« Making Sense with Sam Harris

#229 — A Few Thoughts for a New Year

2021-01-05 | 🔗

In this episode of the podcast, Sam Harris analyzes a few disturbing trends and shares his hopes for 2021.

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Welcome to the making sense by cast this is SAM Harris. Okay. Well, I want to say a few things about my hopes for the new year here, like all of you unhappy get twenty twenty behind us, but of course there's no guarantee that twenty twenty one will be better right and when these calendar days or just concepts, have very little connection to the dynamics of what is actually happening had in the world. Apart from me, tenuous connection of all of us, hoping to reset our lives on January, first,
which is not nothing but is not a lot either ass, whether a virus mutates or a hostile foreign power hacks. Our government and major corporations, and, deals are manipulates, sensitive data. These things happen on their own schedule. As you know in both of these things, appear to have happened in the last few weeks. To what end is not yet clear, but its natural and useful, I think, to use the change and calendar is a device to clear one's head and attempt to get
priority straight. So, like many of you, that's what I'm doing. In fact, the madness of this last year has already help me get my priorities straight or straighter. I now have far fewer browser tabs open in my life, and I think this will be true going forward. There's a spirit of tree urge. I now feel what is worth paying attention to personally and professionally I'm living with this question more and more to think back to January and February of last year,. How are you planning to spend twenty twenty and how startling was it to discover that the world had other plans? There's been a soon army of private pain, even for fairly lucky people and for the unlucky twenty twenty was just brutal and publicly there's been a failure.
especially in the United States, to co here around a feeling of shared purpose and shared sacrifice, and that has been beyond disappointing. It's really been on nerve in how fully we failed here and in its place. We witnessed a level of estrangement from one another, which has often been described as hyper partisanship in a political context, but doesn't quite cover it, the level of hostility and the degree to which has been fed by lies and misinformation. Seems genuinely new to me. and not at all, compatible with our building a good society and, of course The interaction between technology, in particular, social media and politics, has been the main story here with. In vast numbers of people borne away on a tide of misinformation and conspiracy. Thinking and is right
them totally unreasonable. If hacker society appears to have shattered itself into competing cults, the cult of trumpets em, with its especially crazy core of Cuban on and the cult of weakness with his crazy core of critical race theory, and thus any problems are precisely the same or were necessarily proportional, but they are the same and being constituted almost entirely by propaganda.
to a degree that should only be possible in distort the infection. Second come ashore on the proverbial island of wires and it's just too ranging and all the seams caused by and further causes a breakdown in social trust and trust in institutions on one level. A breakdown and trust is understandable. The conjunctions of competence and incompetence we ve seen had been fairly breathtaking. We ve had a record breaking vaccine development alongside a total failure of political leadership on both the left and the right and at all levels to successfully manage a pandemic. We have literally seen the time course of medical research cut down to almost nothing. The Madonna vaccine was created in a weekend. He was created before there had been a single death from covered in the United States. Yes, it ended on many years of prior work, but going
from a viral genome sequence to evoke seen in a matter of days is astonishing, and yet our most prestigious medical institutions, like the CDC and our most pressing, He just medical journals like the New England Journal of Medicine have worked extra. ordinarily hard in the last year to destroy their reputations, the contamination of public health and scientific communication by political dogmatism on both the left and the right has been catastrophic. We ve had our most respected medical voices either could too late to Trump and his message in or capitulated awoken us, and if you don't know what I'm talking about, you haven't been paying attention, and now our botch in the distribution of the vaccine at the time on record in this, it will take a decade to vaccinate the entire cunt
we and our current pace, and we ve had nearly a year to prepare for this moment is just incredible. Thousands of people are dying a day as vaccine risks spoiling on our shelves My work great at molecular biology, but we appear to suck at everything else. Surely information and misinformation is at the core of this in something like fifty percent of our society appears to be wait sanguine about getting the novel corona virus, but terrified to get the vaccine for it. I've heard reports from hospitals where fifty percent of the front line healthcare workers are refusing their doses of vaccine throughout the pandemic, and especially through the election and its aftermath. It has been amazing to hear from people on both sides of what seems to be a mass hallucination, a pseudo spiritual awakening
That has engulfed the minds of most of the people in our society may left and right have broken down as concepts in many ways, but whatever you call them, the political extremes have gone mad. Perhaps there are always mad, but the madness has crept inwards and tainted vast stretches of the mainstream. Mainstream. Republicans have capitulated to Trump and Trump ISM to a degree that I wouldn't have thought possible and the ideological capture of the media and our other institutions by weakness has been just as amazing. One has a reference, the behaviour of cults, to begin to understand. What's going on here, Miss worth asking yourself. Are you in a cult? Are you actually thinking clearly about anything? Are you getting good information about
Anything masters about myself to it has become genuinely hard to find a path through information space that leads to anything like daylight now, to think there was a massive voter fraud and the twenty twenty election and Trump actually won, and republican election officials and secretaries of state and judges are all in on the plot. If you do you're in a cult to think it racism and sexism and other forms of bigotry, our main problems in society now, and that they explain all current inequality, you think the great companies and medical schools in the entertainment, industry and other desirable places to learn and work are currently in the business of excluding qualified people of color and women out of a preference for white men. Is that really what you think will then you're in a cult giving the covert?
and is basically a hoax, the lockdown were imposed destroyed economy and defeat Trump did. They will be hold to wear, masks just to get us to comply with arbitrary limits on our freedom within your in a culture In the new media, landscape has not helped matters were, I think, I've seen in many. My fellow pastors and writers is the phenomenon of audience capture. My friend air of mines, time came without phrase, her undoubtedly an older phenomenon, but it's when you in telling your audience what they want to hear and you get rewarded for it and the cycle becomes self reinforcing. So some of this is probably inevitable right. We all gravitate towards messages that we like and to people we find persuasive, and these people tend to keep doing what works. You know it's nice to be liked, especially when the business model depends on it, but audience capture is a real problem.
And I have consciously guarded against it ever since I discovered that whole sections of my audience were outraged by one or another position. I've taken, I decided not to be concerned about that and not to do anything Finally, and I don't think I'll ever understand those of you who claimed love. What I'm doing here in the past and who have read my books and followed my work for years
Imagine that I would have been a fan of Donald Trump or weakness. Both of these grotesque objects are the antithesis of everything I care about. Both are purely divisive, purely misleading both represent a near total embrace of error. Trump ISM unwillingness her, like two doors leading to alternate Hell's, from my point of view and between the two, a heck of offended, fifty percent of you in the last few years, and many of my guests have done likewise. We really need careful, principled, intellectually, honest people to help sort through the rubble now and begin building again, and these are the types of people I'm eager to speak with on this package.
I realize all of this sounds a little gloomy, but it seems important to acknowledge how fully things of unraveled over the last year, of course, on another level, is amazing that things work as well as they do not even have the expectation that things will work and to be appalled when they don't is a testament to our progress. We expect aeroplanes to not only take off and land safely but to serve decent coffee. We have come a long way in a hundred years, one hundred years from now if we don't annihilate ourselves. In the meantime, we will view everything complaining about today, just a few growing pants on the way to a glorious future I really want our children to inhabit that glorious future and it appears to be within reach, so much of our suffering is obviously on
to sir. So many of our losses are the result of spectacular own goals. Of course, politics is the area where the worst of this happens again and again, but the problem is much larger than politics. May ask yourself: what are we doing here? ass, a species for the most part were creating and consuming culture. The near term goal should be pretty obvious. We have to build a culture that is conducive to sanity. We need a culture that is at minimum compatible with our long term survival, and we have serious problems to solve infrastructure pandemic preparedness that would have nice red climate change. Cyber security, education, wealth inequality
our relationship with China, wouldn't it be amazing to just get busy and sort this stuff out without all the animosity and conspiracy thinking and dogmatism and perverse incentives and everything else that makes same policies and compromises impossible. May issues are at once so complex and yet so simple, just consider a current moment through the lens of a single variable wealth inequality, their good faith debates to be had about how much inequality is too much. But there really is no question that this is a problem that do sent compassionate people or even merely self interested people are now wise to worry about. May, however, rich and insulated, you are, if you don't think that you ve lost something when the level of homelessness and crime sores in your city will, then you ve lost your mind honestly, even associate
should be able to recognise that his own selfishness is best fulfilled in a context where others are doing at least reasonably well, where the sidewalks haven't come to resemble free fires zones A refugee camps have been warned about wealth and equality for at least a decade. I wrote a few articles about it in the aftermath of the two thousand and nine crash, I spent a recurring topic on the past. And I worry about it from a place of not wanting to stigmatize wealth at all The people were railing against the mere existence of millionaires or just confused about economics. But everyone whose railing against increased social welfare in all its forms, anyone for whom term like inequality and redistribution had become radioactive, is just confused about ethics. What kind of world do we want to live in? It seems to me there are pretty unconscious.
Crucial answers to this question. We want to live in a world where people are incentivize to do creative work that makes the world better and better. We want cures for terrifying diseases. We want to be able to distribute vaccines faster than we are at present and we want a space program just for the fun of it. also to ensure that human life continues indefinitely. If we discover there's a massive asteroid on a collision course with earth, we want to be able to divert it and save our species and every other species we actually want to be, that competent. Therefore, we want a massively fund science and we need a rich civilization to do this. We want a future of real prosperity and we are right
to want that, and obviously we need a model for global growth that sustainable, but the end game for us isn't to seize innovative and improving our technology. we want our technology to become more and more effective and benign. So this already rules out some visions of the future. This can't be a hippie paradise where everything is made of hemp. Capitalism for all his flaws really seems to have this part right. We need to work with the grain of human nature and leverage people, selfishness and their desire for status in a way that brings out the best in us, not the worst. We too incentivize people to build things that actually work is not enough to just play. The did redo on the sidewalk in Seattle were Portland. We need to get things done and we want beautiful public spaces and
brilliant works of art and great food and cars and smartphones. But we also want a world where the differences between good and bad luck, dont cause us to have. our eyes in horror. We don't want a world where people leap to their deaths, from the rooftops of the factories that are building our toys We don't want an epidemic of homelessness in San Francisco or LOS Angeles or New York. As we produce more and more wealth, we have to become more compassionate and more connected to one another, not more sociopath EC. There really two paths we can take here and they are divergence. Deeply now, and the only thing that will determine which path we take will be the ideas that prevail in the culture. The ideas that win will affect each us personally there'll be new norms to which we will effortlessly it here, because it
who otherwise would be embarrassing. Wearing a seat belt is a norm that very few people need to rethink now, and yet it used to be a bizarre concession to fear. Now you just an imbecile, not to worry people, we need new norms that Ankara deeper values. We need norms that make us better. People was even more specific, been much notice of late that there seems to be an exodus in the Tec Community out of California, to states that don't have an income tax in Particular Texas in Florida. Some question about whether or not this trend has been over hyped but. I can personally account for tens of millions of dollars and probably even hundreds of millions of dollars of California tax base drying up simply judging from the people, I know personally, who are leaving the state and who, in some cases, taken their companies and employees
them in California. The top one per cent of earners pay fifty percent of the taxes, so it doesn't take that many rich people to decide to move before the states. Revenue goes into freefall, ass, a very complicated issue ethically and politically, and even psychologically, This, of course, is rational for any individual to want to pay as little in taxes as here she legally can, and we have a system where and simply moving to another state amounts to the equivalent of Someone pan you millions of dollars a year to live. There is very easy to see why that was seem like an opportunity, this just to good to pass up. So I don't feel especially judgmental about these people moving, especially when you consider how mismanaged are taxed
dollars often seem to be. It will be one thing at the return on our taxes was undeniably good, but unfortunately the results are so mixed, especially now this very easy for people to become cynical and many. These people have become cynical about the prospects of government ever functioning effectively, but there's an interesting needle the thread here. One can seek to pay as little in taxes as one legally can, while also believe in the taxes are necessary and that the tax rate should be raised. Given the magnitude of the need, while also believe in Tax revenue is often wasted and the government needs to be seriously reformed. I don't see a contradiction there. Personally, I try to pay as little in taxes as I can legally, but I think taxes should be.
used on everyone in my bracket, and I think this, despite my certainty, that some of that money will be wasted or spent in ways that I would judge totally counterproductive a challenge. One often from libertarians is you're free to pay more into the Treasury yourself, so one I just do that and shut about raising taxes on the rest of us, but it misses the point. Mrs several No one should be eager to make a solitary sacrifice: the serve no purpose. The point is that waste and mismanagement aside our infrastructure and education and everything else in our society it needs to be funded and there is no one in a better position to fund these things. Then, the wealthy government, mismanagement, isn't an argument for not pay in taxes, and it is. an argument for lower taxes is an argument for better government, of course, charitable. Given as part of the picture,
here here, is a new norm that we really must spread if you are wealthy enough to have hired professionals whose primary job is to ensure that you pay as little as possible in taxes, each year will. Then you should also be given a lot of your money away to the most urgent causes, not after your dead but every year, while you're alive and while you can enjoy it. Miss goes to the question of what is wealth, for what is it good? For one thing it's good for is that it gives you the ability to help people very directly and
You don't use that ability, given the excruciating need. People will begin to think that you're just selfish as they should actually all strands of this web converge on San Francisco in a way that instructive, recently Mark Zuckerberg and his wife. Priscilla Chan gave seventy five million dollars to San Francisco General Hospital, and this is the largest gift to a public hospital ever apparently, and yet the city's Board of Supervisors voted ten to one. to condemn the naming of the hospital after Zuckerberg and Jan, and they further vilified Zuckerberg in the process. So this moment contains the whole problem in miniature, Zuckerberg and Chan gave seventy five million dollars to a hospital, and obviously this is a wonderful thing to do
And the fact that this is the largest private gift to a public hospital ever tells you that it should be celebrated rather than sneered at, which is what the social justice lunatics on the Board of supervisors have done, and they did this as their streets fill with homeless people and spent needles, and the crime rate, soars they're, spitting on a seventy five million dollar gift to a hospital, but beneath all this and beneath the animosity of the supervisors, is the growing problem of wealth inequality. The Zuckerberg to gift probably seems more generous than it is in fact they for someone with seventy five billion dollars to cut a cheque for seventy five million.
Someone was seventy five million, cutting a cheque for seventy five thousand or for someone with seventy five thousand to give seventy five dollars towards some cause. That is, is no big deal at all. In fact, the richer you get them. This proportion falls apart. Someone with a network of seventy five thousand dollars is actually, making more of a sacrifice by parting with seventy five dollars. Because that incremental money is still relevant to their budget. Once a person becomes fantastically wealthy, their personal spending, even the most extravagant luxuries, represents a tiny portion of their net worth. So when you look at the details, this is not the sort of sacrifice. One should be tempted to write newspaper articles about actually looking at the Forbes list now reveals that Zuckerberg is currently worth a hundred billion dollars. They seem to have
twenty five billion, when I wasn't looking given how quickly Zuckerberg wealth has grown. There were many days this year, probably most days this year, where his net worth increased by more than seventy five million dollars the wealthy, people in our society make millions of dollars a day every day what they work or not. But people just don't have good intuitions, but the magnitude of these differences in wealth. The richest people, now make in a day what the most successful movie Stars Tom Cruise and wills Miss and Scarlet Johannsen make over the course of many years. or even a lifetime at the absolute pinnacle of success in the movie industry This is where we are in terms of wealth inequality. Again, mean to demonize wealth at all at worth, noting
Zuckerberg and his wife have pledged to give ninety nine percent of their wealth away over the course of their lifetime. That's amazing right and that should be set up without any reservation whatsoever. That sort of thing people should read newspaper articles about assuming they actually do this and they don't just park all the money in a charity after they die, they will be total heroes for live in this way. Whatever else you might think about them, so there's a complicated set of issues to think through here, politically and ethically San Francisco, as next. Dreamily wealthy city, which has been ruinously mismanaged and the rich appear to be leaving for perfectly rational reasons. This is a death spiral and the quasi socialist demonization of wealth, of the sort that one hears from people like air, Sea and Elizabeth Warren is part of the problem. We just can't afford zero sum thinking and a positive sum game.
And prosperity can be positive. Sum has had to say there aren't trade offs and inevitable inequality, but we need to define policies that led us in a direction that benefits more or less every one, and we need to incentivize people to really succeed and then use their taxes, charity to help others. It seems to me that what we need to solve our problems is both competence in compassion. We seems so little of either lightly and merely donkey on people on Twitter won't produce these things becoming a single issue. Thinker won't produce these things. we have to recognise that we are living in an unhealthy ecology of ideas, become like a superfund sight of bad means, and we have to clean it
anyway, I intend to use my podcast this year to bring you useful conversations in this vein. Not every episode will be about solving problems. Sometimes you just need to hear, but interesting, things in physics, but more and more I wanted to. Boil down to ideas. It actually have consequences for people's lives, whether personally or at the level of public policy, some looking to speak with guess who can help me figure out what we should all be doing to make life better. And finally, I want to thank all of you who are subscribed to the past you make it possible for me to do this and if you're not subscribed- and you want to be- you can do that on my website at Samara. Edward
As always, I want to remind you that if you can't afford subscription, you need only tell us that and will give you a free one, and this isn't just my covered policy. This always been the policy. I feel too things very strongly in this space. I believe that we should value digital content appropriately, and they will ultimately get what we pay for online. As you know, I think the ad model has been incredibly destructive. But on the other hand, I believe that money should never be the reason why some one can't get access to my digital content. Again, I see no contradiction here. Most of my stuff is behind a pay wall and needs to be for any of this to work, but it's free. If you can't afford it. As most of you know, there are two places where currently publish my audio on this point. cast and on the waking up app and waking up has become much more than a meditation up,
The growing library of lessons that are essentially applied philosophy we now have tracks on stoicism by William Urban and more of those are coming and will soon have a section devoted psychedelic, there's like going on over there and waken up and much more happening soon, so I just wanted to invite you to download the app and check it out if you haven't lately. Has you know of your subscriber to the podcast you get access to the conversations have over a waking up through my website, but there's much more to waken up then Conversations and get you can afford a subscription. You need only send an email to support and waken up that come and request a free account. His exact same policy we have here on the package. Okay,. well, despite all the doom and gloom, I am really looking forward to this year and needless to say, I wish you all a healthy and happy one
Transcript generated on 2021-01-07.