In a world which is often slow-moving and even stagnant, there are always sectors and individuals who buck the trends. In this episode of The Portal, Eric sits down with his favorite surfing hero Kai Lenny who is pioneering a new approach to big wave surfing. By availing himself of the latest technology and dedicating his life to innovation and discipline, all-around waterman Kai Lenny is redefining what is possible with boards and waves. Whether it is kite surfing, hydrofoils, paddle boards or towing into monster waves, Kai is not only riding, but playing in the biggest surfable waves as if they were up to an order of magnitude smaller. Eric attempts to understand Kai’s approach to innovation and how he can be so carefree and seemingly casual when he is always flirting with death within some of the most powerful structures and forces nature can through at a single individual from Jaws in Maui to Nazaré in Portugal.

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Philosopher and University of Chicago Professor Agnes Callard sits down with Eric on this episode of the portal. Agnes is a champion of the philosophical tradition of attempting to detach the capacity for inquiry and reason from the fog of feelings and societal taboos that often keep us from delving deeper into the questions that animate our lives. 

Agnes began this unusual back and forth by writing an article about status negotiation in first meetings shortly after the pair first met. Eric and Agnes then use the opportunity of this episode to continue this line of thought by exploring the limits of courage and meta-cognition within the examined life of a modern Philosopher. This results in a real-time exploration by two people who mutually respect each other as to whether they can actually negotiate a detached discussion in real time on the very issues of status, feeling, and taboo that may divide them and/or arise between them. 

As Agnes has written thoughtfully about the many layers of anger, the conversation culminates by exploring dyadic feelings of hurt and indignation with which we all struggle and suffer in our relationships. Ultimately the two finish this experimental conversation with good cheer, together with a wish to continue the discussion at a later date under continuing mutual fondness and admiration.

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Eric sits down with leading fitness geek, guru, thinker and human guinea-pig Ben Greenfield to learn how one of the world’s most highly regarded trainers and fitness experts cuts through the nightmare that is our medical literature. 

The academic and medical literature in health and medicine is a disaster. Studies are performed and reported in non-standard and idiosyncratic ways which are then further distorted by a press often looking more for headlines and scoops than facts and rigor. In this episode we get to ask one of the most sought after fitness optimizers how ordinary people can better understand their own minds, brains and bodies in light of the cacophony of ‘expert’ opinion. Ben, here in his role of master pedagogue, gives detailed implementable answers as well as simple to follow priorities that sum up his years of study and training for the mere mortals who wish to better everything in their lives by tackling health at the fundamental level.  

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Topics discussed:

What did Eric learn from his grandfather Harry Rubin? 12:05
How did Eric struggle with maths at school but go on to complete a Ph.D. in mathematical physics at Harvard University? 18:05
Eric’s adventures in finance. 21:16
What did Eric learn from the Global Financial Crisis? #holdthegold 30:25
What is Nassim Taleb’s Twitter strategy? 32:25
The time Eric met Jeffrey Epstein. 35:23
Lessons in physics and a taxonomy of theories of everything. 47:01
How the String Theory community “fucked up”. 59:43
When Eric presented his theory of everything, Geometric Unity, at Oxford University. 1:06:27
What’s it like working for and with Peter Thiel? 1:18:28
Why did Thiel support Donald Trump for President? 1:23:30
Eric’s work at Thiel Capital. 1:32:25
Australia and building The Intellectual Wild South. 1:38:22
Why has Western productivity growth stagnated? 2:10:10
How does the global economy keep growing sustainably? 2:23:55
Understanding ISIS execution videos. 2:30:25
What does Eric think of Sam Harris’s thesis in The Moral Landscape? 2:32:49
Has Eric learned anything new from his The Portal guests? How to raise children. 2:39:39
Standing up to the mob. 2:42:02
Rewards that await courageous contrarians. 2:48:31

Show notes:

The Good Cause Co.’s recommended charities for the Australian bushfires
The Portal, Eric’s podcast Duty to Warn Zero to One, by Peter Thiel
The Tyranny of Distance, by Geoffrey Blainey
The Lucky Country, by Donald Horne
‘Anthropic Capitalism And The New Gimmick Economy’, Eric’s edge.org article by Eric Weinstein
The Rise and Fall of American Growth, by Robert Gordon
The Moral Landscape, by Sam Harris