Lex Fridman: Ask Me Anything - AMA January 2021 | Lex Fridman Podcast | Transcription

Transcription for the video titled "Lex Fridman: Ask Me Anything - AMA January 2021 | Lex Fridman Podcast".


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Opening Remarks

Introduction (00:00)

The following is an AMA episode where I answer a few questions that folks asked on Patreon, YouTube, and other social networks. I'll try to do these episodes on occasion if it's of interest to anyone at all. Quick mention of our sponsors. Brooklyn and Sheets indeed hiring website, ExpressVPN, and Thayer Gun Muscle Recovery device, so the choices, sleep, employment, privacy, or muscle recovery. Choose wisely my friends, and if you wish, click the sponsor links below to get a discount and support this podcast. And now, on to the questions and the answers.

Thoughts And Perspectives On Diverse Topics

Will AGI suffer from depression? (00:43)

The question is, Lex, I'm a young man that has battled with depression. Do you think when trying to develop a human-like AI, we will reach a stumbling point where the AI themselves suffer from depression and other complex mental issues? Do you think it will be a simple fix like rewriting a piece of code or a new patch or update? Or maybe when trying to create something human-like with high fidelity, you need to leave in the possibility of the AI suffering from such complex mental issues that a human can. What are your thoughts generally and philosophically about AI suffering from depression? I think that suffering is a deep fundamental property of consciousness. I would like to probably say quite a bit about depression. I have friends who suffer from depression, but that's for another time. That's for when we talk about depression in humans. I think depression is just one flavor of suffering that is part of the human condition. I see it as a kind of dark side street on the path to intelligence. So in terms of robot suffering, if we are to create systems that are truly intelligent, in the way that they're able to interact in intelligent and deeply meaningful ways with other humans, it's going to have many of the properties, many of the characteristics of the human condition of the full human experience. I think depression is part of that. There's of course a part in us humans that longs to remove all that is cruel in this world. That's why people that believe in God, often the biggest question is of why does God allow there to be suffering in the world? There's this longing to understand why is there so much unfairness in this world. And so building on that, there's an inclination to then in our systems engineer something that is void of those things that we cannot understand why that's part of the human condition. But I think it is intricately part of the experience that is to be human. And I think if we were to build intelligence systems that are interacting with humans, there has to be in some ways properties of consciousness baked in. And if we were to have properties of consciousness baked in, we have to have the full mystery and uncertainty of the human experience, which yes, includes all the different flavors of suffering of which depression is part. I think the yang and the yang in all of its versions, the ups and downs of moods, but also the more sort of rational, intellectual interpretations of different concepts that are less sort of dramatic, all have to oscillate back and forth. I think that's where the interesting aspect of interactions happens. Just like when I have conversations in the podcast, the interesting stuff happens when there's disagreements, when there's a bit of turmoil, when there's a push and pull, when there's a changing of minds, or even just a morphing of your own opinions about something in your own thoughts, I think that's part of it. So I really do think all of that mess of humanity has to be engineered in into AI systems that are interacting with humans that are trying to create meaningful interactions with those humans. There's of course a huge amount of AI systems that are going to be more intelligent than humans, in particular tasks. Those do not need to have those properties of the human experience like suffering and all those kinds of things. But for the ones that move among this, I think unfortunately depression has to be part of the experience, so the possibility of depression has to be part of the experience. Of course I tend to focus on the positive aspects of the human experience, like love, beauty, joy, all those kinds of things, but it's the yin and the yang. They go together. They're lifelong partners, unfortunately. I think. Now, of course all of this is just hypothesis and most of my answers to all of these questions are going to be just my own thoughts, but I am thinking about all of this from an engineering perspective and maybe I'll have more to say in the future about how we actually build these kinds of things into our AI systems that interact with humans. Thanks for the great question. It's a tough one.

Love is an escape from the muck of life (05:20)

Question is Lex, I was wondering if you would be willing to talk about your immigrant experience. I myself started off as an international student studying and working in America, not from Russia, I'm from India, but there was a constant push and pull that I experienced, given my life circumstance. I would be curious to hear how you was simulated. Do you feel like you belong, et cetera? Thank you for the AMA. Okay. Your statements about do you feel like you belong hit hard for some reason? Maybe it's because late at night, maybe because I'm a bit over caffeinated. Maybe what pops the mind to focus on is the aspect of loneliness, the aspect of belonging. I think a lot of us in the early teenage years go through that process of feeling like an outsider, an outcast of different kinds. I think it hit me the hardest personally because I was a popular kid in Russia and when we moved here, I went to the opposite of being popular. All right, feeling like that, I felt like an outcast. The place I moved to in America had more of an emphasis. Maybe it's a cultural thing of emphasizing material possessions over two things that were deeply meaningful to me, which is human connection, like friendship and also knowledge, like mathematics and scientific discovery, all those kinds of things. It's just the emphasis of what was valued was different. And that for me was a catalyst to feel like a total outcast. As opposed to being this person who looks out into the world and enjoys the beauty of the world, I went to this brooding phase of, first of all, learning the English language, but starting to read books, more philosophical books. The first one I remember reading in English was the giver that sort of helped me start thinking about this world. I was so fortunate to be so in love with people for so long and have close friends in Russia that I didn't notice in my childhood how deeply alone we all are. So for me, the immigrant experience involved in a small way, at least the first realizing that hard human truth that we all are born alone, live alone, die alone. Even when we're in the arms of somebody we love, we're still somehow fundamentally alone with our thoughts, with our hopes, with our fears trapped in this conscious meat vessel between our ears. I think the immigrant experience for me was the catalyst to realizing and being terrified and also liberated by the idea that I'm alone in this world. And at the same time was the realization that this beautiful feeling I felt from the connection to other humans was this gift that took me away from this dark realization. So it's almost that love is kind of escape from the reality of life, from the muck of life. And so the journey began in that way to think about this world in this way, both the burden of being alone, coupled with the frequent escape from that feeling by being lost in the company of friends loved ones. Early on, coupled with this love of the human mind and curiosity about the human mind was the love of programming and actually building little programs and engineering systems, of course, building robots and college and so on. I think the gift of the immigrant experience of feeling like the outcast was the love of experiencing the deep connection with others, like a deep appreciation of it when it's there. I guess because it was taken away because I was ripped out of it through moving here, I got to really appreciate it and start becoming cognizant of it to where I can start looking for it and being more grateful when I do have it. And at the same time, a kind of curiosity started boiling up of the perspective on artificial intelligence systems from that kind of longing for a connection. So as opposed to looking at robots or AI systems or even just programs that accomplish a particular task, can these programs accomplish the same richness of task and richness of experience that I came to appreciate as a human being? So when I talk about kind of love, there's echoes of that in my longing of the kind of experiences I would like to create in artificial intelligence systems that was born out of the immigrant experience of the loss of child-like innocence experience of all of it combined, of starting to read books and thinking deeply about this world experience, all of that coupled in. I really think sometimes, unfortunately, the first step of deep gratitude is loss. So for me, I lost quite a bit during that time and through that loss, I was able to discover the things that I truly appreciate about life. So let me leave it at that.

What questions would you ask an alien? (11:20)

Question is, if you were able to ask an alien some questions, what would they be? This is a really good question and I find it to be actually a really good thought experiment. Let me put out some candidate questions out there and see what sticks. So first, I'll probably ask for advice for the human species as a whole for our civilization of what we might do to survive and prosper for a long time to come. Assuming the alien is from a civilization that's far older than ours or far wiser, I think there could be some really interesting clear statements about the things we're doing here on Earth that are getting us into trouble from an alien perspective. So I think that's the number one thing and maybe I'll bring up along those lines, bring up questions of great filters. Like if you look at the history of your civilization, when did you almost destroy the entirety of your species? It would be informative from a historical perspective to see. For us, it's currently what the nuclear age and the few moments in the history that could have resulted in an all out nuclear war. It'd be interesting to see if they mentioned something about AGI, something about viruses or wars or just things that we don't even think about. So I guess question number one would be like some basic life advice. Hoping that this alien is like a novel type character who can like in a crisp, short way gives some profound advice. Second, I would probably ask, this is a very selfish conversation because it's just following along the things on top of my head that follow my curiosity. I would ask about the difference between their civilization and ours. I would ask whether they have some of these things that make us human. Like love. Like do you guys have love where you come from? Do you have death, mortality? You know, I suspect it's possible to have mortality, not even be a concept that makes any sense to an alien species that of course everybody's immortal and there might be some kind of enforced selection mechanism, like evolution in general. I would ask about consciousness, try to like tease apart the question of like this thing of subjective experience. Is this some kind of self-centered, weird, overdramatized quirk of evolution that we have that's not actually special at all? And then we make a kind of big deal about it that's some kind of useful feature of our brain to think of ourselves as individuals that's completely silly. It would be interesting to try to tease apart whether they have consciousness and what form their intelligence takes that is distinct from consciousness in the way that we think of humans as being conscious entities that are also able to do intelligent things. Are those intricately connected? Are those separate? It'd be interesting to sort of tease that apart of how their alien minds work. So that includes intelligence, consciousness, love and death, all the greatest hits. Okay, then I'll probably go to physics. Of course you got to ask about physics. I would look into the aliens eyes if they have eyes and try to determine if we can actually even find the same language of mathematics or physics of sciences. In general, we'll probably ask about the big mysteries of physics and science of what's outside our universe. Why is there something rather than nothing? Why is there stuff? And what's outside the stuff we think of as stuff? So like what's outside the universe? I'd be hesitant to ask the why questions, but I'll try a few out to see maybe there is a good answer to the why questions of like why did it start? Like why is there something rather than nothing? Then I would probably ask slightly more detail about what's the universe made of? Like what's up with this dark matter and dark energy stuff? Like what are the basic building blocks of reality? And what are the laws of physics that govern that reality? So I would of course ask kind of sneak in there just like casually. And you maybe give a few hints of how to unify. First of all, we're in the right track in terms of quantum mechanics and general relativity. And then how do you unify all the laws of physics? Maybe sneak in there in a different angle trying to ask about the singularity in the black hole or maybe what happens at the very beginning of the Big Bang. Like worry those laws are all unified. Maybe trying to get a sense of what are the kind of physics required to fully describe these events. I think the physics discussion would be a good time to ask is there a God? Maybe not use the G word, but instead say is there a kind of a centralized designer or team of designers that have like launched the universe and are actively managing the universe. And of course another version of asking that I would probably talk about the simulation of looking at the universe as we see it as a computation, as a computer that's doing information processing. See if that rings a bell to the alien. If there's a connection to that in general would ask about what kind of computers you have and also kind of computer games that'd be really useful. Like what do you do for fun? You come here often, but that's like usual ice breakers. Of course I'm not mentioning those. It's just like chatter at the bar. So I guess outside the big physics questions I would ask the more engineering centric questions. First my interest AI about super intelligence. How do we build super intelligent systems? Ones that are far more intelligent than humans. How do we travel close to the speed of light or faster than the speed of light? Like how do the aliens get to where we're at that we're meeting and talking? That would be a question of energy. How do we harness the energy of a sun or multiple suns or all of the suns in our galaxy? And then also kind of an engineering question. Can we travel through time? And if we can, how do we build a time traveling machine? And is it a good idea? I think a lot of these questions will be appended with a sort of caveat of like if you know the answer to this question, will I be better off if you told me this answer? Sometimes knowledge is not power. Sometimes knowledge is a burden that leads to self destruction. So we want to be careful about that. Of course as the alien gets tired of talking to me at this intergalactic bar, probably gets up sort of politely, starts walking away. I would definitely ask some questions, you know, from my own personal knowledge bank, is P equals NP? Good question. The Erectile Computer Science, one of the big questions all mathematics. I just need to know the answer. Just give me the answer, I'll work from there. Okay, we'll figure out the rest, just the answers. So yes or no. Probably we won't ask them for investment advice. It probably thinks that the whole concept of money is silly. But I might ask about Bitcoin. Good long term investment or bad? What do you think? The digital currency in general. And of course we'll probably ask is Elon Musk one of you guys or different species? Do you know which galaxy, which group of planets it came from? It'd be nice to sort of localize things. Is there others like it that visit and build companies? Just get some of the details. This AMA has suddenly become ridiculous. But I think this is a really nice thought experiment and I'll think about this a little bit more. I'm sure there is a list of really precise questions that could most efficiently unlock the mysteries before the human race. They're both useful for our progress and useful for our survival.

How to pivot careers to computer science (20:04)

Question is, what advice would you give an intermediate life stage 36 year old who wants to career pivot from medical technology and research to computer science? So first, by computer science, I think you mean the broad field that includes software engineering, machine learning, robotics, just computing in general. Maybe with less emphasis on the mathematical size like theoretical computer science. I think the best advice on this that I could give is find a simple project to get excited about and allow yourself to get really excited about it. Have fun, fall in love with it, be proud of the thing you create. And I should say there's a big emphasis on the simple. Don't go super ambitious. I believe that most people if they allow themselves can derive a huge amount of joy for creating some simple little things. Even if it's following a tutorial, if you just allow yourself to experience the joy of creation, it's there for you. That's one of the magical things about computer science is it allows you to create things that are almost like entities in their own. That's what programs are. So I think a career in computer science starts first with allowing yourself to be passionate and getting that, stoking that flame and allowing it to build. So it's not about any of the practical like which job do I get, what thing I work on is just really giving yourself over to the simple passion of creating stuff. I think there's just a quick set of steps that I think I followed early on that I would also recommend you at least consider following is first is basic software engineering. So finding maybe Python or JavaScript like super popular accessible programming language and build just like a hello world program or something just a little bit more complicated but not much more beyond that is using that newly acquired set of tools of programming. Build something that automates something you do on the computer. Maybe another way to phrase that is just like scripts that are helping you in your interaction with the computer. So maybe finding different files in your computer that you try to look for often or reorganizing things in an automated way like folder structures or maybe you've renaming files like I have a script that finds all the files that have spaces in the following and it renames them after confirmation to underscores all those kinds of things. There's a bunch of little help scripts I have all over the place and those are just really joyful because you get to use them every day and it's something that you've created that made your life a little bit easier. For me at least that's a source of joy that helps feed that like love of programming of just being a part of the computing of the computer science world and I've been doing that really my whole life. It started with C and C++ but now it's a lot of other languages primarily Python and yes JavaScript. Next is a branching into two separate little worlds in computer science of algorithms and then like data science. I think both are full of beautiful things to fall in love with. The thing you can really enjoy with algorithms is learning how to build more and more efficient algorithms. On the data side is learning how to process different data sets, how to clean them up, how to reorganize them and do different kind of statistics on them, processing on them. We're not even talking about machine learning yet. It's just being able to visualize those data sets, all those kinds of stuff. Just working with data and now we're starting to talk about a career because there's a lot of jobs that have to do with the use of computing techniques to process, visualize, interpret, aggregate, analyze data. I guess you would call that field data science. That's a really cool career trajectory and there's so many cool things to get into with I think a very reasonable small learning curve that you can really if you push yourself do within weeks, maybe months, not years. Once you become comfortable with the data science world, you can start building on top of that quite naturally doing some boilerplate machine learning, supervised learning projects and then building out into more specific, more useful, more novel, cutting edge applications of machine learning, reinforcement learning, that whole world. We even taken that into physical systems of actually building robots and as you backtrack, it sounds like I'm building towards something super complicated, but it's not. All of these can be really small projects. Even robotics projects, you can build a little robot that does some basic tasks, maybe does some basic computer vision and it's a nice way to learn on the robotic side and better systems programming. So it's just getting more comfortable with hardware and seeing like if that's something you're interested in or on the data science side where you're sticking much more to the software, both of those you now start to figure out what is the exciting career possibility. I think two things even I would even see them as skills are important here. Passion and Google. I see passion as a skill because it's allowing yourself to be excited. So it's finding things you could be excited about and allowing yourself to be excited and seeing that is an actually essential part of progress is allowing yourself to be excited. And the reason I'm actually Google is because I find that in a lot of fields, but especially in computer science with software engineering and machine learning, there's so many amazing resources out there that the key skill actually ends up being is how good are you at discovering the exact page and resources that is allowing you to take the next step in your journey of exploration of learning. And that's fundamentally a skill of how do I Google the right thing? What pages do I click on and all those kinds of things? I think it sounds almost kind of ridiculous to say that that's a skill, but that is one of the most essential skills of the modern day student lifelong student. This is how to Google. So yeah, passion and Google allow yourself to fall in love with the project and keep taking the next step, the next step, the next step with the help of a good search engine and a bit of curiosity. Question is what form factor of robots are you most excited about for the future?

What will robots look like in the future? (27:12)

Bipeds, quads, arms, humanoids, maybe something else more obscure. This is a really tough question because I really like robots. I think that love is born in software and the hardware stuff just makes it a little more fun. So I think the things I'm really excited about even in terms of form factors is in the software. I think much of the exciting developments in robotics is actually in simulated worlds currently. And I think that will be true for quite a while to come. So I think in terms of human robot interaction, the robots that will be really exciting are the ones that live in virtual worlds, like in virtual reality or even just on a screen. So I think what we would see more and more is entities, human-like entities or entities that allow us to anthropomorphize a consciousness, a spirit onto them, living in the digital world. I think that's what I'm really excited about. And of course, slowly those entities taking a form in the physical space in terms of, I think probably the humanoid form, unfortunately, they'll very difficult to engineer and create a realistic and natural, fulfilling experience with. I think it's still probably the most to me exciting form. Although I do really like Boston Dynamics Spot, the robot dog, from kind of having a pet perspective is a really exciting form. Again, very difficult to do stuff in the physical space. It's a huge engineering challenge that, as far as I can tell, several orders of magnitude more difficult than the same challenge in the digital space. So I just see the digital simulated robotics advancing much quicker and having a much larger scale impact on the world, especially if we start seeing more and more virtual worlds being created. And that doesn't necessarily mean virtual reality or augmented reality. It just means ability and mediums within which you can interact with artificial intelligence systems in the digital space. And I do see that as a form factor, which is entities in digital space having a humanoid or a semi-humanoid form, something that we can anthropomorphize, something we can connect with on a human level. One is on the topic of suffering and growth, is happiness a healthy pursuit?

Disagreement with Einstein about happiness (30:00)

Or do you agree with Einstein's view on happiness as the aspiration of a pig? Okay, let me quickly look up the Einstein quote here that you referenced about a pig in happiness. Okay, Einstein writes, "I have never looked upon ease and happiness as ends in themselves. This critical basis I call the ideal of a pigsty. The ideals that have lighted my way and time at a time have given me new courage to face life cheerfully have been kindness, beauty and truth. Without the sense of kinship with men of like mind, without the occupation with the objective world, the eternally unattainable in the field of art and scientific endeavors, life would have seemed empty to me. The trite objects of human efforts, possessions, outward success, luxury have always seemed to me contemptible." Okay, where do I start with this? I think I usually agree with Einstein, especially when he talks philosophy on most things, and I do hear as well in terms of material possessions and all those kinds of things. But I think he unfairly attacks the word happiness and also pigs. So let me disagree with Einstein and try to defend the word happiness and also maybe defend pigs. If I can somehow figure that out. The word happiness, I think is one of those words that could mean a lot of things to a lot of people. And I think in this case, Einstein is using it as almost, or the pursuit of happiness as a kind of synonym for hedonism. So kind of very narrow definition of what happiness is. I think I see happiness as an indicator that is much bigger than direct pleasures. But as a word that includes those pleasures, but also includes more meaningful deep fulfillment in life. And so I'd like to reclaim the word happiness as a good thing, which is slightly applied in this discussion that happiness is a kind of distraction that shouldn't be thought about. I do think that happiness is a side effect of a life well lived, not a goal. I think the moment it becomes a goal in itself, I think it's easy to lose your way. And perhaps that's what impart Einstein means. I do think it's a really good signal of progress. Happiness. So in losing yourself in the focus of battle, of just focusing on excellence and progress and improving and challenging yourself and growing all the time, I think a kind of running average measure of your happiness, day to day happiness, you like average that over a period of weeks and months is a good measure of how you're doing. And I think a more like actionable process of collecting that signal is the process of just gratitude of sitting back and thinking how grateful I am, how grateful you are for how it started and how it's going for the progress that you've made. So I do think it's a good signal, not momentary happiness, but over a period of time, several weeks, several months, if there's not happiness that you've probably lost your way as well. So it's a useful signal, not a goal in itself, but a useful signal. And kindness, beauty and truth, as Einstein puts it, are good ideals, but they're a bit ambiguous in practical day to day sense. I share them, of course, but I think practically, if I were to put it into words, at least for myself, struggle is the process and happiness is the measure. So day to day life actually looks like a constant struggle to improve yourself. And then the flip side of that is the gratitude of how amazing life is, the progress you've made, but also just the opportunity to struggle. You have to imagine this if it's happy. And ultimately, when I look back at my life, most days I spent truly happy to be alive. So in that sense, the pursuit of happiness is a good one. So not hedonistic in the moment, local optima of pleasure, but more like stepping back, looking at the running average over the past few weeks and months, and making sure you're at a good level. So that's a bit of a disagreement with Einstein. And I also have to say that I think pigs are one of the most intelligent animals. So I'm still holding out for the possibility that pigs or maybe dolphins have life figured out quite a bit better than us humans. So on those two things, the pursuit of happiness and on the brilliance of pigs, me and Einstein part ways for a brief moment. Question is, hey, Lux, I was curious how you pick people to come on to the podcast.

How I pick podcast guests (35:56)

I think this process is actually quite difficult and it evolved over time. So let me mention a few factors. I think first and foremost, it's important that a person is really passionate about what they do and that passion can take all kinds of different forms. I know I sometimes or all the time completely lack emotion in my face, but I truly am passionate about the things I do. And so that passion can express itself in different ways. And so coupled with that passion, I look for people who are sort of not only passionate, but they appreciate, enjoy or drawn to the long form conversation format as a way to express that passion, which is not everybody. Some people love to express their passion, their interest, their expertise, their ideas in written form. Maybe that's more kind of edited over several passes of editing versus a conversation format, especially long form conversation with their very little editing. In addition to that, I'm also trying to make sure the person actually wants to come on to this particular podcast. You know, there's so many amazing podcasts out there and it's also just surprising to see how much better they are than me at talking conversations, explaining stuff. It's humbling. It's also inspiring because it pushes me to kind of improve seeing what's possible. So I don't know. If people don't actually listen to this particular podcast, or at least have listened a little bit and are not drawn to the particular flavor of weirdness that is me, like some kid wears a suit all the time and like mumbles speak slowly, ask these weird questions. I mean, if they're not drawn to whatever the hell that weird mystery is of this particular human, then there's no reason to talk. If they're drawn, I think there's a possibility of something magical happening. Me with my weirdness and them with their weirdness kind of colliding in interesting ways that create something new that both of us are surprised by. And on that topic, more and more, I'm looking for people that are different than me. And that means the full spectrum of diversity. So it could be different backgrounds, different worldviews, different personalities. Like you can tell there'll be a clash of flavors. It's like chocolate and salt, but it can also turn out to be like a pineapple pizza that actually some people love, but I don't understand. It doesn't even, it doesn't make any sense. Why it doesn't make any sense. So it could be taking that risk of embracing that clash in the chemistry can sometimes result in a pineapple pizza. So there's a cost to that risk. But I seek it out more because I think that's the possibility of some magical experience of a magical conversation. And on that topic, as you mentioned, there's this kind of idea of platforming, which is I've been fortunate enough to have sort of enough listeners and viewers that the question of platforming even comes up. Meaning if you have this kind of guest with these kind of controversial viewpoints, why give them a platform that further spreads their viewpoints? And I understand, I empathize with this kind of view, but I don't like it because to me, if I'm successful, now that's the problem. I'm not very good at this thing, especially in challenging conversations. So, but if I'm successful, the tension in world views, the tension in personalities, the clash will create wisdom. So I really want to talk to very challenging people. I want to have really difficult conversations. And that means talking to people that are at the outskirts of society. I think it's something that I'm thinking about a lot. It's important to say that I'm not afraid of being canceled. I do think I'm afraid, or perhaps the better word is concerned, about doing a terrible job on a important, difficult conversation, where as a result of me doing a terrible job, I don't add love or knowledge or inspiration to the world, but fuel further division. Not because of the guests I have on, but because of my failure to catalyze and steer an inspiring conversation. I see my skill in conversation is not, I mean, I don't know how to put it nicely, but not very good. I'm striving to improve constantly. So some of the guest selection has to do with the difficulty of the conversation and how prepared I am for that level of difficulty. I think the way I think about difficult conversations is some of them might take years to prepare for, just intellectually. There's certain people and certain spaces of ideas that takes a lot of time. You have to remember that I'm just an engineer. I have a set of things that preoccupied my mind for years, and there's a lot of difficult topics that I just won't do a good job of. So part of it is I have to work hard to learn more, to kind of constantly look outside the overton window to try to explore difficult ideas, and at the same time build enough sort of reputation driven freedom to take risks and make mistakes or try to inspire people in the community to allow me to allow each other, all of us to make mistakes in conversation. So it's the coupling of extreme thorough preparation and allowing yourself to make mistakes. It's like excellence and not giving a death combined. But overall, the thing I'm concerned about, and I take back the fear, I'm not afraid of it, I'm just concerned of doing a bad job of conversation. I'm not concerned of being canceled or derided or criticized after having done a reasonably good job. I'm concerned on myself, it doesn't matter if I'm canceled or not, just when I look in the mirror, when I look at the results of the conversation being a failure, something that doesn't add love to the world, but something that adds derision. And also this is the problem with words. I don't even like how I'm expressing myself currently. I really try not to have some kind of agenda or strategy going into a conversation. I really want to be fragile, open-minded, almost boarding a naive and just giving my trust to a person, even when I challenge or play devil's advocate, all those kinds of things. I really want to place trust in the mutual respect and the love that the other person gives. And I trust that they won't take advantage of that. And so some of the guest selection has to do with, do I have enough trust yet that this person won't take advantage of my open-mindedness, of my childlike curiosity, all those kinds of things. But all of this is just a giant learning experience. I do want to be careful not to let my curiosity run, or should I say too far ahead of me, where my preparation doesn't meet the level of curiosity I accept. So again, like I said, I'm willing and I'm trying to be more and more willing to take risks and make mistakes in conversations. But I'm also not letting myself off the hook in terms of the level of preparation I put. And I really hope that we give each other the freedom and our patience with each other in nuanced conversation. That's what seems to be really missing in public discourse, is this kind of patience and allowing each other to make statements that we later change our mind on and not putting that statement on us as this kind of scarlet letter that forever puts us in a bin of red or blue or some other bin. So I'm trying to navigate all of this while still being naive and open-minded as best I can.

How to stay optimistic about the future (45:32)

The question is, hey Lex, I was wondering how you managed to remain optimistic in the face of adversity when you encounter hostile people that don't want to even consider offering constructive criticism and would rather try to tear you down and force their ideology. I find pieces of hope for short periods of time and then they fade after I see the arguments surrounding whatever brought about hope to begin with. I guess to put it simply, how do you hold on to hope and optimism? Thank you for the question. There's probably a lot to be said about this, but I'll try to keep a brief and simple. I try to ignore the noise of the world, the bickering of the moment. I find that if you give yourself a chance to see how amazing people are, that those people will reveal themselves to be amazing, that you will see it, that if you give yourself a chance to see it, you will see it, I see it, and I see gratitude for how amazing things are and optimism for how much even better things could be as a kind of superpower. It makes life exciting in a way that first is just fun to live and two, from just a productivity perspective, as an engineer or anybody who creates anything, it's fuel to create. I believe that to create new things, and especially for things that others will say is not possible to create, I find that optimism is a necessary precondition to give you the energy, the fuel, the drive, the inspiration to go for months, for years, to carry the fire of belief. That's where that optimism truly is a superpower that enables that kind of perseverance. I think the most important thing is it makes life more exciting and fun, and it's a good productivity hack, it's the second thing. You also ask how, so I try to, my personal life and the influences I take in, the books I read and the people I talk to, I try to surround myself with people that are also full of optimism. In general, I'm an unapologetically a fan of a lot of people, especially sort of big thinkers, wild engineers and scientists and creators of all walks of life, people that shine in ways that surprise me or excite me. There's really thousands, to be honest, just off the top of my head, even people I talked on this podcast. Chris Latner always brings a smile to my face, one of the greatest engineers of the world. Jim Keller is from that ilk as well, though slightly different personalities, but also inspires me, makes me smile, such a deep and kind and brilliant human being. Along that line of engineers, Elon Musk, of course, also the embodiment of optimism about this world is an inspiration, and then maybe down the dimension of more wild, even George Hott's with a chaotic style of thinking that's very different than my own, but one that I find just inspiring. Of course, Joe Rogan, for me has been, for many years, a kind of example of somebody who doesn't take themselves too seriously. Like he's been for a lot of people, he has been, for me, a role model for a successful life that's not full of jealousy and kind of derision, but it's more being supportive of others, being a fan of others, all those kinds of things. I mean, on the darker side, Dan Carlin, of course, you don't often think of him as optimistic, but I truly think he's optimistic. He's just been so deeply soaking in the muck, the darkness of human history, that I think sometimes I think he talks about, come off as deeply cynical about the future of human civilization, but there's a shining optimism to him. I wasn't in my conversation with him, even though his words were saying that he's not always optimistic, I think his heart, his spirit was clearly optimistic. There's a hope for us in him, and at least to me, that's what I see, and to me that hope glows pretty bright in the stuff that he creates and the passion that he has for human history. Of course, the scientist, Stephen Wilfram, on the computer science side, I can't tell you how much I love cellular automata. Sean Carroll, the way he loves everything about physics is incredible communicator. Eric Weinstein, the way he loves everything geometrical shapes of all things, whether they're mathematical or whether they're connected to physics, just his loves for symmetry, asymmetry for topology, for the weird curvature of things in the visible dimensions of space time or the invisible ones. That's just sticking to people I've talked to on this podcast. Of course, Joshua Bach, whose flow of consciousness is full of so much brilliance, it breaks my brain anytime I try to process it. My Commodore 64 brain takes in his Pentium, I don't know what the analogy is, but it always breaks my brain. I'm especially inspired by the creations of software engineers, for example, because there's an inherent optimism to the creative process. A lot of people in the cryptocurrency space like Vitalik Buterin is a constant inspiration. It just goes on and on. And of course, the hundreds, probably thousands of dead folks from Nietzsche to Dostoyevsky, Freud, Jung, Camus, Hasei, Kerouac, everybody. I mean, I just kind of feel like I exist in this world of people that are excited about the future. And then, of course, the noise of the world that is lost in the bickering of the moment can seep in. And that's where a kind of meditation comes in. I don't fully ignore it. I think that's kind of running away from the world in a way that I don't find constructive, at least at this time in my life. I just take it in, but I don't let it linger. If there is any kind of harshness or trolling or just maybe destructive criticism, I try to pick from it pieces that I can use to grow to inspire me and let the rest go. And that's the kind of muscle you have to build. And every once in a while, just disconnect from it all and recharge the mind in a way from just simple silence of nature. The question is, what is something you changed your opinion about in the past few years?

Major topics I changed my mind on (53:15)

Thank you for everything you're doing. Love from Brussels. I love Belgium. Thank you for that question and the kind words. I changed my mind on a lot of things and I changed my mind all the time. I'm in a constant flux. I'm constantly learning. I guess my mind is the quantum mechanical system. But I can mention a few things that have been stable, big shifts in my thinking at least over the past year or two, especially related to the podcast. On the topic of psychedelics, I've always found those fascinating. What I've changed my mind over the past couple of years is a hopeful message. I think that psychedelics can actually enter the realm of science and that there's a bunch of places that are starting to conduct large-scale research studies on psychedelics. That's really exciting to me because I have a sense that that's just another perspective into the world of neuroscience that will help us understand the way the mind works and potentially how to engineer different aspects of what makes the human mind so special in our artificial intelligence systems. On the topic of social media, I've changed my mind over the past two years. I always felt that it had a bunch of complicated, bad influences on society. But they were balanced with a lot of positive effects that build community, they give people a voice, all those kinds of things. More and more, I'm starting to think that the possible set of destructive trajectories that social media can take human civilization is much wider, much more destructive than I accounted for. It's something that I worry about. In the space of existential risk of artificial intelligence that people talk about, I think my mind more and more over the past two years has been focused on social media as the greatest threat of artificial intelligence. I also think it's the greatest set of possibilities. And I want to say it's the set of trajectories is wider than I expected. The set of possible trajectories in society might go as driven by, managed by, directed by our platforms. Hence it's been something that I've been working on to see if I can help. The biggest thing I probably changed my mind on is that extraterrestrial life, intelligence, consciousness is worthy of serious scientific investigation. It's similar how I felt before about human consciousness is that we lack the tools and we're very early in our ability to explore, to understand, to engineer consciousness. And the same with extraterrestrial life. The tools are very crude in terms of the steady efforts of trying to communicate with far away civilizations, also the listening. And there's the detection and far away exoplanets and whether they're habitable and life forms on those planets. Also the hundreds of thousands of reports of UFO sightings actually getting some high resolution sensory data around that. So we're in the very early days of any of that kind of understanding. But what I've changed my mind on, rather what I've come to understand is closing my mind, closing the mind of other scientists to these fields of consciousness and extraterrestrial life, prevents us from actually discovering new things. Basically what happens when you close your mind to these fascinating, inspiring, mysterious cases of exploration, you leave the exploration of these topics to people that are not well equipped to explore them. They're just curious minds. And by the way, those curious minds are magical and they're inspiring and I'm one such curious mind. But the rigors of science, the tools of science, the funding of science can crack these wide open and give us better data, better understanding, inspire totally new ways of thinking about consciousness, about extraterrestrial life, have entire paradigm shifts of the way we approach our understanding of intelligence of life forms in general. And there's a lot of things that kind of open my eyes to this fascinating world. The David's favorite conversation of the pilot that saw the Tic Tac UFO, the was just recent a more and more conversation. But that was in 2017, I remember seeing Avi Lobe's thoughts about a more and more when it first came out and even just thinking about the Drake equation more seriously and thinking about the different possibilities built into the uncertainty of the parameters. Just open my eyes to the mystery and the wonder of the amazing universe we're in and how little we know about it. And so I've definitely kind of become much more intellectually open to the exploration of what extraterrestrial life might look like, what are the ways we might be able to communicate with it, how we might be able to understand it, what does it teach us about ourselves, and also importantly this very fascinating psychological effect of being open to these mysteries that we know very little about. What does that do to the actual productivity, the creative output of an engineering mind that opening your mind in this way to think outside of the little box of things we understand well. What does that do in terms of the things you might be able to build, the ideas that might visit you and result in you being able to build something totally new. I think all of that changed my mind about aliens. That's why I've been having conversations about extraterrestrial life. I'm of course very careful walking down this line because I am first and foremost a scientist and engineer and I want to stay in that world but I really do want to cultivate an open mind and a childlike curiosity. And I generally hope to see that in other scientists as well. That's what science is all about. I think incremental progress is essential for science but it has to be coupled to that childlike wonder about the world and an open-minded out of the box thinking the results in major paradigm shift that throw all those silly citations out the window and build totally new sciences, totally new approaches that make everything we did in the decades past meaningless or actually counterproductive. So they have to be coupled together. Incremental progress and first principles deep thinking the results in paradigm shifts.

Benefits of keto diet (01:00:45)

And what was your decision behind going on the keto diet mainly meat based and how has it helped you? So the decision or rather process of discovering the diets that work for me has to do with the fact that I wrestled the combat sports my whole life that has weight classes so you're constantly figuring out how to perform optimally physically and mentally while going to school and so on while also cutting weight. So grounded in that I've developed a fascination with different diets. I've never thought about diet as a prescriptive thing for others. I've always thought of myself as a kind of a nutritional scientist running a study of N of one. So just studying myself and not trying to extrapolate to others just understanding what makes me happy what makes me perform the best and that's where that journey took. I've tried everything. I think about 15 or more years ago I discovered the power of intermittent fasting or fasting in general and I can talk about that forever. I used to do a lot of weight lifting sort of power lifting all that kind of stuff. And in the world of like men's health or rather men's muscle and fitness kind of where you eat six, seven times a day small meals chicken and broccoli all that kind of stuff in that kind of world to realize you can eat once a day and still train two, three times that day and actually have more energy, more focus and perform better than you ever have was mind blowing. So I think fasting was the biggest like paradigm shift for me because it made me realize that I really need to study myself better, try new things all the time to allow myself the opportunity to discover something that's totally transformative of my life makes my life easier, makes my body, my mind work better, all that kind of stuff. I discovered intermittent fasting and fasting in general from the ultra endurance athletes world. And that's where also I came across the ideas of fat adapted athlete, which is this kind of idea that you can use fat as an energy source. And then quickly discovered that there is diets similar to like a keto diet that are extremely low carb that could allow you to perform well physically and mentally, all those kinds of things. I think it all sounded a little bit crazy to me. I grew up thinking low fat is good, high fat is bad. So it was always weird to eat something with fat in it and for it not to be like a cheat meal or something, but to be something that's part of the diet. So it was strange, but once I gave it a chance and did it properly with all the electrolytes and water and all those kinds of things, you can look it up. When you do it properly, it just felt great. And there was just a huge number of benefits I felt immediately and I've been doing it ever since. So let me maybe quickly comment on some pros and cons of the keto diet. And again, this is all personal experience. I don't want to extrapolate this to others, but I do encourage people to try to explore to be their own scientists of their own body. So for me, pros is the physical energy. First of all, the energy levels are more stable, but also I just feel more energized for exercise. This is both for like explosive movements, you know, heavy lifts or jiu-jitsu, grappling judo, wrestling, all those kinds of things, and also for prolonged endurance exercise. I find both a really benefit for me. I think for explosive exercise, the biggest benefit for me is the mental focus, at least the way I approach like the grappling sports, but even lifting. It's certainly very important how my body feels, but it's also important that the mind is really focused on the technique. And I find that the biggest benefit of keto combined with fasting is that my mind can achieve a greater level of stable, prolonged focus, which is useful for exercise. Funny enough for me, obviously it's really useful for work, for deep work sessions, for thinking deeply for prolonged periods of time, whether that's programming, whether that's writing, or whether that's sitting behind a sheet of paper and designing new systems. It's both the energy of mental focus and the kind of clarity. I don't know how else to put it, but there's just a cleanness to the focus that I really enjoy. Also when you acclimate to it, I find that the sort of number of hours in the day that I have a positive mood is just larger. I can be cranky sometimes, especially when I'm sleep deprived, especially when stuff is just not working. So there will always be parts of the day when I'm cranky, but it just feels, I haven't quantified it, but I'm pretty sure, sort of anecdotally speaking, that the number of hours I feel just good about the day is just grateful to be alive, is higher with keto. Other benefits are better sleep by fall sleep easier. That might have to do with just a lower volume of food. I don't know, but I enjoy naps and sleep better. There's also just in general, like small aches and pains from joints when you're exercising all that kind of stuff. It seems to be less on keto. So that's just my own personal experience. Also when you're doing fasting and keto because of the stable energy, you find that you can actually skip meals quite easily. So that gives you a nice gateway into fasting for longer periods of times, if you like. There's a lot of benefits to fasting that you could talk about, but that's for another time. But in general, it gives you this freedom to live life, to enjoy life, and not be so obsessed about food. I think that's the biggest liberating thing about keto, is that if you do the keto diet well, that food sees us to be a kind of habitual obsession that drives the progress of the day. The more of the day is spent, kind of lost in the passions and the things you love doing. I just found that when I was doing the kind of many meals a day, I would find myself thinking about food a lot. It drove the structure of the day. It influenced a lot of the things that we talk about and think about. You don't really think of it that way until it's gone. You notice with keto and fasting that you can spend really long hours of the day just doing some cool stuff that you love and food doesn't come into play in your mind and your actual activity. My personal cons of the keto diet is I enjoy eating higher volume. It gives you a feeling of fullness. I think with a keto diet is a lower volume of food in general. You're still full in terms of your body not saying you're hungry, but there's not a feeling of real fullness. Now, that's also a benefit because you just feel better, you feel lighter, less bloated, and so on. I find this is actually changing a lot, but keto used to be a little bit less socially friendly. Most of the fun foods, foods you associate with kind of just like going crazy at parties or restaurants and so on have a ton of carbs. In social settings, it had often feel like you're being restrictive and not partaking in the fun if you're doing a keto diet. I think that's changing a lot of people becoming much more accepting of it. For example, McDonald's, you can order just the beef patties for a dollar fifty as I've talked about and people don't look at you weird, at least in my experience, if you just get the burger without a bun. Another con is a keto and carnivore just doesn't sound healthy. So I usually try not to talk about it too much because it just makes me feel really good. My mind focused, my body performs well, but I don't know if I want to sort of prescribe it to others. It's definitely something I recommend you try, but I just don't feel like conclusively saying this diet is great for everybody. I certainly don't know enough to be able to say that and also it just doesn't sound right to say that. And while I've loved meat my whole life, I feel the best when I eat a lot of meat. I do think about the ethical side of veganism. It's something I'm reading about now. I'm thinking a lot about the non-going journey. Perhaps I'll have more to say, more of my mind to be changed in the future. We'll see. But for now, for many years now, I've been really enjoying a keto diet, a mix of keto and carnivore diets.

Personal Struggles And Challenges

Darkest time in my life (01:10:08)

We'll see what the future holds. What was the darkest time in your life and what did your road to recovery look like? In general, I love life, so it's difficult for me to talk about these kinds of things. But let me briefly say that I think the darkest times have been when I've put my faith in people, when I opened my heart to them. And they turned out not to be the best versions of themselves or maybe the kind of amazing people that I'd hope I thought they might be. So my heart has been broken in small ways in my life as I'm sure it has been for many people. But the fire of hope still burns bright, perhaps even brighter. You mentioned road to recovery. I think the people I mentioned, I focus on the positive moments and there always are. And just have gratitude for those. And just don't linger on the negative. I just remember the good times. That's how I recover. That's how I keep my optimism. And that's how I keep my heart open for future amazing people to take the risk. And I'm sure my heart will be broken again, perhaps many times in the future. But I think it's always worth the risk. I like the, I wrote this down, the Marcus Aurelius quote, "Love the people with whom faith brings you together and do so with all of your heart." I think that's all we can do. I hope some of these answers were at least somewhat interesting or useful. So I'll try to do it again in the future. It's currently, it's 4.21. When I started saying that sentence, it was 4.20 a.m. A good time to end as any, perhaps the best. Good night. I love you all. Thanks for listening to this AMA episode. And thank you to our sponsors, Brooklyn and Sheets, indeed hiring website, ExpressVPN, and Theragun Muscle Recovery Device. So the choice is sleep, employment, privacy, or muscle recovery. Choose wisely, my friends. And if you wish, click the sponsor links below to get a discount and to support this podcast. And now, since we talked about Einstein's thoughts about happiness and pigs, let me leave you with some words from Winston Churchill. I'm fond of pigs. Dogs look up to us, cats look down on us, pigs treat us as equals. Thank you for listening and hope to see you next time.

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