Bryan Johnson on How to Become Aware of Your Blind Spots | Impact Theory | Transcription

Transcription for the video titled "Bryan Johnson on How to Become Aware of Your Blind Spots | Impact Theory".


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Intro (00:00)

I think as a species, I think we're teenagers. I think that the decisions we make in the next 20 years, 20, 30 years, are going to have enduring consequences of the sort that previous decisions did not. We need to figure out as a species what we do with ourselves. We need to figure out how to co-evolve with AI. We need to do all this. I currently don't think as a society we have the literacy to do that. Everybody, welcome to Impact Theory. You're here my friends because you believe that human potential is nearly limitless, but you know that having potential is not the same as actually doing something with it. So our goal with this show and company is to introduce you to the people and ideas that will help you actually execute on your dreams. Today's guest is the modern American regs to riches story. He started with nothing. His dad battled with drug addiction and the family was so broke that his mother often had to make his clothes, and yet despite that, he would go on to amass nearly a billion dollars in wealth. My question is how? After spending two years in Ecuador as a Mormon missionary and seeing just how hard life could get, he returned home with a fresh perspective and a commitment to spending the rest of his life improving the lives of others. To that end, he started his first company and paid his own way through college. That early success however was quickly met with some crushing failures and the harder he worked on his businesses, the deeper he seemed to fall into depression. A depression that would threaten to take his life nearly every day for an entire decade. Always willing to do the hard things however he persevered and in 2007 believing that he saw a way to disrupt the multi-billion dollar payment processing industry, he founded BrainTree. As a solo founder and with only the money he could save himself, he grew BrainTree into a beast that was twice named to the Inc. 500 list of the fastest growing companies in America and was ultimately sold to PayPal for 800 million dollars, giving him the resources he needed to make good in his promise to build a better future. Armed with the belief that with the right tools of creation we can author any world we want, he has thrown himself into solving the grandest challenges that we face as a species. He's pledged 200 million dollars of his own money to building the tools required to expand our cognitive capabilities through his company, Colonel, and through his investment house, OS Fund, he has set out to radically extend human life by backing the scientists and inventors that aim to benefit all of humanity by rewriting the very operating system of life. So please help me in welcoming the man who was climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, climbed out of depression, become a pilot, started a family and written a children's book all while building some of the most audacious companies in the world, Brian Johnson. Thank you. Thank you for being here for me.

Deep Dive Into Thoughts And Philosophies

Thinking about life (03:00)

It is so cool to have you here. You were one of the people that was on our fantasy list because of your involvement in X-Prize and the connection to Peter. I was very aware of what you were working on. I thought it would be amazing to get you on here essentially to ask one question. How do you think? How did you go from where you started to where you are now? It's a pretty incredible bridge to cross. I guess the first time I really thought about how to think about life was when I was 21, when I returned from doing a mission in Ecuador. And it occurred to me I was making very big decisions. I went to study in school. What kind of job to get, how to spend my life? Because once you set on that trajectory, it's harder to change. And so there was one question that mattered to me among all which was, how could I create the most value of the species? It was the only question that I cared about. I didn't care about making money. I didn't care about retiring at 65. It was just that single question. And that led me on the path that I went on. But it wasn't obvious initially to me. So what I did is I looked around in the world to try to evaluate what I could find. So I could see you could go to Africa and help people who were in poverty or you could work at the United Nations Council with the students at school. But I really didn't find anything that spoke to me that was a good fit. And so I thought I'll become an entrepreneur. I'll make a whole bunch of money by the age of 30. I mean, in my mind, it was like, of course I'll do that. It just didn't occur to me. It wouldn't be possible. But it happened. I got lucky and I got to the point where I could then ask the question, what do I do? And it's been a remarkable experience. And I feel tremendously grateful to be in that position I'm in. And hopefully something useful turns out from it. You've talked a lot about assumption stacks. Well, first, what is an assumption stack? And then what was your assumption stack pre-equator and post?

Assumption stacks (04:49)

I think an assumption stack could be revealed, for example, if somebody inquires of advice. They say, please tell me, give me advice about your life. And I think of those situations, the best advice is to not give advice. Because in doing so, you convey to another person everything you've learned in your entire life. And you also include your biases, your blind spots, things that are particular to you. And so you actually do someone a disservice, I think, in many ways by giving them advice. Because you almost bury them in your information and they accept those assumptions, which gives them less of an opportunity to come up with something novel and unique in their own regard. And so I think in trying to improve how I think over the years, every time I make a given judgment, or I understand, I realize I'm thinking about a given thing. I'll ask myself why did I arrive at that particular conclusion? And what's behind it? And you can usually roll back why I like four or five times. And then for so for example, I think the best story about this is I told this a lot of brain tree is you have five monkeys in the room. And so there's a basket of bananas at this ladder. And when a monkey tries to go up the ladder to get the bananas, they're all sprayed with cold water. And so the monkeys soon learn if they go up the ladder to get the bananas, they'll go spray the cold water so they stop the behavior. So they pull out one monkey, put a new monkey in, and the new monkey's like, "Hey bananas!" So it runs up, it gets sprayed. And so soon you have this scenario where a new monkey is put in, and when it tries to run up the ladder, all the monkeys grab the monkey before it goes up to pull it so they don't get sprayed with cold water. But soon, none of the monkeys have actually been sprayed with cold water. The learned behavior is if a monkey goes up, grab before it goes up. So a new monkey comes in and they say, "Oh, why is when ye have been here for years, tell me why do you not go to the basket?" And that one monkey with that question can make the entire assumption stack of that monkey colony collapse by asking a single question. And so many of things like that are true in life. If you just ask these questions, you can just collapse entire systems. What are some questions like that that you ask coming back from Ecuador? If you could develop, do one thing in your entire life, and to create the most value of the human race, what would you do? That's a pretty powerful question. It's interesting, so you and I were talking before the camera started rolling, and in some ways we're pointing at the same thing and coming at it from very different angles, I would say, but with some of the same assumptions about belief system, belief system matters, the same thing. The example that you give the monkeys is so incredible. And I think really gets at that issue. I believe that all of the beliefs that we have that govern our world, the way that we look at it and how we proceed are malleable, changeable. Is that a thesis that you share as well? It is, 100%. So I'm trying to imagine a kid growing up somewhat impoverished.

The scarcity mindset (07:43)

Did that give you a scarcity mindset? Were you thinking like, "Oh, making money is hard?" And then what was it about that experience that was so transformative that it shakes everything? I was taught to be a responsible child, a responsible person in society. And so, for example, when my parents split, my mom was a single mother with five kids, we didn't have money. So you mentioned she made clothes for me to go to school. And when I was at school, I figured out that I could buy a daled croissant for 10 cents, if a post lunch. And so what I do, I made a deal to lunch lady where I would clean the tables and pay 10 cents and get this croissant. And then I didn't have to cash my mom's check that she'd written for $25 for my monthly fee to save for the $25 a month. So I did this for a month or two. My mom finally found out. And I think she was partly embarrassed, like my child was not eating lunch at school and everyone thinks there's something wrong with the family. But to me, that just made sense that that's the way I could contribute to my family, to save my mom $25 a month in my lunch fee at school. And I guess I've always felt that sense of responsibility, which my parents did a nice job of teaching me that. Some of the things that you're doing with your kids, it sounds really abnormal. Hey, let's start with that. But also just really incredible. You said that you started companies with your kids. And what I'm trying to get at is don't give advice, right? Because you're passing on your blind spots, your assumption stacks and all of that. And that becomes limiting in its own way. Like even if you're trying to be as expansive as possible, you are passing on those limitations. And basically at this point in my life, I essentially give advice for a living. So it's really interesting to look at this from the potential downside and the problems. And I'm always looking for, okay, how do we improve this to really impact people, especially the people I care most about, or people that are antagonistic to change. So what is it about starting a business with your kids or writing the book with your kids? Is that your way of making them think through their own problems? And the ATV example, might hint at some of this? Yeah, that's true. That's a good example. I wanted them to learn how to drive an ATV. And we were up in the canyon and I gave them 30 seconds of instruction. I said, here's the brakes, like the front brake, the back brake. Here's how you accelerate. Here are a few things you may not want to do. For example, if you get on a hill and it's too steep, you may roll. That's not desirable. That'll put you in trouble. So a few general guidelines. But it was 30 seconds of instruction. And I said, go. Like go figure out how to drive an ATV. And then when you return, I want you to tell me your thought processes. How did you assess risk? What did you do and when? How did you solve problems when they encountered? So they came back and they did that. They walked me through three minutes of their thought process and the brothers were messing with each other. Like, you like drove the hill faster. You almost ran into that tree. But I actually saw their thought processes of how they actually deconstructed their experience and how they could get knowledge from it. And to me, that was satisfactory is that they felt accountable to me to deconstruct how they thought as an exercise that has utility in itself. And I didn't say anything to them about their lessons. They just simply know that it is their opportunity to learn how to think. It's interesting. So I think a lot about the future and how rapidly it's going to come. And so we're, despite what I think we look like to the outside world right now, we view ourselves as a creative studio. So we make content. We're actually making a comic book right now that centers around what happens if AI comes faster than we think. And there's this rush of joblessness and there's an adverse reaction to that. How do we think through those problems? And so thinking about your concept of being able to author the world that we want, knowing that the future is coming at us really fast. You even likened it to like a stage five hurricane or something that's going to really hit us hard. How do you think about that? Is that something that you think a lot about? And so that you're really looking towards what new economies are going to look like and things. So how do you use what you're talking about now of experience being our most profound teachers so that we don't get the assumptions from the previous set of monkeys? But with a world that's coming so fast we can't experience it. That's right. I would say that as a society we acknowledge literacy is a high value thing. To be able to collectively read and write empowers everybody because we can communicate ideas, have debate, share knowledge. There's another form of literacy I don't think we have. That is future literacy. And so talking about your mental models and frameworks, future literacy is a mental model. And it's a way in which we try to understand the future. And it packed in that is knowing that when we think about the future we are crushed by our biases. I have this poster in the wall at work which is 188 categorized biases. Like all the things your brain does that makes it run so well. I mean for example that confirmation bias is one that people know or familiarity bias. And there are all sorts. We collapse information based upon our priorities or how we're primed. We just understanding how cognitively impaired we are as humans is a form of enlightenment. And even when you explain to somebody how these biases work, my experience has been the first thing they say is I know so many people like that. They're oblivious to the fact that they had these impairments. And then if you start deconstructing them in their thought processes and you actually open up this window and they accept it and say wow, I could actually not see the world where it really is. I maybe have these blind spots. Maybe I've got these. That's I think when enlightenment opens up. I mean Socrates of course famously said like I'm the most wise person in the world because I acknowledge I know nothing. It's a different way of saying that.

Creative Intelligence (13:45)

And I forget where we were on this question but I think that the first thing is this humility to achieve this higher level of enlightenment to understand while we are top of the food chain right now. And while we are impressive as a species, it could be the case that we are an extremely primitive form of intelligence. And that we would look back upon ourselves in 20 years from now and be a gas and say how did we deal with the world? Unbelievable. That's a bias. We just can't extend our thinking beyond what we're familiar with. A couple of things on that. So one really intriguing story that you told about your girlfriend who was composing music using AI. And you said a human musician will never surprise her the way that an AI can. What did you mean by that? When you and I have this conversation, we both come from a similar background where we grew up in the United States like we're both white. We both have their similar things that we share in common. Therefore our conversation has a certain bound of surprise. It's unlikely I'm going to say something that's going to just like shock you out of your chair because you're pretty familiar with my rough structure of intelligence. But an artificial intelligence is an entirely foreign form of intelligence. And while we try to build our values and our intelligence into that thing, it's not necessary if you just let it run that the output is going to be what we expect. And so what is interesting is the true value of AI is not that it is a task rabbit. The value of AI, it is a co-evolutionary partner that is a different form of intelligence that when we start co-evolving with it, it's going to radically change our intelligence. And that's what I think most people miss in this conversation is the whole AI conversation I think is wrong anyway. 2017 was a year of chicken little like we're all so scared about AI and it ran away. Whether we like it or not, AI is essential to our survival.

We're not yet equipped to manage the complexity of the world (15:46)

We cannot manage the complexity of the world without it. Number one, number two is going back to our biases and the challenge we have is our intelligence. If humanity were a stock, I would short it. I do not think our cognitive abilities are equal to the challenges we face. And only through this co-evolutionary approach where we can actually amplify our intelligence, we have a shot. And so going back to my girlfriend's creation of music, when she's playing with this AI and going back and forth in this co-evolutionary process, it can give her beats that she would never get from another human because it's combined all kinds of things that are foreign to us. And so it's that beauty and that co-creative process. But we have to acknowledge that, I guess it's a whole different topic, but we have to acknowledge the rate in which our artificial intelligence is improving. And no matter what someone believes, whether they think it's an exponential curve, a puncture at equilibrium where, you know, it's stepping or whether it's like straight up, it's up and to the right. And if you look at native human ability, not, we have better tools, we are flatlined. So you have one like going up and the other is like this. And so it doesn't require a ton of analysis to say there may be something we don't look into right here. It's really interesting, dude. So one, you're one of the few people that are talking about the very notion of human intelligence. You're certainly the only person that I've come across that's talking about the, that I would short it. I would short humanity if it were a stock, which I love. I think that's really fascinating.

How do we cultivate a better future? (17:17)

And the comic book that we're working on is about a guy that is reanimated. So he's cryogenically frozen long story, but he's reanimated. And the only way they can do that is by replacing the parts of his brain that were destroyed to cancer with a chip. And so he has to like, am I still human? Like what does it mean? But now he's augmentable. Now he can upgrade his intelligence. And what does that mean? What are the effects of that? And so it's really interesting to me when you marry the concept that you have about future literacy is terrifying for one reason. It is an absolute must and we don't have the ability to really accurately predict the future. And so looking at where you're putting your money into a specially kernel, it's pretty fascinating that on two levels, one that you as a person are willing to allow yourself to face something so difficult and say I'm going to take this challenge on. And then two, if you're right and you're able to do this, that notion of co-evolution. So bringing all of that together, what does our future literacy look like? What are the steps that you're trying to take at kernel that are going to help us get to a positive future? If I could, I'd like to ask you a question. Sure. If as humans we love to make plans. We did a plan to do this together. We have plans for social events. We have plans that have kids into the tire. Like we plan our entire lives out. As a species, what is our plan? Yeah. So what are the plans you've heard about that you like? Going to Mars. I think that's- And that value is? That's pretty cool. That value and monetary value or- Why is that a compelling plan for species? What I find interesting about it is the spirit of adventure. I am so inspired by people that look at grand challenges that it inspires me to dream bigger, to push harder. But it is that. It is inspiration more than I think a necessity. Now other people will tell you it's important that we become a multi-planetary species. So that something that wipes us out here can't wipe us out there. I don't put a lot of stock in that, but I get the point. Okay. Let's say we succeed. We put some people on Mars. We knock it out of the park and we get a million people on Mars. What else? Like what's our other plans? Like for the seven point, I guess eight billion of us by that point of us here, what's our plan? Beyond what you're doing, not a lot. Well, extending human life and things like that, but yeah, it's not exactly clear. So I guess the plan's eye here, the Mars is one, that we have that contemplation. Two is minimum basic income, where it's like we wave the white flag and we say like, yeah, we just can't cope anymore. We need money. And then you have the singleitarians who are like, we're just going to merge with AI in roughly 20, 30 years. And it's going to be awesome. But how we get there, we have no idea. I don't hear practical plans on how we solve the problems in front of us. Other than we just keep on grinding away the things we're doing and have these debates. That's what concerns me. And that's why I come back to future literacy is I'm not suggesting I have the answers, but what I am suggesting is that if we could develop future literacy as a mental model to think about it, we may do things differently. We may be more introspective and we may be able to start contemplating successive steps in advance.

Why privacy has a monetary value (20:36)

So I know that you've recently written an article about this, which I've had a good fortune of reading. And one of the things that I was most struck by is you talking, and for people to understand that you're going to have to lay out exactly why privacy matters so much. And that we can actually assign it a financial value, which I had never once thought of. And that you believe that privacy should be a fundamental human right. So how does privacy have a monetary value? And you're talking like serious legislation like this actually needs to happen. Why is that so important? The privacy debate that most people are familiar with is we do things online and with our phones and companies capture that information. And people say I hate that because they invaded my privacy. It makes me feel uncomfortable. Some people are like, I don't care because I get better services because I do it. And people are like, I have nothing to hide. That's like roughly what we've hovered. But I think it's actually the wrong debate. And this is the reason why. Is the sci-fi author Frederick Poll said that it's the sci-fi author's job to not identify the automobile is to predict the traffic jam. So where is the traffic jam in the continuation of our existing privacy practices? And there's a few. One is human value. The reason why we use and I have value is for three things. One is our data. That's everything about us. That's the coffee we drink. And whether we like it with almond or soy or cow milk. It's where we drive. It's our driving data. It's how we metabolize things. It's what we think. It's how we solve problems. It's where we -- it's everything about us is data. Number two is the predictive value of that data. So that's what Facebook and Google built their businesses on is they acquire data from you. And they build models to then create predictive models of you and advertisers are like, "Hey, I'm an advertiser because I know what you want." And so they create this loop where you are giving data and they're giving you nudges and you're doing the nudge and you're basically living in their algorithm, matrix-style. And the third is our cognitive abilities. And the marketplace for that would be my employer. So if I agree to be paid $50,000 a year, that employer values my entire cognitive skillset at $50,000 a year. That includes my physical -- what I can do physically, mentally, all the above. And the problem is that's our economic value as a human. We are giving most of that away for free. So you would give it to Facebook. You would give it to Google. You would give it to everyone around us. And so if you take the natural progression of what they're doing today, so Facebook can make -- if the digital advertisers make $250 a year on a person's advertising, that's peanuts. What they really want to do -- or I guess the highest potential -- is to create a digital avatar of you. So now imagine if we take this privacy out, I have a neural interface. So I think about the SOCKs, of course, I'm building neural interfaces. And now imagine they can see every thought you have. They can see how you solve problems. They see your total thought sequence. They know what you know, how you know, when you think it, how you think it, and they build it into their model. It wouldn't take -- it's not a big leap to imagine they take your data. They build a predictive algorithm, and they build an avatar of you. That is as good as being you as you are. And then in 30 minutes, they're going to make a better version of you. Now with this model we have in the US now, what they really want is your salary. So right now they make a couple bucks per user. But if you're paid $50,000 a year and they create a digital version of you, they can do your job, there's nothing stopping them and building these avatars, putting them in virtual worlds, in augmented worlds, selling them out as task rabbits. That's the value of mining the data and building intelligence. All right, so let's get really specific on this.

Whole-brain AI: the future of deep brainsim (24:31)

So are you saying -- so -- and let me back up a little bit. So your company, Colonel, right now today -- this is one of the notes I took. This technology is here. This is not a future tech. You did something with a park -- he had Parkinson's, right? Deep brain stimulation, head Parkinson's, you have him turn on and off. He's a seizures. So had him turn it on and off, and you see him lose control, and he can hardly talk, and then he gains control again just by flipping the switch on and off. So deep brain stimulation is here, it's real, you guys are doing it. Are you saying that we will actively be able to build like whole brain AI based on the firing patterns of that particular mind? So what I'm saying is, right now, if a company like Facebook demonstrated their predictive algorithms about you about everything they've acquired about you, they've already showcased it. They've showed off and they said, "We know you better than your significant other know's you." Right, they've said that. And so they've already built a predictive model of you. Now, if they acquire more data, for example, your neural interface, and they can see your thoughts, it's only a matter of time before they can actually replicate you. That's where privacy takes it. That's why my privacy needs to be a human right, because privacy is the right to own your own value. These ideas are like brand, I've just been working on them for the past couple of weeks. So they're still not as tight as I'd like them to be, but I'll try to make this concise. Three other ideas. One is the continuation of our current privacy standards could lead to the most extreme forms of inequality we've ever imagined. And the reason why is because once you get someone's bill, once you create the predictive value, that person no longer has value in society, but the algorithm people who do build enormous values. So you basically have two cast of people. You have people who can pay for privacy, they're protected, and you have people who are the predictable, who live in the matrix style algorithms, who are nudged to wherever they want to go. And so we think economic inequalities that we just today, privacy inequality is far worse in dehumanizing people in the instability-created society and the abuse that it creates for the potential. Number two is the value of data increases exponentially over time.

The Value of Data Increases Exponentially Over Time (26:49)

So imagine you had a voice recording from somebody from 1988, and you listened to the voice recording just three minutes. And you could probably determine the person's age, their gender, approximation of their education, et cetera. Just rough approximations. You take that same data set and you apply it to an algorithm developed today. Not only could it do these things with orders of magnitude more accuracy, but could also predict your mental health. Wow. How so? That's where it's headed now. You can listen to a voice recording. These algorithms were ran against Reagan's speeches. They could detect his mental illness two years before they diagnosed it. And so that's the same data set. So Reagan spoke then. That's the same data set. Now, if you take that same data set and apply better algorithms tomorrow, then what can they predict then? Can they tell if you were lying? Can they dissect your personality into 116 different classifiers? And so the point is that while people may think this is really far into the future, there's already enough data out there on you already through your videos and your writing that someone could probably create an extremely good avatar of you on how you think, how you talk, how you process information. It's already happening. It's already there. And so that's why this is urgent, the privacy becoming human right because you have to own your own value. Otherwise someone else is going to do your job. Yeah. I mean, when all the Russian bots are influencing people and all that first sort of happen, I literally had no one. What are they even talking about? But now getting a sense of that they act like real humans, they respond, they create tweets that you, once you're in a digital world, you can't tell. Exactly. That's what's really freaky. And like as somebody who creates content and engages with my community, I think about that sometimes. Like what percentage of these are real people and what percentage, like how often am I talking to a bot? It's so interesting. Have you read Matt Ridley's The Rational Optimist? No other, I think I read it. You'll disagree with it fundamentally because that basically the argument that you laid out is exactly his argument, which is, hey, we've solved things in the past. You can't look at whatever 200,000 years of human evolution, always getting better, always brighter future, and say, oh, but tomorrow is going to be different. Whereas you guys take the exact reverse approach. The thing that I find interesting and what I really want to go hard on now is it takes a really particular kind of person thinking in a really particular kind of way to make Moore's Law happen. I'll explain what I mean. So Moore's Law has been technology doubles in power and has in price every 18 months roughly. And it's been happening for whatever 50, 80 years. So what no one ever talks about in that, they make it sound like it just happens. Like, oh, if we walked away and everyone went to Mars, that Moore's Law is going back on Earth, which of course it wouldn't. Moore's Law says more about human determination than it says about just some sort of natural law. Humans decide they're going to push that hard and it just happens to take roughly that long. The moment humans stop pushing that hard, then it's going to break down. So to me, you're the reason Matt Ridley is right. And I think that you are going to solve these problems. It's going to be hard as hell. And if you weren't absolutely convinced that it was all going to go to hell in a hand basket unless you stepped in, it really would go to hell in a hand basket. But because there's something in the human psyche where there are some people, and what I'm hoping you can give us is to take what it is that makes you step up to that problem and go, this is my problem to solve and make it an infectious idea that will infect the thinking of the people watching the show. Because the more people that go, no one else is going to solve this. This is my problem. That's when it gets interesting. So how on earth did you literally, for a second, I'm going to show you what you look like from the outside.

Underprivileged Kid to Successful Entrepreneur (30:43)

You were an underprivileged kid growing up in nowhere, USA. You had no earthly right to become a successful entrepreneur. You certainly had no right to be the kid that when the guy approached you to sell the phone service went after two days. Actually, I'm going to get people to sell this for me. If this guy can give me to do it for him, why can I get people to do it for me? And then you take 48 hours, go start your own company and actually get people to do it. Never having done anything like that in the past. But you do all of those things. And you do all of those things because you understand one fundamental principle which you've already given to your viewer, which is assumption stacks. Ask the question why until they all fall away and you realize you can do what you want to do. But how do we get more people to pick up the assumption stack falls? How do we get them to pick up start their own company or whatever? It doesn't need to be that. But that they take ownership of these big problems. Like how are you going to do it with your kids? I explain these ideas to my kids and they get them before I finish the sentence. That's astonishing. They do. And I spoke to my sons high school last week and walked through all, I guess two things happened. One is the number of comments I got from the group of like, wait, what? That exists in the world and there are people who think like that and these are ideas that can be considered. I've received 25 emails and people are like, I've changed the way I think about the world based upon this conversation. And then number two is that the system they're in for schooling them is not even close to being equipped to prepare them for the future. There's such a massive disconnect between how we prepare people for the future and what they actually do. And so when people are saying, what do I do with my life? Like I'm not surprised that they're on the end of this system that they've learned how to think that way. And it's a very big problem. I guess I'm sufficiently self aware to realize that I may seem out there to a lot of people. I mean, or maybe I should say it's stronger, like I am out there and people make that observation about me. And I look at the world and I think the world is insane. I oftentimes feel like I don't understand why they think the way they think. And to me, the only thing that matters is the differentiation between finite games and infinite games. And this is an idea by James Carson, where a finite game is a game where you have a beginning and an ending. So basketball, right? And the only purpose of that game is to win. So you do whatever you have to do at a score more points to win. An infinite game is a game where all you care about is to keep on playing. We don't care who wins. They just want to keep on playing the game. And to me, when you ask yourself a question, "What do I do in life?" The only output that's sensible to me is anything that contributes to infinite games. I love life. I love playing the game of life. I don't want that to stop. So if I see something that's going to potentially stop my gameplay, I identify, like, "Hey, that thing needs to be solved." I don't know how we could be oriented any other way. What's interesting is you went through a decade of depression where you were oriented an entirely different way. How did you find your way out of that?

What Is The Process Of Rebuilding (34:22)

I was 24. I remember the day my brain broke. I remember the day I started depression. And I would lay in my bed and just want to die. I didn't want to exist. I wanted anesthesiologist to come and give me a shot. It's like my soul would just... At the time I was in a belief system where there was an afterlife. And so that wasn't possible. You couldn't get. You couldn't be gone. You were around forever, no matter what you did. And in fact, if you took your life, you would not behave in a way that this belief system rewards you. And so I was trapped in existence. And it was the worst feeling in the entire world because I had no out. But not only that, I had kids. I felt responsible for being a father. And so I was building brain tree and I had challenges at home with my significant other. And I had kids who weren't sleeping. I was sleeping myself, looking 24/7, having companies break, and all the pressure. And it just drove me into the ground to a point that I was just delirious. I mean, I was broke. And so I climbed in Mount Kilimanjaro at the tell-end of the situation. And I got sick. I got a stomach virus. And like three or four days in, I had the virus. And I was sick with altitude sickness. And I just felt terrible. Like the worst I've ever felt. And we got to base camp and we were at 15,000-something. And I had to make a decision where I was going to climb to the top the next morning. And I thought, let's do it. I'm not going to back down from this. And so I did it. And that four hours to the summit changed my life. Where the mountain became my problem. And it became a representation of my life. And I started listening to Eminem, my favorite artist. And his defiance against the problems. And anyways, I made it to the top and I just broke down and cried. And it was like, the mountain was my depression. It was my marriage. It was my belief system. And I went home and I was changed. I sold my company shortly after rain tree. I got a divorce. I left my religion. And I was back at my 21-year-old age and I said, "Who am I? Like, how do I rewrite myself from scratch? What I care about, what matters, what exists, what's true, what's not true, all that." How did you rebuild yourself? Like, what is that process of answering those questions? Everything I'm doing now is the answer. So the Mormonism, you know, it still is the best story I've ever heard anyone tell. It's like if you obey these rules, you get an unbelievably awesome afterlife. It's just like anything, you can never imagine them more. In fact, we can't even imagine it so awesome as we're told. And all you have to do is obey the rules. It's like super clean. I get that. And when that was taken away from me, it's like, well, okay, so if there's not an afterlife, or is there an afterlife, I don't know, what do I do? And that's why infinite games is the only thing that makes sense to me. Is I grew up with this idea that I could continue to play games forever. I want to play games forever. And how do you define play?

Ready? Lets Start Building The Future Together. (38:24)

Right now, this is fun. It's meaningful. I feel it deeply, right? You're enjoyable to talk to. Being on set with your team is fun. This is play. You know, when I was researching you, and you kept bringing that notion up of playing games, of finding something that you enjoy, and I just thought that's like, that's my mission in life, quite frankly, is to help people find that thing that gives them more energy than it takes that they can enjoy. And I always tell people that I live in the friction between, I really want to live forever, and thanks to people like you, I actually think I've got a shot. But I know I could have an aneurysm right now. In the middle of this episode, I could be diagnosed with cancer tomorrow. Like, I fully understand the realities that I may not. But I don't understand. When you say that you think people are crazy, when I hear people say it, like they actively want to die at some point, it literally sounds crazy to me. I don't understand. That just tells me that you don't enjoy your today. But why their answer would be to die instead of change there today, I will never understand. It reveals human cognition. The idea that if someone says they want to be immortal, or they want to live forever, I don't say that specifically, it will say that because it triggers people. I want to play. And so the frame I work with is if you say to somebody, do you want to live forever, it basically crushes the human mind. If you're like, no, I mean, I would get bored. Because all they can do is imagine the future like it is today. And one, I think that's totally false. I think that we are the most primitive form of intelligence we can imagine, and that the moment we begin opening up our cognitive expanse, there's an existence that if we knew we could get to, we would do anything in the entire world to get to. So that's one, number two, is I don't have to think about, like, a thousand years from now. All I can think about is I care about being around tomorrow. Because I got stuff to do, and I'm excited about it, and I have great relationships, and I have fun things planned for the weekend. That's all it is. And so at what point in time are you going to say, if someone says I don't want to live forever, it's like, okay, we'll do one of them tomorrow? Well, yeah, I got stuff to do. What about next Monday? Yeah, what about in 20 years? Yeah. If you walk it out, like, if you go day by day, at what point in time is something going to be like, I'm good. If their health is good, and they're taking care of in life. At what point in time you get to nine o'clock at night, you're like, all right, man, let's sign off. I'm good. I think it goes back to what that moment is. I think it goes back to a deeper underlying issue of something that you've talked more. You've used the right words to reach my soul, I will say. And that is that with the right tools, and we're living through the moment where these are really real, we can author any world we want. And I know that you have painted at your company, Harry Potter and Gandalf, the wizard with their wants to the sky, and it just is a dream. Yeah. And tell us about that. And what is world creation and what does all that mean? I did that for my children. They were their images that they identified. The point is the authors of those two epic stories, Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, started with a blank slate, and they created entire worlds that we inhabited. My thinking is people that think there's some point in the future where they want to tap out, they don't believe they can author their own life, they don't believe that they can create anything, they don't hit the problem that you hit, which is looking at. So to give people context, you held those 12 dinners over a year or two years and had the brightest minds that you could think of come in and identify what the biggest problems were that we face. And none of them said the brain. And that moment for you was a moment of action. It was a moment of, okay, well, if no one is thinking about it and I know it to be the right answer, then I have to do it. Most people don't. Even if they had the realization that nobody's looking at the problems that I really believe need to be solved, they feel powerless. Yeah.

Parenting Tips And Discussion

How to Help Kids Get a Limiting Belief System (42:48)

Is there anything? So when you go, your kids are in public school, right? Yeah. Which I found very surprising. But so your kids are in public school, you go and counter them, the breadth of parenting going on behind the scenes, I'm sure is diverse to say the least. So when you see the ones that struggle with a limiting belief system that their parents have handed to you, I remember growing up and well, my parents didn't say this, a lot of my friends parents said it. Life's a bitch and, you know, every day is just another day or life's a shit sandwich and every day is another bite. You just heard that over and over and over and they thought that was so funny. And I remember thinking, wow, that's a really dumb thing to like repeat and repeat and repeat. So do you have a way to help kids that are in a mentality like that get out? I think that the best thing is just to ask them questions, help them discover. They think that way for a certain reason. Let's go back to the ATV thing. What do you, do you think that people, parents, especially think you're a little bit crazy to let your kids try out on ATV? And like, how do you judge? So your question to them was, what was your thinking, how do you judge risk and reward? How are you judging that as a parent, who I'm sure would be beyond Cressfall and if your kid got hurt? Yeah, so my children have their friends over the house and we regularly do a lot of things. And I'm always apprehensive because I don't know what their parents think about the situation, but basically the normal boundaries we have in society bore me to death. And if I'm stuck in that system, I just can't deal with it. And because I find joy everywhere, not in a box. And that's the same with my children. And the example I think about is my daughter was planning to park and there's that, there's Mary go round is going around, this big metal thing. And she was going to run up to it and grab one of these things and is very obvious if she grabs it. It's going to like slam her into the ground because the forest far exceeds her weight. And she was with another child and they both marched forward and I saw it happening and I thought this was great. She's going to learn a really important lesson about moving objects. And there was a mom adjacent to me and her child down there and she ran and grabbed her child and pulled her away. And my daughter went up and started like touching the things and feeling it out. I was really impressed with that. You got it. Like you understand how to like roll your way into capture of motion. And that mother probably thought I was extremely irresponsible, which maybe I was. But to me that seemed sensible that she had the opportunity to learn that lesson. I know that lesson, you know that lesson. We learned it somehow and it's probably likely someone told us we probably experienced it. So I guess going back to the high school kids where the other people in life is just asking them questions. Where are you at? Why are you there? What's supporting that assumption stack and where we go if we break it all apart. How far will you let your kids deviate from the norm of go to high school, get good grades, graduate, go to college? How far we let them deviate before you nudge them back in?

Letting Your Kids Choose Their Own Path (46:12)

None. They can do whatever they want. I've told them so many times that the way in which they spend their time at school is not how I would do it. If I was running the system and that they have options in life. So I don't want them to be to think that the systems that are delivered is a foregone conclusion. The rules are changing extremely fast. So whatever they want to do, I'm just very supportive of people charging their own path. Why send them to public school? That's obviously a choice. You could certainly send them to private and build your own university if you wanted to. Is there something to gain in having to figure that out in a potentially sub-optimal system? They've got to make their own way in life. I don't give them a handout. That's interesting. Do you plan to let them inherit your wealth? I've gone through a couple of evolutions on the stop process. When I was building a brain tree, I did credit trust for them. I put some stock in there and it became worth quite a bit. They do have some money in a trust and they know that. But they also know that we have an agreement on how they deal with money and resources. We went out shopping and my son, two Saturdays ago, looked at a shirt and he said, "Dad, I really want this shirt." But I think the price points a bit too high. I think if I got this, I would be spoiled. So I'm not going to do this. Great. Let's go find something else. They understand that the moment they cross a threshold with me where they fill and title or they can somehow do something else, then it stops. And they have self-managed. And of course, they have other kids' stuff. But we have a relationship. We never fight. They're never in trouble. We get along remarkably well and we have this open dial. They know exactly how much money I have. They know they've seen my bank accounts. They know the investments. They know the deals. They know everything. So I chose a path of transparency and said, "Here's the game. Here's how I'm playing it now. You do your thing." But I believe that they need to carve their own life. And if I can be useful to them and work with them and help them think through problems, cool, I just don't think it's in their best interest for me to soften the blown life. I love that. Alright, before I ask my last question, where can these guys find you online? I wish the answer was a neural interface. Coming soon. Yeah. Yeah, I guess on the neural interface, I guess the question would be, "How would I communicate how to find my neural interface?" But yeah, Twitter is my most public interface. Just at Brian and George Johnson. With a Y, everybody with a Y. Awesome.

The Impact (49:05)

Alright, my last question, what is the impact that you want to have in the world? I think as a species, I think we're teenagers. I think that the decisions we make in the next 20 years, 20, 30 years, are going to have enduring consequences as a sort that previous decisions did not. We need to figure out as a species what we do with ourselves. We need to figure out how to co-evolve with AI. We need to figure out how the problems that could threaten our extinction won't extinct us. We need to figure out how to avoid an anarchic society. We need to figure out how to avoid a dystopic society. We need to do all this in a span of, say, a couple decades. And I currently don't think as a society we have the literacy to do that. And so what I hope is that more people will sign up to become future literate in all its various forms. And that we collectively acknowledge the importance of our time. Because I think if we don't, we are going to be blindsided. And it's going to be painful and regretful if we lose our chance. Because we can build an existence that's remarkable. Beyond anything any of us could imagine, I'm convinced of it. And I hope that enough people will rally behind that in all their different forms.

End of the Interview (50:50)

And that we have sufficient momentum to do it. So I hope I can be a part of that group. Awesome. Thank you so much for being on the show. Guys, if you take nothing else away from this interview, I hope you will take the following. Because it is the single most profound thing that you will ever find in the show. It is the most interesting thing that I've ever found in any of the human beings that I ever meet. And that is when you reach something that seems impossible, that seems daunting. But it seems important. Will you act? And in the face of that, regardless of where he started, you guys know my obsession. It does not matter where you started. It only matters who you want to become and the price you're willing to pay to get there. And this man has not only paid an extraordinary price, not only gone on to do extraordinary things. But with that, he does not retire from the world and backtrack and go away. He makes good on the promise that he said, which is he's going to dedicate his life to helping improve the lives of others. And looking at the grandest challenges that we face as a species and being willing to act in the face of that. That to me is what this infinite game is all about. Are you willing to take action? Are you willing to be the author of your own life? Are you willing to realize that you can create the tools with which we can create the world that we want to build? But you've got to be willing to face the hard things. You've got to be willing to push through the depressions, the hard times, the failures, all of that to get to the other side. And it is precious for you people that do that. It is virtually nobody that does that at the scale that this man does it. So I hope that you guys were as inspired as I was.


End of Show (52:28)

Alright, if you haven't already be sure to subscribe. And until next time my friends, be legendary. Take care. Hey everybody, thank you so much for watching and being a part of this community. If you haven't already, be sure to subscribe. You're going to get weekly videos on building a growth mindset, cultivating grit, and unlocking your full potential.

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