John and Kevin sit down with futurist Brett King, author of ‘Breaking Banks’ and new title ‘Augmented’, for a conversation about how the next wave of AI and automation will vastly alter the white collar work force. What will ‘work’ look like in age of AI? Is Universal Basic Income the model that will allow for society’s smooth transition to this new world? Dive into the conversation and find out.
For more about Brett’s books, podcast, and speaking engagements, visit www.brettking.com
John: Hello everyone and welcome to this edition of Creative Futurism. I’m John Best.
Kevin: And I’m Kevin J. Anderson
Brett: And I’m Brett King.
John: Oh, and there’s Brett.
Kevin: Oh, he introduced himself. What a guy, good.
Brett: But everyone else was doing it so . .
John: I love it. Well that’s awesome. So, we’ll get right to it here. So this week we have the noted author, best-selling author, New York Times best-selling author, and author of Bank 4.0, author of Augmented, also the CEO of Moven. And a friend of mine, I’m glad to say. And this week we’re going to talk a little bit about sort of the future, his last book Augmented. We’re going to talk a little bit about techno-socialism and then we’re going to touch on Bank 4.0. So welcome Brett.
Brett: Thanks for having me back John. It’s always good fun.
John: Oh yeah, well I’m excited because we’ve got the other best-selling author with us,
Kevin J. Anderson. Who you’ve read his books, right? So-
John: Very, very cool. I hadn’t realized that when I invited you on the show. I just finished Clockwork Angels which was amazing. So, now we have you two geniuses on this show here. I just can’t wait to lop some things out there. So, let’s get right to it then. So, I’m going to lob out the first thing. So, in your book Augmented you kind of talked about how the technology cycles are continually getting faster and faster and how that’s changing the world around us. And you and I have discussed this on our show many times. But one of the points of this show is that people like Kevin inspire folks like you Brett who kind of make the future, right? I like to think of it as the Star Trek effect, right? You’re watching the old Star Trek movie, you see the communicators and suddenly we get the cellphone, right? And then we just recently had doctor doctor, is that how you say it? You have to put the two-
Kevin: -Doctor doctor, Yes, that’s how he likes to pronounce it.
John: Right, because he’s the only person ever to get two doctors at the same time. Two PhD’s at the same time. And one of his Xprize’s was the tri-quarter, right? And so, in your book Augmented those are the kinds of concepts that you bring together. So, why don’t you give us just a little background for the audience on Augmented. And then Kevin I’m sure has four million questions and we’ll just get rolling.
Brett: And so, I’m a frustrated sci-fi author myself, right? I haven’t written-I wrote a sci-fi novel and never published it. Augmented was my-was cathodic in that respect. But I read a ton of sci-fi. I think if I can be so bold in terms of Kevin’s stuff, The Saga of the Seven Suns to me was a great series, The Martian War. So, I’ve grown up reading his stuff. Arthur C. Clarke, David Brin who I mentioned I’m friends with, Greg Bear. I read a lot of this stuff and it really does fuel the creative juices in respect to what is possible. But the difference I guess in the sci-fi stuff, most of the sci-fi stuff is looking a lot further out. Whereas you try and take in inspiration from that and say what’s possible in the next 10-15 years based on the trends that we’re seeing right now developing? So, there’s a couple of clear trends obviously. The incorporation of personal assistance, voice based I.A., incorporation of mixed reality, these are some trends we can clearly see people investing a ton of money in, a lot of time in. But where sci-fi helps you round out a picture of where this is going is the story arcs of a lot of the science fiction stories put these technologies in place as sort of matured technologies. So, it really does help you visualize and come up with a way to sort of help you frame this in terms of its impact to society.
Kevin: Well of course what science fiction always does is we like the disruption part of the process too because that’s the fun part of the story. Our favorite phrase here is something went wrong. So you come up with this idea of what if people could telepathically communicate and how great that would be. But of course what people would really do is they would be sending obscene telepathic texts to each other.
Brett: And you’d have to have a software filter in your neural interface to block out a lot of stuff.
Kevin: Well I mean there’s all kinds of interesting things and right now our technology is so pervasive and is changing so quickly. I remember the old Arthur C. Clarke thing that initially advanced technology. And we’re getting so that Siri and pervasive A.I. in our life, we’re getting used to having these deities for lack of a better word, that these all knowledgeable-hey Siri, what’s the weather tomorrow in Gunninson Colorado? And boom it shows up. Or Alexa. And sometimes you have conversation where Alexa just participates without even being invited which is kind of surprising. I had something that I just-it went past me yesterday and then I started thinking about it and I thought, that’s really kind of creepy. And I’m doing a convention this weekend in Dallas. And I sent a Facebook message to a friend of mine and just said, ‘We’re going to be there, how about we get together for dinner on Saturday night?’ And then Facebook messenger at the bottom of it said, ‘Would you like me to set up a meeting? I can send a reminder to you and your friend an hour before the dinner.’ And I just went, ‘Oh, that’s convenient.’ And then I went, ‘That’s creepy. This thing’s reading my email and interpreting it and is responding to it.’ That was kind of strange.
Brett: I had a great one the other day of two people had met on an aircraft. They had never met before. They had no friends in common. And when they got off the aircraft Facebook was suggesting to each other that they friend this person.
Kevin: I mean again, as science fiction, what are thing is is to figure out how awful this can be and how people’s lives will be ruined. But I was at a panel once and we were talking about like augmented humans like with cyber chips in them. And you put the jack in the back of your skull like the neuro [INAUDIBLE] type of things. And everyone on the panel-I mean the conceit on the panel was this is scary stuff and computers are going to take over the human body. And I remember this one guy in the audience who was really getting upset. And he finally stood up and he said, ‘But why is that bad?’ And we kind of had to stop and think about it. Because I mean I rely on Siri for almost everything when I just ask for simple information. Remember, we used to have to go to the public library in the reference section to look up utterly trivial data points that we now just get without thinking. I still have an old-world book encyclopedia on a bookshelf somewhere.
Brett: Yeah, my dad keeps telling me he’s going to leave me his Encyclopedia Britannica.
John: Like as a token of his world?
Brett: Yes. But my kids have never had that experience of pulling an encyclopedia off the shelf to look at that information. They’re just used to going to Google. And now my youngest son is eight. He now knows how to talk to Alexa to get that information. So this is part of this inexorable shift that happens where as we get immersed in technology. Whether you call it in academic terms technology adoption diffusion or whatever. We actually get fairly used to these technology changes. So I think by the time that you can augment your brain with a neural interface for example to directly connect to the internet, right now we talk about it and it sounds pretty freaky but by the time that technology comes along then we will have adapted to that. Slowly we’ll have things for example that we can wear on our head that will enable us to control drones or interface with computer games. Or if you’re someone with a disability or paralyzed, you’ll be able to use your exo-suit with that sort of neural interface. And the next step, we’ve augmented our vision already. And so, when this stuff comes along it won’t seem as dramatic to us as it does today when we talk about that stuff. As we get more immersed and more technology becomes involved in our life, these things become less threatening and it becomes less of an issue.
John: You know, to make that point Brett I was thinking of something the other day. Remember when everybody was walking around with the Bluetooth things in their ears? And they all looked like cyborgs which I’m sure Kevin really enjoyed. He’s like, ‘My dreams are coming true. Everyone’s a cyborg.’ But that kind of prepared us for-I think to your point. It’s sort of this-you get desensitized I think is what you’re saying to these things. Plus on top of that, I think some of the problems are sort of worked out that would be the and something went wrong problems in the earlier stages of that. So for instance, I actually have been experimenting and I think you and I are probably onto the same device here with the device that you put onto your head that you can control a block, you can spin it with your mind, you can turn it around. I actually demonstrated some of that at XFI. And I’ve gotten it now to where I can think about my balances and I can get my balances back. But I have to wear this goofy thing on my head that if I walked around with it-and plus, I don’t know if you’ve been experimenting. You have to soak the whole thing in saline before it will work. Because it’s an EEG, right? So, I don’t think anybody’s going to be cool with me walking around with saline dripping off my head. But you’re saying we’ll overcome that because these things will get taken care of over time.
Brett: Yes, it’s just progressive immersion in this tech. So if you think about the technology we have today, just in reference to Kevin’s earlier quote from Arthur C. Clarke. If you went back to the 1900’s and pulled out a smartphone-well it wouldn’t work because there’s no cell towers. But you could play some saved videos on it and things like that. But people would think it was magic. And if you tried to explain the concept of how people live in society with these devices, they would think of it like science fiction. But today we just think that it’s normal. If you took the smartphone, like an average iPhone or a Samsung or a Galaxy back to 1990, we’re talking about in super computer terms a computer that’s worth 30 or 40 million dollars in processing power of that time. And yet we carry these things around in our pocket. And instead of being blown away by the fact that we’ve got a super computer in our pocket we’re taking selfies and updating our Facebook status.
John: Oh, and complaining about it. This darn thing. So are you saying that if I took my smartphone or my iPhone back to the 1800’s they’d make me their king?
John: That’s a book Kevin. That’s a book Kevin. You should write a book, this guy goes back in time with his smartphone, it’s Brett King, and they make him king. He has a cool British voice, he’ll do better as king.
Kevin: That was basically called a Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. It was written quite a while ago.
John: Oh darn it. My ideas are always taken.
Kevin: That’s the sort of thing, I mean we should be thinking about this because in our own lives things have changed so much it’s accelerating. But even back twenty years ago or when we were in high school, I remember the big debate of whether you could use calculators or not. Do either of you remember how to sit down with a piece of paper and do a long complicated long division problem? I don’t know how to do long division anymore. I did in fourth grade. But why would I have to do that anymore than I need to know how to make silk from scratch? But one of the things I’ll put on my [INAUDIBLE] on Arthur C. Clarke, the technophilic science fiction writers, that of the Michael Critons, that no matter what you invent something terrible is going to happen. All of this stuff frees the human being and the human mind from wasting time on piddly crap. I mean I don’t have to spend an hour doing long division. I can get the answer in a second and I can spend the rest of that hour doing something that only I as a human being can do rather than a machine. And I don’t have to spend hours in the reference section in the library to look up chemical names of nylon fibers or something like that. I can get that information instantly. And then as a scientist or as a futurist or something, I can spend all my time doing the cool imaginative stuff rather than the grunt work stuff. So, that’s great. But it also goes back to the let’s get robots to do all the work. And then oh horrors, robots will take away all of our jobs. And that seemed-ten or fifteen years ago when I was starting to reread Dune over and over again, a lot of the terrible thing is the machines taking over and they’ve overthrown them so that you don’t have to worry about machines disrupting people anymore. And that all seemed sort of a quaint 1960’s paranoia when robots were taking over assembly lines. And we forgot about it for a while. But now it seems to be coming around where oh wow, there’s A.I. and artificial manufacturing. And there’s even fast food jobs where there’s no people there. You walk up and you touch a touchscreen and your order goes. So, it’s almost come full circle where science fiction has predicted technology to do all of the busy work, the grunt work. But the problem is we have a lot of people that need to have jobs doing the busy work and the grunt work.
Brett: So, this is the ying and the yang of technology, isn’t it? We love to adopt technology. We love to absorb it as fast as Apple and these other guys can produce it. But there is that yang of it. And this is how I started off the book Augmented where I started talking about the luddites in England. Say you go back to 1812 and you see this massive disruption because of the sewing machine. And the malicious form of these displaced workers from textile factories going in and smashing up steam engines and killing factory owners. I mean there were more trips deployed in 1812 in Britain for stopping the luddites from destroying factories with steam engines than there were deployed a few years later protecting Britain from France. So you look at that and you say that was really disruptive technology. And then you come back and just a few years ago when Uber was at its height of disruption, you have taxi drivers in Paris and France pulling Uber drivers out of their car and setting their cars on fire. And you say, ‘In 200 years, we haven’t learned any better to deal with that level of technology disruption that happens in terms of the workforce.’ So when artificial intelligence starts to impact and automation impacts employment we’re not ready for it. Even though we know it’s inevitable based on those technology trends we’ve seen over the last 250 years. Because when you examine it and you examine all of those businesses that were effected by technology whether it was the internet, the telegraph disrupting the pony express, whatever the technology was. And you’ve got some guy sitting in an office going, ‘It’s not going to change our business.’ And inevitable it does.
John: So Kevin, your thoughts on how does society start to keep from doing the same thing over and over again where we don’t anticipate this? You hear this about the coal miners too, right? The idea that hey we’re moving to clean energy. But yet, we somehow miss the point that there’s that human element that they need. That these people can’t be displaced. How do we avoid that?
Kevin: I think the problem is we think of how efficient it will be when we have technology to do something. And that’s absolutely correct. But we don’t think about but what do you do with the people who really aren’t skilled or qualified to do anything other than the manual labor. And what do you do with them? And my very first novel, Resurrection, Inc. was a future where they basically figure out a way to jumpstart human dead bodies to be like bargain basement androids. You don’t have to build androids they’re just bodies. And they do all the ditch digging and panel toxic waste and all this stuff. And the guy who invents it is this idealistic person thinking, ‘I’m going to free the human race so that they don’t have to do this hard grunt work anymore. And then they’ll have all of this time to create art and music and literature and poetry. And then they’ll reach their human potential.’ And then he gets really jaded and pissed off when people don’t actually do that. They just sit around and complain. And I actually think that’s part of our human race. There are going to be some that if you free them to reach their potential that they will devote their energies to other things. But a lot of people will just grumble that they’ve got too much time on their hands and they’ve got nothing to do. And that’s a human nature thing and I don’t know how you solve that. Because coal miners-what do you do if the coal miners don’t have a job and you just pay all their bills? I don’t know. Some of them might.
Brett: This is where I find it really interesting Kevin, about the fact that in parallel to the whole automation thing in A.I. that’s going to disrupt a large portion of the work force in developed economies in particularly. Maybe even more so in developing economies like China. But if you look at that in parallel we see this interesting technology of VR. So people are going to be able to immerse themselves in virtual worlds in a couple of decades as robots are taking our jobs. So the ability for you to absorb yourself in this, particularly if you’ve got something like universal basic income, that may emerge as a construct to prevent social unrest when there’s higher unemployment. Then yeah, you could very well just sit in a VR induced coma, right?
John: Yeah, so back up to the income there. I want to get Kevin’s thoughts. I also want you were talking about there. So give us-you called it universal basic income I believe, right?
Brett: Okay, so one of the-and this comes back to in what I’m writing about in Technosocialism, if you look at the changes that are brought by high levels of automation. So in the United States various studies like the Oxford study have predicted that we-about 45% of U.S. jobs could be impacted by automation, right? So if you think about 45% unemployment, and that’s assuming we don’t create new jobs with artificial intelligence that could replace all of those, but let’s say 25% unemployment. That’s still unsustainably high levels of unemployment. So what do you do with those people? Well if you well that’s their responsibility to get a job then you risk having a whole lot of Arabs bring the type of events with social unrest. Because probably there are kids coming out of university with massive student’s loans that can’t get a job that are going to be effected by this. So, one way to combat that risk is to provide a universal basic income structure or a universal basic assets structure. Which basically provides them with a house, ongoing education, enough cash to get food to eat, and basic healthcare covered, right? And then on top of that if they want the new iPhone they’re going to have to go out and get a part-time job repairing robot pizza delivery drones or something.
Kevin: And where does the money come from for the universal basic income? Because the automation has made it so much more profitable that the industries are then taxed and that money goes to providing-
Brett: -This is the basic concept. And the big supporters of this actually tend to be guys in the technology field who are saying that-Mark Zuckerberg is a big proponent of this as is Eli Musk. And they’re saying, ‘We recognize that these technology companies are going to have to bear that.’ So, that’s either going to be provided as a social program provided by these technology leaders that have hundreds of billions of dollars of cash sitting in the bank. Or trillions potentially. Or it will be some sort of taxation built into the robot infrastructure. Robot tax and so forth. But again, there are questions politically. It would be unattainable right now in a country like the U.S. or in Australia or the U.K. But ultimately governments are going to have to make that decision. Do they provide some sort of infrastructure, a social net for those people affected by automation? Or do they try and combat the social unrest that comes with that? And I think the social cost of automation could be extremely high if we don’t have something like universal basic income. Which is why I think it will inevitably get there.
Kevin: Well even once you have automation and industries and it takes care of a lot of the basic work, anybody who works in like volunteerism or community service stuff knows that every city has an office with shelves and shelves full of binders with community projects that need to be done. Whether it’s being a docent at the library, whether it’s maintaining trails in the parks and all kinds of stuff. So there’s a lot of work that would still need to be done even if you have robots running the factories and the McDonald’s cashier counters. So if we are willing to say, ‘Everybody gets the universal basic income but they are required to do one day a week of community service,’ that does not seem to high of a cost. Because as I told you before we started recording, I just did two mountain climbs here in Colorado yesterday and I’m very attuned to a lot of our trails that have not been maintained for decades because there’s no funding in the forestry department. So I would love to-and in fact if I were on the other side of it and I had to do one day a week community service, hey man put me out on the trail I’d be happy with something like that.
Brett: And this is where I think it’s a really interesting opportunity Kevin, because I think if you think about the biggest challenges facing us over the next 50 years particularly around climate shift and climate change, imagine timed geo-engineering to a universal basic income. And that’s something that I think our kids could get passionate about. And I think that if you were able to say to them go out and do this geo-engineering project and we will give you a basic salary for that, that’s a way to really change that infrastructure around adapting to climate shift.
John: Wow. So, while you were talking about that Brett my brain was just sort of out in the future and I was thinking about our kids. And I was thinking that you’re right, they would do something like that. If there was some website like this one big website the Facebook of universal basic income and there were these jobs you could sort of pick off that site and using identity or using some of the technology that we have to validate that they actually did this. Because that would be the other thing is to confirm the service work. You’re right, I think they would do it. I absolutely think they would do it. I think wow, this is blowing my mind.
Brett: There’s your next startup.
John: Hey, I’m in if you’re in. Let’s talk about-let’s start over there. I’ll cut this out. Let’s talk about your new book that’s coming out. You mentioned it just a minute ago but it was only fleetingly, Technosocialism. I really wanted Kevin to hear kind of the thought process behind it and to get his comments on it. Because I really think this would be an interesting conversation. If you’re okay kind of-and you already sort of segwayed into it. So give us a little background on after Bank 4.0, which is going to come out soon. Which I’ve already got on my list. But then you’ve got another one next year that’s Technosocialism.
Brett: So, this actually is sort of a sequel to Augmented. So, in Augmented I started getting into the challenges society would face by these high levels of automation. And then you start thinking about what is the emergent system of government that comes as a result of this high level of automation. Well, the first thing you get is that the government will tend towards high levels of automation and resource allocation and so forth based on technology. So you won’t run a city with a whole lot of civil engineers doing-working at water flows and things like that. It will all be A.I. based. The transportation systems will be heavily automated. Taxation will most likely in the medium term will move to some sort of real time element embedded in the transactional activity we do. Especially when people can get paid in gold coins and things like that for the work they do. So what you end up having is you end up having this situation sort of shrinks. But then you say, ‘What is the government model? What is the type of government that will emerge in this marketplace where we’re saturated in technology with heavy automation? And how do you manage a constituency that has this problem of time on their hands and lack of employment? So this does tend towards the fact that the economies will have to become more socialist in nature. But there’s elements of this where when we think about socialism today particularly in the U.S. it’s almost spoken of like communism was in the 70’s and 80’s, right? It’s this evil word. But there’s an element of this where you say, ‘Well, let’s think about something like universal healthcare.’ So right now, the cost of universal health care could be massive to an economy like the United States. But when you throw in twenty years down the line gene therapy, gene editing, personalized medicine, sensors that we wear on our body or ingest to give us feedback, apply that data to artificial intelligence so we can predict when we’re going to be sick. And so, we really have this situation where we’re able to monitor our health in such effective ways that we’re not getting as sick often. And we’re starting to anticipate problems. For example, if we can predict that you’re going to have a heart attack because you’re wearing a smartwatch that links to A.I., and we can stop you from having a heart attack in California that’s a $90,000 event, right? So we can use a $50 sensor on your wristwatch and we can prevent a $90,000 cardiac event from occurring. So the cost of providing universal health care in this techno-rich world could be dramatically reduced. Same for education with a universal internet access with virtual reality where you could sit inside a classroom and receive a Harvard education at home. So, there’s many elements to this where the technology leads us towards a socialist type platform. But at a very, very low cost. So you get the conservatives today talk about reducing the size of government. But what if technology was the way to do that? What if technology was the way to reduce the cost of delivery of all of these governmental services and universal education and universal healthcare to a continuance? At that point why wouldn’t you deploy that technology to do that? So ultimately you come up with a society that because of technology imbedded in these core services you need to provide your citizens, you end up looking very socialist in nature.
Kevin: Well the technology you need to develop would be a bureaucracy dissolving device. I’m listening to all the things you’re saying and I’m going that’s great. But I’ve worked off and on for the military, for the Air Force. I’m now in the midst of wrestling with academia to get a degree so I can teach and stuff like that. Just dealing with people that are so entranced with certain ways of doing things it would seem to me an insurmountable problem to have the idealistic way. Of course this would be more efficient, everybody can see that. But getting through the bureaucracy is going to be a difficult problem. So, one of the other things I wanted to bring up is it goes back to the socialism thing. So when you have a bunch of people sitting around, the previous communist and socialist idea was if you have ten people they’re all going to work together for the common good and they’re all going to work just as hard as everybody else. And that of course didn’t work. Because if you have ten people put in together, you have one or two hard workers and a bunch of other people that like to watch. And if you have so many people who are displaced from their jobs, even if they’re given a universal basic income so that they’ve got food, shelter, heating, internet, whatever the basic essentials are, you’re going to get some people that will actually take the reins and decide to do something productive with it. And other people will sit around and play Candy Crush all day long.
Brett: As we go through this adjustment in society the best thing we could do is start to educate our children on the fact that A. they need to be extremely adaptable to survive in this future. That they’re not going to have a career for life and things like that. But we really need to start preparing society for these inevitable shifts. Now, we talk a lot about A.I. and we talk a lot about the threat of A.I. for example. Robots that are going to take over the world and those sort of things. But we don’t actually talk about in realistic terms the impact these things are going to have on industries and so forth. Even though based on trends we’ve got a fair idea of what’s going to happen. Because if you just look at the last election cycle in the United States. Donald Trump coming out and talking about we’re going to bring back the big oil jobs and coal jobs. And if he was realistically talking to constituents he’d be saying, ‘Well, what if we create 30 or 40 million jobs in solar?’ But that means inevitably that the jobs in big oil and coal are going to be displaced. And that’s sort of a grown-up discussion that we need to have. But there’s a lot of other things that come into play there that sort of prevent those grown up discussions from happening.
Kevin: Well and that actually raises the question that I don’t know the answer to. We keep hearing that yes, the coal jobs will go away but then you’re going to get a bunch more solar jobs. Yes, the robots are going to take over the assembly lines in the factories but you’re going to need to hire people to fix the robots when they break down. Or to design the robots. Or to program the robots. Do you have any sort of general knowledge about is that a one to one thing for every factory job that a robot displaces workers that there’s another job created to fix the robot? Or is it they displace 50 jobs and there are ten new jobs created.
Brett: So I did a lot of research on this Kevin. And what we saw is that when you see these major step changes in technologies like the steam engine and so forth, jobs move out of one industry and into another industry. So when you look at farming for example agriculture in the United States, in 1850 73% of the U.S. labor force was employed working on farms. Today it’s 1.6% of the labor force. So when you look at sort of the early 1900’s as tractors started to be used on farms you can see the line of people working on farms decline the same rate as the number of tractors go up. So there’s a direct correlation. So you look at that and you say, ‘That’s really bad, these tractors took all of these jobs.’ But what was happening at the same time was the creation of the model T Ford production line and the manufacturing industry. Which many economists in the United States say was responsible for the U.S. middle class. So you have all of these jobs created in factories. So people move out of agriculture into factories. And then when the IT computer eras came along in the 60’s and 70’s we have people moving out of manufacturing into service industries. So the real question is is there a one to one correlation? Well, if you look at the internet, for every job that the internet displaced about 2.6 new jobs were created. So this is pretty positive. A lot of that comes from the wealth that the internet boom created. And undoubtedly there’s going to be some of that from artificial intelligence. The problem is that we’re attacking service sector. We’re attacking restaurant workers, janitors with robotic cleaners. We’re attacking accountants, lawyers, and bankers who are doing heavily processed stuff that we can teach machines so with machine learning to do now. So, we’re going to see for the first time these sort of white collar jobs. And the service industry jobs attacked. But then the question is where-if they move out of the service sector what sector do they move into? And that’s the question we have.
John: So, I had a weird idea while you were talking I’m going to throw at both of you. So, I love this point that your making is that it’s for the first time ever we’re going to see these white-collar jobs. So, if the problem is actually working, what if the answer in the future is some sort of like-think of it like mining in the cryptocurrency. Something that you do. Like do either of you guys remember the old SETI project, did you ever run SETI on your computer?
Kevin: Of course.
Brett: Sure, sure.
John: Of course you both did. Yes, and I did too. Because I was sure that my computer was the one that was going to find the alien communications, right?
Kevin: Like explain it John. Because a lot of the listeners might not know.
John: Sure, so SETI was the search for extraterrestrial-the last line was what?
John: Intelligence, that’s it. And so, there’s a huge giant dish-I don’t even know where it is, you probably do Kevin. But it’s pointed at the sky and it’s collecting all this information. Radio waves that come from outer space. And then what ends up happening is that that data, there was so much of that data out there that they couldn’t possibly process it. And this was way back then. It was one of the first examples of distributive processing. Just absolute genius. That all these computers were sitting around at home at the time. So people didn’t have laptops that they sort of shut down and set aside. They had these-they had a place in their house that had a desk and a computer sitting there that was pretty much running all the time. And it would turn to a screensaver so that these old catherway tubes wouldn’t burn in the image that was there. And so what they would do is SETI got smart and said, ‘We built a screensaver so that when you’re not using your computer we can send you information that we’ve collected from outer space. And your computer processing power can be used to look for anomalies or look for the presence of intelligent life. Or intelligence in these signals. And what I’m thinking is would something similar be happening as you were talking about-and I’m getting out there so go with me guys because this is supposed to be a science fiction thing. So you were talking about plugging people’s brains in and what not. What if you could just sort of plug your brain in because we’re going to need this brain power? I predict that there’s something to go there where you go-
Brett: -Okay so you become a bit coin mining rig, your brain.
John: Yeah, because the problem is like people don’t want to get up and go do things. Okay so alright, what if you could just sort of go I’ll get my money and the way I’ll get my money is while I sleep I’ll plug this thing in my head.
Brett: I’ll become a distributive processor.
John: I guess. I don’t know, I’m just throwing it out there.
Kevin: That’s called The Matrix, we’ve all seen it.
Brett: Yes, exactly.
John: Well hey, I thought that went pretty well. People-everybody all identifies with Neo. But I remember the people that were in the other scenes around there. They seemed awfully happy. Yeah. They got steak. Remember that one guy?
Brett: Yeah exactly, he wanted to get back in the matrix.
John: Yeah. But that’s my point is is that is there something like that? I’m taking us off on a tangent but that was just fascinating to me that the discussion around-because it seems to me is that the problem is is that the motivation-the will, right? The will of people, it comes back to people. It’s always about that. And so, some people just don’t have the will to go and change. Some people just don’t have the will. And you know what? They look at it and go, why should I? And that’s a challenge, right? But if you could find something that I think would be better for them, to where I think they wouldn’t feel that way then maybe they might be interested. So I just want to plug Brett King’s brain in and see if I can find intelligent life. That’s all I’m saying.
Brett: Well look, sorry you go ahead.
Kevin: Real quickly there was an episode of Black Mirror, it’s an anthology show on Netflix that in fact I think it just won an Emmy last week. Where it’s in the future where everything’s automated and people don’t have anything to do. And the way they earn their money is these people are basically plugged in on treadmills and they’re walking on treadmills or exercise bikes and they’re just playing games. And their exercise bikes are generating the energy that runs the whole computer that guides society. And I liked what you suggested John but if people don’t have to do anything then they can use the 98% of their brain that they’re not using and it can be used as a distributive processor, I think a lot of people will do it. And again, like I just mentioned I did a really hard hike and mountain climb yesterday. And I’ve got a lot of other people that go, ‘Well, why would you do that? Why not just sit at home and read?’ And I like to go out and do things. And I like to accomplish things. And I like to be proactive and be that kind of person. But that’s not everybody. There are a lot of people who-in fact, my own sister when we had a day off from school, when we were in high school, when we had a day off from school I just thought of all the things that I could write and I could read stuff and I could go places. And for her it was oh great a day I can sleep until noon. And there are two different types of people. There are some people that really do just want to sit around and sleep in or play Candy Crush or whatever. And there are other ones that go, ‘Oh, look at that mountain, I want to climb that.’ And it’s not something fixable it’s just different types of people.
Brett: Yeah, I think as a society we can start to address this with education and so forth. The same way we deal with epidemics like drug use and so forth. We’d have to have a systemic approach to this as sort of find your purpose. I like sort of the Japanese concept of it’s called Ikigai where you figure out what the world needs, what you’re good at, what you love doing, what you can get paid for. And that should become your purpose. And I think we’re going to have to start thinking about social constructs or structures that sort of fit more like that if your purpose isn’t to work nine to five to pay bills to eat, then when you have that freedom to choose something that you really love to do then how do you go about doing that? As a society that shift if you think about it, that shift has sort of started with the Industrial Revolution. For the last couple hundred years we’ve been so focused on the fact that work is so central to our existence that moving away from that requires a massive shift in psychology and our approach just generally to life. And it’s probably going to take another hundred years for us to get used to the fact that we don’t have to work to eat.
John: It probably will.
Kevin: Isn’t the point of working so that you can have money to pay your bills to do the fun stuff that you want to do? And so, we’re kind of cutting out that middle step that we don’t have to work to get the money. We just all day long we can do the fun stuff that we want to do. Which I would assume is kind of like the end game of evolution and civilization and technology, right? Having a technology where we don’t have to work. Everything’s taken care of because the society’s working.
John: Yeah, I think we call that Wall-e effect, right? The end of wall-e, right? I saw that movie. Which everybody looked at and went, ‘Wow, that’s horrible.’ And I looked at it and went, ‘Man, that seems awesome.’ It’s like an old cartoon I saw once it was a text, it was a site called text with dog. And the dog is texting the human and he goes, ‘Hey, what’s fat?’ And he goes, ‘Oh, that’s where you eat too much food and lye around all day.’ And the dog replies, ‘Fat sounds awesome, let’s be fat.’
Brett: Except that with gene therapy you’re probably won’t get fat.
John: Oh see, thank you Brett. Oh man, that fixes everything. Go ahead Kevin.
Kevin: Now that’s kind of scaring me because now I’m realizing that that is the sort of thing we should be striving for so that our society is running well enough that everyone has food and shelter and that they have everything that they want. And then what would you do? Say that you’re the crown prince of something or other, and you’ve got the treasury of the country and you can do anything you want all day long. What would you do? And some people would do lazy stuff and lye around and entertain themselves. Other people would actually invent things or write things or accomplish things. And it’s different types of people. And I can’t imagine sitting around and doing nothing all day long. In fact, I was in a-I did some volunteer work for one of our state parks where you had to clean up the trails and the picnic areas and stuff because that’s what I wanted to do. And it rained one day, just down poured. So, we all had to go into the shelter building. And the two guys who were actually on salary, the two guys who were being paid to be there and I was a volunteer, the two guys being paid said, ‘This is great. We can sit around and do nothing all day and still get paid for it.’ And those were probably the three most mind numbingly boring hours of my entire life.
John: Well, I think the other issue is there are some people who will do nefarious things with that time, unfortunately. And that’s the bigger challenge. Yeah, it really is. So, we’re getting close to the end here. I want to take a minute and I just want to-well first, it’s been really cool to be a fly on the wall with you two in a conversation. I was anticipating this all week and it was exactly what I had hoped for. Neither of you disappointed. So Brett, I know you’re speaking at a lot of events coming up. You have your own podcast which is wonderful if our listeners-
Brett: -I’m doing eight countries in October.
John: You’re doing eight countries in October? You are the man Brett.
Brett: As we’re talking before the cast, that even being a best-selling author, the easiest way to monetize your books is actually for me at least getting out on the speaking circuit. I make more out of a couple speaking gigs than I do out of royalties frankly.
John: Yeah, so tell us a little bit about where you’re going to be, which eight countries. Also, there’s brettking.com. We can find all of that there. And there’s going to be a lot of folks listening to this podcast who read Kevin’s stuff. And one of the reasons I wanted to have you on this show is I think they would truly love Augmented. So talk a little bit about what’s coming up for you and where we can find you.
Brett: I’m in Chicago next week and then I fly to Hong Kong. I finish out the week in Hong Kong. Then I’m back to Quebec where I’ve got an event for the Insurance Bank of Canada, the Insurance Association of Canada. Then I fly to Sochi to do an event in Sochi. Then to Barcelona. Then I’m back to the U.S. to Boston and Richmond. Boston is an event for a group of neurosurgeons. That’s going to be interesting talking about some of the stuff we talked about today. And after Boston I go back to Russia. And that takes me to about the 18th of October. And then I’m in Vegas for Money 2020. And I do the closing keynote on Monday afternoon. It’s actually not a keynote it’s a debate with Steve Ellis from Wells Fargo and will we need banks in the future.
John: He’s got to have a tough road given the CFPB’s position on them.
Kevin: If anybody thinks that sounds like a glamorous life, you’re crazy. I think Brett would much rather be doing it as a VR conference or something and staying home.
Brett: I’m good mates with Robert Scoble and he’s been working on that technology. He’s done a couple of VR conferences already. So, we will get there.
Kevin: Well, I did one. I did a book tour once where I did 37 cities in 38 days. And my neighbor-I came back from that and I was just completely wiped out. And my neighbor said, ‘Oh, that sounds so exciting. You must’ve felt so glamorous.’ And I went, ‘Are you kidding me?’
Brett: Yeah, taxi, hotel, check in, check out, airport, that’s it.
Kevin: Yeah, and I’ve just crossed my million-mile frequent flyer thing. And I thought that was quite an accomplishment and then I realized I spent way too much time with my butt in an uncomfortable airplane chair. But anyway, traveling lets you see things like the inside of your hotel room and the check in desk. And that’s about all that you get. It’s been wonderful and imaginative that we’ve sat here for hours just bouncing ideas around. Because that’s what science fiction does. It’s not a warning or a glorious celebration. It’s we discuss the ideas because if nobody thinks of these things ahead of time then it comes up. And it’s like walking across the field and you step on a rake and it smacks you in the face. It’s good to be thinking about stuff like this. Although, one of our main points here in this podcast is about the unintended consequences that this is great. But whoever thought that happen because it’s so far out of left field. One of the examples we use is who would’ve ever thought that everybody having a smartphone would impact the wristwatch industry? Stuff like that. So, I love all these changes. I love all your ideas Brett. And go ahead John, any wrap up comments?
John: No, we’re going to post-I’m going to put all the information about Brett and his book and everything on our website creativefuturism.com. And if you’re not listening to Breaking Banks, that’s Brett’s podcast which is fantastic. I’m an avid listener. As you can see, a lot of people think of him as a financial guy but he’s really a futurist and that’s one of the things I love about him. So Brett, thank you so much for coming on the show.
Brett: I had a blast and look forward to the next one.
Kevin: Thanks Brett.
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