Andrew Keen: “How to Fix the Future” | Talks at Google

at Google nearly 10 years, and literally for every
one of those 10 years Andrew has been banging
on about the shortcomings of the internet. And just now that everybody
else has joined that game, he’s moving on, ever the
contrarian, to something else. So the new book is certainly
not without its criticisms– trenchant criticisms
of Silicon Valley. But also there’s suggestions
on how to fix the future and resolve some of
the issues that he has banged on about for so long. So welcome, Andrew. ANDREW KEEN: Thank you, Peter. It’s nice to be– wonderful audience. PETER BARRON: Splendid turnout. So I suspect you’re going
to tell us you told us so? ANDREW KEEN: Yeah. Firstly, I made a lot
of mistakes as well. In one of my books, I predicted
that Facebook wouldn’t survive. [LAUGHTER] So I am not as prescient
as I’d like to think I am. I think I was a little lucky. I think I took a gamble on
“Cult of the Amateur” in 2007. I mean, it seemed obvious to me. But it could have easily
ended in a different way. I mean, I don’t think there’s
anything inevitable about it. So I think I was a little lucky. And I’ve made many
errors along the way, so I don’t want to
sound too cocky here. PETER BARRON: And you talk
early on in the book about– ANDREW KEEN: Do you
think I was right? PETER BARRON: Well, we’ll
talk about that in due course. ANDREW KEEN: It’s certainly
interesting to get him to talk than me. PETER BARRON: Certainly
some important points. ANDREW KEEN: Yes. PETER BARRON: You definitely
made some important points, and I think– ANDREW KEEN: That’s a diplomatic
way of saying I was right. PETER BARRON: And some of the
points I would disagree with. But– ANDREW KEEN: I always
joke about my book. When my books come
out, people always come up to me sort of half
apologetically, and they say, we kind of agree with
60% of what you write. And I always joke, and it’s not
really a joke, well, so do I. PETER BARRON: Well, you talk
early on about– you said there’s people who are yes. There’s people who are no. And there’s people
who are maybe. And you say you’re a maybe. ANDREW KEEN: Yeah. PETER BARRON: So
what does that mean? ANDREW KEEN: Well, maybe
means that the revolution, the digital revolution
that you guys are engineering more than anyone
else, it has huge potential. It’s the great event of the
early part of the 21st century. In many ways it’s the equivalent
of the mid-19th century, the early 20th century
Industrial Revolution, the next chapter. Some people call it
the Second Machine Age, the Fourth
Industrial Revolution. It hasn’t– I think in overall
terms it hasn’t lived up to its billing. We were promised democracy,
more equality, more jobs, a renaissance of culture. I don’t think we’ve got that. I think we might get it, maybe. But at the moment,
it’s not there. PETER BARRON: And
there’s a couple of terms that you use right the
way through the book. Maybe you should
explain what you describe as Moore’s law,
which is not Muir’s law, but is Moore’s law. But you talk a lot about that. And you also talk
about team human and what it means to be human. ANDREW KEEN: Well,
Moore’s law is my phrase. Team human actually
is Douglas Rushkoff’s. I stole that one from him. But you all know, of
course, Gordon Moore’s law. The law– I think
he came up with it. Originally it was just a
throwaway remark in 1965 that computer chips would double
in power every 18 months or two years. That’s the engine of
the digital revolution. And usually when you read
these books about industry 3.0. And the Second
Industrial Revolution and the Second
Machine Age, there’s always an opening chapter on
Moore’s Law as the engine, as the driver of the change. It’s clearly a law,
a scientific law. Whether it will continue
forever is arguable. But so far, it’s
driven the revolution. My argument in the book is that
the problem with Moore’s law– it’s not a critique
of Moore’s law. I mean, you can’t really
criticize Moore’s law. It’s just an observation
about the way the world works and the way technology works. But my observation
about Moore’s law is technology has moved
so fast that it’s actually got beyond humans. We are being outrun
by technology. And I think that explains why
we’re feeling increasingly uncomfortable, awkward,
disempowered in the face not only of all this amazing new
technology from the internet, to AI, to augmented reality, to
smart machines and all the rest of it, smart cars, but also in
the context of large companies like yours. A lot of people
feel intimidated, to put it politely, by the
large platform players. There are many of them. You know who the others are. So that’s a reality. So how do we catch
up with Moore’s law? How do we as humans catch
up with Moore’s law? So I invent, in the
beginning of the book, in Chapter 1, another
kind of Moore’s law. This one is derived from Thomas
Moore, the author of “Utopia,” 16th century Englishman. Most of you will have
read his or are certainly familiar with his books
from university or school. So he wrote– I would argue he wrote a
very realistic book, which is in part a critique of “Utopia.” But in the book, the heart of
“Utopia,” Moore’s “Utopia,” I think, is a reminder to
people that the core thing about their
responsibility as humans is agency to take
responsibility for society and to build a better world. What Moore was reminding
people in the 16th century, particularly in the
light of Luther, and pre-destination, and all
these incredibly disruptive traumatic scientific
discoveries, which suggested that we weren’t
at the center of the universe and that God was so infinite,
it didn’t matter how we behaved. Our fate was determined
before we were born. What Moore was reminding
is actually human beings still count. That’s, for me, what
Moore’s law is about. It’s all about agency. My definition of humans
in the 21st century is that we’ve invented these
smart machines, or people like you are inventing
these smart machines that can do most things. But the one thing they
can’t do is have agency. So the challenge
for us in this age– not in smashing technology,
not in controlling it, not necessarily in breaking up
Google or Facebook or Amazon– but in managing the
world, in building a better world that
reflects our interests rather than the interests,
seemingly of technology, not that technology has its
own interests or the interests of large platforms. Moore’s law is the guiding
principle of my book. And I’m reminding people
that the dominant theme in the 21st century
is human agency. It’s the one thing
that distinguishes us from smart machines. Because otherwise,
smart machines can do everything
that we can do. PETER BARRON: And I
think we obviously agree that the internet
age has thrown up a whole lot of issues. ANDREW KEEN: Yeah. PETER BARRON: And
society these days has all kinds of things that
are unappealing about it. And you kind of come
up with five fixes that will help the future. They’re not very
controversial, are they? ANDREW KEEN: No, they’re
not at all controversial. PETER BARRON: Maybe you can
rattle them off quickly. ANDREW KEEN: Well, it’s
important to remember that my argument is
that we’ve always had five fixes as human
beings, five broad areas where we’ve been able
to deal with disruption and build a better world,
to sort of, if you like, articulate Moore’s law. The first is innovation,
companies like Google. The second is regulation, of
companies like Google, perhaps. The third is consumer
choice and workers’ choice. The fourth is
citizen engagement, which is a kind of pure
manifestation of Moore’s law. And the fifth is education. And every time there’s
a great disruption, whether it’s the industrial
age, or the Renaissance, or the Reformation, we’ve
always had these tools to shape a better world. The key, in my view, is
that they work together. The mistake many
people make is to rely on just one of these tools. So I think the mistake
Silicon Valley has made has been to rely on the market. And I’m not saying– certainly Google
UK, I’m not sure you fall into that category. But of course the Peter Thiels
of the world and the Marc Andreessens, these
people believe that if you just stay out of
it, the market will eventually resolve all scarcities
and create a better world for everyone. I think we’ve be staying
out of it for long enough to know that that’s
not the case. But on the other hand, of
course, the Europeans, or you, will probably tell
me the Europeans are too fixated on
regulation, which maybe there’s some truth to that. So you need a
mixture of the two. The key argument in
the book– again, this is probably
fairly self-evident, although not everyone in
Silicon Valley will agree– is that there is no
app to fix the future. There’s no simple fix, just
as there was no simple fix in the industrial age. It takes a generation. We need to be patient. And of course patience
in our networked age is something that doesn’t
always come to us naturally. But I sort of use the metaphor,
the analogy of the tech stack in terms of
these five tools. And they’re mixed together. Regulation is often innovative. The best regulation– and you
and I may disagree on this– but I think, for example, what
Margrethe Vestager is trying to do in Brussels, at
least in her mind– I interview her in the book– she’s trying to
protect innovators. She’s not punishing innovation. She’s not against innovation. That doesn’t mean all
regulation is for innovation. But I think the best
kind of regulation only works with innovation. PETER BARRON: I
felt you were quite won over by Mrs. Vestager. ANDREW KEEN: Have you met her? Did you go in that
famous office? PETER BARRON: No, no. ANDREW KEEN: She was
probably nicer to me than she was to you. PETER BARRON: She
seemed very nice to you, definitely very, very helpful. But actually you
come out in favor of some things that
are perhaps quite surprising that you seem to
be championing or supporting. I was quite surprised by
Singapore, for example. And you accept that it’s not
utopia, but your sort of theme is the people who are trying
to build digital utopia. And you point to Singapore
and Estonia as examples. ANDREW KEEN: Well,
Estonia is my best model. If there is a utopia,
it’s Estonia– small country,
unique, obviously, post-Soviet place,
which benefited because in the old
Soviet Union, it was the place where they had
good technical universities. Now it’s the most wired,
the most networked place in Europe with tremendously
innovative policies in terms of e-citizenship,
in re-architecting a social contract between
citizens and government over data. I think you’re
right on Singapore. I’m ambivalent about Singapore. I think what Singapore is
doing on their Smart Nation initiative is interesting. But of course, the big
question with Singapore is the lack of democracy. And the fact that as the nation
becomes smarter and smarter, in a country without
democratic accountability, one can become quite nervous
of the power of government over citizens. I would say that Estonia
is the best case. The worst case is China. Singapore is
somewhere in between. PETER BARRON: Yeah. I mean, you talk a lot
about trust, trust, trust. So it’s all about trust. ANDREW KEEN: Yeah. But trust is the– there are two great scarcities. And again, you guys know
this better than I do. The two great scarcities
of our networked age are trust and attention. And it’s no coincidence that
we have a crisis of trust, I think, in a digital
age, particularly in the age of user-generated
content and social networks, where everyone is continually
undermining authority. Now it’s not just
because of the internet. You know, Fox and MSNBC and
I’m sure a lot of English TV stations do the same thing. But there is a connection
between the crisis of trust and the appearance of
sort of network culture. PETER BARRON: Well, do you
think people in this country, or indeed more
broadly in Europe, would accept a government
intervention at the level that Estonia and Singapore
do and would trust them? Because the level of
trust among Singapore citizens in their government
is remarkably high. But I think if you try to do
what Singapore does in the UK, you might get a very
different outcome. ANDREW KEEN: Well,
it’s chicken and egg. I mean, the crisis in
England is both England and America, I
think, have a crisis of legitimacy of
democratic institutions, a sort of redundancy
of political parties and ideologies. So where do you start
to rebuild that? The Estonian model is
interesting in that– I use the Edelman
Trust Barometer, which is sort of the gold
standard for determining who trusts what. And it’s always
falling every year. It’s amazing. He releases it
every year at Davos, and every year it’s
the same story. There’s less and less trust. But what do you think
he found in Estonia? Was people trust the
government, but they may not trust the political parties,
which is interesting. On the data front, I think
what the Estonians are doing is interesting,
because I talked to the former Estonian
president, who was the real architect of many
of their reforms, this guy called Ilves, a very
charismatic figure. His argument is that
privacy is history. His argument is in the
age of smart everything, it’s increasingly difficult,
if not impossible, to maintain a kind of 19th
century version of privacy, the one that was protected
in laws by people like Louis Brandeis in the US
and John Stuart Mill in the UK. So what the Estonians
have tried to do is say, OK, well, with
all the digital reforms that the Estonians are
doing, the government is going to know
a lot about you. Your health records,
your tax records, your car records–
everything is online. Estonia is the first
country to really go online. What the Estonians
are trying to do– and I’m sure it’s not perfect,
but it’s an interesting idea– is to say, look, we do
know everything about you. But if we choose to look at
your data, we will tell you. So the government has
an accountability. It’s not based on
blockchain technology, but it’s a
blockchain-like thinking, which may be one way of
rethinking a social contract. We can cling to our
romantic notions of privacy. I’m just not sure how
realistic that is, particularly since we’re on the verge
of smart everything, from cars, to cities, to bodies. I don’t quite know, in this
age, how we protect our privacy, either from companies like
yours or from governments. So perhaps, rather
than trying to do that, which is a kind
of Sisyphean task, it might be better to force
the government under law to be much more accountable. So I think what the Estonians
are doing is interesting. As you can tell from
the Singapore chapter, I’m a little bit
more ambivalent. But I think it’s too easy for
British or American people to write off the
Singapore experiment. It’s a miracle in
economic terms. They have the best education
system in the world. They have a remarkably
innovative economy. So to write them off as sort
of neo-authoritarian I think is slightly unfair. PETER BARRON: You are
clearly pro-government. You’re pro-statism. Would you agree with that? ANDREW KEEN: No. Well, I’m mean,
explain what you mean. Like, give me an example of– PETER BARRON: You’re in favor of
the intervention of governments to regulate. ANDREW KEEN: I am in
favor of regulation as one of the five tools. I believe that the
biggest mistake in America was the sort of
retreat of government from the digital terrain. I think you guys got very
lucky with safe harbor. Eric Schmidt did a very
nice job on Barack Obama. And god knows what
Trump’s up to. But I think that the
state, you call it, although it’s the government,
an elected government, has a responsibility to
regulate some aspects. And I use the example of
the Industrial Revolution with other industries. So we look at food. Without the regulation
of the food industry, we’d all still be poisoned. Without the regulation
of labor laws, you’d still have 11-year-olds
working in factories. Without regulation, unions
would still be outlawed. So I think you have
to be realistic. This is an English audience. In America, I think people
here are a little bit more realistic about this. In America, any time you
suggest any kind of regulation, you’re accused of being a
Stalinist, which is absurd. It’s just one piece of the
puzzle, one bit of the stack. But to deny its significance,
I think, is extremely unwise. I think it’s unwise of you
as well– not you personally, but your company. And I think you
are acknowledging that government is a reality. I mean, we’re in Steve
Case’s third stage, where politics becomes relevant. I mean, if you didn’t
realize that, you wouldn’t be spending so much
money lobbying in Washington, DC. It’s not a bad thing. We need accountable government. I’m very disappointed in many
ways with the US government. But I think the EU government
is doing a better job. Not ideal– I think
some of the things that some of the European
states are doing are absurd. The French, Spanish
initiative to force Google to pay newspapers
for sending them traffic from Google News
is obviously absurd. It’s an example of
shortsighted, of counterproductive regulation. Not all regulation is right. But I think the GDPR is
an interesting initiative to make data portable, I think
Vestager’s work in antitrust and taxation is important. PETER BARRON: And I thought
the comparison you made with– ANDREW KEEN: I
mean, do you agree? PETER BARRON: Well, I
was going to make a– ANDREW KEEN: He’s
avoiding the question. [LAUGHTER] PETER BARRON: I thought
the comparison you made with the car industry– ANDREW KEEN: Yeah. PETER BARRON: –and Ralph
Nader, “Unsafe at Any Speed,” was a very compelling one. ANDREW KEEN: And let me– PETER BARRON: The
difference I would make there is that because
of poorly designed cars, literally millions
of people died. ANDREW KEEN: Yeah. That’s true. So my argument about the
American car industry– and again I’m speaking to you– I guess we’re in
Britain, but you’re still an American company. My overall argument is I
think some companies, perhaps including yours, have lost
sight of their customers– I don’t know who your customers
are– their users’ interest. So I think your business
model is profoundly flawed in the long term. I think it’s flawed because
it essentially transforms the user into the product. And whilst someone
here will argue, well, people don’t complain. You’re right. But ultimately,
they will, I think. People don’t want to be
watched all the time. People don’t want to be
turned into the product. And I use the example of the
American car industry, which was fat and happy in the ’50s. So fat and happy,
indeed, that they started designing cars that
were essentially deathtraps. Nader, in ’65, wrote his
“Unsafe at Any Speed” that exposed the bad design and
lack of respect for their users in the car industry. And pre-Tesla, the American car
industry has never recovered. So I think it’s
important, whether it’s Google or any
other tech company, to think about the
real interests of what their users want. Now in terms of search
engine, obviously everyone wants a high-quality
search engine, which you have. But you and I have had
this conversation before. I still think people would like
to pay for their search engine if they were guaranteed
complete privacy and that their data
would be left alone. I wish that you
would offer that. I don’t see why it’s a problem. PETER BARRON: You point to
examples of other organizations who are doing that
kind of thing. And that’s the market,
isn’t it, at work. If there is demand for
it, people will come. ANDREW KEEN: Yeah, but it’s
the old Steve Jobs argument as well. If Steve Jobs had
waited for the market, we never would have
had the iPhone. You guys know your market and
the mentality of your users better than anyone. And I think in a sense,
you need to become a little bit more responsible
and accountable in pushing your users towards, say,
paying for services. Whether it’s in
content, in YouTube, whether it’s on search,
I think that the biggest tragedy of the
history of the web was our fetishization of free. I think that has been the
most destructive mistake. I think it’s essentially
destroyed the media industry or much of
the media industry, and has spoiled consumers into
thinking that they shouldn’t have the right to pay
for stuff, which is very misleading and destructive. PETER BARRON: And
subscription design that is coming, both
in news and in music. ANDREW KEEN: Yeah,
which is good, which I hope larger companies
like yours would get behind. It offers another
business model. PETER BARRON: Yeah. So the big disagreement I would
have with you about the book is that, as far as I
could see, there literally is no acknowledgment of
the benefits of technology in the book. And the last time– ANDREW KEEN: We had [INAUDIBLE] PETER BARRON: –last
time you were here, we did play a rather cheap
shot, which was to play you the famous– ANDREW KEEN: Can we
do Monty Python again? PETER BARRON: –what
did the Romans ever do for us clip from Monty
Python, which I haven’t got it. But I’m going to read the quote,
which is what John Cleese says. “All right, but apart from
the sanitation, the medicine, the education, the wine, public
order, irrigation, roads, fresh water, and public health,
what have the Romans ever done for us?” ANDREW KEEN: OK, we’re not
doing Monty Python now, but we can pretend
to do Monty Python. And I could say– and I
wouldn’t, but I could say fake news, technological addiction,
increasing inequality– PETER BARRON: The
book is full of that. The book is full of that. ANDREW KEEN: But
here’s the point is that, Peter, we’re
beyond that discussion now. PETER BARRON: OK– ANDREW KEEN: I wrote– let me come back on this. This is not a book about that. Everyone acknowledges that the
internet’s done amazing things. That’s not the issue anymore. We’ve moved on from that debate. It’s not useful anymore to
be continually discussing whether or not the internet
has benefited humanity. PETER BARRON: OK– ANDREW KEEN: Clearly
it’s done some good, and there are lots of problems. So what I’m doing in the book
is saying, OK, I acknowledge– what’s the point of– it’s like some sort of
political correctness that every time I write
a book I have to explain why the internet’s great. PETER BARRON: No, no, but there
should be an acknowledgment. There should be a balance. Because the point is– ANDREW KEEN: Why? PETER BARRON: Well, when I speak
to you, you’re very reasonable. Then I read your book. [LAUGHTER] So– ANDREW KEEN: This is
[INAUDIBLE] unreasonable book. PETER BARRON: OK, a
couple of– no it’s not. It is, generally speaking,
not an unreasonable book. But let me give you a couple
of quotes from the book. ANDREW KEEN: Generally speaking. PETER BARRON: “Much of the
digital innovation of big tech companies like
Google and Facebook isn’t currently working.” ANDREW KEEN: Yeah. PETER BARRON: Come on. You can’t stand by that. I mean, you can speak to
your phone in Spanish, and it’ll answer in English. ANDREW KEEN: Let’s pick on
our friends in Facebook. Let’s leave Google out of this. I don’t know if there’s
anyone from Facebook. Do you own Facebook yet? [LAUGHTER] That’s next week, right? PETER BARRON: No plans. ANDREW KEEN: Is
Facebook working? It’s infested with fake news. Zuckerberg has
absolutely no idea of where to go in terms
of his business strategy. Kids wouldn’t be seen
dead on Facebook. It’s the perfect sort of place. You know, Putin spends
millions of dollars a year hiring people to post
lies on Facebook. I think mostly, and we
see more and more research showing that kids are
addicted to this thing. Again, it doesn’t mean that
everything about Facebook is bad. We don’t need to get into that. But I would say in overall
terms, Facebook is not working. And I think even Zuckerberg
is acknowledging– I mean, he acknowledged
that most people now realize that one of
the main reasons why Trump won the election was
because the Russians gamed Facebook. Is Facebook working? PETER BARRON: I would
acknowledge that there are definitely issues. But our point is please hold
us accountable for what we do, and generally speaking
don’t bundle us together and bundle us together in the
same sentence with [INAUDIBLE].. ANDREW KEEN: Oh, OK. PETER BARRON: But here’s
another quote, which I find going a little far. “It seems almost normal for
online audiences of millions to watch revenge porn, live
beheadings, and suicides.” That’s not true. ANDREW KEEN: Isn’t it? PETER BARRON: No. ANDREW KEEN: [SIGH]
Almost normal. PETER BARRON: I suppose it
depends on your definition of almost normal. ANDREW KEEN: Yeah. But would you accept
that there has been a profound sort of
corrosion of the culture, and that the kind of
content on this media, where there’s lacking curation,
is very troubling in many ways? The infestation of
sexism and racism and cults of violence,
those are realities. My point is I think that– I’m going to do it again. I’m going to bundle you
and Google and Facebook all together. I think you have
to acknowledge– and we’ve had this
conversation before. You have to acknowledge
that you’re media companies and that you have
a responsibility for the content that’s
published on your network. You have the same responsibility
as a newspaper or a movie studio. And I think the sooner you– not you personally,
but certain companies– acknowledge that, the
better for everyone. Do you– PETER BARRON: And
I don’t disagree. ANDREW KEEN: –agree with that? PETER BARRON: And I would agree
with what you talk about, which is the combinatorial approach. ANDREW KEEN: Right. PETER BARRON: Which
is, there’s no one club to fix these problems. It’s a range of things. And I think actually if
you look at hate speech or violent extremism online– ANDREW KEEN: Yeah. Well, you are doing stuff, but– PETER BARRON: –but it has
been a combinatorial approach. ANDREW KEEN: I do credit some
of the things you’re doing. What I argue, though,
is that we can’t just rely on your
generosity to humanity. The only way that
large tech companies are coming to the table
to fix these solutions is when they’re threatened
with major fines. You only do it with
the bottom line threat. It’s not enough to just
tell these people to take responsibility. And that’s why I think
I applaud some of the– and even what the Germans
are doing with YouTube and some of the other media. I think that’s the
only way it works. And I think the other
mistake, since we’re on a Facebook, Google rant, the
other mistake that’s happened– this is certainly
not true of you, but of some people
in these large tech companies is that they
believe their own hype. They believe their own Kool-Aid. Or they’ve drank the
Kool-Aid so much that they’ve started to believe it. And one of the delusions of–
and I think this was true Google in an early
stage, maybe not now. But in the early days, with
Larry and Sergey and the do no evil stuff,
it was this idea that you could be
incredibly successful and do good simultaneously. And that you were,
and Facebook, you were breaking the mold
of capitalist companies. The typical capitalist
company was an oil company or a big bank. And they may not
be evil, but they had no benefit to humanity. The idea of the Google IPO and
the Facebook IPO and so much of the kind of
ideology that came out of Silicon Valley
in the Web 2.0 age, up until maybe three
or four years ago, was that we are different. We are reinventing,
re-architecting capitalism. And I don’t think that’s true. I don’t think big
tech companies are any worse than big banks
or big pharma companies. But they’re no better either. PETER BARRON: Yeah, and
actually one thing that I– ANDREW KEEN: Do you agree? PETER BARRON: One
thing– up to a point. One thing– ANDREW KEEN: Up to a point. PETER BARRON: –that
struck me about the book was not a great deal
of mention of the user. ANDREW KEEN: Yeah. PETER BARRON: And I think the
big difference with Google and other tech companies
is that we are extremely answerable to the user. And when we get things wrong,
that we hear about it very, very quickly. ANDREW KEEN: I think
that’s a fair point. And I still think, since
you’re being so frank and open, I think one of the
weaknesses of the book is that I still assume
that users will rebel. And I’m sure you do
a lot of research on how happy your users are. And I assume they’re
reasonably happy. My fear and prediction
is that we still haven’t had a major data event. We still haven’t had an
Exxon Valdez or certainly a Chernobyl. And I still feel
something will happen. It may be a state-to-state
digital event, which will open people’s eyes. You know Click, the [INAUDIBLE]
media search engine that’s designed to take on Google. When their chief technology
officer, Belgian guy. I think he’s an old friend
of Larry and Sergey– very smart guy. We sat in their
office in Munich, and he showed me how
much you can find out about anyone online if you
know what you’re doing. And I think when you
show regular people that, they would be terrified. Because people still
value their privacy. PETER BARRON: Yeah,
and I like the line that you use about nothing,
nothing, nothing, and then bang. And you’re kind of
suggesting that– ANDREW KEEN: Yeah, and I
think it’s always at the time where, you know, no
business model, no company lasts forever. I think, since I’m
being self-critical, another weakness of the
book is on the one hand, I worry about monopolies
and huge companies. And on the other hand,
I predict their demise. So I wouldn’t talk about
that publicly, of course, but I think there is
some inconsistency. PETER BARRON: This
is going on YouTube. ANDREW KEEN: Oh dear. Yeah, but YouTube’s
biased, Right? PETER BARRON: We can edit. We can edit. ANDREW KEEN: There’s
only beheadings. Are we going to have a
ritual beheading at the end? PETER BARRON: So towards
the end of the book, you talk about the kind
of public spiritedness and education, the
need for education. And actually you talk about
the universal basic income as well, which I think you
kind of come out in support of. Yes? ANDREW KEEN: Look, coming
out against universal income, basic incomes, like coming out
against apple pie, or babies. PETER BARRON: Really? I’m a northern Irish Protestant. I think our northern
Irish Protestant view is if you give people
money without a job, they’re going to
spend it on drink. ANDREW KEEN: Well, that’s
true in northern Ireland. Yeah, but what do you
make of the argument? And again, it’s a popular
argument in Silicon Valley. What do you make of the
argument that technology may take away so many
jobs that there just aren’t going to be jobs. What’s everyone going to do? Not everyone can
work for Google. What’s the market cap of Google? It’s almost a trillion. How many people work for you? PETER BARRON: 70,000, 80,000. ANDREW KEEN: Yeah,
exactly, and we know there’ll be less and less
as AI becomes more and more central in your company. What I like about the
guaranteed minimum income is it’s thinking big. Just as in the middle
of the 19th century, there was no social
security net, no way of protecting unlucky
workers from the ravages of industrial capitalism. So Bismarck, who certainly
was anything but a socialist, pioneered social security. Then it was developed in
Scandinavia, in the UK, and in the US. I think we need to be
thinking in those big terms. My problem with
universal basic income is it seems to satisfy the
conscience of Silicon Valley billionaires like Sam Altman. But I’m not sure if we have 80%
of the people in our society living on $2,000 a month. The whole world will
look like San Francisco, be a few noblemen and
barons in their mansions and everybody else living
out on the streets. So the problem, I think,
with universal basic income is it can kind of
institutionalize already the inequalities of our age. And you’re right. I mean, look, you and I grew
up in the age of the dole in the UK, where a lot of
people did just sit on the dole and do nothing and
drink and watch TV. So that is an issue. But I think we need
to think creatively. In the book, I go
to Switzerland, which is the first country
to have a referendum on it. This is becoming a real issue. It’s a real issue in Finland. It’s an issue in Canada. It’s an issue in Brazil. We need to think big. We can’t just fall back
on the old certainties, because they don’t work. I mean, what do
you think about– every economist, from even
McAfee and Brynjolfsson, who are relatively
optimistic are concerned about the impact
of smart technology on jobs. Just because technologies
in the past have created jobs doesn’t guarantee
it in the future. So I do think we have
to acknowledge this. And if indeed this technology,
as many economists predict, do put 30%, 40%
of us out of work, we’ve got come up
with something. PETER BARRON: No, sure. ANDREW KEEN: Otherwise there’s
revolution on the street. People have nothing to eat. It’s an important
issue to think about. PETER BARRON: Yeah. And, look, all I would say is
that the experience of history is that technology has made
the world a better place every single time
throughout history. And there’s no reason to
suppose that the last wave is going to be any different. But it doesn’t mean that there’s
not bumpiness along the way. ANDREW KEEN: But it depends. Right, but that’s a sort of
a linear view of the world. I think if you lived in
Germany in the 1930s, technology wasn’t making
the world a better place. Certainly the experience
of the Soviet Union didn’t make the
world a better place. So you can find examples of
how the Industrial Revolution worked, and you can find
examples of how the Industrial Revolution failed. And even I talk about
environmental regulation and the way in which the
Industrial Revolution in that sense has been tamed. But we know from
people like Naomi Wolf that global warming
remains a huge problem, may indeed be the
biggest problem of all with smart machines. PETER BARRON: I think it’s
bumpiness along the way, and that’s the purpose
of polemics like yours. ANDREW KEEN: But
my book is a map. I use the metaphor of the map. But it’s not like a Google
Map, where you go from point A to B. It’s a much
more complicated map. The future is not linear. And just as we move forward,
so there’ll be new challenges, new opportunities,
there are many routes into the future,
many opportunities. So I think there is
also no singular route. The book deals with Estonia
and Germany and Europe and the US and
India and Singapore, and I suggest that
there are many routes, and that the idea that
the internet creates a one world global village I think
has been proved to be wrong. That doesn’t mean
I glorify what’s happening in China or Russia. But I think we
have to acknowledge the reality of the splinternet. That is the future
of the digital world, for better or worse. PETER BARRON: OK, we’re going
to go with some questions from the audience in a
second, so get ready. But just before that,
just some quick questions. One-word answers, or actually
a symbol, a thumbs up. Big thumbs up or
big thumbs down. ANDREW KEEN: OK. Big thumb up or big thumb down. PETER BARRON: Bitcoin. ANDREW KEEN: In what sense? [LAUGHTER] PETER BARRON: Are you
broadly favorable? ANDREW KEEN: I don’t buy it. PETER BARRON: On balance,
are you in favor? Or is it a good
thing or a bad thing? More or less than
50% favorability? ANDREW KEEN: Well can
I say that, but then I would say for blockchain that. PETER BARRON: OK. Blockchain do that. OK. Uber. ANDREW KEEN: I use
it all the time. Up and down. Up. Especially since Travis
isn’t there anymore. PETER BARRON: Adblock Plus. Up. Up. It sounds amazing. ANDREW KEEN: What do you think? Well, you’ve
appropriated that, right? Haven’t you built
that into Chrome? PETER BARRON: Well,
we’ve acknowledged that there are issues. ANDREW KEEN: And let me
ask you this question, since we’re all family here. Aren’t you killing
your own business by introducing
Adblock into Chrome? PETER BARRON: Trying to
improve the overall ecosystem in which we acknowledge
there are problems. ANDREW KEEN: Is
that a political– PETER BARRON: Next thumbs up
or thumbs down, Karl Marx. Thumbs down. Facebook. ANDREW KEEN: Well,
you know that one. PETER BARRON: Google. ANDREW KEEN: Since I’m here
and you’re always [INAUDIBLE].. No, look, I’m as
Googled as anyone. I probably use it a
million times a day. What I don’t have, though,
is a Google account. I had to do this interview on– you still have this thing. What is it, Google Chat? What’s the thing you
screwed up in social media? PETER BARRON: Google+. ANDREW KEEN: Yeah,
or Google Chat. But I don’t have
a Google account. I don’t use Gmail. So I sort of have this
romantic idea that none of you are watching me, although
I’m sure you are. Because I just use
the search engine without having a Gmail
account or a Chrome account. But I couldn’t write my
books without Google. I could write my books
without Facebook. In fact, I’m not on Facebook. PETER BARRON: Questions. Microphone. ANDREW KEEN: And very fair
questions, by the way. Peter is a gentleman. AUDIENCE: Hi, Andrew. ANDREW KEEN: Hi. AUDIENCE: Thanks for writing
another great book about us. ANDREW KEEN: Thank you. AUDIENCE: I think that– ANDREW KEEN: It’s a great book? Have you read it? AUDIENCE: I’ve just
skimmed a little bit of it. It’s enough. I was actually skimming the bits
about Vestager and Brussels. I think everyone in this
room would agree that there is a need for regulation. And in some of the
examples that you cite, things like the Corvair or
meat safety, food safety regulations, even antitrust
going back to Standard Oil, it was always based on evidence. And I think that what
I see a little bit in the bits of your
book that I just skimmed and a lot of this
discussion around these issues is a lot of rhetoric,
a lot of argument, not a lot of evidence. ANDREW KEEN: Well,
Vestager has– again, I’m not here to represent– AUDIENCE: But you’re actually
just relying on her to say– ANDREW KEEN: Well, but she’s
not some schmo off the street. I mean, she has, what, three
antitrust investigations of you guys. And the stuff on– PETER BARRON:
[INAUDIBLE] looks after the antitrust investigation. ANDREW KEEN: Right,
so I’m not sure whether we have a
compromise here. But I mean, the stuff on travel,
I mean that stuff is real. That’s not an invention. AUDIENCE: Well, let
me put it another way. What we’ve always had is
a press or people like you who write books that
actually are independent and look at these issues
in an independent way. There was evidence that
the Corvair was deadly before regulators intervened. And it wasn’t just Ralph
Nader standing up saying, I don’t like this car. We actually based regulation
on a system of rules and a system of evidence. And I think what’s interesting
about the internet is that nobody feels obliged to
use those standards anymore. Maybe the standards
should shift. But I don’t think
that the discussion– ANDREW KEEN: Well, but let’s
use the example of Uber. I saw a report this week that
suggested that the average Uber driver earns I
think $3.50 an hour. And in the book, I talk about
the way in which– again, I don’t pick on Uber. There are other sharing
companies do the same thing– are not conforming to laws
in terms of protecting the rights of their workers. I mean, these are real things. I mean, they’re
not to be ignored. It doesn’t make them
necessarily robber barons. They may not be equivalent
of the textile mills where people lose their arms
and 11-year-olds slave away. But still, it’s a problem. These are issues that
need to be resolved. Fake news is another
huge issue that has implications in our
politics and our culture. The impact of a technology
in terms of addiction is also very real. So I think it’s
unfair to say that– AUDIENCE: You can’t [INAUDIBLE]
those things, right? Each one has to be based on– ANDREW KEEN: No, I agree. But you’re particularly
talking about antitrust. I mean, look, you
know a lot more. You’d kill me on an
antitrust argument. But I’m not sure
you’d kill Vestager. I mean, she’s killing
at the moment. PETER BARRON: It’s
a work in progress. Question here. AUDIENCE: Hi. I wanted to ask a question. So you’re kind of
attributing to tech companies the responsibility for
fake news, like democracy is [INAUDIBLE] of sexism,
racism, and so on and so on. But you kind of mentioned
it in your talk. But isn’t the tech
companies, they are the light that’s shown
that there are problems? Because they’re
always been there. And just the
smartphones gave access to express themselves to Uber
drivers, which was before reserved to Oxbridge-educated
white man who are writing in the “Times.” Now everyone can
express themselves. And suddenly we see
all these issues. And we cannot risk that,
and we can change it. ANDREW KEEN: I’ve been
arguing against the idea that the orderly– I mean, you have
new elites, firstly. I mean, you have people with
millions of Twitter followers– huge YouTube following. So we have a new elite. Maybe it’s an an Oxbridge
elite, although I’m sure some of these people
went to the top universities. In fact, if anything,
I think that we have sort of a narrow
elite and the disappearance of the middle in this culture. I’m not blaming– you can’t
blame Facebook or YouTube when people do really nasty things. But I do think that
under law there needs to be more accountability. Because otherwise, how
do you clean it up? The problem is,
again, without wishing to acknowledge they’re
a media company, they’re not hiring curators. And the only way
to fix the problem is not through an algorithm,
but through people. And it’s also a way
of creating jobs. AUDIENCE: Hi. I wanted to touch on
what you said on UBI. And I agree with you that
we have a certain amount of responsibility for
disruption in the job market and automation and all
that kind of thing. But I would argue
that actually we need to think even bigger than
UBI and think about how much actually, what we put
a monetary value on. And there’s also a
feminist argument here, that a lot of care
work, except it doesn’t have a monetary value. It’s stuff that people do,
emotional labor, the good in society that we don’t
put a monetary value on, and actually society
should be valuing that. So actually that’s
kind of swathe of things I think that it
isn’t controversial to say we should have a universal
basic income for those people. ANDREW KEEN: Yeah. AUDIENCE: And what are
your thoughts on that? ANDREW KEEN: Well, I think that
what the smart machines are doing is making us realize
that certain human things, like empathy, and sympathy,
and the ability to communicate, these are the things
that we need to focus on. And I think we need reforms. And in my education
chapter, I focus on this with Waldorf
education and other humanistic traditions. So I think you’re
absolutely right. And I think that
clearly technology is beneficial in many ways. I mean, the invention
of the washing machine was one of the most remarkable
inventions in human history. It liberated women from
cleaning clothes, which is a remarkable step forward. Obviously no one would
ever criticize that. I think you’re absolutely right. So the key, though,
is to figure out how, if you like, to
monetize empathy. What kinds of new
companies are going to exist that build their
business models around empathy, the services and the products? So it’s the old argument. You may have machines that can
detect sickness and illness and disease. But you won’t have machines
that can tell someone that they’re sick. That’s always going
to be a human thing. PETER BARRON: And you
ask the question of, what are humans good for? ANDREW KEEN: Yeah. PETER BARRON: So what
are humans good for? ANDREW KEEN: Well, I think the
humans are good for agency. Humans are good–
this might seem an avoidance of the
question, but humans are good for the very things
that smart machines can’t do in the smart machine age. I’m a little wary of
defining humanity. It’s such a big
word, and it’s so kind of meaningless
and amorphous. So I argue that every age, we
have a different definition of what humanity is. And I suggest in
the 21st century, what it means to be human
is being able to do things that smart machines can’t do. So it’s the empathy. It’s the agency stuff
that laces the book. I do have one
question for you guys. Maybe you can answer,
or maybe there’s someone in the audience. I’m interested in– I do have one section
on moral responsibility of the new elite. What you think the
responsibility not necessarily of you individually, but
of the senior executives at this company, particularly
the founders of the company, how they should actually be– and I don’t want to
just pick on them. I mean, you can include
Zuckerberg as well, and Benioff, and Bezos. What they should be
giving back to society, and whether the
analogy of Carnegie is a useful one, and 19th
century robber barons. Do you– PETER BARRON: No, I thought
that section was interesting. And you spoke pleasantly
about DeepMind. ANDREW KEEN: Yeah. It gets good press, DeepMind. PETER BARRON: And
actually, interesting, you didn’t mention Sundar
Pichai at all in the book. ANDREW KEEN: Yeah. PETER BARRON: And
again, I think– ANDREW KEEN: Should I have? PETER BARRON: Well,
I think you should. And I think actually Sundar– ANDREW KEEN: That’s
probably unfair. PETER BARRON: –would
probably agree broadly with your five principles. ANDREW KEEN: What
about Larry and Sergey? PETER BARRON: I
think they would too. I mean– ANDREW KEEN: And Eric? Everyone. PETER BARRON: The whole gang. ANDREW KEEN: I make it
very clear in the book that I’m not against the market,
and I’m not against capitalism. But on the other hand, that
doesn’t justify everything. I just did an interview
with Chris Hughes, the co-founder of Facebook. In the beginning of
his book, he said he made half a billion dollars
for three years of work as an undergrad at
Harvard because he happened to share a dorm
room with Mark Zuckerberg. Got very lucky. He acknowledged
he got very lucky. He says that’s wrong. And I think your
point is a fair one. Look, my book can’t
deal with everything. Piketty has already written,
and a number of other economists have written important books
about the inequality seemingly inherent in
contemporary capitalism. I am not an economist, and I
couldn’t really address that. But I agree. I think the problem is one
of contemporary capitalism. But increasingly it’s
becoming digital capitalism. And the kind of wealth that’s
being created for individuals, I think, it’s just unhealthy
for everyone, including them. I mean, in the book I suggest,
I think the nine wealthiest people in Silicon Valley, if
you add up all their wealth, it’s the same as 2 billion
people in the world. That’s just unacceptable. Now you can blame
Silicon Valley for that. They’re playing
by the same rules. They’re not acquiring
that wealth illegally. But it is a huge problem,
and ultimately it doesn’t benefit the tech
community because you have the vilification of tech. When you have Bernie Sanders,
and Elizabeth Warren, and Ted Cruz, and Steve Barron
all talking about antitrust, all saying that there’s a
problem in Silicon Valley, then there’s a problem. PETER BARRON: Last
question here. AUDIENCE: You mentioned
that one of your assumptions is that at some point,
consumers or users will rebel. What do you think would
be the tipping point? What would it take? ANDREW KEEN: Well,
as I said, I think when it comes to, say,
your business model, a major data event. David Kirkpatrick, who’s a very
well-known and responsible, respected tech journalist. He used to be the tech
editor of “Fortune.” He wrote the book on
the history of Facebook. I bumped into him
at CES in January. He said to me that
there’s rumors that the Chinese
government is actually acquiring all the data
of everyone in America, and that’s a sort of form
of economic or data war. Now I don’t know if that’s true,
but if people like Kirkpatrick are talking about that,
it becomes a reality. And it’s clear with what
the Russians have done in terms of American democracy. It’s clear what the
Russians are doing with every election
in Europe, from Italy to Czech Republic to
the UK and Brexit, that there are a lot
of problems with what’s going on in the data
world in politics. So I think you never know
what’s going to happen. But stuff will happen. Stuff so serious that
it will wake people up. No one could have– I guess you could have
predicted Chernobyl, but no one did
until it happened. And then it seemed
obvious and inevitable. And the same will happen. I think your– I mean, this is really
my message to Google, is you’re dominant. You’ve won. You think you’ve won, or– I’m not saying you,
but it seems to me as if you think you’re so far
ahead that you can’t be caught. I think, as always in human
history, the rules of the game change with– you know Harold Macmillan’s
famous remarks about, why did you change your mind? He said, events,
dear boy, events. And that’s what’s
going to happen here. Events, dear people, events. And then you will see. I don’t know what
it’s going to be. I have no idea. But digital is becoming
central in everything, particularly in
state-to-state relations. And my guess will be that
somehow China will be involved. China is a much bigger
threat, I think both to Google and to the US and the
West, than Russia. I think we got it
wrong with Russia. I mean, they are, of course. They’re like a fly. They’re annoying fly. And China is much larger, much
more destructive, much more problematic in the
long run, and much more sophisticated in
their use of data. PETER BARRON: With
that, Andrew Keen. Thank you very much indeed. ANDREW KEEN: Thank you. [APPLAUSE]

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