Kevin Kelly Returns (Full Episode) | The Tim Ferriss Show (Podcast) | Transcription

Transcription for the video titled "Kevin Kelly Returns (Full Episode) | The Tim Ferriss Show (Podcast)".


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Intro (00:00)

At this altitude I can run flat out for a half mile before my hands start shaking. Can I ask you a personal question? No, I would have seen it at that time. What if I did the opposite? I'm a cybernetic organism, living tissue over a metal endoskeleton. The Tim Ferriss Show. This episode is brought to you by Headspace, more than 80% of the people I have interviewed, world class performers across the military, entertainment, sports and beyond, all have some type of meditative practice. I tried for years and years and failed miserably. The key is making it simple. And you can dramatically improve your life in just 10 minutes a day and technology can help you. This change comes through guided meditation and Headspace is by far the most popular app for this purpose. More than 4 million users, it's meditation made simple. So what I recommend is that you take this practice, meditation, which is rooted in thousands of years of tradition supported by thousands of scientific studies and try it for 10 minutes a day for 10 days. That's all you need to do. You could also check out the founder, Andy Pudekom's TED Talk, which has more than 5.5 million views. His last name is P-U-D-D-I-C-O-M-B-E if you want to look that up. But otherwise, download the free Headspace app, I have it on my phone, and begin their Take 10 program for 10 days of guided meditation, completely free, 10 minutes a day. That's all it takes. You should give it a shot. Just go to This episode is brought to you by 99 Designs. When your business needs a logo, website, business card, thumbnail, or any other design, I recommend checking out 99 Designs. I use them myself. I've used them for many years. I use them to create book cover prototypes for the 4-Hour Body, which went on to become a #1 New York Times bestseller. I've also used them for banner ads, illustrations, and much more. With 99 Designs, you get a variety of original designs from designers around the world. Give your feedback, and then pick your favorite. Your happiness is guaranteed. So check out some of my competitions and designs and some of your competitions and designs from fellow Tim Ferriss Show listeners at And right now, you can get a free $99 upgrade on your first design. So check it out.

Discussion On Technology, Futurology, And Changes In International Landscape

In which I ask why Tim flies so much. (02:29)

Hello, boys and girls. This is Tim Ferriss, and welcome to another episode of The Tim Ferriss Show, where it is usually my job to deconstruct world-class performers across all different areas and industries, whether they be military, chess, sports, entertainment, or otherwise. Business, of course, the obvious one. This time, it is a conversation between friends, and I am extremely excited to have Kevin Kelly back on the show. Kevin Kelly, I've said this before, might be the real-life most interesting man in the world. I'm not making up what I'm about to read to you. He is senior maverick at Wired magazine, which he co-founded in 1993. He also co-founded the All Species Foundation, a nonprofit aimed at cataloging and identifying every living species on Earth. In his spare time, of course I'm using that tongue in cheek, he writes best-selling books, many of them, co-founded the Rosetta Project, which is building an archive of all documented human languages, and serves on the board of the Long Now Foundation. As part of the last, he's investigating how to revive and restore endangered or extinct species, including the woolly mammoth. That is not made up, folks. We touched on a lot of really fun stuff in this episode. And when Kevin arrived at my house to record, I had certain plans and I asked him what he wanted to highlight or focus on, and we just decided to catch up as friends. So this is very truly the type of conversation that led me in the first place many moons ago to ask, "Why don't I record these and share these conversations?" Because I have so much fun catching up with friends like Kevin. And this is about as close to a banter over drinks as you're going to get in my life, certainly, putting this out publicly. So I hope you enjoy it. We touch on all sorts of things, stories about Jeff Bezos and his email management approach, favorite books, impactful books, tech literacy, why there are "no VR experts," which is very inspiring. And there is a video that didn't make it into this interview, but Kevin mentioned afterward, that I think is the history of Japan in nine minutes that I highly recommend everybody check out. We talk about the evolution of China, why he spent so much time in China, artificial intelligence, network effects, virtual reality, GMO, we talk about everything. And if you think I am the only big fan of Kevin, well, of course, that's not true. There is a little bit of praise for his most recent book called The Inevitable, and these are real quotes, and I'll just, I'll truncate some of them. So here we go. "Anyone can claim to be a prophet, a fortune teller, or a futurist, and plenty of people do. What makes Kevin Kelly different is that he's right." And it goes on and on. That's David Pogue. Many of you will know. Then we have, "Kevin Kelly has been predicting our technological future with uncanny prescience for years. Now he gives us a glimpse of how the next three decades will unfold." That's Ernest Cline, author of Ready Player One. And then also referring to the book, The Inevitable that is, Mark Andresen, who I had on the podcast recently, co-founder of Andresen Horowitz, technological icon, refers to it as an automatic must read. So I hope you enjoy this very informal and wide ranging conversation with none other than Kevin Kelly. And if you want to listen to a longer conversation where I dig into his bio and learn all sorts of nuggets that even I didn't know, then you can check out Just go to You can find previous conversations with him. Enjoy.

The latest scoop on the Quantified Self Movement. (06:14)

Kevin, welcome back to the show. It's always a pleasure, Tim. It's so great to be here. Fantastic low horizontal space. Thank you. Yeah, it's great to have you in my house for a change. I remember still the very first quantified self meetup at your place in Pacifica with however many people it was. There was 20, 25 people that showed up with a call to, "If you think you're quantifying yourself, come." And Tim was one of the people who arrived. It was a broad spectrum of folks. It was. It was really good. We had no idea what to expect. This is Gary Wolf and I, probably eight or nine years ago. And that was the very first meeting of the quantified self movement. And it was meeting my studio in Pacifica. And where is quantified self now? What is the scope of that? Yeah, there's like meetings in almost 300 cities around the world. Amazing. And we have international conference once a year. So it's entered into vocabulary. I mean, it is people talk about it, whether for or against it. There are of course, tons and tons of hardware sensors. The last CES before this year was called the quantified self CES because there were so many wearables, the Apple watch being one of many. So it's sort of entered into the mainstream in a certain sense. It remains to be seen where it goes next. Like, you know, you're probably not wearing your Fitbit today. And so people have spells with this where they find it useful. And the question is how deep can these sensors go so that they're kind of something that everybody does. It's the new normal. I think we're still a ways from that. I don't think we're that far away from it being opt out though, instead of opt in. Right. And for most people actually you're already quantifying yourself because you have an iPhone with an accelerometer that has location tracking and so on. The fascination that I have with your life extends in many different directions.

At the intersection of Kevin's interest in futurology + technology (08:15)

But one is there's the Kevin Kelly futurist technologist, and then there's the Kevin Kelly and they're one in the same of course, but the other, another aspect of you, which sends me your family letters. And I love getting these letters. They read like fiction, quite frankly. I mean, it's straight out of like Rin Tin Tin. And I remember just recently getting a text from you and it was from a number I didn't recognize. And what did it say? I just finished tracking elephants, temple procession, elephants in Kerala and I'm on my way to Oman like tomorrow, whatever. Yeah. Would you like to come? And I was like, I'm sorry. And the, you spend time with the Amish. We've talked about this in episodes in the first episode we did together, certainly, but at the same time we can get really granular and tactical. But first before we go to, I have a question about email and books and Hamilton and so on. Why do you spend so much time in China? And you've, you've written a little bit about this in your family letter updates, but you seem to spend every year more and more time in China. So, and why do they love you so much? Yes. Okay. So this is a very complicated reason. My connection to China is kind of deep starting with the fact that my wife is Chinese. So, so, and my kids are all bilingual and have spent time in China, but more importantly, I wrote a book called out of control 25 years ago, or maybe more now, 1994, I guess. And it was a little early cause it was about how the internet was going to happen before the internet really happened. It was about how these decentralized sharing things were going to, they were kind of almost biologically inspired and they were going to go into our built environment. And I was, what I was talking about, and I was talking about all the rules that the internet was going to run by before there was an internet. And it kind of never really took off in the U S but it was translated into Chinese crowdsource translated about five years ago. And it was just at the right time when pony ma Jack ma and all these guys in China were starting their internet companies and they read the book in Chinese and were influenced by it and talked about it. And there's kind of a little bit of a her social herd mentality in China. And so when these famous successes were talking about this book, I don't think we do that at all. Exactly. Right. Everybody started to buy it. And so I became for better or worse, kind of the Alvin Toffler of China. And they have this ridiculous idea that I'm predicting the future. And because in fact there was very little predictions in the book. It was just that I was talking about things that later on became common. So they have this idea. They're always introduced me as the guy who invented the internet or who predicted the internet. And of course the next person who introduces me have to kind of ratchet up and leave it high here. So it's embarrassing at this point. But I have a lot of fans in China who are trying really hard to be innovative. And they're kind of listening to people from the West, not just me, about how to do that in their culture. And so my book has become one of those books that they're reading to understand where it's going because they are rushing into that future so fast that they really need all the guidance they can get. For people who don't know Toffler, can you give a little context?

An overview of / context on Alvin Tofflers work (11:54)

So Alvin Toffler wrote a book called Future Shock in the seventies or eighties. I don't remember where it was, but he is in some ways for a long time was the most famous futurist and even people who didn't know what he was talking about knew them as a futurist. So he was sort of like, if you'd heard that if you knew about a futurist was Alvin Toffler, even though he hadn't read his book. And I have the same thing in China where people might recognize my name and call me a futurist, even though they've never read anything by him. So Alvin Toffler's book, The Future Shock is still worth reading. He was the one who introduced the term future shock, which was that people would actually have a, they were kind of like a resistance or a reaction to the future in general, just because things were changing fast. But he also invented in that same book or the next one, the idea, the term prosumer, which is the, a person who is both producing and consuming, which we now call kind of user generated content. But this idea that most of this economy would be prosumers, that was his idea in like the seventies or eighties. He was way ahead of the crowd.

How does Kevin see China changing over the next 10-20 years? (13:05)

That's incredible. How do you see China changing in the next, say 10 to 20 years? I believe that China is within five years on the cusp of actually having a global brand that of something that everybody in the world would want. Meaning that a Nike, a fill in the blank. Yeah, exactly. Whether it's a car or a drone or a camera or some, some appliance or device or a digital thing that would be world class in its innovation and its quality. And like, like Sony became eventually for the Japanese. And the reason why I think that is because as you said, I go there a lot. I'm going there probably every three months and then I'm, I'm not just going to the big cities, which I do my talks at, but I always will take an extra week or two and go into the hinterlands out to Yunnan or Guanchi or some other province. And I spent some time on the silk road way in the West where it's Muslim to get a sense of the other China and the, to gauge the depth of, of, of their dream. I'm kind of like, what do the Chinese want? They're going so fast. Where are they aiming for? And what they're trying to do is, is innovate and they're coming to the West to learn how to innovate. And I think like to, like we taught the Japanese how to do quality. You know, the Japanese says, how do we do quality? And so they went to Taylor and all these guys gave him a list of do this and do this and do this and you'll have quality. The Japanese went through the list, they did it. And then they became kind of the world's expert on making quality. The Chinese are saying, how do we do innovation? And all the people from the West and myself, well, you need to have, you know, I didn't have science fairs. You've got to have you know, innovation hubs. You've got to have startups. You have to have all this stuff. And so they're going, they're following, they're going down the checklist and they're going to, we're going to do that. We're going to do that. We're going to do that. And I think they will, they are doing it and they are going to succeed in making something that we all want. And I don't know what it is, but I feel that they're, they're really kind of doing all the things that they want to do.

Has China embraced failure yet? (15:23)

Although there's two cultural characters that they haven't yet gotten to. And those two cultural ones is they haven't yet embraced failure and they still don't collectively question authority enough. And they're working on those and they know that they have to do those and they know that those are difficult to do collectively. I mean, individually of course, there's no problem. The Chinese come to America, they can do all those, but collectively as a culture, those are challenging for them. They're working on them. You know, it'll be some more years, but I think they will do it.

Singapore vs China (16:00)

Now, if you look at, let's say Singapore, I know we're getting pretty China focused here, but just as a sidebar, you were talking about visiting these sort of far flung corners of China. China is just for those people listening who haven't been is a lot more diverse than you might think. And in fact, when you hear Chinese, the language, for instance, like Mandarin Chinese, it's basically Beijing dialect Chinese. And then on top of that, if you were to go to China, I mean, there are many ways to say Chinese depending on where you are. And it indicates a lot of how you feel. So you could say like, right? So you could say like center, like the center country, middle kingdom language, right? Then you can also say like Hanyu, right? So the language of the Han people who are the dominant ethnic group. Guoyu, if you go to Taiwan, now the mainlanders hate that. But if you say Guoyu, that means kind of like the mainland talk. I mean, it's, I'm translating very liberally here. And that of course really irks the Chinese who view Taiwan as sort of a rogue province that is nonetheless still part of them, much like kind of Quebec or something in Canada. But the other point that I was going to make is, is our question rather than I was going to pose is if you look at say Singapore. So Singapore is, has tried with some success for at least I would say the last 10 years to replicate Silicon Valley. And they've faced very similar cultural hurdles, but they have fantastic, at least my impression is financial resources. They have unilateral freedom to kind of do whatever they want. And they have a well-educated population. They are very, very, very small, right? The sandbox is incredibly small. You can walk around Singapore in a day and then you're like, what am I going to do here? I need to go to Malaysia to like have a new meal. Why will China differ? Is it just the sheer number of people that they have to choose from or to filter from, from which you can find like the Michael Jordans, the Jeff Bezos, the fill in the blank? Absolutely. I think, I think this is an arithmetic problem. I mean, 1.4 billion people, by the way, there's like, you know, 0.3 billion North Americans. This is like, there's a billion more of them. I think there definitely is a critical mass, a scale that the, that the Chinese have. And it kind of, it's almost kind of translated into a momentum that you need and then that you have this critical mass of people behind you doing. And they get the kind of, you were mentioning the diversity, which Singapore does not have as much of, but it'd have a lot for being a little city, but not compared to China. You have a huge diversity in China. You say not just the language, but even ethnically, geographically. And so I think they have all those necessary requirements, the requisite complexity that you would need to make something. But there was, I would say two things. One is if they attempt to make another Silicon Valley, I think that fails. There are network effects in all these things. And the network effects is that the best get bigger and the bigger you get, the better you get, the better you get, the bigger you get. And so you have this sort of compounding acceleration. And that means that there's only going to be one or two dominant players. And by the way, AI is going to be a network effects phenomena. Social media is a network effect phenomena. And the kind of startup culture is a network effect phenomena in a particular category. So if they try to do a Silicon Valley for software, it will not happen. If they decide to take something, which I think they might like robotics or aviation or biotech and really develop and grow to sufficient scale, I think they could have an equivalent. And right now they do have one in manufacturing. The Pearl River Delta area from Guangzhou to Shenzhen, Hong Kong. I mean, that is, that's basically one. They do the world's best manufacturing in China. It's not because it's the cheapest, it's because it's the best. And they have this whole ecosystem with thousands and thousands of suppliers and dynamic real time inventory control and this whole thing. And so they are now, they do have the Silicon Valley for manufacturing in that area. And they will continue to grow that. And people are going there not because they're the cheapest. In some cases they aren't, but because they have the absolute best in manufacturing.

How much of Silicon Valley can be attributed to a handful of companies? (20:36)

How much of the, and this is for those people listening, Kevin and I decided to wing it. We had a conversation prior to recording and this is just us talking about stuff that we're interested in. So I've been over the last few weeks discussing with folks visiting Silicon Valley and the origins of Silicon Valley. We're trying my best to explain why Silicon Valley may have happened here and not elsewhere. How much of Silicon Valley do you think can be attributed to a handful of companies that just happened to land here, like Fairchild or some of these semiconductor companies? The inability to enforce non-compete contracts in California, which I think allowed these people to then split off and form many other companies that might have stepped on their former bosses territory or other. Like how would you, when somebody asks you, why did Silicon Valley happen here? What do you say? So there were reasons why, and there was actually a really good book on this by Annalee Saxlin, I believe her name was, and she studied Route 128 around Boston and Silicon Valley and compared it to because Route 28 actually had a little headstart in this kind of tech world. And why didn't they become the Silicon Valley? Why did-- Why did Sand Hill Road kill them? And part of the reasons, there's a number of different reasons, but one of them was because, I think you mentioned a couple, but there's others. And that was Silicon Valley was so far from the West Coast government, the D.C. government, that they-- The East Coast government. Excuse me, the East Coast government, D.C., that they had to find a whole bunch of different sources for funding. They kind of, they invented the funding model, which 128 around Boston was still locked into a lot of the government defense contracts. Right. Okay? And so that was a kind of a difficulty, but a liberation for Silicon Valley where there was kind of really divorced from the government handouts, government subsidies, the government funding. Not completely, but enough to actually really develop this other alternative way of financing things. Venture capital. Right, venture capital. And so, and I think psychologically there was this other division, this other kind of divorcing from the whole California story of no adult supervision, not asking for permission, which started in the '49ers and before. I think that also continued to influence the culture. So there was a cultural innovation. And many people say that the greatest invention from Silicon Valley was not the transistor or software, it was this model. It was this innovation model. That is the kind of meta-- The innovation model meaning the set of beliefs and maxims and so on that those people carried in their heads? Exactly, right. The venture funding model, the startup model, this method, this culture that would reward, the joke was you change your job and you walk across the street. Right. And also the fact that you would encourage to change your job. Far from life along employment, but this idea that you've been here a couple of years, time to move on. And so there's a whole bunch of things that are ingredients to that. And this book studies this in a kind of a more economically rigorous way of why did one surpass the other? I remember fascinating documentaries on this as well. And maybe it's all sort of hindsight logical, but in reality, 90% of it was just random collision of people and factors.

Strains of AI that extend deeper into its roots than you may guess. (24:02)

I don't know. I would also recommend John Markhoff's book with this really trippy title called What the Dormouse Said. What the Dormouse Said. Which is about the hippie origins of the personal computer industry. So there's a whole another strand, which is very influential, which was the fact that the hippie generation embraced computers unlike the other technologies that they were rejected. And they embraced them as from Doug Engelbart to Steve Jobs to a lot of the AI guys and a lot of the people in the early computer industry had kind of a little of the hippie background. And they saw these things as augmentations as basically as kind of like a new age way to augment the human. And so there was, you know, when the people left the communes, they tried the communes, they didn't work with a long hair, but they learned a lot of skills, including small business skills, making their candles and their sandals and their macrame, selling, you know, honey or whatever it was. So unlike people who went to college and never dropped out, who went to work for the big organizations, the IBM, they were at the craft fairs, getting business skills. Then when they came along, they transferred those directly into this idea of small businesses, which were not cool in the, I mean, small business. If you told somebody in like the fifties that you were at a startup, that was a code for like, I'm unemployed. I was fired. It's like consultant, right? That was the, the analog. Have you ever been to, I know jumping around here, but to Christiania in Copenhagen, Copenhagen.

Embracing various forms of governance and staying flexible of mind. (25:59)

So there's this area for people who haven't been that called Christiania. I'm pretty sure I'm getting it roughly right. And it's effectively like an hippie slash anarchist commune in the middle of or around Copenhagen. And there are gates that you walk through and it says here ends the European union when you walk through. And, and as you described, it's like people riding, like walking their kids around in wheelbarrows, making honey, making candles. They have breweries. It's such a funky experience. A little autonomous region. We started off with kind of like a squatter city that, that is now semi-legal in some, some capacity. And they do have their own little government at this point. And they're there and it's quite extensive. I mean, you could spend, you know, it's not quite as big as Singapore, but it's, it's not that far off. And it's, it's, it's a worth. It's a worthy experiment to go visit because there are lots of alternative governments and structures and cultures are really important. And let me just say one thing about travel before we kind of go on to other things. I travel a lot, not just to China, but to other places as much as I can, because I find that it really keeps my mind flexible. In fact, I find that it's the most exercise I can do in a short amount of time than anything else. I mean, sure, I can learn a new language or do these other things, but I find they can do all those while you're traveling too. But travel really forces me to be flexible and to confront others and to think about things differently. And even whether if I have a different, an idea there, it's just that habit of trying to think and come at things differently that I find really, really useful. In addition to the fact that you actually literally are looking at your own culture from a different lens, but even just the general habit of trying to let go of what you think you know. And I go to China above all else because every time I go, I actually have decided I know less than the last time. I mean, there's so much happening there. It's happening so fast. It's so big. The Chinese have no idea what's happening. And I think I know something. And then I go and I realize, I don't know what's happening here either. I know less than that last time I visited. Or it's a different country. Right, exactly. And the last time here. Right. And so I think travel is so important, particularly to young people, that I really believe that should be subsidized by, at the federal level. Yeah, I think gap year should be mandatory. I think a two-year national service should be a requirement and you can fulfill it any way you want, including going overseas and working at the Peace Corps or something, Visa, whatever it is. Take two years. You want to go to military? Fine. You want to go to inner city? Fine. You want to go overseas? Fine. We'll pay you for two years. Nothing would transform America as having an overseas experience for the majority of people who, by the way, don't have passports at this moment. I agree. Could not agree more. And we agreed on a few other things earlier when we were talking about podcast questions and I was making some funky mushroom coffee, not of the psychedelic sort, that I'll describe some other time. But you suggested that I ask people about their email systems.

How does Kevin (or Jeff Bezos) handle email? (29:23)

How do they handle inbound email? Right, because for ordinary people, they get a lot of email. But if you have any level of success or notoriety or prominence, dealing with the incoming in a sane way that is actually works is a real mystery to me. So people like yourself or even the other people who get a lot of demands on them, how do you actually deal with email? Do you have more than one account? If you have more than one account, how do you handle it? Do you have your system involved? Etc, etc. There are many different facets. And you mentioned you had a conversation with Jeff Bezos. And I said, we have to save that for the podcast. So now I have to ask, what was this conversation? So I had the opportunity to ask Jeff at some point about his email because I, you know, I wanted to send it to him. It's like, who do I send it to? How do you do your email? He says, well, I have, and this again, I think this is probably a 10 year old answer, so I can't verify this is happening, but he said, I finally figured out what to do. And so here's what it is, is anything you send to me and his actually emails fairly well circulated. He says, anything you send to me, my assistant will read and they are, my assistants plural will read and they are in charge of responding or doing something with it, right? Whatever, whatever the appropriate note to give the appropriate response. And, but I also read it all. And since I don't really normally answer it unless you know, there's something is, and then if there is something that I want to respond to, I'll respond to. So the worst case scenario is that you get two replies from me, from my assistant, if it needs to be replied to and me. So in other words, he sends everything, so everything goes through in parallel circuit, ones to his assistants and they deal with what has to be, and most of it's probably going to be ignored. Those that need to be done something, they may nudge him or whatever. And he's also looking at it and he can reply personally to it. And he said, the worst is you might get two. And so that, that seems to be, I mean, you know, he has one email and I have gotten responses to that email and sometimes it just kind of goes and obviously he doesn't need to respond to it. To the ether. Right. Do you still have, because this is something that I've had to get increasingly better at because the, the tools and tactics as I lead them out, for instance in the four hour work week still work very well.

The perfect assistant and researcher team. (31:39)

However, I've had to develop sort of more nuanced layers on top of what I did because now it's thousands of email coming and hitting me, my assistants, everyone, and deciding how to vet and use tools like boomerang to schedule things to be set in the future or automatic followups, you name it, moving a lot of internal communication to Slack so that it's separate from the inbox, et cetera. Do you still have an assistant and a separate researcher? I do. I have an assistant and a full time researcher, but they don't read, they don't do my mail. So I do all my own mail. What is your researcher currently helping you with? If you can talk about it. Yeah, I would love to talk about it. In fact, we just had a review today. So I've been working on a project, a review, meaning that you, we have an annual review. I have an annual review with the two people who work for me. And so once a year we sit down and we do an employee review. We talk about the past year and we evaluate what's coming up. And so what her name is Camille and what Camille is working on is we are gathering every longterm forecast that we can find anywhere in any of the industries or published anywhere. We're bringing them together and we're going to try to integrate all the longterm forecasts into kind of one integrated forecast of the future longterm, meaning 10 years or more. So forecast could be anything from this is how we see gasoline prices moving in the next 20 years to this is how we anticipate air travel to the number of seats filled in air travel to move in the next 20 years. Right. And we're going even broader like the future of sports, number of attendees at sports games at, you know, transportation going through the whole list of things. So she's been working on it for six months and we probably have another six months of what I, what I call the official future. Having been trained in GBN, which was a, a consultancy that did strategy for global companies. The mantra was that all predictions are wrong and generally particularly official futures. So there's official extrapolation. You kind of take what's been happening for the past five years and you extrapolate. They are invariably not correct because they don't, because things jig and jag and new things, you know, are invented that kind of disrupt the pattern. But my premise is that while they're wrong, that they're still useful. And if they, they would be particularly useful if they were integrated together. So you would say, well, here's the, you know, the future of transportation looks like this and the future of auto, you know, electric cars looks like this and these both can't be right. We have to kind of, they have to kind of inform each other in some ways. So that's the next step of kind of integrating and have these official futures inform each other and to see if I can make a scenario that's more useful out of the sum of the parts. So she has been working on that for six months and she also did the research when I was doing the big cover story for Wired on VR. So for five months I was trying out every single VR headset input content that I could, and I wrote this article in the way Wired works, like other magazines is they have this fact checking, which is sort of in some ways kind of a legal, is it covered, cover your ass thing, which means that every single statement that I make has to be verified and proven like a scholarly article, like a footnote, which is like totally insane, but that's what you have to do. So there, so we're involved in like, you know, you say something that seems obvious to you, you know, there's, I don't know, some statement of VR is, you know, people get sick in it or they have motion sickness. Can you prove that? Where's that come from? How do you know about that? And so these things, so she was, did a lot of the hard legwork and finding the documentation for these kinds of statements that aren't footnoted in the article, but actually are footnoted in when I turn over to them. So I have a completely scarily footnoted article. People don't realize that, but behind the scenes with New Yorker and Wired and places like that, there is a huge amount of, there's, there's a full time staff that will fact check every single fact. Oh yeah. It's a big dedicated stuff. By the way, books do not do that and newspapers do not do that. Yeah. It's a, we, we spend a lot of time talking about all of that. So, so, so going back to my assistant, so I have a researcher who does all that kind of research and anything else I need a research on, which I mean, that's the main thing, but there's this was my one dream was to have somebody, and this was, you know, kind of even before Google that I could ask, you know, what I do a lot of travel and so they sometimes do research on simple things like, is it okay? Is it a sane idea to rent a car in Oman or should I get a driver? You know, it's like, so you kind of troll the, the trip advisor boards or lonely department is just kind of looking, looking around. Yeah. So there's that kind of stuff.

Strategies For Personal And Professional Development

Matching researcher skill with personal and professional goals. (37:28)

How do you decide aside from those types of logistics, how do you, how do you choose projects for your, your researcher to help you with? And you could delve into anything that you'd like. So how do you choose? I mean, projects in general, what am I going to do next? Sure. Yeah. How do you choose what you're going to do next? Okay. So this, this has taken me a long time to get there, but what I, one of the questions that I, well, you know, there's, you've seen these Venn diagrams of things that you like to do things that other people need. But for me, there's actually a third important circle. And that's not just like things that I want to do. So that, that has to be a key thing that, you know, that I'm good at doing. That's the second thing. Cause there's lots of things I could have would have fun doing, but I see I'm no good at, but so they have to be good. I'm good at, and then there's kind of like, maybe it would be useful to other people, but the, the, this other circle that's become more important to me is can anybody else do it? Yeah. Right. If somebody else can do it, I am not going to do it. And I spent a lot of time trying to give away ideas and trying to talk about what I'm doing in the hope that someone else comes along and says, oh, I'm doing that. And that's like, oh, what a relief because now I'm not going to do that. You know, it's like, I'm talking about this future stuff. If I can find out someone else out there, they write to me and they say, I'm doing that. I was like, oh my gosh, thank you. Now I don't have to do that because, and so what I'm trying to, what I'm trying to look for is really good things that I would enjoy that other people value that nobody else is going to do. They can't convince anyone else to do. They think it's a terrible idea or they think it's a lousy idea, but for some reason I think this is a good idea and I can't get anyone else to do it. I can't talk. No one will steal it from me. You're trying to give it away. No one's going to take it. It's like, oh, I have to do that now. That's how I feel about books. So I get asked, well, why don't you write a book on this? Why don't you write a book on that? And I'm like, there are already plenty of good books on both of those subjects. And it has to be something that bothers me for so long. It seems like such a crackpot idea to everybody else. I can't buy it anywhere to scratch the itch. And I'm like, okay, well, that's me. Just to fix that neurosis, I have to address it.

Seeking greater simplicity (39:45)

So the titles are important. And you mentioned the title of a book just a few minutes ago before we started recording that caught my attention because we were looking at the slow creep of books and piles on my table, which is ironically right next to this Marie Kondo book on the Japanese magic of cleaning up. I can never remember the name of the book. Let's be more accurate. The book about cleaning up is on a stack of other stuff. Exactly. Which I took a photograph of because it's a lot better than it was. It used to be kind of like the trash compactor in Star Wars. And this book on Japanese decluttering or just kind of surf this wave of floats and put some jets around my house. It's a lot better now. But you mentioned that another book called All Too Much. It's All Too Much and it actually preceded her book, at least in English. And I thought it was so valuable that in this really huge book I did called Cool Tools, I listed it as the very first tool, which was how to deal with all this stuff, how not to have a bunch of stuff. And I actually found, I gave it a whole page because the message was so profound because it's not about like tidying up and cleaning. He talks about the fact that if you have something that is valuable, you need to show it. Hiding things. If you have collections and they're not visible, then they're not working for you. So it's not against collecting things, but if you're collecting, they have to be prominent. They have to bring you joy. They have to be doing something in your life. And that what you want with decluttering is basically to remove the junk so you have room for your treasure. And all these kinds of things where it's not about the stuff. It's about your mental state, your openness to new ideas. And the clutter is in some ways prohibiting your self-fulfillment. The best you because it's hiding, you're buried under it. And so there is this sort of, I wouldn't call it pop psychology, but it is a little bit about trying to get at the core of what you are about, what your house is about, what your life is about and making room for these things. And the kinds of techniques that he uses are very similar to what the Japanese gal, I can't remember her name. Kondo, which is, you know, you pick up something and does that object give you joy? Actually, what she does is differently. She says, take everything in your house. And she goes by categories, put it, all your clothes in the center, make a big pile. And by default, all you're gonna get rid of all of them. And, but as you're going through, if you pick up something that gives you joy, that's what you keep. Everything else is just gone. And the same thing about all your other possessions, you know, category by category, you decide they're all by default, going to be gone. And you only retrieve those things that when you, that gives you joy. And that's a little bit what he's talking about in that same kind of profound way. I feel like that I did try this. I gave it a good college try and I did find certain aspects of it very helpful. But then the joy part I picked up, I remember like these printouts that were like legal documents or tax returns and I'm like, not joyful. This is not giving me joy, but it would be very neglectful and irresponsible of me to throw these out. Now what Marie Kondo? The topic of simplicity is one that I try to consistently return to because our lives tend to entropy, right? What books or resources have you found helpful for simplifying your life? And if that's not the right question, you can tackle it a different way. Well, I think it's all too much of this kind of decluttering and in her book are actually helpful in simplifying things. I, I'm maybe not as a big fan of simplicity as you are. I think our lives are inherently more complex than our parents and our grandparents and our children and their grandchildren and future generations will be more complicated. I think that is generally the drift of this thing we call life and evolution and technology is, and they're going to become more and more complicated. And I think, you know, right now people are, some people are very upset over our kind of distracted manner or the way that we kind of skip through or surf through the nets and the internet and social media. I actually think that's a very sane response to the environment where we are kind of, we have to scan because things are much more complicated and we'll do more scanning in the future. So I, I think there, maybe there's kind of like appropriate kinds of complexity, you know, complications maybe we avoid and complexity is okay. I mean, the thing about life is that it's, it surfs a very fine line between rigid order, which is death and complete chaos. And there is this sort of, there is this edge of chaos, they call it this edge where there's this sort of a particular kind of falling forward or a particular kind of chaotic order or orderly chaos or something. And I think, so it's not rigid simplicity and it's not just overly chaotic complications. There is a, there is a very fine, a variety of complexity that is not just healthy, but it is the source and the genius of, I think health, wealth and everything else that we want. So I think that I might be able to ask a better question, which is in face of the notifications and social media pings and so on and so forth, a lot of people feel anxious and they feel conflicted and over committed.

A lack of technology phobias (45:33)

Maybe you just mask it really well, but I've never had that feeling from you. I've never gotten the impression that you feel those things. Why, why not? Yeah. And I mean, are there particular rules or ways that you, I, there is one thing and that is and maybe this is kind of a Zen thing, you know, the Zen mantra is sit, sit, walk, walk, don't wobble. I haven't heard that before. Yeah. So this is the idea that, okay, when I'm with a person, that's total priority. Anything else is multitasking. No, no, no, no. It's just like, so I have a priority, you know, the people to people, person to person trumps anything else. And if there's something else going on, you know, whatever I have, I have given my dedication to this. If I go to a play or a movie, I am at the movie. I'm not anywhere else. It's like a hundred percent. I'm going to listen. If I go to a conference, it's like, I'm going to go to the conference. That's true. I've, I've never seen you on a device while with or near other people. Right. Now that I think about it. And even at Wired before I had, I had the rules like, if I'm with a person, the person in the phone rings. No, never. If I'm on the phone and the notification rings, no, I'm on the phone. And so I think this sense of, and you can kind of have a priority if you want, whatever it is, but it's sort of like, I'm going to give, I'm going to be present, whatever that is at that time. And everything else is sort of, we'll deal with it later. Sit, sit, walk, walk, don't wobble.

Books Rich finds useful (47:28)

Right. What books have you found, have given you, and I always come back to books. It doesn't have to be books, sources, something that people listening could look at themselves or listen to have given you rules like that or maxims or sayings that have proved very useful. Well, you know, I come from religious tradition and I actually think some of the religious texts are very good for that. And I think it's very hard to kind of read the Bible all the way through, by the way, I recommend that you do that at least once in your life, no matter who you are, sit down. Well, it takes a long time, but read through the Bible and read, you know, read a modern version. It'll take you some time. It is the, probably the most amazing things you haven't read yet. It's highly disturbing, highly influential, and whatever your opinion about it is, it's, you're going to be wrong. Whatever you think, you know, whether you think it's the greatest, I mean, read it through. It's an amazing book. And I have to say the same thing about the Quran. Try to read, you know, the Sufi stuff. There's nothing that I enjoy more than at night reading Rumi. I mean, it's just something about it. Just he's a Sufi mystic from Afghanistan who is a transcendent thought leader, maybe like Seneca or something. He has tremendous wisdom. And so I think the wisdom of the ancients in general have a lot to offer us. And I think, you know, the reading the Zen parables, you know, sound of one hand clapping, Zen mind, beginner minds, these kinds of things. For me, that kind of wisdom, it's not like you have to be slavish, obedient to them. Take what you find useful, move on. But I found a lot of use in those texts.

What skills should we learn? (49:19)

So we have, in a sense, these timeless philosophies and belief structures that can help us make better decisions and so on. Then we have subject matter expertise of different types that can become more or less relevant over time. And we were chatting before we started recording about a question that I get asked all the time, which is, what industry should I be paying attention to in the next three to five years? What skills should I learn? And most of these are business focused, but what skills should I learn to be able to take advantage of new non-obvious industries in the next 10 to 15 years? And you mentioned, and I might be getting the wording here off, but sort of tech literacy or techno literacy, different types of literacy. Can you elaborate on that? Right. So, so let me put again a little bit of context. I would really, I'll talk a bit more, but let me just preface and say that I do talk a bit about this in my new book called The Inevitable, which is one of the few copies. Tim has one of the first copies off the press and it's talking about the next 20 to 30 years, mostly about digital technology and the trends that I consider non-negotiable, inevitable in the sense of there's not much we can do about it. There's a lot we can do about the specifics, but I don't know about the bigger trends they are coming, whether we want to. And the subtitle, so the inevitable subtitle, "Understanding the 12 Technological Forces that will shape our future." And one of the first chapters talks about this question of skills. I think that the specifics like what language should I be learning in school or what business skills should I have? I think what I would think are more useful and what I counsel even my own kids about, are these kinds of mental level skills, the skills of learning how to learn, the skills of learning how technology in general learns or operates, which is what I would call the techno-literary skills. And so an example of a techno-literary skill is that the cost, besides the initial purchase cost of a technology, whatever technology you buy, you now have a maintenance cost. That maintenance cost is like making sure that it's upgraded or integrated or just maintaining it in some capacity. So there's several levels of the cost. It's not just how much does it cost to buy, but how much does it cost to maintain in your life? There's a price to dealing with it when it breaks down, upgrading, that there is sort of like owning a boat a little bit. It's like not the initial cost of the boat, it's the maintenance that really is the costly part. And the same thing with anything that we buy. So if you get something into your house, there's now a relationship with that thing. It's like having a pet or an animal or something. You have to deal with it and its interaction with other things. That's just a kind of an elementary thing. There's a sense in which there's also negative costs too, in terms of whatever it is that we have, there's going to be some downside. And journalists are usually pretty good about kind of identifying. You should pay attention to what people say about the negative aspects of it because they are real. It's not that they should discourage you from using that technology and I don't argue that it shouldn't, but we should be aware of them and willing in a certain sense to pay the price. What would be an example, a clear example to you of a technology with a downside that perhaps is underappreciated or downsides that are underappreciated? Automobiles kill 1 million humans on earth every year. Now imagine if we were going to introduce automobiles and say, here's cars, it'll kill 1 million of us. Do you want to drive it? Not the best pitch I've heard. Well I know, but I think that's what I'm saying. I'm saying there are all these hidden, but that's real and this is one of the reasons why I think driverless cars are going to, even though they will, so here's the thing, the first driverless car that kills a person, people will go completely bananas, but we're killing 1 million of them ourselves.

An example of a technology mospeople assume is all good and benefits (53:17)

And so that's not registered for some reason. It's like, that doesn't count? Yeah, they've lost the reference point. Right, exactly. So there is going to be, I mean driverless cars will kill some people, but they're not going to kill as many as we kill. And so in evaluating that, in evaluating whether you want to get in, and there are going to be, by the way, ethical issues with driverless cars because we give ourselves a pass when we have an accident. It's like, oh, I didn't have time to react. I wasn't thinking. But the driverless car has to be programmed and so you have to give it a preference. If there's an accident, do you give the passenger safety preference over the pedestrian? Right. Or do you give the three elementary school kids? The trolley problem. Exactly. The trolley problem. But the thing is, is that when you go to, Like seven people who are 70 years old. Right. And so when you go to buy a car and Volvo says, hey, we give passengers preference. Is that ethical? Is the programming right? One of the selling points. You are 12% less likely to be sacrificed. Exactly. In compromising environments. So I think there's, I think there are. And so technical literacy is like, say we need to be cognizant of this, that there's costs, that there's ethical dimensions to this, that and there's, there are other technical literacy skills. Like the fact that you don't really want to learn a language, a programming language. You want to learn how to learn a language because you're going to have to relearn it later on. And you want to understand that, you know, how that when you buy something, it's kind of immediately obsolete, right? It's always by definition. And so one of the things I recommend is like, you want to buy things like five minutes before you need it, not ever before. There's no sense in kind of hoarding this stuff because it's just going to change. Just in time. Just in time. Just in case. Exactly. And so there, there, there are, there are, there are things, I think those kinds of, of skills are going to be much more useful.

The Future Of Employment And Virtual Reality

The three things Neil Gaiman says you need to get a job (55:38)

And I think I might've said this before, but when I was at Wired and we were doing hiring, first of all, I never looked at anybody's educational background. I looked at their experience and the motto that I had in my head was you hire for attitude and the skills will, will train, will train for skills. I wasn't really hiring people for skill set per se. It was more of their attitude, their, their orientation, their technical literacy, their, their ability to, to learn and adapt. That was far more valuable than the particular skills they had. Now at some level skills play into it and that's true. Then there is a certain skill requirement, but I think maybe as important is, is the, these other levels. No, it makes me think of this, I think it's a bit from Neil Gaiman's commencement speech, which is, which is a good art, but he says at some point he realized that there are three important components if you want to keep a job and it is get along with people, have people like you deliver things on time, be good at your job.

The 3 Fives (56:32)

And he said, the good news is you don't actually need all threes and you just need two out of the three. You have two out of the three, they'll keep you around, do things on time, have people like you or be really, really good. It's like you only need two of the three. Well, yeah, do things on time is, is, is, is really great. But in terms of, in terms of other people who are self-starter, like if you don't have a job, if you're trying to do something, the equivalent of that is just do lots of the stuff, do lots of it over and over and over again. And I can't emphasize how important that doing it a lot is because the only way to get through, the only way to find out what you're really good at or no one else can do it is basically that's a lifelong project. You have to throw a lot against the wall. You have to do a lot and a lot and it's the more failures you have, the more successes. There's, it's a really very clear ratio that's linked and you, you just have to do a lot. That's the only way you can find out what you're good at because you know how many college kids, young people coming out, they say, I don't have a passion. I don't know what I'm good at. The only way that I know to find out your passion is to actually work to it by trying lots of stuff and becoming expert at something. Right. Well, in a way, I mean, this is, uh, might sound cliched, but you know, instead of discovering yourself, you're creating yourself. And so these, these kids are the kids sound like just an old man, but these, these young people who graduate from college and then they want to sit down and like journal for 10 minutes or take multiple choice test to figure out their Myers Briggs and have their kind of assignment for passion. And I'm like, that's not how this works. Like you're not, you're not an ice, you're not a block of ice that's being chipped away to reveal the sculpture underneath. Like you're actually just like a small piece of clay and all of the other bits and pieces need to be added. And there is a kernel of it that is you, but you need to construct that. And the way you do that is by doing these experiments and trying X, Y and Z and everything else in between. And it's, um, I still feel like I'm doing that and it's, I'm still doing that. I'm, I'm almost 65. I'm still doing that. And the people I respect the most in my circle are still doing that. They're still asking themselves at 70 years old, what am I going to do when I grow up? You know what I mean? Basically it's like, and who am I, what am I here for and should I be doing this? And that's actually why they, I respect them so much is because they're still constructing their life rather than say discovering it or finding it. They're, they're constructing it. I think that's a really wonderful metaphor.

VR & AI (59:27)

You said, uh, you said a while back when we were, uh, just putzing around in my living room, looking at the living wall and whatnot, you said there are no VR experts, right? Right. So, so, so one of the things, cause I, so I wrote this big cover story on wired about VR and a couple of years ago I wrote about AI. And by the way, these are the kinds of things that are in my book, the inevitable where I'm looking at these things which are coming. So AI is coming in a big way. VR is coming. The particulars of how it arrived, who owns it, how it's structured, those are not inevitable. Those aren't predictable. And we, they make a lot of difference to us. So we have a lot of choice in this thing. But one of the things I want to emphasize is that right now, basically there are no VR experts. It's, it's completely open. We really, we collectively humans have no idea how VR is going to work, what content will really work best in VR, what the necessary amount of equipment will be, what that kind of consumer breakthrough version will be. And even though there is VR today, the VR today is good enough to improve. So it hasn't been good enough to improve, but now today with the Oculus and the Vive and these other stuff is now good enough to improve for reasons I could talk about and it will improve very fast, but there's no experts. And so that means that a person out there listening to this could easily become a VR expert. Okay. There's really no AI experts. There are a lot of people working on AI, but compared to what we'll know in 20 years from now, we don't know anything. And so it's actually not that difficult to become an AI expert. So let's say someone listening said, you know what? I've read about, I've read about VR. This is really exciting. I'm tired of my comparative literature major. I'd like to switch gears and really immerse myself. What would you suggest they do? If they seemed earnest, intelligent, they were committed, they were like, I want to become a VR expert or AI. You can pick your pick. Yeah. So, I mean, there was a guy, Kent By, who runs the Voices of VR podcast two years ago, he quit his job and he decided he, he's interviewed 400, he's done 400 interviews of every, almost every person working in VR. And it's, and that's his business, that's his job now is he's, he just does interviews of the voices of people working in VR. He's kind of doing the journalistic side. I would say very, very easy, which is you purchase some gear and you start making VR, you actually do it. And it's, you buy it, you'll get a pair of Google goggle, Google, what's it called? Google VR, the cardboard, which you can get for free and use your phone and start making VR and you'll learn more about it than, than reading about it, than working, whatever it is and trying to make, trying to make a VR experience, do my something for five minutes. The issues are incredible. There's like lighting issues, there's continuity issues. There's, we don't even have a vocabulary for editing. I mean, for like, you know, like in cinema, we have a whole syntax of what a cut is, right? How, you know, how do you do a job? A pinning shot of X, Y, and Z. We don't have any of that. None of that really works in VR. Doesn't mean the same thing. So we have to, somebody has to invent all those, the interface, the mouse, there's no mouse for VR. I mean, there are people who invented it, but there's nothing that has worked like the windows and the mouse, the Engelbart made. So there is so much that has to be invented. And that somebody who just decides that they're going to work at this every day or every day on weekends or whatever it is, can make a huge advance. And I think you need to do it. You know, you'll need to do it because you love it because it's, you know, there's, this is not economics. We're talking about investing into mastery. It's, I was having a chat with Mark Andreessen recently and he said, what did he say? I just had a complete mental blank. I need more tea. He said a lot of very interesting things. And you'll remember it and you will hear about them another time because I just had a complete premature Alzheimer's moment. So that's, that's going to have to be a footnote for later.

What Esther is most excited about right now (01:04:17)

What are you most excited about right now? I'm going to take that kind of in the professional sense of, in any sense. No, I really, yeah, no. Well, in the personal sense, I'm still very excited about Asia. Asia is a combination for me of the future. You were asking before about, I go to China to hear what the future will be. And also because I have a love for the Asian traditions that are disappearing very, very fast and I'm trying to record them. So I go to Asia to photograph these disappearing traditions, ceremonies and whatnot. And Tim was just joking that I just came back from Kerala, India, where I was photographing these massive elephant processions that the temples have with 40 elephants parading through and all kinds of ceremonies that, and I don't know how long they can continue that. It's a very kind of expensive, elaborate spectacle and not just in one place, but throughout the, the, the, the, the rural areas. And it's like other areas that as they become modern, some of these traditions become hard to hold onto. And I'm not nostalgic about wanting to keep them or protect them. I just want to record them because I think they will go away. So that excites me. I'm working on another book and that's personally something I love to do for joy. That's the only reason, just because I love to record and document these things and see them. But the other thing I'm excited about in the kind of world of the future is AI. I can't under, I can't overestimate or over enthuse on the disruptive nature that I think AI will be in the broadest sense. And many people use analogies and I have several analogies, but the one that maybe would make sense to most people was the industrial evolution was this huge, huge thing from the world of agriculture, where we used our own physical muscles and the muscles of animals to get things done. And then we had this thing where we automated that with artificial power, artificial, you know, electric power and steam power and later gasoline power. This is artificial animal power, artificial human power that we used to make our lives so much easier and so much different. I mean, everything, our whole lives are really, the fact that this house has been built using this automated power. I mean, imagine if you had to make it by hand or just, it's just insane. We couldn't do it. So behind this, so all these motors and the harnessing of that power propelled this industrial revolution in the modern world that we have. Well, you know, the 150 years ago, farmers would take an item like a hand pump and say, well, we'll make it electric. So they took things and they electrified them. What we're doing now, we're at the very beginning of it, is we're going to take all the things that we electrified and we're not going to cognify them. We're going to add intelligence to them, everything. And not just things that are electric, but even inert things like a chair, like the door, people laugh and they say, well, you put a computer in a door 20 years ago or 30 years ago. Yes. Go to a hotel today. There's a computer in your door. There's a little card reader. So we're going to just keep adding this and this is going to get smarter and smarter in multiple different ways. And so that intelligence I call artificial smartness is not like human intelligence. It's like artificial power. It's like synthetic learning. It's just very specific, narrow, brute force kind of intelligence. And so while we could think of our lives as having like when you drive a car, it's what 240 horsepower, you have 240 horses at your disposal. And we're going to do the same thing with AI. Like you're going to have like 250 minds right here to do whatever it is that you want to think about or, or, or solve. You just hire this. And so it will be like electricity in the sense that you're not going to make the AI you're going to buy it. It'll be like Amazon web services. Exactly. It'd be like Amazon. Exactly. In fact, Google is now selling their AI. You can purchase AI from Google today. And that's what we'll do. Yes. 60, 60 cents, 60 cents per thousand instances. Really? Yes. And Google AI can do amazing things. Like it can look at a picture and tell you what's going on in a picture and you can actually ask it questions. You can say, is there, what's that person wearing? What color is that? Is that hat? What are they doing with it? And they'll tell you back 60 cents, a thousand. What would your response be to those who have fear of the rise of the machines? Yeah. Skynet and creating the summoning of demons that we can't control, et cetera. Yeah. How would you respond to that or comment on it? I would say, first of all, it's possible, but very unlikely. Why do you say that? There are a lot of reasons. One is that the general trend is that automation, including this AI, will create more jobs than it destroys. And it will take a lot of jobs away. I think in 20 years, at least 50% of the people driving trucks will no longer drive trucks. And by the way, truck driving is the most common occupation in the US. They're not known. Yeah. So 50% of those won't have jobs, particularly the long haul trucks and stuff like that. So there will be jobs. I like to think that there are tasks that are going to be taken away. So automation, including white collar tasks like mortgage, people working in bank, all this kind of thing. If you have a job that's defined by productivity or efficiency, that's a job that's going to go to the AI. That's a job. So productivity is for robots. Okay. Yeah. Productivity is for robots. What humans are going to be really good at are asking questions, being creative and experiences. So that's almost everything in our world right now is becoming cheaper and cheaper in cost. The few things that are increasing costs are all experience based. Tickets to a concert, tickets to Hamilton, tickets to a travel, a personal coaching, a nursing care, you know, weddings, all these, those are the things that are going up in price because they're all, they're not commodifiable.

Future Jobs and Experiences (01:10:59)

They're not manufacturable. They're, they're, they are experienced based. They're not efficient. Science is terribly inefficient. You're not learning anything unless you're making mistakes. That's inefficient by definition. Innovation is inherently inefficient. So we will move to those things and they all have to be high brow. Again, you know nursing care being companion for someone giving them attention, giving them an experience. So there's, there's a big room there, but I think we're going to move away from things that are being measured in terms of efficiency because anything that's concerned with efficiency, whether it's white collar knowledge work or physical work goes to the robots. What has been the most impressive VR experience or profound that you've had?

The most impressive VR experiences to date. (01:11:51)

Yeah, so this is a good question because I saw them all and I saw this, the secret of magic leap, which had a really good visual representation, but it turns out magically being augmented reality. It was, it was a, they call it a mixed reality because it's the kind of where you have a clear glass that you're wearing like Google glass, but you have a full vision and there is a synthetic or an artificial object or a being or something in your vision. So we could be looking around this room, I have these glasses on and I could see either a virtual screen or a virtual teacup or a virtual book or a virtual animal. And it would look, it would be really present. Yeah, there's a, there's for people who want to just get a sample of this, I'm sure you just Google it, but there's also a really, I thought a good piece written by Chris Dixon on what's coming next in computing, I think was the title, the headline. And there's a little animated gif of magic leaps, right? A demonstration of this little sort of, it looks like a Japanimation kind of robot hanging out under someone's desk. Right. And it's very vivid. And I saw that robot. And so there are several things about the, where it doesn't work, where they have to improve is that that object is not lit in the same way as the rest of the room. So there's a little mismatch to do that, to, to light that thing and render it in real time with the light of your room is we're way off on that. So what you have is you have an artificial thing that's really there. It's like having a cartoon thing, you know, it's not really real, but you really is there. It's like a who framed Roger rabbit. Yeah. So, but that's very useful. Like if you're making, if you're designing a prototype and you can actually walk around, you can have virtual screens. So they talk about this being the last screen because within it, if you wear this, you can have virtual screens that are very, very highly detailed. I could watch HD movie in it without any discomfort at all. So you can have as many screens as you want and you're interacting with them, but there's, you just take off the goggles and they're gone, which means you can also make them appear anywhere you want. So this is the future of work and you can actually have teleconferencing, which is another thing where you have a virtual person next to you. And that is amazing. And it's something I would pay like, I don't know, thousands of dollars for right now if I could have that. So were you in general then does that mean more impressed by the augmented reality or mixed reality than virtual reality? Augmented or mixed reality is the more difficult of the two to do. And if you can do mixed reality, you can do VR just by turning the lights down, making it black. So technically VR is a subset of the mixed reality. Understood. Okay. So so the visual accomplishment of like magic leap is there, but here's, that wasn't the most amazing experience I had. It turns out that the visual is only 50% of your sense of, of experience. It's the tactile, it's the audio and the feeling and using your hands and your body. And the best experience I had that was really amazing was something called the void based in Utah. And they are making an arcade version of VR where you, they provide all the equipment and you go in, you pay for an experience, say for half an hour, you pay $30 for 30 minutes and you go in and they're going to give you a full vest. You're suited up and it's amazing. It really is because they mix the real and the virtual. And so let me give you kind of an example. There's something called redirected walking. The way redirect your walking is, is imagine you have your goggle on. You see, as you see something inside and you turn 90 degrees, hard 90 degree turn to the right. But what you'll see is only an 80 degree shift. They're cheating you 10 degrees and they can compound that cheat so that you think you're walking in a straight line for a mile across this amazing city. But they have you going in a circle, going in a circle and you don't know that. And they could do redirected touching where you're grabbing things and you think you're grabbing different things, but it's the same thing. Or even stairs that are, that are think you think you're walking up the stairs, but it's just, it's just stairs that are kind of cycling through rotating. Right. And so they're able to give you a 30 minute where you're exploring this incredible thing and you're just a little tiny room. Wow. Okay. And here's the other cool thing they did in this like, so you're wearing his vest, his haptic vest is vibrating and doing all kinds of stuff. And they had you go up this elevator and you're kind of a second story and there's this, it was kind of an Indiana Jones demo that I saw and there's this floor right before you and it's kind of like the it's rocky and it's like not very stable and you need to get across and you're walking across and you fall down two stories. And what happens is that you're on a platform that moves six inches, but you have just fell two stories. Okay. Wow. That sounds terrifying. Well, no, it's exhilarating. It's, it's just like drop out from under you like cartoon style and then you're like floating for a second. Then you drop. Exactly. Oh my God. Well, the point of all this is they have great waivers. The point of all this, cause it's only moves the six inches. The point of all this is that, um, that there are all these tricks to what we assign our own believability of what is real, where we are. And just like cinema exploits a trick of our vision. You think Mickey mouse, which is not a real character, is throwing a baseball and you said that ball is really moving across the screen, but there's no movement, right? There's only a series of still images that we can assemble in our brain. And VR is exploiting that similar set of new discoveries to, so our bodies believe that these things are happening. Our minds know, well, it's like going from optical illusions to full body sensory illusions. Exactly. And this turns out to be very, very important. And so what I say is, and what I discovered from looking at this VR is that we're moving from an internet of information where you can get any information anywhere in the world. Anybody who lives anywhere could have all the information they want to an internet of experiences. And this is very, very powerful experiences. And so it's not just experience of horror or falling, but all kinds of other experiences that we're going to have. And when you are there, you come out of these VR and it's not that you remember seeing something, you remember something happening to you. It's a much, it's a much different presence. In fact, first person shooter games turn out to be a little too emotionally exhausting when you're in VR. Produce PTSD if it gets real. Yeah. I mean, there was this, there was, there was this VR documentary of going to a pig slaughter and you're in the shoot with the pigs and it's just like you, they said, people said, I could watch that, but I can't like go through it, go through it.

Potential Risks And Developments In Vr And Ai

VR and PTSD. (01:19:19)

I can't be in there. And there was another demo. Someone had was called killing the alien. We were trying, you have to stab this alien being and the alien being, but it's, it's like there's haptics involved and stuff. And people have to cause this term for a tactile sense touch. They call it haptic technology.

Chances for virtual reality sex (01:19:49)

And it means that, that when you grab something, there's a response to it or you can feel it or texture or texture. And this is the, there's a lot of work. And how do you get that sense that you've grabbed something or you can feel something? How far do you think we are from VR sex? Well, let me tell you. Had a great one last night. I saw, um, I, well, there's tell the, tell the Don, tell the Jill Don and get right. Um, who are you going to remotely control various sex apparatus? I saw, I saw these guys who, who, who have a technology for what's called volumetric capture, 3d volumetric capture, which means that getting all sorts of terrible images in my head. So violent capture is they use like seven or more cameras to record a person in all their detail. So that when you see them in VR, it's not, they're moving around and you can see every single hair. And you can see the, I've been volumetric capture before, but it's alive or just a snapshot. That's a difference. Yeah, this is not a still no understood, but even the still was eerie. I mean, because it was exactly me. Right. It was just mapped with you. If you zoomed in, you could see these tiny little grids and it was like, Whoa. Okay. So the volumetric capture of live, of a live movement is amazingly because that PR and you're in 3d presentation of it. I felt, I mean, I felt uncomfortable even getting close to that person. Like you're in their space. You just, you react to it. They really feel that they're there. And if they are giving you eye contact and a voice, you, you have a total, like again, going back to their body, maybe your mind says they're not really there, but your body is saying they are there. That's them. And it turns out like the second life is now doing a VR version called Sansa. And it's a thousand times better than the old second life because those avatars are being, they're getting their body language from that person. They're getting the voice and they have the eye contact. And even if their avatar is not exactly them, you can still see them with their voice and their, and their body movements and the micro expressions. It really, they're really there. When do you think the haptic technology will be at a point where, okay, we've got to sex. Yeah. Oh yeah. Dating in San Francisco is a real pain in the ass. I could skip the pleasantries and just have, well, the reason why I mentioned that the volumetric capture, I was saying, well, this is amazing. And there, and I was saying, you know, like sex, right? And they were saying those are the first people who have come to us, all the porno. They were the first say, we, you know, we've got to, we've got to have that. And I think I heard that, Pornhub actually has a VR channel now or something. It surprised me. It's the most popular website in the world that no one admits to going to. And I mean, there've been a way ahead in terms of like their, their use of, of video, video grammar, the summaries and stuff like that. So, I haven't seen it personally, but I think that to answer your question, I'm sure that right now there's probably one or two places that have probably put this together in a, you know, so would you say if you had, if you were a betting man, if you had to be, would you say available to those who can afford it in five years? Oh, absolutely. Less than five years. Absolutely. Less than five years. These, you know, as you know, the void is, is I think they're, they're already opened. It's, it's, it's here. To outfit your whole body like this is, is it's doable now. I think this is going to be things that are going to be mostly regulated by economics and then the law, like where, where this is going to, things are going to get really, really like, is there someone on the other end or is this, it's just like a simulation is just AI, right? Are there actors like that? I'm an age Neil Stevenson. Are there people who are right, right, right. Their own haptic suits who you're interacting with, in which case, what types of laws apply, right? And who's, who's, if you're different States. So, so yeah, I think this will be a very sticky problem that we're going to have to deal with. What are people worried about right now that you think they shouldn't be worried about?

Should not be worried about (01:24:32)

Oh, this just been the only reason I ask what they shouldn't be worried about. Well, I think the idea of the, uh, the AI is taking over and killing us all, cross that one off. Um, I think they should be worried about GMOs. I think cross that one off. They should not be worried. They should not be worried about GMOs. We, we genetically modify all the crops that you're eating. Um, we don't do it. We do them in different ways. We do them through breeding, whatever it is, but they're all, they're all been modified. Um, and actually if you want to modify, modify crops, modifying their genes with crisper is a lot better than trying to modify them with breeding because it's breeding. You have no control over what happens. It is a much more elegant process. So crisper, you're not concerned about. There are things I am concerned about. In fact, I just saw a documentary last night, which will be released pretty soon. It's called zero days. And it's the theme of it. It's very well done, not sensational. It looks at the Stutnex virus, which was a computer virus that was invented, developed by the US and Israel to demolish the, the uranium processing centrifuges in Iran. So the message is they were looking at is, can you really destroy physical things with the computer virus? And the answer is yes, you absolutely can. We're at the point where you can actually affect the physical infrastructure with computers. And then the question is, what are the rules for that? Is that an act of war? The Geneva convention. Right. And there, and there turns out there is no rules. And yet the US and others are developing these technologies and nobody wants to talk about them because they're all classified and therefore no one wants to admit to it. Therefore you can't have the conversation about it. And yet Iran retaliated. They made the, they made the largest cyber army in response to that or the efforts to break them down, which did not work in the end. And so there already is a cyber warfare going on, but it's not being talked about. It's not being admitted. The US government won't talk about the offensive. And there's all the other countries who are now building capacity. And what is the rules? Is, is it okay to disrupt the, you know, the banking system? There's going to be collateral damage. What's accepted. And I think that we don't have any rules for cyber war is something I'm really worried about. Yeah. Well that's, I mean, I remember at a conference a few years ago, this very, very well respected technologist got up and talked about precisely this cyber warfare and some of the scarier scenarios and potential tactics that could be used.

The risks of cyber warfare. (01:27:19)

For instance, if there were a natural disaster in San Francisco and people went to Google assuming that there was still internet connectivity to try to determine how to respond. You know, if someone could initiate the disaster somehow and then also figure out a way to present certain search results that were misinformation. I mean, that's maybe even more elaborate than it's necessary. Like maybe that's the double oh seven bad guy. Like I'm going to leave you here with a sophisticated laser set up while I go have a sandwich. Mr. Bond, I'll see you in 20 minutes and it gets away. Maybe it's a lot simpler than that, right? Maybe it's taking out electrical grids with different types of viruses or electromagnetic pulse weaponry or for that matter, I mean, I've been astonished at how vulnerable a lot of the stuff is to just long range marksmanship for instance. I mean, it's like old technology applied to an increasingly fragile in some capacities internet of things. Right? Exactly. So, so, um, uh, and then there, they, when you introduce AI into that as the U S Pentagon has just got some funding to have AI do this kinds of stuff to, to, to weaponize AI basically. I'm also worried about that. I, you know, kill decisions, this idea of, uh, we have right now we have legally mandated assassinations in the U S we, we have, we have assassinated U S citizens. Okay. So I could you elaborate on that with the drones, the drones. Got it. The drone program will take out a particular individual. So we killed, um, what's his name? Uh, the, the, the, he was an American citizen in Yemen, I guess. And they targeted him and they killed him without, there was no trial. There was nothing. So we, we, we, we now have assassination, but these drones usually have people back in Nevada, um, steering them. But, um, there's, and they usually have, um, generals and there's a whole chain of command involved to do the kill decision. But increasingly there's, there's, you know, pressure to expand this kind of warfare because you prevent, you don't have to have troops on the ground. The American public seemed much more sympathetic to sponsoring warfare, this, and as that increases, there's the need to have autonomous. So you don't, you know, there's a very long feedback loop to come back and have humans decide this or that. If you could have autonomous AI driven drones that didn't need that, then they could actually be making these decisions. That's scary. That's very scary. Do you, do you think just because this is also a topic of common debate in Silicon Valley and the AI circles. So there are some people who would say, well, if you look at DeepMind or some of these other AI focused groups in the U S they have ethics committees, they are collaborating with one another to look at safeguards. The real people you need to be worried about are sort of the fast moving solo acts in places like China, in places like fill in the blank who do not have that kind of safety first mentality. And people would argue maybe that's not the case in the U S either in certain places, but if someone's going to cause a big mess with AI, who do you think the most, what are the characteristics? You know, AI is still so early in it that, that, that, that I, I wouldn't have her, I guess, but I, I do acknowledge and I would emphasize that this is a global enterprise and the Chinese are very keen on making AI and the three ingredients you need for AI these days is these deep neural nets like DeepMind and then you need huge farms of GPU's, graphical processing units, which are been commoditized by the video game industry. Like Nvidia chips. Yeah. That's, it turns out there are parallel processors that are really affordable. So before AI was done on supercomputer parallels that would cost millions and millions of dollars. And then it turns out that these little video chips that you make for video games were parallel processing and they were really cheap. So now they buy these big farms of these cheap video game processors. So you need lots of those and then you need big data, big data, sort of the rocket fuel. And so the companies like Baidu and Alibaba who have big data are actually able to do this kind of AI right now. And I think there's no, so there's no, there's no, there's no monopoly on AI right now. And China, Europe, even Japan will all get into this business. And anything, I mean, I would expect just given history that there'll be a disaster. It's some, you know, an AI disaster of some sort. I mean, it's inevitable, right? I mean, and it's not to say that AI shouldn't be pursued. It's just like anything else. I mean, someone will abuse it. If you're going to have large scale water projects, there's going to be some horrible flood that'll kill a bunch of people and, or fill in the blank disaster. Right. So we have to be ready for that and not freak out about it, which is what I think that will be one of the tendencies. Well, okay, stop AI research, no more federal funding AI. Those are, that will, that will also happen too. I think we've gotten to that by saying we have to stop AI. What if you had to, again, sort of play Nostradamus a little bit.

What will the near future look like with AI? (01:33:27)

What do you think the first few big wins of AI will be where people will really step back and go, Whoa. So, so, uh, uh, uh, yes, it's going to be the, well, two things. I think there will be these huge, huge, big, big wins, but what's very curious about this is that whenever these wins happen, as they have in the past, then immediately we don't call it AI. AI is only what we can't do. What we hope to do is call AI and once we do it, it's called machine learning. Okay. And so the first big win will be like, will be a translation. Okay. Real. So we'll have a little device that we can wear in our ear and it'll hear you speaking Chinese in a whisper into me English. Okay. And then we'll have that. And I don't know, five years or so, but we're not going to call AI. That's no, that's not AI. That's just, that's just, you know, that's just, they're just dumb computers doing this stuff. It's no longer AI. People don't think of Siri as AI. Oh, that's just, that's just machine learning. It's just Siri driving the car. That's no longer AI. This is of course, of course computers can drive a car. Of course it can play chess because once it happens, it's like, of course it's just, that's obviously not AI. AI is sort of always what we can't do. And so there will be these wins, like, like, you know, perfect translation. That will be very common and talking to your, these assistant bots. That's the other thing. You know, you'll have these conversations with do this, do that, echo. Sounds a lot like early innovation of echo. Right. Okay. Is that AI? Do people think of it as AI? No, they don't. That's not AI. That's just echo, whatever it is. And so I think that conversation is the interface mostly to AI for a very long time and we'll get really good at that. And I think people will ignore it. I mean, people will become invisible to them. And I think most of the AI would be invisible. Like we're talking about Amazon web services. It's going to be behind the scenes. It's going to be very particular. I mean, right now you're a calculator smarter than you are in arithmetic. It doesn't freak you out. Right. You think you're right. That's great. Google is better than you and recall. And so these, we have these very specific artificial smartness and that's where a lot of this is. It's like most of the AI we're going to make is not like human intelligence. That's why we're making it. The whole point is to think different, to make things that think differently than us. The reason why we want these AI to drive cars is because they aren't driving like humans. They aren't worried about whether they left a stove on or having an argument with the garage. They are just driving better than we can drive. And that's, so we want to make, we'll make a lot of this stuff that does things that are not, I mean like when Google is remembering all the web pages in the world, that's inhumane. That's inhuman. It's not anything we could do. And so a lot of this stuff will be, and once we see them, the machines doing it, we'll say, well, obviously we weren't the only ones who could do that.

Journaling (01:36:43)

But now it's all in retrospect. Right. Do you, this is a total left turn, but do you journal? Do you, is that a practice that you have or not really? It's an occasional practice and something that I do occasionally at night, late at night. When do you do it? Or late at night? Meaning what triggers it? Like what are the occasions on which that you, you just journal? Yeah, it is. I haven't been able to determine the trigger, but sometimes I'll just be seized of this kind of like I need to sit down and just, you know, journal stuff and write stuff and doodle. And it's sort of, I haven't been able to detect the pattern, but I have a book that I use and just, it's called late night and it's, I usually do it late at night, very late and I'm just kind of, I don't know, I'm just kind of, maybe there's a buffer that gets filled or something. You have to, you have to delete the download folder. Exactly. Startup disc almost full. But I get this into my journal. What change in your life or behavioral modification are you proudest of in the last say year or recent memory and which are you, which habits or behaviors you most, are you trying to change?

Personal Updates And Thoughts On Technological Implementation

Life Changes (01:37:58)

Good question. I think I'm working on, I think it was like Mark Zuckerberg who had this kind of like he was going to give a thank you note like every day for 30 days or something. So this idea of consciously really trying to express gratitude in a kind of a disciplined way is something I've been working on to try to make it more of a habit. How do you express gratitude? Is it a phone call? Is it a text message? Generally has been an email. I'm not a phone person. I'm not a voice. I don't like voicemail. I don't like talking on the phone. I came into my professional life. I was basically noticed online in writing short telegraphic email ish stuff.

Works in Progress (01:39:01)

So for some reason, email is my medium and I'm most comfortable with email. So gratitude. Well on that, on that note, I want to thank you for taking time to have yet another jam session. I always have a blast and what, what are you up to right now? What would you like people to check out? Where can they find you? Yeah, so I have this book that will be released June 6 is called the inevitable published by Viking. It's a, I think a pretty good outline of the technological trends for the next 20 or 30 years at the highest level, things that we can't ignore and that we really should be embracing. And I think if you are interested in sort of what's coming, that you really find it very useful cause it's not really technical. It's, it's at a high level. And if you're looking to where things will be in 20 years, I think I have a pretty good map of where that's going and where can I, so people could, I'm sure by the time they hear this, grab it on Amazon, and where else? Yeah. So is my homepage and where I hang out and there'll be links if you want other languages or the audible version, Kindle, I think that all should be listed there. And I may even have a calendar ish thing going and I'm going to be showing what you're up to and speaking engagements or whatever. Right. And in July I'm going to be doing a bunch of stuff of basically appearing on a gazillion podcasts dedicated for the month of July. Which is why I like to do mine early. Yes, exactly. And another exclusive Tim Tebow Show opportunity. This is an exclusive. I am so delighted Tim that you reached out and made the invitation to be at your glorious home.

Where to say hello? (01:41:04)

I'm thrilled to have you here. And I hope that was useful to the listeners out there because we did kind of go all over the place. That's why they come. They come for the OCD plus the ADHD with a dash of hopefully, definitely intelligence from my guests and occasionally a glimmer of something approaching semi intelligence on my part. But everybody check out It's full of all sorts of things that I've recommended many, many times over the years, including 1000 true fans of course. And much, much more than that. The quantified self. Everything can be found somewhere at the hub that is We're on social media. If somebody wanted to say hello would be the best place to say hello. I do look to Twitter stream and I'm Kevin2Kelly the number two. I have Facebook, which I don't look at as much, but actually I do look at Google plus. You do? I do because I find that the comments and the conversation is very, very high quality. Even though there's not that many people, those that are there are very active and I pay attention. So Kevin Kelly, if they just search Kevin Kelly, Kevin Kelly on Google plus. Perfect. All right. And we will put that in the show notes. So everybody listening, you can find everything we've talked about assuming I can track it down in the show notes at four hour forward slash podcast. You can also find links to our previous conversations. We had two very, very fun conversations where we went into a lot of Kevin's bio and asked a lot of my usual rapid fire questions we've already covered previously. And you can find that and much, much more at forward slash podcast. And Kevin firstly, thank you very much also for taking the time that I always have so much fun. And to everyone listening as always and until next time, thank you so much for making the Tim Ferriss show part of your daily podcast experience. Hey guys, this is Tim again. Just a few more things before you take off.

My thoughts on Google Glass and education. (01:43:04)

Number one, this is five bullet Friday. Do you want to get a short email from me? Would you enjoy getting a short email from me every Friday that provides a little morsel of fun before the weekend? And five bullet Friday is a very short email where I share the coolest things I've found or that I've been pondering over the week that could include favorite new albums that I've discovered. It could include gizmos and gadgets and all sorts of weird shit that I've somehow dug up in the world of the esoteric as I do. It could include favorite articles that I have read and that I've shared with my close friends, for instance. And it's very short. It's just a little tiny bite of goodness before you head off for the weekend. So if you want to receive that, check it out. Just go to That's all spelled out and just drop in your email and you will get the very next one. And if you sign up, I hope you enjoy it.

Sponsors And Acknowledgments

This episode"s sponsors: 99Designs and Headspace. (01:44:09)

This episode is brought to you by 99designs. When your business needs a logo, website, business card, thumbnail or any other design, I recommend checking out 99designs. I use them myself. I've used them for many years. I used them to create book cover prototypes for the 4-hour body, which went on to become a number one New York Times bestseller. I've also used them for banner ads, illustrations and much more. With 99designs, you get a variety of original designs from designers around the world. Give your feedback and then pick your favorite. Your happiness is guaranteed. So check out some of my competitions and designs and some of your competitions and designs from fellow Tim Ferriss Show listeners at And right now you can get a free $99 upgrade on your first design. So check it out. This episode is brought to you by Headspace. More than 80 percent of the people I have interviewed, world-class performers across the military, entertainment, sports and beyond, all have some type of meditative practice. I tried for years and years and failed miserably. The key is making it simple and you can dramatically improve your life in just 10 minutes a day and technology can help you. This change comes through guided meditation and Headspace is by far the most popular app for this purpose. More than 4 million users. It's meditation made simple. So what I recommend is that you take this practice meditation, which is rooted in thousands of years of tradition, supported by thousands of scientific studies and try it for 10 minutes a day for 10 days. That's all you need to do. You could also check out the founder, Andy Pudekom's TED Talk, which has more than 5.5 million views. His last name is P-U-D-D-I-C-O-M-B-E, if you want to look that up. But otherwise, download the free Headspace app. I have it on my phone. And begin their Take 10 program for 10 days of guided meditation, completely free, 10 minutes a day. That's all it takes. You should give it a shot. Just go to

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