Rob Reid | After On (Episode 649)

Rob Reid (@Rob_Reid) is a tech entrepreneur (, Rhapsody), early-stage tech investor, and author of After On: A Novel of Silicon Valley.

“The passage of time makes wizards of us all.” -Rob Reid

The Cheat Sheet:

  • How Rob Reid excelled in two vastly different fields: as a tech entrepreneur and a sci-fi author.
  • How society is being reshaped by the tech curve.
  • Futurisms like AI and synthetic biology.
  • A great mindset for approaching interactions with others that maximizes value and learning.
  • How to find your “true north.”
  • And so much more…


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(Download Transcript Here)

Technology is developing at an ever-accelerating pace and our engagement with it is literally rewiring our brains. By better understanding this inter-relationship we can make ourselves more effective both in life and at work. founder Rob Reid joins us to talk about his duality as a tech entrepreneur and science fiction author — most recently of After On: A Novel of Silicon Valley, the tale of a diabolical social media company that attains consciousness. Listen, learn, and enjoy!

More About This Show

As an orphan born into New York City foster care who became a foreign exchange student in Cairo with a lifelong love for the Arabic language, Rob Reid’s background is somewhat atypical. But that’s okay, because he’s managed to have a pretty atypical adulthood, too. As the founder of (which spawned Rhapsody, the model for many of the streaming services we take for granted today) and author of four books — including New York Times Bestseller Year Zero: A Novel and, most recently, After On: A Novel of Silicon Valley, Rob doesn’t sit idle for long.

“What would be more boring than a life that was just one linear path?” asks Rob.

Beginning “precisely nine seconds” in the future from “whenever you start reading the book,” After On is “a tale of an imaginary startup here in San Francisco,” says Rob. “It’s a rather diabolical social media company…called Phluttr…it basically embodies everything that’s wrong with social media, dialed up by about twenty percent. So let’s say it’s in the realm of satire, but definitely not farce. This’ll sound like a spoiler — it’s not, because you’ll see it literally coming hundreds of pages off. Eventually, Phluttr wakes up — attains consciousness. Rather than going all Skynet and trying to kill us all, she takes on her character and self-identifies as female for reasons that are deep in the book.

“She basically becomes a hyper-intelligent, superpowered, fourteen-year-old brat. A certain amount of hilarity ensues from that. There are a lot of aspects of the book that are very, very playful. But it also takes very deep and serious looks at a lot of very significant risks that I think we face as a species. There’s a few issues that I think we really need to think hard about and even resolve in the coming…not years, but in the coming decades if we’re going to make it through this century. One of them is the genuine actual risks that artificial superintelligence could pose. And some of the smartest people in our society, like Elon Musk and Bill Gates, have opined that this is something…we need to be careful about and think about. That’s one of the issues.

“Another one is synthetic biology, which is bursting with promise and one of the most exciting things that’s happening right now — but there are also potentially terrifying downsides to what we might start doing with synthetic biology in the quite near future. It’s another theme. But the third one that I want to come back to is this nihilistic terrorism.”

These days, when a nihilistic terrorist who embraces death and seeks to take as many other people with them to the afterlife as possible, they’re limited by how much damage their weapon of choice can inflict. It stands to reason that a massacre brought about by someone with a knife will result in a significantly lower body count than a massacre brought about by someone with a machine gun. Or a bomb.

But synthetic biology in the wrong hands could potentially be a force multiplier of truly devastating effect. But don’t take this as just wild speculation by a magnificently brilliant science fiction author; in the course of researching this book, Rob has interviewed academic experts in neuroscience and consciousness who know a thing or two about where current trends in research are leading us. Make sure to check out Rob’s companion podcast that dives into the science, tech, and social issues explored in the book: The After On Podcast.

Also check out Rob’s contribution to this week’s Minisode Monday: Why You Should Record Your Conversations with Strangers.

Listen to this episode of The Art of Charm to learn more about Rob’s visit to pre-Gulf War Iraq, why quantum computing is a fascinating can of worms, how a science fiction author knows what questions to ask an academic source in the course of research to get engaging answers, how happened, the music industry’s big mistake in the early days of the Internet, the industries that are currently repeating this mistake, the real possibilities and dangers of synthetic biology, why Rob still remains “pathologically optimistic” about technology, and lots more.


If you enjoyed this session with Rob Reid, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out at Twitter:

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AJ Harbinger - author of 1153 posts on The Art of Charm

AJ Harbinger is one of the world’s top relationship development experts. His company, The Art of Charm, is a leading training facility for top performers that want to overcome social anxiety, develop social capital and build relationships of the highest quality. Raised by a single father, AJ felt a strong desire to learn about relationships and the elements that make them successful. However, this interest went largely untapped for many years. Following the path set out for him by his family, AJ studied biology in college and went on to pursue a Ph.D. in Cancer Biology at the University of Michigan. It was at this time that he began to feel immense pressure from the cancer lab he worked in and began to explore other outlets for expression. It was at this point that The Art of Charm Podcast was born.

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