Moran Cerf (@twtrdtcm) is a neuroscientist who strives to understand the underlying mechanisms of human psychology, behavior changes, emotion, decision making, and dreams.

What We Discuss with Moran Cerf:

  • What would a future in which we could connect our brains to the cloud and outsource parts of our thinking look like?
  • Can we — or will we ever be able to — record and share our dreams like home movies of the most intimate kind?
  • How teachers might use virtual reality attuned to our specific brain engagement patterns to ensure we’re learning at an optimal rate.
  • What happens when computers and machines can read our thoughts and know what we’re thinking even before we do?
  • What are the security risks of having our thoughts available to these kinds of networks?
  • And much more…

Like this show? Please leave us a review here — even one sentence helps! Consider including your Twitter handle so we can thank you personally!

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What can someone who used to rob banks tell you about the science of hacking humans and the limits of social engineering? Our guest today has that answer. Moran Cerf is a neuroscientist and business professor at the Kellogg School of Management and the neuroscience program at Northwestern University. He is the founder of Think-Alike and B-Cube and the host and curator of PopTech, one of the top five leading conferences in the world.

If his name sounds familiar, you might remember a media frenzy a few years back surrounding a process whereby dreams could be recorded with existing technology — and it was a huge misunderstanding. Still, this slip-up did bring Moran and his work to the attention of the mainstream — but will it bring us any closer to actually recording dreams? On this episode we’ll discuss the current state of this technology, what a future in which we can upload our thoughts into the cloud might look like, the security issues this would present as the criminal element works hard to hack into these thoughts, and much more. Listen, learn, and enjoy!

Please Scroll down for Full Show Notes, Featured Resources, and Transcript!

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THANKS, MORAN CERF!

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Transcript for Moran Cerf | Hacking into Our Thoughts and Dreams (Episode 265)

Jordan Harbinger: [00:00:03] Welcome to the show. I’m Jordan Harbinger. As always, I’m here with producer Jason DeFillippo. On The Jordan Harbinger Show, we decode the stories, secrets, and skills of the world’s most brilliant and interesting people and turn their wisdom into practical advice that you can use to impact your own life and those around you.

[00:00:20] Today on the show my friend Moran Cerf and I talk about hacking humans. That’s how this all started for him. This guy used to rob banks, literally and legally somehow, and we’ll talk about some of the social engineering principles at work, the human hacking at work. His rise to fame happened because of the idea that you could record dreams which made international news based on what ended up being a little bit of a massive misunderstanding, but it brought more on and his work to the mainstream. Today will project a little bit into the future and discover how virtual reality teachers might use our specific brain engagement patterns to ensure that we’re learning at an optimal rate and using optimal methodology. I know that’s just crazy. I just dove right into turn it up to 11 here with the intro. We’ll also discover that will soon be able to add computer chips to our brands that can outsource certain types of thinking. Imagine your brain connected to the cloud in real time. Of course, that opens us up to hackers and people with bad intentions what happens when hackers and bad code are literally inside our brains, and can we record our dreams, and what happens when computers and machines read our thoughts and know what we’re thinking even before we do. That’s coming up right here on The Jordan Harbinger Show.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:01:33] If you want to learn how we get these amazing guests for the show. It’s all about that network. I’m teaching you how to network for personal reasons and professional reasons. Look if you have a career, job, anything like that, you might want to look into this. The course is free. It’s over at jordanharbinger.com/course. By the way, most of the guests on the show, they subscribed to the course in the newsletter. So unless you think you’re smarter than all of them, come join us, you’ll be in great company, jordan harbinger.com/course. Now, here’s Moran Cerf.

[00:01:59] You’ve had this sort of, I don’t even know what you call it, like you’ve got your hands in everything. There’s a word that’s failing me right now.

Moran Cerf: [00:02:08] I think that I heard someone using the term multi-hyphenated. That’s like the common term. I think that you can say like my mom says it, which is, “You get bored too fast.”

Jordan Harbinger: [00:02:20] That is interesting. People go, “How did you have time to learn Chinese, dah, dah, dah?” I just get bored fast, but there’s more going on there with you because you get bored fast. A lot of kids get bored fast, they shoplift, right? They don’t learn how to fly a jet, break into a bank — which we’ll get into in a little bit, become a child actor, be an art prodigy — whatever that means in Wikipedia.

Moran Cerf: [00:02:43] I think hacking is the shoplifting of the 20th century. You just do it on a large scale.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:02:47] Why leave the house, right? No, I’m going to I’m going to steal your money, but I’m not going to go stand in the cold to do it. I’m going to get all of it from the safety of my couch. Although I do believe that you’re a hacker when I heard that you took a girlfriend to see RoboCop on Valentine’s Day. That’s a very it’s a very hacker thing to do.

Moran Cerf: [00:03:04] To be fair to her, I didn’t know.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:06] You didn’t know?

Moran Cerf: [00:03:07] it was like we were invited to be a subject in a study, and the study involved watching a movie while our brains are being scanned and the movie was whatever was showing that day and RoboCop was it.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:19] Nice.

Moran Cerf: [00:03:19] Which I enjoyed tremendously.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:21] I mean, it’s a good movie. Yeah, future Detroit.

Moran Cerf: [00:03:24] It’s a robot with a cop, just like that.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:7] What’s not romantic about RoboCop? You weren’t just a hacker, you were a penetration tester. And I think a lot of people don’t really know what that means. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Moran Cerf: [00:03:36] The idea is that you have a bank. The bank spent a lot of time building firewalls and security systems, as much as they can, things that will stop people from coming in and stealing your money. Then they want to know that it works. Now because they know how it works, they can’t really test it themselves because they know all the ins and outs. So they want to bring a person who pretends to be a hacker, a villain from the outside, to try to steal the money from the inside as if they were trying to steal your money. There are teams and I was in one of those teams who performed this task. The penetration tester as in they try to penetrate — this sounds a little bit kinky.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:04:13] Yeah, of course.

Moran Cerf: [00:04:14] Their job is to try to break into the bank from the outside and steal money, then come to the bank and say, “Hey, here’s how we did it.” So now, you know how hackers could do it. Now, you can build a better security because you have a kind of intuition of how it actually will be done.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:04:30] A couple of my friends do this still professionally. They’re really good at it. You might even know them. We’ll talk about it after the show they consulted for Mr. Robot as well. Dave Kennedy, maybe. Does that name ring a bell? He wrote SET, Social-Engineer Toolkit, and there’s a couple other guys. Back in the day, I used to help them with some stuff and they’ve got really funny stories. For example, breaking into a warehouse and it’s two o’clock in the morning and they’re like, “Oh the motion thing that’s in the inside unlocks the door when you’re going out, so if we can trigger that from the outside, but how do we do it?” So they’re wiggling sticks under the door, nothing’s doing it, and they go, “It must have to be something bigger.” What’s open at 2 a.m. that is the size of a person that’s not a person? A blow-up doll from a porn store. Shove that under the door, inflate it on the inside, and then move it around and sure enough, the motion detector unlocks the door and they walk in.

Moran Cerf: [00:05:27] The crazy thing I heard recently was something like a person from the outside, connecting to the guest network of the house that’s open, through that connecting to the laptop that speaks. On command, you can trigger a command, make the laptop say a word that’s being heard by the kids’ child monitor, so it moves the sound from the bedroom of the kid to the living room, where Alexa sits, and then tell Alexa to unlock the door.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:00:00] Wow, of course. Wait, that’s a little convoluted. They join the guest network on the Wi-Fi. They connect to the laptop that’s in the office.

Moran Cerf: [00:06:07] Yeah, in the kid’s bedroom, there’s a little laptop that listens and speaks and that’s how they make a sound, something that then gets —

Jordan Harbinger: [00:06:16] Baby monitor.

Moran Cerf: [00:06:17] Yeah.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:00:00] Right, so then they had that transmit to the other room, where the Alexa sits, the Amazon Echo, then that unlocks the smart lock. Ooh, outsmarted yourself there, smart home. But that’s classically how this stuff works. I mean, there’s all kinds of stuff and I found serious bugs in everything from banks to smart home software where I’m like, anybody who’s on my Wi-Fi network is now getting a pop-up from the smart home, that’s like, “Do you want to connect to the lock?” So I can stand outside your house and it’s like, “Do you want to connect to the lock?” “Sure!” Dink, because their smart home has already authorized — these things are not designed security first, and that’s the biggest problem.

Moran Cerf: [00:06:57] I think they’re aimed at efficiency and comfort and user interface, which usually is a trade-off with security. More convenient, the more it is made to be such that grandma can easily just set it up and install it and it’s going to work. It means that it’s not supposed to be something that she would spend a lot of time playing with and then security is secondary. That’s how it’s going to work out.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:07:18] Yeah, scary. You didn’t just hack into bank systems and fake wire money. I mean you actually walked into the bank, which seems like a good way to get shot by the cops. So can you tell us how that works?

Moran Cerf: [00:07:30] Sure. As a hacker, your main job is usually to sit at home and try to hack into the system virtually and just kind of move money the way it’s done in movies. But the mandate that you get is actually even bigger; they also say you can test also the organization. Like if you think that’s the person who will pose to this person isn’t the right one, maybe someone calls and says there’s a hack. Who is the person who gets the call and connect with it? Sometimes systems don’t have that and then you have to help them just structure the system to respond to a hackfest. That’s another thing that hackers do. Sometimes it’s just about the safety of the system. Maybe there’s a camera that’s supposed to monitor the thing, but it’s on the street outside and you can just knock it and that’s it. Now you can enter the back with no one seeing.

[00:08:14] There’s a lot of things that you have to check. That’s called physical organizational, and that’s in the charter of hackers. Most of the times we don’t do that because we’re not good at that. This is not our bread and butter. What we know to do is how to hack. But every now and then, my team and I said, “Let’s actually try to exercise this line the contract says that we can actually try and rob the bank and see how it works.” We did that multiple times by really going to banks and coming in ski masks and pretend guns and like saying, “This is a robbery, give us the money,” and do all of that. We did it in small branches where it’s not going to be a problem. We did it by usually telling the bank’s kind of security system in advance that we’re going to do that, it’s just the tellers don’t know —

Jordan Harbinger: [00:08:58] Oh, the teller doesn’t know. So you walk in with guns and she’s like, “Oh, man, I should have written my will. I’ve got to call my kids.” That’s got to be illegal in the US.

Moran Cerf: [00:09:08] I bet it’s illegal to an extent and you have to do a lot of things before, but I think it’s actually something that should be tested. So if it’s illegal, then there should be some way to make it legal such that it will actually be tested. Maybe you have to contact the security, maybe have to tell the bank teller that it will happen at some point in the next year, so they know what to do. The point is that if you don’t practice something, then when real things happen, you don’t know what to do.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:09:31] Yeah, that’s a good point. I mean, I guess if you just tell the bank teller, “Look there’s a fake bank robbery happening. I’m not going to tell you much more than that, but just they’re not going to shoot you. I’m going to be here. They work for us. Don’t panic, they’re wearing this, this, and this. So when they come in, you know, act as you normally would, but you’re not going to die.” That’s like the bare minimum you should tell this poor gal working at the front.

Moran Cerf: [00:09:53] I think that’s the right way to do it, but I really think that if you don’t try it, then the first test is when it’s happening, and that’s not a good idea.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:01] No, that’s a good point. Yeah, like, “Oh, turns out we shouldn’t leave the key to the vault in the lock of the vault because someone can just jump over the counter.”

Moran Cerf: [00:10:09] Post-it Note that says the password is here.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:12] And you’ve seen stuff like that, right?

Moran Cerf: [00:10:13] Yeah, all the time.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:14] “Oh, the password is really long and complicated, so we just wrote it on everybody’s keyboard. We printed it out with a label maker.”

Moran Cerf: [00:10:20] Exactly.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:21] Well, I know you’ve mentioned that you to attribute a lot of your understanding of the brain and the way that you research a lot of the neuroscience that you’re doing to time spent breaking codes and doing pentesting. Can you give us an example of maybe something you’ve used in hacking that you’re using a neuroscience?

Moran Cerf: [00:10:39] For example, a few years ago when we were hackers, we were tasked with breaking into a big telecom company, so one of those like AT&T, T-Mobile, one of those big companies. We tried any possible way and we failed, so we couldn’t get in. Then we tried the old-fashioned way, which is you just call and you kind of ask the person for the password. So the way it went is we waited for Friday afternoon, like around 5:00 p.m., when people really want to go home to call and start nagging the person on the other side of things. And what actually happened was that the teller on the side of let’s call them AT&T, for the sake of just this illustration

Jordan Harbinger: [00:11:21] It’s hypothetically AT&T.

Moran Cerf: [00:11:23] Let’s call it AT&Q.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:11:25] AT&Q.

Moran Cerf: [00:11:26] So it will be misleading. So we called the person there and we say, “Hi. We are the technician on the ground somewhere and there’s a failed cell tower and we can’t access it to fix it. Please give us the password,” and she said, “No, I’m trying not to give it to you, so no.” And we say, “No, no, trust us. It’s really us. Look at the monitor. You see that there is a broken cell tower in this particular place that we telling you about,” and she looks and it is indeed the case. There is a broken cell tower. And we tell her, “Look, it’s Friday afternoon right now. If we don’t fix it, it’s going to be broken for the entire weekend and hundreds of people won’t have reception for the entire time. Help us fix this.” She says, “No, I’m not going to do that. I’m not going to give you the password on the phone.” Then we say, “Look we even remember the first three letters, like it’s AQL. So you trust us that we just forgot the last three.” We’re kind of convincing her in any possible way. Bottom line, she says no. We hang up the phone and we said, “Okay, that’s it. Failed.” Then on Monday morning, the chief security officer for that company comes to the office, learns about the incident where there was no kind of reception for the entire weekend, and the technician called and this woman didn’t give the password, and he is proud of her. “That’s amazing. You did this thing that was supposed to be a test and you managed to do it.” He called her and said, “I want to actually make your case into a big story in the company. I’m going to circulate an email to the entire company telling everyone what happened, how you were under stress and pressure to give the password, but you didn’t do it the way you shouldn’t.” Everything is great and he starts talking to her and ask her questions, like, “Tell us a little about yourself. How long have you been in the company? How long have you been in this position? Where did you go to school?” And as she gives all the answers, the company gets hacked and all of the data is stolen. That’s because not only was the person calling her on Friday me, but also the person calling her on Monday morning was me. We pretended to be the chief security officer, and in asking her questions, we basically got all the information we need about her to let us in — her mother’s maiden name, the school she went to, the pet — everything we needed to know to basically pretend to be her, get her password, and now to get through her account to everything.

[00:13:26] Now this is the hack in the computer world, but what we learned from that is that people tend to really trust someone from the inside a lot more than they trust someone from the outside. If I try to start telling you information right now that you think is not true, you have all the filters in the world to not let it into your brain. you’d say, “This is not accurate. Fake news. I don’t believe it,” and you’re going to stop it from getting it into your brain. But once it’s in your brain, you trust it. So if someone from the inside contacts you and says, “Hey this is what happens,” you tend to not vet that information. That’s something that we know about the brain, meaning everything that’s in your head that got there, you think is fact. For instance, if someone tells you right now that we’re not here, that you and I are —

Jordan Harbinger: [00:14:09] That I am not in a recording studio with Moran Cerf.

Moran Cerf: [00:14:11] Someone says, “Actually, you’re at home right now waking up in bed.” “So what do you mean? I see Moran in front of my eyes. I have all the sensations of that. What are you talking about?” You would not let any arguments convince you otherwise because you learned all your life to trust your mind, so whatever your mind says is true. If someone tomorrow says that your memory of today is not accurate and it didn’t happen, you would say, “What are you talking about?” It doesn’t matter how many videos you show me of me hanging out in the beach. It doesn’t matter how many people you bring that say, “Hey, yesterday we were playing golf in the morning.” Whatever, all of the information in the world would not change your mind because you are trained through millions of years of evolution to trust your own mind and that is what’s now under scrutiny because hackers of the brain can actually get into your mind and change how you think. And that is something that we don’t know how to deal with. Our brain’s not trained to not trust itself. We have this tagline in my lab that says “Don’t believe everything you think.”

Jordan Harbinger: [00:15:02] Don’t believe everything you think.

Moran Cerf: [00:15:04] That is the new world that we’re going to have to get used to. A world where our own thoughts might be fair game for hackers.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:15:14] Especially with deepfakes, and I know this is slightly different than what you’re talking about. With deepfakes, you can watch a video of yourself doing something. Most people have not seen deepfakes of themselves. There’s a tool that an acquaintance made called Descript and I use it for the podcast sometimes. It’s a transcription service. But one thing that they have that is not public is called Lyre, L-Y-R-E, very clever, and if you tell it which voice is yours and you give it permission and you give them permission, I can type out words in my voice and I run hundreds of hours of audio through it and I can make myself say something. So if I wanted to put a clever little joke in the middle of this and I didn’t have time or I say a word weird and I want to get rid of it and I say it in a proper way, I can type it out and put it in there, but if I get a bunch of your talks and I feed it in there and these guys are sleeping and I give it permission to edit your voice, which is something they’ve protected against, I could play audio of you saying something really different that you would never say, or horrible, or something negative about your friends, and I could play it for you, and you would then have to go, “There’s no way I said that, but I’m listening to my own voice say it.” It sounds pretty damn real.

Moran Cerf: [00:16:28] The new movie by Marilyn Monroe. You take a dead person and make a new movie with them.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:16:32] It’s only a matter of time. “Oh, this is a Fred Astaire, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., and Audrey Hepburn starring in a new action movie with Hulk Hogan. 10 years from now, we’ll have that, maybe 20. I don’t know.

Moran Cerf: [00:16:46] So this really brings us to the world where I took the example from the hacking and to now the brain. Where we are going to have to start thinking about our own thinking and vet it and say, “You know what? This is a thought that I know comes from my mind, but I don’t think I like this thought and even though I came up with it, I don’t trust it and I’m going to have to have a friend or someone from the outside tell me, ‘Could this be a thought that I would come up with, or is someone in my head making me say something that’s not me?'” This kind of changes everything when it comes to what is reality, not just from the outside, but within our own mind. That’s a risky, scary future.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:17:20] What happens if we can’t trust our own memory, our own eyes, our own ears? Our own thoughts might not be totally accurate?

Moran Cerf: [00:17:29] I have an answer and I’ll tell you also why I think it’s risky. The risk comes from the fact that the entire world we built up to now relies on your internal decision- making being the main driver of your behavior. We have sentences like, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” suggesting that, at the end of the day, you know what’s beautiful. Or “The voter knows best.” So if you can leave the voter in the ballot, they actually know what to do. Or “The customer’s always right.” All of those assume that at the end of the day, left to your own devices, you reach into your mind, you dig in, and thoughts come up that are your thoughts. And now this is not only the case, so we really have to change it in our system. Like voting might look different, purchases might look different, marketing might not be needed because you just make a person buy. You don’t need to convince them to do it. All of those things are going to be very different. The solution in two words: April Fools’. What I used to tell my friends as a joke, but based on the hacking world, is that “I’m surprised that April Fools’ is the only day of the year that we can be actually skeptical.” In April Fools’, if your wife comes to you and says, “Hey, this is what I’m doing,” you say, “I don’t know. I know her and I know that this is not something that she would actually do, so let me think about it.” Otherwise, you just trust everything. It’s a funny kind of idea that you suddenly start to vet everything, but this is how we should be.

[00:18:48] If hackers would be asked, “What should we do to prevent someone getting into our system?” They will tell you “You can’t.” If someone decided to hack into a system, they will succeed. Usually they try a broad net, and that’s why you’re safe, because they don’t care about you. But if you’re running for office and the entire world is looking at you, and they try to find dirt on you, they’re going to be able to find it if it’s in your computer. The only way to respond is to assume that you already have been hacked and do what you do then. Meaning if you imagine not that you’re trying to build the biggest firewall to stop it, but if someone already got in and you say, “Okay. Now that someone got in, what can I do? Maybe I’ll change my password in the morning to stop them from getting whatever they already got. Maybe I will tell my friends, ‘Guys, I’m not sure I can vet any email that comes out of my inbox, so you guys check that it makes sense.'” Maybe you check previous sent emails on your computer to see that you can remember sending everyone. You do all kinds of things that you do when someone is already in. This is how you have to treat I think reality in a world where our brains can be hacked. You have to say, “Even though I said it, I want to revisit that. I want to maybe change my mind about things I said.” You want to actually tell your friends, “You help me see if there’s consistency in my thoughts, so I can kind of reflect on that.” You basically do things as if you already are not in control and you try to respond to that.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:20:02] Yeah, so it’s not just skepticism. It’s sort of putting a check and balance on yourself and thinking like, “All right, is this me, does this make sense, is what I’m seeing rational in some way?” It seems like you could go overboard with that and become almost paralyzed by this.

Moran Cerf: [00:20:19] It’s the balance we have to strike, same way we do in April Fool. We’re kind of skeptical, but we also still live in the world and still interact and so on. I think that it’s going to become more intuitive as it becomes the lay of the land, like as people start doing that, but it definitely requires a change of how we think. It’s a change of the systems. All of the system that we rely on one decision as the key thing like you just put the note in the ballot and that’s it. We might need to be like something that you do in multiple days, so you can kind of do an average of three. All kinds of things would have to change to allow for this, but it will be the response to our world where everything else is kind of unsafe.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:20:52] Right. Unsafe, uncertain.

Jason DeFillippo: [00:20:53] You’re listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Moran Cerf. We’ll be right back.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:21:01] This episode is sponsored in part by SimpliSafe. According to studies just over 10% of break-ins are planned beforehand. The rest are spur of the moment. So if someone’s walking by driving by and decides that your house looks like a prime target. Most break-ins happened between 6a.m. and 6 p.m. while you’re at work in the middle of the day and the average burglary costs around two grands. That’s kind of a pain in the butt. Homes without home security systems are three times more likely to be broken into. Come on you’re going to have presents under the tree. You don’t want somebody breaking in and taking your stuff. In fact, that’s prime time for porch pirates and other people that are going to kick down your door and take your stuff or your kids’ stuff, which is just sad. What’s crazy one in five homes have home security and that’s because a lot of these other companies out there, they don’t make it easy. Everything’s ghetto old. You’ve got to have a sales guy come in and install some ’90s gear in your house. SimpliSafe, they’re not into that. 24/7 professional monitoring, no contract, no hidden fees, no fine print, around-the-clock monitoring, 15 bucks a month. Protect every door, every window. They got the sensors. It’s the security system of the future. Jason, tell them where they can get a deal.

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Jordan Harbinger: [00:22:28] This episode is also sponsored by KiwiCo. As most of you probably know by now, Jen and I recently had our child, Jayden. He’s a couple months old now. He’s already growing more and more each day. He plays by kicking things with his feet because that seems to be what he can do primarily. There so many responsibilities when it comes to raising a child one of the biggest is of course ensuring their preparation for their hopefully bright future. By developing and nurturing their curious minds, and KiwiCo has these cool toy crates. It’s sort of beyond toy crates. It’s a learning crate. There’s toys and activities that stimulate kids’ brains appropriately for their age. For example, infant’s eyes and other senses not really fully developed, so KiwiCo includes sensory play with toys that have crinkle sounds, soft little tags, black and white high-contrasting images to help them develop more advanced sensory discoveries. But KiwiCo has boxes for every age and they include instruction cards that teach the parents the reasons behind each toy, what to encourage the baby or the young kid to do, some parenting pro tips, and ideas for how to use the toys. The stuff is really high-quality. I got to say it’s not just a bunch of cheap crap in a crate that they expect you to throw out or recycle. It’s legit and they’ve got stuff for 0 to 24 months. They’ve also got all the way up to 16 with their more advanced stuff. It’s all STEM stuff — science, technology, engineering, math and, of course, a little bit of art as well. They’ve partnered with child development experts. I mean the stuff is well thought out and well produced and we’ve got a little deal for you. Jason.

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[00:24:20] Thanks for listening and supporting the show. And to learn more and get links to all the great discounts you just heard from our amazing sponsors, visit jordanharbinger.com/deals. And don’t forget we have a worksheet for today’s episode, so you can make sure you solidify your understanding of the key takeaways for Moran Cerf. That link is in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com/podcast. If you’d like some tips on how to subscribe to the show, just go to jordanharbinger.com/subscribe. Subscribing to the show is absolutely free. It just means that you get all of the latest episodes downloaded automatically to your podcast player, so you don’t miss a single thing. And now back to our show with Moran Cerf.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:25:08] He had the school experiment. I think this is during one of your TED Talks, one of your many TED Talks. You had people hooked up to electrodes because they were, I think, undergoing medical treatment. But in the meantime, they’re just waiting to have I guess some sort of minor seizure or maybe not minor. You’re like, “Well, now, that we’ve got electrodes in your head, let’s have you watch some movies. Let’s have you watch the movie trailers. Let’s have you look at some photos,” and seeing where their brains were most engaged. This is really interesting. You could see when somebody was interested in Marilyn Monroe, I think was the example that you used, or interested in The Simpsons as opposed to watching, I don’t know, historical footage. Where were you able to make predictions off of what people are engaged in? How can we use that?

Moran Cerf: [00:25:51] So to explain what we’re looking into, those are patients who have brain disorders of sorts — typically epilepsy — that has a specific location in the brain that causes it. If you can find the location where the problem is and take it out, we can fix them. They try all kinds of things and one of the things that they try is to go through a brain surgery where a surgeon opens their brain, sticks electrodes inside their head around the location that we think the problem emerges from, then we record the brain activity continuously for days until the problem that they have manifests itself and then we see exactly what it started, then we take it out. So that’s the clinical procedure. They come, electrodes are placed in their head, and they just sit there and then you wait. They could wait two or three weeks. Their brain activity is continuously recorded while, hopefully, they’re going to at some point have a seizure that we can trace and figure out what the origin of that is. That’s the clinical part.

[00:26:43] Then I come and I say, “You know, you’re all going to be here for the next two weeks basically sitting in bed and just watching movies and reading books, talking to your friends while your brain is being monitored. Do you mind also me asking questions about your movies that you prefer, the sport teams that you like, whatever, and looking at your brain from the inside and seeing how what you say matches what your brain tells me?” And then they, of course, say yes. Typically, we do in the morning as we just ask them questions about their life. We talked to him for hours. “Tell me about your favorite friend, about your favorite food, about places you visited.” As they speak, we look at their brain and suddenly we see for instance that when they speak about Marilyn Monroe and they say, “I really love this movie of Marilyn Monroe,” a little cell in her brain starts firing. I say, “Hey, we think that we see a brain cell that came to life just when he spoke about Marilyn Monroe. Let’s try again.” “Tell me again about your favorite five actors.” And she says, “Marlon Brando and —

Jordan Harbinger: [00:27:33] Audrey Hepburn.

Moran Cerf: [00:27:34] Audrey Hepburn, and Marilyn Monroe.” Marilyn Monroe, the word’s said, and boom, the cell fires. I say “Okay, it seems to correlate with this,” and then we try to do things like show her pictures of my remodel and the cell still fires. We try to have her close her eyes and imagine Marilyn Monroe, and the cell fires. So we basically found in her brain, a cell, typically, it’s a few of them that code the concept of Marilyn Monroe. This is what thinking of Marilyn Monroe looks like from inside your brain. A set of cells coming to life. Now that we find those cells and presumably, we found multiples of the Marilyn Monroe cells, Eiffel Tower cells, Apple computer cells. Arbitrary memories that you have in your mind that we now know exactly the location and when they’re triggered, we can do things like ask you questions about your preferences. So say something like name the things you love the most and they start naming them and we look at Marilyn Monroe and we see that the Marilyn Monroe maybe starts to bubble up getting ready to be executed as a memory before she even says Marilyn Monroe, so we can see her thoughts coming to her. We can see that it kind of comes when she thinks about things she loved. We can start mapping, not only the memories themselves, but also the connection and whether they are positive or negative and so on. In the content of engagement, what we’ll do is we try to see not only how your memories work, but also how similar they are to other people’s memories.

[00:28:52] For instance, if your set of memories are coming up in sequence that resembles that of other people who maybe bought a ticket for the movie, who’ve maybe written in surveys that they loved the movie and so I can predict that you actually will look like them. I can start saying, okay, give me just one brain that I know a lot about and let’s start seeing how similar other brains are to that brain versus very different than it. If they’re all similar, we can basically say okay, there’s something profound about these people that they all experienced something similar. If one of them tells me what I experienced is love. then we know that all 2,000 of them actually experience love, and we can start predicting that the movie’s going to do well because 2,000 people look the same when they watch this movie.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:29:32] That’s so interesting. Are you able to tell if somebody loves Marilyn Monroe or if they’re thinking about like a traumatizing thing that they don’t like? You can tell the difference?

Moran Cerf: [00:29:42] Yes, because we typically also find not just Marilyn Monroe, Eiffel Tower, Apple computer cells. We also find love cells or hate cells or ambivalence cells. What we see is that when I ask you questions about Marilyn Monroe, Marilyn Monroe cells light up, but also love cells light up. Okay, that’s very clear, it’s love of this item. If I ask you about something you don’t like, you still see the thing that you don’t like coming up, but then they say Apple computers, but also negative emotions come. So we can start mapping the combination to experience not just thought but of valence of results.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:30:13] Wow, the more specific that gets, the creepier it becomes in some ways.

Moran Cerf: [00:30:17] The creepiest thing is that it typically happens under the hood, as in you don’t know it. We would know sometimes seconds before you know what’s about to happen in your mind. So we can say right now negative thoughts are emerging, something bad is happening. Like whatever she’s seeing right now in the movie is making her feel bad, she’s going to start crying in 10 seconds. And then I know that you’re going to start crying in 10 seconds and you don’t know it yet. Like if I stop the movie right now five seconds before and I say, “What are you feeling?” She would say, “Nothing. It’s just a regular movie.” And I know that if I just let your movie run for five seconds more, it’s going to burst.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:30:50] Wow, that’s wild. So computers will be able to, not predict, but actually read our emotions before we’d necessarily display them.

Moran Cerf: [00:30:59] Read them and also in a positive way to maybe change them. I think that the idea would be that Universal Studios would make two versions of the movie. If they see that the kids are starting to feel bad during the movie, they’re going to just re-write the narrative to a different one, so they never get sad.

Jordan Harbinger: Oh, that’s really cool. Do you think then in the future will have virtual reality, or maybe not virtual reality, but I guess it’s easier to make different versions of things in VR, teachers, doctors? I’m trying to think who has a really important role that needs to be sensitive — teachers and doctors are what comes to mind first. Like a doctor has to be able to say, “You’ve got stage 3 cancer and don’t get upset and freaked out right now. We can treat it but they figure out a way to tell you specifically based on how you’ve reacted to countless movies, conversations. Teachers, especially I couldn’t pay attention in school to save my life. Imagine what I would have been if I’d had a teacher that knew how to talk to me based on when I get distracted and real me back in instead of just yelling at me to pay attention.

Moran Cerf: [00:31:57] I’ll give you two levels: the near future and farther future. The near future is already happening. What you just said is what we call near future; it is already happening. Right now, there are a number of companies. I’m even involved in one of them to try to help school kids to basically say, “Come to the classroom as a student; we’re going to put devices on your head that measure brain activity and the teacher is going to teach you while getting access to what’s going on in your mind.” The teacher sits there and speaks to the students but on her monitor, she sees kind of a summary of the brain activity of the students telling this to the teacher: they’re getting it. She starts speaking, and the monitor says, “Every one of the students, move on,” and she’s just going to say, “Okay guys, you all got the long division. Let’s move on.” Or the opposite. It says: “Student number three and seven didn’t get it.” She just can say, “Okay, the two of you, let me explain it to you in a different way, just the two of you.” Or it can say, “Everyone got it, but it’s really boring, so think of a different example for the next class.” She will just get a kind of real-time feedback on what works out so she can move on faster if everyone got it or say it in different ways if no one got it, or just target the other students that didn’t get it and kind of help them. That’s happening right now. Monitoring the students in real time and giving the teacher feedback.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:33:01] That’s amazing.

Moran Cerf: [00:33:2] Version two of that, still happening right now, is one where you kind of align the brain of a teacher and the brain of students. You look at all the teachers, look at their brains, look at the students and their brains, and you basically match them. You say, “This teacher the way he speaks, the way he thinks about the world, aligns perfectly with student one, three, and seven, but not with two, five, and eight. So let’s create classrooms where we perfectly match teachers and students so they speak the same language and they kind of think the same way.” Right now, we match classes by age. Basically all seven-year-olds, same classroom, but maybe some seven-year-olds are really into someone speaking fast. Some like it very, very slow. Some like examples that are very visual and some like equations. We can actually create ways to teach a person based on their specific needs. That would be speeding up their education.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:33:50] So like I’m in the classroom with the people who listen to things well, but can’t stare at a book for three hours.

Moran Cerf: [00:33:57] And a teacher that also speaks like that. So that’s right now. So I call it near future to present because it’s already happening. It’s just something that’s done mostly by companies in a very specific kind of small setting. It’s not something that is offered to everyone. Unfortunately, it’s in the making. Doctors, there are some that are fact-based, some that are more empathy-based. Same idea, you’re going to have a doctor, the system would know how you think and would match with a doctor that can talk to you in a way that if she or he needs to explain to you what you’re going through, they’re going to use the same language. In a way doctors and teachers are the same in this idea because it’s content. We want a person to talk to another person and deliver content to them, whether it’s learning content or medical content in a way that will resonate. We can now match it. Here’s the future. It won’t be human. It will be a machine. Because as you get to learn everything about Jordan and know what he wants and give him the perfect match, it turns out that the ideal way is to take all of your history, learn who you are, and find someone that can instantly get all information and ideally change for that and know that right now you’re experiencing some symptoms of emerging sadness because of the news that you got from the doctor. The doctor needs to adapt and become from fact-based to empathy-based and instead of just bringing a different doctor for that and bringing one for that and one for this, we will just have an AI that can automatically shift and align with you and know in real time what you’re going through and all your history and just allow you to perfectly that’s the future.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:35:23] I’m wearing goggles or something and the doctor’s talking to me and goes, as soon as it senses that I’m about to start losing it, is like, “But I’m going to be really sympathetic in the next few minutes, calm you down, and bring you back to where we can function in it.”

Moran Cerf: [00:35:35] The bad news. Now the good is a little bit, now the hope. Now bad news again. Now bring your wife because she can calm you down in this thing. Now someone else that is a friend of yours who is actually an expert in this thing that will help you when I’m not here, so you can call them afterwards. Now bring their family members who were going to be — basically orchestrate an entire experience for you that would be the best way to make sure that you understand what you need to understand, do what you need to do, your behavior is going to be aligned, and not go through stress in a way that you can’t handle.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:36:03] Amazing. There’s a dark side to this though, right? Because I’m imagining them going, “Wow, if we can keep everyone engaged and bring them news in a way that doesn’t trigger a negative emotional reaction, then we want to do that for our government propaganda or whatever? Like North Korea wants in on this. Well, every country wants in on this.

Moran Cerf: [00:36:23] There’s five questions I get asked every time I do a neuroscience talk. The talk was about one of them was about the ethics of that, like being able to perfect the messaging to a person and the answer is that it’s very risky. It’s not new like marketing have been doing that for the last 80 years trying to find it, just a lot more efficient at scale and it’s a double-edged sword. It’s going to make our life much more efficient and best and like experiences are going to be ideal tailored for us. But also, companies can use that to, at the very least, sell us more Captain Crunch.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:36:53] That’s right. I mean, you think Facebook ads are engaging now, just wait until they’re tailor-made for your brain at that specific time of day, the current mood that you have right now.

Moran Cerf: [00:37:03] There’s a saying that I tell my students in the business school, that spam is spam because of bad targeting. Like if you get an email that is like, you’re looking for a lamp and suddenly an email comes with a lamp that you really want with a price, that’s not spam any more. That’s perfect. Like you just had a thought and it came. Only when it comes and you don’t need something and say, “Ah, spam,” and you delete it. They’re going to eliminate spam. They’re going to know what you want and give you everything you want at the right time.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:37:27] That’s right. Like, “Who keeps trying to sell me penis pills?” But if you’re online, like, [searching for] cheap penis pills from India, I would love it if that just showed up in my inbox. Like then, you’re right, then it’s not spam, right? You are known for speaking fast, which I think is funny. You’re doing obviously great job right now, but I think it is funny that people tell you you speak fast. What happened when you went to Japan? You gave a talk. I know you had a translator.

Moran Cerf: [00:37:46] This show is normally one hour; we’re going to finish in 10 minutes. People should have to play it at double — 2x to understand!

Moran Cerf: [00:37:54] What happens to me oftentimes, there are funny, comical moments that come with speaking fast in places that can’t keep up. So when I was in Japan, I had to give a talk to a room full of executives and there were two translators. They brought two because they said, “You speak so fast it’s going to tire one of them. In the one-hour talk, we’re going to alternate.” And I’ll get to the point quickly. I give a talk and I kind of tried to navigate my talk based on the audience. I started and I said, “If this joke is going land well, I’m going to continue with this kind of angle, and if not, I’m going to go with this angle. Something to keep them more engaged. And whatever I tried worked beautifully because after the first joke that didn’t land, the second through the fifth one, everyone was laughing at the right time, clapping in the right time, asking the right questions at the end, all of the indicators that things really were engaging. Then only in the reception in the evening when I met the translator and I asked her how it went, she said, “Well, it was pretty difficult. You spoke very, very fast. The first time you told a joke, I saw that no one got it because it was too complicated. So from the second time and onward, I translated your sentences as something like: ‘The speaker just told a joke. Please laugh!'”

Jordan Harbinger: [00:39:00] She’s like, “Everyone laugh right now!”

Moran Cerf: [00:39:03] Yes. She told them, “Clap right now, ask this question,” so basically she was puppeteering a room of 2,000 people with what questions to ask, when to nod their heads. All they heard was like a director cut telling them like, “Nod your head. He’s looking at you,” like, you know, kind of like, what is it called? A Truman Show. I was the only person who basically was in this talk.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:39:23] Would you rather have not known that happened, or are you glad that you found out?

Moran Cerf: [00:39:27] I find it amusing. I have the strategy that says like, good stories happen to those who can tell them. If something happens that’s embarrassing and so on, immediately tell a story about it publicly. That’s helping you resolve.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:39:41] I think that makes sense. Look, I would want to know if I were in your shoes, but just not in real time. In real time, I’d want to believe that I was actually really funny.

[00:39:51] I know that you talked about, you hinted at anyway, that one day we’ll be able to have chips in our brain. We can maybe outsource complex thought processes to this, among other things, like complex math. I think the example you gave was chess. Are we going to be able to use our brain to maybe tell the chip to calculate the answer? Or maybe even something like, “I’m looking for furniture; find me furniture that I want that’s going to look good in the house that’s going to jibe with other things I have in my brain. Return the results to me.” I mean how sort of detailed are we able to get with us?

Moran Cerf: [00:40:25] First of all, we should say that right now in the US, there are about 4,000 people that only have a chip inside their head for clinical purposes. So someone opened their brain —

Jordan Harbinger: [00:40:33] Like a cochlear implant or something.

Moran Cerf: [00:40:34] This would be usually a stimulator in their head that stops them having seizures or something that regulates hormones and chemicals in their brain. For Parkinson to stop the tremor, you can reverse the current. So those are people had a problem and the solution was to put a chip in their head. The chip right now is a digital device in their head that does one thing. But we know that if you put a CPU in your head, you can just turn on other features and it will do more things. It’s not made for one thing. It’s made for a host of things. We just use one of them. In that sense, having people with a chip inside their head is already reality. It’s just that we use it only for one purpose and not more. This will become I think a bigger reality as people will start to see the benefit and as we’ll find different ways to get the chip inside. Right now, you need to have a surgery, which is why they’re only used in clinical areas. But a lot of people in Silicon Valley are spending a lot of time trying to find ways to get stuff into your head without drilling a hole in one. There are other ways to do it, once you get that to be chip-efficient, risk level lower —

Jordan Harbinger: [00:41:35] Yeah, make it a little safer.

Moran Cerf: [00:41:37] Then it will become a thing. What does it feel like to have a chip Inside your head? The way I think about it is the way we think about the mathematics for instance. If I ask you how much is two plus five, the answer just came up. Now for that answer to come up, you actually had to go through like a five-system interaction. You had to hear my words, turn them into symbols. What is two? What is plus? What is five? To send this equation to the front of your brain where there’s a system that does computation. Then calculated the number seven, sent it back where the symbol seven becomes a word seven and you express it, all of those things happened. You were blind to all of that. It all happened under the hood in your brain, but there are multiple systems each doing its own job and you have overseen this entire thing and you get the answer when it comes up. You don’t even know what happened under. Now, imagine if you replace one of them with a chip. Instead of asking how much two plus five is and getting the answer from the frontal lobe, there’s going to be a chip inside your head that does computations and gives it back to you. For every other system, it would look the same. It wouldn’t even know that there was not a frontal lobe calculation, but that it was done by a chip. It will be one system asking the other, and getting the answer after a few seconds, thinking it and moving on. If you have a chip that can do computations that are digital ones rather than analog ones, then you can also ask the question, “How much is 11 times 47?” which is going to be harder for your brain, but it’s going to be easy for your phone, for instance. So all you have to think about is like, as if your phone is now in your head.

[00:42:55] First of all, you wouldn’t know it, like you don’t even know which components are working. It will just feel like you just came up with 11 times 47, and what did the effort was a chip. And if you put this chip inside your brain, it can do more than just calculations. It can do anything that your phone can do right now. Everything it can do, it can be done. It can access Wikipedia and ask a question and you’ll just feel it. You’ll know when the French Revolution ended and how it went.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:43:20] I’ll just that’s the question so it’s not like Siri saying, “Hey, Jordan, the French Revolution ended in 1740.” It’s like I just suddenly feel like I know the answer or maybe I’m trying to put this in a case of like online shopping. So instead of saying, “Hey, Jordan, you just finished this book by Moran Cerf. You might also like these three books.” I just feel like I should pick up my phone and then I look at the screen and it’s already purchased, downloaded, and installed in Audible or whatever another book that it already knows I like, but I didn’t — it didn’t tell me to pick up my phone. I just went, “I’ve got to pick up my phone. Oh, okay.” Subconscious.

Moran Cerf: [00:43:58] The same way you know how much is two plus five without thinking. I’m going send it to thinker and come back. You just know the answer. In the same way, when you feel like you want to pick a book, you just pick the book. You would just feel that you want to pick this book and you wouldn’t even know that behind the scene was like, “Let’s look at the recommendations and see…” You will just pick up a book and that would be the book that you wanted. You wouldn’t know that for that to happen, your brain actually searched 10 different books in what people like you wanted and figured out that your best choice is this and this is what you will feel you just wanted to do.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:44:28] That then has digital interface, we could really give people super senses for specific purposes in a way that doesn’t violate someone’s privacy per se or at least not in the same way. Because right now if I go through the TSA scanner and remember they had the whole like, “Oh, my god, they can see us naked on the scanner.” You remember that whole thing? Well instead of, “Oh, my God, they can see us naked on the scanner,” that person might have an implant that searches for weapons just using their eye and then they just say, “I feel like we need to search that person more,” not “I can see them naked in my super scanner vision,” just, “That person is carrying something. My brain tells me that they are; I can’t see their junk, though.”

Moran Cerf: [00:45:08] For the person it might even seem like you just see it. You just see people walking around and one of them has a gun on them and you just say, “Hey, you, come with the gun.” The same way you might know if someone has a gun on their shoulders or in their pocket, you just see something popping up and it will just be visible.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:45:23] Experienced cops can do that, like, “Look at the way he’s walking. He’s packing heat,” or at least in all the movies that I watch. They can do that.

Moran Cerf: [00:45:29] This would be it. It wouldn’t feel like we’re actually doing processing. The interface, this scanner is our sensory processing that feeds into our brain, we just eliminated. In the same way, you will be the scanner, you will just see the people and say, “Okay, this person with a problem has come to us.” You wouldn’t say, “I’m feeling something.” You just like, see people and one of them will walk with like three dots on them. And you’ll say “What’s these three dots? What’s going on?” That’s it. It would just be intuition.

Jason DeFillippo: [00:45:53] You’re listening to the Jordan Harbinger show with our guest, Moran Cerf. We’ll be right back after this.

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[00:50:14] Thank you for listening and supporting the show. Your support of our advertisers keeps us on the air and to learn more and get links to all the great discounts you just heard so you can check out those amazing sponsors, visit jordanharbinger.com/deals. Don’t forget the worksheet for today’s episode. That link is in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com/podcast. If you’re listening to us in the Overcast player, please click that little star next to the episode. We really appreciate it. Now for the conclusion of our episode with Moran Cerf.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:50:42] So if that becomes intuition and our brains can make us feel things based on this chip that is connected to the internet, then my hacker brain, your hacker brain has to be firing and going, “Well, wait a minute, that means that somebody can go into our brain and make us feel something that is not necessarily based on our current perception. Maybe someone has hacked into my brain and made me feel like I need to give all my money to this random stranger.”

Moran Cerf: [00:51:07] So we’re going back to this to the beginning where we started in the same circle, which is the benefits that come with being able to expand the reality come with the risk that someone else is going to show us different realities. There is a risk. And I think society, and your audience, is the perfect kind of people to really start reflecting on that. Let’s decide if we want the benefits with the risks that come. That’s historically something that was always the case when technologies emerge that are good. When nuclear power became a thing, you could power our cities, but you could also make nuclear bombs. People have to decide whether they want the good with the bad. When the steam engine emerged, you could create trains that moved freight from New York to Los Angeles in 48 hours, and also move Jews to Auschwitz in the same thing. I think that society has to decide. In that sense, I think scientists are no better than anyone else. I can tell you what can be done and you can see with dollar signs all the good things that will come from you being able to make someone buy what you want, and you can see all the bad things that come with you being the product now and someone making you buy what they want. So all kinds of things happen when you make a choice. I would say that historically, humans have not been great in how we use technologies. Every time we could do something and we could use it for bad, we’ve used it for bad. That’s, I think, where we don’t have a good track record.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:52:24] Like right now if someone says, “This type of person should not be allowed to live anymore because they have inferior genes.” I go, “Wait a minute. That’s ridiculous.” All my critical thinking bells and alarms are going off. But what if they just make me and a million other people around me feel that way and we can’t quite put our finger on why, but it’s because they’re manipulating us to do that because we’re gearing up for a war with, I don’t know another country? Then I don’t have a chance to be going back full circle of what we started. I don’t have a chance to filter it before it gets in my brain. It starts in my brain.

Moran Cerf: [00:52:55] There’s many things right now. I think that the good news for us is that we can look a little bit at the best and see how it looked small scale and predict. Marketing is that. Propaganda is that. We already know that you can manipulate crowds of people to do things. It happened in history multiple times and we only think that they had some kind of free will because no one was in their head, but it was two steps. Good marketing people, good politicians, they’re all basically doing that. It’s just it because we have some way to filter, we believe that we had free will, but it’s not that far. Like, Mussolini and a lot of like authoritarians in the past, they were amazing in taking a crowd of people and mobilizing them to some behaviors that, individually, if you asked them, they didn’t want to do 10 minutes before the speech started. So this has happened.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:53:43] And that technology was reel-to-real tape, old 1920s microphones, and metal cables.

Moran Cerf: [00:53:51] Their interface was their ears and eyes. Now the interface is going to be different interface, but it still goes into this very, very fragile entity that sits between our ears — our brain — and changes a few neurons there and that’s it, you’d behave differently.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:54:05] So it’s like radio and television was their primary, not even television, just radio was their primary method of communication. Imagine if it’s beamed into everyone’s brain simultaneously, not through ears and eyes.

Moran Cerf: [00:54:15] There’s an experiment that I love from the ’80s, this guy Asch. It’s called the Conformity Experiment. Where he brings a 10 people to the lab and he says, “I’m going to show you a picture with two lines: one is very short, one is very long, and I’m going to ask you one by one to tell me if they’re the same length or not.” One by one he shows them cards one of them have the same length, one of them very, very different. Then he shows you, say, one card and the lines are the same, and he asks the first person, he says, “Same, same, same, same.” 10 people said, “The same,” move on. Then he shows another one where the lines are very different and he goes to the first person, who says “Different,” the second says “Different,” the third, so on. Then he goes to card number three and the lines are very different. But the first guy says “Same,” the second guy says “Same,” the third guy, “Same,” and what we’re interested in is what this guy number seven says —

Jordan Harbinger: [00:55:01] Because he’s the only normal.

Moran Cerf: [00:55:02] He’s the only normal subject. So everyone else is a confederate, and they agreed that on the third trial, they’re all going to give the wrong answer. And what we see is that guy number seven sees two lines that are clearly different length. But he hears the first guy saying “Same,” then the second guy saying “Same.” By the time they get to him, he says “Same.” so it takes what like five minutes and 10 people or nine people that change reality for you to also change your answers. We know that if you change your answers, you also start convincing yourself because of cognitive dissonance, that what you did was actually correct. By the time they leave the room, these people actually believe that they saw a line of the same length even though it’s different. And they’re going to convince others. That’s opening a world where our memories are malleable so much so that we can’t really trust ourselves. With small influence without a big kind of propaganda machine that tries to convince you just by you trying to conform and that’s ’80s. That’s 40 years ago.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:55:53] Yeah, there’s a videotape of that experiment, it’s like all grainy and everyone’s wearing these like, really short t-shirts and stuff. You can tell was like 1982 when they did this.

Moran Cerf: [00:56:02] This is the old-fashioned, easiest way to — and now we have a lot more efficient and complicated ways to do that. The extreme version is getting to your brain and  actually changing neurons mechanically. So you will wake up with different thoughts, but all of those are the same idea that you can have a fair game. That’s it. From then on, everything is different.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:56:21] We see this on social media too. If everyone’s saying, “Look at these people doing this,” and you keep getting bombarded with this filter bubble, then eventually you start to say, “Well, I know that the correct answer here is to get outraged by whatever news article shows up in my feed.”

Moran Cerf: [00:56:35] We have now studies in my lab on that, looking at like echo chambers and how they’re formed. We’re looking at what does your mind do to my mind just by us being in the same room? And it turns out that there’s a lot of things that happen between two brains that make them synchronize, when we’re experiencing the same content, that actually changes your thoughts without you really thinking them. The bottom line is that if you’re sitting in the room with people that are similar to you, you hear things differently than if they’re different from you. So the same room can have four people who say the same things, but the things get heard differently by different people and they get kind of — their processing is different, and they’re getting code that is different. So you can say the same things and be surprised that one person hears that, another person hears that, or you can manipulate what they hear. You can actually start really understanding how the brains influence each other and how echo chambers are formed.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:57:24] So that’s a great reason to listen to this show, because the more people and ideas that you’re around that are smart or skeptical or informed, the better off you are. It’s a warning, too, because if you and I are hanging out, we’re like, “Oh, this is good.” But then if I go home and I’m hanging out with a bunch of people who are sitting around smoking pot all day, talking negatively, hate their job, hate their life, and I’m going, “Good thing I’m not like them,” well, you’re becoming more like them through, I don’t know, osmosis or whatever the hell the natural process looks like.

Moran Cerf: [00:57:52] I guess the practical advice I would give: One is, generally, stories and communication are the best way to checks and balances — kind of creation of your own ideas. You bring people and you tell them your ideas. You voice them. You look at their response. You hear their views. You get the best way to analyze and process your own ideas. If you just think about them yourself and you don’t share them, you don’t broadcast them, you will be confined to your echo chamber. If you only talk to the same people that you talk to  all the time, you will get a bigger but still small chamber. The more you are exposed to other views, you will actually refine your ideas. The advice to people — that is not what people do right now — is go outside of your bubble and just talk to people that are not in your kind of sphere. At the very least, you will get exposed to different opinions. At best, you can actually get a more nuanced understanding of your own ideas. It’s good for you to be with the most extreme version of the other side as a way to really understand how thinking works. That’s the right amount.

[00:58:52] The last, number two, is if you actually want to change your behavior. If you have a behavior that you say you want to change, the best way to do it is to find people that exhibit the behaviour that you want and be next to them. Don’t ask them “How do you do it?” Don’t try to learn it. Just be next to them. Your brain will adopt those signals over time. If you’re the kind of guy who’s always late, you try your best to be on time, but you still always late and you want to be on time, just really put yourself next to people that are not that. People that intuitively are on time. A few days with them and you have to ask them, like, “How do you calculate time?” Just like by next time, it’s going to rub onto you by osmosis and you’ll become that somehow magically. It’s true for time. It’s true for thinking about complex ideas. It’s true for humor if you want to be funny. It’s true for like the opposite if you’re too much of a joker and you want to be a bit more serious. The people around you have a strong effect on who you are and you can get out of your bubble by being next to other people.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:59:44] That’s really interesting. There’s a sort of common trope among self-help people. You only go as high as your five closest friends, or you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Turns out there’s science behind that. It’s amazing.

Moran Cerf: [00:59:57] I think the one thing I would change in the world is I would knock out self-help. Self-help suggests that it’s about you helping yourself. How about like others help? Like, others help and you go and you help others, and others help you. This would be like the best way to actually change.

Jordan Harbinger: [01:00:12] Yeah, that’s a good point. So personal growth might be a better encompassing term, because you’re not really doing much. You’re in the room; they’re the ones who are helping you. There’s a really interesting experiment that you conducted where this magician was handing photos — you say, “Who’s the better-looking person?” Can you take us through this, because it really illustrates how we just lie to ourselves?

Moran Cerf: [01:00:30] Kind of have no vision. I will tell even what came up since the experiment came up the first time. So the experiment looks basically like that. A person, if you are a subject, comes to the lab. We tell you that we’re going to ask you now to choose who you find more attractive out of two options. We pull two cards with two pictures of, say, two women that you don’t know that are just strangers and we say, “Of those two, who do you find more attractive?” And you say, “The one on the right.” We say, “Fantastic. Take the card you selected and hold it in your hand and say in one sentence why you liked her.” So you look at the card and you say, “I really like her smile.” We say, “Fantastic. Put it on the side. Let’s try another one.” Pick two new cards, two different women. Again, you don’t know them; you look at them for a second, you say, “The one of the left.” We give you the card you chose and we ask you to explain why you chose this one. And you say, “I really like her hairstyle.” “Fantastic.” Let’s do it again and again for the next hour. We pull a hundred of pairs and we show you the pairs, you make a choice, you hold it, you explain, you move on. But here’s the trick, the guy that gives you the card isn’t just a regular guy, he’s a magician that we hired. And he uses sleight of hand in every one of 20 trials or so to give you the card you didn’t choose. If you chose card A, he hands you card B. The two interesting outcomes of the study were that A. First, people don’t notice that they didn’t get what they chose. They asked for A, they get B. They don’t say, “Sorry, I asked for A. You gave me B.” They just take B and hold it in their hand as if that was their choice. In the more interesting result is that they then hold the card that they didn’t choose, look at it, and explain to us why this was their choice. They chose A, they get B, they take B, and they say, “We like her because she has beautiful eyes.”

Jordan Harbinger: [01:02:07] So they got handed the wrong card, the one they didn’t choose, and then they begin to explain why they chose that card, just making up a story.

Moran Cerf: [01:02:15] Exactly right. They take 10 seconds from the moment their brain made a choice to the moment their brain is asked to explain the choice, and they came up with the different answer to the different choice. They don’t notice that this wasn’t the case. This kind of alarms us because it suggests that what we think is the core of who we are, the choices we make, is now fair game and someone can change that and we are going to not doubt that and we’re going to go with that.

[01:02:34] So if you think about the business world, if you go to the supermarket to buy a toothpaste, and you have on the shelf Colgate and Crest, and you debate between them and try to be as rational as possible about how to choose them and you look at the price and the taste and the package and whatever, and you choose one, the Colgate. You head to checkout to buy it and in between the moment you purchased it — you selected the Colgate and the moment you purchased it — I replace it with the Crest, you probably will just buy the Crest and go home with it. If I actually stop you on the way out and I say, “I’m from Procter & Gamble and I’m doing a survey and I want to know why you chose Crest. Please give me an answer,” you’re going to come up with an answer. And what we learned in the recent version of this study is that actually the more I ask you about it, the more I ask you to narrate your thoughts, you get more and more committed to the answer that you have, so much so that if I bring you back the day after and I say, “Jordan, let’s do it again. Let’s again show you the 100 cards that you’ve seen yesterday and just do the same thing as before.” If I show you two cards that you were seeing yesterday, when you chose A and I give you B and you explained B, this time you actually choose B. I showed you on day one A and B, you chose A, you got B, you explained it. On day two, you actually will choose it. In asking you to explain why you chose something, I made you create in your brain more connection associations towards B and it will actually make you behave B the day after. Think about it like in the world. It means that if I ask you more about the Crest in the supermarket and ask you, “Please explain to me why you like Crest and let’s do a focus group, and ask you why you like Crest more than Colgate,” you will convince yourself now that you want Crest, even though this wasn’t your choice 10 minutes ago. So much more that you’re going to from now on always buy Crest. If I were to give advice to a business company, I would say, “Don’t bother marketing to people. Just sneak it in their baskets. After they made a choice of whatever, put a different thing in and ask them why. By asking them why, you’re going to make them create in their mind the answer that you want. They’re going to do the marketing inside their head. They’re just going to buy whatever you want from then on, not just one time.

Jordan Harbinger: [01:04:26] Jeez, that’s crazy. We just sort of reinforce whatever choice they made or reinforce a choice they didn’t make and we’ve got them for life.

Moran Cerf: [01:04:36] The advice that I give to people that is difficult, but it’s good for companies and it’s good for individuals. I can summarize it by: “Don’t ask why as much.” The point is that if I just replace the two options and I give you one, you will take it, but you will leave home and tomorrow you’re going to choose the first thing again. You wouldn’t change. By asking you why, I make you reflect on the choice that you didn’t make and create associations for that new option, which actually then solidifies it in your brain. By asking someone why, you make them think and be confident in their answer. So if someone asks you, “Hey, why did you become what you became?”

Jordan Harbinger: [01:05:08] I just come up with a story.

Moran Cerf: [01:05:09] Exactly.

Jordan Harbinger: [01:05:10] But if I look at my actual history, it’s not really the reason.

Moran Cerf: [01:05:13] Exactly.

Jordan Harbinger: [01:05:14] You gave an example of guys named Dennis becoming dentists with a higher than chance probability. I assume that’s what’s going on here.

Moran Cerf: [01:05:23] Basically, there’s two aspects to it. One is if you ask Dennis “Why did you become a dentist?” then you make it worse, because by asking why you make them come up with an answer, and then now they’re going to actually believe the answer more than the truth and from now on their answer becomes a reality and they’re going to follow the answer and that’s where it becomes really hard. So if you don’t ask why, they’re going to not know why, they’re not going to not reflect. The reason it works actually something that we call implicit egotism, which is that a person whose name is Dennis works in the world many, many days and hears his name being called. “Excuse me, sorry. You called me?” And the person says, “No, I didn’t call I just spoke to our dentist.” “Oh, sorry.” But the word dentist has emerged in his life. He just hears about dentists so much more than us that when he becomes 35 and he is to choose a profession, actually the weights towards dentistry are much higher in his brain. He just heard about dentists a lot more and thinks that they’re everywhere. He actually chooses to be one, not because he really chose to be a dentist after thinking about all the options, somehow in his mind he just thinks it’s just, “I guess everyone is a dentist, so I should be one too.”

Jordan Harbinger: [01:06:24] And then, of course, if we ask him, he’s like, “Well, I always wanted to help people and the anatomy of the mouth is interesting and I like talking to people when they can’t talk back.” I don’t know, whatever.

Moran Cerf: [01:06:33] The why is the enemy of many things because it forces us to collapse into an answer and go with it and then we get convinced and, from then on, it’s really hard to change.

Jordan Harbinger: [01:06:42] There’s a ton of stories. There’s a ton of things we could get into but I would love to end on sort of a fun note with all this brain control dystopia and all this kind of thing. Speaking of being on time, you once got sent to Rome and ended up someplace else. This is such a funny story. Would you mind just sort of giving us like a five-minute version?

Moran Cerf: [01:06:59] I wish this was the only time this happened to me, but it’s a common thing with me. So me and things that happen on a certain time don’t work well. Airplanes are the biggest enemy of people like me. In one of the stories, I told once I was supposed to fly from Israel to Italy to Rome and almost kind of missed the flight, got there on the last minute, stuck my hand baggage above, and fell asleep. Woke up when the plane touched down, left the airplane and got a cab to the Hilton Hotel. On the way to the Hilton Hotel, I asked the driver for information about Rome because I’ve never been there before. And asked him like, “What’s the weather in Rome?” And he says, “It’s like 20 degrees right now.” And I say, “Okay great. So a t-shirt is good.” And I say, “So, what are the things that you should do in Rome?” And he says, “Well, you definitely have to go see the Piazza and the Vatican.” And he just gives me answers and then we got the hotel. I tried to check in, they say, “You’re not in our list.” No reservation. We kind of go back and forth. I finally find the confirmation number and give it to the person there. She says, “Sir, your reservation is for Hilton Rome.” And I say, “Oh, my god.”

Jordan Harbinger: [01:08:01] The Hilton in Rome.

Moran Cerf: [01:08:03] I said, “I’m not in Hilton?” She says, “No, you’re not in Rome. You’re in a different country.” So the plane stopped. I got off the plane. I took a cab. I asked the driver to get me to Hilton, which existed in this other place as well. Malta.

Jordan Harbinger: [01:08:15] You’re in Malta.

Moran Cerf: [01:08:16] Yeah.

Jordan Harbinger: [01:08:17] Oh, God, not even close.

Moran Cerf: [01:18:19] And then on the way, I keep asking “What’s the weather in Rome?” “In Rome? It’s 20 degrees. I wonder why he asked me, but okay.” I asked him “What’s there to do in Rome?” He says, “When in Rome, you should go get pizza.” But like he keeps answering, but he doesn’t know why I’m asking about Rome, only on —

Jordan Harbinger: [01:08:32] Yeah, he doesn’t think to say, “You do know you’re in Malta right now, right?” Like, of course you know that! You’re in a cab in Malta.

Moran Cerf: [01:08:35] So we discovered quickly that I’m in the wrong country. At the same time the airport went to DEFCON 5 because an Israeli guy flying by himself without any suitcase disappeared. They’re looking at the security camera to see what happened. Like the plane cannot take off. It was supposed to be a stop and I continued. They figured out where I was, they had me come back. The security somehow made me pass from the outside into the plane within five minutes and I was back in my seat after about an hour and a half.

Jordan Harbinger: [01:09:09] After a quick explosives and weapons pat down, you’re back on the plane.

Moran Cerf: [01:09:12] Back on the plane to everyone’s dismay.

Jordan Harbinger: [01:09:14] Yeah. You must have been everyone’s favorite passenger.

Moran Cerf: [01:09:17] 3 a.m. instead of 1 a.m. we landed in Rome. Same thing, go to the cab, asked “What to do?”

Jordan Harbinger: [01:09:22] Yeah, so you ended up flying to the wrong place, got off the plane at the wrong place, ended up going to the hotel, escorted back onto the plane. That’s not just being late. That’s like extra talented. It’s their fault, though, for letting you run off the plane during the stop.

Moran Cerf: [01:09:36] That’s what I think. It’s their fault.

Jordan Harbinger: [01:09:37] That’s right. It can’t be your fault.

[01:09:41] Love this episode with Moran. He had a practical that we didn’t quite get to on the show. Here it is in a nutshell. We need to rehearse positive outcomes. When we think of something we’re scared of, for example, public speaking, you imagine failing. You imagine people laughing. But that anchors that activity to that negative feeling. Instead, rehearse yourself killing it, crushing it. You don’t do this normally because you probably feel like an arrogant douchebag, but you should rehearse positive outcomes at least two to three times as much as you rehearse negative outcomes. Why don’t we do this? Because we don’t want to look like schmoes even in our own mind, but we got to create this habit. When something negative pops up, a negative visualization, visualize the opposite and then do it again and again and again. This is going to be on the worksheet as well. So don’t worry if you didn’t pick that up. It’s going to be on the worksheet, which of course is in the show notes for every episode. So you can review what you learned here from Moran Cerf. That’s all at jordanharbinger.com. And of course, some of them are Moran’s talks will be linked in the show notes. I love these. This is what I use to prep for the show. They are fascinating. There’s a video of this interview on our YouTube channel at jordanharbinger.com/youtube. And we also now have transcripts for each episode and those can be found in the show notes as well.

[01:10:53] I’m teaching you how to connect with great people like Moran and manage relationships. You got systems. You got tiny habits. No excuse not to do it. It just takes a few minutes per day. The course is called Six-Minute Networking and it’s free and it’s over at jordanharbinger.com/course. Don’t say you’ll do it later. You’re not going to do it later. Do it now. Dig the well before you get thirsty. Don’t be that person who calls someone and says I know I didn’t keep in touch, but I need a job or I need this. Don’t do it. It’s avoidable. Procrastination will lead you to stagnation when it comes to both business and personal relationships. The drills are crucial. They take a few minutes a day. Look, I wish I knew it 20 years ago. I’m giving it to you for free. You don’t even have to give me your credit card. I have nothing to sell you. I want everyone to learn this stuff, jordanharbinger.com/course. And by the way, most of the guests on the show, they subscribe to the course and the newsletter. So come join us, you’ll be in smart company. Certainly, smarter for having taken the course. Speaking of building relationships, you can always reach out and/or follow me on social. I’m at JordanHarbinger on Twitter and Instagram.

[01:11:53] This show is created an association with PodcastOne. This episode was produced by Jen Harbinger and Jason DeFillippo, and edited by Jase Sanderson, show notes and worksheets by Robert Fogarty, music by Evan Viola, and I’m your host, Jordan Harbinger. Our advice and opinions and those of our guests are their own and yeah, I’m a lawyer, but I’m not your lawyer and you should be thankful for that. So do your own research before implementing anything you hear on the show. And remember, we rise by lifting others. The fee for this show is that you share it with friends when you find something useful or interesting which hopefully is in every episode especially this one. So share the show with those you love, share it with those you don’t. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show, so you can live what you listen and we’ll see you next time.

[01:12:40] A lot of people ask me which podcasts I listened to. One that I like and that never fails to educate and entertain is of course for my friend, Kevin Rose. You’ve heard him on my show before you’ve maybe even heard me on his show. He’s a smart dude and he’s been investing in tech and just thinking about lots of interesting topics and meditation and all that kind of stuff, nutrition all over the place. He’s a just a brilliant dude. Kevin is here with me today. He’s had a recent guest this. kind of a big deal Maisie Williams aka Arya Stark from Game of Thrones. I was surprised Kevin when I saw her on your show because I thought okay, Arya Stark, kind of a departure from your usual psychedelic meditation tech topics. What’s going on here?

Kevin Rose: [01:13:21] Yeah. So having Maisie on the show was amazing. She is one of these people that is not just your standard celebrity but is also launching her own IOS app, which is crazy. She’s super geeky. We got into how she started her new business and how she hired her first engineers and some of the trials and tribulations that come along with launching something for the very first time. I love that about her that we’re just not on here talk about celebrity gossip which I don’t do. We’re actually getting into what is like in her life outside of Game of Thrones, but she was super friendly and just a pleasure to have on the show.

Jordan Harbinger: [01:13:57] And you can find that episode with Maisie Williams aka Arya Stark linked in the show notes for this episode or of course on Kevin Rose’s podcast, The Kevin Rose Show or at kevinrose.com.


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