A unique live conversation with Eric Weinstein & Garrett Lisi.
Brian Keating: The Into The Impossible podcast, featuring a triality of guests. A threesome of the best kind. I don’t know if that’s true, actually. But I’ve heard things from Eric, no doubt. We’re gonna be joining—hundreds of people are watching out there in YouTube land. It’s such a treat. Whenever I gather with physicists to share good ideas, good company, and so forth, let me get a thumbs up out there if you guys can hear me. And I’m going to introduce my friends, doctors. Two doctors, actually three doctors if you include me as well. And that is Dr. Eric Weinstein, joining us from Los Angeles. How are you Eric?
Eric Weinstein: Doing well. Good to be with you.
Brian Keating: And it’s nice of you to dress up. Unlike Garrett and myself. I’m in the Hawaiian Islands mood we just finished with—
Eric Weinstein: What the hell has happened to your show, Brian? You can’t get dolled up for me to talk physics?
Brian Keating: This is dolled up. This is my dress code nowadays. This is island time man, shakalaka. All right, Eric’s enjoying his vodka tonic, and I am enjoying a Mai Tai over here in San Diego and Garrett Lisi, welcome back. Welcome back, Garrett. Long time no, see, it’s been about four minutes. And you guys go way back as both friends and friendly arch nemeses. We’re gonna get into what does that actually mean. Your infamous appearance on The Portal, which was so well received. And this is kind of maybe a part two, an option for our guests on the Into The Impossible family to ask some questions about different competing theories of everything. And as I said earlier, we’re gonna have a nice clean fight. We are going to go toe-to-toe.
Garrett Lisi: That’s a good one.
Brian Keating: TOE to TOE getting—
Garrett Lisi: Well you know, I mean, Eric, it looks like you’ve trimmed down a bit. Did you end up adopting a ketogenic diet? or what have you been doing?
Eric Weinstein: You know, Garrett, it looks like you’ve been struggling a little bit. I think this has to do with some sort of a blockchain effect, where whatever weight I lose has to go over to you. I’m sorry to do that to you, buddy.
Garrett Lisi: I’ve built up the COVID 10, Yeah.
Brian Keating: Conservation of mass.
Eric Weinstein: How’s the surf been this winter?
Garrett Lisi: Oh, it’s been frickin fantastic. Yeah, it’s been, it’s been really, really good. Also, we’ve had fewer tourists here than normal, which is actually been nice, if not for nice reasons.
Brian Keating: Yeah, indeed, maybe we’ll talk about that, the impact on culture and physics as a whole. First, I want to be—I always like to be a little bit provocative if I can be indulged by YouTube guys. And that’s, you know, this conversation that Garrett and I had, you know, was sort of predicated on this question that I received a new book in the mail today, Eric, and it’s entitled, The Theory of Everything, by Norbert Schweitzer. And this is a very dense book. It’s full of equations and graphs, and I can’t wait to read it, and put it next to, you know, next to the stack of books behind me that I’ve been doing in pandemic podcasting. But why do we need a Theory of Everything, Eric? Why is it that people are so betwixt by theories of everything, and yet, as Garrett and I just finished, and you and I have talked about, there’s less attention to Experiments of Everything? Why do you think that is?
Eric Weinstein: Well, first of all, I don’t know that it makes sense to say an “Experiment of Everything”. One of the crazy things that we found out from our experimental friends, is that there is so much more order that appears to be present in the Standard Model, and in General Relativity, that, in a weird way, all of these disparate experiments have strangely added up to something unexpectedly coherent. And so I don’t think it’s important to focus on a Theory of Everything generally, because you’re usually not in position to get one. If you think about the time before Dirac, they knew about the proton and the electron, perhaps, but they didn’t know about anything else. And if they had tried a Theory of Everything, it would have almost certainly been wrong, because there was just no—they were nowhere close. Now, the problem that we have here is that we appear to be tantalizingly close, for reasons that we can get into or not, according to taste. And I think that, you know, there’s both a silly hope that you happen to be in the right generation to do a Theory of Everything, and an informed hope. And I think one of the things that you can tell when somebody attempts it is, do they appear to be well motivated in seeking a Theory of Everything? Or do they appear to just want to jump to the end of the book, no matter how many chapters they have to skip over? And I, you know, I would also just say, lastly, that it’s been so long since we’ve made progress, that it does sort of—one interpretation that one could make would be that we seem to be at a point where we have to get something huge because we’ve been stalled out with all the incremental measures which in previous areas have worked so well. And so one way of thinking about this is that we’re finally at the point where the conceptual difficulty, like, what would a Theory of Everything even mean? It’s one thing to say that you’re hunting a Jabberwocky. It’s another thing to realize that you have no idea what a Jabberwocky looks like.
Brian Keating: And when I think about this, you know, we talked a lot about our mutual friend, and I say that with all sincerity, Dr. Sabine Hossenfelder, who does great work, and, but as a known critic, I talked to Garrett about this before—maybe you and I have talked about this too, Eric, in reference to Professor Frank Wilczek’s recent trolling of of Sabine last week where she put out you know, “beauty is a terrible guide to physics”. And Frank wrote back, “it worked out pretty well for me”. You know, Garrett and I were kind of bemused by that trolling of Sabine by Frank. But of course, it was meant in a friendly way, I’m sure. But nevertheless, the question of, you know, kind of survivorship bias came up, and maybe Garrett, you can just kind of reiterate that. You’ve been, you know, lucky to be privately supported to do these things. Sabine even says it’s a good thing to have these things, but she doesn’t go deep. She’s claims to say it’s maybe not worth her time. But tell me something, Garrett, first of all, what when you think about, you know, how do you spend your time, you know, besides the stuff outside of academia, which we’ll talk about, hopefully, you’re the Richard Branson, of physicists, of course. And that comes with problems as well, as we talked about in the previous hour. But I want to ask you, when when you think about dividing your time, how much time do you spend thinking about Geometric Unity, about the Wolfram physics project behind me, and this giant book in the back, about this new book, this new Theory of Everything by Norbert Schwarzer, and Max Tegmark mathematical—how much time do you spend on it? And if you say “none”, why is that? Why wouldn’t you think about other people’s theories? So first, how much time do you spend on other theories?
Garrett Lisi: I think most theoretical physicists spend enough time on others’ theories in order to dismiss them.
Brian Keating: And so you dismiss like, Wolfram’s theory?
Garrett Lisi: Oh, yeah. So I’m not most physicists. I spend, for Eric, especially since we’re arch nemeses and friends, I’ve spent more than enough time to dismiss it.
Brian Keating: Yeah, look at Eric’s reaction.
Garrett Lisi: For Wolfram, I’ve spent probably less than enough time to dismiss it. And that’s not because I don’t respect his work and the direction he’s going. It’s just that the direction he’s chosen to go in with cellular automata is so foreign to my area of expertise, that, although I could dive into it, and disentangle it and try to make sense, instead, what I do is I look at, all right, well, we have a rich model here with some grand claims. What’s the actual connection to known physics. And what I see, as I see over and over again, is that the connection to known physics is extremely tenuous, if there’s much there at all. And that’s usually the easiest way to dismiss work, is how—what’s the connection to actual physics? What’s the connection to the Standard Model? Are you getting three generations of fermions? Do you—are you getting a CKM matrix in some easy, nice, elegant way? How close is it? And by that metric, you can almost dismiss String Theory. I mean, it’s a very, it’s a very high bar. You can also dismiss my work. I’m not there yet, but that’s what I’m striving for. But that’s really what you want to look for. And, but in terms of how I spend my time, I do spend a fair amount of time looking at others’ papers. It’s mostly papers centered around the same area I’m working with, or the area I’m exploring. I’ll be spending a lot more time exploring papers, mathematicians’ papers on generalized Lie groups, colleagues’ papers, working on applying them to particle physics. I spend my—that’s how I spend a lot of my time. I’d say probably 90% of my time is spent reading other’s papers and only 10% working on my own stuff.
Brian Keating: So is it the case that you have spent so much time looking at Geometric Unity or sufficient time that you’ve achieved the necessary amount of time to dismiss Geometric Unity, or to maybe not not dismiss it, but not pay attention to it as much as say, you know, something more close to E8? Can you expand upon what you meant by that?
Garrett Lisi: Um, I—all I was banting, I was joking that I have spent some time looking at Eric’s work, more than I normally would if we weren’t so disturbingly close.
Brian Keating: Well, let me let me follow up on that. So when I, when I look at these as an outsider as an experimental—
Eric Weinstein: You have to ask—you have to ask me the question too, Brian—
Brian Keating: I’m about—I’m about to get to that. So I want to I want to ask that question, but I want to ask it in a provocative way, because as Garrett knows, he started flying lessons, and one of the first things you learn in flying is to be very careful about flying into instrument conditions, namely, into clouds, which can obscure things but make you feel nice and comfortable, because everywhere you look, everything is nice, homogeneous, isotropic and uniform, like the inside of a ping pong ball. But Eric, you know, when you look at it, is there sort of a, you know, an outgroup bias, in that there’s so much groupthink in physics as it is, that now you’ve got these possible alternatives from Wolfram, from you, from Tegmark, etc. And that you guys are just gonna fight but really the the people who you are seeking are these people occupying this behemoth Cathedral called String Theory. How do you decide your time and how you spend it?
Eric Weinstein: Well, I think that we have to clear something up. I don’t take Stephen Wolfram as having a Theory of Everything, or even a candidate. I take him as having a program to search for one. I don’t take Max Tegmark as attempting a Theory of Everything. I view him in some sense as a mathematical and physical philosopher, looking to make sure that when the theory is found, it will fit within the Tegmarkian perspective at some particular type of multiverse or some type, you know, because if ultimately the description is mathematical, the claim will be the Tegmark was correct, because he’s now somehow laid claim to the Mathematical Universe hypothesis, which I think almost every Platonist has considered. So I don’t quite understand that as a Theory of Everything. I certainly don’t see the Loop Quantum Gravity people as being serious about particle phenomenology. We know a lot about the particles in the universe. And actually, I believe that the two that I really take semi-seriously are Garrett’s and String Theory. So while Garrett may be claiming that he knows enough to dismiss mine, certainly that’s not true.
Garrett Lisi: No. What I said was that I’ve spent more than enough time with yours than needed to dismiss it.
Eric Weinstein: Okay. I forgot that Garrett is very spectrumy!
Garrett Lisi: That’s not imply I’ve dismissed that implies I spent more than that amount of time with it.
Eric Weinstein: Fair point, but to steelman Garrett’s point—and I do feel like there was a misimpression created by an artifact that happened when he appeared on my show—I don’t think that Garrett is the best person to extol the virtues of what he is up to. And I would say the following, you would have to give it to the String Theorists, if your principal concern was the idea that you wanted a renormalizable theory of gravity, however far away they may be from that. That is their leading contribution. You can say a few things about what they predict from black holes, and then you can also mumble something about how it’s useful in mathematics.
Clearly, the String Theorists have gotten hold of a lot of advanced mathematics by going to geometry and infinite dimensions. And, in fact, it’s sort of like Finland finding Estonia and saying, “My God, these people, you know, are remarkable. This is confirmation.” But, in fact, Fins and Estonians are pretty much the same people just separated by some water. So I think that String Theory is largely an exclave of mathematics that is done and performed in physics departments. Garrett is doing something very different. If you asked what Garrett’s principal contributions were Forgive me, Garrett, you can correct me, given that you’re here. I love talking behind your back in front of you.
Garrett’s principle selling points are the following: he is the most phenomenological of any theory that is not Geometric Unity. That is, his theory does the following sorts of things. First of all, it makes use of a unique and canonical structure that attempts to tell us why this world and not others, because he begins with something called E8, which is easily distinguishable in the mathematical universe as being the strangest of objects—the platypus, if you will, of mathematical symmetry. And second of all, he incorporates something that was found in the 1950s, by Madame Wu and Yang and Lie, which is the curiosity of the universe because one of the four forces seems to know what’s left from its right, that is, the weak force, it is astounding that there is this asymmetry. And E8 contains some of this asymmetry, which we might call Weyl fermions, as opposed to Dirac fermions, because E8 seems to know its left from its right, so he gets that right. And then there’s a subtle property of E8, which is actually disguised, and so most mathematicians and physicists don’t know about it. It’s manifest in something called Spin 8. And that’s the principle of triality. And so the idea that triality is present, and that we have three families, is tantalizingly close together. So I would say that, if you look at what Garrett—oh, furthermore, Garrett is focused on something called Cartan connections, in which you co-mingle something called an Ehresmann connection, which is what we have learned to use for the forces in the Standard Model since the work of Simons, Yang, Synger and Wu in SUNY Stonybrook in the 1970s. He combines that with this sort of Einsteinian perspective, built on Riemannian Geometry and the Levi-Civita connection. And somehow the Levi-Civita connection and this other object, the Ehresmann connection are combined in something called a Cartan connection, which is not really that standard, it fell out of favor in mathematics. So if you look at what Garrett is doing, and I believe even that Garrett has now strangely moved towards something called Superconnections, introduced by Daniel Quillen and others, and Jean Bismut
Garrett Lisi: Really, yeah.
Eric Weinstein: So this, in fact, is some hope of incorporating the difference in quantization of forced particles and particles, which is one of the original failings of Garrett’s original first attempt at this, which is that he too tightly integrated matter and force, in some sense, into the E8 structure, so that the matter that was present, in fact, had to be looked at as force.
So I think if you look at all of the things that Garrett is doing, well, maybe lastly, even another one, the fact that he’s trying to drag a canonical Lagrangian or master of the equations, from something like Yang-Mills theory, is yet another attempt at simplicity. And so you have him starting out with something that’s canonical, that knows its left from its right intrinsically, that seems to have three encoded into it when we see three copies of matter that we’re confused by, that combines General Relativity and the principle bundles that we’ve learned a second form of geometry, not due to Riemann, due to Ehresmann, and, in fact, the simplest of lagrangians. That is really why I’ve chosen Garrett for my archnemesis, because I don’t think anybody’s actually said this properly about Garrett. And so it’s important that Garrett also be curated, because, if you have to promote your own theory, it’s always suspicious that when a book is mailed to you, by its own author, then the idea is that a second person hasn’t said, “I see what that person is saying”. Now, the fact that Garrett is hopelessly and tragically wrong, in my opinion, is a secondary concern. But the fact of the matter is that I think I’ve chosen my nemesis well—
Brian Keating: Yeah.
Eric Weinstein: —and he may be more challenged in certain aspects of quantization and equations, but you have to admit that what he’s pursued has been completely outside of the norms, and, in fact, phenomenologically does far more than any other theory to attempt to come close to why we see the world that we do. And I just don’t think that there’s a single other person, including Lee Smolin, who can make the case as eloquently for Garrett, who is not Garrett himself.
Brian Keating: See, Garrett, you thought this was gonna be an intervention, but it’s not, don’t worry.
Garrett Lisi: I’m still waiting for the knife.
Brian Keating: That’s coming soon. That’s coming soon. But I want to ask both of you guys, and how you look at each other, because you guys have remarkable lives. I’ve gotten to know Eric extremely well over the last year. I feel blessed to do that. Garrett, I know you obviously by reputation. We’ve met a few times. And we’re obviously, you know, very affiliated with UC San Diego, and I enjoy that. But I also know that, you know, time is limited, and I’ve always been curious to get perspectives on people. So Eric is an incredibly courageous, brilliant person who doesn’t restrict himself to just thinking about physics. He goes on talk shows like Glenn Beck and gets, you know, half a million views, because he is just the exact person that is needed at this troubling time in America, to talk to people on the right about what people on the left, you know, think about the world and to reach consilience, but not just for its own sake. Garrett, you’re known for starting institutions, you’re known for having another set of influences on your time and on your life. Do you guys ever look at each other and say, God, that guy just spent more time on physics, we’d really advanced physics by a tremendous amount or do you look at it’s a guy that guy’s not that serious. Like if he was serious, you know, he’d be he wouldn’t be doing what that Keating guy does and just podcast all day, he would be doing stuff, you know, in his wheelhouse in his lane. What do you guys think about each other, and be candid, what do you feel, Eric, that Garrett should spend more time, you know, on the chalkboard and less time on the surfboard? Eric, you know—Garrett, how do you feel about what Eric’s involved with? Should he—is he denying, you know, physics or math, some sort of attention that it really rightfully deserves? Let me start with Garrett first. I know it’s uncomfortable, but let’s go there.
Garrett Lisi: I think both of us have made extremely unusual decisions in life and push them to a extraordinary and successful degree. I think Eric has made choices early on that I didn’t. And I’ve made choices that Eric didn’t. And I think we’ve both found, perhaps unreasonable amount of success in that. And I really respect Eric a lot for his decisions. What he’s done in creating The Portal and basically bootstrapping himself to become one of the world’s leading intellectual voices has been fantastic. And I think a lot of people, especially our mutual friend, Lee Smolin, which is, who introduced me to Eric, saw this potential early on and, really, it’s been just inspiring to see Eric find such great success with that. Me, I’m a little—I’m a little less social. I’m a little bit more of an introvert, even though I sort of founded an institute here, it’s an institute for introverts with, like, separate cabins. So people can stay away from each other.
Brian Keating: The most social introvert in the world.
Garrett Lisi: There’s lots of social distancing, and I’m very comfortable social distancing. Eric has decided to form himself a independent intellectual online army, which is freakin fantastic. I’m a little terrified what he’s gonna do with it, which direction that’s gonna go in. But it’s been amazing. And I would be extremely hypocritical to look at someone else and say, “Hey, they should really be spending more time on physics is what they should be doing.” Because I’ve been spending most of my time for the past year actually working on like surfing and kite surfing and just trying to enjoy life, in the midst of a horrible pandemic. It’s been hard for me to concentrate on juggling equations. Right, and for Eric, he’s got, you know, he’s grown a wonderful family, who I enjoyed interacting with a great deal when I visited. And it’s, that’s been a wonderful thing to see grow. As well as, you know, he went off to work in Wall Street and financial management, and he’s had a wonderful career that way, and now working for Peter Thiel, who is also a maverick. That has been a great partnership to see. And he’s grown things in, you know, incredibly different directions than I’ve gone in. At the same time, I still know he’s a skateboarder down there underneath.
And I love seeing him, you know, I love seeing him on an electric skateboard. I love seeing him paraglide. I love seeing him do fun stuff. And if I influence them in some positive way, that’s probably the most positive way I can influence him.
Brian Keating: All right, enough of the kumbaya. Eric, should Garrett spend more time on the chalkboard?
Eric Weinstein: Sure, but that’s—but there’s a sort of a hidden problem in the question, which is, the people who send you books and who send you, you know, equations written in red crayon, you know, declaring themselves the next Einstein, in general are not very self conscious, they don’t understand where they are. And one of the problems is that when you’re actually working independently, if you’re doing it honestly, it’s almost impossible not to succumb to one mental problem or the other. Either you come to believe that you are the unique voice of God on earth. Or you come to see yourself as, you know, a failed loser outside of the system, scribbling things that mean nothing to anyone. And if you’re smart, you oscillate between them, in order to, you know, keep your sanity. So you do it dialectically, because it’s very hard to find a Schelling point in the middle. And I think that you have to look at what Garrett does as sustaining his ability to work outside of the system. The number of us who are serious and working outside of the system is certainly less than I can count on one hand. And so I believe that in part, just keeping your sanity while you attempt this, with everyone telling you that you’re an effing idiot, or a crazy person or an imposter or a grifter, or that you’re thirsty, all of these sort of insults that are hurled by people who don’t actually live this life.
Brian Keating: Have you been reading my mom’s text messages to me? How can ya—?
Eric Weinstein: Well, I have a pack of hyenas that follows me around the internet, so you’ll forgive me. The the point that I’m trying to get at is that if you think about what makes what we do beautiful, it’s perhaps best exemplified in places like Cloudbreak and Teahupoo and Ship Stearns, and, in particular Jaws, in Maui. These are waves, they follow wave equations and the ability to interact with, let’s say, the differential geometry of a ski slope, and the luxurious aspect of sitting in Maui and eating tropical fruit with a whiteboard is sustaining. And so this is what Garrett’s been on about with the Pacific Science Institute, which I heartily recommend people check out and try to get behind, is that Garrett has not only been amusing himself to death, but he’s also in fact, attempting to share what he’s figured out with the renegade scientific community. And I think that you have to view this as admirable when billionaires have stepped away from the private funding of science. When Mark Zuckerberg and Yuri Milner can only come up with the Breakthrough Prize for giving people who are already in the system a little bit more encouragement to keep doing what they’re doing that doesn’t work, I think you have to look at what Garrett’s doing as being an incredibly constructive attempt to take a small amount of money that he’s turned into a larger amount of money through, I would say dumb luck, but he would call it investing, and that he effectively is trying to found something like Xerox PARC, or, you know, Tuxedo Park, or any of these great private endeavors in order to keep physics alive, which—it’s clearly in danger of dying. So I think that Garrett needs more encouragement. And if he was more encouraged, he would spend more time in physics, but it’s almost impossible to spend your time doing this, when it appears that what’s really going on is that your mind is unraveling, that you think that there’s something peculiar about you that will allow you to succeed where everyone else has collectively failed. And I think Garrett’s doing a marvelous job of staying in the game. The fact that he “wastes” most of his time on other pursuits may not be a waste at all, it may simply be, you know, a way of saving your sanity.
Brian Keating: Now, we just had a conversation with Garrett that I asked the same question I asked of you a long time ago, but I’ll ask it again, and maybe Garrett can reiterate his opinions afterwards. Do we need a Theory of Everything? So people go on and on about these different theories of everything, because we don’t believe that in the current understanding of the laws of physics, that gravity is commensurate, compatible, and fits into a quantization scheme, wherein the wave like properties and Graviton like properties of a quantum truly quantum theory of gravity would take place. However, I always point out, and you guys have pointed out, you know, most of the scenarios where people talk about as Cameron Botha did on my show, as Juan Maldacena did on my show, they’re talking about gravity in anti de sitter space, and five dimensional, you know, spacetimes—
Eric Weinstein: You’re talking about an abstraction that is not gravity.
Brian Keating: I’m talking about abstraction that is not gravity, number one. And, two, they are solving, you know, they’re answering a question that I don’t believe anybody has fully asked from an experimental perspective. I’ll explain what that means. I said this to Garrett, so Garrett, bear with me, but John Preskill was on the show last week. And I said, John, you know, we say we need a quantum theory of gravity because we don’t understand gravity at the center of a singularity or in the beginning of the universe, if indeed, it had a Big Bang singularity at its origin. But what if, you know, we just—the universe is not described by a single Big Bang, it’s more described as Roger Penrose’s conformal acyclic cosmology or Paul Steinhardt, and Neil terex act parodic or bouncing, classical cosmologies. These have no singularities whatsoever, they’re not manifest at all. So that’s one motivation. 50% of the motivation of quantum gravity destroyed, nuked, wrecked, but, and similarly, we don’t believe there any such thing as naked singularities where we could probe a singularity visible. And I said John Preskill, you are the Richard P. Feynman professor of physics at California Institute of Technology, a small Technical College in Los Angeles County. I said, Feynman said, “I don’t care how beautiful your equations are, if it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong”. Now, I asked you guys, we can’t ever hope to access these two different domains, which are the only two domains, to my knowledge, that quantum gravitational effects are manifest. Why would you guys spend so much time on this field where it may not even be necessary to unify gravity with quantum mechanics or is there a bigger project at work?
Eric Weinstein: Yeah, would you mind if I took that one first and then you back clean up?
Okay, first of all, let’s dispense with this issue of the task of this generation being to quantize gravity. This is a very particularly quantum field theoretic perspective, where the children of Bohr have always been pissed off that Einstein did so much better in some sense on his side of the ledger, that he cleaned things up, so that his children were impoverished where his Bohr failed to clean things up, so his children have had a much richer world to mine, okay. So the idea of getting Einstein to submit to Bohr has been a long held dream of a subset of the community. If you think about it differently, you could ask the question of, instead of “Why do we have to quantize Einstein’s geometry?” why not geometerize Bohr’s quantum, which is exactly what actually happened. So part of the problem is, is that when you get your information and your news updates from Ed Witten, or the Institute for Advanced Study, which has gone on—gone in heavily with String Theory, Nima Arkani-Hamed perhaps notwithstanding, what you start to realize is that you’ve been sold one particular story about physics. And it’s time to destroy the dominance of that narrative in favor of other narratives. Let’s talk about the Feynman quote. Feynman, I believe, was at Cornell when he made this comment that if your theory doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong. No, not right. Your—the instantiation of your theory is wrong. But this is the point of Dirac’s 1963 article in Scientific American where he talks about Schrodinger not incorporating spin, and failing to get agreement with experiment. The theory was basically correct, but, in fact, the instantiation was wrong. This is why the scientific method doesn’t get you out of as much when you apply it naively, nor does Popper. So people are not only in love with Popper and the scientific method, they’re in love with very simplistic versions of that, with the idea that you can always go home, and that rationality and the scientific method is enough to clean up physics. No, your copy editing physics, that’s not where the real magic happens. The real magic happens in a tiny number of places. And Sabine is generally, by the way, correct, that beauty tends to lead almost all physicists onto the rocks, and destroys their career and makes sure that they’re not very productive. The only problem with their theory is that it doesn’t work for the far right tail of physics, where it succeeds beautifully. And by the way, I don’t believe that Wilczek’s work is beautiful in the way that, let’s say, Garrett’s work is beautiful. It may be that Garrett’s work is wrong, but his ideas are definitely beautiful. The way in which Wilczek’s work is beautiful has to do with particular properties of, let’s say, QCD at an analytic level. And I think there are even different forms of beauty. Unfortunately, Sabine has decided that she doesn’t want to target String Theory directly, and so she’s decided that she’s going to be tilting at the proxy of beauty, because beauty is invoked by String Theorists in an attempt to shut everybody else up. Well, she’s quite correct that the attempt to shut everybody else up about the cosmic failure of String Theory to deliver on its promises is, in fact, a huge danger, and may threaten the destruction of the theoretical physics community, which we need for a variety of reasons, because it is our most accomplished intellectual community ever, full stop. Then you have this problem about Feynman. Now, Feynman, in many ways, exemplifies for many people, various things. His aphorisms, which I don’t think he would have taken as seriously as his followers seem to, are wielded as weapons. If you can’t explain it to your grandmother, then you don’t understand it. I do not, you know, “that which I cannot create, I do not understand,” blah, blah, blah. Well, okay, but then again, if you look at the conversation between Feynman and Dirac, it’s very clear that Feynman really never had a fundamental law of physics. And the number of people who’ve done that have been extremely few in number, it’s a very different club, and all of them appear to subscribe to the concept of beauty, which is what I view Garrett, for example, as pursuing. Now, Garrett is not going on to the rocks. His theory may be wrong, but it’s certainly something that needed to be explored. It’s a canonical theory, and I don’t mean Garrett any disrespect, but when I met him at a conference that I think Sabine actually hosted with Lee Smolin, I’d actually looked at E8 myself, for exactly the reasons that Garrett has. Now, I think I’ve detailed a number of things that Garrett did, that I didn’t do with that theory, I think it’s the second most interesting and promising idea. I don’t think it works. But it needed to be explored. And it needed to have an actual physicist exploring it. And I’m very, very happy, and you know, if my stuff—the only reason I want Garrett to be wrong, is that I want me to be right. If I turn out to be wrong, I would like nothing better than for Garrett to be vindicated in what he—what it is that he’s doing.
Brian Keating: So you think he’s—
Eric Weinstein: That is the real basis of this rivalry, right. But the issue is that I think that we’ve got all of these incredibly simplistic ideas. The most interesting thing that’s happened is that all of the people who’ve been telling you that they know how science works, it’s all about peer review, that it’s all about agreement with experiment, that you have to be able to explain it to your mother, that there doesn’t need to be a Theory of Everything, that beauty is a problem. None of these people have succeeded. Okay? So at some point, when you haven’t really succeeded in pushing things forward in 50 years, almost, in certain terms, you have to say, maybe all of the crap that we say is wrong. There’s this marvelous scene—I’ll close with this—in No Country for Old Men, where Anton Chigurh asked the character played by Woody Harrelson—I’ve forgotten his name, unfortunately, was it Carter? Can’t remember. He says, “if the path you took led you to this, what have what use was that path? And that’s exactly right. With all of these things that we quote, Popper, or “agreement with experiments”, “scientific method.” If everything has stalled you out for 50 years, why is it that you’re not listening to people who actually have new ideas? Ask yourself that.
Brian Keating: I think one might say, you know, that, that people are maybe overwhelmed with Popper. I mean, I use this example with Martin Rees when he was on the show, you know, if you look at the pinkening and the reddening of the sunset, as the sun goes down to the horizon every night, that you would be led most naturally to believe that the round Earth has been falsified, because it’s much more consistent with a flat earth, that the such behavior should take place in an atmospheric slab approximation. So I wonder if people aren’t overwhelmed by Popper, and overwhelmed by—this is the counter that someone like Lenny Susskind gave on the show, that people are obsessed with it. And I can give another example, so astronomy—astrology which I’m often confused for, you know, when I’m not confused for being a cosmetologist because of my awesome Weinstein-like coif, I am usually confused with being an astrologer. And I usually say yeah, oh, you’re a Pisces. That’s very interesting. That lump on your butt is cancerous. Go check it out. But seriously, I, you know, astrology has been falsified by numerous double blind tests, including one in Nature magazine. Does that mean it’s science? Because Popper says it’s not science unless it’s falsifiable. And obviously, that’s meant to be a supplement and augmentation. But Garrett, I wonder, what would it take to get you—and this, maybe—maybe it is an intervention. I’m sorry, Garrett, sorry to spring this on you—what would it take for you to put all your chips, all your Apple stock, all your Bitcoin into Geometric Unity? You know, for example, at what point would it rise—you say you’ve you’ve studied it enough. And you, tongue-in-cheek, say, you know, it’s, you know, enough to be wrong, but not to be right. I don’t know. But tell me, what would it take for you to pursue—because at the end of the day, we’re here on this blue marble for, you know, 120 years, hopefully, but probably, you know, less in some cases. So, tell me, what would it take for you to pursue, you know, another theory? Wolfram? Let maybe let’s not even make it personal, but, you know, with Eric, but what would it take
Eric Weinstein: No, make it personal.
Brian Keating: All right, so yeah—
Eric Weinstein: That’s the point of having the two of us on this show.
Brian Keating: All right, let’s go for it, TOE-to-TOE, Theory of Everything.
Garrett Lisi: Eric has taken a—using a lot of the same tools that I’ve been playing with, he’s built up a very interesting theory in a very different way. So he has started with a 14-dimensional manifold that incorporates the metric, and then sort of gauge the metric in a way that accommodates its interaction with fermions in a way that is very different than any—and then how gravity is usually introduced to interact with the fermions. So right off the bat, he’s starting with a kind of outlandish structure, that nevertheless matches up well with known physics from a very different approach, which is a sort of thing that absolutely I feel in the same way should be explored, and I’m glad he’s exploring it, because it’s not the way that I would approach things. I wouldn’t start out by gauging the metric, I would gauge the frame, which is equivalent to the metric but is more natural for use with fermions. But Eric chose to start with a metric, and I think that’s a very valuable way to look at things, and to proceed. For me to jump onboard within going and swallowing and looking more into Geometric Unity than I have, I’d really like to see him get something like the CKM Matrix out, with mixing angles appearing in some natural, reasonable way. That’s a high bar. As far as I know, nobody can do this in a natural-looking way. I can’t do it. Others haven’t been able to do it, String Theory can’t do it.
Eric Weinstein: So do you want to just briefly say what the CKM Matrix is, for the kids at home?
Garrett Lisi: Right, so the CKM matrix basically tells you that for your three generations of matter particles, right, when you have like your you have your Up and your Down quarks, in your in your first generation, and your Strange and your Charm quarks in your second generation, and your Bottom and your Top quarks in the third generation. What are the masses of these things? Well, they don’t have distinct masses, if they’re identified as unique particles with respect to the forces. So instead, their masses are mixed between those three generations. And there’s a mixing matrix that allows them that describes how their masses are assigned between them, and how they can oscillate between them. And we also now have a similar matrix called the PMNS Matrix after the first theorists to write about it, for neutrinos and electrons, and getting these matrices out of a theory is necessary for matching up with known physics, and is necessary for—and this is where probably the new predictions will come from any successful unified theory, is with these, the parameters in these two matrices, and how they relate. And it’s very difficult to build your structure up, or break it down from existing symmetry, going the other direction, and get something like these matrices and their mixing angles out in a nice way. And it’s a very high bar. But if that were to happen, for a geometrically based theory, in a natural way, that didn’t sneak them in by hand, somehow, that that would immediately command my attention, and I would swap all my investment into looking at that. And I’d also see if it related to my stuff, because that’s what theorists do, theorists also always try to relate new stuff to theirs. But that would immediately command a whole lot of attention. And, like I said, it’s a high bar, and—
Eric Weinstein: Well, and I think Garrett is also, if I—I feel comfortable putting words into his mouth, since he can take them out, given that he’s here. I think that Garrett is using the CKM Matrix as but one of many examples. In other words, there are things that are concrete, that show that there is a new idea present. And what is particularly bizarre is when people say that they have a Theory of Everything, and there is no new idea that you can hear coming out of their mouths.
Garrett Lisi: That’s right.
Eric Weinstein: So a different way of saying the CKM matrix—keep in mind that I’m an imposter, rather than a physicist, so I feel uncomfortable saying anything to the folks at home. But you have a situation whereby the algebraically natural object, which might be called a flavor eigenstate, let’s say, and the observed object, the mathematically massive object in the theory are not necessarily exactly lining up. And one of the problems is that we don’t really know how to generate mass, except for this as-if mass that we call the Higgs mechanism. So, in fact, it’s not even real mass, the way we thought we were going to find mass, it has to do with another object called the Yukawa Coupling, whereby this Higgs field is lured away from its zero value, which would have all of us zipping around at the speed of light, to some finite value called a VEV. And then the idea is that it’s this VEV that requires explanation. The reason I bring this up, is that the old reductionist hopes that you would find the CKM Matrix, and other things of that nature, as fundamental values has been shown, in some sense, to be a very naive hope. That there’s some things that are encoded into the equations of physics, and there are other things that are encoded into the particular region and time of space that we find ourselves in, in the happenstance. So you’re never sure, if you have a number hard coded into the theory, as to whether or not that number exists as a scalar? Thinking of it in computer science terms, how do you cast that? Is it an integer? A ratio of integers? Is it a float? Or is it a field? And one of the problems is that we have these two things, the Cosmological constant, and the Higgs field, and maybe the inflaton, maybe three things, that may in some sense, be disguised as real numbers, but may, in fact, vary the way you wouldn’t say, “what’s the temperature on earth today?” You would say, “well, what’s the field of temperatures distributed over the earth?” So in our region, you might say, it’s 76 degrees Fahrenheit, but you might be fooled into thinking that it’s 76 degrees everywhere, because you’re just too focused on your own navel gazing. So if the CKM Matrix, in fact, is encoded field theoretically, as a bunch of numbers, that happen to be relatively constant at our particular moment in space and time, you know, that’s one thing. We don’t know fundamentally what it should be. We don’t know whether Yukawa couplings and the Mexican Hat Potential come from. All of these gadgets that feel artificial may, in fact, be accidents of an anthropic principle that they happen to be at these values for us to observe them. So one of the problems that’s developed of late in theoretical physics is how do you split up the things that are fundamental to the equations and the Lagrangian which governs the equations, and how many of these are emergent accidents having to do either with anthropics or the the good fortune just to be alive at this time and in this place? That said, I believe that Garrett will be working on Geometric Unity by the end of this year.
Brian Keating: Well that was a bold statement! Well, first of all, I want to take a little brief pause when that haymaker was landed. Let’s take a quick break to ask people to stretch your fingers. Do not get carpal tunnel syndrome. Do not succumb to carpal tunnel syndrome. Press the like button. Subscribe to the Into The Impossible podcast so I can get great guests like this. I’m going to have Carlo Rovelli on next week, I’m going to have Avi Loeb on in the next week. I’ve got a short track to maybe get on gjerde to PhD at OU ft. I don’t know how to pronounce it. He and I have been communicating and many many other great episodes, it would be great to have it hooked on this channel. By the way,
Eric Weinstein: Garrett, can we do something that Brian cannot do? And just—can you say what you think the quality of Brian’s guests, other than the crazy people working outside of the system has been?
Garrett Lisi: I went through his guest list and I was more than—more than impressed enough to come and be a guest myself.
Brian Keating: That’s right. And, and that was enough, actually—
Eric Weinstein: It’s astounding, Brian.
Brian Keating: Thank you, Eric. And you were—I said on Twitter recently, you’re one of my main role models, as is Sabine and Lex Fridman, and all those great podcasters out there. But Garrett didn’t realize—
Eric Weinstein: I want to say a little bit more Brian—
Brian Keating: Go ahead.
Eric Weinstein: You can’t say this.
Brian Keating: Alright.
Eric Weinstein: Your willingness to go outside of the system, and your ability to get the top people in the system is unparalleled anywhere else. You know, Lex Fridman is doing something like that, but you’re actually doing it from inside the system. And I don’t know of a single other person who is—maybe Max Tegmark would be the other person, through FQXI and his—and Anthony Aguirre, cofounder of FQXI. But, so far as I know, there are really two or three people who are risking their reputations to talk to people from outside of the system, and able to bring people into the system, I would say Perimeter, FQXI, and the Into The Impossible podcast. And it needs to be said that Brian is taking a huge risk talking to people like us, and taking it seriously, and that he’s managing to do it with so much integrity that he’s still able to get you the top people. And I just think it’s an amazingly courageous thing to do from the position of a chaired professorship.
Brian Keating: Well, thank you very much. And that will do a long, good bit of help for me when I have people on like Deepak Chopra, who is also on the show in the following weeks, and I do get a lot of criticism, how can I have this crackpot on and, and actually, you know, one of the most most delightful things about this podcast is that I get to talk to people I want to talk to, people that excite and interest the mind, and that satisfy the intellectual curiosity of this podcast, is to create the university I wish I went to. And, although Garrett did go to this university called UC San Diego, one of the best in my opinion in the known multiverse, and he doesn’t know that actually Alumni Relations has a request for his donation of Apple stock later in the podcast, but we won’t get into that. No, I do appreciate that, Eric. It is—it’s not so—it’s not as courageous as the things that you guys are doing, but it is interesting to me, to keep my brain going, and talk to the people that I wanted to talk to ever since I was a kid. People at the forefront that have intellectual curiosity, and have courage. That’s an extremely rare trait. So yes, please help me spread the message about the podcast. Subscribe to my mailing list, BrianKeating.com. I’m sending out life lessons from Jim Simons, and for Michael Saylor, and from Eric Weinstein, and I’m gonna write up some life lessons I learned from Garrett Lisi as well.
Let’s get back to this. I often hear, as I did, when I talked to Stephen Wolfram by himself, and then Eric and Stephen got together for a live debate over the summer as well. But I said, “which of you guys really thinks that this Theory of Everything is doing a disservice?” Because it’s actually, in my opinion, what Stephen has is not going to come up with the Aharonov-Bohm effect. Or maybe it will, but maybe it won’t come up with Bell’s inequality. In other words, it’s not really a Theory of Everything. It might be a unified theory, or something like that. So Garrett, let me ask you, is, you know, E8, is exceptional theory that you’ve developed, is that really going to come up with things like the double slit experiment? Is it going to come up with strange spooky-action-at-a-distance? Or is it, is it—and I’m saying this “merely”, but it’s not pejorative in any sense—is it restricted to unification via mathematical structures in this representation theory fashion?
Garrett Lisi: The short answer is no, because E8 does not inherently contain a geometric description of quantum physics, which is something that Eric said he was—that ultimately we’re going to need to go for. So if you really want a unified theory, and not be faking it, you also need a description of quantum physics in a natural way that includes the things you described. So that’s what I’m working on next. So I’m next working on structures such as generalized Lie groups that inherently contain descriptions of quantum physics that would start to be able to give you exactly the things that you described.
And Eric would it emerge from—you and I’ve talked about this, but for the record, let’s say it in front of Garrett, what—wherein lies things like the spooky-action-at-a-distance like Bell’s Inequality? Does that lie within the Geometric Unity purview?
Eric Weinstein: I don’t even understand Garrett’s response in his own theory. So let’s first of all criticize Garrett, before we put me in hot water.
Brian Keating: Alright, go for it.
Eric Weinstein: All right. The thing about I don’t think Garrett is actually accurate. One of the really important things about what happened in the 1970s, where we actually made progress, but we pretend that we didn’t make progress in the structure of mathematics, because we’re embarrassed where the progress happened. It happened around the mathematics of Field Theory, rather than in the specifics of the field theory that seemed to describe our world. In fact, if Garrett has a Lagrangian, which he does, and that Lagrangian is applied to the fields, which it is, Garrett will find that he will have something called a phase space. He’ll have a configuration space, he will have a phase space. The phase space will inherit a structure called a symplectic form. That symplectic form will become the curvature of a differential operator on something called a line bundle. And that line bundle is something like the xy plane, where you can look at functions. And those functions will become the quantum states of a quantum field theory. So I think that what Garrett just said is not actually accurate—
Garrett Lisi: But you have to—but you still need—
Eric Weinstein: Even without—
Garrett Lisi: Where does Planck’s constant come in there? I mean, you don’t have quantum—quantum mechanics you have to add. It’s something you have to add. It doesn’t come out naturally from—
Eric Weinstein: No, I don’t agree with just necessarily. I believe that geometric quantization. There are some things that we say about Quantum Theory that I have not been convinced of one is that it’s an art rather than a functor. But I think the geometric quantization goes a long way towards saying that, just as vintners claim that wine is what happens when you stop grape juice from becoming vinegar, well, in some sense, classical field theory is what happens when you stop a mechanics from quantizing itself. And I think that Garrett’s theory is entirely capable of quantizing itself in a geometric quantization format, simply by virtue of the fact that, through a legendre transformation, he’ll get from a Lagrangian into a Hamiltonian picture, the Hamiltonian picture will turn out to be affiliated with a line bundle, and then the spooky-action-at-a-distance will come up in the multi-particle theory as his theory quantizes itself, and I don’t understand his pessimism. That’s not his problem. He’s got bigger problems.
Garrett Lisi: I think of quantum mechanics as bringing in a whole bunch of structural elements that either have to appear by hand, or I guess, I can see—
Eric Weinstein: There are a few pages out of Woodhouse, and I think that you’ll find you’re in far better shape if you can just get your stuff in order.
Garrett Lisi: Happy to have a look. I still think of quantum mechanics as a structure that most physicists would bring in as a toolkit to use with other things, rather than something that emerges naturally from a geometric system.
Eric Weinstein: We’ll see, I’m a little bit—
Garrett Lisi: —from your point of view, how you’d see it that way.
Eric Weinstein: Yeah, I’m more sanguine that because Garrett has hugged the shore of geometry, he will be richly rewarded if he can ever get his stuff to really work.
Brian Keating: Well, let me ask some questions from the audience, because there’s over, almost—yeah, there’s 1100 people watching live. Thank you, we treasure each and every one of you. And I want to ask a question about the impact of String Theory. Why is it so worthy of at least somewhat muted derision, perhaps by basically everyone who’s got an alternative grand unified or super unified theory? Why is it—make the steelman case for String Theory first, Eric, and then and then I’d like to hear from from Garrett, although we did discuss that, so we’ll maybe ask an alternate question of Garrett so as not to repeat himself. But ask you, Eric, what’s the case for String Theory, even if not to devote—even if we ignore the amount of resources that have been devoted to it? Let’s just take the case of String Theory. Qua String Theory. What’s good about it?
Eric Weinstein: Well, I mean, first of all, there’s a certain amount of naturality at the beginning of it, which is, “Why just generalize hard little balls, which aren’t exactly right? Why not start from things that are more interesting than hard little balls, like tiny little pieces of string and circles vibrating in some other space?” I think that then you ask the question about, “Why did gravity not succumb to the same tools that worked well for what we would call spin 1/2 matter, and spin 1 forces other than gravity, and now for the Higgs field, so, which is spin 0. Now, there are two other cases, there’s spin 3/2 and spin 2 before you crap out of this game, in which everything in the theory has to come with some fraction between zero and two.
In that situation, there’s a puzzle as to why gravity doesn’t easily submit to this quantum imperialism. And the hope was that if you found any circumstance in which gravity appeared to behave better, then, in that framework, then that would have to be right. And that was supplemented in the early 1980s, by some very bizarre discoveries, where there were some very narrow constraints, called an anomaly cancellation, which appeared to pick out a tiny number of candidates. And so what was tantalizing was that if somebody had actually found a way to circumvent the problems with quantizing gravity, and there were a tiny number of coincidences that were necessary, clearly, you know, the Good Lord Hashem was urging us on a path to find these things, and you could do it through process of elimination. At that point, String Theory turned murderous. And the murderousness is really the problem. It’s not String Theory, per se, that’s the problem. It was the behavior patterns of the physicists who became so drunk on power, and so completely, thoroughly obnoxious—and I want to talk about obnoxious above the obnoxious level that physicists are usually at. Physics is a very—physics is a very dangerous and difficult subject, and because it is the most accomplished of communities, arrogance has been a fundamental aspect of doing theoretical physics, just as humility has been an important aspect. And those two things are commingled. When physics had been failing for a relatively brief period of time, about 10 years, and String Theory was found to have this anomaly cancellation, the String Theory community went into some level of obnoxiousness that has never before been seen in physics. They became completely intolerable. They also started doing things like saying “Everything is String Theory”, just sort of like Bitcoin maximalists, where the Bitcoin solves everything. “I’m having a problem with my children.” “Don’t worry, Bitcoin solves that.” If you find anything that isn’t String Theory, don’t worry, we’ll just call it String Theory. Everything that you can do, we will write a paper called “Blank-Whatever-You-Did, Plus Its Stringy Origins”. It is that complete intellectual dishonesty, and the failure of the String Theorists who embraced it, to face it, and the fact that it’s concentrated in the Baby Boom generation, as a means of deferring the ultimate tango with reality, where they can keep pumping out papers and saying, “look, this is a bit of the 21st century that fell into the 20th century—it fell into the 20th”. No, it’s not. The fact of the matter is, it’s a bit of the 20th century that’s still hanging around in the 21st century. They refuse to ship a product for different reasons than other people who are struggling with it, and more neurons have been spent exploring this theory and failing to find a way to connect it to anything other than mathematical reality. So on the one hand, it’s been incredibly interesting because it backfired on the physics community. The people who thought that they would quantize Einstein’s geometry, in fact, got it exactly wrong. What they did is that they geometerized the quantum. And so people who earned as geometers, doing an infinite dimensional differential geometry, and the like, spent as String Theorists. They would accomplish things in mathematics, and then they would say, “this is exactly why String Theory is correct”. This is a bit what Milton Friedman did, when he earned as an economist, and he spent as a polemicist telling people what they had to do for their social society. Very often people earn in one place and spend somewhere else. So in part, the problem that we’ve had is that we have these people who we absolutely love, who have been doing amazing work, but it’s not the work that they claim that they’re doing. They’ve been advancing the mathematics of Quantum Field Theory. They’ve been exploring extensions of Quantum Field Theory. They are not—when they say that we’re doing something in gravity, usually, it’s not about gravity. When they say that they’re talking about particles, they’re not talking about particles. As I’ve joked, many String Theorists, I don’t think, could find the men’s room at CERN if their life depended on it. They are not in contact with the physical world. They forget things, you know, like the Gell Mann Nishijima formula, and things that, you know, Garrett probably still cares about. I think that the serious problem is that there’s no one in a position to tell some of the world’s most brilliant people that there’s an aspect of Q-anon in physics. This is the cargo-cult science that Feynman warned us about. And the fact is, we can’t necessarily just go towards Brian’s preferred answer about depending upon experiment, and we can’t trust the people who’ve claimed beauty, the way Sabine has been going after the String Theorists. And the fact is that the String Theory community has not been economically powerful, because we have economically undermined the physics community, as with every other academic science community. In order to have this work, you have to go back to the Political Economy of physics. The Political Economy of physics demands that the middle finger be accessible to every generation, so that we don’t wait for funeral-by-funeral. What’s happening now is that the Baby Boomers are eventually going to age out. The key dividing line is 1951. Frank Wilczek, who you’ve just had on your show was the last person, in some sense, to make contact with the Standard Model. Ed Witten, born in the same year, a little bit later in the year, is a guy who could not possibly have been denied a Nobel Prize at this age, in any other time period. This guy is one of the most brilliant people, and I hope to God, Brian, that you have him on your show. Despite my frustrations with him, it has been an honor to live in the same era as Ed Witten.
Brian Keating: Well, he says there’s only room for one EW on the Into The Impossible podcast.
Eric Weinstein: And my response to that joke is “EW”. The point is that Ed Witten is one of the most important minds alive, and he has earned a tremendous amount of respect, based on what he’s done for geometry, but, more importantly, the mathematics of field theory to show that Quantum Field Theory, rather than a grab bag of strange things that happen to work, is a canonical and necessary mathematical structure. But what he has not done is to show us that String Theory is the likely winner. And the key problem is that we have got to have open debates in the community, where the people in the Holy of Holies, the Institute for Advanced Study, are actually on the same stage with people who can competently disagree with them, for the same reasons that it is important that many of us who do not support what’s going on with the Democratic Party of the United States, because we don’t think that it any longer represents a real and workable Left, and that we think that it is gone down an incredibly dangerous path, have to be allowed on the same programs as people like Brian Williamson—Brian Williams, rather—or Don Lemon, because what we have is an illusion. And the illusion of String Theory is what’s causing the bitterness. It’s not the String Theory, and it’s not even the work that the String Theorist has done. It is the murderous intent by which they have stunted other communities that have sought to challenge them, and say, “You know what, you haven’t gotten as far as you claim, and you’re not correct that other avenues shouldn’t be pursued so that you can gobble up the resources.”
Brian Keating: Yeah, when I had the conversation I did with Shelly Glashow, and we’ll get to in a minute, you know, basically I said, you know, he’s a leader, and I actually communicated this with Ed Witten the first time. I’m not so easy to get—to dispose of, Ed Witten. Don’t worry, I’ll be back for more requests to have you on the Into The Impossible podcast. But I also said to Nima Arkani-Hamed, who is going to come on the podcast, I’ve got a lot of Institute adjacency to Ed. I’m hopeful that Edward will come on the podcast. But I said to Nima, “he’s a leader” and I started to think, “what is a leader?” and there was a wonderful statement made by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, who Garrett Lisi, I’m sure, knows all about being a good Chabadnik, that Garrett—Garrett, you don’t know any of these words, probably. But there’s, there’s a form of Judaism—like Garrett, you know, you’ve done most of the hard work, you had the circumcision, you’re fine, that the rest is all downhill get. But the Lubavitcher Rebbe was a great, great leader. And he said, “good leaders—good leaders”—to Eric’s point—”create many followers, great leaders create many leaders”. And I see that as kind of happening, at least, not nearly to the same extent in theoretical physics as it is in my field of experimental physics. I know so many talented experimentalists that are far better than me, more creative, harder working, or more imaginative. The future of experimental physics I think is extremely bright, despite what certain naysayers will say. However, I think there is this reluctance to relinquish the stage, to enter and bow out, as Eric is alluding to, from some of the Boomers and so forth, and I’m getting up there myself, but nevertheless, in the theoretical community—and I wonder your reaction to that this following statement, for an experimentalist, it’s ironic, because I don’t believe that experimentalists do their best work by the time they’re 30, the way it’s often rumored to be true for mathematicians, and maybe theoretical physicists. In fact, experimental physicists get better with age, because we get better and better at knowing which experimental techniques work, which applications based on accumulated shared wisdom, etc., take place. So actually the opposite takes place. Your easier job of getting into experimental physics after having, you know, some exposure to it, than maybe theoretical physics, although you guys might debate that, but I want to talk about leadership in the field. You guys are both known for making prolific amounts of money and sums of money that are from your bets—from your bets with Nobel laureates, in fact—and I want to talk about the two bets that are most prominent in my mind.
Eric Weinstein: Garrett really got paid. I got $1 off of Shelly Glashow after 27 years. Talk to Garrett.
Brian Keating: I know that well, that’s right. So Garrett, got a subscription to play—Nah, nah, I don’t know what he got. But I want to ask you guys, so let me first say this, the public bet that Garrett made with Frank Wilczek was that super particles would not be detected by the eighth of July, 2015. He gave him a one year extension for more data collection. Frank Wilczek conceded the super particle bet to Lisi in 2016. I had Frank on the show recently, I had on Shelly Glashow on the show recently. We were talking about the failure of of supersymmetry. So in this case, why isn’t it true that these Nobel laureates are taking the advice of their fellow laureate Richard Feynman? In other words, we know that it doesn’t agree with experiments. So why is this still so persistent. Is it an illusion? Let me ask Garrett, why do you think these things, like, Frank still believes that supersymmetry has a chance for success, even despite his pecuniary dilemma that he is in, and now, courtesy of you—actually, how could you take his whole salary? I mean, that he only gets five salaries from the five different institutions that have hired him.
Garrett Lisi: It didn’t even put a dent in it. But it did have four digits. So I was happy to receive it for the Pacific Science Institute. So yeah. And I was very—and he was a wonderful person for honoring that bet, and certainly for not bolting on it. I do have, I think, a good perspective on this. When I first built up this, you know, the the algebraic structure of the Standard Model and gravity into one algebraic hole, and just saw how perfectly it fit into E8, I was like, there’s got to be something here. There’s no way this is coincidence. Just algebraically is just—it would be an outlandish thing if this just was a coincidence.
Brian Keating: Too beautiful to be wrong.
Garrett Lisi: Yeah, exactly. It’s too beautiful to be wrong. And I think Frank Wilczek experienced—and I’m just guessing here—but I think he experienced something very similar when he did his calculation with a SO 10, Grand Unified model, extended with supersymmetry, and saw that the coupling constants, the way they run at higher energies—and if you do it just with SO 10, they just miss each other. But if you do it with supersymmetry, those coupling constants, when they run, they converge much more closely. And when he saw that, I think he had the same realization that this has to be true. This is too beautiful to be wrong. This supersymmetry, combined with this Grand Unified Theory, with the coupling constants merging to one value at high energy, that’s too beautiful to be wrong. I think he’s hung on to that ever since. What he doesn’t—may not have respected is that, you know, the super particles haven’t shown up. When you look more closely at the convergence, when you go to higher loops in the renormalization calculation, these coupling constants don’t merge perfectly with supersymmetry added. So it’s not as great of a coincidence as he first appreciated. And he just, you know, he had a very personal experience that caused him to have these beliefs. I think this is very similar to people, I mean, I do not mean this an insulting way, but I think many people can be misled this way, if they have personal experiences that lead them to believe weird things that aren’t true. I think people believe in God for this reason, I think people believe in astrology for this reason. It’s like, oh, I met this person there this sign, they match all the things in the sign, there must be something to it. It’s like, because of personal experience, we tend to draw unrealistic models.
Brian Keating: Eric, would—
Eric Weinstein: Does that apply to you?
Garrett Lisi: It does. I think that because I had this experience of seeing the Standard Model fit into he ate perfectly the first time, with this hint of triality for the three generations, I think that gave me unusual confidence that something along these lines had to be true.
Eric Weinstein: I think what Garrett is saying is profound here. This is really an important point. If you take the anomaly cancellation, if you take the triviality, together with the chirality of E8 for Garrett. If you take the running coupling constant convergence for Frank Wilczek, and probably also cancellations in the perturbation theory of supersymmetric theories when the supersymmetry isn’t, you know, too far off, or badly broken, in order to say why it isn’t here already—another one would be the convergence inside of spin 10 that Garrett is referring to of Georgi and Glashow, and there’s another version due to Pati and Salaam—all of these things have been extremely tantalizing, and the problem is that everything smells like we’re almost finished, if not with this whole story, certainly this chapter of the story. And I believe that that is driving many people crazy, which is really the steelmanning of Sabine’s point as to why this is happening. Now, Garrett, can—may I just ask, and sort of take Brian’s role here for one second? Why did you become confident enough to bet against Frank Wilczek, that, clearly, I know you have no penchant for losing money, and you put yourself in a very vulnerable position—what gave you the confidence that super partners would not be found?
Garrett Lisi: Alright, I looked into—
Eric Weinstein: You know what’s coming next, right, which is the fact that you’re using super connections, so that you are starting to move a little bit in the direction of supersymmetry—
Garrett Lisi: There is—
Eric Weinstein: Just as Wilczek’s money is moving into your pocket.
Garrett Lisi: —stuff that I’m not—that I’m aware of in my own work. But for supersymmetry and super particles specifically, it was work that I read from a paper in the 90s, I think by Peskin. And that work, just took the last stone out of the structure that was holding up evidence for supersymmetry. There are arguments for supersymmetry. And that stone was that with supersymmetry, you get a more successful renormalization for the Higgs field. Okay, that you get—that you can balance things better with supersymmetry, that super particles perform this role where you can get renormalization to work out better and more successfully in a more natural way. And this has been one of several arguments for supersymmetry that has been used to support it theoretically. And what I found in this paper by Peskin, I think it was from ’97 or something, was that if you just have more Higgs degrees of freedom, you can get the same sort of—same sort of balancing in renormalization. And that’s like, wow, that’s right. This argument really just comes down to one parameter to get something to match up. And if you can just wiggle some other parameter, you can get the same sort of balancing, get everything to work out. So you don’t need supersymmetry, you don’t need this whole Zoo of super particles. And at that point, the chain of logic required to support a belief in supersymmetry just totally fell apart. It’s like there’s just no evidence for this. Mathematically, from a mathematical perspective, I look at it, and it’s like, supersymmetry isn’t even that pretty mathematically. Mathematicians tend not to deal with it, because it’s just kind of not really mathematically elegant. And with so little evidence for it, it just seemed like there was a extreme unusual amount of confidence in supersymmetry among physicists among high energy theorists, and I had an opportunity at a conference to take advantage of Frank Wilczek and his generosity, and putting him on the spot during during a talk he was giving, and make this bet, and he took it because he—I know he had an unusual amount of confidence in the symmetry and he humored me in taking this bet.
Eric Weinstein: Well, this is part of his description of Jimmy the Greek in Vegas making money off people that wanted to bet that they could beat Jimmy the Greek, and that you—hubris is the source of profit. But Garrett, in a weird way, even though you’ve won Frank’s money by forcing him into a compromised position, where he has to support his unnatural exuberance, is Frank not, in some sense, winning this bet, as I watch supersymmetry start to invade your E8 program?
Garrett Lisi: Um, Frank Wilczek has won all sorts of ways, and he’s a great guy, and I think deserves it. He deserves everything he’s won. I’m not religious about anything. If it turns out supersymmetry comes in and solves really good problems for me, I may change my point of view about it. I’m not religious about anything, I will go with whatever works.
So let me just make a point on that. I remember the first time I saw a giraffe in Africa on the savanna, and instead of seeing it in a zoo, where it looks like the most ungainly, ungainly, ridiculous animal, I suddenly realized how beautifully it was designed.
Garrett Lisi: Yeah.
Eric Weinstein: Could the problem not be that we have always mis-instantiated supersymmetry, causing it to be relatively ugly, even to mathematicians. And that, in fact, it has infected all sorts of areas of mathematics, we can’t quite keep it out. It does occur in, you know, local formulas, for example, for the Atiyah-Singer families index theorem. Is it not the case that perhaps the problem goes back to what I was trying to say about Popper, that when something is mis-instantiated, it does not invalidate, in some sense, the soul of the idea? And that, what you see is that a lot of these ideas are mis-instantiated, causing people to get crazy. They see something that is, in fact, not seen by others. And then when they realize that they’re in possession of something, incomplete as it may be, they rush to over-instantiate it. And that that’s really the problem. And that, in fact, Frank has been driven slightly mad by expecting that the supersymmetry would occur in the most naive possible way, just as Georgi and Glashow were looking for proton decay in South Dakota abandoned mines, and didn’t find it. Just as Ed Witten was looking for a very simple story about the Einstein equations coming out of pieces of string, with the anomaly cancellation showing the way. And that, over and over again, Sabine is actually just, in some ways, doing a great job calling out many more powerful people for not actually getting things right, but is herself fallen in love with the idea that beauty is the source of the problem. Maybe the source of the problem is that we keep seeing glimmers of the truth that are almost always mis-instantiated. And that the real problem is that we are at the end, and it is the conceptual difficulties that are the biggest problem. When we say Theory of Everything, what do we even mean? We have these incredibly childish conversations: Do we need a Theory of Everything? What good is a Theory of Everything? But I think that the much more interesting question is, conceptually, do we even know what we mean, because, to the best of my knowledge, even though I’m assured that every theorist has a private collection of theories of everything in a drawer that they show no one, I’ve actually never seen a competent attempt at a Theory of Everything from anyone. It’s so difficult. We’re in such a straitjacket at the moment, that anybody who knows anything about this field effectively won’t produce a Theory of Everything candidate, because it’s instantly laughable. And that, in fact, we don’t even know what we’re talking about when we say the words “Theory of Everything,” because what does that mean?
Brian Keating: Yeah.
Garrett Lisi: I think you really got it when you think—when you said perhaps we do are using the correct structures, the correct theoretical models, we’re just instantiating them incorrectly. And I think that could very well be the case with supersymmetry and how it’s instantiated. It could be instantiated in a different way, where it still maintains a form of supersymmetry, but you don’t end up with super partners, you don’t end up with super particles.
Eric Weinstein: Bingo.
Garrett Lisi: So it could be something just like that. And that’s very much the case if you look at the BRST technique for—
Eric Weinstein: You mean with ghosts.
Garrett Lisi: —for Gauge Theory with ghosts, which are essentially, you know, they’re—it’s a sort of supersymmetry, but it’s not a superpartner supersymmetry. And that, and in that sense, it’s a much prettier structure, and I think something like that could be happening. And it could be happening over and over again, where we actually are dealing with almost exactly the right picture. We were just a little off, so totally missed it.
Eric Weinstein: What if the idea is in fact that you’re you’ve got Clark Kent and Superman, and you imagine that Clark Kent is something called Spider Man, and that Superman is, in fact, Peter Parker, and you keep waiting for Peter Parker and Spider Man and you haven’t put together you have Clark Kent and Superman. I mean, there are all sorts of things that can explain all sorts of older people going completely insane because they grew up—
Garrett Lisi: The reason this happens is because when we’re students and we learn this stuff, we see one way that was done specifically, and we now are familiar with the one way it was done specifically, and we lose track of the fact after hundreds of people have learned it this way, we lose track of the way that it could have been done slightly different, if they just made a slightly different choice of bat—
Eric Weinstein: Well, and also that when you allow older people to wrap their loving hands around the necks of anybody who would come to disagree with them financially, which you do is you interfere with the scientific process, and it’s certainly very expensive waiting for Plank’s aphorism to come true that science progresses funeral-by-funeral. It doesn’t need to if you solve the problem of political economy. And if there are any billionaires out there who would like to advance the human species, there’s nothing you could do better than free the people who need to be freed from the economic tyranny of the elders, to actually develop the ideas that they believe in so that we don’t keep investing in the failed ideas of others. A huge missed opportunity for interest
Brian Keating: Only if—Eric, if only you knew a billionaire, I mean, it would be so convenient if that were the case. Or me too.
Eric Weinstein: Well, Jim Simons is available, I hope. Jim has been incredibly generous, and trying to figure out what to fund. I do not understand—if I were Jim Simons, and I wanted to leave the maximal stain in the human—I mean, this isn’t said because we want Jim Simons’ money. If Jim Simons wanted to do the maximal amount of good, I believe that Jim Simons could solve this problem overnight, because, to be honest, a lot of this is incredibly cheap.
Brian Keating: Yeah.
Garrett Lisi: Theorists are cheap.
Brian Keating: Yeah. When I hear that, of course, I’m reminded of the quote by Upton Sinclair that it’s difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it. And I, you know, wonder, what about the people out there who say, “you guys are controversial, you guys are working at this, you know, kind of outsider’s perspective.” I know Eric hates this, but like, at least this guy, Norbert, you know, he’s written a book. And he’s got this book, he’s not doing a TED talk, like Garrett. He’s not doing a Joe Rogan as Eric does. What do you say to people like that? I mean, is this guy—should you just humor a person like this? And then he might be listening? I hope he is, Norbert, you’re all—more power to you for doing this.
Eric Weinstein: You looked through the book. What do you think of it?
Brian Keating: Well, I just got it this morning, and it’s 190 pages, but it’s phenomenal.
Eric Weinstein: Doesn’t require that, you can figure out very quickly whether or not there’s something to it.
Brian Keating: Yeah. So I literally got it as I was setting up to interview Garrett. I will look through it because actually, it’s a tradition of mine to never throw away a book. I don’t care what it’s about, or whatever, even if it’s my own book, which I—
Eric Weinstein: Do mind if I—
Brian Keating: Yeah—
Eric Weinstein: —I answer that, because—
Garrett Lisi: Some books you have to throw down with great force.
Eric Weinstein: Brian, because there was a slight implication there, I will point out that I actually don’t—I’ve been very fascinated by the fact that I said quite a lot of things in the Geometric Unity lecture that I released, and the claim that you can’t understand anything from a lecture is itself preposterous. I remember very well, when what became to be known as the Seiberg-Witten equations were discussed at a seminar at MIT. I guarantee you the math community did not wait for a paper. They immediately tore into—a guy named Brian Knutson, I believe, asked Ed Witten, “Well, what are these equations?” and Ed wrote them on the board. The rest is history. The claim that, in some sense, you know, “paper or it didn’t happen”. This kind of internet tomfoolery has just showed you the degradation in the communications between the scientific community—name calling, and innuendo is really trading at a premium. One of the things that I really like about the conversation that we have been having is that it’s nuanced. I may resent Ed Witten’s leadership of the physics community, but I absolutely love his mind and what he’s done. Sabine pisses me off with her diplomacy when she says “I’m too busy to read this stuff”, when she actually means, “I don’t think it’s good enough to warrant my attention”.
Brian Keating: Or that, yeah, she’ll say, I don’t understand it. Right.
Eric Weinstein: But my point is, right. But my point is, is that there’s a tremendous amount of love in this situation for the—and compassion, for the people who are in this game. When you hold up that book, I see an earnest person, who’s almost certainly going to be wrong, who’s trying. And I think that there’s a beautiful thing that goes back to David E Kaplan, at Johns Hopkins, who did the film Particle Fever, who’s an unbelievable guy, and I hope you have him on your podcast. He is an honest broker. What he said is, “the entire circus of theoretical physics is what humanizes us”, the charlatans, the careerists, the backstabbing, the missed opportunities, the failings, and ultimately the successes, that the entire circus is, in fact, man trying to understand his own condition. It is we as the AI attempting to learn our own source code. We have emerged in the system out of nothing. It is as if we’ve been given a Game of Life in Conway’s sense, and we have somehow spontaneously erupted to try to figure out “what are we?” or if you want to look at it as Wheeler’s the universe inspecting itself, which he drew is a “U” with an eyeball looking at itself.
Brian Keating: Yeah.
Eric Weinstein: And I think that part of the thing that you would say is that, under David Kaplan’s concept of the physics circus, whoever’s book that is, I may never heard of that person, that person is trying. And you know, rather than denigrating that person.
Brian Keating: I can prove it to you on one leg that that criticism is B.S., because look behind me here. This way, this way, here, this purple kind of book right there, is Wolfram, a project for theoretical physics. Okay, so a project to find the fundamental theory of physics. Okay, so, he published a book, people don’t read it. The same people who say the same stuff about the two of you, say the same stuff about Wolfram. So that is proof positive that a book is meaningless, a paper is meaningless, having written—
Eric Weinstein: Wait, what do they say about the two of us?
Brian Keating: Well, I think what they say about the two of you, is “Eric—”, and you and I have had this conversation, I’m not saying it behind your back, that “—you are an extraordinarily privileged human being who did, you know, went to Harvard, went to MIT, went to Israel, had all these postdocs, now is in a high power position, you call yourself not a physicist, but you really are a physicist—to shield yourself from the criticism that “he should know better because he’s a physicist”. You use this as a shield, as armor, to protect yourself. Garrett, they say “he’s not traditional academic role. He didn’t—” you guys are gonna fucking kill me, but I don’t care. I’m 1000s of miles away. But they’ll say, “Garrett is a showman. He is bright, but his potential is not being used, because he has enough gifts.” And they say the same about you, Eric, that you should be doing this full time. And I don’t agree with that, because I think you guys are making valuable contributions, arguably, Garrett, you know, if you break any more bones, I’m going to get pissed off at you. But the point—
Eric Weinstein: Actually, Brian, what you’re saying—if that was said publicly, those people would be short. And I want to bring up a very important story. There’s a difference between trying to snipe and trying to block. I said some very tough things about Ed Witten. Very hard for me to say that, because this is a guy that I admire, effectively, almost more than anyone else alive, right? When people refuse to go short in public, and they snipe behind backs, it’s really remarkable in some sense how at least Jacques Distler and Garibaldi, his coauthor, went short Garrett Lisi. This is the manner by which Erwin Chargaff went short Watson and Crick. There was nothing quite as beautiful as watching Chargaff come to understand how deeply and painfully he had gotten things wrong. And I think that one of the things that’s very interesting is, if people say that, you know, if I called myself a physicist, I guarantee you tomorrow, that criticism would convert 180 degrees, or pi radians, if you like, and that is it would be “How dare he call himself a physicist? He took one semester of mechanics WTF.” Okay? The key point is, most people are very reluctant, with love and care, to say what they mean and go short what they mean. And if I were to offer, “Would you care to give me 10,000 to 1 odds on Geometric Unity?” I guarantee you they’d say, well, let’s bet 100 bucks at 1 to 1. No, no, if it’s quite so ridiculous, if it’s funny, if it’s an internet stunt, I would be very interested in taking your house. And I’d be willing to put up you know, a little bit of money given that it’s such an outside bet. So, if you’re interested in going short, that’s not the problem. The problem is the sniping. The problem is the bitchy, catty little comments, and the avoidance, you know, I mean, I definitely can tell you that I have a lot of admiration, for example, as to what Sean Carroll has been doing, in terms of trying to push out various aspects of the toolkit of theoretical physics to a world audience. But I also find that there is an aspect of avoidance. And in the case of you, you are actually saying, “I want to sample what life there is.” And it’s very important to recognize that the difference between blocking and shorting is very important. If people will not professionally go short and say, I think that the odds that you have anything are miniscule and not worth worrying about. That becomes very interesting, because that’s something that can be falsified.
Brian Keating: Well, how about it? Shall we make it interesting, Garrett, you guys are known for winning bets with famous Nobel laureates, guys care to make it interesting? But how about this? How about we bet—well, no that wouldn’t be going short—I was gonna say Eric bets that Garrett’s right, Garrett bets that Eric’s right. But I’m trying to achieve comity, but that’s a problem, right? Because actually, I think that it’s benign bigotry, right. I think it’s—
Garrett Lisi: On what metric? Yeah.
Brian Keating: I think it’s benign bigotry to say oh, well, it’s good. Eric. Eric, good for you. Let me rub your beautiful Einstein hair—I think that’s insulting, and I think it’s detrimental, right, to say, “Oh, it’s good that—” and I do take issue with Sabine for doing that, you know, basically, I think that’s a cop out. She should say what she really believes is just, “I think it’s wrong.”
Eric Weinstein: Wait, wait, wait a second. Sabine is in a very vulnerable position.
Brian Keating: Okay, fine.
Eric Weinstein: And I’m very defensive of Sabine, because Sabine has huge amounts of integrity.
Brian Keating: Me too, I, yeah.
Eric Weinstein: I really believe that she intends to be as diplomatic as she can as a curmudgeon, and that she’s trying to keep—you know, we’ve got one lady in Germany trying to keep the entire field—the reason that we keep talking about her is because of her incredible courage and integrity. And so even though she’s wrong about beauty, and Garrett is wrong about E8, and I can keep going on and over and over about what my beliefs are, the fact is, these are people who are behaving, in my opinion, the most heroically, and the sniping, and the bitching and complaining and saying, “Well, you can tell that because they’re behaving in this way, if you avoid peer review, it means that—”, look, the key issue is I keep coming on your show, Brian, time after time. I’m on with Wilczek, I forget who else I’ve been on—
Brian Keating: Penrose.
Eric Weinstein: Penrose. No, we’re actually out here in public and vulnerable. And the key point is, if you want to go short, and you have an idea that this is so ridiculous, by all means.
Brian Keating: Well, here’s the—
Eric Weinstein: Let’s structure something so that you can express your view, and then it becomes much more interesting to go after it.
Brian Keating: Well, here’s a conversation you and I had when I came on The Portal, which will be released by the time the second—
Eric Weinstein: Inshallah.
Brian Keating: —by the time the second Kamala Harris administration is in office. But I, you know, I said this, that they—and you and I talked about this, quite candidly, that Nobel Prize winners have this outsized risk/reward ratio that doesn’t favor them either opining about the peccadilloes, or flaws, in new Theories of Everything, and also, not being very willing to step out on a limb, right, because they don’t want to, you know, have their reputation—they have reputation bias, they have authority bias that comes courtesy of this—look, you guys both talked about Nobel Prize winners and so forth. And, you know, my theory on that, and that’ll come out when The Portal does come out with the two of us. But, the point being, you know, there’s this tremendous, you know, risk, so I don’t—on one hand, Eric, you’re saying we can’t criticize Sabine too much because she’s extremely courageous and vulnerable, and she’s doing a great job, but she’s not backed by this edifice of tenure and so forth that I enjoy. On the other hand, we can’t criticize someone like Wilczek, because he’s not gonna take the bait and possibly risk some of his hit points. And—
Eric Weinstein: Well, no, no, no, no, no, this is what—Feynman came out against String Theory, and he made the point, he said, when I was a young man, the old people got it wrong. So I’m going to be telling you that, as an old guy, I think the String Theorists have it completely wrong. Now, of course, he didn’t really mean that. He really meant, “I think the String Theorists are completely wrong. I’m not here just to entertain you.” The key issue is that the old guys who really still understood what the game was had won enough that they were in a position to get things wrong, and to be relatively undamaged and undeterred. The problem that we have now is that the leading lights of the theoretical physics community have, in general, not made contact with the unforgiving. That is, they have not made contact with the physical world, they don’t work in dimensions, or, you know, Spacetime signatures that are actually real, they tend to work in places where there is no chance of bumping up against anything other than mathematical reality. And so, by deferring that, what we have is, we have very vulnerable old people. We now have people dying, at the ends of their lives, who were considered leading lights of the physics community, who have never been proven to have accomplished anything, actually, in physics. And I don’t say this to be a jerk. I say this because the field is in danger. When you go for almost 50 years without making significant contact, from the theory perspective—we’ve had about three or four major updates from the experimentalists, to your point, Brian—you’re in danger of having very respectable people who it’s not even clear are physicists, in standard concepts of physics. When you talk about people like Ed Hooft, and Yang, and Weinberg, and Frank Wilczek, you’re talking about an extremely important, dwindling community, like the number of humans who have walked on the moon. Every human being who has walked on the moon is old, and everyone who has made contact with experiment from the theory perspective in fundamental physics is now old. This is a non-renewable resource. We are in incredible danger, because we have got to claim the people who sit in the chaired professorships are incredibly accomplished, but by physical standards, almost none of them are. And this is not me being a jerk. This is, unfortunately, the world being a jerk.
Brian Keating: How do you read world? How do you instantiate that though, Eric? How do you—look, “You’re not coming—get your damn hands off my chair!” You know, “I earned this chaired professor.” But—
Eric Weinstein: I didn’t say experimentalist, Brian.
Brian Keating: I know, I’m just joking, but I am, to somebody else, I’m blocking somebody else. So I had this conversation with I think it was Cameron Hoffa, but it might have been somebody else, but, another person who’s done a tremendous amount of mathematical things. He’s very brilliant. I love him. He’s a mensch. But, you know, I feel like we have, we have a whole, you know, glut of very accomplished, brilliant theoreticians, theoretical physicists, perhaps, and there aren’t as many experimentalists doing the work, as Garrett said earlier, you know, it’s very expensive to do experiment, blah, blah, blah. But, but how do you physically get them to give it up? I want to propose in a faculty meeting, and now I’m tenured so I can say whatever I think about various ones—Naw, I love my colleagues, but I said, I think you theorists should teach two classes for every one class in experimentalist has to teach, because I’m traveling, I’m going to Chile, I’m going to the South Pole. I’m doing—and I’m running an enterprise with a budget annually of $1.7 million to put my students, for them to travel for them to go to Chile, blah, blah, blah. And they were like, “If you do that, I will make your life a living hell”, you know, basically, they’re not going to teach two classes in a quarter. They’re not going to do it—
Eric Weinstein: They shouldn’t be teaching, for the most part.
Brian Keating: How do you do that? How do you instantiate this thing of “get the old Boomers off the stage”? Look, we have a 78-year-old president right now.
Eric Weinstein: You need not to “get the old Boomers off the stage”. You need enough funding so that young people, their life—
Brian Keating: Okay, where—?
Eric Weinstein: —does not depend—
Brian Keating: Where? Motherhood and apple pie. Where do we get the money? Let me ask Garrett. Garrett—
Eric Weinstein: Wait, wait, wait, one second. I’ve been on this program before. The US government needs to recognize that it is shooting itself in the foot by not honoring an agreement that was tacitly understood, which is, we create your economy, and for God’s sake, when we tell you that we need funding and we need some toys, shut up.
Brian Keating: Do you think we’re gonna get that?
Eric Weinstein: We created almost everything that is still working.
Brian Keating: No, I agree 100% with you on that, I’ve, obviously—and I—and by the way, I like to point out that nobody looked at the equations of quantum mechanics and said, Let’s make a LCD a transistor that will go on a smartphone. It came from experimental physics. I’m just teasing. But Garrett, maybe you haven’t heard this, Eric calls theoretical physics, the “SEAL Team Six” of intellectual capability. By the way, I have a lot of friends in the SEAL teams, and they’re just as talented. Eric, I know you mean that in the best possible way. And you have—
Eric Weinstein: You know, if I get taken out by SEAL Team three, I’m going to be terribly angry.
Brian Keating: Yeah, Jocko is coming back for more. Let me let me stop and take a pause for one second, just to remind people, please do subscribe to the podcast, please leave a comment. What do you think about these different theories of Eric’s and Garrett’s? And what do you think about the importance of, I believe, popularization that these are two of the greatest exponents? I think Sabine is an incredible expositor. She takes things in a different direction than I do. People that are actually doing research and taking courageous stands, you’ll be pleased to know that people like my friend, and upcoming guest, Avi Loeb, he is very much in the same camp as you guys. And he’s a theoretical astrophysicist. And he believes that there’s tremendous amounts of evidence for the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence that’s not being funded. Just the exact same arguments that Eric and Garrett might make, because of all the intellectual air being sucked out, and the financial capital getting sucked out. So Eric has made controversial, to me, suggestions that we should tax semiconductor instructions or somehow monetize these inventions of physics. I pointed out, Eric, I think, when you and I and Max Tegmark were on together, earlier this month—I’ll put a link somewhere in the notes to that—I pointed out that we’re doing it again, Garrett, we’re doing it again, we never learn our lessons. Quantum computing, the next big thing, it’s going to revolutionize our understanding. Artificial intelligence. We invented that in the form of what are called Josephson junctions. And I had John Preskill on about that. And we talked about quantum computing. We’re doing it all over again. When will we ever learn? How would you solve it? How are you optimistic, Garrett, politically speaking, that the new administrations are going to be more favorable to science and, more importantly, to physics, specifically, in terms of direct funding?
Garrett Lisi: I think the new administration is definitely more favorable to science, certainly to listening to scientists, if not actually financially supporting them. But I think some financial support will come just with the added respect. But respect isn’t enough to put food on the table. You also need financial support. And I think, you know, pulling from my own story, my advisor in quantum field theory passed away, and I was pretty much left adrift. But I had, you know, somehow, somewhat miraculously come up with my own financial support, through getting lucky in the stock market. So I was able to go off on my own, do my own thing, and got lucky with it. Now, I’m a horrible data point—
Brian Keating: Right. Survivor bias.
Garrett Lisi: But I think the best thing you could possibly do to get young people out from the tyranny of control from the elders, and allow them to explore their own ideas, their own creations, their own explorations in mathematical physics, quantum computing and everything, is to get your fingers off of their endeavors. And this happened with FQXI, where they started out, it’s like, well, you know, take proposals for all new weird ideas and give money out based on those ideas and see where it goes. And I had a weird idea. I’ve submitted it, I got funded. Wow, this is amazing. That was great. It all went into stocks. Now I’ve got a house. But what happened to FQXI is, now it’s changed. And now it’s directed. Now it’s like, well, we will accept research proposals on this one specific area of interpretations of quantum mechanics, and its relation to consciousness. And I’m like, Oh, Jesus, all right, they’re gone.
Eric Weinstein: Yeah, too much transparency, too much “best practices” too much administrative nonsense.
Garrett Lisi: All this stuff, all this over-management has to go. What you really want to do is have some rich patron say, “I’m just going to give a lot of money to a lot of smart young people, and let them have fun.” Just take really smart people, give them money, give them the support they need, maybe point them towards a community of people they can talk to, and let them, and just support them. Let them do what they want.
Eric Weinstein: You don’t have to say it is “fun”, Garrett. Look, they need to have houses, and children.
Garrett Lisi: Yeah, they need support.
Eric Weinstein: They need to have a future.
Brian Keating: I mean, the Perimeter Institute came close to that right? You guys both—
Garrett Lisi: Just give more money to smart people when they’re young.
Eric Weinstein: Give money to smart people and stop—
Brian Keating: Yeah, but I, okay, so Jim Simons told me that—and he’s worth $20 billion, probably. He said, “If I gave $1 to everyone who said ‘I’m a super genius’,” he said, “even I would be broke.” In other words, there’s—everybody thinks that they’re—how do you have the knowledge to say which ideas are worth pursuing? Or you just give it to everybody? Because then you give it to nobody.
Garrett Lisi: IQ tests are pretty good, even IQ tests are pretty good. Give it—give money to top—
Brian Keating: I’ll fail! I’ll fail! I won’t get anywhere. I’ll be broke!
Eric Weinstein: Brian, the problem is that that’s a pretend comment. There really aren’t that many people with even a, you know, take every single person that you mentioned as having an alternative Theory of Everything. It’s a tiny number of human beings who are even trying. This is not like everybody, you know, with a story. The community of people who are actually trying to do something interesting from outside with any technical competence is relatively small. And this is just—this is a nonsense argument for holding on to the fact—Jim might be saying something else, which is, I don’t think any of these people are promising enough. Fair enough.
Brian Keating: Yeah. You know, you know, it occurred to me as you’re both speaking, that you guys are both kind of like orphans. And, in terms of not having advisors in the traditional sense, in graduate school, and I see you guys like brothers. And brothers can be best friends, but they also fight, as we know from our friends, Cain and Abel. And maybe that explains this Nemesis theory, the antimatter nemesis, but—and maybe it explains the conservation of mass between the two of you guys over the pandemic. And let me just pause for one—Oh, go ahead, Eric.
Eric Weinstein: Garrett’s been shredded for a long time, and I’ve just lost some weight after being, you know, too far north on the scale. So I don’t think that we should overdo that. I do think that it’s really important to recognize that the antagonism is real, the love is real—
Brian Keating: The love is real.
Eric Weinstein: —and that this is normal. And the reason that this has been able to work as a relationship for as long as it has, over a decade, is that we listen to each other, and we take each other seriously. When I tried to do a good job of saying why I think Garrett’s theory is one of the most interesting even though it doesn’t work, it’s this ability to go both long and short, and to say what’s positive and what’s negative. A lot of what you see, when somebody is just wholly negative, and they say, you know, “smart guy, but this, but that, but this, but that,” Jesus Christ. That stuff is getting confusing. The tiny number of people who are doing anything interesting, including Sabine crapping all over all of us, is—this community is fewer than 20 people. I don’t think—I just want to be clear that if Jim Simons doesn’t have 20 bucks, I can front it.
Brian Keating: Right.
Eric Weinstein: I can get him 20 bucks.
Brian Keating: I told him, I told him, you know, if he had a down month this year, for the first time ever, I said, Jim, if you need a loan, Eric’s money is available. No, seriously, I did have just one thing to say before we turn to maybe a little bit of politics, and then we’ll finish up, because it’s been late and Garrett’s been so kind, and the waves are getting tasty down there. Shakalaka Garrett Lisi.
Garrett Lisi: It is a good kitesurfing day today.
Brian Keating: Triton class of—what year did you get your PhD.
Garrett Lisi: Ah, good lord. It’s either 98 or 99.
Brian Keating: Beloved son, prodigal son of the University of California, San Diego, my beloved institution. Eric Weinstein, proprietor of The Portal and all things mystical, magical and multifluous. And mellifluous, I should say. Eric, you’re quite an inspiration. We’ve had these conversations before. I want to talk about this phrase that actually, Garrett, you said a couple minutes ago. I wasn’t intending to talk to go here. But if you’ll indulge me, I know Eric will. It’s like catnip to his newfound pet cat. But I want to—his name is Schrodinger—that was a nice touch to get that cat, call it Schrodinger, keep it—no, I’m just kidding. Eric doesn’t have a cat, yet. He might, but he doesn’t yet. But, Garrett, you said—
Eric Weinstein: I do and I don’t.
Brian Keating: You said listen. Good one, Eric. You said “listen to scientists”, now—unless you said “Lisi to scientists”, to what extent should we listen to scientists? I mean, I made this point on The Portal episode that’s locked in the vault for its controversial status, apparently. I said, Shockley, William Shockley was a scientist. He he co-created the transistor, he won the Nobel Prize in the 1950s for its invention. He believed deeply in eugenics, and the superiority of whites over blacks. Robert Millikan—his name has just been taken off of Caltech’s Millikan library for his belief in eugenics—won the Nobel Prize for establishing the fundamental quantization of electric charge. Who—James Watson has said things, that rich people should be paid to have children, because their children will be smarter than poor children. These are all scientists. Well, my favorite one—do you guys know about Fritz Haber, who won the Nobel Prize—first, one of the first Jews to win the Nobel Prize. He was a German Jew, who, in 1908, came up with the Haber-Bosch process, which we now know creates fertilizer for half the world’s food production. And then he turned his attention to chemical warfare, including overseeing a chemical strike in Brussels, in Belgium, I believe, in 1915, that killed 50,000 Allied lives. He was a scientist, he won the 1918 Nobel Prize after committing chemical warfare atrocities, to which Germany had signed against a treaty against it. These are all scientists. Should we listen to them?
Brian Keating: What—when do we stop—
Garrett Lisi: Well you’re talking about listening to scientists about what we should do, not what we can do, and there’s a difference.
Brian Keating: Explain.
Garrett Lisi: I think scientists are experts in what we can do. And a lot of other thought, in ethics, and philosophy, and the liberal arts, often areas in which our leadership is more educated, is more expert in what we should do. And eugenics is something that we can do. We can breed for intelligence in any creatures, including us, or other traits. Should we do it? No. So yeah, listen to scientists with what we can do, and what will happen if we do things, but not always with what we should do.
Brian Keating: So yeah, I always say science means knowledge. That doesn’t mean wisdom. But Eric, you know, to the extent that you could maximize funding, let’s say that’s all you cared about doing, is maximizing science, funding for the betterment and preservation of life on this planet, which you believe is facing an existential crisis, as, you know, as we’ve talked about on the Into The Impossible podcast, and you’ve talked about in The Portal, etc. So you think we’re facing—so why not submit to rule by scientific minds? What’s wrong with that? Scientists are pretty smart.
Eric Weinstein: Well, I don’t like the strawmanning of the question. I mean, you asked a really interesting question before, so I’m going to leave the provocation, and go to the original question.
Brian Keating: Please.
Eric Weinstein: You didn’t mention Paul Ehrenfest, who murdered his own, I think, retarded child maybe with down syndrome. Nor did you mention Pascal Jordan, father of quantum mechanics, who was a straight up Nazi. To say nothing of Heisenberg’s dalliance with national socialism in Germany—
Brian Keating: —and Frank Hertz and Otto Hahn. And yeah,
Eric Weinstein: Right. So I can go through this. And, okay, so now, you know, this is like the moles all over my body—am I going to tear them all out? I had an African American dermatologist who said to me, he said, “You know, I could remove these things, but if I, if I really did what you want me to do, you’d have almost nothing left.” And I think the key problem is that you have to wrestle with scientists who have crazy ideas. And we regularly go crazy in opposite directions. You’ll find people who, you know, advocate for fascism, and you’ll have people who advocate for anarchy. The issue is that the Schelling points that are attractive to the scientific mind, can be quite extreme. Now we can all make fun of Jim Watson for saying a bunch of things which, you know, I’ve spent a week with him and let me tell you, he is attracted to outrage. And, in part, those outrages are provocations, the key question is, “well, what do you got to come back at me?”, so I got a chance to sock it to Jim Watson over and over and over and over again for stupid comments about women.
Brian Keating: Yeah.
Eric Weinstein: But they weren’t stupid for the reason that everybody else said they were stupid. They were stupid because he didn’t actually know his stuff. And he knew his stuff in all sorts of other areas. It’s very, very scary when extremely smart people say things that challenge us. Now we can all agree that eugenics is bad. But then when we talk about, oh, well, this embryo apparently may have a bracket gene in it. Do you want that removed if we have the ability to remove it? Then we’re all gonna say, Oh, no, no, no, no. Why doom somebody to a radical mastectomy later in life? Well, guess what, suddenly you’re practicing eugenics. And you know what, when you take somebody out to dinner in a movie to figure out whether they’re an appropriate mate, you’re practicing weak eugenics. So part of the problem is, is that it’s much easier to pretend that all of these people have gone completely insane, and that they’re just ridiculous. And it’s much harder to say, “Well, if a leading mind is making this point, do they have something?” So my question is, are you afraid of Jim Watson? Are you afraid, secretly, that he might actually be saying something? If so, by all means, suppress him, you know. But in fact, if I believe that Jim Watson is not correct about most of these things, I would much rather share a stage with him, and go toe-to-toe and make the point that part of what’s motivating him is that he wanted to be free. And he saw the degradation of freedom inside of the Academy, and he became more and more obstinate, mischievous, and, as I’ve said, the problem is that the legacy of Jim Watson is so important that it cannot be left to Jim Watson. Jim Watson did so much and his story means so much, and his stupid ass stuff that he says late in life because he feels that his freedom has been eroded and that other people haven’t understood—No, Jim Watson has a lot of points, many of them bad. And Edward Teller, it would be another example. The person who, along with Stan Ulam, unlocked the power of the sun so that we can wield it against our enemies, giving us the power of gods and almost certainly dooming us to die on this planet was, in fact, arguably, a humanitarian that no one understood. And if you go back to his letter with Leo, to Leo Szilard, where he talks about the fact he said, “We cannot pretend that we have not allowed the genie to escape from its bottle, and our only hope is convincing us that war is an unthinkable prospect.” It’s not at all clear to me that when you remove Teller’s name from a building, that you’re doing humanity a service because you didn’t understand it. If I tell you that if you read Gandhi in the original, it’s very clear that he was pro-violence. Now you can decide that he’s wrapped in a dhoti, and he’s a kindly old man who freed India from British tyranny, just because his desire for pacifism, but Gandhi hated pacifism with a passion. And he far preferred violence to pacifism.
Brian Keating: When it serves a purpose—
Eric Weinstein: Part of the problem is that we have too many children running around the stage pretending that they have some idea about what happened historically, and who are afraid because they’re incapable of wrestling with the most dangerous ideas that are extolled by some scientists. So my feeling is that the answer to bad scientific proclamations, where scientists are saying things that are unforgivable, that are dangerous, is better scientists. And the right way to solve this problem is allow people to share the stage with Jim Watson, and humiliate him when he goes after something that isn’t true. And if he says something that’s horrible, that, in fact, we can’t figure out what to say back to him, then that tells us that we’re going to have to wrestle with that sooner or later.
Brian Keating: Yeah.
Eric Weinstein: And part of the problem is that we’ve all become incredible pussies, because simply having the word “eugenics” put next to your name is now the kiss of death. But when it comes to somebody who’s talking about bracket genes, you’re going to decide that the Russell conjugation is that this is “compassionate genetics”. Well, guess what? Jim Watson has a lot of compassion, and he’s got a lot of stupidity, and he’s got a tremendous amount of genius and originality, and we can either be pussies about the whole thing, or we can decide that, effectively, science is an absolute defense. If you’re behaving scientifically, you’re going to, in fact, be vindicated sooner or later. And so what we should do is, we should say, is the real problem that we are afraid that scientists may tell us things that we don’t want to be true? Or is the real problem that we’re afraid that they’re going to say wrong things and that they’re going to be so emboldened by their credentials, that it’s going to pick up an extra boost? And what my claim is, is that mostly what we’re doing is that we’re living in fear. You can’t trust scientists, by the way, if you don’t give them intellectual freedom, and enough resources is part of intellectual freedom. So part of the problem is, you can’t trust scientists now, because everybody’s living grant-to-grant, hand-to-mouth, and in fear of their colleagues. If you, in fact, go back to academic freedom, you will find that the scientific community is one of the best groups to advise you, and one of the things that they will tell you is that they shouldn’t be put simply in leadership positions, but that they should be advising people who are extremely good at leadership. And what we need right now is to—Eric Lander, if you’re out there, what a pleasure to see you coming in. Don’t overdo it with the biology, you have a history with mathematics, with all sorts of different areas. You know how important physics is. Make sure that you have people from a tiny group of people who are still really doing physics and mathematics and all of these beautiful things, computing, to give you the advice, and we’re so lucky to have a polymath of your quality advising the President. I don’t have a lot of faith in Joe—
Brian Keating: Yeah, and another Eric—
Eric Weinstein: —have a lot of faith in Joe Biden. But I can tell you one thing, that pick really excited me. Please, just restore something like the traditional relationship between science and governance.
Brian Keating: And Francis Arnold, also was a selection, that made me very happy, although I was a little bit, you know, dismayed that it’s all applied. It’s attacking COVID, which is important, and quantum information, which is important, but nothing about the pure essence of the heart of reality that gives so much interest in the animated discussion than we’ve had today.
Just in the last few minutes we have remaining I’d like to turn to something lighter, and a little bit more relaxing. So Garrett, what do you think about abortion? No, I want to ask. So Garrett, how do you how do you strike a balance between kind of the expansion of the mind and the body and so forth? The, kind of your spiritual side? What’s your daily routine like? You know, what animates you, you know, just gives you life? I always think physics is what makes, is what defends the planet, but the arts are what make the planet worth defending. Something clumsy like that. But tell me something, Garrett, you know, what is the day in the life of Garrett Lisi like, and what’s sort of, like, an ideal future for you, and maybe for the for the whole planet?
Garrett Lisi: Well, I mean, Eric really described it well, when he said that if you’re hyper focused on just one subject, and throwing all your time and effort into it, you’re either gonna mistakenly think in a megalomaniacal fashion that you have discovered and commanded all knowledge and are all knowing, or you think you’re like a horrible failure and totally worthless.
Brian Keating: Imposter.
Garrett Lisi: Yeah, so the answer is don’t focus on just one thing. You can have one high risk play. Great, put some attention into that. But some real work into that. And I do that, that’s my physics research. You also need some sort of project you can throw yourself into that’s guaranteed success. That’s what the Pacific Science Institute has been for me. If you, you know, if you give a place in Maui, where scientists can come and hang out and have a good time and enjoy the island, and go around and talk with them, and teach them how to surf and kite surf and have a good time, that’s guaranteed success. There’s no way that’s gonna fail.
Brian Keating: Well, it didn’t work so well on Hoboken, the Hoboken Sciences Institute. I’m just kidding, I love New Jersey.
Garrett Lisi: I’m not in New Jersey.
Brian Keating: I’m joking.
Garrett Lisi: So yeah, this has been fantastic. And right now it’s just my house, which has delusions of grandeur. But, you know, I’m hoping to grow it. And so that’s fantastic. And I tried to spend a lot of my time doing that. I spent a lot of my time playing outside, staying healthy, surfing, kite surfing, paragliding, just doing ridiculously fun stuff. I like to do something fun outside, preferably in the ocean, every day, for a few hours, which is great. I also spend a lot of time reading about what my friends and other people are doing around the world, whether it be on social media, or in different news sources. And also keeping up on blogs, keeping up with other papers people have written, but also, so I try to balance things, I try to balance between, like, time with my girlfriend, very important, time with friends, hanging out and socializing, which has been a little harder with the pandemic going on, but still possible with a more restricted pod of social interactions. But really getting out in nature and enjoying nature, which is still very healthy and very protective, health wise, is probably my main thing.
Brian Keating: Would you say you’re a spiritual person by any means?
Garrett Lisi: No, I am not spiritual or religious.
Brian Keating: Good. Okay. Fair enough.
Garrett Lisi: I’m surrounded by a lot of spiritual but not religious. And I’m neither.
Brian Keating: Okay, outside of physics, who would you most want to, you know, share a mai tai with?
Garrett Lisi: I don’t drink, so, well—
Brian Keating: A virgin mai tai. Who says you have to—
Garrett Lisi: I’ll have a margarita every once in a while. The … outside of physics?
Brian Keating: Even in history. Let’s go historical, even.
Garrett Lisi: Satoshi Nakamoto.
Brian Keating: All right, you guys can’t—alright, now we’re gonna do it. Now we’re going there. We got a lot of questions about Bitcoin. You opened it up. Eric, thoughts on Bitcoin? You tweeted about it recently. Tell me about Bitcoin.
Eric Weinstein: Well, I just want to get rid of the blockchain so that it’s actually a locally enforced conservation law that replaces spacetime with a system of computer nodes. And I believe that, because geometry and gauge theory is the one system that we believe never throws an exception, it’s important, if we’re going to use this, to actually liberate us from the tyranny of abundance, and to bring back scarcity so that the markets don’t cause us to have to embrace authoritarianism.
Satoshi, if you’re out there, I very much want to talk to you about getting rid of Bitcoin, and moving to a standard beyond the blockchain, so that tokens, like gold, have no stench. And I’m very worried about recent comments of Janet Yellen, which seemed to indicate that people who play with fiat money—remember that, if you can’t govern, you must print. And when people print, Bitcoin does well, because Bitcoin can’t. Right? And so, effectively, the main use case for Bitcoin is hedging people who are incompetent, and therefore must print, by giving them an alternative where the Fed can’t get it. So the key problem is that a government—according to Weber—is a monopoly on violence. And so if you can’t actually break, elliptic curve, cryptography, or whatever it is that you’re using to protect crypto, because it’s a coin, determined by cryptography rather than violence, what we’re going to do is we’re going to bring violence to those who hold that which is enforced by mathematics. So it’s incredibly important, first of all, to get rid of the blockchain, to make sure that it has no stench, to see whether or not we cannot base it on something like a gauge theory, because what this is, is one of the most important intellectual developments of our lifetime.
Brian Keating: Why is that—
Eric Weinstein: The fact that makes people—
Brian Keating: You say that but—
Eric Weinstein: One second. The fact that it makes people rich has confused us about what happened. What happened is that locally-enforced conservation laws, which are, unfortunately, non-locally recorded, have been found to be done autonomously in a distributed fashion. And this thing effectively allows us to recreate the physical world inside of a computer world. The great danger of computers is that they’ve turned—as Marc Andreessen says, “software eats the world”. That means that things that previously were not public goods and services become public goods, because they’re in exhaust—small files are inexhaustible, and inexcludable, if they’re not protected. Ergo, the market cannot see them, therefore, value and price gap. This is one of the greatest dangers, because it allows in tyranny. When the market stops being able to function, the dream of abundance that is common in Mill Valley and at Burning Man is, in fact, a great danger to our society that almost nobody has commented upon. And bringing scarcity into the digital world potentially allows the markets to function so that we do not need authorities telling us what we can and can’t do. And, effectively, if you want to protect freedom, you are going to have to probably bring back scarcity, because the tyranny of abundance threatens to undermine our civilization. And I know that that’s going to be very unfamiliar to many people, so, Satoshi, I’m pretty sure that—if you’re out there, and I believe you’re probably a collective rather than an individual—it would be a pleasure. If I kept Geometric Unity quiet for decades, I guarantee you that I can keep a secret. It would be tremendously useful to try to liberate your great invention from the tyranny of the blockchain.
Brian Keating: Lemme just say one thing about that. So I had Michael Saylor on last week, a very provocative gentleman also. Also aligned with some of the things Eric is interested in, Peter Thiel is interested in. Decentralizing academia, at least at the undergraduate level, making all education free for millions of people around the world, a technical education, specifically. And—but I said to him, I said, you know, nothing that complicated about blockchain. I just said, yeah, it’s cryptographic, there’s—essence of it is, could have been done in the 1980s. So why wasn’t it done sooner? Eric? Or Garrett? Whoever wants to answer it. Why—I mean, why did it come about when it did? Is it—and is it the fact that it has this first mover advantage the only, kind of, secret that it has? That it is the Peter Thielian monopoly that cures all ills? I guess, Eric, you can start.
Eric Weinstein: No, it isn’t. We need something better than Bitcoin. I do think that it could have been done earlier. But I think that the fact, you know, as I point out, the rollerboard suitcase was only invented in 1989, and Ben Franklin could have done it. In general, we decide that someone is a genius because it’s cheaper than pointing out that the rest of us are morons. And Satoshi, in fact, you know, was the only non-moronic individual. Many people had this idea. I believe that, you know, Peter Thiel and Elon Musk were on this idea, and that became PayPal, and they couldn’t actually pull it off. So let’s just be glad that somebody was not confused, because certainly I didn’t think of how to do this. And I would point out that when it comes around that Bitcoin doesn’t solve everything, and its successor gets rid of the blockchain and you have perfect distributed computing without leaving a stench, you’re going to have a very interesting situation where we’re all going to have to explain why we were so moronic that we didn’t realize that the blockchain could have been disintermediated as well.
Garrett Lisi: Yeah, there is a negative with Bitcoin with its energy usage. And that’s a—that could end up being a very expensive mistake. So, but other than that, I think it’s a frickin fantastic idea and I’m definitely “long” it so, and I don’t have—as far as what you’re describing, maybe our universe is unfolding as some alien civilization’s blockchain.
Brian Keating: Well—
Garrett Lisi: Maybe we are the computation of some very complicated hash that’s trying to get 10^20 zeros for the part for our knots when the—when our lives are done. Who knows. That’s probably—probably not. We’re probably in an entirely natural universe, as far as I can tell.
Brian Keating: Alright, guys, well, we set a record for one of the longest continuous streams that at least my bladder can tolerate. Thank you, guys, for your—
Garrett Lisi: You’re not using a catheter? How are you guys even surviving right now?
Brian Keating: Oh, yeah, well, you’ll learn when you get to be a pilot that your bladder can—when you get your license that you need an extra bladder—
Garrett Lisi: That’s a paragliding thing, like, so if you see, like, cross country paragliders, each of those guys has a tube going down their leg, and that’s how they stay in the air so long.
Brian Keating: You don’t need a tube I found actually. The yellow rain is over San Diego. Guys, any last things you want to plug or spin? Garrett what’s next on the horizon for you? I’ll point out, we did do a live stream right before this livestream, so find that on the Into The Impo—my youtube channel. Please subscribe to their Twitter accounts. I’ve listed them there, @GarrettLisi, @EricRWeinstein. Please subscribe to The Portal podcast. Please subscribe to the Into The Impossible podcast. Leave a review and a rating, etc. It really helps us out. We got Avi Loeb coming up. We have a Deepak Chopra coming up, again. And we’re going to have a phenomenal conversation with Carlo Rovelli. Stay tuned for that. Lee Smolin, and some people that you might not have heard of that I’m trying to get on to really boost up some of the signals that are out there. A critical biography of Stephen Hawking has just been published, or will be published. That’s going to be discussed in March or April, whenever it comes out by a professor at NYU. Anyway, I want to thank you guys. Anything you guys want to—Yeah.
Eric Weinstein: I’m concerned that I may be booted off of social media—
Brian Keating: Yeah.
Eric Weinstein: —with everything that’s going on. It would be great. If you wanted to stay in touch to get your email address. I think EricWeinstein.org is a means where they can’t disintermediate. I don’t know that they can throw me—well, with what’s going on, I’m very worried about redoing Operation Chokepoint in the Biden administration, because, while he did not win with a mandate from the electorate, the Capitol Hill insurrection is being treated as a mandate. And I think that you have to very much fear the idea that we’ve figured out that if we have no public options to communicate with each other, then all speech can actually be controlled through private companies. And the great danger at the moment is, we have to be able to stay in touch. So if you can find my RSS feed, so you don’t have to go through Apple or Spotify. And if you can give me your email address at EricWeinstein.org, I will attempt to get myself kicked off of social media by saying reasonable things throughout the year.
Brian Keating: All right, like me, I’m gonna go down—I’m gonna go down in a blaze of—
Garrett Lisi: —at all costs here, yeah.
Brian Keating: Yeah, I’m gonna go down in the blaze of incompetence.
Garrett Lisi: —in your corner that way.
Brian Keating: Yeah. So yeah, I mean, I was worried about that as well. And I mean, I think it’s so unusual, Eric, for the first time in human history the media is not really beholden to a profit margin. We have the world’s richest man controlling the Washington Post, and, love him or hate him, that’s just a fact, that it no longer has a profit motive whatsoever. And similar for other news outlets, and—
Eric Weinstein: I didn’t know Elon had bought it.
Brian Keating: So—
Garrett Lisi: Me neither.
Brian Keating: Maybe the second richest one. Yeah, so the other—yeah, I do worry about that. And I wonder in the public’s interest, in the interest of honesty, you know, when Amazon has access, I mean, didn’t Barack Obama once say, “you didn’t build that,” you know, referring to the internet backbone.
Eric Weinstein: This is very dangerous.
Brian Keating: It’s very dangerous.
Eric Weinstein: We’re entering a period of authoritarianism, where the idea is that the price of keeping you safe will be your freedom. And I’m saying that from the left of center. My friends on the right of center are more commonly saying that, and it is incredibly important that we recognize that we want some risk. Particularly, we may have a reason to control the speech when it’s targeted at individuals. But controlling speech around ideas is a one way ticket to hell. We’re going to have to tolerate unsafe thought, unsafe ideas, and even unsafe people. And the current panic around safety not being weighed against the risks of authoritarian control of what we can say, and to whom we can say it, is a giant, glaring error. And the only way that this is possible is if no sensible people are ever let onto mainstream media. At the moment, there is a blockade of an entire wing, which I would say was the smart wing of American politics, who you will never see featured on MSNBC, and increasingly not even on NPR. And I think people have to recognize that what we’ve seen is a major transformation, where you are not allowed to communicate with people who will challenge the dominant narrative.
Brian Keating: What feedback did you get after going courageously on Glenn Beck’s show, you’re not on the right, that’s clear. You don’t fit in anywhere. You’re Schrdinger’s pundit, when you put that on, but what’s been the reaction, and how come you don’t get invited to go on shows with your comrades, literally, on the left? How come that’s not happening? How do we broach that subject? I mean, people like Ezra Klein have gone on Ben Shapiro’s show, a mutual friend of ours, but, you know, how do we get to the, you know, The Young Turks, how do we get the message that you have to the—to your side?
Eric Weinstein: It’s not the Young Turks. I mean, as Dan Drezner, Washington Post’s contributor said, everything that I have to say that’s new is not true. And everything that I have to say that’s true is not new. So, in fact, part of the problem is that I am one of the least interesting people on earth. Somehow, I’m actually a moron. I have nothing interesting to say, nothing to contribute. And that is undoubtedly why you’re listening to Brian Williams and Mara Gay on MSNBC explain how, if Bloomberg’s campaign money were only redistributed, we would all be millionaires. Right now there’s a blockade of reality, because the business model of the Democratic Party has been shifted away from labor, and actually expensive things, like Medicare, and education, and all the things that we need to do. And, in fact, identity, to my wife Pia Malaney’s point, is the cheapest substitute. The problem is that the traditional Democratic Party would have to be going after its own donor class. And so, as a result, the affiliated media that we’ve previously trusted to call balls and strikes has never been perfect. It’s never been as bad as this. And the transformation that we’re seeing is effectively a blockade of all people of courage and intellect, who are no longer welcome if they will not file a flight plan with traditional media. And traditional media will go after each one of them, and they’ll tell you that they’re part of extremism, they’re the alt-right, they’re the far right, etc, etc. The reason—you asked about Glenn Beck? The amount of love that Glenn Beck and I generated from not agreeing with each other except on the issue of civility, brotherhood, togetherness, going forward, it’s electrifying. And everything that breaks up the business model that is division will no longer be welcome. And that’s what’s going on, is that if you’re not a division merchant, you will find that, in effect, you can no longer speak. I used to be welcome at the New York Times, Washington Post, NPR. I am no longer welcome, and it is clear that the transformation has occurred. The font is the same at the New York Times, but the contents and the writers are totally different. A tremendous transformation has happened. And I beg of you to listen to the fact that there are a large number of people, particularly on the left, who have been told that they are no longer on the left. And we’ve each individually been isolated. And one of the great things about recording something like this is we can say to each other, “Hey, are you still here?” “Yes, I’m still here.” What’s going on is that NPR and the New York Times and MSNBC will not communicate that many of us are fed up, as is the right, with the current direction of where everything is about identity, diversity, inclusion. And in fact, many of us who have fought for diversity and inclusion, my family for over 100 years, are appalled at the current version of these things, not because we don’t want a more equal, more just, more reasonable society, but because demonizing people who speak the truth, and intimidating people with cancel culture so that they can’t feed their families is not the way to a prosperous future. And so it’s incredibly important to leave these channels open so that we can humiliate the blockade of reality that’s coming through the people who traditionally were responsible for making sure that reality at least had a first draft in the form of journalism.
Brian Keating: Now let’s talk about the problems of GMOs. Okay, Eric, that’s phenomenal. And the last thing I’ll say, yes, I was very proud of you, as I always am, but you spoke up about this AP story that the last frontier of the radicals is on the podcast era. And I got shivers about that. Because, you know, who’s to say that because I had you on my show, not to mention that, you know, I’ve had Noam Chomsky on my show, I’ve also had Ben Shapiro on my show, Michael Knowles, and I did a podcast together, as you did with Michael Knowles. So, you know, the question is, are they—what are they going to—who are they gonna come for next? And then who speaks for the last person? You know, first they came for the gays. I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t gay. First—then they came for the communists—
Eric Weinstein: Come for me. This is my, this is my request. I’ve built an enormous audience. You want to play this game? Come for me. I’m willing to say all sorts of things that you don’t want said. I want to make it easy. You want to boot me off? You, Twitter Safety, are you interested in getting rid of me? Come for me. What I’m asking, increasingly, is that those of us stop—we stop cowering. You know, if this is the land of the free and the home of the brave, we cannot sit around saying “Oh my god, somebody’s gonna call me a racist.” Yeah, I’m a leader of the alt-right. I’m a Nazi named Weinstein. Jesus Christ. Grow the fuck up.
Garrett Lisi: —voices should not be silenced.
Eric Weinstein: But let’s just look at how funny and ridiculous these morons are, who are dividing us. We need to approach them with love and compassion. They’ve chosen a terrible path, and they’ve radicalized us. And, you know, I believe that Donald Trump was a very dangerous thing to do. But the reason that we had Donald Trump is that the left conjured him out of the vacuum by denying increasing amounts of reality. And what is necessary is, yeah, I’m sure I’m gonna get canceled. I’m sure that they’re gonna come after me. Okay, we’ve got to welcome the fight, and the battle. And we’re not all going to make it, but this country was not built by people cowering under their goddamn kitchen tables. So enough.
Brian Keating: Yeah, you can go to Normandy and give up your life at age 18. We can certainly speak out on behalf of free speech, ironically enough,
Eric Weinstein: Well—
Brian Keating: It’s the last freedom that we might enjoy in the Bill of Rights. Yes.
Eric Weinstein: As I said, you want to see male privilege? Take a look at the names on the Vietnam Memorial wall, you know? I mean, cut it out, grow up, just—if you’re going to come after somebody, come after people who are in a position to take it, because we’ve been on the left the whole time, and if you think you’re going to claim that I’m a member of the alt-right, boy, are we going to have an entertaining tango. I just—all I do is I ask you to dance.
Brian Keating: Well, Eric, I salute your courage. Garrett, I salute your ingenuity and your courage, and I feel like these kinds of conversations are really more valuable than ever. And as I said many times in the past, you know, when I have to talk to people for work, it’s because I have to talk to them, when I get to talk to you, my friends, is because I want to talk to you guys. You guys give me so much inspiration. And really, for my whole audience, I know I’m speaking on behalf of—sorry I didn’t take too many questions today. You guys can unsubscribe, I hope you won’t, but I can’t resist when I have such delightful company as these two gentlemen. I hope you’ll do a part two, maybe sometime down the road a little bit, as time goes on. Garrett, anything last that you want to put in a quick plug for, before? Cancel you maybe?
Garrett Lisi: No, I will be extremely disturbed if social media moves to block Eric in significant ways. That is extremely disturbing to me, because you’ve always been incredibly intellectual and rational voice online, and with your growing army addressing different issues. It’s been incredibly good to follow and see that growth. And I really, really will be disturbed if your silence and ways. I don’t want to see that—
Brian Keating: —of integrity. Yeah.
Garrett Lisi: Me, I’m not selling anything. I’m also shallow enough to be on Instagram, if you want to, if people want to follow me there and see fun pictures of Maui and so forth, which is, as Brian said, a little more on the light side. And I think light is important, with a lot of dark things having happened and currently going on, having more light in our lives is extremely important. So anyway, like I said, I’m not selling anything. And I don’t have any deep, politically motivated missions.
Brian Keating: That’s right.
Garrett Lisi: I’m just trying to have a good time. Yeah.
Eric Weinstein: Right, and contribute to the Pacific Science Institute.
Brian Keating: Yes.
Eric Weinstein: I mean, I think it’s a great thing that you’ve set up and people can find where can they find that if they want to make a donation putting
Brian Keating: I’m putting up—I’m putting up your website now.
Garrett Lisi: PacificScienceInstitute.org
Brian Keating: Yeah? I’ll put up the website right now. Yeah, sorry we didn’t get to take too many questions from the audience, but yes, I implore you. I put up Eric’s website, right now is on the screen, EricWeinstein.org. And then PacificScienceInstitute.org is Garrett’s. Garrett, echoing what you said, as Martin Luther King said once, only light can drive out darkness. I think I’m optimistic. I don’t know if it’s going to be you know, this rosy, rosy, everything’s uphill from here. But I do believe that there’s just incredible potential around the corner. And as an astronomer, I don’t fear the darkness, I welcome the darkness, but I always know to be happy when there are rays of light. And you guys are rays of light in my life. You inspire me, you inspire my audience. Thank you so much for going Into The Impossible with me. Please stay in touch. BryanKeating.com and EricWeinstein.org and PacificScienceInstitute.org. You guys are much more philanthropic than I am, I guess. I’ll take you out with an outro from my good friend and veteran, Miguel Tully, who is the proprietor of the YetiTears Instagram account and also on YouTube. He’s made some lovely sketches of Eric, he’s made some artwork for me, which you can see maybe in the background, and he made this instrumental track to take us out. Thank you so much everyone. Be well, be safe. Enjoy this precious gift of life that we all have. Suck the marrow out, like Garrett, and don’t be afraid, as Eric has taught us, to take on giants. Goodbye, everybody. Thank you so much.
Garrett Lisi: Great talking with you Brian. And you too, Eric.
Eric Weinstein: Great being with you guys. Love you.
Brian Keating: Bye, love you guys.
Thank you all for going Into the Impossible, a little different. A little different episode for today’s choice, but I hope you will stay subscribed. As I mentioned, Katie Freeze is coming on the show. She’s one of the mothers of dark matter that we low and love and our existence to. She’ll be on the show in two weeks. This Tuesday, Avi Loeb, super controversial interview that I did with him about his upcoming book called Extraterrestrial, which will blow your mind, because he takes the position that science is going off the rails, and actually we need to look to the heavens, perhaps to this object that he spotted, along with colleagues, called Oumuamua, which is fun to say. It’s a Hawaiian word. And look forward to conversations with him. Stay tuned for a conversation with Leonard Milan, now, that’s on the show about Stephen Hawking. And then Hawking Incorporated, the business of Stephen Hawking, coming up soon, as well as a conversation with Carlo Rovelli. Let me know if you want me to make that a livestream. I haven’t decided yet. Would you guys like to talk to Carlo live? In a format like this? He’s generously agreed to come on, not once, but twice. Let me know if you want to have a conversation with him live and ask questions. I’m so sorry I didn’t get to take too many of your questions today. I do read each and every comment. So please do that. Please subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. It’s a little bit different than this one. And you can skip over all the annoying ads that YouTube presents to you. But for now, I want to thank you all for going Into The Impossible. It’s been quite a joy to be with my friends, Garrett Lisi, Dr. Garrett Lisi, Dr. Eric Weinstein, two Mavericks that lie outside the traditional academia role, as I am blessed to be within, and I appreciate them for the integrity that they have. I may not agree with them, as you noticed, on everything that they do, but it’s an incredibly vital contribution to all the scientific interest that I personally have, and I hope you have them too. Please subscribe to the podcast. As I said, also, don’t miss a special solo episode I did about Galileo’s Dialogue, which I have somewhere around here. Galileo’s Dialogue is perhaps the most influential book in human history, at least from a scientific perspective. Don’t miss that. I did a solo episode about the great Galileo, and I’m doing an audio book. I just got the rights to record the first ever audiobook, Galileo and I’m having a couple of my Italian colleagues and I are recording the first audio book in history with authentic Italian voices. Hopefully, it’ll be a nice kind of theatrical presentation. I hope you’ll like that. For now check that out. Check out on Prager University, I did a book club with Michael Knowles, who is controversial, but we only got into the scientific aspects of things. Stay tuned for that, and other many, many great guests. As I said, let me know should I have more live stream conversations, even if it means I don’t get to all your questions? Let me know in the comment section. For now, signing off. It’s been a long four hours, almost, of podcasting today. I am tired, but my mind is active. I hope yours is too. Stay tuned. BrianKeating.com, get on my mailing list. I’ll send you a couple of awesome free gifts, such as the astronomical great debate that we did last year, with Nobel laureates, including David—Adam Riess, and also friends like Wendy Freedman and others. And I’ll also send you my life hacks from Jim Simons and Michael Saylor, and many others. For now, signing off. Good night, and good luck, as they used to say, out there in the multiverse of minds that we connect together on the ends of the Into The Impossible podcast. Good night, everybody.