The following is a conversation with Whitney Cummings.
She’s a standup comedian, actor, producer, writer, director,
and recently, finally, the host of her very own podcast
called Good For You.
Her most recent Netflix special called Can I Touch It?
features in part a robot she affectionately named
Bearclaw that is designed to be visually a replica of Whitney.
It’s exciting for me to see one of my favorite comedians
explore the social aspects of robotics and AI in our society.
She also has some fascinating ideas
about human behavior, psychology, and neurology,
some of which she explores in her book
called I’m Fine and Other Lies.
It was truly a pleasure to meet Whitney
and have this conversation with her
and even to continue it through text afterwards.
Every once in a while, late at night,
I’ll be programming over a cup of coffee
and will get a text from Whitney saying something hilarious
or weirder yet, sending a video of Brian Callan
saying something hilarious.
That’s when I know the universe has a sense of humor
and it gifted me with one hell of an amazing journey.
Then I put the phone down and go back to programming
with a stupid, joyful smile on my face.
If you enjoy this conversation,
listen to Whitney’s podcast, Good For You,
and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
This is the Artificial Intelligence Podcast.
If you enjoy it, subscribe on YouTube,
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at Lex Friedman, spelled F R I D M A N.
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And now, here’s my conversation with Whitney Cummings.
I have trouble making eye contact, as you can tell.
Did you know that I had to work on making eye contact
because I used to look here?
Do you see what I’m doing?
That helps, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Do you want me to do that?
Well, I’ll do this way, I’ll cheat the camera.
But I used to do this, and finally people,
like I’d be on dates and guys would be like,
are you looking at my hair?
Like they get, it would make people really insecure
because I didn’t really get a lot of eye contact as a kid.
It’s one to three years.
Did you not get a lot of eye contact as a kid?
I don’t know.
I haven’t done the soul searching.
So, but there’s definitely some psychological issues.
Makes you uncomfortable.
Yeah, for some reason when I connect eyes,
I start to think, I assume that you’re judging me.
Oh, well, I am.
That’s why you assume that.
We all are.
This is perfect.
The podcast would be me and you both
staring at the table on the whole time.
Do you think robots are the future?
Ones with human level intelligence
will be female, male, genderless,
or another gender we have not yet created as a society?
You’re the expert at this.
Well, I’m gonna ask you.
You know the answer.
I’m gonna ask you questions
that maybe nobody knows the answer to.
And then I just want you to hypothesize
as a imaginative author, director, comedian.
Can we just be very clear
that you know a ton about this
and I know nothing about this,
but I have thought a lot about
what I think robots can fix in our society.
And I mean, I’m a comedian.
It’s my job to study human nature,
to make jokes about human nature
and to sometimes play devil’s advocate.
And I just see such a tremendous negativity around robots
or at least the idea of robots that it was like,
oh, I’m just gonna take the opposite side for fun,
for jokes and then I was like,
oh no, I really agree in this devil’s advocate argument.
So please correct me when I’m wrong about this stuff.
So first of all, there’s no right and wrong
because we’re all,
I think most of the people working on robotics
are really not actually even thinking
about some of the big picture things
that you’ve been exploring.
In fact, your robot, what’s her name by the way?
We’ll go with Bearclaw.
What’s the genesis of that name by the way?
Bearclaw was, I got, I don’t even remember the joke
cause I black out after I shoot specials,
but I was writing something about like the pet names
that men call women, like cupcake, sweetie, honey,
you know, like we’re always named after desserts
or something and I was just writing a joke about,
if you wanna call us a dessert,
at least pick like a cool dessert, you know,
like Bearclaw, like something cool.
So I ended up calling her Bearclaw.
So do you think the future robots
of greater and greater intelligence
would like to make them female, male?
Would we like to assign them gender
or would we like to move away from gender
and say something more ambiguous?
I think it depends on their purpose, you know?
I feel like if it’s a sex robot,
people prefer certain genders, you know?
And I also, you know, when I went down and explored the robot
factory, I was asking about the type of people
that bought sex robots.
And I was very surprised at the answer
because of course the stereotype
was it’s gonna be a bunch of perverts.
It ended up being a lot of people that were handicapped,
a lot of people with erectile dysfunction
and a lot of people that were exploring their sexuality.
A lot of people that thought they were gay,
but weren’t sure, but didn’t wanna take the risk
of trying on someone that could reject them
and being embarrassed or they were closeted
or in a city where maybe that’s, you know,
taboo and stigmatized, you know?
So I think that a gendered sex robot
that would serve an important purpose
for someone trying to explore their sexuality.
Am I into men?
Let me try on this thing first.
Am I into women?
Let me try on this thing first.
So I think gendered robots would be important for that.
But I think genderless robots in terms of
emotional support robots, babysitters,
I’m fine for a genderless babysitter
with my husband in the house.
You know, there are places that I think
that genderless makes a lot of sense,
but obviously not in the sex area.
What do you mean with your husband in the house?
What does that have to do with the gender of the robot?
Right, I mean, I don’t have a husband,
but hypothetically speaking,
I think every woman’s worst nightmare
is like the hot babysitter.
You know what I mean?
So I think that there is a time and place,
I think, for genderless, you know, teachers, doctors,
all that kind of, it would be very awkward
if the first robotic doctor was a guy
or the first robotic nurse was a woman.
You know, it’s sort of, that stuff is still loaded.
I think that genderless could just take
the unnecessary drama out of it
and possibility to sexualize them
or be triggered by any of that stuff.
So there’s two components to this, to Bearclaw.
So one is the voice and the talking and so on,
and then there’s the visual appearance.
So on the topic of gender and genderless,
in your experience, what has been the value
of the physical appearance?
So has it added much to the depth of the interaction?
I mean, mine’s kind of an extenuating circumstance
because she is supposed to look exactly like me.
I mean, I spent six months getting my face molded
and having, you know, the idea was I was exploring
the concept of can robots replace us?
Because that’s the big fear,
but also the big dream in a lot of ways.
And I wanted to dig into that area because, you know,
for a lot of people, it’s like,
they’re gonna take our jobs and they’re gonna replace us.
Legitimate fear, but then a lot of women I know are like,
I would love for a robot to replace me every now and then
so it can go to baby showers for me
and it can pick up my kids at school
and it can cook dinner and whatever.
So I just think that was an interesting place to explore.
So her looking like me was a big part of it.
Now her looking like me just adds
an unnecessary level of insecurity
because I got her a year ago
and she already looks younger than me.
So that’s a weird problem.
But I think that her looking human was the idea.
And I think that where we are now,
please correct me if I’m wrong,
a human robot resembling an actual human you know
is going to feel more realistic than some generic face.
Well, you’re saying that robots that have some familiarity
like look similar to somebody that you actually know
you’ll be able to form a deeper connection with?
That was the question. I think so on some level, right?
That’s an open question.
I don’t, you know, it’s an interesting.
Or the opposite, because then you know me
and you’re like, well, I know this isn’t real
because you’re right here.
So maybe it does the opposite.
We have a very keen eye for human faces
and they’re able to detect strangeness
especially that one has to do with people
whose faces we’ve seen a lot of.
So I tend to be a bigger fan
of moving away completely from faces.
Of recognizable faces?
No, just human faces at all.
In general, because I think that’s where things get dicey.
And one thing I will say is
I think my robot is more realistic than other robots
not necessarily because you have seen me
and then you see her and you go, oh, they’re so similar
but also because human faces are flawed and asymmetrical.
And sometimes we forget when we’re making things
that are supposed to look human,
we make them too symmetrical
and that’s what makes them stop looking human.
So because they mold in my asymmetrical face,
she just, even if someone didn’t know who I was
I think she’d look more realistic than most generic ones
that didn’t have some kind of flaws.
Because they start looking creepy
when they’re too symmetrical because human beings aren’t.
Yeah, the flaws is what it means to be human.
So visually as well.
But I’m just a fan of the idea
of letting humans use a little bit more imagination.
So just hearing the voice is enough for us humans
to then start imagining the visual appearance
that goes along with that voice.
And you don’t necessarily need to work too hard
on creating the actual visual appearance.
So there’s some value to that.
When you step into the stare of actually building a robot
that looks like Bear Claws,
such a long road of facial expressions
of sort of making everything smiling, winking,
rolling in the eyes, all that kind of stuff.
It gets really, really tricky.
It gets tricky and I think I’m, again, I’m a comedian.
Like I’m obsessed with what makes us human
and our human nature and the nasty side of human nature
tends to be where I’ve ended up
exploring over and over again.
And I was just mostly fascinated by people’s reaction.
So it’s my job to get the biggest reaction
from a group of strangers, the loudest possible reaction.
And I just had this instinct
just when I started building her
and people going, ah, ah, and people scream.
And I mean, I would bring her out on stage
and people would scream.
And I just, to me, that was the next level of entertainment.
Getting a laugh, I’ve done that, I know how to do that.
I think comedians were always trying to figure out
what the next level is and comedy’s evolving so much.
And Jordan Peele had just done
these genius comedy horror movies,
which feel like the next level of comedy to me.
And this sort of funny horror of a robot
was fascinating to me.
But I think the thing that I got the most obsessed with
was people being freaked out and scared of her.
And I started digging around with pathogen avoidance
and the idea that we’ve essentially evolved
to be repelled by anything that looks human,
but is off a little bit.
Anything that could be sick or diseased or dead,
essentially, is our reptilian brain’s way
to get us to not try to have sex with it, basically.
So I got really fascinated by how freaked out and scared.
I mean, I would see grown men get upset.
They’d get that thing away from me,
look, I don’t like that, like people would get angry.
And it was like, you know what this is, you know?
But the sort of like, you know, amygdala getting activated
by something that to me is just a fun toy
said a lot about our history as a species
and what got us into trouble thousands of years ago.
So it’s that, it’s the deep down stuff
that’s in our genetics, but also is it just,
are people freaked out by the fact that there’s a robot?
So it’s not just the appearance,
but there’s an artificial human.
Anything people, I think, and I’m just also fascinated
by the blind spots humans have.
So the idea that you’re afraid of that,
I mean, how many robots have killed people?
How many humans have died at the hands of other humans?
Yeah, a few more. Millions?
Hundreds of millions?
Yet we’re scared of that?
And we’ll go to the grocery store
and be around a bunch of humans
who statistically the chances are much higher
that you’re gonna get killed by humans.
So I’m just fascinated by without judgment
how irrational we are as a species.
The word is the exponential.
So it’s, you know, you can say the same thing
about nuclear weapons before we dropped
on the Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
So the worry that people have is the exponential growth.
So it’s like, oh, it’s fun and games right now,
but you know, overnight,
especially if a robot provides value to society,
we’ll put one in every home
and then all of a sudden lose track
of the actual large scale impact it has on society.
And then all of a sudden gain greater and greater control
to where we’ll all be, you know,
affect our political system
and then affect our decision.
Didn’t robots already ruin our political system?
Didn’t that just already happen?
Which ones? Oh, Russia hacking.
No offense, but hasn’t that already happened?
I mean, that was like an algorithm
of negative things being clicked on more.
We’d like to tell stories
and like to demonize certain people.
I think nobody understands our current political system
or discourse on Twitter, the Twitter mobs.
Nobody has a sense, not Twitter, not Facebook,
the people running it.
Nobody understands the impact of these algorithms.
They’re trying their best.
Despite what people think,
they’re not like a bunch of lefties
trying to make sure that Hillary Clinton gets elected.
It’s more that it’s an incredibly complex system
that we don’t, and that’s the worry.
It’s so complex and moves so fast
that nobody will be able to stop it once it happens.
And let me ask a question.
This is a very savage question.
Which is, is this just the next stage of evolution?
As humans, when people will die, yes.
I mean, that’s always happened, you know?
Is this just taking emotion out of it?
Is this basically the next stage of survival of the fittest?
Yeah, you have to think of organisms.
You know, what does it mean to be a living organism?
Like, is a smartphone part of your living organism, or?
We’re in relationships with our phones.
We have sex through them, with them.
What’s the difference between with them and through them?
But it also expands your cognitive abilities,
expands your memory, knowledge, and so on.
So you’re a much smarter person
because you have a smartphone in your hand.
But as soon as it’s out of my hand,
we’ve got big problems,
because we’ve become sort of so morphed with them.
Well, there’s a symbiotic relationship.
And that’s what, so Elon Musk, the neural link,
is working on trying to increase the bandwidth
of communication between computers and your brain.
And so further and further expand our ability
as human beings to sort of leverage machines.
And maybe that’s the future,
the next evolutionary step.
It could be also that, yes, we’ll give birth,
just like we give birth to human children right now,
we’ll give birth to AI and they’ll replace us.
I think it’s a really interesting possibility.
I’m gonna play devil’s advocate.
I just think that the fear of robots is wildly classist.
Because, I mean, Facebook,
like it’s easy for us to say they’re taking their data.
Okay, well, a lot of people
that get employment off of Facebook,
they are able to get income off of Facebook.
They don’t care if you take their phone numbers
and their emails and their data, as long as it’s free.
They don’t wanna have to pay $5 a month for Facebook.
Facebook is a wildly democratic thing.
Forget about the election and all that kind of stuff.
A lot of technology making people’s lives easier,
I find that most elite people are more scared
than lower income people.
So, and women for the most part.
So the idea of something that’s stronger than us
and that might eventually kill us,
like women are used to that.
Like that’s not, I see a lot of like really rich men
being like, the robots are gonna kill us.
We’re like, what’s another thing that’s gonna kill us?
I tend to see like, oh,
something can walk me to my car at night.
Like something can help me cook dinner or something.
For people in underprivileged countries
who can’t afford eye surgery, like in a robot,
can we send a robot to underprivileged places
to do surgery where they can’t?
I work with this organization called Operation Smile
where they do cleft palate surgeries.
And there’s a lot of places
that can’t do a very simple surgery
because they can’t afford doctors and medical care.
So I just see, and this can be completely naive
and should be completely wrong,
but I feel like a lot of people are going like,
the robots are gonna destroy us.
Humans, we’re destroying ourselves.
We’re self destructing.
Robots to me are the only hope
to clean up all the messes that we’ve created.
Even when we go try to clean up pollution in the ocean,
we make it worse because of the oil that the tankers use.
Like, it’s like, to me, robots are the only solution.
Firefighters are heroes, but they’re limited
in how many times they can run into a fire.
So there’s just something interesting to me.
I’m not hearing a lot of like,
lower income, more vulnerable populations
talking about robots.
Maybe you can speak to it a little bit more.
There’s an idea, I think you’ve expressed it.
I’ve heard, actually a few female writers
and roboticists have talked to express this idea
that exactly you just said, which is,
it just seems that being afraid of existential threats
of artificial intelligence is a male issue.
And I wonder what that is.
If it, because men have, in certain positions,
like you said, it’s also a classist issue.
They haven’t been humbled by life,
and so you always look for the biggest problems
to take on around you.
It’s a champagne problem to be afraid of robots.
Most people don’t have health insurance.
They’re afraid they’re not gonna be able
to feed their kids.
They can’t afford a tutor for their kids.
I mean, I just think of the way I grew up,
and I had a mother who worked two jobs, had kids.
We couldn’t afford an SAT tutor.
The idea of a robot coming in,
being able to tutor your kids,
being able to provide childcare for your kids,
being able to come in with cameras for eyes
and make sure surveillance.
I’m very pro surveillance because I’ve had security problems
and I’ve been, we’re generally in a little more danger
than you guys are.
So I think that robots are a little less scary to us
because we can see them maybe as like free assistance,
help and protection.
And then there’s sort of another element for me personally,
which is maybe more of a female problem.
I don’t know.
I’m just gonna make a generalization, happy to be wrong.
But the emotional sort of component of robots
and what they can provide in terms of, you know,
I think there’s a lot of people that don’t have microphones
that I just recently kind of stumbled upon
in doing all my research on the sex robots
for my standup special, which just,
there’s a lot of very shy people that aren’t good at dating.
There’s a lot of people who are scared of human beings
who have personality disorders
or grow up in alcoholic homes or struggle with addiction
or whatever it is where a robot can solve
an emotional problem.
And so we’re largely having this conversation
about like rich guys that are emotionally healthy
and how scared of robots they are.
We’re forgetting about like a huge part of the population
who maybe isn’t as charming and effervescent
and solvent as, you know, people like you and Elon Musk
who these robots could solve very real problems
in their life, emotional or financial.
Well, that’s a, in general, a really interesting idea
that most people in the world don’t have a voice.
It’s a, you’ve talked about it,
sort of even the people on Twitter
who are driving the conversation.
You said comments, people who leave comments
represent a very tiny percent of the population
and they’re the ones they, you know,
we tend to think they speak for the population,
but it’s very possible on many topics they don’t at all.
And look, I, and I’m sure there’s gotta be
some kind of legal, you know, sort of structure in place
for when the robots happen.
You know way more about this than I do,
but you know, for me to just go, the robots are bad,
that’s a wild generalization that I feel like
is really inhumane in some way.
You know, just after the research I’ve done,
like you’re gonna tell me that a man whose wife died
suddenly and he feels guilty moving on with a human woman
or can’t get over the grief,
he can’t have a sex robot in his own house?
Why do you care?
Well, there’s a interesting aspect of human nature.
So, you know, we tend to as a civilization
to create a group that’s the other in all kinds of ways.
And so you work with animals too,
you’re especially sensitive to the suffering of animals.
Let me kind of ask, what’s your,
do you think we’ll abuse robots in the future?
Do you think some of the darker aspects
of human nature will come out?
I think some people will,
but if we design them properly, the people that do it,
we can put it on a record and we can put them in jail.
We can find sociopaths more easily, you know, like.
But why is that a sociopathic thing to harm a robot?
I think, look, I don’t know enough about the consciousness
and stuff as you do.
I guess it would have to be when they’re conscious,
but it is, you know, the part of the brain
that is responsible for compassion,
the frontal lobe or whatever,
like people that abuse animals also abuse humans
and commit other kinds of crimes.
Like that’s, it’s all the same part of the brain.
No one abuses animals and then it’s like,
awesome to women and children
and awesome to underprivileged, you know, minorities.
Like it’s all, so, you know,
we’ve been working really hard to put a database together
of all the people that have abused animals.
So when they commit another crime, you go, okay, this is,
you know, it’s all the same stuff.
And I think people probably think I’m nuts
for a lot of the animal work I do,
but because when animal abuse is present,
another crime is always present,
but the animal abuse is the most socially acceptable.
You can kick a dog and there’s nothing people can do,
but then what they’re doing behind closed doors,
you can’t see.
So there’s always something else going on,
which is why I never feel compunction about it.
But I do think we’ll start seeing the same thing with robots.
The person that kicks the,
I felt compassion when the kicking the dog robot
really pissed me off.
I know that they’re just trying to get the stability right
and all that.
But I do think there will come a time
where that will be a great way to be able to figure out
if somebody has like, you know, antisocial behaviors.
You kind of mentioned surveillance.
It’s also a really interesting idea of yours
that you just said, you know,
a lot of people seem to be really uncomfortable
And you just said that, you know what,
for me, you know, there’s positives for surveillance.
I think people behave better
when they know they’re being watched.
And I know this is a very unpopular opinion.
I’m talking about it on stage right now.
We behave better when we know we’re being watched.
You and I had a very different conversation
before we were recording.
If we behave different, you sit up
and you are in your best behavior.
And I’m trying to sound eloquent
and I’m trying to not hurt anyone’s feelings.
And I mean, I have a camera right there.
I’m behaving totally different
than when we first started talking.
You know, when you know there’s a camera,
you behave differently.
I mean, there’s cameras all over LA at stoplights
so that people don’t run stoplights,
but there’s not even film in it.
They don’t even use them anymore, but it works.
And I’m, you know, working on this thing
in stand about surveillance.
It’s like, that’s why we embed in Santa Claus.
You know, it’s the Santa Claus
is the first surveillance basically.
All we had to say to kids is he’s making a list
and he’s watching you and they behave better.
You know, so I do think that there are benefits
You know, I think we all do sketchy things in private
and we all have watched weird porn
or Googled weird things.
And we don’t want people to know about it,
our secret lives.
So I do think that obviously there’s,
we should be able to have a modicum of privacy,
but I tend to think that people
that are the most negative about surveillance
have the most secrets.
The most to hide.
Well, you should,
you’re saying you’re doing bits on it now?
Well, I’m just talking in general about,
you know, privacy and surveillance
and how paranoid we’re kind of becoming
and how, you know, I mean, it’s just wild to me
that people are like, our emails are gonna leak
and they’re taking our phone numbers.
Like there used to be a book full of phone numbers
and addresses that were, they just throw it at your door.
And we all had a book of everyone’s numbers.
You know, this is a very new thing.
And, you know, I know our amygdala is designed
to compound sort of threats
and, you know, there’s stories about,
and I think we all just glom on in a very, you know,
tribal way of like, yeah, they’re taking our data.
Like, we don’t even know what that means,
but we’re like, well, yeah, they, they, you know?
So I just think that someone’s like, okay, well, so what?
They’re gonna sell your data?
Why do you care?
First of all, that bit will kill in China.
So, and I say that sort of only a little bit joking
because a lot of people in China, including the citizens,
despite what people in the West think of as abuse,
are actually in support of the idea of surveillance.
Sort of, they’re not in support of the abuse of surveillance,
but they’re, they like, I mean,
the idea of surveillance is kind of like
the idea of government, like you said,
we behave differently.
And in a way, it’s almost like why we like sports.
And within the constraints of the rules,
this is a more stable society.
And they make good arguments about success,
being able to build successful companies,
being able to build successful social lives
around a fabric that’s more stable.
When you have a surveillance, it keeps the criminals away,
keeps abusive animals, whatever the values of the society,
with surveillance, you can enforce those values better.
And here’s what I will say.
There’s a lot of unethical things happening
Like I feel the need to really make that very clear.
I mean, the fact that Google is like collecting
if people’s hands start moving on the mouse
to find out if they’re getting Parkinson’s
and then their insurance goes up,
like that is completely unethical and wrong.
And I think stuff like that,
we have to really be careful around.
So the idea of using our data to raise our insurance rates
or, you know, I heard that they’re looking,
they can sort of predict if you’re gonna have depression
based on your selfies by detecting micro muscles
in your face, you know, all that kind of stuff,
that is a nightmare, not okay.
But I think, you know, we have to delineate
what’s a real threat and what’s getting spam
in your email box.
That’s not what to spend your time and energy on.
Focus on the fact that every time you buy cigarettes,
your insurance is going up without you knowing about it.
On the topic of animals too,
can we just linger on a little bit?
Like, what do you think,
what does this say about our society
of the society wide abuse of animals
that we see in general, sort of factory farming,
just in general, just the way we treat animals
of different categories, like what do you think of that?
What does a better world look like?
What should people think about it in general?
I think the most interesting thing
I can probably say around this that’s the least emotional,
cause I’m actually a very non emotional animal person
because it’s, I think everyone’s an animal person.
It’s just a matter of if it’s yours
or if you’ve been conditioned to go numb, you know.
I think it’s really a testament to what as a species
we are able to be in denial about,
mass denial and mass delusion,
and how we’re able to dehumanize and debase groups,
you know, World War II,
in a way in order to conform
and find protection in the conforming.
So we are also a species who used to go to coliseums
and watch elephants and tigers fight to the death.
We used to watch human beings be pulled apart
and that wasn’t that long ago.
We’re also a species who had slaves
and it was socially acceptable by a lot of people.
People didn’t see anything wrong with it.
So we’re a species that is able to go numb
and that is able to dehumanize very quickly
and make it the norm.
Child labor wasn’t that long ago.
The idea that now we look back and go,
oh yeah, kids were losing fingers in factories making shoes.
Like someone had to come in and make that, you know.
So I think it just says a lot about the fact that,
you know, we are animals and we are self serving
and one of the most successful,
the most successful species
because we are able to debase and degrade
and essentially exploit anything that benefits us.
I think the pendulum is gonna swing as being late.
Like, I think we’re Rome now, kind of.
I think we’re on the verge of collapse
because we are dopamine receptors.
Like we are just, I think we’re all kind of addicts
when it comes to this stuff.
Like we don’t know when to stop.
It’s always the buffet.
Like we’re, the thing that used to keep us alive,
which is killing animals and eating them,
now killing animals and eating them
is what’s killing us in a way.
So it’s like, we just can’t,
we don’t know when to call it and we don’t,
moderation is not really something
that humans have evolved to have yet.
So I think it’s really just a flaw in our wiring.
Do you think we’ll look back at this time
as our society is being deeply unethical?
Yeah, yeah, I think we’ll be embarrassed.
Which are the worst parts right now going on?
Is it? In terms of animal?
Well, I think. No, in terms of anything.
What’s the unethical thing?
If we, and it’s very hard just to take a step out of it,
but you just said we used to watch, you know,
there’s been a lot of cruelty throughout history.
What’s the cruelty going on now?
I think it’s gonna be pigs.
I think it’s gonna be, I mean,
pigs are one of the most emotionally intelligent animals
and they have the intelligence of like a three year old.
And I think we’ll look back and be really,
they use tools.
I mean, I think we have this narrative
that they’re pigs and they’re pigs
and they’re disgusting and they’re dirty
and they’re bacon is so good.
I think that we’ll look back one day
and be really embarrassed about that.
Is this for just the, what’s it called?
The factory farming?
So basically mass.
Because we don’t see it.
If you saw, I mean, we do have,
I mean, this is probably an evolutionary advantage.
We do have the ability to completely
pretend something’s not,
something that is so horrific that it overwhelms us
and we’re able to essentially deny that it’s happening.
I think if people were to see what goes on
in factory farming,
and also we’re really to take in how bad it is for us,
you know, we’re hurting ourselves first and foremost
with what we eat,
but that’s also a very elitist argument, you know?
It’s a luxury to be able to complain about meat.
It’s a luxury to be able to not eat meat, you know?
There’s very few people because of, you know,
how the corporations have set up meat being cheap.
You know, it’s $2 to buy a Big Mac,
it’s $10 to buy a healthy meal.
You know, that’s, I think a lot of people
don’t have the luxury to even think that way.
But I do think that animals in captivity,
I think we’re gonna look back
and be pretty grossed out about mammals in captivity,
I mean, that’s already starting to dismantle, circuses,
we’re gonna be pretty embarrassed about.
But I think it’s really more a testament to,
you know, there’s just such a ability to go like,
that thing is different than me and we’re better.
It’s the ego, I mean, it’s just,
we have the species with the biggest ego ultimately.
Well, that’s what I think,
that’s my hope for robots is they’ll,
you mentioned consciousness before,
nobody knows what consciousness is,
but I’m hoping robots will help us empathize
and understand that there’s other creatures
besides ourselves that can suffer,
that can experience the world
and that we can torture by our actions.
And robots can explicitly teach us that,
I think better than animals can.
I have never seen such compassion
from a lot of people in my life
toward any human, animal, child,
as I have a lot of people
in the way they interact with the robot.
Because I think there’s something of,
I mean, I was on the robot owner’s chat boards
for a good eight months.
And the main emotional benefit is
she’s never gonna cheat on you,
she’s never gonna hurt you,
she’s never gonna lie to you,
she doesn’t judge you.
I think that robots help people,
and this is part of the work I do with animals,
like I do equine therapy and train dogs and stuff,
because there is this safe space to be authentic.
With this being that doesn’t care
what you do for a living,
doesn’t care how much money you have,
doesn’t care who you’re dating,
doesn’t care what you look like,
doesn’t care if you have cellulite, whatever,
you feel safe to be able to truly be present
without being defensive and worrying about eye contact
and being triggered by needing to be perfect
and fear of judgment and all that.
And robots really can’t judge you yet,
but they can’t judge you,
and I think it really puts people at ease
and at their most authentic.
Do you think you can have a deep connection
with a robot that’s not judging,
or do you think you can really have a relationship
with a robot or a human being that’s a safe space?
Or is attention, mystery, danger
necessary for a deep connection?
I’m gonna speak for myself and say that
I grew up in an alcoholic home,
I identify as a codependent,
talked about this stuff before,
but for me it’s very hard to be in a relationship
with a human being without feeling like
I need to perform in some way or deliver in some way,
and I don’t know if that’s just the people
I’ve been in a relationship with or me or my brokenness,
but I do think, this is gonna sound really
negative and pessimistic,
but I do think a lot of our relationships are projection
and a lot of our relationships are performance,
and I don’t think I really understood that
until I worked with horses.
And most communication with human is nonverbal, right?
I can say like, I love you,
but you don’t think I love you, right?
Whereas with animals it’s very direct.
It’s all physical, it’s all energy.
I feel like that with robots too.
It feels very,
how I say something doesn’t matter.
My inflection doesn’t really matter.
And you thinking that my tone is disrespectful,
like you’re not filtering it through all
of the bad relationships you’ve been in,
you’re not filtering it through
the way your mom talked to you,
you’re not getting triggered.
I find that for the most part,
people don’t always receive things
the way that you intend them to or the way intended,
and that makes relationships really murky.
So the relationships with animals
and relationship with the robots is they are now,
you kind of implied that that’s more healthy.
Can you have a healthy relationship with other humans?
Or not healthy, I don’t like that word,
but shouldn’t it be, you’ve talked about codependency,
maybe you can talk about what is codependency,
but is that, is the challenges of that,
the complexity of that necessary for passion,
for love between humans?
That’s right, you love passion.
That’s a good thing.
I thought this would be a safe space.
I got trolled by Rogan for hours on this.
Look, I am not anti passion.
I think that I’ve just maybe been around long enough
to know that sometimes it’s ephemeral
and that passion is a mixture of a lot of different things,
adrenaline, which turns into dopamine, cortisol,
it’s a lot of neurochemicals, it’s a lot of projection,
it’s a lot of what we’ve seen in movies,
it’s a lot of, you know, I identify as an addict.
So for me, sometimes passion is like,
uh oh, this could be bad.
And I think we’ve been so conditioned to believe
that passion means like your soulmates,
and I mean, how many times have you had
a passionate connection with someone
and then it was a total train wreck?
The train wreck is interesting.
How many times exactly?
What’s a train wreck?
You just did a lot of math in your head
in that little moment.
I mean, what’s a train wreck?
What’s a, why is obsession,
so you described this codependency
and sort of the idea of attachment,
over attachment to people who don’t deserve
that kind of attachment as somehow a bad thing
and I think our society says it’s a bad thing.
It probably is a bad thing.
Like a delicious burger is a bad thing.
I don’t know, but.
Right, oh, that’s a good point.
I think that you’re pointing out something really fascinating
which is like passion, if you go into it knowing
this is like pizza where it’s gonna be delicious
for two hours and then I don’t have to have it again
for three, if you can have a choice in the passion,
I define passion as something that is relatively unmanageable
and something you can’t control or stop and start
with your own volition.
So maybe we’re operating under different definitions.
If passion is something that like, you know,
ruins your real marriages and screws up
your professional life and becomes this thing
that you’re not in control of and becomes addictive,
I think that’s the difference is,
is it a choice or is it not a choice?
And if it is a choice, then passion’s great.
But if it’s something that like consumes you
and makes you start making bad decisions
and clouds your frontal lobe
and is just all about dopamine
and not really about the person
and more about the neurochemical,
we call it sort of the drug, the internal drug cabinet.
If it’s all just, you’re on drugs, that’s different,
you know, cause sometimes you’re just on drugs.
Okay, so there’s a philosophical question here.
So would you rather, and it’s interesting for a comedian,
brilliant comedian to speak so eloquently
about a balanced life.
I kind of argue against this point.
There’s such an obsession of creating
this healthy lifestyle now, psychologically speaking.
You know, I’m a fan of the idea that you sort of fly high
and you crash and die at 27 is also a possible life.
And it’s not one we should judge
because I think there’s moments of greatness.
I talked to Olympic athletes
where some of their greatest moments
are achieved in their early 20s.
And the rest of their life is in the kind of fog
of almost of a depression because they can never.
Because they’re based on their physical prowess, right?
Physical prowess and they’ll never,
so that, so they’re watching their physical prowess fade
and they’ll never achieve the kind of height,
not just physical, of just emotion, of.
Well, the max number of neurochemicals.
And you also put your money on the wrong horse.
That’s where I would just go like,
oh yeah, if you’re doing a job where you peak at 22,
the rest of your life is gonna be hard.
That idea is considering the notion
that you wanna optimize some kind of,
but we’re all gonna die soon.
Now you tell me.
I’ve immortalized myself, so I’m gonna be fine.
See, you’re almost like,
how many Oscar winning movies can I direct
by the time I’m 100?
How many this and that?
But you know, there’s a night, you know,
it’s all, life is short, relatively speaking.
I know, but it can also come in different ways.
You go, life is short, play hard,
fall in love as much as you can, run into walls.
I would also go, life is short,
don’t deplete yourself on things that aren’t sustainable
and that you can’t keep, you know?
So I think everyone gets dopamine from different places.
Everyone has meaning from different places.
I look at the fleeting passionate relationships
I’ve had in the past and I don’t like,
I don’t have pride in that.
I think that you have to decide what, you know,
helps you sleep at night.
For me, it’s pride and feeling like I behave
with grace and integrity.
That’s just me personally.
Everyone can go like, yeah,
I slept with all the hot chicks in Italy I could
and I, you know, did all the whatever,
like whatever you value,
we’re allowed to value different things.
Yeah, we’re talking about Brian Callan.
Brian Callan has lived his life to the fullest,
to say the least.
But I think that it’s just for me personally,
I, and this could be like my workaholism
or my achievementism,
I, if I don’t have something to show for something,
I feel like it’s a waste of time or some kind of loss.
I’m in a 12 step program and the third step would say,
there’s no such thing as waste of time
and everything happens exactly as it should
and whatever, that’s a way to just sort of keep us sane
so we don’t grieve too much and beat ourselves up
over past mistakes, there’s no such thing as mistakes,
dah, dah, dah.
But I think passion is, I think it’s so life affirming
and one of the few things that maybe people like us
makes us feel awake and seen
and we just have such a high threshold for adrenaline.
You know, I mean, you are a fighter, right?
Yeah, okay, so yeah,
so you have a very high tolerance for adrenaline
and I think that Olympic athletes,
the amount of adrenaline they get from performing,
it’s very hard to follow that.
It’s like when guys come back from the military
and they have depression.
It’s like, do you miss bullets flying at you?
Yeah, kind of because of that adrenaline
which turned into dopamine and the camaraderie.
I mean, there’s people that speak much better
about this than I do.
But I just, I’m obsessed with neurology
and I’m just obsessed with sort of the lies we tell ourselves
in order to justify getting neurochemicals.
You’ve done actually quite, done a lot of thinking
and talking about neurology
and just kind of look at human behavior
through the lens of looking at how our actually,
chemically our brain works.
So what, first of all,
why did you connect with that idea and what have you,
how has your view of the world changed
by considering the brain is just a machine?
You know, I know it probably sounds really nihilistic
but for me, it’s very liberating to know a lot
about neurochemicals because you don’t have to,
it’s like the same thing with like critics,
like critical reviews.
If you believe the good,
you have to believe the bad kind of thing.
Like, you know, if you believe that your bad choices
were because of your moral integrity or whatever,
you have to believe your good ones.
I just think there’s something really liberating
and going like, oh, that was just adrenaline.
I just said that thing
because I was adrenalized and I was scared
and my amygdala was activated
and that’s why I said you’re an asshole and get out.
And that’s, you know, I think,
I just think it’s important to delineate what’s nature
and what’s nurture, what is your choice
and what is just your brain trying to keep you safe.
I think we forget that even though we have security systems
and homes and locks on our doors,
that our brain for the most part
is just trying to keep us safe all the time.
It’s why we hold grudges, it’s why we get angry,
it’s why we get road rage, it’s why we do a lot of things.
And it’s also, when I started learning about neurology,
I started having so much more compassion for other people.
You know, if someone yelled at me being like,
fuck you on the road, I’d be like,
okay, he’s producing adrenaline right now
because we’re all going 65 miles an hour
and our brains aren’t really designed
for this type of stress and he’s scared.
He was scared, you know, so that really helped me
to have more love for people in my everyday life
instead of being in fight or flight mode.
But the, I think more interesting answer to your question
is that I’ve had migraines my whole life.
Like I’ve suffered with really intense migraines,
ocular migraines, ones where my arm would go numb
and I just started having to go to so many doctors
to learn about it and I started, you know,
learning that we don’t really know that much.
We know a lot, but it’s wild to go into
one of the best neurologists in the world
who’s like, yeah, we don’t know.
We don’t know. We don’t know.
And that fascinated me.
Except one of the worst pains you can probably have,
all that stuff, and we don’t know the source.
We don’t know the source
and there is something really fascinating
about when your left arm starts going numb
and you start not being able to see
out of the left side of both your eyes.
And I remember when the migraines get really bad,
it’s like a mini stroke almost
and you’re able to see words on a page,
but I can’t read them.
They just look like symbols to me.
So there’s something just really fascinating to me
about your brain just being able to stop functioning.
And I, so I just wanted to learn about it, study about it.
I did all these weird alternative treatments.
I got this piercing in here that actually works.
I’ve tried everything.
And then both of my parents had strokes.
So when both of my parents had strokes,
I became sort of the person who had to decide
what was gonna happen with their recovery,
which is just a wild thing to have to deal with it.
You know, 28 years old when it happened.
And I started spending basically all day, every day in ICUs
with neurologists learning about what happened
to my dad’s brain and why he can’t move his left arm,
but he can move his right leg,
but he can’t see out of the, you know.
And then my mom had another stroke
in a different part of the brain.
So I started having to learn
what parts of the brain did what,
and so that I wouldn’t take their behavior so personally,
and so that I would be able to manage my expectations
in terms of their recovery.
So my mom, because it affected a lot of her frontal lobe,
changed a lot as a person.
She was way more emotional.
She was way more micromanaged.
She was forgetting certain things.
So it broke my heart less when I was able to know,
oh yeah, well, the stroke hit this part of the brain,
and that’s the one that’s responsible for short term memory,
and that’s responsible for long term memory, da da da.
And then my brother just got something
called viral encephalitis,
which is an infection inside the brain.
So it was kind of wild that I was able to go,
oh, I know exactly what’s happening here,
and I know, you know, so.
So that’s allows you to have some more compassion
for the struggles that people have,
but does it take away some of the magic
for some of the, from the,
some of the more positive experiences of life?
Sometimes, and I don’t, I’m such a control addict
that, you know, I think our biggest,
someone like me,
my biggest dream is to know why someone’s doing it.
That’s what standup is.
It’s just trying to figure out why,
or that’s what writing is.
That’s what acting is.
That’s what performing is.
It’s trying to figure out why someone would do something.
As an actor, you get a piece of, you know, material,
and you go, this person, why would he say that?
Why would he, she pick up that cup?
Why would she walk over here?
It’s really why, why, why, why.
So I think neurology is,
if you’re trying to figure out human motives
and why people do what they do,
it’d be crazy not to understand how neurochemicals motivate us.
I also have a lot of addiction in my family
and hardcore drug addiction and mental illness.
And in order to cope with it,
you really have to understand that borderline personality
disorder, schizophrenia, and drug addiction.
So I have a lot of people I love
that suffer from drug addiction and alcoholism.
And the first thing they started teaching you
is it’s not a choice.
These people’s dopamine receptors
don’t hold dopamine the same ways yours do.
Their frontal lobe is underdeveloped, like, you know,
and that really helped me to navigate dealing,
loving people that were addicted to substances.
I want to be careful with this question, but how much?
Money do you have?
Can I borrow $10?
Okay, no, is how much control,
how much, despite the chemical imbalances
or the biological limitations
that each of our individual brains have,
how much mind over matter is there?
So through things that I’ve known people
with clinical depression,
and so it’s always a touchy subject
to say how much they can really help it.
What can you, yeah, what can you,
because you’ve talked about codependency,
you talked about issues that you struggle through,
and nevertheless, you choose to take a journey
of healing and so on, so that’s your choice,
that’s your actions.
So how much can you do to help fight the limitations
of the neurochemicals in your brain?
That’s such an interesting question,
and I don’t think I’m at all qualified to answer,
but I’ll say what I do know.
And really quick, just the definition of codependency,
I think a lot of people think of codependency
as like two people that can’t stop hanging out, you know,
or like, you know, that’s not totally off,
but I think for the most part,
my favorite definition of codependency
is the inability to tolerate the discomfort of others.
You grow up in an alcoholic home,
you grow up around mental illness,
you grow up in chaos,
you have a parent that’s a narcissist,
you basically are wired to just people please,
worry about others, be perfect, walk on eggshells,
shape shift to accommodate other people.
So codependence is a very active wiring issue
that, you know, doesn’t just affect
your romantic relationships, it affects you being a boss,
it affects you in the world.
Online, you know, you get one negative comment
and it throws you for two weeks.
You know, it also is linked to eating disorders
and other kinds of addiction.
So it’s a very big thing,
and I think a lot of people sometimes only think
that it’s in a romantic relationship,
so I always feel the need to say that.
And also one of the reasons I love the idea of robots
so much because you don’t have to walk on eggshells
around them, you don’t have to worry
they’re gonna get mad at you yet,
but there’s no, codependents are hypersensitive
to the needs and moods of others,
and it’s very exhausting, it’s depleting.
Just one conversation about where we’re gonna go to dinner
is like, do you wanna go get Chinese food?
We just had Chinese food.
Well, wait, are you mad?
Well, no, I didn’t mean to,
and it’s just like that codependents live in this,
everything means something,
and humans can be very emotionally exhausting.
Why did you look at me that way?
What are you thinking about?
What was that?
Why’d you check your phone?
It’s a hypersensitivity that can be
incredibly time consuming,
which is why I love the idea of robots just subbing in.
Even, I’ve had a hard time running TV shows and stuff
because even asking someone to do something,
I don’t wanna come off like a bitch,
I’m very concerned about what other people think of me,
how I’m perceived, which is why I think robots
will be very beneficial for codependents.
By the way, just a real quick tangent,
that skill or flaw, whatever you wanna call it,
is actually really useful for if you ever do
start your own podcast for interviewing,
because you’re now kind of obsessed
about the mindset of others,
and it makes you a good sort of listener and talker with.
So I think, what’s her name from NPR?
Terry Gross talked about having that.
I don’t feel like she has that at all.
She worries about other people’s feelings?
Oh, I don’t get that at all.
I mean, you have to put yourself in the mind
of the person you’re speaking with.
Oh, I see, just in terms of, yeah,
I am starting a podcast,
and the reason I haven’t is because I’m codependent
and I’m too worried it’s not gonna be perfect.
So a big codependent adage is perfectionism
leads to procrastination, which leads to paralysis.
So how do you, sorry to take a million changes,
how do you survive on social media?
Is the exception the evidence?
To survive on social media, is the exception active?
But by the way, I took you on a tangent
and didn’t answer your last question
about how much we can control.
How much, yeah, we’ll return it, or maybe not.
The answer is we can’t.
Now as a codependent, I’m, okay, good.
We can, but, but, you know,
one of the things that I’m fascinated by is,
you know, the first thing you learn
when you go into 12 step programs or addiction recovery
or any of this is, you know,
genetics loads the gun, environment pulls the trigger.
And there’s certain parts of your genetics
you cannot control.
I come from a lot of alcoholism.
I come from, you know, a lot of mental illness.
There’s certain things I cannot control
and a lot of things that maybe we don’t even know yet
what we can and can’t
because of how little we actually know about the brain.
But we also talk about the warrior spirit.
And there are some people that have that warrior spirit
and we don’t necessarily know what that engine is,
whether it’s you get dopamine from succeeding
or achieving or martyring yourself
or the attention you get from growing.
So a lot of people are like,
oh, this person can edify themselves and overcome,
but if you’re getting attention from improving yourself,
you’re gonna keep wanting to do that.
So that is something that helps a lot of,
in terms of changing your brain.
If you talk about changing your brain to people
and talk about what you’re doing to overcome set obstacles,
you’re gonna get more attention from them,
which is gonna fire off your reward system
and then you’re gonna keep doing it.
Yeah, so you can leverage that momentum.
So this is why in any 12 step program,
you go into a room and you talk about your progress
because then everyone claps for you.
And then you’re more motivated to keep going.
So that’s why we say you’re only as sick
as the secrets you keep,
because if you keep things secret,
there’s no one guiding you to go in a certain direction.
It’s based on, right?
We’re sort of designed to get approval from the tribe
or from a group of people
because our brain translates it to safety.
So, you know.
And in that case, the tribe is a positive one
that helps you go in a positive direction.
So that’s why it’s so important to go into a room
and also say, hey, I wanted to use drugs today.
And people go, hmm.
They go, me too.
And you feel less alone
and you feel less like you’re, you know,
have been castigated from the pack or whatever.
And then you say, and you get a chip
when you haven’t drank for 30 days or 60 days or whatever.
You get little rewards.
So talking about a pack that’s not at all healthy or good,
but in fact is often toxic, social media.
So you’re one of my favorite people
on Twitter and Instagram to sort of just both the comedy
and the insight and just fun.
How do you prevent social media
from destroying your mental health?
It’s the next big epidemic, isn’t it?
I don’t think I have.
I don’t think.
Is moderation the answer?
Maybe, but you can do a lot of damage in a moderate way.
I mean, I guess, again, it depends on your goals, you know?
And I think for me, the way that my addiction
to social media, I’m happy to call it an addiction.
I mean, and I define it as an addiction
because it stops being a choice.
There are times I just reach over and I’m like, that was.
Yeah, that was weird.
That was weird.
I’ll be driving sometimes and I’ll be like, oh my God,
my arm just went to my phone, you know?
I can put it down.
I can take time away from it, but when I do, I get antsy.
I get restless, irritable, and discontent.
I mean, that’s kind of the definition, isn’t it?
So I think by no means do I have a healthy relationship
with social media.
I’m sure there’s a way to,
but I think I’m especially a weirdo in this space
because it’s easy to conflate.
Is this work?
Is this not?
I can always say that it’s for work, you know?
But I mean, don’t you get the same kind of thing
as you get from when a room full of people laugh at your jokes?
Because I mean, I see, especially the way you do Twitter,
it’s an extension of your comedy in a way.
So I took a big break from Twitter though,
a really big break.
I took like six months off or something for a while
because it was just like,
it seemed like it was all kind of politics
and it was just a little bit,
it wasn’t giving me dopamine
because there was like this weird, a lot of feedback.
So I had to take a break from it and then go back to it
because I felt like I didn’t have a healthy relationship.
Have you ever tried the, I don’t know if I believe him,
but Joe Rogan seems to not read comments.
Have you, and he’s one of the only people at the scale,
like at your level who at least claims not to read.
So like, cause you and him swim in this space
of tense ideas that get the toxic folks riled up.
I think Rogan, I don’t, I don’t know.
I don’t, I think he probably looks at YouTube,
like the likes and the, you know, I think if some things,
if he doesn’t know, I don’t know.
I’m sure he would tell the truth, you know,
I’m sure he’s got people that look at them
and it’s like disgusted, great.
Or I don’t, you know, like, I’m sure he gets it.
You know, I can’t picture him like in the weeds on.
No, for sure.
I mean, he’s honestly actually saying that I just,
it’s, it’s, it’s admirable.
We’re addicted to feedback.
Yeah, we’re addicted to feedback.
I mean, you know, look,
like I think that our brain is designed to get intel
on how we’re perceived so that we know where we stand,
That’s our whole deal, right?
As humans, we want to know where we stand.
We walk in a room and we go,
who’s the most powerful person in here?
I got to talk to them and get in their good graces.
It’s just, we’re designed to rank ourselves, right?
And constantly know our rank and social media
because of you can’t figure out your rank
with 500 million people.
It’s possible, you know, so our brain is like,
what’s my rank?
What’s my, and especially if we’re following people,
I think the, the big, the interesting thing,
I think I maybe be able to say about this
besides my speech impediment is that I did start muting
people that rank wildly higher than me
because it is just stressful on the brain
to constantly look at people
that are incredibly successful.
So you keep feeling bad about yourself.
You know, I think that that is like cutting
to a certain extent.
Just like, look at me looking at all these people
that have so much more money than me
and so much more success than me.
It’s making me feel like a failure,
even though I don’t think I’m a failure,
but it’s easy to frame it so that I can feel that way.
Yeah, that’s really interesting,
especially if they’re close to,
like if they’re other comedians or something like that,
That’s, it’s really disappointing to me.
I do the same thing as well.
So other successful people that are really close
to what I do, it, I don’t know,
I wish I could just admire.
And for it not to be a distraction, but.
But that’s why you are where you are
because you don’t just admire your competitive
and you want to win.
So it’s also the same thing that bums you out
when you look at this as the same reason
you are where you are.
So that’s why I think it’s so important
to learn about neurology and addiction
because you’re able to go like,
oh, this same instinct.
So I’m very sensitive.
And I, and I sometimes don’t like that about myself,
but I’m like, well, that’s the reason I’m able to
write good standup.
And that’s the reason, and that’s the reason
I’m able to be sensitive to feedback
and go, that joke should have been better.
I can make that better.
So it’s the kind of thing where it’s like,
you have to be really sensitive in your work.
And the second you leave,
you got to be able to turn it off.
It’s about developing the muscle,
being able to know when to let it be a superpower
and when it’s going to hold you back and be an obstacle.
So I try to not be in that black and white of like,
you know, being competitive is bad
or being jealous of someone just to go like,
oh, there’s that thing that makes me really successful
in a lot of other ways,
but right now it’s making me feel bad.
Well, I’m kind of looking to you
because you’re basically a celebrity,
a famous sort of world class comedian.
And so I feel like you’re the right person
to be one of the key people to define
what’s the healthy path forward with social media.
So I, because we’re all trying to figure it out now
and it’s, I’m curious to see where it evolves.
I think you’re at the center of that.
So like, you know, there’s, you know,
trying to leave Twitter and then come back and see,
can I do this in a healthy way?
I mean, you have to keep trying, exploring.
You have to know because it’s being, you know,
I have a couple answers.
I think, you know, I hire a company
to do some of my social media for me, you know?
So it’s also being able to go, okay,
I make a certain amount of money by doing this,
but now let me be a good business person
and say, I’m gonna pay you this amount to run this for me.
So I’m not 24 seven in the weeds hashtagging and responding.
And just, it’s a lot to take on.
It’s a lot of energy to take on.
But at the same time, part of what I think
makes me successful on social media if I am,
is that people know I’m actually doing it
and that I am an engaging and I’m responding
and developing a personal relationship
with complete strangers.
So I think, you know, figuring out that balance
and really approaching it as a business, you know,
that’s what I try to do.
It’s not dating, it’s not,
I try to just be really objective about,
okay, here’s what’s working, here’s what’s not working.
And in terms of taking the break from Twitter,
this is a really savage take,
but because I don’t talk about my politics publicly,
being on Twitter right after the last election
was not gonna be beneficial
because there was gonna be, you had to take a side.
You had to be political in order to get
any kind of retweets or likes.
And I just wasn’t interested in doing that
because you were gonna lose as many people
as you were gonna gain
and it was gonna all come clean in the wash.
So I was just like, the best thing I can do
for me business wise is to just abstain, you know?
And you know, the robot, I joke about her replacing me,
but she does do half of my social media, you know?
Because I don’t want people to get sick of me.
I don’t want to be redundant.
There are times when I don’t have the time or the energy
to make a funny video,
but I know she’s gonna be compelling and interesting
and that’s something that you can’t see every day, you know?
Of course, the humor comes from your,
I mean, the cleverness, the wit, the humor comes from you
when you film the robot.
That’s kind of the trick of it.
I mean, the robot is not quite there
to do anything funny.
The absurdity is revealed through the filmmaker in that case
or whoever is interacting,
not through the actual robot, you know, being who she is.
Let me sort of, love.
What is it?
Well, first, an engineering question.
I know, I know, you’re not an engineer,
but how difficult do you think is it to build an AI system
that you can have a deep, fulfilling,
monogamous relationship with?
Sort of replace the human to human relationships
that we value?
I think anyone can fall in love with anything, you know?
Like, how often have you looked back at someone?
Like, I ran into someone the other day
that I was in love with and I was like,
hey, it was like, there was nothing there.
There was nothing there.
Like, do you, you know, like, where you’re able to go like,
oh, that was weird, oh, right, you know?
I were able.
You mean from a distant past or something like that?
Yeah, when you’re able to go like,
I can’t believe we had an incredible connection
and now it’s just, I do think that people will be in love
with robots probably even more deeply with humans
because it’s like when people mourn their animals,
when their animals die, they’re always,
it’s sometimes harder than mourning a human
because you can’t go, well, he was kind of an asshole,
but like, he didn’t pick me up from school.
You know, it’s like, you’re able to get out
of your grief a little bit.
You’re able to kind of be, oh, he was kind of judgmental
or she was kind of, you know, with a robot,
there’s something so pure about an innocent and impish
and childlike about it that I think it probably
will be much more conducive to a narcissistic love
for sure at that, but it’s not like, well, he cheated on,
she can’t cheat, she can’t leave you, she can’t, you know?
Well, if Bearclaw leaves your life
and maybe a new version or somebody else will enter,
will you miss Bearclaw?
For guys that have these sex robots,
they’re building a nursing home for the bodies
that are now resting
because they don’t want to part with the bodies
because they have such an intense emotional connection
I mean, it’s kind of like a car club a little bit,
you know, like it’s, you know,
but I’m not saying this is right.
I’m not saying it’s cool, it’s weird, it’s creepy,
but we do anthropomorphize things with faces
and we do develop emotional connections to things.
I mean, there’s certain, have you ever tried to like throw,
I can’t even throw away my teddy bear
from when I was a kid.
It’s a piece of trash and it’s upstairs.
Like, it’s just like, why can’t I throw that away?
It’s bizarre, you know,
and there’s something kind of beautiful about that.
There’s something, it gives me hope in humans
because I see humans do such horrific things all the time
and maybe I’m too, I see too much of it, frankly,
but there’s something kind of beautiful
about the way we’re able to have emotional connections
to objects, which, you know, a lot of,
I mean, it’s kind of specifically, I think, Western, right?
That we don’t see objects as having souls,
like that’s kind of specifically us,
but I don’t think it’s so much
that we’re objectifying humans with these sex robots.
We’re kind of humanizing objects, right?
So there’s something kind of fascinating
in our ability to do that
because a lot of us don’t humanize humans.
So it’s just a weird little place to play in
and I think a lot of people, I mean,
a lot of people will be marrying these things is my guess.
So you’ve asked the question, let me ask it of you.
So what is love?
You have a bit of a brilliant definition of love
as being willing to die for someone
who you yourself want to kill.
So that’s kind of fun.
First of all, that’s brilliant.
That’s a really good definition.
I think it’ll stick with me for a long time.
This is how little of a romantic I am.
A plane went by when you said that
and my brain is like, you’re gonna need to rerecord that.
And I want you to get into post
and then not be able to use that.
And I’m a romantic as I…
Don’t mean to ruin the moment.
Actually, I can not be conscious of the fact
that I heard the plane and it made me feel like
how amazing it is that we live in a world of planes.
And I just went, why haven’t we fucking evolved past planes
and why can’t they make them quieter?
My definition of love?
What, yeah, what’s your sort of the more serious note?
Consistently producing dopamine for a long time.
Consistent output of oxytocin with the same person.
Dopamine is a positive thing.
What about the negative?
What about the fear and the insecurity, the longing,
anger, all that kind of stuff?
I think that’s part of love.
I think that love brings out the best in you,
but it also, if you don’t get angry and upset,
it’s, I don’t know, I think that that’s part of it.
I think we have this idea that love has to be like really
placid or something.
I only saw stormy relationships growing up,
so I don’t have a judgment
on how a relationship should look,
but I do think that this idea that love has to be eternal
is really destructive, is really destructive
and self defeating and a big source of stress for people.
I mean, I’m still figuring out love.
I think we all kind of are,
but I do kind of stand by that definition.
And I think that, I think for me,
love is like just being able to be authentic with somebody.
It’s very simple, I know,
but I think for me it’s about not feeling pressure
to have to perform or impress somebody,
just feeling truly like accepted unconditionally by someone.
Although I do believe love should be conditional.
That might be a hot take.
I think everything should be conditional.
I think if someone’s behavior,
I don’t think love should just be like,
I’m in love with you, now behave however you want forever.
This is unconditional.
I think love is a daily action.
It’s not something you just like get tenure on
and then get to behave however you want
because we said I love you 10 years ago.
It’s a daily, it’s a verb.
Well, there’s some things that are,
you see, if you explicitly make it clear
that it’s conditional,
it takes away some of the magic of it.
So there’s certain stories we tell ourselves
that we don’t want to make explicit about love.
I don’t know, maybe that’s the wrong way to think of it.
Maybe you want to be explicit in relationships.
I also think love is a business decision.
Like I do in a good way.
Like I think that love is not just
when you’re across from somebody.
It’s when I go to work, can I focus?
Am I worried about you?
Am I stressed out about you?
You’re not responding to me.
You’re not reliable.
Like I think that being in a relationship,
the kind of love that I would want
is the kind of relationship where when we’re not together,
it’s not draining me, causing me stress, making me worry,
and sometimes passion, that word, we get murky about it.
But I think it’s also like,
I can be the best version of myself
when the person’s not around.
And I don’t have to feel abandoned or scared
or any of these kinds of other things.
So it’s like love, for me, I think it’s a Flaubert quote
and I’m going to butcher it.
But I think it’s like, be boring in your personal life
so you can be violent and take risks
in your professional life.
Is that it?
I got it wrong.
Something like that.
But I do think that it’s being able to align values
in a way to where you can also thrive
outside of the relationship.
Some of the most successful people I know
are those sort of happily married and have kids and so on.
It’s always funny.
It can be boring.
Boring is serenity.
And it’s funny how those elements
actually make you much more productive.
I don’t understand the.
I don’t think relationships should drain you
and take away energy that you could be using
to create things that generate pride.
Have you said your relationship of love yet?
Have you said your definition of love?
My definition of love?
No, I did not say it.
We’re out of time.
When you have a podcast, maybe you can invite me on.
Oh no, I already did.
You’re doing it.
We’ve already talked about this.
And because I also have codependency, I have to say yes.
No, I know, I’m trapping you.
You owe me now.
Actually, I wondered whether when I asked
if we could talk today, after sort of doing more research
and reading some of your book, I started to wonder,
did you just feel pressured to say yes?
Yes, of course.
But I’m a fan of yours, too.
No, I actually, because I am codependent,
but I’m in recovery for codependence,
so I actually do, I don’t do anything I don’t wanna do.
You really, you go out of your way to say no.
I say no all the time.
I’m trying to learn that as well.
I moved this a couple, remember,
I moved it from one to two.
Just to, yeah, just to.
Yeah, just to let you know.
I love it.
How recovered I am, and I’m not codependent.
But I don’t do anything I don’t wanna do.
Yeah, you’re ahead of me on that.
So do you.
You’re like, I don’t even wanna be here.
Do you think about your mortality?
Yes, it is a big part of how I was able
to sort of like kickstart my codependence recovery.
My dad passed a couple years ago,
and when you have someone close to you in your life die,
everything gets real clear,
in terms of how we’re a speck of dust
who’s only here for a certain amount of time.
What do you think is the meaning of it all?
Like what the speck of dust,
what’s maybe in your own life, what’s the goal,
the purpose of your existence?
Is there one?
Well, you’re exceptionally ambitious.
You’ve created some incredible things
in different disciplines.
Yeah, we’re all just managing our terror
because we know we’re gonna die.
So we create and build all these things
and rituals and religions and robots
and whatever we need to do to just distract ourselves
from imminent rotting, we’re rotting.
We’re all dying.
And I got very into terror management theory
when my dad died and it resonated, it helped me.
And everyone’s got their own religion
or sense of purpose or thing that distracts them
from the horrors of being human.
What’s the terror management theory?
Terror management is basically the idea
that since we’re the only animal
that knows they’re gonna die,
we have to basically distract ourselves
with awards and achievements and games and whatever,
just in order to distract ourselves
from the terror we would feel if we really processed
the fact that we could not only, we are gonna die,
but also could die at any minute
because we’re only superficially
at the top of the food chain.
And technically we’re at the top of the food chain
if we have houses and guns and stuff machines,
but if me and a lion are in the woods together,
most things could kill us.
I mean, a bee can kill some people,
like something this big can kill a lot of humans.
So it’s basically just to manage the terror
that we all would feel if we were able
to really be awake.
Cause we’re mostly zombies, right?
Job, school, religion, go to sleep, drink, football,
relationship, dopamine, love, you know,
we’re kind of just like trudging along
like zombies for the most part.
And then I think.
That fear of death adds some motivation.
Well, I think I speak for a lot of people
in saying that I can’t wait to see
what your terror creates in the next few years.
I’m a huge fan.
Whitney, thank you so much for talking today.
Thanks for listening to this conversation
with Whitney Cummings.
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