This is a conversation with Balaji Srinivasan, an angel investor, tech founder, philosopher, and author of The Network State, How to Start a New Country. He was formerly the CTO of Coinbase and general partner at Andreessen Horowitz. This conversation is over seven hours. For some folks, that’s too long. For some, too short. For some, just right. There are chapter timestamps, there are clips, so you can jump around or, like I prefer to do with podcasts and audiobooks I enjoy, you can sit down, relax with a loved human, animal, or consumable substance, or all three if you like, and enjoy the ride from start to finish. Balaji is a fascinating mind who thinks deeply about this world and how we might be able to engineer it in order to maximize the possibility that humanity flourishes on this fun little planet of ours. Also, you may notice that in this conversation, my eye is red. That’s from Jiu Jitsu. And also, if I may say so, from a life well lived. And now, a quick few second mention of his sponsor.
Check them out in the description. It’s the best way to support this podcast. We got Policy Genius for Life Insurance, Blinkist for Nonfiction, Notion for Team Collaboration, and On It for Supplements. Choose wisely, my friends. And now, onto the full ad reads. As always, no ads in the middle. I try to make these interesting, but if you skip them, please still check out our sponsors. I enjoy their stuff. Maybe you will too. This show is brought to you by Policy Genius, a marketplace for finding and buying insurance. It’s basically a modern take on life insurance, and life insurance to me was always a fascinating thing. I think a lot of people live life kind of aware of their mortality and the mortality of those they love, but not really deeply aware.
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Obviously if you look around the the productivity forums and stack exchange Notion is going to show up time and time again as the recommended note taking tool. A lot of sort of cutting edge productivity gurus and folks use Notion but that’s not what they want me to emphasize here. They really want to emphasize that it’s also for teams whether that’s a startup or business or any kind of team it’s good for it’s great for collaboration. It’s like a full-on operating system for running every aspect of your company as it grows quickly. Learn more and get started for free at Notion.com. This episode is also brought to you by Onnit, a nutrition supplement and fitness company. They make alpha brain, a neutropic that helps support memory, mental speed, and focus. I take it every once in a while when I need a super boost for my focus. So I would say the deep work sessions in the morning. Well first of all I start the day with a mantra but then when I visualize the rest of the day and I start to take on the day with a cup of coffee. Well first some water with electrolytes so with element and then coffee and then I sit behind the computer. Oftentimes I prefer a difficult programming task.
There’s something about my morning mind that prefers the design type of thinking, the design challenges of programming. So during that time usually I don’t need a boost. I think my ride in my mind unless I didn’t sleep a lot but even in that case I’m just ready to go. But in the later sort of like two, three, four hours in then it can really help to have a boost if I’m still working on something very difficult. That’s when I’ll take an alpha brain. You can get a special discount on it if you go to lexfriedman.com on it. This is the Lex Friedman podcast to support it. Please check out our sponsors in the description and now dear friends here’s biology Srinivasan. At the core of your belief system is something you call the prime number maze. I’m curious. I’m curious. We’ve got to start there.
Sure. If we can start anywhere it’s with mathematics.
00:07:31 Let’s go. Sure. All right great. A rat can be trained to turn at every even number or every third number in a maze to get some cheese. But evidently it can’t be trained to turn at prime numbers. Two, three, five, seven and then 11 and so on and so forth. That’s just too abstract and frankly if most humans were dropped into a prime number maze they probably wouldn’t be able to figure it out either. They’d have to start counting and so on. Actually pretty difficult to figure out what the turning rule was. Yet the rule is actually very simple. And so the thing I think about a lot is just how many patterns in life are we just like these rats and we’re trapped in a prime number maze? And if we had just a little bit more cogitation, if we had a little bit more cognitive ability, a little bit more, whether it’s brain machine interface or just better physics, we could just figure out the next step in that prime number and we could just see it, we could just see the grid.
And that’s what I think about. That’s a big thing that drives me. is figuring out how we can actually conceive, understand that prime number maze that we’re living in.
00:08:36 So understand which patterns are just complex enough that they are beyond the limit of human cognition. Yes. And what do you make of that?
00:08:44 Are the limits of human cognition a feature or a bug? Yes. I think mostly a bug. I admire Ramanujan. I admire Feynman. I admire these great mathematicians and physicists who were just able to see things that others couldn’t. And just by writing it down, that’s a leap forward. People talk about it’s not the idea, it’s execution, but that’s for trivial ideas, for great ideas, for Maxwell’s equations or Newton’s laws or quantum electrodynamics or some of Ramanujan’s identities. That really does bring us forward, especially when you can check them and you don’t know how they work, right? You have the phenomenological, but you don’t have the theory underneath it. And then that stimulates the advancement of theory to figure out why is this thing actually working. That’s actually stat mech arose in part from the phenomenological studies that were basically being done where people are just getting steam engines and so on to work.
And then they abstracted out thermodynamics and so on from that, right? So the practice led the theory rather than vice versa. To some extent that’s happening in neural networks now, as you’re aware, right? And I think that’s… So just something that’s true and that works, if we don’t know yet, that’s amazing and it pulls us forward. So I do think that the limits are more of a bug than a feature.
00:10:00 Is there something that humans will never be able to figure out about our universe, about the theory,
00:10:05 about the practice of our universe? Yeah, people will typically quote Curdell’s incompleteness for such a question. And yeah, there are things that are provably unknowable or provably unprovable. But I think you can often get an approximate solution. The Hilbert’s problems like we will know, we must know. At least we should know that we can’t know. Push to get at least an approximate solution. Push to know that we can’t know. At least we push back that darkness enough so that we have lit up that corner of the intellectual universe.
00:10:37 Okay, let’s actually take a bit of a tangent and explore a bit in a way that I did not expect we would. But let’s talk about the nature of reality briefly. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the work of Don Hoffman.
00:10:48 No, I don’t. I know Roger Penrose has like his road to reality series for like basic physics getting up to everything we know. But go ahead, tell me.
00:10:55 It’s even wilder. Yeah. In modern physics we start to question of what is fundamental and what is emergent in this beautiful universe of ours. And there’s a bunch of folks who think that space-time as we know it, the four-dimensional space is emergent. It’s not fundamental to the physics of the universe. And the same, many argue, I think Sean Carroll is one of them, is that time itself, the way we experience it is also emergent. It’s not fundamental to the way our universe works. Anyway, those are the technical term. I apologize for swearing, those are the mind fucks of modern physics, but if we stroll along that road further, we get somebody like Donald Hoffman who makes the evolutionary case that the reality we perceive with our eyes is not only an abstraction of objective reality, but it’s actually completely detached. We’re in a video game, essentially, that’s consistent for all humans, but it’s not at all connected to physical reality. It’s an illusion. It’s like a version of the simulation hypothesis, is that his?
In a very distant way, but the simulation says that there’s a sort of computational nature to reality, and then there’s a kind of a programmer that creates this reality and so on. No, he says that we humans have a brain that is able to perceive the environment, and evolution is produced from primitive life to complex life on Earth, produce the kind of brain that doesn’t at all need to sense the reality directly. This table, according to Donald Hoffman, is not there. Not just as an abstraction, we don’t sense the molecules that make up the table,
00:12:42 but all of this is fake. Interesting. I tend to be more of a hard science person. Just on that, people talk about qualia, like, is your perception of green the different from my perception of green? My counter argument on that is, well, we know something about spectrum of light, and we can build artificial eyes. If we can build artificial eyes, which we can, they’re not amazing, but you can do that. You can build artificial ears and so on. Obviously, we can build recording devices for cameras and things like that. Well, operationally, the whole concept of your perception of green, you see green as purple, I see green as green, or what I call green, doesn’t seem to add up because it does seem like we can do engineering around it. The Hoffman thing, I get why people more broadly will talk about a simulation hypothesis, because it’s like Feynman and many others have talked about how math is surprisingly useful to describe the world. Very simple equations give rise to these complex phenomena. Wolfram is also
00:13:47 on this from a different angle with the cellular automata stuff. It’s so suspicious how well it
00:13:56 works. Yeah, but on their hand, it’s like, yet we’re still also in a prime number maze. There’s
00:14:03 things we just don’t understand. Within the constraints of the non-prime numbers,
00:14:10 we find math to be extremely effective, surprisingly effective. Yeah, exactly. Maybe the math we have gets us through the equivalent of the even turns and the odd turns, but there’s math we don’t yet have that is more complex or more complex rules for other parts. Displaying all our rage, we’re all just rats in a cage. I know that gets very abstract, but there are unsolved problems in physics, like the condensed matter space, there’s a lot of interesting stuff happening. My recollection, I may be out of date on this, things like sonoluminescence, we don’t know exactly how they work. Sometimes those things that are at the edges of physics, in the late 1800s, somebody famous, I think it was Rutherford said, basically all physics is being discovered, et cetera. That was obviously before quantum mechanics. That sort of edge case, people are looking at the bomber and the passion series and seeing this weird thing with the hydrogen spectrum and it was quantized and that led to the sort of phenomenological set of observations that led to quantum mechanics and everything. Sometimes I think the UAP stuff might be like that. People immediately go to aliens for UAP, like the unidentified aerial phenomena. There’s surprising amount of stuff out there on this.
The UK has declassified a bunch of material. Harry Reed is the sender has talked about this. It’s not an obviously political thing, which is good. It’s something that, is there something happening there? People have thought for a long time that the UAP thing was American counter propaganda to cover up their new spy planes that were spying over
00:15:37 the Soviet Union to make anybody who talked about them seem- Despite all our rage,
00:15:47 we’re all just rats in a cage. Crazy and hysterical or whatever, but if the UAP thing is real, it could be atmospheric phenomena like the Aurora Borealis or the Northern Lights, but some things we don’t understand. It could be something like the bomber and passion series, which were the observations of like emission spectra before quantum mechanics. So that’s another option as opposed to doesn’t exist or little green men. It could be physics
00:16:13 we don’t understand yet as one possible. Do you think there’s alien civilizations out there?
00:16:19 So there’s a lot of folks who have kind of written and talked about this as the Drake equation, which is like multiplying all the probabilities together. There’s perhaps more sophisticated takes like the dark forest, which says that if the universe is like a dark forest, we’re the dumb ones that aren’t hiding our presence. There’s one calculation I saw, and I haven’t reproduced it myself, but basically says that the assumption that other civilizations have seen ours is wrong because when you have a spherical radius for the electromagnetic radiation that’s leaving our planet, as that sphere gets larger and larger, it gets smaller and smaller amounts of energy. So you get farther out, you’re not getting enough photons or what have you to actually detect it. I actually haven’t looked into the math behind it, but I remember seeing that argument. So actually it is possible that it’s so diffuse when you go past a certain number of light years out that people, that an alien civilization wouldn’t
00:17:18 be able to detect it. That’s another argument. That’s more basically about signals from them, from us, to be able to signals colliding enough to find the signal from the noise. Right, exactly. Intelligence signal.
00:17:31 Yeah, Hansen has an article called Grabby Aliens. Have you seen his thing? He’s been on this podcast. Oh, great. He’s brilliant. I like him. He pushes boundaries in interesting ways. In every ways, in all of the ways. In all the ways, that’s right. I like him overall. He’s an asset to humanity.
00:17:49 He’s been on this podcast. Grabby Aliens, so he has this interesting idea that the civilizations quickly learn how to travel close to the speed of light, so we’re not going to see them until they’re here.
00:18:04 Yeah, that’s possible. Here’s, for example, a mystery that we haven’t yet done, we haven’t really figured it out yet, which is abiogenesis in the lab. We’ve done lots of things where you can show macromolecules binding to each other, you can show evidence for the so-called RNA world, abiogenesis to go from non-life to life in the lab. You can show microevolution. Obviously, with bacteria, you can do artificial selection on them. Lots of other aspects of fundamental biochemistry origins of life stuff have been established. There’s a lot of plausibility arguments about the primitive environment and nitrogens and carbons snapping together to get the RNA world is the initial hypothesis. But to my knowledge at least, we haven’t actually seen abiogenesis demonstrated. Now, one argument is you need just this massive world with so many different reps before that actually happens. One possibility is if we could do atomic level simulations of molecules bouncing against each other, it’s possible that in some simulation we could find a path, a reproducible path to abiogenesis and then just replicate that in the lab. I don’t know. But that seems to me to be a mystery that we still don’t fully understand, like an example of the prime number maze.
One of the most fascinating mysteries. One of the most important. And again, there may be some biochemist who’s like, oh, I apologize, you didn’t know about X, Y, and Z that happened in the abiogenesis field. I freely confess I’m not like, oh, Courant on it. The last thing I remember looking at is- What does Courant mean? Like up to the moment, right?
00:19:44 One of the most fascinating, what does Courant mean? Oh, nice. That’s a nice word.
00:19:47 Oh, Courant. I’m probably mispronouncing it. But yeah.
00:19:52 We’ll edit it in post. Sure, sure. So pronounce it correctly, with AI. We’ll copy your voice and it will pronounce it perfectly correctly. Yeah.
00:19:59 In post, to pronounce it correctly, with AI. In post. One thing that I do think was interesting is Craig Venter a while back tried to make a minimum and viable cell, where he just tried to delete all of the genes that were that were not considered essential. And so it’s like a new life form. And this was like almost 20 years ago, and so on. And that thing was a was viable in the lab, right. And so it’s possible that you could you kind of reverse engineer so you’re coming out the problem from different directions, like RNA molecules can do quite a lot. You’ve got some, you know, reasonable assumptions as to how that could come together. You’ve got like, sort of stripped down minimum viable life forms and so it’s it’s not there isn’t stuff here, you can see micro evolution, you can see at the sequence level, you know, if you do molecular phylogenics, you can actually track back the basis, there’s actually so it’s not like there’s no evidence, there’s a lot of tools to work with. But this in my view, is a fascinating area, and actually, also relevant to AI, because another form of a bio genesis would be if we are able to give rise to a different branch of life form, the Silicon based as opposed to carbon based, you know, to stretch your point, you give rise to something that actually does meet the definition of life for some
00:21:05 definition of life. What do you think that definition is for an artificial life form? Because you mentioned consciousness. Yeah. When will it give us pause that we created something that feels by some definition or by some spiritual poetic romantic philosophical mathematical definition that it is alive.
00:21:28 Right. And we wouldn’t want to kill it. So a couple of remarks on that. One is Francis Crick of Watson and Crick. Before he died, I think his last paper was published on something called the Klaustrum. Okay. And the thing is that, you know, sometimes in biology or in any, you know, domain, people are sort of discouraged from going after the big, the big questions. Right. But he proposed the Klaustrum is actually the organ that is the seat of consciousness. It’s like this sheath that like covers the brain. And for mice, if you, and again, I may be recollecting this wrong. So, but you can look, but at my recollection is in mice, if you disrupt this, the mouse is like very disoriented, right?
It’s like, it’s the kind of thing which, you know, Watson and Crick were all about structure implies function, right? They found the structure of DNA, this amazing thing. And, you know, they were marked in this very under understated way at the end of the paper that, well, obviously this gives a basis for how the genetic material might be replicated and error corrected because, you know, helix unwinds and you copy paste, right? So he was a big structure function person. And that applies not just at the protein level, not just at the level of DNA, potentially also at the level of organs, like the classroom is kind of this system integrated level, right? It’s like the the last layer in the neural network or something, you know. And, and so that’s, that’s the kind of thing that I think is worth studying. So consciousness is another kind of big, a biogenesis, a big question, the prime number maze consciousness is a big question. And, you know, then definition of life, right? There’s folks, gosh, there’s I think, so this one is something I’d have to Google around, but there was a guy, I think at Santa Fe Institute or something who had some definition of life and like some thermodynamic definition. But you’re right that it’s going to be a multi feature definition. We might have a Turing test like definition, frankly, which is just if enough humans agree it’s alive, it’s alive, right?
And that might frankly be the operational definition. Because, you know, viruses are like this boundary case, you know, are they are they alive or not? Most people don’t think they’re alive, but they’re, they’re, they’re on, they’re kind of, they’re more alive than a rock,
00:23:36 in a sense. Well, I think in a world that we’ll talk about today quite a bit, which is the digital world, I think the most fascinating philosophically and technically definition of life is life in the digital world. So chatbots, essentially creatures, whether they’re replicas of humans or totally independent creations, perhaps in an automatic way, I think there’s going to be chatbots that we would ethically be troubled by if we wanted to kill them. They would have the capacity to suffer. They would be very unhappy with you trying to turn them off. And then there will be large groups of activists that will protest and go to the Supreme Court of whatever the Supreme Court looks like in 10, 20, 30, 40 years. And they will demand that these chatbots would have the same rights as us humans.
00:24:35 Do you think that’s possible? I saw that Google engineer who’s basically saying this had already happened and I was surprised by it because it just, when I looked at the chat logs of it, it didn’t seem particularly interesting. On their hand, I can definitely see it. I mean, GPT-3 for people who, you know, haven’t paid attention shows that serious step ups are possible. And obviously, you know, you’ve talked about AI in your podcast a ton. Is it possible that GPT-9 or
00:25:10 something is kind of like that? Or GPT-15 or GPT-4, maybe? But…
00:25:16 Yeah, for people just listening, there’s a deep skepticism in your face. Yeah, you know, the reason being because, you know, it’s possible, is possible that you have like a partition of society on literally this basis, you know. That’s one model where there’s some people, just like there’s vegetarians and non-vegetarians, right? There may be machines have life and machines are machines, you know, like or something like that, right? You know, you could definitely imagine some kind of partition like that in the future where your fundamental political social system, that’s a foundational assumption. And, you know, is AI, does it, you know, deserve the same rights as like a human or, for example, a corporation is an intermediate. Do you see that thing which is how human are different corporations? Have you seen that infographic? It’s actually funny. Yeah, it’s a spectrum. There’s a spectrum. So, for example, Disney is considered about as human as like a dog.
But like, Exxon, I may be remembering this wrong, but they had like a level
00:26:17 with like human at one end and like rock at the other end. So it’s like… Yeah, it’s a spectrum. Does it have to do with corporate structure? What’s the…
00:26:25 I think it’s about people’s empathy for that corporation, their brand identity. But it’s interesting to see that, first of all, people sort of do think of corporations as being more or like the branding is really what they’re responding to.
00:26:38 Well, that’s what, I mean, they’re also responding. You know, I have a brand of human that I’m trying to sell and it seems to be effective for the most part. Sure. Although it has become like a running joke that I might be a robot. Right. Which means there’s the brand is cracking. It’s seeping through. But I mean, in that sense, I just, I think I don’t see a reason why chat bots can’t manufacture the brand of being human, of being sentient.
00:27:10 Right. I mean, that is the Turing test, but it’s like the multiplayer Turing test. Now that actually a fair number of chat bots have passed the Turing test, I’d say there’s at least two steps up, right? One is a multiplayer Turing test where you have chat bots talking to each other, and then you ask, can you determine the difference between end chat bots talking to each other and clicking buttons and stuff and apps and humans doing that. And I think we’re very far off, I should say very far off at least, I don’t know how far we are in terms of time, but we’re still far off in terms of a group of end chatbots looking like their digital output is like the group of end humans. Like a, go from the Turing test to the multiplayer Turing test. That’s one definition. Another definition is, you know, to be able to kind of swap in and you’re not just convincing one human that this is a human for a small, you know, session, you’re convincing all humans that this is a human for end sessions, remote work actually makes this possible, right? That’s another definition of a multiplayer Turing test where basically you have a chatbot that’s fully automated, that is earning money for you as an intelligent agent on a computer that’s able to go and get remote work jobs and so on. I would consider that next level, right? If you could have something that was like that, that was competent enough to because everything on a computer can be automated, right? Literally, you could be totally hands free, just like autonomous driving, you could have autonomous earning.
As a challenge problem, if you were Microsoft or Apple, and you had legitimate access to the operating system, just like Apple says, Can you send me details of this event? A decentralized thing could, in theory, log, you know, the actions of 10,000 or 100,000 or a million people. And with cryptocurrency, you can even monitor a wallet that was on that computer. And you could see, you know, what long run series of actions were increasing or decreasing this digital balance. You see what I’m saying, right? So you start to get, at least conceptually, it’d be invasive, and, you know, there’d be a privacy issue and so on. Conceptually, you could imagine an agent that could learn what actions humans were doing that results in the increase of their local cryptocurrency balance. Okay, there may be better ways to formulate it. But data consider a challenge problem is to go from the Turing test to a genuine intelligent agent that can actually go and make money for you. If you can do that, that’s a big deal. People obviously have trading bots and stuff. But that would be, you know, the next all it’s typing
00:29:36 out emails, it’s creating documents, it’s actually mimic human behavior in its entirety.
00:29:40 Yeah, that’s right. And it can schedule zooms, they’ll send emails, it’ll essentially because if you think about it, a human is hitting the keys and clicking the mouse. But just like a self driving car, the wheel rotates by itself, right? Those keys are effectively just it’s like, like the automator app in in Apple, right? Um, everything is just moving on the
00:30:00 screen, you’re seeing it there. And it’s just an AI. It’s kind of hilarious that the I’m not a robot click thing actually works. Because I actually don’t know how that’s happening how it works. But I think it has to do with the movement of the mouse, the timing, and they know that it’s very difficult for currently for a bot to mimic human behavior in the way they would click that little checkbox.
00:31:16 you get to go outside and look back in and that’s what a computer needs to do. Yeah, that’s interesting. You know, I do wonder whether they actually give people insight or whether they give people the illusion of insight. Is there a difference? Yeah, because, well, actual insight, you know, actual insight is, again, Maxwell’s equations, you’re able to shift the world with that. There’s a lot of practical devices that work. The illusion of insight is I’m
00:31:42 Jesus Christ and nothing happens, right? So I don’t know. I think those are quite different. I don’t know. I think you can fake it till you make it on that one, which is insight in some sense is revealing a truth that was there all along.
00:31:58 Yeah. So, I mean, I guess like I’m talking about technical insight where you have, this is the thing, you know, we were talking about actually before the podcast, like technical truths versus political truths, right? Some truths, they’re on a spectrum. And there’s some truths that are actually entirely political in the sense that if you can change the software in and of people’s heads, you change the value of the truth. For example, the location of a border is effectively consensus between large enough groups of people. Who is the CEO? That’s, you know, consensus among a certain group of people. What is the value of a currency or any stock, right? That market price is just the psychology of a bunch of people. Like literally, if you can change enough people’s minds, you can change the value of the border or the position of the hierarchy or the value of the currency. Those are purely political truths. Then all the way on the other end are technical truths that exist independent of whatever any one human or all humans think, like the gravitational constant, right?
Or the diameter of a virus. Those exist independent of the human mind. Change enough human minds doesn’t matter. Those remain constant. And you have things that are interestingly in the middle where cryptocurrency has tried to pull more and more things from the domain of political truths into technical truths, where they say, okay, the one social convention we have is that if you hold this private key, you hold this Bitcoin. And then we make that very hard to change because you have to change a lot of technical truths. So you can push
00:33:26 things to this interesting intermediate zone. The question is how much of our world can we push into that? Right. And that takes us in a nonlinear, fascinating journey to the question I wanted to ask you in the beginning, which is this political world that you mentioned and the world of political truth, as we know it in the 20th century, in the early 21st century, what do
00:33:55 you think works well? And what is broken about government? The fundamental thing is that we can’t easily and peacefully start new opt-in governments. Like startup governments. Yeah. And what do I mean by that is basically you can start a new company, you can start a new community, you can start a new currency even these days, you don’t have to beat the former CEO in a duel to start a new company. You don’t have to become head of the World Bank to start a new currency. Because of this, yes, if you want to, you can join Microsoft or name some company that’s a GameStop and you can try to reform it. Or you can start your own. And the fact that both options exist mean that you can actually just start from scratch and the same reason we have a clean piece of paper. I’ve mentioned this actually in the network state book, I’ll just quote this bit, but we want to be able to start a new state peacefully for the same reason we want a bare plot of earth, a blank sheet of paper, an empty text buffer, a fresh star for a clean slate, because we want to build something new without historical constraint. For the same reason you hit plus and do docs.new, like create a new doc.
It’s for the same reason, right? Because you don’t need backspace. You don’t need to have just like 128 bytes of space, 128 kilobytes, and just have to backspace the old document for creating the new one. So that’s a fundamental thing that’s wrong with today’s governments. And it’s a meta point, right? Because it’s not any one specific reform,
00:35:29 it’s a meta reform of being able to start new countries. Okay, so that’s one problem, but you could push back and say that’s a feature. Because a lot of people argue that tradition is power. Through generation, if you try a thing long enough, which is the way I see marriage, there’s value to the struggle and the journey you take through the struggle and you grow and you develop ideas together, you grow intellectually, philosophically together. And that’s the idea of a nations that spans generations that you have a tradition that becomes more, that strives towards the truth and is able to arrive there, or no, not arrive, but take steps towards there through the generations. So you may not want to keep starting new governments. You may want to stick to the old one and improve it one step at a time. So just because you’re having a fight inside a marriage doesn’t mean you should get a divorce and go on Tinder and start dating around. That’s the pushback. So it’s not obvious that this is a strong feature to have
00:36:37 to launch new governments. There’s several different kinds of lines of attack or debate or whatever on this, right? First is, yes, there’s obviously value to tradition and people say, this is Lindy and that’s Lindy. It’s been proven for a long time and so on. But of course there’s a tension between tradition and innovation. Like going to the moon wasn’t Lindy, just it was awesome. And artificial intelligence is something that’s very new. New is good, right? And this is a tension within humanity actually itself because it’s way older than all of these nations. I mean, humans are tens of thousands of years old. The answer to humans are millions of years old, right? And you go back far enough and the time that we know today of the sessile farmer and soldier is, if you go back far enough, you want to be truly traditional.
Well, we’re actually descended from hunter-gatherers who were mobile and wandered the world and there weren’t borders and so on. They kind of went where they want, right? And people have had done historical reconstructions like skeletons and stuff like that. And many folks report that the transition to agriculture and being sessile resulted in diminution of height. People had like tooth decay and stuff like that. The skeletons, people had traded off upside for stability. That’s what the state was. That was what these sessile kinds of things were. Now, of course, they had more likelihood of living consistently. You could support larger population sizes, but it had lower quality of life, right? And so the hunter-gatherer, maybe that’s actually our collective recollection of a Garden of Eden where people, just like a spider kind of knows innately how to build webs or a beaver knows how to build dams. Some people theorize that the entire Garden of Eden is like a sort of built-in neural network recollection of this pre-sessile era where you’re able to roam around and just pick off fruits and so on, low population density.
So the point is that I think what we’re seeing is a V3, you go from the hunter-gatherer to the farmer and soldier, the sessile. Nations are here and they’ve got borders and so on. To kind of the V3, which is the digital nomad, the new hunter-gatherer, we’re going back to the future because you know what’s even older than nations is no nations, right? Even more traditional than tradition is being international, right? And so we’re actually tapping into that other huge thread in humanity, which is the desire to explore, pioneer, wander, innovate, you know?
00:39:07 And I think that’s important. To make America great again is to dissolve it completely into oblivion.
00:39:13 No, that’s a joke, that’s a joke. Yeah, I know it’s a joke. Humor, I’m learning this new thing. Yes, the new thing for the role. The chat pod emulation isn’t fully working there.
00:39:23 Yeah, yeah, yeah, glitch.
00:39:24 That’s where in the beta. And let me just say one other thing about this, which is there are, I mean, everybody in the world to, okay, let’s say, I don’t know what percentage, let’s say 99.99%, or it rounds to that number of political discourse in the US focuses on trying to fix the system. If those folks, I mean,.01% of the energy is going towards building a new system, that seems like a pretty good portfolio strategy, right? Or 100% are supposed to go and edit this code base from 200 something years ago. I mean, the most American thing in the world is going and leaving your country in search of a better life. America was founded 200 years ago by the founding fathers. It’s not just a nation of immigrants, it’s a nation of immigrants, right? Immigration from other countries to the US and actually also immigration within the US. There’s this amazing YouTube video called, it’s like 50 states, US population, I think 1790 to, it says 2050, so they’ve got a simulation. So you just stop it at 2019 or 2020. But it shows that like Virginia was like number one early on and then it lost ground in like New York gained. And then like Ohio was a big deal in the early 1800s.
And it was like father of presidents and generally all these presidents and later Illinois and Indiana. And then California only really came up in the 20th century, like during the Great Depression. And now we’re entering the modern era where like Florida and Texas have risen and New York and California have dropped. And so interstate competition, it’s actually just like inter currency competition. You know, you’ve got trading pairs, right? You sell BTC by ETH, you sell Solana, you sell Monero by Zcash, right? Each of those trading pairs gives you signal for today on this currency is down or up relative to this other currency. In the same way, each of those migration pairs, someone goes from New York to Ohio, Ohio to California, gives you information on the desirability of different states. You can literally form a pairs matrix like this over time. Very much like the link matrix that’s shaped America in a huge way. And so, you ask A, if this nation of immigrants that was founded by men younger than us, by the way, the founding fathers were often in their 20s, right? Who, you know, endorsed the concept of a proposition nation who’ve given rise to a country of founders and pioneers who’ve literally gone to the moon, right?
Those folks would think that this is the end of history, that that’s it, we’re done. Like we’ve done everything else. I mean, there’s people in technology who believe, and I agree with them, that we can go to Mars. They might even be able to end death, but we can’t innovate on something that was 230 years old.
00:42:01 So there is a balance certainly to strike. The American experiment is fascinating nevertheless. So one argument you can make is actually that we’re in the very early days of this V2. So what you describe as V2, you could make the case that we’re not ready for V3, that we’re just actually trying to figure out the V2 thing. You’re trying to like skip- When are we ever ready? Now, again, we’ll go back to marriage, I think, and having kids kind of thing. I think everyone who has kids is never really ready to be kids, that’s the whole point, you dive in. Okay, but I mean, you mentioned that you can’t watch, is there other criticisms of government that you can provide as we know it today before we kind of outline the ideas of V3?
00:42:49 Let’s stick to V2. I’ll give a few, right? And so a lot of this stuff will go into the version. So I’ve got this book, The Network State, which covers some of these topics. Does Network State have a subtitle? It is The Network State, How to Start a New Country. How to Start a New Country. But I just have it at thenetworkstate.com.
00:43:06 I should say, it’s an excellent book that you should get. I write it on Kindle, but there’s also a website. And Balaji said that is constantly working on improving it, changing it. By the time the whole project is over, it’ll be a different book than it was in the beginning. I think so.
00:43:27 It’s always shedding its old skin. Yeah, I think so. Well, I wanted to get something out there and get feedback and whatnot, just like an app, right? Again, you have these two poles of an app is highly dynamic and you’re accustomed to having updates all the time and a book is supposed to be static. And there’s a value in something static, something unchanging and so on. But in this case, I’m glad I kind of shipped a version 1.0 and the next version, I’m gonna split it into like tentatively motivation theory and practice, like motivation like what is the sort of political philosophy and so on that motivates me at least to this, which you can take or leave, right? And then theory as to why network state is now possible. And I can define it in a second. And then the practice is zillions of practical details and everything from roads to diplomatic recognition and so on, funding, founding, all that stuff. A lot of stuff actually I left out of V1 simply because I wanted to kind of get the desirability
00:44:24 of it on the table and then talk about the feasibility. I should actually linger on that briefly in terms of things we can revolutionize. Like one of the biggest innovations I think that Tesla does with the way they think about the car, with the deploy the car is not the automation or the electric to me, it’s the over the air updates. Right. Be able to send instantaneously updates to the software that completely changes the behavior, the UX, everything about the car. And so I do think it would be interesting because books are a representation of human knowledge, a snapshot of human knowledge. And it would be interesting that we, if we can somehow figure out a system that allows you to do sort of like a GitHub for books, like if I buy a book on Amazon without having to pay again, can I get updates like V1.1, V1.2 and there’s like release notes. Right. That would be incredible. It’s not enough to do like a second edition or a third edition, but like minor updates. That’s not just on your website, but actually go into the model that we use to buy books. Right.
So I spend my money, maybe I’ll do a subscription service for five bucks a month where I get regular updates to the books and then there’s an incentive for authors to actually update their books, such that it makes sense for the subscription. And that means your book isn’t just a snapshot, but it’s a lifelong project. Right.
00:46:01 You care enough about the book. So I think there’s a lot that can be done there because actually in going through this process in many ways, the most traditional thing I did was a self-published ebook on Kindle, right? Why? Because basically like, you know, if you actually ink a deal with a book publisher, first they’ll give you some advance. I didn’t need the advance or anything, but second is all these constraints. Oh, you know you wanna translate into this? Or you wanna do this other format? Or you wanna update it? You have to go and now talk to this other party, right? You know, and also the narrowing window of what they’ll actually publish. It gets narrower, narrower. You see all these meltdowns of young adult novels and stuff on Twitter, but it’s more than that.
So, you know, actually having an Amazon page, It’s just like a marker that a book exists, okay? And now I’ve got an entry point where if someone says, okay, I like this tweet, but how do I kind of get the, that might be a concept from like the middle of chapter three, right? How do I get the thing from front to back? I can just point them at the networkstate.com that is import this, right? This one entry point, okay? And you mentioned like subscription and money and so and so forth. And I think people are paying for content online now with newsletters and so on, but I’ve chosen to and it will always have the thing free. And I want it on, you can get the Kindle version on Amazon simply because you have to kind of set a price for that. But the networkstate.com, what I want to do is have that optimized for every Android phone. So people in India or Latin America or Nigeria can just tap and open it, gonna do translations and stuff like that. Greg Fodor of All Space VR, you know, founder of All Space VR, he sold that and he coded the website. And, you know, I worked with him on it and there’s another designer who, Elijah, and it was basically just a three person group.
And we thought we had something pretty nice. But one thing I was really pleasantly surprised by is how many people got in touch with us afterwards and asked us if we could open source the software to create this website, right? Because it’s actually, you can try it on mobile. I think it’s actually, in some ways a better experience in Kindle. And so that was interesting because I do think of the website as like a V1 version of, it’s kind of a book app, right? For example, imagine if you have the Bible and the 10 commandments aren’t just text, but there’s like a checklist and there’s a gateway to a Christian community there. And, you know, the practice is embedded into the thing. You know, like, did you know brilliant.org? Amazing site, I love this site. Brilliant is basically mobile friendly tutorials and you can kind of just swipe through, you know, you’re in line at Starbucks or, you know, getting on a plane or something. You just swipe through and just get really nice micro lessons on things. And it’s just interactive enough that your brain is working and you’re problem solving.
And sometimes you’ll need a little pen and paper, but that format of sort of very mobile friendly, just continuous learning, I’d like to do a lot more with that.
00:49:03 And so that’s kind of where we’re gonna go with the book app. So there’s a lot of fun stuff about the way you did, at least V1 of the book, which is you have like a one sentence summary, one paragraph summary, TLDR and like one image summary, which is, I think honestly, it’s not even about a short attention span. It’s a really good exercise about summarization, condensation and like helping you think through what is the key insight. Like we mentioned the prime number of maze that reveals something central to the human condition, which is struggling against the limitation of our minds. And in that same way, you’ve summarized the network state in the book. So let’s actually jump right there and let me ask you, what is the network state?
00:49:55 It’s a lot of fun stuff about this. What is a network state? So I’ll give it a sentence and also give it an image, right? So the informal sentence, a network state is a highly aligned online community with a capacity for collective action that crowdfunds territory around the world and eventually gains diplomatic recognition from preexisting states, okay? So just taking those pieces, highly aligned online community. That is not Facebook, that is not Twitter. People don’t think of themselves as Facebookers or Twitterians, right? That’s just a collection of hundreds of millions of people who just fight each other all day, right? It’s a fight club. A company is highly aligned where you’ll put a task into the company Slack and if you do it in all hands, about 100% of the people in a company Slack will do it, so they’re highly aligned that way. But online communities don’t tend to be highly aligned, online communities tend to be like a Game of Thrones fan club or something like that, or on Twitter account, you might get.1% of people engaging with something, that’s not 100%. If you combine the degree of alignment of a company with the scale of a community.
That’s like what a highly aligned online community is, right? So you get a thousand or 10,000 people who can collectively do something as simple as just all liking something on Twitter. For example, why would they do that? They’re a guild of electoral engineers, are a guild of graphic designers. And you’ve got 1000 people in this guild. And every day, somebody is asking a favor from the guild. And the other 999 people are helping them out. For example, I’ve just launched a new project or I’d like to get a new job, can somebody help me and so on. And so you kind of give to get your you know, you’re helping other people in the community and you’re kind of building up karma this way. And then sometimes you spend it down like Stack Overflow has this karma economy. It’s not meant to be an internal economy that is like making tons and tons of money off of is sort of keep score, right? That’s a highly aligned online community part, then capacity for collective action.
I just kind of described that, which is at a minimum, you you don’t have a highly aligned online community, unless you have 1000 people, and you paste in a tweet and 1000 of them RT it or like it. Okay, if you can’t even get that you don’t have something. If you do have that you have the basis for at least collective digital action on something. Okay. And you can think of this as a group of activists, you can think of it as, for example, let’s say I mentioned a guild, but let’s say there are a group that wants to raise awareness of the fact that life extension is possible, right? Every day, there’s a new tweet on I don’t know, whether it’s a metformin research or Sinclair’s work or David Sinclair, right? Andrew Huberman has good stuff here, you know, or there’s a longevity VC, there’s a bunch of folks working in this area. Every day, there’s something there. And literally the purpose of this online community is rare resource of longevity. And of the 1000 people 970 go in like that. That’s pretty good. Right?
That’s solid. You’ve got something or you’ve got it, you’ve got a laser, right? You’ve got something which you focus on something because most of the web to internet is in tropic. You go to Hacker News, you go to Reddit, you go to Twitter, and you’re immediately struck by the fact that it’s like 30 random things. Random, it’s just a box of chocolates. It’s meant to be, you know, we’re some of them look delicious, some of them look delicious novelty, we can over consume novelty. Right. So, you know, we were talking about earlier, the balance between tradition and innovation, right, here is a different version of that, which is entropy going in a ton of different directions due to novelty versus like focus, you know, it’s like, like he is versus work, you know, he is in Tropic and work force along a distance, you’re going in a direction, right. And so if those 30 links on, you know, the next version of Hacker News or Red or something like so brilliant, it’s just, that’s leveling you up. The 30 things you click, you’ve just gained a skill as a function of that, right? So these kinds of online communities, I don’t know what they look like. They probably don’t look like the current social media.
Just like, for example, I know this is a meta analogy, but in the 2000s, people thought Facebook for work would look like Facebook. And you know, David Sachs, you know, founded and sold a company, Yammer, that was partially on the basis. Mine was a billing to our company, but Facebook for work was actually Slack, right? It looked different. It was more chat focused, it was less image focused and whatnot. What does the platform for a highly aligned online community look like? I think Discord is the transitional state, but it’s not the end state. Discord is sort of chatty. The work isn’t done in Discord itself, right? The cryptocurrency for tracking or the Cryptocarma for tracking people’s contributions is not really done in Discord itself. Discord was not built for that. I don’t know what that UX looks like.
Maybe it looks like tasks, uh, you know, like, uh, maybe maybe it looks something different. Okay.
00:54:27 So let me linger on this. So you were actually, uh, there’s some people might not be even familiar with discord or slack and so on. Even these platforms have like communities associated with them. Meaning the, the big, like the meta community of people who are aware of the feature set and that you can do a thing that this is a thing. And then you could do a thing with it. Discord, like when I first realized that I think it was born out of the gaming world is like, holy shit, this is like a thing. There’s a lot of people that use this. There’s also a culture that’s very difficult to escape that’s associated with discord that spans all the different communities within discord. Reddit is the same, even though there’s different subreddits, they’re still because of the migration phenomenon, maybe there’s still a culture to Reddit and so on. Yes. So I I’d like to sort of try to dig in and understand what’s the difference between the online communities that are formed and the platforms on which those communities have formed. Sure.
00:55:33 Yes, yes, yes, it is. It is. So for example, an office, a good design for an office is frequently you have, um, you know, the, uh, the commons, which is like the lunch room or the gathering area, then everybody else has a cave on the border that they can kind of retreat to.
00:55:48 Cave in the commons. I love, by the way, I was laughing internally about the heat versus work. I think that’s going to stick with me. That’s such an interesting way to see Twitter. Yeah. Like, is this heat or is this, is this thread? Like, cause there’s a lot of stuff going on. Right. Is it just heat or are we doing some like, is it, is there a directed thing that’s going to be productive at the end of the day? That’s right. I love this. I’ll never see it manually.
The cave in the commons is, uh, is really nice.
00:56:13 Uh, so that has to do with the layout of an office that’s going to be productive at the end of the day manually. That’s effective. That’s right. And, uh, so you can think of many kinds of social networks, um, as being on the cave in commons continuum, for example, Twitter is just all commons. The caves are just like individual DMS or DM threads or whatever, but it’s really basically just one gigantic global public fight club for the most part. Right. And then you have four love club.
00:56:41 Well, some would love the mostly fight or actually it’s, I love aggressively. That’s all. Yeah.
00:56:46 I mean, the way I think, I mean, Twitter is like a cross between, uh, you know, a, a library and a civil war, you know, it’s something where you can learn. And, but, but you can also fight if you choose to fight. Right.
00:57:00 Um, yeah. Well, I mean, it’s, um, uh, because of it’s the commons structure of it, it’s a mechanism for virality of anything you just described the kind of things that
00:57:13 become viral, meaning no, no offense to librarians. It’s like a library and Liberia, Liberia was racked by civil war for many years. Right.
00:57:21 It’s a library. Just one of my favorite sets, uh, for porn. Just kidding jokes. I’m learning as that’s probably crossing the line, uh, for the engineers working on this humor module, maybe take that down a notch for porn.
00:57:31 Yeah. Um, gosh, uh, we’re just talking about, oh yeah. So continue. I’m going to continue. Right. Commons. Yeah. So Twitter is a commons. Then Facebook is like, it’s got all these warrens and stuff. Facebook is very difficult to reason about, uh, like privacy on that. And the reason is I think it’s easy to understand when something is completely public like Twitter or completely private like signal. And those are the only two modes I think in which one can really operate.
When something is quasi private, like Facebook, you have to just kind of assume it’s public because if, if it’s interesting enough, it’ll go outside your friend network and it’ll get screenshotted or whatever and posted. And so, you know, Facebook is sort of sort of forced into default public despite its privacy settings, you know, for anybody who says something interesting, you know, if it’s like, uh, you can figure out all their dials and stuff like that, but just hard to understand unless it’s totally private or totally public, right? You have to basically treat it if it’s totally public, if it’s not totally private, okay, at least under a real name. I’ll come back to soon. So you’ve got Twitter. That’s, that’s total commons. Facebook is like a Warrens, you know, like, you know, it’s like rabbit Warrens or like an ant colony where you don’t know where information is traveling. Then you’ve got Reddit, which has serve your global Reddit and then all the subreddits, that’s a different model of cave in commons.
00:58:44 Oh yeah, so continue
00:58:47 yeah, I think one of the reasons it works is that you have individual moderators where something is totally off topic and acceptable, totally off topic, and unacceptable in this subreddit and totally on topic and acceptable another, that’s like kind of a, you know, a precursor of the digital societies, I think that we’re going to see that actually are become physical societies, like lots and lots of subreddit like things, you know, have become physical societies. Then you start going further into like discord where it’s, it’s more full featured than, um, you know, as you go Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, now you jump into discord and discord is a bunch of individual communities that are connected and you can easily sort of jump between them, right? And then you have slack and, you know, yes, you can use, um, slack to go between different companies, slacks, but slack historically at least, I’m not sure whether their current policy is historically, they discourage public slacks. So there it’s mostly like you have your main slack for your company. And then you sometimes may jump into like, uh, let’s say you’ve got a design consultant or something like that, you’ll jump into their slack, but. Discord is, you’ve got way more discords usually that you jump into than then slack’s. Right.
00:59:53 Okay. And let me ask you then on that point, because there is a culture, one So one of the things I discovered on Reddit and Discord of anonymity or pseudonyms or usernames that don’t represent the actual name, on Slack is an example of one. So I think I did a, I used to have a Slack for like deep learning course that I was teaching and that was like very large, like 20,000 people, whatever. But so you could grow quite large, but there was a culture of like, I’m going to represent my actual identity, my actual name, and then the same stuff on Discord, I think I was the only asshole using my actual name on there. It’s like everybody was using pseudonyms.
01:00:28 So what’s, what’s the role of that in the online community? Well, so I actually gave a talk on this a few years ago called the pseudonymous economy. Okay. And it’s come about faster than I expected. But I did think it was going to come about fairly fast. And essentially the concept is obviously we’ve had, so first anonym, pseudonym, real name,
01:00:51 Can you describe the difference? So pseudonymous is like 4chan where there’s no tracking of a name, you know, there’s zero reputation associated with an identity, right? Pseudonymous is like much of Reddit where there’s a persistent username and it has karma over time, but it’s not linked to a, the global identifier that is your state name. All right. So your quote, real name, even the term real name, by the way, is a misnomer because it’s like your social security name, like social security number. It’s your official government name. It’s your, it’s your state name. It is the tracking device. It’s a, it’s an air tag that’s put on you, right? Why do I say that? Right? Another word for a name is a handle.
And so just visualize like a giant file cabinet. There’s a handle with Lex Freeman on it that anybody, the billions of people around the world can go up to and they can pull this file on you out. Images of you, things you said, like billions of people can stalk billions of other people now. That’s a very new thing. This will be a transitional era in like human history. We’re actually going to go back into a much more encrypted world. Okay.
01:01:55 Okay. Okay. Let me link on that because another way to see real names is the label on a thing that can be canceled.
01:02:05 Yes, that’s right. In fact, there’s a book called seeing like a state, which actually talks about the origins of surnames and whatnot. Like if you have a guy who is that guy with brown hair. It’s like an analog identifier. It could be in 10 different people in a village. But if you have a first name, last name, okay, that guy can now be conscripted. You can go down with a list, a list of digital identifiers, pull that guy out, pull him into the military for conscription, right? So that was like one of the purposes of names was to make masses of humans legible to a state, right? Hence seeing like a state. You can see them now, right? See, digital identifiers, one thing that people don’t usually think about is pseudonymity is itself a form of decentralization. So people know Satoshi Nakamoto was pseudonymous, he also knew he was into decentralization.
But one way of thinking about it is, let’s say his real name, okay, or his state name is a node, okay? Attached to that is every database, his Gmail, his Facebook, if he had one, every government record on him, right? All of these databases have that state name as the foreign key, right? And so it can go and look things up in all of those databases, right? And so let’s think of it as being the center of a giant network of all of these things. When you go and create a pseudonym, you’re butting off a totally new node that’s far away from all the rest. And now he’s choosing to attach Bitcoin Talk and Bitcoin.org and the GPT signatures of the code, if you choose to do that, all those things, the digital signatures are all attached to this new decentralized name, because he’s instantiating it, not the government, right? One way of thinking about it is the root administrator of the quote, real name system is the state, because you cannot simply edit your name there, right? You can’t just go, you can’t log into usa.gov and backspace your name and change it. Moreover, your birth certificate, all these stuff that’s fixed and immutable, right? Because you would take for granted that on every site you go to, you can backspace, you can be like, call me Ishmael, you know, walk into a site, you use whatever name you want, you just have to use the same name across multiple sites, you can do that. And if not, you don’t have to.
One thing that we’re seeing now actually is at the level of kids, you know, the younger generation Eric Schmidt several years ago mentioned that, you know, people would like change their names when they became adults so that they could do that. This is kind of already happening. People are using, I’ve remarked on this many years ago, search resistant identities. Why? They have their Finsta, which is their quote, fake name Instagram, and Rinsta, which is their real name Instagram. This is cool. Okay. And what’s interesting is on their Rinsta, they’re their fake self, because they’re in their Sunday best and, you know, smiling. And this is the one that’s meant to be search indexed, right? On the Finsta, their fake name, this is just shared with their closest friends, they’re their real self and they’re, you know, hanging out at parties or whatever, you know? And so, this way they’ve got something which is the public persona and the private persona, right? The public persona that’s search indexed and the private persona that is private for friends, right?
So organically people are, you know, like Gene Jacobs talks about like cities and how, you know, they’re organic and when I like, some of the mid 20th century guys, that architecture they had removed shade from, you know, like awnings and stuff like that got removed. So this is like the restoration of, like awnings and shade and structure so that you’re not always exposed to the all seeing web crawler that I have sore on which is like Google Botch indexing everything. These are search resistant identities and that like I just sort of passes over you like you know, in the Terminator, the Terminator eye just kind of passes over you right. So search us an identity is not pulled up it’s not indexed, right? And now you can be your real self. And so we’ve had this kind of thing for a while with communication. The new thing is that cryptocurrency is allowed to do it for transaction, hence the pseudonymous economy, right? And she go from anonymous, pseudonymous real name, these each have their different purposes. But the new concept is that pseudonym, you can have multiple of them, by the way, you’re in s name, you could have it under your quote, real name or state name, like Lex Friedman dot eth, but you can also be punk six, five to nine dot eth. Okay. And now you can earn you can sign documents, you can boot up stuff, you can have a persistent identity here. Okay, which has a level of indirection to your real name.
Why is that very helpful? Because now it’s harder to both discriminate against you and cancel you concerns of various factions are actually obviated or at least partially addressed by going pseudonymous as default, right? It is the opposite of bring your whole self to work. It’s bring only your necessary self to work, right? Only show those credentials that you need, right? Now, of course, you know, anybody who’s in cryptocurrency understands sushi Nakamoto and so on is for this. But actually, many progressives are for this as well. Why? You don’t ban the boxes. It’s like you’re not supposed to ask about like felony convictions when somebody is, you know, being hired because they’ve paid they’ve served their time, right? Or you’re not supposed to ask about immigration status or marital status in an interview. And, you know, people have this concept blind auditions, where, you know, if a woman is auditioning for, for like a violin seat, they put it behind a curtain, so they can’t downgrade, you know, her for playing.
So her performance is judged on merits of its audible quality, not in terms of who this this person is. So this way, they don’t discriminate versus male or female for for who’s, you know, getting a violin position. So you combine those concepts, like ban the box, not asking these various questions, blind auditions. And then also the concept of implicit bias. Like if you if you, you know, believe this research, people are unconsciously biased towards other folks, right? Okay, so you take all that you take Satoshi, and you put it together and you say, Okay, let’s use pseudonyms that actually takes unconscious bias even off the table, right? Because now you have genuine global equality of opportunity. Moreover, you have all these people billions of people around the world that might speak with accents, but they type without them. And now if they’re pseudonymous, you aren’t discriminating against them, right? Moreover, with AI, very soon, the AI version of zoom, you’ll be able to be whoever you want to be and speak in whatever voice you want to speak in, right? And you’ll be and I’ll happen in real time.
01:08:38 So I mean, this is really interesting with for Finsta and Rinsta, there’s some sense in which the fake Instagram you’re saying is where you could be a real self. Well, my question is under, under pseudonyms, or when you’re completely anonymous, is there some sense where you’re not actually being your real self, that as a social entity, that it is human beings are fundamentally social creatures. And for us to be social creatures, there is some sense in which we have to have a consistent identity that can be canceled, that can be criticized, or applauded in society, and that identity persists through time. So is there some sense in which we would not be our full, beautiful human selves, unless we have a lifelong consistent real name attached to us in a digital
01:09:40 world. And so this is a complicated topic. But let me make a few remarks. First is, real names, quote unquote, state names were not built for the internet. They’re actually state names, right? It’s actually a great way of thinking about social security name, right? So your state name, your official name was not built for the internet. Why they give both too much information and too little. Okay, so too much information, because someone with your name can find out all kinds of stuff about you, like, for example, if someone doesn’t want to be stalked, right, the real name is out there, the stalker knows it, they can find address information, all this other kind of stuff, right. And with all these hacks that are happening, just every day, we see another hack, massive hack, etc. That really can be indexed into data that was supposed to be private, right? Like, for example, you know, the Office of Personal Management, like the government, the US government, many governments actually, are like a combination of the surveillance state and the keystone cops, right?
Why they they slurp up all the information, and then they can’t secure it. So it leaks out the back door. Okay, they’ve, they basically have, you know, 100 million records of all this very, 300 million records, all this very sense of data, they just get owned, hacked over and over again, right? And so really, there should be something which totally inverts the entire concept of KYC and what have you. And of course, comply with the regulations as they are currently written. But also, you should argue privacy over KYC, the government should not be able to collect what it can’t secure. It’s slurping up all this information, it’s completely unable to secure it. It’s hacked over and over again, you know, China probably has the entire OPM file. And it’s not just that like Texas is hacked. And some of these hacks are not even detected yet, right? And these are just the ones that have been admitted. And so, you know, what happens is criminals can just run this stuff and find, you know, okay, so that guy who’s got that net worth online, and he merges various databases, they’ve got a bunch of addresses to go and hit.
Okay. So, in that sense, real names were not state names were not built for the internet, they just give up too much information, and in our actually existing internet environment, they give too much information. On their hand, they also give too little by if instead you give out Lex Friedman dot ETH, okay, or a similar crypto domain name or urban name or something like that. Now, that’s actually more like a DNS. Okay. First, if you’ve got a less likes Freeman dot ETH, what can you do that? Some you can do today, some you’ll soon be able to do. You can pay, Lexvium.it, you can message Lexvium.it, you can look it up like a social profile, you can send files to it, you can download and download. Basically, it combines aspects of an email address, a website, a username, et cetera, et cetera. Eventually, I think you’ll go from email to phone number to ENS address or something like that as the primary online identifier because this is actually a programmable name, right? Whereas a state name is not, you know, I think about it like a state name will have apostrophes perhaps in it or is that your middle name or this and that, that was a format that was developed for the paper world, right? Whereas the ENS name is developed for the online world.
Now, reasons say ENS or something like it, you know, somebody at a, in a village, their name might be Smith because they were a blacksmith or Potter, because they were Potter, right? right? And same, I think your surname right now for many people that’s dot eth and that reflects the Ethereum community, your surname online will carry information about you, like dot solve says something different about you dot BTC says yet something different. I think we’re going to have a massive fractionation of this over time, we’re still in the very earliest days of our internet civilization, right? 100 200 years from now, those surnames may be as informative as say, Chen or Friedman or string of Austin in terms of what information they carry, because the protocol is the civilization
01:13:28 fundamentally that you’re associated with. Right? Right. So that there’s some improvements to the real name that you could do in the digital world. But do you think there’s value of having a name that’s persist throughout your whole life, that is shared between all the different digital community?
01:13:45 physical communities, I think you should be able to opt into right, at which at which level in terms of the society that
01:13:52 you’re joining. Wait a minute. So can I murder a bunch of people
01:14:17 prevent me from doing that. Sure, sure. Murder is going to be against the rules in almost every society. And I mean, people will argue- Most likely, yeah. Yeah, most likely, right? And- Except animals. Well, I’m thinking of like the Aztecs or the Mayas or something like that. There’s various Soviet Union. There’s weird edge case, of course. Yeah, there’s societies, unfortunately, that have actually, that’s why I asterisked it. But let’s say murder is something that society one probably has effectively a social smart contract or a social contract that says that’s illegal. Therefore, you’re in jail.
Therefore, you’re deprived of the right to exit. But upon entry into that society, in theory, you would have said, okay, I accept this quote, social contract, right? Obviously, if I kill somebody, I can’t leave. Okay, so you’ve accepted upon crossing the border into there, right? Now, as I mentioned, what is murder? There’s an obvious answer, but as I said, there’s been human sacrifice in some societies. Communism, they kill lots of people. Nazis, they kill lots of people. Unfortunately, there’s quite a lot of societies. I wanted to say it’s an edge case, but maybe many of the 20th century societies around the world have institutionalized some kind of murder, whether it was the Red Terror in the Soviet Union, or obviously the Holocaust, or the Cultural Revolution, or year zero, and so on and so forth, right? My point there is that who is committing all those murders? It was the state.
It was the organization that one is implicitly trusting them to track you, right? How did they commit those murders? Well, how did Lenin, do you know the hanging order? You know, I’m talking about the hanging order for the Kulaks? Yes. Okay, the famous hanging order, which actually showed they’re actually blood thirsty. The key thing was he said, here’s a list of all the rich men, the Kulaks, go and kill them. The real names and the state names were what facilitated the murder, except animals. They didn’t prevent the murderers there, right? So my point is, just in the ethical weighting of it, it’s a two sided thing, right? You’re right that the tracking can prevent disorganized murders, but the tracking facilitates unfortunately organized murders. Lists of undesirables were the primary tool of all
01:16:30 of these oppressive states in the 20th century. You see my point? I see your point. And it’s a very strong point. In part, it’s a cynical point, which is that the rule of a centralized state is more negative than positive.
01:16:51 I think it is like nuclear energy. It’s like fire. It is something which you’re going to keep having it reform because there’s good reasons where you have centralization, decentralizedization, re-centralization. But power corrupts absolute power corrupts, absolutely. And you just have to be very suspicious of this kind of centralized power, the more trust you give it, often the less trusted it deserves. It’s like a weird feedback loop, right? The more trust, the more it can do, the more it can do, the more bad things it will do.
01:17:26 So okay. There is a lot of downside to the state being able to track you, right? And history teaches us lessons when at a large scale, especially in the 20th century, at the largest of scale, a state can do, commit a large amount of murder and suffering.
01:17:45 And by the way, history isn’t over. If you think about what the Chinese are building on this, right, that surveillance state, it’s not just tracking your name, it’s tracking everything on you, you know, like WeChat is essentially like, it is all the convenience and none of the freedom. So that’s the downside. But don’t you, the question is, is, I think, probably fundamentally about the human nature of an individual, of how much murder that would be if we can just disappear every time we murder, well, at the individual level, well, at the individual level. So the issue is basically like, once, once one realizes that the moral trade off has two poles to it, right, and moreover, that basically centralized organized murder has, I mean, if we add up all the disorganized murder of the 20th century, it’s probably significantly less than the organized murder that was that these states facilitated, right. And probably by, you know, R.J. Rommel has this thing called democide, right? And the thing is, it’s so grim, right? Because, you know, it’s saying like, one, one death is a tragedy, a million is a statistic, right? These are just like, just incalculable tragedies that we can’t even, you know, understand. But, you know, nevertheless, engaging with it, like, you know, I don’t know, is the ratio 10x? Is it 100x?
I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s 100x.
01:19:03 Yeah, but have you seen the viciousness, the negativity, the division within online communities that have anonymity?
01:19:12 So that’s the thing is, basically, there’s also a cilla and a shirubdis. I’m not, when you see what centralization can do, and you correct in the direction of decentralization, you can overcorrect with decentralization, and you get anarchy. And this is basically, then you want to re centralize, right. and this is the, I think it’s the Ram answer the Three Kingdoms are the empire long united must divide the empire long divided must unite. That’s always the way of it, right? So, what’s gonna happen is we will state certain verbal principles, right? And then the question is where in state space you are, are you too centralize, well then okay, you want to decentralize and are you too decentralized you want to centralize and you need to track more, right? And people opt into more tracking because they will get something from that tracking which is greater than your societal stability. So it’s kind of like saying, are we going north or south? And the answer is like, what’s our destination? Where’s our current position in the civilizational state space?
01:20:07 Well, my main question I guess is, does creating a network state escape from some of the flaws of human nature? The reason you got Nazi Germany is a large scale resentment with different explanations for that resentment that’s ultimately losing the heart of each individual that made up the entirety of Nazi Germany and had a charismatic leader that was able to channel that resentment into action, into actual policies, into actual political and military movements. Can’t you not have the same kind of thing in digital communities as well?
01:20:45 Was that one? Yeah, have you heard the term argumentum ad Hitlerum or like Godwin’s law or something? Like, it’s something where if the reference point is Hitler, it’s this thing where a lot of things break down. But I do think, I mean, look, is there any, did Bitcoin managed to get where it was without a single shot being fired to my knowledge? Yes, right. Did Google manage to get to where it is without shots being fired? Absolutely.
01:21:10 While a lot of shots were being fired elsewhere in the world.
01:21:14 Sure, but who’s firing those shots? The state.
01:21:17 Yeah, again. The state. But that’s because Bitcoin and Google are a tiny minority of communities.
01:21:23 It’s like the icing on the cake of human civilization. Sure, basically, any technology, I mean, like you can use a hammer to go and hit somebody with it, right? I’m not saying every technology is equally destructive or what have you, but you can conceive of. It’s kind of like rule 34, but for technology, right? You, okay, right?
01:21:45 You can probably figure out some about some- Your ability to reference brilliant things throughout is quite admirable, yes.
01:21:51 But anyway, sorry, rule 34 for technology. Rule 34, but for abusive technology, you can always come up with a black mirror version of something. And in fact, there is this kind of funny tweet, which is like a sci-fi author. My book, Don’t Invent the Torment Nexus, was meant to be a cautionary tale on what would happen if society invented the torment nexus. And then it’s like, tech guys, at long last we have created the torment nexus harder, right? And so the thing is that simply describing something, some abuse, unfortunately, after the initial shock wears off, people will unconsciously think of it as sort of an attractor in the space, right? It’s like, I’ll give you some examples, like Minority Report had the gesture thing, right? And the Kinect was based on that. So it’s a dystopian movie, but had this cool kind of thing and people kind of keyed off it, right? Or people have said that movies like Full Metal Jacket, that was meant to be in my, my understanding is meant to be like an anti-war movie, but lots of soldiers just love it, despite the fact that the drill sergeant is actually depicted as a bad guy, right? For the sort of portrayal of that kind of environment, right? So I’m just saying it’s like giving the vision of like the digital Hitler or whatever.
It’s not actually a vision I want to paint. I do think it’s possible, obviously ISIS uses the internet, right?
01:23:12 Like, is it- Yeah, we’re not bringing up Hitler in a shallow argument. We’re bringing up Hitler in a long, empathetic, relaxed discussion, which is a different, which is where Hitler can live in a healthy way. There’s deep lessons in Hitler, Nazi Germany,
01:23:29 as there is with Stalin, yes. Sure, sir, I understand. As there is with Stalin, yes. Okay, so in many ways, you know, and this is a very superficial way of talking about it, but this is, exit is the anti-genocide technology, right? Because exit is the route of the politically powerless. Exit is not, people will always say, oh, exit is for the rich. That’s actually not true. Most immigrants equals most emigrants are not rich. They’re politically powerless. You can describe exit. What is exit? So there’s this book, which I reference a lot.
I like it called Exit, Voice, and Loyalty by Albert Hirschman, okay? And he essentially says, and I gave this talk in 2013 that goes through this at YC-Starp School, but just to describe these, voices reform, exit is alternatives. For example, in the context of an open source project, voice is submitting a bug and exit is forking. In a company, voices, you’re saying, hey, here’s a ticket that I’d like to get solved and exit is taking your business elsewhere, okay? At the level of corporate governance, voices, board directors vote and exit is selling your shares, right? And a country voices a vote and exit is migration, okay? And I do think that the two forces we talk about a lot, democracy and capitalism, are useful forces. But there’s a third, which is migration, right? So you can vote with your ballot. You vote with your wallet, you can vote with your feet. While it has some aspects of exit built into it, but voting with your feet actually have some aspects of voice built into it, because when you leave, it’s like an amplifier on your vote. You might say 10 things, but you actually leave, then people take, what you said seriously, you’re not just complaining or whatever, you actually left San Francisco because it was so bad on this and this issue, and you’ve actually voted with your feet, it is manifest preference as opposed to stated preference.
So voice versus exit is this interesting dichotomy. Do you try to reform the system or do you exit it and build a new one or find, seek an alternative. And then loyalty modulates this, where if you are a Patriot, as part of the initial part of your conversation, right? Like, you know, are you a trader? You know, you’re giving up on our great thing, or whatever, right? And people will push those buttons to get people to stick. That’s like, you know, I shouldn’t say the bad version, let’s say a common version, sometimes good, sometimes bad. Then, but then there’s the good version, which is, oh, you know, maybe the price is down right now, but you believe in the cause. So even if they’re, you know, on paper, you would rationally exit, you believe in this thing, and you’re going to stick with it, okay? So loyalty can be, again, good and bad, but it kind of modulates a trade-off between voice and exit, okay? So given that framework, we can think of a lot of problems in terms of, am I going to use voice or exit, or some combination thereof? Because they’re not mutually exclusive.
It’s kind of like, you know, left and right submachine uses both together. I think that one of the biggest things the internet does is it increases microeconomic leverage, and therefore increases exit in every respective life. For example, you know, on every phone, you can pick between Lyft and Uber, right? When you’re at the store, you see a price on the shelf, and you can comparison shop, right? If it’s Tinder, you can swipe, right? If it’s Twitter, you can click over to the next account. The back button is exit. The microeconomic leverage, leverage in the sense of alternatives, right? This is like one of the fundamental things that the internet does. It puts this tool on your desktop, and now you can go and talk to an illustrator, or you can kind of build it yourself, right,
01:27:12 by typing in some, you know, characters into a dolly. And that makes the positive forces of capitalism more efficient increase in microeconomic leverage.
01:27:20 And it’s individual empowerment, right? And so our sort of industrial age systems were not set up for that level of individual empowerment. Just to give you like one example that I think about, we take for granted, every single website, you go and log into, you can configure your Twitter profile and you can make it dark mode or light mode, and your name, all this stuff is editable, right? How do you configure your USA experience? Is there a usa.gov that you edit? Can you even edit your name there? Dark mode for USA. But I mean, just your profile. Is there like a national profile? I mean, there’s like driver’s license. Point is that it’s assumed that it’s not like individually customizable quite in that way, right? Of course you can move around your house and stuff like that, but it’s not like
01:28:03 your experience of the US is like configurable, you know? Let me think about that. Let me think about sort of the analogy of it. So the microeconomic leverage, you can switch apps. Can you switch your experience in small ways, efficiently, multiple times a day in inside the United States? Well the physical world. I think you do, yeah under the constraints
01:28:29 of the physical world, you do like micro-migrations. Well the physical world. So this is coming back to the hunter-gatherer, farmer-soldier digital nomad kind of thing, right? The digital nomad combines aspects of the V1 and the V2 for a V3, right? Because digital nomad has the mobility and freedom of the hunter gatherer, but some of the consistency of the civilization of the farmer and soldier, right? But coming back to this, like, one other thing about it is in the 1950s, if a guy in assembly line might literally push the same button for 30 years, okay? Whereas today you’re pushing a different key every second, right? That is, that’s like one version of like micro economic leverage. Another version is, you know, in the 1980s, I mean, they didn’t have Google maps, right? So you couldn’t just like discover things off the path. People would just essentially do, you know, home to work and work to home and home to work and a trip had to be planned, right? They were contained within a region of space or you do home to school, school to home, home to school.
You know, it wasn’t like you went and explored the map. Most people didn’t, right? They were highly catalyzed. Okay? Meaning it was just back and forth back and forth, very routine, just like the push the button, push the button, trapped within this very small piece and also trapped within this large country it was hard to travel between countries and so on. Again, of course there were vacations, of course there were some degree of news and so on. Your mobility wasn’t completely crushed, but it was actually quite low, relatively speaking. You were trapped in a way that you weren’t even really thinking about it. And now that map has opened up. Now you can see the whole map. You can go all over the place. I don’t have the data to show it, but I would be shocked if people, the average person didn’t go to more places, wasn’t going to more restaurants and things like
01:30:21 that today than they were in the 80s, simply because the map is open. And the map is made
01:30:26 more open through the digital world. To the digital world, exactly. So we’re reopening the map like the hunter-gatherer, because you can now think about every site for very low costs that you can visit. The digital world, I mean, how many websites have you visited? I don’t know, hundreds of thousands probably at this point over your life. How many places on the surfaces have you visited? You’re actually unusual. You might be like a world traveler or whatever. But still, even your physical mobility is less than your digital mobility. You can just essentially, I mean, the entire concept of nations and borders and whatnot didn’t exist in the hunter-gatherer era, because you couldn’t build permanent fortifications and whatnot. Even nations, as we currently think of them with demarcated borders, you needed cartography, you needed maps, right? That stuff didn’t exist for a long time.
You just had a fuzzy area of we kind of control this territory and these guys are on the other side of the river. I don’t want to digress too
01:31:21 much, but yeah, digress too much. The word digress away, I think entirety of life on Earth is a kind of a digression, which creates beauty and complexity as part of the digression. I think your vision of the network state is really powerful and beautiful. I just want to linger on this real name issue. Let me just give you some data. Personal anecdotal experience data. There’s a reason I only do this podcast in person. There is something lost in the digital space. I personally believe to play devil’s advocate against the devil’s advocate that I’m playing, and I personally believe that this is a temporary thing. We will figure out technological solutions to this, but I do find that currently people are much more willing to be on scale, cruel to each other online than they are in person. The way to do that, I just visited Ukraine, went to the front. The way you can have people be cruel to each other in the physical space is through the machinery of propaganda that dehumanizes the other side, all that kind of stuff.
That’s really hard work to do. Online, I find just naturally at the individual scale, people speak real name issues, somehow start to easily engage in the drug of mockery, derision, and cruelty when they can hide behind anonymity. I don’t know what that says about human nature. I ultimately believe most of us want to be good and have the capacity to do a lot of good, but sometimes it’s fun to be shitty, to shit on people, to be cruel. I don’t know what that is.
01:33:01 It’s weird because I think one of my sayings is just like the internet increases microeconomic leverage, the internet increases variance. For anything that exists before, you have the zero and 100 versions of it. I’ll give some examples and I’ll come to this. For example, you go from the 30-minute sitcom to the 30-second clip or the 30-episode Netflix binge. You go from guy working 95 to the guy who’s 40 years old and has failed to launch, doesn’t have a job or anything, and the 20-year-old tech billionaire. You go from all kinds of things that were sort of Gaussian or constrained in one location to kind of extreme outcomes on both sides. Applying that here, you are talking about the bad outcome, which I agree does happen, where the internet in some sense makes people have very low empathy between others. But it also is the other extent where people find their mental soulmates across the world, someone who’s living in Thailand or in Latin America who thinks all the same stuff, just like them. Wow, you never met this person before. You get to know them online, you’ve been in person, it’s like the brains have been communicating for two years, three years, you’ve been friends, and you see them in person, it’s just great. It’s not just the total lack of empathy, it is frankly far more empathy than you would be able to build, usually with an in-person conversation in the 80s or the 90s with someone on their side of the world, because you might not even be able to get a visa to go to their country or not even know they existed. How would you be able to find each other and so on and so forth?
It is kind of both. It is tearing society apart and it’s
01:34:45 putting it back together, both at the same time. My main concern is this, what I see is that young people are for some reason more willing to engage in the drug of cruelty online under the veil of
01:34:58 anonymity. That’s what you’re seeing publicly, but you’re not seeing the private chats. I work for the intelligence agency, so I’m… You see the private chats.
01:35:07 I’m collecting all of your data. Yes, but you can intuit stuff. I don’t think I’m being very selective. If you just look at the young folks, I am very concerned about the intellectual
01:35:28 psychological growth of young men and women and men and women. I’m not disagreeing with you on this. I am saying, however, there is a positive there that once we see it, we can try to amplify
01:35:38 that with technology. Yes, with technology. I’m just saying the very, very basic technology. I give stuff I caught up over the weekend kind of thing. I think if I throw anonymity on top of
01:35:52 that, it will lead to many bad outcomes for young people. Anonymy, yes. Pseudonymy, maybe not,
01:35:59 because Reddit is actually fairly polite, right? The entirety of Reddit just chuckled as you said
01:36:04 that. Well, within a subreddit, it’s actually fairly polite. Like they say you’re not usually
01:36:10 seeing… It depends on which subreddit, of course. There’s a consistency. I think definition of politeness is interesting here because it’s polite within the culture of that subreddit.
01:36:22 Yes. They abide by… Let me put it a different way. They abide by the social norms of that
01:36:26 subreddit. Right. That’s the definition of politeness. Yeah, or civility is that right? There is an interesting difference between pseudonymous and anonymous. You’re saying it’s
01:36:37 possible that pseudonymity, you can actually avoid some of the negative aspects. Absolutely. We’re redunbarizing the world in some ways. With China being the big exception or outlier, the Dunbar number, 150 people, that’s roughly the scale of your society. That’s the number of people that a human can keep in their brain. Whether apocryphal or not, I think it’s probably roughly true. We’re redunbarizing the world because, A, we’re making small groups much more productive, and B, we’re making large groups much more fractious. You have an individual like Notch who can program Minecraft by himself, or Satoshi who could do V1 or Bitcoin by himself, or Instagram, which is just like 10 people, or WhatsApp is like 50 people when they sold. On the other hand, you have huge countries of hundreds of millions of people that are just finding that the first and second principle… They’re just splitting on principle components. Scott Alexander thinks of them as scissor statements, statements that one group thinks is obviously true, one group thinks is obviously false. You can think of them as political polarization, you think of it in terms of game theory, there’s lots of different reasons you can give for why this happens.
But those large groups now are getting split. And so you have both the unsustainability of these large sort of artificial groups, and the productivity of these small organic ones. And so that is kind of it’s like sort of obvious that’s the direction of
01:38:06 civilizational rebirth, we just need to kind of lean into that system is the same as there’s so many beautiful just like, you know, we mentioned chocolates, right, advertising themselves, your entirety of speech is an intellectual, like box of chocolates. But okay, so I don’t think we finished defining the network state, let’s like linger on the definition you gave the one sentence statement, which I think essentially encapsulated the online nature of it, I forget what else. Can we just try to bring more richness to this definition of how you think about the network
01:38:44 state? Absolutely. So that informal sentence is a network state is a highly aligned online community with a capacity for collective action that crowdfunds territory around the world and eventually gains diplomatic recognition from pre existing states. So we talked about was the alignment of online communities and the capacity for collective action. Well, one collective action, it could be 1000 people liking a tweet, right, if you can get 1000 of 1000 people doing it. But a much higher level, much higher bar is 1000 people crowdfunding territory and actually living together, just like people current physical space in physical space, and not all in one place. That’s critical. Just like Bitcoin is a decentralized currency. The network sees a recipe for a decentralized state like entity. Okay, where it starts with, you know, for example, two people just get, you know, they become roommates they meet in this community, they become roommates, okay, they get their place together, where 10 people get a group house, or eventually 100 people just buy a small apartment building together, and guess what they start getting equity and not just paying rent. Okay, these are all people who share their values, and now they can crowdfund territory together. Now, of course, they don’t just jump straight from 1000 people liking something to 1000 people crowdfunding something, what I described in the middle is, you do a lot of meetups, you get to know these other people before you decide to live collectively with them.
But once you live with them, you start to get a network effect. For example, if those 100 people want to learn Spanish or Turkish or Vietnamese, they could all have a building where they’re doing Vietnamese immersion, right? And that’s something which they get a benefit from being physically around the other people that the pure digital wouldn’t give them to quite the same extent, right? Um, and so crowdfunds territory around the world, crucially, not just one place, they’re all connected by the internet. Just like Hawaii is 2000 miles away from the continental US, but both sides think of them as American, but the people on Hawaii and people in the continental
01:40:35 US. What’s the role of having to have territory? Why? If most of the exchange, so presumably as technology gets better and better, the communication, the intimacy, the exchange of ideas all happens in the digital world. What’s the importance of being able to crowdfund territory?
01:40:52 Well, because we’re still physical creatures. You can’t reproduce yet digitally, right? There’s still lots of things. So it’s all about sex? Well, that’s going to be part of it. You’re going to want to reproduce. Are we talking about a cult?
01:40:59 It’s not a cult. It’s not a cult. Why can’t you just take a train? Why is it not a cult?
01:41:07 It’s not a cult because a cult is very internally focused and it tries to close its members off from the outside world. This is much more how America itself was populated, where there were lots of towns, like Penn is named after William Penn or the founder of texts like Sam Houston, right? Lots of towns like the Oneida commune in Northern New York, they recruited and they became a town and they became actually the Oneida glassware company, kind of makes glassware out of there. All of these communities that were opt-in voluntary communities were not simply cults that were closed off from the world. They were meant to set an example to the world of what virtuous living looked like and they were trying to recruit from the rest of the world. They were exporting goods to the rest of the world, right? Yes, reproduction, marriage and kids and so on, but it’s also just hanging out. The physical world is very high bandwidth. There’s lots of stuff. It’s fun to just go and have a dinner in person just to hang out, to build things. Moreover, there’s also lots of innovation that can only take place in the physical world. Look, one of my sayings in the book is cloud first land last, but not land never.
In many ways, one of the problems the book solves is Teal’s problem of we have innovation in bits, but not in atoms. We can build a billion dollar company online, but we need a billion permits to build a shed in San Francisco, right? How do you reconcile that? Well, what is stopping the innovation in atoms? It is a ticket of regulations. What are those regulations? Ultimately, a social construction. If you lean into the whole deconstructionist school of thinking, you can deconstruct and then reconstruct the state itself, given sufficient social consensus online. If the population of Nevada had 100% consensus, you could just dissolve every law in Nevada in theory and then build new ones. The online consensus of getting people to agree on something is upstream of what happens offline. Once you have consensus in bits, the human consensus, also cryptographic consensus, cryptocurrency consensus, then you can reshape the world of atoms. The reason we can’t reshape the world of atoms right now is because you don’t have that consensus of minds.
For example, in SF, anything you do, there’s going to be 50% of people who are against you. That’s just a recipe for gridlock. Whereas if you have a bare piece of land that everybody agrees on, you can get 70,000 units get set up in Burning Man in just a few days. That’s the power of when you actually have human consensus. One way of talking about this also in the book a little bit, and this I’m going to go much more into detail in the V2, I think of this as 100% democracy as opposed to 51% democracy. 51% democracy, which is the current form of government, is 49% dictatorship because the entire premise of democracy is about the consent of the government. That’s actual, legitimating, underpinning principle. Insofar as 49% did not consent to the current president or prime minister or whatever, let’s say presidential system first passed the post. Insofar as 49% did not consent or in a prime minister system, it could be like 60% or more didn’t consent to the current leader. Those folks are having something imposed on them that they literally did not vote for. Moreover, campaign promises are non-binding. So whatever they voted for, they can effectively be defrauded.
The actual voter fraud is when a politician promises X but does not do it. It’s as if you bought a can of orange juice and it actually drink in its milk or it’s nothing. All of that is routinized. All of that is accepted. We have this thing, which is just the minimum possible amount of democracy of 51%. What happens is then that 50% tries to ram something down the 49% throat, and then the next election it’s now 51, 49 the other way, and then they ram it back. That’s how you get the seesaw that is just splitting countries apart. The alternative to that is you build a consensus online and get some god forsaken patch of territory. Actually, the worse the territory, the better. Why? Because it’s like Burning Man. Nobody cares.
The nicer the piece of land, the more the people are going to argue about it. But Starlink has repriced the world. Basically, all kinds of pieces of territory that were previously, they’re far away from natural ports, they’re far away from natural resources, all kinds of pieces of territory around the world now have satellite internet. What you can do is, again, the map is being reopened. What we were talking about earlier, the map is being reopened. You can gather your community online. They’re now capable of collective action. You can point here. This place has great Starlink coverage. You go there like the Verizon guy. Can you hear me now? Good.
You see that the coverage is good there. You drive out there. You test it out. Maybe you do it with mobile homes first. This, by the way, is its own thing. There’s DMB and there’s NIMBY and there’s YIMBY, but I actually also like HIMBY. Okay. Let’s go. NIMBY, YIMBY, HIMBY. What are those? So NIMBY is not in my backyard. Don’t build in cities.
YIMBY is let’s build high density buildings, really tall buildings, and so on in cities. There’s a third version, which is HIMBY. It’s my little coinage, which is horizontal sprawl is good. Why horizontal sprawl? Because to build a skyscraper, to build a tall building in a city, you have this enormous permitting process, all of this stuff, which has to get done. It’s expensive. It’s time consuming. The way that cities were built, if you go back to the V1, what does the startup city look like? It looks like something like Burning Man. It looks like the cities of the Wild West. They were not multi-story buildings, right? They were basically things that were just like one story and someone could have it there in the dust and then you build roads and stuff between them.
They can move them around. It was a much more dynamic geography. And so when you have that as a vision of what a startup city looks like, right? Now you’ve got something. There’s a company I find it called Kift, which is like van life. There’s a lot of stuff in construction that makes this feasible. There’s so-called man camps for fracking, where people can just do companies like Agreco, they have pride power. You can bring water, all this stuff on site. So it’s easy to actually snap this stuff to grid, relatively speaking. If you’ve got horizontal space, you pick this space, you crowd from the territory, now you’ve got a city. Okay. And the last bit is, is eventually gains diplomatic recognition from pre-existing states.
And this is a part that people, different people will be with me up to this point and then they’ll say, okay, that’s the part I disagree with, or how are you going to ever do that? They’ll say, yeah, you can build an online community. I believe you can get them to do collective action. And of course, people have crowdfunded land and moved it together. You’re doing it at a larger scale. All that I believe, how are you possibly ever going to gain diplomatic recognition from preexisting states? Dumb, delusional tech bro. That’s a common thing. Okay. That’s about the tone of it as well, right? And so first, I would say, sovereigns are already out for business. They’re inking deals.
Okay. Nevada inked to deal with Tesla to build the Geiger factory. El Salvador has Bitcoin as its national currency. Wyoming has done the Dow law where Ethereum is now recognized, where you can have on chain and corporations that are recognized by Wyoming law. Virginia and New York negotiate with Amazon for HQ2. Tuvalu signed a deal with GoDaddy for the.TV domain. Columbia signed a deal for the.CO domain and on and on and on. Sovereigns are open for business. Sovereigns are doing deals with companies and with currencies. Sovereigns at the level of cities like Miami or New York, where the mayors are accepting their salary in Bitcoin, states like Wyoming or Nevada has its new private cities legislation,
01:48:33 or entire countries like El Salvador. When you say sovereigns, by the way, you mean the old school, physical nation states, governments? Fiat states. Fiat states. Okay. But the Fiat isn’t the thing that makes a state. What makes a state is geographical location.
01:48:50 No, it’s just, it is something where, they’re both, right? So basically, it’s a play on words. So just like Fiat currency is cryptocurrency, we will have Fiat country and crypto country, right? And in fact, you can think of the Fiat and crypto version of almost anything. One thing I’ll come to later is a big thing. The big thing I think comes after digital currency is digital passports. And that’s a big part of this whole networks I think we should come back to. But so that last bit, the reason I just mentioned all those deals between sovereigns, whether at the city, US state, or UN listed country level. And so that’s on one side of the market. And the other side are the companies and the currencies. Why could we not have online
01:49:38 communities? Making those deals. So diplomatic recognition, but aren’t you still attached to the responsibilities that come from being a member of a sovereign old school nation state?
01:49:59 Can you possibly escape that? So yes. And let me give you a concrete example. Israel. Okay, why? People talk about, a lot of people are like, oh, biology, he took this from Snow Crash or some sci fi book they’ll reference. Actually, if there’s many different references in the book, this is not the only reference. But a very important reference that I think is much more important to me than Snow Crash, which is good, a good book, whatever, but it’s fictional, is Gergenstadt by Theodor Herzl, which translates as the Jewish state. And that led to the foundation of Israel. And that’s very real. It’s worth reading because it’s amazing. Theodor Herzl was like a tech founder.
Okay, in the book, he was writing about the death of distance in 1897. Why? Because steamships could take you across, you know, countries, okay. And he like, he’s just, you know, amazingly smart and practical guy, we’re just handle all these various objections. And he said, look, you know, the Jewish people, you know, our choices are either A, assimilate, get up the culture, or B, some people are thinking communism is good idea, I disagree with that, we should do C, build our own country, right. And that was considered totally crazy. But what he did was he A, wrote a book, B, started a fund, C, organized a semi annual conference, the, you know, World Zionist Congress, and the fund and the Congress are still going today. Crucially, there were a bunch of intermediate stages between the book and the idea and then the actual state of Israel in 1947. For example, that, you know, folks who were committed Zionists got together and started crowdfunding territory in what is now Palestine. And in fact, though, Palestine was only one choice. In the book, they also had Argentina as a choice says my concept cloud first land last and lands a parameter you can choose, right other places that were considered at various points like Madagascar, Birabidzin in the former Soviet Union, right. So the land was a parameter, Palestine went out because of its, you know, historical, religious importance.
Now, by the way, one thing, I’m sure there’s some like some fraction of years and we’re like, Oh my God, like all the bad stuff that I’m obviously not denying that there’s enormous amounts of controversy and so on that attends Israel. I consider myself generally pro Israeli. I’d also consider myself pro Palestinian, I fund lots of Palestinians and so forth. So I’ve, I’m leaving that part out that huge conflict or, you know, for now, okay, and you might say that’s airbrushing it. I don’t mean it to do that. I’m saying here’s the positive things they did. Can we take the positive and not have the negative and I’ll come back to how we might swap those parts out. But let me just talk about this a little bit more. So one of the things that happened was committed Zionist went in crowdfunded territory in what is now Israel, and they knit it together, right? Why? Because when you’re physically present on territory, yes, in theory, like the British Empire was in control, they were the sovereign, okay, in practice, who were the boots on the ground, the facts on the ground, right? There’s the people who are actually telling the land and building the buildings and so and so forth.
It like who had the claim there is like the people who were present. Okay? Now, this, this territory, this network of territories eventually became the basis for a part of the basis for what became Israel. Now, I’m fully aware that the exact configuration of what territory belongs Israel. What territory belongs Palestinians, this is an enormous topic of dispute, okay. But I just point this out to say, the process of going from book to crowdfunding territory, to a sovereign state where people were now citizens of Israel, as opposed to the British Empire, is not some fictional thing, but did happen, and within the lifetimes of some of the older, you know, they’re in their 80s now, but in the lifetimes of some older people, okay? So, it’s not impossible. In fact, it has happened, right?
01:53:35 But for that step, then perhaps, hopefully, is a better example, because in this particular, like you said, land last, if I were to say, if I was an alien and arrived at Earth and, say, choice of land, maybe if you were interested in choosing a land that represents a network state where ideas that unites people based on ideas, maybe pick a land that doesn’t lead to a generational conflict and war and destruction and suffering and all that kind of stuff.
01:54:13 That’s right, yes. So, I’ll get to that point, okay. So, now that I’ve said what are, you know, the positive things about Israel, and I think there’s a lot to admire in Israel. As I said, I think there’s also a lot to admire in the Palestinians and so on. I’m not taking any position on that. There’s other inspirations for the network state. The second major inspiration is India, which managed to achieve independence non-violently. That’s very important, right? So, can you fuse these things? A state started with a book that achieved independence non-violently and that managed to build this polyglot multicultural democracy that does, you know, India has its flaws, but it does manage to have human rights of lots of people respected and what have you, right? And has managed to, you know, there were times like emergency in the 1970s and they were gone, the declared emergency. There are times when seem touch and go, but overall with fits and starts, this flawed thing has kind of made its way through.
And, you know, the third inspiration is Singapore with Lee Kuan Yew, who built a city-state from nothing. You know, I shouldn’t say from nothing. Okay, there was something there, but let’s say built one of the richest countries in the world without, like, huge amounts of natural resources in the middle of a zone where there was lots of communist revolution going on. And so he was the CEO, founder, essentially, of this amazing startup country, right? And, you know, finally, of course, America, which has too many influences to name, things we talked about the nation of immigrants, obviously the constitution and so on. And you think, okay, can we go, you think of, you know, these inspirations, what’s interesting about these four countries, by the way, Israel, India, Singapore and the US, they have something in common. You know what that is? They’re all forks of the UK code base. We think, obviously, you know, the UK was sort of the ancestor of America, but Israel was a former British colony, right? India
01:56:07 was a British colony, and so was Singapore, right? For people who don’t know what fork and code base means, it’s a language from versioning systems, particularly Git, represented online on a website called GitHub. And a fork means you copy the code, and all the changes you make to the code now live in their own little world. So America took the ideas that define the United Kingdom and then forked it by evolving those ideas in a way that didn’t affect the original, the original country.
01:56:40 That’s right. And what’s interesting about this is, and of course, I’m saying that in a somewhat playful way, right? But I think it’s a useful analogy, interesting analogy, right? So you have the Americans who forked, you know, the UK code base, and you have, you know, the Indians, Israelis, and the Singaporeans who also made their own modifications. And in some ways, each society has pieces that you can take from them and learn from them and try to combine them, right? So you have a state that is started by a book that non-violently assembles that crowdfunds territory around the world, that is led by a CEO, founder, and that is also governed by something that’s like a constitution. But just like you went from, you know, I talked about the V1, V2, and V3 a lot, right? Like V1 is gold, and V2 is fiat, and V3 is Bitcoin, right? Or V1 is hunter-gatherer, and V2 is farmer-soldier, V3 is digital nomad, or sovereign collective, okay, which is not just an individual, but a group. Here, V1 is UK common law, they don’t have a constitution. It’s all precedent going for many years, right? V2 is the US constitution, and V3 is the smart contract, the social smart contract, which is a fusion obviously of Rousseau’s concept of the social contract, and the smart contract.
The social smart contract is like written in code, okay? So it’s like even more rigorous in the constitution. And in many ways, you can think of going from the United Kingdom of England, Wales, you know, Scotland, Northern Ireland, the United States of America, the network states of the internet, okay? Where you go from the rights of Englishmen with the Magna Carta to Europeans, African Americans, all the immigrants to the, you know, the Americans or the, you know, North America, then you go to all the people of the world. And so you basically are more democratic, and you’re more capitalist, because you’re talking about internet capitalism, not just nation state law capitalism. In a sense, it’s the V3, right? In other ways, it’s the V3. Only about 2% of the world is over 35 native born American can qualify to be president of the United States. But 100% of the world, you can become the president of a network state. There might be a, you know, Palestinian Washington, or a, you know, Brazilian Hamilton, right? And now, rather than say, okay, maybe you’re maybe you have a small percentage chance of immigrating to the US and a small percent chance of your descendant, you know, becoming like, you know, president. Now we can just say you can start online.
And you know what, maybe this person is so exceptional day of Americans
01:59:13 coming to their, you know, network state, right? You don’t think that kind of thing is possible with like, the rich get richer in a digital space to the people with more followers, have friends that
01:59:25 have followers and they like, I don’t think it’s a rich get richer. I think what happens is, so this is an important concept, it is, it’s multi axis, right? That is to say, for example, just the introduction of the Bitcoin axis, right? And those because it didn’t exist pre 2009. Now it exists. Those people who are rich in BTC terms are only partially correlated with those who are rich in USD terms. There’s all these folks, essentially, BTC is Bitcoin and USD is US dollar. Yes. So that’s a new axis and ETH is yet another axis, right? Ethereum, ETH is Ethereum. Right. So you are essentially getting new social systems, which are actually net inequality decreasing, because before you only had USD millionaires.
And now you have a new track, and then another track and another track, right? You have different hierarchies, different ladders, right? And so on net, you have more ladders to climb. And so it’s not the rich getting richer. In fact, old money, in some ways is a last to cryptocurrency. Old money and old states, I think, those people who are the most focused on, you might call it reform, I would call it control. Okay, the most folks don’t control the old world who have the least incentive to switch, they will, the rich will get poorer, because it will be the poor, or those who are politically powerless, politically poor, who go
02:00:51 and seek out these new states. Yeah, I didn’t mean in the actual money, but yes, okay, there’s other ladders. I meant in terms of influence, political and social influence in these new network states,
02:01:03 you, I think, said that basically anybody can become president of a network state. Just like anybody can become CEO of a startup company. Of course, whether people follow you is another
02:01:11 matter. But anybody can go and found one. Go ahead. Sorry. Oh, from the perspective that anyone can
02:01:17 found one, anyone could found. I see. We don’t think it’s implausible that, you know, somebody from Brazil or nature, I mean, most quote, billionaires in the world are not American. And in fact, actually, here’s another important point. It’s far easier to become a tech billionaire than become or a billionaire period, then become president of the United States. There’s less than 50 US presidents ever all time. Okay. It is a much more realistic ambition to become a billionaire than become president. There’s like thousands of billionaires worldwide. In fact, 75% of them are outside of the US. And many of those have been, you know, some of them are like energy and oil, which is often based on political connections, but a very large chunk of the rest are tech. Okay.
And that’s something where you’re mining, but you’re mining online by hitting keys as opposed to with a pickaxe, you know, in granite, right? So the point is that we think it’s totally understandable today for there to be a, you know, huge founder who comes out of Vietnam, or, you know, South America, like that, like you can name founders from all over the world, right? Exceptional people can rise from all the world to run giant companies. Why can they not rise to run giant new countries? And the answer is we didn’t develop the mechanism yet. Right. And just as another example, I talked about this in the book, Vitalik Buterin is far more qualified than Jerome Powell, right? Or anybody at the Federal Reserve, he actually built a car and managed a monetary policy and a currency from scratch. Okay, as a 20 something, right? Obviously, that’s a more
02:02:47 accomplished person than somebody who just inherited an economy. This is a lot of people can push back at that and say that the people that initially build a thing aren’t necessarily the
02:02:59 best ones to manage a thing once it scales and actually has impact. Sometimes, sometimes, but Zuck has done a good job of both. I think Vitalik has done a good job of both, right?
02:03:07 That’s not an inherent truth. Well, so actually, if you built the thing,
02:03:11 you will be the best person to run it. I will agree with you on that. And actually, I talked about this in the book, or I’ve got an essay on this called founding versus inheriting. Okay. And the premise is actually that the classic example, you know, the saying shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations, it means the guy who starts out poor and builds a fortune, his son maintains it and his dissipate grandson dissipates it, right?
02:03:35 Why is shirtsleeves a symbol of poverty?
02:03:39 Back in the past, it was kind of like, you know, you’re just working with your you’re not you’re not white collar, you’re back to working with your hands, you’re just always looking for blue collar blue collar in three generations. Yeah, yeah, we’re working class or something like that. Right. So essentially, that the, the grandson squanders it right. And you know, in sense, by the way, just to talk about that for a second, if you have two children and four grandchildren and eight great grandchildren and 16 and so on, and an older family is you know, that they were much bigger, right, six, you know, children is not uncommon, whatever fortune you have is now split six ways and then six ways and six ways again. So with the exception of premature where the oldest son inherits all the way down, the majority of descendants just a few generations out have probably inherited none of that fortune unless it is compound to such an extent that it’s like up six acts over 20 years, right? So it’s actually hard to maintain a quote rule in class in the sense that this person who’s like four generations down has, you know, like one 16th of the DNA, you know, one over two to the fourth, right, of their their scion who built a fortune. So it’s not even like the same is it the same family even, right? Is the fortune actually in the family? So most people don’t think a few generations out, they just kind of think, Oh, Marx is right, there’s always been a rich and a poor, it’s actually much more dynamic than that. Because you literally like, what is even the family when it’s diluted out, you know, one 16th, right? If you’re one 16th, the Rockefeller, are you a Rockefeller, really like 1516, something else, would you have the Rockefeller fortune?
Probably not. Right? Now, are there again, premature, where the guy who inherits the name all the way through, that would be one way to pass it down. But even that person doesn’t necessarily have the qualities of the guy who, you know, the cultural qualities, other qualities, guy who’s like four generations past, they tend to squander it, right? So this actually brings us to coming back up to governance, the system that the guys who built the United States, you know, like Washington and Hamilton, these are giants, right? These are founders. And the folks today are like, not the grandson, but like the 40th generation heir of a factory that somebody else built, like think about a factory and you have, you know, this grandchild or great grandchild inherits a factory, most of the time, it’s just cranking out widgets, and the great grandson is cashing checks. They have been selected as legitimate heir, because it’s the, you know, the founder passed it down to his son, passed it down to his grandson, to his great grandson. So legitimacy is there, they’ve got title, they can show I own this factory, okay? They can catch the checks, there’s professional managers there, everything seems fine, until one day, that factory has to go from making, you know, widgets to making masks for COVID, or something else, it has to change direction, has to do something it hasn’t done before. None of that capability for invention and reinvention is present anymore. These people have inherited something that they could not build from scratch, because they could not build from scratch, they can’t even maintain it.
This is an important point. The ability to build from scratch is so important because if some part breaks and you don’t know why it was there, can you even maintain it? No, you can’t. Okay. Unless all the replacement parts and the know how to fit them together is there, you can’t repair this. So in 2009, Mother Jones had a story that said that the US military had forgotten how to make some kinds of nuclear weapons because there was a part where all the guys who knew how to make it like aged out or left. Okay. And this was some like aero gel or something like that. It was rumored. Okay. Thing is, you’re seeing, you know, increasingly, for example, you’ve got wildfires in California, you’ve got, you know, water that’s not potable in Jackson, you’ve got power outages in Texas, you’re seeing a lot of the infrastructure of the US is just less functional. I think probably part of that is due to civil engineering not being that sexy afield, people aging out, and just domain knowledge being lost.
And the heirs who win, you know, the role of mayor or whatever of this town, don’t have the ability to build it from scratch, you’re just selected for legitimacy, not competence. Okay. So once you think about this concept of founding versus inheriting, and I’ve got the whole essay, which talks about this, um, of course, the alternative to somebody who’s legitimate, but not competent, what people will say is, Oh, we need like, you know, an authoritarian to be in control of everything. And then their, their hope is that that person is competent, but they don’t have legitimacy. Because if they’re just installed as just like a authoritarian ruler, 50% of the population is really mad at them, they don’t have title, just grab the title, you know, maybe they can exert enough force. That’s a problem with the kind of the authoritarian, you know, dictator takeover, right? So the alternative, the third version is the founder, who combines both legitimacy and competence, because they start from scratch, and they attract people to their vision, and they build it from scratch. And so you need
02:08:21 is the ability to constantly do refoundings rebirths. So if you imagine a world that is primarily network states, can you help me imagine what that looks like? Now, there’s several ways to imagine things, which is how many of them are there? And how often do they new ones pop up? There could be 1000s, given 7 billion
02:08:46 people, 8 billion people on earth. Yeah, so there’s network state in the, like the precise definition I have in the book, which is a diplomatically recognized entity. And there’s never seen sort of the loose definition where you know, one thing that’s interesting is this term has become a lowercase term really fast. Okay, no, you stay. Yeah. Like in the sense of Google, became lowercase Google for like googling or like Uber became lowercase Uber. Like if you go to the network state comm front, such reviews, or you go to search when search.tv.com and put in their network state you see it’s become like a word orily phrase. So that means whatever I intended to be the people will use it to mean they want to be. Right? Internet.
02:09:23 It’s internet, right? What is your meme, and what is your book? Am I a meme?
02:09:27 Ok maybe I’m a meme. Can I put that into a good meme? I wanted people to take it out there and make it their own. One of the things I say at the beginning and I go back to this thing it’s a toolbox not a manifest. Even if you dislike 70% of it, 80% of it, 90% of it, if there’s something that’s useful to you, you can take that and use it just like a library, a software library. You might just use one function there. Great. I’m glad.
02:09:52 I’ve delivered you some value. That’s my purpose in this.
02:09:54 That’s my purpose in this. So you’re not Ayn Rand. No, I’m not Ayn Rand. Basically, the whole point of this actually is it’s polytheistic, polystatistic, polynemistic is genuinely- Is it polyamorous? It’s not polyamorous. Okay. Though somebody might-
02:10:07 Do you have love- Somebody might- Do you have love advice in the book? I didn’t see it. So did you talk about love in- I do not talk about love.
02:10:12 No one say it. I do not talk about love. I would rather- Maybe not to you.
02:10:15 Not that I don’t believe in love. Love is great. Maybe not to you. Not that I- All right.
02:10:20 I will accept your offer to write a guest chapter in your V2 book about love.
02:10:22 All right. Great. Because there is some aspect that’s very interesting which parts of human civilization require physical contact, physical, because it seems like more and more can be done in a digital space. Yeah. But as I said, we work.
02:10:36 Yeah, but, uh, as I said, we work, for example, but you’re not going to build a self-driving car city in digital space. You’re not going to be able to do cars at all. Well, you’re, well, so sure. But let’s say you’re not going to be able to get to Mars in a purely digital thing you need to build. You know, you have a little rocket launch pad, you’re not going to be able to do all the innovative by medicine, whether it’s, you know, all the. If you’ve seen bioelectricity or there’s stuff on regenerative medicine, all this stuff, you just can’t do that digitally, right? We’re still physical beings, so you need physical space, but how do we get that, right? This is meant to wend its way through various roadblocks in the so-called, actually my term from many years ago, the idea maze, it’s meant to wend its way through the idea maze to find how to use bits to re-unlock innovation in atoms.
02:11:24 The idea maze within the bigger prime number maze, or go back to visualizing the number
02:11:27 of states and how often are they born, or go back and how often are they born. So let me first anchor this because people, just to give some numbers, right? How many UN-listed countries are there? Like 196, 193, okay? And there’s some that are on the border like Taiwan or Israel, right, where they’re not, I mean, Israel is a country, but it’s not recognized by every country or what have you, right? Is Texas a country? No, but it may eventually become, right, okay. So within that list of about 200 countries, okay? I’ve got a graph in the book that shows that most countries are actually small countries. There’s 12 countries that have less than a 100,000 people by the UN definition of a country.
02:12:02 There’s another 20 something that have between a 100,000 and one million, may eventually become.
02:12:07 There’s another 50 or 60 something that have between a million and 10 million. So most countries in the UN are less than 10 million people. There’s only 14 countries that are over 100 million people, okay. So most countries are small countries is kind of surprising to us because most people live in big countries. So now you’re like okay well, I’ve built social networks that are bigger than that. You have a following that’s bigger than 100,000 people. You have a following that’s bigger than, small country like Kiribati or whatever, right? So that first changes feasibility. You think of a country as this huge thing but it’s actually smaller than many, many countries are smaller than social networks that you’ve built. Number one. is the number of UN listed countries, even though it’s being flat-ish for the last 30 years, with like a few things like South Sudan and East Timor that have come online, there’s a graph that I posted which shows that it’s increased by about 40 or 50 something at the end of World War II, when the UN was set up to 197 today. There’s been like kind of a steady increase in particular with all the decolonization, all the countries that got there, and it depends first from the British Empire, and then from the Soviet Empire, right?
That imperial breakup led to new countries, okay? And so then the question is, is that flat forever? Well, the number of new currencies similarly increased for a while, roughly one per country or thereabouts, and then it was flat for a while, and then suddenly it’s gone completely vertical. That’s an interesting graph, right? Where it’s like linear-ish, then it’s flat, and then it just goes, whoof, like this. Now you can define, you can argue where the boundary is for a new currency, okay? But I think Bitcoin certainly counts, I think Ethereum certainly counts in terms of just its scale and adoption worldwide. So at least you have two. If you take the Broadchurch view, you have a thousand or something like that, right? Somewhere in between, you might say, how many currencies are above the market cap of an existing previously recognized fiat currency, like which got onto the leaderboard, right? There’s a website just like coinmarketcap.com, that’s like a site for like cryptocurrency tracking, it’s very popular, okay? There’s a fun site called fiatmarketcap.com which shows where Bitcoin is relative to the fiat currencies of the world.
And it’s like last I checked, number 27, somewhere in between the Chilean peso and the Turkish cholera or something, okay? And it previously being close to crack in the top 10, okay? And I think it will will again, at some point. So, we know that you can have a currency out of nowhere that ranks with the fiat currencies of the world, could you have a country out of nowhere that ranks with the countries of the world? So this is maybe the fastest way probably should have said this at the very beginning. If you go to the network state in one image, okay, that kind of summarizes what a network state looks like in a visual, just one single visual and the visual is of a dashboard. And the dashboard shows something that looks like a social network, except you’re visualizing it on the map of the world. And it’s got network nodes all over the place 100 people here 1000 people there, they’re all connected together. The total population of the people in this social network is about 1 million people. So 1.7 million people in this example. And some of the buildings are some of the people are just singleton. So just folks in their apartment who can conceptualize themselves as citizens of this network state.
And they’ve got the flag on their wall, right? And the digital passport on their on their phone along with digital currency. Others are groups of hundreds or 1000s or even 10s of 1000s of people that have all taken over a neighborhood just like Chinatowns exist, right? Just like, you know, intentional communities existed. They just basically, you know, go and crowdfund lane together, right? And these are all network together, you know, just like the islands of Indonesia are separated by ocean. These are islands of this network state that are separated by internet. Okay, so conceptualize themselves as something. And at the very top of the dashboard, there’s something very important, which is the population annual income and real estate footprint of this network state. So population, we already discussed you can build an online social network, we know you can build something which has a population that’s bigger than these 100,000 or million person countries. One of the new things contributions a network it has is say that you cannot just exceed in population you can exceed in real estate footprint. Because one way of thinking about it is, on I don’t exactly know the numbers on foreign ownership in Estonia, but let’s say to First Order the million-something Estonians own and could afford Estonia.
Okay, a million people could buy a territory that is the size of Estonia, right? That’s probably true to First Order. There might be some overseas ownership, but it’s probably true. You probably find a country for which that’s true. What that means is, a million people Dhisialee could buy distributed territory that is probably greater than or equal to the size of Estonia. Especially if they’re buying desert territory or stuff like that, which means now you have a digital country that is ranking, not just in people, not just in real estate footprint, you know, so it’s also in real estate footprint with the with the with the countries of the world. So you start ranking, and you’re bigger than these UN listed countries in your population, and your real estate footprint. And the third is income. Okay. You can prove on chain, that you have a income for the for the digital population that is above a certain amount, right? This is what I call the census of the network state. And it’s actually such a crucial component that I I have it in the essay, The New York State in a Thousand Words, the post office and census were actually important enough to be written into the US Constitution, partly because it was for apportionment of representatives, partly because there’s a feedback mechanism.
That census was done every 10 years and provided a crucial snapshot of the US for the last several hundred years. Now, here, this census of a digital state could be done every 10 seconds. Conducting it is actually not the hard part. The hard part is proving it, because how will the world believe that you actually have 100,000 people spread across countries? Couldn’t there all be bots? Could there be AIs? Proof of human, proof of income, and also proof of real estate start to actually rise dramatically in importance because you’re saying we’re going to rank this digital state on the leaderboard of the fiat states. That means that people will start to… At first, they’ll just laugh at it. Once you start claiming you have 10,000 citizens, people are going to start poking and be like, is that real? Prove that it’s real. I have a whole talk on this, actually, I’m giving at this Chainlink conference, but essentially, how do you prove this?
The short answer is crypto oracles plus auditing. The somewhat longer answer is you put these assertions on chain, these proof of human, these proof of real estate, et cetera, assertions on chain. There’s people who are writing to the blockchain and they are digitally signing their assertions. Now, of course, simply just putting something on chain doesn’t make it true. It just says, you can prove not that what is written on chain is true but that the metadata is true. You can show who wrote it via their digital signature, what they wrote, their hash, and when they wrote their timestamp. You can establish those things in metadata, who, what, and when was written. Who is the who in that picture?
02:19:20 For example, let uh… How do you know the one human?
02:19:24 Great question. Let’s say you’ve bought a bunch of your piece of territory from Blackstone. As a function of that, Blackstone.eth signs an on-chain receipt that says, LexReadman.eth bought this piece of property from us, and it’s 1,000 square meters, and this is put on-chain. They sign it. That’s their digital receipt. Just like you might get an email receipt when you buy a piece of property or something. It’s just put not online, but on-chain, and it’s signed by Blackstone, or whatever real estate vendor you buy it from. It could be a company. It could obviously be an individual. You have a bunch of these assertions. Let’s say there’s 47 different real estate vendors. I know vendors in atypical terms there, but just bear with me.
47 different real estate sellers that you’ve bought all of your territory from. Each of them put digital signatures that are asserting that a certain amount of real estate was bought. It could be 1,000 square meters, its location, or whatever else they want to prove. The sum of all that is now your real estate footprint. Now the question is, was that real? Well, because they signed what they put on-chain, you can do things like you can audit. Let’s say Blackstone has signed 500,000 properties, and they’ve sold them and put them on-chain. I’m not talking about 2022 or 2023, but 2030. It’ll be a few years out. People are doing this type of stuff. They’re putting this stuff on-chain. You get that on-chain receipt.
They’ve got 500,000 of these. What you can do is just sampling. You pick a subset N of them, let’s say 500 properties around the world. You go there. You actually go and independently look at what the square footprint is. Then from that, you can see what was the actual, your measurement versus their reported. Then you can, via Cisco Inference, extrapolate that if they were randomly selected to the rest of the properties and get a reliability score for Blackstone’s reporting of its real estate square footage.
02:21:19 Who does those? That’s the auditing stuff. That’s the auditing stuff. The crypto oracle is the- Audit-able, or- On-chain… What did you say? Assertions. That’s right. Yeah, about who bought stuff with, who. I still have to get to the proof of humor, but auditing, there’s a bunch of people randomly checking that you’re not full of shit. That’s right. Auditable ore-
02:21:40 Who is in charge of the audit? That’s right. Auditable ore- Okay. Who is in charge, though? It could be a big four. Basically, the accountants that do corporate balance sheet and cash flow and…
02:21:51 Who keeps them in check from corruption. I’m just imagining a world full of network states.
02:21:56 Yeah, it’s a good question. So, at a certain point, you get to who watches the watchers, right? And oh, well, the government is meant to keep the accountants accountable. And Arthur Andersen actually did have a whole flame out around the time of the Enron thing. So it is possible that there’s corrupt accountants or bad accountants or what have you. Of course, the government itself is corrupt in many ways and prints all this money and seizes all of these assets and surveils everybody and so on and so forth. So the answer to your question is going to be probably exit in the sense that if those accountants, they are themselves going to digitally sign a report and put it on chain. So they’re going to say, we believe that X, Y, and Z’s reports are on chain where this is just reliable and here’s our study. If they falsify that, well, if somebody finds that eventually, then that person is downweighted
02:22:51 and then you have to go to another accountant, right? Is there ways to mess with this? I mean, I just… Let me breathe in and out. As I mentioned, some of the heaviest shit I’ve ever read, so because I visited Ukraine, I’ve read Red Famine by Ann Applebaum, Bloodlands, and it’s just a lot of coverage of the census. I mean, there’s a lot of coverage of a lot of things. But in Ukraine, in the 1930s, Stalin messed a lot with the census to hide the fact that a lot of people died from starvation.
02:23:26 Yeah, and did that with the cooperation of Arthur G. Salzberger’s New York Times Company.
02:23:28 Like Walter Dranti falsified all those reports. There are several parties involved. Can there be several parties involved in this case that manipulate the truth as it is represented
02:23:44 by the crypto oracle and as it is checked by the auditing mechanism? It is possible, but the more parties are involved in falsifying something, the more defections there are. So that’s why you basically have another level of auditing is fundamentally the answer, right? And really, I think what it comes back to is if you’re showing your work, this is the difference between crypto economics and fiat economics. The Bitcoin blockchain, anybody can download it and run verification on it, okay? This is different than government inflation stats, which people don’t believe, right? Because the process is just, you know, it is true that CPI methodology is published and so on. But it is not something which people feel reflects their actual basket of goods, right? And so the independent verifiability is really the core of what true auditability is. And so then to your question, it’s hard for some group to be able to collude because the blockchain is public and everything they’ve written to it is public. And so if there’s an error, it’s easier in some ways to tell the truth than to lie because the truth is just naturally consistent across the world. Whereas lies can be found out even, you know, Cisco Tesla, you know, Benford’s law?
Yes. Right. It’s something where the digits in like a real, if you take the last digit or the first digit is the first digit. I think it’s the first digit, right? So you take the first digit in an actual financial statement, you look at the distribution of like how many ones and how many twos, how many threes, the percentages. It has actually, you’d guess it might be each one will be equally random, it’d be 10%. It’s not like that. Actually, there’s a certain distribution that it has. And fake data doesn’t look like that, but real data does.
02:25:27 It’s weird. It’s interesting, right? Benford’s law also called the first digit law states that the leading digits in a collection of data sets are probably going to be small. For example, most numbers in a set, about 30% will have a leading digit of one.
02:25:43 Yeah. So that’s a great example of where we’re talking about earlier, the observational leading to
02:25:47 the theory. Ooh, there’s a Benford’s law of controversy. I’m looking that up. Benford’s law of controversy. Benford’s law of controversy is an adage from the 1980 novel Timescape stating passion is inversely proportional to the amount of real information available. The adage was quoted in an international drug policy article in peer reviewed social science. Can I just say how much I love Wikipedia? I have the founder of Wikipedia coming on this very podcast very soon. And I think the world is a better place because Wikipedia exists. One of the things he wanted to come on and talk about is the ways that he believes that
02:26:26 Wikipedia is going wrong. So on technical truths, it’s great. I remember I think earlier on technical truths versus political truths. On technical truths, it’s great. On political truths, it’s like a defamation engine. Just as one example, this is something that I was going to write up, but there was a scam called HPZ token that managed to edit Wikipedia. Nobody detected it. It said that I was like the founder of HPZ token. That you were the founder of HPZ token. Yeah. I had nothing to do with this. And people were scammed out of it because Google just pushes Wikipedia links to a token to hire on Google.
And people were like, well, it’s in this Wikipedia, therefore it’s real. Wikipedia has the bio of living persons thing. They should just allow people to delete their profile because they have zero quality control on it. It’s literally facilitating fraud, where people will maliciously edit and then do things with them. And nobody cares or is looking at it beyond the fraudsters. And this is happening. If that was happening, that was undetected. I wasn’t paying attention to this. This was there for weeks or months, totally undetected, that literally facilitated fraud. And fundamentally, the issue is that Wikipedia doesn’t have any concept of who’s editing or property rights or anything like that. It is also something which is, it used to be something in the early 2000s, mid 2000s, people said, oh, it’s Wikipedia, how trustworthy it can be, Britannic is reviewed. And that’s been forgotten.
And now it’s become over-trusted. Remember the things like the more trust something gets, the less trustworthy it often becomes. It kind of abuses the power, right? So what I’m interested in, you know, Google actually had a model a while back called KNOL. KNOL, null, was something where when there were different versions of a Wikipedia-style page, you had Google Docs like permissions on them. For example, you might have 10 different versions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And each one had an editor and folks that they could grant edit rights and so on, but this way, you would actually be able to see different versions of a page. And they might have different versions of popularity, but this way you wouldn’t have Edit Wars, you would have forks, right? And they would all kind of coexist. And then people could review them. And now you could see different versions of something versus the thing that just kind rewards dogged persistence or being an editor or something like that. The other thing is a lot of the folks who have editorial privileges at Wikipedia are there from the early 2000s.
Yeah, and most of India wasn’t online then. Most of Africa wasn’t online then, right? So there’s this inherited power that exists, which again, was fresh and innovative
02:29:09 10 or 20 years ago, but it’s now kind of outdated. Yeah, I want to see some data though. I want to see some data because we often highlight issues in society, in the world, in anything by taking a specific example, taking anecdotal data and saying there’s a problem here. I want to know on net how much positive is being added to the world because of it. My experience that I try to be empathetic and open-minded, my exploration of Wikipedia has been such that it is a breath of fresh air in terms of the breadth and depth of knowledge that is there. Now you can say there’s bias built in, there’s wars that are incentivized not to produce truth, but to produce a consensus around a particular narrative. But that is how the entirety of human civilization operates. And we have to see where is it better and where is it worse in terms of
02:30:19 platforms. I think Wikipedia was an improvement over what came before, but has a lot of flaws. You’re right that absolutely sometimes people can over-fixate on the anecdotal, but sometimes the anecdotal illustrates a general pattern. For example, one thing that happens frequently in Wikipedia is there are editors who will plant a story and then they will then go and use that story as a neutral third party to win an edit war. Here’s a phenomenon that happens in Wikipedia. You have an editor who is privileged above just random users who will plant a story and then cite that story as if it was a neutral third party. There’s a site called Wikipediaocracy and it discusses the case of a person named Peppermint who had a name that they didn’t want included, their so-called dead name on their Wikipedia profile. And there’s a Wikipedia editor named Tenebrae who people allege was a Newsday reporter or writer that put a piece into Newsday that dead named Peppermint and then was able to cite it on the Wikipedia article as if it was a neutral third party when it actually wasn’t, when people alleged it was the same guy. Now, that is not an
02:31:38 uncommon thing. That’s what I want to get on. How many articles? I’m dancing with you, not against you. I’m saying how many articles have that kind of war where douchebags are manipulating each
02:31:53 other. Who’s auditing? So that’s the question. What’s the audit? Has Wikipedia actually been audited? Who are the editors? Who’s actually writing this stuff? It is actually something where, again, on technical topics, I think it’s pretty good. On non-technical topics, there’s something called the Wikipedia reliable sources policy. It’s a fascinating page. So it actually takes a lot of the stuff that we have been, the world has been talking about in terms of what’s a reliable source of information and so on and so forth. It’s called the Wikipedia reliable sources, perennial sources.
And if you go to this page, which I’m just going to send to you now, you will literally see every media outlet in the world and they’re colored gray, green, yellow, or red. And so red is untrustworthy, green is trustworthy, yellow is neutral. Now, this actually makes Wikipedia’s epistemology explicit. They are marking a source as trustworthy or untrustworthy. For example, you are not allowed to cite social media on Wikipedia, which is actually an enormous part of what people are posting. Instead, you have to cite a mainstream media outlet that puts the tweets in the mainstream article and only then can it be cited in Wikipedia.
02:33:08 By the way, to push back, this is a dance. That those are rules written on the sheet of paper. I have seen Wikipedia in general play in a gray area that these rules create.
02:33:17 Oh, well, if you are an editor, then you can get-
02:33:24 But you can use the rules and you can, because there’s a lot of contradictions within the rules, you can use them to, in the ways you said, to achieve the ends you want. It really boils down to the incentives, the motivations of the editors. And one of the magical things about Wikipedia, the positive versus the negative, is that it seems like a very small number of people, same with Stack Overflow, can do an incredible amount of good editing and aggregation of good knowledge. Now, as you said, that works, seems to work much better for technical things over which there’s not a significant division. So, some of that has to do less with the rules and more with
02:34:13 the human beings involved. Well, but here’s the thing. So, first, let me finish off this point of reliable source, perennial sources. So, if you go to this, you’ll see that Al Jazeera is marked green, but let’s say the Cato Institute is marked yellow. The nation is marked green. Oh, shit. Oh, snap. Why? Okay, sure. Yes. The nation is marked green, but national review is marked yellow. What’s good about this is it makes the epistemology explicit.
You could actually take this table and you could also look at all the past edit wars and so on over it and take a look at what things are starting to get marked as red or yellow and what things are starting to get marked as green. And I’m pretty sure you’re going to find some kind of partisan polarization that comes out of it, right? Number one. Number two is once something gets marked as being yellow or red, then all links and all references to it are pulled out. For example, Coindesk was marked as being like, gosh, what was that? Yellow. I think it’s marked as red. Coindesk, which is actually like- I get a lot of useful information on Coindesk. That’s right, but it’s marked as red. Why? Because there’s some Wikipedia editors who hate cryptocurrency. So cryptocurrency on Wikipedia has been a huge topic where they’ve just edited out all the positive stuff.
And these are senior editors of Wikipedia who can control what sources are considered reliable. So they’ve now knocked out Coindesk. They’ve knocked out social media. They only allow mainstream media coverage and not even all mainstream media, only those they’ve marked as green. This is the manipulation of- I want to know how many articles are affected by it. Hundreds of thousands.
02:35:57 Hundreds of thousands. You could just say that randomly. I can. No, no, no, no, no. Because all the- There’s different levels of effect in terms of it actually having a significant
02:36:06 impact on the quality of the article. I can. No, no, no, no, no. Let me give you an example. Let me cover the example, right? The fact that people cannot cite direct quotes on social media, but can only cite the rehash of those quotes in a mainstream media outlet. And not just any mainstream media outlet, but those that are colored green on the Wikipedia reliable perennial sources policy is a structural shift on every single article to make Wikipedia align with
02:36:35 US mainstream media corporations, right? I am as often playing devil’s advocate to counter a point so that the disagreement reveals some profound wisdom. That’s what I’m doing here. But also in that task here, I’m trying to understand exactly how much harm is created by the bias within the team of editors that we’re discussing and how much of Wikipedia is technical knowledge. For example, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Wikipedia article I’ve seen there, now that changes very aggressively a lot. And I hear from every side on this, but it did not seem biased to me. As compared to mainstream media in the United States.
02:37:41 So now I’m going to sound extremely woke. If you go and look at this, Times of India is yellow, but Mother Jones, Jacobin, they are green. So a niche, mostly white western partisan left outlet is marked green, but a billion people, like the Times of India is marked yellow, right? That’s a structural bias towards western media outlets and western editors when much of the rest of the world hadn’t gotten online or whatever.
02:38:18 I would just love to see in terms of the actual article, what ideas are being censored, altered, shifted. I would love, I just think it’s an open, I’m not sort of.
02:38:32 So the edit logs are there, the edit logs are public. Yeah. So here’s the way.
02:38:34 Yeah. So here’s the way. It’d be fascinating. Yeah. Is there a way to explore the way that narratives are shifted because of-
02:38:40 Sure. So a very simple one is if you were to pull all the edit logs of Wikipedia, you could see how many times are social media links disallowed? Okay. Like first of all, think about it like this. How many, I mean, just the fact that social media is not allowed to like be cited on Wikipedia or inconsistently. You think that’s a problem? It’s a huge problem. You can’t cite, let’s say, Jeff Bezos’ own tweet.
02:39:01 You have to cite some random media corporation or inconsistently. You think that’s a problem? Here’s the thing. And sorry if I’m interrupting. Please. Hopefully, I’m adding to it. I think they’re trying to create friction as to the sources used because if you can use social media, then you can use basically bots to create a bunch of sources, right? And then you can almost automate the editor war, right?
02:39:30 They’re good. They’re good. Here’s the thing is basically, Wikipedia initially, like said, oh, we’ll only cite mainstream media as a way of boosting its credibility in the early 2000s, okay, when its credibility was low. Now it’s sort of become merged with the US establishment. And it only cites these things. Whose trust? I mean, have you seen the graphs on trust in mainstream media? Like it’s plummeted. It’s down to like 10% or something like that, right? So the most trusted sources for Wikipedia are untrusted by the population.
02:40:04 Yeah, true. That feels like it’s a fixable technological problem. I think I’m under informed and my gut says we’re both together under informed to do a rigorous three to four hour discussion about Wikipedia. Hold on a second. I think I have a gut sort of developed feeling about which articles not to trust on Wikipedia. I think I need to make that explicit also. I have a kind of an understanding that you don’t go to this, don’t go to Wikipedia for this particular topic. Like don’t go to Wikipedia for an article on Donald Trump or Joe Biden. There’s going to be, if I did, I would go to maybe sections that don’t have room for insertion of bias or like the section on controversy or accusations of racism or so on or sexual assault. I usually not trust Wikipedia on those sections.
02:40:58 Like math, that’ll be great, right? Wikipedia is great for that. On many topics that do not have a single consensus truth, it’s structurally shifted towards basically white Western liberals,
02:41:13 Woke Whites, right? Fundamentally, that’s a demographic of the Wikipedia. What kind of articles do you think are affected by this? Let’s like think about like
02:41:20 everything that’s not math, everything that’s not math and technology.
02:41:24 I think that’s too strong a statement so we can, like I said, warn Ukraine. I think that’s too strong a statement. I guess I’m saying affected to a large degree, even major battles in history, battle of Stalingrad. That’s not math. You think all of that is affected to a point
02:41:50 where it’s not a trusted source, a trusted source? Absolutely. If you look at the edit wars, for example, on Stalin versus Hitler, Hitler’s, the tone on Hitler starts out legitimately and justifiably as basically genocidal maniacal dictator. With Stalin, there’s a fair number of Stalin apologists that edit out mention of genocide from the first few paragraphs.
02:42:13 I am playing devil’s advocate in part, but I also am too under informed to do the level of defense I would like to provide for the wisdom that is there, for the knowledge that is there. I don’t want to use the word truth, but for some level of knowledge that is there in Wikipedia, I think I really worry about, I know you don’t mean this, but a cynical interpretation of what you’re saying, which is don’t trust anything right now on Wikipedia. I think you’re being very consistent and eloquent in the way you’re describing the issues of Wikipedia, and I don’t have enough actual specific examples to give where there is some still battle for truth that’s happening that’s outside of the bias of society. I think if we naturally distrust every source of information, there is a general distrust of institutions and a distrust of social knowledge that leads to an apathy in the cynicism about the world in general. If you believe a lot of conspiracy theories, you basically tune out from this collective journey that we’re on towards the truth. It’s not even just Wikipedia. I just think Wikipedia was at least for a time, and maybe I tuned out, maybe because I am too focused on computer science and engineering and mathematics, but to me Wikipedia for a long time was a source of calm escape from the political battles of ideology. As you’re quite eloquently describing, it has become part of the battleground of political ideology. I just would love to know
02:44:08 where the boundaries of that are. Glenn Greenwald has observed this. Lots of other folks, for example, I’m definitely not the only person who’s observed that Wikipedia.
02:44:17 A lot of, let me just state because I’m sensing this, and because of your eloquence and clear brilliance here, that a lot of people are going to immediately agree with you. Okay. And this is what I am also troubled by. This is not you, but I often see that people will detect cynicism, especially when it is phrased as eloquence. It’s yours, and we’ll look at a natural dumbass like me and think that Lex is just being naive. Look at him, trust in Wikipedia. Let me argue your side. Let me argue your side. Can you please do that? Because you could do that.
02:44:54 But let me argue your side. No, no, no, no, Lex, I enjoy talking to you.
02:44:58 And I’m doing devil’s advocate a little bit because I do really want to be, I am afraid about the forces that are basically editors of authority of talking down to people
02:45:09 and censoring information. Yeah. So let me first argue your side, and let me say something, which is what you are reacting to is, oh, even those things I thought of as constants are becoming variables. Where’s the terra firma? If we cannot trust anything, then everybody’s just it’s anarchy and it’s chaos, like there’s literally no consensus reality and anybody can say anything and so on and so forth. Right. And I think that there’s two possible deviations from, you know, let’s say that the mainstream, you know, obviously, people talk about like QAnon, for example, as like, this kind of thing where people just make things up, you know, they just go totally quit supply chain independent from mainstream media. And if mainstream media is a distorted gossamer of quasi truth, these guys go to just total fiction as opposed to like, right. The alternative to QAnon is not blue anon mainstream media, but Satoshi anon. Okay, which is an upward deviation, okay, not a downward deviation to say there is no such thing as truth, but rather the upward deviation is decentralized cryptographic truth, not centralized corporate or government truth. So how does the decentralization of Wikipedia look like? Great question.
It’s this concept of the ledger of record. First, whether you’re Israeli or Palestinian, Japanese or Chinese, Democrat or Republican, those people agree on the state of the Bitcoin blockchain. Hundreds of billions of dollars is managed without weapons across tribes with wildly varying ideologies. And what that means is that is a mechanism for getting literally consensus. It’s called consensus, cryptographic consensus, proof of work. And when people can get consensus on this, what they’re getting consensus on are basically bytes that determine who holds what Bitcoin. This is exactly the kind of thing people would fight wars over. For hundreds of billions of dollars alone, millions of dollars, people will kill each other over that in the past. So hundreds of billions of dollars, people can get consensus truth on this in this highly adversarial environment. So the first generalization of that is it says you can go from bytes that reflect what Bitcoin somebody has to bytes that reflect what stocks, bonds, other kinds of assets people have. That’s the entire DeFi, Ethereum, that whole space. Basically, the premise is if you go from consensus on one byte, by induction, you can go to consensus on n bytes, depending on the cost of getting that consensus.
And almost anything digital can be represented, or everything digital can be represented as bytes. So now you can get consensus on certain kinds of digital information, Bitcoin, but then also any kind of financial instrument. And then the next generalization is what I call the ledger of record. Many kinds of facts can be put partially or completely on chain. It’s not just proof of work and proof of stake. There’s things like proof of location, proof of human, proof of this, proof of that. The auditable oracles I talked about extend it further. Lots and lots of people are working on this, proof of solvency, seeing that some actor has enough of a bank balance to accommodate what they say they accommodate. You can imagine many kinds of digital assertions can be turned into proof of X and proof of Y. You start putting those on chain, you now have a library of partially or completely provable facts. This is how you get consensus, as opposed to having a white Western Wikipedia editor, or mostly white Western US media corporation, or the US government,
02:48:52 simply say what is true in a centralized fashion. So do you think truth is such an easy thing as you get to higher and higher questions of politics? Is the problem that the consensus mechanism is being hacked, or is the problem that truth is a difficult thing to figure out? Was the 2020 election rigged or not? Is the earth flat or not? That’s a scientific one. That’s just-
02:49:19 My technical versus political truth spectrum, yeah.
02:49:21 But even the earth, like, well, that one is, yeah, nevermind. That’s a bad example, because that is very, you can rigorously show that the earth is not flat. But there’s some social phenomena, political phenomena, philosophical one, that will have a lot of debates, historical stuff, about different forces operating within Nazi Germany and Stalinist Soviet Union. I think there’s probably a lot of, yeah, the historians debate about a lot of stuff, like Blitz, the book that talks about the influence of drugs in the Third Reich. Right. Were they on meth or something? Yeah. There’s a lot of debates about how truth, what is the significance of meth on the actual behavior and decisions of Hitler and so on. So there’s still a lot of debates. Is it so easy to fix with the Third Reich? Were they on meth or something? Yeah.
02:50:21 I guess is the question. So I actually have, like, basically chapter two of the network state book is on essentially this topic. And so it’s like 70 pages or something like that. So let me try to summarize what I think about on this. The first is that there was an Onion article that came out, I can’t find it now anymore, but it was about historians in the year 3000 writing about the late 90s and early 2000s. And they’re like, clearly, Queen Brittany was a very powerful monarch. We can see how many girls around the world worshiped her like a god. And so it was very funny because it was a plausible distortion of the current society by, you know, a human civilization picking through the rubble a thousand years later, having no context on anything. And it’s a very thought provoking article because it says, well, to what extent is that us picking over Pompeii or the pyramids or even like, you know, the 1600s or the 1700s, like a few hundred years ago, we’re basically sifting through artifacts. And, you know, some of Berger actually has this concept of like, which is obvious, but it’s also useful to have an inference. I think it calls it like dark history, which is, and again, I might be getting this wrong, but it’s like only a small percentage of what the Greeks wrote down, you know, has come to us to the present day, right? So perhaps it’s not just the winners who write history, it’s like the surviving records, we have this extremely partial fragmentary record of history.
02:51:59 sometimes there’s some discovery that rewrites the whole thing. Do you know what like Gobekli Tepe is? Everything I know about that is from Rogan, because he’s a huge fan of that kind of stuff. Yeah, so that like rewrites. And then there’s a lot of debates there.
02:52:09 Yeah, so that like rewrites. There’s a lot of debates. So basically, it’s like the discovery of this site in Northern Turkey that totally shifts our estimate of like, when civilization started, maybe pushing it back many thousands of years further in the past, right? You know, the past, it’s like an inverse problem in physics, right? We’re trying to reconstruct this, from limited information, right? It’s like X-ray crystallography, it’s an inverse problem, right? It’s it’s Plato’s Cave, you know, we’re trying to reconstruct what the world looks like outside from these shadows, these these fragments that have been given to us, right? Or that we found. And so in that sense, as you find more information, your estimate of the past changes, right? Oh, wow. Okay, that pushes back civilization farther than we thought. That one discovery just
02:52:51 changes it. Do you want to try to, given all the gaps in the data we have, do you want to try to
02:52:56 remove bias from the process of trying to fill the gaps? Yeah. Well, so here’s the thing. I think we’re very close to the moment of it, and that’s why it’ll sound crazy when I say it now, but our descendants, I really do think of what the blockchain is and cryptographically verifiable history as being the next step after written history. It’s like on par with that, because anybody who has the record, the math is not going to change. Math is constant across human time and space, so the value of pi is constant. That’s one of the few constants across all these different human civilizations. So somebody in the future, assuming, of course, the digital record is actually intact to that point because in theory, digital stuff will persist. In practice, you have lost data and floppy drives and stuff like that. In a sense, in some ways, digital is more persistent, in some ways, physical is more persistent. But assuming we can figure out the archival problem somehow, then this future record, at least it’s internally consistent. You can run a bunch of the equivalents of checksums, the Bitcoin verification process, just sum it all up and see that, okay, it’s f of g of h of x, and boom, that at least is internally consistent.
Again, it doesn’t say that all the people who reported it, they could have put something on chain that’s false, but at least the metadata is likely to be very difficult to falsify. And this is a new tool. It’s really a new tool in terms of a robust history that is expensive and technically challenging to edit and alter. And that is the alternative to the Stalin-esque rewriting of history by centralized power.
02:54:37 Yeah, I’m going to have to do a lot of actually reading and thinking about, I’m actually, as you’re talking, I’m also thinking about the fact that I think 99% of my access to Wikipedia is on technical topics, because I basically use it very similarly to stack
02:54:53 overflow. And even there, it doesn’t have unit tests. For example, one thing I remember, again, I might be wrong on this, but I recall that the Kelly criterion, it’s actually quite a useful thing to know. It’s like how to optimally size your bets, okay? And you can have, given your kind of probability that some investment pays off or assume probability, you can have bets that are too large, bets that are too small. Sometimes the Kelly criterion, it goes negative and actually it says, you should actually take leverage. You’re so sure this is a good outcome that you should actually spend more than your current bankroll because you’re going to get a good result, right? So it’s a very sophisticated thing. And as I recall, many sites on the internet have the wrong equation. And I believe that was reprinted on Wikipedia. The wrong equation was put on Wikipedia as a Kelly criterion for a while. Okay?
So without unit tests, see, math is actually the kind of thing that you could unit test, right? You could literally have the assert on the right-hand side today, right? The modern version, we’ve got Jupyter, we’ve got Replit, we’ve got all these things. The modern version of Wikipedia, there’s sites like golden.com, for example, there’s a bunch of things. I’m funding lots of stuff across the board on this. And I’m not capitalizing these companies or capitalizing independently, but I’m trying to see if, not just talk about a better version, it’s hard to build something better. So actually go and build it. And where you want the assertions that are actually reproduced, you don’t just have the equation there, you have written out code, you can hit enter, you can download the page,
02:56:21 you can rerun it, it’s reproducible. So the problem with that kind of reproducibility is that it has friction. It’s hard to put together articles that do that kind of stuff unless you do an incredible job with UX and so on. The thing that I think is interesting about Wikipedia on the technical side is that without the unit tests, without the assertions, it still often does an incredible job because the reason it’s the people that write those articles, and I’ve seen this also in Stack Overflow, is are the people that care about this most
02:56:52 and there’s a pride to getting it right. Okay, so let me agree and disagree with that, right? So absolutely, there’s some good there. There’s, I mean, again, do I think Wikipedia is a huge step up from what preceded it in some ways on the technical topics? Yes, however, you talk about the editing environment, right? Like the markup for Wikipedia, it’s very, you know, mid 2000s, right? It is not- It’s a Craigslist. Yeah, exactly. At a minimum, for example, it’s not WYSIWYG, right? So like Medium or something like that, you know, or Ghost, you can just go in and type and it looks exactly like it looks on the page. Here you have to go to a markup language where there can be editor conflicts and you hit enter and someone is overridden your edit or something like that and you don’t know how it looks on the page and you might have to do a few, you know, previews or what have you, so number one. So editing, you talk about barish editing, that’s the thing.
Number two is, given that it might be read a thousand times for every one time it’s written, it is important to actually have the mathematical things unit tested if they can be, given that we’ve got modern technology. And that’s something that’s hard to retrofit into this
02:58:01 because it’s so kind of ossified, right? Right, there’s the interface in every side for the editor, even just for the editors to check that they’re for, is the, say the editor wants to get it right and you wanna make it really, or not really easy, but easier to check their work. That’s right. Like debugging, like a nice AD for the- That’s exactly right.
02:58:21 For the editing experience or not. That’s right. Like for the editing experience. That’s right, and the thing about this is, As I said, because the truth is a global constant, but like incorrectness, you know, right? Go ahead.
02:58:31 Every happy family, every happy family.
02:58:33 I love to think that truth will have a nice debugger. Well, so here’s, right? So the thing is that what you can do is, let’s say you did have like a unit tested page for everything that’s on Wikipedia. First of all, it makes a page more useful because you can download it, you can run it, you can import it and so on. Second is it leads into one of the things that we can talk about. I’ve sort of like a roadmap for building alternatives to not just existing companies, but to many existing US institutions from media and tech companies to courts and government and academia and nonprofits. The Wikipedia discussion actually relates to how you improve on academia, right? And so academia right now, one of the big problems, this is kind of related to the, oh boy, okay, the current institutions, we don’t have trust in them. The answer is, is that the answer to trust no one, right? And I think the alternative is decentralized cryptographic trust or verification. How does that apply to academia? First observation is we are seeing science being abused in the name of quote unquote science, okay?
Capital S science is Maxwell’s equations. That’s- That’s a good one. That’s a good one, right? Quote unquote science is a paper that came out last week. And the key thing is that capital S science, real science, is about independent replication, not prestigious citation. That’s the definition. Like all the journal stuff, the professors, all that stuff is just a superstructure that was set on top to make experiments more reproducible. And that superstructure is now like dominating the underlying thing because people are just fixating on the prestige and the citation and not the replication, right? So how does that apply here? Once you start thinking about how many replications does this thing have? Maxwell’s equation, I mean, there’s trillions of replications. Every time us speaking into this microphone right now, we’re testing our theory of the electromagnetic field, right?
Or electrical and magnetic fields. Every single time you pick up a cell phone or use a computer, you’re putting our knowledge to the test, right? Whereas some paper that came out last week in Science or Nature may have zero independent replications, yet it is being cited publicly as prestigious scientists from Stanford and Harvard and MIT all came up with X, right? And so the prestige is a substitute for the actual replication. So there’s a concept called Goodhart’s Law, okay? I’m just gonna quote it. When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure, okay? So for example, backlinks on the web were a good signal for Google to use when people didn’t know they were being used as a signal.
03:01:26 Yeah, you talked about quantity versus quality and Pagerank was a pretty good approximation for quality.
03:01:30 Yes, it’s a fascinating thing by the way, but yeah. Yes. It’s just fascinating. It’s a fascinating thing, we can talk about that. But basically, once people know that you’re using this as a measure, they will start to game it. And so then you have this cycle where, you know, sometimes you have a fixed point, like Satoshi with proof of work The game was miraculously able to come up with a game where the gaming of it was difficult without just buying more compute. So it’s actually a, it’s a rare kind of game where knowledge of the game’s rules didn’t allow people to game the game.
03:02:00 Yeah, brilliant way to put it, yeah. Which is one of the reasons it’s brilliant is that you can describe the game
03:02:06 and you can’t mess with it, which is one of the… Exactly, it’s very hard to come up with something that’s stable in its way. There’s actually on the meta point, gosh, There’s a game where the rule of the game is to change the rules, okay?
03:02:22 It is- You mean human civilization or what?
03:02:24 Yeah, gosh, it is called something. NOMIC, okay. N-O-M-I-C. NOMIC is a game where the rule of the game is to change the rules of the game. At first, that seems insane. Then you realize that’s Congress, right? Literally, it is so meta because there are laws for elections that elect the editors of those laws who then change the laws that get them elected with gerrymandering and other stuff, right? That’s a bad way to think that. The other way of thinking about it is this is what every software engineer is doing. You are constantly changing the rules by editing software and pushing code updates and so on, right? So, you know, many games devolve into the meta game of who writes the rules of the game, right? Become essentially games of NOMIC.
Proof of work is so amazing because it didn’t devolve in such a way, right? It became very hard to rewrite the rules once they got set up, very financially and technically expensive. That’s not to say it will always be like that,
03:03:29 but it’s very hard to change. If we could take a small tangent, we’ll return to academia. I’d love to ask you about how to fix the media as well
03:03:36 after we fix academia. Yeah, these are all actually related. Related. Yeah, Wikipedia, media, and academia are all related to the question of independent replication
03:03:46 versus prestigious citation. Sure. So the problem is authority and prestige as you see it from academia and the media and Wikipedia with the editors. We have to have a mechanism where sort of the data and the reproducibility
03:04:09 is what dominates the discourse. That’s right. And so one way to think about this is, I’ve said this in, I think I tweeted this wrong, but Western civilization actually has a break glass of incase emergency button. It’s called decentralization, right? Martin Luther hit it. When the Catholic church was too ossified and centralized, decentralized with a Protestant Reformation, okay? He said, at the time people were able to pay for indulgences like that is to say they could sin. They could say, okay, I sinned five times yesterday. Here’s the equivalent of 50 bucks. Okay, I’m done with my sin. I can go and sin some more. Okay, they should really buy their way out of sin, okay?
And people debate as to how frequent those indulgences were. These are one of the things he invade against in the 95 theses. So decentralization, boom, break away from this ossified church, start something new, right? And in theory, the religious wars of the 1600s that ensued were about things like where the wafer was a body of Christ or what have you, but in part they were also about power and whether the centralized entity would write all the rules or the decentralized one would. And so what happened was obviously Catholicism still exists, but Protestantism also exists, okay? And similarly, here you’ve got this ossified central institution where, forget about, I mean, there’s complicated studies that are difficult to summarize, but when you have the science saying masks don’t work and then they do, okay, which everybody saw. And this is not like, everybody knew that there was not like some massive study that came out that changed our perspective on mask wearing. It was something that was just insistently asserted as this is what the science says. And then without any acknowledgement, the science said something different the next day, right? I remember cause I was in the middle of this debate. And I think you could justify masks early in the pandemic as a useful precaution and then later post-vaccination, perhaps not necessary. I think that’s like the rational way of thinking about it.
But the point was that such levels of uncertainty were not acknowledged. Instead, people were basically lying in the name of science and public policy, it wasn’t public health, it was political health, okay? So something like that, you’re just spending down all the credibility of an institution for basically nothing, okay? And so in such a circumstance, what do you do? Break glass, decentralized, what does that look like? Okay, so let me describe what I call crypto science by analogy to crypto, just like there’s fiat science, crypto science, right? Fiat economics, okay? So in any experiment, any paper when it comes out, right? It’s, you can sort of divide it into the analog to digital and the purely digital, okay? So the analog to digital is you’re running some instruments, you’re getting some data, okay? And then once you’ve got the data, you’re generating figures and tables and text and a PDF from that data, right? Leave aside the data collection set for now, I’ll come back to that, right?
Just the purely digital part. What does the ideal, quote, academic paper look like in 2022, 2023? First, there’s this concept called reproducible research, okay? Reproducible research is the idea that the PDF should be regenerated from the data and code, okay? So you should be able to hit enter and regenerate it. Why is this really important as a concept? John Clerbou and David Donahoe at Stanford 20 years ago pioneered this in stats, because the text alone often doesn’t describe every parameter that goes into a figure or something, right? You kind of sometimes just need to look at the code and then it’s easy. And without that, it’s hard, okay? So reproducible research means you regenerate the PDF from the code and the data, you hit enter, okay? Now, one issue is that many papers out there, science, nature, et cetera, are not reproducible research. Moreover, the data isn’t even public.
Moreover, sometimes the paper isn’t even public. The open access movement has been fighting this for the last 27 years. There’s various levels of this like green and gold, open access, okay? So the first step is the code, the data, and the PDF go on chain step number one, okay? The second thing is once you’ve got so you can, anybody who is, and that could be the Ethereum chain, it could be its own dedicated chain, whatever. It could be something where there’s just the URLs are on the Ethereum chain and stored on filecoin, any different implementations. But let’s call that on-chain broadly, okay? Not just online, on-chain. When it’s on-chain, it’s public and anybody can get it. So that’s first. Second is once you’ve got something where you can regenerate the code or the PDF from the code and the data on chain, guess what? You can have citations between two papers
03:08:45 turn into import statements.
03:08:47 Yeah, that’s funny. That’s cool, right? So now you’re not just getting composable finance, like DeFi, where you have like one interest rate calculator calling another, you have composable science. And now you can say this paper on this, especially in ML, right? You’ll often cite a previous paper in its benchmark or its method, right? You’re gonna wanna scatter plot sometimes your paper, your algorithm versus theirs on the same dataset. That is facilitated if their entire paper is reproducible research that is generated, you can just literally import that Python and then you can generate your figure off of it, right? Moreover, think about how that aids reproducibility because you don’t have to reproduce in the literal sense, every single snippet of code that they did, you can literally use their code and port it, okay? People start compounding on each other, it’s better science, okay? Now I talked about this, but actually there’s a few folks who have been actually building this. So there’s use-scholar.org, which actually has a demo of this, like just a V1 like kind of prototype where it shows two stats papers on chain and one of them is citing the other with an import statement. There’s also a thing like called I think desci.com, which is trying to do this, right?
Decentralized science. So this itself changes how we think about papers and actually by the way, the inspiration for PageRank was actually citations. It was like the impact factor out of academia, that’s where Larry Page and Sergey Brin got the concept out of, right? So now you’ve got a web of citations that are import statements on chain. In theory, you could track back a paper all the way back to its antecedents, okay? So if it’s citing something, you can now look it up and look it up and look it up and a surprising number of papers actually, their antecedents don’t terminate or the original source says something different or it just kind of got garbled like a telephone game. And there’s this famous thing on like the spinach, it does actually have iron in it or something like that. I forget the details on this story, but it was something where you track back the citations and people are contradicting each other, okay? But it’s just something that’s just copy pasted and it’s a fact, it’s not actually a fact because it’s not audited properly. This allows you to cheaply audit in theory all the way back to Maxwell or Newton or something like that, okay? Now, what I’m describing is a big problem, but it’s a finite problem. It’s essentially taking all the important papers and putting them on chain.
It’s about the scale of let’s say Wikipedia, okay? So it’s like, I don’t know, a few hundred thousand, a few million papers, I don’t know the exact number, but it’ll be out of that level, okay? So now you’ve got number one, these things that are on chain, okay? Number two, you’ve turned citations into import statements. Number three, anybody can now at a minimum download that code and while they may not have the instruments, and I’ll come back to that point, while they may not have the instruments, they can do internal checks. The Benford’s Law stuff we were just talking about. You can internally check the consistency of these tables and graphs and often you’ll find fraud or things that don’t add up that way because all the code and the data is there, right? And now you’ve made it so that anybody in Brazil, in India and Nigeria, they may not have an academic, you know, like a library access zone, but they can get into this, all right. Now, how do you fund all of this? Well, good thing is crypto actually allows tools for that as well. Andrew Huberman and others have started doing things like with NFTs to fund their lab. I can talk about the funding aspect.
There’s things like researchhub.com, which are trying to issue tokens for labs, but a lab isn’t that expensive to fund. Maybe it’s a few hundred thousand, a few million a year, depending on where you are. Crypto does generate money. And so you can probably imagine various tools, whether it’s tokens or NFTs or something like that to fund. Finally, what this does is it is not QAnon, right? It is not saying don’t trust anybody. Neither is it just trust the centralized academic establishment. Instead of saying trust because you can verify because we can download things and run them. The crucial thing that I’m assuming here is the billions of supercomputers around the world that we have, all the MacBooks and iPhones that can crank through lots and lots of computation. So everything digital, we can verify it locally, okay? Now there’s one last step, which is I mentioned the instruments, right? Whether it’s your sequencing machine or your accelerometer or something like that is generating the data that you are reporting in your paper when you put it on chain, okay?
Basically you think that’s the analog to digital interface. We can crypto fi that too. Why? For example, an Illumina sequencing machine has an experiment manifest. And when that’s written to, there’s a website called NCBI, National Center for Biotechnology Information. You can see the experiment metadata on various sequencing runs. It’ll tell you what instrument and what time it was run and who ran it and so on and so forth, okay? What that does is allows you to correct for things like batch effects. Sometimes you will sequence on this day and the next day and maybe the humidity or something like that makes it look like there’s a specifically significant difference between your two results but it was just to actually batch effects, okay? What’s my point? Is if you have a crypto instrument, you can have various hashes and stuff of the data as a chain of custody for the data itself that are streamed and written on chain that the manufacturer can program into this. For anything that’s really, and you might say, well, boy, that’s overkill, right?
I’m saying actually not, you know why? If you’re doing a study whose results are going to be used to influence a policy that’s gonna control the lives of millions of people, every single step has to be totally audible. You need the glass box model. You need to be able to go back to the raw data. You need to be able to interrogate that. And again, this is, anybody who’s a good scientist
03:14:33 will embrace this, right? Yeah, so first of all, that was a brilliant exposition of a future of science that I would love to see. The pushback I’ll provide, which is not really a pushback, is like what you describe is so much better than what we currently have that I think a lot of people would say any of the sub-steps you suggest are already going to be a huge improvement. So even just sharing the code. Yes. Or sharing the data. You said like, I think it would surprise people how often. It’s hard to get data. It is like the actual data or specifics or a large number of the parameters, not, you know, you’ll share like one or two parameters that were involved with running the experiment. You won’t mention the machines involved, except maybe at a higher level, but the versions and so on, the dates when the experiments were run. Exactly. You don’t mention any of this kind of stuff.
Right. So there’s several ways to fix this.
03:15:33 And one of them.
03:15:39 Yes, it’s hard to get data. I think implied in what you’re describing is a culture that says it’s not okay. Exactly. To like, so first of all, there should be, even if it’s not perfectly unchained
03:15:50 to where you can automatically import all the way to Newton.
03:15:56 Exactly. Just even the act of sharing the code, sharing the data, maybe in a way that’s not perfectly integrated into a larger structure is already a very big positive step. Yes. Saying like, if you don’t do this, then this doesn’t count. And because in general, I think my worry, as somebody who’s a programmer, who’s OCD, I love the picture you paint that you can just import everything and it automatically checks everything. My problem is that makes incremental science easier and revolutionary science harder. Oh, I actually very much just screwed that. I would love to hear your, because let me just kind of elaborate. Sure. Why, sometimes you have to think in this gray area of fuzziness and you’re thinking in totally novel ideas. And when you have to concretize in data, like some of the greatest papers ever written are to don’t have data. They’re in the space of ideas, almost.
Like you’re kind of sketching stuff and there could be errors, but like Einstein himself with the famous five papers, I mean, they’re really strong, but they’re fuzzy. They’re a little bit fuzzy. And so I think even like the GAN paper, you’re often thinking of like new data sets, new ideas. And I think maybe as a step after the paper is written, you could probably concretize it and integrate it into the rest of science. Sure.
03:17:29 Like you shouldn’t feel that pressure, I guess, early on. Well, I mean, there’s different, each of the steps that I’m talking about, right? There’s like the data being public and everything. Just that, just having the paper being public, that’s like V1, right? Then you have the thing being regenerated from code and data, like the PDF being regenerated from code and data. Then you have the citations as import statements. Then you have the full citation graph as an import statement. So you just follow it all the way back, right? And now you have, that gives you auditability. Then you have the off chain, the analog digital crypto custody, right? Like where you’re hashing things and streaming things. So you have the chain of custody.
Each of those is kind of like a level up and adds to complexity, but it also adds to the audibility and the verifiability and the reproducibility. But, you know, one thing I’d say, I wanted to respond to that you said was, uh, that you think that this would be good for incremental, but not innovative. Actually, I think it’s quite the opposite. I think academia is institutional and it’s not innovative. For example, NIH has this graph, which is like, I think it’s age of recipients of R01 grants. Okay. And what it shows is basically it’s like a hump that moves over time, roughly plus one year forward for the average age as the year moves on. Okay. I’ll see if I can find the gift. What this, why is this, let me see if I can find actually look at this movie just for a second. It’s ridiculously powerful movie and it’s 30 seconds. I just mentioned what’s up.
03:18:55 The name of the video is age distribution of NIH principal investigators and medical school faculty, and it starts out on the X axis as age with the distribution and percent of PIs and from 19, early 1980s, moving one year at a time. And the mean of the distribution is moving slowly, approximately as Bellagia said, about one year per year, per year. And this is 10 years ago, but one year in age per year of time.
03:19:27 And notice how, first of all, the average age is moving way upward before you, you know, become an NIH, NIH PI. Second is it’s a cohort of guys, people who are just awarding grants to each other. That’s clearly what’s happening. You know, that’s, that’s the underlying dynamic. They’re not awarding grants to folks who are much younger. Okay. Because those folks haven’t proven themselves yet. Right. So it is this, this is what happens when you get prestigious citation rather than independent replication, the age just keeps creeping up. And this was 10 years ago and it’s gotten even worse. It’s become even more gerontocratic, even more hide bound. Right.
And so the thing is that the structures that Vannevar Bush and others set up the entire post war science establishment, one thing I’ll often find is people will say, Balji, the government hath granted us the internet and, you know, self-driving cars and space flight and so on. How can you possibly be against the US government kneel and repent for its bounty, you know, and really what they are, the reason they kind of, they don’t say it quite in that way, but that’s really the underpinning kind of thing because they’ve replaced GOD with GOV. They really think of the US government as GOD. You know, the conservative will think of those government as like the all powerful military abroad and the progressive will think of it as the benign, all powerful, you know, like nurturing parent at home. Okay. But in this context, they’re like, how can you, as you know, some tech bro could possibly think you could ever do basic science without the funding of the US government? Has it not developed all basic science. Right. And the answer to this is actually to say, well, say, well, what if we go further back than 1950? Did science happen before 1950? Well, I think it did Bernoulli and, you know, Maxwell and Newton, were they funded by NSF? You know, no, they weren’t, right?
Were aviation, railroads, automobiles, gigantic, you know, industries that arose and both were stimulated by and stimulated development of pure science? Did they, were they funded by NSF? No, they were not, right? Therefore NSF is not a necessary condition for the presence of science. Neither is even the United States. Obviously, a lot of these discoveries, Newton was before, you know, like the, I believe is for the American, let me find the exact, it’s actually less old and people think, okay. So Newton died 1727, right? So I knew that, um, you know, it was like in the 1700s. So Newton was before the American revolution, right? Obviously that meant huge innovations could happen before the US government, before NIH, before NSF, right? Which means they are not a necessary condition, number one, that itself is crucial because a lot of people say the government is necessary for the, for basic science. It is not necessary for basic science.
It is one possible catalyst. And I would argue that mid century, it was okay, because mid century was the time when you, the middle of the centralized century, 1933, 1945, 1969, you have Hoover Dam, you have the Manhattan Project, you have Apollo, that generation was a climatized to a centralized US government that could accomplish great things, probably because technology favored centralization going into 1950 and then started favoring decentralization going out of it. I’ve talked about this in the book, Sovereign Angels has talked about this, but very roughly, you know, you go up into 1950 and you have mass media and mass production, um, and just centralization of all kinds, giant nation states slugging it out in the world stage. And you go out of 1950 and you get cable news and personal computers and internet and mobile phones and cryptocurrency, and you have the decentralization. And so this entire centralized scientific establishment was set up at the peak of the centralized century. And it might’ve been the right thing to do at that time, but it’s now showing its age and it’s no longer actually geared up for what we have, where are the huge innovations coming out? Well, Satoshi Nakamoto was not, to our, to our knowledge, a professor, right? That’s this revolutionary thing that came outside of it. Um, early in the pandemic, there was something called project-evidence.github.io, which accumulated all of the evidence for the coronavirus possibly having been a lab leak when that was a very controversial thing to discuss. Right? Alina Chan, to her credit, you know, Matt, Matt Ridley and Alina Chan have written this book, you know, on, um, whether the coronavirus was a lab leak or not. I think it’s plausible that it was.
Um, I can’t say I’m a hundred percent sure, but I think it’s, at least it’s certainly, it is a hypothesis worthy of discussion. Okay. Um, though, of course, it’s got political overtones point being that the pseudonymous online publication at project-evidence.github.io happened when it was taboo to do so. So we’re back to the age of pseudonymous publication, where only the arguments can be argued with the person can’t be attacked. Okay. This is actually something that used to happen in the past, like, you know, um, someone, uh, there’s a famous story where Newton solved a problem and someone said, I know the line. I know the lion by his claw or something like that, right? People used to do pseudonymous publication in the past so that they would be judged on part by their scientific ideas and not the person themselves, right? And so, um, so I do disagree that this is the incremental stuff. This is actually the innovative stuff. The incremental stuff is going to be the institutional gerontocracy. The, that’s academia where it’s like, you know, do you know who I am?
I’m a, I’m a Harvard professor. Yeah.
03:24:45 Yeah. I don’t, I don’t, I think I agree with everything good, but I, um, I’m not, I’m not going to get stuck on technicalities because I think I was referring to your vision of data sets and importing code. Sure. And so that forces just knowing how code works. It forces a structure and structure usually favors incremental progress. Like if you fork code, you’re not going to, uh, it descents, de-centivizes revolution. You want to go from scratch.
03:25:22 Okay. So I understand your point there. Okay. Um, and I also agree that some papers like Francis Crick on the classroom or others are theoretical, they’re more about like where to dig than the data itself and so on and so forth. Right. So I agree with that still. I don’t, um, the counter argument is rather than a thousand people reading this paper to try to rebuild the whole thing and, uh, do it with errors when they can just import, they can more easily build upon what others have done. Right.
03:25:49 Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. And so the, the paper should be forkable.
03:25:53 Well, yeah, yeah. So here’s why, you know, like, uh, you know, Python has this concept of batteries included for the standard library, right? Because it lets you just import, import, import, and just get to work. Right. That means you can fly. Whereas if you couldn’t do all those things and you had to rewrite string handling, you would only be able to do incremental things. Libraries actually allow for greater innovation.
03:26:12 That’s my counter. I think you create, I think that paints a picture. I hope that’s such a picture that’s fits with science. It certainly does. It fits with code very well. I just wonder how much of science can be that, which is you import, how much of it is possible to do that. Certainly for the things I work on you can, which is the machine learning world, uh, uh, all the computer science world, but whether you can do that for all right, you can fix that biology. It seems to, yes. I think so chemistry. I think so. And then you start getting into weird stuff like psychology, which some people don’t even think is a science. No, just love for my psychology friends.
I think as you get farther and farther away from things that are like hard technical fields, it starts getting tougher and tougher and tougher
03:27:05 to have like importable code. Okay, so let me give the strong form version, right? So there’s a guy who I think is a great machine learning guy, I’m the creator of K FAROS.
03:27:17 He disagrees on me on law grounds. Yeah, he’s been on his podcast twice, yeah. Okay, great. So he disagrees-
03:27:23 I disagree with him on a lot of these things. Okay, great. So he disagrees- Good stuff. Me too. I think we have mutual respect. You know, follow each other on Twitter, whatever, right? Yes, I think he does respect them like you. Here’s something which area totally agree with him on. And he actually got like trolled or attacked for this, but I completely agree. Within 10, 20 years, nearly every branch of science will be, for all intents and purposes, a branch of computer science, computational physics, computational chemistry, computational biology, computational medicine, even computational archeology, realistic simulations, big data analysis, and ML everywhere. That, to me, is incredibly obvious why. First of all, all we’re doing every day is PDFs and data analysis on a computer.
And so every single one of those areas can be reduced to the analog digital step, and then it’s all digital. Then you’re flying, you’re in the cloud.
03:28:06 You put a day, do you say how long? 10, 20 years.
03:28:08 I’m 10, 20 years. I think arguably it’s already there, right? And here’s the thing, you were saying, well, you know, you might drop off when you hit psychology or history. Actually, I think it’s the software sciences that are gonna harden up. Why? One of the things I talk about a lot in the book is, for example, with history, the concept of crypto history makes history computable. One way of thinking about it is, remember my Britney Spears example, right? Where Queen Britney, right? Yeah. Okay. So at first it’s kind of a funny thing to say, a computer scientist’s term for history is the log files. Until we realized that, what would a future historian, how would they write about the history of the 2010s?
Well, a huge part of that history occurred on the servers of Twitter and Facebook. So now you go from like a log file, which is just the individual record of like one server’s action, to a decade worth of data on literally billions of people, all of their online lives. Like arguably, that’s why I say that’s like, actually what the written history was of the 2010s was this giant digital history. As you go to the 2020s and the 2030s, more of that is gonna move from merely online to on-chain and then cryptographically verifiable. So that soft subject of history becomes something that you can calculate things like Google trends and engrams and stuff like that.
03:29:32 Yes, beautifully put, then I would venture to say that Donald Trump was erased from history when he was removed from Twitter and many social platforms
03:29:45 and all his tweets were gone. Someone who has an archive of it,
03:29:48 but yeah, I understand your point. Yeah, well, as the flood of data about each individual increases censorship, it becomes much more difficult to actually have an archive of stuff. But yes, for important people like a president of the United States, yes. Let me on that topic ask you about Trump. You were considered for position as FDA commissioner in the Trump administration. And I think in terms of the network state, in terms of the digital world, one of the seminal acts in the history of that was the banning of Trump from Twitter.
03:30:28 He make the case for it and against it. Sure, so first let me talk about the FDA thing. So I was considered for a senior role at FDA, but I do believe that, and this is the whole topic, we can talk about the FDA. I do believe that just as it was easier to create Bitcoin than to form the Fed, reforming the Fed basically still hasn’t happened, right. So just as it was easier to create Bitcoin than to reform the Fed, it will literally be easier to start a new country than to reform the FDA. It may take 10 or 20 years. I mean, think about Bitcoin, it’s only 13 years old, it may take 10 or 20 years to start a new network state with a different biomedical policy. But that is how we get out from perhaps the single worst thing in the world, which is harmonization, regulatory harmonization. Can you describe regulatory harmonization? Regulatory harmonization is the mechanism by which US regulators impose their regulations on the entire world. So basically you have a monopoly by US regulators. This is not just the FDA, it is SEC and FAA and so on and so forth.
And for the same reason that a small company will use Facebook login that will outsource their login to Facebook, a small country will outsource their regulation to the USA, okay, with all the attendant issues. Because, I mean, you know the names of some politicians. Can you name a single regulator at the FDA? No, right? Yet they will brag on their website that they regulate, I forget the exact numbers, I think it’s like 25 cents out of every dollar, something along those lines, okay? It’s like double digits, okay? That’s a pretty big deal. And the thing about this is, you know, people will talk about, quote, our democracy and so on. But many of the positions in, quote, our democracy are actually not subject to democratic accountability. You have tenured professors and you have tax exempt colleges, you have the Salzburgers, the New York Times, who have dual class stock, you have, you know, a bunch of positions that are out of the reach of the electorate. And that includes regulators who have career tenure after just a few years of not necessarily even continuous service. So they’re not accountable to the electorate.
They’re not named by the press. And they also aren’t accountable to the market because you’ve got essentially uniform global regulations. Now, the thing about this is, it’s not just a government thing. It’s a regulatory capture thing. Big pharma companies like this as well. Why? Because they can just get their approval in the US and then they can export to the rest of the world, right? I understand where that comes from as a corporate executive. It’s such a pain to get access in one place. So there’s a team up though between the giant company and the giant government to box out all the small startups in all the small countries and lots of small innovation, right? There are cracks in this now, right? The FDA did not acquit itself well during the pandemic.
For example, it denied, I mean, there’s so many issues, but one of the things that even actually New York Times reported, the reason that people thought there were no COVID cases in the US early in the pandemic was because the FDA was denying people the ability to run COVID tests and the emergency use authorization was, emergency should mean like right now, right? But it was not, it was just taking forever. And so some labs did civil disobedience and they just disobeyed the FDA and just went and tested academic labs with threat of federal penalties because that’s what they are. They’re like the police, okay? And so they were sort of retroactively granted immunity because N.Y.T. went and ran a positive story on them. So N.Y.T.’s authority is usually greater than that of FDA. If they come into a conflict, N.Y.T. runs stories and FDA kind of gets spanked, right? And it’s not, probably neither party would normally think of themselves that way. But if you look at it, when N.Y.T. goes and runs stories on a company, it names all the executives and they get all hit.
When it runs stories on a regulator, it just treats the regulator usually as if it was just some abstract entity. It’s Zuckerberg’s Facebook, but you can’t name the people who, the career bureaucrats at FDA. Interesting, right? It’s very interesting. It’s a very important point. That person who’s named and their face is known, just as an example, you know Zuckerberg’s face and name. Most people don’t know Arthur G. Salzberger. They couldn’t recognize him, right? Yet he’s a guy who’s inherited the New York Times Company from his father’s father. That is unaccountable power. It’s not that they get great coverage so that they get no coverage.
You don’t even think about them, right? And so it’s
03:34:52 invisibility, right? There’s some aspect why Fauci was very interesting. In my recent memory, there’s not been many faces of scientific policy, of science policy. He became the face of that. And, you know, as there’s some of it is meme, which is, you know, basically saying that he is science or to some people represent science, but in the… Or quote unquote science or whatever, yeah. Yeah. The positive aspect of that is that there is accountability when there’s a face like
03:35:20 that. He was a public face. Yeah, right. But you can also see the Fauci example shows you why a lot of these folks do not want to be public because they enter a political, you know, immediate minefield. I’m actually sympathetic to that aspect of it. What I’m not sympathetic to is the concept that in 2022 that the unelected, unfireable, anonymous American regulator should be able to impose regulatory policy for the entire world. We are not the world of 1945, you know, it is not something where these other countries are even consciously consenting to that world. Just as give an example, you know, there’s a concept called challenge trials. Okay. The Moderna vaccine was available very, very early in the pandemic, you can just synthesize it from the sequence. And challenge trials would have meant that people who are healthy volunteers, okay, they could have been soldiers, for example, of varying ages who are there to take a risk their lives for their country, potentially, okay, it could have been just healthy volunteers, not necessarily soldiers, just patriots of whatever kind in any country, not just the US, but those healthy volunteers could have gone. And at the early stages of the pandemic, we didn’t know exactly how lethal it was going to be because, you know, Li Wenliang and, you know, 30 year old, 30 somethings in China were dying from this, it seemed like it could be far worse.
How lethal the virus would be. Yeah, it may be, by the way, that those who are the most susceptible to the virus died faster earlier. It’s as if you can imagine a model where those who were exposed and had the lowest susceptibility also had the highest severity and died in greater numbers early on. If you look at the graph, like deaths from COVID were exponential going into about April 2020, and then leveled off to about 7,500 10,000 a day, and then kind of fell, right? But it could have gone to 75,000 at the beginning. So we didn’t know how serious it was. So this would have been a real risk that these people would have been taking. But here’s what they would have gotten for that. Basically, in a challenge trial, somebody would have been given the vaccine, and then exposed to the virus and then put under observation. And then that would have given you all the data, because ultimately the synthesis of the thing, I mean, yes, you need to scale up synthesis and manufacturing and what have you. But the information of whether it worked or not, and it was safe and effective. And like that could have been gathered expeditiously with
03:37:36 volunteers for challenge trials. And you think there’d be a large number of volunteers?
03:37:36 Absolutely. What’s the concern there? Is there an ethical concern of taking on volunteers? Well, so let me put it like this. Had we done that, we could have had vaccines early enough to save the lives of like a million Americans, especially seniors and so on. Okay, soldiers, and we’re generally first responders and others, you know, I do believe there’s folks who would have stepped up, you know, to take that risk. Heroes walk among us. Yeah, yeah, that’s right. Like if military service is something which is ritualized thing, people are paid for it, but they’re not paid that much, they’re really paid in honor, you know, and in duty and pictures, that is actually the kind of thing where I do believe some some fraction of those folks would have raised their hand for this important, you know, task. I don’t know how many of them, but I do think that we were the volunteers would have been there. There’s probably some empirical test of that, which is a, there’s a challenge trials website, there’s a Harvard prof who put out this proposal early in the pandemic, and he could tell you how many volunteers he got. But something like that could have just shortened the the time from pandemic to functional vaccine, right, to today’s, even if you’d actually really acted on it, the fact that that didn’t happen, and that the Chinese solution of lockdown, that actually, you know, at the beginning, people thought the state could, you know, potentially stop the virus, stop people in place, it turned out to be more contagious than that.
Basically, no NPI, no non pharmaceutical intervention, really turned out to work that much, right. And actually, at the very beginning of the pandemic, I said something like, Look, is actually February 3, about a month before people, you know, I was just watching what was going on in China, I saw that they were doing digital quarantine, like using WeChat codes to like block people off and so on. I didn’t know what was going to happen, but I said, Look, if the coronavirus goes pandemic, and it seems it may, the extreme edge case becomes the new normal. It’s every debate we’ve had on surveillance, deplatforming and centralization accelerated pandemic means emergency powers for the state, even more than terrorism or crime. And sometimes a solution creates the next problem. My rough forecast of the future, the coronavirus results in quarantines, nationalism, centralization. And this may actually work to stop the spread. But once under control, states will not see their powers. So we decentralized. And I didn’t know whether it was going to stop the spread. But I knew that they were going to try to do it. Right.
And, you know, look, it’s it’s hard to call every single thing right. And I’m sure, you know, someone will find some errors. But in general, I think that was, that was actually pretty good for like early February of 2020. Right. So it’s my point, though. The point is, rather than copying Chinese lockdown, what we should have had were different regimes around the world, to some extent, Sweden defected, you know, from this, right? They had like no lockdowns or what have you. But really, the axis that people were talking about was lockdown versus no lockdown. The real axis should have been challenge trials versus no challenge trials. We could have had that in days. Okay. And that those are two examples on both vaccines and
03:40:36 testing. There’s so many more that I can point to. So those are kind of decentralized innovations.
03:40:42 And that’s what FDA should stand for. FDA can stand for it. Or something like FDA, right? Ah, so let’s talk about that, right? Something like FDA. So this is very important. In general,
03:40:52 the way I try to think about things is V1, V2, V3, as we’ve talked about a few times. So FDA V.
03:40:58 Well, right. So what was before FDA, right? So there was both good and bad before FDA, because people don’t necessarily have the right model of the past. Okay. So, you know, if you ask people what was there before the FDA, they’ll say, and by the FDA itself, amidst the, right, their pronouns are just FDA, FDA. Okay. So, but basically,
03:41:18 Why is that important?
03:41:20 It’s just something where…
03:41:22 Why is that either humorous or interesting to you?
03:41:25 They have a sort of in-group lingo, where when you are kind of talking about them, the way that they talk about themselves, it is something that kind of piques interest. It’s kind of like, you know, in LA people say the 101 or the, you know, right, whereas in Northern California, they’ll say 101, or people from Nevada will say Nevada, right? It just instantly marks you as like insider or outsider, okay, in terms of how the language works, right? And that’s… Go ahead.
03:41:54 That means just makes me sad, because that lingo is part of the mechanism which creates the silo, the bubble of particular thoughts. And that ultimately deviates from the truth,
03:42:05 because you’re not open to new ideas. I think it’s actually like, you know, in Glorious Basterds, there’s a scene in the bar. Do you know what I’m talking about?
03:42:11 No, but it’s good. You can’t just censor you. This is like a Wikipedia podcast, like Wikipedia. You can’t cite Quentin Tarantino films. No. Okay, okay, okay. Sorry, be back there.
03:42:23 So, basically, like English start going like one, two, three, four, five. And I believe it’s like the Germans start with like the thumb, something that you never know, right? I may be misremembering there, but I think that’s right, okay? So, so that’s okay. FDA has got the lingo. All right, all right. Right, so FDA has got the lingo. So, coming back up, basically, just talk about FDA, and then come back to your question on the D platform.
03:42:45 So, what was V0 FDA? What’s V1? What does the future look like?
03:42:50 V1. V1 was, quote, patent medicines, okay? That’s what people say. But V1 was also Banting and Best, okay? Banting and Best, they won the Nobel Prize in the early 1920s, right? Why? They came up with the idea for insulin supplementation to treat diabetes. And they came up with a concept. They experimented on dogs. They did self experimentation. They had healthy volunteers. They experimented with the formulation as well, right?
Because just like you’d have like a web app and a mobile app, maybe a command line app, you could have, you know, drug that’s administered orally or via injection or cream or, you know, there’s different formulations, right? Dosage, all that stuff, they could just like iterate on, okay, with willing doctor, willing patient. These, you know, these, these folks who were affected, just sprang out of bed, the insulin supplementation was working for them. And within a couple of years, they had won the Nobel Prize and Eli Lilly had scaled production for the entire North American continent, okay? So, that was a time when pharma moved at the speed of software, when it was willing buyer, willing seller, okay? Because the past is demonized as something that our glorious regulatory agency is protecting us from. Okay. But there’s so many ways in which what’s really protecting you from is being healthy. Okay. As you know, I mean, there’s, there’s a zillion examples of this, I won’t be able to recapitulate all of them just in this podcast. But if you look at a post that I’ve got, it’s called regulation, disruption and the future technologies of 2013 Coursera PDF, okay, this lecture, which I’ll kind of link it here so you can put in the show notes if you want. This goes through, like a dozen different examples of crazy things the FDA did from the kind of stuff that was dramatized in Dallas virus club where they were preventing people from getting AIDS drugs to their various attacks on, quote, raw milk, where they were basically saying, here’s a quote from FDA filing in 2010.
There’s no generalized right to bodily and physical health. There’s no right to consume or feed children any particular food. There’s no fundamental right to freedom of contract. They basically feel like they own you. You’re not allowed to make your own decisions about your food. There’s no generalized right to bodily and physical health direct quote from their like written kind of thing. Okay. The general frame is usually that FDA says it’s protecting you from the big bad company. But really what it’s doing is protecting it’s preventing you from opting out. Okay. Now, with that said, and this is where I’m talking about v3. As critical as I am of FDA or the Fed, for that matter, I also actually recognize that, like the Ron Paul type thing of end the Fed is actually not practical and the Fed will just be laughed at.
What Bitcoin did was a much, much, much more difficult task of building something better than the Fed. That’s really difficult to do. Because the Fed and the FDA, they’re like the hub of the current system. People rely on them for lots of different things. Okay. And you’re going to need a better version of them. And how would you actually build something like that? So with the Fed and with SEC and the entire the banks and whatnot, crypto has a pretty good set of answers for these things. And over time, all the countries that are not, or all the groups that are not the US establishment or the CCP will find more and more to their liking in the crypto economy. So that part I think is going. Okay, we can talk about that. What does that look like for biomedicine?
Well, first, what does exit the FDA look like? Right? So there actually are a bunch of exits from the FDA already, which is things like right to try laws, okay, CLIA labs and laboratory developed tests, compounding pharmacies, off little prescription by doctors, and countries that aren’t fully harmonized with FDA. For example, you know, Kobe Kobe Bryant before he passed away, went and did stem cell treatments in Germany. Okay, stem cells have been pushed out, you know, I think, in part by the Bush administration by other things. So those are different kinds of exits, right to try basically means, you know, at the state level, you can just try the drug, okay, CLIA labs and ldts. That means that’s a path where you don’t have to go through FDA to get a new device approved, you can just run it in a lab, okay, compounding pharmacies, these were under attack, I’m not sure actually where the current, you know, statute is on this, but this is the idea that a pharmacist has some discretion and how they, you know, prepare mixtures of drugs, um, off little prescription by MDs. So MDs have enough like weight in the system that they can kind of push back on FDA and off little prescription is the concept that a drug that’s approved for purpose a can be prescribed for purpose B or C or D without going through another, you know, whole new drug approval process. And then countries that aren’t harmonized, right? So those are like five different kinds of exits from the FDA on different directions. So first, those exits exist. So for those people who are like, Oh, my God, we’re all going to die or is going to poison us with your non FDA approved things or whatever, right?
Like, uh, those exits exist, you probably actually use tests or treatments from those, you don’t even realize that you have, right? So it’s it hasn’t killed you. Number one. Number two is actually testing for safety. Um, you know, there’s safety, efficacy, and like comparative safety is, uh, it’s actually relatively easy to test for. There’s very few drugs that are like, um, there’s TGN 1412. That’s a famous example, something that was actually really dangerous to people, right? With an early test. So those do exist, just acknowledge they do exist, but in general, testing for safety is actually not that hard to do. Okay. And if something is safe, then you should be able to try it usually. Okay.
Now, what does that decentralized FDA look like? Well, basically you take individual pieces of it and you can often turn them into vehicles. And, um, this is like 50 different startups. Let me describe some of them. First, have you gotten any drugs or something like that recently? I mean, like prescribed
03:48:55 drugs, prescription drugs, and it was like no, they clarified the answers. No. Yeah. Uh. Prescribed
03:48:55 drugs. Uh. No, okay. So not, not. Well, I mean, antibiotics a long time ago, maybe. But yeah. Okay. So, so you know how you have like a sort of like a wadded up chemistry textbook,
03:49:09 that package insert that goes into the, right? Okay. Okay. It’s waking up chemistry textbook.
03:49:15 I love it. That’s what it is. Right. That’s what it is. That’s what it is. Right? That’s what a Terrible user interface? We don’t usually think of it that way. Why is the user interface so terrible? That’s a web of regulation that makes it so terrible. And you know, there’s actually guys who tried to innovate just on user interface called, like, help. I need help.
That was the name of the company awhile back. And it was trying to explain this stuff in plain language. OK? Just on user interface you can innovate. And why is it important? Well, you know there’s a company called PillPack which innovated on, quote, the user interface for drugs by giving people a thing which had a daily blister pack. So it’s like, here’s your prescription, and you’re supposed to take all these pills on the first and second. And basically, whether you had taken them on a given day was manifest by whether you had opened it for that specific day, okay? This is way better than other kinds of so-called compliance methodologies. They’re guys who try to do an IoT pill where when you swallow it, it gives you measurements. This was just a simple innovation on user interface that boosted compliance, in the sense of compliance with a drug regimen, dramatically, right? And I think they got acquired or would have you for a lot of money.
03:50:20 And hopefully utilized effectively. Utilized effectively, right. Oh, well sometimes these companies that do incredible innovation, it really makes you sad when they get acquired
03:50:27 that leads to their death, not the- Utilized effectively, right? Oh, also, scaling. Sure, I mean, they did a lot of other good things, but this was one thing that they did well, right? So Pillpack just shows what you can get with improving on user interface. Why can’t, I mean, we get reviews for everything, right? One thing that, you know, like people have sort of, in my view, somewhat quoted out of context, they’re like, oh, biology thinks you should replace the FDA with the help for drugs. Actually, there’s something called phase four, okay, of the FDA, which is so-called post-market surveillance. Do you know that that’s actually something where, in theory, you can go and fill out a form on the FDA website, which basically says,
03:51:05 I’ve had, you know, a bad experience with a drug.
03:51:09 Like VAERS, but for drugs. Yeah, so it’s called MedWatch, right? And so you can do like voluntary reporting and you can get like a, you know, like a PDF and just like upload it, right? Is this a government, like is this the.gov?
03:51:26 Yeah, it’s form 3500B. I love it. It’s HTML, it’s gonna be like from the 90s, it’s gonna have an interface designed by somebody
03:51:33 who’s a COBOL slash Fortran programmer. Yeah, right, here we go, so here we go. So basically, the 3500B. I hope to be proven wrong in that, by the way. So 3500B, consumer voluntary reporting. When do I use this form? You were heard or had a bad side effect. You used a drug, which lets unsafe use, et cetera. The point is, FDA already has a terrible Yelp for drugs. It has a terrible version of it. What would the good version look like? The fact that you’ve never, I mean, this fact that you have to fill out a PDF to go and submit a report.
How do you submit a report at Yelp or Uber? Or Airbnb or Amazon, you tap and there’s star ratings, right? So just modernizing FDA 3500B and modernizing phase four,
03:52:19 is a huge thing. Can you comment on that? Is there, what incentive mechanism forces the modernization of that kind of thing?
03:52:27 Here’s how it would work, or one possible. To create an actual Yelp. Yeah, here’s how that would work, right? You go to the pharmacy or wherever, and you hold up your phone and you scan the barcode of the drug, okay? What does it usually say? Instantly you see global reports, right? By the way, because your biology, your physiology, that’s global, right? Information from Brazil or from Germany or Japan on their physiological reaction to the same drug you’re taking is useful to you. It’s not like a national boundaries thing. So the whole nation state model of only collecting information on by other Americans. Really, you want a global kind of thing, just like Amazon book reviews, that’s a global thing. Other things are aggregated at the global level, okay?
So here’s what you want is to see every patient report and every doctor around the world on this drug. That might be really important to your rare or semi-rare condition. Just that alone would be a valuable site.
03:53:26 Who builds that site? It sounds like something created by capitalism. It sounds like it would- It would have to be a company. Yeah, you can definitely do it. See these are- But we don’t have a world where a company is allowed to be in charge of that kind of thing. Well, I don’t know. But health one went down.
03:53:38 It just seems like a lot of the- Well, I don’t know. So it depends, right? Basically, this is why you have to pick off individual elements, right? There’s essentially a combination of first recognizing that deaf day is actually bad. Even be able to say that, that we’re gonna, let me put it like this. It does a lot of bad things. It is something which you need to be able to criticize. You might be like, well, that’s obvious, right? Well, in 2010, for example, there’s a book that came out, if anybody wants to understand FDA,
03:54:05 it’s called Reputation and Power. Yeah.
03:54:08 A lot of people don’t wanna criticize FDA. Yeah, because they will retaliate against your biotech or pharma company.
03:54:12 Yeah, and that retaliation can be initiated
03:54:15 by a single human being. Absolutely. The best analogy is, you think about the TSA, okay? Have you flown recently? Yeah. Okay. Do you make any jokes about the TSA
03:54:25 when you’re in the TSA line? Usually you don’t want to, but they’re a little more flexible. Okay. You know what, can I tell a story? Sure. Which is, it was similar to this. I was in Vegas at a club. I don’t go to clubs. Okay. And I got kicked out for the, I think the first time in my life for making a joke with a bouncer. And, because I had a camera with me and you’re not allowed to have a camera. And I said, okay, cool, I’ll take it out.
But I made a funny joke that I don’t care to retell. But he was just a little offended. He was like, you’re out. I don’t care who you are. I don’t care who you’re with. He proceeded to list me, the famous people he has kicked off. But there is, I mean, all of those, the reason I made the joke is I sensed that there was an entitlement to this particular individual, like where the authority has gone to his head. Respect my authority. Yeah. Right. I almost wanted to poke at that. Right.
And I think the poking the authority, I’ll quickly learn the lesson. I have now been rewarded with the pride I feel for having poked authority, but now I’m kicked out of the club that would have resulted in a fun night with friends and so on. Instead, I’m standing alone crying in Vegas, which is not a unique Vegas experience. Sure. It’s actually a fundamental Vegas experience, but that I’m sure that basic human nature happens
03:55:46 in the FDA. In fact, my authority. Yeah. That’s exactly right. So just like with the TSA, just to extend the analogy, when you’re in line at the TSA, right, you don’t want to miss your flight. That could cost you hundreds of dollars. And so you comply with absolutely ludicrous regulations, like, oh, three ounce bottles. Well, you know what? You can take an unlimited number of three ounce bottles and you can combine them into six ounce bottles with a terrorist technology called mixing. Yep. Okay. Advanced.
Yes. Right. And the thing about this is everybody in line, actually some fairly high, you know, let’s say call it influence or net worth, whatever people fly, right? Millions and millions and millions of people are subject to these absolutely moronic regulations. It’s all what, you know, I think security theater is Shryer’s term, right? A lot of people know this term. So millions of people are subject to it. It costs untold billions of dollars in terms of delays and if you just walk up to it, right? It irradiates people. And this is another FDA thing, by the way. This is an FDA TSA team up, okay? In 2010, the TSA body scanners, there were concerns expressed, but when it’s a government to government thing, see a.com is treated with extreme scrutiny by FDA, but it’s another.gov.
Well, they’re not trying to make a profit. So they kind of just wave them on through, okay? So these body scanners were basically like applied to millions and millions of people and this huge kind of opt-in experiments almost, I think it’s quite likely by the way, that if there was even a slightly increased cancer risk, that the net, you know, morbidity and mortality from those would have outweighed the deaths from terrorism or whatever that were prevented, right? You can work out the numbers, but under, you can just get the math under reasonable assumptions, it’s probably true. If it had any increased morbidity and mortality, I’ve not seen the recent things, but I’ve seen that concern expressed, you know,
03:57:32 12 years ago.
03:57:36 The point being that despite the cost, despite how many people are exposed to it, despite how obviously patently ludicrous it is, you don’t make any trouble, nor do people organize protests or whatever about this, because it’s something where people, the security theater of the whole thing is part of it. Oh, well, if we took them away, there’d be more terrorism or something like that.
03:57:57 People think, right? But there, it is fascinating to see that the populace puts up with it, because it doesn’t, one of my favorite things is to listen to Jordan Peterson, who I think offline, but I think also on the podcast, you know, is somebody who resists authority in every way. And even he goes to TSA with a kind of suppressed, like all the instructions, everything down to, whenever you have like the yellow thing for your feet, they force you to adjust it even slightly if you’re off. Just even, I mean, it’s like, it’s a Kafka novel. We’re living, like TSA, it makes me smile, it brings joy to my heart, because I imagine Franz Kafka and I just walking through there, because it really is just deeply absurd. But, and then the whole motivation of the mechanism becomes distorted by the individuals involved. The initial one was to reduce the number
03:58:55 of terrorist attacks, I suppose. Right, now it’s guns and drugs. Basically it’s like, essentially what they’ve done is they’ve repealed the Fourth Amendment, right? Search and seizure, they can do it without probable cause. Everybody is being searched. Everybody’s a potential terrorist. So they’ve got probable cause for everybody in theory. And so what they do, they’ll post on their website, the guns and drugs or whatever that they seized in these scanners. Well, of course, if you search everybody, you’re gonna find some criminals or whatever. But the cost of doing that is dramatic. Moreover, the fact that people have sure been trained to have compliance, it’s like the Soviet Union, right? Where just grudgingly, all right, go along with this extremely stupid thing.
What’s my point? The point is, this is a really stupid regulation that has existed in plain sight of everybody. For 20 years, we’re still taking off our shoes. Okay, because some shoe bomber, whatever number of years ago, okay? All of this stuff is there, as opposed to, there’s a zillion other things you could potentially do different paradigms for, quote, airport security. But now apply that to FDA. Just like a lot of what TSA does as security theater, arguably all of it, a lot of what FDA does is safety theater. The difference is, there’s far fewer people who go through the aperture. They’re the biotech and pharma CEOs, okay? So you don’t have an understanding of what it is to deal with them, number one. Number two is the penalty is not a few hundred dollars of missing your flight. It is a few million dollars or tens or hundreds of millions of dollars for getting your company subject to the equivalent of a retaliatory wait time.
Just like that bouncer threw you out. Just like the TSA officer, if you make a joke or they can just sit you down and make you lose your flight, right? So two, can the FDA just silently impede the approval of something and choke you out financially because you don’t have enough runway to get funded, right? So just impose more wait time. Guess what, we want another six months. Data is gonna take you another six months. Your company doesn’t have the time. You die, right? If you live, you have to raise a round at some dilutive valuation. And now the price gets jacked up on the other side. That’s the one thing that can give by the way in this whole process. When you push out timelines from days to get a vaccine approved with, or a vaccine evaluator rather via challenge trials to months or years, the cost during that time when you, it just increases non-linearly, right?
Because you can’t iterate on the product. All the normal observations, if it takes you 10 years to launch a product versus 10 days, what’s the difference in terms of your speed of variation, your cost, et cetera, right? So this is part of what, it’s not the only thing. There’s other things. There’s AMA and CPT, there’s other things. But this is one of the things that jacks up prices in the U.S. medical system, okay? So now you have something where these CEOs, they’re going through this aperture. They are, they can’t tell anybody about it because if you read Reputation and Power, okay, I’m gonna just quote this because it’s an amazing book, right, it’s written by a guy, you know, Daniel Carpenter, who’s a smart guy, but he’s an FDA sympathizer. He fundamentally thinks it’s like a good thing or what have you. Nevertheless, I respect Carpenter’s intellectual honesty because he quotes the CEOs in the book, you know, verbatim and he gives some paragraphs. And essentially from their descriptions, it’s like, think about like a Vietnam War thing where you’ve got a POW and they’re like blinking through their eyes, I’m being tortured, okay?
That is the style, when you read Carpenter’s book, you read the quotes from these CEOs.
04:02:18 Oh, let me see if I can find it. Do you recommend the book?
04:02:21 It’s a good book, yeah. Or it’s now a little bit outdated, okay? Because it’s like, you know, almost 10 years old. Still, as a history of the FDA, it is well worth reading. And by the way, the reason I say it, like the FDA is so insanely important. It’s so much more important than many other things that people talk about, but they don’t talk about it, right? I just want to read his little blurb for it, right? This is 2010. The US Food and Drug Administration is the most powerful regulatory agency in the world. How did the FDA become so influential and how does it wield its extraordinary power? Reputation power traces the history of FDA regulation of pharmaceuticals, revealing how the agency’s organizational reputation has been the primary source of its power is also one of its ultimate constraints. Carpenter describes how the FDA cultivated reputation for competence and vigilance throughout the last century and how this organizational image has enabled agency to regulate while resisting efforts to curb its own authority.
First of all, just that description alone, you’re like, wait a second, he is describing this as an active player. It’s not like a DMV kind of thing which has passed through. It’s talking about cultivating a reputation, it’s power resisting efforts to curb its own authority, right? The thing is now you’re kind of through the looking glass. You’re like, wait a second. This is kind of language I don’t usually hear for regulatory agencies. The thing is, the kind of person who becomes the CEO of a giant company, what do they want to do? They want to expand that company. They want to make more profit. Similarly, the kind of person who comes to run a regulatory agency or one of the subunits, that person wants to expand its ambit, okay?
04:03:58 Is that always obvious? And sorry to interrupt, but for the CO of the company, I know the philosophical ideal of capitalism is you want to make the thing more profitable, but we’re also human beings, do you think there’s some fundamental aspect to which we want to do a lot of good in the world. Sure.
04:04:16 The fiduciary duty will push people to get the ambitious, you know, the profit maximizing expansion is CEO is selected for, right. Basically, they believe crucially, they’re not just this important. They’re not just, I mean, some of them are grand theft auto, make as much money as possible, but they believe in the mission. Okay, they’ve come to believe in the mission. And as person who’s selected Chkey actually had this good thing which is like, I believe that you believe what you believe, but if you didn’t believe what you believe you
04:04:42 You wouldn’t be sitting here. Right. So they select for the kind of people that are able to make a lot of money. And in that process, those people are able to have a constructive narrative that they’re doing good, even though what they were selected for is the fact that they can make a lot of
04:04:56 money. Yeah. And they may actually be doing good. But the thing is, with CEOs, we have a zillion images in television and media movies of the evil corporation and the greedy CEO. We have some concept of what CEO failure modes are like. Okay. When have you ever seen an evil regulator? Can you name a fictional portrayal of an evil regulator? Can you name an evil CEO?
04:05:17 Yeah. A lot. A lot. A lot. A lot. But that’s so interesting. I’m trying to, I’m searching for a deeper lesson here. You’re right. You’re right. I mean, there is, there is portrayals, especially in sort of authoritarian regimes or the Soviet Union where there’s bureaucracy, you know, Chernobyl, you can kind of see within that there’s the story of the regulator, but yeah, it’s not as plentiful and it also doesn’t have, often doesn’t have a face to it. Yes. It’s almost like bureaucracy is this amorphous thing that results any one individual you see they’re just obeying somebody else.
There’s not a face to it of evil. The evil is the entire machine.
04:06:01 Yes. That’s right. That’s what I call the school of fish strategy, by the way. It’s something where you are an individual and you can be signaled out, but there’s more accountability for one person’s bad tweets than all the wars in the Middle East, right? Because it’s a school of fish, right? So if the establishment is wrong, if the bureaucracy is wrong, they’re all wrong at the same time. Who could have known? Whereas if you deviate, then you are a deviation who can be hammered down, okay? Now the school of fish strategy is unfortunately very successful because, you know, truth is whatever if you just always ride with the school of fish and turn with the intern and so on, unless there’s a bigger school of fish that comes in, you basically can never be proven wrong, right? And this is actually, you know, of course, someone who believes in truth and believes in innovation and so on, just physiologically can’t ride with the school of fish. You just have to say what is true or do what is true, right? Still, you’ve described correctly how it’s faceless, right?
So I will give two examples of fictional portrayals of evil regulators.
04:07:05 One is actually the original Ghostbusters, okay?
04:07:06 Did not expect that one, but yes. Yes. And the other day is actually the villain in that where they flip a switch that lets out all the ghosts in the city. And essentially the guy is coming in with a head of steam as this evil regulator that just totally arrogant, doesn’t actually understand the private sector or the consequences of their actions and they force the, and crucially they bring a cop with them with a gun. So it shows that a regulator is not simply, you know, some piece of paper, but it is the police, right? And that cop with the gun forces the Ghostbusters to like release the conveyor and the whole thing spreads. A second example is Dallas Buyers Club, which is more recent. And that actually shows the FDA blocking a guy who, with a life-threatening illness, you know, with AIDS from getting the drugs to treat his condition and from getting it to other people, right? Those are just two portrayals, but in general, what you find is when you talk about FDA with people, one thing I’ll often hear from folks is like, why would they do that? Right? They have no mental model of this. They kind of think of it as why would the, why would this thing, which they think of as sort of the DMV, they don’t think of the DMV as like this active thing.
Okay. Why would the FDA do that? Well, it is because it’s filled with some ambitious people that want to keep increasing the power of the agency, just like the CEO wants to increase the profit of the company. Right? I use that word ambit, right? Why ambit? Because these folks are, we know the term greedy, right? These folks are power hungry. They want to have the maximum scope. And sometimes regulatory agencies collide with each other, right? Even though FDA is under HHS, sometimes it collides with HHS and they’ve got regulations that conflict. You know, for example, HHS says everybody’s supposed to be able to have access to their own medical record.
FDA didn’t want people to have access to their own personal genomes. That conflicts. Okay. And both of those are kind of anti-corporate statutes that were put out with HHS as thing being targeted at the hospitals and FDA being targeted at the personal genomics companies, but those conflicted, right? It’s a little bit like CFTC and SEC have a door jam over who will regulate cryptocurrency, right? Sometimes regulators fight each other, but they fight each other. They fight companies. They are active players. This reputation and power book, the reason I mention it is, I want to see if I can find this quote.
04:09:25 So let me see if I can find this quote.
04:09:26 Reputation and power organizational image and pharmaceutical regulation at the FDA. So Genentech’s executive, G. Kirk Rob, right? Rob would describe regulatory approval for his products as a fundamental challenge facing his company. And he would depict the administration, a particularly vivid metaphor. I’ve told the story hundreds of times to help people understand the FDA. When I was in Brazil, I worked on the Amazon river for many months selling pteromycin for Pfizer. I hadn’t seen my family for eight or nine months. They’re flying into Sao Paulo and I was flying down from some little village on the Amazon to Manus and then to Sao Paulo. I was young guy in his twenties. I couldn’t wait to see the kids. One of them was a year old baby.
The other was three. I miss my wife. There was a Quonset hut in front of just a little dirt strip with a single injured plane to fly me to Manus. I roll up and there’s a Brazilian soldier there. The military revolution happened literally the week before. So this soldier is standing there with his machine gun and he said to me, you can’t come in. I’m speaking pretty good Portuguese by that time. I said, my God, my plane, my family, I gotta come in. He said again, you can’t come in. I said, I got to come in and he took his machine gun, took the safety off and pointed at me and said, you can’t come in. And I said, oh, now I got it. I can’t go in there.
And that’s the way I always describe the FDA. The FDA is standing there with a machine gun against the pharmaceutical industry. So you better be their friend rather than their enemy. They are the boss. If you’re a pharmaceutical firm, they own you body and soul. Okay, that’s the CEO of a successful company, Genentech. He says told the story hundreds of times. And regulatory approval is a fundamental challenge facing his company. Because if you are regulated by FDA, they are your primary customer. If they cut the cord on you, you have no other customers. And in fact, until very recently with the advent of social media, no one would even tell your story. It was assumed that you were some sort of corporate criminal that they were protecting the public from.
That you were going to put poison and milk, like the melamine scandal in China. I’m not saying those things don’t exist by the way, they do exist. That’s why people are like, they can immediately summon to mind all the examples of corporate criminals. That’s why I mentioned those fictional stories, those templates. Even if Star Wars doesn’t exist, how many times have you heard of Star Wars metaphor or whatever
04:11:35 for something, right? Breaking Bad, you know, go ahead. Yeah, but the by the pharmaceutical companies are stuck between rock and a hard place because the reputation, if they go to Twitter, they go to social media, they have horrible reputation. So it’s like they don’t. Yes,
04:11:48 yes. But why is that? Because reputation and power, FDA beat down the reputation of pharma companies just like EPA helped beat down the reputation of oil companies. And as it says over here, right, in practice, dealing with the fact of FDA power meant a fundamental change in corporate structure and culture. At Abbott and at Genentech, Rob’s most central transformation was in creating a culture of acquiescence towards a government agency. As was done at other drug companies in the late 20th century, Rob essentially fired officials at Abbott who are insufficiently compliant with the FDA. What that means is defacto nationalization of the industry via regulation, just to hover on that. That’s a really big deal. Because if their primary customer is this government agency, then it has nationalized it just indirectly. This is partially what’s just happened with Microsoft, Apple, Google, Amazon, the other MAGA. They have been… That’s funny.
04:12:48 Well done. Well done. Yeah. I didn’t even think about that. It’s well done.
04:12:54 I have this tweet, it’s like MAGA Republicans and MAGA Democrats.
04:12:57 Yeah. Okay. Okay. Oh, damn it. So many things you’ve said today will just get stuck in my head. It changes the way you think. Something about catchy phrasing of ideas makes me even more
04:13:10 powerful. So yeah. Okay. So that’s happening in the tech. It’s happening in tech. So Facebook is the outlier because Zuck still controls the company. But just like… I mean, why had tech had a good reputation for a while? Because there wasn’t a regulatory agency whose justification was regulating these corporate criminals. Once that is the case, the regulatory agency basically comes back to Congress each year. If you look at its budget approvals, it’s saying, we found this many guys, we found this many violations. They have an incentive to exaggerate the threat in the same way that a prosecutor or a policeman has a quota.
These are the police. One way I describe it also is like a step down transformers. You have high voltage electricity is generated at the power plant and it comes over the wires and then there’s step down transformers that turn it into a lower voltage that you can just deal with out of your appliances. Similarly, you have something where the high voltage of the US military or the police and that is transmitted down into a little letter that comes in your mailbox saying, pay your $50 parking ticket, where it’s a piece of paper so you don’t see the gun attached to it. But if you were to defy that, it’s like Grand Theft Auto, where you get one star, two star, three stars, four stars, five stars, and eventually you have some serious stuff on your hands. Okay. So once you understand that every law is backed by force, like that Brazilian guy with the machine gun that Rob mentioned, these guys are the regulatory police. Now, see for a time, what happened was you had the captured industry because all of the folks who were in pharmaceuticals were, as Carpenter said, a culture of acquiescence towards the FDA. The FDA was their primary customer. So just like, in a sense, it’s rational. Amazon talks about being customer obsessed. What Rob did was rational for that time.
What GKURP Rob did was saying, our customer is the FDA. That’s our primary customer. Nobody else matters. They are satisfied first. Every single trade off that has to be made is FDA. And really, that’s why the two most important departments that many pharmaceutical companies argue with all are regulatory affairs and IP, not R&D. Because one is artificial scarcity of regulation, which jacks up the price. And the other is artificial scarcity, the patent, which allows people to maintain the high price. So this entire thing is just like college education. These things may at some point have been a good concept, but the price has just risen and risen and risen until it’s at the limit price and beyond. So what has changed? What’s changed is in the 2010s, the late 2000s and 2010s and so on, with the advent of social media, with the advent of a bunch of millionaires who are independent, with the advent of Uber and Airbnb, with the advent of cryptocurrency, with the domination of trusted institutions.
It used to be really taboo to even talk about the FDA is potentially bad in 2010, 2009. But now people have just seen face plant after face plant by the institutions and people are much more open to the concept that they may actually not have it all together. And I think you could probably see some tracking poll or something like that, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s like a 20 or 30 point drop after the CDC failed to control disease and the FDA failed. And the entire biomedical regulatory establishment and scientific establishment was saying masks don’t work before they do. This was just a train crash of all the things that you’re paying for that you supposedly think are good. As I mentioned, one response is to go QAnon and people say, oh, don’t trust anything. But the better response is decentralizing FDA. Okay. So I will say one other thing, which is I mentioned this
04:17:02 concept of improving the form 3500B where you scan. Go ahead. Yeah, right. That just makes me laugh. I can just tell the form sucks by the fact that it has that code name. Sorry. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, exactly, right?
04:17:13 UX is broken at every layer, right? Yeah, yeah, yeah. So they have a bad yelp for drugs. Could we make a better one? We could make a better one, just modern UX. The key insight here, by the way, which is a non-obvious point, and I’ve got a whole talk on this actually that I should probably release. I actually did like almost eight, nine years ago. It’s called regulation is information. Product quality is a digital signal. Okay. What do I mean by that? Basically, when I talk about exit, exit the Fed, that’s the crypto economy, right?
What does exit the FDA look like? Well, one key insight is that many of the big scale tech companies can be thought of as cloud regulators rather than land regulators. What do I mean by that? Well, first, what is regulation? People do want a regulated marketplace. They want A, quality ratings, like on a one to five star scale, and B, bands of bad actors, like the zero star frauds and scammers and so on. And these are distinct, right? Somebody who’s like a low quality, but well intentioned person is different than a smart and evil person. Those are two different kinds of failure modes you could have in a marketplace, right? Why is it rational for people to want a regulated marketplace, especially for health because they want to pay essentially one entry cost and then they don’t have to evaluate everything separately where they may not have the technical information to do that, right? You don’t want to go to Starbucks and put a dipstick into every coffee to see if it’s poisoned or something like that. You sort of want to enter a zone where you know things are basically good and you pay that one diligence cost on the zone itself, right?
Whether it’s a digital or physical zone, and then the regulator’s taking care of it. And they’ve baked in the regulatory cost into, you know, some subscription fee of some kind, right? So the thing is, the model we’ve talked about is the land regulator of a nation state in a territorially bounded thing. But the cloud regulator, what’s a cloud regulator? That is Amazon star ratings. That’s Yelp. That is eBay. That is Airbnb. That is Uber and Lyft and so on and so forth. It’s also actually Gmail and Google. Why? Because you’re doing spam filtering and you are doing ranking of emails with priority inbox, right?
With Google itself, they ban malware links, right? So the bad actors are out and they’re ranking them, right? How about Apple, the app store, right? They ban bad actors and they do star ratings. When you start actually applying this lens PayPal, you know, they’ve got a reputation. Every single web service that’s at the scale of like tens of millions or hundreds of millions of people has had to build a cloud regulator. And the crucial thing is that it scales across borders. So you can use the data from Mexico to help somebody in Moldova or vice versa, right? Because it’s fundamentally international, right? Those ratings, you have a network effect. And there’s another aspect to it, which is these are better regulators than the land regulators. For example, Uber is a better regulator than the taxi medallions.
Why? Every ride is GPS tracked. There’s ratings on both the driver and the passenger side. Both parties, you know, know that payment can be rendered in a standard currency, right? If you have below a certain star rating on either side, you get deplatformed and so on to protect either rider or driver and on and on, right? What does that do? Think about how much better that is in taxi medallions rather than a six month or annual inspection. You have reports from every single rider, okay. Before Uber, it was, the taxi drivers and taxi regulators were in a little monopoly locally. Okay? Because they were the persistent actors in the ecosystem. Taxi riders had nothing in common, didn’t even know each other.
In New York, some guy gets a taxi and they’re a guy, they have no way to communicate with each other. So the persistent actors in the system were the regulators and the drivers. And they had this cozy kind of thing and medallion prices just kept going up. And this was a sort of collaboration on artificial scarcity. Okay. Afterwards with Uber and Lyft and other entrants you had something interesting. A different kind of regulator driver fusion. If you assume regulatory Captain exists and lean into it. Uber is the new regulator and Uber drivers are the drivers. Lyft is the competing regulator and Lyft drivers are the new drivers. Okay. So you have a regulator driver fusion versus another regulator driver fusion.
You no longer have a monopoly. You have multiple parties. Okay, you have a competitive market. This is the concept of like polycentric law, right? Where you have multiple different legal regimes in the same jurisdiction overlapping that you can choose between with a tap of a button, right? All these concepts from like libertarian theory, like, you know, polycentric law or catalysis, all these things are becoming more possible now that the internet has increased microeconomic leverage and because that exit is now possible. Now, you may argue, Oh, well, Lyft and Uber, they’re not profitable anymore. And there’s two different criticisms of them. One is, Oh, they’re not profitable, or Oh, they’re charging too much. And I think part of this is because of certain kinds of the regulatory status caught up to try to make them uncompetitive. For example, they don’t allow people in some states to identify themselves as independent contractors, even if they are part time. Okay.
There’s various other kinds of rules and regulations, you know, in Austin for a while, Uber was even banned, what have you, right? net net, though, like Uber, grab, go check, Lyft, DD, like ride sharing as a concept is now out there. And whatever the next version is where it’s self driving, like, while it’s like a very hard fought battle, and the regulatory state keeps trying to push things back into the garage. This is a fundamentally better way of just doing regulation of taxis. Similarly, Airbnb for hotels, I mean, it’s basically the same thing. Okay. And Airbnb could use competition, I think that it would be good to have, you know, like competition for them. And there are other kinds of sites opening up. But the fundamental cons of the cloud regulator, now let’s apply it here. Once you realize regulation is information, the way you’d set up a competitor to FDA, or SEC, or FAA, or something like that, is you just do better reviews, and you just start with that, that’s pure information, you’re under free speech, that’s like still, you know, the most defended thing, literally just publishing reviews, and not just reviews by any old person. It turns out that FDA typically will use expert panels, whether they’re expert panels, it’s like professors from Harvard or you know, things like that. So what that is, is this concept of a reputational bridge, where you want to do is you want to have folks who are let’s say, biotech entrepreneurs, or their you know, profs like Sinclair, or what have you, you do want to have the reviews of the crowd.
Okay? But you also want to have, especially in medicine by this, you want to have the reviews of experts of some kind. So there’s going to be defectors from the current establishment. Okay, just like, you know, there are profs who defected from Computer Science, academia to become Larry and Sergey and whatever, you know, they weren’t profs they were grad students, right. In the same way, you’ll have defectors, who have the credentials from the old world, but can build up to new just like there’s folks from Wall Street, who have come into cryptocurrency and helped legitimate it, right? Just like, there’s folks who left Salsberger to come to sub-stack. Okay. Um, you know, we have, we have these folks who by defecting they help. And then And they’re also supplemented by all this new talent coming in, right? That combination of things is how you build a new system. It’s not completely by itself, nor is it trying to reform the old, it’s some fusion. Okay?
So in this new system, who do you have? You have like the most entrepreneurial and innovative MDs, you have the most entrepreneurial and innovative professors, and you have the founders of actual new products and stuff. And they are giving open source reviews of these products. And they’re also building a community that will say, look, we want this new drug, or we want this new treatment, or we want this new device, and we’re willing to crowdfund 10,000 units. So please give us the thing and we’ll write a very fair review of it. And we’ll also all evaluate it as a community and so on. So you turn these people from just passive patients into active participants in their health. That’s a community part. And they’ve got the kind of biomedical technical leadership there. Now, what is the kind of prototype of something like this? Something like VITA DAO is very interesting. Things like molecule DAO are very interesting.
It’ll start with things like longevity, right? And why is that? Because the entire model of FDA, this 20th century model, is wait for somebody to have a disease and then try to cure them. Okay? Versus, you know, saying an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, right? Why are we not actually tracking folks and getting a constant dashboard on yourself, so you can see whether things are breaking, and then you deal with it just like you’ve got server uptime things. You don’t wait necessarily for the site to go down. You start seeing, oh, response rates are spiking, we need to add more servers, right? You have some warning, okay? Even 10 years ago, there was this article called The Measured Man in the Atlantic, where this guy, physicist Larry Smarr, okay, what he was doing is he was essentially doing a bunch of measurements on himself. And he was finding that there were predictors of inflammation that were spiking and he went to the doctor, showed the charts, and the doctor was like, I can’t do anything with this. Then it turned out to be an early warning of a serious condition that he had to, I think, go for surgery or something.
And he was starting to think, well, look, the way that we’re doing medicine right now is it’s not quite pre-germ theory of disease, but it is pre-continuous diagnostics, okay? Continuous diagnostics, just to talk about this for a second, this is… I mentioned one angle on which you go after FDA, which is like the better phase four, right? I’ve mentioned the concept of better reviews in general, okay? I mentioned VITA DAO, which is like a community that is going after longevity. Let’s talk about continuous diagnostics. So basically, we know better what is going on in Bangalore or Budapest than in our own body. That’s actually kind of insane to think about. This stuff that it’s all the other side of the world, 10,000 miles away, but a few millimeters away, you don’t really know what’s going on, right? And that’s starting to change with all the quantified self-devices, the hundreds of millions of Apple watches and Fitbits and stuff, right? You’re also starting to see continuous glucose meters, which are very important. They’re starting to give you readouts.
People are seeing, wow, this is spiking my insulin or this is spiking my blood sugar. And it might be something you didn’t predict. It varies for different people. For some people, you know, a banana isn’t a big deal for others. It’s actually quite bad for the blood sugar. What happens when you extend that? About 10 years ago, a guy, Mike Snyder, a professor at Stanford, did something called the integrome, where he just threw the kitchen sink of all the diagnostics he could at himself over the period of, I think, a few weeks or a few months, I forget the exact duration. He’s able to do things where he could see, during that period, he got a cold or something, and he could see in the expression data, the gene expression data, that he was getting sick before he felt sick. He could also see that something about that viral infection made him develop diabetes-like symptoms, if I’m remembering it accurately. So you could see, oh, wait a second, these are things that I can see in my readouts that I would only have the vaguest interpretation of as like a human being, right? And moreover, he could take, you know, I don’t think he did this, but if you took treatments, if you took drugs, right, you could actually show what your steady state was, if you tracked over time, show what your disease state or sick state was, and then this drug pushes you back into non-disease state. You can actually get a quantitative readout of what, you know, like steady state was, right?
So that, and that steady state, you know, your expression levels across all these genes, your small molecules, basically everything you can measure, that’s going to vary from person to person, right? What’s healthy and natural for you may be a different baseline than for me. For example, people who are, a small example, people who are South Asian or have dark skin tend to have vitamin D deficiency. Why? Because we need a lot of sunlight. So often inside you’re tapping in your screen, so what are you doing? Take like actually significant vitamin D infusions, okay? That’s like a small example of where baselines differ between people, okay? So continuous diagnostics, what could that mean? That could mean, you know, things like the continuous glucose meter, it’s quantified self, it’s like continuous blood testing, right? So you have a so called mobile phlebotomist. This is something which phlebotomy takes blood, right?
Mobile phlebotomy would come to your office, come to your remote office. This is a great business for people, I think, you know, you can revisit this in 2022. People tried this in the 2010s, but I think it’s worth revisiting. Mole phlebotomist comes every week or every month, takes blood, runs every test, right? Maybe that’s, you know, a few thousand dollars a year, maybe eventually gets to a few hundred dollars a year. And that’s expensive in some ways.
04:30:01 But boy, that’s better health insurance in other ways. Yeah, I mean, it’s amazing. So one, there’s a bunch of companies that do this and actually would love to learn more about them. One of them, it’s a company called Inside Tracker that sponsors this podcast, they do that. But the reason I really appreciate them, they’re the first ones that introduced me to, like how easy it is. But it’s also depressing how little information exactly as you beautifully put it once again, how little information we have about our own body in a continuous sense. And actually, also sadly, even with Inside Tracker, as I collect that data, how not integrated that data is with everything else. If I wanted to opt in, I would like, I can’t just like riffing off the top of my head, but I would like Google Maps to know what’s going on inside my body. Maybe I can’t intuit at first why that application is useful, but that could be incredible. Like that’s where the Entrepreneurs Bureau builds, is like, what can I do with that data? Can I make the trip less stressful for you
04:31:03 and adjust the Google Maps thing kind of thing? That’s right. So, I mean, one of the things about this, by the way, is because there are so many movies made about Theranos, okay, that’s one of the reasons why people have sort of been scared off from doing diagnostics to some extent, okay, why? Because VCs are like, oh, is this another Theranos? Like the diligence and everything, everyone’s looking at it, oh, blood testing, one drop of blood, huh, it hurts the recruiting. Essentially, a lot of the media and stuff around that basically has pathologized the thing that we want to have a lot more entrance in, right? Now, one way of thinking about it is FDA has killed way more people than Theranos has, all right, way more. Just take drug lag alone, okay? Whenever you have a drug that works and reduce morbidity and mortality after it was actually generally available, but was delayed for months or years, the integral under that curve is the excess morbidity and mortality attributable to FDA’s drug lag. You could go back and do that study across lots and lots of different drugs, and you’d probably find quite a lot. Alex Tabarok and others have written on this, right? Daniel Henniger has written on this, okay?
That’s just like one example. I mean, I gave the pandemic example, the fact that they held up the EUAs for the tests and didn’t do challenge trials. That’s like, you know, they’re not, that’s like a million American dead that could have been orders of magnitude less if we had gotten the vaccine out to the vulnerable population sooner, okay? So you’re talking about something that has a total monopoly on global health, and, you know, you can’t know what it is without that unless you have zones that are FDA free, but that have some form of regulation. As I mentioned, it’s a V3. It’s not going back to zero regulation to everybody, you know, man for itself, but it’s a more reputable regulator, just like, you know, Uber is a better regulator
04:32:49 than the taxi medallions, right? Yeah, I mean, you’re painting such an incredible picture. You’re making me wish you were FDA commissioner.
04:32:56 But I- There are a bunch of people who tweeted something like that after the, you know, with the pandemic, whatever, go ahead.
04:33:01 Yeah, go ahead, yeah. Is that possible? Like if you were just given, if you became FDA commissioner, could you push for those kinds of changes
04:33:10 or is that really something that has to come from the outside? Short answer is no.
04:33:14 And the longer answer, meaning- The longer, that’d be funny if you’re like,
04:33:19 the shorter answer is no, the longer answer is yes. So basically see a CEO of a company, it’s, well, it’s very difficult. They can hire and fire, right? So in theory, they can do surgery on the organism. And like, you know, Steve Jobs took over Apple and was able to hire and fire, raise money, do this, that. He basically had root over Apple, that he was a system administrator, right? He had full permissions, okay? As FDA commissioner, you do not have full permissions over FDA, let alone like the whole structure around it, right? If you’re FDA commissioner, you are not the CEO of the agency, okay? Lots of these folks there have career tenure. They can’t be fired. They can’t even really be disciplined.
There’s something called the Douglas factors. Have you ever heard the Douglas factors? It’s like the Miranda rights for federal employees, okay? You know, the right-to-man says it. So basically, if you’ve heard that federal employees can’t be fired, the Douglas factors are how that’s actually operationalized. When you try to fire somebody, it’s this whole process where they get to appeal it, and so on and so forth. And they’re sitting in the office while you’re trying to fire them and they’re complaining to everybody around them that, this guy is trying to fire me, such a bad guy, blah, blah, right? And everybody around, even if, you know, they may think that guy is doing a bad job. They’re like, wait a second. He’s trying to fire you, you might try to fire me too. And so anybody who tries to fire somebody at FDA just gets a case full of lead for their troubles. What they instead will do is sometimes just transfer somebody to the basement or something.
So they don’t have to deal with them if they’re truly bad. Okay. But the thing about this is there is only one caveat. Douglas factor number eight, the notoriety of the offense or its impact upon the reputation of the agency. There’s that word again, reputation of reputation and power. So the one way you can truly screw up within a regulatory bureaucracy is if you sort of endanger the like annual budget renewal. Think of it as like this mini death star, that’s coming to dock against the max death star for its like annual refuel. And it’s talking about all the corporate criminals that it’s prosecuted the quotas, like the police quotas, the ticketing, you know, and if they don’t have a crisis, they will like invent one just again, just like TSA, just like other agencies, you’re more familiar with you can kind of map it back and look at the guns and drugs we’ve seized. And save an incentive for, you know, creating these crises or manufacturing them or exaggerating them. And if you endanger that refueling that annual budget renewal, or you know, what have you, then the whole agency will basically like, okay, you’re, you’re bad, and you can be disciplined, or sometimes, you know, with rare accept, you know, you can be booted. But what that means is that FDA Commissioner is actually a white elephant. It’s a ceremonial role, really, right?
You know, you know, term white elephants, like, basically, you know, the Maharaja gives you an white elephant as a gift. Seems great. Next day, it’s eaten all of your grass. It’s pooped on your lawn. It has like, just put a foot on your car and smash it. But you can’t give it away. It’s a white elephant, the Maharaja gave it to you. Right? That’s what being like FDA Commissioner is. It’s the kind of thing where if and a lot of people are drawn in like moths to the flame for these titles of the establishment, I want to be head of this, I wouldn’t be head of that, right? And really what it is, it’s like, I don’t know, becoming head of Kazakhstan in the mid 1980s, in the Soviet Union, the Kazakhstan SSR, right, Soviet Socialist Republic, before the thing was going to like crumble, potentially, right? In many ways, it’s becoming, you know, folks who are just totally status obsessed getting these positions.
But, um, like a lot of the merit, all the folks with merit are kind of leaving the government and going into, you know, tech or crypto or what have you, right? So, even if these agencies were hollow before, in some ways, they’re becoming hollower because they have less talent there, right? So A, you can’t hire and fire very easily, you can hire a little bit, you can’t really fire. B, a lot of the talent has left the building but was there. C, we’re entering the decentralizing era. And D, you know, like, B likes Satoshi. Satoshi founded Bitcoin because he knew you could not reform the Fed. There’s everybody’s trying to go and reform, reform, reform. The reason trying to reform is, we haven’t figured out the mechanism to build something new. And now perhaps we have that. So I’ve named a few of them, right? I’ll name one more related to the literance.
Fitness is actually the backdoor to a lot of medicine. Okay. Why is that? Um, you go to any, you know, conference, it could be neurology, it could be cardiology. You’ll find somebody who’s giving a talk that says something along the lines of fitness is the ultimate drug. Maybe not today when people are saying, Oh, fat phobic, whatever, but not too many years ago, you’d see somebody, um, people saying fitness is the ultimate drug. If we could just prescribe fitness in a pill, that would improve your
04:38:09 cardiovascular function, your no large function deals with depression? By the way, in that case, the the use of the word drug means medicine. So medicine, yeah. Sure. Sure, sure.
04:38:14 Sure. Fitness is the ultimate medicine. Yeah. Medicine. Yeah, yeah. Sure, sure. Yeah. The ultimate medicine, right. So you’re thinking just prescribe the effects of it. It’s just like, boom, just massive effect, right? Like you’re fit enough, you do resistance training, it helps with you know, prevent of diabetes, every kind of thing in the world, you see a significant treatment effect, yet your fitness is your own responsibility. You go to some gym 24-hour fitness, what do They have under the wall, exhortations.
Like your body is your responsibility, right? Am I right? Yeah, yeah, yeah. And you know, go ahead. No, it’s hilarious, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. It’s funny, it’s true, right? Yeah, yeah, it’s funny, because it’s true. And so your fitness, your diet, that’s your responsibility. But when you go into a doctor’s office, suddenly it becomes lie back and think of England. Okay? Suddenly you become passive. Suddenly, oh, your doctor, your doctor is Dr Google.
well, your doctor must be a moron. You’re going and trying to take care of yourself. You’re Googling symptoms. Oh, how stupid you are. I have a medical degree and that doctor, see, the thing is, if you come in and you’ve self diagnosed or you’ve done some of your own research, if you’re right, and then they’ve got an ego about it, they’re undermined. And if you’re wrong, they’re like, haha you know, arrogant, but either way, if they’ve got this kind of mindset, they have an incentive to resist the patient taking care of themselves, isn’t that the doctor’s job? And they’re kinda taught to behave like this. many of them. So what that means then is that intervention of that 15 or 30 minute appointment with the doctor, whatever drug they prescribe better hit you like Thor’s hammer to put you back on the straight and narrow. Because that’s only with you for like a few seconds, you know, a few minutes or whatever the doctors only with you for a few minutes, the drug is only you know, some drugs are very powerful. So they actually do work like this. Okay.
But your fitness is your own responsibility. And that’s a continuing forcing function every day. And again, we get back to decentralization, right? The decentralization of responsibility, from somebody thinking of themselves merely as a patient to an active participant in their own health, who’s doing their own monitoring of their own health, right and logging all their stuff, who’s eating, you know, properly and looking at the effect of their diet on things like their, you know, continuous glucose monitor as a v1 but other things, right? Who is, you know, as fit as they can possibly be. Like, these are kind of obvious things. But why is this the backdoor to medicine? Because since FDA only regulates those things that are meant to diagnose and treat a disease, all the stuff that is meant to improve an otherwise healthy person is potentially out of their purview supplements are one interesting aspect that they were carved out in the in the mid 90s. And that’s why the supplement industry is big because FDA isn’t, it doesn’t have as tight a rein on that. But all of the Fitbit, CGM, continuous glucose measure type stuff, you can crank out all kinds of things that help people get fitter that will also actually have just general health value, but you’re not quite marketing them to diagnose or treat, you know, disease, you’re saying, you’re marketing them for the purpose of fitness. This is a market why because psychologically people they don’t like paying to get back to normal. But they will absolutely pay tons of money to get better than normal.
They’ll pay for fitness, they’ll pay for makeup, they’ll pay for hair, they’ll pay for this and that. Right. So That’s actually the back door and you can do tons of things there where obviously being healthier is also protective. You can actually show the studies on this. So this way you build out all the tooling to get healthier and that actually helps on this axis. A few other things which kind of U.S. medical system, diagnostics. You got me on this topic?
04:41:50 I love this. Okay. This is the most eloquent exploration of the U.S. medical system and how to improve it, how to fix it and what the future looks like.
04:42:01 Yeah. I love it. So part of it is decentralizing control back to the individual. Now I have talked about FDA at length, but let me talk about some of the other broken parts of the U.S. system. There’s AMA, there’s CPT, there’s CPOM, there’s all these regulations, which see normally in capitalism you have a buyer and a seller, duh. In medicine you have third party regulation and fourth party pricing and fifth party payment. So third party regulation, FDA is regulating it. Fourth party pricing, it is the CPT codes. Fifth party payment, it’s the insurance companies. And just to discuss these bits of the system, first, why are some people against capitalism and medicine? I actually understand why they’re against it because they are visualizing themselves on a gurney when they’re being wheeled in and now somebody at their moment of vulnerability is charging this insane price for their care.
And many people in the U.S. have had this horrible experience where they’re bankrupted or scared of being bankrupted by medical bills. Therefore the concept of adding more capitalism and medicine scares them and they think it’s horrible and you’re some awful, greedy, tech bro kind of thing, all right? Let me say I understand that concern and let me tease that apart a little bit, right? Basically the most capitalistic areas of medicine are the most functional areas of medicine. So that’s say the places where you can walk in and walk out, okay? Whether that’s dentistry, dermatology, plastic surgery, even veterinary medicine, which is not human, okay? Where you can make a conscious decision, say, okay, I want this care or I don’t want this, I see a price list, I can pay cash, right? If I don’t like it, I go to another dermatologist. There’s few dermatological emergencies, that’s why dermatologists have a great quality of life, okay? And by contrast, when you’re being wheeled in on a gurney, you need it right now, okay? And you’re unconscious or what have you or you’re not in a capacity to deal with it, right?
And so these are the two extremes. It’s like ambulatory medicine, you can walk around and pick and like ambulance medicine, okay? And what that means is the more ambulatory, the medicine, the more legitimate capitalism is in that situation. People are okay with a dermatologist basically turning you down because you don’t have enough money and you go to another dermatologist because you can comparison shot there. It’s not usually an emergency, right? Whereas if you’re coming in with an ambulance, then people don’t want to be turned down and I understand why, okay? What this suggests, by the way, is that you should only have insurance for the edge cases. Insurance should only cover the ambulance, not the ambulatory. Most people are losing money on insurance, right? Because most people are paying more in in premiums than they are getting out. It’s just this huge flight of dollars through the air that no one can make heads or tails out of. Oh, the other aspect that’s obviously broken, is employer-provided health insurance just started after World War II, so auto insurance is in a much more competitive market.
You don’t whip out your auto insurance card at the gas station to pay for your gas, right? You only whip it out when there’s a crash, right? That’s what health insurance should be. And the Singapore model is actually a pretty good one for this where they have sort of a mandatory HSA, you have to put some money in that, and that pays for your healthcare bills, but then it’s cash out of that. It’s like a separate pocket, sort of four savings to pay for health savings accounts. Health savings accounts, right? The thing about this is, once you realize, well first, ambulatory medicine is capitalistic medicine, ambulance medicine is socialist medicine, okay? You want to shift people more towards ambulatory. Guess what? That’s in their interest as well. Now that brings us back to the monitoring, right? The continuous monitoring, whether eventually it’s Mike Snyder’s integrome, the V1 is the quantified cell from the Apple Watch and the continuous glucose meters, and the VN is the Mike Snyder integrome.
There’s a site called Q.Bio, which is doing this also, right? Eventually this stuff will hopefully just be in a device that just measures tons and tons of variables on you, right? There’s ways of measuring some of these metabolites without breaking the skin. So it’s not, you don’t have to keep breaking the skin over and over. There’s various ways of doing that. So now you’ve got something where you’ve got the monitoring, you’ve got the dashboards, you’ve got the alerts, and just like this Larry Smart guy that I mentioned, the measured man, you might be able to shift more and more things to ambulatory. One of the things about this also is the medical system is set up in a bad way where the primary care physician is the one who is not the top of their class, but the guys who are at the bottom of the pinball machine, the surgeons, and the radiologists. Once your stuff is already broken, they’re the ones who are paid the most. So a lot of the skill collects at the post break stage, where you actually want Doogie Howser MD is at the upstream stage. So you want this amazing, amazing doctor there, right? How could we get that? I mentioned the app that doesn’t exist, which is like a better version of the 3500B, right?
Here’s another app that doesn’t exist, and this is one that FDA has actively quashed. Why can’t you just take an image of a mole or something like that? With the incredible cameras we have, a huge amount of medical imaging should be able to be done at home, and it goes to doctors, whether it’s in the US or the Philippines or India. I mean, teleradiology exists, right? Why can you not do that for dermatology, for everything else? You should be able to literally just hold the thing up, and with a combination of both AI and MDs, just diagnose. That should exist, right? Answer is, there’s a combination of both American doctors and the FDA that team up to prevent this or slow this. And one argument is, oh, the AI is not better than a human 100% of the time, because it’s not deployed yet, therefore it could make an error, therefore it’s bad, even if it’s better than 99% of doctors, 90% of the time. Another argument is the software has to go through design control, okay? Now basically, once you understand how FDA works, basically imagine the most bureaucratic, frozen process for code deployment at any company ever, and that is the most nimble thing ever relative to FDA’s design review. So just to review, A, talked about how FDA was blocking all this stuff, B, talked about why ambulatory medicine is capitalist medicine, ambulance medicine is socialist medicine, C, talked about how with the diagnostic stuff, we can shift it over to ambulatory, D, talked about how there’s lots of things where you could have a combination of doctor and AI and an app that you kind of quickly self-diagnose.
Some of this is happening now, some of the telemedicine laws were relaxed during COVID, where now people, a doctor from Wyoming can prescribe for somebody in Minnesota, like some of that stuff was relaxed during COVID, okay? There’s other broken things in medical system, I’ll just name two more, and then kind of move on, okay? I mentioned like AMA and CPT, okay? Those are two regulatory bodies? AMA, American Medical Association, CPT, Current Procedural Terminology, okay? Basically, you know Marx’s labor theory of value, where people are supposed to be paid on their effort, right? Of course, the issue with this is that you’d be paying a physicist to try to dunk and they’d be trying, but they wouldn’t actually probably be able to do it, they’d be trying real hard, whereas you actually want to pay people invasive results, right? Cheaply attained results are actually better than expensively attained non-results, perhaps obvious, okay? Nevertheless, the way that the US medical system has payouts, it’s based on so-called RVUs, relative value units. And this is something where there’s a government body that sets these prices, and it is in theory only for Medicare, but all the private insurers key off of that. And AMA basically publishes a list of these so-called the CPT codes, which is like the coding, the biomedical coding of this, and what each medical process is worth and whatnot. So it’s like, I don’t remember all the numbers, but it’s like a five-digit code and it’s like, okay, I got a test for cystic fibrosis or a test for this or a test for that.
God help you if your medical billing is erroneous. Why? The insurance company will reject it, because it doesn’t pay for that. This is this giant process of trying to encode every possible ailment and condition into these CPT codes, and you can literally get degrees in medical billing just for this, okay? This enormous inefficient industry, like literally medical billing is a whole field, okay?
04:50:57 What do you want to do when you grow up?
04:50:59 I want to work in medical billing. In medical billing, okay? Where everybody’s mad at you at all times. Part of what happens is when you give a treatment, when a doctor gives a treatment to a patient, they can’t repo the treatment, okay? Like a car, you sell a car, you can theory repo the car. So the patient has a treatment. Now, what happens? Well, the insurance company, that treatment is perhaps, look, it’s a lab test provided by a company, right? The company bills the patient. The company is supposed to charge a high price. Why? The insurance company wants it to try to collect from the patient.
patient is scared. Oh, my god, they see this huge price. They sometimes don’t pay. Sometimes the insurance company doesn’t pay either. And when a company is stiff by an insurance company, or when a diagnostic company is stiff by an insurance company, it has to jack up the price than everybody else. Everything boils down to the fact that you don’t have a buyer and a seller. The doctor doesn’t know the price of what is being sold. The buyer doesn’t know the price of what is being bought at the time it’s being bought. Neither party can really even set a free price because there’s this R hidden system that hovers above. The buyer feels they’ve already bought it because they’ve bought insurance. The insurance company doesn’t want to pay for it. Everybody is trying to push the price onto somebody else and not actually show the sticker price of anything and hide everything in and so on.
The other thing about it is obviously lawsuits are over everything, everybody’s mad about everything, it’s health, people are dying. So everything is just optimized for optics as opposed to results. Similarly, actually many drugs are optimized for minimizing side effects and optics rather than maximizing effects, which are totally different criteria. You might have, for example, a drug that only cures a thousand people but doesn’t have any side effects versus one that cures a million people but that has 10 really serious side effects a year. And the second one would probably not happen because those side effects would be so so big. How do you attack the site? I named a few examples, but I actually think the reform is going to come in part from outside the system. In particular, India is coming online. Why is that important? Well, you may have encountered an Indian doctor or two, maybe an Indian programmer, one or two. And I do think telemedicine could explode. Where you could have an Indian doctor in India and there’s a US doctor who’s like a dispatcher.
See what I’m saying? They’ve got all these other Indian doctors behind them, they’ve got a telemedical app and you are now doing something where these relatively inexpensive Indian doctors who are vetted by the American doctor or the doctor in jurisdictions of license become the back end doctors of the world. To some extent, it’s already there with teleradiology and other kinds of things. But now that you’ve got literally like a billion Indians who’ve just come online, you have this huge pool of folks who have a different attitude towards medicine. For example, it’s a lot more cash payment over there. For example, India is big on generic drugs. For example, during COVID, it has something called Rogya Sethu, which is a national telemedicine app. The US wasn’t able to ship that. In some ways, India’s digital infrastructure, again, you’ll have to read a post called The Internet Country by tigerfeathers.subsac.com. You’ll see that actually India’s national software infrastructure is surprisingly good. It’s not as good as China’s in some ways, but it’s better than the US’s, which is like healthcare.gov and non-existent. It’s kind of impressive how good some of India’s software is.
The fact that it exists is good. You have all these new doctors coming online. India cranks out generics. Telemedicine is now more legal in the US, and you have a cash payment in India and in a lot of other places. You don’t have the whole insurance, employer health thing, and this market is growing. You could have a sort of parallel market that starts evolving, and people are only doing some medical tourism. I don’t think that’s another exit from the FDA. You have a parallel market that starts evolving that just starts from fundamentally different premises. It’s just cash, cash for everything, right? There’s downsides with cash everything. There’s a huge upside with cash for everything. Cash for everything means you give customer service from the doctor.
It means the prices are actually visible. It ideally pushes you, again, towards more ambulatory medicine rather than ambulance medicine, is constant monitoring with the quantified self and whatnot as opposed to just let your system fail and then wheel you in. right? Um, there’s a reputational bridge, because now we’ve had a couple of generations almost of Indian doctors in the US. So people know that there’s, you know, there’s some very competent doctors, they’re a good chunk of AMA. And so they can serve lobby for this. And you have plenty of Indian engineers. Now, I’m not saying India alone is a panacea. But I do think that this is a large enough parallel market to start doing interesting things.
04:56:03 And you could see sort of medical tourism, medical migration, to where it gives India an opportunity to basically let go of the constraints of the FDA. Yeah, because and innovate aggressively. And, and I mean, it’s such a huge opportunity to define the future of medicine and make a shit ton of money from a market that’s desperate for it in the United
04:56:28 States because of all the over the regulation. Yeah, because that’s right.
04:56:31 And I think basically, it’s something where the reason it needs that would fix the FDA. Sorry to interrupt. Yes, we fix FDA by Yes, we fix FDA by exiting the FDA. Yeah, right. And then the FDA
04:56:40 would dry out and then it would hopefully, it might reform in my dry out, right. And this is, you know, why people are, for example, they’re traveling across borders, you know, the gang orders from Canadian pharmacies, you know, a lot of this type of stuff, we can start to build alternatives, right? I mean, India’s generic industry is really important, because it just doesn’t enforce American IP there. So generic drugs are cheaper, right? And it’s quite competent, it’s been around for a while. So there’s enough proof points there, where, again, I’m not seeing a panacea, it’s going to be something which will require like American and Indian collaboration, I think there’s going to be a lot of other countries and so on that are involved. You can start to see another poll getting set up, which is a confident enough civilization that is willing to take another regulatory path, right? And that is in some ways doing better on national software than the US’s and it has enough of a bridge to the US that it can be that simulation, which you need, which is kind of something that outside poke, right? I want to talk about India, but let me just kind of wrap up on this big FDA, biomedical kind of thing, right? With the book, the network state, the purpose of the network state, you know, I want people to be able to build different kinds of network states, I want people to build the vegan village, I want people to be able to build a, you know, if they want to do the benthic option like a Christian network state, if people want to do different kinds of things, I’m open to many different things and I will fund lots of different things. For me, the motivation is just like you need to start a new currency, Bitcoin, it was easier to do that than to reform the Fed, I think it’s easier to start new country than to form the FDA. And so I want to do it to, in particular, get to longevity, meaning longevity enhancement.
And what does that mean? So in an interesting way, and this will sound like a trite statement, but I think it’s actually a deep statement, or maybe hopefully try to convince you it is, crypto is to finance, or what longevity is to the current state of medicine. Why? It inverts certain fundamental assumptions. So at first, crypto looks like traditional finance, it’s got the charts and the bands, and you’re buying and selling, so on. But what Satoshi did is he took fundamental premises and flipped them. For example, in the traditional macroeconomic worldview, hyperinflation is bad, but deflation is also bad. So a little inflation is good, right? In the traditional macroeconomic worldview, it’s good that there are custodians, banks that, you know, kind of intermediate the whole system, right? In the traditional, you know, worldview, every transaction needs to be reversible because somebody can make a mistake and so on and so forth, right? In the traditional worldview, you don’t really have root access over your money. Satoshi inverted all of those things.
Okay, obviously, you know, the big one is hyperinflation is bad, but he also thought mild inflation was bad, and deflation was good. That’s just a fundamental shift. Okay. He gave you root access over your money. You’re now a system administrator of you’re own money. You can RUM-RF your entire fortune, or send millions with a keystroke. You are now the system administrator of your own money. That alone is why cryptocurrency is important. If you want system administration access at times to computers, you’ll want it to currency, right? To be sovereign. You know, there’s other assumptions where like the assumptions is every transaction is private in the existing system by default, or it’s visible only to the state, whereas at least the initial, you know, the Bitcoin blockchain, everything is public, right? There are various kinds of things like this, where he just inverted fundamental premises.
And, and then the whole crypto system is in the crypto economy is in many ways a teasing out of what that means. Just to give you one example, the US dollar, people have seen those graphs, where it’s like inflating. And so it just like loses value over time. And you’ve seen that, okay? Whereas in most of the time, it’s just sort of deny that it’s losing any value. The, the, the most highbrow way of defending it is the US dollar trades off temporary short term price stability, for long term depreciation, and Bitcoin makes the opposite trade off, in theory, at least long term appreciation at the expense of short term price instability, because like, you know, there’s the whole plunge protection team, and so on. Basically, there’s there’s various ways in which price stability is tried to be maintained in the medium term, at the expense of long term depreciation, you need to like a reserve assets to keep, you know, stabilizing the dollar against various things. So what does crypto medicine look like relative to fiat medicine to make the same analogy, right? The existing medical system, it assumes that a quick death is bad and early death is bad, but also that living forever is either unrealistic or impossible or undesirable, that you should die with dignity or something like that. Okay. So a little death is good. That’s existing medical system.
Whereas the concept of life extension, and, you know, David Sinclair, and you know, whether you call it health span, says rejects that fundamental premise. And it says, actually, the way to defeat cancer is to defeat aging, aging is actually a program biomedical, biological process. And we can, we have results that are showing stopping or even reversing aging in some ways. And so now just like, just like with the other thing, you say, a quick death is bad. And so is actually death itself. Right? So we actually want significant life extension. This is similar. It’s very, it’s very similar to what, you know, the rejection of the the fiat system, right? The fiat system says, a little inflation is good. Fiat medicine says a little death is good. Bitcoin says actually, no inflation, just get more valuable over time.
And crypto medicine says, actually, let’s, you know, extend life. This leads to all kinds of new things where you start actually thinking about, all right, how do I maintain my health with, you know, diagnostics? How do I, you know, take control of my own health with the decentralization of medicine? All the stuff that I’ve been describing sort of fits like longevity
05:02:56 as traditional medicine as crypto is to traditional currency. If we take those assumptions separately, so we take cryptocurrency aside, is that to you obvious that this letting go of this assumption about death? Is that an obvious thing? Is longevity is thing obviously good versus, for example, the devil’s advocate to that would be what we want is to keep death and maximize
05:03:24 the quality of life up until the end, like, so that you’re right into the sunset or healthy. Somebody who’s listening to the whole podcast say, well, Balji, just a few hours ago, you were saying this gerontocracy runs the US and they’re all old and they don’t get it, blah, blah, blah. And now you’re talking about making people live forever. So there’s never any new blood to watch
05:03:43 about, ha ha, what a contradiction, right? It’s fun. It’s funny that you’re so on point across all the topics we and all the topics we covered and the possible criticism. I love it. Well,
05:03:55 just try and anticipate, you know, some of them. Well done. So the, I think the argument on that is so long as you have a frontier, it is okay for someone to live long. Okay. So long as people can exit to a new thing. Number one. Number two is in order for us to go and, you know, colonize other planets and so on, you know, if you do want to get to Mars, if you want to become, you know, Star Trek and, you know, what have you, um, probably going to need to have, you know, like, you know, just to survive a long flight, so to speak, you know, multiple lightyear flight, you’re going to need to have life extension. So to become a pioneering, you know, interstellar kind of thing, I know that, like it’s, it’s the kind of thing which sounds like, okay, yeah. And when we’re on the moon, we’re going to need shovels. You know, it’s, it sounds like a piling a fantasy on top of a fantasy in that sense. But it’s also something where, if you’re talking about the vector of our civilization, where are we going, Well, I actually do think it’s either anarcho-primitivism or optimalism slash transhumanism. Either we are shutting down civilization, it’s de-growth, it’s, you know, Unabomber, et cetera, or it’s the stars and escaping the prime number maze.
05:05:09 It’s like, to me, it’s obvious that we’re going to, if we’re to survive, expand out into space. Yes. And it’s obvious that once we do, we’ll look back at anyone, which is currently most people that didn’t think of this future, or didn’t anticipate this future, work towards this future as Luddites, like, as people who totally didn’t get it. It would become obvious. Right now it’s impossible, and then it would become obvious. Yes. It seems like, yes. Longevity, in some form, I mean, there could be a lot of arguments over the different forms of longevity could take, but in some form, longevity is almost a prerequisite for the expansion out into the cosmos,
05:05:54 expansion of the longevity. There’s also like a way to bring it back to earth to an extent, which is how were societies used to be judged? You may remember people used to talk about life expectancy as a big thing, right? Life expectancy is actually a very, very, very good metric. Why? It’s a ratio scale variable. There’s like four different class of variables statisticians talk about. Ratio scale is like years or meters or kilograms, okay? Then you have interval scale where plus and minus means something, but there’s no absolute zero. Then you have ordinal where there’s only ranks and plus and minus to anything. And then you have categorical like the Yankees and the Braves are categorical variables. They’re just different, but all you have is the comparator operator, whether you have a call, you don’t have a rank, okay?
So ratio scale data is the best because you can compare it across space and time. If you have a skeleton that is like, you know, two meters tall, that’s from 3000 years ago, you can compare the height of people from many, many years ago, different cultures and times, right? Whereas their currency is much harder to value. That’s not like a ratio scale variable. Other things are harder to value across space and time, right? So life expectancy is good because as a ratio scale variable with a very clear definition, right? Like when someone born and died, those are actually relatively clear. But most other things aren’t like that. You know, that’s why murder or, you know, death, that, you know, it can be scored. It’s unambiguous. You know, it’s done when it’s done. Whereas when does somebody get sick?
Oh, well, they were kind of sick. Were they sick today? They were sick at this hour. The boundary conditions, many other kinds of things
05:07:28 are not like clear cut like that, right? And I should just briefly comment that life expectancy does have this quirk, a dark quirk that it, when you just crudely look at it, it incorporates child mortality and mortality at age of one or age of five. And maybe it’s better and clearer to look at mortality after five or whatever. And that’s still, those metrics still hold in interesting ways and measure the progress of human civilization in interesting ways.
05:08:01 Yes, that’s right. You actually want longevity biomarkers. A lot of people are working on this. There’s a book called The Picture of Dorian Gray, right? And the concept is sell your soul to, you know, ensure the picture rather than he will age and fade, right? And so the concept is that thing on the wall just reflects his age and you can see it, okay? So there’s a premise that’s embedded in a lot of Western culture that to gain something you must lose, if you’re Icarus and you try to fly, then you’ll fly too high and it’ll melt your wings. But guess what? We fly every day, commercial air flight, right? So the opposite of like the Icarus or picture of Dorian Gray kind of thing is the movie Limitless, which I love because it’s so Nietzschean and so unusual relative to the dystopian, you know, sci-fi movies where there’s a, without giving, right, I mean, the movie’s kind of old now, but there’s a drug in it that’s a neurotropic that boosts, you know, your cognitive abilities and it’s got side effects, but at the end, he engineers out the side effects. Amazing, just like, you know, yeah, there are planes that crash and we land, right? Okay, so why did I mention the picture Dorian Gray?
Well, there’s another aspect of it, which is longevity biomarker. The point is to kind of estimate how many years of life you have left by, you know, that Q.Bio or Integrome or you take all these analyses on somebody, right? One of the best longevity biomarkers could be just your face, right? You image the face and you can sort of tell, oh, somebody looks like they’ve aged, oh, someone looks younger, et cetera, et cetera. And this is actually data that you’ve got on millions and millions of people where you could probably start having AI predict, okay, what is somebody’s life expectancy given their current face and other kinds of things, right? Because you have their name, your birthday, you have their, you know, date they passed away if they’ve already passed away, right? And you have photos of them through their life, right? So just imaging might give a reasonably good longevity biomarker, but then you can supplement that with a lot of other variables. And now you can start benchmarking every treatment by its change in how much time you have left. If that treatment, that intervention boosts your estimated life expectancy by five years, you can see that in the data. You can get feedback on whether your longevity is being boosted or not, okay? And so what this does, it just fundamentally changes the assumptions of the system.
Now, with that said, you know, life extension may be the kind of thing, I’m not sure if it’ll work for our generation, we may be too late, it may work for the next generation. Wouldn’t that make you sad? Well, I’ve got something. You’re the last generation. Could be, but I’ve got something for you. Which is, I call it genomic reincarnation, okay? This one you probably haven’t heard before. I’ve tweeted about it, okay? So-
05:10:51 By the way, good time to mention that your Twitter is one of the greatest Twitters of all time, so people should follow you.
05:10:57 Well, Lex Friedman has one of the greatest podcasts of all time. You guys should listen to the Lex Friedman podcast, which you may be doing, right?
05:11:04 Which you may be doing right now.
05:11:05 Yes. Yes. Yeah.
05:11:07 Well, thank you, so- What was the term again?
05:11:09 Sorry, genomic- So I call it genomic, not resurrection, but genomic reincarnation, okay? So here’s the concept. You may be aware that you can synthesize strands of DNA, okay? There’s sequencing of DNA, which is reading it, and synthesizing DNA, which is creating strands of DNA. What’s interesting is you can actually also do that at the full chromosome level for bacterial chromosomes. Remember that thing I was saying earlier about the minimum life form that Craig Venter made? So people have synthesized entire bacterial chromosomes and they work. They can literally essentially print out a living organism, all right? Now, when you go from bacteria to eukaryotes, which are the kingdom of life that we’re part of, right? Yeast are part of this kingdom and so on. It becomes harder because the chromosomes are more complicated. But folks are working on eukaryotic chromosome synthesis.
And if you spot me that sci-fi assumption that eventually we’ll be able to take your genome sequence and just like we can synthesize a bacterial chromosome, we can synthesize not just one eukaryotic chromosome, but your entire complement of chromosomes in the lab, right? Because you have 23, 46, whatever you take the pairs. What you can do is potentially print somebody out from disk, reincarnate them insofar if your sequence determines you. And you can argue with this because there’s epigenetics and other stuff, okay? But let’s just say at a first order, your DNA sequence is Lex. You can sequence that, okay? You can do full genome sequencing and log that to a file. Then here’s the, you know, the karma part. Your crypto community where you’ve built up enough karma among them. If when you die, your karma balance is high enough. They will spend the money to reincarnate the next Lex who can then watch everything that happened in your past life. And you can tell them something.
Everything I described there, I mean, if you spot me, eukaryotic chromosome synthesis, that’s the only part that like, you know, I think will be possible, right? Folks are working on it. I’m sure someone will mention it. It’s essentially a clone. It’s like a clone, right?
05:13:31 But it is you in a different time. You’re in a different time,
05:13:36 but you don’t unfortunately have the memories. Well, you could probably watch the digest of your life and it would be pretty interesting, right?
05:13:46 I mean, Yeah, the, you know, that’s actually a process for psychology to study. If you create a blank mind, what would you need to show that mind to align it very well with the experiences, with the fundamental experiences that define the original version, such that the resulting clone would have similar behavior patterns, worldviews, perspectives, feelings, all those kinds of things. Potentially, right?
05:14:17 Including sadly enough traumas and all that. Or what have you, right? But basically just like in a very simple version of it, you know, by the time one is age 20 or 30 or something in your 20s, you’ll sort of learn your own personal operating system. You’ll be like, oh, alcohol really doesn’t agree with me or something like that. You just by trial and error, you know, things that are idiosyncratic to your own physiology. You’re like, oh, you know, I’m totally wrecked if I get seven hours of sleep versus nine hours or whatever it is, right? People will have different kinds of, you know, things like this. That manual can be given to your next self. So like, you can go, don’t do this, do this, don’t do this, do this, right? To some extent, personal genomics already gives you some of this where you’re like, oh, I’m a caffeine nun, you know, or a slow metabolizer. Oh, that explains X or Y, you know? Or I have a weird version of alcohol dehydrogenous.
Oh, okay, that explains, you know, my alcohol tolerance. So, you know, this is part of the broader category of what I call practical miracles, right? So it’s longevity, it’s genomic reincarnation, it is restoring sight, and it is curing deafness with, you know, the, you know, artificial eyes and artificial ears. It is the Super Soldier Serum, did I show you that? So like, Maestad and Nel, a tweet about this. Basically, X-Men are real. So here is a study from any GM from several years ago. Okay, what is this, this is like the mid-2000s. This was in 2004, okay, so it’s now 17 years later, probably, this is almost certainly a teenager by now. So this kid basically was just totally built. Yeah. Okay, extraordinarily muscul-
05:15:58 Like very muscular at a very young age.
05:16:03 Yes, so the child’s birth weight was in the 75th percentile, he appeared extraordinarily muscular, with protruding muscles in his thighs, motor and mental development has been normal. Now, at four and a half years of age, he continues to have increased muscle bulk and strength. And so, essentially, Maestad mutation associated with gross muscle hypertrophy in a child. So this is like real-life X-Men, okay? And-
05:16:25 There’s pictures of animals.
05:16:26 Yes, this is a company called Variant Bio that is looking at people who have exceptional health-related traits, and is looking for essentially this kind of thing, but maybe more disease or whatever related, right? For example, people who have natural immunity to COVID, understanding how that works, perhaps we can give other people artificial immunity to COVID, right? If you scroll up, you see my kind of tweet, Super Soldier Serum is Real, where it’s like, wild-type mouse in a Maestad null, and look at the chest on that thing. You see the before and after. Wow. Okay, this is what’s possible, you know, this could be us, but you’re regulating, you know, right? You’re not saying like, this could be us, but you play. This could be us, but the FDA regulating, right?
05:17:09 All this, okay. Oh, yeah, on steroids. But it’s not, that’s the thing you see. It’s not steroids.
05:17:16 Well, that’s the thing is, people, when people, again, you get back to the Icarus thing, they think, oh, steroids, well, that’s definitely going to give you cancer, screw up your hormones, et cetera, et cetera. And it could, but you know what? Like, have we actually put in that much effort into figuring out, like, the right way of doing testosterone supplementation, or the right way of doing this? Obviously, we’ve managed to put a lot of effort into marijuana, increasing the potency of it, or what have you. Could we put the effort into these kinds of drugs, right? Or these kinds of compounds? Maybe. I think that would actually be a really good thing. The thing about this is, I feel this is just a massively underexplored area. Rather than people drinking caffeine all the time, that’s like a very mild enhancing drug, okay? Nicotine is also arguably kind of like that, you know, some people have it even without the cigarettes, right? Why can’t we research this stuff?
One way of thinking about it is, you know, Lance Armstrong, the cyclist, yes, he violated all the rules, you know, he shouldn’t have won the Tour de France or anything like that. But his chemists, and I say this somewhat tongue in cheek, but also, you know, his chemists are candidates for, like, the Nobel Prize in chemistry. Because they brought a man back from, like, testicular cancer to, like, winning Tour de France’s against a bunch of guys who probably, you know, a bunch of them were also juiced or whatever, right? Whatever was done there, take it out of the competition framework. There’s a lot of testicular cancer patients or cancer patients, period, who would want some of that.
05:18:49 And we should take that seriously,
05:18:51 we should take that pursuit really, really, really serious here, yes. Yes, except, again, just like the Therano stuff, all this pathologise, oh, it’s a Bal lone scandal, oh, it says, Oh, my God, you know? And, yes, of course, within the context of that game, they’re cheating. When the conduct is a life, you want to be cheating death. Right? So, um, it’s just a kind of a reframe on what is good, right? And it is just taking away these assumptions that mild inflation is good or mild death is good and going towards transcendence. So that gets me done with the giant FDA, biomedical, etc, etc.
05:19:26 Longevity. Yeah, that’s beautifully, beautifully done.
05:19:29 You have two questions. One was on Trump and deplatforming and the other was on crypto and
05:19:34 the state of crypto and the third is on India. Which one should we do? All right, since we talked about how to fix government, we talked about how to fix health, medicine, FDA, longevity, let us briefly talk about how to fix social media. Sure. Very important. Since we kind of talked about it from different directions, but it’d be nice to just look at social media. And if we could perhaps first, as an example, maybe it’s not a useful example, but to me it was one that kind of shook me a little bit, uh, is the removal of Trump. And since then, other major figures, but Donald Trump was probably the biggest person ever to be removed from social media. Um, do you understand why that was done? Can you steel man the case for it and against it?
05:20:17 And if there’s something broken about that, how do we fix it? Sure. Steel man, the case for is kind of obvious in the sense of, um, you are seeing a would be dictator who was trying to run a coup against democracy who has his, um, supporters go and storming the seat of government who could use his app to whip up his followers across the country to reject, um, you know, the will of the people. And, uh, so you’re an executive and, you know, you will take actions that while perhaps controversial are still within the law. And, uh, you will make sure that you do your part to defend democracy by, uh, making sure that at least this guy’s megaphone is taken away and that his supporters cannot organize more rights. Right. That’s basically the case, you know, for the deplatforming. Okay. Um, would you agree to that? So it’s like really steel manning it, steel manning it.
05:21:19 I’m getting, you asked to steel man. So I’m giving the four case. Yeah. Well, I think is, I guess I would like to separate the would be dictator. Oh, I guess if you’re storming the Capitol, you are a dictator. I see. I see. Um, so those are two are interlinked, right? You have to have somehow a personal judgment of the person. Bad enough to be worth this, you know, significant step. Yeah. It’s not just their actions or words in a particular situation, but broadly,
05:21:50 this project is probably the context of everything that led up to this moment. Right? Yeah. So that’s, that’s the four case, right now, the against case, there’s actually several against cases, right? There’s obviously the Trump supporters, you know, against case. There is the, um, sort of the libertarian slash. Um, left libertarian, you know, against case. And there is the, uh, rest of world against case. Okay. There’s actually three because it’s not just just two factions, there’s multiple, right? So what is the Trump supporter against case? There’s an article called the secret bipartisan campaign that saved the 2020 election, right?
Which came out a few weeks after the inauguration, like February 4, 2021. And essentially, the Trump supporter would read this as basically saying, in the name of defending democracy, they corrupted democracy, you know, whether it was actually vote counts, or just changes of all the rules for mail-in ballots and stuff. There were regular meetings between the Chamber of Commerce and, you know, AFL and the unions. In particular, they admit that the BLM riots of, you know, the mid 2020s were actually on a string, and they could say, stand down, right? So that’s actually, that’s a quote from this article, where it’s like, the word went out, stand down, protect the results, announced that it would not be activating the entire national mobilization network today, remains ready to activate if necessary. Pothoser credits to activists for their restraint. So basically, the activists rearranged the protected results protest towards a weekend of celebration. So point being that the fact that the Trump supporter would say, the fact that they could tell them to stand down meant that the previous, you know, unrest was in part, you know, coordinated. And so it’s a okay, so that makes it illegitimate in a different way, right? Plus, you know, what is one riot on Jan 6 versus the attacks on the White House and stuff? You know, the storming of the White House in mid 2020 and didn’t actually storm the White House, but they’re setting fires outside and quite, quite a lot of stuff, right. So the second against case is the, let’s say, libertarian slash left libertarian who’d say, um, do we really want giant corporations?
Regardless, what you think about Trump, and you don’t have to be a Trump supporter, do you really want giant corporations to be determining who can say what on the internet? And if they can de platform a sitting president and the quote, most powerful man in the world, he’s not the most powerful man in the world. In fact, the quote, people are electing a figurehead and actually it’s the heads of network that are more powerful than the heads of state, right? That the fact that the CEOs of Facebook and Twitter and Google and Apple and Amazon all made those decisions at the same time to not just deplatform Trump from Twitter, which literally billions of people around the world saw, but also censor or stop on Facebook and to have Google and Apple pull Parler out of the app store and Amazon shut down the backend, that would be corporate collusion by any other name. It’s actually very similar to the so-called business plot against FDR. FDR was a complicated figure who can in some ways best be thought of as the least bad communist dictator or socialist dictator of the 20th century. Why? He nationalized the economy, repeal the 10th amendment, tried to pack the courts. He sicked the government on all of his enemies from Huey Long to Andrew Mellon. Obviously, he interned the Japanese, which shows that wasn’t really totally a good guy. We don’t usually think about the same guy who did this, did that. Earlier in his life, most people don’t know this one, he led a whole Navy thing to entrap gay sailors.
Did you know about this one? No. FDR entrapment of gay sailors, basically he got young men to try to find folks within the Navy who were gay and then basically entrap them so that they could be prosecuted and what have you. FDR did a lot of stuff, but fundamentally nationalized the economy and set up the alphabet soup is what they called it at the time. That’s like all these agencies or whatever. In some sense, there’d been a rising trend of centralization. Woodrow Wilson, obviously centralized, Lincoln centralized, even actually 1789 was a degree of centralization over the more loose thing that was 1776, 1789. He was on that trend line, but he was definitely a huge kind of dog leg up. The thing is that because of all the lawsuits that were flying, folks like Amy Shlaes has written a book, The Forgotten Man, and essentially her thesis and thesis of many others at that time like John T. Flynn, who’s this journalist who was pro FDR and then was against, was that FDR made the Great Depression great, that it wouldn’t have been such a bad thing without him mucking up the entire economy and giving it a sickness. It would have recovered quickly without that. This is a counterfactual, which people just argue about it really angrily back and forth and you can’t actually run the experiment unless you could fork the economy.
Just like, were the bailouts good or bad? I think they were bad, but how could I prove it? I’d need to actually be able to fork the economy. It actually allows you in theory to do that, like where folks could actually shift balances. This is a whole separate thing where you can actually start to make macroeconomics into more of an experimental science rather than simply arguing from authority, you could argue from experiment. Some of the virtual economy stuff that Edward Castronova has done is relevant to this. We can talk about that. The point is though with FDR, there’s this thing, because he had such a war on private industry at that time and justified it with this narrative, quote, bold, persistent experimentation, there was something called the, quote, business plot, where all of these captains of industry that he’d been beating up, and again, Teddy Roosevelt had also been doing this with the trust buster. The Journos at the time, Ida Tarbell had gone and basically ran all these articles on Rockefeller and knocked him down. Woodrow Wilson is going to control. But FDR, the COs were thinking, oh, I’m bad, this is so terrible. There’s a so-called business plot to try to take over the government and stop FDR from pushing the country in what they thought was a bad direction.
Spentley Butler was a general that they recruited to try to help them with this, but he turned on them and he went and kind of broke the whole thing open and were told to Congress and so on. And so all these guys, the whole plot was broken up, right? Now one way of thinking about today or the whole aftermath of Jan 6 is it’s a business plot, but in reverse, because the generals and the COs both were against Trump and actually the business plot happened and now all the COs just, you know, they pulled all the push all the buttons that they needed to and now the network was prime over the state, okay? Now why is that an interesting way of looking at it? Because one thing I have in the book is you can kind of think of 1950 as like is just peak centralization. You go forward and backward in time, things decentralized, you know, for example, and you start getting mirror image events that happen with the opposite outcome. For example, 1890, the frontier closes, 1991, the internet frontier opens, internet becomes open for commerce, okay? You go backwards in time, you have the Spanish flu, forwards in time, COVID-19, right? Backwards in time, you have the captains of industry, the robber barons, forwards in time, you have the tech billionaires. And there’s so many examples of this. Like another one is backwards in time, the New York Times is allying with Soviet Russia to choke out Ukraine. Now today, they have reinvented themselves as cheerleaders for Ukraine against, you know, nationalist Russia, right?
And of course, I think you could absolutely support Ukraine on other measures, but it’s pretty hypocritical for the guys who profited from the hull to more, you know, the Ochselzburg family literally profited from, you know, denying the hull to more to now make themselves cheerleaders for Ukraine.
05:29:42 It’s actually this insane thing, which we can talk about. Tiny tangent on that. You put it brilliantly and a reminder for anyone who listens to me talk about Ukraine, it is possible to have empathy for a nation and not be part of the machine that generates
05:29:58 a mainstream narrative. Yes, that’s right. Like basically, you know, I was actually one of the first three Estonian residents, okay. And I completely understand why Estonia and the Baltics and all these countries, including Ukraine that just recently within living memory got their independence from the Soviet Empire, would not want to be forcibly reintegrated into a place that they just escaped from, you know. And so that is something which is sort of outside the American left-right tired kind of thing, where when you understand it from that point of view, right, then there’s like a fourth point of view, which is like India’s point of view or like much of the developing world or what I call parts of it are ascending, parts of descending, whatever. But much of the rest of the world outside of that border region says, look, we’re sympathetic to the Ukrainians, but we can’t allow our people to starve. So we’re going to maintain trade. And guess what? Actually we’ve got a lot of wars in our neck of the woods and human rights crises that Europe just didn’t even care about. So it can’t be that Europe’s problems are the world’s problems but the world’s problems are not Europe’s problems, right? So that’s like a fourth point of view. Then a fifth point of view is China, which is like, guess what we’re going to be the Iran of the Iraq War.
Where who won the Iraq War? Iran arguably… Because they extended their influence into Iraq. So China is like, guess what? We’re going to turn Russia into our gas station and build a pipeline. They’re building, there’s a power sabir is like the name of the Eastern Russia pipeline, just like Nord Stream is Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2. I think they’re building a new pipeline through Mongolia. So Xi Jinping and Putin and the Mongolian head of state were all photographed kind of thumbs upping this pipeline. We’ll see if it goes through, but it’s ironic that Russia wanted to make Ukraine their colony, but the outcome of this war may be that Russia becomes China’s colony. So that’s at least like five different perspectives. There’s the US establishment perspective. There’s the Tucker-Maga perspective, there’s the Baltics and Ukrainian perspective. There’s the Indian and poor country’s perspective, and then there’s a Chinese perspective, and then of course there’s the Russians.
So just with respect to that by the way, that’s another example of history happening in reverse. This is the Sino-Soviet Partnership, except this time China’s a senior partner and Russia’s a junior partner, and this time they’re both nationalists rather than communists. And there’s so many flips like this. And, you know, I’m going to list a few more actually, because there’s so, so, so many of them. Do you have an explanation why that happens? Yes. Let me just list a few of them. This is in the network say book, it’s in the chapter called Fragmentation, Frontier, Fourth Turning, Futures are Past, right? So I give this example
05:32:37 of like a fluid unmixing. All right, just watch this for a second. All right. This is from Smart Every Day, Unmixing Color Machine, Ultra Limiting Reversible Flow, Smart Every Day, 217.
05:32:51 And so you can mix something. And then like this thing that you don’t think of as reversible, you can unmix it, which is insane, right? That it works. Okay, the physics of that situation,
05:33:02 it just works, right? So for people just listening that there is whatever the mixture, this is, this is ultra laminar, reversible flow. So this probably has to do something to do with the material. We’re used to mixing not being a reversible process. Exactly. And that’s what
05:33:20 that shows. And then he, he then reverses the mixing and is able to do it perfectly.
05:33:25 That’s right. So that’s like the Futures are Past. It shows that free will is an illusion.
05:33:29 Just kidding. Well, well, basically, there’s, there’s, you know, some environments where, you know, the equations are like time symmetrical. So you can write. And this is one model sort of, it’s an interesting visual model for what’s happening in the world, as we re decentralized after the centralized century. Right? So basically, you know, I mentioned the internet frontier over-opens back in the Western frontier closed. Today, we experienced COVID-19. Back then, we experienced the Spanish flu, tech billionaires, and we have the capstone sheet, right? Today, founders like Alon and Dorsey are starting to win against the establishment journalists. Back then, Ida Tarbell demagogued and defeated Rockefeller. I think net net founders win this time versus the Journos. Back then, the Journos won over the founders.
Okay. Say we have cryptocurrencies, back then we had private banking. Today, this is an amazing one. We have a populist movement, movement of digital gold advocates. Back then, because Bitcoin maximalists and so on, where gold has become populist because it’s against the printing money and so and so forth. Back then, we had a populist movement against gold in the form of William Jennings Bryan in the Cross of Gold Speech. Gold was considered a tool of big business. Now gold is the tool against big business and big government. Right? Digital gold, right? Say we have the inflation and cultural conflict of Weimar-like America. Back then, we had the inflation and cultural conflict of Weimar, Germany.
Say in Weimar America, we have Right and Left left, fighting in the streets, same unfortunately in Weimar, Germany. Peter Turchin has written about, say we have what Turchin considers antebellum like polarization, like pre-born polarization. Back then, if you go further back to him, we had what we now know to be antebellum polarization, right? Today we have Airbnb, back then we had flop houses. Today we have Uber, back then we had gypsy cabs, so today we see the transition from neutral to yellow journalism, back then we saw the transition from yellow to neutral journalism. Today, figures like Mike Maritz, wrote about China’s energetic and America’s iconic but back then Bertrand Russell actually wrote this whole long book. Actually the mathematician Bertrand Russell wrote this whole long book, which I didn’t realize he wrote about these kind of topics about the problem of China. One of his observations was… Again, I’m not saying he made this observation. He was saying that America’s energetic and China’s iconic at the time, because everybody it was in opium dens and so and so forth, okay? More examples, the one I just mentioned where the Chinese and Russians are again, lining up against the West, except this time the Chinese are the senior partner in the relationship rather than a junior partner. Today I think in the second Cold War, there’ll also be a third world, but this time I think that third world might come in first because it’s not the non aligned movement,
05:36:08 it’s the aligned movement around web three protocols. That’s fascinating, that’s wayndac comes in. By the way, it’s something we haven’t mentioned, Africa, that there could be very interesting things
05:36:17 in Africa as well. Nigeria is actually, Nigeria has first tech unicorn and I’m investing there. And I think, you know, it’s one of these things where China’s risen. India is like about 10 years behind, you know, China, but I think this is the Indian decade in many ways. We can come back to that point. But there’s absolutely, you know, sparks of light in Africa. I mean, it’s a huge
05:36:37 continent. It sounds like the more behind, sorry to interrupt, the more behind you are,
05:36:42 the more opportunity you have to leapfrog. Sometimes. That’s right. And Pisa is a classic example where they did this in East Africa, but I think there’s more possibility there.
05:36:53 So what is the fact that there’s a kind of symmetry in history, right? What is that, how did that take us from Trump, the different perspective you took, the libertarian perspective
05:37:02 of it doesn’t really matter. There’s a kind of history, right? Yeah, because the libertarian perspective or the left left libertarian perspective would say, is it really a good idea to have total corporate power against the, quote, elected government, even if, you know, you may disagree, do you want to open the door to total, you know, corporate oligarchy? And it’s like the opposite. That’s why I mentioned it’s like the opposite of the business plots and they pulled on that thread. Okay. So the macro explanation that I have for this future is our past thesis. And there’s more, it also gives some predictions, right? If you go backwards in time, the US federalizes into many individual states. Like before the civil war, people said the United States are and after they said the United States is before FDR, the 10th amendment reserved rights to the States. Afterwards, it was just federal regulation of everything. As we go forwards in time, you’re seeing States break away from the feds on gun laws, drug laws, right?
Sanctuary cities, okay? Many other kinds of things, you know? And now Florida, for example, has its own guard that’s like not a national guard,
05:38:15 but like a state card. Other other cities, other States are doing this. And that’s a force of decentralization is saying that parallels. Yes. In reverse.
05:38:23 In reverse, right? Over happened before. Make America States again. Nice. Okay. That’s what I think happening, right? But I’m not saying I, well, I think there’s aspects of that that are good, there’s aspects that are bad but just like that’s kind of the angle, right?
05:38:37 But then that’s, I mean, from your perspective, it’s probably not enough, right? That’s
05:38:40 not enough. Right?
05:38:43 It’s part of the future. Let’s just say whether I… I think you suggested all kinds of ways to build different countries. I think that’s probably one of them. You said like start micro countries or something like this. I forgot the terminology.
05:38:56 Micro nations. Yeah, that’s no no, something. Yeah, I actually think of them as better term is microstates because they’re actually not nations, that’s why they don’t work. But microstates are better, right? Coming back to the difference between nation and the state, the nation is like the nation state is a term that people use without expanding it. But nation comes from the same root word as like dirtality. So it’s like common descent, common birth, right? Common origin like the Japanese nation that’s a group of people that have, you know, come down from history. Right? Hence nationalism. Yeah. Whereas the state is like the administrative layer above them.
It’s like labor and capital like labor and management, okay? The American state stood over the Japanese nation
05:39:31 in 1946 after the war, right? Oh, so you weren’t talking about tradition, that doesn’t matter. True. In terms of like, I thought you meant nation is a thing that carries across the generations, that there’s a tradition, there’s a culture and so on,
05:39:44 and state is just the layer.
05:39:47 I mean, that’s also another way of thinking about it, right?
05:39:49 There’s reversal there as well, okay. Yeah, so I mean, one way of thinking about it is, one nation under God indivisible is no longer true. It is, America is at least two nations, the Democrat and Republican, in the sense of their own cultures, where I can show you graph after graph, you’ve seen the polarization graphs, I can show you network diagrams, where there’s this graph of polarization in Congress, where there’s red and blue, they’re separate things. There’s this article from 2017 showing how shares on Facebook and Twitter are just separate sub graphs, they’re just separate graphs in the social network, and they’re pulling apart. Those are two nations, they’re not under God, because people in the US no longer believe in God, and they’re very much divisible, because 96% of Democrats won’t marry Republicans in a high percentage of their way. And in one, what that means is, in one generation, ideology becomes biology, these become ethnic groups. It takes on the character of Hoodoo and Tootsie, or Protestant and Catholic, Sunni and Shiite, it’s not about ideology. If you think about all the flips during COVID, right? Where people were on one side, were on the other side, it’s tribal, it’s just tribe on tribe. And so it’s not universalist, that identity of American makes less sense than the identity of Democrat and Republican right now, or perhaps identity of individual states. Where I think that’s a good or bad thing, I think that’s unfortunately, whatever it is, it’s the hour of history, right? On the opposite side of things, India is actually was 562 princely states at the time of Indian unification from 1947 to 19, 1947 when it got independence from the British, it was 562 princely states.
Most people don’t know that part, or outside India don’t know that part. It got unified into a republic only by like 1950. And India is like actually a modern, India is like Europe, it’s kind of like the European Union in the sense that, we didn’t have a unified India in the past, it was something with a lot of different countries, like Northern South India, or like Gujarat and Tamil Nadu, are as different as Finland and Spain, okay? But India has moved in the direction of much more unification, like much more centralization or what have you, whereas the US is decentralized, you go to, okay, a few more things, there are flips and I’ll finish this off. Today we’re seeing the rise of the pseudonymous founder in starved societies back, all the way back in the 1770s, we saw pseudonymous founders of starved countries, namely the US, right, the Federalist Papers. Today we’re seeing so far unsuccessful calls for wealth seizures in the US. Back then we saw FDR’s Executive Order 6102, which was a successful seizure of gold. I expect we may see something like that, an attempted seizure of digital gold. And I think that’ll be one of the things that individual states like Florida or Texas may not enforce that. And I think that’s actually the kind of thing where you could see like a breakup potential in the future, right? One other thing that kind of rhymes is in many ways like the modern US establishment, the story that you hear is the victories in 1945 and 1865 legitimate the current establishment, that is being the Nazis, being the Confederates, right? So you beat the ethnic nationalists abroad and they beat the secessionists at home, right?
And the ethnic nationalists were, you know, Aryan Nazis and the secessionists were slave owners and against freedom and so on and so forth. I’m not disputing that, I’m just saying that that’s just like the way people think about it. There’s a possibility, and I’m not saying it’s 100% at all, okay, but if you’re a sci-fi writer, there’s a possibility that the US loses to the ethnic nationalists abroad, except this time they’re Chinese communists, non-white communists, as opposed to Aryan Nazis, which seemed like the total opposite. And there’s a possibility that there is a financial secession at home where it’s, you know, Bitcoin maximalist states that are advocating for freedom, the opposite of slavery. See what I’m saying?
05:43:36 Oh boy, that’s dark. You’re looking for major things in history that don’t yet have a- Cognate going forward, right?
05:43:45 And that’s a nice way to think about the future. It is only one model and, you know, any mental model or something like that. That’s why I say them as a sci-fi scenario. It’s just like a scenario one could contemplate, right? Where the new version has, I mean, the Chinese communists do not think of themselves as Aryans, right? But they are ultra-nationalist. And, you know, the Hitler comparisons, people talk about Hitler endlessly, you know, like Saddam is a new Hitler, everybody’s a new Hitler, et cetera. If there is a comparison to, quote, Nazi Germany, it is, you know, CCP China in a sense, why? They are non-English speaking, manufacturing powerhouse, with a massive military build-out under one leader that is a genuine peer competitor to the US on many dimensions. And in fact, you know, exceeding on some dimensions of technology and science, right? That is like, the problem is it’s a boy who cried wolf. People will say this a zillion times, right?
And, you know, that is like, you know, I’m not saying this, by the way, crucially, I am just like, I think China is very complicated and there’s hundreds of millions of people, probably half in China, that disagrees with the current ultra-nationalist kind of thing, right? And so I kind of hate it when innocent Chinese people abroad or whatever are just like attacked on this basis or what have you. Plus, the other thing is that many Chinese people say, well, look, relative to, you know, where we were when Deng took over in 1978, we built up the entire country. We’re not starving to death anymore and the West wants to recolonize us. And so I understand where that’s coming from. This way you want to be able to argue different points of view. With that said, there’s one huge difference, right? Which is Nazi Germany was like 70 million people and the US was 150 million and the Soviet Union was 150 million and the UK was like 50 million. So they were outnumbered like five to one.
05:45:42 China outnumbers the US four to one.
05:45:45 This is going to be a fun century under this model. Under this model, things are going to be potentially crazy. Plus, you know, people are like, oh, I think this is, you know, again, I have nothing personal, you know, there’s this guy Peter Zihan, he writes these books, right? I probably agree with about 20 or 30%, but I disagree with a lot of the rest. And a bunch of it is basically about how China’s really weak and America’s really strong and the rest of the world is screwed. And, you know, I think there’s absolutely problems in China and, you know, like the current management is actually messing a lot of things up. We could talk about that. But I do think that, you know, the US is like fighting its factory. So one thing, you know, Zihan will talk about is how, oh, America has this blue water Navy, all the aircraft carriers in China has nothing, it’s got bookcase, et cetera. Well, China ships things all around the world, right? It probably has, you know, one of the most active fleets out there in terms of, you know, it’s commercial shipping. And in terms of building ships, here’s a quote, China’s merchant ship building industry is the world’s largest, building more than 23 million gross tons of shipping in 2020.
US yards built a mere 70,000 tons the same year that they typically average somewhere in the 200,000. That is a 100 to 300 X ratio, just in ship building. Pretty much everything else you can find in the physical world is like that, okay? We’re not talking like 2X. We’re talking, they can put together a subway station in nine hours with prefab and the US takes three years, okay? When you have a thousand X difference in the physical world, the reason the US was one against, you know, Nazi Germany in a serious fight is they had this giant manufacturing plant that was overseas and they just out produced, right? And they supplied the Soviets also with lendlies. And the Soviets talked about how they would not have won the war without the Americans. People are like, oh, the Russians, you know, fought the Germans. The Russians armed by Americans fought the Germans. Like it’s a Soviet Union. They’re not actually able to make high quality stuff.
There obviously are individual people in the Soviet Russia who were innovative, right? I’m not taking that away. There’s a tradition of amazing. I just want to be like, there’s individual Russians who, obviously I admire Mendeleev and, you know, Kamo Groves and so on. There’s amazing Russian scientists in here.
05:48:03 So I’m not saying that- I mean, in general, from building folks like yourself that criticize communism, it’s too easy to say nothing communism produces is good, which of course is not true. Yes. A lot of brilliant people in, and then a lot of even, you know, there’s a lot of amazing things
05:48:22 that have been created. A lot of brilliant people. Yeah. So they had some amazing mathematicians, amazing scientists and so on, right?
05:48:28 However- Great branding on the, you know, red and yellow. Yeah. The branding is stellar. Nazi Germany too, excellent branding. With the flag and so on, you know, yeah.
05:48:36 So- And ends there in terms of compliments. Yeah, yeah. Well, actually they copied a lot of stuff from each other. You know, like there’s this movie called the Soviet Story. It basically shows a lot of Nazi and Soviet propaganda things next to each other. And you can see guys almost in like the same pose. It’s almost like, you know how AI will do like style transfer? You can almost see, because the socialist realism style of like the muscular brawny worker, very similar to like the style of the Aryan Superman, you know, like pointing at the vermin or whatever.
05:49:09 And then there’s the crappy open source version that tries to copy, which is Mussolini. Yeah. That just like, that does the same exact thing, but does it kind of shittier.
05:49:17 So anyway. So my main thing about this is basically like trying to fight your factory in the physical world is probably not going to work. People are, I think, overconfident on this stuff, right? With that said, I think we want to at all, you know, the future is not yet determined, right? At all odds, you know, we want to avoid a hot war between like, I mean, a hot war between the US and China
05:49:41 would be-
05:49:42 Do you think it’s possible that we’ll get a war? We’re doing these things like Pelosi going to Taiwan and trying to cause something. Like, look, again, this is one of these things which is complicated because obviously, if you’re, there’s more than one perspective on this, right? Again, you’ve got the US establishment, the US conservative, the Taiwanese perspective, the Chinese perspective, all the bystanders over there, there’s more than one perspective on this, okay? If you’re, you know, one of China’s many neighbors, you look at China with apprehension. Like Vietnam, for example, has sort of fallen into, or not fallen into, is partnering with India because they are mutually apprehensive of China. China is not making like great friends with its neighbors. It’s kind of, you know, it’s demonizing Japan. It’s so ultra-nationalist nowadays. And so if you’re Taiwanese, you’re like, yeah, I do not want to be under the Chinese surveillance state, I completely understand it. Some people are pro reunification, others aren’t, but there’s more, you know, trend, you know, in some ways for independence.
05:50:40 Okay, fine. But there’s also an increasing temperature across the entire world. As we sit here today, there’s speeches by Vladimir Putin about the serious possibility of a nuclear war. And that escalates kind of the heat in the room of geopolitics.
05:50:59 It escalates the heat in the room, of course, right? And the thing is, people have this belief that because something hasn’t happened, it won’t happen, or it can’t happen. But there were a lot of measures people took during the Cold War to make sure a nuclear exchange didn’t happen, the whole mutually assured destruction thing and communicating that out, and the balance of terror. There were smart guys on both sides who thought through this, and there were near misses, right? There’s that story about the Soviet colonel who didn’t order a nuclear strike because he thought it was just like an error in the instruments, right? Okay, what’s the point? Point is, you know, for example, Pelosi going to Taiwan, that didn’t strengthen Taiwan. That didn’t like, if you’re gonna go and provoke China, I thought scholar stages, his Twitter account had a good point, which is you should, if you’re actually gonna do it, then you strengthen Taiwan with like huge battalions of like arms and material and you make them a porcupine and so on and so forth. Instead, her kind of going and landing there and mooning China and then flying back in the middle of a hot war with Russia, that’s absolutely, you know, in the middle of an economic crisis or what have you, it just, you know, can you pick battles or whatever, right? It’s like, you don’t have to fight Russia and China at the same time. It’s like kind of insane to do that, okay? Plus even with Ukraine, some people were like, oh, this was like a victory for the US military policy or something.
There was a guy who, I’m not trying to beat him up or anything, he was like, this is in March, thread on US security assistance to Ukraine, it’s working. Ukraine might be one of the biggest successes of US security assistance. And the reason is, you know, US didn’t focus on some high-end shiny objects, but on core military tasks, that focus should remain. And it’s like, how is this a success? The West gave massive arms to Ukraine only after the invasion, but not enough before to deter. And now Ukraine is like this Syria-like battleground with, you know, a million refugees or whatever the number is, right? Their country is blown to smithereens, thousands of people dead. Whatever $1,000 gas in Europe with like 10X energy, radicalized Russians, the threat of World War III or even nuclear war, you know, shooting somebody isn’t, that’s not like the point of the military. The point is, you know, there’s a million ways to smash Humpty Dumpty into pieces and, you know, unleash the blood-drenched tides, right? And have people shooting each other and killing each other. It’s really hard to maintain stability. That’s what competence is, is deterrence and stability, right?
There’s not like a success in any way.
05:53:29 It’s like an absolute tragedy for everybody involved, right? Yeah, I mean, deterrence, of course, is the number one thing, but there, you know, there’s a lot to be said there, but I’m a huge not fan of declaring victory as we’ve done many times when it’s the wrong.
05:53:46 Yeah, I mean, look, I mean, the other thing about this is the whole mission accomplished thing during a- Mission accomplished is what I meant, yeah. Exactly, mission accomplished was obviously, you know, the thing is Russia lives next door to Ukraine. And so, I mean, just like Iraq lives next door to Iran and Afghanistan is next door to Pakistan and China. And so if the US eventually gets tired of it and leaves, those guys are next door, right? And so, you know, who knows what’s gonna happen here, okay? But one of the problems is like, you know, the whole Afghanistan thing or the Iraq thing is the lesson for people was the uncertainty. They’re like, is the US gonna fight? Don’t know. Will the US win if it fights? Don’t know. Therefore, roll the dice. That uncertainty is itself like tempting to folks, you know, like Putin or whatever, right?
So point is, coming all the way back up, we were talking about how history, the futures are passed and FDR, like the business plot, FDR failed, but like the tech companies were able to deplatform Trump, right? And the left libertarian would say, do we want that much corporate power, okay? And so that’s, so we gave the four case for Trump deplatforming, protecting democracy, the Trump supporter case against, which is on the secret history of the shadow campaign, the save the 2020 election, basically that article, the left libertarian or libertarian case against. And then to me, what is, you know, like I am more sympathetic to the libertarian slash left libertarian against. And then also maybe the fourth group, which is the non-American case, right? Which is to say, every, you know, Amlo, he was the, you know, head of state of Mexico, I think at that time, okay? Amlo, Macron, you know, other folks, everybody who’s watching this around the world basically saw, let’s say U.S. establishment or Democrat aligned folks just decapitate, you know, the head of state digitally, right? Like just, boom, gone, okay? And they’re like, well, if they can do that in public to the U.S. president who’s ostensibly the most powerful man in the world, what does the Mexican president stand against that? Nothing, right?
Like these U.S. media corporations, these tech companies are so insanely powerful, everybody’s on Twitter or what have you, other than China, leaving them aside, they’ve got their own root system. If somebody tried to de-platform Xi Jinping off of Sino Weibo, they’d probably just fall through a trap door, you know, their whole family, right? But for the rest of the world, it’s on the, that is hosting their business, their politics on these U.S. tech companies. They’re like, regardless of whether it was justified on this guy, that means they will do it to anybody. Now the seal is broken. Just like the bailouts, as exceptional as they were when at first everybody was shocked about them, then they became a policy instrument. And now there’s bailouts happening, every single bill is printing another whatever,
05:56:34 billion dollars or something like that, right? Can I ask on your thoughts and advice on this topic? If I or anyone were to have a conversation with Donald Trump, first of all, should one do so? And if so, how do you do it? And it may not necessarily be Trump, it could be other people like Putin and Xi Jinping and so on. Let’s say people that are censored. Right. Like people that platforms in general see as dangerous. Hitler, you can go, we keep bringing it up.
05:57:11 Of course, that’s the ultimate edge case, right? In the sense of that saying like something must be done, this is something, therefore this must be done, right?
05:57:20 I’ve heard that one before. No, but I love it. So this is just- Can I just use that as an explanation with confidence for everything I do? Yeah, sure. There you go, right? Something must be done, this is something,
05:57:30 therefore must be done. Yeah, sure, therefore this must be done. So that is the, all kinds of regulations, all kinds of things are kind of justified on that basis. There’s a version of that, which is punch a Nazi, I decide who’s a Nazi, you’re a Nazi.
05:57:45 Therefore, I punch you and that’s justified.
05:57:47 Yeah, yeah and like people say, oh, how many people are calling Israelis? Like these things, right? And so the problem with argumentum ad hilarum is it just, I mean, people will say Obama’s a Nazi,
05:58:02 everybody will say everybody’s a Nazi, right? But there is a social consensus about who, let’s set Nazis aside, but who is dangerous for society.
05:58:08 Okay, but now let’s talk about that, all right? So basically, I think a more interesting example than Hitler in this context is Herbert Matthews. So Fidel Castro, before he became the communist dictator of Cuba, was on the run. He was like a Sambin Laden at the time, he was like a terrorist that the Cuban regime had seemingly defeated. And what Herbert Matthews did is he got an intro to him, he went to the place where he was hiding out, he gave an interview and he printed this hagiography in the New York Times with this like, photo of Castro looking all mighty and so on. And he’s like, Castro is still alive and still fighting, okay, and there’s this book on this called The Man Who Created Fidel, okay? Where basically, N.Y.T.’s article was crucial positive press that got Castro’s point of view out to the world and helped lead to the communist revolution that actually impoverished Cuba, led to like gay people being, you know, like discriminate against there, led to people fleeing, you know, and drowning trying to escape, right? That’s an example of where platforming somebody led to a very bad outcome. In fact, many of the communist dictators in the 20th century had like their own personal journalist, right? For example, there’s a guy, John Reed, he’s an American. He’s buried, you know, if I get this right, I think he’s buried at the Kremlin wall, okay? Why is an American buried there, okay?
Because he wrote a book called 10 Days That Shook the World that whitewashed the entire Soviet revolution and the, you know, the Russian Revolution in 1917, October Revolution, and made these guys out to be the good guys, when they were actually genocidal psychopaths, okay? He got their point of view out to the world and it was a totally misleading point of view, all right?
05:59:57 Do you think, what do you think he was thinking? He’s like- Do you think he saw the psychopathy?
06:00:02 You know, sometimes it’s not obvious. He thinks like- Well, the French Revolution had already happened. So people kind of knew that this sort of psychopathic, you know, killing in the name of equality could produce bad results, right? And, but it’s more than that, right? So it’s John Reed, it’s Herbert Matthews. It’s Edgar Snow, okay? So these are all people who should be extremely famous, right? So Edgar Snow is Mao’s journalist, okay? So he wrote, you know, here’s the, there’s actually an article in this, how 1930s reporter from Missouri became China’s ideal journalist, okay? And he wrote various books, including like Red Star over China, okay? And it’s just a hagiography of Mao, right? Yeah.
And then of course you’ve got Durante. And he is like Stalin’s biographer, right? Just to recap, John Reed brought Lenin’s message to the world, Malin’s dead. Durante helped Stalin starve out the Ukrainians, Malin’s dead. Edgar Snow was Mao’s biographer. And Herbert Matthews was like Castro’s. And this guy, David Halberstam in Vietnam, who was effectively Ho Chi Minh’s. He basically went and took leaks from a communist spy I’ll give you the exact name. Pham, I’m going to mispronounce this, but it’s Perfect Spy, the incredible double life of Pham Zuan Anh, Time Magazine reporter and Vietnamese communist agent. That guy was the source of many fabricated stories that David Halberstam printed in the New York Times that led to the undermining of the South Vietnamese regime. And, you know, for example, stories of Buddhists being killed and so on. Ashley Rinsberg in The Great Lady Wing writes this whole thing up at length, so you can go and read it for his account.
But basically all of these communist dictators had a journalist right alongside them as their biographer. Yeah.
06:01:52 Okay. But those are tools of the propaganda machine versus.
06:01:55 Well, so my point is, these are five examples that are on the far left that should be balanced also against the times running profiles of Hitler on the far right. We know that times actually also ran a whole thing, which was, you know, Hitler’s like mountain retreat or something like that. Do you know about that story? What year was this? I’ll tell you in one second.
06:02:17 Hitler at home in the clouds.
06:02:19 Oh boy, please tell me it’s like early thirties. I think it’s, oh yeah, this is auto-detolishous. This is actually a guy that Ashley Rinsberg writes up in The Great Lady Wing. Right? 1937. 37, there’s another one where I think the date is wrong, but it’s 39, you know, but essentially these titles are like where Hitler dreams and plans. He lives simply, you know, right? And there’s another one, Hare Hitler at home in the clouds, okay? The thing about this is absolutely, there are folks who are hate geographers of the far right, but whether you’re talking Lenin and John Reed or Stalin and Walter Durante of the New York Times or Castro and Herbert Matthews, again, of the New York Times or Edgar Snow and Mao or David Halberstam and Ho Chi Minh, again, of the New York Times. Like you start to see a pattern here where the guys who are being platformed and given a voice are these guys who end up being like far left lunatics, right? And I think part of the issue here is, you know, the thing about how communists don’t understand self-interest, nationalists don’t understand other interests. And so, nationalists are more obvious.
Isn’t that good, I thought it was good. It’s pretty good, pretty good. So, the nationalist is very obvious in the sense of like they’re for the Aryans they’re not even for like the Slavs or whatever, right? Like, you know, basically, you know had Hitler constructed a different ideology, You know, then like he might’ve gotten more support in Eastern Europe or whatever, right? But he also called the Slavs inferior, not just, you know, basically everybody who’s inferior to the Aryans, okay? Except maybe the English or whatever, but that was it, right? Oh, and the Japanese are honorary Aryans or something. So the nationalist declares a supremacy of their own race or culture or what have you and doesn’t understand people’s other interests. But he also pumps up his own guys. Okay. Same with, you know, in some ways, China today, same with Japan back in the day. Because the communist has a message that sounds more appealing.
It’s a universalist message ostensibly, but it’s actually faux universalism, cause actually particularism. Like during the Soviet Union, communism, this faux universalism was basically a mask for Russian nationalism, or at least Soviet nationalism, where in particular Russians were pushed into to many territories and, you know, Russian speakers were, you know, like privileged in, you know, the Eastern Europe and the Baltics. Of course, Russians themselves were oppressed at home as Sultan’s rights here, both victim and victimizer of the regime, their churches were crushed and so on. As compensation, they were agents of empire. It’s a tragedy all around. I’m not, you know, I think Russians have been hard done in many ways, they’ve had a very hard century. They’ve also done hard by others.
06:05:01 Okay, it’s complicated. Those journalists you mentioned just to elaborate, maybe you disagree with me, I wonder what you think. But I think conversation, like not to sort of glorify any particular medium, but there’s something, one of the reasons I like long-form podcasts or interviews, long-form unedited interviews. There’s been shows throughout the 20th century that do that kind of thing, but they seem to be rare. There is, that’s podcasts made it much more popular and common, is it somehow makes it easier not to do this kind of bullshit journalism that- The gotcha stuff, yeah. I feel like asking interesting and deep questions allow, I think you could sit down with Hitler in 1940, 1941, 1942, and the podcast actually serve a purpose.
06:05:53 Gotcha stuff, yeah.
06:05:54 In 41 and 42, mid-World War II? On mid-World War II, a purpose of one, which is very important, get good information for the future, so history can study it. And two, reveal to the world the way a man thinks
06:06:13 that is beyond the propaganda. So all this stuff is complicated, but today, so in the specific issue of the folks you were talking about, like Putin, Xi, Trump, right, for those folks, they are very clearly out-group for both the US left and right, which is, you’ll say the Western left and right, which are your audience. There’s folks who are tankies, and there are folks who are MAGA, who are sympathetic. So what are tankies? Tankies are those who are, they may call themselves tankies. Let’s say they’re anti-imperialist left and MAGA right, for different reasons are against the US establishment and for Putin or Xi or something like that as an agent against the US establishment, right? So leaving those aside, the point is that most of your audience is sort of on guard, vaccinated in a sense, right, versus Xi and Putin and Trump, right? Like they know the counter-arguments and so on and so forth, okay? In which case, I wouldn’t think interviewing them would be like that big a deal, relatively, because there’s so much other coverage and so on out there, I think it’s probably okay. However, for something like what John Reed was doing and so on, when he was the sole source of information about the Russian Revolution. Yes, that’s different. That’s different, right?
So it’s something about, it kind of gets back to the competitive environment and so on. There’s no dearth of folks who are writing critical coverage of these three men, right? And so if I felt that that was insufficient, then you might need more of it, right? Just like, for example, nowadays, with Stalin, there are a lot of articles and books and PDFs and so on on it. But at the time, not as much. At the time, not as much, right? That’s why I brought those guys, right? Because often, it’s kind of like, have your stock shelves at a supermarket
06:08:11 seem totally out of left field? No, but shoes, but the same things here
06:08:15 that I used to work with Sears. The thing that is the most popular is the thing that’s not on the shelf because it’s being sold out, right? So in some ways, this is similar to that famous photo that people have or image that people have on Twitter of the plane and the parts that are shot versus not, right? The survivorship bias, right? And one way of kind of thinking about it is the guys who you think of as bad guys or possible bad guys or controversial guys or whatever, are those you’ve already got some vaccination due. That’s why you think of them at all. Whereas the folks that I mentioned, the regulators, invisible, right? Salzberger, you know Zuckerberg, you know his pros and cons, you know who he is as a person. You don’t even know Salzberger exists, most people, right? Despite the fact that he’s like, certainly is powerful. You know, he owns the New York Times, he inherits us. He also got dual class stock, just like Zuck.
06:09:06 But he’s invisible, right? Well, that’s why I think studying the knowns, the people that are known can help you generalize to the way human nature is. And then you start to question are the same kind of humans existing in places that wield power? And you can assume they are, they do exist there
06:09:27 and then you can start to infer and ask questions. So this is kind of what I try to do is I’m like, what is the dark matter? What is the question that is not being asked or what have you, right? And so, you know, that’s not to say that you need to be so anti-memetic that you only do that. But I think you need to do that as well as understand what is good about the conventional wisdom. And you know, for example, if you notice a lot of what I talk about is like the V1, V2, V3, where as critical as I am of, let’s say, the FDA, I recognize that people want a regulated marketplace and how do we do better? As critical as I can be of the Fed, I recognize that some kind of monetary policy is necessary and Satoshi came up with a better one, right? As harsh as one can be a critic of the current system, it is really incumbent as difficult as it is upon one to come up with a better version, just like academia, as much as I think current science has corrupted, what I propose is a way to actually improve on that. And actually any true scientists say, yes, I want my work to be reproducible. Yes, I want citations to be important statements and so on and so forth. And we don’t have to get everybody to agree with that, but it’s just enough to build that better version
06:10:33 and not regress. Yeah, there’s an implied optimism within the V1, V2, V3. Yes. Let me ask you at a high level about social media because you are one of its prominent users to communicate your wisdom.
06:10:51 I use Twitter, I wouldn’t really think of this, communicate my wisdom per se or anything like that. I use Twitter like I might use GitHub as a scratch pad for just kind of floating concepts. And I’ve got, okay, here’s a frame on things. Let me kind of put it out there and see what people think, get some feedback and so on.
06:11:08 Don’t you think it has a lasting impact
06:11:10 that your scratch book? I think it’s good, but basically like, if I say that’s what’s my primary thing on Twitter, it’s that, it’s a scratch pad for me to kind of put some concepts out there, iterate on them, get feedback on them, and so on and so forth.
06:11:24 Do you think it’s possible that the words you’ve tweeted on Twitter is the most impact you will have? On the world?
06:11:33 On the world. I don’t, so- Is that possible? Is it possible? Well, my tweets- Have you saved me? It’s a good question. I think the network state will be, I think, important, or I hope it-
06:11:44 Well, the book. The book. The book is a concept.
06:11:47 Good question, the movement. The movement. In the sense that Zionism shows that it is possible to have a book and then a conference and then a fund and eventually in the fullness of time with a lot of time and effort to actually get a state. And as I mentioned earlier, a lot of countries are small countries, but I didn’t mention there’s a guy who’s the head of Kazakhstan and he made a remark. He’s like, if we allow every nation that wants to have self-determination to have a state, we’d have 600 countries rather than 190. Because there’s many opposites of a nation state, but one of the opposites is the stateless nation. And so you know where the network state is popular? In places like Catalonia. Catalonia nationalists. In Catalonia, guys who are committed Catalonia nationalists. So Catalonia, you know, this region of Spain, right? The thing is that, again, V1, V2, V3, the nation state is V2 and it beat the city state, which is like V1.
And the network state I think of as a potential V3, which combines aspects of V1 and V2. So Catalonia or the Basque region, these are underneath the quote nation state of Spain, but many Catalonians think of themselves as part of a separate nation, not all, many, okay? And so they want a state of their own. Who doesn’t if you’re a nation, you know, meaning that they’ve got a legitimate claim from history, language, culture, all this stuff, right? The Basques do as well, the Kurds do as well, okay? Lots of ethnic groups around the world do. So in the game of musical chairs, that was the formation of current national borders, they lost out, right? So what did they do? Well, one answer is they just submit to the Spanish state and they just speak Spanish and their culture is erased and their history is erased and so on. The second is they do some sort of Ireland-like insurgency, the troubles to try to get a thing of their own, which is obviously bad for other kinds of reasons, right? You know, violent, et cetera. What this Catalonia nationalist said is like, look, well, we can’t give up on our existing path.
The network state is a really interesting third option. I mean, by the way, I hadn’t talked to this guy, V. Partal, okay, and he’s got this cycle via web and V-I-L-A, Ville of web, sorry. It can be, meaning the network state can be especially appealing to us. Catalines are now embarking on the task of having a normal and current state in the old way. And this is a project that we cannot give up. But this does not mean that at the same time, we are not also attentive to ideas like this and we do not try to learn and move forward, right? Meaning, you know, the network state, right? Because that’s the third way, which says, okay, maybe this particular region is not something where you’re gonna be able to get, you know, a state. But just like there’s more Irish people who live outside of Ireland, right? Just like, you know, the Jewish people, you know, didn’t actually get a state in Poland or what have you. They had one in Palestine.
Perhaps the Catalunians could crowdfund territory in other places and have essentially a state of their own that’s distributed, okay? Now, again, what people are immediately gonna say is, well, that’s gonna lead to conflict with the locals necessarily and so on and so forth. But if you’re parallel processing, you don’t have the all in one bucket aspect of I must win here. And the guy on the other side is like, I must win. You have optionality. You can have multiple different nodes around the world. Just like there’s multiple Chinatowns, you can have multiple Catalonian towns, right? And some places you might be able to just buy an island and that becomes, you know, the new Catalonia, right? Just like in, I think there’s a region called New Caledonia and that’s in the Southwest Pacific. So maybe new Catalonia is somewhere else, right? So if you’re flexible in that, now, of course, a bunch of people will immediately say, they’ll have 50 different objections to this. They’ll say, ah, you don’t get it.
The whole point is the land and, you know, so on. They’ve been there for generations, sort of. Say, I do get it. But this Catalan nationalist who’s like literally written in Catalonian for, I don’t know how many years, right? Is basically saying, this is worth thinking about.
06:15:52 And so it’s a peaceful third way. Yeah, but it’s interesting. I mean, it’s a good question whether Elon Musk,
06:15:59 SpaceX and Tesla will be successful without Twitter. Yeah, I don’t think as successful. I mean, obviously they existed before Twitter and a lot of the engineering problems are obviously non-Twitter things, right? But Twitter itself has certainly probably helped Musk with Tesla sales.
06:16:14 Do you need engineering? No, that’s not what I mean. Oh, go ahead. The best people in the world
06:16:19 solve the engineering problem. Yes, but he hires the people to solve them and he knows enough about engineering
06:16:23 to hire those people. That’s the point I’m making is on Twitter, the legend of Elon Musk is created. The vision is communicated and the best engineers in the world come to work for the vision. It’s an advertisement of a man of a company pursuing a vision. And I think Twitter is a great place to make viral ideas that are compelling to people, whatever those ideas are. And whether that’s the network state
06:16:54 or whether that’s humans becoming a multi-planetary species. Here is a remark I had just before the pandemic related to this, okay? But Twitter helping Elon just beyond that for a second. Maybe centralization is actually also underexplored in the design space. For example, today’s social networks are essentially governed by a single CO but that CO is a background figure. They aren’t leading the users to do anything. What if they did? One example, could Elon Musk’s then 30 million followers somehow get us to Mars faster? Tools for directed collaborative work by really large groups on the internet are still in their infancy. You can see pieces of what I was talking about, the scratch pad thing, the network state being a group which can do collective actions. This is kind of the thing, right? So technologies for internet collaboration that can be very useful to the software for future network states.
Operational transformation is how Google Docs coordinates edits on conflict free replicated data types. It’s another alternative easier to code in some ways in operational transformation. Micro tasks like mechanical Turk, scale AI and earn.com before we sold it. Blockchain and crypto obviously the polymath project where a bunch of people parallel processed and we’re able to solve an open math problem by collaborating. Wikipedia with its flaws that we talked about. Social networks and group messaging. All these are ways for collaborating. They’re not just simply attacking or doing something on the internet.
06:18:08 This is something that Elon could use, right? What works and what doesn’t about Twitter?
06:18:13 If there’s something that’s broken, how would you fix it? A million things I can say here, so a few things. First is fact checking. I had this kind of fun, I thought it was a funny tweet. To anyone who wants to quote ban lying on social media, please write down a function that takes in a statement and returns whether it is true. If you can start with the remand hypothesis, that would be amazing. Yeah. Okay? Yeah, we’ll put. That’s kind of funny, right? That’s funny. And so now-
06:18:35 That’s funny. Okay. Yeah, we’ll put, that’s funny. That joke landed on like five people. Sure, you want to explain the joke, go. Well, no, there’s a lot of problems, the side ability where the truth, that’s what proofs and math is. The truth of the thing is actually exceptionally difficult to determine. And that’s just a really nice example. Right. The problems that persist across centuries have not been solved by the most brilliant minds.
06:18:58 They’re essentially true or false problems. Sure, that’s right. And so when people are saying, when they were saying they want to ban lying on social media, fact check social media, the assumption is that they know what is true. And what do they mean by that? They really mean the assertion of political power, right? With that said, do I think it could be useful to have some kind of quote fact checking thing? Yes, but it has to be decentralized and open source. You could imagine an interesting concept of coding, TrueGul, like a Google, that return was true. Yes. It’s like a modified version. I like it. Right?
So like GPT-3, but the stable diffusion version where it’s open, okay? And so now anybody, stable diffusion shows that it’s possible to take an expensive AI model and put it out there, right? So you have, you know what a knowledge graph is? Like basically, you wouldn’t actually, whether you have it as RDF or like a triple store kind of thing or some of the representation, it’s like an ontology of A is a B and B has a C and it’s got probabilities on the edges sometimes and other kinds of metadata. And this allows Google to show certain kinds of one box information where it’s like, what is, so what is Steve Jobs’s, you know, what is, what is Laureen Powell Jobs’s age or birthday? They can pull that up out of the, out of the, the knowledge graph, right? And so you can imagine that TrueGul would have both deterministic and statistical components. And crucially, it would say whether something is true according to a given knowledge graph. And so this way, at least what you can do is you can say, okay, here’s the things that are consensus reality, like the value of the gravitational constant will be the same in the Magma knowledge graph, and the U.S. establishment knowledge graph, and the CCP knowledge graph and the, the, I don’t know, the Brazilian knowledge graph and so on and so forth. Okay? But there’s other things that will be quite different.
And at least now you can isolate where the point of disagreement is. And so you can have a form of decentralized fact checking that is like, according to who? Well, here is the authority and it is this knowledge graph. So that’s like a kind of thing, right? So that’s one concept of like what next social media looks like. There’s actually so much more. Another huge thing is decentralized social media, okay? Social media today is like China under communism in a really key sense. There’s a great article called the secret document that transformed China. Do you know what China was like before 1978? I know about the atrocities. Sure, so put some flesh on the bone, so to speak, okay?
06:21:29 So put some flesh on the, yeah. Basically, there’s a good book I’m reading because I think a lot of documents became public recently. And so-
06:21:38 There’s a window when it opened up.
06:21:40 Now it’s probably closing back down again, but- But you know, great biographies because of that were written like I’m currently reading Mao’s Great Famine
06:21:44 by Frank de Carter, which is a hoo boy. Yeah, it’s crazy, okay? Here’s the thing is, capitalism was punishable by death in living memory in China. Just to explain what that meant, okay? I mean, that’s what communism was, right? It was literally the same China that has like the CC, you know, the entrepreneurs and Jack Ma and so on and so forth. 40 something years ago, capitalism was punishable by death. But to put, to give you a concrete example, this is a famous story in China, maybe apocryphal, but it’s what, you know, the folks have talked about. There’s a village in Xiaogang and basically all the grain that you were produced was supposed to go to the collective. And even one straw belonged to the group. At one meeting with communist party officials, a farmer asked, what about the teeth in my head? Do I own those?
Answer, no, your teeth belong to the collective, okay? Now, the thing is that when you’re taking 100% of everything, okay, work hard, don’t work hard, everyone gets the same so people don’t want to work, right? So what happened? These farmers gathered in secret and they did something that was like, would have gotten them executed. They were a contract amongst themselves and said, we all agree that we will be able to keep some of our own grain. We will give some of them to the regime so when it comes to collect grain, they’ve got something. We’ll be able to keep some of it. And if any of us are killed for doing this, then the contract said that the others would take care of their children, okay? To keep some of what you earned,
06:23:15 I mean, just think about how it’s- They formed a mini capitalism society
06:23:18 within a secret capitalism society amongst five people. Right, so now that they could keep some of what they earned, right, schemes were earned, they had a bumper harvest. And you know what happened with that bumper harvest? That made the local officials really suspicious and mad. They weren’t happy that there was a bumper harvest. They’re like, what are you doing? You’re doing capitalism, right? And in a few years earlier, they might’ve just been executed. And in fact, many were. That’s what it means when you see millions dead. Millions dead means guys were shot for keeping some grain for themselves, okay? It means like guys came and kicked in the door of your collective farm and raped your wife and took you off to a prison camp and so on and so forth.
That’s what communism actually was, okay? It hasn’t been depicted in movies. There’s a great post by Ken Billingsley in the year 2000 called, if I get this right, Hollywood’s Missing Movies, okay? This is basically here, I’ll paste this link so you can put it in the show notes, all right? This is worth reading. It’s still applicable today, but now that we have stable diffusion, now we have all these people online, now that Russia and China are America’s national bad guys, as they were before, they are again, perhaps we’ll get some movies on what communism actually was during the 20th century and how bad it was, right? And vaccinate people against that as well as against Nazism, which they should be, okay?
06:24:41 The point of this, go ahead. No, because I’m congratulating myself on the nice because you’re sending me excellent links on WhatsApp and I just saw that there’s an export chat feature. Yes, great. Because we also have disappearing messages on, so I was like, all right, this is great. Great. I’ll be able to get it. Your ability to reference sources is incredible, so thank you for this.
06:25:05 Anyway. Yes. Otherwise, if I say something, it sounds too surprising, so that’s why I want to make sure I have it on this topic. Yeah, so like, yeah, I mean, people would be like shot for holding some grain, so what happened though was Deng Xiaoping said, okay, we’re not going to kill you. In fact, we’re going to actually set up the first special economic zone in Shenzhen. He didn’t try to flip the whole country from communist to capitalist in one go. Instead, he’s like, we can reform in one place. And in fact, he fenced it off from the rest of China and it did trade with Hong Kong and he spent his political capital on this one exception. It grew so fast, they gave him more political capital. You know, some people think actually that the Sino-Vietnamese war was Deng’s way of just distracting the generals while he was turning China around to get it back on the capitalist road. And what he did was the opposite of a rebranding. He did a reinterpretation.
Like a rebranding is where the substance is the same, but the logo is changed, okay? You know, you were Facebook, you’re now meta. That’s a rebranding, right? Reinterpretation is where the logo and the branding is the same. They’re still the CCP, they’re still the Chinese Communist Party, but they’re capitalist now, the engine under the hood. It’s deniable, okay? And this is a very common, once you realize those are different things,
06:26:26 it’s like swap the front end, swap the back end. Yeah. Go ahead. Go ahead and put it. Right? It’s really good. Yeah, yeah, it really is. I’m enjoying your metaphors and way of talking about stuff. Yes, I get, yeah, yeah. Swap, you could, yeah. When branding and swap the front end, reinterpretation swap the back end.
06:26:42 That’s right. I’m enjoying your metaphor. Once you realize that, you’re like, okay. Just as an engineer, you can kind of, okay, sometimes I wanna do something on the front end, and sometimes I wanna do it on the back end. Sometimes it’s explicit and sometimes the user doesn’t need to see it and it’s on the back end. Lots of political stuff is arguably not just best done on the back end, but always done on the back end. One of the points I make in the book is left is the right is the left, is, you know, if you look through history, the Christian King, the Republican conservative, the CCP entrepreneur, the WASP establishment, these are all examples of a revolutionary left movement becoming the ruling class right. Okay, like Republican conservative, just as that one example, I go through an extended description of this in the book, but the Republicans were the radical Republicans, the left of 1865. They won the revolution and their moral authority led them to have economic authority in the late 1800s. You wouldn’t want a Democrat Confederate trader as the head of your railroad company, would you, right? So all the Confederate traders, et cetera, were boxed out from the plump positions in the late 1800s. And so what happened was the Republicans turned their moral authority into economic authority, made tons of money.
The Democrats then started repositioning, not as a party of the Southern racists, but the poor, right? And, you know, the cross of gold speech by William James Bryan was part of that. There’s a gradual process that reaches, not a policy, but let’s say a crucial mark with the election of FDR, where it was actually not the 1932 but 1936 election that black voters switched over to FDR, okay? That was actually the, like the major flip to like 70%, you know, to the Democrats. Now they had repositioned as the party of the poor, not the party of the South, okay? And Republicans had lost some economic authority, or rather they had moral authority. They turned into economic authority, they started to lose some moral authority. The loss of moral authority was complete by 1965. That was actually a mop-up. People dated, you know, the civil rights movement as the big wave where the Republicans lost moral authority. It’s not really. That was a mop-up, because 1936, 30 years earlier, was when black voters switched to the Democrats, okay?
So 1965 was another 10 points moving over of black voters to the Democrats. Republicans had completely lost moral authority, hundred years after the Civil War. Then the next 50 years, that loss of moral authority meant that they lost economic authority because now you wouldn’t want a Republican bigot as a CEO of your tech company anymore, would you? Right? So by 2015, now, now you have it’s like two sine waves that are staggered. Moral authority leads to economic authority, leads to loss of moral authority, leads to loss of economic authority. And so now you have the Democrats have completed 155 year arc from the defeated party in the Civil War to the dominant party in the U.S. establishment. All the woke capitalists are now at the very top. Now the same repositioning is happening where if you’re so woke, why are you rich? You get it? If you’re so smart, why aren’t you rich is the normal kind of thing.
If you’re so woke, if you’re so holy, why is like, for example, the BLM founder, why do they have this million dollar mansion, right? If you’re so woke and it’s all about being good and you’re anti-capitalist, how come you seem to be raking in the money, et cetera, right? This is an argument which I’m not sure how long it will go. It might take years to play out. It might take decades to play out. I think probably on the order of a decade, you’re going to see in my view the repositioning if the Democrats are the woke capitalists, the Republicans will eventually become, are becoming the Bitcoin maximalists. Why? Because, you know, if one guy picks left, then the other guy picks right. It’s literally like magnets kind of repelling. They’re sort of forced into the other corner here. Right. And the Bitcoin maximalists will essentially where, this guy says centralization.
They say decentralization, where they defend the right of capital to do anything the maximalists will say, actually you’re all Cantilian there’s. You’re all benefiting from print and money. You don’t have anything that’s legitimate. You don’t actually own anything as all the handout from the government and so on and so forth, right? And so that’s counter positioning that will basically attack the wokes by how much money they’re making. They’re not contesting the ideology. So when one guy signals economics, you signal culture. When the other guy signals culture, you signal economics. That’s actually, that’s the whole thing I can talk about. Should I talk about that for a second?
06:31:11 Sure. Is this integrated into the forces that you talk about? You’ve talked about the three forces, the trifecta forces that affect our society, which is the wokes, let’s say. Woke capital, communist capital. Woke capital. You talk so fast. And I think so slow. No, no, no. Woke capital, communist capital, and crypto capital. Can you explain each of those three? Yes. We actually talked about each of the three in part, but it’d be nice to bring them together
06:31:41 in a beautiful triangle. No, no, no. In a beautiful triangle. And then I’ll also come back up and I’ll talk about how the CCP story relates to social media and decentralized social media. All right, so NIT, CCP, BTC is woke capital, communist capital, crypto capital, and communist capital is, the simplest is you must submit. The communist party is powerful, CCP is powerful and you are not. If you’re in China, you just submit. CCP is an embodiment of communist capital that you’re talking about. Well, yeah, so basically, and by the, in China, they call it CPC, you know? So basically they don’t like it usually if you say CCP, right? So like communist party of China as opposed to Chinese kind of sort of there. Basically that is capitalism, that is a Chinese pool of capital, that billion person pool, okay?
That’s WeChat and it’s, you know, it’s Alibaba and it’s an entire kind of thing. That is one just social network with currency. The whole thing is vertically integrated.
06:32:42 When we say communist, what do you mean here? Why is the word communist important? Why don’t you just say China?
06:32:47 So is communist an important word? Probably. Or is it just a catchy label? It’s a catchy, but I think it’s also important because it seems it’s paradoxical, right? So I had a thread on this. The future is communist capital versus world capital versus crypto capital. Each represents a left, right fusion that’s bizarre by the standards of the 1980s consensus. It’s PRC versus MMT versus BTC, all right. And why is it bizarre by the standards of the 1980s consensus? Well, in the 1980s, you wouldn’t think the communists would become capitalists, but they did. You wouldn’t think that the Wokes, the progressives, would become so enamored with giant corporations and their power. They’ve seen something to liken that.
And you also wouldn’t think that the non-Americans or the post-Americans or the internationalists would be the champions of capital because you’d think it’s the American nation. So rather than the conservative American nationalists being the defenders of capital, you have the
06:33:51 Or is it just a catchy label? Liberal Americans who are with capital, you have the communist Chinese, who are with capital, and you have the internationalists who are with capital. And it’s the conservative American nationalists who are in some ways against that, which is kind of funny. So, it’s like this weird ideological flippening that if you take the long lens, you have these poles that kind of repel each other, okay? So, just on the CCP-NYT BTC thing.
06:34:17 NYT, by the way, is world capital.
06:34:19 Yeah. What is NYT? So, its formula is a little interesting. If CCP is just, you must submit because they’re powerful, okay? And then you bow your head because the Chinese Communist Party is strong. World capital is, you must sympathize. Why do you bow your head, Lex? Oh, because you’re a white male. Therefore, you’re guilty. You must bow your head because you are powerful. Yet, notice it ends in the same place in your head looking to the ground, right? In China, it’s because they’re powerful, so therefore you must bend your head.
For the Wokes, it’s the left-handed version where you are powerful and it’s shameful, so you should bow your head, right? Right. Okay? But it ends in your head bowed. It’s an ideology of submission. It’s not that subtle, but it’s like somewhat subtle. And then finally, crypto capital is head held high. You must be sovereign, okay? And one of the things I point out in the book is each of these polls is negative in some ways when taken to extreme, but also negative in its opposite. For example, obviously just totally submitting to total surveillance is bad, but a society where nobody submits is San Francisco where people just rob stores and walk out in the middle shoplifting all these goods and nothing happens, right? A society where you have the bulk level of sympathy where you get to the kind of insanity of math is white supremacist and whatever nonsense is happening today is terrible, but a society that’s totally stripped of sympathy is also not one that one would want to be part of, right? That’s just like the…
Whether it’s 4chan’s actual culture or it’s fame culture or something like that, or some weird combination, that’s also not good. It’s like Russia in the 90s, nobody trusts anybody, that’s also bad. And being totally sovereign, that sounds good. And there’s a lot that is good about it. I’m sympathetic to this corner, but being totally sovereign, you go so capitalist, so sovereign that you’re against the division of labor. You don’t trust anybody, so you have to pump your own water and so on. So you actually have a reduced standard of living over here, okay? And conversely- It’s like survivalist or whatever. Survivalist type of stuff, right? And you just go too crazy into that corner. And then of course though, the other extreme of having no sovereignty is you will own nothing and be happy. Everything’s in the cloud and can be deleted at any point, right?
So each of these has badness when it’s there, but also it’s total extreme opposite is bad. And so you want to kind of carve out an intelligent intermediate of these three poles, and that’s the decentralized center or the re-centralized center I call. Now with that said, I think there is a repositioning in particular of vote capital that is happening. And I think if the 2000s was the global war on terror, and then the channel just changed to wokeness in the 2010s. So when I mean channel change, have you seen Paul Graham’s graph or actually
06:37:07 David Rosado’s graph that Paul Graham posted? No, but just a good chance to say that Paul Graham
06:37:13 is awesome. Okay, yeah. And so here is this graph, okay? David Rosado’s data analysis, I think that put this together. So basically, this is a graph of the word usage frequency
06:37:24 in New York Times 1970 to 2018. And he’s got some controls there. Paul Graham tweets hypothesis, although some newspapers can survive the switch to online subscriptions, none can do it and remain politically neutral, quote newspaper or record, you have to pick a side to get people to subscribe. And there’s a bunch of plots on the x axis is years on the y axis is the frequency of use. And sexism has been going up, misogyny has been going up, sexist, patriarchy, mass planning, toxic masculinity, male privilege, all these terms have been going up
06:38:07 very intensely in the past in the in the past decade. Yeah, but really, 2013 is the exact moment, you see these things, they’re flat, and then just go vertical, man explaining toxic masculinity, what precisely happened in 2013? Ah, so I talked about this in the book. But I think fundamentally what happened was tech hurt media, and their revenue dropped by about $50 billion over the four years from oh, h 2012. Tech helped Obama get reelected. And media was positive on tech until December 2012, they wrote like the nerds go marching in the Atlantic. Then after January 2013, once Obama was ensconced, then the knives came out, because basically, these tech guys were bankrupting them, they were through supporting them. And so the journals got extremely nasty. And just basically, they couldn’t build search engines, or create social networks, but they could write stories and shape narratives. So a clear editorial direction went down, that, you know, essentially took all of this, all these weapons that had been developed in academia, to win status competitions and humanities departments, and then they just deployed them, right. And essentially, somebody observed that wokeness is the combination of a fucaldian deconstruction and civil rights, where deconstruction takes away, you know, the legitimacy of the old order, and then civil rights says, Okay, the only thing that’s good is this, right, which is says the older was also bad in a different way, but this is what’s good. And that is the underpinning ideology that all these words have embedded in them, like an ideology, right?
And every way of thinking about it is, this is not my reference, but I’ll cite it anyway, the glossary of the Greek military junta, right, the creation and or use of special terms are employed by the junta as propaganda tools. Because essentially, the word itself embeds a concept, you can Russell conjugate something one way or the other, right? Russell conjugation is a concept that I sweat, you perspire, but she glows, you can always take something, you know, you are uncontrollably angry, but he is righteously indignant. Okay. Um, you have a thin skin, they clap back, right? So once you kind of realize that these words have just been chosen in such a way as to delegitimize their target, and they all went vertical in 2013, and they were suddenly targeted against their erstwhile alleys, you know, in tech, but also just across the country, you can see that this great awakening, that’s what Iglesias called it by playing words, the great awakening, right, this kind of spasm of quasi religious extremism, I wouldn’t call it religious, because it’s not God centered, it’s really state and network centered. So I call it a doctrine, which is a superset of religion and political doctrine. This, these words went vertical. And the all the terrorism stuff, you just notice kind of fell off a cliff. That was the obsession of everything in the 2000s. And just channel change, right? It’s amazing how that happened.
Yeah, it’s not like not like any of the pieces got picked up. Some of
06:41:11 those wars are still raging, of course, and there’s victims to this woke ism movement.
06:41:18 And but in a weird way, even though some parts of it just like, you know, Syria, like there’s wars in the Middle East, it’s still keep raging, there’s there’s certainly active fronts of woke ism, you know, but in a sense, the next shift is already on, you know, why it’s a pivot from woke ism to statism. In many ways, and white is sort of and more generally, the US establishment is sort of kind of coming, you may not believe this, they’re kind of coming back to the center a little bit. And the same with that linen after the revolution implemented the new economic policy, which you may be aware of, right, which was just like, x percent more capitalism, he kind of boot on the neck, take control, but then ease up for a bit. And the so called net men, during the 20s, were able to eke out something there was like, you know, okay, fine, he’s going to be easier on us, then intensified again, because basically, by loosening up, they were able to consolidate control, they weren’t putting as much pressure on, right? Then it went extremely intense again, right? Similar to like, Mao’s like 100 flowers thing, let 100 flowers bloom, and, you know, everybody came out, and then he founded all the people who were against him, and he executed a bunch of them, right? So what’s happening now is, in my tea is and more generally, the US establishment is somewhat tacking back to the center, where, you know, they’re not talking BLM and abolish the police, they’re saying, fund the Capitol police, right? They’ve they’ve gone from the narrative of 2020, which was meant to win a domestic contest, where they said America’s a systemically racist country, tear down George Washington, we’re so evil to the rhetoric of 2022, which is we’re the global champion of democracy, and every non white country is supposed to trust us. Now, obviously, those are inconsistent, right? If if you’re in India, or you’re in Nigeria, and you just heard that the America is calling itself the same guys, by the way, saying it’s so institutionally racist, systemically racist, and you’re saying, well, we’re the leader of the free world, and the number one, obviously, there’s inconsistency between the domestic propaganda and the foreign propaganda, right? There’s a contrast between abolish the police and put 2 billion for the Capitol police, you can reconcile this, and you can say, the US establishment is pro federal and anti local and state. So abolish the local police, who tend to be, you know, republican or rightist, but fund the FBI fund the Capitol police who tend to be, you know, just like in the Soviet Union is a national things like the KGB, right?
They’re for the for the state. But there are all these local nationalist ethnic insurgencies in like Estonia and other places, right? So you can reconcile them. But nevertheless, on its face, those those are contradictory. So what are you going to get, I think, I think you’re going to get on this rotation, where a fair number of the folks on the sort of authoritarian right are kind of pulled back into the fold a bit. Okay, these are the cops, and the military and whatnot, some of them, because as this decade progresses, you’re going to see the signaling on American statism as a post vocalism, okay, which is 30 degrees back towards the center, right? Conversely, on the other side, you’re going to have the left libertarians and right libertarians who are signaling crypto and decentralization and so on. Okay. And so the next one isn’t red versus blue, it’s orange versus green. It’s the dollar versus Bitcoin. And so you have the authoritarians, the top of the political compass versus the quote, libertarians, right? And here is the here’s the visual of that.
So that’s why like, you know, as I wrote the book, and after I show it’s like, you know, I’m already seeing this, this shift happening from war on terror to woke ism to
06:44:48 American statism, right? And here, just take a look at this visual. Interesting. So the visual is an animation transforming the left versus right libertarian versus authoritarian to Bitcoin
06:45:06 and dollar versus versus crypto. That’s right. And some folks switch sides, right? Because you have folks like, you know, Jack Dorsey and a lot of the tech founders in basically the lower left corner, right, who were blue, but are now going to become orange or orange. And your folks in the upper right corner, who are going to at the end of the day, pick the dollar and the American flag
06:45:29 over the internationalist ideals of cryptocurrency, the realigning, as you call it, let me ask you, briefly, we do need to get a comment, your visionary view of things, where the low point in the cryptocurrency space from a shallow analysis perspective, or maybe in a deeper sense, if you can enlighten me, do you think Bitcoin will rise again? Yes. Do you think you’ll go
06:45:59 to take on fiat, you know, to go over a million dollars to go to these heights? I mean, I think it’s possible. And the reason I think it’s possible is I think a lot of things might go to a million dollars, because inflation, because inflation inflation, right? What I was important point, right? Yes, it’s a very important point, yes. Because you’re seeing essentially, sort of the choke pointing on energy is pushing up prices across the board for a lot of things, the supply, you know, China’s not doing us any favors with the COVID lockdowns, Putin’s not doing the world any favors with this giant war. There’s a lot of bad things happening in the physical world, right? You know, you have, I mean, when China, Russia and the US are all and Europe is, you know, like, there’s folks who are just insane about de-growth, and they’re against, you know, they’re pushing for burning coal and wood, right? So a lot of prices are going up in a really foundational and fundamental way. And with that said, also, the dollar is in some ways strengthening against certain other things, because a lot of other countries are dying harder, right? You know, and you’ve got riots in Sri Lanka, and riots in Panama, and riots in, you know, all these places, right? So it’s very complicated, because you’ve got multiple different trends going in the same way.
Your Bitcoin maximums would just say infinity over 21 million. And so therefore, you print all the dollars, there’s only 21 million bitcoins, and Bitcoin goes to infinity. But it can be something where lots of other currencies die, and the dollar is actually exported via
06:47:31 stablecoins. Okay. But I do think, right, it’s a very important point. It still moves,
06:47:37 fiat still moves somehow into the cryptocurrency. Yeah, yeah, I think it’s kind of like Microsoft where, I mean, Windows is still around, right? Microsoft is still around, still a, you know,
06:47:47 multi hundred billion dollar company. It doesn’t mean it. He doesn’t mean it. Don’t worry. All my
06:47:51 machines are Windows and still boot. Yeah. Okay, okay. I don’t know a single Mac. Really? Okay. You are unusual on that. Yeah. That’s, so at least for our- It’s not ideology. It’s not ideology, just convenience. Fine. I mean, they actually now post that they do make some good stuff, right?
Like, Microsoft Teams is good, right?
06:48:08 Yeah, there’s a lot of kind of stuff, and UCO has done a lot of innovative things,
06:48:13 like GitHub. Yeah, I mean, well, there’s an acquisition, but still,
06:48:16 there’s not even credit for it. The acquisition, the pivoting of vision and motivations and focus and all that kind of stuff. Anyway, yes, Microsoft does an
06:48:24 analogy metaphor for something. Anyway, yes. Well, yeah. So basically, just like, you know, they didn’t need a turnaround, but they are, they did endure to the present day. They didn’t die from Google app. I mean, for the massive attacks on them, they didn’t die. They are less powerful, but they make more money, right? Yes. And I think that might be something that, I mean, our best case scenario is the US establishment or CCP has more power over fewer people, okay? I see. But you can exit. If you’re there, you’re kind of knuckling under or whatever, but you can exit, right?
And so I mentioned those three poles. CCP is obviously a billion people, 1.4 aligned under the digital yuan and so on, right? NYT is the entire, it’s the tech companies, it’s the US dollar, it is the obsession. And then crypto capital is everybody else. But I actually think that over time, that third world is web three this time, and that’s the third pole. And that’s India and it’s Israel. And it’s lots of American conservatives and left libertarians and libertarians. And it’s also lots of Chinese liberals, all the folks who are trying to get out of China, because, you know, it’s become so nationalist and crazy and difficult for capitalism. And so if you take basically non-establishment Americans on both left and right, okay, the bottom two quadrants in the political compass I talked about, you take the liberal Chinese, you take the Israelis and the Indians, why? Because they don’t, both of them have a lot of tech talent, right? They’re the number one and number two demographics for tech founders. And they want to, while they are generally sympathetic to the West, right?
And they’re more ties to the West. They also are more cautious about national interest rather than just starting fights, you know, where that’s how they would think about it, right? They just, you know, India thinks Brazil is a poor country, Israel thinks of itself as a small country. And so therefore it needs to not just get in every fight just for the sake of it. And so need to maintain a cautious distance with China, but not like do what Pelosi is doing and try and start like a big thing. Okay, I think Israel is similar where it’s maintaining diplomatic relations with China, it’s more friendly towards China than the US’s. India and Israel, I think, are two sovereign states that have a lot of globally mobile tech talent that obviously have ties to the West with a large diaspora that are hard to demonize, you know, in the sense of willing to argue on the internet. It’s sort of like in English, right? It’s very important. And them plus enough Americans plus enough Chinese can set up another poll that is not for Cold War, or military confrontation, but for peace and trade and freedom and so on and so forth, right? That’s the center, as opposed to the, you know, left of the, you know, the the woke American US establishment or the right of the ultra nationalist CCP, right? That’s what I think about.
Now, what I would say here is the reason I think these are the kind of the three poles, you can argue against this, right? You can say it’s a unipolar role, America’s totally dominant. That’s one argument. You can say it’s a bipolar world. It’s just the US versus China. No, everybody else will have to be forced to align with one or the other. Jia Shunker, you know, actually explicitly rejected this. He’s like, look, there’s a billion people in India. It’s coming up on, it will eventually be like the number three economy. It’s on the rise. He’s got the history and culture. He thinks he’s entitled to have, India’s entitled to have its own side, right?
In such a thing. It’s a funny way of putting it, right? But it’s also true. And so you can say it’s unipolar, you can say it’s bipolar, you could say it’s just multipolar and everybody is kind of there, you know, India, Israel, these are groups out there. But I actually think it’s going to be tri-polar. And the reason it’s tri-polar is these three pools are the groups that have enough media and money and scale and whatnot to really kind of be self-consistent civilizations. Obviously, China’s like the vertically integrated like Apple or whatever, just like one country. Maybe a stable ideology. A stable ideology. That’s right, right? Obviously, the, you know, the books have control of lots of institutions. They’ve got the US establishment and they’ve got the tech companies, they’ve got the media companies and so on.
But crypto is basically everybody else. And crucially, crypto has inroads in China and America where it’s hard to demonize it as completely foreign because there’s many, many, many huge proponents of the universalist values of crypto in America and China because it is true global rule of law and free speech and, you know, so on. It is genuinely universalist in a way where America can no longer be, you know, the number one rule of the rules-based order is America is always number one. And China doesn’t even pretend to maintain a rules-based order, right? Whereas for all those countries that don’t want to either be dominated by the US media corporations that can, or social media that can just censor Trump, nor do they want to be dominated by China, this is an attractive alternative platform they can make their own, right? So that’s where I think, you know, I wrote an article on this in foreign policy on here. Here’s two articles that talk about this a little bit. It’s called Great Protocol Politics. And then here’s another one on the sort of domestic thing. Bitcoin is civilization for Barry Weiss, okay? But I want to just come up the stack a little bit and just return to that original point, which I diverged on, which was why I gave the whole example of how we got into China because I talked about how China had gone from communist to capitalist and letting people have just a share of what they owned, right? With social media, we’re still in kind of the communist era of social media almost where whatever you earn on social media, like Google takes its cut, Twitter takes 100%, you’re nothing for all your tweets or anything like that.
Not only do you earn nothing, you might get a little rev share on TikTok or YouTube, you can do okay, right? But not only do you earn either nothing or a little bit, you have no digital property rights even more fundamentally. You are at the, just the whim of a giant corporation can hit a button and everything you worked for over years, gone. Even if that is, quote, the current state of events, the state of affairs rather, that is not the right balance of power. To be able to unperson somebody at the touch of a key and take away everything in the digital world when we’re living more and more in the digital world, we need to check on that power. And the check on that power is crypto and its property rights and its decentralization. And when I say decentralization, I mean, your money and your digital property is by default yours. And there has to be a due process for someone to take that away from you. Everything, all work is online, all your money is online, your presence is online. That can just be taken away from you with a press of a key that just gives bad governments, bad corporations so much power that that’s wrong. That’s why I’m a medium and long-term bull on crypto simply because it’s a check on this thing. And that if you think about it in terms of just abstract decentralization is one thing, but you think about it in terms of property rights, it’s quite another.
And now what that also means is once you have property rights and you have decentralized social media, it’ll be like the explosion of trade that happened after China went from communist to capitalist. Literally billions of people around the world are no longer giving everything to the collective. They own the teeth in their head now, finally. Okay. It’s funny, right? So you’re Lex Freeman dot eth, you own it, the keys are on your computer. The bad part is, of course, they can get hacked or something like that. Then you can deal with that with social recovery. There’s ways of securing keys. But the good part is ta da. You actually have property rights in the Hernando de Soto sense. You have something you own, ownership, digital ownership.
It’s the cloud is great, but crypto gives you some of the functionality of the cloud while also having some of the functionality of the offline world where you have the keys. So it’s a V3, right? It’s continuous theme, right? The V1 was offline. I’ve got a key. I own it. I have de facto control. V2 is the cloud. Someone else manages it for me. It’s hosted. I get collaboration and so on. V3 is the chain where you combine aspects of those, right?
You have the global state of the cloud, but you have the local permission and controlling of the private key. Okay. So that’s why I’m a medium to long-term ultra bull on crypto. And I’ve actually, there’s a podcast I gave with asymco, where I talked through how crypto actually doesn’t just go after finance. So it’s gold and it’s wire transfers and it’s crowdfunding and it’s all finance with DeFi, but it’s actually also search and it’s social and it’s messaging. It’s actually
06:56:43 even operating systems and eventually cloud and whatnot. Do you want me to talk about that briefly?
06:56:49 Yeah. Yeah. If you can briefly see how broad you see the effect of crypto. So first, crypto is fundamentally a new way of building backend systems, right? So if you think about how big a deal it was to go from AT&T’s corporate Unix to Linux, it’s permissionless, right? When you went from as much as I admire a lot of the stuff that Sam Altman and Greg Brockman have done at OpenAI. I mean, phenomenal in terms of research. They’ve pushed the envelope forward. I give them a ton of credit, right? Still, it was great to see stable diffusion out there, which was open source AI, right? And so from a developer, from a power user standpoint, whenever you have the unlocked version, like an unlocked cell phone, it’s always going to be better, right? So what crypto gives you, obviously it’s every financial thing in the world.
You can do stocks, bonds, et cetera. It’s not just like the internet wasn’t just a channel. It wasn’t like radio and TV and internet. It was internet radio and internet TV and internet this and internet that everything was the internet, all media became the internet. Crypto is not an asset class. It’s all asset classes. It’s crypto stocks and crypto bonds, et cetera. In a real sense, private property arguably didn’t exist in the same way before crypto international law didn’t exist before crypto. How are you going to do a deal between Brazil and Bangladesh? If a Brazilian company wants to acquire a Bangladeshi company, they usually have to set up a US adapter in between because otherwise what are the other obligations between the two? You set up a US adapter or a a Chinese adapter to go between them. But now that Brazilian embauglization can go peer to peer, because they’re using blockchain, right?
They can agree on a system of law that is completely, you know, international, and that’s code. So each party can diligence it without speaking Portuguese and Bengali, right? So that’s why I am a long term bull on crypto. I just described the finance case, let me go through the others, right? Social. So you have the private keys for your ENS, you have apps like Farcaster, you basically have decentralized social media, where there’s different variants, some you just log in with your crypto username, others, the entire social network and all the likes and posts are on chain like DSO. But but there’s several different versions, right? Search. Once, you know, once you realize, block explorers are an important stealth threat to search, they’re very high traffic sites like blockchain.com and either scan, that Google has just totally slept on. They don’t have a block explorer, you don’t have to do anything in terms of trading or anything like that. Google does not have a block explorer, why they don’t think of it as search, but it is search, it’s absolutely searched. So it’s a very important kind of search engine.
And once you have crypto social, you have you now show that you’re not just indexing in a block explorer, like on chain transactions, but on chain communications. Okay, so now you suddenly see oh, the entire social web that Google couldn’t index, it could only index a world wide web, and not the social web. Now it’s actually the on-chain signed web, because every post is digitally signed, it’s a new set of signals. It’s way easier to index than either the World Wide Web or the social web, because it’s open in public. So this is a total disruptive thing to search in the medium term, because the new kind of data sets index, right? So that’s how it’s a threat to social to search. It is a threat to messaging. Why? Because or disruptive eventually, because of the ENS name, as I mentioned, is like a universal identifier, you can send encrypted messages between people. That’s a better primitive to base it on. You know, WhatsApp is just claiming that they’re end-to-end encrypted. But with an ENS name, or with a crypto name, you can be provably audibly end-to-end encrypted because you’re actually sending it back and forth, right?
Because the private key is local, right? That itself, given how important that is, right? You know, you could man in the middle signal or WhatsApp because there’s a server there, right? If you have, you know, so end-to-end encrypted messaging will happen and with payments and all this other stuff. Okay, so you get the crypto messaging apps, you get operating systems, why? Well, the frontier of operating systems, I mean, look, you know, Windows, Linux, and Mac OS have been around forever. But if you actually think about, you know, what is a blockchain, well, there’s operating systems as web browsers, a blockchain is the most complicated thing since an operating system web browser, because it’s a kind of operating system. Why? It’s got, you know, something like Ethereum has an EVM, it’s got a programming language, it’s got an ecosystem where people monetize on it, they build front end apps, and they built back-end apps. They They interoperate between each other. This is a frontier of operating systems research. People haven’t thought of it that way.
Right. It’s also the frontier of a lot of things in databases. Um, you will get a crypto LinkedIn where there’s zero knowledge proofs of various credentials. Okay. Uh, basically every single web two company, I can probably come up with a web three variant of it. Right. Like Ethereum is, I mean, and this is high praise for both parties, but Ethereum is like the crypto Stripe. Right. Or the web through Stripe and you will, um, you will see versions of every, everything else that are like this, but you know, I kind of described, uh, search social messaging, operating systems, the phone, right. Solana is doing a crypto phone. Why do you want that? Again, digital property.
Apple is, was talking about running some script to find if people were having, you know, CSAM like child porn or whatever on their, on their, on their phones, right. And even in YT actually reported that, uh, like Google ran something like this and found a false positive. Some guy had to take a photo of a kid for, you know, medical diagnosis. It got false, you know, falsely flagged a CSAM. He lost access to his account. Total nightmare. Imagine just getting locked out of your Google account, which you’re so dependent on, right? As more and more of your digital life goes online, you know, is it really that much ethically different if it’s the Chinese state that locks you out? Or an American corporation, right? Basically, it’s operationally very similar. You just have no recourse. You’re unpersoned, right?
So the crypto phone becomes like insanely important because you have a local set of private keys. Those are the keys to your currency and your passport and your services and your life, right? So like becomes something that you just hold on you with your person at all times like your normal phone. You might have backups and stuff, but you know, the crypto phone is an insanely important thing. Okay. thing. Okay. And so that search, that social, that’s messaging. That’s operating systems. That’s a phone. That’s a lot right there. Yeah, that is beautiful.
Can I have 120 seconds to just finish up a few more thoughts on social media? Okay. AI and AR. Okay. Just massive impact, obviously, of AI and social media. You’re going to have completely new social media companies, gestures, other things. TikTok, having some of the AI creation tools in there is just like a V1 of that. There’s this whole thread with everything stable diffusion is unlocking. But basically, this is going to melt Hollywood. US media corporations that took a hit in the 2010s, we’re now going to be able to have everyone around the world able to tell their story. And all the stuff about AI ethics and AI bias, the ultimate bias is centralized AI. Only decentralized AI is truly representative.
You cannot be faux representative. You cannot claim that Google is representing Nigerians and Indians and Brazilians and Japanese. Those folks need to have access themselves. So that’s a fundamental ethical argument against centralized AI. It’s unethical. And it’s like this faux thing where you might have faux diversity in the interface, but you haven’t actually truly decentralized it. This is the woke capitalism. You justify it with the bougness and you make the money by centralizing it. But the actual way of doing it is letting it free for the world and letting people build their own versions. If people want to build a Asian Lord of the Rings, they can do that. If they want to build an Indian one, they can do that. Whatever they want.
So that is the argument for AI decentralization and for how that kind of links to this. I love that AI decentralization fixes the bias problem, which a lot of people seem to talk about and focus on. Yes. Centralization is inherently unrepresentative, fundamentally. You can like mathematically show it. It’s not representing the world. The decentralization allows anybody to pick it up and make it their own, right? And centralization is almost always a mask for that private corporate interest. One of the things about the woke capitalism thing, by the way, is the deplatforming of Trump was political. Other things are political. But do you know what deplatforming started with? In the late 2000s, early 2010s, all the open social stuff was when deplatform was being used as a corporate weapon against Meerkat and Zynga and Teespring, right?
These were companies that were competing with features of a tweet deck, et cetera. They’re competing with features of Twitter or Facebook and the API was cut off. And that was when actually progressives were for net neutrality and an open internet and open social against the concentration of corporate power and so on. Remember that, right? And so what’s going to happen is both those two things, the political and the corporate are going to come together. Why? In the Soviet Union, denunciation was used as a tool to, for example, undercut romantic rivals, right? There’s a great article called the practice of denunciation in the Soviet Union, right? Which talks about all these examples where the ideological argument was used to kick somebody into the 300 like pit that existed at the center of the Soviet Union. Anybody could be kicked into the pit at any moment. And today, well, Ivan’s out, and now, hey, Anna, whatever, right? Okay.
That same thing is going to be used by woke capitalists, is being used by woke capitalists, where the woke argument is used to justify pushing their competitor out of the app store or downracking them in search. Well, again, you wouldn’t want a bigot to be in search who could compete with us or whatever, right? And conversely, so the wokeness is used to make money and the money is used to advance the ideology. It’s like this kind of back and forth. Sometimes, right now, you think of those as independent things, but then they fuse. Okay. And so that’s very clear with the AI bias arguments where it just so happens that it’s so powerful, Lex, this technology is so powerful in the wrong hands, it could be used. So we will charge you $9.99 for every use of it. How’s that? How altruistic is that? Is that amazingly altruistic? It’s really good, right?
So once you kind of see that, as I said, whenever they’re positioned in economics, you can go ahead and culture, when you’re pushing in a culture, you can go in economics. If they’re so woke, why are they rich? If they’re so concerned or representation wise, it centralized answer, they’re not actually concerned about it, they’re making money, right? Okay. So that is, I think, in a few words, blows up a lot of the AI bias type stuff. Right? Okay, they’re basically they’re biasing AI. All right. So the amount of stuff that can be done with AI now, like it also helps the pseudonymous economy as I was talking about with the AI Zoom. So you have totally new sites, totally new apps that are based on that. I think it changes, you’re going to have new Google Docs, all these kinds of things. You might have, once you can do things with just a few taps, you might have sites that are focused more on producing rather than just consuming because with AI, you can change the productivity of gestures.
You can have a few gestures, like for example, the image-to-image thing with disabled diffusion, where you make a little cartoon third graders painting and it becomes a real painting. A lot of user interfaces will be rethought now that you can actually do this incredible stuff with AI. It knows what you want it to do. And I saw this funny thing, which was a riff on Peter Thiel’s line, which is AI is centralized and crypto is decentralized. And somebody was saying, actually, it turns out crypto is centralized with the CBDCs and stablecoin and so on. But AI is getting decentralized with stable diffusion, haha, which is funny. And I think there’s centralized and decentralized versions of each of these. And finally, the third poll that actually he talks about AI and crypto, but the third poll is actually that’s sort of underappreciated because people think it already exists, is social. That just is keeping on going. And obviously, the next step in social is AR and VR. Why is it so obvious? Because it’s meta, it’s Facebook.
Now I saw this very silly article. It’s like, oh my God, Facebook is so dumb for putting a $10 billion into virtual reality. And I’m like, okay, the most predictable innovation in the world, in my view, is the AR glasses. Have you talked about this on the podcast before?
07:09:12 AR and VR, I mean, of course a lot, but the AR is not as obvious, actually.
07:09:16 Okay, so AR glasses, what are AR glasses? So you take Stampshet Spectacles, Google Glass, Apple’s AR kit, Facebook’s Oculus Quest 2, or Meta Quest 2, whatever, you put those together. And what do you get? You get something that has the form factor of glasses that you’d wear outside, okay, which can with a tap record or give you terminator vision on something, or with another tap go totally dark and become VR glasses. So normal glasses, AR glasses, VR glasses recording, it’s as multifunctional as your phone, but it’s hands-free. And you might actually even wear it more than your phone. In fact, you might be blind without your AR glasses because one of the things I’ve shown in the book early on are floating sigils. Did I show you that? So this is a really important, just visual concept. That right there shows with AR kit, you can see a globe floating outside, okay? Secret societies are returning. This is what NFTs will become.
The NFT locally on your cryptophone, if you hold it, you can see the symbol.
07:10:26 And if you don’t, you can’t. By the way, for people just listening, we’re looking at a nice nature scene where an artificially created globe is floating in the air.
07:10:39 Yes, but it’s invisible if you’re not holding up the AR kit phone. So only you have a window into this artificial world. That’s right. And then here’s another thing, which shows you another piece of it. And this is using E and S to unlock a door. So this is an NFT used for something different. So the first one was using the NFT effectively to see something, and the second is using the NFT to do something. So based on your on-chain communication, you can unlock a door. That’s a door to a room. Soon it could be a door to a building. It could be the gates to a community. It could be your digital login.
Okay. Amazing. What this means is basically a lot of these things, which are or like individual pieces get synthesized, right? And you eventually have a digital, just like you have a digital currency, or digital currencies unify concepts like obviously gold, stocks, bonds, derivatives, every kind of financial instrument, plus Chuck E. Cheese tokens, karma, everything that’s fungible and transferable. The digital passport unifies your Google-style login, your private keys, your API keys, your NFTs, your ENS name, your domain name, all those kinds of things, and your key card for your door and so on, right? So the AR glasses are what probably, I don’t know, it’ll be Facebook’s version three or version four, Apple is also working on them, Google is also working on them. You might just get a bunch of those models at the same time. It’s like predicting the iPhone, just like Dorsey knew that mobile was gonna be big, and that’s why he had 140 characters for Twitter, because it was like an SMS code limitation and Twitter was started before the iPhone. AR glasses are an incredibly predictable invention that you can start thinking about the future of social is in part in person, okay? And it also means people might go outside more. Why?
Because you can’t see a monitor in the sun, but you can hit AR and maybe you have a full screen thing and you just kind of move your fingers or something and you can tap. You have to figure out the gesture. You don’t wanna have gorilla arms. Maybe you do have a keyboard outside or just even like a, you could even have a desk like this. If you can touch type, you can imagine something where you look down and you can see a keyboard with your AR glasses and it registers it and then you can type like this, right? And probably you could have some AI that could figure out what you meant rather than what you were doing, right? Okay, so that’s AI in social media. That’s AR in social media. But really, one last thing I’ll say, which is the non-obvious, non-technological part, is I think we’ll go from very broad networks, which are hundreds of millions or billions of people like Twitter and Facebook, which have many small communities in them, to much smaller networks that have a million or 10 million people but are much deeper, right, in terms of their affiliation, right? And this is the long-term trend in tech because you’re going from eyeballs in the 1980s, I’m sorry, eyeballs in the 1990s, to daily active users in the 2000s, to holders in the 2010s. So you go from just like, oh, I’m just a lookie loo, to I’m logging in every day, to I’m holding a significant percentage of my net worth. And then this decade is when the online community becomes primary, you’re a netizen.
The digital passport is your main identity. And so this is not, see the problem with Facebook or Twitter is it’s a bunch of different communities that don’t share the same values fighting each other. This brings us back to the network state where you have one community with shared values, shared currency, and it’s full stack. It’s a social network and it’s a cryptocurrency, and it’s a co-living community, and it’s a messaging app, and it’s a this and it’s a that. And it’s like Estonia, with a million people, you can actually build a lot of that full stack.
07:14:24 That is starts to get to what I call a network state. There should be like a standing applause line here. This is brilliant. You’re an incredible person. This was an incredible conversation we covered, how to fix our government, looking at the future of governments, moving into network state. We covered how to fix medicine, FDA, longevity. That was just like a stellar description. Really, I’ll have to listen to that multiple times to really think and thank you for that, especially in this time where the lessons learned from the pandemic are unclear to at least me. And there’s a lot of thinking that needs to be done there. And then just a discussion about how to fix social media and how to fix money. This was brilliant. So you’re an incredibly successful person.
So if you taught a course at Stanford for startups, that’s a whole nother discussion that we can have. But let me just ask you, there’s a lot of people that look up to you. So if there’s somebody who’s young in high school, early college, trying to figure out what the heck to do with their life, what to do with their career, what advice could you give them? How they can have a career they can be proud of
07:15:44 or how they can have a life they can be proud of. At least what I would do. And then you can take it or leave it or what have you. But so.
07:15:51 Yeah, to maybe to your younger self,
07:15:54 advice to your younger self. You know, my friend Neville is, this is a lot of what he puts out is the very practical brass tacks, next steps. And I tend towards the macro. Of course, we both do sort of, both kind of thing, right? But let’s talk brass tacks, next steps. Because I actually am practical, or at least practical enough,
07:16:17 to get things done, I think. It’s just like you said,
07:16:20 you’re breaking up the new book into three. Yes, it’s motivation, theory and practice. Motivation, theory and practice. That’s right. And each of those- So let’s talk practice. So let’s talk practice. Okay. Especially in visual scale. Right, so first, what skill do you learn as a young kid, right? So let me just give what the ideal full stack thing is. And then you have to say, okay, I’m good quantitatively, I’m good verbally, I’m good this, I’m good that, right? So the ideal is you are full stack engineer and full stack influencer, or full stack engineer or full stack creator, okay?
So that’s both right brain and left brain, all right. So what does that mean with engineering? That means you master computer science and statistics. Okay. And of course, it’s also good to know physics and continuous math. And so that’s actually quite valuable to know. And you might need to use a lot of that continuous math with AI nowadays, right? So a lot of that is actually helpful, right? Great descent and whatnot. But computer science and stats are to this century what physics was to the last, why? Because, for example, what percentage of your time
07:17:21 do you spend looking at a screen of some kind?
07:17:26 Just a large percentage of the time. A large percentage of the time, right? Probably more than, you know, for many people, it’s more than 50% of their waking hours. If you include laptop, you include cell phone, tablet, you know, your watch, you know, maybe a monitor of some kind, right? All those together is probably, it’s a lot, okay? Which means, and then that’s gonna only increase with AR glasses, okay? Which means most of the rest of your life
07:17:47 will be spent in a sense in the matrix.
07:17:52 A large percentage, okay? In a constructed digital world, which is more interesting in some sense than the offline world, because we look at it more, it changes faster, right? And where the physics are set by programmers, okay? And what that means is, you know, physics itself is obviously very important for the natural world. Computer science and stats are for the artificial world, right? And why is that? Because every domain has algorithms and data structures, whether it’s aviation, okay? You go to American Airlines, right? They’re gonna have, you know, planes and seats and tickets and so on. So it’s data structures, and you’re gonna have algorithms and functions that connect them. You’re gonna have tables that those data are into. If it’s Walmart, you’re gonna have SKUs and you’re gonna have shelves.
So you have data structures and you have algorithms to connect them. So every single area, you have algorithms and data structures, which is computer science and stats. And so you’re going to collect the data and analyze it, right? And so that means if you have that base of CS and stats, where you’re really strong and you understand the theory as well as the practice and you need both, okay? Because you need to understand, you know, obviously, basic stuff like big O notation and whatnot. And you need to understand your probability distributions. Okay. Um, you know, a good exercise, by the way is to go from the Bernoulli trials, right? To everything else, because you can go through newly trials to the Binomial distribution, to the Gaussian, you can also go from, you know, Bernoulli trials to the geometric distribution, and so on, you can drive Everything from this right?
07:19:29 Computer science includes not just big go, but software engineering.
07:19:33 Well, computer sciences theory, software engineering is practice. Right. Yeah, you could argue probability and status theory. and then data science is practice. You include all of that together? In a package, that’s theory in practice, right? Look, it’s okay to use libraries once you know what’s going on under the hood. That’s fine, but you need to be able to write out
07:19:56 the whole thing yourself. That could be true, could not be true, I don’t know. Are you sure about that? Because you might be able to get quite far
07:20:10 quite far standing on the shoulders of giants. You can. But it depends, like you couldn’t build, well, okay.
07:20:17 Somebody in faith. Maybe you could. Maybe you could.
07:20:20 However you were going to finish that sentence, I could push back. You could probably push back, right? But here’s what I was going to say. I was going to say, you couldn’t really, you couldn’t build Google or Facebook or Amazon or Apple without somebody at the company who understood like computer architecture and, you know, layout of memory and, you know, theory of compilers.
07:20:42 But you might want to see the thing is, if you just look at libraries, you might be able to understand the capabilities and you can build up the intuition of like what a great
07:20:54 specialized engineer could do that you can’t. Yeah. Like, you know, for example, you know, at least a while back, facebook.com, like was literally it’s just a single C plus plus compiled binary or sorry, it’s not super close. It was like hip hop. They had a PHP compiler where they had just one giant binary. I think, I may be getting this wrong, but that’s what I recall, right?
07:21:15 Yeah. Yeah. I mean, that’s, that’s, it should be simple. It should be simple. And then you have guys like John Carmack who comes in and does an incredibly optimized
07:21:25 implementation that actually, well, yeah, more than that, right? Like he’s, I mean, yes, right.
07:21:31 But go ahead. I mean, there are some cases with John Carmack by being an incredible engineer is able to bring to reality things that otherwise would have taken an extra five to 10 years.
07:21:42 Yeah. Or maybe even more than that. Like so, you know, this is the great man theory of history versus like sort of the, um, kind of the, the determinist, like, you know, waves of history are pushing things along. The way I reconcile those is the tech tree model of history. You know, like civilization, you’re a play game civilization. Yeah. So you got the tech tree and you can go and be like, okay, I’m going to get spearmen or I’m going to do granaries and pottery, right? And so you can think of it as something where here’s everything that humanity has right now. And then Satoshi can push on this dimension of the tech tree. So he’s a great man because there wasn’t other, there wasn’t a Leibniz to Satoshi’s Newton, right? Like Vitalik as amazing as he is was five years later or thereabouts, right? There wasn’t contemporaneous, um, like, you know, another person that was doing with Satoshi’s doing is truly Suijen Barris, right?
And that shows, you know, what one person can do, like probably Steve Jobs with Apple, you know, given how the company was dying before he got there and he built it into the most valuable, or put it on the directory, becomes the most valuable company in the world, it shows that there is quote, great man right? Um, maybe more than just being five or 10 years head, like truly shaping where history goes, right? But on their hand, of course, that person Steve Jobs themselves wrote that email that person was first thing saying that, you know, he doesn’t grow his own food, and he doesn’t, you know, he didn’t even think of the rights that he’s got, someone else thought of those and whatnot. And so he kind of, it is always a tension between the individual and society on this, right? But coming back to CSN stats, that’s what you want to learn. I think physics is also good to know, because you go one level deeper. And of course, all these devices, you’re not gonna be able to build, you know, LiDAR or things like that without understanding physics, right?
07:23:21 You mentioned that as one side of the brain. What about the other?
07:23:24 Right. So CSN stats is that side. Okay, and then you can go in any domain, any company, kick butt, you know, add value, right? Okay. So now the other side is creator, right? Becoming a creator. First, online, you know, like social media is about to become far, far, far more lucrative and monetizable. People are not updated. They kind of think this is, it’s like over or something like that, or it’s old or whatever. But with with crypto, once you have property rights in social media, now it’s not what Google just allows you to have, but it’s what you own right, you actually have genuine property rights, and that’s just completely changed everything, just like, you know, the introduction of property rights in China to change everything, you might take some lag for that to happen. But you can lend against that borrow against that. You just you own the digital property, right.
And you can do NFTs you can do you know, investments, you can do all this other stuff, right? So in many ways, I think anybody who’s listening, who is like, you know, I want to build a billion dollar company, I’m like, build a billion dollar company, yes. Also build on a million person media operation, or a million person following or something online, right? Because a US media company is simply not economically or socially aligned with your business. I mean, the big thing that I think, you know, tech and media actually, it’s funny, They there’s this collision. And sometimes there’s an Adam smashing event and there’s like a repositioning, right. And media attack tech really hard in the 20 tens, as well as many other things. And now post 2020 I think it’s now centralized tech and media versus decentralized tech and media. And centralized tech and media is nyt and Google which have all become kidney companies, but decentralized tech and media is like sub stack all lots of defectors from, you know, from the US establishment from the NYT have gone to sub stack. But also all the founders and funders are much more vocal on Twitter, whether it’s Mark Anderson, Jack Dorsey, Jeff Bezos, Zuckerberg, Zuck is just cutting out the establishment is going direct to, you know, posting himself or posting the jiu-jitsu thing, you know, which he recently did or going and talking to Rogan, right? And so you, you now have this sort of atom smash and like kind of reconstitution, why is that important? Well, look, once you realize you use media companies are companies, and you know, the their employees, Salsberger’s employees are just dogs on the leash, right?
They’re, they’re, they’re hit men for old money, assassins for the establishment, they’re never going to investigate him. Okay, there’s this thing right now, like some strike that or a possible strike that’s going at the New York Times, the obviously, the most obvious, rich corporate zillionaire, the epitome of white privilege is, you know, and again, another kind of person thinks white is an insult, right? But the, you know, the guy who inherited the company from his father’s father’s father, in the NFL, right, you know, supposed to have the Rooney rule, we’re supposed to interview diverse candidates for the top job, though, you know, the other competitors for the top job of the publisher of New York Times were two cousins of Salsberger. So three cis straight white males in 2017, who competed for this top job, and everybody in media was like silent about this coronation, they had this coronation article in the Times about this, right? So you have this meritless nepotist, right, this literally, rich, cis, white man who has makes millions of dollars a year, and it makes like 50 x the salary of other, you know, MIT journalists, okay, and, you know, lives in a mansion and so on, while denouncing, this is a born rich guy who denounced all the built rich guys at a company, which is far wider than the tech companies, he’s been denouncing. Okay. And again, this is something there’s a website called tech journalism is less diverse than tech.com, which actually shows the numbers on this, right? Here, I can can look at these numbers, right? So why did I say this? Well, centralized US media has lost a ton of clout. Engagement is down, you’ve seen the crypto prices down, like stock prices have crashed. That’s that’s very obvious and quantifiable.
Less visible is that media engagement
07:27:36 has crashed, right? By the way, yeah, there’s a plot that shows on the x axis percent white, and on the y axis of the different companies. And the tech companies are basically below 50% white, and all the different media tech journalism companies are all way above, you know, 70 80 90 90 plus percent white, and
07:28:05 hypocrisy, ladies and gentlemen, I mean, again, I’m not the kind of person who thinks white is an insult. But these guys are. And they are the wokest whites on the planet, right? It’s like
07:28:14 ridiculous, right? I you know, it’s like, anyone, anyone who’s homophobic, anyone who’s that it feels like it’s a personal thing that they’re struggling with. Maybe the journalists are
07:28:26 actually the ones who are racist. Well, actually, you know, it’s funny, you say that because there’s this guy, am Rosenthal, okay. And you know, on his gravestone was quote, we kept the he kept the paper straight, right? And actually, he essentially went and this is managing editor of the New York Times for almost, you know, from 69 to 77, executive editor from
07:28:46 77 86. And it was a history. Lord. Yeah, it was a history.
07:28:52 Lord history of basically keeping, you know, gay reporters out. So essentially, the way I think about it is, New York Post reported that, just just just to talk about this for a second, because it’s so insane. All right. New York Post reported and I’ve got some of this in the book. Okay, but
07:29:07 a a broad Rosenthal, managing editor of the New York Times from 1969 to 1977, executive editor from 1997 to 1986. His gravestone reads he kept the paper straight.
07:29:22 And then here’s G here on this, he kept the paper straight. As it happens, Rosenthal’s in tourist homophobe, he made it a specific policy to paper not to use term gay, he denied a plum job to a gay man for being gay, he minimized AIDS crisis. So, like, you know, the thing about this is, this is not like a one off thing. Okay. The New York Times literally won a Pulitzer for choking out the Ukrainians for helping starve 5 million Ukrainians to death and now has reinvented themselves as like a cheerleader to stand with Ukraine, right? They were for, you know, a Rosenthal’s homophobia before they were against it, right? They were like, if you look saw the link, I just paste it in. Okay. During BLM, you know, it’s credibly reported that I haven’t seen this refuted, the family that owns the New York Times were slaveholders. Somehow that stayed out of 1619 and BLM coverage, right? Say we’re literally getting the profits from slavery to help bootstrap, you know, the what was the times or, you know, went into it. They actually did this article on like the compound interest of slaveholders in Haiti and how much they owed people, right?
If you apply that to how much money they made off of slaves. I mean, can anyone name one of Salzburg or slaves? Like, can we humanize that? Put a face on that show exactly, you know, who who lost such that he may win, right? And so you stack this up and it’s like, you know, for the Iraq War before they were against it. And it’s like, yeah, sure, Bush, you know, did a lot of bad stuff there. But they also reported a lot of negative, you know, not negative coverage, like false coverage, right about WMD is like, you know, the whole truth, military. And so it’s like this amazing thing where if some of the most evil people in history are the historians if the, you know, they actually ran this ad campaign in the 2017 time period called the truth. So giant Orwellian billboards, right, which say, you know, the truth is essential here,
07:31:07 it looks like this. This was when? This was just a few years ago, 2017. This is in New York. A billboard by the New York Times reads, the truth is hard to know. The truth is hard to find. The truth is hard to hear. The truth is hard to believe. The truth is hard to accept. The truth is hard to deny. The truth is more important now than ever. All right, this is like,
07:31:35 yeah, this is 1984 type of stuff. Yeah, now here’s the thing. Do you know what other? Truth. Yeah. Big. Truth, period. Big white board. So, okay, what other national newspaper proclaimed itself the truth in constantly, every day. You know this one actually. Oh, you mean Pravda? Yeah.
There you go. That’s right. What is it? What’s the Soviet translation? What’s the Russian
07:32:01 translation of Pravda is? Pravda is truth. Yeah. Sorry, that didn’t even connect to my head. Yes.
07:32:10 Yeah, truth. Unironically, huh? And again, it just so happens that-
07:32:14 Is this an onion article?
07:32:15 Listen, I didn’t know. Pravda, at least you’re a communist, these guys have figured out how to get charged people $99 a year or whatever it is for the truth. Wow, that’s actually even amazing. The corporate truth. When you stack all that up, basically legacy media has delegitimize themselves. Every day that those quote investigative journalists don’t investigate Salsberger shows that they are so courageous as to investigate your boss, but not their own. Ta-da. Total mass drop. That’s just obvious. Now, once you realize this and every influencer who’s coming up, every creator realizes, okay, well, that means I have to think about these media corporations as competitors. They are competitors. They are competitors for advertisers and influencers.
They will try basically what the media corporations did partially successfully during the 2010s is they sort of had this reign of terror over many influencers, where they’d give them positive coverage if they supported sort of the party line and negative coverage if they didn’t. But now the soft power has just dropped off a cliff and many kinds of tactics that establishment journalists do, one way of thinking of them is like as a for-profit Stasi. Why? Because they may stalk you, dox you, surveil you. They can literally put two dozen people following somebody around for a year and that’s not considered stalking. That’s not considered spamming. They are allowed to do this and make money doing this. Whereas if you so much as criticize them, oh my God, it’s an attack on the free press, blah, blah, blah. But you are the free press and I’m the free press. We’re the free press. Again, it goes back to the decentralized, the free speech is not like some media corporations thing. It’s everybody’s right.
And what actually happened with social media, what they’re against, is not that it is an attack on democracy, is that it’s the ultimate democracy because people have a voice now that didn’t used to have a voice. It’s saying freedom of the press belongs to those that won one, right? Never argue with the man who buys ink by the barrel. In a real way, the entire things that were promised to people, freedom of speech, free markets, like a beggar’s democracy, oh yeah. You can have freedom of speech, but not freedom of of reach, because you’re just talking to yourself in your living room in, you know, Buffalo, New York, right? You maybe you can get gather some friends around, you didn’t have the licenses to get, you know, like a TV broadcast license, radio license, you know, the resources to buy a newspaper, you didn’t have practical reach or distribution. Okay. What happened was all these people in the US and around the world suddenly got voices, and they were suddenly saying things that the establishment didn’t want them to say. And so that’s what this counter decentralization is meant both in the US and in China, this crackdown. But it’s as if like a stock went up like 100x and then drop like 30%. All the de platforming stuff. Yes, it’s bad.
Okay, it’s, um, it’s it’s a it’s a rearward move. But in the long arc, I think we’re going to have more speech, I think the counter decentralization may succeed in China, but I don’t think it’s going to succeed outside it because you you’re trying to retrofit speech and thought controls onto an ostensibly free society, right? Now that check got cash, people actually have a voice, it’s not going to be taken away from them very easily. Right? So how does this relate to my advice to young kids? Once you have that context, right? Once you realize, hey, look, Apple didn’t like do deals with Blackberry, okay, Amazon didn’t collaborate or give free content to Barnes and Noble. Netflix was not going and you know, socializing with employees of blockbuster. These employees of establishment media corporations are your competitors. Okay, they are out for clicks. They are out for money. They will, if they literally choke out the Ukrainians before making themselves into champions of the Ukrainian cause, they’ll basically do anything, you know.
And so it once you realize that you’re like, okay, I need to build my own voice. Okay, if you’re resilient, you’re, you know, Nigerian, you’re in the Midwest or the Middle East, right? If you’re, you know, Japanese, you know, whatever, wherever you are, you need to build your own voice, because outsourcing that voice to somebody else, and having it put through the distorting filter, which maximizes the clicks of the distorting kind of thing, is just not going to be in one’s own interest. You don’t have to, you know, even agree with everything I’m saying, or even all of that to just be like, well, look, I’d rather speak for myself, I’d rather go direct if I could speak unmediated in my own words, right? Because the choice of words is actually very important, right? So that’s the second big thing, you need to and this is the thing that took me a long time to understand, okay, because I always got the importance of math and science. And in fact, I would have been probably just a career academic or mathematician in another life, you know, maybe statistician, something like that, electrical engineer, etc. But the importance of creating your own content and telling your own stories. If, if you don’t tell your own story, the story will be told for you, right? The sort of flip of winners, right? History is if you do not write history, you will not be the winner, you must write a history. Okay, as kind of a funny way of, you know, putting it, right?
Yeah, chicken and egg. Yeah, contra positive, right? And now what does that mean, practically, okay? So in many ways, the program that I’m laying out is to build alternatives, peaceful alternatives to all, you know, legacy institutions, right? To obviously to the Fed, right, with with Bitcoin, to Wall Street, with defy and with Ethereum, and so on, to academia, with the ledger of record and the on chain reproducible research that we talked about to media with decentralized social media decentralized AI, you can melt Hollywood with this, okay, melt the RIA melt the MPAA. I mean, there’s there’s some good people there. But everybody should have their own movies, you know, there’s people should be able to tell their own stories and not just wait for it to be cast through Hollywood and how it was just making remakes anyway, okay, so you can tell original stories, and you can do so online, and you can do so by hitting a key and the production values will be there now that the AI content creation tools are out there. I mentioned disrupting or replacing or building alternatives to the Fed, to Wall Street, to academia, to media, I mentioned to Wikipedia, right? There’s things like golden, there’s things like, there’s a bunch of web three ish Wikipedia competitors that are combining with AI and crypto for property rights. There’s you’ll also need alternatives to all the major tech companies. That’s that was the list that went through with, you know, decentralized, search and social, and messaging and operating systems and even the crypto phone. Okay.
And then finally, you need alternatives to us political institutions and more generally, and Chinese political institutions. And what are those that’s that’s where the network state comes in. And the fundamental concept is, if, as I mentioned, only 2% of the world can become president of the United States about the number of Americans who are, you know, native born and over 35, and so on and so forth. But 100% world can become president of their own network state. What that means is, um, and this kind of related to those two points, right? If you’re an individual, you’re good at engineering and you’re good at content creation, okay, like somebody like Jack Dorsey, for example, or or Mark Anderson, actually, a lot of the founders are actually quite good at both nowadays, you look Bezos, he’s actually funny on Twitter, when he allows himself to be he’s, you know, you don’t become a leader of that caliber without having, you know, some of both, right? If you’ve got some of both, um, now, no matter where you are, what your ethnicity is, what your nationality is, whether you can get a US visa, you can become president of a network state. And what this is, it’s a new path to political power that does not require going through either the US or the Chinese establishment, you don’t have to wait till you’re 75. You don’t have to become a gerontocrat, or spout the party line, and so on. The V one of this is like, folks like, you know, Francis Suarez, or Nate McKelly of El Salvador. But, you know, Suarez is a great example where, while not a full sovereign or anything like that, he has many ways, and maybe is the skills of a tech CEO, we just put up a, you know, a call on Twitter, and helped build Miami recruited all these people from all over. And wasn’t the two party system, but the end city system, he just helped build the city by bringing people in.
Okay. And that’s, and when I say Suarez is a V one, I, you know, I love Francis Suarez, I love what they’re doing. Um, the next iteration of that is to actually build the community itself, rather than just kind of taking an existing Miami, you’re building something that is potentially the scale of Miami, but as a digital community. And how many people is that? Well, like the Miami population is actually not that large. It’s like 400 something 1000 people, you could build a digital community like that. So if you have the engineering, and you have the content creation, and you build your own distribution, you own your own thing, you can become essentially a new kind of political leader, where you just build a large enough online community, that can crowdfund territory, and you build your vision of the good.
07:41:28 And anybody can build the vision of the good, talking about 8 billion people. I mean, there’s no more inspiring. I mean, sometimes, when we look at how things are broken, there could be a cynical paralysis, right? But ultimately, this is a really empowering message.
07:41:46 Yes, I think there is a new birth of global freedom. And that in the fullness of time, people will look at the internet as being to the Americas, what the Americas were to Europe, a new world, okay, in the sense of this cloud continent has just come down. Okay, and people are, you know, if you spend 50% of your waking hours looking at a screen, 20%, you’re spending all this time commuting up to the cloud in the morning and coming back down to doing these day trips. And it’s got a different geography and all these people are near each other that were far in the physical world and vice versa, right? And so this will, because it’s this new domain, it gives rise to virtual worlds that eventually become physical. In the same way that most people don’t know this that well, but you know, the Americas really shaped the old world. Many concepts like the ultra capitalism and ultra democracy of the new world, the French Revolution was in part I mean, that was a bad version, okay, but that was in part inspired by the American. Okay, there may be many movements that came back to the old world that started here and the same way, you know, I don’t call it the mainstream media anymore, you know, I call it the downstream
07:42:54 media because downstream of the internet, that’s right. Right.
07:42:56 That’s right. And you know, there’s this guy a while back who had this meme called the one skill year American empire, there are things American. And so on. And his I think fundamental category error is he considers the internet to be American. But you know why that’s not the case. Because, It’ll be very obviously so, I think, in five or ten years. Why? Because the majority of English speakers online, by about 2030, are going to be Indian. They just got 5G LTE super cheap internet recently, the last few years. It’s like one of the biggest stories in the world that’s not really being told that much. They’ve been lurking. Here’s the thing.
This took me a long time to kind of figure out, not to figure out, but to communicate. I was actually a real assistant in 2013, but these folks don’t type with an accent. They speak with an accent, but they don’t type with an accent. All the way back in 2013 when I taught this Coursera course, I was like, who are these folks? I had hundreds of thousands of people from around the world sign up. It was a very popular course, even then. Hundreds of thousands of people signed up. I was like, who are these folks? There were Polish guys. This lady from Brazil. They knew scumbag Steve and good guy Greg, but they didn’t know the Yankees or hot dogs or all the offline stuff of America. They didn’t know physical America.
They knew the digital conversation, the Reddit conversation and what became the Twitter conversation. For example, I just saw this YouTube video where there’s an Indian founder and he just said, just casually like, oh, I slid into his DMs like this. It was kind of a joke. But he said in an Indian accent, everybody laughed. Everybody knew what he meant. And you’re like, wait, that is a piece of what people think of as American internet slang. That’s actually internet slang, which will soon be said mostly by non-Americans. Now what does that mean? That means that just like the US was a branch of the UK and it started with English and certainly there’s lots of antecedents you can trace back to England. But nowadays, most Americans are not English in ancestry. There’s Germans and Italians, Jewish people, African-Americans, everybody, right?
07:45:04 In the same way, the internet is much more representative of the world than the USA is. You may have started American, but it got forked by the rest of the world.
07:45:12 That’s right. And it gives a global equality of opportunity. It’s even more capitalist than America is. It’s even more democratic than America is, just as America is more capitalist and democratic
07:45:22 than the UK.
07:45:24 The meme has escaped the cage of its captor. And by the way, that doesn’t mean I’m… So I want to be very clear about something. But when I say this kind of stuff, people will be like, oh my God, you hate America so much. And that’s not at all what I’m saying. It’s like, first, take Britain, okay? Would you think of the U.S. or Israel or India or Singapore as being anti-British? Not today, they’re post-British, right? In fact, they’re quite respectful to, I mean, look at the queen, and so on, people respect the UK, and so on,
07:45:54 everyone’s coming there to pay their respects. Well, that might not be the greatest example, but yes, go ahead. Well, put it like this.
07:45:58 Yes, broadly speaking. They’re not like burning the British flag and effigy or anything. Essentially, the point is, each of these societies is kind of moving along their own axis. They’re not defining every action in terms of whether they’re pro-British or anti-British, right? Like, once you have kind of a healthy distance, people can respect all the accomplishments of the UK, while also being happy that you’re no longer run by them. Yes. And then you can have like a better kind of arm’s length relationship, right? And so that’s what post-British means. It is not anti-British, not anti-British. It is not anti-British, not at all. In fact, you can respect it while also being happy that you’ve got your own sovereignty, right, and you’re happy that Britain is doing its own thing. I’m glad they’re doing well, right?
Okay, and they’re actually doing some Spanish economic zone stuff now, and in the same way, if you think of it as not being pro-American or anti-American, because that’s the with us or against us formulation of George Bush. Rather than just everything must be scored as pro-American or anti-American, you can think of post-American, that not everything has to be scored on that axis. Like, you know, there are certain things around the world, which should be able to exist on their own, and you should be able to move along your own axis. Like, is, like it perhaps obvious example, like, is longevity, pro American or anti American, you know, no, it’s like, it’s on its own axis, it’s moving on its own axis, and new states and new countries should be able to exist, that do not have to define themselves as anti American to do so. They’re just post American on friendly to but different from that’s totally possible to do. And we’ve got examples of that, right? And so when I talk about this, I’m talking about is really in many ways, US and Western ideals, you know, but manifested in just a different form, right? And and also crucially, integrative of global ideals, you know, these are, in a sense, are global human rights are global values, which is freedom of speech, private property protection from search and seizure. And actually, so that’s all the Bill of Rights type stuff. And I saw something that I thought was really good recently, that’s a good first cut, that’s something that I might want to include credit him, of course, in veto the book, a digital Bill of Rights. Okay. And so this was a really good, decent, first cut at a digital Bill of Rights.
Okay. And he talks about the right to encrypt the right to compute the right to repair the right to portability, right. So encrypt is perhaps obvious, e-commerce and everything. Compute, your device, it’s not like you can’t just have somebody intercept it or shut down your floating points. That might sound stupid, but in the EU, they’re trying to regulate AI. And by doing that, they have some regulation that says logic. Is it self-regulated? Did you see this? No, it’s hilarious. But click the tweet that I sent you just before this one. So I was like, in woke America, they’re abolishing accelerated math because math is, quote, white supremacist. Not to be outdone, Europe seeks to regulate AI by regulating logic itself.
You can’t reason without a license. Article three, for purposes of this regulation, the following definition of apply. AI system is software that’s developed with one or more of the techniques and approaches listed in Annex 1. And you know what’s in Annex 1? In Annex 1, logic and knowledge-based approaches. So step away from the if statement. Okay. And the thing is, if you’ve dealt with these bureaucracies, the stupidest possible interpretation, I mean, think about, if you think, oh, no, no, that wouldn’t make any sense. They wouldn’t do that. The entire web has been uglified by this stupid cookie thing that does absolutely nothing. The actual way to protect privacy is with user local data, meaning decentralized systems where the private
07:49:43 keys are local. No, I’m just laughing at the layers of absurdity in this. Yeah, step away from the if statement. I mean, it’s hilarious. It’s very, very clumsy. It’s us struggling how to define the digital
07:49:59 bill of rights, I suppose, and doing it so extremely clumsily. It’s funny. I heard this thing, which is like, Europe’s like, well, look, the US and China are way ahead of us in AI, but we’re going to be a leader in AI regulation.
07:50:10 Oh, yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And something we haven’t mentioned much of in this whole conversation, I think may be implied between the lines is the thing that was in the constitution of the pursuit and happiness and the thing that is in many stories that we humans conjure up, which is love. I think the thing that makes life worth living in many ways. But for that, you have to have freedom. You have to have stability. You have to have a society that’s functioning so that humans can do what humans do, which is make friends, make family, make love, make make beautiful things together as human beings. Balaji, this is like an incredible conversation. Thank you for showing an amazing future. I think really empowering to people because we can all be part of creating that future. And thank you so much for talking to me today.
This was an incredible, obviously the longest conversation I’ve ever done, but also one of the most amazing, enlightening. Thank you.
07:51:20 Thank you, brother, for everything you do. Thank you for inspiring all of us. Well, Lex, this was great. And we didn’t get through all the questions.
07:51:29 We didn’t. Just for the record, we didn’t get, I would venture to say we didn’t get through 50%. This is great. This is great. And I had, I had to stop us from going too deep on any one thing, even though it was tempting, like those chocolates, those damn delicious looking chocolates that was used as a metaphor about 13 hours ago. However long we started the conversation. This was incredible. It was really brilliant. You’re brilliant throughout on all those different topics. So yeah, thank you again for talking about it. This is great. I really appreciate being here.
Thanks for listening to this conversation with biology soon of awesome. To support this podcast, please check out our sponsors in the description. And now let me leave you some words from Ray Bradbury. People ask me to predict the future. When all I want to do is to prevent it. Better yet, build it. Predicting the future is much too easy. Anyway, you look at the people around you, the street you stand on, the visible air you breathe and predict more of the same to hell with more. I want better. Thank you for listening and hope to see you next time.