Sam Harris had a discussion with Eric Weinstein on his podcast. Eric is a mathematician, economist, physicist and managing director of Thiel Capital. Eric and Sam talked about left and right political ideologies, religion, and well… Sam Harris.
The discussion consisted of Eric basically telling Sam that he can’t be so rigid in the way he thought about the world. Here is a breakdown of what he said.
Two Modes of Thinking
Weinstein talks about a dichotomy between faith and reason, and that both are necessary to advance knowledge.
We learn by spending our time on the boundary between the explored and unexplored. To learn something new, we must tolerate bullshit – that’s the only way we can find the gold.
Real insight is difficult to come by, but if you constrain yourself only to rational parameters, then you will never innovate.
Other than Truth
Weinstein thinks that Harris is too focused on truth – there is productivity, meaning, health – not everything is about truth. To live a good life, your concern cannot only be the accuracy of propositions.
The greatest thinkers in the world often discovered truths that at the time seemed highly irrational. You must have the ability to suspend your rationality – in the words of Weinstein “Take an advance on your rationality.” Creative breakthroughs can only happen when you go outside your fixed thought patterns. We often remember ideas or names when we stop thinking about them and we get great ideas right before we go to sleep, or while taking a shower.
In his book, Thinking: Fast and Slow, Kahneman talks about system 1 and system 2 thinking. You need to be comfortable spending time in a System 1 mode of being, where you are letting your less analytical right brain to explore the boundaries of your knowledge – to find out where the real limits are. Otherwise, you will be stuck in the category of the “known”, achieving a greater grasp over knowledge that you have already mastered. For pragmatic purposes It’s great, but innovation is necessary.
In the world of business, you have two types of companies, the startup and the established Fortune 500 companies. Think of the latter as the left brained companies, they are operating in the domain of the known, their processes have been standardized their objectives are clear, their methods of implementation are tested and verified. This is the opposite of a start-up. Founders are always shooting darts in the dark, they don’t know what they’re doing, it’s mostly chaos, but they follow their intuition anyway. Their faith carries them forward, and eventually, they discover that there is in fact gold at the end of the journey.
But often, there isn’t, and failure is far more prevalent than success. Yet, progress – at least at the rate of progress today – can only be possible if seemingly inefficient modes of interacting in the world are not only permitted but encouraged.
When you can experience and entertain different positions the same way you can change your clothes, you tap into an unprecedented amount of power.