This Week in Tech Episode 857 Transcript

Please be advised this transcript is AI-generated and may not be word for word. Time codes refer to the approximate times in the ad-supported version of the show. 

Leo Laporte (00:00:00):
It's time for TWiT This Week in Tech. A different show this week, we're kicking off the new year with a show about the future. Father Robert Ballacer, SJ here, the digital Jesuit joins us. He's actually firmly mired in the middle ages, but with an eye toward the future and futurist Amy Webb, she's just written a book about synthetic biology, a at the future, plus a little news from CES coming up next on TWiT.

Leo Laporte (00:00:28):
Podcasts you love from people you trust. This is TWiT.

Leo Laporte (00:00:41):
This is TWiT This Week in Tech episode, 857 recorded Sunday, January 9th, 2022. New World Disorder. This episode of this in tech is brought to you by Ourcrowd. Our crowd helps accredited investors invest early in pre I P O C alongside professional venture capitalists. Join the fastest growing venture capital investment community at slash TWiT and by Lineo develop, deploy and scale your modern applications faster and easier. Get $100 in credit when you visit lineo.Com. And by Wealthfront to start building your wealth and get your first $5,000 managed for free for life. Go to, and by better help join over 1 million people. Who've taken charge of their mental health. As a listener, you'll get 10% off your first month by visiting better

Leo Laporte (00:01:53):
It's time for TWiT This Week in Tech. A show we cover the weeks' tech news. Although this week we're gonna cover next year's tech news. Joining us today, our very own futurist. We always love having her on Amy Webb from the future today, Institute CEO there, and also a genius in every way. Hi Amy.

Amy Webb (00:02:14):
Hey Leo.

Leo Laporte (00:02:15):
Good to see you. Your new book is just weeks away. Are you excited?

Amy Webb (00:02:20):
Very, I cannot wait for people to read this, not just cuz I'm I'm it. I spent years working on this and I think it's the most important. This is the most, the most important technology is biology. And I, I can't wait for people to read

Leo Laporte (00:02:36):
What we've found your timing's actually really good because <laugh>, we are very much aware of now how important biology is to life on, on earth. And so I think it couldn't be better timing. I can't wait to read about this and you do cover MRNA and synthetic biology and all sorts of stuff. I can't wait. It's gonna come just in time for Valentine's day. So least

Amy Webb (00:02:57):
It is it's my, my weird present to the world.

Leo Laporte (00:03:00):
Lisa knows now what she's gonna get for Valentine's day <laugh> also with us and I'm really pleased because he took his life into his own hands to go to CES this week. Father Robert baller, the digital Jesuit, Hey Robert, if she's the futurist, I guess that I'm a. Pastist <laugh> is that, does that work? Yeah, it's actually kind of appropriate. We had planned a much larger show, but the way the, the world is that a number of people have canceled on us. And so it is actually a much more intimate show, which actually I don't mind. In fact, honestly, if I, if I, we had to do the, just the two of you for the rest of my life, I would be very, very happy with it. You two of my favorite people but it is in a way kind of appropriate.

Leo Laporte (00:03:44):
Amy is a futurist she's looking ahead. You are a priest in in the oldest church <laugh> in the west. Some would say a medieval theology although as we know, father Robert is far from medievalist. But I think, yeah, your, your perspective, perhaps actually, Amy, you wanted to kick this off, so I'm gonna let you do this. It is gonna be a show about the future. We had hoped to have a sci-fi author and some other people on to kind of give us some extra kind of insight into that. We, we had some and cancellations, but I think we could still talk about this. We'll also talk about the week's tech news and see, yes, too. There's plenty to talk about this week, but why don't you kick things off, cuz it was your idea. I blame you. It was your idea. You wanted, you thought it would be fun. And I thought so too, to do a show about not just today's technology, but tomorrow's

Amy Webb (00:04:39):
Yeah. So maybe just to, by a way, a little bit of level setting. So I'm my, so I'm a futurist. I'm a quantitative futurist. My, my goal professionally is to make my job super boring. So that nobody lights up when I say what I do anyway for real you have failed, but I've, I've failed so far. But I wanna not be the most, I like the most interesting person at the cocktail party. I want people to look at me and be like, yeah, you're like an accountant just in a different way. So I thought it would be useful just really quickly to have everybody sort of, for us to sort of just level set. 

Leo Laporte (00:05:13):
People think of futurist as like Palm readers or as a gypsies, you know, telling the well,

Amy Webb (00:05:17):
Yeah, you're not, there's a reason. No, no, no. There's a reason for that. But there's a cognitive reason why we care about the future. Cause if you, if you stop and think about it, you know, we live in the moment. So why should we think about the future? And the answer has to do with what's called the the Zygarnic effect. So there's a Soviet psychologist named BL Bluma Zygarnic who he was doing a bunch of research and found that, you know, people don't really like it when we don't right finish <laugh> when we don't get to completion. And we hate, we hate that lack of completion so much that we invent, what if scenarios

Leo Laporte (00:05:57):
But it's kind of, it's kind of part of life. You don't make it to the end. That's right. You're gonna die in the middle of the story no matter what.

Amy Webb (00:06:05):
Right. But the yes, but in the interim, our brain is just continuously making up. It's try it's puzzles. We're just constantly problem solving and, and solving puzzles. So the Oracle of Delphi, for those of you who remember your Greek mythology and, and high school and college. So at that point, Delphi's at the center of the world. There was a, a temple there, and basically there was a priestess, an Oracle who would answer questions. And some of this happened through divination, which is this ancient practice of just like, you know, looking at different lots and, and sort of the idea of chance, especially statistically is a, is a very recent invention because the absence of chance was always intervention by God. So and basically I think that divination was always a way of avoiding critical thinking about the future and, and sitting with that uncomf like very uncomfortable to sit with the lack of completion.

Amy Webb (00:07:00):
So anyhow, as you go on through the years what starts off as divination ends up in the fourth century with St. Augustine questioning whether or not there is such a thing as free will or God's predetermination. And then the cart who's looking at free will again, you know, and think is like forms the foundation of AI all the way up to Jules Fern, who's sort of writing prescience fiction to HG Wells who I know everybody knows, but probably his most important work was not the time machine. It was this paper that he wrote called the anticipations of the reaction of mechanical scientific grace upon human light life and thought, oh,

Leo Laporte (00:07:41):
Who basically, who could never forget that <laugh> who could ever forget it.

Amy Webb (00:07:44):
It's a, it's a fake Turner it's <laugh> well, basically what he was saying was cuz he was a journalist, he did something, he called predictive writing, but he was trying to say that these, the sort of, what if scenario, he, the word scenario didn't exist yet, but what if these are important questions to ask? And we can't just assume that fate is, is in charge of everything. If we wanna make our own destinies, we have to do something about it. So he, he did and through this process, which he was trying to get into universities, he wanted people to study it the way they studied math. He imagined a national highway system, automated machine means that he thought at that point would replace what was the servant class? He thought of prefab houses. He thought at some point the collapse of capitalism would come and later on, unfortunately as tends to happen, he got into eugenics.

Amy Webb (00:08:34):
So his utopian future was yeah, so that, that happens. But anyway, then you get to world war II and you get Nicholas rusher and, and Ola Helmer who, who used something called the Delphi method, which is a structured way of having conversations to collect data again, thinking about what if Herman con who I trace my origin too. He took a turn and built on what they did, but this time used game theory which is what I did academically and developed probabilistic outcomes. And so it was con who first used the word scenario. He was having lunch with a friend of his who worked in Hollywood it's world war II. He's, he's trying to get military officials to think very, very critically about what would be the aftermath of dropping a bomb on Japan. And he couldn't get them to pay attention and, and he kept telling people like, just sending like numbers, aren't like, it, it doesn't mean anything.

Amy Webb (00:09:33):
And he was actually trying to prevent from happening. So he wrote what became on Thermo nuclear war. Mm. Anyhow, that takes us up to the modern era. So you've got pier VA, who's this crazy Frenchman super into Eastern religions becomes a pivotal person executive at Royal Dutch shell because he figures out how to predict wheel shocks and makes the business case for foresight, Peter Schwartz you know, and a bunch of people after them sort of become this diaspora. And now today we've got people like me. So I'm trained and you know, it's, it's not divination anymore or speculation, but it is sit. It, it, you know, it's still sitting with uncertainty. And I would say now that there's a, there's a little bit of a gap there's theorists. These are academics who are pretty closed off and they don't really care about practical applications. And then there's enthusiasts. They are, are super interested in the future, but don't necessarily have training. And I think there's a in between space that's useful, that's necessary for, for society because our future depends on this type of work, I think. 

Leo Laporte (00:10:50):
And in a way it's good to precondition people to say, look, we're not Delphic Oracles. We're not gonna predict what's gonna have happen because that's almost impossible. This was going, making the rounds on Reddit. Last week from the New York Harold magazine of 1922, what the world will be like in a hundred years. And, and while there's a lot of interesting stuff in here, it's of course a lot of mistakes as well, including they said we won't be cooking anymore. In fact, private dwellings <laugh> we are gonna disappear because we're all gonna live in cooperative housings with dining halls. But some of it was actually pretty accurate. That's not what you do. You're not trying to say what, what the world's gonna look like in, in 21, 22.

Amy Webb (00:11:37):
No, no. Now that being said my job is to explore alternative futures. So it's not about prediction, it's about preparation. So a lot of times when I'm, so I have a big team that I work with a lot of times we're going to companies, the executives at companies and saying, what if your entire supply chain is not based anymore in China? Yeah. Like what if it's based somewhere else? What would be the potential outcomes or, Hey, we've, there's this synthetic biology thing on the very near term horizon. What if the outcome of this is that humans live ultra long lives? You know, that's good. In, on the one hand, it's actually really bad for sports for professional sports leagues. What, why why? Because you wind up with games. I mean, I'm not like super, super into sports, but I'm super into baseball. And you know, you, you could make the argument that the star players who are also the most expensive, never retire and oh, that would be

Leo Laporte (00:12:39):
Bad <laugh>

Amy Webb (00:12:40):
It would, it would be bad. It would make the game super boring, but it would also break the financial models. Yeah. Right.

Leo Laporte (00:12:46):

Amy Webb (00:12:47):
So anyhow,

Leo Laporte (00:12:48):
You need some over for for professional sports to survive. That's in, you also

Amy Webb (00:12:53):
Turnover just in general in government, in life. I mean, yes. You could have Supreme our current, like the current Supreme court gets to be, you know, on the court for life. If, if life now means 120 years. Yeah. You know, instead of 80 years. Yeah. Does that become a problem? I, I think it probably does. Yeah.

Leo Laporte (00:13:10):
It's already too old. And as is the Congress. Yeah.

Amy Webb (00:13:14):
So anyhow, we don't make predictions. But we do look at again using not speculation, but like data, what are the possible outcomes? What are the ne next order impacts? And the point of this sometimes is to inspire and delight, but what I'm hoping it, that it, it enables it reduces uncertainty so we can make smarter decisions. And also, so that it inserts us into that future. My concern is that with politics and COVID and everything else, people are sort of now and and also absolutists, and I think our future demands a sense of awe and wonder, you know not complacency or disillusionment, but leaning into that uncertainty with the hope that we can learn, and we don't have all the answers and we're willing to make better decisions

Leo Laporte (00:14:08):
By the way her company's Amy's company, the future today Institute does make available. It's a tech trends report. You've been doing this for four to, I have a rare print version of this 12, actually 13, cause you started zero volumes. But this is also online for everybody to slash trends. Just outta curiosity, you ever go back to a year one and, and see how you did.

Amy Webb (00:14:34):
Yeah. Yeah. So after that print, amble about this not being predictive and I can't possibly know the exact future, we have a, a 97% accuracy rate.

Leo Laporte (00:14:42):
Okay, nice. <Laugh> but that's partly because you're not trying to say this will happen, but talk, talking about trends and, and things like that. Right now

Amy Webb (00:14:51):
You can use data to calculate trajectories so we can determine, for example, you know, machine learning will be on this trajectory. And we think that the time horizons look like X, right. The exact year doesn't matter, the exact inflection point doesn't matter as much. It's, it's sort of words engineering to the present, what that could mean at different points. Right. so I got I've, I've been wrong on a few things. NFC was one of them. I, I misread some patents and

Leo Laporte (00:15:22):
The near field communications chips in the back of phones that you tap against things. Yeah. Right. So I would you say they were gonna be big or not

Amy Webb (00:15:32):
Big in iPhone specifically? And I got the, we just got the model, you know what we

Leo Laporte (00:15:35):
Thought? So too, we thought now that iPhone has finally adopted NFC technology cuz they were really slow. This is gonna make it take off and it's quite the opposite. It has not. Yeah.

Amy Webb (00:15:45):
Yeah. It also took a lot longer for QR codes, which we, you know, it took COVID for Q well, it was

Leo Laporte (00:15:51):
Interesting. QR codes have taken off and maybe cuz of the pandemic, but yes, I'm using them much more than ever before. Yeah. But I thought that there's no way that's gonna take off that's nuts.

Amy Webb (00:16:02):
Well, I had been in Japan for anyhow. It doesn't matter. I, I thought 10 years ago that that was gonna start to, to create sort of a, a spatial hyperlinking sort of being able to in the real world, in

Leo Laporte (00:16:15):
Different places. Yeah. Hyperlink the real world.

Amy Webb (00:16:17):
Yeah. And it did, that did happen in China and in Asia it just didn't take off in the us and that wasn't a huge deal. But a lot of the times the, the, the work that we're doing leads to multi-billion dollar investments are big. My goodness, like big decisions. So we need to be, we need to do this at, you know, with some, some thought

Leo Laporte (00:16:37):

Fr. Robert Ballecer SJ (00:16:38):
You know, we do something in in my neck of the words that we call chaining and there's two sides of it. The, the chain of decisions is what you would typically think of when you are looking at the future. These are the steps that I want to take in order to put my organization where you, I think it needs to be. But then along with any chain of decisions, we also look at chain of consequences and chain of consequences is more like what Amy is talking about, where we actually start asking the questions of the minutia. Well, if X, Y, and Z happens, what are the other possible consequences from X, Y, and Z happening rather than just looking at, I want X, Y, and Z to happen, because that allows me to move to step two or step three. I

Leo Laporte (00:17:17):
Think the Jesuits are unusual, in fact, in their devotion to these kinds of methodologies and rigorous thinking. I think it's more because you guys are trying to make thought rigorous and have always been, it seems to me always been inclined that way.

Fr. Robert Ballecer SJ (00:17:35):
That's, that's part of our organizational DNA. Yeah. I mean, that's one of the things that set us aside where we were willing to make something a, a ACLA, a pronouncement that seemed completely out of place brash her to some, but then it turned out to be true. And the reason why it turned out to be true is not because while our guys had a great finger on the pulse of the future, it was because we actually sat in a room and thought it went back and forth with a lot of screaming. And someone finally said, look, if this happens, then there are four other possibilities that we need to at least prepare for. You're like the Ben a

Leo Laporte (00:18:09):
Jesuits <laugh> <laugh>.

Fr. Robert Ballecer SJ (00:18:12):
Yes. And which, by the way, they were based on Jesuits, I think they were,

Leo Laporte (00:18:17):
They were, I had that feeling well. And this is interesting because you work for an organization that is among the oldest organizations, probably is the oldest organization still Exton, I mean, almost 2000 years of continuous history. So that gives you certain, a certain standing in, in all of this that is different than the rest of us who at most are looking at a century ahead. 

Fr. Robert Ballecer SJ (00:18:40):
But let's just say some of those decisions have not been great. They never all worked

Leo Laporte (00:18:45):
Out. I understand

Fr. Robert Ballecer SJ (00:18:46):
Haven't worked. Let's just, I'll leave it there.

Leo Laporte (00:18:49):
And the Jesuits themselves are really only at 500 years old. So you really can a young organiz we're youngins.

Fr. Robert Ballecer SJ (00:18:56):
Yeah. <Laugh> Franciscan. Look at us and just go, like, who are you again? Sorry.

Leo Laporte (00:19:01):
Well, okay. Let's, we're gonna actually get into this in a little bit more detail. There is, we'll talk about CES too, cuz you were there and I do wanna, absolutely talk about it. And actually the kind of predictions of the future we do at TWI is more like, will there be a CES next year than anything, much more significant than that. And by the way, we still get those wrong almost all the time. I thought CES was long gone. It seems, seems not to have disappeared entirely. Anyway, even though it's it's dwindling, we've got a, a, just a wonderful panel of people today. I'm so glad to have Amy Webb here from futures today, Institute father Robert baller. You're in Vegas right now.

Fr. Robert Ballecer SJ (00:19:41):
I am in Vegas. I'm, I'm here for my last PCR to to finish up and then I'm heading back to San Francisco. Good. Then back to

Leo Laporte (00:19:47):
Rome. Oh, okay. Did you come to the us just for this or, or you were visiting and other things? No. Okay.

Fr. Robert Ballecer SJ (00:19:53):
So about once a year I get about a month off and I use it to visit family and two weeks with my sister, two weeks with my parents and CES just happened to

Leo Laporte (00:20:03):
Fall in that. And your parents happened to live in Las Vegas, which makes that even more confusing. Yeah, much easier. I that's an amazing coincidence. I just, I would've thought that

Fr. Robert Ballecer SJ (00:20:12):
Okay. It's, it's not a coincidence way back in the day. When I was doing all these conferences, I may have purchased a house that they then moved into when they retired. That's

Leo Laporte (00:20:25):
Okay. Little plan behind that. We're gonna take a little break and then, and I want to talk about one of our sponsors right now that actually is exactly around this topic, planning for your future. I know that many of the people who watch this show are investors. If you are somebody who is looking to find the next big thing to invest in, you should know about our crowd. Our crowd is a venture capital firm that analyzes companies across the entire global private market. Now these are not companies that have yet been discovered. They're looking for the next big thing. And because they are a large VC firm, they have really access to great to what they call deal flow. They really can see what's going on in areas that are about to break out like personalized medicine, cyber security, robotics, quantum computing, you know, and state of the art labs as startup garages and anywhere in between our crowd as I do.

Leo Laporte (00:21:27):
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Leo Laporte (00:22:16):
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Leo Laporte (00:23:03):
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Leo Laporte (00:23:55):
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Leo Laporte (00:24:51):
The world is changing. Absolutely. Thanks to crypto. Thanks to NFTs. Thanks to defi decentralized finance. I read a really interesting article today, this morning by Moxy Marlin spike, who I have a lot of spec four. He is the guy who came up with signal. He's a brilliant technologist, but he also had some very interesting points to make about web three. So let's start off talking about crypto the web and in particularly web three, the idea, at least the proponents of web three say the idea is a decentralized worldwide web that is run on blockchain, not by a big platform company. I've seen people kind of disagree with that including Moxi who says essentially, you know, there's a fundamental problem with a decentralized platform. It just will not in a V as fast as a centralized platform. So all the all the innovation happens with the platforms he says, you're having the same problem with web three. Amy, what do you, what do, what do you and your people think about about the future of web three? Did you spend any time talking about that yet?

Amy Webb (00:26:06):
Yeah. so heading into this year, so our, our big annual report comes out of south by south by Southwest, in March every year. And one of the key themes is decentralization. You know, I, I have a real problem with the way that I hear it being described, not from a technical or a protocol point of view, but from sort of point of view of what, what it means. So if you, if you go back, you know, there, the web one oh world post academia, as it was becoming commercialized, describe the, the standards, right. And the protocols to enable what was essentially one to many distributions. So you've got a centralized hub for content or data or whatever it might be. And it, and it sort of goes out to many people, you know, web two oh was about interoperability openness.

Amy Webb (00:26:58):
And I think if you go back, you know, decentralization was probably at the top of that list too, because bit torrent was a part of that. <Laugh>, you know, a lot of places where I used to scrape music was, was part of that ecosystem. Jason was a part of that, you know, J store, like there, there are all of these things that were part of that ecosystem prior to Facebook, the types of companies today that we argue are too consolidated and have too much power. And even the people who built a lot of the web two, oh, I used to go to web two oh summit billion and a half years ago. You know, and, and web two, oh at the time was the precursor to a Twitter, the precursor to, to Facebook and some of these other things.

Amy Webb (00:27:46):
So you had Odo, you had flicker, you had WordPress, you had six apart, right. But over time you wind up with consolidation. So it's kind of not surprising that yet again, we're talking about decentralization and the technology is certainly more sophisticated, but, but in almost every other circumstance, anytime you look at an innovation cycle and companies developing new product services, protocols, standards, whatever it might be, you wind up with consolidation. So I, I know everybody's very excited about their prospect of web three, which I think generally speaking stand for new sets of protocols you know, using Ethereum or, or using new types of smart contracts, tokens, right? A lot of this runs by tokens and, and decentralized autonomous organizations and things like that. But at some point you still have to have a group of people who are building out these systems who are making decisions.

Amy Webb (00:28:45):
And at the moment it tends to be the same group of people. It's pretty homogenous. So I, I, I'm excited about some of the technology certainly. And I think that there are practical applications, like it's gonna give artists more control to, to earn revenue, you know, in a web three oh world, I don't know, Spotify us to exist anymore, stuff like that. But if what everybody's super excited about is decentralization. I think it's worthwhile to go back in time and look at the ex, like go back to 2004. And some of the public conversations are on decentralization. And at the very earliest days of, of the commercial web, I mean, these, these conversations pop up for and over again. And I just worry that it's the same basic group of people making decisions for everybody, but without the worldview of everybody,

Leo Laporte (00:29:34):
I think you nailed it. I often say just like you, the technologies are interesting, but the actual implementations seem like more of the same Jack Dorsey tweeted a couple of weeks ago, you don't own web three, the VCs and their LPs, their limited partners do it will never escape their incentives. It's ultimately a centralized entity with a different label. And in fact, that's exactly what Marcy Marlin's bike was. Point out, not out of Jackson implying some sort of, kind of maliciousness, but Moxy saying, it's just the way, it's the nature of things that these things end up becoming centralized because that's where all the innovation happens. And it ends up being the platforms control it. He made an NFT. He thought this would be kind of interesting. He wanted learn more about NFT. So Moxy is a very talent. The coder created an NFT that changes based on who's looking at it, you know, NFTs don't don't in any way guarantee that that image is gonna be any particular way.

Leo Laporte (00:30:35):
You might buy an NFT of the Mona Lisa, but since you don't actually have the Mona Lisa in your hand, it's just a website that can change. So he, he created it. If you look at his NFT on open sea, it looks one way, this NFT on the left, if you looked on it a wearable, it looks this way. And if you looked at it in your wallet, it would look like a poop emoji <laugh>. And his point is that many of the highest price NFTs could turn into poop emoji. Geez. At any time, he just made it explicit. But what was even more interesting is after a few days of doing this, his NFT was removed from open sea, which is the NFT marketplace. Now it wasn't living on open sea, but because open sea took it down, it no longer appeared anywhere, including his crypto wallet, because it isn't decentralized.

Leo Laporte (00:31:27):
It turns out everybody's doing a JSON query of open sea to see what that NFT is. And if open sea doesn't list it, it doesn't exist. So he really demonstrated a very clear way. He says, if it's, it means if you're N removed from open sea, it disappears from your wallet. It doesn't functionally matter that my NFT is indelibly on the blockchain somewhere because the wallet and increasingly everything else in the ecosystem is just using the open sea API to display it. So it's a myth. In other words, that it's a decentralized thing play S inevitably just the nature of the beast. And I, I think he's not saying this is a bad thing. It's just something you should be aware of. And, and, you know, it's, it's it, isn't, what's the plan promises to be. Yeah. Yeah. There's

Fr. Robert Ballecer SJ (00:32:16):
Look when you're talking about web three, when you're talking about the blockchain cryptocurrency NFTs, you're essentially running into the same problem. The idea, the idea of decentralization is fantastic. Wonderful. And the promise is there, it looks like it would work except for one thing, there's one component that kills everything. And that is the reward component, the reward for running a node, the RO the, the reward for allowing your resources to be used by a web application, the reward for allowing your work to be represented in this ecosystem has to be present. And when you start talking about reward, now you have to get into either proof of stake or proof of work. And now we got the inefficiencies and the bureaucracies that we were trying to get rid of in the first place. Yeah. In other words, the idea of blockchain, the idea of web three is great, but the implementation destroys what the original idea was. And now you've got crypto bros who are trying to shine over that last part, they're saying, well, don't worry about it. Don't, don't, it's the, the next technology is going to fix for that. But how do you fix for fundamental greed and the need to have some sort of authoritative source that tell you what is, and is not legitimate. And unfortunately that is not in the protocol. That's not in the technology. That's a, that's a fundamental flaw of human nature. Yeah, I agree.

Amy Webb (00:33:38):
So, right. So there's an economic argue, picking up what Padre just said. You know, Adam, a lot of the people who are fierce proponents of web three, using decentralization as the best possible way forward for humanity, through protocols and tech and everything else, they well, in the same breath, often, quote Adam Smith, they'll allude to, to arguments by Smith, you know, and, and sort of the invisible hand of the free market system improves, improves things for everybody, except that there are always people in charge. So there is no, like, there's no such thing anywhere as a truly democratized flat system, without any centralization whatsoever, we actually already saw the problems play out in real time. So do you guys remember constitution Dow? This happened a couple weeks ago,

Leo Laporte (00:34:29):
They, they raised 40 million to buy a copy that 44, 44 to buy a copy of the us constitution. They lost out to a hedge fund. <Laugh> magnet, the guy, by the way, the guy interest who saved Robin hood after the the stunk scandal of game stop. But anyway, yes,

Amy Webb (00:34:49):
Well, but here's why this matters. So I mean, it's a ridiculous story. A bunch of people met up on Twitter and they form a Dow, a decentralized autonomous organization. They use the very tools that you just heard Padre talk about. And they, they remarkably raise an enormous huge amount of money of money. Yeah. Huge amount of money. And for a very long time, it was looking as though this group of people was probably gonna win. And if they won the, the co the, if they won that constitution at auction, it was one of the original 13 copies. Only one of two that's private circulation. They had a right to do anything they wanted with it. They could donate it to a museum, or they could have folded it into a paper airplane and flown it into a bonfire

Leo Laporte (00:35:30):
To it, to it, into as many pieces as there were Dow contributors. And given each one of them a tiny little bit <laugh> right now, here's the problem, which they plans to do. We should point out. No.

Amy Webb (00:35:39):
Okay. So the issue is they lost. Yeah. They lo thank immersively, right? They, they lost the auction, but now they're sitting on top of 44 million and a whole bunch of people want that money back. So now you've got, so, so this sort of illustrates the central problem.

Leo Laporte (00:35:53):
The problem is it's even more than that, because the cost, the get as fees right. Of refunding it end up being, you get nothing back. In fact, it could cost you money to get quote, get your money back <laugh>

Amy Webb (00:36:04):
Right. But somebody, so it, this has to do with accountability. And one of the arguments that I hear made all the time is, but there's the imutable ledger, right. And that assures accountability. And the answer is yes, in certain circum stances, but the practical realities of how we relate to each other as humans and what our expectations are, but up against the, the technology itself. So

Leo Laporte (00:36:26):
Well, and as Moxy pointed out, yeah, it may exist on the blockchain, but if you need to go through an API with a centralized platform to see what's on the blockchain in Mo Nicks, you can't see it, it, and by the way, NFTs are too big to live on the blockchain, all that lives, there is a reference to another place which also may not exist or turn into. Right. And even,

Amy Webb (00:36:48):
Yeah. And even Ethereum, you know and the, and the token system, I mean, the, these are still open protocols in as much as T C P I P and, and HTTPS S and, you know, we have series of protocols, but things have to get built on top of them. And those things typically require some type of leadership structure. So I just that's

Leo Laporte (00:37:09):
Moxie's point would CA platforms will always win out in this. Now I had invited Kevin Rose, cause I knew this was a part of the conversation we were gonna have. I'm sorry. He couldn't make it today, cuz he is very bullish on all of this and I'm sure that he would have a defense of it, but I have to say, and, and I keep looking into this and I look to people like Moxie Jack Dorsey. There did seem to be a, a common idea that perhaps this isn't the miracle that we were hoping it would be. But then that leads the question is the internet always gonna be just dominated by big platforms? Amy,

Amy Webb (00:37:45):
I think the Internet's always gonna be dominated by a handful of people who are hyper connected and make a lot of decisions that, that have that we that's just, just the way it's. I heard Chris Dixon and Naval on Tim Ferris podcast. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> that must have couple days ago they were talking about, you know, Christon has majored in philosophy. I think he's got a, he was on a PhD track for, for philosophy and he does. He's a wonderful writer. He's a great communicator listening to the two of them talk, you know? Yeah. It's dazzling. It sounds amazing.

Leo Laporte (00:38:13):
Well, I should also point out she's also a partner at a 16 Z a right, right. Which is the primary, that's my point promoter of web three.

Amy Webb (00:38:21):
<Laugh> right. And that's my point, you know, another, there is another way to look at this. And again, I, I, I believe that our future demands a sense of awe and wonder, and I don't mean to sound super jaded, but is isn't it possible that this is just an evolution of technology, an important one, but it isn't as fundamental. Right. And, and and maybe we have an opportunity here to fix some of what wrong the last time to make this, to make things more inclusive. Padre mentioned finance bros, you know, he's right. There are women who this space, but you never hear from them. There are people of color who are doing great things. You never hear from them. So if the whole point here is, you know, inclusivity and, and decentralization and for the people, then it's gotta be more than a handful of people making all these decisions. What

Leo Laporte (00:39:06):
About things like micro lending? There are other movements in finance to make it more equitable. Do you see those in as being important in the future?

Amy Webb (00:39:19):
Well, there's a lot of that happening, especially in Africa, right? A lot of, well, you

Leo Laporte (00:39:24):
Don't have a big entrenched incumbent banking system. So you can have things like PAC a online payment systems, stuff that is very different and new. Is that the future?

Amy Webb (00:39:38):
Well, I think the place where this plays out better, it's regionally, first of all there's a reason that took off in Africa and it probably wouldn't take off in Chicago. But decentralization, so defi decentralized finance countries like China issuing the EU on, which is the digital version of their currency. Changing, you know, banking. We, we do a ton of work in, in, in the banking and private equity and just financial sector. And it's so antiquated. There's been no real push to innovate in any significant way. So this definitely changes things and potentially levels the playing field a little bit especi. And you talk about digital identity and just making it easier for people who are unbanked to participate in, in the economy. On the one hand insurance is another place where we do a lot of work and like the amount of paper forms that most people still have to fill out.

Amy Webb (00:40:31):
It's 20, 22, you know, like you shouldn't have to write stuff on paper. Yeah. so, or, or more S so I think making things just easier giving people better access, reducing a lot of middleware. If middleware are humans, you shouldn't have to, like, it's insane to buy a house in this country. That's crazy, absolutely insane. The, a number of people that are involved and I'm not trying to put people outta work, but I'm also trying to be just practical. So yeah, I, the they're in the smart contract space and finance space and decentralizing space yeah. It, and it also provides opportunities to countries like Venezuela whose currencies become super devalued, but it's also potential problem for the United States because if countries start moving into stable coins, you know, the dollar doesn't matter as much anymore. So this, my point is like, this is, this is more than NFTs and oh, hugely more. Yeah. And it's like, it's, it's important, but it's also like, I don't know. I get real irritated slash nervous when I hear people talking about this new tech utopia of web three which is, I think misguided

Leo Laporte (00:41:41):
Utopia turns into dystopia with a blink of an eye, unfortunately, I sure can 

Fr. Robert Ballecer SJ (00:41:48):
In 19 see that yeah. Is the, is the rise of all the Alco, every single Alco says

Leo Laporte (00:41:54):
The guy who invested heavily in doze, but

Fr. Robert Ballecer SJ (00:41:57):
I mean, that was for fun. I did it out of Google. You did. I didn't think people were actually gonna do it seriously. Oh no. But I, I mean, every,

Leo Laporte (00:42:04):
You didn't have to invest, you just set up a minor. Yeah. I

Fr. Robert Ballecer SJ (00:42:07):
Just said a minor, but all of them have come about because people realized there was something wrong with the cryptocurrency that they were, they were bullish on and then they moved to the next one and it turned out, oh, it's exactly the same. Well, let's move to the next one. It's almost the definition of insanity. If we move to enough, cryptocurrencies enough, blockchains that same as the last.

Leo Laporte (00:42:27):
How about Sheena? Right, exactly. How about

Amy Webb (00:42:30):
If anybody pays attention to soccer, which I don't lion mess. Who's arguably one of

Leo Laporte (00:42:36):
Coin. Yeah, baby.

Amy Webb (00:42:38):
Right. So he left FC Barcelona, which was a huge big deal for Paris Saint Jermaine, which apparently is not as good of a team. Again, I totally don't pay attention to soccer, but part of his comp package was in tokens. Yeah. and there are a handful of soccer clubs that are making hundreds of million of dollars by issuing fan tokens, which are kind of like minority shares of of the team. But it has real world financial consequences for the players. So it's, I mean, it's, it's DOJ coin is stupid. However, all of these Alco and tokens mm-hmm <affirmative> are having real world financial repercussions.

Leo Laporte (00:43:12):
The new mayor of New York city is taking his first three pages in Bitcoin. Oh

Amy Webb (00:43:16):
My God, can we, let's not talk about, you know,

Fr. Robert Ballecer SJ (00:43:18):
At least, at least once a month, at least once a month, I get an email, a phone call or a visit from someone on the other side of the wall who has been pitched something, a new company has come to them and said, well, we want to create a V coin or Francis coin.

Leo Laporte (00:43:31):
Oh my God.

Fr. Robert Ballecer SJ (00:43:34):
Have to explain it to well, because look, if, if they can get the Catholic church to say, this is our coin, it automatically has a pump and dump potential. That is beyond anything you've ever seen. Huge. Yeah. And that's what I explained to them. I say, look, yes, it would make a ridiculous amount of money and it would completely destroy your reputation. Don't do that.

Leo Laporte (00:43:54):
And their reputation of the church I might have in 1922, a hundred years ago, banks built giant marble edifices to show that they were financially stable, that you could trust them. You could put your money in their big, old, safe in the basement here in Petaluma that we have three old bank buildings that are vacant or are occupied by antique stores because that doesn't exist anymore. What do, what do financial institutions do today to let us know it's safe? I just, the other day I had to buy I helped my daughter buy renter's insurance, the apartment building, she moved into required it. I went to lemonade, which is an online insurance broker in online. It took me three minutes to sign her up for renter's insurance. It scared me <laugh> I wanted to go to a big bank with lots of forms. Sometimes it's too easy. Right?

Amy Webb (00:44:54):
Well, again, I think it's the, the expectation versus reality. And so a lot of these, I think the Mo the, the most interesting story in decentralization is, has to do with a, a sort of emerging new world disorder. Things are being disordered. Right. And so,

Leo Laporte (00:45:14):
Right. That's the scariest time of all the Chinese curse. May you live in interesting times? Yeah.

Amy Webb (00:45:18):
Yeah. Well, so again, thi this has cognitively, we are challenged by this. And so trust is absolutely paramount, especially in financial services. However these institutions are vulnerable to disruption because they've been refusing to change for so long, good point, right. From banking to insurance, to forgive me father for my sin and saying this to, but religion, you know, like, that's true. You know, this, this is

Leo Laporte (00:45:50):
So I don't know when I go to a church, I like a big steeple, a nice big bell in Oregon. I it's the same thing, by the way. It's ex it's exactly what churches have done for centuries. The bigger the edifice, the more you figure God must be here. Yeah.

Amy Webb (00:46:04):

Fr. Robert Ballecer SJ (00:46:06):
But Leo, realize that I, if I don't move my hand exactly, in a certain way, I will get letters of condemnation saying that I've

Leo Laporte (00:46:13):
Destroyed during the mass. Right. 

Fr. Robert Ballecer SJ (00:46:15):
It's just, that's what happens. Yep. Wow. That's yeah. I mean, you, you, you talk about people who want things a certain way and the, the same way that it has always been, always been. Yeah. My institutions,

Leo Laporte (00:46:26):
A very good example. There's a church in the San Francisco that I used to go to on Christmas Eve because they still did the Latin mass and I happen to like it. And I don't like this vernacular <laugh> what is this? What is this vernacular that everybody uses? I asked when when I started TWI, I told Patrick Norton my old friend from the screensavers that I, I didn't wanna work for the man anymore. And he said, Leo, let me tell you something. There's always a man. That's right. And I said, that was a very valuable lesson. He was absolutely right. Let's take actually, before we, before we, I did wanna talk a little bit more about finance in the, in the realm of income inequality, cuz one of the things COVID has really brought forward. It's a, is a problem in this country.

Leo Laporte (00:47:12):
I think it's somewhat of a problem global a problem of incoming inequality. The fact that the rich are absolutely getting richer and you're starting to see people get nervous about companies like Amazon and apple reaching $3 trillion in market value and, and, and sensing that there's, even though that's been our, you know capitalistic goal, that there's something a little bit obscene about people becoming that wealthy. And of course when people are that wealthy and then there are people as there are in San Francisco who are living on the streets because they can't afford housing, you really start to see that inequality. What, what do, what does future today Institute have to say about that? Is that something you, you think about?

Amy Webb (00:47:56):
We do. So well we look at what we would call 11 sources of macro change and wealth distribution is, is a big one. So anytime we're looking at the future of any science or tech, we're always looking at it through these different lenses and yeah, listen, we're we got a problem. <Laugh>, it's, it's too big of a stretch between the, the highest and the lowest brackets. And it probably didn't help a lot that, that it it's getting worse and it didn't help that Jeff Bezos was I don't know what he was doing over the holidays, but those, those photos, if you haven't seen them that

Leo Laporte (00:48:28):
He was playing Paul <laugh>,

Amy Webb (00:48:31):
He was, he was I dunno if, if any of you have watched succession I'm just spoiling anything, but it feels very much like Bezos in the realm of Kendall right now. Absolutely

Leo Laporte (00:48:44):
Absolutely history.

Amy Webb (00:48:45):
So listen, the, the characteristics that tended to build and drive civiliz over long periods of time tend to kill us. You can, there's lots of examples of this. And in part that's, because there's a, the, the, you know, we've, we create these incentives for, what's working to, to, to sort of preserve that with the promise that everybody will, will benefit at some point. And, you know, it's, it's probably time that we reevaluate whether or not our current systems make sense, because ultimately if you wind up with too big of a gap, you don't just have moral and ethical problems. You're, we're gonna wind up with, with lots of it's. You could illegal it's unsustainable, which means that democracy is UNSU, UNSU, sustainable, right. You know, which means that your future happiness, if you happen to live in the United States is unsustainable. So, and

Fr. Robert Ballecer SJ (00:49:38):
It's accelerating as of as of the start of October, let's see if I can remember this correctly. Those who make over $500,000 a year would be considered in the, in the top 1%. And the one, the top 1% of the United States now own 26, 20 7% of all the assets of the United States, the next 60%. So the middle class owned 26.6%. So the top 1% now own more than the next 60%. Yeah. That is completely completely unsustainable. And if you looked at the chart, it's actually accelerating. So it, it feeds on itself as those those that, that wealth is consolidated. It means that when you go through times of economic depression, like we are right now, the only ones who are able to take advantage of it are the ones who have liquid wealth, tho those who can buy distressed assets. So they're gonna buy more and more and more, and the gap will get more pronounced. Eventually it's societal collapse. I mean, I, if, if all of the wealth is con is concentrated in the top one to 3%, there is nothing left.

Amy Webb (00:50:40):
Yeah. And if you look again, like if you extrapolate that out in what other circumstance would we be okay with that concentration? Like, if you're managing your own financial portfolio, you're not gonna head, like, you're not gonna just put everything into two stocks. There's like the math doesn't work out on that. If you're, if

Leo Laporte (00:50:54):
You're, although if I could buy stock in Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, I might <laugh>.

Amy Webb (00:50:58):
Yeah. Do you hear what Elon Musk did in, at CVS Padre? Were you in the tunnel by any chance?

Leo Laporte (00:51:03):
Oh my God.

Fr. Robert Ballecer SJ (00:51:05):
I actively avoided

Leo Laporte (00:51:06):
The tunnel. So boring company board, a tunnel under Las Vegas, they put 90 Teslas down there and apparently there was a massive traffic jam.

Amy Webb (00:51:15):
<Laugh> the tunnel wasn't even big enough for people. I don't, I'm not sure how permits got pulled, cuz you couldn't even there wasn't enough. Egres like if, if somebody had to get out yeah. I

Leo Laporte (00:51:24):
Recognized that they try to make point. It would've been a nightmare. Right? yeah, there, there somebody put a video up. I can't remember who of them. Let me see if this is the this is Milo's tweet. You can, while you're doing that, see what it's like, this is just, this is alternative features. This is just scare the hell out of you. Oh God. <Laugh>, there's no exits. There's no there's no second tunnel that you could escape to. If anything goes wrong you are under Las Vegas in a in a Tesla

Amy Webb (00:52:00):
And there was a big pile up, right. There was like some kind of

Leo Laporte (00:52:02):
Crazy, well, it was, it was just a traffic jam. It wasn't a, there were no accidents. <Laugh> it's sounds, I mean, I've

Fr. Robert Ballecer SJ (00:52:09):
Driven through a tunnel before I, that was not really a big draw

Leo Laporte (00:52:12):
For me. No, sorry. Yeah. But

Amy Webb (00:52:15):
It, it does beg the question. Why do we make fun of people make fun of the hyper leap loop. They make fun of boring company. Why? Because it just challenges an existing mental model that we're all really comfortable with. Just like, Hey, what happens in? If we distributed wealth slightly differently, I've been working on a, a digital dividend project that actually relies on web three tech. It's just a different model, but, but people are very uncomfortable having to break their mental models to imagine and alternative or many alternative futures. And we would be in such a better place if we were willing to explore something that is slightly outside of what we're used to. I mean, as you know, humanity.

Leo Laporte (00:52:57):
Yeah. I do, I do wonder if we're, we're, we're buying into a vision that we don't necessarily share because it, it looks so I don't know sexy.

Amy Webb (00:53:13):
You mean the tunnel or the

Leo Laporte (00:53:14):
Hyperloop or? No, I'm talking about Jeff Bezos's yacht actually. Here's the <laugh> here's the picture? Jeff Bezos says pit bull in the middle of the ocean, the, the heart,

Amy Webb (00:53:25):
The heart, the mirrored heart sunglasses, or what really? Over the like made it over the top. I, I appreciate that. Somehow he got super buff and maybe he's using synthetic biology. I don't know. <Laugh> so like the pants, the shirt, he

Leo Laporte (00:53:38):
Actually actually has a trainer who lives with him. That's that's how he looks so good. I mean, these

Fr. Robert Ballecer SJ (00:53:44):
People realize that we're getting very close to the, let them eat cake

Leo Laporte (00:53:47):
Part. We are there. I would submit. Yes, this is very much Marie Anntoinette celebrating 20, 22 <laugh>

Amy Webb (00:53:58):
Yeah. Oh wait, wait, wait. Okay. So Leo, wait a minute. Wait a minute. This is super important. Can you zoom in on her hand?

Leo Laporte (00:54:04):
There's some photo, a shot going on here. Isn't there there's

Amy Webb (00:54:06):
Two things. There's Photoshop. And for Eagle eye people who are used to looking at a lot of celebrity photos, like I am that woman's wearing a ring. She's got a ring on that finger.

Leo Laporte (00:54:14):
That's where left. Oh, you think they're engaged now?

Amy Webb (00:54:17):
I don't know, but she's got weird. Weird, tiny baby fingers on top of a giant hair <laugh> with a

Leo Laporte (00:54:25):
Ring, there is some Photoshop activity of, of some kind there, there, in fact, it looks like there's too many hands on her butt. So I know

Fr. Robert Ballecer SJ (00:54:33):
There's, that's not that's uncanny valley here. I don't know. That

Amy Webb (00:54:36):
Is Gatica. That is the piano player in Gatica is what that is. 

Leo Laporte (00:54:41):
Yeah. Okay. Baby hands. There's definitely you're right now. I'm really perturbed plus, but you can't UN that Cisco ball is in the pool. I know it doesn't belong in the pool. There's something going on here. All right. Let's take a little break. We were talking about the dystopian future. We didn't even get to the issue the environmental issues of of crypto and defi. Although I've seen charts that say, well, you should see the environmental cost of the traditional banking system as well. I don't, I well get to the environment. It's not even close. It's not even next. It's not even close. We'll get to the environment next. And, and a lot more deep fakes, artificial neurons, AI manufacturing, bioprinted food. This is Amy's list. <Laugh> there's also really good news. There's the James web telescope. What a miracle of a technology.

Leo Laporte (00:55:39):
I mean, that's kind of mind boggling and that in a way, in a sense really is, is the amazing disconnect about living in the future. We are living in an amazing future in so many ways and a dystopian future in so many other ways. And it's, it's a little, it's difficult to say the least let's take a little bit of a break. You know what I like about the future Linux? That's what I like about the future. And if you wanna run a server, don't run self don't. That's what Moxie said. Nobody wants to run their own server. You need Lin node, whether you're developing a personal project, managing larger workloads, you deserve simple, affordable, accessible cloud computing solutions, and they are on point. They're amazing with Linux, you can build applications using a simple cloud manager, the API, you can even do command line.

Leo Laporte (00:56:31):
If you're totally tough, totally. A boss quickly scale up or down with standard VMs, dedicated CPUs and enterprise grade GPU li nodes come along way, baby. I started using line node years ago when they first started, still love it. Still have my line node account. You'll get a support experience way above the rest. People choose line node, by the way, I'm saying it. And I L I N O D E. You know what I'm talking about? Right? L I N O D E. They love it because of course the a customer support experience is great by geeks four geeks, Linode's independence and mission. Drive them to a different standard where the customers, the driving force behind everything they do, you're gonna love the pricing pay as you go. It's predictable. It's transparent. There's never any surprises. I think they pioneered this actually the, the predictable for flat pricing model for cloud computing.

Leo Laporte (00:57:26):
And, and you go, and you look at some of these other guys and you don't know what you're gonna be paying because there's so many different tiers and not at li no more anxiety over hidden costs. They make it as simple as it can be to launch and scale in the cloud with li you'll get flat pricing across every global data center. Yeah, by the way, you know they are fully global. They are fully, you know, state of the art. I just, I just, I am so thrilled with how well Lynn has done. They've got a great intuitive cloud manager. They've got the best API and the business documentation is incredible. All you, you have to do. If you wanna know how to do something in Lineo just Google. How do you do that in Lineo and there's pages and pages of it, and there's YouTube videos.

Leo Laporte (00:58:12):
And of course, there's always that award-winning support to back it up. Lineo makes it easy to manage your applications in the cloud. And their infrastructure has just gone full bore. They are reliable enterprise grade infrastructure, 11 data centers worldwide. They've got all the peering relationships you'd expect. They've been around forever. Their next generation network Lineo delivers the most modern infrastructure and performance you need. And you can innovate at scale and at the price you'll love whatever you want to do. Host a website, build an app door, backup media launch, and enricher developer applications, your hosted services, your websites, AI machine learning, gaming services. You need a custom CIC C D environment, put it on line out, launch and scale in the cloud with their virtual machines, you could choose shared and dedicated compute instances. And, and we're gonna even give you a hundred dollars credit you could use on S3 compatible object storage, or manage Kubernetes or more G two crowd in 2021 rated Lineo the easiest to use cloud developers love ode.

Leo Laporte (00:59:19):
They choose it because they can make managing complex cloud infrastructure, easy with simple bundled pricing, a full featured API and a hundred percent human support li node pioneered cloud computing back in 2003. That's when I first signed up with them. That was three years before AWS, but I gotta point out. They're not the old guys. They have really kept up. They are state of the art develop, deploy, and scale, your modern applications faster and easier. They're the best. And we're gonna get, you started with a hundred dollars credit when you go to L I N O D no gotchas, no surprises. They're the best highly recommended. Really glad to have him on the show. Amy, you made a great list of the future. What else should we talk about in this new world disorder?

Amy Webb (01:00:16):
<Laugh> well, you, you talked about space and I think space

Leo Laporte (01:00:20):
Is excited. Let's do a, let's do a good thing. Yeah. Let's do something we could be positive about.

Amy Webb (01:00:25):
Right? So space web, the, the, the no relation James web telescope. Yes. so

Leo Laporte (01:00:32):
Yesterday he's not uncle James to you. <Laugh> not uncle James uncle Jimmy's telescope. No,

Amy Webb (01:00:38):
No. I actually remember seeing a replica of it at, at south, by probably 10 years ago or

Leo Laporte (01:00:45):
Something they've been working on this. John showed me a picture 25 years. Yeah. He, well, that was 20 years ago, John, that picture of them recruiting at Cal state LA big sign, come join us. So we, you know, NASA join NASA. You can help us build the James web space telescope. So this is 25 years. They've been working on this

Amy Webb (01:01:08):
It's 25 years. They were part of the problem was they were kind of inventing the technology as they were going. I, I, it is difficult to underscore why this is such a big deal. And you know, today cosmology, I, I took two cosmology classes in college and I got so overwhelmed. I actually had a panic attack. It was one of the first panic attacks I had. I didn't know what was happening yet. Face is big.

Leo Laporte (01:01:32):
It's really,

Amy Webb (01:01:33):
I passed out. Yep. And, and I had an amazing professor who I, I loved, but he was going through all the math and it realizing how, how big the known universe was and where our place was in it. I got so overwhelmed that I, I completely blacked out. Ugh. And it turns out I was not the first person to pass out in

Leo Laporte (01:01:53):
One of his, how interesting. Wow.

Amy Webb (01:01:55):
But so cosmologists think that the universe is about 18 13.8 billion years old, and what the James web telescope is gonna help us understand is what happened. I think what happened about a hundred million years, basically after the big bang. Yeah. Just just

Leo Laporte (01:02:14):
A couple hundred million years afterwards. So I mean all these questions, but where did light come from?

Amy Webb (01:02:19):
Where did energy come from? My husband is obsessed. My husband, Brian is obsessed with this. And every night he checks that he's like obsessively checking. There's a great website that they made. So you can track exactly is

Leo Laporte (01:02:32):
Happening. This is where is web. Yeah.

Amy Webb (01:02:34):
Yeah. Yeah. That's a great website. Every night. He like gives me a download before we're like, we're laying in bed and we're falling asleep. And I start getting all like sick to my stomach. Funny thinking about the possibilities

Leo Laporte (01:02:46):
<Laugh> okay. We are now the wrong reaction. We are now 75% to LaGrange two. We have, but so the good news is fully deployed. There are still, I think 47 Haven checkpoint left, but hundreds of ABO completed without error, which is really was the real concern. I mean, this, this deployment was incredibly complex. It was very complic, incredibly complex, but they've got the sun shield open fully and fully tension. They've got the mirror open.

Amy Webb (01:03:17):
So one of the cool tech parts of this technology, if you, again, it'll tell you what temperature it is on different sides. So on the side that's facing the sun. It's like, it's like very, very, very hot. Yeah. It shows it right there. It's 131 degrees. And on the side that's shielded. It's like, it's like Calvin, like two <laugh>. It's like, it's, it's like super, super cold. And so the physics of getting those two temperature states to exist on the same device at the same time, without it cracking, I mean, it it's completely mind blowing the technology that went into building this thing. Yeah. It bends my mind. I can't think about it. I don't even wanna talk about it. I mean,

Leo Laporte (01:03:53):
I wanna talk and, and what I think is also mind bending is the information we're gonna gain, not just looking back into the distant path of the galaxy of the universe, but also looking for exoplanets. You know, it was only about two 20 years ago that we finally proved that there were planets outside of our solar system. Now we're able to look for Rocky planets, a planet you could stand on that might have air mm-hmm <affirmative> this is mine. And that's why,

Fr. Robert Ballecer SJ (01:04:21):
That's why the, the near and mid infrared instruments are so important on the James web, because the really, really old objects that are moving away at incredible speeds, they're all red shifted to an incredible degree. You cannot see them. This thing is what a hundred times more sensitive than any instrument that we could we've ever had in that range, which means that you can, you can detect raw planets. You can detect dust rings. Wow. You can detect things that, you know, we don't even know what's gonna be there yet. That's the part for me, that's so exciting. Yes. Hubble was able to, to catalog an amazing amount of, of of objects in the cosmos. What Webb can give us is Webb can give us a, an understanding of what actually can exist in the cosmos. Which, I mean, a again, I'm, I'm with Amy on this, it really boggles the mind when you start to think of, of the types of knowledge that this can open to humankind.

Leo Laporte (01:05:16):
I love it. That your cosmology class made

Amy Webb (01:05:18):
You faint. <Laugh> I did.

Leo Laporte (01:05:21):
I just love that.

Amy Webb (01:05:22):
That's awesome. There's a, there's another small P I had a huge crush on my professor, too. Uhhuh.

Leo Laporte (01:05:27):
Okay. And so your blood pressure was already elevated.

Amy Webb (01:05:31):
It was. And I was like, I was like super humiliated that I, I mean, I'm blacked out, Dred fell off of my hold on.

Leo Laporte (01:05:38):
Are you kidding? He loved it. Are you kidding? That is such an affirmation of his life choices. <Laugh>

Amy Webb (01:05:44):
I would, I, I did talk to him afterwards and I was like, he was like, listen, if cosmology is like something you were thinking about, I, you, I don't think it's gonna be for you. It's

Leo Laporte (01:05:52):
Like, if you faint, when you see blood, you don't want to be a surgeon. If you faint, when you see the Asness of the cosmos, you probably don't wanna be a Cosmo.

Amy Webb (01:06:00):
I, I will tell you it <laugh>, this is part of the reason why I love the expanse so much. So the, the, the book series thank you. And also the show is thank you. Is, so the physics are right. Like, the science is very good, but there's something profound about, you know, where, where we are and, and what are places. And I know people are making fun of Bezos for his phallic shaped, ridiculously looking like

Leo Laporte (01:06:27):
Ridiculous. Well, that's really, I mean, honestly, the race, you know, from the B from the, the billionaires to get to you know, right.

Amy Webb (01:06:33):
So I, I get that. I totally get it. I, I know that there's like a billionaire cowboy race right now, and it's like, it's like that most hyper masculine thing that can happen. Right? Disgusting. I'm gonna send, I'm gonna send my giant penis shaped thing up into space faster than your giant penis shaped thing. But here's why I think all of this matters. I, I am privileged. We are privileged to be that at the origin of human next story. I mean, 500 years from now, people are gonna look back at this moment in time as the, as the time that this started six months from now, as my husband says, you know, our reality is going to be different because the, the James web, that, that, that telescope is gonna start sending back data that is going to literally change our understanding of reality.

Amy Webb (01:07:20):
As we start spending, you know, there, there are multiple projects going up to space. The ISS only has whatever, a couple years of funding left on it. So there's gonna have to be either more funding or something else in geopolitically. I think more funding is gonna be rough going forward. So Amazon among many other or not Amazon blue origin among other companies are building private space stations. And we are making it easier to get back and forth. I mean, this is if you've watched the expanse, we are, this is the beginning, it's us, we're the ones alive today. And, and if you, you know, to wrap your head around that you know, it's so completely profound. I think it makes me again, I feel the sense of great sense of awe and nausea,

Leo Laporte (01:08:06):
You know, at the can, can I bring you down to earth? So in the Watchman and speaking of comic

Amy Webb (01:08:12):
Books and movies, one of my favorites, favorite

Leo Laporte (01:08:14):
Movie, you consider one of the great works of fiction. I know I do. You've told, you've told me that. And it's why I read it because of you, OS Mandy is in order to bring the world together, because it's about to blow itself up with a nuclear war, fakes, an invasion of an alien octopus on New York city. And it works. The world gets together. I feel like we're though we are at that

Amy Webb (01:08:39):
Critical junction where we are about to destroy our world and about to destroy ourselves. Do you think, I know there's no Ozymandias to launch a, a mechanical octopus at us, but do you think maybe James Webb will give us some perspective, enough perspective to start thinking more? Cuz we can't just say, oh yeah, no, we're gonna go to Mars. It's fine. Let destroy the planet. We can't do that. Yeah. So, and also my thinking on getting to Mars is like, we could just change our biochemistry through synthetic biology and create, oh, you are an

Leo Laporte (01:09:13):
Optimist necessary.

Amy Webb (01:09:15):
So anyway, there's that? Listen, I love, I can hook you up with

Fr. Robert Ballecer SJ (01:09:19):
Part molecule if you'd like, <laugh>,

Amy Webb (01:09:22):
If they don't resolve this proto molecule situation, season six, I might be real off. Okay. And also

Fr. Robert Ballecer SJ (01:09:30):
They're probably not going to because they're gonna

Amy Webb (01:09:32):
Be going cause it's not. Right. Right. I know. I know. Yeah. It would be nice if they just flicked at it. I more than the stupid be I we're gonna spoil it so I I'll stop talking. Right, right. Here's

Leo Laporte (01:09:42):
Actually do like that though, because that is an example of yeah. It's the best at times. It's the worst of times it's. It is what really, what life is. Right.

Amy Webb (01:09:51):
But you were asking about what is it gonna take for us to, to come

Leo Laporte (01:09:57):
Together and

Amy Webb (01:09:57):
Fix to come together? So, you know, I really, I, the reason why I love the Watchman is because I there's a part of me that identifies with Dr. Manhattan. There's also a part of me that identifies with Dr. Strange, which I guess makes sense if you're like in the Marvel universe because of foresight, but Dr. Manhattan is you know, he almost gives up at, at some point, right. Because

Leo Laporte (01:10:16):
Yeah, he does give up, he moves to the moon or something. Yeah.

Amy Webb (01:10:19):
Right. Because, because you, you know, we, we, we, we have multiple times dealt with like we're, we're living through a catastrophic scenario rightnow. COVID is a catastrophic scenario that you would've thought would have.

Leo Laporte (01:10:33):
We should have known better. We should be better prepared.

Amy Webb (01:10:37):
Right. The outcome has not been kumbaya. We're all gonna get together and help each other out. The outcome has been politics and school boards, like we're inventing new ways

Leo Laporte (01:10:46):
To catastrophize ourselves up. Yep. And

Amy Webb (01:10:48):
Screw our right. So I would actually be interested to hear the Padre's thoughts on when we start getting data back from, from the telescope. Do you think gonna shift people's perspectives, you know, does, do they, do you think that they will feel a greater sense of something? Anything I, I would like

Fr. Robert Ballecer SJ (01:11:06):
Them to. I think there's going to be people like yourself and like myself and like Leo, who will invite people to see the beauty in the data that's coming back in the knowledge that we now have of the cosmos that we did not have before. I think there's gonna be some phenomenal changes to our understanding of what we can and cannot reach. There's gonna be some thes about you know, how, how the, how the universe is expanding. That is just going, it's gonna blow our minds. And it could actually make us appreciate more, the little ball of dirt and water that we're living on right now. But unfortunately we have an unresolved scenario in mankind, not just the United States, but on, around the planet, the fundamental distrust of basically everything. And I don't see a way to fix that yet, and it's not gonna be fixed with the James web telescope.

Fr. Robert Ballecer SJ (01:11:58):
It, it, it can inspire, but as many people as are going to be inspired by the data coming back, there are going to be those who think that either it's of no consequence or, and I, I would not have said this five years ago, who are gonna believe that all of this is just fake. I, I used to laugh at that thinking. Yeah, but, but that's real now. I mean, we actually have to live with a large percentage of the population of the planet who will not believe anything that they cannot touch. And for them space is the ultimate thing that you cannot touch. This is no longer not believing in the moon. LA this is not leaving in data that could, if you actually looked at it, change how you believe your place in the cosmos is. And I mean, as, as, as much as an optimist as I am by profession and by nature I am not optimistic about those people changing their minds. Yeah.

Amy Webb (01:12:54):
That's, that's why I get irritated when I listen to people like Chris Dixon or I listen to, you know, basically in every conversation we're talking about decentralization, defi, AI, you know, pick your favorite acronym, CRISPR you know, we, we wind up in these binaries, right? So you've got you toe ops and you got dystopias. And by and large in the, in the 18th and 19th century, all of those proto futurists and sci-fi writers, it was very, everything was about utopian societies. Even eugenics, which is something they wrote quite a bit about was, was all always about utopia is. And then we flipped in the 21st century, 20th century, it was dystopia. So AI equals robot overlords taking our jobs and then murdering us in our sleep, you know environmental collapse. And we've gotta shift away from binaries. And that shift cannot be into disbelief. Right. Which is exactly what you're talking about. It's like, it's a, like we either have utopia or, or dystopia, or the middle ground is misinformation. And, and like, that's an incredibly shortsighted not to mention dangerous viewpoint. And, and I think, again, we're just, we're shutting ourselves off to uncertainty and discovery and we have to make some room for that. It's but, but I think

Leo Laporte (01:14:16):
Theres something, life is, life is gray. Life is not black or white.

Amy Webb (01:14:19):
Yeah. And I think this is some like an American characteristics. I don't see this happening in other countries, especially not in places like Japan, you know, we need to have certainty otherwise, somehow we're threatened. And, and the people that I've always found to be the most generative and humble, but also productive. And the people who matter most in society are those who are, are okay with uncertainty. I agree, you know, and they, I agree, you know what I mean? And they're, they're like willing to investigate and change their, their thinking over time,

Leo Laporte (01:14:50):
I'm gonna bring a up a very sensitive and difficult subject. And Robert, this is in no way an attack on you or your faith. But I do think that ex hyper extreme religiosity in this world, not just this country, but in this world has become an issue. And, and, and that, in fact, that kind of reactionary thinking is problematic, but I'll give you a chance to convince me

Fr. Robert Ballecer SJ (01:15:20):
M I'm glad you brought that up because there is, there is something that we talk about a lot in, in spirituality that I think actually can help the conversation. When you actually have a, a spirituality that is healthy. When you have a spirituality that leads you to be a better person, rather than a more cynical or just mad person, you have a spirituality that opens you up to the potential of being fooled. Now, now let me explain what that means. It doesn't mean, oh, yes, I'm gonna believe energy thing. It means that you are willing to make leaps of faith that may prove to be wrong. And you have to accept that you may be wrong. Aren't we

Leo Laporte (01:16:01):
Taught though that, that, that faith is what makes this all possible. That you have to make a leap of faith.

Fr. Robert Ballecer SJ (01:16:08):
No, see that's, that's the other side, the other side of, of the faith cookie is those who see faith as something that says, I will never be fooled. Ah, you will never pull the wool over my eyes. Therefore I will never have to make a leap of faith because I already know everything. I that's the side of faith that is close mind. So dark and damaging. And unfortunately, that's, that's what Amy was talking about. That's that hyperpartisan of, I'm not gonna believe you because I will never be fooled if you are not willing to make that faith leap, if you're not willing to be fooled some of the time. And to later on admit when you've been fooled, then you will never expand your understanding of the world in which you live. You will always be your nice, cozy little culvert. Yeah.

Amy Webb (01:16:52):
This was my big, big problem with the reboot of the cosmos with Neil Degrass Tyson, but was started by helped me out the family guy creator, Seth, Seth McFarland. Yeah, not Farland right. My, my big problem. Wait a

Leo Laporte (01:17:08):
Minute, Seth McFarland did the reboot.

Amy Webb (01:17:11):
Oh yeah. I didn't know that. Oh yeah. I think he like single handedly funded it really? Oh yeah. Yeah. Wow. And, and my big problem with that was that it wasn't, I mean, and unless, you know, this, this came out at the height of the sort of Trump era when, when there was a lot of disparagement of science the problem was that there was so much, so much overt atheism at almost sort of as its own form of religion, like a religious adherence to atheism that, that, that also closes off the door to curiosity and exploration, but makes no sense. Right. And, and it, it, in some ways diminishes the, the whole point of the point of the, you know, exploring the cosmos is to, to gain a better understanding and, and to expand how we think than shutting, you know, sort of forcing everybody to shut off their, their curiosity to me is just as bad as a hype for religious person. You know, telling everybody that they're wrong, if they're not true believers. Yeah. None of that makes any sense. It's never made any sense. Well,

Leo Laporte (01:18:17):
Dogmatism of any kind is a dead end. Yeah. Yeah. Let's, let's say that. Although I'll stand up for atheism, <laugh>, it's an atheist, but

Amy Webb (01:18:28):
Listen, I'm a, I mean, I think people who have been listening to the show for a long time, I'm, you know, I'm Jewish, right. I was raised Jewish. I it's there's a horrible thing I could say about how other people would qualify me as being Jewish. I mean, I'm not gonna do that cuz that's very not PC. But I, I don't, I've never really felt a belief, but it doesn't mean that I'm closed off to be, be exploring. Yeah. You know what I mean? Yeah. and I don't, I don't know, but like how, how it's the certainty that bothers me, the certainty that it's it's you either are a true believer or you are a true denier. And I feel like, especially cuz what I do for a living, we should always be leaning into alternative possibility. Yeah. Well

Leo Laporte (01:19:11):
I I'll accept fully that. I don't know. You know, that's, that's kind of absolute, I mean the more, you know, the more you realize the less, you know, but at the same time I do feel like religious faith has started to become a problem in this world. And I, I think actually the way you describe, and I don't mean merely Christian faith religious extremism of all kinds is a problem it's

Amy Webb (01:19:38):
But religious extremism is a problem in Judaism.

Leo Laporte (01:19:41):
I mean, there's a, that's why I'm saying it's not Orthodox.

Amy Webb (01:19:44):
It's not, that are not. Yeah, no. I mean there's super Orthodox soup, ultra ultra Orthodox Jews that don't believe in vaccinations and have been attending like thousand person funerals. I mean like how irresponsible could you be? You know, so it's, it's a problem. It's a problem because when you don't leave, when, when you adhere to certainty and you leave no room for uncertainty, then you are going to have problems because what would it take for you to your certainty to be absolute? You would literally have to be Dr. Manhattan. You would have to have UN and you would have to be a super computer. You'd have to have complete comprehensive knowledge of all data all the time as they are unfolding in real time. And you would have to have a superhuman capabil of computing, all of those data all of the time in order to be certain, you know, we, we, the humble thing to do is to recognize that we ourselves can never have access to all data all of the time. And there's no way to compute all of those data anyways, because things are continuously changing, right? Math is the logic of certainty. Statistics is the logic of UNC. And if, and if you think about life in terms of statistical probabilities, rather than mathematical absolutes, you, you get through life a lot easier. Yeah.

Leo Laporte (01:20:55):
I think humility is a good word. I think in this let's take a little break. You guys are so good and we didn't even get to CES. Can we do one segment on C to Robert? <Laugh> sure that

Fr. Robert Ballecer SJ (01:21:09):
Sounds fun. You know, we can cover like the, the two or three things that were actually fun from CES.

Leo Laporte (01:21:13):
Yeah. but I still want, I still, I love these deep conversations and I think the future is a great topic, so we'll get more and we have two excellent people to do this father, Robert Ballas there, the digital Jesuit who is on leave from the Vatican, gets to be you with us a little bit. I think it's interesting. Cuz the, I think the Jesuits are the Le or in many ways, the least dogmatic of the CA members of the Catholic church

Fr. Robert Ballecer SJ (01:21:38):
We've got a range. We've got some dogmatic Jesuits. Yeah. But, but yeah. You know, our history is to question. Yeah. That's

Leo Laporte (01:21:46):
Kind of what we do. And as far as I know, they're the order is unique in that it embraces evolution. Yes.

Fr. Robert Ballecer SJ (01:21:54):
Oh that actually the church does, the church does now the church does the Catholic church does. Wow. Yeah. But most people don't realize

Leo Laporte (01:22:01):
That. No, I did not know that <laugh> and the earth is round as it turns out. So, you know,

Fr. Robert Ballecer SJ (01:22:06):
It's it's round and it goes around the sun.

Leo Laporte (01:22:09):
Wow. Wow. Yeah. There have been people burned at the stake over less. All right. Also with this Amy Webb whose eyes are cast into the future, but is firmly grounded right here with us. And I'm so glad to have her. And by the way yes, a professor uhm, was very, very cute. It was a cute, my

Amy Webb (01:22:30):
He's. He, he was like, he's kinda like my type I'm into like older baldness. Always been my bang. I dunno why. Sure. I've

Leo Laporte (01:22:36):
Got deeply. I did briefly shave my head, but I'll never be bald. I'll tell you that right now. Yeah. He's, it's great to have you both our show today brought to you speaking of money by wealth front. Now we talk, we've been talking. It's interesting. We talked earlier about how once you've get your, you know, your, your your financial security settled. It's time to start looking to inter more interesting investments, but I want you, I really want you to focus on building your wealth a in a sane way first. And that's where wealth front is so great. It's not day trading. It's not watching the stock market day in day and out. It's not buying game stopper. AMC cuz somebody on Reddit told you is the right thing to do there. I see a lot of ads these days for investment apps that make, oh, it's easy to start trading.

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Leo Laporte (01:25:20):
We thank Wealthfront for supporting this week in tech and thank you for supporting us by using that address by the way, CES determined, determined not to shut down one more time. But only what did you say, father Robert, a quarter of the normal people, about 40,000 instead of the usual 170,000 mm-hmm <affirmative> showed up because year of COVID a lot of companies some of the biggest companies said, yeah, we're not gonna go. There were still plenty of keynotes. Some of them done by zoom. There was, there was stuff to see were, were all the halls full of exhibitors.

Fr. Robert Ballecer SJ (01:26:03):
They were not, they were most definitely not. My favorite is the central hall. So the, if, if you're not familiar with CES, the central hall is where all the big players go. That's your Sony, that's your Microsoft. That's all the

Leo Laporte (01:26:14):

Fr. Robert Ballecer SJ (01:26:15):
Are exactly all the, all the Blinky shiny ones. I think the best representation of CES 2022 was where the LG booth should have been. It is a premium spot. As you walk into the hall, you have to pass by LG. Yes. They had

Leo Laporte (01:26:29):
That video waterfall last year or two

Fr. Robert Ballecer SJ (01:26:32):
Years ago. Right, right. And the tunnel, they always do something. The tunnel, they had nothing, nothing. It was literally the space was empty. It had some signage and it had QR codes. So you could go there, scan it and it would show you what would be there. Oh my gosh.

Leo Laporte (01:26:46):

Amy Webb (01:26:46):
They make, were these decisions like last minute? And so they didn't have a way to reconfigure the space

Fr. Robert Ballecer SJ (01:26:51):
Or what happened? Absolutely. Yeah. So what they, CES put out a press release. They said, look, we've lost 40 or 50 vendors, but we brought on 200, well the 200, they were basically saying we will give you a booth, just come, just come and do something. We'll give you a booth. There were a lot of booths that actually still had like the, the opening desk and the starter paper there, the entire show. So they gave it to someone and they didn't show up. That happened quite a bit. Now that's not to say that it was, it was a ghost town. I actually had some of the best conversations at, at this CES and I've ever at, because there wasn't that constant crush of people there wasn't that need to move huge amounts of people through your booth. So I had some great technical discussions with the people at BMW and with some of the people from the greater UK UK technical group down in the startup pavilion, it, it was, it was actually nice. I don't think we're ever gonna have a CES like this again. So I'm kind of glad I went. Yeah.

Leo Laporte (01:27:47):
And, and one, the one reason to go to CES especially is for TVs to look at things that you wouldn't otherwise be able to, to understand in a press release, you can get all the tech specs and so forth. But for instance, this LG O led throne. You never, if you don't get to sit in it <laugh>, you probably don't appreciate the, did you get to sit in it?

Fr. Robert Ballecer SJ (01:28:11):
No, no, I actually there's. There were two things that I think were the standout visual wise. Yeah. The standouts of CES, one of them was outside. It was BMW. BMW had their, the colors

Leo Laporte (01:28:23):
Changing vehicle.

Fr. Robert Ballecer SJ (01:28:24):
Yeah. It was a ebook. Interesting. It was fun. I, I love Gonzo technology. I sat there and I took five minutes of footage because it is so compelling. Very impractical. But then again, that's one of the things that I enjoy about CES. I want impractical tech. I want, I remember seeing demonstrations of the self-driving con 15 years ago. Yeah. you know, this is the sort of stuff that it doesn't look practical right now, but you will find a practical way to put

Leo Laporte (01:28:53):
It. This is kind of what bothers me about CES is there's a lot of nonstarters. There's a lot of, you know kind of sci-fi that it isn't get it. Yeah.

Amy Webb (01:29:05):
But that's what I mean, the, the that's what the world's fair used to be or the, the great,

Leo Laporte (01:29:10):
The, so maybe I should think of it as a world's fair and not a trade show.

Amy Webb (01:29:14):
Well, no, not anymore. I mean, I, the last time I went to CES, I I've been a couple times in the past 15 years, but in the early days it was what mattered was the meetings in the rooms. Yeah. They still had booth BAS. So

Fr. Robert Ballecer SJ (01:29:25):
Yeah, there've been some improve. CS has changed. It's gone through several different rates. So when it started, it was just a place for retailers to find out what they were gonna stock for the holiday season. That was it. Yeah. That, that was the whole reason for the, the conference to exist. Then it became, well, let's show you some of the crazy stuff. We're gonna show you a prototype for a flying car. We're gonna show you the prototype for a nuclear powered washing machine. Completely impractical would never, ever make it out there, but it was, it was nice for a young geek to say, wow, I wonder if I could actually make that. Could I make that in a practical way? Then the iPhone came and I, I, I will say for three years there, CES became iPhone accessories. Yeah. Yeah. And I just, it was the worst, the worst years ever. And now it's kind of a mix. Yes. You've got a lot of those meetings where people are deciding what they're gonna stock, but you're also getting a little bit more of the, Hey, we push the tech to where we think it, it could be in 10 years, we have no plans to manufacture this in the near future. But do you like it? And, and I kind of like that mix. Yeah.

Leo Laporte (01:30:30):
So tell us some of the things you besides the color shifting car. All right. They're not gonna make that as a real product, are they?

Fr. Robert Ballecer SJ (01:30:37):
No. I mean, they're probably going to include little bits and pieces. You can have it on the entire car. Yeah. An entire car. No, it's, it would be too expensive and too easy to break. There was something down in the startup pavilion. It was from the greater UK tech Corp foundation. Basically they did a pavilion for the UK and the spokesperson for this group was this robot that they had created that was using machine learning to answer people. Now, it sounds cheesy. And when I first heard about it, it

Leo Laporte (01:31:09):
Sounds so cheesy. It sounds like exact it's

Fr. Robert Ballecer SJ (01:31:11):
So cheesy. <Laugh>

Leo Laporte (01:31:12):
Exactly the stuff that I hated when

Fr. Robert Ballecer SJ (01:31:15):
I was filming it. I was like, yeah. Okay. So this is basically this is an Alexa with a robot face. Yeah. But then, then I went behind the robot and I filmed it and I saw people interacting with the robot and I realized, oh my God, there's something actually here. People were enjoying having a con actual conversations with something that was not alive. And so it was a robot. What did it look like? There was an actual robot with a, and it was very west.

Leo Laporte (01:31:42):
I have a picture right here. So Westworld page. Okay. Right.

Fr. Robert Ballecer SJ (01:31:45):
It's so, but it, it, it actually engaged people. People were, were actually enthusiastic about talking to the robot, asking it questions, seeing what kind of responses it would come back with that that was probably the most successful demo at CES. I think it was way beyond what they thought they were gonna get. <Laugh>

Amy Webb (01:32:02):
I think the problem with that for me is that in 1938 the Westing electric corporation and Motoman, that'd be fair. Motoman was, was not an AI. It had a, it was using telephone relays, but it, it did it smoked, it even smoked. Right. But it, so, so it's been, you know, a really, really long time. This is we've got,

Leo Laporte (01:32:24):
And it's not really, I mean, this isn't gonna be doing my dishes anytime soon. Right. I mean, this is right. Yeah. This is more of a,

Fr. Robert Ballecer SJ (01:32:32):
But that's why it's also not uncanny valley. Yeah. Because they didn't try to make it humid. It's obviously synthetic, but they were, were able to sort of, they were, it does make you think

Leo Laporte (01:32:41):
About what is human and what is it that, you know, we look at this and it, and you really very quickly anthropomorphize it and say, oh yeah, I see feelings. And it, well, it is

Amy Webb (01:32:51):
Anthropomorphic. We don't have to anthropomorphize it. It is, looks like a,

Leo Laporte (01:32:55):
They're doing it on purpose. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Amy Webb (01:32:58):
But I think it's worth no, that, you know, almost what, 80 years ago, a similar robot existed at a similar conference. Yeah,

Fr. Robert Ballecer SJ (01:33:06):
Yeah. Yeah. But now if you want, if you want, what was actually useful from CES by, and not, not even a question, it was all the biotech and Abbot Abbot was the standout 100%. So they're the ones who make the, the rats, the rapid antigen tests. And they were heading those things up. Oh,

Leo Laporte (01:33:27):
Thank God. They don't make rats. Okay. <Laugh>

Fr. Robert Ballecer SJ (01:33:30):
But, but their other tech, they, they, they created a device that can, it looks for markers in the blood that are released when there is a concussive brain injury. And now they did a handheld device that you put a drop of blood into a cartridge and it can detect if a person has had a concuss of brain injury

Leo Laporte (01:33:47):
That before

Fr. Robert Ballecer SJ (01:33:49):
Uhhuh. Well, I, I know, I know. And that's what I said. I said, you understand there's shades of Theranose here. They said, yeah, but this is actually a FDA approved. Okay. Works. This actually works. Okay. They also have a deep brain stimulation device. It's worn like a pacemaker and anyone who's suffering from Parkinson's can now have relief. They've also made a patch that does real time monitoring of everything from glucose levels to blood chemistry, keto,

Leo Laporte (01:34:12):
That's doing ketosis. Yeah,

Fr. Robert Ballecer SJ (01:34:15):
Exactly. So, I mean, this, this is actually technology that I was like, if you gave it, this gave this to me, I would actually use it. I, I would find this is not future tech. Clearly

Leo Laporte (01:34:25):
Seen this as one of the apple looks like they're going, they're looking really hard at AR at cars, in a health. And they've already got a product that is, you know, kind of their entree into the health world, which is the apple watch. And it's very clear their are looking to this as one of the next big ways for them to make money a bit multi-billion dollar industry. Of course, number one would be blood sugar, non-invasive blood sugar measurements. There's 14 million diabetics in the United States who would all immediately buy an apple watch if it could give them their blood sugar without a prick. So Amy, let's talk about that health. Is that the next big thing?

Amy Webb (01:35:10):
Yeah. Well, there's a couple of drivers for, for why health tech is accelerating. One is a big component with AI. So AI for predictive analytics and you

Leo Laporte (01:35:23):
Kind of need AI to make this work, cuz the signals are so weak. You need something that can be trained so that it will recognize those signals. Right?

Amy Webb (01:35:31):
So that's happening. The other thing that's happening is the quantified self movement that I, you know, was sort of coming and going and fits and starts. And the people, people like

Leo Laporte (01:35:41):
That though, every athlete I know, wears a Fitbit or a, they do

Amy Webb (01:35:44):
Now. Yeah, they do now. But I think if you were to go back 15 years at CES, when quantified itself was kind of a, everybody was talking about it, it, it never happened, but the technology and the price points of, you know, sort of align. So you've got younger people interested in optimizing everything from sleep to, you know, endurance and everything else. And then you've got an aging population that is affluent enough and tech literate enough to, to want to invest in devices. Yeah. We

Leo Laporte (01:36:14):
Knew the boomers would kind of move the needle as we have our entire law. We're a giant market and now we're aging.

Amy Webb (01:36:21):
Yeah. And you've got COVID, which has shifted everybody into thinking more about health and diagnostics. So yes, it's kind of a perfect storm. Last year, I think it was, or two years ago at CES, the smart toilet launched, which was research that Stanford started in whatever 2010. I mean, it's like putting a bunch, putting a bunch answers in the one place that you really analytics

Leo Laporte (01:36:41):
Are as disgusting as that sounds clearly could be a very big health benefit. Right.

Fr. Robert Ballecer SJ (01:36:49):
Everybody at the university of North Carolina, they, they, they used it for dorm so they could detect when they, where there was COVID 19. Well,

Leo Laporte (01:36:56):
Yeah, in fact, we know they're an analyzing sewage and effluent to, to find COVID viruses in populations. And it's been a very good indicator

Amy Webb (01:37:08):
And there's startups that are, there's a, there's a company in England that will that for a while before we were constantly getting our noses swabbed. This was a voluntary spit into a tube at a grocery store where you could get your DNA tested and then they would give you a, a wristband that would glow different colors and, and help you shop. Basically, it was like DNA based. That is weird. So that is weird and it's not a one off. So I, my point is like, well,

Leo Laporte (01:37:33):
I know a lot of people who have done these tests that say, this is how you should eat. 23 and me was even offering that kind of right. Genetic to is what you should be eating. I don't know if it's snake oil or real. It's

Amy Webb (01:37:45):
Right. It's if you talk to any geneticist, they'll, they'll tell you, this is a little bit like a horoscope. Yeah. You know, you can use it for entertainment purposes, but like don't base your horoscope, any perfect decisions, you know? Yes. Yeah.

Fr. Robert Ballecer SJ (01:37:57):
There was an episode of Farscape where they used a sort of a DNA test to determine who you would be compatible with in relationships. Yeah.

Amy Webb (01:38:06):
There's actually a DNA.

Fr. Robert Ballecer SJ (01:38:07):
Maybe you get a globe to that.

Leo Laporte (01:38:09):
We, by the way, we already have that system it's in the nose and it's very, there's a lot of you're laughing, but there's a lot of evidence that genetically your best match. Battery's exhausted by the way, your battery's exhausted father. Right. I, I have exhausted my battery.

Fr. Robert Ballecer SJ (01:38:28):

Leo Laporte (01:38:29):
Wasn't your battery to bed. <Laugh>, that's, A's a lot evidence. There's a lot of evidence that we are that your, your genetic best genetic match is somebody who smells good to you, that your nose is already doing that. And it wouldn't be surprising if it makes sense from an evolutionary point of view.

Amy Webb (01:38:49):
Right. I mean, I think the thing is, is how do you monetize all that? And so part of

Leo Laporte (01:38:53):
The reason isn't that ashamed that that's always the,

Amy Webb (01:38:57):
Well, again, look at, you know, where do you grow apple? Apple's making phones and computers. And there's a lot of our, you know, a lot of our models show that, that, you know, the phone is gonna be dead in a couple of years. I know it's hard to wrap your head around just

Leo Laporte (01:39:10):
Like father Robert it's exhausted. Yeah. I am complet exhausted. So

Amy Webb (01:39:19):
Health is so big and so broken that I think companies are, are VI like seeing a viable opportunity to disrupt in the, in the sort of Clayton Christen innovators dilemma.

Leo Laporte (01:39:30):
Right. That I think part of the problem, this part of the problem in this country is we don't do it unless you can make money at it. It's one of the reasons we have very expensive pharmaceuticals in place of simple solutions that no one can patent that we don't, we do high tech medicine, but we don't do low tech medicine. And I think there's a lot of evidence that outcomes could be better if there were, you know, there were perhaps, you know, better relationships between doctors and patients instead of better machinery between them in a, in a way doesn't, doesn't that desire to make it profitable, mislead us somewhat.

Amy Webb (01:40:10):
Right. So this, as far as I'm concerned is the tragedy of, of the, the free market. Yes. the free market left, you know, the free market is like algorithmic determinism, right? If, if left to its own devices, it will continue to soldier on perfect analogy. That's perfect. Whether that that's good for everybody. Yeah. So there is a balance, but again, it forces a different mental model. And at the moment you're either libertarian or you're Republican, or you're a, you know, a strict interpretist, everybody needs a label. If we could dispense with the labels and get on with the business of creating better equity for everybody, I think we'd be in a better spot. Yeah.

Leo Laporte (01:40:45):
And I understand you need capital to do some of these more expensive things. Right? So

Amy Webb (01:40:50):
The, the ado to that is Dr. Is like, just like throwing a ton of money at basic research, we see other governments doing this. We see China's

Leo Laporte (01:40:59):
Who needs to do it. Government is in not motivated by profit government is in theory, motivated by societal outcome.

Amy Webb (01:41:06):
Right. And I would argue that that is a very, and I'm, I'm in a very high, you know, I'm in a very privileged pace place, which I'm, but I'm not wealthy enough to not pay taxes. So I'm just in that bracket. That's paying time.

Leo Laporte (01:41:17):
Isn't that the worst you, you make a lot of money, but you're not wealthy enough not to pay. I'm not wealthy enough. Yeah. It's just the, yeah, I

Amy Webb (01:41:24):
Agree. So like take my money and please throw it at science. And it doesn't mean that the government does everything, but it means we need to have better public private partnerships. It so means that government has to be held I'm with you a hundred percent accountable. Part of the reason why this James web telescope took so long to launch funding was because it was working funding and it was working at the typical pace of government, which is probably not right for everybody going forward. Right.

Leo Laporte (01:41:48):
Right. And yet, I don't want mark Zuckerberg to be in charge of our space exploration either.

Amy Webb (01:41:53):
I don't want Zuck or Elon Musk or Bezos to be in charge, but I want some of the freedom and the speed that's that comes with's the free, you know, with

Leo Laporte (01:42:04):
Elon has done an awful lot to forward our space program all by himself. That's right. Yeah. Well, not all there's other way to, he had a few thousand engineers and scientist we're working with him, but

Amy Webb (01:42:15):
He's been right. And I, again, I think Bezos, I think Bezos gets a lot of for many reasons. Some of which are very legitimate, but, but he has also you know, it's not just Musk building the future with SpaceX. There's, there's a lot of other things that are happening that's right. But, but, but the bottom line is we can't outs source the future of space to the commercial sector because the incentives there are tied to profit,

Leo Laporte (01:42:44):
But you think we have a pretty, maybe this is a a, a roadmap for the way we should handle this. It seems like at least in space, we've had a, a pretty good balance between commercial space and government. And it's done, I think, a pretty good job. Is this now a new model for medicine in other areas?

Amy Webb (01:43:04):
Well, it certainly did when we were still in the business of defining and acting on moonshots, you know, there's no Kennedy and not, I'm not like a, like a, the only

Leo Laporte (01:43:11):
Government could do that. I mean, yeah,

Amy Webb (01:43:14):
But we don't have, we, we don't have a, I mean, this is part of the problem. There's so much policy uncertainty. We don't have the ability to plan for the next 10 years in the United States because, because we don't have a, a department of foresight. So what happens is a lot of this becomes politicized or just left to the private sector and then they build and build, and then a bunch of people get upset. You know, there is an alternative, let me give you one quick example, Dubai. So I did not go to CES, but I did go to the world's fair. The, did

Leo Laporte (01:43:43):
You really ex 2020 held it 21? Yeah. Yes.

Amy Webb (01:43:48):
It was absolutely mind blowing to me. And there's nothing there. Science wise, that's very interesting. And the USA pavilion for many reasons was I, which I helped advise on, I think for what it was was okay. But our lack of planning meant that it was not as good as it could have been. Isn't that ironic? <Laugh> oh my God. It's not, it's like totally on point. Yep. For the United States.

Leo Laporte (01:44:11):
Yeah. We would've had a better pavilion, but the dog ate our homework and 

Amy Webb (01:44:16):
And many, many, many things. Yeah. But the, they built a city in the middle of a desert. I mean, it is, it is just absolutely

Leo Laporte (01:44:25):
Less Dubai isn't. I mean, that's, what's amazing about Dubai.

Amy Webb (01:44:28):
Now. One of the things that they are doing that we are not doing is that they're trying to figure out what is the future of drone. So the UAE and Dubai specifically were like, what is the future of drones for delivery for people, transportation, for pets and objects? What does that look like? But while the technology is developing, they are also, they also have like a beta lab for policy. So they've got people working alongside the technologists to figure out, okay, well, what should policy look like in response? Or what does urban planning look like while the technology is developing? I mean, it's a really interesting synergy. It's like a totally unique and different approach that we might adopt here. If there wasn't such a wedge between the valley and, and, and you know, DC

Leo Laporte (01:45:13):
All right. I wanna take a little break and I do want to go right into the heart of your expertise. Amy's next book is all about the biotech revolution. I've, pre-ordered it, I'm very excited. I can't wait to get it. It comes out February 15th. Let's talk about bio of tech. You know, a lot of science is being done in space. That's great, but we kind of need to solve some problems here on planet earth. So let's see what that future holds in just a bit. Amy Webb is here from the future today. Institute, father Robert baller from the middle ages. Do you not have another battery father Robert <laugh>?

Fr. Robert Ballecer SJ (01:45:54):
Well, unfortunately, no, but I do, I do have this, this camera from like 1940. I think this that'll slide actually that'll work. <Laugh> that's hysterical. Yeah. You forgot to plug in. I guess I, I did not. I forgot to plug in the power I HTM. I plugged in, but not the power.

Leo Laporte (01:46:15):
That's so funny. That's so funny. All right. But before we let's, let's pause for a minute, lots more future to talk about before we do that, though. Let's talk about the past. What happened this week on TWI? There's this guy named Jeff Jarvis. He thinks this emoji is a whistling emoji. When everybody knows it's a kissing

Fr. Robert Ballecer SJ (01:46:34):
Emoji. I, I only yesterday, I learned I've been using this incredibly inappropriately as it turns out. Wow, seriously, you've been sending people kisses previously on Twitter, hands on photography. I

Speaker 5 (01:46:49):
Am going to answer a question. Did I get <laugh> just about every single day? Which camera should I buy?

Leo Laporte (01:46:57):
The tech guy,

Speaker 6 (01:46:59):
QD Ole, ah, or quantum do OLET the, the benefits are many, including greater brightness, much greater brightness

Leo Laporte (01:47:07):
Has always been an area. EDS have lagged behind LEDs and LCDs is that they're just not as bright. Does it solve that?

Speaker 6 (01:47:15):
Yes, it does

Leo Laporte (01:47:17):

Speaker 7 (01:47:17):
Weekend, Google, regular people who don't spend their days thinking about law, thinking about tech, you know, they have political will. This is a democracy. They can choose the laws that regulate them. So how do you educate them? So they can ask for good things. Then when they call their members of Congress, they will ask for things that are actually more useful, then just do something, burn it all down. What do I care? I hear section two 30 is bad. You might as well get rid of it. And how dare you not TWI making the

Leo Laporte (01:47:41):
World safe for technology? Let's take a little break. Father Robert baller for the middle ages, Amy, from the future. I'm stuck right here in the present. Our show today brought to you by better help. After listening to this show, you might need some better help. Better help is a licensed therapist. You can consult with online without any of the stigma, without any of the embarrassment for are a better cost. And it really works. And I can tell you that from personal experience, if something's preventing you from achieving your goals, if something's interfering with your happiness, if you've just got, and I think we all do these days, a, a lead feeling in the pit of your stomach, better help is here better They'll match you with your own licensed professional therapist. One of the things I really liked about it, I've always been a believer that you've gotta find the right therapist better help makes it very easy to try therapists and to move on with no downside to find the person you want.

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Leo Laporte (01:49:39):
This is really, I'm such a supporter of this better help is committed to facilitating great therapeutic matches. They make it easy and free to change counselors. If you need to, it's more affordable than traditional offline counseling. They even have financial aid. It is available worldwide. I love that too. And you could find the particular expertise you need online because they've got counselors in all areas is you don't have to limit yourself to what's available in your location. You can. In other words, you can get a licensed professional. Who's an expert in depression or stress or anxiety, relationships, family conflicts. Well, I needed that last month. Sleeping trauma, anger. I have a good, good personal friend. Who's sleep has been terrible. Counseling has made such a difference. LGBTQ matters grief. Don't suffer alone. If you're in grief right now, don't suffer alone. There's somebody there who can really help self-esteem.

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And of course, anything you share confidential. It's very convenient. It's very professional and it's really affordable. There's plenty of testimonials on the website. You can look there. I will give you a testimonial. It really works. In fact, so many people now are using better help. They're actually recruiting additional counselors. This is an idea whose time is very, is it's very timely. All 50 states are looking for therapists. So if you're a licensed counselor contact them as well. But look, I just really, I don't, I, I don't know how I can emphasize this. This is something that really works. That will make a difference in your life. If you've resisted talking to a profess about these issues ever before, now's the time to do it. It's easy. Join over 1 million people. Who've taken charge of their mental health. And as a listener, you're gonna get 10% off your first month just by going to better, better time to take charge of your mental health. And the thing is this works, it really works. It can really help. You will feel better, better help. B E T T E R H E L is on the way better These are really, really good people that do a very good job. It's very, it's very important job right. Amy Webb, your new book coming out in just a few weeks. Are you excited?

Amy Webb (01:52:18):
I am please. Pre-Order it.

Leo Laporte (01:52:21):
I did for

Amy Webb (01:52:22):
Too limited reasons. There's a paper shortage and so I oh,

Leo Laporte (01:52:26):
Good Lord. Even paper.

Amy Webb (01:52:29):
Yeah. There's there's supply chain is all screwed up paper right now. So I, my publisher has ordered they've assured me enough books, but when my last book came out, the big nine they ran out a lot of bookstores ran outta books. So anyways, and

Leo Laporte (01:52:43):
This is really such a hot topic. This is gonna be a best seller. I, I think people really wanna know it's not just CRISPR. It's not just mRNA vaccines. There is stuff going on in biotech that I think is gonna be as significant as James Webb, if not more so.

Amy Webb (01:52:59):
Yeah. I, I agree with you. It's it's I actually think it's the most important technology of our lifetimes and, and I was so intrigued by it that I wrote a book on it. 

Leo Laporte (01:53:10):
You know, what, you know, who else thinks this is gonna be that important bill gates? I remember even this was 20 years ago, bill would always take these vacations, these long vacations, where he would read up on something and, and even then he said, the next big thing is biotech. And I need to be an expert in this

Amy Webb (01:53:30):
And he's, and very few people know this, but sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt. Please go ahead. Well, very few people know this, but Microsoft is actually a big player. Oh yeah. In the space. Yeah. Microsoft is, is trying to figure out how to store data inside of DNA.

Leo Laporte (01:53:43):
I knew this cuz Esther Dyson would go with him on these trips. And she told me, yeah, we brought all of these books. We did all of this reading and yeah, bill gates has been personally an investment at Microsoft also is a very exciting time. What do you see as the big developments that are gonna happen and make a difference in our lives in the next decade or so?

Amy Webb (01:54:04):
Yeah. so first of all, it's kind of a weird term. So synthetic biology is a relatively new interdisciplinary field of science. So if you've got an engineering background, you're gonna recognize parts of what you do in this form of wetware. If you're, if you've worked in AI, in design, in circuit board creation, like there's a huge overlap. So basically re researchers design or they redesign organisms at a molecular level to give them new purposes or to enhance them. And this, this really does change everything because in a way to make a analogy to like coding, it gives us right. Access to life. So 

Leo Laporte (01:54:48):
So why is it synthetic as opposed? What, what does that mean? Synthetic biology.

Amy Webb (01:54:52):
So it's a good question. So we're obviously using a CTG, so, so atomic organic,

Leo Laporte (01:55:01):
Anybody who loves the movie GATA knows that those are the key amino acids. Yeah.

Amy Webb (01:55:06):
Okay. So yes. So, so that part's not synthetic, the, the part is the reason we call it synthetic biology is cuz it's synthesizing code for, for new purposes. So it's, it's sort of sequencing and synthesizing. So, so when Watson Andrick who totally stole and used the work of Rosalyn Franklin without ever giving her any credit and then Watson who, who was like awful disparaged her publicly when they built

Leo Laporte (01:55:37):
Their first, I just such a tragedy. I, it it really is. Yeah.

Amy Webb (01:55:40):
He he's ho horrible, horrible. So, you know, they sort of built the first model revealed the first model of DNA and that gave others the ability to read our biological source code. So that's like read permissions, edit permissions would be CRISPR. So this is limited ability to splice and move around a CTG that, that gives a sort of a edit level permission. You can hook up a special protein to a, a guide RNA, and that gets you to the right part of the cell and moves along the, the DNA strand until it finds the right sequence.

Leo Laporte (01:56:14):
It sounds like it's very much influenced by computer technology by digital. It totally

Amy Webb (01:56:18):
Is. Yeah, it totally is. And so synthetic biology literally is like, it gives us the ability to write new codes. So if you're a developer, you know, you might invent new machine learning algos or new protocol. But you're, you're in a way, like still sort of fundamentally tethered to the architecture of whatever, you know, the, the platform and the systems logic which means at the end, you're still working in ones and zero. So it's kind of the same biology. You're still in the end using a CTG code. But if biology is the fundamental technology platform, then this gives us the ability to, to write almost like you would write in a word document or, or like, you know, terminal or so like, like pick your favorite program. Right. and, and you would be able to write what you want. Literally send it to a printer. It

Leo Laporte (01:57:06):
Sounds like science fiction, get it out. But we actually RNA vaccines are one of the outcomes of this.

Amy Webb (01:57:14):
That's absolutely right. And this research has been, you know, 10 years it's, it's going on 10 years. But it was a way of applying you know, they, they sequenced the, the genetic code of the virus in a very short, short amount of time, over a weekend,

Leo Laporte (01:57:31):
Over a weekend. Right.

Amy Webb (01:57:34):
So Jesus, so it it's really remarkable, but it's also not at all remarkable that we got these vaccines so fast and they would've been in the market faster except for yeah. Test. We had to test them and, you know, supply chain. Yeah. So, but basically

Fr. Robert Ballecer SJ (01:57:50):
Means, can I ask you a question? Yeah, yeah, yeah. So, so I, I know that synthetic BI biology basically allows you to repurpose organisms by editing long stretches of DNA versus say genetic editing, which would be, you know, much smaller sequences, how could closes this to being able to not repurpose an organism, but to create an organism.

Amy Webb (01:58:11):
Yeah. Well, that's already, that's already happened. So a guy named Craiger, this is scary. He's a, so there, there's some sort of figureheads in this field that are heroes of mine and Craig Vener is one of them. And

Leo Laporte (01:58:22):
Ner was the guy who sequenced the G

Amy Webb (01:58:25):
He sure he was. So Watson was leading a program at the government doing it old school, and basically completely unwilling to look at any new techniques or tools. Then there's this like surfer guy ready to like thumb his nose at any, you know, like higher order government thing comes up with a totally different way to do it. And then there's a great movie to be made about the race, to complete the, to, to, to uncover the human genome entity rate. They've already created a synthetic organism from scratch. What, and it's the first ever, there's a bacterium and it's the first ever organism that has ever existed. It's a living thing that technically had computers as parents and it is self replicating. Oh,

Leo Laporte (01:59:12):
Now see this place, right. Everybody's science fiction terror. So

Amy Webb (01:59:19):
This is why I'm obsessed with the proto molecule,

Leo Laporte (01:59:22):
Right. Should we be worried?

Amy Webb (01:59:23):
It is. Yeah, we should. It totally fricking is. And, and if you've read the, the, the books she's

Leo Laporte (01:59:30):
Talking about the, and it's not a spoiler, cuz it's really at the very beginning of the, of the expansion it is and meant

Amy Webb (01:59:36):
Sadly like it

Leo Laporte (01:59:37):
It's the disease. That, that is the problem, but okay, go ahead. And it's,

Amy Webb (01:59:41):
It's a self propagating organism. Yeah. That, you know, the challenge is that biology, the, the, the, the, the interesting thing is that pretty soon, actually now we're gonna be able to, we can program biological, biological structures as they though they were tiny computers, right. That that's, and, and this, this concept made me go down all these rabbit hole, which is how I wound up writing the book. So

Leo Laporte (02:00:04):
Read the book, but I have to say that we have governmentally in the past and, and, and as a society, globally deprecated certain kinds of research because we were, yeah, for instance cloning remember the scientists in China said I edited a gene and was able to eliminate I can't remember which disease. Yeah.

Amy Webb (02:00:28):
It was aids. And I will tell you that in retrospect, he was basing a lot of his research on genetic enhancement. So one of the offshoots of the, like the non, but

Leo Laporte (02:00:36):
That's one of the things we've decided globally not to do

Amy Webb (02:00:40):
Well, you can proclaim something globally, but then practice very different things well, and

Leo Laporte (02:00:45):
Got disappeared by the Chinese government after doing it. Yeah. When it becomes so easy to edit a genetic sequence, as it currently is, you can't keep a lid on this. So that's why I'm afraid of you no longer need state resources to be able to do something like

Amy Webb (02:00:58):
This. Yeah. Right. So here's, so, so one of the things that we do in the book is there's nine, nine significant risks. And one of the things that I, so we, we wrote these, so I keep saying, we, I wrote this with a a friend who's a microbiologist, who's got a, has done a ton of work in the space and Andrew Hesel we? Yeah. Andrew Hessel. So we developed some scenarios again, what if, right. We're trying figure out, you know, what, what are possible outcomes? One of those outcomes I, I was trying to figure out. So obviously there's like the lab leak theory and messenger RNA at around the same time that was starting to bubble up on social media. There was an academic paper published, showing a, a lot of the sequencing. So the sequencing happens in the U in your local country, but the synthesis, which is to say the printing out of stuff and sending it back a lot of that's happening in China.

Amy Webb (02:01:56):
And the, there was a team of Israeli researchers that were like, huh, I wonder if there's a way for us to inject malware into genetic code and to obscure it so that you can't detect in the transmission that anything has happened, but you would send totally Inno in Oculus code, you know, to, to somebody in China and, and get back, not an in Oculus sample, but something that's VIR. And they were able to, to do that. And so what that made me think of was, well, sh you know, what happens if like that actually happens in a lab? Who, who do you go like who's in charge. So I started calling my friends at the state department and do D and Homeland security. I'm calling everybody. I'm like, Hey, if this actually ha like I wrote this crazy scenario, this actually happened, what then? And the answer is, nobody knows because we are totally unprepared for a cyber biological attack. And it is totally plausible that something like that could happen. And by the way, you don't have to have a virus that kills millions of people for it to be horrific. You, you could to invent a virus for one person, Donald Trump had a terrible security team. He left, they left behind all kinds of garbage. In fact, there was an artist collective that collected a bunch of his stuff and including his

Leo Laporte (02:03:13):
DNA, presumably yes. Right

Amy Webb (02:03:15):
At the, at and others who were at we one year, I think, and, and put it up on a website like, Hey, if you wanna buy these people, like here's a fork. You can take Donald Trump's oh my God. DNA. Right. So if I had that idea,

Leo Laporte (02:03:28):
But wait a minute, the very fact, so the very fact that the secret service should be sequestering, anything with the president's DNA on it is a terrifying idea. Sure.

Amy Webb (02:03:39):
Well, but it's, again, we need to, we need to change our mental models because

Leo Laporte (02:03:45):
Is this legitimately now a possible,

Amy Webb (02:03:48):
This is right now, listen, I could sequence. I could make, I could potentially engineer something that doesn't have to kill somebody, but it could debilitate them enough. Maybe they've got chronic diarrhea. If you've got a CEO with chronic diarrhea, suddenly you have fiduciary responsibility to tear your, tell your shareholders. And if not, that potentially runs a foul of, you know, like the new espionage could be totally ransomware of your gut. That's absolutely right. That's what I'm talking about. So there's a ton of opportunity on the horizon. But, but as with every technology there's dual risk doesn't mean we don't use it. I mean, there's a great quote in the, yeah.

Leo Laporte (02:04:26):
We've CRI blocked your hearing. If you'd like it back, please send 50 Bitcoin to the follow address. Oh my goodness. This is terrible. What's yeah. I mean, what's the quote. Tell us what the quote is.

Amy Webb (02:04:36):
So, so it's, it's a James. I say, Cory, who's like the Penn name of Daniel, Abraham, and Ty Frank who wrote the series. So I'm gonna read it we're back to it. Killed humans. Yeah. Sorry. Yes. It's my obsession. It killed humans. Therefore it was a weapon, but radiation killed humans and a medical x-ray machine wasn't intended as a weapon. Right. Right. So, I mean, this is biology. We are manipulating it. We've got right access to

Leo Laporte (02:05:01):
Humanity. So source code, and we're gonna do great things. You won't need E ink in the future to change the color of your car. We'll be able to create a new type of you change the color of your skin. Sure. Did the diabetes comment earlier, there's actually work underway to turn your skin into its own pharmacy. So you'll be able to detect when you're having a, a sugar episode and, and automatically solve it. We may not need insulin who in the future. Yeah. Okay. Wow.

Amy Webb (02:05:27):
But, but there's all kinds of horrific risk on the horizon. And at the moment, we don't really have a plan as we, we never have a plan. Well, what

Leo Laporte (02:05:36):
Would be the plan? It does sound like there is any, I mean, government could try, we have a would outlaw. Certainly people were fighting against GMOs, probably incorrectly, but we're fighting against GMOs. We, we have a, if they've hated GMOs, you're gonna really hate this.

Amy Webb (02:05:52):
Right? So one of the big risks, and by the way, there is a whole chapter just on the plan. And the plan is, is gonna require licensing. And then a bunch of other things, you know, you have to have a driver's license to drive a car. You don't have to have a drive. You don't have to have a license to operate. Synthetic biology is probably a

Leo Laporte (02:06:07):
Mistake. I feel like this is gonna be very hard to control though, because there is Soma. I mean it, but it's already out there. How, for instance, we were not able to control the manufac extra atomic bomb, which was a difficult thing to do. We did our best, but there was so much espionage going on. And there was secrets being sold that eventually the secret leaked out and proliferation of atomic weapons has historically been a concern. This is far worse. Is it as hard as making atomic bomb?

Amy Webb (02:06:39):
No, because one of the first experiments was no, not at all. Was sequencing the polio virus. I mean, somebody created smallpox in a lab just to show that they could create smallpox. I listen, I'm gonna, I, I, I don't think that there was some kind of intentional lab leak okay. With this virus. I, I don't think that no, I do. However, think there's a strong possibility that this is the result of something called gain a function research, which is when scientists sort of mutate the hell out of something in order to see how bad it could get. This was,

Leo Laporte (02:07:08):
We live in a world a way of preparing for worse viruses by, but we don't need to. Yes. We don't need to do that. I agree. That's probably a better

Amy Webb (02:07:16):
Like 20 years ago maybe, but, but deep mind has cracked one of, of biology when one of science's most thorny questions like, like being able to figure out computationally what proteins look like. We, we, we have powerful AI tools that, you know, we're never gonna be absolute, but we can run simulations to see what probable mutations.

Leo Laporte (02:07:36):
So father Robert I've decided I am no longer an atheist. I would like to come to you and request absolution. I think we're in a world of hurt. Is there, this is the future

Fr. Robert Ballecer SJ (02:07:48):
Of the Catholic church. We are going to store original genomes that when people screw up their own DNA with editing, I wanna, we can

Leo Laporte (02:07:54):
Revert you back. Yeah. Yeah.

Fr. Robert Ballecer SJ (02:07:55):
We're basically cloud backup

Leo Laporte (02:07:58):
For, for genetic. Yeah. I wanna reset please. This is terrifying future, you're just describing Amy, but it's also never,

Amy Webb (02:08:05):
It's terrifying, but it's inevitable.

Leo Laporte (02:08:07):
I think it's inevitable. I think it's almost impossible to control. I think there will be great benefits from it, but I do fear that they will be out aid by the diarrhea gene.

Amy Webb (02:08:17):
It doesn't, it doesn't have to be, we are facing existential threats. We've got a climate emergency cop, 26 ended without alignment. You know, again, is there something we can do besides reducing carbon emissions? Absolutely. You could create artificial Leafs. You could re-engineer strains of yeast. You'd all of things. Is there, you know, if we're gonna live on Mars right now, given our current genetic makeup, it's improbable that we're gonna survive. So can we re-engineer ourselves for off planet living? The answer is AB obviously yes, we have fertility issues. We've got emerging health issues. I mean, we, we have a, we have a global F food in security crisis. So this technology, this biotechnology, synthetic biology helps with all of that. But we have once again, funding that is starting to spiral out of control and people, you know, once you start throwing, once VCs start throwing money around, you know, the, the end result is usually not good. We've got IP problems. We have to people who believe in scientists, but they do not believe in science, which is a problem. We've got misinformation. And we have the threat of bio, you know, the escalation of bio warfare. So, but we have some time, you know, like we just have to miss it doesn.

Leo Laporte (02:09:31):
It sound like we have a lot of time <laugh> we don't have a time. I think honestly, COVID has been a, a dress rehearsal for our complete ineptitude. I don't think I, I, I agree. Are you a pessimist or are you an optimist in this?

Amy Webb (02:09:48):
I'm a futurist. Which means that I'm emotionally detached most of the time. I think

Leo Laporte (02:09:54):
I'm gonna go watch the expanse. Pretend none. You still have,

Fr. Robert Ballecer SJ (02:09:59):
You promised me you were gonna watch it last time.

Amy Webb (02:10:02):
Leo. It's so good. Watch it with subtitles. That first series, I will tell you of all the books that I've written. This people are like, oh my gosh, you have, you become an optimist overnight. You seem like this seems so uplifting.

Leo Laporte (02:10:13):
This doesn't seem uplifting at all. To me, this seems like a terrifying dystopia that we are, are heading P Mel into.

Amy Webb (02:10:22):
Well, it's here. So <laugh>, so now is the time to get

Leo Laporte (02:10:28):
Education and all we've done is demonstrate the complete utter incompetence of government to control anything like this. Yeah. That's been clear. We can't even get COVID under control. That's nothing compared to the things you're describing. There's a difference. You don't, what's

Fr. Robert Ballecer SJ (02:10:48):
The difference. There's an, there's an economic factor to this. This, this is an arms war. If you start having large organizations that are doing wholesale, genetic manipulation and genetic sequence editing it becomes a, a huge advantage as far as economies are concerned. And, and once you have that, you do get the power of the state behind it is China.

Leo Laporte (02:11:11):
And again, that's where is China with a Amy? I know you follow this closely. I presume, yeah, China, they're all over this.

Amy Webb (02:11:18):
They very much are. China has put part of its sovereign wealth fund towards synthetic biology. It sees and it's no, you know, I started really paying attention to this while I was working on my last book about the futures of AI. So, so it's part of their 14 five year plan and, and their long term strategic roadmap. I, I will say this cuz I know this sounds and, and I can, I can get pretty dark, pretty fast part part of why I'm very hopeful about this. And I opened the book with this is that I had a whole bunch of miscarriages. I tried and failed to, to start a family. And it was, it was anybody who's any man woman anybody who's been through this knows how horrific it is or if you've got somebody in your life who's been through it.

Amy Webb (02:12:04):
Yep. You know, we've left our we've left creating new life up to complete chance and, and science can gives us an out. It gives us optionality. And rather than wondering what was wrong with me, cuz cuz medically, there was nothing wrong with me. This would've given me an, an alternative, my mother died fat of a, a horrible death. It was a super rare form of cancer that they couldn't figure out. I've got another, their friend who's who's had childhood diabetes, his entire life it's managed well, but it's, you know, he's, he's walking a different path than everybody else's. And my, my point is that as scary as some of the sounds, there's enormous hope for all of us on the horizon. It gives us optionality to improve our everyday lives. And not just us. I mean, this makes medicine cheaper. If, if insulin goes away, think of how many people, you know, people are are there's, there's a gray market for insulin on Facebook because it's so expensive, which is ridiculous. Ridiculous. So it takes, we started today talking about decentralization for me, the great promise of synthetic biology is that it, it, it decentralized is in some way. I mean, in the truest sense of the, of the term, you know, access to some of these tools, which is a good thing, but we have to go forward with a sort of measured and very, you know, sort of pragmatic outlook on all of this.

Leo Laporte (02:13:30):
It, it is at the level where somebody could be doing this in a

Amy Webb (02:13:33):
Garage though, right? It absolutely is. There's something called I GM. If you've got kids in high school or college, they can actually start doing this there's elementary school kids can get involved, which is not the worst thing. Right. If we think of best, this is being the next evolution of engineering. Okay. But why do we, we are not science, literate. This is a huge problem. It is. Right. So, so I am all for helping people get more literate, but again, there's always gonna be fringe cases. There's a crazy guy. Who's biohacking himself at every turn

Leo Laporte (02:14:07):
And yeah. We've interviewed him. I know the guy. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Amy Webb (02:14:10):

Leo Laporte (02:14:11):
The book Genesis machines, our quest to rewrite life in the age of synthetic biology. Now I have to read it. And then father Robert, I'll be over for confession later today. Holy

Fr. Robert Ballecer SJ (02:14:26):
We, we we'll welcome you with open arms. Holy and we've got a guest room for you, so yeah.

Leo Laporte (02:14:32):
It's enough to make someone turn to religion.

Fr. Robert Ballecer SJ (02:14:36):
Well, 50 years from now, they're gonna look back at this time in our history. And they're gonna say, can you believe that people used to leave their progeny to chance? Yeah. They used to leave the next generation to a genetic.

Leo Laporte (02:14:50):
I'd feel better about that. If I trusted people's choices more <laugh>,

Fr. Robert Ballecer SJ (02:14:57):
You know

Leo Laporte (02:14:59):
Honestly I think maybe nature had a better way of doing it. But you know what? We're headed head long into the future. And I can't imagine two people I'd rather go down that road with, and these two right here, Amy you've given us so much food for thought future today, If you are a business person, a CEO or, or if you work for the government and you're trying to figure out what the hell is going on, this is the, this is the person to talk to future today Institute. We do need a little more strategic planning in our life. I think we do. Let's do it right this time. Father Robert baller. Thank you for joining us. Thank you for going to CES. So we didn't have to <laugh>. I appreciate it. Did you get your battery back? It looks like the camera got better. Again. It, it

Fr. Robert Ballecer SJ (02:15:50):
It's slightly, it's slightly back. I basically had to plug a portable battery bank, which is actually not enough, but hopefully it'll last

Leo Laporte (02:15:57):
Long. We'll let you go before you get exhausted again. Yeah. <Laugh> yeah. What a great conversation. I thank you both so much for being here. Just fascinating stuff. I think so much that we need to do more of this. We had originally scheduled some others who were not able make it this week. Maybe we'll do this again with the people who we also wanted as well as you guys, cuz I think there's so much more to talk about. We didn't get to all of it by any means. Amy, thank you for setting the table though. And what an amazing, amazing conversation. Thank you, Amy Webb. Thank you for letting me go completely off the rails. I appreciate it. Awesome. And, and yes, I'll watch the expanse. Okay. thank you. <Laugh> I keep trying, you need, I lose track.

Leo Laporte (02:16:44):
I don't, I mean, I'll read the books instead. Maybe I'll also read the books. The books are tracking almost exactly the exactly books are actually fantastic. Yeah. I think I'll do the books instead. I it's just something about it. I just have a hard time engaging with it on TV. So maybe it's the books. Thank you, Robert, come visit us as soon as it's safe. We'd love to see you again. I'll be back in six months or so. Yeah. Thanks so much to our fabulous audience for being we and here and listening to all this. It's been a wild, wild show. We do TWI every Sunday afternoon. It's always different. It's always interesting. It's one of the reasons I like it. We have a rotating group of panelists. And so it's always a different subject, but I think this was great.

Leo Laporte (02:17:30):
If you wanna watch it live around two 30 Pacific five, 30 Eastern, 2230 UTC, just go to If you're watching live, it'd be great to chat live. Our chat room is wide open. Amy was in there, which was great. And I know father Robert frequently goes in there, And I will turn on the subtitles. Amy says, turn on the subtitles. If you watch the expanse, I that's my new go-to for everything. Thanks also to all the folks in our discord server. If you're not member of club TWI, you really ought to join it's seven bucks a month. What do you get? You get ad free versions of all the shows you get access to the discord where con discord, where conversations like this happen all the time. You also get the TWI plus feed and there's content that we do that does not make it out into the podcasts, but exists only for club TWI members, for instance, Stacy Higginbotham's book club.

Leo Laporte (02:18:24):
She they're reading right now, autonomous by Anna Newtz, which covers almost all of these subjects. It's IFI work, but it's very much in this arena. That's it's a great book. It's a really good book and she, I love Annalee's great. We interviewed her on she's a terrific writer. Yeah, yeah. All about robots and all kinds of stuff. Autonomous AI. If you if you are interested, just go to TWI, there's the untitled Lenox show. There's the GI fizz. There is the book club we've got interviews. I a and NACO will be the ask me anything subject this coming week and all of that's yours for a mere seven bucks a month go to TWI to TV slash club TWI to find out more after the fact, everything we do is always available for free, no membership required it's ad supported.

Leo Laporte (02:19:14):
Of course you can find the, our website, there's a YouTube channel. Every show has its own YouTube channel. And of course the best way to get it probably subscribe in your favorite podcast player. And that way you'll get it automatically. You don't even have to think about it just downloads and you'll have it for a Monday morning commute if you so desire. If your podcast player allows for reviews, do me a favor. You know, this is the longest running tech show podcast out there 15 years now and more and so as a result, we don't don't get on the charts anymore or anything like that because you know, we're, we're just old timers, but a review would help. A five star review would really help us get the word out hard to believe. There are people who still don't know the twin exists, but there are people I firmly believe who would enjoy this show, who don't know about it, spread the word that helps us out a lot. Thank you all for being here, stay safe. We'll be back next week. Another TWI is in amazing

Speaker 8 (02:20:13):
Doing the TWI, doing the right, doing the baby, doing the right, doing the baby, doing the.

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