Naval Ravikant Joins Scott Adams on Periscope – 2/12/19

Listen/Watch Here

Key Takeaways

  • It’s possible that the new Periscope feature, which allows broadcasters to select a viewer and bring them into a conversation, could replace large chunks of podcasting
  • A huge problem with the climate change debate –
    People decide on the so called science based on which political party they belong to
  • In a sense – the people writing the algorithms to control the distribution on social media (the “people with their thumbs on the scale”) are running the country
  • Here’s what the future of education might look like:
    • The BEST teacher in the world for a given topic will be paid to produce content (like online videos) to teach their subject matter
      • Anyone who wanted would have access to it
    • There would then be many certified tutors, for that given field, available to teach people 1 on 1 via something like Skype
  • The three illusions of life according to Naval:
    • The illusion that anything actually matters (we’ll all eventually die and turn to dust)
    • The illusion of free will
    • The illusion of reality (we’re likely living in a simulation)
  • Of course, some profound Naval quotes:
    • “A lot of what creates unhappiness in modern society is the struggle between what society wants and what the individual wants”
    • “If you have to wear a tie to work, you’re not really free. If you have to be at your desk at a certain time, you’re not free.”
    • “The real universal basic income is cannabis and video games”
    • “In a first world society, success and failure is much more about how you control, manage, and break addictions than it is about going out and doing something”
    • “It’s far more important in life to know the basics really well across a few domains and combine that than it is to try and be a deep expert in any one domain”

Books Mentioned

Intro

  • Scott (@ScottAdamsSays) is drinking coffee, and Naval (@Naval) is sipping tea
  • Scott is using the new Periscope feature to chat with Naval, which allows broadcasters to select a viewer, and bring them into the Periscope session

What would Naval say if he were to give his own introduction?

  • “I’m a primate from a small planet circling a star in the Milky Way galaxy, born in the 20th century in India, a first generation immigrant to the U.S. when I was 9-years-old for the American dream, and was fortunate enough to realize it by becoming a technology entrepreneur and angel investor. And like every person as they get older and wiser, I’m now turning into a pseudo philosopher”
  • Naval is also the founder of Angel List
  • He’s an early investor in Uber, Wish, Postmates, and a whole bunch of other companies in the tech industry which have done well
  • “Twitter is my art form”
    • Check out his famous How to Get Rich (without getting lucky) tweet storm
      • Later on in the Periscope, Naval says he’s turning his How to Get Rich tweet storm into “a larger medium” that he plans to give away for free
  • Scott adds – “Naval is actually the smartest person I know…in person”

Why does Scott do the “simultaneous sip” at the beginning of his Periscopes?

  • (He begins each Periscope by having everyone take a sip of their beverage of choice)
  • In short – It’s a pleasurable experience for viewers, and thus they’re associating it with Scott’s Periscope sessions

On Using Periscope

  • “I actually feel connected to the audience – in part because of the real time comments” – Scott
  • On the new Periscope feature, Naval adds – “I think Jack (the CEO of Twitter, which owns Periscope) and his team are on to something here. I wanted this feature [being able to select a viewer and bring them into the conversation] for a really long time.”
    • In a way – this new Periscope feature is like talk radio, but modernized for the internet
    • “I think this could replace large chunks of podcasting” – Naval
    • “Not only that, I think it could replace the news” – Scott
      • “News is not really news anymore. The internet commoditized distribution of facts, so the news became entertainment” – Naval
        • It’s all just opinions and entertainment designed to fill a 24 hours news cycle
    • But the Periscope feature Scott is REALLY looking forward to:
      • Being able to bring two people into a conversation (he wants to be able to bring two people who disagree on climate change, on video, into a Periscope session)

Science and Knowing When to Trust the Experts

  • For example, for many years doctors thought ulcers were caused by stress (this isn’t the case)
  • Another example – People at one point thought the food pyramid was settled and correct, but as it turns out… it was completely wrong ….about as wrong as anything could be
  • “The foundation of science is doubt. Scientific things are things that are falsifiable, independently verifiable, and make very narrow and risky predictions.” – Naval
    • Science isn’t done through agreement/consensus – that’s politics
    • “The hallmark of science is you make a scientific claim, and I can replicate or verify that claim on my own”
      • The claim has to make a novel set of predictions, that are hard to vary after the fact
      • Those claims have to be falsifiable – they have to be able to be proved wrong through a series of tests

Climate Change

  • “The most compelling argument I find for climate change is Nassim Taleb’s precautionary principle which basically says – ‘We only have one planet we’re playing with, so if you get it wrong it’s catastrophic. Don’t screw this up.'” – Naval
    • The best argument Naval finds against climate change – “The moment something is so politicized and emotional, and people starting titling themselves as climate scientists, they’re hardly going to be objective anymore because their life depends on it. Incentives are superpowers.”
  • What’s really disheartening for Naval – The fact that we’re dealing with invisible greenhouse gases and invisible long term effects that we’re not experiencing today
    • “I would much rather we focus on local environmentalism” 
      • Example – Having India (where most of carbon emissions come from) clean up their local environment (the air and water), thus increasing the chances that they become more concerned about the global environment
      • “China and India are not going to sit back and not modernized and stay 3rd world countries simply because we’re [the U.S.] rich and now care about the environment”
  • Societies naturally become more environmentalist as they become richer
  • “The single best thing you could do for climate change is what China did” – Naval
    • They had a one child policy
  • Naval is a fan of what’s being done in the private sector to fight climate change (like what Elon Musk is doing)
    • “Private problems, private solutions”
    • “I’ve never seen governments save the world”
  • Another huge problem with the climate change debate – “People decide on the so called science based on which political party they belong to” – Naval
    • “That just tells you it [climate change] isn’t a branch of science, it’s a branch of politics.”
    • “The hallmark of science is doubt. There’d be no progress in science if you weren’t allowed to doubt.”
  • Scott has been doing a deep dive lately into climate change, but has noticed there’s TONS of BS out there
  • “If it turns out that climate change is happening and caused by humans, I still don’t see the solution. I just simply don’t see how you can stop the world from doing what they’re doing. You can’t stop India and China from modernizing without some kind of a war or economic sanctions that are so ruinous that they destroy the economy.” – Naval

What about nuclear fusion?

  • “The history of the human race is extracting more and more power from the natural environment and delivering it where we need it” – Naval
    • Like burning oil and coal
    • “In a sense – we are heading towards a model where we’ll mimic mother nature, and mother nature delivers most power through nuclear fusion and then transmits it through solar energy, conduction, etc.”
      • “I’ll think we’ll end up there just for efficiency and power performance reasons”
  • Many people think fusion will never happen, because it’s never worked before
    • BUT – “Everything that works, started as something that didn’t work” – Scott
      • Like the airplane and the cell phone
    • “Fusion will definitely work [in an engineering sense]. It works in nature, so it’s just a matter of when.” – Naval
      • “The issue is just that we haven’t done enough iterations because we overregulate and shut down nuclear experimentation. We don’t have a model of experimenting and iterating with nuclear plants.”
        • Just imagine if we shut down airplane development when the first one crashed, or steam engine development when the first steam engine blew up
        • “Technology development is done through iteration”
      • “We need to find a way to experiment and iterate with nuclear fusion at a fast rate if we’re gonna get there”

What’s the future of crypto?

  • Naval says there are 3-4 groups of cryptocurrencies interesting in their own right:
    • Bitcoin
      • It’s a great store of value – Naval calls it a “Swiss bank account in the cloud”
      • It’s also insurance against malfeasance by politicians – aka political insurance
      • “This is one category of crypto that I don’t think will go away”
    • Unfortunately, he never gets to the other 2-3

Naval’s Two Retirement Schemes For Entire Countries

  • The first:
    • A country (like Venezuela) buys up 20% of a cryptocurrency with the plan to adopt it, declares it’s legal, and then allows the remaining 80% to be bought up by citizens
      • Citizens will buy knowing other nearby countries would soon adopt it as well, and as the currency becomes valuable, people would then be able to retire from the surplus of wealth
  • The second:
    • Naval explains how some people benefit from immigration while other people are hurt by it 
      • As a tech employer, you’d benefit from skilled immigrants and being able to hire them at a slightly reduced rate
      • As a farm owner, you’d benefit from low cost migrant workers
      • But the average American looking for a job will get out competed by immigrants
    • To rectify this and get everyone on the same page…
      • Give every American citizen one extra passport (or more) which they’d be able to use to bring people into the country (with some obvious vetting restrictions, of course)
        • For example – You might choose to bring in a skilled computer science worker as a tech. employer, or you might want to bring in your housekeeper who’s done such great work for you for many years
          • Someone else might want to retire, and find/bring in a hard working immigrant that they can then hire to do their job
      • “Very quickly, a market would form around these passports, and you’d be able to put a dollar value on them”
        • With this passport market, you could sell them for lots of $$$
      • One of the side benefits of this? – Good governance would result
        • If a new president came in and started passing policies that discouraged immigrants from entering the country, then the value of passports would go down – that person would then be voted out of office

Has Naval heard any good arguments for a country having an open border?

  • No – “Try to define the word ‘country’ without using the word border”
    • Same with a human organism – we all have “borders” (aka our skin)

Artificial General Intelligence

  • “It seems like we’re creating a super human being with all the parts” – Scott
    • Twitter is like the mind of the whole internet
    • Facebook is like the emotions/family
    • Instagram is like your visual sense
  • “It seems like we’re creating a god-like entity that has all the parts of a human, accidentally” – Scott
  • “I think an artificial general intelligence (AGI) is much more likely to be an emerging property of the internet rather than something we create in a lab”  – Naval
  • Naval brings up something pretty cool:
    • Our phones autocorrect our text messages if we mistype something, but eventually they’ll correct for sentiment
      • For example, your phone might ‘say’ – “I know Naval and Scott are trying to get together, but they need to coordinate a time. Let me suggest one.” …or ….”Oh, I know they want to get together before they even know that, let me suggest that they get together.”
    • The internet already runs much of our lives:
      • Uber drivers are told what to do all day long by the internet

Who is actually running the country right now?

  • Just follow the chain:
    • Politicians are elected by voters
    • Mass media and money have traditional bought votes (through advertising)…but now social media works to influence voters
    • With social media, the people writing algorithms control the distribution (so these people control the country)
      • “This is a very dangerous place for Facebook and Twitter to be in”
      • “I think Twitter could be a powerful and permanent entity, but only if it becomes a protocol, and not an app”
        • Look at what Twitter really is today:
          • A protocol underneath for delivering messages
          • A software app
          • A media company
        • “Twitter the protocol can survive forever, but if you bundle it with Twitter the media company, it’s only a matter of time before the politicians say, ‘Wait – you choose the next president. Well, then we have to control you.'”
  • More on Twitter as an open protocol:
    • Naval thinks that Twitter as a protocol, should accept a message from anyone, and then allow you to deliver the message to anyone who wants it – and people can choose what app to run on top of it
    • You should be able to have publishable/subscribable mute/block lists
      • Every time someone (or an organization) who you subscribed to (and thus trusted) identified something as fake news, it would automatically be blocked out of your client
        • This is kind of how the world works already – you choose which news stations to watch, and there’s essentially white/blacklists on the news
        • Today – Twitter controls what’s in the moments tab (so the developers of the algorithm are controlling what you see) – they’re biases are obvious
    • “If Twitter doesn’t do it, there will be a blockchain based protocol of Twitter that will replace it 10, 20, or 30 years from now” – Naval
      • “There are at least a dozen good Twitter clones that use blockchain technology in development”

A Little Bit About the New Age of Audience Building

  • “Every day that passes, it gets easier and faster to build your audience” – Naval
  • Naval’s How to Get Rich tweet storm has between 40-50 million impressions

Universal Basic Income (UBI)

  • “I think there is a form of UBI which works, which is free services”
    • Think about this – if everyone had degrees in software engineering, in 5 years we’d all be retired and robot services would be doing everything
    • “Technology can create massive abundance. It’s just the lack of knowledge which holds us back.”
    • So we can get to a form of UBI, where say, your cell phone is free because someone like Google gives it to you…not the government
      • Why? –  Perhaps their robots want you to watch their VR show which is only accessible through their phone
  • “The problem I have with UBI as a straight cash transfer is it’s a slippery slide into socialism”
    • Naval talked more about this in these Podcast Notes from his last Periscope session

The Future of Education

  • “Education should be free at this point. The idea that you need to pay half a million dollars to go to an Ivy League university and sacrifice 4 years of your life so a professor can lecture you in a lecture hall is ABSURD.” – Naval
    • You can already get many of the MIT courses online for free
    • “It’s just a matter of credentialing and the current generation coming around to understand that. These things will be too cheap to meter, and almost free – that will be the real UBI.”
    • “Knowing how to manipulate computers and robots is the modern equivalent of reading, writing, and arithmetic”
  • On the future of online education – “I think the best teacher in the world will teach everyone in the world about that given topic” – Naval
    • Why would you listen to the second greatest teacher of a given topic when the greatest is available?
    • For example – Scott should be teaching everyone in the world about influence and persuasion (or Dr. Robert Cialdidni)
  • Right now, Naval says we’re in the “Youtube stage” of this
    • But eventually, we’ll get to the “Netflix stage” – big budgets will be provided to the best teachers in the world to create videos (and other things) that people will be able to learn from
      • We’re likely to see 2-3 gigantic “schools” which produce the content + tests for the accreditation, with a long tail of millions of tutors
  • What might this look like?
    • Scott Adams (or another expert as voted by the audience) would be paid to produce content teaching persuasion
    • There would then be many “Scott Adams certified” tutors available to teach people 1 on 1 via something like Skype

What does Naval think are the biggest illusions of life?

  • “The largest illusion is the illusion of meaning that anything actually matters”
    • We’re all going to die, and everything will turn to dust
  • “Related to that is the illusion of free will”
    • We’re here from an unbroken chain of particle collisions from the big bang until now – “free will” is just our DNA reacting to the environment
  • Then there’s the illusion of reality
    • “There are very high odds we’re statistically living in a simulation” 

Does Naval believe in God?

  • “To me, god is just a fancy word for ‘existence’. God is just a fancy word for ‘universe’.”
  • “If there were a God, where would God stand? Where would God sit? Where would his home be? To me, it’s obvious that God has to be the entire universe. The universe is God….it’s just a definition game.”
    • “Existence itself is the ‘thing’. We’re made of it. We’re sub-routines in the greater reality.”
  • On a related note – Check out Scott’s book God’s Debris: A Thought Experiment
    • This is an excellent book, one of my favorites

Scott’s Proposal for the Meaning of Life

  • “When people act in accordance with their biological nature, they feel satisfied and they have an interior sense of meaning. When they’re outside of their biological evolutionary channel, that’s when they get anxious and think nothing matters.” – Scott
    • As an example – For Naval, having a child added meaning to his life
  • Being productive, learning, and doing work – these are very tied into our biological nature, thus giving us meaning
  • “I don’t see a lot of parents sitting around asking what the meaning of life is. It’s the kid that’s running around right in front of them.” – Naval
  • “A lot of what creates unhappiness in modern society is the struggle between what society wants and what the individual wants” – Naval
    • “Guilt is just society’s voice talking in your head”

The Era of Too Much Abundance

  • We’re not meant to consume infinite porn, news, and food
    • “You almost have to be an ascetic to survive in society” – Naval
      • Think of the psychological damage from constantly watching the news and being exposed to so much negative information
      • Think of the damage from all the sugar you eat
    • “All of that stuff throws us so far off balance, that I think we’re lost from our biological underpinnings”
  • Naval recalls reading about someone online doing a “dopamine fast”
    • One day every couple of months he would just drink water, wouldn’t talk to others/read books/watch TV, and wouldn’t go to work
    • What can you do on a dopamine fast? – Just meditate, exercise, and journal
    • The idea is you are resetting your dopamine receptors back to where you can find meaning and happiness in the ordinary 

What does freedom mean to Naval?

  • Scott proposes – If you have to wake up when someone wants you to wake up, you’re not free
    • Naval, when arranging a time to do this Periscope with Scott, insisted on a late start (11 AM for him – he says he went to bed the night before at 3:30 AM)
    • Naval agrees with this but adds:
      • Not having phone calls you have to take
      • Not having alarm clocks you have to get up to
      • Not having to wear a tie
        • “If you have to wear a tie to work, you’re not really free. If you have to be at your desk at a certain time, you’re not free.”
  • That’s physical freedom – Naval discusses mental freedom:
    • Freedom to make your own choices and live the life you want
  • Then there’s freedom from your own thoughts

A Few Interesting Propositions

  • Scott recently showed a graph in a Periscope session detailing how the rise of people living with their parents started right around the time the first iPhone came out
    • It makes sense – your phone is a personal dopamine farm, and if mom’s cooking …why would you ever need (or want) to leave?
  • “The real universal basic income is cannabis and video games” – Naval
    • There is so much cheap, instant dopamine and meaning, that it’s hard to motivate yourself to do the “real thing” any more – many teens struggle with this (as well as their parents)
    • “All the problems of older times were scarcity…now they’re all abundance based”
  • “In a first world, society success and failure is much more about how you control, manage, and break addictions than it is about going out and doing something” – Naval
    • “People who have the DNA to resist addictions will do better”

Hypnosis

  • Naval is waiting for Scott to write a book on hypnosis
    • He says to Scott – “Let’s just be clear – I’ve seen your girlfriend” (hah!)

Naval’s Author and Book Recommendations

Random

  • Naval grew up in Jamaica, Queens
  • Naval plans to have Scott on as a guest for one of his Periscope sessions

These notes were edited by RoRoPa Editing Services

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