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This week Paul and Rich send us a message from the future in the year 2058. A lot has happened since 2022 (like Paul Ford becoming the President of the United States of America). Paul and Rich report on the state of the world, from vaccines to climate to the state of software, and share what we could have done differently.

Transcript

Paul Ford People accuse us of maybe being a little too nostalgic and looking back and I am nostalgic sometimes for snow. But I also really love the way the technology industry has turned out and the fact that I’m 30% robot spiders. So I think that there’s a lot that we can learn from the past.

[music ramps up, plays alone, fades out]

PF Rich! Oh my goodness! Here we are in the metaverse. Good to see you my friend!

Rich Ziade Let me tell you something, ever since I started taking Reverserate which reverses the aging process, when it came up in what? 2044?

PF You look good!

RZ I was about to turn 70, dude. And now I’m like, 48 I mean. Now mind you in 30 years, I’m going to be 10 years old, which will be weird. But let’s put that aside for a second. I feel really good.

PF It’s going to be hard on your son. 

RZ It’ll be tricky. It’ll be tricky. Well, yeah. So it’s good to be here. The year is 2058.

PF Yeah, let’s look back at what changed! 2058! It’s gonna be exciting to talk about the climate. Personally, I wasn’t able to really get that Reverserate prescription, but I was able to partially upload my brain to an artificial intelligence. It broke halfway through and now I’m about 30% mechanical spider, but that’s fine. We’re all doing great. Postlight’s doing great. It’s 20–what year is it you said?

RZ 2058.

PF 2058. [whistles] Boy.

RZ My iPhone 71 just vaccinated me like 20 minutes ago. It’s crazy.

PF Did you get the suppository version? Or did you get the just the classic?

RZ No, I got classic. I got the two by two, the two by two inch. 

PF Yeah, it doesn’t have as many cameras.

RZ It stretches out to like a piece of paper essentially like an eight and a half by 11. But it’s two by two in my pocket. Thing is though, it just it sent me the notification. It’s like do you want it? I was like, yes. And it was like, okay. It’ll be administered in the next 12 hours. Then I felt a sting in my pants. And I’m like, dude, you can’t just vaccinate–I don’t like this feature.

PF Ah, no, no, they did that with that U2 album and they can do it with the actual vaccine as well. That’s just Apple.

RZ Also, dude, Booster’s in app purchase is not cool. 

PF You know, it’s wacky as people used to get really upset about the idea of Bill Gates from Microsoft injecting them with the nano machines in the form of vaccines. And now they’ll pay Apple like $100 just to do it. 

RZ You know why? I trust Apple. 

PF Tim Cook has been doing good too. He aged backwards. He’s three. [Rich laughs] It’s a brave product vision. It just says ‘poopy’.

RZ We’re dodging the big story. Okay? All the boutique hotels that were in Miami moved to Montreal, is not by accident.

PF We’re in we’re in Montreal right now.

RZ We are in Montreal right now. It’s 80 degrees. It’s January. And, you know, we tried to turn it around, Paul. Let’s go back 50–let’s go back, not even, 30 years, Paul, the early 2020s. I mean, there were enough damn white papers out–

PF Movie with Leonardo DiCaprio.

RZ Are you talking about Wolf of Wall Street? That was really good. 

PF No, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, that’s touching, just nobody thinks about that. But boy, and that, you know, in some ways, it really did anticipate climate change that movie. But no, we really had it. We did have a lot of warning. I mean, you and I had a lot of conversations back then before I became half spider and you started to deage. We were doing our best to take it seriously really, you know, working for clients and everybody was just talking a lot about the climate. Yeah, we whiffed it. We whiffed it real bad.

RZ Well, we tried though, Paul. I mean, look, hindsight is 2020.

PF Yeah, I gave $700 to a group of different climate charities. And it just didn’t work!

RZ I remember back then I was separating my papers and my plastics and my compost. I was being a good citizen. You know, we’re 30 years out, that ship is kind of sailed. 

PF Well, literally, we all live on ships. And and we have to use sails. So there is that.

RZ What could we have done differently, Paul?

PF Well, Richard, in retrospect, I just don’t think it was possible, because what we had to do was to accept the idea that growth was not the most important thing in every possible regard. And that turned out to be just be unAmerican. 

RZ Nobody could stomach that. 

PF You know, I remember Bill Gates had that book. This is before of course, he moved to that satellite. He had that book about about climate. You know, he just really emphasized that no matter what you do, you can’t stop growth, because that will really interfere with the safety and well being of the people who are just starting to get into the world economy, very focused on bringing people up. And yet at the same time, half the countries are in turmoil right now. And so like, that’s a tricky one. So it’s a very, it was a very tricky problem. And it turned out we just didn’t have a good solution. The problem was that you can’t just have infinite growth and exploitation natural resources and dump carbon dioxide into the atmosphere without consequence, we thought we had it all worked out with carbon sequestration. And we’re trying to bring nuclear power.

RZ Was it too little too late? 

PF A little bit of that, a little bit. It’s also all the permafrost melting and California catching fire turns out to be–that’s a bad carbon releasing event when the entire American West catches fire.

RZ Right, so it’s almost like a vicious cycle, right? There’s not enough rain, there’s a lot of dry heat, causing forest fires, which then the fires themselves actually–

PF Not only that, but the beach in Siberia is amazing. 

RZ Yeah it’s nice. It’s really nice. 

PF It’s the new French Riviera. Well, there’s no fish. So that part’s difficult.

RZ Well, that’s the thing, right? There’s stuff shaped like fish, but it’s actually just made out of soy and it’s not good.

PF You know what I always wonder is should technology as an industry, should we have doubled down at that exact moment on blockchain?

RZ That’s what you’re wondering?

PF Well, I just think about it a lot. Like you know, 30 years ago, you had a chance to really think about growth and build all kinds of stuff and get really involved in like building tools that would help people figure stuff out and climate. But then, with all those cryptocurrencies, all that stuff, you remember those? Right, those? People thought that would replace our beautiful meat based economy. [Paul laughs] They thought that would replace a lot of things and that it didn’t work. But for a brief moment, a lot of people on $600,000 cartoon monkeys, so I guess that was cool.

RZ You know, the strangest things distract us and we couldn’t get motivated in the right way. Let me ask you this. Let me put you back, I don’t know, let’s go back to the year, oh, I don’t know, 2022.

PF Okay, okay, okay. 

RZ It’s the beginning of the year, and you have just become President.

PF Of the… United… oh the United States! Oh my God. Yes. Okay. Yeah, sure. It was 50 at that point. Yeah, go ahead.

RZ Now, you’ve seen what’s happened to the earth. Canada is a resort destination. Somehow Canada always and, you know, this was the case even back then, any sci-fi book you read Canada was always refuge for some reason. And here we are. Now Canada’s the world power. But putting that aside, you’re the president of the United States. At that time, if I’m not mistaken–

PF Very powerful country. 

RZ Most powerful country in the world. Got this incredible military. What are you doing? You shooting stuff into the clouds? Like, what’s the story like, head this off for us?

PF I’ll remind you some of the stories that were big at that moment, you had that Don’t Look Up movie with Leonardo DiCaprio where a comets gonna hit and then there was Neil Stevenson, sci-fi author, he wrote the kind of libertarian climate novel where people inject sulfur into the sky, in order to bring the global temperature down. And then that affects a lot of lives. You had the kind of extinction rebellion actions where people were just protesting and saying, We have to shut the economy down now if we need to, like just let’s stop putting carbon in the air because you’re wrecking us all. So there wasn’t really one consensus view, you could kind of count on in there. And there were a lot of different attempts. And, you know, later we did try to do a lot of stuff to change. 

RZ That’s awareness raising, that’s not actual action. Like you get to write executive orders. You’re the president. What’s step one?

PF Oh, what would I have done?

RZ You’re the president. Stop watching Netflix, you just read you just read books and watched TV. That’s you as president in 2022?

PF God, that’s probably true, actually. [Rich laughs] Sounds wonderful.

RZ I mean, let’s boil is down even, I know you’re distracted. Dude, I know you want to get back to your swimming pool up in Ontario. 

PF That’s right. 

RZ Give me a sec. 

PF Well, I have to I have to lubricate my robot arms.

RZ Putting that aside for just a minute. What’s the first thing you do? You are president in 2022?

PF Well, given what we know now about what happened, I accept some economic shock. And I put an enormous tax on anything that is carbon emitting, while trying to bootstrap a carbon marketplace as ethically as I can. But for the most part, I have to get emissions under control. I pour trillions of dollars into alternative energy sources, wind, solar, also nuclear, whatever works. And anything that can electrify anything without burning carbon I go for. I use every possible mechanism that I have, push that through Congress as hard as I can. And of course, they all go with it, vote for it, make it happen. And $10 trillion in just the US goes towards decarbonizing as more and more green jobs are created. Now, of course, all the other countries seeing us follow suit, and agree to decarbonize as well. In fact, we won’t even import anything that is a major greenhouse gas emitting, has a production power.

RZ So you’re a wartime President? You’ve decided we are at war.

PF That is what in retrospect we probably should have done is admit that we were in a fight with the weather of the future.

RZ Which kind of highlights why we flubbed it, Paul, because humans, until they’re actually at war, are not very good at declaring war. They’re just not good at it. You have to see the pain, you have to feel the pain. Even when you feel the pain, there’s going to be another cohort that’s going to tell you, oh, that’s not really pain.

PF Well, you just turn up the air conditioning. 

RZ Yeah, I mean, look today, as we look ahead, into now, and you know, Congress no longer exists. It’s just an AWS instance, which is convenient. And it’s easier to deal with.

PF It’s definitely, I mean, it does occasionally, you know, Virginia goes down on a pretty regular basis. [Rich laughs] But nonetheless, overall, uptime is pretty good. And, god, he’s here to get them to vote on something. 

RZ Alright, you’re not President. You are the CEO of Microsoft, the most successful technology company in the world in the year 2022. Okay, what can tech do, Paul? Tech seems to solve everything, man. We got a vaccine, I remember way back then. They told us you gonna have to wait five years for a vaccine. We got one in like a year. So why can’t tech fix this one?

PF You see if you look at what technology is doing in 2022, historically, looking back, you’ll see that there’s a couple of different things that are happening, you’ve got obviously supercomputers running climate models and making data available and so on.

RZ Predicting.

PF Predicting, okay, so those are good predictions, they’ve been around for a long time. They’re very good, they’re very accurate overall. And they, we’ve now had enough history to see that they worked pretty well, so good for them. Then there are all the startups, the carbon sequestration startups, that was quite a scene and you know, the cricket protein and and like all these things that, um, you know, Beyond Meat, and all those things that were intended to take something that was extremely greenhouse gas emitting, and then turn it into something that would emit no or negative, you know, like, because we’re going to plant trees or whatever. Okay, so there’s a startup, then you had the giant technology companies. And what they tended to do was try to solve things at a giant planetary scale, because that’s how they see themselves. So Microsoft, if I remember correctly, created a giant planetary observation lab. It was sort of like a service, you can jump on and use all sorts of open climate data and do things with it. That was very good stuff for certain kinds of scientists, big not for profits, and NGOs, and they could kind of prove their stuff out. But it certainly didn’t translate into individual actions for billions of people, which is another thing that technology is very good at, I don’t know if you remember Facebook, do remember that? It got renamed Meta at one point.

RZ Well he shot himself into space, too. Yeah, you’re in the middle of it, you’re supposed to, like testify in front of Congress. And next thing you know, you’re in outer space.

PF It’s so weird, I never seen that trillionaire CEO just shoot himself into a black hole space in homily of the side of the moon before, but I you know, you get that much money, you just do all kinds of stuff. Anyway, apparently, he will be back 10,000 years from now, but we’re not gonna have to worry about that. You know, the technology industry, it will touch as many people as it can always has, you know, in order to get them to engage with brands, you know, look at ads and do stuff, or it’ll sell them software, but it kept trying to resolve climate stuff into a kind of planetary issue. And I think that was because at that moment, when it was really, really critical, what the tech industry couldn’t figure out is that it was once again, you know, tech started in the 80s as kind of the servant of all the other industries that would help you, you know, do your spreadsheets and organize your stuff. And then it got to be worth trillions of dollars. And there were, you know, millions, millions and millions of developers and tech really decided that it ran the world and that software was eating the world and so on. And really what we needed at that moment, I think, was for technology to say, well, we exist in service of all humankind. And we’re going to give them the power to do climate related things right there in their in their hands, using all of the tools that we’ve built.

RZ Changing, shifting individual, because tech is amazing at that, right? Like tech is incredible at changing how people behave.

PF If there’s an economic incentive, and in this case, the economic incentive was negative. We need people to do less of things. That is bad for business right? Now, it’s worse for business to have no customers, which is, you know, unfortunately, something that’s happened throughout the world, and has been hard on the technology industry because when people don’t exist, they won’t buy cell phones. But at the time, that’s a very hard thing that to extrapolate only like large reinsurance firms think that way. And so the tech industry didn’t quite get together, but boy, did they make some some really interesting API’s that would let you query weather data. We’re still here. That’s what matters. We’re still here.

RZ We are still here. But you know what, dude, I miss New York City. I misse the beaches in the Caribbean. 

PF Remember the Rockaways and Coney Island? They were amazing. Then again, you know, some of them have only seen a few inches of sea level. It’s just really the precipitation and the rising heat as well as the agricultural changes that are causing all the problems. But I don’t want to belabor this, you know, life is still pretty great. I have 25 different kinds of Coronavirus right now, but everything is going okay.

RZ You didn’t buy the vaccine pack? Wait, are you using Android to vaccinate?

PF Well, and then I tried to get the vaccine subscription that comes in the box. Yeah, that that one went out of business.

RZ This is a great podcast. We’ve been doing this now for almost sixty years.

PF Yeah, this is episode number 642,000. 

RZ It’s amazing we can still talk about workflow and product management 6,000 episodes in. [Rich laughs]

PF Yeah, well, you know, we don’t really have a choice, do we? But I still love software, still the most exciting thing in the world.

RZ Paul, wherever you are in the earth, and boy, the Earth is changing on it on a minute to minute basis at this point.

PF We were very smart 10 years ago, 15 years ago, when we decided to, we left our office in New York City, very tough. We moved in to a fleet of boats that now traverse–solar powered–traverse the oceans, we are the world’s first ocean based product development firm.

RZ Amazing. So if I need services, and I’m on the coast of North Carolina, how do I reach out?

PF You might even be on the coast of West Virginia, I mean, you can send me an email to hello@postlight.com. One of our boats will come to you. That is how committed we are to service. You can tell us everything that’s going on and we will help you build your digital product. It could be for drone based vaccine injection. It could be for nanotechnology screen protectors. I mean, so many categories of products. It’s weird because you still can’t get a 3d graphics card though. That’s the hard part. 

RZ Yeah, well, that we can’t solve everything. But you know, product management, design, nautical navigation.

PF You can pay us in our glow coin wallet. It’s very exciting. We’re really into that stuff, too. So it’s been a great 40 years of Postlight.

RZ How many vessels are in the fleet at this point?

PF It’s got to be in the hundreds, 1000s of employees, many of them are just people where we provide shelter to them while they’re in transition. [Rich laughs]

RZ It got dark.

PF Ah, it’s fine. It’s just part of being a good services company. But yeah, if you’re experiencing critical risk, we’ll get in there and help you out. 

RZ How do I learn more?

PF Well, just go to Postlight.com. That’s on the World Wide Web. You have that on your sneakers. So go ahead and just tap it. Check that out.

RZ Let me TLDR this podcast, Paul, even though everyone listened to it at 60x speed.

PF Yeah, no injected directly into their cortical vein.

RZ Tech is incredibly capable of galvanizing change and accelerating change in positive ways. But to date, tech is entirely incented and aligned towards money. And capital. That’s the hard part. 

PF But let’s be clear, that’s not just tech, that’s everything. 

RZ That is everything. That is everything. 

PF And also, tech is complicated, because it’s very expensive. Building things can be very expensive. So I think that when you look at the future, I’ve been thinking about this, I’m going to be writing about this. When you look at the future of technology and climate, you got to start looking, you don’t just think about like, we’re gonna rebuild something and we’re gonna do carbon sequestration. Like, what can you build with the tools that exist? Because we actually don’t have time to reinvent all of software. And so we’ll talk about this more in the future. But right now we’re in the future.

RZ We really are. Hello@postlight.com.

PF I’m going to go eat some cricket protein, even though I’m 70 and mostly spider. I still love this work.

RZ Ouch! Oh, I just got another booster shot. It’s crazy. It’s just like every like 20 minutes.

PF You just lost like seven pimples as you’re reverting away from adolescence. What a miracle.

RZ Have a great week and we’ll talk to you next week on your phone, watch, earpiece or podcast cough drop.

PF That’s right. I love it in pill form. So if you want the archives, you can just swallow them down. Alright friends.

RZ Have a great week. 

PF Have a great week here in the year 20…

RZ 58.

[music ramps up, plays alone, ends]