Experiencing time pass has to be one of the weirdest things. It surrounds everything around us yet is incredibly inconsistent. One moment it’s molasses slow, the next it was like it was never there. Scientists and philosophers have tried to explain time, how our brain makes it possible, for ions. Did we invent it? How do we all have such a unified experience with time? Is time passing or are we passing time? “Now” is a squirmy thing, the closer you get to it the harder it is to pin down. Time seems to be a sort of creepy mystery quietly packed with discovery and at least for me, it’s something I work hard at slowing way down.
Everyday in the media is an article about jobs— how they’re disappearing for the middle class, how robots and artificial intelligence are stealing them, how the Gig-Economy is forcing people to do mundane tasks for less money. How true is it that our jobs are disappearing and how much is technology to blame?
What is the inevitability of the future of jobs and why can’t we imagine what that looks like? It’s hard to imagine talking to anyone better about this, than Kevin Kelly. He’s the co-founder of Wired Magazine (as he calls it the “Senior Maverick”) and he has a recent book called, “The Inevitable” (which has recently been released in paperback). It’s a New York Times and Wall Street Journal Best Seller. What Kevin has done is mapped the 12 major trends that have already made themselves apparent and will definitely shape our future. Kevin is amazing at packaging all those ideas that live within those trends and making those things digestible. As you’ll hear, us humans are pretty horrible at figuring out what’s coming next.
It’s a fact that god created the universe, reality is in three dimensions, India is a developing country, you need to drink 6-8 glasses of water a day, that when you meet the right person it will be true love, and if you eat fat you’re going to get fat. These are indisputable facts. There’s no place for opinion, or feelings in any of this, right? If you opened your brain and added up all the time you’ve spent fact-gathering, how much time do you think that would add up to? How much of what’s in your head are anecdotes that you repeat and how much are simply true? Even if they’re not, who’s got time to figure out what the truth is, where to start, and how to see it?
Certainly, Science is true. That’s the bedrock of our culture. It’s always been true and it always will be true. That is, until you look to the past and realize it’s a modern invention not at all shared around the world. It blows up the closer and closer we get to it. That’s not anti-science sentiment just that we do need to take a closer look at ourselves, our minds and how we perceive reality. The closer we look, the more we realize there’s some pretty big gaps.
It’s always interesting to me to see which drugs get thrown under the bus. Most of them are the ones that are illegal but the reality is, as you’ve heard on this show, that drugs are used for all kinds of reasons. Some of which are “pharmaceutical” and have to do with capitalistic interest and some are “recreational” and have to do with spiritual or social interest. The use of all those drugs has everything to do with the intent of the person or company behind it. That’s why I wanted an episode dedicated to GHB, often labeled the date-rape drug. As you’ll hear, there have been many date-rape drugs. GHB has some amazing benefits to it that has nothing to do with it’s date-rape branding.
When you live in the Bay Area you pass tons of folks who appear to be mad. Most of us don’t spend enough time focusing on how our culture handles folks on the spectrum of some level of mental illness. When you think about it— the range of “madness” ranges from people with very serious mental illness to people who don’t socially fit in. As you look back across history, you can see just how we’ve dealt with it, who we’ve blamed for it, and what crazy treatments we’ve put in place.
Who better to talk about that than someone who studies it for a living. Andrew Scull, this week’s guest, is exactly that person. As a professor of Sociology at the University of San Diego, he’s written a ton of books on this subject over decades.
Clearly throughout recorded history we’ve been fascinated by things like the Fountain of Youth and anything that would reverse the aging process. Let’s face it, if you’re over 40, you feel it physically. Your systems just start to break down. In modern medicine, this process has been seen as disease but this week’s guest, Aubrey de Grey, sees it more like an engineering challenge.
Aubrey is a very controversial biomedical gerontologist and crusader against aging. He has a very specific plan that identifies the various components that cause human tissue to age, and he has very specific remedies for each of them. That’s what his non-profit, The SENS Research Foundation focuses on and it’s got some interesting people behind it, like Peter Thiel (one of the founders of PayPal) and Aubrey himself who has invested a large part of his inheritance to the cause.
Way back before capitalism, it used to be that self-welfare was the key part of our lives. We would face formidable physical and situational challenges and have to endure them, alone and with our tribe. It was likely those trials were the most meaningful experiences for our prior relatives— the very thing they could depend on and take comfort in. Today we’ve lost that ability. Comfort is handed to industries that insulate us for a fee. We spend money and depend on hermetically sealed homes, cars, drugs, food and clothing. If things get rough we rely on doctors, pills, and booze. But recently, there’s a rising voice that we’ve come to the end of the Western Medical Model. An awareness that those things don’t make life better anymore. That there are other roads. Some, like this week’s guest Wim Hof, believe it’s time to tap back into our natural abilities. That they’ve been forgotten. If there’s anyone that knows about getting out of their comfort zone, it’s him. His journey started when--with four children at home--his wife took her life by jumping out an eight story window. To deal with his grief, he went out into the extreme cold. Since then, he’s shown through examples of enduring extreme cold like being submerged in ice for nearly two hours or using his mind to ward off disease, that anyone has amazing power to face anything and literally self-regulate. He’s now using the best scientists in the world to back up what he’s learned and therefore challenge science, culture and the very industries we’ve come to assume are the answer.
Have you ever looked at a super old picture and laughed at how mistaken all those people were about what they thought the we’d spend our time doing today? I know I look at pictures of myself as a kid and can’t believe I spent my time outside vs on a phone. Doesn’t sound like you? Well then maybe you were positive that the world would always adore Milli Vanilli. Regardless, it’s hard to argue that we’re incredibly blinded by the road we’re on, what’s coming and what we— as a culture— will value beyond today. Why is that? I had an interesting and hilarious conversation about that very thing with this week’s guest, famed pop-culture author Chuck Klosterman, who recently released the book “But What If We’re Wrong?” You might know Chuck, he’s got a pretty huge cult-following which started when he was a journalist for Spin, GQ, the New York Times Magazine, the Washington Post, and Esquire. Or maybe you’ve read his diverse, hilarious and insightful page-turning books ranging from Rock-n-Roll to Redskins, from Cereal to Serial Killers many of which have topped the New York Times Bestseller list.
Usually the question “what is reality” is saved for entertainment— it’s the stuff of sci-fi movies— because if your friend cornered you and pressed you on it, you’d probably just want to slap them. Mostly because of just how frustrating it can be to rip and replace your entire perception of what’s real. That said, it’s the sort of insanely big question that the very smartest, most ambitious people have asked through generations. Just last month, Elon Musk made the argument that we’re all probably characters in some advanced civilization’s video game. It might not surprise you to know that there’s actual science focused on how to crack this huge question. This episode’s guest, cognitive scientist Donald Hoffman, has not only been researching it, he’s had some recent breakthroughs that could change absolutely everything we perceive about reality. Don is a professor of cognitive science at the University of California, Irvine and he makes a very compelling case supported by lots of research and testing that the entire perception we have for reality is nothing like what we think it is.
Where do you place yourself on the animal kingdom ladder? Near the top? Odds are that you’re living inside the “we're so god-kissed and unique” human story that we all seem to march to versus thinking of yourself as a talking, organized ape. I mean, look at all the tests we’ve done on animals to prove how wild their violent, beastly kingdom is and how civilized and advanced we are. Wonder why we win those tests every time? But what if we’re very, very wrong. What if our us-centric frameworks keep us from knowing ourselves and connecting with the world around us in a way that completely destroys that hierarchical "nature ladder?"