« Making Sense with Sam Harris

#57 — An Evening with Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris (1)

2016-12-18 | 🔗

In this episode of the Making Sense podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Richard Dawkins at a live event in Los Angeles (first of two). They cover religion, Jurassic Park, artificial intelligence, elitism, continuing human evolution, and other topics.

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
On today's podcast I'll be playing the audio from the first of two live events I did with Richard Dawkins in LOS Angeles last month, and these are fund raisers for his foundation, the Richard Dawkins Foundation for reason and science, which is also in the process of merging with the center for enquiring making them the largest foundation for defending in science and secularism from politically weaponized religion. Their work is suddenly even more relevant in the US, because, although Trump himself isn't a religious demagogue, he's promised to appoint a few to the Supreme Court and he's also put a creationist in charge of the Department of Energy which bull stewards are nuclear weapons and funds more basic size, research in any other branch of government. So now we have Rick Perry in charge of all that
is immediate predecessors were each physicist. One was a Nobel laureate and Perry is a man who I would be willing to bet. My life couldn't utter. Three coherent sentence is on the topic of Enerji. As a scientist, concept. So I would urge you to become a member of CFI or the Richard Dawkins Foundation. One membership now covers both organized Asians, and once you are a member you'll, occasionally receive action alerts requesting that you contact your elected representatives on matters of public policy, as many have noted nonbelievers or somewhere between ten and two thousand and twenty five percent of the US population. It's hard to know for sure, but we almost certainly outnumber many other subgroups in the US and we are disproportionately well educated. Needless to say, and yet we have almost no political power right now. This will only change once we make ourselves heard so
he was doing a speaking tour to raise funds for his foundation and for CFI, and he asked me to join him at one of these events and are of in LA sold out almost immediately, and so we booked the hall for a second night and that's sold out to and I'll bring you the audio from that second event in a later podcast, but as you'll hear, we had a lot of fun and it was a great crowd and it was really satisfying to have a conversation like this live as opposed to privately over Skype. So, as I'll say at the end, this is giving me an idea for how to produce some more podcasts like that, and now I give you an evening with Richard Dawkins, the first night. Thank you come in. This is really it's an honor to be here, and it really is an honor to be here with you Richard to return the favor. He had me at Oxford. I think five years ago, so welcome to LOS Angeles
So I'm going to this is going to be very much conversation, but what I did I was worried about this. I wasn't worried about tonight. I was worried about tomorrow night. My fear was it Richard. I would have a scintillating conversation to right and then tomorrow night try doggedly to recapitulate. It word for word and and yet fain spontaneity and if you know my position on line that doesn't work so what I did is I went out to all of you asking for questions and I got thousands, and so I I love I picked among what looked machine. So I can guarantee that the two nights will be reasonably different because of the different questions will come up, but we won't q. Two narrowly to the questions will just have a conversation, but as we come out here. I find that I want to ask you Richard about your socks and
I'm not sure what the question is on just come from that Vegas, the conference. So cyclone and one of the things we had was a workshop on cold reading, which is a technique whereby circled mentalist a supposed to read each other's thoughts and what they really didn't. Just simply looking at the clothes and the general appearance and assessing it, and we have the payroll for this workshop, and I was with the and, and I send women and we sort of size each other up, and I said to her: I think I I'm getting that you come from somewhere in the west of the states. I think- maybe maybe not California, maybe a bit further north. You can in the reading her label. It's such a came already and then she's some some me up, and he said I think you may have some problem. Your eyes may be colorblind
I'm serious about this, I'm trying to stretch a meeting for wearing also acts as a kind of tyranny of forcing us to find solace in ten shoes have chirality nephew and write journals, interchangeable, but socks doesn't when you lose one of a pair of socks, you're forced to throw the other one away. It's absurd! So what I want are One is going to find this uh the relevant video on the internet story. Now you let the cat out of the bag. I was do In a television film called sex death.
Ending of life and in the death episode, we were talking about suicide and there is a famous suicide sports bit like San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge, where the people of things to jump that death in order around this place, the beachhead is a very, very high cliff in the South of England. There are rather sad little crosses where people have jump off and we were filming the sequence of on suicide, and I had to walk very solemnly and slowly and in melancholy frame of mind past these crosses and the camera just focused on my feet, walking by the little low crosses. I felt incredibly uncomfortable uncanny feeling of being uncomfortable, uncanny understand why. And then, eventually life, it was my feet that were uncomfortable, walking past these crosses.
Eventually the director called carts and we went off and I took my shoes off because they were so painful. And only then did I realize I put them on the wrong way round, so this is preserved for posterity inclined stop. I want to see that video someone going number none of the television audience ever rotating to receive complain about this. Maybe this is, please browse their attention so the first question Richard which I thought could provoke some interesting reflection is: why do you both court? So much contour? We don't do it. We don't call us well
I think I mean what I've notice is that there are undoubtedly people who are friends of ours. Colleagues of ours who agree with us down the line, who seemed to feel no temptation to pick all of the individual battles we pick and One doesn't have to be a coward not to want to fight all of these culture war battles, although it it but that, but there we have friends who are you decidedly, not cowards, who someone XP pinker? He stakes out controversial positions, but he is not in the trenches in quite the same way as we are, and I'm wondering what you think about that is. Is it did you see a choice for yourself? Do you find yourself revisiting this choice periodically? I think it's definitely respectable position to take that that that a scientist has better things to do, and I I didn't take that position and I think you did. I have a. I do think it's important to.
Fight the good fight when we, when we do have when sire, when reason has vocal and powerful and well financed enemies, and so I'm not sure what particular, battles? The question has in mind when he says we caught controversy, but I I suppose I believe so strongly in truth and if I see truth being actively threatened by competing idea. Which is which actually not only would fight for the opposite of truth, but would indoctrinate children in the office. The truth, I feel impelled to fight only verbally and then I didn't feel compelled to get a rifle or something, so. I guess that lately
dogma that has convinced so many fellow scientists and intellectuals academics that there is no reason to fight one of those dogmas is Stephen Jay, Gould's idea of Noma non overlapping magisteria. That strikes me is a purely wrong, headed and destructive idea. You want to. I think we probably agree about that non overlapping majesty and he wrote a book called what was it again called the the rock of ages rock of ages? That's right! So, sons, the age of the rocks and religion has the rock of ages, and, and the idea was that science and religion, but does have an adjustment terra trees, which they shouldn't in in in Penge upon each each science, has the truth about the real world that Sciences Department, religion has what he described as moral questions and I think deep
tions of existing meaning and meaning in and around the house. Well, I would strongly dispute the idea that we should get some moral from religion. Good let's say: let's whatever else we get our models from, it must not be religion. That would be if you in what the world would be like if we actually did get our morals from the Bible or the Koran would be potentially a pony and was unfolding in time when we did get from the violence is not pulling in those countries with a guest from the Koran so does get Tom Morrow from religion. As for the deep fundamental questions, I take those to be things like: where did the laws of physics come from what is the origin of all things. What is the the origin of the cosmos? What happened before the big bang? Those are scientific question.
It may be that science can never on so that it is. Science cannot hans of them sure as Hell religion compounds and I'm I don't think anything can counsel. Then this is science comment. It's an open question whether things like the origin of the physical constants, those numbers which fixes can measure but context plane the origin of the laws of physics, whether those will ever be explained by science. If they are willing to go to if they're, not, then nothing will explain them. The idea I mean Steve Gold Old was was was careful to say that these separate magisterium must not encroach on each other's territory, and so the moment religion encroaches on science territory. For example, in the case of miracles, then it's fair game
for scientific criticism, but my feeling about that is that if you take away the miracles from from religion, you've taken away most of what of white people believe in them, people believe in the supernatural, because they they believe the Piccolo Karadic stories, which suggested that have been supernatural miracles. If you, if you deprive some of that then they've lost everything took take. Christianity is only one example that that has been spelled out in every generation. It started with Paul. He said you know if Christ be not, and your faith is vain, yes or something close to that. Yes, so it's you can't you can't get around the fact that religious people care about what's true and they they purport to be making claims. Truth claims about the nature of reality. They they think certain historical figures actually existed is some,
them. Maybe coming back yes virgin birth books. You know issue occasionally from a divine intelligence and so this is no way to. I never met cool, but I just can't I believe, the currency. This idea has no time, I agree. It's it's become very fashionable among scientific establishment was Morris endorsed by the Us National Academy of yes of the houses, as for the as for the separation. As for the idea that that religion doesn't stray in, sizes territory. Imagine the following scenario. Imagine that some sort of scientific evidence, perhaps dna evidence were discovered. Perhaps someone in a cave in in Palestine, and it was demonstrated that say Jesus never had a father. I mean, I think it's even now. That could happen just suppose. It was because there were scientific evidence. Can you imagine theologian saying? Oh that's
it, not our department. We are not going to. They would love it. It would be me some drink to them you're, not atheist, believe that your efforts against religion are wasted and that the net result of your work is to simply offend religious people. There's a widespread myth, is that people can't be reasoned out of their faith. Please talk about this uncanny, that there are the most memorable quips and quotes and phrases. You say anything that is aphoristic to have undue influence on our thinking and there's this aphorism that is usually attributed to swift. He said something like it: it's not it's not quite the version that has been passed down to us, but this idea, You can't reason someone out of a view that he wasn't reasoned into and this just strikes remind of homo sapiens. Is so obviously true and it, if you look at my inbox, it is so obviously
So tell me about the lyrics. Reasoning with with your readers. I think it would be terribly pessimistic. The thing that you cannot reason the night that I I think I've just give up probably die. I thought to myself. I couldn't tell reason people out of that silliness. I I I I I would. I would accept what would you agree with this? That there are some people who who demonstrably do know all the evidence and even understand the evidence, but yet still persist in yeah. So there is, there will be a couple of questions, bring us us into that territory because I think there's more to in about than science has tended to allow or that secular culture has tended to allow some people have these intense transformative experiences or they have these. These hopes and fears that
captured by you saying: don't you understand the evidence for evolution, but this is more of a have a conversation that don't tend to have but yeah. I would agree that people certainly resist they don't like me that a I can think of two examples. One I mentioned in the reception beforehand, professor of run me somewhere in America who writes papers mathematical papers in astronomical journals in which his mathematics is mathematical. Ideas accept that the universe is thirteen dot, eight billion years old, and yet he private leaves at six thousand years old. So here is a man who knows his physics. He knows his astronomy. He knows the evidence of the universe is thirteen billion years old and yet, since split brain is he that he he actually
privately departs from everything in his professional life? Well, surely we have to accept that he he I cannot cannot be reasoned out by me. He already knows the evidence and and will not be reasoned out of his foolishness. Yeah. I didn't say that, well, you can always succeed, but I I think, and and clearly there are, may I have this this this buyers as you do that if the conversation could just proceed long enough, the ground for science would continually Concord and it never gets reversed any, is being and will be it yeah, yeah and yeah, and you never see the I mean this is a unique directional conquest of territories, so you never see a point about which science, so once the authority, but now the best answer is religious yeah right, but you
we see the reverse of that and that's and that's and not him most read most scientists who call themselves religious. He watched the probe that money, they don't believe, really stupid. Things like like six six day creation things right now, although I find that christian scientist and I'm not christian scientist as in they feed the cult. But scientist who happen to be christian, much more than your average rabbi, this is a way. That's true yeah I mean this Christianity and muslim scientists know return the favor. I get the feeling your average your average rabbi lightly. Like your average chaplain of an Oxford college doesn't actually believe in God. Oh yeah, but that rabbi so just a couple of fun questions here that I just want. I just wanted to hear Richard react to Are there any biological extinctions that you would consider virtuous, for instance,
Should we eradicate the mosquito? You have ten seconds to decide the with? have more than one mosquito there's. There's the malaria mosquito the yellow fever mosquito all mosquitoes mosquitoes unbelievably beautiful creatures, the rational thing, the great the great town Express home fleas and then she she she presented the Department of Zoology in an outside with a gigantic learn, not photograph of a musket on. It was a fantastic work of art by malevolent God. Yes, if ever there were proof of God's malevolent is kind of a mess. Here I have no.
The tension in killing individual muskies has wouldn't, wouldn't you want to be a little more efficient than that with something I haven't thought about it before. I think I would not wish to completely compete. English Probably year after year, two million people killed by mosquito borne illness. Now it's cut down to, I think, eight hundred thousand so we're making progress with bed nets, but for some reason I find myself less reluctant to extinguish the malay parasite. The mosquito bears, but that's probably not not logical, we have extinguished the smallpox virus, except for a few lab cultures.
Yes and then like geniuses, and we tell people how to synthesize it online so that the flip side of that, of course, is the Jurassic park question. Should we reboot the t rex? Yes, we have. I wish I wish. I mean I thought the Jurassic park method of doing it was incredibly genius, I'm not I'm not that what was not in genus was the ludicrous injection of chaos, theory or one of those lines, phase one fashion things I remember that the idea of getting mosquitoes in Amber. Getting dna in reconstructing dinosaurs, that an amazingly good science fiction idea, if only it were possible, unfortunately, at the Dan is too, is too old for that for that to happen, if it
I would definitely wish to see that wish what could go wrong. It seems to want to live in a maximally, dangerous world filled with mosquitoes and t rexes. So now you- and I were speaking about your book. I see you've written some very important books on ten years apart, and so you have a anniversary this year of the selfish gene. We The the who is has its anniversary and climbing Mount improbable probable is the 20th and then the God delusion is the tenth
one to give you a chance to talk about the titles of the first two. This is the selfish gene has per and in order to mount a confusion and the blind watchmaker is is a phrase that is is useful to understand. So, if you want to yes fifteen, it is misunderstood. I think, mostly by those I have read, it might title only uh, as opposed to the rather substantial footnote to the title, which is the book itself, but it could equally well have been called the altruistic individual, but
because one of the main message of the book is that selfish genes give rise to altruistic individuals, so it is mostly a book about Christmas, the book about the offices of selfishness, so it certainly should not be misunderstood as advocating selfishness for saying that we are, matter always selfish. All it really means is that natural selection works at the level of the gene as opposed to any other level in the hierarchy of life, so jeans that work for their own survival, other ones that survive logic. Enough and they are the ones that build parties. So we all of us contain genes that have that have very, very good at surviving because they come down through countless generations and they are copied accurately with very high fidelity from generation
generation such that genes in you that have been around for hundreds of millions of years. That's not true of anything else. In the hierarchy of life, individuals die they they they survive only as a means to the end of propagating the genes that bill. So individual parties organisms should be seen as vehicles machines built by the genes that right inside them for passing on those very same jeans, and it is the potential eternal long live in jeans that makes them the largest selection. So that's really the meaning all of the selfish gene. It is also the book could have been called. The artistic individual could have been called the cooperative gene for another re. I could have been called the immortal gene, which is the most often from Carl Sagan, ask top titles of it's it's it's it's a more
title and in some ways I rather regret not calling it the immortal gene, but anyway I sent start with it. There's a a com, common misunderstanding of evolution that totally everything about us must have been selected for otherwise it wouldn't exist so like so people ask about what the evolutionary now for post, traumatic stress, disorder or pression, I'm not I'm not saying that there is no conceivable one, but it need not be the case Everything we notice about ourselves was selected for or there's a gene for that very interesting, I mean this. This I mean I I'm actually a bit
outlined here. I'm not I'm about, as close as biologists come to accepting what you've described as a misconception, because I do think that selection is incredibly powerful and mathematical models show this Jbs whole day. In the great one of the three founding fathers of population genetics to theoretical calculation, in which he's he say, he postulated an extremely trivial character at didn't, mention it, but it it it might have been high brows. Suppose you suppose you believe that eyebrows have been selected because they stop sweating running down your far right into your eyes and it is sort of sounds totally trivial. How could that possibly save a lot
until you realize for the for? The first thing you might you might realize is that it could save your life if you were about to be attacked by a lion and the the a slight split second difference in how quickly you see the lion, because you got sweat in your in your eyes since the the invention of sunblock. I think that's undoubtedly true, ok, but the hold and actually did a a a a mathematical calculation. He said, let us postulate a character so trivial that the difference between an individual who has it and individual doesn't have it. I'm in only one in one thousand, let's say for every thousand individuals who have this say, the eyebrows and survive
nine hundred. Ninety nine, who don't have it survive so from any actuarial point of view and a life insurance calculator would say last totally trivial, but it's not trivial when you think that the jeans concerned is represented in thousands of individuals in the population and through thous, as of generations that multiplies out the halls and holding the calculation was that if you postulate that one in a thousand advantage, he then left out. How long would it take for the gene to spread from being? I forget exactly take it as a one percent of the population. Up to fifty percent of the population- and it was a number of generations, so short
on the geological time square, so it would appear to be an instantaneous piece of evolutionary change, even though the selection, it was trivial. Will actually selection pressures in the wild when they been measured have been far far stronger than that, but there's another way of approaching the question you raise it may be that you're asking the wrong question. It may be that by focusing on the particular characteristic, which just a question about your ignoring the fact that there's something associated with that I think, for example,
you you you. You know that the on on at night, because alarm, hot, outside order, a candle, is better. If you want a candle in six months, a common sort of as it were, commit suicide. I mean they just burn themselves out in in the in the candle, and you could ask the question: what on earth the survival value of suicidal self immolation behavior in March? Well, it's the wrong question, because a probable explanation for it is that many insects use a light compass to steer a straight line lights at night. Until humans came along and invented. Can those lights at night to always an optical infinity. They were things like the moon, the stars when the sun during the day, and if you maintain a fixed angle relative to these races coming from optical infinity, then you just cruise
lunch is just what you want to do? A candle is not up to infinity and if you work out mathematically, what happens if you maintain a fixed acute angle to the raise the emanating in all directions. Out of a candle you perform logarithmic spiral into the candle flame, so this is an accidental byproduct of and is in which really does have survival value. You have to rephrase the question: what is survival value on maintaining a fixed angle at like raise, then you either? Then you've got the on site. Thirty, two, the last question: what's the advantage of suicidal self immolation you've you've she it to the the to the wrong question and their related issues with other things which provide some survival advantage in if you have one copy of the gene, but if you have both copy I sent it is still Terrius. Yes,
for sale in need right right? So well, then? What do you do with the concept of a spandrel, though cools concept of spaniels that useful to think about? okay, spanish, notorious and overrated paper in nineteen. Seventy nine in which gold went to Kings College Cambridge, whether the most beautiful it was beautiful building and the gothic arch is gaps before from in inevitably form gaps which which a coal spandrels and they actually have a have a name- and I often filled with on on a meditation and this
Rosen selves, accidental by products of something with Reagan, matches which is the gothic arch, and so the point they were making is that things that we that we? It's really almost the same point that I was I was making just just not about asking the wrong question spend. Can you can't ask what's the purpose of this band room? That's right, yeah, the relative of the thing example. Yes, what are your thoughts about artificial intelligence. You sound? Yes, in my life, I fear everyone's heard. My thoughts on our official tells us. I find this increasingly interesting. This is something that I became interested in very low dates and, in fact, and less you were in the AI community until very recently, the dogma that had been exported from computer science to neuroscience and psychology and
adjacent fields was that It was just there was no real noticeable success. There that should get anyone worried or particularly excited, then all sudden I started making worried noises and then there were obvious gains in narrow a I that were getting sexier and sexier, and now it's it, it was really the first time I thought about the implications of ongoing progress in building intelligent machines and progress. At any rate, it really doesn't have to be that Moore's law, continues in definitely doesn't know that we just need to keep going and at a certain we will find ourselves in the presence of machines that are as intelligent as we are. They may not be human like of a person. We will build them to be as much like ourselves in in in all the good ways as possible, but interest me for for
many different reasons, because it one eight I'm I'm actually wore in terms of existential risk. It's it's on my short list for things to actually worry about, but the flip side of that is that it is one of the most hopeful things with it. If anything seems intrinsically good its intelligence, and we want more of it so so far as it's reasonable to expect that we are going to make more and more progress, automating things and building more intelligent systems. That seems very hopeful, and I think we can't but do and the other the other point of interest. For me, and and this is the kind of my hobby horses that is actually that what we were talking about us the last time some years ago, when I wrote the moral landscape, I'm interested in in collapsing, this perceived distance between facts and values The idea that morality somehow is Une coupled to the world of science and truth claims, and I think that once we have
start building, and we even have to start even now with things like self driving cars once we started. Building our ethics into machines within their domain or more powerful than we are is that there are no better and worse answers to ethical questions that we should all be moral relativist, that all cultures are are equal with respect to you, what constitutes a good life that just a minute there's gonna, be somebody sitting at the computer waiting to code. Something, and if you don't, hope you actually got to build in some moral value, you have to build in the values and if you don't build it, then you are built. Building in those values. So if you build a self driving car that isn't distinguishing between people and mailboxes well then you've built a very dangerous self driving car, the more relevant tuning which people in front is, do you want a car that the car is going to make a choice between protecting the occupant and protecting Podesta,
say so now? How much? How much risk do you want, as the driver of the car to assume in order spare the lives of occupancy the lives of occupants you're constantly facing a trolley problem and you're. The You are the one to be sacrificed, and your point is that the trolley problems are. These are hypothetical things where you, where you have to imagine and got a runaway trolley in your standings at points and if you about to mow down five people and if you pull the lever to swing the points, it'll it'll kill one person, so you withholding the lever in your hand, lemon should I save five people and kill one, but but you know that by your action and pulling the lever, you're you're going to kill a person who wouldn't otherwise have died, and I think Samuel you were saying making the point that ai I mean automatic machines, robotic machine,
okay into need to have a moral system built into them, and then you know that the a trolley problem is going to be faced by the program whose actually writing the software but it's it's already the case. Yeah, yes, and it just will proceed from there so just imagine a system legend in ourselves that we have seeded with our morality and again, going to be a morality that the smartest people we can find doing. This work will have to agree by some consensus is the wisest more reality, we've got and so obviously that call, Ben and Al Qaeda are not going to vote in that particular project. Aw all everything you've heard about moral relativism just goes out the window, because we will be desperate to find the best answer, we can find on every one of these questions and desperate to build a much
in that when it in the the real limit case where it begins to make changes to itself, it doesn't make changes that we fought. Find yes, in the worst case, incompatible with our survival. Making changes to itself as well. More conventionally worries people the phone on my machine, which is which is capable of of of reproducing and thereby possibly involving by not for selection and and subcommittee supplanting humans completely taking over. This is the closest times for mission scenario. It's not totally unrealistic, not at all, given the fact that one path toward Developing ai is to build genetic. Algorithms that function along similar lines. You know that where there the darwinian principle of just getting better and better in response to data, an error correction and it made it.
Not even be clear how it has gotten better. So we could look forward to a time in the distance future when we have a whole, like this filled with looking back and speculating on some far distant Dorn age when the world was peopled by soft squishy organic. Based life forms the data transfer would be instantaneous, so there's been no reason to come out just take of the firmware upgrade yeah, but the world would be a better and happier place for my. My real fear is that it won't be illuminated by consciousness at all. It is the cause I I'm agnostic at the moment as to whether or not
mirror information, processing and scaling of intelligence by definition gets you consciousness, and it it may in fact be the case that it gets you consciousness. Is I'm not conscious by the way. Yes, and it is as if the genuine is very difficult, and it's not a problem. I think what why me, which would seem to be positive, poss, build a machine or an animal or human which which can do all the things that we do all the intelligent things and that we do all the life saving things that we do and yet not be conscious. And it's it is genuinely mysterious why we need to be conscious. I think, I think it remains so I think it's it's 'cause consciousness is the con part of you is, generally, the last to find out about what your mind just did you know you're not you're, playing catch up in every respect an instance of something
form short term memory. Now it's different kinds of memory- and this is integrate it in different ways, but time for everything. So you can't be aware of a perception or a sensation, the instant it brain because it's hitting your brain, isn't one discrete moment and so there's a hole, the time of integration and so you're. So this moment- is this- this layered subjectively speaking, this layering of memories, even when you are distinguishing the present from what classically call a memory, and so it's it's not. It is a genuine mystery. Why consciousness would be necessary or what wut couldn't we couldn't a machine as complex as a human brain do, but for the emergence of this subjective sense, this
another dimension of experience. I don't even know what the solution would look like and whether it would be solved by biologists or by philosophers or by computer scientists. Think one. I just worry that yeah I get and that's that is you just articulated what philosophers call about the hard problem of consciousness? It's it's hard to imagine what answer would fit in the space provided that would be truly explanatory. If you say that in this wiring diagram of of neurons or any other computational units, you have a number their integrated in certain hey, they're firing at whatever hurts that's what you need for consciousness. Let's just say that so so, if you, if you lose those that tuning, then there's nothing that is like to be that system
it's call out. But if you tuned up in precisely that way, will then consciousness emerges that think again, that's strikes me as the kind of statement of a miracle, and so I mean that's, that's not the sort of explanatory work, most other scientific. It's easy, do, and so it is, is a genuinely heart problem. But my concern with AI is that we ram past it and we will find ourselves in the presence of intelligence systems that will be so competent and we will have built them in a way to play up on our intuitions of of ocean and it we will obviously build them in appropriate emotions into them and they'll be aware of our emotions and, if you finally, we build robots that that are humanoid, that that are so good that they're no longer on canning to us. You get out of the was called the uncanny Valley and they no longer look creepy. Now they just look per
I think we will lose. The intuition is any mysterious question here worry about, and we will just feel because every intuition that you're in the presence of a another will be played upon, we will just feel we are in the presence of consciousness with ever. Knowing that that's the case, so you you would, as I am with you now I mean it is. It is what it is. I mean your there's a the fact that we are both the same so sort of thing that we have the same evolutionary history and that overcomes this of solipsism being many kind of first year, philosophy, students, think solipsism the idea that maybe only I exist, everyone else is just a zombie, many people that somehow the most parsimonious or the most economical view because
I exist, I'm sure I'm having an experience, I'm not sure about all you people. In fact, I can't even see you people have you have you heard, but Russell sold his story, but rest I've got a letter from a lady who said dear Lord Russell, I'm so dizzy wanted to hear you are a solipsist there are. So few of us are yeah that that shows how untenable, even that this can't hold it, but that's so yeah, but the the the problem with some system is that there's actually a day regional burden of explanations. I have to explain why something so similar to myself. Biologically, as yourself was born in the same way. Yeah yes, wouldn't be conscious, and so it's it's. It is actually more parsimonious to assume that you are, but if we build these machines from
points of not knowing how consciousness arises in the physical universe and we build them to be more and more competent, all of a sudden they they passed the turing test with flying When I first read about the turing test, I I never really sort of leave that I myself would ever think that a machine that pass to tear you know the turing test. It's where you the way he originally formulated. It was was that you're sitting in a room with a communicating by teleprinter in those days, but I'm with I, the human in another room for a computer in another room and you're allowed to ask any questions you like and can communicate with this thing in any way you like, and if it's impossible to tell the difference to know whether the computer, all the what what whether the computer or human, your talking to then the computer is conscious by sales of to go back to.
That that has been the way it's been talked about for many decades, but Turing's original paper didn't talk about consciousness. A talked about thought to this is yes, the measure of whether computers actually thinking and with that has been updated to to mean that that would be consciousness in the computer which, for those who are convinced of the heart problems in fact hard. That doesn't make any sense. I I, I suspect that, if that, if, if, if I was having a conversation with a robot like we are now and the robot was speaking exactly the words you you are speaking I would believe it was conscious yeah, but situation would be worse than that, though, because it will speak, better than I do and I wouldn't bet on that. Well, let's hope they're not doing their job at Google deep mind. I hear from for many of you that I say things like gonna a lot.
So we're, presumably we're not going to put gonna gun into our super ai I'm going to do that. So The situation would be worse because you will be in the presence of something that looks human is at least as well as any human you've met, but will have access to all of the world's information and will maybe the first version of it won't. But some subsequent version will will be better at detecting your inner life. Any human you've ever met so you're at a certain point. Your phone will be more aware of your emotions than your spouses and that's either your worst nightmare or some ultimate wish fulfillment, but you'll, be in dialogue with something that is giving you more valid information than any human being you've ever met.
I'm sorry Dave. I can't do that my concern: is it will it will lose sight of the problem? a a totally unrelated question, but you've both been accused of elitism in the past Most recently your views for your views on Trump and brexit? Can you say something about the difference if there is one queen, combatting anti intellectualism, being elitist problem, because he- and I haven't thought much about this- but it seems to me just The boundary between those two things isn't very clear. Think I want to stop being a chef
being in the test. The point has been often made that when you good to have an operation you want- and in the section when you make a boat on a plane, you want an eighty pilot. Yet when your when you want a president of the most powerful country in the world, almost noon precautions whatever hi, but my my country, which has just undergone what amounts to a a long term catastrophe e, which is the decision to
leave the European Union. Ok, let's not prejudge that. Let's say it might not be a catastrophe e, but what is absolutely certain is that the issue of whether Britain leave the European union. One thousand is a much too complicated and sophisticated question to be decided by idiots like and like the british people, this this is why we have a representative democracy rather than a plebiscite democracy. I could about imagine having a parasite on some one issue which doesn't Ramify doesn't impinge upon, everything else like say, fox hunting. I could imagine having a plebiscite on that, because you decide to abolish fox hunting or not. The case may be that doesn't immediately affect thousands of
other things. The decision to leave the European Union has enormous repercussions which are of great complexity. You need a phd in economics to understand the complexity. And yet Cameron who will go down in history as a moron. For reasons of of of internal politics within his own within his own party. Put this to I have a site to ever to a referendum. He didn't even take the precaution of building in the requirement on like two thousand or two in in the United States. A constitutional amendment requires a two thirds majority has a built in Resistant and there's a hurdle, there's a barrier as a bar that has to be cleared of a two slash three majority, because it
a major major change that has long term implications. The brexit decision is not something that's going. That can be reversed. The next election. Yes, if you have a couple it's for keeps, and it was decided on a fifty percent majority. Where was quite clear from the post opinions that just jumping up and down like that and the day of the vote. That happened to be a spy on that on that day, and so now we start with something I would say forever, but but certainly for a very, very long time frame well will be on the next election. I I'm I'm unashamed elitist with respect to this, the some of them. Some of the reasons that I heard from personal acquaintance for why people voted to leave the European Union Work oh well, it's nice to have a change. People. Well, I preferred the
passport to the european old. While this is the kind of thing, but this is the kind of reason that that that people voted. You know you probably read that the day after the brexit vote, the most common thing to be googled in Britain, what is the EU, so I think for all the odium that it gathers I'm content to be described as an elitist. I once wrote an article a couple of elections ago when Sarah Palin was there's another example yeah. So I wrote an article entitled this for news. We can titled in defense of elitism and made some of the some of the points of the sort that you just made and and uh they retitled it when atheists attack.
That was, I understood that news we is no longer magazine. We haven't evolved to live in affluent society, surrounded by millions of strangers, much less a global civilization and only adapted to the anonymity and isolation that affluence and globalism bring for in the modern world, is plagued by rays of depression and suicide that are unheard of in tribal societies, culture, privileges, consumption, we're community and meaning I say this is an argument in favor of religion. How can apes like ourselves truly flourish was a let's take the first and that that is a an important question. Is yes? But let's take the first part first, because if it lands in a in a question that we've heard before
for which is and- and in fact it's also here and in some other form how how do non believers, how to purely rational people find meaning in life and and and all of that, but the first part is: we are odds with our like, like small group tribal, and we we have not evolved to be in a condition of full time and intimidate with most of the people. We come in contact with the toilet when you think of our online lives when you think of you in this circumstance, this is very unknown So let me just imagine getting something like one thousand four hundred people in this room now image I'm getting one thousand four hundred chimpanzees together in a room. It doesn't work very well for for reasons that we can explain and we have this ability to now. Together in ways that may be at odds with what what we are by
or a black ancestry. In a way, it's it's remarkable. How how well we do in in in in that's probably true to say that a lot of the mental illness that plagues us is because, for this very reason, nevertheless, a stone is singly different. Our environment is now especially on such an environment. From a past history, we didn't do too badly. Do we really Youtube in there? There are certain other things: it's not it's, not just the social environment. It seems like the the fact, the fact that we are too fond of sugar Becaus in Ra Palace history should it was very difficult to get, and you couldn't get too much of it, and now you can now you can get too much of it. That's true food generally, so there are things like that, but what,
Do you think we could when you imagine living in two thousand years ago, where you, new, everyone knew everyone yeah, and not you and you're you're guaranteed to make you if your. If you meet a stranger, that's that's very likely to be a a circumstance of violence, Everyone who's in your tribe is someone you know intimately, and this will always be the case. So there's no, it's not even a question of having a reputation everyone knows everyone, and so you just imagine the fate of a site. Path in that environment that that tends to end pretty swiftly with the angered p on the tribe, exile and or or killing him, but now so now we live in a world. Where are psychopaths? always move on to new contexts, an bilk or otherwise harm
manipulate new people? Do you think we get to an underlying question here, evolution hasn't stopped right, so could we be selecting for in a few short generations like with eyebrows a kind personality disorder that has a genetic that that would be a negative thing, a positive way looking at it is that we, strangers? Every day we now meet people that we're never going to ever see again, never never seen in the past, where, as you say in our in our a plans, history, we lived in villages of small bands of probably maximum one hundred and fifty people been has been suggested. Yeah. Not only did you know him everybody, but everybody was Qin there. They were cousins, second, cousins and so on. Well in case, for why we have altruism and empathy that we lived in small bands where everybody was
in and everybody knew everybody else, and so that favors granted to other people could be reciprocated at some later date. And there was a sort that that's probably why we have such a strong sense of of of debt, a strong sense of guilt, a strong sense of who does what to whom a strong sense of reputation. Who has a good reputation for being socially generous and who has a good reputation for being a bad reputation for being for for. For being me on the good impulses that involved under conditions of small villages, I'm not a generalized into the population at large, such as it may. Users now have expanded feelings of generosity and empathy
to anyone. We need to a limited extent, at least so. If we see somebody in distress, we have an impulse house to try to comfort them or give them money or look look after them in, in some way, this could probably be regarded as a kind of mistake. A blessed mistake, a mistake, but that I would I would welcome, based upon the fact that, in in a primitive small village world the rule, the rule of thumb be good to everyone. You meet was benefit so because everyone unique was either kin or and or a potential reciprocator. Now is everyone you meet is not kin and is not a percent potential. Recipro but the rule of thumb remains mostly pretty. Nice
yeah, except even there. So in many respects it's a bad rule of thumb. You know Paul bloom, he's done. Some great work in this area has a book coming out entitled against empathy for which he is going to reap the whirlwind. But his point is that empathy is act really the wrong piece of software for making more decisions most of the time we we have this. Our empathy Module is one that gets highly provoked to action by individual personal stories and pictures, cute, kids and puppies and all the rest, but we just can likely ignore statistics and the numbers of people who die and you'll see a civil war like Syria, now the for the eyes of the moral conscience just glaze over. What's the difference between a
one thousand, four hundred thousand, you know, I don't know I've never seen that many things, and yet tell me about one kid, and this is people have done fascinating and heroin research on this topic, Paul Paul Slovic has done these experiments where he you, you show pull one needy little child and ask them to now an experimental. Sex. Ask them to give money and how much would you give and then you showed the same needy little child, but with her brother and people reliably give less, and then you showed the sister and brother in a group of eight needy little children and people relied give less and they care less the more the problem scales and then, when to add statistics- and you say this- you know this A little girl named familiarity that there's a there's a million just like her. They give less, and so this is. This is pretty clear. This is a bug, not a feature so
let's come back to the evolution question. Obviously, most people assume as we exert so much control over environment now that the forces of natural selection are damp and to the point of almost being negligible is that is, I mean, there's the the things like lactose tolerance, hair or that seems like a reasonably recent yeah Jane that that's a good example that, without them quite quite tend not to selection, has been dead on quite rapidly in the in in five thousand years of two thousand yes and similar the differences between peoples in different parts of the world, and if you need the internet in the Arctic and and the dinkar in in the Nile and and region, and then the news in the in the african forests and so on, the these are undoubtedly selective differences which have come about with the message. Tens of
so what do you think is happening now, given her line technology in the way in which more Does everyone I'm certainly in the developed world? You can survive to the point of long enough to reproduce reproduce, so the emphasis that it comes down more to who reproduces. Mother who lives right because family size is not uniform and family size is often determined by cultural, religious factors. And what do you make of the fact that secularism seems to correlate with low birth rate yes, religious people have ten kids per family certain with that you will keep the mosquitoes in the rest of time, twenty one I would I like to go there, but I perhaps I better not were being given the queue that we should move on to audience questions
I want to ask one more one to round out that final topic. Do you think humans should take charge of their own topic and I just say, evolution away Brits. Do you see the power of good company? That's the only word I know where we are actually embarrassed about how to how to pronounce the word. Richer embarrassed about it. I was sufficiently embarrassed to ask a latin scholar: what is the correct pronunciation as it is, in fact evolution, but, but I will take that instruction. Do you think we should take charge of our evolution through genetic engineering?
Not only eradicating genetic diseases but improving intelligence and physical strength? Wouldn't this usher in a new age of eugenics? Well, I am tempted by that, it's a it's highly unfashionable and I think I think, hit his party today that that, because because Hitler notoriously tried to try to do that, I Iv festival. Most people accept. Most marvelous was accepted station between negative energetics, where you're trying to get rid of horrible hereditary diseases, and I think few people would object to that about positive Jennings. We actually try to to and in in five musical ability of mathematical ability or ability to do the HI, John Paul to run the hundred meters or whatever. Then I would make a distinction between compulsory.
You check meeting for positive, poss positively Jetix and such as that in in in post and the freedom of parents to tell if the technology were available, which isn't yet to the breed for something that they that that that they, like the idea of like musical ability. So let me just limit myself to pointing out that people and, on the whole, regarded as a major moral sin for parents to encouraged to the point of forcing children to have music lessons cell? If, if it's education, then the most a parent will be accused of, is it being the tornado and telling the child? If you haven't done your piano practice today, go to do it or or else and and that that, and that is regarded as much much more morally acceptable than say.
If the technology were available to do ivf- and you know the in vitro fertilization- you you get a number of eggs of of finalized dates and you can expect to see the Excel staging struck. One cell and examine its genes are present. You can do that for thickness of a major is? Is you can make sure that the the embryo that you re Implant back in the woman is the one that doesn't have Huntington's chorea whatever it is? If it became possible to, to put back into the woman, the one that has the J S Bach gene for musical genius, would it be immoral to do that tonight, I don't see that it would or on the contrary, I think it would be immoral to now provided this works and it's safe and there's no to
declined to do that, but then force the kid to take piano lessons. So you Jenny, has become a dirty word but um and even saying that I'll I'll get a lot of stick for, but but I I I think, you're absolutely right that what was said just one question to follow up here. 'cause, I genuinely don't know, maybe there's no game, twenty- that to control things we like about ourselves like intelligence when you dial them up or select for the variance that give a propensity to increase intelligence you could then- and there is some evidence of this- is the case. You could be also increasing the propensity for certain diseases, seven, the court and and so there's. No, they don't guarantee that will ever be able front just dealing purely with biological substrate ever be able to shoot for the mark
of the good thing we want without increasing the likelihood is they're going to you know in a wheelchair, or something that that that that would be very, very true for doing what he tried to do, which is which is doing what we do with domestic animals safe. You do safety meeting female high jumpers with male high jumper to try to breed a race of olympic winners in five hundred years time. That almost certainly would have bad effects, because you will most certainly be eating people who were deficient in some other respect. You take the IVF case. It's quite interesting because you've got in Petrie Dish, you've got say, half a dozen eight cell envious and you get into implants back in the woman one or two of them, and at present you in you, you put them back at random.
So you could be getting the musical genius one, but you might not be so it's harder to make the case that to choose one non, randomly to choose to put back the one for mathematical ability or by the way, all it is to a hypothetical he couldn't possibly get on. Yet don't do this at home. Now it is, it is this is this is in the future when, when your joint it. When you already got your going to pick two of these eight two of these ten embryos out and put two of them back, do you lose at random, which is what happens at present? Or do you exercise the knowledge that you have that this one has music ability and that one doesn't? It seems to me that that's far less likely, in fact, I don't see why it would have the undesirable effects that selective breeding for some particular characteristics, as in breeding for milk yield in council fast running horses would well. It does come back and
the point raised earlier, where some gene and when you have only one copy I think there's some evidence for that with intelligence, with the condition of torsion dystonia, which is a muscle, spasm condition that nobody would like. But If you have two copies, you get that if you have one copy, you're you're predisposed toward some increment of yeah, We have. We are under orders to stop our conversation so now to your questions.
We have the lights. We have the lights up. Are your my team in the orchestra and one of the rare, so we're going to do meeting in question, so I think everyone here most of us, hello, Sir really sort of religious people can be, but there are a lot of them. I think we all need people who aren't there. He need not converse with people who are younger creation. Is our home hoping things like that? Do you still wish these people to be anonymous and the woman would be better? They were not.
Other things being equal, yes, I mean how? How would it not be I'd like I can't imagine, I don't have hello to the one thing not like not. I guess the the the is to specify what you mean by non religious. Clearly, we want people to be rational to the best evidence open to the bass arguments and that just so happens to have the very yes, the fact of destroying much of what people count as being religious, but their experience is that I would be happy for people to have, but I just want them to to interpret them differently or enter put them honestly, so I don't mind people having the experience of
of ecstasy or all out war and even to even to a point where it's exactly the sort of experience, the judge that has justified the religious claims that people have made for thousands of years, but but what I don't want them to do is then lying to themselves and other people about what those experiences prove more means, and so the cell to just take someone like you, know, Francis Collins, who's running the n. I h he's a man call Jeanette Assist and but he's also an evangelical christian, and hear how he came to it. You'll know the ground had been prepared, he came, he was hiking and he came I want a frozen waterfall surprisingly, frozen in free and this him in mind of of the holy Trinity and Streams same quote, then I fell to my knees in the Dewey Grass and gave myself to Christ, so that is that leap there
on the frozen waterfall to price that you know I, where I would want to push back against the religious interpretation to be fair. He he is not like the creation he's not in the know now, yeah, I'm curious about how the you know the private eyes of information technology or the class. You know ten fifteen years and the distribution months, the entire population has sort of affected the way that we really talk to each other and not allowed to share information and- and I'm curious, if you guys, when designing our system and also whether or not you know the level of consumption of digital media. Animations are people who sustained soon print media and so on. You know in the newspapers books whatever, if you think that there is
a decline in reading and extension of, of the sort of new media which may not be as intellectually stimulating for the population. Am I the only one in this room who's starting to find a difficult to actually read along books if you notice that it's getting harder to read a six hundred page book. You know I feel, like I'm. In the coal mine for this? But I I you know: it's not necessarily a bad thing that you know that it's I mean the it is information coming in other ways, but I think it does pose certain problems and make it goes back to the. And asked earlier about anonymity and distance, and the fact that so much of life is online now, because it is back to the thing we were talking about about the villages with a hundred fifty people it in a funny kind of way. We we leave a room. We need the reconstructing villages which are not geographically located
distributed around the world and that we send some other factors. Echo chambers, yeah, you you you. You have a group of internet friends that you interact with and you give me a distorted impression for world opinion, because you only listen to in your own electronic village, and he also from that to some extent is quite an interesting sociological for no I think yeah I mean this is a paradox that many people have remarked on that we have instantaneous access to more information than anyone has ever had access to and it. I'd be in, and it really is easier and easier and easier to get the truth to get the best fax to debunk alive. And yet it's also easier to curate your access to fax in such a way as to be in an echo chamber for the rest of your life and and you could go to and go through
looking glass on any one of these things and be a conspiracy, theorist, ovani, flavor, forever and because you're never meeting review generally not meeting these people. Everything has online everything has the same stature. You don't see that the website that is proving to you, though, Nine hundred and eleven was a conspiracy to bring down the buildings. You don't know that the person who co that website was a sixteen year old in his underpants and you're treating it like, like a bunch of Nobel laureates, lined up and told you the truth, sorry for true, there is out there have through snow MAS argument that we living in a simulation and, if you're unfamiliar with that, I can sign up in twenty seconds. But then I'm familiar with it to this part of the simulation
is that it's actually not his argument. It's not I'm not even sure it originates with Nick Bostrom. It's it Nick Bostrom as the philosopher doctor, who's really popularize. This is argument he's also written what eyes we consider the best full treatment of the the the the the reasons to be scared about the super intelligent, a I. He wrote a book called Super intelligence, which is which is fantastic, but he he's made a lot of hay out of the simulation argument and the argument is a very forms the argument. One is that just imagine of future, in which we can that the whole world in our computers. Invariably, we're going to have to you know if provided mind and consciousness is just a matter of information processing and certainly most scientists If that's the case, then we'll be able to simulate conscious beings like
cells in our machines, and we will do that and it seems almost by definition, then simulated worlds will outnumber real worlds by a factor of you know, trillions is just it's just a matter of having a a sufficiently large cloud, which is which we will certainly have if we don't destroy ourselves. So if you imagine that that's where everything's headed everything, then you think that the chances are as a matter of probability, that is far more likely that the fact that you find yourself in a world it's far more likely that you have found yourself in a simulated one. Then then I re- once again, there many variants of this, so you could be the thing about alien civilizations doing this. We could just think about the future of humanity. Doing this, and and my personal version- the future of humanity in which the Mormons do this, and this world Mormonism is true because they built it into surprise Richard I,
I first met this in rather a good science fiction story by Daniel Gallo. A court call come to the world and in in which it's it's, it's a superb advent. Adventure story in the in the here eventually discovers that that we are indeed in us. Well, he he goes down into the simulated world in order to repair some fault, then he comes back into he thinks is available to discover that that is itself a simulation were from even from yet yet Hira. It's it's a good store, he's a good science fiction writer. So that is what happened. It's one of the guys will really help just on a lot of, but I'm also curious to know which he would come first openly. Gay president of the atheist president,
I'd be very happy that I have on and on and for the female president by the way as well resist the temptation to say something about the elect for quite a for me on that already, but I think, whatever aren't, aren't you I mean it is amazing how this is to take stock of how much progress we might yet make very quickly on the religion front, the progress we've made with gay rights- that's what's happening blindingly fast, encouraging
not by the way, is the model that open the second campaign is taking the the get the get the gay rights movement has been so successful in such astonishingly short time in raising consciousness and becoming accepted in american society, bridges, sausage, and so I think, there's every hope that we can do the same thing for for freethinkers because it would be in with a few decades ago. It would have been inconceivable that the gate, the gate okay Community- were made such
services they have. So I have every hope that we can follow their example. Of course we should want more intelligence, but then you also have access to to the connection between intelligence and consciousness, and I know the value of the consciousness of the first countries features. So why should be valued? call James know realize it's every question to ask him like this, but yeah? Well, no, it's a it's a good question. If you, in that case, if you Imagine that intelligence and consciousness can come apart and we can build more and more machines without necessarily building consciousness. This is why that should be worrisome, and it also it absolves us of a few concerns because concerns that will build more
more intelligent machines that if they by definition, become conscious, they will be able to suffer and then were bill machines that can suffer and then maybe, when you turn these machines off, if you committed a murder- and it is, is it like turning off your your mother or your child. There is a real ethical questions and it is. It is a the term of jargon in this space I can be in Boston's book is mind crime. The idea that will will be building machines that we're in slaving women. Do these machines like to work for us today, like the automaticity of their lives at a certain point, they'll be they might be able to tell us and if we think, they're conscious will then we we suddenly have opened up a landscape of of ethical concern, an obligation toward creatures that may, in fact, be able to suffer more than we can. Maybe they can suffer unimaginable e or be deprived of happiness. That is unimaginable e great, you know, and so it's,
but if, if if intelligence is not something that need be associated with consciousness at even at a super human level, then the question is: will how much intelligence to we want access to far own conscious purposes, and I think we want quite a lot. I think we want machine in the second solve puzzles in economics and in climate science and in neuroscience and in genetics, and we we can't seem to solve ourselves or or or solve in a in a time frame that is as useful as it would be if we can solve them solve them overnight. In my view, intelligence is inside all of the beauty it gives us access to and it basically it is the thing that allows us to safeguard everything we care about. You know the moment we find out that some pandemic has been unleashed. Who happen stands on the earth and we need a cure for it. Well, how long does it take for us to develop that cure? The difference between fifteen
in fifteen years is huge and that diff it really is a matter of intelligence on some level, it's not obvious that intelligence goes with ability to suffer either by the way. No, I didn't Khan conscious as you think, about what what suffering is full. It's it's to prevent the the creature from repeating the mistake from doing something which means pain is a is a song is a sort of surrogate for death and So if someone does something that causes it hey, it's given a warning. Don't do that again? Well, you could make the case that an animal and organism that is not very intelligent requires more pay in order to be deterred from repeating a an unfortunate misstep, and so it might be the top ethical concern in full and
in proportion to their intelligence. We we we we we can more about paying in in in in house than in fish. We could be doing the wrong thing because it could be that it is a less intelligent. An animal actually is more capable of feeling pain. Then that's a bit of an aside, but it curly. While you were talking so the side that just screwed up dinner yeah SAM. What are you trying to be more effective in disempowering in organized religion? focusing on it, like you, did with the end of faith or sort of passing that Bio and he did with waking up no way of knowing really- and it would just be pure intuition uh, I think there are moments for both but Yeah? It is just I I would. I would just be guessing the missing. Piece of an in waking up. I don't. I certainly don't provide every piece, that's missing, but
The thing that will really be good to do at a certain point is to articulate a. In ethically and aesthetically attractive way of meeting all of the needs that people religiously I think they have and many they think they have for good reason, and it is you know, building community and ritual and having a reason to gab once a week for some experience of profundity. I mean all of this, I think, is a missing piece in secularism and people get it in a piece meal way. They get it just in haphazard way. They find it another. They find it and entertainment in an art and they go to the museum or they go to a sporting
and they they go. They have a picnic or they go to a the TED conference. Are they they find they? They gravitate toward things that scratch the itch a little bit, but I think, if, if the counterpoint to release it the explosive counterpoint to religion of atheism or or secularism, it's going to be, you know when it is offered fully compelling to religious people the replacements for what they care about, have to be pretty selling. In the end, I don't think you can replace everything that people care about in that space, but and I've. You know I've said this before the when you lose your belief in Santa Claus. It's not like the thing that replaces it precisely feels that Santa Claus shaped hole in in your life, but You do move on to other things that are rewarding and we need to make that in a in a contemplative
ethical communitarian sense, very obvious. No, sometimes young people, you know ask me what what do you do? How do you know as a free thinker or exist to what you do it to to remember somebody in funeral- and I just say you know just talk about things you remember about them. I wonder if you could maybe talk about some story, you need to have her about some of your friends. Your breakfast depressing note to end on, but admitted that the thing that was so obvious to me from a purely personal selfish side that that is, it was wrong.
It's dying was that I had so little time with him a really I view the last dinner I had with him when he had cancer. We did a debate against two rabbis and in LOS angeles- and we had dinner before that, and I was city across for him and he was very sick when you can watch that debate and it was. It was quite amazing to me even at that point that he made the trip for that debate, but I realized It was the first dinner. I had a loan with him and I had maybe a half a dozen dinners with him in my life, but this is the first time it was just me and hitch a dinner, and so it's just good touch. Back to that question: better online lives. I have many relationships where, like my relationship with you, so much of it has been virtual. You know like with my relationship with even greater example, someone like Steve Pinker My relationship with him is almost entirely email. You know, and it's a real it's it's. You know I really value. My relationship with Steve is he's he's a mentor to me, but we have been.
In you, and I have been on stage together many more times than I have been with Steve and the same was true of hitch, and so it's, Service, a real last opportunity lost opportunity just feel like I've met him too late to we. Wonderful encounter in the the circle horsemen discussion which took place in his his apartment, in whether Dan send we had four way. Conversation with no chairman know moderator. I think we all got about equal time. It was a very, very fruitful agreeable conversation. He was eloquent person, the most eloquent person I've ever met. Typically fluent articulate speaker with an enormous.
Fund of knowledge which he could with immediate rapidfire access. I once wrote: if you're ever invited to have a debate against Christopher Hitchens decline. I I think I was the last person to do it, make it interview with him I deduct on behalf of the new Statesman magazine in Britain. I came to Texas and spent a long time with him. You would read that
view. The thing that I remember most was that I confess I was I'm easy about being constantly described as strident, and he said: don't you ever stop being strike. He was most emphatic about this. The the the the we have to come out with all guns, blazing that he that he did that himself and he did it with courtesy and consideration. And without I think ever making enemies
Thank you. Well, I hope you enjoy that as much as I did. As I said, it was really an honor to get a chance to share the stage with Richard. That does not happen often enough, and I will bring you the audio from the other event. When I get it, but doing these events made me think that I could do a live, podcast tour and perhaps speak to a different person in each city. So this is something I'm thinking about doing in the new year, probably in the second half of the year, because it takes about six months to produce an event. Well. Needless to say, those of you who are supporting the podcast through my website or through patrion will be given.
First crack at the tickets. It would just be a blast to fill a large room with die, hard, podcast listeners in places like New York and Toronto and Houston Chicago and, as I did with Richard, I would go out to you for all the topics anyway, more to come on that front. Once again, please join my email list. If you want to hear about these things in a timely way, because each of these events with Richard sold out in forty eight hours- and it was a one thousand four hundred seat room ten days after I announce those events on email, I was hearing from people on social media saying why the hell did not hear about this event. I live ten minutes away not being on my email list. Is why and as always, if you want to support the podcast or several ways to do that, you can find them at SAM Harris DOT, Org slash support. If you find the Bible, there are many ways you can support it. You can review it on
Itunes or Stitcher, or wherever you happen to listen to it. You can share social media with your friends, you can block about or discuss it on your own podcast or you can support it directly and you can do this by subscribing to my website at SAM Harris, DOT, org and there you'll find subscriber only content which includes my ask me anything episodes he also get access to advanced tickets to my live events as well as streaming video of some of these events
Transcript generated on 2019-10-05.