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044 – Evolution & Epigenetics with Perry Marshall, Part 2

 

DAN:

Hello, and welcome to The Low Carb Leader podcast. I am your host, Dan Perryman, and you have joined me for Episode 44. You may notice that this episode, part two of Perry Marshall’s interview, has come out a few days early, and that is because I am heading out today to Paleo f(x) in Austin, Texas. It’s an awesome conference that has international speakers there, many that you have heard of, such as Mark Sisson, Robb Wolf. I’m actually going a day early so I can attend Health Entrepreneurs f(x), which is a day-long smaller group session with some of the leading speakers and health entrepreneurs in the country. That starts on Thursday. And then Friday, Saturday, Sunday is Paleo f(x). I attended a couple years ago with my son, and it’s a pretty awesome conference. So anyway, it’s just easier to publish this before I go. Then I don’t have to worry about it. And for those that have been waiting for part two of Perry’s interview, you get it a few days early. So I hope to bring back a bunch of knowledge and learnings from Paleo f(x), and I look forward to sharing them with you.

 

As a reminder, check out my social media sites. I am at thelowcarbleader.com with links to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. If you’re enjoying the podcast I would ask you to subscribe. You can subscribe on iTunes if you have an iPhone or Stitcher Radio if you have an Android or non-iPhone. Also the podcast is available on Google Play. All right, now on to part two with Perry Marshall.

 

Since you discovered all this how has it changed your approach toward living, nutrition, fitness, well-being? I’m curious if it really changed your direction.

 

A Different Approach to Living

 

PERRY:

Well, I’ll give you several parts of this. So one of them is I realized my body really is intelligent. Every cell is intelligent. Now I can’t define exactly what that is, like do my cells say their prayers before bed time and brush their teeth at night? Like I don’t know about that, but like when musicians and athletes talk about muscle memory, that is a real thing. Or, for example, like your doctor tells you you have to finish these antibiotics. If you don’t kill them dead they’re going to come back, and they’re going to be superbugs. Well, that’s because those bacteria, they’re not just passively replicating and every now and then one gets an advantageous trait by accident. No, they are actively seeking. They are trying stuff all the time. This changed my whole conception of business and advertising because I started saying well, what if these little Google ads I was writing here, what if they were smart like bacteria are instead of just being these passive little things? And that’s actually led to us starting a software company. We’re doing some very interesting things with that.

 

When I eat well – like I’m a lot more in tune with my body than I was 10 years ago. When I eat well I can feel my body thanking me. Thank you, Perry. That was good. I feel good. If I eat cheeseburgers I don’t feel as good. I remember a time I didn’t pay attention to that. Well, you realize the level of communication that goes on inside a body? I don’t think we have any idea how much communication is going on. So I know that some people, they are aware of their bodies. Like they’ll meet somebody, and they’ll go well I can’t explain why, but my stomach does not like that guy. You ever had that experience?

 

DAN:

Yep.

 

PERRY:

You should listen to that. It’s rarely wrong. I remember a boss I had a few years ago where I can remember suppressing that gut feeling and rationalizing it away. Oh did we pay for that. Oh my goodness. That guy was a disaster. But he didn’t start being a disaster for about two years. He was like on really good behavior, and then he went berserk-o. I think he had borderline personality disorder. I don’t really know. But that would be my guess. So I’m telling you the world is so much more amazing than we are told. This also really just raises huge questions like okay, so we’ve got the USDA or the educational system, and they make this chart like well okay, you’re supposed to eat this much of cereals, and you’re supposed to eat this much of vegetables and this much of meat. Like, well who came up with this, and why? And how long ago was this, and did they have any idea – like there’s this whole idea in medicine that we’re just like a bunch of chemicals. And of course selling you pills really plays into that very nicely, but we’re not. Like we are walking information processing machines that you know, there is more information in one spoonful of navy bean soup than there is on the entire internet that got uploaded or downloaded all day long, in one spoonful of soup. I kid you not.

 

DAN:

Talk us through that one.

 

The Information Processing Machine that is our DNA

 

PERRY:

So DNA stores – every cell in your body has 750 MB of DNA. It’s about the same amount of information as a CD, okay? Now that’s every single cell in your body. So the simplistic view would be well, yeah, okay, so I’ve got 10 billion copies of the same CD. Well, but no you really don’t. Why? Because each cell potentially has different epigenetic markers and signals than the one next to it, and like who even knows how many other forms of information are stored with RNAs and like there’s all these other RNAs associated. And so you don’t actually know how much information is stored in your body. But like I said, that thing about muscle memory is huge. And so the density of data in DNA is 200,000 times greater than the most efficient hard drives that human technology currently knows how to make, 200,000 times denser. You’re eating soup, and it’s got peas in it, and it’s got beans, and it’s got lentils and it’s got whatever. There are so many things going on, and when an insect starts living on a leaf or a piece of fungus starts growing there or something, all the cells next to that insect or fungus will change their gene expression and adapt to the immediate circumstances around them. So DNA is this constantly, dynamically-adapting organ of the cell, and nobody tells you this in pop culture, but it’s all true. My book, Evolution 2.0, explains an awful lot of this. And so I think there’s an entire revolution in how we understand the human body, how we understand information, how we treat disease. We’re starting to treat disease with information-based approaches of blocking the signal pathways between cells instead of merely just dousing them with chemicals. And we need, above all, we need a lot of humility and a lot of respect for nature. It did not get this way accidentally, and we need to have reverence for it.

 

Symbiosis in Microbiomes

 

DAN:

That is very cool. Going back to the gut health and microbiome and the symbiotic relationship, talk through that a little bit because I just heard that that is the biggest area of research now everywhere around the microbiome, but I find it just amazing that the question is who is the host, you know, because we have so much bacteria, and how it evolves, and I’ve read that if you eat a certain type of food, say carbohydrates, that bacteria will adapt that and actually send messages to your brain saying we need more. I find that fascinating.

 

PERRY:

Okay, so the simple example of symbiosis in microbiomes is look out your window. If there is a blade of grass, if there is a tree, if it’s green, it’s green because all those cells – well, every kid learns in biology that they’re chloroplasts, right, but what nobody tells you is a chloroplast is actually a blue-green algae. It is literally a blue-green algae that lives inside the leaf. That’s what a chloroplast is. It has its own DNA. It reproduces independently, and the two have developed a cooperative cycle. So it’s not a parasite. It’s a symbiont. Now mitochondria in your own cells are the same thing. A mitochondria is an oxygen processing bacteria that turns oxygen into energy and gives it to your cells. It’s like a Starbucks in a Marriott. It’s like the two businesses in cooperation with each other. Well, 90% of the cells in your body are symbiotic bacteria like by count. So bacteria are very small, and animal cells are large. So you are 10% very large animal cells, and you are 90% very small bacteria. If your bacteria all died you would be dead in 10 minutes, if not one minute. In fact, you might be dead in 30 seconds. Everything in nature is like this. When there is termites that can digest a certain kind of wood the only reason they can digest that wood is they have bacteria in their stomachs that can do the digesting. This is everywhere.

 

Now in my book I tell this very interesting story of how symbiogenesis theory was fiercely resisted for years by the neo-Darwinists, like basically the people that have been in charge of evolutionary theory for the most part for the last 50 years. The neo-Darwinists hated it because it went against everything that they taught, everything that they had been taught. Lynn Margulis pounded her way through. She was a professor at the University of Massachusetts. I know her son. She was married to Carl Sagan for a period of time, very prominent scientist. She died about five years ago. She took it upon herself to popularize symbiogenesis, which first discovered in 1867. The Russians had pretty much had it all figured out by the 1920s, and then it was just buried. And she fought all kinds of bureaucracy. Her first paper, which is now very seminal paper, was rejected by 15 journals.

 

The scientific establishment is very resistant to new ideas, especially when they have philosophical implications. But if you understand symbiogenesis, your whole view of the world tilts. It’s like oh my goodness; we are all in this interactive, mutually-interdependent relationship with all of nature. Nature is not sliced and diced. It is cooperative.

DAN:

I agree with that completely because they refer to your gut microbiome as your second brain, which is, so you have a bacteria that is making decisions right along with you. I think that changes the way we need to view things, definitely.

 

PERRY:

Well, it’s fractal, meaning that it’s true on small scales, large scales, micro, tiny, you know, nano scales. It’s true on macro-macro scale. The whole Earth is a single symbiotic organism. That’s called the Gaia hypothesis, which we don’t have time for today. But like whether you’re looking at a cell inside a cell inside a cell, which is everywhere, or whether you’re looking at ourselves or you’re looking at the whole planet, it’s all symbiotic, all of it.

 

DAN:

So Perry, I’ve got a question for you. So with your background in technology and your theories on epigenetics, what’s happening now with this latest generation with technology? How will that affect the future generations with the way the kids are using technology now because when I was a kid I mean you would go outside and play? Now it’s completely changed. So I’d like your thoughts on that.

 

PERRY:

I have all the same heartaches as any other parent about this, okay? All right, so it’s like the unstoppable force. Let’s put it this way. I think kids are developing some very unhealthy habits, and I rode my bike for an hour and a half this morning. I needed to be on a conference call, and I put on my headphones, my Bluetooth headset, and I went and rode my bike, and boy I just feel good when I do that. And I think kids should be doing that. Now the other side of the coin is what they are doing, their bodies, their entire physiology is adapting to. And I don’t think there is like a black and white, right or wrong answer as to what everybody is doing. What I can tell you is it’s not predictable. You don’t know what the consequences will be. So one of my sons plays video games all the time. He’s 12, like it’s all he wants to do. Well, I can tell you his body is naturally evolving and adapting to do that. But what you don’t know is it’s going to have some advantages, and it’s going to have some disadvantages. And at this point in time you don’t know what they are. You just don’t. Meanwhile, my other son is willing to ride bikes with me, so we go. And I wish I had a better answer than that, but that’s as good as I can do.

 

DAN:

Definitely unpredictable what – well, not only what the two generations from now physically will be, but technology-wise, I mean that is advancing so fast now. I was going to ask you since you got involved with the technology what has been your most favorite breakthrough and your least favorite breakthrough technology-wise?

 

How AI Differs from Biology

 

PERRY:

Let’s talk about AI for a second. Maybe the best way to answer the question is everybody talks about AI. AI, you know there’s Siri, and there’s Alexa, and there’s all this kind of stuff, and it’s all amazing and everything, and if you’re in the business world you pretty much have to embrace it just to stay up, but I want to point out that it’s all fundamentally different than biology in a really important way. So Dan, if you throw a steak on your table and you tell your dog, don’t eat that steak. You look at him, and he looks back at you like I want that steak. And you leave the room. Your dog is going to decide whether to obey you or not. AI doesn’t do that. AI is just algorithms. It just obeys rules. Fundamentally different than a dog or cat or a cell or even an algae.

 

Now, I actually put together a technology prize, and there’s a chapter about it in the book. It’s called the Evolution 2.0 Prize, and we’re looking for how do you get from chemicals to code. And it’s a $3 million prize, and I believe if that ever gets solved the only way we’re going to solve it is if we figure out what is the thing that living things have that computers don’t because computers only obey rules, but minds make and break rules. Even cells make and break rules. So there is a very fundamental thing that we are missing. It’s very exciting. If we can figure it out, it’s really amazing. But if you read any science fiction books or read any science fiction movies, it’s all so scary. So it’s a double-edged sword. But I guess I would just say I think there’s a lot of hubris around human technology, and we really need to be humble with nature and learn from it.

 

DAN:

Yeah, all I know is it became self-aware in The Terminator. That’s all I know.

 

PERRY:

Right. And all those movies go a certain way. HAL 9000, right? Or you know there’s a reason those stories go that way. So it’s very tantalizing and perplexing all at the same time.

 

DAN:

So like a computer system like Watson from IBM, what’s your thoughts there because it will have a ceiling of limitations I would take it, right?

 

PERRY:

It has a built-in ceiling, and biology doesn’t have that built-in ceiling. And so we don’t understand – so there is so much we don’t know. I think if we could really accurately understand evolution we’ll actually figure that out. As long as we stay in the current version of evolution that everybody gets told about, we’re going to be stuck.

 

DAN:

We’re kind of coming to the end, but what tips would you give the listeners to optimize evolution, epigenetics going forward because I’m sure some people are listening now and saying oh my goodness I shouldn’t have smoked, I shouldn’t have done this, I shouldn’t have done that. Or those that are healthy are saying yeah, I knew this all along. But what would be your tips to the listeners?

 

Listening to Your Body

 

PERRY:

I think it’s actually much similar than a lot of people make it. I think you just need to listen to nature. I think nature will tell you exactly what you need if you just pay attention to it. I think your body will tell you what it needs if you just listen to it with a discerning ear. And I think if you pay attention to what happens in your garden and what happens in your front yard and what happens with that plant that you’re growing in your office, I think mostly we just ignore nature, and that’s our detriment. It’s our loss. It’s a matter of respect.

 

DAN:

I really like the concept of communication. If you view it as kind of two-way communication that really does put a different spin on it.

 

PERRY:

The communication goes every direction. It’s really mind-boggling, and it’s so beyond what technology does that we don’t even have language for it.

 

Technology Prizes

 

DAN:

What are you working on now? What do you see over the next five, ten years in your journey of research?

 

PERRY:

What I’m working on right now is the Evolution 2.0 prize. So if you go to naturalcode.org we have a specification for what we’re looking for. We want to solve chemicals to code. There is a very fundamental question. It’s how do you get communication from matter? Well nobody knows the answer. Nobody has ever figured this out. I think it’s the biggest unsolved question in science because you can’t have DNA, you can’t have cells, you can’t have replication, you can’t have anything if you don’t have information. And you need digital information, digital code in order to generate life. Maybe it’s literally a miracle from God. I mean I don’t know. But what I’ve done is I’ve put together a private equity investment group, and we’re seeking an answer to this question.

 

A very interesting thing has developed. We had a number of submissions, and you can go to the site. There’s a link where you can see them. But then we started getting something else. We started getting people saying well, we didn’t solve that, but I did solve this other thing. And do you think this would be interesting? And well, we think some of these are really interesting. And none of them are public at this point, but what I really think we’ve created here is sort of kind of a shark tank for biological concepts and innovations. And I am really interested in this. I think this is going to take on a life of its own, and I also believe – I also believe the technology prizes are a very good way to solve problems that traditional academia hasn’t been able to solve.

 

DAN:

That’s a big prize.

 

PERRY:

Yeah, well it is. And we’re actually going to be raising the amounts in the future. But it’s a good start, and you know, there’s a really great story. Not everybody has heard this story. About 20 years ago Peter Diamandis, he just had this bee in his bonnet about spaceflight, and he says I don’t think we need governments to build space programs. I think private industry could do it better, faster, cheaper. But we’ve got to get this started. Well, he had learned that the reason Charles Lindbergh flew across the Atlantic was because there was a $25,000 prize, and he needed the money. This is why he did it. And so he said well, you know what, let’s put together a prize. And so he went and he got some backers, and he put together a $10 million prize for a spaceship that would fly twice in two weeks, a reusable spacecraft that had to be built by a private firm, not a government. And 10 years later Paul Allen, who made his fortune in Microsoft, put together a team and they won the prize. And this spawned the X PRIZE Foundation, which now has prizes for a whole bunch of things. This has become a somewhat – it’s not totally normal, but certainly a widely-accepted way of solving difficult, seemingly intractable problems.

 

And so like I think we need to use that kind of approach to solve some of the questions that are facing us in biology, in medicine. I was in Dubai pitching investors last year, and this guy, he watched my presentation, and he goes I totally get what you’re doing. I think this is fascinating. And he says I know who’s going to win this. And I go what? He goes well, I sort of know who’s going to win this. He goes it’s not going to be like some white guy wearing a lab coat. He goes, I don’t think it’s going to be anybody in traditional academia. He goes I think it’s going to be like some kid who’s nine years old in Montessori school, and they’re like in Italy or Sweden or something and they’ve had a nontraditional education, and they’re like well how come you just don’t do it like this? And everybody goes, why didn’t we think of that? And I listened to him, and I thought I’ll be darned, I think he’s probably right.

 

So this is why we’re putting this out there. I really do want it to be solved. And look, I think we live in an absolutely spectacular, amazing universe that most people take for granted. And it’s time for us to stop taking it for granted and kind of start over. And that’s what Evolution 2.0 is about. So I hope people will read it and be inspired to do something great.

 

DAN:

That’s a great story. I think that’s a great approach, a financial reward for research. I think that’s what’s going to incentivize people. So how can people get a hold of you, read your books? You’re definitely on Amazon. I saw that. And your website. So take us through the different sources.

 

Find out More about Perry Marshall and Evolution 2.0

 

PERRY:

Yeah, so cosmicfingerprints.com is my website for Evolution 2.0, and you can get three free chapters of the book on the homepage. You can sign up and get those. There’s also a link to our Facebook page, and we post a lot of interesting things there. And you can get Evolution 2.0: Breaking the Deadlock Between Darwin and Design on Amazon. It’s also on Kindle and Audible. So if you’re an audiobook person we have that version, too. If you read the Amazon reviews you’ll see a lot of people saying wow, why didn’t anybody tell me this before? That’s one thing that comes up a lot. And another one is boy, I do not look at the hand at the end of my arm the way that I used to. I see it in this completely new way. I see life in a new way. And you also get a lot of people saying wow; there is no need for science and religion to be at a war with each other. And that’s one of my ambitions is that war got invented about 150 years ago, and it’s totally fallacious. There is no reason for faith and science to be enemies. They can be friends. They were before that. And after I’ve lived, if I have anything to say about it, they will live peacefully together after, as well.

 

DAN:

I absolutely agree with that. And I’m training my epigenetics to not read and to only listen to audiobooks. So I’m glad that you have it out on Audible.

 

PERRY:

Well hey, this has been a fun interview. I really appreciate you bringing me on and doing this sort of I think an unorthodox conversation. This is probably not exactly what you normally talk about.

 

DAN:

No not at all, and I hope everybody listening really enjoys this because there is a lot to take away, and you know for those that may be saying well this really wasn’t about nutrition, I would say it really is. We talked about the foundation of the importance of everything that people do, and I think that’s going to create your wellness.

 

PERRY:

I think so. I’m trying to be as well as I can and train my kids to be as well as they can and live longer and enjoy the amazing earth that we get to live here in.

 

DAN:

And I am staring at your dog on Skype.

 

PERRY:

Yes, Gracie. Gracie Lu, my cockapoo. Yeah, we got her because I wasn’t really a dog person, and my dog friends said she won’t bark at everybody, and you won’t have to take her out and exercise her every day. She won’t get grumpy if you don’t do that. So Gracie is awesome. We like Gracie.

 

DAN:

Beautiful dog. Thank you, Perry, so much for being on the show. This has been extremely interesting to me, as well, and I hope everybody has learned a little bit. And we will link everything to the show notes so they can find your website and go listen or read your book.

 

PERRY:

Fabulous. Thank you much. Really nice to be on today.

 

DAN:

Yeah, thank you so much.

 

PERRY:

Bye now.

 

DAN:

Bye.

 

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