Hyper-Productivity, Learning 10+ Languages, DAOs, and More | Noah Feldman on The Tim Ferriss Show

Tim Ferriss is not associated or affiliated with PodcastNotes in any way. All notes are independently created by PodcastNotes and do not imply any sponsorship or endorsement by, or affiliation with, Mr. Ferriss.

Check out The Tim Ferriss Show Episode Page & Show Notes

Key Takeaways

  • Noah Feldman is fluent in English, Hebrew, Arabic, and French. He can speak and read Korean, Aramaic, Latin, Greek, Spanish, Italian, and German
    • “There is nothing more frustrating in life than hearing someone speak a language you don’t speak” Noah Feldman
    • Learning Arabic radically changed Noah’s worldview because it gave him insight into the lives of other people
  • The constitution of the Republic of South Africa (after Nelson Mandela got out of prison) represents the best practices of the modern constitution
  • Behind every crypto platform, there are rules and agreements just like in a constitution: interaction, power distribution, coin production, etc.
  • Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs) have no hierarchical system for resource distribution; the focus is on the decision making of the collective
    • “To bet on a DAO is to bet on the wisdom of the crowd and on the collective capacity of the crowd to work together”Noah Feldman
    • Be vary of purposes and objectives of the DAOs; it is a helpful factor in deciding your involvement
  • Real aspiration is agreeing on a broader objective that makes the world actively better (e.g. equality in the case of a constitution)
    • Is the US constitution broken from the start due to racism and slavery in its DNA?
  • The Oversight Board (Supreme Court of Facebook) is something Noah is very excited about to see how it will develop in the future
    • It was created to answer difficult questions about freedom of expression online
    • The idea is to give the decision making power to an independent group of people 

Key Books Mentioned

Intro

  • In this episode, Noah Feldman joins Tim Ferriss to discuss the importance of learning languages, the usefulness of voice-recognition software, why he was failing at therapy, and the potential of DAOs
  • Noah Feldman (T: @NoahRFeldman and IG: @noahrfeldman) is a Harvard law professor, public intellectual, ethical advisor, host of the Deep Background podcast
  • Check out Noah’s website
  • Host – Tim Ferriss (@tferriss)

Why Dedicate Time and Energy to Learn Languages?

  • Learn languages to understand the world around you
    • “There is nothing more frustrating in life than hearing someone speak a language you don’t speak” Noah Feldman
  • You do not need to start learning a language as a child to become fluent
  • Learning Arabic radically changed Noah’s worldview because it gave him insight into the lives of other people
    • You become a participant because you can speak the language. You are not just an observer
    • Noah soon started noticing many social and cultural differences
    • These are very valuable lessons for a teenager who is trying to make sense of the world
  • Noah is fluent in English, Hebrew, Arabic, and French. He can speak and read Korean, Aramaic, Latin, Greek, Spanish, Italian, and German
    • Don’t be intimidated by people who speak multiple languages; you do not start from scratch every time you learn a new language

How to Structure your Life for Productivity?

  • Noah didn’t give much thought to arranging his life, he “just did it”
  • No matter what he’s doing, he is always focused, present in the moment, and never thinking about what’s coming next
    • Noah trained himself to enter the flow state
    • He does all his writing with the help of voice recognition software
    • He does not worry about the quality of his work until his task is completed
    • After he is done with, e.g., writing; he stops, thinks it over, sends it to his editor, removes it out of his mind completely, and goes to the next thing
  • This is how he saves time that is usually spent self-questioning
    • The downside is no self-reflection, no examination of one’s actions and motives
    • That is why Noah opted for therapy in his late 30’s
  • He did not know how to examine his thoughts and feelings and reflect on their meaning
    • He thought he was failing at therapy
    • This was because he thought about therapy as every other task in his life
    • For Noah, therapy was just another 45-minute task he wanted to complete by being focused and diligent
    • Therapy started to make sense after he abandoned goals and made it a priority to just be present
    • “You cannot force your way into having successful talk therapy, you have to let things bubble up”Noah Feldman

Using Voice Recognition to Beat Blank Page Syndrome

  • Noah wrote his first book on a laptop and developed repetitive stress injury (“mouse pain”)
    • He couldn’t use a mouse and couldn’t type on a computer
    • This is the reason he started using voice recognition software
  • Since then, everything he writes comes from speech recognition software
    • He uses Dragon NaturallySpeaking software
    • You can do it without “fancy” equipment; the built-in microphone will suffice in most cases
    • Speed-wise, Noah is speaking as he would speak to an audience; communicating his ideas
  • There is “something” in how the words appear on the screen as you speak that makes the task of writing look less intimidating

Why did Noah go to Law School?

  • Law is Noah’s way of contributing to the world
  • Medieval Islamic studies that he majored in was important and valuable, but he wanted a different kind of output
  • There is an idea of affecting real people in the real world; make the world suck a little bit less
    • That is the purpose of legal systems, but not everyone uses the law to make the world a better place
  • Noah’s dad was a major influence to pursue a law degree
    • He was a social psychologist interested in law
    • When Noah was a kid, his dad took him to watch court cases and gave him books about law
    • Influenced by psychologist B.F. Skinner, his father believed he could produce any behavior if he reinforced it
    • By using positive reinforcement, he made Noah see the world in a certain way
  • “I Am Not a Short Adult!” by Marilyn Burns, a kids book that examines a supreme court case Tinker v. Des. Moines Independent Community School District
    • It was about young teens wearing black armbands to school to protest against the Vietnam war
    • They got suspended, and the supreme court decided they had the free speech right to wear the armbands
    • The idea that kids have rights was very inspiring and exciting for young Noah

What is a Constitution?

  • “A constitution is a blueprint for whoever any group of people wants to govern itself”Noah Feldman
    • It requires a collective agreement of the majority
    • A smaller group of people propose the agreement
    • A larger group of people validates it
  • Building a constitution from scratch requires you to know what to speak on behalf of the public
    • They have to gain more by agreeing than failing to agree
    • You can’t do this if you don’t have order- a hard truth Noah learned in Iraq
    • There needs to be a general idea of how power is arranged in our society
  • How to draft a constitution?
    • Almost no constitution in the modern world is made from scratch
    • You “borrow” from other constitutions 
    • Answer core definitional questions ( e.g. what are the powerful bodies in the society, how should the public be represented)
    • The answers need to be concrete and in the interest of the needs of everyone in the society
  • Power needs to be shared and alternated in order for everyone to be treated well
  • The constitution of the Republic of South Africa (after Nelson Mandela got out of prison) represents some of the best practices of the modern constitution
    • It’s not perfect, but there was no massive capital flight, violent retribution, or civil war
    • It guaranteed a lot of rights, but wealth distribution was in the favor of the white minority
    • There is no perfect constitution; none can solve everything

Similarities Between Constitution and Crypto

  • Behind every crypto platform, there are rules and agreements just like in a constitution
  • Every cryptocurrency is based upon an agreement about:
    • Interaction
    • Power distribution
    • Coin production
    • Coin distribution
    • What do to in case of conflict between the participants of the platform
    • Who is capable of forking a platform (creating an alternative platform)
  • Forking is similar to a civil war or a revolution in the constitutional world
  • How are we going to govern ourselves in this common enterprise (crypto)?
    • When a platform does well, that is because the participants are in agreement with those rules
    • Legitimacy- a property of constitutional systems when they work well
  • Vitalik Buterin does a great job of explaining the crypto world for people wanting to learn more

DAOs (Decentralized Autonomous Organizations)

  • DAO is an autonomous organization that operates on a blockchain
    • DAOs allows for collective decision making
    • There is no centralized decision-maker (e.g. president, prime minister) like most constitutions have
    • No hierarchical system for resource distribution; the focus is on the decision making of the collective
  • The history of decentralized decision-making organizations
    • “To bet on DAO is to bet on the wisdom of the crowd and on the collective capacity of the crowd to work together”Noah Feldman
    • DAO’s existed before (guilds, labor unions)
    • They can do certain things very well but some decisions are hard to make:
      • Conflict, competition with another entity
      • Coordination of action beyond initial purposes of the organization
  • Be vary of purposes and objective of the DAO, it is a helpful factor in deciding your involvement in the DAO
  • By asking factual questions, the collectivity might do great, but it is more complicated for predictive questions
  • It all comes down to the purpose of the collective and its participants

Smart Contracts VS Traditional Contracts

  • Features of smart contracts:
    • Stored on a blockchain
    • Used to execute an agreement without any third-party involved
    • They are uneditable
    • As close to self-enforcing as you can get, no need for a legal system
  • Because smart contracts are uneditable, you cannot evolve them, there is no flexibility
  • Traditional contracting relationships constantly evolve, this is lost in smart contracts
  • The solution is to invent a new one that is a variant on the existing one
    • Will the future bring algorithms that have the capacity for internal evolution?
  • They need to expand on flexibility, this is what makes traditional contracts so powerful
  • Traditional contracts are behind partnerships, business transactions, etc.
    • They are also the central metaphor behind constitutions (social contracts)

The Broken Constitution: Lincoln, Slavery, and the Refounding of America?

  • Is the US constitution broken from the start due to racism and slavery?
    • This is a fundamental identity question for the United States
    • How bad is our situation now relative to the situation then?
    • This new book is Noah’s attempt to answer these questions
  • Lincoln believed taking people’s slaves is a dictatorship, and he didn’t want to do it
    • Once the Civil War began, one of his generals started freeing the slaves of confederates
    • Lincoln ordered him to reverse it and fired the general
    • 18 months later, he realized they are not going to win the war easily and changed the narrative about slavery
    • Was this out of morality or to cripple the southern states and win the war?
  • The answer is not clear, Lincoln never said he was doing it because slavery was immoral
    • Lincoln believed he was authorized to win the war, but not to impose his moral will on the rest of the country
    • Unconsciously, Lincoln believed slavery was immoral and that the old slavery compromise could never work
    • Should the constitution be a moral blueprint?
  • There are two kinds of compromises:
    • Waffling and real aspiration
  • Waffling is when you know you are doing something that is wrong but doing it anyway for the sake of compromise
    • Example are happenings before the Civil War; it was bad because it involved slavery, but without it, they wouldn’t have been able to build the union
  • Real aspiration is agreeing on a broader objective that makes the world actively better (e.g. equality in the case of a constitution)
    • A high degree of generality
    • A collective experiment where all the sides want the same end but make compromises about different paths to get there
    • Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King jr. are great examples of the aspirational type of compromise

Supreme Court of Facebook

  • The Oversight Board (Supreme Court of Facebook) is something Noah is very excited about to see how it will develop in the future
    • It was created to answer difficult questions about freedom of expression online
    • The idea is to give the decision making power to an independent group of people 
    • Start with an identifiable set of decisions about what content Facebook allows
    • For it to work, Facebook needs to make decisions that Facebook doesn’t like
  • The goals of the experiment:
    • To see if the board will make better decisions than Facebook
    • Push Facebook to make its own decision in a more regularized rule-based way
    • Show the public the benefits for private companies to do what governments have long done (real separation of power)
  • Potential common mistakes for the Oversight Board:
    • They need to have genuine external independence
    • The company can’t have a say in the process of reappointment
    • Giving the board too much power to make a decision that would destroy the company
  • If it’s a global decision-making body it needs to be global in its orientation
    • Some values need to be stated in advance, and an explanation of the decision should be provided
  • “Transparency and giving reasons drives legitimacy”Noah Feldman

Tim Ferriss Show : , , , ,
Notes By Dario

More Notes on these topics

Top Insights and Tactics From

31 Best Podcasts of All Time

FREE when you join over 25,000 subscribers to the
Podcast Notes newsletter

No Thanks