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ยท 3 min read
Ron Amosa

I'm listening to the Lex Fridman podcast episode with Sam Harris, and a few things really struck me as I'm listening to the ideas and perspectives on the topics being discussed on the podcast episode.

Firstly, the discussion of controversial and complex multi-faceted topics - I found myself agreeing with Sam's view that a topic can be left well-enough alone; it doesn't need to be discussed. Especially if the person "hosting" that discussion does not have the skillset or capability to manage the damage or fallout that may come from broaching the topic, e.g., racism, anti-Semitism, misogyny, suicide, etc.

Lex has a theory on the "power of love" and how empathy is the recourse or possible "solution" to a conversation between two minds that are at odds on rationality or reasoning. If you demonstrate empathy, the "turning of the cheek", you don't necessarily convert the emotionally hardened will, but somehow the gesture results in a net-positive outcome for all involved in this interaction or engagement.


I get the part that it's not about convincing people who are emotional with facts and figures, but that connecting with them on a human level will bring them back to their and our humanity, and thus some level of reconnection. I get that; I've used that a lot and experienced it in my own life, for better or worse (the connection and disconnection).

The part that stuns me a bit is the hubris in not considering your responsiblity in, and wantonly ploughing ahead with controversial topics, which you admittedly have no expertise in, and conduct a "power of love" experiment on the scale of the public internet, and presume that your particular communications skills and art of conversation include the capability of managing the anticipated damage - as anyone would expect from controversial topics - that you believe will result in a net-positive outcome for everyone overall... is this hubris? Lex has mentioned people calling him naive, and I think he accepts some level of that...

From everything I know and understand about Lex, he's a super smart guy, he's got a massive heart, and I genuinely believe he is a good person. But the - let's call it hubris - to think it's more important to plow ahead with these conversations, spraying them across the internet to germinate however it will, but somehow assuming the end result - when the psychos' scorecard ends up being lower than the Samaritans' or the good vibes scores out in society - is a net positive, on some "trust me bro" basis, is... very middle-class white male of him.

I'm not a massive fan of Sam Harris - I don't know his work enough to have an opinion; I just remember him being associated with the right-wing in the past. Again, I don't know enough to hold any strong opinions - but he was taking a view closer to what I would in handling the scope of the experiment that is public discourse, and with a lot more humility, the likes of which I would have expected from Lex.

This will probably be better thought out and written in a newsletter - but these were my rough notes I jotted down while on the treadmill.