Start at the Start
with Robert Tercek & Brett King
Start at the Start
with Brett King and Robert Tercek
Episode 1: In this first episode of the Futurists we meet our hosts Brett king and Robert Tercek. We get right into why we created the podcast and why forecasting the future has never been more critical than it is today. As we launch this new podcast our intent is to seek out the world’s foremost thinkers, experts and visionaries building the future of tomorrow. Follow @BrettKing & @Superplex – 25th March 2022
Start at the Start
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Snow Crash is a science fiction novel by the American writer Neal Stephenson, published in 1992 that predicted the ‘metaverse’.
The Three Laws of Robotics are a set of rules devised by science fiction author Isaac Asimov introduced in his 1942 short story “Runaround” and included in the 1950 collection I, Robot.
- First Law- A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
- Second Law – A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
- Third Law – A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order is a 2018 non-fiction book by Kai-Fu Lee, an Artificial Intelligence (AI) pioneer, China expert and venture capitalist. Lee previously held executive positions at Apple, then SGI, Microsoft, and Google before creating his own company, Sinovation Ventures.
David Brin is an American scientist and author of science fiction & non fiction books He has won numerous Awards. His novel The Postman was adapted into a film starring Kevin Costner. Much of Brin’s work outside the Uplift series focuses on the impact on human society of technology.
Kim Stanley Robinson award winning bestselling author of science fiction has published twenty-two novelsMany of his novels and stories have ecological, cultural, and political themes. Robinson is “generally acknowledged as one of the greatest living science-fiction writers.”
Ramez Naam is a technologist and science fiction writer. He is best known as the author of the Nexus Trilogy. He is currently co-chair for energy and the environment at Singularity University.
Leonardo da Vinci drew his design for an “aerial screw” in the late 1480s, the pen-and-ink sketch outlines an idea for a flying machine similar to a modern helicopter,
Jules Verne novelist, poet, playwright, and, as it turns out, seer. Often described as the “father of science fiction,” Verne accurately predicted the invention of many things including submarines, fax machines.
H.G. Wells the author predicted, and inspired, inventions from the laser to email.
Arthur C Clarke science-fiction writer, science writer, futurist, inventor & undersea explorer, is a contender for best futurists ever. See The big hits and the misses from his eccentric and influential predictions
William Gibson the fiction writer and essayist widely credited with pioneering the science fiction subgenre known as cyberpunk. Read more on his visionary influence and prescience.
01:02 – What is The Futurists Podcast mission
02:52 – What areas of forecasting has Robert Tercel worked in 05:09 – What type of guests will be on the show
08:33 – Forecasting the future its not just about technology 09:04 – 4 key factors to consider when forecasting #1 resources 09:32 – Key forecasting factor #2 Population
12:19 – Key forecasting factor #3 Technology
12:42 – Key forecasting factor #4 Governance
21:24 – The building blocks of 21st century economies
22:43 – A science-based outlook on the future
27:02 – our mission on the futurist is to cut through all the noise 29:23 – An abiding love for science fiction, our favourite authors 33:58 – The hits and misses of forecasting
37:46 – How do SciFi authors & futurist arrive at their predictions
47:26 – We will drill into futurists views of the short, medium and long term
53:47 – Who are the Futurists our listeners would like to see on the show
this week on the futurists what we’re not very good at is examining the ideology that governs the us as well and there’s a lot of mythology here about the us being number one in various categories where we clearly are no longer number one in those categories but we still persist in the belief that we are science remains the best tool that we have for sorting out right theories from incorrect theories however our acceptance of science and political discourse in the united states has waned pretty substantially.
this week on the futurists you get to meet the two futurists behind the futurist i’m brett king and joining me is robert turcheck hi brett it’s great to be here how you doing man great so um this is our first episode of a brand new podcast you and i have been doing podcasting for a decade now in various forms and we decided to come together and do our own thing but with a specific purpose um and you know the name says it all we wanted to really bring attention to some of the leading thinkers the futurists that are changing the world that are envisaging a different world for us and so um welcome robert excited to do this with you you know over the last 10 years you and i have been talking about from time to time we talk about the super interesting people that we come across that we encounter in our world travels in our work uh in our projects we’re coming across people who not only have an idea about how the future might unfold they actually are doing something to make it happen so i think when i when i talk about a futurist when i think about that word futurists i’m not really thinking about someone who’s gazing into a crystal ball i don’t actually believe you can make accurate predictions about the future i don’t think that’s something humans can do but i do think that people can make accurate theories and one of the exciting kind of things about the time that we live in right now is that many of us have the opportunity to exercise some influence on how events unfold so if you have a clear vision and you’ve got even the slightest opportunity to influence the outcome it’s a great time to be alive right now because you can shape the future you can actually bring the future of your dreams or your visions you can bring it into reality and we know people who are doing that and that’s one of the exciting things about this podcast is that we’re going to reach out to those people and ask them how they did it i agree and you know there’s a lot of debate about you know what is a futurist or who are futurists and you know who owns that tag you know so we want to bring a bit of order to the chaos in respect to that so if you know if someone’s coming on our show you know that they’ve got a track record of forecasting you know they’ve got a track record of you know changing the world in a way that’s meaningful from our perspective i think that’s uh that’s it let me ask you this robert um yeah you say you can’t make predictions but what have you predicted in the past or what have you forecasted in the past that you got right well you know some of the things that i’ve worked on projects that i’ve worked on uh have involved launching services that simply didn’t exist you know so before i get started with them that type of medium or that type of entertainment or that type of content delivery did not exist so my career has mostly been in the media field and among the things i’ve launched are some of the very first games and computers some of the very first multiplayer games on the web some of the earliest mobile games in the united states the very first video on mobile phones and so in each of those cases you might you know people might be listening saying okay that’s a lot of techy stuff that’s a lot of media stuff but let me assure you that every one of those projects before we launched it some expert somewhere would come forth and tell us exactly why it wouldn’t work why it was impossible and it would never happen and my take is never is a very long time brett you know when someone tells you it’s never going to happen i always think to myself wow that’s a long time to say something won’t happen because if just one element changes you know if one one negative factor switches and becomes true then all of a sudden the whole avenue of possibility opens up and so what i’ve noticed is that um every time i get organized to launch a new service that doesn’t exist there’s always someone telling me exactly why it’s not going to work and we tend to ignore that person and continue to just carry on with the project and while they’re telling us it won’t work we launched the thing today the services i mentioned are now used by hundreds of millions of people every single day and so it’s a great joy to me to see that you one person in their own lifetime can have the experience of launching something that never existed before now of course at this stage that type of innovation has expanded outside of media and internet to touch just about every industry and so if someone’s listening and they’ve got imagination they’ve got an idea and they they have a vision for how things could be done differently what we want you to know is that it’s possible to make that reality it truly is possible to bring it to fruition so this is not a show that’s about you know just pitching some forecast some vision some some fuzzy notion about what might be in the future i think what we’re going to try to do in this show is always peg it back to real world events yeah you know whether that’s actually doing it yourself we’ll certainly bring people on who are builders and designers and creators or whether it’s about influencing someone like an author who writes a really compelling vision of the future that inspires an entire generation to go out and build it you know for instance you and i both remember the neil stevenson book a snow crash and you know the concept of the universe in 1992 right so like back then we were all like yeah cool a virtual world that’ll be awesome and now quite literally an entire generation of tech geeks is trying to build the metaverse and so you know there’s a great example of someone who candidly is very skeptical about this undertaking right the author himself is like well i’m not sure this is actually such a great idea but he planted the seed and the seed took hold in the minds of an entire generation of techniques and now they’re actually going to go out and try to build the metaverse so that’s the kind of inspiring idea maybe it’s a cautionary tale that’s okay like let’s talk about those things these are super interesting topics for our time you know um isaac asimov is always one that comes to mind for me with the three laws of robotics even though the three laws of robotics may not be the laws that we end up with for around robotics the fact that he was thinking about that in what was the 1940s when when he came up with that that’s right um you know and and even the term robot was only like 25 years old at that time you know roboti from that checkplay rossums universal robots you know in in 1921 or whatever um you know it’s like well just imagine being able to take just this concept of a motorized human effectively and sort of play that out you know into into sort of understanding autonomy and how that would impact so um you know i think you know we’re going to talk about sci-fi authors in the second half of the show today but um you know there there are some people who’ve who um you know like neil stevenson and others who’ve made some incredible um you know or laid out the landscape for us even if you you know like the star trek thing with the communicator and all of that um but um these days the the time between ideation of a new idea and the ability to execute is definitely shortening right and so i think that’s true and also remember it’s so competitive now um if you have an idea chances are quite good that 10 other groups of people have the same idea and they may be in 10 different parts of the world and so you may have competitors you’ve never even heard of in a completely different corner of the world working on the same idea and mainly i would say if you suspect that might be true then you should also assume that some of those teams are hungrier than you and more driven than you and they sleep less hours every night than you do they got better funding they’re yeah that’s right and they’re they’re striving towards it well that’s the other thing that’s changed brett this is a gigantic factor is the amount of funding that’s available for new ideas innovative ideas even disruptive ideas the sheer amount of funding that’s available is breathtaking and the valuations at least last year you know in 2021 were astounding for a startup company with no visible means of support it’s just an idea just a vision just a technology path but you know listen we will certainly talk more about sci-fi and we will certainly talk about technology but one of the things i really want people to understand is that when we when it comes to forecasting uh the future or putting together a model for the future it’s not just about technology because too often those two ideas are are linked you know oh it’s a futurist and he’s talking about technology technology is a gigantic factor let’s not get that wrong of course it is but there are actually four factors that govern the future and if you’re going to make intelligent predictions reliable predictions or forecasts i would prefer the word forecast over prediction right um if you’re going to try to do that you really need to take into account all four factors and those four factors are first of all resources and that’s you know the earth the air the water the minerals this is limited to what we’ve got on this planet you know maybe in the future we’ll be mining asteroids or moving to mars or something else but at the moment what we’ve got to work with is what’s on this planet so that’s a finite resource doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a scarcity people often talk about you know resource shortages but that’s just a frame of mind it’s how we’re utilizing the resource and you know in a moment i’ll talk about other factors that govern how that’s done the second big factor is demography population um and this is factual right so we know about population and it doesn’t change that quickly so it’s quite easy to predict or forecast what’s going to happen with the population over the next 10 years because it just involves birth rates and you know survival rates and so forth but this is one that has changed pretty significantly over the last 15 years and you’d be surprised how many people miss this okay because we make assumptions about the place where we live you know like i live in california a lot of entrepreneurs in california and they make the blunder of assuming the rest of the world is like california and it’s like guys you got to get out there and travel you got to visit more places you know the one part of the world that’s going to grow fastest in terms of population in the next 10 years is sub-saharan africa and yet i work with tech companies every day that don’t have an office in sub-saharan africa or they’ll have an office in you know joburg or or cape town in south africa but they think that’s covering all of africa what they’re missing is that there’s 52 countries it’s a whole continent it’s the second biggest continent it’s a patchwork of different kinds of governments different kinds of people different tribes right now syria is going to be in the top five economies in the world in in 20s clearly on the path right there’ll be another billion people in africa by the end of by 2030 by the end of this decade and so to to anyone who’s listening if your plans for the future don’t include africa as a central focus you’re probably going to miss an opportunity flip it around if you get it right and you’re offering an app or a service or a new product or some other kind of innovation that works well you might just pick up another 100 million users it’s like getting in an elevator and riding to the top floor just the sheer force of demographic trends and by the way by the state same token every country in the northern hemisphere is essentially flat in terms of population growth yes they declined europe in decline peak china happened about five years ago their population isn’t isn’t growing as fast as it was the us only grows because yeah and and that’s the that’s a really key point is that um you know we’ve seen a pushback against immigration the last few years you know in europe because of the syrian civil war um you know and and generally from in terms of the populist movement but the reality is is these as the birth rates continue to shrink in um developed economies they’re going to have to really bring in talent they have to bring in immigration to keep the economies growing you know um the economies of social democracies require population and population and immigration in order to survive the only reason the united states population is not in decline is because of immigration it’s the one factor that keeps it growing a little bit but barely so so demographics is an important factor and again it seems quite obvious until you start to peel back the few layers of the onion and then you discover that it’s a complicating factor the third big factor is technology and we all know about technology it moves so quickly often it’s accelerating uh the accelerating technologies have a profound influence over future trajectories so it’s important to take that into account but it’s really when you start to combine these factors together that you get to the most interesting scenario planning opportunities and that brings me to the fourth factor which is governance and governance comes in two ways markets and government regulation right those are the two things essentially you know the ideal scenario is that you’ve got a freeish market i don’t think there’s ever really been a real free market ever but there’s a freeish market free enough to enable innovation and enable entrepreneurs to do novel combinations of resources and demographics and and technologies in order to create something new and then the role the government is to be kind of an umpire uh to kind of like make sure that the game is played fairly to make sure that there are no um there’s no fraud and so forth yeah so for instance an example i use there is um given all the activity with nfts uh non-fungible tokens in the past two years we’ve seen tremendous growth there but there is effectively no regulation that’s governing it and no surprise there’s a ton of fraud you know so by some estimates 80 of the tokens for sale on openc right now are fraudulent they’re either ripped off or copyright infringement or there’s some other measure of fraud attached to them so you need both in the governance field do you need the free market you need that uh that way to channel entrepreneurial energy towards economic return and reward but you also need some kind of umpire there to make sure that it’s a fair game so it’s those four factors together that help shape the future and if you study those four factors then you can start to formulate i think a credible hypothesis which i would call a forecast the next step is then to turn it into a story and this brings us to science fiction uh because you know scenario planners tell stories but candidly they’re quite boring the stories that they tell the scenario planning stories are fact-based you know they’re very serious you see these kind of things from places like the world economic forum they’re hard to read candidly because they’re quite dull they might be very accurate forecasts the people who make the interesting forecasts are science fiction authors so after the break let’s talk about that yeah yeah now on the governance side um you know there’s some interesting evidence emerging of different regulatory environments you know you have had obviously some big changes in terms of governance you know you’ve got the european uh union which has created sort of centralized governance there there’s some debate over whether that’s been effective but it has created standards that are um you know broadly accepted but one more recent example of um you know sort of a softer touch on a regulatory side is what china’s done with the tech side and you’ve seen incredible growth there in technologies like the mobile wallets there and now they’re launching the central bank digital currency at the olympics the first nation to to launch in over 35 million mobile wallets already downloaded there um so but if you if you look at the environment compared with say the us or the uk around fintech you know an area that i’ve studied significantly one of the reasons china is now so far ahead of the united states in respect to sort of core fintech growth is that lighter touch of regulation and so it’s interesting you say it’s a lighter touch because what i’ve heard is that in the past year the president oh it’s changed taking a very heavy hand approach oh so tell me about that well you know i mean that because it was so successful and so disruptive um you know to give you an idea um you know in 2020 um in terms of plastic cards used around the world credit cards debit cards you know gift cards etc we totaled about 35 trillion dollars of payments globally for all of the plastic cards in the world but in 2020 the two mobile wallets in china alipay and 10 cent wechat pay did 52 trillion dollars of mobile payments so that’s three times china’s gdp and it’s almost twice what the rest of the world did with plastic card payments um and jack mars uh business alipay or actually called ant group is the parent company of the mobile wallet and they have a they have a bunch of different businesses underneath that and um was set to ipo in china in um october of
2020 i think if i’m if i’m correct october november 2020 they were set to ipo the breaks were put on that after jack ma made negative comments about how slow the banking industry was and how far ahead ant was right and that was deemed to be unpatriotic that he was criticizing the existing system he was to some extent right um about that but at the same time alipay had been so dis the alipay intensive wechat pay had been so disruptive to the traditional model of banking you know think about just the fact that um you know pre these mobile wallets 98 of retail transactions in china were done with cash right credit cards weren’t big their debit cards weren’t big um and now you’ve got um you know in in 2022 it’s going to be around 30 cash and so you know that that demonetization you know the removal of cash out of the system as a result of mobile wallets we’ve we’ve not seen that happen anywhere near as rapidly um you know anywhere anywhere else in the world so that’s okay so so what i’m hearing you say is that uh a governance model that allows for innovation can over a period of say 10 years lead to some transformative results and i think it’s true for particularly for listeners in the us or in europe who don’t travel to china we don’t get to see firsthand just how mobile first the chinese economy has and in many respects they’ve leapfrogged ahead of the united states and you know here in california where i’m based we tend to think of ourselves as always being at the leading edge of innovation and technology innovation um but but that’s not actually true anymore innovation happens everywhere and um in many respects uh our tech giants here in the us have stifled innovation uh so we get innovation with their pace yeah and we don’t see the flurry of new things that are happening in other parts of the world i hope that’s one of the things we can bring in no absolutely in fact i’d love to get kaifu leon let’s target him um you know because if if you’ve read his book on super powers you’ll understand how competitive china is and how that competition is sort of borne out some some incredible results there i mean um yeah i you know obviously china has to do some work on on pr uh in the rest of the world but the us’s view of china is is also not a realistic view there to some extent but i’d love to have a more global view of this and and you know having lived uh you know obviously i’m australian yeah i live in new york right now but i’m in the process of moving to thailand and i’ve lived in hong kong and i lived in dubai so i hope to be able to bring a bit of that sort of global network to this play as well robert yeah i agree i think that makes good sense and and like yourself i’ve lived and worked all over the world so i hope that we can do that bring a global perspective uh you know speaking of regulation and governance we should talk about the united states because there was a strategic decision made in the 1990s not to regulate the internet and the notion that that’s at the time was let’s not preemptively regulate this industry let’s let it grow and see what happens well that was a very smart idea i think it was very wise it’s also one of the few examples of government restraint that i’ve seen in my entire career yeah where they basically let this flower or the garden blossom but now the garden’s out of control and now there’s a big question of whether u.s regulators have the power to regulate these tech giants these companies that now exceed a trillion dollars in some cases two trillion in valuation uh maybe they’re too big to regulate so maybe we’ll come back and take a look at that regulatory lens as one aspect of governance as one of the main factors that that shapes the future because it’s certainly true if the new antitrust cases prevail it’s a really big if but if the new anti-trust cases prevail against companies like facebook and google and so on um then we might see some kind of breakup or some sort of change in governance and that would dramatically shape the future in a different way so it’s important to bear that in mind but at the moment at present it doesn’t look like uh government has many tools at its disposal to shape the trajectory of those companies i think one of the other things that we should definitely look at as well is you know as we’re looking for forecasting and we’re looking at the building blocks of 21st century economies we should be looking at the you know the preparedness of the economy in terms of pure skills stem skills science technology engineering math and the education behind that because it’s i think it’s no secret but the you know the education in this respect is slipping in the u.s right now in terms of education standards um and one of the really interesting um elements of of china’s emergence as the world’s number one economy you know over the next few years um for the for the world is that they’ve invested very heavily in sort of retooling their population for these technology skills artificial intelligence you know for every one phd stem graduate in the us china produces three at the moment so um you know i think that would be interesting to get into too is you know how do we prepare our um populace how do we prepare our systems that we have for the changes that are inevitably coming in the future it’s an interesting point it touches a related notion that i think is quite important it’s about a science-based outlook on the future and a mythological based outlook on the future or an ideological view of the future and while uh here in the united states we’re very quick to accuse other countries of being driven by authoritarianism and ideology what we’re not very good at is examining the ideology that governs the us as well and there’s a lot of mythology here about the us being number one in various categories where we clearly are no longer number one in those categories but we still persist in the in the belief that we are um and some belief about or some i guess misguided understanding of what education should consist of and whether we should be indoctrinating people or or teaching people uh you know science remains the best tool that we have for sorting out right theories from incorrect theories and uh that hasn’t changed well that’s unlikely to change however our acceptance of science and political discourse in the united states has waned pretty substantially to the point where experts uh scientific experts on a subject are often dismissed and sometimes rudely so this is problematic because it clouds people’s ability to think athletically about what’s coming next and prepare themselves for it and then what happens is you end up with an angry disappointed mob who feels like they were hoodwinked uh that’s very destabilizing particularly for democracy so i mean i think we’re getting evidence i think we’ve seen clear evidence of that with the pandemic um you know the the if you look at the science around mrna and what it’s enabling and gene therapy in general you know we’re talking about an mrna vaccine in trial now for hiv aids we are talking about gene therapy that potentially could eliminate diseases from the genome so these advances are going to be tremendously powerful over the next 20 to 30 years and you know when we look at mrna and you know whether you vaccinated or not um you know the fact that it’s sort of come of age after 30 years of investment in this technology and and now we’re we’re using that i think sometimes that’s lost that all of that hard work that’s been put into making sure the these these technologies work and you know after all mrna and in particular just just mimics the the our own immune system in in many respects but with a very significant difference right so so the the key takeaway in mrna is that it’s the it’s the brainchild of synthetic biology and the principle of synthetic biology is that we can start to program biology the same way we program a computer this is a bold concept and it’s not new it’s been around for more than a dozen years but these vaccines are one of the very first tangible results of it certainly on a planetary scale they’re the first encounter with synthetic biology products that most humans have had okay so that’s an amazing story about a breakthrough in science but if you look at the political discourse around the pandemic in the united states what you’re hearing is a narrative that doesn’t even touch on any of that amazing stuff instead you hear mythology like oh they’re implanting a chip inside of us and and this is just so absurdly incorrect first of all what kind of chip are you talking about how’s it gonna be kind of wireless chip is there a wireless part show me where the radio part is does it have software is there a microprocessor in this chip what’s the energy source for that chip so what we’re hearing is mythology from people who have absolutely no idea how the technologies they’re referring to work it’s ignorance piled on top of mythology piled on top of disinformation campaigns this actually clouds our ability to make intelligent forecasts and to make smart decisions about how to prepare for the future right and what people should know is from outside the united states people in other countries are looking at us and saying what a shame it was the most technologically advanced society and now it’s a society awash in fake mythology not even like genuine mythology that arises from you so the the population or tribal conviction or some historical lore its mythology has been generated by paid hacks and pushed out through social media well these things too are trends that we’re going to have to cover because part of our message part of our mission in the show the futurist is to cut through all the noise and find the signal and brett i would suggest that today there’s a lot more noise in every channel than there ever has been historically people are publishing more and more content and the ratio of bad stuff to good it remains 90 to 10. our job to find that 10 find the people who are talking about their 10 and applying it to something so if you’re if you’re listening to this podcast then i want to give you the commitment from robert and i um and that is that you know we are going to curate um the most credible people on the planet at getting the future right you know in terms of understanding the sort of changes we we’re going to have to make helping us understand how to forecast better um and understanding you know what impact that’s going to have on the daily lives of individuals like ourselves and that’s um you know what we make the commitment to do but uh we’re just gonna take a quick break and we’ll be back right after this break to talk about how science fiction has influenced uh futurism
welcome 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
well welcome back to the futurists this is the show where we take a look at all the trends that are going to shape our future and talk to the folks who are thinking the hardest about that developing the scenarios around the future and in many cases inventing the future i’m rob terczyk and i’m joined here by brett king and the two of us together are going to interview folks who are helping us understand the future and prepare for it so welcome back to the futurists and you know brett one of the things we both share in common is an abiding love for science fiction i admit it i’m an unabashed fan of science fiction i’ve been reading it my entire life i think it’s fun i think it’s inspiring i love the visions that are spelled out and now weirdly at this stage in life i’m actually able to see some of those scenarios are actually coming to play out right absolutely you know famously um you know famously like we talked about in the beginning to show that uh the the prediction of the metaverse you know for better or for worse i think that was really a warning mostly neil stephenson was warning us about this totally virtual world and some of the pitfalls there of an ai driven corporation and so on and weirdly now some folks have embraced that as kind of a manifesto and now they’re seeking to go out and build it um that’s not the only example and there’ll be many others bret tell us about some of the sci-fi authors that you’ve got lined up well we’ve got kevin j anderson on our show next week talking about the june universe we’re going to be talking to david brin about the evolution of humanity and you know in terms of sociological and ethnographic growth he writes about societies 10 000 years in the future i want to have kim stanley robinson on stan is um you know probably the top sci-fi author in the climate space right now he just wrote the ministry of the future if you haven’t read it i strongly recommend it um and you know we’re going to have ramez nam from singularity uh he’s going to be talking about any person right he’s a great illustration of the kind of person who does write science fiction it’s very compelling but he also writes he’s a practitioner as well extraordinarily good and then yeah he puts his ideas into action particularly in the energy field where he has deep expertise so good good illustration of the kind of person we’re thinking of when we use the term futurist yeah and i think that’s um you know like science fiction is a great landscape for helping us envision the future and you know you when you look at things like the star trek communicator and you know its influence on the motorola flip phone design and things like that you know those connections have been made before but um it’s like well you know think about jules verne fax machines hell you know uh leonardo da vinci helicopters uh you know jules verne facts machine submarines you know et cetera um yeah they they were logical schools of thought of course um some of the predictions or forecasts that were made in in the past by science fiction authors also you know ended up being um way off off base um you know like uh you know um it went before email existed if you you talked about the future of communication um you know you would have had uh maybe concepts of um electronic fax machines and things like that and how they would extend drones is one of those areas that not a lot of people not a lot of science fiction authors got right you know but robots is one where they do get it right right exactly yeah some some of the things are physically impossible so like a matter transporter for instance where there’s no there’s no physics today to support that concept um some of the energy drives that are proposed for starships also uh but like i said earlier in the previous part never say never exactly because for every madcap idea that people have dismissed as outlandish and impossible there’s somebody somewhere who’s working on it right now the example i’d use is flying cars and for a million good reasons flying cars are highly unlikely but notice i’m not saying they’re not going to happen because there are plenty of people who are committed to bringing flying cars and as it turns out vertical takeoff uh aircraft like small short distance vertical takeoff aircraft had kind of a boom last year because most of the major airlines are now making investments they’re viewing that as kind of like the last hop from the airport to the final destination at least for first-class passengers who don’t want to get stuck in traffic and of course if you’ve been to a city like sao paulo and brazil where you know anyone who can afford it is jumping on a helicopter to go to the airport because they don’t want to deal with grinding through traffic you can actually imagine a use case for it now is it feasible affordable for a million reasons it’s still unlikely however the balance got shifted a little bit towards more plausible last year because now the big airlines see that this could actually greatly enhance their service and so i think here what we can do is get inspiration from the sci-fi authors we certainly want to understand their methodology for forecasting to the extent that they have a methodology but also let’s talk about the hits and misses it’s okay to talk about it you know like i think if you’re going to make forecasts you have to embrace the notion that some of the scenarios that you talk about are not going to happen i feel like if you’re even 50 right in this field you’re doing fantastically well because so many factors are at play you know when i spoke about those four four forces what’s important to understand is the four forces interact with each other and that makes for very unpredictable situations you know so it’s not just the resources and the people and the markets and the government regulations and so on it’s that those things have an interplay and it’s hard to predict how populations are going to affect government decisions you know for instance or you know so so mass outcry against gigantic technology monopolies might override the free market instinct that allows those monopolies to exist in the first place that might play out we’re going to see that battle happen so what happens with science fiction is that they make an entertaining narrative they convey a world they describe a world in words in such a compelling way that we can imaginatively project ourselves into it and when we do as soon as we do that you can start to envision possibilities and some of the people who do it are going to start to conjure up like they’ll work their way back and say hey that’s a cool scenario to get there what’s an intermediary must be true yeah what are all the things what are the types of technologies that need to advance to make this possible um that is working on them you know is there material science we need to change to be able to make this possible you know etc yeah so when you look at someone like elon musk is the best case example i think of this right now it’s his mission is to get people on mars now we can differ about whether that’s a big mission a viable mission a necessary mission and so forth but that’s what well you know you’re gonna hear through the life of this podcast i’m a fan of of the mars mission um i think it i think you know one of one of the things i agree with on with the elon on this is is j and we’d love to have him on the show at a later date as well but um is the issues of humanity in terms of the big picture stuff you know yeah we’ve got problems we have to solve and things like that but humanity needs a reason you know we we need to we need things driving us forward to thrive to push us to expand our horizons to expand our intellect and you need those big goals look at the apollo project or the human genome project you know and these these types of projects that bring people together um you know on these massive moon shots and leaps in terms of technology in both cases the reigning experts at the time said that they would never happen if you look at the beginning of the human genome project there was tons of skepticism at the time and the same of course is famously true for the apollo mission where experts are like that’s not going to work it’ll never happen so it’s not just inspiration it’s a rallying cry and that rally and cry can bring together the political will the scientific vision the grunt work you know that the sheer hard effort to make it possible and the economic support the resources could be made made available to fund it that’s a really big deal so so for those who are listening to the show who are not themselves going to be starting a company or they’re not technologists but still aren’t inspired by the future visions of the future you can make a great big difference just by telling a compelling narrative that narrative becomes a rallying cry or a banner around which a group of people can organize and they share that vision because you’ve told such a compelling tell you’ve kind of enchanted them they all believe it and the difference or i guess the gap between belief and action is getting very very narrow yeah and it’d be interesting to actually look at some of those things that have happened in the past in terms of science fiction authors and things like that where they have got it right is you know what is the process that they went through to do that you know like to make those those guests um like h.g wells you know like how did he arrive at his his visions of the future it’d be quite interesting you know certainly one author we should consider is arthur c clarke because he famously predicted the the advent of telecommunications satellites right spelled out exactly how they would work satellites are called clock orbit yeah he was 100 right uh so there are many many examples of that and um i find it inspiring and fun and hopefully that’ll add another element of storytelling to this program you mentioned neil stevenson um you know william gibson’s another one which is he’s interesting you know i love his quote as the future’s already here it’s just not evenly distributed yet which is you know another great thing to look at when you’re looking at at futurists in general is that um you know they’re working to close the gap between um you know what what’s possible and and what’s available um but um apart from neil stevenson what other science fiction authors have influenced you in terms of really have sort of captured your imagination well as a as a boy growing up in the midwest i was inspired by ray bradbury because his stories are perfectly calibrated for a 10 year old boy in ohio or illinois and so that that was an author i was very inspired but i also loved robert heinlein uh enjoyed his books very much uh i think stranger in a strange land is it was profoundly impactful on me at the time um i liked andre norton i mean the list goes on and on and on but i i’m also um i’m very fond of pulp fiction authors in general and uh you know authors like philip k dick have right you know influence so many people in los angeles in the entertainment industry with a compelling vision of you know kind of a dystopian future or dysfunctional very near future and so many of his stories have been turned into films and then again those films end up having a profound impact on the way people perceive the world what they’re moving towards so all of those authors and i think we should probably include science fiction films uh as another aspect because you know think of star wars today look star wars is just an application of that classic heroes journey uh thing that was developed a theory that was developed by joe campbell but a very compelling application of it and a very convincing application you know very fanciful and vivid imagination of what the future might look like today we mostly use star wars as a kind of metaphor the way perhaps a previous generation would use like a religious metaphor or something you know they would use some uh archetype from their own mythology in a way star wars is modern mythology and so it’s a reference point so when we talk about you know big tech companies facing off against feisty decentralized startup companies you’ll invoke the metaphor of the empire you know and the death star against the rebel alliance because everybody knows what you’re talking about so it’s a kind of a conceptual shorthand that makes it quite easy to convey a concept and frame an idea there’s real utility to that i mean this is not just fun and games this is actually efficient for people i actually um i heard a really good opinion piece so read a good opinion piece on why so much sci-fi has been dystopian in the past from a movie and tv series perspective you might have heard this as well is that a lot of it comes down to the production cost is that building a utopian universe is a lot more expensive from a sci-fi uh movie production than it is uh building a dystopian buildings that are yeah exactly and you bring the windows around so you can you can degrade the existing world easily also we see that happening in our day-to-day lives right so entropy is a factor in every city in the world so we experience it it seems very credible to us that these places are going to kind of disintegrate and go away or fall apart over time what’s very very difficult is to design a new world from scratch that is holistic in the sense that it has an economic logic to it and it has a rationale to it and it has a you know a political concept and so forth so on that note uh what we might want to do for this show is bring in world builders and i’m fortunate to know several of those folks as well uh world builders like the team that designed a minority report that spielberg film starring tom cruise that again said such a profound impact on how we think about the future there they actually had an economic team an advertising team a commerce team a social team to design scenarios for that world of future and they had to govern it so that all those scenarios plugged in together into sort of a coherent hole and so if you haven’t looked at a minority report in a while i i’d recommend you go back and take a look at the film’s like 20 years old but even just really well they they use iris recognition for commerce and transport and personalized advertising inside right right um and it’s not like that stuff is really in front of you too much it’s kind of just woven into the narrative and occasionally it moves the plot point ahead you know um and now we have traditional recognition in places like china which um you know it it obviously significantly ahead there are about 600 federal databases in the us of course with facial recognition technology being used now but um you know the this is a logical transition in respect to what we think of um around digital identity for the 21st century um you know and so um you know we are starting to grapple with that we’re finding that you know physical identity your your passport or your driver’s license that those uh credentials can be sort of easily stolen in the current world and we’re looking for better better analogies so you know if you you start it’s probably not going to be iris recognition but it probably will be device-based and facial recognition and yeah there’ll be some sort of biometric thing you know usually they say the best security is something you know and something you have so your body your biometrics is
so i think you’re right about that and certainly the future of identity is a gigantic topic and that’s one that we will certainly cover on this show in fact i had a very interesting conversation just two days ago that i wanted to share with you because this is a person i’d very much like to bring on the show um we were talking about identity that you can transfer from one metaverse to another right so the principle here is that as much as there’s a lot of hoopla right now about meta or facebook’s version of the metaverse we know very well that there’ll be hundreds of other companies launching their own versions and many of them will be platforms that allow people to create yeah another version so you can imagine millions of metaverses are quite is a quite likey scenario over the course of the next decade and the big question is then well what kind of credentials do i bring from one metaverse to another how do i teleport from one of those worlds to another world do i have to go through the process of setting up my avatar registering accounts or is there going to be some sort of you know universal transferable credential now my instinct was sure because people are going to want that and that’ll be efficient and it’ll be better and faster and easier so it seems quite obvious that we’re going to need some sort of transferable digital identity credential well as it turns out um people who are working are like no actually nobody wants that so we’ll bookmark that idea for a future time but this is and the whole we we should definitely get into decentralized versus centralized governance but we you know in terms of the metaverse it’s definitely right we got to bring the weed whacker out for that subject decentralized versus centralized because there’s so much noise there and that’s in that space but but i think this idea is uh illustrational point you can have a decent hypothesis you can have a good theory about what’s going to happen and then when you actually talk to the people who are working on that particular area it turns out that theory doesn’t hold water and i’m okay with being wrong because if i’m wrong it means i’m getting smarter somebody else is going to correct me uh so we’d certainly welcome that i think well that’s it for the people great objective isn’t it is is um you know if you want to get smarter then listen to the futurists because we’re going to have people that are going to make you smarter um all of us could do that with that but um i do think for people who are listening if there’s a if there’s a sci-fi author that you’re keen on or if there is a particular subject matter that you want to learn more about or if there’s a question that you’ve got about the future or even about the methodology you know how how might i become a better forecaster certainly send those to us because we want to hear from you we want to design the show for you those are the kinds of questions that we’re curious about so you can count on us to go find the answers absolutely and uh you know on that uh message or on that theme you know one of the things we want to try and do is bring some structure to this conversation and so on the futurist website you’re going to see not only uh interviews from the futurists that we are profiling but also their subject matter areas so you know whether that is climate you know engineering or specific technologies like artificial intelligence gene therapy longevity science you know whatever that field is we want to sort of create a library of content around those specific domains as well so if there’s a domain you’re interested in specifically in terms of technology that’s developing that area also please let us know because that’s uh one of the ways we want to think about this um you know i ideally if we take sort of the top 10 or 15 or 16 sort of categories of things that we we want to look at in the in the future you know we can have a view of sort of the short term future a medium term and long term so that’s something else we sort of also want to look at when it gets into the futurists you’re going to hear at the end of each episode when we’re speaking to the futurist all right give us your 10-year 20-year estimate your 50-year estimate and your 100-year estimate in terms of what’s going to happen here now as robert rightly said this is not necessarily going to be the art of prediction but we do hope that we can forecast some of these macro changes and if we get enough of these futurists together build some really interesting sort of visions of what that future is going to be like i think that’s right and i think the exercise of formulating a hypothesis even if it’s incorrect is a good skill to build it’s it’s it’s good athletic thinking um how do how can futurists help business people i guess you know like that’s going to be if you’re an entrepreneur how can a futurist or someone in that field help you expand on your business idea you know what steps can they you know can they give you a competitive advantage all of those times well you know it’s a very lively part of my business as a consultant this is a big piece of what um what i do for companies they ask me to come in and help them plan for the next 10 years and let me point out that 10 years is a long time 10 years is hard it’s not too difficult to develop a theory about what will happen over the next three years we can see pretty clearly a couple years out the third year gets a little bit harder five years is tough 10 years is almost impossible so so you end up with think of it as a cone of possibility an ever expanding cone of possibility and a series of if then statements so if these trends hold true then this might be possible complexity comes in when you start to intersect the trends together so if this trend intersects with another trend you know so for instance you know the the cost of processing power is dropping the amount of storage that we have available the bandwidth in the network increases uh the cost or the availability of this in different parts of the world to different populations becomes available you have to start to take all those things into account and the list goes on and on and on you start to see that this cone of possibility can expand in a lot of directions then what we do for scenario planning is um we start to develop narratives around some of those we say okay so if these five things are true or these ten elements are true what does it look like tell me about a day in the life tell me about how this would play out tell me how would someone find this product in that scenario brett the world is changing so fast right now in so many ways on so many fronts in the in the form of the fact that you know now five billion on this people on this planet are connected and have a super computer in their hands that gives them super powers and an instant access to all the world’s information that means they can make decisions in ways that they never could have even 15 years ago right so that’s a gigantic shift any company that’s trying to market or deliver services to those people has to understand that it has to be in front of those people in the places where they are that’s just one element of the change right then you add into that the rapid technological progress that’s happening all the challenges around the world’s resources and climate and so forth and you can start to see that that road map gets awfully murky just even just the impact of ai on employment and society i know we’re going to talk about uh that uh in in greater detail as well but all of that makes uh you know that that’s all going to you know could take us off in very different directions for sure i’m sorry for sure and when we bring up ai and climate it’s always back to this dystopian view uh we very much frequently hear the dystopian side you know robots are going to steal your jobs robots are going to take over and so forth um i want to state for the record that i’m i’m an optimist i am a cautious optimist i’m a maybe a a careful or pessimistic optimist in the sense that i want to kick the tires pretty hard but i do believe in progress and i do have faith the conviction that people will figure out the right thing to do to make the right next move we might go through a lot of bad decisions before we get to the right one but eventually we’re gonna arrive at another outcome what is the future of humanity is is at the heart of all of this and uh you know aristotle i think said it best which is the the future or the purpose of humanity rather is to thrive and the only way we can really thrive is continue to make progress so that’s sort of at the heart of what this conversation is about how as a human species can we make a demonstrable progress is going to benefit everybody that’s going to improve the life of our grandchildren um our societies that we live in that is going to make us as a species better off than we are and and even though you know currently there’s plenty of news in the front page of every paper and magazine in the world that’s scary and dark and ominous it’s also worth noting that on the whole by most metrics live
and this is the greatest time in the world to ha to be alive that doesn’t mean it’s true for every single person of course not there’s always because you can take a instagram of your dinner plate you know i mean that’s right sure you get that and share it with two billion people instantly right so this is an important idea right because it’s about the dissemination of ideas and information fast uh earlier i made some dark comments about mythology and you know how we’re living in a time where people have disinformation that’s certainly true but bear in mind if you’re at all interested in getting to the facts they’re available you can get you can you can dig through or cut through all the hype and all the nonsense and all the noise and disinformation and get to the heart of the matter and increasingly it’s possible to reach the actual people who are figuring this stuff out that’s part of our job on this show and part of our purpose is to spread better information to spread awareness all over the world the faster we all get on the same page about prioritization and ethics shaping the future the faster we’re going to start to solve some of those dysfunctional or just dystopian scenarios i for one am excited to sign up for that mission well we’re both optimists and so i think that’s going to come out in um in the show so over the next coming weeks you’re going to hear interviews from some of the top futurists in the world um if if you have a favorite futurist or you have a topic as robert said let us know what that is about but certainly our job as hosts is to be positive and optimistic about the future and find those things that are really going to matter and make an impact on your future individually over the coming years and decades as well so um i guess that’s it for our first show today robert how do you feel i’m excited to do this with you brett i’ve been looking forward to getting started so i’m thrilled that we’re going for it this seems like a great new great new approach absolutely and uh we will see you 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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