The following is a rough transcript which has not been revised by The Jim Rutt Show or by Stephanie Lepp. Please check with us before using any quotations from this transcript. Thank you.
Jim: Today’s guest is Stephanie Lepp. She’s an independent media producer, storyteller and strategist. And you can get ahold of her at infinitelunchbox.com and read about some of the cool things she’s done. She’s also a podcaster though she’s currently on hiatus from her podcast Reckonings. Welcome Stephanie.
Stephanie: Thank you Jim. So great to be here.
Jim: Yeah, it’s great to dive in a little bit into your project. Today we’re going to chat about her Webby Awards, nominated video series called Deep Reckonings. And Stephanie just told me two minutes ago that the word has just come in, breaking news, that her Deep Reckonings, which we’re going to be talking about today, actually won two Webby Awards. Ain’t that cool?
Stephanie: Mm-hmm (affirmative), yeah. You heard it here first, if you were actually listening to it in real time, which you were not.
Jim: Which will be in about 10 days, but that’s all right. This is actually exciting.
Stephanie: Yeah, if you could travel back in time to right now you would have heard it here first.
Jim: Yeah, exactly.
Stephanie: Literally hearing it here first.
Jim: Yeah, that’s really cool. So congratulations by the way.
Stephanie: Thank you.
Jim: So let’s start out with the idea Deep Reckonings and what’s the URL for that thing?
Jim: Well, that’s easy enough, Deep Reckonings, [inaudible 00:01:26] Yeah, sure enough. Deepreckonings.com, so check it out. This is actually the coolest thing that you’ve seen in a while. So tell us about kind of that 75,000 foot view, and then we’ll kind of drill in from there.
Stephanie: Yeah, okay. So 70,000 foot view, yeah. So for the last about four years, I have been producing a podcast called Reckonings that explores how we change our hearts and minds. And so every episode tells the story of someone who made some kind of a transformation from a deeply conservative congressman who made a dramatic shift on climate change, all the way to a former white supremacist who managed to transcend a life of violence.
Stephanie: All the way to the architect of Facebook’s business model who realized he was addicted to his phone and had a reckoning and has since devoted his life to tackling technology addiction. So it’s been a diverse cast of characters, but the through-line has really just been an exploration of this question, how do people change?
Stephanie: And how do people change in ways that connect to or scale into a broader social and political change? And from the early days of the show I’ve had kind of this wish list of guests really of public figures whose personal transformations I thought would most kind of scale into broad-based social change.
Stephanie: I mean, when we think about social change or when I think about social change, I think about movements, I think about the civil rights movement. I think about lots and lots and lots of people agitating for social change. But you could also ask the question, well, who are the fewest number of people? Who are the fewest people that if they had some kind of personal transformation or reckoning, it would lead to broad-based social change?
Stephanie: If Charles Koch, for example, had a crisis of conscience, it would literally change the climate trajectory of the planet. And so I started kind of fantasizing about this film, this synthetic film I was going to make. I didn’t even really know what I was fantasizing about, but I was imagining some kind of synthetic film about Charles Koch’s crisis of conscience and how it ended up changing the world.
Stephanie: And then I discovered the phenomenon of deep fakes. And for those of you who don’t know what deep fakes are, so deep fakes are videos that make it look like someone is saying or doing something that they never said or did. We are at that place now with fake video, which if we’re already where we’re at with political misinformation, you can just imagine the darker turns that things can take.
Stephanie: But for me it was this light bulb of, I can use this medium to… I can do this. I can use this medium to take reckonings in a fictional direction. And so I first decided to do an audio prototype on Reckonings with the Pope. So I wrote a script of Pope Francis having a reckoning with the clergy sex abuse crisis.
Stephanie: I had a voice actor perform it. I’d never released fiction on the show. So I had no idea what listeners were going to say. And to my surprise people really loved it. And I even heard from survivors of clergy sex abuse, who knowing that it was fake, found it extraordinarily helpful to hear the imaginary Pope say the kinds of things that they would love to hear the real Pope say.
Stephanie: So Deep Reckonings is really the culmination of a years long exploration of how people change and really a year’s long devotion to making more room for ourselves to grow in public. And so it is a series of explicitly marked deep fake videos that imagine the most morally courageous versions of some of our most controversial public figures.
Stephanie: So Mark Zuckerberg, Brett Kavanaugh, Alex Jones, and Donald Trump. It is absolutely that the videos are fake. Not only because I’m not interested in deceiving anybody, but also because that’s kind of part of the super power of the medium is that you can know that it’s fake and it still influences you, right? Like the imaginary Pope. This is not parody. I’m not trying to make these men look like fools.
Stephanie: They do enough of that for themselves. I don’t know if I would call this the opposite of parody, but I’m definitely kind of trying to, yes, still them. Really try to imagine the most morally courageous versions of these people. There is a lot to say about my intentions with this work in terms of truth and technology and epistemology and redemption and accountability, and I’m sure we’ll get into all of that.
Stephanie: But the overarching question that I’m exploring with the work is how might we use our synthetic selves to envision and really to elicit our better angels or in language that our listeners here will appreciate. How might we use kind of like high fidelity steel men to actually like illicit those steel men?
Jim: Yeah, it’s very interesting. Before we dive into the theory and practice of the project itself, if you don’t mind, I’d like to pop up one level to deep fakes as a phenomenon. I first became aware of it, I don’t know, about two and a half years ago. And at first I was really concerned.
Jim: In fact, I even provided a small amount of money to start a mini think tank to figure out what we should be doing about deep fakes, et cetera. But then I sort of started saying, wait a minute, these things are around, but no one’s actually doing anything very malicious with them.
Jim: And still two and a half years later, I can’t think of a major exploit that was done with deep fakes, which is kind of interesting. A lot of people played with it and like the Nancy Pelosi slurring drunk one, which was kind of… That wasn’t even really a true deep fake.
Stephanie: Cheap fake.
Jim: Yeah, it was a cheap fake. They just changed the sound, et cetera. But it’s quite amazing that actually something that gets this deeply into our guts and when we get to these, we’ll talk a little bit about how they do get to your guts. Nobody has yet, that I’m aware of, actually done an exploit with them.
Stephanie: Well, to your point, we don’t actually need that much to do exploits, right? If all we need to do is slow Nancy Pelosi down. So I think that’s one thing, it’s like we’re waiting or something for deep fakes to… But it’s already happening already. And we don’t need deep fakes to do it, is one thing.
Stephanie: But the other thing I would say is, so there have been this statistics that 96% of deep fakes online are involuntary pornography. Have you heard this? So perhaps it hasn’t been kind of like a major national security exploit. Involuntary pornography is basically sticking someone’s face in a porn movie they never acted in.
Stephanie: Which again, that may not be like a national security exploit, but that’s definitely an exploit for the person that it’s… So there have been all kinds of exploits, even if they’ve been more on an individual level. And all the national stuff, I would say we can do that without deep fakes anyway.
Jim: Yeah, no surprise. I did not know that the main use was pornography, but of course that’s a truism of digital-
Stephanie: Technology in general, yap.
Jim: …Technology. Back in the mid 90s when I was deeply involved in internet infrastructure technology, it was estimated that at the prime evening time, 50% of the traffic on the internet was porn. And those days were images because our internet was specially slow that you couldn’t do video really.
Jim: I remember those days, most people were on dial, that old AOL. But it was 50% images flying across. And of course, putting Hillary Clinton’s face on an image was old school that anyone halfway pallet, could do that with Photoshop and do a hack job at it. And if you spent an hour at it, you could actually, say you get the right age, body type, you might make it look sort of realistic. So that kind of prude impersonation has been going on for a long time.
Stephanie: Yeah, the wild west phase of anything seemed to involve pornography or at least sex.
Jim: Yeah, it’s a deep hook.
Stephanie: Yeah, pun intended.
Jim: But again, I’ve also thought that perhaps the other reason that there hasn’t been an exploit is that our unconscious brains may be smarter than we think. For instance, you have a deep fake of the Pope having sex with a hooker or something, you’re going to say sounds like to me, right?
Jim: So you can’t push it too far. You can only push it a little bit, and is pushing it a little bit worth the effort in terms of legal exposure, risk, condemnation if you’re caught, et cetera? And then unconscious plausibility detectors may be what’s saving us from a more widespread abuse of these deep fakes.
Stephanie: I like that optimistic view. I think there’s also just a lot of motivated cognition and people are just going to decide to believe whatever they want to believe irrespective of anything.
Jim: Yeah, there’s a lot of that going on. But it is interesting-
Stephanie: But I like your optimistic. I like that there’s more… I mean, it’s interesting you say that relative to the initial conversation about vibes, but I also have a lot of faith in our capacity to know, and maybe some of that is subconscious. I do have a lot of faith.
Jim: It is an interesting probe that this capability has been here in full form for at least two years. And there hasn’t been any breakthrough exploit on it in the public view, at least in the west. I understand there has been, and maybe in some other countries, but not in the Western or in China or in places like that, that I’m aware of. And so it’s interesting question, is it that our detectors are good enough that it’s not worth the risk?
Stephanie: I think it’s a combination of we can do it easier and cheaper and get the same effect, but it’s also still… I mean, this is being democratized, deep, fake technology is, but it’s still at least for what I did, it’s still a very complicated process and expensive process. We’re not yet where anyone can make a deep fake of anyone.
Stephanie: There’s all kinds of apps and you can turn your face into this and but we’re, we’re not fully there yet. And I think if and when we get there for malicious actors, they can kind of achieve the same results without using something super fancy. And we’ll get into this I’m sure, the only way to protect ourselves then is to intervene at the epistemic level, right?
Jim: Well, there’s also arguments that one could have certified reality about a video, for instance, right? But some combination of the chip that’s taking the image-
Stephanie: Yeah, there will be that too.
Jim: … Have a digital signature, this was created at this point on this camera and you can then follow back the history of it.
Stephanie: Yeah, there is increasingly that, it’s deep fake detectors and whatever, on the blockchain. I mean all kinds of technological fixes and we’ll use them all. And even if we use them all and actually even if we eliminated all deep fakes, we’d still be in a post-truth crisis. And so there is still intervention that needs to be made at the epistemic level.
Jim: That is true. And you are riffing right along the edge of all of this with your Deep Reckonings project, right?
Stephanie: Yeah, that’s actually one thing that has been a really fun, unexpected surprise of this project is the extent to which it has just allowed me really to kind of come out with a lot of ideas that honestly I had been kind of nervous to talk about publicly. But now I can kind of hang them on this project. I have a lot of thoughts.
Jim: How about a for instance?
Stephanie: Well, for instance, I mean this what we’re talking about with respect to… I mean, it’s almost dangerous right now to say, and maybe not like right now, I feel like I now have cover from you and Daniel [inaudible 00:14:21], et cetera, et cetera.
Stephanie: But to say, for example, that our post-truth crisis is not only a crisis, but it’s also an opportunity and a necessary opportunity to evolve how we know what we know about the world, that’s kind of a dangerous claim to make in this moment. I mean, in this moment, it’s like the dominant narrative is to double down on truth. To double down. It’s like the taglines of democracy dies darkness.
Stephanie: And I agree with that, and in no way do I want to let go of truth. But it’s actually in order to protect the truth and to maintain the sanctity of truth that we need to evolve our relationship with it. And we need to evolve our relationship with how we know. I mean, that is something I would have been too nervous to say. And now I feel like I can say it and I both kind of have cover and I can elaborate, but that’s a for instance.
Jim: Okay, that makes good sense. And now this also gets to a topic I’ve been pounding the pulpit on a little bit in my long-winded boomer risk kind of way, which is irony, the uses and overuses and misuses of irony. Have you thought about your project in terms of its relationship to the concept of irony and post irony and irony and all these fine things?
Stephanie: Yeah, I mean, my general overarching orientation is just under what circumstances, if any. So I’m not pro irony or anti-irony. It’s just under what circumstances, if any, is irony helpful for achieving the goal? Which of course begs the question, what’s the goal? For me with these particular characters, Mark Zuckerberg, Brett Kavanaugh, Alex Jones, Donald Trump, it’s really about the character.
Stephanie: It’s about who they are and what their reckoning, what their actual reckoning would actually look like. So to me, Alex Jones should be kind of hysterical and weird and a little convoluted. And Louis C.K., the reason I didn’t do Louis C.K. is because I’m not a comedy writer. And his should be hilarious. It should be the sketch we’ve all been waiting for that’s bitingly self-critical and also hilarious.
Stephanie: And I’m not that funny, you know? So the place of irony, at least in this project, I mean, it really just depends on the character. I don’t need to try to be ironic when I’m imagining myself into Brett Kavanaugh’s heart. To me, that’s just not there. It wasn’t really in any of these characters, I don’t think. But where I had to do someone, I’m not thinking of anyone in particular right now, but there would be a place for that there
Jim: Got it, yeah. And I also will say, well, I pound the table about overuses of irony in some situations. I’m not one of those people that says down with irony, right? It’s fun. I was thinking about when I hang out with my old homeys, from my hometown who we’ve known each other, since we were five, right. I would say 75% of what we say is ironic, right?
Jim: And as long as you’re in a group of people that understand it, Shakespeare was a master of theatrical irony.
Stephanie: I mean, I tend to gravitate my first, personally, more towards humor, which is why I think Louis C.K. would be great. I would love to collaborate with a comedy writer on that. And I also tend to gravitate towards… I don’t know if it’s beauty or… Actually one I would love to do, I was going to say I gravitate more towards artfulness. So one that I would love to do is I have a four year old, so I watch a lot of Disney. Have you seen Moana?
Stephanie: Okay, Moana, we don’t need to go into the whole story, but there is a male protagonist. His name is Maui. He’s a very strong man. And he apologizes for something in Moana. He apologizes for something really important. And his apology is this one liner. It’s not particularly exciting. And to me turning that into a song, Disney knows how to do songs. Disney knows how to do ear worms.
Stephanie: Making a beautiful artful male apology song that a bunch of us are learning the words to and singing, that would be great. You don’t even need a diff… I actually don’t know exactly how you would do that copyright blah, blah, blah. But I like humor and I like artfulness. So I’m just less ironic myself. So I guess it’s a matter of who you’re doing and what your own orientation is, what you’re excited about.
Jim: That makes perfect sense, which actually reminds me. You mentioned yet another man. All four of the ones you did were men. All the ones you talked about doing the prototypes on were men. Was that by design or chance, or what’s the meaning of that if any?
Stephanie: I mean, I don’t know if there’s all that much meaning, except for the fact that… I mean, it’s just the case that there just happened to be a lot of public figure men who, going back to my original whose personal transformation would lead to, it’s not like I’m picking on men.
Stephanie: I just know if Brett Kavanaugh had a reckoning with the way he responded to the sexual allegations against him and said some really wise things, that would be really helpful. That’s really the angle. But there’s definitely… I would love to do an imaginary dialogue between Megan and the queen.
Jim: Or one of the Kardashians, right?
Stephanie: The Kardashians, I would love to do Sheryl Sandberg reckoning with Lean In and what she… And her evolved views on the relationship between motherhood and work.
Jim: It’s certainly true that men still, despite considerable progress in the last 35 years still do have the disproportionate amount of power in our society.
Jim: So if we’re going to be puncturing, puffed up power holders more of them are going to be men than women. But we should be fans of diversity and makes sure we nail a few of the ladies.
Stephanie: Totally, and just fans of just good storytelling. And again, for me artfulness. I do think Meghan and the queen could be absolutely stunning.
Jim: That’d be hilarious. You’d probably peg 10 million views on YouTube.
Stephanie: Well, I actually do. So the most common question I get asked in interviews is who’s next, right? And so I actually would love… And so it occurred to me I originally conceived of this as a discrete project, but I would love to turn it into an ongoing series that is in dialogue with the new cycle.
Stephanie: And once you start to look at the world in this way, I mean, the possibilities are endless. Every week, there’s just another… Yeah, Meghan and the queen. When rush Limbaugh died, it was like the ghost of rush Limbaugh. And I mean, my dream way to do it, I don’t know if I told you this in our initial phone call, but my dream way to do it is to produce it, send it to the person and say, either you do the real thing or we’ll release the fake one.
Stephanie: If you want to do the real thing, I’ll help you do the real thing. See the entire reckonings catalog. I will help you do the real thing in a good faith way. And if you’re not ready to do the real thing, well then deep fake it till we make it. So it would be a combination of deep fakes and actual because… Which is kind of this wild… It’s like, I’m not actually prioritizing what’s true or not.
Stephanie: What I’m prioritizing is a way of being, a way of responding to credible accusations of wrongdoing. I’m just modeling extraordinary, moral courage. Some of them happen to be fake and some of them happen to be real, but ultimately this is about modeling a way of being, and making more room for ourselves to grow in public.
Jim: And that goes back to, as you say, the theme of the original podcast, which was people who had actually made similar scale transformation. So, that you knew that it was possible.
Stephanie: Exactly. And all of those, I really took care of their stories. This wasn’t like a got you. I mean, I did want to make them look good in a way. And I mean, I’m not a journalist, and partly because I really wanted to celebrate what they’re able to do, which is take a look in the mirror and grow. So I want to hold that up.
Jim: Yeah, that’s something-
Stephanie: I’m going to hold people’s feet to the fire, but I’m going to celebrate.
Jim: Yeah, look in the mirror and grow. There’s some advice for all of us, right?
Jim: I don’t know anybody that couldn’t take advantage of that advice. Well, we’ve talked a little bit about it now. I’m going to play the first one, and this is Mark Zuckerberg. Here we go with Stephanie’s Deep Reckoning, deep fake, if Mark Zuckerberg had a reckoning.
Mark: Hey everyone. I know the boycotts and resignations and everything were tough on our company. And I’ve been reflecting. I want to give you an honest response. When we launched Facebook to the world, it was the glory days of social media. Social media was this liberating force that was going to democratize access to information and give everyone a voice.
Mark: And the truth is we did that. We gave small publishers the same sophisticated tools the big guys had, and we allowed citizens to speak out against oppressive regimes. And we enabled people to be more creative and entrepreneurial. But the other truth is there was a bad side to all of this.
Mark: The small publishers we empowered ended up including hateful propagandists like Alex Jones. Our algorithms fueled ethnic violence in Myanmar and Sri Lanka. People on our platform have become more prone to hating others and hating themselves. I was naive about Russian interference in the 2016 election, and I’m still being naive about domestic interference in 2020.
Mark: The difference between the way I see Facebook and the way other people see Facebook has gotten too big to ignore. I’ve been treating Facebook’s problems as the result of bad actors exploding our supposedly neutral platform. And instead of structural flaws inherent to the platform, I’ve been refusing to see Facebook’s negative impacts clearly, which is necessary to making Facebook better.
Mark: I believe so hard that we were being the change we want to see, that I denied the ways in which we weren’t. And for that, I’m sorry. If Facebook is capable of such harm and such good, we need a better way to think about the social impacts of technology. The question isn’t whether a technology is inherently good or bad for democracy, but how can our technology serve democracy?
Mark: The question isn’t how to remove dangerous content while maintaining the widest definition of free speech possible, or whether Facebook should be an arbiter of truth. Facebook already is an arbiter of truth. The question is how to make editorial decisions that our users can trust and that fulfill our actual mission, which goes beyond free speech.
Mark: As much as I don’t like to admit it, our ability to fulfill our mission is constrained by a business model and an economic system that push us to maximize user engagement and shareholder value. And as much as I don’t like to admit this either, Facebook has commanding power in our economy and I have command and power over Facebook.
Mark: Which means I could work to change the system that prevents me from having the kind of impact I say I want to have, and which might be the most impactful thing I could do. This video is fake and it’s explicit that it’s fake so we won’t take it down. But what would it take for me to do the real version?
Mark: What would it take for me to change my mind? A lot of encouragement. So maybe this video will get sent around, maybe it’ll get sent to my friends and maybe we can get me to deliver this message in my own words.
Jim: So what I think is so interesting about this art form is that it’s this balance between steelmanning, right? What is it that Zuckerberg really believes that he should believe at some level? And what are the things that he needs to expand?
Jim: So maybe you can take us through your thinking about the tension between those two things, trying to do an honest, good faith job of representing someone like Zuckerberg fundamental values, but allowing them to have a reckoning that some part of his model of the world needs upgrading.
Stephanie: Yeah, you’re identifying exactly kind of the needle to thread. It’s like, I’m trying to find or create the overlap in the Venn diagram of something that would not alienate him. I mean, more ambitiously, not only not alienate him, but actually maybe even move him to, if he were to watch it to say, well, now that is hot.
Stephanie: That is the me that I want to be, but we’ll just leave it at not alienate him. And the other circle in the Venn diagram is it speak to the critics, right? And that overlap is perhaps non-existent, but that is the needle that I have to thread.
Stephanie: And I can kind of talk you through kind of the questions I ask myself, but it is a very kind of oscillating process of going back and forth between what I want him to say, what I think he should say, and what he might actually say. And just going back and forth until I kind of land somewhere that feels it captures a little bit of both.
Jim: Yeah, I could feel that in the video itself, particularly in that case and also the Kavanaugh case.
Stephanie: Mark Zuckerberg’s was the absolute hardest. I thought that Alex Jones was going to be the hardest. His was actually the most fun. Mark Zuckerberg is the hardest. I had the hardest time. It’s like the perennial question I feel like, is the person evil or is the person ignorant? It’s like, what explains? And I just really had the hardest time with him, deciding, developing an understanding, developing a compassionate explanation.
Jim: What did you find as a heart of him that you could resonate with and that you preserved?
Stephanie: I don’t know him personally, and I’m very aware of that. So I have epistemic humility here, okay, folks? Just doing my best based on learning about him and actually talking to people who do know him personally, for what it’s worth, including Tim Kendall, who is the architect of Facebook’s business model that I mentioned and who I featured on Reckonings.
Stephanie: Tim Kendall sat next to mark Zuckerberg for two years. Okay, their desks were right next to each other. And actually one of the lines, I believe so hard that we were being the change we want to see, that I denied the ways in which we weren’t. So apparently he had this quote, he had this Gandhi quote on his journal that he took everywhere, be the change.
Stephanie: So if it’s between evil or ignorant, I would land more on the side of ignorant or diluted or believing he’s doing something good or wanting to do something good and not really knowing or understanding. And also having this like the tech Maverick, like I’m the David fighting Goliath.
Stephanie: So that orientation, if you’re like the little guy and you’re the startup entrepreneur and whatever scrappy and in the garage and this and that, and fighting the big guy and whatever, that starts to, I think invade your entire way of seeing the world. And so anyone who tries to kind of criticize you or challenge you, especially if they’re coming from some kind of mainstream place, then it’s just like, I’m still the David still fighting Goliath.
Stephanie: And that is actually something that Tim Kendall said is a lot of what happens is these Davids don’t realize that they have become Goliath. And so that’s kind of one place I landed with Zuckerberg. The other place that I landed is… So I don’t know if he actually says this, but he has used China as an excuse as like, well, I can’t change. Because if Facebook doesn’t do it, then someone else is just going to do it.
Stephanie: Some Chinese social media company is going to do it. But what he’s not really taking responsibility for is the fact that he actually has influence over our global economic system. So I had to insert in there. He could actually use his power. And this is kind of paraphrasing the imaginary Zuckerberg.
Stephanie: He could use his power to change the system that prevents him from having the kind of impact he says he wants to have. So that’s the other place that I can learn is like, okay, so if he kind of thinks of himself as being in the straight jacket, but he also says he wants to have a positive impact. Well, then this is a way out.
Stephanie: Another orientation to these scripts, and then I’ll… If you’re going to ask people to jump ship, you have to give them a ship to jump to. So I’m trying to give him a plausible ship. Okay, you want to have positive impact Mark Zuckerberg but you feel constrained because if you don’t do it this way then China will, well then use the power you have to change the system that prevents you from having the impact you say you want to have.
Jim: Very interesting. Yeah, I did a podcast back a ways with Steve Levy on his book, Facebook. Stephen spent five years with Zuck, and he told me all kinds of strange things. However, one thing he hit in passing a couple of times in the video, and I do believe it may be one of the few things that’s actually sincere about Zuckerberg.
Jim: And it gets us to one of the great questions of our time is I do believe that Zuck maybe still to this day has a fair amount of that early internet libertarian free speechiness about him. I think Zuckerberg at his best was that Georgetown University speech he gave a few years ago where he was incredibly passionate about the power of free speech in the Karl Popper style.
Jim: I don’t know if he quoted Popper directly, but Popper’s deep argument. The one philosophy book that I keep in my working office called The Open Society and Its Enemies, where he argues that a society that can critique itself with no holds barred will have over long-term a much larger chance of finding its way to reality and doing well than a society that censors anything but the most extreme speech.
Jim: And I’ve always found that a reasonably compelling argument. And I believe Zuckerberg having come up as internet dude of the day also truly believes that in his heart of hearts. And yet we reached a place that’s becoming maybe less and less tenable or at least the politics of the hour make it extremely difficult for someone like Zuckerberg to continue to back that view.
Stephanie: It’s funny, this is where I love that that’s your orientation to it because I’m actually much more skeptical of him in that context. I actually find there to be some revisionist history there in that Georgetown speech about where Facebook came from. He started talking about civil rights or human rights or something that had nothing to do with the origin of Facebook, at least as far as-
Jim: Just him getting laid, as I understand it, right?
Stephanie: Exactly. To me, there was definitely some revisionist history in there and also-
Jim: He’s a company CEO, what the hell, right?
Stephanie: And as far as his stance on free speech, I actually find it just too easy. It’s too easy to just kind of put your stake in the ground somewhere kind of extreme to me because then you don’t have to wrestle with what I consider to be one of the most challenging questions of our time, which is back to the under what circumstances.
Stephanie: Under what circumstances? Those are the hardest questions. I think it’s too easy to just say, which is why I gave him this line the question is not how to remove dangerous content while maintaining the widest definition of free. No, I think the question is really an under what circumstances, because the goal, at least as far as I’m concerned, and I think if he had his, let’s say, reckoning, the goal is not necessarily to maintain the widest definition of free speech possible.
Stephanie: I think free speech exists intention with other values. And so the goal is to kind of optimize for all of those competing values, which are intention. And well, actually I think Facebook, I think he’s not actually clear about what the goal of Facebook is, which is part of the problem here, but…
Jim: Yeah, of course he started out as a kid and he’s been in the same job since he was 19, right? And probably should have been fired years ago and he’s locked himself in in a position where he can’t get out, nobody can make him leave.
Stephanie: Which is why it’s like, how do you give someone like that a ship to jump to? What’s the ship?
Jim: Yeah, that’s an interesting one. Now I must say, I mean, this is, again a question of the hour, fundamental for the nature of our society. I will confess to having more sympathy for freedom of speech being a high order value, higher than many others and willing to take a fair amount of risk to preserve in the most, the largest box possible.
Jim: There’s a reason it’s in the first amendment, right? On the other hand, there are certainly things even I would rule out, but not many. And certainly less than Facebook is actively ruling out today. It’s very interesting. How do we think about this? Why should we, for instance, suppress the circulation of QAnon. It’s not obvious to me that we should, and yet Facebook has done, so.
Stephanie: Yeah, I mean, I don’t have my hierarchy of values completely defined. I do think that there… I mean, and free speech is definitely on the short list. But again, it’s like under what circumstances and where are we right now? Are we in a moment in which free speech is constrained? I mean, it’s like the circumstances also to me determine which values rise to the fore.
Stephanie: I do not see, and I don’t think you do either, free speech as the one and only above all other. I see it very much intention within. In a way, thank God. Thank God all these things are intention because that keeps us on our toes and paying attention to what’s happening in front of us, right? And is this actually working?
Stephanie: Because if it was only one thing that we were optimizing for and it was just paper clip maximize, it would be too easy. So thank God because we actually need to pay attention to the unfolding reality in front of us and make sure we’re still doing whatever it is we’re trying to do, which we’re figuring out as we’re trying to do it.
Jim: Well, I guess I would also say taking the too easy road. There’s something, you know, absolutely nuts, at least seemingly absolutely nuts like QAnon. And just say, we’re going to push it out of the public square, strikes me as an easy action when it may not actually be the right action and it could have all kinds of downstream implications.
Jim: And in fact, I am an example of one of the downstream implications of forcing QAnon out of the public square. How about that? I don’t know if you know this story.
Stephanie: I don’t know that.
Jim: But when they had-
Stephanie: I have an example after you. Please go ahead.
Jim: When Facebook had turned the knobs on their anti QAnon algorithm up to the maximum, the day that Biden got inaugurated, there was a noticeable change in the tuning of the knobs. The next day, the three lead admins for the game B group on Facebook were all deaf penalty band, right?
Stephanie: I remember this.
Jim: And my best theory, and I run this by some really good AI people better than I, is that because Game B is an open-ended exploration with its own vocabulary and it’s kind of analyzing things in a somewhat esoteric fashion, weirdly, even though we’re utterly nothing like QAnon at all or so we think.
Jim: If you were looking at us from a statistical perspective, and remember today’s AI is don’t actually have any semantics. They don’t know anything. All they are statistical packages. Deep learning neural net’s a very, very, very fancy way of doing statistics. I’m reasonably convinced that the hunter killers sent out to kill QAnon accidentally tried to kill Game B.
Jim: And only because we were able to raise a gigantic stink over on Twitter and got their attention. We got six million people to listen to our story. We were able to get their PR team to intervene. We also got-
Stephanie: That’s five many more people who just jumped on the Game B train, awesome.
Jim: Exactly. What ends up being a Barbara Streisand moment, we actually rebounded to our favor and 12 hours later a band that was supposedly not re-appealable and not reversible. Literally said that when you tried to log in, was reversed. And so think about this, us in Game B, think we are on the road to a better world and that we maybe, maybe in when we’re feeling immodest, we’re more sure of it, are the way to save human civilization.
Jim: And is it worth booting QAnon to also boot a way that could save human civilization? And frankly, it was luck that we happened to have the connections that we did. It was frankly Brett Weinstein knew Joe Rogan. That’s how we were saved.
Stephanie: Oh, right, I remember.
Jim: Brett and Eric tweeted in our defense and that got Joe Rogan in. And that then a couple of the other big name podcasters and the shit storm stormed, right? Well, if it hadn’t been for that one connection, we could easily have had the same movement without the Weinstein brothers is a part of it. Game B could have taken a big downward run-
Stephanie: I think that that’s so meaningful.
Jim: By accident. We don’t believe Facebook target it. We believe it was a side effect of targeting QAnon.
Stephanie: No, I heard you talk about this and you articulated it as a war on thought, right? I think that’s brilliant. And I think that actually it’s also very meaningful. It’s more than this, but there’s part of it that’s like, there’s nowhere else to go. There is nowhere else to go. We have to learn how to… There is no other side.
Stephanie: We have to learn how to do this altogether. And the example I was going to give… Yeah, and by the way, Deep Reckoning has got kicked off of YouTube. I don’t think it was part of… And the only reason that it got back on is also because of a personal connection. I didn’t have a Streisand effect, unfortunately.
Stephanie: But the example I was going to give is so soon after Deep Reckonings came out actually, Joe Rogan had Alex Jones’ back on the show. In the Deep Reckoning video of Alex Jones, he’s on the Joe Rogan podcast. That’s where he has his reckoning. And Joe Rogan has had Alex Jones on before, but never since Spotify had acquired the Joe Rogan experience.
Stephanie: So now it was all this, should Spotify allow Joe Rogan to platform Alex Jones? And it was this whole debate as if the only two options are, have Alex Jones on and allow him to say whatever he wants and spew conspiracy theories about vaccines or not have him on at all. But again, that’s too easy. Those are the easy options, have him on and let him say whatever he wants or not have him out at all.
Stephanie: What about having him on and holding his feet to the fire in a loving way because Joe Rogan is his friend? Which granted Joe Rogan has tried to do and that is a lot of… It is one of most amazing 30 minutes of media I have ever… I listen to it over and over again as part of writing the script. Joe Rogan has tried kind of a little bit. I mean, it’s kind of worked, but that’s the hard way.
Stephanie: That’s the hard way that we need to learn is how to hold each other accountable as if we care about each other, as if we care about each other learning something. Which is the only difference from whatever you call it, cancel culture, call out culture is just doing it in a way that isn’t in the interest of that person’s learning and growth.
Jim: Yeah, and also recognizing that even if you dislike part of what they have to say, there may be something in there that you might learn from. I’ll give you an example. I’m sort of famous on my podcast and online of being a rigorous atheistically inclined agnostic of a somewhat obnoxious sort, right? And yet what do I read every month?
Jim: But a magazine called First Things. Right on the edge between scholarly and popular, a very conservative fundamentalist religion, mostly Catholic, but also Orthodox, Jewish and fundamentalist Protestants. It’s very literate. It’s very deep. And people say, why the hell do you read First Things? I go because they have intelligent things to say from time to time, sometimes by accident.
Jim: I don’t buy their metaphysics, but I do appreciate the quality of their thought. And so even if I were made king of the universe, would I want to boot First Things off the newsstand stand because it’s religious? Hell no, there are some things in there that I learn from every month when I read that.
Stephanie: Yeah, and you’re speaking exactly to one of the prompts I gave you for writing it, which we’ll get there in a minute. But one of the prompts I used for writing these scripts, which is what could this person, forgive the patronizing way that I framed it, what could a healed version of this person, or a version of this person who had undergone a reckoning, what do they have to teach us?
Stephanie: Although you’re also asking what do they have to teach us irrespective? Which is, yeah, worth asking. The way I think about it within the context of a debate or an argument is under what circumstances is what your opponent saying true?
Jim: Or useful.
Stephanie: Helpful, yeah. You know me, I’m less obsessed with truth and more interested in helpfulness
Jim: And my mantra my word is useful, right? I use useful as the lens for most things.
Stephanie: I do too.
Jim: Is this useful? Is this not useful, right?
Stephanie: Yeah. Is it helping us achieve whatever the goal is? Which is not always only truth.
Jim: Correct. Okay, let’s get on to Brett Kavanaugh next. How’s that sound?
Stephanie: Yes, great.
Brett: Thank you Mr. President. Thank you Justice Kennedy. It is the highest honor to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States. And as a serving member for almost two years now, it’s time to set the record straight. Did I ever knowingly sexually assault anyone? Absolutely not. Not in high school, not ever.
Brett: Did I ever do anything that I didn’t think was sexual assault, but might be sexual assault in the way we rightly understand it today? Well, that’s a different question. The truth is as I’ve reflected since the hearings, I don’t know if I ever committed what today would be considered sexual assault. But what I do know is it’s possible that I committed sexual assault.
Brett: I do know that Christine Blasey Ford has endured a tremendous amount of pain over the course of her life. And I know that I responded to her allegations with defensiveness, partisanship in a disregard for the public good, which only exacerbated her pain along with that of my family and that of our country. And for that, I take responsibility and I apologize.
Brett: What I also know is I missed an opportunity for leadership. I missed an opportunity to secure my place on Supreme Court in a way that advanced the cause for women, a cause I support. I missed an opportunity to keep the Supreme Court above partisan politics, which may be an impossible ideal, but one I aspire to. I missed that opportunity.
Brett: So I’d like to take that opportunity now and say, the way women are treated in this country is changing. And thank God. Historically, women like Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez didn’t have much recourse in cases of sexual abuse, especially when the alleged perpetrator was a man of power. Today, powerful perpetrators are being exposed, tried and imprisoned.
Brett: And some men are getting caught in the crossfire of change. Some men are getting caught treating women in ways that were once considered normal, which never made them right, but are now socially inappropriate if not illegal. It may seem unfair to the man being held accountable to standards he didn’t grow up with, but as they say, evolution is beautiful but it’s not pretty.
Brett: So to the men of this country, to the men leading this country, whatever we might think about my confirmation process, there’s a bigger process of social progress that I want us to celebrate and support. The ability of women with credible allegations against powerful men to come forward and be heard is something I want us to celebrate and support.
Brett: The Me Too movement in conjunction with due process is something I want us to celebrate and support. Evolution is beautiful, but it’s not pretty. Me Too isn’t just a reckoning with sexual abuse of power. It’s a reckoning with how we deal with sexual abuse of power. For the high profile men who are credibly accused, it’s a reckoning with how we are or in most cases are not using our positions of power to take responsibility and leadership.
Brett: And for the Me Too movement, it’s a reckoning with whether you make room for accused men to do that. Now, I didn’t write these words. I’ve never said them and I don’t necessarily agree with all of them, but I agree with enough of them. And I’m committed enough to taking leadership on the cause for women that I pledged to give this speech in my own words. Please make enough room for me to do that.
Jim: It was very good. I mean, if he had said something like that with a slight spin, I mean, he could’ve gotten off the hook with no controversy. He could’ve said in those days, there was no idea of this, right? And yes, from where we sit today, it was really a rotten thing to have done, but that’s not how we thought at the time.
Jim: That’s just what kids did, goddamn it. But let’s take a learning from that, that we have evolved. And this is now a time to call this out and this shall never happen again, right? Something very close to that could have actually worked for him.
Stephanie: I totally agree. It would’ve been such an amazing moment and it still is. I mean, it still is such an opportunity for someone or multiple people. Anytime something like this comes up, it’s an opportunity. I really do believe that
Jim: Again, assuming that it actually happened. I mean, again, we don’t know.
Stephanie: But it doesn’t need to because this he’s not even… I mean, this is going to sound outrageous. It’s yes, it matters whether it happened or not, but what this reckoning is with is the way that he responded to the allegations. There’s no confession. It’s also the way he responded and the way he could have responded.
Jim: I mean, if we’re to get down to the pristine, it does matter if it happened or not.
Stephanie: Yes, it does matter if it happened. And I’m not saying it doesn’t matter whether it happened at all. And especially in the case of his survivors, but his response ends up like he said, I know Christine Blasey Ford has endured a tremendous amount of pain and the way that I responded only exacerbated that pain.
Stephanie: Let’s just assume because I have to do that, I cannot perjure him, right? With this script. I cannot. And so the only thing I can go on is, I don’t know. I don’t know whether it happened, but what I do know and what he does know and what we all do know is the way he responded to the allegations.
Jim: Now, I will say my own gut, and again, this is, I am not a lawyer, I am not a time traveler, I don’t know, my guess is it happened pretty much the way you play it out in that script. I suspect. But don’t know, maybe he was entirely innocent. Now, if he was entirely innocent, then his response strikes me as entirely reasonable.
Jim: Probably would’ve done the same damn thing. I’d been pissed fucking off. A false accusation is one of the worst torts that you can do against a person, right? Someone lies on you. Nothing pisses me off worse. And I mean, I will beat the shit out of people that lie. So I could see him being totally off if indeed it didn’t happen.
Stephanie: Yes. There’s also, and this I might be getting into messy territory here, but actually I probably am. I’m about to get into somewhat dangerous territory with what I’m about to say.
Jim: Let’s do it. This is the Jim Rutt Show. Say whatever the hell you want.
Stephanie: Dangerous territory warning, the difference between it happening and it not happening, it’s not black and white. There’s kind of a whole gray area that’s composed of the fact that what we understand the sexual assault has changed over time. The fact that what he understands as, the fact that what she understands as, the fact that she may have had an experience.
Stephanie: There may not actually be a yes or no. There’s a yes or no answer to that question in a legal context, but there’s not necessarily even a yes or no answer to that question in a metaphysical. So we have to just operate on what we know, which is… Or what can be kind of said is he responded to this in a way that increased partisanship.
Stephanie: She has endured a lot of pain in her life. There are other things that we do know, we can know, we can reckon with, right? And so, yeah, that’s actually dangerous.
Jim: That’s interesting. And I will say, I mean, a good point that… And again, I think this is probably where the reality actually was. Again, I’m not a time traveler. Don’t know, but that something happened and the two different people saw it different ways. But it’s also possible, and this is his claim, he wasn’t there at all, right? Case of mistaken identity or she’s entirely delusional.
Jim: Possible, who’ll no? It was not the way I would bet, but we have to keep that open and put yourself in his place. Let’s say this was a case of mistaken identity and he wasn’t even there. There is no two different points of view about what happened. Nothing happened. Then what is the right response? Presumably the correct response in that case is to be fucking really pissed off and mouth really strong.
Stephanie: So I actually don’t know if I totally agree with you because I also believe that as a public figure for better and for worse, he just has… With power comes responsibility. He actually has a responsibility to help us through this cultural moment we’re going through. So even if he was a non-public figure, I don’t know where I would draw the line where he’s allowed to just get angry and pissed off.
Stephanie: But I don’t know, I think he does have a responsibility in a way to help us through this. Even if for him, he’s burning inside because he’s being accused of something he didn’t do. And he’s in a position of power. And take the power that you have and use it to public benefit.
Jim: Could have said, I wasn’t there. This did not happen. However, something happened to this woman that was despicable, right?
Stephanie: Yeah, and I really want to support Me Too in conjunction with due process and evolution is beautiful, but it’s not pretty, exactly.
Jim: He could say all those same things. He could assert the fact that I was not the person, if and be that were the case. Even though I would bet the other way that it probably was he said, she said. There’s some percentage of possibility that after that many years it was a mistaken identity or she was confused or something.
Stephanie: Yes, issue is just getting angry thing. I think we need him to not do that.
Jim: I think you’re right. I’ll buy that. I will definitely buy that. That was really interesting. What do we want to do with our next 15 minutes or so? Do we want to try my DiAngelo?
Stephanie: For sure. I think it’s so amazing that you try to do this.
Jim: I don’t know if it’s any good or not. It’ll get me thrown in HR prison for life, but what the fuck do I care?
Stephanie: Just the fact that you’re willing to do this, I love it. I I’m amazed.
Jim: And Stephanie and I first chatted on Zoom just to get to know you, someone was like, yeah, you really want to talk to Stephanie Lepp. She’s kind of interesting person. I do a bunch of those. And I got to find out about her Reckoning project and a bunch of other things and pointed her in direction of an interesting project or two.
Jim: And we talked about it and I said, it kind of would be fun to try to steelmannish, but with reform, one of my people I denounce on a regular basis, who is the author, Robin DiAngelo, who wrote the book White Fragility, which well, I’m not going to say anymore other than I’m going to read my Robin DiAngelo Deep Reckoning.
Jim: Hi, I’m Robin DiAngelo. I remain steadfastly committed to America living up to its foundational commitments that all men are created equal. And of course, today that includes all women. And ending the centuries long hypocrisy around those commitments. Since our founding, we have not fully delivered on these commitments to women, native Americans, to Africans brought here in slavery and to many subsequent groups of immigrants who are not from the founders European stock.
Jim: Much progress has been made, but much racism and sexism still exists. For example, a resume with a black sounding name will on average get a call back 25% less often than an identical resume, identical with a white sounding name. Racism is still real. But after looking at the data, I realized that in my book, White Fragility, I underestimated the progress we have made and drew a picture of race relations today in America that isn’t accurate.
Jim: And it’s probably harmful to eliminating the racism that still exists. A prime example, I regret using the phrase white supremacy 56 times in my book in reference to the situation today. While America clearly was a nation founded on white supremacy, looking at the data makes it clear that is no longer the case.
Jim: Let’s start by looking at undergraduate enrollments at our most elite universities, it was quite eyeopening. Today, only 46% of Harvard undergraduates are white. Only 35% of MIT’s undergraduates are white. And Stanford, it’s only 29%. While racism still exists in our K to 12 education, including differentials in school funding and teacher experience, which we must continue to unceasingly fight against, a white supremacist country would not be admitting a majority.
Jim: And in many cases, large majorities of nonwhite students into our most elite universities. And these elite universities are the surest road to successful careers and prominence in our American life. And a look at the census data shows that dozens of recent non-European immigrant ethnicities now have higher household incomes than do European Americans from east and Southeast Asia, the middle east and Africa. Nigerians especially are doing well and black west Indians, all today have higher incomes than Euro Americans.
Jim: Again, that’s hard to square that with a white supremacist culture. I was wrong. And now I understand that claims that America is a white supremacist country can cause people to reject the demonstrable fact that substantial racism still exists and needs to be fought every day. I very much regret that. And in my book, I criticized the term colorblind and colorblindness 26 times.
Jim: But thinking about it, I was beating a straw man mostly. I was criticizing those who today, claim that they are colorblind, which is hardly credible as a society is still so permeated in racism and racial discrimination. But unfortunately I ended up unfairly stigmatizing the idea of colorblindness as a long-term goal, an aspiration for people to live up to Martin Luther King stirring words from his, I have a dream speech.
Jim: I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. That day is not today, but it is a worthy goal for us to reach towards. And we should not stigmatize people who advocate for colorblindness as the goal for our society, even though it would be naive to say that one was colorblind today.
Jim: With these new insights, I look forward to continuing my work of bringing forth an America that lives up to its great commitments for all of our people.
Stephanie: So what was that like for you?
Jim: It was interesting and I felt like I got to her deep commitments, which is that we must continue to work for a non-racist society and kept those front and center yet at the same time, pulled out the things where I think she’s wrong. And so I had to repent of the things that I believe she’s wrong on while keeping her deepest commitments that we all need to work towards a non-racist society.
Stephanie: Feel like you achieved the spirit of steelmanning?
Jim: Yeah. Again, I steelmann, but what I decided to do was to steelmann the bates-
Stephanie: Yeah, the intention, the goal.
Jim: The reason, the goal and the deep value.
Stephanie: Reform the strategy for achieving the goal.
Jim: And reform the argument that the upper superstructure of the argument. And I think I achieved it. I felt pretty good about it.
Stephanie: How do you think she would respond if she heard it?
Jim: She’d say I was a racist motherfucker.
Stephanie: I mean, does that matter to you?
Stephanie: Because I mean, and I didn’t put this in the prompts to you, but for myself I really was trying to write something that would not alienate the person. And then yours, I’ve just got to say Jim, I heard like 95% just correcting her. And maybe with one line on top and one line on the bottom of I have a worthy goal.
Stephanie: I have a worthy mission. Trust me, I mean, I have a lot of feelings about Mark Zuckerberg, Brett Kavanaugh, Alex Johnson, Donald Trump. I mean, that’s what makes this hard.
Jim: Yap, and it is true that I thought about, could I steelmann the argument particular about white supremacy and yet also criticize it the same way? Maybe just then I didn’t have enough time or enough talent to be able to do that.
Stephanie: So I sent you something where she says she actually does believe we need to dismantle capitalism.
Jim: I didn’t see that.
Stephanie: Oh, I sent you that. So that is good stimulus. So yeah, if you are actually interested in going further with this, which I would really encourage you, if you’re interested, I would say, let’s make a video together. Let’s do it. And I know you have a million other things to do, and so am I and whatever, but I think this would speak to a lot of people because she’s a very polarizing figure who has a very worthy mission, right?
Stephanie: And so yeah, I would encourage you to if you were to keep going to really do more digging about her and learn about her and how she grew up. But yeah, she does actually believe, I did find that she does believe that in order to address systemic racism, we need to dismantle capitalism. That speaks to you.
Jim: Yeah, that’s interesting.
Stephanie: I would explore that thread.
Jim: Yeah, I did look at a couple of her videos this morning before I knocked this thing together.
Stephanie: Oh, you did it in one morning, wow.
Jim: Oh, I did it in about 45 minutes.
Stephanie: Oh, okay, [inaudible 01:06:43] comes from things you already kind of have thought about that she is incorrect.
Jim: I might have also been involved in plenty of internet discussions on the topics. I probably had too much of it.
Stephanie: Yeah. Well maybe just one last kind of question on this. To me, this is a praxis.
Jim: Yeah, that’s a good question because now as I hear myself reading it, how could I have moved it to something that would have been somewhat closer to her perspective? But the fact that I reject two of her core holdings makes that really hard.
Stephanie: Which two holdings?
Jim: That America is a white supremacist culture, and that colorblindness is a bad long-term goal.
Stephanie: Yeah, I guess I would kind of relax my grip on that a little bit, because there’s just a lot of semantics there. It’s like, what do those terms even mean? It’s like let’s just kind of let go of those for a second and get more into the goal thing that she’s got and where she’s thinking about capitalism with respect to that. And that could lead to some-
Jim: Yeah, that would be a much wider.
Stephanie: … Beautiful places, because yeah, you could theoretically write something that she could see and be like, wait, that’s actually really the way I… That’s actually a better… I mean, that’s the whole purpose of steelmanning, right? Because in the article I sent you, it’s something like, I actually think it’s something about how, but she felt like she couldn’t bite off capitalism or something. And if anyone could help her do that, it’s you.
Jim: Worth taking a look. I will say that I did dig around for things like that. I looked for class, for instance. She says, oh, when people talk about class, they’re just trying to change the topic from race. And that was actually in one of the videos I watched this morning.
Jim: And I go, well, that’s not where I’m going. I mean, I think that the economic issues are actually much more controlling over longer periods of time, the race thing has been diminishing throughout my whole life. It’s still there. It’s still strong. It’s still natural, but it’s getting weaker.
Jim: While capitalism, if anything, is getting stronger, right? It’s the ability of employers to dominate the employees, the weakness of unions. The fact that banks now have their names on the tops of all the largest buildings in every city in America. Racism has been declining for at least since 1948, still strong and needs to become weaker. But the trajectory of history is in the right direction. Trajectory on capitalism today is in the other direction.
Stephanie: So she might even honestly agree, but feel like she didn’t know how to go there. And yeah, again, if anyone could help her go there.
Jim: That’s interesting. I’ll ponder it as you say. Unfortunately, I have a million projects and doing a professional grades-
Stephanie: Add this to the never ending list. But if Deep Reckonings does become an ongoing series, we should definitely do one of her.
Jim: At least be an advisor. How about that?
Stephanie: Yes, sounds great.
Jim: You do all the creation. I can do the delivery. So any final thoughts before we wrap up here? What else? Let me ask the meta question. What has doing this done to your brain and how you think about things? How has it, if at all changed how you approach the world?
Stephanie: Yeah. I mean, it’s completely changed my relationship with these men. Of course, when I hear any of their voices now, there’s a little bit of me that has pity. Like I feel like they’re all suffering. Alex Jones is hurting. I mean, and he is doing a lot of damage and yeah, we all know the saying, hurt people, hurt people.
Stephanie: But I feel like I now have an intimate understanding of his suffering. And you can say, well, why is it a good thing for you to develop empathy of people who did absolutely nothing in order to deserve it based on no act of their own and entirely an act of yours? Which is a legitimate question. But if we keep the helpfulness in mind or the usefulness in mind, or the goal in mind, there’s more space here.
Stephanie: There is more space in terms of how I feel about them. If part of my intention is to make more room for ourselves to grow, I’ve definitely made more room for these men to grow, at least in my heart, in my experience of them.
Jim: And maybe you’ve grown some empathy for them.
Stephanie: Yeah, absolutely. And even if it’s based on again, no act of their own, it’s still worthwhile. If we start to over empathize or something or let people off the hook too easily, we’ll deal with that problem when we get there. But right now we kind of have the opposite problem. So until then, I’m okay with erring on the side of too much empathy/too much room.
Jim: I like that a whole lot. Yeah, one thing I’ll confess is I have never seen Alex Jones. I know nothing about him other than what I read in the funny papers. So watching that deep fake was the first time I’d ever actually seen a video of Alex Jones. I’ve heard about him, but I don’t watch TV. I don’t watch cable news.
Jim: Here’s the truth, I hardly ever listen to podcasts and certainly never listen to video podcasts. And so Alex Jones sort of in the raw Reckonings version was new to me. And that was kind of-
Stephanie: Yeah, I had not spent very much time with him myself. And can I ask you one question actually?
Stephanie: First, I just want to say, thank you. You are the only person who’s actually really gone into the scripts. And to me, that’s the gold. So thank you. That was really fun to actually go into what these men are saying. So a question for you and this isn’t necessarily related to this project, but just one of the many things I admire about you is that you are oriented towards fun, towards having a good time.
Stephanie: And the way I like to think about it is if all roads lead to Rome, let’s take the scenic route. Rome will be different and we will be different when we get there because of that. So a question that I would love to ask you kind of within the context of, I feel like this there’s this perennial question of how to build the bridge from game A to game B.
Stephanie: So the question for you is what would you say are the most fun mechanisms? I’ll just frame it this way, the most fun mechanisms of wealth redistribution.
Jim: I’m going to pull a politician here and I’m going to answer a different question than you asked, which is-
Stephanie: Okay, but it has something to do with fun, I hope.
Jim: It has, and it’s all about fun, which is I keep pointing to, and I hope it’s not just wishful thinking, but I point to two things simultaneously. One is the root of most game A evil in our current late game A-ism is defining our personal status in terms of stuff, right? It motivates us to work more hours than we should, get into debt, have all this shit that we don’t need.
Jim: And then somehow we think that that’s going to make us happy and guess what? It doesn’t. And it just puts us on the hedonic treadmill, right? And what I’ve pointed to as the alternative for game B is our skills that conviviality eating and drinking and singing and dancing and having a good time in the old school peasant style.
Jim: And that’s what I’m going to hope is the trade that will gradually seduce people away from status through possessions is, let’s really admire people who really know how to have a good time. I mean, really know how to have a good time. Not get wasted on cocaine and vodka and fall over and call that a good time.
Jim: But can sing and dance and tell a story, and that kind of stuff. The real convivial, human being thing that we managed to do for 190,000 years. And until very recently, that was the core of our existence.
Stephanie: Yeah, well that, I will think of that is the more fun way to do it. And that we care about that. That might be our saving grace.
Jim: Literally, it may be what gets us away from this addiction to stuff and other forms of arbitrary status signature that requires you to spend money. I mean, the current-
Stephanie: Maybe so.
Jim: … The absurdities, these NFTs, I mean, what the fuck, right? Talk about a bizarre status symbol. I paid $35,000 for a kid’s drawing of a cat just because I could. What an asshole, right? In game B land, you would be considered the greatest in the neighborhood, right? For doing something like that.
Stephanie: Yeah, thank you for wasting our resources.
Jim: And accelerating the heat death of the universe by using one of these cryptocurrencies, which is nothing but embedded carbon dioxide. Thank you very much. So you have all these kinds of game A bizarreness. We’ve got to learn how to give it up. And it seems to me the trade for conviviality…
Stephanie: The trade for conviviality. Well, I’m still going to plant the seed for a future convo of… Because you hear taxes on the wealthy blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. All these mechanisms for redistributing or whatever, however we want to say. But what are the most fun ones? When they did a debt Jubilee, did they do a party? Was it like a big… Like, yay, we’re all doing a societal reset? I don’t know. I don’t know enough about the history of Jubilee.
Jim: I don’t know is a good question. We do know that something closely related the potlatch.
Stephanie: There we go, yes.
Jim: It could be a week long party, right?
Stephanie: There we go. And it’s not just food, but it’s everything we got.
Jim: Gives away everything he’s got basically. And it’s in the form of an outrageous party. Maybe-
Stephanie: That sounds like an awesome party. Everyone with their… The people who have all the cars, all those nice cars, and then the folks that don’t have cars or have to… Get to drive those cars.
Jim: Or literally they give them away, right?
Stephanie: Give them away, yeah.
Jim: They say I don’t need all that shit, right? That would be a potlatch. That’s the most interesting.
Stephanie: Okay, there we go.
Jim: That’s the most fun way of redistributing the wealth that we know of, at least that comes off to my mind, the top of my head from the anthropological literature.
Stephanie: A good area for innovation.
Jim: Yeah. Maybe we’ll think about building that in as part of the transition, though, interestingly, more and more in game B land. We’re not even all that interested in reforming game A anymore.
Stephanie: I know. I care about redemption. You know that I do, but I understand that. You keep the eyes on the prize.
Jim: Yap, and good we think that it’s okay. You build game B at small scale, you seduce people over. The world gets bigger, people see what they’re doing. So now, would I rather spend $300,000 to go to some college and then work in a cubicle and work my way up to a boss of people who work in a cubicle and then retire just about the time I finish paying off my student loans, right? Or would you rather live in this-
Stephanie: Yeah, my generation.
Jim: … Eco village, work 20 hours a week, never have to fear being homeless because by definition, if you’re part of game B, you will never be homeless. And have a life built around achieving those things are actually meaningful.
Stephanie: Important to you, yeah.
Jim: They’re actually important. And you do 20 hours a week of the work necessary to keep the wheels spinning. And that may go down over time, especially if we manage to tame AI and not have it tame us. As one of the game B players, he stole it from somebody else, calls it fully automated luxury communism.
Jim: Maybe that’s the final arrangement, but along the way we’ve learned how to make conviviality and self-actualization our highest values. We’ll be ready for it. Today the person who grinds 62 hours a week in the cube farm, how are they going to make the transition to conviviality and self-actualization as their highest value? Damn hard for them.
Stephanie: Although, I think we might be surprised sometimes, you scratch the surface and you still got some beating hearts in there.
Jim: Truthfully, I do believe that. We give them the chance that shows them the alternative, then I think many of them will be able to and will be frankly beating a path to the door. I suspect once we have demonstrated that we understand how to build the scalable infrastructure, that we know how to correctly parasitize game A to get the funding, I suspect recruits will not be our limiting factor. It’ll be creating game B nodes fast enough to all the people that want to defect.
Stephanie: Yap, maybe so.
Jim: That’s our strategy. I no longer give two flying fucks about team red and team blue. As Ralph Nader said, the anti-abortion big business party and the pro-abortion big business party. I just don’t see that much difference between the two anymore.
Stephanie: Yeah, people, let’s just get a life.
Jim: Yeah, let’s really think big. This was through our conversation about killing QAnon and oops, accidentally killing game B. We need these outliers to be thinking about how we do this differently.
Stephanie: Yeah, and there’s nowhere else to go. We can’t just cut off part of it and wall off. It’s like, this is about, as far as I’m concerned, collective liberation.
Jim: Absolutely, and we’re embedding it together. I mean, nobody’s got the answers, right? We’re all out there going, oh, let’s try this. That didn’t work, let’s try that. Oh, well this sought of seems to work, but we need to adjust this, right? What does that sound like? That sounds a lot like evolution, right
Stephanie: Yeah, exactly. And right now we’re in the tower of Babel moment, but hopefully we can just bring it all together. Because thank God we’ve given birth to so many ways of doing everything. Now we can just use them all.
Jim: Well, I that’s the hope. Well, again, Stephanie, I want to thank you for a really interesting dive into a tremendously interesting experience. So check it out at deepreckonings.com.
Stephanie: Thank you Jim. This was so much fun.
Production services and audio editing by Jared Janes Consulting. Music by Tom Muller at modernspacemusic.com.