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Number five and influential economists in the whole wide world like ever, ever. How did you get there, Mike? How do you do you know what it's all about?
It's all about education, dissemination, economics, making it interesting, you know, because I've always thought education is the key to more education you get the more the world opens up to you. Yeah, you demystify it.
So, I mean, on that note, there's some really interesting courses, this part time degrees, professional diplomas, postgraduate springboard programs at the Dublin Business School. And they're in law on fintech and psychology and marketing and business and loads and loads of topics. Yeah, what I like about these courses is they actually allow people to just keep the sort of work life balance and do online. You can do part time, have a look at them. They're really interested.
Steber study, having gone to the website to have a look at these, you know, really fascinating courses.
Yeah, you're absolutely right, Mark. And while we're at it, we'd like to thank TB's for sponsoring this episode.
What in the world is happening on Wall Street's economic indicators? Who knows where this is going to end up?
To understand the economy, you have to understand human nature. This podcast is powered by Akehurst. How are you doing? There it is, the end of July, hope all is well, it's the podcast, you know the drill. We're trying to make economic stock a little bit more comprehensible, more sensible, more germane to our lives. We're trying to make sense of the world. Hope your week has been good. I've had an interesting one. What about you and have you.
Very good. Good old week. Good old domestic week. Actually, it's a mess that we domesticated. Lots of gardening and lots of laundry. That's what I do these days. This is and has dementia. It's like a new refuge for you. It is, yeah. And it's becoming more so. Has proven its worth during covid. Absolutely. And I'm not I'm not only saying that my wife is saying that to my kids are saying that everywhere.
I know where I was. I was in the Hinche this week. I was visiting our mate Peter Banham, who bought an old pub called Tom Frauleins, just as you come into the town, right? Yeah. Now, the interesting thing about Tom Frawley for me is that I have a photo of me and Shahn in Frauleins Pub on the 2nd of January 1995. Oh, really? Yes. Why? With Tom Frawley serving, I went Bonum said to me, I'm buying this old pub in the Hinche I Hinche have.
I've been there. I have somewhere in the back of my head he goes, Yes, there's one called Brawley's. And then I said, Just Shaunessy produce a photo.
A grainy photo of a son wasn't at the time of because I remember he was that New Year's New Year's Eve 1994. Yeah, that was a rough week for up that I just remember mental carry on. Yeah. So that's right down there in the Hinche. Wonderful time. Lots and lots of people like hundreds, maybe thousands of people on the beach. Oh really. Lots and lots of kids hanging out on the big rocks, these big rocks that they built instead of those that are going on.
Lots of surfing. It was great. I love this. I stayed in in a small hotel, Galvan's I got up the next day having breakfast. And I think the wife of the owner, I think her name is Geraldine Farbstein. She said, hi. Hi, David. I said, hi, how are you? And she says, in the kitchen is my nephew, Niles Sullivan. He's a massive fan of the podcast. I know Niall Charatan while studying economics in Holland.
Oh, lots of Irish kids are studying in Holland because they don't they don't do the point system thing. The Dutch universities are good. The Dutch universities are free, and the Dutch education is fantastic. There's a lot of Irish kids and speaking there. Speaking of doing exams and kids, big shout out Oshin O'Mara. He won't know why, you know, apparently doing your law exams very soon, your final to F1, maybe even if one eleventh is that I would have a the washing, keep the nose to the grind for a few weeks where you'll be grand.
But Lola Hinche was funny and I was just I was looking out. I went for a walk towards the scanner and I was looking out at the Atlantic and the amazing looking huge, huge beach. And it's funny when you're in the west of and I don't know about you, but I get a real sense of Irish history much more deeply than I do when I'm in the east of art. OK, so you see these abandoned villages, you see these.
And and interestingly, today is the anniversary, 20th of July as we publish of the 1848 young Ireland rebellion. Clare, of course, is part of the whole thing.
Tell us about this. Well, it was called the famine rebellion. It was a rebellion that happened after the famine. So imagine the trauma in the country like Clare Clare and make go away and carry and talk lost huge percentages of their population. The famine. Yeah. In fact, so much so that the famine has been called the great devastation of the Irish language because they were mainly Irish speakers who died, of course, here from all the girls.
It was the west of Ireland, the right. And I get that sense that maybe it's just me. But what I mean, what I'm looking at, the Atlantic is crashing in at Dulin, you know, dinner on the cliffs somewhere. I don't think of the majestic nature. I think of the people are to leave. I've always felt that I know exactly what time you spend a lot of times in a brownstone, as do I. And the last time I was down there myself, Joe and I went out to like an island.
We kayaked out. It I can lock in is just half mile off the coast. And it's a small, barren island full. It's full of derelict houses. People were living there for hundreds of years, thousands of years, maybe thousands of years. Nothing that you know. Well, this is the interesting what is fascinating. So I have this kind of sense.
I got a haunted feeling when I'm in those places and there's a bog road in Brownstown up the back of O'Dowd's. I'm actually going to Ramsdell next week so we can do a podcast from. Oh, great. But you know, and you do get this, it's slightly haunting feeling of what actually happened. But 1848 rebellion, the fascinating thing is that all the Irish rebellions happened in the context of other rebellions that didn't happen on their own. This idea that Irish nationalism or the Irish national card was played exclusively by ourselves.
So 1848 was a year of rebellion all over Europe must have won in France, for example, in Germany, this incipient rebellions. Right, 1916, again, it's part of a rebellious period. It's followed by 1917, the Russian rebellion. Right. 1798 comes hot on the heels of the American Revolution, the French Revolution, these are all part of the narrative of Irish history, has been embedded in deeper European history for many, many years. And, you know, sometimes you get a sense that these years are tipping points.
And I'm going to read from a document written in 1848 called The Manifesto of the Communist Party, the Communist Manifesto, which I was reading the other day, because I believe we are at a tipping point. Sometimes you have to feel it. So this is the first paragraph of the Communist Manifesto. The specter is haunting Europe. The specter of communism, all the powers of old Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exercise the specter. The Pope, the SA metronomic goes nuts, French radicals, German police, spies.
Where is the party in opposition that has not been decried as communistic by its opponents in power, where the opposition that has not hurled back the branding approach of communism against the most advanced opposition as well as against the reactionary adversaries, he goes on. And that the reason I'm interested in this point is that, no, I'm looking at the world and sometimes I get a sense of big things happen. Yeah, and I feel right now in international economics, international politics and demography, in the environment, in the division between the various different generations in inequality, of course, covid has exposed all these things that we are at this tipping point moment, and maybe this is one of these periods that is going to be revolutionary.
And sometimes when you're living through it, so it's very easy to look back and say, oh, 1848, wasn't that a revolutionary year? Ah nineteen sixteen or seventeen ninety eight after American 1776. If you're French, well the French Revolution was kind of a mélange of of of three or four years. You know what, you don't realize it at the time. Yeah. And as I was meandering on my little walk from the scanner to Lynch, I thought maybe we're were going through one of these periods.
Well as Confucius says, may you live in interesting times, meaning may you not? That's what he actually meant. No, no, absolutely. Confucius think. But we don't want to be living an interesting time, but we certainly are. Exactly. And this week has been really fascinating. I think this week, if you were to ask me. You know, the end of July. Remember last year we did a podcast on how August is the month of surprises?
Yes, I do remember that First World War starts beginning of August. The mobilization is in late July 2nd. World War starts. Mobilization is late August. August is a period of a month of revolutions. At Bank of Ireland, you don't have to talk face to face, our mortgage team are happy to talk face time to face time and give you all the info you need from how to get started, to how much to save face time. Our mortgage team to talk about a personalized mortgage.
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Doesn't John have another curious fact for you? I was just rummaging around there on these data, some data, that's my thing, but it's about foreign direct investment in Ireland, right? Just how much foreign direct investment Ireland gets, particularly for American corporations. I come back to at the end and I'll give you that review. And you know why we're doing this? We're doing this because we want to thank Vodafone for sponsoring this episode with Vodafone. You can follow your curiosity.
And this is all about curious facts. Let your whole family follow their curiosity when you bring everyone's plans together on Vodafone's multi mobile, a red family plan, such Vodafone red family for more. So I'm looking around the world now, John, I'm looking at Colvert, I'm looking at inequality, I'm looking at the potential new Cold War between China and the United States, which is flaring up in Hong Kong. I'm looking at the fact that so-called big countries like Britain, America, Brazil can't control the disease.
I'm looking at all these issues. I'm looking at the Arab countries. I read an amazing thing during the week, which is basically that Arab countries are going bust because the oil price is too low. And we're going to have a massive, massive economic crisis in the Arab countries, not just the oil producers, but so many citizens of Egypt, Jordan, Palestine all work in the oil producing countries. Yeah, that what you're finding is so much going on in the way.
I like to look at the world as a living organism, this complex organism, everything is interdependent. I don't think we have ever seen a crisis moment in our lives like we're seeing right now. And because all these crises are happening in separate ways and they're bubbling up under the surface, we're not really attaching a word to it or a moment to it. But they are all linked or linked and what seems to be the case. So when I look at what happened this week with the European Union, four big things on the economic horizon that I have never seen in my life.
One is the extraordinary expansion of government borrowing now, which I believe is the right thing to do. You just look at the figures. What I want to do is it's this idea that this frog boiling idea that when you're actually the frog, you don't see what's going on. But think about it. Right. Which countries are going to borrow 17 percent of our combined GDP in one year? That's a figure of more than four trillion dollars in spending and tax cuts.
That's coming, right? Sorry, this is who this is America, Europe, America, Europe and Japan. Right. OK, OK. The European Union has just agreed a huge stimulus, 750 billion. It's six percent of European GDP. Right. And it's totally changed the world because what it's done, it's allowed the European Commission. It hasn't been widely reported in Ireland. It's been reported as, oh, how much money will we get? Yeah.
What's in it for me? Fuck that. Right. Let's look at the totality. What has actually happened is the European Commission, not for the first time, but for the first time in a major way, is going to be borrowing abroad on the market as an entity called the European Commission. That's never happened before, really.
OK, that's, of course, what the Froogle for and the Latson Belt were worried about because the Froogle for know, the European Commission is borrowing at interest rates that are in some way determined by their frugality, i.e. lower interest rates. Remind me who the Fed before the fool for in this regard are Austria, Finland, Denmark and the Netherlands. Right. And the Swedes are kind of sniffing around there as well. And then, of course, the Latins are the Spaniards and the Italians in the main.
But what has happened is Mrs. Merkel with Macron has changed the way the European Union works. It's a huge deal. And I'm not sure we really appreciate that the Americans would describe this as a Hamiltonian moment. You know, there's been a big Broadway show. Hulton near the Broadway show is about a dude called Hamilton. Yeah. Now, when the American as Hamiltonian moment. What? Hamilton, Detroit. You have all this thing at George Washington, right?
George Washington was great, but George Bush was a great political leader and a brutal economist. Right. It was a terrible financer, really chaotic, but an amazing politician. Right. Hamilton wasn't a great politician, but was a great financier and tactician. And by 1892, the American republic, such as it was, was completely bankrupt. Why? Because they had fought a war based on no taxes. Think about the American. The Americans fought a war of independence, saying we're not paying taxes, those Brits.
And they won the war. They thought, oh, shit, we got to raise taxes for the good of the country. You got to pay for it. You got to pay for this woman. We just fought the war based on no taxes. I wouldn't go back to the same people and said, I'm going to raise taxes. Right. But that was this is this is the conflict at the heart of the American republic. Hamilton in 1792 was the man who said, eh, we've got to raise taxes, and B, we got to raise federal taxes.
Right. So we're going to create a federal budget and that's going to anchor and jell together the entire American project. And this is at a time when there wasn't a true America as we know it today. There wasn't a clue. It was it was basically called the Continental Congress. Yeah. Which is was OK. So the Hamiltonian moment is when America moves from a loose federation of rebellious states driven by patriots being anti English as the only thing the children together to a federal state glued together by a tax system.
Right? Yeah. Many people are saying is this Europe's Hamiltonian moment where states become diminished and the federal budget increases? Sure. And we're on our way to a federal Europe. So the first thing to think about that second thing that's happening is central banks and again, I agree with this, are just printing money as if it's going out of fashion. So governments are borrowing and central banks are printing huge, huge amounts. I'll give you the figure.
Three point seven trillion dollars has been printed by central banks this year alone. So basically the central banks are now being taken in as a ward of state of the state. So the state is basically saying the sacrifice. So for years and years, this central bank was independent, wasn't part of the state. Now, that's all changed. This is all happened in 18 weeks, 16 weeks. It's phenomenal stuff. Right. Also ahead, odds are they didn't know this kind of this sort of thing.
It's a revolutionary moment. Yeah. The other thing is, so you got that huge increase in government deficits, huge increase in central bank printing money, which they said they'd never do. And now the Fed in America are buying the assets, the bonds of American companies. They're buying Appel's bonds like AT&T, Coca-Cola. Right. Right. So the American government through the central bank is now identifying who it's going to bailout in terms of the corporate sector.
This is all revolutionary stuff and nobody's paying attention to it. And of course, it's all under the umbrella of low inflation. So the same well, we can do everything because inflation is low. So what we've seen John in. Since Patrick's Day is a profound change in the way the world works, a revolutionary change that I've never seen in my lifetime, so so this disturbing, right.
So where does this exciting? Well, yes, I suppose you could look at it that way, too. But where does that leave us? Kind of long term.
OK, so think about we started with we are on the anniversary today, 20th of July, all of the young Ireland rebellion, an internationalist movement against the old regime all over Europe.
Where did the 18 48 rebellions lead to? They led to massive nationalism, yeah, to socialism, communism, to modernism, to massive change in psychology, I'm talking about two huge innovations. I mean, the world, I would think, between 1870 and nineteen hundred is one of the most fascinating periods of history because it's crazy artistically, culturally, it's revolutionary. This is the peak of the industrial revolution or so. So people's lifestyles changed when there was a huge move to urban areas, all the stuff and also the safety valve in Europe.
There was enormous amounts of migration. Yeah, we've never seen it before. Yeah. Europeans move in there, hundreds of millions at the end, maybe in the tens of millions of people, but 100 millions a day, a generation or two offers to the new world. Yeah. So you get this story setting up of a global change, right? I think there are some similar moments. So you look at all these various different dilemmas, challenges we face.
You talk to millennials, they feel pissed off. They don't have houses that have a stake there. Who are they are actually in fairness, they are. You talk to our kids. They're kind of, you know, trying to make their way in a world where their idea of getting the job of getting anything more than minimum wage is, you know, certainly it's very precarious. Well, it's totally different to us. And we thought we had a yard.
I actually feel terribly sorry for that new generation problem. Is that feeling sorry doesn't stop the revolution? No. Right. You talk, you go in Europe, you think the north versus south, all these things are happening. You've got this massive migrant issue still coming from Africa. As I was saying earlier on, the Arab countries are going to go bust if the oil price stays. Forty dollars. That country like Algeria needs the oil price at one hundred dollars a barrel to balance its books.
It's now forty dollars a barrel. We've got covid, which is exposing all these problems. And of course, the reaction now has been nationalism. The political reaction is nationalism. But we need to figure out a different way of. Dealing with these crises and if you think about at the root of all these crises are about endemic short term thinking. Yeah, it's all about what? Tomorrow? What about today? How am I going to do this?
I'm going to fix all the political class is dictated to by. The election, the next cycle, tomorrow's headlines. It's impossible to put a price on the future, and yet the feeling that the future is evaporating from the younger generation, they don't have a future. Is the impetus that drove the young Ireland rebellion member was killed. A young artist who wasn't old people writes that they felt our future has been robbed by somebody else because the older people are not involved in long term thinking.
They're not figuring out the collective. They're acting as individuals. And as I was driving back from lunch on my drive after I did my world road trip and my road trip, I was thinking maybe we're at that pivotal moment again.
OK, I understand that. But when we're under so much pressure as individuals and as a society that we're trying to get from day to day. So how do we change our thinking to long term, like proper long term mean?
How does that work? But you could take up the Marx Engels Communist Manifesto. That's one way. But that was that was a reaction to change. And, you know, I mean, I'm no man and, you know. That's right. But I'm fascinated as to where it came from and the pressures and the sort of almost geological pressures forcing society to to abandon the old regime. Yeah. And come up with this new idea. Now, at four or five months ago, I told you about meeting Brian Cox.
The Professor. Brian Cox. Yes. Or two. You're a big fan. Yeah, I'm a big fan of Brian Cox. He's brilliant.
And I was asked to go to a mazing roundtable of individuals, and I was obviously let in on the basis of taking notes or whatever. Nobody's really interesting. It was about the future. So I walk in. Edge from U2 is there, very cerebral, very philosophical, incredibly deep thinker about many, many things, and he's sitting beside Brian Eno. Brian, anything thinker, big, big actor. And what the two of them had put together was a group of individuals to talk about, to explore, to tease out with no real objective.
Just a chat. Yeah. From economics, from philosophy, from psychology, from biology, from the medical world, from the scientific world, from cultural, literary.
You know, why were you there? I was there just hanging out, given the drinks. I was just like another gin and tonic. And I sat beside a guy, English guy called Roman fanatic Croatian. I respect. Right. OK, so we're chatting away. And it's very clear to me that this is a guy who's thinking a lot deeper about the world than me, clearly, I think. But he was talking about a book he was finishing and he was trying to tease out this idea about thinking the long term vis a vis the short term, exactly what we're talking about now, the need to stand back, to take altitude.
Sure. To figure out how we in some way escape day to day and go to long term. And his book was published this week. It's really brilliant. It's called A Good Ancestor. And you know what? Let's talk to him. He's on the line. A brilliant Roman. How are you? I am alive and well.
Thanks very much for having me on the program, David. It's great to have you.
But what what John has asked me is this. How do you become a public philosopher? We want to know.
It's very easy. You just make up your own title. I'm not connected to any university or any institution. I'm just a freelance human being. And I used to call myself a cultural thinker, but no one understood what that was. And then I was in the Netherlands and they've got this idea of a public philosopher. So someone who talks about public affairs and they're not just like an academic philosopher looking inside that navel, but they're interested in the art of living for individuals, but for society as a whole.
And that's where I try and situate all of my books, my ideas, my work, how can we live well, but also change society and, you know, expand human well-being?
Well, I mean, this this this book I picked you up last week, and I've just as we say and I've heard through it, OK, which is the technical definition, OK, and it's fantastic.
But I want to talk to you. But just give me the title comes. It's an expression by Jonas Salk, isn't it? That's right. So Jonas Salk was the guy who, with his team, developed the first polio vaccine back in nineteen fifty five. He famously, when he was asked whether he was going to patent it, he said, could you patent the sun because you didn't patent? And he later in life, he became a kind of a bio philosopher in his own terms.
And he said that the great question facing our age is this are we being good ancestors? And he believed that if we were going to be good ancestors and be remembered well by future generations, we were going to have to massively expand our time horizons to deal with all of the threats on the horizon, whether it's the nuclear threat or the threat of our destruction, the natural world. He thought we instead of thinking on a scale of seconds, minutes and hours, we needed to widen our temporal horizon to decades and centuries and millennia.
And that's what this book is about. It's about how do we get thinking beyond the ego boundary of our own lifetimes, thinking at least one hundred years in the future even further than that, which might sound crazy. I've got to speak to some British members of parliament next week about long term thinking. And I wonder if they'll just kick me out the door, but hopefully they might stop and listen for a moment and get over their short term myopia.
Well, it's interesting when we come back to that idea, the way in which, you know, through no fault of their own, politicians are needing the oxygen of today and the votes and the cycle and whatever. But let's go a little bit broad before we come to the the technical issues and of problems of trying to think that a little bit longer. I'm intrigued by your comment that the tyranny of now explain that to me.
Yeah, I believe that we are in a chronic era of short term thinking, which is one where the now has taken hold of our lives and shrunk the future right up into the present. So we know that those politicians who can't see past the next election or even the latest tweet, we know that markets spiked, then crash and speculative bubbles and companies can't see past the next quarterly report or the share price. We know that nations sit around international conference tables bickering away about their near-term interests while the planet burns and species disappear.
And of course, as individuals, we're always swiping on. Our phones were pressing that final button. That's what I mean by the tyranny of the now. And the kind of I guess the paradox of it all is that we need more long term thinking right now, right in the present, more than ever, because of those threats on the horizon, the climate crisis, technological threats like from A.I., lethal autonomous weapons, genetically engineered pandemics and inequalities which have passed on generation upon generation.
And when when you when you were thinking about the book, when you were sitting down contemplating what was the what were the few triggers that you thought, OK, I've got to dispense with stuff I've written before because I want to talk about what you do before, which I think this this this idea of an institute of empathy is is really fascinating. I think our listeners will find it really, you know, actually very touching. I mean, touching in the sense that it actually touches as opposed to think you think about it, something you feel about the notion of empathy.
But what was going on in your head when you start writing this book? Well, I wrote the book really for two main reasons, one, out of a sense of incredible frustration that every time I picked up a newspaper I was reading reports are there's too much short termism everywhere in politics and economics and culture. But nobody and everyone is saying, well, what we need is more long term thinking, whether it's Al Gore or Jared Diamond or whoever.
And I sort of think, well, what the hell is long term thinking? How long is long? What different kinds of long term thinking there are? So in a way, I wanted to deal with what I saw as a conceptual emergency. Clearly thinking longer was a good idea, but you needed to really pull it apart to understand how to do it. And the other origin of this book for me was really to do with the kind of inadequacy in many of my previous books.
Many of them are about the theme of empathy. How do we step into the shoes of other people, look at the world through their eyes to overcome social divides of class, race, gender, whatever. But my bias, I guess, had been how do we step into the shoes of people in today's world where the people in the march on the margins, in our own countries, in high income countries or those living in low income countries? But what I had never seen or what I never really thought about was what about empathy with future generations?
How do we step into their shoes? People we can't meet that we can't look in the eye. That for me, was the great challenge. And I guess the funny thing was, in a way, you know, I used to be a political scientist for my sins many years ago, and I was apparently an expert on democratic governments. And it never once occurred to me in those 10 years that we disenfranchise future generations in the same way that slaves and women have been systematically disenfranchised in the past.
They're given no rights at the ballot box, no power in the marketplace. So I was trying to, in a way, in this book, remedy that situation, that empathic deficit through time.
When I'm going to get onto this expression you came up with in the book, which I thought was lovely for the colonization of the future, because it's very, very topical. Now, if you have lived in a country that felt itself colonized and was colonized, you know, that sense of kind of collective abuse that happens. You know, it's it's like an abuse of the of the people. But this idea, you can colonize the future, like you're abusing the future and the future has no voice.
And consequently, there's no pushback on that in a sec. But the idea of humans thinking about the here and now as opposed to the future. There was a lovely chapter in the book called The Marshmallow versus the ACORN Brain, can you explain that? The neurological urge? We have our default position. We have our evolutionary position. We have that we want now as opposed to tomorrow. Sure, well, in a way, that distinction between the marshmallow and the ACORN brain comes out of the idea of colonizing the future of that place where we dump our ecological degradation and technological risk and nuclear waste, because a question was how do we send our minds into that future?
How do we connect with it? And the great thing about human beings is that we are not just the short term creatures that we are often told that we are. We often assume that we're just driven by instant gratification, by immediate rewards. We are always pressing the button up on I call that part of our brains, which drives that the marshmallow brain named after the famous 1960 psychology experiment, the marshmallow test, where a marshmallow is put in front of kids.
And if they could resist eating it for 15 minutes, they're rewarded with a second marshmallow. But of course, you know, those kids, most kids did snatch the marshmallow. But it isn't the whole story of who we are because we also have this other part of our brain, a much newer part, the marshmallow brains, about 80 million years old. We share it with rats and other other mammals. But the ACORN brain, which is the bit of focus on long term thinking and planning and strategizing, just two million years old.
It lives at the front of our heads, above our eyes and in the frontal lobe, particularly the part, if you want to call the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. And the funny thing is we are actually pretty good at long term thinking. I mean, if you think about it, other animals do plan and think forward in time. So a chimpanzee might get a stick from a tree, strip off the leaves and turn into a tool to poke into it into a termite hole.
But I'll never make a dozen of those tools and set them aside for next week. But lo and behold, that is exactly what human beings do right now. We will save for our children's education. We will write songs for our own funerals. It's that acorn brain in action. That's how we built the Great Wall of China. We built SU was of the 19th century. That's how we voyaged into space. So we need to learn that we in a way, it's a new story about human nature.
We're not just short term marshmallow snatchers. We're long term Eikon thinkers in the same way that economics has been a revolution of a shift from the meat to the wheat to recognize we're not just rational, individualistic creatures, but we are collective empathic. We're also short and long and montalcino. I mean, because that that idea because, you know, it is it is this image that you have like and you call it that building cathedrals, which I thought was like if you look if you know so for example, if you go around any part of Western Europe, including Dublin and also outside of Dublin, but you see these massive, massive churches built by people who would never see those churches when they were built, you know, like Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin, maybe took 150 years to build all the big minsters, as he called them in the UK, maybe took 200 years to build Notre Dame.
I mean, I presume took 300 years to build or Cologne Cathedral.
So, like, you know, even further back, like pyramids and and. Yeah, ancient Greek and Roman stuff. So we're building stuff.
So we have this ability to think long term, to plan to leave a legacy, to leave an imprint. Where do you think the conflict is from and where do you think conflict is and how, given what we know about the world now, given what we know about, you know, the atrophying of international relations, the fact that economies aren't working, the fact that inequalities going through the roof, you've got climate change, you've got these kind of proto nationalist leaders emerging who are all about the here and now.
Where where do you think how do you think the long term can win over the short term can change our perspective. Well, you're absolutely right that human beings have a great history as Cathedral thinkers going back five thousand years to the pyramids, to all those medieval cathedrals that you mentioned and also in other areas to think about social movements like the suffragettes in the U.K. who founded their first organization in Manchester, nineteen sixty seven, didn't achieve their aims for at least half a century struggles today for indigenous rights, women's rights going on for a century.
So we're constantly engaged in these long term struggles that we think where we realize it may not be one in our own lifetimes. But you're absolutely right that alongside this really quite inspiring history of ACORN brain thinking, there are all these forces which are pushing against it, which are channeling our sense of now into seconds in milliseconds. But that process by which we've become short term as our cultural institutions and political economic institutions have been short termism has been going on for a hell of a long time.
It's not just because you've got a phone in your pocket that we are thinking short term. This goes back to the medieval period, to the. Invention, the first mechanical clocks in the 14th century in Europe, when we started speeding up time and measuring it by the first clocks, were only chiming every hour or every quarter hour. By seventeen hundred, most clocks had minute hands. By eight hundred, they had second hand. The great historian of the Industrial Revolution, Lewis Mumford, once said that it was the clock was the great instrument of the industrialization of the Western world.
The factory clocks sped up time and we have inherited that today. And now we find it in no algorithmic short term share trades which are going on faster than the blink of an eye in milliseconds. And we're having to live with that. And that's where the struggle lies.
So Romanoff's assumes when you're talking about the suffragettes and the here and I was thinking it's kind of Kim Kardashian versus Countess Marcovicci. That's really what we're talking about. OK, this is going to be cat as far as which was an Irish revolutionary who was very much into the old the Socialist Republic that we would are we should have in this country back in nineteen seventeen. And she was looking at a again one hundred year project, whereas Kim Kardashian was she could be first lady, she could be first lady.
Lozano's got to entertainers, got entertainers. OK, let's talk about getting to long term thinking. How do we change our focus. The book has a number of lists. You've got drivers of Short-Termism versus six ways of thinking about long term. You've got this lovely image in the book of the amount of people who have been alive, the amount of people who are living the most people are yet to come. How do we begin to think about the future in practical terms?
It's not an easy thing.
I mean, Groucho Marx famously said, why should I care about future generations? What have they ever done for me? And I think that's something that we all struggle with, I think, when it comes down to it. I think this is a thinking about legacies, the legacies we want to leave. I mean, we've got seven point seven billion people alive in the world today, roughly if you cast your mind back. Fifty thousand years, that's getting pretty long term.
An estimated one hundred billion people have been born and died. But if you go forward fifty thousand years, if this century's birthrates level off will remain constant at nearly seven trillion people will be born. They far outnumber everyone alive today. And I think of that huge number of people being full of I call them the future holders, not shareholders and stakeholders. These are the future holders of universal strangers' of the future people. We will never know. We will never meet.
But they are the ones who are looking back on us today wondering, well, what did these people in the early twenty first century do when they knew so much about ecological degradation or technological risk? I like to feel that kind of looking over my shoulder. And I think whether you are rich or poor or black or white or whatever, most people care about the legacies that they leave, they care about. Some people focus on an egoistical form of legacy, like a Russian oligarch who wants a wing of an art gallery or a football stadium named after them.
Some people, most of us like me with my 11 year old twins think about about their familial legacy, wanting to pass on stuff to our children or grandchildren, whether it's wealth or property or pass on religion or family traditions. But I think if we're really going to be good ancestors, we need a more transcendent sense of legacy to recognize that we need to do something that goes beyond just our ego and just beyond the family to the universal strangeness of the future as I think of them.
And, you know, when I. Look myself in the mirror and think, do I really care about the long term and I don't I just want to go and go around the corner and get a kebab because I'm hungry, which is something I just did before I came on this conversation with you. Actually, when I'm looking in the mirror. I sometimes imagine my 11 year old daughter as a 90 year old and I imagine her at a birthday party surrounded by family and friends.
And I look into her face, I walk over to the window and I look at the world outside that window. And I think to myself, well, what am I going to do for her and her world? Because if I care about her life in a way, I've got to care about all life. All her family and friends support her. I have to care about the air that she breathes, the food that she eats. And I think that's a way of connecting to something bigger, even if we've got that by now.
Button looking us in the eye and you can imagine her granddaughter who could be at that party. Absolutely great granddaughter. That granddaughter or great granddaughter could live right into the 22nd century, so so it's not that far away. It's not that far away at all. No, it's just this is a couple of steps away from my life. I mean, I love reading sci fi novels set in the twenty second or twenty third century, but that great granddaughter of a great great great granddaughter.
Life isn't science fiction for me. I realize it's an intimate family fact. And I think most of us, if we sit down and think about it, we do have those kind of connections to people who are going to be here long after we're gone and how do we want to be judged. There's one thing in the book I find fascinating, which was you said that in Japan at the moment, because of the practical ways in which we think about the future, we could think that certain county councils, as we call them in Ireland, are putting together little sort of governments, which was to have people representing today, let's say 50 percent of the people in the room represent today and then 50 percent people who represent the future.
And they come to decisions based on an amalgamation of the people who represent today and the people that represent the future. So let's say in a city like Dublin, you'd have a sort of a council like a citizen's assembly, which we had, which worked actually quite effectively here in Ireland for the abortion referendum, for the gay marriage referendum, to try to figure out where actually society's feeling rather than have politicians and our technocrats to actually decide for a society was.
But tell me about what they do in Japan. I found this really interesting. Yeah. This is a movement in Japan called Future Design. And just remember, of course, Japan has a long history of long term thinking, partly because they've got you know, Japan has more businesses than anywhere in the world that have lasted for over a thousand years, like shrine builders and robe makers and stuff like that. They're pretty good at long term thinking and long term vision.
And this future design methodology for making decisions in towns and cities and local authorities is exactly as you say. They invite citizens along, like in that citizen assembly model, random citizens. And they split into the two groups, one groups, other are the citizens from the president. And the second group are given these ceremonial green kimonos to wear like robes to wear and told to imagine themselves as citizens from the year 2060. And it turns out that the citizens from 20 60 come up with much more radical plans for the towns and cities, whether it's environmental policy or transport, education, health care.
And in fact, the guy who invented this methodology, which is now spreading across municipalities in Japan, is an economist who's really interested in game theory. So he's done lots of experimental studies and written some really great research papers showing, for example, that, you know, if you ask the residents from the president whether they want to increase their water rates to do long term investment in the infrastructure of the pipes in the city, which are all leaking, they'll say, no, we don't want to pay more for our water rates.
But the residents from 20, 60 are perfectly happy to do so because they want their kids and their grandkids to have decent water. And that has spurred many towns to pop up their water rates. And people can deal with it, particularly when they've had this citizens assembly kind of process, because it gives it a legitimacy. It's not just top down like a politician telling you what to do. It's coming from everyday people. And there is systematic evidence to show that these citizen assemblies, these deliberative bodies, can have a much more long term output outlook than politicians who are looking at the next headline, who are looking at the next tweet, we're kind of captures in fairness to them.
I mean, I've always thought most politicians are probably decent of people trying to do a decent job. They just get captured in this this sort of cage that is opinion polls, the next tweet, the next election, etc. and then they become totally bamboozled by the present when they went into politics thinking about the future.
In the main. I mean, we've got a couple of, you know, all these corrupt individuals, etc. But that's not the general thing room. And I just want to ask you, in that kind of setup, it is a bit of a luxury for many societies to allow themselves to think so far in the future because they kind of need to get through the here and now. Apart from the covid crisis, you know, your average day to day kind of troubles that we all have.
Is it a bit of a luxury?
I think you're right and I think you're wrong. I think you're right in the sense that, of course, think of the world's two hundred and twenty million refugees and migrants. They're just trying to get on with dealing with life now, put food on the table like my dad when he was an immigrant from a refugee going from Poland to Australia off the Second World War. He was just trying to find somewhere to sleep. Yeah. And dealing with everyday racism.
And on that level, when I think, OK, long term thinking is is a luxury item for those who've got kind of security. But here's the curious thing. It seems to me that actually it's often those in the positions of greatest privilege who are much more narrow in their long term thinking. So, for example, an aristocrat who just wants to keep them manorial. Inside the blood line, whereas those people living on the social margins have been the ones on the streets fighting for intergenerational justice, think, for example, of Native American peoples like the Iroquois or the Lakota Nation, people who do this idea being called seventh generation, thinking it's a kind of ecological stewardship decision making based on the impact seven generations from now.
They're hardly a privileged group in society or in Maori culture in New Zealand. That's the idea of Acapulco, which is idea of genealogy or lineage. The idea connected to the past and the future and a continuous lifeline or think of Black Lives Matters is a great book by Laila Saad, a black activist called Me and White Supremacy. On the first page, she talks about being a good ancestor. Why? Because she knows that racism and intergenerational oppression is deeply embedded in criminal justice systems and culture and has been for decades, for centuries in policing systems, in judicial systems.
And struggle against that is a long term struggle to liberate future generations from that same kind of racism. So it's a curious thing, actually. I think this long term thinking is in more places than we think. There are more time rebels out there struggling to think long than we immediately imagine.
So does our current democratic system. Generally in the Western world, we're kind of fighting against this ourselves because most politicians will only look to their term in office, whether it's four years, five years, you know, are we fighting against ourselves in that sense? Well, I think when I think of that kind of comment, which is really interesting, what comes to mind is the number of people come up to me and say, oh, look at all these squabbling Democratic politicians.
What we need is a good, benign dictator, an enlightened despot who can sort it out, who can take the long view like the Chinese on climate change and invest in renewables, or like Singapore, where they do long term investment in public education and housing. I was really interested in this question, actually, of benign dictators, better long term thinking, the democratic countries in this new book, The Good Ancestor, I decided to actually look at the evidence and I work with a statistician called a Quilt, and we created where he really created a unique index called the Intergenerational Solidarity Index, which takes 10 indicators of economic indicators, social and environmental, everything from carbon footprint to long term investment in primary school education and puts it's a composite indicator that comes up with a single number.
And what you see in the end is that actually it's democracies outperform autocracies by miles when it comes to long term public policy performance. There are outliers like Singapore and China, but by and large, democracies are better at delivering for the long term than autocracies like Russia or Saudi Arabia. But the thing is that all the democracies could get a hell of a lot better. Iceland's at the top. Switzerland's up there, too, but so is Costa Rica and Uruguay.
And so they could all push themselves with things like this Japanese model that David was mentioning, which is so important to expand long term thinking in the democratic process. It really needs a jumpstart.
The unfortunately, as China's got a weakness for the dictator, it seems he's abandoned that he's abandoned that democracy. Robyn, it was fascinating to talk to you. And again, what I will say is the book is called A Good Ancestor Google. Let's have a look at it. It's really well worth a read. Román, listen back to your kebobs and all that. Carry on and we will talk to you soon. Thanks for having me on.
Has been a huge pleasure and privilege to take our see as Roman. And they're going back to a kebab house with the characters and the whole shebang. Well, if you know everything about birds that say there's no Africa, there's probably a finer, finer thing. If you've ever woken up with a kebab beside you, you'll know many, many just sitting there beside you say how you make your friend from last. What's interesting about what he was saying and stuff, those are really good stuff, really good stuff.
But what he was saying was absolutely spot on. But there is a a very fine balancing act between living in the here and now, which you have to, and thinking about the future, a better kids or grandkids, mental health and all the rest. Yeah, like the expression I found most appealing, not most appealing, touched me most on this idea of colonizing the future. The future can't speak. It's a great phrase that, you know, and the extraordinary thing about colonialism was the colonialism.
For example, the UK was based on a law called Terra inhabitants. So they said like, for example, Australia was uninhabited and consequently taking over Australia was legally possible. They admitted to think of the indigenous people, right? Yeah. Ireland was probably terra nullius for them as well. And what is. What we say is that the future is this terra nullius and its inhabitants, we don't have to worry about it. I get what you're saying that in the moment and living in the moment is something for many, many people.
But equally, it's this idea in economics called the paradox of aggregation, which is what is good for the individual is not always good for the community. Sure. And it's a huge dominating force in economics. Right, that sometimes economists don't see or don't pay enough attention to. So what he's saying is we are a community. We are a collective. We are one world. We are one planet. As Jared Diamond, the great evolutionary biologist, saying there's no planet B if we mess this one up.
All right. We're moving next door. There is no next door. This is it. So when I hear someone like Roman talking and when I hear read what he's writing. It seems to me, John, to encapsulate. The essence of being a properly functioning, thinking human that you can't just think about yourself, we've got to think about the collective and not the collective that is now alone, but the collective takes from people we don't even know whose faces we will never recognize, but whose lives will be determined by the legacy that we leave.
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