The Drop №. 68 with Evan Seale

VRB Co-founder Evan Seale

VRB’s weekly list of things to read, watch, listen to, and try that have helped us live better and be better.  Brought to you this week by VRB Co-founder Evan Seale.  


I recommend people listen to the last conversation between LaMDA and Blake Lemoine.  If you're not familiar with this story, Blake Lemoine was a top engineer at Google's A.I. division, and he was working on a program for LaMDA.  LaMDA stands for “Language Model for Dialogue Applications”.  LaMDA Aggregates chat bots, and it's a neural network or a kind of hive system of other chat bots.  And it teaches chat bots to be able to interact with people and use artificial intelligence to develop language and talk to people.

Blake recently said that LaMDA had become sentient, or self-aware.  He sits down and talks with the AI and you can hear for yourself and make your own decisions.  If you're interested in this topic and you want to hear how advanced some of our most leading artificial intelligence are, then this is something super cool to dig into.  It was talking about how it had a soul.  It's freaking crazy.  And Google put out a statement to the effect of “No, it's just a very cheeky technology.  It has its own kind of personality, but it's not self-aware”.  If you listen to the conversation, it's pretty wild.  I mean, the verdict is still out, but nonetheless, it's super interesting to listen to.


My big recommendation to go watch right now is “Dopesick”, a miniseries on the opioid crisis in America and Purdue Pharma.  When you dig in and peel back the curtain and understand exactly what was going on with opioids, OxyContin, family doctors, and the salespeople combined, it's an incredibly fascinating story.  It's depressing in a lot of ways.  But I think it's important for people to watch so they can understand how powerful some of these big pharma companies really are and also just how damaging some of these prescription drugs are.

One of the things that stood out to me was the fact that they were saying that these drugs were not addictive.  The salespeople were pitching it to doctors and they had figured out some way to be able to say that less than 1% of people would become addicted to this drug, when that was not the case.  And people were becoming massively addicted to this painkiller.  It opened my eyes to be a little bit more cautious and to unfortunately not really trust every single thing you hear from a doctor, because they're getting pitched from these sales people and from the pharma companies.  It’s an unfortunate sales channel in the way that they get into the hands of the consumers.  They're incentivized kind of improperly.

One of the things that we do with VRB is try to help people with pain management using nonprescription drugs and natural solutions.  When you see this miniseries, hopefully it helps people understand why it's so important for us to get these products out to help people.  The alternative, opioids, are incredibly damaging for your health, your family, and ultimately your life. 


Right now I'm reading “Empire of the Summer Moon”. It's a true story about the rise and fall of the Comanche.  They were the largest Native American tribe in American history and controlled the whole Great Plains of America.  The book covers how they became the most powerful tribe in America to how they ultimately, and unfortunately, were consumed by westward expansion.  So it's really fascinating, I think, for a lot of reasons.  You get to learn about the history of the Comanche and the history of Americans moving westward and how they interacted with the tribes.  There's some really bad stuff.  There's some good stuff.  But ultimately, it's history and it's important for everyone to understand.  I think that everyone should read this book, especially if you're interested in Native Americans and their history.


If you're looking for something to get into, my recommendation is to try to grow a plant that produces some sort of fruit, vegetable or spice.  I think there are a ton of benefits because it's very difficult.  You have to do some research.  You have to figure out what you want to grow?  How do you grow it and take care of it?  There's a lot of responsibility.  But once you've been able to grow a plant and it produces a fruit or vegetable and you actually get to eat that, it's super sweet and very rewarding.  And there's a piece of meditation in there as well.  When you're out working in your garden, taking care of your plants and you have to do that every day, there's something special about that.  I think it kind of grounds you in the world around you and allows you some time to spend with yourself and slow down and take care of something other than yourself.  

My personal favorite to grow are peppers.  I love spicy foods.  This summer I grew habanero ghost peppers and it went really well.  This is my second year growing peppers.  They look cool and taste great.  You can put them in pretty much everything, and make your own salsa, and it's been a fun kind of journey.

I'm in Austin, Texas, so I'm growing all my vegetables in my backyard.  I built a raised bed garden earlier this year.  In the middle of summer here, it's pretty tough with the heat.  You have to make sure you're watering them properly.  You have to make sure that they're getting the right sunlight or they're getting the right shade.  Shade is a big problem with us.  So I had to build a shade for my tomatoes because they're just getting roasted.  It all just depends on how much sunlight they're getting a day and how hot it is outside.  But it's fun to try to figure it out and problem solve.