With this release, we try something a little different on The Portal. We begin an initiative to search for ways to feature members of the vibrant Portal sub-communities as part of the podcast itself, by requesting that listeners send in their questions around the prompt: “Mass media, markets, and human malware.”
The questions that came in were interesting and enlightening, and we hope that you may find the answers similarly useful.
We look forward to hearing your feedback on this new format as we continue to expand and experiment on The Portal. Hope you enjoy this episode.
Thanks To Our Sponsors
Blinkist: Get 25% off a Premium Membership and a 7-day free trial Blinkist.com/PORTAL
Boll and Branch: Get FIFTY DOLLARS OFF any sheet set at Bollandbranch.com Code PORTAL
ExpressVPN: Get an extra 3 months FREE on a one-year package ExpressVPN.com/PORTAL
Athletic Greens: 20 FREE travel packs valued at $79 with your first purchase AthleticGreens.com/PORTAL
Eric Weinstein: The following release represents our first foray into Portal-community-oriented content. In an attempt to make our sponsors brief messages as unobtrusive as possible, they’ve been placed after the first and third answers to your questions.
Hello, you’ve found The Portal. I think we’re going to be doing something interesting today, which is we’re going to start to bring in the portal community into a portal episode. The purpose of this is to show some of the interactions that we’ve been having with our people, whether it’s through Instagram or over our Discord servers that people have set up to allow and facilitate members of the Portal community to interact directly with each other. Now, I’ve been doing a lot of Q and A’s off-the-cuff on live Instagram chats while I try to get my 10,000 steps in a day. It’s been very productive, but my producer, Colin Thompson, has suggested that maybe what we should be doing is AMA-style episodes in which we solicit questions from the audience, perhaps on a restricted topic, and then we actually get the people who write in, after my producer has gone through the questions that he thinks are the most interesting, and go back to those people and allow them to ask the questions directly and to get an off-the-cuff answer that isn’t scripted, which is just from the heart so that people have an understanding that in fact, the show is being hugely informed by the number of people who are interacting with us directly.
As people are taking the concept of The Portal into their own lives, I actually wonder whether the podcasts will continue to be the leading part of the Portal community. We’re going to keep doing it, but there are now so many different opportunities for people to interact, whether it’s the voice chat rooms, the various projects that people are on, or these Q and A’s that we’ve been doing across different sorts of platforms, that these opportunities are going to continue to grow as an important part of the Portal experience. And, in fact, I have a fantasy that, at the end of this, I might even be able to remove myself completely from The Portal for a period of time and let the community take over as they come to understand what it is that this show is doing for them, because, after all, that is the entire point of doing the show. So, ask yourself, what is it that you want to see and instead of just hanging back, consider sending in questions the next time we solicit them on Twitter or Periscope, wherever we happen to ask the question next. And then, if we are able to find your question amongst the flurry of activity that comes in, we’ll try to contact you so that you can appear either through audio or on video and interacting with us directly. And I just wanted to do this in part to say thank you guys for making the show a success. We’re coming up on the one year anniversary from when we began the show at first, and perhaps the biggest part of this experience for me has been finding out what an enormous worldwide community of people are interested in the topic of looking for The Portal to get us out of our current frameworks of thinking and to find the door towards a more transcendent future, and even a present. So what we’re going to do is we’re going to start by allowing some of the people who responded to our first request for questions to ask their questions, and I’m going to give my off-the-cuff answers and we’ll find out whether that’s something that you guys find interesting, so stay tuned, and hope you like it.
Q: Hey, Eric, my name is Aviv, and I’m calling from the Boston area. Could you help resolve the media markets and human malware Mobius band? We are told that the media and social media influence our opinions, but at the same time, we are told that, in this day and age, the media is thirsty for our clicks. So, in effect, we tell the media what we want, and they give it to us. Well, which is it? Are we the Masters? Or are they? The same goes for markets. Markets are great at identifying needs and pricing them. But markets also convince us that we need some really bad things. As an example, universities want to import cheap labor to do research. This is done to maximize research per dollar spent. And this is perfectly rational. Yet you have argued that this is a problem, even though the market is doing exactly what it was designed to do. My intuition tells me that human malware seems to be the culprit here, but what exactly is going on? I’ll leave that for you to answer.
Eric Weinstein 4:38
A: Aviv, you raise a very important topic. This has come up in a bunch of different places. George Soros, for example, has a famous Principle of Reflexivity, which he believes that he can convey to almost no economists. And effectively it is the concept that not only do minds move markets, but markets move minds. That is, if you think you know what’s going on, and you start to see that the market isn’t behaving in any way that seems to reflect your preconceived idea, you may change your mind. For example, you thought that the world was falling apart but now the stock market starts gapping upwards. Well, that’s very confusing to most people. So there’s a way in which you have a two way interaction that you would expect—social media is both dictating our tastes, and it is trying to figure out our tastes, so that it can profit from it, at least the people who run the companies that social media is dominated by.
Now, what do we do in a situation in which taste formation is not understood? For example, in economic theory, given that all of this is market-mediated, we have a very long standing tradition, that tastes are to be treated as given, which I think goes back to Marshall, probably the early part of the 20th century. So we’re not allowed to ask, “Why do you prefer X to Y, and what would cause you to change your taste?” In fact, once tastes are given, they tend to be fixed in economic theory, precisely because the economist didn’t know enough math to be able to track taste change. In fact, this is the basis of my research with Pia Malaney into gauge theoretic economics. By adding more mathematics, we were able to show that you could continue to compare people’s tastes between two different points in time if the tastes are not the same. So we have a big problem because taste formation has, in fact, eluded any kind of analytic effort within the economics profession and we are in a market-mediated situation. I think we have to take this two-way relationship very seriously.
Now, John Archibald Wheeler, once famously tried to take the mathematics of Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity, and he said, “Here’s how you’d express it—you say that space tells matter how to move; matter tells space how to curve.” Well, in some sense, this is exactly what is occurring in the two-way process that you’re talking about. That’s actually mediated through a single equation rather than two separate equations.
So you have a very interesting situation. Are there equations? Are there new mathematics? Is there new form of analysis that can actually deal with an interacting nonlinear system in which we are both being influenced by media and we are influencing media in return? And now when you have a really complicated feedback loop like that, can you say anything about whether or not the market will tend towards a positive or a negative social outcome? That is, is the market going to efficiently get us to a better place? Or is it going to efficiently get us to a place that we don’t want to be at all? These are the sorts of questions that have been traditionally punted by the academics.
And so I think you may not even understand just how profound a question you’ve asked. We’ve been at this for a very long time. And it’s stunning to us the way in which the economics profession pretends to be incurious about this, there’s a paper by two particular authors, both of whom have received the prize that is frequently referred to as the Nobel Prize in Economics. And although it technically is not, and these authors are Gary Becker, and George Stigler, and they wrote a paper called De Gustibus Non Est Disputandum, and they argued that tastes should be treated as the same for all men, and do not vary over time, comparing them to the Rocky Mountains. The reason that paper is so bizarre is that the field is terrified of your question. What happens when you ask that question is that the field may in fact collapse and it required two people at the very highest levels of the economics profession to effectively put a tourniquet on the bleeding that you can expect to stem from asking that question, because they didn’t have the mathematics or the sophistication to be able to handle it. And furthermore, it may very well lead to a check on the power of economists, if that question does not have a positive answer. Maybe markets, in fact, lead us right up to the gates of hell.
So what the economics profession did was that they put in a very artificial claim, which is that you don’t need to worry about that because tastes cannot, in fact, be altered. This is positively academic nonsense of the worst kind. You’ll find this paper in the late 1970s, and I have an excellent authority from a member of the economics profession affiliated with the Chicago department, in which both of these gentlemen worked, that, in fact, they did not see economics as a free field so much as as a bulwark against totalitarian Soviet-style communism, given when they were writing. Now, if that’s true, it means that we came up with an artificial position in order to make the claim that capitalism was superior to communism. Communism then was defeated, but modern economists don’t necessarily even know that some of these claims were inflated, specifically as a political Bulwark rather than as an intellectual contribution. So you’ve asked one hell of a question. I don’t know whether you find that that was one hell of an answer, but maybe we should do more on this topic you’ve raised, and thanks for having such a an incisive look at the situation.
Returning sponsor Athletic Greens makes a health juice drink that I find to be extremely interesting because I’ve learned how to hack it in a way that wasn’t even advertised. While everybody else was putting on weight during quarantine, I was using Athletic Greens to slim down and probably have shed about 40 pounds. Here’s how it works: I get up in the morning and instead of going to the refrigerator and feeling that I haven’t To eat something to get my day going, I instead mix up a glass of Athletic Greens, and it keeps me feeling fulfilled and not particularly needing more nourishment. It also contains most of the vitamins and minerals that I’m craving. Athletic Greens powder mixes up into the ultimate daily All-In-One-Health drink with 75, vitamins, minerals and Whole Foods sourced ingredients that include prebiotics, probiotics, digestive enzymes, adaptogens, superfoods and more, giving your body one stop shopping to help support all of its various needs. So, whether you’re taking steps towards a healthier lifestyle, or you’re an athlete pushing for better performance, Athletic Greens takes the guesswork out of everyday good health. Why not just try it? Go to Athletic Greens comm slash portal to claim our special offer today. That’s 20 free travel packs valued at $79 at AthleticGreens.com/portal with your first purchase AthleticGreens.com/portal.
Do you remember that one time in 2015 that you once searched for something on the internet that you kind of didn’t want anyone else to know about? Who are we kidding, that situation probably happened five minutes ago. We’re constantly so searching for information on the internet, and it’s nobody’s business but ours. Yet our ISP somehow has the ability to see everything we do. And it’s not sufficient to use incognito mode, because our ISP still sees wherever we go on the internet. That’s why our friends at ExpressVPN want you to know it does not matter if you get your internet from Verizon or Comcast, because ISPs in the US can legally sell your information to ad companies. ExpressVPN is an app that reroutes your internet connection through their secure servers, so your ISP can’t see the sites you visit and keeps all your information secure by encrypting 100% of your data with the most powerful encryption available across all your devices. So protect your online activity today with the VPN rated number one by CNET and Wired. Visit our exclusive link ExpressVPN.com/portal and you can get an extra three months free on a one year package. That’s ExpressVPN.com/portal. ExpressVPN.com/portal to learn more.
Q: Hi it’s Seb from the UK, @seblawson11 on Twitter. My question is: Similar to some long form podcasts, do you think it’d be possible for mainstream journalism to implement a duality of opinion on a current issue, or at least take time to digest events before printing? Or will the current model not allow a mainstream publication type an unsexy headline such as “it’s more complex” than an article written a day later? Similar to shopkeepers putting up a sign saying “back in 15 minutes”, The New York Times, for example, might say “we’re thinking/digesting events—will report back in a few days.”
Eric Weinstein 13:45
A: That’s a really interesting question. What is the penalty for not being fast? We don’t know. We know that if you if you always race into print, and you’re famous forgetting everything wrong, that that probably has a cost, unless you do it in an entertaining way. And that’s a terrifying idea that you could be wrong in a very entertaining way, and nobody would care. If there is a penalty for being wrong, and there is a penalty for being fast that indicates that there has to be some sort of a trade off between them. And I think kind of the problem is that the exchange rate favors fast. But I think people are also getting bored and fatigued. And I do believe that a lot of what’s going on is that the legacy media we’re still dependent upon, is integrated into our lives in ways that we don’t really understand. So for example, a newspaper would typically have had two principal sources of income, it would have subscription income from the people who are choosing to consume and would have advertising income for the people who are looking to use it as a medium by which to sell their product.
In a world in which subscription income is very important, you’re constantly catering to your readership. However, when that becomes too slight, and it’s all ad driven, you suddenly change the orientations. The first question has to do in part with the business model. We could disincentivize very quick takes by, for example, strengthening our libel and slander laws and making it very expensive to get things wrong. On the other hand, you could imagine, you know, putting in speed bumps, in digital platforms, everything feels very artificial. But I think what will happen is we’ll start to see bolt-ons like for example, a scorekeeper as to which which sources have been the most reliable, and which have been the most biased, in ways that the scorekeeping is relatively transparent.
So one of the problems you might have is you’ll have something like Snopes that will advertise itself as being bias free. And then it appears that it actually isn’t bias free. It has its own bias. It might be that instead, what you do is you set up an algorithm that looks for things like Russell Conjugates. And I’ve talked about this—if a particular leader is referred to as a president, a strong man or a dictator, you’re being told a great deal about the editorial viewpoint at that particular media origin. And so one possibility is that you’re just have robots that crawl the internet and discern from which Russell Conjugation of something like dictator, strong man, president. What is it that every outlet actually believes?
You can easily imagine that as people came to understand the means by which they were being manipulated, they would, in fact, start to shy away from the things that they felt were not treating them with respect. So then if you rushed in very quickly with your take, there might be some penalty. I guess the great fear that I have is that we’re not really interested in the information as much at the moment as what is likely to be a massive redistributive event. And people are, in effect, jockeying for position to see whether or not we have a revolution and a ton of value shakes free. So think about the idea that maybe we’re all becoming pretty disinterested in fairness and objectivity and an understanding of the world because we see that there’s a pinata that’s being swung at, and at some point that pinata is going to break and there’s going to be a mad dash for all of the goodies that fall. to the floor. And so people are really positioning themselves not to understand what’s going on, but to scoop up as much of what falls out of what is to come as is possible. And that’s not a very optimistic perspective, but I think that there are things we could do if we were convinced that we were trying to build the future. And I think that too much of what we’re talking about is squabbling over the spoils that have accumulated in the past to build the present. And so once we become concerned with the future again, we’re going to be much more focused on getting things right. At the moment, we’re concerned with the present and the past. And so we’re much more concerned to getting things early, and getting things powerful, so that we might be the ones who benefit when the pinata finally breaks. That’s not a very optimistic perspective, but it’s how I see it. I really appreciate the question.
Q: My name is Felix Kamelander. I live in Frankfurt, Germany. My Twitter handle is @FelixKamaralan1. And here comes my question. Recent attempts to counter the radical left malware simply consists of criticism towards it, which is unlikely to be heard through echo chambering. Which features must a human software update have for it to be sufficiently attractive to establish a pull in a better direction?
Eric Weinstein 19:35
A: It’s an interesting question. Part of the problem with a lot of the current human cognitive malware that we’re seeing, particularly from the Marxist perspective, is that it anticipates its own removal. And so the attempt to remove it creates a huge problem. So I’m a huge fan of not letting it get its first foothold, rather than saying, “Oh, well, let’s take all arguments under our open architecture”, and then you find out that you’ve got some sort of a new problem that you can’t get rid of.
Now, why is this so difficult? Well, there are particular moves that if somebody invokes them, my feeling is is that you one should stop talking to that person. For example. If your response to finding that something is offensive is to have the person say, Wow, you have x fragility, where “x” is something, “American” fragility, “white” fragility, “male” fragility, that entire line of argument, if it’s allowed, says that certain people do not have the right to be heard or offended. And therefore, those who use that line of argument have to be ejected from the conversation, because otherwise it sets up a hierarchy of haves and have nots inside of a conversation about who actually is allowed to have the full spectrum of positions, including talking about how they’re concerns have been hurt or infringed upon.
I think that when you’re looking at these sorts of arguments, you can detail what their behaviors are, namely, that they allow one group of people, usually, to profit within the argument at the expense of another because of an asymmetry of what those people are bringing into a conversation. And if we lose the idea of interoperability, or the idea that the correctness or incorrectness of a particular position is completely decoupled from the characteristics of the person holding that position, then we’re in real trouble because we’ve lost the ability to actually share experience. And I think that human empathy, for example, is quite substantial so that we can imagine the lives of people that are very far away from our own lives. And those that have that capacity to be empathic and to use the imagination allows us to go to the movies, for example, or to lose ourselves in a book or a song, because many things happen to people that haven’t happened to us. Listen to the old song, “Billy, don’t be a hero”, and, in general, you will not have the experience of either being the woman asking her true love not to go to war and come home in a box, or Billy, who decides that he has to go and do this thing for glory. You don’t have either of those two experiences in most cases, but you’re able to lose yourself immersively in the song. I think that that idea that we can can’t actually understand each other maybe not perfectly, but we can get to very high levels of understanding, has been completely lost, and there’s a form of malware in the situation.
So when you see certain sorts of moves, you should know that if you actually accept those moves as legitimate, from that point on, the conversation will almost certainly derange, and you can’t actually object to those moves internal to the other person’s ruleset. In other words, if the idea is that in a conversation, whoever has experienced the most pain becomes the most expert, because the only thing that matters is lived experience and oppression—once you’ve accepted that that’s how the conversation will be scored, you’re in a very difficult situation. And there’s a point that I’m going to start to make quite a bit, which is illustrated with the difference between two games.
So, the way I usually phrase it is, imagine that you come upon a beach, and you see a very high net with two teams of three, and a ball to be exchanged by the two teams over the net. Most of us would assume that we are looking at volleyball, and then we would imagine that is played under standard rules for beach volleyball. But in Southeast Asia, the same equipment and configuration supports the second game called Sepak Takraw, which is effectively a form of volleyball played with the feet in a kind of incredible martial arts, you know, Hong Kong wire-act style. It’s kind of amazing to watch. What happens when you’re in a conversation where you think you recognize what the rules are just from the nature of the conversation, that would be the analog of looking at the net, the ball and the teams, where you’re making an inference, “I bet this volleyball”. Unfortunately, your conversation is going to be scored under completely different rules. That subtle change has fouled up a huge number of people because if they actually examine the rules, they will realize that they effectively can’t win at the conversation, even if their points are correct.
So, the most important thing is to understand what the frame is that you’ve been handed, who will be doing the scoring of the argument? Based on what principles? And if you don’t share the same sense of what the rules are, my advice to you is get yourself out of the conversation or object to the idea that the wrong rules are being used to score the conversation. And if somebody keeps saying, “Wow, that’s so bigoted, that’s so backward, that’s so paternalistic, that’s so unacceptable or problematic.” Well, okay, that’s the best that they’re going to be able to do. But it’s your problem if you decide to begin in good faith by assuming that you will be able to self-referee the game, much the way, in the United States, touch football, or a pickup game of basketball would be self-refereed. In that case, everybody’s more interested in the game. You don’t have endorsement deals on the line. It would be ruined if you couldn’t trust the other players to adjudicate, you know, whether or not somebody got fouled on a shot, or there was some kind of a penalty on the play.
Now, good sportsmanship is what allows us to be able to reliably find a pickup game with people we don’t know. It’s very important that we have a culture that anticipates what a discussion is, in good faith. As people start to realize that good faith discussions will not aid their point, they will attempt to look like they’re engaging in good faith, but will substitute a second set of rules. And so once you detect that that second set of rules has been substituted, it’s time to either eject the other people from the conversation, to leave yourself, to note that you don’t agree with the scoring of the conversation, that you will be using some set of rules. And, you know, I think about the evolution of, let’s say, Queensberry rules for fighting. It’s not true that in combat sport, everything is all out. You know, eye gouging or small digit manipulation is usually frowned upon. Of course, there were contests for example in Thailand, where the Muay Thai actors would wrap their knuckles in plaster and liberally salt them with broken glass to do maximal damage for the pleasure of onlookers. If you find yourself in such a situation expecting a boxing match, which is, in general, my impression of what it’s like to argue with the radical left, you better either be prepared to do something equally as disturbing, which will probably debase your morality, or get the hell out of the ring. And I would highly recommend the latter, noting a protest that this isn’t boxing, this is madness. And if somebody tells you this is Sparta, then you know exactly where you are.
Here’s a topical question: What do millions of Americans, and three US presidents, have in common? If you answered, “They’re extremely nervous about Ghislaine Maxwell being taken into custody, that is incorrect. Only two US presidents have that as a fear. In fact, the real answer was that they all agree that Boll and Branch sheets are the softest and most comfortable pure organic cotton sheets on Earth. I love my Boll and Branch sheets, because they sleep like the sheets in the best hotels I’ve ever stayed at. Plus, I know that Boll and Branch cotton is rain fed, pesticide free, and carries the highest organic certification. Plus, since they sell direct to you, what they’re doing is cutting out the middleman, which is the department store, which adds a huge markup. Thus, you’re getting the top quality sheets that you can possibly buy, for a fraction of the price. And right now you can get $50 off any sheet set at BollandBranch.com if you use promo code “portal”. That’s spelled BollandBranch.com using promo code “portal” for $50 off. So go to BollandBranch.com using promo code “portal” to get your sheets today. Restrictions may apply, so see BollandBranch.com for details.
Be honest, do you see yourself as a book person in danger of becoming a phone person or electronics person? If so, returning sponsor Blinkist is the company that’s probably done the most to figure out how to keep book people book people in the modern era. Here’s how Blinkist does it they have a team of readers and writers who comb all of the most important nonfiction titles and summarize them into 15 minute units called “blinks” that can be either read or listened to as audio. What I love about Blinkist is that these blinks allow me to figure out what I want to invest in, and when my time is at a premium, it means that I can make much more judicious decisions. Plus, if I decide not to read something, I at least have an idea of what the book is about if people start discussing it. Plus, now Blinkist gives you a library with full length nonfiction audio books at a special discounted price. Right now, Blinist has a special offer just for our audience. If you’ll go to blinkist.com/portal you can start your free seven day trial and get 25% off a Blinkist premium membership with up to 65% off audiobooks, which are yours to keep forever. That’s Blinkist, spelled Blinkist, blinkist.com/portal to get 25% off a premium membership and a seven day free trial. Blinkist.com/portal.
Joe Constantino 30:20
Q: Hey Eric, my name is Joe Constantino. I’m a Bay Area native, but I’m calling in from Los Angeles, California at the moment. My Twitter handle is @Joe_Constantin0, but the last “o” is actually zero. Anyway, here’s my question. I wanted to extend an idea that you and Peter Thiel put forward in your first episode of The Portal, the idea being growth as a mitigation to conflict. And Walter Scheidel’s book, The Great Leveler, Scheidel asserts economic inequality as something that is built into all societies. And the only events that level inequality are state failure, mass mobilization, warfare, pandemic, and revolution. In the first chapter of his book Scheidel describes the difference between relative and absolute inequality. The idea is simple. Let’s say in a society, the top 1% of earners make $100,000 and the bottom 1% make 10,000. Now we introduce growth, and everybody becomes twice as rich. Relative inequality hasn’t changed. The top 1% is still 10 times richer than the bottom 1%. But now, absolute inequality has doubled. It seems that growth inevitably leads to exponentially larger absolute inequality. If you accept Scheidel’s premise, then exponentially growing inequality will eventually lead to a leveling event, three of which certainly involve violence: state failure, pandemic, and revolution. Interestingly, I think we are experiencing these three events in the present moment. Do you agree with with this analysis, which said more simply states that growth leads to increased inequality, which leads to a leveling event characterized by violence? If yes, how do you reconcile this with Peter’s premise of growth as a mitigation to violence? Thanks again, and I really appreciate everything you’re doing with The Portal. All the best.
Eric Weinstein 32:24
A: Well, Joe, I think you’re bringing up an excellent question. Rephrased slightly—and I don’t know whether you’re going to accept the rephrasing—are we both dependent on growth, to stop violence, as well as being consigned to violence by growth?
Well, let’s put it this way. Whatever we, whatever double bind we might be in, we can at least attempt to minimize the loss to needless violence. So, in other words, there might be a level of essential violence of one form or another that we can’t get rid of. I mean, certainly, there’s no shortage of examples in nature where violence is baked into a species. Particularly, for example, in mating contests, how many four legged mammals, you know, have large antlers as weaponry for contesting for mates? So very often, violence is an expected part of a species condition, but you can talk about compensated and uncompensated violence and violence minimization. So it’s very important not to fantasize about a world without violence. because nobody’s ever figured out how to devise such a world it’s not even clear that that would be a positive thing. You can talk about monopolizing violence, which is Weber’s theory of the state. You can talk about trying to shift from physical violence towards financial violence or digital violence, or anything to reduce or abate the harm that comes from essential violence that cannot be gotten rid of.
Now, if I understand correctly, we have a situation in which a growing world might be a world that would accentuate inequality and therefore resentment. But if we don’t have growth, people are not optimistic about the future, and they’ll start to fight over whatever is present in the here and the now.
One thing we’ve learned is various techniques for either avoiding violence due to, let’s say, taxation schemes or concepts of patriotism, where people are willing to sacrifice for a national project that excites them, think about the number of people who went through the 60s who, when they when asked about like, inside of the United States, what they think of their country, they say, well, we put a man on the moon. It was viewed as a communal achievement, and so even people who had never achieved anything remotely like a great scientific breakthrough individually, or a great innovation, or invention, were able to participate in something that made them feel positive. Remember that that putting a man on the moon had to do with tax dollars. It was also obviously a demonstration to our chief geopolitical rival, the Soviet Union, of our capabilities, because there are lots of things that you can put on top of a rocket other than a few guys to take pictures on a foreign orb.
I think that, in general, without national projects that we feel great about, it’s very tough to say, “Well, what are you getting out of your country?” If it has a high tax rate, particularly a high marginal tax rate, what does that—what is that buying you? And, here’s a question, did the rich really understand why they might want a high marginal tax rate? I think that’s a very weird question for most rich people. Obviously, they would say, I don’t want a high marginal tax rate and they, individually, should not. But what if they were told, let’s say, you know, we don’t know how to prevent violence. And if we do a good job of a reasonable, although somewhat high marginal tax rates on top earners, we can probably avoid the revolution that may, in fact, threaten your ability not only to earn, but to be unmolested by civil unrest in the future. It’s a very upsetting thing for people to think about, who have 10 or 11 figures worth of wealth. However, it may be that a highly unequal society is not a stable society. So I’m not really sure whether we’ve ever had deep conversations about the essential violence that may be embedded within human organization, and what the very powerful and very wealthy need to fear about becoming ever more unequal, because, in fact, I have no doubt that would have been very hard to have a conversation with Marie Antoinette and King Louie, about their long term interests. I don’t think their long term interests were served in a world in which they were viewed as presiding over an incredibly unequal state. And I don’t know how to begin the conversation with the wealthiest families that what they think may be in their best interest with respect to wealth conservation, they might, in fact, be far better served by making sure that the society on which their success rests is a stable one. So these are fascinating and interesting questions. I don’t know whether that fully answers that but I would say that you want to minimize the violence that might be necessary in the system between your two possible alternatives, and you should also try to get the very wealthy on board and get them to understand exactly why they don’t want to become too wealthy. And why that should best be shared. And if you want to see what can happen, take a look at what happened to the Soviet Union. Take a look at what happened to Communist China. Take a look at what happened to any of these societies that experienced a very violent communist revolution.
Q: Hi, Eric, this is Steve calling from Tacoma, Washington. My social handle is @SteveWanderer. My question for you: If the current political age is coming to an end, and by that I mean Reaganism, Neoliberalism, and Third Wave Democrats, what do you believe needs to die? And what should take its place? What is a 40 to 50 year theory for the American Dream that can meet the challenges of our times, and that most people could embrace? What shared myth can take us towards something creative? Thank you for taking my question.
Eric Weinstein 39:14
A: Oh, that’s easy. I mean, obviously, capitalism and communism both have to die. You need to hybridize it into something which captures the essence of what capitalism did best, which was to provide for freedom, you have to figure out something, short of communism, that provides for people on the basis of being a soul rather than a pair of hands, so that we can’t have your entire value resting on whether or not jobs will continue to exist. As the economy continues to transform, the new economic system has to take much more into account, the issue of public goods and services, because the market will not be able to associate the proper price to the value provided. So you should expect that we were going to have to have hyper capitalism because people will have to be allowed to sort of invent in an unfettered environment because it’s gotten very difficult. And the individuals on whom we depend are really outliers. They’re determined by very fat tails, power laws, kurtosis, various things that people don’t think about. So when you have an Elon Musk, for example, you probably need to give him a wide berth in order to create as much value as possible, but then you probably need hyper socialism to go with hyper capitalism. And the idea there is that our traditional claim in a capitalist economy is simply through our labor. And, in fact, we have two claims we have one claim as a sole and one claim as a set of hands or a brain, which is what do we what do we provide and what do we need?
We are going to have to experiment with something like universal basic income to deal with the fact that technology is going to obviate many occupations that we would think of as providing for dignity as well as an ability to share in the wealth created. On the other hand, if we cannibalize the entire thing by talking in nonsensical terms in order to get justice, if you will, we are going to keep the people who would be able to innovate from even being able to think or function, because so much of this is intellectual rot that may be, in fact, attempting to achieve a positive social outcome, which is to make sure that all souls are provided for. So we’re gonna have to be more honest that there are certain people who are just remarkable. And there are others of us who are going to provide things that the market can’t see. So for example, when musicians watched vinyl turn into CDs turn into mp3s, by the time a song could be recorded as an mp3, there was no ability to keep that from spreading too broadly. So you have something become a public good that was once a private good, and musicians were no longer able to make the same kind of money from record sales.
That kind of behavior is going to occur again and again, because effectively what the internet and computers are doing is they’re taking tangible physical objects and their virtualizing them. When they become virtualized, they become public good. When they become a public good, they sit in the blind spot of the markets, constituting market failure.
It’s a very serious state of affairs. And so, whatever this new thing is, it’s not going to be capitalism, it’s not going to be socialism, we’re probably going to need to start talking about escape, because I don’t think that we can afford to run one single correlated experiment. What globalization has done is it has created a situation with our increasing technological abilities, so that a problem anywhere in the world can spread everywhere. You could look at COVID. You could look at the radiation that came off of, let’s say, Chernobyl or Fukushima. You could look at the danger that we were in with Deepwater Horizon. Roughly speaking, we are not stewards of this planet who know what to do with all the power we have.
Every mistake that we have can go global the way COVID has gone global. We’re probably going to have to figure out how to get off this planet. There are various ways to think about that, but they all sound insane. If I were to tell you that we’re going to upload that would seem nonsensical to me. If I could tell you that we have to become a society spread out between the moon, Mars, and the earth, as Elon might have it, I would say it’s not enough diversification and quite honestly, it’s very unlikely that you’re going to terraform Mars.
My own bet is that we have to break the laws of physics because rockets aren’t going to be the way that we’re going to spread out into the into the solar—beyond the solar system, into the galaxies. But who knows whether that’s even possible? Are we going to upload? Are we going to reboot from tardigrades? Everything sounds insane. But you want to know the weird part about it? The thing that sounds craziest is imagining that we’re going to be able to continue doing what we’ve been doing and it’s going to work for the next 2000 years, I think you can tell from the power of a hydrogen device that that’s not going to happen.
I recently was exploring virtual reality inside of Oculus Quest. And I had the idea that after I called for a return to very limited above ground nuclear testing on Ben Shapiro’s program, I wanted to experience what it would be like to stand near a nuclear test and found a simulator in VR. And let me tell you something, we really need to have everybody go through this experience, because everyone who thinks that we’re going to have a little bit of revolution or we’re going to have a little bit of global conflict doesn’t realize that it’s it’s almost an unbelievable occurance that, since 1952, we haven’t had a hydrogen device, a fusion device, exploded in combat. So, I think we’re in a most unusual situation, and it’s anyone’s guess as to whether or not we can get out of it. But I think, you know, there’s no other option, other than to try, and so everybody should pick his or her own best way of thinking about how we avoid this fate and spread out and let 1000 flowers bloom.
Q: Hi, this is Sean from Washington, DC. Eric, regarding economics, you have very thought provoking opinions. For example, you’re the only person I’ve heard voicing skepticism of high skilled immigration. I wonder why this is. You have also voiced concerned about capitalism. Given the complexity of economics and the wide ranging disagreements among experts, how can a lay person get a handle on how to think about these issues to form a coherent worldview? Thanks.
Eric Weinstein 46:14
A: I really appreciate the question. Thanks very much for asking, Sean. It’s an interesting problem, because I really believe, as I’ve said before, that economics is in a very unusual position for a modern field and maybe this is going to happen to more fields, but it happened to economics in modern times in a very brutal and dangerous way. What I’ve said is that there was probably a time when you had chemists and alchemists in the same department, or astronomers and astrologers, and every modern economics department represents a fusion of two separate traditions, a bullshit tradition that attempts to rationalize power and an analytic tradition that attempts to understand the world as we as we have it.
In the case of of my opinions, one of the things that happened is I did not go through a standard economics department. I went to working in the field directly without any education or background except from what I learned from my wife. That was a situation which led me to very different conclusions.
In the case of high skilled immigration, the reason that you don’t hear almost anyone critiquing high skilled immigration, is that we’ve put a very dangerous piece of malware into our collective understanding, which is that anyone who opposes immigration can only do so because they hate foreigners, which is about the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. Immigration is a very complex phenomena, it creates all sorts of different effects. There are good reasons to be for it. There are good reasons to be against it. Bad reasons to be for it, bad reasons to be against it.
So the first thing you have to understand is that we have to turn this around. How insane is it that there, in general, is not understood to be a position which I have termed as Xenophilic Restrictionism, where you’re fascinated by foreign cultures. You probably cook in different idioms, you learn foreign languages, you travel all over the world, you have friends from all different backgrounds, and yet you’re a restrictionist because you’re very concerned about certain economic issues. You don’t want your vote diluted. And you have an idea that your country has a national character that makes it interesting, just as you wish to visit other countries that have their own national characters, and you want to be thoughtful about how immigration changes and transforms your particular home society.
So the first thing that’s insane, I mean, just completely insane, Is that Xenophilic restrictionism is denied by our media—there’s no coverage of it. Try to find an article in which people are given the option to say I both find the world’s cultures fascinating and very attractive, and, I don’t want to adopt every single person from every other country and bring them to my own home country and home labor market.
The next part of it is that there’s a very simple story called “the best and the brightest” story. And just imagine, for example, that we start playing the Stars and Stripes Forever in the background, and you see a picture of a waving American flag, and somebody starts to speak, you know, saying, “America has always welcomed the immigrant, some of our largest companies, our biggest employers that have delivered us vaccines and untold wonders were in fact founded by immigrants. Do we wish to cut off the supply of talent and ambition? People flocking to our shores? Or do we wish to welcome them with a giant golden welcome mat, letting people know we are open for business, send us your best and your brightest”. So as we start to hear this patriotic appeal, you know, naturally we stand at attention to the flag, our hand goes over our heart, we ask ourselves, “Is this not the best example of Emma Lazarus’ poem that sits at the base of the Statue of Liberty?”
Okay, well, cut all that out. That’s not how immigration works. That is an attempt to get you not to think about the various positive and negative effects. What are the rights issues that are raised by immigration? In particular, with high skilled immigration, people love to say, “look, I love high skilled immigration”, because they think it’s a very small market. They think that it gets us the best and the brightest. They think all sorts of things that have nothing to do with labor markets that don’t really make sense, for example, the number of companies that are founded by immigrants would undoubtedly change if we had a more restrictive policy, but one of the things is that a lot more companies would be founded by Americans that wouldn’t be founded by immigrants because this would be a much more attractive field to enter, let’s say, a technological field or scientific field.
It doesn’t take into account the way in which the wage mechanism alleviates labor shortages. It doesn’t take into account the fact that changing our immigration structure would probably decrease inequality and bring lots of minorities and females and less represented groups into the workforce. There’s no such thing as a labor shortage of long term in a market economy, right, because the wage level just rises to the to the appropriate point at which you can attract the labor you need. I’ve talked before about having a Steinway shortage in my house. It’s not that I can’t afford a Steinway, it’s just that I have not chosen to purchase one. So when somebody tells you that they have a terrible labor shortage, they’re telling you I’m too cheap to pay the market price of labor.
The whole thing makes actually no sense. But the reason that you don’t find other people talking about a problem with high skilled immigration is, first of all, that we have a hidden history that it was in fact largely determined by the National Science Foundation, the National Academy of Sciences, who, unknown to us, effectively conspired inside of something called the Government University-Industry-Research Roundtable, and the Policy Research and Analysis division of NSF to decrease the wages of what I think of as being the top labor force in the world, because the American educational system is quite heterogeneous. We have terrible schools, and we have the world’s best schools. And in fact, we’re not getting the most innovative people anymore, because we’ve really given up on that, and what we hear is the best and the brightest is, in general, a very competent pliant labor force that is not particularly empowered to make bold decisions.
Try to imagine that you’re on an H1-B visa inside of the United States and you need to tell your employer that he or she is an idiot. You’re not going to be in a position to do that because you’re tethered to them because the H1-B doesn’t actually even allow you to listen to wage signals from other employers. It’s effectively a tethering device to make sure that you are wedded to the person who employed you. Well, it’s not quite slave labor, but it’s certainly not free labor either.
So the reason you’re hearing this from me, and me alone, is that I know where this came from, and I know what it was intended to do, and I’m emboldened by the fact that I know why they erected it, which was to destroy the power of scientists and engineers to be able to bargain for higher wages, better benefits and more rights. And as a result, the reason that they don’t come after me, and I’ve been relatively unmolested, is that they don’t want the story getting out. So we sit here, kind of looking to see who’s gonna blink first. The second they come after me and they call me a xenophobe, I’m going to tell the actual full story about how they conspired to destroy their own labor market for the very people that they were supposed to promote and protect.
With respect to capitalism. I’m a huge fan of what capitalism did. And what I’m concerned about is that people don’t realize that capitalism has a different future than it has a past. It was absolutely the most powerful idea in the 19th and 20th centuries, because it created so much wealth, it lifted so many people out of poverty, but it has various problems. It doesn’t incorporate all of the negative externalities. So for example, the price of a gallon of petrol or gasoline almost certainly doesn’t include all of the costs of belching the waste product into the atmosphere or the despoiling of the environment that was needed to go after that oil.
You have all sorts of situations where it doesn’t deal well with public goods and services. And those are things that are increasingly created by technology from what were private goods and services. I’ve talked about that elsewhere. So capitalism may have been tied to a particular place and time, and people get emotionally invested because they think that it’s always going to function the way that it did function. I’ve called this problem the problem of anthropic capitalism, that is, that capitalism was tied to a particular time and place in history, and it’s now time to move on to the next thing.
And I’ve talked a bunch about the idea of what happens when you graduate from high school, but you keep hanging around year after year, you know fewer and fewer of the people and it becomes more inappropriate that you aren’t moving on with your life. In part, I think that that’s what we have, we have a failure to launch our post capitalist society. So you’re watching capitalism come unraveled. And as I’ve said before, we thought that capitalism and communism were in fact rivals, but I’ve likened them to Thelma and Louise, in the final scene from that film. It doesn’t really matter who hits the ground first, but both capitalism and communism are intrinsically unsustainable. And the fact is, we don’t know what that leaves us with except to invent the future. That’s what Adam Smith had to do. That’s what we did with Bitcoin and crypto. We have to invent the future. And so I don’t know why our economists and our best thinkers aren’t realizing that they’re probably looking at a system on its last legs. We’re going to have to take what worked from capitalism that continues to work, and we’re going to have to fuse it to what we now know about markets and the human condition. It’s a very tall order, and it’s scary, but I don’t understand why we think that the answers are going to be in the past, and not things that we’re going to have to invent for ourselves in the future if we want to have a long term perspective on our own viability.
In this episode of the Portal, Eric checks in with his friend Andrew Yang to discuss the meteoric rise of his candidacy; one that represents an insurgency against a complacent political process that the media establishment doggedly tries to maintain. Andrew updates Eric on the state of his campaign and the status of the ideas the two had discussed as its foundation when it began. Eric presents Andrew with his new economic paradigm; moving from an ‘is a [worker]’ economy to a ‘has a [worker]’ economy. The two also discuss neurodiverse families as a neglected voting block, the still-strong but squelched-by-the-scientific-establishment STEM community in the US, and the need to talk fearlessly – and as a xenophile – about immigration as a wealth transfer gimmick.
Skillshare: Skillshare.com/PORTAL for 2 months of Skillshare free
Boll and Branch: BollandBranch.com $50 off with promo code: PORTAL No risk, 30 day trial period with free shipping
Eric Weinstein: Hello, you’ve found The Portal. I’m your host Eric Weinstein, and we’re here this evening a little bit later than usual with my friend and presidential candidate, Andrew Yang. Andrew, welcome.
Andrew Yang: Thank you for keeping The Portal open late for me Eric.
Eric Weinstein: Oh my God, thanks for bringing the energy. You’ve just come fresh off this rally at MacArthur park. You’re indefatigable, the Energizer bunny.
Andrew Yang: Yes. We just had a 6,000 person rally. 7,000, 8,000, I lost track. I was counting manually. No, I wasn’t, but—
Eric Weinstein: And I should say that your hat is Make America Think Harder.
Andrew Yang: Yep.
Eric Weinstein: But it’s—
Andrew Yang: It’s what The Portal’s all about I suspect.
Eric Weinstein: It’s math—well we’re trying. We’re trying. So we don’t want to keep you up late because we want you super charged for tomorrow, so let’s just dig right into it. Andrew, I’m remembering that we were having this dinner at Zazi in San Francisco—
Andrew Yang: Yes.
Eric Weinstein: And you were impressing the hell out of my wife and myself, and I said, “That guy’s going places.” She says, “How candy is it?” These are different times.
Andrew Yang: Oh, thank you… [inaudible]
Eric Weinstein: So am I right that this is, this is happening?
Andrew Yang: Oh, it’s happening—
Eric Weinstein: Big time.
Andrew Yang: I mean, our campaign is growing by leaps and bounds by all of the measurements you would ordinarily measure a presidential campaign: crowd size, fundraising—
Eric Weinstein: Fanaticism.
Andrew Yang: Well that’s, yeah I guess—
Eric Weinstein: The Yang Gang is absolutely fanatical. Trust me, I encounter them all the time on social media.
Andrew Yang: Well I love the Yang Gang. Thank you Yang Gang. Yeah, the excitement is palpable and I love it. I mean, everywhere I go now people will just say like I support you, and give me a fist bump… And certainly when we campaign, I mean, now we draw crowds of either hundreds or thousands depending upon where we are.
Eric Weinstein: It’s amazing. Now, let’s just dig into it. We’re in this totally bizarre situation. I don’t think the institutions have faced up to just how dire our situation—
Andrew Yang: No they have not.
Eric Weinstein: Is. When I go outside, for the most part, the physical world is still humming along, but everywhere else you can see the signs that somehow the superstructure that undergirds the simple physical reality has really been fraying. Am I wrong about that?
Andrew Yang: No, I agree with you, you know. And in many ways, if you’re just living life not plugged into all of the institutional decay, then you just go out and the sun’s shining and the birds are chirping and, you know, like you said, the physical world is still more or less sound, barring the occasional heat wave and unseasonal weather pattern.
Eric Weinstein: So, the way I see it: effectively, what you have is a world of institutions, and you have the wrong people in the institutions. In fact, what’s happened is somehow that the institutions were built in an era where things were growing rapidly. The growth pattern changed a heck of a long time ago—almost 50 years ago. And so for what they’ve done is they—these institutions have selected for people who can continue to tell stories about growth and to kind of play games to keep the illusion that everything is still humming along as if it was the ’50s and ’60s, but that hasn’t been true for a long time. How far off am I?
Andrew Yang: Well, that’s what the numbers say, and I’m a numbers guy, where if you look at the economy of the ’70s, you had a certain level of buying power among the middle class, and a certain split in terms of the gains from the economy among different parts of society, and then the lines started to diverge starting in the ’70s, and now they’re incredibly divergent, where you have middle-class incomes essentially unchanged during that time, and then people at the very top level absorbing more—more and more of the gains in the winner take all economy. But we all pretend like it’s still the ’70s, and you can see the disconnect in the lived experience of most Americans and most of the country, where they’re starting to catch on that things have changed, and I mean, it’s dark, it’s dark—
Eric Weinstein: Well, it’s incredibly dark and it’s worth laughing about, I think, for that reason. Because if we don’t have a sense of humor about it, we’re not going to be able to easily do the work. So I think whistling past the graveyard and gallows humor—definitely there’s a place for that.
Andrew Yang: Well, I, you know I, I naturally, I suppose… People have said to me that I have a very dystopian point of view, but I tend to present it in a positive, upbeat manner.
Eric Weinstein: I think you’re trying to get us through a bottleneck that you and I both know is coming, and that, in essence—I mean, one of the things I’m very concerned about with you is that I don’t want you to promise the world that you know how to do this. I want you just to say that I’m the best person to handle whatever’s coming next because nobody knows what to do.
Andrew Yang: Well certainly I would never claim omniscience or that I’m going to get everything right. I mean, I make mistakes all the time. Just ask my wife, she’d be like yeah, you screwed up just the other day. But… Well you and I were talking before the cameras started rolling, that I think it’s going to be a very dark time, and the goal has to be to try and survive the darkness, and not have it produce existential level harm. And I believe that I can assist in that regard, but I certainly would never say that I have all the answers, or that if I’m president, everything’s going to work right. Because the fact is, there are two things that I’ve thought about. It’s like, there’s the way the president makes you feel—
Eric Weinstein: Right.
Andrew Yang: And then there is actually solving problems on the ground. And right now, our experience of the presidency tends to be around the feeling. Like if Donald Trump does something irrational, it really does not affect my day to day existence, except for the fact that I see all the news reports and I’m like oh, that guy, what’s he doing? you know? And the same is true in reverse. Like if Barack Obama did something decent and human, it made me feel good—didn’t necessarily, you know, like change my commute, or anything—
Eric Weinstein: Sure.
Andrew Yang: And so there’s the way it makes us feel, which I believe I can assist with just about immediately for anyone who, you know, wants someone who seems solutions oriented—
Eric Weinstein: Right, positive—
Andrew Yang: And positive—
Eric Weinstein: Data, data friendly. That’s better—
Andrew Yang: Yeah data friendly, and genuinely wants to just try and make people’s lives better, I think that that would make people feel better. But then there’s the reality of trying to solve the problems from the perch at the top of the government—
Eric Weinstein: Yeah.
Andrew Yang: And that’s a very different process. I mean, I’m locked in on this idea of a freedom dividend in part because I think it’s the most dramatically positive thing we could do that we could actually effectuate in real life that would improve people’s lives, that we can actually get done.
Eric Weinstein: Now, I am both positive and negative about it, as you probably remember. What my belief is, is that we have two claims as Americans. We have a claim as a contributor to the economy, and we have a claim as a soul because we happen to live here, and as a soul, we have certain rights as a human being, just as a member of society. The weaker of the two is as a soul. But, that claim still exists, and in some sense, what you’re calling the freedom dividend, or universal basic income, speaks to the idea that there are these two competing claims. And you don’t want to get rid of the incentive structure that allows people to, you know, take a dream and turn it into something, and—
Andrew Yang: I love the dream. I love work. I love entrepreneurship.
Eric Weinstein: Yeah. And this is—
Andrew Yang: I love people doing great stuff.
Eric Weinstein: So, I think that there’s a theory—that there’s sort of a series of economic theories that haven’t actually been developed. And I think one of the things that’s really important to me is that we retake the institutions, because what we’ve done is we’ve selected for people who’ve used very simplistic models that have had a huge effect on transferring wealth, but have not actually mirrored our problems. We’ve selected for the people who have, really, don’t tell the truth. And I’m very worried how, let’s talk about your first term in office, which is going to happen. Who are you—
Andrew Yang: 2021, inauguration day. It’s going to be a blast. You’re going to be there, Pia is going to be there, Yang Gang’s going to be there, we’re going to have a giant party in DC.
Eric Weinstein: Wait, wait, wait, wait a second. Getting ahead of us. Who are you going to staff your government with if you’re going to have the same problem that everybody has, which once you’ve caught—once the dog catches the car, then what? You’ve got all of these institutions which have selected for economists who don’t tell the truth, who’ve selected for sociologists who are friendly to the institutions and hostile to our people. What do we do?
Andrew Yang: My team is going to be a blend of different people with different experience sets from different industries, even different ideologies. And I think you need some people who are DC insiders, who have relationships on Capitol Hill if you really want to get things done, because you’re talking about possibly the most institutionalized town in our society. And so if you get there and just like I’m going to staff it with outsiders, then no one’s going to get anything done.
Eric Weinstein: This is, this was Trump’s problem.
Andrew Yang: Yeah. Like, you’re not gonna get anything done. You’re just, you’re just going to be fighting with the system all the time: that they’re going to be like these antibodies that treat you like this hostile agent, and then they’re going to just make your life miserable, at every turn. I mean, that’s just the way organizations work. It’s the way cultures work, and so you need to have a blend of people that are like look, hey, I get it. I’m a new figure and you’re concerned, and one of my principles is that I don’t fault people for the incentives that have formed them. And, by this what I mean is, like if you show up in DC and there’s someone who’s been part of the fabric of DC for 20+ years, and they are someone who’ve been through administrations right and left, just sort of survived the whole thing, and their goal is to just keep that function going and make sure they get to retirement and whatnot. Like, you can’t blame that person for being part of that system, because that’s what their incentives have been for years and years. And so, what you don’t want to do is you don’t want to get there and be like I’m going to like turn everything upside down. I’m going to like, attack everyone.
Eric Weinstein: Well, the immune system will just actually, you know, the macrophages will descend on you and—
Andrew Yang: Yeah, and then you’ll never get anything done.
Eric Weinstein: You’ll never get anything done. So that was one of the answers that I was dying to hear, which is I’m going to have to work with the infrastructure that’s already there. But then there’s the second part of it, which is that I actually need to see some people permanently ejected, called out, chastised, who have been this class of people misadvising our government throughout the ’80s, ’90s, early part of this century.
Andrew Yang: Well, and that’s the dark part for all of us. That we sense that there is really limited accountability in DC. Like, you can give bad advice and screw something up… and you keep your job. You know, your think tank’s still there. Like, no one goes back and says hey, your white paper, it turns out it was completely mistaken, you know, like that. That’s not the way that town works or that you know, many government institutions work. So that’s the challenge, is that you have to try and make changes within this incredibly institutionalized environment, and so you need a combination of people that are well-intended, you bring them in and say look, this is going to feel like brain damage. You’re going to come in—
Eric Weinstein: Right.
Andrew Yang: And you’re going to be like, especially if you come in with a background like you and I might have from technology or entrepreneurship, where you look up and you’ll be like wait, you have how many people doing what? And you’re not allowed to do what? You know? It’s like the story of like healthcare.gov, where like the website didn’t work, in part because they hired a giant consulting firm and they had all these bureaucratic processes, and then when the website didn’t work, you know what they did? They hired a bunch of maverick Silicon Valley types and threw the red tape out the window and then did a repair job. So the goal has to be to bring in patriots who understand that they’re not going to have like an enjoyable time trying to turn the battleship, but that if they turn the battleship three degrees to the right, they can do more good—
Eric Weinstein: Sort of.
Andrew Yang: Than if they were in another environment where they turned it, you know, like—
Eric Weinstein: Andrew, I think we’re in a much more revolutionary situation, and in part to energize people… I mean, what we’re talking about is a revenge of competency. A revenge of genius, or revenge of people who actually know how to do things and care enough, who are ready and want to be mobilized and want to be called up, who’ve been sitting, you know, with major league skills in the minors or worse. And the fact is that what the institutions have done have inverted the competency hierarchy.
I mean, you know, there’s a guy that I don’t understand named Brad DeLong, who was part of the group that brought in NAFTA, and they helped to sell this idea that free trade was good for everybody. And then years later, I hear oh, you know what free trade actually is? There was an esoteric version, an exoteric version. The exoteric version we put on display for everybody. We always knew that the—in the esoteric version that was shared in the seminar rooms, that it was a social Darwinist welfare function that rewarded you by the cube of your wealth. And I’d just sit there with my jaw on the floor thinking, what did you just say? And then he says like I don’t understand, maybe we hurt people in Ohio, but we helped a lot of Mexican peasants. And I’m thinking, so you think that the American voters, who you’ve called jingoistic and, you know, ultranationalists, are going to be very happy that you’ve denigrated their patriotism and now what they have to show for it is that there are Mexican peasants who are significantly better off—which, I mean, who doesn’t want Mexican peasants to be better off? But, for F sake. I mean, this is, this is a class of people that needs to lose.
Andrew Yang: Yeah. And a lot of them are going to lose in my administration. Like I’m not a generally vindictive person—
Eric Weinstein: No it’s not, I, look—
Andrew Yang: You know, so, so—
Eric Weinstein: I hope he has a happy, wonderful life.
Andrew Yang: Yeah, exactly. It’s the kind of thing where it’s like hey, guess what. You had a lot of influence and authority—
Eric Weinstein: It’s over.
Andrew Yang: In one era, it’s over now. Like, you know, not going to unduly try and make your life miserable or anything, but, you know—
Eric Weinstein: Well, exactly. There’s nothing vindictive. It’s just, I don’t want to watch the Alan Greenspan Show, or the Larry Summers Show, or the Paul Krugman Show. I don’t really need—there’s no reason that these people get to be in every scene in every decade ad infinitum.
Andrew Yang: Yeah. Again, like I said, there’s really no accountability for being wrong, and so if someone presided over an era where, you know, there was epic mismanagement, you know, we still are asking them what the heck they think.
Eric Weinstein: Can I hit you with another one? That’s really comical for me?
Andrew Yang: Sure.
Eric Weinstein: I watch the graphics that have your name in relationship to the other competitors, and I know who the networks are afraid of, and they’re afraid of you. They’ll do a linear perspective graphic and you’ll be the guy on the very far end and then the presenter will stand in front.
Andrew Yang: I have noticed that, that does seem to be a, something of a—
Eric Weinstein: Well, I don’t think you should be bringing it up. I think the job is for people like me to be bringing this up, because they’ve been playing this game, with like Ron Paul, with Bernie Sanders, and—I don’t know if you’re familiar in magic with the concept of a magician’s choice.
Andrew Yang: No, I’m not.
Eric Weinstein: So a magician engages in a trick with magician’s choice. Let’s say that I want you to choose C—out of A, B, and C. So I give you the option, pick two. And you pick A and B, and I say okay, I’ll take those away, so now we’ll look at C. Or, if you pick A and C, I’ll say okay, we’ll take one of those two and we’ll throw a B away. Now, which one do you… So eventually you think you’ve made a decision, but in fact, the whole game was that the magician was pushing you without your knowledge. This is what I—
Andrew Yang: It’s like media company’s choice.
Eric Weinstein: This is what I think, it’s media company’s choice. And we’ve got a situation where, my feeling is that the more the Yang Gang can find—and this goes for Tulsi Gabbard or whoever else might be sidelined by this game—my feeling is that what you’re on right now is the equivalent of pirate radio. This is samizdat for the American people, and we should be—
Andrew Yang: It’s one reason I’m here, man.
Eric Weinstein: And it’s one of the reasons that we need to make sure that these channels are opened to the very people that the DNC doesn’t want running or the networks don’t want running. And the thing that I hate is that we’re in this William Tell situation, where we’ve got to run against our own party.
Andrew Yang: Yeah. Well, you know, again—
Eric Weinstein: And you may not want to say that, and I understand why, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to listen to a situation in which you were, you’re shut out of air time and you’re pushed off to the side of the graphic.
Andrew Yang: Thank you Eric. And I can say that this man is the head of pirate radio for the 21st century. Certainly one of the high chiefs of it. And to me, again, you know, you have these institutions with certain incentives and certain relationships, and they’re going to be naturally protective of the folks that they think are on the inside and be naturally very leery of the people that they think are on the outside. But one of the themes of this era is that there are more of us on the outside that are catching on, and that the stranglehold that media companies had on our attention has weakened significantly. It’s one reason why someone like me can do so well in this environment, or that someone like you can become this independent intellectual voice that doesn’t need to, you know, like get a CNN contributor contract or whatever.
Eric Weinstein: Well it’s very funny. One of the members of the Washington Post—which, you know, says that “Democracy dies in darkness,” that’s their tagline—but one of them said that everything you, Eric, you have to say that’s new isn’t true. And everything you say that’s true isn’t new. So it was like remarkably there’s nothing I can possibly contribute to the conversation. It’s just—
Andrew Yang: That seems so unlikely.
Eric Weinstein: I mean statistically, it’s pretty hard to imagine that it’s a perfect—
Andrew Yang: Everything’s been said Eric, just give up now.
Eric Weinstein: Yeah, and the only stuff that hasn’t is wrong. So, what I’d love to do is to talk about some sort of new ideas to undergird some of the economic things that you and I have traditionally talked about more before your meteoric rise, so let’s dig into it.
Andrew Yang: Yeah, I’d love that. Yeah, please.
Eric Weinstein: Okay. So one of the things that Pia—
Andrew Yang: Also I want to say that I quote this man all the time, I’ve learned a great deal from him and his wife, and that he’s one of the most profound economic thinkers that I’ve encountered, and I’ve met a lot of fucking people. So, I just wanna—
Eric Weinstein: You’re very kind, sir, and one of the things that I would say is that even when I disagree with you, even on your signature stuff, that the way I really view you is that you’re the candidate who is most open to new ideas, and you’re always up for a good discussion, a good argument, and you’ll go with whatever’s best, and I find that you are as close to non-egoic as anyone I’ve met running. I mean, you really are, seem to be running out of compulsion.
Andrew Yang: Yeah. Well, you know, I, I don’t have any native desire to be president.
Eric Weinstein: I didn’t felt [sic] that you ever did, and it was one of the reasons I love the fact that you’re running.
Andrew Yang: Yeah. I think my, one of my main qualifications to be president is that I just don’t socialize that much, in the sense of, like, if you have me around a bunch of fancy stuff, like it really doesn’t do anything for me. Like, you know, as president, I would love to do away with a lot of the—
Eric Weinstein: You do like geeking out,
Andrew Yang: Like the ceremony, like it seems like it’s counterproductive. And no, I happen to think that might help me do a better job.
Eric Weinstein: So let’s try to geek out on a couple of ideas that Pia and I have been playing with, see what you think.
Andrew Yang: Yeah, I love it.
Eric Weinstein: Okay. So one of the things that we’ve been thinking about is some people will start talking about the difference between the shareholder economy of the past and the stakeholder economy of the future—
Andrew Yang: Yup
Eric Weinstein: There are other issues about the dignity of work, and what happens when machines replace you… You can’t necessarily defend yourself economically, but you still have a reason to get up in the morning and do something.
Andrew Yang: Oh we hope you have a reason that you get up and do something.
Eric Weinstein: Amen. Now, the thing is, we’ve been thinking about this paradigm from object oriented programming, which is the difference between “is-a” versus “has-a.” So, if a Lamborghini can play an FM broadcast through its speaker, you could technically find out that by some definition, the Lamborghini is a radio. But that seems absurd. It’s much more sane to say that it has a radio, just the way it has a transmission. We make this error, I think when we talk about workers. We say that person is a worker, they are a brick layer, or a teamster, you know?
Andrew Yang: Completely.
Eric Weinstein: And that what we need to do is to readjust our model of an economic agent to a has-a model. And so the idea is that you may have a breadwinner, and you also have a contributor, and you also have a consumer, and therefore what it is that we do all day long—in the face of the automation that may or may not get here in dribs and drabs or come as a wave, we don’t know—that we need to have a model of humans that recognizes a need to be active in the economy whether or not the marginal product of our labor is sufficient to take care of our family.
Andrew Yang: Yeah, I love it so much and I couldn’t agree more.
Eric Weinstein: Okay. So that’s, that would be the kind of a research program that we would love to try to see undergirding a new economy that recognizes a much richer concept of an agent, but without it, I’m worried that, that you know, the, the sort of, the power of that Chicago-style thinking pushes us back into humans as widgets.
Andrew Yang: Well, humans as widgets is predominant, and you can see it at every turn, where even if you ask a kid what do you want to be when you grow up, it’s, you know, they’ll say I want to be a fireman, astronaut, baker, a scientist, whatever it happens to be. And by the numbers, we are more work obsessed now than we perhaps have ever been, and trying to break up our identities—
Eric Weinstein: Sure.
Andrew Yang: Into several aspects, where you take a trucker who’s on the road away from his family four days a week and say you know, you’re a dad, you’re like a consumer of hunting gear, or you know, like you, there’s more to you than being a trucker, when they have shaped their life—
Eric Weinstein: Right.
Andrew Yang: Around being a trucker because, you know, it’s literally—you’re behind the wheel for 14 hours a day. You get out, you sleep at a rest stop. I mean, these are all-consuming types of existences that are filled by hundreds of thousands of American men, and you know, 94% of them are men. So, you know, it’s not like oh, he just thinks they’re all men. It’s like, come on, 94% of them are. And so if you were to go to that person and then try and have them adopt a more holistic identity, when they have essentially shaped their entire existence around their role in this real life—like almost circulatory system, where it’s like they’re piloting this blood vessel that has a bunch of Home Depot crap in the back, or whatever the heck they’re transporting on like a daily basis—having them have other aspects of their identity that they value to a point where you could remove the work component and they would, you know, be cool with going home and spending time with their families is pretty much the opposite of the way our civilization functions right now.
Eric Weinstein: Well we saw these deaths of despair discussed by economists in the, you know, the heartland of America. We saw this demographic crisis that happened when the Soviet Union fell apart with, you know, the mortality crisis. All sorts of people were dying of alcoholism, heart attacks, and stress. So this is a really serious thing we have to figure out about the restoration of human meaning and dignity as different from employment.
Andrew Yang: You had something like a dozen disenfranchised taxi cab drivers and limo drivers kill themselves, you know, last year, like one of whom killed himself in front of city hall. I mean, like, did his self-destruction cause meaningful ripples in our society? No. Most people watching this and listening to this right now, it’s like oh, that shit happened? Like, you know that, like, but that sort of self-destruction is happening all the time, and most of them are just men quietly drinking themselves to death in their homes and then, you know, they’re dead. But—
Eric Weinstein: Well, I love the idea that you’re talking about compassion for men, because one of the things that I’m finding is that it’s very tough to talk in a world that is currently exploring this idea of toxic masculinity from some place that it might’ve been reasonably defined, and blowing it up past that point. It’s a very dangerous thing to see a world that sort of thinks that, you know like, all straight, white guys are okay, when in fact, many of them are very vulnerable and—
Andrew Yang: By the numbers.
Eric Weinstein: By the numbers. Right.
Andrew Yang: You know, yeah. It’s so, the—and this is one of the themes that, when you talk about trying to define people by different aspects of their life that might have work as one of them, but have like others, the fact is, I think men struggle more with breaking up our identities than women do. Because if you were to say to a woman hey, you’re a parent, you’re, you know a sister, you’re a nurse, you’re like, all of these things, I think they would be more ready to embrace some of the non-work aspects of their identity, in part because of the cultural load that is placed on different types of people in our society.
Eric Weinstein: Yeah but I think they’re facing a big one coming up, which is that you’re going to have a huge cohort of millennial females who pretty much would love to be in a situation with meaningful work, but also with a family raising children of their own. And there’s, first of all, isn’t necessarily a supply of guys who can rise to the—I mean, you know, it doesn’t have to be traditional households, but a lot of it is going to be male, female, breadwinner, somebody stays at home, it might be the woman who’s in the workforce, might be the guy staying home, whatever. The fact is a lot of these families aren’t going to form because we’re not in a position to say I can afford a 30 year mortgage. I can see enough stability in my future, I can—
Andrew Yang: Yeah. And that’s part of the thing, is that these challenges face us all in different ways, and it’s really, to me, counterproductive to disastrous to single out a particular subset of us and be like hey, you’ve got it wrong. You’re okay, you know, that’s a legitimate, you know, like thing to be upset about. That is not. I mean, like if, if someone is struggling, like it ends up reaching different groups in different ways.
Eric Weinstein: Right.
Andrew Yang: And you can’t say it’s like oh, your struggles are somehow more valid than others’. So just to wrap around this thought, so I think that the division of our identities into like work and non-work—
Eric Weinstein: Right.
Andrew Yang: It’s one of the greatest things we have to overcome. And by the numbers, if you lose your job and you’re a man, you tend to have relatively self-destructive patterns of behavior manifest relatively consistently and quickly, where unemployed men volunteer less than employed men despite having much more free time, as an example. Substance abuse tends to go up, very self-destructive behaviors. A lot of time spent “on the computer” goes up, which, so that’s a combination of gaming and some other things, and—
Eric Weinstein: Porn.
Andrew Yang: And porn, I’m sure, is, you know, I didn’t, I mean, I kind of implied it and, but I was thinking it—
Eric Weinstein: No no no, look. This is a free radio station, effectively, and we’re going to be able to say that that’s one of the things that may be deranging us. We don’t know what its effects are.
Andrew Yang: Yeah, no, so—and that women have struggles obviously, but the struggles take a different form in terms of… and the numbers show that women are more adaptable to non-work idleness in that they will not share the same patterns of self-destructive behavior that men do. Now of course, women obviously, you know, hate to be unemployed, but the thing that I joke about that’s sort of true is that women, however, are never truly idle in the sense that they always find like ways to be productive contributors in a way that men struggle with, in many respects.
Eric Weinstein: So kin work for example, where you’re working for your family, taking care of elderly parents, your kids, somebody else’s kids, these things are part of the fabric of civil society. One of the questions I have is, should we talk about coming up with some new financial products that get women the money they need during the period of their life when they might need extra help in the house? When they, when the binds that come from caring for elderly parents or children are starting to knock them out of the workforce, and trying to figure out how to make some kind of creative structure to help shift the burdens to times of their life when they can better afford it. What do you think about that?
Andrew Yang: Yeah, so just to sort of show the other side of the coin, so men volunteer less if they’re unemployed than employed, even though that doesn’t make any sense in terms of their free time. Women show higher rates of volunteerism and going back to school when they have more time. So it’s just that the numbers show clear patterns of like, different responses to non-work-related time or idleness. But I, I’m with you on the fact that right now trying to map everyone’s economic prospects to the market, the market’s valuation of our wages, has all sorts of distorting effects, and tend—what you’re suggesting that we should just start putting money into people’s hands at various points in their lives, I mean, that’s really one of the underpinnings of the freedom dividend. You know, my universal basic income—
Eric Weinstein: I see that that’s a part of it.
Andrew Yang: Yeah, it’s like you put 1000 bucks a month into people’s hands, and then that would allow us all to make different types of decisions, really from almost day one of our adulthood.
Eric Weinstein: Let’s try a few other things that I think might be interesting. One thing that wins presidential campaigns that we don’t talk much about is demographers. Demographers are sometimes asked, “Tell me some group of people that we don’t know about as a voting block that nobody’s figured out how to speak to.” And I think I have a couple of these that are candidates, and I’d like to bounce them off—
Andrew Yang: Oh please, yeah, I’d like this, maybe I’ll find a new audience to—
Eric Weinstein: Well then, okay. So the first one that I have, you know, so these are things like soccer moms was one from years past, or exurbs, between rural and suburbs, where people didn’t realize that there were intermediate places. So here’s one that I think is huge that hasn’t been identified. Parents of super smart kids that have some kind of a learning difference that causes them to wildly underperform in school. This is something that makes me crazy because I think it’s all over. Once you start seeing it, you see it everywhere. Parents are tearing their hair out—
Andrew Yang: Yup.
Eric Weinstein: Teachers can’t handle the kids—
Andrew Yang: Nope.
Eric Weinstein: And there’s just this maddening loss of human brilliance that is flushed down the toilet.
Andrew Yang: Have you come up with a name for this group?
Eric Weinstein: Well, I often refer to these as kids with learning superpowers, and I talk about teaching disabilities, which is the more dangerous version of this: that because people don’t fit into the notion of what can be educated by one teacher teaching a room of 30 people to make the economics work, my belief is that—and I’ll come up with a name for it for you—but I want to talk to all of the parents who are leading lives of despair, saying why is my kid wildly underperforming and I know how smart this kid is? Why are we doing this to ourselves and why will no one speak to it? This is, by the way, this is me and it’s been in my family for four or five generations.
Andrew Yang: It’s me too
Eric Weinstein: Really?
Andrew Yang: Well, yeah. I’m very public about the fact that my older son is autistic—
Eric Weinstein: I know that.
Andrew Yang: And that when we put him in various environments, I mean, there were very, very sharp struggles. And to me, atypical is the new normal, like neurologically atypical. And you’re right that as soon as you start seeing it, you see it everywhere—and that the facts show that it’s incredibly commonplace. And at this point, I think most American families have someone either in the family or someone in their social circles that resembles the description that you just put out there of this group. To me, a lot of it is that our institutions just aren’t well-designed for people with different learning profiles or different approaches to the world—
Eric Weinstein: And yet these are very often the people who are going to found new fields, who are going to find new drugs for us, who are going to think in such different a- uncorrelated fashions, that these are very often the people that I value the most, and you never know whether the thing’s going to work out because the kid every, every year is sustaining more and more trauma. Whereas these other kids, it’s like, you know, I remember looking at the neurotypicals as if I was like Cinderella, watching all the other sisters go to the ball and I was sitting there scrubbing dishes. Like what? You know, every conference was Eric is underperforming. Eric can’t meet his potential. Eric this or that. You know, at some point it’s just like, you don’t realize how much damage you’re doing to maybe as much as a fifth of the country.
Andrew Yang: Well, someone described it as like you’re getting regular, low grade psychic beating.
Eric Weinstein: That’s pretty good.
Andrew Yang: And, and that’s something that you obviously wouldn’t wish upon anyone, much less little kids.
Eric Weinstein: Yeah. And by the way the autism thing, you know, I don’t know whether your child is high functioning or not, but it’s certainly the case that a lot of us have the idea that we almost don’t want to deal with people who aren’t in some sense on the spectrum or having some kind of ability to focus and to work with abstractions. Very often I think of, you know, I, I’m on top of this, I’m colorblind, and I always make the point that I see camouflage better—
Andrew Yang: Did you know that you’re wearing bright purple right now?
Eric Weinstein: Stop it. That used to happen. I used to dress myself before I let my girlfriend, now wife, make these decisions. I would make terrible decisions.
Andrew Yang: I’m just kidding, you look great. Pia he looks great, I’m sure you had something to do with it.
Eric Weinstein: So that would be one group. Here’s another one that I think is really important. Now, I know that you are the child of immigrants and that, you know, I’m of course married to an immigrant. The temptation is for us to, sort of, be very defensive of our immigrants because we have some forces at the moment that have become very jingoistic, and I think that that’s right. But I also think that we have to recognize that there is a story about immigration that’s very unpleasant and ugly, which is how Americans have used immigration to redistribute wealth amongst ourselves. And effectively, the immigrant is used as a tool of redistribution, then people get angry or protective of the tool, and one of the things that I think—that’s very important—is that a huge chunk of America is highly xenophilic. They like foreigners, they like traveling abroad. They like food, music—
Andrew Yang: You probably read Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt. You’re probably friends with John, right?
Eric Weinstein: Yeah. Yeah.
Andrew Yang: Yeah, I figured. Okay, continue, ’cause this is what it reminds me of.
Eric Weinstein: Okay. The thing is that xenophilic restrictionists are a good chunk of this country. If you do a poll, and you allow for all four boxes, xenophilic, xenophobic, restrictionist, expansionist, xenophilic restrictionism is a giant cohort. Nobody speaks to it because if you say anything about restrictionism, the media will instantaneously label you a xenophobe. Can we at least distinguish the idea of the immigrants, as souls like ourselves, who have been an important part of our national tapestry, together with the fact that very often they are used as instruments of transfers of wealth? And—
Andrew Yang: I agree.
Eric Weinstein: And that we should be angry at our fellow Americans who cynically use immigration and hide behind the immigrant to take money from one sector and put it into their own pockets.
Andrew Yang: Or you should not be angry at someone who’s angry about the immigrants.
Eric Weinstein: Well this is the thing—
Andrew Yang: Because, because there is something, like you said it’s like, you know, in some ways someone can have a very legitimate grievance about the fact that there have been these instruments of wealth transfer that have been imported into our midst.
Eric Weinstein: So I call these the Americans who redistribute our wealth “immigrantrepreneurs”, right? And the idea is that if they could use puppy dogs to redistribute our wealth, they’d use puppy dogs because nobody can be against puppies. Right? And so it’s a very cynical use of the Statue of Liberty. It’s something that’s very difficult to talk about. But it’s something that I’ve been talking about for a while, because I think that I’m so far in the xenophilic category it would be comical if somebody decided I actually had a problem. So I’ve been bold and I haven’t really had the problem, but most Americans feel very uncomfortable talking about immigration because they have two different feelings. They one, have a really good feeling about the person that they know who happened to come from Uganda or India, and they have the sense that something is wrong with the story. We’re going to have to disentangle it and restore something that makes us feel good about it rather than uncomfortable.
Andrew Yang: I agree.
Eric Weinstein: Great.
Andrew Yang: And, you know, I think I may be able to help in this regard.
Eric Weinstein: I think you’re perfectly positioned for this.
Andrew Yang: You know, in part I’m the son of immigrants who loves this country, who loves that immigrants have been an incredible source of dynamism—but, you know, you can’t have open borders and unrestricted immigration. I understand the sentiment where people are struggling with the fact that our country has brought many people in, either intentionally or unintentionally, in ways that are changing our economy and society in ways that in, like, some people have legitimate problems with.
Eric Weinstein: Yeah. I just think, I think we need to be able to have an open conversation about difficult topics around this and pull them apart. And the fact is we need, we need people to feel comfortable that it’s okay to feel uncomfortable as long as you’re trying to explore it—but the current president, for my money, gets way too close to jingoistic sentiment.
Andrew Yang: Yeah, and that’s one of the natural reactions, is that if the current president says one thing, then, you know, the right thing to do is say the exact opposite. But then the nuance gets lost and then unfortunately we end up falling into these polarized camps
Eric Weinstein: That’s why I feel like we have—it’s so important not only to defeat the current president, but also to defeat the kleptocratic center of our own party as well as the regressive left that proposes as the progressive left, and then to take care of the constituents that are currently all over the spectrum in a new world. And this is one of the things I love about your slogan, which is not left or right, but forward, right?
Andrew Yang: Yes. That’s the slogan.
Eric Weinstein: Yeah. And that that thing is that it’s moot, it’s a question of—
Andrew Yang: It also happens to be the truth. It’s not just like—
Eric Weinstein: I know, that that’s the thing. It’s moving out of Flatland, like we’ve been given this smorgasbord of bad options and just say hey, I don’t think I want to dine from there. I think these things are available off menu. Do you mind if I… You know, like for example, Starbucks I think will sell you a short cup of coffee, but they won’t put it on the menu. You have to know that to ask for it. So I like to think of you as the guy who somehow knows that there are things that aren’t on the menu.
Andrew Yang: I am animal style at In-N-Out. I am… Andrew Yang is animal style!
Eric Weinstein: Let me give you—
Andrew Yang: I agree that I can change the political conversation in a way that many Americans find very exciting and productive, because 25% of Americans are politically disengaged, including, I’m sure, some people watching this, and I believe it’s up to 48% [that] self-identify as Independent, which is almost twice what identify as either Democratic or Republican—
Eric Weinstein: I’m so close to identifying as Independent. I can’t stand my own party, but my feeling is I have to stay there and say hey, we’re out of control in order to save the structure, because I, I—
Andrew Yang: Well, the two party system, I mean, I agree. That’s why I’m running as a Democrat in part. It’s like, well, you have these two parties. Maybe you can turn one of them into like a highly functioning party with great ideas than the rest of it, I mean, that’s like an easier solution than—
Eric Weinstein: Look Andrew, what I really want to do is I want to reta—I want the insurgency that you and I have been sort of a part of, this loose collection of people who are thinking completely off the menu, to start retaking our institutions. We always had heterodox people of high caliber who are, you know, effectively heretics housed inside the Harvards and MITs and Caltechs, and I think we’ve gotten rid of that kind of—
Andrew Yang: Or they are there. Then they’re scared shitless to, like, say the wrong thing or else they’ll get—
Eric Weinstein: Well, do you remember the time, you remember that situation where MIT turned over Aaron Schwartz?
Andrew Yang: I shouldn’t laugh, ’cause, I mean, it’s dark.
Eric Weinstein: But we should laugh.
Andrew Yang: No, no, I mean—
Eric Weinstein: I’m for laughing at the dark.
Andrew Yang: Yeah, I laugh at the dark, it’s, you know—
Eric Weinstein: It’s like everybody knows that, but you’re not allowed to do it in public. So screw that. You know, we had this situation with this guy, Aaron Schwartz—
Andrew Yang: Did you know Aaron?
Eric Weinstein: No. Did you?
Andrew Yang: I’ve, you know, he’s a friend of friends.
Eric Weinstein: Yeah. You know, and this guy almost certainly was a pretty pure-hearted human being who was fighting the good fight. MIT is supposed to shelter those people, and instead they cooperate, you know, in turning them over.
Andrew Yang: As soon as you get the institutional incentives in a particular direction, then, like—I mean, this is not near, and this is just like recent, because in recent memory, but you know I stuck up for Shane Gillis, this comedian that had said—
Eric Weinstein: I saw that, and the the idea that, you know, you were in a position to say look, I’m the candidate—
Andrew Yang: He personally actually, yeah, and so if anyone should be offended, it’s me. And so I think he shouldn’t lose his job over it, well—
Eric Weinstein: Well this is the thing, the quality of mercy, or forgiveness, or just recognition that there should be space for remorse and redemption, this is what makes so much of the intolerant left feel cult-like, and I thought what you were doing was you were showing the best aspects of a truly compassionate left.
Andrew Yang: I was trying to be a human being, you know? Like you looked at him, being like well, like is that a job losing offence? But then the fact that NBC ended up firing him was entirely consistent with our corporate incentives, because if you look at it and say like well, is this person that we’ve invested a lot in that’s some, a revenue generator for us? No, because he hadn’t even worked for one day. It’s like our corporate incentives to can him and thoughts like, you know, put an end to any controversy or advertiser or whatnot, that would be troubled by it, yeah. So it’s like, so if you’d asked me, it’s like hey, do you think he’s going to be fired? I’d be like yeah, he’s almost certainly going to be fired because that’s what the corporate incentives [inaudible].
Eric Weinstein: Well I understand that, so one of the things that I’m really interested in doing—
Andrew Yang: But it, it still made me sad. Like I was like hey, this would be unusually human and forgiving if they decided to—
Eric Weinstein: Well, they lost a teachable moment, because one of the things that’s going on is that so much of the information economy is very, very marginal in the sense that you’re almost producing a public good. So for example, I slap ads on my podcasts—
Andrew Yang: Buy stuff from his sponsors. No I’m kidding.
Eric Weinstein: What I’m trying, well, what I’m trying to do is I’ve tried two new models, one of which I’m calling reverse sponsorship, where I shout out some great company which doesn’t know that I’m going to say something positive, and maybe they become sponsors, maybe they don’t, but the other one is riskvertisers, where people get to know me over long periods of time, and the hope is that you’re going to say look, you’re not going to catch me being horrible and bigoted and all of these things, but I might say something dangerous, like something that I just said about immigration, and will you make sure that you will not run away from me during the period where the mob descends and the frenzy is at its worst? Right? Because if we don’t fix the economic models, we can’t have deeper discussions because everybody’s going to run away at the first sight of trouble. And so part of what we’re trying to do ultimately with the advertising—
Andrew Yang: Look at this, pirate radio, pre-advertising.
Eric Weinstein: What do you think?
Andrew Yang: I mean, I love it. It’s like, leave it to you to try and solve that kind of problem.
Eric Weinstein: All right, I’ve got some other things that I want to talk about in demographics.
Andrew Yang: Oh yeah, please.
Eric Weinstein: Okay—
Andrew Yang: So let me first say, I am a parent of a neurologically atypical young person. I agree with you—that I think that many of the people who have a different perspective are going to end up being contributors in highly distinctive ways. I will say that even kids who are not going to be contributors in highly distinctive ways still deserve schools that can support and accommodate them. And that, to me, these kids are like, the shorthand I use is that they’re spiky. You know, it’s like you have very high capacities in some respects or a different point of view, and then real challenges in other respects. And so if I send you into a social environment where there are 30 kids for one teacher, you’re going to have a terrible, terrible time, you know? That’s 100% predictable, and so if then you have like a critical mass of people that resemble this, then you should try and design an institution that takes that into account. And I feel so deeply for families that struggle with this, like you struggle with, it sounds like you’ve experienced it.
Eric Weinstein: Oh absolutely.
Andrew Yang: I have struggled with it. And you and Pia, you know, and me and Evelyn, like we have an unusual level of ability to try and, you know, manage situation, and I meet single moms around the country who have, you know, autistic or neurologically atypical kids, that don’t have the means and they live in a part of the country that does not have like a lot of resources in place for kids that are different. And, it breaks my heart. Like it, the fact that there are all of these kids that are heading into these schools that are getting, you know, more than low grade psychic beatings.
Eric Weinstein: Oh my God. This is why I leave my DMs open on Twitter, and this is one of the number one things I do it for, is people write to me and they say I know you’re really busy, but I just want to tell you, nobody had ever spoken to my situation. You’re proud of something I’m always ashamed of, and—
Andrew Yang: I guarantee you I’m not the first presidential candidate with autism in the family.
Eric Weinstein: Yeah.
Andrew Yang: And the fact that I’m the first talking about it is, to me, long overdue and ridiculous. And—
Eric Weinstein: Amen.
Andrew Yang: And you know, and I get some of the same messages that you get, but you know, like, I want to actually try and solve the problem for those families. I mean, it makes me feel glad that they feel spoken to and that they realize they’re not the only ones going through it.
Eric Weinstein: I want to see, I want to see more money going to figure out how do we diversify the classroom of the future—
Andrew Yang: Yeah.
Eric Weinstein: So that the load isn’t born by people who don’t fit the economics of the teaching model.
Andrew Yang: Yes. And part of it is that we regard the education of our kids as a cost, and so then the city, then, is like well, I can’t afford to have like a teacher for your neurologically atypical kid. And so what we have to do is, talk about inverting the model, is you have to look at the education of our children as an investment. And then you say what’s that? Like, these kids require, you know, like X and Y? Then we should make that investment with the certainty, and I share your confidence in this, that you have a couple of those kids do something highly atypical and remarkable, then that pays for whatever support, or teacher, or infrastructure—
Eric Weinstein: This is an underground movement. I mean, I just had a very well known professor reveal to me that he couldn’t read papers—in his field. I mean, he just can’t read, you know? And he has to figure out what the paper is likely to be saying. There is such a weird world of unexpected achievement.
Andrew Yang: And this is the demon—the demon that we have to slay, in many ways, is that the negative externalities are not being encompassed within the budgets of various institutions.
Eric Weinstein: Very well said.
Andrew Yang: But then, also, we’re foregoing all of the potential positive value creation or generation from proper investment in our human capital—and another dimension too, and this is neither here nor there, but I was just with Dean Kamen in New Hampshire, and he was talking about how the FDA, like all their incentives are just to like regulate the shit out of anything. And then I said to him, I was like you know what they should start measuring is the foregone utility of keeping something away from from people, like if you had something and—
Eric Weinstein: What is the opportunity cost of the regulations?
Andrew Yang: Yeah. He had like, so he had like this prosthetic limb that he was trying to give to vets, and the FDA was making it really hard for him to do so, and he was like are you kidding me? I’m trying to give limbs to Vets who’ve been amputated. And so by your making it hard for me to do so, you multiply like all of the limbless Vets who aren’t getting a limb, like, you know, it’s like—so if you had that as like an actual measurement for the FDA, it’s like you need to have these companies internalize the negative externalities of things like pollution and the rest of it, but you almost need like our institutions, like our schools and our regulatory agencies to start trying to somehow capture the potential gains from investing in our kids, or allowing a certain innovation into the market. Like, the big problems are that our measurements are really primitive. And it ends up, and you end up with binary incentives where you lose a lot of the value, and so you end up being like hey, don’t have a teacher for your kid, so your kid’s gonna, you know, just end up sidelined. And sidelined is like a euphemistic way for saying destroyed.
Eric Weinstein: I know. One of the things I wanted to do at some point—I actually ended up talking to the Heritage Foundation of all people about this—was the idea of national interest waivers so that we could have a Skunkworks with very light regulation hanging off the side of every large company. And the idea is that you would put some portion of a company, you could put some portion of the company outside, where the rules were effectively different, because you needed people to take massive risks, to be able to move super fast, to be dealing with highly non-neurotypical people.
Andrew Yang: And this is one of the things that drives me nuts about the political conversation is like, you get like, they get like yelled at for a particular, it’s like oh, you made a mistake, duh duh duh. It’s like, you kind of need to have an environment where you’re going to accept a certain level of mistakes, particularly when you’re talking about large scale society-wide investments, where like, of course you can’t get that stuff right. And you know, it’s like, and that the problem is that the political incentives are for everyone to try and avoid like a negative headline, or something that, that’s—
Eric Weinstein: Look, a lot of us are very disagreeable, very difficult to deal with. And, you know, I saw you pick up endorsements from people like Elon Musk, you know, which is… Then I hear his personal life being criticized, I was like I don’t really care. This guy is responsible for how much—
Andrew Yang: Advancing the species.
Eric Weinstein: How much adva—right, how much innovation? If he’s got a few foibles, let’s give him some privacy. Let him be in peace and just recognize that we’re getting an unbelievable deal, and yet this desire to somehow stamp out outliers—I mean, outliers are essential to the American project.
Andrew Yang: Yes, I could not agree more. And you know I, I’d consider myself—it’s pretty funny Eric, ’cause I, you know, I think I had, in many ways, like a highly conventional upbringing that helped—like, I feel like I’m sort of a hybrid where, to the extent that I was highly contrarian or dissimilar, you know it’s like, I, you know, I’ve, I came up through a series of institutions in an era where, you know, I think I learned to adapt. But then I look at my boys and I think to myself that, you know, that their way of life is going to be very, very different than mine. I’m sure yours too, ’cause we came of age in a different era.
Eric Weinstein: Well this is true. I mean I was just talking about this actually, with Bret Easton Ellis sitting in that chair that, you know, I grew up as part of this free range world largely before Etan Patz got kidnapped and the milk carton kids changed everything. I worry about the sort of—we were too free range and these kids are too sheltered, that we have to find some new mix. But I want to get to another issue.
Andrew Yang: Give me one more demographic.
Eric Weinstein: Okay.
Andrew Yang: Yes.
Eric Weinstein: Let’s do it. And then we’ll, we’ll close it out. I want to talk about something which really makes me angry and excited. I think that America has, without question, some of the finest sources, educationally, for brilliance in STEM subjects. And we’ve pretended for a very long time that Americans are not good at STEM, that we are disinterested in STEM, that STEM careers are fantastic when many of them are pretty shitty, and that we don’t recognize that the entire STEM complex is suffused with bullshit. Because the model, the economic model for investing in basic research went belly up because the universities were built on a growth model that was unsustainable. And I want to stop lying.
So one, I want to start recognizing that we have high schools that have more Nobel prizes than all of China, that we are using Chinese labor and other Asian countries, not just because we are exporting education as a good, but because we have a cryptic labor market in basic research where we pretend people are students when they’re actually workers. We pretend that we’re importing them to educate them, but actually what we’re trying to do is use a poverty differential. We have our own people who are really fantastic because they’re not very obedient, and instead people prefer obedient people coming in who are here on temporary visas, therefore they have to follow orders.
The entire National Science Foundation, National Academy of Science complex is bizarrely suffused with nonsense. And because of this, we can’t actually have the national academies adjudicate what’s true because they are the prime offender of this. How do we get back to a situation which we can recognize that we have a Stuyvesant or a Bronx Science, you know, or a Far Rockaway, or any of these unbelievable high schools that are turning out people who desperately want to do STEM subjects. They’re not being paid when they finally get their degrees at an appropriate level.
Andrew Yang: Yeah.
Eric Weinstein: They’ve been secretly studied by our science complex, because these career paths are known to be crappy, and we have completely suffused this with a mis-description so that nobody can actually fix any problems.
Andrew Yang: That’s an incredible description. And to me, the lack of proper resources for basic research, for things that ended up being foundational for many of our current industries—
Eric Weinstein: It’s the biggest bargain in the world. It’s just the future you’re investing in.
Andrew Yang: It’s just right now we’re so brainwashed by market-driven thinking, that if there’s not some short-term profitability tied to it or there’s no drug company funding it, or something along those lines that—and this is something that the government, historically has been the leader in where it said, you know what, we can lay the foundation and create paths for people to be able to do basic research, the benefits of which will be unclear. They may not exist. They may not materialize for decades, but it’s similar to what we’re talking about with the neurologically atypical kids, is that like a few of them pay off and then the payoff can be unfathomably significant.
Eric Weinstein: Well we call this long vol. investing in hedge fund land, where most things don’t work out, but a few that do pay for all of the losers.
Andrew Yang: Yup. Yeah. And right now the, yeah. To me, this is a role where historically, the government has led, and you need a government willing to make long-term sustained investments that may only pay off way down the road and may not pay off, but you still need to be able to make them.
Eric Weinstein: Well, I also, you know, the other weird part of this is that by using our own people, and letting in particular China know that it can’t operate a relatively totalitarian government over there and have the benefit of freedom over here with a pipeline for all of our innovations to immediately go back over there—China needs to be induced in some sense to understand that they can’t get by without giving their people freedom.
And what they’re right now doing is that they’re using our freedom and a periscope by which they can see everything that we’re doing. And if we actually cut that off, I know that the universities are going to scream bloody murder, but what’s going to happen is China’s going to have to start investing in its—the right of its own people to give the middle finger, because irreverence is the secret of American ingenuity.
Andrew Yang: Yeah. Yeah. You know, this reminds me of a joke that they told in artificial intelligence, which is, “How far behind is China than the US in AI?” And the answer is 12 hours. And you say, you know, obviously they wake up and then they see what we did.
Eric Weinstein: Andrew, I can’t tell you how fantastic it is, to have you come into the studio. You’re coming off of this big rally in MacArthur park.* You’re welcome anytime to come back. I’d love to continue the conversation when you’re next in LA—
* Note: The following sentence was cut from the YouTube version of the podcast: “I know that it’s late for both of us.”
Andrew Yang: I would love this too, man, this feels to me like half a conversation. We’re going to have to have the second half at some other time. So if you enjoyed this convo, let Eric know, and then hopefully he’ll have me back. And if you’d like to join the Yang Gang, you should know we are very, very cheap gang to join.
Eric Weinstein: Is that right?
Andrew Yang: Well, our average donation is only $25. So, our fans are even cheaper than Bernie’s, which no one even knew could be a thing in politics, but here it is. But you get $25 times enough people and you wind up putting up very very big numbers—and you’ll see like, we’re already into the eight digits as a campaign, and we can take this whole thing, we can contend, because a lot of people watching this right now, you’re ignoring politics as usual. We can actually have a different sort of politics that takes real thinking, real ideas, real solutions, and brings them to the highest levels of our government. It just needs enough Erics and Pias and you all watching it at home to say I prefer this to the stuff I’m getting through the cable TV networks—
Eric Weinstein: Well, Andrew, you know one of the things I think that’s been great about watching your meteoric rise is that you are outside of control without being out of control—
Andrew Yang: Thank you.
Eric Weinstein: And that having a kind of a mature person, who’s not easily bought or swayed, who’s speaking in a way that nobody knows what he’s going to say next, has been hugely positive for the entire process, so thank you very much.
Andrew Yang: Well, thank you. You know, the only currency I answer to is ideas and humanity. Like you, you know, you put a good idea in front of me or a good person, I listen.
Eric Weinstein: Well, you’ve been that way since before all the success. So we wish you continued success, and we’ll have you back here the next time you’re in LA with a little bit of time.
Andrew Yang: Would love that, brother. Thank you.
Eric Weinstein: All right. Thanks, you’ve been through The Portal with Andrew Yang, presidential candidate for 2020, and telling us to Make America Think Harder.
Andrew Yang: Yes. This man is going to make you think harder all the time.
Eric Weinstein: All right. Be well everybody