Signal Over Noise with Noah Feldman — The War in Ukraine (Recap and Predictions), The Machiavelli of Maryland, Best Books to Understand Geopolitics, The Battles for Free Speech on Social Media, Metaverse Challenges, and More (#608)

Illustration via 99designs

“According to [James D.] Fearon, if the two sides have different opinions about what’s going to happen, then you go to war because you don’t have perfect information about the outcome.”

— Noah Feldman

I rarely cover current events on this podcast, but this is a new experiment.

To avoid overwhelm, I do not track the news 24/7 with doom scrolling. Rather, I depend on conversations with my smartest friends to find the signal in the noise. The following exchange with Noah Feldman (@NoahRFeldman) is an example of such a conversation, very similar to what we would have offline, and I wanted to share it with you. I learned a ton and changed my thinking a lot, which I always do.

Noah Feldman is a Harvard professor, ethical philosopher and advisor, public intellectual, religious scholar and historian, and author of 10 books, including his latest, The Broken Constitution: Lincoln, Slavery, and the Refounding of America. You can find my interview with him at

Noah is the founder of Ethical Compass, which helps clients like Facebook and eBay improve ethical decision-making by creating and implementing new governance solutions. Noah conceived and designed the Facebook Oversight Board and continues to advise Facebook on ethics and governance issues.

Feldman is host of the Deep Background podcast, a policy and public affairs columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, and a former contributing writer for The New York Times. He served as senior constitutional advisor to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq and subsequently advised members of the Iraqi Governing Council on the drafting of Iraq’s interim constitution.

He earned his A.B. summa cum laude from Harvard, finishing first in his class. Selected as a Rhodes Scholar, he earned a DPhil from Oxford University, writing his dissertation on Aristotle’s Ethics. He received his JD from Yale Law School and clerked for Justice David Souter of the US Supreme Court.

He is the author of 10 books, including Divided by God: America’s Church-State Problem—and What We Should Do About ItWhat We Owe Iraq: War and the Ethics of Nation BuildingCool War: The United States, China, and the Future of Global CompetitionScorpions: The Battles and Triumphs of FDR’s Great Supreme Court Justices; and The Three Lives of James Madison: Genius, Partisan, President.

Please let me know what you think of this experimental format by sending me feedback on Twitter @tferriss. Do you love it? Do you hate it? Have suggestions for improvement? The usual long-form interviews with evergreen questions will still be the default and bread and butter of this podcast, but if you like this, I could see doing more of them, perhaps once a month or once every two months. It’s just an easy way to get caught up without drowning in news.

Please enjoy!

NOTE: This episode was recorded on June 22nd.

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, Podcast Addict, Pocket Casts, Castbox, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Amazon Musicor on your favorite podcast platform. You can watch the conversation on YouTube here.

Brought to you by MANSCAPED premium grooming products, Athletic Greens all-in-one nutritional supplementand Allform premium, modular furniture. More on all three below.

The transcript of this episode can be found here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.

#608: Signal Over Noise with Noah Feldman — The War in Ukraine (Recap and Predictions), The Machiavelli of Maryland, Best Books to Understand Geopolitics, The Battles for Free Speech on Social Media, Metaverse Challenges, and More

This episode is brought to you by MANSCAPED! MANSCAPED is bringing you the total package to ensure your package is the perfect package. No, I didn’t come up with that line… but I tested and loved their products, so I can vouch that I’m still intact and ready for my centerfold shoot. Was it scary? Yes. Was it worth it? Also yes. My girlfriend makes the effort, so I figured it was only fair. MANSCAPED is the most effective way to keep clean, pristine, and looking like a dream through the sweatiest summer months.

The Perfect Package 4.0 is the ultimate grooming kit that includes everything you need for optimal below-the-waist hygiene. Use their precision-engineered Lawn Mower 4.0—yes, “Lawn Mower”—electric trimmer to remove excess and avoid the dreaded swamp crotch. Feel confident in trimming hard-to-reach areas with MANSCAPED’s SkinSafe technology, which helps reduce the risk of nicks and snags. It’s time to take care of yourself; time for some basic landscaping. Get 20% off and free shipping with the code TIMTIM at

This episode is brought to you by AG1! I get asked all the time, “If you could use only one supplement, what would it be?” My answer is usually AG1, my all-in-one nutritional insurance. I recommended it in The 4-Hour Body in 2010 and did not get paid to do so. I do my best with nutrient-dense meals, of course, but AG1 further covers my bases with vitamins, minerals, and whole-food-sourced micronutrients that support gut health and the immune system. 

Right now, you’ll get a 1-year supply of Vitamin D free with your first subscription purchase—a vital nutrient for a strong immune system and strong bones. Visit to claim this special offer today and receive your 1-year supply of Vitamin D (and 5 free AG1 travel packs) with your first subscription purchase! That’s up to a one-year supply of Vitamin D as added value when you try their delicious and comprehensive daily, foundational nutrition supplement that supports whole-body health.

This episode is brought to you by AllformIf you’ve been listening to the podcast for a while, you’ve probably heard me talk about Helix Sleep mattresses, which I’ve been using since 2017. They also launched a company called Allform that makes premium, customizable sofas and chairs shipped right to your door—at a fraction of the cost of traditional stores. You can pick your fabric (and they’re all spill, stain, and scratch resistant), the sofa color, the color of the legs, and the sofa size and shape to make sure it’s perfect for you and your home.

Allform arrives in just 3–7 days, and you can assemble it yourself in a few minutes—no tools needed. To find your perfect sofa and receive 20% off all orders, check out

Want to hear my first conversation with Noah Feldman on this show? Listen here as we discuss achieving post-childhood language fluency, caffeine-free existence, “failing” at therapy, pre-Civil War interpretation of the US Constitution, circumstances that require trusting the untrustworthy, why a futurist needs to understand the past, the pros and cons of uneditable smart contracts on a blockchain, productive compromise, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., the Iroquois Confederacy, and much more.

#540: Harvard Polymath Noah Feldman — Deep Focus for Hyper-Productivity, Learning 10+ Languages, Predicting the Future with History, the Possibilities (and Limitations) of DAOs, Lessons from the Iraq Invasion, Designing the Supreme Court of Facebook, the Virtue of Scholarship, and the Wild Life of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.



  • Connect with Noah Feldman:

Website | Twitter | Bloomberg | Facebook | Instagram | Harvard


  • [08:40] Russia vs. Ukraine: why?
  • [17:31] The first Web3 war?
  • [25:24] Will punishing Russian oligarchs make Putin blink?
  • [29:06] Did Putin miscalculate, or is he just playing a longer game?
  • [38:19] Could this conflict affect the US dollar’s status as a reserve currency?
  • [42:11] Exploring base/best/worst possible outcomes of the conflict.
  • [47:56] Recommended reading.
  • [58:15] Free speech in the age of social media.
  • [1:14:07] What’s at stake as free speech is legally reevaluated?
  • [1:23:18] Enforcement, decentralization, and free market considerations.
  • [1:31:09] Where Noah sees the free speech conversation in three years.
  • [1:35:50] Will the future be colored predominantly in AR or VR?
  • [1:39:45] Parting thoughts.


“Money only governs all if the government allows it to.”
— Noah Feldman

“According to [James D.] Fearon, if the two sides have different opinions about what’s going to happen, then you go to war because you don’t have perfect information about the outcome.”
— Noah Feldman

“The Russians have much more limited objectives, but they’re still fighting, and the Ukrainians are still fighting back. So that just deepens the puzzle. What are they each fighting for now?”
— Noah Feldman

“Can Europe be a stable place or is Europe going back to the olden days where a government that had a serious army could just take over countries that it didn’t like?”
— Noah Feldman

“It’s entirely possible that in the long run, crypto would be to the advantage of an aggressor like Russia rather than being to the advantage of a state like Ukraine that’s defending itself.”
— Noah Feldman

“If the government regulates what we can do to each other in real life, and a private company regulates what we can do to each other in this AR-VR space simultaneously, it’s going to get really messy and really confusing.”
— Noah Feldman


The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

Leave a Reply

Comment Rules: Remember what Fonzie was like? Cool. That’s how we’re gonna be — cool. Critical is fine, but if you’re rude, we’ll delete your stuff. Please do not put your URL in the comment text and please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Have fun and thanks for adding to the conversation! (Thanks to Brian Oberkirch for the inspiration.)

19 Replies to “Signal Over Noise with Noah Feldman — The War in Ukraine (Recap and Predictions), The Machiavelli of Maryland, Best Books to Understand Geopolitics, The Battles for Free Speech on Social Media, Metaverse Challenges, and More (#608)”

  1. Hey Tim – Words cannot describe how grateful I am. Thanking you is the least I can do.

    Separately, I am trying to promote a psychedelic event (got into it from listening to you on podcast :D) – one small shoutout can change the landscape at my end. Thank you 🙂

  2. Thank you for asking indepth and insightful questions on these critically important topics. I wonder how ARTIFICAL INTELLIGENCE fits in the meta universe discussion.

  3. I think this is a great conversation to have on the podcast. I would like to hear similar discussions on the topic of democracy. It’s clear that our institutions have been challenged in ways that impact every aspect of our lives and that we are at a critical juncture at which we must be deliberate about how we go forward. Would be great to have on Timothy Snyder, the author of the book Bloodlands, which Noah Feldman recommended in this episode.

  4. I’m really excited for this episode, but I actually I have a separate guest to suggest for your podcast, Tim! (sorry, I know this might not be the right place, but I don’t use social media much anymore.)

    His name is Fred Seibert. As a child of the 2000’s and 2010’s, I knew he was involved in many of my favorite cartoons. I found out researching him it’s probably more like half, if not more, and tied to way more of kids’ popular culture since the 1980s than I’ve realized.

    To highlight his bio, he’s lived five lives (so far): Television Cartoon Producer; Internet Network Executive; Branding and Agency Man; Cable Pioneer; Jazz Cat.

    He’s been one of the major players behind the design and creation of MTV, VH-1, Comedy Central, TV Land, and the rebirth of Nickelodeon and Hanna-Barbera Cartoons.
    Across his time in animation, he’s produced over 250 character based, creator driven short cartoons with hundreds of new characters.
    Of the several cartoon distribution networks he’s founded, one now distributes more than 3000 channels, making it the world’s largest animation, video game and entertainment network.
    One of these earlier networks was one of the first multi-channel networks in 2006 on YouTube, until this was acquired by YouTube in 2011.

    Oh yeah, and one of his former interns was David Karp, the founding developer of Tumblr. This led Fred to invest and direct Tumblr until they were acquired by Yahoo.

    I hope this leads to an interesting guest, Tim! Or at least you’ll know more about cartoons by the end of the day.
    Thank you for all your wonderful work as always too!

  5. Dear Tim Ferriss and team. I m travelling by bicycle around Europe at the moment. I reached North Cap in 32 days after cycling 3571 kms (started from home in Belgium). I decided to cross Sweden and the long road in middle of Forest and took it as a therapy. I had time of silence, time for music and for sur time to listen the TFS podcast. I ve learned so much and would like to express my gratitude with this comment. I shared with people I meet the subject that really touched me and helped me to putt words on feeling I had deep inside. I m sorry if my English can looks strange but I do my best to share what I feel. I will continue to listen to the podcast and grow spiritually thanks to it. I really wish you a wonderful life and hope you, your famille friends and team are well and enjoy the present moment. Thank you

  6. Hey Tim,

    Thanks for this episode, I really enjoyed it.

    About your question, “what do you think of this new format’, that is not the most interesting question for me.

    A more interesting question imho is: “Were the guest and the topic interesting ?”
    Double “Absolutely” for me, and the format supports both topic and guest well.
    Would Noah and you consider doing this a recurring topic ? ie. Noah’s view on the last x months of news around the world ? That would be an episode I would be looking forward to.
    Or, to generalize a bit, to have topic centered episodes vs guest centered episodes at regular intervals ? (ie Balaji with state of the Crypto every y months)

    On the format, a little variety is nice. The “billboard” question gets a bit tiring after the 200th episode.

  7. Enjoyed the format very much – would be delighted if you choose to extend / continue with other guests

  8. thank you, Tim, for this conversation! As your fan since very long time and as a Ukrainian, I’m very grateful to you for raising this subject. I’m glad I discovered Noah Feldman now!

  9. Enough with this BULLSHIT. If you don’t get it that hate speech targets race, religion, creed and color, (RRCC) and intends harm – or you QUESTION it as somehow your right to say damaging things based on RRCC, you are a RACIST. Speaking out against the government is of course protected, unless you cross the line to hate speech to do so. SHAME on you Tim for giving it voice (“it’s just DISCUSSION.. we are QUESTIONING” blah blah). Feldman can take his Harvard degree, and he and his Facist colleagues can shove it you know where. Tim, I’m done with you – UNSUBSCRIBE

  10. Greetings Tim,

    I’ve been a follower since 2008 and have enjoyed and benefited from many of your contributions! Thank you,

    I was disappointed with this one, sadly. I understand geopolitics is prone to controversy, especially in today’s highly fragmented societies blinkered by incendiary tribalism with reductive and rigid thinking.
    I felt this discussion missed the mark on many critical points on the invasion of Ukraine, for reasons you likely won’t find surprising. A full reply goes beyond scope, so I’ll share a few examples of key elements pertaining to this issue:

    – US and EU -backed support of ultra fascist (Neo Nazi) forces to overthrow Yanukovich and his govt and replacing him with their anointed Zelenskyy.
    – The extensive micromanaging by the US of internal govt and juridical administrative bodies in Ukraine – as per leaked admission by Sec. State Victoria Nuland and US Ambassador Greg Pyatt- (see:
    – Covert operating of CIA personnel in Ukraine managing intelligence.

    – The chronic expansion of NATO military presence increasingly encircling the Russian border is a legitimate security concern.
    – The omission of US & NATO’s violated promises on NATO expansion is misleading.

    – Russia’s invasion is inexcusable, egregious and deserves total condemnation. By the same standard, the US and many Western nations, have revoked by their own immoral interventions, any moral high ground.

    For more independent coverage, (which is often better able to yield sober analysis than mass media increasingly castrated by corporate sponsorship) the following are worth checking out:

    – John Pilger (Australian investigative journalist)
    – Glenn Greenwald (American journalist and lawyer)
    – Jeremy Scahill (investigative journalist)
    – Prof. John Mearsheimer (American political scientist and Int’l relations scholar)
    – CIA Director William Burns

    Thanks again for everything and wishing you continued success.

    – Adam

  11. Tim, I liked the topic-focused episode. I would definitely listen to a podcast series such as “Slow News hosted by Tim Ferriss” where experts give context, summary and commentary on these type of major news stories.

  12. I was worried there would not be a critical comment as I scrolled through – was grateful to arrive upon Paul Saulino’s.And he only touched the very surface. Are you aware Russia military are visiting their brothers house? Ukraine is close family. The two countries have been intertwined on every level for centuries. Did you see the look on Vladimir Putins face when he left the meeting with Biden shortly before the special strategic mission commenced? He was very sad. Biden just talked down all the peaceful, diplomatic solutions Putin was attempting. Then,Putins very very measured manner was gone when he made the speech to Parliament just prior to the special mission commencing. He was angry – angry because his back was to the wall and he had no choice but to commence the operation. He did NOT want to do that. He gave the United States every single opportunity to de escalate its presence in Ukraine and on the border of Russia. Vladimir Putin on behalf of Russia has been attempting diplomatic solutions since 2014. As recently as December 2021 the State Department ( United States) had a copy of a treaty Russia had provided, proposing peaceful and diplomatic solutions. Evidence of this could be found by anyone on the State Department website. The deadline was sometime in January 2022 if I recall correctly.The USG ignored it. One of the primary tenets of the treaty was for NATO and US installations to be removed from Russia. Very natural and understandable. Russia is behaving as a rational actor. What does this mean? Defending its border and upholding its right to security as a sovereign state. Are you aware of Zelensky banning all political opposition and making it a prisonable offence? Are you aware only a year ago the Guardian newspaper was reporting on the crooked billions Zelensky had stored offshore? You wouldn’t know it now, he’s marketed as a cross between Francis of Assisi, Jeanne d’Arc and Churchill. Who, um,(cough) wears green army t-shirts to high level international diplomatic meetings. Oh and by the way the Ukraine entering the EU is utterly disingenious and suggesting its rational, proportionate or realistic is absolutely absurd. There are several other countries in the queue. Many criteria must be met. Applications are assessed on a first come first served basis. It takes many years. All member states must approve an application. Ukraine meets NONE of the criteria. It’s worth adding Naked Capitalism and The Saker to the list of journalists Paul kindly provided. About the only places to get a sober rational assessment of the facts. Ie, not the proaganda war machine via the mainstream media in the West .It’s really, really really clear the West don’t want peace in Ukraine. All the statements and actions by the political leaders absolutely declare the opposite.

  13. Apologies. I was referring to Paul Saulino but I actually intended Adam L. I was going to comment on Pauls words independently but got the name mixed up. Thanks