Lex Fridman is an AI-specialized technologist who hosts a popular and insightful podcast on YouTube. What separates Lex from the rest of the researchers in his space is his humble demeanor, quiet intelligence and, most of all, his awareness and appreciation of philosophy, art and the insights of the humanities that many technologists so often scoff at. Lex Fridman is not only a scholar of AI, but he regularly references the great Russian novelists, like Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, as well as existential philosophers such as Camus and others. He’s a bit of an anomaly like that, and he plays guitar as well.
This is significant not only because of his influence in his research space, where it’s quite comforting to know that at least one major AI researcher is informed by philosophy and the ethical insights that lie therein, but because it’s so contrasting to what seems to be the prevailing mindset among hard science academics, which is a sort of derision of the humanities based in social hierarchy and the echoes of the civil war between the hard sciences and the humanities and soft sciences that’s been taking place within academia for years.
As I talked about at length in one of my mysterious journal entries, this civil war is problematic on two fronts. One, the humanities have largely been coopted by ideologues to proselytize political agendas and pet social engineering projects rather than teach critical thinking and the practical skills of media production as they were intended; and two, in a time where AI is simultaneously one of the looming existential threats to human life and also one of the most promising and significant technologies capable of greatly advancing the ability for human life to thrive and reach new heights, the ethical, moral, and humanist insights of the very works of philosopher, art and literature that Lex engages with hold the key to ensuring that the grand coin flip of AI research lands heads-up in our favor.
I’ve seen him engage with other technologists on his podcast that are ignorant and dismissive when he brings up the moral dilemmas presented in something like the works of Dostoevsky, to which I’ve seen his guests respond first with some response indicating, “never heard of it,” then when Fridman explains, their followup response being “lol, fiction. Useless garbage.” This all, despite the sad, scientifically proven benefits to fiction and the direct benefit most technologists have received from the works of science fiction writers and philosophers pioneering the concepts that they now currently study.
There is obviously a certain amount of bias with this review, as Lex’s combination of interests in technology, futurism, literature, philosophy, art, poetry and music align strongly with my philosophy of spiritual nihilism which is explained and promoted so often throughout the philosophical and essay content of this site. But it’s hard for my to try to mitigate that bias when I think so much of these ideas are important and reveal great insights about what’s possible in the future and the meaning of life, and Lex is largely on the same page. Lex Fridman seems to be heavily influenced by the worldview of Carl Sagan who, as you know, is a major figure in the philosophy we promote here (alongside, of course, the philosophy of the existentialists and the same Russian novelists that Lex is often discussing).
I think that Lex is a reasonable, highly intelligent person and we’re lucky to have him among the AI researchers who hold, with little exaggeration, the fate of the human race in their hands. His presence in that cohort calms my nerves.
Anyway, that about does it for my YouTuber review of Lex Fridman. Click here for more YouTuber reviews, click here for more essays on various topics, and click here for articles about philosophy and spirituality.