Sam Harris & Eric Weinstein on Donald Trump, Immigration, Nassim Taleb, Jeffrey Epstein, and More – The Portal

Key Takeaways

  • In this day and age, it’s hard to trust any of our institutions 
    • “There’s no place I can go to for ground truth.” – Eric Weinstein
  • “The failure to have a fact-based discussion and the incentives to avoid one… I think it’s the scariest thing we have going apart from the true monsters of pandemic, nuclear war, and things like that”Sam Harris
  • Sam and Eric’s “creep detectors” went off after having both met Jeffrey Epstein in the past
  • “Twitter and social media is a psychological experiment we’re running on ourselves to which no one has consented. We’ve enrolled half of humanity in this thing, and we’re just seeing what happens. It clearly has effects that are at best non-optimal and at worst catastrophic.” – Sam Harris
  • Spend the time becoming aware of the malware running in your brain (the nonsensical programs put there by other people)

Books Mentioned

Intro

What The Hell is Going On?

  • “I think this is the bizarre age imaginable. It doesn’t behave like any previous time.”Eric Weinstein
  • “I feel like we’re witnessing several seed changes; I couldn’t have said that 15 years ago. Things have clearly changed.” – Sam Harris
  • “For me, the big thing that’s really new is I can’t think of a single institution I can trust. There’s no place I can go to for ground truth.” Eric Weinstein
    • “Right now, we’re in a place where a lot of us don’t trust ANY of the gatekeepers”
    • Take The New York Times – it’s all narrative-driven journalism, which often overtakes the actual facts (the facts are fit/distorted to fit the narrative)
      • “There are particular kinds of stories that the Times writes that are borderline evil”
  • “Generally, what’s happening with journalism is there has been a clearing out of real journalists. The business has gotten so bad.” – Sam Harris
    • Of course, a few outliers doing well because of Trump (i.e., The Washington Post and The Atlantic)

The Loss of Science?

  • “I’m more worried about the loss of things like Nature and Science than I am the New York Times” – Eric Weinstein
  • “The failure to have a fact-based discussion and the incentives to avoid one… I think it’s the scariest thing we have going apart from the true monsters of pandemic, nuclear war, and things like that– Sam Harris

Donald Trump

  • “Sometimes I think about Trump as the doctor who has to break a bone that has been mis-set in the hopes that it can finally heal properly” Eric Weinstein
    • Eric adds: “The idea of spending four more years of my dwindling life talking about what Trump last said or tweeted…”
  • Sam thinks Trump is largely “un-cancelable”
    • “40% of the American population fundamentally does not care about any of the things I care about in him… They [his fan base] don’t care that he’s the most odious liar we’ve ever seen.” – Sam Harris

Jeffrey Epstein

  • Sam and Eric both met him in the past
    • Sam found himself at a group lunch with Jeffrey while attending a TED conference: “I had no insight into him or what he was up to, apart from the fact that my creep detector went off.”Sam Harris
      • How so? – Jeff, nearly 60 at the time, was with his date… a 21-year old
    • Eric met him at his house in ~2003, before his Florida incarceration
      • One observation: Jeff had a giant dining room table with an American flag as its table cloth, so any spillage would go onto the flag
      • “I knew Epstein was very likely to be something totally other than he was”Eric Weinstein
      • Eric adds that a younger 20ish-year-old women was also with Jeff at the time
  • Eric recorded a 1-hour Jeffrey Epstein deep dive for his podcast, but he’s too afraid to release it
  • “I’m agnostic about it – whether people stepped away so he could do what he needed to do, or there’s some vanishing probability that he actually isn’t dead… I don’t know.” – Eric Weinstein
    • Let’s be clear – the probability for the latter is very low
  • “I don’t have a strong feeling about the likelihood that Epstein had a facilitated suicide. I think the likelihood that he was murdered is low.” – Sam Harris

Immigration

  • Eric’s stance: We need to be a bit more careful as immigrants compete with U.S. citizens for jobs
    • “People in a country have asymmetric rights to their own labor market. That’s a large part of what it means to be a citizen of a country.” Eric Weinstein
    • Check out Eric’s essay, Migration for the Benefit of All
  • Sam is a little more open-stanced. After all, we as a country want the best and brightest minds.
  • “When you open a border, and selectively only in certain fields, it’s like opening a window in an airplane that specifically affects the seat at which it’s opened differently than everywhere else in the plane” – Eric Weinstein

Nassim Taleb

  • Sam isn’t too big a fan
    • “The stuff he’s said about religion and science, the truth is it isn’t even wrong… it’s incoherent” – Sam Harris
    • “There’s a sort of Trumpian level personality problem layered on top of his intellect. There’s no question he’s smart, but there’s so much personality to get though and wrangle with to get to whatever smarts are showing up… Obviously, he’s intelligent, it’s just there’s no one more enamored of his intelligence than him.”Sam Harris
    • On Nasaim’s massive ego: “In the cases where it’s warranted, it’s still extra, it’s bullsh**, and it’s annoying. When it’s unwarranted, it’s embarrassing, and he has zero sense of where he is on that landscape.” – Sam Harris
  • Eric adds: “He’s willing to be one person against billions. He will literally stand up against any crowd.” 

Intentions Are the Operating System

  • Sam and Eric both believe we can often get to Hell through a road paved with good intentions
    • The converse is also true: you can have good effects from bad intentions

Markers of a Good Life

  • Just squeeze the delta between these two feelings:
    • The happiness experienced when you manage to cut in ahead of a long line of cars when making a highway exit
    • The anger/judgmental feeling experienced when, while waiting in traffic to make an exit, a car cuts in front of you
  • Another marker: “Noticing your own issues makes you a better person if you can port them more generally” – Eric Weinstein
    • For example, say you recognize you’re not the most well-behaved around food, but you ARE conscious in other areas (like being timely)
      • “If you can recognize someone else’s feelings akin to your own in a different area and port that… being in touch with your own hypocrisy, I think, makes you a better person. I worry about people trying to rid themselves of their hypocrisy, rather than first noticing it and minimizing it, so it’s less garish.”

Social Media

  • “Twitter and social media is a psychological experiment we’re running on ourselves to which no one has consented. We’ve enrolled half of humanity in this thing, and we’re just seeing what happens. It clearly has effects that are at best non-optimal and at worst catastrophic.” – Sam Harris

Let’s Talk About The Portal

  • Sam is super happy Eric finally launched a podcast
    • “I’m incredibly happy you’re doing it. You’re the right man for the job. It’s about time… I think what you’re doing here is bound to be super unique. You’re a real polymath. There aren’t a ton of people doing podcasts with the same kind of wealth of information you have on so many fronts.” Sam Harris
    • Sam particularly loved Eric’s conversation with David Wolpe
  • Joe Rogan gave Eric some advice early on: “Look at my earliest podcasts. Stop worrying about whether or not it’s. I was just clowning around with my friends on a webcam.”
  • On his podcast: “A lot of what it’s supposed to do is to go into intellectual territory that isn’t based on an interview with a guest to see whether or not we can bring an enormous number of people closer to the most transcendent, solid, intellectual achievement that’s on offer. In general, it feels to me like there’s this monastery where all the good stuff is kept, and no one ever visits or reads any of it.” Eric Weinstein
    • Rather than long-form interviews, Eric hopes to explore some more formats – perhaps drawing/explaining complex topics on a whiteboard, for instance
  • With his podcast, Eric also hopes to show how the learning disabled/dyslexic mind (like that of his own) has superpowers
    • “I can’t tell you how much hopelessness I personally produced in my parents. No matter what I tried to do, nothing worked. I know that that experience of a bright, interested kid who just can’t buy a base hit in school is duplicated in 15-20% of households in America.” -Eric Weinstein

Additional Notes

  • “I don’t think people are as unified in their thinking; they very often have a mercenary part of their brain and a beautiful part of their brain, and they have a partition that keeps those from talking to each other”Eric Weinstein
  • If you’re at the equator and want to go north, a compass will get you there (because magnetic north is an excellent proxy for new north, right up until you get to Canada)
    • BUT – If you’re way north (like on Ellesmere’s Island), magnetic north can be 180 degrees off from true north
  • “My head is so filled with malware; I’m running so many non-nonsensical programs put there by other people that I don’t even know are nonsense” Eric Weinstein
  • There are 800,000 podcasts
  • “Being perpetually lost in thought… not noticing thought as thought, and being identified with each intention that surfaces in the mind is deeply analogous to being asleep and dreaming and not knowing you’re dreaming.” Sam Harris
  • “IQ has this curse; it’s a pretty good measure of intelligence. It would be much better if it were obviously terrible or really terrific. But it’s in exactly the wrong place that it tells us something about intelligence but not nearly enough, so you can be a genius with low IQ.” – Eric Weinstein
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