On this episode, we have interaction design pioneer Alan Cooper on the podcast, and we spend fully half of it talking about his model train project. Also we talk about technology’s history, future, and responsibility to the world our descendants will inherit. This is a good one, folks. Strap in.
United States


00:00:26is about 8 ways that that could have gone and that was probably the most PG to let's make mistakes podcast about designed the internet and being salty about all of those things it's my pleasure to be here today on the show we have one Allen cooper co-founders cooper interactive design agency or San Francisco as well as some other places I believe is that correct
00:00:56when we first started it was back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth that we actually were started in my home office in Menlo Park and with our first employee showed up on Monday morning we went oh shit do we have to do something so we we rented an office and then that only lasted for you then we rented a bigger office in Palo Alto we're about a block away from Stanford University were there for 9 years and then the siren song of San Francisco actually what happens after that. Comics implosion the rents are so cheap in San Francisco we said we could no longer ignore that place even though San Francisco was clearly not a part of Silicon Valley at the time we said what the hell and we moved up here so we've been here for 15
00:01:41your Skipper take it you're yes we're celebrating our 25th anniversary this year Cooper congrats thank you silver silver anniversary yes we're old
00:01:58or young at heart I'm covered with tattoos and Rings through my nose and various other places and and you can't talk to me so I thank you for being on the show today Alan Mike it's a pleasure it's always a pleasure to see you you know I yeah yeah we think alike we are all done what we understand is that is the most edifices are actually just loose piles of rock and can be kicked to the ground
00:02:37it should be kicked to the ground absolutely what are you currently trying to kick to the ground what's your latest edifice well as of November 9th of last year I'm trying to restore the United States to a representative democracy and
00:02:58I'll let you know how that's going to Noble Pursuit needs to be done what can I say I'm in the the drama that's unfolding I think is going to is it going to be in a historical chronologies going to be quick but I think that the date it should take a long time to undo the damage very much like let's say the Industrial Revolution and what it's done to our environment our climate is she took a couple hundred years to wrap it and that's going to take a much longer time to put it to rights do you think we can put it to rights did I do
00:03:35I woke up this morning
00:03:38to an in this is weird because usually I you know I wake up in the morning there's nothing but good news but this morning I woke up to an alert a chunk of Antarctica the size of Delaware which you know smallest state but still when you think about it like you don't want the state of Delaware showing up at your house unannounced give me know it's still pretty big yeah I don't know if it's frozen you could help it was on Father's Day a couple of weeks ago it was so hot my neighbor I mean I had two chickens die from the my day went a little contact my neighbor lost a thousand chickens for meat definitely need contacts now he needs an hour north of here and I'm a Suburban kid I grew up in the suburbs I was born in San Francisco actually it's right here in our lovely city
00:04:38yeah. But I grew up in The Burbs and I know nothing about the country you know nothing about farming or ranching and and I bought some space and it's seriously out in the sticks you know where my neighbors are really are there cowboys they're real cowboy It's a real ranchers that real farmers and all of a sudden I've been thrust into this world and I love being able to immerse myself in a new world using my my greatest most powerful tool which is my vast well of ignorance and in this case it was fast indeed and and it's really interesting to see the drama of American agriculture the forces of the old the forces of the new and the forces of the greed
00:05:32what is the working Farm building at a ranch in moving out to the sticks and getting chickens to really get into model railroading run out that is precisely and exactly the point HRW see this was my next question h2h oh okay so and my knowledge of model railroading is done yes in Tapped Out where
00:06:06it's a hobby of remarkable breath and at its heart is yes as toy trains but you can approach that from a million different points of view and it was very much for me running a world in miniature but what really got me excited about it was as it's a very complex system involves a lot of moving parts and I love complex systems with lots of moving Parts in and it said it's a simulation and it's a it's like a giant mechanism but what's really fun is to do it we don't just make up rules but but you take some externally impose rules and that of course she great creativity so it became a historical Recreation project and so I decided to model a real railroad the New York Chicago and st. Louis railroad otherwise known as the Nickel Plate railroad which hasn't existed for 50 years and I wanted to model it in the year 1949 which was part of its time its its Heyday in and it
00:07:06I'm from Chicago to Buffalo and I wanted to model about a hundred mile section of it that ran through Indiana and parts of Ohio centered around say Muncie Indiana Great bustling Metropolis in the center of the country indeed so I used to spend lots of time going on historical hedge Aires to Middle America I need find me in the bad parts of town with a camera and hanging out in the basements of libraries looking through old microfiche for interesting photographs of for example outside Muncie there was there was this huge rock wall mine and Factory and they made rock wool insulation which of course was asbestos
00:07:52and that there's no trace of it anymore it's you could sort of see where the rails around and there's a some crumbling pieces of concrete but it used to be an enormous industry back in the 1930s and 40s and so do I so wanted to build a essentially a miniature replica of the middle division of the Nickel Plate railroad 1949 and then you invite a bunch of friends over you operate it like the real thing so if if a car where to go from Peoria to Buffalo you would route it the proper way so it would get from Peoria to Buffalo and so is really interested in the exact same schedule at the railroad actually published in 1949 you operate the model trains on that scale so course you need room to do this I lived in this nice house and
00:08:38in that Portola Valley
00:08:41I had three and a half acres of land and I wanted to build a building in the back yard big enough to house by division of a world's great model railroad and my neighbors even though I couldn't actually see my neighbors they still they still took umbrage they still took umbrage yes because it was an old neighborhood that have been taken over by the Nouveau riche the lawyers the banksters of the parasites of Silicon Valley and they did not like you know creative wacky guy like me so he was a four-year long battle and and and finally the end of it my wife and I both decide this time too and I said honey I want to buy a place where I have enough room that I can set off a stick of dynamite without anybody caring it's a good life goal go to say it sure is so we ended up finding this 50-acre former dairy farm in West Petaluma top 5 miles outside of town it's in the Rolling Hill Country
00:09:41riparian Woodland and pasture land cows have been grazing there used to be fielded areas are all gone now cuz the dairy business has been killed by the factory-built business but there's the Central Area The Ranch now I called Dynamite Valley
00:09:57but the model trains you might ask it turns out that I have a 40 foot long sea container filled box after box of all my mother railroad stuff I have a lot of it but I now do scenery construction with a tractor instead of with tweezers never got built never got built
00:10:24I mean it still I mean I hesitated to put it on eBay and sell it I can't do that that's the story of my life and macrocosm I have to say we have to build this model railroad guys up to this weekend project and I have no idea how busy I am doing stuff I'm kind of going okay to build this I have to start by adding a second story to my workshop and then I'm going from there I mean really it's a huge job misunderstanding scale when I was thinking model railroaders any little you know tiny tiny trains that you're using a tractor like what is the size of the strain the thing is is that isn't the reason the reason why one wants to build a model railroad is because one who wants to build complex systems and sculpt the hills which is what you do with plaster
00:11:24and tweezers master of Master of everything he spicy's now so instead of putting in an electrical system of 12 volts to run my model trains 2 years ago I put an electrical system to bring 220 volts to all of my 7 Barnes so basically I'm doing it all in 12 inch to the foot scale to one of the things that I was looking for to acquire was was a vintage fire engine for my model railroad cuz fire engines are just as cool as steam locomotives right and there aren't a lot of really good old model HO scale model fire engines around
00:12:07so we moved up here kind of felt way to the back burner but a couple years ago my wife
00:12:15bought me a fire engine
00:12:18a real one and it turns out that old fire engines are actually not that expensive the problem is if you need a place to keep them while I have an entire
00:12:28a barn we call the tractor Barn cuz it was made for holding farm implements to those of you pay attention home there have been 7 Barnes mentioned at this point yes 7 Bar And so there's at least enough room for a fire engine and yeah I understand it's a 30 foot pumper it's a it's a van Pelt pumper it's got a 750 gallon tank it weighs 15 Tons and just a day before yesterday I was taking people for rides by the way you stop at you shift gears and the prime mover which is a Caterpillar diesel now Powers the Hayes pump and it'll generate like 600 PSI so what what we were doing this really hot on Monday at a bunch of people over so we're got for rides on it and then we park in the middle of the field and there's a there's a two and a half inch monitor on the top and it'll shoot at a hundred PSI that's all I put through it cuz it's an old machines 1978 and but it a hundred PSI
00:13:28you should water 250 ft
00:13:32and it'll empty that tank in 3 minutes it's like a massive body of water comes out right now it's very exciting very excited that is not this exciting thing I thought I would hear about today so see if your terraforming Petaluma well it was
00:13:55yeah it's I mean yeah it's it's what I do is I I I do I cut into the dirt and I sculpt things and it's very much like what I used to do I actually like it would be really interesting to build a real railroad of the scale you could ride on I agree I'm a practical guy
00:14:19you might not think I'm a practical guide what I talk about things like model railroads and fire engines I nailed you as a practical got guy when you mentioned you had a fire engine. So we can use it for 5 inch by my neighbors are all firemen and and so they help me out here and I got a Mark Mark I burst a hose can you help me out so wasted all your neighbors are all fireman and your cum city boy at the first thing city boy does is he buys a fire engine this is like what I bought the fire engine for my neighbor
00:15:03you should come by the rich will go straight from here so your neighbor is a fireman and he sold you a fire engine did you ask him where the fire engine came from it get like I said it's A2 dairying Valley but but the dairy businesses is long gone but the old Dairy Farmers still keep up the tradition they still have cows grazing they sell them for they have some Dairy Replacements mostly the beef cows they do it because they like to keep their hand in and in the cow and the end they do that to ya and and branding it means something completely different out there it's real
00:15:50so so my neighbors are there's a family there's three generations who live there at this old Italian family and and Ron the patriarch of the family he was a dairy man for his entire life and that is the Volunteer Fire Department chief and he just retired actually like a month ago and they want to honor him they want to throw a dinner and give him a trophy and all that stuff because it to me classic Dairy Farmer Isaac Dairy Farmer these guys all they do is work that's all they do is work every morning so it is
00:16:35what he does now because he doesn't Dairy anymore they shut the family Dairy down 20 years ago
00:16:41so he drives a supply truck and he goes to the outer Bally's and sells dairy supplies to his buddies the other Dairy Farmers and said every morning 7:30 like you can set your watch to there goes around driving his truck is my wife was talking with him it was expressing concern a couple of summers ago about the fire danger at there and he looked at me said well why don't you get a firetruck and she said he said Monday morning and Monday morning they were too big fire trucks parked in our front yard they basically said you on either one of these
00:17:15and kisses see the fire department got a Federal grant TripAdvisor 1978 and they had it since 1978 so it's fully amortized absolutely perfect showroom condition and it starts you try that key and it goes starts right up and and so with the federal money they bought two brand new fire engines and then they took this beautiful day out they parked in the Betty they took all of that patchett's and ladders and stuff off of it you had no ladders that's a project I'm slowly our stuff back to it then the in fact they took the the nozzle off the Monitor and I got a replacement on eBay but it's it was a has beautiful patina to ancient thing came off at New York City Harbor Fire boat
00:18:09yeah I mean you can you can. Only knock somebody over with this thing that you could you could knock a building over with
00:18:18yeah so you woke up one morning you have two fire trucks in your front yard and Sue picked one how do you know how I've never done this before how do you go about signing that was Monday which fire truck is right for you as well gasoline-powered and the other was Diesel and I pick the diesel even though the gasoline power was actually more appropriate sized but this thing I've got other pictures of it but I had to take me awhile to find Allen's currently passing his phone around his radio by the way I like to describe the photos here's a photo of as as described a fire engine in the middle of a field shooting a giant set of spout yeah that's a Scyther geyser geyser it's it's a bronze nozzle that's about a foot long about 14 inches long and at the end of it the hole in the end of it
00:19:18seven eighths of an inch at the entrance it's 2 and 1/2 in and about 33 feet below it
00:19:28is a water pump a Hale water pump they make all the pumps for all the fire engines in the country and it is connected what you do is you it's got a 400 horsepower diesel motor that drives this thing around and what you do is you shifted into neutral when you pull a Pneumatic clutch and it uncouples the Caterpillar diesel engine from the engine and connects it to the Hale pump so you got 400 horsepower running a water pump always shit yeah it's it's exciting if you do it wrong let me tell you that really pops
00:20:14I'm kind of surprised you're not dead I mean you're playing with dynamite you're playing I mean you're playing with with high-pressure Hydraulics you have all manner of animal walking around I want to know more about that what animals do you have on the ranch besides the less chickens
00:20:33we have sheep
00:20:37we don't have a lot of sheep because the Sheep are not really the main object of what we do they're kind of a tool in our land restoration project how so we
00:20:50let you know I started feeling with a bad crowd with him move to the country here comes the Mets Story by the way the myth story everyone in the country grows meth know exactly when I built out my my workshop I took one of the old Barns and and bed really luxurious inside of it that's it that's it that's a red flag to everybody and they count you should throw a joke and so I made a point of bringing all the Neighbors in to see that I was I was not smart enough to grow pot take care if you grow pot out there I don't care no I don't think so I don't know I don't know but I think the neighbors I want to be friends with the neighbors they probably wouldn't hang with me if if I grew pot end and I want them to hang with me awhile to be there buddy damn fire trucks but they are
00:21:50fire trucks this is the thing all these guys in the country fire truck demolition derby in Petaluma so the last dairyman in the San Antonio Valley is Joe technology
00:22:02and he's in his eighties he quit during a year ago and he waves to everybody who goes by and every year at Petaluma has the butter and eggs parade last year for the first time he got out the 1941
00:22:22vintage fire engine from the San Antonio volunteer fire department engine number one that they bought used from somebody else and got it going again driving down Main Street in Petaluma and the parade is this one of those events for people make butter sculptures know that's like one of my favorite art forms in the world shows like butter sculpture story Blue Ribbon first place Orange County butter sculpture in the youth division I need Mickey Mouse does Illuminating just hear more about this send me the particles out of butter flavored Crisco
00:23:15that's wrong I Can't Believe It's Not Mickey
00:23:22I can't text real fast food
00:23:25it was Mikey the the rat
00:23:33I feel like we need to get Erica back in here at the Barnes Barn one fire truck Barn two very luxurious Workshop what is 305 shop the tractor Barn is is tractors and equipment and also fire engine it's it's big enough for a lot of stuff it's about it's not 5000 square feet that's the tractor Barn Mercy Grace then there's Katie's bar named after our first farmer which is actually nobody knows what it was used for it's one of the older Barnes and we can't figure out what it was used for it's just a little barn and somebody said it was the kids barn but I don't believe that
00:24:23keep the kids in it but that's actually still use for egg okay then there's the tall barn which is an old hay barn a double-walled hay barn and it's the oldest I believe it's the oldest structure on the property which means that it was built sometime in the 1870s the house I know it was built in 1879 and I believe the barn is older so that's 4 then there's the Party Barn which is the old bull Barn it's A3 wall barn and and I have no idea what we do with it except the name might give it away and then there it had like a pipe gates in the front and it had three wooden walls
00:25:12show image of a kid's dad so now it's it's it's a beautiful Shady structure to to eat in drinking and got it and then partying and then there's the Pavilion which actually was a recreational vehicle shed that we kind of repurposed then there was the dairy barn and the dairy barn is where they actually milk the cows and so it's built out of concrete cinder block and as concreted inside walls cuz it has to be best to be able to clean it I mean right and that's actually just used to storage now which we have a lot of cuz there's a lot of crap on a ranch let me tell you why I train valuable merchandise a little trains would I originally thought the train would go in one of the outer sheds of the workshop bar cuz the workshop Barn
00:26:06what's the biggest barn on the property and it was eleven thousand square feet under roof oh that's big and so what I did is I converted this to Debbie walls over 10 times the size of my apartment and I have a big San Francisco apartment as a central Gable into enormous shit and see what we did was we we've studied in the walls of the central Gable and insulated it and and and condition it and that's about 4500 square feet and that's my workshop and I had always intended on you see one of those sheds for model railroads but after I've been there for a while and I got a good look at it I realize that that wouldn't work I'm in the shed was cheesy shed roof and there's it could barely hold up a sheet of corrugated steel and there was no way I was going to build a model railroad afternoon I would have to actually build a
00:27:06building from scratch that plan B I realized what I could do is because I had 20 foot ceilings inside the main Barn I could put in a second floor and that would work and so that's been to stop yet plan is to put in a second floor in that I would have about something in the neighborhood of 2200 square feet to use for a model railroad which would be about half of that originally planned but still plenty for a lifetime project but you know at this point the chances of that ever coming to fruition are pretty slim cuz what you going to do you know it would be nice but you know I have too much stuff going on so you're doing all this
00:27:48out in Petaluma and you still running this this thing down here well there are a lot of really intelligent confident people who are running Cooper the design company end and they don't need me
00:28:05I'm very happy to see them taking it Beyond where I could tell I'm in the car I'm a start I'm really good at starting and after 25 years the last thing they need is is a shit disturber to come in and check their sandcastles apart I know some of those people they are very intelligent people but you're still use that mean you still Loom over it
00:28:29some I like to think I bask in the reflect light Glory make an initial but shouldn't but you're still there
00:28:51I want at least talk a little bit about design so that I want I want to make sure that we don't lose our grant now
00:29:01where did where the from where ya where it if we if we had a grant of any kind we would not be in a tiny room literally under the sidewalk just Roman Mars have a grant so many no rush to detect a note of jealousy in your voice is not to say oh yeah hell yeah
00:29:24wow Symphony of jealousy is pretty good A Roman is a very good guy yes so I know where you're going with this if you want to know what the hell's going on in the world to design let's go let's go let's go you've been doing design for a very long time yeah and and you have left is stamp on the industry and you're still still leaving that stamp on the industry which is why you're here why why I like talking to you my I like you know cuz everytime we talk I get another little tidbit of you know how things are and how things used to be and how things are changing and you know whether things are getting better or whether things are getting worse
00:30:09the the Gerry Weinberg said when you solve your number one problem your number to problem gets a promotion and step for many years the number one problem was insinuating the notion of design into the development process and mission accomplished you know we saw that number one problem and now we find that we have another new number one problem so it's our new number one problem the new number one problem is that while we were fighting for our seat at the table the table
00:30:51became enormous world girdling and Incredibly important and dominant in in every aspect of our world and
00:31:06what happens when you create something powerful is unscrupulous people
00:31:14look at that powerful thing and they say hey I could do something with that I mean as a student of the Industrial Revolution you think of those guys in the teens in the twenties inventing the automobile in the washing machine in the thresher and the reaper and there's some other guy sitting there and say hey I can invent the tank so it's what I call
00:31:40are Oppenheimer moment so
00:31:44Robert Oppenheimer was the smartest guy in the country and when President Roosevelt asked him was inventing the atomic bomb and he was given the highest priority task in the country he was given unlimited resources over men women and citizens of material he could have anything you wanted to do whatever he felt was necessary build atomic bomb to win World War II
00:32:12and he did his team the Manhattan Project they created the atomic bomb and all this time they were struggling to build it there was his problem was building the spot and they weren't actually sure it was going to work it was completely based on Theory and when it finally ignited it was a shock to the system it was overwhelming even for those guys who built it and at that moment Oppenheimer looked at this bomb going off and he went oh shit
00:32:46is this really what I want to do with my gift and I believe that and that's what I call the Oppenheimer moment and I believe that here we are we are technologists and we are all these empathetic designers and we've been implementing all this great Social Media stuff and we've been improving the lives of people around the world with our great inventions and designs and stuff and all the sudden we look at Uber and we look at Twitter you know Uber is finessing people in the bankruptcy and then Facebook has been a vehicle for subverting our political system and Twitter has been a platform for
00:33:34guess not thank you and I believe me I'm not singling out Twitter and Facebook an Uber I think they're just merely represented by a look at Amazon Amazon is the greatest Monopoly that is destroying worlds are occupying world's the thing is is I love Amazon more than anything and I spend two-thirds of my money through Amazon and I've got Amazon boxes showing up at my doorstep every day so I love Amazon but the fact is is that at a certain point there will be no other retail businesses left and at that point are ethical position in the world of Commerce will be entirely dependent on the whims of a single man
00:34:15this is an Oppenheimer moment for the technology industry and the leaders of the technology industry have long been thought to be the engineers but the builders are not the leaders the architecture the leaders and we are The Architects we are the designers and we determine what gets built and what's going on right now is some of us are looking at it at what's going on in the in the tech world and we're going
00:34:41oh shit and summer not but what we have to do is we have to we have to understand that nobody else is going to do anything there are plenty of people out there who look at the power of the technology and they say you don't all I have to do is use the power of Facebook and I can disrupt an entire presidential election in the United States and and they kind of go and that would be beneficial to me therefore I'm going to do it cuz it's not illegal it's what we're finding is it and you can see this in Washington DC is that the two most interesting characters in the last presidential election basically bypassed the conventional
00:35:27conduits of power in Washington and they close to being Sanders and Trump and they made their peels directly shipped through social media and went directly to the citizens and in the wake of that or as the cause of that it's hard to disentangle those things what we're finding is that order Civility and coherence usefulness and effectiveness of the United States government isn't in fact dependent on laws and isn't in fact depending on the founding fathers checks and balances in the tripartite government to all that stuff instead it's found it on Civility and common cause
00:36:14and Convention and when somebody comes in and says it's in my best interest to subvert the convention and I no longer have common cause I want what's mine not what's everybody's then it turns out that you can you can destroy the effectiveness of the government all of that is done through the tool of what we call technology software through a i through the internet social networking and it's all built by us it's all designed by us and when we make stuff really easy to use what we're doing is we're empowering desmidts
00:36:56and so what we need to do is we need to say
00:37:00how do we not do that how do we recognize you a gorilla dilemma how do we dig our way out of it and believe me I do not know the answer I know this is a freaking Wicked problem but we were warned oh yeah there were people out there telling us this was going on we are the species that has to piss on the electric fence we have to touch the wet paid we have to do it and so what we have to do is we have to set up the atomic bomb in order to discover that that's probably a bad thing to have Atomic bonds are we still waiting for the atomic bomb
00:37:40well I think it's in the process of exploding about now I think when Delaware hits us that's that's one of the what are the shock waves to be a good good sign and difficult to miss ya and I'm not the only guy believe me there are lots of people in our industry who are who are having the same kind of oshit Oppenheimer moment and they're realizing that that design is not
00:38:06politically agnostic and and Mike you are one of the chief leaders in this little bit people does Woody can I try
00:38:28the amount of people who argue that this is not our responsibility this is not within our definition
00:38:39of what design is
00:38:42the amount of people who are arguing that they're not young they're not inexperienced they are people who have been doing this a long time just as much as they are people who are just starting their people they are people who have done very well as much as their people who are just starting out there the people who got us here and they're also the people who are going to maybe help fix this or or coming up its pervasive
00:39:13I think of design as
00:39:17I guess some people would label it is as an activist endeavor
00:39:22but I think there was a responsibility and what we do a few years ago I learned a new word it's all the rage these days and and I and I realize it's it's a word that describes me I'm a maker that's what I do I used to I mean it always made stuff and I built software for many years and as a designer
00:39:46I never really considered myself a designer as much as I'd consider myself a maker of design tools that's kind of how I think of it and and now you know I'm the ranch I'm I'm also make her I'm trying to I'm really tired of a neighbor but but it's it's making and end for my hubby and I go in my wood shop for my metal shop and I bake crap metal shop up there too I'm going to pull up machine shop and sheet metal shop and Welding you got to castration the main goal of building is to make people like you drool control and yeah there you go see that you take my in it there he will come back with you or fingers oh absolutely and Iron Man suit mother fucker did with the stadium buddy inside so I'm practical
00:40:42so here's the thing
00:40:44is Maker's have to be responsible for what they make and what other people like them Mick I agree I absolutely 100% agree
00:40:58well then there you go I mean we have no argument here duh we're on the same side when you talk about people who are like arguing that it's not their responsibility like that seems not surprising to me like when you look it even voter turnout I think I might vote doesn't matter like you can't you know people just don't give a fuck sometimes and it's it's hard to make them care like it's probably the same people who didn't bother to vote cuz they didn't like it either candidate right you're absolutely right you know like a good designer I'm trying to trying to look at that problem and and trying to crack that nut open why why I mean it's easy to dismiss all of those people and you know part of me really wants to but we're not going to solve that problem unless we figure out why why people feel disenfranchised why they don't vote in some of those cases it might maybe that they just don't care but I don't think that's all of them and it and yeah I doubt that that's the majority
00:41:55and I don't know the answer to that either and part of what I'm arguing for here I mean that with any of you
00:42:02is that we've got some really smart people and we've got us some amazing resources at our disposal and we claim to be problem solvers
00:42:17this is a hell of a good problem to try to figure out it's a worthy challenge at I buy myself and Allen by himself cannot solve this problem we don't know here's what I learned a long time ago
00:42:30it's a parallel to one of the lessons I've learned on the ranch that goes like this not all the little baby lamb survive
00:42:39you have to leave them behind even though they're cute and lovable and a parallel to that from the world of industry is let the dinosaurs die I don't think that our job here is to convince people I think that our job here is to change stuff I'm satisfied that I know what needs to change I'm also I haven't self-doubt you know I'm I'm probably not right in entirely but I'm right enough and that I would like to see a representative democracy put back into place I would like to see any quality vanquished so I want to move in that direction and I really frankly don't care if there's consensus I'm looking for Effectiveness not agreement oh I'm I'm fine with leaving some blood on the table so why do you care about you missing people because I want to know how they got here I don't care about convincing people I want to figure out how they made these decisions
00:43:40because we're going to get here we're going to be here again going to solve true I want to solve this problem so that we can avoid it next time we're going to solve the problem you know when the earth is 140 degrees in the human race is dead that will solve the problem that's the Earth saying fuck you I got this I know I know and it will do just fine I mean we're not destroying the Earth destroyed the habitat of humans that we're doing it but again I don't think you could do that I think it's the human animal is designed to live in a pre-industrial world in a pre-agricultural world
00:44:18and that's the mental equipment that we bring to the job
00:44:22I think that it's going to take I don't know something I've never seen in the history of the human race to allow humans to have power tools and.
00:44:36Start thinking about how to screw up their neighbors and take their shit which is basically what we're doing that's what we do yeah I mean the minute that were handed a tool there there's like two options on the table
00:44:52either can I hit someone with this or can I stick my dick in it yeah or put it in my mouth that is a turd a viable that's a good sword okay let's go with that
00:45:05hey last time we talked you use the phrase which is stuck with me good progress now what was the question you said you wanted to be a good ancestor
00:45:24map it up yes tell us about that haven't had a feeling we were getting there I don't know where I found that phrase I wish I could claim just claim write it for it yeah I thought. Totally myself like everything I took it from somebody but it's a concept because I was having a discussion the other night with this guy and we were talking about sustainability and goes well how do you scale and I said well that's the wrong question to ask and because you don't want to ask how to get scalar how do you make make money off of you want to ask the question of will this make me a good ancestor name of this is good for my children and their children and their children that's the question you have to ask a question the rubric to ask going forward about everything you do is does this make me a good ancestor as a kind of a footnote to that I am going to be teaching a class at
00:46:24University of California at Berkeley this fall semester this is the first time I've ever taught a class of the University know it's kind of experiment for me and the class is at 3 the Jacobs Innovation lab its it accredited course and it's going to be called
00:46:42thinking like a good ancestor and the subtitle is finding meaning in the technology we build
00:46:51I have a partner in crime a young man and Renato Verdugo who's from violence in New York he said Chilean It Burn from birth and he's a young really bright guy who works for YouTube and he's very highly educated I'm very uneducated and so this is really interesting coming together but we both are resonating on this notion of how to be a good ancestor and what we want to do is work with some smart young people and see if they can figure this out and Anna get we don't know the answers but I mean I remember back in the early days of interaction design I didn't know how to do it I didn't even know what to do but I knew that what we were doing wasn't right there had to be a way to break this down and you know you go in and you for a while you begin to see patterns and you begin to see what works and what doesn't and I think that that's something we can do here
00:47:46what we find is that everything we do is inside a framework human beings don't like to think the hard way that much we like to think easy and so framework is Dauphin just a shortcut it's stuff that I've thought about figured out and now it's put on the Shelf I don't have to think about it anymore but what that means is it say is it's a breeding ground for assumptions for unquestioned assumptions this is parallel programming library has a bug that abstraction does not work anymore and it is and it's not a coincidence that this problem is is caused by and will be solved by if it's all that all by
00:48:32programmers and I consider interaction designers to be programmers
00:48:38wearing a funny suit is sugar should have the furries at the program and we're back but if so my phone is going crazy I think this I may have two phones going off right kids blowing up you know you know I'm 78 and you are in my soul you are I got a new phone and my little phone got lost in my pocket and and I've never felt and my wife is I can never get in touch with you and I got this iPhone 7 plus it's the size of a small to my dog and I can feel it vibrate in my pocket it says it's it's like what size of the iceberg that's making its way to that are no longer
00:49:38Constructor world around them and this is one of the great whales of understanding of how we're going wrong in our ethical world in the in the in the technology world is is we have to become aware of our assumptions we have to constantly be examining are Frameworks and say where are the obsolete assumptions in them and the other one is a concept that has been best articulated by the permaculture my son a science it's an arts and crafts baby is permaculture is a way of growing things are working in the growing World in a sustainable and natural way it's very broad it's very complex because nature is very Broad and complex and it's really hard to put your finger on what permaculture is and nail it down but
00:50:39one of the Core Concepts in permaculture is the idea that in an ecosystem there's no such thing as something outside of the ecosystem everything in the east coast and what that means is the idea that there's a big green truck that comes to my Ranch every Monday morning and takes my trash away is not a valid concept because the problem is there's no such thing as a way because there's a light so what it does is it takes it down to a big dumb by the Petaluma River in a pile sit there and plows it back and forth and they covered with a thin layer of search and it's out of sight out of mind. It's at but it's not really a way
00:51:25this is the other problem is that if your Uber you can make a lot of money by putting the cost of what you're doing on other people I mean this is what Walmart does they make all that money because they pay their people so little that they they all have to be on food stamps and you know when they get sick they go to the emergency room that kind of thing they're making money by pushing their real costs away I'm making them externalities in permaculture way of looking at things there is no externality and this is a an indicator of how you're creating a toxic world how do you know when you're looking at you know what your boss says Hey I want the screen by Wednesday what you have to do is you have to say
00:52:21where are the externalities here where am I pushing something off my plate and falling on somebody else's plate okay that is the smell of an ethical violation that is a red flag that something's not right here there's an answer here I said I don't know how to solve this problem I don't know what the answers are but I totally believe this is a crackle solvable problem
00:52:51and there's a third thing
00:52:56is is in here and it's it's part of the problem and part of the solution I'm not sure yet what it means but I know it's a powerful word operative force and that's time
00:53:12you know is it when the bomb goes off
00:53:16goes off in a Split Second
00:53:19when Delaware Comes Marching into the northern hemisphere it could take decades and humans are really good at responding to this instant any events that we're not very good at responding to those longer runs the time and say it's an issue that we need to be aware of the 60 second explosion is as destructive as a 600 year explosion but yeah we're not looking for humans don't see that I mean nothing about geological time you know that the scientist talk about it she look at the mountain and what you don't realize is that the mountains don't actually we're down one stone at a time they actually explode like Mount st. Helens it's just that you only see them to that every 60 thousand years
00:54:11so it actually really is cataclysmic we just don't get to see it I mean we live in interesting times because we're actually seeing a doctor breakbeat Antarctica break up
00:54:21yeah we're seeing the Greenland ice sheet melt and hell we're going to see Greenland ice sheet on on San Francisco on New Cut Russian Hill well yeah it's just going to let you know it's going to be displaced a little bit yeah I didn't buy Ranch is at 150 FT elevation and
00:54:43just upsets. I'll be okay for the next 50 years maybe that I don't know the end of the descendants of your sheep need to be good swimmers yeah yeah
00:54:54yeah that famous swimming sheep of monkey Ranch seems like a good hopeful note to end on I don't know I think that actually is
00:55:06nice there's a better better framing to the issue that I think that we had before we carry good framing
00:55:12thank you for coming on the show Alan it's my pleasure I really appreciate your your outspoken activism Mike thank you so much I appreciate everything that you've done for our community and our industry now
00:55:26it's Sam
00:55:28believe me it was an accident
00:55:33I'm going to it I really do except that it was a fortunate accident that much at least yeah Steph Yes okay if I have one question just bring it back together is that the beginning we talked about taking down oedipus's are there any we should be building up when I look at the degradation of our society being the systems guy that I am I look for the common thread I look for the pattern and the pattern
00:56:09that has become very clear to me is we have all kinds of nasty problems but at the core of each one is somebody
00:56:21coming along and subverting it because they have enough money to subvert either people or systems so what I realize is that the common thread the root of our social ills is gross economic inequality
00:56:42because humans can be bought and systems can be suborned the thing is is that the United States government hasn't been so bored because nobody has ever been in a position to afford just a boring it until now okay the thing is is that you can't make the security guys notice that you can't make a system secure nose like you can't make a program free of bucks all you can do is Strike outside of it okay so if we can't create let's say a federal government that can protect itself cuz it can't protect itself against people have so much money that they can buy all of the congressman so what it means is you have to make it so that there aren't people out there who have that much money
00:57:36but right now I've been engaged in the tech world for the last 40 years and I had hopes of being a billionaire myself actually didn't I had hopes of being a millionaire but I have contributed to the creation of millionaires and billionaires and now I realize that that was not good for our society by creating people who have billions of dollars what they could do is I could purchase Justice or lack thereof and they can suborn and tire systems they can they can bribe them and buy them and support them and
00:58:14people talk about say Scandinavian countries like Denmark and they talk about how high the taxes are well
00:58:23the taxes are actually not that high compared to the taxes that I pay and what you get for them is worth immensely more than what I get from my taxes and if you take the all the fees in the costs of the things that I have to buy that my taxes are not buying it's far less than what my son that lives in Denmark gets okay he gets a lot more for his taxes in on the surface his tax rate is higher but if you add up all the things I pay for like health care and transportation I actually paid more and I actually got a much lower quality there's a delightful Ted Talk on it where the places in the world to become a millionaire this European I did the study and it turns out that the best societies to create wealth in are the ones that have high taxes
00:59:20because they have an educated and peaceful populous you know so all of the tropes of the right-wing in America about lower taxes to create more jobs at Graybar business is bullshit basically Jeff Bezos his and Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg these guys at they have too much money they simply have too much money and these are our Tech Guys and they're decent guys but then you look at the Koch brothers and a bunch of other pathological billionaires and it is not okay that they had that much money I don't begrudge business people well
00:59:57you know I think of a business person is a blocky business person who makes 20 or 30 million dollars fine I think that's fine or 40 or 50 or a hundred million dollars I think that's fine because you can't support the government was $119 but you can support a government the five billion okay and so I don't think it should be
01:00:17I don't believe that our society should allow people to get that kind of money and I don't believe that companies like apple which is a beloved company with beloved products in the Beloved culture should be able to have hundreds of billions of dollars held offshore untaxed so the edifices I think we need to build
01:00:41is an edifice of Taxation to make sure that people who decide this is just a game and money is a way to keep score fine I would like to take them at their word and give them the score and then distribute the money for the rest of us
01:01:00you one give this your money I like that that's a good answer I don't want their money I just want to pump back in a society yeah and said the former mayor of Bogota Colombia said an advanced Society is not one where the poor people have cars but where the rich people ride public transportation amen and so I want public transportation I mean I spend all my time on the road in gridlock because because California the United States is that is a monoculture transportation and dangerous and not very effective
01:01:39okay I could go on for hours you guys asking questions tough questions thank you Steph alright so that's why we will be back shortly but anything great great super duper all right
01:02:23Roman Mars is not a real person he's what happens when you put all of the yolatengo records play them all at the same time and then Karen backwards that's how you make a Roman Mars boy this is getting weird library open
01:02:59I'm tripping balls this is like the weirdest sweat lodge
01:03:06weird things happening here

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