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The Impact of Coronavirus on the Way We Live with Dr. Nicholas Christakis

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Jason Hartman is joined by Dr. Nicholas Christakis, professor and author of Apollo’s Arrow: The Profound and Enduring Impact of Coronavirus on the Way We Live. Dr. Christakis explains the severity of Coronavirus in comparison to past pandemics and debunks some COVID-19 myths. They also talk about the blueprint of a good society, how the pandemic reshapes the real estate industry, and the forbidden experiment.

Announcer 0:04
Welcome to the heroic investing show. As first responders we risk our lives every day our financial security is under attack. Our pensions are in a state of emergency. A single on duty incident can alter or erase our earning potential instantly and forever. We are the heroes of society. We are self reliant, and we need to take care of our own financial future. The heroic investing show is our toolkit of business and investing tactics on our mission to financial freedom.

Jason Hartman 0:40
Welcome to the show, this is Jason Hartman, your host and every 10th episode, we do something kind of special kind of different. What we do is we go off topic so regardless of which show it is on the Hartman media network, whether it be one of the financial shows economics, real estate, investing, travel, longevity, all of the other topics that we have every 10th episode, we go off topic, and we explore something of general interest, something of general life success value. And so many of our listeners around the world in 164 countries have absolutely loved our 10th episode shows. So that’s what we’re going to do today. And let’s go ahead and get to our guest with a special 10th episode show. And of course, on the next episode, we’ll be back to our regular programming. Here we go. It’s my pleasure to welcome Nicholas Christakis. He is an MD PhD, and a Master of Public Health. He’s a sociologist and physician who conducts research in the areas of social networks, and bio social science. He directs the human nature lab. His latest book is Apollo’s arrow, but he’s author of several other fascinating books, including connected the amazing power of social networks, and how they shape our lives. And blueprint, the evolutionary origins of a good society as well as several others. Nicholas, welcome. How are you?

Nicholas Christakis 2:09
Thank you so much for having me.

Jason Hartman 2:11
It’s good to have you on and where are you located? Are you at Yale

Nicholas Christakis 2:14
today? Uh, well, let’s just say I’m up north in the mountains. North of now I’m in Vermont.

Jason Hartman 2:21
Good stuff. Good stuff. Well, tell us a little bit about Apollo zero. That’s your most recent book. And let’s just dive into that one first.

Nicholas Christakis 2:29
Well, I think everyone who’s listening to this is, is probably been spending a lot more time than they want to thinking about the coronavirus pandemic. And I think one of the messages I would try to get across this, this, this very unnatural, and alien way we have come to live now, all of us, you know, working from home and not seeing our friends and having schools close down and millions of Americans have lost their jobs. All of this experience, this awful experience that we’re having is not new to our species. It’s just new to us. plagues have always been a part of the human experience. It’s just the case that these types of serious respiratory pandemics that we are now experiencing are rare. They come about once every 50 or 100 years. And so we are having a once in a century type experience. You know, it’s like, it’s like flood insurance, you know, you most routine stuff is not a problem. But once every 100 years, you get a big one, which is nearly 50 100

Jason Hartman 3:24
year flood zone. Right?

Nicholas Christakis 3:26
Exactly, exactly. So that is sort of what we’re having. We’re having a kind of once in 100 year, respiratory pandemic, which is also outside of the living memory of many people. So what I tried to do in the book is I tried to provide a deep understanding of the origins of Coronavirus, the current status that we’re facing, and how it will end you know, how the how the pandemic will end and I, I position this pandemic, this experience that we’re having in the history of 1000s of years of pandemics where people you know, bubonic plague, or polio, or HIV, for example, or the 1918, influenza pandemic, or Ebola outbreaks, you know, these are features of human experience. And we have evolved biologically and have also developed the kind of social and historical memory for how to cope with these types of plagues.

Jason Hartman 4:15
So I guess my first question on that is, does this rise to anywhere near the level of severity of these other pandemics and plagues that we’ve had? I mean, you take the Spanish Flu 102 years ago, that seemed far more serious than this, or, you know, a lot of people now are starting to really believe that this whole thing is totally overplayed. And, you know, never let a good crisis go to waste type thing. But you’re an expert. You’re a public health expert, right? You’re a doctor. And then kind of my follow on question to that is, is the cure worse than the problem, or at least the reaction, it’s not the cure, but the lovely

Nicholas Christakis 4:55
downs and so forth. But let’s talk about both of those things. First, let’s acknowledge that about a quarter Have a million Americans are known to have died of Coronavirus. And there’s some people who question those numbers. But really those numbers are quite solid. And if one of your listeners is thinking yeah, but those people would have died anyway have something else.

Jason Hartman 5:11
comorbidity?

Nicholas Christakis 5:12
Yeah, well just ask yourself how you would feel if you had cancer, and you were hit by a bus? Would we say that you died from cancer? Or would we say that you died because you were hit by a bus you wouldn’t have died if you’ve not been hit by a bus. So just because you have diabetes and you die of Coronavirus doesn’t mean we can just say Oh, never mind, you would have died of diabetes anywhere? No, you weren’t here by Coronavirus

Jason Hartman 5:35
that that is certainly a fair statement, because you might have lived with diabetes for the next five years or 10 years depending on how serious it was. But I and I get it. I totally agree with you.

Nicholas Christakis 5:44
But it’s that’s that’s the same with all causes of death. So you could have multiple conditions. You could have cancer and a heart attack. And if you die of a heart attack, we say you died of a heart attack you you had a you also had cancer. It’s true. But the thing that killed you that but for which you would not have died was the heart attack. So this this idea that we can somehow define a way the problems Oh, yes, a quarter million Americans have died of COVID. But it doesn’t count. It’s just wrong from the point of view of how we met have measured debts for hundreds of years. First point.

Jason Hartman 6:16
Fair enough. The issue though, gets into one of it’s always follow the money, right. And there’s a financial incentive to call these Coronavirus.

Nicholas Christakis 6:27
There’s not that’s awesome. Okay, no, absolutely not. In fact, hospitals are losing money. One of the deep ironies of our healthcare system is that our healthcare system is organized in a fashion that many small hospitals around the country are closing or are a threat of closure. And many large hospitals have lost many millions of dollars, because we pay for elective procedures. And so at a time in our nation’s history, when we most need our health care system. We don’t pay well, for taking care of people with infections, you get much more money by having these highfalutin procedures, which is already a pre existing screw up in the way our healthcare system is organized. So many, many hospitals were dying to reopen their hospitals to start doing more knee surgeries and elective, you know, plastic surgery procedures doesn’t make a lot of money on those. But you don’t make a lot of money taking care of someone who’s dying of an infection. So now this is also a myth. But what I want to frame for you is is that we know of a quarter million Americans have died that have died of COVID because they were infected with COVID. And that is what caused their death, regardless of whatever else was going on with them. But in addition to that there are many other Americans we know from some statistical methods which we can discuss, although it’s a little boring, that probably the numbers around 300,000 Americans have already died of Coronavirus. Right now the pandemic is filling hospitals around the country we’re in the middle of the or the beginning of the second wave of the of the pandemic which is very typical of pandemics. We I’m unfamiliar with a respiratory pandemic in the last 100 years, that hasn’t come in multiple waves. And incidentally, there’ll be another wave a year from now, even if there is a vaccine, the vaccine will just make the wave smaller. So I predict that between half a million I and other experts predict that between at least half a million Americans will die of this infection. And maybe maybe as many as a million, it is impossible in my eye to look at that toll of death and try to sort of pretend that it’s not happening or define it away, because those people would not have died. Now, if this pathogen had not arisen in China in November, those people would all be alive right now. But they have all been killed by a new germ, just like germs have killed people for 1000s of years. If you have cancer, and you get infected with a germ that gives you pneumonia, we say the pneumonia killed you and we would have tried really hard to avoid you’re getting pneumonia, we would have given you vaccines, we would have treated your pneumonia with antibiotics, we would have just said Oh, it doesn’t matter. You had cancer anyway. It’s just not how the system works. So just to frame it, between half a million and a million Americans are going to die of Coronavirus within the course before this pandemic ends. Okay. Now let’s go back and look at the 1918 pandemic.

Jason Hartman 9:08
Before you do that, though. And so we’ll know we

Nicholas Christakis 9:10
can compare them so people can understand like, How bad is this? Which is fair enough?

Jason Hartman 9:15
Yes, I definitely want to get there. But I just want to ask about the frame on the financial incentive thing for just a quick second. I agree with you that the hospitals seem to be suffering from the loss of those lucrative elective surgeries like a knee surgery and you know, so forth like that. But, you know, maybe that’s not the right way to look at it. Maybe the way to look at is look, once the patient is there, they’ve got something and if they pass, calling it COVID gets them the $30,000 from the government, right versus, you know, battling with the insurance companies over whatever else they might call it. That’s all I’m saying. It’s a small distinction, but it might Important in the stats,

Nicholas Christakis 10:02
it would require a level of misbehavior and fraud on a scale that to me strains credulity. The way these systems are organized as speaking of someone who is certified hundreds of deaths, I mean, it sounds lots of death certificates. I’ve done this. Speaking of someone who has studied insurance claims data in the diagnostic data, this would strain credulity in my view, there is your right and elaborate bureaucracy for reimbursing hospitals according to different things. And you are right, that if you die of two different things, and if the hospital believes that you can plausibly be assigned to have died have to, you know, equally plausible without lying, that you’ve died of those two things, they might pick the thing that pays more money, which itself is an indictment of our whole healthcare system and how we’re organized certainly,

Jason Hartman 10:46
yes.

Nicholas Christakis 10:48
Okay. All of that is nuts. Okay. But all of that proceeded Coronavirus. And this idea that somehow we are falsely inflating the number of deaths is just does not fit with all the data. And besides which, even if you don’t want to rely on the death data, which is what I take as the most reliable source, you have all the case data, you have the hospitalization data, you know, you have data that isn’t subject to this potentially perverse financial incentive, which also shows millions of people with his infections. And then coming back to your original question. Now, 10 months into the pandemic. We know quite a bit about this virus. There are at least a number of important epidemiological properties that one can understand about a virus. Let’s start with just two of them. The two most important ones. One is how deadly is the virus. This is called the infection fatality rate or the IFR. Now, a lot of there’s been a lot of hot debate about this and so on. But I can tell you that now, there have been something called meta analyses where people combine information from many different studies using many different approaches to try to really understand how deadly is this virus? Keep in mind, we do this not just for Coronavirus, but for many viruses. This is there’s a whole group of scientists whose whole careers for decades has been devoted to this topic. And when they deploy the methods they’ve used for multiple other conditions and they study this condition. We know that the virus will kill between point five and point 8% of the people that it infects. So it’s IFR is between point five and point eight. Now one of the weird things about this virus is that about half the people who get it have no symptoms, which is good news on one level but bad news on another level. It’s bad. It’s good because great it doesn’t kill you. It’s bad because it confuses people into thinking maybe this isn’t such a good bad virus because many who get it are spared. So people aren’t the man on the street thinks Oh, well, you know, it’s not so bad. No, this is a bad virus, a pathogen that kills between half a percent. And point 8% of the people who get infected with is very bad. And if you get symptoms of it, because half the people don’t get symptoms. If you get symptoms, then your risk of death is double what I just told you between 1% and 1.6% of the people who get symptoms of Coronavirus will go on to die. That’s a bad pathogen. Now it does vary by age. This is also true and we can discuss it. But overall it’s about let’s just say 1% of the people who get it will die of the condition. So that’s the first number. The second number is the contagiousness of the pathogen. And this is something that the person on the street is now familiar with or if you don’t understand you used to watch the movie contagion or World War Z which is another great movie or three watching. I didn’t see World War Z but I saw contagion Yeah, they’re both really good. Now in contagion the pathogen there by the way, the lethality of the pathogen is about 30% of the people who get it not 1%, one in three approximately die. Now, just to understand as a tangent on our conversation, we are lucky that the COVID-19 is not more deadly, there’s no God given reason it’s not more deadly. It could be killing 10 times or 30 times as many people and if it were so deadly, we would be having today an experience like Europeans had during the Middle Ages with a robotic plague, we would be annihilated. And people need to understand that we are just lucky that this pathogen bad as it is killing 1% of people. In fact, it is not worse, it could have been much worse. Okay. So the next thing is this. So that’s in the movie contagion to kill lots of people. But let’s go back now to what we were talking about, which is a v v comparison of 1918. Yeah, the how contagious the diseases. So this is quantified by something called the R not the R sub zero, which is what is the intrinsic capacity of the virus in a normally interacting host population that has no immunity to create new cases. So in the case of this virus for approximately, for each person who gets it, they create between two and a half and three and a half new cases, let’s say three. Okay, so each case, the intrinsic spreadability of the germ is that each case can create three new cases. Of course, if we all live apart, if we spread out and do physical distancing, then it can’t do that. But the intrinsic infectiousness of the pathogen is still the same regardless of what we do. So If you take these two numbers, how deadly is the jerk is a germ and how spreadable is a germ and you plot them on a graph. And you look at all the respiratory pandemics from the last 100 years, the worst one would be 1918, the most deadly and the most spreadable up in the right hand corner of the graph. The second worst one, up until now was the 1957 influenza pandemic, which killed about 110,000 Americans back then, which would be about 220,000. Today, that’s the second worst one. And then there are all the others. For example, there was the 2009 h1 and one pandemic that nobody remembers, because it didn’t kill people. It’s spread a lot. But it was mild. It was like the common cold. So no one remembers that that’d be down low here. This pandemic that we’re experiencing right now, by those two numbers, is the second worst pandemic we have had in 100 years, it’s not going to be as bad thank God is 1918. But it’s worse than 1957. And it will kill as I said, between half a million and a million Americans. We as a nation need to take this seriously. We can’t wish it away. We can’t pretend that our generation of people compared to all of human history, for what reason? I’m not sure people would think this would be spared a plague. Why? Why? Or why would Why are we?

Jason Hartman 16:17
Because the modern mind thinks that technology and science have solved every problem. Yes, but

Nicholas Christakis 16:22
then when the science correct, but then when the scientists tell you, this is serious pay attention, you know, do X, Y and Z people think oh, well, you know, people are making up No, no, no, I’m telling you the truth about what is happening to us. And there are 1000s of scientists who’ve devoted their entire careers studying these exact things. Now it’s true. Scientists get things wrong. They debate among each other. And we can talk about that. But the principle of science is that it’s self correcting, that if I say something wrong as a scientist, some other scientists will come up and say, no, wait a minute, here’s my evidence for why you’re wrong. And so slowly, we get more and more knowledge and the things that I’ve told you so far, have been robustly demonstrated. They’re very uncontroversial from a scientific point of view.

Jason Hartman 17:05
Okay. So what is the solution? Is it more lockdowns and quarantines? Is it the vaccine? You know, when you look at these vaccines, you know, what are your thoughts about them there? It’s still very early, obviously. And then how does this whole thing end?

Nicholas Christakis 17:21
Yeah, so I discussed that in a policy arrow at length. And

Jason Hartman 17:25
that’s why I brought it up. Because if you had a chapter with that title,

Nicholas Christakis 17:29
exactly. So just as a sidebar, the our ability to invent vaccines in 10 months and show that they work is miraculous. And we are lucky as that our time in the crucible happens to occur at a time when humans actually have the capacity to invent these countermeasures in real time. No previous generation ever has had this capacity. So but the vaccine is not going to be a panacea. I don’t want people listening to this to think, Oh, well, nevermind. First of all, many more Americans are going to die. And it reminds me a little bit there was a New Yorker reporter who wrote recently about this. And she pointed out the very poignant fact, that in the six hours between when the armistice was signed to end World War One, and the actual time the news reached the front and the fighting stopped. 12,000 additional Americans died. needlessly in six hours, 12,000 Americans died. Just because the news hadn’t gotten stopped fighting, okay, similar things happened during the Vietnam War. And it would be a deep irony in our country if we lose another 100,000 or 200,000 Americans, because people don’t behave well right now, while we wait for the vaccine to be rolled out. So yes, the vaccine has been invented. But we need a bunch more steps. We need to manufacture millions of doses, this will take time, hundreds of millions of doses, we need to distribute them. Not every hospital or pharmacy has the right for refrigerator refrigerators to store these vaccines, then we need to get people to take the vaccines. So Meanwhile, while all of that’s happening, the virus is still spreading. So we have to continue to behave well until such time as we can vaccinate at least half of the American population. Okay, so define behaving? Well.

Jason Hartman 19:13
I think I know what you’re gonna say. But

Nicholas Christakis 19:15
well, we have to if we wish to avoid death in ourselves and in our communities, we have to do minimum things at a minimum, wearing masks, keeping physical distancing, avoiding needless congregations of people, don’t go to restaurants, don’t go to bars. If you consolidate your shopping trips, you know, instead of going out to shop twice a week, go once a week, make a list, be efficient, minimize your exposure, thin out the density of people in public places because you’re only going out once, not twice per week, etc. All of these sort of basic things, tolerate school closures, don’t complain about them. We need to as a nation grow up. We need to have faced this enemy with with maturity and wisdom. And we’re not going to we can’t be like children and put our heads in the sand and say Oh, well, it’s probably nothing or I know I wish to I deeply wish that we didn’t have to have this pathogen among us, I want my life back that I had a year ago. But that’s not the world I live in. I live in a real world in which viruses sometimes afflict us. And incidentally, cholera and other epidemics, like Ebola afflict other parts of the world all the time, we in the United States seem to somehow think that we’re gonna have this. So from my perspective, as a nation, we need to band together, we need to work as we have as a nation before to meet serious challenges, and let our experts and our scientists and our military and all of the other people that will be required to deal with this threat, do their jobs, and do our part as well. Now, so what’s going to be required then is we’re going to still have to live in a temporarily changed world, I would say, at least until the end of 2021. In the book, I say, sometime in 2022, before the biological and epidemiological impact of the virus is behind us at that point, it’ll be behind us. But it’ll still then take another couple of years to overcome the psychological, social and economic impact. So for example, in the real estate industry right now, just like with every other pandemic for 1000s of years, people flee the cities and go to the rural areas. And so you’re seeing I’m sure your listeners are seeing evidence of this the prices, I live in rural Vermont, you know, all of a sudden, you know, a 10% shift in the number of buyers is totally changing the market. Oh, sure.

Jason Hartman 21:27
And it’s not really even rural, you know, they can just go to suburbia, because that’s an adequately distance in suburbia. And that’s Yes.

Nicholas Christakis 21:33
But then people are also saying with working from home, why should I live in a two bedroom apartment in a city with two children and be really cramped?

Jason Hartman 21:42
When I have a class that cost $5,000 a month versus 15 $100 a month in suburbia will get you a three bedroom, two and a half bath house with a two car garage? Yeah,

Nicholas Christakis 21:53
exactly. And I’ll still work from home and so on. So plagues always reshape economies. And one thing I want your listeners to understand is, is that it’s not what’s happening to us economically, it’s not so much what we’re doing to ourselves. It’s what the virus is doing to us. Economy shut down for 1000s of years before there was state action. When there’s a deadly contagion effect, people don’t go out and about that deal. For example, in doing the plague of Justinian 1500 years ago, that john of Ephesus, a priest talks about how the everything slowed and ceased in the economy stopped, okay. So most of what’s happening to us is not what we’re doing to ourselves. It’s what the virus is doing to us. It’s not our, if anything, the weak responses of the politicians beginning at the White House, and many governors, the weak response to politicians, because they’re lagging there, they did not show leadership, they did not do what they should have done early on. If anything that responses they’re implementing, like closing schools or closing restaurants, and so on, is too little too late, and is intended to reduce the toll of death, we are in some ways, the economy would be even worse. And the toll of death would be even worse, if, for example, we had not closed the schools, or we had not closed the restaurant. So what I want listeners to understand is, is that the economic impacts of the virus are primarily due to the buyers not our responses to it. So the real estate industry is being reshaped, and it will be reshaped. Now, for a while for a number of years. If I were a very wealthy man, I would wait a couple of years and buy real estate in abandoned cities, let’s say because they will come back eventually. But for a while, we’re gonna see

Jason Hartman 23:28
may take a long, long time, though. That’s the only thing but yes, I agree.

Nicholas Christakis 23:33
Exactly. So. So what so what we’re talking about then is when will life return to normal, so 2022 the biological and epidemiological impact of the virus will be behind us, but it’s still gonna take some time to recover from the economic and social shock. Let’s not forget 10s of millions Americans have lost their jobs. We have printed money up, you know, we’ve printed billions and billions of dollars to it as an economic stimulus to report report from this inflation might come back, we might have all kinds of other economic aftershocks, the the debt, the federal debt has skyrocketed. And people are psychologically traumatized or children who have not been in school, they’re going to have experienced an adverse childhood event as children have for 1000s of years and times of play. These things will take time to unravel. So my prediction is that judging from past plays, that it’ll be a couple of years, it’ll be 2024. Before we begin to have what I think will be the 21st century equivalent of the roaring 20s after the 1918 pandemic. So, um, let me say one more thing, and then I’ll shut up.

Jason Hartman 24:33
So that’s what I’ve wondered about that. And I’ve really studied and thought a lot lately about the roaring 20s It’s interesting, you should say that because, you know, I’m sort of wondering if part of that roaring ness if you will, of the roaring 20s was actually a response to the Spanish Flu that by the way, should be called the Kansas City flu, I guess, you know, because that’s where it really started

Nicholas Christakis 24:57
probably we don’t know for sure. But yeah,

Jason Hartman 24:58
yeah. We don’t know anything for sure. But you know, probably, you know, was it sort of like people felt this sudden burst of optimism and thought, Oh my gosh, you know, this weight is lifted off of our shoulders. And now let’s go out and have fun spend money. like there’s no tomorrow. That that is the thing, right? I was thinking that.

Nicholas Christakis 25:17
Yes, that’s true. Exactly right. And that’s what I think is gonna happen. So for example, during times of plague, including now, things like religiosity goes up right there. No atheists in foxholes. So, for 1000s of years when the epidemic is afoot, the plague is an ancient threat. It’s in the Bible. That book is called Apollo’s arrow because this is the opening of the Iliad, you know, one of the canonical writings of the Western canon, that Homer’s epic poem, The Iliad, which describes events from 3000 years ago, was the plague. That’s how the book ends, okay. Shakespeare talks about playing so, but during times of plague, people get more religious, may get more abstemious people save money, they get become risk averse, for example, and usually, when the plague ends, those things reverse. So people return to their prior level of religiosity. They spend liberally, there’s often sexual licentiousness, people relentlessly seek out social gatherings, nightclubs, bars, pubs, political rallies, music and sporting events, and so on. There’s often an artistic efflorescence that occurs. So I think it’s something similar is likely to happen in the 21st century, beginning around I mean, these are approximate dates 2024, not dissimilar from the roaring 20s. And it sounds like you and I think alike about this topic.

Jason Hartman 26:33
Yeah, interesting. Well, I’d like to switch gears and talk about a couple of your other books. Just we’ve got a few minutes and talk to us about blueprint, you know how that a good society is created. I mean, I’m just share with the listeners or viewers your thesis behind that book, you would,

Nicholas Christakis 26:51
I mean, that was a book I published in 2019. And it took like 10 years of work there, what I’m interested in is how our evolution has shaped not just the structure and function of our bodies, and not just the structure and function of our minds, but also the structure and function of our societies. And I look at a host of traits that I call the social suite, our capacity for love, and friendship, and cooperation, and social learning and teaching the fact that we teach each other things and traits like that traits that we manifest between ourselves, I’m not interested in whether you love yourself, or are kind to yourself, or adjust yourself, I’m interested in whether you love others are kind to others are just to others. Those are traits that we manifest between people. And I’m interested in how evolution shaped those traits. And I show in the book, how we have come have been shaped by natural selection, to have these wonderful qualities, which are lies at the root of a good society. And I look at a number of things I look at, for example, the history of people who have, you know, shipwrecks the book opens with a chapter on shipwrecks, where I say, Okay, what if we you if you were like, a crazy scientist, and you wanted to do an experiment on like, what was the natural social order that a group of people would make? What you’d love to do was take a group of babies and abandon them on an island and somehow miraculously have them be fed and raised, and then come back and see, well, what kind of social organization did they make for themselves? Incidentally, this experiment has been conceived of by wealthy emperors and kings for 1000s of years. It’s been called the forbidden experiment. But other stories that some kings have tried this, they typically have been interested in, what kind of language comes naturally to us. And so what they would do is they would take a couple of babies and give them to a mute Shepherd to raise up in the mountains, and then see What language did those children speak if they’ve never been exposed to language?

Jason Hartman 28:49
They’re miniature experiments you can’t ethically do.

Nicholas Christakis 28:52
No, that’s right. That’s why it’s called the forbidden experiment. So I said, well, what’s a proxy for that, and a proxy for that might be shipwrecks. And I look at all the shipwrecks that took place between 15 119 100. And I found something like 20 cases, where at least 19 people were stranded for at least two months on some faraway shore. And I looked at all available records.

Jason Hartman 29:13
This is almost like the Blue Lagoon movie.

Nicholas Christakis 29:17
A little bit like that, except with a larger number of people and

Jason Hartman 29:20
adolescent sexuality. smaller sample, yes.

Nicholas Christakis 29:24
But yes, anyway, so in the book, that’s just the beginning of the book, the book does a whole bunch of things blueprint does, and, and then attempts to provide an account. I also looked at those were those were inadvertent experiments in social order. And I also looked at advertent, or deliberate attempts of social order. I looked at the history of communes, you know, for 1000s of years, people have said societies screwed up, let’s go and make a new society and a group of people go to the mountain somewhere and try to make a new society, but they almost always wind up reinventing the same kind of society, and on and on and on. And so I, I look at all of this and I try to explain what are the fundamental reasons And meaning of how people live together.

Jason Hartman 30:04
And so what what are some of the insights from that? I mean, like, share, share something with us on that, because, well, you said when you said communes, I’ve got a question about that. But go ahead.

Nicholas Christakis 30:16
Well, no, I’m just I mean, there’s a whole book. So it’s hard to summarize. But But the point is, let me just let me go

Jason Hartman 30:21
to

Nicholas Christakis 30:23
Well, okay, let me let me give you one one little story or idea in 18 4019, I think it was either 1849 or 1869. I can’t remember right now, there was almost a perfect natural experiment. In the South Auckland islands south of New Zealand, just north of Antarctica, very godforsaken, very cold place. Two different shipwrecks occurred on the same island in the same year on opposite ends of the island. It was almost a perfect natural experiment. On the southern part of the island, the Grafton Rex, five men are swept ashore. And as the boat crashes onto the shore, the captain is sick with a fever in his in his cabin, the other four men make it ashore. And they have to decide what to do about the captain. And they set up a rope line. And they risk their lives to save the captain’s life by firing him sick as he was through this rope from the surf onto the shore. And these men then proceed to work together. And they do a bunch of things. They set up a school among themselves, where they can teach each other things. There was like a Norwegian and a Portuguese and French men and a Brit. You know, they were sort of ethnically diverse as well, which is sort of interesting. So they taught each other foreign languages, they built a cabin, they were very resourceful. They live for about two years on the island. And then eventually were able to fabricate a boat sail away and bring back help. And they all survived. At the same time on the northern part of the island, the in Rico crashes, 19 men makers ashore, and one of them is injured. He’s at the bottom of the this cliffs there at the bottom of the cliffs. And they have very late, just what’s in their pockets, a little bit of hard tack, one of them has some matches, they’re able to light a fire. And then in the kind of disaster, that is the stuff of like comic strips, they’re trying to dry their matches by the fire, and then matches all Ignite. So they lose their whole supply of matches, you know, after getting fire started with one match, and they decide that they’re gonna have to scale the cliffs, but the injured man is abandoned, to die at the bottom of the cliffs. And of those 19 men, all but three of them die before they are eventually rescued off the island by a passing ship.

Jason Hartman 32:29
So this sounds like there’s a very interesting Moral of the story here

Nicholas Christakis 32:32
there is it’s not just the moral of the story, though. But the point is, with the reasons these groups had differential survival related, in large measure on their capacity to manifest this social suite that I described, this capacity to make a good society, because the making of a good society contributes to our survival, which is why natural selection has shaped us to have these wonderful qualities other animals, very few certain animals, elephants, whales, and certain and certain dolphins, certain primates, for example, have friends, many listeners are taking it for granted that they have friends. Why other animals don’t form long term non reproductive unions to other members of their species, but we do we do it elephants do it, elephants independently evolved to have friendships, dolphins independently volunteer friendships, and we do it in certain other primates. So it’s astonishing this capacity for friendship that we have where we have we would make sacrifices for people who are not genetically related to us.

Jason Hartman 33:30
Is that really out of a quid pro quo kind of idea? Or, you know, do we just realize that there’s a greater good? Well, you’ll

Nicholas Christakis 33:40
have that’s discussed that there’s a very subtle point that you just made, the quid pro quo, the friendship is a not a market type exchange? Because think about it, a quid pro quo is exactly the antithesis of what friendship is, if you said to your friend, well, fair enough, but

Jason Hartman 33:57
it’s maybe like a layaway, right? Certainly friends do things for each other. And some people sadly enter the bargain that way, and you can usually ferret them out, because they’re, you know, two on the take, if you will, but you know, there’s certainly an element of that, right. And then,

Nicholas Christakis 34:15
generally,

Jason Hartman 34:15
what I’m getting at, by the way, in bringing that up, and I know we’ve got to wrap it up fairly soon here, but it’s I’m getting at how far do you take this idea? You know, if you look at like the kibbutz II Israeli Kibbutz, and then you look at, you know, Karl Marx, and you know, communism and the disaster that that was, you know, where do you go on that? Yeah, so go ahead. No, no, I

Nicholas Christakis 34:36
discussed key blitzes at length in blueprint. That’s a very good and interesting example. And, and I also discuss some extent I discuss and take to task certain communistic ideas that I think are unnatural, you know, they don’t work actually. But that’s a different point. The origins of friendship are very interesting. The cooperative interactions that are quid pro quo also exists in our species. I’ll give you this. You give me that lies at the foundation of market exchange. But friendship is altogether different. If your friend says here, let me borrow, here’s my car, you can your car’s broken, you can use my car for a month, you know, I don’t need it, don’t worry about it. And you say, That’s okay, Bob, I’ll repay you next week. That’s not a friendship. But you would never say that if you said that. Your friend would be what do you think this is? You think I’m you know, I’m renting you my car? No, you were friends, of course. And not only that, but friendship typically, not only do they often have asymmetric, but they have heterogeneous exchanges. In other words, friends do different services for each other. For example, you might, you know, take my child in for a summer internship. And then five years later, you might ask me for some totally different favor, you know, can you borrow my house for your daughter’s wedding or something, you know, they’re completely dissimilar, separated in time and nature, in extent that to say how big the favors are, sometimes they’re never repaid. And not only that, but we evolved to feel good in the presence of our friends asking this, when you get together with friends, you get that good feeling. That good feeling you get in the presence of your friends, was shaped by natural selection. Anyway, there’s lots of examples or discussion in the book about the origins of friendship that provides a deep explanation for why we do that, and why it’s different than certain other kinds of interactions people might have. Incidentally, it’s that capacity for the the free exchange of information. And for working together and for cooperation, these are the tools we’re going to use, in order to beat the virus. The way we survive. this epidemic, is by working together, you alone can do nothing. To stop the epidemic. We have to work together to stop the epidemic. We have to exchange information with each other and our capacities to work together and share information. And the origins of those capacities are in fact, the subject of blueprint as compared to

Jason Hartman 36:52
Apollo zero. Yeah, very interesting. Well, I know we’ve got to wrap it up. Nicholas, thank you so much for these insights. And that was a good way to bring it back kind of full circle onto the pandemic discussion. give out your website or a Twitter handle or whatever you’d like.

Nicholas Christakis 37:07
My my Twitter handle is n. A Christakis? Ch ri St. A k is na Christakis Apollo’s arrow. The profound and enduring impact of Coronavirus on the way we live is of course available on Amazon and bookstores everywhere. And if you’re technically interested in my website is human nature lab dotnet human nature lab dotnet. And you can find all our scientific papers and a bunch of other stuff there if if you’re so inclined. Nicholas, thank you so much for joining us.

Jason Hartman 37:42
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