Good Governance: An Evolutionary Approach by Bret Weinstein

that's a tough question I am optimistic that we could address the problem I am pessimistic that we are running out the clock needlessly on arguments that are totally out of date and not worth settling so I I'm I am fearful that we will not address this but I think we could address it and I think we now just barely know enough to start going down that road I don't think we know enough to describe the end state but I do think we know enough to embark and that we also know enough to figure out how to build the structure we need as we move in the direction that we know it to be are you talking about the environment are you talking about just the proliferation of human society like well I think we've faced many potentially existential threats and that they are not independent of each other they are the result of a small number of errors in thinking that are reproduced across a large swath of the landscape and I think what we are lacking is not the knowledge it's the wisdom that tells us now is the time to move it is the time to put certain things aside that have been very important in the past but have lost their significance such as the debate between right and left is it looks increasingly to me like it is a debate over you know it's a VHS Betamax debate it's a debate over something that no longer matters and that it is successfully preventing natural alignment amongst those people who favor a core set of values that if we were not disagreeing over these archaic questions we we would move forward together it has become apparent in talking to folks across the left-right divide from me that there is so much agreement about the desirability of a fair society and so little agreement over how advantageous meddling in civilization is that we are unable to confront the real obstacle in other words I think if you sat people down on the right and you said if it were true that we could hedge out the risk of capture and of unintended consequences of policies that made civilization more fair would you favor it most people on the right would favor it and they would say but you can't right and if you said to the people on the left if you had to recognize that solution making often produces problems that you did not anticipate could you accept that oftentimes the things that have noble objectives are more costly than they are valuable they would say sure but that's not what we're talking about in fact there's lots of solutions that we can just drag off the shelf and employ them and be better off so if you can get people to recognize that what they're really differing over is not what society we should want to build most good people agree we want a society that works that liberates people that isn't authoritarian and onerous and overly interested in regulating you out of taking risks that are yours to take people who can agree on that are really disagreeing over how likely it is that a particular policy proposal will bring us closer to that objective or take us farther away but we're not talking about policy that has been updated for modern circumstances we're talking about solutions that are antiquated and frankly just simply don't make sense because the people who engineered them could not possibly have been aware of what effect the internet would have or you know robotic manufacturing or what the downsides of small changes in the composition of the atmosphere would be so we have to update our understanding of how to make solutions that work that is much easier now than it was for our ancestors in governance right and so I think you know the most powerful idea to me is that if you push any value to an extreme it creates a dystopian nightmare if you love freedom and you say well I want everybody to be free at all times to do anything they want you create a total catastrophe for justice on the other hand if you say look I know you love freedom but you got to be adult about it you can have 85% of the freedom that you would get if you were totally free right and here's what you're gonna get an exchange you're gonna get a system that protects you from unforeseeable medical mishaps that is going to enhance the ability of your children to engage puzzles that will make the smarter as adults you're gonna get all of these other things and you're gonna get them very cheaply you're gonna give up 15% of something that you have an awful lot of and what you're gonna get is 90% of some other stuff that is really important to you – you just don't realize it people would accept that so recognizing that there are tensions between all of the things that we want and that an adult is somebody who's capable of recognizing that those tensions have an implication for what you should actually pursue you don't pursue any one thing obsessively you don't even if you know you passionate about art and you want to spend all your time at it you don't pursue art to the point that you starve to death right you take some time off and even if our art is what you want to do with every bit of free time you have you don't want it to take over from fundamental functions in your life so governance is like this we can have most of the things that we would all agree are good we can't have all of any of them but we don't need all of any of them we can actually engineer a system it's totally non utopian but it's very successful at delivering outcomes that are desirable without being the nanny state without being onerous and meddlesome and dictatorial I don't think a hundred years ago that was foreseeable I think we were stuck with partial solutions and people became entrenched in the idea that they were correct and so they lost sight of what was incomplete about them and you know I don't want to fall into that same craft that's always a danger and you have to be aware of whether or not you've become convinced of something that's really a fiction but what I would say is I think this is why you're hearing this from a biologist is that biology is a totally non utopian landscape every creature every creature I mean down to the tiniest bacterium is an absolute marvel of engineering with no engineer right it all happened because those tensions were capable over long periods of time of writing themselves into the code that creates these entities and it is not inconceivable that we humans now understanding the rules of complexity space can build a system that does the same thing for us so that governance is highly successful but not it does not impose itself on us in ways that make us feel constrained well it constrain us a bit sure it has to the fact is we have lost the ability to say you know what I don't want to be part of civilization I'm gonna go be a hunter-gatherer we can't do that you're signed up for civilization and that means that you're signed up you can't decide on your own that you want to drive on the other side of the road we're gonna regulate you into driving on the correct side of the road and if you demonstrate that you're not interested in listening to us you don't get to drive right that's natural and it's acceptable it's a small price to pay do you really want the freedom to drive on whatever side of the road you feel like on any given day or would you rather be constrained into driving on a predictable side of the road so that you don't end up killing somebody or being killed of course you'd prefer it any reasonable person would so there's a lot that looks like that where if you could really see the view from 30,000 feet you'd understand yeah I don't love the idea of regulation nobody does but these regulations are more liberating than they are constraining they actually free you to drive and get to work rather than you know be terrified at any moment that somebody's gonna come careening out of nowhere and hitch so you're an optimist I'm a very optimistic pessimist or very pessimistic optimist I mean you know I don't know how to put this I I think the thing is I'm I don't know what it means to or what the term is for somebody who defines themself as an optimist or a pessimist I'm post whatever that is and the reason that I'm most whatever there's glass yeah well there's a there's a unfortunately I didn't come up with it but there's a saying I like which is the optimist thinks the glass is half-full the pessimist thinks the glass is half-empty and the engineer thinks it's too big how much do refills costs well my question yeah spoken like a recently starving student so I would say I'm not I'm not an optimist or pessimist what I am is somebody who recognizes that there's only one way out of this and that is we have to figure out how to escape the dysfunctional conversation that is preventing us from fixing our system and find our way to a system that at least knows how to itself and until we either fail at that or succeed at it there's no point in investing in anything else you brought up this term of maturity or acting like an adult is that a heuristic and is there such a thing as in the natural world or in the animal kingdom of maturity that the human need human beings need to grasp and develop in themselves well that's a really interesting question I mean I would say you certainly see if you were to survey animals of some type all right let's say we looked at Jaguars if you were to survey Jaguars you would surely find that the oldest individuals actually invested their efforts in a way that was sensitive to subtleties in the environment that matter and insensitive to things that were a distraction right and that happens for two reasons one Jaguar is a smart animal and they they learn over time so the older you are the more experience you've had in this wiser you get the other reason is because those Jaguars that aren't very good at behaving in a wise way are eliminated over time so the ones that are left after a large number of years tend to be the ones that got it right in the first place so our older Jaguars wise undoubtedly undoubtedly they're wise about the stuff of Jaguar existence in a way that young cars are probably foolish so wisdom does have analogs I mean maybe it's not even analogs it's just real real wisdom but then I guess there's a question – about structures and actually this is going to be yeah it's it's a fractal you will surely find that the oldest claves of organisms have a design that anticipates changes in the environment they're greater so in other words when we look at what our I think the term has a certain resonance to it but I think it has the wrong emphasis we call certain things living fossils right so if we look at dragons lives for example or sharks these are designs that have existed for a very long period of time and the versions that we see today are modern versions but they're less modified from that original design than something like a fly you know or a trout so what can we say about those designs you know the term living fossil tends to suggest that there's something not very up-to-date about them when really the answer is they got it right so early that the design has remained largely unchanged because they can compete even with that design so if you look at a dragonfly for example it has four large wings if you compare it to a fly two of those wings have been reduced to control structures called Hall tiers you know it sort of seems like the dragonfly is missing those special control structures that allow flies to do certain things on the other hand you've ever watched a dragonfly do what it does that's an amazingly acrobatic creature and the only reason that it exists in the present is that that ancient design is totally capable of keeping up in at least some environments in modern circumstances so I would argue that although there's no intelligence to it that there is wisdom in those older designs that have persisted without as much change and that sometimes these younger designs seem great but then some change in the environment will reveal that actually it wasn't – it wasn't wisdom it was it was like youthful exuberance about something that then loses its appeal when the climate changes and that design no longer functions the tensions that give rise to wise designs that's found in the biological landscape can we use the checks and balances inherent in that tensive system to refine government kind of by the leeward to submit to certain pressures that propel it towards more and more wise functionalities that's exactly that's exactly it and that is exactly why you find me focused on the group of topics that I'm focused on so I started out studying trade-offs and I started out studying them for my own reasons because they actually just simply were the key to cracking the puzzles that I found entertaining but once I began to reverse engineer what the rules of trade-offs were and these were rules that you can't look up we don't they're not things that people are well enough versed in that there's some place you can go and say well what are the rules about how trade-offs work so that's what I worked on for my dissertation and those rules it turns out have nothing to do with biology they have to do with complex systems in which there is an objective any complex system with an objective has to abide by these rules and knowing that means that actually you're in a position to infer from dragonflies spruce trees whatever it may be you're able to infer what these tensions must look like and how a wise individual or a process that weeds out unwise designs and preserves the wise designs you can figure out exactly what that would look like and you can map it on to government's it's really a perfectly natural thing to do you can also map it on to engineering space we can look at you know for example the design of aircraft and you can use the very same rules that govern you know a plant you know it's more obvious when you're talking about something that flies but you can take the rules of trade off land and you can abstract them from plants and you can apply them to aircraft or governance or markets you can do it in those circumstances and the amazing thing is it doesn't take a whole heck of a lot of retool the real work is just figuring out how the mapping goes right so you know it's very tempting for you to imagine that corporations are like creatures they're not that's not the right mapping and so if you try to map the creature rules onto corporations it won't work for various reasons including the fact that corporations don't die right and so their uncreate like in this way but there is a proper mapping and if you can find it the rules are quite intuitive in fact and the ability if people were more aware of what the implications that these rules were we could take a lot of people who are trapped in one version of utopianism or another and we can say here's why utopianism will never work it's not that your idea isn't quite right or it is your idea can't possibly be right right to the extent that it is utopium it violates a rule of nature that doesn't yet have a name I'm still wrestling with what you mean by utopia is it because it's a closed system in some way and nature won't abide by something that that's perfect and in a certain sort of closed simplistic fashion no I mean there may be elements of that but first of all what I mean by utopian is two things utopians tend to focus on a single value that they wish to see maximized right and whether that value is freedom or justice or free love yeah whatever it is anything that maximizes one value is a catastrophe because of its massive cost in every other value and so the other thing that utopians do is they tend to imagine that they know what the system needs to be structured like in order to reach their one value right and they so they ignore the collateral damage of the other values they assume that those will be prettied up later or something it's impossible actually and they assume that they know what structure creates the elevation in this value and they are always under imaginative in the the unintended consequences so what I would say is effectively utopians are searching for perpetual motion machines and they don't realize that justice with perpetual motion there's a law of nature that says no such thinking can exist and as soon as you know that no such thing can exist then the question is alright step down from searching for that thing there's no obstacle to an incredibly efficient machine there's an obstacle to be perfectly efficiently seen right so as soon as you recognize that you shouldn't be searching for a perfectly efficient machine then you can start searching for a marvelously efficient train and so that's really what I'm arguing is that the state of governance which we cannot describe from here but that we should be pursuing is marvelously efficient marvelously effective and minimally invasive that it can be all of those things but as soon as you say I don't want an invasive at all well you're screwed it's going to be somewhat invasive if you say I wanted to be perfectly efficient no you're done it can't be perfectly efficient it can be marvelously efficient so this is this is the maturity recognizing that not only are there trade-offs in the world but that they are absolutely 100% guaranteed to apply to the thing that you value most right that that thing that you value most has a cost in terms of everything else and the more of it you want the higher the cost in every other thing you care about once you realize that then the question isn't how do I get all of that one thing it's well how do I get most of that one thing and get enough of everything else in order that I can make a life out of it and it's just not that hard a problem once you spot the the the sirens song of perfection I think you need to be careful in one regard I don't want to say you can judge the system based on the economic well-being let's say of the students it produces because first of all students in one generation don't face the same market that students in another generation you see you certainly can't compare between generations that way the other thing that's true is that economic well-being is not the only kind of well-being I would say that an education that does not leave students in a position to manage their lives is a failure but that students some students will choose to prioritize other things over getting rich and there's nothing wrong with that it may well be healthy and in fact most of the members of the Academy are choosing to be part of a system in which getting rich is almost impossible and so it's not surprising in some sense that the values that are alternative to those that the market pays for have been highly esteemed within the Academy on the other hand to the extent that the Academy is producing people who are talking utter nonsense and imagining that it is sophisticated and enlightened that system is a failure now I don't think that we can say that the entire educational apparatus is a failure but we can say that the part of the apparatus that is a failure is taking over more and more territory the number of classes in a university that are immune to this extremely broken way of thinking is ever smaller and I think we can even see from here the day in which it will be no classes that are immune because every class is going to be subject to some set of rules that is built around this very naive notion of privilege and white supremacy and all of that so that day is coming and the sooner those who are hired will be hired based on their willingness to to go along with that program it's absolutely part of the program and if there's one thing that people fail to appreciate about the social justice movement where it interfaces with the Academy is that just because what is being said is crazy to the point of absurdity does not mean that the strategic plan is absurd the strategic plan is far more effective than you would expect based on the sophistication of the ideas that are being promulgated so in a certain way the system itself is pretty strong robust and anti fragile even if the ideology inside of it is broken corrupt and the insurgency yeah yes the insurgency is far more effective than you would expect it to be based on how correct the things that it claims are true actually are how it is that disconnect happen that that belief the belief the beliefs themselves are incoherent and destructive but the system which houses the beliefs is incredibly efficient I suspect that the answer is weirdly evolutionary so Heather and I encountered the postmodern stuff in 1992 at the University of California Santa Cruz we took an anthropology class that described itself as about human evolution and it turned out to be a postmodern take on evolution those ideas have been morphing and bubbling through a quadrant of the university system since that point and of course a bit before each cohort that has encountered them has wheeled them in some circumstances and those arguments that were hard to defeat its persistent and those arguments that were easy to defeat have perished which means that the new crop of student shows up and they're handed this toolkit of arguments that are incredibly hard to confront right not because they're true but because the way they're structured they are built you know each of these definitions is can't be pinned down you can't figure out what they mean by equity on the other hand if you start asking questions about equity you're gonna run afoul of a booby-trap that's gonna have you portrayed as a white supremacist so that is a very potent combination really a text it's brilliant but it isn't brilliant on the basis that those who are wielding it are brilliant it's brilliant on the basis that selection has weeded out those parts that didn't work so I think that's what we're up against and it's very frustrating but I would I would argue it is a mistake just because the movement looks so full of foolishness to dismiss the structure as foolish it's really much stronger than and you would have more even wise in a certain way it's wise in the way that a dragonfly is wise you

Maurice Vega

26 Responses

  1. On "living fossil":
    Let's assume the connotation of the compound is from the connotations of the constituent words.

    The connotative interpretation Bret is against is the one where "fossil" is negative and implies things like "inert matter, old, dead, fixed", where "living" is primarily negating the "dead" connotation, and where the idea of being old is an implicit negative.

    What he might argue for instead is one where "fossil", by being about once-living matter, automatically implies "evolved form", and where "living" further carries a connotation of "persisting" so that the fact of the form not merely existing but having existed for a long timespan becomes more salient.

  2. I like how, off the cuff, you mention that this "good society" (around 6 mins or so) will provide certain benefits for "your" children. Which haphazardly also promises that you will have children.

  3. Additionally, you cant have a very efficient system of government services because the administrators of the service have no skin in the game. Value is created by corporations because they seek profit (aka value) in their work and need to achieve it to continue in that line of work. When you see profit, think value. There can be no value without profit and vice versa.

  4. There is a misunderstanding of liberty in that you can have "85 percent of the freedom you want, 15 percent as a cost to cover yourself for medical events etc." Private insurance can do that without tyranny of taxation. Governance of liberty is self limiting in that you can do whatever compels you as long as you dont interfere with the liberty of someone else. In those instances you fail to allow the liberty of another the state has to apply justice, not because you have sinned against the public or the state but because you have denied another individual of their freedom.

  5. Sustainability is a value that can be taken to it's logical extreme without negatively impacting any others. There are probably others.

  6. Incredible aggreement from Ms. piggy lovers everywhere. Seriously, this amount of truth just sputtered out here in a rather short video is absolutely refreshing. I can wait to share more ideas on exactly how to move forward given the climate we are in…I have been thinking about it for 25 years.

  7. legal fiction
    an assertion that is accepted as true for legal purposes, even though it may be untrue or unproven.
    "one must remember that landownership is ultimately simply a legal fiction"

  8. Very interesting. There are lots of systems whuch are structured with built-in defense systems. Religions come to mind. It's like post-modernism, as a system of thought, evolved to dispatch antibodies that attack hostile elements much like religions use shaming and social pressures.

    Academia, in line with enlightenment tradition, is supposed to disarm these systems and ensure that logic and reason remains the sole arbiter. No shaming, no peer pressure, no biases etc. The relationship between these defense systems and logic and reason is similar to the relationship between productivity and rent-seeking. Academia really is a great institution where academic productivity is separated from academic rent-seeking.

  9. Does the truth derive from authority or

    Does authority derive from the truth?

    Does respect flow more from admiration or from fear?

    Is it easier to effectively organize people using voluntary association or threats of violence?

    If it is wrong for the strong to exploit the weak,… how is it not wrong for the weak to exploit the strong also?

    Does equality under the law mean equal process under the law, or equal outcomes by law?

    What unchosen, positive duties must a free people submit to in order for a society to be just and prosperous? Libertarians and Anarcho-Capitalists would seem to recognize if you break it, you must fix it as such an unchosen, positive duty that all free people must comply with regardless of individual consent or not. While this one unchosen, positive duty is necessary, is it sufficient? Remember that every unchosen, positive duty necessarily grants the state (or whatever serves the coercive function of the state) the duty to use socially sanctioned initiatory violence in order to make moral free riders comply.

    While there are many things free people should do, what things must a free people do?

    Consider, if you will, the following social contract. Would it be, in your opinion, sufficient for the world you would want to live in, or does it require more.

    *The Anarchist’s Constitution

    1. There is no Sovereign Immunity. Any Person (or Persons) who commits force, fraud, or trespass against any other Person’s life, body, or property is liable for restitution to repair the victim to their original condition.

    2. The Right to be left alone is Absolute, subject only to the enforcement of the first rule. Any Person (or Persons) may deny the use of their life, body, or property to anyone else without any necessity to justify the reasons for their denial.

    3. There are no exceptions to these 4 rules.

    4. These rules being observed,… do whatever you will.

    Remember,… any additional positive duties imposed necessarily imply the state’s right, even duty, to kill anyone who does not comply.
    Would you be willing to kill anyone who choose to ignore your preferred duties? Would you sanctioned others to kill dissenters who would prefer to ignore such duties? If not,… how much violence, and no more, would you sanction for such purposes?

    Or try this set of questions; would it be useful for the government to determine what the laws of nature are? How language evolves? The axioms of mathemathics? How biology works? What are the best medical practices for all physicians? Whether or not cannabis should be a schedule 1 drug, as in, having no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse,… even though the government itself owns several medical patents derived from cannabis.

    What is it about the realm of good governance that it apparently requires the use of socially sanctioned initiatory violence to achieve in actual practice,… and not most all other intellectual activities, which clearly work better when violence is not used at all? Couldn't voluntarily recognized regulation be sufficient for society's needs? If you break it, you must fix it is not sufficient,… how does society achieve a consensus of what additional duties are required, or be punished?

  10. Sooo many brilliant people normalizing a composed ,adult way of interpreting the world and our issues
    Thank you anarchist teenagers for giving us the Weinstein bros

  11. Thank you for seriously caring!……..about 40 years ago 2 other men were talking about our future: would you be kind enough to let me know your thoughts?
    to shahla:

  12. Hi Bret,

    I'm really enjoying your channel, thanks.

    A question though. Is the reason Utopia cannot exist in nature because it would prevent adaptation?


  13. Having a hard time with people trying to force socialism on society. On a positive note it can be changed back at a server consequence and lost of life or with civil war when people feel wronged.

  14. Very interesting what she said about interaction with the physical world. I've been a recluse for 10 years living in essentially my own fantasy world of thoughts and emotion. I went back to play football at the age of 31 (having been a good player when younger) and I sucked out big time and was acutely embarrassed. The reaction from the real world was a shock and almost too much to bare. My point is, even though I don't like the outcome it is something I can't argue with or perform some intellectual gymnastics to avoid or push onto something else which is a novel challenge. I agree that those kinds of situations may be lacking in a lot of people's lives as they were mine so its good advice.

  15. Bret Weinstein, Is there any evidence for Idiocracy happening ? Is it something we should be worried about ?

  16. I wish our government worked like the science community – great and caring minds come together from differening perspectives (right leaning or left leaning) in order to problem solve (compare data, research, see what is credible, discuss which solutions seem to be the most reliable. Collaborate. Come to an agreement.)
    Instead, we have a system of compromise (never agreeing and forcing the other side to submit to YOUR perspective regardless of what the evidence shows) it is all a political cluster fuck. People just trying to maintain votes and money rather than come to real problem solving solutions.
    Politicians should be using logic and math to solve issues (to come up with conclusions.) Problem solving is pragmatic, step by step, math-focused.. Not based on feelings and opinions or votes.

  17. I am so glad to have found Bret and his channel. Kudos as well to the interviewer. Keep the conversation going. America is thrusting for these Biological insights.

  18. When you say that companies don't die, I don't see what you mean. Companies do die. They stop functioning at some point and eventually stop existing. What am I missing in that statement?

  19. Once again, Weinstein understands nothing about the problem. The question will always be one of meaning, not optimization. You can't have a trade off with meaning as you either have it or don't, there isn't a scale. I know you really, really want people to quit looking for meaning, but "metaphysics is as inevitable as the tide". As with all leftists… good scientists, terrible psychologists.

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