“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.”
– Robert F. Kennedy
I first met George Chanos in 2019 when we were speaking at the same event in San Diego. I was incredibly impressed not just with his knowledge of future trends but with how passionate he was about finding opportunity in them.
That night, I had dinner with George and we had a very vibrant conversation about politics, foreign policy, and just about everything else. He is extremely eloquent, infectiously passionate, and has a lifetime of real-world business experience, as well as perspectives from high levels of public office. George served as Attorney General of Nevada, where he oversaw the entire state’s justice department. He has even argued, successfully might I add, in front of the United States Supreme Court.
Since leaving office, he has established a career as an accomplished businessman (including Chairman of one of the fastest growing franchises in the country), speaker, and author. His two biggest passions are, first, learning about the future and, second, interpreting that future to help younger generations thrive in what will be an era of unprecedented transformation.
In many ways, the future is scary as hell. George tells of the technological tsunami that will revolutionize the world in the next 30 years, and that we’re already knee-deep in it without even knowing. In his latest book Millennial Samurai, George equips younger generations with the concepts, blueprints, and resources to find opportunity in the future and gain a competitive edge.
Given the uncertainty we’re facing right now with COVID-19, I thought this was great timing to have him on the show. In this wide-ranging interview, we cover politics, quarantine, automation, artificial intelligence, how to pivot for sustained success, and a whole lot more. George also shares the one thing that he believes is the biggest existential thread for the entire world – and, no, it’s not climate change or rogue viruses like COVID-19. He also helps us understand what’s going on politically to help us make sense of how the power shifts will play out.
Technology will transform the future more than we ever thought possible, and George Chanos is here to help you use it to your advantage.
George, super excited to have you on the show! We’ve got a lot to talk about, so thank you very much for being here.
George J. Chanos:
Thank you. It's always great to see you and I look forward to seeing you again when we're next in LA.
Absolutely. And, as former Attorney General of Nevada, are there any biases that you want to get out of the way publicly before we get into the interview!?
I have a reverence for the law and a bias for the truth. When I served as Nevada's Attorney General, I was a Republican. But in 2016, I was so disgusted with the choice that my party had given me that I left the party and I became nonpartisan. And I wasn't happy with either choice – I wasn't happy with Hillary Clinton and I wasn't happy with Donald Trump. In a country of 330 million people, we can do better, and I think that we deserve better.
That's my bias, so I consider myself a centrist. But the goalposts are moving rapidly, so who knows where you may find me. Some people who are more to the left of me might think I'm conservative. But I can tell you that many who are conservative would never in a million years call me conservative. So, you know, make your own judgment.
One of the reasons I was so excited to get you on the show was because you do have that pursuit of truth. It's really refreshing at a time when most people just go and read from the one source to confirm their own bias, whether they consciously know it or not.
Do you feel that whoever is in power, whether it's the US President, or Prime Minister of Australia or the UK, is stuck with a poisoned chalice [i.e. lose-lose scenario] in the world we live in with social media, COVID-19, etc.?
Yeah, I do. And I feel sorry for Donald Trump and other world leaders in that respect who are having to deal with this incredibly enormous challenge. You know, it's a 100-year pandemic; we haven't seen anything like this in our lifetime. And the impact – in terms of health complications, loss of life, economic carnage – it's just been incredible.
What's even more amazing is that we're all looking at COVID-19, and we're thinking that this is the greatest chaotic event that any of us will experience, and what most people don't realize is that there's a lot more change on the horizon. And it's not pandemic change, but technological change. It's going to cause a level of disruption that is equal to the pandemic that we're now facing, if not greater. So, these are some of the things that I research and write about.
Check out the podcast or YouTube version where George does the Win the Day Rocket Round, answering questions about his favorite quote, what advice he’d give his 18-year-old self, his favorite book, and a whole lot more 🚀
To back up a little bit my history is that, for 30 years, I've been advising businesses, high net worth individuals – including some governors and billionaires – about how to solve complex problems. And in doing that, I've had to try to look for red flags and what’s beyond the horizon to anticipate problems that might arise.
In researching the next 30 years, which is what I've been spent the last five years doing, I see what I believe is nothing less than a technological tsunami that will create radical change and disruption. Automation will displace millions and millions of jobs.
COVID-19 is a temporary displacement that's going to be gone in 18 months – there's going to be a vaccine and we’re going to get past it. But automation is here to stay, and it will redefine life as we know it, just as artificial intelligence will redefine life as we know it. Those changes are going to be even more dramatic than the changes that we're going through now – and they're right around the corner.
Hasn’t this been prophesized before, such as with the Industrial Revolution that was supposed to make most human work redundant? What makes this situation different?
There are a number of differences. One of the first differences is that in the Industrial Revolution we moved from an agrarian society to an industrial society, so there was still very much a place for humans. It was just instead of a holding a plow, you might hold a microscope, or work in a steel mill, or do something else that required your human involvement.
Today, in the technological revolution, we're not talking about humans reskilling for a new type of engagement. We're talking about automation. We're talking about machines replacing humans in the workforce. Let me give you an example.
"Anything that can be automated, eventually, will be automated."
Adidas has recently built something called the SpeedFactory. In the past, Adidas would manufacture their tennis shoes: they would take the raw materials (the fabrics, the rubber, the molds and those things) and ship them to Asia. Some of the molds may have been made there, but the fabrics were mostly made in Europe and shipped to Asia. The assembling, as in the actual manufacturing of the shoe, would occur in Asia because of low cost labor. Then, the finished product would be shipped back for sale in places like Europe, Asia, and North America. That was the model.
Today, the SpeedFactory that Adidas is operating, their tennis shoes are made by robots. They no longer have to ship the raw materials to Southeast Asia and then have everything shipped back to Europe. Everything is done in Europe, where the raw materials come from: the molds are made there, the shoes are manufactured and assembled there, and they've eliminated millions of human jobs in Southeast Asia in the process. That trend is going to continue.
Anything that can be automated, eventually, will be automated. Global consulting firm McKinsey and Company said that, today, 47%, of US jobs are currently susceptible to automation based on existing technology. So we're not even talking about future technology, we're talking about the technology that’s there today to take away half of our jobs.
There will always be this economic incentive to do that, because, I mean look at what has happened with this pandemic – you have people calling in sick, or who may have been furloughed them or laid off. You have sick leave, hospitalization, insurance bills, and a whole bunch of issues. You also can't work these workers 24 hours a day, right? And you have to cater to their human needs.
Let’s take Amazon for example. Amazon hires a bunch of humans to sort packages. Amazon pays them based on how many packages they can sort in a given time, with a certain level of accuracy, so they want them to be 99.9% accurate or 100% accurate, and they want them to move quickly without making any mistakes. This the ideal employee, right? And they hire humans to do this.
Three weeks ago, a company called Convariant came out with a robot that had never existed before. Sometimes robots don't have the dexterity to sort packages, and sometimes they don't have the recognition capability to differentiate between the reflective properties of packaging, or to be able to spot different barcodes, designs, and configurations of all these different types of packages made all over the world with all different standards.
So you have to create an artificial intelligence in a robot that has the ability to do that, which is a very complicated task. And up until last month, they couldn't do it. Well, now Convariant has a robot that can sort 10,000 separate SKUs. They can do it at a speed that would put any Amazon employee that operated at that speed into the bonus category of payment. And this machine does it with 99.9% accuracy.
What's the previous level of accuracy for humans?
They couldn't even do it, really. So the machine has to actually have the dexterity to be able to grab these packages, and then it has to read them, sort them, and move them around. And it has to do all of that very, very quickly. There was never a robot that could do it up until last month. So, these are the types of evolutions in technology that we should be expecting. This is coming. To a large degree, this is here.
The number one job for an American male today is truck driver. Chrysler was testing driverless trucks on Nevada's highways in 2017. Mercedes has a truck right now that does cross country trips, and the driver is non-essential. Today, they still have a driver in the vehicle but the machine is doing all the driving – the driver’s doing nothing, but in a few years, they're not going to need to put that driver in the vehicle. They're just going to have somebody sitting at a computer or laptop and that person is going to send off a fleet of these trucks that are going to go cross country, and they're not going to need any humans to drive them.
There are so many jobs that fit into this category, such as journalists. Amazon, which owns the Washington Post, has an algorithm already, where an editor can type in a request, a one sentence request, “Give me a 750-word article on why Donald Trump will lose in 2020.” That machine will generate a 750-word article on that subject. Now, let's say it was an even more controversial subject, “Give me a 750-word article on why Hillary Clinton is a traitor.”
If I were an editor, and you were a liberal journalist, and I were to go to you and say, “Give me a 750-word article on why Hillary Clinton is a traitor,” you might say, “I'm not writing that article. I wouldn't write such an article because I don't believe she is a traitor.”
Many people would say that, right? And I certainly don't believe she is a traitor – I believe she is a decent human being, but she's just not somebody I would want as President. But anyway, the point is, that an editor would have to deal with the moral qualms of the journalist, and they would have a discussion over whether this even an article that should be written.
But let's say the editor doesn't want to have that discussion. Let's say the editor has a point of view that they want to push out on the American public. Now, they have a computer that will create that article for them. Amazon ran 500 of these articles during the 2016 election that were all generated by computer; no human being authored these articles. And yet, they received 500,000 likes, and no one knew that they were written by a machine. Now, Amazon is licensing that technology to various newspapers around the world.
Well, if you think about the implications of some of these things … one implication is that it puts a lot of journalists out of work. Another implication is that it gives immense power to somebody who decides that they want to purchase that algorithm and use that technology to create information that they want to distribute widely through social media. We have advances in technology that now allow for the creation of material that can go on to democratize media.
We have videos where there's new technology that shows Barack Obama giving a speech that he never made. They take millions of images of his voice and of his facial movements, and they can reconstruct a video. It's just like you watching me right now and believing that it's me talking to you.
And they now can have Donald Trump sit in front of a screen and you're watching him and you're thinking it’s him and he might be saying things that could start a war. But it's not him, it's a video that has been created by artificial intelligence. Can you imagine the implications of all of these things?
The World Economic Forum was forecasting significant economic disruption from automation over the next five years before the pandemic, and now we've got the pandemic layered on top of it. When we emerge from the pandemic, we're going to get hit by another wave of automation. And the problem is that people aren't ready. So, to touch on what we spoke about earlier, another difference between this and the Industrial Revolution is how people aren't ready and how we're not ready to train them.
"We need a whole retooling of our entire education system."
The education system that we have in the United States was born out of the Industrial Revolution. We were going to take our people from the farms, and we were going to ask them to work in factories, so we had to educate them. That’s why we created the public education system.
Well, now we have a quantum leap, where we're moving from the industrial age to the technological revolution, and we need a new education system for the technological revolution, because it's nothing like the Industrial Revolution. But we have this antiquated education system.
This means we have hundreds of thousands of jobs in the United States that cannot be filled because we don't have people who understand the technology and the needs of those jobs. So we need a whole retooling of our entire education system.
So many questions, George! In my head, I feel like I need one of these Amazon algorithms to unpack all these questions I want to ask you.
When Uber launched in Australia, I remember sitting in a taxi from the Brisbane airport where my family lives. The taxi driver mentioned how tough it was for those who had bought a taxi license – which were being sold for about $250,000 each, if my memory serves me correctly. He said the state government had given financial compensation to those taxi drivers who were impacted by Uber launching in Australia.
Clearly, there are workers that need to be looked after when they can’t look after themselves, but at what point does the government have to pay for an industry that has not evolved and innovated? On the one side, you give Uber credit for launching with a fantastic product. People were sick of taxis – they were worried about whether they were being taken the most direct route, they had to sit in cars that were rarely clean, and you still had to pay manually. Uber nullified all those things, and gave you a bottle of water per trip as an added incentive.
What is the government obligation to its citizens when the technological tsunami hits?
Well, that's an interesting question with a lot of different elements to it. First of all, consumers want the best solution. If the best solution is Uber, that's what we want. We don't want to be forced to ride around in horses and buggies because the government doesn't want to let Uber in because they're trying to safeguard the horse and buggy industry. Well, same thing with taxis.
On the other hand, if the government is charging you $250,000 to have this license, at the time that you paid that, there was probably an expectation on both sides that this license would have a lifespan of X, and that you would amortize those costs over the life of this license. If you're going to cut short the value of that license by allowing a competitor industry to come in, you don't block the door to the competitor industry, but maybe you owe a bit of a refund to the guy who paid you a $250,000 fee for a license that you've now essentially made valueless. Even if the choice of making it valueless is eminently understandable.
"Consumers want the best solution."
The other issue is, what does government do? What is government involvement in these types of things, like universal basic income? So now in the halls of Congress, they are discussing universal basic income more seriously than ever. And the reason that they're discussing it is that they know that there is a tsunami of technological change on the horizon. They know that it’s going to eliminate millions of jobs. They know that there are going to be people who will be jobless. And what are they going to do? Are they going to allow them to starve? Do they think that they will starve peacefully, in silence? Or do they think that they will cause social disruption that might make it dangerous for everyone?
So government has to manage all of this, and this nothing new. You go back to ancient Rome where they built the Colosseum and they had these gladiatorial fights. Why did they do that? It was the gift from the Emperor to the society: “Here are the games, I've given you the games.” Why? “Well, because you're starving and you're living in dysentery and your life sucks, but I'm your leader, and I expect you to pay taxes.’
It’s a distraction?
Yes, I've got to entertain you, I've got to distract you. So government is always in the business of not only providing for its population, but managing the expectations and the lives to a certain degree.
Now, there is a big philosophical debate about how much government should be involved and how much we should be on our own. Basically, I believe that less government is better – if you can do it right. The best of all cases is we don't need government and people can manage nicely without them and nobody is starving, and we're all doing well. But that's not always the case, so sometimes you need government in certain areas. Then, you have to make choices because sometimes when you involve government, it takes away certain freedoms.
"I believe that less government is better – if you can do it right."
For example, let’s look at this pandemic. In the United States, we have all these freedoms and all these civil liberties: we get to protest, we get to gather together, we get to say what we want to say. So if we want to have a march on Washington of a million people, hey, that's our right. That's our birthright. We've been doing that since the union was formed. But if you do that, in the middle of a pandemic, you create health risks for other people, right? And there are limits to our freedoms.
For example, in the United States, we have freedom of speech, but there are limits. I cannot go into a movie theater and yell “Fire!” when there is no fire. Because if I do, everyone will rush towards the door, there will be a stampede, people will run over people, people will be injured, some might die. And this has happened in theaters in our history. And so they made a law that says you cannot yell “Fire” in a crowded theater if there is no fire. So that's a limitation on your freedom of speech.
You cannot threaten the life of the President in the United States. Even though you can say a lot of things, you cannot make a threat against the life of the President. That's another limitation on your freedom.
Well, during a pandemic can you go out and protest and violate this social distancing regime? And can you disregard the laws of the state that you live in and open your business, if you want to open it when the state tells you, you must close? This is this tension that we have between civil liberties and individual rights that this country is known for, and it’s one of our greatest strengths.
In a pandemic, it's not always a strength – it can be a weakness. So it's very interesting when you think about innovation, freedom of thought, and freedom of action … these are the hallmarks of the American economy. These are the tools that allow you to pursue the great American dream. Therefore, we look at them as clear and obvious strengths, which makes it hard in certain situations to understand that they can actually create a weakness.
For example, China was able to lock down the city of Wuhan and surrounding provinces and 60 million people with a quarantine. Try doing that in the United States! You wouldn't be able to do it. I mean, Governor Cuomo brought in the National Guard to try and create a quarantine in the little part of New York, a one-mile radius where they saw a cluster forming, and it was hell for him to deal with that.
When this whole COVID-19 thing happened, I've never seen something move so fast. Way faster than the global financial crisis of 2007 - 2009. But one of the major problems was not just the speed but also the issues with conflicting data, not to mention the crazy footage of warehouses and hospitals being fitted with hospital beds, and arguments around ventilators.
We saw places like San Francisco being very strict with how they handled it, and somewhere like Florida being the opposite.
Do you feel that the response in the US has been fair? And what about the incentives for hospitals to list a patient as ‘COVID-19’ because, financially, it was very much in their best interests to do so?
So, we've made a lot of mistakes and we've done some good things. And you need to look at each action and you need to critique each action and determine whether or not it was wise. So many are saying that the cure of shutting down the economy is worse than the disease because it's ravaged our economy: we've got 20+ million people on unemployment; it's putting a lot of people out of business permanently; and it's causing a lot of emotional trauma. We've got increased suicide, divorce, and domestic violence. So there are dangers in this type of response when you're trying to flatten the curve.
The reason for the sense of urgency, and the reason for the speed at which these decisions were made, is that it had to be made in that timeframe, because the COVID-19 pandemic expands at an exponential rate. There was a recent report in South Korea of a man who went bar-hopping and he was believed to have been in contact with as many as 1,500 people, and he had COVID-19. And so instead of one person infecting three, you have outliers where one person goes to a packed stadium, nightclub, or concert and they infect many more people.
"There are dangers in this type of response when you're trying to flatten the curve."
It’s that exponential rate of increase that causes the virus to spike very quickly. If you played it out on a chessboard, and you kept simply doubling – two to four, four to eight, eight to sixteen – by the time you get to the end of the chessboard, you have a number that's over a trillion, okay? That's the power of doubling and an exponential increase.
With COVID-19, they believe the number is more than one goes to two; they believe that it could be one to three, and some estimates are higher. With that kind of an increase, it doesn't take long at all. Within a matter of weeks, the numbers just start to compound. And when you get into the bigger numbers, a doubling of 20 million is 40 million. That can happen in a three to five day period, going from 20 million to 40 million, so, you don't have time to react and you don’t have time to delay. You have to act and you have to flatten the curve.
The risk of getting it wrong is so severe. It's just not worth it?
Yes, exactly, so severe that you just can’t take the chance.
Then there's the issue of people saying, “Well, you're just flattening the curve, you're not really eliminating the disease. Once we open up, all these things can happen again and we're right back to where we were, so what good did it do? Maybe we should just let everybody get sick and we should have herd immunity.”
These are all discussions that scientists are having, and there are a number of things to consider. First, if you don't control the curve, you will have a spike that will go up so rapidly, that no healthcare system in the world could handle it, which would leave your hospitals completely overrun. This happened in Italy, and this was beginning to happen in New York, but they took action to flatten the curve.
So this was necessary. It's necessary to practice social distancing, to practice good hygiene, and to shelter at home when possible because that maintains a lower curve and avoids a spike. It’s the spike that would be the most destabilizing thing that could occur to us. Not only will it make our hospitals completely overrun, but it will contaminate most of our doctors, medical workers, and first responders (including police). All of a sudden, they'll be out, and then you'll have more deaths. Then, people who need to get into those hospitals for a heart transplant, a heart attack, kidney dialysis, or whatever their ailment is, those people won't be able to get it.
In places like San Francisco, they've got a significant homeless population. These people are living in unsanitary conditions. They're living in close proximity to one another. They are shedding the disease through fecal matter by defecating in the streets and on the sidewalks.
I was at a hotel, I was staying at the Clift in San Francisco, which is very nice hotel, and I was walking literally six blocks to a restaurant. And I had to walk through neighborhoods that I was fearful of being in. In San Francisco, you're in a great neighborhood one minute, and the next minute you're in a horrible neighborhood.
Some of the people who are walking to restaurants or their office are walking through those neighborhoods and they’re getting that stuff on their feet and then they're tracking it into their hotel or into their office, and these contaminations are spreading. And so it's a very dangerous situation, and people are dying from it.
Also, it depends how vulnerable you are. You're a very healthy younger guy, so you're probably in a relatively low risk category. I'm 62 years old. I'm in a higher risk category. In 2012, I had a heart attack. I am not diabetic, but I have high sugar levels and I have high blood pressure. I have a bit of an asthma condition and I had pneumonia when I was in my 30s. I'm in a high-risk category.
So people like me, it doesn't matter what the government tells me, I'm not going out to restaurants, I'm not going to concerts, and I'm not going to conventions. I'm sheltering at home. And most of the people who I know, who are my age, feel that way. You don't have to tell them they can't go out; they're just not going. So that's going to impact restaurants. It's already devastating the restaurant industry.
And I'm in the restaurant business. I'm the Chairman of a company called Capriotti's. We have over 100 stores in 20 states that we've had to close, and the economic consequences of closing that have been horrendous. And I would love to have my stores open. I would love to reopen for business, right? But even now that the government has said that we could reopen here in Las Vegas, we've made the decision to continue to keep them closed right now. We will eventually open them, and we hope to open them, but we're watching this very closely.
Now, how do you deal with this as a businessperson? This a big issue, right? A lot of people are failing, a lot of people are not able to deal with it. A lot of businesses will close permanently. Fine dining is a business that has seen better days. As long as we're living in a world where these issues come to pass, people are going to be more careful about going out to restaurants and sitting near other people. They're down like 90%, and many of them are going to go out of business.
Certain events like Cirque du Soleil closed. Incredible company, with performances all over the world. The NBA had to shut down. So, I mean, all of these companies that are in businesses that rely on large quantities of people to be in close proximity are required to pivot and adapt to these changing circumstances.
"Companies that rely on large quantities of people to be in close proximity are required to pivot and adapt to these changing circumstances."
At Capriotti’s, we've migrated online and we've done it very effectively and quickly, and so we're not down 90% like fine dining, or 60-70% like family dining, or 30-40% like quick service restaurants and our competitors. We are down, but we're only down 14%. We're down 14% because we immediately moved our operations, everyone in corporate, over 100 employees went virtual; nobody showed up at the office, they're all working from home. That was immediate.
We've cut our salaries by 25% across the board. We have increased our advertising dollars on online media and online delivery. And we've shifted our focus to online delivery. We're opening up ghost kitchens. Ghost kitchens are a new phenomenon in the franchise and quick service restaurant space, where you take an industrial building, and someone goes into that industrial building and they build out, let's say, 50 kitchens. And these are full-service kitchens but they have no seating for customers.
So less space to pay for?
Yes. So we rent a kitchen in in a ghost kitchen, and we go in and we create our food. And then we go online, and we promote our food. And then we have Uber, Grubhub, and Doordash come to the industrial warehouse and they pick up the food and they deliver it to our customers.
And this reduces our overhead, right? We don't have to pay for retail. We don't have to pay for A or B commercial real estate. We're a much smaller footprint in terms of the space that we require. We have much fewer employees required, and we pay much lower rent. So as a consequence, we can be profitable.
We can have a business that works in a pandemic because we still guarantee safety and quality. We have everybody wearing masks, wearing gloves, we sanitize, and we do everything that we can to protect our customers. We have deliveries with masks and gloves, and we pivot.
"The game's not over. The rules have changed, the landscape has changed, the competitors have changed, but the game is not over."
So people are going to have to pivot and adapt to a changing environment. The rules of the game have changed. And there's no sense moaning about it, or crying over spilt milk, or saying “Woe is me” or thinking about how difficult it's going to be. You just need to do it. Now, that sounds easier said than done, and it's much easier to think about how difficult it is, right? We could spend all day, you and I, thinking about how difficult it is. Or we could spend all day thinking about what opportunities has this pandemic created for me and my business and my family. And that's what I'm advising people to do.
I'm advising people to find opportunity in adversity, retain your hopefulness and your sense of aspiration. The game's not over. The rules have changed, the landscape and the playing field has changed, the competitors have changed, but the game is not over.
I really love that.
Get back into the game. Pivot, adapt and thrive.
You’ve brought up a major theme we’ve been talking about in recent episodes. In situations like this, people watch the news and they panic, which leads to inaction. But having awareness that there is opportunity in every single adversity is very important, so thank you for sharing what you’re doing on the practical side in your own business to adjust.
I know that you're an optimist. But how optimistic or pessimistic should the general public be about the future – especially since we’ve got pandemics, automation, etc.?
Well, let me tell you this. I'm excited! Not everybody is. But leaders don't run from challenges, they run at them.
You can look at it as a glass half empty, or you can look at it as a glass half full. It’s all about mindset. We all know the downside, so let's talk a little bit about the upside. You are living in the most extraordinary period in human history. How lucky for you. You will see more dramatic change, things that you can't even fathom or comprehend.
In 2014, before he dies, theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking said that the moment when machine intelligence eclipses human intelligence would be the greatest event in human history. Greater than fire, greater than the wheel, greater than space travel, greater than the internet, greater than anything that man has ever experienced.
Then there’s Ray Kurzweil, who's the head of artificial intelligence for Google. He’s the guy that Bill Gates says knows more about artificial intelligence than anyone he knows. Ray Kurzweil tells us that this may come as early as 2029. That's less than 10 years away. You and I will be alive to witness the greatest event in human history, and that's something to celebrate.
Kurzweil goes on to say that by the 2040s, which is 20 years away, artificial intelligence will no longer be our equal. It will be a billion times more capable than human intelligence. Now, you and I, our mind, our human intelligence, lacks the ability to even comprehend what that means. We can't even comprehend what a world that is a billion times our intelligence will look like.
"In 20 years, artificial intelligence will no longer be our equal. It will be a billion times more capable than human intelligence."
But Kurzweil says that by that time, our neural cortex will be connected to the cloud so we won't have to go on our phone. When I was a kid, I had to go to the library to find the answer to a question. Today, I go to my phone. My phone has 100,000 times the computing power that NASA had in 1969 when they put men on the moon. In order to put men on the moon, they needed a room filled with computers.
Now, imagine me going back to 1969 with this phone and saying to these cutting edge scientists at NASA, “Hey guys, 50 years from now, everybody's going to have one of these in their back pocket and it has 100,000 times the computing power of everything you got in this room, and everybody's got one. I'm here from the future.”
They would have said, “You're out of your mind. Put this guy in a sanitarium.”
Futurists say that when someone talks about the future, if it doesn't sound like science fiction, they don't know what they're talking about. So now take yourself 20, 30, 40 or 50 years from now. We talked about the next exponential progression with the pandemic. Well, technology is also increasing at this exponential rate. Gordon Moore came up with Moore's law 50 years ago, where he predicted that computers would double processing power and cut in half in price every 18 to 24 months. For the past 50 years, Moore's law has proven true.
Kurzweil is now looking at Moore's law and saying that he doesn't think it just applies to computers. He thinks it applies to human evolution. And he thinks that man is going to evolve into a machine, and that it’s part of our evolutionary path.
We don't know where all this going, but we do know this: it's going to be extraordinary. We know that it's going to be extraordinary. And you can either be frightened by it, or you can be excited by it. I choose to be excited by it.
Part of the reason that I'm excited by it is because I'm learning — I've developed a love of learning. And so I read constantly. I do everything I can to better myself and my mind and to become smarter. Therefore, I feel that I'm going to be equipped to deal with this future better than most. And you have that option as well. Everyone watching this has that option. I'm not some extraordinary genius. It doesn't work that way.
"You can either be frightened by it or you can be excited by it. I choose to be excited by it."
Neuroscientists used to believe that you had a fixed IQ, that you were born with a certain number of brain cells and you died, give or take, with that number of brain cells. And if they tested your IQ at 12, and they tested it at 60, it would be very much the same. They now know that that's not true. You have the power and the ability to both control your thoughts.
Harvard neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor does a great TED talk on this on called ‘The Anatomy of the Teenage Brain.’ You have the ability to control your thoughts, and you have the ability to increase your IQ, but it requires work. You have to go out and educate yourself. You can't just sit around and not read and not learn anything and think that you're going to be fine. Because you won’t be. That’s the cold, hard reality.
Like a muscle that atrophies if you don't use it?
Exactly. Your brain is a muscle – if you don't use it, you'll lose it. It will atrophy, like any other muscle, so you need to exercise it.
The secret to surviving and thriving throughout the 21st century is, first, have an awareness. Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook said that we cannot change that which we are unaware of. But once we are aware, we cannot help but change. You need to be aware of a technological tsunami so that you can move to higher ground, so that you're not wiped out by it. I'm trying to create awareness. I'm trying to let you know what's coming, so that you can be prepared. That awareness is important. It's critical.
"You have the ability to increase your IQ, but it requires work."
Number two, you need to have an open mind. Why? Because a closed mind can't learn. Frank Zappa once said, “A mind is like a parachute. It doesn't work if it isn't open.” You need to be open and receptive to new information. You need to understand how the human brain works so that you understand why different people have different ideas, perspectives, and positions.
Why does one person want to open the economy up and the other person wants to close it down? Why do they think differently? Why do they see the world differently? And what can you learn from that? Well, you may see it a certain way. And you may be convinced that the way you see it is the right way, because that's what your brain is telling you. Well, that's what other people’s brains are telling them. Now we’re all given the same hardware, essentially. We were all given a brain. Mine's not very different than yours. But the software that we all have is different because the input that we all have is different.
"Leaders don't run from challenges, they run at them."
I read voraciously. If you devour information, you will improve your software, so you need to study and you need to read. Now, what do you read and what do you study? You're looking for breakthrough knowledge. You're looking for knowledge that can transform your life. So how do you find that in a sea of information and disinformation? You’re looking for breakthrough knowledge. You're looking for these nuggets that are going to change your life.
So you have to be smart about how you read and what you read. Don’t read for confirmation of what you already know. Look for disconfirming evidence. Look for things that tell you that what you think is true is actually not true.
Science progresses through disconfirming information. I do tests over and over again and it works until all of a sudden it doesn't. Well, why didn't it work? What was wrong? What ingredients was I missing? What information is important for me to know the difference between why the experiments succeeded versus why it failed? It's that piece of information that I'm looking for so that I can fix that issue and it will always work and it will never fail.
"Don’t read for confirmation of what you already know. Look for disconfirming evidence. Look for things that tell you that what you think is true is actually not true."
I've written a book, and it's called Millennial Samurai. I've created what I think is a very valuable, important resource for people, and I think that it will change people's lives. If I were to die tomorrow, the thing that I'm most proud of, is not having served as Attorney General, not having argued before the United States Supreme Court to a unanimous successful verdict, but having created this toolkit that I'm leaving, to my family, to my daughter to my nieces and nephews, and that I'm making available for free online.
You can download a free digital copy of this book. Now, why do you want to do that? And why do you want to read it? Because this book is me spending the last five years reading everything and finding what I believe are the nuggets of information that you and my daughter and my nephews and nieces need to know. And putting them all in one easy to read place.
You'll love reading it. It's very easy to read. It's broken down into small chapters of only one to three pages each:
- Here's a chapter called “The Bystander Effect” [opens book]. Why do people stand by not doing anything when somebody is getting beaten up in the middle of the street or murdered in the middle of the street? Well, there have been studies on this. Wouldn't you like to know why they stand around?
- We have a highly polarized society. Wouldn't you like to know how to build consensus?
- Artificial intelligence, it's going to change your life. Wouldn’t you like to know how to prepare?
One to three pages on each of these chapters will make you know more than 99% of the American public about that subject. You won't know more about artificial intelligence than Ray Kurzweil, or Bill Gates, or anybody like that after reading this, but you'll know more than all your neighbors, you'll know more than all the other people at work. And that's enough. That's enough to give you a competitive edge. That's enough for you to have engaging conversations with your employer, and with your prospective employer. That's enough to make you think about new business opportunities.
There chapters – like finding opportunity in adversity, understanding your fear, understanding tribalism, understanding cognitive dissonance, understanding motivated reasoning, why you reason yourself into a conclusion that is based on your prior understanding of facts, and why you set up hurdles to new information that conflicts with your existing worldview, and allow information that conforms to your existing worldview to come in – you’ll know why you do that.
We have 11 million bits of information that impact our brain every second of the day. Our conscious brain can only process 15-50 bits of information per second. So that means the vast majority of information that comes into our brain comes in from outside our conscious awareness. This book will show you what information you can trust.
"The vast majority of information that comes into our brain comes in from outside our conscious awareness."
If I were to drop you off in the middle of the Amazon rainforest, and I were going to give you a duffel bag, we all know the types of things I would put in that duffel bag. Well, if I'm going to drop you off, or my daughter off in the middle of the 21st century, this the tool bag that I've created for my family, and I'm offering it to you for free. Why? Because I think it's the answer to society's problems.
I think that if I can make you smarter, and if you go on and follow my lead, what’s happening? Now, if you model me, and you go off and help the next guy, and you share this information with them, and we all become smarter, we're all going to do much better, right? I'm going to do better, my daughter is going to do better, everybody's going to do better because we'll all be behaving more rationally, we'll all be making better decisions, we'll all be more hopeful and aspirational, we'll all be better at solving problems.
This, to me is the answer, especially in the absence of a complete reform of our education system, which I think is also required, but I'm not holding my breath for that. I'm not waiting for that to happen, and I don't think that's going to happen, ever. So we're going to have to help each other.
You need to understand that humanity is profoundly interdependent. You are not an island unto yourself. The guy in the grocery store who's not wearing a mask effects you and your family. The guy who coughs on you, the guy who marches and forms rallies in the middle of a pandemic, these people all affect your life. So we need to make them all smarter.
And the public education system is not going to do it. And the government is not going to do it. And private, profit driven businesses are going to do it. Okay, so who's going to do it? You've got to do it! I've got to do it. We've all got to do it.
You also need to understand the critical, critical, critical importance of an open mind. Pretend that you're jumping out of a plane, and you're plummeting towards the ground. Because the speed at which you would fall is equivalent to the speed of the technological tsunami that's on the horizon. Now you have a parachute with you, but it doesn't work if it isn't open. Your parachute is your brain. That's what's going to save you, your brain’s going to save you, but it's got to be open and you've got to fill it with good information. And you got to get rid of all the false information. And you only do that, like you build a muscle going to the gym – you have to work on it.
Do you think we’ll ever see a time where we are united again?
I sure hope so, because I believe that division is the greatest existential threat that humanity faces. The Democratic candidates were all on stage talking about global warming being an existential threat. Now, global warming is probably an existential threat, but it's not going to kill us for the next 20 years.
"Division is the greatest existential threat that humanity faces."
Division is what created the Civil War. The Civil War killed more Americans than all other battles combined. And it wasn't about only about slavery. It was about the difference between what rights we enjoy. The federal government versus the state government. Does the state have the right to decide that it wants slavery? Or does the federal government have the right to say no? Does the state get to open for business? Or does the federal government have a right to say no?
These differences of opinion can also lead to a civil war. Especially in a situation like a pandemic, where you have millions of people out of work. I mean, we have 25% of the American public out of work. This has never happened before except during the Great Depression.
People do not starve in silence. And especially Americans. We're not a third world country where people are used to living in poverty and the government can get away with whatever it wants to get away with. Americans are empowered, they're entitled, they're aware, and they've been told they've got rights.
The land of the free, the land of opportunity.
And the home of the brave. They're not going to just sit back. So we need to recognize that united we stand and divided fall, so we need to be united.
Clever actors who would like to see nothing better than for America to fall. Those actors will use social media to try to create division and to destabilize America. We saw this during the 2016 election. We saw Russia using Facebook to try to interfere with our elections, but this was just a small incursion. What if it's a larger incursion? What if they're using these algorithms like Amazon? What if they have us tearing apart at the seams and destroying the fabric of the country? Because they've divided us over social, political, and economic issues.
Guns, global warming, universal basic income, economic inequality – whatever the issue. We’ve got huge issues that we're dealing with. In order to solve those issues, and they're all solvable, we need to be united, we have to cherry-pick the best ideas. This why I'm not a Republican or a Democrat. I would never join the Republican Party or the Democratic Party today. I don't want to have anything to do with either one of them.
I want independent, critical thinkers to join together and to look at the Republican Party and say, “What ideas do you have that are good ideas?” And look at the Democratic Party and say, “What ideas do you have that are good ideas?” And then cherry-pick the ideas from each, and let's create a country that serves all 330 million of us. Not one that serves half of us. That's what we need. That what I want to see.
Check out the podcast or YouTube version where George does the Win the Day Rocket Round, answering questions about his favorite quote, what advice he’d give his 18-year-old self, his favorite book, and a whole lot more 🚀
Final question. What's one thing you do to win the day?
I roll over in the morning and I kiss my wife, and that starts me off with a great day. I try to begin my day with gratitude and with optimism, and fortunately, I'm doing what I love. I wake up every morning, and I can't wait to learn something new. So, I guess gratitude and lifelong learning would be how I win the day.
Thank you so much for being here and sharing all your incredible wisdom.
Well, thank you for having me. I really appreciate it. And I hope that we can change some lives. I mean, you're helping to create awareness. You're doing exactly what needs to be done. You’re helping people every day. So thank you for everything you're doing and the messages that you're giving people. The way you're inspiring and enriching people is what I try to do too.
I hope you found that interview as powerful as I did! Fortune favors the brave, and it’s the perfect time to start upskilling so you can take advantage of all the opportunities at a time when most people are doing the opposite.
Connect with George via his website, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Remember to get out there and win the day!
Onwards and upwards always,