Bret Weinstein: Truth, Science, and Censorship in the Time of a Pandemic | Lex Fridman Podcast #194 | Transcription
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The following is a conversation with Brett Weinstein, evolutionary biologist, author, co-host of the Dark Horse podcast, and, as he says, "Reluctant Radical." Even though we've never met or spoken before this, we both felt like we've been friends for a long time. I don't agree on everything with Brett, but I'm sure as hell happy he exists in this weird and wonderful world of ours. Check mention of our sponsors, Jordan Harper to show, ExpressVPN, Magic Spoon, and Four Sigmatic. Check them out in the description to support this podcast. As a side note, let me say a few words about COVID-19 and about science broadly. I think science is beautiful and powerful. It is the striving of the human mind to understand and to solve the problems of the world. But as an institution, it is susceptible to the flaws of human nature, to fear, to greed, power, and ego. 2020 is the story of all of these that has both scientific triumph and tragedy. We needed great leaders and we didn't get them. What we needed is leaders who communicate in an honest, transparent, and authentic way about the uncertainty of what we know and the large-scale scientific efforts to reduce that uncertainty and to develop solutions. I believe there are several candidates for solutions that could have all saved hundreds of billions of dollars and lessened or eliminated the suffering of millions of people. Let me mention five of the categories of solutions. Masks at home testing, anonymized contact tracing, antiviral drugs, and vaccines. Within each of these categories, institutional leaders should have constantly asked and answered publicly, honestly, the following three questions. One, what data do we have on the solution and what studies are we running to get more and better data? Two, given the current data and uncertainty, how effective and how safe is the solution? Three, what is the timeline and cost involved with mass manufacturing distribution of the solution? In the service of these questions, no voices should have been silenced. No ideas left off the table. Open data, open science, open honest scientific communication and debate was the way. Not censorship. There are a lot of ideas out there that are bad, wrong, dangerous, but the moment we have the hubris to say we know which ideas those are is the moment we lose our ability to find the truth, to find solutions, the very things that make science beautiful and powerful. In the face of all the dangers that threaten the well-being and the existence of humans on earth. This conversation with Brett is less about the ideas we talk about. With grandson, disagree on others, it is much more about the very freedom to talk, to think, to share ideas. This freedom is our only hope. Brett should never have been censored. I ask Brett to do this podcast, to show solidarity and to show that I have hope for science and for humanity. This is the Lex Friedman podcast and here's my conversation with Brett Weinstein. What to you is beautiful about the study of biology, the science, the engineering, the philosophy of it. It's a very interesting question. I must say at one level, it's not a conscious thing. I can say a lot about why as an adult I find biology compelling, but as a kid I was completely fascinated with animals. I loved to watch them and think about why they did what they did and that developed into a very conscious passion as an adult. I think in the same way that one is drawn to a person, I was drawn to the never-ending series of near miracles that exist across biological nature. When you see a living organism, do you see it from an evolutionary biology perspective of this entire thing that moves around in this world? Or do you see from an engineering perspective that first principles almost down to the physics, the little components that build up hierarchies, that you have cells, the first proteins and cells and organs and all that kind of stuff? Do you see low level or do you see high level? Well the human mind is a strange thing and I think it's probably a bit like a time-sharing machine in which I have different modules. We don't know enough about biology for them to connect, right? So they exist in isolation and I'm always aware that they do connect, but I basically have to step into a module in order to see the evolutionary dynamics of the creature and the lineage that it belongs to. I have to step into a different module to think of that lineage over a very long time scale, a different module still to understand what the mechanisms inside would have to look like to account for what we can see from the outside. I think that probably sounds really complicated, but one of the things about being involved in a topic like biology and doing so for one, really not even just my adult life or my whole life, is that it becomes second nature. When we see somebody do an amazing parkour routine or something like that, we think about what they must be doing in order to accomplish that. But of course what they are doing is tapping into some kind of zone, right? They are in a zone in which they are in such command of their center of gravity, for example, that they know how to hurl it around a landscape so that they always land on their feet. And I would just say, for anyone who hasn't found a topic on which they can develop that kind of facility, it is absolutely worthwhile. It's really something that human beings are capable of doing across a wide range of topics. Many things our ancestors didn't even have access to. And that flexibility of humans, that ability to repurpose our machinery for topics that our novel means really the world is eroyster. You can figure out what your passion is and then figure out all of the angles that one would have to pursue to really deeply understand it. And it is well worth having at least one topic like that. You mean embracing the full adaptability of both the body and the mind. So I don't know what to attribute the parkour to. By mechanics of how our bodies can move, or is it the mind? How much percent wise is it the entirety of the hierarchies of biology that we've been talking about, or is it just all the mind? The way to think about creatures is that every creature is two things simultaneously. A creature is a machine of sorts. It's not a machine. It's I call it an aqueous machine, and it's run by an aqueous computer. So it's not identical to our technological machines. But every creature is both a machine that does things in the world sufficient to accumulate enough resources to continue surviving, to reproduce. It is also a potential. So each creature is potentially, for example, the most recent common ancestor of some future clade of creatures that will look very different from it. And if a creature is very, very good at being a creature, but not very good in terms of the potential it has going forward, then that lineage will not last very long into the future because change will throw at challenges that its descendants will not be able to meet. So the thing about humans is we are a generalist platform, and we have the ability to swap out our software to exist in many, many different niches. And I was once watching an interview with this British group of parkour experts who were being, you know, just they were discussing what it is they do and how it works. And what they essentially said is, look, you're tapping into deep monkey stuff, right?
Psychological And Social Theories
Tapping into Deep Monkey Stuff (08:31)
And I thought, yeah, that's about right. And you know, anybody who is proficient at something like skiing or skateboarding, you know, has the experience of flying down the hill on skis, for example, bouncing from the top of one mogul to the next. And if you really pay attention, you will discover that your conscious mind is actually a spectator. It's there. It's involved in the experience, but it's not driving. Some part of you knows how to ski, and it's not the part of you that knows how to think. And I would just say that the, what accounts for this flexibility in humans is the ability to bootstrap a new software program and then drive it into the unconscious layer where it can be applied very rapidly. And you know, I will be shocked if the exact thing doesn't exist in robotics. You know, if you programmed a robot to deal with circumstances that were novel to it, how would you do it? It would have to look something like this. There's a certain kind of magic. You're right. Well, the conscious is being an observer. When you play guitar, for example, or piano for me, music, when you get truly lost in it, I don't know what the heck is responsible for the flow of the music, the kind of, the loudness of the music going up and down, the timing, the intricate, like even the mistake all those things, that doesn't seem to be the conscious mind. It is just observing and yet it's somehow intricately involved more like, because you mentioned parkour, the dances like that too. When you start up in tango dancing, if when you truly lose yourself in it, then it's just like you're an observer and how the hell is the body able to do that? And not only that, it's the physical motion is also creating the emotion that damn is good to be a live feeling. But then that's also intricately connected to the full biology stack that we're operating in. I don't know how difficult it is to replicate that. We're talking offline about Boston Dynamics robots. They've recently, they did both parkour, they did flips, they've also done some dancing.
Humans are hard-coded to figure things out (11:02)
And something I think a lot about because what most people don't realize because they don't look deep enough is those robots are hard coded to do those things. The robots didn't figure it out by themselves. And yet the fundamental aspect of what it means to be human is that process of figuring out, of making mistakes, and then there's something about overcoming those challenges and mistakes and figuring out how to lose yourself in the magic of the dancing or just movement is what it means to be human. That learning process, so that's what I want to do with almost as a fun side thing with the Boston Dynamics robots is to have them learn and see what they figure out even if they make mistakes. I want to let spot make mistakes and in so doing discover what it means to be alive, discover beauty because I think that's the essential aspect of mistakes. Boston Dynamics folks want spot to be perfect because they don't want spot to ever make mistakes because they want to operate in the factories, it wants to be very safe and so on. I mean if you construct the environment, if you construct a safe space for robots and allow them to make mistakes, something beautiful might be discovered. But that requires a lot of brain power. So spot is currently very dumb and I'm going to add it give it a brain. So first make it see currently can't see meaning computer vision has to understand this environment has to see all the humans, but then also has to be able to learn learn about its movement, how to use his body to communicate with others, all those kinds of things that dogs know how to do well, humans know how to do somewhat well. I think that's a beautiful challenge, but first you have to allow the robot to make mistakes. Well, I think your objective is laudable, but you're going to realize that the Boston Dynamics folks are right. The first time spot poops on your rug. I hear the same thing about kids and so on. Yes. You have kids. No, you should. It's a great experience. So let me step back into what you said in a couple of different places. One, I have always believed that the missing element in robotics and artificial intelligence is a proper development.
Childhood + Parent child relationship, the most powerful (13:27)
It is no accident. It is no mere coincidence that human beings are the most dominant species on planet Earth and that we have the longest childhoods of any creature on Earth by far. Development is the key to the flexibility. And so the capability of a human at adulthood is the mirror image. It's the flip side of our helplessness at birth. So I'll be very interested to see what happens in your robot project. If you do not end up reinventing childhood for robots, which of course is foreshadowed in 2001 quite brilliantly. But I also want to point out you can see this issue of your conscious mind becoming a spectator very well if you compare tennis to table tennis. If you walk a tennis game, you could imagine that the players are highly conscious as they play. You cannot imagine that if you've ever played ping pong decently. A volume ping pong is so fast that your conscious mind, if it had, if you're reacting to the connections had to go through your conscious mind, you wouldn't be able to play. So you can detect that your conscious mind while very much present isn't there. And you can also detect where consciousness does usefully intrude. If you go up against an opponent in table tennis that knows a trick that you don't know how to respond to, you will suddenly detect that something about your game is not effective. And you will start thinking about what might be. How do you position yourself so that move that puts the ball just in that corner of the table or something like that doesn't catch you off guard. And this, I believe, is we highly conscious folks, those of us who try to think through things very deliberately and carefully, mistake consciousness for like the highest kind of thinking. And I really think that this is an error. Consciousness is an intermediate level of thinking. And it does is it allows you, it's basically like uncompiled code. And it doesn't run very fast. It is capable of being adapted to new circumstances. But once the code is roughed in, right, it gets driven into the unconscious layer and you become highly effective at whatever it is. And from that point, your conscious mind basically remains there to detect things that aren't anticipated by the code you've already written. And so I don't exactly know how one would establish this, how one would demonstrate it. But it must be the case that the human mind contains sandboxes in which things are tested. Right? Maybe you can build a piece of code and run it in parallel next to your active code so you can see how it would have done comparatively. But there's got to be some way of writing new code and then swapping it in. And frankly, I think this has a lot to do with things like sleep cycles. Very often, when I get good at something, I often don't get better at it while I'm doing it. I get better at it when I'm not doing it, especially if there's time to sleep and think on it. So there's some sort of new program swapping in for old program phenomenon, which will be a lot easier to see in machines. It's going to be hard with the wetware. I like, I mean, it is true because somebody that played tennis for many years, I do still think the highest form of excellence in tennis is when the conscious mind is a spectator. So the compiled code is the highest form of being human. And then consciousness is just some specific compiler. You just have like Borland C plus plus compiler. You could just have different kind of compilers, ultimately, the thing that by which we measure the power of life, the intelligence of life is the compiled code. And you can probably do that compilation in all kinds of ways. Yeah. I'm not saying that tennis is played consciously and table tennis isn't. I'm saying that because tennis is slowed down by just the space on the court, you could imagine that it was your conscious mind playing. But when you shrink the court down. It becomes obvious. The conscious mind is just present rather than knowing where to put the paddle. And weirdly for me, I would say this probably isn't true in a podcast situation. But if I have to give a presentation, especially if I have not overly prepared, I often find the same phenomenon when I'm giving the presentation. My conscious mind is they are watching some other part of me present, which is a little jarring, I have to say. But that means you've gotten good at it. Not let the conscious mind get in the way of the flow of words. Yeah, that's the sensation to be sure. And that's the highest form of podcasting too. I mean, that's what it looks like when a podcast is really in the pocket. Like Joe Rogan just having fun and just losing themselves. And that's something I aspire to as well, just losing yourself in conversation. Somebody that has a lot of anxiety with people, like I'm in such an introvert. I'm scared. I was scared before you showed up.
Overcoming the constant self-critiquing voice (18:49)
I'm scared right now. There's just anxiety. There's just, it's a giant mess. It's hard to lose yourself. It's hard to just get out of the way of your own mind. Yeah, actually trust is a big component of that. Your conscious mind retains control if you are very uncertain. But when you do get into that zone when you're speaking, I realize it's different for you with English as a second language, although maybe you present in Russian and it happens. But do you ever hear yourself say something and you think, "Oh, that's really good." Like you didn't come up with it. Some other part of you that you don't exactly know came up with it. I don't think I've ever heard myself in that way because I have a much louder voice that's constantly yelling in my head at, "Why the hell did you say that?" There's a very self-critical voice that's much louder. Maybe I need to deal with that voice, but it's been like, "What is it called?" Like a megaphone just screaming so I can't hear the voice that says, "Good job." You said that thing really nicely. So I'm kind of focused right now on the megaphone person in the audience versus the positive. But that's definitely something to think about. It's been productive, but the place where I find gratitude and beauty and appreciation of life is in the quiet moments when I don't talk, when I listen to the world around me, when I listen to others, when I talk I'm extremely self-critical in my mind. When I produce anything out into the world that originated with me, like any kind of creation and extremely self-critical. It's good for productivity, for always striving to improve and so on. It might be bad for just appreciating the things you've created. I'm a little bit with Marvin Minsky on this where he says the key to a productive life is to hate everything you've ever done in the past. I didn't know he said that. I must say I resonate with it a bit. And unfortunately my life currently has me putting a lot of stuff into the world and I effectively watch almost none of it. I can't stand it. Yeah. What do you make of that? I don't know. Yesterday I read Metamorphosis by Kafka where he turns into a jambug because of the stress that the world puts on him. His parents put on him to succeed. And I think that you have to find the balance because if you allow this self-critical voice to become too heavy, the burden of the world, the pressure that the world puts on you to be the best version of yourself and so on to strive, then you become a bug. That's a big problem. And then the world turns against you because you're a bug. You become some kind of caricature of yourself. I don't know. Become the worst version of yourself and then thereby end up destroying yourself and then the world moves on. That's the story.
The usefulness of dwelling on our actions (22:10)
That's a lovely story. I do think this is one of these places and frankly you could map this on to all of modern human experience. But this is one of these places where our ancestral programming does not serve our modern selves. We're used to talk to students about the question of dwelling on things. Dwelling on things is famously understood to be bad and it can't possibly be bad. It wouldn't exist a tendency toward it. It wouldn't exist if it was bad. So what is bad is dwelling on things past the point of utility. And that's obviously easier to say than to operationalize. But if you realize that your dwelling is the key in fact to upgrading your program for future well-being and that there's a point presumably from diminishing returns, if not counter productivity, there is a point at which you should stop because that is what is in your best interest. Then knowing that you're looking for that point is useful. This is the point at which it is no longer useful for me to dwell on this error I have made. That's what you're looking for. It also gives you license. If some part of you feels like it is punishing you rather than searching, then that also has a point at which it's no longer valuable and there's some liberty in realizing even the part of me that was punishing me knows it's time to stop. So if we map that onto compiled code discussion as a computer science person I find that very compelling. When you compile code you get warnings sometimes. And usually if you're a good software engineer you're going to make sure there's no, you treat warnings as errors. So you make sure that the compilation produces no warnings. But at a certain point when you have a large enough system you just let the warnings go. It's fine. Like I don't know where that warning came from but you know it's just ultimately you need to compile the code and run with it and hope nothing terrible happens. Well I think what you will find and believe me I think what you're talking about with respect to robots and learning is going to end up having to go to a deep developmental state and a helplessness that evolves into hyper competence and all of that.
The theory of close calls (24:19)
But I noticed that I live by something that I for lack of a better descriptor call the theory of close calls. And the theory of close calls says that people typically miscategorize the events in their life where something almost went wrong. And you know for example if you I have a friend who I was walking down the street with my college friends and one of my friends stepped into the street thinking it was clear and was nearly hit by a car going 45 miles an hour would have been an absolute disaster. My de Kilder certainly would have permanently injured her. But she didn't you know card and toucher right now you could walk away from that and think nothing of it because well what is there to think nothing happened or you could think well what is the difference between what did happen and my death. The difference is luck. I never want that to be true. I never want the difference between what did happen and my death to be luck. Therefore I should count this as very close to death and I should prioritize coding so it doesn't happen again at a very high level.
The distribution of everything (25:47)
So anyway my basic point is the accidents and disasters and misfortune describe a distribution that tells you what's really likely to get you in the end. And so personally you can use them to figure out where the dangers are so that you can afford to take great risks because you have a really good sense of how they're going to go wrong. But I would also point out civilization has this problem. Civilization is now producing these events that are major disasters but they're not existential scale yet right they're very serious errors that we can see. And I would argue that the pattern is you discover that we are involved in some industrial process at the point it has gone wrong right. So I'm now always asking the question okay in light of the Fukushima triple meltdown the financial collapse of 2008 the deep water horizon blow out. COVID-19 and its probable origins in the Wuhan lab. What processes do I not know the name of yet that I will discover at the point that some gigantic accident has happened and can we talk about the wisdom or lack thereof of engaging in that process before the accident right. That's what a wise civilization would be doing and yet we don't. I just want to mention something that happened a couple of days ago. I don't know if you know who JB Strouble is. She's the co-founder of Tesla, CTO of Tesla for many many years. His wife just died. She was riding a bicycle and in the same in that same thin line between death and life that many of us have been in where you walk into the intersection and there's this close call every once in a while. But you get the short straw. I wonder how much of our own individual lives and the entirety of the human civilization rests on this little roll of the dice. This is sort of my point about the close calls is that there's a level at which we can't control it right. The gigantic asteroid that comes from deep space that you don't have time to do anything about. There's a lot we can do to hedge that out, at least not short term. But there are lots of other things. Obviously, the financial collapse of 2008 didn't break down the entire world economy. It threatened to, but a Herculean effort managed to pull us back from the brink. The triple meltdown at Fukushima was awful, but every one of the seven fuel pools held, there wasn't a major fire that made it impossible to manage the disaster going forward. We got lucky. We could say the same thing about the blowout at the Deepwater Horizon, where a hole in the ocean floor large enough that we couldn't have plugged it, could have opened up. All of these things could have been much, much worse. I think we can say the same thing about COVID as terrible as it is. We cannot say for sure that it came from the Wuhan lab, but there's a strong likelihood that it did. It also could be much, much worse. In each of these cases, something is telling us we have a process that is unfolding, that keeps creating risks where it is luck, that is the difference between us and some scale of disaster, that is unimaginable. That wisdom, you can be highly intelligent and cause these disasters to be wise, is to stop causing them. That would require a process of restraint, a process that I don't see a lot of evidence of yet. I think we have to generate it. At the moment, we don't have a political structure that would be capable of taking a protective algorithm and actually deploying, because it would have important economic consequences. It would almost certainly be shot down.
Wisdom and collective geopolitics (30:01)
We can obviously also say, we paid a huge price for all of the disasters that I've mentioned, and we have to factor that into the equation. Something can be very productive short-term and very destructive long-term. Also the question is, how many disasters we avoided because of the ingenuity of humans or just the integrity and character of humans? That's sort of an open question. We may be more intelligent than lucky. That's the hope. Because the optimistic message here that you're getting at is maybe the process that we should be, that maybe we can overcome luck with ingenuity. Meaning, I guess you're suggesting the processes we should be listing all the ways that human civilization can destroy itself, assigning likelihood to it, and thinking through how can we avoid that? Being very honest, with the data out there about the close calls and using those close calls to then create sort of mechanism by which we minimize the probability of those close calls. Just being honest and transparent with the data that's out there. I think we need to do a couple things for it to work. I've been an advocate for the idea that sustainability is actually difficult to operational. It is an objective that we have to meet if we're to be around long term. I realized that we also need to have reversibility of all of our processes because processes very frequently when they start do not appear dangerous. When they scale, they become very dangerous. For example, if you imagine the first internal combustion engine in a vehicle driving down the street and you imagine somebody running after them saying, "Hey, if you do enough of that, you're going to alter the atmosphere and it's going to change the temperature of the planet." It's preposterous. Why would you stop the person who's invented this marvelous new contraption? Of course, eventually you do get to the place where you're doing enough of this that you do start changing the temperature of the planet. If we built the capacity, if we basically said, "Look, you can't involve yourself in any process that you couldn't reverse if you had to," then progress would be slowed, but our safety would go up dramatically. I think in some sense, if we are to be around long term, we have to begin thinking that way. We're just involved in too many very dangerous processes.
Let's talk about one of the things that if not threatened human civilization, certainly hurt it at a deep level, which is COVID-19. What percent probability would you currently place on the hypothesis that COVID-19 leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology? I maintain a flow chart of all the possible explanations, and it doesn't break down exactly that way. The likelihood that it emerged from a lab is very, very high. If it emerged from a lab, the likelihood that the lab was the Wuhan Institute is very, very high. There are multiple different kinds of evidence that point the lab, and there is literally no evidence that points to nature. Either the evidence points nowhere or it points to the lab, and the lab could mean any lab, but geographically, obviously, the labs in Wuhan are the most likely, and the lab that was most directly involved with research on viruses that look like that look like SARS-CoV-2 is obviously the place that one would start. I would say the likelihood that this virus came from a lab is well above 95%. We can talk about the question of could a virus have been brought into the lab and escaped from there without being modified? That's also possible, but it doesn't explain any of the anomalies in the genome of SARS-CoV-2. Could it have been delivered from another lab? Could Wuhan be a distraction in order that we would connect the dots in the wrong way? That's conceivable. I currently have that below 1% on my flowchart, but I think- A very dark thought that somebody would do that almost as a political attack on China. Well, it depends. I don't even think that's one possibility. Sometimes when Eric and I talk about these issues, we will generate a scenario just to prove that something could live in that space. It's a placeholder for whatever may actually have happened. It doesn't have to have been an attack on China. That's certainly one possibility. I would point out if you can predict the future in some unusual way better than others, you can print money. That's what markets that allow you to bet for or against virtually any sector allow you to do. You can imagine simply a moral person or entity generating a pandemic attempting to cover their tracks because it would allow them to bet against things like cruise ships, air travel, whatever it is and bet in favor of sanitizing gel and whatever else you would do. Am I saying that I think somebody did that? No, I really don't think it happened. We've seen zero evidence that this was intentionally released. However, were it to have been intentionally released by somebody who did not know, did not want it known where it had come from. Releasing it in Wuhan would be one way to cover their tracks. We have to leave the possibility formally open, but acknowledge there's no evidence. The probability therefore is low. I tend to believe, maybe this is the optimistic nature that I have, that people who are competent enough to do the kind of thing we just described are not going to do that because it requires a certain kind of, I don't want to use the word evil, but whatever word you want to use to describe this regard for human life required to do that. It's just not going to be coupled with competence. I feel like there's a trade-off chart where competence on one axis and evil is on the other and the more evil you become, the crappier you are at doing great engineering scientific work required to deliver weapons of different kinds, whether it's bio-weapons or nuclear weapons, all those kinds of things. That seems to be the lessons I take from history, but that doesn't necessarily mean that's what's going to be happening in the future. To stick on the lab leak, because the flow chart is probably huge here, because there's a lot of fascinating possibilities.
What Would Evidence for Natural Origins Look Like? (37:08)
One question I want to ask is, what would evidence for natural origins look like? One piece of evidence for natural origins is that it's happened in the past that viruses have jumped. Oh, they do jump. That's possible to have happened. That's a historical evidence. It's possible that it's not evidence of the kind you think it is. It's a justification for a presumption. The presumption upon discovering a new virus circulating is certainly that it came from nature. The problem is the presumption evaporates in the face of evidence, or at least it logically should. It didn't in this case. It was maintained by people who privately in their emails acknowledged that they had grave doubts about the natural origin of this virus. Is there some other piece of evidence that we could look for and see that would say, this increases the probability that it's natural origins? Yeah. In fact, there is evidence. I always worry that somebody is going to make up some evidence in order to reverse the flow. Well, let's say I am a lot of incentive for that, actually. There's a huge amount of incentive. On the other hand, why didn't the powers that be the powers that lied to us about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? Why didn't they ever fake weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? Whatever force it is, I hope that force is here too. And so whatever evidence we find is real. It's the competence thing I'm talking about. But okay, go ahead. Sorry.
What Would Shift The Probability in The Other Direction? (38:59)
Well, we can get back to that. I would say, yeah, the giant piece of evidence that will shift the probabilities in the other direction is the discovery of either a human population in which the virus circulated prior to showing up in Wuhan that would explain where the virus learned all of the tricks that it knew instantly upon spreading from Wuhan. So that would do it or an animal population in which an ancestor epidemic can be found in which the virus learned this before jumping to humans. But I point out in that second case, you would certainly expect to see a great deal of evolution in the early epidemic, which we don't see. So there almost has to be a human population somewhere else that had the virus circulating or an ancestor of the virus that we first saw in Wuhan circulating. And it has to have gotten very sophisticated in that prior epidemic before hitting Wuhan in order to explain the total lack of evolution and extremely effective virus that emerged at the end of 2019. So you don't believe in the magic of evolution to spring up with all the tricks already there. Like everybody who doesn't have the tricks, they die quickly. And then you just have this beautiful virus that comes in with a spike protein and the through mutation and selection, just like the ones that succeed and succeed big are the ones that are going to just spring into life with the tricks. Well, no, that's called a hopeful monster and hopeful monsters don't work.
Engineered origin theories (40:26)
It's the job of becoming a new pandemic virus is too difficult. It involves two very difficult steps and they both have to work. One is the ability to infect a person and spread in their tissues sufficient to make an infection. And the other is to jump between individuals at a sufficient rate that it doesn't go extinct for one reason or another. Those are both very difficult jobs. They require as you describe selection. And the point is selection would leave a mark. We would see evidence that it was humans who would see both, right? And you see this evolution interest of the virus gathering the tricks up. Yeah, you would see the virus, you would see the clumsy virus get better and better. And yes, I am a full believer in the power of that process. In fact, I believe it. What I know from studying the process is that it is much more powerful than most people imagine that what we teach in the evolution 101 textbook is to clumsy a process to do what we see it doing and that actually people should increase their expectation of the rapidity with which that process can produce just jaw-dropping adaptations. That said, we just don't see evidence that it happened here, which doesn't mean it doesn't exist. But it means in spite of immense pressure to find it somewhere, there's been no hint, which probably means it took place inside of a laboratory. So inside the laboratory, gain a function of research on viruses. And I believe most of that kind of research is doing this exact thing that you're referring to, which is accelerated evolution. And just watching evolution do its thing and a bunch of viruses and seeing what kind of tricks get developed. The other method is engineering viruses. So manually adding on the tricks. What do you think we should be thinking about here? So mind you, I learned what I know in the aftermath of this pandemic emerging. I started studying the question. I would say based on the content of the genome and other evidence in publications from the various labs that were involved in generating this technology, a couple of things seem unlikely. This SARS-CoV-2 does not appear to be entirely the result of either a splicing process or serial passaging. It appears to have both things in its past, or at least highly likely that it does. So for example, the Ferran cleavage site looks very much like it was added in to the virus. And it was known that that would increase its infectivity in humans and increase its tropism. The virus appears to be excellent at spreading in humans and minks and ferrets. Now minks and ferrets are very closely related to each other and ferrets are very likely to have been used in a serial passage experiment. The reason being that they have an ACE2 receptor that looks very much like the human ACE2 receptor. Were you going to passage the virus or its ancestor through an animal in order to increase its infectivity in humans, which would have been necessary? Ferrets would have been very likely. It is also quite likely that humanized mice were utilized and it is possible that human airway tissue was utilized. I think it is vital that we find out what the protocols were. If this came from the Wuhan Institute, we need to know it and we need to know what the protocols were exactly because they will actually give us some tools that would be useful in fighting SARS-CoV-2 and hopefully driving into extinction, which ought to be our priority. It is a priority that is not apparent from our behavior, but it really is. It should be our objective if we understood where our interests lie. We would be much more focused on it. But those protocols would tell us a great deal. If it wasn't the Wuhan Institute, we need to know that. If it was nature, we need to know that. If it was some other laboratory, we need to figure out what and where so that we can determine what we can determine about what was done. You are opening up my mind about why we should investigate, why we should know the truth of the origins of this virus.
Government And Institutional Transparency
The importance of transparency in the Chinese government (44:53)
For me personally, let me just tell the story of my own kind of journey. When I first started looking into the lab leak hypothesis, what became terrifying to me, and important to understand and obvious is the Sam Harris way of thinking, which is it is obvious that a lab leak of a deadly virus will eventually happen. My mind was it doesn't even matter if it happened in this case. It's obvious there's going to happen in the future. So why the hell are we not freaking out about this? And COVID-19 is not even that deadly relative to the possible future viruses. It's the way I disagree with Sam on this, but he thinks about this way, about AGI as well, artificial intelligence. It's a different discussion, I think. But with viruses, it seems like something that could happen on the scale of years, maybe a few decades. AGI is a little bit farther out from me. But the terrifying thing seemed obvious that this will happen very soon for a much dead layer virus as we get better and better at both engineering viruses and doing this kind of evolutionary-driven research, gain-of-function research. Okay. But then you started speaking out about this as well, but also started to say, no, no, no, we should hurry up and figure out the origins now because it will help us figure out how to actually respond to this particular virus, how to treat this particular virus, what is in terms of vaccines, in terms of antiviral drugs, in terms of just all the number of responses we should have. Okay. I still am much more freaking out about the future. Maybe you can break that apart a little bit.
What is most nerve-wracking about SARS-CoV-2 for you? (46:57)
Which are you most focused on now? Which are you most freaking out about now in terms of the importance of figuring out the origins of this virus? I am most freaking out about both of them because they're both really important and we can put bounds on this. Let me say first that this is a perfect test case for the theory of close calls because as much as COVID is a disaster, it is also a close call from which we can learn much. You are absolutely right if we keep playing this game in the lab. If we are not, if we are, especially if we do it under pressure and when we are told that a virus is going to leap from nature any day and that the more we know the better we'll be able to fight it, we're going to create the disaster all the sooner. So yes, that should be an absolute focus. The fact that there were people saying that this was dangerous back in 2015, Autotelus something, the fact that the system bypassed a ban and offshored the work to China, Autotelus, this is not a Chinese failure. This is a failure of something larger and harder to see. But I also think that there's a clock ticking with respect to SARS-CoV-2 and COVID, the disease that it creates. And it has to do with whether or not we are stuck with it permanently. So if you think about the cost to humanity of being stuck with influenza, it's an immense cost year after year. And we just stop thinking about it because it's there. Some years you get the flu, most years you don't. Maybe you get the vaccine to prevent it. Maybe the vaccine isn't particularly well targeted. But imagine just simply doubling that cost. Imagine we get stuck with SARS-CoV-2 and its descendants going forward. Imagine that it just settles in and becomes a fact of modern human life. That would be a disaster. The number of people we will ultimately lose is incalculable. The amount of suffering that will be caused is incalculable, the loss of well-being and wealth incalculable. So that ought to be a very high priority. Driving this extinct before it becomes permanent. And the ability to drive extinct goes down the longer we delay effective responses to the extent that we let it have this very large canvas, large numbers of people who have the disease in which mutation and selection can result in adaptation that we will not be able to counter the greater its ability to figure out features of our immune system and use them to its advantage. So I'm feeling the pressure of driving an extinct. I believe we could have driven it extinct six months ago. And we didn't do it because of very mundane concerns among a small number of people. I'm not alleging that they were brazen about or that they were callous about deaths that would be caused. I have the sense that they were working from a kind of autopilot in which you, let's say you're in some kind of a corporation, a pharmaceutical corporation, you have a portfolio of therapies that in the context of a pandemic might be very lucrative. Those therapies have competitors. You of course want to position your product so that it succeeds and the competitors don't. And lo and behold, at some point, through means that I think those of us on the outside can't really into it, you end up saying things about competing therapies that work better and much more safely than the ones you're selling that aren't true and do cause people to die in large numbers. But it's some kind of autopilot, at least part of it is. So there's a complicated coupling of the autopilot of institutions, companies, governments.
International scientific community; On collective responsibility (50:53)
And then there's also the geopolitical game theory thing going on where you want to keep secrets. It's the Chernobyl thing where if you messed up, there's a big incentive, I think, to hide the fact that you messed up. So how do we fix this? And what's more important to fix? The autopilot, which is the response that we often criticize about our institutions, especially the leaders in those institutions, Anthony Fauci and so on, some of the members of the scientific community. And the second part is the game with China of hiding the information in terms of on the fight between nations. Well, in our live streams on Dark Horse, Heather and I have been talking from the beginning about the fact that although, yes, what happens began in China, it very much looks like a failure of the international scientific community. That's frightening, but it's also hopeful in the sense that actually if we did the right thing now, we're not navigating a puzzle about Chinese responsibility. We're navigating a question of collective responsibility for something that has been terribly costly to all of us. So that's not a very happy process. But as you point out, what's at stake is in large measure, at the very least, the strong possibility this will happen again, and that at some point it will be far worse. So just as a person that does not learn the lessons of their own errors, doesn't get smarter, and they remain in danger, we collectively, humanity has to say, well, there sure is a lot of evidence that suggests that this is a self-inflicted wound. When you have done something that has caused a massive self-inflicted wound, self-inflicted wound, it makes sense to dwell on it exactly to the point that you have learned the lesson that makes it very, very unlikely that something similar will happen again. I think this is a good place to ask you to do almost like a thought experiment or to steal man the argument against the lab leak hypothesis.
Steelmaning against the lab leak hypothesis (53:01)
So if you were to argue, you said 95% chance that the virus leave from a lab, there's a bunch of ways, I think you can argue that even talking about it is bad for the world. So if I just put something on the table, it's to say that for one, it would be racism versus Chinese people, that talking about the leak from a lab, there's a kind of immediate kind of blame and it can spiral down into this idea that's somehow the people are responsible for the virus and this kind of thing. Is it possible for you to come up with other steel man arguments against talking or against the possibility of the lab leak hypothesis? Well, so I think steel manning is a tool that is extremely valuable, but it's also possible to abuse it. I think that you can only steal man a good faith argument and the problem is we now know that we have not been engaged in opponents who are wielding good faith arguments because privately their emails reflect their own doubts and what they were doing publicly was actually a punishment, a public punishment for those of us who spoke up with I think the purpose of either backing us down or more likely warning others not to engage in the same kind of behavior and obviously for people like you and me who regard science as our likely best hope for navigating difficult waters, shutting down people who are using those tools honorably is itself dishonorable. So I don't really, I don't feel that it is, I don't feel that there's anything to steal man and I also think that immediately at the point that the world suddenly with no new evidence on the table switched years with respect to the lab leak. You know, at the point that Nicholas Wade had published his article and suddenly the world was going to admit that this was at least a possibility if not a likelihood. We got to see something of the rationalization process that had taken place inside the institutional world and it very definitely involved the claim that what was being avoided was the targeting of Chinese scientists. My point would be I don't want to see the targeting of anyone. I don't want to see racism of any kind. On the other hand, once you create license to lie in order to protect individuals when the world has a stake in knowing what happened, then it is inevitable that that process, that license to lie will be used by the thing that captures institutions for its own purposes. So my sense is it may be very unfortunate if the story of what happened here can be used against Chinese people. That would be very unfortunate. And as I think I mentioned, Heather and I have taken great pains to point out that this doesn't look like a Chinese failure. It looks like a failure of the international scientific community. So I think it is important to broadcast that message along with the analysis of the evidence. But no matter what happened, we have a right to know. And I frankly do not take the institutional layer at its word, that its motivations are honorable and that it was protecting good-hearted scientists at the expense of the world. That explanation does not add up.
Institutional lying, classifying openness as lies (57:00)
Well, this is a very interesting question about whether it's ever okay to lie at the institutional layer to protect the populace. I think both you and I are probably on the same, have the same sense that it's a slippery slope. Even if it's an effective mechanism in the short term, in the long term, it's going to be destructive. This happened with masks. This happened with other things. If you look at just history pandemics, there's an idea that panic is destructive amongst the populace. You want to construct a narrative, whether it's a lie or not, to minimize panic. But you're suggesting that almost in all cases, and I think that was the lesson from the pandemic in the early 20th century, that lying creates distrust. And distrust in the institutions is ultimately destructive. It's your sense that lying is not okay? Well, okay. There are obviously places where complete transparency is not a good idea, right? To the extent that you broadcast a technology that allows one individual to hold the world hostage, right? Obviously, you've got something to be navigated. But in general, I don't believe that the scientific system should be lying to us in the case of this particular lie, the idea that the well-being of Chinese scientists outweighs the well-being of the world is preposterous, right? As you point out, one thing that rests on this question is whether we continue to do this kind of research going forward. And the scientists in question, all of them, American, Chinese, all of them, were pushing the idea that the risk of a zoonotic spillover event causing a major and highly destructive pandemic was so great that we had to risk this. Now if they themselves have caused it, and if they are wrong, as I believe they are, about the likelihood of a major world pandemic spilling out of nature in the way that they wrote into their grant applications, then the danger is the call is coming from inside the house. And we have to look at that. And yes, whatever we have to do to protect scientists from retribution, we should do. But we cannot protect them by lying to the world. And even worse, by demonizing people like me, like Josh Rogan, like Yuri Deigen, the entire drastic group on Twitter by demonizing us for simply following the evidence is to set a terrible precedent. You're demonizing people from using the scientific method to evaluate evidence that is available to us in the world. What a terrible crime it is to teach that lesson. Thou shalt not use scientific tools? No, I'm sorry. Whatever your license to lie is, it doesn't extend to that.
Covert trauma and self-censoring (01:00:22)
Yeah, I've seen the attacks on you, the pressure on you, has a very important effect on thousands of world-class biologists actually. So, at MIT, colleagues of mine, people I know, there's a slight pressure to not be allowed to one speak publicly and to actually think. Like, do you even think about these ideas? It sounds kind of ridiculous, but just in the privacy of your own home to read things, to think, it's many people, many world-class biologists that I know will just avoid looking at the data. There's not even that many people that are publicly opposed and gain a functional research. They're also like, it's not worth it, it's not worth the battle. And there's many people that kind of argue that those battles should be fought in private, with colleagues in the privacy of the scientific community that the public is somehow not maybe intelligent enough to be able to deal with the complexities of this kind of discussion. I don't know, but the final result is combined with the bullying of you and all the different pressures in the academic institutions is that it's just people are self-sensoring and silencing themselves. And silencing the most important thing, which is the power of their brains. These people are brilliant. And the fact that they're not utilizing their brain to come up with solutions outside of the conformist line of thinking is tragic. Well, it is. I also think that we have to look at it and understand it for what it is. For one thing, it's kind of a cryptic totalitarianism. Somehow people's sense of what they're allowed to think about, talk about, discuss is causing them to self-sensor. And I can tell you it's causing many of them to rationalize, which is even worse. They're blinding themselves to what they can see. But it is also the case, I believe, that what you're describing about what people said, and a great many people understood that the lab leak hypothesis could not be taken off the table. But they didn't say so publicly. And I think that their discussions with each other about why they did not say what they understood, that's what capture sounds like on the inside. I don't know exactly what force captured the institutions. I don't think anybody knows for sure out here in public. I don't even know that it wasn't just simply a process. But you have these institutions. They are behaving towards a kind of somatic obligation. They have lost sight of what they were built to accomplish. And on the inside, the way they avoid going back to their original mission is to say things to themselves like the public can't have this discussion, it can't be trusted with it. Yes, we need to be able to talk about this, but it has to be private. Whatever it is they say to themselves, that is what capture sounds like on the inside. It's an institutional rationalization mechanism. And it's very, very deadly. And at the point you go from lab leak to repurposed drugs, you can see that it's very deadly in a very direct way. I see this in my field with things like autonomous weapon systems. People in AI do not talk about the use of AI in weapon systems. They kind of avoid the idea that AI is using them in the military. It's kind of funny. There's this discomfort and they all hurry. Something scary happens in a bunch of sheep kind of run away. That's what it looks like. I don't even know what to do about it because, and then I feel this natural pole every time I bring up autonomous weapon systems to go along with the sheep. There's a natural kind of pole towards that direction because it's like what can I do as one person. Now there's currently nothing destructive happening with autonomous weapon systems. So we're like in the early days of this race that in 10, 20 years might become a real problem. Now the discussion we're having now, we're now facing the result of that in the space of viruses. For many years of avoiding the conversations here. I don't know what to do that in the early days, but I think we have to get creative institutions where people can stand out. People can stand out and basically be individual thinkers and break out into all kinds of spaces of ideas that allow us to think freely, freedom of thought.
Censorship And Media Control
Cultivated insecurity (01:05:15)
And maybe that requires a decentralization of institutions. Well years ago I came up with a concept called cultivated insecurity. And the idea is, let's just take the example of the average Joe. The average Joe has a job somewhere and their mortgage, their medical insurance, their retirement, their connection with the economy is to one degree or another dependent on their relationship with the employer. That means that there is a strong incentive, especially in any industry where it's not easy to move from one employer to the next. There's a strong incentive to stay in your employer's good graces. So it creates a very top down dynamic, not only in terms of who gets to tell other people what to do, but it really comes down to who gets to tell other people how to think. So that's extremely dangerous. The way out of it is to cultivate security to the extent that somebody is in a position to go against the grain and have it not be a catastrophe for their family and their ability to earn, you will see that behavior a lot more. So I would argue that some of what you're talking about is just a simple predictable consequence of the concentration of the sources of well-being and that this is a solvable problem. You got a chance to talk with Joe Rogan yesterday?
Rogan, Ivermectin and censorship (01:06:51)
Yes, I did. And I just saw the episode was released and Ivermectin is trending on Twitter. Joe told me it was an incredible conversation. I look forward to listening to you today. Many people have probably by the time this is released, I've already listened to it. I think it would be interesting to discuss a postmortem. How do you feel how the conversation went? It may be broadly, how do you see the story as it's unfolding of Ivermectin from the origins from before COVID-19 through 2020 to today? I very much enjoyed talking to Joe and I'm undescribably grateful that he would take the risk of such a discussion that he would, as he described it, do an emergency podcast on the subject, which I think that was not an exaggeration. This needed to happen for various reasons that he took us down the road of talking about the censorship campaign against Ivermectin, which I find utterly shocking, and talking about the drug itself. I should say we had Pierre Corey available. He came on the podcast as well. He is, of course, the face of the FLCCC, the frontline COVID-19 critical care alliance. These are doctors who have innovated ways of treating COVID patients and they happened on Ivermectin and have been using it and I hesitate to use the word advocating for it, because that's not really the role of doctors or scientists, but they are advocating for it in the sense that there is this pressure not to talk about its effectiveness for reasons that we can go into. Maybe step back and say, "What is Ivermectin?" How much studies have been done to show its effectiveness? Ivermectin is an interesting drug. It was discovered in the 70s by a Japanese scientist named Satoshi Omura and he founded in soil near a Japanese golf course. I would just point out in passing that if we were to stop self-silencing over the possibility that Asians will be demonized over the possible lab leak in Wuhan and to recognize that actually the natural course of the story has a likely lab leak in China. It has an unlikely hero in Japan. The story is naturally not a simple one, but in any case, Omura discovered this molecule. He sent it to a friend who was at Merck, a scientist named Campbell. They won a Nobel Prize for the discovery of the Ivermectin molecule in 2015. Its initial use was in treating parasitic infections. It's very effective in treating the worm that causes river blindness, the pathogen that causes elephantitis, scabies, it's a very effective anti-paraside drug. It's extremely safe. It's on the who's list of essential medications. It's safe for children. It has been administered something like 4 billion times in the last four decades. It has been given away in the millions of doses by Merck in Africa. People have been on it for long periods of time. In fact, one of the reasons that Africa may have had less severe impacts from COVID-19 is that Ivermectin is widely used there to prevent parasites. The drug appears to have a long lasting impact. It's an interesting molecule. It was discovered some time ago, apparently, that it has antiviral properties. It was tested early in the COVID-19 pandemic to see if it might work to treat humans with COVID. It turned out to have very promising evidence that it did treat humans. It was tested in tissues. It was tested at a very high dosage, which confuses people. They think that those of us who believe that Ivermectin might be useful in confronting this disease are advocating those high doses, which is not the case. But in any case, there have been quite a number of studies. A wonderful meta-analysis was finally released. We had seen it in pre-print version, but it was finally peer-reviewed and published this last week. It reveals that the drug, as clinicians have been telling us, those who have been using it, it's highly effective at treating people with the disease, especially if you get to them early. It showed an 86% effectiveness as a prophylactic to prevent people from contracting COVID. That number, 86%, is high enough to drive SARS-CoV-2 to extinction if we wished to deploy it. First of all, the meta-analysis, is this the Ivermectin for COVID-19 real-time meta-analysis of 60 studies? There's a bunch of meta-analysis there. I was really impressed by the real-time meta-analysis that keeps getting updated. I don't know if it's the same kind of... The one at Ivermmeta.com? Well, I saw it at C19. Ivermmeta.com. Yeah, yeah. No, this is not that meta-analysis. That is, as you say, a living meta-analysis where you can watch evidence... Which is super cool, by the way. It's really cool. They've got some really nice graphics that allow you to understand, well, what is the evidence? It's concentrated around this level of effectiveness, et cetera. Anyway, it's great site. Well worth paying attention to. No, this is a meta-analysis. I don't know any of the authors, but one. Second author is Tess Lorry of the bird group. Bird being a group of analysts and doctors in Britain that is playing a role similar to the FLCCC here in the US. Anyway, this is a meta-analysis that Tess Lorry and others did of all of the available evidence. It's quite compelling. People can look for it on my Twitter. I will put it up and people can find it there. What about dose here? In terms of safety, what do we understand about the kind of dose required to have that level of effectiveness? What do we understand about the safety of that kind of dose? So let me just say I'm not a medical doctor. I'm a biologist. I am on Ivermectin in lieu of vaccination. In terms of dosage, there is one reason for concern, which is that the most effective dose for prophylaxis involves something like weekly administration and that that is because that is not a historical pattern of use for the drug. It is possible that there is some long-term implication of being on it weekly for a long period of time. There's not a strong indication of that. The safety signal that we have over people using the drug over many years and using it in high doses. In fact, Dr. Corey told me yesterday that there are cases in which people have made calculation errors and taken a massive overdose of the drug and had no ill effect. So anyway, there's lots of reasons to think the drug is comparatively safe, but no drug is perfectly safe. I do worry about the long-term implications of taking it. I also think it's very likely because the drug is administered in a dose something like, let's say, 15 milligrams for somebody my size once a week after you've gone through the initial, the initial double dose that you take 48 hours apart, it is apparent that if the amount of drug in your system is sufficient to be protective at the end of the week, then it was probably far too high at the beginning of the week. So there's a question about whether or not you could flatten out the intake so that the amount of Ivermactin goes down, but the protection remains. I have little doubt that that would be discovered if we looked for it. But that said, it does seem to be quite safe, highly effective at preventing COVID. The 86% number is plenty high enough for us to drive SARS-CoV-2 to extinction in light of its R-0 number of slightly more than two. And so why we are not using it as a bit of a mystery.
Censorship of Ivermectin (01:15:36)
So even if everything you said now turns out to be not correct, it is nevertheless obvious that it's sufficiently promising and it always has been in order to merit rigorous scientific exploration investigation doing a lot of studies and certainly not censoring the science or the discussion of it. So before we talk about the various vaccines for COVID-19, I'd like to talk to you about censorship. Given everything you're saying, why did YouTube and other places censor discussion of Ivermactin? Well there's a question about why they say they did it and there's a question about why they actually did it. Now it is worth mentioning that YouTube is part of a consortium. It is partnered with Twitter, Facebook, Reuters, AP, Financial Times, Washington Post, some other notable organizations and that this group has appointed itself the arbiter of truth. In effect they have decided to control discussion ostensibly to prevent the distribution of misinformation. Now how have they chosen to do that, in this case they have chosen to simply utilize the recommendations of the who and the CDC and apply them as if they are synonymous with scientific truth. Problem even at their best, the who and CDC are not scientific entities, they are entities that are about public health and public health has this, whether it's right or not and I believe I disagree with it, but it has this self-assigned right to lie that comes from the fact that there is game theory that works against, for example, a successful vaccination campaign.
Deplatforming for Truth (01:17:14)
That if everybody else takes a vaccine and therefore the herd becomes immune through vaccination and you decide not to take a vaccine, then you benefit from the immunity of the herd without having taken the risk. So people who do best are the people who opt out. That's a hazard and the who and CDC as public health entities effectively oversimplify stories in order that that game theory does not cause a predictable tragedy of the comments. With that said, once that right to lie exists, then it turns out to serve the interests of for example pharmaceutical companies which have emergency use authorizations that require that there not be a safe and effective treatment and have immunity from liability for harms caused by their product. So that's a recipe for disaster. You don't need to be a sophisticated thinker about complex systems to see the hazard of immunizing a company from the harm of its own product at the same time that that product can only exist in the market if some other product that works better somehow fails to be noticed. So somehow YouTube is doing the bidding of Merck and others whether it knows that that's what it's doing. I have no idea. I think this may be another case of an autopilot that thinks it's doing the right thing because it's parroting the corrupt wisdom of the who and the CDC. But the who and the CDC have been wrong again and again in this pandemic. And the irony here is that with YouTube coming after me, well, my channel has been right where the who and CDC have been wrong consistently over the whole pandemic. So how is it that YouTube is censoring us because the who and CDC disagree with us when in fact in past disagreements we've been right and they've been wrong? There's so much to talk about here. So I've heard this many times actually on the inside of YouTube and with colleagues that I've talked about talked with is they kind of in a very casual way, say their job is simply to slow or prevent the spread of misinformation. And they say like that's an easy thing to do. Like to know what is true or not is an easy thing to do. And so from the YouTube perspective, I think they basically outsource of the task of knowing what is true or not to public institutions that on a basic Google search claim to be the arbiters of truth. So if you were YouTube who are exceptionally profitable and exceptionally powerful in terms of controlling what people get to see or not, what would you do? Would you take a stand a public stand against the WHO, who CDC or would you instead say, you know what? Let's open the dam and let any video on anything fly. What do you do here? If you say you were put, if Brett Weinstein was put in charge of YouTube for a month in this most critical of times where YouTube actually has incredible amounts of power to educate the populace, to give power of knowledge to the populace such that they can reform institutions, what would you do? How would you run YouTube? Well, unfortunately, or fortunately, this is actually quite simple. The founders, the American founders settled on a counterintuitive formulation that people should be free to say anything. They should be free from the government blocking them from doing so. They did not imagine that in formulating that right, that most of what was said would be of high quality, nor did they imagine it would be free of harmful things. What they correctly reasoned was that the benefit of leaving everything so it can be said exceeds the cost, which everyone understands to be substantial. What I would say is they could not have anticipated the impact, the centrality of platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc. If they had, they would not have limited the first amendment as they did. They clearly understood that the power of the federal government was so great that it needed to be limited by granting explicitly the right of citizens to say anything. In fact, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook may be more powerful in this moment than the federal government of their worst nightmares could have been. The power that these entities have to control thought and to shift civilization is so great that we need to have those same protections. It doesn't mean that harmful things won't be said, but it means that nothing has changed about the cost benefit analysis of building the right to censor. If I were running YouTube, the limit of what should be allowed is the limit of the law. If what you are doing is legal, then it should not be YouTube's place to limit what gets said or who gets to hear it. That is between speakers and audience. Will harm come from that? Of course it will, but will net harm come from it? No, I don't believe it will. I believe that allowing everything to be said does allow a process in which better ideas do come to the fore and win out.
Be Wary of Memes (01:23:29)
You believe that in the end, when there is complete freedom to share ideas, that truth will win out. What I have noticed, just as a brief side comment, that certain things become viral, regardless of their truth. Things that become memes don't have to be grounded in truth. What worries me there is that we basically maximize for drama versus maximize for truth in a system where everything is free. That is worrying in the time of emergency. Well, yes, it is all worrying in time of emergency, to be sure. But I want you to notice that what you have happened on is actually an analog for a much deeper and older problem. Human beings are the, we are not a blank slate, but we are the blankest slate that nature has ever devised. And there is a reason for that. It is where our flexibility comes from. We have effectively, we are robots in which a large fraction of the cognitive capacity has been, or of the behavioral capacity, has been offloaded to the software layer, which gets written and rewritten over evolutionary time. That means, effectively, that much of what we are, in fact, the important part of what we are, is housed in the cultural layer and the conscious layer, and not in the hardware hard coding layer. That layer is prone to make errors, right? And anybody who has walked a child grow up knows that children make absurd errors all the time, right? That's part of the process, as we were discussing earlier. It is also true that as you look across a field of people discussing things, a lot of what is said is pure nonsense, it's garbage. But the tendency of garbage to emerge and even to spread in the short term does not say that over the long term, what sticks is not the valuable ideas. So there is a high tendency for novelty to be created in the cultural space, but there is also a high tendency for it to go extinct.
Destructive, not Constructive (01:25:51)
And you have to keep that in mind. It's not like the genome, right? Everything is happening at a much higher rate. Things are being created, they are being destroyed. And I can't say that, you know, obviously we've seen totalitarianism arise many times and it's very destructive each time it does. So it's not like, hey, freedom to come up with any idea you want hasn't produced a whole lot of carnage, but the question is over time, does it produce more open, fairer, more decent societies than I believe that it does? I can't prove it, but that does seem to be the pattern. I believe so as well, the thing is in the short term, freedom of speech, absolutely freedom of speech can be quite destructive. But you nevertheless have to hold on to that because in the long term, I think you and I guess are optimistic in the sense that good ideas will win out.
Social Media And Algorithmic Influence
Should YouTube have scientists moderating the discussion (01:26:46)
I don't know how strongly I believe that it will work, but I will say I haven't heard a better idea. Yeah. I would also point out that there's something very significant in this question of the hubris involved in imagining that you're going to improve the discussion by censoring, which is the majority of concepts at the fringe are nonsense. That's automatic. But the heterodoxy at the fringe, which is indistinguishable at the beginning from the nonsense ideas, is the key to progress. So if you decide, hey, the fringe is 99% garbage, let's just get rid of it. Right? Hey, that's a strong win. We're getting rid of 99% garbage for 1% something or other. And the point is, yeah, but that 1% something or other is the key. You're throwing out the key. And so that's what YouTube is doing. Frankly, I think at the point that it started censoring my channel, in the immediate aftermath of this major reversal of lab for lab leak, it should have looked at itself and said, well, what the hell are we doing? Who were we censoring? For censoring somebody who was just right in a conflict with the very same people on whose behalf we are now censoring. That should have caused them to wake up. So you said one approach if you are on YouTube is just basically let all videos go that do not violate the law. Well, I should fix that. Okay. I believe that that is the basic principle. Eric makes an excellent point about the distinction between ideas and personal attacks, doxing, but these other things. So I agree there's no value in allowing people to destroy each other's lives, even if there's a technical legal defense for it. Now how you draw that line, I don't know. But what I'm talking about is, yes, people should be free to traffic in bad ideas and they should be free to expose that the ideas are bad and hopefully that process results in better ideas winning out. Yeah, there's an interesting line between ideas like the Earth is flat, which I believe you should not censor. And then you start to encroach on personal attacks. So doxing yes, but not even getting to that. There's a certain point where it's like, that's no longer ideas, that's more, that's somehow not productive, even if it's wrong.
Public pressure has forced companies to take political positions (01:29:15)
It feels like believing the Earth is flat is somehow productive because maybe there's a tiny percent chance it is. It just feels like personal attacks. It doesn't. Well, you know, I'm torn on this because there's assholes in this world. There's fraudulent people in this world. So sometimes personal attacks are useful to reveal that. But there's a line you can cross. Like there's a comedy where people make fun of others. I think that's amazing. That's very powerful and that's very useful, even if it's painful. But then there's like, once it gets to be, yeah, there's a certain line. It's a gray area where you cross where it's no longer in any possible world productive. And that's a really weird gray area for you to operate in. And it feels like should be a crowdsourced thing or people vote on it. But then again, do you trust the majority to vote on what is crossing the line and not? I mean, this is where this is really interesting on this particular, like the scientific aspect of this. Do you think YouTube should take more of a stance? Not censoring, but to actually have scientists within YouTube having these kinds of discussions and then be able to almost speak out in a transparent way. This is what we're going to let this video stand. But here's all these other opinions, almost like take a more active role in its recommendation system in trying to present a full picture to you. Right now they're not there. The recommender systems are not human fine tuned. They're all based on how you click and there's this clustering algorithms. They're not taking an active role on giving you the full spectrum of ideas in this space of science. They just censor or not. Well, at the moment, it's going to be pretty hard to compel me that these people should be trusted with any sort of curation or comment on matters of evidence because they have demonstrated that they are incapable of doing it well. You could make such an argument and I guess I'm open to the idea of institutions that would look something like YouTube that would be capable of offering something valuable. And even just the fact of them literally curating things and putting some videos next to others implies something. So yeah, there's a question to be answered. But at the moment, no. At the moment, what it is doing is quite literally putting not only individual humans in tremendous jeopardy by censoring discussion of useful tools and making tools that are more hazardous than has been acknowledged seem safe. But it is also placing humanity in danger of a permanent relationship with this pathogen. I cannot emphasize enough how expensive that is.
Would private enterprise have incentivize vaccination? (01:32:16)
It's effectively incalculable if the relationship becomes permanent. The number of people who will ultimately suffer and die from it is indefinitely large. Yeah, currently the algorithm is very rabbit hole driven. Meaning if you click on the flat earth videos, that's all you're going to be presented with and you're not going to be nicely presented with arguments against the flat earth and the flip side of that. If you watch like quantum mechanics videos, or no, general relativity videos, it's very rare you're going to get in a recommendation. Have you considered the earth as flat? And I think you should have both. Same with vaccine. Videos that present the power and incredible biology, genetics, biology about the vaccine, you're rarely going to get videos from well respected scientific minds presenting possible dangers of the vaccine. And the vice versa is true as well, which is if you're looking at the dangers of the vaccine on YouTube, you're not going to get the highest quality of videos recommended to you. And I'm not talking about like manually inserted CDC videos that are like the most untrustworthy things you can possibly watch about how everybody should take the vaccine. It's the safest thing ever. No, it's about incredible. Again, MIT colleagues of mine, incredible biologists, virologists that I'll talk about the details of how the mRNA vaccines work and all those kinds of things. I think maybe this is me with the AI hat on is I think the algorithm can fix a lot of this. And YouTube should build better algorithms and trust that to a couple of complete freedom of speech to expand what people are able to think about, present always varied views, not balanced in some artificial way, hard coded way, but balanced in a way that's crowd sourced. I think that's an algorithm problem that can be solved because then you can delegate it to the algorithm as opposed to this hard code censorship of basically creating artificial boundaries on what can and can't be discussed.
YouTube Polling (01:34:19)
Instead, creating a full spectrum of exploration that can be done and trusting the intelligence of people to do the exploration. Well, there's a lot there. I would say we have to keep in mind that we're talking about a publicly held company with shareholders and obligations to them and that that may make it impossible. And I remember many years ago, back in the early days of Google, I remember a sense of terror at the loss of general search. It used to be that Google, if you searched, came up with the same thing for everyone. And then it got personalized and for a while it was possible to turn off the personalization, which was still not great because if everybody else is looking at a personalized search and you can tune in to one that isn't personalized, that doesn't tell you why the world is sounding the way it is. But nonetheless, it was at least an option. And then that vanished.
Could a Fringe Group Game the Algorithm? (01:35:36)
And the problem is I think this is literally deranging us that in effect, what you're describing is unthinkable. It is unthinkable that in the face of a campaign to vaccinate people in order to reach herd immunity that YouTube would give you videos on hazards of vaccines when this is how hazardous the vaccines are is an unsettled question. Why is it unthinkable? That doesn't make any sense from a company perspective. If intelligent people in large amounts are open-minded and are thinking through the hazards and the benefits of a vaccine, a company should find the best videos to present what people are thinking about. Well, let's come up with a hypothetical. Okay, let's come up with a very deadly disease for which there's a vaccine that is very safe, though not perfectly safe. And we are then faced with YouTube trying to figure out what to do for somebody searching on vaccine safety. Suppose it is necessary in order to drive the pathogen to extinction, something like smallpox, that people get on board with the vaccine. But there's a tiny fringe of people who thinks that the vaccine is a mind control agent. All right. So should YouTube direct people to the only claims against this vaccine, which is that it's a mind control agent, when in fact the vaccine is very safe, whatever that means? If that were the actual configuration of the puzzle, then YouTube would be doing active harm pointing you to this other video potentially. Now, yes, I would love to live in a world where people are up to the challenge of sorting that out. But my basic point would be if it's an evidentiary question and there is essentially no evidence that the vaccine is a mind control agent and there's plenty of evidence that the vaccine is safe, then, well, you look for this video, we're going to give you this one, puts it on a par, right? So for the mind that's tracking how much thought is there behind it safe versus how much thought is there behind it's a mind control agent will result in artificially elevating this. Now, in the current case, what we've seen is not this at all. We have seen evidence obscured in order to create a false story about safety. And we saw the inverse with Iremectin. We saw a campaign to portray the drug as more dangerous and less effective than the evidence clearly suggested it was. So we're not talking about a comparable thing, but I guess my point is the algorithmic solution that you point to creates a problem of its own, which is that it means that the way to get exposure is to generate something fringy. If you're the only thing on some fringe, then suddenly YouTube would be recommending those things and that's obviously a gameable system at best. Yeah, but the solution to that, and I know you're creating a thought experiment, maybe playing a little bit of a devil's advocate, I think the solution to that is not to limit the algorithm in the case of the super deadly virus. It's for the scientists to step up and become better communicators, more charismatic, fight the battle of ideas. To create better videos, if the virus is truly deadly, you have a lot more ammunition, a lot more data, a lot more material to work with in terms of communicating with the public. So be better at communicating and stop being, you have to start trusting the intelligence of people and also being transparent and playing the game of the internet, which is like, what is the internet hungry for, I believe? Authenticity? Stop looking like you're full of shit. The scientific community, if there's any flaw that I currently see, especially the people that are in public office, like Anthony Fauci, they look like they're full of shit and I know they're brilliant. Why don't they look more authentic? So they're losing that game and I think a lot of people observing this entire system now, younger scientists are seeing this and saying, okay, if I want to continue being a scientist in the public eye and I want to be effective at my job, I'm going to have to be a lot more authentic. So they're learning the lesson. The evolutionary system is working. So there's just a younger generation of minds coming up that I think will do a much better job and this battle of ideas that when the much more dangerous virus comes along, they'll be able to be better communicators. At least that's the hope. Seeing the algorithm to control that is, I feel like, is a big problem. So you're going to have the same problem with a deadly virus as with the current virus. If you're at YouTube, draw hard lines by the PR and the marketing people versus the broad community of scientists. Well, in some sense, you're suggesting something that's close kin to what I was saying about freedom of expression ultimately provides an advantage to better ideas. So I'm in agreement broadly speaking, but I would also say there's probably some sort of, let's imagine the world that you propose where YouTube shows you the alternative point of view. That has the problem that I suggest, but one thing you could do is you could give us the tools to understand what we're looking at. You could give us, so first of all, there's something I think myopic, self-emotional, holocistic, narcissistic about an algorithm that serves shareholders by showing you what you want to see rather than what you need to know. That's the distinction, is flattering you.
Equal exploration of search terms (01:41:40)
Playing to your blind spot is something that algorithm will figure out, but it's not healthy for us all to have Google playing to our blind spot. It's very, very dangerous. So what I really want is analytics that allow me, or maybe options and analytics. The options should allow me to see what alternative perspectives are being explored. So here's the thing I'm searching and it leads me down this road. Let's say it's Ivermectin. I find all of this evidence that Ivermectin works. I find all of these discussions and people talk about various protocols and this and that. Then I could say, all right, what is the other side? And I could see who is searching not as individuals, but what demographics are searching alternatives. And maybe you could even combine it with something Reddit like where effectively, let's say that there was a position that I don't know, that a vaccine is a mind control device and you could have a steel man, this argument, competition effectively. And the better answers that steel man and as well as possible would rise to the top. And so you could read the top three or four explanations about why this really credibly is a mind control product and you could say, well, that doesn't really add up. I can check these three things myself and they can't possibly be right. You could dismiss it. And then as an argument that was credible, let's say plate tectonics before that was an accepted concept, you'd say, wait a minute, there is evidence for plate tectonics as crazy as it sounds that the continents are floating around on liquid. And so, that's not so implausible. We've got these subduction zones. We've got geology that is compatible. We've got puzzle piece continents that seem to fit together. Wow, that's a surprising amount of evidence for that position. So I'm going to file some Bayesian probability with it that's updated for the fact that actually the steel man arguments better than I was expecting. So I could imagine something like that where A, I would love the search to be indifferent to who's searching. The solipsistic thing is too dangerous. So the search could be general, so we would all get a sense for what everybody else was seeing too. And then some layer that didn't have anything to do with what YouTube points you to or not, but allowed you to see the general pattern of adherence to searching for information. And again, a layer in which those things could be defended so you could hear what a good argument sounded like rather than just hear a caricature argument. Yeah, and also reward people, creators that have demonstrated it like a track record of open mindedness and correctness, correctness as much as it could be measured over a long term. And sort of, I mean, a lot of this maps to incentivizing good long term behavior, not immediate kind of dopamine rush kind of signals. I think ultimately the algorithm on the individual level should optimize for personal growth, long term happiness, just growth intellectually growth in terms of lifestyle personally and so on as opposed to immediate. I think that's going to build a better site. Not even just like truth because I think truth is a complicated thing.
Growth And Trust In Scientific Developments
Create a better human and define growth without depending on growth (01:45:16)
It's more just you growing as a person, exploring the space of ideas, changing your mind often, increasingly level to which you open minded the knowledge base you're operating from, the willingness to empathize with others, all those kinds of things the algorithm should optimize for that creating a better human at the individual level that you're all I think that's a great business model because the person that's using this tool will then be happier with themselves for having used it and will be a lifelong quote unquote customer. I think it's a great business model to make a happy, open minded, knowledgeable, better human being. It's a terrible business model under the current system. What you want is to build the system in which it is a great business model. Why is it a terrible model? Because it will be decimated by those who play to the short term. I don't think so. I mean, I think we're living it. We're living it. Well, no, because if you have the alternative that presents itself, it points out the emperor has no clothes. I mean, it points out that YouTube is operating in this way, Twitter is operating in this way, Facebook is operating in this way. How long term would you like the wisdom to prove that? Even a week is better once currently happening. Right. But the problem is, if a week loses out to an hour, and I don't think it loses out. It loses out in the short term. That's my point. At least you're a great communicator and you basically say, look, here's the metrics. A lot of it is how people actually feel. This is what people experience with social media. They look back at the previous month and say, I felt shitty and a lot of days because of social media. If you look back at the previous few weeks and say, wow, I'm a better person because of that month happened, they immediately choose the product that's going to lead to that. That's what love for products looks like. If you love, a lot of people love their Tesla car or iPhone or beautiful design. That's what love looks like. You look back, I'm a better person for having used this thing. Well, you got to ask yourself the question now. If this is such a great business model, why isn't it evolving? Why don't we see it? Honestly, it's competence. People are just not easy to build new. It's a new idea. Everything we're seeing now comes from the ideas of the initial birth of the Internet. There just needs to be new sets of tools that are incentivizing long-term personal growth and happiness. That's it. What we have is a market that doesn't favor this. For one thing, we had an alternative to Facebook that looked, you owned your own data, it wasn't exploitative. Facebook bought a huge interest in it and it died. Who do you know who's on Diaspora? The execution there was not good. It could have gotten better. I don't think that the argument that why hasn't somebody done it, a good argument for it's not going to completely destroy all of Twitter and Facebook when somebody does it or Twitter will catch up and pivot to the algorithm. This is not what I'm saying. There's obviously great ideas that remain unexplored because nobody has gotten to the foothill that would allow you to explore them. That's true. But an Internet that was non-predatory is an obvious idea. Many of us know that we want it. Many of us have seen prototypes of it and we don't move because there's no audience there. The network effects cause you to stay with the predatory Internet. I wasn't kidding about build the system in which your idea is a great business plan. In our upcoming book, Heather and I in our last chapter, explore something called the fourth frontier and fourth frontier has to do with sort of a 2.0 version of civilization, which we freely admit we can't tell you very much about. It's something that would have to be, we would have to prototype our way there. We would have to effectively navigate our way there. But the result would be very much like what you're describing. It would be something that effectively liberates humans meaningfully and most importantly, it has to feel like growth without depending on growth.
Growth Has to FEEL Like Growth (01:49:57)
In other words, human beings are creatures that like every other creature is effectively looking for growth. We are looking for underexploited or unexploited opportunities. When we find them, our ancestors for example, they happen into a new valley that was unexplored by people. Their population would grow until it had carrying capacity. There would be this great feeling of there's abundance until you had carrying capacity, which is inevitable and then zero some dynamics would set in. In order for human beings to flourish long term, the way to get there is to satisfy the desire for growth without hooking it to actual growth, which only moves and fits and starts. This is actually I believe the key to avoiding these spasms of human tragedy when in the absence of growth people do something that causes their population to experience growth, which is they go and make war on or commit genocide against some other population, which is something we obviously have to stop. By the way, this is a hunter-gatherer's guide to the 21st century, co-authored with your wife Heather being released this September.
I believe you said you're going to do a little bit of a preview videos on each chapter leading up to the release. So I'm looking forward to the last chapter as well as all the previous one. I have a few questions on that. You generally have faith to clarify that technology could be the thing that empowers this kind of future. Well, if you just let technology evolve, it's going to be our undoing. One of the things that I fault my libertarian friends for is this faith that the market is going to find solutions without destroying us. In my sense is I'm a very strong believer in markets. I believe in their power, even above some market fundamentalists. But what I don't believe is that they should be allowed to plot our course. Markets are very good at figuring out how to do things. They are not good at all about figuring out what we should do, what we should want. We have to tell markets what we want, and then they can tell us how to do it best. And if we adopted that kind of pro market, but in a context where it's not steering, where human well-being is actually the driver, we can do remarkable things. And the technology that emerges would naturally be enhancing of human well-being. Perfectly so? No, but overwhelmingly so. But at the moment, markets are finding our every defective character and exploiting them and making huge profits and making us worse to each other in the process. Before we leave COVID-19, let me ask you about a very difficult topic, which is the vaccines.
What is the potential danger with the COVID-19 vaccines? (01:52:50)
So I took the Pfizer vaccine, the two shots. You did not. You have been taking Ivermectin. Yep. So one of the arguments against the discussion of Ivermectin is that it prevents people from being fully willing to get the vaccine. How would you compare Ivermectin and the vaccine for COVID-19? All right, that's a good question. I would say first of all, there are some hazards with the vaccine that people need to be aware of. Things that we cannot rule out and for which there is some evidence. The two that I think people should be tracking is the possibility, some would say, a likelihood that a vaccine of this nature, that is to say very narrowly focused on a single antigen, is an evolutionary pressure that will drive the emergence of variants that will escape the protection that comes from the vaccine. So this is a hazard. It is a particular hazard in light of the fact that these vaccines have a substantial number of breakthrough cases. So one danger is that a person who has been vaccinated will shed viruses that are specifically less visible or invisible to the immunity created by the vaccines. So we may be creating the next pandemic by applying the pressure of vaccines at a point that it doesn't make sense to. The other danger has to do with something called antibody dependent enhancement, which is something that we see in certain diseases like dengue fever. You may know that dengue one gets a case and then their second case is much more devastating. So break bone fever is when you get your second case of dengue and dengue effectively utilizes the immune response that is produced by prior exposure to attack the body in ways that it is incapable of doing before exposure. So this is apparently, this pattern has apparently blocked past efforts to make vaccines against coronaviruses, whether it will happen here or not. It is still too early to say.
How dangerous is COVID-19? (01:55:19)
But before we even get to the question of harm done to individuals by these vaccines, we have to ask about what the overall impact is going to be. And it's not clear in the way people think it is that if we vaccinate enough people, the pandemic will end, it could be that we vaccinate people and make the pandemic worse. And well, nobody can say for sure that that's where we're headed. It is at least something to be aware. So don't vaccines usually create that kind of evolutionary pressure to create a deadlier different strains of the virus? So isn't, so is there something particular with these mRNA vaccines that's uniquely dangerous in this regard? Well, it's not even just the mRNA vaccines. The mRNA vaccines and the adenovactor DNA vaccine all share the same vulnerability, which is they are very narrowly focused on one subunit of the spike protein. So that is a very concentrated evolutionary signal. We are also deploying it in mid pandemic, and it takes time for immunity to develop. So part of the problem here, if you inoculated a population before encounter with a pathogen, then there might be substantially enough immunity to prevent this phenomenon from happening. But in this case, we are inoculating people as they are encountering those who are sick with the disease. And what that means is that the disease is now faced with a lot of opportunities to effectively, evolutionarily practice escape strategies. So one thing is the timing. The other thing is the narrow focus. Now in a traditional vaccine, you would typically not have one antigen, right? You would have basically a virus full of antigens, and the immune system would therefore produce a broader response. So that is the case for people who have had COVID, right? They have an immunity that is broader because it wasn't so focused on one part of the spike protein. So anyway, there is something unique here. So these platforms create that special hazard. They also have components that we haven't used before in people. So for example, the lipid nanoparticles that coat the RNAs are distributing themselves around the body in a way that will have unknown consequences. So anyway, there's reason for concern. Is it possible for you to steal man the argument that everybody should get vaccinated? Of course. The argument that everybody should get vaccinated is that nothing is perfectly safe. These three trials showed good safety for the vaccines. Now that may or may not be actually true, but what we saw suggested a high degree of efficacy and a high degree of safety for the vaccines that inoculating people quickly and therefore dropping the landscape of available victims for the pathogen to a very low number so that herd immunity drives it to extinction requires us all to take our share of the risk. And that because driving it to extinction should be our highest priority that really people shouldn't think too much about the various nuances because overwhelmingly fewer people will die if the population is vaccinated from the vaccine than will die from COVID if they're not vaccinated. And with the vaccine as a career is being deployed, that is a quite a likely scenario that everything, you know, the virus will fade away in the following sense that the probability that a more dangerous strain will be created is non-zero, but it's not 50%.
Low trust in the negative event reporting system (01:58:45)
It's something smaller. And so the most like, well, I don't know, maybe you disagree with that, but the scenario where most likely it's seen not that the vaccine is here is that the effects of the virus will fade away. First of all, I don't believe that the probability of creating a worse pandemic is low enough to discount. I think the probability is fairly high. And frankly, we are seeing a wave of variants that we will have to do a careful analysis to figure out what exactly that has to do with campaigns of vaccination where they have been, where they haven't been, where the variants emerged from. But I believe that what we are seeing is a disturbing pattern that reflects that those who were advising caution may well have been right. The data here, by the way, and the small tangent is terrible. Terrible. Right. And why is it terrible? There's another question, right? This is where I start getting angry. Yeah. It's like, there's an obvious opportunity for exceptionally good data, for exceptionally rigorous, like even the self, like the website for self reporting side effects for not side effects, but negative events, adverse events, sorry, for the vaccine. Like there's many things I could say from both the study perspective, but mostly let me just put on my hat of like HTML and like web design. Like, it's like the worst website. It makes it so unpleasant to report. It makes it so unclear what you're reporting. If somebody actually has serious effects, like if you have very mild effects, what are the incentives for you to even use that crappy website with many pages and forms that don't make any sense? If you have adverse effects, what are the incentives for you to use that website? What is the trust that you have that this information will be used? Well, all those kinds of things. And the data about who's getting vaccinated, anonymized data about who's getting vaccinated, where, when, with what vaccine coupled with the adverse effects, all of that we should be collecting. Instead, we're completely not. We're doing it in a crappy way and using that crappy data to make conclusions that you then twist, you're basically collecting in a way that can arrive at whatever conclusions you want. And the data is being collected by the institutions, by governments. And so therefore, it's obviously they're going to try to construct any kind of narratives they want based on this crappy data. It reminds me of much of psychology, the field that I love, but is flawed in me, fundamental ways. So rent over, but coupled with the dangers that you're speaking to, we don't have even the data to understand the dangers. Yeah. I'm going to pick up on your rant and say we estimates of the degree of underreporting in VAERS that it is 10% of the real to 100%. And that's the system for reporting. Yeah, the VAERS system is the system for reporting adverse events. So in the US, we have above 5,000 unexpected deaths that seem in time to be associated with vaccination. That is an undercount almost certainly. And by a large factor. We don't know how large I've seen estimates, 25,000 dead in the US alone. Now you can make the argument that, okay, that's a large number, but the necessity of immunizing the population to drive SARS-CoV-2 to extinction is such that it's an acceptable number. But I would point out that that actually does not make any sense. And the reason it doesn't make any sense is actually there are several reasons. And if that was really your point that yes, many, many people are going to die, but many more will die if we don't do this. Were that your approach? You would not be inoculating people who had had COVID-19, which is a large population. There's no reason to expose those people to danger. Their risk of adverse events in the case that they have them is greater. So there's no reason that we would be allowing those people to face a risk of death if this was really about an acceptable number of deaths arising out of this set of vaccines. I would also point out there's something incredibly bizarre and I would struggle to find language that is strong enough for the horror of vaccinating children in this case because children suffer a greater risk of long-term effects because they are going to live longer and because this is earlier in their development. Therefore it impacts systems that are still forming. They tolerate COVID well and so the benefit to them is very small. And so the only argument for doing this is that they may cryptically be carrying more COVID than we think and therefore they may be integral to the way the virus spreads to the population. But if that's the reason that we are inoculating children and there has been some revision in the last day or two about the recommendation on this because of the adverse events that have shown up in children but to the extent that we were vaccinating children we were doing it to protect old infirm people who are the most likely to succumb to COVID-19. What society puts children in danger, Rob's children of life to save old infirm people? That's upside down. So there's something about the way we are going about vaccinating, who we are vaccinating, but danger is we are pretending don't exist that suggests that to some set of people vaccinating people is a good in and of itself. That that is the objective of the exercise, not herd immunity. And the last thing I'm sorry I kind of want to prevent you from jumping in here. But the second reason, in addition to the fact that we're exposing people to danger that we should not be exposing them to. By the way, as a tiny tangent, another huge part of this soup that should have been part of it, that's an incredible solution is large scale testing. But that might be another couple of hours, but conversation, but there's these solutions that are obvious that were available from the very beginning. So you could argue that Ever Acton is not that obvious, but maybe the whole point is you have aggressive, very fast research that leads to meta-analysis and then large scale production and deployment. Okay, at least that possibility should be seriously considered coupled with a serious consideration of large scale deployment of testing at home testing. It could have accelerated the speed at which we reached that herd immunity. But I don't even want to. Well, let me just say I am also completely shocked that we did not get on high quality testing early and that we are still suffering from this even now, because just the simple ability to track where the virus moves between people would tell us a lot about its mode of transmission, which would allow us to protect ourselves better. Instead, that information was hard won and for no good reason. So I also find this mysterious.
Conflict And Collaboration In Scientific Community
The reserved capacity hypothesis (02:06:36)
You've spoken with Eric Weinstein, your brother, on his podcast, The Portal, about the ideas that eventually led to the paper you published titled The Reserved Capacity Hypothesis. I think first, can you explain this paper and the ideas that led up to it? Sure, easier to explain the conclusion of the paper. There's a question about why a creature that can replace its cells with new cells grows feeble and inefficient with age. We call that process, which is otherwise called aging. We call it senescence. And senescence in this paper, it is hypothesized, is the unavoidable downside of a cancer prevention feature of our bodies, that each cell has a limit on the number of times it can divide. There are a few cells in the body that are exceptional, but most of our cells can only divide a limited number of times. That's called the hayflick limit. And the hayflick limit reduces the ability of the organism to replace tissues. It therefore results in a failure over time of maintenance and repair. And that explains why we become decrepit as we grow old. The question was, why would that be, especially in light of the fact that the mechanism that seems to limit the ability of cells to reproduce is something called a telomere. Telomere is a, it's not a gene, but it's a DNA sequence at the ends of our chromosomes that is just simply repetitive. And the number of repeats functions like a counter. So there's a number of repeats that you have after development is finished. And then each time the cell divides a little bit of telomere is lost. And at the point that the telomere becomes critically short, the cell stops dividing, even though it still has the capacity to do so. Stops dividing and it starts transcribing different genes than it did when it had more telomere. So what my work did was it looked at the fact that the telomere shortening was being studied by two different groups, most being studied by people who were interested in counteracting the aging process and it was being studied in exactly the opposite fashion by people who were interested in tumorogenesis and cancer. The thought being, because it was true that when one looked into tumors, they always had telomerase active. That's the enzyme that lengthens our telomeres. So those folks were interested in bringing about a halt to the lengthening of telomeres in order to counteract cancer. And the folks who were studying the senescence process were interested in lengthening telomeres. In order to generate greater repair capacity. And my point was evolutionarily speaking, this looks like a pleiotropic effect that the genes which create the tendency of the cells to be limited in their capacity to replace themselves are providing a benefit in youth, which is that we are largely free of tumors and cancer at the inevitable late life cost that we grow feeble and inefficient and eventually die. And that matches a very old hypothesis in evolutionary theory by somebody I was fortunate enough to know, George Williams, one of the great 20th century evolutionists who argued that senescence would have to be caused by pleiotropic genes that cause early life benefits at unavoidable late life costs. And although this isn't the exact nature of the system, he predicted it matches what he was expecting in many regards to a shocking degree. That said, the focus of the paper is about the, well let me just read the abstract. We observed that captive rodent breeding protocols designed at the end of the abstract. We observed that captive rodent breeding protocols designed to increase reproductive output simultaneously exert strong selection against reproductive senescence and virtually eliminate selection that would otherwise favor tumor suppression. This appears to have greatly elongated the telomeres of laboratory mice. With their telomeric failsafe effectively disabled, these animals are unreliable models of normal senescence and tumor formation. So basically using these mice is not going to lead to the right kinds of conclusions. Safety tests employing these animals likely overestimate cancer risks and underestimate tissue damage and consequent accelerated senescence. So I think especially with your discussion with Eric, the conclusion of this paper has to do with the fact that like we shouldn't be using these mice to test the safety or to make conclusions about cancer or senescence. Is that the basic takeaway? You're like basically saying that the length of these telomeres is an important variable to consider. Well, let's put it this way. I think there was a reason that the world of scientists who was working on telomeres did not spot the pleiotropic relationship that was the key argument in my paper.
Why is this important? (02:12:05)
The reason they didn't spot it was that there was a result that everybody knew which seemed inconsistent. The result was that mice have very long telomeres, but they do not have very long lives. Now, we can talk about what the actual meaning of don't have very long lives is, but in the end, I was confronted with a hypothesis that would explain a great many features of the way mammals and indeed vertebrates age, but it was inconsistent with one result. And at first, I thought maybe there's something wrong with the result. Maybe this is one of these cases where the result was achieved once through some bad protocol and everybody else was repeating it. It didn't turn out to be the case. Many laboratories had established that mice had ultra long telomeres. And so I began to wonder whether or not there was something about the breeding protocols that generated these mice. And what that would predict is that the mice that have long telomeres would be laboratory mice and that wild mice would not. And Carol Greider, who agreed to collaborate with me, tested that hypothesis and showed that it was indeed true, that wild-derived mice, or at least mice that had been in captivity for a much shorter period of time, did not have ultra long telomeres. Now, what this implied though, as you read, is that our breeding protocols generate lengthening of telomeres. And the implication of that is that the animals that have these very long telomeres will be hyper prone to create tumors. They will be extremely resistant to toxins because they have effectively an infinite capacity to replace any damaged tissue. And so ironically, if you give one of these ultra long telomere lab mice a toxin, if the toxin doesn't outright kill it, it may actually increase its lifespan because it functions as a kind of chemotherapy. So the reason the chemotherapy works is that dividing cells are more vulnerable than cells that are not dividing. And so if this mouse has effectively had its cancer protection turned off and it has cells dividing too rapidly and you give it a toxin, you will slow down its tumors faster than you harm its other tissues. And so you'll get a paradoxical result that actually some drug that's toxic seems to benefit the mouse. Now, I don't think that that was understood before I published my paper. Now, I'm pretty sure it has to be. And the problem is that this actually is a system that serves pharmaceutical companies that have the difficult job of bringing compounds to market, many of which will be toxic. Maybe all of them will be toxic. And these mice predispose our system to declare these toxic compounds safe. And in fact, I believe we've seen the errors that result from using these mice a number of times, most famously with Vioxx, which turned out to do conspicuous heart damage. Why do you think this paper, when this idea has not gotten significant traction? Well, my collaborator, Carol Greider, said something to me that rings in my ears to this day. She initially, after she showed that laboratory mice have anomalously long telomeres and that wild mice don't have long telomeres, I asked her where she was going to publish that result so that I could cite it in my paper. And she said that she was going to keep the result in house rather than publish it. And at the time, I was a young graduate student. I didn't really understand what she was saying. But in some sense, the knowledge that a model organism is broken in a way that creates the likelihood that certain results will be reliably generatable. You can publish a paper and make a big splash with such a thing, or you can exploit the fact that you know how those models will misbehave and other people don't. So there's a question, if somebody is motivated cynically, and what they want to do is appear to have deeper insight into biology because they predict things better than others do, knowing where the flaw is so that your predictions come out true is advantageous. At the same time, I can't help but imagine that the pharmaceutical industry, when it figured out that the mice were predisposed to suggest that drugs were safe, didn't leap to fix the problem because in some sense, it was the perfect cover for the difficult job of bringing drugs to market and then discovering their actual toxicity profile. This made things look safer than they were. And I believe a lot of profits have likely been generated downstream.
Devils Advocate, Carol Greiders Motivations (02:16:55)
So to play devil's advocate, it's also possible that this particular, the length of the telomeres is not a strong variable for the drug development and for the conclusions that Carol and others have been studying. Is that possible for that to be the case? So one reason she and others could be ignoring this is because it's not a strong variable. I don't believe so. And in fact, at the point that I went to publish my paper, Carol published her result. She did so in a way that did not make a huge splash. Did she, well, I apologize if I don't know how, what was the emphasis of her publication of that paper? Was it purely just kind of showing data or was there more? Because in your paper, there's a kind of more of a philosophical statement as well. Well, my paper was motivated by interest in the evolutionary dynamics around senescence. I wasn't pursuing grants or anything like that. I was just working on a puzzle I thought was interesting. Carol has, of course, gone on to win a Nobel Prize for her co-discovery with Elizabeth Greider of Tlomerase, the enzyme that lengthens telomeres. But anyway, she's a heavy hitter in the academic world. I don't know exactly what her purpose was. I do know that she told me she wasn't planning to publish. And I do know that I discovered that she was in the process of publishing very late. And when I asked her to send me the paper to see whether or not she had put evidence in it that the hypothesis had come from me, she gradually sent it to me and my name was nowhere mentioned and she has, she broke contact at that point. What it is that motivated her, I don't know. But I don't think it can possibly be that this result is unimportant. The fact is, the reason I called her in the first place, an established contact that generated our collaboration was that she was a leading light in the field of telomeric studies. And because of that, this question about whether the model organisms are distorting the understanding of the functioning of telomeres is central. Do you feel like you've been as a young graduate student, do you think Carol or do you think the scientific community broadly screwed you over in some way?
Has the Scientific Community Screwed You Over? (02:19:20)
I don't think of it in those terms, probably partly because it's not productive. But I have a complex relationship with this story. On the one hand, I'm livid with Carol Greider for what she did. She absolutely pretended that I didn't exist in this story and I don't think I was a threat to her. My interest was as an evolutionary biologist, I had made an evolutionary contribution. She had tested a hypothesis and frankly, I think it would have been better for her if she had acknowledged what I had done. I think it would have enhanced her work. And you know, I was, let's put it this way, when I watched her Nobel Lecture and I should say there's been a lot of confusion about this Nobel stuff, I've never said that I should have gotten a Nobel Prize. People have mis-portrayed that. My in-listening to her lecture, I had one of the most bizarre emotional experiences of my life because she presented the work that resulted from my hypothesis. She presented it as she had in her paper with no acknowledgement of where it had come from and she had in fact portrayed the distortion of the telomeres as if it were a lucky fact because it allowed testing hypotheses that would otherwise not be testable. You have to understand as a young scientist to watch work that you have done presented in what's surely the most important lecture of her career, right? It's thrilling. It was thrilling to see, you know, her figures projected on the screen there, right, to have been part of work that was important enough for that felt great. And of course, to be erased from the story felt absolutely terrible. So anyway, that's sort of where I am with it. My sense is what I'm really troubled by in this story is the fact that as far as I know, the flaw with the mice has not been addressed. And actually Eric Dickson looking into this, he tried to establish by calling the Jack's lab and trying to ascertain what had happened with the colonies, whether any change in protocol had occurred. And he couldn't get anywhere. There was seemingly no awareness that it was even an issue. So I'm very troubled by the fact that as a father, for example, I'm in no position to protect my family from the hazard that I believe lurks in our medicine cabinets, right? I'm even though I'm aware of where the hazard comes from. It doesn't tell me anything useful about which of these drugs will turn out to do damage if it is ultimately tested. And that's a very frustrating position to be in. On the other hand, there's a part of me that's even still grateful to Carol for taking my call. She didn't have to take my call and talk to some young graduate student who had some evolutionary idea that wasn't in her wheelhouse specifically, and yet she did. And for a while, she was a good collaborator.
Hoping for Collaboration but Realizing Conflict (02:22:43)
So well, can I have to proceed carefully here? It's a complicated topic. So she took the call and you're kind of saying that she basically erased credit pretending you didn't exist in some kind of in a certain sense. Let me phrase it this way. As a research scientist at MIT, I've had, especially just part of a large set of collaborations, I've had a lot of students come to me and talk to me about ideas, perhaps less interesting that what we're discussing here in the space of AI that I've been thinking about anyway. In general, with everything I'm doing with robotics, people have told me a bunch of ideas that I'm already thinking about. The point is taking that idea, see, this is different because the idea has more power in the space that we're talking about here in robotics. It's like your idea means shit until you build it. So the engineering world is a little different. But there's a kind of sense that I probably forgot a lot of brilliant ideas that have been told to me. Do you think she pretended you don't exist? Do you think she was so busy that she kind of forgot that she has the stream of brilliant people around her that there's a bunch of ideas that are swimming in the air? And you just kind of forget people that are a little bit on the periphery, on the idea generation, or is it some mix of both? It's not a mix of both. I know that because we corresponded. She put a graduate student on this work. He emailed me excitedly when the results came in. So there was no ambiguity about what had happened. What's more, when I went to publish my work, I actually sent it to Carol in order to get her feedback because I wanted to be a good collaborator to her. And she absolutely panned it, made many critiques that were not valid. But it was clear at that point that she became an antagonist. And none of this adds that she couldn't possibly have forgotten the conversation. I believe I even sent her tissues at some point, in part, not related to this project. But as a favor, she was doing another project that involved telomeres and she needed samples that I could get ahold of because of the museum of zoology that I was in. So this was not a one-off conversation. I certainly know that those sorts of things can happen, but that's not what happened here. This was a relationship that existed and then was suddenly cut short at the point that she published her paper by surprise without saying where the hypothesis had come from and began to be a opposing force to my work. Is there, there's a bunch of trajectories you could have taken through life. Do you think about the trajectory of being a researcher, of then going to war in the space of ideas, of publishing further papers along this line?
Different Trajectories through Science (02:25:55)
I mean, that's often the dynamic of that fascinating space is you have a junior researcher with brilliant ideas and a senior researcher that starts out as a mentor that becomes a competitor. I mean, that happens. But then the way to, it's almost an opportunity to shine is to publish a bunch more papers in this place that did too tear it apart, to dig into, like really make it a war of ideas. Did you consider that possible trajectory? I did. A couple of things to say about it. One, this work was not central for me. I took a year on the T. Lemire project because something fascinating occurred to me. I pursued it and the more I pursued it, the clearer it was. There was something there. But it wasn't the focus of my graduate work. And I didn't want to become a T. Lemire researcher. What I want to do is to be an evolutionary biologist who upgrades the toolkit of evolutionary concept so that we can see more clearly how organisms function and why. And D. Lemire's was a proof of concept. That paper was a proof of concept that the toolkit in question works. As for the need to pursue it further, I think it's kind of absurd. And you're not the first person to say maybe that was the way to go about it. But the basic point is, look, the work was good. It turned out to be highly predictive. Frankly, the model of senescence that I presented is now widely accepted. And I don't feel any misgivings at all about having spent a year on it, said my piece and moved on to other things, which frankly, I think are bigger. I think there's a lot of good to be done. And it would be a waste to get overly narrowly focused. There's so many ways through the space of science. And the most common ways is just publish a lot. It's publish a lot of papers, do these incremental work and exploring the space, kind of like ants looking for food. You're tossing out a bunch of different ideas. Some of them could be brilliant breakthrough ideas, nature. Some of them are more conference kind of publications, all those kinds of things. Did you consider that kind of path in science? Of course, I considered that. But I must say the experience of having my first encounter with the process of peer review be this story, which was frankly a debacle from one end to the other with respect to the process of publishing. It was not a very good sales pitch for trying to make a difference to publication. And I would point out part of what I ran into. And I think frankly, part of what explains Carroll's behavior is that in some parts of science, there is this dynamic where PIs parasitize their underlings. And if you're very, very good, you rise to the level where one day, instead of being parasitized, you get to parasitize others. Now, I find that scientifically despicable. And it wasn't the culture of the lab I grew up in at all, my lab. In fact, the PI, Dick Alexander, who's now gone, but who was an incredible mind and a great human being. He didn't want his graduate students working on the same topics he was on, not because it wouldn't have been useful and exciting, but because in effect, he did not want any confusion about who had done what, because he was a great mentor. And the idea was actually a great mentor is not stealing ideas. And you don't want people thinking that they are. So anyway, my point would be, I wasn't up for being parasitized. I don't like the idea that if you are very good, you get parasitized until it's your turn to parasitize others. That doesn't make sense to me. A crossing over from evolution into cellular biology may have exposed me to that. That may have been par for the course, but it doesn't make it acceptable. And I would also point out that my work falls in the realm of synthesis. My work generally takes evidence accumulated by others and places it together in order to generate hypotheses that explain sets of phenomena that are otherwise intractable. And I am not sure that that is best done with narrow publications that are read by few. And in fact, I would point to the very conspicuous example of Richard Dawkins, who I must say have learned a tremendous amount from and I greatly admire. Dawkins has almost no publication record in the sense of peer-reviewed papers in journals. What he's done instead is done synthetic work and he's published it in books which are not peer-reviewed in the same sense. And frankly, I think there's no doubting his contribution to the field. So my sense is if Richard Dawkins can illustrate that one can make contributions to the field without using journals as the primary mechanism for distributing what you've come to understand, then it's obviously a valid mechanism and it's a far better one from the point of view of accomplishing what I want to accomplish. Yeah, it's really interesting. There are of course several levels you can do the kind of synthesis and that does require a lot of both broad and deep thinking and exceptionally valuable. You could also probably, I'm working on something with Andrew Huberman now, you can also publish synthesis that's like review papers, they're exceptionally valuable for the communities. It brings the communities together, it tells a history, it tells a story where the community has been, it paints a picture of where the path lays for the future. I think it's really valuable. And Richard Dawkins is a good example of somebody that does that in book form that he kind of walks the line really interestingly. He had like somebody who like Neil deGrasse Tyson who's more like a science communicator.
Emotional And Behavioural Changes In Scientists
Synthesis in Science Publishing (02:32:26)
Richard Dawkins sometimes is a science communicator but he gets like close to the technical to where it's a little bit, it's not shying away from being really a contribution to science. No, he's made real contributions. In book form. Really fascinating. Roger Pineros, that's interesting synthesis does not, especially synthesis work, work that synthesizes ideas does not necessarily need to be peer reviewed. It's peer reviewed by peers reading it. Well, and reviewing it. That's it. It is reviewed by peers which is not synonymous with peer review. And that's the thing is people don't understand that the two things aren't the same. Peer review is an anonymous process that happens before publication in a place where there is a power dynamic. The joke of course is that peer review is actually peer preview. Your biggest competitors get to see your work before it sees the light of day and decide whether or not it gets published. And again, when your formative experience with the publication apparatus is the one I had with the telomere paper, there's no way that that seems like the right way to advance important ideas. And what's the harm in publishing them so that your peers have to review them in public where they actually, if they're going to disagree with you, they actually have to take the risk of saying, I don't think this is right. And here's why, right, with their name on it. I'd much rather that. It's not that I don't want my work reviewed by peers, but I want it done in the open, you know, for the same reason you don't meet with dangerous people in private. You meet at the cafe. I want the work reviewed out in public.
The Ego Drives Martyrdom (02:34:17)
Can I ask you a difficult question? Sure. There is popularity in martyrdom. There's popularity in pointing out that the emperor has no clothes. That can become a drug in itself. I've confronted this in scientific work I've done at MIT, where there are certain things that are not done well. People are not being the best version of themselves. And particular aspects of a particular field are in need of a revolution. And part of me wanted to point that out versus doing the hard work of publishing papers and doing the revolution, basically just pointing out, look, you guys are doing it wrong. And they're just walking away. Are you aware of the drug of martyrdom, of the ego involved in it that it can cloud your thinking? Probably one of the best questions I've ever been asked. So let me try to sort it out. First of all, we are all mysteries to ourself at some level. So it's possible there's stuff going on in me that I'm not aware of that's driving. But in general, I would say one of my better strengths is that I'm not especially ego driven. I have an ego. I clearly think highly of myself, but it is not driving me. I do not crave that kind of validation. I do crave certain things. I do love a good eureka moment. There is something great about it. And there's something even better about the phone calls you make next when you share it. It's pretty fun. I really like it. I also really like my subject. There's something about a walk in the forest when you have a toolkit in which you can actually look at creatures and see something deep. I like it. That drives me. And I could entertain myself for the rest of my life. If I was somehow isolated from the rest of the world, but I was in a place that was biologically interesting, hopefully I would be with people that I love and pets that I love believe it or not. But if I were in that situation and I could just go out every day and look at cool stuff and figure out what it means, I could be all right with that. So I'm not heavily driven by the ego thing as you put it. So I am completely the same except instead of the pets I would put robots. So it's not it's the eureka. It's the exploration of the subject that brings you joy and fulfillment. It's not the ego. Well, there's more to say no, I really don't think it's the ego thing. I will say I also have kind of a secondary passion for robot stuff. I've never made anything useful, but I do believe I believe I found my calling. But if this wasn't my calling, my calling would have been inventing stuff. I really I really enjoy that too. So I get what you're saying about the analogy quite quite well. As far as the martyrdom thing, I understand the drug you're talking about and I've seen it more than I felt it. I do if I'm just to be completely candid and that this question is so good, it deserves a candid answer. I do like the fight, right? I like fighting against people. I don't respect and I like winning, but I have no interest in martyrdom. One of the reasons I have no interest in martyrdom is that I'm having too good a time. I very much enjoy my life and such a good answer. I have a wonderful wife. I have amazing children. I live in a lovely place. I don't want to exit any quicker than I have to. That said, I also believe in things and a willingness to exit if that's the only way is not exactly inviting martyrdom, but it is an acceptance that fighting is dangerous and going up against powerful forces means who knows what will come of it, right? I don't have the sense that the thing is out there that used to kill inconvenient people. I don't think that's how it's done anymore. It's primarily done through destroying them reputationally, which is not something I relish the possibility of, but there's a difference between a willingness to face the hazard rather than a desire to face it because of the thrill. For me, the thrill is in fighting when I'm in the right. I think I feel that that is a worthwhile way to take what I see as the kind of brutality that is built into men and to channel it to something useful, right? If it is not channeled into something useful, we channeled into something else, so it damn well better be channeled into something useful. It's not motivated by fame and popularity, those kinds of things.
Fighting for Positivity as Optimism in Action (02:39:44)
You know what, you just make me realize that enjoying the fight, fighting the powerful and idea that you believe is right, is a kind of optimism for the human spirit. It's like we can win this. It's almost like you're turning into action into personal action, this hope for humanity by saying we can win this. That makes you feel good about the rest of humanity, that if there's people like me, then we're going to be okay. Even if you're like your ideas might be wrong or not, but if you believe they're right and you're fighting the powerful against all odds, then we're going to be okay. If I were to project, I mean, because I enjoy the fight as well, I think that's the way I, that's what brings me joy, is it's almost like it's optimism in action. Well, it's a little different for me. And again, I think, you know, I recognize you, you're familiar, your construction is familiar even if it isn't mine, right? For me, I actually expect us not to be okay, and I'm not okay with that. But what's really important, if I feel like what I've said is I don't know of any reason that it's too late. As far as I know, we could still save humanity and we could get to the fourth frontier or something akin to it. But I expect us not to, I expect us to fuck it up, right? I don't like that thought, but I've looked into the abyss and I've done my calculations and the number of ways we could not succeed are many and the number of ways that we could manage to get out of this very dangerous phase of history is small. But the thing I don't have to worry about is that I didn't do enough, right? That I was a coward, that I, you know, prioritized other things. At the end of the day, I think I will be able to say to myself, and in fact, the thing that allows me to sleep is that when I saw clearly what needed to be done, I tried to do it to the extent that it was in my power. And, you know, if we fail as I expect us to, I can't say, well, geez, that's on me. And, you know, frankly, I regard what I just said to you as something like a personality defect, right? I'm trying to free myself from the sense that this is my fault. On the other hand, my guess is that personality defect is probably good for humanity, right? It's a good one for me to have it, you know, the externalities of it are positive. So I don't feel too bad about it. Yeah, it's funny. So yeah, our perspective on the world are different, but they rhyme, like you said, because I have also looked into the abyss and it kind of smiled nervously back. So I have a more optimistic sense that we're going to win more than likely we're going to be okay. Right there with your brother. I'm hoping you're right. I'm expecting me to be right.
How Bret has become a better man because of Eric (02:43:03)
But back to Eric, he had a wonderful conversation. In that conversation, he played the big brother role and he was very happy about it. His self-congratulatory about it. I mean, can you talk to the ways in which Eric made you a better man throughout your life? Yeah, hell yeah. I mean, for one thing, you know, Eric and I are interestingly similar in some ways and radically different in some other ways. And it's often a matter of fascination to people who know us both, because almost always people meet one of us first and they sort of get used to that thing and then they meet the other and it throws the model into chaos. But I had a great advantage, which is I came second. Right? So although it was kind of a pain in the ass to be born into a world that had Eric in it because he's a force of nature, right? It was also terrifically useful because he was a very awesome older brother who made interesting mistakes, learned from them and conveyed the wisdom of what he had discovered. And that was, you know, I don't know who else ends up so lucky as to have that kind of person blazing the trail. It also probably, you know, my hypothesis for what birth order effects are is that they're actually adaptive, right? That the reason that a second born is different than a first born is that they're not born into a world with the same niches in it, right? And so the thing about Eric is he's been completely dominant in the realm of fundamental thinking, right? Like what he's fascinated by is the fundamental of fundamentals. And he's excellent at it, which meant that I was born into a world where somebody was becoming excellent in that. And for me, to be anywhere near the fundamental of fundamentals was going to be pointless, right? I was going to be playing second fiddle forever. And I think that that actually drove me to the other end of the continuum between fundamental and emergent. And so I became fascinated with biology and have been since I was three years old, right? I think Eric drove that. And I have to thank him for it because, you know, I mean, I never thought of you. So Eric drives towards the fundamental and you drive towards the emergent, the physics and the biology, right? Opposite ends of the continuum. And as Eric would be quick to point out if he was sitting here, I treat the emergent layer. I seek the fundamentals in it, which is sort of an echo of Eric's style of thinking but applied to the very far complexity. He's overpoweringly argues for the importance of physics, the fundamental of the fundamental. He's not here to defend himself. Is there an argument to be made against that or biology, the emergent, the study of the thing that emerged when the fundamental acts at the universal at the cosmic scale and builds the beautiful thing that is us is much more important. Like a psychology, biology, the systems that we're actually interacting with in this human world are much more important to understand than low level theories of quantum mechanics and general relativity. Yeah, I can't say that one is more important. I think there's probably a different timescale. I think understanding the emergent layer is more often useful, but the bang for the buck at the far fundamental layer may be much greater. So for example, the fourth frontier, I'm pretty sure it's going to have to be fusion powered. I don't think anything else will do it. But once you had fusion power, assuming we didn't just dump fusion power on the market the way we would be likely to, if it was invented usefully tomorrow. But if we had fusion power and we had a little bit more wisdom than we have, you could do an awful lot. And that's not going to come from people like me who look at dynamics. Can I argue against that, please? I think the way to unlock fusion power is through artificial intelligence. So I think most of the breakthrough ideas in the futures of science will be developed by AI systems. And I think in order to build intelligent AI systems, you have to be a scholar of the fundamental of the emergent, of biology, of the neuroscience, of the way the brain works, of intelligence, of consciousness. And those things at least directly don't have anything to do with physics. Well, you're making me a little bit sad because my addiction to the aha moment thing is incompatible with outsourcing that job. Like, I don't want to outsource that thing to the AI. Yeah, I'm a moment. You know, and actually I've seen this happen before because some of the people who trained Heather and me were phylogenetic systematists, Arnold Kluge in particular. And the problem with systematics is that to do it right when your technology is primitive, you have to be deeply embedded in the philosophical and the logical, right? Your method has to be based in the highest level of rigor. Once you can sequence genes, genes can spit so much data at you that you can overwhelm high quality work with just lots and lots and lots of automated work. And so in some sense, there's like a generation of phylogenetic systematists who are the last of the greats because what's replacing them is sequencers. So anyway, maybe you're right about the AI and I guess I'm- Makes you sad. I like figuring stuff out.
Philosophical conflicts between Bret and Eric (02:49:08)
Is there something that you disagree with Eric on? They've been trying to convince them, you fail so far, but you will eventually succeed. You know, that is a very long list. Eric and I have tensions over certain things that recur all the time. And I'm trying to think what would be the idea- In the space of science, in the space of philosophy, politics, family, love, robots. Well, all right. Let me- I'm just going to use your podcast to make a bit of cryptic war and just say there are many places in which I believe that I have butted heads with Eric over the course of decades and I have seen him move in my direction substantially over time. I mean, he might- I wouldn't battle here or there but you've been winning the war. I would not say that. It's quite possible he could say the same thing about me. And in fact, I know that it's true. There are places where he's absolutely convinced me. But in any case, I do believe it's at least, you know, it may not be a totally even fight but it's more even than some will imagine. But yeah, we have- You know, there are things I say that drive him nuts, right? Like when something, you know, like you heard me talk about the- what was it? It was the autopilot that seems to be putting a great many humans in needless medical jeopardy over the COVID-19 pandemic. And my feeling is we can say this almost for sure. Anytime you have the appearance of some captured gigantic entity that is censoring you on YouTube and, you know, handing down dictates from the who and all of that, it is sure that there will be a certain amount of collusion, right? There's going to be some embarrassing emails in some places that are going to reveal some shocking connections. And then there's going to be an awful lot of emergence that didn't involve collusion, right, in which people were doing their little part of a job and something was emerging. And you never know what the admixture is. How much are we looking at actual collusion and how much are we looking at an emergent process? But you should always walk in with the sense that it's going to be a ratio. And the question is, what is the ratio in this case? I think this drives Eric nuts because he is very focused on the people. I think he's focused on the people who have a choice and make the wrong one. And anyway, he made- The discussion of the ratio is the distraction to that. I think he takes it almost as an offense because it grants cover to people who are harming others. And I think it offends him morally. And if I had to say, I would say it alters his judgment on the matter. But anyway, certainly useful just to leave open the two possibilities and say it's a ratio, but we don't know which one. Brother to brother, do you love the guy? Hell yeah. Hell yeah. And I'd love him if he was just my brother, but he's also awesome. So I love him and I love him for who he is.
So let me ask you about, back to your book, "Hunter Gathers Guide to the 21st Century." I can't wait both of the book and the videos you do on the book. That's really exciting that there's a structured, organized way to present this. From an evolutionary biology perspective, a guide for the future. Using our past at its fundamental, the emergent way to present a picture of the future. Let me ask you about something that I think about a little bit in this modern world, which is monogamy. So I personally value monogamy. One girl, ride or die. There you go. Right or not, it's exactly it. But that said, I don't know what's the right way to approach this, but from an evolutionary biology perspective or from just looking at modern society, that seems to be an idea that's not what's the right way to put it flourishing. It is waning. It's waning. So I suppose based on your reaction, you're also a supporter of monogamy or the value of monogamy. Are you and I just delusional? What can you say about monogamy from the context of your book, from the context of evolutionary biology, from the context of being human? Yeah. I can say that I fully believe that we are actually enlightened and that although monogamy is waning, that it is not waning because there is a superior system. It is waning for predictable other reasons. So let us just say it is there is a lot of pre-trans fallacy here where people go through a phase where they recognize that actually we know a lot about the evolution of monogamy and we can tell from the fact that humans are somewhat sexually dimorphic, that there has been a lot of polygyny in human history. And in fact, most of human history was largely polygynous. But it is also the case that most of the people on earth today belong to civilizations that are at least nominally monogamous and have practiced monogamy. And that's not anti-evolutionary. What that is, is part of what I mentioned before where human beings can swap out their software program. And different mating patterns are favored in different periods of history. So I would argue that the benefit of monogamy, the primary one that drives the evolution of monogamous patterns in humans is that it brings all adults into child rearing. Now the reason that that matters is because human babies are very labor intensive in order to raise them properly. Having two parents is a huge asset and having more than two parents having an extended family also very important. But what that means is that for a population that is expanding, a monogamous mating system makes sense. It makes sense because it means that the number of offspring that can be raised is elevated. It's elevated because all potential parents are involved in parenting. Whereas if you sideline a bunch of males by having a polygynous system in which one male has many females, which is typically the way that works, what you do is you sideline all those males, which means the total amount of parental effort is lower and the population can't grow. So what I'm arguing is that you should expect to see populations that face the possibility of expansion endorse monogamy and at the point that they have reached carrying capacity, you should expect to see a polygyny break back out. And what we are seeing is a kind of false sophistication around polyamory, which will end up breaking down into polygyny, which will not be in the interest of most people. Really the only people whose interest it could be argued to be in would be the very small number of males at the top who have many partners and everybody else suffers. Is it possible to make the argument if we focus in on those males at the "top" with many female partners, is it possible to say that that's a suboptimal life, that a single partner is the optimal life?
Personal Developments And Life Philosophies
Well, it depends what you mean. I have a feeling that you and I wouldn't have to go very far to figure out that what might be evolutionarily optimal doesn't match my values as a person and I'm sure it doesn't match yours either. You know, can we try to dig into that gap between those two? Sure. I mean, we can do it very simply. Selection might favor your engaging in war against a defenseless enemy or genocide. It's not hard to figure out how that might put your genes at advantage. I don't know about you, Lex. I'm not getting involved in no genocide. It's not going to happen. I won't do it. I will do anything to avoid it. So some part of me has decided that my conscious self and the values that I hold trump my evolutionary self. And once you figure out that in some extreme case, that's true. And then you realize that that means it must be possible in many other cases and you start going through all of the things that selection would favor and you realize that a fair fraction of the time, actually, you're not up for this. You don't want to be some robot on a mission that involves genocide when necessary. You want to be your own person and accomplish things that you think are valuable. Among those are not advocating. Let's suppose you were in a position to be one of those males at the top of a political system. We both know why that would be rewarding. But we also both recognize it. Really? Yeah. Sure. Lots of sex. Yeah. Okay. What else? Lots of sex and lots of variety. So, look, every red-blooded American/Russian male could understand why that's appealing. On the other hand, it is up against an alternative, which is having a partner with whom one is bonded especially closely. Right. And so... Love. Right. Well, I don't want to straw man the polygyny position. Obviously, polygyny is complex. And there's nothing that stops a man, presumably, from loving multiple partners and from them loving him back. But in terms of, you know, if love is your thing, there's a question about, okay, what is the quality of love if it is divided over multiple partners? Right. And what is the net consequence for love in a society when multiple people will be frozen out for every individual male, in this case, who has it? And what I would argue is, and you know, this is weird to even talk about, but this is partially me just talking from personal experience, I think there actually is a monogamy program in us. And it's not automatic. But if you take it seriously, you can find it and frankly, marriage, and it doesn't have to be marriage, but whatever it is that results in the lifelong bond by the partner has gotten a very bad rap. You know, it's the butt of too many jokes. But the truth is, it's hugely rewarding. It's not easy. But if you know that you're looking for something, right, if you know that the objective actually exists and it's not some utopian fantasy that can't be found, if you know that there's some real world, you know, warts and all version of it, then you might actually think, Hey, that is something I want and you might pursue it. And my guess is you'd be very happy when you find it. Yeah, I think there is getting to the fundamentals of the emergent.
Monogamy by choice (03:00:36)
I feel like there is some kind of physics of love. So one, there's a conservation thing going on. So if you have like many partners, yeah, in theory, you should be able to love all of them deeply. But it seems like in reality that love gets split. Yep. Now there's another law that's interesting in terms of monogamy. I don't know if it's the physics level, but if you are in a monogamous relationship by choice, and almost this in slight rebellion to social norms, that's much more powerful. Like if you choose that one partnership, that's also more powerful. If you if like everybody's in a monogamy, there's this pressure to be married and this pressure society, that's different, because that's almost like a constraint on your freedom that is enforced by something other than your own ideals. It's by somebody else. When you yourself choose to, I guess, create these constraints that enriches that love. So there's some kind of love function, like e equals m c squared, but for love that I feel like if you have less partners and is done by choice, they can maximize that. And that love can transcend the biology, transcend the evolutionary biology forces that have to do much more with survival and all those kinds of things. It can transcend to take us to to to a richer experience, which we have the luxury of having exploring of happiness, of of joy of fulfillment, all those kinds of things totally agree with us. And there's no question that by choice, when there are other choices, imbues it with meaning that it might not otherwise have. I would also say, you know, I'm I'm really struck by and I have a hard time not feeling terrible sadness over what younger people are coming to think about this topic. I think they're missing something so important and so hard to phrase that and they don't even know that they're missing it. They might know that they're unhappy, but they don't understand what it is they're even looking for because nobody's really been honest with them about what their choices are. And I have to say, if I was a young person or if I was advising a young person, which I used to do again, a million years ago when I was a college professor four years ago, but I used to, you know, talk to students. I knew my students really well and they would ask questions about this and they were always curious because Heather and I seem to have a good relationship and many of them knew both of us. So they would talk to us about this. If I was advising somebody, I would say, do not bypass the possibility that what you are supposed to do is find somebody worthy, somebody who can handle it, somebody who you are compatible with and that you don't have to be perfectly compatible. It's not about dating until you find the one. It's about finding somebody who's underlying values and viewpoint are complimentary to yours, sufficient that you fall in love. If you find that person opt out together, get out of this damn system that's telling you what's sophisticated to think about love and romance and sex, ignore it together. Right? That's the key and I believe you'll end up laughing in the end. If you do it, you'll discover, wow, that's a hellscape that I opted out of and this thing I opted into complicated, difficult, worth it. Nothing that's worth it is ever not difficult. So we should even just skip the whole statement about difficult. Yeah. All right. I just, I want to be honest. It's not like, oh, it's, you know, it's nonstop joy. No, it's fricking complex, but worth it. No question in my mind. Is there advice outside of love that you can give to young people? You were a million years ago, a professor. Is there advice you can give to young people, high schoolers, college students about career, about life?
Advice to young people (03:04:51)
Yeah, but it's not, they're not going to like it because it's not easy to operationalize. So, and this was a problem when I was a college professor, two people would ask me what they should do. Should they go to graduate school? I had almost nothing useful to say because the job market and the market of, you know, pre job training and all of that, these things are all so distorted and corrupt that I didn't want to point anybody to anything. All right, because it's all broken. And I would tell them that. But I would say that results in a kind of meta level advice that I do think is useful. You don't know what's coming. You don't know where the opportunities will be. You should invest in tools rather than knowledge, right? To the extent that you can do things, you can repurpose that no matter what the future brings to the extent that, you know, if you as a robot guy, right, you've got the skills of a robot guy. Now, if civilization failed and the stuff of robot building disappeared with it, you'd still have the mind of a robot guy and the mind of a robot guy can retool around all kinds of things, whether you're, you know, forced to work with, you know, fibers that are made into ropes, right? Your mechanical mind would be useful in all kinds of places. So invest in tools like that that can be easily repurposed and invest in combinations of tools, right? If civilization keeps limping along, you're going to be up against all sorts of people who have studied the things that you studied, right? If you think, hey, computer programming is really, really cool. And you pick up computer programming, guess what? You just entered a large group of people who have that skill and many of them will be better than you almost certainly. On the other hand, if you combine that with something else that's very rarely combined with it, if you have, I don't know if it's carpentry and computer programming, if you take combinations of things that are even if they're both common, but they're not commonly found together, then those combinations create a rarefied space where you inhabit it. And even if the things don't even really touch, but nonetheless, they create a mind in which the two things are live and you can move back and forth between them and, you know, step out of your own perspective by moving from one to the other, that will increase what you can see and the quality of your tools. And so anyway, that isn't useful advice. It doesn't tell you whether you should go to graduate school or not, but it does tell you the one thing we can say for certain about the future is that it's uncertain and so prepare for it. And like you said, there's cool things to be discovered in the intersection of fields and ideas. And I would look at grad school that way, actually, if you do go, or I see, I mean, this is such a like every course in grad school on a grad too, it was like this little journey that you're on that explores a particular field. And it's not immediately obvious how useful it is, but it allows you to discover intersections between that thing and some other thing. So you're bringing to the table this, these pieces of knowledge, some of which when intersected might create a niche that's completely novel, unique and will bring you joy. I have that, I mean, I took a huge number of courses in theoretical computer science. Most of them seem useless, but they totally changed the way I see the world in ways that are, I'm not prepared or is a little bit difficult to kind of make explicit, but taken together, they've allowed me to see, for example, the world of robotics totally different and different from many of my colleagues and friends and so on. And I think that's a good way to see if you go to grad school was as opportunity to explore intersections of fields, even if the individual fields seem useless. Yeah, and useless doesn't mean useless, right? Useless means not directly applicable, but a good useless course can be the best one you ever took.
Useful uselesness, Good professor (03:09:09)
Yeah, I took James Joyce, a course on James Joyce, and that was truly useless. Well, I took immunobiology in the medical school when I was at Penn as, I guess I would have been a freshman or a sophomore. I wasn't supposed to be in this class. It blew my goddamn mind, and it still does, right? I mean, we had this, I don't even know who it was, but we had this great professor who was like highly placed in the world of immunobiology. You know, the course is called immunobiology, not immunology, immunobiology. It had the right focus. And as I recall it, the professor stood sideways to the chalkboard, staring off into space, literally stroking his beard with this bemused look on his face through the entire lecture. And you know, you had all these medical students who were so furiously writing notes that I don't even think they were noticing the person delivering this thing. But, you know, I got what this guy was smiling about. It was like so what he was describing, you know, adaptive immunity is so marvelous, right? That it was like almost a privilege to even be saying it to a room full of people who were listening, you know? But anyway, yeah, I took that course. And you know, lo and behold, that's going to be useful. Well, yeah, suddenly it's front and center. And wow, am I glad I took it. But anyway, yeah, useless courses are great. And actually Eric gave me one of the greater pieces of advice, at least for college that anyone's ever given, which was don't worry about the prereqs. Take it anyway, right? But now I don't even know if kids can do this now because the prereqs are now enforced by a computer. But back in the day, if you didn't mention that you didn't have the prereqs, nobody stopped you from taking the course. And what he told me, which I didn't know, was that often the advanced courses are easier in some way. The materials complex, but you know, it's not like intro bio where you're learning a thousand things at once, right? It's like focused on something. So if you dedicate yourself, you can pull it off.
What is the meaning of life? (03:11:18)
Yeah, stay with an idea for many weeks at a time. And it's ultimately rewarding and not as difficult as it looks. Yeah. Can I ask you a ridiculous question? Please. What do you think is the meaning of life? Well, I feel terrible having to give you the answer. I realize you asked the question. But if I tell you, you're going to again feel bad. I don't want to do that. But look, there's too, there can be a disappointment. And as no, it's going to be a horror, right? Because we actually know the answer to the question. Oh no. It's completely meaningless. There is nothing that we can do that escapes the heat death of the universe or whatever it is that happens at the end. And we're not going to make it there anyway. But even if you were optimistic about our ability to escape every existential hazard indefinitely, ultimately it's all for not and we know it, that said, once you stare into that abyss and then it stares back and laughs or whatever happens, right, then the question is okay. Given that, can I relax a little bit, right? And figure out, well, what would make sense if that were true, right? And I think there's something very clear to me. I think if you do all of the, you know, if I just take the values that I'm sure we share and extrapolate from them, I think the following thing is actually a moral imperative. Being a human and having opportunity is absolutely fucking awesome, right? A lot of people don't make use of the opportunity and a lot of people don't have opportunity, right? They get to be human but they're too constrained by keeping a roof over their heads to really be free. But being a free human is fantastic. And being a free human on this beautiful planet crippled as it may be is unparalleled. I mean, what could be better? How lucky are we that we get that, right? So if that's true, that it is awesome to be human and to be free, then surely it is our obligation to deliver that opportunity to as many people as we can. And how do you do that? Well, I think I know what job one is. Job one is we have to get sustainable. The way to get the maximum number of humans to have that opportunity to be both here and free is to make sure that there isn't a limit on how long we can keep doing this. That effectively requires us to reach sustainability. And then at sustainability, you could have a horror show of sustainability, right? You could have a totalitarian sustainability. That's not the objective. The objective is to liberate people. And so the question and the whole fourth frontier question, frankly, is how do you get to a sustainable and indefinitely sustainable state in which people feel liberated in which they are liberated to pursue the things that actually matter, to pursue beauty, truth, compassion, connection, all of those things that we could list as unalloyed goods. Those are the things that people should be most liberated to do in a system that really functions. And anyway, my point is, I don't know how precise that calculation is, but I'm pretty sure it's not wrong. It's accurate enough. And if it is accurate enough, then the point is okay. Well, there's no ultimate meaning, but the proximate meaning is that one. How many people can we get to have this wonderful experience that we've gotten to have, right? And there's no way that's so wrong that if I invest my life in it, that I'm making some big error for that. Life is awesome and we want to spread the awesome as much as possible. Yeah, you've started up that way, spread the awesome spread the awesome. So that's the fourth frontier. And if that fails, if the fourth frontier fails, the fifth frontier will be defined by robots and hopefully they'll learn the lessons of the mistakes that the humans made and build a better world.
Closing remarks (03:15:12)
I hope we're very happy here and that they do a better job with the place than we did. But I can't believe it took us this long to talk. As I mentioned to you before that we haven't actually spoken, I think at all, and I've always felt that we're already friends. I don't know how that works because I've listened to you podcast a lot. I've also sort of loved your brother. And so like it was like we've known each other for the longest time and I hope we can be friends and talk often again. And I hope that you get a chance to meet some of my robot friends as well and fall in love. And I'm so glad that you love robots as well. So we get to share in that love. So I can't wait for us to interact together. So we went from talking about some of the worst failures of humanity to some of the most beautiful aspects of humanity. What else can you ask for from a conversation? Thank you so much for talking to you. You know, Alex, I feel the same way towards you and I really appreciate it. This has been a lot of fun and I'm looking forward to our next one. Thanks for listening to this conversation with Brett Weinstein and thank you to Jordan Harbridge's show ExpressVPN, Magic Spoon and Forsegmatic. Check them out in the description to support this podcast. And now let me leave you with some words from Charles Darwin. Ignorance more frequently begets confidence and does knowledge. It is those who know little, not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science. Thank you for listening and hope to see you next time.