Episode 0062 · August 3, 2023

The podcast about what to do next.


[Unedited Transcript]

Paul Ford: Richard!

Rich Ziade: Paul!

Paul Ford: Ah, oh my god, you’re gonna be able to take a train. It’s gonna levitate and it’s gonna go 14, 000 miles an hour. I’m gonna make it to L. A. in 20 minutes.

Rich Ziade: I just want to make it to Queens in 40 minutes.

Paul Ford: this is actually a fair

Rich Ziade: I’m okay with that modest goal.

Paul Ford: I got one word for you, man.

Rich Ziade: Superconductors

Paul Ford: Superconductors!

Rich Ziade: are really muscular people who drive the train?

Paul Ford: They’re pretty cool, man. They can, they can, they help you with your dog, they pick up the train and throw it. Now, alright, so, let me take a step back.

Rich Ziade: Okay.

Paul Ford: Let me take two steps back.

Rich Ziade: You’re excited about

Paul Ford: Well, I’m excited about anything that isn’t climate change right now. It’s, uh, so, so, in a surreal and extremely online way. News of a [00:01:00] low probability, but not zero probability Room temperature superconductor has emerged on the internet.

Rich Ziade: All right. So you’re going to have to pick that one apart for

Paul Ford: Okay, so first let’s start. A superconductor is a material that can transmit electricity with no resistance.

Rich Ziade: Okay.

Paul Ford: Or, I guess, close to no. I’m sure it’s all wiggle room down there,

Rich Ziade: Mm hmm.

Paul Ford: And typically, they use them in MRI machines and so on. And typically, they require extreme cold. to operate. So they’re hard to, they’re hard to use, but they have certain applications when they’re MRIs.

Uh, they’re very, very good sensors. So, so by making it really cold and you know, the materials that are in MRIs that do the sensing get activated and they can see inside your brain. It’s pretty cool. Okay. So, um, And they can reduce the friction, or not the friction, but the resistance in transmitting electricity.

So, good stuff for [00:02:00] climate change. And there’s some levitating going on, they’ll actually kind of, they, they, they, it’s, it like gets rid of all the magnetism, so that’s like the old futuristic trope train.

Rich Ziade: Yeah, so this is some Holy Grail stuff.

Paul Ford: It’s flat out Holy Grail, and, and the goal is can we make something that, you know, kind of, can we do it off the shelf, you know, can we have a…

Rich Ziade: Okay, so to recap, and I’m not, I’m not a physicist or a scientist. Well, I’m guess I’m a computer scientist. call myself that.

Paul Ford: Go for it, but yes.

Rich Ziade: PHP.

Paul Ford: me too.

Rich Ziade: Um, I guess what you’re saying is today, to, to tease out the advantages and activate the value of superconductors, you, it has extreme environmental requirements, which make it just

Paul Ford: Expensive and difficult.

Rich Ziade: to really scale out and take advantage of.

Paul Ford: But in the 70s when they thought this stuff was going to work out, you have the Rand Corporation saying that you’ll be able to make a train go 14, 000 miles an hour [00:03:00] between

Rich Ziade: That sounds uncomfortable.

Paul Ford: not good. Like the people get out of the train in LA and they’re basically a slurry.

Like it’s not like

Rich Ziade: if I go in there with a hot cup of Dunkin,

Paul Ford: oh, no, it’s not good. It’s you literally come

Rich Ziade: sound like it’s going to go well.

Paul Ford: lost about 270 pounds by the time you’ve gone out here. You’re just a thin layer so so but it’s it’s a it’s a

Rich Ziade: promise. And now,

Paul Ford: would be less let’s just be clear like I’m sure there’d be Bad consequences. But in general, this is one of those things where if we could get to it, it’s kind of cure for cancer level.

Like it’s just a magical thing to contemplate.

Rich Ziade: And so just to throw it back at you in layman’s terms, Someone has put forward that they’re able to activate superconductors without those brutal environmental requirements of extremely low temperatures, etc. Essentially room temperature?

Paul Ford: have formulated

Rich Ziade: in Phoenix or room temperature in Montreal?

Paul Ford: I’m not a scientist. [00:04:00] No, but, but a Korean research group claims to have formulated

Rich Ziade: North Korean or South preprint?

Paul Ford: Korean. Yeah, claims to have formulated a room temperature superconductor. Okay. So, of course, this happened in an extremely online way where pre prints of papers were submitted by the, what appear to be overlapping groups of the same researchers. Um, so if I send a paper to Nature and it has to be peer reviewed and so on and so forth, then it gets printed in Nature, right, in the magazine.

Rich Ziade: preprint means it hasn’t been confirmed and validated by other peers

Paul Ford: have up, I have uploaded it to the ARXiv, the archive server.

Rich Ziade: Google

Paul Ford: Yeah, exactly. And it’s a preprint. Yeah, no, what is a preprint? It is a PDF.

Rich Ziade: Right. That has not been confirmed and validated by

Paul Ford: so two PDFs appear claiming to be two. Well, but it’s the same people, but one of them apparently is a researcher who kind of [00:05:00] wanted to, like, get the scoop on the other researcher.

So, look. Everybody thinks, obviously what’s going on is people think this is a big deal and they wanted to get out there and make sure their name was on the paper. And then other people were like, wait a minute, why isn’t my name on the paper? My name, so I’m going to write another

Rich Ziade: so it sounds like this went right to the internet without the peer

Paul Ford: oh, and with typos, like it’s a bit like in the title, like it,

Rich Ziade: it didn’t look good. And

Paul Ford: so it didn’t look good.

And everybody’s like, Ooh, wow, what an amazing claim, but this looks bananas. And, um, and so it’s, so, okay, so the internet is doing its internet thing. And so two things are happening. One is the, the material that they’re throwing out. It’s not that hard to fabricate if you’re like, one guy is like, I, Wired just wrote an article about him.

He’s like, I don’t know. I work at a rocket lab here in California. And I, I, I have all the right vacuum based equipment to make this thing with. I just. I just got to find some red phosphorus, which I didn’t personally I thought that was something you could get a calisteans in the city Like I don’t I [00:06:00] that big a deal.

So Okay,

Rich Ziade: so it’s, so okay, doodled. Etsy,

Paul Ford: let’s see, yes, that’s right four stars And then you get a little embroidered

Rich Ziade: Okay, so this guy who has nothing to do with the papers that were put out is trying to replicate what they

Paul Ford: Him and many other scientists around the world.

Rich Ziade: are trying to do this like live,

Paul Ford: some labs, what,

Rich Ziade: stream to pull

Paul Ford: guy live streamed a furnace, which is like, can we make Minecraft more boring? Yes, we can do it in real

Rich Ziade: worst Twitch ever.

Paul Ford: it didn’t, yeah, no, it just smoked.

Rich Ziade: Okay. So this is exciting. Is it? I mean, it’s probably too soon to say if it’s legit. It sounds like nonsense.

Paul Ford: uh, it is being treated with, look, how does science work, right? It’s, the people who are at risk here are the people who have made this claim and said they’ve solved one [00:07:00] of science’s great puzzles. Um, so here are the things that are happening, but I’m really loving watching this process, because it’s a mix of internet and science and culture, and it’s just all slam

Rich Ziade: Well, I think what’s interesting is like, I’ve read a couple of articles about it. I kind of played the Luddite here just so we could, we could reveal it. Um, and I’m learning about something I had knew nothing about, right? And, and, and

Paul Ford: have, I’m an absolute ignoramus about physics. Like, I know a little tiny, tiny

Rich Ziade: And so this is fascinating to hear. Like, I didn’t know that this was something that people have been chasing for years,

Paul Ford: Yes. Well, I just thought it was kind of, it’s one of those things like nuclear, uh, nuclear fusion where it’s kind of on the back burner. And every now and then, like, every two years, the New York Times will have an article, be like, promising developments.

Rich Ziade: too. Some similar kind of moonshot ideas.

Paul Ford: the thing with those, all those categories actually fit together.

Like nuclear fission and, or fusion and quantum computing become much simpler with [00:08:00] supercomputing. So it’s this sort of like big key in the lock.

Rich Ziade: Fine. But is this… Real.

Paul Ford: I don’t know, that’s not my job. I’m just having a good time. Now, now, here’s, there are things pointing to it being more real, but we’re in this wacky zone. So traditionally, right, you’d have a couple months. You’d go peer review, and apparently the paper was already submitted. And, you know, scientists like to, they like to turn, turn the screw very, very calmly so you don’t cause any fr Get a little, little tiny pens and little notebooks and just organize the worms.

That’s what scientists do. And so now you’ve got the internet going, I’ll make it in my furnace like Minecraft. Like I’m an elf mage. Like, just like, and then you have research groups in China, uh, research groups in America, individuals, um, people in Russia, all trying to make the thing. And then, of course,

Rich Ziade: that Canada’s laying low.

Paul Ford: we’ll see.

We’ll see what happens. They’re good at [00:09:00] furnaces. So then you have, um, video showing up. Uh, where, you know, as a lay, as a lay person, you’re just like, it is like a tiny squiggle. If they told me this is the future of like, we have created, we’ve cloned a nematode, you know, or just, I’d be like, Oh, okay. That’s what it looks like.

I don’t know what the hell I’m looking at. I’m seeing a little squiggle

Rich Ziade: yeah.

Paul Ford: of flop around. Now they, they did show a. This is what they said could be a levitating little bit of rock and levitation is a big sign of superconductivity.

Rich Ziade: be the magnetic properties

Paul Ford: I’m, I mean, here we are, right? Here we are. So I, I don’t even want to believe I’m just watching this happen and I’ll tell you what’s happening to me.

So first of all, okay, I mean, I’d be really cool if this happened.

what’s interesting is, you know, it’s been feeling real gloomy.

Rich Ziade: What has?

Paul Ford: The world.

Rich Ziade: Climate change, wars,

Paul Ford: the fact that we’re just not getting it together. And [00:10:00] first of all, there is just, there’s a beautiful fantasy here of a little bit of a get out of jail free card.

Rich Ziade: I mean, everybody loves that

Paul Ford: I mean, just that, that, and it made me think, you know, at some level. This won’t change humanity. Everybody thinks it will. They’ll be like, oh my god, the trains will be so

Rich Ziade: No, it won’t.

Paul Ford: It could be a band aid for certain problems that we’ve created for ourselves. It won’t fix climate. It could take, let’s say if it was, even if it worked perfectly, you’re still looking at years, decades, before you can have all the new technologies come online.

Rich Ziade: Yeah,

Paul Ford: right now you have a blob of

Rich Ziade: look, it’s important to be hopeful, no matter what’s happening. So there is that

Paul Ford: I, I

Rich Ziade: where we’re optimistic. In fact, probably a little too optimistic. I got a lot of people react to climate change with like, yeah, it’s bad. But you know, humans have had to wriggle their way out of these jams before,

Paul Ford: man, I mean, we do get ourselves into pickles, but then there’s also that is why we heal from bad things, because like any species worth its salt would be, Hey, I saw a world war two and I just think [00:11:00] we probably should eat ourselves into the sun because that was bad. Like we shouldn’t be around. We should give the squirrels a chance.

Yeah. So, so I think like we do compress the past and we do sort of move on and that’s good for us. I think for me what’s been really really fun is to See something and it’s not even that I am hopeful because who knows maybe it’s like maybe it could work But I don’t know. It’s just it does seem they are doing some Validation of the basic theory and science behind it and saying like okay these properties of these materials could be super conductive We’re not it’s not completely in whack a doodle zone, but who knows what could really come

Rich Ziade: I think what most people don’t know is that a lot of physics is theoretical and not proven out. And there’s like, we don’t know everything like, and, and so when they’re, when they’re, you’re seeing weird reactions occur, we have. Like theories about why they occur, but we don’t have all the theories like we have not discovered everything yet

Paul Ford: [00:12:00] extremely smart humans, are a lot dumber than you think. And often a lot smarter than anyone gives them credit for. We kind of always get it wrong, right?

Rich Ziade: don’t know a lot You know when I when I read about like I read an old You know history book about how like, you know, some famous figure like half their siblings died from like

Paul Ford: Cholera.

Rich Ziade: like basic cold Yeah, and it tells you like back then they probably viewed It’s like modern medical science as a miracle,

Paul Ford: had a high school teacher who was like, he always would refer to what he referred to as, uh, food heroes. The first guy who was like, I wonder how that mushroom tastes. Okay, the last ten guys died. But then this guy was like, that one actually is amazing! And he’s sitting there in a pot, standing there, caveman in a pile of corpses, holding one mushroom, going, this one’s good!

Rich Ziade: So, you know, we don’t know and we’re exploring and there’s optimism and it’s the Internet and and it’s also it’s it’s[00:13:00]

Paul Ford: And I will say, re…

Rich Ziade: got a little bit of the like, you know Be a scientist kit for like 13 year olds vibe

Paul Ford: the best, and it’s, it’s just sort of like, so there’s absolute chaos on Twitter and people are like, writing what they’re, they’re saying, like, well, I’m going to just fictionalize this whole thing, and then people are screaming at themselves, and then you go to the Wikipedia page, and it’s very good, you know, like

Rich Ziade: long live wikipedia

Paul Ford: And so, like, go to the Wikipedia page for, uh, LK99N,

Rich Ziade: Yeah

Paul Ford: which is the name of the material. But I’ll tell you what this does for me, looking at this thing. It gives me, it reminds me of the original optimism and connection I feel around technology. I feel that…

Rich Ziade: Alright. That sense

Paul Ford: That sense of hope. Remember the first time you booted up the computer, and it was your computer.

And you saw that screen, and you’re like, I’m going to get to do anything I want here. I have to learn it.

Rich Ziade: Yeah.

Paul Ford: But I get to do things I never could do before.

Rich Ziade: draw in BASIC. My [00:14:00] BASIC code would draw up airplanes.

Paul Ford: too. Stuff like that, right? And I’m going to build, somehow you get a sense that you’re going to build a better person and a better world. And you’re going to figure it out from there. And look, life goes on. Things happen. The people run into the capital wearing Viking hats. Like, it is what it is. We’re humans.

But… I, and I think there is a zone right now that we’re in where we go, well that didn’t work out and therefore all optimism and all excitement about technology is unfounded and really we should only interrogate things and kind of slow progress down as much as we can because it just gets so bad and it’s You know, we’re burning a lot of fossil fuels, we’re making the world worse, and it’s really nice to be reminded of the fact that as tool using humans, uh, we get stuff done, we do accomplish things, we make

Rich Ziade: I like your attitude about this. It’s an optimistic attitude. A lot of technology. And when I think about technology, I think about like how we. Uh, how we use it at scale to [00:15:00] treat each other terribly. It’s how I think of technology. Like, it used to be more about knowledge and information and, and, uh, additive.

And, and now a lot of it is just, you know, just bad, bad stuff.

Paul Ford: Listen, this stuff, they’re gonna make super railguns and shoot, you know, 500 ton lead bullets into other people’s houses, right? Like, I mean, it’s all,

Rich Ziade: Yeah. I mean, uh, Here’s what this is all making me think of. It’s a little less optimistic than you. Do you remember we recorded a podcast a couple months ago?

Paul Ford: I don’t remember anything that happened more than five minutes ago, but I’m assuming, assuming we did.

Rich Ziade: Let me sum it up for you. Uh. The truth is a slog and really, really boring.

Paul Ford: Oh God, is it?

Rich Ziade: And there are no shortcuts.

Paul Ford: especially when it comes to physics.

Rich Ziade: has shades of convenient conspiracy theory. It has shades of, um, side road around COVID. [00:16:00] It has shades of a lot of that. Why?

Paul Ford: to

Rich Ziade: triggers the, like, salt, fat, and sugar mechanisms of the internet. It’s the same, same taste buds, right?

Paul Ford: same, same taste buds. I feel bad for this

Rich Ziade: I feel bad for the guy who has the draft that has been revised for the last three years and is nervous about putting it in front of his peers. And then he’s watching all this go on. Ha ha ha ha ha! He just keeps moving! Move in the little box.

Paul Ford: literally everyone is going to be, if, let’s say it does work, small chance, but let’s say like magic happens, right? Everyone’s going to be like, just like that overnight, everything changed.

Rich Ziade: God for Twitter threads.

Paul Ford: Twitter thread. Wow, I learned about this on Twitter. I guess it finally

Rich Ziade: Exactly. So, you know, right now, and you know what worries me about, first off, what worries me about that kind of environment, is it kind of takes all the oxygen out of the room for the people [00:17:00] who actually need to patiently pick away at the thing for five years. Like, no one pays attention to them. Number one.

Number two, These things, like with COVID, it was the most awful outcome, which is it killed a bunch of people. All this nonsense killed a bunch of people. That’s not, hopefully won’t happen

Paul Ford: Oh, like the fast twitch, like, you know, drink some chlorine, you know,

Rich Ziade: Or just pure, like pure denial, because it’s going to kill you, right? If you take the virus, it’s going to make you, you know, infertile or something. Sorry, the vaccine will make you infertile. So that killed people. That was the worst possible outcome. But a lot of it is frankly, just so noisy and nonsensical that like, there’s no room for the, frankly, It is boring as all

Paul Ford: Oh, well, it’s you spend your time essentially what it all reverts to is a kind of conspiracy narrative like a kind of ironic conspiracy narrative and you’re like, you know, this

Rich Ziade: this just validates, first off, how so forward looking. We are futurists. The fact that we had this podcast two months ago, and now it’s being validated by little magnets popping up

Paul Ford: [00:18:00] look, but not popping up fully, just

Rich Ziade: Okay, you’re not popping up fully, exactly. There’s another topic we talked about that is what’s kind of ringing in my head now as well, which is the sort of Uncertified expertise that comes with being a user on the internet

Paul Ford: It is. Well, and it’s, it’s also we’ve lost the Meaningful blue check and gone for the for pay Blue check . So I don’t know who’s who. Like there’s one guy on there who’s, you know, he says he’s a high energy physicist. That’s

Rich Ziade: a lot of people telling you they have PhDs on Twitter right

Paul Ford: I got to tell you though, man, I, yes, the, the pharma industry, et cetera, et cetera.

And there’s all these things that are wrong and bad in the world, but boy, do I take a shot every week that helps me keep my body under control.

Rich Ziade: Well, tell me what that some people are listening this podcast for the very

Paul Ford: No, no one’s listening for the first time. Uh, it’s called Manjaro and it’s, it’s one of those, um, semi glutide, um, uh, for,

Rich Ziade: of many many many years of science and

Paul Ford: and FDA approval and peer review.

And now, you know, I saw my [00:19:00] endocrinologist, I’m diabetic type two, but I’m fully treated. Like everything, my, my. I’m losing lots of weight. I’m exercising more. A lot is going really well for me and all, all my, uh, core sort of indicators are just like right there. He’s like, you’re right there in the blue.

And then he said, he said something amazing, which was, there’s never been a better time to be morbidly obese. So that’s, thanks Doc. Um, but he’s like, Oh, next year. And he named it. And it was like, Sperflakaflied. He’s like, Oh, that one, man, that’s, you’re going

Rich Ziade: There’s another drug

Paul Ford: He’s like another 5%. Here we go. Yeah. He’s, they’re just going to keep this.

We’re on this incremental path where we’re going to be able to say, I can get you to a healthy body with these,

Rich Ziade: Right and it’s worth noting these innovations didn’t happen On Twitch, or on Twitter, and they take years and years to break through.

Paul Ford: They represent,

Rich Ziade: boring and cynical here, I hope this is like, I hope this is like, you know, antibiotic. Like, they left the petri dish out, yeah, they left the penicillin, the petri dish out, and it’s like, wait a [00:20:00] second, it can happen.

It can happen. Um, and I hope it happens because I think maybe we can use it. Hopefully we won’t use it to make bombs, but we might make bombs with it. There’s that too. Put

Paul Ford: no, no, it’s not, it’s not bombs. It’s like rail guns. Like you can just accelerate enormous amounts of stuff. Very, no,

Rich Ziade: but great.

Paul Ford: no, right there. Absolutely. Right there. Right there.

Rich Ziade: Um, okay. So I hope it comes together because we’re going to need some invention to get out of the mess a little bit.

Paul Ford: it’d be, it’d be nice to get, but the, yeah, it does raise the question like, what if we got that, then what’s the next get outta jail free.

We need, ’cause it’s, it’s, it just gets, like, it’s not, we don’t, we don’t not gonna fix society with this. We’ll just make a much faster, more hectic society and then we’ll need like mega conductivity. Uh, and, but you know, no, I’m with you. Look, I don’t.

Rich Ziade: Nothing is,

Paul Ford: Here’s the thing. It seems like there’s more smoke than there was a week ago, right?

It’s not [00:21:00] being identified as a complete fraud just yet. Some labs I’ve never heard of are saying they validate it. Let’s say it is real. Now you have the like, can we mass produce this? Does it really work consistently?

Rich Ziade: does it get? How does it become useful?

Paul Ford: then it really, and it’s like, cool, now we can have levitating trains. We’ll try to dig a tunnel in America for less than 36 billion,

Rich Ziade: Yeah. And so let’s end it with, there are no shortcuts,

Paul Ford: are no shortcuts. Here’s what I would say. If this is real and that’s a huge if,

Rich Ziade: Yeah.

Paul Ford: and we could be in a position to have an enlightened policy, what is exciting about this? This is going to both sound cynical, but I think you’ll actually see why it’s optimistic. This is a thing, a new technology like this, and this is also true of the internet, it’s true of the medication I’m taking.

It aligns the common good with greed.

Rich Ziade: that good?

Paul Ford: It’s good because I don’t know of a more fundamental force in humans than fundamental… Humans will…

Rich Ziade: of the most pro capitalist [00:22:00] things you’ve ever

Paul Ford: Or not, look, a human will hold on to a piece of gold while you punch them in the face. They will, you know, and then they’ll die.

Rich Ziade: I completely

Paul Ford: They’ll die, right? And

Rich Ziade: For better or worse, like, and there is worse, because greed can sometimes lead to terrible suffering around the world.

Paul Ford: You look, Eli Lilly’s shareholders want me to lose weight

Rich Ziade: Yeah.

Paul Ford: and be healthy. Um, the internet early days as it became commercialized, people wanted me to communicate more and more with the people in my community as much as possible. And so in this case, I think you have a, you know. Lower cost transportation that emits less fossil fuel exhaust, and you know, things like that.

Rich Ziade: mad run to monetize innovation means that often good outcomes can happen. Sometimes they, they, when, when steam engines came together and the rail lines were laid down, everybody’s like, the world’s a better place. Like now, they didn’t look that far out to say, wait a minute, we’re putting all this smoke in the air, [00:23:00] it probably is going to be bad later.

Paul Ford: can’t get

Rich Ziade: But for now, I can see my cousin Louise In three hours and she’s in Cleveland

Paul Ford: then the phone.

Rich Ziade: and the phone, all of it. Right. And so near term, we tend to find the, the like pat, the good path. Right. And then later the invoice shows up and it’s like, Hmm, woof. That was, I didn’t expect that.

Paul Ford: why government exists to,

Rich Ziade: that bill.

Paul Ford: government exists to pay that bill, right?

Rich Ziade: It

Paul Ford: why we have a government in a capitalist society. No, so that’s, that’s the way I see it. I think that what I’m optimistic about is if there’s anything real here, it’s exciting because it’s really aligned with immense amounts of human greed and that, and like that, then it

Rich Ziade: agree with you, and that could be good for the world. I, I, I’m, I’m, I’m a believer in that because I think fundamentally, human aspiration and human ambition is where, what, what brings people, uh, what takes people forward, frankly.

Paul Ford: nice. We like to take care of our families and then we go out and [00:24:00] we fight for it. Right?

Rich Ziade: yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, exactly,

Paul Ford: look, that’s, it’s an exciting and interesting thing that happened by the time people listen to this podcast. It may be disproven, but you know, but, uh, go out, check out the Wikipedia page.

Um, everybody’s having a good time thinking about a better future and, you know, dip in because there’s going to be weeks where we’re not looking at a better future and it’s good to remember.

Rich Ziade: Yeah. Um, this podcast is sponsored by Aboard at aboard. com. A tool to help you collect,

Paul Ford: check

Rich Ziade: organize, and collaborate. Um, it just brings order out of all the chaos of the internet. Uh, it’s really, really cool. Check it out at aboard. com. And check us out, Ziadi and Ford advisors, ziadiford. com. And on, Give us five stars on your favorite podcasting application.

Paul Ford: application. Couldn’t have said it better myself. All right, Richard.

Rich Ziade: Have a lovely week. [00:25:00]

More Ziade+Ford Advisors
RSSApple PodcastSpotify