Eric joins The Realignment to discuss what’s at stake in the 2020 election and why he’s focused on 2024.
If you have ever wondered whether you were crazy when everyone else claims to see things differently than you do, this is the episode for you.
Book clubs are everywhere and we are always asked for book recommendations. But what about the great Essays, Interviews, Conversations, Aphorisms, Shaggy Dog Stories, Lyrics, Courtroom Testimonies, Poems, Movie Scenes, Jokes and the like? Sadly, there is almost never a club in which to discuss them. Yet there are Essays and offerings in other intellectual formats that are just as profound and meaningful as any book while having the advantage of being much more in keeping with modern attention spans. The Portal seeks to fill this obvious lacuna.
We thus finish out the regular first year of the Portal Podcast with an inaugural episode of an experiment: The Portal Essay Club. In this episode Eric reads aloud an astonishing essay from 1944 by Arthur Koestler which changed his world. In the essay, Koestler wrestles with a difficult question that has plagued independent thinkers for ages: what if everyone who is supposedly ‘normal’ is actually a maniac living in a dream world? What if the only sane ones appear crazy just as the crazy appear sane?
During the episode, Eric first reads aloud the essay “The Nightmare That Is A Reality.” and then discusses paragraph by paragraph what makes this one of the most profound yet often forgotten essays to have appeared within the twilight of living memory (1944 as it happens). We hope you will enjoy this experiment and let us know what you would like to see appear next in this series.
Thanks for a great first year.
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Eric’s reading of “The Nightmare That Is a Reality” by Arthur Koestler (the subject of this episode) can be heard in the video below.
Eric Weinstein: Hello, you found The Portal. I’m your host, Eric Weinstein with a new experiment for this episode. The idea for this episode grows out of a familiar question, what are your top 10 book recommendations? Now this is a question that I’m asked so frequently that I have sadly become somewhat numb to it by now. In contrast, I do not believe that I’ve ever been asked for my top recommendations for essays or speeches, lectures, conversations, short stories, lyrics or interviews. And perhaps once in a blue moon, I’m still asked for my poetry recommendations, although even that seems to have trailed off in recent years. So I’d like to close out the regular programming for this the inaugural year of The Portal by trying to entice you all into daring to think about books somewhat less in relation to all of the other marvelous forms in which rich and meaningful thinking are communicated. So let’s look at all the great book clubs, both online and in real life. Keep doing the great job that they’ve been doing of talking about books, but for The Portal, let’s pick up essays, speeches and the like, since they are trading at a deep and unexplicable discount given the modern attention span and the amount of top material available.
Thus, I thought I would start with perhaps the most meaningful essay I have ever discovered on my own, before exploring other non book formats on future episodes. The essay I’m going to read to you is from January 9 of 1944. Now, after the war, we would learn that in just three months of operation Reinhardt, that is September, October, November of 1942, over one and a quarter million Jews were murdered by the Nazis in the heart of Europe. This essay comes from more than one year later, after this most terrible and organized of all murder sprees. Only I don’t see this essay as being particularly tied to its time. Instead, it is an eternal lesson to me, for the author Arthur Koestler is trying to tell the reader something that is, in equal terms, desperate, essential, impossible, and timeless. He is desperate because he has a message to share with the world before more lives are snuffed out, and you can practically hear the sounds of the dwindling hourglass sands that goad him as he writes. And what he has to say is timeless, because, in every era, there’s a situation such as the one he describes here.
After some brief messages, I will be back with Arthur Koestler and his 1944 essay, “The nightmare that is a reality,” from the January 9 edition of The New York Times of that year, which can sometimes be found under the title “On Disbelieving Atrocities”. After that, we will hear from our sponsors one last time before discussion of the meaning of this astonishing essay.
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And now the reading of this episode’s essay by Arthur Koestler. This essay is entitled, “The nightmare that is a reality”. It was published on January 9 in 1944 in the New York times by Arthur Koestler.
“There’s a dream which keeps coming back to me at almost regular intervals. It is dark, and I’m being murdered in some kind of thicket or brushwood. There is a busy road at no more than 10 yards distance, and I scream for help, but nobody hears me. The crowd walks past laughing and chatting.
“I know that a great many people share, with individual variations, the same type of dream. I’ve quarreled about it with analysts and I believe it to be an archetype in the Jungian sense, an expression of the individual’s ultimate loneliness when faced with death and cosmic violence, and his inability to communicate the unique horror of his experience. I further believe that it is the root of the ineffectiveness of our atrocity propaganda.
“For, after all, you are the crowd walk past laughing on the road. And there are a few of us, escaped victims, or eyewitnesses of the things which happened in the thicket, and who, haunted by our memories, go on screaming on the wireless, yelling at you in newspapers and in public meetings, theaters and cinemas. Now and then we succeed in reaching your ear for a minute, I know that each time it happens by a certain dumb wonder on your faces, a faint, glassy stare entering your eye. And I tell myself now you have them, hold them, bold them, so that they will remain awake. But it only lasts a minute. You shake yourself like puppies, we’ve got their feet wet. Then the transparent screen descends again and you walk on protected by the dream barrier which stifles all sound.
“We, the screamers, have been at it now for about 10 years. We started on the night when the epileptic Vann de Lubbe set fire to the German Parliament; we said, if you don’t quench those flames at once, they will spread all over the world; you thought we were maniacs. At present we have the mania of trying to tell you about the killing by hot steam, by mass electrocution, and live burial of the total Jewish population of Europe. So far 3 million have died. It is the greatest mass killing in recorded history, and it goes on daily, hourly as regularly as the ticking of your watch.
“I have photographs before me on the desk while I’m writing this, and that accounts for my emotion and bitterness. People died to smuggle them out of Poland; they thought it was worthwhile. The facts have been published in pamphlets, white books, newspapers and magazines and whatnot. But the other day I met one of the best known American journalists over here. And he told me that in the course of some recent public opinion survey, nine out of ten average American citizens, when asked whether they believe that the Nazis commit atrocities, answered that it was all propaganda and lies, and that they didn’t believe a word of it.
“As to this country, I’ve been lecturing now for three years to the troops and their attitude is the same. They don’t believe in concentration camps. They don’t believe in the starved children of Greece, in the shot hostages of France, in the mass graves of Poland. They have never heard of Lidice, Treblinka, or Belzec. You can convince them for an hour, then they shake themselves, their mental self defense begins to work, and in a week, the shrug of incredulity has resumed like a reflex temporarily weakened by a shock.
“Clearly all this is becoming a mania with me and my like. Clearly we must suffer from some morbid obsession, whereas the others are healthy and normal, but the characteristic symptom of maniacs is that they lose contact with reality and live in a fantasy world. So perhaps it is the other way around. Perhaps it is we, the screamers, who react in sound in healthy way to the reality which surrounds us, whereas you are the neurotics who totter about in a screened fantasy world, because you lack the faculty to face the facts. Were it not so, this war would have been avoided, and those murdered within sight of your daydreaming eyes would still be alive.
“I said “perhaps,” because obviously the above can only be half the truth. There have been screamers at all times, prophets, preachers, teachers and cranks, cursing the obtuseness of their contemporaries and the situation patterns remain very much the same. There are always the screamers screaming from the thicket, and the people who pass by on the road. They have ears but hear not. They have eyes, but see not. So the roots of this must lie deeper than mere obtuseness.
“Is it perhaps the fault of the screamers? Sometimes no doubt, but I do not believe this to be the core matter. Amos, Hosea and Jeremiah were pretty good propagandists, and yet they failed to shake their people and to warn them. Cassandra’s voice was said to have pierced walls, and yet the Trojan War took place. And at our end of the chain, in due proportion, I believe that, on the whole, the MOA and the BBC are quite competent at their job. For almost three years, they had to keep this country going on nothing but defeats, and they succeeded.
“But at the same time, they lamentably failed to imbue the people with anything approaching a full awareness of what it was all about, of the grandeur and horror of the time into which they were born. They carried on business-as-usual style, with the only difference that the routine of this business included killing and being killed. Matter-of-fact, unimaginativeness has become a kind of Anglo-Saxon racial myth. It is usually opposed to Latin hysterics and praised for its high value in an emergency. But the myth does not say what happens between emergencies, and that same quality is responsible for the failure to prevent their reoccurrence.
“In fact, this limitation of awareness is not an Anglo-Saxon privilege, though they are probably the only race which claims as an asset what others regard as a deficiency. Nor is it a matter of temperament; Stoics have wider horizons than fanatics. It is a psychological fact inherent in our mental frame, which I believe has not been given sufficient attention in social psychology or political theory.
“We say “I believe this” or “I don’t believe that,” “I know it” or “I don’t know it,” and regard these as black-and-white alternatives. In reality, “knowing” and “believing” have varying degrees of intensity. I know that there was a man called Spartacus who led the Roman slaves into revolt, but my belief in his one-time existence is much paler than that of, say, Lenin. I believe in spiral nebulae, can see them in a telescope and express their distance in figures, but they have a lower degree of reality for me than the inkpot on my table.
“Distance and space and time degrades intensity of awareness. So does magnitude. Seventeen is a figure which I know intimately like a friend; fifty billions is just a sound. A dog run over by a car upsets our emotional balance and digestion; three million Jews killed in Poland causes but a moderate uneasiness. Statistics don’t bleed; it is the detail which counts. We are unable to embrace the total process with our awareness, we can only focus on little lumps of reality.
“So far all this is a matter of degrees; of gradations, and the intensity of knowing and believing. But when we pass the realm of the finite, and are faced with words like eternity in time, infinity of space, that is, when we approach the sphere of the Absolute, our reaction ceases to be a matter of degrees and becomes different in quality. Faced with the Absolute, understanding breaks down and our “knowing” and “believing” is lip-service.
“Death, for instance, belongs to the category of the Absolute, and our belief in it is merely a lip-service belief. I “know” that, the average statistical age being about 65, I may reasonably expect to live no more than another twenty-seven years, but if I knew for certain I should die on November 30, 1970, at 5 A.M., I would be poisoned by this knowledge, count and recount the remaining days and hours and grudge myself every wasted minute, in other words, develop a neurosis. This has nothing to do with hopes to live longer than the average; if the date were fixed 10 years later, the neurosis-forming process would remain the same.
“Thus, we all live in a state of split consciousness. There is a tragic plane and a trivial plane, which contained two mutually incompatible kinds of experienced knowledge. Their climate and language are as different as church Latin from business slang.
“These limitations of awareness account for the limitations of enlightenment by propaganda. People go to cinemas they see films of Nazi tortures of mass shootings of underground conspiracy and self-sacrifice. They sigh, they shake their heads, some have a good cry, but they do not connect it with the realities of the normal plane of existence. It is romance, it is art, it is Those Higher Things, it is church Latin. It does not click with reality. We live in a society of the Jekyll and Hyde pattern magnified into gigantic proportions.
“This was, however, not always the case to the same extent. There were periods and movements in history—in Athens, in the early Renaissance, during the first years of the Russian Revolution—when at least certain representative layers of society had attained a relatively high level of mental integration; times, when people seem to rub their eyes and come awake, when their cosmic awareness seemed to expand, when they were “contemporaries” in a much broader and fuller sense; when the trivial and the cosmic planes seemed on the point of fusing.
“And there were periods of disintegration and dissociation. But never before, not even during the spectacular decay of Rome and Byzantium, was split thinking so palpably evident, such a uniform mass-disease; did human psychology reached such a height of phoneyness. Our awareness seems to shrink in direct ratio as communications expand; the world is open to us as never before, and we walk about as prisoners, each in his private, portable cage. And, meanwhile, the watch goes on ticking. What can the screamers do, but go on screaming until they get blue in the face?
“I know one who used to tour this country addressing meetings—an average of ten a week. He is a well-known London publisher. Before each meeting he used to lock himself up in a room, close his eyes and imagine in detail, for twenty minutes, that he was one of the people in Poland who were killed. One day he tried to feel what it was like to be suffocated by chloride gas in a death-train. Another day, he had to dig his grave with two hundred others, and then face a machine gun, which of course is rather unprecise and capricious in its aiming. Then he walked out to the platform and talked. He kept going for a full year before he collapsed with a nervous breakdown. He had a great command of his audience, and perhaps he has done some good. Perhaps he brought the two planes divided by miles of distance and inch closer to each other.
“I think one should imitate his example, two minutes of this kind of exercise per day, with closed eyes after reading the morning paper, are, at present, more necessary to us than physical jerks and breathing the yogi way. It might even be a substitute for going to church, for, as long as there are people on the road, and victims in the thicket, divided by dream barriers, this will remain a phoney civilization.”
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Okay, so having read the essay aloud, what I thought we might try to do in this inaugural experimental episode is to try to explore what the essay means—why I’m choosing it. So what I thought I might offer up is just an off-the-cuff discussion of the parts of the essay that I find to be most salient and important. I’ve been sending this essay around to friends and family and colleagues for years. I view it as, perhaps, the most important essay I’ve ever read, because, in part, it affected me deeply and personally. There are three attributes that I look for in people, having to do with three famous psychology experiments: the Milgram experiment, the Asch experiment and the Zimbardo experiment. Now, the Milgram experiment is famously known for the issue of obedience, that there is supposed to be an experimenter who tells the subject that they are to administer an increasing electric shock to someone else participating in the experiment, and not to question the increase in the level of shock given that the screams will be increasing.
What is found is that in general, when people are absolved of responsibility, they’re willing to mete out incredible pain and torture to others, and this is, in fact, what Stanley Milgram was getting at when he was attempting to show that ordinary people are capable of impossible cruelty.
I highly recommend a song by Dar Williams, called Buzzer talking about the Milgram experiment. I think it’s a beautiful song. And it’s an important understanding of humanity that most of us should probably just imbibe deeply—that we are all capable of horrendous acts when someone else absolves us.
So, if I’m looking for people who are Milgram-negative, it means that they will not do the wrong thing, even when they are incented to do it, to do the wrong thing, by an absolution of responsibility. In the Asch-conformity experiment, the experimenter, Dr. Ash, tried to see whether or not people would give completely wrong answers if the confederates in the experiment, unknown to the actual subject, give the same wrong answer before the subject is in fact asked for the answer in question, which I believe in the original formulation of the Asch conformity experiment was to say whether one line was longer or shorter than others—an objective fact that most people were willing to lie about, when in fact, other people in the room would lie earlier and say that they saw the long line as being short.
The last experiment is the Zimbardo experiment, of Philip Zimbardo at Stanford, but it’s more commonly known as the Stanford Prison Experiment, in which, effectively, a mental headspace—that of pretending to be guards are prisoners—extended so deeply into the being of the people who were asked to act out this, in fact, drama, that they lost track of reality. And I’ve dealt with this before in an essay on Kayfabe, written in Edge.org, where Kayfabe is the system of lies that professional wrestling uses to manage the difference between fantasy, which is called “work” and reality, which is called “shooting”, in the jargon of professional wrestling.
Very often people lose track of what is real and what is fantasy, and the Koestler essay, in fact, touches on all of these questions. Who is it, among us, who is capable of passing the Stanford Prison Experiment by not getting so drawn dragged into the drama that they lose track of reality? Who’s capable of getting through the Asch experiment by not being so conformist that they’re willing to lie just because everyone else is lying? This touches on Timur Kuran’s theory of preference falsification, which was one of our earliest episodes in the series earlier in this year of The Portal. And who is capable of being Milgrim Negative—that is, people who refuse to carry out unspeakable cruelty just because someone else absolves them. So, let’s get to the Arthur Koestler essay. I think what I really want to do is to concentrate on the first four or so paragraphs, because I think that’s really the meat of what makes this article spectacular, and this this essay really different.
I find that in some of the rest of his discussion, he doesn’t really reach the same high heights. So, in some sense, it’s really the first portion of this essay, which I think makes it absolutely worth everyone’s while.
So let me read and then I’ll give you my impressions. So he starts off by saying, “There is a dream which keeps coming back to me at almost regular intervals, it is dark and I am being murdered in some kind of thicket or brushwood.” And I want you to remember the concept of the thicket, because he’s going to talk about a screen and so there’s both a metaphorical version of it and they imagine physical version of it.
“There’s a busy road and no more than 10 yards distance, and I scream for help, but nobody hears me. The crowd walks past laughing and chatting.” Alright, that’s his setup. So he is being murdered. And there is a normal world, which is the street, and then there is the unspeakable world, which is what happens that is cloaked by the thicket or brushwood, in his original telling of the tale, people do not hear him screaming. And he talks about screaming, and screaming will be a conserved concept throughout the article.
Then he says, “I know that a great many people share, with individual variations, the same type of dream. I have quarreled about it with analysts, and I believe it to be an archetype in the Jungian sense, an expression of the individual’s ultimate loneliness, when faced with death, with cosmic violence, and his inability to communicate the unique horror of his experience.” So I think this is extremely important to understanding the essay. He says that I know that a great many people share this the same type of dream. So he’s talking about the idea that this dream may, in some sense, be a universal. Yet, if it is a universal, that immediately gives us our first problem. Who are these people who are walking past on the road, laughing and chatting? Are they not the same people who are going home at night to dream this dream of isolation, of being completely vulnerable, and, in fact, being at the world’s mercy? Are we not, in fact, seeing two versions of the self, which he is going to attempt, in some places, to distance himself from those who do not care, who do not stop, who do not hear. But, in fact, he cannot find resolution, because what he is confronted with, while he can be an accurate reporter, to an extent, he will also end up as the unreliable narrator because he himself doesn’t understand the drama in which he is, in fact, figuring prominently.
As we get to the second paragraph, this gets developed. “I further believe that it is the root of the ineffectiveness of our atrocity propaganda.” So he’s hoping that we can get the word out about atrocities and he doesn’t fear the word “propaganda”. And then he says, “For after all”, and now he points the finger at second person. “You are the crowd who walked past laughing on the road and there a few of us escaped victims of eyewitnesses of the things which happened in the thicket and who, haunted by our memories, go on screaming on the wireless, yelling at you in newspapers and in public meetings, theaters, and cinemas.”
At this point, you can see that he very clearly has a different model from the universal, which is that there is a “You” and the “You” are the crowd who walk past, and then there is the “We” and the “We” are the enlightened few who are trying to grab the attention and the mindshare of the crowd.
So, then he says “now and then we” that is those who are not screened from reality, “now and then we succeed in reaching your ear for a minute. I know it each time it happens by a certain dumb wonder on your faces a faint, glassy stare entering your eye, and I tell myself now you’ve got them. Now hold them, bold them, so that they will remain awake.”
So, clearly, the idea is that mostly it’s hard to get people to hear, but there is a moment in which people become open to the idea that they are in fact not seeing something, and he sees this as a dream state, as a fantasy state. But then he says, “but it only lasts a minute,” and here comes a sentence that I cannot free from my consciousness, “You shake yourselves like puppies who have got their fur wet. Then the transparent screen descends again and you walk on, protected by the dream barrier, which stifles all sound.”
What he is talking about here is, in fact, the actual thing that he has previously metaphorically put forward as “the thicket”. What is this thicket? What does it mean that we are in fact reachable, but then become unreachable after we have already been reached? So he’s talking about this as a transparent screen is invisible In fact, and it descends, so that you can walk on. So this issue of walking past, not being concerned, having to get to your day-to-day duties, is only possible because of the concept of “the dream barrier”, and he says, “which stifles all sound”. This question about whether you are, in fact, hearing, or whether you, in fact, are in some sense choosing not to hear—this is something that has perplexed psychologists for quite some time. There have been studies done which show that in order to suppress certain sorts of information, in a weird sense, the individual has to have an excellent map of that which they are pretending not to know, otherwise, it is too easy to trip over something that forces us to confront the reality. So, in fact, what we’re talking about is some very elevated theory of mind that Koestler does not possess, and perhaps we don’t possess in our current time, which is to try to understand exactly what is this thicket, metaphorically, or literally, in terms of brain science, that allow people not to actually understand, listen, or hear.
He continues, and he names the group that he’s previously called “We”, and he integrates it with the concept of “the screem”, so that it is the willingness and ability to scream that, in fact, designates the in-group that Koestler belongs to, and he says “We the Screamers” and I do think that this is an excellent name for those of us who try to alert large numbers of people to dangers before people are really ready to listen. “We the screamers”—not particularly attractive as a group name—”have been at it now for about 10 years. We started on the night when the epileptic Vann de Lubbe set fire to the German Parliament. We said that if you don’t quench those flames at once, they will spread all over the world, and you thought we were maniacs.” So this idea of being able to see the future, and be trapped in one’s own time, and by sharing the vision of the future one is treated as a maniac, in his case—this is obviously sitting very poorly with him. He’s clearly writing in 1944, where it should be clear that the people who are calling this early during the 30s were in fact, the same ones. And he’s got a bigger and taller order, that not only do we have a World at War, but he has something else to tell us and this is going to be really the subject, which is “What is the biggest thing you could possibly have in plain sight that no one could see?”
“At present, we we have the mania of trying to tell you about the killing by hot steam, mass electrocution and live burial of the total Jewish population of Europe.”
Okay, so now he drops. He drops the big bombshell, he’s talking about the Holocaust, but it’s 1944. And instead of being able to call it “The Holocaust”, or “The Shoah”, or “The genocide against the Jews of Europe”, he’s forced to talk about it from first principles, because it’s—strange to say it—the world had not woken up to the idea that there was a mass killing, a genocide, happening inside of World War II. And so he’s forced in 1944 to speak in these terms that most of us living in the present day would imagine, would have been commonplace during the time. But consider that this is January of 1944.
“So far, 3 million have died. It is the greatest mass killing in recorded history. And it goes on daily, hourly, as regularly as the ticking of your watch.” So he gets from daily to hourly. But now you know exactly what’s on his mind. He’s talking about seconds. And he’s talking about what it is like to know that people are being murdered second by second. And that every time that you fritter or take a cup of tea, or adjust your colar, or whatever it is that you’re doing, people are dying at the exact same time that you were unable to figure out how to reach other people and say, “Do you understand what is happening here?”
So clearly, in my mind, the ticking of the watch is about seconds, and he has a very clear idea about how many people are dying for every second wasted.
“I have photographs before me on the desk while I’m writing this. And that accounts for my emotion and bitterness.” Now normally when people talk about bitterness, they’re talking about someone else being bitter. And in fact, on social media, it’s usually an attempt at a kill shot in some kind of a target. “Wow, you sound bitter.” Clearly, everyone who is bitter is in some sense, one down because they’re not reconciled. The inability to say hey, it’s all good. No, I’m not invested is a modern weirdness, we have to recognize that there are reasons for evolutionarily having a trait known as bitterness, and he’s talking about the fact that he’s been at it for 10 years, and it is more pain and weight than this tiny number of people that he’s referring to as “the screamers” can bear.
So anyway, as he says this, he now says “People died to smuggle them out of Poland.” That is, the photographs, for example, “They thought it was worthwhile.”
Now, I want to bring attention to the fact that even in 2020, when this is being recorded, Witold Pilecki, who I do not know how to pronounce his name because I’ve never heard another human being actually talked to me about this person, he is a personal hero along with Dick Gregory, a few other people, of incredible courage, the courage that I don’t have, and most—nobody I know has. Witold Pilecki was a Polish non-Jew who decided that he would get himself smuggled into Auschwitz, attempt reconnaissance, take photographs, and figure out what was going on at Auschwitz and then somehow after organizing resistance, get himself out.
Possibly the bravest bravest thing I’ve ever heard. He, I believe, dressed as a Jew, got himself incarcerated and taken to Auschwitz, did the reconnaissance, organized resistance, got a report together, and smuggled it out. Okay. Most of us have never heard this man’s name. It just I don’t even understand that there should be an entire month devoted to this guy in the Jewish calendar.
He was then killed by the communists after the war. But the key point is that these reports had been smuggled out of Europe, and were widely ignored. And the question of why we would not want to know that our enemy was engaged in mass atrocity, and why it was so difficult to communicate, is something that we should all, I think, pay a great deal of attention to.
So he says, “people died to smuggle them out of Poland, they thought it was worthwhile.” Now the question of course, is, “What happens when Witold Pilecki, for example, gets to report out, and it has very little effect?”
The weak link in the chain, in fact, is not presence or absence of heroes. The weak link in the chain is, “What do the rest of us do when we have access to information that should propel us towards action?”
“The facts have been published in pamphlets, white books, newspapers, magazines, and whatnot. But the other day I met one of the best known American journalists over here and he told me that in the course of some recent public opinion survey, nine out of ten average American citizens, when asked whether they believe that the Nazis committed atrocities, answered that it was all propaganda lies, and that they didn’t believe a word of it.”
Now, what is one make of this somehow, we cannot get people to understand and believe that the world is far different than whatever it is that they are generically told to believe by major news organs, for example, until you have institutions willing to reify a particular reality—in this case, the actual Holocaust—it’s very difficult to get people to go along with it, because you don’t have that kind of concordance between the information and what the institutions say. And this is what really struck me about this, someone describing the Holocaust in 1944, who has to talk about himself as a crazy person in order to anticipate what the mood of the public would be in hearing this.
Now, how big does something have to be, before it becomes impossible for people to pretend that it’s not happening? If it can be the size of the Holocaust, and people can still convince themselves that this isn’t worth reacting to, it gives you an idea that there may be no limit on the size of the elephant that can fit into any room.
Then he says, “As to this country,” and I think he’s probably talking about Britain, where he had a home, “I’ve been lecturing now for three years to the troops and their attitude is the same. They don’t believe in concentration camps. They don’t believe in the starving children of Greece in the shot hostages of France, in the mass graves of Poland. They’ve never heard of Lidice, Treblinka or Belzec. You can convince them for an hour, and then they shake themselves. Their mental self defense begins to work, and in a week, the shrug of incredulity has returned like a reflex, temporarily weakened by a shock.”
So here you see he recapitulates the earlier metaphor of the puppy shaking themselves having gotten the for the for wet. And what he’s saying is, is that you can convince them for an hour. The problem isn’t whether or not you can reach people. The problem is, how do you and using his words, “how do you hold them, and bold them”? In effect, what we’re doing is is that we’re taking the information and we’re putting it in some very unstable state. And as soon as that person has a chance to compute the consequences of what holding that information may do mean how it may obligate that person, they’ve quickly begin a second process. So what we initially imagine is the problem of teaching people of informing people is in fact a very little use whatsoever. The real issue has to do with, “What do we do to make sure that the information stays in place?” This is a massive reframing. It’s not that we need the information superhighway. Instead, the question is, where’s the courage superhighway? Where’s the superhighway of emotion and reification? We don’t have a reification superhighway. And I want to talk a little bit about the Portal as we get to the end of this last of the major early paragraphs in the essay.
“Clearly, this is becoming a mania with me and my like”, again talking about the problem that is ostensibly his small group, but then he starts to make some moves, and we start to see the real boldness of this essay.
“Clearly, we must suffer from some morbid obsession, whereas the others are healthy and normal.” Alright, well, this is like, you know, Queens Gambit declined. He’s going to make a Gambit where he’s going to offer something of great value, which is that, clearly, his group must be the crazy people.
But then he, he makes an incredible move, and he says this, “But the characteristic symptom of maniacs is that they lose contact with reality and live in a fantasy world, so perhaps it is the other way around. Perhaps it is we the screamers who react in a sound and healthy way to the reality which surrounds us, whereas you are the neurotics who taught her about any screened fantasy world, because you lack the faculty to face the facts. Were not so, this war would have been avoided, and those murdered within sight of your daydreaming eyes would still be alive.”
Now that is so strong and so bold that he’s going to have to pull his punches slightly in the next sentence, which I think we should ignore. He says, “I said perhaps because obviously the but the above can only be half the truth.” Well, obviously, yes, it’s only a portion of the truth. The rest of the essay, for the most part, is his attempts to explain away this crazy state of affairs. But I think that, really, what makes this essay so incredible is this move where he says it cleanly and plainly: he is saying that a tiny number of us are, in fact, sane and healthy and sound, and that the vast majority of humanity is in fact, maniacal. That the neurotics, the maniacs, are, in fact, the average Joe, the the simple Jane, whoever you want to call it, as being the median individual is, in fact, in danger of being completely crazy and nuts. And this is exactly what, in a certain sense, a naive reading of the Milgrom, Asch, and Zimbardo experiments would tell us. They would tell us that the generic person in our society is willing to lie, is willing to do the unspeakable, is willing to disappear into a story that’s been told.
In fact, why is that? Well, it has to do with what I’ve talked about as truth, meaning, fitness, and grace. These are the four directives, which I’m forced to trade off between, where I can’t simply go pure truth because for example, sometimes if, let’s imagine that you’re, you’re being held hostage, and you’re asked to answer a question, and you know that the answer to your question will be life or death. The reason we refer to these communications from hostage takers as “hostage videos” is to let people know that when people are in life and death circumstances, they frequently lie, they will go back on the truth in order to be fit, to have a hope of saving themselves. And in fact, this is one of the issues, that very often we cannot get people to listen to things, as per Upton Sinclair’s famous line that “it is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it”, something to that effect.
What we have, in the situation where fitness must compete with truth, is a recognition that understanding many things may cause us to become less fit in a Darwinian sense. And so I think that this is one of the things that we have to contend with. It’s just that when we realize that we are up against insuperable odds, as we might have felt when we were facing Nazi Germany, it becomes weirdly rational to lie if we’re trying to preserve ourselves, and we feel that we have very little agency with which to actually change the course of history. So I think that that’s one of the aspects of why you can expect madness on behalf of a large number of people, but it’s also the case that, in general, people lack courage, en masse. They also, very often, simply cannot find a way of behaving that is consistent. And in attempting to behave in a consistent fashion, both intellectually and morally, when they find out that they can’t do it, they sign on for large programs, with the idea being that we can all say, “Oh, well, I went along with what was the dominant force in my time”, and not have to actually take individual responsibility.
So I think that in those paragraphs, we have a fantastic message from the past, which is that something of arbitrary size, that should be seeable by everyone, that is well documented, and to which many people have been exposed can still be hidden. And that the way in which is hidden does not have to do with the fact that the evidence isn’t present. It has to do with the fact that there is the secondary process, this process of shaking ourselves, of getting rid of the truth, of getting rid of our obligations to each other, of, in fact, going into a dream state to protect us. And I believe that in large measure, that’s where we are right now.
One of the reasons that I started The Portal is because I believe almost none of what I’m told by our leading institutions. I don’t believe that the universities are level with us. I don’t believe that the political parties are leveling with us. I don’t believe that our news media are asking the questions or trying to get information into our hands so that we can conduct civil society. In effect, I think that almost all of our institutions are lying to us about almost everything, almost all the time. And to make such a statement is to sound insane, as Koestler did in his time. But I believe that, in part, one of the purposes of The Portal has been to alert people to the idea that we probably live in a fantastic world that doesn’t really exist, and have done so for between ’75 and 47, 48 years depending upon how you want to count.
As to what we should do about it, I’m not entirely sure. One of my thoughts was that we should start The Portal as a means of escaping from this fantasy reality. But I’m watching how the system seems to be destroying individuals using the fact that the few things that are free, that are meaningful in our world are, in general, run by individuals and not large organizations, and that individuals can always be trapped up on accusations and personal foibles. So I want to talk a little bit about what the institutions were failing to do in Koestler’s world, and then I’ll get to the end of his essay.
He says, “At our end of the chain in undue proportion, I believe that, on the whole, the MOI and BBC are quite competent at their job. For almost three years, they had to keep this country going on nothing but defeats, and they succeeded. In other words, he was talking about the fact that it’s important that one’s sensemaking organs—in this case, for example, the BBC in the UK—they have to go to war, because, in fact, you’re talking about a mixture of informing the public and making sure that the public is emboldened to fight whatever it is threat to its survival, in this case, what was happening in the continent.
He says, “But at the same time, they lamentably failed to imbue the people with anything approaching a full awareness of what it was all about, of the grantor and horror of the time into which they were born.” In other words, what was going on in retrospect was that the same part of Europe was fighting the craziest part of Europe. And I don’t mean to say that the US and the UK were blameless, certainly we know about the British Empire and the many horrible things that happened under it, but, in effect, the blueprints for a better tomorrow were found in the UK, and in the US, and we were the good guys. And I don’t want to get into the idea that “there were no good guys in World War II”, because if good guys means anything, we were the good guys. What we had to do was to defeat pure evil, even though we aligned ourselves with a pure evil in the form of Stalin, who, you know, has to be admitted, gave, on behalf of his people, an incredible sacrifice in what would be called the Great Patriotic War over there in the effort to stop Hitler. So, yes, there were a lot of complications, there were monsters everywhere. But it was necessary for people to recognize that pure evil had to be defeated in the form of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis,, and that people who were fighting that war, were not even at the time fully aware of the fact that they were fighting arguably one of the noblest wars that we will ever see.
So, I think it’s very important that we understand Koestler’s context—he then tries to talk about why was it that there were so many great Cassandra’s in the past that failed to alert people, prophets, preachers, teachers, he can’t figure out exactly why it was that we’ve historically been, perhaps, less successful than we might have been. He talks about whether the Anglo Saxon penchant for being cool under fire, which sometimes is exaggerated in wartime—I remember reading letters home from the front in World War I, where the Brits talk about, “Oh, we’ve been, you know, having having some fun with our counterparts on the other side, tossing pomegranates back and forth,” referring to grenades.
And that is possible, that it’s not helpful to be too cool about these things. Koestler himself was a Hungarian Jew who made the UK his home, but both Hungarians and Jews are known to run a little hot. So he hides behind Latin hysterics as he talks about cultural reasons for taking different attitudes. But he can’t really figure out where this disconnect is coming from.
Then he talks about the weird way in which some knowledge is distant and some knowledge is immediate. So he talks about whether or not he believes that Spartacus existed and led a revolt of slaves, or the fact that maybe the numbers are too big in the Holocaust, that individual life is a tragedy, but that millions of lives at once can’t be thought through, and then, weirdly, it has less weight than even a single, a single death, which is very immediate to us because of the way in which our brains keep track. He talks about the idea that the absolute is a particular problem, an impediment, this issue of knowing and believing when he talks about if he knows the exact date of his death, it will have a very different than if he knows the approximate time of his death. Interesting to note that he commited suicide in the 1980s from having incurable diseases and having spent his life, interestingly, as a man trying to ground his idealism in some movement, or some institution, and he finds that his idealism is always of a nature that doesn’t allow him to affiliate. So he tries communism, he tries to anti-communism, he tries Zionism, he tries any manner of different ways of living idealistically, and, like Prince Charming with a glass slipper, he’s trying it out on all of the various possible institutions and never finding the right fit for Cinderella.
Then he says, thus we all live in a state of split consciousness. And I think this is where he starts to actually reconcile himself to the fact that he’s introduced two separate ideas, that is, that there’s a universal aspect of this experience of being isolated and picked off—think about cancel-culture at the moment as a good example that, are we both part of the mob and we fear the mob will turn on us? So here he starts talking about being in a state where he recognizes that there is split consciousness, and that perhaps this resolves the puzzle—that we all have split consciousness, some of us are aware of it. Others of us make use of it and don’t admit to it.
So he says, “Thus we all live in a state of split consciousness. There’s a tragic plane and a trivial plain, which contain two mutually incompatible kinds of experienced knowledge.” I think it’s worthwhile looking at different breakdowns of knowledge. One would be technae versus epistemae. Technae is sort of the knowledge that you have embodied in you, that you feel—a woodworker who works with his hands has technae, but the person who designs a building inside of their mind, and does it according to architectural specifications, might be working within epistemae—for example, the person who understands the acoustics of a great violin, but may not have the knowledge of how to actually machine the wood in order to produce those acoustics. That would be one breakdown of knowledge between two different kinds.
Another kind is the trivial and the profound, which in writing is sometimes referred to when you juxtapose them as bathos, where you have to save the universe, but first you have to remember to floss your teeth. And I do think that there’s a weird way in which the lived experience movement is, in a strange way, an attempt to say that knowledge can’t be universal because of lived experience, and that if someone’s lived experience contradicts the universal we should privilege lived experience, as opposed to that which appears to be far more robust and can actually be shared between people.
So he says, “We have incompatible kinds of experience knowledge, their climate and language are as different as church Latin”—keep in mind that this was before Vatican II—”is different as church Latin from business slang. These limitations of awareness account for the limitations of enlightenment by propaganda. People go to cinemas, they see films of Nazi tortures, of mass shootings, of underground conspiracy and self sacrifice. They say they shake their heads, some have a good cry, but they do not connect it with the realities of their normal plane of existence.”
I think about this as how difficult it is for us to actually think about what it is that we’re saying, and feel it, and embody it. And I found this in the financial crisis where the person who probably had the best handle of the financial crisis before it hit was a friend of mine, or, at least in my circles, was a friend of mine named Adil Abdul Ali, who I wrote a paper and mortgage backed securities with in 2001, and he told me what was going to happen in the financial crisis before it happened. And he did it in a detailed fashion, what was going to happen first, what was going to fail next, which contracts were going to come up, etc. When it all happened, I called him up and I said, Adil, you must have made a fortune. He said, we made some money, but not nearly as much as you would hope or expect. And I said, “That’s impossible. You knew everything in detail before it happened.”
He said, “Yep.” I said, “Well what happened?”
And he said, “I couldn’t bring myself to believe it.”
I said, “Really?”
He says, “No, there’s a difference between being fully committed to it, and simply thinking it’s true.”
I found that to be an incredible statement, but then I was able to connect it to other people’s comments. When Dick Gregory, who, along with Wiltold Pilecki—he is a great hero of mine—found out that the FBI was considering having him killed by La Cosa Nostra, or Italian organized crime, he was shocked.
He said, I always said something like, “I always knew they were trying to kill me. But I didn’t know they were trying to kill me!” And I thought, “Well what did he mean by that?” And it’s this weird way we have of thinking something is true before we actually get confirmation that we are permitted to feel this truth with every fiber in our body. And so I think that this is something that Koestler is talking about, which is that many people who are not screaming are thinking, but they’re not having the embodied experience.
And then he says, “We live in a society of the Jekyll and Hyde pattern magnified into gigantic proportions.” And I think this gets to a very interesting, final way of closing out our analysis of this essay, because it speaks to how different is the time in which we live. If we think about an era in which we’re convinced that things were incredibly real, we could hardly do better than go back to World War II. Yet, this is somebody writing from the tail end of World War II, showing us that, in fact, people were participating in World War Two—they were losing their lives without a sense of the grandeur of what it was they were involved in. There’s always been this question, for example, did people in the Renaissance know that the Renaissance was happening? Was this some sort of environment, like water, or fish never notice it? Or air, where birds and humans, you know, depend on it, but, in fact, we don’t see the medium in which we live, and in which our lives play out.
So he says, with respect to this Jekyll and Hyde pattern, “This was however, not always the case to the same extent. There were periods and movements in history, in Athens, in the early Renaissance, during the first years of the Russian Revolution, where at least certain representative layers of society had attained a relatively high level of mental integration—times when people seem to rub their eyes and come awake.” Again, remember the issue of sleepiness and wakefulness.
He says, “When their cosmic awareness seemed to expand, when they were contemporaries in a much broader and fuller sense, when the trivial and the cosmic plane seemed on the point of fusing.” So if you think back to—what is it—the milk delivery man walking through the ruins of London during the Battle of Britain, and the idea that we have to carry on, you know, “keep calm and carry on”, that idea that a simple small act is an act of defiance. And it’s a way in which the trivial and the and the cosmic come together. I remember when my daughter cut my hair during the covid epidemic, it was a an incredibly small act, but also one that felt laden with meaning, because I had not been able to go to something as simple as a barber, for months.
He says, “But never before, not even during the spectacular decay of Rome and Byzantium, was split thinking so palpably evident, such a uniform mass disease. Never did human psychology reach such a height of phoniness. Our awareness seems to shrink in direct ratio”—and here it comes—”as communications expand. The world is open to us as never before. And we walk about as prisoners, each in his private, portable cage.”
I don’t know how you read this. “Private portable cage” sounds to me like the mental space that we disappear in when we’re on a street, but looking into a phone, when our headphones are in our ears and maybe our earbuds are playing music or we’re listening to a podcast, we’re not really present. We are not contemporary with anything. It’s not that we’re listening to a synchronized broadcast most of the time. We are asynchronously, out of time and out of space, and due in large measure to communications.
Now he’s talking about 1944 as being a period of increased communications, “Our awareness seems to shrink in direct ratio as communications expand, and the world is open to us as never before.”
Well, okay, assume that that’s true. What does it say that our phones carry all of this information and can screen us away from the people who are even at our own table as we privately customize our own world to be the cage that we’ve always desired so that we can lock ourselves in, and we have a permanent thicket surrounding us, that we can’t be reached by anyone else?
And then I think about who in the present really constitutes the screamers?
And I wanted to read a little bit at the very end of this essay, just to remind ourselves, and to mention a friend. “What can the screamers do but go on screaming until they get blue in the face? I know one who used to tour this country addressing meetings at an average of 10 a week. He is a well known London publisher. Before each meeting, he used to lock himself up in a room, close his eyes, and imagine in detail for 20 minutes that he was one of the people in Poland who were killed. One day he tried to feel what it was like to be suffocated by chloride gas in a death train. The other, he had to dig his grave with 200 others and then face a machine gun, which of course is rather unprecise and capricious in its aiming. Then he walked out to the platform and talked, he kept going for a full year before he collapsed with a nervous breakdown. He had a great command of his audiences, and perhaps he has done some good. Perhaps he has brought the two planes, divided by miles of distance”—again, the thicket, if you will—”an inch closer to each other”. So, in other words, it’s very little that has been done, but even an inch is less distance if there are miles.
“I think one should imitate this example.”
Well, I do want to say that there are some of us who have been connecting to the pain of our audiences, and one in particular who made a point of lecturing as fast as he could to as many people as possible. In part, he had encountered a group of people that unfortunately go under the name of incels, that I think he understood better than any of us. We have dispensed with our need for young men—young men who cannot form families, young men for whom there is no enemy that we need to be saved from, so that even the idea of glory in war is not available to them. They’re not able to earn, they’re not able to command the respect in our society, because we, in fact, are completely unclear whether there’s anything we want from masculinity at all. And I think this individual recognized that there was an enormous demographic, just the way in previous election cycles, the exurbs and soccer moms were discovered.
Well, this incel demographic is filled with good young men who are lost. And he went around trying to talk about this problem, and the fact that it was deranging our society, until he couldn’t go anymore, and effectively collapsed in a nervous breakdown. And I think that we have to be compassionate with people who see the size of the problem.
In 2020, many of you have woken up to the idea that some of us, the modern day versions of the screamers, have been yelling at you for decades. On this program, we’ve tried to talk about a great number of things that have no echo in the outside world. You will find that, in fact, we’ve talked about three or four, or perhaps five things with very little impact. In the first place—in episode, I think it was 25—we talked about Jeffrey Epstein, and what questions needed to be asked. And in fact, despite being listened to by just under half a million people on I think YouTube alone, and over half a million people, of course, between the audio and the video, it’s had no effect. In Episode 19 of The Portal, in our inaugural year, we talked about the laboratory of mice of the Jackson Laboratory, potentially being broken, and the fact that we’ve cheated ourselves of the molecular embodiment of the antagonistic pleiotropy concept of George Williams.
We have not heard anything from the Johns Hopkins University with respect to what happened in that interaction, and we would like to extend an another invitation to that laboratory to talk about the problems of scientific interaction surrounding elongated telomeres, laboratory animals, and the perverse incentives of science itself.
In Episode 18, I believe we discussed the distributed idea suppression complex. Again, we got tremendous traction from all of our listeners, an incredible base at this point, but, strangely, within the institutional world, there was no interest whatsoever, except potentially just to sort of deride it, even though what we’re talking about is exactly the same problem that Koestler had.
Additionally, we released Geometric Unity in lecture form, and we have not really heard—despite the fact that I believe that the major ideas are set out in that lecture and the additional material that we put up—almost any substantive response.
We’ve talked about the problem that the National Academy of Sciences, National Science Foundation faked a labor shortage during the 1980s under the leadership of Ronald Reagan, passing to Eric Bloch, as head of the NSF, and passing to Peter House as head of the Policy Research and Analysis Division. We’ve heard nothing on this front, even though we claim that there was a study done in 1986, that clearly showed that we were going to fake a science and engineering shortage that could have been cured by the market, which is what happens in the market economy.
The key feature is that a lot of what we do here on The Portal has no echo. And to the extent that it will have an echo, it will have an echo only when we screw up. So, part of what I wanted to talk to you about was the thicket. What is the dream barrier? What is the screen that keeps us from connecting from reaching our highest and best function in this world, to collaborating amongst ourselves.
Now I would say that the communities that have formed around The Portal have been the most important and gratifying thing as we finish out this year. Try to find the Discord servers. Look for ThePortal.wiki. Look for the website, and sign up if you can, but, most importantly, recognize that we are living in a dream state. And most of what we’ve been taught to believe is completely untrue.
We’ve been trying to do our best to show you another world whether it’s through preference falsification, the idea of stagnation, when many of you have been taught that everything is accelerating at a dizzying speed. Our hope is that at the end of this, that you are not those who walk along the road while people are being hurt in the thicket. We should all be taking a much closer look at what’s really going on, for example, with China and its Uighur Muslim population. There are things to be done in our era, and there are ways in which this essay was written for people of all times. It happens that it’s a time capsule coming out of the Holocaust and World War II, to let us know that, even back then, monstrous things, enormous things, things that dwarf the Hindenburg were claimed not to be seeable by large numbers of people who were staring straight at them. So, if you believe that, in some sense, you’re isolated, that the people around you, your family, your coworkers don’t believe what you see, if you have become convinced that the world is magnificently off the rails, and so far from what it claims to be that you can’t get things to line up, feel free to imagine that, in fact, that you are the maniacs, but also consider whether Arthur Koestler isn’t speaking to you. Maybe the idea is that the people who don’t see this, those who laughed when we called this the “No Name” or “N^2 Revolution”, those that derided the idea of having anything that would stand up to cancel culture, the idea that the problem at Evergreen State College was going to become a national problem, if you only waited for those kids to graduate, given the level of indoctrination. It’s not too late to realize that we have a problem of universal institutional collapse. I think that’s probably my craziest statement, because, if you’ll think about it, saying that all the institutions are led by people who cannot be trusted, is exactly the sort of thing Koestler was talking about. How do we talk about something that is so large that it can’t be believed, simply because to believe it would cause someone not to know how to live their life the very next day?
I think we have to be courageous and realize that we’re going to be living our lives in The Truman Show for a while until this situation breaks and we at last come to grips with the fact that many of us have known nothing other than the bubble in which we grew up.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this essay, “The nightmare that is a reality” by Arthur Koestler from January 9, 1944, in the New York Times. It’s been really meaningful to me that I can bring something up. I never thought I could discuss this with, in all likelihood, over a quarter of a million people or more, going forward. So thank you very much for sharing something of a great personal significance. I hope it was worthwhile. You’ve been through The Portal. We hope that you will subscribe on Apple, Stitcher, wherever you listen to podcasts, Spotify, and then you’ll go over to YouTube and find our channel and not only subscribe, but click the bell icon so that we’ll make sure that we’re in a position where we can update you whenever our next video episode drops. Until then, be well, take care of yourselves. Stay healthy.
This essay appears in audio format at the beginning of The Portal Podcast, Episode 39.
Hi, it’s Eric with this episode’s audio essay. The subject today is “optics”. I want to try to use this essay to formulate a simple law for social media, but to do so, I would like to put it within a context of other such laws to which it is akin. In the first place, we have a theory within economics stated using only five words, and known as Say’s Law, after Jean-Baptiste Say, which states simply this: supply creates its own demand. That is to say, if you have a truckload of some object for which there is demand, say chairs for example, its sale will result in increased demand for other goods from the profits obtained. And thus, Say’s Law links the concepts of aggregate supply and demand, which may have previously been thought by some to be independent. A similar law in the theory of communications was that of Marshall McLuhan, whose famous five word adage, “the medium is the message”, can be interpreted as saying that the vehicle of communications is actually likely to be the principal constituent of the payload it delivers.
While these laws are well known, they are not often connected, despite having a similar flavor. In both cases, they link two concepts which are traditionally considered as connected complements. In this spirit, what I would like to experiment with here is the introduction of a five word law for social media. It may be stated either as “the optics are the substance”, or “optics create their own substance”, depending upon whether one wishes to follow McLuhan or Say, respectively.
Now what do I mean by this? Well, consider the effect of a smartphone on human cognition. To be clear, we must acknowledge that such a remarkable device gives us the ability to dive deeply into any subject we care to investigate, but, if we are honest, we must admit that it is even more likely in practice to distract us constantly and dilute our attention than to be the tool that we hope we will utilize for noble means. Thus, we very seldom do dive deeply into any of the subjects which come across our feeds, searches, and screens. And even if we do pursue a news story or update into the weeds, it is very unlikely that large numbers of other users will do so alongside us.
Thus, the most important aspect of a story may well not be its underlying substance or truth, but its optics instead. That is, our intuitive sense of an update may well be expected to be the extent of our engagement with that story. Specific five word specializations of this as-yet unnamed law might be “the headline is the article”, or “the publisher is the politics”. Knowing that an unedited video was leaked to appear on James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas is presumably sufficient to make sure that it is not taken seriously by any center-left institution. The optics of the United States’ cleverly named Black Lives Matter movement are stated clearly in the title. To oppose this organization for its platforms, the self-declared Marxist agenda pushed by its founders, or its bizarre foray into the politics of the Middle East, where there are very few black American lives, is not possible under this law of social media without becoming a racist in the eyes of the internet. Why? Because the optics are in the title, and thus the implied substance of the organization is designed to make it impossible to oppose without catastrophic cost to those reacting to the nuance found in the details.
But what, then, is the new role of what we would have previously considered the substance before the advent of the smartphone and the social internet? Well, this remains a curious question. Let us, for the remainder of this episode, take a radical stance and call this “legacy reality”. You see, in legacy reality, all sorts of things are happening that contradict our new five word law. For example, in legacy reality, a white man named Tony Timpa was killed in Dallas under almost identical circumstances to those in which George Floyd in Minneapolis later lost his life. Timpa was held down on camera for a comparable amount of time: 11+ minutes for Timpa to the 8+ minutes in which Floyd suffered, but he was white, while Floyd was black. Yet there’s bizarrely no concept of Timpa’s death being significant, except in one regard: it shows that we have, as yet, no ability to say which of these deaths is provably racially motivated in the absence of further evidence, and thus, to raise the issue is to question the optics of Floyd’s death.
In short, Floyd’s death was, optically, a lynching. Therefore, in the era of social media, it was in substance a lynching as well by our new law, and the introduction of Timpa’s death is to use legacy reality to question modern substance. Now, the reason I say “modern substance” here is that the implied racism of Floyd’s death as an example of a clear optical lynching was sufficient to propel millions into the streets. And, truth be told, the issue of structural racism and the differential application of policing, trial, sentencing, and incarceration along racial lines has a long and nauseating history from the era of slavery into the present. Thus, the nonsense that powerful Americans have traditionally used to avoid looking directly at the shame of differential treatment within our criminal justice system, particularly for nonviolent drug-related crimes, was matched by the new substance of an optical lynching. Organizers were effectively saying to us, “So what if we don’t know for a certainty that it is a lynching in legacy reality? It was, at a minimum, a much needed optical lynching to galvanize the real change we need, and for which we have waited far too long.”
With that said, the very real changes that are likely to come about as a result of an optical lynching may or may not be for the good, but a sudden injection of unwanted legacy reality is extremely likely to result in buzzkill and the mood spoilage of any movement that is being coordinated not through groupthink, but groupfeel.
So why have optics been so successful in overtaking legacy reality of late? I believe that for a variety of reasons, we’ve changed what would be called the recursion depth were we in computer science here, rather than the politics of civil society. Well, I trust that most of my readers are well aware as adults that an irrational number such as π cannot be computed from a simple fraction. Some of us can still remember the first time we were told that this is not true, and that 22/7 solves the problem. In fact, 22/7 seems equal to π, but only to two decimal places of accuracy, before the two decimal expressions part ways once and for all.
Far fewer of us know that the so-called “perfect fifth” in western music is in fact not perfect at all. It is ever-so-slightly flat and below the pure Pythagorean fifth, producing a ratio of the frequencies of “so” to “do” of approximately 1.4983, rather than 3 to 2, or 1.5.
Now both these examples show us that we can be easily fooled into thinking we understand a situation by not carrying out an investigation beyond a certain limit. In fact, we cannot afford to give infinite attention and resources to investigating every problem. And so, we must cut off our investigations at some point. Sometime between 1971, when Herb Simon started thinking about attention economics, and 2001, when the attention economy concept finally gained enough momentum from Davenport, Beck, and others to propel it into greater mainstream awareness, a huge opportunity was missed. That opportunity was the study of the corresponding market for inattention. For example, in the news media business, many people think that there is always a search for the most eyeballs, yet there also arose a concept called “the Friday news dump”, which sought to find the spot in the week where people would give the least attention for the dissemination of bad news. Likewise, print media writers learn to hide their true underlying stories by “burying the lede”, when the main story had to be told but was not favorable to the paper’s way of thinking. This would sometimes be handled in what is internally called the “to be sure” paragraph, where the author too often effectively confesses the mitigating truths that they had hoped to avoid, at least until the penultimate paragraph many layers deep.
Well, what happens when you can actually calculate where your audience will stop reading, listening, feeling, or thinking? Studies have suggested that just over half of all people spend 15 seconds or less reading an article while digitally grazing.
Likewise, nearly three out of five link sharers have not so much as clicked on the headline that they are passing on. These dispiriting findings for professional writers would be akin within computer programming to finding out that somebody had reset the Python byte-compiler’s recursion limit, which is usually initially set by default to something near a thousand out of the box, to a single digit number.
This, however, creates a fantastic opportunity for those whose ethics are sufficiently flexible. A particular form of our five word law, when applied to news media, would be “the headline generates the story”, or “the headline is the story”. Once this has been discovered, we see that increasingly, the purpose of the article in our era is not to inform, but to minimally support the desired headline for wide dissemination. Other forms of this principle are that, at least in the eyes of the weak and the dim, “the slogan is the platform”, “accusation generates its own conviction”, “the indignation is the refutation”, “swarms generate their own consensus”, “the messenger is the message”, and “the aspiration is the implementation”. This also explains the underlying wisdom of the moronic phrase, “not a good look, bro”. It is often a warning that you are saying something in legacy reality without regard for the optical limits of the situation.
Here, the most important word may well be “bro”, as a corruption or shortening of “brother”, letting you know that you are now in an informal world where barely the first three letters will be read before the word becomes too cumbersome to complete. In an attempt to sum up, then, I will leave you with this:
There is not only a market for your attention, but one for your inattention as well. Your smartphone may well put all the world’s information at your fingertips as is so often remarked upon, but unlike the fabled Library of Alexandria, it puts all the world’s disinformation, misinformation, noise, and distraction as well. And what our CEOs and technologists have learned is that your emotions are responsive to optics and not substance when there are cat and GoPro videos to be watched.
Increasingly, there will be a war on anyone found to be attempting to traffick in higher recursion limits. I recently remarked on Twitter on the situation in Portland, where the nightly battle over the federal courthouse is generating two separate false narratives. In one narrative, increasingly found on the right, the city of Portland, Oregon is sloppily described as burning and constantly at war, which it is not, as the ritualized battle is now confined to a single massive federal building as I write this, into particular hours of the night. In the other narrative, peaceful protesters protected by moms and veterans are being attacked by federal fascists without provocation. Unfortunately for those pushing the latter narrative, any honest review of the videos circulating from citizen journalists will quickly dispel the illusion that a non-political mainstream media is dispassionately reporting all the news that is fit to print. What actually seems to be going on, which I have worked out with my brother who has first hand knowledge of the situation on the ground in Portland, is that each side is trying to get attacked above a certain level before responding. That sounds crazy, of course, but the value going into the election is to generate video that optically moves the needle. As crazy as that sounds, the fatality count is so far thankfully absurdly low in the Pacific Northwest given the violence, because both the rioters, as opposed to the protesters, and the federal agents, seem to be competing to be attacked.
After all, it bizarrely appears that there is nothing more powerful in this media era than being a victim. Everything is reversed. And, in a presidential election year with the country in turmoil, the rule of the land is victim takes all. So what did I say on Twitter that is worth discussing? That the behavior and absence of a cognitively declining Joe Biden from the national scene, and the extreme nature of the radicalized left, seems to be creating a collection of people that I never thought that I would see: the never-Trump Trump voter. It seems that almost every day, people write to me and tell me that they voted for Hillary and/or Bernie, despise Trump, see him as evil, dangerous, and mentally impaired, but now, paradoxically, view him as the last remaining alternative to the party of Mayor Wheeler of Portland and Mayor Jenny of Seattle, currently experimenting with the abolish-law-enforcement movement, which is now both seen and denied everywhere by the Democratic Party and its allied media. I have conversed publicly with such never-Trump Trump voters on my Instagram Live Q&A walks which I’ve been doing under Covid. I’ve even generated a video with Joe Rogan that has been seen by 6.5 million people on YouTube alone, where Joe said that he would vote for anyone over Biden despite having no love of Trump.
Yet, I found myself besieged by thousands of accounts that I had never heard of for daring to insist that this phenomena, that can be easily seen and validated, is in fact seeable. “Name one person who was left of center and would vote for Trump over Biden!”, came the challenge from the swarm. This bewildered me at the time. Then I saw thousands of almost identical tweets with the same weird meme. “Cool story, bro. Did you hear this hanging out in a hipster coffee shop? That totally happened, right?” I must admit I was relieved. This was coordinated, as it turned out, by someone with 13 million followers on Twitter, who ran what was termed a “pod” that coordinated swarming behavior. The fact that all of these tweets could be instantly invalidated was not the point. No one cared about their credibility. The point was that the optics are the substance, and that a swarm is sufficient to generate the optics needed. At some point I saw that the swarm included not just internet trolls, but verified accounts, including one of a Stanford professor.
“A Stanford professor?” I just shook my head. The recursion limit was now set at one on a bright warm day in July, and the clocks were all striking thirteen. But it was alright. Everything was alright. The struggle was finished.
This “housekeeping” (cough cough) episode of The Portal is only for the hard core listeners who launched this experiment with us. This year we begin to take on the idea of the Distributed Idea Suppression Complex or “DISC”.
From “Terms of Service” changes, to selective enforcement of rules, peer review, “Strategic Silence”, ‘authoritative sources only’, deboosting, shadow banning, down ranking, “unbiasing”, “Good Censorship”, ‘diversity and inclusion’ oaths, ‘cancel culture’, no-platforming, mob shaming, certification requirements, “trust and safety” and quality control, we are surrounded by others interested in various forms of idea suppression who would prefer to work in private. Obviously some, but not all, of those ideas are truly dangerous. But many of those ideas never reached us because they threatened institutional players rather than public safety.
This is the year we begin to do the unthinkable: attempt to fully reveal and slip the DISC. Stay tuned to the Portal for 2020. Or feel free to unsubscribe right now before we change it up…hope to see you soon.
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Eric Weinstein: Hello, you’ve found The Portal. I’m your host Eric Weinstein, and this is sort of an unusual edition of The Portal because it’s coming at the beginning of a new decade and I wanted to set some intentions, and also to sort of recap where we’ve been for the last half a year that the show has been on the air and on the internet. There are no notes. There’s nothing planned. What I’d like to do is to just try to speak directly about some of the things that have been on my mind and give you all my thoughts on your feedback on the show, and where I think we’re going to be going to next. So, with your permission, let’s begin.
It’s been a pretty interesting half of a year. The show has built up a fairly sizable audience. And what’s more, there are a lot of influential and important voices within our audience, so I know that when I’m speaking I’m reaching a lot of the people who would be on my dream list of people to interview, to talk to, and in fact to plot next steps with. So, I think we’ve had a pretty successful run of it. We can still grow the show bigger, but the show is now large enough that I actually don’t mind losing some of our listeners and some of our viewers by going into more challenging topics. And so, I don’t think that our primary goal is going to be building the audience quite as much as it was during the first 6 months.
Furthermore, I think what’s been somewhat confusing is that we’ve had—if I recall correctly—16 different interview episodes and one solo episode so far, and I don’t think that is exactly what The Portal was intended to be. In fact, you could argue that The Portal has not even begun. What we’ve done is to build up an audience and to habituate the audience to a different style of interaction. I think we had to figure out what we were going to do if we wanted to bring you certain high-level concepts that often get lost, because the admonition to make sure that you don’t lose your audience along the way means that you never get very far because you’re always doing the sort of preliminary groundwork, and you’re never actually getting to the meat of the issue.
And I think one of the things that we are very proud of is that we have a very motivated audience, who’s willing to sometimes even listen to the show more than once, or do it with a notepad, so that if there are unfamiliar concepts, they can be looked up, and in fact, we’ve noted that there have been several communities spring up around the show so that people can trade their questions, and we’ve been watching you guys answer each other’s questions in a way that’s really been gratifying. So having a lot of experts in the audience has been a huge boon to the show, and we hope to try to figure out how to make community in a meaningful sense a larger part of the show on a going-forward basis.
One of those efforts that’s particularly special is that we’re trying to enlist artists. That could be visual artists, that could be digital artists, it could also be musicians. And the idea we have is that that legion of artists will be able to help push out many of the higher-level ideas that we would find challenging to do just in speech, by using, sort of, the brain’s full abilities to take in new information, and also to use the, sort of the transcendent modality to kind of open hearts and minds to truly different and unfamiliar ways of thinking.
So, I think we may try to get that going. We need, obviously, to build a website. We need to have some way in which people who wish to avoid advertising can subscribe to the podcast, and other people who want to contribute and be part of this as a movement…
We just held our first live show at the Ice House in Pasadena, and thanks everybody who came out. The show sold out extremely quickly, even though we sort of didn’t exactly advertise where and when it was, except for cryptically at first. And, one of the things that allowed us to do is to meet the listenership en masse, and, you know, it was a truly interesting, and, in many different ways, diverse group of people.
There were [sic] a pretty even split between anti- and pro-Trump voices. People got along great, so we don’t seem to be as affected as I was concerned we might be by the election cycle. And what I sensed was that people really want to use the show to coalesce and come together, and that there’s a lot of fear at the moment about anything tribal, or anything cult-like, and therefore, anything that might be tribal trades at a discount.
So I think we might actually take a contrarian position, and decide that the show in fact deserves more community, based on the way in which we see our listenership and our viewership going. And so, rather than fear that anything would emerge with leadership, because, of course, anything with leadership looks like Hitler to many people, anything that looks at all ritualistic looks like a cult, I think we’re not going to worry about those things quite so much.
So I think, if I can, I’m going to try to realize that, in fact, the audience is leading, and that I need to do a better job of just accepting that there’s a lot of interest in new ways of thinking, and this is one way of kind of getting unstuck, to try to find The Portal out of the stasis. And so if the show is to be true to its original mission, I think we’re going to have to take some risks, which might mean drinking songs, it might mean ritualistic behavior, and hopefully it’ll mean a lot more opportunities to interact through live dates. The show is going to remain unabashedly a commercial enterprise, because otherwise it would never happen.
And I want to give a huge shout out to Kast Media, who has been the original studio and effectively a co-producer of the show, along with Jesse Michels, and the advertisers and the sponsors who have been paying for the equipment, for the people who work on the show, so that nobody had to shell out anything in order to get this. The show would never have happened if it wasn’t taking place as a commercial enterprise.
And so, even though some of you find the ads annoying, although others of you find them actually entertaining or interesting, what we need to do is to come up with a better model, and a model in which sponsors get access to the kind of heart and passion for sticking with the show. So I think I’m going to try to figure out how the riskvertizer model works in earnest this year, but it’s also important to me that those of you who wish to avoid having a brain sullied with any kind of commercial intrusion have an option to do that.
We’ve been doing that through the YouTube videos, and in that respect, I feel like, in general if you’re willing to sit through maybe an initial ad that rolls before the video goes, you usually have an uninterrupted viewing or listening experience thereafter. We’ll try to get the videos a little bit in better sync with the audio, but most importantly what I want to get to is what the show is really about.
And, the last thing I will say on the sort of initial housekeeping is we probably needed to recognize earlier that we need your help. A lot of you guys are audio engineers, or you’re graphic designers, or you’re website builders. I don’t quite know how to source the talent we need from the pool, but I’ve been bombarded by wonderful offers from any of you, some of you at the absolute top of your field, who want to help this podcast because you want to see this grow as a movement.
And maybe I was slow to recognize how genuine the interest was, and, just to say, thank you. I mean, I think it’s sort of hard to recognize that it’s working, for various internal psychological reasons. I’ve been incredibly touched, and I really want to incorporate some of the offers of help because Lord knows we need it, just haven’t figured out how to do it yet. So stay tuned, I think we’ll be organizing that shortly.
We’ve now got a Facebook group for The Portal Podcast. We’ve got an Instagram account that’s growing. Twitter’s still our largest following, but the actual subscriptions to the podcast, on both YouTube, through Apple and other places, are now quite large. And I think it’ll be increasingly hard to shut down these channels to you, so that even if we lose one or two of them because of something we say, hopefully we’ll remain engaged to and will try to make sure that we’re not the vulnerable to having the oxygen cut off.
The Portal in 2020 and this Decade
All right, so what is it that is happening in 2020? What kind of a decade are we up for? What’s going to be going on with The Portal during the coming year? The coming 10 years? I think that the first thing that I want to signal is that we are finally ready to take on something which I’ve always found terrifying, and that has to do with idea suppression.
Now before we get to idea suppression, and how it functions, and what it is, I want to take new listeners through a very brief description of how we would order the world relative to The Portal and its objectives. So if you will, let me take you back to the end of World War II. There’s a lot of prehistory, but we can’t afford to do everything.
Twin Nuclei Problem of Cell and Atom
So shortly after World War II, there were two very important events in the early 1950’s, from our perspective, one of which was the unlocking of the three-dimensional structure of DNA by Watson and Crick in 1953, and the other was the explosions of hydrogen devices using work of Edward Teller and Stanislaw Ulam, and what that changed in the human picture—because we went from a short period where we were dealing with atomic bombs, where duck-and-cover was a plausible solution, to dealing with hydrogen devices in which the destructive power was really incalculable. It’s the power of gods used to power the sun, here on Earth.
Now, to my way of thinking, since the early 1950s, there has been no comparable explosion of wisdom to go along with this newfound power that humans have—this new godlike power. So I’ve called this the twin nuclei problem of cell and atom.
And I think what we’ve had is an incredible run of luck. And I think it’s the most magical and marvelous thing, but I don’t believe that we can count on luck forever. And in fact, given some of the events of early 2020 taking place in Iraq and Iran, I would say that history at the scale that we were accustomed to it during the, let’s say, first half of the 20th century, could start up at any moment, and we’re entirely unprepared for this.
Embedded Growth Obligations (EGOs)
Now, in the story that has this major through-line that we’ve been following, the next thing that happens that’s really important is a guy named Derek de Solla Price starts to calculate that science is on an exponential trajectory, and rather than thinking that that’s a great thing, he starts to understand that anything on an exponential trajectory can’t really go on, because it’s going to burn itself out. And if science is the original seed corn, if you will, of technology, and technology of economics, then effectively what’s going to happen in science is going to percolate through a chain, through technology and into the economy, with a potential stagnation coming.
Now, he started to arrive at these ideas, I think, at Yale in the late 1950s. It was not well understood what he was talking about—and still I’m always shocked that the book Science Since Babylon, which he wrote, and which discusses this issue, is so much less well-known than, say, Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. For some reason, this is so dispiriting to so many people that we actually don’t discuss it much.
Studying this work led to the idea of talking about EGOs, that is, embedded growth obligations. Now, embedded growth obligations are the way in which institutions plan their future predicated on legacies of growth. And since the period between the end of World War II in 1945 and the early ’70s had such an unusually beautiful growth regime, many of our institutions became predicated upon low-variance, technology-led, stable, broadly distributed growth. Now, this is a world we have not seen in an organic way since the early 1970s. And yet, because it was embedded in our institutions, what we have is a world in which the expectation is still present in the form of an embedded growth obligation. That is, the pension plans, the corporate ladders, are all still built very much around a world that has long since vanished.
We have effectively become a growth cargo cult. That is, once upon a time, planes used to land in the Pacific, let’s say, during World War II, and Indigenous people looked at the air strips and the behavior of the air traffic controllers, and they’ve been mimicking those behaviors in the years since as ritual, but the planes no longer land. Well, in large measure, our institutions are built for a world in which growth doesn’t happen in the same way anymore.
Gated Institutional Narrative (GIN)
All right. What then happened was that a different structure, which I have termed the gated institutional narrative, came to become repurposed. Now, the gated institutional narrative is like an exchange—a financial exchange, if you will, except it’s an exchange of information and ideas. And in order to actually participate in this particular special conversation, you need to have a seat on the exchange. That is, you need to write for an important paper, like the Wall Street Journal, or you need to be a senator or a congressman so that you can gain access to the news media, or you need to be sitting at a news desk.
In any of these situations, whether you’re a professor, or a reporter, or a politician, if you can gain a seat inside of the gated institutional narrative, you can attempt to converse with other people within that particular conversation. The rest of us do not really have the same level or kind of access to this highly rarefied discussion, and I’ve previously compared this to what we would term a “promotion” inside of the world of professional wrestling. It’s an agreed-upon structure, in which people often agree to simulate dispute, rather than actually have disputes, because somebody could get really seriously injured, but they’re in fact working together to produce an engaging and regular product for mass consumption. The problem with this gated institutional narrative is that, in general, it doesn’t contain the most important ideas, and that is where the gating function comes in.
Distributed Idea Suppression Complex
The most important ideas are likely to be the ideas that are most disruptive. What if the entire food pyramid, for example, was wildly off? What if fats were not the great danger we thought they were, and those waving fields of wheat that are fabled in American song, in fact, give rise to carbs, which are very dangerous to us all? So if everything were inverted, let’s say, where, in a world where instead of banishing volatility during the so-called Great Moderation before 2008, we were actually building the tinder for the world’s largest financial forest fire. What if, in fact, we had all sorts of things exactly backwards and completely wrong? What if diversity wasn’t always a sign of our strength, but sometimes a sign of our weakness? What if, for example, immigration, far from being an issue of xenophobes versus xenophiles, was actually an instrument of redistribution having very little to do with xenophobia or xenophilia to begin with?
These sorts of ideas can’t be entertained inside of the gated institutional narrative, and that’s where the gating function comes in. What was originally a function intended to ensure quality control of the narrative became an instrument for something else. And this is where I want to introduce the most important concept that I think we will be dealing with on a going-forward basis in 2020 on this program, the DISC. What is the DISC? The DISC stands for the distributed idea suppression complex.
Now, taking it apart, the center of it is idea suppression. Not all ideas are good, and so idea suppression is very frequently understood as an important concept when we’re talking about something like bigotry, or we’re talking about something like violent ideology. Of course we want to suppress certain ideas. But, these are not the ideas that are principally important inside of the DISC.
The DISC is actually a complex. It is a large collection of different structures, and it’s not controlled in any one place. Many of these have emerged separately. But what makes an aspect of the DISC—what shows you a particular component—is that it protects institutions from individuals who are making valid and reasonable points.
So, if you imagine that the institutions have become incredibly fragile because they’re in fact built for growth, and that plan for their growth obligates them to tell untruths, and to hide certain characteristics, because they are not, in fact, able to grow at the rates in which they are supposed to, you need some complex for making sure that that information doesn’t reach the bottom entrance to a pyramid structure.
Two Current Examples of the DISC
Let’s talk about some aspects of idea suppression. The two stories that I’m following most closely—and we can date this particular episode by talking about current events, I think that’s fine—the two stories I’m following most closely with interest from the perspective of understanding the DISC are the story of Andrew Yang and the media, and the story of Jeffrey Epstein and his recent demise.
Now, in neither of these cases is my principal interest the ostensible subject matter. In the case of Andrew Yang, Andrew is going through a weird ritual that I’ve noted repeatedly election cycle after election cycle. Perhaps the three most recent versions of the situation have been with Ron Paul and his run for president, with Bernie Sanders and his run for the presidency, and now with Andrew Yang.
In all of these cases, we see a very bizarre behavior inside of the news media. That is, that when the candidate starts to gain traction with the public, they become left off of lists. They become misreported—very often a reporter will stand in front of the graphic that has that particular candidate alongside others, and we don’t really know why this is occurring, and we don’t know how these instructions are going out.
But in the case of Andrew Yang, because this is taking place in a highly connected internet era, we have people chronicling all of the myriad ways in which Andrew Yang’s candidacy is distorted. In particular, there appears to be a different level of distortion taking place at one particular news media outlet. We need to better understand exactly what is the political economy of the news.
Now in the case of Andrew Yang, the key question would be, “Why aren’t the regular news media, and the competing news media, reporting on the outsized effort being made to make sure that Andrew does not appear normally with other candidates in this Democratic primary field?”
It doesn’t make logical sense, if you believe that the principal reason for reporting on the election is to make sure that the voters have an early opportunity to hear all voices and to begin to make their decisions, rather than immediately trying to pick a narrative about frontrunners who are always taken to be inevitable, and that’s a conserved feature of this bizarre election coverage, cycle after cycle.
So the first thing I want to do is recommend that you Google “MSNBC” and “Andrew Yang”, and “#YangMediaBlackout”, and look at the impressive data set that has been collected, which shows a singular focus that can be inferred from the data on Andrew Yang. Now, to an extent, this has also happened with Tulsi Gabbard. To an extent there’s been some carryover from Bernie Sanders, but Bernie Sanders’ showing in 2016 was so strong that the same games that were applied to Sanders then cannot easily be applied now.
But the key question we have is, “Why is the news media spending so much on one candidate, who doesn’t appear to be that large, to keep that candidate from growing?” I think this is an interesting topic, and what it has to do with is making maps of silence.
Now through the efforts of Dana Boyd and the Data and Society group, we’ve learned about a doctrine called strategic silence. And that is, that there are certain things that the media may not want to happen and therefore, rather than simply reporting the facts of the matter, they make editorial decisions so as not to give fodder or fuel for some undesirable outcome. Now, we can partially understand that in the case of copycat killings after, let’s say, gun massacres. But, it’s much harder to understand why somebody coming from outside of the political system would be treated to something like strategic silence or strategic distortion.
What we need to do is to have a better understanding of the maps of silence and maps of distortion that take place in our press. And what Andrew has done that is special and unique is that he’s given us a very large N for our dataset. We now have enough different incidents of this that we can begin to piece together what might be inferred from this very bizarre behavior.
The second example of this that I find fascinating is the death of Jeffrey Epstein. Now, you’ll hear a lot of other people say well Epstein didn’t kill himself, or it’s obviously this, or it’s obviously that. I have a decidedly smaller interest in those questions. The questions that fascinate me have to do not with Epstein, not with who might have killed him, whether he died by his own hand, but they have to deal with the sense-making apparatus—that is, the news media around this untimely exit from our world. Now, Jeffrey Epstein was accused of trafficking and had a very bizarre life that is difficult for many of us understand, where he got a slap on the wrist in Florida and appeared to operate with impunity even after his conviction in Florida as a sex offender.
What’s fascinating is that, if anyone remembers the Watergate era, the news media used to go to federal agencies and ask whether or not something was true or false, and this gave us the phrase “a non-denial denial“. When is the question arises, let’s say, in this case, “Does Jeffrey Epstein have any ties to any known intelligence community,” that question can be asked, let’s say, to the CIA, to the State Department, to the NSA, and you might expect that you’d get an answer, “Absolutely this person had no ties,” because the idea of the intelligence agencies being connected to a known sex trafficker seems preposterous at one level, but you can also imagine that they’d get “No comment.”
Now, we don’t even have that in this situation. You can go—I think I did this fairly recently with the New York Times—and try to simply use their own search engine: “Have you asked the question whether Jeffrey Epstein had ties to the intelligence agencies?” The other questions that arise in this case are, “Where is the last known recording of Ghislaine Maxwell’s passport crossing a border?” This is a simple factual question. A reporter would be dispatched. They would call up somebody like Interpol. They would try to find out whether people would speak about it or not speak about it.
Under any circumstances, they would be able to print an interesting story. For example, “Interpol has no comment,” or “Interpol says that the last recorded border where Ghislaine Maxwell’s passport showed up was a border crossing in New York City.” Under any circumstances, it is very bizarre to see the map of silence around these questions.
Another such question is, “If Jeffrey Epstein’s fortune came from currency trading, where are the records from his office in Villard House in Manhattan?” He had a very large office in a trophy property on the island of Manhattan, and to the best of my knowledge, I have seen no printed discussion of where the supposed trading records of this person [are], who seemed to amass a fortune.
Another weird thing about this fortune is that he seemed to live life as a high 11-figure individual, owning islands and incredible properties, and multiple jets, and yet all of the assets I’ve seen accounted for puts him instead in 9-figure territory. Now that’s two orders of magnitude different, and I don’t think that there are many 9-figure rich who would live anything like Jeffrey Epstein’s lifestyle. It appears that most of the assets were put towards a kind of front, if you will.
So we don’t have any idea about where the records are of his trading. We don’t have any idea where the passport of his partner was seen last, and we also have no confirmation that any of our major government agencies have denied that Jeffrey Epstein, the accused sex trafficker, was tied to any intelligence community. In all of those situations, what you can map with honesty, and without having to go anywhere near tinfoil-hat territory, is that there’s something broken with our sense making apparatus. Because in the Watergate era, you could have assigned this to a cub reporter and they would have known exactly what to do. Where are our “no comments” on the record? No one knows.
All right, in those two circumstances, that gives you an idea about how the DISC, the distributed idea suppression complex, works inside of journalism. There is some sort of editorial function that is keeping us from learning certain things, because certain stories do not run. With a little bit of poetic liberty, this seems to be what Paul Simon was talking about in Sounds of Silence. What we’re listening for now are the silences. Where else are we confronted with silence? What are the other things we would expect, where we don’t hear particular ideas?
Now, obviously, you have a situation where I’ve been talking for quite some time about the idea that there are many reasons that one might ask to restrict immigration. The Sierra Club used to support a restriction of immigration. Farm workers unions used to support restrictions on immigration. But sometime in the fairly recent past, it became an idée fixe of the elite that the only reason for supporting a restriction in immigration, the only possible reason could be that you were xenophobic, and probably racist.
Now, I don’t exactly know where these ideas came from, but I know that these ideas are prima facie preposterous. They make no sense. And so I’ve been talking for some time—about where are the media willing to discuss all of the reasons that one might want to restrict immigration having nothing to do with xenophobia? The so-called “xenophilic restrictionist” perspective. This is another place where there is no public discussion, and we have no idea why. So once you begin to look for these silences, these gaps, you start to become rather terrified, that somehow the world is not behaving properly, and that’s one of the reasons that people are flocking to this podcast.
The DISC in Academia
This is, however, not my major focus. My major focus of the distributed idea suppression complex, or DISC, has to do with what happened inside of our universities. Now, I’m in a somewhat unusual position, in that both myself and my wife have PhDs, as well as my brother and his wife, and we’ve all appeared in interviews within the last five years, so maybe you’ve seen all of us on camera, or have some idea of how Bret Weinstein, Heather Heying, Pia Malaney, and I sound.
What some of you don’t know is that I believe that, inside of that group of four, one of us wrote a book immediately after getting a PhD, which is Heather Heying’s book, Antipode, about her solo travels to the jungles of Madagascar. So if you have a young woman in your life who is looking for a pretty impressive female role model, I would say Heather’s toughness, intelligence, and grit makes for pretty terrific reading, and I’d recommend buying the book Antipode for that young lady.
In the case of the remaining three, none of us wrote a book immediately afterwards. However, I think that the quality of the discoveries that were being explored was incredibly high, and in each case, what I thought happened to those was most unexpected.
Now, what are these ideas that I’m claiming were suppressed? So I would say that in one case, we were talking about the reasons why we die. One of these theses contained what I think is one of the best models for the reasons that we have these finite life-spans, and of course, we’re all subject to what might be called environmental insult: if a piano falls on your head while you’re walking down the street, that’s usually going to be your exit. But why we age, why we get cancer, and why we die, I think has not been very well understood at the molecular level. And I think perhaps one of the first mature attempts to do this took place in my brother’s thesis at the University of Michigan. This is one of the major ideas that I wish to be exploring in 2020.
If biology is one of the greatest ideas man is ever had in the form of natural and sexual selection in the work of Darwin and Wallace, I would say that the other complex of great ideas, truly top ideas, would be what I would call geometric dynamics. Those are the ideas that take place underneath theoretical physics, whether we’re talking about the standard model or general relativity. And we now believe that all fundamental physical phenomena can be divided between these two great theories. In one case, that of Einstein’s general relativity, it’s been known for about a hundred years that the substrate of the theory is Riemann’s theory of differential geometry, that is, Riemannian geometry.
What is much more recent, perhaps slightly less than 50 years old, thanks to Jim Simons and C.N. Yang, is the knowledge that the classical theory underneath quantum field theory is in fact a different form of geometry, known as Ehresmannian geometry, fiber bundle geometry, gauge theory, or Steenrod geometry, whatever you want to call it. So the idea that geometry is the birthplace of fundamental physics, I think is now generally understood by all practicing theoretical physicists functioning at the top level.
Inside of that complex, we’ve been stuck for approximately, I don’t know, 47 years, where theory used to lead experiment, and we used to make predictions and the predictions would usually be confirmed in relatively short order. We have not had a period of stagnation inside of theoretical physics that mirrors this, with the closest comparable period perhaps being the period from the late 1920s, with the advent of quantum electrodynamics, to the late 1940s, with the beginning of renormalization theory being ushered in at the Shelter Island, Pocono, and Old Stone conferences.
So that 20-year period is now more than doubled, and we haven’t been making progress. And I’ve been very uncomfortable with the idea of coming forward with ideas. Why? Well, to be honest, it’s very rare for anyone outside of theoretical physics to have reasonable ideas in physics. I could explain why, but the physicists are fantastic. They’ve got all sorts of no-go theorems, and all sorts of considerations that have to be kept in mind, and effectively what they’ve got is a world that is so tightly constrained, when it comes to understanding where we are, that almost every new idea is instantly dead on arrival. Now this has been incredibly demotivating to people in the field. And it does feel, from many different perspectives, like we’re almost at the end, if not of all of physics, at least of this chapter of physics.
But what I’m starting to see is that the field has become exhausted. It has been telling the same story since 1984, about how string theory is our leading theory of quantum gravity, that quantum gravity is the replacement for Einstein’s search for a unified field. And, as the accelerator turns up the Higgs and little else, as effectively no new physical theories arise with confirmations, as the only major updates to our model of the physical world are things like massive neutrinos or the accelerating expansion of the universe coming from experiment, the theoretical physics community has been very slow to own up to just how much trouble it’s in. It’s an incredibly demanding life. It has incredible standards for rigor and intellectual honesty, and quite honestly, it’s been lying for far too long to sustain the kind of integrity that’s needed in that community.
Now, I don’t know whether I’m nuts, but I do know that at previous points, I’ve suggested things into both the mathematical and physics communities that have later been shown, by other people, to be correct. And while I was waiting for a some kind of confirmation, I was being told Eric, you’re completely off base. You’re not getting it. One of these situations involved something called the Seiberg-Witten equations, which I put forward in the 1980s, around probably ’87, and I was told that these couldn’t possibly be right, that they weren’t sufficiently nonlinear. I’ll tell the whole story about how if spinors were involved, then obviously Nigel Hitchin would have told us so, blah, blah, blah.
None of this was true, and in 1994, Nati Seiberg and Edward Witten made a huge splash with these equations. I remember being in the room, and seeing the equations written at MIT on the board and I was thinking well, wait a minute. Those are the equations that I put forward. If those equations are being put forward by Witten, why is it that the community isn’t telling him that they’re wrong for the same reasons that they told me that they were wrong?
Legend of the Mugnaia
This is also how idea suppression works. When you are young, and when you are vulnerable, and when you need the help of older members of your academic community to bring you forward, you’re extremely vulnerable to what might be termed the Droit du seigneur—or the prima nocta—of the academic community. Now, for those of you who aren’t familiar with it, there was an old legend that the Lords of the Manor would command the right to take the virginity of every bride on her wedding night, until there arose a miller’s daughter known as the Mugnaia.
Now the Mugnaia had a different plan, for she wished instead to be with her husband, and not the evil Lord of the Manor. So what she did was she smuggled a knife underneath her robes, and appeared in the bedchamber of the Lord of the Manor, and killed him.
Now this is celebrated in the Festival of the Oranges, which is potentially the world’s largest food fight in which armed combatants throw oranges at each other—I think it’s in Italy, if I’m not mistaken—celebrating the victory of the Mugnaia. But right now, we have a problem in our intellectual disciplines, which is that when we come forward with our best ideas, very often, even if they’re slightly wrong, they’re slammed. And when they’re slammed, sometimes the older members of the community then take the ideas for themselves at a later point.
This has to stop. And I think I’ve been trying to gather courage to put forward some ideas, which I think some aspects of them may be wrong, but are certainly quite interesting, and given that our leading theories have completely stalled out and failed to ship a product for—depending on how you count—you know, nearly 40 years or 50 years, depending upon whether it’s the anomaly cancellation or something called the Vanetsiana model… I think it’s time to simply ignore these people and realize that the leading lights of our most important community have failed.
Finding the Source Code
If we don’t figure out the full source code, going beyond Einstein, going beyond the standard model, we can’t know whether we’re actually literally trapped in our local area, or whether we have some hope of going out and looking at the night sky with an idea that that might be the roadmap to our future. So whether or not we’re consigned by Einstein to the Elon Musk program, let’s say, of exploring the Moon and Mars, or whether, in fact, we might get on the Star Trek or Star Wars program, of exploring the cosmos has to do with whether or not we can get the source code.
So the next thing has to do with who we are, what is this place, and what I’ve called Geometric Unity. It is the aim of making The Portal a place where I can have a channel that cannot be controlled by the academic complex, and I’ll come back to that in a second. The third area that I want to talk about has to do with markets. Now markets are really the sponsor of our freedom. By having non-centrally directed, locally organized human activity, free agents are able to contract freely with each other, exchange with each other, build prosperity, lift each other up, and if you are a progressive, you almost certainly really have to appreciate the power of markets. But our markets are in great danger at the moment, in my opinion, because they’re being meddled with, and they are returning results that indicate that only a tiny fraction of us are worthy of reaping the true rewards of the markets, while many of us feel that we’re being left behind.
Generational Wealth Structure
If you look at the wealth structure of the Silent Generation, Boomer Generation, Generation X, and the Millennials, or Gen Y, you see that the Millennials have, at this age, amassed far smaller percentages of the wealth, than the Boomers did at the same age, and I don’t think it’s because they’re lazy or they’re not talented. So we have a very dangerous situation shaping up, where our younger generations are not fully bought in.
In fact, in the last year I just bought my first house. I’m 54 years old, born in 1965. I’ve bought one car, and then had to re-buy it when it got rear-ended. There’s something very bizarre about that pattern, for somebody who is educated at an Ivy League undergraduate institution and has an advanced degree from potentially our leading institution in the country. We’ve created a world in which it’s simply too hard for regular people to advance properly, because the society is not growing.
Now, rather than complain about it, I’d rather do something about it. So partially what I hope to do is to show you what’s been going on with GDP and inflation, by introducing a new theory that combines the two greatest theories we have. So if you think about biology as being driven by the theory of natural and sexual selection, and if you think about physics as being driven by geometric dynamics, either coming from Riemannian or Ehresmannian geometry, then, in fact, what would be the the meeting place of our two greatest theories? The only place that I’m aware of is that it takes place in economics. And why is that? Because you have apes carrying on the theory of selection, but by other means, through markets. And what are markets? Markets are an attempt to create an as-if physical system by uniformizing apples and oranges, so that we have a basis for their comparison by using mediums of exchange, like money.
So, in so doing, economics is the logical meeting place for the two greatest theories man has ever had. And this was explored in the early—rather, the mid-1990s, early to mid-1990s, by Pia Malaney, my wife and collaborator, and myself, in work that never got out of Harvard University. Now that’s not quite true. There is a book called The Physics of Wall Street, by James Weatherall, which touches upon this. But this work died because of something called the Harvard Job Market committee. And my wife went into that Job Market committee meeting, having her work presented there, thinking that she could apply anywhere in the country, and being told, instead, that she had almost nothing, and that she’d be lucky to escape with a PhD.
Now in these three cases, that is, a theory of death that comes out of my brother’s work at the University of Michigan, a theory of productivity, and how our wealth is inflated away, coming out of my wife’s work at Harvard, and another theory about “What is this place,” and “How do these different geometries come together,” which would be the subject of Geometric Unity—all three of these ideas met a level of resistance that none of us had ever anticipated or encountered. And I think that it’s been terrifying to me to think about the idea of going up against the institutions.
However, last year I made an interesting calculation. I decided to look at the presidencies of all of our leading research institutions, and to try to figure out how many of them belonged to people who came after the Baby Boom.
In a previous world, let’s say the world of the early 1980s, approximately half of the heads of research institutions would be Gen X and Gen Y, that is, Xers and Millennials. However, almost no research university, certainly almost no leading research university, with, I think, the exception of the University of California at Berkeley, when I did this calculation last year, was under anything other than the presidency of a Baby Boomer. Now what had happened? Well, we got rid of a mandatory retirement requirement, that probably affected things fairly significantly, and we began to concentrate all sorts of power in one generation’s ideas. Now, generations aren’t magical things—what they are, are instead cohorts that are exposed to some set of circumstances that is peculiar to the time in which they are growing up.
So for example, if your primary experience is that you work hard as a kid, with a paper route and an internship, you go to college, you work your way up a ladder, and everything works out fine, and pretty soon, before you know it, you’ve got three kids and two homes, that’s your idea of what a normal life is. Now this is sort of the basis of the meme “Ok Boomer,” because many of the rest of us who followed this generation have no idea how you would accomplish that in these times.
I actually put the blame slightly more on the Silent Generation than most people do. I think if you look at it you realize a lot of the problems that we’re having now began through intergenerational issues initiated by the Silents rather than the Boomers, but, it’s a pretty stark division between the Xers, Millennials, and Gen Z, and the Silents and the Boomers, as the major generations that are still extant.
In this situation, it’s terrifying to say what I’m about to say next, but it is time to inflict ourselves on our own institutions. It is time to have Gen X candidates for presidencies, not necessarily just of the political parties, because we’ve spent, what is it, 20 years on men born in the summer of 1946 so far. I mean, we’re just at the beginning of Baby Boom presidencies, and we’ve been doing it since 1992.
That doesn’t make a lot of sense. On the other hand, I think that the presidencies of companies, or CEO roles, I think that the issue of university presidents—many of these things have been tilted far too much towards these other generations. I think that Gen X has a very interesting story to tell. We were not highly infantilized, in terms of when we were growing up. In fact, we had to the moniker of the latchkey kids, and we’re also not large enough to get things just by chanting them. We have always had the pressure of having to make some degree of sense, because we’re just too small as a generation.
The Failure of Peer Review
So, in fact, what I’d like to do—I’ve said that I believe that string theory is effectively in affirmative action program for mathematically talented Baby Boomers who do not wish to sully themselves with the problem of working on the physical and real world as we have it. What I’d like to do is to bring you these three theories over the course of the next year or two—that is, a theory of death, a theory of markets, and how the agents within those markets, and the measurement of those markets should be changed and understood, and a theory, also, about who we are and what is this place in which we find ourselves, called Geometric Unity.
The purpose of The Portal, if you will, is to create a channel that has never existed. Now, I could try to submit everything to Phys Review Letters. I could try to submit to Econometrica. I could try to go through all of the normal channels, and I think what I’ve started to realize is, part of the problem of having screwed up all of this early stuff in our lives, of having tried to do this the formal and “right” way, so to speak—the privilege of having been screwed over so directly and so beautifully by the system is the right to raise the middle finger to the institutions. Like, how dare you expect that I’m going to use your quiet procedures.
If you think about what peer review is, it’s the exact opposite of what peer review should mean. “Peer review” should mean that you publish your article, and then the peers in the community review it, but in fact what it is is peer suppression. You take your article and you mail it off to somebody who you don’t know. That person gets an early look at it. They might hold it up in review. They then inflict any changes that they want, or they reject it for reasons that make no sense. And then it’s handed back to you.
Now, why does it have such a positive spin? It’s not long standing in the community. It doesn’t seem to have a very long history, but it came out of an effort to quality control new ideas. We wanted to know if new ideas were coming from reputable people. Were they using reasonable methods? Were they reasonably familiar with their fields? And in fact, that is the good reason that we had this new technique of peer review. Previously, editors have been tasked with being responsible for the field and figuring out whether or not something was up to snuff.
In this new situation, it was perfectly constructed for abuse. In fact, what you find is that it’s like what my brother refers to as the low posted speed limit in a southern town. The key question isn’t peer review, it’s how is it enforced for different people? That is, if you are a famous professor who is well plugged into a journal, where your friend is the editor, you are going to have an entirely different experience with peer review than if you submit the exact same article coming from someplace that is not well known to that journal, and in which there is a bias against that group.
For example, if I were to point out that every purebred dog in a kennel show is a product of intelligent design, that is, that humans have commanded canines with whom and how they can mate—that process has produced things like dachshunds and poodles. However, if I use words like “intelligent design”, I guarantee you that even though it’s clearly true that dogs are intelligently designed, that that paper will be rejected, because there is a belief that we should have a line which says no paper on intelligent design has ever been accepted by a leading peer-reviewed journal.
Now that political understanding of intelligent design has to do with both a reasonable idea and an unreasonable idea. The reasonable idea is that you should not be able to smuggle Jesus into evolutionary theory. You should not be able to do young Earth creationism inside of a scientific context. That is the previous, reasonable version of peer review. It makes sense as quality control.
But, what happens when you start talking about perception-mediated selection? For example, pseudocopulation in orchids, which we’ve discussed before, or in the predatory system with the other mussel lampsilis, where the perception of the bass matters, because it thinks that it’s consuming a bait fish. But in fact, that’s a fake bait fish filled with the young of the mussel.
In both of those cases you have perception-mediated selection, and you can make an argument that that should be called “intelligent design”, but those magic words can’t appear in that journal. Why? For a political reason. So what we have is we’ve created a system based around quality control that in fact is rife and open for abuse.
In that system, we now have to realize that we need other channels. We need an ability to route around. We need to be able to reinsert dissidents and people who do not get along with institutions back inside of the institutions.
If you look at Noam Chomsky sitting at MIT, you will realize that it was once the case that such people were much more common. You can look up a fellow, an old friend of mine named Serge Lang, and you could scarcely believe that such a person could have existed at Yale, but that person very much did exist. You can look at an old controversy about David Baltimore and a woman named Margo O’Toole, and the courage of Mark Ptashne and Walter Gilbert in fighting a Nobel Laureate when Margo O’Toole accused a colleague of the Nobel Laureate of misconduct, or at least, irreproducibility of results.
We have a long and storied history that has gone wildly off the rails with the crisis in current sense-making. And the purpose of The Portal was always to set up a channel by which we would have enough people watching that we could attempt to keep people from being rolled in the alleys when they contradicted the institutions, and that is in large measure what we’re here to do.
If you look at our episode with Timur Kuran, we introduced you to a concept of preference falsification. Right now, the danger of the Andrew Yang and the Jeffrey Epstein situations is that they have conveniently communicated to many people, “Of course we’re going to mess with your sense-making. What is it that you’re prepared to do about it?”
No Living Heroes
This brings us to a final issue, which I think is incredibly important, which has to do with why there are no living heroes. In effect, we almost don’t believe in heroism. As soon as somebody starts to make us excited about the world and what is possible for the individual, we come to start feeling terrible about that person, unless they’re trapped inside of a Marvel movie, or something like that. If you go back to the history of ticker tape parades, you will see that there were many ticker tape parades given for individual aviators, individual explorers, ships captains who put their ship at risk to rescue the crew of another—and, in fact, this pattern largely stopped.
My contention is that the difficult case of Charles Lindbergh may have marked a turning point. In Lindbergh’s case, he had flown solo to Europe from the United States and come back a hero, I believe in the late 1920s. Now, Lindbergh was a very difficult human being to deal with, because he was an authentic hero, and he was also somebody who believed in America First, and in isolationism, and given the Nazi menace in Europe, I think it’s almost an unforgivable position. Nevertheless, the fact is that Lindberg commanded tremendous popularity, and that popularity could have been used to keep the U.S. out of a war.
What I find is that, since Lindbergh, it has been very rare to elevate any individual to the point where they can oppose our institutions. The Pete Seegers and Albert Einsteins of the world, who fought against McCarthyism, were a huge danger to the industry that was cropping up around anti-communism. When it came to the Vietnam War, it was very dangerous to have popular entertainers, like John Lennon, who were against it.
We have been frightened about individuals coming to rival our institutions in terms of power. And that’s what’s so great about the new revolution in long-form podcasting, and all of these other forms of social media. Now, we have a great danger in that most of these platforms are mediated. We saw what happened to Alex Jones. It’s quite possible that if these powerful institutions come to believe that a particular individual should be removed, they can always choose to enforce the rules in a different way.
We saw recently the advent of Terms of Service changes to include deadnaming. Now if I say that Walter Carlos composed the album Switched-On Bach, or performed the album Switched-On Bach, that is a true statement. But because Walter Carlos became Wendy Carlos, I have no idea whether or not I can be accused of deadnaming. Now imagine that you have a hundred such rules, rules that are never spelled out, never clear, that can be enforced any which way to deny someone access to the major platforms. This is the great danger with this moment. We have unprecedented access, but we also have a gating function, which can be turned on at any time if we fall out of line with the institutions.
I want to read you one tweet that has been on my mind for quite some time. This tweet came from a contributor to The Washington Post, who is a professor at the Fletcher School and it said, “Good morning, Eric!”—I’m going to leave out the parentheses—”So I’ve read up on a few of your notions, and I have some thoughts, but my basic conclusion is simple: what’s true isn’t new, and what’s new isn’t true.”
I think it’s fantastic. I was stung by it, because at first I was under the impression that we were still living in a world in which the Washington Post, New York Times, Harvard, Stanford, what-have-you, control the major conversation. But, coming off of a recent date at the Ice House in Pasadena, which was a live gig with Peter Thiel, I’ve started to realize how powerful this new movement is. We can reach anyone, anywhere, and I think that the gated institutional narrative deserves to have the battle that it’s been bruising for.*
* Note: The last clause of this sentence was cut from the YouTube version of this episode: “…and I think that the gated institutional narrative deserves to have the battle that it’s been bruising for.“
David vs Goliath
What I now believe is that the gated institutional narrative has been spoiling for a fight. We are quickly coming to the point where we have a David-and-Goliath moment. We now need to try to re-inflict the individuals who are uncorrelated, who are not particularly good at taking orders, who don’t like committee meetings, who don’t want to sign loyalty oaths, but who are passionately committed to the public good, and to some version of intellectual meta-honesty. We need these people to once again take up positions inside of the institutions, and I would like to, in fact, inflict myself on my favorite institution, Harvard University.
The children of Harvard University have always been divided into white sheep and black sheep, and there’s no question that I represent black sheep Harvard, but I also think that one of the features of the University that makes it great is that it has tolerated both its white sheep and it’s black sheep.
It is time to do battle with the oppressive structures that have been used to silence new ideas. If in my family, I assert that there might be as many as three revolutionary Nobel-quality ideas in one clutch, how many ideas might there be suppressed if that is actually true? How many people are sitting on top of intellectual gold that never got its chance to see the light of day?
What I’d like to do is to try to do battle with the DISC, to show you that it exists, to try to figure out how it works, and to try to show that the tools that we currently have may be powerful enough to defeat it. This is the actual purpose of The Portal, and I think even if we lose some viewers and some listeners, even if people start to see articles appearing that say how terrible the show is, and how it’s trying to foment some kind of unrest, to hell with them.
We are in an amazing position to try to do something new, and to stand up for a lot of people who may have given up on their own original ideas, and to try to spark a revolution, because if I’m right, the DISC has been sitting up on top of some of our best and most hopeful ideas for a way out of our economic conundrums, our military problems, ideas which have some chance of delivering us to a much more interesting and brighter tomorrow.
So, I hope that this is going to be an unbelievable decade. Thank you guys for sticking with it. I’m sorry if this was a little bit long, but it was a lot to say and it was heartfelt and quite important to me to get it out, and we will return to trying to get you high quality content, either in the form of interviews, which you’ve become used to on The Portal, or perhaps some new visual content that allows you to understand ideas that would be very difficult to communicate but for some novel means of presentation.
We hope to approach the community, to try to coordinate people who are eager to contribute back into the program, and maybe get a little bit of a closer relationship to our content going forward, maybe influence it a little bit, and we haven’t figured out all of the bugs. So thanks for being part of the initial experiment. Thanks for sticking with us, and we’re looking forward to being with you in the coming year and decade ahead. So you’ve been through The Portal for first solo episode of 2020. Be well everybody. Stay tuned.