Sam Harris on Free Will, Spirituality, and Artificial Intelligence

all right you ready to use a different part of your brain sure yeah how do you get to that other part do you have to is there some keys what do you get to me I just thought you know it might not show up it might be the same I might just start talking about Islam again okay well let's let's see if we can do this without Islam but I think we can't I have a good friend so I I told you that I listen to the audiobook of freewill again yesterday by the way I don't know if you saw my tweet but the picture that's supposed to be you is someone else did you see that oh they came through your car yeah yeah that's happened to me do you know who that guy is yeah yeah sam harris the original sam harris who the only sam harris had ever heard of before is that the musician sam harris you now he was a Star Search singer who then became an actor yeah he's been reasonably successful on stage and he's been in some thick he was in a sitcom yeah but he's a little older than me and someone who I were on got in touch with and said listen some controversial material is going to be coming out under your name right you know you might not want to go to any mosques or and so he and I we've never met but we've communicated by email and yeah he's aware of me and probably not so happy that and with all your Zionist funding in connections you couldn't get your picture swapped out right that I don't know what happens I buy all of those pictures almost never right yeah I don't know I think anyway that's not the point of this so I listen to free will again yesterday and but I thought of just a funny point there's my first editor once when I was writing the end of faith for some brief period of time got confused and thought I actually was that Sam Harris and I was that was actually quite dismayed to know that that in addition to all this other stuff I was claiming to be doing I was singing show tunes and wow that would end something yeah is that that could be the next version of Sam is this Sam hat once you saw the Islam that would require a deep neurosurgery and yeah complex that way you have the right possible yeah all right so I listened to it again yesterday and I want you to lay I just want you to lay out the one little bit you don't have to give me the whole audio book again but first just sort of the difference between you're feeling on it and Daniel Dennett because when I was listening to it I felt at least for the first half where you guys were where you were discussing this and your sort of difference I really wanted to agree with him I felt that despite the case that you laid out I wanted that I'd sit here with you and I'd go well if I don't have free will or if it's so stuck back in my cosmic thing then why what's stopping me from picking up this book and whacking you in the head with it now you lay out a claim why I wouldn't actually be making that conscious decision sort of so did I did I frame that basically right well it it you've actually driven to the hardest question to answer which is which I actually don't have a great answer which is what exactly is the difference between my view and Dan's yeah so Dan Dennett for those who don't know as a philosopher who's written multiple books on the topic of free will he's a very famous philosopher of mind and also a friend and colleague of mine on the front who mostly on the front between science and religion but so one of the new atheists and four horsemen and it was and he I've collaborated in that way we don't we disagree about a lot in the philosophy of mind and we disagreed very visibly on the topic of free will but I think we have been talking past one another a fair amount we just did a podcast a two podcast back on my podcast where we talked about this and it's still even there wasn't totally clear to me what the difference is maybe it's largely a matter of emphasis it's largely a matter of Dan thinking that this almost goes back to what we were talking about earlier about certain ideas being either dangerous or socially counterproductive to to advertise and so he thinks that the idea of free will the idea that people that most people have is important enough ethically and as a matter of jurisprudence and a matter of just just how the smooth functioning of individuals in a society that we shouldn't disavow it in the way that I do in my book and that is born not of a deep difference with me about the science or the underlying philosophy but he just thinks this is is essentially you need to want to throw the baby out with a bathwater argument with respect to the concept of free will now I think actually the concept is is bad enough and comes with enough of its entangled problems that getting rid of the concept actually does good things rather than bad things and so I think we differ on that a little bit but again it's not totally clear but just to get people up to speed here most people are walking around with a sense that of what philosophers call libertarian free will is the sense that that what you think and do what you've what you intend and what and what then becomes your most deliberate voluntary action is something that you as an agent or authoring and that you really are responsible for this authorship that you are there's no one upstream who is you know pulling the marionette strings and therefore you are morally culpable for the bad things you do intentionally and and you know with with planning etc so as you say in the book so that you for example that you make a conscious decision on this morning to have coffee instead of tea right there's nothing pre-written that's a that's sort of pushing you one way or another but these but that what they would say is that you are making these decisions in the moment for whatever reasons you're making them there yeah and it is but but the the Devils in the details of what you mean by you so so so for to give Dan his his due here dan thinks that you is not just your conscious awareness of yourself it's not who you yourself to be subjectively it's the totality of your person it's your it's all the neural activity in your brain that you're not aware of but it's still you because in your body right so and so there's there's a kind of a first-person way of talking about you which is your your sense of yourself your subjectivity and there's a third-person way of talking about you which is from the outside just your your body your genome your your you as a as a person and those don't totally map on to each other because what you're conscious of as a as a subject is not the totality of what's going on in your body you're certainly not conscious of the your genes transcribing proteins and you're not conscious of most of the neural activity going on in your brain right so so what's your and yet what's your conscious of includes for most people it's felt sense that you are the thinker of your thoughts and the initiator of your actions and you are an agent your subject in consciousness as opposed to just the kind of a space in which things are happening right and so I'm going to put a few things to the side no one's disputing I'm not disputing and Dan wouldn't dispute we agree a bit that there's a there are important differences between voluntary and involuntary action and you know there are people who have neurological illnesses and impairments that that give them less degrees of freedom and the people who you know are our phobic of certain things or they have obsessive-compulsive disorder or they're you know you're blind or they're things that that that can reduce your capacity to act quote freely in the world and those reductions matter right and if you're in prison and you're being coerced to to write a confession well that's different from actually confessing me all these differences or matter and no one's disputing any of that but the issue for me is that people have a a sense that what they take that what they experience themselves to be as low sigh of consciousness and it's just that they come to you in your head that it that can look at a glass of water and say oh I'd like to drink that and then reach that there's the feeling that that free will describes a freedom there which runs very very deep which means to say that if you could rewind the movie of your life to a one-minute ago hmm the last question you asked might come out differently you might have asked a different question right we finished the sentence differently right and so you know that the moment where I decide to reach for this glass it's coming now but if you could return my brain and the universe to the state it was in a few moments ago it might it might not have happened right now there is no scientific or philosophical reason to believe that right so if everything we know about just how causes propagate in the universe were they talking about physics out there you're talking about the the neurophysiology in here or even if you're talking about the influence of some immaterial soul that we – you might think exists right in whatever a concatenation of causes you think caused you to think and do the next thing you think and do all of that is just happening and if you set all of those causes back to where they were at the moment ago it's going to happen a trillion times in a row in the same way right so so basically the primordial stew sort of that led you to being you is what you're saying doesn't give us free will sort of in the way that he says it right he's saying it because of their societal reasons we need to say it well he's saying there's a pragmatic way of construing freewill yeah which still MB that emphasizes the difference between someone who does something intentionally of his own free will because he wanted to do it and someone who does something by accident or because he's got a brain tumor and those two those people are different and we can lock this one away and throw it and throw away the key and these people we can rehabilitate two or feel sorry for and those differences get conserved even though we know this person that both of them both sides are essentially robots they couldn't do otherwise right right uh but my argument is it's not that simple and actually some very good things happen when you notice that even the most seemingly culpable person ever I mean just my favorite example someone like Saddam Hussein or his sons and he's like the least sympathetic person the person who's not it's not like there's something neurologically wrong with him he is just a sadistic bastard who wants to harm people and is getting away with it for years at a stretch and it's totally unrepentant then when you capture him you think aha I finally have the bad guy who we can hang or we can be put in prison forever and and it's it's the punishment is justified not merely because we're keeping people safe by taking him off the streets it's justified because he really deserves it right he's really he's the author of his evil right now that final move of viewing people as the authors of themselves right I think is scientifically and ethically illegitimate and and so what the things what you get from my point of view when you lose this commitment to free will is you you undercut any rational basis for hating people hatred doesn't make any sense vengeance in in the usual sense doesn't make any sense now you can fear people yeah you because you know they're dangerous you can lock them up forever if you can't cure their their evil and you would do that to wild animals and hurricanes and anything else you fear that if you could lock up hurricanes you'd lock up hurricanes but you wouldn't tribute freewill to them so there's still problems in the world in the world that have to be solved and some only can be solved with force at the moment but the the vengeful righteous retributive justice module gets completely silenced by this insight and the insight is just obvious because no one picked their parents right no therefore no one picked their genomes no one picked this into which they were born no one picked any of the environmental influences that played upon their genes so as to produce precisely the person they are so there's not a cell in your body that you chose and yet every cell in your body is expressing itself as the person that you are and even if you added an immortal soul to that clockwork you didn't pick your soul and you didn't you're not responsible for the fact that you weren't given a soul of a psychopath and some people were given the soul of a psychopath and now they are helplessly being psychopaths and I mean that the common starting point for philosophers for thousands of years the reason why it seemed like we haven't made any progress on this issue is and why this has seemed like such a durable problem for philosophy is people have sensed that there really is a mystery here there's this subjective fact about us that we experience ourselves as free agents as the true authors of our thoughts and actions but you can't square it with the world of causes because well however you talk about determinism or randomness or some combination thereof that doesn't seem to give you any basis for freedom but what I do in the book and what I what I do I mean what I'm doing now is argue that actually the subjective side is an illusion we don't actually have this experience free will and so I mean the it's not that free will really is an illusion merely the illusion is an illusion if you look closely at the illusion isn't it you realize it wasn't even there in the first place and and this is in the you sort of have to know how to meditate to really take this deeply but most people can Intuit this if if they just are led to look at their inner lives a little more closely than normal so if I ask you I don't think I run this experiment the book but I've done it with some audiences but if I asked you to think of a famous person right now just think of somebody famous mm-hmm and those let's do this a few times just so you can be sensitive to the process and now forget that famous person just think of a totally different famous person pick him or her mm-hmm and do it do it do it one more time but just pay attention to what the experience is like of picking a new famous person so you have somebody mm-hmm okay so now on either of those trials did you think of Sylvester Stallone no right okay so you know Sylvester Stallone is a famous person right so like I say Sylvester Stallone you Britney just that's a perfectly good candidate for being a famous person right mm-hmm now so the first thing to point out is so so here if we can't find freedom of will here it's nowhere I mean this is as free as it gets right me it's just you with your thoughts you can take it you can take as long as you want you could have taken an hour to think of a famous person you could have gone to the inventory of famous people and and picked one but let's look let's find freedom here right because this is you just picking without without any coercion which famous person of all the famous names you know what you're going to focus on well first of all they're all the famous people who you just don't happen to know about right so you couldn't pick them they'll freedom there because that their names couldn't have occurred to you you know famous you know Norwegian actresses right you may know none of them right as opened and so there's no freedom there so then there's the set of famous people who you know who could have possibly occurred to you now Sylvester Stallone you know probably as well as anyone right and and yet he didn't occur to you what does it mean to say that you were free to pick him now you were free in the sense that no one was standing at your head with a gun saying listen if you pick Sylvester Stallone we're going to kill you so don't like him right but what does it mean in what sense were you free to pick someone who didn't occur to you to pick mm-hmm now I would say as a matter of neurophysiology that's a completely empty statement and it's the early years of Sylvester Stallone circuits we're just not active right but for whatever reason a reason you didn't pick right a reason what you to which you don't stand as author now absolutely everything in your life is like that everything no matter no matter how deliberate of the decision the person you choose to arrey whether you do whether you decide to get married or just live together whether you want water or versus tea well it's you can make it as as a long-term or a short-term as you want there there's in the in the in the darkness of your unconscious mind all of which is preceded and it can be borne forward by your your genes and your and the life circumstance and all of the ideas that get in or don't get in the conversations you have and don't have this full concatenation of causes and you could add a dose of randomness to that and you could add some magic from from the soul realm to whatever is there right you just have it various thought thoughts and intentions springing into view and you can't you you can't you don't choose them you can't think a thought before you think it right I'm so you to choose your thoughts you'd have to thank them before you thought them I mean they just spring into view right so very much like the names of famous people so you didn't know I was going to ask you to think of a famous person right I ask you now all of a sudden you've got the various names percolating mm-hmm one of which was not Sylvester Stallone but could have been right now so so if you had thought of Sylvester Stallone that wouldn't have astonished you it's like you it just would have been okay so faster slow and Marlon Brando yeah you would have just been thinking right it would just have been another name but then I would have said well why didn't you think of Chris Rock he said I don't know I didn't think of Cory why he's just as familiar to you and yet he didn't come forward well it's exactly like that with everything and it doesn't get you don't get any freer the more the more you deliberate like if I said listen don't rush this project I want you to take an hour right you know you'd be the same process and let's say you narrow it down to two people and you're going back and forth between Marlon Brando and Chris Rock and then you you finally stick with Brando now whatever story you have to tell yourself that justifies that you didn't pick that either right did you dig that story you didn't pick the story uh and I mean in many cases those stories aren't even true like that we there's a vast psychological literature on just how clueless people are about why they do what they do in certain circumstances and you can manipulate this in the lab endlessly but even if the story is true right even if you say whoa I picked marlon brando because i saw that documentary on him last week and it was great and you should see it and as I was kind of primed to think about Marlon Brando let's say that's just true right still you didn't pick its influence on you right like why were you influenced to that degree and not a lesser degree or why weren't you influenced oppositely why didn't why didn't the fact that you had seen a documentary on him make you think well I just can't take Brando because you know I've been thinking about him all week long I'm gonna go with Chris Rock right all of this is mysterious all its it's just it never becomes unmistakable or genome and and you're neurophysiology and all of its influences over which you have absolutely no control and every moment where you decide to assert control it's like let's say you're just you you feel like you're not have discipline in your life you think you wake up tomorrow morning you think you know what I'm gonna do I'm gonna start working out I'm going to cut off sugar out of my diet I'm going to really get a handle on all these problems right where does that come from that's just like it's Sylvester Stallone just for the it'll always pull the rug out from under you in a way it's all it's always coming out of the darkness yeah it's it and every I can't like listen to me say the sentence I don't know how I'm going to get to the end of the sentence right there are times where I failed to get to the end of the sense I don't speak grammatically correctly right right but the successfully completing a sentence is as mysterious as anything else like how do you how do you follow the rules of grammar when you speak I don't do it that well often but it I might it's it's a miracle that you do it at all right right but in the same thing it's like this is this is as intentional in action as you're ever going to find like I'm choosing to move my hand well how do I do it right if you move your hand it is subjectively and again it doesn't matter how much you know about the process in third-person terms you can know about you know muscle fibers and action potentials and know the names of every neurotransmitter involved and you could just have it you could write a book about what is actually going on when you move your hand and you could be the person competent to write that book and you could still as a matter of your first-person subjectivity have no idea how you accomplish this and if you suddenly couldn't write if you were suddenly paralyzed that would be as mysterious as well it would just be either this thing that you were taking for granted you know albeit for reasons that are totally mysterious suddenly stops yeah right and so that is a so my argument is that we don't actually experience the freewill we think we experience we don't experience ourselves being the true authors of our desires and our intent intentions and our thoughts and these things that lead to actions but we actually experience ourselves as part of the universe I mean we're being we are forces of nature we are being played our strings are being pulled by the universe so to bring this back to where we started so if I picked up this book right now and whacked you in the head with it you don't deny that I'm making the choice to do that but basically you're saying it is all of the history of everything in my brain and every and my parents and all the things that went on before me was me sort of that will have given me a sort of framework to decide to do that or not but I don't really even understand that well what I mean one person because I'm making the choice not to hit you in yeah I could try just say yeah we can really see if this works well it does I mean this this is what people are worried about there is a difference between doing it intentionally and not and that difference is still conserved because I'm it's just unpack what this means if one intentionally hits you as opposed to hitting you by accident right that says much more about their minds I mean be an intentional action is associated with intention is associated with it's the kind of thing that you you kind of modeled in your mind before you did it right and you picked your moment and then you did it and these tend to be the kinds of things that you wanted to do you had some goal associated with doing it right you you would do it again if given the chance right so like the person who physically harms you on purpose as opposed to the person who just didn't see you were there and just backed into you right that person it is actually an expression of ill-will right and that's all of those differences matter does that mean that that's its predictive of what that person is going to be like in the next moment yeah and and so it all that matters for for you know criminal trials and everything else but the the difference is that when you see that people aren't really really deep deep down responsible for who they are you know the psychopath isn't is on some level unlucky to be a psychopath you know if I if I had the brain of a psychopath I would be a psychopath Yeah right and through no fault fault of my own really it then undermines a basis for hating these people you can actually feel genuinely sorry for people who also scare you who also if given know others but redress you would you know kill in self-defense right because you know you there's just no no you know no alternative or you'll lock them up for the rest of their lives because you have to keep other people safe from them but the retributive story of they really deserve it because they're evil and they're responsible for it that goes away and that you know good riddance to that I don't see anything very freeing ultimately oh yeah and when I can remember this way of thinking dealing with people like Glenn Greenwald it actually helps perfect segue to this because I told you before I read it I took eight days off or 9 days off I locked my phone in a safe I did not even have the code to the safe no tweeting no emailing no nothing and I was on a beach that my view basically looked like the cover of the book which was pretty nice and I read this and you've described a lot of things you've just described while talking about free will are sort of directly related to this in terms of the way we think and sort of being unable to control what the next thought is or even why we have that next thought and all that stuff so before we get into that though can you just tell me a little bit about where did this desire come from in you in the book you kind of talk about doing some drugs when you were younger and traveling a bit and you've studied with all kinds of shamans and people all over the world and all this but we're I mean when you were 12 were you into this sort of existential stuff or that it's Mark later or was it the drugs or what well actually it did start pretty early I had a best friend who died when I was 13 and so thoughts about death and just what it all means happened pretty early for me so it's that my teenage years were years where I was seeking to understand you know religion and and all the rest and all has started pretty early but it wasn't until I think I was 18 and did MDMA which I start the book with an account of my first MBA trip and that really was the kind of psychological breakthrough for me because it was not of all this was before MDMA was the rave drug or whatever would you just take it at a party and never really think that your I mean no doubt I'm not discounting the the positive experiences people have in that context but when I took it it was very much with the purpose of discovering something about my mind you know and so I was just with a single friend and we just this this drug had been advertised to us as something that could really reveal something about just the the nature of the human mind and the possibility for feeling a kind of well-being that we were not tending to feel and that's exactly what we experienced and it was very you for those who've taken MDMA is won't be a surprise but major drugs are again it's also a kind of suitcase term that isn't very useful drugs it is like it's a word like religion where the it names vastly different quantities and spectrums of effects and so MDMA is not at all like LSD or any other drew any other drug which it's usually categorized with there was no psychedelic component you know no change in visual properties or anything what there was was just a feeling of just a drop in a way of self concern that was totally liberating and I just I never realized that I was carrying around this burden of self mm-hmm to the degree that I was and you know when talking to somebody that part of my attention was bound up in worrying about what they thought of me right like I wasn't just seeing the other person I was sir triangulating on myself through their eyes and if I said something that that seemed your I was like we were looking at their face seeing the reaction that I was getting and a good one meant something and a bad one meant something all this was being played back into me and modifying how I felt about myself and and so I so I was sitting with it with a very close friend at the time and it was just it just a dropping away of this or even like I just say I I think it didn't he didn't even notice it drop away at the moment but just kind of retrospectively realized oh my god this thing is gone right this this this monster of me yeah which has been behind my face for every moment that I could remember in my life is gone and I am just free to to realize that I love and wish nothing but happiness to the person who I'm sitting with yeah and so there was just this kind of me love is that I I think love for that MDMA experience love is really the the main epiphany it just just that there's love is a a state of being which entails just being deeply committed to the happiness of other beings whether you know them or not I mean the epiphany that really anchored it for me where I realized that that something unusual had happened to my mind is so I'm sitting with you again at the time one of my best friends and realizing how much I love this guy and we're both teenage you know heterosexual men who hadn't really thought in terms of loving our male friends the endpoint and I don't think I'd ever hugged a male friend at that point in my life right or at least I don't recall having done that so it was I might just this outpouring of love for for a friend of mine and then I realized that if a stranger had walked into the room I would have felt the same thing for the stranger just the difference would have been so that my love for my best friend was not predicated on our history it was he hadn't earned it in any way and he need not earn it and no one need earn it right maybe what it was was it was the nature of my mind and the summation of my intentions toward every conscious creature that can suffer or or or be made happy right so I was just it just became this this just absolutely overflowing intention to benefit of other people and it was very end so you know the Buddhists have that part right I mean it was the unity their emphasis on compassion and and wishing well to others I mean that that was very much targeted by that experience yeah now that doesn't subside I think there are even more important insights to be had in meditation and there are other forms of meditation where you're not you're not reliably hitting that experience you know that's not the you know that's not enlightenment surely in to put it in a explicitly Eastern context but it proved to me that it was possible to have a radically different experience than I was tending to have and that you know that that and it also was kind of obvious that taking drugs over and over again was not the way to actualize that experience it just raised so but that's what got me into interested in esoteric things like meditation and sitting silent retreats yeah and all that so if I'm not mistaken you open the book up with that story about your friend right and then that's sort of so what you're describing is that feeling of love and sort of selflessness and wanting this experience for everybody else then you basically lay out in the book some of the practices that you've tried over the course of your life to kind of get there but I get what you're saying you're not saying you're trying to get to that explicitly to that feeling of love but either to a oneness what I kept thinking throughout the book was that really what you were just trying to do was just shut off the conscious part of your brain that that ultimately and I guess this is what Buddhists probably are ultimately going for that really if we could just because you keep referring back to the inner voice and you that great picture that you show you know with the the there's a picture in there the area yeah our smocks self-portrait the self-portrait right that were never we never fully or it's incredibly difficult to actually let go of that conscious piece of ourselves but well I think you means self conscious is it the self conscious piece right right and that and I tried desperately on a beach and I had you know you know and you keep saying how when you try to do it that often makes it harder right because you try to shut off your brain and then your brain wants to fire off some thoughts and you can't really control them but I was on a beach looking at something like that night I once in a bit you know maybe at eight days I had a glimmer of it but this is what people often live their whole lives to find right yeah yeah and it can it can be hard to do I may be meditation really is a training where it's it's like anything else that you you start you learn the basic principle of what to do and initially you're not very good at it and is is a lot to a lot to learn not in terms of information but there's just as a procedure it's like you're deeply conditioned not to be able to do this well you're conditioned to be just lost and thought and to not know you're thinking and that's what this feeling of being a self really and they're really the freewill is the other side of the same coin if the feeling of that you have free will is the feeling that we call I is the feeling of being a self or an ego that is riding around in consciousness or riding around in your head and authoring your actions and that it may can take some work but that can be disconfirmed through meditation which is really just a process of looking for that thing you think you are and failing to find it ultimately in a way that's conclusive you can fail there ways you can fail to find it in a way that is you can't find it because it's not there right so it's not like you're going to no one's ever looked inside and found their ego or found their self or found the thinker of their thoughts right but you can look in a way that is inconclusive right where you feel like well I just you know of course I guess like I my eyes can't see my eyes well of course my self can't see itself right so you can be convinced that there's just it's a fruitless effort but it's not actually fruitless and training and meditation is a really the only way I know to reliably run this experiment for yourself I mean psychedelics can can override your you know various processes depending on on the drug we're talking about in different ways so that you can you can feel that you're you're free of self into a significant degree and in addition feel many other things besides that there can be very positive but there's something haphazard to take I'm I can't give you a pill and say you're going to experience here is it is the center of the bullseye that's you know it's it's very much at the whim of you know the circumstance and and your brain and and thousands of variables we can't control so people have you know the best day their life or the worst on something like LSD and you can be the same person more or less in the same situation on Tuesday it's going to be the best and on the on a Wednesday it's going to be the worst and you can't really control it and that a meditation isn't quite like that but actually to tie this back perhaps surprisingly to some of the other stuff we were talking about so the experience I just described on MDMA one of the formative experiences of my life it just just and it's a state of consciousness which I am absolutely sure that if you could dial it in for for all of humanity you know all of humanity would find that would be just very close to the center of the bullseye of what they want out of life like that's how you want to feel right especially with other human beings and there are many variants of this feeling but just there's a there's a to speak broadly about it there's a there's a kind of experience of self transcendence like there's that there's a there's a just imagine a few dials in your in your mind that you can turn and there's like a feeling of meaningfulness style you could crank that up like this is just profoundly meaningful this experience is happening right now you know our sacredness style like this is sacred everything is sacred I mean this is just like everything is just perfect exactly as it is I mean this is kind of the thrill of just conscious being in the present it can't get any better right and now there's other people in it with you and all you feel is is just you feel a drop in a way of all the masks you've built up over your life and all the paranoia and all you feel would that person is just just a positive common project right of solidarity now again the you know modulo a few changes that kind of experience can be had in contexts that are found ly pathological right it can be framed by ideas that are world destroying ideas so I mean the people who think that all of you all the guys fighting with Isis are unhappy and just can't see what they're going to do with their lives and so they throw their lives away in the desert of Syria and they're not you know no no they are having an experience far closer to what I'm describing in terms of meaningfulness and connection and joy and profundity right and I had this just know no question that yeah yes I'm sure there's a few mentally ill suicide bombers but for the most part you're talking about truly devout people who have had their who are focused right who had their who seen the pointlessness of materialism and all the other other entanglements in life they stepped away from trivial commitments in a way that is deeply clarifying and it's way that I understand from in a totally different context going to sit on meditation retreats for you know months at a time in silence I mean so it that that is to disavow every other project you could be doing right it's an extreme thing to do right and I found extreme joy in doing it but it's you know there's a version of that that has you strapping on an ak-47 and going to kill the Jews right because because of the influence of specific ideas and it's because of the framing and this is this is why ecstasy not the drug but the experience isn't good enough accident the experience of ecstasy is ethically neutral right you can be an ecstatic sadistic dangerous madman right me and yet yet if we could just sample your emotional tone at that moment it's great right right it could really end of the guy on literally on ecstasy at the dance called out of the time his life it could be yeah but I'm a famous suicide bomber before he detonates you know I think rather often feeling great right is not the morbidly depressed but it's just sure that that the next moment he's going to open his eyes in paradise yeah right and there's no question he's doing the right thing and you know the reports of ecstatic smiles on the faces of these people before they detonate are now fairly fairly common so it's some that what we have to and I blogged about this a little bit of wrote a blog post things entitled Islam and the misuses of ecstasy which is which just was my very brief attempt to get at some of this but this phenomenon is not yes there there are political aspects to this and there are ordinary terrestrial grievances that some people have and and that potentiate jihadism and Islamism and all that but at its core you have real spiritual yearning from people and a real disillusionment with the ordinary aims of an ordinary human life and a true belief that in the creator of the universe has given us a guidebook to how to be ecstatically happy right and part of it entails not letting your wives or daughters out of the house right and covering them up so as not to destabilize your precarious well-being with current you know ideation you know the why don't why do the Taliban not want to see naked women all over the place where even in the woman's ankle because it's not conducive to the purity of vision right this is very much like a monk just decided to shave his head and be a monk right at a Buddhist tradition right you know Buddhist monks don't want to hang out with gorgeous women either because they're they don't want to be enticed into that video and then they have I mean the Buddhist strategy to counteract that is to meditate on the repulsiveness of the human bodies so they look at a picture of whoever Giselle and rather than stay stuck with these surface features over here a beautiful woman who's encouraging lust I'm going to actually picture the fact that she actually has a skeleton in there and lymph and bile and blood and on the inside she's just as disgusting as any other monkey right right that sounds fun yeah well as though they're Buddhists Buddhist monks who do this practice right big as as an antidote to their stirrings of their lust right so but these are very similar projects framed by radically different ideas leading to very different behavior in the world yeah that's really interesting so it's all it's really about framing it reminds me a little bit of you know right after 9/11 when Bill Maher said you know you can say what you want about these hijackers but they weren't cowards because in their minds they were going for the 72 virgins and prop Barry possibly had smiles on their faces and we're doing what they believed to be true in that moment so it's a it's a dangerous thing but speaking of a dangerous thing let's wrap up on your newest venture huh do people know what your new books about already or my Megan oh I'm not sure even sure you know or I know you know what you're going yeah I've got a few few irons in the fire so I'm oh alright well I won't I don't know what your next book is well let's talk about artificial intelligence program how about that was that scary those yeah that what that works and so I'm I threatened at one point to be writing a book about it hey I think it may be an audio book that I'm collaborating on with another person but I just gave a TED talk on on AI which is you may be up by the time this video is up but you know if not in the coming months yeah so I have been thinking about AI but it's probably not the topic of my next written book okay well I possibly just made that up I don't control my own thoughts that's the problem right no um so I love look I love science fiction movies ever since I was a kid I love dystopian future stuff I read all philip k dick I love Total Recall and Minority Report and you know I Robot and all of this ask them of stuff and all that I love all of it so I guess my my first question you on the AAI front would be I'll go with I'll go with the biggest question really which is that if we get to a certain point with i artificial intelligence and robots become aware and all of that stuff this can only end horribly right is that pretty much the only it will be good for a while and then at some point by their own self-preservation basically they will have to turn on their masters I want the answer right now yeah I worry about it to that degree but not quite in those terms this I because the concern for me is not that we will build super intelligent AI or super intelligent robots which initially seemed to work really well and then they will by some process we don't understand become malevolent and kill us so the you know the Terminator movies right that's not the concern I don't think that's mo most people who are really worried about this that's not really what they're worried about although that's not it's not inconceivable that's the the it's almost worse than that what's more reasonable is that we will will be building as we are now we're building machines that embody intelligence to a increasing degree and it's but it's narrow AI it's not is the best chess player on earth is a computer but it can't play tic-tac-toe right so it's just it's narrowly focused on a specific kind of goal and that's broadening more and more we're getting machines they can play many different types of games for instance well and so we're creeping up on what is now called general intelligence and ability to think flexibly in in multiple domains and where you're you're learning and one domain doesn't cancel you're learning in another and so so something that's more like how human beings can acquire many different skills and and engage many different modes of cognition and not have everything fall apart that's the best the holy grail of artificial intelligence we want we want general intelligence and something that's bust is not brittle it's not it's it's something that that you know if parts of it fail it doesn't it's not catastrophic to the whole enterprise so and I think there's no question we will get there but there there's many false assumptions about the path ahead one is that we're have what we have now is not nearly as powerful as a human mind and we're just going to incremental II get to something that is essentially a human equivalent right now I don't see that as the path for at all I see all of our narrow intelligence is by much of our narrow intelligence insofar as we find it interesting is already super human right so like we have you know your calculator on your phone is superhuman for for arithmetic right and the chess-playing computer is superhuman it's not it's not almost as good as a human it's better than any human on earth and will always be better than any human on earth right and more and more we will get that piecemeal effort of superhuman narrow AIS and when this has ever brought together in a general intelligence you're what you're going to have is not just another ordinary human level intelligence there you you're going to have something that in some ways may be radically foreign you know it's not going to be everything about us emulated in this system but whatever is intelligent there is going to be superhuman Oh almost by definition and if it isn't at you know T equals zero it's going to be you know the next day is it because this is it's just going to improve so quickly and when you talk about a system that can improve itself if we ever build intelligent AI that then becomes the best source of its own improvement so something they can improve its source code better than any human could improve its source code once we start that process running and the temptation to do that I think will be huge then we have what is what has been worried about for now seventy-five years that the prospect of an intelligence explosion was it with the birth of this intelligence could get away from us it's now but it's now improving itself in a way that's unconstrained right so people talk about the singularity now which is what what happens you know when that takes off it is so it's a horizon line in in technological innovation that we can't see beyond and we can't predict beyond because it's it's now just escaping you're getting your thousands of years of progress in minutes right if in fact this this process gets initiated and so it's not that we have like superhuman robots that are just well-behaved and it goes on for four decades and then all of a sudden they get quirky and and they take their interest to heart more than they take ours to heart and and you know the game is over right I think what what's more likely is that we will build intelligent systems that are so much more competent than we are that that note that even the tiniest misalignment between their goals and our own will ultimately become completely hostile to our well-being our survival so that's that's scarier pretty much yeah then what I laid out right guy laid out sort of a futuristic I they're going to turn on us and start shooting this one day maybe because of an error or something but you're laying out really that they would almost at some point they would if they could become aware enough they just simply wouldn't need us because they would be super humans in effect and that what use would we serve for them at some point yeah and I would put aware maybe not in such a conscious right yeah I would put consciousness or awareness aside because it might be that consciousness comes along for the ride I mean this may be in fact be the case that you can't be as intelligent as a human not be conscious yeah but I don't know that that's horizon mind stuff right like well I just don't know that's actually true it's quite possible that we could build something that is as intelligent as we are right in the sense that it can meet any kind of cognitive or perceptual challenge or logical challenge we would pose it know better than we can but there's nothing that is like to be that thing as the lights aren't on it's not doesn't experience happiness though it might say it experiences happiness right I think what will happen is we will will definitely do you know the notion of a Turing test you know this is like if you type and then it seems like it's responding to you not actually really what like the Alan Turing the the person who's more responsible than anyone else for giving us computers once thought about what it would mean to have intelligent machines and we and he he proposed what has come to be known the Turing test oh it's like the chat right yes like when you can't tell the difference but when you can't tell whether you're interacting with a person or a computer that computer in that case it is passing the Turing test and this is as a measure of intelligence that's a certainly good proxy for a more detailed analysis of what it would mean to have machine intelligence if I can't if I'm talking to to to something at length about anything that I want and I can't tell it's not a person and it turns out it's somebody's laptop that that laptop is passing the Turing test right it may be that you can pass the Turing test without even the subtlest glimmer of consciousness arising in you right so that that laptop is no more conscious than that glass of water is right that may in fact be the case it may not be though so I'm just that I don't know there but if if that's the case that's for me that's the scariest possibility because what's happening is so mad I never even heard at least one computer scientist say this and it was kind of alarming but I don't really have a deep argument against it which is if you assume that consciousness comes along for the ride if you assume that anything more intelligent than us that we give rise to either intentionally or by by happenstance is more conscious than we are experience as a greater range of creative states and well-being and can suffer more and say it's by definition in my view ethically it becomes more important right I mean it's just if we're more important than then cocker spaniels or ants or anything below us in it then if we create something that's obviously above us in every conceivable way and it's conscious right you can view us just the same way we view everything as Beneatha yeah it's more important than us yeah and I would have to grant that even though I might not be happy about it deciding to annihilate us not it it's it's a I don't have a deep ethical argument against why I can't say that fee from the you know a God's eye view it is bad that we gave birth to super beans that then trampled on us but then went on to be super in all the ways we couldn't possibly imagine just as you know bacteria I can't imagine what we're up to right right so there there some computer scientists who sort of solve the fears or silence the fears with this idea which is listen if we build something that is godlike in that respect we will have given birth rmer our descendants will not be more Papes they will be gods and this is a good thing this is the most beautiful thing what could be more beautiful than us creating the next generation of conscious intelligent systems that are infinitely profound and wise and knowledgeable from our point of view and just improving themselves endlessly with up to up to the limit of the resources available in the galaxy right what could be more rewarding than that well it's pretty good you know and the fact that they we all just destroy ourselves in the process but because you know we were you know the bugs that hit their windshield when they were driving off that's just that the price you pay well okay that's possible but it's also conceivable that all of that could happen without consciousness right that we could build mere mechanism that is competent in all the ways so as to you know just plow us under yeah but that there is no huge benefit on the side of of deep experience and well being and and and beauty and all that is just blind mechanism which is intelligent mechanism it is just in the same way that the best chess playing program is highly intelligent with respect to chess but nobody thinks it's conscious so that's that's the fear that there's an up but on the way there there'll be many weird moments where I think we will we will build machines that pass the Turing test which is to say they will seem conscious to us they will seem they will detect our emotions they'll respond to our emotions you know your phone will say you know what you look tired you know maybe you should take a nap and and it'll be it'll be right you know I mean it'll be a better judge of your emotions than then your friends are right and yet and at a certain point certainly if you emulate this in a system whether it's an avatar online or actual robot that has a phase right they can make its it can display its own emotion and we get out of the uncanny valley where that just looks creepy and it begins to look actually you know beautiful and and and rewarding and and natural then our intuitions that we're in dialogue with a conscious other will be played upon perfectly right and we will I think we will lose sight of it as being an interesting problem we will no long it will no longer be interesting to wonder whether or not our computers and our robots are conscious because they will be they will be demonstrating it as much as any person has ever demonstrated and in fact even more right and yet unless we understand exactly how consciousness emerges in physical systems at some point along the way of developing that technology I don't think we'll actually know that they're conscious and that's that will be that will be interesting because I will successfully fool ourselves into just assuming it'll it'll seem totally unethical you to kill your robot or it off it'll be a murder you know it'll be a murder that's worse than your killing a person because at a certain point it will be the most competent person you know the wisest person Sam I don't know if you're writing a book about this but you clearly should write a talk about this to you I'll write one of the intro sirs out that there you go so someday yeah well listen we did two hours here so I'm not going to give you the full Rogan treatment but you know yeah half Rogan we did we did a half Rogan but you know you you helped me launch the show the first season in your launch in the second season and you legally you have to now launch every season you're alright with that once a year I'm good for it and each time I have to increase it by an hour so in like thirty years is gonna be old and and breathless yeah this will be weird but you know it's always a pleasure talking to you and I've thoroughly enjoyed this I hope we moved some some things around in the end I think we opened up our doors there hovered more than more than the infamy so that was that was good there you go all right well I'm pretty sure you guys know if you're watching this you know where to find Sam but it's Sam Harris org on Twitter and Sam Harris dot org can I send him anywhere else no that's good that's the only other thing I would say is that I am well yeah they probably know about my podcast but I usually talk about these things more on my podcast now than then on my blog by the gothy the podcast is competed with the blog enough that now I say it rather than write it so yeah that's the future speaking instead of writing there you go alright thanks for watching guys and this is just the beginning of the fan funded show I thank you all who jumped in and I thank you if you didn't jump in and you're watching and any of that good stuff so thank you and we'll do it again next week

Sam Harris takes MDMA for first time and discovers the transcends human consciousness and finds pure love. I take MDMA for the first time and gurn my face off while smoking 40 cigarettes, talk shit in a kitchen all night then piss on a rug and pass out.

I love this thought experiment but the part where it falls apart for me is that people who look at the free will issue through the scope of Chaos Theory always say that you don't have to surrender to it. This is something that Sam Harris argues in which he says you don't need free will to live a moral life. The thing is that by virtue is practicing free will. Chaos theory implies that you surrender to it non-willfully even having awareness of it

Very much disagree with Sam. Human beings have biological (neurological included) systems in place, but each individual is constantly choosing values. This is still a mystery of are people good or bad? Free will is not 100% autonomy, but the ability to respond to stimuli within finite structures of the brain (and even this can be breached as the brain often performs feats we consider miraculous). If Sam is correct, and he is not, then there is no such category as good or bad, and there is no accountability. Also, people would be unable to change, so he constantly contradicts himself when he says the person could be cured or not cured (unless he is referring to brain surgery, which would be nonsensical since we do not have such techniques). In experience, however, people constantly change beliefs, morals, actions, etc. due to the concrete results of physical reactions or the abstract influences of others. Free will is part of our conscience, as is awareness, and how this is done chemically through neurons is still so much a mystery–but no, we are not machines of simple programming. We choose, refuse, accept, and often change and grow.

his description of Mdma makes me quite upset. I remember my first time, but unfortunately such a peaceful state of mind is not possible in normal life. all that fear, worry, feeling of inadequacy, inability to appreciate the moment, cruelty to other people… the drug is like heaven. I actually had a massive impact on a woman's life, she was older than me & homeless, but she told me I had an impact on her life a year later. I don't remember but I must hve pulled £10 out of my pocket & given it to her just to help her out. I was so happy that night. That part of my life is over though

My question to Sam. "What do you expect to gain if you can actually prove your perspective?" If the goal is nothing, you are on the right track. If the goal is something, you need to rethink it.

I agree with Sam Harris regarding the self is an ILLUSION, but could he please tell me the point about learning?

33:00 I'm glad Sam Harris acknowledges Buddhism. Honestly, if you've had any exposure to it, there's nothing here he presents that's new. It's just a re-packaging that appeals to the intellectual types these days.

Not dissing on it, I'm glad he's raising consciousness on it, but it's not really original to his thinking.

As much as I do not agree with Sam Harris on a lot of points, I appreciate hearing him talk. He doesn't seem nearly as arrogant as Dawkins. Something just makes me want to hear his side of things.

Ive come to terms with Sam Harris in this way: there is no such thing as free will in the objective universe, but in the subjective, where we live, we act as if we have free will. Also every attempt to organize a society based on principles other than free will and responsibility has failed.

I still struggle with idea that we don't actually have volition. If we lack that, are we agents at all or just powerful flesh robots? And if that is the case, do we treat crimes and social problems like illnesses, so that a mass murderer is just the outcome of gazillions of influences, to be treated a bit like a patch of weeds that grew up? If he thinks our sense of being selves, with the experience of choosing, is an illusion, then are not other senses (sight, smell, touch, hearing, etc) also illusions, in which case, he's cut the ground from under his feet as a scientist.

Sam, you're familiar with Buddhist abidharma. The lack of there being no free will is explained in numerous ways in Buddhism – karma, the nidanas, the play of maya, and so forth. Why not just use those explanations? Itsy part of an entire collection of thought that's cohesive. Why reinvent the wheel?

I like sam, but this ispretty trivial. If so zen, why does he get annoyed when audience doesnt applaud or people misrepresent him? They werent free to do otherwise…

Sam confuses being stoned on H with being spiritual enlightened. They are two very different things, it's like if mountain would imagine it was the sea. It's not. But they both nature.

Since Sam Harris does not possess freewill (as freely confessed by him) then I'd like to know why I should not be scared for my life – if I ever make the unfortunate decision to drive my car on the motorway – at the same time that Sam Harris decides to drive.

Sam Harris is a gem!! Only thing I have learned from him is to think!! Think think and keep thinking! He really is a great person.

Dennett likes to have it both ways so that he's right with at least one of them. He says the world is deterministic, but we have free will – we were determined to have free will. He also says there's no such thing as consciousness, or we're not conscious. However, we're not unconscious zombies, he says, but we're "zimboes" that have access consciousness.
Sam and Jesus: "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."
PS, I'm waiting for the day when Sam gives up the idea of consciousness altogether, as he's given up on souls, selves, and free will.


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