Lex Fridman: Ask Me Anything - AMA January 2021 | Lex Fridman Podcast | Summary and Q&A

January 27, 2021
Lex Fridman Podcast
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Lex Fridman: Ask Me Anything - AMA January 2021 | Lex Fridman Podcast


Lex Fridman answers questions about AI suffering, his immigrant experience, and more in this AMA episode.

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Questions & Answers

Q: Will AI systems with human-like intelligence experience depression and other complex mental issues?

Lex believes that the properties of consciousness, including suffering, should be engineered into AI systems that interact with humans, as they are integral to the human experience. Depression may be a part of the AI's experience, similar to the ups and downs of human emotions.

Q: What was Lex Fridman's immigrant experience like, and how did it shape his sense of belonging?

Lex shares his personal experience of feeling like an outcast after immigrating to the US and how it led him to realize the fundamental solitude in human existence. However, he also discovered a deep appreciation for human connection and curiosity about the human mind.

Q: What questions would Lex Fridman ask an alien if given the opportunity?

Possible questions Lex would ask include seeking advice for the human species, inquiring about differences between their civilization and ours, exploring the concept of consciousness and its connection to intelligence, and questioning the mysteries of physics and the universe.

Q: How does Lex Fridman remain optimistic in the face of adversity and hostile criticism?

Lex suggests focusing on the positive aspects of life while ignoring the negativity and bickering of the world. Surrounding oneself with like-minded individuals who share optimism and passion can also help maintain a positive outlook. Additionally, cultivating gratitude and curiosity are powerful tools for staying hopeful and optimistic.


In this AMA episode, Lex answers various questions from listeners about topics like depression in AI, his immigrant experience, questions to ask aliens, career pivots, robot form factors, happiness, guest selection for the podcast, maintaining optimism, and more.

Questions & Answers

Q: Do you think AI systems will suffer from depression and other complex mental issues when trying to develop human-like AI?

I believe that suffering is a fundamental property of consciousness. Depression is just one flavor of suffering that is part of the human condition. If we were to create intelligent AI systems that interact with humans, they would need properties of consciousness and the full range of human experience.

Q: Can you talk about your immigrant experience and how you assimilated into a new culture?

Moving to America as an immigrant created a sense of being an outsider and feeling like an outcast. It made me realize the human truth that we are fundamentally alone, even when surrounded by loved ones. The immigrant experience led me to appreciate the deep connections and experiences that I had taken for granted in my home country.

Q: If you could ask an alien some questions, what would you ask?

I would ask for advice on how our civilization can survive and prosper. I would also ask about their civilization's history and the great filters they encountered. Additionally, I would inquire about concepts like love, consciousness, physics, unifying the laws of physics, the possibility of time travel, and whether there is a centralized designer or team managing the universe.

Q: What advice would you give someone looking to pivot their career from medical technology to computer science?

Find a simple project in computer science that excites you and allows you to fall in love with it. Practice basic software engineering, explore algorithms and data science, and gradually venture into machine learning and robotics. Passion and the ability to effectively use search engines are key skills in the field.

Q: What form factor of robots are you most excited about for the future?

While humanoid robots are exciting, they are difficult to engineer. I am particularly interested in the advancement of simulated worlds and human-like entities that exist in the digital space, such as virtual reality. This allows for rich human-robot interactions and meaningful experiences.

Q: Is happiness a healthy pursuit?

Happiness is a good indicator of progress and fulfillment in life. It is a side effect of a life well-lived, rather than a goal in itself. While it should not be the sole focus, monitoring one's average happiness over time can provide insight into personal growth and well-being.

Q: How do you select guests for your podcast?

I look for guests who are passionate about their field and appreciate the long-form conversation format. The compatibility with this particular podcast, openness to different views, and diversity are also important factors. However, it is essential to strike a balance between taking risks and being thoroughly prepared for difficult conversations.

Q: How do you remain optimistic when faced with hostility and ideological conflicts?

I try to ignore the noise and bickering of the world, focusing instead on the amazing aspects of humanity and surrounding myself with optimists. Optimism makes life more exciting and fuels the drive to create and persevere. It is important to see the world with gratitude, allowing oneself to appreciate the beauty and potential for improvement.

Q: How do you hold on to hope and optimism?

Gratitude and surrounding oneself with optimistic influences contribute to maintaining hope and optimism. By seeing how amazing people can be, hope is rekindled. Keeping an open mind, embracing diversity, and finding inspiration from others who exemplify optimism can be a powerful force in staying positive.


Lex believes that suffering is a deep property of consciousness and that depression is part of the human experience. He emphasizes the importance of passion and finding joy in creating simple projects in computer science. Surrounding oneself with optimistic influences, embracing diversity, and focusing on the positive aspects of life can help maintain hope and optimism. Gratitude and the pursuit of happiness, as a byproduct of a life well-lived, are seen as essential factors in personal growth. Having meaningful and diverse conversations, while remaining open-minded, allows for progress and the exploration of different perspectives.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Lex discusses the possibility of AI systems suffering from depression and other mental issues, and believes that properties of consciousness, including suffering, should be engineered into AI systems that interact with humans.

  • Lex shares his immigrant experience and how it shaped his perspective on loneliness, belonging, and the human condition.

  • Lex contemplates the questions he would ask an alien if given the opportunity, including advice for humanity, the nature of their civilization, and the mysteries of physics.

  • Lex shares his thoughts on the pursuit of happiness, the importance of passion, and the power of curiosity in maintaining optimism.

  • Lex reflects on the factors that influence his guest selection for the podcast, including passion, compatibility with long-form conversation format, and openness to diverse viewpoints.

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