« Making Sense with Sam Harris

#204 — May 18, 2020

2020-05-18 | 🔗

In this episode of the podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Jonathan Haidt about the maintenance of a healthy society. They discuss the problem of orthodoxy, the history of political polarization in the US, the breakdown of public conversation, remaining uncertainty about Covid-19, motivated reasoning, the 2020 election, the future prospects for Gen Z, the effect of social media on the mental health of girls, Jonathan's experience with psychedelics, positive psychology, loss of self, the experience of awe, and other topics.

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
What colors make a test podcast with SAM Harris, just a note to say that if you're hearing this you're not currently on our subscriber feed and will only be hearing partial episode of the podcast, if you'd like access to full episodes, you'll need to subscribe, it samharris dot org. There you'll find our private rss feed to add to your favorite podcast you, along with other subscriber only content and as always, I never wanted money to be the reason why someone can't listen to the podcast. So if you can't afford a subscription, there's an option at Samharris, dot, org to request a free account and we grant one hundred percent of those requests. No questions asked. I am here with Jonathan Hype, John we're doin again my pleasure SAM. So I'm were planted to a two part com
safe here, starting with the topic that has been omnipresent, and on everybody's mind for now some months, which is the key, had nineteen pandemic, and you know why, To talk to you about that. Just because of you know your expertise in so four psychology and the way in which its informing or should be informing our view of political power. Rotation. The frame society's concerns about Social he's gone and everything that is a kind of knock on effect of the potential knock on effect of the the immediate. Concern here, which is epidemiological oh and economic, and we'll dive into that, and then in the second half I thought we could talk about our mutual interest in self transit. Then send the nature of consciousness and then the kinds of methods- people,
used, and you and I are both the use to explore that terrain psychedelic son and meditation being too so others disobeyed out of it to chapter conversation. I am looking forward to it so But before we begin John were just perhaps some, eyes, your background Briefly, Eddie in terms of Europe and intellectual life, as it relates to psychology and politics, perhaps yet I think in a lot of ways. I started out in a very similar path to you when I was a philosophy, major in college, and I wanted to understand the meaning of life? And then I went to to graduate school psychology, and I and I shifted over to social psychology and morality and emotion, and I began stating how morality varies across cultures, but as the american culture or heated up, I shifted over to looking at left right as being like different culture. So I started studying political polarisation back in two thousand
for a boy. His is that a stock whose value has risen- I mean it's just reached insane evaluations right now, so that's raven, studying and during so actually got into it in part. To help the Democrats win, I was so upset the Democrats in two thousand two thousand for had no idea how to talk about morality, but, as I began to write the righteous might I really started reading conservative ideas and intellectuals and discovery that directive lot of ideas out there that I didn't know and three valuable here: Besides, I kind of stepped out from being on a team and open since that I really just been trying everyone understand across the divide and had an extremely alarmed about our democracy and its health. So that's what I've been working on for the last ten or fifteen years, especially, is how do we help people understand all the different moral matrices that they live in and thereby turned down some of the anger and make it possible to have pragmatic solutions of the sort that democracy should be able to reach
honey, you are one of the earliest people. Some of these points, we might have been the first person to signal just how this fund and all the ivory towers view of the political landscape has been, and so it is just natural within the academy have a level of political bias that is soon just would be starkly dysfunctional anywhere else. She could get and tease, had ECHO chamber effect and You were a very early on top by how a lack of diversity of ideas. It was really socially and intellectually problematic, Ass, he started at the Heterodox Academy too, shine, more light on that. You must say something about that. Yeah sure cuz, this very well connected to what will be talking about today. So
one size, one says and stepped out of the matrix and stopped being a member of a team fighting the other team and- and yet I just started being just a social scientist, trying to figure out what the hell's going on. I started noticing not just that we leave laughed at that, isn't a problem. The field can function even if ITALY, seed or two or three. If you get two or three times as many people on the left is the right, that's not a problem, and it wouldn't be a problem, the reverse. Either we don't need balance. What we need is a complete absence of orthodoxy, so Orthodoxy Mina means that if you descent, you will be punished, and you know that Fine. If your goal is cohesion, you know, if you're an army marching into battle. Maybe that's fine, but if your scientists seeking the truth, you know anybody
Red John Stuart Mill knows he, who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. So that's what a large soon as I started, looking at the polarization in the country, I saw it happening it. My own field of psychology and sought happening in most of the Social Sciences and humanities, and I could see orthodoxy. I could see bad social science thinking and I started getting alarmed by it I gave a talk and twenty eleven on how this was a problem for social psychology and to my fields, credit I didn't suffer, nobody can. I wasn't, kicked out people to get angry at me. People generally agreed it's a problem, but it's been hard to hard to really change thinks and that's what Heterodox Academy is trying to do there was a problem, the way back then, but in two thousand sixteen, The reckoning really seem to happen because what we witness there was a country device, I did along seems, we had
even before this heartland revulsion against the coasts and against the cosmos. In his men, elite, ism or perceived elitism of big cities and You know their liberal inhabitants and Trump manage to magnify that divide to a degree that I still think we're trying grapple with what happened there and try not to repeat the same psychological experiment over the next six months, and then I should also say that now the pandemic has somehow, if it were possible, amplify that dynamic has that's right reviewing the current moment and what this as a quarantine, has done to further expose this intellectual and tribal schism in the country,
So to understand where we are, you have to go back at least to the well it. Let's go all the way back to the nineteen fifties and Sixtys when America was pretty on polarized than the postwar world was an unusually historically was quite unusual between century and having very levels of polarization. There were liberal Republicans, never conservative Democrats and for a variety of reasons in the seventies and especially in the eightys we began to see almost like you know, tat conic plates moving around. We began to have one party that had psychological progressives and one part of its psychological concern.
It is so before then, things were all scrambled and rural people were often Democrats. The Democrats with a party, the working man there's lots of mixing and matching, and there was the possibility of by partisan legislation. A lot of legislation was by partisan back then, but for a variety of reasons. We start getting sorting into types of people who are sorting by values. Ronald Reagan put together a coalition that was not just economic pro. Business was also with the Christians in religious, riot and and family values, and this is much more dangerous because if have coalitions based on interests. While you can make deals, you can trade off, but will you have coalitions based on personality types that share values? Will now the
Their side is evil. They are bad people and, as the parties increasingly then became more purified in terms of density. That is, if it's not enough, there's a lot of people with per square mile it loads democratic. If there are few people per square models, republican and also very alarmingly, by race, as the Republican Party is becoming more the party white people this this picture very dangerous, so I've an extremely alarmed. I was extremely alarmed if he's back there around two thousand and ten, two thousand and twelve, and it is so much worse now media environment. We get into that later. Perhaps but changes in social media between two thousand nine and two thousand eleven gave us much more of an outrage machine adding on to cable tv, which could be hers, has been causing problems for awhile as well, so it was really the table was really set for an election in which
Reality had little grip on a lot of people and passions, anger, fury gripped a lot of people. I mean it's basically straight out of the Federalist Papers where Madison about faction and the human tendency to faction, which we hate the other side. So much, we don't care about the common good. And there was a lot of anger at the twenty, sixteen election had not been so much anger. Had we not been so polarized there's no way, Donald Trump Critical elected so I think everyone needs to think whatever side neurotic we care about the country. We need to figure out. What do we do about this? How can we help we turn things down future yeah and need the information. Peace is crucial here. The fact that people can so successfully silo themselves pre stigmatize other sources of information or messages. They don't want Here is a level of confirmation, bias and just allergy
to date at it doesnt feature narrative and conspiracy, thinking that doesn't even recognize that its conspiracy thinking just as the public conversation were were having with one another and failing to have the something recognizable about this, I don't know if that's just some kind of delusion that that I've acquired based on it being delayed read through new channels, like social media or orbits, some recently, a fact, getting older, but it doesn't it even wrapped up in the context of this panel, Where I see. Otherwise, very smart, green, irrational people I e not the usual tenure. Had crowd succumbing two degree of motivated reasoning. That would apology and without apparent bandwidth, to check themselves ever and proving completely unsusceptible too, are
man is just like there. There are no universally trusted sore as an information that can resolve disagreements. At this point it seems not look. That's right because you you and you have to see people not has creatures seeking information, but has social creatures, it meshed in games of competition or war or conflict, and when we're not when the conflict level is low, and you put us in the right circumstances and in his detentions we actually can find the truth. That's the magic of the universe, yes, the magic of science, but imagine a scientific field in which, certainly, let's just take all the normal dynamics of science and then let's put a lot of money so that there is a huge amount of money riding on on whether you you know you, you get this discovery or panned. Well, that would corrupt things in a course that has happened to some degree in medicine. In some areas in the Social Sciences, money doesn't play much of a role, but politics does and so
you get up as as tribal passions and hatred of the other political party rises. You get the same kind of corrupting dynamic there, so I do think it is a theme of the twenty tens. I spoke of the twenty twenties that it is actually getting harder to find the truth. Then it was twenty or thirty years ago. I believe that is despite the EU. We have obviously some kinds of facts and truth argues that tacitly easier, but a very grateful for Google him and the internet Obviously many things are getting better, but anything that is politically morally tagged so that inside wants to believe in the other. Doesn't in some ways it is now harder to find the truth than it used to be, at least that's it. That's what I'm coming to see. It won't feel in psychology. We ve had this replication crisis, and so this is a different mechanism, but
we used to think tat. He did when I was a grad school. We learned the correlation of studies are not very reliable but experiments where that's the gold standard. You know if it's random assignment double blind. You know boy, that's the dead. That's that's! That tells you what caused. What, but now we're finding that even a lot of experiments dont replicate, and so I think the attitude we have to take into the twenty twenties is a lot more humility waste we don't know, what the truth is no matter how fervently we believe we do, and I by MAGIC Europe would, quite simply with that kind of a mindset and issues of faith, but it ended in sex. All of us- and I am hopeful that this virus this pandemic has humble everyone, as if we were pretty much all wrong about a lot of things. We're still about mostly or many things, probably here that this has been an interesting ordeal of piss demolishing really this spare, because so we ve been dealing with
hastily. Unreliable information in a rumor is leaking out of China and and then the overt attempt to suppress those room His or or a message against them by a communist regime, that has every reason to worry about the perception of it in the world and then all of the tribal spin given to that, Sir stand by our own politics. We have a completely deranged president, who is concerned about the stock market and its effect on his Chances are re election. We have a personality, cult amplifying every one of his and ideas. But then we have just been all these different vested interests and people in what will without much political partisanship. Exposed to very different or you're, very likely very different outcomes with respect to the single variable
the sign, into lockdown society, ready of people whose businesses can still be. Intend once we lock things down and there, but some of them even improve right, and then you have people who whom every aspect of economic life If he's gonna grind to a halt and these People may on either side, as they may be equally real Nepal and equally respectful of science, and yet you can see the consequences of your echo I'm a concerns in framing down your ability to think clearly about what the data is suggesting at any time. Point very: interesting to witness the Mcintosh you to believe that every point along the way. Even when we, the truth, still no know how lethal this disease is a threat. But at every point. Along the way, it has been prudent to try to stop this read of the contagion despair, our health care system, because we could see what happening in ITALY and other countries and to
use the time where we were thereby gaining for ourselves to ramp up testing and our ability to trace, and I said the cases and to understand the virus and obviously develop therapeutics and and ultimately, a vaccine. I now we, we have proven surprise sanely way at using the time well, and that is something we have to figure out had. Unproven and understanding are going forward. But it is always imprudent. Even given the absolutely predict the economic costs too err on the side of caution here, because report along the way this has seemed considerably worse. And the flu on the out analogous to the flu have always seemed the inaccurate and the question is how much worse as this the flu and then regional people can debate that so, for instance, there very poor. When people who are making claims like hospital
those are coding moralist every conceivable death as a covert, yeah they immortality statistics are. Statistics are completely fake right now. Whether this is sure that that's happened in in a few places, but is either eight very dangerous conspiracy, theory or something we have to get to the bottom of immediately and is very hard to tell right. Emily can't figure this out in two hours, and who would you trust to put this claim to rest or not The New York Times isn't good enough. Apparently so, hey you think about, how we move forward in the space where there are very few trusted gatekeepers of information and these disparity between believing thing and believe in its antithesis is enormous, but that's right, I said so. I think so
I'll go with you and your analysis on the first, the first few weeks or be a month or two of this, which is that as long as we didn't know much about this thing, we didn't know what the death rate was. It could be three percent six percent and for God's sakes art are, doctors did even have masks, so I think there was no. There was really no dispute that we had to do downs at first. We just didn't know what was going on and we could not deal with who had no idea where the high water mark would be unanimously here in bed. Hatton, where everything is peaceful in the streets are quiet, but do you know, pandemonium in the hospitals. We had no idea how how high the wave of death was gonna, crest and I think, to their credit Americans. We actually really did, except that I mean Americans really did. I was surprised that we, I think, those for sweet we actually did get obviously not like they did in China or other places, using a lot more force, but Americans did go along with it, and the surveys still show that most people support that
But once we got through that first wave with enormous economic cost, which is also a personal cost. Now I think there are at least real alternative use that need to be discussed and if we had some sort of a reasonable. Rational media system may be sold to mock, receive with reasonable discourse norms. We could actually do it. What I mean is especially say too sweet model. It is at least reasonable to say. Ok, you know they're doing different in different countries. Will let's look at? How does it work you know? Do they do they get immunity faster? So as long as it was so much unknown, it actually would be really important to listen to the other side, to listen to critics and that's way that that's the way that we all get smarter is is by having our confirmation buys, is challenged. So I'm a big fan of that now, unfortunately, we live in this crazy, funhouse, mad house, in which, as you said, there is There- are national interests trying to distort things. There are in a russian
in a russian operatives trying to tee no use rumours to divide us. We have a president who, when, when George W Bush Tito them, he gave us a call for us to come together. It was a beautiful, a call from a former president and for four trumpeter to attack him on the spot that Turkey was one of the several just horrible low points of the whole thing, also just shows us how far from normal politics with wandered, because he know here here we have a current republican president. Vilify in a previous the outlook and president who is making nothing more than a call for national unity and a transcendence partisanship, and the current present can't even transcend his own thin skinned IDA with that happen, I didn't get angry at all. I was last things like over eight. This may not be happening. This cannot so that we are so far beyond what we just so deep into the absurd, and so you that we have to figure out damages, but one wonders.
Action on the table is most Americans are pretty reasonable. Most Americans are not that polarized You have to distinguish between the average and the sort of thee, the dynamics of the system, and so, let's take To take one example on account of college campuses. Most students are pretty reasonable, but we ve been because of social need. In other things, you know the the who will use social media or warm now, protests can have a disproportionate voice same thing in it in a democracy.
His wonderful work by a group called more in common british organization that surveyed America. They ve done really wonderful work on on studied polarization, United States. They find that Americans fall into about seven different groups based on their political attitudes and four of the groups they coat, which is a large majority. They call the exhausted majority, and these are people who are quite reasonable to other groups run. The left. One is centrists. What is people just disengaged, so most Americans, you know you can't feel you can't blame most Americans, but because of the nature of social media. The nature of com as the nature of of the cable news. Various people have megaphone needs that are pursuing other commercial interests or ideological interests and say you get absurdities while, like Fox NEWS saying you know
Rammed Ecevit is bad and consequent is good. It is asked the scientific studies have come out showing the reverse. So what I'm saying is that don't give up on Americans, but it's almost time to give up on than that that system or the net work that we have and by give up- and I don't mean that there is no hope I just made like man with- we can't just go back to normal. We gotta dig deep cigarette was wrong and fix this, so that this becomes the bottom and out there What do you? Twenty becomes heal the worst here in a long time and in it something changes by the end of this decade. Warehouse. We view the next six months of the next six months is overshadowed entirely by the twenty twenty presidential election, rather is just going to be politics all the time when it's not pandemic, it'll be politics and we obviously don't know how much the economy is going to unravel and in the meantime, but it seems like its poised to unravel to it.
An impressive degree and mean were certainly flirting with whether real depression of joblessness numbers are any indication and again the in the most hopeful predictions for a vaccine which is really the only thing that will fully reset our circumstances with respect to public health Nothing arrives before me, something like it would be a miracle but arrived in January. Right, and even that is very few people are our imagining that its sooner than than a year from now and again, that its government or and how amazing. That would be, I think, the fastest vaccine with ever developed was four years for the months and the average is fifteen years. One year would be a massive breakthrough and possibly improve on that and its we get back. Seen by January. Still we have this period were not just the Ark
true. But the entire world has been pitched into a circumstance of real on certainty, financial, economically and- and I think, as a result, politically how are you in the next six months and Mary so many concerns on the table like how do we even have a safe election right? Now we can vote by male right. How do we get people to actually vote? What are you thinking for the next six months, so united, We agree that it's gonna be all pandemic and trump all the time with just sideshows over by then and other things here and there. So there's no and of the fever breaking until until after the election. I'm certainly hoping that trunk is not is not reelected, I think that the euro is many people said, although you know their adults in the room the first year or two. There were many good people saying
and I think there are not so many of them at the upper level anymore. They. So the point is that the craziness we ve seen in the last year or two we would get even worse. So I think that, if, if trumpets reelected, I think, though the damage to our democracy and the reputation in the world are standing the world wide I've tried to think what would happen if, if Biden winds or there could be some round which he's not the nominee or who knows what's gonna happen. But if, if Biden wins, it would be great if we had a bold and inspiring Peter, and I not expecting not expecting the Bible rise to that level. But who knows there is, of course, there's a chance for we set up a lot of things, it's very hard to predict how things would play out the one. The one thing I would question what you said is you say nobody is predicting a vaccine for a very long time. Yes, that's true, but you know this is one of those things that we ve been told a lot
things about. What about the virus? Like don't wear, masks and you know tat. We wash ran through twenty seconds. It turns out a lot of that was either wrong. These not based on on evidence. It is true that that experts tell us is likely to be a long time and you're right that no vaccine has ever been invented that quickly. But you know this a hundred I just saw the news. The other date is a hundred of actions there in development, three or four Am I going into clinical trials now and, of course, we are not there's no way we're going to follow the old political where we go in occupied a lot of people and wait a year to see if Amity got sick network the dew calendar. Else, people than a volunteer like crazy to be infected with the virus to see if they have the immunity. So I just raised this as just one example of how a lot of things that are put forth as facts about this. You have to at least actively look and say Ok, it's really fact: how do we really know this and you know under what snares? Might this not come true, and of course, if suppose, one of these you do this
just like it and why you just they sought on the news on Friday there injecting while giving the vaccine people this week and then they'll start exposing them or some of them. I think I'm not sure what the plan is exactly but they'll have an answer within a couple months, and so let us suppose it work well, that would really change everything and in a way that I think, obviously, could greatly benefit trump. What I'm hoping you'd President's leaders often get a bump because of a crisis. Trump got hardly any, but let's get competence, which is what I am hoping will turn off the middle of the country. It states the bumbling incompetence that I think is likely to be powerful for a lot of people who are not part of his base. But if somehow you know it, if there's a scientific breakthrough in the end, the vaccine comes quickly. A lot of people say see it's just like Trump said: it'll just magically
way? So you know I just like we can't it's very hard to came out how things are gonna play out while scientifically and economically year. I would place a bet on what seems to be the pervasive incompetence at the moment we just because even if we have Maxine. Today, we knew worked. Have to rule that out to you know in our case three hundred fifty million people and arson Ruggles, even gear testing going and struggle enormously. Just imagine having to produce the vials of vaccine, and if this isn't it tractable righto, as opposed to something that you can inhale. They start in Europe. You look look, it could be. It could be granted in China. You know we're all assuming that can be by Americans, but you know that you're not going on in Europe and Israel, China so then all the more reason to worry that we're not first in line to get it right. That's what well so I don't know how in the weeds you gotten, with Trump supporters
as I have commented on this in several places in it the thing about the trump phenomenon that is has been most mystifying to me is that among his supporters and not even people who are unsophisticated Even people who I'm just I'm surprised even discover they are. They did support him at all. What I find that is truly missed. Fine and and really just confirmed and any effort to have a reasonable conversation about. Politics is a total unwillingness to admit that there is anything com. Sequentially wrong with him. His lack of understanding of complex issues that his Gloucester his dishonour. Nasty that any of this is anyway negative right. But I feel like I meet in trying to convince Trump supporters of anything is just an
absolute stonewalling on points that seem checked of true, and in my my noticing them is not at all a sign of my own partisanship, just to save it ample lies more. Then, is normal in politics that is as objectively true as the path angering theorem. There's just no possibility of debating that yet even that will not be conceded or, if conceded they'll be some assertion that it just doesn't matter all politicians lie. The mantra you will reliably here at that juncture in the conversation and there's something like a hundred points like that, it's hard to understand what is that root of it, because this is not an ordinary form of tribalism. As this is not like members of the Christian right you are christian fundamentalism, there they have a whole world view organised around there you're having grown,
the event whatever and now their voting for whoever it is. George Bush, because he's on their side and he's gonna put in the right: conservative judges and boy abortion, and it's not part of a whole system of belief like that, it's just in many cases. The only thing that sir, seems to be organizing an ideologically is a revulsion at the status quo. In other, it was repudiated and twenty seconds to sixteen action in the business as usual that Hillary Clinton represented we don't want any more of that and all We pride. I want to pay more in taxes and you get those two variables. Clattering around a person's brain and it. It has summed to something like Caltech unwillingness to admit the obvious across the board Ever the conversation turns to Trump. Yes, so let me, let me give you a
the handy, a handy, little psychological tool that bank. That explains. That can explain this. So there is a there's, a wonderful term, there's research by Tom Gila which had Cornell yours, who study, motivator reasoning and that I got this little formula from him. He says when we when we want to believe something we don't look at the evidence and say is the evidence, mostly on the site that I want to believe we just say: can I believe to have permission to believe in meeting. Can I find one example. One argument one piece of evidence and if I can I'm done, I stop thinking, because if someone challenges me high can point to this piece of evidence. Whereas if you dont want to believe something you say? Must I believe that I am forced to believe it. So I've had the same experience as you. I have several. I communicate with a lot of people on the left and the right. My it's very smart correspondence who are trump supporters and I've had accepted debate with them about whether there is something wrong.
With here, then you know the psychologists psychiatrists say the most likely. Most likely diagnosis is narcissistic personality disorder. He makes everything about him and you and I think that that's as objective the fact is- the sun rises in the east that that more than other people, but once you understand that everybody's asking not is it true, but must I believe it well? The answer is always know: there's almost nothing, but you have to believe, certainly not anything about politics or anything that can be measured exactly precisely in with no. No, you know questioning about what the rules are, so you and I can point to one look at the facts. Checkers they find you know. Ten thousand errors Well, you know that the Trump supports will simply point out that the fact that those fat checkers we're or the other, whilst that the Washington Post WAR or snoops or other places have known left wing biases and the right. So it's very hard
get at the truth, and I think of course there is a truth, but went from supporters. Ask must, I believe it. The answer is always know and one of the best ways to get a life bit more humility here in them and to conduct the anger. Little bit has to say. It's always turn it around and say. Is there some different issue on which my side is just as obtains and can I think people on right would point out that. Well, you know people on the left privilege anything about base and gender and Algae BT data immigration. It is all these issues that are sacred issues on on the left, at least in my part of the left and immunity. Communities, but, as you know, I spend a lot of time hammering the left for its. I might get them out of a licence is wealthier gots. Yes, yes, sir, I get from both sides yet and then, when you just look at- the way in which we have shared influence in the world in the last few years, where we have just by turns
terrified, our allies and gratified are actual adversaries. It's just yeah, it's mindboggling it you have I a something like forty percent of american society, the seas, absolute, no problem when this me worse. They see some this as some form of progress here cook it. So let me get so here's the metaphor. That's helped me understand and there, the otherwise just unfathomable state of art of our country. Now so I began to feel ran twenty fourteen twenty fifteen that something was deeply wrong like like something has changed about the universe- and I plead with this. I just have this uncomfortable feeling for for a couple of years, and finally, a year took, I started working this this metaphor into my talks. Suppose, that suppose that God, one day just doubled the gravitational constant? So you know in our universe, there's like twenty five physical Constance, the massive, an electron things like that
and if God just said one day almost doubled, gravitational constant just for fun like everything would go totally haywire in the physical world. We need a plan Its would move their orbits and planes would come out. Sky, and it must be a bizarre and disastrous, and I think that what happened is basically that, but in the social world, and that is in Canada, Liberty is generally good, but when our hyper connected, that's changing a basic parameter of the universe were so connected, but it's more than that. It's not just you know like, oh, where Europe is giving us telephones and email, and we ve been getting more more connected for centuries and its general been a good thing. It's the nature of the connectivity, its connectivity in which we are communicating not privately but in front of an audience and the audience rates the communication. So this, I think, is what social media has done to us. That is when Facebook, and
Myspace came out. It was just you know, look here's my page here all my friends here. The bands I like it, I'm some showing off, but it wasn't toxic and it was not bad for democracy, I have an article, the Atlantic last November, with Tobias Pro Stock, but where we show how to get in the two thousand and nine. When Facebook added the like button and then Twitter copy didn't twitter added the retweet button and Facebook copied it, and then they both algorithm sized are there news feeds much more between two thousand and nine and two thousand and twelve the nature of humans
changed radically in ways that I think are very, very bad for democracy. That is, it wasn't just that we can now talk to each other privately for free. It's that a lot more of our conversation was now in public being raided, which means it was inauthentic, often dishonest and with a lot more intimidation it. I hate twitter. I hate going on Twitter, I'm also fascinated by it and I believe he is like opening a garbage can and watching rats and cockroaches fighting and there's something fascinating about it, but things really changed after twenty twelve, The Russians noticed it and they ve been trying to mess with our democracy for fifty years in twenty fourteen is when they realized. Hey. There's this great outrage machine that the Americans have built for us and at sea we don't have to go over there, we're not to fly agents over to mess them up with just sit here and Saint Petersburg to it. So I think
that you, I hear your incomprehension, I hear you're, you know your prostration sits. Things are terribly wrong and we could blame. We could blame those trumped supporters, we could say they must be insane. They must be badly motivate but it's not likely to be true, they're likely normal human beings, and so I think we have to look elsewhere. That's why I'm so mystified, because he heard people. I haven't my personal life, who are trump supporters no to be smart and well intentioned, and it's just it there completely aloof with respect to all of the downsides. His personality and what, to my eyes, the obvious risks being magnified by those downsides what an amazing species we are that we can believe such obviously false things. I think I think we have some people done some work on that score. Oh yeah. I agree that the style of communicate.
And it is created and information space where it really is just total, war all the time. That's right, information terms, that's right, yeah, that's! No! What you and I dont think or democracy can survive that. I think that if things keep going the way their going, our countries going to fail catastrophically, I'm not predicting that will, because I dont think things will keep on going away there going, but the trends are really bad. They ve been really bad for for at least ten years more than that even so what would you change me if you can actually get Jack, Dorsey and market under Bergen other people to just take your advice way? What would you change so yet I mean there's all kinds of systems. I change and including you know, elections in Congress now that, but I prefer to focus on social media Tobias an idea offered a couple of suggestions, the most important, what the most important single thing than we think needs to change. Is there has to be some kind of identity, verification for our major platforms? I'm we're not say
that you have to post with your real name, that we understand that there is often a need, not to use an avatar or a fake name but the magic. But if democracy is moving into a virtual public square, if, if was fundamental to our democracy, is how we engage with each other, and we no longer doing that in newspapers and real public squares without doing it on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram places like that. I think these places have an obligation to create a kind of public square that that fosters some sort of understanding, some sort of work that really cracks down on intimidation is stunning to me that you can make death threats, rape, threats, racist ranch, you can say anything you want and the worst that'll happen to you is. You know, eventually, your account be closed down when you can just make ten others
with no verification and the Russians figure this out long ago and a lot of Americans do it too. So if we are serious about having a democracy that has a public square and that public square happens on these platforms, I think there has to be at least enough skin in the game that our accountability, that, when people open an account, on Facebook, Twitter Instagram ready the major platforms there had they let slip suppose it worked like this. The platform would send him out to some other entity. Maybe it's him. Our government agency entity. It says not profit, the internet, nevertheless, and that that entity just verifies that you are a real person associated with the country and that you are over eighteen or or not if you're under eighteen it good kid, there might be other
like thirteen, because right now, any eleven year old can get on any platform that she wants to. That's all another set of issues. We can talk about mental health effects on girls and all kinds of other effects on teenagers, but I think that the most important thing is that we have to reduce trolling intimidation. You know I don't want to go into a public school anybody can, like you know. You know, hit me over the head or through acid my face and run away laughing and there's nothing. I can do about it. That's number one Yes, that's how it is our attention between that and are made a broader certain about free speech. May obviously these are private forms, neck and regulate speech, however, they want, but given that their essentially becoming internet infrastructure and they are becoming a kind of public square for which there is no alternative the area on the side of it just to basically default into the constitution, has seen
Tempting when it was you who, how do you think about free speech, concerns sure, so I would hate to live in a country in which, if somebody espoused an opinion that somebody else where the government didn't like that, that person could be arrested, are punished. So to me, that's the core free speech. You're, not there no thought crimes. There are no speech crimes other than obviously intimidation threats, their certain categories that are not constitutional protection, so I would not want. I don't want a solution which platforms have to look at what you say and and judge each thing. You say what I'd rather is that it's not focused on the thing you say
its focused on the features of the space, and so if, as long as we are now allow anonymous, trolls and well, do you have a constitutional right to say whatever you want without anyone knowing who you are? I don't think so. You have a right to do right to reach millions of people know you have a right to say what you want without being punished, but you knows, as is sometimes said, freedom of speech does not mean freedom of reach. The platforms are under no obligation to let you reach millions of people with claims that Cora Quinn is them. Is a miracle cure? That's not that's, not free speech, so I think gesture that these platforms- they're not there individuals talking in the public square and they're not newspapers there somewhere in between and we don't. Our Lord isn't quite account for that yet. But I think, just as we have a lot of responsibilities placed on newspapers and magazines, I think we need some sort of in between thing for these platforms, and that means no, you can't just open a hundred accounts and say what it
We want all day long and people without without anyone know who you are. Now, what are your thoughts about the twenty twenty elect? can and in another day, certain about the Biden and and his violin yeah really on two fronts me this: that we have the tar, reed allegations and A surrounding those we have this fairly credible charge of hypocrisy against. Laughed becoming aware, we laughed we're all about me too and believe are women, but then the inconvenient woman shows up making fairly shocking claims about. The only candidates standing between us and for more years of Trump and what we see as a either ape a massive disinclination to even here the allegations or end once that becomes tenable, wait. What we ve now seen is an analysis.
Of the allegations that does frankly suggested kind of dumb we'll standard where in a we could go hard against bread Cavanaugh when he was nominated for the Supreme Court based on more or less nothing, but fairly dim memory of one person and Werner s four situation here and behaving rather differently, I mean the way I reconcile this, you know it's just that. I think Trump is so dangerous for more years of him, would be so awful for many. The reasons you mentioned, and I do think, there's something special awful about doubling down on Trump for us, and term, and why at says about our countries wayward validate, had it wasn't a fluke? We really did. We know exactly what were buying here and we're gonna buy again for former airs. Yet, amid is just
I don't know how american standing recovers and may we will literally have to have the Messiah come for twenty four to reboot But, given that you know, I honestly don't care what it true here, unless I like, I can on that. He might have done something absolutely awful, which should in a normal world disqualify him for the presidency I don't feel like. I know that I don't feel like. I don't know that. I just feel that whoever Joe Biden is or has been he's better than Trump yeah, just as facade of nationalism. As a normal politician, and I normally empathic person- is so much better than what trouble it manages to muster as a person that there is really nothing to decide here. For me, that seems to skirt hypocrisy and not inclined to treat tar reads alibi regions differently. Then then blossom
words, and I emphasise the apt comparison is just at the context is so different that the Inn his case. They they don't matter. I consider this a political emergency that only has one adequate resolution, which is somebody other than Trump becomes President yeah, so we are getting to that it has. I have not been followed the strike closely enough to have a view about what might have actually happened, but the key thing that I would want us to focus on here. If you're asking about the implications for the election, his enthusiasm, passion things like that, so Trump won the election. He didn't today, twenty sixteen, not because people loved him and wanted him, but because we have negative partisanship in this country that is since two thousand for we vote more political scientists, tell us that that the strategy for president used always be you run to the outside, to give parties nomination and then because
Eric has a fairly moderate country. You have to run to the center to get them to one of the general and in two thousand and four call Karl Rove correctly, calculated that the center had shrunk so much that the key was turned out, and so, if they went with the game, to try to inflame the evangelicals and it worked. They got higher turn out on the right. So since then, It has been more of a winning strategy and negative partisanship. Voting against what you dont want is more a powerful, they voted for what you do want and that I think, explains how Donald Trump was able to win in twenty. Sixteen, when it seems as though he didn't even want to win, he made him. Preparations for it. He did spend any of his own money. Heated campaign that hard. So he you know, Hillary Clinton ran a terrible campaign and you'll get someone who wasn't trying to win. It was a complete mess and had no ground game and didn't play by the rules,
rules and even though she won the popular vote, he still did wind by the recognised rules of the game. So and that's because her people were not passionate and you know the contradict the tone and your voice just before when you're Saint wife questionable provided with similar to what a lot of people are saying about Hilary. Obviously they were very different issues, but people weren't passion about her, but they say will give it me, but she is better than the alternative. So that is, Trump wanted. Shaded should have you dont, you should have lost in a landslide but he'd, but he did. My fear is that while Biden has not inspiring candidate, I do believe the people of known for a long time, and we say that he's a fundamentally decent man, I that doesn't mean that he didn't do something it up. A bit with it with a young woman in the centre right, no idea, but the there is not a lot of enthusiasm for him before people generally like him
Democrats, I think, we're ok with him, but a lot of groups were not, and- and it was the big question was you know: will the people wanted Bernie Sanders? with war. It will they come back to vote for him in the fall. I now you added this, which is going to a lot of people have been particularly women, a particular young women, for whom these issues are much more salient these days. So I am extremely concerned about the fall election because I think the Democrats, the Republicans I was, I was fully expecting the Democrats to win about who the nominee was unless it was Sanders. I was tackling the Democrats where we're going to wear them where, because of the passion issue, but now I dont, Oh, I don't know what's going to happen and if Biden is not if a number of constituencies are not to Z, Astic they're, not gonna turn out, especially if there are still risks
running out at especially if mail in voting does not easy and universal. For God's sakes, it's good you don't it during a pandemic. Of course, we should all be voting by mail or by internet, whereby or by other Roma methods, but everything soap What is Sizemore so much confidence at? That may not happen. So I don't know what is going to happen at it's another reason for four alarm. What about the perception? This is the second thing, that's dog in by the perception of his senescence essential and he's obviously lost to step with respect to his speech and memory and again, where were in an environment where there is An asymmetry here with respect to the way his glitches play, to the average audience and away trumps glitches play may trumpet is a producer of word. Salad much, if not most of the time, and yet it doesn't make him seem old,
that's right. More trump right is, like he's, got the energy of a twenty year old on Anoura yeah, so he's full of life and he's just chaos, whereas every single glitch every hiccup in his speech for buying- you're, holding your breath, hoping he can get to the end of the sentence. The optics are so different, its supply, rising. I then this is the other thing that worries me. No, that's that's! Right this is this is why I was not. I was not a fan of Joe Biden may like him personally as a person. I agree with you, he's gonna use of regional person, but he was you know he ran for present twice before it was a bad candidate and he was not. He is not a good bit campaigner he's not eloquent and you know, as a psychologist reckon add, is that the research on cognitive aging is just stunning. People are at their peak in terms of fluency and speed in their twenties
and then it's kind of downhill downhill from their until you get to your fifty or sixty years, and then this downward slope accelerate. So in your seventies it really accelerate so most seventy year olds. Still doing ok on cognitive tassel. Those are not nearly a sharp as they used to be, but, as you go beyond seventy, but have you two eighty most eighty was are not doing so well up instead of summer, but if bide was not a good candidate long ago, when his brain was much younger, I think its seat over there's not much reason to think that he's gonna be a much better now and I think we're seeing the signs are that so, as you say, it's also the issue of vitality in that matters. In politics, people want to vigorously not one who seems frail were scattered. So for a lot of reasons, you know what I think that now is the most, but many democrats wish they had perfect candidate. Many Democrats think that there were better candidates
and they were with the with the terror rededication. Now, though, he'll decanters he has even weaker. So my God is this a drama I may just when you think it can get more insane, it gets more insane. So who do you think he should pay for his VP. That idea that I don't know I'm not given any thought to, I imagine that he committed to. I don't know why, but he may committed to taking a woman. I suppose, knowing about this with ease nations were coming so we the once he's done that I dont have I'm not I'm not a political prognosticate like. I can't do that. You know the worst race politics, I'm with you on that part of your analysis. Of what social media is done to us and the new can embark balkanization of are a you ve. Spend some time focusing on the young, maybe you Genji and below a mean our were soon dealing with with a cohort of people for whom social media.
Is as common a of life, world as water which to say there's: at a time where they were without it and we're I have any a younger generation that seems destined to graduate in two way economic environment that is just as objectively punishing is any in our lifetime and when you think of what you know what it would be like to be looking a job in six months, a sweep. Reboot here in some way that just is ushers in a renaissance of assorted. We'll, be fundamentally surprising in its hard to see how we escape a fairly dismal economy era, a good long. While how do you think about that? or your apparently teaching as undergraduates was they near future hold yes, so paradox
play it it it. It could be. It could end up in the long run, the include for them, that is in a clearly it's going to be devastating to the economic prospects in the near term and research on previous generation. To graduate into that economies shows that it does hurt their earnings for the rest of their life on average sonaze. This is good overall, but the trajectory that the outlook for Genji was her if it was terrible. Their rates of anxiety, depression, self, Harmon suicide. I've been spiking upward since twenty twelve, roughly especially for welcoming suicide, is that for both both genders, but depression. Anxiety is especially up for girls and so Gregg. Looking on, if and I wrote this book the calling of the American,
find, and we think the two major causes there are many, but the two major cause of the vast overprotection, the safety ism that we put on kids, the nineties stop letting them play outside. We told them. The world was dangerous, we let them just play with devices inside and the normal risk. Taking the normal adventure is the normal testing, the limits of your physical abilities and that we denied them beginning of the nineties, nearly two thousands, and so this week,
It is. The major is why Genji is cutting up so much more fragile and depressed and anxious than the millennials were then switch on. My kids for ninety ninety six and later the other factor we believe, is too early exposure to social media and hear active some news to news to report brand new news. The long running debate over screen time, I think, is actually nearing the resolution. That is in the coddling, the American, my Gregg, my focused on social media. That's what we thought was worst, but we did sometimes refer to screen time or that parents should limit screen time and some other researchers pushed back on us and said
Look, you know here see our evidence is that did not at the hour spent on screens that isn't related to mental illness and then a gene twenty and I realized data and them are basically able to show that consistently. If you look at almost all the data sets that showed no overall effect of all screen time. Well, if you dig in- and you so cannot- all screens including tv, but rather just social media, and not all kids, but just girls, then you consistently find her relationship between heavy social media use and depression and anxiety. I had it shows up in lots of data, sets lots of different studies and experiments back this up that when people go off of social media, they tend to get happier. So anyway, all saying is, I dont think parents need to freak out about screens per se if what their concerned about his depression anxiety, but they should still look out if with it-
here about us at their kids. Actually do other things like go outside or to climb trees or go out with their friends in person which of course, will happen again some day, but not this year you're. So what do you do with the fact that now a concern about the dangers, even visible dangers out in the world seems all too warranted. Rising. We have a cohort of kids, I mean I've got two daughters, six and eleven who are now quarantine. And having a fairly unusual experience minute there with happily are limitation, screen time have been impressively relaxed so there enjoying that but yeah, but tell me about certain media. Is your eleven year old on instrument? No, none are gonna, be all I mean it, I'm gonna be as conservative is, as can be achieved that front, but there are elements of it that are starting to Lee kinda her experience now, just because of the class,
Amazon. You know zoom and they have common projects where their commenting on each other's work, and so there their textile this communication in front of an audience happening affair. And and how that differs from social media It really is just that it is not open to the rest of society is just her among her, and but even there, it just seems to me like a whole. New module has been installed in her brain, which is her tensions b captured by somebody else's, responds to something she put out there and that is why many the features it with it wouldn't concerned one with social media yeah, that's right to the extent that screens fostered direct face to face interaction. Talking on the phone bites near faced Hemison, that's all great there's, no problem at all there. I actually bought my son, an Xbox when this all head he'd want one for a long time.
And the research doesnt seem to show that its related to anxiety, depression, although it is very addictive and it does tend to fill up all the available time, so he has three hours a day on Xbox, but it's great that he's he's really playing it with his France. So the extent of these devices facilitate real direct interactions. That's great! But yes, as you say, the problem is so. Lobbies are indirect, interacts with where people are rating and commenting, and that seems to be especially hard on girls. So I think this is the so this could get worse, but here's where think things could get beset there is actually danger out there now because of the virus are not that much for kids, but it's a physical thing, whereas what what we were getting too before this hit was emotional safety. We retreating kids, that as though they were so fragile, but if they were exposed to bad news that they would somehow be damaged and what I'm hoping his that this, this pandemic
we'll reset. Some of our safety is of a move us away from sort of trivial things. We ve been looking at that the effort to protect the kid self Esteem, the effort to protect them from words and ideas so at having more adversity and your childhood could end up being beneficial, and this is the idea of anti fragility which is really central to our but word was coined by seem to lab lots of people have many views about about him but I have to say that that idea, but that idea, I think that idea that it has been going on. I should say here he has views about many people too. So, yes, I've noticed, but I just why MRS one points out, but what you just said suggest me there's another trapped fallen here, which is he overboard if I'm trying to cure rate just go back to work. What you just ask me respect to my allowing my daughter, the social media, areas and it won t impulse. There is to protect her from the onslaught
of negative our immunity, destabilizing her anxiety, producing information, but I don't want her to have and it seems to me there to potential pitfalls there. One is just there is another form, coddling right, I'm trying to protect her from something that she should develop. The tools to just assimilate, or one could say that and then there's just as other feature, which I think is natural worry about which has, if all of her friends are on, Instagram and she's. The one who isn't will then than there is just a social exclusion penalty that you would imagine a that young. That train would outweigh yeah. So to take your first point, it does seem as though I might be contradictory myself. I'm saying that in general kids should be exposed to adversity. They should learn from experience how you should let them make mistakes. Yes in general, that is true, but there are certain things such as. Let's say
The hall Heroin prostitution gambling, where we say you know what my eleven year old, is not ready for that. You know maybe, when she's sixteen eighteen, oh well, obviously not prostitution. But the point is that there are certain things that an adolescent brain is just not not ready for hadn't and what I found from working with Lotta middle school in high school kids? Is I ask them all right? So you haven't you ve been shamed on social media hands go up then I say now: how do you think that being claimed on social media toughens you that is you go through it? You say you know what I don't care. What people think of me in I've been shame summits. Have I don't care anymore? No hands go up. Haven't, if you think it makes you more cautious, more fearful, you double checking triple check yourself. You're, not authentic, most hands go up so there's something about public, shaming, and exposure that is especially unhealthy for middle school, kids and especially for girls. So I'm not saying you know it's a losing battle to keep it out of high school, but
the minimum age. You have to be thirteen to get an account, but by fifty six grade most of the girls have in many schools, and that is something that I am we try to change as long as there is now evidence that social me there is particular bad for girls than that of the millennials weren't harm by it. They didn't get this until they when the twenties, but I suspect that middle school is the place to focus. I think we really need to try to get social media out a middle school and I would love your second question because, yes, If, if it's only your kid, you know when I get my son off a video games, he did feel excluded because the boys were all on it all day long. So it has to be done systemically and that's why I think middle school is the place to focus, have anybody's. Listen to this was any influence over middle school. Try to get a school wide policy that discourages parents from letting their kids for discourages anyone from having a social media accounts until they get high school, wait till their fourteen or so which other Highschool Katrina.
Cool so hard already, especially on girls, so don't make it harder so now less pivot. Two topics which are on their way, it may seem impressively detached from the current servants, but not really. Anyway, I want to talk about human well being and experiences of the positive and of the spectrum of human psychology and and Howie conceptualize terrain, and this is if anything, an interest in this has and heightened by our current circumstance, because so many people have been forced into something that impressively resembles a kind of retreat right of either the eleven people are experience, Solitude two degree: it is not normal for them and for most of us there's been a forced re prioritization of values. We have it vantage point from which to see how we ve been living all these years and kind.
Things that have captivated tension, and much of that has been stripped away, or at least shuffle the two degree that many people are aren't guaranteeing even a silver lining to this quarantine, because their expression, better time with their families in many cases or this heightened sense of certainty, the sense they really anything can happen. Any time- and that's always been true right, but we live most of our lives as though we think a lot for granted and take the things for granted amounts to a kind of denial and a sense of control, all that never really been factual, so that the latter to motivate a conversation about things like meditation and psychedelic and what they can reveal about the nature of the self and experiences of self transcendence. So am I
dive into the deep into the pool John, yet perhaps to start give me a sense of your your background here- I know you spend some time in India at some point in either in graduate school or as opposed to talk, but remind me what how you came to be interested in these topics here. So because I study morality, I've been interested in moral transformations. You get that from religious experiences. William came his book varieties. Religious experience is full of all these sudden moral be birth from their encounter with with with God, so always been interested in distilled still transcended experiences in their capacity to change people's moral nature. But actually, this is a very personal reason for it, and- and I've been looking for talking about this- you ve been out if you'd like to continue listening to this part, cast you'll need to subscribe, SAM Harris, DOT, org you'll get access to all full length
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Transcript generated on 2020-05-20.