Dr. Lex Fridman: Navigating Conflict, Finding Purpose & Maintaining Drive | Huberman Lab Podcast #100

Check out the Episode Page & Show Notes 

Key Takeaways

  • You realize what really matters when you lose everything, which are the people in your life
  • People in Russia don’t think they’re being propagandized just like people in the United States don’t think they’re being propagandized 
  • Hate is like abusing a drug; it escalates in a vicious cycle
  • “War is waged by powerful rich people, and it’s the poor people that suffer.”Lex Fridman
  • There is deep honor in fighting for you country, but for some, there are better ways to contribute to the effort than picking up a gun 
  • Your actions create the community that surrounds you; how you behave or misbehave will attract others with similar behaviors 
  • Some of the best humor is dark, but sometimes, comedy can be used to cover up destructive ideology 
  • The key to having a good conversation with Donald Trump is to try to understand his worldview, steel-man his worldview, and then ask him hard questions about it
  • It is possible for all the people in a company to be “good”, but for the company to be evil    
  • “When you fill your day and you’re busy, that busyness becomes an excuse that you use against doing the things that scare you.”Lex Fridman
  • At first, what inspired Lex to wear the suit was the observation that society did not take itself seriously in terms of how it chooses to present itself to the world
  • Lex Fridman’s advice to people in their 20s: Find one thing that you are passionate about and work harder at that thing than you worked at anything else in your life 
  • Achieving “excellence in a thing” is the highest thing that humans can reach for 

Intro 

  • Lex Fridman, Ph.D. (@lexfridman) is a Research Scientist for MIT, an expert on AI and robotics, and host of the Lex Fridman Podcast
  • In this conversation, Lex Fridman and Andrew Huberman discuss Lex’s recent trip to Ukraine, war, propaganda, hate, violence, artificial intelligence, the scientific research process, Twitter, masculinity, Donald Trump, ideological extremes, biotechnology, money, status, robotics, motivation, relationships, a career versus a calling, why Lex wears a suit, his advice for young people, and more 
  • Check out these Podcast Notes from Lex’s conversation with Balaji Srinivasan  
  • Host – Andrew Huberman (@hubermanlab

Podcasting 

  • There would not be a Huberman Lab Podcast were it not for Lex Fridman
  • “You should start a podcast, but just make sure it’s not you blabbing the whole time.” – Lex Fridman to Andrew Huberman, who only sort of followed the advice 

Ukraine, Russia, War, & Geopolitics 

  • Lex just got back from a trip to Ukraine where he spoke with hundreds of people 
  • “When you go to a difficult part of the world – or a part of the world that’s going through something difficult – you really appreciate how great it is to be an American.”Lex Fridman  
  • War destroys entire communities, histories, and generations; it is special in America for generations to live in one area for many generations without having to worry about war at home
  • You realize what really matters when you lose everything, which are the people in your life
  • The most painful lesson that Lex learned about war is that it creates generational hate
  • We often neglect the secondary and tertiary effects of war, which last decades  
  • Many Ukrainians don’t only hate Vladimir Putin or the Russian soldiers that killed their loved one, they hate the entirety of the Russian people 
  • “We’ve seen that it’s possible to have a major hot war in the 21st century. A lot of people are watching this. China is watching this, India is watching this, the United States is watching this, and thinking we can actually have a large-scale war. I think the lessons learned from that might be the kind that lead to a major World War III in the 21st century.”Lex Fridman 
  • “We don’t know sh*t about what is going to happen in the 21st century.” – Lex Fridman 
  • There is so much tension building around the world; the thing that may shake civilization may not be that far off 

Propaganda 

  • The propaganda machine in each respective country is thriving on this tension and building more of it
  • People in Russia don’t think they’re being propagandized just like people in the United States don’t think they’re being propagandized 
  • Everyone, regardless of the country, thinks that they can see through their state’s propaganda 
  • The end result of much of the propaganda is a population feeling hatred towards one group 

Conflict & Generalized Hate

  • “Do you have love or hate in your heart?” is the question that Lex asked everyone he encountered on his trip to Ukraine 
  • Many of the people filled with hate know they shouldn’t feel it, but they can’t help it 
  • Hate is like abusing a drug; it escalates in a vicious cycle 
  • Most of the people Lex encountered in Ukraine said that they would never be able to forgive Russia 
  • Many of the Ukrainians view the “Good Russians” – the Russians just going about their lives, not directly participating in the war – just as bad as the Russian soldiers and political leaders organizing the war effort

Typical Day in Ukraine & The American Military 

  • Lex spent most of his days in Kyiv, which is in the middle of the country, far away from the frontlines of the battle, and much safer  
  • He also spent time in the Kherson region, where heated battles were happening 
  • When in the Kherson region, he stayed in a hotel where all the lights had to be off; all of the lights in the town had to be off 
  • We get used to creature comforts to the point where we start to depend on them (products that sponsor Lex’s and Andrew’s show), but in reality we do not need them
  • “There’s something about the intensity of life that you see in people’s eyes because they’re living through war that makes you forget all those creature comforts.” – Lex Fridman   
  • There was a town curfew at 11:00 PM, so people start making their way home around 9:00 PM 
  • Lex ate once a day while visiting Ukraine, mostly meat  
  • Lex started each day with coffee, then spent the entire day talking to people
  • He talked with regular people, Ukrainian soldiers, Americans, politicians – some of which was recorded and will be released on his podcast 
  • A thing Lex heard time and time again from Ukrainian soldiers: “American soldiers are the bravest”
    • This revealed to Lex that training can enable you to be brave 
  • Not just because of technology, but the American Army remains one of the most effective and terrifying armies in the world, especially the special forces 

Information Wars 

  • Many Russian soldiers truly believe they are saving Ukraine from nazi occupation 
  • Propaganda has made truth very difficult to find in the Russia-Ukraine warzone 
  • So much of 21st century wars are information wars, even more so than in wars fought in the past 
  • To navigate misinformation, ignore the powerful entities and listen to actual citizens 
  • “War is waged by powerful rich people, and it’s the poor people that suffer.”Lex Fridman 

Deliberate Cold Exposure & Sauna, and Fertility  

  • There is research to suggest that cold exposure can increase testosterone, but it doesn’t happen by the cold directly  
  • The increase in testosterone from cold exposure is caused by the vasoconstriction and then the vasodilation when blood flow increases to the testicles as the body warms up again 
  • Lex is yet to adopt the ice bath protocol on a regular basis 
  • Anecdotally, Andrew notes that there is a trend towards truth-telling in the sauna – so much so that people refer to them as “truth barrels” 
  • The sauna won’t deplete testosterone, but it will kill sperm 
  • Sperm production is a 60-day cycle, so don’t go on the sauna without an ice pack down there if you’re trying to fertilize an egg in vivo or in a dish within 60 days  

Ukraine Science, Infrastructure, & Military

  • Everyone in Ukraine is joining the military because of the high morale
  • If Andrew Huberman was Ukrainian and living in Ukraine, he would be on the frontlines and not making scientific contributions to millions of people each week
    • And he would do so because he wanted to fight, not because he had to  
  • There is deep honor in fighting for you country, but for some, there are better ways to contribute to the effort than picking up a gun 
  • There is no discussion about pacifism in Ukraine; everyone wants to fight, and everyone is proud to fight 
  • Ukraine has been able to maintain infrastructure as the war has progressed 

Volodymyr Zelenskyy 

  • A lot of Ukrainians did not like President Volodymyr Zelenskyy prior to war; he had a 30% approval rating before the war 
  • Zelenskyy chose to stay when Kyiv was being invaded 
  • All of his advisors, NATO, and American intelligence told Zelenskyy to flee when Russia invaded Ukraine, but he chose to stay 
  • His decision to stay was a beacon to the Ukrainian science, infrastructure, and military that encouraged them to stay too

Firearms, Violence, & Sensitization 

  • Every Ukrainian citizen was given a semi-automatic gun at the onset of the war, and crime has effectively gone to zero 
  • Much of the Ukrainian police forces were downsized, so the local communities have taken the law into their own hands  
  • “The human ability to get used to violence is incredible.” – Lex Fridman  
  • Humanity’s ability to establish a “new normal” is astonishing 

MIT, Artificial Intelligence, & University Teaching 

  • Lex recently traveled back to MIT to teach an in-person machine learning class 
  • The pandemic has given more power to the university administrations and less power to the faculty and the students
    • This is a concern because a university is primarily about the teachers and students, and the administration should be secondary
  • Prior to the pandemic, MIT had a flourishing community where MBAs would run into physicists and create something beautiful, for example; after the pandemic, it is much harder for these spontaneous interactions to occur because there are so many more rules added by the administration 
  • It is increasingly common for the faculty at elite universities to be “intellectually terrified” of their students because the students are so smart these days 
  • Lex is a pioneer in the lecture-uploaded-to-YouTube area, first publishing an introduction to deep learning and self-driving cars lecture in 2017 at MIT  

Publications & Peer Review, Research, & Social Media 

  • Twitter and doing a podcast has made Lex much more impatient about the slowness of the peer review process in academia
  • Despite the success of their respective podcasts, both Lex and Andrew have decided to continue their research efforts in academia 
  • Oftentimes, the best scientists are very busy and do not have time to peer review
  • There is much to improve with the scientific research and peer review process 
  • Peer reviews should be done like Tweets are done: crowdsourced
    • Let the crowd add depth and breadth in context for their contribution 

Twitter & Social Media 

  • Andrew was not ready for the reflexive scrutiny of Twitter when he first joined the platform
  • Lex uses Twitter to “add some love out there”, not to sound cliché 
  • There is something about positivity that sounds fake, and Lex attempts to make positivity as attractive to pursue as negativity, if not more 
  • “Learn what is to be taken seriously, and laugh at the rest.”Herman Hesse
  • Lex’s approach to Twitter is partly influenced by Elon Musk’s approach, which is to have fun and be silly 
  • He tries to not escalate the situation when someone is critical of him on Twitter
  • Your actions create the community; how you behave or misbehave will attract others with similar behaviors    
  • Adding “LOL” to the end of statements is something that concerns Lex; even if something is kind of funny, it may still have a deep effect on society 
  • Some of the best humor is dark, but other times, comedy can be used to cover up destructive ideology
    • For example, Hitler was considered a joke… until he wasn’t  

Andrew Tate & Masculinity 

  • Lex Fridman is planning to have a conversation with Andrew Tate, a controversial internet personality that has been deplatformed for some of his remarks about women 
  • To Lex, a strong man is one who is respectful to women 
  • A strong man respects women not out of weakness, or because of some social-justice warrior thing, but because that is what a strong man does
  • A strong man doesn’t need to be disrespectful to prove their position in life 
  • Even if Andrew Tate is playing a character, he still has impact on young men

Donald Trump & Ideological Extremes 

  • Lex has consulted Joe Rogan “a lot” about whether or not he should have Donald Trump on the Lex Fridman Podcast 
  • “I really believe that I could have a good conversation with Donald Trump. I haven’t seen many good conversations with him.” – Lex Fridman 
  • Donald Trump oftentimes “runs over the interviewer”, which would be something to navigate 
  • Joe Rogan is really good at relaxing his guests and getting them comfortable
  • The key to having a good conversation with Donald Trump is to try to understand his worldview, and try to steel-man his worldview
    • From this perspective, then ask him hard questions 
  • Lex would like to counter the Trump episode (if it happens) with someone that has a different worldview, such as AOC or Bernie Sanders 
    • AOC is young, so it’s unclear if the ideological movement behind her has staying power
    • Bernie is old, so ideally Lex would speak to a younger person from the Sanders-type worldview that is going to be in the spotlight for many more decades 

Biotechnology & Biopharma; Money & Status 

  • Lex’s conversation with the Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla still gets a lot of heat 
  • Big Pharma is like Big Tobacco in the eyes of a lot of people
  • Lex thought that he was asking tough questions to the Pfizer CEO, but all of the feedback from the conversation was about Lex not asking tough enough questions 
  • “Status is something that is often, but not always, associated with money, but is a much rarer form of uniqueness.” – Dr. Andrew Huberman 
  • It is possible for a system to consist of all “good people”, and then for that system to deviate from a path that does good
    • “Good” as in well-intentioned
  • It is possible for all the people in a company to be “good”, but for the company to be evil – this can be true for any company operating in any industry
  • Nazi Germany has a history of being too focused on the science, and then the politicians manipulating the scientists 

Robotics, AI, & Social Media 

  • Lex’s biggest internal struggle that he is yet to launch a company that he knows he wants to launch 
  • Lex Fridman’s ultimate dream is to put robots in every home
  • In the short-term, he is interested in launching a social media company  
  • He is researching and developing algorithms that fuel effective social robotics – that is, robots that can form genuine social connections with humans 
  • “When you fill your day and you’re busy, that busyness becomes an excuse that you use against doing the things that scare you.”Lex Fridman 
    • Some people use their family as an excuse not to do the things that scare them 
  • Once you establish a certain trajectory and become proficient at your daily tasks, it is difficult to embark on new pursuits where failure is likely

Motivation, Competition, & Relationships 

  • One of the biggest things Lex learned from Joe Rogan is to celebrate the success of those around you
  • Lex is inspired by the success of others, instead of being envious 
  • “It is easy to have a relationship when everything is good. The relationships that become strong and are tested quickly are the ones when sh*t is going down.” Lex Fridman 

A Career vs. A Calling 

  • There is a difference between a job being a career and it being a calling 
  • Lex felt a magic when he first interacted with robots; that is a feeling from a calling 
  • “The social integration of robots in society will create a really interesting world.” – Lex Fridman   

Ideas Of Lately 

  • Ideas Lex Fridman has been wrestling with lately:
    • What is true?
    • What is true of a human being?
    • How do you reveal what is true to another human being?
    • How do you properly challenge what another person considers to be true?
    • And how does challenging their worldview lead to understanding and not derision?
    • Why is there a growing, deep distrust of science? 
    • What is the role of those within the scientific community to regain some of that trust?
    • How do you find and maintain a good relationship? 
    • How do you make a startup work?

Why Lex Fridman Wears a Suit & Tie

  • Lex used to wear a variety of suits as an effort to fit into society
  • At first, what inspired Lex to wear the suit was the observation that society did not take itself seriously in terms of how it chooses to present itself to the world  
  • Everyone in the computer science department at Google was basically wearing pajamas when Lex worked there
  • Lex wears the suit so he takes himself seriously, and so that he takes every moment seriously    
  • Lex also looked up to Richard Feynman, a popular 20th century scientists who Lex saw as the epitome of class, humor, and brilliance  
  • There is something about the classiness of a suit, and the classiness of the “Mad Men Era” of the 1950s 
  • Wearing a suit removes the importance of fashion from the character, and instead projects the person wearing the suit  
  • “Dress shabbily and they remember the dress; dress impeccably and they remember the woman.” Coco Chanel 
  • A simple, classy suit allows people to focus on you character 
  • “If you overdress slightly, at least people know that you took them seriously.” – Dr. Huberman’s father 

Is There An AI Equivalent Of Psychedelics?

  • The new models enabled by Stable Diffusion can convert text to art, which demonstrates psychedelic behavior to some degree 
  • Introducing randomness and noise to a model has some parallels to psychedelics for humans 

Hardest Jiu-Jitsu Belt to Achieve  

  • For Lex personally, the brown belt was the hardest to achieve 
  • “I had to go through a lot of wars to earn that brown belt.” – Lex Fridman 

Advice For Young People 

  • The world will tell you to find a work-life balance, to explore, to try different fields, but Lex recommends that people in their 20s find one thing that they are passionate about and work harder at that thing than they worked at anything else in their life – if it destroys you, it destroys you
    • He doesn’t know how universally true this advice is, but its main theme is real sacrifice 
    • This advice is likely best applied in the engineering disciplines, especially programming  
  • The grind in certain disciplined (outside programming) doesn’t always produce great work
  • Advice should be discipline-specific 
  • Most of the most successful people ever reflect on their 20s as a journey filled with pain and hard work 
  • Later in these people’s lives, they often talk about the importance of work-life balance, but this is them neglecting the value of the journey they took to that lesson
  • Work-life balance is best learned the hard way 
  • Achieving “excellence in a thing” is the highest thing that humans can reach for 

Lex Fridman Reads a Poem 

Whose woods these are I think I know.   

His house is in the village though;   

He will not see me stopping here   

To watch his woods fill up with snow.   

My little horse must think it queer   

To stop without a farmhouse near   

Between the woods and frozen lake   

The darkest evening of the year.   

He gives his harness bells a shake   

To ask if there is some mistake.   

The only other sound’s the sweep   

Of easy wind and downy flake.   

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   

But I have promises to keep,   

And miles to go before I sleep,   

And miles to go before I sleep.

  • The woods represent the darkness and death 
  • Lex thinks about this poem in his darker moments
  • You have promises to keep – keep going
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Notes By Stan Rizzo

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