Ugo Bardi

Jul 23 / Ugo Bardi
Today, we have our first podcast as part of the 4 Waves series of podcasts, a series that discusses the risks facing humanity over the next 100 years with leading researchers and analyzing them through a 4Waves perspective. Today as our first guest, we have Ugo Bardi. Ugo Bardi teaches physical chemistry at the University of Florence in Italy. He spent his career working on resource depletion, system dynamics modelling, climate science, and renewable energy. He is a member of the scientific community of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil. And he’s a regular contributor to The Oil Drum and
Today, we have our first podcast as part of the 4 Waves series of podcasts, a series that discusses the risks facing humanity over the next 100 years with leading researchers and analyzing them through a 4Waves perspective. Today as our first guest, we have Ugo Bardi. Ugo Bardi teaches physical chemistry at the University of Florence in Italy. He spent his career working on resource depletion, system dynamics modelling, climate science, and renewable energy. He is a member of the scientific community of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil. And he’s a regular contributor to The Oil Drum and

Even more importantly, at least for us, he’s a member of the Club of Rome and he authored the 33rd report extracted how the quest for global mining wealth is plundering the planet, and also The Limits to Growth Revisited, an update to the Club of Rome most seminal texts, which had a profound influence on many, including the author of The 4 Waves Method. Alexander Chikunov is also on the call. And he has authored many other books too. Most recently The Empty Sea: The Future of the Blue Economy. And we also, of course, recommend reading his blog, The Seneca Effect.

Podcast Transcript

Marek: Today, we have our first podcast as part of the 4Waves series of podcasts, a series which is looking at the risks facing humanity over the next 100 years, and discussing these risks with leading researchers and analyzing them through a 4Waves perspective. And you can find out more about that on That’s four written as a digit rather than as a word. And today as our first guest, we have Ugo Bardi. Now Ugo Bardi teaches physical chemistry at the University of Florence in Italy. He spent his career working on resource depletion, system dynamics modeling, climate science, and renewable energy. He is a member of the scientific community of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil. And he’s a regular contributor to The Oil Drum and 

Even more importantly, at least for us, he’s a member of the Club of Rome and he authored the 33rd report extracted how the quest for global mining wealth is plundering the planet, and also The Limits to Growth Revisited, an update to the Club of Rome most seminal texts, which had a profound influence on many, including the author of The 4Waves Method. Alexander Chikunov is also on the call. And he has authored many other books too. Most recently The Empty Sea: The Future of the Blue Economy. And I also, of course, recommend reading his blog, The Seneca Effect. For that, I think we’ll be posting a link somewhere in the description to this video podcast once we publish it. So, okay, well, thank you very much, Ugo for joining us.

Ugo: It’s a pleasure. Thank you for your interest.

Marek: So, I guess we’d love to start off with a rather broad question, but one, which we’re very interested to give you the chance to answer from your perspective, which is what do you see as the most significant risks over the next 100 years?

Ugo: It’s a wide ranging question. As you may imagine, it’s not so easy to answer it because I’ve been working with the future, trying to understand what the future. It’s an interesting job. You see, I’m from Tuscany, and my ancestors were probably seers. We had a tradition in Tuscany to interpret the science in the sky, and predict the future especially to emperors or to Roman emperors. They had Tuscan seers. My ancestors would not believe so much, I think in any way, but that’s the destiny. If you try to figure out the future, you’re not believed, first point. Second point as you go on with your career, then you discover that you don’t believe yourself as you predicted, because it is really very difficult, it is very difficult. The future is a subject of study, which is especially difficult because it does not exist. And you cannot see the future, you cannot make experiments on the future, you cannot take spectra of the future, you cannot hear the future, you just can’t try to figure out the future by what the past was. And the past is never the same thing as the future. So, it is not easy.

And it is also a little bit of a scary job. Because the future, as you said, correctly said, has risks. You don’t know what could happen, but there is a range of things which could happen. And then and then it’s not just a question of risk, it’s a progression, it’s a movement in some direction, which involves difficulties, problems and lacks of resources and of climate change. And general mayhem of the society and wars and all these kinds of things are possible. We cannot predict if someone will decide to start a nuclear war, but it could happen. That’s the future. How can you say that? It’s not easy. So, but I think we’re going to see, the best I can say is to mirror the future into the past and try to imagine the trends of the future according to what’s going on in the past even the remote past because that’s a lot. Like if we studied the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire, that’s very nice. We saw the full cycle of the Empire; growth, peaking, decline. And you see, it was something like this. 

I take my inspiration from a Roman philosopher whose name was Seneca. And he was one of the first to think in terms of the future for society, not for himself. So, he said for what they call the Seneca effect, he says, well, things are not always well, and when things start going bad, then they go bad fast. And that’s the story of the Seneca effect, you see this kind of curve, you go up, you go up, you go up, and then you find something is going on and you’ll find yourself down. And that’s the risk. We think that things are not so bad right now. We are not so bad, actually. We are 8 billion people on this planet, we have more or less sufficient food for everybody, almost. The things, we have fuel for our cars or planes, we even have the luxury of being able to start a few wars, not so big as in the past, but we can. The risk from the viewpoint if you see things in a certain range, then you see we may be here at this point, as I say everything is fine, we are at the top. We’ve never been so rich. It’s true. Never been so many people on this planet as now, never been so rich on the average, never been able to produce so much in terms of resources, of food, of oil, of gas, of coal, of metals or whatever. It’s a moment of glory. It’s a glorious moment. But when is it going to happen? 

And then if we examine if it’s a problem of resources we just spent some time working on the availability of resources like for the metal and it’s oil, and how much oil do we have. And the question is that we have as much oil as we can afford to produce. That’s the answer. We’re not running out of oil. We’re not running out of gas, we’re not running out of metals, nothing. At some moment we take a decision and we have as much as we can afford as society, as humankind, as you, as people, you have as much as you can afford. You can enter in a shop where they sell whatever, a Ferrari, but you cannot afford it and it is as if it were not there for you. I don’t know, you all want Ferraris. But in my case, I cannot afford it. And so this is the point, we may be on a big turning point for human kinds. We will have to adapt to a world where we are not out of anything. But we will have to learn how to use what we have. And that may be a little bit painful, and it may involve a decline, which may be so fast that you may be justified in calling it collapse something like this, indeed.

Marek: And to expand that a little more, you’ve been talking, focusing here on the resources, and the cost of resource extraction. So, you see that is the main risk that we face as a society at the moment?

Ugo: This is a good question because I don’t know. And I don’t think anyone knows what is the main problem. Is it resources? Is it pollution? Is it climate? Is it overpopulation? It is control, control of the society. In my opinion, the main problem is neither climate change nor resources. It’s the capability that we have, or what we call governance. Governance means adapting society to what is available. We cannot do that. So, that’s a big, big problem. We have a problem of control. The term control is not so -- people don’t like it, but you cannot avoid it. It is a question of control. And you have to make -- to keep society doing things in such a way that it doesn’t go overboard, and then suddenly finds itself, the whole society, the whole world without resources, or overwhelmed by climate change, or in a situation -- in an impossible situation with too many people, not enough food. That could happen. We cannot say that. But if we had the capability to govern, capability to govern, then we could take it easy. Let’s try to avoid risks. Let’s try to keep -- to avoid excessive growth. It’s a phenomenon which was discovered in the 1960s and it is the origin of the Club of Rome. 

And let me go from the beginning. Let’s start from 1960s. The 1960s were a moment of incredible growth. You were not around, you young people but everyone was very optimistic. We’re going to the moon, we will have nuclear energy, we will have everything we need, conquer the galaxy, set up a galactic empire and then rule the galaxy as human beings. Okay, not so easy. That didn’t happen. And people discovered at that time, formalized what is the Seneca. Seneca effect is an intuition by Seneca to 2,000 years ago, and what he said is written here. The intuition by Seneca, the philosopher, was formalized in mathematical terms in the 1960s, 1970s under a term which is called over exploitation. The whole movement or society or biology or whatever, if it moves on the dissipation of energy potentials, energy potential dissipated in stages, this is the way the world works. You, what you’re doing, the people who are listening to me, they’re doing exactly that, dissipating energy potential. They have a metabolic energy. I’m speaking I’m dissipating metabolic energy. 

For me, it’s okay. I can control it because I am an organism which has been -- is the result of millions of years of evolution, but society’s not so sophisticated, but they tend to over exploit, is to use too much of the energy which is available, then they run out of it for a time. It is a dynamic process, it’s not irreversible, it is for a time. The result is that you keep expanding, over exploit the resource, then you crash, you collapse, down. And this can be set in a formal model with the questions and things, but it is an intuition. You know this, but to exaggerate, you spend too much of your bank account. You have some money you bank, you have to spend more or less as much as you gain, you have to find a balance. But if you are not careful, you spend too much, your bank account goes to zero, and then you may have problems. And that is what’s happening with resources like oil and gas, like they will be always over exploited because they don’t make them anymore. 

Oil was formed 10s of millions of years ago and so it’s not something that we return. But the problem also with the resources, which are theoretically renewable, is that we are using them too fast, like big problem we have with forests, and trees. Okay. If I cut trees, I replant the trees, it’s fine. But take into account that it takes centuries to rebuild the forest. So, you just want to do in 10 years, not so easy. So, you are destroying forests that you are not recreating. And this is one of the many problems. 

You mentioned my latest book, which is titled The Empty Sea. How can you empty the sea? You can. Fish do reproduce. But if you keep fishing, and keep fishing, and keep fishing, then you don’t let the fish reproduce fast enough. And then you find yourself with an empty sea. You probably read the novel by Herman Melville, which is titled Moby Dick. Moby Dick is a story. It doesn’t appear in the text, but behind the story of Captain Ahab, Bobby Deacon whales and things there is depletion, over exploiting of a resource which at that time, was whales. And we know now, looking at the records of the time that over the 19th century, the whaling went through a curve nothing like this one. People were very happy we can catch whales, we are so rich and then bang. And when Melville wrote, the situation was one of like here, you could still find whales, but not anymore as abundantly, as easy as before. So, you have this melancholy in the novel. What’s happening, you see that there is some kind of sadness because you’re running out. Whales, you’re killing all the whales. Were not all killed but you think we have data, they already had the data at the time, but they couldn’t understand. 

And now we can on the basis of these models. And then we started, people started with hundreds of thousands of whales of the kind they were hunting at the time are called the right whales, and other kinds and these kinds of whales called right whales, right whales, there was a reason, were easy to kill. Today, we have a few hundred of these whales. It’s more than a century later, they didn’t have the capability to restore the stocks that were so badly depleted during the 19th century. This is the very big problem, the problem of resource over exploitation, which is at the basis of the model that were developed during the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s. We’re still working at these models. Formal models, we can analyze the over exploitation problem, it is very common, very common because people don’t work on short term profit, which is the way the system is geared to work, which is fine for something when the resources are abundant. And you govern the system, because this is governance. It’s the way the system is built. 

The system is built to encourage people to maximize the short term gain. It is built in this way. It’s not necessarily that it would work in this way. But if you reason in short term, then you’ll kill as many whales as possible or cut as many trees as possible. You don’t care -- somebody else. Then you make money, then you invest money in the bank and your happy. And then somebody else’s problem would be to reforest or rebuild the whale stock. So, this why I say this is a governance problem because the system could be built in a different way, but it is not. And so we don’t know about your question, if it is mostly a problem of resource depletion, or pollution. Because if you look at the state of, for instance, many things, fisheries right now, see the problem’s fishing, over exploitation and pollution more or less at the same level. You’re killing the fish by pollution, and over killing them by overfishing. And the two ethics cooperate to destroy the resource that makes you leave. 

And that’s not an easy situation, because our governance methods are unable, this I can tell you from what I’ve seen in this study of mine, and some colleagues on this book we wrote, the governance methods we have are completely ill-suited. They cannot manage fisheries, it’s a disaster, they do worse. It’s a story that I invited you to read, because it’s a horror movie. A government like the Canadian government set up and whole Research Institute to study fisheries and set up waters for fishing. For instance, the Newfoundland, and, in this way, they managed to destroy completely the stocks of fish. It’s written, you can see, it’s a horror story. It is a paper, which was titled by some researchers, the scientific extermination of the fish, or the cod, of the Newfoundland, with the best of intentions, because they couldn’t understand that their data were wrong, were insufficient, their models were not suitable for what they wanted to do. And then also, the fisherman, they didn’t pay too much attention to the quotas that the government sets up. So, this is the big problem we have and we do need, I think, the only thing that we can do is a new kind of governance. But this is something that we are discovering in time.

Marek: I think we’ll be wanting to talk a bit more about governments slightly later, Ainar has questions related to that. But before we do, Alexander, would you like to move to the second section?

Alexander: Yeah. And I have a couple of questions regarding resource depletion and this topic of resources. The first question is, like from the point of optimists, because there are a lot of people who don’t understand what is -- do we have the real threat of a resource depletion or resource deficit, because like this optimistic people are talking -- are saying, they said okay, the scientists predicted in the 1960s and 1970s and 1980s that some resources we will be run out of specific resources like copper or phosphorus or oil or something like this, and it never happened. We have a lot of phosphorus now. We replaced copper too and other materials, we have not the peak oil demand now but peak oil supply maybe and sulphur. Can you explain this in a more simple maybe way, what is the problem of resource scarcity? Is it the day that in one day, where we see oh, we don’t have this specific resource and this is a catastrophe for the world, or what is this?

Ugo: You said it right. You’re saying exactly what I am saying, we have a big governance problem. Governance in general, not just the government of a country, which should do thing, governance of everything. It’s the way we control the things we do. So, what you said is so typical. The people save up, you said in 1960s, 1950, that we will be running out of oil, of copper, manganese in 1985, or whatever, and it didn’t happen. Therefore, the models are wrong, therefore we can -- we will have -- [crosstalk] 

Alexander: Therefore, we are creative, we are innovative, and so forth…

Ugo: It’s okay. You see, it’s a manifestation of how society reacts in this moment. With the structures we have, society reacts in this way, because it is geared in a way to keep exploiting. And the people who say what you said, you can tell them, look, I do it sometimes. But look, can you provide a reference to what you just say who said in the 1970, whatever, that we would run out? And usually the answer is, everybody knows that. Once I was invited to give a talk, in a small town in Italy, in the mountains, there were old people listening to me, and one of them said, Professor, but is it true that the Club of Rome -- didn’t the Club of Rome make those wrong predictions in 1972? These people in the mountains, they know because governance is -- everywhere. You don’t have to be the manager of a company, you don’t have to be a politician. You don’t have to be an intellectual. It pervades society. So, you cannot win with logic, reasoning, and data. Because you know and I’m sure you know, Alexander, that these wrong predictions never existed. It’s a legend that typically surrounds the Club of Rome, that they say that the 1972, the famous book, which is now, next year would be the 50th anniversary of the book by the club title, the Limits to Growth. 

And the problem with the book is that it went against the gears of the system. It said we have to slow down while the system was saying no, we need to accelerate. So, the two things were completely in contrast. You could not keep them together, there was no agreement. So, society reacted with a demonization campaign, let’s say of completely false accusations, but probably believed. I mean, I don’t know if there was a plot of some obscure people in a smoke filled room who decided we may need to destroy this scientist who said we can not grow as much as -- I don’t know. Maybe, could be. But what happened is that everybody believed that in that book, there was written something that could be disproved. 1988, we ran out of oil. It is written in the book, you open the book, I have it. I can’t find it, it’s not there. There’s nothing like that written. And this is the way our society works. We really have no control over policies. We don’t. It’s an enormous problem, and we need to understand this otherwise, we’re not going anywhere. We are learning but we learn the hard way. If we keep saying there is no wall there, we can walk there and then we will bump into the wall, then we learn that there was a wall but do we need to agree on some way to manage society? And that’s a big, big challenge we have.

Alexander: And the second question is about the 21st century or the rest of the 21st century. And as many people, smart people explained beforehand as I try to explain in my 4Waves Concept, now in 2020, or 2021, we have only the half of the world population, existing world population, which came or transit from agrarian societies, from agrarian era to so-called urban industrial. And this is two waves of countries and the first wave countries are most mainly like European countries, or Western world, they did this transition starting 19th century. But starting 20th century, the second wave countries like Mexico, Brazil, a lot of countries from Asia, including China, they started the same transition from agrarian to post-agrarian. So, and the people who predicted in the 60s and 70s last year that we could have a resource depletion in the world will follow the trajectory, what the first wave countries demonstrated. And after that, during the next 50 years, we had tripling or quadrupling or 10 times growth in global demand.

Ugo: Absolute consumption. Alexander: And now looking for the next 50 years, we see that another four billion population, four billion people are going through the same trajectory, and they will build the same urban industrial countries, and they don’t exist yet. They don’t have urbans, they don’t have cities, they don’t have electricity, they don’t have power plants, they don’t have cars, but they will. So, do you believe that during the next 50 years, when we will see the doubling of the global demand, we will have enough resources for this or we will just see the collapse because we don’t have enough resources to feed the second population or the second humanity.

Ugo: You’re describing well, Alexander. It is the way it works. You see, this curve that you’re describing, everybody’s following this curve? Not all at the same time. The first people who went up the curve were the industrial nations right now, where we’re living. And we’re being followed a little bit behind by the nations you mentioned; Brazil and India, and China and others, and they’re climbing the same hill, in the real rich space over the sea. Now the question is, when they arrive at the top of the hill, what they want to see on the other side, because for good or for bad, the fact that it was possible for the Western nations to grow over a period which from the modern growth into urbanization was from the 1950s  and others started later. And it is possible because you have resources, and you are not too much troubled by pollution. And that, however, factors that we slow down the growth, we will. There is nothing that you can do about that, and we tend to decline to reduce your capability of growing. At some point, you call it negative growth. There’s not any more growth, but it has declined. 

Now, the Seneca model tells you that this decline is not symmetric, it goes much faster, which is a possibility. But let me say again, I am no seer, I think it is a possibility. We should think about that. But maybe not, maybe we will go down because we have, in addition to the negative factors that you are interviewing me as an expert in resources, which maybe I could define myself to be. But I know that there are factors which contrast, counteract the decline, and they should not be neglected. For instance, we’re thinking about how to feed 8 billion people, which according to the United Nations projections, they are really bad seers, in my opinion. But never mind that. We should arrive at 11-12 billion people, maybe. But clearly, agriculture is declining, because of a lot of reasons that you know very well, soil depletion and the climate change, pollution, etc. 

So, we may move to synthetic food production, which is an absolutely impressive technology. You probably know something about that. But it’s a fantastic technology. It’s a completely different element in the puzzle, which is the world. And so is it going to work? How is it going to work? What’s going to happen? How it is going to interact with all the other elements of the system? Or another thing is photovoltaics. Photovoltaics is having a tremendous impact on energy production. It’s fantastic. Now that’s a field which I’ve studied -- I can tell you that our models say that we are not going to be able to replace fossil fuels with photovoltaics fast enough to avoid a decline in energy production, yet. This doesn’t mean that photovoltaics doesn’t work. It works very nice. We will have a decline, then either we go all the way down to stone age, which why not? It’s perfectly possible. We know the stone age existed in the past, so it can exist again in the future. Let me show you something. You know, what is this? 

Alexander: Yeah.

Ugo: It’s an obsidian arrow tip I made it myself. You see, I’m preparing for the future. It is possible. The future, it’s a range. It’s not a direction. But also, you may very well say that the future would be photovoltaic. Photovoltaic, it’s a fantastic technology. It’s producing energy, but it’s a complete change of governance. So, many people say photovoltaic will never work. And we say why? Because I want to turn on my washing machine at 02:00 AM and it will be dark and I will not -- Okay. You will not turn on your washing machine at 02:00 in the night. That’s not -- you don’t do this, but you have energy. And that’s a very fundamental point. Do we go down all the way but maybe not to stone age but the middle ages? Or do we keep our technology, electricity, information storage, the internet, science as a world enterprise? That’s a big question that will take some time to be discovered and understood. But the point is, let me repeat, a world based on photovoltaic energy, which in my opinion, is perfectly possible, would be completely different from the one we have now. And we have to relearn how to govern this world. That’s a big, big challenge. 

Alexander: Okay. And more specific question, do we believe that the, how we call the third and the fourth wave countries from south of Asia like India, Philippines, Indonesia, and so on, and the countries from Sub-Saharan Africa, in the next 50 years, will build the modern European style, urban industrial societies, or it’s impossible, or it’s just -- What do you think? 

Ugo: It is not impossible. It’s a very interesting possibility, which, however, I don’t think any of us can really define. The future is difficult to, I think just one thing, it’s 10,000, 11,000 years ago, the Sahara was green. People were living in the Sahara, our ancestors were moving in the Sahara, and they were moving into Europe. It was just a small change in the orbital parameters of the Earth that turned the Sahara from what it has been before, a desert, to a green, lush Savanna for a couple of thousand years, which for people, it was sufficient to settle there. And then back to Sahara, could it be green? Again, this is a technological dream that has been said many times. It takes so little. If you find the right trick to push the parameter a little bit, and then you can have a green Sahara, that is an enormous area where people can settle and do what you just said Alexander, they can go through urbanization and become the center, the pulsating center of the world, the new Sahara. Can it happen? I think it can. Will it? I don’t know. So, the future is full of possibilities indeed. 

We see the difficulties and they should not be underestimated. But we see also the challenges and the opportunities. They are enormous. Problem we have is that we can not find an equilibrium. Some people say we’re all going to die,  let’s start building, learning how to make the stone arrow tapes and we go back to hunting and gathering. Maybe. All the people say no problem whatsoever, we have plenty of resources, and we keep growing and so on. I think we need to find a mid-way and to be open to the many, many possibilities we have because we do. But the change is never smooth. And the only sure thing is that the future is never like the past. It may change and change may be very painful in some cases as you all know. 

Marek: Ainar, would you like to move to the governance questions?

Ainar: Yeah. Ugo, thank you. I just want to summarize. A lack of governance and over exploited resources, yeah. So, imagine these two problems have solution and all governments, all money, all political power you have. So, what kind of strategy you will use to change this trajectory?

Ugo: It’s a good question. And it has been asked many times, can we -- it’s difficult to think that you can do that. [crosstalk] I mean, let’s assume that you -- say assume you can.

Ainar: Assume you have all the resources and all power -- [crosstalk] what you will do, you will do, exactly you, not others, just you. [crosstalk]

Ugo: Allow me to tell you. Allow me to tell you, Ainar, that the governments cannot solve this problem. There cannot be no way to do that. Let me just tell you an example. In the past, the Roman Empire went through the same problem, resource depletion, social problems, pollution, also they had. So, the idea was, let’s get a strong government and we give all the power to a person like you, Ainar, suppose you are the emperor of the world. And then I’m sure -- I will do this, that and it didn’t work. Emperors did wars because they had only limited human capabilities. I don’t think that this thing can really be managed from above, even by enlightened people, in that hypothesis we could have enlightened people on top say we do. Whatever we do for the good of humankind. The question is how to organize the network of society if society is a network. And the network right now has a big problem, which is too strongly pyramidal. It’s too much -- it’s a result of our growth, which creates a pyramidal structure, which then makes -- it is expensive to maintain. And it means that the system tries to produce more and more resources to keep the pyramid high. It’s a virtual pyramid. It’s not like the Egyptian pyramids. But it’s the same. The system is pyramidal with some very powerful people on the top.

Alexander: Hierarchy, yeah. Ugo: Right. Rich people who need the system to keep growing because they need to have money and resources and things to funnel it up on the top, which is expensive. So, I’m sorry for the communist here. But it’s that we need a horizontal, more horizontal society in which the changes are more -- It’s another kind of society. And let me tell you something that I’ve been thinking is still not complete, but there is a name for it. You know, Ainar and Marek, you know what is the name for it, right? 

Alexander: Holobiont 

Ugo: Holobiont

Alexander: You told us already. 

Ugo: I’m serious because there are two kinds of biological entities, organisms and holobionts. And they go together, normally, the holobiont is horizontal, communication is horizontal in a holobiont. You don’t give orders to your gut biota. They do what they want, but they work for you. And, a brain says I can use this hand, go like this, I give orders to my hand to do things. This is vertical pyramidal and this is much less efficient. I think we should, this is an idea that I have, we should try to make a society which is more horizontal, where communication is more horizontal so that the system can adapt better and faster to change, like a biological holobiont. And this is some long story where -- speak to you for four or five hours, and then you will not be convinced, but let me just say that, that’s something that I leave to your reflection.

Ainar: Ugo, your solution is to help our society to be more horizontal. And that could build the infrastructure for new decisions, yeah? Because the current pyramid is impossible to change. Ugo: Exactly. You have it. You have it. Good boy. Ainar: So, you mentioned there are no simple solution. Can you elaborate, explain? Imagine I have limitless resource and if I have a limitless resource, or I’m a Mark Zuckerberg, yeah. I have two billion people in the Facebook. Every day 600 million people open the Facebook every morning. It’s the first thing that they do. Yeah. So, it’s a big power. It’s already horizontal .Everybody opens it. And he can manage, Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook, they can manage what people will see. Now they choose advertising or some posts from Maldives, some Paris and some fashion stuff, yeah. So, if they will change it, if people who own the networks now they will change this and they will understand. Is it possible, you think, to drive us to another future?

Ugo: You have it, Ainar, you realize what you said, it is -- you are very advanced in this kind of things. Most people don’t think in these terms, but you do. It’s remarkable, remarkable. You said the very fundamental thing. The key of the change right now is in these networks. Because right now, the network of communication among eight billion people is all based on these kind of socials like Facebook or whatever. And the way -- these socials are not completely random, they’re managed, as you said. And the people who manage these networks have an enormous power in principle and norms. And it is what has been called, I don’t know if you know who is Shoshana Zuboff. You know who she is, Alexander? She studied exactly this problem. I read this book, her book and she speaks in terms of the epistemic empire. Epistemic empire is an empire based on knowledge. Those who have knowledge rule because they can control the flow of information. It’s fundamental, with some limits. And this is an absolutely central point. If we can’t keep the internet because it is not obvious, the system may go down in terms of resources so that the internet may collapse, together with the rest. But if we keep the internet, it will be the governance system, it will be absolutely completely. And there won’t be an emperor or the internet, that is not possible. There will be a network, which will be partly organized, but in part, it will be growing, self-assembling, and will take shapes, which right now we cannot even imagine. But I think that there are good possibilities that the internet will evolve into something which will look like a holobiont; a giant virtual holobiont which can adapt to the many pushes, changes, movements, and interactions of the people inside and the universe outside. So, that was a very good question, Ainar, thank you very much. Never received it by anyone.

Ainar: Ugo, can I highlight another two example, and we’ll finish with this part. You know, when we talk about the networks, we see the people who have a symmetry of potential on this network. We just discussed about the Cristiano Ronaldo, the football, soccer player, yeah. He has 200 million subscribers on Instagram. And now the average age of his subscribers is the 15 to 16 years, yeah. And 10 years after they will be 25 years, and  they will be in the beginning of middle class people, yeah. And they will have a power, attention, money, opportunity, health to change something. And imagine the people who have this a symmetry of attention will start to lead us and share this kind of knowledge, even now that Zuckerberg or Pony Ma the Tencent owner reach one billion, another social media platform, yeah. Even they will not accept this and will not change what they will show us. But we have a symmetry or people who have a symmetry attention. If we have enough resources to communicate with just 1,000 people, like Cristiano Ronaldo and we will share with them what probably will happen and we are almost here. Do you think that could dramatically change the -- at least voice tone of discussions in the society?

Ugo: You keep asking very interesting questions. This one is more difficult because you are posing a question about the hierarchy the hierarchical structure of the internet. Who will take decisions on which basis. Now, it has to do with what I said. If the internet takes the aspect of a holobiont, it means that communication is horizontal. We are all on the same plane, we all discuss me and you, Ainar, me and you, Marek, and there is no hierarchy. But there may be a -- what you said is that we have some people who are more connected than others, which is a phenomenon that we’re observing. It is part of what we call the epistemic society. And some people know more than others. That’s a big possibility that the new hierarchy will depend on knowledge. It is what Miss [Shoshana] Zuboff says. You should know your role. If you don’t know your role, but there are two -- it’s not a big emperor, who knows everything and the slaves who know nothing -- will not be like that. We don’t know however how exactly the system will organize itself. In my opinion, it will not be a pyramid. It would be a complex network, which reacts to perturbation in ways which move it to adapt to things better than it is now but can adapt more to perturbation the current system cannot adapt. You know this. Every time somebody proposes something different, something -- everything is done to avoid change, you cannot change anything. But the system which is well structured, like a living being, a living being can adapt to changes and within some limits. If I see that the house is on fire, I run away. But like the situation is now with current society, I will deny that the house is burning, and I will stay here until I’m completely burned. So, we need to and on the other side, I could say maybe the house is burning, so I ran away anyway. So, you have to find a structure which optimizes your reaction to perturbation, which I think it will be what will happen by an evolutionary mechanism that optimizes the network of society. It is a new form of holobiont, which is being born right in front of our eyes. Gentlemen, it’s an incredibly interesting thing that we’re witnessing.

Ainar: Well, thank you, Olga. And just the last sentence, few sentence as a hope… You know, the in 90s, in US, it was a very few people who start to ask, put Kosher as a label into the food industry. It was just 200 people who organized themselves to the kind of lobby of Kosher food. And now what we can see 20, 30 years after almost all food in US have a label of Kosher on or don’t have. Yeah. And sometimes it’s not -- you don’t need to be a Mark Zuckerberg and control the society, the networks or be a huge network. Sometimes you just need to be the loud voice in the room. And then you have asymmetry of attention of and you can build the lobby structure in the empty space, and be just the first one, or just another one. It’s happened many times. And another opposite, not opposite. Another example, not from New York, from Los Angeles it’s a Blockbusters. And you know, the majors as a Disney and other companies, they totally changed the industry of entertainment. If, in 16th, and 17th, we have just like average, every month, we have 10s of movies. And it was a -- a simple, the strategy just to make a lot of movies, and then some of them will give you some money. Now the strategy is totally different. You have here, and you have four blockbusters, which gives you a symmetry of budgets and a symmetry of incomes. So, again, I see a lot of opportunities to building a symmetry systems. And it’s correlated with holobiont or it’s totally different. What do you think?

Ugo: So, you said it’s very, very, very well said, Ainar. It’s I holobiont. This story, I didn’t know the story of the Kosher label, but the way you describe it is a typical self-organized system. It was not imposed from above. Some people had an idea, and then this idea spread in the network virally, because this is the way it does until it found an equilibrium, homeostasis some people want Kosher. Some people don’t care about Kosher, but the system has adapted not from above. And that’s -- Blockbuster, it’s also very interesting. You know the original Blockbuster, it went bust in the 90s. You know that right? [crosstalk] The company. 

Ainar: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, of course.

Ugo: You used blockbuster meaning more general, but Blockbuster -- [crosstalk]

Ainar:  Blockbuster, older brother of Netflix. Yes. Yes. 

Ugo: Yes. And you know this interesting point that if you look at the budget of Blockbuster it’s one of the most beautiful and perfect example of the Seneca curve. They went up, went up, business is good at some moment, what’s that? Netflix? What is Netflix? They went down, like falling from the fifth floor. That’s another -- that’s not what you said but just to mention this point.

Ainar: Interesting. Thank you, Ugo. It’s a lot of insight about -- [crosstalk]

Ugo: Was a pleasure. And it’s a pleasure to see that some people who understand something. And I’m glad you understood the concept of holobiont. And so you know fellows, you will be part of the new wave of holobionts in the world.

Ainar: You know, I was so inspired by it I bought the three books about gut and how it works.

Ugo: Very good. Very good. You see how memes move in the memesphere. Okay. Ainar: Yeah. Thank you. Marek Ugo: Thanks to you. 

Marek: Well, yes, I think Ainar has left off very nicely. But Alexander, do you have any final words you’d like to say? [crosstalk]

Alexander: I have really a lot of questions. But maybe we’ll have another chance to talk. You are very encyclopaedic and I’d like to talk more deeply about -- 

Ugo: We can set up many, many things to say. [crosstalk] Sometimes you have nice talks like this one. 

Alexander: And maybe you will tell us two things. One is maybe you will give us one or two, like the best books about the future, or the best books about -- like to become more educated, more knowledgeable. And the second question is, could you recommend us like one or two experts what you know maybe -- you’ve heard them and they inspired you, and we will try to reach them and to invite to this interview?

Ugo: Alexander, of course, the best book is the one you would be writing, right? You’re planning -

Alexander: Don’t know.

Ugo: You told me that you’re planning a book, right? And so that would be surely a very good book. And then I don’t know. But there are so many books, Alexander. If you like, I can send you something written about the number of books about people. Also, there are some extremely smart people. We were discussing about Richard Heinberg on the mail. He’s an exceedingly smart person and he knows a lot. But there are many like him. Problem is that if they’re isolated, like -- sorry, I’m a little bit isolated, but they are not very effective. And it is -- if it is like that, because a single person should not influence society too much. -- you’re the president and you can do a lot of damage. But it is correct that some people, some smart people, like young smart people like Ainar and Marek, they can start some movement that may be would change -- [crosstalk] 

Alexander: This is why we are going to create the bulk of podcasts with the wisdom, with the ideas, with the explanations about the future, what should be done, what is possible, what is not possible, what works, what doesn’t work. So, that’s our goal.

Ugo: Okay. 

Marek: Well, in that case, thank you very much everyone for joining for this podcast. And I hope we do actually get to invite you back at a later date as well. But thank you very much. [crosstalk]

Ugo: And bye-bye.

Alexander: Bye-bye.
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