In OutsideVoices Mark Bidwell talks to remarkable and compelling leaders from the worlds of business, exploration, arts, sports, and academia. In these conversations he explores topics of fundamental importance to many of us today, both in work and in life, topics ranging from leadership and performance to creativity and growth.
Charles Foster: One Man’s Search for Meaning: a Journey to the Origins of Consciousness
Charles Foster is an English writer, a traveler, a veterinarian, a taxidermist, a barrister, and a philosopher. Like my previous guest Steven Kotler, he believes in getting deep into subjects in a very immersive and experiential way. In his earlier book called Being a Beast, Charles shares his experiences of trying to live as an otter, a badger, a stagg, a fox and other animals and birds, all in order to better understand what being a wild animal is really like. His latest book is called Being a Human, where he and his 13-year-old son live in the wilderness as Paleolithic hunter gatherers to really understand what it means to be human.
Charles rolls up his sleeves and puts himself into the shoes of our ancestors going back many thousands of years. And when asked why he bothers to drag himself and his children off into caves, he answers as follows: because I don't trust books, and you get a wholly different kind of knowledge by doing and feeling things. So this is a man trying to be a better human, a better father, a better son, a better husband, a man who dives deep into a subject in order to enhance his understanding of arguably the most important topic that faces us all. He's a traveler through time and space. Being a Human is a travel book, essentially, about traveling across generations, and Charles’s curiosity is infectious.
What We Cover:
5:09 - How Charles landed on such a diverse range of professional activities 10:00 - Why writing Being a Human was much harder than writing Being a Beast 19:06 - What Charles learned by experiencing the hunter-gatherers’ way of life 25:00 - Desouling and the big changes humanity experienced in the Neolithic period 38:23 - Shamanism and why we lost the ability to perceive the world in a “mystical” way 45:13 - What it means to be a proper father and a proper son Key Takeaways and Quotes:
Trying to get into the heads of ancient humans is very difficult. Even ancient humans can lie to us, it’s part of their complexity. The cave paintings are not always telling a straightforward story. It’s a shame that an almost mystical way of looking at the world, given to us by physics, is not imported into the biological world which we inhabit. The desperate quest for a right story is behind all this political, economical, and ecological mess we live in today. Resources and Links Mentioned:
Being a Human: Adventures in Forty Thousand Years of Consciousness by Charles Foster Being a Beast: Adventures Across the Species Divide by Charles Foster Connect with Charles Foster The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen The Mind in the Cave: Consciousness and the Origins of Art by David Lewis-Williams Other Popular Interviews on OutsideVoices:
Steven Kotler: Getting Younger with Age - Mindsets for Boosting Learning and Flow Kevin Kelly: Raising the Bar - Excellent Advice, AI’s for Better Living Wade Davis: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in Today’s World Benedict Allen - Exploring Cultures Connect with OutsideLens:
Subscribe to our free newsletter Connect with Mark Bidwell on LinkedIn and Twitter
Kevin Kelly: Raising the Bar - Excellent Advice, AI’s for Better Living
Kevin Kelly first appeared on this show back in 2016 to talk about his bestselling book, “The Inevitable”, which was a review of the key tech trends that were shaping our lives. Today, almost seven years later, I’ve been struck by how prescient a number of his predictions turned out to be back then, in particular around artificial intelligence, which we talk about in this episode.
Kevin’s latest book is called Excellent Advice for Living: Wisdom I Wish I'd Known Earlier. This is a curated selection of aphorisms, which guide how Kevin lives his life, and which he was encouraged by his family to put together several years ago. It's a mixture of very practical, as well as quite counterintuitive, but nevertheless fascinating advice for parents, for children, and for grandparents. There are echoes of Charlie Munger and Warren Buffett, in emphasizing the importance of thinking long term, of deferred gratification, or of compounding, but there are also different ways of looking at the world, drawing from the work from James P. Carse and his “Finite and Infinite Games,” that guide Kevin and how he approaches things.
Kevin has done a huge amount of travel and he shares with us how he thinks about traveling, and why he sees traveling as such an important activity for the youth to pursue. Towards the end, we talked about what his current projects and his future projects are, and he's embarking on a 100-year project, being enormously optimistic and positive about the future.
What We Cover:
08:26 - Three types of travel and Kevin’s approach to traveling 19:49 - The idea of finite and infinite games and the parts of our society and systems that can be perceived as infinite games
23:24 - The paradox of generosity and why it works even if it seems counterintuitive in today’s world
30:19 - The value of rites of passage for the youth and how to recreate them in the modern Western society
34:03 - Where we are going next with the advancement of artificial intelligence
45:43 - Kevin’s 100-year project and why he is optimistic about the future
Key Learnings and Takeaways:
Travel is essential for growth - encountering the other and learning is one of the most powerful and transformative experiences for the youth that should be facilitated and subsidized on a national level The foundational paradox of our human societal collective existence is that the more you give, the more you get, that you cannot deplete your generosity and kindness.
The thrilling adventure that the society is headed into right now is trying to elevate the AI's so that they're better than humans, even though we currently don't have a consensus on what ethics and morality mean that we could program into AI.
Links and Resources Mentioned in This Episode:
Excellent Advice for Living: Wisdom I Wish I’d Known Earlier by Kevin Kelly
The Inevitable and other books by Kevin Kelly https://kk.org/books
Connect with Kevin Kelly on social media @Kevin2Kelly
Finite and Infinite Games by James P. Carse
Kevin Kelly: The Formula for the Next 10,000 Startups, Failing Forward and Becoming a Teaching Organization on OutsideVoices
Other Popular Interviews on OutsideVoices:
Mohnish Pabrai: Cloning, Learning from Charlie Munger, 100 Baggers Steven Kotler: Getting Younger with Age - Mindsets for Boosting Learning and Flow Robert Cialdini: Pre-Suasion - How to Influence with Integrity Connect with OutsideLens:
Subscribe to our free newsletter OutsideLens Website, LinkedIn, Twitter Connect with Mark Bidwell on LinkedIn and Twitter
Kevin Kelly on AI
In this short episode, I’m sharing an excerpt from my recent interview with Kevin Kelly. He's got a new book coming out in May 2023, called Excellent Advice for Living: Wisdom I Wish I'd Known Earlier. We’re going to release the full interview when the book is out, but in the meantime, it’s worth sharing with you some of Kevin’s insights into the topic of AI, which is one of the areas in which he is genuinely a world leader.
Unless you've been living in a cave or under a rock, you're likely very interested in how AI technology is going to shape out - whether it is just one more iteration of the Silicon Valley hype machine, or whether this is something far more fundamental, something that threatens a number of our global institutions relating to democracy, to the economy, and to what it means to be human.
Be sure to also check out my previous interview with Kevin Kelly, linked below in the show notes, as well as my recommendations of two other shows where you can learn more about AI.
What We Cover:
Where we are right now on the path of AI development How we can use AIs as interns and still keep our jobs or create new ones The challenge of ‘ethical’ AI and how we can use AI to be better humans Reasons to be optimistic about technology Key Learnings and Takeaways:
There is no large-scale unemployment due to AI, but there is a big case for using AI chatbots as trained interns to offload your work to them We can program ethics and morality into AI, but we currently don't have any consensus on what ethics and morality mean and how to be better than humans Another frontier to break with AI is epistemological - how we decide what’s true and how we can automate trustworthiness Links and Resources Mentioned in This Episode:
Kevin Kelly: The Formula for the Next 10,000 Startups, Failing Forward and Becoming a Teaching Organization on OutsideVoices Connect with Kevin Kelly on social media @Kevin2Kelly Sam Altman: OpenAI CEO on GTP4, ChatGTP, and the Future of AI - Lex Fridman Podcast #367 Stratechery by Ben Thompson Midjourney AI tool DALL E-2 by OpenAI Stable Diffusion AI tool Connect with Mark Bidwell:
Steven Kotler: Getting Younger with Age: Mindsets for Boosting Learning and Flow
I’m very excited to welcome back Steven Kotler, who’s been a guest on this podcast a few times before, talking about some of his books such as Bold, The Rise of Superman, and The Art of Impossible. He has written 12 books in the last 12 years, and his work has been very helpful for me not only in the corporate world, but also more broadly in life.
Steven’s latest book is called Gnar Country: Growing Old, Staying Rad. Gnar, which is short for gnarly, refers not only to a very hostile environment in which he learned new action and adventure sports skills at the ripe age of 55, but also about the environment which at 55 you're operating in - the reality of getting old and some of the challenges associated with aging. We've talked about action sports, peak performance, longevity and a number of other topics, where Steven turned on its head some of the conventional wisdom around the psychological and physiological decline that accompanies old age, and offered an extremely optimistic view of how we can turn this around to our benefit.
What Is Covered:
The research experiment on peak performance aging that Steven engaged in before writing Gnar Country Why the new research completely overturns conventional perspective on aging and supposed physical and mental decline The key role of the state of flow in peak performance aging How to preserve, maintain, enhance and improve your physical and cognitive performance in older age Why changing our mindset around aging is key for longevity and quality of life as we get older Key Learnings and Takeaways:
The vast majority of human abilities that we used to believe declined over time are use-it or lose-it skills, and it applies to both cognitive and physical function. If you want to “rock till you drop”, you want to engage in challenging social and creative activities that demand dynamic, deliberate play and take place in novel outdoor environments. A properly trained person over fifty is the ideal workforce of the 21st century, and there's a business revolution waiting to happen with older workers. Links and Resources Mentioned in This Episode:
Gnar Country: Growing Old, Staying Rad by Steven Kotler Gnar Country Experiment Video Other books by Steven Kotler Breaking the Age Code by Becca Levy Steven Kotler: Hacking Flow – How to Make Outperformance a Habit on OutsideVoices Steven Kotler: The Art of Impossible – A Playbook for Impractical People in 2021 on OutsideVoices Chip Conley: AirBnb, Modern Elders, Navigating the Midlife Crisis on OutsideVoices Connect with Mark Bidwell:
John Elkington: Green Swans, Exponentials and Super Wicked Problems
John Elkington is an advisor on sustainable development and corporate responsibility, an area he’s been working in for almost 40 years. He is the author of 20 books on this topic, and he has given a remarkable contribution to shifting capitalism and business towards a more balanced and sustainable path. We talk about his new book called "Green Swans: The Coming Boom in Regenerative Capitalism," we also talk about wicked and super wicked problems, exponentials, why he reads Chinese science fiction books, his visit with past guest Kevin Kelley and what he's both terrified of and excited about in the coming ten to fifteen year.
What is Covered:
- Who or what are ‘green swans’ and where the idea came from
- Human struggle with exponentials and the role of technology in systemic change
- Wicked and super wicked problems, and what is unique about them in today’s world
- The issues with discounted cash flow in today’s economy
- The role of young generation and why we need intergenerational cooperation to solve existential threats we’re facing
Key Takeaways and Learnings:
- The green swans are very often market or societal or political shifts. A company or an individual could play into those changing realities, but it’s not about individuals as such.
- Super wicked problems, such as the climate emergency, make us see our future ahead of us, but we seem to be completely unable as a political species to address the challenge in a sufficient scale and with sufficient urgency.
- Reengaging young people in a multigenerational and intergenerational battle for a systemic change at the right time and in the right way is a major opportunity in the next 10 to 15 years
Links and Resources Mentioned in This Episode:
- “Green Swans: The Coming Book in Regenerative Capitalism” by John Elkington https://www.amazon.com/Green-Swans-Coming-Regenerative-Capitalism-ebook/dp/B086BJF1FQ/
- Volans Ventures https://volans.com/
- Connect with John Elkington by email, LinkedIn or Twitter
- “The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable” by Nassim Nicholas Taleb https://www.amazon.com/Black-Swan-Improbable-Robustness-Fragility/dp/081297381X/
- UN Sustainable Development Goals https://sdgs.un.org/goals
- “Exponential: How to Bridge the Gap Between Technology and Society” by Azeem Azhar https://www.amazon.com/Exponential-Bridge-Between-Technology-Society/dp/B094DK3NG7/
- “New Rules for the New Economy: 10 Radical Strategies for a Connected World” by Kevin Kelly https://www.amazon.com/New-Rules-Economy-Strategies-Connected/dp/014028060X/
- “Out of Control: The New Biology of Machines, Social Systems and the Economic World” by Kevin Kelly https://www.amazon.com/Out-Control-Biology-Machines-Economic/dp/0201483408/
- “Ministry for the Future: A Novel” by Kim Stanley Robinson https://www.amazon.com/Ministry-Future-Kim-Stanley-Robinson/dp/0316300144/
- “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” by Thomas S. Kuhn https://www.amazon.com/Structure-Scientific-Revolutions-Thomas-Kuhn/dp/0226458083
- “Regeneration: Ending the Climate Crisis in One Generation” by Paul Hawken https://www.amazon.com/Regeneration-Ending-Climate-Crisis-Generation/dp/0143136976/
- “Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming” by Paul Hawken https://www.amazon.com/Drawdown-Comprehensive-Proposed-Reverse-Warming/dp/0143130447/
- RethinkX https://www.rethinkx.com/
- “The Wandering Earth” by Cixin Liu https://www.amazon.com/Wandering-Earth-Cixin-Liu/dp/1250796830
- “The Postman” by David Brin https://www.amazon.com/Postman-David-Brin/dp/B08GLSY8R6/
- “Dune” by Frank Herbert https://www.amazon.com/Frank-Herberts-Dune-6-Book-Boxed/dp/0593201884/
- Jim Mellon: Moo’s Law and Investing in Cellular Agriculture https://outsidelens.com/jim-mellon-moos-law-and-investing-in-cellular-agriculture/
- Kevin Kelly:
Jack Weatherford: Genghis Khan's Lessons for the Modern World
My guest today, Jack Weatherford, is an anthropologist and author of several books, including one on money, a number on indigenous cultures in North America and beyond, and a revisionist and very thought provoking history of Genghis Khan, called “Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World.” Tom Morgan, who is a successful fund manager, described this book on Jim O'Shaughnessy's podcast Infinite Loops as the best business and investing book that he'd ever read. That got me curious, so I grabbed a copy, changed my mind about almost everything I believed about Genghis Khan, and invited Jack onto the show.
In this conversation, rather than talking about investing, we explored the impact that Genghis Khan had on the modern world, how he introduced the rule of law, meritocracy, paper based money, religious freedoms and international trade routes. In fact, even though he was a genuine pioneer in many of these arenas, and this was 800 years ago, listening to the news today, it feels like we're going backwards in a number of these topics.
What Is Covered:
- How the practical side of Genghis Khan produced revolutionary cultural innovations
- The role of Genghis Khan in the evolution of money
- How the adaptivity of indigineous people can serve as an advantage in today’s world
Key Takeaways and Learnings:
- Governments are allowing for the development of digital currencies until these systems start to work, and then they’ll want to gain control over it. It’s not the technology, it’s the people.
- There was nothing ideological about Genghis Khan, there were a lot of practical decisions, and we can learn from that kind of thinking, because it’s not tied to one religion or one way of life. It’s more adaptable.
- Indigineous people are often better at handling crises and the skills of hunting and gathering can be better for the use of the internet than knowing how to farm.
Links and Resources Mentioned in This Episode:
- “Genghis Kahn and the Making of the Modern World” by Jack Weatherford https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000FCK206/
- Tom Morgan - Curation in the Age of Information Abundance https://www.infiniteloopspodcast.com/tom-morgan-curation-in-the-age/
- Mohnish Pabrai: Cloning, Learningg from Charlie Munger, 100 Baggers on OutsideVoices Podcast https://outsidelens.com/mohnish-pabrai-cloning/
- Wade Davis: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in Today’s World on OutsideVoices Podcast https://outsidelens.com/wade-davis/
- Anthro-Vision: Shifting the Perspectives on Business and Life with Gillian Tett https://outsidelens.com/gillian-tett-anthro-vision/
Connect with Mark Bidwell:
- LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/markbidwell/
- Twitter https://twitter.com/markehb
A Must Listen✨✨
I just wanted to take a moment and say thank you for creating such an impactful podcast! I believe that we all have a voice that deserves to be heard. Thank you for putting this into the world! BE UNBROKEN! @MichaelUnbroken
I can't tell you how much I appreciate this show! Mark's methodology is a breath of fresh air. There’s a steady drumbeat with his message— it’s consistent, it’s human, and it’s effective. Highly recommend giving OutsideVoices a listen!
Empowering, insightful and actionable! 🙌
Whether you’re well established as someone who can translate creative energy into the impact you want to have on the world, or just getting started as a catalyst for change - this is a must-listen podcast for you! Mark does an incredible job leading conversations that cover a huge breadth of topics related to the ins and outs of separating signal from noise - in order to live a life you can be proud of - with leaders who’ve actually walked the path. Highly recommend listening and subscribing!