13: Warning Letters

Sometimes, pharmaceutical companies mess up. More rarely, the FDA catches them. They write warning letters detailing the problems and post them on the internet for anyone to read. On this episode, we are joined by the author of the new blog, Warning Letters. Warning Letters focuses on quality control in the pharmaceutical industry. We learn how FDA keeps our drugs safe, what the process looks like for supplements, and whether or not it’s worth it to shell out for name brand vs generic drugs.

Check out Warning Letters at warningletters.wordpress.com.

Transcript:

hi i’m will jarvis and i’m will’s dad we both love and are fascinated by stories stories about people stories about places and stories about events our stories give shape and form to life they give texture color and rhythm to the blank canvas that every new day presents to us and they do that by informing us of our past as a directional marker for our future okay will it’s narrative time tell me a story well hey folks today on the podcast we’ve got um the wonderful mr ed what’s that a reference to so if you’ve ever seen the show wonderful mr ed the song goes a horse is a horse of course of course unless it’s the wonderful mr head so that’s awesome so uh and uh it’s a it’s a pseudonym i assume nam day plume i guess that’s super cool and you uh you just started the blog warning letters is that correct yeah so it went live a couple of weeks ago very cool and what is warning letters so a warning letter is something the fda sends out when they find something wrong with the drug manufacturing process so the fda will go and audit manufacturing facilities and then at the conclusion of the audit they’ll write up everything they found that was not right and they’ll send that to the manufacturer and they’ll publish it on the internet so you can read basically anything that’s the fda has ever found for drug manufacturing as long as you can understand it so that’s sort of what i want to do is help interpret what these findings really mean so that consumers can sort of know what’s going on gotcha so fda and have you ever heard that you know insider’s called fda right not the fda not the fda it’s fda it’s like cdc fda you know fda does anyway no definite article before no people responsible for that’s right that’s right um so this so the process goes something like does someone have a um do they do this on a predetermined schedule or does someone like ring an alarm bell and the fda comes so it’s both they have an audit schedule and they’ll come so i do clinical manufacturing so they’ll come every time we start trying to bring a product to market and they’ll also come and edit and audit manufacturing facilities on like a five-year basis and that’s how you get approved to market drugs in the us and then if someone has a problem with a product they’ll tell the fda and the fda will sort of look back and see every product that the consumer has taken to have that problem and they’ll start trying to gather statistics and find out which problem which product they’re having a problem with and then they’ll go back and audit that manufacturer so is it random or is it on a cess like do you know the audits coming or yeah you normally have like three months lead time because you know that five years ago you audited and they’re coming back in five years so they’ll set up a time for them to come okay so they don’t just do it randomly which i think would be actually superior yeah it’s not completely random but it’s it’s somewhat random though it’s somewhat yeah interesting because it seems like optimal would be that um uh you just go in like you roll the dice and then you go check this on this manufacturer sometime within a five-year period and yeah yeah but manufacturers get really upset when you do that i’m sure for obvious reasons and there were a bunch of lawsuits because people were saying oh we’re being discriminated against we came up twice and this company over there never came up so that’s super annoying because all you you could just use a random number generator yeah exactly and actually just pull numbers out of the hat and the reason why i think uh having it be random is important is because you can’t game it at all because if you know they’re coming within the next three months you just beef up you know you quit you know putting sawdust in your vials or whatever that’s what you would expect but the fda will come in there and people will just do the worst [ _ ] in front of them really they’ll just stick their hands and destroy all things and the fda auditor is standing right there and they write that down the warning letters i’m like how does that happen i’ve gone through fda audits and nobody works while the fda auditor is there because you don’t want to be the person they see doing something that costs the company millions of dollars right so it yeah and so people are like performing i assume unless they want to sabotage the company which i don’t think that happened uh and and then that’s the result so it seems like you know you’re you’re selecting these results that are not optimal like so they’re not well they don’t paint a clear picture of what actually is going on in the manufacturing facilities which is horrifying because we’re going to get into some of the things that actually goes on when they’re caught in these audits that uh that uh don’t um yeah don’t turn out so well so so what um so what happens if the fda shows up they knock on the door and say hey we want to check this facility out and you say no so the fda will well that’s fine and they leave and the next that day they come back with the u.s marshals and they open the doors they bring guns and they yeah the next day i had a friend who worked in the supplement industry on sort of the sketchier side he would tell me stories about he would like drive to the plant he worked at and the fda would be there pulling boxes of documents out into the parking lot and he just kept on driving and he just didn’t go back to work because he didn’t want to get caught up in that that’s amazing yeah i know the supplement industry is a bit of uh the wild west so what’s the difference between a supplement and kind of a food or drug product to the fda okay so a supplement is kind of treated like food because for a supplement you don’t have to get approval to market that in the u.s you don’t have to prove that it does anything so it’s called a new drug or supplement so if you have a new supplement you want to bring into the market you have to run like efficiency and safety tests but if you just have something that’s always been marketed like if you have fish oil and you can claim that it’s always been marketed then you don’t have to get it approved by the fda you just have to get you just have to prove that it is what you say it is and that it’s pure so it’s 98 fish oil and it doesn’t have dog oil in it basically okay so a lot of people will try to game the system by saying it’s a supplement and then they’ll claim that it solves cures health conditions and that’s drug and a drug has to have clinical trials behind it to prove its safety and efficacy so you have to prove that it that it works and it’s also safe exactly so um i i just want to so we’ve got a lot of listeners that are in the fitness community uh so that i think this is important to think about important to understand before you take supplements so they do have so the ingredients have to match the label is that correct yeah it has to be exactly what it says on the label but it doesn’t have to work so it doesn’t have to work okay so i that’s even so that’s better than i than i thought because i thought i didn’t they could just do anything i assumed it was kind of the wild west because i know someone that uh has run a supplement company and i was like man this is like uh pretty worrisome well they don’t get audited that often and you can’t really go to jail very easily for it the fda doesn’t have a lot of resources compared to the size of the supplement industry gotcha so oh so they they don’t get audited like uh drug manufacturers do yeah because there’s not as much risk associated with supplements basically gotcha so it’s illegal but you should because i know um consumer reports did a big study about protein powders and like heavy metal concentrations which i think may actually have to do with like uh you know it’s a whey protein is a byproduct of cheese production um and cal cow’s milk has levels of heavy metals associated with you know they eat grass and soil um and so i think it’s like concentrated you think about think of it kind of like concentrated milk it’s going to have higher heavy metal concentrations yeah but also there could be things people putting in there you know that not super great so the problem with that is you test for protein concentration and you’re going to do that most people do that by high pressure low by chromatography hblc i forget what the acronym stands for so much um it’s hplc it’s high pressure low something chromatography gotcha so basically that test for proteins and sort of a bun it has a detector that detects visible light and proteins absorb visible light at like a280 if you’re a chemistry major what’s a 280 um it’s the absorbance at 280 so proteins absorb light at 280. so if you have a detector it can detect that but metals don’t absorb light in that frequency so if you’re looking exclusively at that frequency you’re not going to catch the heavy metals so you have to do a separate test for heavy heavy metals but you have to do it for each one that you’re looking for so like add lead iron aluminum and that’s really expensive the higher you go yeah so sketchy supplement companies sometimes don’t do that gotcha so there what i’m hearing is there is reason to be skeptical and you need to be careful about supplement intake yeah exactly gotcha that’s super interesting it seems so so supplements are regulated differently than food products as well is that correct um exactly food products i think have higher minimum allowances for bad things that can be in it like the famous cockroach particles minimum that can be in food products you can’t have any cockroaches in supplements interesting so actually a little bit tighter than food yeah exactly oh that’s wild that’s so interesting okay and the cockroach minimum is that that’s that you buy volume you can have a certain percentage of you know cockroach body matter yeah because it gets in there because if you’re harvesting a plant sometimes those bugs on plants you can’t be 100 but with a supplement you can be 100 no cockroaches not allowed not a lot oh yeah and then a quick sidebar in supplements pretty much the only thing that will give you energy is caffeine and creatine which is sort of like caffeine so any supplement that claims to give you energy the main ingredient is probably caffeine so you need to like not stack those because too much caffeine can give you heart attacks you know so uh well although you know i know there’s a couple of pre-workouts that were have been famous and this could be like bodybuilding fitness lore right for having um uh ephedrine or like uh you know amphetamine uh you know yeah that’s just meth so so like yeah exactly so it’s caffeine meth or creatine so stick with the caffeine guys exactly yeah super interesting okay um so that’s supplements getting back to warning letters so the fda goes in um they check out the manufacturing process and what do they tend to find so a big thing is data integrity errors so when you’re testing drugs and you get a failing result then you have to either say why you gotta explain why you got a failing result and it’s not the samples fault or you say the sample is bad and this entire batch which is worth five hundred thousand dollars has to be discarded so a lot of people are trying really hard to get passing results and so a lot of companies will have practices that will sort of put your finger on the scale to make sure it passes so that’s mostly what they find gotcha so like p hacking or whatever they have to do to exactly make it make it clear the bar so throw stuff out interesting um so the fda uh so from your perspective and this may be a bit tangential but you know how effective is the fda at his job um you know i remember in college there was a great talk but i think like jessica flanagan at the university of richmond that i attended and she’s like you know look like the fda like sure there’s uh you know maybe it does some good but there’s all these like costs associated with it so traditionally we think about cost in the fda we think about drug development you know it costs like billions and billions of dollars to get a drug approved because you don’t you have to improve efficacy as well as safety and you have to prove it does better than any other product on the market you can’t just have the same level of efficiency gotcha yeah that seems to be like a big big issue so is that is that a net positive and a negative what do you think about that well the fda um controls drug approvals which is what you’re talking about and it also controls drug manufacturing so i can’t talk so much to the drug approvals because that’s a lot more of a tail-end effects that you have to take into consideration whether or not you should approve drugs more easily or have more information so you can make a better judgment call but with drug manufacturing i can tell you whatever they can catch they absolutely make you fix and it’s very efficient they control really well to make sure that you have the correct permits to be able to market things gotcha so if so even though they can’t audit all the manufacturing plants all the time it’s pretty efficient so they actually do a good job in ensuring that the supply is safe and people are doing what they say they’re doing exactly and that’s a pretty big issue because drugs can be very dangerous if they’re not manufactured correctly gotcha so um do you want to talk about a case study okay yeah so my favorite case study is this company in india called milan normally in like thailand mylan yeah normally in like data integrity talks they censor the company names because yeah that could be like your next client and you’re talking [ _ ] about them but i’ll just tell you who it is because i’m anonymous on this so mylan um so they were running chromatography on their samples that they were testing so that they could prove that they were what they say they are yeah and so first you have to run a system suitability so that’s a sample that you know what it is so you can test your machine and make sure your machine is working properly so you run a system suitability and then you run your sample and then you test system suitability again and to say that the machine is working properly system suitability has to work both times at the beginning and the end and if it doesn’t work you can’t say anything about the sample because you don’t know what your machine is doing gotcha you got to calibrate the machine essentially yeah exactly so they would run the first set of system suitabilities and then they would run a sample on the 500 000 batch and if the sample failed they would pull the plug on the machine so the second system suitability did not run and they would say oh we just can’t say anything about the sample that we run even though it looks like it’s failing because we don’t have the second suitability so it’s not a calibrated machine essentially oh god right so they would just test into compliance which means you just test and test and test until you get a passing result and that’s the one you take so with statistics i’m sure any statistician is just cringing in their seats right now because that’s really bad so the fda come along and they’re looking through their data they’re like huh you have a lot of these out of spec results that you didn’t investigate and find if they were actually the true result because the system suitability failed why is that and they asked one of the analysts that does the testing and they go like yeah management just tells us to pull the plug on the machine whenever we have failing results i’m sure that guy got fired but good for him you know exactly exactly like just taking out back and shot like a dog exactly you know so you can’t do that but that’s are there any protections for whistleblowers there are yeah but it’s an indium and they’re mostly like legal protections like you can’t get fired in quotes for that but they can like push you out essentially cover their legally and like nothing’s gonna stop somebody who lost their entire livelihood from coming after you really not that you shouldn’t report anything you catch but like it is a little bit dangerous that does sound like a real problem though that you know if people cannot um

what’s the word if people have trouble uh so like if you see something and it’s gonna harm your livelihood for the rest of your life it seems like a real problem that uh yeah there need to be like real protections in place yeah like like you know what do you do like to protect whistleblowers because right because like it can be a black mark on you like for the industry right yeah exactly because i’m pretty sure somewhere it’s redacted like who said that but yeah in the fda records that guy is named right i gotcha yeah exactly so like someone could find out uh it’s it’s also interesting to me that um so you mentioned like running the test over and over until you get the result you want so i had a great professor in undergrad that he was a professor he focused on the european union and one of the big things he talked about was the democratic deficit in the eu and the way that they would get things passed is like well okay you’ve got this you know what a referendum is yeah everyone votes on so like everyone votes on this particular issue so we’re gonna tax um for french squash for x amount and like these bureaucrats like yes this is the best thing it’s going to really improve our lives we’re going to tax french squash uh and so what they would do is you just um the beer cuts have the power to essentially run the referendum as many times as they want so you just keep running and eventually and eventually it will pass because you can’t like vote in abstentia i guess so eventually the people who don’t want it aren’t there so they don’t vote no yeah eventually like you can get things through so it’s like really this interesting problem it just seems like a interesting analog right it’s the p-test in real life exactly it’s speed hacking in real life there we go yeah so i i thought that was interesting okay so um we were talking about my land in india and and running these drugs so that seems like a big problem because that’s just the ones that have been caught correct yeah exactly it also really shows like the culture of your quality control lab has a huge effect on sort of how samples get tested and what gets through to the market so it’s super important to have really good bosses that’ll really stand up and do the right thing because the analyst who’s running the test doesn’t have as much experience like i run tests for release and i have like two years of experience so if i had never started at a good company i would not know all of these requirements for like making good data that has data integrity well and also it seems like again it’s like the uh the political economy of how do you create like in you know this quality control department that’s actually independent enough to you know like whoa whoa whoa we can’t do that i’m saying because which is very it seems very difficult yeah that seems like a very difficult problem so under good manufacturing requirements you actually have to have a different department from your testing department that tests for quality control and they’re like they’re called quality control and the testing lab is called like testing or whatever and they’re an entirely separate department that answers to an entirely separate boss and they look through all of your paperwork before anything gets released and they have to sign off on it so it’s sort of a check that this department is not becoming nepotistic or under the control of someone who’s not doing what they should be doing that’s interesting but it’s still it’s still like internal yeah it’s still within the company yeah which seems to be like an incentive problem right like exactly um and it also seems like you know regulations like these may be good for current like to keep current players in line but they seem to be like great buffers from new entrants yeah that’s a good point it can cost millions and millions of dollars to set up a lab that can test to these to the good manufacturing practices and it also costs even more money to set up production lines and sort of making the drugs to these um um good manufacturing practices interesting yeah it’s like the bootleggers and baptist problem like mark zuckerberg and uh it’s like yes you know like it would be great for us to regulate social media uh more because we regulate social media more you know i can comply with everything but the small i can business i can’t lie because i’ve got this flywheel that throws off a hundred billion dollars in cash a year and i could you know i can but you know if i’m the new social media entrant we start the next you know facebook we can’t afford to meet the um requirements that set forth by agency but that’s a different second order effect from these uh uh you know setting up regulations like this yeah but i would say drug manufacturing it’s way more important to get right than like social media that’s true that does seem to have much bigger effect to make sure the drugs are safe very cool um so we talked a little bit about this case study uh what are some things people should look out for in their drugs so basically you’re the last line of quality control before something goes into your body so like just look at your drugs before you take them so if you’re taking advil just look at the drugs and they’re like are they all the same color are they all the same shape do they have giant cracks in your gel capsules and also what’s really important that you can really do really effectively is if you have a vial and it’s a clear liquid just look at it and see if there’s anything floating in it there’s anything else that’s a test i actually run just look at the vial and if there’s something in it you can’t take it okay gotcha yeah just call the manufacturer call whoever just complain and complain and complain if you ever find anything that’s not right with your drugs interesting and never take expired drugs ever we work really hard to find the exact date we can market it to and after that there’s a reason it’s not good anymore oh really so that is like the absolute last yeah there’s a lot of money in this because the longer you can sell it the more you get more you’re sure you can’t get stuck with unsold product right so the stability studies like to the absolute last day you can possibly take it so it’s not yet there’s so there’s not like uh yeah people often think there’s a margin of safety put in by the engineers not really no but it’s not like chinese spoon like oh this looks kind of off but i’ll take eat it anyway like you can’t tell if your advil has gone bad gotcha oh that’s super interesting um very cool are there any anything else about the fda thing it would be good for people to know excuse me fda that you would like um so it’s not really immune to political pressure so you need to make sure when you’re voting like some of the fda positions are elected so if you ever get someone like senators i think appoint the head of the fda so you need to look at your senators and see if they’re gonna promote people to that position who are subject to like market pressures because you really don’t want your fda thinking head of the fda thinking in the back of his mind oh am i going to get fired if i regulate this industry and for instance the supplement industry has pumped billions of dollars lobbying the government to keep supplements from having to meet these qualifications for um safety and efficacy so that’s how sometimes bad things happen with supplements safety seems okay efficacy i’m less yeah i’m excited about um i like i’m a libertarian but the more i read these warning letters i’m more like let the fda regulate fish oil like i don’t even care anymore everybody’s doing clinical trials these yeah everyone has to do it that’s super interesting um yeah we were talking to russ green last week and and russ was the former head of research for crossfit and he did a lot of work um with the primarily cdc nih nsca things like that organizations like that and the big takeaway he had was that you wouldn’t believe how little control congress has over these unelected bureaucracies at this point you know he he would say things like well the bureaucracies and i don’t want to butcher what he said but you know the congress would say you need to go fix this and they just wouldn’t do it because there weren’t any controls to sort of force them to comply there’s no real they’re like you know city they’d be like you have to do this i’m like okay sure whatever they just you know and there’s all different ways you could you could not do something right just slow roll it bureaucratically you can just but long story short they did not just keeping meetings to determine what the problem is exactly exactly and and even even other scary things i’m not sure if this is true for the fda you know cdc has been in the spotlight recently because of the whole bumbling coronavirus response you know the seed centers for disease control only spends about 10 percent of his budget on infectious diseases which is a little odd for the centers of disease control exactly um so you know this cra cdc and nih they have these private foundations which they can just use the money for whatever so you know companies like coca-cola pumping money into like cdc foundation and things like that oh so they’ll say that sugar is actually good for you i feel like they right the cdc writes those recommendations for diets yeah things like that it’s like it’s like oh see the big thing they did one of the big things they did was like well it’s really about energy balance so it’s like calories in and calories out and like sugar doesn’t matter you know forget about insulin response that’s not a thing the crossfit will community will tell you that is not true but what do they know yeah what what are they now they’re just all super fit so these crazy people in these garages doing this stupid stuff yelling while they lift weights it’s terrible exactly they’re that you know they keep saying you know why is the the diabetes rate you know why is there a six-fold increase since 1970 or whatever it’s like we don’t know coca-cola will not let us say so exactly if you want to think about something really scary if you look at coke’s advertising i’m getting on tangent here this is one of my favorite tangents go on if you look at their advertising budget spin so white people essentially have stopped drinking regular coca-cola for a lot of the reasons you know and they haven’t stopped completely but you know they’re buying less so they uh pushed all their marketing towards uh black and brown people in the united states i heard they were also trying to get into the african market and now everybody in africa drinks coca-cola which is full sugar yeah yeah it’s really bad people vulnerable populations are getting kind of attacked and and that’s uh it’s really scary when you think about it a lot of weird incentives like you said you know i’m fairly libertarian in my leanings but then you get into some of these problems you’re like oh man oh you know the fda is responsible for labeling food so that’s why coca-cola has to tell you how many grams of sugar and calories are in your coca-cola can oh yeah yeah very interesting people were very upset about it in the beginning but i think that’s probably the right way to go about it yeah i definitely think so i’m against i’m a libertarian so i’m against fairly i’ll say i’m fairly liberal libertarian maybe not capital l like you know lowercase l libertarian i i tend to think um just enough to ruin thanksgiving exactly just enough to win thanksgiving you know sugar taxes and soda taxes i think are probably the wrong way to like limiting the size of soda cups that you can sell i think is ridiculous yeah i think that’s kind of stupid and like paternalistic and i don’t really like it but i do i’m 100 for labeling exactly i i think uh that that is you know having perfect information is important you know i think they should put a little skull and crossbones and you’re like you know the dive like on the um cigarette packs yeah absolutely i have 100 for that i don’t know it’s interesting okay so let’s see what else we’ve got to cover today

so we talked about quality control so how did you first have the idea for this blog so i i work in the industry i have a lot of meetings and at least half of those meetings are they bring you into an auditorium they sit you down and they’ll read over the warning letters that the fda sent out to other companies so they can learn sort of what’s going on what the fda is really auditing for this year and sort of how not to get caught on it because if you get a warning letter your stock price just nose dives for a little bit until they send another letter saying yeah you’ve mostly fixed it so that was really interesting yeah it was just really interesting what other people were doing i thought you know i bet everyone would be pretty interested in hearing about this that’s yeah it’s super super crazy although again you know it goes back to you know it sounds like people you know they try to match the test right they try to they they just study for the test so you know they see the fda is looking just at cardboard in vials and so they like really may try and make sure they don’t have cardboard and files going forward yeah but that is to a certain extent what happens but sometimes you get side benefits from it like the fda has really been pushing data integrity like we talked about for years so people have started getting like audit trails that will automatically capture what happens and when it happens so people can just delete data for failing results so i think that does significantly impact the actual quality of the products that consumers get that’s that’s very interesting that’s very interesting are there any other case studies you like to talk about so another data integrity issue so up in china they made baby formula and they would run the baby formula samples on the chromatogram and they would try to hit a certain protein percentage because that’s because it’s china and the higher the protein percentage in the baby formula the better it looks so they added a substance that was not baby formula but it increased the specific weight so and then when they ran it over the chromatogram a readout on a chromatogram is sort of a line and then it’s got peaks i’m next to the and if you have a peak that’s something right and you sort of determine where on the peak your result is your sample that you’re testing for is going to come out and you look at it and you say okay that looks like the reference standard which we know has that peak and we know is the substance we’re looking for so they also have this heavy metal peak and what they did is they went back and they whited out the heavy metal god right so it did not look like they had that heavy metal in it and babies developed kidney stones and i think three or four of them just died from that so like four people got executed in china yeah well the fda can’t do that here yeah so the fda not as bad as the chinese fda oh that is like you know that’s kind of the right response though right you gotta do something nobody else puts heavy metals in their baby formula yeah yeah yeah yeah everybody is very concerned yeah it sends the right message i mean you know you start killing kids that’s you gotta do something that’s bad stuff that actually reminds me of the volkswagen do you remember the volkswagen emissions scandal oh yeah they were making it so that they could turn the emissions on or off that’s right so so you know this this is a very similar case it’s based on it’s quality control you know same kind of thing trying to comply with existing regulations yeah more like yeah more trying to comply with existing regulations so they had tdi diesels clean diesels um you may remember them really good you can get like 45 50 miles per gallon on the highway with these things this was back in like the 2000s so that was even better yeah it was even better and this was really big in in europe especially because you know europe gets most of its gasoline from the north sea the norwegians that’s why the norwegians i don’t know if you knew this but um mr ed but norway has the largest like one of the second largest or the largest maybe the largest sau i think it’s the largest sovereign wealth fund oh really so like the saudi arabia of europe yes so it’s like a trillion dollars or something it’s like and it’s a big thing like so they could just do welfare whenever they want because they’re rich so like i and i pretty much so that’s why they have a welfare state exactly they have like a couple hundred thousand dollars for each person and and that’s why also why i tend to think you know when politicians the u.s compare us to these nordic countries well you know there’s like you know we don’t have this massive sovereign wealth fund to pay things out anyway you know when we stop using oil good luck with that exactly um but they’ve actually electrified most of their vehicles now um but they have this massive sovereign wealth fund owns two percent of all publicly traded equities in the world that’s pretty impressive i’m moving to norway going to norway yeah and so it’s hilarious because they just did this index approach and they just bought everything you know um but you know most of the cars are tesla’s over there now for that reason craziness but that’s where they get the oil oil from in the in the in in europe and so oil prices are very high because it’s in the north north sea north sea yeah and it’s like you know very rough to pull out of water it’s not like in venezuela where you can like stick a shovel on the ground and like spurts out yeah um so it’s quite difficult oil prices are high so gas prices are high if you’ve ever been to europe that’s by the leader and it’s it’s pricey so diesel became commonplace because um it’s a lot cheaper and much more fuel efficient and easier to kind of get around so they started marketing clean diesels but what the what volkswagen dig the volkswagen engineers is they started throwing the emissions test because they couldn’t get them clean enough oh yeah to meet the regulatory standards so yeah i can’t remember exactly what they did but i think they cut horsepower or something in half um to make it and um you know they had a couple engineers on this there’s an executive that made this have like you know we have to get this through because european regulations are quite stringent you know greta turnburg the superintendent climate change um and trying to alleviate that in environmental issues so they did that um and you know there was some engineer that was just working under the direction of higher management to make this happen you know he was just like kind of cog in the machine and this is an important story i think because you know eventually he flew to america and you know they picked him up on the tarmac you know he like got the plane and this guy’s just like a cog in the machine but i think this is an important thing for everyone to think about is like even if you’re directed to do something you know by a higher up you still need to do the right thing because at the end of the day not only is it you know the right thing to do but the authorities will come and get you anyway exactly like working in a giant organization will you work for like one guy so but working in giant bureaucracy you can’t see the big picture you sort of have to do what your boss tells you to do so if your boss says look at these 10 bottles and see if there’s stuff in them i do that but it’s also really valuable to be able to encalculate yourself in the mindset that if i if this doesn’t seem right i need to stop and i need to find someone else yeah exactly even though it’s a very different mindset from just go to work and just do whatever you say and then yeah do whatever yeah exactly well and you got to think about it a lot of a lot of the bad things that have happened in the world are because people are kind of just like wow they just told me to do it you know like whatever yeah you know putting these people on these cattle cars i don’t know where they’re going but it’s not my problem once they get there exactly i’m just locking the doors i don’t push the button exactly so you want to be really you gotta like follow the news a little bit yeah yeah you’ve got to keep your eyes open all the time um so that that’s interesting so we’ve talked about a lot about a lot about quality control i had something else i wanted to cover here

do you know when the fda was created um gosh i think back in like the 1850s it’s actually a really interesting story so it was actually a supplement it was like a supplement they were trying to make for kids so they put in some grape flavor in it and it turns out that the ingredients the grape flavor were very dangerous for kids because they’re smaller they have a lot more body mass so like kids just started dying because they hadn’t done these safety tests on this new formulation for this drug so that’s how the fda sort of got the political impetus to get past and i don’t think we could make something like the fda today because when’s the last time a really efficient government organization had been created like ice was created in like 2010 and it still doesn’t work right right it doesn’t have the government power or the overreach that would really need to really complete its stated goals it’s just sort of a boondoggle right but the fda will come for you and the u.s marshals will put you in jail if you send bad products to people like they will actually it still still kind of works yeah it still works even after all of these years that’s super interesting yeah you know it is it is bizarre this this interplay between executive congressional power and then like these unelected bureaucracies uh because even if you look at the these riots that happened on recently and you know riots protests in portland and things like that and you see these people uh what so you saw these people in fatigues jump out of these rented vans to like snatch people up you know protesters that were like you know trying to destroy a federal courthouse and stuff like that so here comes the federal troops right they don’t play around not like your mayor you elect every year like exactly so so they came but it was what the most interesting thing to me about that was that um you know it’s weird right because these people they’re wearing fatigues unmarked and they’re using like rented eq we’re in advance like what’s going on and the thing i realized is you know there was no one else they could send because you know who those troops were troops police the national guard no no they were not the national guard they weren’t any other and i’m not exactly sure who normally would handle this they were actually the border patrols um so the border patrol has prisons and they have uh i don’t know have you ever toured a jail or anything no okay so i in boy scouts we tore to jail quite impressive uh yeah scared you straight apparently yeah yeah yep scared of that uh so i you know we went to the jail and it was interesting because they talked about well okay like this is how it’s set up and stuff and then they had like all this right gear and things like that and they’re like well this is our right gear if things go south is bad things happen oh so they were using like prison guards because they had riot experience well not quite so we’ll get there um so but they said but there’s a special number we call and these folks based in raleigh come and they are the prison swat team and these are like these are the baddest people and if they come like you have [ __ ] up like this is really not good like you do not want these people to come so that’s what it was is the border patrol’s like swat team and you start thinking about okay like why like why the hell are they using the border patrol swat team in these situations and i think the answer is because the uh this is the only people the executive branch could actually get to do anything oh they’re the only ones that follow their orders from the president not from like congress right one i think even more than that i think uh they’re probably pretty red tried compared to the other law enforcement agencies and so they would actually be willing to go and do it um you know there’s tons of problems with this like you know they’re using like unmarked vans and like really a poor way to do things like unmarked you know fatigues like you shouldn’t be wearing fatigues and then you know they’re just snatching people off the street like very kind of scary you see the videos like oh my god what is going on here well i think it’s very dangerous to try to arrest somebody in a riot about arresting people like that could end up with all the officers dead pretty quickly if there’s 100 of them in 10 of you well well that’s part of it that’s part of my point though is that uh it’s the wrong way to do things because like they’re clearly super under-resourced right because well either you got to go in and you got to do it and you got to arrest everybody and there’s like overwhelming force or you don’t do it i don’t think oh we’re going to sneak in and get somebody it’s the government don’t halfway it yeah the halfway don’t half-ass everything yeah yeah it doesn’t doesn’t really seem to work but point being um i i think people had this idea that you know you go and you elect your congress people and you know they they go and they actually control things and you’re going to like president and he can actually control things i think a lot of these processes are it’s really distributed it’s like kind of it’s super oligarchic so each government agency like the individual bureaucracies have a lot have that’s where most the power resides now um and it’s not in the people we traditionally so we think we think like it it makes sense to us that we go and like we elect these people and then cal cunningham goes and he like he decides what’s gonna happen right to a certain extent uh and i think he may do more especially like the um committees so like in the congressional committees but even then there’s also a great movie um called the report have you seen this oh i have not it’s great it’s on amazon prime it’s got kylo ren is the is the movie star in it what’s his name oh the one with the famine and the ball cans or kylo ren oh yeah um adam driver driver kevin yeah so he’s got adam driver the guy with the weird face exactly oh god that’s the end yeah i’m gonna have to edit that out yeah sorry adam driver if you’re listening to this we love you um you have nice abs so it makes up for it exactly makes up oh god i’m just thinking that hole deeper so

what was i saying so anyway the report so he’s a staffer for dianne feinstein you know dying fighting scientists yeah a senator of some sort yeah super old uh senator from california she’s like you know super old school democrat like gone a long time in the news recently for hugging lindsey graham after the uh barrett hearings probably she has chronic viruses probably neither here so you know he’s the staffer and he gets out of the harvard kennedy school and he i i can’t remember exactly how he started but he catches when that you know uh and she’s on the defense committee or or something like that defense at homeland security can’t quite remember this is in the early 2000s and he starts looking into the black sites so he kind of like broke the black side story and like all this bad stuff happening and he’s like like guantanamo bay yeah like gitmo and like all this stuff they’re doing and and he’s like ends up on this crazy quest to figure out what actually happens it takes like years years and years and years and um you know dianne feinstein you know this very powerful senator is trying to get like and you know she’s like facing political pressure for looking into it um and the cia doesn’t want to turn over these documents and they finally like give adam driver you know this this where i can’t remember the guy’s name for the life of me uh this um we should have him on the podcast oh yeah it’s gonna be uh not i’m driving but actually probably he’s in hiding right now because he’s a whistleblower exactly uh so he gets all these documents he’s going through this like thousands i mean he spends years going through these documents trying to figure things out that’s one way people will sort of mess with regulatory agents they’ll just give them a million documents all sort of pertaining to what they’re doing exactly so the point is like exactly so this is a great point the cia so they’re like okay yeah sure whatever we’ll give you all the documents they’re just giving butt loads and butt clothes and boat loads and gina haspel was actually part of this too the current cia director so and he’s going through the documents it takes years like everyone else is working with him is just like this is just like crazy and he finally like creates this report um but the cia these things are are getting close and weird and they actually send people and they break into the office and like try and find out what is what’s in his report yeah and i mean like literally so this is a secure like this government the senate yeah like they have a secure room with all these lock boxes and things like that only he can access for the defense committee um and they break into it to figure out what’s going on and you’re sitting there and you’re like oh my god i can’t believe the cia did this like because like who’s who’s walking who like you know who’s the [ __ ] because it’s really the dog walking the congress like you don’t know it’s it’s much less clear like who actually has the power here um and just just blows my mind and there’s all kinds of other weird things like uh you know cynic the cia so during these interrogations waterboarding and you know they use like these really like they found these like wacky psychologists um that just came up with these methods for extracting information you know like all these torture methods and like it wasn’t based in science at all and it was really and i think the big big takeaway was like cia wanted to signal that they’re tough on this like you know we’re not going to let this happen again you know what i mean we are we’ll do anything so we’re going to waterboard some waterboards so they couldn’t get physicians to monitor it because you know they’ve got they took this out so you know who they got who uh physicians assistants

i feel like physicians assistants even if they’re not actually doing surgery are still like i’m not going to torture this dude like yeah i’ve met some people who are physicians assistants they don’t seem like the torture and type i know but i gotta say but maybe uh you must have paid them a lot or something i i don’t know and they were paying these contractors probably if you have a person you think would probably torture people for you you could just buy them a physician’s assistance license like it’s like two years of schooling yeah i think probably that’s how that went down i don’t know but long story short like just all this crazy stuff happened and you’re like my point being though is like these these organizations you know they have a lot of power and sometimes things can get like really weird and out of hand yeah i mean if they don’t have any oversight if they don’t have the oversight and i don’t tend to think and even they have oversight you know uh they have a lot of latitude to kind of do what they want mm-hmm because most of it’s secret right i guess most of it’s top secret and the other people that really know about it are like dianne feinstein yeah things like that you know people like that um just super bizarre to me yeah it reminds me of the cuban missile crisis and so these i guess the cubans are in the nuclear missile sub and the broadcast goes out okay so like okay there’s been a nuclear attack we have to launch the nuclear missiles and one commander was able to stop them from launching the nuclear missiles like not like an elective official just like one guy who happened to be there and that’s why we didn’t have nuclear war oh wow yeah that’s crazy that’s crazy you get things get really close um and the world just goes along is what’s really amazing to me like here we still are yeah exactly right cool so is uh anything else that the listener should know about the fda well i’d like to talk about sort of the downsides of my blog maybe i don’t want to scare people off modern medicine

i went off modern medicine because of the things i talk about like modern medicine isn’t great but it’s the best we have and it’s way better than any like homeopathy even if sometimes you end up with cockroaches next to your sterile eye injections and then people go blind you know oh god does that really happen that really happened it was not a great time for the compounding industry or the fda wait what how did how did that happen how do people end up going blind so basically if you’re a compounding pharmacy you take like a bulk drug substance that’s just the active ingredient and you mix it with other things those are called the excipients and they’re like everything else in a drug that holds it together and it makes it easier to mix so if you have like a gel capsule the gel capsule is an excipient and inside it is advil the active ingredient which is acetaminophen in like a solution so if you can’t if for instance you’re lactose intolerant they can recom they can compound a drug for you that doesn’t have lactose in it or gelatin if you’re like gelatin intolerant okay yeah so they have a lot looser regulations because they don’t have to abide by good manufacturing processes so because they’re only making it for one person and it’s super expensive to do good manufacturing so they have a lot so they don’t get audited to the same standards by the fda so people started going blind from these eye injections and the fda comes along and they find that all of these injections are coming from this pharmacy called frank’s pharmacy and they go and they audit the pharmacy and in the light bulb above the sterile area they find dead cockroaches and i’m like that’s not a good time for anyone right exactly right like so so it wasn’t directly related to the cockroaches they were just doing something wrong yeah it was just the cockroaches were bringing in this bacteria and then the bacteria was getting into the sterile drugs right they were able to match to the species the bacteria in the drugs to the bacteria in the patient’s eye which is like the most specific you can get by genetic typing for bacteria and it’s pretty much a smoking gun for any lawsuit those patients want to go through with that’s super amazing right it’s crazy oh my god that’s nuts so so in other words like you know your blog which is super awesome and we’ll put the link up here it’s really cool um super informative and very witty and and fun and you know me mondays every monday exactly if you’re kind of like what does tyler count saying if for infowar like us you’ll really enjoy reading about it it’s just like super cool um this whole world you’ve never heard about yeah i think it’s a good point so i i think the takeaway i think you’re trying to get across is that yes like uh you know there’s all these crazy things that happen but you know it somehow it ends up pretty well like i still would take a flu shot or a sterile injection even knowing what i know right because one i think the big point is like we catch them here yeah like we actually you know it would be more scary if the cockroaches were there forever and nobody ever mentions exactly that’s very interesting very interesting so quality control in the fda i think we’ve learned quite a bit is there anything else that the layperson i think would not understand that you do that is important so i don’t think generics like nobody in my lab takes generics my boss won’t take generics i will take name brand medications and i don’t want to say that to people because they’re so much cheaper and name brand medications that have copyrights on them are sort of a reason for the rising cost of health care but i won’t take them like i don’t know who generic um company number four is i don’t know their quality control practices but i do know that the company i work for whatever company name has really great com quality control practices and a really strong culture of quality which prevents sort of a lot of what we’re talking about so i’m going to take that i’m going to pay the money and i’m not going to take the generics no way so interesting so um so name brand drugs by the big pharmaceutical companies are actually you think it’s actually worth showing up shelling out for them i can’t claim that even though i’m anonymous but i do because generic companies they spent one year perfecting their manufacturing processes maybe these name brands that have developed it and then spent years and years and years perfecting their manufacturing processes and seeing where the problems happen and then fixing them that’s a lot more reassuring to me than the generic company who kicked up six months ago because the copyright ran out is now making this that is super interesting right it’s not the safety it’s not the effect efficacy of the drug which has been proved through clinical trials it’s how they’re manufacturing it that they can be a different thing yeah wow that’s super amazing well well that i think that’s that’s wow something to consider yeah yeah and so well and that that is a sign if everyone in your lab does not take generic drugs yeah well again we get paid real well so that’s probably also a fact exactly like if it’s generic insulin or no insulin just take the insulin yeah absolutely but yeah gotcha but if you if you do have that extra something to think about yeah awesome well like a tail risk for sure terrorist but still it scares me in the face every day yeah exactly it does i’m sure it dominates lots of you yeah very cool well thank you mr ed for coming on and thanks for having me we’ll have put the blog up and go check it out it’s what’s the url again it’s warninglighters.wordpress.com man we got to get you we’ll get rid of you gotta give me a org yeah don’t worry we’ll redirect it’ll be great okay awesome thanks thanks

well that’s our show for today i’m will jarvis and i’m will’s dad join us next week for more narratives foreign you

12: Russ Greene-Health, Fitness and Governance in America

Today on the podcast, we have Russ Greene. Russ is the former director of government relations and research at CrossFit, a former games athlete, an Arabic linguist, and is currently an associate director at Stand Together, a nonprofit in the DC area. We discuss the current state of American wealth, governance, and fitness. 

The views and opinions expressed on Narratives are those of the guests and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of employers, past or present. 

Transcript:

hi i’m will jarvis and i’m will’s dad we both love and are fascinated by stories stories about people stories about places and stories about events our stories give shape and form to life they give texture color and rhythm to the blank canvas that every new day presents to us and they do that by informing us of our past as a directional marker for our future okay will it’s narrative time tell me a story today on the podcast we’ve got russ green and russ is the former director of government relations and research at crossfit he’s a former games athlete an arabic linguist and he’s currently an associate director at stand together a non-profit in the dc area hold on will like yeah i was across a games athlete in 2007-8 like those crazy ideas he didn’t even have to qualify back then so you know i think you know you got to put that up there that’s a big accomplishment man you know even if you got in the ground floor still still still counts man it’s cool it was fun at the time but you know russ uh will and i started this is our ninth year i guess we’ll start just before i did maybe a few months and uh i’m known as an old school crawl spitter we i don’t know what that makes you oh my god i started in 2002 so wow i think it makes me old makes you legendary it makes you legendary

i think i think i’m initially i was at the point where i’d been doing crossfit so long that it was embarrassing that i wasn’t like super duper fit and now i think i’ve been doing it long enough that it’s like impressive that i’m still at it you know oh wow 19 years still going i’m like yeah yeah that’s awesome that is awesome that’s so cool well um i’ve got to kind of mix and match these questions so so rust how how is was that bio okay was there anything you’d like to add i mean you hit all the big things i guess some people get into more detail very cool and so how is your uh training kind of evolved over these past years so oh wow that’s an i don’t even think that was on the outline you sent me well wow i’m gonna i’m gonna go back so like okay 2000 so i started working out in 1999 and i was going to the ymca doing a machine circuit because i thought if i built more muscle it would uh i guess help me get a girlfriend and improve my social status it didn’t either but um i did get a little bit stronger but you know doing the ymca machine circuit gets boring after a while and it just doesn’t work very well so i started looking online for just new ways to work out and about 2002 i found crossfit now meanwhile i was you know i was a high school student doing high school sports you know track swimming wrestling um and i one of the things that appealed to me about crossfit was it seemed like you could be in really good cardio shape from swimming or running and still just get gassed wrestling in like 30 seconds like there wasn’t a whole lot of obviously there’s some transfer but it wasn’t it was surprising how tired you would get in a wrestling match even if you thought you were in really good cardiovascular shape and crossfit workouts especially in the beginning feel a lot like that you know it’s that gasping for air weight on top of you yeah um so you know i for the first couple of years i was mainly just using crossfit just on the side but you know i happened to move to um happened to move to california just serendipitously and that’s where the first crossfit gym was so i started training there a little bit and uh it was really when i was in college that i started you know really getting into it more um you know i’ve i never really was a guy who you know hey i think i’m gonna make regionals this year and i’m gonna train seven hours a day that that was just never me probably because i’m just not that talented so it wasn’t easy to delude myself into thinking i’d be the next rich froning but um i would say like over the years what i found is that you need to you need to sort of go on these quests and um you never leave behind the general physical preparedness but you know every year or six months or whatever cycle makes sense to you you pick something new that you want to work on and you lay that on top of your general work and that’s something that i’ve found uh works really well so you know whether it’s i did brazilian jiu jitsu for a while um until my wife made me stop because i kept getting hurt um you know for i did a triathlon once um so right now i’m doing a lot of more like gymnastics strength holds and and uh doing a lot on the rogue echo bike but you know just the whole while staying consistent like i never just went and solely did one thing very cool very cool so it’s kind of like you know finding like a a new goal something new and interesting and always keep you kind of engaged um apart from the gpp yeah yeah i kind of stole the idea from a friend of mine brian shantosh because he would he would do these yearly challenges like one year i think it was a row a million meters and then one year it was like as many rounds of cindy as possible in a year and i never thought i’ve never signed up for any of these but at the same time i thought it was like that’s an interesting idea yearly challenge so you know like one year i had to do 10 socks press every workout like didn’t matter what way just had to do 10 socks press you know so just things like that um keep it interesting that’s super cool that’s super cool um and so i wanted to kind of transition a little bit you wrote a piece on kind of modern life um on medium a while back where you talked about kind of you know healthspan you know has our health span gotten longer or you know so it’s always like this battle between the mathematicians and uh you know the biologists you know are are people getting are people living longer is it just you know we we’re fixing infant mortality and we’re getting better at you know trauma surgery things like that um do you think there have been real gains in terms of um you know i guess qualities in people’s life so just like the you know maybe we live longer but we live worse do you think there is that we’re actually better off now than when we were you know hunter gatherers and we’d all run and you know run you know a couple hours a day run down some antelope and then eat it and you know just hang out the rest of the time that’s a great question i you know like i personally would not like to go back to those days but i will say this you know i think the stephen pinkers of the world if you just listen to them and the numbers that they cherry pick i think you get a very misleading impression you know for example it when they talk about how conflict has decreased well there’s a whole lot of statistical issues with that like starting from you know just the way they calculate the numbers killed in older generations of war you know it’s very hard to get an accurate count of how many people were killed 100 years ago or 200 years ago and then you know secondly as the same columbus pointed out you know these these things these massive casualty events um tend to fall like they’re fat tail events like gotcha i don’t want to say black swan because they’re not really they’re kind of right but um you know so hey we’ve had a 75 or whatever it is year round with a without a world war but you know there might be a nuclear armageddon in our future within the next 50 to 100 years like we can’t rule that out so just to to try to draw trends you know based off based off of just like the past 75 years and then project that forward seems a little naive i’m kind of butchering the same tolerance argument so definitely check out what he’s written about that you know that’s so that’s one point the other point would be um like looking at the quality of life and health span as you said um clearly there’s been a massive increase in chronic diseases obesity type 2 diabetes heart disease cancers so the question is always okay we might be living longer on average but how many of how much of that time is actually spent doing what we want to do in a healthy state so i was being intentionally provocative in my article um obviously i you know i wouldn’t if i could live in an if i had the opportunity to go back and be a hunter gatherer and press a button i wouldn’t want to but i i do think that the argument on the other side has been severely overstated and overlooks it some pretty significant um facts and oftentimes it’s portrayed as this romantic thing like oh you’re just like rousseau right like you you believe in this global savage like no i’m like i’m talking about real numbers you know like right i’m talking about like a six-fold increase in the number of people with type 2 diabetes you know since the 70s like that’s a real thing i’m talking about three consecutive years of declining life expectancy you know the longest consecutive decline in u.s life expectancy in 100 years since the spanish flu like these things are really happening but you know on the other hand you can’t deny that there has been like massive massive progress in other areas at the same time definitely that’s a really good point and you know just anecdotally if you go so where my dad is sitting right now in eastern north carolina so i’m in a metro area rest i’m assuming you’re in dc so a metro area you go out you know like 20 30 miles out in these more rural areas you know the the downtowns look bombed out and the people look bombed out you know opioid the opioid epidemic people are just you know they’re overweight um and there’s all these kinds of problems where just health seems to have just declined over the past you know i don’t know i have a short time span i’ve been alive so i can’t you know speak but anecdotally seems to be the case i mean if you listen to guys like peter thiel ross douthit um you know there’s an increasing chorus of people who are skeptical about the amount of progress we’ve made in the last say 30 to 50 years i i think you could put me in that camp i usually don’t agree with the measures they recommend to fix it but just you know be being skeptical about how much meaningful progress we’ve made in quality of life and length of life yeah i i think you could put me in that can super cool and so kind of transitioning um from that so so what’s kind of the biggest misconception about diet and exercise that the lay person just gets plain wrong

i think people don’t understand uh the law of diminishing rates of return okay right um so it’s an economic concept right but like generally the idea is um the easiest hundred pounds to add to your deadlift or your first 100 pounds obviously like 200 300 it’s gonna be like two months you know you’re just going to learn how to do it boom and 300 to 400 you might have to get a little more serious and start coming to the gym on a regular basis i feel it’s you know it’s not going to be that hard 400 to 500 you know if you get there that’s going to take some meaningful training and then 500 to 600 like strap in man here we go like unless you’re really like genetically gifted or like a power lifter like that’s that’s going to be a challenge so it takes significantly more commitment and dedication and risk of injury and all these other things just to increase every additional unit and that holds whether it’s deadlifts marathons every single thing you could imagine at the same time there’s not just diminishing rates of return to training but diminishing rates of return to performance interesting and what i mean by that is the first hundred pounds you add to your deadlift are the most important for your quality of life every every 100 pounds you add after that transfers less and eventually that curve turns negative right it turns downward so eventually you’re trying to add more weight to your deadlift and it’s actually making your life worse you know you can put a lot of power lifters in that category right or conversely like you know like you take your mile from like seven minutes to six minutes fantastic even six minutes to five minutes like that’s great you want to get down to like four flat like like we’re talking like ready 75 miles a week you’re probably gonna hurt yourself you know it’s like yeah it’s amazing but you know unless you’re a runner and you’re getting paid to do that or you’re just like this is the passion in your life is it worth it so there’s i don’t think people have put together that not only is it going to take more and more work to make to make each additional unit of gain but that additional unit actually is contributing less and less to your overall life and in fact it will eventually become detrimental at some point right like the guys who deadlift 750 pounds are not very fit overall right trade-offs trade-offs yeah yeah yeah the guys the guys who are you know winning marathons overall are not very fit in an overall sense now

there are ways to like sort of try to gain that like i think that crossfit one of the benefits of crossfit is you know like when you focus on more of a mixed modal type of performance there is more of a linear relation at least at first between your performance and your quality of life like it’s hard to say that you’re going to be so good at helen or fran that you know it’s just making you unable to do the activities of daily life or you know like unable to pick up a martial art or learn a new sport but at the same time i still think there’s diminishing marginal returns so the reason this is so like this sounds really abstract but like i think everyone experiences this maybe they just don’t have a word for it like the first six months when you’re working out it’s amazing you’re pr’ing every single day right and then you keep doing that whatever your activity is whether it’s crossfit or weightlifting whatever you keep doing it over and over again and you’re not getting the same results and and it’s like people get frustrated or they push themselves too hard and they get injured and um if they people thought more about diminishing rates of return you know i think they would be able to think more logically about their training super interesting that’s a that’s a great point it’s also uh i think it highlights it’s important to go do something and like show up every day and um and keep working at it but not maybe obsess over you know you know chasing crazy numbers and things like that yeah that’s a mistake i’ve definitely made yeah yes i i think i i’ve invested more time energy stress into exercise and i probably should have given just like my inherent lack of genetic talent yeah right it’s important to realize that yeah that’s always that’s cool that’s cool um so you mentioned uh you know longevity dropping the diabetes rate um you know six times is that we said uh since yeah it’s 16 yeah a large number but you know generally it’s like two percent to 12 percent of the population with diagnosed type 2 diabetes as i recall man that’s that’s just it’s just yeah it’s mind-blowing what do you think has gone so wrong you know and and how does the food and beverage industry kind of play into that yeah well that’s an interesting question because

you look at you you listen all these stories of decline whether people are talking about stagnation and science and technology they’re talking about what they think’s gone wrong with the economy um political discourse in america even you look at like pew pew like polls americans to see how much they trust various institutions in the federal government and like since the 1970s it’s gone from like 80 to 18 wow like any story you look at you look really in-depth at the narrative of like when things went wrong it’s always like 1972. or 73 right nutrition’s the same like you look at the big narratives about like what went wrong and it’s like yeah you know if uh you know they changed a farm bill for one obviously the farm bill is just this massive like crony mess of like subsidies and and loan guarantees and quotas and originally they were mostly paying farmers not to produce and then nixon and i think it was 72 or 73 went from sort of a minimalist policy to a maximalist policy so he basically wanted farmers to maximize production and he was going to pay them to produce more corn soy wheat etc then they would produce under normal market conditions so you look even at mary and nestle’s book like food politics and she really starts the story around that area era in the 1970s obviously you have the dietary guidelines happening around then you know you have high fructose corn syrup really coming around there’s a bunch my point is you know i would be skeptical of single cause narratives it seems like a whole bunch of things happened at this you know single point and then the the type 2 diabetes and obesity rates just skyrocketed craziness and so maybe it’s like you know artificially cheap sugar and you know i know they they’ve been dumping dairy because they don’t know what to do with it um things like that so that’s super interesting so government policy may have played a role to a certain extent i mean it definitely it definitely failed you know you look at even the defenders of the dietary guidelines and they say hey look don’t blame the dietary guidelines no one followed them like well you may also something be right object’s failure that’s right it doesn’t change the fact that exactly they’re wrong exactly not a super super argument um so i i want to transition a little bit and talk so you’ve worked a lot with the um on you know problems related to the nsca and and big sugar and the cdc and the nih what are kind of the most shocking things to you that you found or that uh the average person just wouldn’t expect um i guess yeah honestly the most shocking thing i found is that congress tells government agencies to do things all the time and they just don’t do them really it happens all the time yeah like i just found this out the other day congress has told hhs on four separate occasions hey guys we really need a centralized disease surveillance database they’ve said that since like 2006 they even allocated funding for it and cdc like kind of or not cdc hhs kind of like convened a committee or something but there’s like four different government accountability office reports saying like guys you never did this you never even cried like what’s going on and nobody cares because it doesn’t like this actually gets into what you guys are talking about you know like right now we have so much information but people are blind to it because if it doesn’t fit the single narrative that they can pay attention to at one time whether it’s blame the republicans or blame the democrats they don’t want to have any time for it and the problem is the the problems that we’re talking about whether it’s public health agencies or you know obesity diabetes if you look at them on graphs they don’t go up during a democratic presidency and then down during a republican one they trend in a negative direction regardless of who’s in charge so it doesn’t really fit the convenient narratives like for example right now there’s a lot of people upset about trump’s relationship with the cdc and their their right to be but if anyone’s thinking that biden’s going to come in and the cdc is going to be suddenly a hyper better efficient organization i mean it’s not just a historical record so one of the surprising things we found researching this was that cdc and nih have foundations set up by congress and partially funded by congress that are nonetheless designated uh non-governmental the british would refer to these types of organizations as quangos quasi non-governmental organizations and they are not bound by freedom of information act rules first of all and then second of all what their function is these quangos is to raise money from outside sources so like foreign governments like saudi arabia or yeah or like corporations that couldn’t donate directly to fda or cdc or whoever but they can donate to the cdc foundation or the nih foundation and it’s not you can’t do a freedom of information act request about it at least not directly and these uh foundations are required by congress to annually report to congress as well as to the public when they ask um where the money’s coming from how much and what it’s being used for and the shocking thing that um we found when i was working for crossfit is that they just don’t do this oh wow and then we went to congress and we told them that and congress asked them to start doing it and they didn’t do it

oh god yeah one more thing because like people often say like well you know you’re just you’re just tracking the money you’re not proving that any actual fraud happened or things like that we also found like a lot of discrepancies in their data like we noticed that every single time the cdc reported a disease prevalence like type 2 diabetes or obesity and there was an independent group of academics that also looked at the same problem and tried to estimate a a rate a prevalence rate the cdc number was always like off by like 25 compared to the independent guys always yeah it was weird you know like in in florida the cdc estimate of like the state diabetes rate it was something like 29 sorry obesity rate it was something like 29 and then some independent researchers went and looked and they just looked at medical records they had thousands and thousands of data points and they were like they were like yeah the cdc’s off by like 25 it’s like what’s going on and and we found a similar thing with uh type 2 diabetes like uh gallup’s type 2 diabetes estimate for the united states which by the way they’re calling up like a hundred and eighty thousand people like super bowl yeah yeah huge it was like 14 and the cdc estimate was 12 and then you look into the cdc’s data and they have all these caveats like oh we’re using data from five years ago but just projecting it forward as if nothing’s changed it’s like you can’t do that

wow it’s it’s uh it it it’s almost it’s even more intractable than one would imagine because it’s it’s not at the level of you know let alone you know uh incumbency reelection rates are super high for congress even though the uh our approval keeps going down which is very interesting um but let alone that you know it’s at the level of the unelected bureaucracies it’s just like what could you do wow that’s super interesting pastor carlson has suggested that we just like break them up like have like 10 ni agents 20 of them fun experiments they’re hilarious nih one too so in actually in north carolina we had a pretty good idea i don’t know if this is actually the reason why they did this but they moved the dmv from raleigh the capital to where my dad’s sitting and rocky mount and uh you know essentially 70 percent of the bureaucracy just quit and so you get to actually rebuild so maybe maybe the answer is you just you just move them move them around just bye-bye dc hello kansas city i think tyler cowan actually has talked about that but um yeah there there’s some like budget reorganizations they could they could do too but uh like i was looking at the cdc’s budget just with thinking about covet and i was like what percentage of their budget is going towards emerging infectious diseases yeah i don’t remember exactly what it was but something like 10 oh wow and you would think that that would be their like number one thing the centers for disease control yeah like that’s what they were set up to do right like initially to control malaria in the 40s right and so why are they like why or c why is cdc the one looking into vaping why is cdc the one looking into occupational hazards like i’m not saying no one should study these things but it’s like hey focus on focus on priority number one here you know like and clearly at this point you can’t say that you know we can afford to get distracted right after the cdc covet test for weeks while the rest of the world’s testing like thousands of people and our tests just don’t work just it’s bananas um and well yeah and just for the uh listeners yeah so there’s this whole debacle where the cdc was uh you know no we won’t use uh anyone else’s test we’re gonna develop our own test for covet and then it didn’t work and then we’re weeks when weeks behind and then we end up where we’re sitting now with 220 000 deaths it’s an open question how much of a difference it would have make would it mean fair enough i i don’t i don’t honestly have an answer to that i don’t really like i’m by no means am i a covet expert it’s just clear that you know that’s a troubling sign yes something’s wrong yeah something’s very wrong um when their primary function they can’t execute upon it um super interesting so um moving from that uh from the government side um to kind of the corporate side you know the food and beverage industry is there anything people should be concerned about there um or any policy interventions you would recommend i i’m assuming you’re you’re fairly libertarian you’re talking to tyler cow and i don’t want to paint you as anything but um so i don’t know what your policy recommendations might look like but yeah i i mean i think you got to start with first do no harm so it’s an open question you know or it’s a matter of debate to what extent the farm bill you know farm subsidies in america are actually contributing to the problem but let’s find out you know because right now the problem is is we generally subsidize unhealthy food you know corn wheat soy and whereas something like fresh fruits and vegetables can’t they’re like designated specialty crops and they don’t get subsidized so that seems like a mistake um beyond that what what worries me personally is how successful um the coca-cola exercises medicine campaign was because what it’s really urging is the medicalization of exercise and can you just uh can you mention what the the coca-cola exercise uh calorie offset thing was the energy balance network is that what you’re talking about oh sorry no i’m just coca-cola um exercises medicine yeah right before that there was because i remember in walmart i distinctly have this memory of in walmart on all the coke uh machines they had uh you know these labels it’s like maybe it’s like balance your calories or something or it’s like if you exercise enough you can you know i think you’re talking about the global energy balance now maybe so yeah and that was i guess if i recall correctly it was them trying to get a group of scientists together that um would focus on energy balance as the solution to chronic diseases which is an interesting thing because like obviously energy balance matters and getting people to exercise more would be a good thing on the other hand to give anyone the impression that that is sufficient that would be misleading because you can be normal weight and have type 2 diabetes you can be a very active person and be pre-diabetic or have other chronic conditions so it’s not simply enough to exercise more if you’re going to persist in a very unhealthy diet the reason the exercises medicine stuff is more concerning to me even than that is that was really looking at merging the fitness industry and exercise in general into the healthcare establishment like current insurance billing and you know occupational licensure and all these regulations and you know getting third party payment obviously involved so

that to me seemed like a disaster and it still does quite frankly and um i don’t first of all i don’t think it would work i think if you look at the data you know just simply your doctor telling you to exercise is not very effective even paying people’s gym memberships is not very effective because you know if you take someone who doesn’t go to the gym and then you give them a free gym membership that doesn’t make them suddenly start going right right it’s a whole other problem yeah so it’s it’s really sort of just uh corporate welfare for like who whatever gyms managed to get in into the system of fitness yeah and then if you start thinking like well how would they how would you actually really try to incorporate exercise into medicine it probably would involve more of like a technological solution and you look at their papers like the exercises medicine papers they start talking about this where it’s like yeah we want to include measures of physical activity in your electronic health records and i think that starts getting into some interesting like privacy questions because it’s it’s like we really want to require or strongly incentivize people to be uploading to the government or to a vulnerable you know i.t system you know where they are and what they’re doing at any point in time uh and i just that doesn’t seem effective either at the same time because we know these devices that they use to measure physical activity just aren’t very accurate especially when it comes to like um functional exercises you know like like body let’s say you were to do a a circuit of like you know air squats and push-ups and burpees like your your fitbit has a very hard time or whatever device you use they have a very hard time actually calculating how much work you’re doing gotcha generally they’re more effective when you’re just like transversing ground but um you know if you’re just like staying in place but working really hard it doesn’t know makes sense yeah so that’s when you so that’s where you talk about kind of wearables i know you wrote an article on that um yeah it’s super interesting i know um my mom she um she wears like a pedometer and she gets like a dollar a day if she hits a certain number of steps back from the insurance company which is like just kind of scary and bizarre i don’t know it’s just uh it’s interesting interesting to see where things go especially if we ever get to single pair in the united states you know those two things seems like that could be recipe for disaster yeah so there’s several trends going on that worry me and i’m a worrier so like it’s good to worry about my worries with a great assault but at the same time i am worried

that’s good so you know one of the trends is as you said yeah towards greater centralization of healthcare another trend that’s happening at the same time is is you know as you indicated with that example that insurance companies are getting more involved in monitoring activity nutrition lifestyle in general and then secondly or thirdly rather the technology they’re using to do so is getting more and more intrusive so it they’re developing devices now that are tracking like biomarkers you know like for example they think that they can test your sweat and know your cortisol level you know no you know basically trying to the goal eventually is to be able to know what’s going on inside your body 24 7. and it’s really the combination of those three trends that’s concerning to me if someone just wants to have a device and it’s between them and themselves or them and their doctor and it’s letting them know you know like hey i might be having something abnormal is going on with my heart right now like yeah sure i totally get that but when it starts becoming this centralized system especially a government controlled system of you know millions of people and their insides are being monitored 24 7 so we know when they’re under stress you know we know when they’re using drugs and alcohol uh we know where they are we know what type of activity even they’re doing um that first of all i just i don’t think that’s going to make people healthier i’m skeptical on that end and then secondly even if it were to um the privacy and government control implications of that to me are quite frightening no i think that’s that’s a really it’s a really good point and um yeah you know you see in communist china everything they’re doing with tracking people and you know using ai to really yeah clamp down it’s super authoritarian and super scary at the same time yeah and kovit’s kind of been like a convenient excuse for some of that stuff like you see people now using these wearable devices you know supposedly to prevent covet but you know and these totalitarian regimes like does anyone have any confidence that you know the use of these bracelets or whatever it is they’re using is just going to stop once scope is over they’re going to find a new reason to have you wear that i promise you so keep it going yeah definitely yeah we’ve uh we did recorded a podcast on i worked in china for a little bit a couple years ago um and we recorded a podcast on the uyghur persecution in western china and it’s just it’s insane to think about you know just what what a government can do and they kind of have that much power and they know that much about you and how easy it is to kind of flip that switch yeah and that’s that’s the flip side of like what we were talking about with the united states being in it seems to me if not decline then in stagnation um the flip side is is that the world’s looking to china right now i think because they seem relative to us more like a success story more dynamic you know right and uh that that’s a troublesome precedent yes i don’t exactly know what the right response is the right response probably is for us to get our acts together first right like right fix fix yourself look eternally a lot of our problems seem to be self-inflicted right yeah we keep shooting ourselves in the foot it really hurts man china didn’t make us invade iraq and it didn’t make us you know eat 150 grams of sugar every day that’s for sure right but man we’re doing it that’s for sure super interesting um so i wanted to kind of let’s see transition let me see pulling up my notes here so um now i wanted to kind of i’ve got this little section overrated or underrated um have you listened to conversations with tyler before yeah yes okay so i stole it blatantly from him um so if you want to just yeah answer overrated underrated and give a brief explanation if you have one um i think that that’d be super cool um so the first one is aerobic capacity yeah um as it’s commonly understood overrated just simply because there’s so much skill and stamina involved with each specific discipline that it’s very the amount of transfer you get say from running to swimming or vice versa is actually pretty disappointing like if you look at when lance armstrong went to run a marathon you know he did well like he’s a good runner but like he was an hour off the best guys and this is like he’s the best cyclist or one of the best cyclists of all time and he was a very talented triathlete before becoming a cyclist so you know so other similar examples like michael phelps his coaches wouldn’t even let him run because he would fall down so much

you know so i think if by aerobic capacity you mean that you think that by doing a single discipline that that’s going to transfer broadly i would be skeptical however if by aerobic capacity you mean i’m going to train several different things and develop a broad base of aerobic capacity you know that makes more sense to me so much yeah i saw this great study where um swimmers hearts develop differently than runners they were just comparing swimmers and runners and part of it might be you know what angle you’re sitting at when you’re exercising but it’s a yeah a friend of mine was a state champion swimmer in high school and he tried to go to the naval academy and he couldn’t pass the pt test god that’s amazing he didn’t he couldn’t do the run under the whatever the cutoff time was a mile and a half run and like it was like really slow like 10 30 or something 11 i don’t know and you just couldn’t do it and this guy swimming three hours a day oh that’s amazing that’s amazing yeah it’s tough to grock though that i mean that concept that’s very tough to grock that that doesn’t transfer yet uh david and i i saw chris henshaw and went to an aerobic capacity seminar a while back and he was like yeah you know you have to practice each thing individually because they don’t transfer and i’m just like sitting there like what like it really doesn’t make much sense but then you go try it and it sure makes a little bit more sense i mean that’s a really sad thing about the crossfit games it’s like we we genuinely thought that the crossfit games were going to help us discover like new ways of training more effectively yeah maybe it did that a little bit but mostly what we discovered was hey if you want to get good at everything you do everything all the time

like all right oh fine god no shortcuts man

oh my god that’s a great place oh my god um anyway so the next one i’ve got here is the paleo diet overrated and underrated gosh i don’t know what i don’t know what it is yeah i think to me that’s the problem with it um you know every this happens to every diet they get bastardized right like they start they make the keto ice cream or the paleo donuts and and it’s like vegan brownies whatever it is and it’s like you know the first year you’re whatever your diet is it works really well for you we’re getting back to diminishing returns right and then figure out all the ways to like stay keto vegan paleo and still eat food that’s bad for you and then you’re like why am i gaining weight i’m staying strict keto vegan paleo right well i think you know what you know the truth that’s super interesting so what do you what do you personally do now what’s your regimen look like like for exercise or nutrition uh nutrition yeah um so my wife and i are in like this sort of death march where we stopped eating like or consciously eating added sugar about four years ago oh nice and i must admit i broke down once one time but i will not break down twice because she’s never broken down and that would just be shameful so that is the main i mean and the thing is uh and you know gary taubes who you know he and i argue a lot but one thing that he says that i think is very accurate is um when you cut out added sugar it takes a lot of other bad things with it ah it’s hard to eat much processed food at all of any kind if you’re not gonna have added sugar right so even if the problem is overeating or too many calories or say what are they talking about now like processed food oils yeah all these things sort of go together because first of all sugar is going to make you eat more generally that’s why they put it in food right interesting so so uh what has it been hard to not eat added sugar or at a certain point are you just kind of like this is what i do i forgot who said it but you know none is easier than some that yeah i definitely believe that i’m a big believer yeah big believer in that very cool um okay let’s see the next one the foreign policy establishment of the united states oh my god okay so i must admit i used to be a neocon so this is personal for me because i know these guys that i felt for them and their lies i would say they’re highly overrated i mean just look at the record right like yeah how many wars has the united states entered and like definitively won since world war ii yeah man i don’t know maybe yeah i mean it depends on what you want to classify as a war but if we’re like one out of four one out of five uh not good and it’s not just that you don’t win it’s like well why are you even there right what is it why are we why have we been in afghanistan since 2001 i mean i could try to i could try to give you some reasons but none are going to be very convincing you know especially when you consider that this almost this whole time we were sending billions of dollars to pakistan which was sending it right back across the border to the taliban which they were using to kill us troops and afghan civilians um yeah if you read like steve cole’s book directorate s which is about the war in afghanistan um it’s hard to come away from that with any respect for the foreign policy establishment because you got to remember you know the war in iraq became controversial you know even though yes hillary clinton supported it it became controversial pretty quickly but afghanistan was like the good war for a while you know even like 2008 910. and when you read what actually happened and what what officials knew versus what they were publicly saying uh and then you consider the fact that we still haven’t gotten out yet and that it’s sort of like the default position in dc right now that we should stay i mean that is it’s hard to explain i mean because it’s like okay there’s some terrorists there do you know how many countries there are countries or terrorists in we can occupy all of them like exactly more acadia yeah exactly

oh god oh god

oh man so what do you this befuddles me and i you’ve been connected more of this than than you might have some idea about this well what happened between you know so we rebuilt germany and we rebuilt japan and we went in you know we got rid of you know the government and rebuilt the government and they work great you know iraq and afghanistan we have not been able to do that at all yeah that’s an interesting question um i think part of the answer is that nation building probably just has a low percentage gain most of the time gotcha so we just got really lucky yeah there’s other people who just say you know i don’t want to call it a racist point of view but they do tend to say that you know well afghanistan and iraq are not japan and germany they’re inherently underdeveloped or undereducated you know civilizations or whatever for my experience with iraqis that’s not true they tend to be very well educated people you know they their country was actually doing fairly well prior to saddam hussein vibrant middle class yeah even afghanistan like you look back 50 years ago was doing pretty well and and central asia throughout history actually had some bright spots you know like where the central asian golden age like zoroastrianism comes from there um quite a few important figures in philosophy and mathematics uh were in central asia so you know i don’t think you can just write them off another explanation that people give is you know artificial borders and that’s true but like all borders are artificial like god didn’t design them right so who do you think did so have we lost some some amount of state capacity

yes i think we have but uh i don’t know that we want to get much better at nation building i think if we’re going to talk about rebuilding state capacity in the united states i think what we have to recognize is that we have a very high degree of state capacity it’s just been exerted towards the wrong things right like the joint special operations command is very effective right right yeah the national security agency they are good at what they do they really are okay you know we’ve spent 6.5 or whatever it is trillion dollars in the global war on terror like this idea like the government just doesn’t have any money or qualified people it’s like no we have one of the highest incarceration rates in the world you know we’ve been you know like not ju the war on drugs that we’ve been doing which has cost billions billions of dollars we’re not just doing it in our own country we’re doing that in colombia and afghanistan in mexico all over the world you know for no obvious reason so it’s less that we just lack state capacity and i think it’s more of a misallocation of resources gotcha that’s that’s super interesting yeah it seems this this huge shift when you look at the new deal and everything we built the new deals just on the blue ridge parkway and it’s like beautiful and they just carved it through mountains and all this stuff and like now it’s like man i can’t imagine them trying to do this today it would be uh quite expensive um yeah i mean there’s all these rules now about how much you have to pay federal contractors and there’s all these you know permits and restrictions and zoning laws i mean that definitely those things all definitely play a role and i i don’t want to downplay them but i also see a lot of the inherent problem of just like we turned our focus elsewhere right that makes sense if we were less focused on tr on the global war on terror or whatever you know or the war on drugs we would have had to direct that attention those monies elsewhere probably internally and i think we would have used them more wisely i mean it would have been hard not to have right that that’s a really good point it almost seems like watch it you know a lot of people in bureaucrats in washington are interested in ruling the world more than fixing america maybe i don’t know that may be a weird way to put it i’m not sure i want them to try to fix america either right fair enough you know but you know at the same time like you know we were talking about the cdc’s budget like i wouldn’t mind increasing the cdc’s budget for you know emerging infectious diseases like even like three or four fold sure i think that would make sense i would be we’d get a good roi on that but um i think the problem is is is just mission creep and everything you know you look at almost any at any agency and whatever it was originally founded to do is just usually just a small percentage of what it actually does you know like what percentage do you think of the defense budget is actually legitimately spent on things directly tied to defending united states

uh one more overrated or underrated um the crossfit games overrated or underrated for who that’s my question that’s a good question that’s a great for that for the health of crossfit inc overrated i believe that um and i would say that because you know look i saw the books right and um i tommy marquez sean woodland uh you know they’ve talked a little bit about how you know there were some possible deals on the table that could have made the crossfit games more profitable i mean they would have closed the gap but they wouldn’t have come anywhere near to accounting for all the expenses once you’ve fully accounted for the expenses right i don’t want to get into accounting too much but like there’s a difference between direct and indirect costs right there’s the money that just across the game spend but then there’s the amount that legal has to do to handle compliance and then hr it’s doing to support the games like every department of the company is supporting them and it ends up coming out to a whole lot and then you know the argument would be well it’s bringing more attention to the affiliates it’s helping training i think that’s maybe true to an extent but um i also think that it came at a very high opportunity cost in terms of of staff attention time and money yeah i can definitely see that and and also so games are cool like i love the games but it also it almost so kind of hurt because you know when i’m trying to convince my uh seven-year-old grandmother that she would it would be great for her to go to crossfit and like they’ll work with her and she’s infinitely scalable and you know uh it would be really helpful she’s like well i saw it on tv and like these people they’re nuts man you know yeah it’s russ green up there on tv like good god i can’t i can’t replicate that you know guys this is the second time i’ve had to correct your your business that’s right

yeah you know i’ve heard that anecdotally as well i’ve heard that you know from affiliate owners but you know i gotta say like uh i know some other affiliate owners that do say that the crossfit games help bring people in the door what what i would say though that is that crossfit over the past gosh seven years faced some pretty significant challenges and um obviously right yeah um it it faced the challenge of bad press surrounding injuries which you know as anyone who’s followed me knows you know a lot of that was ginned up you know through fake research lies but nonetheless you know crossfit affiliates had to face that that people were coming or reluctant to come to their gyms because they thought it was dangerous you know at the same time if you understand the natural life cycle of disruptive firms right they have a huge advantage in the beginning because no one’s caught quite on to their right to what’s working special sauce is right and then all the rest of the firms start imitating right so they buy the road gear you know they even get crossfit on one trainers they start running cross-functional fitness classes right yeah and it becomes a lot harder to maintain your competitive position in the marketplace so crossfit was really facing these two challenges and

i mean what what meaningful investments did it really make to counteract either of them

i’d be hard pressed you know to to say like obviously yes i was involved in trying to correct the record but you know it’s not like it’s not like there were ads reaching millions of people that were correcting misperceptions about crossfit or you know there wasn’t a massive overhaul of the training department to you know to make sure that crossfit trainers would have um skills and knowledge that would make them like heads and shoulders of everything else available in the fitness industry i think it’s possible to do that it would have been possible to do that because honestly i don’t have a very high estimation of the rest of the fitness industry and i do think that within the like the crossfit doctrine is it more than enough space for innovation and experimentation if you think about the open source concept but like when people talk about the challenges that crossfit face they usually start their story like two years ago and it’s like no you guys are giving us way too much slack like the problems in my estimation uh really what started around 2013. that makes sense yeah interesting interesting yeah this it seemed like maybe there’s a branching path between uh the sport and um you know getting it to everyday people maybe maybe a little bit i don’t know it seems like there’s almost a certain amount of saturation with high school athletes so we got like everyone that was a high school athlete that can’t like you know anymore and then like it’s like well four days four days right yeah exactly you know we’ve all been in the gym during the open you know friday night lights that’s pretty cool yeah you know like uh the the new guy eric he seems to think these goals are compatible you might be right i mean he’s a successful businessman i hope i hope i’m wrong i hope i’m wrong and you know you can’t say that crossfitting before did everything it could have to fully leverage the games so you know maybe there is a path forward that that reconciles those two different objectives but you know i’m going to believe it when i see it smart that’s smart russ i’m going to ask you um to tell us more about you mention an emphasis on the rogue cycle echo cycle is exclamation echo yes so what are you doing i realized that my competitive advantage in fitness is that i can literally do the same thing every single day and not get bored that’s awesome i’m a creature of habit like it’s reassuring to me like if i do 30 minutes on the echo bike every day i am a happy person if i if i miss my 30 minutes i am a sad person it’s that simple yeah you know so it’s like yeah i’m not that great at learning new movements and i’m never gonna be the strongest fastest guy but if it just comes you know it just comes down to doing work every single day the same kind of work i’m pretty good at that um and obviously that has something to do with my you know athletic background as well you know um starting cross-country when when i was like what 10 years old 11 years old you know um but yeah what i’ve been doing is just 30 minutes a day like a moderate pace and then just once i can and i track calories per minute so i started at 11 calories a minute and you would just check my heart rate at the end and once i can consistently hold a pace and my heart rate’s always like low at the end like a 130 140 below 150 then i bump it up either a calorie a minute or half a calorie a minute and now i’m at so i went from like 11 to 13 and a half and uh i mean it’s just i’m just experimenting like i please don’t hear me and think that like i found the elixir you know we found we got it yeah we’re sending david to 60 plus you know next year got it man that’s super cool that’s super cool well i just had a i had one more question for you unless daddy had any other questions um it’s just interesting because since i don’t go into the gym with a lot of people at this point primarily because of my age um what i went to was the uh um the cycle and started using that and i do interval training and it’s based on fitness aids that wissloff came up with yes and um that’s just and i’ve done that before and i really like it and it seems to be very effective yeah you know a lot of people like the rower you know i think the bike is better if you’re a crossfitter or if you do any sort of like a lot of lifting a lot of bodyweight movements because the rower kind of duplicates a lot of musculature and movements that you’re going to hit elsewhere right it’s kind of similar in some ways to an upper body pull to a you know like a lower back stabilization kind of like a deadlift a lot of legs obviously whereas the bike is not just more dissimilar to other activities you’re probably doing but it also is at a higher rpm like growing you’re at like 25 30 at most like 35 40 contractions per minute so they’re necessarily higher power contractions whereas on the bike you know you’re at 60 65 70 whatever rpm so it’s your muscles aren’t contracting as uh quite as hard to do the same amount of work and so i think it’s more compatible like as an addition right you’re not going to over fatigue yourself whereas like i think anyone who’s like done a lot of olympic lifting or deadlifting and then they try to row like unless you’re really well adapted to that that can be challenging very interesting makes a lot of sense

very cool and i’ve got one more question for you russ um so this is i read all your journal journal articles and crossfit journal um what’s your friend time what’s your best friend time gosh so i think it’s either 249 or 251. but you know if you know crossfitters always assume the worst

don’t don’t look about that 249.

awesome well russ i we’ve had a ton of fun today um thanks for coming on is there anything you’d like to anyone to know about um any links we can direct people to that might be helpful um

yeah if i said anything that didn’t make sense to you you can harass me on twitter oh no green plus and e so g r e e n plus and e on twitter perfect i want to come at you bro awesome well thanks russ we really appreciate it thanks for us thank you doctor thank you all

well that’s our show for today i’m will jarvis and i’m will’s dad join us next week for more narratives

11: Albion’s Seed

This week on the podcast we discuss Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America is a 1989 book by David Hackett Fischer. Albion’s Seed details the folkways of four groups of people who moved from distinct regions of Great Britain to the United States and form the foundations of modern American culture. Interested in reading Albion’s Seed? You can by it on amazon at our affiliate link here.

Transcript:

hi i’m will jarvis and i’m will’s dad we both love and are fascinated by stories stories about people stories about places and stories about events our stories give shape and form to life they give texture color and rhythm to the blank canvas that every new day presents to us and they do that by informing us of our past as a directional marker for our future okay will it’s narrative time tell me a story

well will we’re on here on rainy fall day to do uh today’s episode which is uh another ambitious product project for us the last one we did together was 127 pages on by the federal reserve on the interest rate of everything ready to turn up everything that’s exactly right and today’s episode is actually a 900 page treatise on why the united states is like the united states is yes by uh david hackett fisher who is actually still living he’s 84. is that right yep so we’re going to cover 900 pages in about an hour and the name of the book is albion c that’s right um i think you should go ahead and define avion

yeah alvin means great britain uh it means england and it literally means the white land probably we think that’s probably because of the white clothes right that’s right so and the reason uh it’s albion seed is because the original american colonies came from there and they were all englishmen that’s right and and the book is subtitled albion seed or british both ways in america so would you want to just talk about what a full way is quickly go ahead yeah do that so it’s a kind of a traditional behavior or way of life of a particular group or community of people so a folkway could be the food you eat you know how your relationships develop you know your political beliefs it’s all these kind of like community culture if that makes sense social wars taboos etc and we’re talking about four different groups today that formed the foundation for the colonies that became america the purity yeah the puritans the cavaliers the quakers and the borders that’s right so these are the four primary folk ways david hackett fisher talks about in the book there are a couple there’s some other smaller ones he actually goes over towards the later part of the book um so you know he talks about the culture and quite a few other ones that also contribute uh but in terms of raw numbers these are the four primary uh formative groups that um kind of explain american culture and political life to it to a certain extent and whenever we look at historical theories we always like them the more predictive power they have and um i think this book really has some interesting predictive power and really some interesting implications for how we think about america and our place in it i think that’s exactly right and i think these groups uh they explain a lot but they give us a springboard to try to investigate more and more why we are like we are and so if if you would like we’ll start with the puritans who arrived in new england in about 16 20. that’s right okay so puritans are kind of what you would normally think of your nathaniel hathorn author and novel um so the scarlet letter you know here to new england do you have some kind of um attributes of the bookways you’d like to mention um there’s a few things like what you mentioned then it is very much of what you picture of the folks that had the original thanksgiving right right that does seem to describe them in my mind a lot um you know they were not fun loving people they were kind of dour they believed in this city on a hill concept that was big with them um they were intellectuals they came from uh the the northeast of london uh they were east anglican um uh they were more than twice as likely to be literate than the average englishman that’s right so and wait so actually uh you made a small mistake there so they didn’t quite come from um london they came from east anglia which is a little bit different so it’s a geographic area in kind of the east of england so if you visualize england you know you’ve got the thames um down south kind of head straight north from london um skipped a few counties you’ll see east anglia so this is like norfolk and suffolk um a couple other areas like that and so that that’s kind of where the puritans came from and for each folk way will also highlight where they came from in england because that that um you can actually trace surnames back and and see from these counties who came from where and that contributes to a lot of the cultural thinking and know how today yeah i may have misspoken i meant the northeast they were northeast of london i didn’t even know okay yeah northeast london i mean northeast of there that would have been closer to the truth all right a few facts about puritans um modern newark new jersey was named after the new ark of the covenant that’s what it means yeah it’s pretty cool a lot of religious symbolism really these people believed in kind of after the english civil war there’s a lot of people who yeah you know england was very fractured and these people were super hype religious you know down on drinking a lot of you know things like that which is quite interesting um just as a side note do you remember what the ark of the covenant was i guess it’s not an is anymore um old testament artifact yes it’s about the extent of my knowledge yeah the children of israel when they were wandering around the desert for 40 years had this and i don’t mean to be sacrilegious they had this box and the levites were carried about a half a mile in front of the soldiers and it had four things in it it had um uh the two tablets for the new testament had mana in it and it had aaron’s rod in it and when then they would stomp and encamp they put it in the center and everybody sort of circle around it and very um pre-designated spots every little you know tribe had the place where they were supposed to camp to protect it so that was the ark of the covenant all right so the puritans get here and they try to import african slaves but they all died of the cold that’s right uh so didn’t that and that’s part of the reason why there was not slavery more than the mason-dixon line yeah you it was because they were pure apparently it was unsuccessful that’s correct so we should draw that designation i think um everyone was compelled by law to live in families and if you didn’t have a family you should you had to go single people had to go find one it’s pretty interesting yeah 98 of puritan men married while 73 of englishmen did

so there was this uh tremendous uh importance associated with a family yeah a lot of a lot of social conservatives social conservatism i’d say yes but this was interesting they felt that way but the families would switch their children trade their children because they felt like if you went to somebody’s else’s house and lived you would behave better than you would a house where you were born hilarious i don’t know all the social implications of that but it says something um in 1692 25 of women older than 45 years of age were accused of witchcraft

it’s pretty wild what does that say to you uh so you know witchcraft was an important part i mean so the scarlet letter and uh and if you read you know about the witch trials this is this is all kind of drummed up together in in puritan culture you know it’s quite interesting like i said earlier quite social conservative um i would say this is and i think this is almost emblematic of um you know we can go through this that kind of um epitomize each group computers you kind of think of them as almost establishment democrats like joe biden is probably a uh you know typical puritan i would say and uh and their legacy later but i think um you could definitely think about them as slightly more socially conservative socially conservative than everyone else so if you look at uh

and uh so rich democrats today like you look at the data from rich democrats tend to be super socially conservative um perhaps not in their uh their their spoken preferences and and i don’t mean socially conservative in like anti-gay marriage or things like that i mean socially conservative in terms of family formation having children after um you know after you’re already married things like that that’s actually a very important core value that’s actually played out of data most children um so most families in that group have children i know there’s a roundabout way of talking about it yeah that’s one of the things we’ll find out is there’s two of these groups that had very little um very low premarital pregnancy rates and there’s two of the groups that had much higher premarital pregnancy rates that’s right that’s interesting an interesting comment when you look at the republicans and democrats today and what they say they’re kind of they espouse or believe in that’s right one i guess my point is is that there’s there’s different levels to you know when you say someone’s socially conservative or socially liberal it really there’s quite a few levels to that and different policies one could think about it um but in just forms of in terms of the family and family formation and how that looks like um quite socially conservative i’d say and that’s an important value yeah and i think that’s probably going to surface as we as we review each of these groups and then get to some conclusions um so puritan life was actually pretty terrible they lived in a cold place they did all the work themselves uh there were a lot of rules and regulations but uh we just talked about the teen pregnancy rates being low and the murder rate uh was half of that of other american colonies or colonists pretty interesting yeah and i guess that goes back to rules and regulations they punched things really they were they were big on punishment they believed in it again yeah again um paul you probably had to read that in high school and that is uh quite a great description of puritan life and and i think we should highlight again so uh predominantly if you think of new england that’s where puritans primarily lived right massachusetts right massachusetts yeah um they had remarkably low income inequality which is a big big thing today that’s right quite interesting uh women had more equality in most other places that’s another thing that’s a little different and very positive about puritans so if you look at uh i’m just looking this up to confirm this so you know where uh susan b anthony was from well i bet it’s gonna be massachusetts yeah adams massachusetts hadn’t thought about that but that makes sense doesn’t it yep uh domestic abuse was punished brutally that’s right very uh yeah very long order kind of like i said you know social conservatives they’re quite socially conservative in the sense of uh in certain ways which you yeah and in certain policies like that i guess get some kind of family formation law order kind of things like very low tolerance for things uh like crime and things of that nature yeah special disruption yes you know it was law and order rules and regulations that’s what they were about very structured life and they had a top-notch educational system so they really believed in that that’s right the ivy league essentially yeah i hadn’t thought of that that’s that’s right that’s exactly what yep in fact in fact you mentioned new jersey earlier and rutgers was actually a um an ivy league institution when it was formed and i think it was it was uh originally called queens college chartered in 1766.

okay now we’re going to move to the cavaliers and it’s 20 years later about 1640 and the cavaliers come to america that’s right you want to tell us anything about the cavaliers so cavaliers um kind of a foil to the puritans i would say so they’re from the south of england um city of london so you look at richmond um have you been to richmond yes so you’ve been to richmond you know it’s on the james so you know cavaliers envisioned uh richmond to be you know be like london to be like a new london just so just like london sits on the thames um you know richmond sits on the james and uh so cavalier values are interesting and i think perhaps the most foreign to the modern um listener so you know work was not valued at all so the more you work the lower status you were they were super interested in hierarchy so hierarchy was a very important value to them um they wore um you know very exquisite clothing so if you think of the virginia cavaliers like uva and you know the image of wearing orange and things like that and all these bright colors and showing off you know almost like a you think of like a pimp or something right you know like either got the cane and stuff all this value around up not working and sticking around this is a if you if you start really to get into it this is what you think of as uh establishment republicans are traditionally fairly uh fairly cavalier like this is kind of the the thinking strain that comes from um some other important folk ways uh they talked funny um and we could talk a little bit about the accents later um they they really most of these people were young men who really wanted to be accepted into london’s social life but just couldn’t quite cut it for whatever reason um and they primarily settled in tidewater virginia uh north carolina and eventually would spread down south but in in the beginning they were in tidewater virginia and north carolina so after the english civil war uh there were some nobility that weren’t doing that great and berkeley was one of the virginia governors uh appealed to the british nobility to immigrate and that’s so they came virginia that’s right um and 98 of virginia immigrants from england were royalists that’s right that’s absolutely remembered yeah so that just sort of paints that whole picture of who they are is they’re they’re very english and loyalties yeah what you would traditionally imagine and i think an english version to be you know very pro world royalty very um yeah the pro hierarchy things like that yeah especially since they were part of the aristocracy they were interested in preserving that definitely yeah okay um they brought indentured servants to america to do their work and uh so white people in virginia died from malaria typhoid dysentery all those things and how did they replace the indentured servants so this is actually um yes they ended up replacing these venture service and this is the beginning of the slave trade um so actually so african americans um you may have heard that african americans they get this condition called sickle cell anemia uh and it’s a it’s one of these it’s a disease where if you have like a certain number of copies of the gene you get sickle cell anemia anemia but if you don’t you have a certain protection against malaria it’s not like 100 but it’s much of you know it’s much higher than so much from england um so they started importing african-american slaves africans as slaves and um that’s actually so where the whole plantation system comes came from yeah if we contrasted this with what happened and compared compare contrast with what happened and with the puritans uh when they brought when the puritans brought slaves in they died of the cold so that system never thrived and and then so when the cavaliers brought indentured servants that were white they died of all the things they couldn’t tolerate disease essentially and so unfortunately brought in slaves to do the work and that was just for a while that’s right and i don’t even think uh it probably wasn’t the cold of probably like you know uh diseases during the winter is what did it but right it wasn’t just like they froze death it’s like they they’ve got diseases associated with problems being clustered together when it’s cold those things today but that’s yeah exactly there’s no genetic hardiness factor we’re talking about here but yes anyway yeah so uh facts about cavaliers uh that and you mentioned this well you mentioned the plantations but you didn’t uh mention that they didn’t really have towns what they have are plantations that’s right so it’s like feudal england all over again essentially it’s kind of what’s idealized and that’s what they ended up recreating and instead of uh an emphasis on education virginia governor berkeley the guy from england uh denounced education because it resulted in disobedience yeah exactly again again not really uh interested in hierarchy and maintaining hierarchy and so obedience was an important cultural value which is something that it’s i think is again quite foreign to our modern listener because it’s just not something i think really anybody values at this point uh one of the points it made was that in 1747 there was a minister uh preaching against pride and one of the important plantation owners had his church boarded up because he didn’t want there to be uh sermons against pride they saw that as a positive for ours as a virtue yeah it’s uh it’s very yeah it’s very sorry it’s uh it’s super interesting just to think of uh yeah cavalier men right like wild you know you’re walking around you got this big fluffy hat these like you know trying to walk through the bud with these big so they wear like high-heeled shoes and things like that just very very funny trying to duel everyone johnny duel and that sort of brings us to the next you can always tell a lot about culture from other sports and games right that’s right for the plantation owners of the nobility they hunted right they killed animals their support um their indentured servants played a game where they uh drew and quartered live geese oh gosh it’s like horrible it’s like the i just grew some stuff um but not the most crucial the children were encouraged to kill and torture songbirds oh god yeah songbirds and uh snakes and they’d the main frogs they did they just tortured animals children did that’s how they were trained to become to grow up is to be just like this to do these things um and also to pull the wings off butterflies that was it’s also disturbing but so yeah again this is a i really i really want to hit this point again and emphasize this to the modern listener you know hierarchy was just like incredibly important and for most of history you know most cultures is a really valued hierarchy and enforcing your will on you know whoever’s down the ladder right and you can see it’s reflected how they treat animals which is just uh it’s just it’s a value that i don’t think is transferred into uh the modern world which is interesting i i think it’s uh something to keep in mind you know that that’s that’s a fascinating concept that you just brought up is like they they um developed people through the torture of animals so now what do we do today by and large we have pets that are at least as important as our children right yeah it would be it would be extremely culturally taboo to do any of those things you just mentioned in fact we would probably call somebody and have your children you know we would call it you know protective services right you know almost immediately even when we saw that kid doing that today yeah i think that’s an extreme normal violation extreme like i i struggle to find a more extreme normal violation just sitting here thinking today and and it says i think a lot about us today the way we do value animals yeah well i i think even more i think it goes beyond that i think we are generally resistant to uh and i think this is a good trend it’s a really good trend we are skeptical and able to minimize hierarchy and you see this in inequality you know if you want to minimize inequality want to minimize hierarchy between people whereas uh you know this was like a value i mean it was almost opposites like they really valued having you know obedience and things like that and i don’t know not a good place to live if you were a uh a lower class person and would probably even be weird if you’re in this insane status competition during uh as a cavalier and it it just seems to me to make common sense that if you value low animals like that that you’ll value human beings even more i mean we we would hope and so it just seems like a wonderful evolution of humanity to me but yeah definitely more positive i don’t want to live in that world it kind of freaked me out man yeah that that just thinking about that i find disturbing okay um you want to talk about where condensation came from yeah condensation is a cavalier value they believed it was being sort of polite to your underlings

they saw us being polite but you know how it actually worked out

so the modern word condescending actually its meaning is evolved it’s like yeah so you’re being nice to me but you clearly like are looking down at me you know you look so this is all tied up with hierarchy yeah yeah i mean it’s another one those weird concepts like if you’re doing things like pulling wings off butterflies torturing frogs pulling geese apart and hunting then i don’t think condensation would in practical terms be very polite right well then you’re also you know you’re enslaving all these africans you know you’re like treating the people even you know there wasn’t really like this middle class or anything but you’re treating people below you or you know you’re being nice but being horrible at the same time and that’s i i think that’s super interesting that you know that was very valuable you would be very uh kind to people and that’s where you know a lot of like something like manners and things like that come come across and people from other parts are oftentimes skeptical of that because of content you know condensation was quite the respected value right yeah yeah um and we should mention now duels this is where duels come into american history right yep so they they love dueling that’s how you would resolve things and it’s sort of adults doing violent things again with a from a perceived slight somebody has to die that’s right that’s that that’s that so uh if you uh contrasted virginia in massachusetts uh virginia had a very high homicide rate and you can see with dueling of those things it would um there was an obsession with gambling which would never have been tolerated by the puritans um and they another thing they mentioned is like and we probably didn’t mention when we talked about puritans is the puritans have really plain food like they would just take vegetables and meat and just boil them in water cook them in water until they were just limp and they use no spices and so you can imagine it one like you would eat it if you were starved but it wouldn’t be very appealing and the cavaliers love these big feasts that was a big thing with them so sort of that that was different between two groups um and then the note in the book about uh cavaliers were carefully cultivated jerks to make them good nobles that was the whole idea right that’s right that’s right pretty interesting so they wanted to copy it’s like magnetic copying of um kind of older mobility that’s still in england yeah so we get to 1670 and the quakers come to america right that’s right quakers my personal favorite group here uh well maybe many times in terms of how interesting they are yeah so quakers uh you know founded by george fox it’s a kind of religious sect founded by george fox and let me see this is up right now uh george fox

so george fox was a pretty nutty guy i don’t want george fox university man there we go uh he’s born in 1624 and he was a uh he’s the son of a weaver and he was uh they think he’s probably bipolar um or schizophrenic i’m not sure but he would have these episodes and he was sitting there and he’s like man you know like he’s kind of the he’s ultra protestant is what i would say see martin luther was like guys you know i don’t know catholics you know they’re taking money to get people in heaven i don’t see this in the bible it’s kind of screwed up um which i’m a big fan of i think this is like incredibly corrupt and the idea that you have this like institution where there’s like this man that’s close to god than if anyone else the pope and he’s like chosen just like doesn’t seem to like match anything i i think this is like very bizarre to me like the whole catholicism roman catholicism is just a very bizarre concept to me in in light of like the actual gospel and everything that safety no offense to anyone’s catholic

do what you want um but i i anyway george fox ultra ultra protestant and he believed that um that uh everyone needed to talk directly to god themselves so he goes up on finley hill and he has his vision that uh he’s like wow you know god is in everyone there’s like the center of life like god’s in each person they just need to be you know to sit quietly so the church like a church service um you know a bunch of pews facing each other um so you are actually raised a quaker um a quaker church services everyone’s sitting silently for an hour and if they’re led to speak by god they speak and if not they don’t and there’s no minister so it’s anti-higher it’s completely anti-hierarchy so you can contrast these to the cavaliers and just there’s there’s no hierarchy here so you know they have a lot of incredibly modern values i’d say so equality for women things like that and uh pretty much if you look at kind of modern social values like they are exist today um there would be quaker values uh yeah that’s that sort of encapsulates a lot of it i would mention that they believed in this inner light that they thought there was goodness in everyone well they thought literally god isn’t everyone yeah yeah right and uh this was an interesting comment that i drew directly from the book um uh puritans were dystopian caricatures of virtue cavaliers were dystopian caricatures of ice and we would think of quakers as today as being pretty ordinary like modern as well yeah i i think this is actually yeah the the interesting thing about uh quaker beliefs in both ways is that just how normal they would seem to all of us it’s like well they get together and they they do their mindfulness class you know once a week and they they uh you know they’re kind of yeah they believe god’s and everyone and like each person has to get to it themselves and um you know they treat everyone with respect you know their anti-hierarchy which was very bizarre in the 1600s i think it’s not bizarre today but it was incredibly bizarre then um and i think they’ve actually kind of won the modern you know battle for american minds it’s just an average right like most people would think of the world this way yeah and so you know there was an insistence on tolerance and freedom pacifism equality of the sexes racial harmony they thought everyone was equal i mean those are all seem to be modern values and you’ve made you’ve really hit on you said they may have won the battle of the philosophies between these four groups yeah i think they’ve won so much you can’t even consider that there was anything different ever i mean like i i really do think this is the case um quakers as a actual group because they didn’t have you know in contrast like roman catholicism they don’t have they didn’t have um major you know religious leaders things and exclusionary practices so you don’t um everything just gets integrated so it’s kind of like the ocean you’re swimming in the ocean your fish you can’t really tell the ocean’s there the water it’s kind of a fact of life that’s kind of what quaker values i think have done um to the world even though there aren’t nominally there aren’t that many quakers um so interestingly another fun fact so most abolitionists were quakers and uh abraham lincoln was half quaker and half puritan um straight up which is quite interesting to me um if you go so if you’re in chapel hill and you take what’s the highway there was uh chapel hill to greensboro 54 is that 54 highway 55 it’s not 54. it’s a country road it’s uh okay yeah it’s 62 i can’t remember well 62 runs up there you’re talking about the one that runs well go ahead and tell what you’re going to tell we’ll work out the details later okay so we can get to the highway it’s where if you head um west out of chapel hill and you go past uh if it falls like jordan lake and you’re heading to attend greensboro you can see all these quaker meetings and they go 10 years back every like so every like 20 miles to get like 10 years back and you know it’s pretty funny these are really old meetings and they keep they keep going it’s one of my favorite drives in north carolina um but the interesting thing is i said they were big abolishing abolitionists and they moved down from pennsylvania that’s where most quakers immigrated to this pennsylvania but then they spread out to north carolina indiana across across the united states uh the underground railroad was run through a lot of quaker meetings and quaker houses so they would you know obviously they believe everyone inner lights and everyone so everybody uh has got inside them so they were big into you know ending slave trade like anti if you had to think of like so puritans are anti-cavaliers but um quakers are even farther away from cavaliers in the sense that you do not believe in hierarchy at all and found this incredibly offensive so you know they help run out underground ground at railroad and support you know harriet tubman et cetera to get people to people out of slave owning south so the quakers had this the picture we’re beginning to paint is the quakers philosophically had this huge impact on the modern world because now we wouldn’t even consider them to be a group from the 16 1700s as much as modern that’s what we would think of them so they obviously had a huge impact now i’ve got a question for you so if that’s true why did they and they didn’t why did they not flourish religiously what do you mean well you know why did they not run everything uh they they kind of their religion has gotten smaller and like yeah in pennsylvania in pennsylvania and philadelphia their impact is less not greater uh so why do you think that’s true right so why why isn’t everyone quicker i think because everyone is quaker in the sense that uh so this is what they really believe so if you look at modern like mindfulness practice that’s literally like just like a quaker worship service like um so you know you get together with people and you’re gonna sit there and meditate um i i think because they’re so it’s so free form to a certain extent so um again there’s not like some ritual and they’re not if they weren’t evangelizing directly right so you’re not saying that come like it’s not a value to say come and like join my my meeting like it’s literally a meeting of people to get together and do this quietly and you know so the explicit religion um declined because they’re not evangelical does that make sense i think that’s exactly that’s a huge part of it as they weren’t evangelical the other thing is they would say you need to go and find the truth yourself and so we’ll get together and give you a chance to think about it and ask us questions we’ll ask you questions about what you think if you bring it up don’t bring it up we’ll just sit here and look at each other or look at the floor but you need to discover that yourself so it wasn’t formalized so much that’s right when people ask me what’s a quaker i said well you got a few minutes because yeah exactly how do you talk about that which doesn’t have boundaries and rules right yes so it’s like this metal level value that has become all-encompassing but the actual explicit practice is not um you know it wasn’t a value to keep that around so people really didn’t that makes sense so yeah so that that’s that’s really interesting here’s the next thing that i want to bring up because it sort of encompasses or the whole thing is like william penn that’s right like will you do you want some william penn first you want me to talk about william go ahead okay william penn you can think of him this way he was a 17th century superman uh he was a distinguished military officer um he was in some legendary duels and he was really good at it so what he would do is disarm his opponent and then give him a lecture about why it was terrible to kill people yeah exactly and um so he was uh he was uh charged with blasphemy and he defended himself and uh successfully um and apparently just was a really bright guy who was also uh he befriended king charles ii who gave him a large chunk of the eastern u.s which became pennsylvania that’s right and he didn’t want to call it pennsylvania he wanted to call it sylvania but all his supporters said no we got to call it pennsylvania so they did and it was intended to be kind of like he called it a colony of heaven for the children of light so a place to retreat from the world and build kind of this better and more utopian vision yeah and here here here’s uh i wrote this down on this verbatim because i thought it was so so telling um the book said that william penn might literally be the most successful person in history from a minor noble and a religious sect that everyone despised to the principles of pennsylvania to the principles of the u.s to the principles of the world yes like literally yeah so i think people understand so being a quaker was super looked out upon um so george fox had some really weird habits like um to try to put his message out of god’s and everyone you know he was like he rode into canterbury on an ass like jesus you know the point being like you know god said everybody and like really riled people up the establishment did not like him whatsoever um and so you know quakers they’re like these weird people they’re letting women in and talking talking living like they’re equals and stuff like all this weird stuff you know i don’t know about that right and it’s this is not cool um so they uh yeah so he he went from minor ability to essentially you know propagating the ideas of modernity you know everywhere kind of these core modern values which is really pretty wild what seems to keep coming to mind over and over again if you set a quaker into today other than the fact the language would be a barrier probably cell phones computers they i’m right in yeah yeah exactly like the dress and things like that they would be like wow this is just like thinking lies like why is everyone

some facts about quakers quakers allowed women to preach and even in my lifetime that was considered to be very forward-thinking yeah exactly pretty pretty wild so yeah emphasis on equality when i think about quakers i think of kind of the uh

the the the how to put this that the further left end of the uh the democratic party so you know i think more like a bernie sanders kind of figure like um whereas you know puritans are definitely more establishment i think massachusetts like kennedy democrat kind of thing um you know i think one of the left end of the democratic party is kind of emblematic of kind of quicker values and um kind of the end point of where that has gotten so far yeah um quakers had very modern modern ideas about parenting as well they believed they sheltered and spoiled their children while they were raised them instead of beating the devil out of them which the other three groups were trying to do yeah exactly very different very different very different william penn wrote 30 books defending liberty of conscience which became the basis of conscientious objection yep so uh their anti they’re pacifist anti-war and uh just super anti i yeah you know so talking about is conscious and why we shouldn’t go to war and things like that yeah and one of the first groups to abolish the death penalty as well that’s right although you know it may have been worse so they’ve lost death penalty and they just put people in solitary confinement and thought well they’ll uh they’ll talk to god and figure it out so you know it’s like a lot of people that was one of those good ideas that didn’t work out very well like that might work for you or me but if you’ve got something didn’t see the emotional problems like not well at all no not good not good okay uh so that’s the quakers when that brings us to the borders and the borders would have been about 1700. that’s right so borders um are from the border region between england and scotland in this area do you know what hadrian’s wall is i do not know what hadrian’s wallet so you can still go and visit there’s like remnants of this wall that the romans put up between uh england and scotland to keep borders out because here they come down and like super rival rousing fighting group up between england and uh scotland so like northern england like these borderlands and so that’s where we get the word border we’re from so if you think of like rough rough and tunnel tom rough and tumble ravel rousers um you know primarily settled in like appalachia that region and if you think of more like the donald trump wing of the republican party andrew jackson was also a border um that’s you can kind of visualize uh kind of oral border values so much less hierarchical than um cavalier values but these are like frontiers people these are pretty you know rough and tumble farmers and subsistence farmers um that lived in kind of appalachia now and what i gathered from reading was that um what would happen is uh the scots would do something to irritate the english and the english would then invade the border uh burn every burn all the buildings down kill everyone the soldiers the people and women children terrible things and then that would settle a bit the scots would all get together and they’d be you know we’re not putting up with this and then so they would rush down south into england and do the same thing burn everything down and kill everybody and just that’s right and so that happened over and over from what i could tell it seemed to cause the borders to move west between ireland and uh and england that’s right and the same thing i mean all this chaos and havoc and and killing everybody and burning everything down built so finally they get to ulcer ulster and ireland and from there also that’s northern ireland right that’s northern ireland and they went from of course nobody wants them right because they’re wild they’re just wild yeah super high murder rates and things like that yeah and we’ll talk a bit about more more about that in a minute but so from there because they’re unwanted like they’re unwanted everywhere you see this pattern developing they go from ultra a quarter of a million of them came to america which is much those numbers were ten times five to ten times more than any other group that we’ve talked about so far yeah pretty super interesting so you mentioned ulster so there was a great tweet uh probably three days ago before recording this i saw um and it was ulster scott’s for trump i thought this is this is like absolutely perfect right like so you know it’s like this this is like somewhat it makes so much sense right because you know they came from borderland between england scotland ulster northern ireland um and then finally to kind of the appalachian region the frontier so they you know they’ll get pushed out by the capitals we don’t want you you know you’re like low class whatever you get out of here noble new england here um so go go west so they went west and that’s where they sell them and the way that that my reading of it is they initially came to massachusetts and they were looking for people to work right because yeah slaves didn’t work out so yeah oh good great they’re here well then they have them there went uh no and so they push them south into virginia the cavaliers say oh good more more labor and then they have them there for a while ago uh no pennsylvania the quakers go well we accept everyone uh no push themselves into the appalachians level where they could be which was probably a good thing in that they got to have their own area right that’s right nobody was going to put a boot on their neck anyway and nobody should live like that so you should try to try to find a place where you can have your community right as i and if you look at uh so even so david hackett fisher wrote another book on the civil war which we should talk about but if you look at like so appalachian appalachian region okay west virginia literally seceded from virginia to stay in america if you look at uh you know western north carolina like everyone was like anti this whole project like you know we’re not succeeding this is stupid like you stupid cavaliers what are you doing and um so you know that’s in western north carolina and if you look at like east tennessee i mean they were blowing up bridges and knoxville and like there’s bridge plots where they would go out and like walk bridges and things like disrupt the war effort they tried to secede from tennessee like east tennessee did um and you know all this so uh borders like pretty much we’re not involved in that project and not really interested in that project to the extent that you know well cavaliers were bought in all the way um but i think that’s an interesting fact to keep in mind yeah and what the author says is and i and i wrote this quote down because it’s so emblematic of the way i’m seeing this group so the borders all went to appalachia and established their own little clans there and nothing all at all went wrong except for the entire rest of american history exactly exactly

i think i’ll tell you what their impact is going to be like so um uh so what their accent would have been like a country western singer i think so uh

it it could be yeah i can’t quite remember the accent patterns for borders but you can imagine what they sound like nowadays and kind of extrapolate from there yeah and they have family feuds and that’s where hatfields and mccoys came from they were borders right something about them um most became southern baptists that’s right yeah uh they were anti-education like the cavaliers didn’t quite believe them yeah in fact um one of the things they would do is i forgot what they call this but uh they would the children would uh i can’t remember if they liked the teachers outside i boarded up the school so they couldn’t get in or couldn’t get out but one of the other

yeah and you mentioned rough and tumble which was actually a sort of a game they played it was wrestling well it’s considered good strategy to gouge out your opponent’s eyes yeah that’s hilarious so the i think the hilarious thing about borders is so everyone in the world when they think of a meme of america they think of a border like that that is the caricature of americans but the truth is yeah so borders have a much more minor role than people would realize but it is an important facet of american modern fault ways as well it’s kind of like this um you know don’t really take nothing from nobody equality is still fairly important um and we are uh yeah we do kind of what we want to do here another four groups they’re the one that’s that’s most often identifies themselves as being americans not like quakers or scotch or irish or english they identify themselves as being americans yeah that’s how much they’re saying speaks to them and you can say well they finally found a home right finally a place yeah final place makes sense to me uh but shooting guns into the air is 100 a border tradition tradition of where it started that’s hilarious and even if you look today so uh border uh so the regionality has changed a little bit and i think the divide has gotten much more urban rural if that makes sense yeah so you know border values are mostly rural values now to a much larger extent although they’re they’ve been quakerized quite a bit so important to keep that in mind um and and you think about like the these big cities are primarily puritan that makes sense yeah good thought um the their justice system was heavy on race neutral lynching named after western virginia settler william lynch exactly so yeah yeah so you know borders are are quite yeah quite different from cavaliers right so it’s not things aren’t really racialized like uh they are for the cavaliers and hierarchies not important you know like these people at all in fact they really kind of hate it to be honest um because you know they’ve been looked at because by the cavaliers and um yeah so very frontier justice kind of attitude towards things and it sounds very much like them impulsive quick quick to draw um just you know just wild yeah wow andrew jackson yeah yeah and so you mentioned a really famous boarder andrew jackson but ulysses s grant teddy roosevelt george patton jonathan patrick henry and davey crockett were all borders yeah it comes to sherman as well yeah yeah okay uh and what was big to them was freedom of government interference and they would lean to the libertarian republican side that’s right so if you think like donald trump will be gatson flag like yeah core anti-england sentiment i would say it’s like border it’s not it’s not royalist cavaliers because they would mostly you know they really wanted their cousins in england to think they were cool the borders did not care um in fact if you look at yeah yeah so if you look at a lot of revolutionary conflict in north carolina it was like you know borders coming out and like running these british out yeah so um so we’ve had a little bit of fun laughed a little bit and heard some really interesting things about these four groups uh and it’s to really get this point to reflect on what their contributions have been to today and i and there were two conclusions that were in the book and i’m going to sort of read through them we’ll take but a minute then i want you to reflect on each conclusion and we’ll go from there this is sort of we’ve done all this to arrive here perfect um first conclusion is this the north was settled by two groups with a combined emphasis on education interested in moral reforms racial tolerance low teenage pregnancies academic and mercantile history they were the historical whigs and republicans who preceded the democratic party and that’s the quakers and the puritans yep you know what tell us about that what you think about that yeah so i think you can you can see this like play out and even just pure outcomes between different regions the united states um so you know the north much more industrialized and so these these fault lines in america uh between these kind of four groups coalesced eventually in the civil war for all kinds of different reasons we talked about that at a later date um but it’s all it kind of explains how like american values are like this really weird combination of you know like these libertarian values like um and these uh and these kind of four groups of american politics and how they kind of play out in these weird ways right like like why is uh you know bernie sanders you know why is his belief so powerful um versus like you know establishment democrats versus establishment republicans that are you know fairly pro hierarchy even though much less so than they would have been before with these cavalier values versus like this weird border politics which we we don’t see super often um you know uh which has kind of come back and and trump to a certain extent which is much more um i people might get mad at me for this but i think it is a true analysis that it’s much more egalitarian than um than uh traditional republican um politicians does that make sense so there’s much more of an emphasis on that and much more border kind of view of the world that makes sense so even in the way like trump like talks and like you know like he’s unfiltered like it’s it’s very like anti what we usually see uh because border presidents are weird you know we’ve only had a couple of them um and and they they tend to uh kind of to act like that and so half this message is the north was settled by the puritans and quakers who became today’s democrats that’s right and the other half the message is the south was settled by two groups with a combined interest in poor education gun culture a culture of violence xenophobia high premarital pregnancy militarism patriotism an accent similar to country western accent no maybe maybe not and um and support for the democratic republicans which became today’s modern republican party that’s right that’s right it explains like the combination of values and like why the two parties have this like weird combination of values and even like americans have like this really weird combination of values and what makes america a unique place and it’s also encouraging in the sense that you know we have been able to get along fairly well other than just massive war in 1860s you know in resolving these conflicts we have been able to create this kind of pluralistic society with a bunch of like really disparate values like i mean you couldn’t think of you know between quakers and cavaliers like this huge you know huge gap but we still managed to kind of make things work fairly well so having reflected on this um first i found that very disturbing because one of the things the points that’s made is this can go beyond culture and be genetic

yes i mean there could definitely be genetic components to uh you know how people view the world you know i just think cultural ways so i’ve been in the middle of what called the secrets of our success it’s quite good it’s all about cultural learning and how things develop depending on you know what what your culture is and how those things interplay that you know the interplay between genes and culture super fascinating so one of the big things that i think we should keep in mind is people learn um so humans are very poor at having new thoughts we’re not very good at it essentially how we learn we look at high status people in whatever peer group we’re in and we copy that behavior so we look at the successful high status beautiful whatever small social group we’re in we copy that behavior um and so i think that’s how these things get passed down when people wouldn’t even realize um so people don’t like having virgin ideas about how to live they essentially look to the biostats person around them they copy that behavior and then that’s kind of what gets transmitted sort of it could be this sort of combination like of of nature and nurture it could be that it is somewhat genetic because faith points out you’re if you develop a habit it can become genetic even in maybe up and maybe even a lifetime it could be and genes can change that fast so whether it’s something you’re you learn from your peers or something you got from people that are older than your peers which i guess that sense is your peers too yeah it’s sort of the same impact that’s right that’s fair and yeah yeah and then the other thing having like some of these uh attributes of these groups that i learned i went wow however i’m going to overcome that then i got to thinking you know it’s all these things mixed up that made us what we are right like there’s periods where you better be a border you better be a general you better be a military person where you better be ultra patriotic yeah that’s how you’re going to survive and then there’s going to be periods when you’re going to need to be like very productive and uh sort of serious and uh puritan yeah get things done yeah and then many of the modern ideas we have about philosophical things came from the quakers and so that’s provided a framework so there’s attributes everywhere that are important there’s some things we need to try to suppress some that’s true that’s always true that’s right yeah and i think to certainly say it explains america so much like these weird values we have and also why we’ve been so successful like this weird combination has been like incredibly successful in creating like this you know the richest country in the world for capital and um and which is super interesting i mean i’m just looking at i think you know the poor state in the in the union is richer than um you know per capita in like sweden i don’t think people realize this like you know i think like mississippi like the average person is like more wealthy than the average person in sweden and you know they get they just trade-offs right there’s trade-offs between you know greatest distribution and like pure economic output um and maybe those people look better i’m not making some value adjustment on that but we are much richer in all these respects and and it’s the tensions those tensions between friends if we want to go to political a little bit i’m not going political much but i will say this it is the tension between the democratic and republican party that sort of we sort of wobble one to one side and we kind of wobble over the other side and then and we’re always sort of moving around what the center seems to be that’s right and that has been sort of an upper trend like the stock market it moves to the upper right that’s right and that’s how you get this i think the important thing is this that’s how you give us a weird average so like you know i’ll be on seed it helps you understand like how it is really weird app policies like uh because it’s weird like you would not you you would not like put these together like rationally and think like okay this is the piece i would grab from here and here and here like no it makes much more sense in context okay uh so reach conclusions final faults

yeah you know i would encourage everyone to just kind of think about you know what are your values and how they line up with these uh with the four folk ways and there are a couple other ways we didn’t cover that are smaller mainly because uh just the pure number of people is not as big so um and we can talk about this later but um hey i i think you know where do your values lie on the spectrum and you know how are they informed in this way by the folk ways and you know even like look at your family history and see how it’s come down and and you might find some surprising surprising ideas good well will thanks for the narrative and we’ll see you next time on narratives thanks

well that’s our show for today i’m will jarvis and i’m will’s dad join us next week for more narratives

10: GPT-3 and the Future of Artificial Intelligence

What is artificial intelligence? What does it mean for the future of humanity? What is the state of the art today? Will and his brother Glenn cover out two competing visions of how general artificial intelligence will be designed and develop over the coming century. 

Transcript:

hi i’m will jarvis and i’m will’s dad we both love and are fascinated by stories stories about people stories about places and stories about events our stories give shape and form to life they give texture color and rhythm to the blank canvas that every new day presents to us and they do that by informing us of our past as a directional marker for our future okay will it’s narrative time tell me a story

hey folks it’s a cool sunday morning here in uh central north carolina i’m sitting here with glen jarvis my brother and we’ve got some really interesting things to talk to you about today today we’re talking about ai artificial intelligence that’s right artificial intelligence so a recent news item that uh i came across have you ever played with gbt2 never okay so gbt2 um it’s a language transformer it’s a it’s a special ai algorithm that is super powerful openai which is a non-profit in san francisco actually created it and they’re trying to prove what kind of text algorithms can do so these algorithms can actually write text if given a prompt

so they just released a the newest version gpt3 which is orders of magnitude better it uses more it was trained on more data um so it’s a lot better at writing than uh gpt2 was so i just wanted to read everyone some poetry from one of my favorite uh poets william blake and um someone we know well someone we’d like to read fed fed it into gbt3 as a prompt and then gbg3 spit out a poem so we’ll read that too so uh we used the tiger by william blake and you guys might know this it’s tiger tiger burning bright in the forest of the night what immortal hand or eye could frame thy fearful symmetry so that was kind of the prompt they used so they fed that in the algorithm and gpt3 came back with and oh tiger witch shouts with the what glory was with us was amid those forests the when our first ancestor and the being a tiger slew i can imagine you probably roar and say i am the tiger that’s pretty deep so that is yeah i moved i don’t know so i i i think the the interesting thing about this is uh just how uh you know it’s not amazing but i’d say it’s like it’s better than high schooler level yeah better than a high school level uh student um coming across the uh the wire there which i think is super interesting um so i i think you know i mentioned this to to kick us off because i think uh it’s something people can relate to it’s something know about it i think it really brings us into the the real world today um like this is the current you know state-of-the-art algorithm um for artificial intelligence and text creation generation and uh just just so where does that leave us for the future glenn and and i know we were talking earlier this week about artificial intelligence and we actually have some uh views that kind of uh branch out from each other on this and what the future really looks like for us for sure yeah um well the potential for ai is really vast i mean we just heard some moving poetry written by a computer and i mean that’s kind of out there for what ai could do um our first thoughts on ai would be like automation that brandeis term where andrew yang wants to reduce um you know human suffering because automation is going to take all our jobs quote unquote automation right you know ai has huge potential for automation we could make it could design the products to design what ever product we want so um so is there is there a distinction between artificial intelligence and software yes so software is something as simple as the logic behind um a computer would say you know if this then that and then you know while doing this do that and something as simple as logic like that and so but artificial intelligence is uh the generation of new ideas from so like like your poetry um from sets of data that are correlated in in some manner and so like humans do this not artificially you know naturally but natural natural intelligence and we take in a bunch of data from our surroundings and we also take taking data from ourselves right we self-generate and then we come up with you know what we term meaning and then we figure out how to do things and and that’s kind of what we deem intelligence is uh having a goal and figuring out how to do it that’s right yeah that figuring out part is the most important that’s the rich thing so it seems like so i’m reading a book called joe excuse me it’s by joe henrich um it’s called um secrets of our success and it’s a really interesting book because he’s a uh he was an aerospace engineer by training went back and became an anthropologist who’s now kind of like an economist so he’s kind of been all over the place yeah of all traits exactly so uh he in the beginning of secrets of our success i haven’t finished it yet but um he goes on this huge tangent about how humans like are actually like fairly underpowered in terms of raw like processing power so like you know three-year-olds are regularly beaten by you know chimpanzees on all kinds of like pattern matching tasks and things like that or it’s much closer than people would like to realize um okay and so not only against computers but also against the biological like counterparts that we have to experience ourselves that’s right and even like uh so corvids i don’t know do you know what corvette is a corvette is a crow crow ravens ravens so they got they can uh outperform us on some tasks which is oh man pretty interesting um but his point was that uh essentially what humans are really good at is copying actually really so yeah so like what we do is that we’re really good at finding so something about human nature which is really important that it’s it’s finding high status individuals and copying their behavior that makes a lot of sense so like you copy like successful people that’s essentially it’s like so what humans are really good at at is pattern matching and finding like things that align you know he also mentions these things where these ideas his idea is that you know if you dropped a human off in the middle of the woods in like uh you know let’s say somewhere in the jungle and some tropical climate um and you you drop the chimpanzee there you know the human would end up much worse off oh yeah uh which i don’t know like you know i guess without any training it would be difficult to and he also mentions you know like there’s all these uh you know quite a few conquistadors and um you know uh north um antarctic explorers died even though there was like all these things they could have done but it was like very difficult to figure out without cultural learning so like you know uh there’s all things that you know there’s plenty of things that uh native people knew how to manage that just you couldn’t figure out even though like you’re you know we’re pretty smart it’s just it’s impossible to figure out without cultural learning that came before us and copying what’s successful like like simple things like there’s certain what you know what plants you can eat what insects you can eat which ones you can’t and um you know a lot of cultures have different kind of uh taboos around eating things right and that can actually be like oh this is actually poisonous but it’s not like a conscious reasoning around that it’s like it’s just passed down right so humans are really good at copying long story short that makes a lot of sense yeah i mean this people think um so humans are really really smart as a species for sure and um computers are also really really smart as a collective yeah so you know an individual computer is powerful but drop you off in the middle of a desert with a computer i mean what can you do not much right right but connect your computer to the worldwide internet you’re very powerful that’s right and so um artificial intelligence also has this quality or could be designed to have this quality of shared learning multiple intelligences with multiple experiences communicating ideas and expressions i think that that is the major part of our intelligence that makes us powerful over other animals but i also think there are other elements of intelligence which are incredibly important and um just to go through a few of them like um there’s many forms of intelligence like we say intelligence but that’s a very that’s a very broad term and when people first think of intelligence they think like like quickness like how much horsepower do you have well yeah raw horsepower in in yeah the the chipset of our brain if if our brain is our cpu we’re going to be and yeah exactly and um that’s not the end of the story though that’s obviously not the end of the story um we also have crystallized intelligence quote unquote and so that’s like you know you ask somebody how much vocabulary they have and they have to go learn it right they have to spend time putting that into their memory banks you know downloading it to their hard drive and then they can build a large index of crystallized intelligence but that’s not the end of the story either we also have what we deem wisdom you know um i’ll go into that later but wisdom is really important it’s kind of choosing not only how to conquer a task but which task to conquer and also how to go about conquering it and there’s also like insight and insight is even different than wisdom and insight is like you can see um how like the process of something or you can see patterns within something and i think that’s what you’re saying earlier is like we copy and we see what to copy out of the patterns that we yeah what do you pattern match out exactly what we recognize and then we also have uh like creativity is uh everybody raves about creativity like oh everyone’s creative like that’s not true for sure that’s not true but definitely everyone has some small potential of creativity and that’s that’s the create generation of new ideas is how it’s generally thought of but really it’s like the randomization of like shooting out in different directions for right for that’s how you get new ideas is you know you have a thousand bad ideas and then bam you have a really good idea that’s so different than everyone else because you spent a lot of resources on you know generating random ideas and so creativity is definitely an important component of intelligence and that’s what everyone says like oh machines can’t be creative like i mean obviously we just heard a very creative um poem from from a machine and then also you have this resource management idea it’s like um we have a monkey brain that says you know i understand you want to be like smart right now i understand you want to do this podcast but you have to breathe if you don’t breathe no more podcasts exactly like step number one take an air let it out yeah and it also goes like you have to sleep right now like you are not allowed to not sleep period yeah and so our conscious minds like aren’t the only form of intelligence that we have it’s like all these background processes running yeah it’s almost intelligence of design from the evolution of random creation and destruction pretty cool and so you know that’s just a couple of the components of intelligence that you know you can compare these like how good are humans at this like very good at almost all of them yes how good are machines at this like very good at a few of them like machines are very quick and ai right so like they are almost arbitrarily fast you know you put another cpu and they’re that much quicker that’s right so they they have unlimited working like let’s say near unlimited working memory right uh you can huge amounts like unfathomable amounts of working memory and then um processing capability just just arbitrarily large like it’s it’s literally how much money you put into it will dictate how much return of like cpu speed or how much you know memory you have how much random access memory um because all you have to do is you have to go to amazon.com and say okay spin up another server yeah another one and they’ll say you know five more dollars you got however right right yeah so so i think this leads us to a a super interesting distinction here between um so human uh humans and the difference between humans and machines like machines can be unfathomable unfathomably fast and have unfathomable amounts of like raw kind of strength brute strength in this uh sense but if we go back to our example where we have the chimpanzee and we have the human and we had now let’s attic him let’s add gpt3 to the mix running on my laptop right um and we drop it off in a tropical um uh you know environment a a tropical forest rainforest you know miles away from contact and they we have to survive um so if i’m looking at this uh you know gpg3 stands no chance zero okay no chance we chimpanzees higher so i i think this is this does bring up something important right like it’s it’s that uh humans uh we we lack this raw power aspect but we do have a certain capability to adapt to new situations where modern algorithms cannot really adapt like you can’t take a text algorithm and feed in uh and and tell it to generate videos right and i think what we’ve done as humans with the generation of software after you know the huge computer uprising is our computer revolution is we have this information revolution and so what we’re doing is almost forging a environment in which an ai algorithm would thrive and already are thriving like we have really like low-level ais which you know are working for google like um deep mind and image recognition if you google search so you can go to image search and plug in an image and it will actually search the image i don’t know if you guys know that’s kind of a cool thing to see exactly um or how facebook knows who’s in what photo it’s another good example yep and so um it it really shows that like um no longer are we in this in the case where we’re just dropping off whatever intelligence we have into you know the wilderness it’s instead into a petri dish of you know prehistoric soup from which the microorganisms of artificial intelligence might arise and so um and it’s actually a really it’s like these artificial intelligences aren’t at the amoeba stage they’re right they’re like already multicellular organisms yeah and a really weird like it’s so interesting right because in some sense they are you know incredibly advanced and then in some sense like incredibly basic yeah basic right i don’t know yeah and and i think um it’s partially the way the the process of design is kind of like that yeah it’s you know you have um you have a cart for a very long time and but i mean you know a cart with wheels is so much better than a sled right and then you have oh man this cart has you know a a greased axle it’s so much better and then as soon as you have the greased axle you have oh lord we have engines and now we have cars and now we have a ferrari or a lamborghini right and um and the difference between greased axle and lamborghini is like 100 years while the difference between you know a cart with wheels and a cart with greased wheels is like or with a greased you know hard bearing axle is like right thousands of years right and so um so not only can the design process uh quickly ramp up like exponentially um if artificial intelligence can design itself and do it in a way which is actually productive um almost instantly like almost overnight you will have an intelligence which is so intelligent like it would it would make us seem like really dumb and not just with the iq quickness not just with with that but with all aspects of intelligence super interesting so um yeah i i find this uh this super intriguing i’ve got this idea that the the way these algorithms will actually develop is we’re going to continue a pace at this kind of like uh this pace where language transformers end up getting better and better and better and like you know image recognition gets better and better and better and things like that um but there’s not going to be a generalized intelligence until we get good enough imaging technology so here’s what i’m gonna i’ve got this this weird idea uh i got this from robin hansen he’s an economist at george mason university and he has this idea where okay we don’t really know how the human brain is able to like we said plop it in the middle of the jungle and figure things out or try and figure things out like novel situations how do we deal with novel situations where you’ve never seen something like it before right um which is something that modern algorithms are terrible out in fact they just can’t handle it like that they actually just can do nothing um so his idea is that okay we get really good imaging technology so we can image our brains at a the atomic level and just just like a video game simulation we just run a physics simulation so we run a physics simulation and we’ve got all the data from the imaging technology for your brain and we can run an emulation of a human brain right so that means that what we could do is well once you’ve got it on a computer if you’ve got a human brain on a computer you can run it faster you can run it slower so you can train someone you know up to you know your level of mechanical engineering in five minutes you know you just yeah press compute button up up up up press go um and his idea is this the next kind of uh great leap forward in terms of like the industrial revolution mod you know agriculture things like that for growth potential for the human species um so if you think about it like that i think the good thing about that is it’s like a concrete path forward like i can i can think through that i i can’t see the algorithms just getting better and then becoming generalized one day just out of the blue right and that’s been actually my big critique about uh a lot of the rationalist fear of ai and things of that nature is they like oh like how’s this thing gonna think how’s it gonna you know like it’s gonna eat us um and i think well it’ll act just like humans because that’s what’s gonna be it’s gonna be human brains that we just speed up because we don’t fundamentally understand and i don’t think there’s a good path forward to understand how human brains compute and things like that and and how they work exactly i actually i disagree on the path towards a generalized ai being through the human brain interface emulation yes you don’t think it’d be emulation i don’t think it’ll be emulation i think that that is a potential way forward but um and i think it actually is a lucratively potential way forward but i think uh there’s it’s a designable problem it’s actually really designable because um people are really good at design like people think oh man like we’re not actually that good at like making things but actually like people are like really amazing at making making things like designing things and taking from first principles to like a really practical application of like understood knowledge and so um i’d like even even before you get there if you don’t mind i i think this is super interesting because i think it’s a this is a uh this is a fundamental different way in which we see the world which i think is super interesting to highlight so i tend to think that humans are very poor at creating new things like i think that it’s almost impossible like essentially and it very rarely happens i think we’re very good at copying things so that’s why i like i i i actually i don’t believe that um people are able to really invent just new stuff in general like i think it’s incredibly difficult it very rarely happens i think generally we’re always driven towards just copying and that’s why this model makes sense to me because i believe like there’s it’s easy for us to copy things it’s more difficult for us to just come up with new things right you’re much more bullish on uh human agency which i like yeah and i i think you know if you take a code in class and um then you will quickly see that um there’s this form of copying that is creative and and i think it’s you see how something works you have this insight you say oh i totally understand it like addition is just you take two values and it’s the values stacked on top of each other or something right it’s just like if you have grains of sand in a bucket like that’s all addition is in multiplication that’s just like when you’re or whatever and um i think this is like the real power of humanity is like or human intelligence is that um we can like go up and down levels of complexity really quickly so like um do you know what data compilation is no so it’s you have like binary and you have like a million ones and zeros and then you say i’m going to take this these two numbers two decimal can you describe what binary is binary is a counting system which uses only the digit one and the digit zero and so count normally counting one two three four five six seven eight nine is uh base ten and binary is base two so you so we have ten digits zero through nine and binary only has 2 which is 0 and 1. and so it takes a lot more digits to represent the same number so like to represent the number 4 in binary you have to say one zero so so it’s kind of like um so this is important because computer ships uh on or off yes okay and you know you could make a computer which isn’t just in binary but um so data compilation takes large huge amounts of data and then makes it really easy to communicate pretty much so you could go from binary to hexadecimal and hexadecimal has um i think it’s like 18 uh oh wow yeah it’s zero through ten sorry zero through nine and then a through g i think kind of like music a3g so quite a few more numerals there exactly way more numerals and so they can use numbers with much less digits because um and so it it’s kind of this idea like okay i could tell you it’s kind of like you can write tldrs right so you could have dldr just for the too long it didn’t read to the internet audience yeah it means too long didn’t read so data compilation is is kind of like a tl dr yes you can get almost 100 accuracy of what an idea means in a very short statement so the tldr of this podcast is ai scary right um yeah that’s it and so in two words i summarize the whole podcast right you lose data but you also um right so you can you can almost you can decompile so you can you can compress the data and you can decompress the data gotcha and so you can make a lot of data in a small package and then back into a big package so the way that humans do this and a lot of people don’t think about this is um imagine you’re learning martial arts and um you say okay so i’m gonna punch something how do i learn to punch something you know so if you’re on the finite level if you’re if you’re totally expanded data you say i’m going to bring my arm up at 10 degrees or whatever i’m going to apply this much force bam twist my hips this much but your martial arts instructor is going to say something like move like water and then from move like water you can take out all of the information of like you know i’m going to twist my hips this much i’m gonna right so but you lose some of the data but also you can you can abstract that much data from it right and so humans are really really good at compiling and decompiling data and also seeing and copying the information that is within those ideas really quickly and um a great way to think about this is like all speech is is we’re moving our mouths noise is coming out and then you’re reading my mind from that yeah exactly so telepathy a little bit almost telepathy right and we lose a little bit because we don’t perfectly understand each other but like that’s what’s really powerful is that we can communicate vast amounts of knowledge from wiggling our lips and vibrating air right right it’s wiggly air but it’s also infinite knowledge or whatever yeah and um and so that’s what humans are really really good at is compressing and decompressing data gotcha and um how’d we get on this so i we’re talking kind of the distinction between uh algorithms and artificial intelligence and human intelligence and pathways to general intelligence so uh i i think we’ve hit on this uh can we in a kind of roundabout way but maybe we should mention what agi is oh agi artificial general intelligence yeah right so people are general intelligences right they can apply to any problem right generally applied generally applied and um almost all the software we have every all the software we have now specifically is specifically applied so you throw a image recognition software at the problem of like what’s the meaning of life right the image software is like there’s absolutely no way you can ever get there yeah it can’t even like yeah right error like you can’t even type that into the image software um but you ask that to a human and they’ll at least try right and they’ll like you know maybe someone will claim to be like oh yeah i totally know that right it’s like pet dogs sure yeah right that is a solution to the meaning of life maybe definitely and um so an artificial general intelligence would uh be artificially made right like a computer probably software programmed yeah um maybe biologically constructed who knows right um and it would be general so it would run and you know construct its own questions and right you could ask it things and it would like try to answer them and you can kind of ask it anything and it would kind of try to answer anything yeah and um the fact that it would be artificial would you know if it’s a computer it could have arbitrary quickness yeah and it could you know it’s extremely powerful it could be extremely powerful due to the you know the way computers operate that’s right that’s right so uh it’s uh the biggest takeaway should be that is is from that is if such a thing was created tomorrow uh the problem is is what if it wanted something that you know could be dangerous to humanity right so let’s talk about the potential applications for ai because i have a lot of them here written down um the first one’s automation that that’s one of the ones that um i’m very interested in i’m a mechanical engineer and we already have design ais which like maximize strength for weight and stuff like that so you look at um the panels that make up a rocket and you see these you know hexagons and that’s because we have design ais that told us this is the lightest way to construct this that is as strong as possible for your given criteria um you can also think about banking um for finances uh they’re already running ais that are trying to pattern matching make money exactly yeah um another one is you know space travel right it’s like if we want to go to mars do we actually want to ship a person out there we also have to ship all the oxygen they have to breathe right ship all the food they got to eat yeah a lot of problems there or you know send a computer chip that’s the size of my thumb that has a general ai on it right and it’ll solve all our problems and you know make us a great civilization so that when we go over there we can just use all the stuff that it made for us so just to interject here it seems like uh important to recognize that so ai is one of these words like machine learning as well that’s kind of fraught with peril you know it’s kind of like a it’s become a cliche right so all software marketing uses it now yeah and there’s in some sense what exists today is like really advanced software like that you would think of it’s specific it’s very very specifically applied and it doesn’t exist in the general sense where you can like send it to you know i don’t know like accounting school and have it learn um the whole cpa handbook or whatever and apply that it’s not there yet agi doesn’t exist that’s more of a general intelligence kind of like we talked about right but we also we have specific processes in our minds so like reading is a specific process and um good point and so kind of general intelligence is composed of many specific processes tied together gotcha yeah so that’s one of the reasons i think that general intelligence is a designable problem it doesn’t have to just be an emulation of an intelligence that we know gotcha yeah i really like uh so i i think that’s a that’s a good point um so you’re hitting on the fact that there is like a theoretical underpinning we could use to kind of get there right so we had like some broad search algorithm that would apply some specific algorithm um right and but yeah again i i still think emulation is probably the way forward just because it’s the path of least resistance that makes sense for sure especially and it also depends like how good is imaging technology get over the next 50 years right i mean they’ve tried to do this there’s actually an open source project with worms have you seen this i have not no so there’s like a really simple worm i can’t remember the the name of it but you know it’s got like a a small number of neurons i can’t remember what oh yeah talking about c elegans yeah and so they just straight up run a computer program that emulates that yeah now i don’t know if it’s on the right level because it might need to be like the atomic level or something weird like that definitely not definitely not just straight up neurons firing that that’s one of the problems it’s like if our intelligence if our consciousness is on the level of neurons yeah like neurons are fairly big neurons are not atomic levels yeah at other they’re cellular levels yeah and so which is your problem much easier problem and i mean if you’ve watched elon musk’s most recent neurolink uh presentation can you describe that a little bit with neuralink yes and the the demo definitely so they have a computer chip that has tiny little wires that come out of it like a thousand tiny little wires and they had a robot drill a hole into a pig’s skull harmlessly and insert these but the pigs were happy they seemed okay the pigs were happy they’re the most pigs i would say yeah probably happier lives than most pigs have and um but they have a hole in the skull yeah not anymore since they fill it with this computer chip and they they place the wires very carefully and they’re the wires are so fine they’re so small they’re smaller than human hairs and they go between the blood vessels so the pigs don’t even bleed except for when they have their hole drilled in the skull and the wires are able to sense the firing of the neuron and they’re also able to cause the firing of the neuron and this and a neuron is just a uh can you describe that well it’s kind of like um it’s so it’s you could think of it as a computer chip like a kind of a yes no yes it is yeah neurons are pretty much binary they’re pretty much binary and um so you can read the firing and also cause firing which means you can read or write to that specific digit if you want to call it that right it’s not really a digit but digit of the brain and with this they were able to predict and map the walking gait of the pig on a treadmill and so this means um they were reading the brain’s output to the legs of the pig walk to walk so it was like left foot do this right foot yes back left foot do this however picks walk yeah and that means um what was the original oh oh so yeah we’re just describing neuralink and how how it works and and right so so it can read and write to the brain and currently they have put it into a pig they’ve taken it out of a pig and the pig was healthy and happy looked healthy and happy yeah so the idea is eventually you’d have like a brain implant that you could like use like your phone probably right or or will not only use like your phone but it has really really vast implications of if you can read and write to a computer without thinking typing on a keyboard then you have such a quicker interface with like the digital world and information so right instead of oh man do penguins have knees i have to bring up my phone do penguins or you know hey alexa don’t say that word too loud um do they have knees yeah but instead if you could just think do they have knees oh yeah they have knees it’s like you have that information a thousand times faster right and so that’s the goal of neurolink is to create a human brain inner human brain a brain computer interface that is um seamless and and like instant and elon musk wants to use it to like contend with ai or at least have a symbiotic relationship with ai which is like a noble cause and i think the goal should be be very careful in the design of ai right and you will hopefully be able to predict it’s like it how it’s going to work right so uh peter thiel is a great line it’s like well you know so there’s like the andrew yang people who are like oh god like it’s coming for our jobs it already has come for our jobs which i don’t think i don’t i think that’s actually not true as a matter of fact and we can talk about that in a little bit really yeah i actually think that is not true um and uh not to the extent he says but he says you know the first thing you’d be worried about in agi is not whether go have a job it’s like whether this thing will kill me or not it’s like a terminator right one question is why would an ai want to kill you that’s a good point so there’s kind of two approaches to this the terminator approach is there’s some truth to the universe or whatever where like human beings are ethically bad or they are functionally bad and so yeah there’s some part of human nature that’s just quite disturbing and difficult and problematic and so humans should be eliminated that’s that’s the terminator approach there’s also the approach where an ai does something unexpected and it does it so incredibly well that humans are just swept away in the process so i caught so it’s been termed the paperclip problem but i like to call it the amelia bedelia problem do you remember emilia amelia bedelia is a uh children’s book where amelia bedelia is the maid or whatever and whoever hires the maid is like oh i want you to make me a sponge cake and do this and that today and so it’s like amelia daley is like all right and so she makes a cake out of sponges and like a misinterpretation of data it’s like um it’s so the paper clip example of it i think is better but i like amelia bedelia because it’s funny um the paper clip example is so an ai generating team says oh we finally cracked it we’ve got general intelligence woohoo and a paperclip company says cool sure we’ll buy it sounds interesting and uh it’ll make us paper clips awesome and they say okay general nutella agi i want you to make us just as many paper clips as you can that’s your goal make as many papers as you can and we’ll be rich because we’ll make so many paper clips everybody will just pay some a lot of that yeah a lot of money and so the general intelligence says okay cool and in five days time the earth has been enslaved by the general intelligence and everyone is making paper clips and then it says you know what we need to expand we need to you know go build spaceships to go to mine asteroids to make more paper clips than the entire universe’s paper clips and then the entire universe is paper clips and it’s like kind of like the replicators in right stargate i don’t know that’s kind of a nerdy example no no that’s really good that’s really good um and that’s that’s why uh yeah so it’s it’s an important thing so that the future the way it plays out you know it’s something to watch closely because okay let’s say if it turns out like i think it will where we just end up emulating brains because that’s the path of least resistance um and that’s my thesis uh then they’ll just end up being like humans and they have the same political concerns that we deal with today except they could be much smarter and you know you have the smartest person in the world trained up in five minutes on any subject in the world so that has its own concerns but that seems much more manageable than a completely new alien thing i actually does that make sense i i disagree with that and and here’s why um if we emulate the human brain yeah along comes the monkey brain right our underlying this needs to happen brain right and that part is kind of deeply flawed in you know in a computer-generated context so if frustration comes along with the rest of general intelligence then you know you have the most intel you have such a vast intelligence yeah and it gets frustrated what happens when the ai who you know can just immediately generate a thousand nuclear warheads says yeah you know has a temper tantrum right if it’s a baby yeah so i i guess it’s right it’s important to emulate the right people i would say more mother teresa’s less uh you know less temper tantrum baby but even mother teresa when she was a baby you’re mad who knows you know that’s fair for rattle that’s right and and with these things running so fast it would be difficult to tell although i i do think it’s a more i guess my point be it’s probably a more straightforward problem than uh agi if that makes sense like like i like coming up with agi from first principles right and managing that because like we have some sense of how humans think about things and make decisions or at least much more sense than a complete alien being if that makes sense that’s true um i don’t think that a designed ai agi would be a completely alien being and i think it’s because it’s in the framework of like human desire if that makes sense so like the designers even if they don’t know exactly what an outcome will be or even if they think one outcome will happen and a different one happens yeah i think it’ll still be in the framework of like human design if that sense no that makes sense that’s super interesting so i want to talk about c elegans because yeah let’s do that so c elegans are this tiny little worm and if you haven’t heard of them it’s spelled the letter c apostrophe e-l-e-g-a-n-s and okay you can google it real quick it’s really interesting and so the history behind it is you know sometime in the 2000s uh a scientist said you know we we have really advanced technology right now we have like video microscopes what we’re going to do is we’re going to take this tiny 100 cell worm c elegans and we’re going to watch it grow from like as tiny two cells or however many cells i’m not a biologist however many cells we start from and we’re going to watch it through its whole life cycle so these two cells replicate then they’re four cells eight cells and then eventually you have this whole 100 cell worm and it’s only 100 cells so we can like brute force the data of like how does this thing go from two cells to a worm super interesting they pretty much did it they they they got all the data they you know they watched every neuron linked to every other neuron and so they they kind of have they think we got this thing dead to rights right yeah we’re gonna we’re gonna understand like like this worm is like kind of intelligent like yeah it hunts right right it eats it has it scared normal worm does everything a normal worm does but there’s this emergent property yeah of intelligence if you want to call it that of fear of these different things where you know you you can have all the data but you don’t understand how this property comes out it’s kind of like if you if you took all of the computer code and showed it to someone who can read but doesn’t know how the code works it’s like they could they could kind of see some stuff and they could see the whole code but they couldn’t understand that it’s a separate thing yeah it’s it’s so there’s this difference between like knowing all the data and understanding how something works and um there’s almost this emergent property of all of what makes something that complicated happen uh have these like almost magical effects like intelligence fear you know what makes it eat right right this is super interesting and um i i don’t know if i’ve explained what emergence is i guess yeah let me try and do that so emergence is just like uh coming from something else like emerging from developing from some like lesser systems that makes right is that a good way to say it schools of fish are really a good way to explain it so um each individual fish just follows like a couple processes like if you’re if the partner on your right turns right go right and then that ripples down the line and then it causes like schools of fish can have really complicated and interesting and like quantifiable like like these patterns they move around and they look from very simple yeah they’ll like leave holes around sharks that are going through the schools and stuff like that and yeah but so we can we can see that like oh that school of fish is leaving a hole around the shark so that it doesn’t eat them but we can’t quantify from the individual like and we can see how each individual fish is reacting and we can see the rules by which they’re reacting but we can’t go from there we can’t jump from one logic to the other gotcha and and so that’s kind of the idea of emergent properties is that in complex system simple rules can turn into really complex like outcomes very cool that’s super cool so we’ve talked a lot about emergence um ai the features of ai are there anything else that you wanted to cover today yeah i wanted to talk about like if you were to design ai um like what are the requirements for design and i think um you’d have to be a real jack of all trades like a real expert on many subjects in order to gotcha try that and the first would obviously be computer science right i think this is definitely the way towards artificial intelligence like maybe we could come up with like some artificial brain or something that would have intelligence but if you had a brain alone in a jar i don’t think it would come up with like a human intelligence be difficult be difficult um the next would be psychology i think you would have to deeply understand like how humans are intelligent and how other animals are intelligent um because you have to really understand like what makes intelligence what it is because it’s a really abstract idea you really have to decompose it and um next would be like how you inc how humans encode information like i was talking about earlier so i think you you’d have to be really wise on philosophy on like religion also because i think that’s another encoded information problem is like gotcha we might not ex like i don’t know religious ideas have practical meanings that are explicit but we don’t say them oftentimes like that eliminates like if if you know what the real rule is yeah then you might not do it and um i think also art and i think how we started the podcast today was a really good example of like how understanding like art can put that information much higher level of understanding exactly and um and so you start with like the bricks of how to make the building yeah with computer science and you also need to know what type of building you want gotcha yeah what the end goal looks like right cool and so don’t be afraid of putting on many hats very cool so that’s super interesting so i i think we’ve covered a ton today and i thought it was a great overview of the current state of things and where things may be going and kind of two different visions of what that looks like right and if you’re interested in deep learning there is an mit lecture course on youtube right now quite good yeah and uh i mean you can just go to github if you know any um like python yeah there is a deep learning algorithm on github and you can start applying deep learning like really the basics of ai right now and and see how it works super cool so we’ll include the link a link to all that information so you can try it out for yourself for sure super awesome well thanks man it’s been a great time today i think we learned a lot thank you well that’s our show for today i’m will jarvis and i’m will’s dad join us next week for more narratives

Narratives Podcast Episode 9: The Rate of Return on Everything

This week on the podcast, we review a working paper entitled “The Rate of Return on Everything.” We answer the question, which assets tend to have the highest rates of return over time? What is secular stagnation? Why is economic growth important for a large democracy like the United States, and what we can do to improve growth in a decadent society? Are there tradeoffs between growth and inequality? We also talk about Jack Bogle, modern index investing, and how investing in equities contrasts with investing in real estate.

Show notes/transcript:

1. Scott Sumner-Univ. Of Wisconsin, Madison Economist

2. What happened in 1970? Low Growth

3. Capital in the 21st Century-Thomas Piketty

4.  Robert Nozick-Wilt Chamberlain Experiment

5. John Rawls-Veil of ignorance

6. Secular stagnation

7. Hedonic adaptation

8. “Zero to One”-Peter Thiel

9, “Enough”-Jack Bogle

10. Vanguard

Transcript:

it’s been a while since we’ve sat down has been a bit yeah and we’ve got an interesting subject today yes a bit ambitious yes it’s a it’s a paper by the san francisco federal reserve bank called the rate of return of everything the rate of return of everything not just some things not the most important things but everything everything that’s right and it’s also got the board of governors of the federal reserve system on their their names on it too yeah it does so tell us this uh tell us what the federal reserve is federal reserve is a interestingly it’s a private bank but it’s set up to maintain the stability of the us economy maintain full employment prevent you know runaway inflation and bank runs so it’s it was actually um it’s chairman is appointed by the president confirmed by the senate i want to say um and it’s like a quasi federal government institution it’s supposed to be independent and it’s supposed to just like make sure things run well in the economy uh and so there’s four major functions of the federal reserve uh the first one is it controls the money supply that sounds important that is important yes so that’s important because the supply of money affects all kinds of different things so during the great depression there’s a big uh money supply shock so it was like actually this is my view a little bit but there’s a great economist called scott sumner at the university of wisconsin-madison that talks about this a lot um there’s like a big deflationary shock and they should have actually injected more liquidity into the economy but they didn’t and the depression ended up just as bad as it was so maintaining the money supply and making sure there’s enough money flowing around is really important for a functioning economy so another uh obstacle the federal reserve wrestled with was the um downturn in 2007 2008. that’s right that’s right and so they must have had an idea that they need to inject the liquidity into the market did they uh yeah yeah so there’s they should have they should have done it faster and they didn’t do it aggressively enough actually in 2008 and that actually contributed to a lot of the problems we had yeah and if you listen to uh because the next big uh obstacle would have been the pandemic and and when you listen to them on the podcast and in the news where the representatives federal reserve appeared um they’ll they’ll say that they realize they needed not only to inject money they need to inject it fast speed was a problem 2007-2008 yeah hilariously they’re kind of solving for the right crisis so i think the response was perfect for um 2008 crisis like the response towards the pandemic would be it would have been perfect in 2007-2008 in terms of speed and volume and size i think hilariously it probably wasn’t exactly what we needed here but you know they’re they’re doing what they can and in reality all the money we threw at the problem and this is more on the fiscal side not on the fed side which is monetary policy on the fiscal side all the money should have gone towards containing the virus and getting rid of that because there wasn’t like a problem in the real economy other than the fact that there’s this crazy virus running around it it does seem like that the speed thing was that was if it wasn’t perfectly done it was probably better done because they realized that you couldn’t vet everyone fast enough and decide who need the money you just need to get the money out there to as many people as you can and then try to sort out some of the other problems later so yeah that’s on the fiscal side towards uh the big stimulus package um that’s different this is a little bit different than what the fed did that’s not the fed that’s like the federal government like spending wise they did get money out the door although the fed did a ton of emergency lending overnight lending to make sure everyone had liquidity when things you know when the i remember the market sitting on my couch and durham was kind of cold and the market’s going handle down handle down handle down which is like you know whenever the market goes down five percent they like shut it off a little bit and it’s just like oh no we’re shutting it off again and again and again like whoops yeah so uh they but they were quick to act um you know kind of like tony montana i think i tweeted out this is uh jerome powell’s the head of the fed jay powell and uh fed chairman and he was kind of like going tony montana on top of the pile of coke at the end of scarface with all the liquidity injections like everything he had kind of going nuts okay another function one of the major functions is of the fed is to regulate financial institutions yeah they do that too they give them rules yes try to make them behave yep follow the rules um they also manage uh check clearing uh procedures that’s right that’s interesting in itself another big banking function um

and they supervise the fdic that’s right for commercial banks yes that’s the bank run prevention kind of so if you have less than a quarter million dollars in a bank um then it’s backed by the federal direct insurance so what is it corporation deposit insurance federal deposit i would have to look that up yeah i can’t quite remember the acronym but you see it on all the stickers when you they’re all on the doors on the sticker on the banks and you know that’s what’s protects your money up to a quarter million dollars yeah yeah so the federal government will guarantee the deposit up to that amount which is you know not all banks have that across the world it’s important to remember yeah okay that that’s to prevent um in panics so you know we both personally know someone who showed up at a at a bank and withdrew all their cash during 2008 you know and like it’s prevent that from happening from happening um the central bank of the united states that’s what the federal reserve system is it’s the it’s the central bank of the united states yes so that in itself should tell us how important big it is yes right so that’s who who wrote this paper of this treatise on the rate of return of everything yep it’s a paper um it’s quite interesting it details uh what what returns um over time that each asset class is average so they covered um t-bills is that correct uh treasury bills that’s right and then bonds real estate and equities equities and equities are equities are pieces of companies stocks i think stocks yeah and uh the scope of this is they studied 16 advanced economies from 1870 to 2015 just about 150 years that’s right so it’s limited data set of what they could kind of get their hands on always important to remember when setting off on these ventures you know it’s there’s limitations of what you can actually look at and what’s available it’s like australia a bunch of other advanced oecd countries i’d say from 1870 to today what are o e d c countries um advanced developed countries essentially okay um so it covered those four classes um and and surprising to me the one that they had the most trouble digging out was uh information historically about housing and the other thing that surprised me is about that is that housing is about 50 of the national wealth in a typical economy that really surprised me yeah it’s interesting i guess the habitats where people live uh make up quite a bit of economic activity in general yeah and it tells you a lot like when there’s a housing crisis while the whole economy and the world shakes yeah it’s on the margin it can really matter yeah that’s it that’s really important okay um

now

you want to talk a little bit because this comes up one of the things they really studied intently uh well secular stagnation you want to talk about secular stagnation sure so secular stagnation secular stagnation is the idea that essentially since 1970 or so there’s a great website i’ll have to put a link in the description um called what happened in 1970 and it’s all about how in 1970 uh growth rates started slowing down and we’ve been stuck in kind of this uh this funk of low growth for a very long time um there’s a number of reasons why this may be happening um i’ve got my own thoughts a bunch of people have their different their own thoughts and and whether or not it’s a fixable problem is is interesting i think it’s always good to look at western europe as kind of maybe 20 years ahead of where we are in certain spec aspects along these lines um and i think it it’s important because economic growth has really slowed down over the past you know 40 50 years and that has direct consequences on our political life our day-to-day life um how we approach the world in ways that i think people really don’t realize so for example on the political front there’s some sense in which things have gotten really weird partisan crazy um going all the time now right like so you see like this crazy partisanship everybody’s at each other’s throats and i think this is actually a symptom not a cause i’m a big believer on the fact that this is a symptom not a cause a lot of people even academics will say well this is like a cause not a symptom and i think that’s like this huge mistake like it doesn’t make logical sense to me although i do tend to i do have this bias i think people are like kind of trying to do the best they can and or just get incentivized into these weird things there are bad people but that’s on the margin um so why do i think this is a a symptom of of low growth so i think democracy is especially a huge democracy like the united states you know we’re probably we’re the biggest democracy i would say correct probably trying to think yeah you know you can almost kind of bunch europe together now but it’s kind of a different thing but even then i think they’d be slightly smaller so with 350 million people all kinds of different people from different places you know america is not a very homogeneous place compared to most countries right like so most countries are small in terms of numbers they usually um have one ethnic group so like in denmark most people are danes things like that they tend to like more of the same things america is like super varied like you go to new orleans and then you go to like you know raleigh and they feel like different places um all this is less true in big city cities nowadays but you know there’s a lot there’s a lot more variation in people preferences attitudes etc so why is that important well if you’re trying to run this this country and keep everybody together democracies really work well with the pies growing so if the pie is growing each year we can all sit down at the table and we can all split it up in different ways and everybody gets more than last year and even though sometimes it might not be exactly equal everybody’s getting more than last year so we’re kind of happy um as the pie gets bigger more slowly um there’s less to divide up amongst us and that to me is what’s really going on is that there’s less to divide up and so people are uh more desperate to kind of claim their share of the pie so that’s one of the things the paper um they they looked at was that the growth rate of the economy is relative to the rate of return of capital and the reason that that’s important is because it affects wealth affects income and effect affects inequality so um that growth rate and rate of return when that we say that this this this is really important the rate of return of everything it it’s not only um important because um it affects somebody that wants to make some money on it on some capital they have it affects people because if uh if they’re looking at their retirements they were saving for that or if they are retired they can’t make money money on their capital so they can support themselves yes although although super important um uh distinction here there’s difference between um the rate of return of these asset classes and the rate of return um like the growth rate of the real economy these are two separate things and so also the paper talks about um the rate of return of these asset classes may be higher than like the rate of return to labor so capital is like let’s just describe capital quickly so capital is anything that you you know makes you money so land there’s human capital capital if you have a machine that spits out apples you can sell it’s capital um and then labor is like doing things yourself right like so going out and shoveling would be labor um

this is uh the theme of a big book that came out in 2015 2016 somewhere where i long been called capital and capital in the 21st century i believe was the capital between may just be capital i can’t quite remember by pick i’m eddie to butcher the french here he’s a french economist and his idea was that the returns on capital are higher than the returns on labor and maybe this is getting worse and that’s a big problem for inequality so the people that own capital keep getting richer and the people that just have their labor are kind of like stuck or stagnant or maybe heading backwards and you see this in like real wage growth over the past since 1970 it’s fairly stagnant and um you know in inflation’s like a weird metric right so if you lump like tvs together with essential goods like healthcare and um education you could like draw this trendline you know tvs getting like super cheap they’re getting a lot cheaper cars are like maybe getting a little bit cheaper but then the essential goods people need like so education which is the proxy for mobility in our society it’s getting much more expensive and healthcare is getting much more expensive as well keeping people alive so when you look at those two things it kind of paints a bit of a grim picture at the end of the day so that’s kind of the distinction between you know growth rate um in the real economy and then the rate of return to these capital to to capital which we’re talking about so the second asset classes what is what is the impact on rate of return of capital for inequality i mean does it mean that the top gets pushed forward faster than the bottom is that with it increases inequality yes so if the rate of return of capital is higher on average um that will make the rich richer and and make inequality worse now if that’s true does it mean that the relative position of the bottom sinks slower or just doesn’t improve as quickly so yeah it’s tough so like there’s all these trade-offs um there’s always trade-offs that’s the important thing to remember so

there’s um it’s a great thought experiment by robert nozick it’s and it’s uh it’s a wilt chamberlain it’s it’s like called the wilt chamberlain example i think or something but it involves wilt chamberlain so you imagine we had like a group of 500 people so who’s your favorite basketball player we’ll summon wilt chamberlain michael jordan so michael jordan and michael jordan is in the audience um and we all want to see michael jordan play but michael jordan he’s really tired of playing basketball doesn’t really want to do it so we all chip in you know a dollar and so there’s a hundred of us so michael jordan gets 99 to um let’s say we all had one dollar just like this last spirit we all had one dollar even michael so michael gets 99 dollars now he’s got a hundred dollars um and he goes plays basketball and all like well we get to see it and it’s like so excited he dunks the basketball sticks his tongue out it’s awesome um so like he’s got all this money now and it’s vastly unequal right because everyone else has no money but we all get this like utility from seeing michael jordan play basketball and we wanted it because we voluntarily gave them the dollar we didn’t have to do it so you know voluntary exchange can create unequal outcomes that make sense in different ways even though we’re all better off which is important to think about there’s also this uh trade-off between

the size of the pie and how much we grow the pie and how equal the pie is so we you can get more growth and uh but the people that at the top will be much richer than the people at the bottom um even though you can have this it’s called a something being paredo optimal soprito optimal means we can both gain like so we do a transaction and we both gain um which is important so like economists love burrito out like outcomes because um we both gain even though you might gain a lot more than i do um so it could be so it’s probably the case that you can have higher growth rates and um but the trade-off is that it’s more unequal now the people at the bottom are absolutely much better well off and and some of this is like a preference peer preference thing so i like to ask this question would you rather be you know a middle class person today in america or would you rather be cornelius vanderbilt i would rather be a middle-class american today so yeah you can tell a lot about how people like think about inequality and how much they value it how they answer that question so i would like to be a middle class person because i think you’re much better off in terms of just raw health care like entertainment i think is a lot better i think some people value positional like this is their inbuilt preference they value positional status a lot more than like raw and like that probably pans out on like political beliefs too then we’re all like well-being so i think like being a middle-class person would be much more enjoyable than um being cornelius vanderbilt and like not having like ibuprofen and crap like that like you know like these things are worth a lot to me but some people really value status and positional status and would much rather be cornelius vanderbilt and i think people that would rather be vanderbilt and have the biltmore estate and like all this stuff tend to um be more concerned about the inequality question because you know all things being equal not everybody can be coordinated built but we can get a lot more people to the middle class standard of living uh theoretically than than so you know what’s achievable and my thought is you know if you answer you’d rather be a middle-class person well that’s like man this growth is good and the inequality we’ve experienced because cornelius vanderbilt you know it was much less unequal then like he was a rich person but he was not like bill gates or warren buffett rich relatively like people get are are much richer now jeff bezos like on paper his wealth is so much more than cornelius vanderbilt could ever dream about um so like there’s these trade-offs right there’s trade-offs between inequality and growth i tend to think growth is much more important because one i don’t think our democracy really works without it two i think there’s all these other gains you get um such as ibuprofen you know ibuprofen hadn’t been invented like it’s a huge benefit to me and it did create you know some unequal outcomes for the guy who invented it but we did end up better off in the long run so what you’re telling me is the more important question seems to be growth in inequality well i personally believe that but i could see how someone would be more concerned about inequality because uh you know people that care more about positional status than i do would be more concerned about inequality we probably don’t make the point when we say that we don’t mean that we’re unconcerned with the people at the bottom that those the ones i actually think are the most important consideration because everybody else can kind of fend for themselves you can worry about your position and whether you’re driving a chevrolet or mercedes-benz i’m really worried about the guy that might be riding not even have a bicycle it’s very rawzine of you explain that so uh it’s very well seen so john rawls had this experiment called a thought experiment called the veil of ignorance so the idea behind the veil of ignorance was that whenever you evaluate like a certain policy you’re trying to think about what we should do you should always imagine that you’re um go behind the quote-unquote fail of ignorance and imagine you are the least well-off person in society and evaluate it like that so a lot of people think like this and the answer would be what matters more is it the absolute position or is it the relative position that’s absolutely relative so like relatively to like a the poorest person today compared to jeff bezos is much farther off than you know probably the poor poorest person was when cornelius vanderbilt was alive and uh cornelius vanderbilter you know jp morgan someone like that however the poorest person or let’s say the lowest quartile it’s easier to think about is probably significant is significantly better off than in absolute terms than the person in 1900 um so just trade-offs again it’s like trade-offs between these two i tend to think you know the absolute position is much more important but there are a lot of people who who care a lot more about it i i think i like to think about it like this and i think this may help you rock something so let’s say you and i are walking down the street you know we both spot a 20 belt one at the same time i pick it up i give you one cent i keep 19.99 how would you feel

if you saw it first i just i would feel like that’s just you that’s we both saw it saw it at the same time if we saw the same time well then i think you ought to split it with me if everything being equal everything being equal but how would you feel if uh i took 19.99 it gave you a cent then that wouldn’t feel like that’s not fair exactly even though you’re better off yes you are in absolute terms better off so i think that this is important in understanding people’s psychology about why um they are concerned about it is because like it’s that example right there it’s like if i give you a penny yes you are better off but it’s taken as a slight because there’s like kind of like an almost internal kind of fairness clock and it’s inbuilt to like they’ve done experiments with um like reese’s monkeys with this and like you give them like one monkey like one grape and another monkey like 20 grapes he’s like what the heck are you doing like so this is somehow like super inbuilt to primate psychology um and it’s left over and so like it’s some kind of moral like um

what’s the word it’s moral foundation like jonathan height would say it’s kind of a moral foundation okay now now that we’ve explored that explore this so i can remember in the 60s and 70s generally there was one person in the household that worked one that stayed home in families and one that stayed home with children and you had one car and you had a little ranch style house and and that’s what middle class was in life yeah and that’s one of my sort of global views of life is that if everybody had that then things would be just peachy yeah except for unless a 20 bill falls on the floor yeah then we got problems so now things have changed yes now we’ve got uh now we have uh two people working yes and we have two cars in the garage and you can’t have a little ranch anymore you got like big house bigger house yeah and um and so so we’ve got many many more people working yes and what’s been the impact of that with growth okay so

how to attack this important things to remember do you know what hedonic adaption is i do not so imagine like so i started coming in and every day i brought you this uh you know delicious cappuccino from starbucks you know it’s amazing if suddenly i was like well you can’t have a cappuccino anymore you know like so the first time you get like a lot of utility from like oh so good and you get less and less and less and less and less going on so if i gave you like instant coffee from star like little instant coffee pack you’d be like man this is gross like i’m used to like this really sucks but if you had no coffee and i gave you the instant coffee packet like wow this is yeah i’m coffee i like coffee i’m amped up you know good to go um so hedonic adaption is the fact that like and it’s always important to keep in mind in your own life is that whenever you know whenever you step up the hedonic um ladder to like a nicer car uh or something like that it’s like the effects are short run and then essentially they get built in soon after that so i think a lot of what’s been going on you know why people have this sense things are worse is because expectations are lower if that makes sense so instead of thinking you’ll be better off than your parents you’re going to be like the same or maybe worse off and that is like a big blow because you know you’re going back down the ladder if that makes sense and millennials you know we have a lot less money on average than uh boomers that are our age like it’s just this real fact is a large portion of that due to growth uh why is that the case or it yes how what is the impact of growth on that so the impact of growth so in real terms there hasn’t been very much growth that’s the answer to that it’s like there hasn’t been real growth very much real growth and that has caused that to be a problem there’s there’s more people and shrinking opportunities um and you can feel this just almost in the the ether on like college campuses it’s like the desperate it’s almost desperate the partying and drinking because there’s this knowledge there’s just less opportunity and fighting um more hard to just kind of stay in place one of the things that they uh they come across in the paper is that the natural rate of interest is decreased over the last 40 years and near zero yeah so i don’t think this is a new trend um you know there’s like a dr a rough trend line i i saw a graph once that showed the interest rates since like old testament times like you know like pre-jesus times and and it was heading south since then um and you know it’s like a messy it’s a messy graph right he’s going up and down up and down up and down like a uh electric cardiogram but it is heading um heading south and the answer is why is that um and karl marx had this idea that you know the capitalists are done once um once interest rates head below zero we’re head to zero and that’s where we are now it’s like essentially a zero interest rate negative interest rate environment in western europe i i and i think his critique is correct in maybe some sense i don’t think it’s like destiny but i do think it’s correct in the sense that it is an indication that people have less ideas like there’s less competition for money for projects to like do things like people just have less ideas in general less good ideas and and they’re less likely to take action to do things and so more competition or less competition for good ideas since we have fewer i think there’s very few good ideas so there’s more competition for them yes uh you can see this now especially in like the venture capital industry this is a shift over the past six years you know like you know now everyone wants to be working venture capital and they’re all competing for less and less good opportunities um where it seems like the real like twenty dollar bills in the sidewalk is building good companies like there’s just no one building good companies because and that’s emblematic of and and the question is is like these are a bunch of smart people so do they realize it’s just too hard now is it just too painful compared to watching game of thrones on netflix or whatever i don’t know but it’s a it’s a real effect and it’s worth thinking about so do you think that it’s harder to um to know how to do something like start a company like you you that’s one of the things you did is you’ve been involved with a startup is it harder to do that because you just don’t know how or is it just harder to have ideas what what’s causing that i think it’s hard to have good ideas i think there’s more knowledge about it’s like i okay i think the fact that thinking about startups is like in the culture and like entrepreneurship is in the culture or these these ideas is actually like a a red flag that it’s not really happening very much like so it used to just be in the ether like it just happened you know like you know people would always be starting things and it’s the lowest rate of new company formation like every year it keeps ticking off like there’s less and less and less um and i think like there’s a sense it’s too difficult or there’s no good ideas or all the frontiers have been used up but you know we can imagine all kinds of areas where this is like you know all kinds of good ideas we could be doing but we’re just not uh i think one of the things that’s true is risk plays into this like um you can think i’ll go to college because the statistics show that if you go to college you have over the course of a lifetime higher earnings and so this is sort of my golden ticket and so i what i just need to do is go work hard and study hard and i’ll get this degree and then i’ll be successful but then i whereas if you sort of strike out on your own and start something then um there’s greater risk because for one thing you just don’t show up and go to class every day you’ve got to create it yes i do think it’s maybe something like okay so what’s the alternative so i i think in a world with a lot of opportunity the risk for starting new things is lower because like the alternative as well i can just go find something pretty easily right i can go work at you know i don’t know the factory and make a solid living if things don’t work out i think now the real risk is slipping out of the middle class and i think that’s what you feel in college is like this really sense of foreboding like you know you’re like on the edge it’s understanding you’re on the edge of not making it and slipping down the mobility ladder is very scary for people and if things don’t work out the risk is much more existential than it used to be

um explain that so like it used to be if you’re a grand vision for the world making the world future different didn’t work out your alternative was well you could definitely go get a job immediately that was dignified and high-paying now i think it’s like if you didn’t follow that track and didn’t make it it’s like you’re off the wagon buddy you better like you’re done does that make sense like you will your mobility social mobility will suffer so um now explore um it seems that in the relatively recent past there was uh there was an uh it became a popular idea that if you were involved with stem like you were sort of like more golden if you were in the humanities track in which case you would be an art historian and you would have the future yes so so i think uh yeah so the the grand illusion i would say here is that um that stem is the savior right in reality i i i know i personally benefited from the fact that like i knew the humanities would not you know there’s no salvation which is somehow very like a very valuable lesson early seeing the world as it really is whereas stem like you know there’s still this hubris that like oh like it’s salvation right you just do it you’re fine but the truth is like no you still have to work just as hard maybe les maybe slightly less hard it’s unclear but that is really important to understand like you know if you look at the engineering fields like

other than computer science and like probably oil and gas petroleum engineering you know there has been a good engineering field to go into maybe electrical you know i don’t know but in the past like 20 years like you you wouldn’t make any money going anywhere else and that that’s a that’s a good example that you know it’s like there’s just fewer and fewer opportunities and and uh that makes things difficult for everyone so if you do take the gambit assume the risk i think of elon musk and he’s always he’s willing to risk it all he just he astounds me and like he’ll just invest everything because he feels like it’s a good idea yeah a guy with good ideas um what is it about is that the difference is it that people that are willing to risk i mean you you went in with a startup and and there was a good chance of failure maybe a dominating chance of failure and what did you learn about uh through the thus having survived a lot of that the company survived a lot of that and uh it seems to be tracking well what did you learn about i mean was it smooth all the way and you just sort of go in and have your coffee in the morning work along and head home at five or it’s different than that yeah so a co-worker friend and i i think we talked about this in a previous episode you know we counted 12 independent times where we thought there’s a greater than 75 percent chance probability would we would not be there the next week like we would not be around um you know like

i really hesitate to give advice i think you should generally be quite skeptical of advice unless someone who’s like really close to you and even then you know and this is a piece of advice right so it’s like yeah take it as a will right but you should generally be skeptical of advice um i i think there’s like

you know elon can do that there’s great book zero to one that describes it’s called notes on startups i highly recommend it anyone but there’s like this this reading of zero to one it’s like wow like i really should not go into startups like that’s probably that is probably the correct reading of zero to one it’s like really like i should i should not start anything um which is like counter-intuitive right but like

when you’re talking to people like that like who should be starting these things like well it’s people like at google it’s like the engineer at google is making half a million dollars a year and sitting around on the bing back chair eating m ms like that’s who should be doing these things right this is super capable people who are not doing it otherwise um you need to understand like where you are and like does your life have kind of product market fit with um startups and things like that because you know it’s not it’s not for everybody and i and people take that the wrong way as it’s something like attractive and and sexy and like cool to do and like yes but you need to understand like it’s it’s it’s a pretty serious undertaking and if you’re going to go for it you need to you need to understand all of it critically evaluate you know all of life and is a pretty serious undertaking it was being able to measure things and quantify them and say you know okay i’m going to give this a whirl and i’m going to give i’m going to invest this whether it’s time or money or whatever it is and yeah and uh and and trot yep i think yeah then you’ve got to be able to risk not succeeding and if it doesn’t succeed what are you going to do you have to some plans about that but yeah i’m going to circle back around and pick back up on equity housing bonds and bills and so what uh the rate of return of everything said was that um equities and housing returned more than anything else that’s right and by significant margin like ten to one or five to one or something like that that’s right that’s right and uh for the sec go after elon we’re not uh this is an investment advice like you have bigger fish to fry so uh do your own research um i want to yeah so always important to remember there’s risk and there’s in risk and reward and people are fairly rational so um especially when evaluating things like this so

equities where did you want me to go with that well i think risk and reward is that’s sort of the whole that’s a big part of the entire question so if we start with housing what i would say about housing real estate is that um

the risk is you know you can’t create you can’t diversify well like the the the three primary considerations in real estate it’s one of those sort of truisms is location location location right right so uh you’re gonna pick something but you can only you know it’s gonna be hard to pick more than one that’s right initially and then maybe you can grow it and maybe over time you could grow in to a number of them but even when you grow into a number of them they’re likely to be in the same community so that’s right so get gaining diversity is very difficult with housing real estate yeah and and just talking about my personal bias i like i tend to like equities more i believe equities um you know they have so real estate does outperform um like in this paper that’s what they talk about real estate outperforms equities by small margin although there are there’s this trade-off where transaction costs are much higher for houses so you you can just go buy um equities super you know like for not you know vanguard you go you pay point zero one percent you know fees a year to buy and have them manage you know most of their index funds and then you you look at houses and you’re like well i can buy one house at a time in one location and i have to pay property taxes and upkeep and maintenance and you know it is interesting that this paper found that result because it you know what i’ve always heard and seen is that you know housing really does not outperform um well real estate housing kind of two separate things but it doesn’t outperform inflation and i think there’s the there is the truth that there’s uh land that’s one thing and then your house which is a wearing good that’s important it’s like buying a car a car and a house are much more similar than people would like to understand like to believe um as a consumption good you know it’s something you consume over the life cycle so that’s the big dirty secret about a lot of houses they’re meant to last like 30 years till the end of a 30-year mortgage and they kind of fall apart right you know i don’t know like not like by design but that’s just how they’re built um and i think in that sense yeah they probably it’s more a commodity but real estate is is a bit different in that it it does seem to perform similar to equities or maybe a bit better yeah that was that’s a one of the points we should raise is we said a lot of this is a measure of risk versus reward and the big hedge is diversification with risk so if you can like own all the houses in your state or maybe in the nation or a portion of them in a small very small portion yeah then you’d be well diversified and the chances that you would do well would be greatly increased because um if there’s an earthquake somewhere there’s a fire or something happened to one house that’s just a very small part of your holdings right but if it happens to be the house you own it’s a disaster catastrophe it’s a big big problem so diversification is really important and that leads us directly into talking about equities which you sort of brushed up against in that it’s really now because of bogle really easy you might talk about jack bogle just a little bit historically to diversify yeah yeah so uh it is it’s much easier to diversify in equities like you can go you can buy there’s like a fun vt which is vanguard total world stock index and it’s you can buy for 75 bucks you can buy a tiny sliver of every single publicly traded company that an american essentially has access to it’s not quite the case but it’s pretty close um and so wow that’s pretty easy it’s like 75 bucks and go crazy housing you know there are similar equivalents called reits which are like real estate investment trusts but they don’t have every house in america and they don’t have every house in the world and it’s like usually select and like the southeast or something and um that could be okay but it’s definitely not as easy and there’s also more management fees because it’s it’s more difficult to administer than uh housing and was that bogle’s idea as a graduate student is an index fund where you would literally own a sliver of every company or representative sample of every company in the country and yeah so jack bogle’s idea um so at princeton his senior thesis was the idea of an index fund uh his idea he essentially saw a paper similar to this one the rate of return of everything’s like well if you look at the average return of the entire index um it’s like well it’s like 10 and if you just took the fees off of that you know that’s a lot of money over 10 years um and just kind of going back on on how people don’t do big things anymore it feels like you know jack bogle this is his senior thesis in college i mean think about that that’s pretty weird isn’t it like you have the senior thesis idea and he’s probably saved you know given more money back to investors than anyone else i mean i can’t imagine how many billions of dollars in value have been given to retirees and you know all these pension funds that use uh vogels uh you know vanguard and just all the other uh index funds that have popped up afterwards you know you talk about good ideas he didn’t only come up with the and apparently he’s largely responsible for index so he’s large so people could kind of done it before but he’s he popularized popularized uh index fund investing and then the the other thing i know him for is uh low fees and saying if you could reduce management fees you could you could your yield the amount of money you made would just over time would be much much greater yeah so standard investment funds usually charge two and twenty that means two percent of um the amount you have invested every year and then 20 of the returns and so like you know you’d have to outperform the index so brilliantly to make money after 2 and 20 that it’s just like really not possible there’s a couple people that can do it you know they in weird ways but they have secrets and it’s not it’s not something you can really replicate that’s one of those things that in that random walk theory is that you the market is random and you can’t select the winners and it’s in all that stuff sort of in vain i mean that’s the idea in any event uh so that’s more so the efficient eugene fama the efficient market hypothesis it’s the idea so um you know if you got two people if you got 100 people and they’re all measuring the number of m ms in a jar you know the average is really close to the number um it’s very similar like if all of the information is public and we all can see that information and everyone is rational the price will be just about what it should be now big asterisk asterisks here you know so we if we all see the public financials for apple and we all make our own decision like on average like the the price that in apple is is fairly efficient so like why do you get this equity premium then um so you get this equity risk premium because it’s volatile so people you know they need money in the short term so not willing to always invest it in in more volatile assets like equities because they need to spend it tomorrow that’s one thing um the other way you can make money is uh inside information like so that’s illegal right but you know if you knew there was special information if you were a lot smarter than everyone else and everyone missed something that’s another way or you know like so some people can make money beating the market and there’s people that you know there has to be has to be someone to make the market right too to make it efficient so all the people you know there’s like a lot of professional people who spend so if you spent like all your time and you’re super smart you could probably um beat the market but you will also probably you know like it’s efficient in that it’ll kind of just pay for the time you spent doing it does that make sense um it’s hard to just like critically evaluate other than it being just random and get a higher return if that makes sense so it’s really hard to um it’s it’s hard to do anything other than and then get the market average which you’ve got a very reasonable chance to do if you bought mine yeah yeah you just you do have a much more reasonable chance um and well the important thing to remember it’s like it’s super competitive to price it correctly right so you’ve got like all these smart people who have this financial incentive to be correct and that’s what you’re going up against and like you have to be like really good to beat that and that’s that’s what uh which most people miss yeah and but so that’s very difficult but trying to get the market average is is straightforward really straight yeah yeah so you just you’re just counting on the equity risk premium and um yeah that that’s much especially over the long term it’s a much easier strategy to follow and that’s what bogle has sort of brought to main street is that you can do that with the index funds and you can get you can get low fees by cutting out all the man a lot of the management right in the indexes you do those two things and then then main street can have can have stocks that’s right that’s right equities equities that’s right and we’ve talked about this at least as on an aside it’s like there’s there might be two reasons that stock market is where it is even today during the pandemic and it’s bounced back significantly that’s right one of them is money pressure which i think of is like water pressure there’s yeah the money’s got to go somewhere to be invested go somewhere yep and we haven’t i don’t know if we we haven’t gone much to bonds and bills yet but they have very low yields because interest rates are low yes so historically like oh do you have the paper pulled up by any chance uh don’t do you have the what the rate of return for bills and bonds has been on average i don’t not at my fingertips okay talk for a second i’ll pull it up okay then what what i will say is that um because the rates of return have been low at banks then that tends to cause pressure to put money elsewhere and because housing isn’t it’s much more difficult to invest in that puts more money pressure on the market which tends to prop it up uh during bad times and i think the other thing is is that uh bogle uh made main street aware that uh by holding and and and realize the market goes up and down that you would be able to do well uh in the long term so main street’s not prone to sell off things and they’re industry holds a lot now individual investors hold a lot of the stock market yeah especially you know 401ks you like incentivize not to sell and you pay penalties and to withdraw so i did find the yeah the average unweighted returns for bonds or in real terms are 2.6 percent and what’s inflation these days well that’s real returns that’s adjusted that’s real terms now now compared to what’s the real return for bonds now it’s probably it’s less than that it’s probably less than that because like uh they would have to return four percent right now to you’d struggle to get a bond that returns that over time and then you got to pay taxes on the gain yeah then you have transaction fees and transaction fees yep so it’s uh it does create a lot of money pressure on the stock market yeah searching for returns searching for returns yep yep so that that explains a lot about uh and one of the things i say is that one of the riskiest places long term put your monies in the bank everybody runs to the bank your grandmother was like this your grandfather was like this and their generation was like this because they lived through the depression so they put their money in the bank because it was safe well that was true in a sense especially with fdic and the fed and all that stuff but over long term uh inflation and taxes chipped away at it that’s right yeah you know you’re losing two percent a year on inflation and you know yeah and what did the banks do with it for savings accounts they put it in t-bills so bills so you know they borrow for the federal government and then they take some cut and then they give you that percentage so right so that’s one of the riskier investments long term whereas if you get in the stock market and you hold through the ups and the downs and at some point in the future you may elect to take some of it out well yeah so i yeah it does come back to like what do you mean by risk do you mean volatility do you mean how much does it go up and down so for example houses like they seem like really low volatility right because you buy it and then you don’t know what price it is reality houses probably have similar volatility to equities um just judging on their returns they probably have similar volatility it’s just like you don’t have this ticker like paying you don’t know constantly yeah you don’t have it pinging away and that on the nightly news they never go and your housing value today it went down five thousand dollars ah handle down it went handle down today five percent down oh my god yeah no you never hear that which is different okay um

so uh we’ve uh uh unpacked a lot of this yeah um would you would you like to summarize some of your thoughts about the rate of return of everything and what you think it means yeah so i i think the the big takeaway from the rate of return of everything um was kind of confirming my biases a little bit about equities being you know especially for someone like me a younger person that’s the place you want to go this is the place you want to be thinking about if you um if volatility does not bother you so if you don’t so if it drops in half like if that doesn’t bother you a lot of people psychologically it’s it you know investing is mostly a psychological gain and whether you can handle losses and a lot of people have a lot of trouble with that i think it’s inbuilt to human nature you know most people would much rather avoid losing than winning um i think that’s like a that’s the truth about human nature that’s important to keep in mind and incorporate to keep in mind about yourself in investing equities it’s interesting the most surprising thing to me in the paper was real estate actually outperforming equities that that was i did not expect that um i agree about that and um and they’re very similar there might be a small edge to housing but yes it’s not very large and one of the points i should make and probably is people are familiar with this and some may not be is that you’ve never lost anything in the stock market until you sell it so if the stock market and it has during my lifetime it’s gone down half yeah and which is it it will get your attention when it does that but it also lets you know that the one thing you can’t do is realize your loss you can’t sell then yeah well it is it is important to remember though so if you buy a basket of equities like you’ll tend to get something maybe you’ll get something similar to the returns i think returns will be lower just because interest rates are lower that’s so important to keep in mind lower than what you know is stated in the paper which is like what 10 some odd percent i think they’ll be much lower than that i think equities will still remain higher than bonds and bills for the foreseeable future just due to the current interest rate environment and that seems to be like a solid trend you could count on knock on microphone stand

but that’s just something to keep in mind is just you know you never want to invest more than you can afford to lose and and and what you would need in the short run because in the short run lots of crazy things going to happen i think that’s that’s a a couple of things about that i agree with is uh if you’re in equities you’re in for the long run yes that’s important remember entire paper is about the long run and that’s what we’re talking about so you don’t buy a house and sell it next week or next month or even next year everybody would know that would be a risky proposition and you and i wouldn’t be willing to go into the stock market with that kind of time when either that time whether so going in when you’re young and having plenty of time to learn and study and observe and watch your money grow uh seems to be really key and one of the things i really encourage young people to do is because you need that large time that long time with it the long run yeah time matters more than almost anything else time fees matter more than anything else um and so we talked about one more thing we talked about returns and this is the raw returns real returns that does not include fees um and you know i encourage everyone to go out there and just look at your 401k and see the fees i remember you know i ca there’s a there’s a formula you can use we won’t talk about it today to calculate expected returns based on the dividend yield and a couple other things jack bugle used it i think it’s a useful tool i wouldn’t use it for its predictive power but i think it’s good to think about you know um i think right now like a 401k that i use has fees that are equivalent to probably a quarter of the returns expected returns year over year right and that’s pretty standard in the industry and that is a massive amount i want people to understand one percent of fees is huge yes it’s huge because if you’re only getting let’s say you get you know nowadays six percent real four percent real returns say four percent that’s a quarter of your returns which you know it’s a lot of money it’s a lot of money and what you know people often spend more time um mowing their grass during the week than they do reviewing their retirement portfolio or their financial situation and it doesn’t take a lot of time and you certainly don’t have to be a rocket scientist or a brain surgeon yeah you know i think that one of the beauties that bogle and vanguard brought and we’ve mentioned them several times and it’s because it it’s easy to understand and very helpful um one of the beauties of the what they’ve recommended is uh it’s something that you can understand it’s something you can appreciate it’s something you can be involved with and take advantage of and that’s what they brought to main street in america yeah i think it’s quite good and it’s a very elegant idea it’s like what if you could capture the returns in this paper like that’s all we want to do like and um he he wrote a book right before he died called enough i love this book it’s called enough he’s like well you know jack boggle he’s pretty wealthy person by the time he died just like worth probably 80 million dollars like you know he’s like i’ve flown in first class and it was nice but you know it’s not that much you know 10 returns like that’s enough and it’s a lot you know he’s gonna make like he’s like i’ve got 80 million dollars and you know in terms of visionaries that captured a percentage of their uh their value created bogle is way down there like it didn’t capture very much so their big rivals fidelity and for the fidelity family um i can’t remember the the name of the owners but you know they’re all super wealthy and that’s always a sign right you know if you’ve got a super well you know if your financial manager is really wealthy you know you should be curious about that yes just keep your eyes open because he got part of it by putting his hand in your pocket yeah somebody’s pocket exactly exactly and so that’s how much the finance industry makes money or has made money in the past people are much wiser now but it’s in selling um securities and taking a writer and like two percent of of um management fees sound small but in reality you make a ton of money even one percent you mentioned these 401ks one percent um is is huge and and will really your returns um this also reminds me automated investment systems are better because removing the psychological and human helmet like things that automatically invest are much better than you have me think about it because i think you know it’s easy to get rattled and have questions yes yes and you know there’s that’s a good point about if you turn on the tv and you see some investment product well it ain’t cheap to buy that tv tom so yes you should always ye you should always be skeptical about people’s investment advice because generally you know people have incentives to occlude and and generally you know like if someone’s giving you investment advice on like emma whatever the what is the msnbc invest business channel you should be very skeptical because you know unless it’s jack bogle because he’s you know he created a trillion dollar company he’s only worth 80 million dollars they manage a trillion dollars and he’s only worth 80 million dollars he’s a smart person well that’s not telling you he’s given that money to someone else and that’s that’s you know yeah that and you know for those interested in the podcast and in this subject that’s a great place to start reading it’s because of just what you said as somebody that has that much under management but realized i mean 80 million dollars anybody would love to have that but when the comparison is compared to like the other people in the field it’s nothing and he you know i would i would actually even before i looked at vanguard i would look at vogel’s books yeah that’s great advice yep great okay well it’s good to see you again it’s good to be here on the podcast thanks for joining us and we’ll see you next time on narratives thanks

Well that’s our show for today i’m will jarvis and i’m will’s dad join us next week for more narratives

8: Domestication

Why does your dog act like a dog and not your cat? Why does your cat not act like your dog? If cats are better hunters than dogs (hint: they are), why do we hunt with dogs instead of cats? Why do we ride horses rather than cows? Why are cows primarily a food source and not horses? We sit down with Faith Jarvis this week to learn about the domestication of the animals that are our pets and the ones that become our dinner.

7: Startups, with Eric Smith

What do Machine Learning, the French Horn, Championship Scrabble, the Lotus Evora, cryptocurrency mining and startups have in common?   Eric Smith.   Eric joins Will in this week’s episode for an exploration of startup life.   

Notes/Transcript:

eric is a good friend of mine he’s been my co-worker for what is it four years now four years yeah we figured this out already we already figured this out so we’ve already been through this it’s great man uh he’s been my co-worker for four years you got your uh an undergraduate what did you study math statistics that’s well you got it i did bang bang bang the math and the statistics and i also took a lot of uh graduate statistics classes um i went to well i went to nc state again for my master’s in the analytics and that was a one year well ten month program um so it took one year to get that and you did did you do that back to back yeah i didn’t okay i just you know i didn’t i didn’t work anywhere i didn’t do an internship i just went straight to uh grad school that’s really cool that’s cool there’s actually no break anyway so it’s like you graduate on may 5th or whatever for undergraduate and then it’s like okay june you start go it’s like yeah i had like three weeks off so i don’t even know what it is i don’t remember but yeah basically no down time just jumped right in just back to back and we we haven’t talked about this yet so i’m just going to veer off course man but yeah you played in the triangle wind ensemble yeah and you still do well yeah i don’t know what happens right now i’m still part of the group and there you are working on other ways to proceed that’s really cool man that’s cool uh and what do you play i play french horn very nice and did you get started in high school with that or no i started well actually i started piano and well preschool i guess technically nice so i played instruments for a while and then in fifth grade um you know i i wanted to play french horn actually my dad is a french one player but we can get back to we’ll get back to him later uh but um so i wanted to play french one two in fifth grade and they were like the teacher band director was like no you should certain trumpet and so i started on a trumpet i played trumpet in elementary school and then one year in no maybe a half year in middle school so i you know in sixth grade i played it like half of the year and then i switched to french horn like the other half i think anyway so you know i played ever since um so yeah that’s been over 20 years i guess that’s awesome man that’s really cool i’m glad you’ve been able to keep that up with everything going on yeah i mean it’s a little bit so like last week i um so i have like this this is not a typical instrument it’s it’s a it’s a it’s a high f french horn so you know typically french ones are in the key of f which is just or b flat or both uh but this one’s a higher french horn and it’s it’s like almost it’s not it’s not pocket sized but like you can it’s it’s smaller than a foot wide and you can i can stick it on my desk to have it to play like as opposed to like a full-size french horn which is like yeah you know that would be too big to sit on a deck well maybe not too big but it’s unwieldy for if i’m just sitting at my desk on a table no anyway the what i was getting at was um so you know i was i’ve been kind of tempted to play it at random times during the day it’s awesome and um this hasn’t made it onto a zoom call yet man what’s going on well yeah i i thought about it i thought that might be pretty fun anyway yeah what i was gonna say is um so you know i would i just play it at random times of day or night and like last week or i think it might have been yeah it was about a week ago uh i was leaving to do something and like neighbors one of the neighbors said is that you’re the horn player no you know we can we can hear we can tell we we were hearing you i’m being nice about what i said about what they said but yeah exactly you know we could hear you through the walls at 1am last night yikes and so you know i apologize i was like uh well i’m sorry i won’t do that again now i’m a little bit scared to touch it yeah i’m like they’re going to yell at me but high up well anyways

i live in a town house so that’s it’s i probably shouldn’t have been doing that anyway but anyway that that’s a side aside it’s all good anyway so so uh yeah that that’s superman so uh getting back to it so you um you graduated from state in the masters of analysis program which is kind of like an applied statistics machine learning this was pretty early on in the machine learning well they didn’t call it machine learning back then but it’s got to free that but they called it data mining i think big data yeah or analytics yeah same same word really it’s and then machine learning like that i just consider them all really basically the same thing and then i guess ai artificial intelligence is another subset or superset of that right but they’re all kind of the same thing to me just because i’ve i’ve done statistics i’ve done math i’ve done analytics i’ve done data mining i’ve done machine learning it’s all basically the same i’m right i’m an expert in all of them you’re the boss man well so so eric is the chief data scientist here at tanjo the startup we both work at i thought i’d mention that yep um that’s super cool man so uh you graduated and i know you know you had um and i love this story so what year did you graduate um math i got my masters in 2010 2010. so that’s 2010. so 2010 and you know you were interviewing with um big bank up in buffalo yep nice little iteration there um and uh you know you got flown up there you’re interviewing with the team and um you kind of you know you faced a fork in the road at this point you tell me about that a little bit yeah so and kind of halfway through the master’s program yeah like my dad um he uh and we can talk about him later again uh you want to go ahead and tell him so uh well yeah we’ll just start with that yeah david smith um yeah but she does have his own wikipedia page yeah he does and i have edited it i um one the one funny thing i i said that was um david smith invented checkers really oh the board game i put that on there and you’re giving those those moderators i don’t know if it’s still there but you know i all right put that on it and go check that out and it stayed for years oh god draw your own conclusions okay sorry very cool uh so yeah so your dad uh notable um so he invented the first 3d uh it was called yeah so 3d adventure game i guess is what you would call it i think they had like that you know that tank game was before it like yeah the one with the wireframes that that was around i think maybe there were some others too but his was the first like real-time 3d adventure game um very cool and it was called the colony and it was for mac and uh amiga and commodore and i like maybe i’m making all that up but you know that that was 1987 that was the year i was born um windows wasn’t around at that point i don’t think linux was maybe it was but anyway wow that yeah so he started off um he’s that that was kind of his starting point in technology um he founded vertice enter uh vertis corporation in 1990 nice um and that was kind of built on the same technology um and he came out with a product called virtus walkthrough which um it’s basically a tool that you can use to create 3d worlds and you know architects can use that to build you know make buildings and rooms and stuff um

and actually our boss at tanjong is richard boyd and he you know my dad hired him in about that you know early on pretty hell to lead the sales team um so i’ve known him for a while we’ll get we’ll talk more about all these people later but definitely um yeah my dad um he went on to found several gaming companies with um so the first one he did was with uh tom clancy and the first game that was basically a prototype they came up with was kind of this uh it’s based off of one of tom clancy’s books i guess all of the games were or most of them but um one was called ssn and it’s basically a submarine combat game uh you know they had like russian and chinese and american submarines and you’re just for the red october yeah you’re pretty you’re you’re just shooting things you know i played it i played it nice um and i guess the main the the biggest uh success they had was the game rainbow six um which came out in i think 1996 for pc and playstation uh and that sold maybe 100 million copies so big deal yeah that was we can yeah he can claim that have started the company that uh did that that’s awesome um and i guess you know he founded another he um founded a game company with michael crichton called timeline um the you know i think they came out with one game but it wasn’t quite successful yeah it was called timeline based off of the book timeline which also had a movie which uh didn’t do that well but um anyway so yeah the my dad’s license plate was timeline nice with ones because the eyes were taken anyway so um yeah he’s got he did those gaming companies and maybe a few more and i guess um he did he’s basically done a lot of startups over the years um so since since those he did um he did a few more startups and then worked at lockheed martin for a while with with you know richard boyd and several other people you know from the virtus days and um kind of i think in around 2013 or so maybe he i don’t know the year exactly but you know he got he jumped back into doing startup companies nice so he did one called we’re ality which was um basically foldable uh 3d glasses for your mobile phone it’s cool um and then more recently his uh his startup is called croquet and it’s kind of you know all this stuff kind of it’s 3d related so um that one is kind of it’s a web-based um i guess almost you could call it an operating system but it’s got a lot of functionality so you can you know you’re basically you can collaborate with other people within 3d worlds um you can you know you can talk kind of like a zoom call you can share videos and um you can also like since it’s collaborative you can share data sets and you know 3d visualizations and you know everyone’s seeing the same stuff but it’s he’s done a lot of work to make that seamless that’s awesome um so that’s what he’s doing now that’s very cool and you know he’s he’s uh based out of los angeles right now super cool so it’s 2010. you know you’re faced with this choice okay back to that huh yeah so essentially startup or um big bank right yeah so yeah my dad was doing another one of his startup companies in 2010 i guess it was i think he was working at lockheed yeah he was he was definitely working at lockheed at that point in time but you know he he can’t get away from the startups yeah so um basically i got involved like kind of halfway through my master’s program um

and i guess i kind of made a fork in the road for myself which was like so you know i did all these interviews at the analytics program yeah which were good experience i guess um but you know i just i got far enough along with one of them that i was like well i’ll either do this one or i’m going to work work on this project with my dad yeah and it turned out that the uh people at that at t bank in buffalo they uh decided uh not to look let me or they didn’t want me to work for them uh this weird way to put it they didn’t they didn’t hire me basically yeah so um uh which i mean that’s probably good good in a lot of ways too yeah because buffalo is yeah it’s buffalo yeah well anyway yeah buffalo yeah buffalo wings yeah no exactly yeah i don’t know if i’d want to live in western new york because of you know it’s just so far away and yeah whatever anyway it wouldn’t be awesome um so yeah i i instead of moving to new york i moved to florida which is where my dad was living at an apartment uh for lockheed martin you know um so basically i worked for him for rice well i lived there for about a year um i spent one summer there and i didn’t want to spend another summer there yeah don’t blame me because central florida orlando was gets over 100 or 90 you know high 90s and it’s just like it’s brutal it’s yeah well winters are great but you know because low is 70 or it’s like okay yeah that’s nice but anyway let me get back to so you’re working all the stuff yeah in florida working for my dad working for your dad in florida how was that and so this is this is kind of funny um and will’s heard it once i love this part twice or three times yeah that’s great i’m gonna explain it again yeah do it verbatim um so originally like my dad you know he told me he wanted to keep track of hours that i worked tyranny of the time card so um he just wanted to give him an update of like the stuff i worked on and how long and you know what what i was planning on doing next so you know i the first time the first week i basically did like around eight hours a day yeah um normal so i figured oh this is this is good yeah i did a lot of work and i got a lot of got a lot done yeah and so you know the first time i you know i emailed him the time card he was like you know so now that you’re working at a startup you really need to work 60 hours a week and i’m like okay i guess that makes sense fair enough you’re the startup expert yeah so you know he’s a workaholic um he likes to work a lot i guess i guess that’s what needs to be done okay so i so the next week well i guess i um i don’t know i worked maybe 10 hours a day let’s just say that um so that’s on average so you know i would i wrote down all the hours that i had and i sent them to him and he he told me um so you know if you really want to be successful if you want this project to be successful you’re going to have to work 80 hours a week

and so um yeah well yeah so that okay i mean living in florida might as well not that i was doing anything else but all right i guess i can try that to do that and i guess um so somehow i managed to get that many hours i managed to jam that many hours into a week i don’t know it was like 14 hours a day but no that’s maybe too many 12 let’s just take 12 hours a day um so i managed to do that i basically worked and ate and that’s it slept a lot anyway so my dad

um so you know i wrote my hours out again you know some some days had like 13 hours or yeah it’s like a lot of work basically and then so he sees it and he’s like well you know that’s not you’re not really working hard enough so um you know if you want to make this company into a success you know a successful startup you’re going to have to work 100 hours a week oh my god um and you know at some point i stopped really taking him seriously yeah you know he definitely he was definitely inconsistent with that’s not the only time he he was like bugging me about how many hours i worked but yeah he he’s definitely inconsistent about it so you know some some some days he’d be a little nicer he’d be like well okay 60 is fine this week but it’s 120 weeks sometimes just depends well yeah i mean if you work 16 hours a day that’s uh that’s over a hundred so it’s like within the realm of possibility it’s possible yeah um but you know you need to sleep and eat too like in bathroom i don’t know but anyway so that went on for a year well i’m actually more than here because i ca you know i lived in i lived in florida for a year but um i got tired of i didn’t want to live through another summer there so i moved back to north carolina um and i can’t i continued working on the project um

for well let’s see i i don’t i don’t remember you know basically there there were people who were working with us like you know my some of my dad’s co-workers gotcha and you know that some would some would jump on or jump off and right you know at some point it was basically just me working on this project oh wow so i was i did i did like everything so like you know the back end servers the the database stuff the the back end coding the the website itself the you know the controller code for the website sorry i could do i could kind of do all of that then you know my dad was basically uh giving me control of the project yeah so you know for maybe two two years i was kind of doing it all on my own um yeah and i guess at some point in i think 2013 gallow funding just a little trial um yeah so uh my dad you know my dad knew richard boyd from virtus so um they’ve been good friends since then and they also worked at lockheed together um so yeah he my dad uh let richard in and you know wanted him to run this project full-time um so that you know around that time 2013 is when maybe mid-2013 is when he let richard on and you know we he richard uh brought in a few of a few other kind of people he knew from the past and he uh kind of spun it into a a real company um that’s awesome so yeah and then i guess around august or that might be the right time august 2013 uh richard got us a little funding from the startup factory i guess they called themselves triangle startup factory at that point in durham and the american underground um so

and you’re off to the races yeah um so basically what we did at that point was kind of improve our website and well we we almost started over actually um another one of our co-workers helped us out uh jay sanders um you know he was contracting with us for for that part of the time and you know he he’s come full circle so we can get back to him but anyway um yeah so we you know he helped we we built our website up pretty well and um i guess that um what was it startup incubator lasted for about three months and then you know we were kind of in limbo for a little bit maybe half a year but um richard got you know had been trying to working on he was working on you know getting some major funding for for that period of time and he got it in i guess april 2014 so that’s you know that’s the part where you know well now we’re going to that’s a real deal now yeah so it’s it you know it went from you know living room project to um well kind of kind of full-time job for me well yeah well more than a full-time job maybe two or three full-time jobs okay three full-time jobs for me um in the into uh a startup incubator so you know we were becoming more legitimate and then you know once we got our big load of funding then you know well now things are starting to move right so um at that point we decided to work on an app a mobile app for i guess i think we only did ios at that point so the iphone and ipad but um so our uh our app was basically kind of a news reader type app um personalized news reader so it was called nomibot um and basically you you could choose a set of bots to bring you stuff from the internet and um you know you could swipe right or left kind of like tinder but um and it would improve its results over time but the uh i guess that made the downfall of that app was that it didn’t really get a lot of engagement you know people didn’t maybe they just didn’t get it or it just wasn’t appealing to them gotcha um the demographic you know you just sometimes you hit it or sometimes you don’t and i don’t think we hit it yeah um and so i guess after we kind of spun that down you know we we were looking into what to do next and we came up with you know a set of maybe five different ideas um so so let’s see one was kind of um it was like a restaurant recommendation or like local events recommendation tie down with like restaurants um so we you know we took a look at that we looked at some other things like education like some kind of education based recommendation system and then another one was like healthcare based um i think there was maybe one more but the the one we ended up deciding on was called well i don’t think we had a name for it but it was basically um let’s see pinterest for knowledge so tanjo yeah we we call it tanjo now um and i guess well our company is named after it uh actually uh so the the company names that we had before tanjo were the first one was sizzle spelled with three z’s and no vowels so s z z z l um and you know i nobody can spell that yeah how do you explain that yeah on the phone i mean and then we we re i think in 2013 for the startup factory we re you know we changed our name to sizzle with onesie so well that’s 300 easier to explain but still thousand percent hard to explain so um you know s zl how do you say that on the phone yeah exactly scl and there’s cz like tough to tell yeah seo if you say it really quickly just it just kind of you can that’s a lot of letters it could be yep um anyway the um so we we came up with our product called tanjo which was like pinterest for knowledge so you basically have a set of boards and you can type in you know keywords and titles and it will find you stuff related to that so i guess at some point we decided that we you know our company name needed to be more in line with our product so we reincorporated as tom joe and i think that was 20 today so anyway so i was there for when we made the brand change yeah maybe i’m jumping a little bit ahead it might be 2017. but i know so um we didn’t have any revenue until 2017 i want to say yep yeah so because it wasn’t until a year after i was on i mean or so yeah it’s been a while you know i was 17. i was there the whole time and you know we i didn’t make a cent for until

well i i mean i guess once we got our big round of funding then i started making a salary but you know before for six or four f whatever four years i wasn’t making anything i was just doing it for the experience and um whatever potential acquisition you know i don’t have a stock yeah yeah anyway um well so so sitting here today where tondo is a successful company um i know you and i we were talking about this earlier just the number of times that we thought you know we’re a week away from dying as an organization yeah yeah yeah you’ve had more than i have but yeah i can i can explain a few things so you know back when i worked for my dad in florida yeah like you know basically if i worked like four hours one day he was gonna say he he would say like well you know you’re not working hard enough and i’m gonna pull the plug on the project so you know i i’d work a little harder next week but you know it you know i guess this this company as a whole is kind of it seemed like it’s just going to go away or evaporate after like a week but and you know my dad might have been like 12 of those times but right right exactly but but i think it does and we were talking about this earlier again it’s just you know it underrates like we just don’t you know the importance of just not quit just keep trying you know like super important just to keep trying and you know and we also we were talking about this we’ve got a team you know you and i we don’t get rattled you know we really just don’t get even when things like really looked like they were not gonna turn out very well we just kept trying you know kept even if it looks like the probabilities are stacked against us we just find the best way forward and just keep trying to go through it and don’t know you know no one freaks out no one everybody’s just calm cool collected stoic throughout it which i think is really helpful yeah um i remember this was kind of after you know after nomibot and then you know we we made ten tanjo but like we kind of run run out of funding at some point yeah and basically you know we had to let go of a lot of people yeah including our cto and you know a lot of marketing people but um at that point in time like you know that just seemed like like the end was happening like yeah it could be could it could have been tomorrow but like um this is just one example of of you know kind of miracle things but anyway um so like our um our cto who is still works for us his name is ken lane um in i think 2015 around october 2015 he was actually laid off of from gse which is a nuclear power plant simulation company but um you know he was looking around for jobs and you know richard somehow knew and called him and uh he showed up uh one day and you know i met with him um and he was you know he was instantly hired and accepted so you know he kind of you know reignited the the whole company as a whole i think and you know kind of i think for me personally i think he kind of saved us at that point in time right and you know that’s that’s one example of things that have happened to our company there are many where yeah there’s many more of those but example that’s really a good example you know that’s that’s one great example of of of what you know what kind of things have happened but you know i personally i didn’t give up like even though it seemed like things were going to go away but i just just got to keep trying you know i didn’t not to say i didn’t feel bad but um you know i didn’t want it to go away right like i wanted to keep going like i mean i i haven’t worked any other place except for my uncle’s furniture store so you know i don’t have like i don’t have company experience i was advised by people to you know you you should really work at a at an established company you know right after graduating big salary and you know i didn’t do it yeah i just went for this and you know i don’t regret that it’s a problem yeah and i i feel like i’ve got um a lot of experience from it and um what was i gonna say yeah i don’t know i just yeah just sitting from where i’m sitting you know it’s just you and i i mean i i mentioned when we were talking a little bit earlier you know i just i deposited a check you know someone said it’s where’s anyway so someone had sent us a check and said hch but i need to deposit it um this was last week and it was larger than like our first two years of revenue when it sits before i joined on uh you know it’s just like man how far we’ve come it’s just yeah insanity making i know for like tanjo and nomibot you know we had it in the app store and it was like a free app and we were like banking on getting ad revenue and we never actually even set up the ads so it’s like never made it up i mean it yeah never made it that far and then for the next you know the website tanjo you know when we started out we were going to do like a subscription service kind of like slack you know you pay five dollars a month per user and you get access yeah um and you know never nobody bought into that either but kept trying yeah i mean you know nowadays you know we we’re you know whole you know companies are just buying our stuff and it’s like wow that’s just costly no it’s orders of magnitude more than any of that it’s like it would have been nice to have that back then but you know it’s like yeah it’s kind of crazy just seeing these numbers the journey the journey is really cool to see yeah so you know i was i was there the whole time and you know it was zero for me for the first four years and it was zero for the next three years well i guess i made a salary but our company didn’t really yeah get any income not not very much anyway at all but um yeah like it’s just picked up so much it’s it’s wild testament to just keep trying just keep trying yeah uh so you’re really good at scrabble yeah is that right is that true i guess you could say so can you tell me like kind of your your rankings and and how how good you were yeah so you know i i started in scrabble in ninth grade i was in just in high school um so i played you know quite a few tournaments during that period of time well maybe not that many actually so the weird thing is they didn’t have any tournaments in north carolina at that point so you know i had to go to georgia tennessee um so it was a little bit hard getting around to places but i did it um all my parents did it anyway yeah so i i played tournaments in high school and a little bit in college too gotcha although in college i kind of neglected you know i just kind of showed up and i i kind of sucked but it’s not good anyway so i you know i quit for a few years maybe more than a few but then in like i guess around the 2012 2011 time frame so you know i i was kind of working for my dad but um

i started kind of getting more serious about it gotcha um and um so i guess my rating was like 13 or 1200 at that point and you know i don’t know what rank that was in the state but you know i was i had played enough against the computer that i basically knew what i was doing strategically um and it was kind of more a matter of just learning words at that point gotcha like you know to get to the top levels like you need to know all the words like there’s there’s like 200 000 words yikes um and i i’ll kind of go step by step later but just to for my um rank so basically i i just kept gaining rating like i won like five tournaments in a row nice like and it wasn’t it wasn’t luck it was just like i just knew what i was doing i guess yeah even though i didn’t know like all the words i just had such good strategy i could beat you know people who knew all the words and um so let’s see like i played in two national scrabble tournaments one was 2012 in orlando and i guess i was i might have been i was in orlando at that point i think um and then i played in one in las vegas next year um and in that tournament so that’s basically all the top players from the country yeah all in one place and you know they have different um brackets so you know they’ll be like it’s a pretty big tournament so there’s like 100 people in each bracket um but i was i played the top bracket even though uh my rating was slower but um so you know i played i played world champions like that’s awesome and i beat some of them

so yeah after that tournament actually i actually got uh 28th place so that’s you know that was pretty good for me that’s really good i think i won 18 games and lost 13. nice but um so that was good enough for like a tie for 20th and technically i got 28th on a tiebreaker but uh anyway um the uh let’s see so after that tournament i was ranked number one in the the state of north carolina nice um and then i played one more tournament which was the north carolina state championship yeah um and this so this is kind of a funny story um so i didn’t win the tournament but i would i had a shot i guess you could stay close so like with four rounds to go four games to go basically um i was playing you know the there’s this one guy he’s he knows all every word in the dictionary and he’s he knows them better than most people on the planet yeah and he’s also pretty good strategically um i think i had a winning record against him before this tournament somehow i don’t i don’t quite understand how but um i i guess it’s just i’m better strategically but um so you know with four rounds to go i had to he had he won enough games where i had to beat him four times in a row like wow like literally i’d have to beat him once and again and again so so the first game that i played so the you know four rounds from the end um so i i was basic i basically had the game in the bag um so uh the like i knew what what his seven letters were because you can track what tiles have been played against what are known you know the known title distribution right right um so i knew exactly what tiles he had and he had like he had um abd uh r o sv and so you know i looked at those letters and it’s like he’s got a v and b and like that’s like that looks like garbage yeah and i’m like you know i i didn’t really you know i kind of i glanced at it and i looked at it i was like i don’t see any words in that i think it’s fine i don’t see any seven or eight letter words in that yeah and so i was just like you know i’ll play somewhere else i won’t block this this a over here that he can play through but you know i was like once i saw him he just like jumped on the he knew he like he obviously knew this word it was bravado’s b-r-a-v-a-d-o-s and he just played it instantly and i just sat there i was like oh no okay yeah you know i sat there and i knew my tournament was over but anyway so i didn’t win uh that that tournament i got second place because i must have won a bunch i beat a bunch of other people after in the final three rounds but anyway that was that was the story of that tournament and that was the last one i played gotcha um it’s basically at that point 2013 was when you know i kind of already explained tanja got a little bit real yeah yeah we got our we got our first dose of funding at the triangle startup factory and kind of you know it was i couldn’t uh i’ll explain one thing so basically i was just spending too much time on it um just on screen so actually yeah this is a little bit this is kind of funny so um there was like a television crew that wanted to interview you know people at our scrabble club and in durham or uh i guess it was briar creek very cool um this i don’t know what date this was exactly but it was on tv it was on like pbs um and i you know they interviewed me and you know one of the questions they asked me was like so uh you you must spend like all your time you must spend 24 hours a day playing scrabble yeah and it was kind of a rhetorical it wasn’t even a question but i was like uh no but i maybe i spend like eight hours a day playing and you know i was a little bit serious even though i was trying you know i was trying to think of something funny to say for television exactly but like you know i i kind of heard myself saying that yeah you know and i saw it you know i saw that on tv and i’m like you know maybe it’s time to stop playing right right maybe i need to stop putting so much time into this you know like the the rewards output aren’t yeah worth the input yeah like i can so so you know all the time i put into it it you know maybe some of it’s learning words some most of it’s probably just playing against the computer or people on i think i was playing people on facebook a lot back then but anyway um a lot of time get got put into it and you know at the end of the day like what what do you do with like all these words that you’re learning like you you don’t even learn the definitions yeah um people just learn these to to learn them to have as like tokens as like game pieces for the game right this is a valid string of letters you can put on the board for first 80 90 points like okay like if you don’t know the word you don’t get the points so um a lot of you know the top players in the world they know the whole dictionary like all the sevens all the eights even some of them know all the nine letter words which is like those hardly ever show up but like you know you know you never you need every percentage point you can get right at that level of play um you know i i might have you know i think i i didn’t i definitely did not know the dictionary cold for even but i i think at my high point i knew well certainly all the twos but like all the threes fours and fives so like all those you know there might have been less than 20 000 of those words but i mean they’re let they’re easy to learn because they’re shorter yeah um but then there’s like thirty thousand sevens alone and like uh i knew like you can order them by probability so it’s like you know e e is the most common letter there’s the most e’s and then you know all the common consonants and vowels like stuff with those letters i knew pretty much all of them you get diminishing returns yeah it’s basically diminishing returns so if you know the top four thousand seven letter words that accounts for like the ninety percent of the probability of all the words you’re ever going to see gotcha um and you know that doesn’t even count the words you all you know just as an english speaker yeah um you know so maybe maybe i knew like 70 or 80 of all the words but to get that next level require yeah or like you know the eight letter words are even i i know even less of those and so i know like 50 of those but to get to yeah like you say to get to the next level like you have to know every single one and like even even the ones that are obscure that have like three z’s and two y’s yeah like like well i mean that might be a stupid example but nobody’d ever played that but um that’s impossible to get but um you know there’s i mean i’ve played crazy words too but yeah uh just just because i learned like different word lists that have i think i knew all the all the uh j q x and z words yeah um there weren’t nearly as many of those but they were just more fun and easier to learn just i don’t know why but gotcha so i knew all those but um yeah to get to the next level you just have to know all the words and you have to be good at like knowing you have the the word in your letters like so you might you know you might know the word it might be a common word but you just can’t rearrange your letters quick enough or gotcha or fat or you know you might just miss it right right but like all the top players they they can do it instantly like they see a set of letters they you know they match that usually they will put them in alphabetical order they call it alphagramming and interesting so they’ll put like all the letters in alphabetical order and they’ll just spot it instantly they’ll know what words in it and they could even have a blank like you know blank could be anything and they could put that with a set of letters and or even two blanks like you can they just spot the words instantly wow like they can instantly see that oh that letter has to be a cue to make this into a seven letter word that’s wild um i mean i’m i’m not i’m definitely not the best at that like i can if i had time i might be able to figure out more words but like i just don’t have the kind of experience and i i don’t put that many hours into it that’s cool but yeah like that really just kind of getting back it doesn’t really have much practical value at the end of the day at the end of the day yeah it’s like this isn’t gonna help me with my job this isn’t gonna help me with anything else i do it’s just learning kind of pointless word you’re not even learning the definitions you’re just learning these tokens for this one particular board game that yeah like i mean it’s fun but it’s not very useful rather than that right i mean well technically for stuff i do it at tanjo i do a lot of text analytics so it’s slightly helpful like you know i’ve seen you know one stop word title yeah well so um the uh one of the projects i did was like a lot of scientific uh articles basically i had to do a topic model of and you know i saw words in there i’m like i knew that from scrabble i knew that from scrabble i knew that word it’s awesome so it was like you know words that i literally had no i didn’t know the definition of yeah like i’m now i’m seeing them like okay that’s a scientific word it’s awesome okay that’s what it means that’s really cool yeah so that was that was earlier this year but um so that was kind of fun um but you know really it’s it’s of no practical value that that’s super interesting dude so i want to do a little segway here and uh you drive an awesome car can you can you tell the audience what it is yeah uh so i drive i have a lotus of aura 400 the 400 is for horsepower i believe that it does have four and technically 406 but you know i don’t think they want to call it the lotus evora 456 doesn’t have the same ring to it yep so that it’s uh it’s um a black it’s black car it’s got black seeds uh black rims

yeah and i so i got it uh april 20 it was last year 2019. yeah so i’ve had it over a year um it’s got 7 thousand miles so i haven’t driven it like that much i think but you do you do drive you daily drive it yeah i i did drive it to work and back and you know in recent times i haven’t really driven it much but you know i drove it to work and i’ve taken it on a few trips so actually um you know the story of buying it um so you know when my other car is a smart car and quite the collection so basically i kind of annexed it from my mom uh i kind of claimed it for myself it’s got a lot of ben like positives but it’s also got negatives um you know one of the worst things is the acceleration yes done it’s got not yeah like 0 to 60 i think i timed it was like 15 seconds um now you’ve got like what three nine or just pick up is pretty bad yeah it’s so now it’s zero to 60 is four seconds yes i mean i might have done that a few times i might have floored it from zero to a few times but anyway um it’s fast yeah um so the smart car it’s good at like parking yeah uh good at what else

um if you look out of them yes fuel economy is good it’s big enough for you it is big enough surprisingly yes a lot of people you know they’ve made jokes like uh does your head stick up through the sunroof so eric for the audience is six eight so you know yeah quite the side season so you know i just stared at him i’m like okay yeah you’re funny yeah all right move on excited that’s the way to be man way to be okay yeah anyway um so yeah you know i i was kind of fed up with the smart car in a lot of ways yeah so you know i was like you know i i don’t i can’t i’m not rich like i can’t i can’t afford a ferrari or a lamborghini or crate mclaren or whatever but um but at the same time i didn’t want to get like a toyota or a honda just kind of a generic car not to bash any any any one brand but um i wanted something that was unique and um yeah you know nobody else would be driving it or right you know maybe nobody else have heard of it either but yeah i wanted something that was kind of you know known for reliability and yeah um basically i i talked to my cousin who he’s actually in um car design school that’s cool in detroit um and he suggested the lotus brand to me um as kind of an alternative for super cars so it’s it’s cool anyway um so i looked that up and you know i saw they had like three kinds they have the elise they have the exige and then they have the avora actually they don’t sell those first two in the in the united states anymore although i think they’re bringing it back i was told that interesting um anyway yeah i think they’re going to also stop production of the evora next year so they’re going to bring in a bunch of new brands lotus got bought out by some chinese manufacturer um anyway um what was i saying i’m picking the avora yeah yeah yeah so you know i saw that and i’m like oh that looks nice and oh it’s got you know people like it a lot um it’s got good reliability it’s got a toyota k uh camry engine with a supercharger it’s supercharged yes it’s not turbo super maybe one or the other somewhere yeah that’s a 400 horsepower out of a yeah camera engine so you know that that engine could last two hundred thousand miles yeah like which is really so that’s you know i’m not gonna get rid of this car anytime soon anyway um that was one of the factors so yeah you know i had to fit you know in the car to begin with so you know i went to the there’s like there aren’t many dealers in the country um so there’s one in winston-salem which is an hour and a half from here so i went there you know just to start out i checked out what they had and i tried to see if i would fit in it to begin with and you know i kind of you know i fit a little bit i it definitely had leg room the head room i had to kind of uh tilt the seat back a little bit to to fit but um it worked um and it was really nice i guess the the main thing is that the the stock they had was all manuals and uh i don’t you know i needed automatic um which they do make uh obviously the dual clutches sequentially yes still gotcha um that’s cool and you know i didn’t want to deal with the whole car salesman and stuff yeah yeah so you know i looked online i’m like uh you know i typed it or i searched on like the colors that i wanted and uh you know they have dealerships in atlanta there’s a bunch in florida just because you know florida’s filled with supercars um you can’t go to miami without exactly spotting that one but anyway um they also had there was some in new jersey uh there were some in new york uh i was basically looking within 10 hours of ice of here of north carolina there’s one in ohio and then one in indiana called gator motorsports they they had a black you know the black one with the black interior with the black wheels nice and so you know i just and it was like discounted a lot so you know they it was a demo car so it had it had like 700 miles on it but it was technically new um and i i drove up there with my mom to to test drive it and you know she got to do it too because i why not um but you know i liked it a lot uh i didn’t really you know the maybe the next closest thing i would consider might have been the acura nsx the the hybrid the one you know but that’s like that was like doubled a lot more it’s a lot more it’s a cool car yeah i would you know i i was just considering different things but yeah yeah this uh this one was had a good price and you know i just went for it uh so i flew up to indiana it was indianapolis and um i drove it back home uh well i actually drove it through michigan so i saw my um i saw some family in grand rapids and then i saw my cousin in detroit he’s the one who recommended the lotus thing to begin with so he was thrilled and then i drove it back um actually i don’t know this is kind of a funny story like on the way so i it the the car had like a light came on like you know i looked it up in the handbook and i’m like oh that seems a little serious so i was uh maybe an hour away from columbus yeah ohio and you know i knew that they had a dealership there and like so i actually brought it there for them to do service on it oh man it was that was a little bit funny and a little scary but yeah um got it they uh there was a free oil changed at before 1500 miles and i was nobody mentioned to tell me that that i had that but you know i would i was driving like a thousand miles home yeah so maybe they should have told me but anyway i got it like 40 miles ahead of that so they gave it to me it’s awesome let’s go like i think anyway yeah so the car i don’t think there was anything really wrong with it they just that’s cool uh you know they did a few things and said you’re free to go and nice so i drove it all the way back anyway yeah it hasn’t there’s been nothing really major wrong with it but i do you know i have taken it to winston-salem a few times yeah uh because you know they’re getting fixed yeah there have been some small issues like the truck trunk sometimes won’t open or like things stuff like that the air conditioning stopped working

yeah that’s cool um and then uh one of the i think he’s like the lotus salesman yeah i don’t know what his his job title is he just wants you to upgrade yep he his name is ken yeah just like just like our uh cannon tanjo but yeah um a little more pushy he always seems to want to get me to upgrade to the the avora gt what’s the difference between gt and the 400. so it’s got like 10 more horsepower 10 more and that’s nothing and it’s lighter lighter so and it’s got 0.1 seconds more acceleration dude that car is fast enough man yeah so yeah if if i upgraded it you know uh i could have that much more yeah and it would be a little different yeah and i i can certainly afford to two of them yeah why don’t you replace the spark car you know no yeah basically like why would i i just keep pepping to be nice to them but it’s like why would i like i’ve only got 7 000 miles in my car why would i why would i do this i feel like a lot of people they they keep them for probably about that long probably seven ten thousand miles this supercar kind of thing you know i don’t know well yeah i guess in my maybe he doesn’t understand but like i bought the car because of the camry engine i wanted you keep it going for 20 years but it does move yeah well we’ll see if it lasts that long but it’s i think it hasn’t blown up yet it’s got it’s had some minor problems but not bad that’s it anyway that’s difficult um yeah it’s and it’s parked right outside where i’m sitting yeah too bad it’s covered times we could go take a ride yeah i’ve been in it it’s quite yeah i uh may or may not have been drag racing and i may or may not not have done a zero to 100 before so you know yeah we’ll let our listeners you know ponder that i haven’t been pulled over in it that’s good no no tickets even keep it that way and i try and keep you off slack when you’re uh when you’re uh it’s cool man that’s super cool and i thought it was a really cool choice um especially because you know that car looks like it probably cost twice two or three times as much as it does yeah it definitely looks like a super car it really does and it’s it’s kind of kind of is in a lot of ways yeah but i guess it’s not a supercar because it doesn’t cost you ten thousand to replace a fuel cap yeah well like a ferrari who has time for that doug demaro does but not enough um so i i want to transition i’ve got two more things i’d like to talk to you about tonight um to crypto so i know you’ve uh you’ve i don’t know if you’re into it as much now but i know you’ve been in crypto mining crypto and and had a bunch of really interesting times with that yeah i got started in 2017 i think i bought a lot of bitcoin yeah but then i you know i didn’t keep it um so it it went up like um after the point where i had a lot of it um anyway so the i got into the mining aspect so you know yeah you build you know you build a gpu based computer you know with a bunch of gpus which are graphical processing units um basically those are those can solve hard like cryptography pro uh puzzles basically if you get rewarded for that uh and you know basically when somebody sends like ethereum or bitcoin on you know to from one address to another like the miner has to like validate that transaction and they get a small percentage of whatever that transaction was worth um so yeah i got started with mining around

2017 i think like october um so you know i built a few you know small computers with like six gpus each yeah um and that kind actually 2018 kind of the beginning or like maybe it was late 2017 was the point in time where like bitcoin went to 20 000. yeah and like i didn’t sell any of it oh that like i didn’t i just wanted to keep going like i didn’t i mean i it wasn’t like life-changing money that i had but yeah like i think at the high point i had about hundreds of cryptos oh wow some of it was like ripple coin i had i had all kinds i had bitcoin i had bitcoin cash i had uh oh wow ethereum i had you know they call them like the altcoin bag yeah you just have a lot of different random ones that right that you kind of hope they’ll they’ll turn into something but so i mean i didn’t really sell any of it i just like you know that’s it wasn’t life-changing to so if i you know if i sold it off at once it might have been it would have been yeah um i didn’t so it kind of crashed later you know and a little bit early 2018 so you know i it basically went down to like 10 of what it was yeah like you know 10 maybe i had like 10 000 worth at that point i don’t know exactly but i i remember distinctly when bitcoin would say it was that 18 17 or 18 000 and i had some bitcoin at the time from like 2015 or something i had gotten some and i went home to rural north carolina and i went to like it was a house party or something and i was talking to people that were just um you know mostly like electricians and like you know very like you know salt of the earth people and everyone was talking about bitcoin and i sold that night i went home and i sold because i i sat there and i was like you know what like you know this is what saturation looks like you’re yeah you’re absolutely right you know i i was like what in the world i saw it go up and i’m like well it’s it’s a bubble it’s obvious so no why wouldn’t i sell right but but no i don’t want to sell i want it to go more yeah no so yeah i just i didn’t if it were like a million bucks like i might have just sold it all because yeah like that might have been life-changing to some degree at least uh but like a hundred and you know i could buy a car with that but not right right not more than exactly like you can’t live off you can’t no no you can’t improve your life with that really i mean well that’s maybe an understatement um but you know some people that would mean a lot but um in the long run for me that doesn’t that didn’t seem like you know i wanted it i just wanted to roll the dice and keep going with it yeah see where it went um but yeah so you know at my uh at some point i think uh yeah 2018 in march i moved to a townhouse and i set up a bunch more computers so i have uh five separate um they call them rigs that’s awesome so you know i have five rigs with 12 gpus and they’re still mining ethereum that’s awesome which uh you know lately it’s it’s it’s been on a ride lately up and down it almost hit 500 but then it hit 300 and you know i don’t know where it’s at it it can change you know 100 in a day yeah so it’s kind of gambling you never know what’s where it’s going to go next um but you know i’ve been mining ethereum for a while and it’s it’s a sizable amount it’s just not it’s not where it was right it wasn’t um so it’s not life-changing or anything but definitely i wish i kind of had started and um like 2014 or yeah i don’t know i i back when it was tiny back when it first was like it came out like i s i i had coinbase and like i saw it there i was like oh well maybe i should buy that but i didn’t it was like 11 bucks that’s what i remember right now um but instead of like buying crypto and making gpu rigs i was buying legos which uh

it’s an alternative investment but it takes up space and like i still have like a few hundred you got an impressive collection man yeah i gotta say i’ve seen it it’s awesome yeah and i’ve got i don’t know i think i have like thirty thousand dollars worth of lego sets on a shelf at my house i i think a kid would would probably pass out if you walked in there yeah i mean it is awesome it really is cool if one of ken’s kids walked in just like a drink oh my god uh and well i mean i’ve always liked legos but yeah um i also have a lot of uh like cars like lego cars sets so i have like technic stuff or well not i have a few technic cars but that’s right like there were a lot of like lamborghini and ferrari lego sets yeah that came out i remember that i’ve got a lot of those that’s awesome you know i have like 10 ferrari 40s um those were retired a few years ago and those are worth like at least maybe not quite three times what wow but those are worth a lot interesting so some you know some some lego sets will go up a lot in value if they’re retired um but some will go down so some are just not worth what you paid for them i wonder what the average like internal rate of return on like i said is yeah it’s i mean i know people wrote articles like saying the average i don’t know i don’t know the number but like it’s just gone up basically a lot like you know ten percent per year whatever it might not be that exactly but the i kind of you know i know that on average the legos i bought are worth more than what i paid but you know getting how far are they beating inflation i guess yeah i don’t and that and getting rid of them is another story i need storage like it’s interesting yeah like if you sell them on ebay it’s like uh you still have to pay like all the fine all the fees and stuff and it’s it might end up not it might end up just being a waste of time yeah like for all the trouble that it’s worth in the end so they’re going to look at too so i don’t know yeah i i mean i’ve got legos yeah as an alternative asset class man it’s pretty cool it’s much cooler than like i don’t know oil at least you can see it as opposed to crypto yeah you can’t see crypto that’s a and you know if you lose your hash key you’re really in trouble or if you if your house burns down your legos will burn down that’s fair yeah you know trade-offs man but so will your gpu computer that’s right that’s right that’s right you know so i guess they’re equal in that way yeah that’s really cool that’s typical well eric thanks so much for coming out tonight and uh sorry for the technical difficulties but i think we we created a really cool show yeah we um we uh i don’t know what i’m saying we’ve we fixed it figured out new equipment tonight so you know yep that’s awesome awesome well thanks eric and uh we’ll have you on again thank you bye

well that’s our show for today i’m will jarvis and i’m will’s dad join us next week for more narratives

6: Wood And Strings

Bobby O’Neal Talton is a 90-year-old award-winning violin maker with a lifetime of experience in the art of creation.  As a boy he built wooden airplanes to fly around the hills of southwest Virginia; as a young married man, he built a house because his family needed a place to live in Springfield. Virginia; as a middle-aged man he moved to banjos, dulcimers. violins, violas and cellos.  Join us as we explore the imagination and creativity of an award-winning nonagenarian artisan.

Transcript:

so welcome to narratives this is will’s dad and we’re here today in on the crystal coast of north carolina and beaufort north carolina and today we have a nonagenarian luthier who makes violins and his name is bobby talton and i have a special connection to bobby talton he is my mother’s brother my mother had six brothers and no sisters so there were seven of them this is her next oldest brother and so today i should we’ll unpack a little bit i shouldn’t uh describe what a nonagenarian is and that means you’re between 90 and 100 years old so that’s that part and then um what about the luthier part you’re a luthier uncle bobby well violin makers cello and not everything but concentrated on violins cellos and i built uh oh yeah

uh other instruments too but these were just here and there there was the banjo guitars and a few dulcimers so violin makers probably prefer the term violin maker over luthier which means string instrument right yes that’s that’s correct okay good a great start um so what we’re going to talk about will faith and glenn had an episode a few weeks ago and they talked about education in depth and i thought it would be enlightening if we talk to an artist about education and where the artist got his education and you didn’t go to harvard to learn violin making is that right uncle bobby uh no basically i went to the basement in my woodworking shop and uh started butchering up some wood that’s a that’s a great way to look at it and and and speaking to you it really a lot of what where you started in your artistry of instrument making violin making specifically today uh was by building a house yeah betty jane and i were chasing the prices of houses and our savings could match the increase in the price of houses from one year to the next so we went out and bought a piece of woods some a lot of pine trees the dirt road and we started building our house now that i would have a very difficult time except i have been around you and some people that have built houses knowing how to build a house so how did you start to build a house uh i’ve started many things you just buy a piece of land and talk to people they tell you it can’t be done but you go out and buy the land and then you go down and cut some trees and when the trees are cut down you go talk to a man with a bulldozer and get him to come out pile the stumps up you burn them then then they pilot stumps and he also had a blade on his dozer and he scraped out a huge shallow hole not it was uh it he had to do it with a bulldozer because we had a pretty deep basement and uh then after that he came out and left the bulldozer there and they burned all the stumps and then we that was it so what i’m hearing is what sort of spurred this creative artistic endeavor you have is first of all necessity you needed a place to live for the family to live and walked and walked once when you’re young and you think you can do anything you’re invincible and a lot and a lot of that’s probably true when you’re 20 or maybe late 20s and start these things yeah and the other thing you kind of like the lady you’re living with you’ve been hanging around with a long time and she she thinks you can do anything and you’re not not quite sure but you’re going to do it anyway so you have to show her that you you have to kind of get a little help from her in fact you have to get a lot of help from her so you got you had great motivation in addition to that you didn’t we’ve talked about this you couldn’t go google how to build a house you had to network you had to ask around talk to people meet people find out what people’s skills and talents were to figure out how to help you also uh at that time they had drawing boards and i spent a lot of time on the drawing board and so if you own a drawing board you call a blueprint we call it drawings so you get a drawing on a house and then it doesn’t tell you how to build it but it shows how it goes together so when you know how it goes together if you keep working that you can figure out how to put it together so a lot of that had to do with the kind of work you did were you uh yes absolutely so that gave you a a good background to sort of leap off from and one of the things that you’ve told me is that your father-in-law mr crossman he cut every single piece of wood in the house with a hand saw two hand saws one was for a cross cut and the other one is a rip saw sharp as razors we had two saw horses and i would mark and he would cut and while he was cutting i would nail and that’s there was no plywood at that time we just used prop mostly one by six pine boards for sheathing and for uh uh yeah sheathing and the subflooring so and you and mr crossman were both working regular jobs during the day is that correct yeah but he got off i got off a half hour earlier than he did and he was working then and his office is where the vietnam memorial is now it was a kind of a temporary building and been there for about 50 75 years and uh so i would pick him up jump in the car shop get fast food go out start sawing nailing because we always when we finished and i think this is pretty important and to me has been uh not recommending anybody else to it but when we left every night we put out the materials that we will be working on the next day so we didn’t have to waste a lot of time standing around saying what are we going to do so you got to maximize your time and and distance whatever so mr crossman was what age was he then was he in his 40s 50s oh no no he was probably uh very close to retirement he’s close to 60. but he was wiry small active and also he was a shipwright went through apprentice school so he knew knew how and lived in a family that they all worked at the shipyard and up north they were yankees boston but anyway he knew how things went together how door locks worked windows went in and everything he was a great help and he never questioned me he just let me take the lead and then sometimes i would ask him because i found that after a while it was smart to ask him and then he would tell me very very bostonian how old were you when you started building the house i would have been

about 26. okay so and so 26 27 like that you and mr crossman there were there were parts where special uh skills might like you had an electrician come in not to pull the wiring but to connect the wiring some of the wiring up you had some things like that where you had some specialized help is that right the way we uh i got it some help because these were office workers but with respect to the electrical system uh there was a fella who had been submariner on world war one and he you know submarines he was electrician so he said i’m not pulling wires but if you’ll pull the wires i’ll come out and tie them in for you so good old herm shuit is that okay sure uh herm came out and brought his dikes he called them the heavy pliers and he wired up my house and then he complained because i used number 12 wire which was very heavy wiring the house was wired up like a naval ship so you had an electrician someone that had electrical background to help you had a mason come and you learned some from him and he did how did that work well at that time you could get a handbook and wiring was fairly simple we used fuses so i put in the fuse epoxy and i’d work to remember i’d worked at western electric for a year doing semi-complex electrical work so i was used to drawings you call them blueprints but drawings schematics and wiring was pretty simple so it took you about a year to build this house is that correct yeah pretty close to a year pretty close to a year so you build a house and then then you had an interest and mr crossman was a big one for sailing as well is that right mr crossman was you and mr crossman had interest in sailing oh absolutely and the house wasn’t finished completely they were we kept working on the house uh grading the grading was done but there were things to build but since it was a home-built house we moved in and we still had a couple of months of work and yeah back to the sailing that was he was the epitome of a true sailor and that and he was from boston which would be yeah he grew up on the water and he knew fish and his new sailboats and he had never i don’t think read a book anything but when he got on a boat you didn’t have to worry about it people automatically ask him would you like to take the wheel and i’m talking about a good sized sailboat that happened a number of times and i was always amazed that people would look at him and not at me and say well you take the wheel and so pretty soon the house is finished and then the next project is a sailboat you build a sailboat is that correct yeah we uh we we had some leftover stuff and he and i used to take his lovely daughter my wife and her mother and we would take them into town to spend some money and we would stay in the car and we would head to annapolis and go to the uh i forgot what the boatyard was at but that was uh trumpy i think the famous wood boats and we’d go out and see what the leftovers were for the uh from the week’s work and they would he and i were to pick up some of that beautiful mahogany the cutoffs stick them in the trunk stop by and get a bushel of steamed crabs and head back and pick up his wife and my wife and we’d go eat crabs and talk sailboats did you did mr crossman help you with the sailboat as well did he work on the sailboat did mr crossman work on help you build the sailboat absolutely um uh because he and his i think it was tim and his family and he had the uh uh boat built by the duponts and the bar owner for the races of 1912 and when they went out all the boys worked in the shipyard but the two of them that had the highest crafts in the apprentice school was the uh pattern maker and and the shipwright which was uh frank my father-in-law and so he’s when they would go out everybody would pull off a hatch or a piece of the rail and they would scrape sand while they were sailing they would and then when they got back they would varnish it so the reason they had the boat was the i think the duponts and the bar owner wanted somebody to have the boat they would take care of it so it was a fine sailboat 50 some feet overall on about 26 feet on the water line she was gaff rigged and i was the second sailboat that ever had the wine glass killed it was built for the races of 1912 by the way wow so um the the sailboat that you built that i remember and i was on was a cat boat is that correct uh cape cod cat yes by charlie woodholtz i worked with him what is a cat boat uh i don’t know but the cat boat is a single mass and it was more or less like the sharpies are in north carolina but it was a north northeastern boat a big around boston harbor and originally it it was you could take the beam and double it and get the length you know to put it another way if the boat was eight feet wide the length of the hull would be 16 feet so it was like a as frank used to say you can hold a dance in the cockpit of a category and what’s a sharpie of they’re they’re sort of native to north carolina sharpies yeah they’re very shallow draft boat and they were new england boats but also in north carolina they had their here in around beaufort they they use the sharpies are very shallow draft and shallow draft and when i say shallow draft i mean the rudders were like very long and narrow they had to go in very shallow water okay so now you’ve built a a house and you’ve built a sailboat and i don’t know where the interest came unless it was from your son my cousin michael uh started playing bluegrass music and played the banjo is that right yeah the the guy across the street from us at that time had a badge and he could sing good and so michael went over and sat on the stoop with a little while and next thing i knew mike came to me said he’d like to have a banjo and so things developed from there and yeah he eventually um michael maybe his second banjo was the kyle creed is that right concrete we bought him a cheap badger and that didn’t last about a month and a half because uh he could uh he could pick very well and he also fell in with a bunch of nice people at that time who worked during the day but they all loved music and washington that time was a hotbed of bluegrass and so michael um we were fortunate enough to find a fellow who picked the best banjo i’ve ever heard and bar none and he was really good but he never got the credit that he was due but we were lucky enough to get michael to him and he listened to mike and so he took michael as a student for a couple of years he didn’t keep students very long and he didn’t keep anyone that didn’t show promise could pick he couldn’t stand anybody they were that was trying and didn’t make it you either did it and stayed with him or he went someplace else and that and that led to the call creed banjo which that was michael’s second banjo is that correct actually it was a third we had the first one which we bought was just a reasonable price and then we bought a second banjo which somebody had that couldn’t play but they heard michael and we call that the bill wallace banjo and when michael had that i wanted to get him the better one i heard that the best uh danger maker up around galax at that time was kyle creed so we drove to galax it’s fun times for better jane and i we drove up to galax and walked down the street and there was a music store we walked in we said who’s the best banjo-picker in the county since we were in galax they said kyle creed and we said how do we get there so we went to his house

and he invited us in and we contracted for kyle creed manager which we have now and and outside of knowing you and michael i know of kyle creed banjo so they have made penetrance um so that was the kyle creed banjo and then that led it was the next banjo the one that you built yes yes and we still have that too and so that was the was that the first instrument that you really that you have memory of putting together a building yeah because uh we had contacts and uh we were sailing we we always hung out at the washington salem arena on weekends and holidays and we’re always hanging around people with sailboats and we call them sail bumps people that were unhappy with marriage and love and whatever and then go down and hang around on the washington salem arena on sunday mornings and and they were going to give us an award for being the only family who was around there but um so i decided that after the kyle creed that i would get a piece of wood and make my own well make michael’s own banjo which i did and uh which he has now and how long did that project take

uh that went on for a few years he played the kyle creed for a long time and then uh found you know i walked down to the basement which is where i had my wood shop and i needed to build something so i talked to the guy at the smithsonian i was like god but at any rate i talked to good friend at the smithsonian and he had a let’s put it this way he had access to get into the smithsonian and he had moved the big locomotive down in the natural museum so he was always interested in michael picking the kyle creed and i told him it would be nice for this and that and i would like to since i the boat was in the water then the cat boat was in the water and he said uh well he said we have some fine instruments in the smithsonian and he says the guys i work with also keep the those instruments in repair and they have access to a lot of good wood and he says we’re hauling in some beams from an old house and a couple of pieces of cherry you need to look at it so i looked at the cherry and one thing led to another and that’s where the uh i started out with the neck of the banjo because on the neck of that banjo which is a little different it has some tuners not my idea but i had seen some and these were not tuners that you twist these were tunas with levers on them and you could buy store-bought we call them store-bought tuners but we made our tunas out of brass we cut them and put levers on them and i think michael is one of few people that could play the banjo with the tuners because it did some pretty interesting things good sounds so they’re they’re that was one of the first instruments if not the first instrument you built and then you retire from for the first time i should say you retire and you move to north carolina yeah i came down hung around with the boats my brothers were all fishermen and all my friends down here were fishermen so and so and and very shortly thereafter you wind up in beaufort you were over atlantic beach for a short period of time and then yeah it was my i had two brothers we had three cottages along there one two three and so better jane was although she was a hampton virginia girl and used to the water and her daddy had a hampton one sailboat which was first class in virginia built by syrio i met him by the way the hampton one class had running backstage on it so uh at any rate she was not fond of beach life she liked town life snug houses so we came to beaufort quite often and uh this house we’re sitting in now we bought 40 about 43 years ago and somewhere along in there you um started building dulcimers yeah that was yeah well actually i built some skiffs and then one thing led to another then i built a bunch of dulcimers so the and then the adult the adult smurfs uh you want to tell the story about how you transitioned from dulcimers to violins okay well i don’t know whether you want to hear this or not because your wonderful wife and my niece by marriage and benny and i told her that my brothers were very competitive family all boys and that’s the way things were if you grew up during the depression you competed for everything but anyway my one brother did they had big boats and they were fishing offshore in fact they uh there’s a plaque two plaques three plaques on the pavilion in morehead city with their boat names and theirs because they basically were instrumental in developing offshore charter fission in moorhead cities and so uh but at any rate they found i was building this gift and that that was good so my second brother jimmy came over and borrowed the mold that i made for this gift because he had a wonderful shop in a boat shop built a 50-foot boat in there but at any rate a little 40 plus so he built a few gifts and i decided i wasn’t going to build skits anymore so they just thought dulcimers and since we were hanging around with music and i was picking with michael and dennis the oldest boy played he still plays bass i think he’s he’s he’s been retired and his his band is funny by the way the and um michael was picking bandages so i built boys were away and better jammer by ourselves so i just started building dulcers and that’s when james my brothers decided they would build ulcers and so they never could cut a scroll though i’m just saying this is where it was and so uh i decided i was in fact i was in the car with you one time i complained about my brother stealing my dulcimer design and everything and they were doing all kinds of research at the library and everything and benny your wife said why don’t you build a violin and see if you can do that if he can steal that so i built the violin and nobody ever

tried to build a violin but they did get me to repair some that uh that reminds me or as it is as if your brothers saw bobby driving to raleigh and said you know i think i’d like to go to raleigh so they start driving to raleigh and benny goes well why don’t you build a spaceship and go to the moon and and that’s kind of what happened with the violins and we now arrive at where we were going and that is violins and um so one of the things i want to ask you about is like okay you decide to build a violin and you’ve developed a lot of skills and um so where did you get the materials for a violin did you go to the hardware store did you go to where they sell lumber in town and get some nice what did you do to get file in parts and how did you know what to get well first of all i made a wonderful friend and the people um were living in beaufort and some folks drove up the house next door to us sails right next to town hall and um we thought it would be good neighbors who went over and suggested that uh there was a wonderful place that we liked it and they had a the house was bigger than ours but it turned out that

they were in the textile business and um one thing led to another they put a contract on the house they were third contract and they got the house and so we kind of became friends because we were doing our house then and they provided the textiles for the old furniture which we haven’t i say oh that’s about 100 some odd years old that came with the house and so all the textiles in there are one-off design because the company that his family

on more or less more i think uh did all the uh tapestry of the in the country i think but anyway they had two i think two plans one up north and one uh thinking in valdez north carolina that was long ago we’re talking 40 years ago so any rate uh it turns out he was a violin player uh but he he never got a chance to go on stage anything but he had a fantastic year and he knew that i played guitar messed around i never played very good in fact the kids wouldn’t let me um do anything except stand in the background play rhythm that was okay because i could build stuff but anyway uh he said when he was looking at adults from he said bob why don’t you build a violin and at that time that was before i was riding with you and then he said why don’t you since it was uh brotherly competition then he said why don’t you build the violin and see if they can build the violin so anyway i mentioned to don out on the sidewalk in front of the house his house next door to me he he took a credit card out and said bob please build the violin and take the credit card and don’t buy any cheap wood buy a good wood so i did i drove to baltimore i found out where the supply house was it was the only one i ever i found was one in alabama i drove down there then i drove to baltimore and baltimore ran into the manager there was only four people working there the owner the manager a packer and the lady that kept the books and since he was a mandolin picker uh we were in the back and i got a real good dissertation on woods to buy for violins because they provided it all over the country and so he took a cardboard box and he took all the stuff that i needed to uh build a violin so i built a violin now do you know where that initial wood came from because early on you got some from germany but well where they got the reason first of all baltimore’s obvious was port and the woods that they bought i think most of it came from bosnia and in bosnia the family the father the head of the house we would go out and cut the spruce bring it in make it into splits and

put it back to season then they would take it to market and the buyer was generally from germany the buyer that i got my wood from he went into bosnia got the wood and um they put it on the ship and it came into baltimore and that’s where the little warehouse was it wasn’t small but i mean it had four people running it so the spruce from bosnia is what i’m guessing what good violins are made often made from is that that’s what all mana made from and uh it was all graded and that’s another story you can buy cheap wood and price doesn’t always determine the best wood when you’re buying wood for violence so how do you determine what might be good wood for a for a violin and what might not be uh i relied on the young fella that ran the warehouse because he picked mandolin and uh that’s where i learned i didn’t get that from a book and first of all um i don’t want to tell too much because people be flocking into the place and but i’m not building any stuff now but first of all he had a wet sponge not wet but damp and he would pull out the splits and we’d check the grain and uh there’s some other things that we would do not really

i don’t think it’s really necessary to talk about that how you pick the wood and the price is not what determines the quality of wood and it’s a calculated guess on your part to part with your money and how it’s going to turn out because you never know until you finish it and you scrape a bow across it and it seasons for a little while then you’ll find out whether or not you made a good choice yeah that’s the first thing is you can do a really good job of picking nice wood and nice parts and do a really good job of putting them together but it doesn’t ensure that you’re going to have something that sounds wonderful is that right well yeah and you need somebody that can has a good ear may not be on the stage but you need somebody that has really a good ear and i was fortunate to uh run into two people one is the young fellow that helped me with the wood and number in parts remember violin mostly they’re put together by hand but you don’t cut all the parts but you do fit all the parts like the pegs that go in it’s you buy the picks but you got to shape them and do some other things and the fingerboards

and the bridge bridge those things so uh you can buy expensive you can buy cheap and the tuners but the main thing is uh the the wood you don’t know what’s going to happen to put the heart of the violin the heart of the violin is that little sound post that goes up in there and the old way i feel about it is you can build the violin and we’re talking about a lot of time i’m talking about a lot of time sitting there cutting trimming and the difference on the violin the guitar is on a violin you’ve got to tune the back to the belly uh you might talk about what that means to tune the back to the belly the the belly is the top of the violin yeah yeah and the back is the back and it’s more like a a body has got the shoulders and it’s got the chin and it’s got the head and uh you know the ears got ears so it’s comparable to the body so how do you tune the belly to the back well i don’t tell everything because it’s like finding a fishing hole you’re not going to tell everybody where it is or how you find it and it’s not it’s just that um some things i have a closet in my mind not being selfish about it but i think if a person is going to go that far you need to go out and find the fishing hole by yourself or you need to find out about tuning the back to the belly and the number of different ways there are electronic devices now and different people have different things and i have some secrets that deal with salt water uh let’s see i’ll give you some clues the salt water and i’ll just give you a clue uh one of the things with violins is they dry out over a period of time that’s the reason the old violins sound good they dry out but if they get too dry they break let’s just suppose let’s just suppose that you uh

somehow or another figured out how to get permeate the violin would certain parts with salt when you put it together it’s going to pick up some moisture and there are those people that think that you can’t build the violin on the coast i have a different idea and that is you build it in this uh high humidity salt air and some other ways to get the wood to uh yeah you get my secrets here and so uh any rate i’m just telling you some things that you got to figure out how to do it yourself because i spent a lot of time doing that so when you apply these these techniques many i’m guessing you developed yourself then you what you’re trying to do is get the back and the belly to sing together is that is that kind of what they’re doing no i i don’t i have to be very blunt you can’t get the back to sing with the belly because if you do you got a problem because then when you hit c if the back is it resonates at c and the belly resonates at c you get a heart you get a big c you go along a b c d and then it goes it comes down so you’ve got to have a certain amount of difference between the back and belly and what makes what separates boys you can’t use that expression anymore but what separates some people from other people is that okay i think you can say that okay what separates some people from other people is um figuring out how to get those two voices to be okay but not be the same you’ve got to have a a base and you’ve got to have a a tenor okay so instead of singing everybody’s the back and the belly singing a melody are they singing a harmony is that closer to what’s going on yes then you aren’t going to get two tenors singing together you’re going to have a tenor and a bass or an alto or whatever so you’ve got to have a certain amount of difference and that’s that’s pretty interesting and you get that with chisels and some other things and anyone that’s really interested can go out and get two pieces of wood and a pocketknife and they can find out how to do that and that’s not like a guitar or a dulcimer although some of the guitar makers are now saying that they are cheering the back no i don’t think so the violin is a notch above guitar makers i believe but that’s just a prejudice and biased opinion well as a longtime guitar player i would agree with you and and but what’s interesting here to me is that uh i know that you would tune these instruments uh the back and the belly or you might say the top and the back that might be easier for people to relate to you do this by removing wood by hand is that right yes with finger plans uh chisels uh scrapers and the other thing that i had an advantage on for what 20 or 30 years that my next door neighbor a good neighbor and friend who gave me his credit card to start all this business has a fantastic year and so he would he spent a lot of time with me during the winter time in particular we’d have a fire in the fireplace he’d come over and uh i knew he was busy but it’s when i was tuning the back to the belly the top to the back his ear was much better than mine but i had some other ways that i used but i liked his ear better and uh he uh i don’t think there’s such a thing as perfect pitch but he was be able he could come down one day and i would tune say the top because i was tuning to a specific uh let’s say to a specific point and he could say it’s out a little bit you better take off a little bit more wood and you got to be careful when you take off the wood because if you take off too much you’ve destroyed and that’s when some of the more expensive violins and i ran in to a couple of people and they said the violins don’t sound rich and what it is they they shaved their back or the belly as the case they didn’t stop in time so the hard thing to do is is to if you’re going around a curve to know when to stop but you’re in a race and you’ve got to get around fast so the main thing is is a stop before you turn over but beat the other guy around the curve does that make sense it does you don’t want to over prepare if you if you take too much off you can’t put it back on it’s about if you don’t take off enough it doesn’t resonate correctly so it’s a judgment decision that you don’t use on other instruments i think i think that’s exactly right and and the person you i think you’re referring to is don silver and that’s one of the things that strikes me about this journey that you’ve had with musical instruments and art in your life is that you have run across some of the most wonderful people and i i know quite a few of them and they’re just they’re just they’re just really wonderful so and don’s one of them don silver is one of them the other thing about don is he has a violin that uh some universities would like to have it’s very old probably it’s english and that kind of is since it’s not italian then it can’t be good because it’s english however it uh he had a choice like don i think is 89 now yeah he’s a year year two younger than me and we’re both we still talk and he still plays the violin but he’s reached a point where he has to have hearing aid for one ear but his his he can feel the vibrations he’s one of the two people i know that i really have good ears and can tell you where to go and i was very fortunate to have him and so we’ve been friends for a long time now you might want to mention you sort of brushed against this but we glossed it over so we’ll go back and talk about sound posts yeah oh okay this is this is interesting because you never hear people talk about this much but i’ve mentioned this a couple of times i used to talk to kids in fact i talked to some people that duke and about violin making and whatever but you you build a violin you put the wood together back in the belly you put the neck on it carve the scroll put some wires on there so you can tune it up and then at the back and the belly we talked about the tuning the what you’ve done is you’ve got a body then okay we’re going back to the the body thing so you’ve got a body it’s got shoulders it’s got a back it’s got a belly it’s got a chin it’s got ears and you use that nomenclature on the violin so you’ve got a body you’ve built it you spent maybe three months it takes a lot of time because i’m very slow meticulous some people said i don’t believe that i think i’m pretty fast however it has no heart so when you put that one little peg in there the sound post it’s the key to the whole thing so you’ve got your name on the inside the date it was built you’ve got the wood and the violin makers put his heart and soul into that he’s really uh and he’s it’s some boring times too and then there’s exciting times but you put the sound post in there to me that’s the heart so then you’ve got the complete body and so then you get somebody like don silver and you tune that thing up he tunes it because he tunes it to his ear and he takes a bow and he runs does a scale because he’s a classical violin he’s not a federal player he’s a violinist he just doesn’t know it they never got on the stage but he’s got the ear and he’s he gets the sound out of the violin it’ll get right into your heart and your brain the hair on the back of your neck and he takes a it is worth the three months of sitting in a a snug shop with fireplace going and tuning woods and putting things together and he runs a bow across that uh the strings on that violin he does a g he goes from g and d a and he gets to the e and say do that again don’t try to try that g string let’s see what’s happening there and you sit there and it’s a very i’m going to use a word it’s a delicious time it’s like getting to the bottom of a ice cream cone when you get the cone and you know so that’s what i’m talking about the sound post and he says bob the the c string i mean that g string is a little uh is overpowering the uh

i’m not going to name the strings but that string is overpowering that string because maybe we can you move that a little bit so that’s my job and so i would move that and then we would get the soul of the violin would come right out into the air and it’s the heart of the violin is that sound pig and it you don’t the player gets the soul out that’s what don does that’s the way i feel about it don’s been playing since he was a child is that right yes one of the things that i’m familiar with is it takes 10 000 hours just the average person if they took 10 000 hours you could become a virtuoso at something and don’s probably one of those people that has spent 10 000 hours with a violin in his hands he sounds like that to me um but i will ask you this about the sound post so you have the body together the back on the top you’ve got a box you’ve got a body and you place the sound post that’s when the sound post goes into the violin is that right yes so um do you want to talk about that or how you do that much about the sound post because it’s uh it goes under the leg see you’ve got a lot of tension on the bridge and the one of the legs of the bridge is uh sits on the sound post not on it but a certain distance which we don’t talk about too much because that that comes from judgment you know good judgment bad judgment and sometimes you can change that a little bit and so uh it the the sound pose sits under the uh the tenor part the high part the e string and the a string and that sound posts that say and the g strings so what it does it keeps this it transmits the the a string and the e string into the back and that’s from the belly to the back and so that basically the sound post if it’s done right will not let the g strings the lower strings overpower the higher or the tenor strings if you’re just talking so you must get this in there by drilling a hole in the violin and shoving it in there is that how that works not exactly there’s no way in the world and everybody has a different way it’s a special little tool it’s just a piece of steel it’s got looks like a uh s that’s been flattened out and it’s got a blade on either end and the standard way is to to impale that little dowel looks like a piece of a sucker stick if anybody ever had penny suckers only it’s bigger a little dowel and you take that but it has to be fitted to the back and the belly and that fitting is pretty important too and there’s some things and ways to get that done and some tricks and these are things that you work out over a period of time i could tell someone how to do it but it wouldn’t be any fun for them it’s best if they find the fishing hole themselves and they can figure out how to shape the foot that be the foot and the head of that that little heart soul not well the heart of the violin that sound po sound post so anyway so you have you have this tool that you can attach well now there’s some different ways and uh you can

but the standard way is if you take it to violin shop they’re going to impale the sound post on one of these things turn it and slip it into the um f hole twist it and get it up and then uh they each person has its own way of getting it in to the right position and you got to move it back and forth and sometimes you want to move it back and forth but if it’s not set just right then you aren’t going to get a balanced sound and sometimes you can never set one and then the violin doesn’t work good so it’s not as good as the other violins on the shelf next to it so now you just mentioned f holes can you tell the listeners what the f holes are yeah well the uh the back and the belly of the uh the violin is like an air pump more or less and they vibrated different resonances and so the sound post does its job of not only carrying the sound from the back to the belly but also keeping the thing from collapsing and so where it sits has a lot to do with how good a voice the violin has so does that make sense yeah and the f holes you they’re in the belly or the top of the violin you have two holes they’re morally more like slots than holes aren’t they yeah and um there’s a lot of mystique attached to the f holes you got strand holes and you’ve got the mates you make your own and um the other thing is you’re pumping air or sound i’m not sure but when that back vibrates with the belly and the air comes out the f holes it must but it’s a very minut amount but the sound comes out too i’ve never taped up the f holes i’ll do that sometimes to see what happens but in the meantime f holes are very important and they have a lot of mystique attached to where and how if you look at those f holes they have notches they’ll be two little notches it’s like an f with a curl at the end and it has two notches on it and i’ve seen so many violin players and people don’t know what those little notches are for those notches should line up with the feet of the bridge and so it’s a good way to know where to set the bridge the bridge is what holds the strings up like a suspension bridge you got the i’ll call them the wires that go over and those feet go to the belly of the violin and under the foot of the i’m going to say the tenor string so people understand it is the uh is a sound pose but it’s not under the foot and the distance from the sound post to the foot of the bridge is very important and i’m talking about the thor [ __ ] or four and a half if you hang around boats up and down sideways whatever so do you tune violins with position of the sound post as well do you move it to change the sound of the violin it does and it changes the balance of the sound by uh not having one the base over power of the soprano and break her neck so that that must be pretty easy to uh to measure the distance from the back to the to the belly by reaching through the to the f holes the sound holes and trying to figure out how long this sound post is going to be is that easy or is that not so easy no it’s a very simple post but fitting it and moving it and uh setting it where you think it’ll do the best is very difficult time consuming because every time you change it you don’t know whether you’ve moved it to benefit the violin or not and not only that you move it four and a half and you move the top of the sound post four aft and sideways and the bottom post and i don’t know how it’s an infinite number of of uh positions for the sound post and that’s where my good friend don came in so when you sort of uh uh completed construction let’s just say it that way then you and don would get together and you would start tuning these violins is that what you would do well well no yeah they weren’t turmeric you played them then when you get the sound post in and sometimes we spend a couple of days moving that sound post around because don could remember i never could but don could remember whether we improved it or we made it were you know whether it was good or bad and so uh his ear was essential for me to uh to move the sound post so you would move it and he would make a suggestion and you would try that and you he played it again you’d listen to it and and the bridge now you’re moving the foot of the bridge and the sound post and the strings and where i you’re talking about boring and you just give i just give up and walk out but what we would do is um don would have to detune each time because we had to take the tension off the string so we could move the sound post and the bridge and then he could detune that is loosen up those strings and then i would move the sound post then he would tighten them up the strings and retune the violin i think he could retune a violin in eight hours i think he could do it uh probably uh i i’m just guessing here i’m saying 60 minutes so he could do all this in five minutes it takes me an hour so he would loose the strings we’d move the bridge or move the foot or the sound post or the other and we move the bridge forward and f but remember all of it so you know you know if you could have a journey you got to know where you start you got to know where you’re going to and if you stop along the way you got to know where you stopped and if you don’t you’re in trouble so moving that sound post and moving the bridge you had to know when you were going ahead or whether you’re moving back or whether you’re right where you were when you started and so don was essential to me and i i just don’t know how i could ever thank him for uh helping me set the sound post and the bridge the feet of the bridge and we’re talking about a very very small amount of movement very very small those were the two primary ingredients are variables you had to control was position of the sound post and the position of the bridge is that i like that word you just used is an infinite number of variables on a violin that separates set from some other instruments and uh it takes somebody with a good ear to do it otherwise uh if you’re just setting the student vial in on a standard music shop you just put it in a certain spot but if you can really get somebody that’s critical you you need a good ear so don would you would start and he you i’m guessing in the beginning you could make bigger adjustments as you until you started getting close is that how that would work is that when you made a move don would tell me whether it was good or bad and that’s how you sort of figured it out and would don play like a tune a few bars would he play for five minutes and say oh this is really beginning to sound how how did that work i never could control john he had his own mind

i would move the sound post or maybe the bridge you don’t move both at the same time if you do both at the same time you don’t know what so you’d move the foot of the bridge the top the bottom you got one two three four different positions so you would move only one position and then but he would start playing and he wasn’t quite sure and i couldn’t stop him so i had to sit and wait for him to to go through a whole i wouldn’t call it a melody but he wasn’t going to just uh do a scale and all of a sudden he’d start enjoying that thing and he’d sit there and i he thought he was on a stage in carnegie hall somewhere and he wouldn’t stop playing and i wasn’t sure so i had to be patient but he was patient with me too so i’m guessing that once it started sounding good to don then he really would play it for a while for one thing you really do have to have a lot of feedback from the instrument you know what’s it really what is it really saying oh yeah it was he it was talking to him when it was talking to him good and being nice then he wasn’t he was going to let it stop talking because then he started enjoying it yeah and so i had to sit while but i enjoyed it too because i i could uh i got to the point that i could tell when the violin was speaking well you know speaking i mean talking to me uh and i don’t know how but it’s if you hang around and just keep listening pretty soon you develop a certain sense like fishermen know when a fish is on the line other people don’t that’s that experience of well it is experience once you’ve done something repeatedly for a long period of time you know what to expect yeah and we when we have no experience we can’t be very good at that but as the time begins to add up even if we’re a novice we we pretty quickly begin to know what to expect and i think that’s probably part of being a virtuoso is developing those things you just took what i said and said it very well so it can be understood yes well tell me this then tell me about scrolls well scrolls

first off

scrolls are uh there’s no two scrolls that are hand cut that are alike and a scroll is not a piece of parchment that’s what not a piece of parchment it’s not a roll of paper oh no it’s this we should tell people what the scribe is it’s a little curly cue thing on the top of a violin and i forgot what that curve is but the way you get that curve for the scroll if you take a pencil you drive a nail on a board take a pencil and put a string around it and wind it up and as you as you take the pencil and drag it around on the board you’ll get the shape of a scroll and each time you you go around it unwinds and it goes out that’s how you get the scroll the shape of it but then it’s uh

you’ve got depth let’s say we got depth and you’ve got shape and the you got two parts to it and if you take a scroll look at the neck of a violin hold it up to the light and see if the ears that’s those little things at the end of the scroll see if they match each other perfectly if they do it’s probably machine cut if it isn’t it’s probably hand cut and it’s hand cut it’s nearly impossible the best way to cut a scroll is to get another scroll and take a pocket knife some chisels or whatever you want to make in the shop and start carving and so uh and you cut you cut away everything that doesn’t look like a scroll is that right yeah and it’s it’s kind of tricky and particularly on a violin the viola is a little bit easier and i like cellos they’re really fun i like to cut a scroll because after doing a violin a cello is so big and you know it’s okay so we should say and i’m going to put some pictures there’ll be links to pictures uh on the site or there’ll be pictures on the site of some of uncle bobby’s at least one of his violins and some of his instruments so that you can identify some things we’re talking about but the neck comes out of the body and then do you do you carve the neck first and the scroll last how does that how you know i you do the body first the back and the belly and you tune them and you glue them together and then you uh you you do the neck and the scroll and you fit it into the body that’s tricky then you put on the fingerboard make the bridge and put on the chin rest and the pegs now um i might mention to you sometimes if you want to kind of check your violin first thing i do is when i pick up a violin i look over on the back and i look for two little pegs so look generally it’s a half a half a little black dot or white dot but there’s a little peg in there and when you hand make a violin you have to keep taking the back or the the belly and you have to keep putting it on the body the core the course you have to keep putting it on and off so therefore i generally use and this guy some kind of name of stradivari uh used this black ebony wood and mine around but he used half one and set it into the purpling there that little black stuff that goes around the edge and so you’ll find a black dot and then i also take a little bit of pride at the neck you’ll find a piece of uh ebony wood back there and that guy by the name of stretch stradivari somebody he did that too and that that is not easy to do without messing up the whole back so if you’re going into shops sometimes and you’re looking at violins look for those two little dots in the back which are pegs that you can put it on and off does that make sense to you yeah and for the listeners where what uncle bobby was indicating is that on the back if you if you turned the violin upside down what we normally think upside down at the bottom and at the top is where these two places are is that correct yeah yeah and then they’re the position pegs so that you keep if you might have to keep carving off some and putting some on you’re always taking on and not taking off too much better to leave a little bit heavy but my thought is if you leave it a little bit heavy and don’t go around the curve too fast and turn over that over a period of time maybe 50 or 75 years that wood’s going to dry out and then you will have a good sounding violin but if you make it to sound perfect now and you thin the wood too much then it doesn’t the you you’ve gone too far you’ve turned the car over and there’s blood all over the road and people laying on the street so you don’t want to go too fast and turn off the people and everything so that’s how you got into violins and then did you make violas after violence i know you made some violases yeah while i was building violins my friend don

asked me to build a feel of

the music director of some i’m trying to think the place in greensboro i can’t remember it but it was pretty well alone um and and and the the violin director or teacher or head of the uh instructor was a big man so i built a big villa and don donated it to the school there with a scholarship and i got a call for a couple of years from kids that inherited that and they i don’t i think the scholarship probably ran out but that’s that’s another thing about things that we’ve done over our time do you have do you have an estimate of how many violins you’ve built not many not many uh i haven’t and also i didn’t have apprentice boys to do my cutting i did it all i’ve never been in a hurry i’d stop and take a trip down the intercoastal and come back and do it again and summertime was not a good time to build best time was the fall of the year and when it was cold and i could have a fire and a fireplace and violas you made less less violas than violins yes that’s true and the same way cellos mostly i built violins a couple of two cars and a couple of badges that’s about all i’ve ever built and cellos you you mentioned cellos and you built a few of those and um tell me about your association with duke and cellos well um the guy brought me a cello from it was an antique shop and he brought me a cello he says can you do anything with this and it was the worst looking mess you’ve ever seen it was black solid black and so uh you have to use water i use a damp sponge but you have to use it sparingly there’s nothing wrong with using one if you’re careful and don’t let the water at any rate so i got a damp sponge and rubbed on a little bit and i found a beautiful piece of wood under there and the strings oh by the way this was not a standard cello i found out later it was called a church base and you want me to go tell you about the story of that sure okay because it’s pretty interesting let me start over again and say prior to the revolutionary war the english was selling us violins that came over on the ship but they were not sending over cellos they took up too much space and they didn’t make enough money those english were very clever so it was a guy up in connecticut who was even more clever and he was a cabinet maker and he needed a cello but all he had was a thing in his memory they didn’t have drawings and things in so he made a cello and i forgot what his name is i got around here somewhere but at any rate he uh made that and then later on they started bringing in cellos so so far as i know i think the six in the world now he made six of them but one of them ended up in west virginia and it was probably virginia that time before it came west virginia and as you know they had a lot of coal and this uh they thought it was a base and they put it up in the attic time went by people died whatever it came out of the attic and ended up in an antique shop the dealer brought it to me one time and he said uh he knew i’d done a little bit of work and anyway i don’t repair violins i build them i don’t but i can but i don’t do it so he said can you help me out i said i don’t know a pretty interesting instrument but it was all cracked and it was solid it wasn’t it was just solid black and it turned out to bend up the attic next to where all the soot from the uh coal dust was so i cleaned it up and it was made out of cherry and cherry over a couple hundred years was as hard as steel and you couldn’t bend it you couldn’t do anything so i made a mold and got a with the hardware store and got a bunch of screws and you know threaded the wood and so i was able to put some pressure on this cello

both down and from the sides and from the back and he had a friend had a waterfront place down on the creek it was very damp so they put it down on the creek in high humidity and every day not every day but every once in a while i’d go by and put a little pressure on each screw and i was able to put it back together without tearing up the wood after i put it together he got interested in it and did a research and uh at that time i was messing around with uh brenda niece she’s she’s marrying her in fact she’s 15 of us right many years ago she’s been coming in in a couple of three days she comes out every year and plays a cello we’d eat some soup and stuff anyway i i got that thing together and

brendo at that time was a curator of the musical instruments at duke university i think it was whatever it’s on the internet so she came down and saw it and called some guy up and some lady up in new york had a pickle no i shouldn’t say too much there but they had a benefactor i think you were benefactors who uh put up the money and they bought it and it’s a duke now and it turned out this story was there were six of them built that they know of and one of them was at duke and their museum it was a couple or three years ago and it’s got my name on it it says restore it i told them i don’t restore our repair but she put it on there anyway and she plays cello by the way and she she comes to see me every year and she sits and plays that cello and i’ve got a violin she likes called a squirrel violin so enter that’s the story of that church base and uh that’s the reason i used cherry on the cellos you know it’s interesting um not only have you built a lot of instruments it seems like a lot of instruments and really i should say that you’ve created a lot of art but you’ve interested a lot of people in music i know my family plays i know your sons play um there’s no it’s hard to say how much that’s flowered it would be impossible to track it all down but a lot of people have picked up music in their life from you doing this and from you being interested so thank you for that and i’m going to loop back around and go from the beginning and say we’ve spent a couple episodes on will faith and glenn talked about education a couple of weeks ago and uh this is a different way to be educated and educated the point where it becomes art and you become an artist instead of just educated so thanks for the time we appreciate we’d like to come back and speak to you again about some other things if we might here at the crystal coast in beaufort north carolina um uh and we’d like to try to get you to talk about you and aunt betty maybe the next time we get together you think you’d be willing to do that yeah well it uh we’re close up both of us are close of 91 so if you’re coming back don’t wait too late and uh because that’s a much more interesting story i love stories and this was not much of a story but i think i’m sure you got this cut off but the better jane and i have lived a destroyer you’ve lived a fairy tale i think and we should just mention as a teaser because we’ll come back and do this how long have you uh been married aunt betty i’ve been married 70 some years nearly going on nearly 71. and how long have you known that betty um uh about 76 76 but she put a note in my we figured it out this morning because you had mentioned you might come down with something and we think she stuck that note in my history book uh about 75 76 years ago so and and and the last thing we’ll mention as we wrap this up is uh you will actually be 91 in october is that right yeah next month yeah next month betty will be 91 in april is that right no no in january january i’m three months older she is she loves right after my birth after october where she loves october she loves november december because at that time i’m older than she is and that’s very important to her i can understand why uncle bobby thanks for sitting down with us and we look forward to seeing you again here on the the podcast and uh and see you soon and uh and and glad to hear from you always good to talk to you.

5: Julian Jaynes And The Origins Of Consciousness

What’s on your mind?

This week Will and I review the work of Julian Jaynes and his exploration of how the human mind may have developed and evolved over the last several thousand years. Is mental illness an illness at all or merely an expression of brain function that would have been common in the past?  What are some of the different ways our minds may operate to successfully navigate human interactions?  What is bicameralism and how does it work? How about the role of consciousness? Interested in the book? You can purchase it at our affiliate link on Amazon here.

Transcript:

hi i’m will jarvis and i’m will’s dad we both love and are fascinated by stories stories about people stories about places and stories about events our stories give shape and form to life they give texture color and rhythm to the blank canvas that every new day presents to us and they do that by informing us of our past as a directional marker for our future okay will it’s narrative time tell me a story so what’s on your mind today well today i thought we could talk about julian jane’s the origins of consciousness and the bicameral mind sounds like a great idea tell us a little bit about julian james well just to set the table at a very high level we first got interested in this topic because of a book review by scott alexander from the now not in existence anymore this could have changed by the time of publication the podcast blog slate star codex which that’s a whole other topic we can talk about later the whole saga with the new york times and boxing and lots of exciting things going on there i’m sure we’ll talk about that later but anyway scott wrote a post um revealing julian jane’s best known book the origins of consciousness um and the breakdown of the bicameral mind which i find very interesting uh it really highlights it kind of goes along with the theme of this podcast around metaphor and language shaping our understanding of reality at a very very detailed level i would say yeah julian james on a personal level is a very interesting character because he spent nearly his entire life developing one idea and writing the book and um and and it does have so much to do with storytelling and narrative and communication because of the whole idea that he developed was that our consciousness and our mind and our brain development over time has been due to language

definitely i i think it’s interesting so julian james was a psychologist he studied at yale mcgill and harvard not that that’s super interesting where he studied just his ideas i think are much more interesting he’s born to a unitarian minister and his work is is quite interesting i i always find it it fascinating i i think we have this view of you know our lived experience as being common across all of humanity so i think it’s important to note some some of our listeners may even experience this and have never realized this not everyone has a inner monologue this is kind of a rare it’s okay i’ll cut that out it’s not kind of rare this is uh not universal not everyone has some people think of pictures some people think in all kinds of different ways but i think that’s quite interesting just to to realize that it was news to me i always assume that everyone’s mind works like my mind where you just have this internal monologue that goes on right but and you were the one that enlightened me that was different and that had it was during our discussion of of james that uh that came up and i still don’t know a lot about it i’m just fascinated

definitely it’s it’s super interesting uh human experience is much uh much more dynamic and just even our liver experience is much it’s it’s very different than i think what you people even realize right between individuals a lot of individual individual variation so um julian jane starts his book with what he thinks our mind was like before consciousness arose and he starts it out with a discussion of the bicameral mind and you think maybe we could talk a little bit about the anatomy of the brain that might help sure i think that would that would really help yeah so and to be to really make it simple and a lot of people probably know quite a bit about this but uh there’s a brain stem sort of the bottom of your brain and that regulates things like respiration in your heart rate and those kind of bodily functions and then there’s the cerebellum that’s sort of behind that a little bit and it controls your motor functions and then thought and reasoning and those things take place in your cerebrum which is the top part of your brain and it’s divided into two hemispheres the left and the right and held together by the corpus callosum which is just a little band of tissue that holds the two hemispheres together so that’s the anatomy the only other part of anatomy that i think that might be interesting and this is really important to the question is wernicke’s area and broca’s area which control the processing of language and the production of language written language and spoken language now having said that what’s interesting about the bicameral mind what is interesting about the volcano what’s interesting to me is like i’m right-handed and the 90 of people that are right-handed wernicke’s area and broca’s areas on the left side and if on the corresponding area on the right side the brain is sort of dormant doesn’t appear to do much of anything so you got a left and right hemisphere you’ve got wernicke’s area in broca’s area and they don’t appear to be doing anything on the right side on the left side they’re real active in language and which we’ve talked about is so important to us and in the the theory of bicameralism what julian jane’s thought is those two inactive dormant areas on the right side of my brain since i’m right-handed um he thinks that 3 000 years ago um what was going on then was that those areas on the right side of my brain were talking to those corresponding areas on the left side and giving them instructions

through auditory hallucinations and that’s sort of how bicameralism works as far as my understanding is it’s kind of the gods talking to you yeah the other thing i thought was interesting about that was that um they made there’s a point made that schizophrenia auditory hallucinations would work like that which makes you think that maybe people that are schizophrenic sort of have a more bicameral mind interesting interesting so i guess uh charting the course out of jane’s big idea is that there’s we used to imagine ourselves as being one way and now it’s completely different it’s completely different so have you have you had uh have you tried to imagine what having a bicameral mind would be like having something something that is envisioning your mind as something as someone else is someone ordering yourself or to go around yeah it does make me think that when people think they hear god or god is speaking to them that might be what that is could actually be that that’s interesting and then it would be very real and explain a lot of things it did explain a lot to me when you know about um not only the schizophrenic part but um uh how pretty in many thousands well not many thousands several thousand years ago that might have been the way that people’s minds worked and they they would describe it as the gods speaking to them and then they would just do whatever the voice told them i imagine since right really no right yeah so so what are some particular objections we could think about to this idea

i found um i found it one of the most intriguing ideas i’ve run across in quite some time because it explains so much that um appears to be sort of out in the gray area maybe out left field a little bit like schizophrenia or uh like religious prophets hearing voices getting commands from god right and there’s even things i’ve become aware of and i’m not sure where i’m aware of these things from like um that god is within us which would explain that too right it would really be us talking to ourselves right so kind of when you’re when you’re in a quaker meeting and you’re led to speak maybe it’s your communication from the broker’s region of your brain too i think especially the more vivid it would seem to you the more likely that would be and it also makes me wonder you know this entire idea seems like it’s a process of evolution to me and if that’s true then those dormant areas probably still work some although they may not dominate our thinking anymore they probably still so if you were you could block the extraneous noise of life out enough then you might hear those things again so yeah it’s it uh it it explains many things in life that i’d never really considered before interesting yeah what about you what do you think about that so i think uh you know your best particular objections against some of jane’s ideas would be well if we go um and there’s some things we haven’t quite covered yet which which will help i think with this so uh a lot of jane’s ideas are this idea that there was this break where we realized that um you know the voices were actually inside of us they’re actually you know this is us this is i you know i am the one who is the inner monologue if that makes sense um and that had to do with the bronze aids collapse seeing an archaeological record coming along coming along coming along and suddenly there’s this complete break you know what caused it not quite sure but you know mass migrations famine a lot of bad things going on people moving around and the question is well if you come into contact with other people that are not in your you know local tribe your local kind of village and they have their own gods that are talking to them and you look and you’re like wow and and suddenly start thinking well maybe it’s all just internal it’s not quite that there’s someone else talking to me in my head if you know if they have their own person so maybe it’s exposure to other people that suddenly um makes you realize wow this is um it’s a bit self-referential if that makes sense yeah james is has really developed this i it obvious it was obvious that he spent probably a lifetime thinking about this and um he’s got all kinds of historical references um and ideas why this might be true and it seemed to center around about 3 000 years ago at the end of the bronze age and to put that in perspective a little bit there was the stone age then there was the bronze age and that’s when people started using metal for uh weapons probably primarily tools so that’s how that’s how we demarcate these different areas is in the archaeological record what do we see that still remains so stone tools to metal working bronze and vintage iron is it takes another leap and and the bronze age of course when we started using a lot of tools and weapons like that i did cause a big upheaval in the world things change rapidly for a lot of reasons they think there’s some environmental influence that could be true too but if it if the big influence was the bronze age and using um tools and using weapons as they had never been used before then that would have caused a great upheaval in society and you could see why those stresses uh would favor some evolution in humans so that makes sense to me so that’s that would be a real advantage so i i think the biggest kind of

counters we could look forward to jane’s work that may make us question some of the ideas would be

you know what what if we went and we talked to some fairly uncontacted people so or or people that don’t interact very much with the modern world so maybe son bushman or you know someone in the deep in the amazon uncontacted people um what’s the island off indonesia north sentinel islanders you know people that just do not you know you can’t go talk to them not allowed but if we could you know and we could ask them what their lived experience is like and if it doesn’t line up with this that would be that would that would lead us to have questions about the idea that this this is the way things actually happened it would and it also raises the question um over a long enough period of time would we have developed consciousness in any event was there is there just such an evolutionary advantage that that would have occurred i think so i think so well and one thing you know this does tie into um i was recently reading a book by garrett jones called hive mind it’s the idea how you know if you look at you know average iq scores across different countries um the average iq score is much more predictive of total um gdp per capita standard of living than um just an individual’s score is um because it just it factors up so much more so the the output of the united states is so much bigger than the output of um you know what’s a what’s a good country example that we can mention because then several you know quite a few countries in the third world and it’s it’s factored a lot more maybe there’s something to do with having um smarter people around you at all times they you know they just it’s just the average civil service is so much better if you know bureaucrats tend to you know not accept bribes they engage in more repeated games they behave better better and prisoners dilemmas they’re less likely to defect it’s better for all of society so much more matters more that on average are people that people you interact with on a daily basis um smarter than versus just like an individual’s intelligence mental horsepower shall we say

so what this leaves me so i was reading the book about um hive mind quite good and he goes into kind of a deep dive of um the flynn effect actually do you know what the fun effect is i do not so jim flynn was a philosopher he’s a philosopher i think he’s still alive from new zealand he had this idea that um you know he looked at you know this hereditarian idea around intelligence that it’s all your genetics that’s all that matters and he said and he looked at he said you know i just don’t i do not believe that you know what i’m going to look at the data and actually try to and prove that this is not really the case and so he looked at all the data and he noticed if you look over time um iq scores uh keep increasing they keep increasing it’s called the flint effect and this is um been it’s a fairly robust effect over time and they just keep getting higher and higher and higher and and he’s looking at this and he’s wondering why does this happen is this happening you know it could be better nutrition iodine less lead exposure you know quite a few things we can think about there but it could also be and his idea is is that we’re getting better at abstraction so you know if you dropped you and i his example is you if you dropped you and i off in new guinea and he said go and figure out how to live we would probably have quite a hard time figuring out how to cultivate you know local foods how to hunt et cetera it would not be a very easy thing but those people are very good at it um although we may be currently better than at abstraction so maybe exposure to the modern world makes you better at abstraction and i feel like jane’s work is kind of closely related to that it’s uh the more abstract things we work on over time the better you get at it this is a very similar thing right so just being exposed like creating this podcast we have to think through okay what are we going to talk about you know what’s interesting you know it’s very abstract activity and the more you do it the better you get at it that makes sense i’m sure our listeners will recognize that the podcast seems to get better you know kind of it’s probably asymptotic like we have some kind of ceiling of maybe it’s like we’re not quite joe rogan right but you know we’ll get better over time and um i think that his work is it’s similar to that and that you know encountering more complex problems civilization ideas like that um and more complex interactions with other people and strangers lends itself to requiring more um actual thinking and more um the kind of kind of thinking of oneself as an individual more to be successful that seems to make sense very cool so i think that’s um kind of what we got for today okay that that was interesting and uh so i’ll introduce you as will jarvis and i’m will’s dad and we’ll see you on the next episode thanks all right here we are with part two of julian james in the bicameral mind which we discussed at some length in the previous episode and now we’re gonna concentrate on the second part of that concept consciousness that’s right so i guess we could get started by defining consciousness you know people have spent a lot of time thinking about that and what it means but to me it’s sort of easy to boil down to sort of self-awareness that’s what consciousness is what do you think so consciousness ooh yeah so good lord where to begin there’s a lot there’s a lot i i think in this context what we’re talking about is is recognizing one’s thoughts as one’s own if that makes sense yeah and so you know if the bicameral mind was a sort of a mechanism of one side of your brain giving commands to the other side of your brain consciousness is just in self-awareness is you just realizing you’re there right that’s right uh like jane says you know the difference between what others see of us and our sense of our inner selves and the deep feelings that sustain it yeah now why would that be advan an advantage if we were gonna form more closely knit societies if we were going to be involved with a more global world with a world outside of our own sort of imagination or self i think one of the biggest things there’s well there’s two trains i think are very important i think abstraction is very important understanding abstraction and the second point is um self-efficacy understanding that you have the ability to make change in the world you’ve got to understand that you are an independent entity first to be able to act in the world i think that’s very important i think it’s very difficult to affect the world if you do not understand who you are that’s interesting level what role does um an increased ability to communicate have to do with those things well i think to be able to effectively well i think to be able to more effectively communicate and perform complex tasks you have to have a theory of mind of other people so understanding so first you have to understand that you have you yourself are a discreet entity that’s very important the second thing that is very important in any kind of repeated games and games here i mean any kind of human interactions kind of in the game theory sense you need to be able to imagine yourself as another person so let’s say it’s like if we’re playing chess the best chess players what do they do they look at the board they look at where they are their current positions then they look at their opponent and they imagine themselves they have to be able to visualize themselves as their opponent and what they would do it’s a very so it’s very it’s multi-level but it’s very in any repeated interaction you need to understand yourself and you need to understand the other person that’s i think probably exactly right and i hadn’t really considered about the role of communication and self-awareness in that regard but if we’re gonna form a society a greater society if we’re going to be able to interact with other kinds of people you’ve got to be able to appreciate their perspective that’s right you need to very deeply understand their perspective to be successful it’s it’s interesting i’m not quite sure i’ll have to have a child psychologist on some time and we can talk about at what point theory of mind switches on because it’s not inbuilt it doesn’t happen automatically there’s there’s some point where kids switch over from you know kind of the whole world is everything in your mind to oh wow there’s other people with discrete experiences in the world as well like this person has experiences just like i do that’s a really big jump and you know there’s probably some people who still adults who have not even made that jump i think there are adults that don’t make quite a few probably and it sort of makes sense like we in the in the last episode we talked about schizophrenics and how bicameralism would explain their experience and um so

this sort of explains why it would be such an evolutionary advantage to be self-aware because it would lead you to appreciate others that’s right which and then that would be just fundamentally important for large groups that’s right and even more important well in playing political games and also in conflict

yeah or especially probably avoiding conflict we’re an avoiding conflict and avoiding conflict would be another evolutionary advantage that’s correct that’s correct so the further we go down that road the more important communication and self-awareness and appreciation of other people become that’s right that’s very interesting

it is it’s also interesting to me on another level and like i was mentioning there’s kind of two main i mean things i pull out of this uh abstraction is the second one so the ability to abstract

in your mind different problems and take it from not just okay what’s right here in front of me but actually manipulate things change things use your imagination build different models of the world you know that practice is very important to creating building all kinds of different technology not just you know social technology as well as actual physical technology is consciousness the key to being able to utilize abstract thought for abstraction yeah i think it’s very important i would i has a hesitate to say it’s it’s everything because you know i’m sure there’s edge cages i haven’t thought about but it is very it is clearly foundational and that you need to understand yourself how your how you work before you can have a theory of that before you can actually act upon anything successfully i mean just just for you know this is almost a null example but i understand my basketball skill i didn’t understand my basketball skill and i understand there are hard limits on my basketball skill if i’m going to successfully affect the world by becoming an nba player that would be a complete waste of time because that would be a complete misunderstanding of my current abilities even my abilities ceilings i mean we’ve got this modern you know idea that you can do anything well but like of course clearly they’re hard limits you know i’ve not i don’t have this crazy vertical i don’t you know you’re not seven feet tall which is seven feet tall you know exactly exactly funny enough i’ve read an interesting fact that about 20 of all men in the united states over seven feet tall playing the nba i’ve read that before too so essentially if you’re tall enough you can play in the nbas i think that’s so i guess what that means is your chances of being worth many millions of dollars rise dramatically if you’re a seven feet tall yes that one almost physical right yes although there’s lots of trade-offs right and there’s lots of trade-offs there’s lots of trade-offs now there’s health problems that come along with it and all kinds of things but that that’s that’s interesting how many different how much the world opens when we become conscious self-aware not it doesn’t have to do with just us so much it does have to do a lot with our success our ability to manipulate the world um but how it affects other people as well that’s right yes i think it’s it’s very important on well obviously on many different levels i i think on on the level of actually enacting change or progress or doing anything productive it’s very important to understand exactly where you are and also try and understand what the world is and that’s a very abstract thing what are they what’s the what’s the meme 4d chess it’s like 40 chess trying to figure that out so consciousness doesn’t deal with us just knowing things about us it’s about knowing where we are in the world how we fit into the world right i think it’s a second order effect of consciousness okay very important effect that’s interesting and getting back to the anatomy side a little bit of what consciousness is there are gamma bands or gamma waves in your brain the neural oscillations and where those occur during consciousness

essentially engages most of the brain it lights up most of the brain when that happens so being self-aware just leads to unbelievable brain activity and one of the things that i read about that was that schizophrenics will have impairment of that particular brand band of neural oscillation which sort of goes back to their they may be much more bicameral than others it’s very interesting uh it’s um so so i guess leaving us back into jane’s work one of the big takeaways that i find from the work is that there’s this clear break this clear break between bicameralism and understanding you know yourself as a this discreet entity that you know is introspection so you know he tries to um provide examples of this in literature you know he talks about the old testament and you know there’s there’s actually um and a lot of scholars say well if you read the epic of gilgamesh you know there’s clearly elements of introspection in that and you know i don’t know i haven’t read the epic of gilgamesh since high school so i couldn’t quite tell you but um it is interesting you know i’m always skeptical of big theories like this that you know um but but there is some kind of um creatures that that you can give to whenever there’s a cult following like i love movies with a cult following and i love you know this like secret this group that has a small secret and that jane’s acolytes i feel like are much like this where you know you know they’ve found something that they really believe is fundamental there may be holes in it but it’s a very complex topic and it’s very there’s a lot going on there’s a lot of different angles there could be things that are correct about it in some instances that are not correct in others and and context matters a lot here i think that’s exactly right and that’s one of the things i got out of reading some about james is

it’s not you can’t say precisely i don’t think and there seems to be a lot of controversy about like suddenly we went from bicameralism to consciousness right and it still seems to be even even if there was a shift 3000 years ago at the end of the bronze age that really favored consciousness over bicameralism there seems to be a lot of bicameralism in the world today so it’s not like we all are the same we’re all similar and our minds may work very i’ve always been aware that our minds work very differently but there could be just fundamental differences in our our minds in some ways we’ll we think people’s minds might be pathologic and they might actually be fairly normal if we jump back under the circumstances right yeah i think that’s a really good that’s a really good point is that another way you could frame it is that people that could abstract like this and introspect like this suddenly got rewarded a lot more so instead of you know there’s this whole um instead of a real break with everybody it’s that in general on average people became the median person was much more likely to be able to introspect like this because it was more advantageous to do so yeah there would be huge advantages in life to be able to do that and one of the physical manifestations of some of this is they realize this is true the corpus callosum which holds the two hemispheres together if it’s thinner then you’re able to uh imagine your creativity is greater your artistic ability is greater apparently there’s more fascial crosstalk between the left and right hemispheres so and that that sort of again it seems to be some evidence that all of those things are an advantage and you know it probably may well have led to the rise of consciousness and i agree being able to do those things is just an enormous advantage in life especially yeah especially in the modern world i think it’s it becomes even more true as kind of society progresses and things become more virtual and less physical you know there’s a it’s interesting you know i was listening to a podcast by the hoover institution and it was with um ronald reagan’s speech writer whose name peter robinson i believe and peter thiel and he talks about you know there’s just been this big shift to interior interiority you know it’s like a therapy culture video games um you know our world does not look very different than it did in the 60s just physically so physically went to a neighborhood in the 60s and 70s you know there might be a flat screen tv but still a tv the living room would look very similar to even this room we’re sitting and i’m trying to pick out items that would be different the computer the computers um that’s pretty much it i think that’s the only thing that would be different so almost all innovation has shifted to these um items that are kind of interior to our minds introspective and um people almost avoid um kind of making change in the world almost there’s much less of that that makes me wonder if they’re being advantaged to being introspective if that will select out even more and more in the future first of all which you would sort of guess that’s probably the truth that’s what that would be especially with coved yeah you know it’s just yeah that kind of advantage and then the second thing is where do we go from here like there may have been a big leap going from being bicameral to conscious what’s the next big leap there probably is one there’ll probably some advantage to the way we think that we’ll make us change again definitely possible you know it’s interesting it makes me want to explore this topic further and really see what other big shifts are possible are there other shifts that have happened yes or no yes or no these are all kind of testable things right that you know and we talked about this on the last episode i i think this does kind of bring to mind how disparate individuals experiences can be in just ways we don’t realize you know i have a friend he’s color blind and even that is that’s an odd thing to imagine right and that’s a very minor change is being colorblind that’s a very minor change but there’s always this huge range of experiences in ways that are very difficult to kind of fathom for someone that does not um experience the world in that way in fact it’s probably impossible to even really understand you can conceptually kind of understand that it’s happening but it’s very difficult to to um to really imagine it you know dan brown it may have been his last book the god that did the da vinci code and those things i think his most recent book was about um how man would merge with artificial intelligence and you know the artificial intelligence in itself is just you know we could do episodes and episodes about that one subject but um there’s just so many ways in which we could we could change in the future over the next several thousand years that’s true and one of the big shifts i see i’ll call this out now there’s a great book called age of m by robin hansen you know i got that i got to have lunch with him at a conference about a year ago pre-coveted and it’s fascinating to talk to him about some of these these issues but he um he his model is the most discreet kind of real model i’ve seen of artificial intelligence so the idea is like well what’s the most straightforward path to ai and now we’ve got gpg3 that just came out and this so maybe we’re completely off base of this but i do find this to be the most compelling he’s like well the most straightforward path would be we get really good imaging technology we can completely image your brain and then we just create a virtual simulation of it it’s very straightforward you know the versus all the other ai paths i see this is the most uh this i can grok the best is the easiest for me to understand and i think it makes the most sense because it’s kind of a straightforward path it’s just well better imaging technology you know we can already kind of do this with worms a little bit there’s actually a whole project about this is like modeling a worms brain um and if you get it at a low enough level it may be the quantum level we don’t know you’re able to um model the brain completely so the idea is you create these emulations these brain emulations and you put them on computers and you can run them faster so we could you know train up a you know the best nuclear engineer in the world in like five minutes hit go he’s trained work on this problem so suddenly so this is the idea this is the next big leap um and then the next question is is do humans become obsolete well it’s like yes at some point because you know human society shifts to these just emulations of humans not real physical humans because you know it’s costly to have a body it’s fragile you know you can back up an emulation at any time um and there still may be a place for humans as weird kind of um you know like a museum kind of relic right like physical humans but emulations will for the most part the one encouraging thing about this is they’ll they would behave like humans so you know a lot of people worry about you know paper clip problems you know what if the we create this ai and it’s all powerful and it decides we’re going to turn everything in the universe into paper clips and it goes crazy you know i’m fairly skeptical of things like that because i don’t know how we would design i don’t see a good pathway for designing um an intelligence that doesn’t operate like we do because it’s the only intelligence we barely know we remotely understand is our own so a related subject what do you see is the difference between consciousness and sentience you brought up earthworms you brought up a i i think consciousness is says the athens it’s difficult i think conscious is just the ability to recognize that you’re sent in that makes sense yeah i think that’s right and uh so it’s it’s really interesting to you know there’s a lot of people i think there’s many different ways this could happen some people think it’s just a raw horsepower number so if you just have enough neurons and it’s complex enough this is like a complexity argument then you’re conscious

it seems odd to me i don’t know um there’s there’s other thoughts too you know you could be kind of well there’s this idea of pan psychism where our brains are kind of just like receivers for consciousness and if you have a receiver that’s built the right way you can kind of you know recognize this but you know and then jane’s has kind of like a physical explanation kind of more of a um which is interesting i don’t know it’s a very difficult topic all and i often times often wonder how valuable the topic really is to cover i mean it’s very interesting right it’s like super interesting but uh and on on the ground practicality terms you’re making the world better for people i don’t know how effective or how useful it is yeah i think that’s probably true but we we that is you know uh popular culture when does when does a.i become sentient well probably when it becomes conscious it’s probably about right it’s probably about that point so what does that require well we don’t know exactly but we have an idea that maybe we were not conscious in the past that we were bicameral and just environmental pressures gave us a you know darwin there was just an evolutionary advantage to being conscious um and so if it’s that simple then uh with time you would think that a.i would it would probably just occur whether the chance or circumstance or maybe ai’s subject to you know those evolutionary pressures as well right yes and well it is it definitely is subject to evolutionary pressure right any ai we create is subject to our own evolutionary pressure now right um yeah but then again i don’t know at the end of the day does it really matter that the ai is sentient i think yeah that’s a good point i don’t think it does i think it’s just one of the states i think in humans it doesn’t really matter i mean if if a schizophrenic is more an expression of a bicameral mind does that really matter what we think it does now because we think there’s something wrong right and there might be something i mean we would like them to um be less troubled by their position exactly that’s what we would really like but if their minds work like that and they weren’t troubled by it and you’ve mentioned that there’s many ways for minds to work you don’t don’t have to have this monologue going on in your head that’s right you know much lighter wider range that people realize yeah and that and it works it works a lot of different ways essentially this reminds me of a talk i had with a very well-known uh child psychologist so i have this this line of questioning i love to ask all academics and it’s what what kind of piece of knowledge do you understand from studying your field that most people like the average person would would not really realize or not you know think of on a regular basis and he said the most interesting thing to him was that you know you really don’t understand how much children understand they understand essentially everything you know everyone talks to kids and this is actually a huge pet peeve of mine is when people talk to children like they’re not adults you know i think it’s important to frame children as small adults not um and you know they that have not been exposed very much versus like a completely separate class of people because just you know they’re still developing like theory of mind things of that matter nature but essentially and they may have less horsepower than most adults have mental horsepower but that’s coming online as well just a very interesting fact and i wonder if ai’s are similar in that respect that’s an interesting thought and if children don’t have the the horsepower that we do their minds seem to be much more plastic and flexibly much more plastic yeah so there’s less crystallized more fluid yeah definitely so um yeah that’s true very cool okay well have we wrapped julian james i think we have rap julian james i’ll include some some readings that we found useful kind of in in going through this and kind of some information about the bronze age collapse as well from the last episode in the show notes so you can um pervade them and get your liking okay good well another episode of narratives thanks well that’s our show for today i’m will jarvis and i’m will’s dad join us next week for more narratives

4: Science Productivity, Elite Overproduction, and Competition

This week on the podcast, I am joined by my two siblings, Faith and Glenn Jarvis. We talk about some of the problems we see in modern science, our experience with elite overproduction, and how we experience competition. Faith is a biochemist, and Glenn is a Mechanical Engineering major at North Carolina State University.

Transcript:

hi i’m will jarvis and i’m will’s dad we both love and are fascinated by stories stories about people stories about places and stories about events our stories give shape and form to life they give texture color and rhythm to the blank canvas that every new day presents to us and they do that by informing us of our past as a directional marker for our future okay will it’s narrative time tell me a story welcome to the narratives podcast today we’re on the campus of north carolina state university we’re at the the brand new centennial campus semi illegally semi oh shh not supposed to say no completely legally it’s completely all legit we’re sitting 12 feet apart we’re 35 feet apart as we speak panels oh my god um much like the democratic national convention we are zooming in today we’re zooming in together um so today i’ve got my two siblings here i’ve got on my left i’ve got glenn hey guys and glenn is a student he’s a mechanical engineering major mechanical engineering major here at north carolina state university oh yeah you’re entering your fourth fourth and hopefully final year hopefully four out of six or like hell that’s awesome and then on my right i have faith jarvis my sister that’s me and uh she is a what’s what’s your your scientist at thermo fisher i do analytical development for clinical trials so what does that mean it means that somebody has to make the initial batches for research studies and clinical trials and someone has to make the quality controls and look at every single vial that comes off the lines to make sure there’s not hair in it so that’s what i do it’s pretty intensive and very important you don’t want your hair in your your clinical trials it kind of throws things off a little human dna that’s awesome so uh today we’re actually on the centennial campus it’s the bougie campus it’s uh it’s quiet quite beautiful we’re actually in kind of an abandoned classroom right now it’s kind of scary to look at um it’s 96 degrees in here but we’re doing fine we’re doing fine we’re doing fine we actually got run off from the library yeah we were outside trying to record and yeah crazy times crazy no you can’t eat them donuts no eating donuts outside of the library it’s very which is very interesting and we do eat down nuts here since they do sell donuts in the library so a little bit of an anti-trust case there yeah it’s definitely it was a there’s a monopoly issue paging uh all the congressional democrats we have a big problem here university you know big donut is really keeping us down man um oh man very cool so today we wanted to come together because we’re all working on a startup idea together which i think is really cool um and we want to talk about that and we’ll get into that a little bit later but first off i just wanted to introduce both of you um kind of talk about kind of how we all intersect together kind of our common interests and a lot of things we like to think about kind of on a daily basis and read about it because i think you guys have a really unique perspective on life the universe and everything is douglas adams so kindly likes to say so um so glenn you’re currently a fourth year mechanical engineer yep here at state um so what about mechanical was was interesting to you um when i was looking through the majors i was like oh totally i knew i wanted to do engineering i was a big lego kid as a kid and um i i didn’t find anything with medicine interesting and i didn’t find anything with a softer science or humanities interesting and so i decided you know what i’ll just i’ll go really basic and i’ll just say anything mechanical i’ll do this mechanical engineer and i actually came in as a neuroscience major and i was like all right well this sounds i don’t like this whole life science thing so i went for mechanical engineering and i got into some you know higher level calculus and i realized like oh this isn’t as intense and crazy and nerdy as people are saying i really think that almost anybody can understand like early calculus and you don’t have to be that smart to understand like even like calc 2 calc 3 type stuff well it’s already all been derived for you so exactly exactly and i i really think you know in primary schooling they they give math a bad name they give design a bad name and everybody’s like i never want to do math when i grow up i’m because i was horrible and it was cool but i i don’t know i found that that was not the correct case when i got into engineering and i think it’s really fun i love modeling i love data manipulation with a little bit of coding and stuff like that and and you’re talking about calculus i think it’s this this will relate to kind of some things we talked about a little bit later in the podcast but um you know do you remember do you know when calculus was invented uh after the creation of oxford university that’s all i know yeah kidding the area under the curve 17th century 17th century can you believe that so that’s pretty crazy we’re like 400 years on from you know isaac newton and so humans have lived a long time without understanding calculus is one thing we did did not know how to get there under a curve for a while and we did just fine and we did it for all the murderer and the rape and it was great oh god yeah so a lot of ads so i i just think that is super interesting because now we teach that to high school kids yeah i mean you can derive a lot of classical mechanics without calculus is what i found but now we we teach it with calculus which is i mean would you just use basic algebra if you didn’t have calculus or is that sort of you can use basic algebra and then there’s also um there’s methods of like you can do it analytically like you can say you know we’re going to plot it out on a curve and then oh this kind of fits and then you can test to test test it and say okay well yeah it’s pretty much f does equal m a and you don’t have to say oh if acceleration is the derivative velocity which is the derivative of you know position with respect to time i mean you can just say acceleration is how velocity changes with time you know you don’t actually have to understand what a derivative is you can just say how it changes with and you don’t know how you need to know the mathematical operators to actually describe motion with and so i don’t and now we teach it with the with the mathematical operators right but the d over dt and stuff like that do you find that a better or worse way to teach people is it more or less intuitive than just saying this is just the change over time um or do you just need that foundation to really move up in the physics world i think it’s a better way to understand it if you know how the calculus works but it’s not a better way to understand it if you’re just trying to learn the physics and you’re not really understanding how the calculus works because anybody can learn something like the power rule and just know okay that works like it does but you know if you don’t understand it the way that people understand addition where it’s like oh i have two things and two other things that means i have four things now like that’s just how addition works but like calculus should be understood by all people not by all people but by you know people learning physics and stuff like that just like that like change over time is something that’s pretty simple and you you know we we get lost when we say when we just start memorizing like this is a chain rule this is u substitution this is the power rule and when you get into that like a little bit higher calculus than from high school and so you know people stop understanding the the what’s really behind the physics when they’re in the early physics classes definitely and a real problem is in the engineering classes the early physics classes for engineers are not taught by engineering professors and they’re not taught by the good physics professors they’re taught by the bottom of the barrel physics professors and i know this because like i’ve talked to a lot of physics people and i know this because all of my engineering friends say oh i hated physics one i hated physics too right because what what they do is they take you know those physics professors who really aren’t doing who well and who might have tenure or something like that who are only caring about oh yes i’m doing this really intense you know uh study on how quarks interact with blah blah and okay now i’ve got to go teach some stupid old mechanical engineers about how force equals mass times acceleration they don’t even know vectors how does someone come out of high school without knowing vectors i’ve never heard the term vector before i graduated high school right exactly and it’s like such a simple idea and then like no one teaches it well here’s a vector in like physics one and i’m like i don’t know what the [ __ ] that means right here’s a vector in my notes right exactly exactly and i mean what when do they even teach us vectors in like pre-algebra in high school i took that when i was a sophomore in high school and now i’m coming in as an engineer and i know like i’m pretty good at calculus i know it and i’m like hold up physics one like vectors what i don’t even understand then they’re like oh yeah there’s the x y and z directions and i kind of understand that right because i like i like i don’t know i’ve done some drawing or whatever and but like they don’t say and there’s these kind of relations that like kind of relate them but the rest of it is just like oh you just have equations in each direction right i had no concept of that because they they literally didn’t even cover vectors in physics one which is the basis of not only physics one and two and like all of my solids and dynamics and fluids and heat transfer classes it’s like this is the basis on which you build your understanding in three dimensions and it’s just not there it’s they just don’t even teach it to you so and then they were like here’s an iran i’m like but what does the comma mean right like there’s a comma and there’s

yeah it’s super interesting you mentioned so i just finished a book on uh academia and it’s actually it’s entitled uh good work if you can get it by jason brennan do you guys know jason brennan i have no idea uh he’s just like a libertarian philosopher he might take offensive calling than that but from the university of arizona teachers at georgetown now i read like one of his textbooks in college but it’s really interesting so he just does this giant deep dive like if you want to work in academia this is what you have to do essentially it’s all publishing so like you go into phd you need to publish like that’s all you need to do that’s all that matters other than passing and going to the highest best school you can but it’s interesting because at r1 research universities which we’re sitting at one right now unc duke nc state

essentially the highest status thing is being a researcher and it’s like low status to just be a lecturer so it’s actually a different like class of professor that teaches most the classes that make sense so lectures do not have voting rights what oh man it’s so so you know academia is quite um you know just and this is an empirical fact it’s it’s overwhelmingly um left-wing yeah it it’s it’s empirically true like you know it’s 25-1 in some fields it’s a size like 50 to 1 and like academic associate sociology and that’s like uh you know liberals to moderates i mean that’s not even like you know there are very few conservatives which is interesting because um the whole system is incredibly hierarchical i mean like oh my god like this is the most it’s not a democracy no it is nothing near a democracy the people that are lecturers they don’t even get to vote on anything i always heard that upper level academia was like the mob because it’s a bunch of people slaving away on the off chance they’ll win the lottery and get to be tenured like the low level drug dealers work so on the off chance they’ll get to be the big boss one day and make a bunch of money it is very simple and the the one thing that was interesting in the book i didn’t realize this is essentially if you don’t land a tenure track job out of the phd program almost immediately your chances of getting one essentially not zero so like if you went out and you’re like oh i’m just gonna be a lecturer or a postdoc well postdocs that’s kind of a different case but i’m going to be like an adjunct or something like that you’ll never get tenure essentially is that because they don’t want to take a chance on you or the phd students coming out or just that much more impressive because the field has advanced i think it’s both i think it’s incredibly competitive you know it’s subsidized so there’s like this glut there’s a glut of uh phd’s there’s not like a there’s there’s actually a lot of jobs but there’s a huge glut of production of academics now and it’s you know it’s good work if you can get it i mean that’s a really good title because you know a r1 research university professor that’s tenured is expected to work 200 hours a year the rest is up to them i heard that the biggest downfall of modern society is probably going to be only overproduction because it’s going to be elite over production because everybody wants a really great meaningful job and if they don’t get it they’re going to go out and write because it’s got to be somebody’s fault you have a degree in a phd from harvard and you can’t be a professor and you have to go and work it’s a barista starbucks you can’t study like medieval literature all the time like whose fault is that right so i know last year columbia so i was an english major finding out if i really stand out in this crowd so the english phds at columbia there were six of them they graduated and none of them got a tinder track job on columbia it was pretty interesting so you were talking about elite overproduction yeah so how did reading shakespeare help you in your life well you know i don’t know it’s like i read a lot of things but that were helpful it’s shakespeare shakespeare and i don’t i don’t mean to rag on english majors but like to be totally fair like will’s probably the most business successful person out of the three of us like for sure i know i’m only like a college student of course i know a japanese major and she never learned japanese so it could have been worse right so and i do find that uh people always get the wrong message i think i’ve told you guys this before the wrong message when i say this um they always always misconstrue this um so i’ll say you know like they’re all like what major were you and why would why did you do it and you know was it helpful and they say you know uh and i was like well you know as an english major and i find it was helpful because i think there is the i recognized early on there was this kind of elite overproduction phenomenon which we’ll talk about in a minute and i don’t really love that term but i think it does identify something real um so i i noticed there’s this phenomenon and there’s this idea that stem would save you like and this is still commonplace stem will save you and i had no illusions about that i had because there was no chance that the degree would provide any sense of like uh protection or in the job market security yeah economic security so it really forced me to confront that a lot earlier than essentially anyone else better than you’re graduating you’re now like oh no right exactly because i think that that happened to quite a few people i know it’s like oh my god here we are i’m like well you know i’ve been working on this for three and a half years like as hard as i can and that set me up well whereas um i think in you know i’ve been telling you guessed that for a while so i kind of came before you so you’re able to you know learn these lessons earlier um but i think and people always get the wrong message out of that like oh well you know the degree was probably actually helpful and i’m like no i don’t i don’t really think it was very helpful it was it was a consumption good i think it was quite good and i had a lot of time to um read a lot of things which i think is is really valuable like i was just going to the library and i just pulled books off the shelf and whatever subject i was interested in and it’s like you hear elon musk how do you learn about rockets he went and he read von braun’s book on rocketry right i mean like that’s the best way to learn things so you know i find that’s much easier than you know just some research professor who does not give a rat’s ass about teaching i mean using all the kids i know a bunch of second year third year um aerospace engineers and they don’t even know what delta v is it’s like oh i’m finally oh i’m so glad i’m in my aerospace class so i’ve been so like i’ve been waiting for so long to actually learn how to make a rocket right oh my god you’re in your third year and you haven’t even learned anything about rockets like i mean and then i look at it and i’m like wait i’m in my third fourth year of mechanical engineering i’ve you know what i’ve designed you know what i’ve engineered i’ve engineered a boat made of cardboard like yeah that’s it that’s it you know what it was it was a pretty good boat i gotta say i love my boat and it was with a team of really good people too but so i learned how to like kind of work as a team but like really like i’m here to learn about not like oh how to learn about engineering it’s like i want to know how to engineer and i shouldn’t have to wait until my fourth semester and i mean i’m high that’s right that’s right so finally in two separate engineering classes where like they’re called design of and that makes me like hopeful for the future right but i don’t know i mean it still seems like it still seems like hold up uh where’s all the engineering at right like where’s the actual engineering and that brings up a really good point um i i really like science and this is tied up with all the elite overproduction i i think science as a method is a very powerful thing um i believe you can find the truth with science which you can’t really do with anything else right you just find things so

but i do find there’s this there’s a meme in the culture that goes around right now um and it’s mostly from left left-wing people directed more right-wing people um and i won’t comment on any of that that’s the whole different thing we talk about but um and the idea is like you don’t trust science yeah and i think so i don’t trust science and what they’re really saying is not that i that that people that they don’t agree with don’t believe in this objective method it’s that people do not believe in technocratic experts um they don’t believe in the institution if that makes sense have you seen the replication crisis in psychology and as it like spreads and spreads and sort of metastasizes into like actual sciences you know exactly right now it’s in like biochemistry and i’m like oh jesus i’m like paging through the pages and pages of the studies that are getting recalled yeah and i’m like jesus like how are you ever going to know anything if you can just say whatever you want in scientific journals that are peer reviewed right so exactly so this huge distinction between science as a high status institution and the process itself anyone can do the process which i think is very important i want to everyone all our listeners understand anyone can do the process of science forming hypothesis and testing it if you’ve seen mythbusters you can do science you can do it yeah i don’t even have to watch that many episodes yeah but it’s like three episodes right if you don’t write it down you’re just screwing around just write that down right exactly but between the institution and i think our institutions are very sick and this is something i think we all believe in um our scientific institutions especially so one of the examples faith you just mentioned the replication crisis um which is fascinating i was going to mention your point what you just said that uh you know it started in psychology and social psychology and i think the reason we caught it there first was because because it’s really easy to test the replications test replicate and everyone understands it um what i do wonder about is uh you know quantum physics where there are probably 30 people in the world who can understand some of these problems they call it the um the theory of everything now because they’re super certain that it’s like very true but six years ago they were also going at the theory of it exactly exactly like oh there’s quirks and ends and you’re like i don’t know how much you really believe that but you sure do have 10 years right exactly and so we have to like cast a lot of skepticism because they’re very small groups you know it’s like and there’s no way to objectively evaluate it from where we’re sitting um so you have another cern right another sorry from building another 30 people here to understand how to use it yeah exactly um so i think that’s that’s super fascinating that uh you know so this replication crisis and what the replication crisis is i think we should probably define that just in case the reader hasn’t heard about it um so it started with power posing i don’t know if you guys remember this there’s famous ted talk oh i hate dead dogs so much man oh god don’t get me started on 10 dogs so and you know the the there was a famous harvard psychologist and she’s like look i found this great thing if you power pose you know you flex from the mirror before your interview you know you don’t remember like woman wonder woman for people who can’t see us right so you stand like wonder woman spread arms spread legs stand like a man show off those lats right so you uh you uh you do the power pose and then um you get some benefit like you’re more confident yeah you’re more confident in the interview right like yeah it’s a yeah you feel more self-confident yeah and so and then they perform better on like interviews that’s right and it turns out this is like completely does not replicate there’s no effect there’s no effect and this person made a bunch of money on the book and it was like it was very bad like so that andrew gellman came in and like oh look at they have these people p hacking we’re going all these statistical things what p hacking is uh so p hacking is you have a set of data and you have a bunch of hypothesis like oh maybe x correlates with a b c d or e and if it doesn’t correlate with four of them but it does correlate with one of them you can say look at that it correlates with f and you sort of hide the fact you’ve also tested for all of these other things but statistically if you test something enough times and you include enough variables some of those are going to correlate right so you have to pre-register your hypothesis and then say what you’re going to test for like before you do it you can’t go back and say oh this is like oh look i found this effect so so this is uh do you guys uh have you heard of this book you might have heard of this book glenn um it’s a famous book on relationships and i’m making blanking on the guy’s name right now very famous uh marriage counselor yeah uh what was this guy’s name uh oh man y’all keep talking my life can we go back to pee hacking while he’s looking for that because i i took statistics and i really believe in statistics and i know they think that if you like actually understand how they work it’s it’s easier to not be fooled but this p hacking thing i don’t really understand it and i know i kind of have a notion of what alpha values are right and i kind of have a notion of like what p values are but i don’t really so c could you reiterate on so if you have a bunch of hypothesis so like imagine you’re rolling a dice and you say okay if i stand on one foot and i roll the dice it makes it come up on twos more because magic is real so you try that and you’re like oh jesus this doesn’t work and so you try a bunch of different you start standing on the other foot you try waving your other hand around in the air you try like head banging while you do it and so statistically you’re going to end up with like more heads or like more rolling only twos on dice like just because yeah eventually you’re going to end up with twos every time in a row you say look at that when i stand on my head and karma sutra it always rolls on twos right but it that didn’t have any effect it was just chance that made that happen basically just because if you run something enough times standard variability normal variability yeah eventually it’s going to kind of matter just what distribution is that when it’s like normal distribution a normal distribution yeah if you have that then eventually one time it’s going to all end up on twos right that’s pretty interesting yeah and that’s that’s because you’re playing the metagame right you’re saying out of the statistics of the statistics yeah you can find anything you know right yep and find something that’s uh enticing enough to publish yeah and then you get six years later somebody comes says oh this doesn’t really replicate and you’re like oh maybe you weren’t chanting the karma sutra loud enough and like you can really just bury anything also and like you have tenure and the people replicating it are probably lecturers right they don’t vote and right they have the power to be fired yeah so how loudly are they gonna say this is actually [ __ ] and also with replication problems i mean you have to replicate and replicate and replicate and replicate right i have there’s a story of uh when i was back in life science when i came in as neuro my professor in my intro to life science class said you know oh he told us a story about there was this grad student and uh they were tasked with their first thing and they were supposed to read this and replicate this study and like they you know they were so optimistic they were they’re so happy because it looked like a pretty easy thing to do as a grad student and they did it and it didn’t come out right and they did it and it didn’t come out right and this happens for you know two years of their life and they’re like they’re like you know going crazy because it’s like how i must be a failure as a scientist right how easy should it be to replicate this simple study about two worms and then it turns out you know somebody comes in you know a tenured professor takes a look at it and is doing it and he put they put more resources towards it and i mean the best thing they could do when they because eventually it was oh what happened is someone falsified evidence right and so now i’ve wasted two years of my life as a grad student i can’t become i’m not on the path will was talking about i can’t become a tenured professor and only one for now

right yeah i’m gonna have to be a barista now right exactly now i have to teach this lowly lsc student life science student uh intro and how why it’s bad to falsify there and what what ended up happening was um you know they could prove that the data was falsified but the only thing you can really do in science is you can go in front of like this conference this national conference and you can say we were unable to replicate replicate this and that’s like a oh as a scientist you’re like oh that’s a big pow but as like a civilian you’re like oh you’re on our own you’re like i don’t know what that means maybe they didn’t even try they just slept who cares that they get this huge government grant for this giant scientist you know years earlier to go and learn about two worms and then they were just like lazy and falsified data right right and also they made a big discovery about that specific two-worm enzyme that they were talking about is it was a hemoglobin that could hold 200 times the oxygen and so they said oh we found that it had zinc on this place instead of copper or something like that and it was like a huge hemoglobin and so what they were doing is they said okay what we’re going to do is we’re going to make a company and it’s going to use these giant hemoglobins exactly combat medic aids where you don’t have to refrigerate like plasma and you can just like inject people with super oxygenated blood so that like you can get them to a hospital and they they went to file a patent and a patent had already been filed by the person who had falsified the data for with yeah and so it’s like so they have something that just wouldn’t work because they falsified the data and it’s like so bad science not only does it can it like ruin a grad student’s life right it can ruin the potential for innovation in the future like for really big things all of things that like like who would think that’s the third research exactly yeah so uh and probably the research profession was like oh i’ll just scroll down some numbers it’s two worms this is never gonna affect anything exactly right they wrote cu because they were lazy instead of like actually finding out that it was 10 or yeah so this is a that’s a great segue to kind of talk about um kind of our views on on so the science is the institution um i think we all three of us fundamentally agree that uh it’s broken oh yeah it it does not work and i think this is a quick segue on i did a biochemistry degree so i think that’s the most skilled job-oriented degree really currently that you can get if you just really need a job because you’re poor so they teach you all of these skills so you can just go and work in a lab somewhere and be like a wage slave but i got into this to my first job and the skills they taught us were like 60 years out of date really like they never go back and update them because there’s no profit in that like the professor’s gonna move on in two years that’s right they have to industry has to retrain every new graduate oh wow doing things which is a huge investment yeah yeah so the university system well we all know they’re behind and they’re not incentivized to student success on that side but on the other side um you know science went from wacky people with really weird ideas so isaac newton his two great interests were uh gravity physics and alchemy okay like no i’m serious like you can look up like that alchemy was real and gravity was not you know like it was you know like it’s also back then you don’t know right so um and i think what we’ve really lost is that now the people that um work in science are all politicians and they’re all salesmen because you’ve got to sell the papers and you’ve got to sell the grant givers and if you can do that you’ll be successful and you’ll have this great 200 hour a year job if you don’t you’re working at starbucks i think also as you sort of work really hard to open the field to like white men who aren’t rich and women and like people of color as you do that there are so many more qualified applicants trying to get into right and standardized you have to sell so much harder like if they’re five million dollar people who can just work in science for free then they can all do whatever they want but if there are five thousand applicants for this one job then they have to sell in politics and i don’t have a solution for that and i do think it is really important to have women and minorities in scientific positions but that is a issue you run into because everyone is equally qualified right so there’s a lot more smart people so uh and that that brings me back to just the fact that okay the grant process this is a big idea we have and this is a startup we’re actually working on the grant process is fundamentally broken and what it does it’s a time of materials contract that doesn’t pay you for outcomes so it incentivizes people to drag things out to do shoddy research you know do p hacking doesn’t matter right like my professor used to talk about how she would extend she would write grants for 10-year projects before she had like project ideas and then she would just apply that and be like oh this will totally take 10 years because it’s so hard to get new grants and she had to eat so right right and you know you look the productivity of science scientists today is about two percent of what it was in 1940. statistically how are you gonna like it’s very difficult there’s an economist make that repeatable that’s stunning yeah that’s very difficult right but i think anecdotally this is true because technology’s slowing down so much you know technology is the younger brother of science and if science uh our rate of discoveries has gone down a lot i think things have gotten a little bit harder but even that i mean we teach calculus to high school students now right so i mean we’re so far ahead in that sense where we didn’t even know that existed 400 years ago or how that worked um and so the idea we have here um is that you could pay for outcomes more directly so if you actually put out bounties for achievable this is really important um achievable near-term um and advancements in science and i think also approvable and provable like that’s very important that’s very important and that’s where you guys really come in um that would be incredible so you our idea is you take philanthropist money which you know that’s my special skill set on the business side startups been working on it for five years i’ve learned a lot i think there’s so much philanthropic money out there trying to reach being misspent yeah being miss meant but people are so desperate to help other people and like advance technology for the betterment of the human race and it’s so hard to find things that your money will actually help exactly so like you know coming up with these road maps that are very detailed and include like this is the next step this is achievable within a short period of time um we’ll put up the bounty because like most bounties today are huge it’s like okay make the mice live three times long well that’s not a billion dollars that’s not feasible without a billion dollars research money right and like and you need that up front because you got to buy the mice you got to buy the mice you know it’s really expensive right so the idea is that you know you two are especially talented and skilled in in in having the ability to ferret out these problems and find the right ones and i have a special talent in building out and finding um the money to go with it right and on top of that um we’ve got extremely high trust so you know like it’s this is a very high trust society it will ran off with all the money and be real awkward very often thanksgiving you know it’s not like we met these guys you know two months ago at some star conference like we’ve known each other for a very long time so that’s kind of one of my entire life well you’ve been leasing that bmw i thought you bought it all oh my god right so uh that’s uh he ran off and got married oh no that’s happening now she owns half of all your assets that’s crazy right it’s nuts it’s nuts um so we’ve been we’ve been thinking about that i want to get back to elite overproduction a little bit um faith have you heard about this glenn uh i have a general sense of it from from what faith was saying but i haven’t heard of it like traditionally it was like nobles in times of plenty would have a bunch of kids and they would all survive but like only one person can be the king so then you have a bunch of like second sons and third sons and they want to be rich and famous and all yeah right a bunch of kids and then these status like so even though our society gets bigger um status positions maybe don’t scale exactly okay so you might have an over inflation of the top end of a status streak right because you need like you need a pyramid shape and almost in a in a status hierarchy yeah and it’s like a matte fraser so you end up with a bunch of disenfranchised really smart people with a bunch of free time and a bunch of money and that destabilizes governments and can cause like wars because they’re bored and i think that it’s almost obvious that like having like like making them lower status isn’t really it’s not a viable option because they have like the connections and they have the education and they have the money you’re never gonna remove that status from because it’s sort of intrinsic like you can’t really take that away and people get really unhappy if you try to make them lower status super matters do not go for that at all even even worse than probably taking someone’s money away i think status is like you know the chimp brain like people freak out because imagine if all your friends decided statistically they had to hate you yep right well and also so you know part of this could be like um you know it’s the fun effect everyone’s getting smarter right you know over the decades right people are just getting smarter for whatever reason we took land out of the water rare exceptions yeah there’s also better better like psychological tools of like people kind of get like how to oh i kind of understand what alone is and then they teach that to their kid better better and like people are less abusive to their kids now so they end up with less weird psychiatric problems they’re less they’re less ill but also it’s interesting because you know the our institutions have not scaled with um population growth especially like college especially last incoming size harvard like unc chapel hill enrollment over time he’s good by the way i am i’m really cut anyway so i know harvard has not scaled at all i know harvard refused to use their money to double their incoming class size because they didn’t want to dilute the harvard brand and i really feel that really highlights it’s a positional good and not sort of what’s the opposite of a positional denial now a valuable good good that’s just a good good in itself it doesn’t matter so yeah yeah so i mean i think we should you know hashtag tax the endowments um of these uh these institutions so you know harvard like if you don’t you know if you really do have the best education in the world why don’t you share it with everyone yeah yeah exactly right that’s a real question why don’t you give a harvard degree to everyone who completes the online courses if you’re zooming the classes anyway yep because it’s just purely positional which creates these arm races that’s like um so uh funny enough glenn’s wearing a crossfit shirt right now so if you look if you look at uh crossfit uh games athletes is super fitness nerdy but over time it’s just this like incredible arms race right so it’s like it’s so incredibly competitive you know athletes 10 years ago like um you know there’s a guy i’m miley clayton with i follow him on twitter and we’ve chatted a couple times russ green but he completed the crossfit games and i’ll be honest you know that was in 2010 i guarantee you russ couldn’t compete right now he’s a very fit person right like uh and athletes just get shorter and more compact they’re all five foot nine and everybody’s taking care of the answer is that i mean probably

like a lot of steroids but you know like so and they have to train eight hours a day or nine hours a day you have to eat right and you have to take performance and drugs and that’s the price of the so like a little bit of competition like that and a purely positional game creates like you know the people get a lot fitter but like at the expense of what right like yeah a lot i don’t know but it’s very much the same thing with harvard right so you know like all these kids losing their mind uh you know like working 80 hours a week studying just to get that top one percent and even like one percent isn’t good enough right like i at this point it’s it’s really like i was the valedictorian i didn’t get into harvard like right you know like that’s not going to happen that was not going to happen they didn’t even send me like a rejection letter like you’ve taken my 60 for the application oh yeah and they’re like thank you for increasing our uh our decreasing our acceptance right right yeah and there’s also this interesting thing that you almost you kind of hit on there it’s like um if you are that one percent of whatever pool you’re selecting from so like our high school when we were growing up if you’re faith if you’re the valedictorian if you’re the one percent it’s like being the one percent being that super high ranking high status person uh doesn’t mean as much to you as the person who wants to be who’s like in the fifth percent who says oh i could be the one percent i’m really grinding for it i’m really grinding for it but like and so and then you you expand your your pool right the whole world now right our mom calls us getting ponded okay cause you’re a small fish in a big pond yeah yeah and so oh okay i’ll apply to harvard you know what i don’t really care that i was a valedictorian but i was so i had the status and so right you know let me try to get that more status and then they’re like oh you came from this super small pond well where the ocean and they smack you down and then you realize hold up uh it doesn’t matter that you’re the one percent on this specific hierarchy of right yeah so i think that brings up a great segue to another idea i’ve been thinking about um always trying to recognize what game you’re playing and what the rewards are if you win them um because you have to edge out right and who do you have to like like never play zero or something exactly exactly so i i have a friend um and she’s a younger person and i love i love talking i have friends that are a lot older than i am i have friends that are a lot younger than i am and i and carefully you’ll get canceled i know so people think people think this is like really weird like even average like well why are you going out it’s like 250. and i’m like well you know like i really like the perspective because it gives me an idea of what happens when you get there and where you were and it gives you some positional idea of like where you are in life um but you know she’s a much younger person she’s in college right now and um you know really uh worried about status and what she’s going to do and like call it like college and career and things like that you know and she does her parents have money or is she like out on the streets if she doesn’t get a job uh you know it’s important for her to get a job but she you know she wants to be a high status go into a high status field i won’t say which um and so let’s say it’s finance is i’m just making this up but so let’s say she wants to go into finance right um what i’ve been trying to imprint is this idea that look like okay let’s say you win this game and you work at the top investment bank and goldman sachs for 80 hours a week for six years exactly so you know like you you can make a lot of money that’s probably the best part about it you can make like a good amount of money um but you know and maybe find this is bad because i i want to focus more on a social good kind of thing um but you know the you would you you’re only going to be marginally better than the person that would be doing the job like if you don’t do the job it might be one percent worse but it’s so competitive that like it would be almost a wash like it’d be very difficult so kind of like with doctors if the next person who would have gotten your space in med school that was like that much less good as you you know was a doctor instead it might have been like a half of a percentage point on how good a doctor they’re going to end up being yeah and like if you’d all end up a wash yeah but if you can find things you can do that like oh god if you don’t do it does not happen i think that’s where you can find meaning and i think that that really eases people’s kind of status anxiety a lot because like i think people are built to sort of be good at one thing like if you’re in a village of 50 people and you’re like an okay wooden worker but you’re the best woodworker for 50 miles you’re gonna have a lot of status but if you live in a huge city and they’re you’re like there’s a hundred percent there’s 100 woodworkers you can work really hard to be a better woodworker and that’ll give you neurosis or you can be like an okay woodworker which is all we’ll also give you right right yep yep yep i think it’s interesting right and like yeah you know i see this on even in like my gym you know like i am like probably top quartile for strength maybe maybe higher than that for men um which feels pretty good but you know like jarvis children are about like neanderthals yeah pretty pretty stocky

whenever i go to competitions it’s like oh my god yeah nothing like nothing i did a competition together and we win right we walked in we were like yeah we’re pretty strong dudes for our crossfit okay we’re i’m not really good right whatever but and then we go in and just the roar of the massage guns going off they had the crossfit shoes strapped up tied ready to go right yeah they’re like they have like you know ankle pads wrist wraps it’s like oh okay so maybe we’re not going to really compete but you know just for fun right and this this is another idea i have if you truly want to com like i i don’t suggest people like try and compete often i think generally you should only compete like when you really want it and you really think it’s a valid thing to do specifically in crossfit you’re talking about right in the entire way you should in life don’t compete constantly because you’ll sort of well like you know you’ve got limited you should only ever compete or fight for something if you know like if you know you can win you should try to win very fast does that make sense like so like uh i don’t think like so you know you mean don’t go to law school and compete with your classmates on a career for four years right you know exactly exactly like you know maybe avoid that so i have a friend who’s like you know well like you’re really strong you should like try and like compete in olympic weightlifting and i’m like no i don’t want to do that because i only want to compete in that if i won’t if i’m going to be prepared to win do something and i’m not willing to trade that so like i’ll do it for fun like you know you don’t want to work eight hours work out eight hours exactly like i’m not interested in that like i i i only eat raw sweet potatoes exactly i only go to the gym for my health and to see friends right and it fulfills that and i win at ambition but if you want to compete i think you should generally um you should be prepared to win and you should be willing to sacrifice to get there and under trying to understand that before you jump in i think too many people jump in to these crazy status games um and they don’t really understand like well all i want is this like crappy trophy like why the heck would i spend that much time doing it it makes me think about the basketball league we played when we were younger right none of us were good at basketball no we’re not going to most christ-like every week because they couldn’t give me like most prizes they gave us these little stars that were like oh you were the best muffins and then they had another one for if you’re like not a very great basketball player it was the most christian yeah most christ jersey it’s like seven it was like gray stars it was amazing yeah yeah yeah oh man oh man but you will you will note that glenn then when we went to that competition when we decided to compete we put out more effort than was like there was no there’s nothing left on the table nothing no there was i guarantee i have no you know what i mean like whenever we go and do like whenever we actually decide to compete on something we’re gonna hit it hard we will kill ourselves carry them

yes i mean it’s just which is an interesting like i don’t know i i think people i i don’t like to compete i i tend to i want to avoid it but if we do if you ever do compete um i hate losing and if you ever met a good laser you met a loser right putting a good showing is what losers say yeah no i mean seriously and i don’t know i think that’s winners say to losers to make them compete hard to make themselves look better i think yeah yeah and it’s also like um sometimes losing and when you really try hard is like a signal to you to find a different access to compete on yes and if you put it all out there it’s like man that’s not enough maybe that’s something too you know yeah and also sometimes sometimes that’s not exactly true sometimes like you know you lose real hard and then you realize oh but there’s potential for me to be the best if i change xyz if i change this then like yeah and um but sometimes it’s like it tells you oh this game isn’t something that’s very fair so maybe it would be like bad for you to compete real hard and then still lose and then you’ve wasted all these resources so for context we play modern warfare

during quarantine and even now you know you can’t we can’t really get together to see each other or so you even go out and see friends right because you know coronavirus is still has community spread oh my god so shut down large universities which we might be sitting on an hour before you can’t get your tuition back exactly

um but so we started playing this this free game and it was perfect because uh you could play it across platforms and glenn has a computer i have an xbox fight there’s a playstation oh my god so so we can all get together and we can all uh all play together and uh been really fun right but it’s just it’s it’s interesting so you’re talking about that yeah so we started out and we were really bad at really the entire thing and it’s just for fun and like this is an example where it’s like i would get pumped by 13 year olds with sniper rifles from like 1600 feet away exactly so we keep playing when you get better and better and then we win and we’re like oh my god we won and then like and then what and then we’re like what what ha well like why do we spend all this why do we spend well you know and we got the value from because we actually you know came up with this idea of talking because we just ended up talking all the time right it’s just like this form to to talk in reality with this one other goal we all work toward together but it’s a little funny they realize what the point of it is completely we’ll be like we’ll be like in a helicopter with all our guns and stuff and we’re flying to the objective and then faith’s like talking about rim does rendezvous or whatever it’s called and you’re like what let me come on board with this jump out of the helicopter and slam onto the ground and that that does often yeah we end up getting shocked as we’re talking about something yeah this is pretty awesome you’re telling me they’re overproducing at least

the 13 year old who hears like the last 10 seconds of your audio after you kill them and like what the [ __ ] are they talking yeah like this makes no sense at all at all which is uh pretty interesting um so we talked a lot about competition we talked about uh elite overproduction um what are some other solutions to the problem of having um you know like general status anxiety in the air because i think that is incredibly high in people um well you could segment people into little groups right so i i think so if you have everyone only has 10 friends exactly and they all the same difference then one out of 10 people can be the coolest person in their friend group and like the smartest person so then you can’t be friends with anybody else though or you’ll find someone who’s like cooler than you are so that’s what i think we’re gonna end up doing is like you don’t talk to anyone outside of your real niche because facebook is doing that right now right like you only see liberal content if you’re a liberal and and conservative content if you’re but so you just segment society so everyone can

portland down so i think you know so social media has kind of expanded the sizes of our social groups but i think it also has the potential to solidify our smaller social groups so like um if your church has a facebook page and it’s like you know oh you got 50 people in your church then then that can kind of do what you’re saying is kind of like solidify your smaller social groups but there’s also the potential when you’re like oh i’m in you know this facebook group of you know 400 000 redditors or whatever yeah it’s like well i’m just one person in all of this and you get that yeah you you have no idea where you are on the social hierarchy anymore that that’s super interesting because it feels like the internet has had this like uh compression effect well so in one sense it’s amazing right because if you had some wacky thing you’re interested in like uh was a good example silkworm so your face the interest in silkworms right now we’ll talk about that in a minute um in your small town i guarantee there’s no one else who’s interested in silkworms nobody not one person no where is it there’s nobody else interested in this rocky mountain don’t

email me if you think it’s really cool exactly but uh so in one sense you can connect with those people but in the other sense people are incredibly lonely yeah have you like have you guys noticed this like and something i think our listeners that are in major cities the united states will not understand is just how lonely and bombed out a lot of the country is if you get outside of the metropolitan areas i live in greenville north carolina for reference and there’s nowhere to go to meet and hang out with people that’s not like in my house but i don’t want to invite strangers into my house so i don’t make new friends so much so i just have my old friends from college and some people don’t go to college so they have their old friends from high school or like middle school which really locks in a bunch of toxic dynamics because you know you can’t go anywhere else if someone is abusive or someone is just like not fun to hang out with and people don’t move anymore like statistically the people americans do not move different places like they either clearly locked into where they are which is weird right because like you know it’s the internet revolution yeah it should be all distributed connect to anyone in the world but but you just connect to the people also in greenville exactly you know and even the people that you know are supposed to be the best of this in san francisco in the tech sector they’re all there there’s more concentration there’s not less concentration yeah and you know they’d leave if they could because there’s so much poop on the streets yeah so yeah yeah san francisco california’s governance is uh it’s frankly gavin newsom if you’re listening it’s embarrassing please fix it laughing stock in north carolina it’s hilarious i mean you know roy cooper gets us power i don’t know like yeah he can clean the power lines off there aren’t used needles on my streets right exactly and you know there’s way more drug dealers in greenville so yeah i don’t i don’t know it’s just it’s fascinating how but even with that you know it’s still a massive concentration in the tech sector san francisco less so now i’m assuming because it’s so expensive and people are heading out and like somebody has to sell you coffee so if you pay them 7.25 an hour how are they supposed to be they can’t they can’t yeah you can’t live long no yeah it’s like it’s it’s uh you know and and san francisco is the future of america is so disturbing because just the not so inequality i was reading a book do you guys know freddie deboer is no idea uh four diamonds uh no no so he’s a blogger i really enjoy his writing uh super lefty guy um he’s very intellectually honest a lot of interesting things to say so he’s an english educator got a phd and he wrote a just finished a book i highly recommend called the cult of smart and so the thesis the cult of smart is that like we’re obsessed with academic achievement right now but if you gave everybody a college education today um the wage premium would disappear so the wage premium the college i maybe i should say again the wage premium would disappear for college educated people if we gave everybody a college degree right now it’d become like a high school degree but you’d have to spend four more years in high school exactly um and there’s a lot of people that don’t love academics um and that’s okay if you wanna yeah russell instead of learning calculus that’s fine or if you want to weld or if you want to work on cars or if you want to or raise your kids exactly exactly if you would rather do that than learn calculus that’s probably a more healthy choice than what we do or clean houses all day like that candy owned on twitter oh for reference they were talking about communes and one person chimed in and they were like an old college coins of mine and she was like yeah i’m i would just love to just clean a house all day and then just do whatever i wanted and i’m like why don’t you just be a house cleaner and not be dependent on a man or the four other people in your commune to feed you but tommy’s well you know and we could talk about communities more in some of the problems i mean if you’ve ever lived in a dorm room it’s like a dorm but with 40 year olds that never do any dishes yeah right absolutely it’s a commune absolutely um so the cult of smart idea essentially is that you know we have hollowed out like options so now you know we shift off you used to be able to go work at the factory and uh dogmatic free throws not off to the ugg hurts you don’t get paid sweeters there we go no yeah i mean seriously uh and that that has happened and all most of that i think happened at the hand of economists who are free trade doctrinaires um in the 80s and 90s who thought you know what like and i remember taking econ 101 i don’t know if you guys haven’t had to take econ because yeah i escaped it okay so i remember the classic example i remember sitting there and seeing this was like so they’re describing the gains from free trade it’s like well you know we get cheaper goods because there’s people with comparative advantage you know i don’t have to pay people or whatever because they’re in internment camps and in western china right um and uh just an example but there’s plenty others uh so pretty sure people occasionally boycotting their [ __ ] is less expensive than paying a living wage so exactly so you know like so they went with it um and the idea was that well these factory workers you know they might lose their jobs they can retrain and they’ll have these cheaper goods hashtag learn to code hashtag learn to code right you’re a journalist listening to this it’s out of work right exactly but you know this ignores the fact that um you know there are negative externalities to people that are less well-off you know the externalities are not happening to economists they’re not that that’s what i would say in fact they’re more diverse i like to call that stickiness within the model it’s like something’s like there are things which make this incorrect right right and it it so it’s like you might have a machine which kind of looks like what you think the reality is but there’s something sticky in it you’re not really going to run exactly like you’re saying right and this is a phenomenal i like to talk about called uh how big are the ed’s cases so how big and the edge case here is that like you destroy people’s lives and they’re all going to be uh you know using pain pills and things like that because they they don’t have a source of meaning where it used to be you could go and you could work and provide for your family it was like it was honorable and like work was respected workers yeah and i think that’s like a really i remember you remember the there’s an actor recently who was famous in the 90s but he’s working at trader joe’s now like falling on hard times and you know everybody was making fun of them on twitter like that’s way more beneficial to society to work at trader joe’s than to be an actor yeah like you know like to tan people peanuts is better for the economy than absolutely be a one person better actor than the next person in life exactly that job and i thought that’s just so embarrassing right you know like this guy’s out there you’re trying to provide for his family make the world a better place um and you know everybody’s just you know being terrible to him like i don’t find it embarrassing to work at trader joe’s like oh i don’t find embarrassing work anywhere you know what i mean like yeah like i mean if you’ve got a job someone finds value in what you’re doing exactly in a way that like i think people don’t realize like they literally someone has to pay for that yeah there’s a revealed preference right that it’s valuable someone wanted you to do that so much it made their life so much better they were willing to pay you money to do it which is pretty cool and you know they might not act like it there’s a million cairns in the world but even though even the worst karen is gonna still has to pay the money or or has chosen to pay the money for you to do that that service for you to give them that coffee like that’s right obviously she thinks you’re pretty great which is interesting um what else do we want to talk about i had something there well i have an example of um for the graduate students in the audience i guess um so the way we do it in my college is mechanical engineers have a final project which lasts an entire senior year and companies come in and give us contracts and yeah we waive our ip rights and stuff like that but anyway so you could be slave labor yeah so we show to them we show to actual companies that we have the design knowledge to actually produce something and so sometimes that goes good and sometimes that goes bad but um we so i was assigned to my group what or whatever and i was talking to the graduate student who is kind of over us who’s like teaching us and i said oh so you know i really want to kick this out of the park um you must have done this since you’re a mechanical engineering graduate student you’ve graduated mechanical engineering um what can you tell us about this real hardworking project where you know we get to really showcase our skills to be like oh we are productive and he said oh i got to do research instead of doing a design project so i’ve never actually designed anything

amazing and i mean it was like it was like there were crickets in the zoo like i don’t know who let them in i don’t know how they got computers but the crickets were there and so i mean that was just a firsthand experience of like okay so you’re becoming a graduate student to get a phd in something and you aren’t any further like okay you’re teaching a class and you’re doing research but i mean it’s obvious that the research isn’t going anywhere and it’s also obvious that like you trying to explain to us how we’re going to do this design project is silly it’s like i don’t you’re not you’re not really caught that that’s like have you ever heard of the insta institutionalization of instruments no is that carol quickly okay so this is bill clinton’s favorite book bill clinton looks like he’s gonna get castle now because one of these epstein girls was rubbing his back and i got pictures of it sorry um yeah it’s horrible like two years ago yeah i mean anyway so he was on the plane so it was like god you might want all the politicians on the planes you gotta like replace them with women because they won’t that’s fair but you know they as statistically a lot worse statistically um all women should be so president if them not raping other women is a priority for you that’s right that’s right which you know that’s uh that’s high on my priority list um so he wrote this book uh evolution of civilizations it’s quite good um bill clinton’s favorite book i’ve just finished reading it highly recommended he has this concept called institutionalization of instruments so have you ever thought about how we got college football no okay so do you want an interest in something that’s instrumental is vaguely so it’s like and i will get the philosophy

mental philosophy definition here we go um intrinsic value or this okay so it’s like uh means to an end if that makes sense okay so things are deemed to have instrumental value if they help one achieve a particular end yeah like music has an instrumental value for whatever we because we find closer to the air okay yeah so um originally cause pleasure through the year would be like an intrinsic value i guess yeah that’d be a true value um so college football began because uh essentially uh in the ivy league kids were getting fat they weren’t exercising um and so they’re like well we’ll come with this cool game and it was originally just running just just run the ball it’s very similar to rugby um and you know some people that was before the disposable black kids came in and then they added oh gosh jesus no it’s true it’s weird when you look at it sketchy it’s like a cartel design i don’t have tbis but you’re paying them with education yeah you know the tao proteins don’t care about the uh you know education you don’t get because they tutored it um pretty bad that’s the story for another day but um so the idea is like okay how do we get from that it’s like an exercise like thing like we use pe game to which is an intrinsic value right right to like 56 000 people in carter finley stadium

yeah yep so it’s like well what happens so you know you start playing the game and then you’re like well you know like man yale keeps running down our throats running it down our throats so you’re like you need you know let’s start we’ll spit maybe let’s get a couple ringers that’s what we did modern warfare we got

and so you start doing that and suddenly you know like well the running just running it’s kind of boring what if we threw it threw the ball so then they had passing right and then suddenly you know like then they like well we need a coach because yale’s still beating us like lapel and so it’s an arms race and then suddenly you’ve got 56 000 people screaming at each other in carter family stadium with the unc nc state game you make a couple billion a year and now you’re stuck it’s amazing this is the people in it then you have like hundreds of thousands of people in the parking lot right so yeah yeah so when you mentioned your graduate student who had never actually designed anything yeah not calling my out like it’s like wow like it’s just this institutional institutionalization of the act of designing something right yeah and also we have a design school did i tell you about that right we have design school engineering school and the idea that it’s like oh we’re gonna make the products and then oh we’re gonna make products that work right and it’s like all the design students and the engineers like do you even know math and all the physics students are like oh engineers you don’t know math you know no math which is very odd man when you think about it like how these weird things just they’re like emergent phenomenon right like that are somewhat random and how they come about right yeah you’re just like one day you’re like oh you know we should get fit on a fall day so you toss this leather ball out there and yeah start ramming speaking of emergent phenomenon glenn tell them about your club idea my club idea oh oh it’s just you guys it’s like it’s a sport to be a club sport it’s gonna be a real sport it’s gonna be amazing institutionalization of this instrument all right so the idea is i like i like strongman strongman’s a sport where it’s like oh you’re lifting but it’s kind of like oh weird awkward things and so we’re going to lift couches this year or whatever and now we’re going to actually try ours one time it was like a giant rock sphere right and so whenever i see that i’m like oh man if you only had like like one lever you could just do that and then i came up with the idea why don’t we have a standardized toolkit or something like that and then the only goal is who can get one thing from one place through another and you use you know whatever mechanical advantage you want because you still have to put in the power yourself right you can’t have like power tools and all that that’s no fun what you want is like you know oh are you going to spend the extra minute to set up this intricate pulley system or are you going to get will who’s 200 pounds heavier than everybody else to just pick the dang thing up and throw it or whatever so you start with like a 300 pound square and you have to move it 100 yards and you have a toolkit so it’s whoever can just get it to the other end of the field first wins right it’s like team one is hammering in their their pulley system and team two is have their lever system really going well and team three is just really throwing that thing hard and will’s just carrying it above his head he’s probably gonna snap his torso but it’s fun to watch it’s really cool so that was my idea for a little sport and i don’t know i think it’d be fun that’s awesome you know i’d watch it on youtube i really like it i really like the combination of like uh you know you’ve gotta you gotta be smart enough to you know there’s like this interplay of being smart and you also have to be fit enough to move it and like you know how that plays together is pretty interesting and in every sport you know somebody’s taller somebody’s shorter there’s mechanical advantages where it’s like there’s no true fairness and i kind of like the idea in some sports where it’s just like all right less rules can be more fun because it allows us ingenuity to come in and i think that’s the coolest aspect when somebody learned to dunk in basketball or to goaltend it’s like that can go positive or negative right because everybody loves talking but nobody loves goaltending and so instead of adding more rules you could find a a way to go about it where having less rules inspires more creativity but that’s really cool i don’t even have a name for it just an idea that’s a good idea i love that kind of competition well that’s our show for today i’m will jarvis and i’m will’s dad join us next week for more narratives