It’s Ariel helwani.
And I’m Chuck Mendenhall and I’m peachy coral, and together, we are three pack.
Join us on the brand-new Spotify Live app immediately, after all of the biggest fights in Combat Sports, and also during the weigh-ins, because that’s when the real drama happens.
So what are you waiting for?
Follow the ring, Rama may show right now on our exclusive Spotify podcast feed and come join the best community and MMA purse.
We’re out of here.
Today’s episode is one of my favorites of the year.
I published an article in the Atlantic about the 10 greatest coolest breakthroughs of 2022.
That is what were the most interesting and important discoveries or inventions in the last year across any scientific domain bioscience clean energy vaccinology, nanotechnology AI, what was Apex Mountain for humankind?
I’ve said before, on the show, Oh, that I think there is a negativity bias in news which results in this list, being a surprise for me.
And for many listeners.
I think it’s Sneaky weird that this list is a surprise that the most important breakthroughs of the Year typically come as a shock because the news media is significantly more efficient at surfacing and its readers are more efficient at sharing news that makes us afraid or outraged rather than news that makes us curious.
Been helpful, for example, I’m not sure that most people know we are in a golden age of obesity therapies until very very recently.
Most reasonable doctors did not prescribe medications or pills or injectables for weight loss.
Like, the term weight loss pill was very rightly, a pejorative, but in just the last two years, there’s been an extraordinary revolution in weight loss medication.
Thanks to a happy accident.
In the 2010s patients on the diabetes medication, Samantha type notice something interesting.
They were losing a ton of weight and so the parent company, Novo, Nordisk looked into this, and they realize that the side effect of this diabetes medication, wasn’t a fluke, the diabetes medication seem to mimic naturally occurring hormones in the body.
That regulated, the release of insulin and slowed down how fast patients stomachs emptied.
Last year, the FDA approved injectable, Samantha tied for weight loss.
Under a new name.
We go V and this is not the only weight loss medication.
Now in the pipeline, a similar weight loss medication called true.
Step aside showed an average, 20% reduction in patient’s body weight, in the latest clinical trial.
There is another medication that Amgen is currently experimenting with, it’s called AMG 133 and in phase two trials, patients on the highest dose lost more than 49.
In percent of their body weight in less than three months.
So this could be the dawn of a new age, roughly 40 percent of Americans are technically obese.
And we know that obesity can in many cases, increase someone’s risk of heart disease, high blood pressure.
And for men, as we just heard on a recent show, it seems correlated with declining sperm count as well.
So this is a breakthrough worth celebrating and also because every Discovery can have positive and negative implications, I think it’s a breakthrough worth.
Watching as well.
Another Revolution that I think will, maybe one day becomes synonymous with the 2020s, is the incredible blowout in generative AI tools.
You’ve got image generating apps like stable diffusion Dolly to these turn text prompts into Lush illustrations.
You can say something like, you know, show me a podcast.
Host on Venus smoking a cigarette in the Style of Van Gogh and it will produce something astonishingly beautiful.
We heard inspiring there are also large language models such as chat GPT which can answer complex questions.
Spit out bespoke Wikipedia articles and S right song lyrics and even conjure many essays.
The results are quite uncanny quite mind-blowing.
So for example, I was inspired by a few tweets that I saw that.
Got it, chat GPT.
To write poetry and religious verse.
And I gave chat GPT a cheeky little prompt.
I said, write a Biblical verse in the style of the King.
James Bible about a Manhattan Finance, bro, throwing up on his friends after having too many Fireball shots and in approximately eight seconds this is what the AI wrote in response.
And it came to pass that the finance bro.
Having imbibed to heavily of the fiery, liquid did vomit upon his companions and great was a displeasure of the friends for they were covered in the sick of their companion and the finance bro did whale and gnashed his teeth for.
He knew that he had transgressed and brought shame upon himself.
Thus saith the Lord quote, let him who is without sin among you be the first to cast a stone at the finance, bro.
And with this the Friends did forgive their companion for They too, had known The Temptations of the Flesh and The Perils of Xs.
Like that is amazing.
I don’t know what this thing is yet.
I don’t know if it will ultimately evolved into being a mere toy.
If it will replace me, if it were placed Google search, if it will merely be a second mind.
If the creative class or if it Heralds the end of the world, whatever it is, it is a rather extraordinary feat of technology, and I think in time we may consider it the most important breakthrough of the year.
At Last today’s guest is a return guest Eli Dorado.
He is an economist and a researcher and a writer who has his pulse on the front.
The frontier of invention and Sciences much as anybody else I know, especially across all the different domains that I want to touch on bioscience AI Hardware.
He is our guide to the Future for the next 45 minutes.
And if you have half as much fun listening to Eli, as I had talking to him, Tim, I think you are in for a treat.
I’m Derek Thompson.
This is plain English.
You’re about to listen to is about the most exciting and important scientific and technological breakthroughs of 2022.
And it was recorded just days before US Government scientists made a breakthrough in nuclear fusion.
Fusion reactions are different from fission that’s what typical nuclear.
Power has been it.
Emits no carbon produces.
No long-lived radioactive waste.
It’s an extraordinary technology that could give us Limitless zero-carbon power.
If we can scale it, if we can get it cheaper, if we can get it widely available, it’s a thrilling thrilling.
Break through the clearly would have made this podcast if the news had broken a week earlier, six months earlier 11 months earlier, trust me, we’re going to have many more episodes about this awesome breakthrough in nuclear fusion.
Ian, just not this one.
Okay, please enjoy you lie.
Dorado, welcome back to the podcast.
Thanks for having me on.
Derek, I am more excited, do this episode then.
I’ve been in a long time.
I honestly find a lot of bad news.
And so I write about it a lot and I podcast about it.
A lot you know alone time is up, sperm counts are down, bad news, bad news but we’re getting close to the holiday season and I really wanted to do an episode that doesn’t make me want to self eject from the planet.
And I made a promise to myself this year.
Did I would take time in December to research and break down?
What I considered the most interesting and important science and technological breakthroughs of the year, I just published this big piece in the Atlantic breaking down my top 10 in the open.
Just before welcoming you on.
I talked a little bit about my fascination with large language models like chat GPT.
I want to save that for the end.
What I want to talk about with you because last time we had you on the show, you gave us this incredible tour of the scientific and technological.
I want you to walk with me through some of these Incredible Science and Tech breakthroughs of 2022.
So let’s start with, let’s start with science.
Let’s start with the cosmos in July, NASA’s, James, Webb, Telescope sent back, its first images of light from across the universe and with just extraordinary Clarity.
This showed off these nebulae that looked like neon soap, bubbles and craggly, Red Mountain.
And one of them looked like a little sort of luminescent shrimp that was floating in a black soup.
I mean, just amazing amazing images that go back as far as 13 billion years ago, okay?
So they’re clearly cool, why are they important Beyond?
Just being cool.
Well, there’s so many reasons, so I think that you can do it in radio.
Astronomy is a bunch of different things, right?
You can, you can learn more about sort of physics, right?
Like the height really high-energy large-scale stuff in the universe, right?
Is it’s, it’s you can’t do it in a lab on earth, right?
It’s just, it can’t be contained like that.
And so the James Webb Space Telescope is going to be doing all kinds of experiments that Take advantage of, that of the sort of the cosmos as, like, a Physics laboratory, right?
And then the other thing that it’s going to do a lot of, is looking more locally at a lot of, a lot of stuff.
We haven’t really looked at before, so I’m really interested in actually looking at planets that are close by.
So like, you know, yes the space that James Webb can look very deep into the cosmos, but it can also look more closely to stuff.
That’s only like, you know, Light years away or something like that and you can actually start to study the atmospheres of these planets that are nearby and that could potentially tell us.
You know are there is is life common or is it not common in the cosmos right.
Like I’m really curious about that question radio.
Astronomy has already told us that Interstellar space has organic molecules right.
Hundreds of organic molecules including like Amino No acids, including amino acids that like we have in our bodies like that exist in interstellar space.
And we know that because, you know, we’ve had passed passed measurements right from from radio telescopes.
Every time we get a new new instrument, the new either, a step change in and sort of resolution or or a new moon or new frequency that we get access to, we discover something new about the universe.
I am most fascinated by the possibility of seeing into the moments, relatively the moments, the million years after the big bang to learn more about like the ultimate existential question.
You know how did it all begin?
Where did time and space and matter began.
What were the conditions of the universe?
13 billion years ago?
How are they different than the conditions?
Now was the universe ruled by a different set of laws?
Can we learn maybe what those laws were by looking really really closely at these?
Aunt snapshots of 13 billion years ago.
That’s what most interests me.
Just tell me a little bit more about, like, what we could learn from these exoplanets that you’re describing.
So, like we use our telescope to stare whatever 510 million certified 10.
Light-years away from Earth.
You call this a shortest distance but you to me, it seems relatively long, neither you nor I are likely to ever go there but we’re looking into these atmospheres, maybe we’re looking, we’re getting the view of these planets.
That in my mind, I think that it’s a little bit similar to In Like a Star Wars or Star Trek movie when they show.
The planet sort of coming up, you start to see its color in the state of its atmosphere.
What could we learn about these planets?
Yeah, you so different molecules in the atmosphere going to emit different different Spectra.
And you could conceivably learn that there are molecules in the atmosphere that our seniors on Earth, or at least an earthlike environments are Telltale signatures of life, right?
So we could, we could, we could sort of, maybe Form hypotheses that that some planets may have at least bacterial life on them from from looking at at these atmospheres and think the other question is about sort of the interaction of magnetospheres and Stellar winds and so on.
So So, Earth is fortunate to be have a magnetosphere that keeps our atmosphere from having been blown away over the last billion years or so.
So so without without that that the the sort of the polarity of the Earth where the North Pole, the South Pole, the magnet’s magnetic fields that arise from them.
Our atmosphere would have been blown away by the Stout by the solar wind.
And so if you if you study exoplanets, we could sort of get an idea of like How common is that, right?
How common is it for an atmosphere to build up in on a rocky planet?
And if you ever did find a star system that had, you know, a bunch of magnetic field, you know, bunch of planets with magnetic fields and all of them had atmospheres in them and you know, what would be they, what, they might have interesting signatures.
And so on, that could be a sign of a terraforming civilization, right?
You could have, you could find, you know, like if I found And like mm probably that like one start you know have some base rate infer some base rate from your other observations.
If you found in probably that one star system had a bunch of planets that had atmospheres and magnetospheres that would be a sign of something interesting that we would want to go check out.
I would say.
So yeah, that sounds pretty thrilling.
All right, let’s move to the next breakthrough, but I want to talk about which is a breakthrough around the disease, multiple sclerosis.
There was a study done by a team of scientists looked a large group of military service members.
And it concluded there was very strong evidence that the Epstein-Barr virus EBV, which is best known for causing.
Mononucleosis, might be a leading cause of Ms. Multiple, sclerosis infection with EBV raise the odds of developing Ms by a factor of 30.
Now, many, many People get EBV, many people contract.
Only a tiny minority of them seem to develop multiple sclerosis later in life, but it suggests that multiple sclerosis is like long EBV.
Maybe the same way that we understand there to be covid, which lots of people get and then a small minority of them.
Get long covid.
What do you think is the most or what are the most significant implication?
Stations of this discovery for a long time, we’ve, you know, multiple sclerosis is a autoimmune disease, right now, there are a lot of autoimmune disease and we kind of don’t understand how they work, right?
That sort of the autoimmune, I would even say it’s an autoimmune hypothesis, right?
That it’s our body, just like sort of like, fighting itself.
But if Mana.
If multiple sclerosis is caused by EBV, it raises the possibility that maybe a lot of the diseases that we think of as autoimmune maybe they are.
Maybe the etiology actually is pathological, Miller pathogenic diseases which just I just for clarity pathogenic disease means it’s a disease that comes from a bacteria or virus.
It like the Lakers are system for a while.
The same way that we’re familiar with the concept of long covid, you know, people get covid-19 lingers for a while and then it causes a range of things like, you know, brain fog or some kind of muscle weakness that we don’t necessarily it might be a little bit different from the immediate effects of covid, but we considered a part of long covid.
So maybe there’s a bunch of diseases that have specific names, like, multiple sclerosis, but they’re actually just long viruses or long bacteria exactly or, or maybe even not long, maybe it’s just, we don’t know.
We just have never found a pathogen.
Like we like it could be just it could be the non long version of some virus as well and so like yeah I think you know, a promising Avenue would be for anybody that has a mystery disease or a disease where we don’t, you know, we don’t know the cause like we should be like screening their blood and their other bodily fluids for and just like genetic sequence, everything you find, right?
If we, if we could genetic sequence, everything we find in all of these patients, that might lead us to some more discoveries of, well, actually, these this thing that we thought was autoimmune, was, you know, it’s like becoming clear, right?
It’s there’s, there’s another pathogen that causes it.
So, I think we’re think we’re not at the end of sort of the, the sort of figuring out the role of pathogens to me.
It’s like, all right, there’s lots of research on treating Ms, dealing with Ms, which you know, results in Nerve damage, which disrupted a communication between the brain and the body.
There’s certain ways you can think about treating a disease like that.
Whether it’s these, the treatments work on the immune system and the treatments do something about about nerve communication.
But with this knowledge it might be the case.
That the clearest thing to do is to get vaccinologist to work on a vaccine against Epstein-Barr virus, which up to now was like, I don’t kind of important to do.
Mononucleosis is a nuisance but multiple sclerosis is much more of a problem than mono.
So this is clarified, the the cost of EBV on the human population such that it might profitably.
Redirect, a lot of investment toward eradicating EBV from the human population.
Is that right?
Yeah, that’s that’s a hundred percent, right?
You know, it’s interesting like, with Ms. There’s all kinds of ideas of like how you could treat it, right?
Like, like people are saying like, oh, I had a mess and I, you know, ate a bunch of vegetables.
Balls and, you know, sort of changed my diet in some way and that helps it get better.
And like we still like that may or may not be true, right?
We don’t have a good way of evaluating that because we because we don’t fully understand the causes, but if it but if it is a virus and you know, of course, what you eat, affects your immune system like that starts some of these stories start to make sense.
In a way that could be, that could be me.
Made consistent with sort of like scientific observation as well.
I want to move on to another discovery that has a little bit of tie in with the pandemic and that is that we are very clearly in a golden age of vaccine research and maybe also vaccine production.
There were a range of breakthroughs in the world of vaccines.
In the last year, there was a record or one of the most successful trials for any vaccine in malaria came out this year in September.
Oxford University scientists develop this malaria vaccine small, trial 450 children in Burkina Faso, but it found that three doses of the vaccine.
Plus a booster shot was up to 80% effective at preventing infection.
That is remarkable because malaria kills around 40,000 people, every year, many of them children.
It’s not caused by a virus, it’s caused by a plasmodium which has so far been very difficult.
But these scientists from Oxford seem to have some success in coming up with a successful vaccine candidate.
Another really interesting breakthrough in vaccines, this year, came against the flu, there was an experimental flu vaccine that was found to be protective against all known types of flu in animals.
Not I think, every year we get a flu shot and that flu shot is is bespoke to Kind of flu that is circulating.
And the influenza virus family has 20 lineages and a bunch of strains under all those lineages to have to change the flu recipe every single year.
If this vaccine worked it would essentially lower the immortality ceiling of every kind of flu that we could possibly get in all the years to come which would make a Spanish flu epidemic extremely unlikely.
So those are some of the vaccine breakthroughs that we had this year.
He like, which of them do you consider most interesting most important?
Well, I think, you know, malaria is just such a huge killer and and all of the sort of the tropics that it’s incredibly important that we made that advanced.
I think one thing that we’re learning is that, you know, not all, not all antibodies are the same, right?
You can, you can have two different people who are exposed to the same disease and they’re going to like their bodies might make slightly different antibodies.
In response to that to that virus or the bacteria more, whatever it is.
And so, one of the things we’re learning is you can make it there, you can Target better and worse antibodies, right?
And so, so being able to design a vaccine that the generates an immune response and antibody that attacks like a conserved part of the virus, right?
A part of the virus that doesn’t mutate.
Very very much you know that is that is just like it’s a Playbook that we can do over and over again.
There’s not that many families of viruses, you know, in the world that infect humans and we could do it potentially on all of them, right?
Like this is like we’re getting to the point where viral infection might not be a thing that we have to live with in the next.
You know, say two decades, right?
Like like And people are talking about, we could get rid of the common cold, right?
And, and, and I think there’s all kinds of questions about, you know.
Do we need occasional viral insults to our immune system to like, keep our immune system sort of active, right?
I think I think that’s the kind of question that we’re going to be facing because we have so many tools being developed that make us able to be, make more effective vaccines.
Yeah, I think you know even if we don’t fully eradicate viruses.
What’s interesting about this particular flu vaccine is that, and all the articles that I read were very careful to point this out.
This does not make it so that you cannot catch the 2023 flu or the 2024 flu or the 2025 through which by the way, are almost certainly going to be different strains.
Rather, it makes all of those strains significantly.
So something like the Spanish, Flu, the Spanish Flu.
Pandemic would be basically impossible.
If we could do something like this for the influenza family for plasmodia like malaria for Coronavirus as a family, not just this novel coronavirus.
But for the family, it would mean with these sort of the family level mortality lowering, you know, pan vaccines that yes people.
Might in this future that I’m sketching out, they might still get sick, but we would turn everything into the common cold or something like it, right?
No coronavirus would kill ten percent of people over 80 know, influenza would kill 100,000 200,000 people a year and the cases of 1920 millions of people throughout the world, everything would be a little bit more moderate is like, is that future?
Like I’ll also something that could Um, into Focus.
I mean, yeah, it’s very plausible but like but I think it would be shocking to me.
If people didn’t go after even the common cold, right?
Like like, you know, think about, you know how much during sort of cold and flu season, like, people just missing work and stuff like that.
The economic cost of that, I would be surprised if nobody nobody goes after it right.
People are going to want protection.
I think, well, I don’t know.
People didn’t want protection from covid, right in the vaccine.
So, so, Maybe, maybe they won’t want vaccines for everything, half bath, indeed, half of the adults over 45 is of particular.
Yeah, political ideology in this country weren’t particularly eager.
But yeah, the rest of the country was relatively eager and people around the world were decently.
What can you help me?
Because, you know, before I go like, way out over my skis and get way too excited about the future of ending all the viruses.
Like, obviously, there’s all sorts of scenarios in which we might be, in a kind of talk about like AI Summers and AI Winters.
There’s Periods where the technology Sprint’s forward in the period with the technology doesn’t?
The right now.
We’re in a bit of a vaccinology summer and in a few years, you might be in a vaccinology winter and realize.
Wow, is actually really, really difficult to invent all of these, you know, pan coronavirus has and pan, influenza viruses, what would you say we learned in the pandemic.
That is responsible for this Summer that we’re experiencing in anti-viral vaccinology?
I think it’s I think it’s mainly that we can go faster than the sort of the state-of-the-art was before you know I wrote a piece at the beginning of the pandemic on how you know what we could do to accelerate vaccine approvals and and you know I thought we should just you know once one somebody a credible company had a candidate we should let people try it right?
Like if they you know that you need data one way or the other you need to have guinea pigs if Want to do, informed consent and like, get a job of an mRNA vaccine.
That’s unproven like they should have been allowed to that was that was my argument because I was worried that it was going to take years.
The sort of the, it was very common before covid to have a vaccine take 25 years to like be fully developed, go through all the trials and so on, you know, 25 years might have been The high side but it was never never under a year, right?
And and, and I thought we needed to just accelerate the whole process.
Now, we did, we know we unfortunate, you know, we kept the, the clinical trial requirement, but somehow we made it through a lot faster.
You know, helps that a lot of the people who got the vaccine were exposed, you know, naturally, we didn’t have challenge trials for the most part.
But we just had an epidemic raging right?
A pandemic raging in that enabled, us to go.
But even without that, I think we can.
There’s a lot of time that we can cut off the development cycle and So anyway so I think it’s I don’t think it is like a summer winter kind of thing.
I think it’s here to stay that we’re going to have a lot of progress and there’s just so many tools coming down the pike in biology like that, the labs are getting so Advanced they’re able to do so many interesting things that it would be, it would be surprising if there was a slow down, right?
The the big obstacle is like what can you get approved and what, you know, what can make it all the way through the Nicole, trials, and, and, and, and to Consumers, but, you know, the, the scientists, in the labs, they’re like, Wizards, man.
They’re doing, they’re doing so much exciting stuff.
I’m glad you ended on that the fact that the science is getting very very quickly.
We need to find a way for policy to move quickly to.
I have a piece in the magazine that comes out.
I think the day this podcast comes out called the Eureka theory of progress is wrong and I tell a story of operation warp speed and exactly how it worked.
And I say what what would it mean to have an operation?
Warp speed for some other biological crisis that we recognize let’s say operation warp speed for cancer.
What would that mean?
Well the one hand it would mean spending more money on Research Write operation.
Warp speed said, here’s a bunch of money.
We’re willing to spend on any of the pharmaceutical companies that come out with the vaccine in mRNA or attenuated Etc.
We’re going to spend money directly on the production of the material but also it turned what you described is this 10 to 30-year.
Obstacle course for new vaccines into a Glide path.
It’s like we’re going to make this possible in six months.
So what would it mean to do that for cancer?
I talked to Heidi Williams at Stanford and the institute for progress about this amazing paper sheet.
Co-authored about how since the war on cancer was declared 1971.
Richard Nixon, the US has way more late stage cancer, treatment pills and almost no cancer, prevention medicine.
So a ton of pills you can take when you’re in stage 3 and stage 4, but not a lot of cancer prevention.
Well one answer she said is the cancer prevention clinical trials.
Take forever, right?
Because look, if you take a, you know, Lung cancer prevention pill at 20.
You might not know until you’re 60, if it’s actually invented, you know, your lung cancer is 70 80 and she said, you know, we have a solution for heart disease.
We have surrogate endpoints, which is a wonky term for we’ve short-term.
Proxies you take a pill.
We say, is your cholesterol going down, is your blood pressure going down and we’re going to infer that if it is, this will prevent a heart disease.
Later if we could find a way to develop these, short-term proxies for cancer prevention and clinical trials, we could have Short, clinical trials for multi-decade cancer.
Prevention medicines, which would mean, an explosion of cancer prevention therapies.
You wouldn’t even need any kind of revolution on the invention side science could keep doing exactly what they’re doing and we could like 10x the number of cancer prevention pills that Americans can take.
And so going through that little bit of research, may be really optimistic.
That these scientists are doing incredible work and we need to learn from operation warp speed how to get little Innovations on the Seaside to make this world, abundant in anti-cancer Therapies.
Let’s move on to clean energy.
You have taught me a lot about geothermal energy which basically meant means drilling deep into the ground to use the Earth’s heat pretty much.
It’s geothermally heated, water for power and geothermal is such a cool energy source because it’s more consistent than wind or solar.
The middle of the earth is always hot in a way that the wind is always blowing and it doesn’t have the waist concerns of nuclear but the problem is that there’s some parts of the world that are fantastic for.
Geothermal like Iceland and there’s other parts of the cut of the world that are not good for geothermal, because it takes so long and so hard to dig to that part of the Earth’s crust that has the geothermally heated water.
You told me about a solution to this problem, tell me about that solution.
Yeah, of course.
So, so, in my day job, you know, I spent a lot of time looking at Technologies and Diving deep into them and geothermal is one of those and I got so excited.
This particular solution that I actually ended up investing personally.
So, so that so that this is a company called quays, there are spin out of MIT and they took something out of the fusion lab.
So Fusion to sort of Feed the the fusion reaction scientists have this tool called a gyrotron that produces millimeter wave energy.
And what quays is doing is that you just can you just like it like I’m in sixth grade?
What is millimeter wave energy?
A millimeter wave energy is is like radio energy.
So so like light is Radio electric energy, right.
It’s photons, right photons.
So visible light is in the is in the 400 to 700 nanometer wavelength range, right?
And so imagine photons, instead of being in that Spectrum, they’re just moving in the mm sort of range of spectrum, right?
So that’s that’s, that’s It’s light.
That’s been the wavelength has been is longer than light, right?
It’s photons though.
It’s exactly the same as same particle, right?
And so so what they’ve figured out is you know that you can drill mechanically very well until you know, through the sedimentary rock and so on.
But at some point you hit basement rock and if you take a gyrotron at the surface and point it down into the ground and have like, sort of a corrugated steel tube that sort of guides the way.
Waves down, what you can do is produce a concentration of millimeter, wave energy at the bottom of the hole that vaporizes.
The granite and, you know, just completely destroys it.
The ashes, like, sort of, you know, if you have to think about like, how do you circulate a gas there to pull the ash out but you vaporize, Granite, you you melt the side of the hole so that it becomes like a liner.
So it comes 10 times stronger than the surrounding Rock.
You know, that helps with normally when you drill, you have to do some sort of casing to preserve well Integrity.
Make sure there’s no leaks and so on.
So this liner is like, automatically formed and you can just go and go and go deeper and deeper is this, right?
It’s like and this is just because I finished Andorra a couple days ago it’s kind of like a Tiny Death Star but used for good.
Write it like it used to be you know right.
Like the desert just like directed energy.
Yeah it’s just directed energy.
It destroys a town.
Just Troy’s a planet.
In this case, we’re not trying to destroy a town.
Thankfully, we’re trying to destroy a very concentrated bit of granite.
That is deep in the ground.
It is really really hard.
Very difficult to drill through given the temperatures and the pressure of being that far underground.
You shoot it with this sort of super fancy special.
Laser it totally obliterates it and gets us clean access to actual geothermal power.
So it’s Technically, it’s not a laser, but but it’s an energy.
It’s a concentrated like energy, right?
And that, that you create using this waveguide.
And yes, it vaporizes, it basically makes it much cheaper to, you know, when it, when it comes to fruition, right?
It’s going to be much cheaper to drill very, very deep, right there.
I mean, quays is talking about, we could drill like, up to 20 kilometers of depth with with this kind of thing, which is which is deep enough to get.
It to the temperatures, you need to produce geothermal literally anywhere on the planet.
So let’s get excited about this and then let’s come back down to earth on this in the excitement category.
It’s like okay, we’re used to energy being geographically specific, like Wendy places are good for wind power and sunny places are good for solar power and there’s parts of the world that are kind of hard to see.
Just from walking around like Texas and Saudi Arabia that underground.
It turns out their incredible for their oil resources and so their energy rich but all The planet is over the core of the planet, like by definition, that’s how a sphere works.
And so if we had some technology for drilling really, really deeply into the planet, it could turn any patch of land into a piece.
A territory that is as valuable for geothermal, as like, the Texas or Saudi Arabia lands are for oil.
Like that’s, that’s incredible to think about like you wave a magic wand over the world and it’s all Saudi Arabia for oil.
Except the oil is an oil and it has no carbon Emissions.
Like, that’s anybody anybody can be Iceland right?
Like anyone can buddy can and so and Iceland is like the world leader in energy production per capita and they have you know they have a aluminum production on the island like way out of proportion to their population size.
They’re like, I think that the top per capita producer of aluminum and these just because that’s an energy.
Electricity intensive industry and they have such cheap energy availability so, so, yes, anybody can be excellent.
So anyway, Making the entire planet Iceland, everyone’s Iceland, there’s abundant energy, there’s a button electricity, it opens up, all these incredible venues for new things we can do the take a lot of energy.
Whether it’s desalination of water or just you know, running a perfectly electric economy.
That’s the vision.
That’s all very cool back to reality.
What are the bottlenecks, right?
This technology isn’t everywhere.
Like technically, it’s almost nowhere right now.
It’s very nascent.
So what are the clear bottle next to making something like this cheap and available?
Bubble and scaled.
So with great specifically like they’re still developing this tool that will allow them to drill very deep, right?
So they are they’re doing lab tests.
They’re doing field tests but it’s still under development with the industry, more generally.
I think that the biggest challenge is that sort of for near-term deployment, the, the best resources overlaps significantly with federal land.
So it’s a Just most of the in the u.s. most of the, the shallowest geothermal resources happen to be in the western half of the United States of which the federal government owns a huge chunk of.
And so too, if you want to sort of get started and I believe that this is an industry that will be characterized by very much by learning by doing, right.
You’re going to have to, you’re going to the more we deploy geothermal energy.
The more the cost is going to come down.
And so you got to start somewhere and that somewhere, ideally would be would happen to be on.
Federal land, but it’s just such a challenge to get, you know, these, these Wells permitted on Federal Land, which is kind of crazy, because it’s the same equipment, you know, for the mechanical drilling.
It’s the same equipment as you’re using in oil and gas, right?
It’s the same Workforce, same, same techniques, Etc.
And you can get an oil and gas well approved in about two weeks on Federal Land and it takes like two years.
To do geothermal.
So there are scientific bottlenecks here.
We need to figure out how to get this super fancy laser.
That isn’t actually a laser to work and there’s also policy bottlenecks.
We need better laws in this country that allow us to innovate.
In places where geothermal is where the the fruit is lowest-hanging.
When it comes to figuring out exactly how to get this technology off the ground and that requires regulatory changes.
And I do I’m Mystic that like the administration here is us on this and, and that, you know, they want to do something about it.
We’ll see we’ve saved the best for last, at least.
According to me, I am really, really excited about chat GPT I have loved playing around with this toy, The Economist.
Larry Summers went about as far as one can possibly go.
When it comes to the potential of this technology.
When he said, the chat GPT is a breakthrough on par with electricity, I am prepared to defend why I think this technology Is so cool and with continued exponential growth could be.
So revolutionary, tell me what, tell me, one thing that impresses you about chat GPT and what leaves?
You cold about this technology.
Yeah, so I was using last night to just write in a collaboratively right bedtime stories with my kids, right?
So I was like, sit down with my kids be like, okay, let’s prompt chat.
What do you want a story about?
You know, you know, one of them wants to be a princess.
One of them wants to be a knight, they really like Minecraft, we can say, okay there in Minecraft, the Minecraft world and we can just like get a story written for us on the spot, right?
It’s like it’s like, sort of like unlimited content production, right?
Is just you know, Autumn.
And so I think it is really exciting.
Technically, it’s a huge Breakthrough, by the way.
Chat GPT is not yet GPT, for which is on the verge of release and just another step forward.
So it’s just, it’s just going to get, even even better, you know, in the coming months, I think.
Yeah, the thing that doesn’t leave me cold but I think the the place where I think a lot of people are overstating, the importance is that some of the, you know, some of the content can be a little Bland, right?
It is taking sort of the entire English language.
It’s using for training and it’s sort of like averaging over it, right?
Unless you’re a sort of like, a prompting wizard, right?
It’s hard to get it to say anything.
And so it is not a replacement for, you know, the writers that we read online at the Atlantic such as Derek Thompson, who say something, you know, interesting and unexpected in every article, right?
Whereas, you know, like I think I think it’s so chat.
She PT as far as I can tell, like, can’t do that like, I, you know, I try to prompt it for like, you know, give me a shocking twist at the end of the story, but also make sure that there’s foreshadowed kind of earlier in an obvious way and it just doesn’t have a concept of a lot of that.
So, so, yeah, I think it will be, I think it will do amazing things.
And I think I think on the, on the Imaging side, as well as like, incredible incredible.
Le T’s being developed.
And by the, I mean, the thing that I think is going to shock people in the next in the coming, like, you know, weeks or months on the Imaging side is people going to learn about model, distillation, right?
You can you can distill these Imaging models into start, you start with a big model and then use that to train a smaller model that can generate an image in like, under a second.
On your laptop without needing to use a server, step back.
What did ya give me?
Tell me the full story of that just like create a full example of what you’re talking about.
So right now you can download like the stable diffusion model on your laptop and use it to generate an image in stable.
Diffusion for people, listening weight is one of these texts to image generators.
So you enter a text like Derek talking to Eli on an exoplanet using cups and strings in the style of Dolly and it will like weirdly enough do this in like a matter of seconds, it’ll be like pretty good.
It’ll be it’ll you know so for stable diffusion at least on my laptop it’s like 30 seconds or more to generate one image right?
And then okay then I have to fix the prompt right and I in a so I just the prompt based on the results and then maybe I want to adjust it again and so it so it is like feels like very laggy and back and forth that you have to do this.
So with a distilled model you can get a on the same Hardware, you can get a result.
Like under a second so I can enter a prompt press enter immediately.
See, the image that I want or that I thought, I wanted adjust the prompt hit enter another.
Second goes by like, I see the image again and so just for like going back and forth with this model and then and then maybe at the end once I find the prompt I want I go back to the full model and do the bigger the bigger model for the final render or whatever, but like I think this is going to be a tool that right now For like for check GPT, for instance you’re doing this on open a eyes servers, right?
And and I think that model distillation is going to allow us to do a lot of these generative stuff on local hardware, on our on our just like, consumer-grade, laptops.
So I think it’s going to be really exciting Larry Summers called it like a caddy for Creative work, which I thought was actually a pretty good metaphor.
Like the caddy is not.
Considered the talent, right?
But still, it can be essential.
Not only to have someone carry the clubs but to advise on which club to use, to think about exactly.
How do I hit this?
What do you think is the pitch?
I actually don’t even play golf.
I don’t know why I’m elaborating on this metaphor, but I assume that’s what people use caddies to do.
I’ve seen enough movies of golf, I see that’s already how I use chat GPT, you know, Noah Smith had the metaphor of sandwiching.
You have an idea for a prompt.
I prompts a cheap ET it sends me back an answer.
I edit the answer.
That’s actually what I put in my article and so much of writing are these little micro questions that occur to me as I’m reading a longer piece.
Like if I’m writing something about you know, generative pre-training Transformers, I say what exactly is that?
And I asked GPT, what is this technology?
How give me a metaphor to explain GPT to a ninth grader?
It will do that.
Now might not be a plus, it might be C plus but then I get the prompt and I can edit it.
Back into something that I consider consider appropriate.
You said there was another breakthrough in AI.
That makes you even more excited about this.
A isomer that were in, and I think it’s important to be clear that this year was all about Jenna today.
I, but last year, two years ago, it was about, was it Alpha fold?
Yeah, Alpha fold the a, I do gratiné folding protein folding, right?
The ability to anticipate, the precise structure of any protein in the world and the incredible.
Frontiers at that opened up in the future of protein proteomics.
So it’s every year.
AI is showing like a little different part of its body to say like you know, this is this is what I’m capable of it.
Tell me why you’re so interested.
In this other Frontier inside of the AI family called precise.
What the hell is that?
So, I think to give a little background, I think about Ai, and sort of a two, by two Matrix, right?
Or to two dimensions.
And so one of them Is, is it super human performance?
Or is it subhuman performance?
So, so, so, like, protein folding, like it’s definitely superhuman performance.
We can’t do that at.
All right, whereas like GPT chat or chat gbt like it’s subhuman performance, in the sense, it’s like, it’s not as good as their Thompson at writing but and then and then also like the dimension.
The other dimension is like economically useful or not, right.
And so so like we said, we have chess a eyes that are super human performance.
But not economically useful.
It’s not nesting different way.
Whereas, you know, something like writing or art, potentially could be useful, even if it’s subhuman performance, because like you said, it’s like a caddy.
So I’m really interested in sort of like the the economically useful and and superhuman performance quadrant of that.
And I think protein folding is one of them.
And I think, you know, maybe this sort of Adam manipulation is another one.
So, So one of the one of the technologies that could be the most revolutionary for Humanity is productive, nanotechnology the ability to actually start designing things by placing atoms, exactly where we want them to be right in molecules and creating creating think designing things from the ground up at the atomic scale.
We could basically create, you know, Starting the theorist behind us, say like almost mad stuff with almost magical properties.
Give an example like you could have a room filled with Nanobots that when you kind of make a motion to sit down a couch forms under you, right?
So like, I mean, like that is just wild, right?
You could have, I did a calculation that some of the motors that people have designed that you could take like the test.
LE model S plaid motor and you could do that amount of power output in the size of 12, grains of sand.
Like, this is what it’s like hearing about these possibilities do.
It’s almost like hearing about, like, like the size of the universe or hearing about, like, string theory because that’s like, it’s so incomprehensible.
It’s like, I guess example.
Yeah, yeah, so so so this is like, you know, I think it is like kind of magical like some of the theorists are hand wavy at times, right?
And and I would always say like, you know, like okay, like take it, take it with some grain of salt, but it does.
Him to follow from like totally standard chemistry and physics, that this is possible.
And so, what this team did with AI is it’s not quite that but they’re, they’re working on sort of being able to manipulate individual atoms and sort of the if you think about like moving and Adam, like with like with like tiny tweezers, or like a little stylus, right, that you’re like poking it, right?
There’s going to be all kinds of quantum effects.
If you’re on the tip because you’re you’re operating at such a small scale that it’s very hard to predict all the forces and the the movements that are going to happen.
And so what they are doing in this is they developed an AI that like shows them how to move the tip and and how to poke atoms around and move them around.
So this is not yet creating molecules with Adam.
So these are to anybody who knows?
Like as you’re not covalent bonds.
So Not making molecules, you’re moving individual, atoms around on top of a crystal, which is something that we have done before, but just, it was very hard.
So you have, there’s a famous historical example of a team at IBM that had some, I believe it was Xenon atoms and they spelled out the word IBM, just like, Xenon atoms on a crystal surface, right?
And so this that’s more like what what they’re doing in this example, but hey, you got to start somewhere and I think, you know, being able Able to actually design stuff and and and make it an engineer stuff at the atomic level with that level of precision.
That it could be the biggest game changer of all for Humanity.
What’s interesting about that is it sounds like Ai and machine learning is being used.
In this case, as a tool, that unlocks the key, to an entire New Kingdom that is nanotechnology like we do not have in our own mammalian crap.
Oriole bodies, the ability to enter this world.
This world is only accessible by developing machine learning technologies that allow us to do extremely precise quasi, magical things with atoms.
But once we unlock that door with AI, what’s beyond that?
Door is unease unimaginably, awesome.
And it’s not like disappearing into the metaverse.
Its new things that we could build in the physical world that are totally mind-blowing.
As you were talking, I will say, at this point, Chachi Beauty seems like pathetic.
It’s like the seems like it feels like compared to this.
Like some 1600 psychology but that said this is one of the reasons why I find chat gbt so thrilling for my work.
I just asked gbt I just typed in precise out of manipulation and it gave me a little definition and then I entered the abstract of the paper that you sent me about this and it did a pretty good job summarizing the abstract.
And then I said, what are some of the coolest and most interesting applications of atomic scale manipulation for Future of technology and it says, precise.
It at a manipulation could enable the creation of ultra efficient energy storage materials, more powerful, computer processors and highly sensitive medical diagnosis diagnostic tools.
So I said what kind of highly sensitive medical diagnostic tools but could highly sensitive.
What, what could highly sensitive medical diagnostic tools made with this technology atomic scale manufacturing do for people and it says detect very low levels of various biomarkers in a person’s blood or bodily fluids.
It’s allow for early detection of diseases such as cancer, etc, etc, right.
So now I’m thinking, oh, right.
Another aspect of this precise, Adam, manipulated you’re talking about, might be not just to create new products in the physical world around us, but to create new products within us that teach us about what’s going on in our bodies.
So I would like to make a plug both for your technology and for my love affair for chat CPT, this is a little bit after tellers calls it.
A dumb Jane.
It’s not that creative, it’s not that interesting but there’s a lot of questions that we dumb people have that also aren’t that interesting and its really nice to have this sort of bespoke Wikipedia Jeannie at our fingertips that can just explain these kind of questions to us.
So I find your example magical and I also found this lesser capability to chat gbt magical in this case and it’s still getting better, right?
That’s the thing to remember, is that it’s just going to keep improving.
I I do agree that it’s like a significant breakthrough.
Thank you very, very much.
I think we’ll just have you on every single year to walk us through the most interesting things happening in Science and Tech.
Is this is always one of my favorite pots to do.
Thank you very much man.
And I’ll see you soon.
Yeah, you too.
Thank you for listening.
Plain English is produced by Devon manzi.
If you like the show, please go to Apple podcast or Spotify.
Give us a five star rating.
Leave a review and don’t forget to check out our Tick-Tock at plain English underscore.
Plain English underscore on tick-tock.