Soul Sessions by CreativeMind

Gerd Leonhard on 3 Things That Will Make or Break Humanity

February 27, 2024 Debra Berndt Maldonado and Robert Maldonado PhD Life Coach Training and Personal Transformation Experts Season 8 Episode 201
Soul Sessions by CreativeMind
Gerd Leonhard on 3 Things That Will Make or Break Humanity
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

With so much uncertainty and the rise of AI and the energy crises, what does the future hold? Joining Dr. Rob on Soul Sessions is renowned futurist, humanist, keynote speaker and bestselling author, Gerd Leonhard. They confront the immediacy of our global crossroads—where technology whispers promises of a utopia, yet casts shadows of a potential dystopia. 

While exploring these complex dimensions, Gerd offers profound insights into our collective future—the dreams, the dangers, and the decisions that stand before us. Looking at the ethics of technological advancements with the urgent shift toward sustainability, Gerd and Dr. Rob urge humanity to envision a “Good Future.”

In this episode, we discuss:

  • Gerd's philosophy on competent machines vs. conscious machines and its impact on our future;
  • The ethical conundrums posited by genetic engineering, such as cloning and human enhancement;
  • Strategies for global cooperation to tackle climate change and the energy transition;
  • The essential narrative shift towards a positive future, as coined by Kevin Kelly's "protopia", and the actionable steps to get there.

Check out Gerd Leonhard’s new short film, “The Good Future” at http://www.thegoodfuturefilm.com/

•••

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INTRO  00:00

Welcome to CreativeMind Soul Sessions with Debra Berndt Maldonado and Dr. Rob Maldonado, founders of CreativeMind. Explore personal growth with us through Jungian psychology, Eastern spirituality, and social neuroscience in a deep, but practical way. Let's begin. 


Debra Maldonado  00:21 

Are you excited about the future? Are you starting to get nervous because of the news and maybe AI? Maybe all the storms that are happening all over the world? Maybe wars that are happening? You're wondering, do we have a future? Does humanity have hope? This interview is going to be incredible. Dr. Rob interviewed Gerd Leonhard who is the author of Technology Vs Humanity: The coming clash between man and machine. He's a futurist. He has an amazing insight to what problems we're facing here as humanity and even a hope for a positive, amazing future and what could be possible. Definitely an interesting conversation. But before we begin with the interview, I do want to remind you if you're watching us on YouTube, don't forget to subscribe to our channel here by clicking the link in the corner. Or if you’re listening to us on one of the podcast services, don't forget to subscribe to our podcast so you can hear every episode. It really helps us with getting more people to listen to the show. Without further ado, let's get started with this incredible interview with Gerd Leonhard.


Robert Maldonado  01:38

We're here with Gerd Leonhard. Welcome to the podcast.


Gerd Leonhard  01:45

Thanks for having me.


Robert Maldonado  01:47

Good to have you here. I have so many questions about the future. But I was hoping we could start with the present. Can you give us a sense of where we're at as far as AI genetics energy? Where are we in our current space? This is February 2024.


Gerd Leonhard  02:11

I always say we're at the pivot point, the fork in the road moment that Buckminster Fuller, famous futurist, talked about 50 years ago. We’re at the pivot point because we're now inventing things that were science fiction for a long time. We have machines that can think, kind of, we have machines that can talk, we have machines can make content, generative AI. Now very soon, we're heading towards quantum computing. We have machines that can do unlimited computing, kind of, very close to that. Quantum computing, 3D computing, supercomputing. Then we have nuclear fusion, which people are working on all over the world, hundreds of billions have gone into this to create exactly the opposite of fission, which is basically clean nuclear energy. People say that's a pipe dream, I don't think so, I think it's 10-15 years away. Then we have synthetic biology, which means we can generate airplane fuel, or spider silk in an engineering kind of way. Next to that is genetic engineering of humans, being able to change our genome to avoid cancer. The list goes on. We have currently 3-4-5 general purpose technologies that are getting ready. Once we have them, everything's different, climate change, big issue. Now, once we have fusion energy, at least we don't have to worry about that anymore. We can have clean energy, and solar, and wind, and everything else. There'll be no need for fossil fuel. That's 20 years away, we just have to find a good bridge. It's mind boggling with AI, we have the possibility, machines are no longer stupid. I wouldn't call them intelligent in the human sense. That's a stretch. But they can do things that we used to do, commodity work. We're leaping into the future now. At the same time that we have this amazing technological progress, we’re regressing in terms of collaboration and geopolitics. It's a strange thing, because we have all the right cards in our hands to make the future amazing. But at the same time, we stopped talking to each other, we have disinformation, democracy is declining, autocrats are popping up. It seems like the more tools we have, the less telos, which is the Greek word for wisdom. That's our biggest challenge.


Robert Maldonado  04:58

As far as these intelligent machines, will they be intelligent like we are? Or is it a different type of intelligence completely?


Gerd Leonhard  05:13

I think we shouldn’t really use that word when it's about machines. When I talk about smart machines, or machines that are competent, that's what I need. I don't need a stupid machine. The stupid machines are everywhere. In city traffic, navigation, supply chain planning. They're basically spreadsheets. Now all of a sudden, machines can learn. There's deep learning, machine learning, but they're not learning like humans. Humans are organic. What I always say is we should strive to make machines competent. That was Stuart Russell said at UC Berkeley. But consciousness, why would we want that? To me, we don't need machines to be conscious to get the job done. After all, they’re just tools. If I can get all the tools to work perfectly, flying, driving, energy, growing things, transportation, then we can solve 90% of our problems. Why do we want a machine that can have human agency or be like us? That strikes me as unneeded and very dangerous.


Robert Maldonado  06:32

It seems like we project a lot of our own way of thinking and being onto these artificial machines. We’re hoping in a sense. Listening to some of the inventors of these things, it seems that they want to infuse their minds into these machines. But I totally agree with you that it's an impossibility for machines to be conscious or to exhibit consciousness the way we do. 


Gerd Leonhard  07:12

I think machines will be capable of simulating consciousness, to simulate love, compassion, empathy, because they look at human faces and say “If I look like this, then the robot will look compassionate.” It makes perfect sense. But a simulation of something still isn’t the reality of something, it's still something completely different. If we were to have a machine that can appear to be compassionate, that would be interesting, but it's not going to be compassionate, because it doesn't exist. Non-existence means, for example, if you want to be creative, you have to have emotions. Emotions come with existence, they do not come with programming. It scares me when you see companies like OpenAI, or even Microsoft talking about inventing the super intelligence. I’d say why are you doing this? Are you doing this so that you can be the Tyrell Corporation, Blade Runner, the creator of the world? Or are you doing this for collective benefit? That's a big question.


Robert Maldonado  08:21

The genetics piece is so interesting to me, because this will give humans the power to literally create new life forms and alter the life forms that already exist. Where are we right now? Are we capable of cloning human beings?


Gerd Leonhard  08:49

In principle, we have to get used to the fact that we’re probably infinitely capable soon, what [inaudible] called the singularity. We’ll be capable of cloning humans or changing our genome to live to be 150. Currently, that's not the case. It seems also quite dangerous. But at the same time, 2030s is probably the date where that will be possible. Our biggest challenge is that it's no longer about what we can do or if we can do something, but why should we and who's in charge? Who is ultimately going to be what I call mission control for humanity. Actually, the real question beyond all that stuff is will it actually make us more happy as humans? Will it create real benefit except for financial benefit, which we clearly are seeing from AI? But that isn't enough, just mere financial benefit could be a deathtrap. When the economy is growing, but everybody else is shrinking, everything else is becoming meaningless, that would be a very bad thing.


Robert Maldonado  10:02

Just because we can, doesn't mean we should. I was listening, they were interviewing some geneticist, he was saying that we could essentially clone our bodies and create replicas for ourselves, then use those replicas to harvest parts, like organs, like our hearts, our livers, and so forth. He was saying it with a straight face, no real question of the ethical dilemmas that that kind of situation causes.


Gerd Leonhard  10:48

I'm all for practical things. If you have an accident, you lose both legs, then if you have a million dollars, you can buy yourself fancy new legs, you can learn how to walk again. If you're quadriplegic, you can use a neural interface and possibly talk again. Those things are amazing. But should we turn that around and say “We have a person that really wants to learn how to run faster, and their natural legs don't support that. We're going to swap them.” Is that the same thing? These are all very difficult topics, because we certainly don't want to prevent progress. But at the same time, we may end up in the King Midas problem. King Midas was the king who wanted everything to turn into gold. His wife turned into gold and his food turned into gold. He died. That can be a King Midas problem.


Robert Maldonado  11:47

Then energy is probably the most important. It seems to be the most critical right now, with the weather going on the way it's going. The climate change. We're seem to be in it already. It's not something in the future. How quickly do you think we can make that transition? It seems some of these companies are still actively pursuing fossil fuel development and extraction.


Gerd Leonhard  12:23

We're heading to emergency status clearly, emergency rules will be coming into effect, they already are. But coming into effect in the sense of more carbon taxes. Even Elon Musk has said the other day this is the only solution. We're going to see stuff like frequent flyer taxes for flying a lot, for eating meat. Basically, we're heading towards environmental shutdown, we're going to be lucky to avoid two degree warming. As UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said, it's either collaboration or demise. It's no longer an optional thing. We're at the point where we have to face that the real obstacle isn't science and technology, we have all of that. We have a need to shift the money over. The real problem is that people are still taking out the carbon because they're monetizing it. We're now going towards the criminalization of oil, gas, coal. Clearly, the biggest company in the world, I think it's Microsoft today, but last week it was Aramco, the Saudi Arabian Oil Company, we have the biggest, financially most powerful company in the world, looking to sink the ship. That just can't continue. We're going to see dramatic action here: from people, from the extinction rebellion thing, but also, of course, in parliament, in the European Commission, all over the world. It’s going to be a major theme for the next decade. I think we can make it happen. But let's be clear about this. It isn’t subject to a scientific or technological breakthrough, or even money, we have money. It's subject to moving the money in the right place.


Robert Maldonado  14:18

For that, it requires leadership. What's your sense, do we have leaders that can step into that role?


Gerd Leonhard  14:32

We have that. We currently have polarization. Of course, that's nothing new in America. We have people who are desperate, fearful of the future, they vote for autocrats. Because when you're fearful, you vote for the strong man, like it happened in Germany 80 years ago, same thing. Now we have people saying “We don't know what to think, let's vote for the person with the simplest message.” That’s going to sink the ship. On the other hand, we have people like the governor of California who isn’t a socialist, or even a liberal, but he's still in the oil companies for trillions of dollars of damage to California. People are waking up to this and saying this is now table stakes. It's not optional anymore. We have great politicians, we have the European Parliament, the commission that's doing its best to administer AI to change the climate situation. But our biggest problem will be that North America and Europe can do very nicely, we're making great progress in terms of net zero. If we don't get India, Brazil, Africa, or Indonesia along, we’re still gonna get four degrees on global warming. What needs to happen is we need to give those people serious money to get aboard. This is basically a global consciousness. That’s the prerequisite for that to happen. We're inching towards that. I see a lot of great politicians progressing this. At the same time, we see a lot of backlash against any common sense. But I always say it may get worse before it gets better with politics. This is a two or three year window. Unfortunately, we may see that window as a painful exercise to actually understand what other windows could look like.


INTERMISSION  16:37

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Robert Maldonado  17:32

The way I think about it is just like in our individual lives, sometimes these points of real decision and having to make real compromises about who we are and our lifestyle also provide great opportunities for real change and real transformation.


Gerd Leonhard  17:58

It's a trigger. Basically people think the doors are closing, humanity is doomed, but it's actually not at all that it's doomed. The doors are closing because we've used them so much. We've taken advantage of everything, we've extracted everything: data, people, oil, everything. Now the doors are closing with that old way of operating. There's a tiny opening towards a new door. We're going through that door. That's a painful process. It's like therapy, we're going through this painful process. On the other side, there's something completely different. We're starting to see what that could look like when we listen to the right people, given the message. Of course, Al Gore, people like that, but also Bill Gates and many others who have been pointing us towards a good protocol, the good future. That’s happening, we're going to see a breakthrough this year, this is a year of great chaos, confusion, and literally therapeutic in the sense of when you solve something, you have pain, then when the pain goes away, maybe you'll find a window, you find the door out, that's the concept.


Robert Maldonado  19:13

Individually also, we have to have a vision of ourselves as being someone else in a sense, changing our lifestyle, changing the way we think about ourselves, collectively. Is that also what we need? Do we need a new vision of the future we can say that's where we want to go as a planet, towards that. That good future like you call it.


Gerd Leonhard  19:49

We need to see if we can rebrand the future like we rebranded New York City in the 70s. Nobody wanted to go to New York in the 70s or even the 80s. Then this ad agency came up and said “I love New York.” Then Bloomberg came up and actually made some changes. Now New York is the favorite city of a lot of people. It's still not perfect by any means, far cry really, but much better. I always say we need to rebrand the future, because the future is branded with fear, with doom, with things that can't be done. Every time we have a solution, people are saying we can't do that because XYZ. But what happens, again, when you go to therapy, you're facing total disaster, then your option is to make a change and bite the bullet, or leave. For us, leaving would be the end of our species by 2050. That’s entirely within the cards if we don't find the therapy ourselves. This is like a rebranding of the future as positive. It's what needs to happen. I wish somebody would say “Let's tell stories about what the good future could look like, why humans aren't evil,” because this is one of those beliefs people have in today's society, especially younger people, that basically people can't be trusted, they're evil. The American way of life is my gain your loss. This clearly won't work.


Robert Maldonado  21:33

In Hollywood, we see that pattern over and over of the post apocalyptic world, it seems to be the main storyline they use to generate these movies.


Gerd Leonhard  21:49

We must move beyond the dystopia to what Kevin Kelly calls protopia. Not the utopia, the utopia is the religious things or some things that never happen, that's utopia. It's protopia, which is a stepwise approach towards a better future, ticking off all the boxes, and 50 years from now, it's good. That’s something we can entirely do. It's a paradox to me because we're inventing our way out, every week there's a major breakthrough, whether it's about health care, or weight loss pills, or God knows what, obesity, diabetes, everything. But then we can't agree on how we're going to run the planet, we can't agree on who's gonna be in charge. The UN has actually a mission that it’s authorized to do or not, this is, of course, the thing that has to change in our minds. In order for us to have a good future, it’s only possible together, it's not possible for just one city to have a good future while everybody else declines, or one country for that matter, that's just not possible. It requires consensus. Now we're here in 2024, past COVID, realizing that if we could only agree to do the right thing, we could probably fix most of these things. This is a process of finding out what the right thing is, whether we can have a global leadership like ancient Greece with the council of the wise people, you know, that aren’t CEOs or  [inaudible] necessarily, even though they're doing a pretty good job at [inaudible], but anyway, different discussion, but people who are going to lead us into that good future.


Robert Maldonado  23:40

What keeps you optimistic? For me, I know we have everything we need to solve these problems. They're not that difficult. It's not like we don't have the answers. It's simply that the problem appears to be that we don't have the will or the leadership, perhaps, to make these things happen.


Gerd Leonhard  24:17

I believe in general that humans are capable of doing this. I think we haven’t done a very good job at building that potential in education and in our public society. We have replaced media, which is people with opinions, researching and saying intelligent things, with an engine called Facebook and social media, with an AI. Now we're wondering why people are uninformed. That’s because they're listening to an AI, they listen to a bot coming and spouting stories. We’re unfunding BBC, taking money away from NPR. We're doing all these things that are going the opposite direction because we like money more than a good future. It's a paradox there. However, I believe that in principle we have everything it takes, there's a wake up call happening right now. When you talk to young people that are 25 to 35, many of them say they won't have kids because the world isn't a good place. That makes me sad because given everything we have accomplished, it could be very good, and in many ways, it has become better. Also, that's another thing. But it has a bad name, the future has a bad name. We need to rebrand that and also get out there with better stories. Because in the end, when you're talking about elections and democracy, people go for the narratives. Who has a good narrative? Who can we believe? The last people that we think of having a great narrative are Gandhi and JF Kennedy. Leaders like this, where are they today? We need to have more of those people.


Robert Maldonado  26:14

Visionary leaders that can not just lead but inspire people, especially the younger generation, give them a sense of optimism that we can build this good future.


Gerd Leonhard  26:32

Of course, the sad part is that the story of the future has been annexed by the technology industry. The technology industry says “We are the future. Don't listen to Mandela, or the thinkers, or Jacinda Ardern. Don't listen to them but listen to what this great AI is suggesting and what your iPhone says.” You can buy Apple Pro Vision and live in a fake new world where you don't need to talk to a human because you can be on your own somewhere in the metaverse. I think this is the problem with technology, it has taken over the purpose of technology, which is ridiculous, because technology is something we use to do something. I think the CEO of Apple, Tim Cook, once said “Technology can do great things. But it doesn’t want to do great things.” It doesn't want anything. If he can only stick with that paradigm when we're talking about the Apple Vision Pro, maybe that’s something we can benefit from.


Robert Maldonado  27:43

Technology is neutral, essentially. It's a tool, we get to decide what it means and how we use it.


Gerd Leonhard  27:54

We need to enable people to make those decisions. That is a part of civil society. Public discourse that is not people staying inside of their little shell because they're afraid of the future. Every time they turn on a TV, it's another episode of Black Mirror, that certainly isn’t going to be how we find consensus.


Robert Maldonado  28:20

Black Mirror, one of our favorite shows. There's also that movie, Her, where he falls in love with the bot on the phone, which is so telling of where we're heading. We’re projecting a lot of our expectations and hopes onto technology. But it's going to let us down in the end. In the movie, he's disappointed that the bot has two thousand other lovers.


Gerd Leonhard  29:00

We have to be very clear: technology isn't going to save us. Technology could save us if we were to apply it differently. It could save us from cancer, it could save us from climate change. But technology by itself won’t do that. Technology is all about efficiency. The really great tools in the hands of the wrong people, like an AI that can build a drone warfare scenario, we need to put technology in the hands of the right people. We need to have rules around the use of technology that says if you’re going to build a super intelligent agent, you're going to be subject to government supervision. This is like building a nuclear power plant. How can we just stand by and say “You guys go about your business,” then something breaks and we have to mop up. That just doesn't work.


Robert Maldonado  29:58

I was hoping you could share a bit about your process. I thought I had a pretty cool gig but I love what you do. You set yourself up to be someone who's really paying attention to what's going on and where things are headed. Your voice is really important right now because people need to understand what are the implications of these things we're creating. What is your process? How do you tune in to the future?


Gerd Leonhard  30:36

It has been a long mutation of how I do things and what I want to do. I've been doing this for over 20 years. The hard part of working on the future as an independent futurist not working for the World Economic Forum or for the Government of Dubai, if you're independent, you're always sidetracked into the commercial part of it, which is your speaking events, or your corporate clients that dictate the agenda to some degree. I started realizing ten years ago that if I wasn't asked to speak somewhere for a paid engagement, I’d probably choose different topics. I’d go more for the importance rather than the monetization. Of course, everybody wants to know how to make more money using technology. But I find that question rather trivial, because you can answer that question fairly easily. The question about where we’re going and how we decide how we collaborate and how we build a future-fit economy, that is a much more important question. I've started switching ten years ago into this topic of the good future, I wrote my book Technology Vs. Humanity to bring up this question and to really ask what the important discussion here is. Not what is the most highly paid discussion. That means for me, because I run a business doing future scenarios and so on, that sometimes I do things just because they have to be done and they don't get paid. Sometimes I do things only because they get paid, which is always a difficult thing to do. That process has changed in the last five years. I've said I really want to, I prefer to make a difference and look less at the monetizing and what people want that clearly have a commercial agenda. Also, I think it's really important to be authentic, to be honest, not brutal. If you're brutal, the audience won't really enjoy it. But to be honest and to be saying the things that need to be said within a way of doing it, that can be sometimes a little bit sarcastic maybe, or humorous, I’d say. I've developed this style where I can get away with saying things that most people would never hear at a technology conference. They're going to hear it here. Maybe it will make a dent, I don't know. I'm hoping it does.


Robert Maldonado  33:20

It's remarkable how one idea can change the world if it's the right idea at the right time. This is the idea that we need that we’re the creators of the future. It's not happening to us, it's a byproduct of the way we think and the meanings we give to things.


Gerd Leonhard  33:51

Sometimes I say that understanding the future is probably more of an art than a science, even though there's lots of science involved, of course. I'm not a scientist, it's easier for me, I used to be a musician, I'm already more on the art side. But Steve Jobs said that when he does things, it's like an art. It's like a creation. Therefore, I think that when you're looking at art, there are dozens of people who create different kinds of art, they're all equally important. This isn’t a competition as to who gets to say, who is the most important futurists, yada, yada, who can come out with the most money and so on. In the end, we're painting a picture, we're creating the future that doesn't exist. This is a narrative. If we’re able to succeed to create the narrative of the good future, people act different, they think different, then they make different career choices. They vote differently, therefore things change towards a positive way rather than a way of desperation and people buying doomsday scenario bungalows in New Zealand just in case everything goes wrong. It’s really important to get the message out. The media has really not followed a very good path, with a few exceptions like The New York Times, or The Guardian, or, of course, The Economist, pointing the way towards a good future without being utopian or starry-eyed.


Robert Maldonado  35:28

Something you do really well is presenting the challenges and not shying away from those challenges, but also saying we can do these things, we do have the means to do these things.


Gerd Leonhard  35:46

It's literally like in the moment of therapy. I don't know if you've ever been to therapy with your husband, wife, kids, or whatever. There is a painful moment when you realize if I don't step through this process, things will crash. If I don't care they crash, I'll move on. But if you want to go through that, there's a painful moment of saying “I got to change something, I have to get a good grip.” Then when you do that, all of a sudden, the whole thing just crumbles and something else happens. We’re in that very moment right now. Also, with the wars going on, Hamas in Palestine, Israel, Ukraine, Russia, we're at that point where everything is coming to a peak. We need to figure out what we want and what our priorities are, and how we go through the pain to a solution. I think that's where we are. That's 2024 in a nutshell, coming down to a decision making point.


Robert Maldonado  36:47

For people like us, who are entrepreneurs, we run a business as well, and we teach others how to be entrepreneurs, we teach them how to be coaches and executive coaches. These people then go off and influence other people, like politicians and leaders. How can we use our time and our efforts wisely, so that we can contribute to this good future?


Gerd Leonhard  37:24

It's a daily or weekly decision. You pursue things because it's about livelihood and making a living. Then you pursue other things that are about your dreams, your vision, and your passion. They're not always the same, unfortunately. But you have to find a balance there. It's really important to find the balance in your work, especially when you get older, then you make different choices, I'm not going to do that even though I could because it's not important. Let's do something that's really important. Sometimes you make a good match between the economics and the importance, that's possible. But this is why I make films, for example, of which are economically speaking a disaster and will just cost money. And the books, same thing. Books are painful, they don't really make money unless you are Harari, who is a good writer and also very lucky, so power to him. But that’s, of course, the hard part. I think we have to make decisions every day to stay motivated. We need to attain things, we need to actually get stuff done, we need to see results, we need to have like-minded people that give us positive feedback, not work in our own little silos too much, which is a real problem with this job. As you know, people tend to be single practitioners. It's not exactly like we have a public square in Athens from thousands years ago, it's not exactly like that, we're more in a virtual holding place.


Robert Maldonado  39:09

I love Greek philosophy as well. I love the idea of these mystery schools where they’d teach people how to think and how to visualize the future. If we were to create something like that, for our current situation, what would that look like? What kind of instructions would we give to future leaders so that they could go out there and do the work that needs to be done?


Gerd Leonhard  39:47

The first thing you're starting with the good future scenario is to outline what it could look like and why it is possible and to show the whole so that you can say “I'm not naive, I don't think we're just going to be happily ever after after we launch this program.” But we need to have a vision of where things could be going and what we need to do to get there. Ideally, having a global campaign, literally a campaign that says the good future is entirely possible, good future is real. Films, television, concerts, conferences, meetings, online shows. Start a movement, because in the end, the problem we're having today is quite clear: business isn't going to solve this problem because the job of business is to monetize problems. It is what business does. In our economic logic, that means they're not responsible for the quality of the world in general, they're only pieces of that. Politicians won't do it, as Greta Thunberg has said, easily because their agenda is to go after what the voter says they're gonna vote for. If I'm going to be a politician and say I'm going to put a tax on meat and flying airplanes, and I'm going to use all your tax money to take it away from the oil companies, I’ll lose a lot of votes. Where's that change going to come from? The answer is it's going to be a movement of people who bring other people, then that will get politicians to come behind it because they go with what is happening, like what happened with Gandhi in India. From there, we'll finally get the business people to say “Now we can have a different stock market philosophy”, because right now the stock market is funding our destruction, basically. Nobody wants to face that because it makes money. It’s okay, I understand. But still, we want to actually have a good future. This is what we have to do.


Robert Maldonado  42:05

That's quite a vision. It’s just like at the individual level, the individual has to accept the challenge of their life. They can’t back down, they have to say “This is where I'm at, this is what I've gotten myself into. If I've done it myself, it means I can also change it.” We have to get everybody on the planet, or most people, or at least a significant amount of people to have the vision that they can change their future.


Gerd Leonhard  42:52

There's many things we can do individually with our families, our local situation that we should definitely be doing. But it’d be a bit obscure to say that my individual actions are going to change the course of the world, unless I’m Putin or something. Thankfully, it’s not the case. But we have to think of the larger structure that's out there around us. Facebook does very many bad things, but had record profit this year. Zuckerberg made like 50 billion in a single day last week. Those things are systematic. We need to change, impact the system as well as ourselves. It has to come together. We have to look no further than what happened in South Africa. We changed the system, but then people didn't change. Now in many ways, it's just as bad as before in a different way. How do we really do that? It has to come from people who’ll make the change and then drive the change in a political and economic way. Also, going away from a limitation we always have. We think of society as socialism, communism, capitalism, populism, whatever. But these are completely unusable terms in the future because we're not talking about finding an “ism” here. We're talking about the future-fit economic logic. We can't keep looking back to the past and say “Great idea from Marx.” We're talking about the future here. We're talking about a new economic logic based on huge exponential, technological, scientific progress. That means we need to think of it as a new logic, not as a regurgitated logic of whatever it is a writer came up with.


Robert Maldonado  44:52

The philosophical ground that created these situations, capitalism, democracy, the materialism that science operates from, it provides the infrastructure psychologically and philosophically for this approach to nature that it's simply material and we can consume it and use it for our own advantage without putting back something or harmonizing with it in a sense.


Gerd Leonhard  45:35

That has given us all of the accumulated externalities as borders into a huge jam. Now with the environment, we're in a huge jam that protects servers fixing. If we do the same thing with artificial intelligence and quantum computing and genetic engineering, we're finished. That’s going to, if there are externalities of artificial intelligence, that becomes uncontrollable and changes our economics in many ways. It's not like we can go in and say “Let's not have any more coal, let’s fix the environment.” It may be unfixable to some degree in the end that way. That’s why we can't afford to have another period of human ignorance, like we had on fossil fuels where we said “Let's just drive a car, fly our airplanes and grow, the rest will be solved later.” That we can't do with AI, genetic engineering, supercomputing, we need to think wiser. Because the future isn't tomorrow, the future is here. We just haven't noticed, we just haven't paid enough attention. But this is very well as COTR keeps saying, 2030. We're talking about seven years here, where we have to get our stuff together and work together to find the key to that good future.


Robert Maldonado  47:06

If by some effort, of course, and miracle, and self-organizational properties of the universe, we get it together and manage to pull it off, to define the middle ground that takes us into that good future. Give us a vision of what that would look like. How could we live in that new, good future?


Gerd Leonhard  47:39

I think the answer is simple. When you look at the Maslow's needs pyramid, the lower part of that pyramid is about practical things: water, food, civil rights, not dying, no poverty, and so on. If we can solve that for 95% of the global population, or roughly 10 billion people, by 2030, we have achieved nirvana. There’s still 40% of people who aren’t in good health care situations, not getting education. It's improving, but it's very slow. If we can solve that by bringing science and technology to the rescue on having the right global policy, then we need to think about it being a global effort. It's not about us using solar energy to get green, but to give it to Brazil and India, and give them money to build it, to look at it as a joint effort. When it happens for 2030, we could live in a world with a lot less disease, with limitless food, almost limitless energy, limitless water to desalination and energy that needs water, and hopefully, democratic, more freedom, more civil rights. There will always be things that have nothing to do with technology. But we have a common agenda, and that agenda is flourishing. The interesting part is that it's not new. Except that we started to forget about what that goal is in the last 20 years, because our goal was cut down to one simple goal, profit and growth. That's true for pretty much everyone. The developing countries want to be on the same goal that we are, which is insane when you think about it. We can't tell them not to do it, because after all, it's their turn. But for them to come along, we'll have to jump in the same boat with them. This is the difficulty and the thing we need to see. Every time we go to a COTR event, like COTR 28, this is the outcome that says developing countries need to get funded through a global mechanism above leaving the carbon in the ground and progressing along with us into a new economy. That is a global undertaking, it's not going to be something where we say we'd give South Africa a bunch of solar panels or something, this is going to be a bigger story.


Robert Maldonado  50:17

The vision I get is one of collaboration, we have to all be on the same page, at least to just start.


Gerd Leonhard  50:26

Kim Stanley Robinson, the science fiction author who wrote a great book called The Ministry for the Future, which you may know. In the book, he brought out an idea that has been in discussion for a decade, which is a global carbon coin, which is essentially a funding mechanism of the central banks to flood the system with trillions of dollars that go from countries, people or organizations that are carbon emitting, to the ones that aren’t yet emitting, to even out the structure, to pay to leave the carbon in the ground. These mechanisms exist, even in a traditional capitalist system. But we have to make choices, we still have to remember that the carbon industry around the world makes two and a half billion dollars profit every single day. That is paying opinions. That is keeping us locked into a death spiral. A lot of these things, when they become obvious, we say, there is a moment here where we're either going to tackle this or it's just going to be dysfunctional. America, for example, is going to that very point. This year, either these things will be tackled once and for all in some way where there's a new future. Or it's crumbling. It's hard to imagine that, when you think about dysfunctionality you used to think about dysfunctional countries, like rogue nations in many ways. You could say, America is a great example for dysfunctional. This is just one of the things that you see that's becoming obvious and leading us to conclusions and to probably also some emergency reactions.


Robert Maldonado  52:27

We hope the emergency situation will prompt real change and a real movement towards that future.


Gerd Leonhard  52:42

It's human nature. Human nature is we don't react until there's a reason. The reason, generally speaking, for human nature is pain or love. That's it. That’s personal relationships, but also politics, everything. We fall in love. Mahatma Gandhi's followers fell in love with the concept of independent India. That wasn't really his agenda from the beginning. But it became the agenda. That became the key. In so in many ways, you could say, we may have a painful moment where something goes completely wrong. Then we realize that we have to do something, whatever, the nuclear bomb. Then we have a moment where we fall in love with something where we say “We could solve cancer using AI.” We're talking before the million people here. If we can do that, can you imagine that? You fall in love with this, then things start moving. This is really what's happening. We’re falling in love and then also we're seeing pain, painful moment that we just can't seem to— Palestine versus Israel is super complicated, 50-70-year-old thing that forces us to solve or crash.


Robert Maldonado  54:03

One last question. I am trained in clinical psychology, it's been my life's work. How do you see mental health as we move into this future in the next ten years?


Gerd Leonhard  54:26

That's a big question because the current mental health downturn is part of that bad story about the world. Of course, there will always be people who have mental health problems, but we see in this mechanism it's both possible to escape and tune out, there's so much reason why you should escape because things aren't good. We don't see the things that are good anymore. It's like an epidemic where we think that everything is dystopia. Every time we turn on the TV or bring up social media, it's bad. We need to change. When we have a positive scenario, then we’ll find more people looking for purpose, engaging what they want to do. We still have mental health problems, that's just human. But this is all about having something to look forward to. I want the 25-year-old woman or man to say “This is going to be fantastic, I want to have as many kids as possible.” Despite all the fears of overpopulation. It’s going to be really important to give people an objective, something they can believe as a good story.


Robert Maldonado  55:49

As human beings, we’re storytellers. We live by these myths and stories. Any new movies you're working on?


Gerd Leonhard  56:04

I'm working on my book, The Good Future. It's going to be more like a manifesto. The last one I did was Look Up Now, which, of course is a sort of take off on Don't Look Up. Unfortunately, Di Caprio wasn't available to take the part, so I had to take it myself. It's lookupnow.tv. It's about artificial intelligence. Half of my work right now is about AI and the whole discussion about what is human, what isn’t human. That's going to be a big project for quite some time. I'm involved in a discussion about an artificial intelligence international agency to help with formulating how we should go about this. These are interesting times. I remain hopeful about the future.


Robert Maldonado  57:00

I wanted to thank you personally for your work, your dedication to these important topics we need to talk about. We need to have these conversations, your work right now is really important. I appreciate all your efforts and work. Thank you so much. I really appreciate you being with us on the podcast.


Gerd Leonhard  57:30

Thank you. See you in the future, the good future.


Robert Maldonado  57:32

See you in the good future.


Gerd Leonhard  57:34

Thank you.


OUTRO  57:37

Thank you for joining us. Don't forget to subscribe to CreativeMind Soul Sessions. Join us next week as we explore another deep topic where you can consciously create your life with CreativeMind Soul Session. See you next time.



Introduction to interview with Gerd Leonhard
Where is humanity at with AI, genetics and energy
Will machines become “intelligent” like humans?
Are we capable of cloning humans right now?
The current state of energy issues + the future
Do we have leaders to step up and make the changes needed?
Collectively, do we need a new vision of the future?
What keeps Gerd optimistic for the future
Gerd Leonhard process to tune in the future
How to inspire leaders & others towards the “good future”
A vision of the “good future”
The future of mental health