5 highlights from Elon Musk's appearance on the Joe Rogan Experience

Elon Musk appeared on the Joe Rogan Experience for a conversation that covered topics ranging from the inner workings of neural link technology to the differences between a joint and a blunt.

In a landmark episode of one of the world’s most popular podcasts, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk appeared on the Joe Rogan Experience for a sprawling conversation that touched on topics ranging from the inner workings of neural-link technology to the differences between a joint and a blunt.

Musk, who recently made headlines for expressing his desire to take Tesla private, was one of the show’s most requested guests of all time according to Rogan, who, sporting an uncharacteristically dressy pink button-up shirt for the occasion, offered his guest whiskey on ice and an oversized blunt midway through the episode.

“Want some of it?” Rogan asked. “You probably can’t because of stockholders, right?”

“I mean it’s legal, right?” Musk confirmed before taking a hit.

The interview took place on Thursday night.

By Friday morning, shares of Tesla had dropped about 6% and two executives had resigned from the companythough it’s unclear whether Musk’s interview played any part in the resignations. 

In any case, the discussion lasted about two-and-a-half hours, covering subjects like the future of A.I., climate change, flamethrowers, sports cars, a design for an electric plane, and a potentially groundbreaking upcoming announcement about neural-link technology.

Here are a few highlights of what’s sure to be one of Rogan’s most memorable shows:

The main danger of A.I. is humans weaponizing it against each other

Musk has long warned of the dangers posed by A.I. In March, he told a crowd at South by Southwest that A.I. is far more dangerous than nuclear weapons and that the government should move to regulate A.I. development.

“I am not normally an advocate of regulation and oversight—I think one should generally err on the side of minimizing those things—but this is a case where you have a very serious danger to the public," said Musk.

But the main danger, according to Musk, isn’t A.I. turning against humans.

“The thing that’s going to be tricky here is that it’s going to be very tempting to use A.I. as a weapon,“ Musk said. “The danger is going to be humans using it against each other.”

Musk added in another part of the podcast, “I tried to convince people to slow down, slow down A.I., to regulate A.I,” Musk said. “This was futile. I tried for years. Nobody listened.”

“This seems like a scene in a movie where the robots are gonna fuckin’ take over and you’re freakin’ me out,” Rogan said. “Nobody listened,” Musk said.

Musk plans to soon reveal a major development in neural-link technology

If you can’t beat A.I., join it.

That’s Musk’s basic argument for why the best-case scenario for the future of A.I. would be to find a way for humans to merge with machines. In some ways, we already have: Our smartphones could be considered extensions of ourselves.

But this relationship with A.I. suffers from a bandwidth problem.

“You just can’t communicate through fingers, it’s too slow,” Musk said.

The goal is to vastly improve the communication channel between our biological and digital selves, something that could be achieved through neural-link technology, which could help control the evolution of both mankind and A.I. over the long term.

“From a long-term existential standpoint, that’s like the purpose of neural link, is to create a high-bandwidth interface to the brain such that we can be symbiotic with A.I.,” Musk said. “Because we have a bandwidth problem—you just can’t communicate through fingers, it’s too slow.”

Rogan asked about the current state of neural link.

“I think we’ll have something interesting to announce in a few months that’s at least an order of magnitude better than anything else, probably better than anyone thinks is possible,” Musk said.

Not wanting “jump the gun” on giving further details, Musk offered a general long-term vision for what the technology might look like: one that adds an artificial third layer of cognition to the brain—an “A.I. extension of yourself”—that works in a symbiotic relationship with the cortex and limbic system. He continued:

“That could be quite a positive outcome for the future. It will enable anyone who wants to have superhuman cognition. Anyone who wants [it]. This is not a matter of earning power because your earning power would be vastly greater after you do it, so, it’s just like anyone who wants can just do it, in theory. That’s the theory. And if that’s the case, and let’s say billions of people do it, then the outcome will be the sum of human will. The sum of billions of people’s desire for the future.”

Society is playing a "crazy game" with the planet

Musk said that implementing electric cars sooner rather than later should be a priority in the shift toward more sustainable energy.

“We’re really playing a crazy game here with the atmosphere and the oceans. We’re taking vast amounts of carbon from deep underground and putting this [...] in the atmosphere, this is crazy. We should not do this. It’s very dangerous. We should accelerate the transition to sustainable energy. I mean the bizarre thing is that obviously we’re going to run out of oil in the long term. There’s only so much oil we can mine and burn. That’s tautological, we must have a sustainable energy transport and energy infrastructure in the long term. So we know that’s the end point, we know that. So why run this crazy experiment where we take trillions of tons of carbon from underground and put it in the atmosphere and oceans. This is an insane experiment. It’s the dumbest experiment in human history. Why are we doing this? It’s crazy.”

The online landscape is a projection of the id

The most successful online platforms, Musk says, are ones that resonate with our limbic system—a part of the brain that deals primarily with emotion, stimulation, and memory. These systems, such as social media, represent an increasing share of society’s total intelligence.

“Imagine all those things, the sort of primal drives, there’s all the things that we like and hate and fear, they’re all there on the internet,” Musk said. “They’re a projection of our limbic system.”

Once A.I. becomes dangerous, it will be too late to regulate it

It takes many years of commissions, rule-making, and implementation before the government actually begins regulating an industry, Musk said. Using seat belt laws in the automobile industry as an example, he noted that it took a decade before regulations were actually put in place.

“This time frame is not relevant to A.I.,” Musk said. “You can’t [regulate it] 10 years from the point at which it’s dangerous. It’s too late.”

Still, it’s anyone’s guess as to what happens when A.I. reaches something like critical mass, or the so-called singularity.

“It’s hard to predict, like a black hole, what happens past the event horizon. Once the genie’s out of the bottle, what’s going to happen? [...] It could be terrible, and it could be great. It’s not clear. One thing is for sure: We will not control it.”

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Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder found that the fatty 10(Z)-hexadecenoic acid from the soil-residing bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae aids immune cells in blocking pathways that increase inflammation and the ability to combat stress.

The study's senior author and Integrative Physiology Professor Christopher Lowry described this fat as "one of the main ingredients" in the "special sauce" that causes the beneficial effects of the bacterium.

The finding goes hand in hand with the "hygiene hypothesis," initially proposed in 1989 by the British scientist David Strachan. He maintained that our generally sterile modern world prevents children from being exposed to certain microorganisms, resulting in compromised immune systems and greater incidences of asthma and allergies.

Contemporary research fine-tuned the hypothesis, finding that not interacting with so-called "old friends" or helpful microbes in the soil and the environment, rather than the ones that cause illnesses, is what's detrimental. In particular, our mental health could be at stake.

"The idea is that as humans have moved away from farms and an agricultural or hunter-gatherer existence into cities, we have lost contact with organisms that served to regulate our immune system and suppress inappropriate inflammation," explained Lowry. "That has put us at higher risk for inflammatory disease and stress-related psychiatric disorders."

University of Colorado Boulder

Christopher Lowry

This is not the first study on the subject from Lowry, who published previous work showing the connection between being exposed to healthy bacteria and mental health. He found that being raised with animals and dust in a rural environment helps children develop more stress-proof immune systems. Such kids were also likely to be less at risk for mental illnesses than people living in the city without pets.

Lowry's other work also pointed out that the soil-based bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae acts like an antidepressant when injected into rodents. It alters their behavior and has lasting anti-inflammatory effects on the brain, according to the press release from the University of Colorado Boulder. Prolonged inflammation can lead to such stress-related disorders as PTSD.

The new study from Lowry and his team identified why that worked by pinpointing the specific fatty acid responsible. They showed that when the 10(Z)-hexadecenoic acid gets into cells, it works like a lock, attaching itself to the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR). This allows it to block a number of key pathways responsible for inflammation. Pre-treating the cells with the acid (or lipid) made them withstand inflammation better.

Lowry thinks this understanding can lead to creating a "stress vaccine" that can be given to people in high-stress jobs, like first responders or soldiers. The vaccine can prevent the psychological effects of stress.

What's more, this friendly bacterium is not the only potentially helpful organism we can find in soil.

"This is just one strain of one species of one type of bacterium that is found in the soil but there are millions of other strains in soils," said Lowry. "We are just beginning to see the tip of the iceberg in terms of identifying the mechanisms through which they have evolved to keep us healthy. It should inspire awe in all of us."

Check out the study published in the journal Psychopharmacology.