Sam Harris (@SamHarrisOrg) is a neuroscientist, philosopher, and author of five New York Times bestsellers. He is the host of the Making Sense podcast and his latest book is Making Sense: Conversations on Consciousness, Morality, and the Future of Humanity.
What We Discuss with Sam Harris:
- How can someone in the public eye speak freely without worrying about being canceled?
- How to keep an open mind when debating someone with whom you disagree vehemently.
- What it really takes to get people to behave ethically.
- How to resist the distorting effect of social media’s “funhouse mirror” on reality.
- Why, if you choose to participate in social media, you should make sure to follow at least some (preferably many) people who don’t share your views.
- 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!
It’s a sign of the times: as soon as this episode popped up in your feed, at least some of you started typing angry missives in our direction at the sight of “Sam Harris” in the lead. Those among you are already certain about how far in opposition this controversial figure stands from your own opinions about religion, race, critical thinking, politics, and probably gardening. But that would be a mistake. We have it on some authority that Sam cultivates impeccable basil.
Is this fake news that we just made up on the spot? Possibly. But in this episode, this is just one of the things we address with the author of Making Sense: Conversations on Consciousness, Morality, and the Future of Humanity and host of the Making Sense podcast. We also touch on surviving as a public figure without living in fear of cancelation (or worse), keeping an open mind when debating people with whom we disagree (which — surprise, surprise — is how debates usually work), how to resist the distorting effect of social media’s “funhouse mirror” on reality, and much more. Listen, learn, enjoy — and give your overworked keyboard a break until you at least get to the end!
Please Scroll Down for Featured Resources and Transcript!
Simple Mobile was founded on the idea that there is a better way to do wireless. Unlimited, no-contract plans starting at $25. Just text BYOP to 611611 to see if your phone is compatible, and visit simplemobile.com to find out more!
BiOptimizers Magnesium Breakthrough will help you beat stress, get fit, sleep better, and recover faster. Go to magbreakthrough.com/jordan and use code JORDAN10 to try it for 10% off the regular price — it comes with a 100% money back guarantee if you’re not satisfied!
Quip was created by dentists and designers to guide habits that matter, starting with a better electric toothbrush and refillable floss to make your teeth the best and brightest they’ve ever been. Go to getquip.com/jordan for a free plastic dispenser with any refill plan!
Babbel turns language learning into language using with a comprehensive system that combines effective education methods with state-of-the-art technology. Go to babbel.com and use promo code JORDAN for an additional three months!
Blue Moon Belgian White is refreshing for the palate of the sophisticated beer aficionado without succumbing to snobbery. Not sure if it’s available in your area? get.bluemoonbeer.com allows you to find local stores that carry Blue Moon or have it delivered in under three hours!
Miss our two-parter with wrongfully imprisoned Erik Aude? Catch up by starting with episode 147: Erik Aude | Imprisoned in Pakistan for a Crime He Didn’t Commit Part One here!
On the True Underdog podcast, entrepreneur Jayson Waller and his high-profile guests share motivational tips, inspiring stories, and business-building lessons to help each listener grow in their entrepreneurial journey. Listen here or wherever you enjoy podcasts!
Thanks, Sam Harris!
If you enjoyed this session with Sam Harris, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out at Twitter:
And if you want us to answer your questions on one of our upcoming weekly Feedback Friday episodes, drop us a line at email@example.com.
Resources from This Episode:
- Making Sense: Conversations on Consciousness, Morality, and the Future of Humanity by Sam Harris | Amazon
- Making Sense Podcast with Sam Harris
- Other Books by Sam Harris | Amazon
- Waking Up | App
- Sam Harris | Website
- Sam Harris | Twitter
- Sam Harris | Instagram
- Sam Harris | Facebook
- Sam Harris | YouTube
- Losing Our Spines to Save Our Necks | Sam Harris
- H.R. McMaster | The Fight to Defend the Free World | Jordan Harbinger Show
- The New Religion of Anti-Racism | Sam Harris
- Want to Stop Fake News? Pay for the Real Thing | The New York Times
- Can We Pull Back from the Brink? | Sam Harris
- Mapping Police Violence
- Racism and Violence in America | Sam Harris
- Unlearning Race | Sam Harris
- Beyond the Politics of Race | Sam Harris
- Ibram X. Kendi | Twitter
- Robin DiAngelo | Website
- MLK’s ‘I Have a Dream’ Speech, In Its Entirety | NPR
- The Hashtag That Changed the Oscars: An Oral History | The New York Times
- What Is Jihadism? | BBC News
- How Three Conspiracy Theorists Took ‘Q’ and Sparked QAnon | NBC News
- Conspiracy Epidemic, Born in US, Spreads in Europe | France 24
- RT (TV Network) | Wikipedia
- Opinion | Donald Trump: The Worst President in Modern History? | The New York Times
- Full Transcript of Sam’s Takedown of Donald Trump from EP #45 of the Waking Up Podcast | r/samharris
- In Context: Donald Trump’s ‘Very Fine People on Both Sides’ Remarks | PolitiFact
- Book Review: The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind | Slate Star Codex
- The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes | Amazon
Sam Harris | Making Sense of the Present Tense (Episode 509)
Jordan Harbinger: Coming up next on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:00:03] Sam Harris: You should be following people on social media, who you disagree with, you know, or at least people who are adjacent enough to people who you really disagree with or were seeing things you disagree with. If you're only seeing things you agree with, where it's just everything's got the top spin that you like, you're disposed just to forward it on even before reading the article. You just like the headline enough and you like the source enough that, you know, this is good enough and you just got to kind of give it your boost. You know, you're absolutely part of the problem.
[00:00:37] Jordan Harbinger: Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. On The Jordan Harbinger Show, we decode the stories, secrets and skills of the world's most fascinating people. We have in-depth conversations with people at the top of their game, astronauts and entrepreneurs, spies and psychologists, even the occasional four-star general, national security advisor, or extreme athletes. Each episode turns our guests' wisdom into practical advice that you can use to build a deeper understanding of how the world works and become a better critical thinker.
[00:01:05] If you're new to the show or you're looking for a handy way to tell your friends about it, we now have episodes starter packs. These starter packs are collections of your favorite episodes, organized by popular topics to help new listeners get a taste of everything we do here on the show. Just visit jordanharbinger.com/start to get started or to help somebody else get started. Of course, we always appreciate that. I know there's like 500-plus episodes of this show alone to get through. So a lot of people don't know where to begin, and that's why we created those starter packs, jordanharbinger.com/start.
[00:01:36] Today on the show, Sam Harris, philosopher, neuroscientist, author thinker. If you're a Sam Harris fan, I hope you enjoy this conversation. And if you're not familiar with him, this should be a decent introduction to a neuroscientist philosopher, political thinker. It's a tough guy to label sometimes. We actually recorded this before the election. I had some technical issues. This pushed the release way back. Thus, the context for this one should be October 2020. It's not a bunch of political stuff. It's not a bunch of Trump or Biden stuff. So don't worry, you're not going to get thrown into that. We are definitely still going to piss off the extreme left and the extreme right, or just the left and the right. It's hard to even know it's extreme anymore. Maybe I'm extreme, extreme center. Is that a thing? Save your outrage emails for after you're done with the episode so that you can include everything. It's just a pro tip there. If you want to get mad, make sure you're an all encompassing kind of angry.
[00:02:29] By the way, if you're wondering how I managed to book all these great authors, thinkers, and creators every single week, it's because of my network. And I'm teaching you how to build your network for free over at jordanharbinger.com/course. And by the way, most of the guests on the show, they already subscribed to the course. They contribute to the course. Come join us, you'll be in smart company where you belong. Now, here we go. Sam Harris.
[00:02:52] I wondered how you developed your ability to articulate so well off the cuff. Were you initially similar to like a standup comedian and not that great at that at first? Because I think a lot of us, especially when I look on Reddit, I find a lot of people going, I had to slow down this episode because of these choice phrases or this sick burn that Sam was able to just come up with seemingly on the fly.
[00:03:15] Sam Harris: Well, I'm glad you think. So. I mean, I stand in perpetual criticism of how I speak. So I'm often disappointed by the words that actually make it out of my mouth, but I don't have any story to tell about how I came to speak the way I do. I mean, I've spent so much time writing and I think I aspired to speak as closely to the way I write as possible. You never quite achieved that as any verbatim transcript of what one says proves. It is way more like word salad than a writer would ever want it to be. But I was a writer first before I was any kind of public speaker. And there's just kind of an attention to the structure of what comes out that I bring into my speaking.
[00:04:01] To my advantage, that I'm a fairly slow talker, right? So I've got a fair amount of time to get to the end of the sentence and choose my words. And I find it impossible to speak quickly. I mean, it's really a kind of neurological deficit. Even if I knew exactly what I was going to say, even if I had a script and had rehearsed it and put the words right in front of me. I actually can't speak as quickly as someone who speaks quickly can and always does. I mean, I've had a few people on my podcast who are fast talkers, and it's just amazing to me, it's like a Cirque du Soleil routine that I could never, never emulate.
[00:04:35] Jordan Harbinger: I have the opposite problem where I have to force myself to slow down. Or when I'm doing these live shows, people will say, "Dude, your WPM is freaking me out right now," because it's just boom.
[00:04:46] Sam Harris: Yeah.
[00:04:47] Jordan Harbinger: And yeah, I also am disappointed with most of the words that come out of my mouth or the arrangement of those words, I should say. So that's probably just a thing that podcasters or any speaker actually has.
[00:04:57] Sam Harris: Yeah. Yeah. But there's kind of an underlined ethic, too much of what I'm doing because I'm touching very controversial topics and I'm committed to being as rigorously honest as I can be on whatever the topic. And so it rather often has the character of a dangerous high wire act where I've decided to go into fairly fraught territory and decided not to lie about anything. And that forces a kind of hairsplitting search for nuance, which also kind of bends my speech around and makes it, gives it a certain kind of character, just being enforced by the topics as well.
[00:05:36] Jordan Harbinger: Do you think that there is a strong chilling effect? Not just with you, but with anyone, like, look, I'm largely apolitical and I'm sitting here before the show worried about having a conversation with you or with HR McMaster because of this cancel culture that has sort of permeated everything now. And it can result in me losing my entire living and not being able to feed my kid, who's 14 months old because an angry mob online decided that my word choice, when I said Indian, instead of native American, for example, was therefore racist...I'm a Nazi and should be deplatformed.
[00:06:13] Sam Harris: Yeah, well, there's a massive chilling effect throughout media and tech and academia. I mean, that is just so well attested and I've done so many podcasts on it. I wasn't saying there's a chilling effect on me. In fact, I've been so deliberate in protecting myself against any kind of incentives that would have created a chilling effect. I was saying the opposite. I go into this morass knowing I'm going to hit all of these difficult spots, but knowing that I'm committed to just saying what I actually think. I don't have Tourette's. I'm not just kind of broadcasting the most shocking things I might think casually, but I do my whole emo really as a public facing person is to be intellectually honest, even when it's inconvenient.
[00:06:56] To the contrary, there has been an effect on me and my podcast has been, I have focused on these topics more than my interest would dictate. I might have zero interest in race relations and race as a topic. I just, I think we have to get over race. I think we need to achieve a truly race blind society, but I've done — I don't know how many podcasts on race because the culture is in a hysteria over it. So if you just look at my podcast, I seem like somebody who a real interest in this topic, I don't at all, but it's a kind of moral emergency that keeps presenting itself and it's politically so dysfunctional that my interest in not having four more years of Trump has caused me to try to help the left, get his house in order.
[00:07:41] I can't say that I've made any progress there, but I just felt like I had to put my shoulder to the wheel multiple times, trying to get our conversation with ourselves about race and other fraud topics to move in the right direction. Yeah, so it's kind of amplified my speech on those inconvenient topics, but it's, I'll be quite happy to retire on that front if politics can take up less of our bandwidth going forward.
[00:08:04] Jordan Harbinger: It seems terrifying and almost like — look I'm 40, so maybe I just haven't seen enough chaos, but this seems like certainly the most chaotic time in the country where I've been alive or old enough to understand the type of chaos. And I wonder if you think, is this actually a more fraught time in the country's history or is it just that this is a fraught time, plus we have social media blaring emergencies on every channel 24/7?
[00:08:32] Sam Harris: I definitely think it's worse than anything that I recall. I mean, I'm older than you. So I was a young child in the aftermath of Vietnam and Watergate. So that was a mess too. And if we'd had social media at that point, you know, one can only imagine how destabilizing would have been, but I just think the last three and a half years have been so awful. And so much of that can be laid at Trump's store, but it not all of it. I think social media has been the technology that has deranged us.
[00:09:05] As I've said several times before we have effectively been enrolled in a psychological experiment to which no one gave consent. And there was so little foresight around what each feature of this technology would do to us, or would be likely to do to us. You know, everything from the like button onward. And it's just been terrible. I just think it has been bad for society in almost every respect. We obviously have to figure out what to do about it and just switching the platforms off is clearly not an option, but definitely share your perception that these are uniquely, bewildering times.
[00:09:43] Jordan Harbinger: With the advent of false news or fake news, it seems like we can't even agree on what's actually real. And I think that's one of the scariest things for me because when I was younger and I used to enjoy saying to somebody, "Hey, that's not how this works." I could look up a news source or Wikipedia, or even a scientific paper that I could then read, digest, understand and show someone, "Hey, you're wrong about this?" Now, the sources are white. So widely discredited, I've posted things that are true. I mean, just verifiably, true, simple facts that one would have learned in high school. And I remember getting replies like, "Well, I hope you didn't see this on Google, mainstream media, Wikipedia, or Snopes because all of that is just fake." And I'm like, "Oh my gosh, you're literally attacking some of the only things we can say, 'Hey, these are reasonably accurate. 99.9 percent of the time,' as, 'Don't even look there, it's all garbage. Look at this random blog instead.'"
[00:10:41] Sam Harris: Yeah, it's really dangerous. That is certainly one of my top concerns at this point. The fact that the very foundation of epistemology appears to have broken down and that we can't even source information that most people, most of the time will agree is valid. You know, this extends to the New York Times at this point. This isn't just conspiracy thinking. The New York Times has become so ideological and so prone to double down on their errors on their obvious errors. It really is shocking. And I am desperate to be able to rely on the normal organs of journalism, like the New York Times and I find that I can't. I mean, when I know enough about a topic to see how they are distorting it politically, it makes me just as vulnerable for that same kind of challenge that you just described. If I circulate a New York Times article and someone pushes back saying this is fake news, you know, unless I know a lot about the topic at this point, I don't know which end is up anymore. At least I'm not willing to fight over it because no one can take the time to fact check everything that they circulate. We have a completely polluted information ecosystem at this point.
[00:11:56] And this is what most concerns me about what's happened on the far left. I mean, it's obvious what's wrong with the far right. The far right has always been terrifying and inimical to most of what we value in an open society. So it's like if you go far enough to the right, you meet just obvious racists and antisemites and increasingly anti-government lunatics or proto-fascists. I mean, there's just, there's so little to criticize there cause it's so obviously evil or evil adjacent. Whereas on the far left, the craziness, the far fringe has moved so far inward that it has captured the New York Times to a significant degree. You know, the fringe on the left is increasingly mainstream on topics like race and gender and just the reaction and overreaction to Trump. Some of this, again, can be ascribed to the malign influence of having a lunatic like Trump in the Oval Office, but he's become such a super stimulus to the left that it has deranged the left.
[00:12:58] I mean now is essentially broken by CNN and the New York Times. I mean, the New York times to a lesser degree, it's all Trump all the time. And there's so much to react to with him. And the reaction has become so undisciplined. That half of the allegations against him, don't stand up and there's no reckoning over that. And the ones in the sort of lose sight of the ones that do when they're in, there's so many opportunities to attack him that one need never be in precise. There's no reason to be sloppy with allegations of racism against a genuine racist. Right? But the left is so sloppy that it falsifies more or less everything that they attempt to land.
[00:13:40] So it's been a mess on both sides, but I've spent much more time worrying about the left because the left really has to get it right. Maybe the left is the wrong designation here. I mean the liberal voices in our society which capture, you know, 90 percent, 90-plus percent of journalism and academia and entertainment, right? So we're talking about Hollywood and the university system and virtually all private schools down to the high school level and journalism and science, these are the people who have to get their facts right. And now we have our most prestigious scientific journals publishing editorials that are completely deranged politically. Literally, science and nature have published articles on race that make absolutely no sense. I mean, just offering mea culpas about the systemic racism of science as though, you know, most scientists sit in their labs, cracking jokes that the KKK would find funny and then now have all been caught doing it.
[00:14:42] It's madness and there's been a kind of hysteria that has led to a masochism and self-annihilation on the left. That again has crept so far inward that, you know, now it's an article of faith that the only way to describe the United States now and its history is one of irredeemable racist atrocity as though we have stood for nothing else, you know, low these nearly three centuries, that's the position. And then, and then if you're a Hollywood celebrity, you need to get on Twitter and release your hostage video saying that you finally realized the depth of your culpability for all of these evil. The messaging from the left on these points has been so morally deranged in recent months.
[00:15:27] Jordan Harbinger: Can we repair this kind of thing? I mean, when people will willingly deny what they see right in front of them on a video tape because of the cognitive bias and the frankly, unwillingness to accept that their ideals conflict with reality. How do you even — I think you did a show that said it best, like, can we step back from the brink. Because how do you convince somebody that what they're looking at on video is what they're actually looking at on video, when literally anyone with two brain cells to rub together can see what that is. And they're just going, "Nope." Like their brain is just rejecting it.
[00:16:00] Sam Harris: Well, it's surprisingly hard to parse these videos. I mean, one, the videos start and stop at arbitrary or calculated points. We simply do not know what happened before the video switched on or before they edit your scene starts. And people's lack of understanding — if we're talking specifically about police videos, the lack of understanding about the continuum of violence and the cops' eye view of the world leads them to conclude things that you just can't conclude from these videos. And they're also unaware that we have videos of a certain sort aggressively marketed to us, right? Videos of black men and women being mistreated or killed by cops, and in particular, white cops, those get amplified to a degree that can't possibly be exaggerated, right? They become a kind of pornography of racial grievance.
[00:16:58] Whereas other videos where white suspects are being killed or mistreated by cops or when black suspects or suspects of color are being killed and mistreated by black cops or cops of color. We're not seeing those videos. Right? So people, they're drawing conclusions about the representativeness of these documents in the population. And they simply don't know these statistics of violence and they don't know that more white people are killed every year, then black people by cops in the US. They haven't done the exercise to just discover how hard it is to think about the demographics of a violence.
[00:17:35]It remains an open question, how we should think about police engagement with the population given the relevant crime rates. I mean, it's pretty clear that — I don't know that we want to spend much time on this, but here's the picture in brief, if you have 50 percent of crime, violent crime perpetrated by 12 to 13 percent of the population, which is in fact, the status quo in the US and has been for now decades, what percentage of encounters with cops would you expect that 12 to 13 percent of the population to have? Would you expect it to be 12 to 13 percent of all police encounters? Well, no, they're committing 50 percent of the violent crimes. Would you expect it to be 50 percent of the encounters? Maybe not. I mean, but it's going to be more than their representation and the base rate of the population. And so how one speaks about these statistics is really determined by ones background assumption of just what should be the case, given the level of crime in each community.
[00:18:44] And there's a much larger discussion and even more fraught to try to figure out what we can do about that level of crime and the disparities in crime in the various communities and just whose responsibility is it and how much is white racism still the reason why we have this crazy disparity in crime, particularly in the inner city, in the black community. There's so many assumptions built into everyone's experience of just watching those videos and having a reaction. So yet we find it impossible to talk about what seems to be, you know, depending on, on how you're viewing it, just a factual encounter, you see what's happening. And when I watched those videos, it's often very clear to me what is happening, why it's happening, why it makes sense that it's happening, how it wouldn't have been otherwise, even if you change the skin color of all participants, but people who are agitated by a sense that we have an epidemic of racist violence perpetrated against black men and women by racist cops, they have a very different experience. Their eyes seem to be revealing to them a totally different set of facts.
[00:19:50] Jordan Harbinger: It seems very dangerous that as a country, we can't even have conversations about this. Like, even whether I agree with you or not, or have all the facts or not, this is one of those things where my entire body is like tensing up because I'm like, oh my gosh, what are the consequences of having this discussion on any form in any medium, whether it's live in person on a podcast, on television. It's something that if we weren't our own boss, so to speak, if we didn't own the outlet or the medium that we're using, this could easily result in us with an early retirement, if we're lucky. Right?
[00:20:26] Sam Harris: Yeah. So in the podcast you referenced, can we pull back from the brink? That was me responding to the eruption of, I think, collective delusion around the George Floyd killing. And I had thought, I think I say it briefly at the outset of that podcast, I thought I should bring on a black intellectual to help kind of midwife this conversation for me. That would have been the prudent thing to do, not to just be the white guy on his soapbox, talking about what's wrong with this reaction. That just seemed like an act of cowardice. I knew what I wanted to say at that point. I did the research into the data such as we have at the moment on police violence. And I felt I just needed to say what I thought. And then I could deal with the aftermath. Again, for the reasons you just get, unusually free to have these conversations or to broach these topics on podcasts when we essentially own our platform.
[00:21:23] But, you know, I've had subsequent conversations with people like John McWhorter and Glenn Loury and Thomas Chatterton Williams and Coleman Hughes, and other, several other people I could list who are black writers and academics and journalists who are really rigorous and refreshingly honest on this topic. And on some level, there's no substitute for having them weigh in as prominently as possible. Because for a certain audience, the color of your skin, no matter how careful you are and what you say, the color of your skin is entirely determined whether you can be listened to on this topic. That shouldn't be the case, obviously. That is the very symptom of the disease we are now suffering that that is the case, but it simply is the case. Right?
[00:22:13] So, you know, I sort of picked my moments to talk about this, but here, we're two white guys talking about—
[00:22:18] Jordan Harbinger: That's what I was thinking.
[00:22:19] Sam Harris: —the problem of race or lack thereof in America right now for a significant percentage of your audience. You know, that framing will entirely determine whether anything I or we say can be taken at face value, but you put two black people in the same conversation and those conversations are happening and hopefully to increasing effect because there's some great black public intellectuals out there now who really should be leading our analysis of what's happening in our society now. And they're being sidelined again by a kind of moral panic and a kind of a witch craze.
[00:22:58] And then we have people who are thoroughly dishonest, who are being promoted to kind of the highest levels of journalism or have the best-selling books in the country right now, people like Ibram Kendi and Robin DiAngelo who's — these are the people who are being recommended to deprogram, you know, Fortune 500 companies and whose books are being, you know, incoming parents of private high schools are being admonished to read their books. And these books are so deranged and deranging in how they talk about race. It's worth pointing out that everything being said by these people explicitly repudiates the vision that until almost yesterday, all of us were taught to champion someone like Martin Luther King, Jr.
[00:23:47] The idea that the goal was to get to a time where people could be judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. That goal has been explicitly repudiated now on the left, right? Know that we're being offered a vision of the future where race is indelible. And any hope that we would arrive in a colorblind society is not only fastuous but obscene, right? You are culpable for the evil of racism by even aspiring to be colorblind. There's an original sin of whiteness that you can never cleanse. What's being offered here is a perpetual fragmentation of our society around this variable of race. This very concept is ruled out in principle, but it is a kind of reverse racism. If you just imagine a white person speaking the way Ibram Kendi does, he would be a member of the KKK or, you know, some Neo-Nazi front group. That's how polarizing and bizarre the framing is.
[00:24:50] Jordan Harbinger: You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Sam Harris. We'll be right back.
[00:24:55] This episode is sponsored by Simple Mobile. At Simple Mobile, you get the no contract advantage. You can get a powerful nationwide 5G network all without a contract. 5G capable device and SIM required. Actual availability, coverage, and speed may vary. 5G network not available in all areas. 5G upload speeds not yet available. Simple Mobile, out with the old in with the simple.
[00:25:16] This episode is also sponsored by BiOptimizers. If you want to be healthy, one of the best things you can possibly do is get at least seven hours of quality sleep every night. I know it's hard to get that much sleep. I know from experience, it's hard to get that much sleep. Your mind keeps you awake. You can't get comfortable. It's too hot. It's too cold. You wake up early, can't fall asleep again, but listen, sleep is super important because your body heals itself when you sleep. Your mind does the same. If you're not getting enough quality sleep, you're increasing your risk of disease. One thing I was missing was actually magnesium. I know people told me about it. I was like, "Eeh, whatever. I don't believe in know vitamins," but once I started getting enough, magnesium things really did change for me. I track my sleep stats. Don't run to the store and buy the first magnesium supplement. You find a lot of them are kind of craptacular. Most magnesium supplements, they use one or two cheap little synthetic forms. They're not full spectrum. They're not going to fix the deficiency. They're not going to help you sleep better. There are seven unique forms of magnesium. You've got to get all of them if you want the calming sleep enhancing effects. Magnesium Breakthrough by BiOptimizers has all seven.
[00:26:15] Jen Harbinger: An exclusive offer for our listeners, go to magbreakthrough.com/jordan and use Jordan10 during checkout to save 10 percent.
[00:26:23] Jordan Harbinger: This episode is also sponsored by Quip. We all chew gum, but did you know that not all gum is created equal. Some only cover up bad breath or they're loaded with sugar that can wreak havoc on your teeth. Luckily, the oral care experts at Quip have made a gum that stands out from the pack. Oh, I see what they did. Quip gum can help prevent cavities. Tastes pretty damn good. It was only a few short years ago, they invented the toothbrush for the modern age over at Quip. You probably heard a billion ads for those truths. Quip gum now comes in a sleek dispenser. You can take with you on the go. They've got a quick release button, which shoots gum out. I don't know any better way to explain it. It reminds you of other candies that come in dispensers of whose brand, we probably can't mention in this particular advertisement. Who wouldn't want to satisfy their taste buds with Quip's crunchy tri-layer design, which sounds very fancy, and in fact is, and long lasting mint flavor. Sugar-free, zero calories, tooth friendly xylitol.
[00:27:15] Jen Harbinger: And if you go to get quip.com/jordan right now, you can get a free dispenser with any refill plan. That's a free dispenser at getquip.com/jordan, G-E-T-Q-U-I-P.com/jordan.
[00:27:28] Jordan Harbinger: You can also find Quip electric toothbrush, refillable floss, and more in the oral care aisle at your local Walmart
[00:27:34] Jen Harbinger: Quip, the good habits company.
[00:27:36] Jordan Harbinger: Now, back to Sam Harris on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:27:41] You said in an earlier podcast or book — now, I can't remember quite what it was, but our sense of being offended, isn't something that anyone necessarily needs to respect. And even we should not respect our own sense of being offended. I would love for you to explain that a little bit, because I love the idea that, and especially right now for everyone who is definitely, like there's going to be some contingent to my audience. That's like, "I can't even believe what Sam Harris is saying on Jordan Harbinger Show." They're drawing up their nasty email to me right now. I actually enjoy hearing things that make me feel a little bit offended. It depends on what it is of course, but I have to look at the reason why I'm offended. And sometimes the reason is quite frankly quite poor. I'm offended because I always thought one thing and now I'm being dragged, kicking and screaming into what is actually correct through logic.
[00:28:30] Sam Harris: So just to see if I can reel in some of the people who are even now fatally offended, before I answer your question, I'll plant a flag where everyone can see it. I mean, this is the society I want to live in. I want to live in a society where we care no more about skin color and other superficial characteristics that are often attributed or ascribed to race than we care about hair color. We're not living in a world where people are disposed to worry that, you know, a corporation like Apple isn't hiring enough blondes or brunettes or people with red hair. I mean, no one's checking. We don't come from a history of discrimination based on hair color. But I think everyone can agree that it's a good thing no one's checking. Right? Who cares?
[00:29:18] It's good that we live in a society where no one cares about hair color in that sense. I mean, you can have preferences, dye hair, you can do anything you want with your hair. You could admire the hair of other people, but there is no moral or political significance attached to hair color, and that is a very good thing. And if someone told us that they wanted to bend us toward some. Possible future where people suddenly cared a lot more about hair color, right? Where you had to walk on eggshells around people of a certain hair color or not say certain things about hair or carefully dye your hair so as to fit in — I mean, all of that, that is a future the door to which has presumably closed. And it would be insane to try to open it, right? That would just be f*cking awful.
[00:30:05] Well, we're in that space on the topic of skin color, the way out of this predicament is not to care more and more about skin color. So we have to figure out how to break this spell. And the left is running the opposite algorithm. The left is telling us that, "No, no, we have to care more and more about this. We have to talk more and more about this." This is the master variable, and whether you want to identify along these lines or not, you have to wake up in the morning and look in the mirror and know that you share something important with everyone who has a skin color. That's kind of vaguely the same shade as yours. And you are importantly separated from everyone who doesn't. You have to just carry that around with you all day long and your interactions with other human beings have to be filtered through that lens at all times.
[00:30:55] I'm not willing to play that game, right? So I'm going to continue to try to live in a world where skin color is no more important than hair color. And if that makes me some kind of troglodyte in certain conversations, or seems to be a troglodyte, well, then those are collisions I'm willing to have because what I'm seeing advertised to me from all quarters. And again, this is coming from the New York Times and other mainstream outlets. And it's coming from again, journals like nature and science is the opposite attitude, which is we have to be more and more captured by this variable of difference between people. It's just absolutely obvious to me that that is heading us in a direction that is toxic and divisive and dishonest, frankly. I mean, it's just, it is simply not the case that we're dealing with more racism now than we ever have.
[00:31:48] In the aftermath of a two-term black president in the US it is simply not the case that the political aspirations of black people in America have never been worse. And yet we're being goaded to act like they have never been worse than any acknowledgement of racial progress is to not understand the gravity of systemic racism in our society. I'm not saying systemic racism doesn't exist. I'm not saying there aren't things we want to correct for. I mean that the criminal justice system has some terrible problems and some terrible legacy code, it's still running. The war on drugs has been a disaster for everyone and a special disaster for people of color. And, you know, we should declare it lost and empty the prisons of non-violent offenders insofar as they're in there. But we have serious social problems to figure out how to alleviate and their alleviation is not synonymous with finding more white people who are racist in our society. There's simply not enough racists to be creating these problems.
[00:32:50] And the fact that I can predict. That this weekend, there will be an inordinate number of black people murdered in Chicago by other black people. You can set your watch by it. The reason for that being the case is not because there are so many white racists enforcing, systemically racist policies that are somehow forcing people in Chicago to kill one another. It's just not the case. And if it were the case, then obviously we should solve that problem immediately. I'd be the first person to want to solve that problem, but no one has offered a compelling argument as to how that is the causal chain of events in the year 2020.
[00:33:28] So we have to figure out how to solve these, to rectify the terrible inequalities in our society with respect to education and healthcare outcomes, and wealth inequality. And insofar as that, these are correlated with race and they are, we should want to figure out how to ameliorate that. I mean, clearly, that is a pressing issue, but to simply call people racist people who are among the least racist people, who have ever been born into any society, right? Really the Academy Awards? This is a bastion of racism. That's the target. It's so dishonest, that is toxic. It's dishonesty is destabilizing for us.
[00:34:07] So anyway, that's one hobby horse I've ridden, but it is a thankless job to ride it as a white person in most contexts. Your only reflexive allies are people who are captured by right wing, conspiracy thinking or if not racists, right? I mean like the people who really win here is when the left has made it palpably unsafe for anyone to demur on this particular topic. The only people who will have the courage of their convictions are actual racists. There are many topics where we've landed there. You know, it's not so much in the news now, but there was a time when we're dealing with the Islamic state and tolerable level of Islamic racism, especially in Western Europe. That the left made any connection, drawing any connection between Islam and terrorism, you know, taboo. And so to be drawing the honest connection there that, yeah, there's only one religion on earth that is producing jihadism because jihadism is only a tenet in one religion.
[00:35:11] To speak honestly, about that puts you in the company of right-wing and increasingly fascist lunatics in Western Europe. That was an awful juxtaposition with that was something that was being forced on everyone because the left had just seated the field of any semblance of intellectual honesty on this topic, for reasons that, you know, are every bit as cultic and weird as the crazy conspiracies you meet on the right.
[00:35:36] Jordan Harbinger: How do we keep an open mind during intense debate with someone we disagree with, because I think a lot of people listening who disagree with you, their instinct is to shut down and just go, "This is garbage, I don't want to do that"? And I see most people are absolutely unable to do this, even in the slightest. And we as a species or at least as a nation, we're getting worse and worse at this by the minute, if social media, news are any indication.
[00:35:57] Sam Harris: Well, it goes back to the question that I didn't answer, which you asked in reference to something I said about one's feeling of being provoked or offended. I said somewhere that yeah, your capacity to be offended is not something that anyone needs to respect, and it's not even something that you should respect, right? It is simply an emotional reaction, which doesn't in and of itself have any content, right? It doesn't, it has no philosophical content. It's not the basis for an insight, right? It's simply a signal of salient for you, right? The fact that you're feeling outrage or anger or disgust or fear or something negative in response to certain ideas. That doesn't tell you that the ideas are not based on facts that can be confirmed, that doesn't tell you whether a chain of reasoning is valid. You have to do further work to disentangle yourself from some unwanted opinion.
[00:36:56] You can't just recoil and say that doesn't feel good. And if you do that, which, you know, as you say, I mean, many people are doing simply that and feel no intellectual burden to do anything more than that, but that is what it is to be an unreflective and the useless interlocutor. You're not advancing anything when you're simply calling people names or reacting without argument, either you can find the hole in the argument, or you can point to the data that disconfirms the claims being made or you can't. And if you can't, then you need to be open-minded. I mean, you need to be willing to have the conversation. Because an unwillingness to have the conversation that guarantees political and social division. And ultimately, it guarantees violence. This is something I always want to point out.
[00:37:55] We really only have two options. We have conversation or we have violence. When it really matters when we really have to modify the behavior of other people, we can either do it by talking to them and getting through to them and therefore engineering a kind of convergence, a shared worldview, or at minimum eight irrational compromises at the perimeter of a shared worldview. Or we have to force them to change what they're doing. And there's not that many tools. I mean, we're social primates that make small mouth noises that can rather often mean something to perfect strangers in this world. And what we have to do is figure out how we can collaborate with one another in an open-ended way that allows for increasingly creative and beautiful cooperation.
[00:38:45] We need to figure out how to get eight billion, nine billion, 10 billion. It remains to be seen where we're going to tap out here in the near term, strangers to collaborate on this common project of building a global civilization that is less and less fragile, right? And the algorithm that so many people are running seems to be, "I'm not going to f*cking talk to you if you say that." And again, when push comes to shove, that just leaves us with violence.
[00:39:16] Jordan Harbinger: I mean, that's terrifying. It should terrify anybody, no matter what side of the political spectrum you're on, because, I mean, this sort of discussion is the foundation of democracy in the first place in many ways, at least according to my legal education from 15 years ago that I barely remember.
[00:39:31] Sam Harris: It's all a matter of ideas, right? That we find compelling. We persuade one another of the wisdom or utility of various projects and allocations of resources. This is what we're about all the time. It's everything from trying to convince your son or daughter to do their homework or help you do the dishes to what should we spend billions of dollars on as a society, you know, immediately and what should we not spend billions of dollars on. And what sort of, what rate of death from various causes is acceptable and what is an emergency that we have to stop everything and figure out how to solve? I mean, these are all just conversations in their products based on data or lack of data or educated guesses. It's just a tissue of memes and statements that are found to be compelling or not for good or bad reasons. But we have more and more politically are various cults of bad reasons forming and being amplified by social media and becoming entrenched by our capacity now to silo ourselves based on social media in various echo chambers, where we're just not getting the same information.
[00:40:50] This is truly new. It's tempting to think that because this is just the same problem we had when people could decide to start listening to Republican, you know, right-wing talk radio or not, or watch one television channel or not. I mean, maybe this is no different than having Fox News, but it's different with social media and the algorithm that is tuned to just gain everyone's attention in a totally bespoke way moment by moment. We're not seeing the same things, right? When you go on YouTube, the algorithm is aimed at you in a way that is quite different than the way it's aimed at me based on your pattern of usage. And this is how people are getting fixated on things that would otherwise be unthinkable. I mean, we literally have people believing that the earth is flat now, right? There's the whole flat earth society. I've never encountered it myself. I've consciously went and found one video that was kind of summarized in this problem for me, but I'm not seeing any of this stuff and there are people who are seeing it all the time or QAnon, right?
[00:41:58] I mean, there you go far enough, I guess it's maybe right and left or the wrong framework here, but QAnon is a cult of people who believe that there is another cult of people filled with Hollywood celebrities and left-wing politicians like Hillary Clinton and the Obama's, you know, most left journalists who are not only kidnapping and raping and killing kids, but eating them. Extracting their vital essences so as to create some kind of long life potion, right? So it's a cannibalistic cult of pedophiles that has among its members, people like Tom Hanks and Ellen DeGeneres and the Obamas and Hillary Clinton. And this apparently is believed by a small number of people, not just in America, but in Europe now based on an ability to go down a rabbit hole on social media and never come out again based on the human capacity to people, wilderness by seemingly credible information. I don't know how this stuff seems credible at any point to anyone, but this is a not insignificant social movement that is obviously dangerous.
[00:43:09] The fact that it's possible to have a social movement like this spring up is again, something we have engineered for ourselves and it's being gamed now consciously by outside actors, like, the Russians and the Chinese. I mean, they're just pumping their own disinformation onto these platforms. And Russian state television, RT is the most watched news channel on YouTube now. It's amazing what we've designed for ourselves and the fact that we can't figure out how to get out of it because the business model is what it is. This is where it all comes back to advertising on social media. I mean the fact that the algorithm is tuned to clicks and time on site and that we're prioritizing that no matter what the cost, it's an amazing situation we're in. And one can only hope we figure out how to correct course.
[00:44:03] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. That to me is shocking. A while ago I had an offer of doing some kind of show or something for RT. And I said, "Isn't that Russia Today." And they're like, "No, no, no, it's RT now." And I said, "Well, okay, so has it changed? "No, we just kind of rebranded," and I thought, "Have you heard this show? Are you offering me a job in a propaganda department of a potentially hostile foreign intervenor here? Like, what are you thinking? One Google search would tell you that I'm the last person to go for this." And they're like, "Well, here's the salary. Here's what we're thinking in terms of compensation." And I go, "Oh, that's why you have people that seemingly should know better creating this for you."
[00:44:41] Sam Harris: Right.
[00:44:42] Jordan Harbinger: It's just purely economic. They know what journalists make in the United States and they go, "Look, here's a percentage so that you can forget your morals and your patriotism and your sense of right and wrong. "
[00:44:51] Sam Harris: Yeah. I mean, there's so many depressing facts that come down to incentives in the end. And yeah, it just, what has happened to journalism and politics in this moment of kind of disaggregation of so many business models. It's really been depressing, but yeah, it's often a matter of where the money is coming from or is likely to come from, or is no longer coming from. That's why it's important to get the business models straight. And to incentivize the things we want to encourage and to disincentivize the things we want to discourage. With the right incentives, you can get even fairly conflicted, selfish, mediocre people to behave more and more like saints. That is why incentives are so important.
[00:45:40] And, you know, conversely with the wrong incentives, you can get fairly good people here too, for really good people to behave terribly. And basically require a sainthood of people to get them to behave well and when the incentives are wrong. So much of what we need to do to improve society is not a matter and will never be a matter of convincing individuals on their own to behave more ethically. It's a matter of tuning the incentive. So that it's just to their obvious advantage to behave more ethically.
[00:46:17] Jordan Harbinger: This is The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Sam Harris. We'll be right back.
[00:46:22] This episode is sponsored in part by Babbel. For most of us learning a second language in high school, and I put that in air quotes, not exactly a high point in our academic career. I took French in high school and the teacher told us to memorize a table of verbs, which was boring. And I thought for years that I just wasn't good at languages. Jokes on you, Mrs. Faulkner. I can speak a lot of languages, but French is not still not one of them actually. I took German on Babbel. I lived in Germany for a year. I used Babbel to refresh me a little bit. Babbel's 15-minute lessons are a great way to learn a new language on the go. You can do it in the line for coffee before you fall asleep. Wherever you take your Babbel. I'll let your imagination run wild where you might be spending a little bit of time just with yourself and your phone. With Babbel, you can choose from 14 different languages, including Spanish, French, Italian, and German. And they've got this cool speech recognition technology, which helps you improve your pronunciation and your accents.
[00:47:13] Jen Harbinger: Right now, when you purchase a three-month Babbel subscription, you'll get an additional three months for free. That's six months for the price of three, just go to babbel.com and use promo code Jordan. That's B-A-B-B-E-L.com code Jordan for an additional three months. Free Babbel language for life.
[00:47:30] Jordan Harbinger: This episode is also sponsored by Blue Moon. Blue Moon is on a mission to bring some brightness to your life and break up your routine, which I think we all have plenty of routine going on right now. From its refreshing flavor with Valencia orange peel for a subtle sweetness and hints of coriander Blue Moon Belgian White is a one of a kind beer. I've been drinking it since college. My parents actually just flew in from Michigan to visit us and to see Jayden who could barely crawl when they saw him last year. Now, Jayden's running around and he's blabbering. We all sat on the patio and enjoyed a nice cold Blue Moon, which from my parents was a nice treat. And for us was a medication I would say for having an infant during a pandemic. Blue Moon has made brighter to awaken you to the brightness in each moment. Once in a Blue Moon moments should happen more than once in a Blue Moon. Although I feel like I'm getting to see people once in a Blue Moon now. It's nice to kind of chill outside with friends and Blue Moon is a part of that summer for me and has been since law school, including, well, let's just say there was no particular season for beer, especially Blue Moon in law school or rather it was always Blue Moon season
[00:48:28] Jen Harbinger: Reach for a Blue Moon when you're in need for some added brightness. Get Blue Moon and the Light Sky delivered by visiting get.bluemoonbeer.com/jordan to see your delivery options. That's get.bluemoonbeer.com/jordan. Blue Moon made brighter. Celebrate responsibly. Blue Moon Brewing Company Golden Colorado Ale.
[00:49:44] Hey, thanks so much for listening to the show. Your support, it means the world to us. The fact that anybody cares to listen to what we are creating here is amazing. And your support of our advertisers that keeps us going, keeps the lights on around here, keeps my kid in diapers and he uses a ton of diapers. To learn more and get links to all the discounts you hear on this show so that you can check out the sponsors, you don't have to remember the codes. You don't have to remember the URLs, just go to jordanharbinger.com/deals. That's where everything is all in one place. Please consider supporting those who support us.
[00:50:16] And don't forget, we've got worksheets for today's episode, just like we do for every show. If you want some of the drills, the exercises, the main takeaways talked about during the episode, they're in one easy place for those of you driving, jogging, bench pressing, that link is in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com/podcast. And now for the rest of my conversation with Sam Harris.
[00:50:36] A Reddit user gave me this question. So I'm going to phrase it like I thought of it, but I don't want to get caught out on Reddit. So you know how that goes. He said, "I once heard you say that you'd felt pleasure in having your assumptions challenged specifically when you hold one position and you didn't want to accept an opposing viewpoint, but you've been dragged to it by the sheer relentlessness of their logic." I'm wondering when the last time that happened to you, when the last time you felt like that happened to you.
[00:51:03] Sam Harris: It happens a lot around this sort of trip wire. I just described a few moments ago where I have this, the same thing everyone else has, where I have the things I want to believe is certainly more convenient to believe these things. It's an expression of solidarity to believe these things. I know what feels good to believe. And then when I stumble upon something that feels bad rather than just plunge into being offended or recoiling from that thing, or just wanting so desperately for it not to be so that I'm unwilling to pause and reflect — I have it other module installed in my brain here. And this is really, I think, mostly born of my background in philosophy, which is just to become interested in it. And I want to find the flaw. There's probably some shadow of motivated reasoning is still there. I mean, if I want to find the flaw in the other argument, there's an asymmetry there. Like if you're telling me something, I already sort of believe and want to believe. I'm not disposed to spend a lot of time finding the flaw in that case. And that is the confirmation bias that everyone tends to live with.
[00:52:13] But when I find my cherished opinions, opposed by some argument or some set of facts, I'm committed to finding that interesting. This can extend to anything that I would be prejudiced against like, you know, I think, Trump is the worst person who has ever been president of the United States. And that is obvious to me, it's a terrible misfortune that we have gotten ourselves in this position where we've spent three and a half years with this man as president. He's done immense harm to our country or standing in the world, our society, our credibility. And when you just look at the opportunity cost of having to spend so much time paying attention to his madness, rather than doing other profitable things, it's been awful. But that's not to say he doesn't occasionally do something that's good, right? Or say something that's factually correct. He lies more than any person in human history. I think that's an objective statement. I would bet a lot of money that no one can name someone who has lied more than he has lied in public in recent years.
[00:53:16] Yet, you know, occasionally he'll say something that's absolutely true or occasionally something said without him, we'll be totally dishonest and wrong. He'll be unfairly besmirched by his enemies, even when there's so much to condemn him for. And so, yeah, when I land on one of those things, I mean, and sometimes totally convenient. To take the case of race, I think he is a racist. I think I believe correctly that he's a racist based on things I know about him. Unfortunately, the things I know about him are not public in the way that they should be. I think that I know enough kind of back channel information about him to feel to a moral certainty that he's a racist. Not as a member of the KKK necessarily, but just a racist assh*le.
[00:53:58] But fully half of the allegations that I've seen about him being racist made in public seem totally spurious and that's a huge problem. And it's totally inconvenient to have to make that argument because again, I think, he's the worst president in human history and anything that can be made to stick against him should stick because he's an existential threat to our democracy, but take the case that the fine people claim that is often made against him, where in the aftermath of Charlottesville, he said there were fine people on both sides. And in that moment, couldn't even condemn white supremacists rather, he referred to them as fine people. This allegation is just ubiquitous against him on the left. That every journalists makes it, Joe Biden makes it, Kamala Harris makes it, they're never criticized by mainstream media for making it. And it is actually fallacious, right?
[00:54:51] If you watch that press conference, he explicitly condemns white supremacists. He just, he does it within 15 seconds or so of the fine people statement. And when he was talking about the fine people, he made it absolutely clear that he was not talking about the white supremacists, he was talking about other people who are out there protesting. Their statues being taken down. And these are not that people with the Tiki torches, these are not the members of the KKK. And he condemned white supremacists and Nazis explicitly in that press conference. And yet everyone is lying about it, or they just don't know they're lying about it because they never went back to check to see what he actually said.
[00:55:30] So when I get hit in the face with something like that, which was totally inconvenient for my side, because I'm the saw I'm on the side of anything that can sink Trump should be used because, you know, again, he's almost the worst human being I can name. I just think he's scarcely human in the jeopardy he puts us in on all fronts, for everything from deciding what to do with our nuclear weapons on down. And yet everyone on the left is lying about what he said in that press conference. And I think he's racist on top of that, but rather than not be honest about this, I'm committed to being honest about it. It's a huge problem that people have just thrown out the rule book here and are just trying to smear an eminently smearable person, because they think it's politically justified.
[00:56:19] Jordan Harbinger: There's an article in Slate Star Codex. I don't know if you've read this piece, but the gist is that at some point in human history, humans may not have had the language or knowledge to understand that the voice in their head was in some sense themselves.
[00:56:36] Sam Harris: Right.
[00:56:36] Jordan Harbinger: This article posits that the imaginary friends, or maybe even gods or the invention of people, trying to explain that voice. And there's sort of a theory in there that's an exploration for how our theory of mind may have developed over time. And I'm wondering what you might think of this. Like, does the theory of mind — does this make sense that it could have come from ancient religious beliefs? Those beliefs came into existence developed over time because of something like this. I've never heard you talk about this. So this might just be too far off base.
[00:57:08] Sam Harris: I don't think I've seen that article in Slate Star Codex, but it sounds like it's reminiscent of Julian Jaynes' notion of the bicameral mind, which is kind of an old thesis, which I've never known how much credibility to give it. But I mean, the idea that the voice in our head has not always felt like a self. At one point, we had felt like we were in communication with the gods and this explains some of what we can glean about human and subjectivity from Greek myths and Homer and all that. I don't know what I think about that.
[00:57:46]I think the notion of the self is definitely there to be deconstructed and criticized. I don't think we have a self in the way that it is usually supposed, which is to say, there's no the subject in the head interior to the body that is carried through each moment of experience as kind of the unchanging source of attention and reflection and the thinker in addition to the thoughts that arise. I mean, there is no thinker in addition to the thoughts. The thoughts simply arise in consciousness and the feeling that there is a thinker, the feeling that there's a subject, is what it feels like to not notice this process clearly to be identified with each thought that arises in consciousness.
[00:58:29] I go into that in much more depth in Waking Up both the book and the app, but we have to get some distance from, or at least notice an alternative to being taken in by our own opinions. We don't have to believe every one of our thoughts. We don't have to form an opinion about all the things we form opinions about so readily. And we certainly don't have to do it as quickly as we do. And even when we have an opinion, we can hold it much more lightly than we do. At least bracket it and wonder, well, what would have to happen for me to no longer believe this? In what sense is this opinion falsifiable? And if it's not falsifiable at all, well, then what makes me think I'm actually living in such a way as to be in contact with reality? Like how am I going about my information gathering and my conversations with other people and just my moment to moment navigation of the world such that I think my beliefs are actually responsive to the world and to what's actually happening outside my door?
[00:59:42] Because I mean, that's what it is to actually believe something. You can't believe something just because you want it to be true. I mean, that's why we have a phrase like wishful thinking or, you know, self-deception. You have to believe it because you think it actually is true, right? Whether you want it to be true or not. That's what it is to presume, to be in contact with reality. And we have to believe things in such a way as to feel that if they weren't true, we wouldn't believe them, which is a further claim about our minds and our entanglement with reality altogether. In order for me to think that what I believe about Trump is true, I have to believe that I stand in some relationship to his existence and to everything he's doing and saying and thinking such that if it weren't true, I would not have come to believe this about him. That I'm not in some kind of stream of misinformation systematically with respect to him, such that I'm now just — my beliefs about him are just tissue of fiction.
[01:00:44] So it's a presumption that you're just standing in some place relative to the facts that you claim to know something about such that you're not systematically misled by the facts such as they are that seem to arrive at your door. More and more we are entangled on platforms that are delivering information to us, where we can't reliably make that claim. Right? Because now we have to assume that what we're seeing in our timelines is curated in such a way as to amplify at minimum bias, if not misinformation. It's a game in our attention, based on what we've shown, we wanted to pay attention to yesterday.
[01:01:25] And that is definitely a distortion of our and we have to take some conscious steps to correct for it and we have to follow them — to take concrete example, you should be following people on social media, who you disagree with or at least people who are adjacent enough to people who you really disagree with it, where you're seeing things you disagree with. If you're only saying things you agree with, where just everything's got the top spin that you like, you're disposed just to forward it on, even before reading the article, right? You just liked the headline enough and you like the source enough that this is good enough and you just got to kind of give it your boost, you know, you're absolutely part of the problem.
[01:02:05] Jordan Harbinger: In closing here, you receive a lot of criticism. A lot of it is very aggressive, heinous. How do you deal with it so that it doesn't affect your work and your personal life, or at least minimizes the effect on your work and your personal life?
[01:02:20] Sam Harris: I got few answers to that question. The main one is to create a platform and a business model. Unfortunately, this isn't something that I can just recommend to people because I do consider myself a kind of outlier here where I've been able to do this and it doesn't leave me in a position to give advice that people can readily follow. But insofar as is possible, to create a circumstance for yourself where you're not vulnerable to the mob. Well, then you should do that, right? Because that gives you the oxygen by which you can function. You can notice all the chaos around you, much of which may be aimed at you, but you can not care because you're in vulnerable or comparatively in vulnerable.
[01:03:09] I mean, obviously there are things that could still take me down in the end, but it would be hard. It'd be fairly extreme. So there's that. I mean, just, you know, not to have to worry about being fired is a very big deal. And I recognize I'm in a position of immense privilege to have been lucky enough to stumble upon the technology at the right time. The technology here being, you know, podcasts and apps that allowed me to not be in a normal job. Where I have a boss who can be sensitive to public opinion in such a way that I get the knock on the door, which says, "Sorry, your career is over based on that last thing you tweeted or that last thing you said." And so many people are in that position.
[01:03:53] And not even getting tenure as a professor is enough of inoculation so that people feel free to speak. I mean, I can't tell you how many tenured professors are not free to say what they think is true in the current environment. So insofar as you can do that, do that, but then there's this other component to it, which is you just recognize that so much of what is being said about anyone online is being said by people who may be one, are not representing the either — it's hard to know whether in some people are probably revealing their true selves and it's their fake self that you meet in real life. But more and more, I think it's a matter of people's worst inclinations being amplified by the platforms themselves. So anonymity is one important variable that kind of the mob like behavior and the social signal and that the need to virtue signal to the mob.
[01:04:49] So that so much of political communication now is not honest communication. It's an expression of solidarity to the group and appears to be facing outward. It appears to be worried about the target of criticism, but really what it is, is just a way of advertising that you're in good standing with your particular mob. So you just have to recognize that it's dishonest and you're seeing the worst sides of people. You're seeing people who in real life, if you could actually sit down, face to face and a COVID has made this even worse because they were dealing with fewer face to face encounters. But if you can actually sit down with these people in real life, you would meet normal people in most cases, or you would meet people who are obviously crazy, and therefore not worth talking to. But online, everyone has the same status, you know, in your Twitter feed, every tweet has the same status whether it's coming by blue check marks aside, this person can be a great academic or a great journalist or somebody who's — they could even not even be a person. They could be a bot, right? You don't know what you're dealing with.
[01:05:55] So much of what's coming back at you is something that you need not take seriously on its face. And even when it's coming from serious people, their worst inclinations are being selected for, by the platforms themselves and by how we've all been trained to use them. People are behaving in ways that they would not behave. They would not say this in person to you or about you. And it's a funhouse mirror that we're in human nature and your own reputation is not being accurately reflected. If you can discount for that. I mean, again, it's not in some ways that funhouse mirror is becoming reality, unfortunately. So it used to be comforting to say that Twitter is not real life and real life is real life, but more and more given the business models and their effect on the world and given the nature of politics more and more, unfortunately, Twitter and the funhouse mirror of social media is becoming as important if not more important than real life in terms of the maintenance of one's reputation.
[01:06:59]There's not a total consoling message to draw, but the lesson I've drawn here is that you're getting an inaccurately depressing picture of humanity online. And then you're disposed to react to that, right? People are not this bad in real life, face to face, certainly most of the time. We've driven ourselves properly crazy by having been inducted into something like a reality TV show, 24/7 for years. A lot of it has to do with what social media has done to us and what the smartphone has done to us.
[01:07:34] I mean, just look at these protests and riots and look at how many people are recording them and then ask yourself how many people would be participating in this mayhem, but for the opportunity to record themselves. What they're doing with the recordings is another question. I mean, how many people have platforms that can be serviced by these recordings, but the percentage of people recording themselves and everyone else recording the mayhem that they're producing, I mean, whether it's burning a bus or whatever, and how much of this is being inspired by the fact that it's possible to record yourself doing this in the first place. We're in a hall of mirrors that our primate minds were not designed for. It's having a, I think, negative effect. There's no question. So some course correction is coming.
[01:08:27] Jordan Harbinger: Do you ever fear for your safety? A lot of your critics are they're insane. They're absolutely insane. They've made good on threats to murder other people who do and say similar things, as you've said and done, especially when it comes to your critiques of religion and things like that. I mean, do you ever sit back and go this, "Person is looking at me weird while I'm eating outside. What does that mean?"
[01:08:46] Sam Harris: It's been a long time since I've eaten outside. I'm in COVID land here. So it's been seven months since I can remember having had the privilege of eating in a restaurant. Fear is virtually never my state of mind around that. I mean, no more than I need to feel fear to buckle my seatbelt when I get into a car. Obviously. I wear a seatbelt because I'm aware of all the bad things that can happen to you when your car collides with some other large object. But fear is not the state of mind that leads to prudent stare. But I am very prudent with respect to my own security and my family's security. I don't know how much you're aware of what I've said on this topic, but I've written and spoken a lot on self-defense and martial arts and firearms and all that. Like I've gone down that particular rabbit hole and did it a long time ago. You know, I take my personal security seriously, but that's the mental state associated with that isn't fear.
[01:09:49]I mean, if anything, it's fun, right? It's kind of a guilty pleasure. I mean, once you decide you want to be the sort of person who knows how to defend himself and knows how to work with firearms and all that, like then it just becomes fun to do. It's like a high stakes video game to train in Brazilian jiu-jitsu or to train with firearms. That part is fun, but most of security is information security and being hard to find and not. And when you advertise where you are going to be to always have professional security. And so I've just decided that all comes with the territory. It's not onerous anymore. It's just a lot of boxes that I check intelligently at this point. Because as you say, you know, some people are crazy and some people are ideological and I seem to have attracted both forms of antagonists. And it's definitely not a perk of the job. There's a significant hassle factor associated with it. But at this point, it's all just sort of priced into my routine.
[01:10:43] Jordan Harbinger: Sam, we could go on forever, but I take it that's not in the cards. So I do appreciate your time. This is fascinating. Next time, I'll have to have you come back and talk about freewill and lying because those were popular—
[01:10:53]Sam Harris: Sure.
[01:10:53] Jordan Harbinger: —last time we spoke. I really do appreciate it. The book will be linked in the show notes and hope to talk to you as well.
[01:10:59] Sam Harris: Yeah. Yeah. It's been a pleasure Jordan as always. Thanks so much.
[01:11:05] Jordan Harbinger: I've got some thoughts on this episode, but before I get into that, here's what you should check out next on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[01:11:12] Erik Aude: Pakistan was just one of many bad things that happened to me in my life. I've had so many things happen and I just learned to get over it. You know, you get knocked down six times, you get up seven. And that's the only way I've ever known how to live.
[01:11:23] When I got out of the cab with the suitcases to leave Pakistan, the guy who was there was like, "Next time you come back, we'll show you around. We will hook you up with some girls. You have a great time." And I'm humoring this guy, I'm like, "Yeah, sure, next time I come back." I know for a fact, I'm never coming back to Pakistan. Country sucks. That f*cking country sucks. And I'm good at finding like good things that are everywhere.
[01:11:42] So it's early in the morning and I go into international departures and there's a long line curving around the corner. I'm waiting in line and the line goes all the way up this wall to where there's customs tables. And one of the customs officers sees me and flagged me because I'm about six inches taller than everyone. And I get brought to another room. Finally, the guy who asked me if there was narcotics in my suitcase comes in and he is holding these two sandwich sealed things. And his exact word to me is, "What is this?" And I said, "I don't f*cking know what it is." He says, "This is opium." I said, "Why are you showing me this?" "Because it came out of your suitcase."
[01:12:18] I felt like such a f*cking idiot. Because I thought that the DEA was going to hook me up, you know, because they're going to see that I'm innocent. I truly thought those guys are going to be there to help me now because I wasn't guilty. This sh*t doesn't happen to innocent people. Three years of my life for a crime I didn't know I was being used to commit.
[01:12:39] Jordan Harbinger: To hear the rest of one of the most harrowing stories I've ever heard in my time doing this podcast, check out episode 147 with Erik Aude here on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[01:12:52] Thanks to Sam. We'll be having him back again. Well, it depends how much hate mail I get for this. Actually, it doesn't, I'm going to have him back again. I always do. You know, it's funny, I do love hearing what you guys think about every single episode, but I will tell you some of the people that make a lot of you angry are the most interesting people and they challenge our thinking the most. And when I say you, I mean, there's a tiny, tiny minority of extremely vocal people and it usually surprises me. It usually really surprises me who's controversial and who's not. Some of them are obvious and some aren't. You can't really do a Sam Harris episode without pissing off a ton of people. So I'm ready for that. Go ahead and email me directly, firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm ready to hear you out. And again, thank you for listening and a big thank you to Sam Harris for joining us today. Links to his stuff will be in the show notes.
[01:13:38] Please if you buy any books from any authors on the show, do use the links on the website. That adds up. It helps support the show. Worksheets for the episode are in the show notes. Transcripts for the episodes are also in the show notes. No video for this one at Sam's request. You know, hair and makeup, such a to-do. I'm at @JordanHarbinger on both Twitter and Instagram, or hit me on LinkedIn. I do enjoy talking with all of you on many platforms. LinkedIn seems to have the least amount of crazies. But you know what? Go ahead and DM me on Twitter, Instagram. I am there.
[01:14:06] I'm teaching you how to connect with great people and manage relationships, using systems and tiny habits over at our Six-Minute Networking course. Again, that course is free. I don't need your credit card info. None of that. There's no upsells. jordanharbinger.com/course. I'm teaching you how to dig the well before you get thirsty. And most of the guests on the show, they subscribe to the course. They contribute to this course. Be sure you join us, you'll be in smart company where you belong.
[01:14:29] This show is created in association with PodcastOne. My amazing team is Jen Harbinger, Jase Sanderson, Robert Fogarty, Millie Ocampo, Ian Baird, Josh Ballard, and Gabriel Mizrahi. 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. You know they don't have to be your friends. A lot of us don't even have any friends after this pandemic. Share it with the strangers you interact with online. That's just as good. If you know somebody who's a Sam Harris fan, somebody who's interested in the subjects that we covered here today, please do share this with them. And I hope you find something great in every episode. Please do share the show with those you care about. 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.
[01:15:15] Jayson Waller: Jayson Waller here, host of your True Underdog podcasts and YouTube channel. This is what we've got in store on our episodes. I'm going to tell stories of me growing up, being trailer parked, high school dropout, teen dad, to opening three businesses that were successful. The latest business winning Inc 500 three out of four years, entrepreneur of the year. And it's a billion-dollar company. That's right. I'm going to give you tips, strategies, how to overcome adversity, how to be better, how to not stay in the mud. On top of that, on this show on the full episodes, we're going to have interviews with people who have overcome adversity, people that have been successful, but started with things in their way, things they had to overcome and struggle with. How did they get there? Check us out on iHeartRadio, Spotify, or Apple Podcasts. You can go to trueunderdog.com. Subscribe to everything, or go to YouTube at the True Underdog Podcast.
Sign up to receive email updates
Enter your name and email address below and I'll send you periodic updates about the podcast.