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Is doing a 180 in a rocket ship hard? Do fish get thirsty? What are some alternatives to "Sun's Out, Guns Out"? How worried should we be about AI? Where do Floridians go for spring break? What's the next big sick? Hank and John Green have answers!

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 (00:00) to (02:00)

[intro music by Gunnarolla]

Hank Green: Hello, and welcome to Dear Hank and John!

John Green: Or as I prefer to think of it, Dear John and Hank.

H: Hold on, my mic stand is weird. What the heck?

J: Oh god, there's al- it's always something with this guy. Y'know? Some of us come to the podcast week after week after week, except for missing three weeks in a row--

H: [overlapping] No, we can't do that. We can't-- there's music playing! You can't do that!

J: [overlapping] --and we're completely prepared.

[intro music ends]

H: [overlapping I thought I was but I adjusted something.

J: [overlapping] He had to cut the music.

H: Hello and welcome to Dear Hank and John!

J: I'm not doing it again.

H: [laughs] You didn't ever say your part, though.

J: I did! Not only did I say it, you missed my amazing joke where I said, "Some people come to this podcast week after week after week prepared, except for the last three weeks when they weren't here."

H: [laughs]

J: That's a great joke. That was a great joke, and I feel a little bit--

H: [overlapping] Well, I was trying to fix this. I was trying to do the intro. There was a lot going on. But now the music's over. And John, I would like to tell you a fact.

J: Okay.

H: Which is that the name Lance isn't very common these days.

J: It's not.

H: But back in the Middle Ages, they used the name Lance a lot. 

J: [pause] [flatly] Ohhhh. Mm. Yes.

H: Mm.

J: Mm. You know what I think is funny about Sir Lancelot? And I just realized this. Y'know, like 45 years into my life? They called them Sir Lancelot because he used his lance a lot.

H: [echoing] ...lance a lot. Yeah.

J: He was always using the lance! Because he was such a good knight. And ergo-

H: [overlapping] He was a good lance guy!

J: Or maybe his granpa was really good at using the lance and that's how he got the surname Lancelot? 

H: [overlapping] True! True, maybe it wasn't him. Uhhuh, a little nepo. Nepotism.

J: But at any rate, somewhere-- God, that Sir Lancelot is a classic nepo baby. But somewhere, if you dig back deep enough, there was somebody -- and all the people in town was like, "Man! Ol' Joey--"

H: That guy cannot put down his lance!

J: [laughs] "Ol' Joey sure uses his lance a lot! ...wait a second! I think we just stumbled onto somethin'."

H: It was Joey Lancelot! And he's like, [deep, jock-like voice] "I don't do it that much!"

 (02:00) to (04:00)

J: [laughs] It's like getting a nickname in the mob.

H: [overlapping] "Seems like it, Joey!" [laughs] "If you don't do it that much why do we call you Lancelot, eh Joey Lancelot??" [Lancelot voice] "Fine, I'm gettin' better, though! I'm getting really good!"

J: "If your nose isn't that big, why d'we call you Johnny Big Nose?"

H: [laughs] "'Cause my nose is so little."

J: That's the other possibility, right? Is that it was ironic

H: [overlapping] Ohhh, 'cause he didn't! 

J: It just occurred to me. 

H: [overlapping] Sir Lancelot! Yeah, [giggles] he wasn't a big fan of the lance.

J: [overlapping] Yeah. They call him Sir Lancelot because he's always negotiating. 

H: [laughs] I thought it was gonna be because he, like, liked to use a trebuchet. 

J: [laughing] No. No.

H: He's like, "I'm not gettin' up close to those people!"

J: Yeah, he's always like, "Guys, let's just talk it out. Okay? I mean, we don't need to let this come to violence."

H: [overlapping] Yeah!  "Alright, Mister Lancelot."

J: And it was like, "Oh god, Mister Lancelot over here will never let us use our lances."

H: Gotta be, yeah. They were really ironic back then. 

J: Oh god, they loved an ironic surname. Y'know? That's why they called our ancestors Green.

H: Yeah, 'cause they owned coal-powered plants.

J: No, it was because we're so bad at farming. I know we must've been bad at farming because you should see me garden. I'm a catastrophe.

H: It is something-- it is a sight to behold, your garden. It is a lot of plants who are just, like, not supposed to be there. But really well taken care of. 

J: Yeah, I mean they're technically--

H: [overlapping] Just, like, some really big plants. That're not supposed to be there.

J: They're technically weeds. But they're incredibly successful weeds. And people are like, "Oh, it's bad for the pepper plants if they have to fight it out with these really effective weeds." But I don't agree, man. I think I only want plants that are strong enough to hold up to the reality of Indiana. Which is that we got a lot of weeds.

H: That's right, John. And really, what I've learned is it's about whether what you say sounds right.

 (04:00) to (06:00)

J: That's so true.

H: Not whether it's true. And I think that it's, like, they'll get spicier if they have to work harder. That sounds right! 

J: That sounds true.

H: Yeah, absolutely.

J: Here's a question, Hank. It's from Tai, who writes:

Dear John and Hank,

I was just thinking about the nothingness of space again. And then I thought about turning a rocket ship. Would that be hard, or easy? Like, if you needed to do a 180 you'd have to totally push against your speed. You'd probably need to take really wide turns to keep any type of speed up, right? I dunno. I'm going to bed.
Turns all the way down,


H: It depends on what you mean by... look, what's "speed"? Everything's relative to something else out there. But yeah, if you were halfway somewhere and you were like, "We gotta go back." It would be very bad. Probably impossible. Though... I don't... Yeah, probably impossible. So yeah, the thing you have to do is, like, is just turn your engine off and then you're floating at the speed you're going in the direction you're going. And then you just flip your spacecraft around. And then you just start firing your big engine in the other way. And you have to slow down from your current speed. 'Cause you don't got any air to slow you down. There's no friction to slow you down. And so you gotta blow mass out the back of your spaceship to slow you down. And then eventually you get back to zero. And you start working your way back up to moving actually toward the place where you wanna go. So yeah, with space travel you really do wanna know for sure where you're headed. And that is why they call it rocket science. That's the hard part.

J: So you don't actually take a big turn. You actually take the smallest turn possible.  You just turn 180 degrees.

H: Yeah, you'd wanna-- I mean, you could have your engine on the whole time you're flipping, and then you'd, kind of, take a turn. But you don't have to. There's no reason to.

J: And then you would just try to get all of that mass going in the opposite direction, which would take a lot of energy. Probably more than you have.

 (06:00) to (08:00)

H: Yeah. It's probably better to just go where you're going. Like, turn off your engine, get to where you're going, use the atmosphere there to slow yourself down with some friction. And then get yourself back. But I dunno, maybe not. 'Cause you gotta do the orbital injection thing and that's gonna be a lot of work. 

J: Don't you wanna just slingshot it, though? Isn't that what they do in The Martian? Which I believe is a documentary.

H: I don't know if, yeah. You could definitely slingshot. And if you have an option to do a good slingshot then that's great. But I don't know that you can usually-- I don't think that you can slingshot back where you came from? I think that you can slingshot into a specific direction. But I don't know if you could do a whole 180 slingshot. You could. Maybe I'm wrong. I dunno.

J: I just-- I like it here, you know?

H: It is simpler, yeah.

J: It's not just simpler, Hank. This is great. Earth is amazing. Sometimes I feel like we get out of touch with how stupidly good Earth is.

H: There's a lot of exploring to do right from here. Y'know? You put a space telescope up there. It's doing its stuff and we're like, "Aw man, we can see the first galaxies."

J: [overlapping] Forget about that exploring. No, man. There's a lot of exploring to be done within

H: It's true.

J: Interior exploring. The depths within. "The axe to break the frozen sea within us," as Kafka put it.

H: I did recently sign off an email, "What a time to be whatever it is we are, Hank." 'Cause I don't know what to even think about us anymore. People talk about consciousness right now 'cause of AI and I'm like, "Ah, this is making me very uncomfortable."

J: Yeah, because I'm not sure I have it.

H: Yeah.

J: Y'know? People are always like, "Have AIs achieved consciousness?" And I'm like, "Have you?"

H: What's that? Have we figured that out yet?

J: Like, "Have you thought hard about whether you've achieved consciousness? Because I'm just a moth flying to the light," y'know?

H: Yeah. If I don't think about it too hard I'm like, "Yeah, no. I'm definitely conscious. I know exactly what that is."

 (08:00) to (10:00)

H: And then if you think about it too hard--

J: But then when I do start to think about it I'm like, "Oh no." And to add to that, I would argue there are times when I'm not conscious.

H: For sure.

J: Like, when I'm on TikTok. When I'm in TikTok. When I'm in the metaverse. I'm not conscious. I'm a dolphin swimming through the water. It feels good. It feels bad. I don't know what it feels like. But it feels like I'm just doin' dolphin stuff.

H: Yeah. My stamina for doing conscious work is not what it once was. I need some of that time where I'm just scrolling now. And maybe this is a problem of too much scrolling, or maybe it's just gettin' old. But I need that recharge. And boy. Are there some companies out there who want me to have it.

J: Oh yeah, they will provide that service.

H: Yeah, for sure.

J: There's only a couple things they need. And one is the ability to change how you think and feel without you being aware of the change.

H: [laughs] That's the main thing that they need to happen.

J: That is essentially their job. Hey Hank, do fish get thirsty? This question comes from Riley, age 8. (Practically 9.)

H: That sounds like a big birthday coming up there. I don't know. 'Cause I am not and have not ever been and will be a fish. So this is--

J: Well, that is presumptuous. 

H: Well, I kind of am a fish. If we're talking about taxonomy.

J: Right, you're a land fish. You're a land fish that carries the ocean around inside of you. But I'm saying that it's presumptuous because you don't know what you will be.

H: That's true. Maybe I'll be a fish someday. [chuckles] I hadn't thought about it.

J: You have no idea. You could become a fish. Are you kidding? Look at the rest of Earth. This whole thing is nuts. 

 (10:00) to (12:00)

J: Crabs keep happening, independent of other crabs.

H: Yeah, I think fish might have... well, I guess not. But I bet whales took on a lot of the fish flavors. They figured out a lot of fishy ways to be. It's not the same, but uh. So maybe. Maybe. What is anything? What I'm saying is, we don't know the subjective experiences of fish. They can't tell us, we can't know. What we do know is that mostly fish don't have to think too much about drinking. Because they're always kind of drinking. And so probably they're not thirsty. But! There is a situation where either a saltwater fish will enter into a more brackish area where there's some fresh water, or a freshwater fish will enter into a more brackish area where there's some salt water. And in those situations they do have to carefully balance their salts. And that's really what drinking is. It's so that you can have more ocean in you to make sure your salts are correctly balanced. And they don't get too concentrated in your body. And you have an impulse to do that. And so in those situations where a fish is in its non-native -- like, it's not specialized for the salinity of the environment that it is then in -- it has to do things, physiologically and... so, like, its body will do things on its own. But also, the fish might make choices to do certain things because it is feeling an impulse to do that because its salt concentrations are wrong in its body. Which to me probably means its-- and I hope that this is a good answer. It feels good to me. 

J: Great answer for an 8-year-old.

H: It probably feels a little bit like thirsty. Would be my guess.

J: Yeah, but is the fish making a choice, or is the fish responding in the way it was always going to respond to a stimulus?

 (12:00) to (14:00)

H: Y'know, John, I think that if things respond to stimuli, I think that you can't really call that a decision. Maybe you can call it "wanting." Just very abstractly.

J: But it's not really a choice.

H: No. But again, now we're gonna be here--

J: I know, I know.

H: --where the layer on top of that is: can we choose what we want as conscious beings? And I think sometimes we can. Sometimes we can't.

J: I'm not convinced that sometimes we can't. It's the great Schopenhauer quote that begins my novel Turtles All the Way Down.  "Man can do what he wills but he cannot will what he wills."

H: Yeah. It's a time to be thinkin' a lot about that. But I don't know that we're gonna come to better conclusions because it's not like we have that much new data. I guess we have some new data. But mostly we--

J: Uh, we have a little bit of new data.

H: We've mostly been consciousnesses aware of our own consciousness the whole time. So we're not getting new experiences of consciousness. It's always been like this. And it's always been really hard to figure out.

J: [overlapping] I think it's just... This whole situation is so weird, being inside of a body. It's so weird.

H: Yeah, it's very wet.

J: Oh god. I'm gettin' kinda panicky, we gotta move on.

H: Alright. Well let's try to do one that's not gonna freak you out as much. This one is from Madeline, who asks:

Dear Hank and John,

Just wondering if John has seen the dancing man with a hammerhead shark mask around Indianapolis lately. I saw him going to work and it was quite something.


J: Yeah. Yup. I've also seen him. And here's what I'll say about it. Indianapolis, as a city, is not known for its eccentricity, right?

 (14:00) to (16:00)

J: It's seen as a practical... Y'know, like, Mitch Daniels called us "the state that works." 

H: [chuckles] Okay.

J: I think that's a bit of an exaggeration, y'know? But it's the state that wishes it worked. [laughing] That's how I would describe it. And so whenever I see a properly eccentric person, like that person, I'm always, like, "This is great. This is good. We are becoming more like a city." Like, there's that guy -- I think he's in Miami -- who's rollerbladed on the boardwalk every day... or maybe he's out in California... who's rollerbladed on the boardwalk, like, every day for 67 years or something?

H: Right, yeah.

J: We don't have anything like that. Nobody has done anything every day for 67 years in Indianapolis except, like, wake up, brush their teeth, go to work, take care of their family, all that boring crap. And so I'm delighted, really delighted, when we get a little dose of eccentricity.

H: [overlapping] Maybe that should be a job.

J: Yes. Yes, well. I think it used to be a job, Hank. I think that in a lot of communities the community eccentric, or the community.. person who was a little different... instead of being, like, cast out of the community or being seen as Other, they were just like, "Oh, that person's gonna have this job. They're gonna be our storyteller. They're gonna be our dancer. They're gonna be our person who interprets the stars," y'know?

H: Yeah. We used to have a guy in Missoula who had very small pants. And he was just dancin' around everywhere.

J: Mister Smallpants. Yeah.

H: We'd call him The Dancin' Man, was what he was called around town.

J: Joey Smallpants.

H: [laughs] And I dunno if he went somewhere or if he just, sorta, danced his last dance, but... We have a chess champion who walks everywhere in town. He's called The Octopus because he can win eight games at the same time.

 (16:00) to (18:00)

J: That's very impressive.

H: There's also an old Greek guy, who's in the family-- the people who own the Greek restaurant. And he walks everywhere. And so there are a couple of characters around town still. But they're aging. So we need some young ones. We need some new, young, walkin'-around-town...ers. Maybe get a unicycle. Maybe get a shark mask. I don't know. A really tall bike.

J: I'm gonna throw it out that I think you'd be great at that job.

H: Y'know, I think I would, too.

J: I feel like as you get older, and as you start to think, like, "Well, what does my professional life look like if I'm not the CEO of seventeen companies simultaneously?" Maybe the answer is: "I need to put on a shark mark and ride a unicycle around Missoula and bring some joy to the people."

H: And then I'll go to the city council meetings and I'll be like, "Look! I can't tell ya who I am, but I am definitely a resident of this town. And we need more housing. So stop whining about everything." That's what I'll say.

J: [deep, breathy voice] "I'm Batman.

H: [laughs] [growly voice] "I'm Sharkface!"

J: [laughing] Yeah, exactly. And then Hank Green goes to all the fancy Missoula parties. Sharkface Unicycle Boy patrols the streets in the evening.

H: [laughs] "Anybody need any help with anything? Rarrrrr. Is this what sharks sound like?"

J: [pauses] I think it's not what a shark sounds like. I think that's what a pirate sounds like?

H: [overlapping] [normal voice] It's also not what a bat sounds like, though. I will point out. If Batman was trying to sound like a bat he'd be like, [very high-pitched, squeaky voice] "I'm Batman!"

J: [laughing] Actually, he'd say, "I'm Batman" but you wouldn't be able to hear him, y'know?

H: [laughs]

J: Like, the mouth would move and you'd be like, "What? I'm sorry," but like, two feet behind you a dog would be like, "Gah, god, shut up!" I love that idea. I love that idea so much.

H: [laughing hard] Oh god, he sounds like a bat!

J: Hard Science Batman.

H: [echoing] Hard Science Batman.

J: Hard Science Batman is not audible, okay? You can choose, Bruce Wayne. Do you wanna be Bruce Wayne with the sexy voice, or do you wanna be Batman: powerful, but nobody except for bats can hear you.

 (18:00) to (20:00)

H: [squeaky bat voice] "I come in the night." [laughs]

J: [in identical squeaky, sing-songy bat voice] "Ever since my parents left me I've been a little lonely. But I'm not in touch with my emotions so I mostly express it through physical violence. I'm just a rich guy with an affinity for bats. I'm not an actual bat man."
H: [laughs] That's great.
J: Alright, this next question comes from Libby, who writes:

Dear John and Hank,

My roommates and I are looking for a firearm-free alternative to the phrase "sun's out, guns out." We want it to have the same cheeky enthusiasm for revealing your biceps in the summer. But we want it to be weapon-free. Any suggestions are appreciated.
Unarmed and unanswered,


H: I mean, I have heard "sun's out, buns out." For sure.

J: Oh, that's good. I was gonna say, "Sun's out, mums out." But that's sort of a British mom-specific one. I like "sun's out, buns out" a lot more.

H: Yeah, we--

J: "Sun's out, tums out" kinda works.

H: "Sun's out, tums out." I once said, "Sun's out, guns out" to my son and then Katherine said, "Sun's out, Mums out." And then Orin said, -- it was very cute -- he said, "Sun's out, sons out!" 

J: [laughs] That's great. That's a good pun. It's much funnier than most of his father's dad jokes. Okay, let's think... is there anything that rhymes with--

H: Arms?

J: Does anything rhyme with biceps? Or arms?

H: Muscle... words...

J: Yeah, biceps.

H: Yeah. Well, but there's no bicep rhymes.

J: Triceps? Is an obvious one. That's the big one they suggest. [chuckles]

H: Triceps.... Triceps, biceps! ...that's not good.

J: Daytime, slay time. No. That's still violent. Crap.

H: [laughs] What about, like, "Sun's up, fun's up!" I dunno. "Sun's out, buns out" is way better than that.

 (20:00) to (22:00)

J: Blue sky...

H: Blue sky, this guy! And then you flex. Pointin' at yourself with your thumbs. Blue sky, this guy!

J: Blue sky, this guy... Blue sky, this guy. Yes. Blue sky-- So we've got "blue sky, this guy." We've got, "sun's out, buns out." The problem with "sun's out, bun's out" is that it makes it sound... like there's only one bun.

H: Ooh, John. Wait wait wait wait wait wait. "Solar power bicep hour!"

J: Oh there, we did it. Okay. Teamwork makes the dream work. Solar power bicep hour, everybody.

H: Sun's out, prance about! 

J: [laughs] That's nothing to do with biceps. But I think solar power bicep hour is... we're done. 

H: It's probably as good as we're gonna get. Okay.

J: You're welcome. I mean, that was on the far edge of what could've happened from that question. 99% of the time the best one is sun's out, sons out. Which is written by your five-year-old.

H: [laughs] Thanks.

J: Actually, which reminds me, Hank, that today's podcast is brought to you by Solar Power Bicep Hour, the thrilling new renewable energy alternative to "sun's out, guns out."

H: [laughs] I think that went remarkably well. This podcast is also brought to you by A Probably-Thirsty Fish. A Probably-Thirsty Fish: It is in the wrong salinity and is being physiologically pushed toward doing something about it.

J: And is that a choice? 

H: We'll never know. The world will never know.

J: And, of course, today's podcast is brought to you by Hard Science Batman. Hard Science Batman: [squeaky, sing-songy bat voice] You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain~! [unintelligible, speech-like squeaking]

H: [laughs] That's what he says when he runs away. Like, Commissioner Gordon doesn't know where he is and he's like, "Where did he go?" But he hears, like, [speech-like squeaking].

 (22:00) to (24:00)

H: [laughing] "I can still hear him."

J: [laughs] He's gotta echolocate. How else is he gonna figure out where he is in space? How's he gonna drive that Batmobile?

H: Yup. And this podcast is brought to you by A Spaceship That Has Gone Halfway In The Wrong Direction: Everybody gonna die on that spaceship! 

J: [long pause] Well. Everybody's gonna die... everywhere. It's just everybody on that spaceship's gonna die sooner.  Well, Hank, since we've been talking a lot about consciousness, how about this question from Hannah, who writes:

Dear John and Hank,

How worried should we be about artificial intelligence? Sometimes it feels like a nightmare dystopia situation, but other times it's kinda buggy and stupid? I want to believe nothing bad will happen, but isnt't that how all horror movies about exactly this topic start? How actually realistic is an AI-fueled collapse of society?

Pumpkins and penguins,


H: I think that people... broadly... I've seen a lot of... just. Just, complete.... Steaming piles of poo. Uninteresting things be celebrated by the tech world in the last ten years. Where it just felt a lot like somebody was like, "Man, we made the iPhone and then we did the social internet. And something's next. So maybe it's this thing?" And it's just, like, obviously wasn't. Like, from my perspective. It was like, "That's not gonna be the thing. You're not understanding."

J: [slyly] I have no idea what you're referring to.

H: But this definitely seems like a thing. It seems like the worries around... "I can see directly how this could be useful for people in ways that might change the shape of society." And then there's the, "I can see how this could be used by bad people who want to do bad things." And then there's the, "When something like this happens we are bad at predicting what's gonna happen with it." And what it means. 

 (24:00) to (26:00)

H: And then there's also the, "This seems to be getting better very fast. What does that mean? And where is that going to go?" And that last one is the one that I am least comfortable with because lots of people seem to have very different opinions on whether you should even use the word "intelligent." And all of these things are just tools. It's like saying that a car is smart 'cause it can run faster than a person, almost? But, other people, who also seem to know what they're talking about, are like, "We are very close to that being as good at everything cognitive as a person." And that is a totally wild thought. But I do think that it's gonna change stuff really fast. And I think that they are... compared to what they're going to be they're relatively... y'know, they're not as powerful as they're gonna be. So now is kinda the right time to be thinking about it from a regulatory perspective. And also from a society perspective. We really didn't do that when it came to the many-to-many nature of the internet. Like, the regulations around the internet have always been--

J: We didn't do it with the phone, either.

H: Yeah. We ended up regulating books and radio pretty well. But it took a long time.

J: It took a long time and they didn't change very fast. So it was possible. I agree with you that any predictive take is kind of inherently bad. Like, some of those predictions will end up being true and some of those predictions won't end up being true. But the ones that end up being true are not necessarily going to be true because they were better observed or argued. They will be true because of--

H: [overlapping] Yeah. Just because a lot of predictions are being made.

J: Exactly. But because of chance, mostly. And so I think anybody who's speaking with a great deal of confidence about artificial intelligence, even if they're an expert, should be discounted a little bit.

 (26:00) to (28:00)

H: Yeah.

J: And I think-- the people I've seen with the most expertise are speaking, a lot of times, with the least confidence. Which is what I want. That said, I agree with you that it's a huge deal. But if you look back at what we thought were gonna be the problems that came from smartphones, right? Like, think about the wonderful things that smartphones have given us. They have dramatically reduced the number of people who die from accidents because they can now contact emergency people. They have, on the other hand, increased the number of people who die as a result of distracted driving. They have made it so that we can communicate more efficiently across space. Which is amazing. It means that people can be in touch with their family members in a way that was impossible ten or twenty years ago. I remember when I was dating my college girlfriend it cost us 10 cents a minute to talk on the phone. Right? In that sense things are much better. However, they have also made it so that we have these adult pacifiers with us at all times. That I am not convinced is great for our brains.

H: Yeah. It's like, good part...

J: But we didn't know any of that when we started out. 

H: Right, right.

J: Like, in 2006 or 2007 we started our YouTube channel before the iPhone came out. And when the iPhone came out I remember people being like, "This is gonna change everything." And they were right, but they were totally wrong about what it was gonna change.

H: Yeah. And I think it's really... With something big like this, I think it's almost more important to dissect the kinds of things that we're looking at. Just to have a landscape of how things might change. And think about them in silos.

 (28:00) to (30:00)

H: Where there's, like, bad actors, and then there's, like, how does it change the economy? And then there's, like, as it ramps up and gets much better... that's the big mystery land. Because I think that--

J: Yeah. How does it change education? 

H: Yeah!

J: How does it change healthcare? How does it change our relationship with ourselves and our understanding of consciousness? You said earlier that we don't have any new data points about consciousness, but we are getting some. Or at least we're being asked to think about them in a different way. Y'know, I think it's a big deal.

H: I heard a great point the other day that, like, humans defined their humanness by how good they were at more complex and challenging cognitive tasks, right up until the moment when it seemed quite clear that computers were going to be good at that. And now we're like, "But those aren't people."

J: It's really feelings.

H: Because it's about feelings! So then it's like, "So the dogs then..."

J: [overlapping] It's our capacity for love. Yeah, no, I'd actually much prefer dogs to be conscious than a programmable, artificial intelligence.

H: Well, it also seems much more likely to me.

J: Yeah, I agree with that. Although...

H: [overlapping] I don't know what it is.

J: I think what it really asks us to do is the same thing that we're asked to do over and over again, which is to take these things that we've imagined as dichotomies and instead understand them as spectral. And so it used to be that we thought that consciousness was on and off. It used to be that we thought that being a mammal was on and off. And it turns out that it's a spectrum. Even being a human, we thought was on and off. And it turns out that, like, no, there've been a bunch of human species. And parts of some of them are still with us.

H: It's very true. What a wild time to be whatever it is we are.

 (30:00) to (32:00)

H: This next question comes from Darren, who asks:

Dear Hank and John,

I am in the heart of Michigan. And whenever spring break comes around everyone just happily makes their way to some beach in Florida. So this sparked a question in my head: Where do Floridians go on spring break? Do they just go to the motel on the other side of town? Or do they swap places with the northerners?

I can't really think of a sign-off,


H: You know, I used to live in Florida and I don't know if we're allowed to tell you what we do on spring break. If you live in Florida, everyone knows what you do on spring break. But I feel like once you leave you have to... like, it's a secret when you're there, for sure. But I think even once you leave you have to continue keeping it a secret.

J: Yeah, that's correct. It's private.

H: Yeah. So.

J: Yeah. It's not really for Michiganders to know.

H: Yeah. I mean, it's great. I mean... wow.

J: Oh, the best. Whoof. People often say that living in Florida sucks. And that is correct. 

H: Yeah.

J: But man, one week a year.

H: [echoes] One week a year.

J: Whoof. Whoa.

H: The way Florida does spring break, which is a secret, oof.

J: Oh god.

H: Uh... it's really good for your feet, too. My gosh! Your feet feel so much better afterward.

J: Everything does. I just... I mean, it's almost like you're... it's almost like all of your bodily pains go away. Like, you're not even totally in a body.

H: Yeah, I actually won... this is wild. One year, after spring break, I got home and I needed to back to the optometrist because 'cause my vision got better.

J: Yeah. That's very common.

H: Yeah, that's why there's so many optometrists in Florida. 

J: That's why there's no lasik surgery in Florida. They don't need it. Until you get out of the spring break cycle, because I do know some older Floridians who just don't go on spring break anymore? And then I'm like, "Why do you live there then?" 

H: Yeah, you gotta go.

J: "Why'd you stay? Just move to Indianapolis or Missoula or something like a regular person."

H: It's really cool. One of my--

J: Lacking the benefit of Florida spring break there's no reason.

 (32:00) to (34:00)

H: One of my favorite things about Florida spring break is that if you're on spring break in Florida as a Floridian you can get a tattoo. But then when spring break ends the tattoo goes away.

J: Goes away. Yeah. Temporary. But I mean, it's not a temporary tattoo.

H: No, it's a real tattoo.

J: It's a tattoo. But then, like, you go to school on Monday after spring break-- You wake up and it's gone.

H: But it does show up under the blacklight. Yeah.

J: I went full Post Malone. And you can still see it under blacklight.

H: Mmhmm.

J: Like, I've got, like, three or four face tattoos. I don't even know how many. But they're really subtle. And they're just kinda like, um.

H: Yeah, they look so cool.

J: Yeah, they look kinda almost like white line drawings or something underneath your skin. It's really awesome.

H: Super sensible face tattoo. Yeah. Kinda has a sparkle to it, yeah.

J: Do you have any that say anything? Or is it just, like, a figure? Like, I did a lot of, like, um.  There's supposed to be six... shapes... that you can see... uh, without any visual information. Like, without any light.

H: Oh, interesting.

J: That are sort of, like, intrinsic to the human eye. Like, some of them are structural? Like, you see eye structures? And so I did all six of those shapes. One of them is sort of spiral-y. One of them is, like, this sort of splintering of roots or veins or whatever. I did those six shapes.

H: Yeah, I've got two. One on each bicep. One that says, "Solar Power," and the other says, "Bicep Hour."

J: Oh, I love that. That's brilliant. I actually have all of Emily Dickinson's "'Hope' Is The Thing With Feathers" tattooed across my back.

H: Ohhh, god, I forgot did all of Lord of Rings on my leg! 

J: Oh yeah. 'Cause they can get real small.

H: Yeah, it's a special thing.

J: 'Cause you get so big.. it's actually not that hard. During... Florida spring break.

H: [laughs like a teakettle]

J: Like, your body.... is hundreds of times bigger than it currently is.

H: Sssshh, that's part of-- you can't tell people that!

J: Oh god, I'm sorry.

H: I think that's part of the thing you're not supposed to tell people about.

J: I don't know where the line is. 'Cause, well, you told them the tattoo thing and I thought was that private, too.

 (34:00) to (36:00)

H: I did, yeah. Well, and then we started talking about the tattoos.

J: [overlapping] Alright, we need to stop talking about this.

H: [overlapping] Yeah, we do. We do.

J: We could get in big trouble with the Ex-Floridian Council. And you do not wanna mess with those people. They will ban your books

H: They-- [laughs] They will ban your books and they can also make one toe disappear every day for the rest of your life. From your body.

J: Yeah.

H: Yeah.

J: Which you would think would be over after ten days but not the way they do it.

H: It's not! It's so strict!

J: No. It's forever.

H: [out of breath from laughing] This next question-- [can't continue because still laughing]

J: I had a lot of fun with you there. This next question comes from Gillian, who writes:

Dear John and Hank,

If I remember correctly, before COVID we were aware that we were due for a big sickness. And a virus was probable. But what do we think the next one will be? Is a fungal infection capable infection of causing an apocalyptic-type scenario? Is there another vector for disease besides those in viruses and bacteria?
Just trying to prepare,


J:   ...and / or GILL-ian.  Um. [pauses] Yeah.

H: [laughs]

J: First off. We don't know when the next one will be, Gillian. 

H: I thought for a second that you were just gonna say, "Yeah." And then move on. 'Cause that's kind of the answer.

J: There are some other ways that it could happen. Here's the thing, Gillian. First off, this was not an apocalyptically bad ending. Disease pandemic, unfortunately, it was very bad and obviously it was extremely destructive to the social order and caused of millions of people to die, and tens of millions of people to grieve. I don't wanna minimize COVID in any way, but it's nothing like the Black Death when 50% of all humans in Europe and parts of Asia and North Africa died within a four-year period. It's nothing like even the flu of 1918 where probably around 100 million people died within 24 months. And so this is a pandemic, but it's nowhere near the worst version of a pandemic. 

 (36:00) to (38:00)

J: And we do not know when the next one will be. Right? Like, there was a chance that 10 or 15 years ago the SARS epidemic that emerged could've become a global pandemic if we hadn't gotten it under control, or if it had been slightly better at transmission, or we'd allowed it enough time to get good at transmission, as we did with COVID. And so it's not like, "Oh, these things happen every hundred years," it's like, "These things happen when they happen." Is that fair to say, Hank?

H: Yes. Absolutely. And the other worry is, "Is there something out there that's worse than viruses and bacteria?" Which are our main concerns. And I think that there is, like. Narratively it's interesting to say, "Okay, but what about the other things?" Because of course there are fungal infections. Different thing-- like, we're full of great, tasty.... stuff. Y'know? And I get that-- like, so, we're a good environment for a lot of things to live inside of. If we didn't have an immune system we'd just be food, right? So we have that. And things are trying to, y'know. Are evolving toward being good at taking advantage of the nutrient-rich environment of our bodies. But! Viruses and bacteria are the things that have been the best at that. And they are gonna keep being the things that are the best at that.

J: Oh, they've been so good at it for so long.

H: Yeah. I dunno if there's reasons why funguses are a little bit worse at-- Obviously funguses can infect people, and do. But they seem to be a little bit worse at it. So I think probably they will remain a little bit worse at it. But, y'know, knock on wood

J: Yeah, I mean, we cannot predict the future.

H: Yeah, that's exactly right.

 (38:00) to (40:00)

J: But what we can do, what we can definitely do, is make the next pandemic less bad. And make it more likely that the next epidemic doesn't become a pandemic. And the way that we do that is we get better at identifying novel diseases early. And we have better, stronger healthcare systems in the places where those novel diseases are most likely to emerge, which tend to be poor and middle-income countries. And every dollar that we invest in a healthcare system is a dollar that we are investing in our shared human future.

H: Yeah.

J: And it's infuriating -- infuriating -- to me that despite the obvious and profound global interconnection of all people we act as if some communities deserve a healthcare system and others don't. Like there will never be any global consequences to that expression of injustice.

H: Yeah. Yeah, and also that we have a really good reason right now to be thinking about how to strengthen healthcare systems everywhere. And also be very conscious of how pandemics start and spread. And we have a bunch of new data on how that works that we didn't have before and that's good. And we should be using that to have early warning systems for these things. And there should be a lot of resources that go toward it because we see how much it costs us.

J: It is expensive in every way to have a pandemic. So why not try to have fewer of them? [laughs] Seems like a pretty... whatever. I'm tired of making that argument. I just wanna tell you this, Hank. Do you know how long humans have had tuberculosis?

H: [deep breath] Has it been the whole time?

J: Not only has it been the whole time, also we had tuberculosis before we were us.

H: Yeah. Y'know, that's also true of lice.

 (40:00) to (42:00)

J: Homo erectus had tuberculosis. They also had lice. And so we had to live with this disease. "We" being hominids. For 500,000 years.

H: Wow.

J: And then, for about 60 years we've chosen to have this disease. And that is a very interesting choice. So interesting that it makes me wonder: Are we in fact making a choice? Or are we just doing what seems obvious to us, which is to invest resources in diseases that affect the rich world and not diseases that infect other worlds.

H: Well, I mean, so this is a very interesting distinction and a supposition you've made, which is that we make a choice. And so are we, as humanity, can humanity make a decision? 'Cause I kind of think it is. I think that we are a collective species.

J: [overlapping] I think it can.

H: But in that way, no one thinks that humanity is conscious. We think that humans are conscious.

J: [overlapping] Right. Right, but maybe we should start thinking about--

H: If you really stepped back and you saw the way that humanity acts upon Earth, in the same way that you might see an artificial intelligence, I think it might be kinda hard to not ascribe consciousness to that entity.

J: Yeah, if you zoom even 10,000 feet up you don't know the names of any individuals. Like, if you're looking down at us and you're in a plane 10,000 feet above Earth, and that's the only interaction you have with humans... I don't know that you would conclude that each of them is an individual. Or would have a name. I think you might conclude instead, "Look at all these people working together. And look, like, there's the ant that has that job, and there's the ant that has that job."

 (42:00) to (44:00)

J: And I kinda find it helpful to think about us that way. Because when I start to realize that we don't know the names of anybody who lived before 6,000 years ago. We don't even know for sure if they had names. 8,000 years ago, whatever it is. Then, like, my name or what I do is not nearly as important as being part of the connective tissue. Which is the really interesting work and opportunity of being a person.

H: Right. But it's very hard to see it that way.

J: Very hard, on a minute-by-minute basis.

H: 'Cause we are ultimately-- if you have to taught about all of that, 'cause otherwise the experience all comes out of these two eyeballs, y'know? But yeah, I don't know. I don't think that humanity is conscious. I think that individual humans are conscious. But how do I know?

J: Well Hank, speaking of beautiful, sprawling collaborations... How about AFC Wimbledon? The fan's club.

H: Yeah.

J: Owned by its fans.

H: Mmhmm.

J: Borrowed 10 million pounds from its fans to build a beautiful, world-class stadium in South London.

H: [yawning] Yeah.

J: And really, really, really need -- not want, need -- to stay in the football league in order to not have a proper crisis.

H: [laughs] Uhhuh. And...? How's it goin'?

J: We're... we're bad. We're objectively bad.

H: [overlapping] [deep breath] Yeah, aren't, like, all of your people injured right now?

J: We do have probably a stronger injured starting eleven that a current healthy starting eleven. But we just lost to the worst team in Leauge 2 at home, at Plough Lane. We lost to Rochdale, or possibly Roach-dale -- only the scientists know for sure.

H: Mmhmm.

J: And we were. So. Bad. It was awful. 

 (44:00) to (46:00)

J: The only thing we've got going for us is that there is seven games left in the League 2 season. And we are currently 11 points clear of relegation. Surely. Surely. We should be okay. But we are bad.

H: You won a game, though. Last week we talked about how you beat a team that was better than you in the standings.

J: Yeah, Walsall.

H: Yeah. That one.

J: Yeah. Thanks to Ali al-Hamadi and Will Nightingale. Who I would argue are not just our stars this season, they're kind of, uh.... They're sort of the only... real stand-outs right now.

H: [chuckling] That are playin'.

J: There've been times when I've been, like... You remember when I played middle school soccer? I'm sure I've told this story to you a million times. And the coach let me start one game, even though I was terrible. And I was like, "This is amazing. This is my big chance. I finally made it as a soccer player." And then at halftime the coach was yelling at all the players and he said, "You know why I let Green start? Because at least he tries." And I realized that I'd just been used as a motivational tool. [laughing] Rather than as a soccer player. 

H: Uhhuh.

J: There've been a couple games where I felt that way about Will Nightingale and Ali al-Hamadi. Like, they're tryin'! I'm sure everybody's trying it's just so frustrating right now. It's been really difficult. Ali al-Hamadi, who joined us in January, he's 20 years old. He's an Iraqi refugee who came to the United Kingdom via Jordan after his family had to escape because his father was imprisoned for protesting Saddam Hussein's regime. And he is a star. He's an awesome guy. He's gotten so involved in the community. He understands the values of Wimbledon. He's amazing. Like, I'm kind of in love with him?

H: Mmhmm.

J: He's probably the first person I think about when I wake up most mornings. And then you've got Will Nightingale, who's been playing for us since he was seven years old. And who is now 27.

 (46:00) to (48:00)

J: And, y'know, has a real chance of being one of the only one-club players in all of English football. He's just... It feels like he was made for us and we were made for him. So. [pause] Y'know. [pause] We're 2/11ths of the way there.

H: [laughs] Yeah, I bet there's a lot of other teams that are--

J: [overlapping] We got a lot of other great players, it's just a bunch of them are gonna leave this summer. A bunch of them are gonna go to bigger clubs. A bunch of them are gonna be out of contract. We've got a real task ahead of us.

H: I'm sorry. I don't know what to do for you.

J: [overlapping] Me neither. I'm stressed out.

H: It sounds like it's awful hard to run a soccer team unless you are Ryan Reynolds.  And then it's just all sunshine and rainbows.

J: Yeah. I mean, I've really enjoyed rooting for Wrexham. When they come to League 2, as it appears they will, I will live in terror.

H: [laughs] They're gonna tear through it. It's gonna be like, "Goodbye, everybody! On our way up."

J: They are gonna be a one-season wonder in League 2, that's for darn sure. I wish them all the luck in the Premier League. Because that's where they're headed.

H: Jeez. Is that the first one? Is that the top one, the Premier League?

J: Yeah. I think it's great that you know much more about League 2 than you know about the Premier League. You're like, "Manchester United, I've heard of them but they're no Gillingham."

H: I was... Oh man, I dunno where I was, but I--

J: "They're no Hartlepool."

H: Yeah. Somebody recently said, like, "You won't have heard of the soccer club that I root for." And I was like, "I probably will have." [laughs]

J: "Try me. Try me."

H: "My brother roots for AFC Wimbledon." He was a British guy, and he was like, "What??" [laughs]

J: Yeah. What was that guy's team?

H: It was one of the ones I've heard of. Manchester United or something. Like, literally a Premier League team. [laughs] It was like some--

 (48:00) to (50:00)

J: Oh, it was like, "You won't have heard of the team I support."

H: --giant team. Yeah.

J: "They're called Chelsea." And you were like, "I've heard of Chelsea. I've heard of Chelsea. Do you know of their South London rivals, AFC Wimbledon?"

H: [laughs] They're comin' up!

J: [laughs] Not at the moment.

H: Yeah. 1-0 up to 2-1 down, that's the way we have a frown.

J: [laughs] That's exactly right. But hey, guess who might be headed our way?

H: I don't know what that means.

J: Down to League 2 next season.

H: Oh. The, uh.  [carefully] Franchise Currently Plying Its Trade In Milton Keynes...?

J: Yup. They're right on the edge.

H: Alright! Alright!

J: They're right on the edge. We just need-- They had a couple good games. We just need them to collapse at the end of the season because they don't have any courage or heart. Which seems inevitable.

H: Well in Mars news this week, good news for fans of Mars and offices. NASA has set up the Moon to Mars program office. So, if you like yourself some bureaucracy and some gettin' to Mars this is the time for you. So NASA's been working on various missions to the moon. Including Artemis I, which launched last year. Also upcoming is Artemis II, which is planning to send four astronauts to the moon at the end of 2024. This is real. And it's happening. And Artemis III-- Actually, I think today as we're recording this they're announcing the crew that's gonna be on that mission. So, wow.

J: Wow.

H: And then Artemis III, the goal of that is to explore potential lunar water ice by the end of 2025. These Artemis missions are part of a bigger plan to hopefully send people to Mars by the late 2030s or early 2040s. Which is why this Moon to M--

J: Mmmm, seems a little late. Seems a little late!

H: [laughs] Which is why this--

J: Fat lot of good that's gonna you when this podcast is named Dear John and Hank and you're 70 years old.

H: Yeah, we'll say it enough and it starts to sound normal. And I'll be okay. 

J: I think we should name it Dear Hank and John again. 

H: Yeah.

J: If we ever put people on Mars.

H: Come back. 

 (50:00) to (51:39)

H: That'll be amazing. We'll be like, so old

J: So old.

H: And it'll be like, "Elon, why have you abandoned us?" 

J: Y'know, I haven't heard Elon talk about going to Mars in 2027 lately. He seems preoccupied.

H: [laughs] 

J: As bad as that whole thing's been for society it's been really good for my bet with you about whether there will be humans on Mars by 2027.

H: So this office is gonna help with various aspects of the Artemis missions, including the spacecraft and spacesuits. And Gateway, a small space station that will orbit the moon.

J: Oh, cool!

H: And the office is also gonna be involved in planning further-out projects to make humans on Mars possible. What a time! To be whatever it is we are!

J: [laughs] Yeah. Humans, or whatever we are: Coming to Mars. Soon.

H: John, thank you for making a podcast with me. I think that it was, maybe, some of our best work. [laughs]

J: Well, let's not exaggerate.

H: We went everywhere.

J: It wasn't as good as the one about The Chipmunks.

H: I don't even remember that one. ... Where the heck did my notes go?

J: Remember we got really into the creator of The Chipmunks, went way far down a rabbit hole?

H: [laughing] Right.

J: Ross... Ross Bag..dosian [sic; Bagdasarian].. something like that? The Fourth. Alright, roll the credits, Hank.

[outro music by Gunnarolla begins]

H: This podcast is edited by Josef "Tuna" Metesh. It's produced by Rosianna Halse-Rojas. Our communications coordinator is Brooke Shotwell. Our editorial assistant is Deboki Chakravarti. The music you're hearing now and at the beginning of the podcast is by the great Gunnarolla. And as they say in our hometown:

H&J: Don't Forget To Be Awesome