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Kevin Garber: [0:05] Good morning. Friday, 21st of December, 2012. You are listening to Episode 10 of the "It's a Monkey Podcast." This is the last podcast for 2012. It is 21st of December in Sydney, Australia. The world is still standing. I don't even want to talk about that issue because it is a bit saturated in the media at the moment.
James Peter: [0:28] There's still a few hours across the world where the world could end [laughs] .
Kevin: [0:33] We won't even go there. Thank you for joining us. We have a terrific show planned for you today. We have a very special guest. We have an interview with Clive Hamilton. [0:42] Professor Clive Hamilton, he is a Professor of Public Ethics at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics. He is a best-selling author of all sorts of interesting books about capitalism, and consumerism and steady state economics. Probably the most famous book that you might have heard of, particularly if you're an Australian listener, is a book called "Growth Fetish" and also "Affluenza." Both were on the best-sellers list.

[1:14] We had an interesting chat to him about steady state economics, technological determinism, and happiness, what makes us happy. Why is it that we have so much technology and yet we seem to have so much unhappiness and other problems, socio-economic problems. That's going to be really interesting. That's coming up a little bit later. As usual, we're going to kick off with some news, some IT tech, Internet tech economy-related news.

James: [1:48] , first story, interesting this week. Twitter finally allowed users, or is slowing rolling out users, I believe not many have it yet, the ability to download all their tweets from tweet number one.
James: [2:02] Yeah, essentially it's a big zip file containing all of their tweets. It contains the data formats. You've got a CSV file and a JavaScript format so it's basically formatted tweets that you could, in theory, upload to another program. [2:19] Also, it comes with a nice formatted web page as well. You can very quickly browse through your tweets and drill all the way back to the first tweet that you've ever made.

[2:31] You can obviously, currently, access quite a lot of historical information just on your own account through Twitter, but there's a limit on Twitter and through the API of about 3,000 tweets. If you're a regular tweeter, essentially, that information was lost until right now. That's really the interesting aspect of it, opening up access to those older users.

Kevin: [2:55] Why do you think people want to download their tweets?
James: [2:59] Maybe it's the backup factor. It also enables you to search through them as well, which is obviously quite interesting. If you said something three years ago, that you want to find out currently, there's no practical way to do it. This enables that. [3:16] There's probably peace of mind factor as well, you just want to have a backup in case Twitter blows up tomorrow, or becomes a paid service, something like that.
Kevin: [3:24] Some people tweet a lot. There are some people that I follow with 10s of 1000s, some over 100,000 tweets.
James: [3:33] Yeah, one of our accounts has over 100,000, that spell account. Literally, it's not all, we haven't tweeted that but...
Kevin: [3:42] If you're listening and you're a Twitter fan, you might want to check out one of our twitter bots, _spell, which James actually conceptualized and built. This terrific Twitter account/twitter bot that actually picks up when people are unsure of how to spell a word on Twitter. They put their "sp?" behind a word in a tweet. Our twitter bot picks it up and actually tweets them the correct word. It's a really nifty service that gets used quite a lot. I'll put it in the show notes. How many tweets is that into?
James: [4:15] It's up to 560,000.
Kevin: [4:21] But that is a bot though.
James: [4:23] Fair, yeah. It would be cool to download it though and have a record of it all.
Kevin: [4:28] What I find really interesting with historical Facebook data and historical Twitter data, have you even sat down and dug into your Facebook or your Twitter of a few years ago and actually just browsed a little bit?
James: [4:41] No, not really, no.
Kevin: [4:42] It's quite interesting because it does work as a bit of a de facto diary, in a way. I never met any of my grandfathers, for instance. If I would, for instance, have access to my grandfather's Facebook account or Twitter account, that would be priceless to me. I would be absolutely fascinated about with what they went through, their thoughts, their life journey. I would literally, probably analyze every single tweet would be fascinating for me. [5:17] I think in future generations, I think that the Twitter, and the Facebook and the Instagram, in a way we are going to be leaving quite an interesting legacy for our kids. Assuming there is some data portability, there is some data continuity and these things don't just evaporate.
James: [5:36] Yeah, that is really interesting. I'd love that kind of thing as well. I guess it's a good reason to not delete your Facebook account when you're done with it. You just leave it there and it becomes a memento for future generations.
Kevin: [5:51] A lot of people are critical of Facebook, of its consuming people's lives and it's narcissistic, et cetera, et cetera, but I think life-casting and documenting your life, in a way, is an interesting concept.
James: [6:07] I wonder if there is a service that does that, that archives all of your Twitter and Facebook posts, or all of your social network posts, for the purpose of displaying them in the future? You can't really rely on Twitter or Facebook being around in 100 years. These companies do tend to disappear unless you're actively building a service to provide that information in the future. It has the probability that it's probably going to get lost, so I can imagine that kind of service would get quite popular over time.
Kevin: [6:40] I think probably if people are interested in preserving this information for the future, what wouldn't be a bad idea is finding some service that actually every few years, you get your tweets and your Facebook information printed and bound into a book.
James: [6:55] Yes, that's a good idea.
Kevin: [6:57] You've got a digital and hard copy. Books, and then I've just recently moved, and you do discover pieces of paper and information from a few years ago that digitally may be buried somewhere.
James: [7:10] I'm just imagining my drunken teenage photos of parties in a hardcover book, passing on to my grandchildren. [laughs]
Kevin: [7:19] I think even in your time, even though you're a bit younger than me, luckily you were spared from that. That's Twitter. You were able to download your tweets. If you don't see it on your account yet, don't panic. They have said they will be rolling it out slowly. I believe it's in the settings section?
James: [7:38] Yes, essentially you click on your cog icon at the top, and there's a bunch of different levels of settings, and under the account settings option, right down at the bottom there's an archive tweets button. We've got out one of our many Twitter accounts, I've played around with it. [7:56] It works pretty well. The only thing is, is that when you run the archive and you download it, you can't then rerun it again in the future, so it's a once-off thing in the current implementation. It's obviously very early days, they may change that in the future.
Kevin: [8:13] Interesting. One of Australia's universities, Sydney University is going to roll out 11,000 Apple iPads. All new students who enroll at the University of Western Sydney in 2013 will receive an iPad as part of a massive rollout today. The University said in a statement it would distribute 11,000 iPads to each new student and all academic staff in 2013 to support learning and teaching innovations across the curriculum and in informal learning environments. James, good to see that a Sydney Uni seems to be acknowledging that the future has arrived.
James: [8:52] Yes, it's interesting. I can see why they would do it. If you do have ubiquitous use of a single device like an iPad, then you can build tools for the classroom that are key to the learning experience and know that everybody will be able to use them. If you could build an app for a specific class or a specific department, then you can see that being fairly useful.
Kevin: [9:21] I think higher education has been broken for a long time. I think whoever you spoke to of our generation or mine, yours, even some of the current staff we have that are studying at Uni, it's broken in the sense of, it's incredibly inefficient. The bad lecturers, the bad content, there's a huge amount of noise to get a little bit of signal. Technology has an amazing opportunity to really optimize that.
James: [9:53] Absolutely, yes. Having said that, I guess I do have a vaguely cynical reaction to it in that it almost seems a little bit like, buy a new TV get an iPad along with it. It's almost like a bit of a marketing ploy, I guess.
Kevin: [10:08] There's no doubt that's definitely part of it.
James: [10:11] Particularly because these devices, six months they're going to be out of date if they're buying the latest version. They're going to be stuck with, I don't know if it's just given to the students or if it's owned by the faculty, but yes, these things don't have a very long shelf life. There didn't seem to be any terminology in there in terms of long-term plans for maintaining the stuff, so it's hard to know whether it's just entirely a sales gimmick to boost enrollment numbers.
Kevin: [10:41] I think ultimately it be a BYO-type environment. The workplaces are heading towards a BYO environment. We've seen it in our small workplace, that over the last six months to a year, people enjoy and prefer just having one device across work and home. I believe even in the enterprise, a lot of the enterprises are coming up with policies of a BYO device, and I would imagine University, that's going to make some sense as well. [11:08] I would imagine it's a little bit of a marketing ploy, but I'm really interested in the space. I'm really interested to see what technology does to education. Of course, Peter Thiele, one of the famous founders of PayPal, he had his program where he offers the super-smart people to drop out of Uni, claiming what if you're super-smart and you want to get on with it, Uni's probably not the place to be.
James: [11:37] It's a bold philosophy there.
Kevin: [11:42] Well, I think particularly on the entrepreneurship side of things, there's definitely something in it, and Uni teaches you to assess risk and to look at all sides of the problems, and sometimes that can actually be a negative in the entrepreneurial world where you're always going to find risk.
James: [12:01] Naiveté helps [laughs] .
Kevin: [12:02] Naiveté and boldness. I think Bono said, when you're 16 you think you can take on the world, and you're right.
James: [laughs] [12:10]
Kevin: [12:11] I like that. The education space, we might see if we can find someone somewhere that's doing something, and believes that Universities have an opportunity to reinvent themselves and are reinventing themselves. Final little news story for today, Facebook tests $1 fee for inbox access. Really interesting story. [12:32] This small experiment will let some people pay to have a message routed to their inbox of someone they're not connected with, rather than have it banished to the other folder. Now, a lot of people don't know that there is another folder in your Facebook inbox.
James: [12:48] Yes, and that folder I think as far as I understand actually receives all the messages you get from people who you're not directly connected with. I think unless you set up any special notification, you don't actually receive any notification for receiving those messages.
Kevin: [13:04] Well, you and I just before the show went through our other inbox. I went through my other inbox, and there were messages there from people reaching out to me, mutual friends and the like, going back quite some time that I missed that are probably going to cause me some social/political fallout. There's a definite user interface breakdown in that they really didn't make it clear that there is another inbox, or ping you in the right way when a message comes into your other inbox. [13:33] But, this initiative is interesting. They said, a new revamp of Facebook messages is pointing the way to let people buy access to your inbox in the social network. A small experiment starting today will be evaluating the usefulness of economic signals and give a number of people the option to pay to have a message routed to their inbox. This is similar to their promoted posts in a way. It's a similar type of model where if you like a page, that page can pay to pop up onto your feed. It's that same type of economic model.
James: [14:06] Yes, it's interesting, paying for access to people. I guess it does operate in a very similar way, because you're paying to access, to more of your friends when you pay for a promoted post, whereas in this case you're paying for direct access to people. Apparently LinkedIn actually has a paid inbox service as well.
Kevin: [14:27] Yes, I think it's called InMail. I'm subscribed to that, where you get for X number of dollars you can send people messages that you aren't connected to.
James: [14:37] Oh, OK.
Kevin: [14:38] I actually have used that with quite a bit of success.
James: [14:42] I can see how that would be valuable, yes, it definitely makes sense. There's always been proposals around email where people were proposing, you might have to pay to receive messages in your inbox for quite a while. None of those services really took off, but when it's a closed environment like something like LinkedIn or Facebook, yes, you can definitely see the opportunities for success there for really helping to filter out the noise.
Kevin: [15:09] The difference is, with LinkedIn you've got one inbox, and it comes into your inbox. If I remember correctly, I have an inbox and an invite section. With Facebook, there's something intuitively that doesn't sit right with me, both with the promoting the fan pages, and with being able to get into someone's inboxes. In a way, the incentive is the wrong way around somehow.
James: [15:36] In what sense?
Kevin: [15:38] If I've self-interest to send you a message, you might not be interested in receiving the message from me, right?
James: [15:47] Right.
Kevin: [15:49] For instance, on the fan page, maybe I'm super-interested in U2, and say I happen to like Waverly City Council, which is near where I live. But Waverly City Council for whatever reason, they're paying for the promoted posts, but I'm actually less interested in them. There's a misalignment of incentives there, that somehow it has to come from the other side.
James: [16:18] Both directions, almost...
Kevin: [16:18] That's why Google's been so successful, because AdWords are really based on what you are looking for at that moment, not really what the company is looking, actually.
James: [16:29] Yes, absolutely. Yeah, it combines both signals. They almost need a method of I guess scaling the payment based on how interested you might be to receive the message.
Kevin: [16:40] Or to pay on receipt, or something like that.
James: [16:42] That'd be interesting, yes.
Kevin: [16:44] You pay on receipt. I need to think about it more clearly to articulate it better, but something seems to be a little bit inverted on that.
James: [16:53] Yes, it's all one-way in the interest. There's nothing taking into account the person receiving the message's interest in you.
Kevin: [17:02] The same with promoted posts, what happens if everyone starts promoting the posts, right? If everyone's paying $50 to get in the news feed, it's not a scalable...
James: [17:13] Minimum, yes, it becomes like a minimum entry point then, it just doesn't make sense.
Kevin: [17:17] Yes, it's not a scalable model. It'll be interesting to see what happens with that. But anyway, if you are listening to us, check your other inbox, because you may have some messages in there. I got a very interesting message a few years ago when Facebook was first hitting critical mass. I received this email from someone with the same surname as me somewhere in the States. [17:42] She told me a long story. She said, "Hi, are you the Kevin whose father is this and mother that, and you moved from Tallahassee to Florida?" She went on explaining a whole set of circumstances, and then the clincher was in the final where she said, "...we have the same father," full stop.
James: [laughs] [18:00] Very dramatic.
Kevin: [18:03] Yes, she was looking for her half-brother, and for some or other reason had thought I was, which clearly I wasn't. But it was quite interesting how she worded this, "...we have the same father." I replied back and I said, "No, I think you've got the wrong person, I live in Australia," and I think [indecipherable 18:21] . But yes, check your other inbox, because there might be some messages in your other inbox. [18:28] You're listening to James Peter and Kevin Garber on It's a Monkey Podcast, Episode #10, our special end-of-the-world episode. Coming up, we'll be talking to Professor Clive Hamilton about steady state economics, technological determinism. Why are we not as happy as we should be?
James: [18:48] and myself, we're the cofounders of a company called 89n. We produce products such as ManageFlitter and CheckDog. We develop online products that solve niche solutions. [19:00] We do this podcast because we love tech. We love talking about tech. It gives us a little bit of a break to get away from hacking away at our computers. In the new year, we'll be continuing with this podcast. We have some exciting information to share, at the end of the show, about one of our first guests. But stay with us and after the break we'll be talking to Professor Clive Hamilton.
Woman: [19:24] The "It's a Monkey" podcast is brought to you by ManageFlitter. With ManageFlitter, you can easily find out who isn't following you back, find new people to follow, track keywords on Twitter, and schedule tweets for the most appropriate times. Tweet code "Monkey" to @ManageFlitter to receive a one month free Budgie account.
Kevin: [19:48] Thank you for joining us. You're back with us. Kevin Garber on "It's a Monkey" podcast. I have a very special guest with me. As you know, we cover everything relating to tech and the tech economy. One of my interests is economic growth, steady state economic growth, theories of...Perpetual growth theories. [20:11] I have a very interesting and special guest, an Australian guest who is actually a studio guest, which is unusual for us. Most of our interviews are on Skype. I'd like to introduce Clive Hamilton. Clive Hamilton is very well known to our Australian listeners as an author. He's written books such as "Growth Fetish," which is an Australian best seller and books such as "Affluenza."

[20:33] His most recent book is "Requiem for a Species." Clive, I believe a new book is almost off the presses.

Clive Hamilton: [20:42] Yes, in late February, early March my next book will appear. It's titled "Earth Masters: The Dawn of the Age of Climate Engineering." It's about this big new thing coming down the highway at us, plans to essentially take control of the Earth's climate with grand technological interventions. Watch this space.
Kevin: [21:07] Very topical and very important. In our industry there's a little dark secret about power consumption. We like to make it out that we all are aware of environmental impacts and we're modern, but there are these things called data centers which is where all the powerful servers that drive Facebook and Twitter and Google. They are huge consumers of energy.
Clive: [21:35] Yes, indeed. I read about Google, for example, establishing data centers, often in the US on the edges of remote and declining towns and having to build new power plants, essentially, to provide the energy to run those data centers, often gas fired power plants. Of course, gas is a fossil fuel. It's about half as bad as coal, but it's still bad. Some activists in the US have been putting pressure on Google and other major technology companies to get serious about protecting the environment, or to switch over to renewable energy. [22:19] Because of the kinds of companies they are, obviously they don't want to be bracketed with the bad guys like Exxon and Dow Chemicals and Monsanto. They want to be the good guys who are looking to the future. Some of those tech companies are pursuing renewable energy and, of course, energy efficiency. Of course, the best answer to greenhouse gasses is to use less energy. Energy efficiency is really crucial.
Kevin: [22:46] I believe some of them place their data centers next to hydroelectric dams to try to get some...I would imagine that's one of the cleanest forms of energy.
Clive: [22:54] Hydro is very clean. We have exploited our resources of hydro in Australia, did many years ago and we've now pretty much used them up. But, of course, building dams can have a very big environmental impact, as we all know. It's a double edged sword.
Kevin: [23:12] When I invited you to speak on this podcast, I was almost a little bit apprehensive because all these issues that you sink your teeth into are very meta, macro issues. I'm not quite sure where to start, but the one thing that I would like to talk with you about is we are very much influenced by Silicon Valley, which is the wonderful narrative of starting something and having hyper growth. [23:39] The growth is very much...It's almost like a religion there. It's all about growth, whether it's user growth or it's revenue growth or it's impact. I know, in some of your work that you've written about is very much that economic growth creates a consumerist mentality. I'd like your thoughts on that.
Clive: [24:07] In a society like ours in Australia or the United States or indeed pretty much any affluent country, the truth is that continued sustained economic growth essentially depends on constant creation of unhappiness in consumers. [24:23] If you think about it, the role of the advertising and marketing industries, and bear in mind these are vast industries, they have one essential function, and that is to make us feel dissatisfied, to make us focus on what we lack rather than what we have and therefore to go out and buy stuff to fill the gap that the marketers have frequently created.

[24:46] There's no question at all that in 10 years time, in five years time something...There'll be a whole bunch of items, including electronic computer type items that we haven't even dreamed of and don't want and can't think they'll make any difference to our lives in five years, 10 years we'll desperately want them.

Kevin: [25:05] Let me play devil's advocate for a moment and again, basing it on Silicon Valley. What inspires me about Silicon Valley is some of the people that have made a large amount of money on these hyper growth type businesses are looking at creating a better world and meaning. You talk about the consumerism, I guess, draining the meaning, in a way, from the life. [25:30] Is there an argument...if the net benefits are then used for good, does that perhaps offset the problems that it creates? I'll give you an example, the Elon Musk, one of the founders of PayPal, he's formed SpaceX to...The first private space exploration company to do some space exploration. He's done it out of his own pocket.

[25:59] There's Peter Thiel, who's one of the PayPal founders, who's doing all sorts of interesting stuff. Some of the Twitter founders are investing in a company called Beyond Meat that is creating cultured meat that doesn't come from sentient creatures, for instance. They very much...What I find inspiring about Silicon Valley is that they talk a lot about meaning and impact.

[26:21] They actually don't talk about consumerism. They don't only talk about return on investment. Do you see the picture as a little bit more complex?

Clive: [26:30] Well it is more complex, but I think we do need to separate out their Silicon Valley talk. It's a whole very distinct culture that is, in some senses, there's a great abyss between the Silicon Valley business culture and the traditional culture of American business. If you think about the big corporations and the suits and the way they operate and so on. [26:56] Yet, beneath those differences, which are culturally significant, nevertheless there is a fundamental driving force that comes out of the system in which they exist, and that is they have to maximize profits. Our whole capitalist system is based on competition, very fierce competition in the tech sector, and those that don't compete and beat their opponents will not survive.

[27:25] The truth is, look, there are some...The growth of some industries is clearly more environmentally and culturally damaging than the growth of other industries, but there's a broader question of the extent to which growth is really in the DNA of the system. When you look at, for example and in particular, greenhouse gas emissions and you look at what's driving it, there are three large forces that have an impact on our greenhouse gas emissions, the famous IPAT formula.

[27:55] The environmental impact is a product of [phone ringing] population growth, the growth of affluence, which can be measured by GDP per person, and changes in technology. Now, when you look, when you analyze it and break it down to a numerical analysis, what you see is that the consistent sustained growth in greenhouse gas emissions in each country and around the world is driven by economic growth. Technology is constantly trying to offset that. Technology in the form of energy efficiency, low emission technologies, and so on.

[28:32] The truth is that growth constantly overwhelms the technological advantages that we get. Of course, we see this most in China and actually many people think that India in 20 years' time will be the bigger problem. Fundamentally, growth is a problem in a world that is constrained by resources and is constrained by the capacity to absorb our wastes.

[28:58] In the case of greenhouse gas emissions, that's the limits on the capacity of the atmosphere to absorb our waste. Yet, no one officially is allowed to talk about the problem of economic growth. Every government will always say, "We're committed to tackling climate change, but everything we do has to work around the number one priority, which is to maintain and increase the rate of economic growth."

Kevin: [29:21] Talk to me about steady state economic theory. I think about this a lot because I get the logical conclusion that perpetual growth just...Anyone can understand that in perpetuity is impossible. We cannot grow when, based on financial sales sources in perpetuity...How did the same incentives and drivers for innovation...? Because I also believe passionately that innovation is the answer to a huge amount of problems. I do love the fact that in part of America innovation is central to their commercial ecosystem. [30:02] How do you...Steady state economic systems, how do you still capture that innovation and those incentives and those drivers, perhaps, that a perpetual or unlimited growth system seems to capture so well via competition and returns on your investment and things like that?
Clive: [30:24] Well, this is a huge and difficult question. It's good that you pinpointed it. I'd just make some general comments. First of all, I think the drive to innovate, to create, is a human drive. We get bored quickly, most of us. Developing and looking for new things is something that humans do. We like to tinker. We like to develop, and so on and so forth. [30:52] Now, of course, in advanced capitalist societies like ours, constant development, market growth, economic growth is driven more and more by innovation because that's become bound up into the way that companies compete. In the old days, even 30, 40 years ago, it was not true that companies competed mainly through innovation. They competed through economies of scale, efficiency, getting their workers to work harder or more effectively.
Kevin: [31:23] Or even geography.
Clive: [31:25] Indeed, geography. But nowadays, in advanced consumer societies like ours, it's through innovation. It's through product innovation. Basically persuading us to throw out that old iPhone and get a new one even though the old one's perfectly good and does the job that you want. Persuade us to buy something new because it's got a few extra apps or applications and so on. We have become creations like that. [31:52] The point is that drawing innovation into the process of capitalist competition certainly drives the innovation process but I don't think it's fundamental to it. But it does distort it in a certain way. It's only those kinds of innovations that, again, will appeal to consumer sentiment that survive.

[32:17] We've seen this. Governments now have to invest more and more in the kinds of innovations whose financial benefits cannot be captured by a private corporation. When it comes...What would a steady state economy be? Certainly the innovation would differ in ways that would be hard to predict.

[32:43] I like to frame it in a different way. I've never, in a sense, been an advocate of a steady state economy. My view is that we should focus on the things that truly do contribute and advance individual and social well-being and to have the kind of society that does that and let growth look after itself.

[33:08] If growth's three percent or zero percent or minus one percent, then that's not important as long as personal and social well-being are advancing. We should be looking at growth in well-being.

Kevin: [33:24] We're looking at the wrong numbers, in essence.
Clive: [33:27] Absolutely. That's why we've developed this thing called the Genuine Progress Indicator, which is an indicator, a single number that grows or declines year on year but which captures a whole range of impacts on human well-being. Not just growth in the economy, the volume or the value of marketed goods and services, but also environmental impact, unemployment, poverty, social cohesion, the impact on our well-being and factors like gambling and indebtedness. [34:00] If we have a much more comprehensive and coherent measure of what makes for a better society, then we will find, undoubtedly, that economic growth becomes much less important because when you control for other factors you realize that economic growth actually brings about a lot of "bads" as well as "goods" such as climate change.
Kevin: [34:28] How do you measure those other factors?
Clive: [34:31] Well, there's a lot of economics that goes into it. Oddly enough, my PhD is in economics so I have some background in this. For example, if you take, for example, the...If you want to include the cost of unemployment in your measure of social well-being, one way to do it would be to say, "Well, how much does society lose by the lost productivity of those people who could be working?" [35:00] If you want to look at the contribution to society of our transport system, then you shouldn't just look at how much we spend on roads and on buying cars each year. You should take away from that how much we spend offsetting the damage that roads and cars do. It's a fact that every time there's a car accident GDP goes up because people are spending more money on getting their cars fixed.
Kevin: [35:31] GDP probably goes up during wars, as well.
Clive: [35:34] It does. One of the most dramatic illustrations, if we look at the costs of crime, it's been estimated that every murder results in the expenditure of an extra million dollars. That is on police time, on the time of the courts, catching the offenders, prosecuting them, putting them in jail. It's a very expensive thing, and yet all of that expenditure that is made in that year as a result of that murder comes up in the national accounts as a contribution to GDP. [36:08] Well, no one would think that a good way to improve national well-being is to increase the murder rate. You see, we've got a lot of perversities in the way we measure our national well-being when we rely solely on GDP.
Kevin: [36:22] I think, also, there's a projection onto consumerism which isn't necessarily the ideology's fault but there is a projection, an existential projection, of our own desire to be happy or to have simple happiness. I'm quite interested in the theories of happiness which...One of them is that when your income hits about, I think, 70, 80, 90k a year your levels of happiness then do not increase even though your salary is going up.
Clive: [36:59] In fact, it's substantially less than that. It's more like $40,000 or $50,000 a year. It depends on whether you're measuring individual or household. But yeah, this is the great paradox of modern consumer capitalism. If you look back over the last, say, 50 years and you imagine a curve in your head or a line measuring GDP per person it will be constantly going up year on year except for a couple of blips when there's a recession and it will go down for a year or two. [37:27] Now, I am probably in real terms, three times wealthier than my grandparents were in the 1950s. If you look at measured happiness, well-being, life satisfaction in Australia or the United States going back 50 years, you'll see there's been no change. It's flat.

[37:46] The gap between our national well-being measured by GDP which ought to be going up and up and up and people's self reported life satisfaction, which has been stable, then there's a wider and wider gap. You say, "Well, if that's the case why are we putting so much emphasis on GDP growth?" Then you can translate that into, in individual terms, you see...

[38:09] If you look at the data, clearly living in poverty, for the most part, makes you miserable, although we should bear in mind that some religious orders take a vow of poverty. But nevertheless, for most people living in poverty is really quite a miserable thing. They have fewer life opportunities. There's physical harm. There's illness and so on and so forth.

[38:33] Income up to...it varies, $40,000, $50,000 maybe...definitely improves people's well-being. But beyond that, when you look at the figures, it doesn't make much difference to people's reported well-being at all. You have to ask yourself, and this is a puzzle for all of us. Somebody's living in a dirty big house in an expensive suburb, got everything they could reasonably want and yet they want more.

[38:59] They're driven to have more. They look over their neighbor's fence and think, "That bastard's got a bigger house than I have. I want that. I must work harder. I must make more money."

Kevin: [39:08] That's a rather interesting point. The theories of happiness that I've read, one of the predictors is if you're doing slightly better than your neighbors you're happy.
Clive: [39:19] It's all relative. That's right. In fact, some studies have shown that...Let me try and explain this. You have to keep four numbers in your head. If you ask people whether they would...Three numbers in your head. [39:31] Ask yourself this question. Would you rather have an income of $60,000 when everyone else has an income of $90,000 or would you rather have an income of $50,000 if everybody else has an income of $40,000. Most people would choose to have $50,000 because they'd be richer than everyone else than $60,000 because they'd be poorer than everyone else.

[40:03] People would actually prefer to be a bit poorer as long as they're richer than everyone else. Yes, it's relative incomes that really make the difference. But even there, some people, and we've found this in our studies of the so-called downshifting phenomenon.

[40:20] There's a substantial portion of people in the United States, in Australia, in Britain who particularly before the recession in 2008 voluntarily chose to reduce their incomes, to make themselves poorer or less wealthy because they felt it would make them happier, even though they became...Their peers and their family, all of them said, "You're mad. Why are you giving up all of these things?"

[40:47] But they said, "No. This pursuit of money above all else is making me miserable. I'm going to change my lifestyle. I'm going to be less well off but I'm going to get a lot of other intangible things to more than compensate."

Kevin: [41:01] I think there's some recent studies that show youngsters these days, when they're asked, "What do you aim for in life?" It's either fame or fortune. I don't know if it's always been that way.
Clive: [41:13] It hasn't been, no.
Kevin: [41:15] I remember when I was young, we almost didn't...I know this sounds peculiar, but we almost didn't know what fame and fortune was.
Clive: [41:24] It was something that happened to a small minority of somewhere else and was just not part of our domain. It wasn't part of our lives. We looked to fulfilling jobs or careers. It was a question of whether you were going to be a bricklayer, an architect, or something else. But whereas now, it's the end goal, it's comparing oneself, the young people, with what they...The images that they see on TV. It really is rather disturbing because the truth is the great majority of them aren't going to be rich or famous. Even if they are, chances are they'll be [indecipherable 42: [41:45] 03] miserable.

[42:05] One of the great joys, I shouldn't say this, in life is actually...We all like reading about the misery of the filthy rich. It's somehow a vindication. Yet, that doesn't stop people aspiring to it. But there's another point I want to make, and that is about owning stuff.

[42:26] We have all of these gadgets, which are fantastic, like mobile phones and computers. The computers are getting better and more powerful, but I sometimes ask myself if 30 years ago, when there were no mobile phones, were we less happy as a result? The answer is always, "Well, no." Once people become attached to something they have trouble imagining their lives otherwise.

Kevin: [42:53] The tricky thing is, if I may interrupt you, is that we can't disentangle all these technologies from each other. If someone in this office collapses from a stroke or a heart attack and we use the mobile phone to contact someone in the ambulance with the latest and greatest technology saves their life and gives them another 20 years of life, there's a whole technology layer wrapped around that and all these innovations have fed off each other. [43:28] It's very hard to pick and choose which technologies because there are some technologies that absolutely do make our lives easier. Airplanes and MRI scans.
Clive: [43:39] There's no doubt about that, but let me pose it in two different ways. It's not so much the technologies themselves, although it's partly that. It's our attachment to them. We're seeing this trend of people who are switching off for a day or a week, making themselves uncontactable. Not checking their Facebook, their email, not tweeting, and not using their mobile phones. [44:08] In fact, going to places...There's now a niche in the tourism market where you have no contact with the rest of the world and it's proven quite popular. It's because people see the way in which their brains have been captured by these technologies and this can't be healthy if we become so dependent on it. Of course, there are now studies coming through which are showing how use of this technology is literally rewiring the way our brains work in ways that aren't necessarily good for us.

[44:37] It certainly doesn't make us more intelligent because they deprive us of certain ways of thinking more reflective, deeper thinking. The other challenge I've put is this. Look, in 40, 50 years time, if we're lucky, we will have sharply reduced our greenhouse gas emissions and electricity generation industry and our homes and so on and so forth.

[45:05] But one area where it's proving much more difficult is in air travel. The truth is if we're going to get serious about greenhouse gas emissions, unless there's some huge innovation in aviation fuels or plane manufacture or something, we're going to have to fly a lot less because flying is enormously polluting in carbon pollution. Now, OK. Airplanes nowadays are like busses with wings.

[45:35] We have to ask ourselves...Well, let's say that in 30, 40 years time we could only fly on very special occasions because it's very expensive. There are limits. It's just too dangerous for the atmosphere to fly. Could we manage that? Would we be miserable?

Kevin: [45:55] No. [sigh] To expect humans to change their behavior when it's at a reasonable price point? I think unless it's the absolute final hour of our demise, I think that people are not going to stop flying. The benefits are significant.
Clive: [46:16] You think people would sooner see the world end than give up flying?
Kevin: [46:21] Absolutely. I think, unless it's really the final hour...I think that's where the role of governments...That should be the role of governments to even the playing field, to take visionary standpoints. If it's that high an impact, then yes, we have to move the price points or we have to stimulate innovation or both. But to expect people to change?
Clive: [46:42] No, no, no. I'm not expecting people to voluntarily make that change, but if prices and availability doesn't change, but I would be expecting, in the face of overwhelming evidence...In fact, we have it already but people are very slow to really take it on board, that we're heading for a catastrophe with climate change and that we're going to have to change a whole lot of things. [47:06] I expect people, I hope, sooner or later to vote for governments that say, "Sorry, we're going to have to restrict air travel severely." How they do it, whether it's quadrupling of air fares or whether it's some restriction on the number of planes that can land at Sydney Airport each day, something like that to radically reduce the greenhouse gas emissions.

[47:37] Who knows? If that does happen, maybe the airlines will come up with a renewable aviation fuel. Actually, they're already working on it because they can see the writing on the wall. Not next year or even in 10 years, but certainly in 30 years the airlines know there's a very strong chance they're going to be in severe trouble unless they can sharply reduce the greenhouse gas emissions for which aircraft are responsible.

Kevin: [48:01] Haven't they tested...Had a test flight on ethanol?
Clive: [48:05] They've been adding a bit of ethanol to it, yes. There are a lot of people working on creating fuels from algae and various other innovations like that, but they're lagging well behind. But I feel you're right. The thing about climate change is once we get to the eleventh hour, the eleventh hour is far too late because by then there's so much momentum and change is...
Kevin: [48:32] It's also human nature, though, isn't it? To wait until the eleventh hour.
Clive: [48:36] That's the unique difficulty of climate change. It's not like other environmental problems where we wait until it gets really bad and then we say, "Oh, hell. We'd better fix it and we can do something about it." [48:48] We're probably already locked into at least three, probably four degrees of warming, which would make, by about 2070, which will...That now we really can't change. That will make the world hotter than it has been for 15 million years and certainly outside of the climatic conditions that saw the evolution of modern life forms. That's where we're headed. The science has been there strongly for a long time, and yet we collectively find it extremely difficult to respond to the scientific warnings.
Kevin: [49:21] Why is that? I even ask myself that question. Why do we find it so...I fly. I use power. I'm aware of it. I wish I had more options. I wish there was something that I could do. I feel that my footprint is probably lower than many people, but why don't I even take it more seriously?
Clive: [49:46] Well, first of all I think we need to, in a way, separate out our capacity to act as individuals. Like you, I think about it and I take various measures although everything I do in my home and my Prius and so on is completely blown away when I get on a plane and fly to Europe. [50:05] But really, this is, in the end, a collective problem. What is always going to matter more is which governments we elect. Once we start electing governments that say, "We're going to radically reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the next 10 years and we're all going to have to change our lives," then we'll be acting collectively to do what needs to be done. Whereas as individuals...
Kevin: [50:27] We need some form of competition. We landed on the moon because of the politics between Russia and America. That was an incredible series of innovations that just drove things forward at an incredible pace.
Clive: [50:43] Yes, but you have to ask why. It wasn't done for the sake of competition. It was done because...
Kevin: [50:49] That was the driver, though.
Clive: [50:51] No, it was national pride and survival that was the driver.
Kevin: [50:56] True.
Clive: [50:58] It was really aiming at that. In a way, we've got some of that competition coming through now. China has embarked on a major innovation drive in renewable energy. They basically want to wipe the US and everybody else off the innovation map. They want to supply renewable energy technology to the world. They're doing it.
Kevin: [51:22] It's a smart strategy.
Clive: [51:23] It's a very smart strategy and they're succeeding. It's like in 1970s Germany, the government introduced by far the world's most stringent air pollution and water pollution regulation. Industry howled and winched and carried on. The government said, "No, we've got to do it." [51:40] Within five to 10 years, it was German manufacturing companies that developed the technology to reduce...To clean up the air and water and then for the next 20, 30 years they were, by far, the dominant exporter around the world of that machinery which purified air and water and they made an absolute killing as other countries followed with similar kinds of environmental regulations.

[52:08] China will probably dominate solar energy technology and already they're taking a big chunk of wind power.

Kevin: [52:18] In San Francisco, they'll be bringing online in 2013 space based solar power. I don't know if you've heard much about that. That seems fascinating to me, where they'll actually be transferring solar energy from an orbital position down to the Bay Area and putting it onto the grid.
Clive: [52:38] I don't know how they're doing...They're just reflecting the solar radiation, are they? How do you transmit the energy through space?
Kevin: [52:45] Through microwaves somehow. I'm not totally familiar with the technology but I do know that they...I think they're doing it in conjunction with NASA.
Clive: [52:53] One thing we have to remember...Yeah, it sounds fascinating but one thing we have to remember is that if we don't get really serious about greenhouse gas emissions in the next five to 10 years then we're screwed. Investing in grand new technologies that will...Technologies that will come along in 30 years time to save it, it will be too late. We actually have the technologies now. They're more expensive than coal.
Kevin: [53:20] They're just too expensive.
Clive: [53:22] But we just have to make that decision.
Kevin: [53:25] OK, so three things the person in the street in Australia or America can do to try to bring about change? Do you have any...Is it just literally as simple as lobby and vote for the right people?
Clive: [53:36] Well, yeah. Look, we can all ring up our electricity retailers and say, "Please switch me over to green power." We can all think about our transportation and sharply reduce our greenhouse gas emissions that way or invest in energy efficiency in our houses. But in the end, the thing that's really going to matter is if we become citizens rather than consumers.
Kevin: [54:00] Participatory democracy.
Clive: [54:02] Indeed, if we get active in all the sorts of ways that you can be active. Join in environment groups.
Kevin: [54:07] Join Twitter and talk on Twitter.
Clive: [54:10] Twitter. [indecipherable 54:11] .
Kevin: [54:12] I wish you [laughs] listeners could have just seen Clive's face when I mentioned Twitter, but surely that is participatory democracy and it is...
Clive: [54:19] No.
Kevin: [54:20] OK, we won't open that locked door. I know we're nearly out of time.
Clive: [54:25] Yeah, we are about [laughs] out of time, but look. Be engaged. There are lots of different ways that people can be engaged, politically, join groups, be active, write your MP, write a letter, do something.
Kevin: [54:39] Don't worry so much about the money. You only need 40K a year to reach...That's all it can add to your happiness.
Clive: [54:45] Well, and some of the happiest people I know, the most contented, the ones that lead the most fulfilling lives aren't those who desperately aspire for more money. They've listened to the ancient Greek philosophers who said, "What matters is the gap between what you have and what you want." We see that gap and say, "Well, I must have more." The Greeks would say, "Well, no, the answer is to want less."
Kevin: [55:13] On that note, Professor Clive Hamilton, author and interesting philosopher, I really appreciate your time on the show, on the podcast. Tell us quickly, again, the name of your upcoming book?
Clive: [55:28] "Earthmasters: The Dawn of the Age of Climate Engineering," out in late February, early March.
Kevin: [55:35] Kindle version or only print?
Clive: [55:37] No, I'm sure it'll be in Kindle as well.
Kevin: [55:39] OK. I look forward to reading that and I really appreciate your time on our "It's a Monkey Podcast."
Clive: [55:44] Pleasure.
Woman: [55:45] The "It's a Monkey Podcast" is brought to you by ManageFlitter. With ManageFlitter you can easily find out who isn't following you back, find new people to follow, track key words on Twitter and schedule tweets for the most appropriate times. Tweet code monkey to @ManageFlitter to receive a one month free budgie account.
Kevin: [56:09] James, we love to talk about the meta issues, the big issues. I could have spoken to Clive for hours. I think we can probably talk about that chat for hours. There were all sorts of very big themes that were brought up in that talk. I've made quite a few notes here. Wow, where to start.
James: [56:34] We can start at, after talking to him, you didn't feel the need to no longer purchase your new TV? [laughs]
Kevin: [56:44] Well... [laughs]
James: [56:45] Consumerism's not dead yet?
Kevin: [56:51] I don't totally agree with him. I found that, that first half of the conversation really fascinating, where he spoke about times gone by. Historically, a lot of companies didn't compete based on innovation. They competed on other elements such as economies of scale. [57:13] In today's day and age...and maybe that's what the 99 percent and the occupy Wall Street...maybe part of what they're trying to say is they want companies to compete properly, but if companies are competing based on vested interests, and politics and nepotism, that is highly problematic.
James: [57:35] Maybe the consumers are looking for more options, companies that are more environmentally friendly, or companies that care more about the future.
Kevin: [57:47] I find a lot of what Clive has to say fascinating, clearly, a very smart person who thinks a lot about these issues. Where I would like to disagree somewhat is that I think even us, in the industry, in technology, even we don't even value the impact that innovation has had on the quality of our lives, whether it's healthcare, medical care, ability to travel, raising our standard of living. [58:22] We all live like Roman kings in the Western world. We really, really do. We've all got access to cars, and hot water, and entertainment, and healthcare and cheap, different types of clothes.

[58:34] I'm not saying, I do take his point, that that is only half of the equation of contentment, and happiness, and dare I use the word enlightenment. I think that is a very valuable point that he makes, that we have to keep things in context and just be aware that the human experience is a lot bigger than those things, at the same time. I think that's a very valuable discussion to have.

James: [59:02] Yeah, it is interesting. On one hand it's invigorating to realize there is minimum levels of income for happiness. If you want to hit the 40k or 80k mark, whatever it is, your happiness doesn't increase. That's rewarding in some sense. You don't feel like being any more successful is going to really change your life that much. [59:34] But maybe that just says more about the human condition, or human's aren't necessarily going to be happier if they get more. When external things change, our mental state doesn't really change that much, but does that mean we shouldn't keep aiming for bigger things? If we're going to be unhappy, we might as well be rich and unhappy.
Kevin: [59:57] Not only that. I think this whole concept, this whole fascination with happiness. When I wake up in the morning, that's not my reason for existence, to be happy. I don't want to be unhappy, but I'm not striving for happiness. I wouldn't actually even use that adjective. I would use contentment, challenged, satisfaction, fulfillment.
James: [60:22] Contentment is much more sustainable than happiness.
Kevin: [60:24] Happiness has got a bit of a hedonistic type of tone or common...
James: [60:36] It does. You have to keep feeding it, really. You end up going through...You can be very happy but you tend to have lows after it. It's becomes a bit like a drug. You have to keep searching for the next high, whereas if you're aiming for just contentment, then it's a very different thing that you make. It's a very different structure you have to your life.
Kevin: [61:00] I think, though, innovation and competition and growth is important and is necessary and has given us a lot of the wonderful things that we can enjoy and experience in today's society. I do agree with his comment on that we have to focus on what does advance social wellbeing, not just on GDP. I think that has been lost over the last few years. I do agree with that. [61:35] That's one of the reasons why I'm interested in the theories of happiness. There are some fascinating books about theories of happiness which I spoke about in the interview with him about some of this research. If you can become familiar with some of this research, you can actually choose certain choices in life, having this awareness around these issues.

[61:56] They have done a lot of studies so you can, in effect, try to advance your own social well-being by smart decisions and not get caught up. We also have to take personal responsibility. We also have to...We can sidestep the crazy consumerist type to some degree.

James: [62:15] Mm-hmm, yeah. When you have a knowledge of it, it gives you a mental toolset, I guess, to address these problems and yeah, if there was better education, if our culture focused on giving people those tools we might be in a better place than if the economic focus was the primary one.
Kevin: [62:39] I know a lot of Americans don't like big government and government involvement but I certainly see this as an area, if government is to be involved in something intelligently, it's stimulating that which advances the social well-being, if anything. I think the Australian government is pretty good at that. I see all sorts of initiatives where if it's even just giving grants to community organizations and recognizing people that spend a large amount of time in charitable endeavors. [63:08] I think Australia is actually pretty good. We've got a very good middle class, a very solid middle class. The gap between rich and poor is pretty small. I think Australia is probably, in many ways, on the right track.
James: [63:24] Mm-hmm, yeah absolutely, yeah. I think we are definitely one of the more balanced Western countries, one of the more balanced first world countries.
Kevin: [63:35] We just need payment solutions for online...We've got no payment solutions.
James: [63:40] Or we can't take money from the rest of the world. Maybe that's our benefit. Maybe that's why we're so balanced.
Kevin: [63:45] Gee, man. It's all these years later and we still have so limited options. I did, though, tweet one of the people at Stripe. I think I sent you a copy of you and asked, "Any plans to come to Australia?" They said, "Definitely on the card." I know there are some other companies like BrainTree and others [indecipherable 64: [63:59] 04] . Of course, we do have PayPal, so we can't complain too much, but we...There is definitely a layer of competition that's missing in the payment side of things in Australia.

[64:19] Anyway, that's it for 2012. Starting out 2013, Episode number 11, we are going to have another very special guest, CEO and founder of Evernote, Phil Libin. Evernote's a fantastic product and even more important than that, Phil is a fascinating entrepreneur, a fascinating leader, a fascinating manager. I think he's going to be someone to watch, in Silicon Valley, over the next 10, 20 years.

James: [64:49] Absolutely. He has some very innovative and bold ideas and yeah, definitely one to watch.
Kevin: [64:56] He's an all-round nice guy. Starting next year, we are going to keep the every two weeks. I'm not exactly sure when the first podcast...It will kick off around about mid-January some time. We love hearing from you. [65:11] Email us at podcast@itsamonkey.com. You can also tweet us @monkeypodcast. We also have a Facebook page. You know all the ways to get a hold of us. You can also comment on the website. If you are listening on iTunes, you can pop on back to the website, itsamonkey.com, and comment.

[65:31] We'd love your thoughts on some of these very interesting discussions we've had with Professor Clive Hamilton today. We'd also love to know what you'd like to hear in the new year. Please have a safe and happy, dare I use it, festive season.

[65:46] Thanks for all the support. If you are a ManageFlitter or CheckDog user, we do appreciate all your support. We've got some great features and innovations coming out in our products over the next year. James, do you have anything planned for the break?

James: [66:04] A lot of rest and some occasional happiness moments. [laughs]
Kevin: [66:08] Some occasional, some moments of happiness.
James: [66:10] Ones that I probably shouldn't be doing then.
Kevin: [66:12] We should get, we should talk about... We'll get someone who's an expert in the theory of happiness. It's a fascinating topic. James, we'll see you in 2013.
James: [66:23] Until next year, yeah.
Kevin: [66:24] Until next year. [music begins] Thanks for listening to us on "It's a Monkey Podcast." Bye from James Peter and Kevin Garber. Bye. [music 66:30 to 66:47]

[silence 66:47 to 66:50] [66:30]