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Hello and welcome to "Nesta Talks To," with our guests Yancey Strickler. Thanks for being here on this beautiful very hot day in-- I'm in Oxford, so I'm in the United Kingdom. But we've got people from across the world joining us today. So my name's Kate Sutton. I'll be your host today. I'm hosting because my work at Nesta is primarily focused on the role of business and the private sector and social change and how social innovation can support modern business to put purpose at its centre.
So I'm really excited to have read the book and to be speaking to Yancey. Quickly, about Nesta, we're a global innovation foundation. We bring bold ideas to life that change the world for good. And "Nesta Talks To," the series, is a series. It's an informal conversational series with today's most interesting thinkers, focused on the big topics that define our future. And in this age, there's a lot of information, a lot of webinars, a lot of activity happening right now in this COVID time. How do we make sense of the world around us? How can we play a part in shaping our future?
And we've put together some incredible people to help us, guide us through these questions. And today it's Yansey. Before I introduce him, I just wanted to say we're going to have a chance for Q&A, I think. For those of you who joined at the beginning, you would have seen how to do that. But you can pop your questions in the Q&A box at the bottom there. And in the second half of the session, we'll get to those questions. So, and we'll be finishing at 5:00, in time for you to have a drink or enjoy the rest of the evening.
So excited to introduce writer and entrepreneur Yancey Strickler. He is the co-founder and former CEO of Kickstarter, a distinguished Fellow at the Drucker Institute. He's been named a Young Global Leader for the World Economic Forum. He began his career as a music critic in New York but grew up on a farm in Clover Hollow in Virginia. But now he lives in Vancouver, Canada with his family. We can see your child there.
Welcome. It's great to have family on board. The London [INAUDIBLE] called Yansey "one of the least obnoxious tech evangelists ever," which I think sounds great.
[INAUDIBLE] this book, This Could Be Our Future, a Manifesto for a More Generous World. And he's the creator of Bentoism, which is in this book. And we're going to be talking about the book and Bentoism today. So thanks, Yansey, for being here. Great to see your face.
Thank you for having me. Good morning, everybody, afternoon, wherever you are.
Morning to you, of course, being in Vancouver. So thanks so much for getting up and joining us. So the book-- just to kick us off, the book is really in two parts. And the first part is made a really strong argument against financial maximisation and for really re-conceptualising value, how we measure value in society. I'm just really interested in how you came to devote your time and want to write a book about this.
Well, I'm not a traditional business person, never took a business course in university. I'm a creative person who got pulled into entrepreneurship because of just the brilliance of the idea of Kickstarter and just feeling so compelled by it. And so I became-- music critic was my old job. And so becoming a CEO inside a big tech-- not a big, but a big-name tech company was interesting because it just-- I felt like a fish out of water. And it just made me very aware of the kind of incentives and structures that we were operating within.
And one that was really obvious, became quickly obvious even as we tried to distance ourselves from it, was the degree to which you are, as a company, expected to sort of like engineer every decision to produce the maximum profit possible, and that every investor conversation is pushing for that. That is the blood. That is the cadence of business, and that you often end up in decisions because there are-- clear decisions are made simply, [INAUDIBLE]. But the harder decisions stick around for a while.
And you often get in this place, as a leader of a team, where there are two options. And one option has a financial outcome with some bad stuff that we either don't know how to quantify or don't take the time to quantify. There's an option two, where the bad stuff's not bad, but also the financial outcome is less. And 9 times out of 10, the company's going to choose option one.
And what I've seen, being in the room for those things, is that we struggle for a kind of a rational language to talk about those kinds of trade-offs and to see the perspective beyond just this financial one. And so I was really motivated by that as a CEO. And at Kickstarter we did a lot to try to counter that. We became a public benefit corporation, which requires us to balance those financial interests with producing a positive public benefit. And it's a legal requirement.
But I was also just interested in the individual experience of being a leader in a situation like that and how difficult it is to make a good decision and the way that even your own team members or employees will, say, push for more financial growth because that is what they see in the world around us. And so at Kickstarter, we were always trying to build a bridge to a different model of what it meant to be a tech organisation. We're kind of a post-tech arts company in a way, but just trying to imagine an organisation that really has its purpose at its core, that is serving that purpose, and that puts its financial interests secondary to that and to try to begin the process of normalising them.
And so the book is really making that case for why this is a critical shift to make and really arguing that our focus on financial maximisation is a thing that has really just emerged in the last 50 years or so, the way we experience it today. And there's no question a lot of benefits, but there's also a lot of negatives. And there's a lot of people attacking the financialization of our economy.
But what is an alternative-- answer? What are we working towards if not that? And that's where, I think, we've been a little bit stuck. And that's what the second half of my book is about because I think I have an idea about what that is.
You do. And I'll get to that in just a second. But I think you're pretty scathing about financial maximisation. I'm just looking at some of the points in the book. Monopolies block competition and entrepreneurship. Chains starve local communities of money and opportunity. Corporations and the wealthy hide 10% of GDP in offshore tax havens.
This is the negative. And if we hadn't gone down that route 50 years ago, you argue the average worker would have been paid more. Taxes for top earners would be higher. The rich would still be rich but not as rich. And I think in the first half of the book, you really set out some stories that capture that. Were there any stories in-- any of those kind of examples in particular that while you were doing the research for the book or doing the kind of story collecting that really kind of drove you forward on this anti-financial maximisation space?
Yeah. I think it's just reviewing. I was really struck by something that the filmmaker Adam Curtis said to me. Adam's a friend, and we were talking about variety because he was saying that he believed that self-expression is this thing that we all do, that it's such a moment of our age, that we can't see how it's a moment of age because we're all part of it. But it's like if you look at a picture of people in the 1920s everyone's wearing the same kind of hat. And you're like, why did everyone wear the same hat? And back then everyone's like, I'm not wearing the same hat. That's a whatever, whatever.
And so that thought really stuck out to me when he said that. And so I just began to think about this financial motive as being this underlying just assumption. But I think that just what happens is that it limits our possibilities. It limits the possibilities of the world to those that are profitable and those that are profitable enough.
And I had a wild moment of experiencing this. I went to a dinner after my book came out. And there were billionaires at this dinner. It's not a normal thing for me. I was a wallflower. And then you're forced to sit at your table with these people. And there's literally a billionaire next to me, a billionaire across from me.
And they asked me what I do. I tell them I wrote a book, tell them what the book's about, explain the idea. It's about how we've been overtaken by this value system. And they all look at me, and they're like-- two people immediately are getting up from the table-- check. But we started having this conversation. They're pushing back on this idea that we really are letting money run away from things.
They're like, we're not focused on profit. It's just that our businesses are so well run. And the global economy means that these numbers kind of grow. And I do see there is some argument to that. But I was saying, well, could you imagine spending money on, say-- what if planting a billion trees today is the single-most profitable thing you could do for your enterprise? What if 20 years from now, the thing that makes you the most money is there being a billion more trees on the planet at that moment? Can you imagine the [INAUDIBLE] for that decision?
And people just weren't really having it. And at this moment, this CEO sat down, a CEO for a very famous outdoors wear company, and he's like, what are you all talking about? And they explained that I'm talking about this idea. And I say to him, look, you're the CEO of an outdoors company. Can you imagine that you took some of your budget, and you put it into planting trees and protecting the environment, and that's what protects the lifestyle, allows you to have your business, and that is the best that you can do as the CEO of your company?
And he just responded with the smirks, just saying. I see what you're trying to do. I see what you're trying to do and just wouldn't say, wouldn't commit. And what I saw was there's this-- that money is the only valuable thing. In the business context, we believe that the only rational goal is a financial outcome because that's what that guy's bosses are talking to him about.
And the notion of using financial value to create another form of value that isn't a benefit of your business is, like-- I don't know. It's like the missing synapse. It's crazy to me that that connection couldn't be made, the idea that you can make an indirect investment that is producing a greater return. And so to me, it shows the degree that we are captured by the notion that all decisions must produce a financial return that beats the S&P 500 for this year and that we've winnowed our world down to just the possibilities that-- what meets those possibilities.
Yeah. And I think that's a great story and a unique opportunity that not all of us to get to have. So I think probably many people watching this interview are thinking, yeah, I get this. I agree. I think this all makes sense. But what do we do? I think it's really easy to attack. It's really easy to say this here's the problem. The system isn't working for us. But it's a lot harder to say what is the solution.
In the second half of the book, you spend a lot of time talking about what you think the solutions are. And part of that is Bentoism, which I've kind of-- reading the book, I see it as a philosophy, as well as a set of tools to help individuals, to help companies, help organisations to make better decisions around the future based on a different vision of a value. And I just wanted you to talk to us because this will be quite new, I think, to everybody [INAUDIBLE].
Yeah, totally. Fresh off the street.
[INAUDIBLE] this [INAUDIBLE].
Yeah. I'm going to share a screen and talk about it. It started for me as I was digging into this question of financial maximisation. And I read Wealth of Nations. And it's a lot about trusting the [INAUDIBLE] self-interest. And this is sort of like the root level of some of capitalism, one part of capitalism.
And I really sort started thinking about, well, how is it that we find self-interest? And that became an interesting question to me. And so around this time, I started-- let me know that you can see this, you could see that screen.
I'm screen sharing a Chrome window.
Here we go. There it is.
And so-- yeah. So one day I tried. I thought, I'm just going to try to draw self-interest, like how to visualise this. And I drew this chart of a line going up and to the right. This is called a hockey stick graph [INAUDIBLE]. And this is where your self-interest, money, power, fame, whatever it is you want is growing so fast. The line just shoots to the moon.
As I looked at this picture, which, to me, embodied how I thought of self-interest, how that was represented to me in the world, it occurred to me that this is just a small slice of a much larger picture. Because the x-axis, representing time, it goes from now all the way into the future. And it goes into the past, too. And the y-axis measures self-interest. It also keeps going. Because as our self-interest grows, so do our responsibilities. They go from me to us.
And so actually, I thought there are actually four distinct spaces of our self-interest. There's now me, what I want and need right this second. There's future me, what the older, wiser version of me wants to do, the person that I am becoming every day by my choices. There's now us and my friends and family, the people in my life who I care about. And there's future us, which is my kid. You saw her here, or everyone else's kids if you don't.
And the first time I drew this I thought, every decision I make leaves a footprint in every one of these spaces, right? Every choice I make shapes my future me. It impacts the people around me. But yet I'm blind. Really everything [INAUDIBLE]-- everything [INAUDIBLE] is now me. And so after I drew this, [INAUDIBLE] a very simple description of what I'd drawn. I wrote Beyond Near-Term orientation. This was a simple frame for seeing beyond the near term. And I realised that was an acronym for BENTO.
And I thought about the bento box. Yeah, truly, I thought about the bento box. And the box is the Japanese packed lunch with four, five compartments and a lid. And the bento allows you to have a variety of dishes, not too much of any one thing. And it honours the Japanese dieting philosophy of [JAPANESE], that says the goal of a meal is to be 80% full. That way you're still hungry for tomorrow.
And so I thought Bentoism is the same idea but for our values and our decisions, a way to see the world not just optimising for right this second, but to leave space for the future and for others. And so this is a philosophy, like you said, Kate. But it's also a tool. It's a user interface. You can ask your bento a question.
So here's a smoker asking their bento, should I quit smoking? Now, to use this, they simply ask each of these boxes individually and see what it has to say. And each box will have its own perspective. So this [INAUDIBLE] now us, here in the upper left, should I quit smoking? The smoker now says, yes. Your family hates it. It's bad for your children.
The smoker's future us, should I quit smoking? They say, yes, imagine if [INAUDIBLE] smokes because of [INAUDIBLE]. The smoker's future me says, yes, I want you to quit smoking. I want there to be a future me. But the smoker's now me says, no, keep smoking. By quitting nicotine, quitting cigarettes is going to suck. I'm addicted to nicotine. And this now-me voice has a rational perspective based on a very limited point of view. This is a hard voice to reason with.
And so where we get trapped today is with this kind of passive awareness, where we really only see now me. We philtre all of our choices through I'm going to go get mine. We don't think about the future. We struggle to think about other people. We know these things are there. But these are more secondary thoughts rather than primary thoughts in our decisions.
And this is defensible in a lot of ways, but it also gets us into trouble. Because when you only see now me, it makes something like addiction, like smoking, which satisfies your immediate craving, it makes that look good. But the other hand, to make sacrifice, giving up something now to get something more later for everyone else to get more, that looks irrational, right? And this is where we're in trouble with climate change. We keep looking for solutions to climate change that help our now me.
But the issue of climate change is that it's different. You've got to give something up. Maybe the Green New Deal is the clever way to create the now me of economic stimulus at the same time. But you could see the need is to see this act of awareness, to see all dimensions of ourselves, and that the potential, the resonance of your action to so much more [INAUDIBLE]. That's really possible to do when you know what's going on in each of these spaces.
So in each of these boxes, there's a very simple question that you answer. You go through a brainstorming process. And I can show you another time how to do that. But just doing here my own vows. So my now me. What is it that I want to need? How am I at my best on a day to day? It's when I'm showing people the matrix, connecting ideas-- through going through a lot of brainstorming, I came to think this is kind of my superpower, what I'm best at. My future me, that older wiser version of me, it's telling me to create harmony. It's telling me to not sell out. I'm a child of divorce. I came from punk rock and indie music. So I have a certain value set.
By now us is about a core group of family and friends and having really to focus time with them being, hyper present. And my future us is about imagine for my child a better matrix. It's not that there isn't a matrix, but that it's working to their advantage. And I actually use this to make decisions. So yeah. You want to talk now? You can interrupt me.
I just think-- I mean, I really like-- I mean, I really like it as a decision making kind of tool. I think it intuitively makes sense. And it helps me as someone who is very much toggling between now me and future us constantly, which I think is a weird space to be. But I think kind of one of the criticisms of this kind of philosophy and tool, I guess is that, for those of us who are in I guess privileged positions with income and the space to kind of think, and pontificate.
But there are plenty-- there are a lot of people out there now, particularly now, who are really unable to get away from now me. Now me it's quite live and quite real. And I just wonder--
Yeah, I think--
Yeah. Talk to me about that. Talk to you me about [INAUDIBLE] what you're thinking, and how it can be put into place.
Yeah. I mean, it's something I hear. To me, it's such a-- and I don't mean this to you personally anyway, Kate. But it's such a rich liberal critique to me to where we believe only other rich liberals have values, and have virtue, and have time to think about that. Because every major religion, in every major religion, it is preached from the beginning of time that money is an impediment to clarity to salvation, that Jesus would say, it's easier for a camel pass through a needle's eye than a rich man to get into heaven.
Money and materialism are seen as blockers towards seeing oneself. And it's only in this modern day where we celebrate wealth that we think, only wealthy people can get those things. We deny people without wealth even the right to have agency in their lives. We think, you're too busy washing dishes all the time to think about anything, which I think is just frankly is just kind of classist.
And the reality is is that for someone who is lower income, I actually think that they quite possibly have a healthier relationship to their bento, someone who is very wealthy. Because for someone who's now me is hard, now me is a struggle, their job sucks, they have many responsibilities, that person likely leans much more in their now us of their family and friends for support. They probably have a stronger community of people around them. They need that us. The us is not a secondary thing.
Also probably lean on the future me of maybe having strong religious beliefs, and think about an afterlife, and imagining their actions being filtered through some ultimate outcome. So I think that there is a high degree of awareness. It takes different forms. I think a wealthy person who can satisfy every now me desire with materialism, they might have a bigger retirement plan. They might have friends on more continents. They might have other things. They might have things that from a statistical perspective look like a far better life.
But I would [INAUDIBLE] that I don't think that that person is happier than the other person. And so I think we give wealth too much credit, personally.
I mean, just taking a kind of step up away from the individual, in coming into 2020, I was feeling quite optimistic in the work that I do working with the private sector. And there was a lot of dialogue around the failure of capitalism. We had some quite mainstream organisations, including the Financial Times here talking about how capitalism's failed, we need a reboot, we need something different.
And then COVID hit. And I'm just wondering what your view about where this crisis, this moment, or this public health crisis, and now going into an economic crisis, has accelerated or kind of decelerated the potential for the change that we want to see or you're arguing for.
Accelerated for sure. Those of us following what's happening now, we will have seen the rise of the financial [INAUDIBLE] empire that has dominated the economy and government for the past 20 or 30 years. And I think we're also going to be seeing its decline. I think that what we're going through now is [INAUDIBLE]. I mean, in the United States where I'm from, it seems to be out of control. It seems to also be the case where you are.
The so-called advanced societies have shown themselves not to be. They've been coasting on that for about 30 years now on their own exceptionalism. We can see who the advanced societies are. It's Asia. It's Scandinavia. So the West will have to face up to that or not. So yeah. I'm optimistic. I think that if-- I think that it has accelerated changeover of power because the people in power are doing such a terrible job because they have no-- their sense of what the world is is so off the map.
And listen, we've all moved off the map after COVID. And very few people have a sense of where we're going. I think that there are maybe 20 voices that I think [INAUDIBLE] where we're going. And so this is a moment of real question. But I think you have to have these crises to force shifts in paradigm. If you read Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions would introduce the idea of paradigm change. You have to have these crisis moment to make people realise that the system is no longer producing the results that people expect it to.
And once that happens, once that happens, then people are forced to seek a new rational structure to their thought. Right?
Yeah. I mean, in terms of leadership, really thinking a lot about leadership and COVID, I'm a New Zealander living in the United Kingdom. And we've really seen a huge juxtaposition between the leadership of those two countries and the kind of results. So it's something quite kind of dear to me. But I think it's not just leadership around, how do we get out of COVID. It's leadership to, how do we-- when we talk about build back better, everybody's using this hashtag, what do we really mean here? And how do we implement some of the ideas that you've raised in your book?
And what are your reflections on sort of leadership for this time?
I think-- well, I mean yes. There are leaders that are equipping themselves very well. And there are people that just show a roundedness of the human experience. They're also almost all women. So there's clearly-- this isn't a moment leaders are failing. It's a moment where certain type of leadership is failing and where certain ideology is failing. But it's also an ideology that is very good at creating distraction to make us forget its failings.
You could argue Brexit's just a distraction from austerity, the failures of austerity. Brexit was just to make people stop thinking about that. So yeah. So I think that there are new leaders coming up. I mean, certainly you have the AOCs of the world, you see every poll will show generation X, Y, and Z are the people that will be in charge the next 30 years all have very different views of the world than those younger than them.
I think the most important thing for these new leaders to keep in mind is to think of us as four dimensional beings. And I just finished the afterword for my book that will come out in the fall. And I talk about how if you map all the major institutions of the 20th century like education and science, pensions, social security, churches, unions, all of those institutions serve to buttress different parts of the bento. Churches unions, those are now us institutions. Pension and social security, those are future me institutions. That's providing you some stability.
Education, science, those are future us institutions. And all of those have been in decline because we've been [INAUDIBLE] those to produce more [INAUDIBLE] returns. And we're a generation and a half, two generations, of very deliberately defunding and deemphasizing the institutions that have made our societies cohesive and coherent all in a bid to drive now me.
And so this is the trap. The trap is this passive awareness. And but past generations didn't have this. After the Great Depression, after the war, those people saw the need for these infrastructures. They had to go through the pain of the breakdown to see the need for that full dimensionality. And so we're going to go through loop again. And some people are already there. Young people are already there because they've grown up on the internet. And the internet makes us a network organism.
And I really truly believe it is this kind of bentoist perspective that can simultaneously hold the individual and the collective, and now in the future, and the past is another thing to talk about as well. But that can simultaneously hold things and balance them. [INAUDIBLE] move forward. That's [INAUDIBLE] forward. And I get that it's easy to just only pursue growing financial growth because it's a single metric and it's seductive. But that will only work for so long.
And so we're really expanding our dashboard from just the now me, from just financial value, to instead multiple dimensions of our self interest, and a wider spectrum of value. What we count as valuable, what we defined as valuable as a metric is going to change considerably.
I'm going to go to some of the questions. We've got a good group of questions here coming in. So we've got a question from Amy, Amy Cosgrave. She's asking, with the increasing pressure on public services and funding in the public sector world is changing to focus on how we can make more profit through public services, so this is the context, how do you think your ideas are applicable to the public services?
Well, I have to confess that I don't have any experience working in public services. So I can't speak to how decisions exactly are oriented in those contexts. I'm going to show a slide again to answer this.
We love it. I love these graphics. It's your [INAUDIBLE]. I understand.
OK. So I tried conjugating the bento but for an organisation. This is for companies. So I think for a public interest, it can be fit similarly, where the now me is for company is your mission or whatever your priorities right at the moment are. Sort of the next three months or something. What are you doing? The future me for a company is its values, which are often expressed as the brand promise, what you get from the product, but what kind of we stand for.
The now us for a company is [INAUDIBLE] stakeholders. So its employees, its customers, its investors its community members, and then also saying what their explicit promises to those people. By using our product, we will always do this for you. And then the future us is the vision statement, where you want the world to be in 10 years.
And so if you think about a company like Apple, so Apple's mission statement is to build tools for the mind that advance humankind. So their now me are to build tools that advance humankind, plus hitting their quarterly metrics. Apple's values, its brand promise, is to sum it up very simply, is to think different, taking from an ad campaign. I've laid out here its promise to customers. Apple is always the just works technology, going back to DAWs in the '80s. It was just a simple one.
Apple's super privacy. It's a walled garden. It's hard to get into their systems. They're very protected. And then the future us of Apple is tools that advance humankind and grow Apple. Because they're ultimately self-interested. So one thing that's interesting here is that for all companies, basically their now me and their future us are the same. It is profitability. It is a world where they are more important than they are right now.
So a lot of what distinguishes companies is their ability to fulfil sort of their values and their customer promise. And so for Apple, if you think about two products, their AirPods, the AirPods, the wireless headphones, and they satisfy the different value. They look different. They also satisfy this customer expectation of being a just works product. Because you just put them in and they play. You take them out, they stop.
So AirPods are very on point Apple product from the bento. It sort of satisfies all these needs. If you compare something like the touch bar, which was like a little strip they put on a keyboard, which was a big failure, it did think different. But it didn't offer any utility. It didn't just work. So in this way, it was unsatisfactory. It didn't meet the expectations. It wasn't cohesive with what we think Apple to be.
So [INAUDIBLE] fulfil all of those dimensions of responsibility. And so if the responsibility-- I mean, I'm not familiar with this, the idea that [INAUDIBLE] are going to be profitable. I mean I certainly [INAUDIBLE] here in the US. So that's a part of-- so maybe the augmenting [INAUDIBLE] of as the responsibility of a public service to insert a now me profitability inside of it, which feels strange. But maybe that's how you integrate it. But I don't think I have all the context on what you're talking about.
I think we're sort of seeing some kind of blending of models in this kind of need to generate some form of income. And it's very hard to have those future goals when you're doing the edit. It makes the now me, what do I do in that situation, quite hard to navigate I think for people. But another question from James.
He's asking, what's really changed within the global financial structures and reward mechanisms for staff and CEOs that means your ideas might seriously be adopted? So James asks, what's really changed within the global financial structures and reward mechanisms for staff and CEOs that means your ideas might seriously be adopted? What's really changed here?
I think that-- I mean, I think that the crises are driving a closer look at a number of things. And I think a crisis that's going to emerge out of this is going to be a crisis about ownership. Because we are headed towards a Great Depression for about 80% of people for some significant segment. But the idea that we will be headed for a global depression will clearly not be true because those who own these companies will continue to see their valuations increase like we're seeing now. I mean, people on top are making a lot of money because the market is sort of solidifying itself.
And so what will become obvious is that we don't have a depression. We just [INAUDIBLE] for some people. And then what distinguishes who has and who doesn't will be ownership. And it will become clear that most workers have no stake and have no say in the things that we build, and that we have an ownership structure that is entirely based on financial capital that only sees financial capital as being valuable that will allow work to be translated into financial-- into ownership in a tiny trickle of a way, but that it's based on this entire model.
So I work with a startup here in the US that's a consumer subscription service. You subscribe to a musician that you like. It's kind of like Patreon. But it's a co-op. And all the artists, and even some of the people who support artists, they co-own the platform together. And they will co-manage it. When there are profits, they'll be redistributed to all the members.
And I think a shift, a paradigm shift in ownership model, to create something that's more fair, I think that's something that could happen. And [INAUDIBLE] if that happened, it would really be a seismic challenge to existing players because say if a new social network started, had distributed ownership at its core as this core promise, Facebook can't compete with that. Facebook is built into a financialized system. They're locked into something that already exists.
And the reason why I think this is very plausible is it something like people under the age of 40 have, I forget, own what percentage of wealth in the world. It's tiny. It's tiny. It's less than 20%, less than 15%. Old people have held it all. And they still keep holding it all. And the only thing that's going to make it leave is death. And of course, they're trying to change the tax laws to keep it through death.
And so what you're going to see is especially younger people and employees have more power outside organisations. Every executive team is terrified of their employees right now. And you're going to see employees step up and they're going to force their hand. They're going to force the hand and they're going to say they're only going to work inside organisations where ownership is structured within us. Screw creating value for someone else. There's other things I can do.
I think that a value-- a crisis of some people living lives of luxury, most people [INAUDIBLE] be destitute and seeing no potential for their lives to become better, if we enter a period like that, which we might enter for three to five years or so, then I think you will see these breakdown. And then, yeah. Why am I driving for Uber when I get no equity for my work? And you start to have those conversations in a real way.
I agree. We're definitely seeing that. And I think that feels quite exciting in terms of change. And a few questions about change, which I think we'll get to in a minute. But if you want to put a question in, you can put it in the box. And if want it to be answered, you can upvote it. So that's how it works on my screen. I get to see the ones that most people want answered.
So Wilham, is asking, or William. I'm sorry if I'm getting that wrong. We responded quickly to the threat of COVID-19. And I think we generally did. Yeah. Our behaviour changed instantly. But climate change is a bigger threat. And this is the question that lots of people are asking right now. Why can't we change our behaviour to counter that threat?
Well, there is a moment in COVID. There's a moment, a crisis that changed things. And listen, the farther we get from that moment, we can feel its effects diminishing. This is already normal. This is normal now. This isn't weird anymore. And climate change has lulled us to sleep. It has lulled us to sleep. And the degree of change feels so far beyond any of us.
I mean the fact that what we've done so far would only part of the way get as to what the change that needs to happen, this lockdown happened enough. It happened enough is a real look in the mirror of like, oh wow, how deeply do we need to unwind?
So yeah. I mean, it's about how we found the news. It's if you get-- yeah. It's dying from obesity--
Yancey seems to have--
I'm back. I'm back.
I was just promoting your book. Did you want to finish that? Or should we-- you were in the middle of a very good point. And I was like, yes. [INAUDIBLE]
Yeah. Yeah. No, [INAUDIBLE] I mean, [INAUDIBLE] I mean, it has started. I'm a supporter of XR, Extinction Rebellion. And I think there's a lot of momentum. And I think that as we look for how to restart post-COVID, I think we're going to turn to Green New Deal kind of things as a path. And so I think-- but yeah. I mean, obviously we're way late. And who knows but the reality of that's going to be? I mean, if it weren't--
I can imagine a world where we build the perfect system and over the next 20 years, we build the perfect thing. And just as we spit shine the last block of our new palace, the tidal wave of climate change comes through and wipes us out. I mean, I can imagine that, that we create total social equity and justice. And then the waves wipe it out. I can imagine that version of this next 20 years. But we'll see.
Jonathan's asked a question about universal basic income. So given the value propositions that you're putting forward in relation to money, I'm really interested in your view on universal basic income. So I know you talk about that in the book. Do you want to kind of go over your views on that and some of the other solutions?
Yeah. I mean, listen, I'm now totally for it. Pre-COVID, I was more sceptical. I was more sceptical because I've sort of viewed UBIs assuming that we've run out of work to do or something, that we'll all need jobs. And I just keep thinking, there's more work to do than ever. We're doing the wrong work for so long. I'm like, man. We are behind. So that's kind of a little bit of my attitude.
But yes. I mean, I think every person should have their-- every society's core promise should be that your now me needs can be generally met here. They can be met with dignity. They can be met with integrity. And that includes providing healthcare, that includes economic opportunity, that's providing a safe and fair environment. But there's table stakes. But that's not something the US can provide anymore. And it can't. It can't. And yeah. Yeah. So yeah. It's--
In the book, you talk quite a lot about change. So you're arguing for change. Change needs to happen. And Janette's asked about power and change. He says, what about power? The people with power are focused on maximising now me. They have vested interest in defending their status quo. How can we get change? And just looking at my notes, I know you talked about sort of this passing on values and norms and the kind of incrementalism when it comes to change. What's your view around how we get change?
I'm very influenced by a number of writers, but one in particular Donella Meadows who wrote, Limits of Growth. But her great piece, Places to Intervene in a System, which talks about if you have a system that's producing outcomes that are not desired, how do you change the outcomes of the system? And it's like, she counts down from I think 71 in terms of effectiveness. And the most effective things for her were a paradigm change or values changes that just because everyone to shift their perspective.
And so it's an external change that gets people in power to change their minds because they see the world differently. I believe that really, the whole book, my whole being, what I'm about, is trying to make real the idea that our self interest is rationally seen as being more dimensions, and potentially even larger with time.
And I think there's a defensible argument that the human history has been about an expansion of [INAUDIBLE] and that post internet, post network, the notion and also in a world where climate change is coming, that the notion for our species to have a clear sense of the future and of each other comes rational, and practical, and I think a foundation for a lot of other things to happen.
So I think that's a core piece. And yeah. And so I-- yeah. So I think these changes are coming of just the large systems that we're built on and that we've just seen how quickly moods change. I mean, we think of value as being fairly steady, but they're constantly in flux.
One, I think about-- I mean in the book I write about how excise as something that was invented fairly recently as a hobby. But even in the business world, a value like transparency is very new. Transparency was not a value until like Enron and corruption. And then there was a breakdown of [INAUDIBLE] instead of steak. And so a new value emerged of transparency. And that was used as a way to signal your goodness. And now transparency is as core as it gets. And that happened over the course of about 15 years.
And so these things change constantly in response to problems. And so I think that this breakdown is big enough. And I especially think the voices arguing for change are bold enough, and the need for changes is so significant, and the kind of change needed is so significant that I think in this moment there's a moment that will carry us in a different direction. But there needs to be more darkness for us. I mean, I still think Civil War in the United States is on the table as a possible outcome.
OK. I've got a really interesting question from, is it Kariuki who's in Kenya. And it's coming from in your sort of preface to the book, it talks about value. It would be great to assign rational value to other values besides money, things like community, purpose, and sustainability is what you argue. And she or he, sorry if I'm getting the gender wrong, is saying that this is describing how we lived barely 100 years ago. I'm in Kenya and there are still a lot of this approach to life.
Is the West willing to learn from those who are still practicing this way of life? Or better still would they will be willing to dialogue to encourage those of us in Kenya who have adopted a Western culture? So and I've lived in Africa for the last few years ago. And I certainly saw that, that kind of drive to be part of this American culture is so strong. In my culture, no one slept hungry. And no elderly person was left to fend for themselves. There was always someone to help.
So I think really a kind of compelling question. How would you like to respond to that?
Love that question. Yeah. I mean, I think that the West has a lot of a lot. But humility is not one of those things. So I think the idea that the West would go and ask and try to learn, if we were wise, we would. But I think that is unlikely. But no I agree. I agree. I don't think that-- I mean, I think the fact that say, in the West have had powerful institutions that have proported these dimensions of humanity for a long time, shows that these are-- we're not the first people to be talking about these questions, and that people faced these questions about 100 years ago and four very similar things.
I mean, you could argue that the 1920s were a very self oriented decade and produces these breakdowns. But I think that there's a repetitiveness here. I think the West is in real trouble because a lot of the challenges of the West have been built on a short termism, a short termism that's produced climate change, a short termism that's produced a social structure that's so fragmented. And so we're going to need long term kind of solutions. And of course, no one thinks more long term China and Asia.
And there, the horizon is far longer. And I think that that kind of reasoning and perspective is going to be needed. And then this is going to be part of this changeover that's going to happen in this century. And for the West, this is just the biggest choke job ever. I mean, it's the fumbling of power in the way that we have allowed and a wealth of knowledge, of social wealth, of all kinds of things. We've allowed that to slip away I think largely because we didn't know how to stand up to powerful authorities.
Everyone was too polite. They wanted to take their little cut, let it keep going. And our shadow has eaten us. And so that presents the need for new solutions. That presents the need for-- I mean, the ideas I'm talking about I think ultimately we'll talk about this as post capitalism where we are having exchanges where financial outcomes are critically important. You can't lose money all the time. But however, money will just be one of 10 metrics that we think about based on the circumstance.
In the book, I write about Adele using an algorithm to distribute concert tickets, using a loyalty score. And this is a way for her to make it so it wasn't richest people who saw the show, but the people who cared the most. And so I think we're going to be moving in those kinds of systems that, as this person's great question points out, have closer echoes to what life was like generations ago, but now are going to be happening I think at a global scale because of the internet and because of technology. And we'll be bringing those models rather than simply just copying this model that we had at the moment the internet was born.
Yeah. It sounds like you've got a friend in Kenya who can dialogue [INAUDIBLE] the next book. That's a great, great, great point. Another question from William. Is it more pertinent to ask why people consume? So we've got a few kind of questions and comments around sort of consumerism and capitalism to tackle the issue at the level of consumption rather than at the level of a system like capitalism or communism. What's your thinking around that?
Yeah. I mean, that's-- cultural values change how we view consumption. I mean, we could feel the waves of it happen. Yeah. That's an interesting question. I haven't really thought deeply about how to change that. Because the people that opt in to consuming less are just the usual suspects. How do you expand that to someone who I [INAUDIBLE] to the High Street today, or I would have gone to a mall today, and I'm not. Instead, I'm going to do something else.
I'm not sure. Except I would say it's potentially a larger cultural value change that happens. I mean, while I wrote my book, part of it I wrote-- I was living in Los Angeles and I wrote in a 90-year-old woman's house, this woman I met. Her name's Noelle. She's amazing. And she had this amazing house that her parents built, this architecturally beautiful house. And she would just work on it all day by hand. She fixed it up by hand she liked having company. So she invited me to work there.
And so we would have lunch together, me and this 90-year-old woman. And she's amazing. Amazing. Noelle Osheroff, a great artist too. And one of the things she talked to me about was how her whole life, she was born in the 1920s. Her whole life, she was brought up believing that rich people had no class. If you have class, then you don't care about money. You know that other things are important. And so that someone if someone is wealthy, that shows that their morals are wrong.
And in her mind, that was how kind of everyone [INAUDIBLE] things until maybe the '80s. She said, maybe around then it started to be different. But in her mind, that's always how she saw things. And I have a similar memory growing up. And my parents now, I do not come from wealth at all. Very working class family. My parents still are. And now I think they see wealth differently because our culture has seen it differently. We kind of celebrate it as an unqualified good.
But yeah. Attitudes have been different. Attitudes have been different. And I think kinds of changes are possible. And again, if we end up with a Great Depression for 80% of people, and then for the top 10% it's like, the world's on clearance sale and just buy up whatever you want, then maybe we're going to see those values change in that degree.
And I think in the book, you do spend a lot of time talking about how it's only really a recent change. And I think that's a really-- I mean, it's obviously there's lots of really interesting stories in here. But for me, after reading the first section, you really get to the point where, hold on. My idea of what's normal, what's kind of set in stone, is certainly not. It's only been the last sort of 20, 30 years. And that kind of financial maximisation being the last 50 years.
I think we've got time for one more. We'll go with Mike's question. So I love your idea of a philosophy for more harmony of self, better work life balance, and greater well-being for the planet. Yeah. That's beautifully written, Mike. Do you need less capitalism and less consumerism and so a better world is created for individuals, social groups, and a whole tribe of human beings? So similar question around consumerism. And if the answer is yes, which I think is what you were saying, what is there to be done? What do we do about this? How do we create this--
Well, yeah. Maybe [INAUDIBLE] for that is there's a study that I-- American College students every year that talks about their goals in life. And I use it in the book to show a degree to which the belief in wealth has grown, which is crazy. It's like 28% college kids in 1970 thought being rich was essential. Today, it's like 86%. You can chart it.
Over the last 10 years, there's been a new rising value. I don't talk about it in the book. But it's now up to like 45% say it's essential. But it's called be a values entrepreneur. And a values entrepreneur means activist, [INAUDIBLE], start something that is intending to change the value system of society. And that is rising. And I saw a report last week showing that the percentage of new entrepreneurs who cite social purpose, non-financial goals, as why they are being entrepreneurs, that that is increasing considerably and might even be the dominant reason why people become entrepreneurs at this point.
So I think that that's something that can change. The organisation, and predominately as a corporation, is the most powerful structure we for human organisation other a family. It is hugely important. And so applying that to all of these sorts of challenges I think is critical. And I think what's going to happen is that we're going to learn how to grow values other than money that there will be companies that exist to grow the community value of an [INAUDIBLE] of people. And they will provide a service that does that. And it will be compensated in such a way that it will make rational sense for everyone to do these things.
But we will discover that we can more directly create other forms of value, and that we will properly value those things to where now, someone who's a social worker, it's a shit job. And so we will properly value those things. And I think this is the transition that is happening. And I think there's a lot of things, reasons why you would say that this is, yeah, that this is possible.
But again, I expect more darkness in the near term. And I think what's critical is for us to move forward not just rejecting. I think you got to kind of yes and on what's here, kind of the improv rule. You never say no. You always say yes and. You build. You build on what's here. And building on what's here is about taking on facing value that human beings are trying to do their best. We're all trying to do our best with what we know. We're just still learning. And armed with knowledge, we can make better choices.
And that this is a moment where we're all collectively looking for that. COVID has created that hunger for us, created that global collaboration. If you could imagine what would be happening in the world right now if Donald Trump weren't president, the degree to which everyone coming together, and really accelerating a different kind of consciousness.
So all those things are still there. And they're going to keep happening. And I think that these are hard tiring moments, but that there is reason to hold your head up. And just know that it's not happening tomorrow, but the things that we're doing right now are going to build that infrastructure. And I think two three years from now, we're really going to be feeling it.
Can we build a society that looks beyond money? A world focused on the values that make life worth living?
Yancey Strickler, the co-founder of Kickstarter, argues that Western society is trapped by three assumptions: 1) That the point of life is to maximize your self-interest and wealth, 2) That we’re individuals trapped in an adversarial world, and 3) That this is natural and inevitable. These ideas separate us, keep us powerless and limit our imagination for the future. Is it time we replace them with something new?
In this conversation, Yancey discussed how we got here and how we can change course. While the pursuit of wealth has produced innovation and prosperity, it also established an implicit belief that the right choice in every decision is whichever option makes the most money. The answer isn’t to get rid of money; it’s to expand our concept of value. By assigning rational value to other values besides money – things like community, purpose and sustainability – we can refocus our energies to build a society that’s generous, fair, and ready for the future. By recalibrating our definition of value, a world of scarcity can become a world of abundance.
Yancey Strickler is a writer and entrepreneur. He is the co-founder and former CEO of Kickstarter, author of This Could Be Our Future: A Manifesto for a More Generous World (Viking), and the creator of Bentoism. Yancey is a Distinguished Fellow at the Drucker Institute and has been recognized as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum and one of Fast Company’s Most Creative People.