01x04 - Arianna Huffington

Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson: From the American Museum of Natural History in New York City and beaming out across all of space and time, this is Star Talk, where science and pop culture collide. (Applause) Chuck Nice, welcome back.

Chuck Nice: Hey, it's a pleasure to be here.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: So, you know we're talking about today? I snared an interview with the one, the only, Arianna Huffington. So we bring in uh, Professor Jeff Jarvis. Thanks for being on Star Talk.

Jeff Jarvis: I feel like I'm gonna get a master's degree just tonight (Laughing) for being here.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: We have special... we have special certificates for that. The evening school certificate. You're a professor of journalism at the City University of New York.

Jeff Jarvis: That's right.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: Excellent. And how would you describe your specialty?

Jeff Jarvis: Uh, I teach journalists to make money.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: That's the good answer. So you wrote a book, Geeks Bearing Gifts.

Jeff Jarvis: Imagining New Futures for News. Arguing that there is a future for news.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: Excellent. 'Cause sometimes I wonder.

Jeff Jarvis: Yeah.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: Our guest, my interview, Arianna Huffington, invented a whole other way for... to bring news.

Jeff Jarvis: They laughed when she sat down on the keyboard, but by God, she made an empire, didn't she?

Chuck Nice: She certainly did.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: That what it is. So let's find out from my interview with her. She had visited the museum, I brought her up to my office, I just wondered, what is the genesis of this empire? So let's go back to the beginning and find out where she came from, where she's going.

Arianna Huffington: This year, we are ten years old.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: Happy birthday.

Arianna Huffington: Thank you so much. And when we were born, the conversation had not yet moved online in the way that it has moved online now. One of the first things that we did, we kind of elevated blogging. Because before The Huffington Post, bloggers tended to be stereotyped as people who couldn't get a job, blogging in their pajamas in their parents' basement. (Chuckles) So we invited a lot of people who could have access to the New York Times and a write their own books, to also blog. We wanted them to be part of the online conversation. There is no hierarchy.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: Mmm.

Arianna Huffington: So that was also the magic of the Internet, that you didn't know who would be reading what and what would happen.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: So, Jeff, she invents an entire branch of news, effectively. Is that.. I don't think I exaggerate when I say this.

Jeff Jarvis: No. She didn't invent blogging, but she then took blogging and used her rolodex to bring stars into it and give it some measure of...

Chuck Nice: Legitimacy?

Jeff Jarvis: Yeah.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: Because before that bloggers, like she said, were just people in their underwear in the basement.

Jeff Jarvis: I'm here in my pajamas today.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: Yeah. Yeah. And thinking that everyone cares about what they think.

Jeff Jarvis: Yeah, but there were a few steps in blogging. I started blogging after 9/11. I was here in New York and we were called war bloggers at the time. Uh, there were political bloggers, there were food bloggers and money bloggers, there had been these phases of bloggers. But at the end of the day, it's just people owning a printing press. We're all Gutenberg now.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: Interesting.

Chuck Nice: Mhm.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: So would you say that we have entered a new era of news?

Chuck Nice: But is blogging news?

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: Yeah, I know, yeah.

Chuck Nice: That's really... You can say we've entered a new era of news, but is blogging news, or is it more, mm, opinion driven?

Jeff Jarvis: It's just a publishing tool. It can be anything. I mean, literally, we all have a Gutenberg press in our pocket now. We can all publish to the entire world. We can say what we want to. That can be news, it can be information, it can be opinion, it can be anything we want it to be.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: But there was a day when we had tools in place, or filters in place to know if you didn't otherwise know for yourself, whether somebody is speaking truth, or insightful opinions.

Jeff: Uuuh, you believed that...

Dr. Neil: Or whether they just got their head up their rectum.

Chuck Nice: So are you saying that entire construct was nothing more than a mirage?

Jeff Jarvis: Yeah.

Chuck Nice: Wow. (Laughter) I didn't expect that!

Jeff Jarvis: Yeah, I was part of it. I was a newspaper guy. (Laughter) But, but no. Who's to say that, just because I own the printing press I'm the guy who knows everything and you don't? Um, no. We really have the opportunity...

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: Well, wait a minute. Wait, wait. I think of Ben Franklin. He was a printer. Okay? You don't become that unless people trusted what you said.

Jeff Jarvis: No, you go out and buy a press. You got the money.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: Yeah, he had the money.

Jeff Jarvis: Yeah. You buy a press that was it.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: Okay, never mind, you got that. You win that argument. (Laughter) Let's move on. (Laughter) We're done there. So is it just a matter of speed, or is it fundamentally different in kind?

Jeff Jarvis: I think it's fundamentally different because now in our little microcosm of the blogworld, the blogosphere, we are in networks. And that's critically new.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: Is a network anything different from the fact that we, in the day, when any big city had two, three, sometimes four different competing newspapers, one set of people read one kind of paper, another kind of people set another kind of paper, and the news was not always reported the same way? So the news... your access to the news define communities.

Jeff Jarvis: Indeed.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: And weren't they linked together by the news they had in common?

Jeff Jarvis: Right. And I think we're coming to the end of the idea of the mass. There's a couple of academics out of the University of Southern Denmark who talk about the Gutenberg parenthesis. The Gutenberg was a 600-year exception in history. And from a time when knowledge was passed around mouth to mouth and it changed along the way, and then along came Gutenberg and changed everything. And it changed the way we see the world. We cognate the world now in packages, beginnings, and ends.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: Love that verb. Cognate. Do we all cognate? Or just in private do we?

Jeff Jarvis: Well, uh... On Twitter, it's debatable.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: It's debatable. (Laughter)

Jeff Jarvis: So we see the world differently now. Now we come to the other end, they argue, where now knowledge is passed around click to click. It's changed along the way, remixed...

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: The other parentheses is kicking in that's bounding the era of the Gutenberg influence.

Jeff Jarvis: Exactly. So now I think we return to a time where we're not seen as a mass all the same. Now we're seen as individuals and communities again, and we redefine ourselves in communities.

Chuck Nice: But is it really a redefinition? Or is it just the fact that because you know, uh, when Neil was talking about newspapers, what you had was a very particular bias for...

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: All of the newspapers. A polite way would be "point of view."

Chuck Nice: But it really is a bias. Okay? And each paper had its own bias, and that's how they printed the news, according to that bias. And now what you find is instead of that particular bias, people just seek out the news that they already agree with.

Jeff Jarvis: Uh...

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: And not only that. Let me add to that.

Chuck Nice: You don't think that?

Jeff Jarvis: Oh ye have little faith in your fellow man, but go ahead.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: You're outnumbered two to one here. So we win.

Chuck Nice: Actually, no.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: So, so no. H my fellow man. (Laughter)

Jeff Jarvis: That's how you make a living.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: So, here's the thing. So what Arianna also did was aggregate news.

Jeff Jarvis: Mhm.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: That means she's picking news that she's collecting under this one umbrella. So when you talk about point of view, she can pick points of view that she likes.

Chuck Nice: Hmm.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: So tell me about aggregation as a movement in the Internet age of news.

Jeff Jarvis: Well, if you go to any story on Google news right now, there'll be 2,000 versions of the same story. And because we have this overabundance, you could argue, of content now, somebody needs to come along and find the good stuff. That's aggregation. It's not a bad thing.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: Okay. So here's what I wonder. If I'm a news source and I'm known for my aggregating, and everyone reads me, then who's gonna pay for the people to be the investigative journalists?

Chuck Nice: Ooh, that's a very good question.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: If I'm sitting there just raking it in.

Chuck Nice: If everybody is pulling together news, who is going to go out and get the news?

Dr.Neil: And make the news? Now I asked Arianna that question.

Chuck Nice: Oh cool.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: Check it out.

Arianna Huffington: Right now, aggregation doesn't mean what you think it means because if you do it right, and we do, you drive traffic back to the creator of the content, and that's really the key.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: That's the Web of this.

Arianna Huffington: Yes, it's the Web. So our promise to our readers is we'll bring the best of the Web. Even if we had tens of thousands of journalists, we cannot claim that we're going to produce the only worthwhile things for you to consume.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: So, okay. So that's a good point.

Chuck Nice: That is a very good point.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: So let me ask you though, what of rumors that people then treat as fact? What is your responsibility as a journalism professional to contain rumors becoming facts?

Jeff Jarvis: That's what keeps us employed. Right? You have a flow of information that's occurring without media anymore, and the journalists are here to add value to that. To debunk rumors, to confirm facts. To answer questions, to ask the questions that aren't being asked and answered. That's what a journalist needs to do in essence.

Chuck Nice: I'm sorry. Have you seen Fox News?


Jeff Jarvis: Did you define them as journalists?

Chuck Nice: No. (Laughing)

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: By the way, Fox is the majority owner of National Geographic Channel. Just to... (Laughter)

Chuck Nice: Can we get him fired? In the interest of full disclosure...

Chuck Nice: As I said... Have you seen Fox News?


Dr. deGrasse Tyson: In the next segment, Chuck will be summarily removed. By men in black. Alright. So, you see yourself as the keeper... I'm putting words in your mouth. As the keeper of the truth, selecting from this river of rumors or partial truths that which the public should receive...

Jeff Jarvis: No.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: ... as the filtered information.

Jeff Jarvis: Not anymore. We are not the gatekeepers. We are not the holders of the Holy Temple of Truth.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: Who is the gatekeeper?

Jeff Jarvis: There isn't one.

Dr. Tyson: That's scary.

Jeff Jarvis: Um. No. There's all kinds of sources of information. There's all kinds of signals of authority and authenticity. And what do you do in the academia? You reel academics. Right? You use citations. What did Google do? Google came along and said if the content is more often cited, it's probably better content. It's probably more reliable.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: Except...

Jeff Jarvis: Oh wizard of the universe.


Chuck Nice: You shall not pass.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: If I search Google for flat earth, it will find me every website in the world that celebrates a flat earth. And I will think that my views are mainstream, or that I'm not weirdly, uh...

Chuck Nice: Outside of the fray.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: Outside of the fray. Because other forces are operating to feed my delusion.

Jeff Jarvis: Okay. So professor doctor.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: Yeah?

Jeff Jarvis: It is your responsibility.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: It's Neil to you. (Laughter)

Jeff Jarvis: It is your responsibility to blog more so you rise up. Put more good stuff on to drive the bad stuff down.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: Okay.

Chuck Nice: Interesting.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: So so you put it back me again.

Jeff Jarvis: The universe is on your shoulders.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: I'll get to work on that now. (Laughter) Well, when we have sort of high-profile guests like Arianna Huffington for Star Talk, I always like asking them whether science played any role in their lives, either good or bad. 'Cause we're a science show, and I like seeing what those forces of nature are. So we'll be checking that out, when Star Talk comes back.


Dr. deGrasse Tyson: This is Star Talk. We are back. Here in the beautiful Hall of the Universe of the Rose Center for earth and space.

Chuck Nice: Absolutely.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: I'm feeling the cosmic forces here.

Chuck Nice: Every time you say that, I feel like we should be wearing costumes. (Laughter) I don't know why.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: With light sabers.

Chuck Nice: Here in the Hall of the Universe.


Jeff Jarvis: He's your father.


Dr. deGrasse Tyson: I am your father, yes. So I got Chuck Nice here, Jeff Jarvis, a professor of journalism. And what's the title of one of your classes?

Jeff Jarvis: Entrepreneurial journalism.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: Entrepreneurial.

Jeff Jarvis: Teaching journalists to start businesses, to feed themselves, and also we have a new master's degree in social journalism.

Chuck Nice: So the utilization of social media?

Jeff Jarvis: More than that.

Chuck Nice: More than that?

Jeff Jarvis: Trying to turn journalism on its head to listen to communities first, understand what their needs are first before we think we're so big that we know what you need.

Chuck Nice: Wow.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: That's good. So, so what I wonder is I'm always curious whether someone who is successful in one job or another, how much influence science literacy may have had in their lives? Did they enjoy their science classes, did they not? So do you find journalists to be better or not... ? Is there anything in there that you can say, these make a better journalist if you have that kind of background?

Jeff Jarvis: Oh yeah. I think curiosity, I think the ability to listen first. But unfortunately.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: Good scientists do that? We are curious people.

Jeff Jarvis: But, we need to teach journalists how to appreciate science, write about science, understand science. We don't do that enough, frankly.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: So with that... in that spirit, I approached Arianna and I said, did science, or science literacy, or science curiosity, did any of that impact your life? Let's check it out.

Arianna Huffington: It wasn't really until later in life that I discovered science and fell in love with it in a very, very unusual way, actually. Because I've always been drawn to spirituality and I've always been drawn to religion and then I started seeing and reading how many scientists actually had a religious foundation or...

Dr. Tyson: Most. If you go far enough back, it's most of them.

Arianna Huffington: We're drawn to science through wonder, which Aristotle considers sort of the foundation. So that was kind of my unusual connection to science. And at The Huffington Post, we launched a science section, but I asked our editor to focus a lot on this intersection between science and religion and to break kind of the illusion that scientists are all anti-spiritual and that science negates spirituality, because it doesn't.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: Mhm. One of the things, of course, that religion and science have in common is a sense of wonder. Maybe they're wondering about different things but nonetheless the feeling is surely similar.

Arianna Huffington: And a sense of mystery. I mean, I think... I find scientists, the best scientists, are very humble because even though they discover so much, they are always aware of how much is left to be discovered. And for me that's probably the essence of religion, that we don't really know a lot of what life is about and the universe is about, so that's kind of another connection.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: And you can't get more humble than staring into the abyss of the universe knowing...

Arianna Huffington: I have not stared into the abyss of the universe as much as you have, but I bet that's the case.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: So what's interesting to me is I ask her about science and spirituality comes up right in the same phrasings. I was there describing the commonality of feeling perhaps.

Chuck Nice: A sense of wonder.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: And she says that there's no conflict between sciences... Well, there is a conflict if religion is gonna make a testable claim. And then science tests it, and it's either true or not. Most of the time it's actually not true.

Chuck Nice: But see, that's where religion wins Mr. DeGrasse Tyson Doctor. Because the claims they make are not testable.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: (Laughing) Okay, so then there you have it. (Laughter) We're done. Right, right. But let me use this then as metaphor for dialogue... dialogue is not the right word... for conflict that unfolds in public spaces, especially journalistic spaces. I'll say something about religion, or... and the people just jump in, and they fight, and they argue, and they scream, and I just watch this go on even when I didn't say anything controversial. I was just saying something observational. One of my tweets on Christmas Day, people lost their minds on this tweet. Christmas Day. On this day... This is my tweet. "On this day, long ago, a child was born." Who by the time he turned thirty, would transform civilization. Happy birthday, Isaac Newton."

Chuck Nice: Heretic! (Laughter)

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: "Born December 25th, 1642." People lost their mind! That is a 100 percent accurate statement.

Chuck Nice: Yes.

Jeff Jarvis: Yeah.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: But people lost their minds.

Jeff Jarvis: But wait a second.

Chuck Nice: Because, because, because...

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: How many? You wanna know how many?

Chuck Nice: Yeah.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: I can quantify it. Alright? My average tweet gets like 3,000 retweets. Average. And a good tweet might get 10,000. That tweet on Christmas Day got 81,000 retweets.

Jeff Jarvis: Woow.

Dr.deGrasse Tyson: You know why? Because a media source online, one of your people, had a headline that said, Tyson Trolls Christians on Christmas Day.

Chuck Nice: That's awesome.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: And I'm thinking. if I'm blogging about Isaac Newton. This is like my man, Isaac Newton. Who actually has the benefit of actually having been born on.

Chuck Nice: Which by the way, Jesus was not. (Laughter)

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: And Jesus was not. So...

Chuck Nice: Which is what makes the whole thing so great!

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: That's what I'm saying. That's what I'm saying. So people said, we demand you take down the tweet. I said, it's an accurate... it's a true tweet. So the next day, I want to fight back, in a polite way. And I said, I dream of a day when...

Chuck Nice: Little black boys and little white boys (Laughter) ... will come together. (Laughter) Scientists and believera.


Dr. deGrasse Tyson: I dream of a day when objective truths... I dream of a day when people are enlightened by objective truths rather than offended by them.

Jeff Jarvis: Okay, here's the issue. Neil, there's always been bozos, fools, and idiots on earth. Always. You could hear them a little easier now. But don't believe... (Laughter) ... that just because some small thousand number said something stupid to you on Twitter, that's the end of the universe. It's not. You're okay. It will be okay.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: But that was enough to get people fighting. So the modern media allows people to scream at one another, whether or not they have a background to justify their arguments. And what do you do with that in your journalism analysis?

Jeff Jarvis: It's hard, because I think that these days, we've got to take a stand for what's right, and sometimes things are right. I had this discussion in class the other day where... You tell me, scientist. I believe that we're pretty set now that measles vaccines are the right way to go. So if we as journalists want to deal with the truth, I think that's pretty clear. It's not a two-sided thing, get one side and the other side, get in.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: There's none of this get half the other argument.

Jeff Jarvis: No. And so how do we judge our success as journalists then?

Dr. Neil: But just to be clear, the journalistic ethos is, you must give equal time to the other side of a story.

Jeff Jarvis: Which is bullpucky.

Chuck Nice: I was gonna say, why is that the ethos?

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: Bull... What's that word?

Jeff Jarvis: Bullpucky.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: Bullpucky. Didn't hear that one in the hood. (Laughter) Did you hear that one in the hood?

Chuck Nice: Yeah, growing up in the hood all the time. "Man, what you say?" "Oh, that is bullpucky."


Dr. deGrasse Tyson: Okay. So we entered a digital era, post-Gutenberg era. Is that fair?

Jeff Jarvis: Yes.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: We're on the other side of that parentheses.

Jeff Jarvis: Yes.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: Where whole other challenges have befallen us. Simply because of that fact. And we'll learn more about that next on Star Talk.


Dr. deGrasse Tyson: Star Talk is back. Chuck Nice, Jeff Jarvis, professor of journalism. Chuck Nice, comedian.

Chuck Nice: Yes.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: Yeah, just to verify.

Chuck Nice: Thank you for giving me a handle as well.


Dr. deGrasse Tyson: Just Chuck Nice.

Chuck Nice: Chuck Nice. Some dude that was out. On 5th avenue.

Jeff Jarvis: I like professor of comedy.

Chuck Nice: Professor of comedy. I'm gonna let you keep liking that.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: There you go.


Chuck Nice: Cause I can't claim it.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: So what we want to explore here is, we've got this digital age. So information is instant. People can celebrate in an instant. People can argue in an instant. And these... these elements did not have a precedent in the world of media reporting.

Jeff Jarvis: Every time there's a new major technology we go through what I would call techno-panic. The first serious discussion...

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: I like that. It happens every time.

Jeff Jarvis: It does. The first serious discussion of a legal right to privacy in the United States occurred with the invention of what technology? The Kodak camera. Because it freaked people out that suddenly your picture could be taken.

Chuck Nice: Because you're stealing my soul.

Jeff Jarvis: Right? And it could appear in the penny press and this is awful. What did we do? We figured it out. We got our norms straight now so we all take selfies, now we all like our photos taken.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: We grew up in an era where there were spies, there were secrets. And so you didn't want anybody to know anything about you. Now we have a next generation of people... anyone twenty and unger... under... where everybody knows everything about them.

Chuck Nice: That's true.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: They've got pictures at parties, you know, flashing each other, doing shots. And these are pictures that are now permanently available on the Internet.

Jeff Jarvis: What's wrong about that Neil? At some point...

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: I was just observing.

Jeff Jarvis: Did you ever do anything embarrassing as a child?

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: No.


Jeff Jarvis: I know you did.

Chuck Nice: Yes, but I had the good sense to make sure that no cameras were there.


Jeff Jarvis: We all did embarrassing things when we were younger. What's wrong with this picture of taking it out on you when you're older? It means you're intolerant. I think at some point we become a more tolerant society. We recognize that everybody has their foibles, and we'll learn from that.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: But you know what happens, because we create our own online presence, it's not created by someone else who took a picture of us, we can paint whatever image of ourselves we want, whether or not it's accurate. So I brought up that topic with Arianna Huffington. Let's check it out.

Arianna Huffington: If you look at the way people use social media a lot of it is artificial. And someone said, there is no human being who is as happy as an Instagram, no human being who is as upset, outraged and miserable as on Twitter, and nobody who is as employable as on Linkedln.


Dr. deGrasse Tyson: So everything is an exaggerated.

Arianna Huffington: So there is a little bit of a manufactured identity. You know, it's always me and the sunset, me and this fabulous meal, me smiling. But nobody has a life that's entirely like that.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: It's true. If I see an awesome-looking platter of food, I'm taking a picture of that.

Arianna Huffington: You know, but there are also times...

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: Look what I'm about to eat.

Arianna Huffington: There are times when you have a fabulous meal and there are times when you may be upset about something, you don't take a picture of you being upset.


Chuck Nice: Hmm.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: Didn't she just wrap that up right there?

Chuck Nice: Yeah, that's exactly what we were talking about. But that is human nature. We show our best selves no matter what. That's why...

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: But will we mature out of this to come to a world where we are more honest with one another?

Jeff Jarvis: There's no guarantees either way, but I hope so, I think it's possible. Because there's value in that. There's value when you find the person who has the problem you have, you can share that with, you can understand that.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: Where's the value that someone thinking I'm less than what I want to make people think I am. Where's the value in that?

Chuck Nice: Right.

Jeff Jarvis: Because at some point, you're not your true self and you'll lose credibility.

Chuck Nice: But that's the whole point of actually being online. I don't want to be my true self. That's why my online dating picture is not me sitting on the edu... edge of the bed clipping my toenails.

Jeff Jarvis: Aren't you married?

Chuck Nice: I am. For seventeen years. But you understand. Nobody does that. Nobody takes a picture of themselves clipping their toenails just like, call me. (Laughter) You know? Because...

Jeff Jarvis: But at some point, we need credibility as human beings with each other. And I think that's what's gonna come out on the Internet. I think we're gonna be real with each other. Or else we're just all a whole bunch of comedians.

Chuck Nice: Wow.


Dr. deGrasse Tyson: Oh, ooh. Whoa. Oh. So there's another sort of emergent force out there. It's not just people who were creating a version of themselves that isn't real. A new species of life has arisen. The Internet troll. And I wondered, what would Arianna do, right? (Laughter) How does she handle trolls? I wondered that. Cause she's got a whole empire. Surely there are tolls moving in and out of her situation. So I asked her that, and we will get to that part of the interview when Star Talk continues.



Dr. deGrasse Tyson: We're back. Chuck, Jeff, again thanks for being on the show. So we're featuring my interview with Arianna Huffington, in my office, which is great. It's just like, she and I just talking smack about journalism. (Laughs) And so what came up, which was unavoidable I think, you had to land there at some point if you're talking about the health of an industry, Internet journalism, in there, or Internet presence of anything... person, place, or thing... you part the curtains, there's a troll lurking. (Laughter) And... And they don't go away. I thought Arianna would have deep insight, perhaps, into this, because she has a media empire. There must be trolls moving in and out of what she does. I had to get her perspective on this. Check it out.

Arianna Huffington: I am fully aware of the problems with the Internet, and that's why in fact finally, last year, The Huffington Post ended anonymity. We do not allow anonymous comments. You know, we had and still have the most advanced algorithmic technology to moderate comments. But the algorithm wasn't smart enough not to be outwitted by trolls. You know, trolls are incredibly ingenious, some of them. They want to basically have no other life except to circumvent this technology. So we actually...

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: Like the original trolls that live under bridges, what else do they do? They just live under the bridge. They don't go shopping, they don't go to the amusement park. (Laughs)

Arianna Huffington: They don't have a life.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: So they're aptly named, yes, trolls.

Arianna Huffington: So we also have thirty human moderators to supplement the algorithm. That didn't work. And then I thought one day, you know, is this really worth it? Why are we spending all of this money on basically dealing with a tiny infinitesimal percentage, like 00001 percent? And so we ended anonymity and can invest the resources of these 30 human moderators in more productive ways. There is something about anonymity that brings the worst out in people. And I don't believe that we have the responsibility to allow them unless they have a particular reason why they need to remain anonymous. We have made allowances for that like if you are a whistle blower then you can come backstage and tell an editor why you need to remain anonymous.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: But then you reveal yourself obviously to the editors. And of course there are famous experiments, psychology experiments on the conduct of people in the face of anonymity versus not. How do you administer punishment if the person you are punishing knows it's you versus you being behind a door. And we are mean people, a mean species.

Arianna Huffington: We are both. That's what is fascinating about human nature, we are a mixture. Every one of us is a mixture.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: Some differently mixed than others.

Arianna Huffington: Some very differently mixed but there's nobody who is not mixed in some way right?

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: Exactly. She's so hopeful there. Man. I'm ready to indict whole groups of people. She says, no everybody has a nice side.

Chuck Nice: Yeah. She's wrong.


Dr. deGrasse Tyson: So, who are trolls and why do they do this?

Jeff Jarvis: Trolls are sad souls who want to get a rise out of people who sometimes need their meds, let's be honest. And I think that we have to deal with them in a lot of levels. One is that the rest of us, the un-trolls, the civilized beings on the Internet, too often encourage the trolls. You feed the trolls. You say, oh, look over there, there's a fight over there. All we're doing is giving them the nourishment they want.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: Don't feed the trolls.

Jeff Jarvis: Don't feed the trolls. Don't give them attention, don't reward them, don't laugh. 'Cause you're giving them what they want. And what it means is that the rest of us bear responsibility. If you end up pointing to a troll, then you are an accessory to the troll. You're part of the crime. This is the problem. We give attention to these moments of bad behavior.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: There's someone who's name I forgot, who hypothesized that every... every chat thread degrades to a point where somebody mentions Hitler or Nazis.

Jeff Jarvis: Godwin's Law.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: Godwin's Law. What is Godwin's Law?

Jeff Jarvis: That given enough time, any chat threat will disintegrate into a mention of Hitler.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: Any chat thread.

Jeff Jarvis: Any chat thread.

Chuck Nice: At some point.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: You can be talking about the Teletubbies.

Jeff Jarvis: The longer it goes, the more likely it will end up in Hitler.

Chuck Nice: Tinkie Winkie was really a brown shirt.


Dr. deGrasse Tyson: So why? What is the attraction of Hitler and Nazis, to make its way into every blog?

Jeff Jarvis: Because you run out of arguments.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: When I run out of arguments, the first thing in my thought is not Hitler. I'm just...

Chuck Nice: Yeah. When I run out of arguments, I know I'm talking to my wife.


Dr. deGrasse Tyson: So in my interview with Arianna, it became clear... She's a successful woman. And I like hearing wisdom from successful people. And she recently wrote a book, called Thrive, where she explores the challenges of being successful, but still..leading a life that is sane. Let's find out what she told me when Star Talk returns.


Dr. deGrasse Tyson: Cool. We're back. Hall of the Universe. Chuck. Jeff. Good to have you.

Both: Good to be here.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: So where did we leave off? We got my interview with Arianna Huffington. And she actually published a book, called Thrive. She's a successful person. Everyone wants to know how do you do it. And you know, she had, I don't want to quite call it a secret, but she has a revelation. The revelation is, in our Western society, there are basically only two measures of success. One of them is wealth.

Chuck Nice: Mhm.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: The other is power. In our society, if you have those two, you are considered successful... no matter what else might be true about you. And she's concerned that if that's the only measure and metric of your success, what about your mental health? Are you burnt out? Do you not have time to love, for family, to go to the beach? Where is the rest of the completion of your life? I asked her all those questions. Let's find out what she says.

Arianna Huffington: All the signals we're getting are the lives of the rich and powerful and how do you climb the ladder? And so people as a result are living now under the collective delusion that burnout is the price that you have to pay for success. So that's really why I wanted to write the book and then I looked at the science and all of this ancient wisdom is validated by modern science now. The ancient wisdom about the importance of renewal and sleep and dreams and mediation or whatever you want to call it, prayer, you know, mindfulness. Whatever word you want to use, that time to be alone, to be silent, to be connected with ourselves. So now we've had an explosion of science around these things. I mean, we've had Richard Davis at the University of Wisconsin using MRis on the brains of Buddhist monks to demonstrate the plasticity of the brain and the generation of gamma waves, and to show that giving is a shortcut to happiness. I mean that sounds like a cliché but now you have science proving it.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: Yeah, so she's on a roll there. Right. She's ready to like re-define success. Do I get an agreement that we live in a world here in America today that if you said, last night I got only two hours of sleep, I was working all day, you say that's a hard working person, you'll go far, you'll climb the ladder, you'll succeed? This is how we treat it?

Chuck Nice: You know and that's because people. they don't realize that that's not true.


Dr. deGrasse Tyson: Okay.

Chuck Nice: My father has passed away and he was a workaholic. And that is a real disease. Just like any other addiction.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: Mhm.

Chuck Nice: He was a man who felt like he had to be defined by what he did. And so he just worked.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: Arianna had mentioned sort of Buddhists meditation as a thing you might fold into this. And I had to take her to task on that but, I think she had a good answer. Let's see how that unshake... shakes out.

Chuck Nice: I can't wait.


Dr. deGrasse Tyson: The Buddhist monks are not inventing airplanes, they are not inventing computers, they didn't invent much that I know of, of anything of what we call modern society. They are not the ones who invented the Internet. It's a bunch of restless people who were not getting much sleep and who are not meditating perhaps.

Arianna Huffington: But here's the thing. In the book, I quote a lot of the people who created the modern age, like Steve Jobs, who said that his best ideas that led to the iconic Apple products came after Zen meditation because and, I'm quoting him, he said that's when I could hear subtler things. It's not going to be while you are processing your email or while you are dealing with all the distractions of modern life. It is inevitably going to be in a moment of quiet. If you look through science, you know, Newton came up with the theory of gravity while in a contemplative mood, having tea in his garden.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: He wasn't partying, he wasn't doing email.

Arianna Huffington: Right, and we have so many examples like that.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: So it's not that we should all just meditate, it's that this aspect of introspection should be a component.

Arianna Huffington: Part of our lives. Absolutely.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: And that way we can still invent the Internet in a moment of meditation. Of course, if all we did was meditate, nothing gets invented.

Arianna Huffington: Of course not.

Chuck Nice: That was awesome.

Jeff Jarvis: I think where I absolutely agree with her is that we have an epidemic of anxiety in society. We have a huge problem among our youth, among ourselves, in how we treat ourselves and what we expect of ourselves. And I don't think that's about just simply getting more sleep, or working less. I think what we expect of ourselves.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: But is there also an information overload, where we think we have to process it?

Jeff Jarvis: No. No. Ever since the library in Alexandria, there's been too much information for anybody to take in. That's...

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: This guy goes way back.

Chuck Nice: I mean, he went Alexandria on your ass.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: He went Alexandria on our ass.

Chuck Nice: On us. Okay? Alright? He wasn't talking like Sixth Avenue Public Library.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: He's talking about scrolls and stuff. Right. So... so...

Jeff Jarvis: No, we've always had too much information for any one person just to take in. That's a source of stress.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: But what do you think of information being like we overeat food, and we get fat. We have access to too much information, and we need to go on an information diet.

Jeff Jarvis: No, let me ask you this way. Would you agree that we have too much stress and anxiety in society?

Chuck Nice: Absolutely.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: Me and the universe are pretty tight. And I'm really relaxed.

Jeff Jarvis: You're good.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: In the presence of the cosmos.

Jeff Jarvis: But you work harder than anybody on earth.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: I do. But does anyone think that I'm uptight?

Jeff Jarvis: You're in your fortieth hour today alone.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: Do I come across as an uptight person?

Jeff Jarvis: No you don't.

Chuck Nice: No.

Chuck Nice: This is the way I feel. It really is about what works for you.

Jeff Jarvis: Yes.

Chuck Nice: And so I do agree with the stress and anxiety that that puts you in a position where other things will not work. Sleep doesn't work. Relationships don't work. And it really is due to stress and anxiety.

Jeff Jarvis: It's also about doing something that makes you happy.

Chuck Nice: True.

Jeff Jarvis: Now tell me this. Comedians have a reputation for being internally sad people.

(Laughing wildly)

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: Sorry. (Laughing wildly) He's staring at you flat-footed.

Chuck Nice: Yup. (Laughing wildly) And he was just like, hey man, I know you are hurting inside. (Laughter) So what we do is we spend a lot of time sitting around, thinking about stuff that nobody else does.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: That's right for sure.

Chuck Nice: And that of makes you a little nuts.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: And out of that comes humor, but we never realize that.

Jeff Jarvis: You give people the relief from their stress.

Chuck Nice: Uh, yes.

Jeff Jarvis: Yeah, you do.

Chuck Nice: Yeah, I do. Yeah. I'll give you that.

Jeff Jarvis: And we made him happy while we were at it.

Chuck Nice: Oh no, you made him happy.


Dr. deGrasse Tyson: In situations like this, I always turn to my good friend Bill Nye.

Chuck Nice: Ahh.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: To see if he's got some take on life in the Information Age. So we're gonna check in on him when we come back to Star Talk.


Dr. deGrasse Tyson: Welcome back to Star Talk. From Manhattan, New York City. North America. (Laughter) Western hemisphere. Earth. Solar system. Sagittarius arm.

Chuck Nice: Oooh. Wow.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: Milky Way Galaxy.

Chuck Nice: Uh huh.

Jeff Jarvis: Next.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: Local group. Virgo super cluster.


Jeff Jarvis: Ooh! That was nice.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: The universe. And we don't yet have a coordinate within the multiverse. We're working on that. So my friend Bill Nye, he moved to town. He started in Seattle, went to LA, but he's a New Yorker now and he's loving it. And he sends in these dispatches from around town. He has some thoughts about sharing in the Information Age, as we knew he would. Check it out.

Bill: When it comes to sharing information, humans are in a class by themselves. I mean, sure, a dog may walk up to a tree and take a pee to let other dogs know that it's his territory. Coyotes may howl to communicate. Monkeys may screech to let other monkeys in the barrel know that there's a predator nearby. Or, a whale can swim real fast and breach up out of the sea, and flop back down with a great big splash and a great big sound. But humans... Humans, we share all kinds of information with everybody all the time. We use these big, wide, thin sheets. But the best you can do with a piece of paper is sort of uh, last night's news. Now we get news 24/7, every day. We can share information in a flash, at the speed of light, all over the world. That is, as long as you got one of these... and you're connected. Is there Wi-Fi here? There's no Wi-Fi.


Dr. deGrasse Tyson: My man Bill. So, Jeff, you wrote a book.

Jeff Jarvis: geeks bearing gifts: Imagining New Futures for News.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: So what... In that, what have you imagined?

Jeff Jarvis: I imagined that we moved past the idea of mass media. We get treated again as individuals and communities with respect. We find a relevance...

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: Are you just making this up? Or are you actually looking at trend lines and extrapolating.

Jeff Jarvis: No. I'm saying what I think news needs to do to survive.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: Oh. That's a stronger point.

Jeff Jarvis: I think as long as we continue to try to replicate our old mass media models in this new thing we call the Internet... Look at it this way. I have my dear phone. Right? And when I go home tonight, I'll put in Waze. And it will say.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: Waze. W-A-Z-E.

Chuck Nice: Ooh, you had a new phone.


Dr. deGrasse Tyson: Your phone is now busted on the floor of the Hall of the Universe.

Jeff Jarvis: I'm in a lot of anxiety right now.


Jeff Jarvis: So, Waze.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: Ok we get it. You have a cell phone.

Jeff Jarvis: Waze will say, are you going home? Google through Waze... it's a traffic app... knows where I live and where I work. My local newspaper doesn't know that. That's ridiculous. My local newspaper treats me the same as millions of other people. Where as big, huge Google sees me as an individual. I think media has to shift to seeing people as individuals and communities and giving us greater relevance and greater value. And I think that in there is a new business model that's gonna support journalism and create more value.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: Is this the next media billionaire?

Jeff Jarvis: I hope so. In the meantime, what do we have? We just have a lot of cats online.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: Yeah.

Chuck Nice: Eh.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: I've joked that if aliens came to visit Earth, and observed all that goes on, they would conclude that the Internet is powered by kittens. (Laughter) There would be no other conclusion they could draw. So this is the continued evolution of something in its infancy.

Jeff Jarvis: Yes.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: Now let's find out what Arianna Huffington had to say about the future of journalism. Check it out.

Arianna Huffington: You know the New York Times famously says, "all the news that's fit to print." And my concern is that all of us in the media are not really giving our readers or viewers all the news. We're giving them all of the bad news. There is a bias towards crisis, uh, beheadings, rapes, mayhem. Obviously we have to cover all of that, obviously we have to uncover corruption and dysfunction. But we also feel it's about time that we do a better job bringing to our readers, solutions journalism. You know, the things that our...

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: Solutions journalism.

Arianna Huffington: Yes. We want to focus on what is working, because you know a lot of things are working but you wouldn't know that. So that's kind of my new priority for The Huffington Post.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: So she's thinking that through. What do you think of this? Changing what you report so that the good things show up as much as the bad things. Can you catch people's attention with good news?

Jeff Jarvis: Yeah, I think you can. No you can, you know what? You can capture their attention with useful news.

Chuck Nice: There you go.

Jeff Jarvis: It is our job to call on the powerful and the pompous, and tell them when they're full of it. But we don't do that enough in journalism.

Dr. deGrasse Tyson: No, in fact. I'd like to take that one step further. That as an educator and as a scientist, one of the great powers of the mind is a level of... is achieving a level of science literacy that can enable you, no, empower you, to know when someone else is full of (bleep) Mmmm... (Laughter) Guys, thanks for being on Star Talk. This has been great. I learned a lot, I laughed a lot. And I didn't know that Chuck was depressed. Alright? Okay. (Laughter) I'm your host, Neil deGrasse Tyson. And as always, I bid you to keep looking up.