The following is a conversation with Eric Weinstein.
He’s a mathematician, economist, physicist, and the managing director of Teal Capital.
He coined the term, and you can say, is the founder of the intellectual dark web, which
is a loosely assembled group of public intellectuals that includes Sam Harris, Jordan Peterson,
Steven Pinker, Joe Rogan, Michael Shermer, and a few others.
This conversation is part of the Artificial Intelligence Podcast at MIT and beyond.
If you enjoy it, subscribe on YouTube, iTunes, or simply connect with me on Twitter at Lex
Friedman, spelled F R I D.
And now, here’s my conversation with Eric Weinstein.
Are you nervous about this?
You mentioned Kung Fu Panda as one of your favorite movies.
It has the usual profound master student dynamic going on.
So who was, who has been a teacher that significantly influenced the direction of your thinking
and life’s work?
So if you’re the Kung Fu Panda, who was your Shifu?
Oh, well, it’s interesting because I didn’t see Shifu as being the teacher.
Who was the teacher?
Oogway, Master Oogway.
Oh, the turtle.
They only meet twice in the entire film.
And the first conversation sort of doesn’t count.
So the magic of the film, in fact, its point is that the teaching that really matters is
transferred during a single conversation and it’s very brief.
And so who played that role in my life?
I would say, uh, either, uh, my grandfather, uh, Harry Rubin and his wife, Sophie Rubin,
my grandmother, or Tom Lehrer.
In which way?
If you give a child Tom Lehrer records, what you do is you destroy their ability to be
taken over by later malware.
And it’s so irreverent, so witty, so clever, so obscene that it destroys the ability to
lead a normal life for many people.
So if I meet somebody who’s usually really shifted from any kind of neurotypical presentation,
I’ll often ask them, uh, are you a Tom Lehrer fan?
And the odds that they will respond are quite high.
Tom Lehrer is, uh, poisoning pigeons in the park, Tom Lehrer.
That’s very interesting.
There are a small number of Tom Lehrer songs that broke into the general population, poisoning
pigeons in the park, the element song, and perhaps the Vatican rag.
Uh, so when you meet somebody who knows those songs but doesn’t know, oh, you’re judging
me right now, aren’t you?
Uh, no, but you’re a Russian, so I doubt as the, you know, Nikolai Ivanovich Lubachevsky,
Um, so that was a song about plagiarism that was in fact plagiarized, which most people
don’t know from Danny Kay, uh, where Danny Kay did a song called Stanislavsky of the
And so Tom Lehrer did this brilliant job of plagiarizing a song about and making it about
plagiarism and then making it about this mathematician who worked in non Euclidean geometry.
That was like, uh, giving heroin to a child.
It was extremely addictive and eventually led me to a lot of different places, one of
which may have been a PhD in mathematics.
And he was also at least a lecturer in mathematics, I believe at Harvard, something like that.
I just had dinner with him.
In fact, uh, when my son turned 13, we didn’t tell him, but, um, his bar mitzvah present
was dinner with his hero, Tom Lehrer.
And Tom Lehrer was 88 years old, sharp as a tack, irreverent and funny as hell.
And just, you know, there are very few people in this world that you have to meet while
they’re still here.
And that was definitely one for our family.
So that wit is a reflection of intelligence in some kind of deep way, like where that
would be a good test of intelligence, whether you’re a Tom Lehrer fan.
So what do you think that is about wit, about that kind of humor, ability to see the absurdity
Well, do you think that’s connected to intelligence or are we just two Jews on a mic that appreciate
that kind of humor?
No, I think that it’s absolutely connected to intelligence.
So you can, you can see it.
There’s a place where Tom Lehrer decides that he’s going to lampoon Gilbert of Gilbert and
Sullivan and he’s going to outdo Gilbert with clever, meaningless wordplay.
And he has, forget the, well, let’s see, he’s doing Clementine as if Gilbert and Sullivan
That I misunderstood depressed her young sister named Mr. This Mr. Depester, she tried pestering
sisters of festering blister you best to resist or say I, the sister persisted the Mr. Resisted
I kissed her all loyalty slip when he said, when she said I could have her, her sister’s
cadaver must surely have turned in its crypt.
That’s so dense.
It’s so insane that that’s clearly intelligence because it’s hard to construct something like
If I look at my favorite Tom Lehrer, Tom Lehrer lyric, you know, there’s a perfectly absurd
one, which is once all the Germans were warlike and mean, but that couldn’t happen again.
We taught them a lesson in 1918 and they’ve hardly bothered us since then, right?
That is a different kind of intelligence.
You know, you’re taking something that is so horrific and you’re, you’re sort of making
it palatable and funny and demonstrating also, um, just your humanity.
I mean, I think the thing that came through as, as Tom Lehrer wrote all of these terrible,
horrible lines was just what a sensitive and beautiful soul he was, who was channeling
pain through humor and through grace.
I’ve seen throughout Europe, throughout Russia, that same kind of humor emerged from the generation
of world war II.
It seemed like that humor is required to somehow deal with the pain and the suffering of that,
that war created.
You do need the environment to create the broad Slavic soul.
I don’t think that many Americans really appreciate, um, Russian humor, how you had to joke during
the time of, let’s say article 58 under Stalin, you had to be very, very careful.
You know, the concept of a Russian satirical magazine like Crocodile, uh, doesn’t make
So you have this cross cultural problem that there are certain areas of human experience
that it would be better to know nothing about.
And quite unfortunately, Eastern Europe knows a great deal about them, which makes the,
you know, the songs of Vladimir Vysotsky so potent, the, uh, you know, the pros of Pushkin,
whatever it is, uh, you have to appreciate the depth of the Eastern European experience.
And I would think that perhaps Americans knew something like this around the time of the
civil war or merit maybe, um, you know, under slavery and Jim Crow or even the, uh, harsh
tyranny of, uh, the coal and steel employers during the labor wars.
Um, but in general, I would say it’s hard for us to understand and imagine the collective
culture unless we have the system of selective pressures that, for example, uh, Russians
were subjected to.
Yeah, so if there’s one good thing that comes out of war, it’s literature, art, and humor
Oh, I don’t think so.
I think almost everything is good about war except for death and destruction.
Without the death, it would bring, uh, the romance of it.
The whole thing is nice.
Well, this is why we’re always caught up in war and we have this very ambiguous relationship
to it is that it makes life real and pressing and meaningful and at an unacceptable price
and the price has never been higher.
So just jump in, uh, into AI a little bit.
You, uh, in one of the conversations you had or one of the videos, you described that one
of the things AI systems can’t do and biological systems can is self replicate in the physical
Oh no, no.
In the physical world.
Well, yes, the physical robots can’t self replicate, but the fit, but you, this is a
very tricky point, which is that the only thing that we’ve been able to create that’s
really complex that has an analog of our reproductive system is software.
But nevertheless, software replicates itself.
Uh, if we’re speaking strictly for the replication in this kind of digital space.
So let me just to begin, let me ask a question.
Do you see a protective barrier or a gap between the physical world and the digital world?
Let’s not call it digital.
Let’s call it the logical world versus the physical world.
Well, because even though we had, let’s say Einstein’s brain preserved, uh, it was meaningless
to us as a physical object because we couldn’t do anything with what was stored in it at
a logical level.
And so the idea that something may be stored logically and that it may be stored physically,
uh, are not necessarily, uh, we don’t always benefit from synonymizing.
I’m not suggesting that there isn’t a material basis to the logical world, but that it does
warrant identification with a separate layer that need not invoke logic gates and zeros
And uh, so connecting those two worlds, the logical world and the physical world, or maybe
just connecting to the logical world inside our brain, Einstein’s brain.
You mentioned the idea of out, outtelligence.
This is the only essay that John Brockman ever invited me to write that he refused to
publish in Edge.
Well, maybe it wasn’t, it wasn’t well written, um, but I don’t know.
The idea is quite compelling is quite unique and new and at least from my view of a stance
point, maybe you can explain it.
What I was thinking about is why it is that we’re waiting to be terrified by artificial
general intelligence when in fact, artificial life, uh, is terrifying in and of itself and
it’s already here.
So in order to have a system of selective pressures, you need three distinct elements.
You need variation within a population.
You need heritability and you need differential success.
So what’s really unique and I’ve made this point, I think elsewhere about software is
that if you think about what humans know how to build, that’s impressive.
So I always take a car and I say, does it have an analog of each of the physical physiological
Does it have a skeletal structure?
That’s its frame.
Does it have a neurological structure?
Has an on board computer, has a digestive system.
The one thing it doesn’t have is a reproductive system.
But if you can call spawn on a process, effectively you do have a reproductive system and that
means that you can create something with variation, heritability and differential success.
Now the next step in the chain of thinking was where do we see inanimate, non intelligent
life outwitting intelligent life?
And um, I have two favorite systems and I try to stay on them so that we don’t get distracted.
One of which is the Ofres orchid, um, subspecies or subclade.
I don’t know what to call it.
There’s a type of flower.
Yeah, it’s a type of flower that mimics the female of a pollinator species in order to
dupe the males into, uh, engaging.
It was called pseudo copulation with the fake female, which is usually represented by the
And there’s also a pheromone component to fool the males into thinking they have a mating
But the flower doesn’t have to give up energy energy in the form of nectar as a lure because
it’s tricking the males.
The other system is a particular species, uh, of muscle lampicillus in the clear streams
of Missouri and it fools bass into biting a fleshy lip that contain its young.
And when the bass see this fleshy lip, which looks exactly like a species of fish that
the bass like to eat, the, uh, the young explode and clamp onto the gills and parasitize the
bass and also lose the best redistribute them as they eventually release both of these systems.
You have a highly intelligent dupe being fooled by a lower life form and what is sculpting
these, these convincing lures.
It’s the intelligence of previously duped targets for these strategies.
So when the target is smart enough to avoid the strategy, uh, those weaker mimics, uh,
They have terminal lines and only the better ones survive.
So it’s an arms race between the target species, uh, that is being parasitized, getting smarter
and this other less intelligent or non intelligent object getting as if smarter.
And so what you see is, is that artificial intelligence, artificial general intelligence
is not needed to parasitize us.
It’s simply sufficient for us to outwit ourselves.
So you could have a program, let’s say, you know, one of these Nigerian scams, um, that
writes letters and uses whoever sends it Bitcoin, uh, to figure out which aspects of the program
should be kept, which should be varied and thrown away.
And you don’t need it to be in any way intelligent in order to have a really nightmarish scenario
of being parasitized by something that has no idea what it’s doing.
So you, you, you phrased a few concepts really eloquently.
So let me try to, uh, as a few directions this goes.
So one first, first of all, in the way we write software today, it’s not common that
we allow it to self modify.
But we do have that ability.
Now we have the ability, it’s just not common.
It’s not just common.
So, so your, your thought is that that is a serious worry.
If there becomes, uh,
Self modifying code is, is available now.
So there’s, there’s different types of self modification, right?
There’s a personalization, you know, your email app, your Gmail is a self modifying
to you after you log in or whatever you can think of it that way.
But ultimately it’s central, all the information is centralized, but you’re thinking of ideas
where you’re completely, so this is an unique entity, uh, operating under selective pressures
and it changes.
Well, you just, if you think about the fact that our immune systems, uh, don’t know what’s
coming at them next, but they have a small set of spanning components and if it’s, if
it’s a sufficiently expressive system in that any shape, uh, or binding region can be approximated,
uh, with, with the Lego that is present, um, then you can have confidence that you don’t
need to know what’s coming at you because the combinatorics, um, are sufficient to reach
any configuration needed.
Uh, so that’s a beautiful thing.
Well, terrifying thing to worry about because it’s so within our reach.
Whatever I suggest these things, I do always have a concern as to whether or not I will
bring them into being by talking about them.
So, uh, there’s this thing from open AI, uh, next, next week to talk to the founder of
open AI, uh, this idea that, uh, their text generation, the new, uh, the new stuff they
have for generating texts is they didn’t want to bring it, they didn’t want to release it
because they’re worried about the.
I’m delighted to hear that, but they’re going to end up releasing.
So that’s the thing is I think talking about it, um, well, at least from my end, I’m more
a proponent of technology preventing tech, uh, so further innovation, preventing the
detrimental effects of innovation.
Well, we’re at a, we’re sort of tumbling down a hill at accelerating speed.
So whether or not we’re proponents or it doesn’t, it doesn’t really, it may not matter, but
I, well, I do feel that there are people who’ve held things back and, uh, you know, died poor
than they might’ve otherwise been.
We don’t even know their names.
I don’t think that we should discount the idea that having the smartest people showing
off how smart they are by what they’ve developed may be a terminal process.
I’m very mindful in particular of a beautiful letter that Edward Teller of all people wrote
to Leo Zillard and where Zillard was trying to figure out how to control the use of atomic
weaponry at the end of world war II and teller rather strangely because many of us view him
as a monster, um, showed some, a very advanced moral thinking talking about the slim chance
we have for survival and that the only hope is to make Warren thinkable.
I do think that not enough of us feel in our gut what it is we are playing with when we
are working on technical problems.
And I would recommend to anyone who hasn’t seen it, a movie called the bridge over the
bridge on the river Kwai about, I believe captured British POWs who just in a desire
to do a bridge well, end up over collaborating with their Japanese captors.
Well now you’re making me a question the unrestricted open discussion of ideas and AI.
I’m not saying I know the answer, I’m just saying that I could make a decent case for
either our need to talk about this and to become technologically focused on containing
it or need to stop talking about this and try to hope that the relatively small number
of highly adept individuals who are looking at these problems is small enough that we
should in fact be talking about how to contain them.
Well the way ideas, the way innovation happens, what new ideas develop, Newton with calculus,
whether if he was silent, the idea would be, would emerge elsewhere in the case of Newton
But in the case of AI, how small is the set of individuals out of which such ideas would
Well the idea is that the researchers we know and those that we don’t know who may live
in countries that don’t wish us to know what level they’re currently at are very disciplined
in keeping these things to themselves.
Of course I will point out that there’s a religious school in Kerala that developed
something very close to the calculus, certainly in terms of infinite series in I guess religious
prayer and rhyme and prose.
So it’s not that Newton had any ability to hold that back and I don’t really believe
that we have an ability to hold it back.
I do think that we could change the proportion of the time we spend worrying about the effects
of what if we are successful rather than simply trying to succeed and hope that we’ll be able
to contain things later.
So on the idea of intelligence, what form, treading cautiously as we’ve agreed as we
tumbled down the hill, what form…
We can’t stop ourselves, can we?
What form do you see it taking?
So one example, Facebook, Google, do want to, I don’t know a better word, you want to
influence users to behave a certain way and so that’s one kind of example of how intelligence
is systems perhaps modifying the behavior of these intelligent human beings in order
to sell more product of different kinds.
But do you see other examples of this actually emerging in…
Just take any parasitic system, make sure that there’s some way in which that there’s
differential success, heritability, and variation.
And those are the magic ingredients and if you really wanted to build a nightmare machine,
make sure that the system that expresses the variability has a spanning set so that it
can learn to arbitrary levels by making it sufficiently expressive.
That’s your nightmare.
So it’s your nightmare, but it could also be, it’s a really powerful mechanism by which
to create, well, powerful systems.
So are you more worried about the negative direction that might go versus the positive?
So you said parasitic, but that doesn’t necessarily need to be what the system converges towards.
It could be, what is it?
And the dividing line between parasitism and symbiosis is not so clear.
That’s what they tell me about marriage.
I’m still single, so I don’t know.
Well yeah, we could go into that too, but no, I think we have to appreciate, are you
infected by your own mitochondria?
So in marriage, you fear the loss of independence, but even though the American therapeutic community
may be very concerned about codependence, what’s to say that codependence isn’t what’s
necessary to have a stable relationship in which to raise children who are maximally
case selected and require incredible amounts of care because you have to wait 13 years
before there’s any reproductive payout and most of us don’t want our 13 year olds having
That’s a very tricky situation to analyze and I would say that predators and parasites
drive much of our evolution and I don’t know whether to be angry at them or thank them.
Well ultimately, I mean nobody knows the meaning of life or what even happiness is, but there
is some metrics.
They didn’t tell you?
That’s why all the poetry and books are about, you know, there’s some metrics under which
you can kind of measure how good it is that these AI systems are roaming about.
So you’re more nervous about software than you are optimistic about ideas of, yeah, self
I don’t think we’ve really felt where we are.
You know, occasionally we get a wake up, 9 11 was so anomalous compared to everything
else we’ve experienced on American soil that it came to us as a complete shock that that
was even a possibility.
What it really was was a highly creative and determined R and D team deep in the bowels
of Afghanistan showing us that we had certain exploits that we were open to that nobody
had chosen to express.
I can think of several of these things that I don’t talk about publicly that just seem
to have to do with, um, how relatively unimaginative those who wish to cause havoc and destruction
have been up until now.
But the great mystery of our time of this particular little era is how remarkably stable
we’ve been since 1945 when we demonstrated the ability to use a nuclear weapons in anger.
And we don’t know why things like that haven’t happened since then.
We’ve had several close calls, we’ve had mistakes, we’ve had a brinksmanship.
And what’s now happened is that we’ve settled into a sense that, Oh, it’s, it’ll always
It’s been so long since something was at that level of danger that we’ve got a wrong idea
in our head.
And that’s why when I went on the Ben Shapiro show, I talked about the need to resume above
ground testing of nuclear devices because we have people whose developmental experience
suggests that when let’s say Donald Trump and North Korea engage on Twitter, Oh, it’s
It’s just posturing.
Everybody’s just in it for money.
There’s, there’s an, a sense that people are in a video game mode, which has been the right
call since 1945.
We’ve been mostly in video game mode.
So you’re worried about a generation which has not seen any existential.
We’ve lived under it.
You see, you’re younger.
I don’t know if, if, and again, you came from, from Moscow.
There was a TV show called the day after that had a huge effect on a generation growing
up in the U S and it talked about what life would be like after a nuclear exchange.
We have not gone through an embodied experience collectively where we’ve thought about this.
And I think it’s one of the most irresponsible things that the elders among us have done,
which is to provide this beautiful garden in which the thorns are cut off of the, of
the Rose bushes and all of the edges are rounded and sanded.
And so people have developed this, this totally unreal idea, which is everything’s going to
be just fine.
And do I think that my leading concern is AGI or my leading concern is a thermonuclear
exchange or gene drives or any one of these things?
I don’t know, but I know that our time here in this very long experiment here is finite
because the toys that we’ve built are so impressive and the wisdom to accompany them has not materialized.
And I think it’s, we actually got a wisdom uptick since 1945.
We had a lot of dangerous skilled players on the world stage who nevertheless, no matter
how bad they were managed to not embroil us in something that we couldn’t come back from
the cold war.
Yeah, and the distance from the cold war, you know, I’m very mindful of a, there was
a Russian tradition actually of on your wedding day, going to visit a memorial to those who
gave their lives.
Can you imagine this where you, on the happiest day of your life, you go and you pay homage
to the people who fought and died in the battle of Stalingrad.
I’m not a huge fan of communism, I got to say, but there were a couple of things that
the Russians did that were really positive in the Soviet era.
And I think trying to let people know how serious life actually is, is the Russian model
of seriousness is better than the American model.
And maybe like you mentioned, there was a small echo of that after 9 11.
But we wouldn’t let it form.
We talk about 9 11, but it’s 9 12 that really moved the needle when we were all just there
and nobody wanted to speak.
We witnessed something super serious and we didn’t want to run to our computers and blast
out our deep thoughts and our feelings.
And it was profound because we woke up briefly, you know, I talk about the gated institutional
narrative that sort of programs our lives.
I’ve seen it break three times in my life, one of which was the election of Donald Trump.
Another time was the fall of Lehman Brothers when everybody who knew that Bear Stearns
wasn’t that important knew that Lehman Brothers met AIG was next.
And the other one was 9 11.
And so if I’m 53 years old and I only remember three times that the global narrative was
really interrupted, that tells you how much we’ve been on top of developing events.
You know, I mean we had the Murrow federal building explosion, but it didn’t cause the
narrative to break.
It wasn’t profound enough.
Around 9 12 we started to wake up out of our slumber and the powers that be did not want
to coming together.
They, you know, the admonition was go shopping.
And the powers that be was what is that force as opposed to blaming individuals?
We don’t know.
So whatever that, whatever that force is, there’s a component of it that’s emergent
and there’s a component of it that’s deliberate.
So give yourself a portfolio with two components.
Some amount of it is emergent, but some amount of it is also an understanding that if people
come together, they become an incredible force.
And what you’re seeing right now I think is there are forces that are trying to come together
and there are forces that are trying to push things apart.
And you know, one of them is the globalist narrative versus the national narrative where
to the global, uh, globalist perspective, uh, the nation nations are bad things in essence
that they’re temporary, they’re nationalistic, they’re jingoistic, it’s all negative to people
in the national, more in the national idiom, they’re saying, look, this is where I pay
This is where I do my army service.
This is where I have a vote.
This is where I have a passport.
Who the hell are you to tell me that because you’ve moved into someplace that you can make
money globally, that you’ve chosen to abandon other people to whom you have a special and
And I think that these competing narratives have been pushing towards the global perspective,
uh, from the elite and a larger and larger number of disenfranchised people are saying,
hey, I actually live in a, in a place and I have laws and I speak a language, I have
And who are you to tell me that because you can profit in some far away land that my obligations
to my fellow countrymen are so, so much diminished.
So these tensions between nations and so on, ultimately you see being proud of your country
and so on, which creates potentially the kind of things that led to wars and so on.
They, they ultimately, it is human nature and it is good for us for wake up calls of
Well, I think that these are tensions and my point isn’t, I mean, nationalism run amok
is a nightmare and internationalism run amok is a nightmare.
And the problem is we’re trying to push these pendulums, uh, to some place where they’re
somewhat balanced, where we, we have a higher duty of care to those, uh, who share our log,
our laws and our citizenship, but we don’t forget our duties of care to the global system.
I would think this is elementary, but the problem that we’re facing concerns the ability
for some to profit at the, by abandoning their obligations, uh, to others within their system.
And that’s what we’ve had for decades.
You mentioned nuclear weapons.
I was hoping to get answers from you since one of the many things you’ve done as a economics
and maybe you can understand human behavior of why the heck we haven’t blown each other
So, uh, we’ll get back.
I don’t know the answer.
It’s a, it’s a fast.
It’s really important to say that we really don’t know.
A mild uptick in wisdom.
Well, Steven Pinker, who I’ve talked with has a lot of really good ideas about why,
but I don’t trust his optimism.
Listen, I’m Russian, so I never trust a guy who was that optimistic.
No, no, no.
It’s just that you’re talking about a guy who’s looking at a system in which more and
more of the kinetic energy like war has been turned into potential energy, like unused
You know, now I’m looking at that system and I’m saying, okay, well, if you don’t have
a potential energy term, then everything’s just getting better and better.
That’s beautifully put.
Only a physicist could.
I’m not a physicist.
Is that a dirty word?
I wish I were a physicist.
My dad’s a physicist.
I’m trying to live up that probably for the rest of my life.
He’s probably gonna listen to this too.
So your friend, Sam Harris, uh, worries a lot about the existential threat of AI.
Not in the way that you’ve described, but in the more, well, he hangs out with Elon.
I don’t know Elon.
So are you worried about that kind of, uh, you know, about the, um, about either robotic
systems or, you know, traditionally defined AI systems essentially becoming a super intelligent,
much more intelligent than human beings and, uh, getting, well, they already are and they’re
not when, when seen as a, um, a collective, you mean, well, I mean, I, I can mean all
sorts of things, but certainly many of the things that we thought were peculiar to general
intelligence or do not require general intelligence.
So that’s been one of the big awakenings that you can write a pretty convincing sports story
from stats alone, uh, without needing to have watched the game.
So you know, is it possible to write lively pros about politics?
Yeah, no, not yet.
So we were sort of all over the map.
One of the, one of the things about chess that you’ll, there’s a question I once asked
on Quora that didn’t get a lot of response, which was what is the greatest brilliancy
ever produced by a computer in a chess game, which was different than the question of what
is the greatest game ever played.
So if you think about brilliancies is what really animates many of us to think of chess
as an art form.
Those are those moves and combinations that just show such flair, panache and, and, and
in soul, um, computers weren’t really great at that.
They were great positional monsters and you know, recently we, we’ve started seeing brilliancies
The grandmasters have identified with, uh, with alpha zero that things were quite brilliant.
So that’s, that’s, that’s a, you know, that’s an example of something we don’t think that
that’s AGI, but in a very restricted set, a set of rules like chess, you’re starting
to see poetry, uh, of a high order.
And, and so I’m not, I don’t like the idea that we’re waiting for AGI, AGI is sort of
slowly infiltrating our lives in the same way that I don’t think a worm should be, you
know, the C elegans shouldn’t be treated as non conscious because it only has 300 neurons.
Maybe it just has a very low level of consciousness because we don’t understand what these things
mean as they scale up.
So am I worried about this general phenomena?
But I think that one of the things that’s happening is that a lot of us are fretting
about this, uh, in part because of human needs.
We’ve always been worried about the Golem, right?
Well, the Golem is the artificially created life, you know, it’s like Frankenstein.
It’s a Jewish version and, um, Frankenberg, Frankenstein, yeah, that’s makes sense, right?
So the, uh, but we’ve always been worried about creating something like this and it’s
getting closer and closer and there are ways in which
we have to realize that the whole thing is kind of, the whole thing that we’ve experienced
are the context of our lives is almost certainly coming to an end.
And I don’t mean to suggest that, uh, we won’t survive.
I don’t know.
And I don’t mean to suggest that it’s coming tomorrow and it could be 300, 500 years, but
there’s no plan that I’m aware of if we have three rocks that we could possibly inhabit
that are, uh, sensible within current technological dreams, the earth, the moon and Mars.
And we have a very competitive civilization that is still forced into violence to sort
out disputes that cannot be arbitrated.
It is not clear to me that we have a longterm future until we get to the next stage, which
is to figure out whether or not the Einsteinian speed limit can be broken.
And that requires our source code.
Our source code, the stuff in our brains to figure out what do you mean by our source
The source code of the context, whatever it is that produces the quarks, the electrons,
Oh, our source code.
I got it.
So this is,
You’re talking about stuff that’s written in a higher level language.
You’re talking about the low level, the bits.
That’s what is currently keeping us here.
We can’t even imagine, you know, we have harebrained schemes for staying within the Einsteinian
Uh, you know, maybe if we could just drug ourselves and go into a suspended state or
we could have multiple generations of that, I think all that stuff is pretty silly, but
I think it’s also pretty silly to imagine that our wisdom is going to increase to the
point that we can have the toys we have and, uh, we’re not going to use them for 500 years.
Speaking of Einstein, I had a profound breakthrough when I realized you’re just one letter away
from the guy.
Yeah, but I’m also one letter away from Feinstein.
It’s, well, you get to pick.
So unified theory, you know, you’ve worked, uh, you, you enjoy the beauty of geometry.
I don’t actually know if you enjoy it.
You certainly are quite good at it.
I tremble before it.
If you’re religious, that is one of the, I don’t have to be religious.
It’s just so beautiful.
You will tremble anyway.
I mean, I just read Einstein’s biography and one of the ways, uh, one of the things you’ve
done is try to explore a unified theory, uh, talking about a 14 dimensional observers that
has the 4d space time continuum embedded in it.
I, I’m just curious how you think and how philosophically at a high level about something
more than four dimensions, uh, how do you try to, what, what does it make you feel?
Talking in the mathematical world about dimensions that are greater than the ones we can perceive.
Is there something that you take away that’s more than just the math?
Well, first of all, stick out your tongue at me.
Now on the front of that time, yeah, there was a sweet receptor and next to that were
salt receptors and two different sides, a little bit farther back.
There were sour receptors and you wouldn’t show me the back of your tongue where your
bitter receptor was.
Show the good side always.
So you had four dimensions of taste receptors, but you also had pain receptors on that tongue
and probably heat receptors on that time.
So let’s assume that you had one of each, that would be six dimensions.
So when you eat something, you eat a slice of pizza and it’s got some, some, uh, some
hot pepper on it, maybe some jalapeno, you’re having a six dimensional experience, dude.
Do you think we overemphasize the value of time as one of the dimensions or space?
Well, we certainly overemphasize the value of time cause we like things to start and
end or we really don’t like things to end, but they seem to.
Well, what if you flipped one of the spatial dimensions into being a temporal dimension?
And you and I were to meet in New York city and say, well, where, where and when should
What about, I’ll meet you on a 36 in Lexington at two in the afternoon and uh, 11 oclock
in the morning.
That would be very confusing.
Well, so it’s convenient for us to think about time, you mean.
We happen to be in a delicious situation in which we have three dimensions of space and
one of time and they’re woven together in this sort of strange fabric where we can trade
off a little space for a little time, but we still only have one dimension that is picked
out relative to the other three.
It’s very much Gladys Knight and the pips.
So which one developed for who?
Do we develop for these dimensions or did the dimensions or were they always there and
Well, do you imagine that there isn’t a place where there are four temporal dimensions or
two and two of space and time or three of time and one of space and then would time
not be playing the role of space?
Why do you imagine that the sector that you’re in is all that there is?
I certainly do not, but I can’t imagine otherwise.
I mean, I haven’t done ayahuasca or any of those drugs that hope to one day, but instead
of doing ayahuasca, you could just head over to building two.
That’s where the mathematicians are?
Yeah, that’s where they hang.
Just to look at some geometry.
Well, just ask about pseudo Ramanian geometry.
That’s what you’re interested in.
Or you could talk to a shaman and end up in Peru.
And then it’s an extra money for that trip.
Yeah, but you won’t be able to do any calculations if that’s how you choose to go about it.
Well, a different kind of calculation, so to speak.
One of my favorite people, Edward Frankel, Berkeley professor, author of Love and Math,
great title for a book, said that you are quite a remarkable intellect to come up with
such beautiful original ideas in terms of unified theory and so on, but you’re working
So one question in developing ideas that are truly original, truly interesting, what’s
the difference between inside academia and outside academia when it comes to developing
Oh, it’s a terrible choice.
So if you do it inside of academics, you are forced to constantly show great loyalty to
the consensus and you distinguish yourself with small, almost microscopic heresies to
make your reputation in general.
And you have very competent people and brilliant people who are working together, who form
very deep social networks and have a very high level of behavior, at least within mathematics
and at least technically within physics, theoretical physics.
When you go outside, you meet lunatics and crazy people, madmen.
And these are people who do not usually subscribe to the consensus position and almost always
lose their way.
And the key question is, will progress likely come from someone who has miraculously managed
to stay within the system and is able to take on a larger amount of heresy that is sort
In which case, that will be fascinating, or is it more likely that somebody will maintain
a level of discipline from outside of academics and be able to make use of the freedom that
comes from not having to constantly affirm your loyalty to the consensus of your field?
So you’ve characterized in ways that academia in this particular sense is declining.
You posted a plot, the older population of the faculty is getting larger, the younger
is getting smaller and so on.
So which direction of the two are you more hopeful about?
Well, the baby boomers can’t hang on forever.
First of all, in general, true, and second of all, in academia.
But that’s really what this time is about.
We’re used to financial bubbles that last a few years in length and then pop.
The baby boomer bubble is this really long lived thing, and all of the ideology, all
of the behavior patterns, the norms.
For example, string theory is an almost entirely baby boomer phenomenon.
It was something that baby boomers were able to do because it required a very high level
of mathematical ability.
You don’t think of string theory as an original idea?
Oh, I mean, it was original to Veneziano, probably is older than the baby boomers.
And there are people who are younger than the baby boomers who are still doing string
And I’m not saying that nothing discovered within the large string theoretic complex
Quite the contrary.
A lot of brilliant mathematics and a lot of the structure of physics was elucidated by
What do I think of the deliverable nature of this product that will not ship called
I think that it is largely an affirmative action program for highly mathematically and
geometrically talented baby boomer physics physicists so that they can say that they’re
working on something within the constraints of what they will say is quantum gravity.
Now there are other schemes, you know, there’s like asymptotic safety, there are other things
that you could imagine doing.
I don’t think much of any of the major programs, but to have inflicted this level of loyalty
through a shibboleth.
Well, surely you don’t question X.
Well, I question almost everything in the string program.
And that’s why I got out of physics.
When you called me a physicist, it was a great honor, but the reason I didn’t become a physicist
wasn’t that I fell in love with mathematics.
I said, wow, in 1984, 1983, I saw the field going mad and I saw that mathematics, which
has all sorts of problems, was not going insane.
And so instead of studying things within physics, I thought it was much safer to study the same
objects within mathematics.
There’s a huge price to pay for that.
You lose physical intuition.
But the point is, is that it wasn’t a North Korean reeducation camp either.
Are you hopeful about cracking open the Einstein unified theory in a way that has been really,
really understanding whether this, uh, uniting everything together with quantum theory and
I mean, I’m trying to play this role myself to do it to the extent of handing it over
to the more responsible, more professional, more competent community.
Um, so I think that they’re wrong about a great number of their belief structures, but
I do believe, I mean, I have a really profound love, hate relationship with this group of
I think the physics side, cause the mathematicians actually seem to be much more open minded
and uh, well they are and they aren’t, they’re open minded about anything that looks like
They’ll study something that isn’t very important physics, but if it’s beautiful mathematics,
then they’ll have a, they have great intuition about these things as good as the mathematicians
And I might even intellectually at some horsepower level, give them the edge.
The theoretical theoretical physics community is bar none.
The most profound intellectual community that we have ever created.
It is the number one.
There’s nobody in second place as far as I’m concerned, like in their spare time and the
spare time they invented molecular biology.
What, what was the origin of molecular biology?
You’re saying something like Francis Crick.
I mean, a lot of, a lot of the early molecular biologists were physicists.
I mean, you know, Schrodinger wrote what is life and that was highly inspirational.
I mean, you have to appreciate that there is no community like the basic research community
in theoretical physics and it’s not something I’m highly critical of these guys.
I think that they would just wasted the decades of time with a near religious devotion to
their misconception of where the problems were in physics.
But this has been the greatest intellectual collapse ever witnessed within academics.
You see it as a collapse or just a lull?
Oh, I’m terrified that we’re about to lose the vitality.
We can’t afford to pay these people.
We can’t afford to give them an accelerator just to play with in case they find something
at the next energy level.
These people created our economy.
They gave us the rad lab and radar.
They gave us two atomic devices to end world war two.
They created the semiconductor and the transistor to power our economy through Moore’s law.
As a positive externality of particle accelerators, they created the worldwide web and we have
the insolence to say, why should we fund you with our taxpayer dollars?
No, the question is, are you enjoying your physics dollars?
These guys signed the world’s worst licensing agreement and if they simply charged for every
time you used a transistor or a URL or enjoyed the piece that they have provided during this
period of time through the terrible weapons that they developed or your communications
devices, all of the things that power our economy, I really think came out of physics,
even to the extent the chemistry came out of physics and molecular biology came out
So, first of all, you have to know that I’m very critical of this community.
Second of all, it is our most important community.
We have neglected it.
We’ve abused it.
We don’t take it seriously.
We don’t even care to get them to rehab after a couple of generations of failure, right?
No one, I think the youngest person to have really contributed to the standard model of
theoretical level was born in 1951, right?
Frank Wilczek and almost nothing has happened that in theoretical physics after 1973, 74
that sent somebody to Stockholm for theoretical development that predicted experiment.
So we have to understand that we are doing this to ourselves.
Now, with that said, these guys have behaved abysmally in my opinion because they haven’t
owned up to where they actually are, what problems they’re really facing, how definite
they can actually be.
They haven’t shared some of their most brilliant discoveries, which are desperately needed
in other fields like gauge theory, which at least the mathematicians can, can share, which
is an upgrade of the differential calculus of Newton and Leibniz.
And they haven’t shared the importance of renormalization theory.
Even though this should be standard operating procedure for people across the sciences dealing
with different layers and different levels of phenomena.
And by shared, you mean communicated in such a way that it disseminates throughout the
These guys are sitting, both theoretical physicists and mathematicians are sitting on top of a
giant stockpile of intellectual gold, right?
They have so many things that have not been manifested anywhere.
I was just on Twitter, I think I mentioned the Habermann switch pitch that shows the
self duality of the tetrahedron realized as a linkage mechanism.
Now this is like a triviality and it makes an amazing toy that’s, you know, built a market,
hopefully a fortune for Chuck Habermann.
Well, you have no idea how much great stuff that these priests have in their monastery.
So it’s truly a love and hate relationship for you.
Well, it sounds like it’s more on the love side.
This building that we’re in right here is the building in which I really put together
the conspiracy between the National Academy of Sciences and the National Science Foundation
through the government university industry research round table to destroy the bargaining
power of American academics, uh, using foreign labor with, uh, on microfeature in the base.
That was done here in this building.
Isn’t that weird?
And I’m, I’m truly speaking with a revolutionary and a radical, uh, no, no, no, no, no, no,
no, no, no, no, no, no.
At an intellectual level, I am absolutely garden variety.
I’m just straight down the middle.
The system that we are in this, this university is functionally insane.
Harvard is functionally insane and we don’t understand that when we get these things wrong,
the financial crisis made this very clear.
There was a long period where every grownup, everybody with a tie, uh, who spoke in a,
you know, in Barrett, baritone tones, uh, with, with the right degree at the end of
Uh, we’re talking about how we banished volunteer volatility.
We were in the great moderation.
They were all crazy.
And who was, who was right?
It was like Nassim Taleb, Nouriel Roubini.
Now what happens is, is that they claimed the market went crazy, but the market didn’t
The market had been crazy and what happened is, is that it suddenly went sane.
Well, that’s where we are with academics.
Academics right now is mad as a hatter and it’s, it’s absolutely evident.
I can show you graph after graph.
I can show you the internal discussions.
I can show you the conspiracies.
Barrett’s dealing with one right now over, uh, it’s admissions policies for people, uh,
of color, uh, who happened to come from Asia.
All of this madness is necessary to keep the game going.
What we’re talking about just on, well, we’re on the topic of revolutionaries is we’re talking
about the danger of an outbreak of sanity.
You’re, you’re the guy pointing out the elephant in the room here and the elephant has no clothes.
Is that how that goes?
I was going to talk a little bit to, uh, Joe Rogan about this, ran out of time, but I think
you’re, you have some, you, just listening to you, you could probably speak really eloquently
to academia on the difference between the different fields.
So you think there’s a difference between science, engineering, and then the humanities
in academia in terms of tolerance that they’re willing to tolerate?
So from my perspective, I thought computer science and maybe engineering is more tolerant
to radical ideas, but that’s perhaps innocent of me is that I always, you know, all the
battles going on now are a little bit more on the humanity side and gender studies and
Have you seen the, uh, American mathematical society’s publication of an essay called get
out the way?
I have not.
What’s, what’s the idea is that white men who hold, uh, positions.
Within universities and mathematics should vacate their positions so that young black
women can take over something like this.
That’s in terms of diversity, which I also want to ask you about, but in terms of diversity
of strictly ideas, do you think, cause you’re basically saying physics as a community has
become a little bit intolerant to some degree to new radical ideas, or at least you, uh,
you said it’s changed a little bit recently, which is that even string theory is now admitting,
okay, we don’t look very promising in the short term, right?
So the question is what compiles if you want to take the computer science metaphor, what
will get you into a journal?
Will you spend your life trying to push some paper into a journal or will it be accepted
What about the characteristics of the submitter and what gets taken up and what does not?
All of these fields are experiencing pressure because no field is performing so brilliantly
well, um, that it’s revolutionizing our way of speaking and thinking in the ways in which
we’ve become accustomed.
But don’t you think even in theoretical physics, a lot of times, even with theories like string
theory, you could speak to this, it does eventually lead to what are the ways that this theory
would be testable.
Yeah, ultimately, although look, there’s this thing about popper and the scientific method
that’s a cancer and a disease and the minds of very smart people.
That’s not really how most of the stuff gets worked out.
It’s how it gets checked.
All right, so, and there is a dialogue between theory and experiment, but everybody should
read Paul directs 1963 American scientific American article where he, he, you know, it’s
He talks about it as if it was about the Schrodinger equation and Schrodinger’s failure to advance
his own work because of his failure to account for some phenomenon.
The key point is that if your theory is a slight bit off, it won’t agree with experiment,
but it doesn’t mean that the theory is actually wrong.
Um, but direct could as easily have been talking about his own equation in which he predicted
that the electrons should have an antiparticle.
And since the only positively charged particle that was known at the time was the proton,
Heisenberg pointed out, well, shouldn’t your antiparticle, the proton have the same mass
as the electron and doesn’t that invalidate your theory?
So I think the direct was actually being quite potentially quite sneaky, um, and, uh, talking
about the fact that he had been pushed off of his own theory to some extent by Heisenberg.
Um, but look, we’ve fetishized the scientific method and popper and falsification, um, because
it protects us from crazy ideas entering the field.
So you know, it’s a question of balancing type one and type two error.
And we’re pretty, we were pretty maxed out in one direction.
The opposite of that, let me say what comforts me sort of biology or engineering, uh, at
the end of the day, does the thing work?
You can test the crazies away and the crazy.
Well see now you’re saying, but some ideas are truly crazy and some are, are actually
So, well there’s pre correct currently crazy.
And so you don’t want to get rid of everybody who’s pre correct and currently crazy.
Um, the problem is, is that we don’t have standards in general for trying to determine
who has to be put to the sword in terms of their career and who has to be protected,
uh, as some sort of giant time suck pain in the ass, uh, who may change everything.
Do you think that’s possible?
Uh, creating a mechanism of those select?
Well, you’re not going to like the answer, but here it comes.
It has to do with very human elements.
We’re trying to do this at the level of like rules and fairness.
That’s not going to work cause the only thing that really understands this, you read the
It’s a book.
Oh, you have to read this book.
Not only did Jim Watson, uh, half discover this three dimensional structure of DNA, he’s
also one hell of a writer before he became an ass, uh, that no, he’s tried to destroy
his own reputation.
I knew about the ass, I didn’t know about the good writer.
Jim Watson is one of the most important people now living.
And uh, as I’ve said before, Jim Watson is too important, a legacy to be left to Jim
Um, yeah, that book tells you more about what actually moves the dial, right?
There’s another story about him, which I don’t, don’t agree with, which is that he stole everything
from Rosalind Franklin.
I mean the, the problems that he had with Rosalind Franklin are real, but we should
actually honor that tension in our history by delving into it rather than having a simple
Jim Watson talks about Francis Crick being a pain in the ass that everybody secretly
knew was super brilliant.
And there’s an encounter between, uh, Chargaff, uh, who came up with the equimolar relations
between the nucleotides who should have gotten the structure of DNA and Watson and Crick.
And you know, he talks about missing a shiver in the heartbeat of biology and stuff is so
It just makes you tremble even thinking about it.
Um, look, we know very often who is to be feared and we need to fund the people that
The people who are wasting our time need to be excluded from the conversation.
You see, and you know, maybe we’ll make some errors in both directions.
But we have known our own people.
We know the pains in the asses that might work out and we know the people who are really
just blowhards who really have very little to contribute most of the time.
It’s not a hundred percent, but you’re not going to get there with rules.
It’s a using some kind of instinct.
I mean, I, to be honest, I’m going to make you roll your eyes for a second, but uh, and
the first time I heard that there is a large community of people who believe the earth
is flat actually made me pause and ask myself the question, why would there be such a community?
Is it possible the earth is flat?
So I had to like, wait a minute.
I mean, then you go through a thinking process that I think is really healthy.
It ultimately ends up being a geometry thing.
I think, uh, it’s an interesting, it’s an interesting thought experiment at the very
Well, I don’t, I do a different version of it.
I say, why is this community stable?
That’s a good, uh, way to analyze it.
Well, interesting that whatever we’ve done has not erased the community.
So you know, they’re taking a long shot bet that won’t pan out, you know, maybe we just
haven’t thought enough about the rationality of the square root of two and somebody brilliant
will figure it out.
Maybe we will eventually land one day on the surface of Jupiter and explore it, right?
These are crazy things that will never happen.
So much of social media operates by AI algorithms.
You talked about this a little bit, uh, recommending the content you see.
So on this idea of radical thought, how much should AI show you things you disagree with
on Twitter and so on in a Twitter word verse in this question?
Cause you don’t know the answer?
No, no, no, no.
Look, we’ve been, they’ve pushed out this cognitive Lego to us that will just lead to
It’s good to be challenged with things that you disagree with.
The answer is no, it’s good to be challenged with interesting things with which you currently
disagree, but that might be true.
So I don’t really care about whether or not I disagree with something or don’t disagree.
I need to know why that particular disagreeable thing is being pushed out.
Is it because it’s likely to be true?
Is it because, is there some reason?
Because I can write, I can write a computer generator, uh, to come up with an infinite
number of disagreeable statements that nobody needs to look at.
So please, before you push things at me that are disagreeable, tell me why.
There is an aspect in which that question is quite dumb, especially because it’s being
used to, uh, almost, um, uh, very generically by these different networks to say, well,
we’re trying to work this out.
But you know, basically, uh, how much do you see the value of seeing things, uh, you don’t
like, not you disagree with, because it’s very difficult to know exactly what you articulated,
which is, uh, the stuff that’s important for you to consider that you disagree with.
That’s really hard to figure out.
The bottom line is this stuff you don’t like.
If you’re a, uh, uh, Hillary Clinton supporter, you may not want to, it might not make you
feel good to see anything about Donald Trump.
That’s the only thing algorithms can really optimize for currently.
They really can’t.
Now they can do better.
This is where we’re.
You think so?
No, we’re engaged in some moronic back and forth where I have no idea why people who
are capable of building Google, Facebook, Twitter are having us in these incredibly
low level discussions.
Do they not know any smart people?
Do they not have the phone numbers of people who can elevate these discussions?
They do, but this, they’re optimizing for a different thing and they’re pushing those
people out of those rooms.
They’re, they’re optimizing for things we can’t see.
And yes, profit is there.
Nobody, nobody’s questioning that, but they’re also optimizing for things like political
control or the fact that they’re doing business in Pakistan.
And so they don’t want to talk about all the things that they’re going to be bending to
So we’re involved in a fake discussion.
You think so?
You think these conversations at that depth are happening inside Google?
You don’t think they have some basic metrics under user engagements?
You’re having a fake conversation with us guys.
We know you’re having a fake conversation.
I do not wish to be part of your fake conversation.
You know how to cool, you know, these units, you know, high availability, like nobody’s
My Gmail never goes down.
So you think just because they can do incredible work on the software side with infrastructure,
they can also deal with some of these difficult questions about human behavior, human understanding.
I mean, I’ve seen the, I’ve seen the developers screens that people take shots of inside of
And I’ve heard stories inside of Facebook and Apple.
We’re not, we’re engaged.
They’re engaging us in the wrong conversations.
We are not at this low level.
Here’s one of my favorite questions.
Why is every piece of hardware that I purchase in tech space equipped as a listening device?
Where’s my physical shutter to cover my lens?
We had this in the 1970s, cameras that had lens caps, you know, how much would it cost
to have a security model pay five extra bucks?
Why is my indicator light software controlled?
Why when my camera is on, do I not see that the light is on by putting it as something
that cannot be bypassed?
Why have you set up my, all of my devices at some difficulty to yourselves as listening
devices and we don’t even talk about this.
This is, this thing is total fucking bullshit.
Well, I hope these discussions are happening about privacy.
Is there a more difficult thing you’re giving them credit for?
It’s not just privacy.
It’s about social control.
We’re talking about social control.
Why do I not have controls over my own levers?
Just have a really cute UI where I can switch, I can dial things or I can at least see what
the algorithms are.
You think that there is some deliberate choices being made here.
There’s emergence and there is intention.
There are two dimensions.
The vector does not collapse onto either axis, but the idea that anybody who suggests that
intention is completely absent is a child.
That’s really beautifully put and uh, like many things you’ve said is going to make me
can I turn this around slightly?
I sit down with you and you say that you’re obsessed with my feed.
I don’t even know what my feed is.
What are you seeing that I’m not?
I was obsessively looking through your feed on Twitter because it was really enjoyable
because there’s the Tom layer element is the humor in it.
By the way, that feed is Eric R. Weinstein on Twitter at Eric R. Weinstein.
No, but seriously, why?
Why did I find it enjoyable or what was I seeing?
What are you looking for?
Why are we doing this?
What is this podcast about?
I know you’ve got all these interesting people.
I’m just some guy who’s sort of a podcast guest.
Sort of a podcast.
You’re not even wearing a tie.
I mean, it’s not even a serious interview.
I’m searching for meaning, for happiness, for a dopamine rush, so short term, long term.
And how are you finding your way to me?
I don’t honestly know what I’m doing to reach you.
The representing ideas which feel common sense to me and not many people are speaking.
So it’s kind of like the intellectual dark web folks, right?
These folks from Sam Harris to Jordan Peterson to yourself are saying things where you’re
like saying, look, there’s an elephant and he’s not wearing any clothes.
And I say, yeah, yeah, let’s have more of that conversation.
That’s how I’m finding you.
I’m desperate to try to change the conversation we’re having.
I’m very worried we’ve got an election in 2020.
I don’t think we can afford four more years of a misinterpreted message, which is what
Donald Trump was.
And I don’t want the destruction of our institutions.
They all seem hell bent on destroying themselves.
So I’m trying to save theoretical physics, trying to save the New York Times, trying
to save our various processes.
And I think it feels delusional to me that this is falling to a tiny group of people
who are willing to speak out without getting so freaked out that everything they say will
be misinterpreted and that their lives will be ruined through the process.
I mean, I think we’re in an absolutely bananas period of time and I don’t believe it should
fall to such a tiny number of shoulders to shoulder this way.
So I have to ask you on the capitalism side, you mentioned that technology is killing capitalism
or it has effects that are unintended, well, not unintended, but not what economists would
predict or speak of capitalism creating.
I just want to talk to you about in general, the effect of even then artificial intelligence
or technology automation taking away jobs and these kinds of things and what you think
is the way to alleviate that, whether the Andrew Ng presidential candidate with universal
basic income, UBI, what are your thoughts there?
How do we fight off the negative effects of technology that…
All right, you’re a software guy, right?
A human being is a worker is an old idea, a human being has a worker is a different
So if you think about object oriented programming as a paradigm, a human being has a worker
and a human being has a soul.
We’re talking about the fact that for a period of time, the worker that a human being has
was in a position to feed the soul that a human being has.
However, we have two separate claims on the value in society.
One is as a worker and the other is as a soul and the soul needs sustenance, it needs dignity,
it needs meaning, it needs purpose.
As long as your means of support is not highly repetitive, I think you have a while to go
before you need to start worrying.
And if what you do is highly repetitive and it’s not terribly generative, you are in the
cross hairs of for loops and while loops.
And that’s what computers excel at, repetitive behavior and when I say repetitive, I may
mean things that have never happened through combinatorial possibilities, but as long as
it has a looped characteristic to it, you’re in trouble.
We are seeing a massive push towards socialism because capitalists are slow to address the
fact that a worker may not be able to make claims, a relatively undistinguished median
member of our society is still has needs to reproduce, needs to have to dignity.
And when capitalism abandons the median individual or the bottom 10th or whatever it’s going
to do, it’s flirting with revolution.
And what concerns me is that the capitalists aren’t sufficiently capitalistic to understand
You really want to court authoritarian control in our society because you can’t see that
people may not be able to defend themselves in the marketplace because the marginal product
of their labor was too low to feed their dignity as a soul.
So my great concern is that our free society has to do with the fact that we are self organized.
I remember looking down from my office in Manhattan when Lehman brothers collapsed and
thinking who’s going to tell all these people that they need to show up at work when they
don’t have a financial system to incentivize them to show up at work.
So my complaint is first of all, not with the socialists, but with the capitalists,
which is you guys are being idiots.
You’re courting revolution by continuing to harp on the same old ideas that, well, you
know, try, try harder, bootstrap yourself.
Yeah, to an extent that works to an extent, but we are clearly headed in a place that
there’s nothing that ties together our need to contribute and our need to consume.
And that may not be provided by capitalism because it may have been a temporary phenomena.
So check out my article on anthropic capitalism and the new gimmick economy.
I think people are late getting the wake up call and we would be doing a better job saving
capitalism from itself because I don’t want this done under authoritarian control.
And the more we insist that everybody who’s not thriving in our society during their reproductive
years in order to have a family is failing at a personal level.
I mean, what a disgusting thing that we’re saying.
What horrible message who, who the hell have we become that we’ve so bought into the Chicago
model that we can’t see the humanity that we’re destroying in that process.
And it’s, I hate, I hate the thought of communism.
I really do.
My family has flirted with it decades past.
It’s a wrong, bad idea, but we are going to need to figure out how to make sure that those
souls are nourished and respected and capitalism better have an answer.
And I’m betting on capitalism, but I’ve got to tell you, I’m pretty disappointed with
So you’re still on the capitalism team.
You just, uh, there’s a theme here.
I want, I think hyper capitalism is going to have to be coupled to hyper socialism.
You need to allow the most productive people to create wonders and you’ve got to stop bogging
them down with all of these extra nice requirements.
You know, nice is dead.
Good has a future.
Nice doesn’t have a future because nice ends up with, with gulags.
Damn, that’s a good line.
You tweeted today a simple, quite insightful equation saying, uh, imagine that every unit
F of fame you picked up as stalkers and H haters.
So I imagine S and H are dependent on your path to fame perhaps a little bit.
Well, it’s not as simple.
I mean, people always take these things literally when you have like 280 characters to explain
So you mean that that’s not a mathematical, uh, no, there’s no law.
So I put the word imagine because I still have a mathematician’s desire for precision.
Imagine that this were true, but it was a beautiful way to imagine that there is a law
that has those variables in it.
And uh, you’ve become quite famous these days.
So how do you yourself optimize that equation with the peculiar kind of fame that you have
gathered along the way?
I want to be kinder.
I want to be kinder to myself.
I want to be kinder to others.
I want to be able to have heart, compassion, or these things are really important.
And uh, I have a pretty spectrumy kind of approach to analysis.
I’m quite literal.
I can go full rain man on you at any given moment.
No, I can’t.
Uh, it’s facultative autism if you like, and people are gonna get angry because they want
autism to be respected.
So when you see me coding or you see me doing mathematics, I’m, you know, I speak with speech
apnea, uh, be right down to dinner, you know, we have to try to integrate ourselves and
those tensions between, you know, it’s sort of back to us as a worker and us as a soul.
Many of us are optimizing one to the, at the expense of the other.
And I struggle with social media and I struggle with people making threats against our families
and I struggle with, um, just how much pain people are in.
And if there’s one message I would like to push out there, um, you’re responsible, everybody,
all of us, myself included with struggling, struggle, struggle mightily because you, it’s
nobody else’s job to do your struggle for you.
Now with that said, if you’re struggling and you’re trying and you’re trying to figure
out how to better yourself and where you failed and where you’ve let down your family, your
friends, your workers, all this kind of stuff, give yourself a break.
You know, if, if, if it’s not working out, I have a lifelong relationship with failure
There’s been no period of my life where both haven’t been present in one form or another.
And I do wish to say that a lot of times people think this is glamorous.
I’m about to go, you know, do a show with Sam Harris.
People are going to listen in on two guys having a conversation on stage.
It’s completely crazy when I’m always trying to figure out how to make sure that those
people get maximum value.
And uh, that’s why I’m doing this podcast, you know, just give yourself a break.
You owe us, you owe us your struggle.
You don’t owe your family or your coworkers or your lovers or your family members success.
Um, as long as you’re in there and you’re picking yourself up, recognize that this,
this new situation with the economy that doesn’t have the juice to sustain our institutions
has caused the people who’ve risen to the top of those institutions to get quite brutal
Everybody is lying at the moment.
Nobody’s really a truth teller.
Um, try to keep your humanity about you.
Try to recognize that if you’re failing, if things aren’t where you want them to be and
you’re struggling and you’re trying to figure out what you’re doing wrong, which you could
do, it’s not necessarily all your fault.
We are in a global situation.
I have not met the people who are honest, kind, good, successful.
Nobody that I’ve met is checking all the boxes.
Nobody’s getting all tens.
So I just think that’s an important message that doesn’t get pushed out enough.
Either people want to hold society responsible for their failures, which is not reasonable.
You have to struggle, you have to try, or they want to say you’re a hundred percent
responsible for your failures, which is total nonsense.
Eric, thank you so much for talking today.
Thanks for having me, buddy.