Reflecting on the Pandemic Journey, with Zubin Damania
A deep dive into the trajectory of sensemaking in crisis
The pandemic showed up all the problems with the information landscape and the sensemaking crisis. In this excellent and wide-ranging conversation with the doctor and YouTube star Zubin Damania, we look back on the journey of the pandemic, what we learned and failed to learn.
For me, connecting with Zubin (ZDoggMD) was one of the highlights of the last few years. He's a Stanford-trained hospitalist who became something of a media star during the pandemic.
I had the pleasure of spending a few days with him in San Francisco at the start of June and we recorded an in depth discussion in his studio that we're releasing now. We also recorded a couple of live shows which he put out on his channel. I think they are some of the best summaries of how our thinking has evolved over the last years, and how we've both been influenced by some of the thinkers on Rebel Wisdom.
In this piece, 'Reflecting on the Pandemic' we cover everything from the failures of both mainstream and heterodox voices, the trajectory of public intellectuals over the last years, the nature of the 'insurgency' against the mainstream, all the way to psychedelics and awakening. It was a great and really interesting conversation.
Zubin first came to my attention with a viral video at the start of 2020 where he channelled his righteous anger at the medical establishment's response to the pandemic, and said he hoped that the crisis would be the trigger to “burn this broken system to the ground”. For years he's been arguing for a significant change to the medical system, away from treating people as interchangeable parts in a machine and towards a more holistic vision of what he calls Health 3.0.
He's also heavily influenced by many of the same people I am, including Ken Wilber and Jonathan Haidt, and brings some of their frameworks into his work, such as understanding vaccine attitudes through Haidt's “moral tastebuds”. He argues for nuance and complexity, and dubs his political perspective as “alt-middle”.
Full timecodes and topics from the interview:
0:00 - The Pandemic & the Information Ecology
04:02 - Zubin & Health Care 3.0
08:09 - The USP of Rebel Wisdom, curating a conversation
10:09 - The pandemic was a stress test that we failed
14:03 - The internet leaking out into the real world
16:37 - The religiosity of the Covid debate
19:53 - The rise in conspiracy narratives
22:56 - Questioning our own thinking
29:33 - Public intellectuals going off the rails
32:48 - The hermeneutics of suspicion
39:00 - A culture of bullshit
44:14 - Conspiracies thrive in the gaps of the mainstream
46:31 - The pre/trans of the insurgency after 2018
53:34 - Paradox of being outside the institutions - audience capture
58:27 - Warping effects of the tech platforms accelerated on creators
01:00:37 - Attention hijack as opposite of mindfulness
01:02:41 - The tragic arc of Jordan Peterson
01:06:55 - The return of the repressed
01:14:14 - The return of psychedelic medicine
01:18:57 - The limitations of psychedelics
01:22:51 - Meditation & Awakening
01:29:36 - Ayahuasca
01:32:14 - Culture War 2.0 & the memetic tribes
01:43:06 - Post Pandemic Awakening
01:46:39 - The English Taboo Against Earnestness
01:49:30 - Mutual Appreciation Society