Pretend every economic problem we’ve ever discussed on this podcast has magically been solved. What’s next? What are the economic problems that we’ll face a decade from now? This week, Nick and Goldy are joined by futurist Kevin Kelly for a conversation based on a voicemail left by Pitchfork Economics listener Cody from Florida. Thanks, Cody!

You can call and leave us a voicemail, too—in fact, we would love it if you did! Our number is (731) 388-9334.

Kevin Kelly is Senior Maverick and co-founder at Wired. He has written for The New York Times, The Economist, Science, Time, and The Wall Street Journal among many other publications. His most recent book, The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future, is a New York Times Bestseller.

Twitter: @kevin2kelly

Further reading:

The Inevitable: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780525428084

Website: http://pitchforkeconomics.com/

Twitter: @PitchforkEcon

Instagram: @pitchforkeconomics

Nick’s twitter: @NickHanauer

 

Speaker 1:

Before we get to the show, we wanted to take a second to talk about another podcast that we think you’ll like called Connected and Disaffected About Technology and the Future of Politics. We all know the political status quo is dying. Well, Connected and Disaffected is digging into what will come next. Each episode is a feature or interview diving into major trends like online misinformation, neoliberal economics, and the climate crisis. Connected and Disaffected tries to get beyond the horse race political coverage to explore the issues that will shape the political and social landscape in years to come. And they’re British and they’re in London, so they probably sound better than we do while they do it. So subscribe to Connected and Disaffected now wherever you listen to podcasts.

Cody:

What do guys think will be the next economic topic four or eight years from now, and how can we get ahead of those issues?

Nick Hanauer:

This really interesting question sort of opens the door to talk about the glorious future of the economy.

Kevin Kelly:

A lot of the things that are on the table are still going to be there in 10 years.

David Goldstein:

Whenever you solve a problem, you create more problems.

Speaker 6:

From the offices of Civic Ventures in downtown Seattle, this is Pitchfork Economics with Nick Hanauer. One American capitalist’s take on how we got into this mess and how we can get out.

Nick Hanauer:

I’m Nick Hanauer, founder of Civic Ventures.

David Goldstein:

I’m David Goldstein, senior fellow at Civic Ventures.

Nick Hanauer:

So Goldie, we got this really interesting question from Cody in Florida.

Cody:

The democratic presidential race is already pretty deep and we can obviously tell that the major topic this cycle is money and politics, healthcare, and of course taxing the wealthy. If all these things are accomplished, what do you guys think will be the next economic topics four or eight years from now, and how can we get ahead of those issues?

Cody:

I just want to say thank you guys for everything that you do. The podcast is not only informative, it is also very entertaining. Thanks, guys.

David Goldstein:

Well, I think eight years from now Cody would be a posing this question from underwater if he’s from Florida.

Nick Hanauer:

Yeah, exactly.

David Goldstein:

I think Cody, you forgot climate change.

Nick Hanauer:

Climate change, yeah. But I think what’s super interesting about the question that Cody posed is the three issues he surfaced, money and politics, fixing healthcare, and taxing rich people more, get at largely the same thing, which is the neoliberal takeover of our economy and finding ways to blunt the concentrated power in all its forms. We obviously have a huge money and politics problem, which has created a circumstance within which basically the only thing that Congress will enact are things that are preferred by economic elites and there’s a lot of-

David Goldstein:

Tax cuts.

Nick Hanauer:

Yeah. There’s a lot of political science evidence to demonstrate that. Our healthcare system is the world’s largest price fixing scheme. A scheme which benefits no one but giant pharmaceutical companies and hospital corporations and insurance companies, and effectively forces Americans to twice as much per citizen for healthcare that everybody else in the developed world spends. And finally we have among the lowest rates of tax on wealthy citizens in the country, and as a consequence [crosstalk 00:03:25]

David Goldstein:

And one of the highest rates of income and wealth inequality.

Nick Hanauer:

Yeah, and all of those things are sort of different flavors of the same problem, which is that you have to find a way to put the country back in the hands of the people and take it out of the hands of a tiny minority of Americans who have persuaded everybody else that the richer they get, the better off everyone else will be.

Nick Hanauer:

But to be clear, his list is a massively incomplete list.

David Goldstein:

Right.

Nick Hanauer:

At least in our shop. We have a big long list of things that we-

David Goldstein:

Right. As we said, he didn’t address climate and he didn’t directly address wages.

Nick Hanauer:

Yeah, that’s right. But let’s say, just pretend for a minute that we [crosstalk 00:04:06].

David Goldstein:

Okay. So what you’re saying is we take the House, we take the White House, we take the Senate and-

Nick Hanauer:

No. Whatever.

David Goldstein:

Right. So we have the power to do all of these things, and-

Nick Hanauer:

And we do.

David Goldstein:

… and we elect somebody like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren-

Nick Hanauer:

Yeah, well we just do.

David Goldstein:

… who’s promising just to do a lot of stuff.

Nick Hanauer:

Yeah. Yeah.

David Goldstein:

Okay.

Nick Hanauer:

Just assume that we do.

David Goldstein:

So we’ve done all this.

Nick Hanauer:

But there’s a really interesting question embedded there, which is getting all those things done will immeasurably improve the quality of life of the typical citizen, it’ll make the country stronger, more democratic, less polarized, more secure.

David Goldstein:

More productive, more prosperous.

Nick Hanauer:

More productive, more prosperous. But that doesn’t mean we won’t be still facing a lot of very serious problems. We will have a bunch of other problems and the question is what will those be? I would like to believe that many of those problems will be high quality problems. You know. that-

David Goldstein:

Like how will we be able to-

Nick Hanauer:

Fill the jobs.

David Goldstein:

Fill the jobs or all of our private jets.

Nick Hanauer:

Well, I’m not sure we need to increase-

David Goldstein:

No, [crosstalk 00:05:15] back to climate again.

Nick Hanauer:

Exactly. Well definitely. Definitely. I mean, more conventional prosperity, certainly more conventional consumption, does challenge sustainability. Right?

David Goldstein:

Right.

Nick Hanauer:

And that will continue to be a very, very serious challenge and we’ll have to figure that out.

David Goldstein:

My guess would be, if we solved the issues we’ve just talked about, the larger economic question eight years from now will be the continued devolution of the industrial economy into an economy based on information technology.

Nick Hanauer:

Yeah. Yeah. And there will be very serious questions and conflicts over that.

David Goldstein:

Right.

Nick Hanauer:

Right?

David Goldstein:

The changing nature of jobs, the issue over patents, who controls intellectual property and whether the owners of intellectual property get to monopolize the benefits. How do we more equally share in this dematerialized economy where most of us are essentially working in the service sector?

Nick Hanauer:

Yeah. No, that’s true.

David Goldstein:

So Nick, not only aren’t we economists, but we’re not professional futurists either.

Nick Hanauer:

No.

David Goldstein:

But fortunately-

Nick Hanauer:

We have one.

David Goldstein:

… we have one.

Nick Hanauer:

Yeah. The great Kevin Kelly, founder of Wired magazine, will be joining us today to talk about the glorious future and to address the questions of what the economy will be like out 10 or 20 years. It should be fascinating.

David Goldstein:

Kevin’s most recent book, which I highly recommend, is The Inevitable: Understanding The 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future. It was a New York Times bestseller and I read it and I recommend it, so you don’t need any more than that.

Kevin Kelly:

So my name is Kevin Kelly. I’m the senior maverick at Wired magazine and one of the multiple co-founders, and I write books about technology and its future. And on the side I run a little newsletter called Recommendo.

David Goldstein:

Why don’t we start just… I’m going to read you the text from part of this voicemail we got, which is our topic of conversation, then we’ll get into the discussion. Cody from Florida wrote us, “The democratic presidential race is already pretty deep and we can tell that the major topics this cycle are money, politics, healthcare, and of course taxing the wealthy. Maybe I’m missing something else there, but my question is, if all of these things are accomplished, what do you guys think will be the next economic topics four or eight years from now, and how can we get ahead of those issues?”

David Goldstein:

Nick and I struggle to answer this, but we’re not professional futurists like you are.

Nick Hanauer:

Yeah. You know, I think this question, this really interesting question, sort of opens the door to talk about the glorious future of the economy and how we should think about it and what kinds of problems we should anticipate.

Kevin Kelly:

Yeah, it’s a really fair thing and I think an excellent exercise to go through. Because of the speed at which things are moving, we should have a longer term perspective. It’s something that I and my fellow members of The Long Now Foundation try to stress, which is the benefits of trying to take a longer view. So this is a great exercise to do that.

Kevin Kelly:

So, let’s say 10 years. That’s the horizon?

Nick Hanauer:

Yeah.

Kevin Kelly:

I think things like economic things move relatively slower to other things, and so I think one of the safest bets is that a lot of the things that are on the table are still going to be there in 10 years. We have something we call a pace layer, which means that different things move at different rates. And technology moves pretty fast, but governments and laws move very slowly.

Kevin Kelly:

And so, I think there’s this momentum that’s necessary for governments, which they want, which is good. You want to go slow, you don’t want to make mistakes. And so, I think some of the issues that are on the table now will still be there in 10 years from now.

Kevin Kelly:

Ones that aren’t there now that could come along: I think the economics around data, data ownership, these issues of who are we, what is known about us, is it equitable, is there inequality in the relationship of what we know, who knows us, will become more so because of technology. So the tracking that’s going on, both ourselves, quantified self, we wear the Fitbit, to tracking by our friends, tagging us in photos, to companies tracking us, to government. This is becoming a larger portion. This surveillance is becoming a larger portion of our economy and I think it’s going to move much more into… become visible and power visible. And it’s asymmetry, it’s inequality, and visible in terms of the need to do something.

Kevin Kelly:

So I think that would be something to start to think about. Right now people are, but to collectively kind of come up with some possible solutions which don’t seem very obvious right at the moment.

David Goldstein:

So, reading your book, you’re very optimistic. The problems you see us solving are high quality problems. Try to get into my mind. I’m not as optimistic a person as you. What do you think are the worst problems that we may create over the coming decade?

Nick Hanauer:

[crosstalk 00:11:08].

David Goldstein:

Yeah.

Kevin Kelly:

Oh, the worst problems.

Nick Hanauer:

Let’s put aside climate change, because that’s pretty obvious.

Kevin Kelly:

We can make problems that don’t even deserve to be problems. So there’s a set of things where we can do a much worse job than we are by-

David Goldstein:

Being idiots.

Kevin Kelly:

Like the prohibition was, you know.

Nick Hanauer:

Yeah, right.

Kevin Kelly:

So that’s one way we can make things worse. But I don’t think that’s what you mean. But in terms of what are some of the things that we kind of think are going to be cool that might not be cool? Is that what you’re saying?

Nick Hanauer:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

David Goldstein:

Yeah. Yeah.

Kevin Kelly:

I think there’s a lot in the biotech arena which we can imagine having difficulty with. Controlling your genes. There’s this built in uncertainty about the wisdom of doing that, even though it seems like we’re going to do it. I think there’s going to be better ways of doing it and lesser ways, and there’s going to be no way that we’re going to do this that’s going to make everybody happy. Okay? So that’s just primed for huge discussion that are going to make abortion pale in comparison as far as the fervor that it will uncover.

David Goldstein:

Okay. That’s interesting.

Kevin Kelly:

Making your child, selecting genes for intelligence or not, or something. That’s very deep, that’s very powerful, and yet we’re messing with the future and then we’re missing with our own being in kind of almost religious sense. And so that’s just going to… Oh boy, there’s going to be a lot there. I mean, people will die for their beliefs about this. That’s not too far away. I mean, at least 10 years, but it’s not that far away.

Kevin Kelly:

And so, as those things come along, I think in the same way we have the anti vaxing, which I kind of cross. There are people both on the woo-hoo, new age, and the far right that are kind of anti vacs, but it crosses that line in kind of a weird way. And I think some of the bio stuff, we’re not really ready. In the AI there’s only one little touch of what happens when we start to fool around with the nature of our being and asking these questions about who are we, what do we want to do and why are we here. All those things surface once you start to say, “Well, we’re going to select genes, or we’re not going to select genes.” I mean, there’s eugenics, there’s race, there’s all these hot buttons, and more that are going to come.

Kevin Kelly:

If we want to rehearse problems that we should be thinking about, well that’s one of them. It’s not quite 10 years, but it’s not far behind.

Nick Hanauer:

Right.

David Goldstein:

Can I ask you about intellectual property ownership?

Kevin Kelly:

Yeah.

David Goldstein:

Because you and Nick are very similar in your approach to automation and new technologies. You know, let the robots take the shitty jobs. Obviously, if a robot can do what a human shouldn’t be doing any way, and we’ll just come up with new and better jobs and the robots will make our lives and our jobs better and so forth.

David Goldstein:

But I look at a possibility, with patent law and intellectual property law the way it is, where you look at… a great example is trucking. We’re going to get to a point where we have self driving trucks and it’s going to put millions of people out of work driving trucks. But you’re going to end up with one, two, maybe three companies at most owning the, the intellectual property rights. You know, Uber, Google, maybe some other company are going to end up monopolizing the intellectual property rights on autonomous vehicles. And under current law in our current economic system, if you own the intellectual property rights, well you get to take most of the benefits of this new technology.

David Goldstein:

I’m wondering if you think we need social innovations to deal with these technological innovation so that these new technologies don’t exacerbate inequality instead of closing the gap.

Kevin Kelly:

Yeah. I mean, I think that the best cure for this is that we want to make these monopolies as temporary as possible, so we should continue to shorten the length of those monopolies that they get from intellectual property law. So basically I think that the natural home for any idea, all ideas, is in the commons. This idea that somehow the natural home is in the individual is completely wrong, because we know simultaneous independent invention is the norm. Whenever an invention is made, there’s usually five or six other people who have the idea almost exactly the same time. That is the norm in science, that’s also the norm and even the creative arts. Whenever something gets made, an art piece, a movie, a book becomes popular, there’s all kinds of people coming out of the woodwork showing that they actually came up with very similar idea at the same time.

David Goldstein:

Yeah. That’s because all new ideas are basically a recombination of a set of old ideas. It’s all common [inaudible 00:16:38].

Kevin Kelly:

Right. And it all belongs in the commons first. It’s in the commons and we want to do and should give a temporary boost of monopoly to the first person to claim or to do it, to incentivize people to follow through. So a million people had the idea of an electric light bulb. That was not new. 100,000 of them took the next step of trying to figure out how you would do it. Only 10,000 of those actually maybe make it a prototype. 1,000 of them got something working, and only one guy, Edison, was able to actually make a viable company out of it. But he was not the first person to do it. He was the 32nd person to actually have a successful light bulb.

David Goldstein:

But he’s a great example, Kevin, because he did it by building a platform. He didn’t just build the light bulb, he built the entire electrical grid around it.

Kevin Kelly:

He made it a platform. And so, what we wanted to do is we want to have that protection be very, very brief, short term, seven years. So the thing about these monopolies is that they’re very temporary. They’re going to last a short time and then the next thing will come along to displace it. So temporary monopoly is good. There’s benefit to it, to those who are constructing it, there’s a benefit to making a platform that can be shared. So we do want to have that benefit, but we wanted to have it very, very short, very, very fast, so that the next innovation [inaudible 00:18:01] can come along and displace it.

David Goldstein:

But if you use that monopoly to build the platform, even if your legal protections have expired, you now have all the advantages of a self perpetuating platform.

Kevin Kelly:

Right. And so the scale… [inaudible 00:18:17] been a while, but right now the scale of these platforms is phenomenal. So for the first time in the history of our planet, we have planetary skill platforms that are huge with billions of people involved. And I think the next platform with the smart class is going to be even bigger. And so the thing about it is that we have basically created a whole nother type or class of entity that we don’t know really what to do with yet. We invented, a couple hundred years ago, the idea of a corporation, of semi half person, half company, half something else. It was this new thing that we learned to regulate in some ways. Well now we have platforms which are almost quasi governmental. They’re so big, they’re so broad. They’re so involved in our lives, that they are not really just companies. They’re not quite governments, but they’re something in between.

Nick Hanauer:

Elizabeth Anderson calls it private government.

Kevin Kelly:

Right. So they have some aspects of the government, and so they want to be regulated kind of like government sometimes, but they are government themselves. So we have to invent a whole nother set of things. It’s kind of like the employees of Uber and… not the employees, but the drivers of Uber and stuff, they’re not employees. They’re not contractors. They’re a new thing. And so, we try to classify them as employees. It’s not going to work. They’re not that. Same that they’re just contractors. They’re not just contracted. So we a new category, a new thing we have to figure out how this works, and this is what we’re in the process of doing.

Kevin Kelly:

The thing about technology is that we keep forgetting how young it is. I mean, social media is, I don’t know, 6,000 days old or something. It’s an infant. We haven’t even lived with it. The only way we can figure out what this technologies are good for and better for is not by thinking about them. That’s thinkism. The only way we can figure out what they’re good for is by actually using them. By using them every day for years, and maybe even for a generation, before we can figure out what they are, what they want to be.

Kevin Kelly:

And so, I think we’re maybe too impatient. We want to make the laws about things before we even understand what they are. And making laws is not going to help us understand it. We have to actually understand it by using it, by being engaged, by making mistakes with it.

Kevin Kelly:

So I’m very much against the precautionary principle who says we don’t use things till they’re proven harmless. No, no, no. Proactionary principle. We figure out by using things and then we constantly have eternal, constant vigilance, keep coming back to them. The idea of having FDA pass a drug once is crazy. They should be constantly reevaluate it, because once the drug is out there we can it for new things. And so, this is idea of evidence-based, constantly coming back to things, seeing how they’re actually being used, measuring them, changing our idea about it and fearing things based on the evidence rather than what we could imagine going wrong.

Nick Hanauer:

Yeah.

David Goldstein:

So the evidence is that Facebook is dangerous to democracy. It has allowed itself to be used to undermine democracy, not just in the U.S. but abroad. And it seems to continue to be allowing itself to be used that way. Can we afford to leave a commons like Facebook in private control?

Kevin Kelly:

Yeah. It’s doing something and we want to modify its thing. And so, this is what’s going on right now. It’s okay. If it’s dangerous then how do we correct its behavior? How do we institute technologies that would bring the benefits that we want? So this is the evidence. Let’s find out what it’s done, how it’s being done, and then let’s institute new technologies that will correct it.

Nick Hanauer:

Yeah. Or new parameters.

Kevin Kelly:

Right. Technology is like a thought made real, concrete. It’s just ideas that are made concrete. If I right now was to talk and utter a completely stupid or even harmful idea, your response to me would not be, “Kevin, you need to think less.” No. Your response would be, “You need to have a better idea.”

Nick Hanauer:

Yeah.

Kevin Kelly:

So the proper response to a technology that is harmful is not less technology, it’s better technology. So if there are some technologies, or Facebook, that are causing some harm, the response is not no Facebook, the response is a better Facebook, is better technology, better things.

Nick Hanauer:

Yeah. I mean, one of the things that this discussion reminds me of, I think one of the core operating principles for the political operation that houses this podcast, Civic Ventures, is the problems in a society are roughly proportional to the distance between the rate of commercial technological innovation and social and civic innovation. And the faster commercial technological innovation goes, the harder it is to keep up, and the bigger the gap is, the worse things happen. And so, we’re in a bit of a race to have the society’s needs catch up with, or respond to, these really tectonically important new social technologies like social media, or physical technology like Facebook.

Nick Hanauer:

So I would love for you to react, as a futurist, to a little bit of our version of what the glorious future should be.

Kevin Kelly:

Oh, I’d love to hear that. Yeah.

Nick Hanauer:

Yeah. I mean, we have a very specific idea about the society that we want to create and the mechanisms we want to employ to do that. The first principle is that prosperity in human societies isn’t money or GDP, it is the accumulation of solutions to human problems. And that can be characterized in a whole bunch of ways, in information theory or entropy, negative entropy, or whatever you have it. But that’s the difference between a prosperous society and a non prosperous one. And that markets indeed are the greatest social technology ever invented, because they’re an evolutionary system which both permits and incentivizes groups of people to come together and cooperate to solve one another’s problems.

Nick Hanauer:

But the kind of approach we take to markets, what we presently call capitalism or neo-liberalism, is only one of a variety of approaches, and our strong view is the way in which we have concentrated the winnings and socialized the losses in the present system both slows the rate of technological innovation and destabilizes the system, because there’s a few winners and mostly losers and that shreds the reciprocity norms that make those high levels of cooperation necessary.

Nick Hanauer:

So what we very much want to do is continue to encourage a dynamic market of commercial innovation, but constrain it in ways that ensures that everyone gets a practical opportunity to actually participate, and we want to radically reduce the amount of inequality in society, not eliminate it. There have to be both winners and losers in a competitive marketplace, but there is no earthly reason why $1 billion isn’t enough for somebody like Jeff Bezos to provide the incentive to work hard. There’s no reason for his wealth to need to go to 100 or 200 or $300 billion when 40 or 50% of Americans can barely put food on the table. So the glorious future for us is a society that encourages innovation, that’s absolutely committed to technology, but definitely organizes itself to produce more broadly fair outcomes.

Kevin Kelly:

Yeah, I wholeheartedly agree. I would rephrase your first point that what we want to optimize with our society are choices and possibilities. Which is one of the things that technology does help us do, but it’s not the only thing we need to have regulation, all kinds of other governmental things to make sure that those possibilities and options are spread evenly throughout the world and that every person born has basic things like running water and hygiene and education. That helps us ensure that those possibilities which are growing are distributed around the world. But that’s what we’re trying to optimize, is the number of choices, freedoms, possibilities, options and opportunities.

Kevin Kelly:

And I do agree that generally the market is this remarkable, evolutionarily, tuned thing that can generate these new options and opportunities, but that it needs to be regulated in some ways, managed, to offset its natural unfair tendencies.

Kevin Kelly:

I’m less concerned about the ultra wealthy, because I think their wealth is meaningless. I’m much more concerned about the say trillion dollars that America spends on wars. I think that makes a much bigger difference in redirecting those into science, education, health. And that if we moved away from this idea that war is permissible and necessary and inevitable, I think that alone would hugely affect us if we took that same amount of money and put it into our infrastructure, put it into higher education, universal healthcare. Oh my gosh, all those things would just multiply infinite numbers. Putting money into science and technology and research, that’s by far the highest leverage thing that we could possibly do with any kind of money. All those things would, I think, actually do more to distribute opportunity and technology around the world than even trying to reign in some ultra wealthy.

Nick Hanauer:

You may be correct, but solving that problem would be to address humanity’s biggest collective action problem. Because that only works-

Kevin Kelly:

I thought we were dreaming big.

Nick Hanauer:

Okay. [crosstalk 00:29:03] That only works if 100% of the people agree.

Kevin Kelly:

I believe in global governance.

Nick Hanauer:

Yeah.

Kevin Kelly:

Which is nobody on the left is all allergic to, everybody on the right is allergic to, and nobody likes this idea. But for me, we’re moving into making a planetary system, planetary machines, we have a planetary climate, we need global governance. And so, with global governance… I’m not a pacifist. I’m a [policifist 00:00:29:30]. I believe that the conflict should be resolved by independent third party. The idea that a sovereign nation has the rights to hit back, that just leads to endless feuds and war. What you want to have is you want to have a force that’s impartial so that if somebody does something wrong you say, “Well, okay.” You decide and you get punished by this impartial force that stops the wars.

Kevin Kelly:

So there’s enforcement. It’s not that there’s not violence, it’s just that there’s not war.

Nick Hanauer:

Yeah. Interesting.

David Goldstein:

Okay, so there’s one vote for the new world order.

Nick Hanauer:

Yeah.

Kevin Kelly:

Yeah, exactly.

David Goldstein:

We ask all of our guests this, why do you do what you do?

Kevin Kelly:

Yeah. I do what I do, first of all, because I have been incredibly lucky to be born who I am, where I am, at this time, this place, with the parents I have. Incredible luck the whole way through my life. I think luck is unevenly distributed around the world, but we can expand, each of us, we can work to expand the possible likelihood that people, anywhere that they’re born, will touch luck or luck will touch them.

Kevin Kelly:

So I’m interested in spreading my luck, spreading my fortune, spreading the opportunities that I have everywhere in the world, and to increase the number of options and opportunities that are available to anybody living today or yet unborn. And so, I think the best way to increase choices and possibilities is to increase technology. I’m trying to increase the possibilities in the world.

Nick Hanauer:

Well, Kevin, thank you so much for joining us. This has been a fascinating conversation about the glorious future.

David Goldstein:

And I hope all those wonderful visions you write about in The Inevitable are as inevitable as you say they are.

Kevin Kelly:

They are inevitable, but we have a choice in the character of them. So we have lots of choice about these things that are coming no matter what we say. AI is coming, all this stuff is coming, but we have a choice in what it looks like, and so let’s make a better world.

Nick Hanauer:

I love it.

David Goldstein:

Great.

Nick Hanauer:

Thank you, sir.

Kevin Kelly:

All righty.

Nick Hanauer:

Wonderful to meet you.

Kevin Kelly:

Okay, thanks for calling.

Nick Hanauer:

Take care. Bye.

David Goldstein:

Bye, bye.

Kevin Kelly:

Bye.

David Goldstein:

I don’t know if you caught it, but one of my takeaways from this conversation with Kevin was his emphasis on the commons. Did that remind you of a previous conversation we had? This is George Monbiot’s theme in his book, Out Of The Wreckage. That’s his new narrative for the economy-

Nick Hanauer:

That’s right.

David Goldstein:

… is to start talking about-

Nick Hanauer:

The commons.

David Goldstein:

… the commons.

Nick Hanauer:

Right. And that it’s all of ours. And I think that Kevin made a lot of great points about that. And the other thing I really took away from the conversation was the way in which he values the same exact thing that we value. He calls it possibilities, maximizing possibilities.

David Goldstein:

Possibilities and choice.

Nick Hanauer:

That’s right. And we call that inclusion. We say the golden rule of economics is that inclusion creates economic growth and progress, because the more people you fully include, in other words the more people you give possibilities and choice to-

David Goldstein:

Right. And at all levels of the economy, as innovators, as entrepreneurs, as workers, and as robust consumers.

Nick Hanauer:

That’s right. And citizens. The better the thing will work.

David Goldstein:

Right.

Nick Hanauer:

Full stop. And we use the word inclusion because we think, as you and I have discussed before, it is a verb. It’s active. And the other thing that the conversation reminded me of so much, and again, something that really animates our work here at Civic Ventures, is the notion of social lag. That the problems in a society are basically proportional to the distance between the technological innovation in the society, the commercial innovation, and the social, civic and political innovation, and closing that gap. And Kevin was so right, that technological innovation moves very, very quickly. Civic, political and social innovation moves much slower.

David Goldstein:

And we have a political system in this country designed-

Nick Hanauer:

Correct.

David Goldstein:

… to be slow.

Nick Hanauer:

Yes.

David Goldstein:

It was the intention of the founders to make it slow.

Nick Hanauer:

Correct.

David Goldstein:

And this is increasingly a problem. I think this is where most of our problems come from, is that we’re in this era of ever faster technological innovation. Every year things change quicker than they did the year before. And a lot of the social unrest, the uncomfortableness, the angst, the fear for the future, that comes from how quickly our world is changing, and our political system is incapable of keeping up with that. So this lag, this gap, keeps growing over time.

Nick Hanauer:

It does. And again, this also comes back to one of our operating principles, which is local first. That you have to create social change, civic change, political change in cities and states first.

David Goldstein:

So did we actually answer Cody’s question?

Nick Hanauer:

Probably not.

David Goldstein:

Well I think we did. I think we did, and this is why.

Nick Hanauer:

Okay.

David Goldstein:

I think that there’s going to be tons of problems in the future, and the big problem is that we don’t know what those problems are going to be.

Nick Hanauer:

Correct.

David Goldstein:

That this is just the nature of technological change and social change, not just that lag, but as we say, whenever you solve a problem you create more problems. And that complexity just keeps ratcheting up. So the big challenge in the future is not… Well to quote a great philosopher, “There are known knowns and there are known unknowns, but the big problems are the unknown unknown.”

Nick Hanauer:

Yeah, correct.

David Goldstein:

I think I’ve paraphrased Rumsfeld-

Nick Hanauer:

Pretty well.

David Goldstein:

… correctly. It wasn’t actually a stupid thing when he said that. And it’s those unknown unknowns, unfortunately Cody, that are going to present the biggest problems over the next five, 10 20, 30 years.

David Goldstein:

We love to hear from our listeners, so if you’ve got a question for Nick or anybody else at Pitchfork Economics, give us a call and leave us a message at 731 388 9334 and we will try to answer you on the podcast.

Nick Hanauer:

And in the next episode of Pitchfork Economics we get to chat with an extraordinary character, Bob Greenstein. Bob is the president and founder of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which is probably the most important institution doing analysis on the federal budget that exists. Bob is a legend, so it should be super interesting.

Speaker 6:

Pitchfork economics is produced by Civic Ventures. If you liked the show, make sure to subscribe, rate, and review us wherever you get your podcasts. Find us on Twitter and Facebook at Civic Action and Nick Hanauer, follow our writing on medium at Civic Skunkworks, and peek behind the podcast scenes on Instagram, @pitchforkeconomics. As always, from our team at Civic Ventures, thanks for listening. See you next week.