At a time when many people find it depressingly easy to see how "bad futures" could arise, what is a credible narrative of a "good future"? That question is of central concern to our guest in this episode, Gerd Leonhard.
Gerd is one of the most successful futurists on the international speaker circuit. He estimates that he has spoken to a combined audience of 2.5 million people in more than 50 countries.
He left his home country of Germany in 1982 to go to the USA to study music. While he was in the US, he set up one of the first internet-based music businesses, and then he parlayed that into his current speaking career. His talks and videos are known for their engaging use of technology and design, and he prides himself on his rigorous use of research and data to back up his claims and insights.
Topics in this conversation include:
*) The need for a positive antidote to all the negative visions of the future that are often in people's minds
*) People, planet, purpose, and prosperity - rather than an over-focus on profit and economic growth
*) Anticipating stock markets that work differently, and with additional requirements before dividends can be paid
*) A reason to be an optimist: not because we have less problems (we don't), but because we have more capacity to deal with these problems
*) From "capitalism" to "progressive capitalism" (another name could be "social capitalism")
*) Kevin Kelly's concept of "protopia" as a contrast to both utopia and dystopia
*) Too much of a good thing can be... a bad thing
*) How governments and the state interact with free markets
*) Managers who try to prioritise people, planet, or purpose (rather than profits and dividends) are "whacked by the stock market"
*) The example of the Montreal protocol regarding the hole in the ozone layer, when governments gave a strong direction to the chemical industry
*) Some questions about people, planet, purpose, and prosperity are relatively straightforward, but others are much more contested
*) Conflicting motivations within high tech firms regarding speed-to-market vs. safety
*) Controlling the spread of potentially dangerous AI may be much harder than controlling the spread of nuclear weapons technology, especially as costs reduce for AI development and deployment
*) Despite geopolitical tensions, different countries are already collaborating behind the scenes on matters of AGI safety
*) How much "financial freedom" should the definition of a good future embrace?
*) Universal Basic Income and "the Star Trek economy" as potential responses to the Economic Singularity
*) Differing assessments of the role of transhumanism in the good future
*) Risks when humans become overly dependent on technology
*) Most modern humans can't make a fire from scratch: does that matter?
*) The Carrington Event of 1859: the most intense geomagnetic storm in recorded history
*) How views changed in the 19th century about giving anaesthetics to women to counter the (biblically mandated?) intense pains of childbirth
*) Will views change in a similar way about the possibility of external wombs (ectogenesis)?
*) Jamie Bartlett's concept of "the moral singularity" when humans lose the ability to take hard decisions
*) Can AI provide useful advice about human-human relationships?
*) Is everything truly important about humans located in our minds?
Music: Spike Protein, by Koi Discovery, available under CC0 1.0 Public Domain Declaration