An Encounter with Brian Beckcom
Brian Beckcom is a man of many talents. He is a trial attorney, the owner of VB Attorneys, a podcaster behind the successful ‘Lessons from Leaders,’ a computer scientist, a philosopher, and a military-raised son. Born into an Air Force family, Beckcom grew up with a simple dream; he wished to play basketball but ended up in a computer lab, laying the foundation of what would shape his future discourse.
The Unexpected Journey
Beckcom’s journey through life was not a planned one. It could best be described as pure happenstance. From athlete to computer scientist to philosopher and then a law student, he unexpectedly found himself in a maze of diverse disciplines, each contributing a unique twist to his life narrative. His time in college exposed him to computer science just as it was becoming a thing, prompting him to take it up out of sheer curiosity, without realizing the considerable math and engineering courses involved.
His unexpected exposure to philosophy would provide him with the crucial toolset required for navigating and understanding the complex questions posed by evolving fields such as AI, technology, and cybersecurity. His subsequent journey into law turned out to be the icing on the cake as he found a platform to apply his understanding of computer science and philosophy in a practical and consequential way.
Understanding Artificial Intelligence, Ethics, and Law
The intersection of technology, ethics, and law is a critical one, and it is also where Beckcom predominantly situates his discussions. From his experience, he observes that although we do have intelligent machines, their ‘intelligence’ is often limited to memory retrieval rather than encompassing the sophisticated, spontaneous, and nuanced comprehension that humans demonstrate. According to Becker, “If you’re talking about a dumb device, unplug it. When you’re talking about a smart device, that doesn’t work.” If uncontrolled, AI’s growth can challenge our laws which are often too slow to keep up and adjust to the rapidly evolving technological landscape.
Leadership: A Lesson That Stands Out
Beyond his profound contribution to understanding AI, ethics, and law, Beckcom hosts Lessons From Leaders to provide meaningful insights on leadership. He’s interviewed a myriad of individuals from diverse spheres, each successful in their respective fields, from military generals, sports stars, authors, politicians, and judges. The number one leadership lesson from his series cut across all his guests, which is, that leadership is about service. It’s about what you do for the people you lead rather than what you do for yourself.
A Call to Action
Through his podcast, Lessons From Leaders, Beckcom seeks to bring people together by highlighting positive leadership in society. By offering a platform that draws on the expertise and vision of leaders across the board, he creates the opportunity to learn about positive impact, harness principles, and boost character development.
The intriguing journey of Brian Beckcom illustrates that the richest wisdom often comes from the most unexpected encounters and cross-disciplinary learning journeys. It challenges us to be open, ready to learn, and most importantly, of service to others. As leaders in our respective fields, we must endeavor to create an environment that nurtures these principles.
The Future of AI, Tech, and Ethical Leadership: Conversation with Brian Beckcom
In this multi-faceted conversation, Brian Beckcom, trial attorney, computer scientist, and philosopher, discusses the most significant scientific quandary today - consciousness. Brian shares his relatable histology, highlighting his journey from being a military brat and basketball enthusiast to a tech and law specialist. Experiences from college and life, he says, led him to the intersection of tech and law - his current field of work - which was never part of his original plan. Brian further emphasizes the need for ethical understanding and regulation in the tech-dominated world, particularly concerned about AI's exponential advancement and potential for misuse. The conversation extends to political dysfunctions and the need for moral leadership, reiterating that leadership should ideally be about service. Towards the end, Brian shares his passion for fly fishing and mentions his podcast “Lessons from Leaders”, which champions positivity and constructive leadership.
00:00 Introduction: The Big Questions of Consciousness and Intelligence
00:50 The Importance of Education and Conversation
01:42 Meet Brian Beckcom: A Man of Many Talents
02:14 Brian's Eclectic Background and Journey to Law
05:08 The Intersection of Technology, Ethics, and Law
06:05 The Influence and Impact of Tech Giants
09:21 Brian's Take on Maritime Law and Its Implications
11:46 The Challenges and Politics of Modern Society
19:31 The Power and Pitfalls of Social Media
23:07 The Reality and Hype of Artificial Intelligence
27:05 Understanding Artificial Intelligence: The Turing Test
28:27 The Limitations of Current AI: A Case Study of Self-Driving Cars
32:00 The Role of Memory in AI and the Misunderstanding of Technology
33:20 The Rapid Growth of Technology and the Challenge of Legislation
34:16 The Slow Pace of Legal Systems in the Face of Technological Advancements
41:03 The Importance of Character in Leadership
44:28 The Need for Active Relaxation: Fly Fishing as a Pastime
47:35 Lessons from Leaders: Insights from a Podcast
50:27 Contact Information and Final Thoughts
[00:00:00] Brian Beckcom: I think the most important open scientific question today, and literally nobody knows the answer to this question is, what is consciousness? Like, why is it that this sense of being a self, this self awareness, why does this arise out of basically a hunk of meat that's sitting in your cranium? Like, how does that, how's that possible? What is that? Is there an evolutionary reason for that? I'm not really sure. But in any event, and I think you also have to separate consciousness from intelligence. So, we already have intelligent machines. I mean, your thermometer's intelligent.
[00:00:50] Ed Watters: To overcome, you must educate. Educate not only yourself, but educate anyone seeking to learn. We are all Dead America, we can all learn something. To learn, we must challenge what we already understand. The way we do that is through conversation. Sometimes we have conversations with others, however, Some of the best conversations happen with ourself. Reach out and challenge yourself; let's dive in and learn something right now.
[00:01:42] Today we're speaking with Brian Beckcom. He is a trial attorney, owner of VB Attorneys, he's a podcaster, his podcast, Lessons from Leaders, excellent podcast. He's a computer scientist, a philosopher, and a trial lawyer. Brian, could you please introduce yourself? Let people know just a little bit about you, please.
[00:02:08] Brian Beckcom: Yeah. Sure, Ed. Uh, I appreciate you saying all that. And it's really, really awesome to be on your show today. I, uh, I have kind of an eclectic, uh, background, I guess, to say the least. Um, I'm a military brat. My dad was an Air Force Lieutenant Colonel, flew 200 combat missions over Vietnam. We moved around all over the place. But I didn't really, you know, I was, I was kind of an athlete growing up, kind of a jock.
[00:02:33] I played basketball and that's all I wanted to do in college. So when I went to college, that was really all that was on my mind. I was focused on playing for the Texas A& M basketball team. Didn't know what I wanted to study, but this is the early 90s and computers, at least desktop computer, personal computers, were just now becoming a thing.
[00:02:55] And I like computers. And so I was like, Well, what the heck, I'll, I'll, I'll take a computer science degree. What I didn't realize when I made that decision, Ed, was computer science requires you to take a bunch of physics, and electrical engineering, and math courses, and stuff like that. Which, you know, I didn't like at the time.
[00:03:13] I actually love math now, but, uh, I needed, I needed another major in order to keep my GPA from being destroyed by all these math classes. So I took a couple philosophy courses in the computer science department at Texas A & M. You were not only allowed, but you were required to take a minor. And what most people did is,
[00:03:36] they would do electrical engineering, or math, or physics, or something that they thought was complimentary to computer science. I did philosophy both because I enjoyed it and I made ace in the classes. And it turns out, Ed, that even though computer science and philosophy sounds like, you know, kind of two ends of,
[00:03:53] you know, the one hand, you got the hard quote, hard sciences. On the other hand, you got the kind of liberal arts type of thing. The original computer scientists, a lot of them were philosophers. And matter of fact, they used to call science natural philosophy. So there's a lot of overlap that's not readily apparent. But in any event, go there, play basketball, end up getting a computer science and philosophy degree.
[00:04:16] And then I tell people I spent four years in a computer lab with a bunch of nerds and I didn't want to do that all my life, so I decided to go to law school. And what do I do now, twenty-five years later? I sit behind a computer screen talking to a bunch of nerds. So, anyway, it's, it's an odd, uh, kind of background.
[00:04:36] But, and, and by the way, most of it was accident. It was not preplanned, I didn't plan to get computer science and philosophy degrees and then go to law school. That was the farthest thing from my mind. But, you know, it turns out that I've had to, I've gotten a chance to spend the, the last thirty years kind of observing, uh, the development of technology, you know? Certainly there was plenty of technology before the early 90s, but the explosion of it has been kind of exponential over the last thirty years. Which has been super fun to watch.
[00:05:08] And the other thing is, you know, and I've said this on a bunch of different podcasts, The, There's a lot of things going on in the world from a technological standpoint right now that are big, big issues, big ethical issues. AI, what's that going to do with people's jobs? What does it mean to be human? What does it mean to pass the Turing test?
[00:05:29] What does it mean to interact or have a relationship with a chatbot? Uh, what happens if we have, we are in the presence of something that's intelligent? All these, you know, what do we do about, uh, cryptocurrency? What do we do about blockchain? What do we do about cybersecurity? What do we do about disinformation online?
[00:05:50] What do we do about the fact that Twitter is a cesspool of disinformation? Or these other social media sites? And here's the thing, I don't have the answer to any of those questions. But here's what I do know, they're not technical questions. These questions should not be answered by people like Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg who have absolutely no training or skill or special talents when it comes to the ethics, and the morality, and the philosophy behind these things. So I think what we, where we get into trouble in this society right now, Ed, Elon Musk
[00:06:25] Ed Watters: That's right.
[00:06:25] Brian Beckcom: Had enough money to buy Twitter. That all of a sudden makes him some brilliant moral philosopher. Not only does it not make him a brilliant moral philosopher, it actually, I think, I would argue, makes him worse at making these decisions because he's got all these horrible incentives, uh, that are not consistent. Elon, the, the, the incentives that he, or Mark Zuckerberg, or people like this have are not the same incentives that the users have. A matter of fact, they are opposed. They're, like Twitter, you know, there's a famous saying in technology, Ed, uh, if you're not paying for the product, you're the product. Like you are Elon Musk's
[00:07:03] Ed Watters: That's right.
[00:07:03] Brian Beckcom: product. He is selling you, he is selling you to advertisers. Mark Zuckerberg is selling your attention to advertisers. Jack Dorsey, when you had Twitter. So these, and I'm not saying these are bad people or anything like that. I'm just saying they don't know anything else and any of us about the moral and ethical implications of some of these technologies.
[00:07:26] And so what I, what I, the philosophy degree actually came in a lot more handy for me, not because I know the answers to these questions, but at least I know something about the framework in which to look at the questions, if that makes any sense? So I know that probably went on a little bit too long, but that's kind of,
[00:07:44] that's kind of my background. And then the law thing, I mean, I needed to make some money, number one, but number two, the law thing, you know, it fits perfectly in this because once you understand the tech, then you talk about the ethics and the philosophy of the tech. Then you gotta make rules, there has to be some rules to govern how we interact with each other. And so, I don't know, I feel pretty lucky about the course of my career and my education. I, and again, it was not planned out, it was just kind of pure luck. But I've, but I kind of feel pretty lucky about it.
[00:08:22] Ed Watters: Yeah. Well, it's fascinating where you've been, what you've been through. You know, it's well-rounded and versed. Uh, you know, law, it's tricky and a lot of people don't understand that there are specialties within the law. And some of your specialties, you know, include injury, but maritime law is kind of interesting and you've helped on some of these huge cases that have blown up nationally. Everybody recognizes some of these. How does that make you feel as a lawyer first off? And what made you actually decide to go that way with your law?
[00:09:21] Brian Beckcom: Yeah, good question. Both of those are good questions, so let me take the second question first. When I went to law school, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I don't have any lawyers in my family on either side as far back as I can trace. Like, I'm the first one. Didn't grow up around law. I didn't know a single lawyer growing up, not one. There was not a single lawyer in my neighborhood. Now, the neighborhood I live in there, but seems like half the people went to law school. But, but that's, that wasn't the case and, you know, living on Air Force bases or living right off base. And so
[00:09:52] I really went to law school because when I was in college, I was a member of the Texas A& M Corps of Cadets, which is like West Point. And I was in the leadership position and I [00:10:00] was able to help some cadets that were having some problems, and I liked it. And so I decided to go to law school, but when I got there, I didn't know what I wanted to do.
[00:10:07] Well, the law school I went to, University of Texas, most people go to big law firms, at least initially. And so that's what I thought I was supposed to do. But my second year in law school, I signed up for an admiralty class. Only reason I signed up for an admiralty class, it was because someone told me the professor, a guy named David Robertson, was the best professor at UT law school.
[00:10:27] So I went and took this class, I was fascinated by it. I mean, there's all these cases talking about piracy in the 1700s, all these crazy things that happened offshore. And I was like, Man, that's really cool. And the professor was amazing. Didn't think about it again for four years, I graduated from law school,
[00:10:46] I go to one of these big firms representing Fortune 500 companies, decide that's not for me, go to this small firm and lo and behold, one of the partners does admiralty work. And I was like, This is cool. I remember this from law school. And so, again, a little bit of a happen, a little bit of a happenstance,
[00:11:07] you know? It wasn't like this, I didn't go to law school and say, I want to be a maritime lawyer. I didn't go to law school and say, this is what I want to do. I went to law school kind of with an open mind. And, you know, I can tell you when I first got to law school, I was getting letters from Silicon Valley law firms as a first year before I even made grades
[00:11:25] because I was a computer science major. And they were like, Come be a patent lawyer. And so I was getting heavily recruited to do patent law. And I asked a couple of patent lawyers, Hey, what's patent law like? And they said, That's like writing a research paper every week. And I was like, That sounds terrible.
[00:11:46] So, anyway, I kind of stumbled into it and it's a specialty practice. Not many lawyers in the country do it. Uh, I mean, I could probably list on both hands the, you know, maybe ten to twenty law firms across the country that do maritime work on a regular basis, at least on my side of the docket. But it's awesome.
[00:12:09] I mean, it's amazing. My most famous case was, uh, the Captain Phillips case with people that, may remember the American ship that got attacked by Somali pirates and the Navy seals came and killed all the pirates except for one. And, uh, I represented the crew of that ship that was on The New York Times, Dateline, and Good Morning America.
[00:12:30] And it was, it was kind of crazy. But it, it's, uh, the offshore maritime community is totally different. Uh, everybody knows everybody. It's a small community, especially in America, because we've decided, uh, as a country that money is more important than people. And so the American maritime community is small because most of the ship owners want to pay slave wages to Indonesians and Filipinos,
[00:13:01] primarily. Those countries allow that to occur to their, they allow their people to be treated like chattel, slaves, essentially. They have no legal rights. Uh, and so, and the American ship owners, all they care about is making as much money as they can. And so they try to hire the cheapest labor you can possibly hire and that's
[00:13:25] bad for human beings. But most, more importantly, maybe it's bad for the country because what it does is it exposes us to uncontrolled, potential security breaches. Like, for example, can you imagine if every single stewardess on an American airline was indonesian, and we were paying them fifty cents an hour.
[00:13:50] What would you be looking at? That, that's a major security issue, like a major security issue. And so this is a political issue in our country that is, goes well beyond the maritime law. So, for instance, everybody remembers during Covid, uh, we didn't have any supplies. I mean, we literally had no masks.
[00:14:11] Ed Watters: That's right.
[00:14:12] Brian Beckcom: We had, we didn't have enough disinfectant. Like, our country does not produce these things anymore and nobody pays attention to it, uh, when everything's going great. And, uh, but when things go bad, all of a sudden, we're like, Wait a second, you're kidding me. We don't have the ability to produce N95 masks in this country? Well, ask, this is the thing, like, ask yourself why that is. And the reason is, it's the same reason with the Jones Act, you have groups of, you have interest groups
[00:14:44] that literally care more about money than they care about the country. Like they put their financial interests first over yours and I, and that's what they care about. And so if you can produce N95 masks cheaper in a third world country with no safety standards, that treats their people like slaves, that's what they do because you can make more money.
[00:15:08] And the thing about it is, is oftentimes, the people's, people that are making these decisions are doing the right thing from a legal perspective. Because the law in America and in most first world countries requires, business like corporations are required to maximize shareholder profit legally. If they don't do that, they will get sued.
[00:15:33] And by the way, that's the way the law is written. Doesn't have to be written that way, but it is. And so what we find are, so we find ourselves in this, in this constant kind of tug and push and pull situation between maximizing the economic advantages of whatever it is we're talking about, while at the same time, realizing
[00:15:58] that maybe there are other considerations that are just, or maybe even more important than the economic side of things. So that's kind of the, that's kind of the, the Jones Act is one of those few laws that still exist that, that actually provide some protections to people that need it. I mean, workers comp, everybody, basically all fifty states,
[00:16:22] you get hurt on the job, you can't sue your employer no matter what. And it's a problem because, like in Texas, if you get hurt on the job, you have to go through the workers comp system and the workers comp system is run by the insurance companies that pay for the workers comp.
[00:16:40] Ed Watters: Yes.
[00:16:41] Brian Beckcom: So all these things are, you know, there's, basically, I've gotten to the point in my life, I'm fifty now, where I don't really care that much about what people say anymore. What I care about is what they do. And so,
[00:16:58] Ed Watters: Yes.
[00:16:58] Brian Beckcom: for example, when somebody tells me, you know, waves the flag and says, I love cops and I love the military, and then turns around and says, I don't want to pay any taxes, I just look at them like, Who do you think pays these people? Like, who was paying my dad when he was a lieutenant colonel? The taxpayers were. And so, you know, there's a lot of, I think the art of politics right now is really kind of about bringing people away from each other, like making people mad at each other. And there was a time that wasn't necessarily the case where it was more focused on kind of what we could do to bring people together.
[00:17:44] My, my, my podcast Lessons From Leaders, by the way, focuses solely on that type of leadership. It focuses solely on positive leadership, what we can do to bring people together. I have people from all different walks of life, purposefully, because I want to illustrate that people generally are pretty decent no matter where they're from. Um, but, but to me, that's, you know, what I call it is, I call it the Panama Canal test, Ed. So here's the Panama Canal test, could the United States build the Panama Canal today?
[00:18:22] Ed Watters: That's an interesting question. I still want to say, Yes, we can.
[00:18:29] Brian Beckcom: Maybe a better way to put it is not, could we, but would, politically, would we be able to get people together enough to provide
[00:18:39] Ed Watters: No.
[00:18:39] Brian Beckcom: the finances and the resources to get it done? Because here's what would happen, right, Ed? If it was a Democratic president that proposed it, the Republicans and Rupert Murdoch would figure out five million reasons why it's the worst thing ever and they're a bunch of socialists.
[00:18:54] Ed Watters: Yes.
[00:18:55] Brian Beckcom: If it was a Republican who proposed it, the Democrats would figure out 500 different reasons. Why, he's a fascist and this is terrible and he just cares about rich people. And so we
[00:19:05] Ed Watters: That's right.
[00:19:05] Brian Beckcom: have these, we have these, the language, like the stories in our head that we tell ourselves right now are so utterly bizarre. And, you know, in my experience, and this is one of the reasons I started my podcast was, they're also not true. So I started my podcast in the middle of quarantine because I got so sick of seeing all this stuff online, people being so negative and yelling at each other and I'm like, God dang. How about let's get a little positivity out there. And
[00:19:34] Ed Watters: Yeah.
[00:19:35] Brian Beckcom: what I've, what I've noticed is like, I'm, you know, when I'm getting ready for a trial, I'll do a focus group and I'll bring in a super diverse group of people to serve as a jury. And I'll tell you, every, I've done this hundreds of times, every single time people get along and they're sitting here debating very, very tough issues. But people, when people, normal people get along [00:20:00] well. It's, it's this, uh, kind of political superstructure that
[00:20:05] Ed Watters: Yes.
[00:20:05] Brian Beckcom: gets put above us. I mean, like, Rupert Murdoch doesn't make any money if people aren't pissed off. Ted Turner doesn't make any money
[00:20:12] Ed Watters: That's right.
[00:20:12] Brian Beckcom: if people aren't pissed off, right? So there's
[00:20:14] Ed Watters: It's marketing.
[00:20:15] Brian Beckcom: more money, there's, yeah, there's no money in Fox News trying to bring everybody together, you know?
[00:20:21] Ed Watters: That's right. Well, it goes back to the shock jock era and,
[00:20:27] Brian Beckcom: Yeah.
[00:20:28] Ed Watters: you know, those disgusting things get the view.
[00:20:34] Brian Beckcom: Yeah. That, that, that's right. And, uh, you know, blood sells, sex
[00:20:39] Ed Watters: Yes.
[00:20:40] Brian Beckcom: sells, you know, that whole, that whole concept. And the difference,
[00:20:44] Ed Watters: It's sad.
[00:20:44] Brian Beckcom: the difference nowadays, though, Ed. And this is, this, I think it's largely been true that there's been fundamental philosophical differences in this country between the quote left and the quote right. The difference nowadays is there's been nuclear fuel poured on top of that because of the way we can be manipulated by these massively powerful algorithms. So, I mean, just, your brain, every time you go online, especially when you go to like social media, it's your brain versus supercomputers basically.
[00:21:24] And these supercomputers are feeding you, I'll just give you one example. Facebook has, I've heard the number, 1000, 1000s of psychologists and psychiatrists on staff because they want to be able to develop algorithms that manipulate and take advantage of our cognitive biases and some of the weaknesses and how our brain works.
[00:21:49] And so it's literally your brain, every time you go on Facebook, it's your brain versus a 1000 PhD psychologists and engineers at Facebook who are trying to make your brain work the way they want it to work. So, one example, and this is just one small example, everybody will know exactly what I'm talking about.
[00:22:07] Ed, if you get a notification that one of your friends tagged you in a picture, you will absolutely look at that, right? And, and the social media companies game is to where you can't see the picture unless you actually go to the site. And so that's just one little psychological trick amongst thousands of psychological tricks they use to manipulate our mind. And of course, manipulating us by making us angry or emotional is a very effective way of getting people to be more engaged with the product. And then when you put on top of that, these powerful algorithms and unlimited computing power, it's a losing battle. I mean, the only way to win that battle is not to fight it, essentially just to stay away from social media as much as you can.
[00:23:04] Ed Watters: Yep. I agree with that 100%. What is it? Uh, you know, when AI first started appearing, it kind of made everybody go, Wow. It started with quantum, you know, computer and they, they really have this vision that it's more than something that is programmed. Now, I understand machine learning and I understand that if you show this, uh, model 1, 000 cats, it's going to kind of understand what it's seeing.
[00:23:53] So, even though we're feeding these models with different input datas, it's still programmed information. And I was listening to a podcast, you were speaking, and you mentioned Neil deGrasse Tyson, and he simply says, When it gets to a certain point, just unplug it. And I think that's very important for people to understand and realize because the age that we are living in with all the disinformation, it's all pre programmed. You can actually see it in a lot of these chatbots, that they're putting their bias into the programming. And
[00:24:47] Brian Beckcom: Yeah.
[00:24:48] Ed Watters: if you watch and you're intelligent enough to understand that these forces are after your pocketbook, that's really the psychological nature behind the drive of all of this work towards AI. So I'm wondering how much of it is truly hype instead of non fiction, reality.
[00:25:20] Brian Beckcom: Yeah. This is, I don't know if he did this on purpose or not, Ed, but this is one of, if not the most important question in computer science today, and probably philosophy, okay?
[00:25:37] Ed Watters: Yes.
[00:25:38] Brian Beckcom: And, and it is, it is, it is probably the thing that fascinates me the most right now and it's the thing that's fascinated me the most for probably the last five years. The question you're asking essentially is, What is intelligence? Like, what does it mean to be intelligent and what does it mean to be conscious now? There's a question below the, that question which is, What is consciousness, okay?
[00:26:10] Ed Watters: Yes.
[00:26:11] Brian Beckcom: And nobody knows the answer to that question. You know, there's, there's a number of, the open scientific questions. I think the most important open scientific question today, and literally nobody knows the answer to this question is, What is consciousness? Like, why is it that, this sense of being a self, this self awareness, why does this arise out of basically a hunk of meat that's sitting in your cranium? Like, how does that, how is that possible? What is that? Is there an evolutionary reason for that? I'm not really sure. But in any event, and I think you also have to separate consciousness from intelligence. So we already have intelligent machines. I mean, your thermometer's intelligent even
[00:27:02] Ed Watters: Yes.
[00:27:03] Brian Beckcom: in a narrow sense, right? The chess playing, uh, computers that go playing computers, they're intelligent in a certain sense. But what, what most, most people in, in my fields consider artificial, what they consider, like, true machine intelligence is, the phrase is called artificial general intelligence. And that basically means being human. And there's a test, the famous test from a british mathematician and computer science named Alan Turing, which is called the Turing test. Without getting into the complicated details, he proposed this, I think, in the 40s, 30s or 40s. If, if you, if you could be across from a, uh, a machine of some sort and you cannot, when you're interacting with it, you cannot tell if it's human or not, then it's intelligent.
[00:27:57] That's, I mean, that's a really high level kind of breakdown of the Turing test. But, you know, so, for example, for people that have seen Westworld on HBO, if, like, you're looking at a robot that, and you cannot distinguish at all between whether it's a human or robot, then it's intelligent. I'm not so sure about that. I'm not sure that's, I'm not sure that's a good test. And by the way, I think some of these chatbots are already passing the Turing test. Um, but from my perspective, I can tell you, like, for example, I've driven a Tesla for 10 years, so I've kind of seen the evolution of self driving and the car is an idiot.
[00:28:42] I mean, it's not smart at all. Like, you can see it making decisions that a four year old could easily make, okay? So if the lanes aren't marked perfectly, that car is a four year old child. It's not smart at all. If you're on the highway and it's clearly marked, it seems like it knows exactly what it's doing, but it doesn't.
[00:29:08] And, uh, so here's another example of kind of something that may seem smart, but it's actually not smart. When the self driving cars came out, one of the problems they were having was if it got behind a car that had a bike on the back, like a bike rack where the bike is perpendicular to the back of the car,
[00:29:28] Ed Watters: Yeah. Yep.
[00:29:29] Brian Beckcom: the machine would interpret that as there's a car in front of you and there's a bike traveling
[00:29:35] Ed Watters: Yep.
[00:29:36] Brian Beckcom: perpendicular, right? Literally, you could ask a, probably a two and a half year old child, Hey, Junior, is that bike attached to that car? And he would immediately know, right? Well, the, the, the
[00:29:49] Ed Watters: Yeah.
[00:29:49] Brian Beckcom: self driving computers had no idea. Why didn't they have any idea? There's some sort of, kind of fuzzy [00:30:00] intelligence or, I don't know exactly what you'd call it, in computer science we used to call it fuzzy logic. But there's an ability to take kind of an incomplete, weird set of data and the human mind can immediately interpret it without having to go through a bunch of other things.
[00:30:16] The other thing is, is like, imagine like, these pitchers throwing baseballs and the computer would have to calculate the exact momentum, angular force, the weight of the base. It'd have to do literally millions of calculations every single time it threw the baseball, whereas it becomes a subconscious process to us.
[00:30:35] We don't have to think about it at all, really. So that piece of intelligence, I haven't seen any evidence at all that that kind of intelligence exists in machine form yet. Now, that doesn't mean it won't eventually exist. I'll tell you another interesting little side note on this. Ed, have you ever seen those capture forms where you have to, like,
[00:30:58] Ed Watters: Yes.
[00:30:58] Brian Beckcom: say, I'm not a robot and then you have to identify what, which pictures. So traffic lights, okay,
[00:31:03] Ed Watters: Yes.
[00:31:04] Brian Beckcom: most people don't realize that those are not really security programs. Those programs were created for all of us. We're training AI's when we answer those questions. So, every time it said
[00:31:19] Ed Watters: Right.
[00:31:19] Brian Beckcom: These are all the cars, that data goes to some sort of deep learning
[00:31:24] Ed Watters: That's right.
[00:31:25] Brian Beckcom: model and it just processes it. And so what, basically the way that some of these quote intelligent, um, self driving cars and things like that, they don't use intelligence, they just use brute force. So if you can show five billion pictures of bicycles, eventually, it'll be able to say, Okay, I recognize, that's, that right there, it looks exactly like picture 322, 500, 001.
[00:31:55] And I remember that we had tagged that as being a bike. So I'm going to say that's a bike. Uh, that's not intelligence in the way I commonly understand it. That's, you know what that is? That's memory. That's just being able to retrieve items from memory. And so, but, but in any event, the, no, the problem is, so Neil deGrasse Tyson said, Just unplug it, which is really pithy and funny, but it's also completely idiotic because it demonstrates a complete and total misunderstanding about how technology actually works.
[00:32:31] Like, you know, an intelligent machine would never, it would know you were going to unplug it before you knew you were going to unplug it, like that would never, ever work. Plus, it would have already anticipated that as a potential existential threat, and it would have created five million backups. So when you unplugged it, it shocked you to death, and then it just plugged itself back. I mean, it's just not, it's just not practical when you're talking about. I mean, when you're talking about a dumb device, unplug it. When you're talking about a smart device, that doesn't work.
[00:33:06] Ed Watters: Yeah. Yeah, it's fascinating all of this technology and, you know, just from the 80s till now. It's exponential. It's a growth cycle, that's for sure. And where is it going? It's, it's a fascinating concept. Now, I've talked with Gordon, he's an entertainment lawyer, uh, and he talks a lot about this and needing to get a handle on the laws surrounding the AI. I think it's moving too fast. I think, can you actually make a law that will be a law long enough to be adequate for the technology that's just seemingly growing at an exponential rate? How do we handle this?
[00:34:11] Brian Beckcom: Another phenomenal question, Ed, a phenomenal question. You know, I'll give you an example, another perfect example of this. Microsoft, in the 90s, got sued by the Justice Department for having a monopoly, which they clearly did. And anybody that says otherwise is an idiot or is being paid by Microsoft. Microsoft also argued that, uh, this lawsuit, all they were doing, they were better innovators than everybody else. That's also not true, demonstrably not true. What Microsoft was good at was business. They were super duper cutthroat. They bought the technology for Internet Explorer. They essentially pilfered the Windows technology, which was still terrible because they based it on an operating system and a programming thing, which is not secure.
[00:35:13] But, but, but I mean, and again, there's nothing wrong with being a great business. Bill Gates is a very, very cutthroat businessman, reminds me a little bit of John D. Rockefeller. John D. Rockefeller openly stated that he thought capitalism was bad because it created lower prices and instability. He actively sought out monopolies in the oil industry. He said monopolies were better, he was not a free market guy. Everybody says John Rockefeller was a free market guy, doesn't know anything about John Rockefeller. Bill Gates, kind of the same way. So Bill Gates and Microsoft get nailed for having a monopoly, which they should have been nailed for.
[00:35:52] And by the time the trial was over, they didn't have a monopoly anymore. Like Google and some other companies had, had caught up with him. And so the court system is too slow. Uh, and that, that's a, that's a major problem and we got to do something to address that because a lot of these more savvy companies realize that even if they're doing something they shouldn't be, shouldn't be doing,
[00:36:21] you know, ultimately they know they're going to get busted, they know that the window is so long that they can just sit back and collect whatever it is they're collecting in profit. And by the time anything happens, they'll have made so much money it kind of doesn't matter anymore. If you know what I mean? So,
[00:36:38] Ed Watters: Yep.
[00:36:39] Brian Beckcom: it's a, it's a real issue. Tech moves so fast and the law moves so slow that,
[00:36:47] Ed Watters: Yeah.
[00:36:48] Brian Beckcom: you know, joining those two, it's just, there's just going to naturally be conflict because those two, the speed of those two things, it's just, is so different. What I worry about a little bit, Ed, is the fact that most of our politicians don't, aren't intelligent enough to even understand the issues, right? So,
[00:37:12] Ed Watters: Yeah.
[00:37:13] Brian Beckcom: I've had a guy on my podcast, he just bowed out of the Republican race. He actually should be the nominee because he's by far the smartest and most reasonable person that was in the race. But in the interesting turn,
[00:37:26] Ed Watters: Well, he's out.
[00:37:27] Brian Beckcom: I, I was going to say, You actually have to be dumb and a weirdo nowadays to win. So he was, he's,
[00:37:34] Ed Watters: Yeah.
[00:37:34] Brian Beckcom: but anyway, the point is he's a computer scientist and he was also in the CIA. He was an undercover CIA officer for ten years in the Middle East. And he deeply, deeply appreciates the issues with China, the issues with technology. I mean, he, he deeply, deeply appreciates that. Not many people do. And those are the, like, where you go to the bathroom, nobody, that's the dumbest thing I've ever heard. Whether Mr. Potato Head or Bud Light is woke. I mean, these are
[00:38:02] Ed Watters: Yep.
[00:38:02] Brian Beckcom: such stupid side issues
[00:38:05] Ed Watters: Yes.
[00:38:05] Brian Beckcom: when, when we, you can literally go online and you can see the Chinese Communist government plans to be the world superpower, only world superpower by 2050, which is their 100th year anniversary. And they're heading that way, full steam ahead. In the meantime, what are we doing?
[00:38:22] Ed Watters: Yep.
[00:38:22] Brian Beckcom: We're talking about whether somebody should be drinking a certain kind of beer,
[00:38:27] Ed Watters: Yeah.
[00:38:27] Brian Beckcom: you know? Whether, you know, we're passing
[00:38:29] Ed Watters: Crazy.
[00:38:29] Brian Beckcom: laws in Utah against trans people. And there's one trans person in the whole state that this affects? I mean, this is just a, this is, this is comical. These are children leading us. And so
[00:38:43] Ed Watters: Yes.
[00:38:43] Brian Beckcom: hopefully , hopefully, we get a little maturity at some point. But I will
[00:38:47] Ed Watters: Well, that's
[00:38:48] Brian Beckcom: add more about the fact that our, our, our, our, our leaders, it's not that they're not doing anything about some of these problems, it's they don't even, they can't even wrap their little brains around what the problems are in the first place.
[00:39:02] Ed Watters: Out of touch.
[00:39:03] Brian Beckcom: Yeah.
[00:39:04] Ed Watters: Yeah. Yeah, I understand that. You know, it, it doesn't appear that we are a Republic, a rule of law at all anymore. And it is scary. But at the same time, you know, it takes all of these intrusive things to happen to us to wake us up.
[00:39:28] Brian Beckcom: Yeah.
[00:39:29] Ed Watters: So, all of this tends to go in cycles. If we allow these cycles to continue, it's our own fault.
[00:39:41] Brian Beckcom: Yeah.
[00:39:41] Ed Watters: And that's why we have reasoning, ration, and morals, but we really need to take some time and start thinking about implying some of these morals back into our system. I know a lot of people [00:40:00] don't like it because, well, it's rules, isn't it? And people don't like to abide by the rules. And that's where really, I think we've let those little tiny things go for so long. Now we're in this point where it's coming to a head and we're going to actually have to put the rule of law back into our society, or we are going to not have a society. That's
[00:40:35] Brian Beckcom: Yeah.
[00:40:35] Ed Watters: my take on this.
[00:40:37] Brian Beckcom: Yeah. I, I, I, I,
[00:40:40] Ed Watters: So,
[00:40:41] Brian Beckcom: yeah, I agree with you on that. And, you know, about a couple years ago, I posted something on my Facebook page. I said, When you're deciding who to vote for as a leader, would you vote, do you vote for the person or do you vote for the policies? And probably something like
[00:40:59] Ed Watters: Yes.
[00:41:00] Brian Beckcom: eighty-five percent said policies, which is extremely disappointing to me. And here's why. If the person has no character, very little character, it doesn't matter what they tell you their policies are. The second somebody offers them a better deal, they're going to change their policies, right? This is the whole smoky backroom kind of ideal.
[00:41:18] Ed Watters: Yep.
[00:41:20] Brian Beckcom: And whereas, if somebody shows that they have character, somebody shows they have some principles, then whether or not you agree with everything they say, at least, you know you can take what they say to the bank. At least, you know, they have some principles. I mean, the Republican Party hates Liz Cheney right now. And I don't like a single policy that Liz Cheney stands for, I don't think, other than the fact that she had the guts to stand up to all these MAGA imbeciles and say, This guy made some serious mistakes and we got to stop being, uh, blind cult members and do something about it.
[00:42:03] You know, like she, she had a little bit of character. She's willing to buck the trend. Nikki Haley's the same way. Nikki Haley's willing to tell the truth, you know? Whereas you get these other weirdos like Vivek Ramaswamy who just literally says whatever he thinks whoever he's in front of wants to hear. And those, you know, to me, we should be more worried about an individual's character than about what individual policies they may or not, may not support. I am a huge
[00:42:40] Ed Watters: Yes.
[00:42:41] Brian Beckcom: fan of a lot of people from both sides of the aisle, not because I agree with everything they say, or even most of what they say, but because I think
[00:42:50] Ed Watters: That's right.
[00:42:50] Brian Beckcom: they have character and they have some leadership. And, you know, that's, maybe I'm getting old, maybe the old beckcom's naive, that, that really shouldn't matter. But I don't know, man. I, the way I've seen things is, uh, most people tell you a bunch of promises and then they don't do any of the things they said. Whereas a
[00:43:10] Ed Watters: That's right.
[00:43:10] Brian Beckcom: smaller group of people, they'll, they'll make promises and they'll say, Look, I gave you my word and I'm, I'm going to follow, I'm going to follow through on that. That's the person I want to be in the foxhole with.
[00:43:21] Ed Watters: That's right. That's, you know, so far from where we've been. We need to actually get back to some of this stabilized thinking and get, I call it baby food in Washington, and, you know, basically all of our state legislators, all of these leaders are eating baby food and spewing it out to everybody else. It's not good. There are some great leaders doing some great things out there, but right now, what is being portrayed to the world? I'm not liking it all. And it's, it's, uh, party politics that has really gotten us there instead of cross the aisle if you need to, do the right thing. That, that's really a world I miss. It, it hasn't been that way for quite a while. So let's segue into what Brian does for entertainment outside of the computer and, You like fly fishing, how often do you get a chance to get away from all of this and cast a line in and just relax?
[00:44:49] Brian Beckcom: I try to spend quite a bit of time during the summer fly fishing. I fly fish a lot in Colorado. So it's, you can fly fish in the winter, but that's a little crazy. That's a little intense. And, uh, so most of the summer I fly fish. I'm lucky in that the area where I spend my time in Colorado has a number of what we call gold medal fisheries or gold medal streams, which just means there's a certain number of certain size trout within a certain area.
[00:45:18] So. And, you know, fly fishing is kind of, I've got a number of different hobbies and what I found, Ed, I'm not sure if you found the same thing, there's, there's, there's hobbies where you just sit there passively and don't really do anything. And then there's hobbies where you're kind of mentally engaged.
[00:45:38] But you're so focused on a certain task that everything else kind of drops away. So they call it the fisherman's trance. When I'm in a fly fishing stream, I'm really, really paying close attention to what I'm doing, but I'm really not paying attention to anything else. So when I'm done fly fishing, it's like I've had this kind of mental,
[00:45:58] uh, nap, or rest, or something. It's, it's, uh, Winston Churchill, who's one of my heroes, wrote a book, very short book called, Painting As a Pastime. He took up painting, uh, in his later years. And it's a great book. It's a short book about basically what busy people, what kind of pastimes are helpful for busy people.
[00:46:21] And he said, It's really hard. Like, so imagine Winston Churchill, he's fighting the Nazis, fighting the Nazis, fighting the Nazis. Constant stimulation for months and months at a time. Then all of a sudden he just needs to turn it off and go sit on the beach and not do anything, like that's, that's not possible.
[00:46:38] I mean, there's no way you can do that. So what he says is, It's more like active relaxation. So he would go and paint and that requires not only a different part of your brain than what he was doing, but it also requires super focused attention on one particular thing. So it's, to me, it's very similar to golf.
[00:47:00] It's very similar like jujitsu, when I'm in the middle of a, we call them rolls. When I'm in the middle of a jujitsu fight with somebody, I'm not thinking about what's going on in the office that afternoon. I'm thinking about how do I prevent this guy from choking me unconscious? And so when you're done with jujitsu, golf, fishing, it's like you're more relaxed than if, at least I find I'm more relaxed than if I'm sitting there, you know, watching TV and doing some sort of totally passive activity.
[00:47:30] Ed Watters: Do you have a call to action for our listeners today?
[00:47:35] Brian Beckcom: Yeah. Well, I would, so toot my own horn a little bit, Lessons From Leaders is the podcast. And again, I'm, I'm, the reason I'm probably most proud of the podcast is because there's no negativity to it. Really, there's, it's not a gotcha show. It's not like this person is bad or that person is bad. What it is, is it's a show where I bring in people who are leaders, either national leaders, or just leaders in their community and people that I think are positive and we talk about positive leadership. And how you can make a positive impact, uh, on society. And so, you know, as a result of the podcast, I've, I've given a couple of speeches on leadership to the United States Air Force.
[00:48:22] I've got a friend who's a Colonel in the Air Force who asked me to give a couple of speeches. And I just basically gave a talk about what I learned from the podcast from my different podcast guests. And it's amazing when you've had sixty or seventy incredible leaders. If you pay attention, you start seeing patterns. And tell you what the number one thing that I've heard about leadership again and again and again from people from all different walks of life,
[00:48:48] I'm talking about military generals, sports stars, New York Times bestselling authors, politicians, judges, you name it, the number one thing I've heard is that leadership is about service. It's about what you can do for the people you lead. It's not about what you can do for yourself. And that, that sounds kind of trite and it sounds maybe a little bit obvious.
[00:49:10] I can tell you I'm fifty years old. It took me forty-five years to figure that out. Like, nobody cares. Nobody cares what you do for yourself, nobody. What you'll be remembered for is what you do for other people. And so I would encourage people to listen to podcasts. I think, I think there's some amazing, amazing guests on there.
[00:49:33] I can tell you if you're, if you're interested in listening to it, the very first episode you may want to listen to, it's the most popular episode, is a friend of mine who served as a prosecuting attorney in Harris County. He won his first forty-four criminal trials and then he spent the next two years in solitary confinement in a French prison for trying to smuggle ecstasy from France to the United States. It's an absolutely amazing story. There's a book about it called Lawyer [00:50:00] X. And it is a deep, deep conversation about
[00:50:04] Ed Watters: Wow.
[00:50:04] Brian Beckcom: what it's like to be in solitary confinement, what it's like to think you'll never see freedom again, you know, the war on drugs, stuff like that. That's a really, really cool episode, but there's a bunch of neat episodes out there. So I would encourage you if you're interested in hearing from some really amazing people, check out Lessons From Leaders.
[00:50:27] Ed Watters: So Brian, how can people reach out, get ahold of you?
[00:50:32] Brian Beckcom: I'm on all the social media, uh, under my own name, Brian Beckcom. My website for my firm is www.vbattorneys.com. That's V as in Victor, B as in Brian, attorneys, vbattorneys.com. And, uh, you can find my podcast at my personal website, brianbeckcom.org, brianbeckcom.org.
[00:50:55] Ed Watters: Brian, it's been fabulous speaking to you. I could speak for hours with you and still
[00:51:02] Brian Beckcom: Me, too.
[00:51:03] Ed Watters: want more information. I thank you for spending the time here today and thank you for being part of the Dead America Podcast.
[00:51:12] Brian Beckcom: Thank you, Ed. I really appreciate it. It was a lot of fun, man. A lot of fun, you got a great show.
[00:51:19] Ed Watters: We appreciate that, thank you.
[00:51:24] Thank you for joining us today. If you found this podcast enlightening, entertaining, educational in any way, please share, like, subscribe, and join us right back here next week for another great episode of Dead America Podcast. I'm Ed Watters, your host, enjoy your afternoon wherever you may be.