Lex Fridman: Spectacle-Wearing, Martial Arts Superbrain

Lex Fridman: Spectacle-Wearing, Martial Arts Superbrain

Lex Fridman is a renowned computer scientist and AI researcher – he also hosts a popular podcast and Youtube series in which he breaks down some seriously mind-blowing theories and concepts. 


Fridman began his career in the offices of Google, where his work covered machine learning, and he’s now serving as a research scientist at MIT. He’s made significant contributions to his field, including research into autonomous vehicle development, deep learning, personal robotics, and human-centered artificial intelligence. Oh – and he also holds a first-degree black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. As if that wasn’t enough, he’s also frequently cited as one of the most stylish superbrains around: with his trademark black suit and crisp white shirt, and preppy glasses, there’s regular speculation online about his eligibility status,


Let’s find out more about this eyeglasses-wearing, martial arts-mastering genius and what makes him tick below.


The Early Days

Lex was born in Chkalovsk in the Soviet Union. His dad, Alexander Fridman, was a plasma physicist born in Kyiv. The family moved to Illinois in the US in 1994, when Lex was eleven; he graduated from Neuqua Valley High School in 2001. He then attended Drexel University, where he achieved both a BS and an MS degree in computer science.


But he wasn’t done yet. Fridman rolled up his sleeves, pushed his glasses further up his nose, and got down to work on a Ph.D. in electrical and computer engineering, which he was awarded in 2014. The title of his dissertation was ‘Learning of Identity from Behavioral Biometrics for Active Authentication.’


After around six months at Google, Fridman realized what he wanted most was to return to MIT as a professor – and so that’s exactly what he did.


Finding a Wider Audience

The Lex Fridman Podcast came about as a result of an MIT course he delivered in 2018 on artificial general intelligence. The podcast was developed to encompass a wider range of topics – namely ‘AI, science, technology, history, philosophy, and the nature of intelligence, consciousness, love, and power.’


During the show, Fridman, in his typical attire of either laid-back gray tee and thin-rimmed spectacles or black suit and white shirt, chats about some really big ideas and frequently welcomes guests. The two to four-hour-long shows have seen Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerburg, chess grandmaster Magnus Carlsen, Jack Dorsey, and musician Ye drop into the studio to join the discussion.


The show has become so popular largely due to Fridman’s warm, engaging personality, which gives heart to even the most ‘techy’ of subjects. He’s motivated by the idea of trying to unite people, and his eagerness to promote love and understanding over fear and hatred is obvious in every episode and makes his shows a joy to listen to.


In 2020 The Lex Fridman Podcast hit the number-one spot of all tech-based podcasts.


Autonomous Vehicles

This is one of the fields which most captures Fridman’s imagination, and his work and research into the field are substantial. He’s even worked for Tesla as part of the company’s autonomous vehicles project and submitted an in-depth report in 2019 regarding Tesla’s Autopilot mileage stats providing valuable insights into how Tesla users were currently using the new feature.


In a recent research paper on autonomous vehicles, Fridman shares a set of autonomy principles to be put into use when designing and building autonomous vehicle systems in a human-centered way.


In Fridman’s own words in a 2019 tweet: ‘the learning fleet is growing.’ You can just imagine Fridman, sitting in a chair in the style of a James Bond villain, wearing his signature suit and spectacles, delivering this statement.


Kicking Back

To relax, Fridman exercises, plays the guitar and the piano, and practices jiu-jitsu; he’s a regular in grappling contests, most notably in a competition in which he took on Gary Tonon in 2013. Fridman posted a Youtube video in 2021, along with co-host Ryan Hall, called ‘How To Get Good at Jiu Jitsu.’


The podcaster and all-around superbrain have spoken about how he likes to set aside one to two hours daily for his hobbies. He’s also a fan of a low-carb keto or carnivore diet, which he says serves him best, keeping his mental and physical abilities at optimum levels.


Fridman is an avid reader. His reading list for 2023 includes Brave New World, 1984, The Stranger, On the Road, and The Little Prince. In true overachievers style, he gives himself just a week to read each of the titles on this list. No wonder he has multiple pairs of glasses.


Fridman Facts, Anyone?

Need some Fridman trivia? We’ve got what you need. The podcasting genius was born on August 15th, 1986 – making him a Leo. He’s five foot nine tall, likes to dabble in songwriting, and has written a number of best-selling books.


He boasts a formidable following on social media: on insta alone, he has over 70,000 followers. And his net worth? It’s thought to be in the region of $800,000.


The Future, Fridman Style

It’s easy to be a little fearful when considering the future of AI and autonomous tech: blockbuster movies and books suggest that humanity could be at risk from self-governing machines who decide that humans are superfluous and subsequently decide to take matters into their own hands.


Fridman is, therefore, a breath of fresh air, offering a different perspective on tech advances in this field: an optimistic one that imagines a future in which AI, machine learning, and automation can promote the value he most holds dear: peace, love, and understanding.