With this release, we try something a little different on The Portal. We begin an initiative to search for ways to feature members of the vibrant Portal sub-communities as part of the podcast itself, by requesting that listeners send in their questions around the prompt: “Mass media, markets, and human malware.”
The questions that came in were interesting and enlightening, and we hope that you may find the answers similarly useful.
We look forward to hearing your feedback on this new format as we continue to expand and experiment on The Portal. Hope you enjoy this episode.
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New Yorker writer and book author Andrew Marantz and Eric became friends shortly before the 2016 election when Andrew set off to write the first profile of Eric and Geometric Unity, his theory of Physics. Coming from similar ethnic and politically progressive backgrounds they found plenty of common cause. With the rise of Trump, they then found themselves in subtly different places with Andrew more directly concerned with the rise of the Alt-right and Eric convinced that the Alt-right was likely a response to the transformation of the Democratic Party begun under Bill Clinton into a serious threat to National unity.
In this conversation from November of 2019 in New York City, they discuss Andrew's theories of the rise of the alt-right and internet trolling as well as the research from his 2019 book Antisocial: Online Extremists, Techno-Utopians, and the Hijacking of the American Conversation. They also explore the contradictions between traditional and woke versions of progressivism and where all of this may be leading the republic. Particularly interesting given the 2019 time of this conversation is the concern with civil unrest and revolution which was shortly to play out in the American street a few months later.
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Stephon Alexander is a first class jazz musician as well as a first rate physicist and a professor at Brown University. As the New President of the National Society of Black Physicists, Eric sits down with Stephon over a good deal of wine to discuss particles, politics, blackness and STEM, and other matters as they look back on the last decade of their friendship and their sprawling discussions across music, politics, mathematics, physics and beyond.
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Investor Balaji Srinivasan is a highly original thinker in Silicon Valley on Biotech to Blockchain and everything in between. Most recently, he was quite early in warning us about the Corona virus and was ridiculed for his efforts by many in the world of institutional sense-making. That is before people realized he was not wrong, but simply early.
In this episode Eric talks to Balaji on the topic of what it was like to see the future before it arrived and what his crystal ball suggests about what is likely to happen next. As Balaji understands our world, the Corona virus presents a complex set of challenges that will strongly discriminate between those who can pass it's tests and those who will fail them. He sees this resulting in functional Green Zones which will become dominant in the future and Red Zones which will be characterized by dysfunctional responses. Presumably this new divide will then be expected to take over from the "North-South" divide between industrialized and developing nations.
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This is the first episode of The Portal which was 100% recorded at home, during quarantine, under social isolation. The guest is none other than my own son Zev Weinstein and the recording was timed to straddle his midnight transition from being 14 into being 15 years old.
Zev is currently a 9th grader who occasionally posts to his YouTube Channel GenerationZ (https://www.youtube.com/c/GenerationZW) and his Twitter Account @Zev__Weinstein (https://twitter.com/Zev__Weinstein). In this episode, we sit down to discuss history, poetry, COVID19, jewish humor and other issues, as well as the three questions I am frequently asked about on the topic of parenting:
A) What is the proper approach to parenting a child whose learning differences are significant?
B) Do you have any novel approaches to parenting?
C) What is the best way to parent young boys in a world that cannot find a shared positive vision of masculinity worth celebrating?
Rather than attempt to answer these questions entirely on my own, I thought it would make sense to bring Zev onto The Portal to discuss them with me in his own distinct voice. I hope you will enjoy this episode in the spirit with which it was recorded, and that you will encourage Zev to speak on issues of Generation Z. They are already quite well equipped to discuss how they view the generations above them in handling the world, whose stewardship they will soon inherit.
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Josh Wolfe of Lux Capital is a leading mind in the current wave of venture capitalists making waves. While aware of each other for some time, in this episode Josh sits down with Eric for their first meeting. Together the two explore various topics from comparing notes on their encounters with Jim Watson of DNA fame, to talking about what society gets wrong and how to see that as a source of opportunity.
It is frequently asked what makes a great venture capitalist. This conversation reveals that it is likely not one thing but a combination of rigor, breath, flexibility of mind, openness, self-skepticism and mental courage to take on the unknown. That is because the myriad concerns that arise in any early stage attempt to grab the future by the tail from only the information available to us in the present will easily overwhelm those with narrow specializations. As the conversation takes many twists and turns, Josh's flexibility is put to the test as he freely doles out numerous wise observations from his wealth of experience.
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It is said that there is not one American dream but many, and few have lived more than JD Vance. Growing up in Appalachia on the border between poverty and the lower working class, JD knew economic fear first hand as well as the cultural devastation of the region's post-coal era. Working his way up, he joined the elite US Marine Corps and entered Yale University to attend the countries most exclusive Law School. Not content to stop there, he found his way to Venture Capital in San Francisco while marrying into a multicultural relationship with a wife of Indian descent, herself supercharged with a dynamism informed by the classic immigrant experience.
So it was something of a surprise when JD became a national best selling author with his book Hillbilly Elegy which poignantly tells the tale of growing up in a family under pressure rocked by one of the most difficult economic experiences to be found anywhere in the United states.
Eric and JD sit down to discuss the history of coal and politics, the evolving American Left in the era after the demise of organized labor. Through it they discuss the difficulty of finding out footing in the collision and disappointment of so many American dreams which all too frequently remain tantalizingly out of reach for the majority of those who dare to dream them.
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Ryan Holiday is a master manipulator with a cool head, and keen eye for social observation and a big heart. Eric sits down with the Author of "Conspiracy" and tries to get a self-confessed former manipulator and one of the top emerging millennial social analysts to tell us how he unweaves society's artifices to see what is really driving our current moment across many areas.
Ryan is a unique voice who uses stoicism to remain intellectually detached but without seemingly succuming to emotional or moral disinterest in the issues of our day. With a background in marketing and media. he has gone beyond mere vice signaling to try to help people see how open they are to having their own media and digital habits weaponized against them. In some ways, one could say that he has migrated from grey-hat mind hacker to a white hat analyst and conversationalist helping us to better understand ourselves using ancient wisdom in a modern moment.
This interview was recorded slightly before the quarantining and so is interesting to think of in light of what is about to happen.
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Just before the great indooring due to the Pandemic of 2020, Eric sat down with conservative New York Times columnist Ross Douthat to discuss his book "The Decadent Society: How We Became the Victims of Our Own Success." Over champagne flutes filled with bubbly, the two discussed the various ways that the success and excesses of American Capitalism were now distorting the American Dream into a dystopian fever vision, making it far harder to wake up from this stasis in time to avoid the previous fates of fallen empires.
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Former National Security analyst turned author Jamie Metzel has written a book called Hacking Darwin. The book attempts to use storytelling to explore where we are as the new era of rewriting our cells and ourselves gets into full swing. Here he sits down with Eric to explore the negatives and positives of our seemingly ineluctable future of God-like power to rewrite biology. Together they discuss the role of story telling and fiction in understanding cutting edge science, the limits of bio-hacking regulation and the rise of mainland China as the outlying superpower of state sponsored experimentation.
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A Portal Special Presentation- Geometric Unity: A First Look
Eric Lewis is an open portal, a wonderful friend and one of the most important pianists in the world by our measure. As such, we will not bother with further notes for this episode. If you love the quest of the show as well as authentic soulful music, this is your guy. We simply sat down at a famous Yamaha grand piano at The Village recording studio in Los Angeles and this is the interview that transpired.
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In this second episode of the Portal to be released during shelter-in-place restrictions during the Corona Virus Pandemic, we release an older discussion with Daniel Shmachtenberger on whether there is any plausible long term scenario for human flourishing confined to a single shared planet.
Daniel is seen as a leader of the growing Game B subculture of the human potential movement. This group bets that there is a second evolutionary stable strategy for cohabiting not based on conflict or rivalry, even for life raised in Game A (i.e. standard evolutionary and economic environments based on scarcity and rivalrous goods. Eric asks Daniel about where the bright spots and progress might be in this movement which refuses to accept the fate that that Eric has elsewhere put forward as the Twin Nuclei Problem of having unlocked the power of both Cell and Atom in the early 1950s without the wisdom to use it.
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James O'Keefe is a dangerous man. He records people without their knowledge and publishes the results using the full power of our technological toolkit. He is well versed in the details of the law as to what can and cannot be legally recorded and/or published without the consent or even awareness of his targets. He is willing to risk prison to capture his stories and he has developed a policy of not settling out of court, even when it would be financially advantageous to do so. Clearly, he is willing to risk ruin and hatred for what he is doing, and is therefore not a man to be lightly trifled with.
In this episode, Eric sits down with James to try to understand the mutant future of journalism as it reckons with the power of new technology, while continuing to move away from traditional newspapers and reporting. Eric tries to discover what is truly motivating O'keefe and why he would want to come on a show that has been so openly critical of his organization.
James has many who see him as a crusading hero. He has also been accused of unethical deception, trespassing, entrapment, selective editing, and an entire litany of ethics complaints from traditional media. Oddly, however, more standard reporters working for traditional news desks openly discuss among themselves the professional need to deceive their targets in order to get the truth, or at least the story. Such strategies include using disingenuous flattery, pretending to be the source's friend, threats, the lure of fame, and a host of other edgy techniques to get people to say things that the reporter knows will likely be personally disastrous for the person being quoted.
This raises the question of just what it is that makes James O'Keefe different from a more mainstream reporter. Is it his method, more than his chosen targets? Is it that he really doctors his footage or instead that he has revived older journalistic techniques to hunt new journalists? This interview may not answer all of these questions, but we hope it may prove to be a conversation unlike any you have previously heard on this topic.
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Over half a year ago, immediately following the reported death of Jeffrey Epstein, Eric recorded a solo episode that he never released in hopes that its subject matter would be overtaken by investigative journalism. As this has not happened, it is being released with some trepidation in March of 2020 due to the issue of state involvement with Jeffrey Epstein.
Eric discusses his memories of his single bizarre meeting (circa 2004?) with Jeffrey Epstein in Epstein's 71st St townhouse in Manhattan. While at that meeting, Eric was surprised by Epstein's strange behaviors and came to the conclusion that it was highly unlikely that Epstein was likely to be the money manager he claimed. Instead, Eric came to the conclusion that the person with whom he was sitting was more probably a construction of one or more intelligence agencies, interested alternatively in powerful actors and scientists.
This 15 year hypothesis and Epstein's mysterious death lead to Eric's four questions:
A) Where are the newspaper stories tracking the financial records from the Villard House offices on Madison Avenue of Jeffrey Epstein's hedge fund and financial management firm J. Epstein & Co.? Who holds these records? What trades do they show? Who were the prime brokers? Where are any former employees who executed trades? Was there never a hedge fund at all? If not, is the inexplicable Epstein fortune and the missing Robert Maxwell fortune actually one and the same fortune?
B) Where are the newspaper stories detailing the known border crossings where Ghislaine Maxwell's passports were last presented to the immigration agents of any government? Where was her last known social engagement? Is she continuing to file and pay taxes? Why is she not being sought by law enforcement and where is the government request for any information as to her last whereabouts? How did this person simply vanish in a world where Tech tracks everyone at all times? Where did her digital trail run cold?
C) Where are the newspaper stories asking whether Jeffrey Epstein was known to be connected to any US or foreign intelligence agencies? Where are the on-the-record stories asking if the US and its allies categorically deny refusing to work with any known child sex traffickers? Why has have such questions not terminated in at least a categorical denial or "no comment" response or even a refusal to discuss "sources and methods"?
D) Why is there no routine call from Journalists, Senators, Congressmen and women, Academics, Clergy or Business leaders for hearings into the intelligence communities in the wake of Epstein and related affairs, as there was during the 1970s when the Church and Pike committees uncovered dirty tricks campaigns against lawful citizens? Why are these agencies now protected and immune in a way that they were not previously?
In a world which is often slow-moving and even stagnant, there are always sectors and individuals who buck the trends. In this episode of The Portal, Eric sits down with his favorite surfing hero Kai Lenny who is pioneering a new approach to big wave surfing. By availing himself of the latest technology and dedicating his life to innovation and discipline, all-around waterman Kai Lenny is redefining what is possible with boards and waves. Whether it is kite surfing, hydrofoils, paddle boards or towing into monster waves, Kai is not only riding, but playing in the biggest surfable waves as if they were up to an order of magnitude smaller. Eric attempts to understand Kai's approach to innovation and how he can be so carefree and seemingly casual when he is always flirting with death within some of the most powerful structures and forces nature can through at a single individual from Jaws in Maui to Nazaré in Portugal.
Please Subscribe to the Podcast wherever you listen to The Portal and make sure to check out our YouTube channel and click the bell icon to be notified when our next episodes appear! Hope you enjoy this.
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Philosopher and University of Chicago Professor Agnes Callard sits down with Eric on this episode of the portal. Agnes is a champion of the philosophical tradition of attempting to detach the capacity for inquiry and reason from the fog of feelings and societal taboos that often keep us from delving deeper into the questions that animate our lives.
Agnes began this unusual back and forth by writing an article about status negotiation in first meetings shortly after the pair first met. Eric and Agnes then use the opportunity of this episode to continue this line of thought by exploring the limits of courage and meta-cognition within the examined life of a modern Philosopher. This results in a real-time exploration by two people who mutually respect each other as to whether they can actually negotiate a detached discussion in real time on the very issues of status, feeling, and taboo that may divide them and/or arise between them.
As Agnes has written thoughtfully about the many layers of anger, the conversation culminates by exploring dyadic feelings of hurt and indignation with which we all struggle and suffer in our relationships. Ultimately the two finish this experimental conversation with good cheer, together with a wish to continue the discussion at a later date under continuing mutual fondness and admiration.
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Eric sits down with leading fitness geek, guru, thinker and human guinea-pig Ben Greenfield to learn how one of the world's most highly regarded trainers and fitness experts cuts through the nightmare that is our medical literature.
The academic and medical literature in health and medicine is a disaster. Studies are performed and reported in non-standard and idiosyncratic ways which are then further distorted by a press often looking more for headlines and scoops than facts and rigor. In this episode we get to ask one of the most sought after fitness optimizers how ordinary people can better understand their own minds, brains and bodies in light of the cacophony of 'expert' opinion. Ben, here in his role of master pedagogue, gives detailed implementable answers as well as simple to follow priorities that sum up his years of study and training for the mere mortals who wish to better everything in their lives by tackling health at the fundamental level.
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Historically, fighting obscenity and indecency charges has always been a central part of the free speech movement. Jim Morrison, Mae West, Lenny Bruce and George Carlin have all been arrested for exciting the public in ways that authorities have found threatening. Recently, however, the erotic and comedic arts have undergone more cryptic attacks via Operation Chokepoint, "cancellation", "no platforming", and inadequate press coverage given to cases of legal intimidation (e.g. the federal case under Miller v California standards brought against director John Stagliano).
In this episode, Eric sits down with the business woman who created the enduring character of the unlikely top pornstar Riley Reid. Continuing the theme of the DISC (Distributed Idea Suppression Complex) we discuss issues like Operation Chokepoint and obscenity law as well more subtle issues like the difficulty of finding vendors willing to cross the Rubicon to work with legal erotic businesses.
Ashley, in the role of the Riley Reid character, has defied all pornographic convention by embracing body positivity, forgoing plastic surgery and opting for natural body hair at times. Additionally she has made a social statement by doing a popular artistic scene which makes a political and business case for greater transsexual acceptance. Her main tool appears to be a palpable human decency and sweetness coupled to an uncanny ability to assess, manage and survive extreme business risk within a poorly understood industry that has confounded all expectations.
While this episode is generally not explicit, it is not for everyone given the content and so listener discretion is advised.
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Roger Penrose is arguably the most important living descendent of Albert Einstein’s school of geometric physics. In this episode of The Portal, we avoid the usual questions put to roger about quantum foundations and quantum consciousness. Instead we go back to ask about the current status of his thinking on what would have been called “Unified Field Theory” before it fell out of fashion a couple of generations ago. In particular, Roger is the dean of one of the only rival schools of thought to have survived the “String Theory wars” of the 1980s-2000s. We discuss his view of this Twistor Theory and its prospects for unification. Instead of spoon feeding the audience, however, the material is presented as it might occur between colleagues in neighboring fields so that the Portal audience might glimpse something closer to scientific communication rather than made for TV performance pedagogy. We hope you enjoy our conversation with Prof. Penrose.