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Chris Lattner: The Future of Computing and Programming Languages [audio] (lexfridman.com)
247 points by binarynate on Oct 19, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 137 comments



Every time I run across an episode of this podcast I need to weigh in my interest in a great guest versus having to listen to Lex's monotone voice and meaning-of-life type questions. The disparity is amazing - the list of guests is easily the best out of any podcast that has guests that I've ever come across; and the delivery of the host is just about the worst I've come across too. I guess I'll listen to this one.


I think there's an unfortunate convergence of format and questioning. He asks a lot of the same questions of almost every guest. "Are we living in a simulation? What is consciousness? Etc." This feels like a waste of these guests if it's unrelated to their area of interest. In general, it smacks of lack of preparation.

But perhaps this creates the opportunity for someone to make a series of supercuts, where Lex doesn't need to appear, but we get the appearance of a series of luminaries discussing a recurring question, and the differences and similarities among responses can be more apparent. A virtual panel, smeared across time.


There's a Canadian interviewer named "Nardwuar the Human Serviette" who mainly does interviews with rappers/musicians. Before each interview, he conducts the most in-depth research on them that anyone has ever conducted, mentioning people, places, early inspirations from their childhood and musical career, things that only a handful of people, the rappers' parents or only themselves could know - which often astounds, confuses or even frightens them.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZP8OwCdO1E

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5RKbSi87J5Q

I agree with the previous comments, Lex' guests are really great, maybe the above can serve as inspiration :)


Tyler Cowen (from Conversations with Tyler) does a variant of this, but a bit less creepy than that sounds :).


I love Tyler Cowen's podcast.


I've never felt that Lex's interviewing was so poor that it was a reason not to listen to one of his interviews. He still gets interesting people to talk about interesting things.

Yes, amazing guest list, I do wonder how it took off like that.

Edit: in contrast, Rob Reid's After On podcast has somewhat similar guests (not an all-stars list, no AI folks except Stuart Russell & Rodney Brooks), but he's my favourite interviewer. The amount of research he does before each interview is insane, to the point he already knows what the guest will say and what are the most interesting items to talk about. But he still lets the guest tell the story themselves.


Lex is a good interviewer, he's thoughtful and goes into depth. I've enjoyed many of his interviews. It's like he's a more stoic version of Joe Rogan.

Some of his guests, however, are a very bad choice. In particular I am thinking of Eric Weinstein who has been on TWICE. Weinstein is a master-class bullshtter, who opines on his theory of everything yet has NOTHING to show for it. He also manages to pull in politics, academia, culture, and the kitchen sink, all obfuscated by turgid rhetoric.


On average I'd rate him a pretty good interviewer however it seems like the quality has declined recently. E.g., his interview with Michael Malice a few weeks ago, where he (Lex) confessed to pulling an all-nighter before the interview, and so wasn't on his game. It showed. Hopefully the lesson he took from that experience is he shouldn't pull all-nighters before an interview.

As the commenter above said, lots of 'meaning of life' questions that just aren't that interesting.


On the contrary, Weinsten is a genius, a contrarian and a patriot who is not afraid to call a spade a spade. Thank the deity that there are still people like that and they can reach the rest of us with little mediation by establishment types.


The oppressed outsider wiling to say the truth against all odds is a meme invented by hucksters like Weinstein so they can sell you their supplements/ads/patreon subscription. It has little basis in reality. (it's obviously true since these people usually have bigger platforms than any "establishment types" who criticize them)


"Genius", "contrarian" and "patriot" are all characterizations that don't have any basis in reality. What has he ACTUALLY DONE other than talk up a storm that amounts to not much at all? AFIAK, he's just an employee of Peter Thiel.


He’s a social critic. “What have you actually done?” is the most common non sequitur used to silence critics and dissidents since time immemorial. It’s irrelevant. Anyone is allowed to be a critic. Their accomplishments have no bearing on the veracity of their arguments. That would be an appeal to authority.


If his arguments were clear and interesting, it would be a different story.

This person purports to have "a theory of everything" up his sleeve yet won't communicate it properly because he doesn't trust the physics community. That doesn't stop him from lengthy podcasts and interviews, like with Lex, where he uses a firehose of specialist jargon against a general audience. To what end? I can't imagine.

The obscurantist IDW stuff appears to be nothing more than a vaguely libertarian stance mildly against progressives and mostly in academia-- boring and not even close to "dissident".


It’s an appeal to the authority of credibility. The more you speak through the language of results, the more credible you are. It’s this appeal to credibility that people rely on when they choose doctors or lawyers.


You say it like credibility in those two contexts are a bad thing.

Doctors and lawyers are about the only occupations where a professional’s mistake could cost a client his/her life. No other professions come close, which is part of why the training is long and the practitioners require a license to practice.


Our modern world is so tightly coupled that lots of us are working in professions where mistakes can cost lives.


Are you judging his ideas or his track record?


Really? Even if you do not accept his intelectual firepower which is demonstrated by his credentials and even more so, obvious in any of the public long form conversations he has had, you cannot honestly say he is not a contrarian or a patriot. Come on. His tweeter feed, the people he interviews, the themes he discusses, all of that speaks of love for the country and a rejection of conventional thinking.


Someone in another comment compared Lex to Joe Rogan, and I think that comparison is apt. He is only as interesting as his guest's ability to break out of the box his questions put them into. And just like Rogan, Fridman has a very questionable set of guests which he doesn't truly challenge at any point in the conversation.


That can be said the same with Guy Raz. I highly recommend everyone to give How I Built This a listen.


I’m a fan of the show for the guests but not the interviews, if that makes any sense. He asks questions that are too general. I never get a sense from the episodes of what it’s actually like to run the business. I never get an understanding of what are the important things in their industry. It’s too much “aw shucks” this hard personal thing happened and you overcame it. Which is fine on its own, but I want to learn about business on a business show.


Second that. He's great. His new book is also highly recommended. I listened to it via audible


> The disparity is amazing - the list of guests is easily the best out of any podcast that has guests that I've ever come across; and the delivery of the host is just about the worst I've come across too.

If the guests would feel in the same way, then they wouldn’t be talking with Lex.

So it's most likely an issue you have. I personally don't mind Lex at all and really like his style, especially his "simple" questions, because how great minds answer these "simple" questions can be quite interesting.


> If the guests would feel in the same way, then they wouldn’t be talking with Lex.

I am often reminded of this anecdote:

"Von Neumann would carry on a conversation with my 3-year-old son, and the two of them would talk as equals, and I sometimes wondered if he used the same principle when he talked to the rest of us." (Teller)

> how great minds answer these "simple" questions can be quite interesting

Yes for sure. But rather than directly ask the naive question which we simple listeners want to ask, I want a smart interviewer to give us some quick signposts about schools of thought on this and where the interviewee probably comes from given what they've said in the past. Then you can get a deeper answer. Even, perhaps especially, when they disagree with the way in which the interviewer has framed the question.


> But rather than directly ask the naive question which we simple listeners want to ask, I want a smart interviewer to give us some quick signposts about schools of thought on this and where the interviewee probably comes from given what they've said in the past. Then you can get a deeper answer. Even, perhaps especially, when they disagree with the way in which the interviewer has framed the question.

If you don't like Lex's style, well, then don't listen to him. A lot of people seem to like and enjoy him. Asking someone to change to better fit your own expectations, honestly, seems quite a bit to ask, and at the end might not work that well, if it doesn't fit himself.

Sure, you can critique whatever you want, but Lex doesn't really has to listen and also shouldn't, if he has that many listeners by just doing his thing.


Oh right, I wouldn't call my moaning here helpful advice! Nor expect everyone's tastes to agree.

Maybe I'm hoping someone will tell me who I should listen to, instead.


Sometimes it‘s quite funny why you like certain people, how you weight the positive and negative attributes, because there‘s no person you like everything about. So you might dislike one person for certain attributes, but there‘s this other person you like with the same negative attributes, but in this case you don‘t weight them that much, it‘s easier to overlook them, because other positive attributes outweigh them.

So, what I‘m trying to say with this? I don‘t quite know, just a bit of a brain dump. Perhaps you‘re getting some hints for other podcasts.


His list of guests is amazing and he sometimes has interesting lines of inquiry, but too often he very clearly has his own axe to grind which can get quite annoying.

The endless "I am so very humble" spiel also gets tiresome, especially when punctuated by claims like "all journalists are trash (except those with a unique scientific curiosity, like me, of course)".


Every time a run across an episode of this podcast I am inclined to press play, often when I've never even heard of the guest. Yes his voice is very monotone but I find it calming. He challenges his guests with philosophical questions while most interviewers stick to the subject material. He adds just enough humor to lighten the mood, but not too much to derail the conversation. He takes that extra second before speaking to make sure his response or next question is genuine.

Lex, since you disagree with Joe Rogan's advice on not reading the comments, I know there's a slight possibility that you read this. I want to thank you for the fulfilling content, congratulate you on your success as a podcast host, and tell you that you are an inspirational person.


It’s unfortunate that this is your take. I find his questions to be out of sincere wonder. He’s finding himself in life and the podcast is a journey we are joining him on as he finds out. I find his podcast amazing and this one especially great given how cool Chris Lattner is. And if it means anything it seems Chris and Lex are legit friends.


Same. It's my favorite podcast right now, I enjoy Lex's demeanor and line of questioning. I think it really helps understand the mental model with which these folks approach life.

I think it's a good example of 'you can't please everybody'. For my part I hope he stays the course.


Totally agreed. It's so frustrating to me that out of the thousands of brilliant interviewers out there, we got this guy somehow bubbling up to the top. Maybe he brings the conversation down to the masses? His "philosophical" questions are often so bad that they don't even parse for his interviewees!!!


I think it's more that he puts in the work (doing and promoting the podcast) and he manages to get great guests.


It doesn’t hurt that his father is a highly respected plasma scientist—a small but not insignificant factor in his ability to land great guests.

https://drexel.edu/engineering/news-events/news/archive/2019...


This is not why he gets these guests. Lex is very famous in his own right. His episodes on Joe Rogan's podcast are some of the most popular he's put out. He's a well respected researcher in his own right. Chris Lattner did not go on this podcast because Lex's dad is a physicist.


I think his affiliation with MIT probably helped to start with, but you still have to shoot your shot. He interviewed three billionaires before episode 20 (none of which would give a shit about plasma physics btw, lol).


Kyle Vogt and Elon Musk are explainable with MIT, being a researcher heavily involved with self driving. Schmidt, yeah dunno how he got him so early on. He seems pretty well connected in technology in general to be honest. Still has nothing to do with his dad.


I have the same issues with Fridman. I wonder how he's able to get these A-list guests? Is it just that he's the only one in the space doing these kinds of podcasts? I heard his interview with Jim Keller (chip designer extraordinaire) and Fridman did ask some good questions, but there were also some very cringey questions and others that seemed to indicate he was out of his depth (at least with the topic at hand). In spite of it, Keller had a lot of good things to say. So I'll probably listen to this Lattner interview and cringe at points and find what Chris has to say interesting in spite of it.


I m trying to figure out what is it that throws people off? There are successful podcasters that are far more clueless than Lex (e.g. Joe rogan) and he s not interrupting much. In general the interviewee is usually the center of attention, and they seem to be actually going pretty deep on presenting their theses or personal ideas (e.g. sebastian thrun, joscha bach, george hotz, lisa feldman, james gosling). As for a few cringey questions in 1.5 hours, it's like a restful interlude, after all talking can become exhausting. Do people think the interviewees are offended by Lex's (few) obsessions (Musk,dostoyevsky,his soviet past)? It certainly doesnt seem so judging from their reactions during the interview and after (in twitter etc).

Being in MIT probably gave him easy access to the interesting people that started off his podcast, but beyond that i think his affable , empathetic and easy style is rather attractive, so people don't say no to him, and many have returned back.


I think blinkingled below in the comments put it really well:

"yes it is different and it can feel like stoned teenager with disorganized thoughts asking questions that form mid sentence"


It is pretty clear Jim Keller did something pretty remarkable at Apple and then AMD (I know less about his work at Tesla). I tried to dig into the stuff he's said and written to understand what he did and how he did it. Say what you want about Fridman's interview style, that interview was probably the most insightful thing I found.


i like him but essentially he started the podcast with interviewing someone for a class he was teaching at MIT. MIT has some of the smartest people in the world on the faculty or visiting to give lectures, which gave him easy access to interview them.

And after getting the ball rolling its not hard to get new guests by listing your previous guests as well as your view counts.


> and the delivery of the host is just about the worst I've come across too.

I like Lex's style - the guests always deliver on interesting conversations, which is the point of the podcast. Lex is playing a role that I think facilitates this.


I’ve done a couple of his surveys and mentioned that I think those questions are a waste of time.

Donald Knuth handled it well.

Do we live in a simulation?

Hanging out debating unanswerable questions all the time has zero value.


Not to be a romantic, but what do you think of neuralink (asked to someone in unrelated field to fulfill weird Musk quota the podcast seems to have)?


I don't understand the obsession with Elon Musk some seemingly smart individuals seem to have. Seems like such a waste of time.


It could be in this case a kind of arranged deal. Lex made a controversial paper about Tesla driver monitoring not being needed (based on users selected from an unbiased pool of... Tesla online fan clubs), flattering to Tesla's position, and promoted it before getting peer review. A few weeks later he had Musk on the podcast and got onto the Joe Rogan podcast and brought into a kind of mutual-shilling podcast circle.

https://www.thedrive.com/tech/27359/mit-study-showing-high-f...


Starship, it's all about starship. If he succeeds with it humanity as a species can expanse beyond this gravity well in a few decades.

Not sure what this fixation on mars is about, tough.


I've done the same and tell him I enjoy them. I think it's informative how the people he interviews frame the question (or not) and approach the answer.

They are at a predictable spot in the podcast (the end), so it's pretty easy to just stop listening when he brings them up.


I get this with Kara Swisher's Recode. Great guests but she talks over them and interrupts them to tell anecdotes about herself.


I keep reading this complaint and I do not understand it at all. For me Lex's delivery is refreshing. He is sincere, naive, full of wonder and never interjects himself as a subject. His obvious decency is for sure part of the reason he can get such wonderful guests. I hope he changes very little about his delivery.


Thank you for saying this! Good to know that I'm not alone.


As someone who occasionally interviews people, what are you really looking for? That is, what could Lex do better in your opinion?


I feel the same way at OP, amazing guests, but can't he push them a bit?

What I'd like is more like what Tyler Cowen does, on non-tech subjects [1]. He gives the impression of having read all their books (and their opponents') not just having skimmed Wikipedia over breakfast. He keeps it moving, and often gets people a little bit off-balance, not aggressively, but enough to make people think afresh and not just repeat what they always say.

Besides people's work, he'll ask them serious questions about (say) their known interest in some kinds or Jazz, or unrelated things about characters they would have run into at MIT in the 70s, or about the Russian education system. (I presume he has people helping him prepare, but maybe he's just like this all the time.)

[1] https://conversationswithtyler.com/


Tyler is an exceptionally good interviewer, in a way you can only get by exceptional preparation. We’re lucky to have him.

I haven’t heard a better interviewer since Charlie Rose (who had a team working for him, of course).

Does anyone know of similar interviewers in this vein? Long form and exceptionally-prepared?


I am a big Tyler Cowen fan and like his choices for guest but it is almost on listenable to me. He prepares his exact questions beforehand and tends to stick to them instead of having a conversation. It makes his delivery wooden and the interview boring.


> I haven’t heard a better interviewer since Charlie Rose

Really? Rose is a serial interrupter. Might as well have Gary Vee interview people if you think Charlie Rose is any good.


Yeah, they obviously have different interview styles, but a lot of the difference can be explained by the mediums, and their respective backgrounds. Personally I appreciate them both, but I can respect that you wouldn't find his style enjoyable.

However, I'll defend Rose, in that he always picked interesting guests, and did good prep work. It's true that he steered the conversation in the direction he wanted it to go. But, of course, he had 60 minutes, and was recording for a broad television audience. The constraints were/are very different from Tyler's, personality differences notwithstanding.

If you listen to the interviews where he gets to break out of the normal 60 minute boundaries, I think you'll find his style shifts with the medium. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LOUzTd-Ge_g

I've never heard of Gary Vee. However, based on a cursory search, I don't think a hyperbolic comparison helps your argument! :)


push them on what? Lex does technical people and i dont think cowen would be able follow them, plus he steers away from politics.


I mean don't leave them on autopilot, then you get the same stump speech they have given many times. Instead push them off-trail just a bit, make them talk about some unexpected connection or comparison, so they have to think.

Agree that Cowen himself wouldn't be the right guy, at least not if you want to hear the technical side.


Tip no.1 for getting great guests

Not denigrating people in public...

Many great things about Lex. One I like most is his quickness to ask basic questions. Chris Lattner mentions it as a great trait of his own -- sincerely trying to learn, rather than impress you

So well done Lex


Different culture / expectations. Most people evidently like him and almost all of his interlocutors reportedly enjoy it.


Yeah he’s not a very good interviewer


I don't mind him, it feels like he is figuring things out still but I like that at times it can turn in to what feels like a quiet conversation between friends. Which can be illuminating and heart warming. Quite unexpected for a podcast like this.


I've watched from the beginning, he's getting better and it's clear to me anyway that he's trying. I think it's just a difficult skill to acquire if it's not something that is naturally in your wheelhouse.

I listen because I enjoy the guests he's able to land and what seems to be an authentic interest in how they think and approach the world. It would be great if there were more podcasters having these conversations, but as far as I can tell there aren't. So the question is if the world's better off with or without these interviews as-is. To me the answer is clearly the former.


After 3 minutes of commercials and this voice I had to switch off. Too bad, I am sure CL had interesting stuff to say.


This is not a radio broadcast, you can skip ahead to the interesting stuff (there's an outline with timestamps lower on the linked webpage). You can even download the episode and listen to it in your favorite player.


Yup, I realised that as well :-) By then I was too tired of this voice.


Gotta be hush hush with these comments, I think most long term listeners who have a science background will agree with you here, but before you know it you'll be banned by him


Maybe listen at 1.5x speed?


I have also unsubscribed because of Lex's monotone voice.


We can agree to disagree. To me, Lex is the “whole human” in the sense that he lets his humanity hang out there while talking with very interesting people.

I have mostly worked in the field of AI (practical projects, not much research) since 1982. I feel strongly that AI systems that work with us, augmenting what makes us human and unique, is great. AI systems that aim to forcing human behavior into tight and strict protocols are simply bad. AI helping exploitive surveillance capitalism systems is bad. The human and basic humanity comes first.


Well if you are such a badass just listen to it in 2x speed or faster like the rest of us.


you don't like thinking about the meaning of life?


Well, Mr. Creosote is annoying


I feel the same with with Sam Harris's podcasts. He always has super interesting guests on but I feel like he's barely putting in effort to even speak, almost like vocal fry, and somehow ends up complaining about social media in every interview.


I just refuse to listen to a three hour podcast. I have a one hour limit, and even then I have my finger on the skip button. I also usually listen at between 1.5x and 2x, never slower than 1.2x because they sound stoned at 1x. I've wondered if they deliberately slow them down a bit. Life is short, and there are many podcasts.


Really sad to see how much of the commentary here is meta-commentary about Lex and not about the content. Several people asked, so here's the reason I chose to go on his show: it's because I love his work (frequent listener) and he's a great person. He asks good questions suitable to a wide audience and he's fun to talk to.

If you don't like his show or style, then you don't have to listen to it. :-)

-Chris


What most of the HN community seems too misunderstand is that the very nature of being here means you're far more deeply ingrained in tech than most.

Personally I'm almost a layman when it comes to hardware and compiler technologies. When Lex asks basic questions, they are the sort of things I want to hear about.

Sure there's room for a more in-depth/challenging conversation but I don't think that Lex's podcast is the place for that. Theres probably a handful of people who would be able to challenge Chris properly (Maybe a conversation with another LLVM contributor or someone on the Swift team would be interesting).

Loved the podcast Chris, thanks for giving your time and hope you keep doing stuff like this!


My problem is more with the title: "The Future of Computing and Programming Languages" implies some kind of overview and outlook. They more or less discuss a small set of current technologies completely out of context (not even mentioning/hinting at current work/ research directions outside of LLVM and the Swift universe) then venturing off into very speculative topics (in which both are none-experts).

It's a really questionable title and in my opinion bad framing.


Big fan of your work. Yet, some more commentary on the content of the podcast: You are talking about the "Future of Computing" and you are just discussing llvm, c, c++, java, python and swift?

No Haskell, Erlang, Julia, Go ...

A bit disappointing regarding the title of the podcast, don't you think so?


It's impossible to cover "all the things" in one podcast. However, I'm happy to answer specific questions if you have a specific interest.


True, true. Yet, I feel the podcast discusses more the current state, not the future in terms of programming/computing.

When I listened, I was wondering what is a rather obscure language you like and enjoy and why. (I still like hacking OpenDylan from time to time.

For me, Swift seems great for user interfaces and for some os applications (command line etc.). Especially Apple's SwiftUI seem to take the best of d3.js and other libraries. Swift seems perfect and very flexible for that.

Machine Learning and Signal Processing will still be dominated by Python, just because of the libraries. I'm old school and program a lot of matlab ...

Thought I would get more background on your influences and your programming culture.


Lex triggers people for some reason, lol. I could speculate as to why but that's not my area of expertise. :)

For my part I really enjoyed both of your visits to the podcast. The first one really contextualized a lot of the work that I wholly take for granted every day and this just expanded on that. Lex should do an annual State of the Stack series and drag you back in for more :)


I think as usual, most people who like something don't have much to say unless they really like it. Hence why this has enough up-votes to be on the front page but a relatively negative comment section.

For what it's worth, I enjoyed the interview! I wouldn't say I learned anything new, but I don't need that out of everything I listen to.


I would never have guessed Lex would get so much hate here. No one forces you to listen to him and his guests. And it is probably not despite his interviewing style but because of it that so many excellent people talk to him. Can we please discuss the content? I have one hour to go and Julia has not been mentioned, though it seems to check many of the boxes they are talking about (high quality libraries that feel like they are part of the language, compiling natively to accelerators...). I think it is one big competitor (in the field of HPC / scientific computing) to „Swift world domination“


Yes, I don't remember Julia being mentioned. Also, Elixir/Erlang isn't mentioned when they talked about actor based concurrency. Neither is Rust which has some simultaneity with swift. They also didn't really talk about problems with swift (adoption for example). Overall this talk is very surface level in my opinion, which is why I think some critique on Lex is valid.

He had the opportunity to dive in deeper on some topics - but didn't really do so. It just could have been better.


I personally found almost all points they were talking about interesting. Sure, I also often get the feeling that they should dive deeper on a particular topic, or that a certain point raises more questions than it answers but then again we are clocking in at almost 3h already and I am not sure how far the term „long form content“ can (or should) be stretched


They are both superficial and interesting.

My critic has always been that Lex is superficial, which is understandable, because he is targeting casual audiences.

Like some other comments suggest, he is squandering the opportunity in a certain degree. All his question can be answered by someone who is not Chris Lattner, and the content would not be too different from what's we see right now.

I personally place high regards on Chris Lattner's technical prowess in the compiler and machine-program interfacing space. That's something that he can deliver content that no other I am aware of can do better.

Yet, all I have been seeing is something that have been repeated everywhere else, and I am too tired of this blandness.

On the contrary, take a look https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCZHmQk67mSJgfCCTn7xBfew, the producer does not appeal to casual viewers. It's often a deep disect of technical papers inside out. That's what I am looking for.


I actually watched a couple of videos by Yannic Kilcher in the recent days, but that is a completely different format. There is probably a reason he does videos and not audio only, why he is not interviewing (and interviewing a different person with different expertise each episode).

What I value in Lex's content is that it is not complete pop-science level, that he is very neutral and especially that he leads his guest to make opinionated statements. The last point is usually the single value nugget I can extract from the episodes. It is basically a shortcut for me watching Yannic Kilcher like videos and getting deep into a topic through the proxy of a person who is not rarely one of the best in his field. I do not have the time / energy to get deeply into compilers and programming language design I just want to get a feeling in broad strokes where the field is heading, what are the key developments and bottlenecks that have shaped the past and especially future of certain technologies and applications.

I will probably dig a (tiny) bit deeper into MLIR after listening to the podcast because it seems to me to be the 80/20 kind of way to get a better feeling for the developments happening in compilers and how ML workloads are mapped to accelerators.


The diagram is critical to intuitive understanding...

As for Lex, it's fine. I am just saying, like others, he is underutilizing his speaker...


Speaking of programming languages, I was amazed when Lex said to Peter Norvig he had never heard of Lisp until he started preparing for the interview.


I think he must have misspoke, he's talked about Lisp many times on the podcast from early on.


I love how Lex's podcast has really taken off lately. His conversations very closely match to my interests.

Also in general, long form podcast conversations are such great entertainment. I've learned a ton from his podcast conversations. Excited to spend the morning listening to this one. Lattner seems like an extremely fascinating guy


Lot of people complaining about the interviewer's skill - yes it is different and it can feel like stoned teenager with disorganized thoughts asking questions that form mid sentence :) - but if you give it some space, let it be, it's not bad at all. I actually like the slower pace and very down and dirty style of questioning - as opposed to the fast, high level, polished way that becomes inaccessible some times.


I hope Lex stays this way. The only interview podcast I know of where most of the focus is on the guest. The way he talks, listens and follow up on what the guest says lets me fully engage in the thoughts of the interviewee.


If you are interested in something similar that focuses more on engineering and science and goes far more in depth then I highly suggest Omega Tau (http://omegataupodcast.net/category/podcast-en/) by far the best podcast I have ever found.


Just scanned the topics, this looks great to me, thanks for sharing it.


If you prefer videos: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nWTvXbQHwWs

Also has timestamps for specific topics.


It's easier to understand Lex's demeanor when watching him. Not knowing who he is, the audio sounds like he's tuned out, bored, distracted... Watching him, you can see that's not the case at all. Just having facial expressions, and knowing that the guests are right across from him, make the whole exchange much more understandable.


Personally I'd prefer text. I can't skim/speedread audio or video.


I'm surprised by the negativity on this thread, so I just want to mention that I think this is an awesome podcast, and I get a lot of value and entertainment out of it. For this episode in particular, I thought the conversation about RISC-V and Swift were both really interesting. For people that feel the need to continually troll Lex for his voice and interviewing style, you are free to create your own podcast if you think you can do a better job.


Early in the interview Lattner does a great job of selling Swift.

Value types (with copy on write), progressive disclosure, ...

I think Swift is a great language but the lack of cross platform development is holding it back.


I agree, I'm coming around to the fact that Swift is probably the best-designed language in widespread use right now. I've used many and tried many more, and I don't know if it is the original Rust team's involvement with its evolution or just the brilliance of its creator but Swift has really hit a sweet spot in all the many axes of language design. It is just so... productive. Things feel so much easier in Swift, yet it is more flexible than most other popular languages.


There's no information in this entire comment. Reminds me of clojure people.


Your vague insult aside, what kind of information are you looking for? The technical summaries of the language are widely available elsewhere, were you expecting those in a comment here? Note that the linked podcast goes into those details directly, so I’m partly assuming readers here are aware of the content before reading the comments.


I don't know Swift at all. But I know what progressive disclosure is. Could you explain a bit what you mean for a programming language to have progressive disclosure, and how specifically Swift does that?


Chris defines it in the interview, I think, but I think of it as: Swift is a complex language with lots of features, but if you are trying to do something simple, you do not need to engage with the more complex features of the language. As you learn or need to solve more complex problems, those complex features are waiting for you.

His example is a Hello World program in Swift vs something like C++.


Isn't Google pouring lots of money/developers into developing Swift for AI?


No. Swift for TF is almost dead by now.


I love his podcast. Episode with Joscha Bach is the best one so far - Joscha is an excellent fit for type of questions Lex tends to ask


Thanks, never heard that name but I will definitely listen to the episode!


You need to warm up the brain for that one. I'm sure it's different if you spend a lot of time thinking about the topics they discussed, but I don't, and it felt like my brain was getting tazed. The pace at which he crystalizes vague notions into the framework of his worldview is impressive. I don't think I ever clicked 'skip backwards 15 seconds' more in a podcast that already had my full attention.



Lex is great at bringing the conversation down to a more accessible level for people. He isn't doing a presentation at a technical conference. It's a combination of entertainment and insight into how the interviewee thinks. In a way someone that is technical, but not necessarily a super engineer, can resonate with.

He speaking style can throw people off. I'm pretty sure I have heard this style from other eastern Euro and Russian people. It doesn't bother me, but I can see why it can be grating to some people.


Why are people so negative? I get that it is possible for people to dislike his style or find his voice triggering. What I don’t get is what those people get out of pointing this out. Especially when others have already done this.


I'd love to hear an actual study on this kind of phenomenon. For some reason he really triggers people on two primary fronts, his 'monotone' manner of speaking, and the simplistic and philosophical questions he adds to every conversation. There's a third but relatively small cohort that seem to be experiencing some kind of transitive distrust from his previous encounters with Joe Rogan and/or Elon Musk.

I get not liking his or any other podcast. I don't get the need to belittle the dude or enter into some weird conspirational thinking about his motivations.


Also I recommend just giving it a chance. To be honest, I disilked his first podcasts. I turned them off even though they had guests I really liked (Guido van Rossum, etc.)

But now I watch his podcast all the time, and I've gotten a lot out of it.

I agree with others in that he doesn't try to make himself the focus of the conversation, and that's a good quality in an interviewer.

He makes his subjects comfortable enough to talk freely, to say things I haven't heard elsewhere over 1-2 hours, and that is an incredible and valuable skill.


People who have nothing going on their lives like to be so angry on the internet. Lex is a 34 year old who teaches at MIT and gets to live a popular life earning money interviewing celebrities and scientists. I love listening to him and his style of working.


Yes, it is quite sad. I didn't know a voice could be so triggering to people until I went on this thread. It's really not something I place much importance on, so I was surprised to see this.

Lex, if you're reading this by any chance, please keep up the great work. There are a lot more people who love what you're doing than those who don't! :)


I just wanted to share my two cents about Lex as a podcast interviewer, given the flak he's getting from some people in this thread. I think he's fantastic. His calm style is really great for both the interviewee and the listener in my opinion.

My knee jerk reaction to Lex was to dislike him, but if you allow yourself to dig a little deeper I think you'll find he's a hard working, intelligent and humble guy that's following his passion.


As someone currently learning Swift, which I am finding to be one of the most excellent language designs I've encountered, this chat is pretty interesting.


Chris is a very nice guy and a super smart engineer.

Why all these comments about Lex and his interviewing style and almost nothing about the technological aspects, like MLIR, LLVM or RISC-V?


Lex's podcasts have this unique style. The probing of the philosophical angle from the expert guests of various disciplines brings out very interesting points of views.


Sometimes when the audio quality is too good too podcasti it feels non natural.


(@dang) Other discussion about the same episode here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24823764


That discussion only has complaints about the interviewing style. This discussion has a few comments about the substance. Not many, but more than none.


That's a little unfair, some of the comments there are thoughtful praise, just like this discussion.


Some thoughtful praise of the interview style, yes. But zero discussion of the actual content of the interview.


Good point, I missed that in your first comment because it juxtaposed a point about it being all complaints with a point about substance vs style.



The podcast was targeted at casual audiences, who generally are normal engineers in the software trade, or even ones outside of software.

The content is fairly shallow.

I am looking for content that actually can describe practitioner problems, not just superficially on general conceptual problems.

One that delivered by John Carmark would be one such example. But John probably is on another level than Chris here, and is very rare.


I don't get why this is downvoted.


Thanks OP for sharing this podcast/episode! For me it was very informative (and dare I say, pretty cool). I'm wondering what other podcasts I'm missing out on!


Lex is only eating meat? like in addition to supplements or is he just forgoing fiber


Clicked. Saw it was Lex Fridman. Closed.




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