The Problem Podcast
Jon Talks With Dr. Mae Jemison: The First Black Woman in Space
The first Black woman to travel to space, Dr. Jemison talks to Jon about how space is for everyone and not just the billionaire boys’ club.
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The Problem with Jon Stewart Podcast
Episode 14 Transcript
Jon Stewart: Jay Jurden, how old are you?
Jay Jurden: Oh, I’m 33.
Jon: Oh, so that’s like, you’re in that prime when you look at life as if it were a geological exploration. 33 is right in that mother lode.
Jay: Oh, yeah.
Jon: You’re in that spot where you’ve hit that vein of precious ore.
Jon: Because right now where I am is, you know, that area of shale, that’s a little cracked.
Jay: Wait Jon, were you about to get to fracking. Is that what you’re saying? [CHELSEA LAUGHS]
Jon: Jay, I’m basically at the fracking stage [JAY LAUGHS] where to extract any more energy from me. You have to break through the shale and pressure [JAY & CHELSEA LAUGH], just pressure wash to squeeze every last ounce of energy. But you’re in that just f***in sweet spot —
Jay: Oh yeah —
Jon: Of life force.
Chelsea Devantez: Jay at 33, is at — he’s at a woman’s sexual peak.
Jay: Listen —
Jon: Is that true? [JAY LAUGHS]
Jay: I’m in my Kim Cattrall era, Jon.
Jon: Hey, everybody. Are we on the podcast right now? Is that what we’re doing?
Chelsea: We are podcasting.
Jay: I think we are.
Jon: I never know officially how to get into these things. When you listen to podcasts, is it generally that sort of awkward? “Hello everyone.”
Jay: I want to be shocked. I want them to go, “Goddamn- Oh, hey, hey, hey, hey. Let me put this down for a second. What’s up, ya’ll?”
Jon: So you would rather we’re all caught unawares and off guard.
Jay: Yeah, I want them to be holding like a cup full of coffee that’s almost about to spill.
Jon: Try this one. All right. You motherf***ers get up. What did I tell you? I will kill you and your — Oh hey, everybody.
Jay: Oh hey!
Jon: Hey guys. [CHELSEA LAUGHS] I didn’t know. Are we podcasting?
Chelsea: Oh yeah, we’ve been recording. Uh oh.
Jon: What? Uh, I’m excited everybody. Chelsea Devantez and Jay Jurden are going to be joining us on the podcast today. Chelsea is our head writer, chief writer, deputy associate sheriff writer. Jay Jurden is one of our writers. He’s tremendous. The show is “The Problem with Jon Stewart”. It’s on Apple TV+. Now, do they say “Apple TV Plus” because if you say Apple TV, that’s the little box that you used to get? That’s a different thing, right?
Jay: Yeah, I think the “Plus” differentiates. It also, I think the more words you say before something, the easier it is for people to remember. Right?
Jon: That’s exactly right. We are excited this week, by the way, we’re talking about space with Dr. Mae Jemison. For those who don’t know, she is the first African-American woman to go into space. She’s incredible. So is there anything going on in the world right now that you guys want to just discuss very quickly before we get into space, the final frontier? Is there a frontier that is less final than space that you would like to discuss?
Chelsea: I want to know your thoughts on Spotify and Neil Young pulling his music off it, because you know we’re on a podcast platform, so it’s a little meta.
Jay: Joni Mitchell too.
Jon: Here’s what I would say. First of all, I love Neil Young and I love Neil Young’s music. But the idea that it was worth four billion dollars in value to Spotify, caught me off guard.
Jon: Listen, I’m a — I’m a “Cinnamon Girl” fan as much as the next guy, Buffalo Springfield. Sure, I’ll sing that while watching old Vietnam documentaries [JAY LAUGHS]. But when he pulled his music off of Spotify, it’s value, that caught me off guard.
Chelsea: It’s a real bummer when you know, in order to make your activist ploy for Spotify to stop spreading disinformation that like you actually need to call Taylor Swift —
Jon: But she has spread disinformation as well. She is. She’s out there saying that Jake Gyllenhaal is not a stand up individual. [JAY LAUGHS] And you know what? I am pulling my music from Spotify [CHELSEA LAUGHS] until an apology is given to Jake Gyllenhaal. I don’t even think he has the scarf. I’ll be f***ing honest with you.
Chelsea: He’s worn the scarf.
Jon: He doesn’t have — that could be any scarf.
Chelsea: No, that’s the scarf. OK, OK. Did you see the photo shoot he did recently?
Chelsea: With the scarf on and her little red glasses. He did a magazine spread.
Jon: What else can he do? What else can he do?
Chelsea: Taunting, taunting! He can do nothing.
Jay: Jon, this is the first time I’m going to say this. But listen, I have fought like the online legions for you, but I do not f*** around with Swifties.
Jay: So you are on your own, boss.
Chelsea: Same. Same.
Jay: Swifties will find where you live.
Jon: Here’s the thing. You know, everybody talks about woke cancel culture and the online mobs. You haven’t stepped in s*** until you’ve stepped to One Direction or BTS or Taylor Swift. I don’t care if you’re a political activist on the right or the left, you have no idea. I’ve gotten less blowback from Israel Palestine [CHELSEA LAUGHS] than I did for, like a One Direction joke. But let me go back to your original point, Chelsea, which is how do you feel? And this is going to be a blanket statement–.
Jon: And I would say this. Don’t leave. Don’t abandon, don’t censor — engage. I’m not saying it’s always going to work out fruitfully, but I’m always of the mindset that engagement and especially with someone like a Joe Rogan who is not, in my mind, an ideologue in any way. And I think the proof of that was, I don’t know if you remember there was a guy who went on his podcast named Josh Zepps, who who had they were talking about, I think Joe said “myocarditis — kids shouldn’t get the vaccine because it causes a higher risk of myocarditis.” And Josh said, “well, actually getting COVID is a higher risk of myocarditis for kids, so they should get vaccinated. He [Joe] said, “No, it’s not.” So “no, I think it is.” He [Joe] goes “Naw, I’m pretty sure it’s the other way.” And they looked it up, and when they looked it up, it came out that it’s a much greater risk if you get COVID and you’re, you know, eight to 12 or six to 15 or whatever the age range was. It’s a much greater risk of myocarditis catching COVID than it is getting the vaccine. And if you are an ideologue or if you are a dishonest person, that is the moment like Tucker Carlson in that situation, never would have looked it up and would have given that look, he gives like somebody giving him a confusion enema [JAY LAUGHS], like they’re just like like they’re just firing confusion up his ass. And Joe just went like, “Oh I didn’t know, oh, I didn’t get that.” And that to me says, oh, that’s a person that you can engage with. And so I think all the overblown rhetoric about him and here’s the other thing like, you’re a musician, like how much misinformation is spread by like — Eric Clapton is on platforms that you’re on and he’s a f***ing psycho [JAY LAUGHS]. So do you remove yourself from every platform? By the way — Do we only do these conversations so that I will get in trouble?
Jay: Yes, I think that’s all we do now is we go, “Jon, who do you want to piss off today? Neil Young fans, Taylor Swift fans or Eric Clapton fans?”
Jon: I love them all. But my point is we all exist in this world and on this planet. And there’s no question that there is egregious misinformation that’s purposeful and hateful and all those other things. And that being moderated is a credit to the platforms that run them. And I know it’s a difficult thing, but this overreaction to Rogan, I think, is a mistake. I really do.
Chelsea: Do you think it gives him power to react in this way versus if you actually wanted to say something against his —
Jon: Joe Rogan has power because so many people listen to him —
Jay: And because of the elk meat.
Jon: Let me go back because you’re right, Jay. Joe Rogan has power because of elk meat, and that is what allows him to have the energy to have all the but, he has four hour conversations, and they are expansive, and he may say some things that you think is misinformation, and he may platform people that you think are wrong. But to single that out as something so egregious as to have to be — I think there are dishonest bad actors in the world and identifying those is so much more important to me. And I also think sometimes those grand gestures of “I’m removing myself” doesn’t necessarily take into account like, you’re on Comcast, right, Comcast or Time Warner. So if you’re on any cable station, right, they’ve got Fox News on, you telling me Fox News isn’t a willful purveyor of misinformation. Dishonest to its core. So now everybody on TV has to pull out of their f***ing shows or deplatform because on the — in the same tube that you exist, they exist. I’ve been in his position on a much smaller scale where people suddenly look to you as — by you platforming someone. That’s the big word, they use, you’re platforming someone and you don’t push back hard enough or you don’t do it to the manner that they would do it. Once you go down that road of if you have a lot of listeners and you say something that’s either incorrect or possibly harmful. We are in competition for ideas and minds. And unless you can come up with it’s sort of like we used to talk about this with the war on terror, right? We went. I always thought one of the biggest reasons why the war on terror was such a f***ed idea was, the general strategy of it was, nineteen people who were extremists, took action and bombed the world trade and did this terrible thing and killed 3,000 people. And so we were going to go bomb the s*** out of that country. Until 19 people wouldn’t want to do that anymore.
Jon: Meanwhile, it was hatched in like a basement in Hamburg and it was — the world is interconnected through ideas like unless you have a bomb that can kill ideas. You’re just chasing. It’s a doomed strategy. Like, make better arguments. I’m not saying that it’ll work, but you can’t cloister yourself to what’s out there, you have to know. You have to.
Chelsea: Yeah, that’s a that’s a good point and a niche point within that, I’ll say, is that, and this is something that I struggle a lot with with my internet content, is that when you are one of the people with a platform speaking and you travel in the waters of empathy, wanting to do better, wanting to do the right thing and you mess up people react way differently than if Joe Rogan, traveling in the waters of like, let’s, you know, “maybe vaccines are bad for you, don’t take them!” Like he could mess up and will never face consequences in the way that if you’re known for trying to do the right thing, you will face intense consequences like the scale is off.
Jon: Chelsea, if I go on Twitter, I don’t have to go on there more than 30 seconds before I can find somebody letting me know what they will never forgive me for. One of the biggest questions I always used to get asked was “Why do you have O’Reilly on your show?” And I go, “Well, I have people in my family that are to the right of him, and I still talk to them. So why not talk to him?” And I feel like you have to engage. Like, how do you not engage with people like the whole point of engagement is hopefully, clarification. Now, you may not get it, it may be a fool’s errand, but I will never give up on engagement. And by the way, I’m more worried about the algorithm of misinformation than the purveyor of misinformation.
Jon: Misinformation will always be out there, but if the algorithm drives people further and further down the rabbit hole, the f***ing algorithm is the amplifier and the catalyst of extremism. And if you can, I would much rather f*** with the algorithm than deplatform and all these other things.
Chelsea: That’s a really — that’s a really great point. We got to be going after the algorithm.
Jay: Maria talked about that in the freedom episode. How an algorithm can push you further into whatever ideas were kind of expressed within your search history and how you can continue to go in either direction. And that, to me is like that scientific and that’s like also like enumerable because it just kind of throws stuff at you faster than you can blink.
Jon: Nobody stops to take a breath and think about what’s being said. Nobody stops that you’re not there to take a breath, you’re there. It’s all a bullfight.
Chelsea: Well, also —
Jon: Where’s my red cape?
Chelsea: – Twitter is not for nuance, and Twitter is not for context. Both of those things can’t exist there. If you tweet with nuance and context, you will barely exist there. It’s not—
Jon: The aggregators are there to distill things to their greatest potential energy, and their greatest potential energy is what’s the most inflammatory?
Jon: But do you get my point? Like —
Chelsea: Yes, absolutely.
Jon: – They’re, they’re all making this idea of like, we’ve got to remove this from Spotify and you’re like, no.
Jon: You’ve got to engage on Spotify, and you’ve got to figure out a way to neuter the algorithms. You — that’s where the true pain is.
Chelsea: And I will say it when you’re talking about you got engaged, that’s where it is. This is where I need you to go on Twitter when someone says I will never forgive Jon Stewart for this. You write back, you say, ‘Please, please forgive me”
Jon: “Please forgive me.”
Chelsea: “What can I do?” I need you writing back to every individual.
Jay: I do not need my boss to become a reply guy. [CHELSEA LAUGHS] I don’t need that to happen because then before you know it, Jon’s like, “What! Did you know your feet are out in this pic?” I don’t need. I don’t need him to be there. I need —
Jon: What if I only reply on grammatical errors? What would what would that be? “I think you meant t-h-e-i-r. Not t-h-e-y-‘-r-e.” Here’s the thing that you always have to remember. You cannot outsmart the crowd. You cannot outsmart the mob, so you can’t be circumspect, you can’t be. You have to try and express yourself as clearly and as purely as you can and f*ckin’ come what may. And because there is no way to formulate an opinion in this world that will not bring you from some corner you didn’t see, some form of scorn and retribution and contempt and uh, and criticism. And you just have to try and sift through and see like is there anything constructive in that? And if not, f***ing move on.
Jay: Yeah, like I could say, I hate bananas and people would say, “Oh, so Jay is homophobic.”
Jon: Wow, that. Can I say something?
Jon: I didn’t realize that when we hired you.
Jay: Oh, no.
Jon: So here’s the thing I am pulling my music. [JAY LAUGHS] Can I tell you something I’ve always like — just imagine being so good at music that you want something in your like, “You will do this, or I will pull my music” [JAY LAUGHS] like that’s such a f***ing like, I would love to have created something that so moves people that I could actually as a lever of power and force, say to them, “You will do this, or I will remove my music from your life.”
Chelsea: I will remove my melody.
Jay: Jon, you have to have a catalog for that to work. You can’t have two albums. You can’t even have four albums, you have to have —
Jon: Oh, you have to have a catalog.
Chelsea: And again, it didn’t work which is what upsets me.
Jon: Or just the song “Driver’s License”.
Jay: Oh, yes yes yes.
Jon: You don’t need a catalog for that. That song has such emotive power that removing that, I believe also could be —
Jay: Another group of stans online that will attack you mercilessly. You could say I like, “Olivia Rodrigo. I think she will grow up to be an amazing star” and they’ll be like, “She’s already a f***in star, Jay. How f***ing dare you? Did you write ‘Driver’s license’?”
Chelsea: Also, I just want to say that one’s not hypothetical. I watched this happen to Jay online.
Jay: Oh yeah, yeah.
Jon: Oh, is that true?
Jon: You know, it’s like when you do a show and like, there’s five people that hate you. People there are like, “I don’t buy this, and I really wish we had gone to see something else.” But I don’t have to ride home with them and hear them talk about it. And that’s what you have now. I think it’s so much more powerful to engage and there’s something about “I’m going to take my ball and go home” that I don’t like and especially with someone as much as I respect Neil Young because the dude’s got balls and he’s an interesting guy. And not only does he have great music, but he’s got just like a fascinating mind. And I’m sorry to hear that — that’s how this this will play out.
Chelsea: Yeah, no it’s a really good point and you know what, actually, the actual strategy Neil Young should have done, I just realized it. He should have put out a soundbite or a headline where it says, “Joe Rogan says J.Lo can’t actually sing” and then he will get all of J-Lo’s fans to cancel him immediately. And that is the only strategy we have going forward.
Jon: The one thing that we’ve, I think, establish is that it is hell on Earth, and that is why [CHELSEA & JAY LAUGH] — don’t — stay with my segway, don’t — don’t dismiss my— it is hell on Earth, and that’s why it’s so important to think about space and the cosmos and the worlds that are out there. And our guest on the podcast for which no one will listen to because they’re too busy tweeting their responses to every part of that conversation, which is going to get us in a f*** ton of trouble. Alright. Our guest is Dr. Mae Jemison, chemical engineer, former astronaut, first African-American woman to travel to space, now leading the 100 Year Starship Project. So she’s planning to live another 100 years, which is, I think, doable for her. She’s that special and I’m so excited to be able to talk to her. Please enjoy.
Interview with Dr. Mae Jemison
Jon: Dr. Jemison! Thank you for joining us.
Dr. Mae Jemison: Oh, you’re very welcome. I’m excited to be here.
Jon: Dr. Jemison, let me ask you a question. The totality of our understanding of space, I would assume, is like so many other technological advances that the last hundred years is exponentially greater in terms of our understanding than the first 10,000 years.
Jemison: Well, it’s certainly growing, and it’s based on — and I never want us to forget. It’s based on the observations from before. And I think the other part of it is the more we bring different people in they ask different questions about it.
Jemison: You know, the perspective expands, as you expand the perspective and the questions you ask, you have a better chance of seeing something, right? I’m always struck when people ask about life, they ask physicists, you know, “what would new other civilizations be like?” Why are you asking physicists, what would other civilizations be like? Why don’t you ask anthropologists? Why don’t you ask social scientists, cultural people, people who do that? Because that’s really sort of this blended thing, and I think that’s what’s really exciting about space. We’ve all been a part of it.
Jon: Do you think that people asked physicists about what the culture would look like so that they don’t end up talking about physics? [JEMISON LAUGHS]
Jemison: You know, thousands of generations ago when our ancestors looked up at the sky, that’s when it started. And if you think about it, every culture’s mythology includes some connection to space.
Jemison: You know, some kind of connection to the sky. So it’s always been a hopeful thing.
Jon: Yeah. You know, I’ve never heard space exploration spoken about in terms of empathy or in terms of understanding how societies organize. It is always seemed to me to be devoid of that type of humanity. I think it’s always, in my mind, been synonymous with conquest or achievement. That idea of “we did it, we sent a man to the Moon.” This is the first time the ending of “2001: A Space Odyssey” has made sense to me [JEMISON LAUGHS] This is this is the first time now I’m thinking to myself like, “Oh, so that’s what all that was flying through the lights and then the baby and we’re all connected.” But that’s what’s so interesting that idea of expanding our consciousness into space over the next hundred years. That’s your task. Is it a failure of resources, imagination, engineering or that our expectations were out of whack in terms of the progress?
Jemison: In terms of why we didn’t go further, I think it’s a lack of commitment and a lack of engaging the public with what space exploration really did. So people thought of space as having nothing to do with them while they’re, you know, they’re looking at weather satellites, right? It doesn’t connect that the satellites are in space, you know, even today holding up their cell phones with global positioning satellite systems, so they’re not connecting that with space. And I think also in the ’60s, it was white males. Many people felt that it had nothing to do with them.
Jemison: And that was the wrong message. That was a wrong answer. We did have to expand who could be involved. Right? We know now there are women involved, we know that. And in fact, one of the interesting things about space exploration and about NASA is NASA really put a big crack in the south in terms of race and equality. Because —
Jemison: Yeah, because back in the — with the Equal Opportunity Act, right, government agencies, if you wanted to be and have NASA funding and all the money that was going with Apollo programs, you had to figure out ways to deal with equal opportunity for African-Americans, for Hispanics in the deep South, right? That’s where Marshall Space Flight Center is in Huntsville, Alabama. So it was one of those little known occurrences how these things sort of coincided and push each other. But people think that these things just happen and don’t understand that it’s a tool, that that’s made up that as we start to design anything with our understanding, we — somebody decided to apply it. If we use a certain combination of minerals to propel a bullet or to create a fireworks display, that’s based on the individual.
Jon: Man, now you’re talking my language. That’s the thing that people don’t seem to understand is science, technology. These are tools and we choose how to deploy those tools. The problem here has never been the technology or the science. It’s always been the human being that weaponizes it. It has given us a standard of living and a quality of life that is astonishing, especially over these last 100, 200 years, the advances in the ease and comfort and medicine and all those things. It has the potential to heal and save, but also to destroy. And whatever advances we make, whether it be in biology or chemistry or space exploration always gets weaponized.
Jemison: So we have a world now where I would say that people don’t think fossil fuels are weaponized. But because we have a sort of a system where we’re always looking for more and more and more, and we were used to culturally as humans like throwing stuff away because there weren’t that many of us, we put it in the field, you put it in the water. Now we’re at the point where we’re impacting the Earth in a negative way. So it really becomes wisdom in that ability to really understand that cultural context, the societal context that the benefit of humanity makes a difference. That’s where we need to have multiple people involved, right? And it’s not just from the people in the natural sciences. Very frequently, people in the sciences and technology may shy away and say, “Hey, I’m just doing my research,” but you’re still responsible, right? Which brings us to what’s going on right now, today in space.
Jon: So here’s what it looks like to me.
Jon: Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk have given up on Earth, and they’ve decided they’ve got to come up with an escape plan. And so they’re pretending to, like, give Michael Strahan a ride or a couple of other people. But in truth, they’ve realized this thing’s going south. And they hit an escape pod. That’s my guess. Doctor, you’re more versed in this. You tell me what’s going on. [JEMISON LAUGHS]
Jemison: OK. All right. Let me just tell you their escape pod is not going to work because we don’t know enough to live forever and leave the Earth behind.
Jemison: Right now it’s going to take more time than our lifetime. We’ve been looking at space exploration for the past summer with awe at what’s been happening with three people and what we call billionaires and space. 100-Year Starship, we tried to understand where space exploration was going, how to look at it. Our proposal that won the grant was called “An Inclusive, Audacious Journey Transforms Life Here on Earth and Beyond.” Notice the first word was inclusive, inclusive across yes, ethnicity, gender, geography, but across disciplines.
Jemison: So we’ve said that everybody loves space. There’s an African proverb says no one shows a child the sky, right? It’s part of us. But the other thing we said was space isn’t just for rocket scientists and billionaires. We’ve been saying that since 2012. It’s not just for rocket scientists and billionaires.
Jemison: And it has a much bigger purview. One, I’m afraid that we’ve been doing today over these past the past — What? Six, seven months is focusing so much on what’s happened with Space X, with Blue Origin and with Virgin Galactic that we forget that they were not the originators of space exploration or technology? Or that —
Jon: Sure, they’re redoing a trip that you guys have made.
Jemison: We know how to do low earth orbit. We know how to go to the Moon because we did it before and you paid for it. I paid for it. Our parents paid for it. We all pay for it, right? So we know how to do that. So they’re building on that. The worst thing in the world would be to abdicate our responsibility and our foundation as a country and to just throw it away and say we’re not going to do that anymore. So we need to as a country, as a nation, as a global nations to push further and to do those big things, right? So we have to figure out how not to just re-go to the Moon in the same way we went back in the Apollo days as a redo. We need to have even better technology to push further to have these radical leaps.
Jon: How do you connect that to people? How do you connect them to this more aspirational hundred year extraterrestrial project that is where humanity inclusive or otherwise, has a stake, what’s our stake?
Jemison: What’s our stake? So when you think about it, everything you need for an interstellar journey, we need for this planet, we need to have better energy systems because we cannot get to another star using the kind of energy we use now to get to the Moon or to get to Mars or even going around our solar system? We’re going to have to do controlled fission really well, breaking atoms apart and store that energy in a very robust manner and control it. Imagine if we go a small way toward doing that, right? And what that means for life on Earth. When you start to talk about sustainability, we need equipment that recycles, that reuses. That’s very efficient, right? That is very robust.
Jemison: That makes a difference. That’s what we need right here on this planet. But we’re in a confined starship on this planet.
Jemison: So it’s really about the construct and how do you apply it every step of the way? And let’s remember space exploration isn’t just about the US, right?
Jemison: So we have to have something that gives us something more as humans. I think space is part of that, art is part of that, there are a lot of different things.
Jon: I want to know.
Jon: What gives you your faith in human spirit and humankind? Because I don’t know that we’ve earned the benefit of the doubt that you’ve given us. I can’t. I’m not sure if we were to discover another species that our first instinct wouldn’t be to not necessarily annihilate it but — but to dominate it.
Jemison: Just so that, you know, I am a short term pessimist and a long term optimist because I know we’re gonna do some crazy things, right?
Jon: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Jemison: It clearly is getting worse before it’s getting better. The fact that we can’t figure out that the weather is changing. But yeah, we got to still keep using these fossil fuels. Who the hell are people thinking about? You know, we can’t live without the Earth. It’s not about saving the Earth.
Jemison: It’s about saving ourselves.
Jemison: What’s irritating me is that we’re taking other creatures along with us.
Jemison: The other part that gives me optimism. Humans aren’t the only best and only hope for the world or Earth or the universe. The Earth is going to continue on even as we wipe ourselves out. So we have to do some regrouping. I think we have some of that in us, but it’s getting really difficult. And that’s the reason why it’s important to have more people involved. When you talk about, you know, folks who are say, “Are these guys just getting ready to go?” Right? People were almost giddy about what was going on with, you know, with a Virgin Galactic launch, you know, Space X launch and Blue Origin launch. It was almost giddy, right? And saying, “Oh, they’re taking up the mantle of what NASA’s not doing, they’re going to democratize space.” I went up with NASA, right? I was chosen with that. There’s been so much that has happened out of that part of space exploration, but we have to look at who the gatekeepers are because those are the folks who, you know, who are building up that body of knowledge and questions and applications and uses on the other side. Who do we want our gatekeepers to space to be?
Jon: I always view the gatekeeper question as who are the resource guarders? Because so much of the strife on Earth is about resource guarding, whether it be justified or not, it’s about the fear of running out, not having enough, having what you have taken from you and given to someone less deserving. So much of our problem is that we view things as a zero-sum game.
Jemison: Mm hmm. I think you’ve been reading my notes.
Jon: Have I really?
Jemison: Yeah, you have.
Jon: Let me look over there.
Jon: Gatekeepers they’re there almost like bouncers. They’re there to make sure that only the people that they deem proper and worthy are allowed access to the fruits of our collective knowledge. And there’s always a sense of keeping the others at bay and I wonder if space becomes up that way as well. That it’s about whether it be we’re trying to keep China from the rare metals we think we’re going to find in some asteroid belt or whether we’re, you know, the people that go up there are trying to keep other billionaires for getting the credit or the money from it. Gatekeepers always seem to exist in a non co-operative moment. Maybe that’s cynical or skeptical.
Jemison I mean, there’s the gatekeepers that way, but there’s all the gatekeepers who think that they’re fostering the next generation, that they’re fostering and choosing the best people. They’re the ones who — so when you look at the sciences, the gatekeepers who are part of the research institutions, right, that get to choose you to work in their lab, there are all kinds of gatekeepers.
Jon: Science is probably a much greater meritocracy than entertainment is, that’s for sure. But how do they battle that tributary problem?
Jemison: But they haven’t. We’re still are having problems —
Jon: But that’s the gatekeepers, isn’t it?
Jemison: Part of that whole piece is who do people see as having the right stuff, right? And this is where it’s interesting about private industry versus government. Sometimes the government is much more accessible, or you can force it a lot more than you can force private industry.
Jemison: You know, when you talked about, you know, “What am I going to give this director?” and I don’t know this, I’m gonna — you gotta do this for me, “the money to make this movie, how much of a chance am I going to take on this person?” And it’s going to be usually a guy, right? The same thing you will see that happens in the sciences. You know, do I think this person actually has it?
Jon: People tend to hire themselves, the people that they see as most like them, not even consciously, I would imagine, although some probably are —
Jemison: Both ways.
Jon: Both ways. But until you start getting different people in positions of authority, I think you’re still fighting a — it still feels like a negotiation like, “Okay, we’ll give you two women.” But when you have a woman there, now, it just feels natural and it’s a more open field no?
Jemison: Well, so you have to consciously do it. Who do we want being the guardians, the curators of what we do with space?
Jemison: I want to get more people involved in determining what happens, not just a few gatekeepers. We need to have more.
Jon: You know, the thing that really resonated with me is your holistic approach to the idea that it’s a continuation of the first people who just looked up at the sky. I think I viewed it in sort of colder geopolitical terms than something cultural and anthropological. And I think you’re right, we’ve lost the context and perspective of that. So I really appreciate you putting this in very human terms that make it all very accessible and relatable. And I wish you so much luck on this on this project.
Jemison: 100-Year Starship. 100yss.org.
Jon: 100yss.org. Thank you so much for joining us. Dr. Mae Jemison.
Jemison: Thank you.
Jon: Dr. Mae Jemison. Incredible.
Chelsea: She’s also a great self-help speaker which is not on purpose but when I heard the interview, I felt this like renewed sense of self from her. And I dare say —
Jon: Because of how much she’s accomplished or because of her humanity and optimism?
Chelsea: Because of her humanity and optimism. Specifically, her optimism includes a lot of pessimism. And so it actually felt, it felt nice to me. It felt very real. I felt inspired.
Jay: I was very impressed at the holistic approach to space and her discussing this kind of from like from an anthropological background. As far as like the way that we look at things that are above and what we come from. And also the fact that she was able to break down how we actually learn to do more in space and how it will impact Earth. When she talked about having — Yeah, the relevance and like the like when she was breaking down, like why we would be able to actually utilize nuclear energy on Earth if we can do in space first because of the fuel source we’ll need to travel interstellar distances. I was like, “Oh yeah, I couldn’t go to space. I’m not. I’m not. I’m not in NASA” like, that’s what we’re supposed to be thinking about.
Jon: That’s right. That’s exactly right. By the way, I also buried the lead on her. She’s also a physician.
Jon: I forgot to tell you that. So —
Jay: So she studies outer space and the inner space.
Jon: She’s unbelievable. But here’s the problem I would be embarrassed to go to her with my normal hypochondriac old Jew-man problems [JAY LAUGHS]. I would be embarrassed to go to her and be like, “I’ve been gassy.” [JAY LAUGHS] Like, she knows so much about so much that I would never want to burden her with the minor issues.
Jay: You don’t think you tennis elbow is up there with —
Jay: with Space travel?
Chelsea: What if her as a physician, she just looks at you and says “The insignificance of the of what you have brought to me is [JON & JAY LAUGH] If you think about the stars in the Moon, you are a mere molecule.” And then that is like the Xanax prescription.
Jon: It’s an interesting bedside manner to diminish the suffering.
Jon: Here’s the interesting part. I am always struck by, you know, if you go to space and you understand the cosmos and you understand life at its most molecular level. Does that speak to our insignificance? And she flips that completely on its head and talks about not in the slightest, it’s about our connection to all. I always think of it as like that thing that happened when I was on mushrooms at like 19 years old where I’m just like, “We’re just nothing, man [JAY LAUGHS] We’re just, we’re just an ant on a ball in the middle of nothing, and this is all me,” and she’s like, “Nope, all connected.”
Chelsea: That’s incredible because when I was on mushrooms at 19, the map in my house was chasing me [JAY LAUGHS] and that was kind of my whole night was just like, this map came off the wall. And yeah, so very different experiences. I wish I would have had yours.
Jay: And when I was on mushrooms watching Katy Perry on “Saturday Night Live” while she danced with mushrooms this past Saturday [CHELSEA LAUGHS] I was like, “Man, this is pretty cool. This is pretty —”
Jon: Can I tell you what’s nice about this conversation is Chelsea and I, our living experience is all in the past. [CHELSEA & JAY LAUGH]
Jon: We’re discussing the experiences we had at 19. It’s all a catalog of historical anecdotes, whereas Jay Jurden was like, “Yeah, that sounded like Saturday.”
Jay: Yeah, yeah.
Jon: Alright. Before we get out of here. Henrik Blix. Are you guys familiar with Henrik Blix?
Jay: We are.
Jon: I always think of him as someone that the U.N. has assigned to our show. I just assume that —
Jon: gentleman by the name of Hendrik Blix.
Jay: Which Nordic country sent him?
Jon: So we have so we have all our writers. And then the U.N. was like, “we would like if you would accept a gentleman by the name of Henrik Blix, he will sit, he will observe, he won’t write, don’t worry, he won’t.” And then he got here and we were like, “Hey, this guy’s funny!” But he’s got a little thing called Rik’s Tips, and he’s got the segment this week is Rik’s Tips on space.
Rik’s Tips Segment
Henrik Blix: Hey, everybody, it’s “The Problem with Jon Stewart”‘s resident space expert, Rik here with another episode of Rik’s Tips. So maybe you’re listening to this episode and thinking, “Wow, space sounds cool, but I could never go there because I’m not an astronaut or a billionaire.” Well, I’ve got four words for you: shut the f*** up! [INSPIRATIONAL MUSIC] The only thing keeping you from space is your mindset. I used to be like you. I used to be just like you. Stuck in my humdrum no space job until one day I looked up and realized that the only thing separating me from space is a few thousand feet. So if you want to go to space, stand up right now, wherever you’re listening to this and make a change. You can’t just want space. You need to live space, start eating food out of a tube, hold your breath all day long, poop in a Ziploc bag. Practice throwing up because brother, when you get to space, you will throw up — a lot. And when you get up there and you see that big, beautiful blue ball that Christian Catholic God created, and it looks so good that you practically cream your space jeans, I want you to remember you did this and I told you how. Any questions? I didn’t think so. Now get out there and grab some space.
[SPACE SHUTTLE SFX]
Jon: Jay Jurden, Chelsea Devantez this has been an absolute pleasure. And let me just say that there is no other grouping that I would rather be canceled with –
Jay: Oh my God.
Chelsea: And you know what? I’d –
Jon: – Than the two of you —
Chelsea: – I’d like to get ahead of this and say, this is my last podcast, so cancel me all you want. But I’m gone, baby.
Jon: Are we allowed to mention this now?
Jon: Podcast World. We have happy news and sad news at the same time, our head writer, Chelsea Devantez. So when I started this show, the first person that I called, who was it, Chelsea?
Chelsea: It was me.
Jon: It was Chelsea. I wanted to do this very badly with Chelsea. She was the first person that I called when I had the idea and I ran the idea by her and she lived in Los Angeles and she was working on a lot of different shows. And she said to me, “that’s the stupidest f***ing thing [CHELSEA LAUGHS] I have ever heard in my life. Let me move to New York and fix it for you.” And she did.
Chelsea: Hmm, not quite how I remember it, but yeah, yeah, yeah.
Jon: And I was so delighted and so excited. And and she said to me at the time, “there’s only one way I ever leave this, and that’s if somebody makes all my dreams come true.” And I said, “Well, that’s you know, look, it’s Hollywood that’s not happening. And about six months in, she goes, ‘You’re not going to believe this.'” And so uh, she has a deal. Chelsea Devantez has a deal. They’re going to be making her sitcoms and movies. But but more importantly, you’re going to become the empressario that I know you always have been and you’re going to be influential to other writers and a mentor and all the things that you’re amazing at while producing your own content. And I’m so happy for you. It’s just wonderful and I love you and I’ll miss you.
Chelsea: I love you so much. This is actually very sad to be doing this, but I just want to say my dreams already came true when you hired me the first time and then my dreams came true to a crazy level when you hired me the second time and the fact that you are the person who made me into somebody who can go have this job is the true dream maker.
Jon: I did not make you into nothing. Here’s my here’s my gift. I find really talented people and pay them less than other people will pay them so that I can so that I could, so that I can keep them for as long as possible. But then I know that other people recognize their genius. And it always it’s always like big conglomerate. I’m always on like a cable station and that a big conglomerate will come in and be like, “Mm. It’s a pittance. Come with us.”.
Jay: But Chelsea, you paid that forward through a very, very democratic process. And if we can tie everything together, Jon gave you an opportunity to ruin Twitter for a day. So I was very happy that you sent so many opportunities like all like my way as a writer for this show. So it’s been so much fun to work with you. I don’t know if I could say this publicly enough, but I love it. I love it. And you and you know this, like sometimes I get a little messy online.
Chelsea: And I love it. This is the proudest — this is the proudest I’ve ever been of work I’ve done, and it’s been with the most incredible group of people and I can’t wait for my life to get worse after this. So thank you. [Jay LAUGHS]
Jon: Stop it! And let me tell you something we’re always there for you. Just put up the bat signal whenever you need us, we’ll always be there. Thank you guys very much. Thanks for listening. More content from us. We have a newsletter. Subscribe to the website. Problem.com. Check out Apple TV+ show link in the episode. We’re going to be back next week unless I pull my music and then we will not be back next week.
Jay: Jon, you’re taking off all of the negative Tin Drum solos you have on Spotify.
Jon: All of them. Done.
Jon: It’s all going people.
Jay: Oh, exclusive.
Jon: Alright. See you guys.
Jon: Bye bye.