Today I go to the place I have largely tried to stay away from: tech disruption and its implications. Its not that I have something against it. My own personal history means I keep an active interest in it. But I wanted this podcast series to be about things other than tech disruption, because that was the most obvious place to go. I knew that there was so much other positive, non-tech disruption out there, subtle disruption that was having a positive impact on people’s lives and that was not, in general, being talked about.
But there was only so long I could hold off before having a guest on to come and talk about it. There is no denying that science and technology are changing our lives – the question I had for myself was, How do I approach this? I want to talk about purpose, benefits and harness technology for good – not about techno utopianism or technofying for its own sake. I needed to find the right person.
I have met this week’s guest in a few different ways: I have heard him speak as part of his work through Future Crunch; I regularly read his newsletter; and when I recently started a new job that enabled me to meet him in person, I jumped at the opportunity to have a conversation with him.
Gus Hervey had excelled at the things he put his mind to right up to completing his PhD in Political Economy. What followed was 18 months of unemployment and a deep personal crisis forcing him to confront failure and the type of person he wanted to be. Three experiences helped move him on from this incredibly difficult place: an article by George Munbiot encouraging those in the environmental movement to preach hope instead of fear to effective galvanise people for change; a bike trip and conversation with his now business partner, Tané Hunter, about the rate of change in science and technology and its potential for good; and a moment of journaling where he realised he wanted to be more like his open, optimistic, expressive California self, rather thanks his rational, serious, objective Father-stuck-in-the-1970s self.
Gus and Tané founded Future Crunch, a business whose mission is described by Gus as ‘…to be field guides for the new economy, with the goal of fostering intelligent optimistic thinking about the future, with the aim of making things better.’
For Future Crunch making things better means improving the life of our planet and life on our planet, through things like using technology as a means for democratisation, and making goods and services available to those who previously did not have access to them.
In our discussion Gus answers three questions that constantly sit at the back of my mind about this topic:
- Will the changes we are seeing through science and technology bring us closer to our natural environment, or move us further away?
- How can we ensure that the developments we see are harnessed for good of our planet and those most in need, rather than concentrating wealth and benefit with a chosen few?
- And is the only way we will collectively make changes in they way we treat our planet when we experience the crisis of environmental melt-down first hand, or can we be affected through awareness and hope?
I wasn’t sure if my usual question about a disruption he wanted to be part of one day was relevant for Gus, considering by the nature of his work he is already part of every disruption there is! But he was quick to talk about the potential of blockchain to change the way in which any transaction is executed, removing friction, cost and any guaranteeing middle parties, and the profound and as yet largely unknown benefits this technology could bring.
And for himself, Gus talked about a subtle change he has made recently to open himself up to world views, perspectives and opinions outside of those he currently identifies with. It has been through understanding diverse views from religion and politics that he has been able to reflect and challenge his own views, and at times even change his mind.
Gus brings hope, wisdom and humanness to the potentially heady conversation of science, technology and change. Fittingly and ironically we sat on a bench in a park for this conversation, a conversation I hope you enjoy as much as I did.
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