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Profile of Bill Joy
In my own life, raising my children, and [...]
Bill Joy: In my own life, raising my children, and they are two years apart and sometimes they fight with each other and they get very angry at each other. And these feelings are very real. So the first thing I have to do is I have to acknowledge the feelings. And sit them down and allow them to talk about it. It’s not easy for them to get past it. And I find that the hardest things to get past are kind of grudges, feelings that something bad has happened and they find it unacceptable and they simply can’t let go. They keep going in their mind back to an incident that’s troubling them and being unable to move on. I think a lot of the anger and violence and hatred in the world is because of slights that people perceive from others and of things that people did to others that leave people feeling they want to get revenge. Many of these things actually did happen but unless we confront the compassion in ourselves to try to move past them, to try to be the peacemaker-- I often tell my kids you guys get in a fight, but one of you has to be the peacemaker, somebody can be the peacemaker, someone can have enough compassion to try to bring the thing to an end and to try to start to work together in a different spirit. I think that that compassion, that dropping repeating the pattern is the key to trying to being to counteract these strong and real but negative feelings.
I think we should respect all life but [...]
Bill Joy: I think we should respect all life but there’s a difference between the rights of a human being and the rights of a plant. And if you’re infected with a bacterial infection I don’t particularly think that we need to respect the bacterial infection, we should kill it with antibiotics. So there’s clearly a hierarchy of value of different life forms. Many of us have pets that we love, dogs and cats, and they are beautiful creatures and everyone who has such a pet would I think treat it as a member of their family, with love, with care, with attention. The fact that the pet can’t speak English or whatever language you speak is really irrelevant. Now if it came down to a situation where you had to save the life of your child or the life of your pet you might sacrifice your pet but we recognize that the pet is a very valuable life form. So I think we do have a right we have essentially an obligation to make a moral choice as to some life forms are more valuable and worthy of respect than others.
Capitalism is a system that’s more [...]
Bill Joy: Capitalism is a system that’s more effectively than any other system in history harnessed people’s desire to make things better by it’s economic structure. But we can ask ourselves and I think in this century what happens if we achieve so much innovation and productivity using the nanoscale technologies and other new technologies such that everybody can meet their basic needs? Will be bored then? Where will get—if everybody has enough money and basic needs and can spend time and relax and enjoy and can create artistic things, people don’t need to spend so much time working, would that be our utopia? It’s possible with automation in this century this might happen. If so then a system which emphasizes production, growth, change, economic conflict between organizations in the marketplace may not be one that’s organized against the things that matter most to us because this kind of economic progress, this kind of competitive environment has a lot of working way too hard. So we can imagine that a new system might emerge based on the fact that everybody has their basic needs met, everybody can be educated and such a system would be perhaps more socialist to some, that everybody has what they need, but we might call it creative, the creativism, an era where everyone can be individually creative and the world is great new individual expression. It will be a wonderful place and I hope I live to see it.
I think in the short term globalization [...]
Bill Joy: I think in the short term globalization tends to enhance and concentrate power so that companies which can thereby operate in more areas of the world get access to the cheapest labor, the cheapest resources at scale can consolidate their economic power and the governments which then interacting with those companies using those economic forces can concentrate their political power. So in the short term globalization works I think as a strong force enhancing existing power structures. In the long run globalization though makes information available, makes people more aware, creates trade so that people meeting more people, becoming more aware of the rest of the world can desire the kind of openness and democratic values that are transmitted by the global cultures. So in the long run that kind of freedom of information and freedom of ideas moving through the globalized channels should serve to promote the interests of democracy and universal human values.
I think we need better role models for the [...]
Bill Joy: I think we need better role models for the young people. The kinds of trash that we’re seeing sent through television, the images of and the misogyny and the bad behavior of some of the people in the media, those people serving as role models, the gangster violence you see in certain films, gunplay, this is perhaps cheap thrills for people who don’t have much opportunity but we need to invest in giving these people other alternatives and recognize and speak out that these people are bad role models. And show people that it’s not just about being famous or having an attitude that-- Give them role models of people that work hard, people that use their creative skills, we can make school exciting, turn off the television and unplug some of this pop culture that is not putting people on a path to success.
That’s a very troubling question. And it’s [...]
Bill Joy: That’s a very troubling question. And it’s very frustrating. I feel I think what Jason’s talking about when you can just feel the energy in the United States and the attitude towards black Americans is different than say if you’re in London or some other place and you’re with a black person in England or a black person in France. It seems like starting from the history of slavery so long ago and the cultural attitudes in certain parts of the United States. And Jason, I hope you continue to struggle against this and it’s not something that I personally find tolerable. So it’s just very troubling that this exists after so long.
Rather than fighting wars and preparing to [...]
Bill Joy: Rather than fighting wars and preparing to fight wars the best thing to do would be to invest in eliminating the underlying causes of conflict starting with raising up a lot of poverty, investing in economic development and in education. The difficulty in making such a change is not that the money wouldn’t thus be better spent but that the people who would profit from those kinds of changes are not the same people who profit from spending on the military. So for example in the middle east to really address that conflict which may take a generation we’d have to do something like substantial investments in economic development for the Palestinians and other displaced people and people who’s economies such as the people in Lebanon have been devastated by the recent conflict. Those who are in power, whether it’s economic in power in the west making weapons, or it’s dictators and politically maintaining their power in the middle east through focus on military activity and the nationalism it engenders, it’s only through taking a long term view that by investing in peace, by investing in education, by investing in progress that we can hope to draw down the incredible expenditure of military, on the military in this century.
I think we got very close to middle east [...]
Bill Joy: I think we got very close to middle east peace at the end of the Clinton administration. There was furious negotiation going on and an offer on the table that would have provided a solution for Jerusalem. And a decent offer I think that could have been accepted both sides. It’s a tragedy of history that Yasser Arafat could not bring himself to accept that solution. And as Clinton said to him, you know, you’ve made me a failure in this and perhaps if Clinton had had a few more weeks in office or Arafat had been able to lay it down and to accept that then the middle east would have taken a better course. Since then with assassinations and additional wars and now threats of additional nuclearization of the area we’ve clearly gone dramatically back where we got right to the edge I think of peace. The only way we can get peace in the middle east now is probably to work for a generation trying to raise economic standards, making a real effort at doing development of the people who’ve been oppressed for so long and in the process giving the state of Israel the security it needs which is part of any truly lasting solution to middle east peace.
I think the first thing we need to do to try [...]
Bill Joy: I think the first thing we need to do to try to prevent more wars to promote understanding between peoples. Student exchanges, travel, true knowledge documentary films that show the beauty and the diversity of different cultures and promote understanding are incredibly important at a time when political forces are trying to use fear of others to stay in power and promote their own agendas. Mass media has given us unprecedented ability to abuse that channel to create propaganda, to whip people up into hatred and fear. I think what we have to do is use the media as we have access to them to promote instead hope, hope for a better world, hope for peace, hope for creativity, innovation, education, meeting people’s needs. There’s many, many good things we can do and we can do them together. The secret is to make sure that people understand what’s at stake, that wars very rarely solve anything and really encourage people to have dialogue and understanding instead. And provide the economic funding from countries that were spending so much on the military to instead reduce tension in the world.
Well, the universal declaration of human [...]
Bill Joy: Well, the universal declaration of human rights has a long list of dignities that human beings all deserve and I would recommend that everyone look it up on the internet or at the library. Things like no slavery, equal protection under the law, no torture, no arbitrary arrest, fair trials and the list goes on and on. And this document is fifty years old and we subscribe to it. But we’re a long way from having all these rights recognized throughout the world. And I think it’s because people who are in power often for political or economic reasons choose to not respect these rights. So it’s been a long struggle for these rights and rebelling against tyranny, rebelling against all of these people who oppress us is a very difficult thing. Just say the right to everyone to have an education is against tradition in some societies. So we can struggle hopefully to give everyone enough food, to give everyone an education, but as long as people derive their power from riling people up and oppressing certain groups within their society it’s going to be hard to achieve the lofty and very real goals of things like the universal declaration of human rights.
There are many reasons why people go hungry [...]
Bill Joy: There are many reasons why people go hungry even though there is food, enough food in the world to feed them. I think the first reason is economic, that the food is in areas and need to be transported to regions where people don’t have the money to buy the food. And for whatever reason, factors like climate change or war, the food isn’t being produced locally. So it’s both an economic problem and a distribution problem. But the larger reason is just I think a lack of will. We haven’t made the decision that it’s unacceptable for people to go hungry. And if we made that decision then we could find an even modest amount of resources to provide people the know-how to grow crops that would be drought tolerant in the regions where there are drought, and make the regions of the world not dependent on exports but much more self-sufficient, dealing with problems like water and the soils and finding appropriate local agriculture. So we can hope in this century that we find the collective will. It would be a strong force for peace for people to feel secure in their food. And it wouldn’t cost us very much at all and that would be a wonderful thing to happen.
The scale of the human presence on this [...]
Bill Joy: The scale of the human presence on this planet is now so large that we’re running up against limits. We having a substantial impact on the climate, in many regions we’re running out of water. It’s not to say we can’t innovate. I think we can innovate, we can solve some of these problems. If we could find the will we can ameliorate the species loss that’s so unprecedentedly large right now. We’re no longer in a situation where if a resource is being abused or overused such as the atmosphere any one country can make it better. We all are a part of the problem and we all have to be part of the solution. So we need international cooperation, planetary cooperation to solve these issues. Can we wait for a global government? We can’t. There’s not going to be a global government any time soon. But we need trans-national organizations, trans-national scientific organizations, trans-national peace organizations, all different kinds of organizations through which we can put pressure on the various governments their instruments of power to take action. And it can happen at all different levels. Recently the State of California passed a climate change initiative leading the United States in reducing CO2. It’s good that this happened in the U.S. It had to happen at a state level, obviously the economically largest state. But that’s a sub-national. We need action at all levels. Wherever we can take action to address these issues because they’re not going to be solved simply at the national level anymore.
The current economic system is based on the [...]
Bill Joy: The current economic system is based on the idea of harnessing human energy by essentially harnessing greed so that people will be incented to create things. And in the political world today we see a lot of people using fear to motivate people, identifying with their group and demonizing the others. But systems that use greed and use fear as their motivating factors tend to have moral hazards in them, tend to have difficulty treating everyone well. So I think we need a look towards having more hope in our system where people can talk not about what they fear but about what they hope for. So we can hope for a more just world, we can hope for innovations so that diseases will be cured, we can hope for people to be more self-sufficient to be able to grow their own food. These kinds of hopes can give us a chance of relocalizing our economy. There are still big things that we have to do, things like curing AIDS which need to be done in a very large scale, the kind of scale that you get from the current economic system. But much more of what we need to do can be done locally on a smaller scale which is much more in line with people’s values.
Terrorism is truly a terrible thing. [...]
Bill Joy: Terrorism is truly a terrible thing. Terrorism is about doing radically despicable things to scare people, kill innocent people, hurting innocent people. Of course when states use force they can also harm civilians also, it’s a tragedy of this last hundred years or so that civilians have more and more been in crossfire either by terrorist or whether by conventional warlike acts. So, in either case it’s about controlling vocabulary. Self defense is words that sound better than terrorism. And the ability to control the vocabulary the ability to control in many ways the issue. But certainly both state sponsored terrorism and true simple terrorism, the unmodified definition of terrorism by the smaller group are terrible, are terrible things. And as long as we are competing for things like a limited and very geopolitically strategically important supply of oil and other such things these forces that underly these terrible tragedies I think will continue.
First we should say that it’s a tragedy that [...]
Bill Joy: First we should say that it’s a tragedy that that is the situation, that more and more civilians suffer in a war, and not just in war but in genocidal things that are essentially like a war. I think it’s because the death of civilians is part of the psychological warfare where fear of that as a weapon that is part of the psychological and political battle that’s always a part of war. The most tragic and immoral situation of all is probably the way in which the U.S. and the Soviet Union built thousands of nuclear missiles and used them to threaten each other’s populations, mutually assured destruction. It’s been said that we shouldn’t call the hydrogen bomb a bomb because it really has no purpose. Oppenheimer argued that we should never build it because it really can only be used to destroy civilian populations. It’s simply too large in its scale flattening an entire city is killing civilians, it’s not waging a war. It’s not really a bomb, it’s an abomination. So it’s unfortunately the case that these newer kinds of weapons, bioweapons, the weapon of terrorism using the mass media and these things are all aimed at civilians. It doesn’t seem like the situation is going to reverse any time soon. So fortunately, hopefully the threat of the worst of these which is the threat of global nuclear conflict has been diminished. But we still face a century where most of the people killed in conflict are going to be civilians.
Probably unfortunately more than anyone [...]
Bill Joy: Probably unfortunately more than anyone would have considered possible before the September 11th and the behavior of the American government in propagandizing and using what went on there. Benjamin Franklin I think said people who trade freedom for a little bit of security deserve neither. We live in a world where people are making a very very cynical use of fear. Hopefully the next generation of leaders and leaders that will come along soon will turn us towards hope rather than fear. We can’t solve the problems with fear. We have to solve the problems with hope. We have to dream of educating people. We have to dream of innovations that we can make that will solve the world’s problems. Not that there’s a short list of such problems, but just one at a time. Each of us can contribute in our own way. Until we change our dialogue and our attitudes to focus on the good, to focus on the hope rather than the fear, the fear is driving us, I think we’ll give up a lot of our liberty and get very little security and get what we deserve, which is neither.
I think dictators tend to use the media and [...]
Bill Joy: I think dictators tend to use the media and other methods to rile up their population to distract the people from the miserable consequences of their policies, from their failures. And I think unfortunately even in the west and recently especially in the United States we’ve seen an administration focused on using fear to maintain its power. This kind of polarizing of things so that you try to see everything as black and white so that there’s no middle ground, the demonizing of the other clearly works. People respond to this kind of nationalistic racist economically motivated politically motivated talk. But the long term consequences of it are poisonous. And both in the west where we are manipulated by this and also in the dictatorships I think people just have to look past the present situation to see what’s really going on, to think longer term, to think generationally, think about their kids and the world they’re going to inherit. And see the common humanity in others whether it’s people in the other political side of the argument or people in other countries, if we can’t see that these people aren’t our enemies maybe we’re at different stages of development, we’re in different countries but I think-- in the west we also have to be sensitive to the people feeling bad about the way in which their cultures are eroded by western pop culture distributed by the mass media. Perhaps they should just turn off their televisions, that’s what I did. Keep the pop out of our lives to the extent that we can. Because I think it’s those images of the western lifestyle that are the most corrosive of them all.
For an economic system to be more ethical it [...]
Bill Joy: For an economic system to be more ethical it would have to account for ethics. Our system is based on profit and loss and investment and in trying to harness people’s creative activities largely to the formation of companies and other organizations like NGOs. All those organizations need money to operate. So if behavior that is conflict with human rights or behavior that’s in conflict with the environment doesn’t show up on the balance sheet, doesn’t show up as a cost then the system doesn’t know how fully to account for it. People sit in meetings, they make discussions, they say shall we do this or shall we do that, but they don’t see the human cost, the social cost, the cost to other species, the impact of that on the numbers that they’re looking at and they can be well-intentioned but it’s very difficult for it to make it through a system which is so focused on numbers. So I think what we need to do is we need to internalize these costs, we need to find ways of reflecting through the economy in numbers what we value. We value human rights, we need to find an economic way to put that as a cost for a company that is misbehaving. If a particular product harms the environment in some way or there’s a finite resource which a bunch of companies are sharing we need to provide an economic feedback into the system so that that resource can be managed and sustained. Without this kind of economic feedback and with the kind of discounting of the future that we normally do because money has an imperative to make more money so things that are going to be saved for the future don’t look at as valuable through the lens of economics. It’s better to cut down a tree today than tomorrow because you get the money now and can put it in the bank and get interest. Interest rate and the desire for return is a very strong asset against ethical behavior.
Corporations are not inherently socially [...]
Bill Joy: Corporations are not inherently socially responsible. Corporations can and often are led by well meaning people who are personally very responsible but corporations are in a competitive world, a world that’s increasingly industrializing with economies, newly industrializing economies such as China that have much lower costs. And so a company has to be competitive, it has to survive and people will often sacrifice social responsibility for survival when they’re managing a company. So the challenge for the west is to keep our values while being exposed to this very very strong competition. And I think that this really limits how responsible companies are. We can hold companies responsible by making their image and the things they do to promote their image in the marketplace dependent on the way in which they’re behaving. But I think we have to be realistic and understand that in this kind of competitive system we’ve created the ability to force this kind of responsibility on our companies is limited and depends on us pushing pretty hard for the kinds of behaviors that we want. And it’s a constant job. It doesn’t, it’s not a victory that can ever be won, it’s a battle that always has to be fought.
I strongly believe that everyone is capable [...]
Bill Joy: I strongly believe that everyone is capable of contributing and that there are as many smart women as there are smart men. In fact there are more smart women and creative women because there are more women. So a society that wants to be competitive in the increasingly competitive world economy is going to have to take advantage of the best and most creative minds and this will include inherently all the women. So what do we have to do? We have to make sure everybody gets an education, men and women. And we should make sure that as women come into the work force that we try to respect their different ways of thinking and working. It obviously is a male dominated culture in say business today but those companies and societies that educate their women and give them equal opportunity for power will benefit because they’re using all the talent that’s available. So I think that over time this long historic trend of minimizing and not really taking advantage of women will change and I’m very hopeful about that.
There’s many historical factors why African [...]
Bill Joy: There’s many historical factors why African states are less developed, I think. The first is where are the roots of the economic system that we have today came from, the industrialization which occurred in Europe, didn’t spread as much to other areas of the world such as Africa, the kind of trade that was going on in Africa was limited, the continent’s very large, the resources were exploited but the people were not brought up and brought in to the industrial manufacturing system because of things like the distance involved and moving the goods from Africa. I think colonialism also put an overhang and prevented the kind of natural development. And when the colonial powers pulled out they left a vacuum which when mixed with the tribal issues in Africa where tribes are often spread between across borders that were artificially put in by the colonial powers. All these factors combined, and many others which I’m sure others are much more qualified to speak to than I am, combined to limit the development of Africa. What we need now I think is better education in Africa. We need to include Africa in free trading systems. We need to invest in development and addressing the dire issues in Africa like debt and AIDS and by doing these things I think we can help Africa do much better in the 21st century.
I think we have new forms of media that give [...]
Bill Joy: I think we have new forms of media that give us a chance to get organized. People can associate through the internet. They can exchange video, they can exchange audio, they can have forums, we’re seeing realtime translation. People can begin to organize themselves around the truth, around an understanding of each other, around an understanding of what’s going on the world. The ability for people to propagandize and to lie is I think being limited by these new ways in which the truth can be spread. In Mark Twain’s day he said a lie travels around the world while truth is still putting its boots on. But I think these days the truth can travel as fast as a lie. So it doesn’t mean everybody will know the truth. I mean, it’s much harder to go back and change everyone’s mind who is convinced by an appealing lie. So hopefully as we improve the quality of education we’ll give people better bullshit detectors so they recognize when they’re being lied to. It’s far too easy to just believe these pandering lies. But I’m very optimistic that the communication tools that we have now with the internet, cell phones and all these technologies that are becoming very inexpensive and spread worldwide will allow much greater understanding and people to get to know each other and to care about each other when perhaps the governments access and maintenance of politic power more easily by telling convenient appealing polarizing lies.
Yes. Everybody should be able to live where [...]
Bill Joy: Yes. Everybody should be able to live where they want. It’s a fundamental human right. There are many beautiful places in the world and the life experience that you have is so greatly effected. I myself love the tropics, historically is a dangerous place to live. It was malarial and there are other problems, not that I’m a great fan of air conditioning but I think you can live there now in safety. And my heritage is I’m Scandanavian and we have to use a lot of sun block to be in the tropics. In fact I live in the mountains right now, I like to ski. But I think everybody should have an opportunity to be able to move to a place that’s more to their liking whether it’s to the city, the country, the mountains, the sea. And have an opportunity to have different experiences in their life. And hopefully that will become possible for more and more people as time goes by.
Well it shouldn’t be acceptable that people [...]
Bill Joy: Well it shouldn’t be acceptable that people go without basic needs. But what are the basic needs? Clearly everyone should have basic human rights, should have access to food, water, security for their family, should have ability to get an education and to try to seek a job and to participate in the world economy and use their creativity. So we need to give everyone a chance to do this, to be educated and do worthy work and to recognize that they can contribute and that the world would be a much more peaceful place if we bring to everyone those basic material needs so that the sources of conflict in the world can be reduced. I don’t think it would cost very much. We simply have to find the will to provide people the ability to be sustainable and to do these things locally. And it’s not just a matter of feeding people. We have to give them true opportunity to participate and feel self-worth. And I think this is something that with all the great problems that we face, engaging everyone in the world and addressing those problems is a must, and this should be the century where go and really try to end poverty and make sure everyone’s basic needs are met. It should be a moral imperative.
Well, slavery’s clearly a great abomination [...]
Bill Joy: Well, slavery’s clearly a great abomination and unfortunately for most of history there was slavery in different parts of the world. I think in this particular case when you had slaves being made of a certain race it created a problem that we’ve had trouble getting past in America for a very long time. I think the economic system in the south of the United States was dependent on inexpensive labor. Crops like cotton and tobacco were very labor intensive. Perhaps those economic things would have changed, it wouldn’t have been economically possible perhaps to have the kind of tobacco farms. Maybe we wouldn’t have gone that way. And that probably would have been a good thing. A lot of people’s health have been clearly ruined by the consequences of tobacco. So I think the negative impact of slavery has had a long, for the slaves and for the people whose lives are poisoned by the racist attitudes they still hold is really saddening to me. I have real trouble with all of those attitudes. And I wish we could clearly imagine what it would have been like if this had never happened, if the people had come freely and find a way to reinvent and get ourselves to the point where we could live in the world that was like it would have been if the slaver had never been part of the equation. Maybe someone will write a great novel that will inspire us to a new attitude.
Well, I think if the law—it’s necessary to [...]
Bill Joy: Well, I think if the law—it’s necessary to break the law if the law is unjust and you can break the law with passive resistance or with—to rebel against tyranny. Or if you have a moral objection, say, a conscientious objection to serving in the military or performing some action even if a tyrannical or a government proposes such a law, or passes such a law, I don’t think you have to obey it. But in general breaking the law for personal convenience or in a kind of capricious is very damaging. The law I think serves as an alternative to conflict. The people with the most power and the most money are supposed to be constrained by the law so that everyone can have freedom. And this is an imperfect bargain, an imperfect bargain invented by the Greeks. But it’s still a lot better than the alternatives that we have. And in this century as we struggle to preserve the rule of law against forces like terrorism or whether it’s individual small group terrorism or state-sponsored terrorism we need the law and we need to find ways to strengthen the law. And as much as possible obeying the law and realizing that breaking the law should be an exception rather than the rule for extreme cases. It’s very important to preserving our freedom.
I think if religion or a culture or [...]
Bill Joy: I think if religion or a culture or tradition doesn’t respect basic human rights, universal human rights like you’d see in the universal declaration of human rights then if you have the opportunity I think people of conscience might choose to leave such situations. We had a situation, the company I started where in the ‘80s we were having to decide what to do about South Africa. Many of us felt that Apartheid was unacceptable and so we chose not to do business with South Africa. A point of view would be that you’re harming people there, even the people who are oppressed by not doing business with them. But I think the view that I held and the view that I think was the majority view was that it was worse to tolerate the behavior of the regime by essentially trading with them. So we chose to leave the situation to not participate. I think over the long term one would hope that traditions and religions can evolve. They clearly do evolve. And hopefully they will evolve in a way that is more respectful of universal human rights. But one of the values in the universal declaration of human rights is freedom of religion, freedom of choice of religion. And clearly some religions would prefer to view themselves as the one way, the true way. That’s not uncommon in monotheistic religions. So essentially they’re recruiting for people in the religion is that their religion is the right way. And I think we recognized hundreds of years ago that that’s a source of enormous conflict. So religions which have evolved to have such principles are not in conflict with human rights.
Plato thought so. Plato thought that rather [...]
Bill Joy: Plato thought so. Plato thought that rather than electing politicians to lead us we should train people much like we train a doctor. We wouldn’t hold an election to pick a doctor. And people could learn to be wise rulers. And certainly history has no shortage of examples of bad and incompetent leadership. So should we do this? Should we stress competence over politics and management skills over ideology? Things like the initiative systems that we have in some states in the United States go to this point because rather than be elected officials making the laws we submit more things to a direct vote of the people. And that’s to go back from a representative democracy which is what we have because the number of people now to more of a direct democracy. But I think that democracy is clearly of value and one should participate overall but it’s not the only value. And if we can find a system which emphasizes more competence as opposed to the media show and celebrities becoming the people with the power, and people who are good at manipulating the power becoming the ones with the power and perhaps there is something after democracy as we know it.
I think we use the word war too freely. You [...]
Bill Joy: I think we use the word war too freely. You talk about the war on terrorism which is largely a police action. When we talk about the war on drugs, when the proper response to drug problems is more about treating it as an illness. These things aren’t wars. A just war, I think there are very few just wars. A holy war, what a terrible idea. So I think we have to be careful to not use this word war so much and to realize what these things are is often not about a war, an armed conflict, it’s about other things and we’re using it just because of the strong imagery that it provides. I hope we don’t have any holy wars. And I hope we don’t go along believing that there are just wars cause there are very few.
I think we’re all heartened by the way in [...]
Bill Joy: I think we’re all heartened by the way in which the Soviet Block fell, the way in which Apartheid ended peacefully. In both cases empires collapsed or immoral systems collapsed. The British Empire collapsed as the thing that ruled the world and that also was done largely peacefully. Going forward most of the power in the world is I think economic, not military. The kind of collapse of the U.S., the loss of standing of the U.S. I don’t think would be from a military defeat, it would be from the rest of the world rising up from China getting stronger economically. Is that a bad thing for Americans? No, it’s a good thing for Americans. It’s the basis for a more peaceful world, it’s the basis for a more prosperous world. It’s the ego that wants to be sole determinant of the future of the world that is blocking and making Americans fear this kind of change. China is clearly going to be a global superpower, it’s going to be the strongest regional country in its part of the world. Nothing is going to change that. America’s ability to project economic or military power into the Pacific is going to be quite limited even later in this century. So it’s just something we’re going to have to, as Americans, get used to. It’s not a bad thing. Hopefully it will happen as gracefully as these other transitions.
There’s clearly a political agenda, [...]
Bill Joy: There’s clearly a political agenda, fundamentalist political agenda which is benefiting from this strife and the reactions of the United States to the actions that have been taken against it. These political forces could not, did not have the power to overthrow for example the secular regime in Iraq but the reaction of the United States did this for them, because these political forces, fundamentalist religious forces would obviously prefer a different arrangement than a secular dictatorship. So the profit from terrorism on the terrorists’ side goes to movements which otherwise wouldn’t have the power to affect the world in any near level that they are. And on the States’ side, in the west, the media profits from terrorism because it gives them a story to cover. And the military-industrial complex profits because the war on terrorism is using a lot of military equipment which is sold by those organizations and create profit.
The recent Asian monetary crisis suggests [...]
Bill Joy: The recent Asian monetary crisis suggests that the monetary system is actually powerful and probably more powerful than either brands or governments. It showed us that a government can’t really control the situation when the world flow of money flows away from the things that they’re trying to do. So while corporations can use brands to create habits in consumers the trend towards economic integration really drives the economic behavior of all countries even more than brands do.
I subscribe to a view that heroism is taking [...]
Bill Joy: I subscribe to a view that heroism is taking action when you know what you’re facing and knowingly take a personal risk for a greater good. So if you rashly rush in to do something without understanding the potential negative consequences for yourself that’s just rashness, that’s not heroism. Obviously if you’re fully aware of the risk but you don’t act that’s not heroic either. It’s when you’re willing to take that risk with full knowledge. So courage means facing difficult situations where the outcome is uncertain and applying your energy and all of your being to try to make a difference, having the courage of your convictions to stick to it because if it’s easy to do it’s not that courageous. Courage is sticking it out for the long term and with no guarantee of success. And we need people who will fight the good fight and be courageous in this way against many of the things that we face taking all their innovation, all their creativity, all the things they have learned and can learn to go and try to solve the big problems that we have and bring not only the innovations we need to live within our resource limits on the planet but also reduce the number of sources of conflict and be peacemakers in the world.
The middle east is a particularly volatile [...]
Bill Joy: The middle east is a particularly volatile region and we have countries and political individuals in the middle east denying the Holocaust, making rhetoric that represents an existential threat to Israel. So if the kind of conflict we see in the middle east escalates because people feel these threats are inevitable than an incredibly terrible consequence could result. It seems to me that the most likely place where a nuclear weapon could be used hostilely in this century is in the middle east. So this would represent a truly tragic outcome. Oppenheimer when he worked on the Manhattan Project to create the bomb I think recognized that the evil and the fear that they had in making the nuclear bomb was the Nazis would overrun the world with their threat to freedom. But in creating the nuclear bomb the technology we created something that was as evil as the thing we were fighting. And so it’s a terrible transference of evil and to have nuclear bombs on both sides of such a volatile region I think will in fact be incredibly dangerous. We need to get to the second part of the non-proliferation treaty and begin to build down our nuclear arsenals if we’re going to reduce the danger of such terrible outcomes.
Large and powerful institutions will join [...]
Bill Joy: Large and powerful institutions will join new systems of law like international law only if they see a benefit in it. And if the U.S. sees itself as the sole superpower then it is not necessarily in its political interest, or it doesn’t perceive it in its political interest to join the international institutions, at least from one side of the aisle, then we would end up withdrawing from things like the International Criminal Court. I personally don’t find that to be in our best interest. But it’s a very effective political issue. So as long as we’re in a world where there’s a single superpower I think it will be difficult for that country to put itself in that system. China is rising. Will China submit to the international law system if it becomes the clear superpower in the world? Will it submit to the economic system? Perhaps there are more effective mechanisms economically to bring them in, but I don’t see any reason to believe that it would be any easier than getting the U.S. to do that. So our best chance if we want a more balanced adherence to international law will be to have a more balanced world where there is not a single power dominating.
One of the most important inventions of the [...]
Bill Joy: One of the most important inventions of the last several thousand years was the concept of the rule of law. And the Greeks gave this to us and the idea of the rule of law is that the people with power will give up the power, submit to the law so that we all can be free. Unfortunately, in the world we live in, nation-states exercising their economic and military power often can use violence for political means whether it’s economic violence or actual physical violence. The concept of pre-emptive war that the Bush administration used as part of it’s rationale for the war in Iraq was an incredible use of violence for not only based on fear but also increasingly for political reasons. So I think that it’s only through international law and recognizing not just the kind of law the Greeks gave us but the law between nations and submitting to international institutions and international law that we can hope to reduce the violence in the world. And as China rises in this century and other countries become more powerful we go more to a multipolar world. Hopefully we’ll get a more stable world and a more peaceful world because it seem like we had during, believe it or not, during the Cold War.
Well, I don’t criticize China for rapid [...]
Bill Joy: Well, I don’t criticize China for rapid industrialization because of cheap products. If anything I think what many people are concerned about is if the development is too rapid then and it’s done in a way that is not ecologically sound that the impact on the planet will be severe. Americans use enormous resources and often very inefficiently and many people believe, and I believe that we’ve pushed the planet to the edge of a environmental crisis if for CO2 alone for global climate change. So we’re very concerned about for example the construction of a lot of coal burning power plants and how that might negatively affect the global climate. So we’re glad to see that the Chinese have recently begun to create markets for pollution and systems like cap and trade that they’ve used for controlling certain kinds of pollution and that the Chinese are becoming for example innovators in electric transportation. These things mean that there’s a sensitivity and an understanding in China of the importance of the proper kind of development, the development of green cities. So I personally welcome the development in China and the inexpensive goods are an inevitable consequence of this development. But to criticize while buying their goods seems to me hypocritical.
I think the modern version of colonialism is [...]
Bill Joy: I think the modern version of colonialism is cultural colonialism through the media. The music images, the movies, these occupy people’s minds, their dreams, are transmitted through the mass media, through the internet, through television. And Jerry Mander, who’s here, has written about that negative impact of satellite television on the Native American people so that the internet and all these things become homogenizing forces that erode local culture. And it’s only by making and using these tools in a different way, using the internet for people to preserve their culture and to find each other even if they are geographically diverse. We can hope to find some countervailing forces in these new less-broadcast, less mass media technologies to avoid the erosive effect on cultures of this new media based cultural colonialism.
People in different parts of the world are [...]
Bill Joy: People in different parts of the world are clearly more or less free, people make surveys of this. There are many different kinds of freedom. There’s religious freedom, freedom of expression, freedom of education, freedom to practice religion. I subscribe to the kinds of freedoms that are espoused in the universal declaration of human rights. It’s been 50 years or more since that was formulated. We still have a long way to go, many people are not free. Freedom should not be relative to where you are in the world. And hopefully we’ll all work together hard in this century to fight for that to be more true.
We live in societies in a time in history [...]
Bill Joy: We live in societies in a time in history when the common good, the societies aren’t making very many if any demands on us. In the United States we don’t have a draft, we’re not required to do compulsory national service or do compulsory military service. In fact, roughly the only social responsibilities we have are to obey the law which doesn’t obligate us to do anything other than to not do some things, and if called to serve on a jury which many people find a way to get out of anyways. So people don’t have many requirements put on them for social responsibility. It’s a bit sad when George Bush was asked what people should do to deal with some of the situation around after September 11th and getting the economy going again after people were in a little bit of a panic and air travel had stopped, he said well people should go shopping as though that was enough social responsibility, a way of dealing with a new situation in the world. So it’s a bit sad that we don’t provide more opportunities for people, more requirements for people to participate and contribute towards social responsibility. But in the line between personal freedom and social responsibility, at least in the United States, is way over pegged on the personal freedom side. I think we would benefit from providing people more opportunities to do service and do things like the Peace Corps and volunteering in America and around the world to develop a better understanding.
I think we know what it takes to get [...]
Bill Joy: I think we know what it takes to get children to bloom in the school. First of all I’d like to say that my parents were both schoolteachers and very dedicated to the school system but where I grew up in Michigan in the States there really wasn’t enough money available for the schools to give the kind of rich education that I think everyone deserves. And the first thing that you need to have is just an adequate building. You need to have good basic materials. But you also need to have teachers that are drawn from the most dedicated and inspiring people in society. And unfortunately where I come from the classes are too large so those students don’t get the individual attention and I don’t think the teachers are paid well enough that it’s the kind of profession that as many people are creative want to go into the profession as should. It’s not to take anything away from the teachers that are teaching today, I love their dedication and their passion. But I think we should reward teaching more, we should have more teachers because we have smaller classes. And we should look at new ways for kids to learn. We have, in our school, programs called specials which are things like art and music but when I look at language for example, most of the children learn Spanish but they only learn it a couple days a week and only half of the year. And that’s because the school really can’t afford to do this full time. And so we see that if we could educate, invest in education more and have children of different ages involved in group projects, have smaller classes, have more teachers, pay them better, I think we could enable many more children to bloom. And all over the world because the bright kids are everywhere, brains are uniformly distributed one per body. Smart brains are everywhere. We have to educate these people so they can innovate and help us solve the problems that we face in this century.
Everyone benefits from the creation of new [...]
Bill Joy: Everyone benefits from the creation of new wealth in the world, from the creation of new ideas. But the current system where certain countries use most of the resources is clearly not sustainable. But as the world develops and with great new innovations that are possible in this century with revolutions in education, distance learning, use of the internet as a tool, more and more people from all over the world are getting educated. There are smart people everywhere. And I believe that a much flatter world, a world where the wealth is much more evenly distributed is inevitable because everyone desires a better life. People will have access to this kind of education. Radical transforming innovation will occur in this century and people will lift themselves up. In the end, smart people are everywhere. And the wealth and the creativity and the opportunity will come to them over time. Perhaps this is the century where we can truly eradicate poverty and educate everyone. And that would be an admirable goal for the 21st century.
I would like to talk about health care and [...]
Bill Joy: I would like to talk about health care and consider where we spend our money in health care. I think it’s clear at least in the United States we’re spending an enormous amount of money on health care and we’re not necessarily getting good health and I think part of that is that we’re not spending it in the right places. We spend an enormous amount of money on what I would call terminal care. Clearly if you have someone, a long loved member of the family, and they’re ill and they’re dying you don’t want them to suffer. But we sometimes go to extraordinary lengths and spend fantastic sums of money keeping people alive at a relatively low quality of life for a very short time. On the other hand we have young people and people who have a lot of life left and whose quality of life is poor because we’re not meeting their basic health care needs. So the overall amount of happiness and the overall quality of life would be better served by making more sensible decisions about where to put our limited resource for health care. Does this mean that we’re valuing some life more than other? Does this mean that someone who’s 20 whose life we can save’s life is worth more than someone who is 90 who’s life we can prolong? Well perhaps it does. But that’s the kind of I think judgment we need to make if we want to deal with the fact that we have a limited total amount of resource available because we just don’t have an infinite amount of money. And we have to treat everyone humanely but we ought to perhaps allocate our resources more sensibly.
Well, I’m a strong supporter of the notion [...]
Bill Joy: Well, I’m a strong supporter of the notion of microfinance. I had the great pleasure of meeting a number of years ago Jacque Attali who’s starting a organization called PlaNet Finance which was trying to help microfinance institutions get started. And we’ve seen some incredible success stories about microfinance. But I think quite frankly that while it can help some and the early stages of development we also need is to create great institutions of higher education, of research and that can educate the smartest people in every culture to be innovators so that they can create new wealth and compete on the world stage because to bring economies all the way from a state of limited development to a really competitive position on the world stage requires the kind of miracles we’ve seen in South Korea and other places where you see truly innovative scale ability to manufacture, to produce amazing new things. I think many different countries can achieve similar success but it will take not only the beginnings of moving out of poverty through microfinance but also scale institutions that can educate and train people to be truly world class. And there are smart people everywhere. We can do this but it takes large scale effort to really move to the forefront.
The world is still a very patriarchal place. [...]
Bill Joy: The world is still a very patriarchal place. History has seen women at a disadvantage for thousands of years and things are slow to change. It’s very frustrating. Women also have a stronger biological and cultural desire to take care of the family and this puts them in terms of competing in the workplace at a disadvantage because they have a stronger feeling of a responsibility for raising their family. Also in many cultures women are not as well educated for cultural reasons, for religious reasons, for historical reasons. And in particular in the west and the United States business culture attitudes and patterns and people’s ways of relating in the workplace were set by men and women who come in with perhaps different styles of interacting, more social styles of interacting, less transactional, less power oriented, aren’t necessarily accepted and find that their style isn’t one that doesn’t find as much respect. But in this century with all the issues that we have and all the creativity and innovation that we need to solve all the problems all over the world, we need everyone to participate. There are smart people and creative people everywhere. More than half of all people are women and we need to engage their brains, their creativity, their innovation, educate them and then bring them in the world and societies that recognize that half of their smartest people, or more than half of their smartest people are women will, I think, do better than those who simply ignore or demean those incredible resources. So I’m very hopeful that this situation will largely be improved in this century.
Armed struggle usually has an enormous [...]
Bill Joy: Armed struggle usually has an enormous number of negative consequences, so I have trouble believing that’s very often the recipe for change. We’ve seen in the collapse of the Apartheid system in South Africa and in the collapse of the Soviet block in the peaceful transition to democracy across eastern Europe and even hopefully a sustainable in Russia that if we’re patient this change is possible even without a war. So I think what we need to do is to try to find ways with education and using economics and innovation to make the change in the world that we want to make and to do it in a way that uses armed struggle as little as possible because of all the terrible precedents it sets for those in power to use their power to achieve their needs and their objectives through propaganda and through force. The truth may take longer to win, non-violence may take longer but it seems to me it’s a better non-violent economical ethical way of struggling than to resort to violence.
Drugs are only one form of addiction, [...]
Bill Joy: Drugs are only one form of addiction, clearly, and do we know the scientific basis of addiction? I think we’re beginning to understand the chemical basis of these things, the psychological basis of these things. People seem to be more comfortable with—a great man once said familiar pain did unfamiliar pleasure. So even if the drugs are affecting us in a very negative way and are painful and are harming our lives and those around us we tend to repeat the behavior. So how can we break our addictions? I think we have to understand the causes. We have to understand the chemistry. We have to understand the psychology and create conditions where different behaviors are possible. We have to save that joy that people have in childhood of exploring and learning new things. And help people to continue to take enjoyment in new experiences. Not the kind of false new experiences that some drugs provide but the real and meaningful new experiences that an undrugged person can have.
AIDS is not just a problem for Africa. But [...]
Bill Joy: AIDS is not just a problem for Africa. But it’s particularly poignant in Africa because in several countries, many countries, it’s decimating a generation. Each disease has a pattern of transmission. In Africa certain social behaviors have led to perhaps a much worse demographic outcome, much more human suffering than almost anywhere else. It’s a tragedy of whole families dissolving and many many orphans. These things are really troubling to us. Some people I worked with at Scott, Bobby Shriver, I’ve been working on this data AIDS trade Africa campaign more recently on the Red campaign, Red for Africa sponsored by companies like American Express. I think we have to raise our awareness of how much work needs to be done to solve this problem in Africa. I am strongly supportive of the Red campaign and that whole idea of raising people’s awareness and doing the kind of research that’s necessary to make the drugs that can use to really both come up with a vaccine and hopefully also a cure. We have ability today with very expensive cocktails to hold AIDS in check but the drugs are still too expensive and for most people in the poorer countries to use. So we have a lot more to do and hopefully in the next decade, say, we’ll have much better ways of both preventing and even curing AIDS, not just at great expense stopping it in it’s tracks.
I’ve had the great pleasure of working with [...]
Bill Joy: I’ve had the great pleasure of working with two of my heroes, John Doerr at Kleiner Perkins, one of the most passionate people I’ve ever met who believes in the power of great ideas to change the world, and has fought for so many important and good things, most recently John and other people at our partnership fought really hard for the climate change initiative in California, before that for the stem cell initiative in California, fought to build great and transformative companies that helped build the internet and the many good things it brings to the world. Another hero of mine is John Gage who’s here at the table, for his unbounded passion for people with new ideas and the way in which he meets and appreciates people from all over the world in his many travels. And my other heroes are children, my children, all children for their bright and passionate way that they look at the world. I just love interacting with them and hearing their insights and feeling their desires to learn and create and experience and the joy that they bring, uncorrupted by what is often an adult cynicism and an adult perspective on the problem. Kids see the opportunities. They see the things they can change. They’re aware of the problems in the world but I find them very, very optimistic and so these three people, John and John and a child, any child’s perspective are my heroes.
Because patent and copyright laws actually [...]
Bill Joy: Because patent and copyright laws actually promote innovation. If you look at the U.S. Constitution what the founding fathers wrote was that we stall establish patent and copyright system to promote innovation, giving authors and inventors rights to their work for a limited period of time. And we’ve just gone through and created an international standard system of patents that’s widely used to protect and promote innovation because people can afford to invest in the new ideas and it’s expensive to bring new ideas to the world with some assurance that when they invent something new and wonderful that in exchange for that benefit they get for a limited period of time the rights to control that invention. So patent laws really promote innovation. Copyright laws, in terms of the way we control who owns some shared cultural expressions have gotten a bit out of control with people and large corporations wanting the copyrights to extend for a hundred years and literature and other great works of art are often built on other people’s expression. And these laws which are now being challenged because they don’t make any sense, they don’t reflect the age that we live in, the way in which media is mashed up together. So I’m a strong supporter of the patent system the way it is to protect true innovation but I expect that the copyright system will change in a way that promotes innovation as they both should.
Certainly the first thing to say is that the [...]
Bill Joy: Certainly the first thing to say is that the way we’re growing economically right now is already hitting on limits. We’re hitting on limits in atmospheric change, we’re hitting on limits of water in areas, we’re hitting on resource limits, we’re seeing soil depletion. There’s lots of damaging things we’re doing. We’re seeing species extinction. These are consequences in the way we’re going about economic growth. And it’s fair to be depressed, pessimistic about this and press to action because I think there’s also cause for optimism because there are things we can do that are a lot smarter. A friend of mine, Avery Lovins wrote a book called “Factor Four.” He said we can create as much wealth and human happiness with one quarter the material imputs that we do today. We can use one quarter the amount of resources and produce the same amount of good for people. In fact other people have looked at this and said well he was actually pessimistic. More realistically, optimistically we can improve and decrease the amount of resources used by more like a factor of ten. And this is even just using today’s technologies, tomorrow’s technologies should be even better. There’s a lot of new things as we learn to engineer at the nanoscale, take full advantage of the computer evolution. We can use a lot less resources. We can provide a lot more wealth to bring everyone up to the level of the standard of living in the United States while also staying within a reasonable ecological footprint say for the atmosphere we might need a factor of twenty more wealth to be produced. We think that in this century there’s enough innovation possible that we could do that and stay well within the economic and ecological footprint. So I think there’s strong reason to be optimistic about what we can do, how much growth, how much happiness, basic needs, health we can provide for people without exceeding the ecological footprint if we innovate.
I actually think that in the United States [...]
Bill Joy: I actually think that in the United States the thing that is intimidating and controlling us more than ever is television. Television is the medium that brings us the images of war and the fear of terror with the red, white and blue terror alert stuff running across the bottom of the screen. I don’t know if anyone’s done this experiment but if you simply unplug people from television like I—I don’t watch television except when I’m in a place where I have no choice. I’m much more nervous. I know there are people in my family who do and they call me all the time and they’re very concerned about this and that and the other. They’re far more likely to die in a car crash than to be hurt by a terrorist incident. But the average American thinks someone in their family’s going to die from terrorism. It’s this drumbeat because of television, because it gets people to watch. They get addicted to the fear. They turn to the fear and they watch it on their television. On the internet people can choose what to go to see. You’re not fed this constant stream. You don’t have to show up at a particular time. Maybe you can find yourself on it all the time. Some people playing video games are on it all the time. But I don’t see the internet as a tool for control, in fact I see it as a tool for choice. People can choose good, people can choose bad. But especially people can choose to learn and explore. And my children, they go to the internet and discover amazing, amazing things. And everybody has that opportunity with the information that’s freely available.
Michael Pollin has written, and I think it’s [...]
Bill Joy: Michael Pollin has written, and I think it’s quite clear, that animals have coevolved with people the same way that plants have coevolved with people. For example, cats have done very well by domesticating themselves into our households. And we’ve also benefited because they control the rodent population. I’m not sure this has made cats obese or lazy or dependent or less curious, they’ve just adapted evolutionarily and there are many more cats as a consequence. But humans have become less healthy in the last 50 years because we have become disconnected from physical activity. This is a consequence of the greater use of the car, the business in our lives that prevents us from exercising, the incentive of the food companies to satisfy our cravings for fats and sugars. And we have become dependent on industrial agriculture and addicted to some of the relatively poisonous food that it produces. So I think it’s industrial agricultural technology that’s done the most harm to our health. And that’s the kind of thing that the local food movement can reverse and I think there’s a strong movement in the world towards more local sources of food and to eating healthier food. And this is the thing that can help us improve our health. I think our curiosity is being raised by technology, quite the opposite of what the question implies, that the internet allows us to be curious and to learn about things. I can pull up questions and answers on my cell phone. Are we more dependent on technology? We’ve been dependent on technology for a long, long time. If it wasn’t for agriculture, if we were still hunters and gatherers most of us wouldn’t be here. Are we lazy? I see people working very hard. So I think that the single most important thing we can do probably is to relax and be a little less engaged in work and to eat better by buying more local sourced food.
We use up resources when we have systems [...]
Bill Joy: We use up resources when we have systems which are not renewable. When we have linear systems which take raw materials, produce goods and then they’re dumped into a landfill at the end. We can make policy changes so that these loops are closed, so that materials are recycled, such as the good laws that exist here in Germany. It’s also the case innovation is producing materials which are a lot more durable. So we have things that are lighter, stronger and last a lot longer. And we can hope that this will reduce resource consumption. The work of Amory Lovins and Weizsacker on “Factor Four,” a book they wrote a number of years saying how we can produce resources, produce human happiness, produce satisfaction, meet human needs with a fraction, a fourth, a tenth of the resources we’ve been using just by ceasing being stupid by doing smart things about the way we use resources. Economics is also on our side. Wasting resources is expensive and as the input raw materials go up in price we’re incented to find new solutions. But I think the largest transformative thing you can do is to change public policies so that people are required and incented to close these loops, to stop dumping waste at the end, to recycle, reuse things. And on a society-wide basis adaptation to such a new policy actually saves money. So it creates a lot of new wealth as people solve such problems and make such things practical. So I would strongly support more places adopting such laws and I think everyone would benefit from that.
Doing drip irrigation rather than flood [...]
Bill Joy: Doing drip irrigation rather than flood irrigation for example. We can also spread around technologies such as the use of filtration or ultraviolet to clean drinking water. We’ve seen the introduction of a straw you can drink from which costs a couple of dollars, lasts for a couple of years which will filter out most known contaminants. The work I do in Greentech Investing we’re seeing an enormous number of business plans where people can find new ways of cleaning up the water at low cost. We can hope that desalination technologies will come to exist that lower the cost of desalinated water low enough that it’s practical to do agriculture in the desert, essentially, with desalinated water. We need a factor of maybe two improvements so that it appears to be economically possible. It seems within reach in the next decade or two using new technologies. The other thing we can do is we can use advanced technology satellite radar and other technologies to make better maps of where underground water resources are and use them to augment the existing sources of water realizing all the while that if we’re bringing up fossil water that that won’t be a sustainable thing such as we see in the Midwestern United States. But without more sensible use of water, without investing in essentially water for peace, without investing in saving water in these cases we’re likely to have a lot of conflicts over water. And a lot of people in Africa who are unable to access the water because of the economics, because of the costs of getting it and these things have to be prevented if we want to avoid conflict over water.
I’m having trouble imagining what such a [...]
Bill Joy: I’m having trouble imagining what such a technology could be. I think the more common situation is you have something which can be potentially beneficial in the short run and which you’re concerned about in the long run, say a genetically modified crop which has clear benefits but you worry that the trait or some aspect of it could escape from the crop in which it’s put into other crops and do harm to them. You have a modified plant which doesn’t need as much pesticide but in some way harms other plants. So in my view the more common case is that you don’t know what the long term affect of things will be. The problem with technologies in general is they’re often sold on basis of hope but the hope is not always realized. And that’s part of the marketing of them. I think there are many technologies that bring great hope. I’ve advocated for responsible management of these technologies but we shouldn’t give up the hope. I think we have to just become more realistic about the ways in which technologies move into the world. Jerry Mander, who’s here at the table, has written extensively about this, as have I. I think with responsible use and realistic expectations we can make better choices about what technologies we should promote and what technologies we should restrict.
The 21st century is truly a transformational [...]
Bill Joy: The 21st century is truly a transformational century. We are reaching limits. But we have a lot of opportunity to address these issues. There’s a lot of things we can do to cut our resource consumption. We can get smarter, we can make money doing it. We have to get going. I think we now recognize these limits. We recognize how inefficient we’re being. My job is investing in green technologies, I see enormous innovations coming which can transform the way we operate to deal with the limits and the issues of climate change and peak oil. But we’re going to have to reinvent things. We’re going to have to replace a lot of the equipment that we use with more efficient equipment. It’s a great opportunity for both creation and recycling of a lot of old bad stuff. The destruction of biodiversity is perhaps a harder problem because it’s simply a population and the human footprint. And in the small we have to do it locally in the communities and regionally save the diverse environments. And lots of people are working on that. I think we’ve been going backwards in the United States in the last few years but on a global basis I think the problem is widely recognized. And we can have some hope. The issue of poverty is of course a difficult one but it’s a question of putting our mind to it. We have the resources to bring the people out of poverty. And in the area of disease we’re concerned, we’re very concerned at my venture firm we’ve formed a $200 million specialty fund to try to find innovations to address the threat of pandemic disease, especially avian flu. But there are new biotechnologies, new vaccines, therapeutics, new ways of doing diagnostics and surveillance to contain the outbreak of infectious disease and to go and attack these diseases and improve the basic state of health of people because people tend to get sick not only because they’re exposed to disease but because their basic health situation is poor.
Television depends on achieving a mass [...]
Bill Joy: Television depends on achieving a mass audience. Historically there have been small number of channels and so what you needed to do to gather a big audience was to create a habit in the audience, get people to show up at the same time, to want another dose of the same thing. And that’s of course for the purpose of getting you to watch commercials which were to get you to buy mass produced goods for the benefits largely of large corporations. Over time as the number of channels has increased and the number of alternatives has increased the networks have dumbed down and do more titillating and crazy, silly, inexpensive to produce, so-called reality shows and the like. And it’s very sad. I think it’s largely because this is a broadcast media seeking an audience. The wonderful thing about the internet is it’s a personalized medium where you get to decide where you want to go. That’s not to say that there can’t be mass media things in there like YouTube or Myspace where you have a very large audience and are controlled by a large interest in the case of say Myspace. But the internet provides the diversity and the ability for people to go and see what they want and decide what’s important to them. So I think in herently broadcast medias tend to dumb down and personalized media tends to get less dumbed down. So a phone which is a very personalized device, a cell phone, becomes a way of communicating important information whereas a television which is a mass media becomes very unimportant.
Well I believe in the precautionary [...]
Bill Joy: Well I believe in the precautionary principle in that we should be careful about what we do and think about it before we make changes. Let’s take an example of medicines. When we develop new medicines we test them very carefully. And we use statistical methods to determine whether they’re efficacious and whether they’re safe for people to use. We’re putting those in our own body. Similarly when we create new modified crops and we’re going to put them in the environment we have to be careful that we don’t create a lot of unintended consequences, unintended side effects. I’m sure in some cases people have been too cavalier with doing this and people have made mistakes. It’s inevitably people make mistakes. But we’ve been modifying plants for a long, long time. So I don’t believe we should stop doing things simply because we can’t reduce the probability of any accident to zero. But we should have a threshold test. And I think the threshold should be related to insurance, the company that wants to put a genetically modified plant in the environment should have to get insurance against potential catastrophe. And the insurance company which writes the insurance policy should evaluate the risks, study the programs, study the science and make a business judgment as to what that insurance will cost. And that doesn’t mean we won’t have accidents, things might get away, but at least it puts a rational economically based constraint, scientifically based constraint, considered constraint on the cost benefit of any particular new genetically modified technology.
Science is very objective. The scientific [...]
Bill Joy: Science is very objective. The scientific method is to find testable truths, to define and experiment which can be repeated independently and to have a measurable result and to verify that result by repeating the experiment. I think a more objective world, if we could apply a more objective criterion to other aspects of the world we could have a more peaceful world. Many of the things we decide emotionally or decide with no testable ability, many of the things we believe are manifestly untrue. And the political process often maintains power by projecting these untruths. So the kind of objectivity we see in science, if it could be brought into more realms of experience I think would be very beneficial and bring peace and a lot more calm and serenity to the world.
First I would recommend that everyone who’s [...]
Bill Joy: First I would recommend that everyone who’s concerned about global warming see Al Gore’s film, “An Inconvenient Truth,” and visit climatecrisis.net which is the website he mentions at the end of the film when he rolls a set of very simple things that everyone can do to cut their energy consumption. Set your thermostat back, drive less, buy a more energy efficient car, perhaps a hybrid, reduce, reuse, recycle, switch to more energy efficient light bulbs, turn off light bulbs you don’t need, set back your thermostat on your hot water heater and so on and so on. But probably the most important thing we can all do is through the political process support politicians to be elected who would support changing the policy to either advantage innovation or at least not disadvantage it. There are so many laws and policies on the book that benefit the incumbent ways of using oil, using coal. What we need is newer and renewable sources. And these things can be cheaper. I’m not talking about supporting taxes or raising money through having the government spend a lot more but what we need to do is to make sure that there is no disadvantage for the new technologies that are cleaner, renewable, more secure because they’re local and sustainable.
We have to industrialize these nations with [...]
Bill Joy: We have to industrialize these nations with newer technologies in order to avoid them consuming resources that the United States does. Amory Lovins wrote a book at least a decade ago showing how we could use probably a quarter of the resources we do use today to produce the wealth that we create. And newer technologies have since come along. A factor of ten, a factor of twenty is probably possible. A factor of twenty less wasteful of resources than we are in the United States. Not only is this less consumptive of resources it also saves money so we have to adopt these technologies and we can cause the adoption of these technologies and cause the recycling of these things if we create an economic incentive by focusing on the requirement that things be renewed and reused rather than simply discarded.
Great architecture inspires us. Great [...]
Bill Joy: Great architecture inspires us. Great architecture protects us from the elements. We can do much better in our architecture, be more energy efficient, be more renewable, use less resources, use the kind of ideas that Christopher Alexander has espoused in this books to create spaces that are more human scaled that reflect the values that we share across cultures. The work of Cameron Sinclair in producing affordable housing and environmental housing is particularly inspiring. The architecture reflects beauty. Here in Berlin the first day I was here I went out and walked around and just was stunned by the layers of history that you can see in the architecture and the particular beauty of the city. So I think architecture has to get more environmental, using new technologies to cut energy use and make buildings more pleasant, more natural light, more natural ventilation. Standards like the Leeds standards in the U.S. are strong movements in this direction. But I’m personally very inspired by architecture and I hope that the kind of local diversity we see in the texture and the color of cities and buildings around the world only blossoms further in the years ahead. We have the capacity to build very very interesting and distinct buildings at affordable prices at the environmental and the low-cost nature of these designs is mostly in the design process, not in the building process. So let’s propagate the understanding of how to design these kinds of buildings so they can inspire us and save energy and the environment too.
I’d like a future where everyone can be [...]
Bill Joy: I’d like a future where everyone can be happy. And I use for my definition of happiness something I found in Edith Hamilton’s writings about the Greeks and paraphrasing Aristotle she said, happiness is the exercise of vital forces along lines of excellence in a life affording of scope. So the first part of that is everyone should discover their vital forces, their vital powers, the things they can do well. And people can do many things well. We’ve discovered that. And then have the ability to exercise them, to practice, to learn, to become proficient, to be in a blissful state because they’re doing something they do well. Along the lines of excellence, what does that mean? That means that you have an opportunity to do it in a meaningful way. If you’re a dancer you can dance for people who care. If you’re a writer you write and find an audience of people who can read. And scope, what does that mean? It means you have time in your life to do these wonderful magical things. And so what we can hope for is everyone’s material needs will be met, that people will get the education they need and the economic development of the world will be such that people aren’t oppressed and people can find the time and the space to do these wonderful things. And that’s the future that I want and I think it’s achievable that the kind of transformations that—we have great challenges in this century but we also have great opportunity. And we can achieve this goal so that most people can be happy in this way.
I take as the protypical mass media [...]
Bill Joy: I take as the protypical mass media television and I see it as more of a problem despite the hope that we had for understanding the world better and all the educational possibilities of television, when I look at what television has become it’s a tragedy. And it’s a vehicle for the communication of manufacturing desires, it’s a vehicle for the communication of low grade entertainment, of relatively sterile coverage of the news, myopic coverage of the news. People read newspapers less and less, those are mass media but I don’t find them as much of a problem. What about the internet? The internet can clearly be a mass medium. Many people go to certain sites. But unlike broadcast media the internet is also a personalized medium and so there’s more hope. The internet can be ubiquitous and can also be a good tool for education, it can also be a tool for looking at trash. It can go both ways. But I’m disappointed as some of the things I see on the internet but I see an opportunity here for community building and other activities, towards positive things in the world. So unlike television which I’m very negative, which I unplugged from, I’m very optimistic about the mass media, the mass personalization of the net.
We already have a limited ability to connect [...]
Bill Joy: We already have a limited ability to connect the human brain to computers for the disabled. The ability to move a cursor on the screen using your mind. Neuroscientists are beginning to understand the way the brain works, the way the eye works and people have written that, and I think it’s certainly true that in this century we’ll have a much stronger ability to connect the human brain to machines. And this initially will be used to help the disabled, to restore sight, to restore hearing, to restore impaired functions in the brain. Clearly some day people will have the desire to augment themselves in this way. It’s not something I’m particularly interested in doing, but I don’t see a moral reason to prevent individual choice. So I think probably by the middle of the century these things will be possible. And it’ll be a bit strange. If I’m still around I’m sure I’ll consider it strange, especially if it comes earlier than that. But I think we’ll get used to it and hopefully we’ll find ways to benefit from it that don’t have too much of the “ick” factor.
So this is my question so I’ll just listen [...]
Bill Joy: So this is my question so I’ll just listen to other people’s answers on this one.
I was pleased to meet many years Jacque [...]
Bill Joy: I was pleased to meet many years Jacque Attali who’s a friend and patron of micro-finance. And he had written something which I found very interesting about utopias and the spirit of the French tricolor he said, some people’s idea of utopia is where everyone has liberty, and some people’s ideas of utopia is where everyone is equal, there’s equal opportunities say, but a society where one has liberty and equality still leaves us feeling alone because what people want and I think of what a more mature version of a utopia would be is where people feel comradeship or brotherhood, "fraternite" in the French. So I think the reason we feel so alone is because we don’t feel this sense of brotherhood. The world in which we live, the focus on consuming and all the things that the capitalist system brings us is not a sufficient focus on fraternity, on brotherhood that our souls are nurtured. And that’s what we need. It’s a more spiritual focus that we need to feel like we’re not so alone.
The first thing to recognize is that the [...]
Bill Joy: The first thing to recognize is that the advance of technology makes technology radically cheaper, what’s called Moore’s law. So that the cost of computers and internet access for low income communities continues to drop. And what this does is it gives the people who are curious and who can have the desire for education the opportunity to reach out into the net and find things that can stimulate their minds. For example, the company I helped start Sun Microsystems has recently provided a lot of funding to a foundation which is working on putting courses and educational materials completely freely available on the net. And other people are trying to do this also. So I believe, and I think it’s really important to acknowledge that there are smart people everywhere. And every head has a brain in it and the smart ones are uniformly distributed. They’re all over the place. And so in these villages there are many people with low income communities there are people with strong desires to learn and the access to the technology gives them access to information and to study and to learn and to explore and to experience things from all over the world. It’s amazing to me. I can sit in my house in Colorado today and I have a high speed internet connection, not super high speed, not much different from what I would expect to find in low income communities in the near future all over the world. And I can do video conferencing to almost anywhere in the world. I can see images from anywhere, one-to-one, for free! I mean, it doesn’t cost anything more, it doesn’t anything per minute. I’m paying a flat rate per month. And this kind of ability to have video sent real time through the net should allow people to take classes over the internet and to learn more about the world and also to publicize problems in their communities so people who care can help. So I think the internet and the computer access through this new media, the internet, is of great help and in the long run promoting social and economic development in local communities.
My father was a schoolteacher as was my [...]
Bill Joy: My father was a schoolteacher as was my mother and they both believed in judging what you do against what opportunity you’re given. It’s not enough to get an A in class, you have to do the best that you can do. You should be graded against what you’re capable of. So in my life I look at what kind of opportunity I have to make a difference in the world. If I’ve given a choice between doing something that someone else can do and something I think that only I can do I always try to choose the latter because then those important things will get done. At the moment I’m working on trying to bring green technologies to the world because there’s so many problems in the environment and with the use of resources. And I have the great good fortune to work in a venture capital firm of people who know how to build great companies and we’re working really, really hard to educate ourselves about the technologies because it’s a new area for us and to bring the experience and wisdom of our partnership which goes back over 30 years to this new important area, the build the some of the great green tech companies of this next couple decades when we have such urgent problems to solve. The Netscapes, the Googles, the Amazons of the green revolution. And we think the time is now, it’s a wonderful thing to be working on it and I’m called to work day and night and weekends on trying to give birth to these wonderful new enterprises.
I think the primary instrument of the [...]
Bill Joy: I think the primary instrument of the culture that Siri is talking about is television. So my recommendation is to unplug your television, unplug from pop culture. Try not to pay attention to who the so-called movie stars are. Go see the movies because they’re good if you want to see a story. Read a book because—read reviews and stay away from the mass marketing of these things. Get your recommendations from smaller circulation publications that are not so focused on the top movies being the movies that sold the most tickets but the top movies being the ones that are the most vital and can bring the most meaning to your life. So I think unless you unplug from the popular culture and the advertising that comes from it you’ll be explicitly, implicitly, habitually drawn to mass produced entertainment. Even sporting events which are manufactured entertainment rather than direct experience, which is—and more carefully chosen things to read and to see that are much more beneficial in your life.
I think that’s an important ecological [...]
Bill Joy: I think that’s an important ecological perspective to have. We obviously depend enormously on nature, the food we eat, the air we breathe, things we take for granted. We’re part of so many closed loops and behaving in a way that abuses those loops because we don’t close them. So I’ve always been fascinated by ecological philosophy and particularly of Henryk Skolimowski and I think one perspective is to think of the planet as a garden and we’re all in this garden and it’s a beautiful place and we shouldn’t dump toxic waste in the garden. And this is our only home. We’re not going to other planets any time soon. So with this ecological perspective we start to see our actions and our behaviors as part of what’s going on on the planet. And take responsibility for the consequences of our action, that’s the strongest form of behaving ecologically is to realize that what we do has consequences and not say well it’s good because we think it’s good but to take the responsibility if the consequences are bad even if the idea is good, we need to clean it up and put it right. So developing a stronger attitude, seeing ourselves as a part of nature and closing the loops so that we recycle what we use, that’s what nature does and that’s what we should do too.
That’s pretty sad but true, I suspect. [...]
Bill Joy: That’s pretty sad but true, I suspect. Marketing. The Coca-Cola Company is very successful and you get a can of Coke, unless it’s been sitting in the sun for a long time, it tastes the same. And we’re very habitual creatures so we become habituated to that taste. But it’s very troubling in fact that people now are going in to restaurants or convenience stores and buying water that was shipped at great illogical expense from halfway around the world when there’s no evidence that the local water can’t be filtered or treated in some way to be as healthy, in fact this is industrially produced water, it’s certainly not a good thing. So what does this mean about us that we have ships moving water from Fiji, putting it in little plastic bottles and selling them for dollars a bottle when the water that’s coming out of the tap is perfectly fine? There’s not a lot of money to be made in selling a simple reusable water container, quite stylish, so marketing people can sell anything even if it makes no sense. Who would have thunk it?
Africa’s a land of great beauty, it’s also a [...]
Bill Joy: Africa’s a land of great beauty, it’s also a land of great tragedy. It really points out the need for local solutions. When you look at a place like say Madagascar, where some ecological damage has been done there, species lost, you see a much smaller island, a metaphor for what’s happening to the island Earth, and the kind of things we have to do in the large that we are only doing in the small. We need to see the desertification of the north, see the kind of destructive change that you can imagine happening to the oceans as they acidify. So we see a land of great beauty, we see these tragedies, we see people not caring enough. People don’t care enough about the global tragedies that are going on and the poor everywhere in the world. We also see the need for local solutions. We see the diversity of the people. We see that no single solution applies across all the cultures. And we see the need for really big efforts, in problems like AIDS, not only in educating people so that they’ll change their behavior but also in research spending the kind of money and focused effort over decades, huge expenditures and research to develop vaccines and therapies. Not just stopping the disease at great expense for the cocktail as we can today, but vaccinating people to prevent it. We also see an Africa, places where disease emerge and ravage the environment and understand in setting our public health system, as modern as we think we are in the west that these kinds of diseases can spread around the world and infect us too. So what we see when we look to Africa is a microcosm of the problems and the hopes and the change that we need to make in the whole planet written out on a single continent.
We’d love to have a balance of local [...]
Bill Joy: We’d love to have a balance of local cultures and indigenous cultures and the global community that would need to have peace and global understanding. The forces of development, the forces of technology, the forces of trade largely run to the benefit of globalization and homogenization, brands, products, one of the manufactured industrial scale, developed at great cost, these things inherently go global. How can we preserve local cultures? First of all we have to recognize what we’re up against. We have to recognize that these global developments are going to take place. And we have to use tools that are as powerful as the ones driving the globalization to help preserve the local cultures. So we can imagine using the internet as a tool for dispersed people who share a culture to get together. We can use media to record and promote and share with people all over the world the rich diversity of our local cultures so that they’re more appreciated and more cared for and to give people pride in the beauty of all the different cultures. But the worst thing we can do is deny what’s happening with the economic forces behind the development of the global community so that we’re unrealistic about what it’s going to take to preserve the local cultures.
I think the world is already listening, [...]
Bill Joy: I think the world is already listening, that’s the power of the net. And what we need to do now is take the good ideas and go make them real in the world. And not only listen to them but act on them. And the kind of living library that can be built out of all the conversation that’s here today and all the other questions and answers that people contribute can be a great resource towards going and making these things real in the world. And so get out there and do it. We’ve enjoyed being here. Enjoy the library. Thanks.
I think it’s the hope, the most important [...]
Bill Joy: I think it’s the hope, the most important unreported story is the hope for health, wealth and happiness in the 21st century. We’re talking a lot here today about problems. But the rate of scientific change and potential for advance is so great we can imagine a century in which we can see the cures for most disease, where we can see all people brought out of poverty, where we can see everyone educated. We have and will have the kinds of advance and the kinds of resources to do these things in the 21st century. This also occurs as we hit up against an era of limits. The limits, the peak of oil, the ecological limits, the species extinction that’s going on, for the first time we’re going to have to do management of the planet. We’re going to have to manage the atmosphere. We’re going to have to manage against a whole lot of different limits that we’re hitting up against. We have the technology to I think and the innovative capacity to get ourselves within limits to create the kind of wealth and meet people’s aspirations. But it won’t be easy. Some of the limits will probably be exceeded. We’ll see some conflict. Hopefully we’ll guide ourselves through. Many great thinkers such as Carl Sagan have recognized that this is the transformational century when we go from the go, go, go of capitalism to a ecological awareness and to management and responsibility within our limits. There are good outcomes and there are bad outcomes. Just as we saw in the Cold War there were tragic outcomes possible, global nuclear war. So we have tragic outcomes possible here too but hopefully we’ll be lucky again and wise and manage well this transition to a more sustainable world.
I think that each of us has our beliefs and [...]
Bill Joy: I think that each of us has our beliefs and our own truths and questions can be right for one person, the answer to a question can be right for one person and wrong for another. It can be right in one point in time and wrong in another. Should we gain weight? Should we lose weight? Both can be true and contradict each other at the same time. They could be true for different people. They can be true depending on what we intend to do next. They can be true based on things we don’t know. So I think there are many questions, non-scientific, not objective questions, questions about our desire, questions that are contingent based on our present situation that there can be multiple answers to.
I think what I’d say to the world is be [...]
Bill Joy: I think what I’d say to the world is be hopeful. I’ve been sitting here today talking about many problems but I’ve been fortunate in my life already to see an enormous amount of change, hopeful change. When I started working with computers they were a million times slower and a million times more expensive than they are today. There are problems we’ve had for a very long time but there are powerful ideas and powerful enthusiasm is coming. And I believe we’ll attack these problems. We know of things, we can’t talk about all of them which will address many of the environmental and other issues that people have been talking about here today. Great new innovations are coming. We’re fortunate to sit in the venture capital firm where I work and have people who have incredible passion to fix these problems come by every day. And so be hopeful. Find your passion, go out and work with other people of passion and really attack these problems because many of them are going to be solved. We don’t know how completely yet but we see the energy, we see the passion, we see the great new ideas. Let’s go make them work in the world. That’s the thing to be hopeful about. We all can participate in that.
It’s because the objects that we invent need [...]
Bill Joy: It’s because the objects that we invent need maintenance. We buy a gadget and it takes time to get it to work. Many of the things we buy don’t work. We’re possessed by our possessions. Thoreau said that you can be judged rich in proportion to what you can afford to leave alone. What we really want is not a car to get us around, we want to get around. What’s the most effective way of getting around, well it’s to not need a car, to be in a city where you can walk to the things you need and not have to worry about where it is, where to park it, how to maintain it, how to wash it. I wrote and talked many years ago about how people were becoming more nomadic. It’s much more convenient to have a single cell phone than to have a lot of phones at your office and everywhere that people have to try to find you. You can carry a smaller numbers of things with you in your backpack you’re much more free. So with the new digital world and what some people call living on the internet you can imagine a traveling with a smaller number of things. And I can begin to see in all of this how people can live with less possessions and get what they need by using it, kind of like the free bicycles you see in some cities, in Amsterdam where you can just pick up a bike and ride it and then just leave it when you’re done.
I think that the military has been actually [...]
Bill Joy: I think that the military has been actually rather forward-looking in the technologies they’ve supported. The internet has turned into an incredible communication tool and I think a force for peace. The communications satellites, the space technology that they funded has turned, as Arthur C. Clarke predicted into a force for the end of almost all the totalitarian states. The question really, I think, is how do we organize creativity? In the capitalist system that we have the market is the way in which somebody who’s got a creative idea can get it to a lot of people. What can we imagine as an alternative for that? I think we can clearly freely share certain expressions through the internet but if they are things that involve costs in providing them to people and new technologies that make that possible then the market seems to be the place today for deciding and sorting out and focusing that creativity. I certainly don’t think that the alternative of having it done by a centralized government makes any sense. That’s sort of been shown to not work. In the future we can imagine perhaps that machines would do more of the work, we’d all be freed up to do more creative things, that there would not need to be an underclass, the underclass would be the machines. And maybe then we’d all be freed up to be more creative, and maybe in such a world we wouldn’t need the military but I suspect that’s long after I’m dead that that will be true, maybe late in this century. But probably not in the next 50 years.
I think history shows us that it’s often the [...]
Bill Joy: I think history shows us that it’s often the case that private ownership of resources, private owners can manage things more effectively than large-scale bureaucracies trying to manage things. Witness what happened with the centralized economies in eastern Europe in terms of the pollution and the other messes that they created. So for a lot of the resources having such private ownership with appropriate remuneration and clean up of and stewardship is a good thing. I think the biggest problem we face however is that there are a lot of shared resources which people have called tragedy of the common supplies which is to say the atmosphere is a place we can dump things, dump CO2 for example, and the total amount of CO2 everyone’s dumping is too high. And so the question is then how do we manage down the total amount of CO2 globally. This is not something that can be done locally. It has to be internationally, it has to be done with everyone’s participation. Fortunately I think that it can be done profitably and can save money, or make money which is the same thing by not using, putting so much CO2 in the atmosphere. And innovation should improve that equation. But in the meantime and certainly in transition and to avoid climate catastrophe we’re going to have to find ways to work together to manage down and avoid tragedies in these shared resources.
I think people everywhere are beginning to [...]
Bill Joy: I think people everywhere are beginning to share more things. There aren’t many hunter gatherers left in the world, if any. Local cultures isolated from the world are not going to be very competitive. You don’t want to isolate yourself from the best health-care. You don’t want to isolate yourself from the best education. You don’t want to isolate yourself from the truth about what’s going on in the world. But I think a movement towards localization can also give people the opportunity to retain their culture, import what they need and continue with their local traditions if they choose to do so. Difficult trend here is that most people are moving to cities and there’s lots of opportunities that are available really only vicariously in the countryside. And so indigenous cultures which exist in a scale that’s smaller than a modern city will have trouble I think providing the vitality for their people that a culture that exists in a city can provide. So I think the answer is a qualified yes, but definitely indigenous culture will survive in a more limited form I think in the 21st century.
I think we should distinguish between [...]
Bill Joy: I think we should distinguish between modifications that effect only you and modifications that might affect all your children. In the case of engineering to fix defects in your person, I don’t see any particular reason to constrain that. I think that’s a matter of personal choice. The issue of what kind of genetic modifications we ought to make that can be heritable, that can be passed on to your children is an issue of regulation. There’s clearly a societal cost to—unintended consequences of such modifications. And we have to decide ethically, in each society decide ethically, what such defect correction and imperfection correction would be allowed. I understand the arguments against allowing such modifications but I think that it should largely be left up to the individuals.
One of the wonderful things about science is [...]
Bill Joy: One of the wonderful things about science is that scientific truth is objective. Basically what that means is that science determines things by having experiments which are described in a way to be repeatable, where you can objectively test the results of the experiment which tells you something about the world. So you can’t really manufacture false statements in science. Now moral truth is less factual but we know what makes us feel good and I think we have been struggling for 50 years now to get to some basic agreements on some things that are moral, such as are embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We’re facing in this century living with limits. As we deal with living closer to the limits, it’s going to put constraints on our ability to lie to ourselves about what’s going on. The consequences of war are ever more apparent to us. They come back and hit us. The consequences of other things we do we quickly learn. We’re quickly disabused of false beliefs, much more quickly than ever before. Truth is a disinfectant and I think that it’s becoming harder for people to manufacture truths. I think it’s obvious when someone doctors a photograph. We find out fairly quickly. People are paying attention. Whether most people understand if this was done is another question.
I think the first value that a child should [...]
Bill Joy: I think the first value that a child should be taught is about the truth. And to have a very strong respect for the truth because to appreciate the value of the truth is to have the ability to go and learn about the world, to have the ability to separate truth from falsehood gives you the ability to survive in a society when people are trying to manipulate you into buying things, into believing things, into supporting political agendas or other things that are simply not true. The second value I think is really important for a child is curiosity because it’s curiosity that allows you to continue to learn. It’s curiosity that allows you to constantly explore new things and to enrich your life and to understand other cultures and to appreciate change and to respect diversity. The third important value that I see is that a child should be taught to be compassionate and to allow others to be different and to respect that others have limitations and to give other people space and to recognize when they don’t know things and not try to stick everything in the holes of the shapes that are in their mind. So these three values, truth and curiosity and compassion seem to me to be ones that can lead to so many other things. And if armed with those three I think you can go forward in the world.
I think the most important thing that the [...]
Bill Joy: I think the most important thing that the arts needs to talk about is the way in which it talks to science. Science is discovering a lot of things about the world, about how our brains work, about the factors that lead to wealth, to poverty, to health, to ill health and in many cases these are at odds with the views of the humanities. And I’m not suggesting that science can replace the humanities but only that they need to have a dialogue. As C. P. Snow talked about, these are two cultures and they don’t well talk to each other. And it’s incredibly important that the humanistic tradition adapt to the reality of what we know about the world in the same way that religions insist that the world is 2000 years old or was created 3000 years ago are not up to date in the world. I mean, it’s nice that those stories exist and they’re stories and the religions have great moral values to teach but just as data’s not credible in the world we live in today so humanities is uninformed by science is not credible. The arts have a lot to contribute. They can move us in ways that mere scientific facts and theorems and experiments cannot. But they should do so in a spirit of being realistic about the way things work in the world, the way our minds work, the way cultures work and all the knowledge that we have, not just the emotional knowledge from the arts, but also the factual knowledge from the sciences.
What moves me is the opportunity to work [...]
Bill Joy: What moves me is the opportunity to work with people who have passion, want to make change and positive contribution in the world. And I have a job now where I’m working with innovators trying to attack the problems, environmental problems in the world with green technology. And so every day I have the great pleasure of meeting people who are excited and passionate about their new ideas. Not all the new ideas are right. People can get passionate about things and be confused about them. But we meet an enormous number of people who have almost unbounded passion that they can go and attack one of these problems. They can go attack the problem of CO2 in the world. They can go attack the problem of water, not having enough clean water. They can find new ways of getting solar energy, wind energy, geothermal energy. And to get a chance to meet and work with people who have this kind of great and almost unbounded passion to go and make the world a better place is a pleasure for me every day of my life.
In order to change the world for the better [...]
Bill Joy: In order to change the world for the better we need a lot of old inappropriateness to die and we need to create some new ones that give us direction. I think Americans are coming to understand that we don’t have unlimited power. That was a fantasy after the end of the Cold War and that history was dying. Even has Israel sees that it’s army isn’t always going to win every conflict. We’re not invincible. We have a false sense of superiority and a smugness about being modern about the world. Perhaps another myth that died is that we should be despairing of all these problems because in fact I think instead we can replace it with not a myth but a dream and truth and a hope for hope. Another myth is kind of the myth of consumerization that by consuming all these things we’ll make ourselves happy. And it’s clearly not working. Once certain basic needs are met having more doesn’t make people happier. It demonstrable according to psychologists makes people anxious. So what are the new kinds of myths, the guiding things we need to believe? First of all, that we can all benefit by enabling everybody to be creative, educating everybody, bringing people out of poverty because of the great beautiful things and innovations they’ll create. I think a new myth is, and it’s not a myth it’s a dream and it’s a possibility is that we can solve these problems if we put our mind to it and work hard and think new thoughts. Stop doing stupid things, do new smart things. And in important new myth is that we can educate everybody and there’s no end to the education, that we can always learn and by learning and keeping learning we’ll stay alive. And that’s the way to live. And that’s the truly exciting thing about being alive is to go and learn new things.
Yes. And in fact, even your car, if you [...]
Bill Joy: Yes. And in fact, even your car, if you drive it even a few thousand miles it produces an enormous amount of CO2 and the amount of energy that went into the car would be paid back very quickly by buying a more energy efficient car. If we look at wind, solar, tide, wave, geothermal, all these things are quite enormously energy positive. Biofuels like ethanol produced from sugar cane, very energy positive. Perhaps the only renewable fuel that can be produced that’s close to neutral in its energy balance is ethanol made from corn because that takes so much energy input. But if you collocate an ethanol plant with a gasification plant that’s taking other biomass and produce sin gas, basically a kind of a natural gas from it, that process which has a positive energy balance produces waste heat and you can use the waste heat and mate those two processes together so that they are more net energy out than they consume. So you should be very optimistic about renewable energy because renewable energy is truly free of need for these external energy sources.
I think the desire and ability to empathize [...]
Bill Joy: I think the desire and ability to empathize so strongly with your group, with your family and your group is evolutionary. The identification of us, our group versus the other groups, siding with our group is a way of ensuring our group’s survival. So behaviors that we’ve developed which identify with our group and the pathways in our thinking and our being that lead to such behavior are very strong. Identifying with humanity in a very abstract way is very difficult. I think learning other people’s stories, traveling the world to learn their stories and becoming aware of the world through literature and whatever way we learn about other places in the world, other cultures, makes us more sensitive. It’s when we group everyone together into an abstract concept like humanity that bad behaviors become more possible. So each of us is a member of many groups and I think we all benefit from tolerance of other groups and not identifying so strongly with whatever group we perceive ourselves as part of that we miss out on our common humanity.
I think first of all we don’t know what [...]
Bill Joy: I think first of all we don’t know what we’re eating. Food is made industrially. Industrial agriculture produces and uses things in the U.S. like partially hydrogenated oils so that you can have potato chips that will sit on the shelf for months and still taste, well whatever you’d call normal. These things are now known of course to be incredibly unhealthy and we’ll get them out of the system eventually but people want the convenience or have been marketed the convenience of storing stuff on the shelf. The philosophy of going to the market and the brands that have emerged around fast food, junk food. But we see a strong trend towards local production of food starting from Alice Waters’ revolution with Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California. The idea of having restaurants which use local ingredients, grew local food, picked the lettuce fresh. This is an incredible trend we see in the U.S. markets which cater to people who want organic and locally produced food. So I think people have to make themselves more aware of the dangers of hydrogenated oils, the danger of chemical contaminants, the hormones in beef and so on. And by educating ourselves only in that way can we go and get more healthy food because the large scale industrial interests are not necessarily served by spending the extra money it would take to produce food in a healthier way.
Well, I wouldn’t presume to know what God’s [...]
Bill Joy: Well, I wouldn’t presume to know what God’s religion is but I hope that God isn’t exclusive. It seems like many religions say that God’s religion must be their religion and while that might be an effective way of recruiting people and keeping people in your religion because of the kind of fear that that engenders I can’t believe that God needs to recruit. And so I believe that God isn’t exclusive in that way.
The cities feel different to me when I [...]
Bill Joy: The cities feel different to me when I travel. There’s some homogenization. If I go to a Hilton Hotel in different cities maybe they have similar room layouts. There are certainly restaurant chains. Here I am in Berlin for the first time and I stumbled across a Starbucks. But the cities feel very different to me. And I think also over time we can expect them to become more different because of cultural activities that emerge in the different cities. London is great for theater, that wasn’t always the case, it was hundreds of years ago of course. But cities develop unique personalities. Where I live in Aspen, Colorado we have a lot of non-profit institutions focused on things like bipartisan dialogue about issues, training leaders. Institute for physicists come to retreat in the summer. We’re in the mountains and our little city is very different than almost any other city I’ve been in. London, Paris, Berlin, Tokyo, cities in the third world, cities in Africa, these to me all feel very different and I expect them to stay different over time.
I think we all have many roles to play. I’m [...]
Bill Joy: I think we all have many roles to play. I’m a father, I’m a scientist, I’m an investor, I’m an American, I’m a Coloradan, I’m a Californian, I’m a son. Each of these roles defines us. And I’m a Caucasian. Does that define me? I don’t think it defines me as much as some of these other roles I have. African Americans are just Americans. How many generations does someone have to be in a new home before it’s their home and that doesn’t matter where their 10th generation past came from? I think it’s just because we see the color of people’s skin that we know this. I think other people it’s a lot less apparent. Some Asian people say half is beautiful, mixed race people are very, very beautiful, they’re pleasing and different, and they can celebrate these differences and not focus so much on identification with these arbitrary historical things.
When I was growing up this was always a [...]
Bill Joy: When I was growing up this was always a troubling thing for me is where are the books, where are the big books, where are the big ideas, where’s the list of things you should be reading first? I’ve been trying to make such a list for my whole life. For example, my son is very interested in science and I discovered this book by Alan Lightman called “the Discoverers,” and the book talks about some of the great scientific discoveries of the last century, it not only has a short essay to explain the discovery but has excerpts from in most cases most of the original papers written by the great scientists that you can read. And they’re not as hard to read as you can imagine, I think he probably did a good job of selecting them, but also because the truly great ideas are often explained in a very clear way because they involve not so much some complicated mathematics but some advance in our understanding. A book like “Guns, Germs and Steel” by Jared Diamond which is a big book about history. Shakespeare which is a great plays to go see which there are great lessons about human nature and the nature of life. My kids also love to watch “Star Trek” episodes because they’re morality plays where you learn about behaving well and treating each other well and trying to make peace all the time. So I think-- I love these kinds of books which have lists of the great books to read. I love book reviews. I love magazines which are literary magazines which talk and analyze and put things in context. And those are the kind of places I go to find interesting things to read in these big books.
The internet allows both globalization and [...]
Bill Joy: The internet allows both globalization and localization and relocalization so the great works of art, the great works of literature, the library of the world all can be put online. And this benefits us all. But also a local community can preserve its culture digitally, can share that culture with others, can find support for the cultural institutions, music from all over the world can be shared and appreciated, promoting peace. So all of our communities are enhanced when we have access to this kind of diversity. We don’t have a monoculture, we don’t have a broadcast media culture instead we have a rich diverse access and we can learn about the world and experience the great beauty of other local communities.
The futures of cities is that most people [...]
Bill Joy: The futures of cities is that most people are going to live in them. We’ll pass very soon in this century a situation where more than half the people are living in cities. Cities offer marvelous cultural possibilities because you have people dense enough that you can create a diversity of experiences. It’s kind of boring by comparison to be in a small town. But of course being in the country is wonderful too and that’s one of the wonderful things about the internet because you can see and experience cultural activities that are going on at a distance sort of through the net and have those kinds of experiences. But there’s still nothing in my experience like being in a city, being able to walk, people in cities have smaller ecological footprints. It’s great to see that the Chinese in their industrialization are working real hard on building greener cities and reinventing the cities so that they’re more walkable, they’re more pedestrian friendly, blocking off cars, blocking off motorcycles in the center of cities. These are all really good things. One scary thing about cities is the threat of terrorism because people are more densely populated, somebody with a political agenda can obviously do more damage and more psychological and physical damage in a city. How we deal with this I don’t completely know but the cities are so valuable to our spirits that I’m very optimistic about the futures of the cities as great places to live.
I think it’s okay to want a car but it’s sad [...]
Bill Joy: I think it’s okay to want a car but it’s sad if given what’s happening in the world which is half the people are going to live in cities soon that people have to drive so much. And I’m very glad to see that the Chinese have been creating some, with people like Bill McDonough and others, have been creating cities which are more pedestrian friendly. It’s sad that so much of America is pedestrian unfriendly. I find life much more pleasant if I can walk places, occasionally take a taxi, take some mass transit, be out on the street in the life of the city. This is a much better state than living in suburbia and driving cars. I just hope that, and I’m encouraged that Chinese auto makers are looking at the ecological impacts of the cars and working very hard and thinking about electric cars because I think small electric cars are much more efficient of a much smaller ecological footprint than traditional gasoline or diesel cars and are much more appropriate for development because they don’t take as much space to park, they don’t make a lot of smell pollution, inefficient use of fuel.
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