FTP019: Vinay Gupta - Hakuna Matata, Space Pharaoh! Quantum Mechanics, Space Exploration, and Enlightenment
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Mike: This one is when we get into mind blowing territory. We talked about artificial intelligence, [00:00:30] the potential for the brain to be a quantum computer, all kinds of stuff. Your brain will hurt, good luck.

Euvie: Most people don’t realize how little they need to actually be happy. The west is so… People just overconsume to a crazy degree.

Vinay: Absolutely. I learned a lot of this perspective from riding freight trains in the states. That notion that you have to be hyper minimalist, firstly because you don’t have money and secondly, because you have to carry everything. That stuff [00:01:00] really, really, really pushes a different way of looking at life and looking at other people. I think it’s a way that has a future, unlike this kind of industrial hyper production stuff.

Euvie: I think consumerism is like a drug addiction that people are just so deep in it that they don’t realize what they’re doing. They’re just like a hamster in a wheel.

Vinay: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. This is not something that happened by accident. The cultural threads that led to that go back. [00:01:30] Inside of Catholicism there’s a pretty clear notion that you have no way of knowing who is saved and who isn’t, because they have to die in a state of grace by getting whatever last rights and all the rest of that. That’s your salvation and you die with a priest and all the rest. In the protestant movements, along comes this doctrine that everything is preordained. You go back to Newton in the Clockwork universe. The idea is that there’s a first cause, the God sets the universe in motion, and everything after that goes mechanically in a way that is predestined.

[00:02:00] It’s the fusion of early thinking of an engineering and rationality and mathematics with the pre-existing Christian doctrines. At that point, the idea forms that God knows the entire outcome of the universe from first setting it into motion. Then, on top of that, therefore some people are born already saved and other people are born already damned, then this gets into this notion, well, the king is God’s representative on earth, therefore the king will be saved, [00:02:30] therefore money and power are indicators that one has already been chosen and is predestined for salvation. This is a real doctrine, right. This is a huge part of the development of western capitalism, while it’s still in the European stages.

The Dutch, the Germans, the English. This notion of predestination and God’s elect and all the rest of that stuff gets super deeply soaked into the culture. Then after the existentialists and the death of God and all the rest of that stuff happens, where people stop thinking of western culture as being an explicitly Christian [00:03:00] place even though it is, you still get this consumption pattern that is, in large part, built on the notion of the protestant elect. It all roots back into the theology, it’s just processed by culture round and round in circles.

Euvie: You would think that capitalism is a non-religious system but it’s funny how much of it was actually informed by very old Christian ideas.

Vinay: Absolutely. The guy that wrote the Wizard of Oz, Frank Baum, also wrote a book about window displays for department stores. [00:03:30] He interprets the window display as basically being like an alter on which one is attempting to display these things in a way that makes them maximally attractive to people in an almost religious sense. Fraud’s nephew or cousin was the guy that came across and basically wrote the book on advertising as a way of taping into people’s unconscious drives. They take the whole Viennese psychotherapy model and you can use this as a way of getting people do to things, and we’re gonna call this advertising.

[00:04:00] What you’ve got is all of these folks who are basically trying to figure out how to drive consumption, because consumption equals profit. Everything gets sacrificed into that. The notion of religiosity, the rush of sexual attraction, the deep psychological drives, all the unfinished bits of evolution where we still have psychic or cognitive vulnerability to stimulus, all of this kind of stuff has gotten brought in by hyper capitalism to get people [00:04:30] to stay on the wheel. But I think it is beginning to break down. If you think of the US hipster archetype, that is intelligent poor people attempting to live lives where they know they might not ever have real money and they want to continue to be intelligent and cool.

Euvie: That’s a really good definition of what a hipster is.

Vinay: Right.

Euvie: At their core, they’re still consumers.

Vinay: Because what they’re attempting to say is fundamentally, “We are detached from money. We understand we might never [00:05:00] be able to afford our own homes, we shop in thrift stores and we’re gonna make it cool to shop in thrift stores because we have to do it and it might as well be cool.” That’s a real factor, probably less than – of my outerwear, jackets and that kind of stuff – probably less than 10 percent of those were bought new. I live in a pretty much second-hand world, because it just turns out to be that’s how you get by. All my computers are second-hand, old think pads, bits and pieces I bought from friends, the speakers. [00:05:30] That notion of living in a second-hand world, not everybody can do it.

If everybody does, second-hand stuff will cost the same as first-hand stuff does. That notion, I think what you’re going to see is, as internet culture really, really forms in the developing world, in poor countries, I think that you’re going to see that kind of hipsterization of people that are attempting to be post-materialist because they have no money and yet, they’re still global citizens, could take on an entirely new dimension. The children [00:06:00] of the Chinese middle classes who know that they are going to ascend into a bankrupt environmentally wrecked China, could wind up with an almost monastic approach to the material world based on this fusion of Kurt Cobain and Confucianism. It might be that the salvation of our culture doesn’t actually start here.

You see what I’m saying? They’ve got all of the incentives to design a lifestyle that is maximally socially status driven and is not heavily dependent on staff because they can have social status but they [00:06:30] can’t have stuff.

Mike: Right.

Vinay: I don’t know for sure but my hypothesis is, at some point, there’ll be a cultural or social norm that gets reimported from the poor countries into newly poor America and everything will change.

Mike: Yeah. You know what interests me about what you said earlier is using meditation as a lens to get to the deepest, darkest, depths of social issues in the world. I’m curious as to what your focused on now that you’ve had that [00:07:00] period of analysis.

Vinay: Right now, I’m taking a vacation. I made a rule for myself about 15 years ago that I wouldn’t do anything for money that I wasn’t willing to do for free. That kept me focused really entirely on the hardcore world changing stuff. When I could get paid for it, I got paid for it. When I couldn’t get paid for it, I didn’t. We were in the early stages of a cosmic insurrection. Humanity is at a point where the knowledge that we might wipe ourselves out has gotten really deeply soaked into our deep minds. [00:07:30] It starts at the beginning of the nuclear age and it’s run right through and only gotten more intense. What I see around us is the fundamental sense that this cannot go on any further and the push to fix it now.

This is me attempting to tell apart a very, very pale yellow white from a cream. I might get this wrong on the first pass. There’s a traditional new age certainty that there’s a species level awakening coming and all the rest of this stuff. The Terrence McKenna vibe. I’m sure you’ve heard that until you’re [00:08:00] just purple in the ears. I don’t think it’s that and I don’t think it’s Marxist historical inevitability or any of that stuff. What I think is coming is a species level panic response. “Oh my God, we’re all going to die. We have to work together to avoid all dying.” There’s a book called A Paradise Built in Hell about spontaneous cooperation after large scale natural disasters. I think there’s a pretty decent chance that we’re going to experience a moment like that in response to the manmade disasters that we’re currently beginning to live in.

Mike: It’s really unfortunate [00:08:30] that that’s what it takes.

Vinay: If Jake Parsons had lived and Gandhi had lived, all of this would have been easy. It really came as close as two people dying, two assassinations, and the whole thing could have gone the other way. Gandhi would have been 100 in 1968 and certainly would have unified the world against nuclear weapons and exported [inaudible [0:08:53]. Jake Parsons was the chief disciple of Alistair Crowley and the precursor of Timothy Leary [00:09:00] and would have basically said to people, “Look, our destiny’s in the stars. I’ve built the solid rocket motors for NASA, we use them to get to the moon. Now, we’re gonna do the rest in the universe.”

Mike: It seems to me, especially with where we’re going with VR, it seems to me we’re going to go inward sooner than we’re going to go outward into the stars. You know what I mean? We’re going to create these other dimensions of reality to go into. It’s tough for me to imagine humans livings on Mars, as opposed to our nanobot swarm artificial intelligence hybrid [00:09:30] alternatives that we might go to in the future.

Vinay: Yeah, yeah, I know what you’re saying. We’re going to get to Mars a long time before we we’ve got nanobot alternatives.

Mike: You think? I’m sure we’ll get to Mars but as far as colonizing it, I think once AI is truly at the level that… I mean once it’s actually AI, we’re looking at a completely different reality. All bets are off.

Euvie: That’s the thing, they’ve been developing AI since 1960s, 1970s and it’s still not anywhere near at a point of being [00:10:00] even as smart as an infant mouse.

Mike: Sure, but it’s still sitting on [inaudible [0:10:03].

Vinay: This is a slippery one, right? My timeline is Musk says Mars base in 10 years. 2025. Right now, his batting average is so high, oh my God. I think that a global cult where we simply worship Elon Musk is probably… We’re getting to the point where we should probably just decide that he’s a demi-God, give him the status of global Pharaoh, right? “[00:10:30] What is our answer to all the problems?” “Put Elon Musk on in charge.” I’m semi-serious, right? Humans are really good at worshiping demi-Gods. We’ve got really deep cultural programming for deciding that a given human being is a God and worshipping them. Right now, all of our celebrities are basically idiots.

The notion that you simply decide that the most effective engineer in the world is a God and we worship him as such. That’s more or less what the pagans would have done with him, why not? Maybe he’d even enjoy it. [00:11:00] We don’t have to ask him. Relative to, AI’s been a long time coming, VR’s been a long time coming. I have a suspicion that artificial intelligence is going to turn out to be a lot harder than we think it is. I think it might not be [inaudible [0:11:13]. Evolution is a very, very funny process. You know artificial life? The digital simulations, the living systems that were a big deal in the 90s. Artificial life, you try and evolve systems that [00:11:30] we’d evolve towards life-like behaviour.

For example, you would take a simulation of water and then you’d have bit string that was a virtual body. It would define a set of polygons connected by a set of muscles and a little brain that would move the little muscles and you would reward the creatures for managing to swim a long way. The ones that were successful swimmers would breed and you would evolve things that evolved a variety of kinds of locomotion. That kind of stuff was a big deal in the 90s, because it was just absolutely [00:12:00] stunning. We stopped playing with that stuff when we got really big computers, because it basically frightened people. We’ve got enough computer power now that you could run those kind of sims at a vast scale without any problem at all and we Just don’t really do it.

It’s sunk into the technological background because the results, if you put real computers behind that stuff, are so incredibly disturbing. I think there’s one that’s almost Frankensteinien quality to it. That entire field of research has just gotten… [00:12:30] It’s more or less vanished.

Euvie: Is anyone doing this stuff anymore?

Vinay: Not really. Almost wonder where the [inaudible [0:12:36] sat on it. Yeah, interesting, isn’t it? Big old gap, makes you wonder. One of the things that we observe in artificial life is that the first thing the organisms will try and do is break the simulator. They’ll evolve a big flat polygon that banks up and down on the sea floor. Eventually you’ll get a rounding error in a floating point wide [inaudible [0:12:55], it’ll move your creature four lightyears straight left, it’s incredible.

Mike: Whoa.

Vinay: [00:13:00] Right. If there’s any wave exploiting bugs in the simulator, the first thing the creatures will evolve to do is exploit the bugs in the simulator.

Euvie: Holy shit.

Mike: Whoa.

Vinay: Right? It’s obvious, right, this is how evolution works. Here is my fundamental hypothesis, right. We know from things like Young’s double slit experiment and the rest of quantum mechanics that matter behaves in some truly, truly peculiar ways. Do you guys know Young’s double slit experiment.

Mike: Yes.

Euvie: Yes.

Vinay: You take a single electron, [00:13:30] you fire it through the two holes, you expect it to form two dots, one through each hole. Instead, you get dots all over the paper and they concentrate in bands corresponding to where you would get wave interference and this gives you things like the frequency of the electron.

Euvie: Yeah, the particle acts like a wave.

Vinay: A particle acts like a wave and probabilities appear to interfere with each other, because the particle only winds up in one place but you still get wave interference about where the particle will be. Probability waves [00:14:00] appear to be a thing that is capable of forming and interfering. Then the particle shows up in one place rather than another on the basis of that. That’s the fundamental stuff that we evolved on top of it. Do you think it’s at all plausible that it’s possible to read or write information to the probability wave mechanisms that appear to underly all physical matter including chemistry, right? After all, we’ve got probability A and probability B and they’re interfering with each other – [00:14:30] probability A as it goes through the first hole, probability B as it goes through second hole.

The probabilities interfere in a wave like way, wave interference, and then the actual particle takes one path or the other depending on those probability outcomes. That’s exactly like every decision that a human being ever makes. Probability A, probability B, there’s a landscape of probabilities. We resolve one way or the other way and then we pick a path and we implement, just like electrons. My speculation is that the fundamental [00:15:00] human decision-making apparatus is actually a quantum mechanism for changing the shape of the future built on the fundamental substrates of quantum mechanics. What comes out of that is, firstly, that the mind is very plausibly a quantum phenomena because, after all, the brain is a quantum phenomena because, after all, the brain is made of chemistry and chemistry is all about quantum mechanics. Hypothesis one.

Hypothesis two is the radical one, which is if there’s any way for us to even know the future or change the future my manipulating probability directly, [00:15:30] you can bet your ass we do it, because that’s how evolution is. I can point to evidence of us doing that. Here’s the evidence. The two places where evolution really, really makes changes are everything to do with death and everything to do with sexual selection. Those are the areas that evolution absolutely specializes in, because those are the real turning points in what happens in the next generation. We evolved to be able to run incredibly quickly and we evolve to be able to fight well and all the rest of these things, [00:16:00] because death is one of the forces that trims the next generation.

Sixth senses for danger are absolutely ubiquitous in industries where people are in regular physical danger. Everybody knows that there are some people, everybody some of the time and some people almost all of the time, who just know when something bad is going to happen and they get out of the way early and you always listen to those people when they say something doesn’t feel right. All over the place. Those people, the ones that are really good at that stuff are often legendary inside of those domains. [00:16:30] The surgeon that is just like, “Could you recheck everything? Patient oxygen levels look a little funny, something is not right.” I don’t know what it is and even though that oxygen levels were the normal range, they have a hunch, you recheck everything, sure enough, somebody’s plugged a tube in the wrong side.

We see that everywhere around us as a perfectly common part of life wherever people are in danger. Yet, we never would really treat that stuff as serious. Yet, if we evolved in a quantum mechanic environment and physics permits, [00:17:00] we’re going to have those kind of capabilities. We see evidence of those kind of capabilities and we see the physics in the lab. Other one you would expect it, sexual selection. Over and over and over again, you ask people how they met their life partner and a third of the time or half of the time there’s this phenomena of an impossible seeming chain of coincidences, which eventually slams the two people together at impossible speed.

Mike: That’s how I would describe Euvie and I meeting.

Vinay: Yeah. Funnily enough [00:17:30] I have that feeling. That story is everywhere in our culture. You ask people and a third, half, they’ll tell you that story. It’s really, really, really common among people that you would think of as being more intelligent and more conscious. My favourite one of those is a guy I know that was on a plane going from something like San Francisco to Seattle. Gets sat beside a woman, they talk, it’s love at first side, they don’t exchange numbers on the plane. [00:18:00] They’re walking outside somewhere in baggage they get separated and he’s just like, “Oh my God, I’m never going to see her again, this is the worst disaster ever.” Goes into a depression.

Two weeks later he’s flying from something like Boston to New York and she’s on the same plane in the same seat. He’s on the same… It’s the same model of jet. They’re both in the same seats that they were in. They look at each other. They know. They’re married, they’ve got three kids.

Mike: No kidding.

Vinay: Right. Those stories are everywhere, we’re knee deep in the bloody things. It’s what [00:18:30] we think of true love as being about in some sense. What you’re seeing there is evolved mechanisms to manipulate probability fields to bring together people with partners that, in state of nature, we then have kids.

Euvie: Interesting.

Vinay: Right? It’s the evolutionary imperative manipulating what you would think of as being spacetime to bring people together because evolution needs the next generation. If quantum mechanics is real and if evolution is real, if there’s any way [00:19:00] of bending reality, i.e. probability, we’re going to do it and that’s what it would look like. What you’re seeing is probability being manipulated by deep structures that you evolved in order to put you forward in the position evolution wants you in.

Mike: Okay.

Euvie: My mind is a little bit blown right now.

Vinay: At that point, all of the phenomena that you think of as things like magic…

Mike: Yeah.

Vinay: All of that stuff, all of that stuff, God damn near any phenomena that [00:19:30] people have talked about as a result of spiritual experience nicely slots itself into evolutionary biology plus quantum mechanics equals a certain amount of weird stuff happens and it happens exactly where you suspect evolution to put it. It doesn’t break science at all, it just speculates that two areas of science that we haven’t really connected before are probably connected. Evolutionary biology continues to be the fundamental lens for understanding human life. It blew my fucking mind, it took me five years to get over it but now I’m pretty comfortable [00:20:00] that that is what is happening and I’ll wait for more data and change my mind later if we get some more ideas.

Euvie: I’ll need some time to wrap my head around that.

Mike: What is the goal of evolution at that point? I believe it, we see it all the time. That’s the way our relationship is formed, that’s the way these events in our lives right now, even connecting us to you, seem to be continuing to unfold, [00:20:30] so where’s it all going is what I keep asking myself all the time. What is your answer?

Vinay: This is the point where the wheels have to leave the runway, right? Up until now, I’ve talked to you inside of a pretty straight up strict scientific paradigm. There’s some stuff which is hypothetical but I don’t think the hypothesis outside of rational assumptions and a fully scientific world model. We have to go into mythological territory. I think that from the perspective of the collective [00:21:00] intelligence of all life on earth. I’m just going to leave that out there, I’m not going to ask how that formed, I’m just going to pretend that it’s real for the purpose of speculation.

I think it’s pretty clear that the responsibility that human beings have could be summed up by saying that the apposable thumb is the earth’s genitals. Build spaceships and fertilize faraway planets with your apposable thumbs, oh monkey. Right? The rocket ship looks like a very small sperm [00:21:30] and an empty planet looks like a very large egg. You take the earth’s DNA, load it into one of these small phallic objects, fire it at barren planets and bring them to life. Right. Finally, you can find a low G planet to put the giraffes on, they’ll be right at home.

Euvie: You know it’s funny, actually early in life I think I was 19, I had a psychedelic experience and the conclusion of that experience was exactly this, that this is our whole purpose is to evolve [00:22:00] enough so that we would populate the whole universe pretty much.

Vinay: Yup, seems pretty obvious to me. If you look at the 20th century, the tragedy is that we put uranium in the wrong end of the rockets.

Euvie: Right, yeah, yeah.

Vinay: Right? That’s all that goes wrong. If you put it in the engine, not in the warhead, you get life. If you put it in the warhead and not the engine, you get death. You have to [00:22:30] expand the territory and use the uranium to expand the territory that humans have access to, rather than to fight over the limited territory that we have.

Mike: Right. I’m still stuck on why.

Vinay: Because evolution. We’ve got a billion year history of replication and expansion. Replication and expansion is what life is, it’s what it does.

Euvie: I guess what the universe itself is doing, right, it’s constantly expanding?

Vinay: I’m not enough of a cosmologist to really know what the physics is for the universe, [00:23:00] but I know damn well that we got a billion year history of replication and expansion here. Our entire living system is a replication and expansion machine that goes back literally a billion years and we’ve got fossil evidence of a billion years of that. I am of the opinion that we are going to continue to replicate and expand.

Euvie: And maybe we’ll build a nanobot or other machines that will also replicate and expand.

Vinay: Yeah, absolutely. I’m a bit scared to death of post-biological evolution. [00:23:30] I’m really quite worried by nanotech and biotech, particularly because so much of that work is being done in the defence establishment. For me, the thing that I’m pushing on next – all the [inaudible [0:23:41] refugee stuff and all the rest of that, that’s all fully well established, most of the details are worked out. Most of the things that need to be done in that next are best done by people who aren’t me. It needs to be engineers living in the field, it needs to be people that know how to build and run large international companies. My skills are becoming less important in that. [00:24:00] I’m moving to a position where the majority of my responsibilities to that are to interconnect the right people and keep it moving forward, rather than to do it myself because I’m no longer the best person to do most of those jobs.

We need real specialists and I’m not a specialist. What I’m really working on right now is how we can build a platform of policy to push all replicator engineering out of earth orbit. We need a business model for space, we need a business model for Mars base and lunar orbit factories and all the rest of that stuff. We also need to get [00:24:30] dangerous replicator technology away from the biosphere.

Mike: Right, right. I see what you’re saying.

Vinay: If we got a replicator accident, whether it’s biological, nanotech, or something in between, if we have a replicator accident it could wipe us out in a weekend. We can’t do it on earth safely and we need a business model for space. Let’s put these two things together and force all the replicator engineering at least as far as [inaudible [0:24:53] orbit. They can’t be in earth orbit because if something goes wrong it might fall back down again. We want it at least as far the moon.

Euvie: [00:25:00] Interestingly enough, Elon Musk is actually a major proponent of this. He’s also very terrified of biotech, nanotech, and he talks about it quite often that we’re going into very dangerous territory that could lead to our own extinction.

Vinay: The greens are super enthusiastic about pushing all this stuff away, they just want it to not exist. If you want to do it on your little toy spaceships, do it on your little toy spaceships. We could reunify a huge number of political movements around the world [00:25:30] on, “Push the bloody replicator engineering to Mars. You can go and play with your awesome technology toys in your robot smart cities anywhere you like, but don’t do it here.”

Mike: Yeah.

Vinay: You put all these pieces together, what I want to see is a political movement around the idea that we’re going to just push this crap off orbit. Get out of earth orbit, good for the planet, good for the space industry, reunifies the greens and the tech people etcetera, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. You put all of that stuff together and it might [00:26:00] just work.

Euvie: It might prevent our own extinction.

Vinay: Yeah, yeah. And that sounds like a pretty reasonable approach for doing future human culture stuff, right?

Mike: Yeah, it seems like a great solution actually.

Vinay: I actually wrote a book about this, it’s called Mother of Hydrogen. It’s an unfinished novella, it’s about 60,000 words sitting on my website hexayurt.com/novel. The entire thing is about the process of change in human culture [00:26:30] as the human race segments into the people that live on earth, essentially in a gigantic national park, and the people that live in space and have a completely different experience of technology in life but can never go home because their bodies are filled with replicator tech.

Euvie: Wow, interesting. Actually, this brings me to something that I wanted to ask you about. The idea of eco-futurism. Right now, a lot of futurism is focused around [00:27:00] super high tech, AI, nanotech, biotech, body hacking, transhumanism. On the other hand, we live in these meat sacks and we live on this planet that’s made out of biological stuff that may not be compatible with all the stuff that we’re building. I wonder if that would be a solution to that, to move all this tech stuff off planet and to leave the planet with its biological stuff.

Vinay: That I think is a very, very plausible approach to the future. [00:27:30] The phrase that I use in the book is that real technology is too dirty and dangerous to run on earth, and real nature is far too dirty and dangerous to run in space. It’s all very, very doable. If you think about it, I’m guessing you guys are probably what, in your late 20s, 30s?

Mike: Late 20s, yeah.

Vinay: Your current [inaudible [0:27:50] of life, just from the books assuming no technological change, is roughly 100. That’s what an insurance agent will give you in terms of odds. 70 years [00:28:00] backward is 2015… What is that… 1955? Something like that? If you think about the technological jump from 1950 to 2020, then assume the same technological jump from 2015 to, whatever it would be, 2065 or something like that… Actually, 2085. It’s pretty clear that by 2085 a lot of this stuff will be done and dusted.

Mike: Yeah.

Vinay: You’re gonna live through the process [00:28:30] by which these issues either get settled or not. In all probability, you’re going to get life extension, as am I, even if it’s only another 20 years. That kind of tendency towards immortality is now very strong. At least, a couple hundred years. I estimate at this point that my best guess at my lifespan is about 600 to 800 years. Right? I’m very consciously attempting to live as if it is likely that I’m going to have an 800-year run. I’m currently 43. [00:29:00] 40 to 50 years of technological development before I’m likely to die – and I’m from a particularly long live lineage anyway. You put all that stuff together and… I’m not a strong believer in transhumanism but I am a strong believer in medicine.

I think another 30 years is easily doable within medicine. If you get another 30 years, then you begin to look at post-scale rewriting of DNA to younger template… You jiggle the pieces. What comes out of that [00:29:30] is a very likely reality that we’re going to live through this entire process. Doesn’t this sound like fun?

Euvie: Yeah, totally.

Vinay: Yeah, that’s a show worth having, right? Whether it’s grain goo or rainbow immortality, I think this is all to play for. I just hear people with their left right political discourse and it’s like they’re not even wrong.

Euvie: I’ve always thought that that bipolar political system is ridiculous. It just doesn’t reflect [00:30:00] reality and it’s put there to distract people from what’s actually happening.

Vinay: It’s legacy. The political left right that we have, we’re defined at a point where we were discussing who owned the wealth created by industrial production in factories. Is the wealth from industrial production belonging to the factory owner or is it belonging to the factory worker? That decision is all that left right politics is about. There’s nothing else in it. Marxism says that the output of the factories belongs to the workers, capitalism says it belongs to the owners. [00:30:30] That political discourse is the only political discourse happening inside of our cultures.

We don’t talk about feudalism anymore, even though it’s still hugely dominant. We don’t talk about post-scarcity, post-industrial life bio and all the rest of that because we just don’t talk about those things. The political discourse is locked into this crazy tiny little range. You get outside of that political discourse, there’s reality staring you in the face. I think the entire political discourse that we’re trapped inside of could break off any year. I don’t think [00:31:00] it’s going to happen immediately but any year the entire political discourse could just break off. Elon Musk finally decides he’s ready to be president of the United States of America, runs a set of campaign ads that simply destroy the entirety of western culture in three one and a half minute slots.

There’s Kennedy, there’s the space race, here’s [inaudible [0:31:25], this is our destiny, we have to reorganize our politics to enable us to take care of all the people [00:31:30] on earth and build a future for our children in the stars. Anybody’s that’s not talking to you at these levels is hopelessly behind the curve. Here is a picture of my rocket ship landing on Mars and my friends the settlers. Right? At any moment. [inaudible [0:31:45] global dictator, right, just put Elon Musk in charge. What this situation needs is a Pharaoh and we’ve picked that one. If we can’t deliver that kind of leadership from humanity from democracy, let’s go back to the [00:32:00] pre-democratic, pre-feudal systems, agree that we’ve appointed him Pharaoh and just do what the man tells us.

Sounds hilarious but if it gets us out of this mess, why the hell not? Democracy for everything that a group of people can decide for themselves and it’s space Pharaohs for everything else. It’s going to be real fun trying to figure out how to [00:32:30] get this boiled down into something that’s podcastable in a couple of months. I recently got the meditation stuff settled to the point where I was willing to start teaching it.

Mike: Really?

Euvie: Cool.

Mike: The last two years, since we’ve been in Asia, we’ve gone to meditation retreats every Christmas for seven days [inaudible [0:32:45] meditation.

Vinay: Yeah. [inaudible [0:32:49] is a very good kit but it suffers very badly from monasticism.

Euvie: Yeah, we noticed that.

Mike: The second time around was distracting, actually.

Euvie: Yeah. This was actually the [00:33:00] Thai branch of it. They call it [inaudible [0:33:01]. It’s a bit different than the world-wide chain of meditation centres that exist. It’s based on the same principles. Anyhow, we noticed that really badly. It’s drenched in monasticism and it tries to indoctrinate you into the system and tells you that you can’t practice this on your own.

Mike: You need to become a monk.

Euvie: Yeah. You can’t get the full benefits of it unless you dedicate your whole life.

Vinay: Monks who get enlightened by doing monk stuff will tend to teach other people monk stuff. [00:33:30] Monks got to keep monking. You view traditions if you’re non-monastic if you’re going to have traditions which are non-monastic. You can’t expect people that have been celibate for 40 years to teach a full transmission of human life. If you don’t have a monastic cast, people that are monastically inclined, pretty high-quality of life if you’re asexual, pretty high-quality of life if you’re just monastically based, why not? You need both. The monks have to be specialists and you need systems that work for non-monks. The stuff that I’m teaching right now, [00:34:00] the expectation is that people will take roughly 10 years, assuming that they start from a fairly high starting point, and it will cost them about an hour a day and be roughly a PhD’s worth of work.

That is compatible with an ordinary life or you can spread it out over more like 20 or 30 years, which is the traditional Indian way of doing things. I think we’re in a bit of a hurry so I’m suggesting the 10-year version for people. The 20 and 30-year version is also available. [00:34:30] I’m in a position where I started teaching that material because I thought, “I’m going to need enlightened help in about a decade. If I don’t start teaching now, I’m not going to have enlightened help in 10 years.” The notion is teach a few hundred people. If five or six of those are so inclined that they both finish the syllabus and are interested in helping, that gives me a group of people that I can trust to make decisions when I’m not there to do it. “You go to Africa, I’m going to be in India. Sort it out.”

Euvie: Why such a long-time span?

Vinay: It’s a long-time span because it’s really, really [00:35:00] quite hard to get all the way through everything you need to get through to become enlightened. Enlightened – like, you understand what the Buddha understood, you become able to understand exactly what [inaudible [0:35:10] meant and are in some sense a peer of any of his human friends. The full light of the Hindu tradition. You can take all the medieval crap back out of it again, you can get rid of the imaginary many armed Gods. If they’re real ones, they will remain. That was the tradition I was raised in. I got enlightened at 28. [00:35:30] It’s teachable. I started as an ordinary guy, my guru started as an ordinary woman.

The stuff works, that’s why we’ve been doing it for 7,000 years. It just needs to be updated for what we now know to be true about how the world was created, which is to say, science. Otherwise, all the gear does exactly as it always did. Just because we didn’t understand how it worked, doesn’t mean that it didn’t work.

Mike: This idea of enlightenment, you say you experienced that at 28. We were taught by monks in meditation retreats who said they had never experienced it and they were in their… [00:36:00] One guy was in his 70s. They talk about it like it’s a myth.

Vinay: Yeah. It’s not a myth. In the Indian tradition, enlightenment is still very much alive. Hindu teachers who are enlightened are semi-common. Not everybody who claims it has it, not everybody who has it claims it. Many people have it and don’t recognize it, which is a weird category but it’s fairly common. Enlightenment is an absolutely real thing. You can understand it one of two ways. I will give you the [00:36:30] full blue explanation first and then I will back track to something a little more concrete. The full blue explanation is that the enlightenment experience is the point at which you realize that the thing inside you which makes you conscious is continuous with all the space and time. In the same way that in quantum systems, everything is entangled with everything else and time is not the kind of linear clockwork thing.

What happens is that you have an experience of, “Everything is entangled with everything else and time is not a linear clockwork thing.” [00:37:00] Sounds pretty straightforward. You just directly experience the way that things are and it completely frees you from fear of death or a strong sense of individual boundary.

Mike: That persists for you all the time?

Vinay: Yup.

Mike: Wow.

Vinay: You bet you, stable state. My internal dialogue stopped in 1994. Chattery voice in your head that narrates what’s happening. Not everybody has one but I had one. Stopped in ’94 and it took me another 4 years to get enlightened, which is completely weird because normally the two things fall within minutes. [00:37:30] In my case, there was a four-year lag. I guarantee you that medieval Hindus did not understand the nature of reality. Guarantee it. They were medieval, they didn’t understand evolution, they didn’t have a billion years of fossils to help explain. What they had was a collection of things that they could do and those things are still possible but it doesn’t mean you have to take the medieval explanations for them. Everything to do with reincarnation is just a hypothesis, I don’t think it’s literally true although some parts of it are experiential etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. You just have to radically demystify the [00:38:00] entire thing and say, “What is the human experience? Okay, how does that relate to the things that we are sure of?”

We are more certain that biological evolution happened than we are of any other single thing in science. They will still tell you that dark matter may or may not exist, but we can see a billion years of fossils. You can rebuild a fully scientific mysticism around biological evolution and in the areas where the physics is a bit weird, you just have to say, “We don’t know. Evolution we are certain of. Physics is a bit uncertain.” [00:38:30] It didn’t wind up going through that entire Hindu clergy process, right? I’m an officially anointed teacher of one of the hairiest traditions that we have in India, even though I don’t believe any of the traditional religious stuff is literally true anymore.

I believe the experiences are real and the explanations are bullshit. I didn’t get through that process because I wasn’t seeing the phenomena that the tradition says will be there, and a lot of those phenomena by western standards are impossible. I’ve never seen the laws of physics broken, I’ve never seen anybody teleport. Many of [00:39:00] my teachers claim to have seen those things and I have definitely not seen them. Just about everything else, I’ve seen. All manner of weird circumstances and strange flows of cause an effect and people making incredibly accurate pre-cognitive predictions and prophetic dreams. I even had an actual vision once. All that stuff, yeah, all that stuff is there. If you do the work, you experience it. It’s there. What you mustn’t do is accept any of the traditional explanations of what it is that’s happening, because I guarantee they’re horse shit.

Euvie: I’ve actually noticed [00:39:30] this more and more recently that science and religion, a lot of the time, people think of them as opposite things. I’m seeing more and more overlap lately, especially if you cut out all the bullshit. What you said, the medieval explanations of things in religion, and also if you cut out the dry, “We only know what we know,” part of science, there’s actually a lot of overlap.

Vinay: Absolutely. Until somebody tells us fundamental stuff like how many particles is the universe made of and what is [00:40:00] dark matter. These are pretty fundamental questions. Until we’ve got really good answers for those questions that aren’t, “Ah…” then I don’t think the physicists have the right to tell us anything about what is or is not possible.

Euvie: The idea that everything exists at once and that we’re only experiencing time as linear, because we are embedded into that dimension and we can’t see higher dimensions. It’s already been proposed in physics and a lot of physicists [00:40:30] do believe that already.

Vinay: Those additional dimensions, even if you just think of time and space in a very ordinary sense, we see such tiny slice of what’s happening in the universe at any given moment. We see such a tiny duration in the length of the universe, it’s easy to imagine that our perspective if we could see space time in a much more absolute way would be radically different. Even without positing higher dimensions in a sort of five, six, seven, eight way, if we just think about full comprehension of four dimensions, [00:41:00] I guarantee that would be a big deal if we could manage it. I imagine a [inaudible [0:41:03] system for visualizing human history that takes all of the data that we have about the past and put it on some kind of virtual reality experiential timeline and then lets you fly around in space time.

We could build that pretty easily. It might be the equivalent of Google for the next generation down. The kids who are currently five might discover that’s the cool technology when they’re 20. You take all of the feeds from all of the sensors, you take all of the recorded history [00:41:30] and you put it into a single system where you can see the earth and you zoom in and zoom out and you can move it backwards and forwards in time. I think if we had that we’d experience it as a profoundly mystical object, because it would be hugely perception changing.

Euvie: All the stuff that’s encoded in our DNA, too, that we haven’t figured out yet. I’m sure a lot of those historical events from a couple billion years ago are encoded somewhere. We do have a certain amount of DNA memory. All the stuff that we do automatically, that is our [00:42:00] DNA memory, right?

Vinay: Fear of snacks. Everybody has a fear of snakes, even if you’ve never seen a snake, you know that’s a bad thing. If we could map that somehow to understand what our instincts actually are, that would be amazing. There’s a paper coming out in Nature, the bastion of proper hard science, where they’ve got a technique for telling which of your genes are currently turned on and which of your genes are currently turned off. You’ve got whatever it is, 24,000 genes and each one is either currently coding for protein or not currently coding for protein. That gene is either [00:42:30] currently producing molecules that circulate in your body or not. It’s a test where they can take a bit of your blood, from the blood they can tell for every gene whether or not the flag is currently set to turn the gene on and code for protein or not. You could do essentially a genetic snapshot of a person on a given moment and then you give them a drug and it changes which genes are turned on and which genes are turned off.

You could tell whether the drug will work almost immediately, within 24 hours, by seeing [00:43:00] whether it’s turned on the right set of genes or not for that patient. They’ve done a study with people with arthritis and they could tell which ones would respond to the drug and which ones wouldn’t based on their gene expression. It’s a blood test that takes four hours to run and it will tell you every single gene in your body, whether it’s currently coding for protein or not. The phrase that I was using was, “This might finally succeed in turning medicine into a science.” Unimaginable progress. We could take the entire set of drugs that we currently have for treating things and we could figure out what all of them do at a [00:43:30] genetic level and we could actually make medicine that worked for people based on their individual DNA.

Euvie: Instead of spray and pray.

Vinay: Instead of spray and pray. Then we get to do the same thing for bacteria and the viruses. We do the same kind of work on bacteria and then we can figure out exactly what chemicals will turn off the genes we need for the bacteria to go away. It’s not just a technique that applies to humans that applies to all life. Maybe not viruses but it gets everything else, right? It’s just the beginning. [00:44:00] We could really, really get on top of genetics, oh my God. Anything else before I have a cup of tea? Does that cover everything?

Mike: Aside from the meaning of life, I think we got everything.

Vinay: No, I think we covered the meaning of life. We pretty much nailed that one, too.

Mike: Yeah, okay. Great.

Vinay: Don’t worry, be happy, go to Mars and Elon Musk the space Pharaoh.

Mike: Hakuna Matata space Pharaoh.

Vinay: Yeah, yeah, you see. Okay, that’s what you should title this episode.

Euvie: [00:44:30] That’s what I’m thinking, too.

Vinay: I am going to buy that t-shirt. Make me the t-shirt, buy the t-shirt. That should become the official brand: hakuna matata space Pharaoh. So much fun talking to you guys, I really hope I get to meet you soon.

Euvie: Awesome.

Vinay: Fantastic.

Mike: Take care.

Vinay: See you soon.

Mike: Talk to you soon.

Euvie: Bye.

In this second half of our conversation with Vinay Gupta, we get into exploring some out-there ideas, including space exploration and enlightenment. We start off talking about consumerism, and how many aspects of Western culture are still based around old Christian ideas. We also discuss quantum mechanics, probability, and how those concepts may fit into evolution, or even drive it.

Space Exploration and Elon Musk

Elon Musk and his space exploration ambitions make it into the conversation, and we talk about the existential threat of developing artificial intelligence and nanotechnology on our planet as opposed to doing it on an off-planet space base on Mars or elsewhere.

Finally, we get into the intersection of spirituality and science, and talk about Vinay’s own path to enlightenment.

To check out Part 1 of our Vinay Gupta conversation, go here.

In this episode of The Future Thinkers Podcast:

  • How consumerism and capitalism are informed by religion
  • Going outward (space exploration) vs. Going inward (meditation / virtual reality)
  • Elon Musk and “our future in the stars”
  • AI and artificial life studies
  • Quantum mechanics and probability as parts of evolution
  • The potential existential threat of nanotech and biotech
  • Separating biological and post-biological evolution
  • DNA as memory storage
  • Extreme life extension
  • The path to enlightenment

Mentions & Resources:

Recommended & Mentioned Books:

More From Future Thinkers:

 

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