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  • The following is a conversation with Jeff Bezos,

founder of Amazon and Blue Origin.

This is his first time doing a conversation

of this kind and of this length.

And as he told me, it felt like we could have easily talked

for many more hours, and I'm sure we will.

This is the Lex Fridman podcast.

And now, dear friends, here's Jeff Bezos.

You spent a lot of your childhood with your grandfather

on a ranch here in Texas,

and I heard you had a lot of work to do around the ranch.

So what's the coolest job you remember doing there?

  • Wow, coolest.

  • Most interesting.

Most memorable.

  • Most memorable.

Most impactful.

  • And it was a real working ranch.

My grand, I spent all my summers on that ranch

from age four to 16.

And my grandfather was really taking me to those

in the summers, in the early summers,

he was letting me pretend to help on the ranch.

'Cause of course, a 4-year-old is a burden,

not a help in real life.

He was really just watching me and taking care of me

and be was doing that because my mom was so young.

She had me when she was 17,

and so he was sort of giving her a break.

And my grandmother and my grandfather

would take me for these summers.

But as I got a little older,

I actually was helpful on the ranch and I loved it.

I was out there,

like my grandfather had a huge influence on me,

huge factor in my life.

I did all the jobs you would do on a ranch.

I've fixed windmills and laid fences

and pipelines and you know, done all the things

that any rancher would do,

vaccinated, the animals, everything.

But we had a you know, my grandfather,

after my grandmother died, I was about 12

and I kept coming to the ranch.

So it was then, it was just him and me, just the two of us.

And he was completely addicted to the soap opera,

the Days of Our Lives.

And we would go back to the ranch house every day

around 1:00 PM or so to watch days of our lives

like sands through an hourglass.

So are the days of our lives.

  • Just the image of the two sitting there

watching a soap opera as ranchers.

  • He had these big, crazy dogs.

It was really a very formative experience for me.

But the key thing about it for me,

the great gift I got from it

was that my grandfather was so resourceful, you know,

he did everything himself.

He made his own veterinary tools.

He would make needles to suture the cattle up with,

like he would find a little piece of wire and heat it up

and pound it thin and drill a hole in it and sharpen it.

So, you know, you learn different things

on a ranch than you would learn

you know, growing up in a city.

  • So self-reliance.

  • Yeah, like figuring out that you can solve problems

with enough persistence and ingenuity.

And my grandfather bought a D6 bulldozer,

which is a big bulldozer, and he got it for like $5,000.

'cause it was completely broken down.

It was like a 1955 Caterpillar, D6 bulldozer

knew it would've cost, I don't know,

more than a $100,000.

And we spent an entire summer fixing,

like repairing that bulldozer.

And we'd, you know, use mail order

to buy big gears for the transmission.

And they'd show up.

They'd be too heavy to move,

so we'd have to build a crane, you know,

just that kind of, kinda that problem solving mentality.

He had it so powerfully, you know,

he did all of his own.

He'd just, he didn't pick up the phone and call somebody.

He would figure it out on his own.

Doing his own veterinary work, you know.

  • But just the image of the two of you

fixing a D6 bulldozer and then going in

for a little break at 1:00 PM to watch a soap opera.

  • Laying on the floor.

That's how he watched TV.

  • Yeah.

  • He was a really, really remarkable guy.

  • That's how I imagine Clint Eastwood also

in all those westerns.

When he's not doing what he is doing,

he's just watching soap operas.

All right, I read that you fell in love

with the idea of space and space exploration

when you were five watching Neil Armstrong

walking on the moon.

So let me ask you to look back at the historical context

and impact of that.

So the space race from 1957 to 1969

between the Soviet Union and the US was in many ways epic.

It was a rapid sequence of dramatic events

for satellite to space, for a human to space,

for a spacewalk, first uncrewed landing on the moon,

then some failures, explosions,

deaths on both sides actually,

and then the first human walking on the moon.

What are some of the more inspiring moments

or insights you take away from that time,

those few years, that just 12 years?

  • Well, I mean, there's so much inspiring there.

You know, one of the great things to take away from that,

one of the great von Braun quotes is

"I have come to use the word impossible with great caution."

  • Yeah, yeah, yeah.

  • And so that's kind of the big story of Apollo

is that things, you know, going to the moon

was literally an analogy that people used

for something that's impossible.

You know, oh yeah, you'll do that when you know,

men walk on the moon.

  • Yeah.

  • And of course it finally happened.

So, you know, I think it was pulled forward in time

because of the space race,

I think you know, with the geopolitical implications

and you know, how much resource was put into it,

you know, at the peak, that program was spending,

you know, two or 3% of GDP on the Apollo program.

So much resource.

I think it was pulled forward in time.

You know, we kind of did it ahead

of when we quote unquote should have done it.

  • Yeah.

  • And so in that way, it's also a technical marvel.

I mean, it's truly incredible.

It's, you know, it's the 20th century version

of building the pyramids or something.

It's you know, it's an achievement

that because it was pulled forward in time

and because it did something

that had previously thought impossible,

it rightly deserves its place, as you know,

in the pantheon of great human achievements.

  • And of course, you named the projects The Rockets

that Blue Origin is working on

after some of the folks involved.

  • Yeah.

  • I don't understand why I didn't say New Gagarin.

is that-

  • There's an American bias in the naming.

I apologize.

  • It's very strange.

  • Lex.

  • Just asking for a friend.


  • I'm a big fan of Gagarin though.

And in fact, I think his first words in space,

I think are incredible.

He, you know, he purportedly said "my God, it's blue."

And that really drives home.

No one had seen the earth from space.

No one knew that we were on this blue planet.

  • Yeah.

  • No one knew what it looked like from out there.

And Gagarin was the first person to see it.

  • One of the things I think about is how dangerous

those early days were for Gagarin,

for Glen, for everybody involved.

Like how big of a risk they were all taking.

  • They were taking huge risks.

I'm not sure what the Soviets thought

about Gagarin's flight,

but I think that the Americans thought

that the Alan Shephard flight,

the flight that you know, New Shephard is named after,

the first American in space.

He went on his suborbital flight.

They thought he had about a 75% chance of success.

So, you know, that's a pretty big risk, a 25% risk.

  • It's kind of interesting that Alan Shephard

is not quite as famous as John Glenn.

So for people who don't know, Alan Shephard

is the first astronaut-

  • The first American in space.

  • American in suborbital flight.

  • Correct.

  • And then the first orbital flight is-

  • John Glenn is the first American to orbit the earth.

By the way, I have the most charming, sweet,

incredible letter from John Glenn,

which I have framed and hang on my office wall.

  • What did he say?

  • Where he tells me how grateful he is

that we have named New Glenn after him.

And he sent me that letter about a week before he died.

And it's really an incredible,

it's also a very funny letter.

He's writing and he says you know,

this is a letter about New Glenn from the original Glenn.

And he's just, he's got a great sense of humor,

and he's very happy about it and grateful.

It's very sweet.

  • Does he say ps don't mess this up?

Or is that-

  • No, he doesn't.

  • Make me look good.

  • He doesn't do that.

  • Okay.

  • But wait, but John, wherever you are,

we got you covered.

  • All right, good.

So back to maybe the big picture of space.

When you look up at the stars and think big,

what do you hope is the future of humanity?

Hundreds, thousands of years from now out in space?

  • I would love to see, you know,

a trillion humans living in the solar system.

If we had a trillion humans,

we would have at any given time a thousand Mozarts

and a thousand Einsteins.

That would, you know, our solar system would be full of life

and intelligence and energy.

And we can easily support a civilization that large

with all of the resources in the solar system.

  • So what do you think that looks like?

Giant space stations?

  • Yeah, the only way to get to that vision

is with giant space stations.

You know, the planetary surfaces are just way too small.

So you can, I mean, unless you turn them

into giant space stations or something.

But, but yeah, we will take materials from the moon

and from near earth objects and from the asteroid belt

and so on, and we'll build giant O'Neill style colonies

and people will live in those.

And they have a lot of advantages over planetary surfaces.

You can spin them to get normal earth gravity.

You can put them where you want them.

I think most people are gonna wanna live near Earth,

not necessarily in earth orbit, but in you know, earth,

but near earth vicinity orbits.

And so they can move you know, relatively quickly

back and forth between their station and Earth.

So I think a lot of people,

especially in the early stages,

are not gonna want to give up Earth altogether.

  • They go to earth for vacation.

  • Yeah.

Same way that you know, you might go

to Yellowstone National Park for vacation.

People will, and no one,

and people will get to choose where they live on earth

or whether they live in space,

but they'll be able to use much more energy

and much more material resource in space

than they would be able to use on earth.

  • One of the interesting ideas you had

is to move the heavy industry away from Earth.

So people sometimes have this idea

that somehow space exploration is in conflict

with the celebration of the planet earth,

that we should focus on preserving earth.

And basically your ideas that space travel

and space exploration is a way to preserve earth.

  • Exactly.

This planet, we've sent robotic probes to all the planets.

We know that this is the good one.

  • Yeah.

Not to play favorites or anything.

  • But earth really is the good planet.

It's amazing, the ecosystem we have here,

all of the life and the lush, the plant life

and you know, the water resources, everything.

This planet is really extraordinary.

And of course, we evolved on this planet,

so of course it's perfect for us,

but it's also perfect for all the advanced life forms

on this planet, all the animals and so on.

And so this is a gem.

We do need to take care of it.

And as we enter the Anthropocene,

as we get, as we humans have gotten

so sophisticated and large and impactful,

as we stride across this planet, you know,

that is going to, as we continue,

we want to use a lot of energy.

We want to use a lot of energy per capita.

We've gotten amazing things.

We don't want to go backwards.

You know, if you think about the good old days,

they're mostly an illusion.

Like in almost every way,

life is better for almost everyone today

than it was say, 50 years ago or a hundred years.

We live better lives by and large than our grandparents did,

and their grandparents did, and so on.

And you can see that in global illiteracy rates,

global poverty rates, global infant mortality rates,

like almost any metric you choose,

we're better off than we used to be.

And we get, you know, antibiotics

and all kinds of lifesaving medical care

and so on and so on.

And there's one thing that is moving backwards,

and it's the natural world.

So it is a fact that 500 years ago, pre-industrial age,

the natural world was pristine.

It was incredible.

And we have traded some of that pristine beauty

for all of these other gifts that we have

as an advanced society.

And we can have both.

But to do that, we have to go to space.

And all of this, really,

the most fundamental measure is energy usage per capita.

And when you look at, you know,

you do want to continue to use more and more energy,

it is going to make your life better in so many ways.

But that's not compatible ultimately

with living on a finite planet.

And so we have to go out into the solar system

and really you could argue about when you have to do that,

but you can't credibly argue

about whether you have to do that.

  • Eventually, we have to do that.

  • Exactly.

  • Well, you don't often talk about it,

but let me ask you on that topic about the Blue Ring

and the orbital reef space infrastructure projects.

What's your vision for these?

  • So Blue Ring is a very interesting spacecraft

that is designed to take up to 3000 kilograms of payload

up to geosynchronous orbit or in lunar vicinity.

It has two different kinds of propulsion.

It has chemical propulsion, and it has electric propulsion.

And so it can,

you can use blue ring in a couple different ways.

You can slowly move, let's say up to geosynchronous orbit

using electric propulsion

that might take you know, a hundred days

or 150 days depending on how much mass you're carrying.

And then, and reserve your chemical propulsion

so that you can change orbits quickly

in geosynchronous orbit.

Or you can use the chemical propulsion first

to quickly get up to geosynchronous

and then use your electrical propulsion

to slowly change your geosynchronous orbit.

Blue Ring has a couple of interesting features.

It provides a lot of services

to these payloads.

So the payload, it could be one large payload,

or it can be a number of small payloads,

and it provides thermal management,

it provides electric power, it provides compute,

provides communications.

And so when you design a payload for Blue Ring,

you don't have,

you don't have to figure out all of those things

on your own.

So kind of radiation tolerant compute

is a complicated thing to do.

And so we have an unusually large amount

of radiation tolerant compute on board Blue Ring,

and you can, your payload can just use that

when it needs to.

So it's sort of all these services,

it's you know, it's like a set of APIs.

It's a little bit like Amazon web services,

but for space payloads that need to move about

an earth vicinity or lunar vicinity.

  • AWSS space.

Okay, so computing space.

So you get a giant chemical rocket

to get a payload out to orbit,

and then you have these admins that show up,

this Blue Ring thing that manages various things

like compute.

  • Exactly.

And it can also provide transportation

and move you around to different orbits.

  • Including humans, you think?

  • No, but Blue Ring is not designed to move humans around.

It's designed to move payloads around.

  • Okay.

  • So we're also building a lunar lander,

which is of course designed to land humans

on the surface of the moon.

  • I'm gonna ask you about that,

but let me ask you to just step back to the old days.

You were at Princeton

with aspirations to be a theoretical physicist.

  • Yeah.

  • What attracted you to physics

and why did you change your mind

and not become, why you're not Jeff Bezos,

the famous theoretical physicist?

  • So I loved physics and I studied physics

and computer science,

and I was proceeding along the physics path.

I was planning to major in physics

and I wanted to be a theoretical physicist.

And the computer science

was sort of something I was doing for fun.

I really loved it.

And I was very good at the programming

and doing those things.

And I enjoyed all my computer science classes immensely,

but I really was determined to be a theoretical physicist.

It's why I went to Princeton in the first place.

It was definitely, and then I realized

I was gonna be a mediocre theoretical physicist.

And there were a few people in my classes,

like in quantum mechanics and so on,

who they could effortlessly do things

that were so difficult for me.

And I realized like you know, there are a thousand ways

to be smart and to be a really, you know,

theoretical physics is not one of those fields

where only the top few percent

actually move the state of the art forward.

It's one of those things where you have to be

really just, your brain has to be wired in a certain way.

And there was a guy named,

one of these people who convinced me.

He didn't mean to convince me,

but just by observing him, he convinced me

that I should not try to be a theoretical physicist.

His name was Yosanta.

And Yosanta was from Sri Lanka.

And he was one of the most brilliant people I'd ever met.

My friend Joe and I were working on a very difficult

partial differential equations problem set one night.

And there was one problem that we worked on for three hours,

and we made no headway whatsoever.

And we looked up at each other at the same time

and we said, Yosanta.

So we went to Yosanta's dorm room.

And he was there, he was almost always there.

And we said Yosanta, we're having trouble solving

this partial differential equation,

would you mind taking a look?

And he said of course.

By the way, he was the most humble, most kind person.

And so he took our,

he looked at our problem and he stared at it

for just a few seconds, maybe 10 seconds.

And he said cosine.

And I said, what do you mean Yosanta?

What do you mean cosine?

He said that's the answer.

And I said no, no, no, come on.

And he said let me show you.

And he took out some paper

and he wrote down three pages of equations,

everything canceled out.

And the answer was cosine.

And I said Yosanta, did you do that in your head?

And he said oh no, that would be impossible.

A few years ago I solved a similar problem

and I could map this problem onto that problem.

And then it was immediately obvious

that the answer was cosine.

I had a few, you know, you have an experience like that,

you realize maybe being a theoretical physicist

isn't what your,

isn't what the universe wants you to be.

And so I switched to computer science and you know,

that worked out really well for me.

I enjoy it.

I still enjoy it today.

  • Yeah, there's a particular kind of intuition you need

to be a great physicist, applied to physics.

  • I think the mathematical skill required today is so high.

You have to be a world-class mathematician

to be a successful theoretical physicist today.

And it's not you know,

you probably need other skills too,

intuition, lateral thinking, and so on.

But without just top-notch math skills,

you're unlikely to be successful.

  • And visualization skill,

you have to be able to really kind of do

these kinds of thought experiments.

And if you want truly great creativity,

actually Walter Isaacson writes about you.

It puts you on the same level as Einstein.

  • Well, that's very kind.

I'm an inventor.

If you wanna boil down what I am,

I'm really an inventor.

And I look at things

and I can come up with atypical solutions and you know,

and then I can create a hundred such atypical solutions

for something.

99 of them may not survive, you know, scrutiny.

But one of those 100 is like hmm, maybe there is,

maybe that might work.

And then you can keep going from there.

So that kind of lateral thinking,

that kind of inventiveness

in a high dimensionality space where the search space

is very large, that's where my inventive skills come.

That's the thing is I self-identify

as an inventor more than anything else.

  • Yeah, and he describes in all kinds of different ways,

Walter Isaacson does that creativity

combined with childlike wander that you've maintained

still to this day, all of that combined together.

Is there, like if you were to study

your own brain introspect, how do you think,

what's your thinking process like?

We'll talk about the writing process

of putting it down on paper,

which is quite rigorous and famous at Amazon.

But how do you, when you sit down, maybe alone,

maybe with others,

and thinking through this high dimensional space

and looking for creative solutions, creative paths forward,

is there something you could say about that process?

  • It's such a good question,

and I honestly don't know how it works.

If I did, I would try to explain it.

I know it involves lots of wandering.

  • Yeah.

  • So I, you know, when I sit down to work on a problem,

I know I don't know where I'm going.

So to go in a straight line, to be efficient,

efficiency and invention are sort of at odds

because invention, real invention,

not incremental improvement.

Incremental improvement is so important

in every endeavor, in everything you do.

You have to work hard on also just making things

a little bit better.

But I'm talking about real invention,

real lateral thinking, that requires wandering.

And you have to give yourself permission to wander.

I think a lot of people,

they feel like wandering is inefficient.

And you know, like when I sit down at a meeting,

I don't know how long the meeting is gonna take

if we're trying to solve a problem.

Because if I did, then I'd already,

I'd know there's some kind of straight line

that we're drawing to the solution.

The reality is we may have to wander for a long time.

And I do like group invention.

I think there's certainly nothing more fun

than sitting at a whiteboard with you know,

a group of smart people and spit balling

and coming up with new ideas and objections to those ideas,

and then solutions to the objections

and going back and forth.

So like you know, sometimes you wake up with an idea

in the middle of the night

and sometimes you sit down with a group of people

and go back and forth

and both things are really pleasurable.

  • And when you wander,

I think one key thing is to notice a good idea

and to maybe, to notice the kernel of a good idea.

Maybe pull at that string.

Because I don't think a good idea has come fully formed.

  • A hundred percent right.

In fact, when I come up with what I think is a good idea

and it survives kind of the first level of scrutiny,

you know, that I do in my own head

and I'm ready to tell somebody else about the idea,

I will often say look,

it is going to be really easy for you to find objections

to this idea, but work with me.

  • There's something there.

  • There's something there.

And that is intuition.

  • Yeah.

  • Because it's really easy to kill new ideas

in the beginning.

'Cause they do have so many,

so many easy objections to them.

So you need to,

you need to kind of forewarn people

and say look, I know it's gonna take a lot of work

to get this to a fully formed idea.

Let's get started on that.

It'll be fun.

  • So you got that ability to say cosine

in you somewhere after all.

Maybe not on math, but-

  • In a different domain.

  • Yeah.

  • There are a thousand ways to be smart, by the way.

  • Yeah.

  • And that is a really, like when I go around, you know,

and I meet people, I'm always looking

for the way that they're smart.

And you find it is,

that's one of the things that makes the world so interesting

and fun is that it is not,

it's not like IQ is a single dimension.

There are people who are smart in such unique ways.

  • Yeah, you just gave me a good response

to when somebody calls me an idiot on the internet.

You know, that's a thousand ways to be smart, sir.

  • Well, they might tell you,

yeah, but there are a million to be ways to be dumb.

  • Yeah, right.

I feel like that's a Mark Twain quote.


All right, you gave me an amazing tour

of Blue Origin Rocket Factory and Launch Complex

in the historic Cape Canaveral.

That's where New Glenn,

the big rocket we talked about is being built

and will launch.

Can you explain what the New Glenn Rocket is

and tell me some interesting technical aspects

of how it works?

  • Sure.

New Glenn is a very large,

a heavy lift launch vehicle.

It'll take about 45 metric tons to LEO,

very, very large class.

It's about half the thrust,

a little more than half the thrust

of the Saturn V Rocket.

So it's about 3.9 million pounds of thrust on liftoff.

The booster has seven BE-4 engines.

Each engine generates a little more

than 550,000 pounds of thrust.

The engines are fueled by liquid natural gas,

liquified natural gas, LNG as the fuel

and LOX as the oxidizer.

The cycle is an ox-riched stage combustion cycle.

It's a cycle that was really pioneered by the Russians.

It's a very good cycle.

And that engine is also going to power the first stage

of the Vulcan rocket,

which is the United Launch Alliance rocket.

Then the second stage of New Glenn

is powered by two BE-3U engines,

which is a upper stage variant

of our New Shephard liquid hydrogen engine.

So the BE-3U has 160,000 pounds of thrust.

So two of those 320,000 pounds of thrust

and hydrogen is a very good propellant

for upper stages because it has very high ISP.

It's not a great propellant in my view for booster stages

because the stages then get physically so large.

Hydrogen has very high ISP,

but liquid hydrogen is very,

is not dense at all.

So to store liquid hydrogen, you know,

if you need to store many thousands

of pounds of liquid hydrogen,

your tanks, your liquid hydrogen tank, it's very large.

So you really, you get more benefit from the higher ISP,

the specific impulse.

You get more benefit from the higher specific impulse

on the second stage.

And that stage carries less propellant.

So you don't get such geometrically gigantic tanks.

The Delta IV is an example of a vehicle

that is all hydrogen.

The booster stage is also hydrogen.

And I think that it's a very effective vehicle,

but it never was very cost effective.

So it's operationally very capable

but not very cost effective.

  • So size is also costly.

  • Size is costly.

So it's interesting.

Rockets love to be big.

Everything works better.

  • What do you mean by that?

You've told me that before.

It sounds epic, but what does it mean?

  • I mean, when you look at the,

kind of the physics of rocket engines

and also when you look at parasitic mass,

it doesn't, if you have,

let's say you have an avionic system,

so you have a guidance and control system,

that is gonna be about the same mass and size

for a giant rocket as it is gonna be for a tiny rocket.

And so that's just parasitic mass

that is very consequential if you're building

a very small rocket,

but is trivial if you're building a very large rocket.

So you have the parasitic mass thing.

And then if you look at, for example,

rocket engines have turbo pumps.

They have to pressurize the fuel and the oxidizer

up to a very high pressure level

in order to inject it into the thrust chamber

where it burns.

And those pumps, all rotating machines, in fact

get more efficient as they get larger.

So really tiny turbo pumps

are very challenging to manufacture.

And any kind of gaps, you know,

are like between the housing for example,

and the rotating impeller that pressurizes the fuel,

there has to be some gap there.

You can't have those parts scraping against one another.

And those gaps drive inefficiencies.

And so, you know, if you have a very large turbo pump,

those gaps in percentage terms end up being very small.

And so there's a bunch of things

that you end up loving about having a large rocket

and that you end up hating for a small rocket.

But there's a giant exception to this rule,

and it is manufacturing.

So manufacturing large structures is very, very challenging.

It's a pain in the butt.

And so, you know, it's just if you have,

if you're making a small rocket engine,

you can move all the pieces by hand,

you could assemble it on a table, one person can do it,

you know, you don't need cranes and heavy lift operations

and tooling, and so on and so on.

When you start building big objects, infrastructure,

civil infrastructure, just like the launchpad

and the you know, all this,

we went and visited,

I took you to the launchpad

and you can see it's so monumental.

  • Yeah, it is.

  • And so just these things become major undertakings,

both from an engineering point of view,

but also from a construction and cost point of view.

  • And even the foundation of the launchpad,

I mean, this is Florida,

like isn't like swamp land?

Like how deep do you have to go?

  • You have to at Cape Canaveral,

in fact, at most ocean, you know, most launch pads

are on beaches somewhere in the oceanside.

'cause you wanna launch over water for safety reasons.

The yes, you have to drive pilings,

you know, dozens and dozens and dozens of pilings,

you know, 50, a 100, 150 feet deep

to get enough structural integrity

for these very large, you know, it's yes,

these turn into major civil engineering projects.

  • I just have to say everything about that factory

is pretty badass.

You said tooling, the bigger it gets,

the more epic it is.

  • It does make it epic.

  • Yeah.

  • It's fun to look at.

It's extraordinary.

  • It's humbling also,

'cause you know, humans are so small compared to it.

  • We are building these enormous machines

that are harnessing enormous amounts

of chemical power, you know, in very, very compact packages.

It's truly extraordinary.

  • But then there's all the different components

and that you know, the materials involved.

Is there something interesting

that you can describe about the materials

that's comprised the rockets?

So it has to be as light as possible, I guess,

whilst withstanding the heat and the harsh conditions?

  • Yeah, I play a little kind of game sometimes

with other rocket people that I run into where

say what are the things

that would amaze the 1960s engineers?

Like what's changed?

'Cause surprisingly, some of rocketry greatest hits

have not changed.

They are still,

they would recognize immediately a lot of what we do today.

And it's exactly what they pioneered back in the '60s.

But a few things have changed.

You know, the use of carbon composites

is very different today.

You know, we can build very sophisticated,

you saw our carbon tape laying machine

that builds the giant fairings.

And we can build these incredibly light,

very stiff fairing structures

out of carbon composite material

that they could not have dreamed of.

I mean the efficiency, the structural efficiency

of that material is so high compared to any you know,

metallic material you might use or anything else.

So that's one.

Aluminum lithium and the ability

to friction stir weld aluminum lithium.

Do you remember the friction stir welding that I showed you?

  • Yes, incredible.

  • This is a remarkable technology.

This was invented decades ago,

but has become very practical

over just the last couple of decades.

And instead of using heat to weld two pieces

of metal together, it literally stirs the two pieces.

There's a pin that rotates at a certain rate

and you put that pin between the two plates of metal

that you wanna weld together.

And then you move it at a very precise speed.

And instead of heating the material,

it heats it a little bit because of friction,

but not very much.

You can literally immediately after welding

with stir friction welding,

you can touch the material and it's just barely warm.

It literally stirs the molecules together.

It's quite extraordinary.

  • Relatively low temperature.

And I guess high temperature is what makes them,

that makes it a weak point?

  • Exactly.

So with traditional welding techniques, you may have

whatever the underlying strength characteristics

of the material are,

you end up with weak regions where you weld.

And with friction stir welding,

the welds are just as strong as the bulk material.

So it really allows you,

and so, 'cause when you're,

you know, let's say you're building a tank

that you're gonna pressurize

you know, a large liquid natural gas tank

for our booster stage, for example.

You know, if you are welding that with traditional methods,

you have to size those weld lands,

the thickness of those pieces

with that knockdown for whatever damage you're doing

with the weld.

And that's gonna add a lot of weight to that tank.

  • I mean, even just the looking at the fairings,

the result of that,

the complex shape that it takes and-

  • Yeah.

  • And like what it's supposed to do is kind of incredible

'cause so people don't know it's on top of the rocket,

it's gonna fall apart.

That's its task.

But it has to stay strong sometimes.

  • Yes.

  • And then disappear when it needs to.

  • That's right.

  • Which is a very difficult task.

  • Yes.

When you need something that needs to have 100% integrity

until it needs to have 0% integrity.

It needs to stay attached until it's ready to go away.

And then when it goes away, it has to go away completely.

You use explosive charges for that.

And so it's a very robust way

of separating structure

when you need to.

  • Exploding

  • Yeah.

Little tiny bits of explosive material

and it just, it'll sever the whole connection.

  • So if you wanna go from 100% structural integrity

to zero as fast as possible use explosives,

  • Use explosives.

  • The entirety of this thing is so badass.

Okay, so we're back to the two stages.

So the first stage is reusable.

  • Yeah.

Second stage is expendable.

Second stage is liquid hydrogen, liquid oxygen.

So we could take advantage of the higher specific impulse.

The the first stage lands downrange on a landing platform

in the ocean, comes back for maintenance

and get ready to do the next mission.

  • I mean there's a million questions,

but also is there a path towards reusability

for the second stage?

  • There is, and we know how to do that.

Right now we're gonna work on manufacturing

that second stage to make it as inexpensive as possible.

Sort of two paths for a second stage,

make it reusable,

or work really hard to make it inexpensive

so you can afford to expend it.

And that trade is actually not obvious which one is better.

  • Even in terms of cost.

Even like time cost?

  • I'm talking about cost is, you know,

space flight, getting into orbit is a solved problem.

We solved it back in you know, the '50s and '60s.

  • You're making it sound easy.

  • So the only thing that,

the only interesting problem

is dramatically reducing the cost of access to orbit,

which is if you can do that,

you open up a bunch of new, you know, endeavors

that lots of startup companies, everybody else can do.

So that's, we really,

that's one of our missions

is to you know, be part of this industry

and lower the cost to orbit so that there can be

you know, a kind of a renaissance, a golden age

of people doing all kinds of interesting things in space.

  • I like how you said getting to orbit is a solved problem.

It is just the only interesting thing is reducing the cost.

You know, how you can describe every single problem

facing human civilization that way.

The physicist would say everything is a solved problem.

We've solved everything.

The rest is just well, Rutherford said that

"it's just stamp collecting."

It's just the details.

It's some of the greatest innovations and inventions

and you know, brilliance is in that cost reduction stage.

Right, and you, you've had a long career of cost reduction.

  • For sure.

And when you,

what does cost reduction really mean?

It means inventing a better way.

  • Yeah, exactly.

  • Right, and when you invent a better way,

you make the whole world richer.

So, you know, whatever it was,

I don't know how many thousands of years ago,

somebody invented the plow.

And when they invented the plow,

they made the whole world richer

because they made farming less expensive.

And so it is a big deal to invent better ways.

That's how the world gets richer.

  • So what are some of the biggest challenges

on the manufacturing side and the engineering side

that you're facing in working

to get to the first launch of New Glenn?

  • The first launch is one thing

and we'll do that in 2024 coming up in this coming year.

The real thing that's the bigger challenge

is making sure that our factory

is efficiently manufacturing at rate.

So rate production.

So consider if you wanna launch New Glenn

you know, 24 times a year.

You need to manufacture a upper stage

since they're expendable every, you know, twice a month,

you need to do one every two weeks.

So you need to be,

you need to have all of your manufacturing facilities

and processes and inspection techniques

and acceptance tests and everything operating at rate.

And rate manufacturing is at least as difficult

as designing the vehicle in the first place.

And the same thing.

So every upper stage has two BE-3U engines.

So those engines you know, you need

if you're gonna launch this the vehicle twice a month,

you need four engines a month.

So you need an engine every week.

So you need to be,

that engine needs to be being produced at rate.

And that's a,

and there's all of the things that you need to do that,

all the right machine tools, all the right fixtures,

the right people, process, et cetera.

So it's one thing to build a first article, right.

So that's you know, to launch New Glenn for the first time,

you need to produce a first article.

But that's not the hard part.

The hard part is everything that's going on

behind the scenes to build a factory

that can produce New Glenn's at rate.

  • So the first one is produced in a way

that enables the production of the second and third

and the fourth and the fifth and sixth, and so on.

  • You could think of the first article

as kind of pushing,

it pushes all of the rate manufacturing technology along.

You know, in other words, it's kind of the,

it's the test article in a way

that's testing out your manufacturing technologies.

  • The manufacturing is the big challenge.

  • Yes.

I mean I don't want to make it sound like any of it is easy.

I mean the people who are designing the engines

and all this, all of it is hard for sure.

But the challenge right now is driving really hard

to get to rate manufacturing

and to do that in an efficient way.

Again, kind of back to our cost point.

If you get to rate manufacturing in an inefficient way,

you haven't really solved the cost problem

and maybe you haven't really moved

this state of the art forward.

All this has to be

about moving the state-of-the art forward.

There are easier businesses to do.

I always tell people look, if you are trying to make money,

you know, like start a salty snack food company

or something, you know.

  • I'm gonna write that idea down.

  • Like make the Lex Fridman potato chips,

you know, this is-

  • Don't say it, people are gonna steal it.

But yeah, it's hard.

  • You see what I'm saying?

It's like there's nothing easy about this business

but it's its own reward.

It's fascinating, it's worthwhile, it's meaningful.

And so you know, not,

I don't wanna pick on salty snack food companies,

but I think it's less meaningful.

You know, at the end of the day,

you're not gonna have accomplished something amazing.

  • Yeah, there's-

  • Even if you do make a lot of money out of it.

  • Yeah, there's something fundamentally different

about the quote unquote business of space exploration.

  • Yeah, for sure.

  • It's a grand project of humanity.

  • Yes.

It's one of humanity's grand challenges.

And especially as you look at going to the moon

and going to Mars and building giant O'Neill colonies

and unlocking all the things.

You know, I won't live long enough

to see the fruits of this,

but the fruits of this come from building a road to space,

getting the infrastructure.

I'll give you an analogy.

When I started Amazon,

I didn't have to develop a payment system.

It already existed.

It was called the credit card.

I didn't have to develop a transportation system

to deliver the packages.

It already existed.

It was called the postal service

and Royal Mail and Deutsche Post.

And so all this heavy lifting infrastructure

was already in place.

And I could stand on its shoulders.

And that's why when you look at the internet,

you know, by the way, another giant piece of infrastructure

that was around in the early,

I'm taking you back to like 1994,

people were using dial up modems.

And it was piggybacking

on top of the long distance phone network.

That's how the internet,

that's you know, how people were accessing servers

and so on.

And that again, if that hadn't existed,

it would've been hundreds of billions of CapEx

to put that out there.

No startup company could have done that.

And so the problem you know, you see in,

if you look at the dynamism in the internet space

over the last 20 years,

it's because you know, you see like two kids in a dorm room

could start an internet company that could be successful

and do amazing things.

Beause they didn't have to build heavy infrastructure.

It was already there.

And that's what I wanna do.

I take you know, my Amazon winnings

and use that to build heavy infrastructure

so that the next generation you know,

the generation that's my children and their children,

these, you know, those generations

can then use that heavy infrastructure.

Then there'll be space entrepreneurs

who start in their dorm room.

  • Yeah.

  • Like that will be a marker of success.

When you can have a really valuable space company

started in a dorm room,

then we know that we've built enough infrastructure

so that ingenuity and imagination can really be unleashed.

I find that very exciting.

  • As they will of course, as kids do,

take all of this hard infrastructurability for granted.

  • Of course.

Which is-

  • That's the entrepreneurial spirit.

  • That's an inventors greatest dream.

  • Yeah.

  • Is that their inventions are so successful

that they are one day taken for granted.

You know, nobody thinks of Amazon as an invention anymore.

Nobody thinks of customer reviews as,

we pioneered customer reviews,

but now they're so commonplace.

Same thing with one click shopping and so on.

But that's a compliment.

That's how you know,

you invent something that's so used,

so beneficially used by so many people

that they take it for granted.

  • I don't know about nobody.

That's every time I use Amazon,

I'm still amazed how does this work?


  • Well, that proves you're very curious explorer.

  • All right, all right, back to rockets.


You said 2024.

As it stands now,

are both the first test launch and the launch

of escapade explorers to Mars still possible?

  • In 2024?
  • In 2024.


  • Yeah, I think so.

For sure the first launch,

and then we'll see if escapade goes on that or not.

I think that the first launch for sure.

And I hope escapade too.

  • Hope.

  • Well, I just don't know which mission

it's actually gonna be slated on.

So we also have other things

that might go on that first mission.

  • Oh, I got it.

But you're optimistic that the launches will still-

  • Oh, the first launch,

I'm very optimistic that the first launch

of New Glenn will be in 2024.

And I'm just not a hundred percent certain

what payload will be on that first launch.

  • Are you nervous about it?

  • Are you kidding?

I'm extremely nervous about it.

  • Oh man.

  • A hundred percent.

I've, you know, every launch I go to,

you know, for New Shephard, for other vehicles too,

I'm always nervous for these launches.

But yes, for sure.

A first launch to have no nervousness about that

would be, you know, some sign of derangement,

I think so.

  • Well, I got to visit the launchpad,

it's pretty, I mean, it's epic.

  • You know, we have done a tremendous amount

of ground testing, a tremendous amount of simulation.

So, you know, a lot of the problems

that we might find in flight have been resolved,

but there are some problems you can only find in flight.

So, you know, cross your fingers.

I guarantee you, you'll have fun watching it

no matter what happens.

  • 100% when the thing is fully assembled and comes up.

  • Yeah, the transporter erector.

  • The erector, yeah.

  • Just the transporter erector for a rocket of this scale

  • Yeah.

  • is extraordinary.

  • That's an incredible machine.

  • The vehicle travels out horizontally

and then kind of-

  • Yeah.

  • You know, comes up.

  • Over a few hours?

  • Yeah, it's a beautiful thing to watch.

  • Speaking of which, if that makes you nervous,

I don't know if you remember,

but you were aboard a New Shephard

on its first crude flight.

How was that experience?

Were you terrified then?

  • You know, strangely, I wasn't, you know.

  • When you ride the rocket-

  • It's true.

  • less nerve wracking.

  • Its true.

I've watched other people ride the rocket

and I'm more nervous

than when I was inside the rocket myself.

It was a difficult conversation to have with my mother

when I told her I was gonna go on the first one.

And not only was I gonna go,

but I was gonna bring my brother too.

This is a tough conversation to have with a mom.

  • There's a long pause when you told her.

  • She's like both of you?

And it was an incredible experience

and we were laughing inside the capsule

and you know, we're not nervous.

The people on the ground were very nervous for us.

It was actually one of the most emotionally powerful parts

of the experience was not happened even before the flight

at 4:30 in the morning, brother and I are getting ready

to go to the launch site

and Lauren is gonna take us there in her helicopter

and we're getting ready to leave.

And we go outside the ranch house there

in west Texas where the launch facility is.

And all of our family, my kids and my brother's kids

and our you know, our parents, and close friends

are assembled there.

And they're saying goodbye to us,

but they're kind of saying,

maybe they think they're saying goodbye to us forever.

And you know, we might not have felt that way.

But it was obvious from their faces

how nervous they were that they felt that way.

And it was sort of powerful

because it allowed us to see,

it was almost like attending your own memorial service

or something.

Like you could feel how loved you were in that moment.

And it was really amazing.

  • Yeah, and I mean there's just a epic nature to it too.

  • The accent, the floating and zero gravity.

I'll tell you something very interesting.

Zero gravity feels very natural.

I don't know if it's because we are,

you know, it's like return to the womb or what.

  • You just confirmed you're an alien.

But that's okay.

I think that's what you just said.

  • It feels so natural to be in zero G.

It was really interesting.

And then what people talk about the overview effect

and seeing earth from space,

I had that feeling very powerfully.

I think everyone did.

You see how fragile the earth is.

If you're not an environmentalist, it will make you one.

The the great Jim Lovell quote, you know,

he looked back at the earth from space

and he said he realized "you don't go to heaven

when you die.

You go to heaven when you're born."

And it's just you know, that's the feeling

that people get when they're in space.

You see all this blackness, all this nothingness,

and there's one gem of life, and it's earth.

  • It is a gem.

What, you know, you've talked a lot

about decision making throughout your time with Amazon.

What was that decision like to be the first

to ride New Shephard?

Like what, just be before you talked to your mom.

  • Yeah.

  • What, like the pros and cons,

like actually as one human being,

as a leader of a company on all fronts,

like what was that decision making like?

  • I decided that, first of all,

I knew the vehicle extremely well.

I know the team who built it.

I know the vehicle.

I am very comfortable with like the escape system.

We put as much effort into the escape system on that vehicle

as we put into all the rest of the vehicle combined.

It's one of the hardest pieces of engineering

in the entire New Shephard architecture.

  • Can you actually describe,

what do you mean by escape system?

What's involved?

  • We have a solid rocket motor

in the base of the crew capsule

so that if anything goes wrong on ascent,

you know, while the main rocket engine is firing,

we can ignite this solid rocket motor

in the base of the crew capsule and escape from the booster.

It's a very challenging system to build, design, validate,

test, all of these things.

It is the reason that I am comfortable letting anyone

go on New Shephard.

So the booster is as safe and reliable as we can make it.

But we are harnessing,

whenever you're talking about rocket engines,

I don't care what rocket engine you're talking about,

you are harnessing such vast power

in such a small, compact, geometric space.

The power density is so enormous that it is impossible

to ever be sure that nothing will go wrong.

And so the only way to improve safety

is to have an escape system.

And you know, and historically rockets,

human rated rockets have had escape systems.

Only the space shuttle did not.

And, but Apollo had one,

you know, all of the previous, you know, Gemini, et cetera,

they all had escape systems.

And we have on New shephard of unusual escapes,

most escape systems are towers.

We have a pusher escape system.

So the solid rocket motor is actually embedded

in the base of the crew capsule.

And it pushes and it's reusable

in the sense that if we don't use it,

so if we have a nominal mission, we land with it.

The tower systems have to be ejected

at a certain point in the mission,

and so they get wasted even in a nominal mission.

And so again, you know, cost really matters on these things.

So we figured out how to have the escape system

be a reusable ,

in the event that it's not used, you can reuse it

and have it be a pusher system.

It's a very sophisticated thing.

So I knew these things.

You asked me about my decision to go

and so I know the vehicle very well.

I know the people who designed it.

I had great trust in them

and in the engineering that we did.

And I thought to myself look, if I am not ready to go,

then I wouldn't want anyone to go.

A tourism vehicle has to be designed in my view,

to have very, to be as safe as one can make it.

You can't make it perfectly safe.

It's impossible.

But you know, you just have to,

people will do things.

People take risks, you know, they climb mountains,

they skydive, they do deep underwater scuba diving,

and so on.

People are okay taking risk.

You can't eliminate the risk.

But it is something, because it's a tourism vehicle,

you have to do your utmost to eliminate those risks.

And I felt very good about the system.

I think it's one of the reasons I was so calm

inside and maybe others weren't just calm,

they didn't know as much about it as I did.

  • Who was in charge of engaging the escape system?

Did you have-

  • It's automated.

  • Okay.

  • The escape system is-

  • I was visualizing deployment of that.

  • is completely automated.

Automated is better because it can react so much faster.

  • So yeah, for tourism rockets

safety is a huge, huge, huge priority for space exploration

also, but a tiny, you know, a delta less.

  • Yes.

I mean I think for you know, if you're doing,

you know, there are human activities

where we tolerate more risk.

If you're saving somebody's life, you know,

if you are engaging in real exploration,

these are things where, you know,

I personally think we would accept more risk

in part because you have to.

  • Is there a part of you that's frustrated

by the rate of progress in Blue Origin?

  • Blue Origin needs to be much faster.

And it's one of the reasons that I left my role

as the CEO of Amazon a couple of years ago.

I needed, I wanted to come in

and Blue Origin needs me right now.

And so I had always, when I was the CEO of Amazon,

my point of view on this is if I'm the CEO

of a publicly traded company

it's going to get my full attention.

And I really, it's just how I think about things.

It was very important to me.

I felt I had an obligation to all the stakeholders

at Amazon to do that.

And so having, you know, turned the CEO,

I'm still the executive chair there,

but I've turned the CEO role over.

And the reason, the primary reason I did that

is so that I could spend time on Blue Origin

adding some you know, energy, some sense of urgency.

We need to move much faster and we're going to.

  • What are the ways to speed it up?

So, I mean there's,

you've talked a lot of different ways to sort of at Amazon,

you know, removing barriers for progress or distributing,

making everybody autonomous and self reliant

in terms of all those kinds of things.

Is that apply at Blue Origin

or is the-

  • It does apply.

You know, I'm leading this directly.

We are gonna become the world's most decisive company

across any industry.

And so you know, at Amazon ever since the beginning,

I said we are gonna become

the world's most customer obsessed company.

And no matter the industry, like people,

one day people are going to come to Amazon

from the healthcare industry and wanna know

how did you guys,

how are you so customer obsessed?

How do you actually not just pay lip service,

but actually do that?

And from you know,

all different industries should come on and study us

to see how we accomplish that.

And the analogous thing at Blue Origin

and it will help us move faster

is we are gonna become the world's most decisive company.

We're gonna get really good

at taking appropriate technology risk

and making those decisions quickly.

You know, being bold on those things.

That's what, and having the right culture

that supports that.

You need people to be ambitious, technically ambitious.

You know, if there are five ways to do something,

we'll study them.

But let's study them very quickly and make a decision.

We can always change our mind.

It doesn't you know, changing your mind is,

I took about one-way doors and two-way doors.

Most decisions are two-way doors.

  • Can ou explain that?

'Cause I love that metaphor.

  • If you make the wrong decision,

if it's a two-way door decision, you walk out the door,

you pick a door, you walk out,

and you spend a little time there.

It turns out to be the wrong decision,

you can come back in and pick another door.

Some decisions are so consequential

and so important and so hard to reverse

that they really are one-way door decisions.

You go in that door, you're not coming back.

And those decisions have to be made

very deliberately, very carefully.

If you can think of yet another way to analyze the decision,

you should slow down and do that.

So, you know, when I was the CEO of Amazon,

I often found myself in the position

of being the chief slowdown officer

because somebody would be bringing me

a one-way door decision.

And I would say okay, I can think of three more ways

to analyze that.

So let's go do that.

Because we ha we are not gonna be able

to reverse this one easily.

Maybe you can reverse it, but it's gonna be very costly

and very time consuming.

We really have to get this one right from the beginning.

And what happens, unfortunately in companies,

what can happen is that you have a one size fits all

decision making process

where you end up using the heavyweight process

on all decisions.

  • For everything, yeah.

  • Including the lightweight ones.

The two-way door decisions.

Two-way door decisions should mostly be made

by single individuals or by very small teams

deep in the organization.

And one-way door decisions are the ones

the irreversible ones,

those are the ones that should be elevated up

to you know, the senior most executives

who should slow them down and make sure

that the right thing is being done.

  • Yeah, I mean, part of the skill here

is to know the difference in one-way and two-way,

I think you mentioned.

  • Yes.

  • I mean I think you mentioned Amazon Prime,

the decision to sort of create Amazon Prime

as a one-way door.

I mean, it's not, it's unclear if it is or not,

but it probably is, and it's a really big risk to go there.

  • There are a bunch of decisions like that that are

you know, changing the decision

is gonna be very, very complicated.

Some of them are technical decisions too,

because some technical decisions

are like quick drying cement.

You know, if you're gonna, once you make 'em,

it gets really hard.

I mean, you know, choosing which propellants

to use in a vehicle.

You know, selecting LNG for the booster stage

and selecting hydrogen for the upper stage,

that has turned out to be a very good decision.

But if you changed your mind, that would be a very,

that would be a very big setback.

Do you see what I'm saying?

  • Yeah.

  • So that's the kind of decision

you scrutinize very, very carefully.

Other things just aren't like that.

Most decisions are not that way.

Most decisions should be made by single individuals,

but they need,

and done quickly in the full understanding

that you can always change your mind.

  • Yeah, one of the things I really liked,

perhaps it's not a two-way door decision

is I disagree and commit phrase.

So don't,

so somebody brings up an idea to you.

If it's a two-way door,

you state that you don't understand enough to agree,

but you still back them.

I'd love for you to explain it.

  • Yeah, disagree and commit is a really important principle

that saves a lot of arguing.

  • Yeah.

  • So-

  • I'm gonna use that in my personal life.

I disagree, but commit.

  • It's very common in any endeavor in life,

in business, and any you know,

anybody where you have teammates.

You have a teammate and the two of you disagree.

At some point you have to make a decision.

And you know, in companies

we tend to organize hierarchically.

So there's this you know, whoever's the more senior person

ultimately gets to make the decision.

So ultimately the CEO gets to make that decision.

And the CEO may not always make the decision

that they agree with.

So like you know, I would often

I would be the one who would disagree and commit.

One of my direct reports would very much wanna do it,

do something in a particular way.

I would think it was a bad idea.

I would explain my point of view.

They would say Jeff, I think you're wrong, and here's why.

And we would go back and forth

and I would often say you know what?

I don't think you're right,

but I'm gonna gamble with you

and you're closer to the ground truth than I am.

I had known you for 20 years, you have great judgment.

I don't know that I'm right either.

Not really, not for sure.

All these decisions are complicated.

Let's do it your way.

But at least then you've made a decision.

And I'm agreeing to commit to that decision.

So I'm not gonna be second guessing it.

I'm not gonna be sniping at it.

I'm not gonna be saying I told you so.

I'm gonna try actively to help make sure it works.

That's a really important teammate behavior.

There's so many ways that dispute resolution

is a really interesting thing on teams.

And there are so many ways when two people disagree

about something, even, I'm assuming in the case

where everybody's well intentioned,

they just have a very different opinion

about what the right decision is.

And we have, in our society and inside companies,

we have a bunch of mechanisms

that we use to resolve these kinds of disputes.

A lot of 'em are, I think really bad.

So, you know, an example of a really bad way

of coming to agreement is compromise.

So compromise, you know, look,

we're in a room here and I could say

Lex, how tall do you think this ceiling is?

And you'd be like I don't know, Jeff, maybe 12 feet tall.

And I would say I think it's 11 feet tall.

  • Yeah.

  • And then we'd say you know what?

Let's just call it 11 and a half feet.

That's compromise.

  • Yeah.

  • Instead of the right thing to do is you know,

to get a tape measure or figure out some way

of actually measuring,

but think getting that tape measure

and figure out how to get it to the top of the ceiling

and all these things that requires energy.

Compromise, the advantage of compromise

as a resolution mechanism is that it's low energy,

but it doesn't lead to truth.

And so in things like the height of the ceiling,

where truth is a noble thing,

you shouldn't allow compromise to be used

when you can know the truth.

Another really bad resolution mechanism

that happens all the time is just who's more stubborn.

  • Yeah.

  • This is also, let's say two executives who disagree

and they just have a war of attrition.

And whichever one gets exhausted first

capitulates to the other one.

Again, you haven't arrived at truth.

And this is very demoralizing.

So, you know, this is where escalation,

I try to ask people who you know, on my team

and say never get to a point

where you are resolving something by you know,

who gets exhausted first.

Escalate that.

I'll help you make the decision.

Because that's so de-energized

and such a terrible, lousy way to make a decision.

  • So you want to get to the resolution

as quickly as possible

because that ultimately leads to high velocity of decision.

  • Yes.

And you wanna try to get as close to truth as possible.

So you want like you know, exhausting the other person

is not truth seeking.

  • Yes.

  • And compromise is not truth seeking.

So, you know, it doesn't mean,

now, and there are a lot of cases

where no one knows the real truth

and that's where disagreeing commit can come in.

But it's escalation is better than more of attrition.

Escalate to you know, to your boss

and say hey, we can't agree on this.

We like each other, we're respectful of each other,

but we strongly disagree with each other.

We need you to you know, make a decision here

so we can move forward.

But decisiveness, moving forward quickly on decisions

as quickly as you responsibly can

is how you increase velocity.

Most of what slows things down is taking too long

to make decisions at all scale levels.

You know, so it has to be part of the culture

to get high velocity.

You know, Amazon has a million and a half people

and the company is still fast.

We're still decisive, we're still quick.

And that's because the culture supports that.

  • At every scale in a distributed way.

  • Yes.

  • Try to maximize the velocity of decisions.

  • Exactly.

  • You've mentioned the lunar program.

Let me ask you about that.

  • Yeah.

  • There's a lot going on there

and you haven't really talked about it much.

So in addition to the Artemis program with NASA,

Blue is doing its own lander program.

Can you describe it?

There's a sexy picture on Instagram with one of them.

Is it the MK1, I guess?

  • Yeah,

The MK1.

The picture is me with Bill Nelson, the NASA administrator.

  • Just to clarify, the Lander is the sexy thing

about the Instagram.

Really wanna clarify that.

  • I know it's not me.

I know it was either the lander or Bill.

  • Okay.

I love Bill, but-

  • Thank you for clarifying.

  • Okay.

  • Yes, the MK1 Lander is designed to take 3000 kilograms

to the surface of the moon in a cargo, expendable cargo.

It's an expendable lander.

Lands on the moon, stays there,

take 3000 kilograms to the surface.

It can be launched on a single New Glenn flight,

which is very important.

So it's a relatively simple architecture,

just like the human landing system lander

that they called the MK2.

MK1 is also fueled with liquid hydrogen,

and which is for high energy emissions,

like landing on the surface of the moon,

the high specific impulse of hydrogen

is a very big advantage.

The disadvantage of hydrogen has always been

that it's, since it's such a deep cryogen,

it's not storable.

So it's constantly boiling off

and you're losing propellant because it's boiling off.

And so we're doing, as part of our lunar program,

it's developing solar powered cryo coolers

that can actually make hydrogen a storable propellant

for deep space.

And that's a real game changer.

It's a game changer for any high energy mission.

So to the moon, but to the outer planets,

to Mars, everywhere.

  • So the idea with MK1, both MK1 and MK2

is the New Glenn can carry it from the surface of earth

to the surface of the moon.

  • Exactly.

So the Mk1 is expendable.

The lunar lander we're developing for NASA,

the Mk2 lander, that's part of the Artemis program.

They call it the sustaining lander program.

So that lander is designed to be reusable.

It can land on the surface of the moon

in a single stage configuration and then take off.

So the whole you know,

if you look at the Apollo program,

the lunar lander and Apollo was really two stages.

It would land on the surface

and then it would leave the descent stage

on the surface of the moon,

and only the absent stage would go back up

into lunar orbit where it would rendezvous

with the command module.

Here what we're doing is we have a single stage lunar lander

that carries down enough propellant

so that it can bring the whole thing back up

so that it can be reused over and over.

And the point of doing that, of course,

is to reduce cost so that you can make lunar missions

more affordable over time,

which is, that's one of NASA's big objectives

because this time the whole point of Artemis

is go back to the moon, but this time to stay.

So, you know, back in the Apollo program,

we went to the moon six times and then ended the program

and it really was too expensive to continue.

  • And so there's a few questions there,

but one is how do you stay on the moon?

What ideas do you have about-

  • Yeah.

  • Like sustaining life where a few folks can stay there

for prolonged periods of time?

  • Well, one of the things we're working on

is using lunar resources like lunar regolith

to manufacture commodities and even solar cells

on the surface of the moon.

We've already built a solar cell

that is completely made from lunar regolith stimulant,

and this solar cell is only about 7% power efficient.

So it's very inefficient compared to you know,

the more advanced solar cells that we make here on earth.

But if you can figure out how

to make a practical solar cell factory

that you can land on the surface of the moon,

and then the raw material for those solar cells

is simply lunar regolith,

then you can just you know, continue

to churn out solar cells on the surface of the moon,

have lots of power on the surface of the moon.

That will make it easier for people to live on the moon.

Similarly, we're working on extracting

oxygen from lunar regolith.

So lunar regolith by weight has a lot of oxygen in it.

It's bound very tightly, you know,

as oxides with other elements.

And so you have to separate the oxygen,

which is very energy intensive.

So that also could work together with the solar cells.

But if you can,

and then ultimately we may be able

to find practical quantities of ice

in the permanently shadowed craters

on the poles of the moon.

And we know there is ice water

in those, or water ice in those craters.

And we know that we can break that down with electrolysis

into hydrogen and oxygen.

And then you'd not only have oxygen,

but you'd also have a very good high efficiency propellant

fuel in hydrogen.

So there's a lot we can do

to make the moon more sustainable over time.

But the very first step, the thing,

the kind of gate that all of that has to go through

is we need to be able to land cargo and humans

on the surface of the moon at an acceptable cost.

  • To fast forward a little bit,

is there any chance Jeff Bezos steps foot

on the moon and on Mars?

One or the other, or both?

  • It's very unlikely.

I think it's probably something that gets done

by future generations by the time it gets to me.

I think in my lifetime that's probably gonna be done

by professional astronauts.

Sadly, I would love to sign up for that mission.

So don't count me out yet, Lex, you know,

give me a fighting shot here maybe.

But I think if we are placing reasonable bets

on such a thing,

in my lifetime, that will continue to be done

by professional astronauts.

  • Yeah, so these are risky, difficult missions.

  • And probably missions that require a lot of training.

You know, you are going there for a very specific purpose

to do something.

We're gonna be able to do a lot on the moon too

with automation.

So, you know, in terms of setting up these factories

and doing all that, we are sophisticated enough now

with automation and we probably don't need humans

to tend those factories and machines.

So there's a lot that's gonna be done in both modes.

  • So I have to ask the bigger picture question

about the two companies pushing humanity forward

out towards the stars, Blue Origin and SpaceX.

Are you competitors, collaborators?

Which, and to what degree?

  • Well, I would say you know, just like the internet is big

and there are lots of winners at all scale levels.

I mean, there are half a dozen giant companies

that you know, the internet has made,

but they're a bunch of medium sized companies

and a bunch of small companies, all successful,

all with profits, dreams,

all driving great customer experiences.

That's what we wanna see in space.

That kind of dynamism and space is big.

There's room for a bunch of winners

and it's gonna happen at all skill levels.

And so you know, SpaceX is gonna be successful for sure.

I want Blue Origin to be successful

and I hope there are another you know,

five companies right behind us.

  • But, you know, I spoke to Elon a few times recently

about you, about Blue Origin, and he was very positive

about you as a person and very supportive

of all the efforts you've been leading at Blue.

What's your thoughts?

You worked with a lot of leaders at Amazon, at Blue.

What's your thoughts about Elon as a human being

and a leader?

  • Well, I don't really know Elon very well.

You know, I know his public persona,

but I also know you can't know anyone

by their public persona.

It's impossible.

I mean you may think you do,

but I guarantee you don't.

So I don't really know,

you know Elon way better than I do Lex,

but in terms of his, judging by the results,

he must be a very capable leader.

There's no way you could have you know, Tesla

and SpaceX without being a capable leader.

It's impossible.

  • Yeah, I just, I hope you guys hang out sometimes,

shake hands, and sort of have a kind of friendship

that would inspire just the entirety of humanity.

'cause you, what you're doing

is like one of the big grand challenges ahead for humanity.

  • Well, I agree with you

and I think in a lot of these endeavors,

we're very like-minded.

  • Yeah.

  • And so I think, you know,

I'm not saying we're identical,

but I think we're very like-minded.

And so I, you know, I love that idea.

  • All right, going back to sexy pictures on your Instagram,

there's a video of you from the early days of Amazon

giving a tour of your quote sort of offices.

I think your dad is holding the camera.

  • He is, yeah.

I know, right.


This is what the giant orange extension cord and yeah.

  • And you're like explaining the genius

of the extension cord and how this is a desk

and the CRT monitor and sort of

that's where all the magic happens.

I forget what your dad said,

but this is like the center of it all.

So what was it like,

what was going through your mind at that time?

You left a good job in New York and took this leap.

Were you excited?

Were you scared?

  • So excited and scared.

Anxious, you know, thought the odds of success were low,

told all of our early investors

that I thought there was a 30% chance of success

by which I mean just be getting your money back.

Not like, not what actually happened.

Because that's the truth.

Every startup company is unlikely to work.

It's helpful to be in reality about that,

but that doesn't mean you can't be optimistic.

So you kind of have to have this duality in your head.

Like on the one hand,

you know what the baseline statistics say

about startup companies.

And the other hand you have to ignore all of that

and just be a hundred percent sure it's gonna work.

And you're doing both things at the same time.

You're holding that contradiction in your head.

But it was so, it was so exciting.

I love you know, every, from 1994

when the company was founded to 1995,

when we opened our doors

all the way until today, I find Amazon so exciting.

And that doesn't mean it's like full of pain,

full of problems, you know,

it's like there's so many things that need to be resolved

and worked and made better, and et cetera.

But on balance, it's so fun.

It's such a privilege.

It's been such a joy.

I feel so grateful that I've been part of that journey.

It's just been incredible.

  • So in some sense, you don't want a single day of comfort.

You've written about this many times.

We'll talk about your writing,

which I would highly recommend people read

and just the letters to shareholders.

So you wrote up explaining the idea of day one thinking,

I think you first wrote about in 97 letters to shareholders.

Then you also, in a way wrote it about sad to say,

is your last letter to shareholders as CEO.

And you said that day two is stasis

followed by irrelevance,

followed by excruciating painful decline, followed by death.

And that is why it's always day one.

Can you explain this day one thing?

This is a really powerful way

to describe the beginning and the journey of Amazon.

  • It's really a very simple,

and I think age old idea about renewal and rebirth.

And like every day is day one.

Every day you are deciding what you're gonna do.

And you are not trapped

by what you were or who you were,

or any self-consistency.

Self-consistency even can be a trap.

And so day one thinking is kind of,

we start fresh every day

and we get to make new decisions every day about invention,

about customers, about how we're going to operate,

what our, even as deeply as what our principles are.

We can go back to that.

It turns out we don't change those very often,

but we change them occasionally.

And when we work on programs at Amazon,

we often make a list of tenants.

And this, the tenants are kind of,

they're not principles.

They're a little more tactical than principles,

but it's kind of the main ideas

that we want this program to embody,

whatever those are.

And one of the things that we do

is we put, these are the tenets for this program.

And in parentheses we always put,

unless you know a better way.

And that idea, unless you know a better way,

is so important because you never want

to get trapped by dogma.

You never wanna get trapped by history.

It doesn't mean you discard history or ignore it.

There's so much value in what has worked in the past.

But you can't be blindly following what you've done.

And that's the heart of day one

is you're always starting fresh.

  • And to the question of how to fend off day two,

you said such a question,

can't have a simple answer as you're saying,

there will be many elements, multiple paths, and many traps.

I don't know the whole answer,

but I may know bits of it.

Here's a starter pack of essentials.

Maybe others come to mind for day one, defense,

customer obsession, a skeptical view of proxies,

the eager adoption of external trends

and high velocity decision making.

So we talked about high velocity decision making,

that's more difficult than it sounds.

So maybe you can pick one that stands out to you

as you can comment on.

Eager adoption of external trends,

high velocity decision making,

skeptical view of proxies.

How do you fight off day two?

  • Well, you know, I'll talk about,

because I think it's the one that is maybe in some ways

the hardest to understand is the skeptical view of proxies.

One of the things that happens in business,

probably anything that you're,

where you're you know, you have an ongoing program

and something is underway for a number of years,

is you develop certain things that you're managing to

like, let's say the typical case would be a metric.

And that metric isn't the real underlying thing.

And so you know, maybe the metric

is efficiency metric around customer contacts

per unit sold or something.

If you sell a million units,

how many customer contacts do you get?

Or how many returns do you get?

And so on and so on.

And so what happens is a little bit

of a kind of a inertia sets in

where somebody a long time ago invented that metric

and they invented that metric.

They decided we need to watch for you know,

customer returns per unit sold as an important metric.

But they had a reason why they chose that metric.

The person who invented that metric

and decided it was worth watching.

And then fast forward five years,

that metric is the proxy.

  • The proxy for truth, I guess.

  • The proxy for truth, the proxy for customer,

let's say in this case, it's a proxy for customer happiness.

And, but that metric is not actually customer happiness,

it's a proxy for customer happiness.

The person who invented the metric

understood that connection.

Five years later, a kind of inertia can set in

and you forget the truth

behind why you were watching that metric in the first place.

And the world shifts a little.

And now that proxy isn't as valuable as it used to be

or it's missing something.

And you have to be on alert for that.

You have to know, okay, this is,

I don't really care about this metric.

I care about customer happiness.

And this metric is worth putting energy into

and following and improving and scrutinizing

only in so much as it actually affects customer happiness.

And so you've gotta constantly be on guard.

And it's very, very common.

This is a nuanced problem.

It's very common, especially in large companies,

that they're managing to metrics

that they don't really understand.

They don't really know why they exist.

And the world may have shifted out from under them a little.

And the metrics are no longer as relevant as they were

when somebody 10 years earlier invented the metric.

  • That is a nuance, but that's a big problem, right?

  • It's a huge problem.

  • That something so compelling

to have a nice metric to try to optimize.

  • Yes.

And by the way, you do need metrics.

  • Yes you do.

  • You know, you can't ignore them, and want them,

but you just have to be constantly on guard.

This is, you know, a way to slip into day two thinking

would be to manage your business to metrics

that you don't really understand.

And you're not really sure why they were invented

in the first place,

and you're not sure they're still as relevant

as they used to be.

  • What does it take to be the guy or gal

who brings up the point that this proxy might be outdated?

I guess what does it take to have a culture

that enables that in the meeting?

'Cause that's a very uncomfortable thing

to bring up at a meeting.

We all showed up here, it's a Friday.

  • This is such,

you have just asked a million dollar question.

So this is what you're,

if I generalize what you're asking,

you are talking in general about truth telling.

  • Yeah.

  • And we humans are not really truth seeking animals.

We are social animals.

  • Yeah, we are.

  • And you know, take you back in time 10,000 years

and you're in a small village,

if you go along to get along, you can survive.

You can procreate.

If you're the village truth teller,

you might get clubbed to death in the middle of the night.

Truths are often, they don't want to be heard.

'Cause important truths can be uncomfortable,

they can be awkward, they can be exhausting.

  • Impolite and all that kind of stuff.

  • Yes, challenging.

They can make people defensive

even if that's not the intent.

But any high performing organization,

whether it's a sports team, a business, you know,

a political organization, an activist group,

I don't care what it is.

Any high performing organization

has to have mechanisms and a culture

that supports truth telling.

One of the things you have to do

is you have to talk about that.

And you have to talk about the fact

that it takes energy to do that.

And you have to talk to people,

you have to remind people it's okay that it's uncomfortable.

You have to literally tell people

it's not what we're designed to do as humans.

It's not really, it's kind of a side effect.

You know, we can do that,

but it's not how we survive.

We mostly survive by being social animals

and being cordial and cooperative.

And that's really important.

And so there's a, you know,

science is all about truth telling.

It's actually a very formal mechanism

for trying to tell the truth.

And even in science,

you find that it's hard to tell the truth.


Even, you know, you're supposed to have hypothesis

and test it and find data and reject the hypothesis,

and so on.

It's not easy.

  • But even in science, there's like the senior scientists

and the junior scientists.

  • Correct.

  • And then there's a hierarchy of humans

where somehow seniority matters.

  • Yes.

  • In the scientific process, which is odd.

  • And that's true inside companies too.

And so you wanna set up your culture

so that the most junior person

can overrule the most senior person if they have data.

And that really is about trying to you know,

there are little things you can do.

So for example, in every meeting that I attend,

I always speak last.

And I know from experience that,

you know, if I speak first,

even very strong-willed, highly intelligent,

high judgment participants in that meeting

will wonder, well if Jeff thinks that

I came in this meeting thinking one thing,

but maybe I'm not right.

And so you can do little things

like if you're the most senior person in the room, go last.

Let everybody else go first.

In fact, ideally let's try to have the most junior person

go first and the second and try to go in order

of seniority so that you can hear everyone's opinion

in a kind of unfiltered way.

Because we really do,

we actually literally change our opinions.

If somebody who you really respect says something,

it makes you change your mind a little.

  • So you're saying implicitly or explicitly

give permission for people to have a strong opinion

as long as it's backed by data.

  • Yes.

And sometimes it can even, by the way,

a lot of our most powerful truths turn out to be hunches.

They turn out to be based on anecdotes.

They're intuition based.

And sometimes you don't even have strong data,

but you may know the person well enough

to trust their judgment.

You may feel yourself leaning in.

It may resonate with a set of anecdotes you have.

And then you may be able to say you know,

something about that feels right.

Let's go collect some data on that.

Let's try to see if we can actually know whether it's right.

But for now, let's not disregard it

'cause it feels right.

You can also fight inherent bias.

There's an optimism bias.

Like if there are two interpretations of a new set of data

and one of them is happy and one of 'em is unhappy,

it's a little dangerous to jump to the conclusion

that the happy interpretation is right.

You may want to sort of compensate for that human bias

of looking for you know, trying to find the silver lining

and say look, that might be good,

but I'm gonna go with it's bad for now until we're sure.

  • So speaking of happiness bias, data collection,

and anecdotes, you have to,

how's that for a transition?

You have to tell me the story of the call you made,

the customer service call you made

to demonstrate a point about wait times.

  • Yeah, this is very early in the history of Amazon.

And we were going over a weekly business review

and a set of documents, and I have a saying,

which is when the data and the anecdotes disagree,

the anecdotes are usually right.

And it doesn't mean you just slavishly

go follow the anecdotes then.

It means you go examine the data.

'Cause the data,

and it's usually not that the data is being miscollected,

it's usually that you're not measuring the right thing.

And so, you know, if you have a bunch of customers

complaining about something,

and at the same time, you know,

your metrics look like why are,

they shouldn't be complaining.

You should doubt the metrics.

And an early example of this was we had metrics

that showed that our customers were waiting,

I think less than I don't know, 60 seconds

when they called a 1-800 number to get,

you know, phone customer service.

The wait time was supposed to be less than 60 seconds.

And, but we had a lot of complaints

that it was longer than that.

And anecdotally it seemed longer than that.

Like, you know, I would call customer service myself.

And so one day we're in a meeting, we're going

through the WBR and the weekly business review,

and we get to this metric in the deck,

and the guy who leads customer service

is to fit in the metric.

And I said, okay,

let's call picked up the phone.

And I dialed the 1-800 number and called customer service.

And we just waited in silence.

  • What did it turn out to be, like a couple minutes?

  • Oh, it was really long.

More than 10 minutes, I think.

  • Oh wow.

  • I mean it was many minutes.

And so, you know, it dramatically made the point

that something was wrong with the data collection.

We weren't measuring the right thing.

And that, you know, set off a whole chain of events

where we started measuring it right.

And that's an example by the way of truth telling,

is like that's an uncomfortable thing to do.

But you have to seek truth even when it's uncomfortable

and you have to get people's attention

and they have to buy into it,

and they have to get energized around really fixing things.

  • So that speaks to the obsession

with the customer experience.

So one of the defining aspects of your approach

to Amazon is just being obsessed

with making customers happy.

I think companies sometimes say that,

but Amazon is really obsessed with that.

I think there's something really profound to that,

which is seeing the world through the eyes of the customer,

like the customer experience, truly like being,

that's using the product, that's enjoying the product.

They like the subtle little things

that make up their experience.

Like how do you optimize those?

  • This is another really good

and kind of deep question

because there are big things

that are really important to manage.

And then there are small things internally in Amazon,

we call them paper cuts.

So we have, we're always working on the big things,

like if you ask me,

and most of the energy goes into the big things

as it should.

So, and you can identify the big things.

And and I would encourage anybody

if anybody listening to this as a entrepreneur,

has a small business, whatever,

you know, think about the things

that are not going to change over 10 years.

And those are probably the big things.

So like I know in our retail business at Amazon,

10 years from now,

customers are still gonna want low prices.

I know they're still gonna want fast delivery.

And I just know they're still gonna want big selection.

So it's impossible to imagine a scenario

where 10 years from now I say,

where a customer says, I love Amazon,

I just wish the prices were a little higher.

Or I love Amazon,

I just wish you delivered a little more slowly.

So when you identify the big things,

you can tell they're worth putting energy into

because they're stable in time.

Okay, but you're asking about something a little different,

which is in every customer experience,

there are those big things.

And by the way, it's astonishingly hard to focus

even on just the big things.

So even though they're obvious,

they're really hard to focus on.

But in addition to that,

there are all these little tiny

customer experience deficiencies.

And we call those paper cuts

and we make long lists of them.

And then we have dedicated teams that go fix paper cuts

because the teams working on the big issues

never get to the paper cuts

and they never work their way down the list to get to,

they're working on big things as they should

and as you want them to.

And so you need special teams

who are charged with fixing paper cuts.

  • Well, where would you put, on the paper cuts spectrum,

the buy now with one click button,

which is I think pretty genius.

So to me like, okay,

my interaction with things I love on the internet,

there's things I do a lot.

I may be representing regular human,

I would love for those things to be frictionless.

For example, booking airline tickets.

Just saying, but you know, it's buying a thing

with one click, making that experience frictionless,

intuitive, all aspects of that.

Like that just fundamentally makes my life better.

Not just in terms of efficiency,

in terms of some kind of-

  • Cognitive load.

  • Yeah, cognitive load and inner peace and happiness.

First of all, buying stuff isn't a pleasant experience.

Having enough money to buy a thing

and then buying it is a pleasant experience.

And like having pain around that is somehow

just you're ruining a beautiful experience.

And I guess all I'm saying

as a person who loves good ideas, is that a paper cut,

a solution to a paper cut?

  • Yes.

So it's probably, that particular thing

is probably a solution to a number of paper cuts.

So if you go back and look at our order pipeline

and how people shopped on Amazon,

before we invented 1-click shopping,

there were a whole, there was more friction.

There was a whole series of paper cuts

and that invention eliminated a bunch of paper cuts.

And I think you're absolutely right by the way,

that there, when you come up with something

like 1-click shopping,

again, this is like so ingrained in people now,

I'm impressed that you even notice it.

I mean, most people-

  • Every time I click the button.

  • I just, surge of happiness.

  • This, there is in the perfect invention

for the perfect moment, in the perfect context,

there is real beauty.

  • Yeah.

  • It is actual beauty.

And it feels good.

It's emotional, it's emotional for the inventor,

it's emotional for the team that builds it.

It's emotional for the customer.

It's a big deal.

And you can feel those things.

  • But to keep coming up with that idea,

with those kinds of ideas,

I guess is the the day one thinking effort.

  • Yeah, and you need a big group of people

who feel that kind of satisfaction

with creating that kind of beauty.

  • There's a lot of books written about you.

There's a book Invent and Wander

where Walter Isaacson does an intro.

It's mostly collective writings of yours.

I've read that.

I also recommend people check out the Founders Podcast.

That covers you a lot and it does different analysis

of different business advice you've given over the years.

I bring all that up because I saw that there,

I mentioned that you said that books are an antidote

for short attention spans.

And I forget how it was phrased,

but that when you were thinking about the Kindle,

that you are thinking about how technology changes us.


  • We co-evolve with our tools.

So, you know, we invent new tools

and then our tools change us.

  • Which is fascinating to think about.

  • It goes in a circle.

  • And there's some aspect, you know,

even just inside business

where you don't just make the customer happy,

but you also have to think about like

where is this going to take humanity

if you zoom out a bit.

  • A hundred percent.

And you know, you can feel in your brain,

brains are plastic,

and you can feel your brain getting reprogrammed.

I remember the first time this happened to me

was when Tetris, it first came on the scene.

I'm sure you've had,

anybody who's been a game player has this experience

where you close your eyes to lay down to go to sleep

and you see all the little blocks moving.

And you can, you're kind of rotating them in your mind

and you can just tell as you walk around the world

that you have rewired your brain to play Tetris.

And, but that happens with everything.

And so, you know, one of the, I think we still

have yet to see the full repercussions of this, I fear.

But I think one of the things that we've done online,

you know, and largely because of social media

is we have trained our brains to be really good

at processing super short form content.

And, you know, your podcast flies in the face of this.

You know, you do these long format things

and reading books do too.

Reading books is a long format thing.

And we all do more of if you,

if something is convenient, we do more of it.

And so when you make tools,

you know that we carry around a little,

we carry around in our pocket a phone.

And one of the things that phone does

for the most part is it is an attention shortening device

because most of the things we do on our phone

shorten our attention spans.

And I'm not even gonna say we know for sure that that's bad,

but I do think it's happening.

That's one of the ways we're co-evolving with that tool.

But I think it's important to spend some of your time

and some of your life doing long attention span things.

  • Yeah, I think you've spoken about the value

in your own life of focus,

of singular focus on a thing for prolonged periods of time.

And that's certainly what books do

and that's certainly what that piece of technology does.

But I bring all that up to ask you about another piece

of technology, AI that has the potential

to have a various trajectories

to have an impact on human civilization.

How do you think AI will change us?

  • You're talking about you know, generative AI,

large language models, things like ChatGPT

and its soon successors,

and these are incredibly powerful technologies.

To believe otherwise is to bury her head in the sand,

soon to be even more powerful.

It's interesting to me that that large language models

in their current form are not inventions,

they're discoveries.

You know, the telescope was an invention,

but looking through it at Jupiter,

knowing that it had moons was a discovery.

My God, it has moons.

And that's what Galileo did.

And so this is closer on that spectrum of invention.

You know, we know exactly what happens with a 787.

It's an engineered object.

We designed it, we know how it behaves.

We don't want any surprises.

Large language models are much more like discoveries.

We're constantly getting surprised by their capabilities.

They're not really engineered objects.

Then you know, you have this debate

about whether they're gonna be good for humanity

or bad for humanity.

You know, even specialized AI

could be very bad for humanity.

I mean, you know, just regular machine learning models

that can make you know, certain weapons of war

that could be incredibly destructive are very powerful.

And they're not general AIs, they're just,

they could just be very smart weapons.

And so we have to think about all of those things.

I'm very optimistic about this.

So even in the face of all this uncertainty,

my own view is that these powerful tools

are much more likely to help us and save us even

than they are to unbalance, hurt us, and destroy us.

I think you know, we humans have a lot of ways of,

we can make ourselves go extinct.

You know, these things may help us not do that.

You know, so they may actually save us.

So the people who are you know, overly concerned,

in my view, overly concerned.

It's a valid debate.

I think that they may be missing part of the equation,

which is how helpful they could be

in making sure we don't destroy ourselves.

I don't know if you saw the movie Oppenheimer,

but to me, first of all, I loved the movie

and I thought the best part of the movie

is this bureaucrat played by Robert Downey Jr.

who you know, some of the people I've talked to

think that's the most boring part of the movie.

I thought it was the most fascinating

because what's going on here

is you realize we have invented these awesome, destructive,

powerful technologies called nuclear weapons

and they're managed and you know, we humans are,

we're not really capable of wielding those weapons.

We're, you know, that's what he represented

in that movie is here's this guy

who is just, he wrongly thinks, he's like being so petty.

He thinks that he said something,

that Oppenheimer said something bad to Einstein about him.

They didn't talk about him at all,

as you find out in the final scene of the movie.

And yet he spent his career trying to be vengeful

and petty.

And that's the problem.

We as a species are not really sophisticated enough

and mature enough to handle these technologies.

And so, and by the way, before you get to general AI

and the possibility of AI having agency

and there's a lot of things would have to happen,

but there's so much benefit that's gonna come

from these technologies in the meantime,

even before they're, you know, general AI

in terms of better medicines

and better tools to develop more technologies, and so on.

I think it's an incredible moment to be alive

and to witness the transformations that are gonna happen.

How quickly will happen no one knows.

But over the next 10 years and 20 years,

I think we're gonna see really remarkable advances.

And I personally am very excited about it.

  • First of all, really interesting to say

that it's discoveries that it's true

that we don't know the limits of what's possible

with the current language models.

  • We don't.

  • And like it could be a few tricks and hacks

here and there that that open doors

to whole entire new possibilities.

  • We do know that humans are doing something different

from these models in part because

you know, we're so power efficient.

You know, the human brain does remarkable things

and it does it on about 20 watts of power.

And you know, the AI techniques we use today

use many kilowatts of power to do equivalent tasks.

So there's something interesting

about the way the human brain does this

and also we don't need as much data.

So, you know, like self-driving cars are,

they have to drive billions and billions of miles

to try to learn how to drive.

And you know, your average 16-year-old

figures it out with many fewer miles.

So there are still some tricks I think

that we have yet to learn.

I don't think we've learned the last trick.

I don't think it's just a question of scaling things up,

but what's interesting is that just scaling things up,

and I put just in quotes because it's actually hard

to scale things up,

but just scaling things up also appears

to pay huge dividends.

  • Yeah, and there's some more nuanced aspect

about human beings that's interesting.

If it's able to accomplish like being truly original

and novel to you know, large language models,

being able to come up with some truly new ideas.

That's one.

And the other one is truth.

It seems that large language models are very good

at sounding like they're saying a true thing,

but they don't require or often have a grounding

in sort of a mathematical truth.

It can just, it basically is a very good bullshitter.

So if there's not enough data,

if there's not enough sort of data

in the training data about a particular topic,

it's just going to concoct accurate sounding narratives,

which is a very fascinating problem to try to solve.

How do you get language models

to infer what is true and not to sort of introspect?

  • Yeah, they need to be taught to say

I don't know more often.

  • Yeah.

  • And I know of several humans

who could be taught that as well.

  • Sure.

  • And then the other stuff,

because you're still a bit involved in the Amazon side

with the AI things,

the other open question is what kind of products

are created from this?

  • Oh, so many.

  • Yeah.

  • I mean, you know, just to,

we have Alexa and Echo and Alexa has you know,

hundreds of millions of installed base, you know, inputs.

And so there's, you know, there's Alexa everywhere

and guess what Alexa is about to get a lot smarter.

  • Yeah.

  • And so that's really you know,

from a product point of view, that's super exciting.

  • There's so many opportunities there.

  • So many opportunities.

Shopping assistant, you know,

like all that stuff is amazing.

And AWS you know, we're building Titan,

which is our foundational model.

We're also building Bedrock,

which our corporate clients at AWS, our enterprise clients,

they want to be able to use these powerful models

with their own corporate data

Without accidentally contributing their corporate data

to that model.

And so those are the tools we're building

for them with Bedrock.

So there's tremendous opportunity here.

  • Yeah, the security, the privacy,

all those things are fascinating of how to,

'cause so much value can be gained

by training on private data

that you want to keep the secure.

It's a fascinating technical problem.

  • Yes.

This is a very challenging technical problem

and it's one that we're you know, making progress on

and dedicated to solving for our customers.

  • Do you think there will be a day

when humans and robots maybe Alexa

have a romantic relationship?

Like in the movie Her.

  • Well, I mean, I think-

  • I'm just brainstorming products here.

  • If you look at the spectrum of human variety

and what people like you know, sexual variety.

  • Yes.

  • You know, there are people who like everything.

So the answer to your question has to be yes.

  • Okay.

  • I don't know how-

  • I guess I'm asking when?

  • I don't know how widespread that will be.

  • All right.

  • But it will happen.

  • I was just asking when for a friend, but it's all right.

Moving on.

Next question.

What's a perfectly productive day in the life of Jeff Bezos?

You're one of the most productive humans in the world.

  • Well, I first of all,

I get up in the morning and I putter.

I like have a coffee.

  • Can you define putter?

  • Just like I slowly move around.

I'm not as productive as you might think I am.

I mean, 'cause I do believe in wandering

and I sort of I, you know, I read my phone for a while.

I read newspapers for a while.

I chat with Lauren, I drink my first coffee.

So I kind of, I move pretty slowly

in the first couple of hours.

I get up early just naturally.

And then, you know, I exercise most days

and most days it's not that hard for me.

Some days it's really hard and I do it anyway.

I don't want to you know, and it's painful.

And I'm like why am I here and I don't want to.

  • Why am I here at the gym?

  • Why am I here at the gym?

Why don't I do something else?

You know, it's not always easy.

  • What's your social motivation in those moments?

  • I know that I'll feel better later if I do it.

And so like the real source of motivation,

I can tell the days when I skip it,

I'm not quite as alert.

I don't feel as good.

And then there's harder motivations.

It's longer term, you want to be healthy as you age,

you know, you want health span, you want, ideally,

you know, you want to be healthy and moving around

when you're 80 years old, you know,

and so there's a lot of,

but that kind of motivation is so far in the future.

It can be very hard to work in the second.

So thinking about the fact I'll feel better

in about four hours if I do it now.

I'll have more energy for the rest of my day

and so on and so on.

  • What's your exercise routine?

Just to linger on that.

How much do you curl?

I mean, what are we talking about here?

That's all I do at the gym.

So I just-

  • My routine, you know, on a good day,

I do about half an hour of cardio

and I do about 45 minutes of weightlifting,

resistance training of some kind, mostly weights.

I have a trainer who you know, I love

who pushes me, which is really helpful.

You know, I'll be like,

he'll say Jeff, you think you could,

can we go up on that weight a little bit?

And I'll think about it?

And I'll be like no, I don't think so.

And he'll look at me and say yeah, I think you can.

And of course he's right.

  • Yeah, of course, of course.

  • So it's cool to have somebody push you a little bit.

  • But almost every day you do that?

  • I do, almost every day. I do a little bit of cardio

and a little bit of weightlifting

and I rotate.

I do a pulling day and a pushing day and a leg day.

It's all pretty standard stuff.

  • So puttering, coffee, gym.

  • Puttering, coffee, gym, and then work.

  • Work.

What's work look like?

What are the productive hours look like for you?

  • I, you know, so a couple years ago

I left as the CEO of Amazon.

And I have never worked harder in my life.

I am working so hard and I'm mostly enjoying it.

But there are also some very painful days.

Most of my time is spent on Blue Origin

and I've been, I'm so deeply involved here now

for the last couple of years.

And in the big, I love it

and the small, there's all the frustrations

that come along with everything.

You know, we're trying to get to rate manufacturing

as we talked about.

That's super important.

We'll get there.

We just hired a new CEO,

a guy I've known for close to 15 years now,

a guy named Dave Limp, who I love.

He's amazing.

You know, so we're super lucky to have Dave

and you know, we're going to,

you're gonna see us move faster there.

But, so my day of work, you know, reading documents,

having meetings, sometimes in person, sometimes over Zoom,

depends on where I am.

It's all about you know, the technology.

It's about the organization.

It's about you know, I'm very,

I have architecture and technology meetings

almost every day on various subsystems inside the vehicle,

inside the engines.

It's super fun for me.

My favorite part of it is the technology.

My least favorite part of it is

you know, building organizations and so on.

That's important, but it's also my least favorite part.

So, you know, that's why they call it work.

You don't always get to do what you wanna do.

  • How do you achieve time where you can focus

and truly think through problems?

  • I do little thinking retreats.

So for, this is not the only,

I can do that all day long.

I'm very good at focusing.

I'm very good at you know,

I don't keep to a strict schedule.

Like my meetings often go longer than I plan

for them to because I believe in wandering,

My perfect meeting starts with a crisp document.

So the document should be written with such clarity

that it's like angels singing from on high.

I like a crisp document and a messy meeting.

And so the meeting is about like asking questions

that nobody knows the answer to

and trying to like wander your way to a solution.

And because like when that happens just right,

it makes all the other meetings worthwhile.

It feels good.

It has a kind of beauty to it.

It has an aesthetic beauty to it.

And you get real breakthroughs in meetings like that.

  • Can you actually describe the crisp document?

Like this is one of the legendary aspects of Amazon,

of the way you approach meetings?

Is this the six page memo?

Maybe first describe the process

of running a meeting with memos.

  • Meetings at Amazon and at Blue Origin are unusual.

When we get new,

when new people come in, like a new executive joins,

they're a little taken aback sometimes

because a typical meeting,

we'll start with a six page narratively structured memo

and we do study hall.

For 30 minutes, we sit there silently together

in the meeting and read.

  • I love this.

  • Take notes in the margins.

And then we discuss.

And the reason, by the way we do study,

you could say I would like everybody to read these memos

in advance, but the problem is people don't have time

to do that.

And they end up coming to the meeting

having only skimmed the memo or maybe not read it at all.

And they're trying to catch up.

And they're also bluffing like they were in college

having pretended to do the reading.

  • Yeah,


  • It's better just to carve out the time for people

  • And do it together.

  • So now we're all on the same page.

We've all read the memo

and now we can have a really elevated discussion.

And this is so much better

from having a slideshow presentation, you know,

a PowerPoint presentation of some kind

where that has so many difficulties.

But one of the problems is PowerPoint

is really designed to persuade.

It's kind of a sales tool.

And internally the last thing you want to do is sell.

You want to, you're again, you're truth seeking.

You're trying to find truth.

And the other problem with PowerPoint

is it's easy for the author and hard for the audience.

And a memo is the opposite.

It's hard to write a six page memo.

A good six page memo might take two weeks to write.

You have to write it, you have to rewrite it,

you have to edit it, you have to talk to people about it.

They have to poke holes in it for you.

You write it again, it might take two weeks.

So the author, it's really a very difficult job,

but for the audience it's much better.

So you can read a half hour and you know,

there are little problems with PowerPoint presentations too.

You know, senior executives interrupt with questions

halfway through the presentation.

That question's gonna be answered on the next slide,

but you never got there.

If you read the whole memo in advance,

you know, I often write lots of questions

that I have in the margins of these memos,

and then I go cross them all out

because by the time I get to the end of the memo,

they've been answered.

That's why I save all that time.

You also get, you know,

if the person who's preparing the memo,

we talked earlier about you know, group think

and you know, the fact that I go last in meetings

and that you don't want you know, your ideas

to kind of pollute the meeting prematurely.

You know, the author of the memos

has kind of got to be very vulnerable.

They've gotta put all their thoughts out there.

And they've got to go first.

But that's great 'cause it makes 'em really good.

And so, and you get to see their real ideas

and you're not trampling on them accidentally in a big,

you know, PowerPoint presentation.

  • What's that feel like when you've authored a thing

and then you're sitting there

and everybody's reading your thing,

you're like-

  • I think it's mostly terrifying.

  • Yeah.

Like maybe in a good way?

  • I think it's-

  • Like purifying.

  • I think it's terrifying in a productive way.

  • Yeah.

  • But I think it's emotionally

a very nerve wracking experience.

  • Is there a art science to the writing

of the six page memo or just writing in general to you?

  • I mean, it's really got to be a real memo.

So it means you know, paragraphs have topic sentences,

like it's verbs and nouns.

You can't, that's the other problem with PowerPoints,

they're often just bullet points

and you can hide a lot of sloppy thinking

behind bullet points.

When you have to write in complete sentences

with narrative structure,

it's really hard to hide sloppy thinking.

So it does, it forces the author to be at their best.

And so you're getting somebody's,

they're getting somebody's really their best thinking.

And then you don't have to spend a lot of time

trying to tease that thinking out of the person.

And you've got it from the very beginning.

So it really saves you time in the long run.

  • So that part is crisp and then the rest is messy,

crisp document.

  • Yeah, so you don't wanna pretend

that the discussion should be crisp.

There's, you know, most meetings,

you're trying to solve a really hard problem.

There's a different kind of meeting,

which we call weekly business reviews

or business reviews that may be weekly or monthly

or daily, whatever they are.

But these business review meetings,

that's usually for incremental improvement.

And you're like looking at a series of metrics,

every time it's the same metrics.

Those meetings can be very efficient.

They can start on time and end on time.

  • So we're about to run out of time,

which is a good time to ask about the 10,000 year clock.

That's what I'm known for, is the humor.


Can you explain what the 10,000 year clock is?

  • 10,000 year clock is a physical clock of monumental scale.

It's about 500 feet tall.

It's inside a mountain in west Texas

in a chamber that's about 12 feet in diameter

and 500 feet tall.

10,000 year clock is a idea conceived

by brilliant guy named Danny Hillis

way back in the '80s.

The idea is to build a clock as a symbol

for long-term thinking.

And you can kind of just very conceptually think

of the 10,000 year clock as it you know,

it ticks once a year.

It chimes once you know, every a hundred years.

And the cuckoo comes out once every a thousand years.

So it just sort of slows everything down.

And it's a completely mechanical clock.

It is designed to last 10,000 years

with no human intervention.

So the material choices and everything else.

It's in a remote location, both to protect it,

but also so that visitors have to kind of make a pilgrimage.

The idea is that over time,

this will take hundreds of years,

but over time it will take on the patina of age

and then it will become a symbol for long-term thinking

that will actually, hopefully get humans

to extend their thinking horizons.

And my view that's really important as we have become,

as a species, as a civilization more powerful,

you know, we're really affecting the planet now.

We're really affecting each other.

We have weapons of mass destruction,

we have all kinds of things

where we can really hurt ourselves.

And the problems we create can be so large.

You know, the unintended consequences

of some of our actions like climate change,

putting carbon in the atmosphere is a perfect example.

That's an unintended consequence

of the industrial revolution that a lot of benefits from it.

But we've also got this side effect

that is very detrimental.

We need to be, we need to start training ourselves

to think longer term.

Long-term thinking is a giant lever.

You can literally solve problems

if you think long-term

that are impossible to solve if you think short term.

And we aren't really good at thinking long-term

as you know, it's not really,

we're kind of, you know, five years is a tough timeframe

for most institutions to think past.

And we probably need to stretch that to 10 years

and 15 years and 20 years and 25 years.

And we do a better job for our children

or our grandchildren if we could stretch

those thinking horizons.

And so the clock is, in a way, it's an art project,

it's a symbol.

And if it ever has any power to influence people

to think longer term,

that won't happen for hundreds of years.

But we have to, you know, we're gonna build it now

and let it accrue the patina of age.

  • Do you think humans will be here

when the clock runs out?

Here on earth?

  • I think so.

But you know, the United States won't exist.

Like whole civilizations rise and fall.

10,000 years is so long.

Like no nation state has ever survived

for anywhere close to 10,000 years.

  • And the increasing rate of progress

makes that even-

  • Even less likely so.

Do I think humans will be here?


What, you know, how will we have changed ourselves

and what will we be and so on and so on.

I don't know, but I think we'll be here.

  • On that grand scale, a human life feels tiny.

Do you ponder your own mortality?

Are you afraid of death?

  • No, I'm you know, I used to be afraid of death.

I did.

I like I remember as a young person

being kind of like very scared of mortality,

like didn't want to think about it and so on.

And always had a big, and as I've gotten older, I'm 59 now.

As I've gotten older, somehow that fear

has sort of gone away.

I don't, you know, I would like to stay alive

for as long as possible, but I'd like to be,

I'm really more focused on health span.

I want to be healthy.

I want that square wave.

I want to you know,

this I wanna be healthy, healthy, healthy, and then gone.

I don't want the long decay.

And I'm curious, I wanna see how things turn out.

You know, I'd like to be here.

I love my family and my close friends

and I want to,

I'm curious about them and I wanna see,

so I have a lot of reasons to stay around,

but it's mortality doesn't have have that effect

on me that it did you know, maybe when I was in my 20s.

  • Well Jeff, thank you for creating Amazon,

one of the most incredible companies in history.

And thank you for trying your best to make humans

and multi-planetary species expanding out

into our solar system, maybe beyond,

to meet the aliens out there.

And thank you for talking today.

  • Well, Lex, thank you for doing your part

to lengthen our attention spans.

Appreciate that very much.

  • Thanks for listening to this conversation with Jeff Bezos.

To support this podcast, please check out our sponsors

in the description.

And now let me leave you with some words

from Jeff Bezos himself.

"Be stubborn on vision, but flexible on the details."

Thank you for listening and hope to see you next time.