Joe Rogan Experience #1233 – Brian Cox

86:48
yeah so there’s something in there
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there’s something that interacts with
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the physical structure of your body and
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and and I would say there isn’t so
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that’s the whoo-whoo version is that the
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brain itself and the body the physical
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so this this this spiritual self you are
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merely an antenna that’s tuning into the
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the the great consciousness of the
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universe but why but then you have to
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answer what it we know what we are made
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of yes oh we know how those particles
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behave and interact so so why do the
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particles not in any way interact with
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that stuff because we interact we don’t
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if that’s true we don’t only just
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interact with it we interact extremely
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strongly with it we’re interacting with
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it now yeah every movement I make is the
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interaction between those every matter
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yeah yes what everything if I move my
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fingers everything that I’m doing right
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is an interaction between that stuff and
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me so it’s a very strong interaction
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with matter but we don’t see it in all
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our precision measurement well the
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answer for that dancer is because it’s
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not there the answer is Jesus and you
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can’t measure God that may be an answer
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but the point is you as we talked about
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earlier with absolute space yeah if you
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can’t measure it yeah it’s not there hmm
>> Can you measure consciousness?
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right it’s but for whatever reason for
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people there is some incredible
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motivation to find a divine something or
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another that’s there’s something greater
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than this physical being there’s
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something what do you think that is like
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what is that compulsion we we’ve already
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sort of talked a bit about it I think it
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goes to the the hearts of this question
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of what it means to be human
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mmm
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so I would say that being human the
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answer to the it’s not the answer to the
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meaning but it an answer would be we are
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small finite beings right which are just
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clusters of atoms as we said before
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they’re very rare but we understand
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roughly how they how they came to be and
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we have a limited amount of time not
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actually unfortunately but because of
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the laws of nature that the laws of
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nature forbid us to be immortal
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they-they-they immortality’s ruled out
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by the laws of physics but also actually
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what’s interesting about if you look at
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the basic physics of the universe going
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from the Big Bang to where we are today
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then the physics is driven by the fact
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that the universe began in an extremely
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ordered state so it was a very highly
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ordered system and it is tending towards
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a more disordered system at the moment
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and that’s called the second law of
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thermodynamics and it’s that basic
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common-sense thing that things go to
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[ __ ] basically the second law of
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thermodynamics what we strongly suspect
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and and I would say know is that in that
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process of going from order to disorder
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complexity emerges naturally for a brief
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period of time so it’s a natural part of
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the evolution of the universe that you
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get appeared in time when there’s
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complexity in the universe so stars and
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planets and galaxies and life and
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civilizations but they are they exist
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because the universe is decaying not in
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spite of the fact the universe is
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decaying so our existence in that sort
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of picture is necessarily finite and
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necessarily time limited and it is a
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remarkable thing that that complexity
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has got so far that there are things in
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the universe that can think and feel and
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explore it and I think that is the
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answer if you want an answer to the
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meaning of it all it’s that that you are
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part of the universe because of the way
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the laws of nature work
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you are allowed to exist but you’re
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allowed to exist for a temporary or a
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small amount of time in a possibly
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infinite universe
91:07
one of the biggest mind-blowing moments
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I think of my limited comprehension of
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what it means to be a living being was
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when I found out that carbon and all the
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stuff that makes us has to come out of a
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dying star yeah like there that alone
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that there’s this very strange cycle of
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these enormous fireballs that Forge the
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material that makes Brian Cox yeah like
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what that that one alone that there is
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some strange loop of biological life
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that comes from stars which is like the
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most elemental thing that we can observe
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we see these things in this can we see
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the Sun in the sky it’s this
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all-powerful ball of fire
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yeah and that that is where the building
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blocks for a person come from and then
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is it so and they will be from the
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carbon atoms in our body that you’re
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right they all got made in styles
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because there were none of it at the Big
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Bang
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there’s only hydrogen and helium tiny
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bit of lithium to be precise but nothing
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else and so it was all made in stars and
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it’s probably from different styles you
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know the atoms in your body they’re not
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all from one star that cooks it and then
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died there’ll be a mixture of stuff from
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many stars in your body now and I agree
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with you the what more do you want you
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know when I see people who got I want
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more than that I want you know it was
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there must be more to it
92:39
what do you mean the the we have we have
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we were the ingredients now bodies were
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assembled in their hearts of long dead
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stars over billions of years and have
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assembled themselves spontaneously into
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temporary structures that can think and
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feel and explore and then those
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structures will decay away again at some
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point and in a very far future there’ll
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be no structures left so there we are we
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exist in this little window when we can
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observe this magnificent universe why do
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you want any more insults I think to
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people I think a lot of people aren’t
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aware of
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all the all the information right and
93:14
then I think on top of it for some
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people it’s just it’s so overwhelming
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you know this this concept of 13.8
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billion years of everything to get to
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this point that we’re at right now it’s
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so overwhelming that they want to
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simplify it you want to put it into some
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sort of a fable structure something
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where it’s something that’s very common
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and similar and familiar yeah I I agree
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and and but I think that’s the the it’s
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the the the journey that we go on the
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real treasure I think is in that journey
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of trying to face the incomprehensible
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yes it’s it’s in that realization that
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it’s almost it’s it’s almost impossible
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to believe that we exist that’s that’s
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that’s a wonderful thing yeah and I
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think that that’s what I think you miss
94:12
out I think if you decide to simplify it
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because you don’t want to face that you
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don’t have faced the infinity that’s out
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there in front of us and you don’t want
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to face those stories as you said that
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you look at your finger and its
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ingredients was cooked in multiple stars
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over billions of years that that’s a to
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me a joyous and powerful thing to think
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about yes and I think you’re missing out
94:37
if you don’t want to face that well I
94:39
think the distribution of information
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has changed so radically over the last
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couple hundred years and particularly
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over the last twenty that you’re seeing
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these trends now where more people are
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inclined to abandon a lot of the even if
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you remain religious or remain you keep
94:59
a sought or a belief in a higher power
95:02
people are more inclined to entertain
95:06
these concepts of science and to take in
95:09
the understanding of what has been
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observed and documented and written
95:13
about among scholars and academics and
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there’s more there’s more people
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accepting that have you look at the
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number of agnostic people now as opposed
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to twenty thirty years ago it’s it’s
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it’s rising
95:25
it’s changing and I think there’s also
95:27
because of you and because of Neil
95:30
deGrasse Tyson and you know Sean Carroll
95:33
and all these other people that are
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public intellectuals that are discussing
95:35
this kind of stuff people like myself
95:37
have a far greater understanding of this
95:40
then I think people did 30 40 years ago
95:42
yeah and that trend is continuing I
95:44
think in a very good direction yeah I
95:47
mean I don’t you know what we should say
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is that science we don’t know all the
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answers so we don’t know where the laws
95:55
of nature came from we don’t know why
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the universe began in the way that it
96:02
did if indeed it had a beginning so I
96:04
don’t know why the Big Bang was very
96:06
very highly ordered which is ultimately
96:08
as Sean Carroll actually mentioned him
96:11
often points out means right but the
96:14
whole difference the only difference
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between the past in the future the
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so-called arrow of time is that in the
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past the universe was really ordered and
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it’s getting more disordered and that’s
96:25
that that that necessary state of order
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at the start of the universe which is
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really the reason that we exist that’s
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the reason because the universe began in
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a particular form we don’t know why that
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was so we will probably find out at some
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point and it will be something to do
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with the laws of nature but so I’m
96:47
always careful I don’t want to science
96:50
can sometimes sound arrogant right it
96:51
can sometimes sound like it’s the it’s
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the discipline of saying to people while
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you’re not right yeah and it’s not the
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discipline of saying you’re not right
96:59
it’s saying this is what we found out
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yeah so I like to say that it provides a
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framework within which if you want to
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philosophize or you want to do theology
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or you want to you want to ask these
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deep questions about why we’re here you
97:15
have to operate within that framework
97:16
because it’s just an observational
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framework yes everything we’ve said is
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stuff we’ve discovered it’s not stuff
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that someone made up we we we you know
97:26
we understand nuclear physics we can
97:27
build nuclear reactors for example so we
97:30
understand the physics of stars so we
97:32
understand that the Stars built the
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carbon oxygen and we know how they did
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it and we can see it because as I said
97:38
before we can
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if you look far out into the universe
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you’re looking way back in time and as
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you look back in time you see less
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carbon and less oxygen so we have a
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direct observation that in the earliest
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universe there wasn’t any because we can
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see it and now we see that there is some
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and we know how it was made so I think
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it’s so it’s important to be humble when
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you’re talking about science and you’re
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not saying this is the way that it is I
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mean your own a sense but you know it’s
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not it’s not able to answer ultimate
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questions at the moment it’s not able to
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answer even whether the universe had a
98:16
beginning or not we don’t even know that
98:18
and I gave a talk to him I was asked to
98:21
give a talk to some bishops in the UK
98:23
about cosmology and I said yeah that’d
98:26
be great fun and so when I gave him this
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talk and at the end I said I’ve got some
98:31
questions so if the universe is eternal
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and it might be it might not have had a
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beginning if it’s eternal what place is
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there for a creator you know that’s
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that’s a good question Brian I didn’t
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they didn’t have an answer of course
98:45
right an eternal creator but yeah but I
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think that these it might be eternal and
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we might discover that so we don’t know
98:54
at the moment but we might so I think my
98:57
point is that these other human desires
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very natural to religions and natural
99:04
thing right people you see all across
99:06
the world in all different cultures but
99:08
I think that in the 21st century it
99:11
religion needs to operate within that
99:14
framework if it’s going if it’s going to
99:16
operate there are still great mysteries
99:18
and it is appropriate to think about
99:21
what it means to be human and are giving
99:23
you my view of what it means but but I
99:26
don’t think the problem comes when you
99:28
when your your theology or your
99:30
philosophy forces you to deny some facts
99:34
some measurement now these things at
99:36
measurements we’re not saying it’s not
99:39
my opinion the universe is 13.8 billion
99:41
years old we measured it it’s like
99:43
having an opinion between the distance
99:44
from LA to New York no you can’t have an
99:46
opinion on that right know what it is
99:48
and it’s the same you know excited out
99:51
that these things
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people say the Earth’s flat or whatever
99:54
there so it isn’t and we’ve measured it
99:56
so it’s just stop it either said but
99:58
that doesn’t mean you can’t be spiritual
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and you can’t be really just I would
100:03
saying it doesn’t mean you can’t believe
100:04
in God or God’s
100:06
that’s not ruled out by science but some
100:11
stuff’s ruled out well I love the way
100:14
you communicate this because it takes
100:16
into consideration human nature and like
100:18
I love Dawkins he’s fantastic I think
100:21
he’s very very very valuable but he
100:24
likes to call people idiots and the
100:26
problem with that is people go [ __ ] you
100:28
you’re an idiot it like is a natural
100:31
inclination when you insult people to
100:34
argue back and to sort of dig their
100:37
heels in yeah and you don’t do that and
100:40
I think that’s very important and I
100:42
think that a guy like doc has just gets
100:44
frustrated from all these years of
100:46
debates with people who educated are
100:48
saying ridiculous things and he’s a bit
100:49
of a curmudgeon you know and he seems to
100:51
be softening as he’s getting older well
100:53
he’s the evolutionary biology yes and
100:54
that’s the the front line in some sense
100:57
isn’t it yes yeah I mean the thing about
100:58
particle physics is that you don’t get a
101:00
lot of [ __ ] because people don’t
101:02
understand what you’re talking about
101:05
right there so I understand his
101:08
frustration oh I do too
101:10
having said that you know I’ve kind of
101:13
softened a bit over the years actually
101:15
because now I think at this point both
101:18
in the u.s. actually and in Britain and
101:20
in some of the countries we are at a
101:23
point you’ve alluded to it where
101:25
everybody’s angry no a lot of anger and
101:27
a lot of it’s justified by the way whom
101:29
you could talk about that you know
101:30
income inequality and all those things
101:31
so it’s justified anger but it seems to
101:34
me that there are people of goodwill who
101:36
need to band together to diffuse the
101:39
anger in our societies otherwise we
101:41
won’t have countries like the United
101:42
States yes the United States because
101:44
it’s United and everybody
101:45
you’ve got the United flag there you
101:48
know said that there’s a sense of
101:50
belonging identity and togetherness in a
101:52
country which you’ve got to preserve and
101:54
so I’ve stopped actually um picking I
101:57
Isis for example quite enjoy picking
101:59
fights with Deepak Chopra on Twitter
102:02
it’s just for me to laugh
102:06
he says some crazy stuff in his hand but
102:08
I saw Thomas I’ve stopped doing it going
102:10
well but relative to some of the other
102:13
people right he’s he’s someone who means
102:18
well yes I don’t agree with virtually
102:21
anything he says however he’s a
102:23
well-meaning person yeah and so I’ve
102:25
started trying to seek common ground now
102:27
that’s why I for example gave a talk to
102:31
the bishops they asked me to come you I
102:32
don’t agree with them on the framework
102:35
their theological framework but they
102:37
mean well most of them yeah so I think
102:40
seeking consensus and diffusion anger as
102:42
you said is it is incumbent all of us
102:45
especially people like us you have a
102:46
public voice we need to defuse some of
102:49
this anger because otherwise it will
102:50
consume everyone yes I’ve tried very
102:53
hard to evolve in that respect and just
102:57
get better at communicating ideas and
102:59
get better at understanding how people
103:00
receive those ideas and I think that’s
103:02
it’s there’s it’s easy to get lazy and
103:06
to insult and especially me I mean I’m a
103:12
comedian what I do people yeah for humor
103:18
I want to entertain people that’s the
103:20
whole idea behind it but I think in
103:22
terms of like discussing ideas
103:23
especially that are so personal to
103:25
people like religion I’ve I’ve
103:28
reexamined the way I interpret these
103:31
ideas and the way I talk about these
103:33
things
103:33
yeah there’s a it’s interesting there’s
103:37
a I did a BBC program my age that I was
103:40
asked to do it on the thing call the
103:41
wreath lectures the babies that the BBC
103:45
have done since 1952 I think he was and
103:47
Robert Oppenheimer did them in 53 and it
103:51
was it’s fascinating you can get the
103:53
transcripts online they’re free and you
103:55
can get one recording of the five they
103:57
taped over the other four and you
103:58
believe it they raised them they wanted
104:01
to tape something but one of them
104:05
existed often Jaime giving these
104:06
lectures oh my god but you can read
104:14
better and Russell didn’t do the Reaver
104:16
they taped over them Bertrand Russell
104:20
because tape was so expensive but he
104:24
talks of raising yeah but it’s brilliant
104:26
it’s cause science in the common
104:28
understanding and they weren’t very
104:29
well-received because he thought he was
104:31
gonna talk about their Manhattan
104:32
projects so they thought he was gonna
104:33
talk about the atom bomb meaning is that
104:35
he was she ran it basically but he
104:37
didn’t he talked about how its thinking
104:40
like a scientist which means thinking in
104:43
the way that nature forces you to think
104:45
can be valuable in other areas and it’s
104:48
a that’s an insight in itself the great
104:50
thing the unique thing about science is
104:53
nature forces you to think like that you
104:56
can’t have an opinion can I have an
104:57
opinion about gravity just be gentle as
105:00
a building you can hit the ground that’s
105:02
it doesn’t matter what your opinion is
105:03
and and he said so if you think about
105:07
for example quantum mechanics so
105:09
sometimes you think of as particle like
105:11
an electron sometimes it has to it’s a
105:13
point like object may behave like a
105:16
little billiard ball thing pool ball
105:18
that bounces around but sometimes it
105:20
behaves like an extended thing like a
105:22
wavy thing and nature forces you to hold
105:25
both ideas in your head at the same time
105:27
you know there’s a get a complete
105:28
picture of the objects they’re a
105:31
description of an electron and he said
105:33
that’s the valuable thing about quantum
105:35
mechanics you know unless you’re doing
105:37
electronics or inventing lasers you
105:39
don’t need to know this stuff but if you
105:41
want to learn how to think you it’s
105:43
valuable to be forced to hold different
105:46
ideas in your head at the same time mmm
105:48
it’s really teaching you not to be an
105:49
absolutist straight teaching you the
105:51
example he uses is because he was I
105:54
think he was had problems with McCarthy
105:56
and all those things didn’t he so you
105:57
think he’s writing in the 50s so he said
105:59
you can either be you could be a
106:01
communist which in his definition would
106:03
be that you think the needs of the many
106:06
outweigh the needs of the few right so
106:07
so societies all that matters
106:09
oh it could be a libertarian all right
106:11
on the far conservative end where you
106:13
think that the individual is the only
106:15
thing that matters and that’s it but
106:17
actually of course to have a function in
106:19
society you need a mixture of the two
106:21
and we can wait it one way or the other
106:23
but you need to hold both ideas in your
106:26
head at the same time and that’s he said
106:28
that one of the most valuable things
106:30
about science because it forces you into
106:32
modes
106:32
thought they’re valuable and that’s what
106:35
we’re talking about here it’s so
106:36
absolute physicians are always a just a
106:41
blinkered sort of subset of what’s
106:44
actually happening you can’t understand
106:46
the world by being an extremist yeah
106:48
you’ve got to hold all these views in
106:50
your head well that I find that so often
106:55
on this podcast because I talk with
106:57
people I agree with end disagree with
106:59
and I always try to put myself in the
107:01
head of the person that I disagree with
107:03
I always try to figure out how they’re
107:06
coming to those conclusions or where
107:08
they’re coming from yeah and I think
107:10
it’s so it’s so important to not be
107:13
married to ideas I got a conversation
107:15
with someone about this and they said
107:18
like sometimes you change your opinions
107:19
a lot I go yeah I do flip-flopping I’m
107:25
not a politician like I’m not
107:27
flip-flopping I’m thinking yeah I’m not
107:29
sure I’m not sure like I I will have one
107:32
opinion on a thing whether it’s a
107:34
controversial thing like universal basic
107:36
income I’ll change my mind a hundred
107:38
percent in two weeks
107:39
yeah now I think it’s probably a good
107:41
idea yeah and then I’ll go back and
107:43
forth no no no no no people need but
107:45
it’s as cruel as it seems they need
107:47
motivation they need and I don’t know I
107:49
bounce around with these things yeah but
107:51
I’ve tried really hard as I’ve gotten
107:54
older to have less absolute opinions
107:56
yeah yeah Richard Fineman another great
107:59
physicist wrote a similar essay a
108:01
similar time to Oppenheimer and he also
108:03
works in the Manhattan Project it’s
108:05
called the value of science and I think
108:07
that was 1955 and they both shared
108:09
actually a surprise I think that they
108:13
were still alive because they thought
108:14
that the power they’d given to the
108:16
politicians the atom bomb would destroy
108:19
everything they didn’t think that a
108:20
political system would control it and it
108:22
did so that’s an emotion remarkable
108:24
thing yeah we’re still here but in in in
108:26
that essay he said the the most valuable
108:31
thing about science is the realization
108:33
that we don’t know and he said he said
108:36
in that statement he calls science is
108:39
satisfactory philosophy of ignorance by
108:41
the way he said in that statement is the
108:43
open door the open channel he called it
108:46
if we want to make progress we have to
108:48
understand that we don’t know everything
108:51
and we have to leave things to future
108:53
generations and we can be uncertain and
108:55
we can change our minds and he said that
108:57
that’s that it’s a great last line I
109:00
come exactly what he says but he said
109:01
it’s something like is our duty as
109:03
scientists to communicate the value of
109:05
uncertainty and the value of freedom of
109:07
thoughts to all future generations
109:08
that’s the point that’s what freedom of
109:11
thought means freedom of thought means
109:13
the freedom to change your mind in fact
109:16
said that’s what democracy is if you
109:17
think about it democracy is a trial and
109:19
error system so it’s the it’s the
109:21
admission that we don’t know how to do
109:24
it therefore we’ll change every four
109:26
years we’ll change the president or
109:28
every eight years we’ll change the
109:29
president why because the president
109:31
doesn’t know how to do it so that
109:33
someone better they will do someone
109:35
better that comes along and then someone
109:37
worse and someone better but it’s a
109:38
trial and error system and he’s right
109:41
and he’s right that that is the open
109:42
door that’s that that’s the road to
109:45
progress he’s certainly better than
109:46
humility yeah one of the things that I
109:48
love so much about Bertrand Russell and
109:50
about Fineman was how human they were
109:52
they were very human I mean finally like
109:55
to play the bongos and who’s chasing
109:57
girls and Bertrand Russell was addicted
109:59
to tobacco he would talk about how he
110:01
wouldn’t fly unless he could smoke like
110:04
he had to get us was back when they had
110:06
smoking sections on airplanes and he had
110:09
his pipe and he just refused to fly
110:11
without tobacco and he couldn’t imagine
110:12
being without tobacco well yeah that’s
110:14
so strange for such a brilliant guy to
110:17
be addicted to such a gross thing yeah
110:20
you’re right because I think these these
110:22
are faithful that found existence joyous
110:26
yeah wanted to know they just wanted to
110:28
know stuff yeah didn’t want to know
110:29
everything because you can’t know
110:31
everything right yeah I suppose that’s
110:33
what if you think about what the job of
110:36
the scientist is is to is to stand on
110:38
the edge of the known because you’re a
110:41
research scientist so if there’s nothing
110:42
to know then you’ve got no job so you
110:45
have to be naturally comfortable with
110:47
not knowing and if there’s one thing I
110:50
really do think we was how do we begin
110:53
to patch our countries back up again one
110:56
of the reasons I think in education is
110:58
to teach people the value of on
110:59
certainty but not knowing it is not weak
111:02
right to not know it’s actually natural
111:06
not to know and that’s one of the
111:09
freedom is with religion is to say that
111:11
you know when you do not hard to say
111:13
that you have absolute truth and
111:15
absolute knowledge of something yeah
111:17
when it can’t really exist yeah I mean
111:19
history tells us doesn’t it that yeah
111:20
anyone who thinks they’ve got absolute
111:22
knowledge is a cause he’s trouble yeah
111:25
did you see ex machina yeah did you
111:28
enjoy it yes yes I know him Alex Garland
111:31
because he wrote sunshine oh right 28
111:34
days later
111:35
yeah and yeah new movie the weird one
111:38
the alien movie he wrote that as well
111:39
right yes a great soundtrack yeah yeah
111:45
did you are you scared of artificial
111:48
life artificial intelligence and you
111:51
know I might scare the [ __ ] out of me
111:53
yeah when he talked about it like he
111:55
talks about it like were in the opening
111:58
scene of a science fiction movie where
112:01
he’s trying to warn people and then they
112:03
don’t listen to the genius and it goes
112:05
south so depends I chaired a debate on
112:09
this for the role sites in London a few
112:12
weeks ago and the so it’s treating now
112:16
at the moment what people seem to be
112:18
frightened of a general a is no I AG I
112:20
they call artificial general
112:21
intelligence which is like what we
112:23
talked about earlier a human-like
112:25
capability thing yes and we miles away
112:29
from that we don’t have to do it we
112:31
haven’t got them and we’re miles away so
112:33
at the moment artificial intelligence is
112:35
expert systems and very focused systems
112:38
that do particular things you can be
112:40
scared of them in a limited economic
112:43
sense because they’re going to displace
112:45
people’s jobs and actually interestingly
112:47
in this panel discussion we had it’s
112:49
going to be like why you Mike on
112:50
middle-class jobs in the UK so
112:52
white-collar jobs it’s not actually why
112:54
people are interested in universal basic
112:56
income to sort of replace money that’s
112:58
kind of lost because there will be no
113:00
jobs for all these people otherwise we
113:01
have just a mass catastrophe yeah
113:03
they’re very good someone said that
113:05
these systems are special intelligence
113:07
systems at the moment they’re very good
113:09
at doing things like lot lawyers work so
113:11
they’re very good at reading contracts
113:12
and things
113:13
that’s interesting it’s a revolution
113:15
it’s not like the Industrial Revolution
113:16
where it’s manual labor that gets hit
113:19
necessarily this is kind of interesting
113:21
because it hits that kind of
113:23
intermediate level that usually escapes
113:26
so you’re right one of the answers is to
113:28
tax there was an example was a robot
113:31
tank so in a car factory you say to the
113:34
manufacturer well okay you can have a
113:35
robot well you pay the robot the same as
113:37
you pay a person and then that money
113:39
goes into funding universal basic income
113:41
or something like that
113:42
mhm so I think there’s got to be an
113:43
economic change because these systems
113:45
will be there but all the experts I
113:49
suppose who agreed the the idea of a
113:52
Terminator style general intelligence
113:54
taken over the world is miles away and
113:58
so whilst we might start thinking about
114:01
the regulation it’s not going to happen
114:04
soon is the general point I think so I
114:08
would disagree with him on that I think
114:11
I think it’s too far in the future at
114:13
the moment I thought it might be one of
114:15
those people that’s okay it’s gonna be
114:17
all right right and then then you know
114:18
my iphone takes me out on the way so a
114:24
choice at the moment isn’t it I mean
114:25
don’t don’t give your iPhone a laser
114:28
that doesn’t matter if it goes crazy and
114:31
tries to take over the world I know I
114:32
know that’s a bit facetious because they
114:34
can he would say they could take over
114:36
power grids and all that kind of stuff
114:37
yeah well it’s these concepts that are
114:40
really hard to visualize like sir Kurt’s
114:43
Wiles idea of the exponential increase
114:46
of technology leading to us to a point
114:49
in the near future where you’re gonna be
114:51
able to download your consciousness into
114:52
a computer you talk to computer expert
114:54
still like there’s no way we’re miles
114:55
away from that yeah on you’re a
114:56
scientist yeah scientist one brain cell
115:02
probably we can but Kurzweil is
115:04
convinced that what’s gonna happen is
115:06
that as technology increases it can
115:08
increases in this wildly exponential way
115:11
where we really can’t visualize it we
115:14
can’t even imagine how much advancement
115:17
will take place over 50 years but in
115:19
those 50 years something’s going to
115:21
happen that radically changes our idea
115:23
of what’s possible and I think Elon
115:25
shares this idea as well that
115:27
gonna sneak up on us so quickly that
115:29
when it does go alive it’ll be too late
115:30
yeah I mean it’s worth putting the the
115:33
the framework in place
115:34
I think the regulatory framework even as
115:37
you said for the more realistic problem
115:39
which is people’s jobs are going to get
115:40
displaced yes
115:41
and there’s a great I was at a thing and
115:44
some someone said I come he was but they
115:46
said that the jury was a politician the
115:48
the job of the innovation system is to
115:50
create jobs faster than it destroys them
115:53
so you’ve always got to remember that as
115:54
a government and as regulators if you’re
115:57
going to allow technologies into the
115:59
marketplace that destroy people’s jobs
116:01
it is your responsibility to find a way
116:04
of replacing those jobs or compensating
116:07
those people as you said otherwise you
116:09
get breakdown so human being those that
116:12
people need some meaning like they just
116:15
giving them income I think is just gonna
116:18
mean just my speculation but it’s gonna
116:21
create mass despair even if you provide
116:24
them you provide them with food and
116:25
shelter they need people need things to
116:28
do so it’s there’s going to be some sort
116:31
of a demand to find meaning for people
116:34
give them occupations give them
116:36
something some tasks let’s say it seems
116:39
to be one of the critical parts of being
116:42
a person so we need things to do that we
116:45
find meaning in you know like you were
116:47
talking about we’re the only things that
116:49
we know of that have meaning that find
116:52
meaning and share meaning and believe in
116:54
that we’re gonna need something like
116:57
that if universal basic income comes
116:59
along I don’t think it’s going to be
117:00
enough to just feed people and house
117:02
them yeah they couldn’t want something
117:04
to do if you know a person is a you’re
117:07
doing something for an occupation and
117:09
this is your identity and then all
117:11
sudden that occupation becomes
117:12
irrelevant because computer does it
117:13
faster cheaper quicker these people are
117:17
gonna have this incredible feeling of
117:19
despair and just not being valuable yeah
117:22
I mean oh what wonder utopian so their
117:25
version of this is that everybody gets
117:27
to do what we’re doing now Rush’s make a
117:29
living so thinking and creating and now
117:32
that kind of you know so that that’s the
117:34
the utopian ideal is you don’t need to
117:36
do the stuff the job that you don’t
117:38
really want to do in the factory
117:41
you can do the thing that humans are
117:43
best at that but I agree it’s that’s a
117:46
very utopian view yeah does everybody
117:49
want to do that or does everybody have
117:51
their mindset well because we’re
117:53
education if everybody had an interest
117:55
like that if everybody went on to make
117:57
pottery and painting and doing all these
118:00
different things they’ve always really
118:01
wanted to do and their needs are met by
118:04
you know the universal basic income
118:06
money they receive every month but boy
118:09
there’s a lot of people I don’t think
118:10
have those desires or needs and to sort
118:13
of force them onto them at age 55 or
118:16
whatever it’s gonna be yeah seems to be
118:18
very very difficult yeah yeah I agree
118:22
yeah it’s a big challenge but I think
118:25
that in concept at least it’s inevitable
118:28
that we do have some sort of an
118:30
artificial intelligence that resembles
118:32
us or that resembles something like ex
118:35
machina if people choose to create that
118:39
I mean choose to create it in our own
118:41
image but that’s very godlike isn’t it
118:44
God created us in his own image yeah and
118:46
again yeah see I don’t know that when I
118:51
talk to people in the field as you
118:54
probably have most of them say don’t
118:56
have to do it yes it’s really right it’s
118:59
gonna be miles away so maybe I’m hiding
119:01
my head in the sand a bit but I don’t
119:04
think so I think it’s I think we’ll know
119:08
it when I don’t think anyone’s gonna do
119:09
it accidentally right so I I don’t think
119:12
it’s just suddenly going to be upon us I
119:14
I think we will see we’ll see ourselves
119:18
getting acquiring that capability we’ll
119:21
see ourselves getting close we’ll see
119:22
their systems beginning to emerge in
119:25
them we’ll think about it just think 200
119:28
years ago if you wanted a photograph of
119:30
something you want to picture something
119:31
you had a draw it I mean there was no
119:35
photography 200 years ago yeah I mean
119:38
just think of that it’s almost
119:40
inconceivable no automobiles no
119:43
photography what was automobile about
119:45
maybe there was some sort of machines
119:47
that drove people around right something
119:49
close there wasn’t three is earlier than
119:52
that
119:52
right you go back 500 years you have
119:55
almost nothing yeah it’s crazy how we’ve
119:57
been quick it’s so fast
119:59
it’s so fast I mean and then this what
120:02
we’re doing right now that there’s
120:03
people right now in their car that are
120:05
streaming this so they’re in their car
120:07
and they’re listening as they’re driving
120:08
on the road maybe they have a Tesla
120:10
maybe they have an electric car they’re
120:12
driving down the road streaming to
120:14
people talking where it’s ones and zeros
120:17
that are broken down and there’s some
120:19
audible form and you can listen to it in
120:21
your car that is bananas yeah I agree
120:26
we’ve been quick so quick well think of
120:28
the world you know the internet I mean
120:30
it’s a it said not long I mean I
120:33
remember it being invented yeah you know
120:35
oh well certainly the web went on so the
120:39
web well it was very early for me
120:41
because I was in doing particle physics
120:43
and of course that the web comes from
120:45
CERN the WWE bit right so it’s certainly
120:48
in the early 90s I was involved in that
120:51
you know in the university environment
120:54
with email and all that kind of stuff
120:56
so I don’t know when it kind of didn’t
120:59
really you could you could have a web
121:01
browser that just the only sites they
121:03
were there in NASA and I think NASA had
121:06
one of the early sites and CERN it was
121:08
very little oh when did you become
121:09
involved with CERN so that would be I
121:12
started doing particle physics in 95 and
121:16
when was when did the Large Hadron
121:18
Collider go alive that was an I remember
121:22
2000 and 2007 I think he pause of 2008
121:28
is so long ago about 10 years ago but he
121:31
started that we stayed up and then we
121:32
had a problem with it and then it took a
121:34
bit a while to fix it hasn’t been taking
121:37
data that long but it’s a tremendously
121:40
successful thing now and its operating
121:43
beyond its design capabilities it’s
121:45
quite incredible it’s so stunning a
121:47
physical thing that this how large is it
121:50
how long is in its 27 kilometres so I
121:53
sat about 60 miles 16 miles and it’s a
121:56
circular yeah sort of a building yeah
121:58
well I say it’s a big cube I mean you
122:00
think basically is mainly under France
122:02
and partly under Switzerland and it
122:04
accelerates protons
122:06
around in a circle both ways they won’t
122:08
one beam goes well my one goes the other
122:10
way and they go around 11,000 times a
122:12
second because that’s so very close to
122:15
speed of light 99.999999% the speed of
122:18
light and then we cross the beams and
122:20
collide the particles and in those
122:22
collisions you’re recreating the
122:24
conditions that were present less than a
122:26
billionth of a second after the Big Bang
122:28
so we know that physics so going back we
122:32
said about the carbon and the oxygen we
122:34
can trace that story back way beyond the
122:36
time when they were protons and neutrons
122:38
so when there were quarks and gluons
122:40
around and and go all the way back and
122:43
the Higgs boson doing its thing back
122:45
then and we so we can see all that
122:48
physics in the lab so that’s why we have
122:51
some a lot of confidence in that story
122:53
it’s so fascinating that they were able
122:56
to talk someone into funding that that
122:59
they got a bunch of people together and
123:01
that you you were able to explain to you
123:05
know politicians and and you know
123:08
regular people what what you’re trying
123:11
to do it’s a great example of how you
123:14
get something done so it was the night
123:15
the fifties when certain was established
123:18
I think was 53 or 54 can’t quite
123:21
remember it something like that and then
123:23
it was built out from the Second World
123:25
War so you have Europe at the end of the
123:27
war and it was realized that the only
123:30
way forward for you it was collaboration
123:31
to rebuild the scientific base and in it
123:36
for peace for peaceful purposes and so
123:38
CERN was set up as an international
123:40
collaboration in Europe initially with
123:42
that political ideal that it was it was
123:45
explore nature just for the freely and
123:51
for peace for peaceful means and
123:54
peaceful reasons and and so that was a
123:56
the pilet the politics was right so it
123:58
was said it by international treaty so
124:01
that the member states are bound
124:03
together by treaty and they pay a small
124:06
amount relatively small amount each into
124:08
CERN every year which is a percentage of
124:10
their GDP and that’s the money they used
124:13
to build do the experiments and build
124:14
the accelerators so it’s very hard to
124:17
get out of it and you wouldn’t really
124:19
want
124:20
because it’s a small amount of money per
124:21
country and CERN doesn’t extra money to
124:24
build things
124:25
it just takes its money and basically
124:27
saves up and plans itself but because
124:29
it’s got a regular stream of money it
124:31
can do it so you can say we’re gonna
124:32
build this machine and it will take 8
124:34
years because that’s how much money
124:35
we’ve got and we’ll build it in 8 years
124:38
and we know how much money we’ve got so
124:39
we can do it you know it’s a lesson I
124:41
mean that the reason that the u.s.
124:42
Collider the SSC failed is because it’s
124:47
the problem you have in the US with the
124:48
funding system as you’ve seen in the
124:50
last few weeks yeah is that it’s very
124:52
arbitrary and it’s open to political
124:54
maneuvering and things can be shut down
124:57
and take and uncertain is not like that
124:59
CERN has got a guaranteed stream of
125:02
funding small from each country and so
125:05
you can do these projects and the one in
125:06
the u.s. that was during the Clinton
125:08
administration so what it was yeah it
125:11
was close
125:12
was it Clinton it was closed down by
125:14
Congress and a very slim vote and it was
125:18
in Texas so it was it was one of those
125:20
things where you got States vying for
125:22
money and he was half built mm-hmm and
125:25
everyone was there you know I mean the
125:27
thing it was bigger than the LHC it was
125:30
so you waste a lot of money is that a
125:32
huge disappointment for a scientific
125:34
community like where people very hopeful
125:36
that this was going to go along yeah it
125:37
was being built dug half the tunnel what
125:40
would it be able to do that the LHC
125:42
couldn’t it was a higher energy
125:44
accelerator than the LHC so it would
125:46
have discovered the Higgs particle first
125:48
had it been running but the the half
125:51
bill part is it useless now or can they
125:54
I think you know so that’s the thing it
126:02
you can do these wonderful things for
126:05
not a lot of money if you just do it
126:09
over many years and have stable funding
126:11
yeah it’s commit to doing it the filling
126:13
in in part asleep and you look at CERN
126:15
as well and people you have people ask
126:16
me now I think the UK pays about it’s
126:19
about one hundred million dollars a year
126:21
that’s what the UK pays in and it’s
126:23
about same for Germany same for friends
126:25
and so on and so people say what do we
126:27
get for that I mean first of all it’s
126:28
not the whole budget of CERN is about
126:30
the same as a budget of a medium-sized
126:33
university
126:33
so it’s not a lot it’s about a billion
126:36
dollars a year or something which is
126:37
what a university has so it’s not a lot
126:41
in the scheme of things what’s it done
126:44
though
126:45
well we invented the world wide web as
126:46
we’ve just said a lot of the medical
126:48
imaging technology they were use comes
126:50
from CERN it’s pioneered the use of
126:52
these very high field magnets which is
126:54
what it needed
126:55
so it’s engineering at the edge and
126:57
engineering at the edge generates
127:00
spin-offs and expertise to get used in
127:02
other fields so there’s cancer treatment
127:04
so-called hadron beam therapy so if
127:06
you’ve got a brain tumor now it’s quite
127:08
likely that you’ll have one of these
127:10
targeted particle beam therapies which
127:12
is like very highly targeted sort of
127:15
chemotherapy it’s not chemotherapy it’s
127:16
radiation that you can target in the
127:18
beam into your head and attack the tumor
127:21
and those those are particle
127:23
accelerators so most particle
127:25
accelerators today are in hospitals and
127:28
in medicine but they came from doing
127:31
particle physics that so the the
127:34
spin-offs of these big experiments at
127:37
the edge of our capability are always
127:39
immense which is why they worth funding
127:42
at these very low levels but it’s not
127:45
just the knowledge it’s the engineering
127:47
expertise that there is a practical
127:49
application for every everyday
127:51
there always is it’s just finding out
127:52
how to do hard things is usually useful
127:55
the model and it wasn’t just the Higgs
127:58
boson particle that you guys are
127:59
discovered what is quark gluon plasma
128:03
yes that that’s a shortly after the
128:06
billionth of a second after the Big Bang
128:07
yeah you end up with a soup of quarks
128:11
and gluons so quarks are the building
128:13
blocks of protons and neutrons and
128:15
gluons are the things that stick them
128:16
together and so a proton has two up
128:19
quarks and a down quark and in each one
128:21
has two down quarks and up quark and so
128:23
on so their constituents the protons and
128:24
neutrons which are the constituents of
128:26
our atomic nuclei so we go if you go to
128:29
very high temperatures our high energies
128:31
then the protons and neutrons fall to
128:33
bits then you end up with a soup of
128:36
quarks and gluons
128:38
then that’s a quark gluon plasma and
128:40
it’s insanely dense right
128:42
yeah well very high-energy so so you get
128:46
that so
128:47
we’ve been exploring that by could we
128:48
don’t only collide protons together we
128:50
can collide lead nuclei together or
128:53
silver nuclei together at the LHC and
128:56
that’s when you make these kind of soups
128:58
of nuclear matter if you like very hot
129:02
nuclear matter to explore that physics
129:04
to that and that nuclear physics Wow and
129:07
I was reading something about the the
129:09
weight of of that stuff that like a
129:13
sugar cube like what is that what is the
129:16
actual weight well it depends our
129:18
density is that so don’t they’re I mean
129:21
they were the thing I remember is it the
129:23
sugar cube of a neutron star material
129:25
which is I don’t know how many hundred
129:29
million tons I can you know that it
129:31
depends but so I don’t know with the
129:33
quark-gluon plasma I don’t know what
129:34
number you there was something it was
129:36
one of the things after the discovery
129:38
they were talking about the massive
129:40
weight of quark gluon plasma and like
129:44
yeah almost incomprehensible yeah yeah I
129:46
don’t know the number of it but
129:48
something crazy yeah yeah now one once
129:51
these you got something here does 40
129:55
billion oh my god a cubic centimeter
129:58
would weigh 40 billion tons oh yeah the
130:09
densest matter created in the Big Bang
130:10
machine what are they doing right now
130:13
it’s a closed for engineering and
130:16
upgrades upgrades yeah I mean one thing
130:19
we’re trying to do is one of the things
130:20
in particle physics is that you want as
130:22
many collisions per second as you can
130:25
generate and then they we have a
130:28
collision whether what’s got a bunch
130:30
crossing LHC we can bury it but it’s
130:33
something like 25 nanoseconds different
130:35
they don’t want so it’s really we get a
130:37
lot of collisions per second and and the
130:39
more collisions per second you can get
130:41
the more chance you have in making
130:44
interest in things like Higgs particles
130:45
or whatever else may be out there
130:47
waiting to be discovered that means it’s
130:49
possible there are other particles out
130:51
there that we haven’t yet discovered
130:53
that could be within the reach of the
130:54
LHC and if this one that was in Texas
130:58
had gotten built and it was more
130:59
powerful
131:00
then the LHC you’d have even more
131:02
opportunity to do something like that
131:03
yeah now when these things are created
131:06
by these collisions how long do they
131:09
last
131:10
oh fractions of a second so that the
131:14
general rule in physics in particle
131:16
physics is that they’re the more massive
131:18
it is and the more things it can decay
131:20
into the faster it will do that so
131:23
basically the heavy things decay into
131:25
light things and so the only the stable
131:28
particles are things like electrons and
131:31
some of the quarks and the up quarks and
131:34
down quarks are stable things but so
131:38
everything tends to decay very fast so
131:40
we’re talking fraction billionths of a
131:41
second fractions and how are they less
131:44
than that are they registering its
131:47
existence like what is uh what is being
131:50
used to measure it so what you see if
131:52
you collide what are they I see we
131:54
collide protons together then-president
131:57
got loads of stuff in them loads of
131:58
gluons and the quarks so you get a big
132:01
mess first of all so most of it’s a load
132:03
of particles Asprey and I wish you’re
132:06
not interested in but sometimes when you
132:08
when let’s say a couple of the gluons
132:10
bangs together and they can make
132:12
something interesting like a top quark
132:14
or a Higgs particle what’s a top quark
132:17
it’s up quite a very heavy there’s six
132:19
quarks it says up and down charm and
132:21
strange bottom and top from end strange
132:25
yeah so it so strange was literally in
132:27
there was it the fifties I we discovered
132:30
them someone said that’s really strange
132:32
strange a new kind of particle and so
132:35
that yes we have six quarks and they’re
132:37
in three families so the up and down or
132:39
warm family and then the Chairman
132:42
stranger another family in the top and
132:43
bottom of the third family and so we for
132:45
some reason so the only thing the only
132:47
particles we need to make up you and me
132:49
they’re up quarks down quarks and
132:51
electrons but for some reason there are
132:53
two further copies of those which you’re
132:56
identically every way except they’re
132:58
heavier so there’s the charm and the
133:00
strange quark and if they’re in a heavy
133:01
electron called a muon and then there’s
133:04
a the top and the bottom quark and
133:05
another heavy electron called the tail
133:07
and that’s it
133:09
so that there’s this weird pattern that
133:11
we don’t understand so we don’t seems
133:13
like
133:14
you only needed the first family to
133:17
build a universe right right but for
133:19
some reason there are two copies now
133:22
heavy ones decay into the lighter ones
133:24
is the point so when you make them
133:25
they’re not around very long and just
133:28
answer your question what happens is
133:29
that when they decay they throw their
133:31
decay products out into our detector so
133:34
we take a photograph of the cascade of
133:37
particles that comes from these heavier
133:39
particles decaying and the trick is to
133:42
patch it all up to see to try and so
133:45
work out what everything came from Wow
133:47
now when they five find these unexpected
133:50
particles then what happens then there’s
133:53
the study of them then there’s then
133:56
everybody gets together and go okay what
133:57
the hell is that
133:58
yeah what is that what do we do so we
134:01
want to know with a Higgs particle we
134:03
know what it does which is it gives mass
134:04
to everything so it’s fundamentally the
134:08
thing that gives mass to all the other
134:10
things in the universe at the most
134:11
fundamental level so so electrons for
134:14
example and the up and down quarks there
134:17
get their mass from their interaction
134:20
with the Higgs that’s why they’re
134:21
massive that’s another reason we exist
134:23
you know we go right back we wouldn’t
134:25
exist if there wasn’t mass in the
134:27
universe and the Higgs is ultimately
134:29
responsible for that mass I keep saying
134:33
I keep caveat in it because then you get
134:35
other sorts of mass that generated but
134:38
but that the fundamental basic seed is
134:41
it were it’s from its from the Higgs and
134:43
so what we want to know is we want to
134:45
know how that thing behaves and their
134:48
weight so we’re study is so you want to
134:49
make a lot of them so you can take a lot
134:52
of pictures of it and study a lot and
134:53
see exactly how it does that and so
134:55
that’s what we’re doing that’s what
134:57
we’re engaged in at the moment we’re
134:58
making high-precision measurements of
135:00
the way that particle behaves so we can
135:03
understand the laws of nature and that
135:06
daddy’s the laws of nature
135:07
how are those particles behaving and
135:09
what are they doing but it is possible
135:12
that some new form of some new form of
135:17
particles something else could be
135:18
discovered yeah the way we know about
135:20
yet because we know almost no that there
135:24
are other particles out there in the
135:25
universe we almost know a thing called
135:27
matter yes so we look how into the
135:29
universe and we see that there’s a lot
135:31
of stuff there that it’s interacting
135:33
gravitationally but it’s not interacting
135:36
strongly with the matter out of which we
135:38
are made and the stars are made so it’s
135:41
almost certain that that’s some form of
135:44
particle that fits beautifully and we
135:47
see lots of different observations the
135:49
way galaxies rotate and interact and
135:51
even that oldest lie in the universe the
135:53
so-called cosmic microwave background
135:54
radiation we see the signature of that
135:57
stuff in that light as well so we think
135:59
that there’s some of the particle out
136:01
there and and to be honest we thought we
136:04
would have detected it I think at LHC we
136:07
have lots of theories called
136:08
supersymmetric theories that make
136:10
predictions for all sorts of different
136:12
particles that would interact weakly
136:13
with normal matter and I yeah I think
136:17
it’s broadly seen as a surprise that we
136:20
haven’t seen them at LHC so that just
136:22
may well mean that either their vote
136:26
they’re a bit too massive so we need
136:28
more energy to make them and we just
136:30
haven’t quite got enough well we’re not
136:32
making enough of them often enough to
136:33
see them which is one of the reasons we
136:35
upgrade in the LHC so we also look for
136:38
them by the way directly so we have
136:42
experiments under mountains we bury them
136:45
under mountains so the cosmic rays from
136:46
space don’t interfere with them and
136:48
we’re looking for the rare occasions
136:51
when these dark matter particles bump
136:52
into the particles of matter in the
136:55
detector so it’s so because ya D would
136:57
be these rooms full of them I mean the
136:59
galaxies swimming with matter as far as
137:02
we can tell but it interacts very weakly
137:04
with this matter so it doesn’t bump into
137:07
us very often so we’re looking for the
137:09
direct detection of it and we’re looking
137:11
to make those particles LHC so it’s
137:14
everywhere but it doesn’t interact with
137:16
us very weakly
137:17
and so interacts through gravity and the
137:20
the the archetypal particle that’s
137:22
everywhere that doesn’t interact
137:23
strongly is a neutrino so we do know
137:26
about neutrinos we’ve detected those and
137:28
there there are something like sixty
137:32
billion per centimeter squared per
137:34
second passing through your head now
137:36
from the Sun so they get made in nuclear
137:39
reactions in the Sun but they go
137:41
straight through
137:41
and actually straight through the earth
137:43
pretty much
137:44
occasionally one of them bumps into
137:46
something and we can detect those
137:48
because with so many of them going
137:51
through but we only detect you know know
137:53
one or two a day and the idea is that
137:56
dark matter encompasses an enormous
137:59
percentage of the universe yes it’s five
138:02
times as much matter is dark matter than
138:06
is normal matter and the number is
138:09
twenty five percent of the universe so
138:11
it’s roughly speaking about five percent
138:13
of the universe is normal matter stars
138:17
in gas 20 say percent as dark matter yes
138:20
oh yeah five Norma about 25 dark matter
138:23
in about 70s dark energy that’s the
138:25
other thing yeah yeah so what the hell’s
138:28
that don’t know know what it does so
138:32
again what see we got we talked about
138:34
Einstein’s theory earlier so Einstein’s
138:37
theory which works spectacularly well
138:39
says that if you put stuff into the
138:42
University we said before then it warps
138:44
and deforms and stretches and it very
138:47
precisely tells you given the stuff that
138:50
you put in it how much does it stretch
138:51
and how does it stretch and the the
138:55
measurement we have is how its
138:56
stretching so so we observe the thing we
138:59
observe is how the universe is expanding
139:01
and how that expansion rate is changing
139:04
and how it’s a ship how it’s changed
139:06
over time so we have very precise
139:08
measurements of that so then we can use
139:10
the theory to tell us what’s in it given
139:12
that we know what how it’s responding to
139:14
that stuff and that’s how we discover
139:17
dark energy so we noticed that the
139:19
universe’s expansion rate is increasing
139:22
so the universe is accelerating in its
139:24
expansion which is exactly the opposite
139:27
of what we thought noticed in the 1990s
139:29
that we discovered that so we can work
139:32
out what sort of stuff and how much of
139:35
that stuff you need to put in the
139:36
universe to make that happen and that’s
139:38
where we get these numbers from was your
139:42
resistance to that when that was first
139:43
proposed yeah I remember my one of my
139:45
friends at Brian Schmidt got the Nobel
139:47
Prize for that and then I remember I
139:49
talked to him and he said he was a
139:52
postdoc I think at the time so young
139:55
and he made he’s making measurements of
139:56
supernovae the light from supernova
139:58
explosions which is so bright that you
140:00
can see them you know hundreds and
140:02
millions billions of light years away
140:03
and he noticed that if you look at the
140:06
date so the light is stretched in the
140:08
wrong way so we look at the stretch of
140:11
light as it travels across the universe
140:13
and the universe is expanding it
140:14
stretches the lights so it changes the
140:16
color and he noticed that it was a
140:18
discrepancy which which said that the
140:21
universe that the expansion rate is
140:23
speeding up it’s been speeding up for
140:26
him think something like seven billion
140:28
years or so it’s been speeding up so he
140:31
thought these done something wrong
140:33
because it you know so so he checks it
140:36
and checked in checked it and he
140:37
couldn’t find anything wrong so he did
140:39
what a good scientist does which is he
140:40
published it so that somebody else could
140:42
find out what he’d done wrong and he
140:44
said that he thought it would be the end
140:45
of his career he thought I’d be a
140:46
laughingstock you know then he got the
140:48
Nobel Prize because he was right it is
140:50
stretched Wow
140:52
it’s a great lesson means that if you if
140:54
you’re sure that you can’t see what
140:57
you’ve done wrong then you publish it
140:59
because back to that thing about
141:00
humility we saw it earlier you know what
141:02
we ultimately we’re not trying to be
141:03
right we’re trying to find out stuff and
141:06
so the good scientists will be really
141:09
happy if they set out to be wrong
141:11
because they’ve learned something yeah
141:12
that’s that it’s good that yeah that’s
141:14
that because he got the Nobel Prize now
141:16
when he received the Nobel Prize in this
141:18
concept started being discussed what was
141:21
the initial reaction to it well it’s
141:23
it’s interesting because it’s allowed in
141:27
Einstein’s theory and it was in
141:28
Einstein’s original theory so it’s
141:31
called it’s got a name it’s called the
141:32
cosmological constant and that’s a it’s
141:35
it just allowed in the equations and
141:37
Einstein actually introduced it
141:40
initially so because I signs the
141:43
equations strongly suggest that the
141:46
universe is expanding or contracting and
141:48
not just sat there so even before we’d
141:51
observed anything
141:52
Einstein had a theory that suggested
141:55
that the universe is just not static and
141:57
actually really strongly suggest that
141:59
there’s a beginning right so that the
142:02
theory itself on its own suggests that
142:05
you can see that if the universe is
142:06
stretching today then
142:08
have been smaller in the past right
142:09
everything must’ve been closer together
142:10
let’s say that so the as a man that
142:15
chuckles George Lemaitre who was a who
142:17
worked independently of Einstein but the
142:19
same time in the early 1920s before we
142:22
even knew there were other galaxies
142:23
beyond the Milky Way and they noticed
142:25
that the the equation suggests the
142:27
universe might be stretching and so he
142:30
wrote to Einstein and said your theory
142:32
suggests there was a day without a
142:34
yesterday because he thought if
142:36
everything’s expanding now then he must
142:38
have been closer together in the past
142:39
and so there might be a time when it was
142:41
all together and he was a priest well so
142:44
it’s a Belgian priest so I think I mean
142:48
I wrote about this now it’s kind of mind
142:49
socialization of it but I think that he
142:51
was more predisposed to accept what the
142:55
equations were telling him because a
142:57
beginning an origin for a priest is
143:00
really a nice thing because it tells you
143:02
the creation event and Einstein tried to
143:04
dodge it and and put this allowed term
143:08
into his equation which is the almost
143:10
the stretchy term so say well if it’s
143:13
all if it’s all kind of contracting or
143:16
something can I put something in to make
143:17
it stretch a bit to balance it all out
143:19
so it can be eternal so an you can’t you
143:22
can’t make it eternal that way but he so
143:25
tried it then he took it out and called
143:28
it his biggest blunder taking it out was
143:31
ya know you can’t put any in his biggest
143:33
blunder or at least some people think
143:36
what what he’d done was miss the
143:38
prediction of the Big Bang really so by
143:41
trying to fiddle around to have a static
143:44
universe that’s stable
143:46
he missed what the equations were
143:48
screaming his own theory was screaming
143:50
to him which is that no the universe
143:52
expands or contracts and he missed it
143:55
right so I think that’s probably what he
143:57
meant by biggest blunder but in any case
143:59
he took it out and then later in the
144:01
1990s it turns out there no it’s there
144:04
but it’s really small it’s a tiny tiny
144:07
effect but it’s still dominating the
144:11
universe now and it will and it will
144:13
dominate even more in the future so we
144:15
think that we’re in the universe that
144:18
will continue to expand essentially
144:20
doubling in size
144:21
a fixed time scale which is about twenty
144:24
billion years so within every twenty
144:26
billion years into the future forever
144:28
unless something happens the universe
144:30
will continue to expand and double in
144:34
size two years and that’s the dark
144:36
energy that’s driving it but nobody
144:38
knows what it is it’s the it’s one of
144:41
the cutting edge massive problems in
144:44
theoretical physics and what is being
144:47
done to try to get a better grasp of
144:49
what it is
144:50
I mean it’s theoretical at them I mean
144:52
we’re making very precise observations
144:53
of it right but it looks like this
144:56
constant so it looks like it’s basically
144:58
one number if you like in Einstein’s
145:01
equations and just really simple so it
145:04
looks like it’s something that’s maybe a
145:05
property of space itself don’t know but
145:09
it looks like a very simple thing that
145:11
doesn’t change over time and just stays
145:14
there so so it requires theoretical
145:18
advance as well and so people are trying
145:21
very hard to do that it’s so crazy when
145:24
you go from Galileo to modern
145:27
theoretical physics that they’re still
145:28
in the myths of this understanding yeah
145:33
of what all this stuff is yeah I mean
145:35
that these are you know these are
145:38
fundamental and difficult problems and
145:40
we’re talking about the origin and
145:41
evolution of the universe right that’s
145:43
what cosmology is and it’s also particle
145:46
physics I mean the way that these things
145:48
this stuff we keep talking like this
145:50
stuff in the universe that’s what the
145:52
LHC studies it studies how the stuff
145:54
behaves um right now these are it’s very
145:58
theoretical right they’re trying to wrap
146:01
their their minds around what this is
146:03
and what the properties of it are do you
146:05
envision a time where you can actually
146:07
physically measure this and then have a
146:09
a real clear understanding of what it is
146:12
and what its properties dark energy and
146:14
I I don’t know I mean for example there
146:18
are theories for example which you’re
146:20
probably not right but they’re not
146:22
necessarily wrong either there are
146:24
theories that try to link it to the
146:25
Higgs particle so the Higgs particle
146:28
which we’ve discovered and can measure
146:30
has some properties that we think the
146:33
dark energy would need
146:35
and also this inflation that I mentioned
146:38
way back at the start of the universe as
146:40
some of the prophecies that can do that
146:42
as well so for example there are
146:44
fearfully tries to link them so we do
146:46
have an observation of the Higgs we can
146:48
study that so are they linked don’t know
146:51
and so it could be that we can study it
146:55
even though it’s a very small weak
146:58
effect and it could be web direct access
147:01
food so it’s great I mean it’s just
147:03
these are big mysteries that there’s
147:06
something really profound we don’t
147:07
understand about the way that stuff in
147:11
particular the Higgs actually interacts
147:13
with space and time so very naively the
147:17
Higgs should blow the universe apart
147:19
just very naively it’s loads of energy
147:22
in a very small amount of space huge
147:26
amounts of energy in the Higgs field but
147:28
it doesn’t do anything apart from give
147:30
mass to things it doesn’t seem to it
147:33
doesn’t directly affect space but
147:36
everything else that you put in space
147:38
directly affects it so you know there
147:42
are there are kind of issues there that
147:45
we don’t and it just says we don’t get
147:47
it we don’t know we don’t get it yet
147:49
it’s just I can eat another one of those
147:51
they’d probably late that I if I stood
147:53
guess I’d say there’s some link there
147:54
you know there’s something going on and
147:56
solving one of them might solve the
147:59
other to inflation Higgs dark energy
148:02
something how many people worldwide
148:05
would you estimate are trying to grasp
148:08
this and working on this the good
148:11
question I don’t know I mean it’s a it’s
148:13
probably tens of thousands tens of
148:15
thousands if you can all the people who
148:17
work at CERN and the particle physicists
148:19
and the theoretical physicists there’d
148:21
be tens of thousands because it’s it’s
148:24
so important to for us to get an
148:27
understanding of what’s going on but yet
148:30
so outside of the grasp of most people
148:34
including me
148:35
like I’m listening to you talk about
148:37
this and I’m like thank God it’s people
148:39
like you think whatever thank the think
148:41
quarks there’s people like you out there
148:43
that are doing this but it it’s almost
148:47
like you’re speaking another language
148:49
it’s so strange to me was very new stuff
148:52
yes you know I mean even when I was at
148:54
school and so when I when I was at
148:57
university we hadn’t discovered the top
148:59
quark and we we sorta knew it was there
149:01
we thought the Higgs might be there but
149:04
we had no idea whether it was you know
149:06
so so we’re moving in my career we’re
149:09
moving quite fast and yet you’re right
149:12
these are the most fundamental questions
149:14
about what Weiser eat ultimately why is
149:17
the universe the way it is and even
149:19
possibly why is there a universe right
149:21
movie we’re away from that yet but if
149:24
we’re ever going to answer that it will
149:26
be by doing stuff like this and this is
149:29
all addressed in this live show that
149:31
you’re doing this world yeah live show
149:33
and certainly be they also the
149:36
consequences of the not that comes words
149:39
of knowledge but the the cosmology is
149:41
terrifying that as we’ve started with so
149:46
I think it as we’ve said it raises
149:49
questions it makes quite vivid questions
149:52
that we all have about you know what are
149:55
what are we doing here right this sigh
149:58
try I think it’s got all the way back to
150:01
me really been into Cal Sega and he
150:04
always used to try this you you try to
150:06
link it to things that people think
150:09
about naturally then that’s why people
150:11
are fascinated by this stuff because
150:14
they do actually think about it you
150:15
might not be with the right names or the
150:17
right words or the right facts even but
150:20
they’re thinking about how did I get
150:21
here how did I come to exist what is the
150:24
future do we have a future
150:26
what was our past yeah these these are
150:29
universal questions I think there
150:31
certainly are and the way you’re doing
150:33
this with your live show you were saying
150:35
that you have an enormous visual aspect
150:37
to it well we have a we we have the
150:41
biggest screen we can get in every venue
150:43
and it’s led it’s when the the
150:44
state-of-the-art modern LED screen so
150:46
they’re like Lego then you can build
150:48
them so you fill the venue with it so
150:50
you know Wembley Arena
150:52
then it’s 30 meters wide whatever by 8
150:55
meters high it’s enormous
150:56
you must have a huge crew carrying on
150:58
yeah 16 or 18 people and
151:01
to rock’n’roll show some of the venues
151:03
were doing in North America they’re in
151:05
Canada they’re a bit smaller venues but
151:07
we just fill it with screen as much as
151:09
we can get and then the graphics a lot
151:11
of the graphics I I have we’re done by a
151:13
Dean egg who did ex machina actually
151:16
Aunt Estella and the reason I I mean I I
151:20
say chose them I drank them up and goes
151:22
please please will you do this and they
151:24
said how much money have you got and you
151:26
know cuz it’s way lower than Chris Nolan
151:28
yeah they did it they were mean that
151:30
they just liked the idea of these
151:32
messages and these ideas so they use the
151:34
software that they use for interstellar
151:36
to create images of black holes Wow and
151:39
they they use general relativity they
151:41
coded it into their their graphics
151:44
software so they can rate race lights
151:47
around black holes and you can move the
151:49
camera around the black hole and it
151:51
traces the way all the light moves
151:52
around it so if you remember those
151:54
amazing get the gargantuan the black
151:56
hole in interstellar that’s that’s a
151:58
simulation it’s not an artist’s
152:00
impression it’s a simulation of what
152:02
Einstein’s theory tells as a black hole
152:04
will look like and so I can use that to
152:06
talk about what happens when you fall
152:08
into a black hole what would you see
152:10
watching someone fall in and you can
152:13
explain all that using Einstein’s theory
152:15
you know the idea that it’s kind of a
152:17
well-known idea it’s a bizarre idea that
152:19
if I was to fall into a black hole and
152:22
you were watching you’d never see me
152:23
falling you’d see time slowed down my
152:26
time slowed down as you watch me so in
152:30
the end I’d just slow down and slow down
152:31
and slow down and then I get frozen on
152:33
the event horizon and just fade away as
152:36
an image a reddening image on the event
152:38
horizon so time passes at different
152:41
rates as you move close to the black
152:44
hole and far away because space and time
152:46
have distorted by the mass of the black
152:49
hole and so I could I talk about all
152:51
that but I talk about all that with this
152:52
incredible image which we had it’s so
152:56
high resolution by the way that they it
152:58
was higher resolution than they’re used
153:00
for interstellar because my screen so
153:02
big so so we need a special machine to
153:05
play it you can buy the most expensive
153:07
Mac Pro in the world and it will not
153:10
play this stuff so I loved that from a
153:13
geek perspective
153:14
you have a special video player to play
153:17
the dampers just like a series of CPUs
153:20
are attached together and some sort of a
153:21
super yeah it’s yeah it’s one of those
153:23
this one’s a big sort of visualization
153:25
graphics things but but these files are
153:27
like you know there are 20 gig video
153:29
files Wow because there’s so many pixels
153:31
might the Pixar resoluteness is really
153:33
geeky in it fakes the resolution 6400 by
153:36
1536 so impress my screen
153:39
it’s a lot like that yeah are you coming
153:45
to Los Angeles with this yeah wait a
153:47
month Taliban Theatre in May the end of
153:50
me I’m there yeah I’m here
153:52
oh yeah no you’ve gotta come 24th of May
153:55
oh you’re in San Diego as well
153:56
hey I gotta see one of these yeah it’s
154:00
gonna be great fun and however much
154:02
stuff we can fit into those handsome
154:05
devil look at that nice jacket on
154:07
looking good someone gave me that to
154:11
scrounge that but it’s cool cuz you’re
154:13
looking a cool guy cool guy with space
154:16
behind you that’s awesome man well
154:18
listen thank you so much for doing this
154:20
I really appreciate you appreciate
154:22
everything you’re doing it’s awesome
154:24
no thank you I always enjoy crying I
154:26
loved it last time and people still talk
154:28
about it when I was on less time more
154:29
people ask me about making you than but
154:32
should anybody else say get ready like
154:34
because it’s like a hundred times more
154:36
popular than it was back then is it it’s
154:38
gonna be very strange now but thank you
154:39
again really appreciate it I can’t wait
154:41
to see your show thank you so much thank
154:42
you
154:45

The Doctor Versus the Denier

Anthony Fauci’s at the pool, but Donald Trump’s in deep.

Never mind Johnny Depp and Amber Heard.

You want to see a real can’t-look-away train wreck of a relationship? Look to the nation’s capital, where a messy falling out is chronicled everywhere from the tabloids to a glossy fashion magazine, replete with a photo shoot by a swimming pool.

The saga has enough betrayal, backstabbing, recrimination, indignation and ostracization to impress Edith Wharton.

The press breathlessly covers how much time has passed since the pair last spoke, whether they’re headed for splitsville, and if they can ever agree on what’s best for the children.

It was always bound to be tempestuous because they are the ultimate odd couple, the doctor and the president.

  • One is a champion of truth and facts. The other is a master of deceit and denial.
  • One is highly disciplined, working 18-hour days. The other can’t be bothered to do his homework and golfs instead.
  • One is driven by science and the public good. The other is a public menace, driven by greed and ego.
  • One is a Washington institution. The other was sent here to destroy Washington institutions.
  • One is incorruptible. The other corrupts.
  • One is apolitical. The other politicizes everything he touches — toilets, windows, beans and, most fatally, masks.

After a fractious week, when the former reality-show star in the White House retweeted a former game-show host saying that we shouldn’t trust doctors about Covid-19, Donald Trump and Anthony Fauci are gritting their teeth.

What’s so scary is that the bumpy course of their relationship has life-or-death consequences for Americans.

Who could even dream up a scenario where a president and a White House drop oppo research on the esteemed scientist charged with keeping us safe in a worsening pandemic?

The administration acted like Peter Navarro, Trump’s wacko-bird trade adviser, had gone rogue when he assailed Dr. Fauci for being Dr. Wrong, in a USA Today op-ed. But does anyone believe that? And if he did, would he still have his job?

No doubt it was a case of Trump murmuring: Will no one rid me of this meddlesome infectious disease specialist?

Republicans on Capitol Hill privately confessed they were baffled by the whole thing, saying they couldn’t understand why Trump would undermine Fauci, especially now with the virus resurgent. They think it’s not only hurting Trump’s re-election chances, but theirs, too.

As though it couldn’t get more absurd, Kellyanne Conway told Fox News on Friday that she thinks it would help Trump’s poll numbers for him to start giving public briefings on the virus again — even though that exercise went off the rails when the president began suggesting people inject themselves with bleach.

How did we get to a situation in our country where the public health official most known for honesty and hard work is most vilified for it?” marvels Michael Specter, a science writer for The New Yorker who began covering Fauci during the AIDs crisis. “And as Team Trump trashes him, the numbers keep horrifyingly proving him right.”

When Dr. Fauci began treating AIDs patients, nearly every one of them died. “It was the darkest time of my life,” he told Specter. In an open letter, Larry Kramer called Fauci a “murderer.”

Then, as Specter writes, he started listening to activists and made a rare admission: His approach wasn’t working. He threw his caution to the winds and became a public-health activist. Through rigorous research and commitment to clinical studies, the death rate from AIDs has plummeted over the years.

Now Fauci struggles to drive the data bus as the White House throws nails under his tires. It seems emblematic of a deeper, existential problem: America has lost its can-do spirit. We were always Bugs Bunny, faster, smarter, more wily than everybody else. Now we’re Slugs Bunny.

Can our country be any more pathetic than this: The Georgia governor suing the Atlanta mayor and City Council to block their mandate for city residents to wear masks?

Trump promised the A team, but he has surrounded himself with losers and kiss-ups and second-raters. Just your basic Ayn Rand nightmare.

Certainly, Dr. Fauci has had to adjust some of his early positions as he learned about this confounding virus. (“When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?” John Maynard Keynes wisely observed.)

Medicine is not an exact art,” Jerome Groopman, the best-selling author and professor at Harvard Medical School, put it. “There’s lots of uncertainty, always evolving information, much room for doubt. The most dangerous people are the ones who speak with total authority and no room for error.”

Sound like someone you know?

Medical schools,” Dr. Groopman continued, “have curricula now to teach students the imperative of admitting when something went wrong, taking responsibility, and committing to righting it.”

Some are saying the 79-year-old Dr. Fauci should say to hell with it and quit. But we need his voice of reason in this nuthouse of a White House.

Despite Dr. Fauci’s best efforts to stay apolitical, he has been sucked into the demented political kaleidoscope through which we view everything now. Consider the shoot by his pool, photographed by Frankie Alduino, for a digital cover story by Norah O’Donnell for InStyle magazine.

From the left, the picture represented an unflappable hero, exhausted and desperately in need of some R & R, chilling poolside, not letting the White House’s slime campaign get him down or silence him. And on the right, some saw a liberal media darling, high on his own supply in the midst of a deadly pandemic. “While America burns, Fauci does fashion mag photo shoots,” tweeted Sean Davis, co-founder of the right-wing website The Federalist.

It’s no coincidence that the QAnon-adjacent cultists on the right began circulating a new conspiracy theory in the fever swamps of Facebook that Dr. Fauci’s wife of three and a half decades, a bioethicist, is Ghislane Maxwell’s sister. (Do I need to tell you she isn’t?)

Worryingly, new polls show that the smear from Trumpworld may be starting to stick; fewer Republicans trust the doctor now than in the spring.

Forget Mueller, Sessions, Comey, Canada, his niece, Mika Brzezinski. Of the many quarrels, scrapes and scraps Trump has instigated in his time in office, surely this will be remembered not only as the most needless and perverse, but as the most dangerous.

As Dr. Fauci told The Atlantic, it’s “a bit bizarre.”

More than a bit, actually.

What Social Distancing Looked Like in 1666

Humanity has been surviving plagues for thousands of years, and we have managed to learn a lot along the way.

A lot of English people believed 1666 would be the year of the apocalypse. You can’t really blame them. In late spring 1665, bubonic plague began to eat away at London’s population. By fall, roughly 7,000 people were dying every week in the city. The plague lasted through most of 1666, ultimately killing about 100,000 people in London alone — and possibly as many as three-quarters of a million in England as a whole.

Perhaps the greatest chronicler of the Great Plague was Samuel Pepys, a well-connected English administrator and politician who kept a detailed personal diary during London’s darkest years. He reported stumbling across corpses in the street, and anxiously reading the weekly death tolls posted in public squares.

In August of 1665, Pepys described walking to Greenwich, “in my way seeing a coffin with a dead body therein, dead of the plague, lying in [a field] belonging to Coome farme, which was carried out last night, and the parish have not appointed any body to bury it, but only set a watch there day and night, that nobody should go thither or come thence, which is a most cruel thing.” To ensure that no one — not even the family of the dead person — would go near the corpse or bury it, the parish had stationed a guard. “This disease making us more cruel to one another than if we are doggs.”

It felt like Armageddon. And yet it was also the beginning of a scientific renaissance in England, when doctors experimented with quarantines, sterilization and social distancing. For those of us living through these stay-at-home days of Covid-19, it’s useful to look back and see how much has changed — and how much hasn’t. Humanity has been guarding against plagues and surviving them for thousands of years, and we have managed to learn a lot along the way.

When a plague hit England during the summer of 1665, it was a time of tremendous political turmoil. The nation was deep into the Second Anglo-Dutch War, a nasty naval conflict that had torpedoed the British economy. But there were deeper sources of internal political conflict. Just five years earlier in 1660, King Charles II had wrested back control of the government from the Puritan members of Parliament led by Oliver Cromwell.

Though Cromwell had died in 1658, the king had him exhumed, his corpse put in chains and tried for treason. After the inevitable guilty verdict, the King’s henchmen mounted Cromwell’s severed head on a 20-foot spike over Westminster Hall, along with the heads of two co-conspirators. Cromwell’s rotting head stayed there, gazing at London, throughout the plague and for many years after.

War and social upheaval hastened the spread of the plague, which had broken out several years earlier in Holland. But when he wasn’t displaying the severed heads of his enemies, the king was invested in scientific progress. He sanctioned the founding of the Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, a venerable scientific institution known today as The Royal Society.

It was most likely thanks to his interest in science that government representatives and doctors quickly used social distancing methods for containing the spread of bubonic plague. Charles II issued a formal order in 1666 that ordered a halt to all public gatherings, including funerals. Already, theaters had been shut down in London, and licensing curtailed for new pubs. Oxford and Cambridge closed.

Isaac Newton was one of the students sent home, and his family was among the wealthy who fled the cities so they could shelter in place at their country homes. He spent the plague year at his family estate, teasing out the foundational ideas for calculus.

Things were less cozy in London. Quarantining was invented during the first wave of bubonic plague in the 14th century, but it was deployed more systematically during the Great Plague. Public servants called searchers ferreted out new cases of plague, and quarantined sick people along with everyone who shared their homes. People called warders painted a red cross on the doors of quarantined homes, alongside a paper notice that read “LORD HAVE MERCY UPON US.” (Yes, the all-caps was mandatory.)

The government supplied food to the housebound. After 40 days, warders painted over the red crosses with white crosses, ordering residents to sterilize their homes with lime. Doctors believed that the bubonic plague was caused by “smells” in the air, so cleaning was always recommended. They had no idea that it was also a good way to get rid of the ticks and fleas that actually spread the contagion.

Of course, not everyone was compliant. Legal documents at the U.K. National Archives show that in April 1665, Charles II ordered severe punishment for a group of people who took the cross and paper off their door “in a riotious manner,” so they could “goe abroad into the street promiscuously, with others.” It’s reminiscent of all those modern Americans who went to the beaches in Florida over spring break, despite what public health experts told them.

Pepys was a believer in science, and he tried to follow the most cutting-edge advice from his doctor friends. This included smoking tobacco as a precautionary measure, because smoke and fire would purify the “bad air.” In June of 1665, as the plague began, Pepys described seeing red crosses on doors for the first time. “It put me into an ill conception of myself and my smell,” he writes, “so that I was forced to buy some roll-tobacco to smell and chaw, which took away the apprehension.”

Quack medicine will always be with us. But there was some good advice, too. During the Great Plague, shopkeepers asked customers to drop their coins in dishes of vinegar to sterilize them, using the 1600s version of hand sanitizer.

Just as some American politicians blame the Chinese for the coronavirus, there were 17th century Brits who blamed the Dutch for spreading the plague. Others blamed Londoners. Mr. Pepys had relocated his family to a country home in Woolwich, and writes in his diary that the locals “are afeard of London, being doubtfull of anything that comes from thence, or that hath lately been there … I was forced to say that I lived wholly at Woolwich.”

By late 1666, the plague had begun its retreat from England, but one disaster led to another. In autumn, the Great Fire of London destroyed the city’s downtown in a weeklong conflagration. The damage was so extensive in part because city officials were slow to respond, having already spent over a year dealing with plague. The fire left 70,000 Londoners homeless and angry, threatening to riot.

While the mayor of London issued orders to evacuate the city, Pepys had more pedestrian concerns: He wrote about helping a friend dig a pit in his garden, where the two men buried “my Parmazan cheese, as well as my wine and some other things.” Even in the middle of a civilization-shaking event, people will still hoard odd things, like toilet paper — or cheese.

Despite the war, the plague and the fire, London survived. Urbanites rebuilt relatively quickly, using the same basic street layout. In 1667, Pepys was bustling around the healing city, putting his rooms back in order and turning his thoughts to new developments in politics.

Pepys survived. Scholars are still not sure whether he ever retrieved his cheese.

The surprising science of alpha males | Frans de Waal

In this fascinating look at the “alpha male,” primatologist Frans de Waal explores the privileges and costs of power while drawing surprising parallels between how humans and primates choose their leaders. His research reveals some of the unexpected capacities of alpha males — generosity, empathy, even peacekeeping — and sheds light on the power struggles of human politicians. “Someone who is big and strong and intimidates and insults everyone is not necessarily an alpha male,” de Waal says.

After Neoliberalism

For the past 40 years, the United States and other advanced economies have been pursuing a free-market agenda of low taxes, deregulation, and cuts to social programs. There can no longer be any doubt that this approach has failed spectacularly; the only question is what will – and should – come next.

The neoliberal experiment – lower taxes on the rich, deregulation of labor and product markets, financialization, and globalization – has been a spectacular failure. Growth is lower than it was in the quarter-century after World War II, and most of it has accrued to the very top of the income scale. After decades of stagnant or even falling incomes for those below them, neoliberalism must be pronounced dead and buried.
Vying to succeed it are at least three major political alternatives:
  1. far-right nationalism,
  2. center-left reformism, and the
  3. progressive left (with the center-right representing the neoliberal failure).

And yet, with the exception of the progressive left, these alternatives remain beholden to some form of the ideology that has (or should have) expired.

The center-left, for example, represents neoliberalism with a human face. Its goal is to bring the policies of former US President Bill Clinton and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair into the twenty-first century, making only slight revisions to the prevailing modes of financialization and globalization. Meanwhile, the nationalist right disowns globalization, blaming migrants and foreigners for all of today’s problems. Yet as Donald Trump’s presidency has shown, it is no less committed – at least in its American variant – to tax cuts for the rich, deregulation, and shrinking or eliminating social programs.

By contrast, the third camp advocates what I call , which prescribes a radically different economic agenda, based on four priorities. The first is to

  1. restore the balance between markets, the state, and civil society. Slow economic growth, rising inequality, financial instability, and environmental degradation are problems born of the market, and thus cannot and will not be overcome by the market on its own. Governments have a duty to limit and shape markets through environmental, health, occupational-safety, and other types of regulation. It is also the government’s job to do what the market cannot or will not do, like actively investing in basic research, technology, education, and the health of its constituents.
  2. The second priority is to recognize that the “wealth of nations” is the result of  – learning about the world around us – and social organization that allows large groups of people to work together for the common good. Markets still have a crucial role to play in facilitating social cooperation, but they serve this purpose only if they are governed by the rule of law and subject to democratic checks. Otherwise, individuals can get rich by exploiting others, extracting wealth through rent-seeking rather than creating wealth through genuine ingenuity. Many of today’s wealthy took the exploitation route to get where they are. They have been well served by Trump’s policies, which have encouraged rent-seeking while destroying the underlying sources of wealth creation. Progressive capitalism seeks to do precisely the opposite.
  3. This brings us to the third priority: addressing the growing problem of concentrated . By exploiting information advantages, buying up potential competitors, and creating entry barriers, dominant firms are able to engage in large-scale rent-seeking to the detriment of everyone else. The rise in corporate market power, combined with the decline in workers’ bargaining power, goes a long way toward explaining why inequality is so high and growth so tepid. Unless government takes a more active role than neoliberalism prescribes, these problems will likely become much worse, owing to advances in robotization and artificial intelligence.
  4. The fourth key item on the progressive agenda is to sever the link between economic power and political influence. Economic power and political influence are mutually reinforcing and self-perpetuating, especially where, as in the US, wealthy individuals and corporations may spend without limit in elections. As the US moves ever closer to a fundamentally undemocratic system of “one dollar, one vote,” the system of checks and balances so necessary for democracy likely cannot hold: nothing will be able to constrain the power of the wealthy. This is not just a moral and political problem: economies with less inequality actually perform better. Progressive-capitalist reforms thus have to begin by curtailing the influence of money in politics and reducing wealth inequality.3

There is no magic bullet that can reverse the damage done by decades of neoliberalism. But a comprehensive agenda along the lines sketched above absolutely can. Much will depend on whether reformers are as resolute in combating problems like excessive market power and inequality as the private sector is in creating them.

A comprehensive agenda must focus on education, research, and the other true sources of wealth. It must protect the environment and fight climate change with the same vigilance as the Green New Dealers in the US and Extinction Rebellion in the United Kingdom. And it must provide public programs to ensure that no citizen is denied the basic requisites of a decent life. These include economic security, access to work and a living wage, health care and adequate housing, a secure retirement, and a quality education for one’s children.

This agenda is eminently affordable; in fact, we cannot afford not to enact it. The alternatives offered by nationalists and neoliberals would guarantee more stagnation, inequality, environmental degradation, and political acrimony, potentially leading to outcomes we do not even want to imagine.

Progressive capitalism is not an oxymoron. Rather, it is the most viable and vibrant alternative to an ideology that has clearly failed. As such, it represents the best chance we have of escaping our current economic and political malaise.

NASA scientist Jen Heldmann describes how the Earth’s moon was formed

NASA scientist Jennifer Heldmann describes the most popular theory of how the solar system and Earth’s moon was formed. Below you can watch a short four minute video of her explanation of the accretion theory, see a computer simulation of the hypothesis, or watch the whole 45 minute video as recorded during the “Ask a Scientist” event in San Francisco, CA, on Oct 7th, 2008.