Marathon Man: Joe Rogan talks to Sam Harris

by Grania Spingies

In an Homeresque feat of endurance, Joe Rogan (comedian, actor, sports commentator) and Sam Harris (writer and neuroscientist, for the one accidental reader here who doesn’t already know who Sam is) sat down and talked for a mammoth 4.5 hours about cabbages and kings.

Joe Rogan hosts a podcast that covers a very wide range of guests and subjects and has spoken to Sam before on his show. I’d recommend that you download the podcast and go for a long walk. It’s long, so you may want to break it into two sessions – even Sam reached “the upper limits of bladder capacity” after a couple of hours.

Here’s the Youtube link if you want to watch the discussion.

A rough guide to the chat:

1st hour – vegetarianism, consciousness, neuroscience

2nd hour – bioethics, future technologies, super-bugs, antibiotics, disease, self-driving cars

[As a side note in case anyone from the Joe Rogan’s show ever sees this: The Daily Mail from the UK should be treated with extreme skepticism. They are less reliable than Fox News as a news source. Check everything they write about.]

3rd hour – Trump and Clinton

4th hour – boxing, martial arts, zoos, wildlife preservation, negative and positive population growth, eliminating poverty, wealth inequality, the rise of Artificial Intelligence and its implications for humanity.

It’s a fascinating meander through a range of diverse topics, well worth a listen if you have a few hours to spare.


  1. John B.
    Posted June 7, 2016 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    Not surprisingly, this discussion has already been mined for anything that can be used against Sam. When he observes that Trump would be an atheist president, a misleading article on rawstory followed, giving the impression that Sam might support Trump.

    • Grania Spingies
      Posted June 7, 2016 at 11:52 am | Permalink

      So the multiple times in the same paragraph when he says he is voting for Hillary don’t count?

      Anyway, it is profound stupidity to think that atheists would vote for an atheist candidate. Not believing in the supernatural doesn’t align one with any economic or social position.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted June 7, 2016 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

        So the multiple times in the same paragraph when he says he is voting for Hillary don’t count?

        By the time the sound bites and transcripts have been edited down, no.

  2. Vaal
    Posted June 7, 2016 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for posting this Grania. As it turns out I’d already downloaded it and have listened to most of the show.

    Sam his an intellectual hero, and I’m a long time martial arts and MMA fan, so Joe’s conversations with Sam are always a perfect convergence of my interests.

    Sam says some pretty funny things in this podcast, especially when talking about Trump.
    (Though Sam seems a bit lower energy than usual…and I’ve seen some wondering if his conversion to vegetarianism isn’t going so smoothly, as even Sam suggests).

  3. Posted June 7, 2016 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    One of the best works of Harris is his essay on MMA and street violence.

  4. Posted June 7, 2016 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    Sam Harris fan, mostly, here, but…yeesh. Rogan comes across as that frat guy who thinks he’s intellectual. Walking into a big room filled with marijuana made an unusual impression on him, and therefore it might be fruitful to explore the idea of plant consciousness? There are just so many other more plausible and easy to conceive explanations for why that might’ve been a special experience for him. And it’s weird how our brains react with certain plants but not others after ingestion? Our brains react with certain chemical compounds, and some plants contain those compounds while others don’t. It doesn’t have anything to do with plants. You might as well say it’s weird how you gain weight when you eat off of some forks but not others, ignoring the fact that the first group of forks are delivering chocolate cream pie and the second group are delivering watermelon.

    • Posted June 7, 2016 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

      “Sam Harris fan, mostly, here, but…yeesh. Rogan comes across as that frat guy who thinks he’s intellectual.”

      Yeah, never been a Rogan fan. He generally buys into whatever his guests happen to be peddling, even when what they’re peddling is idiotic.

    • charlize
      Posted June 8, 2016 at 10:44 am | Permalink

      Indeed. Never really understood how Mr. Harris, after his first visit to this “experience” hadn’t become aware that he had been slumming or hadn’t researched it adequately beforehand to know that’s what he was in for.

    • Michael
      Posted June 8, 2016 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

      I think Rogan is not a bad of interviewer especially compared to Bill Maher or Dave Rubin.

      Joe has a bigger knowledge of many fields and often admits that he might be wrong. He also pushes back against things his guest say (which Rubin almost never does).

      I think that`s one of the reasons Sam often goes back to Rogan and describes him as his friend.

      • Posted June 8, 2016 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

        I am not a horticulturist, nor a neuroscientist, I am a musician. It doesn’t take specialized knowledge to see what’s wrong with the observations Joe made, and which I referenced above. Saying “I could be wrong” while making a crazy and mistaken observation doesn’t make the observation any less crazy or mistaken. I know I’m coming across as a judgmental asshole, but the fact is that there are folks who want to swim in the deep end but aren’t very good at swimming. Joe seems like one of those. Sorry. (I myself would say that I shouldn’t venture any farther out than somewhere in the middle.)

        • charlize
          Posted June 8, 2016 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

          musical beef:

          Not, in my view, are you coming across as judgemental at all. Just observant, and astute at that.

          “Frat guy” nails it. A guy who names a show after himself as an “experience” without a trace of irony painting himself solidly in the -legend in his own mind- corner.

          • Posted June 8, 2016 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

            Dunning–Kruger comes to mind when I listen to Rogan.

            • charlize
              Posted June 8, 2016 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

              Textbook case.

            • Posted June 8, 2016 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

              I disagree. Dunning-Kruger is about supreme confidence combined with ignorance. He may be ignorant of a lot of things he talks about, but he rarely declares that he has the answers. It’s more of an over-credulity to the possibilities of the bizarre. Very much a stoner college kid vibe. More “wouldn’t it be weird if plants could think?” Rather than a Chopra-esque, “quantum physics shows us through non-locality that consciousness is everywhere permeating every aspect of the universe!” THAT’S Dunning-Kruger.

              • Posted June 9, 2016 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

                “I disagree. Dunning-Kruger is about supreme confidence combined with ignorance.”

                That would be Dunning-Kruger at it’s most extreme. In Rogan’s case he’s simply not smart enough to realize he’s not as smart as he thinks he is. He demonstrates this every time he pontificates on a subject he clearly has limited knowledge of.

    • Nick
      Posted June 9, 2016 at 12:32 am | Permalink

      I agree. I’ve never come across this Joe Rogan fellow before, but I’m an hour into the podcast and I’m wondering whether I’ll be able to put up with him for another 3.5 hours.

  5. Kevin
    Posted June 7, 2016 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    Concern for AI still seems removed from physical boundaries that impede it’s ultimate growth to take us over. There’s still some disconnect in my brain with what is imagined and what is possible and I think some really smart people, mostly computer scientists, have not considered that the AI they are afraid of is a violation to the laws of thermodynamics.

    • J. Quinton
      Posted June 8, 2016 at 9:16 am | Permalink

      “physical boundaries that impede it’s ultimate growth… [violates] to the laws of thermodynamics”

      Expand on this (if I’ve parsed your comment correctly)?

      An AI going “foom” isn’t growing physically, it’s improving its own source code. This has very little to do with physical restraints. It would be like improving the source code of this website in order to make it render faster.

      But in the case of AI (that some are worried about) it’s improving its own intelligence algorithms, which has the potential to increase its own intelligence exponentially. It’s probably hard to understand if you haven’t written any code that deals with recursion. The closest analog would probably be something like learning a new skill. No laws of thermodynamics are being broken when you go from being horrible at piano until you’re a virtuoso; you build on the knowledge that you learned the previous day.

      • Kevin
        Posted June 8, 2016 at 11:18 am | Permalink

        Today, we could probably make an ironman suit. It would last about 10 seconds, limited mostly be energy. Unless computers figure out ways to manipulate energy (which they might be able to) constructively, they have a chance to easily wreck us all if that it what they/it wants.

        On the other hand, knowledge is one thing, but using it in a way that might be harmful to us is not clear to me there is a need to make what is known into something physical. A computer program that learns exponentially about the universe, may find that configuring a simulation for itself to live in is the best possible strategy to minimize energy and maximize information and possibly enjoyment. Another way to think of it is we, presently, need the universe to study all aspects of gravity. An AI might be content with one square micron to study all aspects of gravity and the universe for that matter.

  6. Cindy
    Posted June 8, 2016 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    Off topic but I don’t want to clutter up PCC’s inbox with another hour long video so have a gander at this if you have the time:

    An interview with Atlantic writer Conor Friedersdorf about the rise of Trump as a backlash against extreme PC-culture.

  7. Isaac
    Posted June 8, 2016 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    I’m just impressed with how versatile Sam is in his knowledge that one can just feed him a thought and he’ll come up with 10 things that are of interest about it. A true philosopher.

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