Metaverse and Weaponized Tech

with Mark Pesce

Metaverse and Weaponized Tech

with Mark Pesce

Award-winning author and technologist Mark Pesce tells us about the deep history of today’s consumer technology in military R&D including the 30 year arc of the Metaverse which Pesce himself kickstarted in the early 1990s. Pesce points out how consumer technology has outpaced the defense innovation, and now has become a front for a new kind of warfare.   Follow @wandajharding

this week on the futurists most people have only heard the word metaverse in the last year particularly when facebook changed its name to meta to sort of canonize that new word yeah we’ve all been hearing this word for now coming on to 30 years right because snow crash was released 30 years ago and that’s sort of the first time that word became codified before that of course we called it cyberspace and there’s there’s a whole history that goes back 110 years to an am foster short story called the machine stops which is really the first time someone plants this idea of a connected human space they are still pursuing the basic things that they learned and of course the first basic thing that they learned was that it’s not about the technology it’s about the people

hey there welcome back it’s the futurists with my co-host brett king and yours truly rob turzik every week we convene this program to interview somebody who is thinking about and building the future and today just before we jump into it brad i want to talk about that word futurist you know you use that word shamelessly you’re talking about yourself as a future yeah i know but there’s some of us some of the futurists that i i work with guys like mike walsh for example who we need to get on the show yeah my mike actually is not a big fan of the word futurist yeah um you know but i i you know my definition of a futurist right tell me it means never being wrong today great i love that uh you know i’m a reluctant futurist everybody calls me that so i suppose i’ve sort of embraced the term but reluctantly in the sense that i’m not quite sure that’s how i designate myself i tend to think of myself as a strategist because in the context of business planning forecasting is essential you have to have the ability to forecast you have to have a little creativity around the scenarios that you put together and then you have to have some analytic capability to justify those scenarios figure out what trends are actually going to influence them and shape them i’m not quite sure that adds up to being a futurist but of course on this show we have a little bit different definition which is that a futurist is somebody who doesn’t just think about or talk about the future i think that actively builds yeah i think um you know if you if you look back at the work we’ve done um you know most recently some of the people we’ve interviewed um you know um brad templeton david orban et cetera there’s there’s something that a lot of futurists have in common which is we’re in a hurry to get to the future you know i mean that’s that’s i think if you want to say what embodies a futurist it’s you know we we want to push or pull the world towards that that potential and that is possible um and i think that’s uh that’s a large part of it but um yogi yogi is somebody who’s very in the present moment right the other thing i think is sort of core um to this is um you know it depends whether you sort of take that engineering path or more the intellectual philosophical path but um a lot of this is like trying to take what would typically have been thought of as science fiction and operationalize it or execute on it so um it’s sort of short-term sci-fi but it’s things that are imminently achievable within the next say 30 or 50 years whichever the the time frame is so but the thing is that that’s getting more and more powerful you won’t be around to be to be held accountable i hope so because one of the things we’re working on is immortality right so well this week we have a futurist uh somebody who i hold in the highest regard he’s been a friend for a very long time and actually the very first person i ever met who designated himself a futurist and is well understood for that he’s written a number of books eight different books all future oriented many of them are really good really worthwhile reading especially augmented reality which will tell you all about the next big thing in the tech world he’s also a tv personality in australia where he lives now on the australian abc not the usabc owned by disney but the australian broadcasting company where he runs the program the new inventors he’s been a mentor to a number of startup companies he’s also an early stage investor he writes award-winning columns for the register and cosmos so here’s a prolific thinker about the future but that’s not all brett our guest mark pesci also invented the future he’s one of the very first people to conceptualize and actually build the programming language for 3d on the web so really one of the original og metaverse experts mark pesci welcome to the futurist thank you very much robert thank you very much brett what time is it in australia it’s early it’s just after 9 00 a.m so you know it’s early on a saturday morning here but i’m always happy to talk to the two of you how long have you been in my mind you guys are bending my mind we’ve got an australian we got an australian in the united states and an american in australia right now and i’m trying to figure out which time zone everybody’s on we’re all just we’re all just citizens of the world my friend that’s how we should be thinking that um mark how long have you been in oz it’s almost 19 years now it’ll be 19 years in october there you go well so that’s a you know i mean i’ve been offshore from oz for 23 years so um you know hong kong then dubai than than new york but um yeah wow and you’re in it’s been an interesting ride and you’re in sydney or yes i’m very much okay very good i was guessing with abc um studios up there okay conceivably melbourne but but it’s you know generally things are still run out of sydney now yeah i’m a melbourne boy went to melbourne high so that’s my claim to fame from from the melbourne days but great to have you on man thank you what people used to say about australia is that it’s sort of like california before they messed up california and now you can say uh you can see australia is a little bit like the future of california in the sense that the place is on fire half the year yeah and we’re only on fire for about a third of the year at this point thanks to climate change uh yeah the future that’s the only other gibson adage the future is here it’s just unevenly distributed when it comes to climate change that’s certainly the case right now i think we’re seeing that globally yeah that’s right you’re going to feel cold it’s always described as the canary in the coal mine when it comes to climate in part because the geography of australia makes climate extremes more extreme but weirdly new zealand has a perfectly temperate climate doesn’t it so the funny thing is this morning i woke up and one of my friends who moved to new zealand right before the pandemic started sent me a shot at the end of his driveway he lives in wellington which is quite hilly and the hill has come down so if you think about robert what happens to us in the canyons when i used to live in the canyon the same as you do when it rains too much the canyon sides bulge and then they basically just pour into the street that’s what’s happening to him because they’re getting the same la nina that we’re getting here in australia and australia is about to have its third la nina year which is extremely rare sydney has gotten and we’ll end this year with the highest rain level ever recorded we have had three massive floods already this year yeah absolutely so so you guys have to quit griping about the the fires because actually you’re getting plenty of water now the the floods started when they put the fires out so that’s how it worked yeah that’s terrible that’s a terrible cycle too because then there’s nothing in the ground to hold the soil in place no it’s a significant problem um and australia would be the perfect um also the perfect climate for for example for going renewable you know we’ve already had the success of the tesla battery farm in south australia but the new south wales and victorian grids are com you know particularly unprepared for um you know the the coming demands on the energy systems there because of the lack of uh you know support for um you know green energy um and and sort of changes to the grid there but we could go off on a tangent on that for sure

no but we’ve just had a change of government and part of what’s happened is that uh three weeks ago the government formally committed to the paris agreement to reduce emissions by 43 by 2030. and signing that piece of paper seemed innocuous but in fact what it’s doing is it’s now backward propagating through the entire energy generation and distribution excellent so the capital is now aligning around being able to deliver on that which was the thing that was missing from this so i am quite hopeful about that excellent good to hear now some people say that the one way to mitigate climate change is to build virtual worlds and that is a completely graceless and inelegant way to transition to a topic that i know is near and dear to your heart mark which is virtual worlds so for those who are listening if you can remember you have to go in the way back machine here a thing called vrml from what 1993 mark is that it i’m sure that’s when we first crossed paths at february 1994 specifically okay okay tell us about vrml and tony parisi who was a guest on the show just a couple of weeks back yes so tony and i met in the end of 1993 when he had moved to san francisco and i remember visiting him and his wife when they were moving into their apartment because they were just moving to town and he said so mark what do you do and three hours later when i explained this crazy quest that i was on to create a 3d interface to this very new thing called the world wide web that most people hadn’t even heard of yet much less used he’s like oh that sounds fun let’s do it and we put our brains together within a couple of weeks we had a prototype of a 3d interface to this thing that again no one had really used yet but we then reached out to sir tim berners-lee the father of the web i said look we’ve done this 3d interface you had mentioned somewhere that you’d like that we have it and he said well could you come to the big conference we’re planning in may and show everyone wow that was the first international conference on the world wide web basically 300 researchers all gathered in cern in the room where they announced the higgs boson 20 years later basically all collaborating on this vision for what we knew in our heart would be the universal human library right and so i’ve never been to and think i will probably never get to go to another conference like that where there was such a sense of shared purpose and you know the idea that the technology was already here we didn’t have to do much more than what had already been done all we needed to do was to scale it and pretty much everyone went out from that and evangelized and that was pretty much when the tipping point began particularly within academic and some commercial institutions to start bringing content onto the web but your specific focus there was 3d so as most people were just trying to get their arms wrapped around a page of text you were already one or two steps down the line thinking about 3d it was it all vector at that point you know it wasn’t you didn’t have texture maps and skins and stuff and things oh no we had that we had the whole so the enabling technology here to make all of that possible on a very ordinary pc because again tony and i were not rich we didn’t have access to the kinds of sort of several hundred thousand to million dollar graphic super computers that were used to create most virtual reality but there was some enabling tech which was software rendering engines and if people remember where the first time they saw maybe castle wolfenstein or doom these are games that are sort of 30 years old that was very fast yeah very fast 3d on machines that were not very fast because they used a lot of very careful mathematical shortcuts well those shortcuts were generalized and put into software packages and we had access to one of them called render morphics reality lab people today would know it by another name because render morphics reality lab was purchased by microsoft and became direct 3d so interesting pc and every xbox in the world is running direct3d the very first application that was built in render morphics now direct3d that wasn’t built by render morphics was the very first vrml browser that’s incredible so that’s just proof that old software never dies it just becomes a part of the next release windows exactly and it was the enabling technology because it allowed us to do things on a really ordinary pc that people wouldn’t even have thought of so it wasn’t just vector graphics it was fully realized worlds and we were able to show those from the very beginning and the very first big public demo that we gave which was at the siggraph conference later on that year sort of july august so we took a single room exhibition out of the u.s holocaust memorial museum called daniel’s story which is a boy who is living in the warsaw ghetto and he’s leaving notes on the wall telling his story we digitized that space and then presented it linked into the web at siggraph that year super cool so almost 30 years ago you were pioneering techniques and actually techniques that really got popular quick because i remember clearly i was hooked on doom in 1994 and i mean i played it like every day for three months or so uh and remember the coders that went they did that and built that they went on later after quake and so on to uh to create oculus you know so they’re building 3d worlds right now i mean i definitely was a doom and a um you know quake engine guy but i i i i uh my my the big gaming like virtual reality thing for me was half-life i think you know the game changer um but yeah and now mark you’re actually going to team up with tony parisi to create a new podcast so can you tell us about that can we sneak that into this plug for your next venture yeah so tony and i in fact are working really hard right now on a six episode series we’re calling a brief history of the metaverse fantastic idea here most people have only heard the word metaverse in the last year particularly when facebook changed its name to meta to sort of canonize that new word yeah we’ve all been hearing this word for now coming on to 30 years right because snow crash was released 30 years ago and that’s sort of the first time that word became codified before that of course we called it cyberspace and there’s there’s a whole history that goes back a hundred and ten years to an am foster short story called the machine stops which is really the first time someone plants this idea of a connected human space in the mind and in literature and we just in the first episode we trace through how it works in terms of the literature all the way to neuromancer and then we take a turn we say look at neuromancer was so effective as an evocation that people actually started to build it and then we bring in ship morningstar and randy farmer who created habitat which was the very i remember well yes the very first virtual world and they are still at it they are still pursuing the basic things that they learned and of course the first basic thing that they learned was that it’s not about the technology it’s about the people yeah the community that’s right this is where they’re getting it wrong today we talked to tony about this uh you know he was here he was telling us a little bit about his new venture with neil stephenson at lamina one and we talked a little bit about the way uh the current crop of metaversus seems to be getting it wrong they’re focused on business model first and community last and and if you look at the incredible durability of second life it’s entirely attributable to the fact that they’ve made they make tools that make the community fun you know they allow the community to express themselves in wacky and unpredictable ways and when you compare that to like horizons world uh facebook’s shopping mall uh it’s it’s astounding you know how do they think anyone’s gonna find that appealing to build this sort of look-alike kind of cheesy cartoon-like avatar with no legs uh walking around completely controlled and contrived environment uh i i can’t muster the energy to even delve into the thing and the other metaverses that are out there today things like decentral and sandbox they’re digital ghost towns uh there’s you know no one on the server when you get there and so there’s no community whatsoever well but i mean you could say you could say the same about the web in the early days like in in 94 and 95 you know that was how we would have described the web you know well you didn’t really have a people experience on the web but what you did have was an incredible ferocity of launching i remember really clearly in 94.95 if you went to netscapes what’s cool the list of new things was becoming unmanageable right yahoo hired a whole team of like librarians so you had a sense that people were doing stuff because there was a proliferation and it was kind of like early stage um you know kind of like algorithmic growth in terms of the number of pages that were being generated on a daily basis so there was a science science okay all right and then um and we’re doing games and with games you found this incredible untapped or unmet need to connect people together so people definitely crave the connection but but i think now with the metaverse if it’s not community first it’s gonna land with a thud and then it’s gonna be really hard to get a community there later but mark we’re not letting you talk we’re just talking on top of you go for it you know i you know i i feel that with decentral and the other sort of purely web 3 based in other words blockchain based and really land sale based virtual worlds that these are basically schemes to get people to buy land on the promise that enough people are going to buy land and come and live in these spaces that this this land is going to be valuable and i think that that is a chicken and egg model where there is no chicken and there’s only a virtual egg yeah it’s like the 1920s in florida that’s going to be a bit problematic i think with meta the bigger issue is that the name change is effectively an elaborate misdirection play to shine the light away from the fact that facebook is without question the most socially toxic organism of the 21st century and as long as you can change the name and get people to look elsewhere oh my god mark is blowing 10 billion on this thing that can’t happen who cares he’s still making a hundred billion dollars a year on the advertising revenue by polluting the social space and really that’s my own feeling about this i know other people feel very differently about it well i you know i think if you look at um you know zuckerberg’s thinking on the metaverse you know one of one of the problems that silicon valley has is you know if you look at san francisco and la and and so forth right now you know we have this massive problem of inequality it’s all throughout the us right um but the the tech boom has contributed to that and there’s a there’s a view in in some circles within silicon valley that you know while these people can live in pod houses but they’ll they’ll be able to live their best life in the metaverse it’s not like that’s not a solution to that’s the ready player one scenario yeah exactly the stacks in chicago and i’m living in a container but i sure have a good time on the internet i’m a rockstar no we’ll have ubi for your for your pizzas delivered by drone and and you could play all day in in the metaverse it’s like no it’s like we we need something we need a better model than that okay he’s wheeling out the ubi so i think it’s time for us to change topics hey so listen watch out for the the brief history of the metaverse a brief history of the metaverse podcast from mark pesci and from tony parisi both guests on the futurist and that podcast will be coming out when mark when should we look for it it’ll land on the 15th of september on and just on the next billion seconds podcast feed cool awesome we’ll put it out on our fed too yeah yeah great excellent thank you now in parallel all of that at the same time and actually fueling a lot of what you were just talking about mark in the history of 3d and vrml and the metaverse and what we used to call cyberspace were companies like evans and sutherland and i remember the weird mashup of all these cyber arts people hanging around with these kind of like military you know military-industrial vendors uh from evans and sutherland and other uh other companies it was just a weird culture clash they weren’t so far apart because at the core everybody’s a geek so that that part we had in common but at the time those companies had the rendering power so if you really want to do immersive reality of any kind of sort it just happened to be a fight fighter jet simulation um but that ties into a topic you and i’ve been discussing the last couple days which is uh the the deep intertwined and kind of weird and interesting history uh and present of internet technologies and consumer technologies intertwined with military technology uh we see examples of that the internet came from dapa right 100 we should unpack that story a little but yeah that’s what people always point to right so the the defense advanced research project uh has a number of credits it’s not just the internet arpanet they’re precursor to today’s internet but also uh mobile phones and uh and space and satellites for communities spread spectrum technology that’s the basis of cellular technology absolutely that’s right so that all came from from uh darpa and darpa’s mission is interesting the idea darpa was after the sputnik satellite the us military never wanted to be caught off guard again so their job is to look at all the weird and wonderful new technologies that are coming and evaluate them for either a defensive or offensive use and mainly the goal there is to keep people safe but they have come up with some interesting uh you know some interesting weapons as well their big new focus is biotech they have a whole office now called the um biology as technology which i think is fascinating we’ll have to get some of those folks on the show but mark comment a little bit about that because that was fun we were chatting about that last night yeah and i think what i want to do is actually expand the the palette a little bit and go back a little bit further because while i think we do see this relationship as a modern relationship it is not a modern relationship the most important military development of the last thousand years is gunpowder gunpowder began as fireworks in china it began as a technology of entertainment and it was several hundred years of entertainment before someone in china realized oh we could use this for a rocket and then i believe it was the portuguese who managed to get it from the chinese and brought it to europe and one thing led to another so we have this idea that a lot of these technologies actually do begin as entertainment technologies and then become military technologies then let’s go to the victorian era we have this massive industrialization we’re using machines for everything to improve the standard of life for people right to increase the speed of transport increase agricultural productivity make clothing cheaper all of these different things none of that gets fully weaponized until the great war right and then bam and then we have this 30-year period of war and technological acceleration and then we end at the other side at the end of the second world war and it’s not so much that it stops at that point there is a lot of money going into defense during the cold war period and it’s then at the end of that cold war period and all three of us are old enough to remember exactly that point when the berlin wall comes down that the nations in the west get the peace dividend right because the money stops pouring into defense southern california goes into a severe recession because so many of the jobs in southern california were defense industry related and it took basically a full decade for la to reorganize its economy on a non-defense basis and this is exactly the pivot point that we see now because that starts around 1990 and then interesting 1995 you get the playstation and this becomes a sort of crossover point where the leading edge of technology development and where money is going stops being defense and starts being consumer electronics and it turns out that the market for consumer electronics was probably an order of magnitude bigger than the market

and so it is now the thing that’s dragging things along this is why the best chips you can find in the world are sitting in your late model smartphone not in military equipment right and nsa that has massive implications for the pentagon and for other defense departments around the world because now the tales wagging the dog the entertainment tale or the consumer entertainment the consumer electronics tell is wagging the military dog they’re playing catch-up we see evidence of that you know for instance right now in the war that’s happening in ukraine uh the russian military uh one of the reasons russian generals are getting targeted by drone attacks is that they’re using regular cell phones and they have to use regular cell phones because they’re more reliable than the military equipment that they have for communications uh that probably has something to do with corruption and people not actually procuring the right things and so forth but at any rate there the consumer tech is ahead of the military texas to kind of confirm your point there mark we need to take a little break here because we do have sponsors for this show and so we’re going to make a little pause now but folks keep listening because in just a couple minutes we’ll be back with mark on the futurists to breaking banks the number one global fintech radio show and podcast i’m brett king and i’m jason henricks every week since 2013 we explored the personalities startups innovators and industry players driving disruption in financial services from incumbents to unicorns and from cutting edge technology to the people using it to help create a more innovative inclusive and healthy financial future i’m jp nichols and this is breaking banks

welcome back to the futurists uh robert tursek and i are in the hosting chair with mark pesci today live from sydney australia before the break we were talking about uh how military development and consumer technologies have sort of been in parallel but had various elements of um you know influence over time so to mark um you know we talked about the great war and this sort of golden age of uh you know that that preceded um the great war there was so much hope you know coming out of the victorian era into the industrial age you know all of this hope that humanity was was pushing further and then bang we we land into these these uh wars and you know it’s in many ways it could be a little bit of the same thing today not from a warfare perspective necessarily but we are moving from this period of extreme optimism around technology but we have some major issues to deal with you know climate change inequality now we have you know um viruses like uh covert and so forth so we’re entering a period of disruptiveness but we also have china um you know rattling the saber a little bit uh regarding taiwan so where do you where do you see this cycle going and the this is i think resonance here you know mark twain has the wonderful line that the future never repeats but it does rhyme and i want to give you an example of one of those rhymes so in 1909 uh englishman named norman angel wrote a book called the great illusion in which he indicated that a war between the great powers was extremely unlikely because all of the powers were benefiting more from the rise in international trade and they would be severely hurt by that now he does this in 1909 that book is a best seller i think it’s the best seller that year in the uk published in america the next year again bestseller everyone’s thinking we’re entering this new golden age of enlightenment and nations won’t fight and of course four years later it all collapses because germany and the uk who are each other’s largest trading partners have the great war all right well i’ll flip forward 90 years and we have both francis fukuyama who codifies it as the end of history but we’re going to go to tom friedman with the golden arches theory of history which the biggest index now yes simply put that no two nations that have mcdonald’s franchises have had a war with one another some of the rationale for that is because mcdonald’s won’t plant franchises in a nation until it has a lot of economic stability and political stability and so that tends to be a marker for the low quality of belligerence of those nations that’s not going to age well well it wasn’t it was true until february when ukraine and russia which both have mcdonald’s in them went to war right so it didn’t age in the same way that the great illusion didn’t age and so in some ways we are seeing and let’s face it brett we all want to be optimists i mean to be a futurist is to be an entrepreneur to be optimistic yeah no one no one likes a dystopian futurist they don’t get invited to parties yeah all conferences yeah you know we are professional optimists not because we’re blind to the future but because we’re constantly tugging at the best elements of it but i think one of the things that happens is we get blinded by our own optimism and parts part of what’s happening in 2022 now that’s very true is that our own optimism is now being tempered by the fact that people are is still as illogical and as selfish and you know i would call it foolish but other people have different names for it as they have ever been yeah if not uh if not um actually increasing in irrational um you know conceptualization of the world it’s it’s like you know having these conversations like you see on social media about um you know let’s end all vaccinations and things it just blows my mind some of how how we’ve intellectually declined as a species knowing certain elements right yeah i i feel as though this is one of the things that that 300 researchers in that room in 1994 didn’t understand we knew we were building the global library what we didn’t understand is that we were also building an ignorance amplifier and i think if someone had explained that to us in small words we might not have wanted to believe it but it might have tempered our steps and we probably would have built in more facility into the basic web to help people understand the quality of the truth that they were reading or indulging in yeah it’s interesting the web in the 90s uh was we can look back at it as a fabulous place because people were relatively polite they were flame wars but they were pretty manageable um the thing is that in in the 1990s you had a few hundred million people using the web i think it was less than 400 million and um they were the smart 400. you know now you’ve got six billion people so everybody else came in most people are new users like still most people are new users on social media and they’re also vulnerable in a lot of other ways uh yeah so so one thing we can talk about mark is how militarization has also invaded cyberspace but not in the way people think it’s the weaponization of social media an infiltration of social media with um you know robots that can generate hostility and drive division and wedges between different groups of people and break a democracy uh democracy propaganda all of that’s been a big part of the military uh playbook yeah it’s been always moved we’ve been having a cold war for about 10 years we just didn’t want to acknowledge it but you know it’s between intellectual property theft and hacking and uh the attempts in multiple attempts to disrupt real-world infrastructure through the network and then the militarization or weaponization of social media these are all examples of concerted efforts by real people real organizations in the real world they’re not just the accidents they don’t just emerge uh these are things that are deliberately done now every government disavows it nobody takes credit for it uh in russia they have that wonderful phrase that i share with you mark political entrepreneurs that’s what they call the people who are doing the social media really yeah but that’s a new front right so that’s like the the fifth column uh is uh is you know um using social media and other vectors to get to people what’s remarkable about that is back in the battle days of big media and controlled media and centralized publishing and domination of broadcast media by just a handful of companies we had a better sense of national consensus we had a better sense of national identity we thought we knew who we were we thought we knew what values we shared and what we’re seeing now in retrospect is national identity is a story that we tell ourselves it’s a very convincing story when it’s well told but that story can start to fragment and um and suddenly it doesn’t all hold up so well once you’ve got 100 different versions of that story uh tailored for different groups let’s talk about drones let’s talk about the consumerization of drones uh you know when obama started using actually i guess they started under george bush but then obama loved it because he didn’t have to put boots on the ground and at one point we were having a war in we were bombing eight different nations several of whom were allies of ours um the united states i’m referring to not australia um but we were in australia was was participating in a lot of that too that’s true and you know and we have a number of different drone programs in the united states uh the uh the cia has a has a black drone program nobody knows anything about and of course then there’s the military drone programs uh it always seemed to me that we’re going to come to regret this and i think here we are here we are you know like suddenly it’s really cheap to build a drone okay the united states builds expensive drones but a country like turkey now has uh a you know a company back i mean going to get this name wrong but it’s bairaktar and they’re producing drones that are relatively cheap although you can’t get the exact price it ranges between one and two million dollars and for the whole system with the ground control five million that’s a fraction of the cost of a drone system from a u.s vendor so in a way they’re democratizing uh drone technology these are killer drones and they’ve been quite they’ve been surprisingly effective in the ukraine war yeah and i mean we’re about to see now as you’ve probably talked about on the show we’re about to see an explosion in semi-autonomous electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicles right so the joby is my my favorite because it’s kind of the first one that’s gotten faa so we’re seeing an explosion in that technology as well and those are not multi-million dollar things and so what you can see is that the price curve that we’re on from the 100 million dollar half a billion dollar u.s predator style drones to this two or five million dollar turkish drone is only a midpoint down to say a hundred thousand dollar drone probably we’ll see by oh yeah and look they’re building homemade drones in the ukraine right now so they’re building like super cheap you know do-it-yourself kind of drones yeah no they’re just like they’re using commercial drones and they’re dropping hand grenades out of them you know impact hand grenades and stuff it’s yeah it’s like the improvised uh um the improvised bombs that they put in the streets

yeah yeah that’s right uh you know and i do remember reading about the fact that the ukrainians had used some sort of commercial drone along with a camera along with facial recognition technology to be able to recognize russian generals in the field and direct artillery fire their way right so you have this combination of very off-the-shelf technologies that were simply being remixed into an extremely lethal form now we keep comfort comforting ourselves in the united states because we always believe that we’re going to have air supremacy it’s why we we invest so much in not just our aircraft but also our pilot training and uh we’re chuckling at russia’s expense because they haven’t really achieved their supremacy if you had that then those bacteria be raktar drones those cheap drones would be they’re utterly defenseless they’re like a one-hit job so uh if if the russians had air supremacy there’d be no threat at all from from those drones but i think we might be fooling ourselves uh because we can’t stop we can’t stop drones from impacting airports in the us these small commercial drones that’s right this is where i’m heading this is exactly where i’m heading i was chatting with mark about uh palmer lucky another pioneer of vr just in a weird parallel this conversation is full of cross references but palmer lucky who created oculus after he sold that to facebook and then got fired by mark zuckerberg he went and started a new company um and they’re focused on defense he wants to be a defense contractor high-end high-tech defense contractor in the united states and his vision is tens of thousands of drones attacking a big military asset like aircraft carrier and his view is that you know we have good defense systems on those ships we’ll be able to defend against the first 10 000 drones but what happens after 20 000 or 30 000 and the idea is that you know it’s relatively cheap right you can build 30 000 cheap disposable drones knowing most of them will get shot down but some will get through and if you can take out a you know multi 100 billion dollar uh ship you can actually make some serious havoc we we should probably call this the cicada theory of military attack right because will emerge in the tens of billions so that the predators simply get filled up and the ones that live will breed the next generation of cicadas now tell me again about dystopian futurists because i really want to hear that part

i mean it’s so i just spent a lot of time with palmer lucky he came to visit australia he has a deal that they’ve tied up with the australian defense force to build what they’re calling the xl ua auv so the extra-large autonomous underwater vehicle because although you probably haven’t heard too much about it in america we have been unable to get a new generation of submarines which we need badly to defend the land mass against anything that might be coming from say east asia and i won’t name names here but you can use your imagination and we don’t have a deal for that we had to deal with the french that fell apart we now have a deal with the americans the americans say oh yeah we’ll get your submarines in 2040 which is a long time from now that’s part of because the defense procedures around this are defense uh procurement and construction procedures are so slow and so long term so he wants to build us a small fleet of relatively inexpensive lot when we’re talking ex the xls i think they’re six meters long so they’re not tiny right and they should be able to go out and autonomously scan all of the coast and keep things relatively safe make sure the cables aren’t being played with stuff like that and it’s very compelling and i suspect he’s going to be doing a lot of business here because he’s taking that idea of a lot of drones and saying okay we will deploy them under the water in sufficient numbers to allow australians to feel relatively safe and one of the interesting things you pointed out to me about about palmer lucky is that his approach is very different from an american defense contractor in the sense that most american defense contractors provide systems on a cost plus basis which is in other words the government is paying them to learn how to make the product and with a high tech product that’s a really lousy formula because you’re going to end up having a company that just extends their learning curve because they’re getting paid a long way his approach is different so palmer lucky is saying here’s a system it works would you like this system or would you like the next version which is coming out in six months he’s doing it like the way we drop software releases you know so he’s got um he’s got a a planned approach to developing software and developing products and you can have this release so you can wait for the next one um he’s not asking to pay him along the way to pay for his learning like tesla does yeah you know um but what’s really interesting about this is um you know if you look back you know mark you were talking about um historical analogies of things like communities online and of course we have the steam machine man of the prairies and and uh rossum’s universal robots uh you know we have a lot of uh history in respect to um you know these technologies but drones weren’t big in sci-fi um it’s one of those things that sci-fi sort of missed we do have uh some newer sci-fi um you know like neil stephenson and others that that dealt with it but you don’t hear of drones necessarily back in the 1940s 50s asimov type um you know era of the drones so um it’s interesting that such a ma you know because normally a lot of the cycle of development of tech comes from sci-fi right but there’s a reason for that right because the computers that they had at that time were the size of a building exactly incredibly expensive so the idea of a disposable computer was unthinkable right but then when you get to george lucas you’ve got droid wars right and now you can have uh you know kind of crappy cgi looking back at it today not a very convincing special effect but this idea of an army of tens of thousands of disposable robots right and now what we’re talking about is junk tech we’re talking about stuff the size of a shoe box you know that flies around and costs a couple thousand dollars yeah yeah designed for being disposable but you can imagine if you were on the deck of a cruiser or an aircraft carrier and there were literally thousands of these things blackening the sky and you were trying to take them down with whatever system you’ve got that would be quite frightening right that would be quite quite a scary scenario that’s the scenario that i wonder if the united states is preparing for you have to imagine that right now everybody in the world is watching what’s going on in the ukraine and taking some conclusions from it you know back in the civil war in the united states civil war in the 1860s uh military experts came over to observe and they came away unimpressed with the us army which is not such a bad uh assessment because u.s army wasn’t very well trained and we were basically just recruiting people and throwing them into the field and so they looked and they said these are you know not very well trained soldiers not a very professional military but they did notice things like the use of artillery which changed the battlefield completely the use of trains and telegraphs and that became material within five years you had the battle between the prussians and the french and it was all about train timetables because they took that away and was like wow we can move huge numbers of soldiers fast if we organize the trains properly so that was a big military improvement you have to wonder what’s going to happen with tactics now coming out of this ukraine war because quite obviously the idea of driving a bunch of tanks into a country that’s not really happening uh until they get some better defense systems yeah you know we are seeing um you know we we have seen a depiction of some of this in popular um film now like angel has fallen that um you know uh um gerard butler um film with um with morgan freeman in it where they have the drone attack on the president um you know overwhelming the secret service so but yeah you know it’s it’s pretty interesting to see um that um you know the conflict between russia and ukraine has not gone the way most people thought it would be would go um and um you know i mean here’s here’s my view as a futurist war you know is is is pretty unproductive as a mechanism for resolving issues but um when are we going to like evolve beyond warfare is sort of really my question yeah but i guess the thing that we we’ve all we we haven’t forgotten it because we never learned it but i think that the generation who has just passed away learned was that war is also an enormous technological accelerator right enormous right we remember the first the second world war began with a cavalry charge and it ended with a mushroom cloud right and so yeah you frame it like that now one of the things that i think we’re going to see out of this and we haven’t really talked about is that underneath and invisibly there’s an enormous amount of cyber warfare that is taking place on the battlefront between russia and ukraine we know that the nato allies are supporting ukraine in this effort which is one reason why ukraine systems haven’t been completely overwhelmed i know because i’m hearing it from palmer but really pretty much from everyone in the defense establishment that electronic countermeasures warfare is a huge area now and you’re talking about if we black in the sky with drones how do we knock those drones down without having to hit them with anything how do we either interrupt their communications or shoot an emp at them emps yeah that’s right and we know that they’re developing non-nuclear capacitively charged emps that can shoot a particular blast you probably read recently the russians now have this new satellite that’s just following an american defense satellite it’s basically just shadowing it and you know that thing has a way to kind of catch up and blow up and take out the u.s so basically they’re going to try to take out our eyes in the sky uh and at some point in the future they’re threatening to do it china has a similar approach they demonstrated a satellite killer uh so so yeah the one one big vector of attack now is going to be the electronic surveillance systems that govern all these robotic systems uh that and help us that could be a huge problem for us because um you know we could have sort of runaway space junk scenario in earth orbit making it almost impossible for us to leave earth all but for the castle syndrome exactly that’s that’s it yeah i forgot the name of it but which of course the film gravity was based on at the start but um yeah yeah which you’d yeah i’m obviously as a sci-fi guy i’m a space guy you know and i want to see us get to mars and i don’t want you know us to clutter up earth all but to a point where we can’t do that but i want to circle back to something that you mentioned a minute ago brett which i think is relevant here uh you know and actually something you said mark mark you talked about the irrational nature of warfare and brett you asked the question when are we going to evolve past it certainly in the united states if you’re paying attention to this war in the ukraine you think it is irrational it’s like what is this aging dictator thinks that he can just go push around another sovereign nation after having signed after having signed a treaty with them to defend them uh you know he’s setting all that aside and it just seems so arbitrary and self-defeating and stupid but bear in mind this is a resource war this is all about oil and gas and the donbass region which the russians have taken over and they’re going to defend fiercely that’s the one piece they’re not likely to want to give up anytime soon without a huge fight that’s the most oil rich area and it’s not really tapped it hasn’t been developed yet by the ukrainians and that’s by design um those oil reserves are extremely easy to access and if if the russians wanted to undercut if they’re sorry if the ukrainians wanted to undercut russia’s oil and energy business it’s quite possible that they could do it and they could supply the west and they could do it quite easily uh through uh direct lines to the west and that’s a big fear for russia and this is why are we even investing in oil anyway right like you know i mean i hear you i hear you but you know the world does run on oil right now so that’s right pharmaceuticals to tires um you know just a few years back people thought why is china being a big bully in tibet and why are they invading tibet and so on but tibet is the best water tower for china and there was simply no way they were going to let that water tower be dominated by any other country and so they went to seize it so one thing i start to wonder about is war zones of the future well you know the potential for resource wars um you know with climate change yeah it’s massive right what do you think mark i think we said i i am a resident of the most resource-rich nation in the world so that’s what i think about the only thing we don’t have is oil but we have the largest supplies of natural gas we have the second largest supply of lithium we have the second largest supply of uranium we have the largest solar silica yep right so we so australia is resource rich and i think this is one of the reasons why australia is it’s the lucky country we call it that but it’s also i think a slightly nervous country we we don’t want to be come an economic colony but that said our largest our largest trading partner for all of our resources is china yeah by a long margin yeah they say in australia you sell the country by the shovelful to the chinese well it was i can’t remember as it was a australian economist um commenting in um the the age newspaper he said australia is a third world country but it’s just gifted with all of these natural resources because without the natural resources you know what’s the basis of the economy right so when i say that as an australian this is like this is really present right now you know this summer uh just just this week actually uh california where i live southern california has to cut its uh use of the colorado river and that’s actually affecting nevada and arizona and other states as well that draw water from that the river is running dry last summer i was up on the missouri river up in the headlands where normally it would be rushing with snow melt but there was no snow to melt that summer and as a result you could walk across the missouri river which is a big wide river this summer we saw the rhine river the busiest river in the world with the most traffic the most industrial traffic it got to a point where some parts of the river were unpassable because there wasn’t enough water and the same is happening right now in the sun river in france and so this concept of resource wars driven by climate change but nevertheless resource wars water wars combine food scarcity eco-refugee it’s it’s going to be chaos i mean yeah let’s go back to that theory that history doesn’t repeat but it does rhyme the late bronze age collapse right 1180 bc which was effectively when there was a combined climate change and then all of basically all of the mediterranean civilizations imploded more or less simultaneously around that because there was should we get ready for sea people to see people with drones this time yeah actually i feel like that would be the foundation for very interesting hard science fiction novel about the 2040s or 2050s there’s one other aspect here too the freelancers that we talked about some of this technology so cheap that you can have non-government actors and i don’t know how well prepared the u.s or other big places are for um drone attacks by terrorists inside their own countries i have to assume that there’s a plan for this although i don’t really have any evidence to support that conclusion you know countries that are threatened by terrorism they’re clearly sensitive to the idea i just don’t know what drone counter measures exist you know what can you do to stop a drone from flying into a football stadium i mean the easiest way is to just stop the radio signal you know have a jam jam radio signals but of course you know people can work around that they could use the cell networks yeah you could stop cell networks yeah you’d have to have a range of uh of those those um capabilities um but of course you know you don’t want everyone’s mobile phones to stop working as well i guess the point i’m making is it’s an asymmetrical threat that’s very hard to calculate and complicates the scenario planning where in the past you can kind of size up your opponent even if you didn’t know that much about them you knew what they were capable of you knew what resources they had and you knew which terrestrial vector of attack they were likely to choose now threats can come from all over and they might not come from a a specific country or even a named well you know particularly when you start thinking about ai as well in the mix of this you know um you know we do know that um you know particularly in the banking space today that uh you know criminals um you know particularly in places like ukraine eastern europe and so forth um north korea these guys are making use of artificial intelligence in fields like money laundering at a far greater pace than the banking system itself yeah okay let’s pull us out of this nose dive because we gotta wrap up we’re gonna get we gotta get optimistic again come on can’t go out on this note mark what gets you stoked about the future we’ve talked about the scary stuff over the next 30 years you know what inspires you what excites you about the opportunities next 30 to 50 years so look i think for all of the fact that it looks very hard from where we’re standing the transition to a renewable economy is now well and truly underway and it’s only going to accelerate and it’s clearly accelerating finally i think you know the numbers were so small at the beginning it didn’t look like that acceleration was in place it’s been interesting talking to people who think about this full time so saul griffith is an australian academic who’s done a lot of work in america and in australia studying transition and you know he said in a public talk that he gave a couple months ago he was talking to the biden administration and the bite administration came to him and said basically what can we do to get every european a heat exchanger right a heat pump so that they could stop using russian gas to heat their homes and it’s like well you could do it if you could manufacture them you’ll have to go talk to the koreans and i think they’ll be hard pressed and so we’re learning about what we need to do to manufacture this transition but we’re also learning that there’s a lot of pieces that we still need along the way now everyone looks at those and goes oh my god there’s problems i’m looking at those and going oh my god those are opportunity opportunities here and so it feels like part of our job as futurists is to help tweak people to seeing the opportunities in the transit exactly rather than just seeing all of the roadblocks to it you know brett to your point earlier about the the tremendous costs uh you know and the this kind of crazy addiction to oil that we have

if we are able to convey to people that the cost of of transitioning to renewable energy is far less than the cost of maintaining this fragile global supply chain of shipping and shipping tankers of oil all over the world this is why we have strategic errors well we’ve got mez ramez now i’m coming on in a few weeks i’m sure we’ll get into into that with mez you know and um you know but um i you know the the the stat that i use um is that in the united states today it is cheaper to deploy a new solar farm than keep an existing coal plant running that’s that’s the the stat that i use today but um you know um in in just five years time um you know like that that’s even that’s going to be out of date well we’ll stay tuned for that hey mark pesci what a great pleasure to have you on the show thank you so very much for getting up early in australia to join us on the futurists how can people mark how can people find out about the new podcast about the book um you know and about what you’re uh what you’re talking about so my personal website is and in fact if people visit that they will be able to have a play with that very first vrml browser that tony and i created because i found the code for it last year sitting on a server and because nothing ever stops working in windows it still runs and then if people want to listen to the podcast that’s at or just open up your favorite podcasting app and search for the next billion seconds awesome fantastic well thanks for joining us and uh we really appreciate it and um you know i i feel like we should have you back on to dive into some more of the metaverse stuff as well in in the future as as that sort of unfolds but uh stay stay well and stay healthy down in sydney thank you and my pleasure uh so that’s it for the futurist this week if you’re a fan make sure you leave us a five star review and wherever it is you download the cast uh you know push it out on social media invite your friends to listen to it all of that helps us uh get some traction which of course helps us find sponsors then to pay for the production of the show which keeps the content going so um you know and uh you know above all um you know tell us what you want out of the show tell us who you’d like us to interview next we’ve got some great guests coming up um some new sci-fi authors that we’ve already booked for this as i said ramez naam and and others are coming on the show in the future so stay tuned for that content but one thing is for certain the future is coming and we’ll be here next week and we’ll see you in the future in the future well that’s it for the futurists this week if you like the show we sure hope you did please subscribe and share it with people in your community and don’t forget to leave us a five star review that really helps other people find the show and you can ping us anytime on instagram and twitter at futurist podcast for the folks that you’d like to see on the show or the questions you’d like us to ask thanks for joining and as always we’ll see you in the future

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