Episode 0053 · June 22, 2023

The podcast about what to do next.

Vaccines vs. Boredom

[Unedited Transcript]

Rich Ziade: [00:00:00] Go.

Paul Ford: I’m

a doctor. Uh, I’m a I’m a scientific professional and I think vaccines are really important and that what I heard the other day when R FK Jr. Went on the Joe Rogan show and said, the vaccines are bad. I heard, I think that’s really, really dangerous that he said that. And I’m gonna tell the world that.

Rich Ziade: okay, where are you gonna tell the world, Paul?

Paul Ford: telling him on Twitter right now. You, this is


Rich Ziade: great choice, Paul.

Paul Ford: a wonderful public platform that anyone can participate

Rich Ziade: Town Square, Paul.

Paul Ford: So then all of a sudden, Joe Rogan’s like, come on the show and we’re gonna, we’ll have a debate between you and R F K.

Rich Ziade: Hmm. Nothing like a spirited debate.

Paul Ford: I’m

not gonna do that.

Rich Ziade: Why not?

Paul Ford: Because it’s ridiculous.

Rich Ziade: [00:01:00] Robert F. Kennedy Jr. A very vocal, anti-vaccine advocate. Uh, went on Joe Rogan and sort of made his case


then a very well regarded, um, doctor around the pandemic and vaccinations and whatnot.

And I think he runs a clinic in Texas. If I’m not, I forget his name. Um, Came out and said, this is really dangerous. Like a lot of people died for no good reason because of misleading information like this. Like effectively saying, I couldn’t convince people to get vaccinated and I watched him die and that’s too bad.

Paul Ford: this really happened. this happened.

My friend’s brother, she just,


was like a hard, he went hardcore, right? Maga. Yeah. And

he wouldn’t get

Rich Ziade: to do with it. Covid

Paul Ford: and dead.

Rich Ziade: Yeah, and this story plays out again, and there’s all these terrible, terribly sad videos of people on their deathbed who like three weeks [00:02:00] prior were making, you know, TikTok and Instagram posts about the vaccines,

Paul Ford: every, everybody changes


mind when they see the grim Reaper open the door.

It’s right. Everybody’s like, Hey, hey, actually, you know what? Maybe there’s something to science after all. Yeah. And so,

Rich Ziade: and so this guy, um,

you know, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Said his piece about vaccines being terrible. He also said wifi and 5G is terrible.

Paul Ford: God, it is though. You know, I think we need to just, he’s right about that.

Not for the reasons he thinks.

Rich Ziade: Just the content coming over the wifi. Yeah. Yes. Fair

Paul Ford: You should

not be able to stream unlimited YouTube on a bus. I don’t think it’s Good


Rich Ziade: I think you’re right. I think that is

Paul Ford: I was watching, I watched Twitch on the subway. It came in and out.

Rich Ziade: You’re a professional, well-known writer. What are you doing watching Twitch? Well, this is not what this podcast, we’re gonna have another podcast where you’re gonna explain to me,

Paul Ford: are messing with sins, man.

And Twitch isn’t just video games. All right,


Rich Ziade: so he comes on and this doctor responds.

He’s like, you just can’t say this. And then [00:03:00] the big move was Joe Rogan.

Paul Ford: Mm-hmm.

Rich Ziade: You know,

Paul Ford: a large animated pile of ground beef

Rich Ziade: comes on Twitter and says, then why don’t we have a debate?

Paul Ford: Why do

Rich Ziade: we have a debate? So here’s the thing about that. First off, Brilliant move by Joe Rogan.

Paul Ford: Oh,

Rich Ziade: Oh,

sure. I mean, nothing like a good fight.

Yeah. Right. And an incredibly polarizing topic. Um, uh, and you could have him on here and we can we just fight it out? I mean, it’s just the po the ultimate sort of wrestling promoter move.

Paul Ford: mean, this is the thing you’re, you’re talking about the difference between someone who’s like, I enjoy the process of peer review, and another guy who’s like, I buy entire garbage cans full of protein powder.

Right? Like,

this is,


is the world you’re in

Rich Ziade: Robert F. Kennedy buys protein powder. He doesn’t look that


Paul Ford: He’s doing

pretty good, but Rogan.

Rich Ziade: [00:04:00] good. Let me ask you this. Do you think he should debate him?

Paul Ford: No. Why?


we live in a world of FI for there is no upside. Okay? Here’s the thing. Everybody thinks that debate this. Lemme put it out there. I’m a free speech absolutist at a governmental level. I believe that America, the First Amendment, I take it seriously. Mm-hmm. And I’ll go so far. If you tell me that people I find completely repulsive, let’s not even say the Klan. Let’s say like, people who are like fat Irish men should be executed in the Times Square.

In, in, in the square, right? Mm-hmm. Not in Times Square, cuz it’s, that’s Disney now.

Rich Ziade: happens every other day anyway in Times

Paul Ford: but people were like Paul Ford.


a menace to society. They do have the right to say

that. Okay.


don’t have the right to put my address up. They don’t have the right to say I, I do think they don’t have the right to sort of, in the, the the crowded theater thing, they don’t have the right

to like say, go kill Paul and his family.

I, I think like that’s, that’s incitement.

Rich Ziade: are actually known [00:05:00] exceptions to free speech.

Paul Ford: That’s right. However, I really still am, despite all the drama and the conversations about what free speech, what are the limits of free speech and so

on. I,

I’m basically an absolutist. I have never moved from that.

So here I am. I believe in free speech.


Platforms do not guarantee free speech. I think it’s ridiculous. I think Twitter is a commercial entertainment product that happens to also be

an open

forum, and everybody’s sort of like,


I don’t believe in the marketplace of ideas because I.

I don’t believe that people change their minds very often.

Rich Ziade: They don’t. And we have seen. Uh, really savvy media personalities know exactly how to ramp up the heat around these

Paul Ford: Th this is the thing, right. So like that doctor does not have the tools to participate. In this co

and you know, like I I have a lot of empathy for this because I can lean in and I [00:06:00] can move really fast on my feet sometimes, but for the most part,


pretty slow



I think I like you.

Rich Ziade: you’re not adversarial.

Paul Ford: Yeah,

Rich Ziade: don’t like, it’s like, oh boy, you’re where you are and I need to go

Paul Ford: Let’s, let’s get, or let’s find a middle ground. You will get in there for the


Rich Ziade: I will get in, I, I, I think pretty fast on my feet, and I will get in there

Paul Ford: for the, yeah. Now I can riff, I can keep things moving and I can do jazz hands, but like, but, and then there’s like kind of like college debate and so on and so forth.

But What, I notice how, what we’re talking about here, you can argue any point. You could, you, you tend to choose things that are factually based and, and sort of focused in reality, and you’re a relatively empathetic human being, but like, if you’re in attack mode, it’s dangerous, you know? And, and so

Rich Ziade: been, you could be, if, if you’re good at sort of the reto, rhetorical,


of sparring, you could manipulate just about

Paul Ford: anything. This is, this is why the entire sort of like free speech marketplace

of [00:07:00] ideas

concept drives me bananas because what it really says is let the person who is the best at


manipulation win should win in the battle of ideas. And that has never been the truth in all of human history. Those people do win.


And then like, you know, 50 years later somebody’s writing a PhD about how they actually,


know, then, and that led to like genocide or women didn’t get to go back into the workforce . Rhetoric is, rhetoric helps slavery stick around that didn’t. Yeah. And, and if you ask those people back, I mean, we’re in, we’re in Brooklyn, abolitionist Center of America.

In the, during, during the end of slavery, if you asked anyone outside of Brooklyn,


be like, wow. It’s just a lot of. Stuff on both sides. Right. You know, just,

Rich Ziade: yeah, yeah, yeah. And then always since the beginning of history.

Paul Ford: Do you think the doctor should

debate him?

Rich Ziade: I don’t, and I’ll tell you why I don’t think [00:08:00] he should. Uh, the reason I don’t think he should is because, um, expertise and knowledge is like thousands and thousands of layers.

Of information that is delicately laid, delicately laid on top of thousands and thousands of layers of other information, expertise, and knowledge as we seek it out. And if you look at, you know, science and how science wants to get to the right answer,

it’s a slog and it’s really boring. And it’s really, there are, there are doctors, there are researchers out there who will chase the thing for six years.

And then they get peer reviewed and I was like, mm, no, it’s not that compelling. And there are other issues with it.

Paul Ford: Have

you ever seen those people try to like, talk to the press?

Rich Ziade: It’s hard,

Paul Ford: they, they, well,

they’re desperate. There’s a few things that happen. One is you’re desperate not to betray your [00:09:00] discipline.

Okay. So

you have to, like,

you literally, when they talk to, I’ve been the journalist on the other side of this, they footnote everything and you’re like,


don’t need all that, man.

I just need you to

Rich Ziade: no, no, no. They’re, they’re scared, right? And,


and, and so it’s like, okay, wow. That is, that is, first off, it’s boring, but at the same time, Just go read about somebody who lived in the 1890s.

They probably lost a sibling. They probably lost a parent over like nothing over like, you know, a bad glass of water, right? Strep throat, right? And so what you have is this incredibly fast body of knowledge that’s been built up over time that has allowed us to effectively go to the doctor for things that used to kill us, not a thousand years ago, a hundred years

Paul Ford: Let me tell you two things about human nature.

You know, recently we had bad air in New York City for two days

Rich Ziade: we did

Paul Ford: And everybody was

Rich Ziade: wildfires in Canada. Yeah.

Paul Ford: And everybody was like, wow, you know, two days we had a bad air [00:10:00] for 45 days in California.

It’s like,

okay, we have bad air here today, et cetera, so that that whole dynamic emerges where it’s like, you know, you didn’t pay attention to us.

Which isn’t true. The bad air in California was on the cover of the Times, like

Rich Ziade: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Paul Ford: Okay, so,


there is a reality which is we didn’t live it. And we didn’t really feel it. And it was happening to people out there. And you felt bad. Yeah. But it wasn’t really your thing. And the same, the same was true of like Covid, I thought New York City, like everybody would see how bad Covid was going in New York City.

People dying ambulances, like container trucks outside of old,

uh, outside of old folks’ homes. Bad stuff. Right. Refrigerated trucks

nobody saw.

They were like, ah, it’s New York City. That’s gonna be honest. And I think the same actually also that thing that that moment of, of distance is also true.

Historically. We’re like,


it’s not like that anymore.



Rich Ziade: I think you’re, you’re totally right. And, and, and the progress,

Paul Ford: the,

Rich Ziade: the progress that we’ve seen has been so incremental. So now this guy wants you to come [00:11:00] in to his radio show and somehow distill down what is in a lifetime’s worth of like, Information and knowledge and research. This guy’s committed his whole life to it, and I don’t think he’s a rich dude. This guy’s not on the board of any company, right?

Paul Ford: like






and like he just

sort of,

Rich Ziade: yeah, and, and, and I think there’s another dangerous component. That’s why it’s unwinnable.

Paul Ford: Uh, well

look, it’s like being asked. Listen, finish your thought

then I have something I

Rich Ziade: Well, I, I think the internet is, is not optimized for abstracts off of journal articles. The internet is optimized for 12 seconds of gotcha’s and Right, and, and what an RFK knows and credit to him, just as like other media figures know and politicians know, is you gimme a good soundbite and I can punch in the mouth and you won’t get up for a

Paul Ford: lemme give you an example.

I’m a doctor and

I study traumatic brain injury and I say CTE is really bad and football players are, are a terrible risk. Okay? And then you turn to me and you [00:12:00] go, okay, let’s settle it on the grid iron.

That’s what just happened


Okay. We just, We we, we think that one set of knowledge is equivalent to the ability of like, rhetoric and performative ability.

Rich Ziade: That’s what’s happening

Paul Ford: that’s you. B it’s, it’s, like, I think boxing can cause really bad brain injury too. You, you know, let’s see what Mike Tyson you had to say about it in the ring. And it’s like, you’ve, you’ve, it’s promoters. It’s, these are boxing promoters saying we’re gonna get you guys in the ring.

Who cares if the doctor gets his head ripped off? Cuz I’m gonna make money either way.

Rich Ziade: Rogan. I mean, it’s a brilliant move. Yeah, I mean, I, I’ve seen him, he’s, he’s,


not a fan, but he’s a very, very good interviewer.

Paul Ford: He’s savvy

about what he is and what his audience is. He knows his craft.

Rich Ziade: knows his craft, and he frankly lets you talk for minutes on end. Like he’s very unusual that way.

He, he kind of lets it happen. And his whole thing is like, this is an open forum. Let’s all talk it out. And the truth is, if you really wanted to talk it out and he brings out those graphs and charts and stuff, it is [00:13:00] boring as all hell. The truth is boring, man. You know what else is boring? Heart surgery.

Paul Ford: Yeah, no, I know. You know, the most

boring of all climate change. It’s so boring. It’s all

Rich Ziade: all boring. Really?


is boring.

Paul Ford: Oh

my God. It’s so, it’s so boring that I just kind of gave up. I’m like, well, this is really bad. It’s obviously gonna happen. I’m gonna bring this home. I’m gonna bring this all home.


ready? This is ai, this is what the promise of AI is. It’s the ultimate shortcut.

Rich Ziade: It’s

the ultimate

Paul Ford: Okay. So you know what? I don’t want to debate you. I’m gonna just let the AI do it for me. I mean, that’s, that’s, that’s where we’re at. We’re at this zone where it’s like, I don’t know,


Google, random stochastic robot. Yeah. Tell me about vaccines.

Rich Ziade: That’s right. That’s right. And, And,

Paul Ford: and,

Rich Ziade: and,

I think we are reaching a point where expertise and like deep knowledge [00:14:00] is under threat. Like the judgment of those that have committed 50, 60 years of their lives, 30 years of their lives is

Paul Ford: threat.

Well, here’s, here’s what’s very tricky here. I think the infrastructure support and the scale


our knowledge generating industries and spaces,


academy the sciences and so on,


has more people doing more work than ever before.

There are more people working in pharma than there were a hundred years ago.

Yeah. Okay. So you do have, the knowledge is being generated, the work is happening, the patents are being written, et cetera, et cetera. IBM is still out there consulting, like everybody, but the media used to be for the most part, A communicator like it was supposed to take that stuff and surface it, not influence it and like, yeah, every now and then you’d have a, like there’s some really serious questions that people have about vaccines, but you didn’t have these sort of like relentless platforms that people could opt in into fully by the millions, sometimes by the thousands.

Rich Ziade: a good point.

Paul Ford: get [00:15:00] a newsletter that tells me the vaccines are evil.

Rich Ziade: not just that vaccines are bad for you. It’s that there is a grand conspiracy around them. There were dark rooms where people may struck deals so that everyone could get vaccinated, so they could like stunt your like all et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

And what is.

Paul Ford: what is

Rich Ziade: Shocking. It’s not shocking is that you can tune into that channel and live in it for years.

Paul Ford: Well, I think it’s also, it’s excruciating to realize how trivial you are in the scheme

of things that doctor never checked with you. You know, no one


your opinion.

Rich Ziade: No.

Paul Ford: and

and these new forms of media are more participatory and they do ask your opinion.

They’re like, what do you, you know, there will be polls. It’s like, are vaccines good? Right? Like, and you can, you can be part of this conversation and you can go like, you know, I’ve always had

my doubts.

Rich Ziade: I, I think I want the cockpit door locked as we go through turbulence so the pilots can kind of focus on taking us through it and the crosswinds so we can land [00:16:00] safely.

I wanna be put under before the surgery, uh, because I really don’t wanna be like, Hey, doc, that, that was, that felt different than the last thing you just did. Like, could you just eat. You wanna step out of the room there. The expertise is something that requires implicit trust, and we now have a platform where we can audit everything 24 7.

Not only that, we could spin up stories around it,

Paul Ford: Okay, how

do we fix this?

Rich Ziade: Because, okay.

Paul Ford: I think the, the, initial response, the 2023 response is, it’s just unfixable, man. We just gotta spiral the drain until everything falls apart, and then maybe we can rebuild from the pieces that, that is the sort of, there’s

a despair


built into any conversation about the commons and infrastructure in this era.

Rich Ziade: I, I think, I think the first thing I would say, and this is, this is probably some of the [00:17:00] hardest advice we’ve ever been asked to give, is don’t like, uh, in engaging in the forum that frankly, flame fans, the flames doesn’t make it better.

Paul Ford: No,

Rich Ziade: Nobody’s gonna fix it on the other side. Like if, if you are.

Paul Ford: no, the fight is the product, not the knowledge.

Rich Ziade: The fight is the product. So if you are pro-vaccine, let’s say, and then there you want, you’ve decide, you know what, if I could just get in the room for two hours, I think I could turn this one

Paul Ford: Nah, it’s pointless.

Rich Ziade: not turning anything around

Paul Ford: I’m pro-vaccine. I’m not gonna have that fight.

Rich Ziade: Right. I think what I wanna turn to is the promoter. The promoter.

Paul Ford: Don King.

Rich Ziade: The Don King, okay. The Joe Rogan. Yeah.

The, the, the person that understands the power of these conflict dynamics and is ready to amplify them. I don’t even think it’s agenda, honestly. I think they’re like, this is free speech.

This is free. Um,

uh, free flow of information

Paul Ford: a recent podcast we talked about Mr.

Beast and like his

[00:18:00] giant

internet, you know, YouTube influence. Yeah.

And what he learned is that altruism on the platform is rewarded with better engagement. So if he gives

Rich Ziade: and more money,

Paul Ford: more money away,


Rich Ziade: it’s good investment.

Paul Ford: engagement, more, more money. Uh, more money to give away to grow More and more altruistic acts equals more growth and more revenue.

That’s right. Right. So you see there, there like the promotional algorithm is rewarding of what might be tacky behavior. Yeah. But is ultimately positive. People got eyesight back. We feel

good about that?


They got their hearing back. Right. Like it’s so,

Rich Ziade: but, a lot of actors use those same mechanisms for, um, that frankly kill people. I’m gonna say it. Yeah. Yeah. It actually kills people because people went bananas and we’re like, no, no, no. I’m not letting the lizard people do this to me.

I’m not injecting chip microchips into my face not happening. And then they died. Well, the incentive people died.

Paul Ford: the incentive isn’t even money. It’s attention.

[00:19:00] Right? Like if I,

that’s the incentive structure. So I’m gonna get attention on this.


there’s this assumption that if you


get enough humans in the room, the truth will come out. And that is not true.

Rich Ziade: It’s not true.

Paul Ford: I am a, like I said, I’m a free speech absolutist, but that is not,


groups of people does not lead necessarily to more knowledge.

Rich Ziade: I, I, I, I think the ship has sailed for the 45 year old, honestly. Like, uh, how do you get that person to come off that le you know, families have been ripped.

Forget people dying for a second. Families have been ripped apart over

Paul Ford: No, this

Rich Ziade: dinner table issues. Right?

Paul Ford: don’t change. I

Rich Ziade: People don’t change.

I like a good competitive match. A baseball game. A basketball game.

Paul Ford: I like a good debate from time to time. I

Rich Ziade: a good debate from time to time. Um, but to rope in, uh, to oversimplify and rope in expertise of any kind, uh, is, uh, diminishes so much about[00:20:00]

Paul Ford: what

Rich Ziade: we are about and how we progress. Like,

Paul Ford: Like,

Rich Ziade: If this keeps going right, and I want to be a researcher, I’m 16, I’m applying to colleges, and I want to be a re, I was like, God, I don’t think I want to go there.

And, and, and because it’s such a hostile, hostile environment, right? And so how do we, how do we. How do we neuter the promoters is the question. And I think one of the ways to do it is to call ’em out on it and say, I see what you’re doing here and you know what? I’m gonna leave my sort of competitive urges to watching a ballgame, man.

Paul Ford: Yeah,

that’s right.

That’s right. They don’t, they don’t want the vicious advocate. they’re they’re picking the doctor who’s nerdy. They want to, and they want to embarrass


Rich Ziade: It’s a good, it’s a good match. You ever see the, the weigh in? Yeah. That’s, that’s the ultimate promoter move. They like bring the two boxers, they kind of stand face to face and they pretend they’re gonna fight right there and then.

And they separate ’em and they make this, all this drama. They know exactly what they’re [00:21:00] doing, but the damage is real when it comes to. Information that really has been sort of delicately plucked at for like hundreds of years, and to toss it in the river for entertainment. That’s really what we have here.

So call out the promoter.

Paul Ford: The internet changed the dynamic dynamics for

transmission of stuff like this. The reality is that I was FTPing weird conspiracy theories when I was 19. It’s always been there.

Rich Ziade: It’s always been there, but now it’s optimized for

Paul Ford: well, you,

Rich Ziade: conflict and drama.

Paul Ford: map that to algorithmic engagement and it is.

I’m gonna,

I hate to say it, it’s viral. Like there’s a vi for all the anti-vaccine that

they love to do. It is a viral transmission, medium.

Rich Ziade: it’s most effective. Try to make a an abstract from a journal article. Go viral.

Paul Ford: Not gonna happen.

Rich Ziade: It’s not gonna happen.

Paul Ford: All right, so Richard who sponsors our podcast

Rich Ziade: aboard

Paul Ford: aboard.com, A

B O A R D com.

Rich Ziade: aboard.com [00:22:00] is a tool that lets you collect or organize and collaborate on anything from the internet.

And it’s real smart about what you grab off the internet and it presents it back to you beautifully.

Paul Ford: I’m gonna go out on a limb and say it’s

kind of an antiviral



Rich Ziade: I think smaller circles,

Paul Ford: We’re the vaccine of internet websites.

Rich Ziade: Uh, yes. It’s less about inflammatory rhetoric and more about good productivity.

Paul Ford: That’s what we’re about. All right, so check it out. If you wanna get in touch with us, hello,

it’s zdi ford.com.

Check us out at

Zdi ford on Twitter. We love you and we hope we’ll talk to you soon.

Rich Ziade: Have a lovely week.

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