot about robots

and the potential for robot-human interaction,

even what is a robot, et cetera.

Are you still working on robots or focused on robots?

And where is science showing up in your life

besides the things we’ve already talked about?

So I think the last time we talked was before Ukraine.


You were just about to leave.

Yes, so that, I mean-

So that’s why I went on.

I was like, you know, this might be the last.

You said you want to come out here before or after.

I was like, I’ll come out there before.

I want to see you before you go.

But here you are in the flesh.

I think, so a lot of,

just a lot of my mind has been occupied,

obviously with that part of the world.

But the most of the difficult struggles

that I’m still going through is that

I haven’t launched a company that I want to launch.

And the company has to do with AI.

I mean, it’s maybe a longer conversation,

but the ultimate dream is to put robots in every home.

But short-term, I see their possibility

of launching a social media company.

And it’s a non-trivial explanation

why that leads to robots in the home,

but it’s basically the algorithms

that fuel effective social robotics.

So robots that you can form a deep connection with.

And so I’ve been really, yeah, I’ve been building prototypes

but struggling that I don’t have maybe,

if I were to be critical, the guts to launch a company.

And that’s-

Or the time.

Well, it’s combined.

I think you’ve got the guts.

I mean, it’s clear if you’ll do an interview

with the Pfizer CEO,

and you’re considering putting this Tate fellow

on your podcast, and you’ve gone to the Ukraine,

that you have the guts.

It’s also a, it means not doing quite a lot of other things.

That’s what I mean, but it does takes,

the thing is, as many people know,

when you fill your day and you’re busy,

that busyness becomes an excuse

that you use against doing the things that scare you.

A lot of people use family in this way.

You know, my wife, my kids, I can’t.

When in reality, some of the most successful people

have a wife and have kids and have families,

and they still do it.

And so a lot of times we can fill the day with busy work,

with like, yeah, of course I have podcasts

and all this kind of stuff, and they make me happy.

And they’re all, they’re wonderful.

And there’s research, there’s teaching and so on,

but all of that can just serve as an excuse

from the thing that my heart says is the right thing to do.

And that’s why I don’t have the guts,

the guts to say no to basically everything

and then to focus all out.

Because part of it is I’m unlikely to fail

at anything in my life currently,

because I’ve already found a comfortable place.

With a startup, it’s mostly going to be,

most likely going to be a failure,

if not an embarrassing failure.

So, well, the machine learning data that I’m aware of,

I don’t know a lot about machine learning,

but within the realm of neuroscience,

say that a failure rate of about 15%

is optimal for neuroplasticity and growth.

Whether or not that translates to all kinds of practices

isn’t clear, but getting trials right 85% of the time

seems to be optimal for language learning,

seems to be optimal for mathematics

and seems to be optimal for physical pursuits,

on average, right?

I’m sure you have more machine learning geeks

that listen to your podcast than listen to this podcast,

but it doesn’t mean you have to fail

on 15% of your weight sets, folks.

I mean, it could be 16%.

No, I’m just kidding.

But it’s not exact, but it’s a pretty good rule of thumb.

I think a lot of startup founders

would literally murder for 85% chance of success.

I think given all the opportunities I have,

the skillset, the funding, all that kind of stuff,

my chances are relatively high for success.

But what relatively high means in the startup world

is still far, far below 85.

We are talking about single digit percentages.

Most startups fail.

Well, I think it means the decision to focus on the company

and not other things means the decision

to close the hatch on dopamine retrieval

from all these other things

that are very predictable sources of dopamine.

Not that everything is dopamine,

but dopamine is, I think,

the primary chemical driver of motivation.

If you know that you can get some degree of satisfaction

from scrolling social media

or from that particular cup of coffee,

that’s what you’re going to do.

That’s what you’re going to consume

unless you somehow invert the algorithm

and you say, it’s actually my denial of myself

drinking that coffee that’s going to be the dopamine.

Then, and that’s the beauty of having a forebrain

is that you can make those decisions.

This is the essence, I do believe,

of what we see of David Goggins.

There’s much more there.

There’s a person that none of us know

and only he knows, of course,

but the idea that the pain is the source of dopamine,

the limbic friction, as I sometimes like to call it,

is the source of dopamine,

that runs counter to how most nervous systems work,

but it’s decision-based, right?

It’s not because his musculature is a certain way

or he had CRISPR or something.

It’s because he decides that.

And I think that’s amazing,

but what it means in terms of starting a company

and changing priorities is closing the hatch

on all or many of the current sources of dopamine

so that you can derive dopamine from the failures

within this narrow context.

And there’s a very reductionist view,

kind of neurocentric view of what we’re talking about,

but I think about this a lot.

I mean, the decision to choose one relationship

versus another is a decision to close down

other opportunities, right?

So I think that the decision to order one thing

off the menu versus others is this decision

to close down those other hatches.

So I think that you absolutely can do it.

It’s just a question of, can you flip the algorithm?

Yeah, remap the source of dopamine to something else.

That’s right.

And maybe go out there not to succeed,

but make the journey as the destination type thing.

But when you’re financially vested and your time,

and as far as I know, we only get one life,

at least on this planet,

and you want to spend that wisely, right?

And a lot of the people that surround you,

people are really important.

And I don’t have people around me

that say you should do a startup.

It’s very difficult to find such people.


Is Austin big startup culture right now?

Yeah, it is, it is.

But it doesn’t make sense for me to do a startup.

This is what the people that love me,

my whole life have been telling me,

it doesn’t make sense what you’re doing right now.

Just do the thing you were doing previously.

Why do I get the sense

that because they are saying this,

you’re apt to go against them?

No, actually, it was never that, unfortunately.

Unfortunately, I need,

I’ve talked to people I love,

my parents, family, and so on, friends.

I’m one of those people that needs unconditional support

for difficult things.

Like I know myself coaching wise.

Here’s how I get coached best.

Let’s say wrestling.

Like a coach that says, you want to win the Olympics?

They will not force,

if I say I want to win the gold medal

at the Olympics in freestyle wrestling.

I want a coach that doesn’t blink once

and hears me and believes that I can do it.

And then is viciously intense and cruel to me

on that pursuit.

Like if you want to do this, let’s do this, right?

So, but that’s support.

That like that positivity, I don’t,

I’m never, you know,

I’m not energized, nor do I see that as love.

A person saying like, basically criticizing that,

like saying like, you’re too old

to win the Olympic gold medal, right?

You’re like all the things you can come up with.

That’s not helpful to me.

And I can’t find a dopamine,

or I haven’t yet a dopamine source from the haters.

Like basically people that are criticizing you,

you’re just trying to prove them wrong.

It doesn’t, it never got me off.

It never.

Well, some people seem to like that.

I mean, David Goggins always seems to come out.

He seems driven by many sources that he has access.

I do, I don’t know, because I’ve never asked him,

but I, if I were to venture a guess,

I’d say that he probably has a lot of options

inside his head as to how to push through challenge,

not just overcome pain, not,

but he’ll post sometimes about the fact that, you know,

people will say this, or people will do this,

and talk about the pushback approach.

He’ll also talk about the pushback approach

that’s purely internal, that doesn’t involve anyone else.

Great versatility there.

Yeah, there’s literally like a voice he yells at

that represents some kind of like devil

that wants him to fail.

And he’s, you know, he calls him bitch

and all kinds of things saying, you know, fuck you.

I’m not, I’m not.

There’s always like an enemy

and he’s going against that enemy.

And I wish, maybe that’s something,

I mean, it’s really interesting.

Maybe you can remap it this way so that you can construct,

like that’s a kind of obvious mechanism,

construct an amorphous blob that is a hater

that wants you to fail, right?

That’s kind of the David Goggins thing.

You’re in that blob says you’re too weak,

you’re too dumb, you’re too old,

you’re too fat, you’re too whatever,

and getting you to want to quit and so on.

And then you start getting angry at that blob

and maybe that’s a good motivator.

I haven’t personally really tried that.

Well, I’ve had external, you know, challenge

when I was a postdoc, a very prominent laboratory,

several prominent laboratories, in fact,

were working on the same thing that I was.

And I was just a slowly postdoc working on a project

pretty independent from the lab I was in.

And there was competition,

but there was plenty of room for everybody to win.

But in my head, and frankly,

I won’t disclose who this is,

and because there was some legitimate competition there

and a little bit of friction, not too much,

healthy scientific friction.

Yeah, I might’ve pushed a few extra hours

or more, a little bit.

I have to say it felt metabolizing.

It felt catabolic, right?

It didn’t, I couldn’t be sustained by it.

And I contrast that with the podcast

or the work that my laboratory is doing now,

focus on stress and human performance, et cetera.

And it’s pure love.

I just, I want, it’s pure curiosity and love.

I mean, there are hard days, but I never,

there’s no adversary in the picture.

They’re the practical, you know, workings of life that-

Those are the thing that Joe really inspired me on.

And people do create adversarial relationships

in podcasting because you get, like YouTubers do this.

They get, you know,

they hate seeing somebody else be successful.

There’s a feeling of like,

like jealousy.

And some people even see that as healthy.

Like, ooh, this, like MrBeast or somebody,

some of these popular YouTubers,

how do they get a hundred million views?

And I only get 20 views.

MrBeast devoted his entire, according to him,

his entire life, he’s been focused on becoming

this massive YouTube channel.

Well that, you know, he’s inspiring in many ways,

but like there’s some people that get,

become famous for doing much less insane pursuit

of greatness than MrBeast.

Like there’s people become famous on, you know,

on social media and so on.

And it’s easy to be jealous of them.

I just, one of the early things I’ve learned from Joe,

just being a fan of his podcast

is how much he celebrated everybody.

And I, again, maybe I ruined my whole dopamine thing,

but I don’t get energized by people that become popular.

The podcasting space and YouTube, it doesn’t, it’s awesome.

It’s all of it is awesome.

And I’m inspired by that.

But the problem is that’s not a good motivator.

Inspiration is like, ooh, cool, humans can do this.

This is beautiful, but it’s not, I’m looking,

I’m looking, you know, for a forcing function.

That’s why I gave away the salary from MIT.

I was hoping my bank account would hit zero.

That would be a forcing function to be like, oh shit.

And I will, you know,

and you’re not allowed to have a normal job.

So I wanted to launch, and then the podcast becomes,

you know, a source of income.

And so it’s like, God damn it.

Yeah, yeah.

Well, you know, and here I have to confess my biases.

You are so good at what you do in the realm of podcast

and you’re excellent at other things as well.

I just have less experience in those things.

I know here I’m taking the liberty of speaking

for many, many people and just saying,

I sure as hell hope you don’t shut down the podcast,

but as your friend and as somebody who cares very deeply

about your happiness and your deeper satisfaction,

if it’s in your heart’s heart to do a company,

well then damn it, do the company.

And a lot of it, I wouldn’t even categorize as happiness.

I don’t know if you have things like that in your life,

but I’m probably the happiest I could possibly be right now.

That’s wonderful.

But the thing is, there’s a longing for the startup

that has nothing to do with happiness.

It’s something else.

That’s that itch.

I’m pretty sure I’ll be less happy

because it’s a really tough process.

I mean, to whatever degree you can extract happiness

from struggle, yes, maybe, but I don’t see it.

I think I’ll have some very, very low points.

There’s a lot of people who find companies,

found companies, know about your,

and I also want to be in a relationship.

I want to get married and sure as hell,

a startup is not gonna increase the likelihood of that.

We could start up a family and start a company.

I’m a huge believer in that,

which is getting a relationship at a low point in your life,

which is.

Sorry, I’m not disputing your stance,

nor am I agreeing with it.

It’s just every once in a while,

there’s a Lex Friedman-ism

that hits a particular circuit in my brain.

I have to just laugh out loud.

I just think that it’s easy to have a relationship

when everything is good.

The relationships that become strong

and are tested quickly are the ones

when shit is going down.

Well, then there’s hope for me yet.

Oh, so, you know, before we sat down,

I was having a conversation with a podcast producer

who is a, I wouldn’t say avid,

rather he’s a rabid consumer of podcasts

and finds these amazing podcasts.

He’s small podcasts and, you know, and unique episodes.

Anyway, we were talking about some stuff

that he had seen and read in the business sector.

And he was talking about the difference

between, you know, job, career, and a calling, right?

And I think he was extracting this from conversations

of CEOs and founders, et cetera.

I forget the specific founders

that brought this to light for him.

But, you know, this idea that if you focus on a job,

you know, you can make an income

and hopefully you enjoy your job or not hate it too much.

A career represents a sort of, in my mind,

a kind of series of evolutions

that one can go through, junior professor, tenure, et cetera.

But a calling has a whole other level

of energetic pull to it because it includes career and job

and it includes this concept of sort of like a life.

It’s very hard to draw the line between a calling in career

and a calling in the other parts of your life.

So the question therefore is,

do you feel a calling to start this company?

Or is it more of a compulsion that irritates you?

Is it like something you wish would go away?

Or is it something that you hope will won’t go away?

No, I hope it won’t go away.

It’s a calling.

It’s a calling.

It’s like-

That’s beautiful.

It’s like, when I see a robot,

when I first interacted with robots

and it became even stronger,

the most sophisticated of the robots I interacted with,

I see a magic there.

And you’re like, you look around,

does anyone else see this magic?

It’s kind of like maybe when you fall in love,

that feeling like, does anyone else notice this person

I just walk in the room?

I feel that way about robots.

And I can elaborate what that means,

but I’m not even sure I can convert it into words.

I just feel like the social integration of robots

in society will create a really interesting world.

And our ability to anthropomorphize

when we look at a robot

and our ability to feel things when we look at a robot

is something that most of us don’t yet experience,

but I think everybody will experience

in the next few decades.

And I just want to be a part of exploring that

because it hasn’t been really thoroughly explored.

The best roboticists in the world

are not currently working on that problem at all.

They try to avoid human beings completely.

And nobody’s really working on that problem

in terms of when you look at the numbers,

all the big tech companies that are investing money,

the closest thing to that is Alexa

and basically being a servant to help tell you the weather,

play music and so on.

It’s not trying to form a deep connection.

And so sometimes you just notice the thing.

Not only do I notice the magic,

there’s a gut feeling, which I try not to speak to

because there’s no track record,

but I feel like I can be good

at bringing that magic out of the robot.

And there’s no data that says I would be good at that,

but there’s a feeling, it’s just a feeling.

Like I, you know, when I,

cause I’ve done so many things.

I love doing, playing guitar, all that kind of stuff.

Jiu-Jitsu, I’ve never felt that feeling.

When I’m doing jiu-jitsu,

I don’t feel the magic of the genius

required to be extremely good.

A guitar, I don’t feel any of that,

but I’ve noticed it in others.

Great musicians, they will,

they notice the magic about the thing they do

and they ran with it.

And I just always thought,

I think it had a different form

when I, before I knew robots existed, before AI existed,

the form was more about the magic between humans.

The like, I think of it as love,

but like the smile the two friends have towards each other

when I was really young and people would be excited

when they first know each other and see, notice each other.

And there’s that moment that they share

that feeling together.

I was like, wow, that’s really interesting.

It is really interesting

that these two separate intelligent organisms

are able to connect all of a sudden

on this deep emotional level.

It’s like, huh, it’s just beautiful to see.

And I noticed the magic of that.

And then when I started programming,

programming period, but then programming AI systems,

you realize, oh, that could be,

that’s not just between humans and humans,

that could be humans and other entities,

dogs, cats, and robots.

And that’s, so I, for some reason,

it hit me the most intensely when I saw robots.

And so, yeah, it’s like a calling,

but it’s a calling that I can just enjoy

the vision of it, the vision of a future world,

of an exciting future world that’s full of cool stuff,

or I can be part of building that.

And being part of building that means doing

the hard work of capitalism,

which is like raising funds from people,

which for me right now is the easy part,

and then hiring a lot of people.

I don’t know how much you know about hiring,

but hiring-

Excellent people.

Excellent people that will define the trajectory

of not only your company,

but your whole existence as a human being,

and building it up, not failing them,

because now they all depend on you,

and not failing the world with an opportunity

to bring something that brings joy to people.

And like all that pressure,

just nonstop fires that you have to put out,

the drama, having to work with people

you’ve never worked with,

like lawyers, and the human resources,

and supply chain, and because this is very compute heavy,

the compute infrastructure, managing, security,

cybersecurity, is because you’re dealing

with people’s data.

So now you have to understand not only

the cybersecurity of data, and the privacy,

how to maintain privacy correctly with data,

but also the psychology of people trusting you

with their data.

And what is, how, if you look at Mark Zuckerberg,

and Jack Dorsey, and those folks,

they seem to be hated by a large number of people.

Jack seemed, I didn’t, you know, I didn’t-

Much less so, yes.

I think, I always think of Jack as a loved individual, but-

Well, you have a very positive view of the world, yes.

I like Jack a lot, and I like his mind,

and I, someone close to him described him to me recently

as he’s an excellent listener.

That’s what they said about Jack,

and that’s my experience of him too.

A very private person, so we’ll leave it at that.

But listen, I think Jack Dorsey is one of the greats

of our, of the last 200 years,

and is just much quieter about his stance on things

than a lot of people.

But much of what we see in the world, that’s wonderful.

I think we owe him a debt of gratitude.

I’m just voicing my stance here, but-

The person, this is really important.

A wonderful person, a brilliant person, a good person,

but you still have to pay the price

of making any kind of mistakes as the head of a company.

You don’t get any extra bonus points

for being a good person.

But his willingness to go on Rogan and deal directly

and say, I don’t know an answer to that in some cases,

but to deal directly with some really challenging questions

to me earned him tremendous respect.

Yes, as an individual, he was still part of them is,

so you’ve said, and I love Jack too,

and I interact with him often.

He’s been on your podcast.

Yes, but he’s also part of a system as we’ve talked about.

And I would argue that Jack shouldn’t have brought

anyone else with him on that podcast.

If you go-

Oh, that’s right, he had a cadre of-

Oh, he had, I guess, the head legal with him.

And also it requires a tremendous amount of skill

to go on a podcast like Joe Rogan

and be able to win over the trust of people

by being able to be transparent

and communicate how the company really works.

Because the more you reveal

about how a social media company works,

the more you open up for security,

the vector of attacks increases.

Also, there’s a lot of difficult decisions

in terms of censorship and not that are made,

that if you make them transparent,

you’re gonna get an order of magnitude more hate.

So you have to make all those kinds of decisions.

And I think that’s one of the things I have to realize

is you have to take that avalanche of potential

hate if you make mistakes.

Well, you have a very clear picture

of this architecture of what’s required

in order to create a company.

Of course, there’s division of labor too.

I mean, you don’t have to do all of those things in detail,

but finding people that are excellent to do the,

you know, to run the critical segments is obviously key.

I’ll just say what I said earlier,

which is if it’s in your heart’s heart to start a company,

if that indeed is your calling and it sounds like it is,

then I can’t wait.

Does a heart have a heart?

I don’t know.

What’s that expression even mean?

Probably not.

In my lab at one point, early days,

we worked on cuttlefish and they have multiple hearts

and they pump green blood, believe it or not,

very fascinating animal.

Speaking of hearts and green blood,

earlier today before we sat down,

I solicited for questions on Instagram and a brief post.

So if you’ll-

Do you want to look at some of them?

Yes, let’s take these in real time.

My podcast team is always teasing me

that I never have any charge on my phone.

I’m one of these people that likes to run in the yellow

or whatever it is on the phone.

An iPhone?


It’s funny how always the iPhone people are out of battery.

It’s weird.

I just got a new one.

I mean, this one has plenty of battery.

I just got a new one.

So I have different numbers for different things,

personal and work, et cetera.

I’m trying that now.

All right.

Get into the-

I have a chess thing too to mention to you.

Oh yes, please.

Will I insult you if I look up these questions

as you ask me?

No, no, no.


No, no, but I will insult you by asking this question

because I think it’s hilarious.

So there’s been a controversy about cheating

where Hans Niemann, who’s a 2700 player-

Oh yeah.

I just saw that clip on your Clips channel.

By the way, I love your Clips channel,

but I listen to your full channel.

The big accusation is that he cheated by having,

I mean, it’s half joke,

but it’s starting to get me to wonder whether,

so that you can cheat by having vibrating anal beads.

So you can send messages to-

Well, let’s rephrase that statement.

Not you can, but one can.

One can.

One can.

That was a personal attack, yes.

But it made me realize, I mean-

I’m just gonna adjust myself in my seat here.

I use it all the time for podcastings

to send myself messages, to remind me myself of notes.

But it’s interesting.

I mean, it-

I’m not gonna call you again.

Yeah, that’s exactly where I keep my phone.

It did get me down this whole rabbit hole of,

well, how would you be able to send communication

in order to cheat in different sports?

I mean, that doesn’t even have to do

with chess in particular,

but it’s interesting in chess and poker

that there’s mechanisms sort of modern day

where you’re streaming live the competition.

So people can watch it on TV.

If they can only send you a signal back,

they, you know, it’s just like a fun little thing

to think about and if it’s possible to pull off.

So I wanted to get your scientific evaluation

of that technique.

To cheat using some sort of interoceptive device.

Yeah, vibrating of some kind, yeah.

Well, no, no, that’s one way to send signals

is like Morse code, basically.

Yeah, so there’s a famous,

I believe there’s a famous real world story

of physics students.

I’m gonna get some of this wrong.

So I’m saying this in kind of a course form

so that somebody will correct this.

But I believe it was physics graduate students

from UC Santa Cruz or somewhere else.

Maybe it was Caltech, a bunch of universities

so that no one, you know,

associates with any one university that went to Vegas

and used some sort of tactile device

for kind of card counting, I think.

This was actually demonstrated also,

not this particular incident, I don’t think,

in the movie Casino,

where they spotted, I remember Robert De Niro,

who you have a not so vague resemblance to, by the way,

in Taxi Driver.

God, I wish I had a De Niro impression right now.

Travis Bickle.

Look it up, folks.

Travis Bickle is, you know,

if Lex ever shaved his head into a mohawk.

I would.

So he had a tapping device on his ankle that was signaling,

someone else was counting cards

and then signaling to that person.

So yeah, that could be done in the tactile way.

It could be done, obviously, earpieces,

if it’s deep earpiece.

I think that there are ways that they look for that.

Certainly any kind of vibrational device

in whatever orifice,

provided someone could pay attention to that

while still playing the game.

Yeah, I think it’s entirely possible.

Now, could it be done purely neurally?

You know, could there be something that was,

and listen, it wouldn’t have to even be below the skull.

This is where whenever people hear about Neuralink

or brain machine interface,

they always think, oh, you have to drill down

below the skull and put a chip into the skull.

I think there are people walking around nowadays

with glucose monitoring devices, like Levels,

which I’ve used, and it was very informative for me,

actually, as a kind of an experiment,

gave me a lot of interesting insights

about my blood sugar regulation,

how it reacts to different foods, et cetera.

Well, you know, you can implant a tactile device

below the skin with a simple incision.

Actually, one of the neurosurgeons at Neuralink,

I know well, because he came up at some point

through my laboratory and was at Stanford,

and he actually has put in a radio receiver in his hand,

and his wife has it too, and he can open locks

of his house and things like that.

So he’s been doing-

Under the skin?

Under the skin.

You know, you can go to-

How does that work?

So how do you-

A piercer.

You go to a, you know, a body piercer type person,

and they can just slide it under there,

and it’s got a battery life of something,

and you know, some fairly long duration.

How do you experience the tactile, the haptics of it?

Oh, no, that just allows him to open certain locks

with just his hand,

but you could easily put some sort of tactile device

in there.

But does it have to connect to the nerves,

or is it just like, just vibration?

No, just vibration, and you know-

And you can probably sense it,

even if it’s under the skin, I wonder.

And it can be by, it can be Bluetooth linked.

I mean, you know, I’ve seen,

there’s a engineering laboratory

at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana,

that’s got an amazing device,

which is about the size of a Band-Aid.

It goes on the clavicles,

and it uses sound waves pinged into the body

to measure cavitation.

Now think about this for a moment.

This is being used in the military,

where let’s say you’re leading an operation

or something, people are getting shot, shot at,

and on a laptop,

you can see where the bullet entry points are.

Are people dead?

Are they bleeding out?

You know, entry exit points.

You can get, take it out of the battlefield scenario,

you can get breathing, body position, 24 hours a day.

There’s so much that you can do looking at cavitation.

These same sorts of devices on 12-hour Bluetooth

could be used to send all sorts of,

maybe every time you’re supposed to hold your hand,

I’m not a good gambler,

so I only play roulette when I go to Vegas

because you’re just long, boring, and, you know, games,

but you get some good mileage out of each run, usually.

But the, you know, maybe every time you’re supposed to hold,

the person gets sort of like a stomach cinching

because this is, you know,

stimulating the vagus a little bit,

and they get a little bit of an ache.

So it doesn’t have to be Morse code.

It can be yes, no, maybe, right?

It can be, you know,

it can be a green, red, yellow type signaling.

It doesn’t have to be very sophisticated

to give somebody a significant advantage.

Anyway, I haven’t thought about this in detail

before this conversation,

but, oh yeah, there’s an immense landscape.

I don’t know if you know a poker player named Phil Ivey.

No, I don’t follow the gambling.

Well, he’s considered to be

one of the greatest poker players of all time.

Legitimately, you know, he’s just incredibly good,

but he got,

there’s this big case where he was accused of cheating

and proven, and it’s not really cheating,

which is what’s really fascinating,

is it turns out, so he plays poker at Texas Hold’em mostly,

but all kinds of poker.

It turns out that the grid on the back of the cards

is often printed a little bit imperfectly.

And so you can use the asymmetry of the imperfections

to try to figure out certain cards.

So if you play and you remember that a certain card

is like, I think the eight in that deck

that he was accused of, an eight and nine,

or slightly different, symmetry-wise.

So he can now ask the dealer actually to rotate it

to check the symmetry.

So he would ask the dealer to rotate the card

to see that there’s, to detect the asymmetry

of the back of the card.

And now he knows which cards are eights and nines,

and, or likelier to be eights and nines.

And he was using that information to play poker

and win a lot of money, but it’s just a slight advantage.

And his cases, and in fact, the judge found this,

that he’s not actually cheating, but it’s not right.

You can’t use this kind of extra information.

So it’s fascinating that you can discover

these little holes in games

if you pay close enough attention.

Yeah, it’s fascinating.

And I think that, you know, I did watch that clip

about the potential of a cheating event in chess

and the fact that a number of chess players

admit to cheating at some point in their career.

Very, very interesting.

Well, it was online.

So online cheating is easier, right?

When you’re playing, online cheating in a game

where the machine is much better than the human,

it’s very difficult to prove that you’re human.

And that applies, by the way,

another really big thing is in social media, the bots.

If you’re running a social media company,

you have to deal with the bots.

And they become one of the really exciting things

in machine learning and artificial intelligence to me

is the very fast improvement of language models.

So neural networks that generate text,

then interpret text, that generate from text images

and all that kind of stuff.

But you’re now going to create incredible bots

that look awfully a lot like humans.

Well, at least they’re not going to be those crypto bots

that seem to populate my comment section

when I post anything on Instagram.

I actually delete those

even though they add to the comment roster.

And, you know, they bother me so much.

I spend, you know, at least 10, 15 minutes on each post

just deleting those.

I don’t know what they need to do,

but I’m not interested in whatever it is they’re offering.

Speaking of non-bots,

I’m going to assume that all the questions

are not from bots.

There are a lot of questions here,

more than 10,000 questions, goodness.

I’ll just take a few working from top to bottom.

What ideas have you been wrestling with lately?

And I think about the company as one,

but as I scroll to the next, what are some others?

Well, some of the things we’ve talked about,

which is,

the ideas of how to understand what is true,

what is true about a human being,

how to reveal that, how to reveal that to a conversation,

how to challenge that properly,

that it leads to understanding, not derision.

So that applies to everybody

from Donald Trump to Vladimir Putin.

Also, another idea is there’s a deep distrust of science

and trying to understand, the growing distrust of science,

trying to understand what’s the role of those of us

that have a foot in the scientific community,

how to be, how to regain some of that trust.

Also, there’s, as we talked about,

how to find and how to maintain a good relationship.

I mean, that’s really been,

I’ve never felt quite as lonely

as I have this year with Ukraine.

It’s just like so many times I would just lay there

and just feeling so deeply alone,

because I felt that my home,

not my home, like literally,

because I’m an American, I love,

I’m a proud American, I’ll die an American,

but my home in the sense of my generationally,

my family’s home is now going,

is now, has been changed forever.

There’s no more being proud of being

from the former Russia or Ukraine.

It’s just, it’s now a political message to say,

if you, to show your pride.

And so it’s been extremely lonely.

And within that world,

with all the things I’m pursuing,

how do you find a successful relationship?

That’s been tough.

But obviously, and there’s a huge number of technical ideas

with the startup of like,

how the hell do you make this thing work?

Well, the relationship topic

is one we talked a little bit about.

And last time we touched on a little bit more detail.

We’re gonna come back to that.

So I’ve made a note here.

What or who inspired Lex, you,

to wear a suit every time you podcast?

That’s a good question.

I don’t know the answer to that.

So there’s two answers to that question.

One is a suit, and two is a black suit and black tie.

Because I used to do, I used to have more variety,

which is like, it was always a black suit,

but I would sometimes do a red tie and a blue tie.

But that was mostly me trying to fit into society

because like varieties,

you’re supposed to have some variety.

What inspired me is, at first,

was a general culture that doesn’t take itself seriously

in terms of how you present yourself to the world.

So in academia, in the tech world, just at Google,

everybody was wearing like pajamas and like very relaxed.

In the tech, I don’t know how it is in the science,

in the like chemistry, biology, and so on.

But in computer science, everybody was like very,

I mean, very relaxed in terms of the stuff they wear.

So I wanted to try to really take myself seriously

and take every single moment serious

and everything I do seriously.

And the suit made me feel that way.

I don’t know how it looks, but it made me feel that way.

And I think in terms of people I look up to,

that wore a suit that made me think of that

is probably Richard Feynman.

I see him-

Such a wonderful human being.

Yes, I see him as like the epitome of class

and humor and brilliance.

And obviously I can never come close to that kind of,

be able to simply explain really complicated ideas

and to have humor.

And wit, but definitely aspire to that.

And then there’s just the, you know,

Mad Men, that whole era of the 50s,

the classiness of that.

There’s something about a suit

that both removes the importance of fashion

from the character.

You see the person.

I think not to, I forgot who said this,

maybe like Coco Chanel or somebody like this,

is that, you know, you wear a shabby dress

and everyone sees the dress.

You wear a beautiful dress and everybody sees the woman.

So in that sense, I was,

hopefully I’m quoting that correctly, but-

Sounds good.

I think there’s a sense in which a simple, classy suit

allows people to focus on your character.

And then do so like with the full responsibility of that.

Like this is who I am.


I love that.

And I love what you said just prior to that.

You know, my father, who again,

is always asking me why I don’t dress formally like you do.

Always said to me growing up, if you overdress slightly,

at least people know that you took them seriously.

So it’s a sign of respect for your audience too,

in my eyes.

Someone asked, is there an AI equivalent of psychedelics?

And I’m assuming they mean,

is there something that machines can do for themselves

in order to alter their neural circuitry

through unconventional activation patterns?

Yes, obviously.

Well, I don’t know exactly how psychedelics work,

but you can see that with all the diffusion models now,

with DALI and stable diffusion

that generates from text art.

And there’s a,

it’s basically a small injection of noise

into a system that has a deep representation

of visual information.

So it was able to convert text to art

in introducing uncertainty into that, noise into that.

That’s kind of maybe,

I could see that as a parallel to psychedelics

and it’s able to create some incredible things

from a conceptual understanding of a thing.

It can create incredible art that no human, I think,

could have at least easily created

through a bit of introduction of randomness.

Randomness does a lot of work

in the machine learning world, just enough.

There are a lot of requests of you for relationship,

a lot of requests about statistics about you,

data about you specifically.

Flipping past those,

what was the hardest belt to achieve in jujitsu?

I would have assumed the black belt,

but is that actually true?

No, I mean, everybody has a different journey through jujitsu

as people know.

For me, the black belt was the ceremonial belt,

which is not usually the case because I fought the wars.

Like I trained twice a day for, I don’t know how many years,

seven, eight years.

I competed nonstop.

I competed against people much better than me.

I competed against many

and beaten many black belts and brown belts.

I think for me personally,

the hardest belt was the brown belt

because for people who know jujitsu,

the size of tournament divisions

for blue belts and purple belts is just humongous.

Like worlds, when I competed at worlds,

it was like 140 people in a division,

which means you have to win, I forget how many times,

but seven, eight, nine times in a row to medal.

And so I just had to put in a lot of work during that time.

And especially for competitors,

instructors usually really make you earn a belt.

So to earn the purple belt was extremely difficult,

extremely difficult.

And then to earn the brown belt means I had to compete

nonstop against other purple belts, which are young.

You’re talking about like the people that usually compete

are like 23, 24, 25 year olds.

They’re like shredded, incredible cardio.

They can, for some reason,

are in their life worth it.

No kids, nothing.

They can dedicate everything to this pursuit.

So they’re training two, three, four times a day.

Diet is on point.

And for me, because they’re usually bigger

and taller than me and just more aggressive,

actual good athletes.

Yeah, I had to go through a lot of wars

to earn that brown belt.

But then-

I had to try this jujitsu thing.

Yeah, you should.

But it’s a different-

Well, I tried, I did the one class,

but I really want to embrace it.

As you know, many pursuits like jiu-jitsu are different.

If you’re doing your 20s and 30s and later,

it’s like, it’s a different,

you can’t, you’re not,

you can have a bit of an ego in your 20s.

You can have that fire under you,

but you should be sort of more Zen-like

and wise and patient later in life.

Well, one would hope.

That’s the wisdom.

Well, I think Rogan is still a meathead.

He still goes hard and crazy

and he’s still super competitive on that.

So some people can, Jocko is somebody like that.

Well, whatever they’re doing,

they’re doing something right because they’re still in it.

And that’s super impressive.

There were far too many questions to ask all of them,

but several, if not many,

asked a highly appropriate question

for where we are in the arc of this discussion.

And this is one, admittedly,

that you ask in your podcasts all the time,

but I get the great pleasure

of being in the question-asker seat today.

And so what is your advice to young people?

So I just gave a lecture at MIT

and the amount of love I got there is incredible.

And so of course, who you’re talking to

is usually undergrads, maybe young graduate students.

And so one person did ask for advice

as a question at the end, I did a bunch of Q&A.

So my answer was that the world will tell you

to find a work-life balance,

to sort of explore,

to try different fields

to see what you really connect with,

variety, general education, all that kind of stuff.

And I said, in your 20s,

I think you should find one thing you’re passionate about

and work harder at that

than you worked at anything else in your life.

And if it destroys you, it destroys you.

That’s advice for in your 20s.

I don’t know how universally true that advice is,

but I think at least give that a chance,

like sacrifice, real sacrifice

towards a thing you really care about

and work your ass off.

That said, I’ve met so many people

and I’m starting to think that advice is best applied

or best tried in the engineering disciplines,

especially programming.

I think there’s a bunch of disciplines

in which you can achieve success with much fewer hours

and it’s much more important to actually have

a clarity of thinking and great ideas

and have an energetic mind.

Like the grind in certain disciplines

does not produce great work.

I just know that in computer science and programming,

some of the best people ever that have built system,

have programmed systems,

are usually like the John Carmack kind of people

that drink soda, eat pizza and program 18 hours a day.

So I don’t know, actually,

you have to, I think, really go discipline specific.

So my advice applies to my own life,

which has been mostly spent behind the computer.

And for that, you really, really have to put in the hours.

And what that means is essentially

if you feel like a grind,

I do recommend that you should at least try it in your own.

That if you interview

some of the most accomplished people ever,

I think if they’re honest with you,

they’re gonna talk about their 20s

as a journey of a lot of pain

and a lot of really hard work.

I think what really happens, unfortunately,

is a lot of those successful people later in life

will talk about work-life balance.

They’ll say, you know what I learned from that process

is that it’s really important

to get sun in the morning, to have health,

to have good relationships and friends.

Hire a chef.

Yes, exactly.

But I think those people have forgotten

the value of the journey they took to that lesson.

I think work-life balance is best learned the hard way.

My own perspective,

there’s certain things you can only learn the hard way.

And so you should learn that the hard way.

Yeah, so that’s definitely advice.

And I should say that I admire people that work hard.

If you wanna get on my good side,

I think are the people that give everything they got

towards something.

It doesn’t actually matter what it is,

but towards achieving excellence in a thing,

that’s the highest thing that we can reach

for as human beings, I think,

is excellence at a thing.

I love it.

Well, speaking of excellence at a thing,

whether or not it’s teaching at MIT or the podcast

or the company that resides in the near future

that you create,

once again, I’m speaking for an enormous number of people

that excellence and hard work certainly

are woven through everything that you do.

Every time I sit down with you,

I begin and finish with such an immense feeling of joy

and appreciation and gratitude.

And it wouldn’t be a Lex Friedman podcast

or in case of a Lex Friedman being a guest on a podcast,

if the word love weren’t mentioned at least 10 times.

So the feelings of gratitude for all the work you do,

for taking the time here today to share with us

what you’re doing, your thoughts, your insights,

what you’re perplexed about

and what drives you and your callings.

Can I read a poem?

Yes, please.

He was trying to cut me off,

but that was getting a little long.

No, no, no, no.

This is, I was thinking about this recently.

It’s one of my favorite Robert Frost poems.

And I, because I wrote several essays on it as you do,

because I think it’s a popular one that’s read.

And so essays being like trying to interpret poetry

and it’s one that sticks with me.

I mean, both it’s calm beauty,

but in the seriousness of what it means,

because I ultimately think it’s the,

so stopping by a woods on a snowy evening.

I think it’s ultimately a human being,

a man asking the old Sisyphus,

the old Camus question of why live.

I think this poem, even though it doesn’t seem like it,

is a question of a man contending with suicide

and choosing to live.

Whose woods these are, I think I know.

His house is in the village though.

He will not see me stopping here

to watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer

to stop without a farmhouse near

between the woods and frozen lake,

the darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake

to ask if there’s some mistake.

The only other sounds the sweep

of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,

but I have promises to keep

and miles to go before I sleep

and miles to go before I sleep.

The woods representing the darkness,

the comfort of the woods representing death.

And here’s a man choosing to live.

Yeah, I think about that often,

especially in my dark, dark moments.

You have promises to keep.

Thank you for having me, Andrew,

you’re a beautiful human being.

I love you, brother.

I love you, brother.

Thank you for joining me today

for my discussion with Dr. Lex Friedman

and special thanks to Dr. Lex Friedman

for inspiring me to start this podcast.

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