The following is a conversation with Jamie Metzl,
author specializing in topics of genetic engineering,
biotechnology, and geopolitics.
In the past two years, he has been outspoken
about the need to investigate and keep an open mind
about the origins of COVID 19.
In particular, he has been keeping an extensive
up to date collection of circumstantial evidence
in support of what is colloquially known
as lab leak hypothesis that COVID 19 leaked in 2019
from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
In part, I wanted to explore the idea
in response to the thoughtful criticism
to parts of the Francis Collins episode.
I will have more and more difficult conversations like this
with people from all walks of life
and with all kinds of ideas.
I promise to do my best to keep an open mind
and yet to ask hard questions
while together searching for the beautiful
and the inspiring in the mind of the other person.
It’s a hard line to walk gracefully,
especially for someone like me,
who’s a bit of an awkward introvert
with barely the grasp of the English language
or any language, except maybe Python and C++.
But I hope you stick around, be patient and empathetic
and maybe learn something new together with me.
This is the Lex Friedman podcast.
To support it, please check out our sponsors
in the description.
And now, here’s my conversation with Jamie Metzl.
What is the probability in your mind
that COVID 19 leaked from a lab?
In your write up, I believe you said 85%.
I know it’s just a percentage.
We can’t really be exact with these kinds of things,
but it gives us a sense where your mind is,
where your intuition is.
So as it stands today, what would you say is that probability?
I would stand by what I’ve been saying
since really the middle of last year.
It’s more likely and not, in my opinion,
that the pandemic stems
from an accidental lab incident in Wuhan.
Is it 90%, is it 65%, I mean, that’s kind of arbitrary.
But when I stack up all of the available evidence
and all of it on both sides is circumstantial,
it weighs very significantly toward a lab incident origin.
So before we dive into the specifics at a high level,
what types of evidence, what intuition, what ideas
are leading you to have that kind of estimate?
Is it possible to kind of condense,
when you look at the wall of evidence before you,
where’s your source, the strongest source of your intuition?
And I would have to say it’s just logic
and deductive reasoning.
So before I make the case for why I think
it’s most likely a lab incident origin,
let’s just say why it could be,
and still could be a natural origin.
All of this is a natural origin in the sense
that it’s a bat virus backbone, horseshoe bat virus backbone.
Okay, I’m gonna keep pausing you to define stuff.
So maybe it’s useful to say, what do we mean by lab leak?
What do we mean by natural origin?
What do we mean by virus backbone?
Okay, great questions.
So viruses come from somewhere.
Viruses have been around for 3.5 billion years,
and they’ve been around for such a long time
because they are adaptive and they’re growing
and they’re always changing and they’re morphing.
And that’s why viruses are,
I mean, they’ve been very successful and we are our victims.
Sometimes we’re beneficiaries.
We have viral DNA has morphed into our genomes,
but now it’s certainly in the case of COVID 19,
we are victims of the success of viruses.
And so when we talk about a backbone,
so the SARS CoV2 virus, it has a history
and these viruses don’t come out of whole cloth.
There are viruses that morph.
And so we know that at some period,
maybe 20 years ago or whatever,
the virus that is SARS CoV2 existed in horseshoe bats.
It was a horseshoe bat virus and it evolved somewhere.
And there are some people who say,
there’s no evidence of this,
but it’s a plausible theory
based on how things have happened in the past.
Maybe that virus jumped from the horseshoe bat
through some intermediate species.
So it’s like, let’s say there’s a bat
and that it infects some other animal.
Let’s say it’s a pig or a raccoon dog or a civet cat.
They’re all pangolin.
They’re all sorts of animals that have been considered.
And then that virus adapts into that new host
and it changes and grows.
And then according to the quote unquote
natural origins hypothesis,
it jumps from that animal into humans.
And so what you could imagine
and some of the people who are making the case,
all of the people actually,
who are making the case for a natural origin of the virus,
what they’re saying is it went from bat
to some intermediate species.
And then from that intermediate species, most likely,
there’s some people who say it went directly bat to human,
but through some intermediate species.
And then humans interacted with that species.
And then it jumped from that, whatever it is to humans.
And that’s a very plausible theory.
It’s just that there’s no evidence for it.
And the nature of the interaction is,
do most people kind of suggest this at the wet markets?
So the interaction of the humans with the animal
is in the form of it’s either a live animal
as being sold to be eaten or a recently live animal,
but newly dead animal being sold to be eaten.
That’s certainly one very possible possibility,
a possible possibility, I don’t know if that’s a word.
But the people who believe in the wet market origin,
that’s what they’re saying.
So they had one of these animals,
they were cutting it up, let’s say, in a market
and maybe some of the blood got into somebody’s,
maybe had a cut on their hand or maybe it was aerosolized
and so somebody breathed it.
And then that virus found this new host
and that was the human host.
But you could also have that happen in, let’s say, a farm.
So it’s happened in the past that let’s say
that there are farms and because of human encroachment
into wild spaces, we’re pushing our farms
and our animal farms further and further
into what used to be just natural habitats.
And so it’s happened in the past, for example,
that there were bats roosting over pig pens
and the bat droppings went into the pig pens.
The viruses in those droppings infected the pigs
and then the pigs infected the humans.
And that’s why it’s a plausible theory.
It’s just that there’s basically no evidence for it.
If it was the case that SARS CoV2 comes from this type
of interaction, as in most of the at least recent
past outbreaks, we’d see evidence of that.
Viruses are messy.
They’re constantly undergoing Darwinian evolution
and they’re changing and it’s not that they’re just ready
for prime time, ready to infect humans on day one.
Normally you can trace the viral evolution prior
to the time when it infects humans.
But for SARS CoV2, it just showed up on the scene
ready to infect humans.
And there’s no history that anybody has found so far
of that kind of viral evolution.
With the first SARS, you could track it
by the genome sequencing that it was experimenting.
And SARS CoV2 was very, very stable,
meaning it had already adapted to humans
by the time it interacted with us.
It’s fully adapted.
So with SARS, there’s a rapid evolution
when it first kind of hooks onto a human.
Yeah, because it’s trying.
Like a virus, its goal is to survive and replicate.
Yeah, no, it’s true.
It’s like, oh, we’re gonna try this.
Oh, that didn’t work.
We’ll try it exactly like a startup.
And so we don’t see that.
And so there are some people who say,
well, one hypothesis is you have a totally isolated
group of humans, maybe in Southern China,
which is more than a thousand miles away from Wuhan.
And maybe they’re doing their animal farming
right next to these areas where there are these horseshoe bats.
And maybe in this totally isolated place
that no one’s ever heard of,
they’re not connected to any other place,
one person gets infected.
And it doesn’t spread to anybody else
because they’re so isolated.
They’re like, I don’t know.
I can’t even imagine that this is the case.
Then somebody gets in a car and drives all night,
more than a thousand miles through crappy roads
to get to Wuhan, doesn’t stop for anything,
doesn’t infect anybody on the way.
No one else in that person’s village infects anyone.
And then that person goes straight
to the Huanan seafood market,
according to this, in my mind, not very credible theory,
and then unloads his stuff and everybody gets infected.
And they’re only delivering those animals
to the Wuhan market, which doesn’t even sell very many
of these kinds of animals
that are likely intermediate species and not anywhere else.
So that’s, I mean, it’s a little bit of a straw man,
but on top of that, the Chinese have sequenced
more than 80,000 animal samples,
and there’s no evidence of this type of viral evolution
that we would otherwise expect.
Let’s try to, at this moment, steel man the argument
for the natural origin of the virus.
So just to clarify, so Wuhan is actually,
despite what it might sound like to people,
is a pretty big city.
There’s a lot of people that live in it.
So not only is there, at the Wuhan Institute of Virology,
there’s other centers that do work on viruses,
but there’s also a giant number of markets.
And everything we’re talking about here
is pretty close together.
So when I kind of look at the geography of this,
I think when you zoom out, it’s all Wuhan,
but when you zoom in,
there’s just a lot of interesting dynamics
that could be happening and what the cases are popping up
and what’s being reported, all that kind of stuff.
So I think the people that argue for the natural origin,
and there’s a few recent papers
that come out arguing this,
it’s kind of fascinating to watch this whole thing,
but I think what they’re arguing
is that there’s this Hunan market
that’s one of the major markets, the wet markets in Wuhan,
that there’s a bunch of cases
that were reported from there.
So if I look at, for example,
the Michael Warby perspective that he wrote in Science,
he argues, he wrote this a few days ago,
the predominance of early COVID cases linked to Hunan market,
and this can’t be dismissed as ascertainment bias,
which I think is what people argue,
that you’re just kind of focusing on this region
because a lot of cases came,
but there could be a huge number of other cases.
So people who argue against this
say that this is a later stage already.
So he says no, he says this is the epicenter,
and this is a clear evidence, circumstantial evidence,
but evidence nevertheless
that this is where the jump happened to humans,
the big explosion, maybe not case zero,
I don’t know if he argues that, but the early cases.
So what do you make of this whole idea?
Can you steel man it before we talk about the alternative?
And my goal here isn’t to attack people on the other side,
and my feeling is if there is evidence that’s presented
that should change my view,
I hope that I’ll be open minded enough to change my view.
And certainly Michael Warby is a thoughtful person,
a respected scientist,
and I think this work is contributive work,
but I just don’t think that it’s as significant
as has been reported in the press.
And so what his argument is,
is that there is an early cluster in December of 2019
around the Huanan seafood market.
And even though he himself argues
that the original breakthrough case,
the original case, the index case
where the first person infected happened earlier,
happened in October or November, so not in December.
His argument is, well, what are the odds
that you would have this number, this cluster of cases
in the Huanan seafood market,
and if the origin happened someplace else,
wouldn’t you expect other clusters?
And it’s not an entirely implausible argument,
but there are reasons why I think
that this is not nearly as determinative
as has been reported.
And I certainly had a lot of,
I and others had tweeted a lot about this.
And that is first, the people who were infected
in this cluster, it’s not the earliest known virus
of the SARS CoV2, it began mutating.
So this is, it’s not the original SARS CoV2 there.
So it had to have happened someplace else.
Two, the people who were infected in the market
weren’t infected in the part of the market
where they had these kinds of animals
that are considered to be candidates
as an intermediary species.
And third, there was a bias,
and actually I’ll have four things.
Third, there was a bias in the early assessment in China
of what they were looking for.
They were asked, did you have exposure to the market?
Because I think in the early days
when people were figuring things out,
that was one of the questions that was asked.
And fourth, and probably most significantly,
we have so little information
about those early cases in China,
and that’s really unfortunate.
I know we’ll talk about this later
because the Chinese government is preventing access
to all of that information, which they have,
which could easily help us get to the bottom,
at least know a ton more about how this pandemic started.
And so this is, it’s like grasping at straws
in the dark with gloves on.
But to steel man the argument,
we have this evidence from this market,
and yes, the Chinese government
has turned off the lights essentially,
so we have very little data to work with,
but this is the data we have.
So who’s to say that this data
doesn’t represent a much bigger data set
that a lot of people got infected at this market
where even at the parts, or especially at the parts
where the infected meat was being sold?
So that could be true, and it probably is true.
The question is, is this the source?
Is this the place where this began?
Or was this just a place where it was amplified?
And I certainly think that it’s extremely likely
that the Huanan seafood market was a point of amplification.
And it’s just answering a different question.
Basically what you’re saying is it’s very difficult
to use the market as evidence for anything
because it’s probably not even the starting point.
So it’s just a good place for it to continue spreading.
That’s certainly my view.
What Michael Warby’s argument is, Marco, is that,
well, what are the odds of that?
That we’re seeing this amplification in the market.
And if we, let me put it this way.
If we had all of the information,
if the Chinese government hadn’t blocked access
to all of this, because there’s blood bank information,
there’s all sorts of information,
and based on a full and complete understanding,
we came to believe that all of the early cases
were at this market.
I think that would be a stronger argument
than what this is so far.
But everything leads to the fact that why is it
that the Chinese government,
which was, frankly, after a slow start,
the gold standard of doing viral tracking for SARS 1,
why have they apparently done so little
and shared so little?
I think it asks, it begs a lot of questions.
Okay, so let’s then talk about the Chinese government.
There’s several governments, right?
So one is the local government of Wuhan.
And not just the Chinese government.
Let’s talk about government.
No, let’s talk about human nature.
Let’s just keep zooming out.
Let’s talk about planet Earth.
No, so there’s the Wuhan local government.
There’s the Chinese government led by Xi Jinping.
And there’s governments in general.
I’m trying to empathize.
So my father was involved with Chernobyl.
I’m trying to put myself into the mind of local officials,
of people who are like,
oh shit, there’s a potential catastrophic event
happening here and it’s my ass
because there’s incompetence all over the place.
Yeah, human nature is such that there’s incompetence
all over the place and you’re always trying to cover it up.
And so given that context,
I want to lay out all the possible incompetence,
all the possible malevolence,
all the possible geopolitical tensions here.
All right, where in your sense did the coverup start?
So there’s this suspicious fact,
it seems like that the Wuhan Institute of Virology
had a public database of thousands
of sampled bad coronavirus sequences
and that went offline in September of 2019.
What’s that about?
So let me talk about that specific
and then I’ll also follow your path of zooming out
and it’s a really important.
Is that a good starting point?
It’s a great starting point, yeah, yeah.
So but there’s a bigger story
but let me talk about that.
So the Wuhan Institute of Virology
and we can go into the whole history
of the Wuhan Institute of Virology either now or later
because I think it’s very relevant to the story
but let’s focus for now on this database.
They had a database of 22,000 viral samples
and sequence information about viruses
that they had collected.
Some of which, the collection of some of which
was supported through funding from the NIH,
not a huge NIH through the EcoHealth Alliance.
It’s a relatively small amount, $600,000 but not nothing.
The goal of this database
was so that we could understand viral evolution
so that exactly for this kind of moment
where we had an unknown virus,
we could say, well, is this like anything
that we’ve seen before?
And that would help us both understand what we’re facing
and be better able to respond.
So this was a password protected public access database.
In 2019, in September 2019,
it became inaccessible and then the whole,
a few months later, the entire database disappeared.
What the Chinese have said is that because there were
all kinds of computer attacks on this database
but why would that happen in September 2019
before the pandemic, at least as far as we know.
So just to clarify.
It went down to September 2019
just so we get the year straight.
January 2020 is when the virus
really started getting the press.
So we’re talking about December 2019,
a lot of early infections happened.
September 2019 is when this database goes down.
Just to clarify because you said it quickly,
the Chinese government said
that their database was getting hacked.
Therefore, Xu Zhengli, the director of this part
of the Wuhan Institute of Virology said that.
Oh really, she was the one that said it?
She was the one who said it.
Oh boy, I did not even know that part.
Well, she’s an interesting character.
We’ll talk about her.
So the excuse is that it’s getting cyber attacked a lot
so we’re gonna take it down without any further explanation
which seems very suspicious.
And then this virus starts to emerge
in October, November, December.
There’s a lot of argument about that, but after.
Sorry to interrupt, but some people are saying
that the first outbreak could have happened
as early as September.
I think it’s more likely it’s October, November,
but for the people who are saying that the first outbreak,
the first incident of a known outbreak,
at least to somebody, happened in September,
they make the argument, well, what if that also happened
in mid September of 2019?
I’m not prepared to go there,
but there are some people who make that argument.
But I think, again, if I were to put myself
in the mind of officials,
whether it’s officials within the Wuhan Institute of Virology
or Wuhan local officials,
I think if I notice some major problem,
like somebody got sick,
some sign of, oh shit, we screwed up,
that’s when you kind of do the slow,
there’s like a Homer Simpson meme
where you slowly start backing out,
and I would probably start hiding stuff.
Yeah, and then coming up with really shady excuses.
It’s like you’re in a relationship
and your girlfriend wants to see your phone,
and you’re like, I’m sorry,
I’m just getting attacked by the Russians now.
The cyber security issue, I can’t.
Yeah, I wish I could.
I wish I could, it’s just unsafe right now.
So would it be okay if I give you my kind of macro view
of the whole information space
and why I believe this has been so contentious?
If I had to give my best guess,
and I underline the word guess of what happened,
and your background, your family background with Chernobyl
I think is highly relevant here.
So after the first SARS, there was a recognition
that we needed to distribute knowledge about virology
and epidemiology around the world,
that people in China and Africa and Southeast Asia,
they were the frontline workers,
and they needed to be doing a lot of the viral monitoring
and assessment so that we could have an early alarm system.
And that was why there was a lot of investment
in all of those places in building capacity
and training people
and helping to build institutional capacity.
And the Chinese government,
they recognized that they needed to ramp things up.
And then the World Health Organization
and the World Health Assembly,
they had their international health regulations
that were designed to create a stronger infrastructure.
So that was the goal.
There were a lot of investments,
and I know we’ll talk later
about the Wuhan Institute of Virology,
and I won’t go into that right now.
So there was all of this distributed capacity.
And so in the early days, there’s a breakout in Wuhan.
We don’t know, is it September, October, November?
Maybe December is when the local authorities
start to recognize that something’s happening.
But at some point in late 2019,
local officials in Wuhan understand that something is up.
And exactly like in Chernobyl,
these guys exist within a hierarchical system,
and they are going to be rewarded if good things happen,
and they’re going to be in big trouble
if bad things happen under their watch.
So their initial instinct is to squash it.
And my guess is they think,
well, if we squash this information,
we can most likely beat back this outbreak,
because lots of outbreaks happen all the time,
including of SARS 1,
where there was multiple lab incidents
out of a lab in Beijing.
And so they start their coverup on day one.
They start screening social media.
They send nasty letters to different doctors
and others who are starting to speak up.
But then it becomes clear that there’s a bigger issue.
And then the national government of China,
again, this is just a hypothesis,
the national government gets involved.
They say, all right, this is getting much bigger.
They go in and they realize
that we have a big problem on our hands.
They relatively quickly know
that it’s spreading human to human.
And so the right thing for them to do then
is what the South African government is doing now
is to say, we have this outbreak.
We don’t know everything, but we know it’s serious.
We need help.
But that’s not the instinct of people in most governments
and certainly not in authoritarian governments like China.
And so the national government,
they have a choice at that point.
They can do option one,
which is what we would hear called the right thing,
which is total transparency.
They criticize the local officials for having this coverup.
And they say, now we’re going to be totally transparent.
But what does that do in a system
like the former Soviet Union, like China now?
If local officials say, wait a second,
I thought my job was to cover everything up,
to support this alternative reality
that authoritarian systems need in order to survive.
Well, now I’m gonna be held accountable
for if I’m not totally transparent,
like your whole system would collapse.
So the national government, they have that choice
and their only choice according to the logic of their system
is to be all in on a coverup.
And that’s why they block the World Health Organization
from sending its team to Wuhan for over three weeks.
They overtly lie to the World Health Organization
about human to human transmission.
And then they begin their coverups.
So they begin very, very quickly destroying samples,
hiding records, they start imprisoning people
for asking basic questions.
Soon after they establish a gag order,
preventing Chinese scientists from writing
or saying anything about pandemic origins
without prior government approval.
And what that does means that there isn’t a lot of data,
there’s not nearly enough data coming out of China.
And so lots of responsible scientists outside of China
who are data driven say, well,
I don’t have enough information to draw conclusions.
And then into that vacuum step a relatively small number
of largely virologists, but also others,
And I know we’ll talk about the, I think,
infamous Peter Daszak who say,
well, without any real foundation in the evidence,
they say, we know pretty much this comes from nature
and anyone who’s raising the possibility
of a lab incident origin is a conspiracy theorist.
So that message starts to percolate.
And then in the United States, we have Donald Trump
and he’s starting to get criticized for America’s failure
to respond, prepare for and respond adequately
to the outbreak.
And so he starts saying, well, I know first
after praising Xi Jinping, he starts saying,
well, I know that China did it and the WHO did it
and he’s kind of pointing fingers at everybody but himself.
And then we have a media here that had shifted
from the traditional model of he said, she said journalism,
so and so said X and so and so said Y
and then we’ll present both of those views.
With Donald Trump,
he would make outlandish starting positions.
So he would say, Lex is an ax murderer.
And then in the early days, they would say,
Lex is an ax murderer, Lex’s friend says
he’s not an ax murderer and we have a four day debate,
is he or isn’t he?
And then at day four, someone would say,
why are we having this debate at all?
Because the original point is just is baseless.
And so the media just got in the habit,
here’s what Trump said and here’s why it’s wrong.
It’s very complicated to figure out
what is the role of a politician?
What is the role of a leader in this kind of game
But certainly in when there’s a tragedy,
when there’s a catastrophic event,
what it takes to be a leader is to see clearly
through the fog and to make big bold decisions
that does speak to the truth of things.
And even if it’s unpopular truth,
to listen to the people, to listen to all sides,
to the opinions, to the controversial ideas
and to see past all the bullshit,
all the political bullshit and just speak to the people,
speak to the world and make bold, big decisions.
That’s probably what was needed in terms of leadership.
And I’m not so willing to criticize whether it’s Joe Biden
or Donald Trump on this.
I think most people cannot be great leaders,
but that’s why when great leaders step up,
we write books about them.
And I agree.
And even though, I mean, I think of myself
as a progressive person, I certainly was a critic
of a lot of what President Trump did.
But on this particular case,
even though he may have said it in an uncouth way,
Donald Trump was actually, in my view, right.
I mean, when he said, hey, let’s look at this lab.
I mean, he said, I have evidence, I can’t tell you.
I don’t think he even had the evidence.
But his intuition that this probably comes from a lab,
in my view was a correct intuition.
And certainly I started speaking up
about pandemic origins early in 2019.
And my friends, my democratic friends were brutal with me
saying, what are you doing?
You’re supporting Trump in an election year.
And I said, just because Donald Trump is saying something
doesn’t mean that I need to oppose it.
If Donald Trump says something that I think is correct,
well, I wanna say it’s correct,
just as if he says something that I don’t like,
I’m gonna speak up about that.
Good, you walked through the fire.
So that’s, you laid out the story here.
And I think in many ways it’s a human story.
It’s a story of politics, it’s a story of human nature.
But let’s talk about the story of the virus.
And let’s talk about the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
So maybe this is a good time to try to talk about
its history, about its origins,
about what kind of stuff it works on,
about biosafety levels, and about Batwoman.
Yeah, Xu Zhengli, yes.
So what is the Wuhan Institute of Virology,
when did it start?
Yeah, so it’s a great question.
So after SARS 1, which was in the early 2000, 2003, 2004,
there was this effort to enhance,
as I mentioned before, global capacity, including in China.
So the Wuhan Institute of Virology
had been around for decades before then.
But there was an agreement between the French
and the Chinese governments to build the largest BSL4 lab,
BSL4 lab, so biosafety level four.
So in these what are called high containment labs,
there’s level four, which is the highest level.
And people have seen that on TV and elsewhere,
where you have the people in the different suits
and all of these protections.
And then there’s level three, which is still very serious,
but not as much as level four.
And then level two is just kind of goggles and some gloves
and maybe a face mask, much less.
So the French and the Chinese governments agreed
that France would help build the first
and still the largest BSL4 plus some mobile BSL3 labs.
And they were going to do it in Wuhan.
And Wuhan is kind of like China’s Chicago.
And I had actually been, it’s a different story.
I’d been in Wuhan relatively not that long
before the pandemic broke out.
And that was why I knew that Wuhan,
it’s not some backwater where there are a bunch of yokels
eating bats for dinner every night.
This is a really sophisticated, wealthy, highly educated
and cultured city.
And so I knew that it wasn’t like
that even the one on seafood market
wasn’t like some of these seafood markets
that they have in Southern China or in Cambodia,
where I lived for two years.
I mean, it was a totally different thing.
I’m gonna have to talk to you about some of the,
including the Wuhan market,
just some of the wild food going on here.
Because you’ve traveled that part of the world.
But let’s not get there.
Let’s not get distracted.
Good, as I was telling you, Lex, before,
and this is maybe an advertisement,
is having now listened to a number of your podcasts
when I’m doing long ultra training runs
or driving in the mountains.
Like the really, because in the beginning,
we have to talk about whatever it is is the topic.
But the really good stuff happens later.
So stay tuned. So friends,
you should listen to the end.
I have to say, as I was telling you before,
like when I heard your long podcast with Jérôme Lanier
and he talked about his mother at the very end,
I mean, just beautiful stuff.
So I don’t know whether I can match beautiful stuff,
but I’m gonna do my best.
You’re gonna have to find out.
Exactly, stay tuned.
So France had this agreement
that they were going to help design and help build
this BSL4 lab in Wuhan.
And it was going to be with French standards,
and there were going to be 50 French experts
who were going to work there
and supervise the work that happened
even after the Wuhan Institute of Virology
in the new location started operating.
But then when they started building it,
the French contractors, the French overseers
were increasingly appalled
that they had less and less control,
that the Chinese contractors were swapping out new things,
it wasn’t built up to French standards,
so much that at the end, when it was finally built,
the person who was the vice chairman of the project
and a leading French industrialist named Marieau
refused to sign off.
And he said, we can’t support,
we have no idea what this is,
whether it’s safe or not.
And when this lab opened,
remember it was supposed to have 50 French experts,
it had one French expert.
And so the French were really disgusted.
And actually when the Wuhan Institute of Virology
and its new location opened in 2018, two things happened.
One, French intelligence privately approached
US intelligence saying, we have a lot of concerns
about the Wuhan Institute of Virology,
about its safety, and we don’t even know
who’s operating there,
is it being used as a dual use facility?
And also in 2018, the US embassy in Beijing
sent some people down to Wuhan to go and look at,
well, at this laboratory.
And they wrote a scathing cable that Josh Rogin
from the Washington Post later got his hands on saying,
this is really unsafe,
they’re doing work on dangerous bat coronaviruses
in conditions where a leak is possible.
And so then you mentioned Shujing Li,
and I’ll connect that to these virologists
who I was talking about.
So there’s a very credible thesis
that because these pathogenic outbreaks happen
in other parts of the world,
having partnerships with experts in those parts of the world
must be a foundation of our efforts.
We can’t just bring everything home
because we know that viruses don’t care about borders
and boundaries, and so if something happens there,
it’s going to come here.
So very correctly, we have all kinds of partnerships
with experts in these labs,
and Shujing Li was one of those partners.
And her closest relationship was with Peter Daszak,
who’s a British, I think now American,
but the president of a thing called EcoHealth Alliance,
which was getting money from NIH.
And basically, EcoHealth Alliance
was a pass through organization.
And over the years, it was only about $600,000.
So almost all of her funding
came from the Chinese government,
but there’s a little bit that came from the United States.
And so she became their kind of leading expert
and the point of contact
between the Wuhan Institute of Virology
and certainly Peter Daszak, but also with others.
And that was why in the earliest days of the outbreak,
I didn’t mention that,
I did mention that there were these virologists
who had this fake certainty
that they knew it came from nature
and it didn’t come from a lab
and they called people like me conspiracy theorists
just for raising that possibility.
But when Peter Daszak was organizing that effort
in February of 2020,
what he said is we need to rally
behind our Chinese colleagues.
And the basic idea was
these international collaborations are under threat.
And I think it was because of that,
because Peter Daszak’s basically his major contribution
as a scientist was just tacking his name
on work that Shujang Li had largely done.
He was defending a lot,
certainly for himself and his organization.
So you think EcoHealth Alliance and Peter
is less about money,
it’s more about kind of almost like legacy
because you’re so attached to this work?
Is it just on a human level?
I think so.
I mean, I’ve been criticized for being actually,
I’m certainly a big critic of Peter Daszak,
but I’ve been criticized by some for being too lenient.
I mean, it’s so easy to say,
oh, somebody they’re like an evil ogre
and just trying to do evil
and cackling in their closet or whatever.
But I think for most of us,
even those of us who do terrible, horrible things,
the story that we tell ourselves
and we really believe is that we’re doing the thing
that we most believe in.
I mean, I did my PhD dissertation
on the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.
They genuinely saw themselves as idealists.
They thought, well, we need to make radical change
to build a better future.
And what they described as,
that they felt was radical change
was a monstrous atrocities by us.
So the criticism here of Peter
is that he was a part of an organization
that was kind of, well, funding an effort
that was an unsafe implementation
of a biosafety level four laboratory.
Well, a few things.
So what he thought he was doing was,
and then what he thought he was doing
is itself highly controversial
because there’s one there that in 2011,
there were, I know you’ve talked about this
with other guests, but in 2011,
there were the first published papers
on this now infamous gain of function research.
And basically what they did,
both in different labs and certainly in the United States,
in Wisconsin and in the Netherlands,
was they had a bird flu virus
that was very dangerous, but not massively transmissive.
And they had a gain of function process
through what’s called serial passage,
which means basically passing advice,
like natural selection, but forcing natural selection
by just passing a virus through different cell cultures
and then selecting for what it is that you want.
So relatively easily, they took this deadly,
but not massively transmissive virus
and turned it into, in a lab,
a deadly and transmissive virus.
And that showed that this is really dangerous.
And so there were, at that point,
there was a huge controversy.
There were some people, like Richard Ebright
and Mark Lipsitch at Harvard,
who were saying that this is really dangerous.
We’re in the idea that we need to create monsters
to study monsters.
I think maybe even you have said that in the past.
It doesn’t make sense
because there’s an unlimited number of monsters.
And so what are we gonna do?
Create an unlimited number of monsters.
And if we do that,
eventually the monsters are going to get out.
Then there was the Peter Daszak camp,
and he got a lot of funding,
particularly from the United States,
who said, well, and certainly Collins and Fauci
were supportive of this.
And they thought, well, there’s a safe way
to go out into the world
to collect the world’s most dangerous viruses
and to poke and prod them
to figure out how they might mutate,
how they might become more dangerous
with the goal of predicting future pandemics.
And that certainly never happened
with the goal of creating vaccines and treatments.
And that largely never happened,
but that was, so Peter Daszak kind of epitomized
that second approach.
And as you’ve talked about in the past,
in 2014, there was a funding moratorium
in the United States, and then in 2017, that was lifted.
It didn’t affect the funding
that went to the EcoHealth Alliance.
So when this happened in the beginning,
and again, coming back to Peter’s motivations,
I don’t think, here’s the best case scenario for Peter.
I’m gonna give you what I imagine he was thinking,
and then I’ll tell you what I actually think.
So I think here’s what he’s thinking.
This is most likely a natural origin outbreak.
Just like SARS one, again, in Peter’s hypothetical mind,
just like SARS one, this is most likely a natural outbreak.
We need to have an international coalition
in order to fight it.
If we allow these political attacks
to undermine our Chinese counterparts
and the trust in these relationships
that we’ve built over many years,
we’re really screwed because they have
the most local knowledge of these outbreaks.
And even though, and this guy gets a lot more complicated,
even though there are basic questions
that anybody would ask and that Shujing Li herself did ask
about the origins of this pandemic,
even though Peter Daszak, and I’ll describe this
in a moment, had secret information that we didn’t have,
that in my mind massively increases the possibility
of a lab incident origin, I, Peter Daszak,
would like to guide the public conversation
in the direction where I think it should go
and in support of the kind of international collaboration
that I think is necessary.
That’s a strong, positive discussion
because it’s true that there’s a lot of political BS
and a lot of kind of just bickering and lies
as we’ve talked about.
And so it’s very convenient to say, you know what?
Let’s just ignore all of these quote unquote lies
and my favorite word, misinformation.
And then because the way out from this serious pandemic
is for us to work together.
So let’s strengthen our partnerships
and everything else is just like noise.
Yeah, so let’s, and so then now I wanna do
my personal indictment of Peter Daszak
because that’s my view, but I wanted to fairly.
Because I think that we all tell ourselves stories
and also when you’re a science communicator,
you can’t in your public communications
give every doubt that you have or every nuance,
you kind of have to summarize things.
And so I think that he was, again,
in this benign interpretation trying to summarize
in the way that he thought the conversations should go.
Here’s my indictment of Peter Daszak.
And I feel like a Brutus here,
but I have not come here to praise Peter Daszak
because while Peter Daszak was doing all of this
and making all of these statements about,
well, we pretty much know it’s a natural origin.
Then there was this February, 2020 Lancet letter
where it turns out, and we only knew this later
that he was highly manipulative.
So he was recruiting all of these people.
He drafted the infamous letter calling people like me,
He then wrote to people like Ralph Barak and Linfa Wang,
who are also very high profile virologists saying,
well, let’s not put our names on it.
So it doesn’t look like we’re doing it,
even though they were doing it.
He didn’t disclose a lot of information that they had.
It was a strategic move.
So just in case people are not familiar,
February, 2020, Lancet letter was TLDR,
is a lab leak hypothesis, is a conspiracy theory.
So like with the authority of science,
not saying like it’s highly likely,
saying it’s obvious, duh, it’s natural origin.
Everybody else is just,
everything else is just misinformation.
And look, there’s a bunch of really smart people
that signed this, therefore it’s true.
Yeah, not only that, so there were the people
who, 27 people signed that letter.
And then after President Trump cut funding
to EcoHealth Alliance, then he organized 77 Nobel laureates
to have a public letter criticizing that.
But what Peter knew then that we didn’t fully know
is that in March of 2018, EcoHealth Alliance,
in partnership with the Wuhan Institute of Virology
and others, had applied for a $14 million grant to DARPA,
which is kind of like the VC side of the venture capital
side of the Defense Department.
They’re kind of, where they do kind of big ideas.
By the way, as a tiny tangent,
I’ve gotten a lot of funding from DARPA.
They fund a lot of excellent robotics research.
And DARPA is incredible.
And among the things that they applied for
is that we, meaning Wuhan Institute of Virology,
is gonna go and it’s gonna collect
the most dangerous bat coronaviruses in Southern China.
And then we, as this group,
are going to genetically engineer these viruses
to insert a furin cleavage site.
So I think when everyone’s now seen the image
of the SARS CoV2 virus, it has these little spike proteins,
these little things that stick out,
which is why they call it a coronavirus.
Within that spike protein are these furin cleavage sites,
which basically help with the virus
getting access into our cells.
And they were going to genetically engineer
these furin cleavage sites into these bat coronaviruses,
And then, and so then a year and a half later,
what do we see?
We see a bat coronavirus with a furin cleavage site
unlike anything that we’ve ever seen before
in that category of SARS like coronaviruses.
That, well, yes, I mean, the DARPA very correctly
didn’t support that application.
Well, let’s actually, let’s like pause on that.
So for a lot of people, that’s like the smoking gun.
Okay, let’s talk about this 2018 proposal to DARPA.
So I guess who’s drafted the proposal?
Is it EcoHealth, but the proposal is to do research.
EcoHealth is technically a US funded organization.
And then the idea was to do work
at Wuhan Institute of Virology.
With, yeah, so it was.
Yes, so EcoHealth, basically the Wuhan Institute of Virology
was gonna go and they were gonna collect these viruses
and store them at Wuhan Institute of Virology.
But they’re also gonna do the actual task.
According, it’s a really important point.
According to their proposal, the actual work
was going to be done at the lab of Ralph Barak
at the University of North Carolina,
who’s probably the world’s leading expert on coronaviruses.
And so we know that DARPA didn’t fund that work.
We know, I think quite well that Ralph Barak’s lab,
in part because it was not funded by DARPA,
they didn’t do that specific work.
What we don’t know is, well, what work was done
at the Wuhan Institute of Virology
because WIV was part of this proposal.
They had access to all of the plans.
They had done, they had their own capacity
and they had already done a lot of work
in genetically altering this exact category of viruses.
They had created chimeric mixed viruses.
They had mastered pretty much all of the steps
in order to achieve this thing that they applied
for funding with EcoHealth to do.
And so the question is, did the Wuhan Institute of Virology
go through with that research anyway?
And in my mind, that’s a very, very real possibility.
It would certainly explain
why they’re giving no information.
And as you know, I’ve been a member
of the World Health Organization Expert Advisory Committee
on Human Genome Editing, which Dr. Tedros created
in the aftermath of the announcement
of the world’s first CRISPR babies.
And it was just basically the first time
and it was just basically the exact same story.
So Ho Chiang Kui, a Chinese scientist,
it was not a first tier scientist,
but a perfectly adequate second tier scientist,
came to the United States, learned all of these capacities,
went back to China and said,
well, there’s a much more permissive environment.
I’m gonna be a world leader.
I’m gonna establish both myself and China.
So in every scientific field, we’re seeing this same thing
where you kind of learn a model and then you do it in China.
So is it possible that the Wuhan Institute of Virology
with this exact game plan was doing it anyway?
Do we, possible?
We have no clue what work was being done
at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
It seems extremely likely
that at the Wuhan Institute of Virology,
and this is certainly the US government position,
there was the work that was being done in Dr. Hsu’s lab,
but that wasn’t the whole WIV.
We know, at least according to the United States government,
that there was the Chinese military,
that PLA was doing work there.
Were they doing this kind of work, not to create a bioweapon,
but in order to understand these viruses,
maybe to develop vaccines and treatments?
It seems like a very, very logical possibility.
And then, so we know that the Wuhan Institute of Virology
had all of the skills.
We know that they were part of this proposal.
And then you have Peter Daszak, who knows all of this,
that at that time, in February of 2020, we didn’t know.
But then he comes swinging out of the gate,
saying anybody who’s raising this possibility
of a lab incident origin is a conspiracy theorist.
I mean, it really makes him look, in my mind,
very, very bad.
And yet, not to at least be somewhat open minded on this,
because he knows all the details.
He knows that it’s not 0%.
I mean, there’s no way in his mind could you even argue that.
So it’s potential because of the bias,
because of your focus.
I mean, it could be the Anthony Fauci masks thing,
whereas he knows there’s some significant probability
that this is happening.
But in order to preserve good relations
with our Chinese colleagues,
we want to make sure we tell a certain kind of narrative.
So it’s not really lying.
It’s doing the best possible action at this time
to help the world.
Not that this already happened.
But that’s how like…
I think it’s quite likely that that was the story
that he was telling himself.
But it’s that lack of transparency, in my mind,
is fraudulent, that we were struggling
to understand something that we didn’t understand.
And that I just think that people who possess
that kind of information, especially when the existence,
like the entire career of Peter Daszak
is based on US taxpayers,
there’s a debt that comes with that.
And that debt is honesty and transparency.
And for all of us, and you talked about
your girlfriend checking your phone.
For all of us, being honest and transparent
in the most difficult times is really difficult.
If it were easy, everybody would do it.
And I just feel that Peter was the opposite of transparent
and then went on the offensive.
And then had the gall of joining,
I know we can talk about this,
this highly compromised joint study process
with the international experts
and their Chinese government counterparts.
And used that as a way of furthering
this, in my mind, fraudulent narrative
that it almost certainly came from natural origins
and a lab origin was extremely unlikely.
Just to stick briefly on the proposal to wrap that up,
because I do think, in a kind of John Stewart way,
if you heard that a bit yet,
sort of kind of like common sense way,
the 2018 proposal to DARPA from EcoHealth Alliance
and Wuhan Institute of Virology,
just seems like a bit of a smoking gun to me, like that.
So there’s this excellent book that people should read
called Viral, The Search for the Origin of COVID 19.
Matt Ridley and Alena Chan, I think Alena is in MIT.
Probably. At the Broad, yeah.
At Broad Institute, yeah, yeah.
So she, I heard her in an interview
give this analogy of unicorns.
And where basically somebody writes a proposal
to add horns to horses, the proposal is rejected.
And then a couple of years later or a year later,
a unicorn shows up.
In the place where they’re proposing to do it.
I mean, that’s so, I had.
And then everyone’s like, it’s natural origin.
It’s like, it’s possible it’s natural origin.
Like we haven’t detected a unicorn yet.
And this is the first time we’ve detected a unicorn.
Or it could be this massive organization
that was planning, is fully equipped,
has like a history of being able to do this stuff,
has the world experts to do it, has the funding,
has the motivation to add horns to horses.
And now a unicorn shows up and they’re saying, nope.
That connects to your first question
of how do I get to my 85%?
And here’s a summary of that answer.
And so it’s what I said in my 60 Minutes interview
a long time ago, of all the gin joints
and all the towns and all the world,
the quote from Casablanca.
And so of all the places in the world
where we have an outbreak of a SARS like bat coronavirus,
it’s not in the area of the natural habitat
of the horseshoe bats.
It’s the one city in China
with the first and largest level four virology lab,
which actually wasn’t even using it.
They were doing level three and level two for this work,
where they had the world’s largest collection
of bat coronaviruses,
where they were doing aggressive experiments
designed to make these scary viruses scarier,
where they had been part of an application
to insert a furin cleavage site,
able to infect human cells.
And when the outbreak happened,
we had a virus that was ready for action to infect humans.
And to this day, better able to infect humans
than any other species, including bats.
And then from day one, there’s this massive coverup.
And then on top of that,
in spite of lots of efforts by lots of people,
there’s basically no evidence
for the natural origin hypothesis.
Everything that I’ve described just now is circumstantial,
but there’s a certain point
where you add up the circumstances
and you see this seems pretty, pretty likely.
I mean, if we’re getting to 100%,
we are not at 100% by any means.
There still is a possibility of a natural origin.
And if we find that, great.
But from everything that I know,
that’s how I get to my 85.
And we’ll talk about why this matters
in the political sense, in the human sense,
in the science, in the realm of science,
all of those factors.
But first, as Nietzsche said, let us look into the abyss
and the games we’ll play with monsters.
That is colloquially called gain of function research.
Let me ask the kind of political sounding question,
which is how people usually phrase it.
Did Anthony Fauci fund gain of function research
at the Wuhan Institute of Virology?
So it depends.
I mean, I’ve obviously been very closely monitoring this.
I’ve spoken a lot about it.
I’ve written about it.
And it depends on, I mean, not to quote Bill Clinton,
but to quote Bill Clinton, it depends on what
the definition of is is.
And so if you use a common sense definition of gain of function,
and by gain of function, there are lots of things
like gene therapies that are gain of function.
But here, what we mean is gain of function
for pathogens potentially able to create human pandemics.
But if you use the kind of common sense language,
well, then he probably did.
If you use the technical language from a 2017 NIH
document, and you read that language very narrowly,
I think you can make a credible argument that he did not.
There’s a question, though, and Francis Collins
talked about that in his interview with you.
But then there’s a question that we know from now
that we have the information of the reports submitted
by EcoHealth Alliance to the NIH, and some of which
were late or not even delivered, that some of this research
was done on MERS, Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome virus.
And if that was the case, there is, I think,
a colorable argument that that would be considered
gain of function research even by the narrow language
of that 2017 document.
But I definitely think, and I’ve said this repeatedly,
that Rand Paul can be right, and Tony Fauci can be right.
And the question is, how are we defining gain of function?
And that’s why I’ve always said the question in my mind
isn’t, was it or wasn’t it gain of function,
as if that’s like a binary thing, if not, grade,
and if yes, guilty.
The question is just, what work was being done at the Wuhan
Institute of Virology?
What role, if any, did US government funding
play in supporting that work?
And what rights do we all have as human beings
and as American citizens and taxpayers
to get all of the relevant information about that?
So let’s try to kind of dissect this.
So who frustrates you more, Rand Paul or Anthony
Fauci in his discussion or the discussion itself?
So for example, gain of function is
a term that’s kind of more used just
to mean playing with viruses in the lab
to try to develop more dangerous viruses.
Is this kind of research a good idea?
Is it also a good idea for us to talk about it in public,
in the political way that it’s been talked about?
Is it OK that US may have funded gain of function research
I mean, it’s kind of assumed, just like with Bill Clinton,
there was very little discussion of, I think,
correct me if I’m wrong, but whether it’s
OK for a president, male or female,
to have extramarital sex or is it
OK for a president to have extramarital sex
with people on his staff or her staff?
It was more the discussion of lying, I think.
It was, did you lie about having sex or not?
And in this gain of function discussion,
what frustrates me personally is there’s not
a deep philosophical discussion about whether we
should be doing this kind of research
and what are the ethical lines, research on animals at all.
Those are fascinating questions.
Instead, it’s a gotcha thing.
Did you or did you not fund research on gain of function?
And did you fund, it’s almost like a bioweapon.
Did you give money to China to develop this bioweapon that
now attacked the rest of the world?
So I mean, all those things are pretty frustrating,
but is there, I think, the thing you
can untangle about Anthony Fauci and gain of function
research in the United States and the EcoHealth Alliance
and Wuhan Institute of Virology that’s clarifying.
What were the mistakes made?
So on gain of function, there actually
has been a lot of debate.
I mentioned before in 2011, these first papers,
there was a big debate.
Mark Lipsitch, who’s formerly at Harvard now
with the US government working in the president’s office,
he led a thing called the Cambridge Group that
was highly critical of this work,
basically saying we’re creating monsters.
They had the funding pause in 2014.
They spent three years putting together a framework,
and then they lifted it in 2017.
So we had a thoughtful conversation.
Unfortunately, it didn’t work.
And I think that’s where we are now.
So I absolutely think that there are real issues
with the relationship between the United States government
and EcoHealth Alliance, and through that,
the EcoHealth Alliance with the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
And one issue is just essential transparency,
because as I see it, it’s most likely the case
that we transferred a lot of our knowledge and plans and things
to the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
And again, I’m sure that Xiaojiang Li is not herself
I’m sure of that, even though I’ve never met her.
But there are just a different set of pressures
on people working in an authoritarian system
than people who are working in other systems.
That doesn’t mean it’s entirely different.
And so I absolutely think that we shouldn’t give $1
to an organization, and certainly a virology institute,
where you don’t have full access to their records,
to their databases.
We don’t know what work is happening there.
And I think that we need to have that kind of full examination.
So I understand what Dr. Fauci is doing is saying,
hey, what I hear Dr. Fauci saying,
what I hear from you, Rand Paul, is
you’re accusing me of starting this pandemic.
And you’re using gain of function as a proxy for that.
And we have, when there are Senate hearings,
every senator gets five minutes.
And the name of the game is to translate your five minutes
into a clip that’s going to run on the news.
And so I get that there is that kind of gotcha.
But I also think that Dr. Fauci and the National
Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the NIH
should have been more transparent.
Because I think that in this day and age, where
there are a lot of people poking around
and this whole story of COVID origins,
we would not be where we are if it
wasn’t for a relatively small number of people.
And I’m part of, there are two, as I know, two groups.
One is these internet sleuths known as Drastic.
And a number of them are part of a group
that I’m part of called, it’s not our official name,
but called the Paris Group.
It’s about two dozen experts around the world,
but centered around some very high level French academics.
So we’ve all been digging and meeting with each other
regularly since last year.
And our governments across the board, certainly China,
but including the United States, haven’t
been as transparent as they need to be.
So definitely mistakes were made on all sides.
And that’s why for me from day one,
I’ve been calling for a comprehensive investigation
into this issue that certainly obviously looks at China,
but we have to look at ourselves.
We did not get this right.
So do you, I’m just gonna put Rand Paul aside here.
Politician playing political games, it’s very frustrating,
but it is what it is on all sides.
Anthony Fauci, you think should have been more transparent
and maybe more eloquent in expressing the complexity
of all of this, the uncertainty in all of this.
Yeah, and I get that it’s really hard to do that
because let’s say you have one, you speak a paragraph
and it’s got four sentences.
And one of those sentences is the thing
that’s going to be turned into Twitter.
All right, let me put it back.
I get really, so I’ll try not to be emotional about this,
but I’ve heard Anthony Fauci a couple of times now
say that he represents science.
I know what he means by that.
He means in this political bickering,
all that kind of stuff that for a lot of people,
he represents science, but words matter.
And this isn’t just clips.
I mean, maybe I’m distinctly aware of that
doing this podcast.
Yeah, I talked for hundreds of hours now,
maybe over a thousand hours,
but I’m still careful with the words.
I’m trying not to be an asshole
and I’m aware when I’m an asshole
and I’ll apologize for it.
If the words I represent science left my mouth,
which they very well could,
I would sure as hell be apologizing for it
and not because I got in trouble,
I would just feel bad about saying something like that.
And even that little phrase, I represent science.
No, Dr. Fauci, you do not represent science.
I love science, the millions of scientists
that inspired me to get into it.
To fall in love with the scientific method
in the exploration of ideas through the rigor of science,
that Anthony Fauci does not represent.
He’s one, I believe, great scientist of millions.
He does not represent anybody.
He’s just one scientist.
And I think the greatness of a scientist
is best exemplified in humility
because the scientific method basically says,
you’re standing before the fog, the mystery of it all,
and slowly chipping away at the mystery.
And it’s embarrassing, it’s humiliating
how little you know, that’s the experience.
So the great scientists have to have humility to me.
And especially in their communication,
they have to have humility.
And I mean, I don’t know,
and some of it is also words matter
because great leaders have to have the poetry of action.
They have to be bold and inspire action
across millions of people.
But you also have to, through that poetry of words,
express the complexity of the uncertainty
you’re operating under.
Be humble in the face of not being able
to predict the future or understand the past,
or really know what’s the right thing to do,
but we have to do something.
And through that, you have to be a great leader
that inspires action.
And some of that is just words.
And he chose words poorly.
I mean, so I’m all torn about this.
And then there’s politicians, they’re taking those words
and magnifying them and playing games with them.
And of course, that’s a disincentive
for the people who do, the scientific leaders
that step into the limelight to say any more words.
So they kind of become more conservative
with the words they use.
I mean, it just becomes a giant mess.
But I think the solution is to ignore all of that
and to be transparent, to be honest, to be vulnerable.
And to express the full uncertainty
of what you’re operating under,
to present all the possible actions
and to be honest about the mistakes they made in the past.
I mean, there’s something, even if you’re not
directly responsible for those mistakes,
taking responsibility for them is a way to win people over.
I don’t think leaders realize this often
in the modern age, in the internet age.
They can see through your bullshit.
And it’s really inspiring when you take ownership.
So to do the thought experiment in public,
do a thought experiment if there was a lab leak
and then lay out all the funding, the EcoHealth Alliance,
all the incredible science going on at the Wuhan Institute
of Virology and the NIH.
Lay out all the possible ethical problems.
Lay out all the possible mistakes that could have been made
and say like, this could have happened.
And if this happened, here’s the best way to respond to it
and to prevent it in the future.
And just lay all that complexity out.
I wish we would have seen that.
And I have hope that this conversation,
conversations like it, your work,
and books on this topic will inspire young people today
when they become in the Anthony Fauci’s role
to be much more transparent and much more humble
and all those kinds of things.
That this is just a relic of the past
when there’s a person, no offense to me,
in a suit that has to stand up and speak
with clarity and certainty.
I mean, that’s just a relic of the past.
Is my hope.
Do you mind if I…
I agree with a great deal of what you said.
And it’s really unfortunate that our,
certainly the Chinese government, as I said before,
our government wasn’t as transparent
as I feel they should have been,
particularly in the early days of the pandemic
and particularly with regard to the issue
of pandemic origins.
I mean, we know that Dr. Fauci was on calls
with people like Christian Anderson and Scripps and others
in those early days, raising questions.
Is this an engineered virus?
There were a lot of questions.
And it’s kind of sad.
I mean, as I mentioned before, I’ve been one,
I mean, and certainly there were others,
but there weren’t a lot of us,
of the people who from the earliest days of the pandemic
were raising questions about, hey, not so fast here.
And I launched my website on pandemic origins
in April of last year, April, 2020.
It got a huge amount of attention.
And actually my friend, Matt Pottinger,
who is the deputy national security advisor,
when he was reaching out to people in the US government
and in allied government saying,
hey, we should look into this,
what he was sending them was my website.
It wasn’t some US government information.
And by the way, people should still go to the website.
You keep updating it and it’s an incredible resource.
Thank you, thank you, jamiemetzel.com.
And it’s really unfortunate that our governments
and international institutions for pretty much all of 2020
weren’t doing their jobs of really probing this issue.
People were hiding behind this kind of false consensus.
And I’m critical of many people,
even when I heard Francis Collins interview with you,
I just felt, well, he wasn’t as balanced
on the issue of COVID origins.
Certainly Dr. Fauci could have in his conversation
with Rand Paul, it wasn’t even a conversation,
but in some process in the aftermath,
could have laid things out a bit better.
He did say, and Francis Collins did say
that we don’t know the origins and that was a shift
and we need to have an investigation.
So now, but having said all of that,
I do kind of one, I have tremendous respect for Dr. Fauci
for the work that he’s done on HIV AIDS.
I mean, I have been vaccinated with the Moderna vaccine.
Dr. Fauci was a big part of the story
of getting us these vaccines
that have saved millions and millions of lives.
And so I don’t think, I mean, there’s a lot to this story.
And then the second thing is it’s really hard
to be a public health expert
because you have your mission is public health.
And so, and you have to, if you are leading
with all of your uncertainty,
it’s a really hard way to do things.
And so like, even now, like if I go to CVS
and I get a Tylenol, somebody has done a calculation
of how many people will die from taking Tylenol
and they say, well, all right, we can live with that.
And that’s why we have regulation.
And so all of us are doing kind of summaries.
And then we have people in public health who are saying,
wow, we’ve summed it all up and you should do X.
You should get your kids vaccinated for measles.
You should not drive your car at a hundred miles an hour.
You should, don’t drink lighter fluid,
whatever these things are.
And we want them to kind of give us broad guidelines.
And yet now our information world is so fragmented
that if you’re not being honest about something,
something material, someone’s going to find out
and it’s going to undermine your credibility.
And so I agree with you that there’s a greater requirement
for transparency now.
Maybe there always has been,
but there’s an even greater requirement for it now
because people want to trust that you’re speaking honestly
and that you’re saying, well, here’s what I know.
And this is based on what I know,
here are the conclusions that I draw.
But if it’s just, and again, I don’t think the words,
I’m science or whatever it was are the right words.
But if it’s just, trust me because of who I am,
I don’t think that flies anywhere anymore.
Can I just ask you about the Francis Collins interview
that I did, if you got a chance to hear that part.
I think in the beginning we talk about the lab leak.
What are your thoughts about his response,
basically saying it’s worthy of an investigation,
but I mean, I don’t know how you would interpret it.
I see, it’s funny because I heard it in the moment
as it’s great for the head of NIH
to be open minded on this.
But then the internet and Mr. Joe Rogan
and a bunch of friends and colleagues told me that,
yeah, well, that’s too late and too little.
Yeah, so first let me say, I’ve been on Joe’s podcast twice
and I love the guy, which doesn’t mean that I agree
with everything he does or says.
And on this issue, and I’m normally a pretty calm
and measured guy, and when you’re just out running
with your AirPods on and you start yelling
into the wind in Central Park,
nobody else knows why you’re yelling, but well.
So that you had such a moment?
I had a moment with Collins.
And again, Francis Collins is someone I respect enormously.
I mean, I live a big chunk of my life living in the world
of genetics and biotech and my book, Hacking Darwin
is about the future of human genetic engineering
and his work on the Human Genome Project
and so many other things have been fantastic.
And I’m a huge fan of the work of NIH.
And he was right to say that the Chinese government
hasn’t been forthcoming and we need to look into it.
But then you asked him, well, how will we know?
And then his answer was,
we need to find the intermediate host.
Remember I said before, and so that made it clear
that he thought, well, we should have an investigation,
but it comes from nature and we just need to find
that whatever it is, that intermediate animal host
in the wild, and that’ll tell us the story.
So he already had the conclusion in mind
and they’re just waiting for the evidence
to support the conclusion.
That was my feeling.
I felt like he was open in general, but he was tilting.
And again, your first question was where do I fall?
He was like, I’m 85% or whatever it is, 80, 75, 90,
whatever it is in the direction of a lab incident.
It made it feel that he was 90, 10 in the other direction,
which is still means that he’s open minded
about the possibility.
And that’s why, in my view, every single person
who talks about this issue,
I think the right answer in my view is,
we don’t know conclusively.
In my, then this is my personal view,
the circumstantial evidence is strongly in favor
of a lab incident origin,
but that could immediately shift
with additional information.
We need transparency, but we should come together
in absolutely condemning the outrageous coverup
carried out by the Chinese government,
which to this day is preventing any meaningful investigation
into pandemic origins.
We have, if you use the economist numbers,
15 million people who are dead as a result of this pandemic.
And I believe that the actions of the Chinese government
are disgracing the memory of these 15 million dead.
They’re insulting the families and the billions of people
around the world who have suffered
from this totally avoidable pandemic.
And whatever the origin, the fact the criminal coverup
carried out by the Chinese government,
which continues to this day, but most intensely
in the first months following the outbreak,
that’s the reason why we have so many dead.
And certainly, as I was saying before,
I and a small number of others have been carrying this flame
since early last year, but it’s kind of crazy
that our governments haven’t been demanding it.
And we can talk about the World Health Organization process,
which was deeply compromised in the beginning.
Now it’s become much, much better.
But again, it was the pressure of outsiders
that played such an important role in shifting
our national and international institutions.
And while that’s better than nothing,
it would have been far better if our governments
and international organizations
had done the right thing from the start.
If I could just make a couple of comments about Joe Rogan.
So there’s a bunch of people in my life
who have inspired me, who have taught me a lot,
who I even look up to, many of them are alive,
most of them are dead.
I wanna say that Joe said a few critical words
about the conversation with Francis Collins,
most of it offline, with a lot of great conversations
about it, some he said publicly.
And he was also critical to say that me asking hard questions
in an interview is not my strong suit.
And I really want to kind of respond to that,
which I did privately as well, but publicly,
to say that Joe is 100% right on that.
But that doesn’t mean that always has to be the case.
And that is definitely something I wanna work on.
Because most of the conversations I have,
I wanna see the beautiful ideas in people’s minds.
But there’s some times where you have to ask
the hard questions to bring out the beautiful ideas.
And it’s hard to do.
It’s a skill.
And Joe is very good at this.
He says the way he put it in his criticisms,
and he does this in his conversations,
which is, whoa, whoa, whoa, stop, stop, stop, stop, stop.
There’s a kind of sense like,
did you just say what you said?
Let’s make sure we get to the bottom,
we’ll clarify what you mean.
Because sometimes really big negative or difficult ideas
can be said as a quick aside in a sentence,
like it’s nothing, but it could be everything.
And you wanna make sure you catch that
and you talk about it.
And not as a gotcha, not as a kinda way
to destroy another human being,
but to reveal something profound.
And that’s definitely something I wanna work on.
I also want to say that, as you said,
you disagree with Joe on quite a lot of things.
So for a long time, Joe was somebody
that I was just a fan of and listened to.
He’s now a good friend.
And I would say we disagree more than we agree.
And I love doing that.
But at the same time, I learned from that.
So it’s like dual, like nobody in this world
can tell me what to think.
But I think everybody has a lesson to teach me.
I think that’s a good way to approach it.
Whenever somebody has words of criticism,
I assume they’re right and walk around with that idea
to really sort of empathize with that idea
because there’s a lesson there.
And oftentimes, my understanding of a topic
is altered completely or it becomes much more nuanced
or much richer for that kind of empathetic process.
But definitely, I do not allow anybody
to tell me what to think, whether it’s Joe Rogan
or Fyodor Dostoevsky or Nietzsche or my parents
or the proverbial girlfriend, which I don’t actually have.
But she’s still busting my balls.
In my imagination, I have a girlfriend in Canada
that I have imagined, exactly, imagining conversations.
So I want to mention that.
But also, I don’t know if you’ve gotten a chance
to see this, but I’d love to also mention
this Twitter feud between two other interesting people,
which is Brett Weinstein and Sam Harris
or Sam Harris and others in general.
And it kind of breaks my heart that these two people
I listen to that are very thoughtful about a bunch of issues.
Let’s put COVID aside because people are very emotional
about this topic.
I mean, I think they’re deeply thoughtful and intelligent,
whether you agree with them or not.
And I always learn something from their conversations.
And they are legitimately or have been
for a long time friends.
And it’s a little bit heartbreaking to me
to see that they basically don’t talk in private anymore.
And there’s occasional jabs on Twitter.
And I hope that changes.
I hope that changes in general for COVID,
that COVID brought out the, I would say,
the most emotional sides of people, the worst in people.
And I think there hasn’t been enough love
and empathy and compassion.
And to see two people from whom I’ve learned a lot,
whether it’s Eric Weinstein, Brett Weinstein, Sam Harris,
you can criticize them as much as you want,
their ideas as much as you want.
But if you’re not sufficiently open minded
to admit that you have a lot to learn
from their conversations, I think you’re not being honest.
And so I do hope they have those conversations.
And I hope we can kind of,
I think there’s a lot of repairing to be done post COVID
of relationships, of conversations.
And I think empathy and love can help a lot there.
This is also just a, I talked to Sam privately,
but this is also a public call out
to put a little bit more love in the world.
And for these difficult conversations to happen.
Because Brett Weinstein could be very wrong
about a bunch of topics here around COVID,
but he could also be right.
And the only way to find out
is to have those conversations.
Because there’s a lot of people listening
to both Sam Harris and Brett Weinstein.
And if you go into these silos
where you just keep telling each other
that you are the possessors of truth
and nobody else is the possessor of truth,
what starts happening is you both lose track
or the capability of arriving at the truth.
Because nobody’s in the possession of the truth.
So anyway, this is just a call out
that we should have a little bit more conversation,
a little bit more love.
I totally agree.
And both of those guys are guys who I respect.
And as you know, Brett, and again, as I mentioned,
they’re just a handful of us,
who were the early people raising questions
about the origins of this.
Of this pandemic, right.
He was there also talking.
So people have heard him speak quite a bit
about any viral drugs and all that kind of stuff.
But he was also raising concerns about lab leak early on.
And so, but I completely agree with you
that we don’t have to agree with everybody,
but it’s great to have healthy conversations.
That’s how we grow.
And absolutely, we live in a world where we’re kind of,
if we’re not careful,
pushed into these little information pockets.
And certainly on social media,
I have different parts of my life.
One is focusing on issues of COVID origins.
And then I have genetics and biotechnology.
And then I have, which maybe we’ll talk about later,
one shared world, which is about
how do we build a safer future?
And when I say critical things like the Chinese government,
we’d have to demand a full investigation
into pandemic origins.
This is an outreach.
Then it’s really popular.
When I say, let’s build a better future
for everyone in peace and love,
it’s like, wow, three people liked it.
And one was my mother.
And so I just feel like we need to build,
we used to have that connectivity just built in
because we had these town squares
and you couldn’t get away from them.
Now we can get away from them.
So engaging with people who are of a different background
is really essential.
I’m on Fox News sometimes three, four times a week.
And I wouldn’t, in my normal life,
I’m not watching that much of Fox News
or even television more generally.
But I just feel like if I just speak to people
who are very similar to me, maybe it’ll be comfortable.
But what have I contributed?
So I think we really have to have
those kinds of conversations and recognize
that at the end of the day, most people want to be happy.
They want to live in a better world.
They maybe have different paths to get there.
But if we just break into camps
that don’t even connect with each other,
that’s a much more dangerous world.
Let’s dive back into the difficult pool.
Just like you said, in the English speaking world,
it seems popular, almost easy to demonize China.
The Chinese government, I should say.
But even China, like there’s this kind of gray area
that people just fall into.
And I’m really uncomfortable with that.
Perhaps because in my mind, in my heart, in my blood
are echoes of the Cold War and that kind of tension.
But it feels like we almost desire conflict.
So we see demons when there is none.
So I’m a little cautious to demonize.
But at the same time, you have to be honest.
So it’s like honest with the demons that are there
and honest when they’re not.
This is kind of a geopolitical therapy session of sorts.
So let’s keep talking about China
a little bit from different angles.
So let’s return to the director of the Center
of Emerging Infectious Disease
at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, Xi Zhengli,
colloquially referred to as Batwoman.
So do you think she’s lying?
Do you think she’s being forced to lie?
I’ve known a bunch of virologists
in private and public conversation
that respect her as a human being, as a scientist.
I respect her as a human being.
Sorry, as a scientist, not a human being.
Because I think they don’t know the human.
They know the scientists.
And they respect her a lot as a scientist.
Yeah, I respect her.
I’ve never met her.
We had one exchange, which I’ll mention in a second
in a virtual forum.
But I do respect her.
I actually think that she is somebody
who has tried to do the right thing.
She was one of the heroes of tracking down
the origins of SARS 1.
And that was a major contribution.
But as we talked about earlier,
it’s a different thing living, being a scientist,
or really kind of anything.
It’s different being one of those people
in an authoritarian society
than it is being in a different type of society.
And so when Xi Zhengli said that the reason
the WIV database was taken offline in September 19
was because of computer hacks,
I don’t think that’s the story.
I don’t think she thinks that’s the story.
When I asked her in March of 2021, March of this year,
in a Rutgers online forum,
when I asked her whether the Chinese military
had any engagement with the Wuhan Institute of Virology
in any way, and she said, absolutely not, paraphrasing,
I think she was lying.
Do I think that she had the ability to say,
well, either one, yes, but I can’t talk about it,
or I know there are a lot of things
that are happening at this institute
that I don’t know about, and that could be one.
Could she have said that the personnel
at the Wuhan Institute of Virology
have all had to go through classification training
so that they can know about what can and can’t be said?
Like she could have said all those things,
but she couldn’t say all of those things.
And I think that’s why so many, at least in my view,
so many people certainly in the Western world
got this story wrong from the beginning,
because if your only prism was the science,
and you just assumed this is a science question
to be left to the scientists,
should Zhengli is just like any scientist
working in Switzerland or Norway,
the Chinese government isn’t interfering in any way,
and we can trust them, that would lead you down one path.
In my view, the reason why I progressed as I did
is I felt like I had two keys,
and I had one key as I live in the science world
through my work with WHO and my books and things like that.
But I also have another part of my life
in the world of geopolitics as an Asia quote unquote expert
and former National Security Council official
and other things.
And I felt for me, I needed both keys to open that door.
But if I only had the science key,
I wouldn’t have had the level of doubt and suspicion
that I have.
But if my starting point was only doubt and suspicion,
well, it’s coming from China,
it must be that the government is guilty,
like that wouldn’t help either.
I wonder what’s in her mind,
whether it’s fear or habit,
because I think a lot of people in the former Soviet Union,
it’s like Chernobyl, it’s not really fear,
it’s almost like a momentum.
It’s like the reason I showed up to this interview
wearing clothes, as opposed to being naked.
It’s like, all right.
It’s like, it’s just all of us are doing the clothes thing.
Although there was a startup years ago called Naked News.
Did you ever hear about that?
They just would read the exact news.
No, after each story, they’d take something off
until the end, I don’t think.
It’s a good idea for a podcast.
They have an IPO.
Stay tuned, next time I’m with Michael Miles.
So what do you think,
I mean, because the reason I asked that question is,
how do we kind of take steps to improve
without any kind of revolutionary action?
You could say, we need to inspire the Chinese people
to elect, to sort of revolutionize the system
from within, but like, who are we to suggest that?
Because we have our flaws too.
We should be working on our flaws as well.
And so, but at the individual scientist level,
what are the small acts of rebellion that could be done?
How can we improve this?
Well, so I don’t know about small acts of rebellion,
but I’ll try to answer your question
from a few different perspectives.
So right now, actually, as we speak,
there is a special session
of the World Health Assembly going on.
And the World Health Assembly is the governing authority
over the World Health Organization,
where it’s represented by states and territories,
194 of them, tragically not including Taiwan,
because of the Chinese government’s assistance.
But they’re now beginning a process
of trying to negotiate a global pandemic treaty
to try to have a better process
for responding to crises exactly like we’re in.
But unfortunately, for the exact same reasons
that we have failed, I mean, we had a similar process
after the first SARS, we set up what we thought
was the best available system,
and it has totally failed here.
And it’s failed here because of the inherent pathologies
of the Chinese government system.
We are suffering from a pandemic that exists
because of the internal pathologies of the Chinese state.
And that’s why on one hand, I totally get this impulse.
Well, we do it our way, they do it their way.
Who’s to say that one way is better?
And certainly right now in the United States,
we’re at each other’s throats.
We have a hard time getting anything meaningful done.
And I’m sure there are people who are saying,
well, that model looks appealing.
But just as people could look to the United States
and say, well, because the United States
has such a massive reach, what we do domestically
has huge implications for the rest of the world,
they become stakeholders in our politics.
And that’s why I think for a lot of years,
people have just been looking at US politics,
not because it’s interesting,
but because the decisions that we make
have big implications for their lives.
The same is true for ours.
You could say that the lack of civil and political rights
in China is, I mean, it’s up to the Chinese,
not even people, because they have no say,
but to their government.
And they weren’t democratically elected,
that they are recognized as the government.
But some significant percentage of the 15 million people
now dead from COVID are dead
because in the earliest days following the outbreak,
whatever the origin, the voices of people
sounding the alarm were suppressed,
that the Chinese government had an,
just like in Chernobyl, the Chinese government
had a greater incentive to lie
to the international community than to tell the truth.
And everybody was incentivized
to pretty much do the wrong thing.
And so that’s why I think one of the big messages
of this pandemic is that all of our fates
are tied to everybody else’s fates.
And so while we can say and should say,
well, let’s focus on our own communities and our countries,
we’re all stakeholders in what happens elsewhere.
Can I ask you a weird question?
So I’m gonna do a few podcast interviews
with interesting people in Russia, in the Russian language,
because I could speak Russian.
And a lot of those people have,
are not usually speaking in these kinds of formats.
Do you think it’s possible to interview Xi Jinping?
Do you think it’s possible to interview somebody like her
or anyone in the Chinese government?
I think not.
And I think the reason is
because I think they would, one,
be uncomfortable being in any environment
where really unknown questions will be asked.
And I actually, so as you know, on this topic,
the Chinese, as I mentioned earlier,
the Chinese government has a gag order on Chinese scientists.
They can’t speak without prior government approval.
Xu Zhengli has been able to speak.
And she’s spoken at a number of forums.
I mentioned this Rutgers event.
What was the nature of that forum, the Rutgers event?
All of them were kind of science conversations
about the pandemic, including the origins issue.
But I think that she, in her response to my question,
it was kind of this funny thing.
So they had this event organized by Rutgers.
And I went on, there was an online event on Zoom,
but I got on there and I just realized
it was very poorly organized.
Like normally the controls that you would have
about who gets to chat to who, who gets to ask questions,
none of them were set.
And so I kind of couldn’t believe it.
I was just sitting at home in my neon green fleece
and I just started sending chat messages to Xu Zhengli.
So you could, anybody could send any.
Anybody could, it was insane.
But I thought, wow, this is incredible.
And so then it was unclear who got to ask questions.
And so I was like posting questions
and then I was sending chats to the organizers
of the event saying, I really have a question.
And first they said, well, you can submit your questions
and we’ll have submitted questions.
And then if we have time, we’ll open up.
So I just, I mean, I just thought, well, what the hell?
I just sent messages to everybody.
And then the event was already done.
They were 15 minutes over time.
And then they said, all right,
we have time just for one question.
And it’s Jamie Metzl.
And like, as I’m sitting there in my running clothes,
like I wasn’t, I was like multitasking and I heard my name.
And so I went diving back and I asked this question
about, did you know all of the work that was happening
at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, not just your work?
And can you confirm that US intelligence has said
that the military played a role,
was engaged with the Wuhan Institute of Virology?
Do you deny that the Chinese military was involved
in any way with the Wuhan Institute of Virology?
And as I said before, she said, this is crazy.
It got, it actually got,
that one question got covered in the media
because it was like, I think an essential question.
But I just think that since then, to my knowledge,
she’s not been in any public forums,
but that’s why most people would be shocked
that to date there has been no comprehensive
international investigation into pandemic origins.
There is no whistleblower provision.
So if you’re, my guess is there are at least tens,
maybe hundreds of people in China
who have relevant information
about the origins of the pandemic who are terrified
and don’t dare share it.
And let’s just say somebody wanted
to get that information out, to send it somewhere.
There’s no official address.
The WHO doesn’t have that, nobody has that.
And so I would love, I mean, you may as well ask.
I don’t think it’s likely that there’ll be a yes,
but it could well be that there are defectors
who will want to speak.
So let me also push back on this idea.
So one, I want to ask if the language barrier is a thing.
Because I’ve talked to,
so I understand Russian culture, I think,
or not understand, this is the thing.
I don’t understand basically anything in this world.
But I mean, I hear the music that is Russian culture
and I enjoy it.
I don’t hear that music for Chinese culture.
It’s just not something I’ve experienced.
So it’s a beautiful, rich, complex culture.
And from my sense, it seems distant to me.
Like whenever I look, even like we mentioned offline Japan
and so on, I probably don’t even understand
I believe I kind of do because I did martial arts
my whole life, but even that, it’s just so distant.
People who’ve lived in Japan, foreigners for like 20 years
say the exact same thing, yeah.
This makes me sad.
It makes me sad because I will never be able
to fully appreciate the literature, the conversations,
the people, the little humor and the subtleties.
And those are all essential to understand
even this cold topics of science.
Because all of that is important to understand.
So that’s a question for me if you think
language barriers a thing.
But the other thing I just want to kind of comment on
is the criticism of journalism that somebody like
Shi Zhengli or even Shi Zhengpeng, just anybody in China,
very skeptical to have really conversations
with anybody in the western media.
Because it’s like what are the odds that they will try
to bring out the beautiful ideas in the person.
And honestly, this is a harsh criticism.
I apologize, but I kind of mean it, is the journalists
that have some of these high profile conversations
often don’t do the work.
They come off as not very intelligent.
And I know they’re intelligent people.
They have not done the research.
They have not come up and like read a bunch of books.
They have not even read the Wikipedia article.
Meaning put in the minimal effort to empathize,
to try to understand the culture of the people,
all the complexities, all the different ideas in the spaces.
Do all the incredible, not all,
but some of the incredible work that you’ve done initially.
Like that, you have to do that work to earn the right
to have a deep real conversation with some of these folks.
And it’s just disappointing to me
that journalists often don’t do that work.
Yeah, so on that, just first I completely agree with you.
I mean, there is just an incredible beauty
in Chinese culture and I think all cultures,
but certainly China has such a deep and rich history,
amazing literature and art and just human beings.
I mean, I’m a massive critic of the Chinese government.
I’m very vociferous about the really genocide in Xinjiang,
the absolute effort to destroy Tibetan culture,
the destruction of democracy in Hong Kong,
incredibly illegal efforts to seize
basically the entire South China Sea.
And I could go on and on and on.
But Chinese culture is fantastic.
And I mean, I can’t speak to every technical field,
but just in terms of having journalists,
and I’ll speak to American journalists,
people like Peter Hessler who have really invested the time
to live in China, to learn the language, learn the culture.
Peter himself, who is maybe one of our best journalists
covering China from a soul level,
he was kicked out of China.
So it’s very, very difficult.
Yeah, it’s really, and so for me,
you talked about my website on pandemic origins.
So when I launched it, I had it,
I’m not a Chinese speaker,
but I had the entire site translated into Chinese
and I have it up on my website just because I felt like,
well, if somebody, I mean, the great firewall
makes it very, very difficult for people in China
to access that kind of information.
But I figured if somebody gets there
and they wanna have it in their own language.
But it’s hard because the Chinese government
is represented by these quote unquote wolf warriors,
which is, it’s like these basic ruffians.
And I personally was condemned by name
by the spokesman of the Chinese foreign ministry
from the podium in Beijing.
And so it’s really hard because I absolutely think
the American people and the Chinese people,
I mean, maybe all people, but we have so much in common.
I mean, yes, China is an ancient civilization,
but they kind of wiped out their own civilization
in the great leap forward and cultural revolution.
They burned their scrolls, they smashed their artworks.
And so it’s a very young society,
kind of like America is a young society.
So we have a lot in common.
And if we just kind of got out of our own ways,
we could have a beautiful relationship,
but there’s a lot of things that are happening.
Certainly the United States feels responsible
to defend the post war international order
that past generations helped build.
And I’m a certain believer in that
and China is challenging that and the Chinese government
and they’ve shared that with that view
with the Chinese people feel
that they haven’t been adequately respected.
And now they’re building a massive nuclear arsenal
and all these other things to try to position themselves
in the world with an articulated goal
of being the lead country in the world.
And that puts them at odds with the United States.
So there are a lot of real reasons
that we need to be honest about for division.
But if that’s all we focus on,
if we don’t say that there’s another side of the story
that brings us together,
we’ll put ourselves on an inevitable glide path
to a terrible outcome.
What do you make of Xi Jinping?
So two questions.
So one in general and two more on lab leak
and his meeting with our president Biden
in discussion of lab leak.
So I feel that Xi Jinping has a very narrow goal
articulated of establishing China
as the lead country in the world
by the 100th anniversary of the founding
of the modern Chinese state.
And it’s ruthless and it’s strategic.
There’s a great book called The Long Game by Rush Doshi
who’s actually now working in the White House
about this goal and our pretty clearly articulated goal
to subvert the post war international order
and in China’s interest.
And maybe every leader wants to organize the world
around their interest.
But I feel that his vision of what that entails
is not one that I think is shareable
for the rest of the world.
I mean, the strength of the United States
with all of our flaws is particularly
in that post war period,
we put forward a model that was desirable
to a lot of people.
Certainly it was desirable to people in Western Europe
and then Eastern Europe and Japan and Korea.
Doesn’t mean it’s perfect.
The United States is deeply flawed.
As articulated to date,
I don’t think most people and countries
would like to live in a Sinocentric world.
And so I certainly, as I mentioned before,
I’m a huge critic of what Xi Jinping is doing,
the incredible brutality in Xinjiang,
in Tibet and elsewhere.
Yeah, the censorship one gives me a lot of trouble
on the science realm and just in journalism
and just the world that prevents us
from having conversations with each other.
Do you know about the Winnie the Pooh thing?
Yes, I mean, it’s ridiculous.
So to me, that’s such a good illustration
of censorship being petty.
But censorship has to be petty
because the goal of censorship,
maybe you experienced in the Soviet Union,
is to get into your head.
Like if it’s just censorship,
like you say down with the state
and like you can’t say that,
but you can say all the other things up to that point,
eventually people will feel empowered
to say down with the state.
And so I think the goal
of this kind of authoritarian censorship
is to turn you into the censor.
And so the…
Like self censor.
Yeah, because they almost have to have you think,
well, if I’m gonna make any criticism,
maybe they’re gonna come and get me.
So it’s safer to not do it.
I mean, I’ve traveled through North Korea
pretty extensively and I’ve seen that in its ultimate form,
but that’s what they’re trying to do in China too.
Yeah, so for people who are not familiar,
it’s such a clear illustration
of just the pettiness of censorship
and leaders, the corrupting nature of power.
But there’s a meme of Xi Jinping
with, I guess, Barack Obama.
And the meme is that he looks like Winnie the Pooh
in that picture.
And that was the President Xi Jinping
looks like Winnie the Pooh.
And I guess that became, because that got censored,
like mentions of Winnie the Pooh got censored
all across China.
Winnie the Pooh became the unknowing revolutionary hero
that represents freedom of speech and so on.
But it’s just such a absurd…
Because we spend so much time in this conversation
talking about the censorship
that’s a little bit more understandable to me,
which is like, we messed up.
And it wasn’t, maybe it’s almost understandable errors
that happen in the progress of science.
I mean, you could always argue
that there’s a lot of mistakes along the way
and the censorship along the way caused the big mistake.
You can argue that same way for the Chernobyl.
But those are sort of understandable and difficult topics.
Like Winnie the Pooh.
But in your message, it shows both sides of the story.
I mean, one, how petty authoritarian censors have to be.
And that’s why the messaging from the Chinese government
is so consistent.
No matter who you are,
you have to be careful what you say.
And that’s why it’s the story of Peng Shui,
the tennis player.
She dared raise her voice in an individual way.
Jack Ma, the richest man in China,
had a minor criticism of the Chinese government.
He had basically disappeared from the public eye.
Fan Bingbing, who’s like one of the leading
Chinese movie stars,
she was seen as not loyal enough and she just vanished.
And so the message is no matter who you are,
no matter what level,
if you don’t mind everything you say,
you could lose everything.
I’m pretty hopeful, optimistic about a lot of things.
And so for me, if the Chinese government stays
with its current structure,
I think what I hope they start fixing
is the freedom of speech.
But they can’t.
I mean, the thing is if they open up freedom of speech
really in a meaningful way,
they can’t maintain their current form of government.
And it’s connected, as I was saying before,
to the origins of the pandemic.
I mean, if my hypothesis was right,
that was the big choice that the national government had.
Do we really investigate the origins of the pandemic?
Do we deliver a message that transparency is required,
public transparency is required from local officials?
If they do that, the entire system collapsed.
Pretty much everybody in China has a relative
who has died as a result of the actions
of the Communist Party,
particularly in the Great Leap Forward.
It’s nearly 50 million people died
as a result of Mao’s disastrous policies.
And yet why is Mao’s picture still on Tiananmen Square
and it’s on the money?
Because maintaining that fiction
is the foundation of the legitimacy of the Chinese state.
If people were allowed, just say what you want.
Do you really think Mao was such a great guy,
even though your own relatives are dead as a result?
Do you really buy even on this story
that China did nothing wrong,
even though in the earliest days of the pandemic,
these two, at least Chinese scientists themselves,
courageously issued a preprint paper
that was later almost certainly forcibly retracted,
saying, well, this looks like this comes
from one of the Wuhan labs that we’re studying.
Like if you opened up that window,
I think that the Chinese government
would not be able to continue in its current form.
And that’s why they cracked down at Tiananmen Square.
That’s why with Feng Shui, the tennis player,
if they had let her accuse somebody
from the Communist Party of sexual assault,
and they said, okay, now people,
you can use social media
and you can have your me too moment
and let us know who in the Chinese Communist Party
or your boss in a business has assaulted you.
Just like in every society,
I’m sure there’s tons of women
who’ve been sexually assaulted, manipulated, abused by men.
And so I certainly hope
that there can be that kind of opening.
But if I were an authoritarian dictator,
that’s the thing I would be most afraid of.
Yeah, dictator perhaps,
but I think you can gradually increase the freedom of speech.
So I think you can maintain control over the freedom
of press first.
So control the press more,
but let the lower levels sort of open up YouTube, right?
Open up like where individual citizens can make content.
I mean, there’s a lot of benefits to that.
And then from an authoritarian perspective,
you can just say that’s misinformation,
that’s conspiracy theories, all those kinds of things.
But at least I think if you open up that freedom of speech
at the level of the individual citizen,
that’s good for entrepreneurship,
for the development of ideas,
of exchange of ideas, all that kind of stuff.
I just think that increased the GDP of the country.
So I think there’s a lot of benefits.
I feel like you can still play,
we’re playing some like dark thoughts here,
but I feel like you could still play the game of thrones,
still maintain power while giving freedom to the citizenry.
Like I think just like with North Korea is a good example
of where cracking down too much
can completely destroy your country.
Like there’s some balance you can strike in your evil mind
and still maintain authoritarian control over the country.
Obviously, it’s not obvious,
but I’m a big supporter of freedom of speech.
I mean, it seems to work really well.
I don’t know what the failure cases
for freedom of speech are.
Probably we’re experiencing them with Twitter
and like where the nature of truth
is being completely kind of flipped upside down.
But it seems like on the whole,
ability to defeat lies with more,
not through censorship, but through more conversations,
more information is the right way to go.
Can I tell you a little story, true stories
about North Korea?
So a number of years ago, I was invited
to be part of a small six person delegation
advising the government of North Korea
on how to establish special economic zones
because other countries have used these SEZs
as a way of building their economies.
And when I was invited, I thought,
well, maybe there’s an opening.
And I certainly believe in that.
So we flew to China across the border into North Korea.
And then we were met by our partners
from the North Korean Development Organization.
And then we zigzagged the country for almost two weeks
visiting all these sites for where they were intended
to create these special economic zones.
And in each site, they had their local officials
and they had a map and they showed us where everything
that was going to be built.
And the other people who were like really technical experts
on how to set up a special economic zone,
they were asking questions, well, like,
should you put the entrance over here
or shouldn’t you put it over there
and what if there’s flooding?
And I kept asking just these basic questions,
like, what do you think you’re going to do here?
Why do you think you can be competitive?
Do you know anything about who you’re competing against?
Are you empowering your workers to innovate
because everybody else is innovating?
So at the end of the trip, they flew us to Pyongyang
and they put us in this,
it looked kind of like the United Nations.
They probably had 500 people there
and I gave a speech to them.
I obviously was in English and it was translated
and I figured, you know, I’ve come all this way,
I’m just going to be honest.
If they arrest me for being honest, that’s on them.
And I said, I’m here because I believe
we can never give up hope,
that we always have to try to connect.
I’m also here because I think that North Korea
connecting to the world economy is an important first step.
But having visited all of your special economic zone sites
and having met with all of your, or many of your officials,
I don’t think your plan has any chance of succeeding
because you’re trying to sell into a global market,
but you need to have market information that,
and I gave examples of GE and others
that the innovation can’t only happen at one place.
And if you want innovation to happen
from the people who are doing this,
you have to empower them, they have to have access,
they have to have voice.
I mean, nobody, I mean, the people after,
they kind of had to condemn me
because what I was saying was challenging.
So I certainly agree with you.
And then just one side story of then that night,
and it was just kind of bizarre
because North Korea is, it’s so desperately poor,
but they were trying to impress us.
And so we had these embarrassingly sumptuous banquets.
And so for our final dinner that night,
really it looked like something from Beauty and the Beast.
I mean, it was like China and waiters and tuxedos,
and they had this beautiful dinner.
And then afterwards,
because we’d now spent two weeks
with our North Korean partners,
they brought out this karaoke machine
and our North Korean counterparts,
they sang songs to us in Korean.
And so I said, well, we want to reciprocate.
Do you have any English songs on your karaoke machine?
It’s North Korea, obviously they didn’t.
But there was, I said, well, I have an idea.
And so there was one of the women
who’d been part of the North Korean delegation.
She was able just to play the piano,
just like you could hum a tune
and she could play it on the piano.
And so I said, all right, here’s this tune,
which I whispered in her ear.
When I give you the signal,
just play this tune over and over.
And so I got these, I mean, there were the six of us
and maybe 20 North Koreans,
and we were all in a circle,
so everybody hold hands and then put your right,
just try to put your right foot in front of your left
and then left foot in front of the right, going sideways.
And I said, all right, hit it.
And she played a North Korean version of Hava Nagila.
And I think it was the first
and only horror that they’ve ever done in North Korea.
Was this recorded or no?
It was not.
Yeah, if they had free YouTube,
this would have been a big one.
Let’s return to the beginning
and just patient zero.
It’s kind of always incredible to think
that there’s one human at which it all started.
Who do you think was patient zero?
Do you think it was somebody that worked
at Wuhan Institute of Virology?
Do you think there was a leak of some other kind
that led to the infection?
What do we know?
Because there’s this December 8th slash December 16th case
of maybe you can describe what that is.
And then there’s like, what’s his name?
Michael Warobey has a nice timeline.
I’m sure you have a timeline.
But he has a nice timeline that puts the average
at like November something, like 18th and November 16th
as the average estimate for when the patient zero
got infected, when the first human infection happened.
Yeah, so just two points.
One is it may be that there’s infectee zero
and patient zero.
It could be that the first person infected was asymptomatic
because we know there’s a lot of people
who are asymptomatic.
And then there’s the question of, well, who is patient zero?
Meaning the first person to present themselves
in some kind of health facility
where that diagnosis could be made.
So can we actually linger on that definition?
So is that to you a good definition of patient zero?
Okay, there’s a bunch of stuff here
because this virus is weird.
So one is who gets infected, one who is infectious
or the first person infect others.
And who shows up to a hospital.
Yeah, so I think that’s why I’m calling the first person
to show up to a hospital who’s diagnosed with COVID 19.
I’m calling that person patient zero.
There’s also, there’s somewhere the first person
to be infected.
And that person maybe never showed up in a hospital
because maybe they were asymptomatic and never get sick,
so got sick.
So let me start with what I’m calling infectee zero.
Here are some options.
I talked before about some person who was a villager
and some remote village.
It’s almost impossible to imagine, but possible to imagine
because strange things happen.
And that person somehow gets to Wuhan.
By the way, just to still make that argument,
there’s not an argument, it’s a statement,
but strange things happen all the time.
No, I agree.
It doesn’t mean that logic doesn’t apply
and probabilities don’t apply, but we all,
I mean, in general principle, everyone, if we were honest,
should be agnostic about everything.
Like I think I’m Jamie, but is there a 0.01% chance
or 0.001% chance that I’m not?
But it could be.
I mean, how would I know?
But there’s a large number of people arguing
about the meaning of the word I
and that I’m Jamie.
What is consciousness?
So we could spend another three hours going into that one.
So one possibility is there’s some remote villager.
Another possibility is there’s somehow bizarrely,
there are these infected animals
that come from Southern China most likely.
They all, maybe there’s only one of them that’s infected,
which how could that possibly be?
And it’s only sent to Wuhan.
It’s not sent anywhere else,
to any of the markets there or whatever.
And then maybe somebody in a market is infected.
That’s one remote possibility, but a possibility.
Another is that researchers
from the Wuhan Institute of Virology
go down to Southern China.
We didn’t, we haven’t talked about it yet,
but in 2012, there were six miners were sent
into a copper mine in Southern China and Yunnan province.
All of them got very sick
with what now appear like COVID 19 like symptoms.
Half of them died.
Blood samples from them were taken
to the Wuhan Institute of Virology and elsewhere.
And then after that, there were multiple site visits
to that mine, collecting viral samples
that were brought to the Wuhan Institute of Virology,
included among those samples were,
was this now infamous RETG 13 virus,
which is among the genetically closest viruses
to SARS CoV2.
There were other nine other or eight other viruses
that were collected from that mine
that were presumably very similar to that.
And again, we have no access to the information
about those and many of the other,
most, almost all of the other viruses.
So could it be that one of the people
who was sent from the Wuhan Institute of Virology
or the Wuhan Centers for Disease Control,
they went down there to collect
and they got infected asymptomatically and brought it back?
Could it be that they were working on these viruses
in the laboratory and there was an issue
with waste disposal?
And we know that the Wuhan CDC had a major problem
with waste disposal.
And just before the pandemic,
one, they put out an RFP to fix their waste disposal.
And in early 2019, they moved to their new site,
which was basically across the street
from the Huanan Seafood Market.
So could there have been issue of somebody infected
in the lab of waste disposal?
Could a laboratory animal, their experiences
in China, actually China just recently passed a law
saying it’s illegal to sell laboratory animals
in the market because there were scientists,
or one scientist who was selling laboratory animals
in the market and people would just come and buy.
So there’s so many, there are so many scenarios,
but if I, again, connect it to my 85% number,
I think in the whole category of laboratory related incidents,
whether it’s collection, waste,
something connected to the lab,
I think that’s the most likely,
but there are other credible people
who would say they think it’s not the most likely
and I welcome their views
and we need to have this conversation.
So in your write up, but what’s the URL?
Because I always find it by doing Jamie Metzl lab leak.
It’s probably the easiest, just Google that.
No, no, but if you just go to jamiemetzl.com,
J A M I E M E T Z L dot com,
then they’re just a thing, it’s COVID origins.
It’s COVID origins.
Or you could just Google Jamie Metzl lab leak.
Google search engine is such a powerful thing.
You mentioned in that write up that you don’t think,
this could be just me misreading it
or it’s just slightly miswritten,
but you don’t think that the virus
is from that 2012 mind, which is fascinating,
could be the backbone for SARS COVID too.
So what I mean, just the specific virus,
which I mentioned, RATG13,
and there’s a whole history of that
because it had a different name and it looked,
and Xiaojiang Li provided wrong information
about when it had been sequenced.
I mean, there was a whole issue connected to that.
But the genetic difference,
even though it’s 96.2% similar to the SARS COVID2 virus,
that’s actually a significant difference,
even though that and a virus called Banal 52
that was collected in Laos are the two most similar,
there still are differences.
So I’m not saying RATG13 is the backbone,
but is there, I believe there is a possibility
that other viruses that were collected
either in that mine in Yunnan in Southern China
or in Laos or Cambodia,
because that was with the EcoHealth Alliance
proposals and documents.
Their plan was to collect viruses
in Laos and Cambodia and elsewhere
and bring them to the Wuhan Institute of Virology
so that there are people.
As a matter of fact, just when I was sitting here
before this interview,
I got a message from somebody who was saying,
well, Peter Daszak is telling everybody
that the viral sample, the Banal 52 from Laos
proves that there’s not a lab incident origin
of the pandemic.
And it actually doesn’t prove that at all
because these viruses were being collected
in places like Laos and Cambodia
and being brought to the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Those are like early, early, like the prequel.
So these are, they’re not sufficiently similar
to be a, to serve as a backbone,
but they kind of tell a story
that they could have been brought to the lab
through several processes, including genetic modification
or through the natural evolution processes,
accelerated evolution, they could have arrived
to something that has the spike protein
and the cleavage, the foreign cleavage site
and all that kind of stuff.
So what I’m saying is the essential point
is if we had access, if we knew everything
that was being, every virus that was being held
at the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the Wuhan CDC,
we had full access.
We had full access to everybody’s lab notes.
And we did just the kind of forensic investigation
that has been so desperately required since day one.
We’d be able to say, well, what did you have?
Because if we knew, if it should come out,
that the Wuhan Institute of Virology had in its repository,
prior to the outbreak, either SARS CoV2
or a reasonable precursor to it,
that would prove the lab incident hypothesis.
In my mind, that’s almost certainly why they are preventing
any kind of meaningful investigation.
So my hypothesis is not that what RITG13 says
is because as I mentioned earlier,
the genetics of virus are constantly recombinating.
So that what that means is if you have,
you don’t have very many total outlier viruses
in a bat community because these viruses
are always mixing and matching with each other.
And so if you have RITG13, which is relatively similar
to SARS CoV2, there’s a pretty decent likelihood
there was other stuff that was collected
at this mine called Mojang Mine in Yunnan Province,
maybe in Laos and Cambodia.
And that’s why we need to have that information.
Do you think somebody knows who patient zero is
So do you think that is?
Well, there’s two things.
One is I think somebody and people probably know.
And then two, it’s been incredibly curious
that the best virus chasers in the world are in China.
And they are in Wuhan.
And when we can talk about this deeply compromised,
now vastly improved World Health Organization process.
But when they went there, the Chinese,
the local and national Chinese authorities say,
oh, we haven’t done, we haven’t tested the samples
in our blood center.
We haven’t done any of this tracing.
And these deeply compromised people
who were part of the international part
of the joint study tour, when they came out with their,
they had their visit earlier this year
and came out with their report.
They had in my mind, just an absurd letter
to the editor in nature saying,
well, if we don’t hurry back,
we’re not gonna know what happened.
Assuming that the people in China are like bumpkins
who on their own don’t know how to trace the origin
of a virus and the opposite is the case.
So I think there are people in China
who at least know a lot.
They know a lot more than they’re saying.
And at the best case scenario is the Chinese government
wants to prevent any investigation, including by them.
The worst case scenario is that there are people
who already know.
And that’s why, again, my point from day one has been,
we need a comprehensive international investigation
in Wuhan with full access to all relevant records,
samples and personnel.
When this, again, deeply flawed.
Can I give you a little history of this WHO process?
Who are the, that’s funny.
Who’s on first?
I’m so funny with the jokes.
Look at me go.
Who are the WHO?
So what is this organization?
What is its purpose?
What role did it play in the pandemic?
It certainly was demonized in the realm of politics.
This is an institution that was supposed to save us
from this pandemic.
A lot of people believe it failed.
Has it failed?
Why did it fail?
And you said it’s improving.
How is it improving?
I hope you don’t mind.
I’m gonna have to talk for a little bit of extra time.
I love this.
Good, good, good, good.
So the WHO is an absolutely essential organization
created in 1948 in that wonderful period
after the Second World War
when the United States and allied countries
asked the big bold questions,
how do we build a safer world for everyone?
And so that’s the WHO.
If we, although there are many critics of the WHO,
if we didn’t have it, we would need to invent it
because the whole nature of these big public health issues
and certainly for pandemics, but all sorts of things
is that they are transnational in nature.
And so we cannot just build moats.
We cannot build walls.
We’re all connected to it.
So that’s the idea.
There’s a political process because the United Nations
and the WHO is part of it,
it exists within a political context.
And so the current director general
of the World Health Organization
who was just reelected for his second five year term
is Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
who is from Ethiopia, Tigrayan from Ethiopia.
And in full disclosure, I have a lot of respect for Tedros.
Tedros got his job.
He was not America’s candidate.
He was not Britain’s candidate.
Our candidate was a guy named David Nabarro
who I also know and have tremendous respect for.
China led the process of putting Tedros in this position.
And in the earliest days of the pandemic,
Tedros, in my view,
even though I have tremendous respect for him,
I think he made a mistake.
The WHO doesn’t have its own
independent surveillance network.
It’s not organized to have it
and the states have not allowed it.
So it’s dependent on member states
for providing it information.
And because it’s a poorly funded organization
dependent on its bosses who are these governments,
it’s natural instinct isn’t to condemn its bosses.
It’s to say, well, let’s quietly work with everybody.
Having said that,
the Chinese government knowingly lied to Tedros.
And Tedros, in repeating the position
of the Chinese government,
which incidentally I’ll say Donald Trump
also did the exact same thing.
Donald Trump had a private conversation with Xi Jinping
and then repeated what Xi had told him.
Both of them were wrong.
Dr. Tedros, I think when Chinese government was lying,
saying there’s no human to human transmission,
Dr. Tedros said that.
And even though within the World Health Organization,
there were private critiques saying
China is now doing exactly what it did in SARS one,
it’s not providing access,
it’s not providing information.
Tedros’s instinct because of his background,
because of his role and wrongly,
was to have a more collaborative relationship with China,
particularly by making assertions
based on the information that was wrong.
Don’t call people liars,
they’re not gonna be happy with you.
They’re not gonna be happy.
And the job of the WHO isn’t to condemn states,
it’s to do the best possible job of addressing problems.
And I think that the culture was,
well, let’s do the most that we can.
If we totally alienate China on day one,
we’re in even worse shape than if we call them out for.
Not exactly sure, by the way,
that maybe you can also steel man that argument.
Like it’s not completely obvious that that’s
a terrible decision.
Like if you and I were in that role,
we wouldn’t make that decision.
It’s complicated because like,
you want China on your side to help solve this.
So I would have made a different decision,
which is why I never would have been selected
as the director general.
There’s a selection criteria
that everybody kind of needs to support you.
And so, but let me just, this is just the beginning.
Can you also just elaborate or kind of restate,
what were the inaccuracies that you quickly mentioned?
So human to human transmission, what were the things?
So the most important, there were a few things.
One, China didn’t report the outbreak.
Two, they had the sequenced genome
of the SARS CoV2 virus,
and they didn’t share it for two critical weeks.
And when they did share it, it was inadvertent.
I mean, there was a very, very courageous scientist
who essentially leaked it and was later punished
for leaking it, even though the Chinese government
is now saying we were so great by releasing the sequenced.
Wait, I was really confused.
So I’m so clueless about this as most things.
Because I thought, because there was a celebration of,
isn’t this amazing that we got the sequence,
that’s amazing, and then the scientific community
across the world stepped up and were able to do
a lot of stuff really quickly with that sharing.
Because I thought the Chinese government shared it.
No, no, so they sat on it for two weeks.
When they shared it against their will, it was incredible.
Moderna, 48 hours later after getting the information,
getting the sequenced genome, they had the formulation
for what’s now the Moderna COVID 19 vaccine.
But that’s two critical weeks.
In those early days, they blocked the World Health
Organization from sending its experts to Wuhan
for more than three weeks.
I said they lied about human to human transmission.
During that time, they were aggressively enacting
their coverup, destroying records, hiding samples,
imprisoning people who were asking tough questions.
They soon after established their gag order.
They fought internally in the World Health Organization
to prevent the declaration of a global emergency.
So China definitely, I mean, I couldn’t be stronger
in my critique of China, particularly what it did
in those early days, but it really, what it’s doing
even to today is outrageous.
So that was, so then there was the question of,
well, how do we examine what actually happened?
And the Prime Minister of Australia then and now,
Scott Morrison, was incredibly courageous.
And he said, we need a full investigation.
And because of that, the Chinese government
attacked him personally and imposed trade sanctions
on Australia to try to, not just to punish Australia,
but to deliver a message to every other country.
If you ask questions, we’re going to punish you ruthlessly.
And then that certainly was the message that was delivered.
The Australians brought that idea of a full investigation
to the World Health Assembly in May of 2020.
As I mentioned before, the WHA is the governing authority
above, of states above the World Health Organization.
And so, but instead of passing a resolution calling
for a full investigation, what ended up ironically
and tragically passing with Chinese support
was a mandate to have essentially
a Chinese controlled joint study,
where half of the team, a little more than half of the team
was Chinese experts, government affiliated Chinese experts,
and half were independent international experts
but organized by the WHO.
And then it took six months
to negotiate the terms of reference.
And again, while China was doing all this coverup,
they delayed and delayed and delayed.
And by the terms of reference that were negotiated,
China had veto power over who got to be a member
of the international group.
And that group was not entitled to access to raw data.
The Chinese side would give them conclusions
based on their own analysis of the raw data,
which was totally outrageous.
So then, and I was a big, I and others,
now friend of mine, although we’ve never met in person,
Gilles de Manouf in New Zealand,
he did a great job of chronicling just the letter by letter
of the terms of reference.
So then it took, now it’s the January of this year,
January, 2021, this deeply flawed,
deeply compromised international group is sent to Wuhan.
So what’s the connection between this group
and the joint study?
So the joint study, it had the Chinese side
and the international side.
So these international experts,
then part of their examination was going
for one month to Wuhan.
And the nature of the flaws of this international group.
It’s okay, really important point.
And I’m sorry, I wasn’t clear on that.
Rather, the mandate of what they were doing
was not to investigate the origins of the pandemic.
It was to have a joint study
into the zoonotic origins of the virus,
which means, which was interpreted to mean
the natural origins hypothesis.
They weren’t empowered for a single hypothesis,
not so that they weren’t empowered
to examine the lab incident origin.
They were there to look at the natural origin hypothesis.
To shop for some meat at some markets.
Yeah, so that was, so then they were there for a month.
So out of the makeup of the team, guess who was?
So the United States government proposed three experts
for this team.
People who had a lot of background.
This was the Trump administration.
People who had a lot of background,
including in investigating lab incidents.
None of those people were accepted.
The one American who was accepted.
Don’t tell me it’s Peter Daszak.
Peter Daszak, who had this funding relationship
for many years with the Wuhan Institute of Virology,
whose entire basically professional reputation
was based on his collaboration with Shujang Li,
who had written the February, 2020 Lancet letter
saying it comes from natural origin.
And anybody who’s suggesting otherwise
is a conspiracy theorist.
And who, at least according to me,
had been at very, very least the opposite of transparent
and at most engaged in a massive disinformation campaign.
He is the one American who’s on this.
So they go there, they have one month in Wuhan.
Two weeks of it are spent in quarantine
just in their hotel rooms.
So then they have two weeks,
but really it’s just 10 working days.
One of the earliest, and so then they’re kind of,
we’ve all seen the pictures.
They’re traveling around Wuhan in little buses.
One of the first visits they have
is to this museum exhibition on the,
it’s basically a propaganda exhibition on the success,
Xi Jinping and the success in fighting COVID.
And they said, well, we had to show respect
to our Chinese hosts.
But I think what the Chinese hosts were saying is,
let’s just, I’m just gonna rub your noses in this.
You’re gonna go where we tell you.
You’re gonna hear what we want you to hear.
So they have that little short time.
They spend a few hours.
They weren’t in control of where the bus goes.
No, I mean, they made recommendations.
Many of their recommendations were accepted,
but like when they went to the Wuhan Institute of Virology
and some of them did,
they weren’t able to do any kind of audit
when they asked for access to raw data.
They weren’t provided that.
They were, it was, as I said in my 60 minutes interview,
it was a chaperoned study tour.
It was not even remotely close to an investigation.
And the thing they were looking at
wasn’t the origins of the pandemic.
It was the single hypothesis
of a quote unquote natural origins.
Then, I mean, it was really so shocking for me.
On February 9 of this year in Wuhan,
the Chinese government sets up a joint press event
where it’s the Chinese side and the international side.
And during that press event,
a guy named Peter Ben Embarek,
and it’s a little confusing.
He was basically the head of this delegation
and he works for the WHO,
even though this was an independent committee,
it was organized by the WHO.
So Peter Ben Embarek gets up there and says,
we think it’s most likely it comes from nature.
Then he says, we think it’s possible
it comes through frozen food,
which is absolutely outrageous.
I mean, it’s basically preposterous.
Alena Chan calls this popsicle origins,
but it’s really, really unlikely.
But then most significantly,
he says that we’ve all agreed
that a lab incident origin is quote unquote
extremely unlikely and shouldn’t be investigated.
We later learned that the way they came up
with that determination was by a show of hands vote
of the international experts and the Chinese experts.
And the Chinese experts had to do their vote
in front of the Chinese government officials
who were constantly there.
So even if whatever they thought,
there was no possibility that someone raises their hand
and say, oh yeah, I think it’s a lab origin.
So that was outrageous thing number one.
Outrageous thing number two,
which I mean, I’ll come back to my response in February.
Outrageous thing number two is months later,
Peter Benambarak does an interview on Danish television.
And he says, actually I was lying about extremely unlikely
because the Chinese side,
they didn’t want any mention of a lab incident origin
anywhere including in the report that later came out.
And so the deal we made, even though he himself thought
that at least some manifestation of a lab incident origin
was likely and that there should be an investigation,
particularly he said, well, that’s kind of weird
that the Wuhan CDC moved just across
from the Huanan seafood market
just before the beginning of the pandemic.
But he said as a horse trading deal
with the Chinese authorities,
it shouldn’t be that he agreed to say
it was extremely unlikely and shouldn’t be investigated.
So I was in actually in Colorado staying with my parents
and I stayed up late watching this press event.
And I was appalled because I knew after two weeks
there was no way they could possibly come to that conclusion.
So I immediately sent a private message to Tedros,
the WHO director general, essentially saying
there’s no way they had enough access
to come to this conclusion.
If the WHO doesn’t distance itself from this,
the WHO itself is going to be in danger
because it’s going to be basically institutional capture
by the Chinese.
This was repeating the Chinese government’s
And Tedros sent me a really, again,
why I have so much respect for Tedros,
sent me a private note saying,
don’t worry, we are determined to do the right thing.
And so I got that private message.
And again, I really like Tedros,
but I thought, well, what are you gonna do?
Three days later, Tedros makes a public statement.
And he says, I’ve heard this thing.
I don’t think that this is a final answer.
We need to have a full investigation into this process.
He then released two more statements
saying we need to have a full investigation
with access to raw data.
And we need a full audit of the Wuhan labs.
So then that part was really, really great.
But then this saga continues because,
so I was part of a group, as I mentioned before,
this Paris group.
It was about two dozen or so experts.
And we’d been meeting since 2020 and having regular meetings.
And we just present papers, present data,
debate to try to really get to the bottom of things.
And it was all private.
So I went to this group and I said, look,
this playing field is now skewed.
These guys, they’ve put out this thing,
lab incident origin, extremely unlikely.
It’s in every newspaper in the world.
We can’t just be our own little private group
talking to each other.
So I led the political process of drafting
what became four open letters that many of us signed,
most of us signed, that saying, all right,
here’s why this study group and the report are not credible.
Here’s what’s wrong.
Here’s what a full investigation would look like.
Here’s a treasure map of all the resources
where people can look.
And we demand a comprehensive investigation.
So those four open letters were in pretty much
every newspaper in the world.
And it played a really significant role
along with some other things.
There was later, there was a letter, a short letter
in Science making basically similar points
in a much more condensed way.
There were some higher profile articles
by Nicholas Wade and Nick Baker and others.
And those collectively shifted the conversation.
And then really impressively, the WHO,
and with Tedros’s leadership, did
something that was really incredible.
And that is earlier this year, they,
meaning the leadership of the WHO, not the World Health
Assembly, but the leadership of the WHO,
announced the establishment of what’s
called SAGO, the Scientific Advisory Group on the Origins
of Novel Pathogens.
And basically what they did was overrule their own governing
board and say, we’re going to create our own entity.
So it basically dissolved that international, deeply flawed
international joint study group.
And a lot of those people, they have become very critical,
like the Chinese of Tedros.
So then they had an open call for nominations
to be part of SAGO.
And so a lot of people put in their nominations.
They selected 26 people.
But our group, we had a meeting, and we
were unhappy with that list of 26.
It still felt skewed toward the natural origin hypothesis.
So again, I drafted, and we worked on together,
an open letter which we submitted to the WHO saying,
we think this list, it’s a step in the right direction,
but it’s not good enough.
And we call on these three people to be removed,
and we have these three people who we think should be added.
Incredibly, and I was in private touch
with the WHO, after announcing the 26 people,
the WHO said, we’re reopening the process, so send in more.
And so then they added two more people, one of whom
is an expert in the auditing of lab incidents.
And then one of the, so they added those two.
And then when they just released the list of people
who are part of SAGO, this one woman,
a highly respected Dutch virologist named Marion Koopmans,
who had been part of that deeply flawed and compromised
international study group, who had called,
who has consistently called a lab incident origin, quote,
unquote, a debunked conspiracy theory.
As of now, her name is not on the list.
We haven’t seen any announcements.
So I summary, and I’m sorry to go on for so long
and to be so animated about this,
I genuinely feel that the WHO is trying to do the right thing.
But they exist within a political context.
And they’re pushing at the edges,
but there’s only so far that they can go.
And that’s why we definitely need
to have full accountability for the WHO.
We need to expand the mandate to WHO.
But we need to recognize that states have a big role.
And China is an incredibly influential state
that’s doing everything possible to prevent
the kind of full investigation into pandemic origins
that’s so desperately required.
Well, it sounds like the leadership
made all the difference in the WHO.
So like the way to change the momentum of large institutions
is through the leadership.
Leadership and empowerment, as I mentioned,
the World Health Assembly is meeting now.
And I think that it shouldn’t be that we require superhumans.
And there are some people who are big critics of WHO.
The leader of the WHO in SARS 1 was definitely more aggressive.
She had a different set of powers at that time.
But it can’t be entirely, we definitely
need strong willed, aggressive, independent people
in these kinds of roles.
We also need a more empowered WHO.
Like when the Chinese government in the earliest days
of the pandemic said, we’re just not
going to allow you to send a team to collect
your own information.
And we’re not going to allow you to have
any kind of independent surveillance,
there was very little that the WHO could do because
of the limitations of its mandate.
And we can’t just say we’re going to have a WHO that only
compromises Chinese sovereignty.
If we want to have a powerful WHO,
we should say we have emergency teams when the director
general says an emergency team needs to go somewhere.
If they aren’t allowed to go there that day,
you could say there’s an immediate referral
to the Security Council.
There needs to be something.
But we have all these demands, rightfully,
so of the WHO, which doesn’t have the authorities.
The WHO itself only controls 20% of its own budget.
So the governments are saying, we’re
going to give you money to do this or that.
So we need a stronger WHO to protect us,
but we also have to build that.
So looking a little bit into the future,
let’s first step into the past, sort
of the philosophical question about China.
If you were to put yourself in the shoes of the Chinese
government, if they were to be more transparent,
how should they be more transparent?
Because it’s easier to say, we want to see this.
But from a perspective of government,
and not just the Chinese government,
but a government on WHO’s geographic territory,
say it’s a lab leak, a lab leak occurred
that has resulted in trillions of dollars of loss,
countless of lives, just all kinds of damage to the world.
If they were to admit or show data
that could serve as evidence for a lab leak,
that’s something that people could, in the worst case,
start wars over, or in the most likely case,
just constantly bring that up at every turn,
making you powerless in negotiations.
Whenever you want to do something
in geopolitical sense, the United States
will bring up, oh, remember that time
you cost us trillions of dollars because of your fuck up?
So what is the incentive for the Chinese government
to be transparent?
And if it is to be transparent, how should it do it?
So there’s a bunch of people.
The reason I’m talking to you, as opposed
to a bunch of other folks, because you
are kindhearted and thoughtful and open minded
and really respected.
There’s a bunch of people that are talking about lab leak
that are a little bit less interested in building
a better world and more interested in pointing out
the emperor has no clothes.
They want step one, which is saying, basically,
tearing down the bullshitters.
They don’t want to do the further steps of building.
And so as the Chinese government,
I would be nervous about being transparent with anybody that
just wants to tear our power centers, our power
Anyway, that’s a long way to ask,
how should the Chinese government be transparent now
and in the future?
So maybe I’ll break that down into a few sub questions.
The first is, what should, in an ideal world,
what should the Chinese government do?
And that’s pretty straightforward.
They should be totally transparent.
The South African government now,
there is an outbreak of this Omicron variant.
And the South African government has done what we would want.
A government to do is say, hey, there’s an outbreak.
We don’t have all of the information.
We need help.
We want to alert the world.
And in some ways, they’re being punished for it
through these travel bans.
But it’s a separate topic.
But I actually think short term travel bans actually
are not a terrible idea.
They should have, on day one, they
should have allowed WHO experts in.
They should have shared information.
They should have allowed a full and comprehensive
investigation with international partnerships
to understand what went wrong.
They should have shared their raw data.
They should have allowed their scientists
to speak and write publicly.
Because nobody knows more about this stuff,
certainly in the early days, than their scientists do.
So it’s relatively easy to say what they should do.
It’s a hard question to say, well, what would happen?
Let’s just say tomorrow, we prove for certain
that this pandemic stems both from an accidental lab
incident and then from what I’ve consistently
called a criminal cover up.
Because the cover up has done, in many ways,
as much or more damage than the incident.
Well, what happens?
You could easily imagine Xi Jinping has had two terms
as the leader of China.
And he can now have unlimited terms.
Well, they’ve changed the rules for that.
But he’s got a lot of enemies.
I mean, there are a lot of people who are waiting in line
to step up.
So is there a chance that Xi Jinping could be deposed
if it was proven that this comes from a lab?
And I think there’s a real possibility.
Would people in the United States Congress, for example,
demand reparations from China?
So we’ve had $4.5 trillion of stimulus,
all of the economic losses, and we owe a lot of money
to China from our debt.
I’m quite certain that members of Congress
would say, we’re just going to wipe that out.
It would destroy the global financial system,
but I think they would be extremely likely.
Would other countries, like India,
that have lost millions of people
and had terrible economic damages,
would they demand reparations?
So I think from a Chinese perspective,
starting from now, it would have
major geopolitical implications.
And go back to Chernobyl, there was
a reason why the Soviet Union went to such length
to cover things up.
And when it came out, I mean, there are different theories,
but certainly Chernobyl played some role
in the end of communist power in the Soviet Union.
So the Chinese are very, very aware of that.
But the difference, of course, with Chernobyl,
the damage to the rest of the world
was not nearly as significant as it was with COVID.
So you say that the coverup is a crime,
but everything you just described,
the response of the rest of the world,
is, I could say, unfair.
Well, it’s not…
So, okay, if we say the best possible version of the story,
you know, lab leaks happen, they shouldn’t happen,
but they happen.
And how is that on the Chinese government?
I mean, what’s a good example?
Well, the Union Carbide.
Union Carbide, there was this American company
operating in India, they had this leak,
all these people were killed.
The company admitted responsibility.
I was working in the White House
when the United States government, in my view,
which I know to be the case,
but other people in China think differently,
bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade.
And so the United States government
allowed a full investigation,
then we paid reparations to the families.
And so to your question, if I were,
let’s just say I were the Chinese government,
not, I mean, kind of an idealized version
of the Chinese government.
And let’s just say that they had come to the conclusion
that it was a lab incident.
And let’s just say they knew that even if
they continued to cover it up,
eventually this information would come out.
I mean, maybe there was a whistleblower,
maybe they knew of some evidence
that we didn’t know about or something.
What would I do starting right now?
What I would do is I would hold a press conference
and I would say, we had this terrible accident.
The reason why we were doing this research
in Wuhan and elsewhere is that we had SARS one
and we felt a responsibility to do everything possible
to prevent that kind of terrible thing happening again
for our country and for the world.
That was why we collaborated with France,
with the United States in building up those capacities.
We know that nothing is perfect,
but we’re a sovereign country and we have our own system.
And so we had to adapt our systems
so that they made sense internally.
When this outbreak began, we didn’t know how it started.
And that was why we wanted to look into things.
When the process of investigating became so political,
it gave us pause and we were worried that our enemies
were trying to use this investigation
in order to undermine us.
Having said that, now that we’ve dug deeper,
we have recognized because we have access
to additional information that we didn’t have then,
that this pandemic started from an accidental lab incident.
And we feel really terribly about that.
And we know that we were very aggressive
in covering up information in the beginning,
but the reason we were doing that is because we thoroughly,
we fully believe that it came from a natural origin.
Now that we see otherwise, we feel terribly.
Therefore, we’re doing a few different things.
One is we are committing ourselves
to establishing a stronger WHO, a new pandemic treaty
that addresses the major challenges that we face
and allows the World Health Organization
to pierce the veil of absolute sovereignty
because we know that when these pandemics happen,
they affect everybody.
We are also putting, and you can pick your number,
but let’s start with five trillion US dollars,
some massive amount, into a fund
that we will be distributing to the victims of COVID 19
and their, and their.
China would do that?
This is a fantasy speech.
But I disagree with your, I mean, okay.
So you think China has a responsibility?
Well, so it’s not the, like just a lab leak.
Like if China on day one had said we have this outbreak,
we don’t know where it came from,
we want to have a full investigation,
we call on international,
responsible international partners
to join us in that process,
and we’re going to do everything in our power
to share the relevant information
because however this started, we’re all victims.
That’s a totally different story
than punishing Australia, preventing the WHO,
blocking any investigation,
condemning people who are trying to look, and so that’s.
So cover up for a couple weeks,
you can understand maybe,
because there’s so much uncertainty.
You’re like, oh, let’s hide all the Winnie the Pooh pictures
while we figure this out.
But the moment you really figure out what happened,
you always, as a Jew I can say this,
always find like a blame the Jews kind of situation
a little bit, just a little bit.
Be like, all right, it’s not us.
I’m just kidding.
But be proactive in saying.
Just to start here, but the joke about that is
there’s a big problem because a lot of people
have to leave the Jewish socialist conspiracy
to make it for the Jewish capitalist conspiracy meeting.
I love it.
So I would say not five trillion,
but some large amount,
and I would really focus on the future,
which is every time we talk about the lab leak,
the unfortunate thing is I feel like people
don’t focus enough about the future.
To me, the lab leak is important
because we want to construct a kind of framework
of thinking and a global conversation
that minimizes the damage done by future lab leaks,
which will almost certainly happen.
And so to me, any lab leak is about the future.
I would launch a giant investment in saying
we’re going to create a testing infrastructure,
like all of this kind of infrastructure investments
that help minimize the damage of a lab leak
here and the rest of the world.
So the challenge with that is one,
it’s hard to imagine a fully accountable future system
to prevent these kinds of terrible pandemics
that’s built upon obfuscation and coverup
regarding the origins of this worst pandemic in a century.
So it’s just like that foundation isn’t strong enough.
Second, China across the fields of science
is looking to leapfrog the rest of the world.
So China now has current plans to build BSL4 labs
in every of its province.
Yeah, they’re scaling up the.
Scaling up everything ends up with the plan on leading.
And that’s why, again, I was saying before,
I think there’s a lot of similarity between this story,
at least as I see it, at least the most probable case,
and these other areas where China gets knowledge
and then tries to leapfrog.
It’s the same with AI and autonomous killer robots.
It’s the same with human genome editing,
with animal experimentations, with so many,
basically all areas of advanced science.
So the question is, would China stop in that process?
And then third, it’s a little bit
of a historical background,
but defending national sovereignty
is one of the core principles of,
certainly of the Chinese state.
And the historical issue is,
for those of us who come from the West,
I mean, one of the lessons of the postwar planners
was that absolute national sovereignty
was actually a major feeder
into the first and second world wars,
that we had all these conflicting states.
And therefore the logic of the postwar system
is we need to in some ways pool sovereignty
that’s like the EU and have transnational organizations
like the UN organizations
and the Bretton Woods organizations.
For most Asian states,
and also even for some African,
and the people who were kind of
on the colonized side of history,
sovereignty was the thing that was denied them.
That was the thing that they want,
that the European power is denied.
And so the idea of giving up sovereignty
was the absolute opposite.
And so that’s why China is,
and again, I mentioned this Rush Doshi book.
It’s not that China is trying to strengthen
this rules based international order,
which is based on the principle
that while there are certain things that we share
and how do we build a governance system
to protect those things,
what it seems to be doing is trying
to advance its own sovereignty.
And so I think I agree with you,
but I don’t think that we can just go forward
without some accountability for the.
So the coverup was a big problem.
It’s like, I often,
I find myself playing devil’s advocate
because I’m trying to sort of empathize
and then I forget that like two or three people
listen to this thing and then they’re like,
look, Lex is defending the Chinese government
with their coverup.
No, I’m not, I’m just trying to understand.
I mean, it’s the same reason I’m reading Mein Kampf now
is like you have to really understand the minds of people
as if I too could have done that.
You know, you have to understand
that we’re all the same to some degree
and that kind of empathy is required
to figure out solutions for the future.
It’s just in empathizing with the Chinese government
in this whole situation,
I’m still not sure I understand
how to minimize the chance of a coverup in the future,
whether for China or for the United States.
If the virus started in the United States,
I’m not exactly sure we would be
with all the emphasis we put on freedom of speech,
with all the emphasis we put on freedom of the press
and access to the press,
the sort of all aspects of government.
I’m not sure the US government
wouldn’t do the similar kind of coverup.
Let me put it this way.
So we’re in Texas now doing this interview.
Imagine there’s a kind of horseshoe bat
that we’ll call the Texas Horseshoe Bat and the Texas.
There’s a lot of bats in Austin,
but it’s a whole thing. It’s true, it’s true.
And so let’s just say that the Texas Horseshoe Bats
only exist in Texas, but in Montana,
we have a thing, it’s called
the Montana Institute of Virology.
And at the Montana Institute of Virology,
they have the world’s largest collection
of Texas Horseshoe Bats, including horseshoe bats
that are associated with a previous global pandemic
called the Texas Horseshoe Bat pandemic.
And let’s just say that people in Montana,
in the same town where this
Montana Institute of Virology is,
start getting a version of this
Texas Horseshoe Bat syndrome
that is genetically relatively similar
to the outbreak in Texas.
There are no horseshoe bats there.
And the government says, it’s your same point,
Alina’s point about the unicorns,
like nothing to see here, just move along.
Would Joe Rogan and Brett Weinstein and Josh Rogan,
would they say, oh, I guess, I just think that.
No, no, but the point is the government going to say it.
So, Joe Rogan is a comedian.
Brett Weinstein is a podcaster.
The point is, what we want is not just those folks
to have the freedom to speak, that’s important.
But you want the government to have the transparent,
like, I don’t think Joe Rogan is enough
to hold the government accountable.
I think they’re going to do their thing anyway.
But I think that’s our system,
and that was the genius of the founding fathers.
Is that enough?
That the government probably is going to have
a lot of instincts to do the wrong thing.
That was the experience in England before.
And so that’s why we have free speech,
to hold the government accountable.
I mean, I’m kind of broadly a gun control person,
but the people who say, well,
we need to have broad gun rights.
As somebody who’s now in Texas, I am offended.
But their argument is, look,
we don’t fully trust the government.
If the government, just like we fought against the British,
if the government’s wrong,
we want to at least have some authority.
So that’s our system, is to have that kind of voice.
And that is the public voice actually balances.
Because every government, as you correctly said,
every government has the same instincts.
And that’s why we have, and it’s imperfect here,
but kind of these ideas of separation of powers,
of inalienable rights, so that we can have,
it’s almost like a vast market where we can have balance.
So you think if a lab leak occurred in the United States,
what probability would you put some kind of public report
led by Rand Paul would come out saying this was a lab leak?
You have good confidence that that would happen?
I have pretty decent confidence.
And the reason I say, I mentioned that I’m a,
I think of myself, I’m sure I’m not anymore,
because as I get older, but as a progressive person,
I’m a Democrat and I worked in Democratic administrations,
worked for President Clinton on the National Security Council.
But my kind of best friend in the United States Senate,
who I talk to all the time,
is a Senator from Kansas named Roger Marshall.
And Roger, I mean, if you just lined up our positions
on all sorts of things, we’re radically different.
But we have a great relationship.
We talk all the time and we share a commitment to saying,
well, let’s ask the tough questions about how this started.
And again, if we had,
like what is the United States government?
Yeah, it’s the executive branch, but there’s also Congress.
And Congress, you talk about Rand Paul,
and as a former executive branch worker,
when I was on the National Security Council,
and I guess technically when I was at the State Department,
all of this stuff, all of this process,
it just seems like a pain in the ass.
It’s like these Fers, they’re just attacking us.
We tried to do this thing with,
we had all the best intentions
and now they’re holding hearings
and they’re trying to box us in and whatever.
But that’s our process.
And there’s like a form of accountability as chaotic,
as crazy as it is.
And so it makes it really difficult.
I mean, we have other problems of just chaos
and everybody doing their own thing,
but it makes it difficult to have
the kind of systematic coverup.
And again, all of that is predicated on my hypothesis,
not fully proven, although I think likely
that there is a lab incident origin of this pandemic.
Well, I mean, we’re having like several layers
of conversation, but I think whether lab leak hypothesis
is true or not, it does seem that the likelihood
of a coverup, if it leaked from a lab is high.
That’s the more important conversation to be having.
Well, you could argue a lot of things,
but to me arguably, that’s the more important conversation
is about what is the likelihood of a coverup.
100%, like in my mind, there is a legitimate debate
about the origins of the pandemic.
There are people who I respect,
who I don’t necessarily agree with,
people like Stuart Neal, who’s a virologist in the UK,
who’s been very open minded, engaged in productive debate
about the origin and you know where I stand.
There is and can be no debate about whether
or not there has been a coverup.
There has been a coverup.
There is in my mind, no credible argument
that there hasn’t been a coverup.
And I mean, we can just see it in the regulations,
in the lack of access.
There’s an incredible woman named Zhang Zhan,
who is a Chinese, we have to call her a citizen journalist
because everything is controlled by the state.
But in the early days of the pandemic,
she went to Wuhan, started taking videos and posting them.
She was imprisoned for picking quarrels,
which is kind of a catchall.
And now she’s engaged in a hunger strike
and she’s near death.
And so there’s no question that there has been a coverup
and there’s no question in my mind
that that coverup is responsible
for a significant percentage of the total deaths
due to COVID 19.
In a pivot, can I talk to you about sex?
Okay, so you’re the author of a book, Hacking Darwin.
So humans have used sex, allegedly, as I’ve read about,
to mix genetic information to produce offspring
and through that kind of process adapted their environment.
Lex, you mentioned earlier about
you’re asking tough questions
and people pushing you to ask tough questions.
Is it okay if I just?
So you said, have done this as I’ve read about.
As I’ve read about on the internet, yeah.
All I’m saying, as a person sitting with you,
to people who would be open minded in experimenting
of, as I’ve read about, to reality,
what I would say is Lex Friedman is handsome, charming.
He’s really a great guy.
I’m sorry to interrupt.
Thank you, I appreciate that.
So I was reading about this last night.
I was gonna tweet it, but then I’m like,
this is going to be misinterpreted.
But this is why I like podcasts,
because I can say stuff like this.
It’s kind of incredible to me that the average human male
produces 500 billion plus sperm cells in their lifetime.
Each one of those are genetically unique.
They can produce unique humans.
Each one of them, 500 billion,
there’s 100 billion people who’s ever lived.
Maybe 110, whatever, whatever the number is.
So it’s five times the number of people who ever lived
is produced by each male of genetic information.
So those are all possible trajectories of lives
that could have lived.
Those are all little people that could have been.
And all the possible stories.
All the Hitlers and Einsteins
that could have been created.
And all that, I mean, I don’t know,
this kind of, you’re painting this possible future,
and we get to see only one little string of that.
I mean, I suppose the magic of that
is also captured by the, in the space of physics,
having multiple dimensions
and the many worlds hypothesis of quantum mechanics,
the interpretation that we’re basically just,
at every point, there’s an infinite offspring
of universes that are created.
But I don’t know, that’s just like a magic
of this game of genetics that we’re playing.
And the winning sperm is not the fastest.
The winning sperm is basically the luckiest,
has the right timing.
So it’s not, I also got into this whole,
I started reading papers about like,
is there something to be said
about who wins the race, right, genetically?
So it’s fascinating, because there’s studies
in animals and so on to answer that question,
because it’s interesting, because I’m a winner, right?
I won, I won a race.
And so you want to know, what does that say about me
in this fascinating genetic race against,
I think, what is it, 200 million others, I think.
So one pool of sperm cells is about something
like 200 million, it could be, yes.
But that, millions, I thought it was much lower than that.
So like that, those are all brothers and sisters of mine,
and I beat them all out, I won.
And so it’s interesting to know,
there’s a temptation to say I’m somehow better than them,
right, and now that goes into the next stage
of something we’re deeply thinking about,
which is if we have more control now
over the winning genetic code that becomes offspring,
if we have first not even control,
just information and then control,
what do you think that world looks like
from a biological perspective
and from an ethical perspective
when we start getting more information and more control?
Yeah, great question.
So first, on the sperm, there can be up to
about 1.2 billion sperm cells in a male ejaculation.
So as I mentioned in Hacking Darwin,
male sperm, it’s kind of a dime a dozen
with all the guys in all the world
just doing whatever they do with it.
And it’s an open question how competitive,
I mean, there is an element of luck
and there is an element of competition,
and it’s an open question how much that competition
impacts the outcome or whether it’s just luck,
but my guess is there’s some combination
of fitness and luck.
But you’re absolutely right that all of those other
sperm cells in the ejaculation,
if that’s how the union of the sperm and egg is happening,
all of them represent a different future.
And there’s a wonderful book called Invisible Cities
by Italo Calvino, and he even talks about a city
as something like this where everybody,
you have your life,
but then you have all these alternate lives
and every time you make any decision,
you’re kind of, and so, but in this Invisible Cities,
there’s a little string that goes toward that alternate life
and then the city becomes this weaving
of all the strings of people’s real lives
and the alternate lives that they could have taken
had they made any other different steps.
So that part, it’s like a deep philosophical question.
It’s not just for us, it’s for all of,
I mean, it’s baked into evolutionary biology.
It’s just what are the different strategies
for different species to achieve fitness?
And there’s some of the different corals or other fish
where they just kind of release the eggs into the water
and there’s all different kinds of ways.
And then you’re right in my book, Hacking Darwin,
and it’s the full title is Hacking Darwin,
Genetic Engineering and the Future of Humanity.
I kind of go deep into exploring
the big picture implications of the future
of human reproduction.
We are already participating
in a revolutionary transformation,
not just because of the diagnostics that we have,
things like ultrasound, but because now
an increasing number of us are being born
through in vitro fertilization,
which means the eggs are extracted from the mother,
they’re fertilized by the father’s sperm in vitro in a lab,
and then reimplanted in the mother.
On top of that, there’s a somewhat newer,
but still now older technology
called preimplantation genetic testing.
And so as everyone knows from high school biology,
you have the fertilized egg,
and then it goes one cell to two cells
to four to eight and whatever.
And after around five days in this PGT process,
a few cells are extracted.
So let’s say you have 10 fertilized eggs,
early stage embryos, a few cells are extracted from each,
and those cells, if they would,
the ones that are extracted
would end up becoming the placenta.
But every one of our cells has, other than a few,
has our full genome.
And so then you sequence those cells
and with preimplantation genetic testing now,
what you can do is you can screen out deadly single gel,
a single gene mutation disorders,
things that could be deadly or life ruining.
And so people use it to determine
which of those 10 early stage embryos
to implant in a mother.
As we shift towards a much greater understanding
of genetics, and that is part of our,
just the broader genetics revolution,
but within that, in our transition from personalized
to precision healthcare, more and more of us
are going to have our whole genome sequenced
because it’s gonna be the foundation
of getting personalized healthcare.
We’re going to have already millions, but very soon,
billions of people who’ve had their whole genome sequenced.
And then we’ll have big databases
of people’s genetic genotypic information
and life or phenotypic information.
And using, coming into your area,
our tools of machine learning and data analytics,
we’re going to be able to increasingly understand
patterns of genetic expression, even though we’re all.
So predict how the genetic information will get expressed.
Never perfectly perhaps, but more and more,
always more and more.
And so with that information, we aren’t going to just be,
even now, we aren’t going to just be selecting based on
which of these 10 early stage embryos
is carrying a deadly genetic disorder,
but we can, we’ll be able to know everything
that can be partly or entirely predicted by genetics.
And there’s a lot of our humanity
that fits into that category.
And certainly simple traits like height and eye color
and things like that.
I mean, height is not at all simple,
but it’s, if you have good nutrition,
it’s entirely or mostly genetic.
But even personality traits and personality styles,
there are a lot of things that we see just as the experience,
the beauty of life that are partly have a genetic foundation.
And so whatever part of these traits are definable
and influenced by genetics,
we’re going to have greater and greater predictability
within a range.
And so selecting those embryos will be informed
by that kind of knowledge.
And that’s why in Hacking Darwin,
I talk about embryo selection as being a key driver
of the future of human evolution.
But then on top of that, there is in 2012,
Shinya Yamanaka, an amazing Japanese scientist
won the Nobel Prize for developing a process
for creating what are called induced pluripotent stem cells,
And what IPS cells are is you can induce an adult cell
to go back in evolutionary time and become a stem cell.
And a stem cell is like when we’re a fertilized egg,
like our entire blueprint is in that one cell
and that cell can be anything,
but then it starts to, our cells start to specialize.
And that’s why we have skin cells and blood cells
and all the different types of things.
So with the Yamanaka process,
we can induce an adult cell to become a stem cell.
So the relevance to this story is what you can do.
And it works now in animal models.
And as far as I know, it hasn’t yet been done in humans,
but it works pretty well in animal models.
You take any adult cell,
but skin cells are probably the easiest.
You induce this skin cell into a stem cell.
And if you just take a little skin graft,
it would have millions of cells.
You induce those skin cells into stem cells.
Then you induce those stem cells into egg precursor cells.
Then you induce those egg precursor cells into eggs,
Then because we have this massive overabundance
of male sperm, then you could fertilize,
let’s call it 10,000 of the mother’s eggs.
So you have 10,000 eggs, which are fertilized.
Sounds like a party.
Then you have an automated process
for what I mentioned before
in preimplantation genetic testing,
you grow them all for five days,
you extract a few cells from each, you test them.
And that’s why I had a piece in the New York Times
a couple of years ago,
imagining what it would be like to go to a fertility clinic
in the year 2050.
And the choice is not.
No humans involved.
Well, no, no, there are, but the choice is not,
do you want a kid who does or doesn’t have,
let’s call it Tay Sachs.
It’s a whole range of possibilities,
including very intimate traits
like height, IQ, personality style.
It doesn’t mean you can predict everything,
but it means there will be increasing predictability.
So if you’re choosing from 10,000 eggs,
fertilized eggs, early stage embryos,
that’s a lot of choice.
And on top of that,
then we have the new technology of human genome editing.
Many people have heard of CRISPR,
but what I say is if you think of human genome editing
as a pie, sorry, human genome engineering as a pie,
genome editing is a slice
and CRISPR is just a sliver of that slice.
It’s just one of our tools for genome editing
and things are getting better and better.
Then you can go in and change.
Let’s say, I mean, again, it starts simple.
A small number of genes,
let’s say you’ve selected from among the one of 10
or the one of 10,000,
but there are a number of changes
that you would like to make to achieve some kind of outcome.
And biology is incredibly complex
and it’s not that one gene does one thing.
One gene does probably a lot of things simultaneously,
which is why the decision about changing one gene
if it’s causing deathly harm is easier
than when we think about the complexity of biology.
But then the machine learning
gets better and better at predicting
the full complexity of biology.
So as one gets better,
then you’re editing your ability to reliably edit
such that the conclusions are predictable,
it gets better and better.
So those two are coupled together.
You got it, that’s exactly it.
And then, so that’s why, and people would say,
well, that, I mean, I wrote about that
in my two science fiction novels,
Genesis Code and Eternal Sonata years ago,
and especially with Genesis Code, I wrote about that.
And as a sci fi,
and I had actually testified before Congress,
but now 15 years ago saying,
here’s what the future looks like.
But even I, and in my first edition of Hacking Darwin,
when it was already in production,
and then in November 2018,
this scientist, Hojong Kui, announced in Hong Kong
that the world’s first two, and later three,
CRISPR babies had been born,
which he had genetically altered,
and misguided, in my view, and dangerous view,
dangerous goal of making it so they would have
increased resistance to HIV.
And so I called my publisher,
and I said, I’ve got good news and bad news.
I’ll start with the bad news,
is that the world’s first CRISPR babies have been born,
and so we need to pull my book out of production,
because you can’t have a book on the future
of human genetic engineering,
and have it not mention the first CRISPR babies
that had been born.
But the good news is, in the book,
I had predicted that it’s going to happen,
and it’s going to happen in China, and here’s why.
And all we need to do is add a few more sentences,
and that was the hardback,
and then I updated it more in the paperback,
saying, and it happened, and it was announced on this day.
Well, then let’s fast forward.
Given your predictions are slowly becoming reality,
let’s talk about some philosophy,
and ethics, I suppose.
So I can, I’m not being too self deprecating here,
and saying if my parents had the choice,
I would be probably less likely to come out the winner.
We’re all weird, and I’m certainly a very distinctly
weird specimen of the human species.
I can give the full long list of flaws,
and we can be very poetic of saying those are features,
and so on, but they’re not.
If you look at the menu.
Again, for these women who are listening,
apropos of your thing,
they’re all kind of charming individualities.
Yes, that’s beautiful, that’s one, yes, thank you.
But anyway, but on the full sort of individual,
let’s say IQ alone, right?
That what do we do about a world
where IQ could be selected on a menu
when you’re having children?
What concerns you about that world?
What excites you about that world?
Are there certain metrics that excite you more than others?
IQ has been a source of,
I don’t know, I’m not sure IQ as a measure,
flawed as it is, has been used to celebrate
the successes of the human species
nearly as much as has been used to divide people,
to say negative things about people,
to make negative claims about people.
And in that same way, it seems like
when there’s a selection, a genetic selection based on IQ,
you can start now having classes of citizenry,
like further divide, you know, the rich get richer.
You know, it’ll be very rich people
that’ll be able to do kind of fine selection of IQ
and they will start forming these classes
of super intelligent people.
And those super intelligent people in their minds
would of course be the right people
to be making global authoritarian decisions
about everybody else, all the usual aspects of human nature,
but now magnified with the new tools of technology.
Anyway, all that to say is what’s exciting to you?
What’s concerning to you?
It’s a great question and just stepping into the IQ,
we’ll call it a quagmire for now,
it raises a lot of big issues which are complicated.
Maybe you’ve listened to Sam Harris’s interview
with Charles Murray and then that spawned
kind of a whole industry of debate.
So first, just the background of IQ
and it’s from the early 20th century
and there was the idea that we can measure
people’s general intelligence
and there are so many different kinds of intelligence.
This was measuring a specific thing.
So my feeling is that IQ is not a perfect measure
of intelligence, but it’s a perfect measure of IQ.
Like it’s measuring what it’s measuring,
but that thing correlates to a lot of things
which are rewarded in our society.
So every study of IQ has shown that people
with higher IQs, they make more money,
they live longer, they have more stable relationships.
I mean, that could be something in the testing,
but as Sam Harris has talked about a lot,
you could line up all of these kind of IQ
and IQ like tests correlate with each other.
So the people who score high on one, score high on all
of them and people think that IQ tests are like a thing
like the Earl of Dorchester is coming for dinner.
Does he have two forks or three forks
or something like that?
It’s not that a lot of them are things
that I think a lot of us would recognize are relevant.
Just like how much stuff can you memorize?
If you see some shapes, how can you position them
and things like that.
And so IQ, I mean, it really hit its stride
and certainly in the second world war
when our governments were processing a lot of people
and trying to figure out who to put in what jobs.
So that’s the starting point.
Let me start first with the negatives.
That our societies, when we talk about diversity
in Darwinian terms, it’s not like diversity
is from Darwinian terms.
Oh, wouldn’t it be nice if we have some moths
of different colors because it’ll be really fun
to have different colored moths.
Diversity is the sole survival strategy of our species
and of every species.
And it’s impossible to predict what diversity
is going to be rewarded.
And I’ve said this before, if you went down
and you spoke T. rex and you spoke to the dinosaurs
and said, hey, you can select your kids,
what criteria do you want?
And they say, oh, yeah, sharp teeth, cruel fangs,
roar, whatever it is that makes you a great T. rex.
But the answer from an evolutionary perspective,
from an earth perspective was, oh, it’s much better
to be like a cockroach or an alligator
or some little nothing or a little shrew
because the dinosaurs are gonna get wiped out
when the asteroid hits.
And so there’s no better or worse in evolution.
There’s just better or worse suited for a given environment.
And when that environment changes,
the best suited person from the old system
could be the worst suited person for the new one.
So if we start selecting for the things
that we value the most, including things like IQ,
but even disease resistance, I mean, this is well known,
but people who are recessive carrier of sickle cell disease
have increased resistance to malaria,
which is the biggest reason why that trait
hasn’t just disappeared given how deadly
sickle cell disease is.
Biology is incredibly complex.
We understand such a tiny percentage of it
that we need to have, in your words,
just a level of humility.
There are huge equity issues as you’ve articulated.
Let’s just say that it is the case that in our society,
IQ and IQ like traits are highly rewarded.
There is an equity issue, but it works in both ways.
Because my guess is, let’s just say that we had a society
where we were doing genome sequencing
of everybody who was born.
And we had some predictive model to predict IQ.
And we had decided as a society that IQ
was going to be what we were going to select for.
We were gonna put the highest IQ people
in these different roles.
I guarantee you the people in those roles
would not be the people who are legacy admissions to Harvard.
They would very likely be people who are born in slums,
people who are born with no opportunity or in refugee camps
who are just wasting away because we’ve thrown them away.
And so it’s an easy, like it’s the idea of just being able
to look under the hood of our humanity
is really scary for everybody.
And it should be.
I mean, I’m also an Ashkenazi Jew.
My father was born in Austria.
My father and grandparents came here as refugees.
After the war, most of that side of the family was killed.
So I get what it means to be on the other,
I mean, you said you’re reading Mein Kampf,
on the other side of the story when someone said,
well, here’s what’s good and you’re not good.
And therefore you’re, so I totally get that.
Having said that, I do believe that we’re moving toward
a new way of procreating.
And we’re going to have to decide what are the values
that we would like to realize through that process?
Is it randomness, which is what we currently have now,
which is not totally random
because we have a sort of mating through colleges
and other things.
But if it’s.
Wait, mating through what?
Sort of like if you go, if you go to Harvard or whatever,
and your wife also goes to Harvard, it’s like, it’s.
So it’s location based mating.
Well, it’s not location, it’s selection.
It’s like there are selections that are made
about who gets to a certain place.
And when like, it’s like Harvard admissions is a filter.
So we’re going to have to decide what are the values
that we want to realize through this process
because diversity has, it’s just baked into our biology.
We’re the first species ever that has the opportunity
to make choices about things that were otherwise baked
into our biology.
And there’s a real danger that if we make bad choices,
even with good intentions, it could even drive us
toward extinction and certainly undermine our humanity.
And that’s why I always say, and like I said,
I’m deeply involved with WHO and other things,
that these aren’t conversations about science.
Science brings us to the conversation,
but the conversation is about values and ethics.
As you described, that world is wide open.
It’s not even a subtly different world.
That world is fundamentally different
from anything we understand about life on Earth
because natural selection, this random process,
is so fundamental how we think about life.
Being able to program, I mean, it has a chance to,
I mean, it’ll probably make my question
about the ethical concerns around IQ based selection
just meaningless because it’ll change the nature of identity.
It’s possible it will dissolve identity
because we take so much pride in all the different
characteristics that make us who we are.
Whenever you have some control over those characteristics,
those characteristics start losing meaning.
And what may start gaining meaning is the ideas
inside our heads, for example,
versus like the details of like,
is it a Commodore 64, is it a PC, is it a Mac?
It’s gonna be less important than the software
that runs on it.
So we can more and more be operating in the digital space
and the identity could be something
that borrows multiple bodies.
Like the legacy of our ideas may become more important
than the details of our physical embodiment.
Like it, I mean, I’m saying perhaps
ridiculous sounding things, but the point is
it will bring up so many new ethical concerns
that our narrow minded thinking about
the current ethical concerns would not apply.
So it’s, but it’s important to think about
all this kind of stuff, like actively.
What are the right conversations to be having now?
Because it feels like it’s an ongoing conversation
that then continually evolves, like with NIH involved.
Like do you do experiments with animals?
Do you build these brain organoids?
Do you, like through that process you described
with the stem cells, like do you experiment
with a bunch of organisms to see how genetic material,
what form that actually takes,
how to minimize the chance of cancer
and all those kinds of things.
What are the negative consequences of that?
What are the positive consequences?
Yeah, it’s a fascinating world.
It’s a really fascinating world.
Yeah, and then, but those conversations
are just so essential.
Like we have to be talking about ethics.
And then that raises the question of who is the we?
And coming back to your conversation
about science communication,
maybe there was a time earlier
when these conversations needed to be,
were held among a small number of experts
who made decisions on behalf of everybody else.
But what we’re talking about here
is really the future of our species.
And I think that conversation is too important
to be left just to experts and government officials.
So I mentioned that I’m a member,
we just ended our work after two years
of the World Health Organization Expert Advisory Committee
on Human Genome Editing.
And my big push in that process
was to have education, engagement and empowerment
of the broad public to bring,
not just bring people into the conversation
with the tools to be able to engage,
but also into the decision making process.
And that’s, it’s a real shift.
And there are countries that are doing it
better than others.
I mean, Denmark is obviously a much smaller country
than the United States,
but they have a really well developed infrastructure
for public engagement
around really complicated scientific issues.
And I just think that we have to,
like it’s great that we have Twitter
and all these other things,
but we need structured conversations
where we can really bring people together
and listen to each other,
which feels like it’s harder than ever.
But even now in this process
where all these people are shouting at each other,
at least there are a bunch of people
who are in the conversation.
So it’s, we have a foundation,
but we just really need to do more work.
And again, and again, and again,
it’s about ethics and values
because we’re at an age,
and this has become a cliche
of exponential technological change.
And so the rate of change is faster going forward
than it has been in the past.
So in our minds, we underappreciate
how quickly things are changing and will change.
And if we’re not careful,
if we don’t know who we are and what our values are,
we’re going to get lost.
And we don’t have to know technology.
We have to know who we are.
I mean, our values are hard won over thousands of years.
No matter how new the technology is,
we shouldn’t and can’t jettison our values
because that is our primary navigational tool.
Because we were saying that sexual reproduction
is not the best way to define the offspring.
You think there’ll be a day when humans stop having sex?
I don’t think we’ll stop having sex
because it’s so enjoyable,
but we may significantly stop having sex for reproduction.
Even today, most human sex is not for making babies.
It’s for other things,
whether it’s pleasure or love or pair bonding or whatever.
I mean, some people do it for intimacy.
Some people do it for pleasure with strangers.
I feel like the people that do it for pleasure,
I feel like there will be better ways
to achieve that same chemical pleasure, right?
You know, there’s just so many different kinds of people.
I just saw this on television,
but there are people who put on those big bunny outfits
and go and have sex with other people.
I mean, there’s just like an unlimited number
of different kinds of people.
I think they’re called,
so I remember hearing about this,
I think Dan Savage is a podcast.
I think they’re called Furries.
So they’re just…
I love people.
Yeah, well, that’s like the thing.
It’s like, whenever you hear these words,
it’s like, humans.
What will they think of next?
So, but I do think that,
and I write about this in Hacking Darwin,
that as people come to believe that having,
that making children through the application of science
is safer and more beneficial
than having children through sex,
we’ll start to see a shift over time
toward reproduction through science.
We’ll still have sex for all the same great reasons
that we do it now,
it’s just reproduction less and less through the act of sex.
Man, it’s such a fascinating future.
Because as somebody, I value flaws.
I think it’s the good will hunting,
that’s the good stuff.
The flaws, the weird quirks of humans,
that’s what makes us who we are, the weird.
The weird is the beautiful.
And I, there’s a fear of optimization that I…
You should have it.
I mean, it’s very healthy.
And I think that’s, I was saying before,
that’s the danger of all of this selection
is that we make selections just based on social norms
that are so deeply internal
that they feel like they’re eternal truths.
And so we talked about selecting for IQ.
What about selecting for a kind heart?
Like there are lots of them.
You talked about Hitler and Mein Kampf.
Hitler had certainly had a high IQ,
I guess is higher than average IQ.
If we just select,
I mean, that’s why I was saying before,
diversity is baked into our biology.
But the key lesson, and I’ve said this many times before,
the key lesson of this moment in our history
is that after nearly 4 billion years of evolution,
our one species suddenly has the unique
and increasing ability to read, write,
and hack the code of life.
And so as we apply these godlike powers
that we’ve now assumed for ourselves,
we better be pretty careful
because it’s so easy to make mistakes,
particularly mistakes that are guided
by our best intentions.
To jump briefly back onto lab leak,
and I swear there’s a reason for that,
what did you think about the Jon Stewart,
this moment, I forget when it was, maybe a few months ago,
in the summer, I think, of 2021,
where he went on Colbert Report,
or not the Colbert Report, sorry,
the Stephen Colbert’s, whatever his show is.
But again, Jon Stewart reminded us
how valuable his wit and brilliance
within the humor was for our culture.
And so he did this whole bit
that highlighted the common sense nature
about what was the metaphor he used
about the Hershey factory in Pennsylvania.
So what’d you think about that whole bit?
I loved it.
And so not to be overly self referential,
but it’s hard not to be overly self referential
when you’re doing a, however long we are,
five hour interview about yourself,
which it reminds me of when you had Bret Weinstein on,
he said, I have no ego,
but these 57 people have screwed me over,
and I deserve credit.
So I am a person, I will confess, it’s enjoyable.
Some people feel different.
I kind of like talking about all this stuff
and talking, period.
So for me, in the earliest,
I remember those early days of when the pandemic started,
I was just sitting down,
it was late January, early February, 2020,
and I just was laying out all of the evidence
just that I could collect,
trying to say, make sense of where does this come from?
And it was just logic.
I mean, it was all of the things that Jon Stewart said,
which in some overly wordy form
were all at that time on my website.
Like, what are the odds of having this outbreak
of a bat coronavirus more than a thousand miles away
from where these bats have their natural habitat,
where they have this largest collection
of these bat coronaviruses in the world,
and they’re doing all these very aggressive
research projects to make them more aggressive.
And then you have the outbreak of a virus
that’s primed for human to human transmission.
It was just logic was my first step.
And I kept gathering the information.
But Jon Stewart distilled that
in a way that just everybody got.
And I think that, like, I loved it.
And I just think that there’s a way of reaching people.
It’s the reason why I write science fiction
in addition to thinking and writing about the science
is that we kind of have to reach people where they are.
And I just thought it was just,
there was a lot of depth, I thought,
and maybe that’s too self serving,
but like in the analysis,
but he captured that into those things about,
it’s like the, whatever, the outbreak of chewy goodness
near the Hershey factory.
I wonder where that came from.
Yeah, there’s the humor, there’s metaphor.
Also the, like, sticking with the joke
when the audience is,
the audience is Stephen Colbert.
He was, like, resisting it.
He was very uncomfortable with it.
Maybe that was part of the bit, I’m not sure,
but it didn’t look like it.
So Stephen in that moment kind of represented
the discomfort of the scientific community, I think.
It’s kind of interesting, that whole dynamic.
And I think that was a pivotal moment.
That just, like, highlights the value of comedy,
the value of, like, when Joe Rogan says,
I’m just a comedian.
I mean, that’s such a funny thing to say.
It’s like saying I’m just a podcaster
or I’m just a writer, I’m just a, you know.
That ability in so few words
to express what everybody else is thinking,
it’s so refreshing.
And I wish the scientific communicators would do that too.
A little humor, a little humor.
I mean, that’s what I love Elon Musk very much.
So, like, the way he communicates is, like,
it’s so refreshing for a CEO of a major company,
several major companies, to just have a sense of humor
and say ridiculous shit every once in a while.
That’s so, there’s something to that.
Like, it shakes up the whole conversation
to where it gives you freedom to, like, think publicly.
If you’re always trying to say the proper thing,
you lose the freedom to think, to reason out,
to be authentic and genuine.
When you allow yourself the freedom
to regularly say stupid shit,
have fun, make fun of yourself,
I think you give yourself freedom
to really be a great scientist.
Honestly, I think scientists have a lot to learn
Well, for sure.
I think we all do about just distilling and communicating
in ways that people can hear.
Like, a lot of us say things and people just can’t hear them
either because of the way we’re saying them
or where they are, but.
And like I said before, I’m a big fan of Joe Rogan.
I’ve been on his show twice.
And when Francis Collins was in his conversation with you,
he said, which I think makes sense,
is that when somebody has that kind of platform
and people rightly or wrongly who follow them
and look to them for guidance,
I do think that there is some responsibility
for people in those roles to make whatever judgment
that they make and to share that.
And as I mentioned to you when we were off mic,
Sanjay Gupta is a very close friend of mine.
We’ve been friends for many years
and I fully supported Sanjay’s instinct
to go on the Joe Rogan show.
I thought it was great.
At the end of that whole conversation, Joe said,
well, I’m just a comedian, what do I know?
And I just felt that, yes, Joe Rogan is a comedian.
I wouldn’t say just a comedian among other things.
But I also felt that he had a responsibility
for just saying whatever he believed,
even if he believed or believes as I think is the case
that ivermectin should be studied more,
which I certainly agree.
And that healthy people shouldn’t get vaccinated,
healthy young people, which I don’t agree.
I just felt at the end of that conversation to say,
well, I’m just a comedian, what do I know?
I feel like it didn’t fully integrate the power
that a person like Joe Rogan has to set the agenda.
So I think the reason he says I’m just a comedian
is the same reason I say I’m an idiot,
which I truly believe.
I can explain exactly what I mean by that,
but it’s more for him, or in this case for me,
to just keep yourself humble.
Because I think it’s a slippery slope
when you think you have a responsibility
to then think you actually have an authority,
because a lot of people listen to you,
you think you have an authority
to actually speak to those people
and you have enough authority
to know what the hell you’re talking about.
And I think there’s just the humility
to just kind of make it fun of yourself
that’s extremely valuable.
And saying I’m just a comedian I think is a reminder
to himself that he’s often full of shit, so are all of us.
And so that’s a really powerful way for himself
to keep himself humble.
I mean, I think that’s really useful
in some kind of way for people in general
to make fun of themselves a little bit,
in whatever way that means.
And saying I’m just a comedian is just one way to do that.
Now that coupled that with the responsibility
of doing the research and really having an open mind
and all those kinds of stuff,
I think that’s something Joe does really well
on a lot of topics, but he can’t do that on everything.
And so it’s up to people to decide
how well he does it on certain topics and not others.
But how do you think Sanjay did in that conversation?
So I know I’m gonna get myself into trouble here
because Sanjay is a very close friend.
Joe, my personal interaction with him
has been our two interviews,
but it’s like my interview with now,
sit down with somebody for four hours,
it’s a lot and great and then private communication.
So I am personally more sympathetic to the arguments
that Sanjay was making or trying to make.
I believe that the threat of the virus
is greater than the threat of the vaccine.
That doesn’t mean that we can guarantee 100% safety
for the vaccine,
but these are really well tolerated vaccines.
And we know for all the reasons we’ve been talking about
that this is a really scary virus
and particularly the mRNA vaccines,
what they’re basically doing is getting your body
to replicate a tiny little piece of the virus,
the spike protein and then your body responds to that.
And so that’s a much less of an insult to your body
than being infected by the virus.
So I’m more sympathetic to the people who say,
well, everybody should get vaccinated,
but people who’ve already been infected,
we should study whether they need to be vaccinated or not.
Having said all of that, I felt that
that Joe Rogan won the debate.
I mean, it was, and the reason that I felt
that he won the debate was they were kind of,
they had two different categories of arguments.
So Sanjay, what he was trying to do,
which I totally respect was saying,
there’s so much animosity between the,
on these different sides, let’s lower the temperature.
Let’s model that we can have a respectful dialogue
with each other where we can actually listen.
And Sanjay, again, I’ve known him for many years.
He’s a very empathic, humble,
just an all around wonderful human being,
and I really love him.
And so he was making cases that were based on
kind of averages, studies and things like that.
And Joe was saying, well, I know a guy whose sister’s cousin
had this experience.
And I’m sure that it’s all true in the sense
that we have millions of people who are getting vaccinated
and different things.
And what Sanjay should have said was,
I know that’s anecdote.
Here’s another anecdote of like when Francis Collins
was with you and he talked about the world wrestling guy
who was like 6.6 and a big muscly guy,
and then he got COVID and he was anti vaccine,
and then he got COVID and almost died.
And he said, I’m gonna.
By the way, I don’t know if you know this part.
Oh, this is funny.
Joe’s gonna listen to this.
He’s gonna be laughing.
Does Joe listen like to the four hours of this
in addition to the three hours of his interviews every day?
No, not every day, but he listens to a lot of these.
I love it.
And we talk about it.
I love it.
We argue about it.
We love you, Joe.
So that particular case,
I don’t know why Francis said what he said there,
but that’s not accurate.
So the wrestler never, he didn’t almost die.
He was no big deal at all for him.
And he said that to him.
I think, I’m not sure.
I think something got mixed up in Francis’s memory.
There was another case he must’ve been like,
cause I don’t imagine he would bring that case up
and just like make it up, you know, cause like why?
But he, that was not at all,
like that was a pretty public case.
He had an interview with him, that wrestler,
he was just fine.
So that anecdotal case, I mean,
Francis should not have done that.
So if I have any, so I have a bunch of criticism
of how that went.
People who criticize that interview,
I feel like don’t give enough respect
to the full range of things
that Francis Collins has done in his career.
He’s an incredible scientist.
And I also think a really good human being.
But yes, that conversation was flawed in many ways.
And one of them was why,
when you’re trying to present some kind of critical,
like criticize Joe Rogan,
why bring up anecdotal evidence at all?
And if you do bring up anecdotal evidence,
which is not scientific, if you’re a scientist,
you should not be using anecdotal evidence.
If you do bring it up,
why bring up one that’s first not true
and you know it’s not true?
So I know, pretend, so you don’t know it’s not true.
So yes, that would find another case where, exactly.
So the basic thing coming back
to Sanjay and Joe’s conversation
was that Sanjay was trying to use statistical evidence
and Joe was using anecdotal evidence.
And so I think that for Sanjay,
and there are all kinds of things where there are debates
where often the person who’s better at debating
wins the debate regardless of the topic.
So I think what Sanjay could have done,
and Sanjay is such a smart guy,
is to say, well, that’s an anecdote,
here’s another anecdote.
And there are lots of different anecdotes.
And there certainly are people who have taken the vaccine
and have had problems that could reasonably be traced
to the vaccines.
And there certainly are lots of people, I would argue,
more people who’ve not had the vaccine,
but who’ve gotten COVID and have either died
or our hospitals are now full of people
who weren’t vaccinated.
And in many ways, I mean, our emergency rooms
are full of unvaccinated people here in the United States.
So I think what Sanjay could have done,
but there was a conflict between wanting to kind of
win the debate and wanting to take the temperature down.
And what he could have done is to say,
well, here’s an anecdote, I have a counter anecdote
and we can go on all day,
but here’s what the statistics show.
And I think that was the thing.
So I think it’s a healthy conversation.
We can’t, I mean, there are a lot of people
who are afraid of the vaccine.
There are a lot of people who don’t trust
the scientific establishment
and lots of them have good reason.
I mean, it’s not just people think of like Trump Republicans.
There are lots of people in the African American community
who’ve had a historical terrible experience
with the Tuskegee and all sorts of things.
So they don’t trust the messages
that were being delivered.
I live in New York City and we had a piece
in the New York Times where in the earliest days
of the vaccines, there was this big movement,
let’s make sure that the poorest people in the city
have first access to the vaccines
because they’re the ones, they have higher density
in their homes, they’re relying on public transport.
So there was this whole liberal effort.
And then in the black community in New York,
according to the New York Times,
there was very low acceptance of the vaccines
and they interviewed people in that article.
And they said, well, if the white people want us
to have it first, there must be something wrong with it.
They must be doing something.
And so we have to listen to each other.
Like I would never, I have a disrespect for everybody.
And if somebody is cautious about the vaccine
for themselves or for their children,
we have to listen to them.
At the same time, public health
is about creating public health.
And there’s no doubt, I think Joe was absolutely right
that older people, obese people are at greater risk
for being harmed or killed by COVID 19
than young, healthy people.
But by everybody getting vaccinated,
we reduce the risk to everybody else.
And so I feel like, like with everything,
there’s the individual benefit argument
and then there’s the community argument.
And I absolutely think our community.
Expressing that clearly that there’s a difference between
the individual health and freedoms
and the community health and freedoms
and steel manning each side of this.
One of the problems that people don’t do enough of
is be able to, so how do you steel man an argument?
You describe that argument in the best possible way.
You have to first understand that argument.
Let’s go to the noncontroversial thing like Flat Earth.
Like most people, most colleagues of mine at MIT
don’t even read about like the full argument
that the Flat Earthers make.
I feel it’s disingenuous for people in the physics community
to roll their eyes at Flat Earthers
if they haven’t read their arguments.
You should feel bad that you didn’t read their arguments.
And like it’s the rolling of the eyes that’s a big problem.
You haven’t read it.
Your intuition says that these are a bunch of crazy people.
Okay, but you haven’t earned the right to roll your eyes.
You’ve earned your right to maybe not read it,
but then don’t have an opinion.
Don’t roll your eyes, don’t do any of that dismissive stuff.
And the same thing in the scientific community
around COVID and so on, there’s often this kind of saying,
oh God, that’s conspiracy theories, that’s misinformation
without actually looking into what they’re saying.
If you haven’t looked into what they’re saying,
then don’t talk about it.
Like if you’re a scientific leader and the communicator,
you need to look into it.
It’s not that much effort.
I totally agree.
And I think that humility,
it’s a constant theme of your podcasts and I love that.
And so after the conversation debate,
whatever it was between Sanjay and Joe,
I reached out on Twitter to someone I’ve never met
in person, but I’m in touch privately
to a guy named Daniel Griffin,
who’s a professor at Columbia Medical School
and just so smart there.
He gives regular updates on COVID 19
on a thing called TWIV this week in virology.
I’m a critic of TWIV for its coverage of origins.
But on this issue, I’m just having regular updates.
Daniel is great.
And so I said to him,
I said, why don’t we have an honest process
to get the people who are raising concerns
about the vaccines in their own words
to raise what are their concerns?
And then let’s do our best job of saying,
well, here are these concerns.
And then here is our evidence making a counterclaim
and here are links to if you want to look at the studies
upon which these claims are made, here they are.
And Daniel, who’s incredibly busy,
I mean, he reads every, I mean, it seems every paper
that comes out every week and it’s unbelievable.
But he sent me a link to the CDC Q&A page
on the CDC website.
And it wasn’t that, it was people who were,
I mean, it was written by people like me
who were convinced in the benefit of these vaccines.
So the questions were framed, they were kind of like,
they weren’t really the framing
of the people with the concerns.
They were framing of people
who were just kind of imagining something else.
I mean, you always talk about kind of humility
and active listening.
I know you don’t mean, and it doesn’t mean
that we don’t stand for something.
Like I certainly am a strong proponent of vaccines
and masks and all of those things.
But if we don’t hear other people,
if we don’t let them hear their voice in the conversation,
if it’s just saying, well, you may think this
and here’s why it’s wrong, the argument may be right.
It’ll just never break through.
By the way, my interpretation of Joe and Sanjay,
I listened to that conversation without looking at Twitter
or the internet and I thought that was a great conversation
and I thought Sanjay actually really succeeded
in bringing the temperature down.
To me, the goal was bringing the temperature down.
I didn’t even think of it as a debate.
I was like, oh, cool, this isn’t gonna be some weird,
it’s like two friendly people talking.
And then I look at the internet
and then the internet says, Joe Rogan slammed Sanjay
like as if it was a heated debate that Joe won.
And it’s like, all right,
it’s really the temperature being brought down.
Real conversation between two humans.
That wasn’t really a debate.
It was just a conversation and that was a success.
I definitely think it was a success,
but I also felt that a takeaway,
and again, because this is something that I don’t agree with,
even though I have great, as I’ve said, respect for Joe,
I think a reasonable person listening to that conversation
would come away with the conclusion
that all in all these vaccines are a good thing,
but if you’re young and healthy, you probably don’t need it.
And I just felt that there was a stronger case to be made,
even though Sanjay made it.
It wasn’t that Sanjay didn’t make it.
It was just that in the flow of that conversation,
I felt that the case for the vaccines
and the vaccines both as an individual choice
and then certainly again, as I said before,
I think that while people can be afraid of the vaccines,
the virus itself is much scarier
and we’re seeing it now in real time
with these variations and variants.
I just felt that that was kind of the rough takeaway
from that conversation.
And I felt that Sanjay, again, whom I love,
I felt it could have made his case a little bit stronger.
So the thing he succeeded is he didn’t come off
as like a science expert looking down at everybody,
talking down to everybody.
So he succeeded in that, which is very respectful.
But I also think sort of making the case
for taking the vaccine when you’re a young, healthy person,
when you’re sitting across from Joe Rogan
is like a high difficulty on the video game level.
So it’s difficult to do.
Yeah, for sure. It’s difficult to do.
And also it’s difficult to do
because it’s not as simple as like, look at the data.
There’s a lot of data to go through here.
And there’s also a lot of non data stuff,
like the fact that, first of all,
questioning the sources of the data,
the quality of the data,
because it’s also disappointing about COVID
is that the quality of the data is not great.
But also questioning all the motivations
of the different parties involved,
whether it’s major organizations
that developed the vaccine,
whether it’s major institutions like NIH or NIAID
that are sort of communicating to us about the vaccine,
whether it’s the CDC and the WHO,
whether it’s the Biden or the Trump administration,
whether it’s China and all those kinds of things,
you have to, that’s part of the conversation here.
I mean, vaccination is not just a public health tool.
It’s also a tool for a government
to gain more control over the populace.
Like, there’s a lot of truth to that too.
Things that have a lot of benefit
can also be used as a Trojan horse
to increase bureaucracy and control.
But that has to be on the table for a conversation.
I think it has to be on the conversation.
But your parents, when they were in the Soviet Union
and here in the United States,
and actually it was a big collaboration
between US and Soviet Union,
when the polio vaccine came out,
there were people all around the world
who had a different life trajectory,
no longer living in fear.
And all of these people who were paralyzed
or killed from polio, smallpox has been eradicated.
It was one of the great successes in human history.
And while it for sure is true that you could imagine
some kind of fraudulent vaccination effort,
but here I genuinely think,
I mean, whatever the number, 15 million, 16 million
is the economist number of dead from COVID 19,
many, many, many more people would be dead
but for these vaccines.
And so I get that any activity
that needs to be coordinated by a central government
has the potential to increase bureaucracy
and increase control.
But there are certain things that central governments do,
like the development, particularly these mRNA vaccines,
which it’s purely a US government victory.
I mean, it was huge DARPA funding
and then the National Institute for Allergy
and Infectious Disease, NIH funding.
I mean, this was a public private partnership throughout
and that we got a working vaccine 11 months was a miracle.
So I, yeah.
It’s not purely a victory.
Again, you have to be open minded.
I’m with you here playing a bit of devil’s advocate,
but the people who discuss any viral drugs
like ivermectin and other alternatives
would say that the extreme focus on the vaccine
distracted us from considering other possibilities.
And saying that this is purely a success
is distracting from the story
that there could have been other solutions.
So yes, it’s a huge success
that the vaccine was developed so quickly
and surprisingly way more effective than it was hoped for.
But there could have been other solutions
and they completely distracted from us from that.
In fact, it distracted us from looking into a bunch of things
like the lab leak.
And so it’s not a pure victory.
And there’s a lot of people that criticize
the overreach of government and all of this.
That one of the things that makes the United States great
is the individualism and the hesitancy to ideas of mandates.
Even if the mandates on mass will have a positive,
even strongly positive result,
many Americans will still say no.
Because in the long arc of history,
saying no in that moment will actually lead
to a better country and a better world.
So that’s a messed up aspect of America,
but it’s also a beautiful part.
We’re skeptical even about good things.
I agree and certainly we should all be cautious
about government overreach, absolutely.
And it happens in all kinds of scenarios
with incarceration with a thousand things.
And we also should be afraid of government underreach
that if there is a problem that could be solved
by governments and that’s why we have governments
in the first place is that there’s just certain things
that individuals can’t do on their own.
And that’s why we pool our resources
and we, in some ways, sacrifice our rights
for this common thing.
And that’s why we don’t have, hopefully,
people, murderers marauding
or people driving 200 miles down the street.
We have a process for arriving at a set of common rules.
And so, while I fully agree that we need to respect
and we need to listen, we need to find that right balance.
And you’ve raised the magic I word, ivermectin.
And so, an ivermectin, like my view has always been,
ivermectin could be effective, it could not be effective.
Let’s study it through a full process.
And when you had Francis Collins with you,
even while he was making up stories about this wrestler,
he was saying, yeah, exactly.
But he was saying that they’re going to do
a full randomized highest level trial of ivermectin.
And if ivermectin works,
then that’s another tool in our toolbox.
And I think we should.
And I think that Sanjay was absolutely correct
to concede the point to Joe,
that it was disingenuous for people,
including people on CNN,
to say that ivermectin is for livestock.
And so, I definitely think that we have to,
like we have to have some kind of process
that allows us to come together.
And I totally agree that the great strength of America
is that we empower individuals.
It’s the history of our frontier mentality in our country.
So we, I 100% agree that we have to allow that,
even if sometimes it creates messy processes
and uncomfortable feelings and all those sorts of things.
You are an ultra marathon runner.
What are you running from?
It’s the right, it’s the funny thing is,
so I’m an ultra marathoner and I’ve done 13 Ironmans.
And people say, oh my God, that’s amazing.
And what I always say, no, one Ironman is impressive.
13 Ironmans, there’s something effing wrong with you.
We just need to figure out what it is.
Yeah, there’s some demons you’re trying to work through.
I mean, well, you’re doing the work though.
Most people just kind of let the demons sit in the attic.
No, what have you learned about yourself,
about your mind, about your body, about life,
from taking your body limit in that kind of way
to running those kinds of distances?
Well, it’s a great question.
And I know that you are also kind of exploring
the limits of the physical.
And so for me in doing the Ironmans and the ultra marathons,
it’s always the same kind of lesson,
which is just when you think you have nothing left,
you actually have a ton left.
There are a lot of resources that are there
if you call on them.
And the ability to call on them has to be cultivated.
And so for me, especially in the Ironman,
and Ironman in many ways is harder than the ultra marathons
because I’ll be at, I mean, it’s 140 miles.
I’ll be at a 100 mile, 120, having done the swim
and then the bike and I’ll be whatever,
six miles into the run.
And I’ll think, I feel like shit.
I have nothing left.
How am I possibly gonna run 20 miles more?
But there’s always more.
And I think that for me, these extreme sports
are my process of exploring what’s possible.
And I feel like it applies in so many different areas
of life where you’re kind of pushing
and it feels like the limit.
And one of my friend of mine,
who I just have so much respect for,
who actually be a great guest
if you haven’t already interviewed him is Charlie Angle.
And Charlie, he was a drug addict.
He was in prison, his life was total shit.
And somehow, and I can’t remember the full story,
he just started running around the prison yard.
And it’s like Forrest Gump.
And he just kept running and running.
And then he got out of prison and he kept running
and he started doing ultra marathons,
started inspiring all these other people.
Now he’s written all these books.
As a matter of fact, we just spoke a few months ago
that he’s planning on running from the Dead Sea
to somehow to the top of Mount Everest,
from the lowest point to the highest point on earth.
And I said, well, why are you stopping there?
Why don’t you get whatever camera in
and go down to the lowest part of the ocean,
go to the lowest part of the ocean
and then talk to Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos
and go to the kind of the highest place
than the stratosphere you can get.
But it’s this thing of possibility.
And I just feel like so many of us and myself included,
we get stuck in a sense of what we think is our range.
And if we’re not careful, that can become our range.
And that’s why for me in all of life,
it’s all about like we’ve been talking about,
challenging the limits, challenging assumptions,
challenging ourselves and hopefully,
we do it in a way that kind of doesn’t hurt anybody.
When I’m at the Ironman, they have all these little kids
and they’ll have these little shirts
and it’ll say like, my dad is a hero
and have the little Ironman logo.
And I wanna say, it’s like, no,
your dad is actually a narcissistic dick
who goes on eight mile bike rides every Sunday
rather than spend time with you.
And so we shouldn’t hurt anybody.
But for me, and also I just find it very enjoyable
and I hope I’m not disclosing too much
about our conversation before we went live
where you’re doing so many different things
with running and your martial arts.
And I encouraged you to do ultra marathons
because there’s so many great ones in Texas.
It’s actually surprisingly a very enjoyable way
to spend a day.
Like how would you recommend?
So yeah, for people who might not know,
I’ve never actually even run a marathon.
I’ve run 22 miles in one time at most.
I did a four by four by 48 challenge with David Goggins
where you run four miles every four hours.
Is it different as less to do with the distance
and more to do with the sleep deprivation.
What advice would you give to a first time ultra marathon
or like me trying to run 50 or more miles
or for anybody else interested
in this kind of exploration of their range?
What I always tell is the same advice is register.
Pick your timeline of when you think you can be ready.
Make it, depending on where you are now,
make it six months, make a year,
and then register for the race.
And then once you’re registered,
just work back from there, what’s it going to take?
But one of the things for people who are just getting going,
you really do need to make sure
that your body is ready for it.
And so particularly, and particularly as we get older,
strengthening is really important.
So I’ll do a plug for my brother, Jordan Metzl.
He’s a doctor at hospital for special surgery,
but his whole thing is functional strength.
And so, and people know about,
and you can actually even go to his website.
You can just Google Jordan Metzl Iron Strength,
but it’s all about like burpees
and just building your muscular strength
so that you don’t get injured as you increase.
And then just increase your mileage with,
in some steady way, make sure that you take rest days
and listen to your body because people like you
who are just very kind of mind over matter,
like you were telling me before about you have an injury,
but you kind of run a little bit differently.
And we need to listen to our bodies
because our bodies are communicating.
But I think it was kind of little by little magic is possible.
And what I will say is,
and I also have done lots and lots of marathons,
and I always tell people that the ultra marathons,
at least the ones that I do,
and I shouldn’t misrepresent myself.
I mean, there are people who do 500 mile races.
The ones that I do are 50K mountain trail runs,
which is 32 miles.
So I do the kind of the easier side of ultras,
but it’s actually much easier than a marathon
because some of the mountain ones,
sometimes it’s so steep that you can’t,
you have to walk it
because walking is faster than running.
And every four or five miles in the supported races,
you stop and eat blintzes and foiled potatoes.
It’s actually quite enjoyable.
But as I started to tell you before we went live,
so I’ve done for lots of years,
these 50K mountain trail runs,
and I was going to Taiwan a number of years ago
for something else.
And I thought, well, wouldn’t it be fun
to do an ultra marathon in Taiwan?
I looked and that the weekend after my visit,
there was a marathon.
It was called the,
every ultra marathon, it was called the Taiwan Beast.
And I figured, oh, beasts, what are they talking about?
It’s 50K mountain trail,
and I’ve done a million of them.
And then I went to register.
And then as part of registration,
they said, you need to have all of this equipment.
And it was all this like wilderness survival equipment.
And I was thinking, God, these Taiwanese,
but what a bunch of wimps.
You have to carry, give me a break, 50K mountain trail.
So I get there and the race starts
at like 4.30 in the morning in the middle of nowhere.
And you have to wear headlamps
and everyone’s carrying all this stuff.
And you kind of go running out into the rainforest.
It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my,
it took 19 hours.
There were maybe 15 cliff faces, like a real cliff.
And somebody had dangled like a little piece of string.
And so you had to hold onto the string with one hand
while it was in the pouring rain, climb up these cliffs.
There were maybe 20 river crossings,
but not just like a little stream, like a torrential river.
There were some things where it was so steep
that everyone was just climbing up
and then you’d slide all the way down and climb up.
And there were people who I met on the way out there
who were saying, oh yeah,
I did the Sahara 500 kilometer race.
And those people were just sprawled out.
A lot of them didn’t finish.
So that was the hardest thing I’ve ever.
So how do you get through something like that?
You just, one step at a time?
Was there, do you remember, is there a?
Is there a dark moments
or is it kind of all spread out thinly?
It wasn’t really dark moments.
I mean, there was one thing where I’d been running so long
I thought, well, I must almost be done.
And then I found out I had like 15 miles more.
But I guess with all of these things,
it’s the messages that we tell ourselves.
And so for me, it’s like the message I always tell myself
is quitting isn’t an option.
I mean, once in a while you kind of have to quit
if like, listen to the universe,
if whatever, you’re gonna kill yourself or something.
But for me, it was just, whatever it takes,
there’s no way I’m stopping.
And if I have to go up this muddy hill 20 times
because I keep sliding, I’m sure there’s a way.
It’s probably a personality flaw.
Where does your love for chocolate come from?
Oh, it’s a great question.
And in both of my Joe Rogan interviews,
that’s the first question that he asked.
So I’m glad that we’ve gotten to that.
So one, I’ve always loved chocolate.
And I call it like a secret, but now that I keep telling,
if you keep telling the same secret,
it’s actually no longer a secret,
that I have a secret, which is not secret
because I’m telling you on a podcast,
life as a chocolate shaman.
And so when I give keynotes at tech conferences,
I always say, I’m happy to give a keynote,
but I want to lead a sacred cacao ceremony in the night.
I’m actually, believe it or not,
the official chocolate shaman
of what used to be called exponential medicine,
which is part of Singularity University.
Now, my friend Daniel Kraft who runs it,
it’s going to be called NextMed.
And so, but I’ll have to go back.
As I was going to Berlin a lot of years ago,
and I’ve always loved chocolate,
I was going to Berlin to give a keynote
at a big conference called TOA, Tech Open Air.
And so when I got there, the first night,
I was supposed to give a talk,
but there had been some mix up.
They’d forgotten to reserve the room.
And so the talk got canceled.
And in the brochure, they had all these different events
around Berlin that you could go to.
And one of them was a cacao ceremony.
And so I went there and actually met somebody,
Viviana, who is still a friend,
but I met, going in there,
and there was this cacao ceremony.
These kind of hippie dudes.
And then everybody got the cacao.
And then they said, all right,
as they talked a little bit about the process,
and then they said, all right,
everyone just stand and kind of,
we’re going to spin around in a circle for 45 minutes.
And so I spun around in the circle for like 10 minutes,
but then I had to leave
because I had to go to something else.
And so that, I thought that was that.
But then I saw Viviana the next day,
and I said, well, how did the cacao ceremony go?
And she showed me these pictures
of all of these people, mostly naked,
like it turned into chaos.
Oh, that’s awesome.
And it was like, oh, and so let me get this straight.
People drank chocolate,
then they spun around in a circle,
and something else happened.
And anyway, so then two days later,
I was invited to another cacao ceremony,
which was also actually part of this Toa.
And that was kind of more structured,
and it was more sane because it was part of this thing.
And at the end of that, I had this,
I thought one, the greatest thing ever,
a sacred cacao ceremony,
like you drink chocolate milk and everybody’s free.
And I love that idea because I’ve never done drugs,
I don’t drink.
But just part of it is because I think whatever,
like I was saying with the ultra running,
all of the possibilities are within us
if we can get out of our own way.
And then I thought, well, you know,
I think I can do a better job
than what I experienced in Berlin.
So I came back and I thought, all right,
I’m gonna get accredited as a cacao shaman.
And this will shock you.
Because I know if you’re gonna be like a rabbi
or a priest or something, there’s some process.
But shockingly, there’s no official process
to become a chocolate shaman.
And so I thought, all right, well, you know,
I’m just gonna train myself.
And when I’m ready, I’m gonna declare my chocolate shamanism.
So I started studying different things.
And when I was ready, I just said,
now I’m a chocolate shaman, self declared.
And so, but I do these ceremonies
and I’ve done them at tech conferences.
I did one in Soho House in New York.
I’ve done it at a place Rancho La Puerta in Mexico.
And every time it’s the same thing.
Because it just, if people are given a license to be free,
just to, it doesn’t matter, and what I always say is,
you’re here for a sacred cacao ceremony,
but the truth is there’s no such thing as sacred cacao.
And there’s no sacred mountains
and there’s no sacred people and there’s no sacred plants.
Because nothing is sacred if we don’t attribute,
ascribe sacredness to it.
But if we recognize that everything is sacred,
then we’ll live different lives.
And for the purpose of this ceremony,
we’re just gonna say, all right,
we’re gonna focus on this cacao,
which actually has been used ceremonially for 5,000 years.
It has all these wonderful properties.
But it’s just people who get that license
and then they’re just free and people are dancing
and all sorts of things.
Is the goal to celebrate life in general?
Is it to celebrate the senses, like taste?
Is it to celebrate yourself, each other?
What is there?
I think the core is gratitude and just appreciation.
All the experiences in life?
Yeah, just of being alive,
of just living in this sacred world
where we have all these things
that we don’t even pay any attention to.
My friend, A.J. Jacobs, he had a wonderful book
that I use the spirit of it in the ceremonies,
not the exactly, but he was in a restaurant in New York,
a coffee shop, and his child said,
hey, where does the coffee come from?
And he’s like a wonderful big thinker.
And he started really answering that question.
Well, here’s where the beans come from,
but how did the beans get here
and who painted the yellow line on the street
so the truck didn’t crash and who made the cup?
And he spent a year making a full spreadsheet
of all of the people who in one way or another
played some role in that one cup of coffee.
And he traveled all around the world thanking them.
Like, it’s like, thank you for painting
the yellow line on the road.
And so for me with the cacao, part of when I do
these ceremonies is just to say like,
you’re drinking this cacao, but there’s a person
who planted the seed, there’s a person
who watered the plant, there’s a person,
and I just think that level of awareness,
and it’s true with anything.
Like you have in front of you a stuffed hedgehog, so.
Somebody made that.
I love it, it’s great.
But like, if we just said, all right,
where does this stuffed hedgehog come from?
We would have a full story of globalization,
of the interconnection of people all around the world
doing all sorts of things of human imagination.
It’s beyond our capacity and our daily,
we’d go insane if every day,
like we’re speaking into a microphone,
well, what are the hundreds of years of technology
that make this possible?
But if just once in a while, we just focus on one thing
and say, this thing is sacred.
And because I’m recognizing that
and I’m having an appreciation for the world around me,
it just kind of makes my life feel more sacred.
It makes me recognize my connection to others.
So that’s the gist of it.
Yeah, it’s funny, I often look at
things in this world and moments and just am in awe
of the full
universe that brought that to be.
In a similar way as you’re saying,
but I don’t as often think about exactly what you’re saying,
which is the number of people behind every little thing
we get to enjoy.
I mean, yeah, this hedgehog, this microphone,
like directly, like thousands of people involved.
And then indirectly, it’s millions.
Like, and they’re all like this microphone
that there’s like artists, essentially,
like people who made it their life’s work,
all the costs, like from the factories to the manufacturer,
there’s families that the production of this microphone
and this hedgehog are fed because of the skill
of this human that helped contribute to that development.
And like Isaac Newton and John von Neumann
are in this microphone.
They’re standing on the shoulders of giants
and we’re standing on their shoulders.
And somebody will be standing on ours.
You mentioned One Shared World, what is it?
Well, thanks for asking.
And by the way, what I will say is the people
who are listening, this is so incredible
and I’m so thrilled to have this kind of long conversation.
Hello, person who’s listening past the five hour mark.
I salute you.
Somebody was like sleeping for the first four hours
and just woke up.
Now’s the good stuff, I’ve been saving it.
But, and I have to say that so much of our lives
is forced into these short bursts
that I’m just so appreciative to have the chance
to have this conversation.
So thank you for that.
Some people would say five hours is short, so.
You know, let’s go.
And yeah, that’s what my girlfriend says.
Like if I was like captured and tortured
and they were gonna interrogate me,
it’s like at the end they’d say, all right.
No, we’re sick of this guy, we quit.
Let him go.
I love it.
So background on One Shared World.
I mentioned I’m on a faculty for Singularity University.
In the earliest days of the pandemic,
I was invited to give a talk on whether the tools
of the genetics and biotech revolutions
were a match for the outbreak.
And my view was then as now
that the answer to that question is yes.
But I woke up that morning
and I felt that that wasn’t the most important talk
that I could give.
There was something else that was more pressing for me.
And that was the realization,
they were asking the question,
well, why weren’t we prepared for this pandemic?
Because we could have been, we weren’t.
And why can’t, and because of that,
why can’t we respond adequately to this outbreak?
And then there was the thing, well,
if we, even if we respond somehow miraculously
overcome this pandemic, it’s a pyrrhic victory
if we don’t prepare ourselves to respond
to the broader category of pandemics,
particularly as we enter the age of synthetic biology.
But if somehow miraculously we solve that problem,
but we don’t solve the problem of climate change,
well, kind of who cares?
We didn’t have a pandemic,
but we wiped everybody out from climate change.
And let’s just say, you get where this is going,
that we organize ourselves and we solve climate change.
And then we have a nuclear war
because everybody’s, particularly China now,
but US, the former Soviet Union
are building all these nuclear weapons.
Who cares that we solved climate change
because we’re all gone anyway.
And the meta category, bringing all of those things together
was this mismatch between the increasingly global
and shared nature of the biggest challenges that we face
and our inability to solve that entire category of problems.
And there’s a historical issue,
which is that prior to the 30 Years War in the 17th century,
we had all these different kinds of sovereignty
and religious and different kinds
of organizational principles and everybody got in this war.
And in this series of treaties
that together are called the Peace of Westphalia,
the framework for the modern,
what we now understand as the modern nation state was laid.
And then through colonialism and other means
that idea of a state is what it is today,
spread throughout the world.
Then through particularly the late 19th
and early 20th century,
we realized how unstable that system was
because you always had these jockeying
between sovereign states and some were rising
and some were falling and you ended up in war.
And that was the genius of the generations
who came together in 1945 in San Francisco
and the planning had even started before then,
who said, well, we can’t just have that world,
we need to have an overlay.
And we talked about the UN and the WHO
of systems which transcend our national sovereignties.
They don’t get rid of them, but they transcend them
so we can solve this category of problems.
But we’re now reaching a point where our reach as humans,
even individually, but collectively is so great
that there’s a mismatch between, as I said,
the nature of the problems
and the ability to solve those problems.
And unless we can address
that broader global collective action problem,
we’re going to extinct ourselves.
And we see these different, what I call verticals,
whether it’s climate change
or trying to prevent a nuclear weapons proliferation
or anything else, but none of those can succeed.
And frankly, it doesn’t even matter if one succeeds
because all of them have the potential
to lead to extinction level events.
So I gave that talk and that talk went viral.
I stayed up all night the next night and I drafted,
I think it was like an insanity,
but I think a lot of us were manic
in those early days of the pandemics
wanting to do something.
And so I stayed up all night and I drafted
what I called a declaration of global interdependence.
And I posted that on my website, my jamiemuscle.com.
It’s still there.
And that went viral.
And so then I called a meeting just on the people
on my personal email list.
And so we had people from 25 countries.
There were all of these people
who were having the same thing.
There’s something wrong in the world.
They wanted to be part of a process of fixing it.
And so it was a crazy 35 days
where we broke into eight different working groups.
We had an amazing team that helped redraft
what became the declaration of interdependence,
which is now in 20 languages.
We laid out a work plan.
We founded this organization called One Shared World.
The URL is oneshared.world.
And it’s just been this incredible journey.
We now have people who are participating
in one way or another from 120 different countries.
We have our public events exploring these issues,
get millions of viewers.
We have world leaders who are participating.
So the vision is to work on some of these big problems,
arbitrary number of problems that present themselves
in the world that face all of human civilization
and to be able to work together.
Well, that is, but there’s a macro, a meta problem,
which is the global collective action problem.
And so the idea is even if we just focus on the verticals,
on the manifestations of the global collective action
problem, there’ll be an infinite number of those things.
So while we work on those things,
like climate change, pandemics, WMD and other things,
we also have to ask the bigger questions
of why can’t we solve this category of problems.
And the idea is, at least from my observation,
is that whenever big decisions are being made,
our national leaders and corporate leaders
are doing exactly what we’ve hired them to do.
They’re maximizing for national interest,
even, or corporate interests,
even at the expense of everybody.
And so it’s not that we wanna get rid of states.
States are essential in our world system.
It’s not we wanna undermine the UN,
which is also essential, but massively underperforming.
What we wanna do is to create
an empowered global constituency of people
who are demanding that their leaders at all levels
just do a better job of balancing
broader and narrower interests.
So this is more like a,
make it more symmetric in terms of power.
It’s holding accountable the nations, the leaders.
The problem is nations are powerful.
We talked about China quite a bit.
How do you have an organizations of citizens of Earth
that can solve this collective problem
that holds China accountable?
It’s difficult, because UN,
you could say a lot of things,
but to call it effective is hard.
You know, the internet almost is a kind of representation
of a collective force that holds nations accountable.
Not to give Twitter too much credit,
but social networks, broadly speaking.
So you have hope that it’s possible
to build such collections of humans that resist China.
Not necessarily resist China,
but human, I mean, our cultures change over time.
I mean, the idea of the modern nation state
would not have made sense to people
in the 13th or 14th century.
The idea that became the United Nations.
I mean, it had its earliest days in the philosophies of Kant.
It took a long time for these ideas to be realized.
And so the idea, and we’re far from successful.
I mean, we’ve had little minor successes,
which we’re very proud of.
We got the G20 leaders to incorporate the language
that we provided on addressing the needs
of the world’s most vulnerable populations
into the final summit communique
from the G20 summit in Riyadh.
This year, we’re just on the verge
of having our language pat on the same issue,
ensuring everyone on earth has access to safe water,
basic sanitation and hygiene,
and essential pandemic protection by 2030
passed as part of a resolution in the United Nations
And we’re primarily, I mean, it’s young people
all around the world.
And when I told them in the beginning of this year,
this is our goal.
We’re gonna get the UN General Assembly
to pass a resolution with our language in it.
I mean, first, I think they all thought it was insane,
but they were too young and inexperienced
to know how insane it was.
But now these young people are just so excited
that it’s actually happening.
So what we’re trying to do is really to create a movement,
which we don’t feel that we need to do from scratch
because there are a lot of movements.
Like right now, we just had the Glasgow G20,
I mean, I’m sorry, the Glasgow Climate Change Cup 26,
and then Greta Thunberg, who has a huge following
and who is an amazing young woman,
but I was kind of disappointed in what she said afterwards.
It became like a meme on Twitter, which was blah, blah, blah.
And basically it was like, blah, blah, blah,
these old people are just screwing around
and it’s a waste of time.
And definitely the critique is merited,
but young people have never been more empowered,
educated, connected than they are now.
And so we’ve had a process with One Shared World
where we partnered with the Model United Nations,
the Aga Khan Foundation, the India Sanitation Coalition.
And what we did is say, all right, we have this goal,
water sanitation, hygiene, and pandemic protection
for everyone on earth by 2030.
And we had debates and consultations
using the Model UN framework all around the world
in multiple languages.
And we said, come up with a plan
for how this could be achieved.
And these brilliant young people in every country,
not every country, most countries,
they all contributed, then we had a plan.
Then I recruited friends of mine,
like my friend Hans Carrell in Sweden,
who’s the former chief counsel of the whole United Nations,
and asked him and others to work with these young people
and representatives to turn that
into what looks exactly like a UN resolution.
It’s just written by a bunch of kids all around the world.
We then sent that to every permanent representative,
every government representative at the UN.
And that was why working
with the German and Spanish governments,
why the language is centralized from that document
is about to pass the UN.
And it doesn’t mean that just passing
a UN General Assembly resolution changes anything,
but we think that there’s a model of engaging people,
just like you’re talking about,
these people who are outside
of the traditional power structures
and who want to have a voice.
But I think we need to give a little bit of structure
because just going, I’m a big fan of Global Citizen,
but just going to a Global Citizen concert
and waving your iPhone back and forth
and tweeting about it isn’t enough
to drive the kind of change that’s required.
We need to come together, even in untraditional ways,
and articulate the change we want
and build popular movements to make that happen.
And popular means scale and movements at scale
that actually, at the individual level, do something
and that’s then magnified with the scale
to actually have significant impact.
I mean, at its best, you hear a lot of folks talk
about the various cryptocurrencies as possibly helping.
You have young people get involved
in challenging the power structures
by challenging the monetary system.
And there’s, some of it is number go up,
people get excited when they can make a little bit of money,
but that’s actually almost like an entry point
because then you almost feel empowered.
And because of that, you start to think
about some of these philosophical ideas
that I, as a young person, have the power
to change the world.
All of these senior folks in the position of power,
they were, first of all, they were once young
and powerless like me.
And I could be part of the next generation
that makes a change.
Well, all the things I see that are wrong
with the world, I can make it better.
And it’s very true that the overly powerful nations
of the world could be a relic of the past.
That could be a 20th century and before idea
that was tried, created a lot of benefit,
but we also saw the problems with that kind of world,
We see the benefits and the problems of the Cold War.
Arguably Cold War got us to the moon,
but there could be other, a lot of other different
mechanisms that inspired competition,
especially friendly competition between nations
versus adversarial competition that resulted
in the response to COVID, for example,
with China and the United States and Russia
and the secrecy, the censorship.
Yeah, and all the things that are basically
against the spirit of science
and resulted in the loss of trillions of dollars
and the cost of countless lives.
What gives you hope about the future, Jamie?
Well, one of the things, you mentioned cryptocurrency
and then as you know better than most,
there’s cryptocurrency and then underneath
the cryptocurrency, there’s the blockchain
and the distributed ledger.
And then like we talked about, there are all these
young people who are able to connect with each other,
to organize in new ways.
And I work with these young people every single day
through One Shared World primarily,
but also other things.
And there’s so much optimism.
There’s so much hope that I just have a lot of faith
that we’re gonna figure something out.
I’m an optimist by nature.
And that doesn’t mean that we need to be blind
to the dangers.
There are very, very real dangers,
but just given half the chance, people wanna be good.
People want to do the right thing.
And I do believe that there’s a role,
maybe there’s a role for the at least near term
for governments, but there’s always a role for leadership.
And I’m, I guess like a Gramscian in the sense
that I think that we need to create frameworks
and structures that allow leaders to emerge.
And we need to build norms so that the leaders who emerge
are leaders who call on us, inspire our best instincts
and not drive us toward our worst.
But I really see a lot of hope.
And when you say this all the time in your podcast,
and you may even be more optimistic to me
as you look at the darkest moments of human history
and see hope, but we’re kind of a crazy, wonderful species.
I mean, yes, we figured out ways to slaughter each other
at scale, but we’ve come up with these wonderful philosophies
about love and all of those things.
And yeah, maybe the Bonobos have some love
in their cultures, but this,
we’re kind of a wonderful magical species.
And if we just can create enough of an infrastructure,
doesn’t need to be and shouldn’t be controlling,
just enough of an infrastructure
so that people are stakeholders,
feel like they’re stakeholders
in contributing to a positive story,
I just really feel the sky is the limit.
So if there’s somebody who’s young right now,
somebody in high school, somebody in college
listening to you, you’ve done a lot of incredible things.
You’re respected by a lot of the elites.
You’re respected by the people.
So you’re both able to sort of speak to all groups,
walk through the fire, like you mentioned
with the slab leak.
What advice would you give to young kids today
that are inspired by your story?
Well, thank you.
I mean, I think there’s one, there’s lots of,
I’m honored if anybody is inspired,
but it’s the same thing as I said with the science
that it’s all about values.
The core of everything is knowing who you are.
And so yes, I mean, there’s the broader thing
of follow your passions, a creative mind
and an inquisitive mind is the core of everything
because the knowledge base is constantly sharing.
So learning how to learn,
but at the core of everything is investing
in knowing who you are and what you stand for.
Because that’s the way, that’s the path
to leading a meaningful life, to contributing,
to not feeling alienated from your life as you get older.
And just like you live, it’s an ongoing process
and we all make mistakes
and we all kind of travel down wrong paths
and just have some love for yourself
and recognize that just at every,
like I was saying with the Ironman,
just when you think there’s no possibility
that you can go on, there’s a 100% possibility
that you can go on.
And just when you think that nothing better
will happen to you, there’s a 100% chance
that something better will happen to you.
You just gotta keep going.
Jamie, I’ve been a fan of yours.
I think first heard you on Joe Rogan Experience,
but I’ve been following your work,
your bold, fearless work with speaking about the lab leak
and everything you represent
from your brilliance to your kindness.
And the fact that you spent your valuable time with me today
and now I officially made you miss your flight.
And the fact that you said that
whether you were being nice or not,
I don’t know that you will be okay with that
means the world to me.
And I’m really honored that you spent your time with me today.
Well, really, it’s been such a great pleasure
and thank you for creating a forum
to have these kinds of long conversations.
So I really enjoyed it and thank you.
And if anybody has now listened for,
what’s it been, five and a half hours?
Thank you for listening.
Welcome to Five Hour Club.
Thank you, Jamie.
Thanks for listening to this conversation
with Jamie Metzl.
To support this podcast,
please check out our sponsors in the description.
And now let me leave you some words from Richard Feynman
about science and religion,
which I think also applies to science and geopolitics
because I believe scientists have the responsibility
to think broadly about the world
so that they may understand the bigger impact
of their inventions.
The quote goes like this,
In this age of specialization,
men who thoroughly know one field
are often incompetent to discuss another.
The old problems,
such as the relation of science and religion,
are still with us
and I believe present as difficult dilemmas as ever,
but they are not often publicly discussed
because of the limitations of specialization.
Thank you for listening and hope to see you next time.