#1073 - Steven Pinker

Feb 4, 2018

Steven Pinker is a cognitive psychologist, linguist, and popular science author. He is Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University, and is known for his advocacy of evolutionary psychology and the computational theory of mind. His new book "Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress" will be released in February 2018.

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hello ladies and gentlemen how's everybody doing this is a special Sunday edition to the podcast and it's a special one just because Steven pinker's in town and I've always wanted to have him on the podcast always wanted to talk to him and today was the only time that he had available so we decided to do a podcast and it was awesome I really enjoyed it I got a bunch of things going on bunch of Comedy dates coming up in a week and a few days I am in Bakersfield California

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on the 15th of February and then Fresno on the 16th Santa Barbara on the 17th whoa bunch of dates coming up all of them are available at Joe Rogan dotnet forward slash tour including New Orleans and March Miami in March Orlando on the 15th 16th and 17th of March then the end of the month I'm in Nashville holla I'm at the Kings theater in Brooklyn that tickets are not on sale for that yet Charlotte

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Charlotte North Carolina on the 31st of March I got a lot of shit happening Joe Rogan dotnet forward slash tour this episode the podcast is brought to you by on it if you go to Oh and it you will be able to understand what on it is all about we are a total human optimization company we specialize in strength and conditioning equipment healthy foods snacks and supplements and healthy information there's a there's a link on the on it website

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I said how do I say that God go to on it oh and nit use the code word Rogan and you will save 10% off any and all supplements leave that in there show you how my shitty brain works I need supplements all right my guest today fantastic author psychologist brilliant human being professor at Harvard Steven Pinker

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The Joe Rogan Experience Train by day Joe Rogan podcast by night all day

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we're live first of all Steve thank you very much for doing this I really appreciate it oh thank you for having me I've been a big fan of your work for a long time and you bring up some really fascinating subjects and we were talking right before the podcast about social media and how weird it is that you got lumped in with the alt-right for a comment saying something along the lines of that you find what was the exact quote something along highly intelligent people seem to

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to which is NOT saying they're good people no that's right and I think a lot of people who are ignorant of the alt-right equate them with the the skinheads and the neo-nazis carrying the tiki torches yeah but when I was referring strictly to the alt-right from its origin in Internet discussion groups right and I you know I know some of them some of them were former students and some of them are highly intelligent and highly red so but that's not what people often think of when they think of the old right that's what I was referring

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Darcy repair people in Tech there's some people in universities to stay undercover and I was made some remarks on how to starve that movement not how to feed it but so many people jumped on it as if you were endorsing the all try it was it was the exact quote you were just so basically saying something along some there's a lot of intelligent people that are involved in this well it wasn't so much that it was also a fact that because of the various taboos in mainstream intellectual culture the the because of political

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the correctness there's certain things that are just kind of not discussable but then when people in the alt-right Discover them they feel tremendously empowered like we are now privy to the truth that the establishment can't handle you can't handle the truth and since it was never discussed in the open there are no counter-arguments to some of the most toxic interpretations and so the alt-right can run with the never having been in a forum where these things are debated and criticized put into context they take like one fact and then they draw the most extreme conclusions

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if these things were debated in the first place then you'd realize that those conclusions are not boarded so it's very common example is there are average differences between men and women and a lot of psychological traits now if that's and that's often quite taboo and intellectual circles for I think bizarre reasons I think there are people who think that somehow women's rights depend on men and women being indistinguishable typing some bad equation in the first place but as soon as you

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come across the fact that men and women on average are different you also come across the fact that men and women overlap in a lot of these traits that whatever trait you name that men on average are better at than women or vice versa there are a lot of women who are better than a lot of men or vice versa and so you can't really judge an individual from the average of their their sex also even though there are some traits where men score little better than women there's some Trace where women scored little better than men and that that's the complete picture

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the thing is that if the entire subject is out of bounds you never get to present the complete picture and some people run away with all men and women are totally different what are your thoughts on how the subject got out of bounds because it's very confusing to me that certain subjects like the differences between genders are so taboo when they seem so obvious I mean you just could go to a mall and just look at the way the men dress in the women dressing well there's some obvious distinctions here there's a history to it right

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because there were there were a lot of cockamamie theories and the 19th century and a lot of the 20th century that that men were intellectual and women were not and women were governed by their emotions and their if women thought too much it would take blood away from their ovaries in their womb and they wouldn't be fertile and then they'd be all miserable I mean really like crazy stuff and as a reaction to that in the 70s when the second wave of feminism became prominent because it became almost an article of faith that there were no differences between

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in men and women and so if you say that their differences between men and women you're sending women back to the kitchen in the nursery so this is a total non sequitur because fairness is not the same as sameness so obviously women should have equal rights to men whether or not they're caught the exact copies of men or have distinctive profile as men have a distinct profile so I think it's just a mistake to to conflate the issue of women's rights with men and women being identical but that's the way

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a it kind of shook out and it became kind of an article of faith in convene a lot of in some feminists some kind of left liberal circles that men and women have to be identical and if they aren't then means you're a Trader you to women's equality and articles of Faith are always dangerous always danger especially in that regard it's the articles of fairness or always important I mean fair being fair to each other and but being fair is also recognizing differences that's right and not assuming that any difference is a deficiency right I mean you know we're

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you're really doing an honest comparison of the differences between men and women men wouldn't come out looking so good right I know yeah I have a whole bit about that in my act when we're looking at the reaction to this though what was strange to me was how many people seemed like they wanted to jump on board and criticize you and I think a lot of it is almost like to take away some of the potential criticism of themselves like it's instant claiming of the moral High Ground virtue signaling and it's just

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it's very disappointing when you see this from intellectuals and college professors and it is it should know better I mean to be fair I did not get in too much trouble from from my peers and among professors and grad students and so on there are a couple of trolls who who ran with it but by and large the mainstream reaction was this is almost a sign of as the New York Times put it that social media is making a stupid yeah that was the article the Conqueror the name of the art title of the article and a time yeah so it was so by and large you know I came

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but okay but it was a real indication of how these mobs of outrage can corrupt any kind of intelligent discourse yeah well subtle discussions discussions that involve Nuance like complicated issues that are there are complex they require a long distort of description of the issue and I'll very

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complex sort of take on these various differences between men and women and the all tried in the left and political director these are these are long discussions mean these aren't something that you can smash into a very short sound bite and completely cover your take on things all the more reason that they shouldn't be taboo because if you can't discuss them then the only interpretation you're going to have is the simplistic one if you could bring them out in the open then you can start to have that discussion yeah I'm hoping that this is turning around

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hoping that what's happened is the outrage culture the outrage culture has become almost a parody of itself it's gotten so ridiculous that people will sort of shy away from outrage seemingly like the same reason why people are terrified of talking about the differences between men and women is because they don't want to be grouped into the people that literally are legitimately rather were sexist yeah and the you know the nineteen hundreds and

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1800s and these people that did have these terrible ideas so now we're trying to go so far away from that that we've become a little bit ridiculous and I'm hoping things I'm fellow I'm hoping it's a swing and they'll just kind of bounce back towards the middle again yeah and in fact there's some hope that that just would Eddie medium is new they'll be these excesses and it takes a while for the system to kind of re re-equilibrate have an immune response that dance down the worst of it I mean I've been on the internet a long time

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in the in the 80s when it was mainly academics and computer scientists who are on the internet they were these discussion groups this is before the World Wide Web so is all text and there's this concept of flaming yeah I don't know if the word is is way more sleep today's well it came from the there was an award given me no joke award called The Flaming asshole award oh really Randy the to the the worst insult her in these kind of intellectual discussions

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and the the the trophy wasn't supposedly and asbestos cork but from the Flaming asshole award there was the the noun of flame the adjective flame Wars the verb to Flame yeah but it did them down as people became aware of flaming as a phenomenon it in the discussion groups it was well let's not turn this into a flame war or and right Wings yeah and when people can realize that this was a thing then they could push back against it and let's hope that that happens with this social media

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yeah I hope so it was a sport in like the late 90s early 2000s it was essentially like an online sport like someone would say something about you and you don't cry all right how do I attack this early and it was it was more fun than anything and I felt like there was a very few people relatively speaking involved in discussion groups back then in terms of like the mass amount of people that are on social media now yeah it's really like everyone is in some form of sore MO

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most people are in some form of social media now whereas back then the number of people that were on message boards was so small yes a smell that's right and you're right there right there is a art form of ritual insults yeah I can Shakespeare and you know African-Americans snapping their when people realize that this is a sport then you know gets hurt it's just like you know right like martial arts it's part of the fun but the thing is that when it goes out of control and it really does attack people's reputations than you got problem we have a thing in comedy called Rose battle Yeah

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just another exam yeah absolutely and roast battle is this this great show that they do at The Comedy Store every Tuesday we're comedians will prepare insults against each other but my friend Brian Moses who hosts it at the end of everything they always hug it out all right like it's always like no this is a joke writing exercise and fun joke writing show and no one really you know when means any of this and I really mean exactly what you just lie huh

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yeah it just got me just like like like a professional boxing or Ultimate Fighting yes all the time you can their rules there's an arena yeah and when you're done is over you don't plot Revenge right but you know sometimes people can misunderstand it there's that famous press roast where Obama had some fun at the expense of Donald Trump when he was still just a reality show and you could see famously the camera zoomed in on trumpet he was not amused and no jokes his expense and there's a

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theory that one of the reasons that he plotted his presidential run was Ted was to get revenge well that's one of the things that Obama said during that roast here's one of the things that I am that you'll never be president of the United States and crazy and cheered boy history we could have turned out very differently he had made that one joke amazing isn't it well yeah apparently he had been thinking about being president for a long long time but that might might have been the straw that broke the camel's back Brock what have you done

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um when you see social media today I as a psychologist and you see this thing that people do when they can behave anonymously in the absence of social cues not in front of each other not not seeing the how the cruel things hurt each other how does that make you did you think that this is just an unnatural way of communicating well there is something the anonymity is certainly a natural and the lack of face-to-face

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contact and I think one of the big discoveries of Psychology from over the last couple of decades is that we're moral animals to the extent that we have reputations going back to Richard Dawkins is famous book The Selfish Gene what he posed the question how could niceness and generosity and cooperation evolved given that in darwinian competition you'd expect the the most aggressive the most selfish to predominate and there's an answer to that question and Dawkins worked it out

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back in 1976 based on work of other biologists which is if there's reciprocity that is if I remember the nice things that you did to me and I feel compelled to to repay them and conversely if you do something that harms me and I threaten Revenge then people can kind of settle into cooperation because we really are better off if we extend favors to each other that do a lot of good to the other in response to a

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B minor inconvenience to the self if everyone does that everyone's better off and that's only stable though if everyone has a memory for what everyone else did therefore that sets up a pressure to cultivate your reputation as someone who is trustworthy and will reciprocate and but without the reputation without the memory of who did what and and how generous and trustworthy someone is the whole thing can unravel and you get back to what people think

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of us darwinian competition named We nature red in tooth and Claw it's a bloody battle so reputation is really it's not just a matter of kind of ego or burnishing your credentials that's really what makes all cooperation niceness kindness possible and so when you have an arena in which the first of all you don't have face to face contact so you don't have the kind of evolved responses that we have two getting along namely it's it's a big

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go to insult someone to their their their face and people do it but you got to do it very carefully you take that away and it's just typing a bunch of characters at a keyboard and especially if the person doing the typing has a handle there just Anonymous then that kind of eliminate some of the constraints on Civility and generosity and maintaining a reputation as a credible cooperator I also feel that there's there's a selfishness in being nice and being generous

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because the way I describe what I think it feels good yeah feels good to be nice to people it feels good to be generous when you give someone a nice tip at a restaurant they get happy like that feels good like it's good for you too it's not just a one-way Street what kind of a benign selfishness that is the kind I mean that that is although it's not the the the irony is that it can't just really be calculating if it's really that I just do exactly as much that gets me gratitude and recognition

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then you know other people see through that right and so the IR the the Paradox is that it's kind of got to be sincere for to be credible to someone else to be most effective way to prove to someone else that you're a nice guy is to actually be a nice guy yeah because you just calculating if you just doing the bare minimum you can get away with then come since we're pretty good we're all pretty good into two psychologists we're always kind of thing did he really mean it is he just kind of kissing up as he trying to get you know Curry favors and we see through that yeah the person who actually

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actually isn't doing that calculation that we really admire and respect right the that's very unusual it's one of the reasons why we admire like look at this it completely altruistic person yeah like he's coming from Market the market place of reputations kind of selects can select for True niceness goodness yeah you got enough information enough interactions I mean here's a crude analogy so in the business world you can have Cutthroat fly-by-night businesses

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just try to squeeze everything out of the customers and then take off as soon as the the cheating is discovered you know they don't last very long they don't actually make a lot of money it's often the companies that will take back the product no questions asked even if they lose a little bit of money but they earned the Loyalty of their customers those are the companies that often do the best and stick around the longest just kind of an analogy to the way that being honorable even if you have little losses well I did a little bit more for him than he did for me but over the long run that's what makes you decide

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desirable as some of the other people want to hang out with if the reputations can spread yeah it's kind of amazing if you think about how cherished true generosity and kindness how cherish they are like it's an amazing thing like you see people that are truly kind and truly generous and we value that so much it's kind of amazing there aren't more of them because yeah such a virtue that we admire and you you if someone does behave in that manner like

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people gravitate towards them it's like it's a real trait that is attractive to people it is and there's you know there's a misunderstanding of The evolutionary explanation of the appearance of altruism in generosity misunderstanding of the message that Dawkins conveyed in that book that it predicts that we're all just kind of calculating favor traders that we do just enough to get a favor and return and

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if we don't think someone could help us in return then we just cut them off kind of a cynical view of generosity but it's actually the reason that that's not true is that as soon as the game begins you kind of get to higher and higher levels of e people cycling each other out seeing through them because it's if I have a choice between who I'm going to hang out with who's going to befriend there's one person who's going to do exactly for what for me what will help him in the long run there's someone else who's really is generous and he's really going to help me and he's not

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going to keep a long memory of who did what for whom I'm going to pick the second guy right and so he's going to actually be better off for being the better person now that I mean you can take that to an extreme and predicted means that we're all infinitely generous which of course we're not and so there's kind of a trade-off in equilibrium between not being a total sucker or not giving so much away that you just harm yourself in the long run and being the kind of person who is generous and honest enough that other

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we'll want to affiliate with them and the reality is that all of us are probably mixtures I mean we're not Cutthroat sociopaths most of us though some of us are nor are we totaled st. self-sacrificing saints were somewhere between a different people are different points in that Continuum when you look at social media and you look at this this the nastiness that's so common and obviously in some ways it's got to be connected

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the ability to be anonymous but I feel like and I thought of this more and more lately that this negativity is probably a temporary thing I feel like people are realizing that this is a natural way of communicating and that it's so relative really relatively recent in human history and such a small window I mean 1994 is essentially when people started getting online and here we are in 2018 and you're seeing people switching to flip phones

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and deleting their Facebook their it's a very common thing and almost a Chic thing to do like we're talking about it on a regular basis all man yeah I just get email I check it once a day and that's it yeah no I think that's right when they're whenever there's a new technological innovation it takes Society a while to adjust to it and if you see people got a line in 1994 with social media or even more recent than that it's more probably like those smartphones start to become ubiquitous around maybe 2011 and Facebook took off in the

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thousands but yeah I think that's right and similar things happened in when other media were introduced like there's a big panic when television came in that families would never talk to each other who they'd all be staring at the screen like zombies and you'd never have a conversation over the dinner table ever again even before that when telephones were invented it was families would never sit down together because the phone constantly be ringing and attention spans would be disrupted because the phone could ring anytime well they're similar

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conversation about books yeah actually there was yeah and about writing going back to the ancient Greeks where when writing was considered to be kind of degenerate and decadent because you know you'd let your memory go to pot you know how are people going to cultivate their memory they could just write things down and look at them that's crazy is that interesting why do you think we're always looking to dismiss some new Fantastic technology it's good part because we don't understand it

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that mean it's new and and also a lot of the adjustments that you were just talking about you know you can't really predict them beforehand a lot of what happens in a society is there like hundreds of little adjustments that people make like not spend too much time on Facebook or email and leave this platform for that platform where if you were starting from scratch and asked to imagine how it's going to play out you can't really anticipate these things it's like thousands of of adjustments that people make they

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happen when they happen with millions of people making decisions but you can't just deduce them beforehand like a logical proof and so we just don't know we know what the threat is we don't know what society's response is going to be what is this a fascinating time when it comes to social media and just human interaction because this is so new and because it's Uncharted Territory I mean I think this is one of the reasons why so many people have so many concerns about it like where's this where's this going like what's it going to do to our children we walked on the street

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everyone's just staring at their phone it really is I said this that imagine if there was a drug that came along that this drug made you only think about the drug you were you were likely more likely to get into car accidents because this drug you are more likely to sleep late cause more anxiety and and soak up immense amounts of your time with very little reward for it he would go wow kind of crazy drugs this it's robbing people of their lives that's cell phones and social media

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it does give you something I mean if you use it correctly most of the time I try to spend on social media I try to spend or most the time on my phone I try to spend off social media but reading things try to read articles and I tried it I try to in some way justify like oh I'm doing something productive on my phone but a lot of ways I'm just addicted to checking that thing yeah you got it you have to develop habits of self control and balance in life I had a student so I teach at Harvard

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and I went I'm a freshman came into my office and beginning of semester so she looked at the shelf of the books that she makes it wow Professor Pinker how do you find time to write so many books and then she looks at my office and sees all the books on my shelves and wow Professor pink ahead you have time to read so many books she passed her second he said I bet you're not on Facebook I mean maybe some good that comes out of those communities as well write out the baby with the bath by deadly yeah

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absolutely and you know I confess I mean I you know I'm on Twitter and I sometimes look at my Twitter feed and I learn it really interesting stuff from it I also say okay enough get back to work get back to reading go outside yeah see some friends spend some time with with with your family yeah I will go down Twitter whole I went down to Twitter whole yesterday about these Manu Mayan ruins at they found in Guatemala amazing yeah crazy thousands of structures swallowed up by time and they're just now realizing like oh my God this is a city yeah

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yeah that stuff's good yeah it did know absolutely faith and it's a question of are all finding the balance between getting the advantages without the disadvantages well it's just so new yeah when when you see all is so much negativity though and this is a big problem with Anonymous accounts in particular you see it in Facebook with but in Facebook there seems to be repercussions like if you're Tom Smith and Tom Smith write something horrible like Tom Smith could get fired from his job

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up for it we've seen that people write something racist or sexist or whatever and we'll see them get fired from their job because of something that they put on Facebook because your profile represents the actual you yes not Anonymous yes I feel like there's benefit to that yeah that's right there's some I mean the problem is that can also be outraged mobs yeah where someone will post something and it's taken out of context and they didn't realize what they meant it as a joke like the woman who went to take that trip to Africa and made a kind of a self-effacing comment

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about racism and people thought it was racist but she's actually making fun of races I think she was drunk and she was being racist I just like she was being funny because Camilla look I'm a comic and I have a lot of comedian friends that are not racist but they will say hilarious racist things right because it's funny yeah it's not because they're racist what was her name Justine Sacco thank you this is the yeah I hope I don't get AIDS but why LOL that's what she wrote right

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it woke up 12 hours later after his Antics and wine hangover I'm sure and her life was a living hell yeah I mean and she's still to this day is I mean Jamie knows her name and she probably is not racist if she meant it ironically she meant it yes she herself was not racist didn't she become controversial after that as well yes she was like the pr person for Draft Kings or fanned or someone they were going through some issues for years yeah DraftKings is an online gambling thing it's kind of controversial gambling on

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stuff like that yeah I just we look for people to also we're talking about this before without getting into details about who we're talking about but there are certain people that are very flawed individuals that look to find people and attack them to take away some of the spotlight on their own flaws absolutely this is a thing this is a big part of virtue signaling right like a big part of going after people and outrage mobs as long as the mob is attacking

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one else they're not attacking you that's right yeah that's right and there is there's an interesting question over history is how how do some of these are sometimes called extraordinarily extraordinary popular delusions and The Madness of crowds hmm so tulip bulb Mania and Holland in the 17th century what's that oh there's this this kind of bubble where people started to outbid each other on tulip bulbs and the you know the price of a single

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look bulb went like through the roof and then it suddenly crashed people lost fortunes because everyone was expecting everyone else to keep bidding up the price but there are how yeah they're tulip bulbs to about Mania all right nutty butter there also witch hunts where women would be accused of sinking a ship or causing a crop failure or making someone's child gets sick they're the pogroms in Europe where Jews were accused of poisoning the wells or killing Christian boys to make matzo out of their blood

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they're the lynchings in the American South where African-Americans were accused of raping a woman and based on just a rumor spreading and they be tortured and hanged there's McCarthy era there were there was the the daycare Satanic ritual abuse hmm Amelia of the 1980s where these daycare workers were accused basically by coaching kids to embellish these fantastic stories of how they were

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sexually molested and tortured and forced to take part in Satanic rituals mean all totally nonsense and people went to jail yeah so an interesting question is how do people can lose their Collective Minds it every once in a while in history and part of the answer is if you start a kind of vicious circle of denouncing people and then denouncing people who don't denounce people yes for denouncing people who call the whistle on another people denouncing people then you can

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get a kind of Circle of Terror where no one want everyone is so afraid of being denounced that they wanted to announce first stalinist Soviet Union is another example and maoist China and that's somehow some one of the ways in which dictators could often enforce their power by have is turning the citizens against each other so everyone's denouncing everyone else out of fear that they'll be denounced first that's going on right now in North Korea right absolutely yeah North Korea they have this thing where they each have to report on

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other like when people are together they report on each other for different things that they did that were violations of whatever code that they follow absolutely and so governments know how to exploit it but it isn't just governments that can happen spontaneously to it's a weird human trade isn't it is its combination of a kind of human trait on a kind of dynamic when you have kind of a network of people and they all are kind of Trapped and no one could be the first person to escape from this Vicious Circle because they don't want to be the one who is

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is denounced it imprisoned and tortured or whatever the consequence may be what do you think where do you think if you think at all about this what do you think this is all headed like especially in terms of social media and so yes it's hard to tell but I you mentioned the possibility that there's been such a growing recognition of the problem that we will mount a response that it'll just seem ridiculous the outrage mob once it's recognized that there are outraged mobs and virtual

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Fanatics once we have a label for them once we know that it's a thing it'll seem so ridiculous that people will be less tempted to do it and that's the optimistic come well there's just such a flaw in there's a real issue in writing things and one of the issues especially if you're writing about a subject where there's a lot of people involved or perhaps an even an individual is that you're the only one that's writing like if you were having a conversation with that person

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person they would be able to say something back like you'd be able to say something and they will go well that's not exactly how I was thinking actually I was looking at this way and the other person go okay so your take on it was you know and they would go back and forth exchange information hopefully come to some sort of an understanding of what's going on in each person's mind absolutely whereas you can Define someone in a tweet or in a Facebook post or a blog post you can Define someone without them having any ability to respond in the moment

► 00:36:25

so you have this whole uninterrupted chunk where you could you know talk about you know fill in the blank some celebrity or some politician or whatever and you can Define them and some really horrible nasty way and they just have to sit there and read it like it's just your thoughts but it's not an accurate method of communicating ideas with a person it's just your one uninterrupted take on things absolutely so I might my

► 00:36:55

two last book the one just before my current book Enlightenment now but the previous book was called the sense of style it was a writing manual where I began began it is I said why is so much were writing so bad how come there's so much writing where you just can't understand what the person is talking about and I mentioned some theories some people think that it's you know academics and intellectuals trying to show off how profound they are my how I'm incomprehensible they are like if people can understand it it can't be that complicated so I'm going to write

► 00:37:25

the stuff that don't understand that nothing I'm really smart that's one Theory and you know there might be some truth to it but I think that the main theory is that that writing is as you just as you described it's a one-way channel of communication it's very unnatural when we speak you and I were having a conversation we're looking each other in the eye and our eyebrows go up and they get knitted and if I say if I start to become too obscure you're going to give me a quizzical long leap terrified to see someone with that expression on their face or you can

► 00:37:55

interrupt and say well what the hell was that about yeah we writing you have none of that right and so I think part of the skill in writing what I least what I argue in the sense of style is to become a kind of enough of an intuitive psychologist that you can try to anticipate what your reader knows and what your reader doesn't know and that it because you have no way of determining that as you're writing because you're just sitting there tapping away whoever was going to read what you write there you never going to meet them it might be you know three years from now they might be halfway across the world

► 00:38:25

world and it just one way and so and there's another kind of psychological problem that we all have it's just part of being human called the the curse of knowledge namely when you know something it's really really hard to imagine what it's like not to know it you just assume that everyone knows it that your understanding is everyone's understanding and so you right away right right right and it never occurs to you that the reader doesn't know your relations or your jaw

► 00:38:55

jargon or can't visualize what you're describing it just so clear to you the writer and a lot of bad writing comes from the curse of knowledge that is right or not getting into the heads of his reader and a lot of the Cure is either to at least at least know that it's a problem and think what can I read it to be reasonably expected to know because we're not even that good at that I mean none of us are mind-readers just showing someone a draft of what you've written your often surprised at how often they'll say

► 00:39:25

I don't know what you're talking about and that's what we should force people to do a Twitter maybe should have likes a team of people that you send your Tweet to yes like a little circle of confidants well that mean that's the way it works in publishing you know you got you have an editor right eye and Academia you got peer review before it's published they send it out to other people just like you and they write a little review and you got to modify it if it doesn't make any sense right so if Justine Sacco it sent that to a team of Confidant they would want no change

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I'm sorry I'm on a plane I'm drunk yeah I'll call you from Africa well this is you know one of the big themes in my new book Enlightenment now is how is it that were simultaneously many ways getting smarter but also seem to be getting stupider why do you say so I think part of it is that none of us is individually are that smart we all and cognitive psychologists have shown that humans have all kinds of biases and

► 00:40:25

fallacies we we reason from stereotypes we assess Risk by how easy it is to imagine something so you know we're afraid of getting on a plane because it's very easy to imagine a plane crashing and plane crashes make the news we don't worry about texting while driving because there's never a headline on page one of the hundred people who died in the past week because they texted while driving so I'm there's a lot of fallacies so but the thing is we as a species have done some amazing

► 00:40:55

things I mean we discovered those Mayan buried cities and you know science is amazing and because democracies are amazing and it's because none of us solves a problem all by ourselves what part of our kind of collective brain that works by rules where all of the excesses of one person get kind of balanced out by by other people and that's why you have you know things like checks and balances in a democracy where instead of having a supreme leader who just runs the country

► 00:41:25

the way he wants he's got a worried about the legislature and the courts and the judges and you know and then an impeachment and so on and science instead of having one genius announcing the way the world Works he or she has to subject himself to peer review and get let other Sciences criticize scientist criticize him or her and whenever you get people acting intelligent way it's often because they belong to these institutions with

► 00:41:55

oils that are designed to make up for the idiocies of any individual person hmm that's fascinating I completely agree with that that makes so much sense I've also felt that there's not a lot there's not that we have difficulties obviously people have difficulties in this life or social difficulties economic difficulties but when in terms of survival difficulties it's it's way easier to get by today than it has ever been

► 00:42:25

been in human history and I wonder if human beings have a need for adversity and complexity and problem solving and all these things that are less they're less present today than ever before I think things are just almost too simple we've made it to he's we've Nerf the world and in doing so it's easier to just kind of be dull minded and drift through and follow the herd the herd is

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big and there's so many people in the heard if you just do what most the people are doing where what most of the people are wearing say the things most of the people say you'll survive and you'll survive and you'll find some other dim-witted person to breed with you make dim-witted children and I'm being dead serious I think there's a certain when you are dealing with this massive pack of humans 300-plus million on a continent there's just there's so much I've always had like if you have

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a group of people if you're being very generous and you have a hundred people in a room what are the odds that one of those people is a moron it's a hundred percent that one is going to be a moron that leaves you with three million morons in the United States of America if you're being really kind and 3 million Geniuses yes yeah well probably I'm an optimist I would like to thank you dealing with probably six million Cheney okay you know but your eye my book is is often described as a book on optimism Enlightenment now

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I have 75 graphs almost all of which show the world getting better including what some people think is the most incredible graph in the book on a phenomenon called the Flynn effect which is that believe it or not and I know most people do not IQ scores have been rising for most of the last hundred years but three points a decade now this I know it seems totally unbelievable but yeah they discovered it when Flynn a philosopher discovered it when he realized that the people who make IQ tests had to keep re norming the

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tests to keep a hundred as the average because the average kept creeping up it was like gee a hundred and ten why we keep that that's what most people score we say that the average is a hundred we got to adjust the scale downward and then realized hey wait a second they keep doing this over and over again that must mean the population is getting smarter now not biologically smarter it's not that people's brain power has somehow magically been increasing although probably a little bit of that through better nutrition better sanitation and health care and so on but a lot of it is

► 00:44:55

that a lot that ideas that used to be kind of sophisticated and restricted to professors and scientists and statisticians kind of trickle down to the population and so we things like placebo effect or trade-off or cost-benefit analysis or win-win situation all these things that actually came from pretty fancy-schmancy Theory originally but they kind of are loosed on the whole population

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Elation and they become part of everyone's conventional wisdom also we have to think more and more in abstract ways just to deal with things like a subway map and a smartphone watching TV he used to be turn on the knob and your DVD on now you got to kind of program the bloody thing so the demands of Life have become more sophisticated and ideas spread more quickly and so we are quite literally getting smarter up to a point things that can't go on forever don't

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and the Flynn effect is starting to level off but there has been this this this drift upward in intelligence I don't think that's surprising at all I think if you look at the amount of information that people are subject to today and just the sheer raw data I mean there's a lot of the data is just nonsense and Twitter and that what is the quote that we produce more content in two days than an entire human history every two days - crazy like that is that right it sounds so seamless

► 00:46:25

gong sounds plausible but most of it is like a LOL I just went to the mall you know this is a lot of nonsense in there right but the sheer amount of interesting information like those newly discovered Mayan ruins and Guatemala and things along those lines or you know some there was some interesting new information on the history of human beings because they found some new teeth and some that throwback the the date of modern humans Nikita

► 00:46:55

in that bag which the point is we're constantly getting more information more data more things to think about and I've just got to assume that the amount of information that comes to a person in 2018 is just a vastly larger than the amount that came to them in 1978 absolutely and there are as idiotic as a lot of public debate is today there's a lot of idiocy in the past to sure I mean in the news recently the 1960s is that that movie on the first

► 00:47:25

interracial couple in Virginia where there's a court a judge who said God didn't mean for the races to intermarry that's why he put black people in Africa and yellow people in Asia and white people in Europe they judge the judge Larry the judge said this in his decision eventually overturned loving versus Virginia now I mean no one would make that stupid an argument today right I even even people that we think of as kind of racist they'd be embarrassed I'm just too stupid

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people on the left made some pretty stupid arguments as well when Castro sent all of the gay people to concentration camps in Cuba you had Susan Sontag oh respected left-wing intellectuals saying well this is you know you got to forgive them because Latin America was such a sexualized culture and there were prostitutes and those decadence that of course it was a little bit of an overreaction now you know today I don't think anyone on the left or the right would say it's okay to send gay people to concentration camps right because they

► 00:48:25

a lot of prostitutes in Havana but that's the kind of idiotic statement that we kind of forget that people used to make in the past too so it's a way of reassuring ourselves whenever we see debate getting seemingly getting stupider and stupider you got to remember yeah there's a lot of stupidity in the past to oh yeah a massive amount and I think I think you're right that they you know it's hard to tell day by day especially when your attention is concentrated by the worst things that happen and again it's a big

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of Enlightenment now that your picture of the world when it's because the human mind really is driven by anecdotes and images and stories and that's what the news gives us but if you look at Trends if you follow the trend lines not the headlines you see that a lot of things really are getting better gradually but that accumulates over time and one of the things with the flow of information we are actually getting more weed meaning Americans but also worldwide

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there is this trend of getting more liberal more tolerant more Progressive you know hard to tell day by day but when you think that in the 1960s there was a debate over whether there should be racial segregation whether African Americans should drink out of different colored water fountains and stay indifferent motels there's debate over whether women should should be allowed in the workplace that oh what's going to happen to all the kids if they if they're all working debate over whether gay people should be allowed to be teachers and we've kind of

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forgotten these because the progressive side kind of one and the debate has moved on and that happens worldwide as peep as information flows as people start to meet each other as ideas proliferate there is this gradual Trend toward more tolerance even in parts of the world where it seems to be totally absent like a lot of the Islamic World which World survey show this is the least Progressive part of the world in terms of attitudes

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words women attitudes towards gays attitudes towards child-rearing but even the Islamic world there's been adrift in the liberal direction we just thought two weeks ago when Saudi Arabia allowed women to drive yeah I mean it's just kind of feel modest former progress kind of hilarious kind of hilarious but you know progress but it shows I mean they just could not live in this absurd situation Forever by the world really did drag them kicking and screaming out of the Middle Ages in this in this way and that kind of tends to happen over the long run

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yeah I'm an optimist and I really do look at all of your friends yo you like the book then 7575 optimistic graphs oh excellent I yeah I think that if we look at just the overall human race have been one of the best and indications of that is go and look at media representations of life from the 1950s and 1960s watch movies especially from the 50s and just see how people behaved mean it's you're getting sort of a timestamp of

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human interaction from 1950 means obviously an artistic representation of a time of the time but you get a sense of how people thought it was okay to behave there was a lot of smacking women yeah that's right yeah really common in Movies Ranch and children young remember the scene where you know Junior would misbehave and mom would say wait till your father gets home and then dad comes home and he pulls the belt out of his pants so he could use it as a weapon so yeah Buckle would really hurt the child yeah and the child would tie up

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pillow on his behind and be stars and go off into the corner yeah you know now you call social services they take the child away or something yeah well I mean I think this idea of being dragged Kicking and Screaming into this new age I think we're all doing that and I think you're seeing that in so many different parts of our culture today you know I think that's one of the things that's happening with this meat to movement is it all this Mass public shaming of sexual harassers and

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Wallace altars and all this different thing it's like forcing human beings to reassess the way they interact with each other and like this really radical very quick sort of a movement over a just a short period of time is that a giant impact on culture yeah and like a lot of social changes it happens really quickly probably mixes some good things and some not so good things right and it's really good that men no longer have a license to just expose themselves or

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harass women who work for them and yes treat them in these crude and ugly ways I know there's also a legitimate concern that you just can't really believe all accusers I mean we kind of learned that through history from from from your witch hunts and lynchings and programs and there's got to be proportionality not all infractions are the same you know the punishment should fit the crime so we haven't quite settled in how to balance the

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very necessary corrective to two men harassing women with rule of law and standards of Justice correct me if I'm wrong about this with this is one of my theories is we our brains our capacity in our understanding is relative to what's necessary at the time and one of the things that I use is dunbar's number so the dunbar's number is this idea that you could only have these intimate relationships with

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50 or so people or in terms of intimacy of understanding who they are knowing their name knowing things about them but as our circle of people that we interact with grows and expands I wonder if that's going to expand as well when you think about the amount of information that people can hold in their brain and what people are used to knowing about this is a radically different world in 2018 than it was in 1960 the amount of things that you were aware of in 1960

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just by virtue of not having social media the internet Google all these different ways that you could get information from it's just so different I mean it's I don't know what how many times more information you're getting but it must be much more yes much more and over an incredibly small period of time when you think about the you know the relative time span that human beings have been here cute few hundred thousand years or whatever I wonder if this is

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I wonder what changing and I wonder what it what we're going to be like if this continues to grow and continues to be a part of our life this if we're going to adapt our abilities well if we can't we're not going to change the neurobiological structure of the brain very much because even though we all learned through our lives there are limits as to what our brain can do but what I think happens is there's a back and forth between

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our brains and the Technologies the technology adjusts to take into account how our brains work so the the the Restriction of can't know or feel that you know more than a hundred a hundred fifty people kind of that's helps Define the the set of top top ranked friends in a social network the fact that we're visual creatures you know we're primates we get a lot of our information through our eyeballs it's one of the reasons why

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computer technology has changed so much since the 80s and 70s like when I first learned to program a computer it was just all text and or use a computer and they're just 80 characters in a line and you have the letters of the alphabet and that's all there was and it soon became clear that that's not a very efficient way of getting ideas into a brain it's really laborious and tiring and so you have graphic user user interfaces I mean the Apple was the first to commercialize it but it

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develop beforehand it Xerox but it's really exotic at first when you saw a screen with these windows and pointers and icons and a mouse and computers don't work that way naturally you took a huge amount still does takes a huge amount of programming to get a computer to pretend that there's a sheet of paper up on the screen but that because we're visual creatures the technology adapted so that we could feel comfortable using it so some of it is how much do we adjust to the technology and how

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much is the technology forced to adjust to us I'm thinking in terms of the actual capability of the human mind and when you read about modern human brains like there was an article that was published recently that was trying to re map the timeline of the modern human brain and I think they were pointing to about 35,000 years ago now and see if we can find that trying to figure out what exactly they were saying but essentially they're saying that the

► 00:57:25

human the modern human brain was far more recent interesting and I'm not surprised yeah I would I would have guessed a little bit older than that but yeah but you know in the tens of thousands of years yeah so with the they're one of the big Mysteries right is the doubling of the human brain size over a period of what it was like 2 million years this something had happened to cause that like some change in our environment some changing our behavior and our what has been a bigger change in the internet like what has been a better bigger change than the

► 00:57:55

access to information that people have today and I'm wondering if like we're not experiencing when you're talking about these Rises steady rise of IQs obviously it's not just the internet education the cumulative data that people just keep piling on too and more people learn more things and people get wiser and you know our the way we interface with information is better than it's ever been before but I wonder about the capacity in the capabilities of the human mind if it's happening right now it's just a very gradual thing this 10% tick

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or 10-point tick per per decade if this is going to lead you you extrapolate you go a hundred years from now two hundred years from now we what are we going to be looking at yeah I mean well the thing is that what happened over the last few tens of thousands of years is not going to be replicated anytime soon because that a lot was driven by darwinian natural selection which just meant that smarter people had more surviving babies that's a process that happens as a speed limit measured in generations and it's

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it may not be that coping in a modern society makes you have more babies and that might be the other way around right United more educated you have fewer children and so I think a lot of the there's going to be a certain amount of plasticity of what you can master in your own lifetime especially if you start in childhood you're going to a lot of these skills become second nature how to look things up how to how to use these devices efficiently and then

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that will can can reach limits and only so many hours in the day and there's only so many neurons in your brain but in conjunction with that the technology becomes more human friendly and their new ways of getting information into the brain you know as I mentioned we've gone from just lines of characters to graphic user interfaces and video and and more like creative data Graphics where you see moving colored graphs as a way of getting a bunch of variables into a human head more

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efficiently and virtual reality might be the next step where we brought 3D environments that we can explore and that may be a way of getting our puny brains to experience more information yeah I was going to bring that up to next because that's one of the things that concerns me the most is how good virtual reality is now but how relatively crude it is in comparison to the potential and have you experienced it all of you use like an HTC Vive or any of those

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no I've used more kind of lower Tech kinds of like you Google cardboard and yeah that's kind of interesting just still pretty interesting but the Bible freak you out there's this is one of the things and I I used several years ago as version I think my friend Duncan Trussell had one two or three years ago that I used and I was blown away by that where you're underwater and there's a whale that swims up to you and you know and it seems so real and it's just get nauseous no

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no I didn't but it's bizarre it it's obviously fake like I'm looking at it and I can make a distinction quickly like when you see a movie and in the movie there's like fake dogs or something like that and fake monsters like it's fake thing it's fake but it's really good fake and I'm I can recognize it as a fake but I was like wow what is this going to be like in 10 years I mean what is it gonna be like in 30 years it's going to be and how much better is the interface going to be I'm really concerned

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that there's going to be a just a giant section of our population that completely checks out of the regular world and lives in some strange Fantasy Land most of the time they just consume food and water and figure out a way to feed themselves and spend most of their time locked into a helmet living in some fantastic artificial environment that people have created yeah there's a well though the putting things into perspective they're there they won't they were that those fears when television

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Asian became popular right before that with movies so the question of what kind of balance people will find I mean clearly is going to be more of exactly what you described but you know people do people do like reality to you know people huge numbers go to the national parks yeah and just seeing a picture book is in the same thing and people care whether you know when they buy a work of art they care whether it's real or fake there's a lot there's one part of the human mind that as much as we

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seduced by just sensual sensory experiences we also have a sense of reality and we value it and you know we don't like being fooled too much and the question is what balance we find between the desire for authentic experience and the pleasure of these cheap artificial ones when you chose to write a book about Enlightenment and you chose to write a book The showing all these positive graphs and all these trends that seem to be

► 01:02:55

optimistic are you writing that obviously you feel this way and this is the data and this is your interpretation of where we're headed but are you also kind of like encouraging people in a way to have a more rose-colored view of the world and just yeah I think I'm not so much rose-colored but that description you don't know what I'm doing I know exactly you mean no but have a kind

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problem-solving mindset namely we have solved problems in the past at least we've reduced them and that I think in Bolton's us to look at the problems we have now and think well we can handle those two if we decide to do now what our ancestors did in the past that led in the right directions and I credit this to the mindset of the Enlightenment namely that with reason and Science and a concern for human welfare we can gradually make

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people better off and as long as we maintain that kind of philosophy of living then we then there's a reasonable hope that we can solve the problems facing us it doesn't happen by itself there's not a you know a magic escalator there's no Arc of history or dialectic or any mystical stuff that just makes us better and better there's recognizing problems and figuring out how the world works and doing our best to solve them so that was that was the message and the fact that

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we have had progress contrary to The Impressions you get from the headlines shows that this is not a crazy idealistic optimistic pipe dream it's happened and some more of it can happen yeah that's where I was going with this is that why do we have this desire to concentrate on the negative like I have a friend my friend Ian Edwards has his bit about the news about renaming it to the bad news and actually he goes on this whole rant about the news I got to check this out but he's right and it is a thing that we

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we is it because we have this concern like we have to recognize danger and we want to know what's happening so that we know that we're safe but the reality is were dealing with a world of seven billion people with seven billion stories you know so you're you're going to be able to see negative stuff all day long if you so choose to do that if you so choose to concentrate on negativity and it gives you this bizarre portrait of the world that the world is just this horrible place and Bill Hicks used to have a bit about

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CNN about you watching CNN it would be death AIDS pitbulls you go outside birds are chirping look weird shit happening I think there's a lot to that that's good that's a great great examples but inside we contemplate what is our desire to concentrate only on the negative or mostly on the negative well there is a phenomenon in Psychology called the negativity bias that bad is psychologically stronger than good so we'd Reza we dread losses more than

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we enjoy gains and criticism hurts much more than praise makes you feel better where are our minds are attracted to possibilities of death and danger and so on I think it's because we are really as you say we are vulnerable there are many more things that can go wrong than can go right and that's kind of a implication of the law of entropy there's a tiny fraction of the ways the world could work that works works out well for you in an awful lot of ways that things can go wrong and so

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our minds are attuned to things that could go wrong and that kind of opens up a market for experts to remind us of things that can go wrong that we may have forgotten and so the news tends to gravitate to the negative and then actually studies that show this you give editors two different framings of an event an optimistic one in a pessimistic when they pick the pessimistic one and that's a trend that's actually increased I have a graph in the book one of the 75 graphs that shows an automatic

► 01:06:55

Isis of the tone of the news that is how often are there positive words like you know improve better how often their negative words like Crisis disaster catastrophe the news has been getting more and more negative for about 70 years is that uniform on both sides right and left good question I don't know the answer I suspect it is but I don't know I don't know the answer for sure there and they're there fluctuations their ups and downs but overall the trend has been downward so partly it's all even though by the way all the other graphs in the book show that in reality the

► 01:07:25

it has actually been getting better there are fewer deaths from war there's fewer homicides we're making some progress in pollution there's less poverty than they used to be more education but the news has been getting more and more morose part of it is also that there's a there is an ethic of Journalism that to be responsible as to point out what's going wrong what one editor said good news isn't news it's advertising hmm and it's also because of the time scale that it's

► 01:07:55

very easy to destroy something really quickly I mean something blows up and that's news improvements tend to be gradual day by day and there's never a Thursday in March in which something happens that if as Max Roser an economist pointed out newspapers could run the headline a hundred and thirty eight thousand people escaped from extreme poverty yesterday every day for the last 30 years but that they never ran that headline even once because there's never a particular day in which the hundred thirty eight thousand

► 01:08:25

were different than a hundred thirty eight thousand people the day before and so the a lot of the good things kind of creep up on us and they're never reported in headlines whereas it's easy to blow something up and that hat does happen on a Thursday so you have a very positive view of the future of humans well it's as the great Swedish doctor and tedtalk star Hans rosling put it when he was asked are you an optimist he said I'm not an optimist I'm a very serious possible list

► 01:08:55

so what happens in the future it depends on what we do now and there are you know there are real threats and dangers sure there's a possibility of nuclear war there's a possibility of catastrophic climate change so we can't and a sit back and say well things have gotten better let's let them continue by sheer inertia and momentum that's not going to happen but what it does indicate is well we Face crises in the past and we have made things better let's figure out

► 01:09:25

how to deal with a crisis now that's a great way of looking at it to be realistic about it because the possibility of positive things is a real that's real but also there's a reason why we find those ruins and Guatemala that's right those people are there anymore I mean thriving culture thousands of structures and now it's a jungle like what happened yeah XI it's wise to remember that that can't happen yeah I think become Manhattan

► 01:09:55

and that's right I mean there is you know I think there is a difference between modern all modern societies and all of the ones that did collapse namely that after the enlightenment we developed a kind of a scientific Network and Community we develop the habit of free speech and open debate and keep accumulation of information in written in an electronic records I mean it is not the same now would it

► 01:10:25

I mean that we're out of danger because we've created new dangers like like nuclear war like climate change but there is a there are mechanisms in place that if we concentrate them if we are determined to keep doing it then then there's a reasonable expectation of success again but not automatically we got to decide to make we've got to make those choices yeah the the the history of the human race is so weird in terms of the rise and fall of these civilizations

► 01:10:55

Ian's and cultures that we're always at least I am always looking at like what how long is this going to last like how long is this one particular Nation going to keep it together if you look at how many different countries have been around that just how many you know would dominant cultures Rome for instance like just now it's just Italy it's just normal yeah it's like a normal European country it used to be this conquering Nation how long can we kind of keep this thing

► 01:11:25

happened what are your thoughts on the future of just even the idea of Nations it seems like our bout our boundaries and our borders the way we have online this ability to communicate with people all over the place everywhere it seems to me to lessen the necessary or the need rather for for borders and for these walls that we're now literally and figuratively talking about putting up

► 01:11:55

yeah I think there's going to be a kind of balance it's an interesting thing about nation-states now is that they are there's a sense in which they're treated us Immortal at that whereas as you mentioned for most of History they were conquering Emperor's and nations were wiped off the map and engulfed and conquered and you know now you look at a map of the world and it's actually not that different from what it was 70 years ago I mean their colonies that achieved Independence

► 01:12:25

there's some big States like Soviet Union that broke fragmented but the borders in between the ra Soviet republics are now borders between nation-states and no nation has gone out of existence through Conquest since since 1945 at least recognized internationally recognized state by the by the UN so there's this Norm even though the borders are often crazy than they were arbitrary lines drawn on a map but one of the reasons that again is counterintuitive that

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Wars have gone down and deaths and Wars have gone down is that borders are now treated as sacrosanct by the kind of International Community not a hundred percent of the time you had Russia annexing Crimea but those are exceptions and by and large unlike say in the past in the 19th century where the US had an unpaid debt from Mexico so it conquered no Texas and Colorado and kick Nevada and California that doesn't happen anymore and so the borders of kind of been grandfathered

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it in and that's one of the reasons why the the world has been more stable in terms of the the map on the other hand as you mentioned there's another sense in which we have this Global community that transcends borders we have things like the European Union we have the United Nations we have trade agreements like NAFTA which try to get simultaneously the grandfathered borders but this extra layer of cooperation that transcends the borders

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and we need them more and more despite the fact that our current president is pushing back against the global Community but because there are problems that are Global that migration terrorism climate pollution Rogue States and the fact that people even if they even if you grew up in France and you consider yourself a French citizen you want to be able to spend a summer in in Italy or in England or in Belgium if that's where there's a good job and there's a desire among

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well to be able to move to wherever the opportunities are best there's going to be some kind of compromise I think between keeping the the nation state borders just so you don't have constant Wars of conquest and Border disputes but allowing the world and allowing the people of the world to take advantage of a true Global Community yeah I feel like that's one of the things that people are most upset about brexit was that this is even though they the people that were Pro brexit felt like this was in the

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rest of the UK and the interest of England to be separate from all this because they were doing better and because they didn't want all the negative possibilities from all these other places coming into their environment but what I think that people what they didn't like about it was the idea that this is a regressive move and that the progressive move is that we would all move towards this idea of a global community of

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entire world being free and connected and you know we've talked about some of the problems that Paris has with immigration we showed some of the videos of these these immigrants that are just littered all over the street and it taking this place apart and we're looking at it go man that is a that is a real tragedy but

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what it represents has a bunch of people that really don't have anything like the real tragedy is that these people live like this the real tragedy is not that they've done it to Paris the real tragedies of these people exist at all and that they moved to Paris looking for a better life and now they're stuck in the situation where there's not a lot of Sanitation and the garbage is all over the place they're littering everywhere and the it's I wonder if we ever will have a world where there isn't a place where you can go and shit

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Factory and pay people a dollar an hour because they don't need a dollar an hour because it's just like living in Los Angeles or just like living in Phoenix like you'd never be able to pay someone a dollar an hour because there's too much opportunity the world has caught up in surpassed it yeah I mean there's a number of really complicated issues that they Mobility is in general a good thing and countries do well when they welcomed many immigrants but you know not put on

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not short-term yeah not too many too fast yeah faster than they can be assimilated and integrated into the new country so it just opening the doors right probably is not a good idea no country really does that but building the wall is a terrible idea to and of course the the best way to prevent massive amounts of migration is to make life better in the countries of origin right that is happening slowly and unevenly but it's been noted that even United States and Mexico

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more people are going for the same number of people are doing the reverse migration from the US back to Mexico now that the economy of Mexico so much my own parents 25 years okay yeah my parents live in Mexico okay there you go yeah and there is a heart attack but there is a huge Improvement in the standard of living in what used to be called the third world the developing world where the if you look at the cutoff for extreme poverty

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kind of defunct divide somewhat arbitrarily is a dollar 90 per person per day kind of the bare bare bare minimum to feed your family it's down now from 50% a few decades ago to 10% now and the United Nations has set the goal of bringing it to Zero by the year 2030 and what street what is causing that what's causing the change so a lot of it is globalization that I mean even though that's kind of a villain in many people's eyes but when you have

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huge Global Market then and the introduction of factories and industrialization in China and India and Bangladesh sometimes the conditions are Grim but the conditions being a peasant in the rice paddies was even Grimmer and when when you have people integrated the economy selling their products on a world stage they can get richer and so a lot also better policies we have governments that are no longer communist or like

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really heavy-handed forms of socialism where everything is defined by the bureaucrats and you need 50 licenses to do anything and you have a little bit more economic flexibility that tends to make countries richer it doesn't mean that you could do away with regulations on workplace safety and environment and as countries get richer they tend to be more protective of their workers and of the environment right and leaders that think of their mandate

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as how do I get my country to be richer the most dramatic cases China where Mao had these hairbrained schemes of huge Collective farms and people smelting iron in their backyards and you know anything that occurred him in the middle of the night he would force on hundreds of millions of people and it caused these massive famines then you know Deng Deng Xiaoping took over and he said getting rich is good and he said black cat white cat as long as it catches mice it's a good cat

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so much more pragmatic much more concerned with the welfare of their citizens when you have leaders who have that mindset then their country can can get get wealthier in their citizens better off now but are you concerned I mean I agree with you that it is probably as one of the reasons why these people are experiencing this greater quality of life it is because of globalization because these factors moving in but they're living lives that are very different and may be provided

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perhaps it's by our standards that their lives are better that maybe if they're if these indigenous people were living this sort of sift subsistence lifestyle that even though on paper they would be existing in extreme poverty but if they're perhaps like living in the jungle or somewhere along those lines where you have access to all these natural resources that even though they'd be living in extreme poverty they'd be living maybe perhaps even a better life by just eating the fish and eating the plants and and hunting and fishing and doing what they had

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normally done for thousands and thousands of years rather than making a dollar an hour and Nike Factory right and it's certainly true that it of indigenous peoples who are living in Hunter and Horticultural Lifestyles that there are real crimes in displacing them often not So Much by factories but by Miners and loggers but the the there are very tiny fraction of the world's population tragically the vast majority of poor people are more are

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it's not not not not horticulturalists and right and you know they are kind of agricultural laborers and for them just based on the their own choices often the factory life is an improvement it's an improvement not just because they're not kind of in the fields knee-deep in muck pulling up seedlings and getting bitten by disease-carrying bugs but for women being able

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all to move from Village to a city often means a Liberation that they can start a business and the kids to school be out from under the thumbs of their husbands and husbands family there's a kind of a can be a Liberation just just as what our aunts our ancestors did when they left the farms for for cities hundred fifty years ago so it's not to say there isn't exploitation and cruelty which ought to be opposed and in the case of native peoples often Criminal

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placements but you know on the whole globalization has led to this escape from grinding poverty for literally hundreds of millions of people so even when they move the factories into these places in charge or pay them a dollar an hour rather it's still a dollar more an hour than they would have gotten if the factory had been there in many cases that's true which is not to say there isn't exploitation yeah but you know we look at our Ransom you know my grandparents worked in a cooler and clothing Factory and when

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they immigrated from Poland to Canada and it often is a root upward Mobility yeah it's hard for us to accept that and even think about it that way because it was somewhat why how come they don't have to pay these Mexican folks minimum wage just like they do in America like well why don't they have the same sort of setup we do here it just seems cruel it doesn't have no doubt there is cruelty but the the relevant comparison is not so much the difference between working in a factory there and working in

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office in Berkeley or Manhattan it's the difference between working in a factory there and laboring the fields there and the people were often given that choice they line up the factory jobs do you anticipate a time where there is no third world and there is no like a massive economic disparity it's conceivable you know it so it's a ways off but it's happened in huge parts of the world and we forget that place

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places like South Korea now you know this Rich upper middle class Society not so long ago that was the third world I mean they were they were hungry they were the children died young a lot of them living in squalor and that was true in certainly in China lots of parts of places parts of China now that are pretty much middle class that were squalid not so long ago Singapore I have an anecdote in the book

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Enlightenment now of my ex-mother-in-law who grew up in Singapore and she remembers a childhood meal in which her family split one egg for ways back in the in the 1940s oh my God Singapore is now one of the world's richest countries yeah so it can happen it is happening the most remote poorest parts of the world are going to be the hardest to bring up to middle class standards like Congo like Haiti like Afghanistan but in large parts of the world there's been a

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a huge increase in the standard of living you talked recently about the dangers of overly politically correct thinking of just politically correct thinking of a sort of a rebound effect where a political correct thinking is actually causing more extremism or more radical thinking in New in terms of response to that like an overcorrection yeah so we at the

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our conversation we talked about the the the possibility of sex differences as being kind of taboo from polite company and in a lot I'll give another example and this is kind of connects to our this conversation isn't a lot of Academia there's just capitalism is just a dirty word and or something now called neoliberalism and you know certain percentage surprisingly large percentage of academics are actually marxists probably about fifteen percent in the social sciences and

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say the obvious fact that capitalism is better than communism that's just a fact I mean just compared we would rather live in South Korea or North Korea would rather live in the old East Germany or West Germany job rather live now in Venezuela or in Chile and it just obvious that capitalism makes people richer and Freer and better off in pretty much every way now that's a fact it's almost unmentionable in Academia now but if you say it by itself

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and suddenly people discover it for the first time then you can get the extreme right wing position that any amount of Regulation is bad any amount of social spending is bad we need the most extreme form of almost anarcho-capitalism like radical libertarianism and that's because I've I argue that if you never have a discussion of the relative advantages and disadvantages of different economic systems you never hear the arguments for

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why some mixture of a free market with regulation of things that have to be regulated because the market won't take care of them like pollution I mean the market just won't put up put a price on the atmosphere because no one owns the atmosphere and so having a combination of a free market with environmental regulations gives you the best of both worlds likewise social spending for the elderly for children for the sick for the Unlucky that's not incompatible with a free

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Orkut and in fact some of the countries who the strongest social safety nets also one of the ones with the most economic freedom so that argument that I've just given you right now just doesn't take place because there's just such a commitment to the idea that capitalism is bad opening up the possibility that someone discovers hey capitalism isn't so bad then they leap to the strongest possible conclusion well if soon as you have social security then we're going to be like Venezuela Venezuela or

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or carbon pricing and the rational way of organizing Society with just the right balance of free markets regulation social spending is just something that doesn't get discussed out in the open you get these polarized extremes and know that that's the argument that I mean what's the origin of that thought process and Academia like why has capitalism and demonize and socialism being been praised despite all the evidence that especially Marxist Socialism or Marxism is just it's never been shown to be effective

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and it's been shown to be very dangerous yeah it's a good question one Theory from Thomas Sowell an economist at the the Hoover institution is that intellectuals tend to like systems that where you can articulate a theory in a bunch of verbal propositions and you know the government kind of implements them whereas there are certain phenomena in social life like market economies where the intelligence is distributed across millions of people no one actually knows

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how to make the system work but people make things look for buyers they set the price where people will buy them and then over the entire Society things kind of work out but no one actually no single individual has the theory as to how that ought to work a language is another example I mean there's no committee that designed the English language there's no theory of how the English language ought to work it's like hundreds of millions of people just talking and then

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that new slang and they slur and they emphasize and they borrow from other languages and the language changes and it really works pretty well here we are speaking in English and no committee ever designed it so according to seoul's Theory need I think he was influenced by Hayek Friedrich Hayek the Austrian Economist that systems of distributed intelligence where no one genius ever designed it but millions of people cooperating give rise to a collective intelligence kind of

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run against the grain of the way intellectuals often think not all intellectuals because of course you could do what Hayek and soul did and realize there is this phenomenon of collective intelligence but if your first impulse is what's the theory what are the set of principles then you're going to gravitate to planned your hyper plan systems and be a little bit oblivious to distributed systems but in Academia

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for whatever reason looking at things in terms of from a social standpoint looking at things is distribution of wealth is a big common subject that keeps getting brought up and class structures that there's going to be a time if everything works out correctly if we continue to evolve our culture where we will no longer have classes will know and we'll be able to distribute wealth completely equally across the board but it's sort of

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denying the the motivation that human beings have to succeed is designing the denying this desire that people have to stand out and to overachieve or to to be to be an outlier yeah I'm terms of performance which is just a natural part of human beings and also competition that competition is fueled by reward and without competition you don't have iPhones you don't have most of the technological innovation that we have

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but that's been funded by these companies have done it in order to make money it is good there's got to be some sort of a reason why they've pushed all these things it's so ironic when someone is talking about how capitalism sucks on an iPhone her age I mean Jesus Christ like that that is one of the more bizarre ironies is unexposed well you know I think you put your finger in another phenomenon and I discussed this in my book the blank slate will also discuss the kind of the politics of gender that part of it is there's

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a history to it so there was an idea sometimes called social Darwinism wasn't had nothing to do with Darwin ironically but the idea that the only way societies progresses through ruthless Cutthroat competition and poor people are just dragging the species down and screw them and and if we if we're bleeding hearts then will retard the progress of society and we need just everyone against everyone else for to advance now that's really not a very good way to organize a society but

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such a reaction against that in the 20th century that you got the opposite extreme that we are all blank slates that is we all start off identical and that any kind of competition is bad you need kind of this the benevolent government to distribute everything the in the fairest possible manner now the reality is going is something in between we are there's going to be any quality in any Fair system simply because some people really are smarter than others

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and some people have more discipline and more self-control and and it's good to harness that so that are competitive impulses have some people burning the midnight oil and racking their brains to how to make things better off because they anticipate some rewards you don't want to sap all incentives which is kind of what happened in the Soviet Union you also don't want a Central Committee to decide that everyone has to

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the same amount and parcel out every reward because that just gives too much power to a government but it also doesn't mean that you have the opposite extreme where the you know if the poor people die then it's their own fault because they're lazy and stupid that's right it's not true it's not Humane and what we need to do is find the right balance between competition and freedom that makes everyone better off and recognition that just because there are going to be people who are not as smart

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but they don't deserve to starve there are people who just going to be unlucky because a lot of wealth isn't distributed by talent and hard work but there's a lot of luck that goes into it as well and so we may want to kind of send down some of the sharp edges of competition there it doesn't have to be either/or and the thing is if you make one position taboo that makes things either or but how bizarre is it that these kind of rational conversations about this very important subject is Taboo in intellectual

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circles and it's not good Academia well how did that happen it's not good I you know I think some of it is a reaction to the excesses of the past some of the because people do tend to form a kind of intellectual tribes that we have sports teams and you root for your team and you know and when your sports fan when you acquire information isn't it become better and better informed in some objective way it's to kind of enhance The Fan Experience you want to find out what's great about your team

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and what's so awful about the other team and that's a human habit that we bring to intellectual debates where and Academia academics we are acceptable to it as anyone else unless they take steps to recognize it and avoid it but you know if you're on the left you root for the left team and if you're on the right not so much in the universities but in the think tanks you root for the right team and you tend to Discount evidence that goes against your ideology you kind of filter out the

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is that are a little bit embarrassing and people then adopt certain opinions is almost loyalty Badges and this is true of a lot of controversies that people often think are due to Scientific illiteracy like climate change where you ask a lot of scientists why do people deny the obvious facts of manmade climate change they think well do people just don't get nothing formation they we need better Outreach and I think we do need better Outreach

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reach but in fact and I talked about this in Enlightenment Enlightenment now if you actually do surveys of how well people understand climate science there's not virtually no correlation between acknowledgement of human-made climate change and sophistication and climate science so you get people who do believe in human made climate change which I think is an incontrovertible fact at this point but they don't really understand it I mean they may even think oh it's caused by a hole in the ozone layer and we can fix it by cleaning up toxic

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waste dumps me like crazy beliefs but they're still on you know what I would consider the right the right side what happens is that in some politicized debates that people don't don't so much care about the truth they care about what belief will earn them a steam in their their peer group right right this is human psychology but it's really bad when it comes to arriving at the best understanding of the truth collectively and what we need both in the left wing academic

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ants and the right-wing think tanks is kind of recognition we're probably all wrong about a lot of things especially if we talk to each other and and act like kind of litigators like lawyers who Mount the best possible case for our side to prosecuted against the other side that's just not a good way of arriving at the truth you've got to kind of check the tendencies in yourself to just want more and more evidence for your belief and and force yourself to be in force other people to be as open-minded as

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double yeah it's very fascinating to me these these sort of mindsets that at there you see on the left and on the right that there's certain subjects that you if you support that subject you are automatically thought of as a left Winger have you support the subject you're already automatically thought I was a right if you were on the right you probably think yeah in some way like there's if someone says to me that they think that climate change is probably an overblown thing and it is

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a cycle that the world has been going through forever I go oh you're right winger and you'd be right yeah almost always always always and if you think you know all gay people should be allowed to get married who cares oh you're probably left Winger that's probably to 10 years ago and it's actually less true now that is one of these amazing changes so sometimes there can be these changes that just catch us all by surprise and gay marriage is one of them I mean I was like a even people on the left had misgivings about climate change I've about gay marriage I'm sorry in the

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these it was still something that a lot of people on the left were kind of had that them let's not go that far and it was just civil unions or you know now hold of the country is flipped but you're but in general so the these changes can happen but you're right that lot of opinions are just loyalty badges to a coalition and they can sometimes change in very strange way so we've seen it in the last year or so with with a Donald Trump who is

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in many ways of pretty radical right-winger in things like what do you think what what's your opinion of Russia now for decades if you're on the right you miss trusted Russia and if you're on the left there you know they weren't so bad they misunderstood now it's like totally flipped and opinions on whether you trust Russia just because of the influence of Donald Trump have shifted to the people on the right are more sympathetic to Russia something that would have been almost Unthinkable a couple even

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years ago free trade is another example it was kind of a right-wing cause and then Trump managed to flip it so what it shows is I mean the rear where I'm going with this and this is something that I've where I've changed my mind I used to think they were these ideologies kind of like religious catechisms where these are the beliefs that follow from one another but a lot of us just raw tribalism just like you know in sports the the players churn through the teeth The rosters with free agency

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see and you know used to be a guy who used to be a good guy when I was on the other team now he's a bad guy it was Jerry Seinfeld one 7uu rooting for clothing and that kind of happens with political ideologies as well to to everyone's shock yeah that the tribalism thing is very very confusing to me because you could see it like it's such an obvious pattern and that when it when it plays out like you know the with a global warming thing I was having a conversation with a guy in my Jiu-Jitsu class and I'll never forget that

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and he was like that's been it's a cycle you know it's a cycle global warming and then the climate change is always been a cycle and you know the people that say that it's not it's like well how much we study those are you scientists like I don't know a lot about global warming I don't know a lot about climate change but I know what I've read and it seems to me to be a very complex issue and I'm talking this 25 year old guy who is in the military who's telling me it was I mean do you have an education this like no I'm like well why did

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you just automatically like decide that this isn't we're talking about the very temperature of the planet Earth that's kind of a big deal yeah Plex and what is causing it is it a carbon monoxide thing is it a what why do you just automatically subscribe to this and it's because that's how his tribe communicates yeah this is how his tribe and that it gives people Comfort to be in these weird little groups where everybody has groupthink yeah and this is a

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I talked about this phenomenon in Enlightenment now because it's a book that argues for the importance of reason and and how there has been progress thanks to application of reason and a natural pushback is well you look at things like that we don't seem so reasonable as a species how can you what's going on that will get we seem to be getting less reasonable and I think the answer is there's reason can work in four different goals and here I'm using the ideas of a

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Yale scholar named Daniel Daniel Kahan what he notes of there's a perverse way in which there's actually is a kind of rationality to that kind of belief namely when you vote what are the chances that your votes really going to swing the election yeah pretty close to zero on the other hand when you express an opinion in your your peer group the people you work with your family what are the chances that holding the wrong opinion will lead you to be kind of condemned and ostracized and treat it as a real

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no very high so if you're if everyone thinks what opinion is going to help my esteem in the people I care about they can latch onto all kinds of beliefs if they've become kind of identity badges for their tribe this is rational in terms of the world they live in it's not so rationale for the planet as a whole if people just subscribe to beliefs based on tribal loyalty instead of truth and the challenge is how do we

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align beliefs more with truth and less with tribal loyalty now it's not hopeless because there are a lot of beliefs that people used to have that are that have been that have been overturned people don't believe in unicorns anymore or Alchemy and fewer people believe in astrology and a lot of scientific issues are there's no controversy do antibiotics work yeah I mean there's no you don't doesn't matter whether on the right or the left so part of the challenge is how do we get more and more of our beliefs to be have our

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Norm's be such that if you believe something just because you're on the right or on the left then you're an idiot hmm But what you should be doing is looking at the best possible study with an open mind that's what a cool person does and only an idiot just parrots the the right-wing line that's the kind of social change we need to aim for Ryan just almost a shaming of that kind of ignorance this desire that people have to subscribe to a predetermined pattern of thinking and behaving because it's comforting it's

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getting that you know and it also like they know that other people on their group will also think like that it's like if you're in the right one of the things about you see about right-wingers it's kind of hilarious I was watching this Kyle Kuklinski secular Talk podcast where he was talking about this these Christians who were talking about Trump and when you are on the right you must have a belief in God you just have to and when they were talking about Trump they were saying we're talking about

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up the man that existed before he accepted Jesus you know I don't have a but the guy was literally saying I don't have a past okay how about you because I've accept Jesus Christ into my life and that once you accept Jesus Christ like you are now a believer in Christ and your for your forgiven for all of your past sins and this is this is on the right there's a giant percentage of the people that are on the right that subscribe to a a religious Christian mindset it is

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fascinating and especially when it comes to our current president who by any standards is like the least Christian yeah leader that we've ever had asked accepted Jesus obey he doesn't have a past well yeah but he's still you know I mean the Christian virtues include things like you no modesty passion for the week sure Temperance chivalry gentlemanliness and your sky is lewd and and vainglorious and arrogant and contemptuous for losers but with shows again it kind of goes

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back to our discussion it's just amazing how much of loyalty doesn't have to do with the actual content of the police it's just whoever is on my side and of course he promised a lot of perks for the for the religious right like the repeal of the amendment that tax-exempt organizations can't engage in politics and in lobbying the so-called the Johnson Amendment which meant that if you're a church if you don't pay taxes you can't be politically active

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they didn't like that and he promised to repeal that Amendment and so he got their loyalty and so it's just raw political muscle kind of overcame Christian virtue so bizarre so sorry yeah but it's fascinating to watch just these patterns these tribal ideological patterns when you you see these groups that have this sort of one mindset in this very quickly could these I can't flip another example that people forget this is so intake environmentalism you know God quintessential

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you know left green cause not so long ago it was the other way around is actually considered to be a cause of the right why well if you are if you are a left-wing activist in the 60s you would say well the only people concerning the environment are rich people who like the view from their Country Estates and they don't want them to be spoiled by being cut down for apartments for poor people or their your duck Hunters who want to be able to go and Hunt ducks and and if you really socially concerned

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you should care about Vietnam and racism and poverty is just a luxury to worry about you know trees and flowers and Ducks hmm now that flipped and then environmentalism became a left-wing cause but it these these connections between your Coalition and your beliefs aren't set in stone yeah wasn't it in the beginning of the forming of the the political parties it was the Democrats are very different and Republicans are more like

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oh yeah well starting with Abraham Lincoln the first Republican president and they were the the of course they were the party against slavery and in fact even in my lifetime through the 60s there are in the South the Democrats were the right wing kind of racist party made George Wallace the governor of Alabama who said segregation now segregation forever he's a Democrat me formed his own party in 68 then back in 72 he ran for the Democratic nomination and the

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southern Democrats were there the kind of the right-wingers it was often the Northeast Republicans who were the Liberals that's still partly true in Massachusetts there's a we have a little bit of a remnant of that we've had some liberal Republican Governors we have one right now Charlie Baker is a Republican and he's be a pretty moderate and middle of the road William weld who was then the libertarian vice presidential candidate he was a republican he didn't you know even when Mitt Romney was our governor he was not particularly conservative

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he's a republican so there's the remnant of that in Massachusetts they used to be a little bit of that in New York where they were Liberal Republicans but yeah that's a case where it's flipped and now Democratic was left of center Republican right of Center yeah you've seen some of that also with some rub Republicans of try to disingenuously connect the Democratic party with the KKK because of the past well and that was true that was that was true but you know they're longer about the people in the present and stronger to you know this is the

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party that supported the KKK well sorta yeah I mean that a long time ago that was the end yeah different people yeah it's it's just fascinating to me to watch these groups of people and you know we've talked about political parties the the right versus the left it's always weird to me that there are these two sides and that people sort of take comfort and in choosing this group that they identify with yet these

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identity issues where you know I identify as a right-wing I identify as a left I identify as this that these these things are very rigid and their structure and they don't allow for nuance thinking and they don't allow for being objective about issues and considering the other side considering other people's points of view and the way they're looking at things and thinking if maybe there's some common ground well I agree in fact in in

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so I like MIT now has the subtitle the the case for reason science humanism and progress and so I have a chapter on reason I had a chapter on science I have a chapter on humanism but in the chapter on reason I ask the question why does it on the one hand it appears that we're getting smarter there's the Flynn effect of rising IQ scores and there's a lot of areas in life what you see just much more Intelligence being applied in just a few years ago so just for example you know moving an evidence-based medicine a lot of what you're

► 01:50:16

doctor does is just based on kind of superstition and tradition and now people are saying well let's just you know let's do a randomized controlled trial see what works what doesn't so medicines getting smarter you look at policing one of the reasons that the crime rate has gone down so much another positive development that I talked about the people aren't aware of is that policing has gotten smarter they every day especially in New York they would gather data as to where the homicides were which neighborhoods which block

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Ox on which neighborhoods and they would concentrate the police forces you know on that day and to prevent things from getting out of control with the cycles of Revenge look at sports you Moneyball where you've got kind of smarter teams that can beat reach richer teams you look at policy and you've got evidence based policy so all these areas where it looks like the country's getting smarter but then there are all these areas would look at the kind of trees getting lots to do better and a lot of them are I argue cases where

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people where issues get politicized and then people just go with their own Coalition and the ideal would be and this is an ideal that's in least preached in science and to some extent practice you know there's not left-wing science and right-wing science it's what are the data what do the data say we haven't say Let's do an experiment let's see who's right who's wrong and either side might be embarrassed and I think in the case of these great political and economic issues we've got we'd be better off if we thought like

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scientists kept an open mind say well what works just a minimum wage lead to higher unemployment because labor becomes more expensive well maybe you know beats me if I know let's let's look at areas that have tried it see what happens do does too much welfare make people you know an ambitious and lazy well I don't know I can't figure this out from my armchair right let's look at different compared different countries compared different states and cities issue after issue I think we

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need to be much more pragmatic and open to evidence but when you do deal with these issues much like you were talking about the difference between genders when you deal with the actual raw data that raw data a lot of it gets very problematic for people that hold these ideas very rigidly in their mind and they don't they don't want to accept certain facts and statistics and they come up with reasons why these things are either inaccurate or biased or racist or sexist or what have you

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you ya know that that's really true because I think we're you know I think Evolution didn't make us into intuitive scientist so much as into intuitive lawyers and preachers right so we the natural tendency is to amass the strongest possible case for your own side yes and to boast that you the you who are on the side of virtue the people who disagree with you are idiots and and evil and we got to push back

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that tendency I argue in Enlightenment now yeah I try to recognize that in my own mind when it comes up but it's it's so incredibly common that tribalism that we see on the right and the left we see it men versus women we often times see it even in gay versus straight it's a very bizarre but

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incredibly common aspect of being a human being it really is and you know I started out as a psychologist not I'm not a clinical psychologist I don't see patients by the cognitive scientist so I'm interested in how the mind works and so a lot of my ideas on which way we're going how to keep going in a positive direction are influenced by kind of a recognition of what makes us tick and what are the pitfalls in having a human brain and I mean I don't take credit for this

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this goes back to for example the American Founders and framers Madison and Jefferson and Adams and Hamilton we were arguing well how should we set up this new country this new government they were kind of intuitive psychologists and they pointed out that well if you just Empower a leader he's going to get drunk with his own power and he's going to be diluted and what do we do about that because we do need some kind of leader well you've got these checks and balances

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how do what makes people better off while they can if they can exchange things and each one produces something they're good at And Trades it with something that someone else produces how do we set up a country where the takes advantage of people's tendency to treat things so the connection between politics and psychology was has been there for a long time now the the subject Enlightenment that's a very loaded subject it is yeah actually in the world of

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weirdos and cult leaders and charlatans and people that are sort of promoting this idea this idea that you can achieve this sort of Zen state of bliss of being above it all of being you know Wise point of being a sage like that's a that's a weird concept isn't it and did it damage here my editor actually was a little nervous about my choice

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of title and I went through a bunch of titles for it as I was writing it said well don't you think people are going to confuse it with you as and yeah that's a little higher so he'll will say and so you're in there is that meaning for enlightenment the other the meeting that I had in mind was the movement in the 18th century to apply reason to human betterment right the the ideas of of Hume and Adam Smith and the American Founders like Jefferson and Madison and John Law

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can Thomas Hobbes and very kind of 17th and 18th century and and we I said look if some people are confused and I think this is a path toward my book is going to be a path towards spiritual enlightenment well let him buy the book and then they might enjoy it anyway right but I went to the dictionary to see which of the two meetings was listed first and most of the dictionaries listed the sense that I had in mind first namely the movement in the 18th century toward greater reason is the spiritual distinction right spiritual enlightenment is the one that people is right

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that's to be you you're perfectly honest that's not what the book is about right but you know well some people think it is maybe they'll buy the book by accident do you meditate you know I don't but I think I should but you're such a smart guy like why would you do why would there be anything that I think you should do don't do it it's a really good question because I'm not sure I'm not that smart it's not that it's just a matter of like practice and you know you have this right

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I think so yeah and I did I was in in Davos the week before last and was on a panel with met unique out the French Buddhist monk who's who I see I die within a lot of matters he wrote the foreword to the French translation of the better angels of our nature and he had he had me in the whole room meditating and it was yeah I mean I like that and I thought I should do some more and she's probably benefit to it probably yeah do you have any practices that you do do to chart

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sort of like keep your mind clean like dude exercise regularly I definitely exercise regularly and I like exercise my where the we're scenery goes by so I don't I tend not to hang around in gyms but I like jogging cycling hiking kayaking I like outdoor exercise and more aerobic than that then then then bodybuilding yeah they say that's one of the best things for cognitive function hi

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intensity aerobic exercise yeah that I mean I like to think that and I try to sort of step back and exert some discipline on this social media suck and email more than social medias but try to spend time with with my wife and Rebecca Goldstein of novelist and philosopher and we have a lot in common and be kind of wasting life if I didn't get to enjoy enjoy time with her and she's feels

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the same way cause she's also a workaholic so we both are conscious of you know let's get go for a walk you know let's let's see some friends let's be close to our families do you have a goal when you're writing a book like this or is it just you you have an interesting subject and just sort of follow it through I always begin a book when I have when I come across some really deep exciting interesting idea that I think has not been

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made public enough so in the case of the better angels of our nature it was the fact that in by all these measures violence has been in historical Decline and this is like a mind-blowing fact and I came across it by people various historians political scientists psychologists sort of sent me their data and that's kind of sitting on all these graphs showing the world getting less violent and no knew about it so I wanted to I thought I had an important story to tell

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you and I had a big intellectual challenge namely here I am a psychologist I like to think I understand how the mind works but it's a big puzzle why were our ancestors so violent and how come we're less violent we're kind of the same animals that we were a couple hundred years ago likewise with the new book with Enlightenment now then I discovered that there is even more good news that if you look at other measures of human well-being like poverty like illiteracy like number of

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hours like disease graph after graph looks like we've made improvements car safety plain safety workplace safety pedestrian safety death by fire Death by Drowning almost all of them are going down and so that was a story that I thought I was excited by it because I knew that when people came across it they would find it interesting and it was again an intellectual challenge how do you explain it and I attribute it to the

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the to Enlightenment ideas do you encounter much resistance to this narrative from though yeah Gloom people oh you bet yeah you know and there are things that you know they're go wrong here's the opioid epidemic that's or wrong direction there's their big threats always a possibility of nuclear war and we've got to be really careful not to do anything stupid and to in fact try to World walk the world back from nuclear weapons in the future and climate change

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and then there's some people just don't believe it they said well what about that the the terrorist attack yesterday and I have to say well you know terrorism they're kind of jerking us around the terrorists by doing Eensy Weensy bit of violence that gets a huge amount of publicity so let's not let ourselves get jerked around by terrorists and Rampage Shooters not give them so much publicity concentrate on where the deaths really are like in car accidents like an ordinary homicides like an opioid deaths let's go look at the numbers and not

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get fooled by the headlines but yeah I do get resistance we have a obviously have a massive reaction to any Mass tragedy like a mass shooting or something along those lines but that this is a natural thing right because this is seems so strange that it could occur to natural thing to have this reaction to this horrible tragedy but we don't have a reaction to you know how many thousands of people die every day because of obesity obesity

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or even if we concentrate on violence we forget about you know the guy who shoots his wife because he thinks she's been flirting too much or the two guys who have a fight in a bar over who gets to use the pool table next and one of them is light what is lying dead on the floor and these are they're far more murders of that kind than there are terrorists killings every day there are something like 25 of those those homicides and so

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like a Sandy Hill Massacre day after day after day after day and they don't make the headlines because they occur you know bit by bit here and there but it's still incredibly confusing to people when someone does do something like the Vegas shooting like what is this like so I have a discussion of that just because it is such a puzzle and because it attracts so much attention it a lot of it is just the notoriety these are often they're not always but they're often kind of nobodies and their life is gone going

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down the toilet and they're thinking well how can I do something that makes my life meaningful go out in a blaze of glory and so they think you know what is the effect I would ask this question let's say you want to become not you you're already famous but if I say to a typical person what is the one thing you can do that's guaranteed to make you famous by tomorrow the answer is kill a bunch of innocent people and you know that's just a perverse fact about the world and so for people where

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Fame and meaning and mattering are more important than anything including life itself we've kind of given this perverse opportunity to become a Somebody by because we just give them wall-to-wall news coverage they are fascinating has there been an uptick in mass shootings and these sort of tragedies along with social media and more media in general probably some and they do tend to be

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Corrine in Cycles there's a copycat phenomenon yeah until people get a little bit bored and it kind of dies down again so there is that and so there is a suggested policy I actually signed on to this from some criminologist that the news media should not publish the names or the faces of mass killers that what's news it may be newsworthy that it happened but the particular name of the guy why is that news

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worthy the problem is it gets clicks I guess click your right to mean it's just there's so many articles that you see today that you look at the title of the article and it has very little to do with the actual article itself it just because they come up yeah I mean this these salacious headlines are just they're so attractive and it seems like today especially you're seeing less and less people reading the Washington Post the New York Times the LA Times they're struggling and one of the ways they keep up is

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I giving people what they want if it bleeds it leads if yes right now who is this crazy asshole that shot 58 people let's let's find out what's going on in his life so who's his dad who's this who's his brother exactly and that is and according to this this movement I mean it's a case that's not so innocent it's not like the kind of Click bait of you wouldn't believe what happened to the 1970s actress so-and-so and yeah find a picture of her in her 70s you know that kind of Click bait but this is clickbait that does real harm right and there are

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other you do have to balance it against course freedom of the press you don't want there to be governments to tell newspapers where they can publish but there have been some precedents where the Press has voluntarily imposed some standards that do you'll nothing to abrogate freedom of the press but the make people better also give you an example from Sports when the TV networks adopted a policy of not filming fans that run onto the field people stopped running onto the field because why did I do it

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I can say you know hi Mom to the and be broadcast to 300 million TV said right of course or Canada had a policy of no longer publishing the names of juvenile killers and you know that was a voluntary restraint and it was socially responsible and I think there is something to be said for not giving Rampage Killers the audience that they seek hmm yeah I think that makes a lot of sense in terms of you know the greater good of humanity

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Petit but if you're a newspaper guy can use your business is just to sell newspapers you're a bottom line person that the whole thing is just to increase increase the amount of Revenue that comes into your institution yeah and and and not go bankrupt yeah especially today right but you know journalists especially in mainstream forums like the major networks and CNN and the USA Today and so on they still have a huge readership and and they do

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they have to look at themselves in the mirror they do have journalistic codes of Ethics that's kind of one of the things that distinguishes them from the the fake news and the Rumor Mills and so and that will always attract a large following you want to be able to trust what you can read and so they've got a I think balance that against raw bottom line because if they lose their integrity then that's not so good for the bottom line on the long run either do you think that there's a I wonder if this room

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our new media today in terms of I mean we obviously have these established places like the New York Times and like the Washington Post but I wonder if that these these like well-respected long-standing traditional venues I wonder if that's really the right way to do it anymore well there has been a simultaneous with the kind of bottom feeders in the the clickbait factories

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there are a lot of really good new electronic magazines yes no vocs and medium Pacific Standard and Nautilus and quill at and Ian and you know there are others so and few couple of decades earlier slate and these are really really good and you often can read things that you're not going to find necessarily on the Legacy papers and they're responsible and they have fact Checkers and they're you know they're not they're not clickbait factories so there is this funny almost

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inequality in intelligent media where there's a lot of real crap at the bottom but there's also room at the top for four new voices when you look at a guy like the president of the United States who loves to use that term fake news it's it's one of the weirder times ever is his attacks on the media and it seems to be very similar to like the way he reacted to Barack Obama mocking him during that speech

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like the media when they criticize him and critique him his response is to completely attack them and just say that they're useless and fake and it's it is weird time for 4 news when it comes to that and for journalism you know I agree it is a very disturbing phenomenon because there is a phenomenon a fake news but fake news is not the same thing as coverage that criticizes the President right exactly an example of a real lack of

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Incheon of the of how democracy Works namely if you're the president you can be will be should be criticized yeah that's how democracy works we don't have a supreme Divine leader that we consider infallible and this event and that we bow down in front of and anything he says goes he's temporarily kind of a steward he's temporarily overseeing the government but you know he screws up if he says something that's not true the people have the right to criticize

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criticize them and they better be that criticism otherwise we're going to get you know a tyrant or a despot right and taking any criticism and labeling it fake news which is a real phenomenon problem fake news is a genuinely anti-democratic impulse and it's a really disturbing it is disturbing it's also disturbing his attacks on the different intelligence agencies tax on along Force yeah it's real weird it's a weird is there it's real

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weird that you know it if you boil it all down and you look at it like oh what's going on oh well anyone anyone that's after him anyone that's attacking him criticizing him like these people get demeaned and he uses his influence in his power to kind of shut down all these criticisms without any seemingly without any concern for the long-term consequences of diminishing the impact of these media yeah no it's a really important point you begin this is a big theme of Enlightenment now

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is what makes progress possible is that we have the institutions that are smarter than any of the flawed individuals that make it make it out of that you know we recognize that we humans are you know what kind of smart poor not that smart and we all like to think that we're good and decent and wise but no one of us in particular is that good and decent in one right but we can set up rules and institutions that make the society as a whole better than any of the individuals that make it up

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democratic government is the prime example and the whole the difference between a democracy and a cult of personality like Mao in China or Stalin in Russia or Hitler in Germany or Mugabe in Zimbabwe now or the kids in North Korea is that we don't worship the supreme leader who kind of embodies the virtue of the people that's the idea that the United States tried to get away from

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yeah the idea is you got a procedure you got some rules you gotta you know you have to have someone making decisions but you kind of rein it in and it's not about him it's about the whole system and the fact that we've now got a leader who just doesn't seem to understand that he seems to think that it's all about him and that if you just you know I alone can solve it trust me let me do it and the all these rules and regulations are the Deep State the administrative State well

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thank God for the Deep State the administrative state it prevents some despot from foisting his crack-brained schemes on the whole population we do need rules and bureaucrats and checks and balances as and oppress the can criticize the leader as a psychologist when you're looking at all this is this a fascinating study to you or is it terrifying I guess I guess some of each I'd rather not be as fascinated right yeah because ultimately you really don't want human psychology to be

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determining the fate of the world right you kind of want at least you want one product of human psychology only what we collectively and rationally agree upon to be embodied in a set of rules and procedures yes and so it's not about you know that guy there's also a way of Behaving that we deem presidential and Barack Obama in my opinion embodied that better than anybody he was very composed like one of the most composed leaders ever in terms of like leaders the United States like the way he would communicate

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and the way he would respond to criticism he just had a very sort of composed higher level of his ability to communicate it is it was just it was very clean in a way you know I agree and and it was it was kind of a dignity and self restraint and yeah and decorum and Statesman and there's a reason for it isn't just that it makes you feel good when you see it but it actually is making a statement

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namely it isn't about me right I'm occupying this office not to not to prove what a big shot I am what a genius what a glorious Noble Divine figure I am but I've got this big responsibility I've got power to kill hundreds of millions of people or to make them better off or worse off I take that seriously it's not about me feeling really empowered is about me

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kind of serving the people that elected me and that kind of self restraint and respect for the office is a way of reaffirming that principle of democracy what also concerns me is that the person who's in charge is this is how a lot of the rest of the country views the nation oh yeah like and if you have a person who's measured and objective and well thought out and well spoken and that when when you would hear especially

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the Obama's speeches agree with them or disagree with them everything was very clean like the way he and I maybe I use the word clean too much but it was it was eloquent yeah I know you mean yeah and it was smarter than most people you know it was more more articulate than most people you know though the the way the sentences were formed were impressive in the intellectual capacity of the the person that's delivering those words and

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that made us feel better about who we were as a country we're being led by this very wise smart person whether you agree with his policies or not you there's no denying that this is a it's an exceptional human I agree and again it's I think there's a greater reason behind it to the United States has the most powerful military it's the richest country what the United States does matters to the rest of the world and to reassure the rest of the world that we're not just a bunch of

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cowboys who are going to do what's makes us the most powerful but we really think about our role we we don't we don't do rash things that could really be bad for the world that gets conveyed symbolically in the way that a leader comports himself or one day herself well one of the things that I think of though when I see this whole thing going down and I see also this reaction to this President like the giant women's March being called the women's March all day and it is a woman's March but it's also March against the

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that that's a big part of what this is it's like the idea is that he is kind of against women in their eyes whether that's correct or not but that this March is too short a sort of show solidarity that they disagree with the way things are going and I wonder if having a guy like this in power is going to as we're talking about before this sort of Swing effect Ghana re reignite more people to be politically active and more people too

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Direction eyes the things that they don't like like the calling the media fake news or like the attacks on the intelligence Community all these these various things these things that people deemed to be racist these things that people deemed to be you know hostile or silly that he says and that there will be some sort of a powerful reaction in response to that that is that that is that is the hope it's too soon to tell because there's two possibilities

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and one of them is that he's so shattered some Norms created a precedent that means their successors could be even even worse right because Norms can be fragile like what you just don't do if your president well now you can do them right that's the pessimistic view of the optimistic view is the country will say oh my god look what we've been through we try that let's get we tried crazy let's get back to Shane right so those are those are the two possibilities you're out of time yes

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listen thank you so much for being here your book one more time I'd like now like a snow reason science humanism and progress thank you so much it's been an honor and a pleasure really appreciate you being here has been mine thank you so much Joe thank you Steven Pinker ladies and Gentlemen by thank you everybody for tuning in to the podcast and thanks to on it go to ONN itu's the code word Rogan and save 10% off any and all supplements okay all right thank you appreciate you guys

► 02:18:39

we'll be back next week well next week is actually this week Cameron Haines is going to be hear ye Matt Brown The Immortal Matt Brown holy shit Phil demurs the our friend who is a former walrus trainer from Marineland Who's involved in this fucking crazy lawsuits they're still going on with Marineland he's hoping to put some of that stuff to bed he's been winning a lot of this

► 02:19:09

and we'll explain these legal battles that will be on Friday so we'll see you soon bye everybody