Eric Weinstein: Revolutionary Ideas in Science, Math, and Society | Artificial Intelligence Podcast

– The following is a
conversation with Eric Weinstein. He’s a mathematician, economist, physicist and the managing
director of Thiel Capital. He coined the term and you could say, is the founder of the
Intellectual Dark Web, which is a loosely assembled
group of public intellectuals that includes Sam Harris,
Jordan Peterson, Steven Pinker, Joe Rogan, Michael
Shermer and a few others. This conversation is part of
the artificial intelligence podcast at MIT and Beyond. If you enjoy it, subscribe
on YouTube, iTunes, or simply connect with me
on Twitter @lexfridman, spelled F-R-I-D. And now, here’s my conversation
with Eric Weinstein. – Are you nervous about this? – Scared shitless. – Okay, (speaking foreign language). – You mention Kung Fu Panda as
one of your favorite movies. It has the usual profound
master student dynamic going on, so who has been a teacher
that significantly influenced the direction of your
thinking and life’s work? So, if you’re the Kung Fu
Panda, who was your Shifu? – Oh, well that’s interesting, because I didn’t see Shifu
as being the teacher. – Who was the teacher? – Oogway, Master Oogway, the turtle. – Oh, the turtle, right. – They only meet twice in the entire film and the first conversation
sort of doesn’t count. So, they magic of the
film, in fact, it’s point is that the teaching that
really matters is transferred during a single conversation
and it’s very brief. And so, who played that role in my life? I would say either my
grandfather, Harry Rubin and his wife Sophie Rubin,
my grandmother or Tom Lehrer. – Tom Lehrer?
– Yeah. – In which way? – If you give a child Tom Lehrer records, what you do is you destroy their ability to be taken over by later malware, and it’s so irreverent, so
witty, so clever, so obscene, that it destroys the ability to lead a normal life for many people. So if I meet somebody who’s
usually really shifted from any kind of neuro
typical presentation, I’ll often ask them,
are you a Tom Lehrer fan and the odds that they will
respond are quite high. – Now Tom Lehrer is Poisoning
Pigeons in the Park, Tom Lehrer?
– That’s very interesting. There are a small number
of Tom Lehrer songs that broke into the general population. Poisoning Pigeons in the Park, the Element Song and
perhaps the Vatican Rag. So, when you meet somebody
who knows those songs, but doesn’t know– – Oh, you’re judging me
right now, aren’t you? – Harshly.
– Okay. – No, but you’re Russian, so.
– Yes. – Undoubtedly you know
Nikolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky. That song.
– Yes, yeah, yup. – So that was a song about plagiarism that was in fact plagiarized, which most people don’t
know, from Danny Kaye. Where Danny Kaye did a song called Stanislavsky of the musky arts. And, so Tom Lehrer did this brilliant job of plagiarizing a song and
making it about plagiarism, and then making it about
this mathematician, who worked in Non-Euclidean geometry. That was like giving heroin to a child. It was extremely addictive and eventually led me to a lot of different places. One of which may have
been PhD in mathematics. – And he was also at least
a lecturer in mathematics, I believe at Harvard, something like that? – Yeah, I just had
dinner with him, in fact. When my son turned 13, we didn’t tell him, but his Bar mitzvah present was dinner with his hero, Tom Lehrer, and Tom Lehrer was 88
years old, sharp as a tack, irreverent and funny as
hell and just, you know, there are very few people in this world that you have to meet
while they’re still here and that was definitely
one for our family. – So that wit is a
reflection of intelligence in some kind of deep way. Like where that would be a good test of intelligence whether
you’re a Tom Lehrer fan. So, what do you think that is about wit? About that kind of humor, ability to see the absurdity in existence? Do you think that’s connected
to intelligence or are we just two Jews on a mic that
appreciate that kind of humor. – No, I think that it’s absolutely connected to intelligence. You can see it, there’s a
place where Tom Lehrer decides that he’s going to lampoon
Gilbert of Gilbert and Sullivan and he’s going to out
due Gilbert with clever, meaningless wordplay and he has, I forget the, well let’s see. He’s doing Clementine as if
Gilbert and Sullivan wrote it and he says that I missed her, depressed her young sister named Esther. This mister to pester she’d tried. A pestering sister’s a festering blister you’re best to resist her, say I! The sister persisted, the mister resisted, I kissed her, all loyalty slipped. When she said I could have
her her sister’s cadaver must surely have turned in its crypt. That’s so dense. It’s so insane.
– Yeah. – That that’s clearly intelligence because it’s hard to construct
something like that. If I look at my favorite
Tom Lehrer lyric, you know, there’s a perfectly absurd one which is, once all the German’s
were warlike and mean, but that couldn’t happen again. We taught them a lesson in 1918 and they’ve hardly bothered us since then. – Right.
– That is a different kind of intelligence. You know, you’re taking
something that is so horrific and you’re sort of making
it palatable and funny, and demonstrating also just your humanity. I mean, I think the thing that
came through as Tom Lehrer wrote all of these
terrible, horrible lines, was just what a sensitive
and beautiful soul he was, who was channeling pain through
humor and through grace. – I’ve seen throughout
Europe, throughout Russia, the same kind of humor emerged from the generation of World War II. It seemed like that humor
is required to somehow deal with the pain and the suffering
of that that war created. – Well, you do need the environment to create the broad Slavic soul. I don’t think that many
Americans really appreciate Russian humor, how you had
to joke during the time of let’s say, Article 58 under Stalin. You had to be very, very careful. You know, the concept of a
Russian satirical magazine, like Krokodil, doesn’t make sense. So you have this cross
cultural problem that there are certain areas of human
experience that it would be better to know nothing
about and quite unfortunately, eastern Europe knows a
great deal about them, which makes the songs of
Vladimir Voevodsky so potent. You know, the prose of
Pushkin, whatever it is. You have to appreciate the
depth of the Eastern European experience and I would think
that perhaps Americans knew something like this around
the time of the Civil War or maybe under slavery and Jim Crow or even the harsh tyranny of the coal and steel employers during the labor wars. But in general I would say,
it’s hard for us to understand and imagine the collective culture, unless we have the system
of selective pressures, that for example, Russians
were subjected to. – Yeah, so if there’s one good
thing that comes outta war, it’s literature, art and humor and music. – Oh, I don’t think so. I
think almost everything is good about war except for
death and destruction. – Right. Without the death it would
bring the romance of it, the whole thing is nice but– – Well, this is why we’re
always caught up in war. We have this very ambiguous
relationship to it, is that it makes life real
and pressing and meaningful, and at an unacceptable price and the price has never been higher. – So to jump into AI a little bit, in one of the conversations
you had or one of the videos, you described that one of the
things AI systems can’t do and biological systems
can is self replicate in the physical world. – [Eric] Oh, no, no. – In the physical world. – Well, yes. The physical robots can’t self replicate, but there’s a very tricky point, which is that the only
thing that we’ve been able to create that’s really
complex that has an analog of our reproductive system is software. – But, nevertheless,
software replicates itself, if we’re speaking strictly
for the replication is this kinda digital space. So let me, just to begin,
let me ask a question. Do you see a protective barrier or a gap between the physical world
and the digital world? – Let’s not call it digital. Let’s call it the logical world
versus the physical world. – Why logical? – Well, because even though we had, let’s say Einstein’s brain preserved, it was meaningless to
us as a physical object because we couldn’t do anything with what was stored in it at a logical level. And so, the idea that something
may be stored logically and that it may be stored
physically, are not necessarily, we don’t always benefit from synonymizing. I’m not suggesting that
there isn’t a material basis to the logical world,
but that it does warrant identification with a separate layer that need not invoke logic
gates and zeros and ones. – And, so connecting those two worlds, the logical world and the
physical world or maybe just connecting to the logical
world inside our brain, Einstein’s brain, you mention
the idea of outtelligence. – [Eric] Artificial outtelligence. – Artificial outtelligence.
– Yes, this is the only essay that John Brockman every
invited me to write that he refused to publish in Edge. (Lex chuckling) – Why? – Well, maybe it wasn’t well
written, but I don’t know. – The idea is quite compelling. It’s quite unique and new, at
least from my stance point. Maybe you can explain it? – Sure. What I was thinking about is
why it is that we’re waiting to be terrified by artificial
general intelligence. When in fact, artificial
life is terrifying in and of itself and it’s already here. So, in order to have a system
of selective pressures, you need three distinct elements. You need variation within a population, you need heritability, and
you need differential success. So, what’s really unique
and I’ve made this point, I think elsewhere, about software, is that if you think about what humans know how to build that’s impressive. So, I always take a car
and I say does it have an analog of each of the
physiological systems? Does it have a skeletal
structure, that’s its frame. Does it have a neurological structure, it has an onboard computer. It has a digestive system. The one thing it doesn’t have
is a reproductive system. But if you can call spawn on a process, effectively you do have
a reproductive system. And that means that you
can create something with variation, heritability
and differential success. Now, the next step in
the chain of thinking was where do we see inanimate
non intelligent life outwitting intelligent life? And I have two favorite
systems and I try to stay on them so that we don’t get distracted. One of which is the Ophrys
orchid sub species or sub clave, I don’t what to call it. – Is that a type of flower?
– Yeah, it’s a type of flower that mimics the female
of a pollinator species in order to dupe the males
into engaging in what is called pseudocopulation,
with the fake female, which is usually represented
by the lowest pedal, and there’s also a pheromone
component to fool the males into thinking they have
a mating opportunity. But the flower doesn’t have
to give up energy in the form of nectar as a lure, because
it’s tricking the males. The other system is a
particular species of muscle, lampsilis in the clear streams
of Missouri and it fools bass into biting a fleshy lip that
contain its young and when the bass see this fleshy
lip, which looks exactly like a species of fish that
the bass like to eat, the young explode and clamp
onto the gills and parasitize the bass and also use
the bass to redistribute them as they eventually release. Both of these systems, you
have a highly intelligent dupe, being fooled by a lower life form. And what is sculpting
these convincing lures? It’s the intelligence of previously duped targets for these strategies. So when the target is smart
enough to avoid the strategy, those weaker mimics fall off,
they have terminal lines, and only the better ones survive. So it’s an arms race
between the target species that is being parasitized,
getting smarter, and this other less intelligent or non intelligent object
getting as if smarter. And so, what you see is,
is that artificial general intelligence is not
needed to parasitize us. It’s simply sufficient for
us to outwit ourselves, so you could have a program, let’s say, one of these Nigerian
scams that writes letters and uses whoever sends it
Bitcoin to figure out which aspects of the program should be kept, which should be varied and thrown away, and you don’t need it to
be in anyway intelligent in order to have a really
nightmare scenario being parasitized by something that
has no idea what it’s doing. – So you phrased a few
concepts really eloquently, so let me try to, there’s
a few directions this goes. So one, first of all, in the
way we write software today, it’s not common that we
allow it to self modify. – But we do have that ability now. – We have the ability.
– It’s just not common. – I just isn’t common. So your thought is that that is a serious worry if there becomes– – But self modifying
code is available now. – So there’s different types
of self modification right? There’s personalization,
you know your email app, your Gmail is self modifying
to you after you login or whatever, you can think of that way. But ultimately it’s central,
all the information is centralized, but you’re
thinking of ideas where you’re, this is a unique entity operating under selective pressures and it changes– – Well, you just, if you
think about the fact that our immune systems don’t know
what’s coming at them next, but they have a small set
of spanning components, and if it’s a sufficiently
expressive system in that any shape or binding region can
be approximated with the Lego that is present, then
you can have confidence that you don’t need to
know what’s coming at you because the combinatorics are sufficient to reach any configuration needed. – So that’s a beautiful, well
terrifying thing to worry about because it’s so within our reach. – Whenever I suggest
these things I do always have a concern as to whether
or not I will bring them into being by talking about them. – So there’s this thing
from OpenAI next week, to talk to the founder of OpenAI, this idea that their text generation, the new stuff they have
for generating text is, they didn’t wanna bring it,
they didn’t wanna release it because they’re about the– – I’m delighted to hear that, but they’re going to end up releasing. – Yes, that’s the thing is
I think talking about it, well at least from my end, I’m more a proponent of
technology preventing, so further innovation preventing the detrimental effects of innovation. – Well we’re in a, we’re
sort of tumbling down a hill at accelerating speed. So, whether or not we’re proponents or– – It doesn’t really matter.
– It may not matter. – But I.
– Well, may not. – Well, I do feel that there are people who have held things back and you know, died poorer than they
might have otherwise been. We don’t even know their names. I don’t think that we should
discount the idea that having the smartest people showing
off how smart they are by what they’ve developed may
be a terminal process. I’m very mindful in particular
of a beautiful letter that Edward Teller of all
people wrote to Leo Szilard where Szilard was trying to
figure out how to control the use of atomic weaponry at the
end of World War II and Teller rather strangely, because many
of us view him as a monster, showed some very advanced
moral thinking talking about the slim chance we have for survival and that the only hope is
to make war unthinkable. I do think that not enough
of us feel in our gut, what it is we are playing
with when we are working on technical problems, and I
would recommend to anyone who hasn’t seen it, a movie called
A Bridge on the River Kwai, about I believe captured British POWs who just in a desire to do a bridge well, end up over collaborating
with their Japanese captors. – Well, now you’re making me question the unrestricted open
discussion of ideas and AI. – I’m not saying I know the answer, I’m just saying that I
could make a decent case for either our need to talk about this and to become technologically
focused on containing it or need to stop talking about
this and try to hope that the relatively small number
of highly adept individuals who are looking at these
problems is small enough that we should in fact be talking
about how to contain it. – Well, the way ideas, the
way innovation happens, what new ideas develop,
Newton with calculus. Whether if he was silent, the
idea would emerge elsewhere, well in case of Newton, of course, but you know, in case of
AI, how small is this set of individuals out of which
such ideas would arise? Is it in question–
– Well, the ideas of the researchers we know and
those that we don’t know. Who may live in countries
that don’t wish us to know what level they’re currently
at and are very disciplined in keeping these things to themselves. Of course, I will point out that there is a religious school in
Kerala that developed something very close to the calculus,
certainly in terms of infinite series in, I guess religious prayer and rhyme and prose. So, you know, it’s not
that Newton had any ability to hold that back and
I don’t really believe that we have an ability to hold back. I do think that we could change
the proportion of the time we spend worrying about
the effects of what if we are successful, rather
than simply trying to succeed and hope that we’ll be able
to contain things later. – Beautifully put. So, on the idea of
outtelligence, what form, treading cautiously ’cause we’ve agreed as we tumbled down the hill. What form–
– Can’t stop ourselves can we? – We cannot. What form do you see it taking? So one example, Facebook,
Google, do want to, I don’t know a better
word, you want to influence users to behave a certain way. And so that’s one kind of
example of outtelligence, is systems perhaps modifying the behavior of these intelligent human beings in order to sell more product of different kind. But do you see other examples
of this actually emerging in? – Just take any parasitic
system, you know? Make sure that there’s some
way in which that there’s differential success,
heritability and variation, and those are the magic ingredients. And if you really wanted to
build a nightmare machine, make sure that the system
that expresses the variability has a spanning set, so that it
can learn to arbitrary levels by making it sufficiently expressive. That’s your nightmare. – So, it’s your nightmare,
but it could also be, it’s a really powerful
mechanism by which to create, well, powerful systems. So, are you more worried
about the negative direction that might go versus the positive? So, you said parasitic, but
that doesn’t necessarily need to be what the
system converges towards. It could be, what is it, symbiotic– – Well, parasitism, the
dividing line between parasitism and symbiosis is not so clear. – [Lex] That’s what they
tell me about marriage. I’m still single, so I don’t know. – Well, yeah I do. Would could go into that
too, but um. (Lex laughing) No, I think we have to
appreciate, you know, are you infected by your own mitochondria? – Right. Yeah.
– Right, so in marriage you fear the loss of independence, but even though the American
therapeutic community may be very concerned about co-dependence, what’s to say that co-dependence
isn’t what’s necessary to have a stable relationship
in which to raise children who are maximally K-selected and require incredible amounts of care, because you have to wait 13 years before there’s any reproductive
payout and most of us don’t want our 13 year olds having kids. That’s a very tricky situation to analyze. I would say that predators
and parasites drive much of our evolution and I don’t know whether to be angry at them or thank them. – Well, ultimately, I mean,
nobody knows the meaning of life or what even happiness is,
but there is some metrics– – Oh, they didn’t tell you?
– They didn’t, they didn’t. That’s why all the poetry
and books are bought. You know, there are
some metrics under which you can kinda measure how good it is that these AI systems are roaming about. So, you’re more nervous
about software than you are optimistic about ideas
of self replicating larceny? – I don’t think we’ve
really felt where we are. You know, occasionally we get a wake up. 9/11 was so anomalous
compared to everything else we’ve experienced on American
soil, that it came to us as a complete shock that
that was even a possibility. What it really was, was a
highly creative and determined RND team deep in the bowels
of Afghanistan showing us that we had certain
exploits that we were open to, that nobody had chosen to express. I can think of several of
these things that I don’t talk about publicly, that
just seem to have to do with how relatively unimaginative
those who wish to cause havoc and destruction
have been up until now. The great mystery of our time, of this particular little era, is how remarkably stable
we’ve been since 1945 when we demonstrated the ability to
use nuclear weapons in anger. And, we don’t know why things like that haven’t happened since then. We’ve had several close
calls, we’ve had mistakes, we’ve had brinkmanship and
what’s now happened is that we’ve settled into a sense that
oh, it’ll always be nothing. It’s been so long since
something was at that level of danger, that we’ve got
a wrong idea in our head and that’s why when I went
on the Ben Shapiro Show, I talked about the need to
resume above ground testing of nuclear devices because
we have people whose developmental experience
suggests that when, let’s say Donald Trump and
North Korea engage on Twitter, oh it’s nothing, it’s just
posturing, everybody’s just in it for money, there’s
a sense that people are in a video game mode, which has
been the right call since 1945. We’ve been mostly in video game mode. It’s amazing. – So you’re worried about a generation which has not seen any existential– – We’ve lived under it. See, you’re younger. I don’t know if, and again,
you came from Moscow. – [Lex] From, yeah. – There was a TV show called
The Day After that had a huge effect on a generation
growing up in the US, and it talked about what life would be like after a nuclear exchange. We have not gone through
an embodied experience collectively where we’ve
thought about this, and I think it’s one of
the most irresponsible things that the elders among us have done, which is to provide this beautiful garden in which the thorns are
cut off of the rosebushes and all of the edges
are rounded and sanded, and so people have developed
this totally unreal idea which is everything is
going to be just fine. And do I think that my
leading concern is AGI or my leading concern is
thermonuclear exchange or gene drives or any one of these things? I don’t know. But I know that our time here
in this very long experiment here is finite, because
the toys that we’ve built are so impressive and
the wisdom to accompany them has not materialized. And I think we actually got
a wisdom uptick since 1945. We had a lot of dangerous,
skilled players on the world stage who nevertheless, no
matter how bad they were, managed to not embroil us in something that we couldn’t come back from. – The Cold War.
– Yeah, and the distance from the Cold War, you
know, I’m very mindful of, there was a Russian tradition, actually, of on your wedding day going to visit a memorial to those who gave their lives. Can you imagine this? Where on the happiest day of your life, you go and you pay homage
to the people who fought and died in the Battle of Stalingrad? I’m not a huge fan of
communism, I gotta say, but there were a couple of
things that the Russians did that were really positive
in the Soviet era, and I think trying to let people know how serious life actually
is, is the Russian model of seriousness is better
than the American model. – And maybe, like you mentioned, there was a small echo
of that after 9/11, but– – We wouldn’t let it form. We talk about 9/11, but it’s 9/12 that really moved the needle. When we were all just there
and nobody wanted to speak. We witnessed something super serious and we didn’t want to run to our computers and blast out our deep
thoughts and our feelings. And it was profound because
we woke up, briefly, and I talk about the gated
institutional narrative that sort of programs our lives, I’ve seen it break three times in my life. One of which was the
election of Donald Trump, another time was the
fall of Lehman Brothers, when everybody who knew that
Bear Stearns wasn’t that important, knew that Lehman
Brothers met AIG was next, and the other one was 9/11. And so, if I’m 53 years old
and I only remember three times that the global narrative
was really interrupted, that tells you how much we’ve been on top of developing events, you know? We had the Murrah Federal
Building explosion, but it didn’t cause
the narrative to break, it wasn’t profound enough. Around 9/12, we started to
wake up out of our slumber, and the powers that be, did
not want a coming together. You know, the admonition was go shopping. – The powers that be,
so what is that force? As opposed to blaming individuals– – We don’t know.
– So whatever that– – Whatever that force is. – In silence.
– There’s a component of it that’s emergent and there’s a component of it that’s deliberate. So, give yourself a portfolio
with two components. Some amount of it is
emergent, but some amount of it is also an understanding
that if people come together, they become an incredible force. And what you’re seeing
right now, I think is, there are forces that are
trying to come together and there are forces that are
trying to push things apart, and you know, one of them
is the globalist narrative versus the national narrative. Where to the globalist perspective, the nations are bad things in essence. That they’re temporary,
they’re nationalistic, they’re jingoistic, it’s all negative, to people more in the national
idiom, they’re saying look, this is where I pay my taxes, this is where I do my army service, this is where I have a vote, this is where I have a passport. Who the hell are you to tell
me that because you’ve moved into some place that you
can make money globally, that you’ve chosen to abandon other people to whom you have a
special and elevated duty. And I think that these
competing narratives have been pushing towards the global
perspective from the elite and a larger and larger
number of disenfranchised people are saying, hey, I
actually live in a place and I have laws and I speak
a language, I have a culture, and who are you to tell me
that because you can profit in some far away land, that
my obligations to my fellow countrymen are so much diminished. – So these tensions
between nations and so on, ultimately you see being proud
of your country and so on, which creates potentially the kind of things that led to wars and so on. They ultimately, it is human
nature and it is good for us, for wake up calls of different kinds. – Well, I think that these are tensions. And my point isn’t, I mean nationalism run amuck is a nightmare. And internationalism run
amuck is a nightmare. And the problem is we’re
trying to push these pendulums to some place where
they’re somewhat balanced. Where we have a higher duty
of care to those who share our laws and our citizenship,
but we don’t forget our duties of care to the global system. I would think this is elementary, but the problem that we’re
facing concerns the ability for some to profit by abandoning
their obligations to others within their system and that’s
what we’ve had for decades. – You mention nuclear weapons. I was hoping to get answers
from you since one of the many things you’ve done as economics, maybe you can understand human behavior of why the heck we haven’t
blown each other up yet. But okay, so we’ll get– – I don’t know the answer.
– Yeah. It’s really important to say
that we really don’t know– – [Eric] A mild uptick in wisdom. – A mild uptick in wisdom,
Steven Pinker who I’ve talked with has a lot of really good
ideas about why, but he– – I don’t trust his optimism. (Lex chuckling) – Listen, I’m Russian,
so I never trust a guy who’s that optimistic– – No, no, no, it’s just
that you’re talking about a guy who’s looking at a
system in which more and more of the kinetic energy, like
war, has been turned into potential energy like
unused nuclear weapons. – Wow, beautifully put.
– And you know now I’m looking at that system and I’m saying, okay, well if you don’t have
a potential energy trim, then everything’s just
getting better and better. – Yeah, yeah, wow, that’s beautifully put. Only a physicist could, okay. – [Eric] I’m not a physicist. – Well, is that a dirty word? – [Eric] No, no, I wish
I were a physicist. – Me too, my dad’s a physicist. I’m trying to live up to that probably for the rest of my life. He’s probably gonna
listen to this too, so. – Hey dad.
– Yeah, (chuckling). So, your friend, Sam Harris, worries a lot about the
existential threat of AI. Not in the way that you’ve
described, but in the more. – Well, he hangs out with Elon. I don’t know Elon. – So, are you worried about that kind of, you know, about the, about
either robotics systems or traditionally defined
AI systems essentially becoming super intelligent,
much more intelligent than human beings and getting– – Well, they already are, and they’re not. – When seen as a collective, you mean? – I can mean all sorts of things, but certainly, many of
the things that we thought were peculiar to general intelligence do not require general intelligence. So that’s been one of the big
awakenings that you can write a pretty convincing sports
story from stats alone. Without needing to have watched the game. So, you know, is it
possible to write lively prose about politics? Yeah, no, not yet. So, we’re sort of all over the map. One of the things about chess, there’s a question I once asked on Quora that didn’t get a lot of response, which was, what is the greatest
brilliancy ever produced by a computer in a chess game? Which was different than the question of what is the greatest game ever played. So if you think about brilliancies, is what really animates many of us to think of chess as an art form. Those are those moves and combinations that just show such
flair, panache and soul. Computers weren’t really great at that. They were great positional monsters. And recently we’ve started
seeing brilliancies. – [Lex] Yeah, a few
grandmasters have identified with AlphaZero that things
were quite brilliant. – Yeah, so that’s an example of something. We don’t that that’s AGI,
but in a very restricted set of rules like chess,
you’re starting to see poetry of a high order. And so I don’t like the idea
that we’re waiting for AGI. AGI is sort of slowly infiltrating
our lives in the same way that I don’t think a worm should be, you know C. Elegans shouldn’t
be treated as non conscious because it only has 300 neurons. Maybe it just has a very
low level of consciousness. Because we don’t understand what these things mean as they scale up. So, am I worried about
this general phenomena? Sure, but I think that one of the things that’s happening is that
a lot of us are fretting about this in part because of human needs. We’ve always been worried
about the Golem, right? – [Lex] Well, the Golem is
the artificially created– – Life, you know? – [Lex] It’s like Frankenstein
type of character– – Yeah, sure, it’s a Jewish version. Frankenberg, Franken– – Yeah, that makes sense. – Sorry, so the, but we’ve
always been worried about creating something like
this and it’s getting closer and closer and there are ways
in which we have to realize that the whole thing, the whole thing that we’ve experienced are
the context of our lives, is almost certainly coming to an end. And I don’t mean to suggest that we won’t survive, I don’t know. And I don’t mean to suggest
that it’s coming tomorrow. It could be 300, 500
years, but there’s no plan that I’m aware of, if
we have three rocks that we could possibly inhabit that
are sensible within current technological dreams; the
Earth, the Moon and Mars, and we have a very
competitive civilization that is still forced
into violence to sort out disputes that cannot be arbitrated. It is not clear to me that we
have a long term future until we get to the next stage,
which is to figure out whether or not the Einsteinian
speed limit can be broken, and that requires our source code. – Our source code, the stuff
in our brains to figure out? What do you mean by our source code? – The source code of the context. Whatever it is that produces the quarks, the electrons, the neutrinos. – Oh, our source code,
I got it, so this is– – You’re talking about
the stuff that’s written in a higher level language. – Yeah, yeah, that’s right. You’re talking about the low
level, the bits or even lower– – Right, that’s what is
currently keeping us here. We can’t even imagine, you
know, we have hair brain schemes for staying within the
Einsteinian speed limit. You know, maybe if we
could just drug ourselves and go into a suspended state or we could have multiple generations of that. I think all that stuff is pretty silly. But, I think it’s also pretty
silly to imagine that our wisdom is going to
increase to the point that we can have the toys we have and we’re not going to use them for 500 years. – Speaking of Einstein, I had
a profound breakthrough when I realized you’re just one
letter away from the guy. – Yeah, but I’m also one
letter away from Feinstein. – Well, you get to pick. Okay, so, unified theory. You know, you’ve worked, you
enjoy the beauty of geometry. Well, I don’t actually
know if you enjoy it. You certainly are quite good at it– – I tremble before it.
– Tremble before it. If you’re religious that is one of the– – I don’t have to be religious. It’s just so beautiful,
you will tremble anyway. – I just read Einstein’s
biography and one of the ways, one of the things you’ve
done is try to explore a unified theory talking about
a 14 dimensional observerse that has the 4D space time
continuum embedded in it. I’m just curious how you think, philosophically at a high level, about something more than four dimensions. How do you try to, what does
it make you feel talking in the mathematical world about dimensions that are greater than
the ones we can perceive? Is there something that you take away that’s more than just the math? – Well, first of all, stick
out your tongue at me. Okay, now.
(Lex chuckling) On the front of that tongue.
– Yeah? – There was a sweet receptor. And next to that were salt
receptors on two different sides. A little bit farther back
there were sour receptors, and you wouldn’t show me the back of your tongue where
your bitter receptor was. – [Lex] I show the good side always. – Okay, but that was four
dimensions of taste receptors. But you also had pain
receptors on that tongue and probably heat
receptors on that tongue. So let’s assume that you have one of each. That would be six dimensions. So when you eat something,
you eat a slice of pizza and it’s got some hot pepper
on it, maybe some jalapeno. You’re having a six
dimensional experience, dude. – Do you think we over
emphasize the value of time as one of the dimensions or space? Well, we certainly over
emphasize the value of time ’cause we things to start and end, or we really don’t like things
to end, but they seem to. – Well, what if you flipped
one of the spacial dimensions into being a temporal dimension? And you and I were to meet
in New York City and say, well where and when should we meet? And I say, how about I’ll
meet you on 36th and Lexington at 2:00 in the afternoon and
11 o’clock in the morning? That would be very confusing. – Well, it’s so convenient for us to think about time, you mean? – We happen to be in a
delicious situation in which we have three dimensions
of space and one of time, and they’re woven together in
this sort of strange fabric where we can trade off a
little space for a little time. But we still only have one dimension that is picked out relative
to the other three. It’s very much Gladys Knight and the Pips. – So, which one developed for who? Did we develop for these dimensions? Or did the dimensions, or were they always there and it doesn’t– – Well, do you imagine
that there isn’t a place where there are four temporal dimensions? Or two and two of space and time? Or three of time and one of space? And then would time not be
playing the role of space? Why do you imagine that the sector that you’re in is all that there is? – I certainly do not, but
I can’t imagine otherwise. I mean, I haven’t done
ayahuasca or any of those drugs. I hope to one day, but– – Instead of doing ayahuasca, you could just head over to Building Two. – That’s where the mathematicians are? – [Eric] Yeah, that’s where they hang. – [Lex] Just to look at some geometry? – Well just ask about
pseudo-Riemannian geometry, that’s what you’re interested in. (Lex chuckling)
– [Lex] Okay. – Or you can talk to a
shaman and end up in Peru. – And then some extra
money for that trip– – Yeah, but you won’t be
able to do any calculations if that’s how you choose to go about it. – Well, a different kind of calculation– – So to speak.
– Yeah. One of my favorite people, Edward Franco, Berkeley professor,
author of Love and Math, great title for a book,
said that you were quite a remarkable intellect to
come up with such beautiful, original ideas in terms of
unified theory and so on. But you were working outside academia. So, one question in developing ideas that are truly original,
truly interesting, what’s the difference between
inside academia and outside academia when it comes
to developing such ideas? – Oh, it’s a terrible
choice, a terrible choice. So, if you do it inside of academics, you are forced to constantly… show great loyalty to the consensus and you distinguish yourself with small, almost microscopic heresies to make your reputation in general. And you have very competent
people and brilliant people who are working together who formed
very deep social networks, and have a very high level of behavior, at least within mathematics
and at least technically within physics, theoretical physics. When you go outside, you meet
lunatics and crazy people. Madmen and these are people
who do not usually subscribe to the consensus position and
almost always lose their way. And the key question is will
progress likely come from someone who is miraculously
managed to stay within the system and is able to
take on a larger amount of heresy, that is sort of unthinkable? In which case, that will be fascinating. Or, is it more likely that
somebody will maintain a level of discipline from outside of
academics and be able to make use of the freedom that comes
from not having to constantly affirm your loyalty to the
consensus of your field. – So you’ve characterized
in ways that academia, in this particular sense is declining. You posted the plot, the older population of the faculty is getting larger. The younger is getting smaller and so on. So, which direction of the two
are you more hopeful about? – Well, the Baby Boomers
can’t hang on forever. – Which is first of all in general true, and second of all in academia– – But that’s really what
this time is about– – Is the Baby Boomers control.
– Is we didn’t, we’re used to like financial bubbles
that last a few years in length and then pop. – Yes.
– The Baby Boomer bubble is this really long lived
thing and all of the ideology, all of the behavior patterns,
the norms, you know, for example string theory is an almost entirely Baby Boomer phenomena. It was something that Baby
Boomers were able to do because it required a very high level
of mathematical ability. – You don’t think of string
theory as an original idea? – Oh, I mean it was original to Veneziano who probably is older
than the Baby Boomers and there are people who are younger than the Baby Boomers who are
still doing string theory. And I’m not saying that
nothing discovered within the large string theoretic
complex is wrong. Quite the contrary. A lot of brilliant mathematics
and a lot of the structure of physics was elucidated
by string theorists. What do I think of the deliverable nature of this product that will not
ship called string theory? I think that is largely an
affirmative action program for highly mathematically
and geometrically talented Baby Boomer
physicists so that they can say that they’re
working on something within the constraints of what they
will say is quantum gravity. Now there are other schemes. You know, there’s like asymptotic safety. There are other things that
you could imagine doing. I don’t think much of any
of the major programs, but to have inflicted this
level of loyalty through a shibboleth, well surely
you don’t question x. Well, I question almost
everything in the string program, and that’s why I got out of physics. When you called me
physicist, was a great honor, but the reason I didn’t become a physicist wasn’t that I fell in
love with mathematics. As I said, wow, in 1984, 1983,
I saw the field going mad, and I saw that mathematics,
which has all sorts of problems, was not going insane. And so instead of studying
things within physics, I thought it was much safer to study the same objects within mathematics. And there’s a huge price to pay for that. You lose physical intuition. But the point is, is that it wasn’t a North Korean reeducation camp, either. – Are you hopeful about cracking open the Einstein Unified
Theory in a way that has, in really understanding
whether uniting everything together with quantum theory and so on? – I mean, I’m trying to
play this role myself. To do it to the extent of
handing it over to the more responsible, more professional,
more competent community. So, I think that they’re
wrong about a great number of their belief structures,
but I do believe, I mean I have a really
profound love hate relationship with this group of people. – On the physics side?
– Oh yeah. – ‘Cause the mathematicians actually seem to be much more open minded and– – Well, they are and they aren’t. They’re open minded about anything that looks like great math. – Right.
– Right, they’ll study something that isn’t
very important physics, but if it’s beautiful
mathematics then they’ll have, they have great intuition
about these things. As good as the mathematicians are, and I might even intellectually at some horsepower level
give them the edge. The theoretical physics
community is bar none, the most profound intellectual community that we have ever created. It is the number one, there
is nobody in second place as far as I’m concerned. Like, in their spare time,
in the spare time they invented molecular biology. – What was the origin
of molecular biology? You’re saying physicists– – Well somebody like Francis Crick. A lot of the early molecular biologists– – Were physicists?
– Yeah, I mean you know, Schrodinger wrote What is Life and that was highly inspirational. I mean, you have to appreciate
that there is no community like the basic research
community in theoretical physics. And it’s not something, I’m
highly critical of these guys. I think that they would just
wasted the decades of time with and your religious devotion
to their misconceptualization of where the problems were in physics. But this has been the
greatest intellectual collapse ever witnessed within academics. – You see it as a collapse or just a lull? – Oh, I’m terrified that we’re
about to lose the vitality. We can’t afford to pay these people. We can’t afford to give them
an accelerator just to play with in case they find something
at the next energy level. These people created our economy. They gave us the RAD Lab and radar. They gave us two atomic
devices to end World War II. They created the semi-conductor
and the transistor to power our economy through Moore’s law. As a positive externality
of particle accelerators, they created the World Wide Web and we have the insolence to say, why should we fund you
with our taxpayer dollars? No, the question is, are you
enjoying your physics dollars? Right, these guys signed the world’s worst licensing agreement. – Right.
– And, if they simply charged for every time you used a
transistor or a URL or enjoyed the peace that they have
provided during this period of time through the terrible
weapons that they developed, or your communications devices. All of the things that power our economy, I really think came out of physics, even to the extent that
chemistry came out of physics, and molecular biology came out of physics. So, first of all you have to know that I’m very critical of this community. Second of all, it is our
most important community. We have neglected it, we’ve abused it, we don’t take it seriously,
we don’t even care to get them to rehab after a couple
of generations of failure. Right, no one, I mean I
think the youngest person to have really contributed
to the standard model at a theoretical level
was born in 1951, right? Frank Wilczek. And almost nothing has happened
that in theoretical physics after 1973, ’74, that
sent somebody to Stockholm for theoretical development
that predicted experiment. So, we have to understand that we are doing this to ourselves. Now, with that said, these
guys have behaved abysmally, in my opinion, because
they haven’t owned up to where they actually are, what problems they’re really facing, how definite they can actually be. They haven’t shared some of their most brilliant discoveries,
which are desperately needed in other fields like gauge theory, which at least the
mathematicians can share, which is an upgrade of
the differential calculus of Newton and Leibniz, and they haven’t shared the importance of renormalization theory,
even though this should be standard operating
procedure for people across the sciences dealing with different layers and different levels of phenomena, so– – And by shared you mean
communicated in such a way that it disseminates throughout
the different sciences? – These guys are sitting,
both theoretical physicists and mathematicians are sitting on top of a giant stockpile of
intellectual gold, right? They have so many things that have not been manifested anywhere. I was just on Twitter I think I mentioned the Hoberman switch pitch that shows the self
duality of the tetrahedron realizes that it linkage mechanism. Now this is like a triviality and it makes an amazing toy that’s, you know, built a market.
– Yeah. – Hopefully a fortune for Chuck Hoberman. Well, you have no idea
how much great stuff that these priests have
in their monastery. – So, it’s a truly a love and
hate relationship for you? It sounds like it’s
more on the love side– – [Eric] This building
that we’re in right here. – Yes. – Is the building in which
I really put together the conspiracy between the
National Academy of Sciences and the National Science
Foundation through the Government University
Industry Research round table to destroy the bargaining
power of American academics using foreign labor. On microfiche in the base.
– Post docs and so on? – Oh yeah, that was done
here in this building. Isn’t that weird? – I’m truly speaking with a
revolutionary and a radical– – No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. At an intellectual level, I
am absolutely garden variety. I’m just straight down the middle. The system that we are in. This University is functionally insane. – [Lex] Yeah. – Harvard is functionally
insane and we don’t understand that when we
get these things wrong, the financial crisis made this very clear. There was a long period
where every grownup, everybody with a tie who
spoke in baritone tones with a right degree at
the end of their name. – Yeah.
– Were talking about how we banished volatility, we
were in the great moderation. Okay, they were all crazy. And who was right? It was like Nassim Taleb. – Right.
– Nouriel Roubini. Now, what happens is is that they claimed the market went crazy. But the market didn’t go crazy. The market had been crazy
and what happened is is that it suddenly went sane. Well that’s where we are with academics. Academics right now is mad as a hatter and it’s absolutely evident. I can show you graph after graph. I can show you the internal discussions. I can show you the conspiracies. Harvard’s dealing with one
right now over its admissions policies for people of color
who happen to come from Asia. All of this madness is necessary
to keep the game going. What we’re talking about,
just while we’re on the topic of revolutionaries,
is we’re talking about the danger of an outbreak of sanity. – Yeah, you’re the guy pointing out the elephant in the room here and– – The elephant has no clothes. – Is that how that goes? I was gonna talk a little
bit to Joe Rogan about this, ran out of time, but
I think you have some, just listening to you, you
can probably speak really eloquently to academia on the difference between the different fields. So, do you think there’s a
difference between science, engineering and then the
humanities in academia, in terms of tolerance, that
they’re willing to tolerate? So, from my perspective I
thought computer science and maybe engineering is more
tolerant to radical ideas, but that’s perhaps innocent of me. ‘Cause I always, you know
all the battles going on now are a little bit
more of the humanities side and gender studies and so on. – Have you seen the American
Mathematical Society’s publication of an essay
called Get out the Way. – I have not, what’s the–
– The idea is that white men who hold positions within
Universities in mathematics should vacate their positions
so that young black women can take over or something like this. – That’s in terms of diversity, which I also wanted to ask you about, but in terms of diversity
of strictly ideas. – Oh, sure.
– Do you think, ’cause you’re basically
saying physics as a community, has become a little bit
intolerant to some degree, to new radical ideas or
at least you said that– – But it’s changed a little bit recently. Which is that even string
theory is now admitting, okay, this doesn’t look very
promising in the short term. Right, so the question is what compiles, if you wanna take the
computer science metaphor. What will get you into a journal? Will you spend your life
trying to push some paper into a journal or will
it be accepted easily? What do we know about the
characteristics of the submitter and what gets taken up and what does not? All of these fields are
experiencing pressure because no field is performing so
brilliantly well that it’s revolutionizing our way
of speaking and thinking, in the ways in which we
have become accustomed. – But don’t you think, even
in theoretical physics, a lot of times, even with
theories like string theory, you could speak to this,
it does eventually lead to what are the ways that this
theory would be testable? – Yeah, ultimately, although look, there’s this thing about Popper and the scientific method that’s a cancer and a disease in the minds
of very smart people. That’s not really how most
of the stuff gets worked out, it’s how it gets checked. – Right, so–
– And there is a dialog between theory and experiment. But, everybody should
read Paul Dirac’s 1963 Scientific American article where he, you know, it’s very interesting. He talks about it as if it was about the Schrodinger equation
and Schrodinger’s failure to advance his own work
because of his failure to account for some phenomena. The key point is that if your
theory is a slight bit off, it won’t agree with experiment, but it doesn’t mean that the
theory is actually wrong. But Dirac could as easily have
been talking about his own equation in which he predicted that the electrons should
have an anti-particle. And since the only positively
charged particle that was known at the time was the
proton, Heisenberg pointed out, well shouldn’t your
anti-particle, the proton, have the same mass as the electron and doesn’t that invalidate your theory? So, I think that Dirac was actually being, potentially quite sneaky
in talking about the fact that he had been pushed
off of his own theory, to some extent, by Heisenberg. But look, we fetishize
the scientific method and Popper and falsification
because it protects us from crazy ideas entering the field. So, you know, it’s a question
of balancing type one and type two error and we were pretty
maxed out in one direction. – The opposite of that. Let me say what comforts me. Sort of biology or engineering
at the end of the day, does the thing work?
– Yeah. – You can test the crazies away. Well see now, you’re saying
but some ideas are truly crazy and some are actually correct, so. – Well there’s pre-correct
currently crazy. – Yeah.
– Right? And so you don’t wanna
get rid of everybody who’s pre-correct and currently crazy. The problem is is that we don’t
have standards in general, for trying to determine who has to be put to the sword in terms of their career and who has to be protected
as some sort of giant time suck pain in the ass who
may change everything. – Do you think that’s possible? Creating a mechanism of those selective– – Well, you’re not gonna like
the answer, but here it comes. – [Lex] Oh, boy. – It has to do with very human elements. We’re trying to do this
at the level of like rules and fairness, it’s not gonna work. ‘Cause the only thing that
really understands this, you ever read The Double Helix? – It’s a book? – Oh, you have to read this book– – Oh, boy.
– Not only did Jim Watson half discover this three
dimensional structure of DNA, he was also one hell of a
writer before he became an ass. No, he’s tried
– Yes, like he is. – To destroy his own reputation– – I knew about the ass, I didn’t
know about the good writer. – Jim Watson is one of the most
important people now living, and as I’ve said before,
Jim Watson is too important a legacy to be left to Jim Watson. That book tells you more about
what actually moves the dial. I mean, there’s another
story about him which I don’t agree with, which is that he stole everything from Rosalind Franklin. I mean, the problems that he
had with Rosalind Franklin are real, but we should
actually honor that tension in our history by delving into it, rather than having a simple solution. Jim Watson talks about Francis
Crick being a pain in the ass that everybody secretly
knew was super brilliant. And there’s an encounter between
Chargaff who came up with the equimolar relations
between the nucleotides, who should’ve gotten the structure of DNA and Watson and Crick, and you know, he talks
about missing a shiver in the heartbeat of biology
and this stuff is so gorgeous, it just makes you tremble
even thinking about it. Look, we know very often
who is to be feared, and we need to fund the
people that we fear. The people who are wasting our time need to be excluded from the conversation. You see, and you know,
maybe we’ll make some errors in both directions, but we
have known our own people. We know the pains in the
asses that might work out, and we know the people who
are really just blowhards who really have very little to
contribute most of the time. It’s not 100%, but you’re not
gonna get there with rules. – Right, it’s using some kind of instinct. I mean, to be honest, I’m
gonna make you roll your eyes for a second, but in the
first time I heard that there was large community of people
who believe the earth is flat, actually made me pause and
ask myself the question– – Why would there be such a community? – Yeah, is it possible the earth is flat? So I had to like, wait a minute. I mean, then you go
through a thinking process that I think is really healthy. It ultimately ends up being
a geometry thing I think. It’s an interesting thought
experiment at the very least. – Well, see I don’t, I do
a different version of it. I say, why is this community stable? – Yeah, that’s a good way to analyze it. – Interesting that whatever we’ve done has not erased the community. So, you know, they’re
taking a long shot bet that won’t pan out, you know? Maybe we just haven’t thought enough about the rationality of the square root of two and somebody brilliant will figure it out. Maybe we will eventually land one day on the surface of Jupiter and explore it. Right, these are crazy things
that will never happen. – So, much of social media
operates by AI algorithms, we talked this a little bit, recommending the content you see. So, on this idea of radical
thought, how much should AI show you things you disagree
with on Twitter and so on? In the Twitterverse in the– – I hate this question. – Yeah?
– Yeah. – ‘Cause you don’t know the answer? – No, no, no, no. Look, they’ve pushed
out this cognitive Lego to us that will just lead to madness. It’s good to be challenged with things that you disagree with. You answer is, no. It’s gonna to be challenged
with interesting things with which you currently disagree,
but that might be true. I don’t really care about
whether or not I disagree with something or don’t
disagree, I need to know why that particular disagreeable
thing is being pushed out. Is it because it’s likely to be true? Is it because, is there some reason? Because I write a computer
generator to come up with an infinite number
of disagreeable statements that nobody needs to look at. So, please before you push things at me that are disagreeable, tell me why. – There is an aspect in which
that question is quite dumb, especially because it’s
being used to almost very generically by these
different networks to say, well we’re trying to work this out, but you know, basically how much, do you see the value of
seeing things you don’t like? Not you disagree with, because
it’s very difficult to know exactly what you articulated,
which is the stuff that’s important for you to consider
that you disagree with. That’s really hard to figure out. The bottom line is the
stuff you don’t like. If you’re a Hillary Clinton supporter, it might not make you feel good to see anything about Donald Trump. That’s the only thing algorithms can really optimize for currently. They really can’t–
– No, they can do better. – You think so?
– No, we’re engaged in some moronic back and forth where
I have no idea why people who are capable of building Google, Facebook, Twitter are having us in these incredibly low level discussions. Do they not know any smart people? Do they not have the phone numbers of people who can elevate
these discussions? – They do, but this– – Please, no, no, no.
– They’re optimizing for a different thing and they are pushing those people out of those rooms. – No, they’re optimizing
for things we can’t see, and yes, profit is there. Nobody’s questioning that. But they’re also optimizing
for things like political control or the fact that
they’re doing business in Pakistan and so they don’t
wanna talk about all the things that they’re going
to bending to in Pakistan. So, we’re involved in a fake discussion. – You think so, you
think these conversations at that depth are happening inside Google? You don’t think they have some basic metrics under user engagements? – You’re having a fake
conversation with us, guys. We know you’re having a fake conversation. I do not wish to be part
of your fake conversation. You know how to cool these units. You know high availability
like nobody’s business. My Gmail never goes down, almost. – So you think just because
they can do incredible work on the software side with infrastructure, they can also deal with some
of these difficult questions about human behavior, human understanding, you’re not, (chuckling). – I mean, I’ve seen
the developer’s screens that people take shots
of inside of Google. – [Lex] Yeah. – And I’ve heard stories
inside of Facebook and Apple. We’re not, we’re engaged, they’re engaging us in the wrong conversations. We are not at this low level. Here’s one of my favorite questions. – Yeah.
– Why is every piece of hardware that I purchase in text base equipped as a listening device? Where’s my physical
shutter to cover my lens? We had this in the 1970s. They had cameras that
had lens caps, you know? How much would it cost
to have a security model? Pay five extra bucks. Why is my indicator light
software controlled? Why when my camera is on, do
I not see that the light is on by putting it as something
that cannot be bypassed? Why have you setup all of my devices, at some difficulty to yourselves, as listening devices and we
don’t even talk about this. This thing is total fucking bullshit. – Well, I hope, so.
– Wait, wait, wait. – These discussions are
happening about privacy, ’cause they’re more difficult
than you give ’em credit for– – It’s not just privacy.
– Yeah? – It’s about social control. We’re talking about social control. Why do I not have controls
over my own levers? Just have a really cute
UI, where I can switch, I can dial things or I can at least see what the algorithms are. – You think that there are some deliberate choices being made here– – There’s emergence
and there is intention. There are two dimensions. The vector does not
collapse onto either axis. But the idea that anybody who suggests that intention is completely
absent is a child. – That’s really beautifully
put and like many things you’ve said is gonna make me– – Can I turn this around slightly though? – Yeah.
– I sit down with you and you say that you’re
obsessed with my feed. – Uh huh.
– I don’t even know what my feed is, what are
you seeing that I’m not? – I was obsessively looking
through your feed on Twitter, ’cause it was really
enjoyable because there’s the Tom Lehrer element,
there’s the humor in it. – By the way that feed is
ericrweinstein on Twitter. – That’s great.
– @ericrweinstein. – Yeah.
– No, but seriously, why? – Why did I find it enjoyable
or what was I seeing? – What are you looking for? Why are we doing this? What is this podcast about? I know you got all these
interesting people. I’m just some guy who is
sort of a podcast guest. – Sort of a podcast, you’re
not even wearing a tie. I mean,
– I’m not even wearing a tie. – It’s not even a serious interview. I was searching for
meaning, for happiness, for a dopamine rush, so
short term and long term. – And how are you finding your way to me? What is, I don’t honestly know
what I’m doing to reach you. – The representing ideas
which field common sense to me and not many people are speaking. So it’s kinda like, the
Intellectual Dark Web folks, right? These folks, from Sam
Harris to Jordan Peterson, to yourself, are saying
things where it’s like, you’re like saying,
look there’s an elephant and he’s not wearing any
clothes and I say, yeah, yeah, let’s have more of that conversation. That’s how I’m finding you. – I’m desperate to try to change the conversation we’re having. I’m very worried we’ve
got an election in 2020. I don’t think we can
afford four more years of a misinterpreted message,
which is what Donald Trump was, and I don’t want the
destruction of our institutions. They all seem hellbent
on destroying themselves. So, I’m trying to save
theoretical physics, trying to save the New York Times, trying to save our various
processes and I think it feels delusional to me that this
is falling to a tiny group of people who are willing
to speak out without getting so freaked out that everything they say will be misinterpreted
and that their lives will be ruined through the process. I mean, I think we’re in an
absolutely bananas period of time and I don’t believe
it should fall to such a tiny number of shoulders
to shoulder this weight. – So, I have to ask you
on a capitalism side, you mentioned that technology
is killing capitalism or has effects that are,
well not unintended, but not what economists would predict or speak of capitalism creating. I just wanna talk to you about in general, the effect of even then,
artificial intelligence or technology automation taking
away jobs and these kinds of things and what you think
is the way to alleviate that. Whether the Andrew Ang
presidential candidate with universal basic income, UBI,
what are your thoughts there? How do we fight off the negative effects of technology that– – All right, you’re a software guy, right? – Yep. – A human being is a
worker, is an old idea. – Yes.
– A human being has a worker is a different object, right?
– Yes. – So if you think about
object oriented programming as a paradigm, a human being has a worker and a human being has a soul. We’re talking about the fact
that for a period of time, the worker that a human being has, was in a position to feed the
soul that a human being has. However, we have two separate claims on the value in society. One is as a worker and
the other is as a soul, and the soul needs
sustenance, it needs dignity, it needs meaning, it needs purpose. As long as you’re means of
support is not highly repetitive, I think you have a while to go before you need to start worrying. But if what you do is highly repetitive and it’s not terrible generative,
you are in the crosshairs of for loops and while loops and that’s what computers accel at;
repetitive behavior and when I say repetitive I may mean things
that have never happened through combinatorial possibilities, but as long as it has a
looped characteristic to it, you’re in trouble. We are seeing a massive
push towards socialism because capitalists are slow to address the fact that a worker may
not be able to make claims. A relatively undistinguished
median member of our society still has needs to
reproduce, needs to dignity and when capitalism abandons
the median individual or the bottom tenth or
whatever it’s going to do, it’s flirting with revolution
and what concerns me is that the capitalists
aren’t sufficiently capitalistic to understand this. You really want to court
authoritarian control in our society because you
can’t see that people may not be able to defend themselves
in the marketplace because the marginal
product of their labor is too low to feed
their dignity as a soul? So, my great concern is
that our free society has to do with the fact
that we are self organized. I remember looking down
from my office in Manhattan when Lehman Brothers
collapsed and thinking, who’s gonna tell all these
people that they need to show up at work when they
don’t have a financial system to incentivize them to show up at work? So, my complaint is first of
all, not with the socialists, but with the capitalists, which is you guys are being idiots. You’re courting revolution by
continuing to harp on the same old ideas that well, try
harder, bootstrap yourself. Yeah, to an extent that
works, to an extent. But we are clearly headed in
a place that there’s nothing that ties together our need
to contribute and our need to consume and that may not
be provided by capitalism, because it may have been
a temporary phenomena. So, check out my article
on anthropic capitalism and the new gimmick economy. I think people are late
getting the wake up call, and we would be doing a
better job saving capitalism from itself because I don’t want this done under authoritarian control,
and the more we insist that everybody who’s not thriving
in our society during their reproductive years in
order to have a family, is failing at a personal level. I mean, what a disgusting
thing that we’re saying. What a horrible message. Who the hell have we
become that we’ve so bought in to the Chicago model that
we can’t see the humanity that we’re destroying in that process and I hate the thought of
communism, I really do. My family has flirted
with it decades past, it’s a wrong, bad idea, but
we are going to need to figure out how to make sure that
those souls are nourished and respected and capitalism
better have an answer. And I’m betting on capitalism,
but I gotta tell ya, I’m pretty disappointed with my team. – So you’re still on the capitalism team, just there’s a theme here– – [Eric] Well, radical capitalism. – Right, hyper capitalism, yeah. – Look, I want, I think
hyper capitalism is gonna have to be coupled to hyper socialism. You need to allow the
most productive people to create wonders and you
gotta stop bogging them down with all of these extra nice requirements. You know, nice is dead. Good has a future. Nice doesn’t have a future
because nice ends up with gulags. – Damn, that’s a good line. Okay, last question. You Tweeted today, a simple,
quite insightful equation saying “Imagine that every
unit f of fame you picked up, “s stalkers and h haters”. So, I imagine s and h are dependent on your path to fame,
perhaps a little bit– – Well, it’s not a simple. I mean, people always take
these things literally when you have like 280
characters to explain yourself. – So you mean that’s not a mathematical– – No, there’s no law.
– Oh, okay, all right. – I just, I put the word
imagine because I still have a mathematicians
desire for precision. – Yes.
– Imagine that this were true. – But there was a beautiful way to imagine that there is a law that
has those variables in it– – [Eric] Yeah, yeah. – And you’ve become
quite famous these days, so how do you yourself
optimize that equation with the peculiar kind of fame that
you’ve gathered along the way? – I wanna be kinder. I wanna be kinder to myself,
I wanna kinder to others, I wanna be able to have heart, compassion and these things
are really important, and I have a pretty spectrumy
kind of approach to analysis. I’m quite literal. I can go full Rain Man on
you at any given moment. No, I can, I can. It’s facultative autism, if you like, and people are gonna get angry because they want autism
to be respected, but. When you see me coding or
you see me doing mathematics, you know, I speak with
speech apnea, (stutters), be right down for dinner, you know? – [Lex] Yeah. – We have to try to integrate ourselves in those tensions between, you know, it’s sort of back to us as
a worker and us as a soul. Many of us are optimizing one
at the expense of the other. And I struggle with social
media and I struggle with people making threats against our
families and I struggle with just how much pain people are in. And if there’s one message I
would like to push out there, you’re responsible, everybody, all of us, myself included, with struggling. Struggle mightily because it’s nobody else’s job to do your struggle for you. Now with that said, if you’re
struggling and you’re trying, and you’re trying to figure
out how to better yourself and where you’ve failed, where
you’ve let down your family, your friends, your workers,
all this kind of stuff, give yourself a break, you know? If it’s not working out, I
have a lifelong relationship with failure and success. There’s been no period
of my life where both haven’t been present
in one form or another. And, I do wish to say that a lot of the times people
think this is glamorous. I’m about to go, you know,
do a show with Sam Harris. – Yeah.
– People are gonna listen in on two guys having a
conversation on stage. It’s completely crazy when I’m
always trying to figure out how to make sure that those
people get maximum value and that’s why I’m doing this podcast, you know, just give yourself a break. You owe us your struggle. You don’t owe your
family or your coworkers or your lovers or your
family members success. As long as you’re in there and
you’re picking yourself up, recognize that this new
situation with the economy that doesn’t have the juice
to sustain our institutions, has caused the people
who’ve risen to the top of those institutions to
get quite brutal and cruel. Everybody is lying at the moment. Nobody is really truth teller. Try to keep your humanity about you. Try to recognize that if you’re failing, if things aren’t where you
want them to be and you’re struggling and you’re trying to figure out what you’re doing wrong,
what you could do, it’s not necessarily all your fault. We are in a global situation. I have not met the people who are honest, kind, good, successful. Nobody that I’ve met is
checking all the boxes. Nobody’s getting all 10s. So, I just think that’s
an important message that doesn’t get pushed out enough. Either people wanna
hold society responsible for their failures,
which is not reasonable. You have to struggle, you have to try. Or they wanna say you’re 100%
responsible for your failures, which is total nonsense. – Beautifully put. Eric, thank you so much for talking today. – Thanks for having me, buddy.

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