Full transcript: Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes on Recode Decode

How Complete Beginners are using an ‘Untapped’ Google Network to create Passive Income ON DEMAND

His new book advocates for providing “guaranteed income.”

On this episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher, Chris Hughes, the co-founder of Facebook and former owner of The New Republic, talks about his new book, “Fair Shot: Rethinking Inequality and How We Earn.” In it, Hughes argues that working people should receive a guaranteed income, paid for by the top 1 percent of earners in the U.S.

You can read a write-up of the interview here or listen to the whole thing in the audio player above. Below, we’ve also provided a lightly edited complete transcript of their conversation.

If you like this, be sure to subscribe to Recode Decode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Kara Swisher: Recode Radio presents Recode Decode, coming to you from the Vox Media podcast network. Hi, I’m Kara Swisher, executive editor of Recode. You may know me as someone who plans to get rich by selling bulletproof armor for Teslas, but in my spare time, I talk tech, and you’re listening to Recode Decode, a podcast about tech and media’s key players, big ideas and how they’re changing the world we live in. You can find more episodes of Recode Decode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play Music or wherever you listen to podcasts, or just visit recode.net/podcasts for more.

Now in week three of my horrible cold, which is giving me this very scratchy voice today, still, we have in the red chair Chris Hughes, one of the co-founders of Facebook. He’s also the author of a new book called “Fair Shot: Rethinking Inequality and How We Earn.” It argues that working people should receive a guaranteed income, sometimes called Universal Basic Income, paid for by the 1 percent like Chris himself. Chris, welcome to Recode Decode.

Chris Hughes: Thanks for having me.

So, tell me about … and let me go into your background first, because this is a big topic, and the joke I made at the top about bulletproofing your Teslas was from a quote that Robert Reich just gave at an event, where he said, “You’re either gonna have to do something like Universal Basic Income or” — to the rich — “or you’re gonna have to pay to bulletproof your Teslas.” You know, so we’ll get into a really bad situation of haves and have-nots and like Brazil or some countries where the rich have to insulate themselves using security, or South Africa or somewhere else.

So, I wanted to explain that it’s not a joke but it’s a very serious issue. But first, let’s talk about your background. Can you give everybody a quick synopsis of your history?

Happily. I’ll try to give the Cliff’s Notes version. I grew up in a little town, Hickory, North Carolina. It’s at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, used to be a …

You’ve barely lost the accent, but you have.

I did a little bit.

I can hear it.

Well, that’s part of the story, actually. I grew up there, my mom was a public school teacher, Dad was a traveling paper salesman, but then I got a scholarship to go to a fancy boarding school, Phillips Andover, up in Massachusetts. And it was there where …

Nice. That is a fancy boarding school.

It is indeed. It was there where I lost the accent and then later got a scholarship to go to Harvard and met Mark Zuckerberg, freshman year. We ended up roommates sophomore year, started Facebook in February of 2004, the rocket ship took off and my life changed pretty dramatically.

I ended up wanting to write the book in order to partially tell my story and be clear that the financial reward that I got from three years’ worth of work at Facebook was entirely disproportionate to the time and effort put in, but to also make the case that my story, which is nothing but … You know, the only thing we can call it is a lucky break, is unfortunately not that uncommon in the economy today.

No, now, you are unusual …

That a small group of people … I might be extreme but I don’t think my case is actually that unusual, a small group of people are getting very, very wealthy while everybody else is struggling to make ends meets.

Yeah, extremely wealthy in some cases. What did you … after Facebook, you left relatively early?

I did. I left in 2007 and went and worked for President Obama.

Right, like digital stuff.

Back in the early days of the campaign, I had the title of Director of Online Organizing, which pretty much meant trying to not just build a community online but create a movement that was willing to take the campaign into their own hands, not just sort of the hub-and-spoke traditional model of those campaigns, but instead people standing up to organize events and raise money, knock on doors, make phone calls and using the internet to power …

Which was early on. I mean, this had been tried by … Actually, the right wing was very good at it. The conservatives were very good at it way, way, way back, but this was one of the biggest efforts to do this, an important part of his winning.

Yeah, it was a transitional moment in politics in so many ways, but I think the biggest shift was not so much in technology. We had a social network called barackobama.com The technology was good but it was in the expectations that the candidate at the time and that the campaign around him was interesting, specifically saying, “You know, we’re not going to try to lock down the message and just us, three or four at the campaign headquarters in Chicago, are going to figure it all out. Instead, we’re going to open it up and quite literally enable anybody to write anything on our website barackobama.com.”

It was a symbolic moment but it mattered because it invited people into the campaign, to participate in a way that previously they hadn’t really been asked to, and it was symbolic of a lot of other changes. So we ended up raising tens of millions, hundreds of million by the end, of dollars through the internet, had tens of thousands of grassroots events. It was an important moment.

What got you there? How did you get there, you just liked Obama?

Well, it was back in 2007 and …

Way back then, that’s so long ago.

I know. It’s not that long ago, but politics has changed so dramatically, this really feels that way.

I was working on some of the political products at Facebook and so, one of the people that I got to know was this guy Reggie Love, who was President Obama’s body man, as they’re called, and …

That’s an unfortunate term, isn’t it?

Anyway, sorry to say that word, but he was his assistant and he just went with him anywhere. We started having conversations, just like we were doing with other candidates and officeholders, on how to use Facebook. It became clear that Obama was going to throw his hat in the ring and then I talked to a few of the other people. I did really believe in Obama’s story himself and the promise that he offered. Initially I just took a leave, but the leave turned into a permanent move.

Did you miss doing that, leaving Facebook?

You know, I had mixed feelings about it, but my experience was really different than Mark’s and Dustin’s. I mean, Facebook was a mission in and of itself for Mark, and for me it was a company that I enjoyed being a part of, growing. I learned a lot, it was exciting, there were all kinds of challenges, but it was clear to me early on that Facebook was not my life’s work. It was going to be a chapter, and it turned out to be a very important chapter, but I felt, particularly in 2007 when George Bush was president, we had all kinds of what I view as unfair economic policies, the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was a time when I was really hopeful that the country could change the corner.

Well, you had money and means and you had skills.

Yeah, at that point I moved to the campaign and was paid I think $ 65,000. Facebook stock was all …

No one feels badly for you.

No, no, no, I know, I’m just being clear. I talk in the book about when I actually sold some stock and didn’t make money and what a massive change it was, but in that period the move from Facebook to Obama was about the mission.

Yeah, you were at a startup, it was a startup, people forget. Yeah, absolutely. So, you did that, and then afterwards had done a range of things. I’m sorry to go back in history but people find your background interesting.

It’s fun.

So, you then went on to buy a publication, you did a lot of things, your husband ran for office.

He did, yeah. After Facebook went public in 2012, my husband and I made a commitment to give away the vast majority of the money that we made and to invest that money in causes that we believed in. I started investing in, really, multiple things, and on the one hand I started the journey to cash. That is how I sort of ended up writing the book today and talking about guaranteed income and universal basic income.

I also bought a magazine called The New Republic and decided to invest there because I believed two things. That the journalism that The New Republic had done for decades, nearly 100 years at the time, was incredibly valuable, important to the world, important to democracy and also deserved, in 2012, a bigger audience than it had historically had. I talk a lot in the book about my experience there because on the whole there are more things that I regret than …

Yeah, a little rocky.

More than a little rocky.

Those are real grumpy — I’m being polite — those are super grumpy journalists. I lived in Washington, I know those things.

Yeah, but I also came in guns blazing.

Yeah, you did. I know better.

I came in with the kind of expectation that if you invest a lot of money and you bring together smart people and you set really ambitious goals, you know, you can reach them. That’s what the first two experiences of my career had taught me. Between Facebook and the Obama Campaign they taught me that the impossible was actually a little bit more possible than one might think.

What was the big problem? You write about it, but what do you think the big issue … what’s your big mistake and that big mistake? I think it’s a group of people that doesn’t like the internet in general. Most traditional media, in my experience over the years, has been resistant.

Well, I think …

Or grudging would be [a better word].

If I were to do it all over again, I would take a different approach. I would not come in and say the kind of journalism that The New Republic has historically done is necessarily made for an audience of tens of millions of people. I came in really thinking that we could and should open it up to a much broader kind of audience.

Big ideas should have big …

Exactly, and I think at the end of the day I was maybe the last to learn what everybody else already knew. The New Republic had been a small kind of magazine.

Artisanal, we would call it artisanal.

Yeah, we had 35,000 subscribers and that wasn’t because … You know, it was because there’s a community of people who are politically minded, culturally curious, literary, etc., but that community is relatively small.

Maybe. We’ll see what Laurene Jobs does at the Atlantic, they’re doing a kind of conversation.

Yeah, well, the Atlantic has a different tradition, the New Yorker has its own. You know, each of these institutions are artisanal, they make up a category. But so rather than swinging for the fences, I think the institution would have been better served, the people I worked with would have been better served and the values behind it would have been better served if we had made more modest investments. If we’d said, “Yes, we’re going to have a good website that is in line with the values of the day, but we don’t need the best award-winning iPad app guys.” Like the slickest kind of technology content management systems, we probably don’t need to create a custom one from scratch, as we ended up doing. These kinds of things …

You’re the internet guy. Someone there called you a terrier to me.

What’s that?


What does that mean?

I don’t know, don’t ask me. I get those … I’m sorry, everyone in … There’s a reason I left Washington, and a part of it was the extreme distaste for the internet no matter what, even if it was a relatively good idea.

Look, you came in with … you did come in with guns blazing, and those people, no. When I was like, “No, no, no, Chris, stop, these are not the …” It’s like when Pierre Omidyar went into Intercept, at first there was like, “Oh, they’re real grumpy over there,” but it’s like, Laurene Jobs is making investments. There’s all kind of internet people making … Jeff Bezos — the Washington Post — seems to have done a very good job of that.

Absolutely, but just one last point on that. I do think it’s important, though, to recognize that the kind of journalism that all of these institutions do is really a public goal.


And this idea that the market … We have to find robust, for-profit kind of sustainable models for this journalism, maybe we will. There’s a scenario where we don’t and that doesn’t mean that it’s not important to support it.

Well, you have ProPublica.

Exactly, you do have ProPublica and Texas Tribune, you have some …

Yeah, you have rich people backing these things.

Exactly, and when I started … I see you sort of rolling your eyes a little bit. My initial response was a kind of skepticism, “Is that really sustainable?” But on the other side of my experience, I think that is in many ways the story of a lot of the high-quality media in the country.

The New Republic had not really ever turned a profit. It was technically a company but it was really … I mean, I have a line in the book, it was a cause dressed up as a company — and I think we culturally need to get a little bit more used to the fact that even if Jeff was losing an immense amount of money at the Washington Post, I still think that the journalism is important to …

Yeah, well, it’s interesting because … We’ll get to that, because you’re talking about rich people paying for something like universal income too. There is a duty of public service and maybe that’s the way it’s going to be paid for and everyone should stop bellyaching over it, you’re right. You know what I mean, on some level. So, what’s your relationship there now? None? Or you sold?

No, I sold the magazine to Win McCormack in 2016.

Well, that’s a name of a person who should own The New Republic. Sorry. Win McCormack?


It’s a perfect name. You have a good name but it’s not as good as Win McCormack.

Not quite as austere, right?

Yes, yeah. So you have had nothing to do, or do you imagine going into other journalism-type things? You had an interest.

Yeah, and my interest is still real. I’m focused on specifically income inequality. I have come to believe that where the most opportunity lies is in making the case for cash and specifically for guaranteed income for Americans who are struggling to make ends meet, so that’s what I’m most …

Well, we’re going to talk about in the next section. I just want to finish up with you, and then your husband ran for office. You go from one thing to … he didn’t win.

Well, that was him. That wasn’t me.

Yes, but you were involved in it.

Yes, it turns out we are married.

We are married, and didn’t win. Is he going to run again or is that it?

I don’t think so. He’s focused on something called Stand Up America, which is an organization that tries to channel a resistance to Trump’s agenda. It’s quite the understatement that the energy that the resistance has cultivated over the past few years is in need of organization, so what they do is connect the dots, and on Facebook, on Twitter, email, text message, I mean, you name it. It’s trying to make sure people are aware of what’s happening, particularly when it comes to the Russia investigation but across the board, and then translate that enthusiasm and energy into boots on the ground, door knocks and eventually, hopefully, into electoral victory.

Votes will be the thing. I just had an interesting interview with Cory Booker and I’m going to be talking to Chuck Schumer later today, but I think votes would be the thing that everyone needs to focus on beyond … and how to get people to actually step out and vote. That’s pretty much it.

Yeah, absolutely.

It’s just an understatement of how difficult that is, but it’s the only thing that’s going to change anything.

Then you move to this, this book and what got you interested in the income inequality. A lot of people out here, Sam Altman’s interested, there’s an experiment in Oakland, I think there’s one in Sweden. They’re all over.

We have one in Stockton.

Stockton, California, so talk about that. Your group has one, you are what?

My interest in guaranteed income actually started around 2012, and I came in through the international door to start. So my husband and I came into this immense amount of wealth, we made this commitment to give it all away, and so the first kind of …

And you could have done a lot of things. You could have done a lot of … like a family foundation.

The first kind of question is this like, what’s the most effective thing that you can do?


And so it seems like an easy question. It’s actually an incredibly complex one, and so we went on a journey — and I have a chapter in the book that narrates a piece of it — to think about where are we going to get the most bang for the buck? How can we help people in the way that is the most effective? And particularly from an international perspective.

I looked a lot at different things and ended up finding Michael Faye and Paul Niehaus, the two co-founders of an organization called GiveDirectly, and made a first gift of $ 100,000, which was literally texted to people living on less than a dollar a day in Kenya, and began a journey myself. And, so I came to the immense amount of evidence that cash is the most effective thing that you can do to improve health outcomes, education outcomes and lift people out of poverty.

So, giving the poor money is the way to make them not poor?

Indeed, and I learned that initially through the international lens, but then here, domestically, what I discovered is that we actually already have the world’s largest cash transfer program. It’s called the Earned Income Tax Credit. It’s called a tax credit, but what it actually is is a lived experience of … it’s a check that tens of millions of Americans get and it lifts more people out of poverty than food stamps, housing vouchers and unemployment insurance combined.

Now, it needs to be modernized, I would argue, for the economy that we live in today, not just the income inequality that we have but also the income instability that the gig economy has introduced. At the end of the day, though it’s once a belief that I had because of the empirical evidence that shows the effectiveness, and one that I feel like is a moral case, I believe that the best way to respect the dignity of people and embrace their freedom is through the most fundable thing.

Simple thing.

Through cash and the ability to chase their own dreams or figure out their own futures.

Cash or some kind of money. So, you got interested in it through that, just by giving?

Initially, and then …

What did you try with that concept? Because again there’s lots of … I’m assuming you get like pecked to death all day of what you should give to and how you can help people.

Yeah, and I mean my husband and I give to an array of causes, it’s not just Cash International. LGBT rights is another thing that’s important to us, we were active in the fight for marriage equality, but particularly when it comes to income inequality and ending poverty. When you’re on the hunt for what’s the most effective thing to do, one of the things that I’ve learned is that sometimes the best solution is the simplest. Of course we need more and better education, of course we need more small businesses to create good jobs.

We’ve spent decades thinking about those things, investing in those things, and we should think more. However, sometimes we overlook the most powerful tool or the most powerful weapon in the arsenal and in many ways the simplest, and I think cash can be that. So my hope, though, is to take the conversation a little bit out of speculating about whether robots are going to take all the jobs in 2040 and driverless car and situate it in the here and now, because income inequality has not been as bad as it is today since 1929.

Wow, that’s amazing.

Since the year the Great Depression began. I mean, the top 0.1 percent — not 1 percent, the top 0.1 percent — owns as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent combined. And so anybody who says, “Well, that’s just the way the economy works.” No, we have chosen the rules that structure this economy and we have the power to choose different ones, and I think a guaranteed income should be at the center.

All right, we’re going to talk about that more because it’s loaded with so many different things, politics with everything else, when we get back. We’re here with Chris Hughes, he is one of the co-founders of Facebook but his new book is called “Fair Shot: Rethinking Inequality and How We Earn It.” We’re going to talk more about that and other issues when we get back.


We’re here in the red chair with Chris Hughes, one of the co-founders of Facebook but he’s talking about income inequality because of his new book “Fair Shot: Rethinking Inequality and How We Earn It.”

We just talked about his background and how he got to this topic. Let’s talk some more about that because there’s so many things hanging off of income inequality. There’s all kinds of efforts. Talk first about your efforts that you’re doing in Stockton. How do you approach it? Because again, there’s lots of different thoughts about this and some people think it’s … I met someone the other day calling it communism, like, you know what I mean like, okay, yeah, kind of.

I think of it as capitalism with much better guardrails.

Okay, something like that.

The group that I co-run is called the Economic Security Project and what we are trying to do is convene a bigger, broader conversation about how a guaranteed income can work in America. There are a lot of people who are interested in UBI, how might this actually evolve, and there are a lot of people who want to think about what we can do in the next three years, what can we do in the next five years, so a shorter time horizon than …

This is to solve inequality problems right now?


Whereas there’s possible job loss, we’ll get to that.

Exactly. So what we do is we convene a network of academics, policy makers, technologists, artists, all of who are talking about, “How do we attack this?” And as part of that we move money. One of the things that we’ve done is work to support Mayor Michael Tubbs, who is the mayor of Stockton, California. For those of you who are listeners who don’t know, he’s 27 years old, he’s the youngest mayor of a major American city. He’s African-American from a city that is incredibly diverse. He’s the first African-American mayor there in generations and he is committed to exploring how a guaranteed income can work for Stocktonians in the here and now.

This is beyond payments from the government?

Specifically, what we’re doing is supporting a demonstration of the idea that will provide an income to some members of the Stockton community. The community itself will decide who exactly, how much money, the duration, etc. Community meetings are beginning this summer and disbursements are likely to begin in fall.

What does it generalize, I know that the community is deciding this, but there are standards right now growing?

Yeah, one place to begin the number, a lot of people talked about is $ 1,000 a month, others talk about more … in the book I call for $ 500 a month, making the case that modest amounts of money can really have out-sized impacts and go even further. The idea, though, is to invite more people into the conversation and move us out of just the realm of theory, might this be a good idea, into the practical, the here and now.

We have lots of research already from up in Alaska, where they have a small guaranteed income from the Earned Income Tax Credit. The Cherokee in North Carolina have a guaranteed income and not to mention the international stuff and so, yes, we need more evidence. And we’re hopeful that that will emerge, but the real focus is on the storytelling. And Tubbs himself as a leader has already just, in announcing this in the work that he’s doing, brought so many more people into the conversation both in Stockton and nationwide.

Who gets the money in your … That’s going to be decided, but in general who gets it? The poorest, correct? Or not? Or working families?

In Stockton, it will be decided by Stocktonians.

It’s not me that’s going to get $ 1,000. It’s not wealthy people. Or is there a level or should everybody get it?

In the book, I make the case that the best way to start with a guaranteed income today is $ 500 to everyone who’s making $ 50,000 on down. So, it’s a little bit different than a UBI. It’s inspired by the exact same values of cash, no strings attached, to achieve financial stability, recognize the dignity and freedom of each individual, but it’s a more modest place to begin. I make the case that we can and should do this through a modernization of the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Which goes to what level of people?

Right now, this is part of the problem. It’s so complex, you know, the people who get it, it depends on how old you are, how many kids you have, whether or not you’re married, what state you live in, what your wages were like. And, so what ends up happening is that people get, in many cases, quite a lot of money, between $ 500 and $ 6,000 a year, but because it’s not predictable, you don’t know where it’s coming, when it’s coming, how much you’re going to get. It doesn’t provide the fundamental financial stability, which in my view is …

Which is covering rent or?

That’s the problem that I see this is really trying to solve in the here and now. I mean, we know that jobs in America have already come apart. That is what the effects of automation and globalization in particular have done. All the jobs in the past 10 years that we’ve created, 94 percent of them are part-time, contract, temporary, seasonal. They’re the kinds of things that … Yeah, unemployment is near a record low, but the jobs that are out there are not providing the kind of 40-hours-a-week benefits …

Yes, and it’s going to get worse.

Sick leave, retirement benefits. And it’s very likely to get worse.

And then the elimination of some jobs with some of these technologies you’re talking about, some very … especially around automation, especially on self-driving, we don’t know, nobody knows.

That’s the threat that looms, right? Lots of people have predictions, but in some sense … My argument is, we don’t know exactly where the future is going to go and should have a conversation about where it might lead, but we already know quite a lot about what’s already happening to jobs and we need a guaranteed income to stabilize the lives of Americans who are working hard.

What if you’re someone that’s arguing against it, what is your argument against it?

The arguments I hear most often …

What’s the best one that you’d make if you were against it?

The one that comes up the most often is education, particularly in personal context for me. People say, “Well, you came from a middle-class family, a small town in North Carolina, you got a great education and you did super well for yourself, isn’t that just what we need more of?”

“You drag yourself up,” you drag yourself up from a modest background, right?

That’s the argument that a lot of people make. You know, on the one hand, of course we need better education. There’s no question that education in America, we’ve invested a lot of money in it and have seen some benefits but not enough and there’s an important argument to be made for more education.

But what I think we’ve often overlooked is that … Put yourself in the shoes of somebody who’s got a … Let’s say you’ve got a high school [diploma], you’ve been working in a minimum wage job. You want to go back and get retrained for really any kind of job. Right now, we say, “Well, clearly we just need more educational opportunities.” That person, though …

I’ll use this specific example. I was in Ohio last summer talking to people who were specifically in this position. They were working in minimum wage jobs, they wanted to get all kinds of retraining. You begin the conversation like, “Okay, but why aren’t you doing that?” So, first off, where are you going to go? Community college. The closest community college is 45 minutes away. You got to pay for the gas to get there and the tuition, yeah it costs $ 8,000. Well, you can get financial aid, it’s going to cost you $ 1,000. Mind you, as the backdrop, none of these people have savings. You know, half of Americans can’t find $ 400 in the case of emergency. Just from the beginning, you got to find $ 1,000 to pay for their education.

Now from there, if you’ve got kids, you’ve got to figure out childcare. How are you going to pay for that when you’re at school? And then if you’re working in a job already, you’ve got to make up for the lost hours and lost wages that you’re not going to have when you’re already living on the brink, how are you going to do that?

And then, even assuming you can figure out all of those things, when you show up for your class at 8:00 pm there’s an immense amount of evidence that shows that if you’ve already been working a full-time day, you’re exhausted and the likelihood of you being successful in that is quite low.

So my view is, of course we need more education, but let’s not overlook the power that cash has to open up the opportunities to be able to take advantage of the educational opportunities we create.

What about the current push by the Trump administration of, “These are lazy people and they have to work for their money.”

I think that’s preposterous. Not only does that not …

It’s out there in …

It’s a cynical argument that people make.

Of course it is, it’s awful and it’s cruel. Wow, cruelty from this administration. It’s cruel, it’s flat out cruel.

Yeah, absolutely. And I think it’s premised on perpetrating a myth. Specifically it’s this myth of the Welfare Queen, which was authored by none other than Ronald Reagan but is still permeating.

Lee Atwater did it.

Well, in the Reagan era.

Yeah and let’s give credit to Lee Atwater, who has died but frankly deserved a lot of credit for that.

It’s a myth that has been really problematic and really destructive. It’s racialized in the sense that it conjures up this kind of idea of people who just hang out and live on the … Now, of course, the evidence doesn’t show that. If you look at labor force participation rates for African-American women, for instance, and you compare those to white men, guess which group works more?

African-American women.

African-American women. So the data shows that that is not true, and when you actually get out there and talk to working people, you know, it doesn’t take much to actually see that that’s not true. But it’s a cynical kind of story that it’s in the interest of a lot of people in power to continue to [promote].

But that’s what they’re pushing right now around all kinds of things, is that you have to work to get welfare, you have to demonstrate that you can’t … It is never leaving our society, this concept of the lazy poor.

I am hopeful that we can turn a corner. It’s not going to evaporate tomorrow. I don’t want to overstate the case here but I do think that there is a generational shift that’s happening and specifically if we can broaden the definition of work that we use to really recognize what work is.

It’s sort of similar to what happened with marriage. In the marriage fight for LGBT people, for a very long time there was an argument about legalizing same-sex marriage as if it was like another kind of marriage, this thing that’s over here that’s different. And then when the movement shifted and started making the case that no marriage … What is marriage fundamentally about? It’s fundamentally about love and commitment, and love is love and marriage is marriage and we need to make sure that the definition of marriage matches love and matches the time that we live in. The definition of marriage quite literally has expanded over time to recognize the kind of marriage that my husband and I are in, for instance.

Similarly, with work, when we talk about work all the time, clearly a mom or a dad who’s staying home with young kids who are under … particularly if they’re under 5 or 6 and not in school, they’re working and we use the word “work” to describe what they’re doing. Similarly, people engaged in elder care, if you’ve got an aging parent at home, you’re working. And I make the case in the book that students, people involved in education, those people are working, too.

Of course.

If we can expand the definition of work to recognize what people are doing, what you end up with is recognizing the role that virtually every American is playing in society.

Except the people that are doing most of that work are people of color, women are doing two jobs, raising the kids, and we’ve got an issue of around white men essentially that don’t recognize that this is work.

And, they’ve been historically excluded. Like right now, I was in Jackson, Mississippi, three weeks ago meeting with a lot of young African-American moms who lived in public housing and right now many of them were … in fact, all of them were sufficiently poor that they needed the safety net kinds of benefits. Right now, our safety net says what you’re doing at home taking care of your kids? No, no that doesn’t count. You got to go over to Burger King and get a $ 7-an-hour job — and mind you for every $ 7 that they make they’re docked about $ 4 or $ 5 of government benefits that get reduced, so their actual per-hour earnings become quite small. In order to qualify for a whole host of benefits because that’s real work, but the work that you’re doing at home doesn’t count.

Well, there are those who say you shouldn’t have kids. It goes on, it’s a deeply ingrained racism and everything is …

I think it has to change and I think we have to start somewhere. This is going to be a long-term kind of fight because it does tap into big cultural questions. Again, I don’t want to overstate the speed with which this may happen, but I do think it is similar to something like the fight for marriage equality, which over the course of decades we did see a generational and cultural shift.

For the most part, for many. Although still there’s so much retrograde stuff going on.

Not for everyone, yeah.

You know, Chris, only gay people want to get married and go into the military, I don’t know if you know that. No, I wanted to go in the military, I did, I wanted to do both.

So once you start this in place what do you hope to … What is the goal? Is it to show success, show what … Or just watch how it works?

Well, I think we can start in cities and states and build a sense of momentum.

Everything is happening in the cities and states that matters.

Most things are happening in the cities and states, although I do think that … I can talk a little bit about the opportunity, too, at the federal level. In my view, we should begin today like what Mayor Tubbs is doing in Stockton. You could also do this at a state level, it will be a more modest size, a few hundred dollars a month, but we can begin now and see how it works, see how it changes the lives of people who are getting it. Again, we have a lot of evidence already to know but specifically …

How is it changing, people feel a little more relaxed, they can do …

People certainly feel more relaxed. The recipients of cash assistance specifically through the Earned Income Tax Credit, the kids do better in school. They stay in school for longer periods of time, they do better on tests. Health outcomes improve, people are hospitalized less often, there are fewer complications in pregnancies, people who receive the guaranteed income from the Cherokee as they grow into adults have fewer mental health issues.

There’s a lot of evidence about the effective care. And all this, by the way, is domestic, we don’t even have to go to the couple of hundred studies that exist internationally that show all kinds of other benefits, you know, domestic violence rates go down in many cases and all of it.

It’s intuitive, at the end of the day, if you have a little bit more financial stability in your life you’re able to live one step or two steps back from the brink. We’re not talking about so much money that everybody wins the lottery and we’re like all just, you know, hanging out, putting up our feet, whatever the worst images are that the critics conjure up.

Lazy, eating Cheetos. Cheetos is always involved.

So there’s a lot of evidence. Developing more of a track record at the city level and at the state level and then I do think long-term at the federal level. You know, we just saw a tax bill that got passed at the end of last year, which gave massive cuts …

That was Rich People’s Universal Basic Income.

Giving massive cuts to the 1 percent and to corporations and doubled down on what I consider a debunked theory of trickle-down economics. We’ve been doing this for 40 years and median wages have not meaningfully budged, and yet …

The rich get richer.

The rich get richer and they made a decision to double down on that. Now I think that there is a movement already growing to repeal and replace that law and to rethink it. And I do think that there’s an opportunity to put a modernized Earned Income Tax Credit, which essentially provides a guaranteed income for working people, at the center of that kind of bill.

Now, whether that will happen in 2021 or, I don’t know, 2025, I mean, who knows? So many things can change, but the cynicism that’s permeating our culture about change in Washington and at other levels is the biggest hurdle. We have to begin to think creatively and begin to organize on these ideas.

You know about Sheryl Sandberg’s, I think with the College Track people, giving them cash because they need it for rent. She has a thing where she’s giving away the people who are on College Track. They get money so they can pay the rent, they can do summer internships they couldn’t afford. She’s just giving them money like she …

This is a similar concept, because what happens when they go to college through College Track, poor kids don’t know how to dress, they don’t know how to network, they can’t take summer jobs that are easy. Sometimes their parents rely on them and so the concept is give them cash to pay for those things and give them an extra comfort.

I don’t know that much about it but from what you describe it seems to make a lot of sense. I do think people often ask, again, why is it that cash is so … I was on financial aid in college. Mark Zuckerberg and Dustin Muscovites, they dropped out and I was out here that first summer when they decided to stay here and I went back, and a lot of people say, “Well, do you regret that decision?” Because on paper it was the wrong decision from a financial perspective, and to be honest it wasn’t even ever really a decision for me because …

You had to go back.

Because the idea … I mean, if I were to be here, what am I going to do? Work at Starbucks all day and then come home to work at Facebook marketing? I guess I could have, but I was at Harvard and was the first of my family to have that kind of opportunity and so … Anyway, my point is this, a lot of people in college now have a guaranteed income and it comes from their parents — and my kid one day will have that too, so I’m in that category now — but a lot of other people don’t. We have a responsibility to even the playing field and to counteract how those generational cycles …

That was very important about your own experience there. They could afford to be startup people in a different way.

We’re here with Chris Hughes, he’s one of the founders of Facebook. He is very interested in income inequality with his new book “Fair Shot: Rethinking Inequality and How We Earn.”

The changing workplace, are you worried about … You’ve benefited from technology financially and have been part of the technology sector for part of your life. Are you worried about job loss or things like that because that could stress this system even more?

I am. Alot of people are convinced that artificial intelligence is going to create mass technical unemployment.

Well, it’s combined automation, there’s a whole bunch.

It’s automation, it’s artificial intelligence, exactly.

Economics, self-driving.

Exactly, it’s a combination of multiple trends. There are a lot of economists who think that’s crazy and I talk to a lot of them, too. Jason Forman, who played a prominent role in the Obama administration, has particularly carved out a play saying, “You know, in the long-term this is unlikely to happen.” I’m concerned about it but I also don’t … I’m not in the class where I’m here saying, “It’s going to happen, it’s a fait accompli, it’s a done deal.” It may or may not.

But what I do think the trends are very clear about is the increasing fragmentation of jobs already, and it’s the gig economy that is indicative of that — the Lyft drivers and Uber drivers — but it’s also the worker at Starbucks who can only get 25 hours and who doesn’t know next week if she’ll get 10 or 40.

Or when.

The idea that you need to be able to plan, planning is made very, very difficult.

That’s very important.

You’re constantly stressed if you don’t know you’re going to be able to make rent. Yeah, you have a job, you have some hours, but if you’re not going to get enough then you’re constantly living on …

You’re in a constant state of instability.

I worry about the wholesale job loss, absolutely, but I’m also personally really intent on making clear that wherever you fall on whether or not that’s the future or not the future, we already need a guaranteed income.

I think it’s interesting. Marc Andreessen is a big proponent of this, that in the end it will be like farming to manufacturing and we’ll have more jobs than ever.

The reason I’m so interested in it this past year — we’ve done a special on MSNBC about it, we’re going to do a lot more of them — is because he was saying, I said, “The blacksmiths, what happened to them?” and he goes, “I don’t care what happened to the blacksmiths,” and I was like, “Yeah, but they had families and something happened, something not good happened to those people.” Did they retrain?

There was social unrest during that whole period, there was enormous social unrest with the farming to manufacturing economy, and we forget because we’re a national of perpetually forgetting our history. It’s happened several times, these shifts in technologies, really.

And people make the argument, too, around not just retraining but mobility. Well, yeah, the blacksmiths of today, they should just move to where all the jobs are.

Who’s going to teach them? I just want to know who’s going to retrain …

The average move across job lines cost over $ 5,000 and half of Americans can’t find $ 400 in case their car breaks down, so this idea that you’re just supposed to pack up, turn off the lights and magically move to a place where housing alone is probably five times as expensive as where you were before, it’s crazy.

I think I want to get to the idea of this 1 percent, not just the fragmentation but the wealthiest concentration of wealth moving higher and higher up to a smaller and smaller amount of people. Because I firmly believe there’s a group of people at the top who have benefited from the future. At the very top, the obscenely wealthy love the future, they will be able to change, they will be able to afford it, they will be able to teach themselves, they’re interested in teaching themselves.

Then there’s a vast group of people in the middle who like the future, are scared of the future, and this group on the top is not pulling them up and presumably they would pull the ones below them up further, but there’s no pulling up by the wealthy here. Here’s you saying that the 1 percent should pay this. We’ve just had a tax cut where the 1 percent got paid. What do you imagine this … why the 1 percent doesn’t have this duty to take care?

In San Francisco, it’s the same thing. You can see the streets right now and it’s hard living here with people doing drugs on the streets, you are like, they’re lying on the streets doing drugs in front of my house. This is not good as a taxpayer and you feel badly for feeling that way too, but most people don’t feel badly about thinking about people in that way.

Well, I think a lot of the people that I talk to are cognizant of a sense of responsibility they have to other people. It’s in San Francisco, it’s in New York. I’ll paint with a broad brush and then I’ll be a little more specific about what I mean. I think that there is a sense, particularly amongst people who have been successful in technology, that the rewards that have come are very much historically unique.

I mean, we’ve never lived in a time where 20-year-olds are able to go from zero dollars to hundreds of millions of dollars, billions of dollars, before. Royalty is like the closest thing, hundreds of years ago, and so that is … I do think that there’s a widening sense that something is happening in the economy that makes that possible, and it’s happening at the exact same time that everybody else is having a hard time making ends meet.

That middle group that you’re discussing, those folks have not gotten a raise in 40 years but the cost of living is 30 percent higher. I do think that there’s increasingly a sense of responsibility. Now that’s probably more on the left than on the right, but my hope is to appeal not only to a sense of moral responsibility but also a sense of pragmatism. And by that I mean what we know about what creates long-term economic growth is that consumer spending is the biggest driver of that, and if you put $ 100 in the pockets really of anybody in your description there, anybody in the middle or at the bottom, they’re going to spend most of that money on whatever is most urgent for them: Housing, health care, education.

You put $ 100 in the pockets of the 1 percent, we know it goes into a bank account. It goes to work in complex financial moves but it’s not part of the productive economy. There was a study that the Roosevelt Institute did last year that modeled out, if you give $ 500 for guaranteed income to every American, what would happen to the economy? And the model shows that over the next eight years GDP would grow by 7 percent.

Based on just that amount.

Based just on that amount. And so my argument is that I think in the long run a guaranteed income is good for everyone, certainly for the middle class and the poor who need the funds the most, but it should also be good for …

The producers, the wealthy.

For the wealthy as well because it creates a kind of broad-based economic growth.

Just specifically to talk about the pay for a moment. I think tax rates on income of $ 250,000 and higher should come into line with their historical average of 50 percent. That’s where they were for much of the 20th century, for the decades after the Second World War really up until 1980 ,that’s in line with where they were. And it just so happens that that’s the period when economic growth was not only the biggest but also the most broadly shared and we had plenty of innovation, plenty of smart people starting all kinds of new companies. The idea that if taxes were higher on that income that we wouldn’t have started Facebook, that’s just not true.

It’s nonsense.

And the way that that would play out is because it’s income above, if you’re making $ 300,000, which in some parts of the country definitely makes you wealthy but not, let’s say, a part of the winner-take-all. What you’re talking about is a few more like $ 7,000 more in taxes to fund a guaranteed income. If you made $ 10 million, well, what we’re talking about is your tax bill would be $ 1.5 million higher than it is today, and it is my view that that is more in line with where our finances should be in. We can and should ask the members of that 1 percent to be footing the bill, to make sure that everybody else can enjoy the economic opportunity …

You’re with a group of people in tech who talk about that but I deal with a lot of people from Wall Street and stuff like that and I am always astounded by the continued greed of incredibly wealthy people.

I think it’s short-sighted. I think in the long-term it’s …

I would agree. I was talking to someone who is enormously wealthy, really, they were driving me crazy and I finally said, “You know, you’re so poor all you have is money.” Like, “I don’t know what to say.” He was so insulted. He was like, “Why could you say that to me?” I’m like, I just, “You’re so poor, I just don’t know how to explain it to you. You’re just …” It’s astonishing.

I’m constantly surprised by it when you get to a certain level of income and you can’t understand because you know you don’t want to give it to government, the government is somewhat incompetent. Like, “I don’t want to give it to those bozos to hand out.” I feel like when I pay … I pay a lot of taxes and I’m like, “I don’t want to give it to those crazy military people,” like everybody has a thing.

That’s why the Earned Income Tax Credit is the structure that I’m talking about using to build the guaranteed income. It has historically been really popular on the right as well as the left.

I would like to give it to regular people. Yeah, I’m good with people just getting cash.

Every president in the United States since 1975, Republican and Democrat alike, every single one has meaningfully expanded the Earned Income Tax Credit. And it’s for that reason, not only because of the evidence it shows that it works but because there’s a sense that on the right …

Also, it’s a good gimme, it’s a good gimme.

Well, I think there’s a sense on the right that we should put the money in the hands of the people.

The people’s pockets.

Of people who can figure out how to use it themselves.

That was the argument for the tax cuts.

Well, but in that case it’s for the 1 percent, not for …

Didn’t you hear Paul Ryan, didn’t you hear what he …

Well, talk about a cynical kind of … I mean, every non-partisan analysis of the tax bill shows that there are massive disproportionate returns to the 1 percent, not to …

I like that you’re saying, “Talk about cynical,” at this moment in history.

So, let’s finish up, we only have a few more minutes. Talking about politics right now, you’re in … how do you look at the political scene? Your husband is working on the resistance and Facebook has gotten smacked hard. You don’t have to just talk about Facebook but, please do Twitter, Facebook, Google, YouTube?

Well, I mean, so many things. I think the news coming out of Washington, it’s hard to imagine it being more depressing. However, I do think that Trump’s election has been a wake-up call on the left and the right that a lot of people feel that the system is rigged against them and they are willing to embrace a very, very different perspective. It’s scary when Trump is in the White House pushing the policies that he is pushing, but I think the opportunity is, people are open to kinds of crazier kinds of ideas. Guaranteed income a few years ago was on the fringe. I think it’s increasingly becoming part of the mainstream.

I think, though, that we’ve got to counteract the sense that things are just going to always be the way that they are. The economy is going to always be the way it is, so politics is always going to be the way that it is and there’s a lot of evidence in the enthusiasm on the left. You know, you look at the Women’s March, this march that’s planned in a couple of weeks around gun violence across the country. There are a lot of reasons to be hopeful. As you said at the top of the conversation, votes matter, and what happens this November and then in November of 2020.

The only people that are voting are … thank goodness for African-American women. That’s it. The rest of them, millennials, I want to smack them upside the head.

And specifically Facebook. I think Facebook is increasingly recognizing the responsibility that it has.

Slow progress.

Slowly but increasingly and overdue.

Yeah, sorry about that American democracy problem. But, I mean, it was slow.

It was slow, absolutely.

We were all screaming about it a year ago and they just, they slowed all this all the way to today.

It has been slow. But I think what’s happened …

Why is that? You worked with these people.

Oof. I would speculate about that just as much as you or anyone else. I think that there was a sense that Facebook as a platform was a kind of neutral algorithm. It’s just a thing that works in the basement. It’s like, you just surface things and there’s nobody …

I’m giving you my “Mm-hmm.”

When in reality, I mean, humans make the decision about how these algorithms work and right now we are seeing a different approach from Facebook.

You think they’re taking advantage of that?

With local news in particular, I find that the initiative around local news that I have … I mean, I haven’t talked to anyone at Facebook about this. I’ve read the journalism that you’ve done and many others have done to be some of the most interesting. They’re specifically working with a dozen local news outlets to do two things.

One, to help them understand how to surface their journalism to bigger and broader audiences on the platform but also to adjust the algorithms to make sure more people see it. Which is really remarkable, right? Because it is a normative statement that local news matters and is important and that specifically Facebook has a responsibility to ensure that people see it. Now is that going to be enough? Absolutely not, we’ve got to think about foreign powers meddling in the election.

Why didn’t they see it, weren’t geniuses what … I mean, I’m being reductive there but you know what I mean.

Your guess is as good as mine on that. I think that they’re turning a corner now and are focused on …

An understatement. I literally was just in an argument on Twitter with the head of ads who was like, “Well, it’s not our fault.” I’m like, “Stop, just stop talking.”

What was he saying?

He was saying that it wasn’t truly their fault.

“It” being the Russian stuff.

The Russians. I think I just said, “Hush. Stop talking. Just stop, please.”

Yeah, I think it’s very clear. I mean, you have a responsibility to make sure foreign powers don’t hack our elections. And the problem is, okay, well, how do you define “hack”? But propagating fake news on a platform to support one candidate over another is a problem.

Well, you know, the thing is, to their defense, it’s a company, not a government fighting a government. I know, but it’s a government, right? You made a face.

I mean, it’s a company, but this idea that companies don’t have responsibilities, that’s just not my worldview.

Oh, yes, of course, but I’m saying our government didn’t intervene. Well, you know these companies can’t do it by themselves, this has got to be an effort …

Well, yes, government has … I mean, if I’m talking about the …

Not the Trump government. The Obama administration certainly had a responsibility here to be more active.

Absolutely. And I am worried about the election this fall. We have evidence to show that the Russians in particular, it’s very clear, tried very hard to hack the voting systems in several states, and we have not made … I have seen no progress from a federal perspective in making sure that these elections are going to be safe and secure. There’s been some media coverage of it, but frankly, I think there’s been more media coverage of Facebook’s role than the imperative for a stronger security system. And clearly, we need more coverage of both. I think on all of this, we need to be talking about it all much more robustly, because this problem is not going to go away.

Well, this particular administration is so cynical, it’s a disturbingly cynical administration, which doesn’t mind creating havoc. In the end, it’s a group of people that love havoc and are also not very smart.

Well, but to say that sort of suggests … I mean, we have a responsibility, democracy, whatever your politics, democracy … In the democratic system it’s the responsibility of people in power to govern and defend it.

Of course, but you know, we have a president who just joked that it was good that the Chinese … I mean, you know, like, come on. It’s so funny because it’s sort of like …

Well, let’s just not excuse that, let’s not be …

I’m not excusing it.

No, I’m not saying you are, but we just can’t have this air of resignation like, “Oh, they’re just crazy and nothing is ever going to happen.”

They’re not crazy-crazy, you know. They’re not crazy, it’s just that it’s impossible to do anything when good people don’t stand up. And I’m talking about the Republicans most of the time because it’s the enablers to me who are the real problem now, which is interesting, but this will be done by voting. Chris, when do you imagine you have — we’re going to finish up — when do you imagine success for this?

The more this idea is talked about in the mainstream, not just in political conversations but around dining room tables, over coffee and over …

And how you put out there, of course.

I think that’s success in the short term. In the long run, clearly, we want public policy to change, but success in the next couple of years will be people talking seriously about how can get a guaranteed income done in one way or another? Maybe through the Earned Income Tax Credit, maybe through other kinds of ways, but the more we’re rolling up our sleeves and thinking about, “How do you guarantee financial stability through cash?” That’s the success in the near term.

You have actually convinced me. And now I’m thinking about definitely, you know, some scenario I’m interested in. You know, I agree you, I think giving people … Listen, I’d rather that than the latest tank or the latest whatever the hell our government is spending money on. I’d rather give it to average people who need a break, which would be nice so they can get to one among our many, many, many problems in this country.

Anyway, we have a lot of great things, too, and our generosity, although some people don’t agree with it, would be one of them. Chris, it was great talking to you. You’ve had a fascinating career since you stopped funding like fancy magazines. This is much better than the fancy magazines, and people who hate you no matter what you do just so, yeah.

I’ll say, “Swisher told me to do it.”

I could have told you that Chris, “Just give away money to people who actually appreciate it,” but buying a media company, still. I don’t know which one you should buy, but you should. I appreciate the effort.

I think I’m out of that.

You’re out of that business, no more Chris Hughes. Is there even one for sale? I don’t know, there’s always something for sale, Chris. It was great talking and thanks for coming on the show.

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Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes says the 1 percent should give cash to working people

How Complete Beginners are using an ‘Untapped’ Google Network to create Passive Income ON DEMAND

Facebook co-founder and “Fair Shot” author Chris Hughes

In his new book “Fair Shot,” Hughes outlines a proposal for “guaranteed income,” to lift health and education outcomes in the U.S.

“Fair Shot” author Chris Hughes is trying to convince America’s richest citizens to give money to working people — not education policy, not inspirational messages, not invocations to try harder. Cash.

“Cash is the best thing you can do to improve health outcomes, education outcomes and lift people out of poverty,” Hughes said on the latest episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher.

“Of course we need more and better education,” he added. “Of course we need more small businesses to create good jobs. We’ve spent decades thinking about those things, investing in those things and we should think more. However, we overlook the most powerful weapon in the arsenal — and in many ways the simplest. Cash can be that.”

In his new book, he argues that a guaranteed income for people in the U.S. could be financed by the one percent — a group that includes Hughes himself. He met Mark Zuckerberg his freshman year at Harvard, co-founded Facebook and later became a digital adviser to Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign.

“My story — which the only thing we can call it is a lucky break — is unfortunately not that uncommon in the economy today,” Hughes said. “I might be extreme, but I don’t think my case is actually that unusual. A small group of people are getting very, very wealthy while everyone else is struggling to make ends meet.”

You can listen to Recode Decode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.

On the new podcast, Hughes explained how his proposal for guaranteed income — $ 500 a month for everyone making $ 50,000 or less per year — differs from the more commonly discussed concept of universal basic income.

“It’s inspired by the exact same values of cash, no strings attached, to achieve financial stability, recognizing the dignity and freedom of each individual,” he said. “But it’s a more modest place to begin. I make the case that we can and should do this through a modernization of the Earned Income Tax Credit.”

The EITC already gives money to low-income people, but whether you’re eligible and how much you get can vary wildly depending on your age, location, marital status and many other factors, Hughes said. And the policy, first enacted in 1975, has not been updated to address modern forms of economic insecurity.

“Jobs in America have already come apart,” Hughes said. “That is one of the effects of automation, and globalization in particular: All of the jobs in the past 10 years that we’ve created, 94 percent of them are part-time, contract, temporary, seasonal. Yeah, unemployment is near a record low, but the jobs that are out there are not providing the kind of 40 hours a week benefits [like] sick leave or retirement benefits.”

Even a couple hundred dollars could make a huge difference for people with no savings living paycheck to paycheck, who might not know how many hours they’ll be able to work next week, he explained.

“If you have a little bit more financial stability in your life, you’re able to live one step or two steps back from the brink,” Hughes said. “We’re not talking about so much money that everybody wins the lottery and we’re all just hanging out, putting up our feet, whatever the worst images that critics conjure up.”

If you like this show, you should also sample our other podcasts:

  • Recode Media with Peter Kafka features no-nonsense conversations with the smartest and most interesting people in the media world, with new episodes every Thursday. Use these links to subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.
  • Too Embarrassed to Ask, hosted by Kara Swisher and The Verge’s Lauren Goode, answers the tech questions sent in by our readers and listeners. You can hear new episodes every Friday on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.
  • And Recode Replay has all the audio from our live events, including the Code Conference, Code Media and the Code Commerce Series. Subscribe today on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.

If you like what we’re doing, please write a review on Apple Podcasts — and if you don’t, just tweet-strafe Kara.

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Former Microsoft CFO Chris Liddell could be Trump’s next top economic adviser

How Complete Beginners are using an ‘Untapped’ Google Network to create Passive Income ON DEMAND

It could give Silicon Valley more influence in the Trump administration.

Chris Liddell, the former chief finanical officer at Microsoft and a key touchpoint for current tech execs in the Trump administration, could become President Trump’s top economic adviser.

That’s according to reports Saturday that fingers Liddell as the likely next head of the National Economic Council, the policymaking advisory body that is currently led by Gary Cohn. The White House said this week that Cohn would leave his gig soon.

Liddell is currently the White House’s director of strategic initiatives and is said to be a key ally of Jared Kushner in an administration rife with internal feuds. Liddell and Reed Cordish, another businessman and friend of Kushner’s, have been two of the main emissaries from the White House to Silicon Valley. Cordish said last month he was also leaving the White House.

Liddell’s profile would certainly expand if he were take the job — he would be expected to advise Trump on everything from tarriffs to tax cuts to entitlement reform. And it would also likely give tech more access to the White House in the same way that Cohn, a former president of Goldman Sachs, gave Wall Street access to it.

The New Zealand-born Liddell served as CFO at MIcrosoft from 2005 to 2009 before jumping to General Motors.

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Chris Rock’s first Netflix special debuts February 14th

Chris Rock signed a deal with Netflix in 2016, agreeing to two comedy specials for a reported sum of $ 40 million. Well the wait for Rock's comedy special return is finally over as Netflix has announced that the first of those two specials will air on…
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The ‘Five Nights at Freddy’s’ movie will be directed by Chris Columbus

Almost a year ago, Blumhouse Productions — the studio that followed the wild success of Paranormal Activity with hits like Insidious, Whiplash, Split and Get Out — secured the film rights for the video game Five Nights At Freddy's. Today, the compa…
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Internet of Business welcomes Chris Middleton as editor

Chris Middleton Editor

We’re delighted to announce Chris Middleton as the new editor of Internet of Business. Chris brings an enormous amount of experience to the role and specialises in robotics, AI, the IoT, and technology strategy.

He is former editor of Computing, Computer Business Review, and Professional Outsourcing, among others, and is a contributing editor to Diginomica, Computing, and Hack and Craft News. Over the years, he has also written for Computer Weekly, The Guardian, The Times, PC World, I-CIO, V3, and The Inquirer, among many others.

He is an acknowledged robotics expert who has appeared on BBC TV and radio, and ITN, and is probably the only tech journalist in the UK to own a number of humanoid robots, which he hires out to events, exhibitions, universities, and schools.

Chris says: “I’m proud to join IoB at such an exciting time for the Internet of Things, and to pick up the editorial baton from Jessica Twentyman, whose expertise and insight has been so important in developing this site. (I’m delighted to say that Jess, one of the UK’s leading tech journalists, has agreed to remain a regular contributor, joining what will be an expanding roster of talent.)

“Over the next few years, the IoT will combine with edge computing, analytics, AI, robotics, autonomous vehicles, drones, and a range of other technologies, such as enterprise asset management and digital twins, to create entirely new types of business, along with new opportunities for established players.

“The market for robotics, AI, and autonomous systems alone could be worth up to $ 3 trillion, by some estimates, so it’s critical that no organisation – and no country – gets left behind in the new industrial age.

“IoB will be there to cover it all. And to reflect the growing importance and diversity of this sector, we will be shifting our focus to thought leadership, analysis, and longer-form content, telling you what we think and what’s important at every stage of the journey.

“Meanwhile, our unrivalled programme of international events brings together experts and thought leaders in vertical and horizontal sectors, so that we can all learn from the very best.

“Welcome to Internet of Business: let’s start a new conversation.”

The post Internet of Business welcomes Chris Middleton as editor appeared first on Internet of Business.

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‘Resident Evil 7’ DLC trailer offers the first look at Chris Redfield

Chris Redfield has had a long and storied career as the fictitious protagonist in many installments of Capcom's Resident Evil video game series. The Raccoon City policeman starred, along with partner Jill Valentine, in the original 1996 game, and has…
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Full transcript: Self-driving car engineer Chris Urmson on Recode Decode

His startup, Aurora, is building software to make cars fully autonomous.

Chris Urmson, the CEO of Aurora and former CTO of self-driving cars at Google, stopped by the Recode podcast studio to talk with Kara Swisher about the future of autonomous cars.

You can read some of the highlights here, or listen to the entire interview in the audio player below. We’ve also provided a lightly edited complete transcript of their conversation.

If you like this, be sure to subscribe to Recode Decode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Kara Swisher: Recode Radio presents Recode Decode, coming to you from the Vox Media Podcast Network.

Hi, I’m Kara Swisher, executive editor of Recode. You may know me as the person who thinks Google should buy Uber and rename it Guber, but in my spare time I talk tech and you’re listening to Recode Decode, a podcast about tech and media’s key players, big ideas and how they’re changing the world we live in. You can find more episodes of Recode Decode on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Play music or wherever you listen to your podcasts. Or just visit recode.net/podcasts for more.

Today in the red chair is Chris Urmson, the CEO of Aurora. Chris was previously the CTO of self-driving cars at Google, and he co-founded Aurora last year along with Sterling Anderson and Drew Bagnell who ran their own self-driving projects at Tesla and Uber. Chris, welcome to the show.

Chris Urmson: Thanks for having me here.

No problem. I’m so excited to talk about something good about cars, not Uber … I was joking with you then. I’m so tired of these people. In any case, I’m not tired of you, you’re fantastic. So just by way of background, Chris and I met when … explain, you showed me the first really autonomous car essentially that Google had in a parking lot near Google.

Yeah, I think we had you out in one of the Priuses way back in the early days.

Well, the early days, right. That was when they were … those were outfitted cars that we drove around the area, the Google campus area.

That’s right. I think we’d go buy them off the dealership and then we put lasers and radars and cameras on them, add our software to them and go and test them out on the roads.

Right exactly. But after that, it was the little clown car. Remember we did the clown car thing and I tried to have it run you over but it wouldn’t do it.

No, it was good. You know, I think about the koala car rather than clown car, but …

Okay, what do we call it?

Koala car.

Koala car. All right, okay, I can call it clown car, but explain that. We showed it off at the Code Conference a couple years ago for the first time. But I came out there and Liz Gannes and I got in it. Explain that car, because that was different from the others we had done.

Yeah, so that was a car that we built from the ground up at Google, and the goal behind it was one, to learn what it meant to integrate the software and sensors into a car, and then the other was to have the first shot at having a car that was designed to be a self-driving car. And you know, what do you want that vehicle to look like so it can be a good avatar for the technology in the community and what experience do you want people to have in it. What was fascinating was just how much extra space there was and how …

Right. There’s no wheel, no driving wheel, no pedals, no nothing, right? Really just a screen.

That’s right. You just tell it where you want to go and it takes you there. So you get to think differently about the interior of the car, you have to think differently about what people want to do in the car and that was part of the exercise in developing the vehicle.

Yeah, we’ll get more into that concept at the time, but it was really cool. It was sort of like being in a Disney ride or something like that. That’s what it felt like because it was small and adorable and stuff like that.

Yeah that’s the kind of thing we were shooting for, right? We wanted your experience in the first time you’re in a truly self-driving car to be not scary, to be friendly, to be fun.

Right. But you kept it in a parking lot, correct? Because you were testing it, you didn’t want it out in the wild, essentially.

It wasn’t ready yet for us to let it loose on the roads.

Right, right. All right, we’ll talk about that more going forward, but let’s go to your background. Now, talk about … we’re going to get to what Aurora is, but how did you get into self-driving cars? You were there super early and now everyone seems to be a self-driving car engineer.

Yeah. I guess I started working on robots in ’98 when I went to Carnegie Mellon to do my PhD.

Did you do that before when you were in high school? Were you a big robotics person?

No. I built little robot things out of Lego and had fun with that and at some point while I was doing my undergraduate degree I saw a poster for this robot crawling out of a volcano and I said, “That looks really cool. That would be fun to go do.”

You wanted to build a robot crawling out of a volcano? Or just the concept.

Just the idea that you could … there’s something really appealing about technology that you can touch. With robots, everyone’s seen them in the movies — whether it’s R2D2 and C3PO or what have you — but they don’t really exist. And so the chance to go and work on that, and this was a place that was doing it that seemed really exciting. I went there and I spent a number of years working on NASA projects.

Just before the grand challenge, which were these big robot races out in the desert, I was part of a project that was testing a robot down in the Atacama Desert in Chile. So we had this little four-wheeled robot, it was called Hyperion. It was really … it was a cute robot and it would move around at 15 cm a second to 30 cm a second which is like a slow walk to a slightly less slow walk kind of speed. And we’re out in the middle of the desert testing this thing and there’s a dozen engineers and most of the time it didn’t work. We were experimenting, playing with it and fixing it, and that was when this DARPA challenge got announced. The idea was to build a robot that could drive from Los Angeles to Las Vegas across the desert.

Which isn’t very hard because it’s straight, right? The desert, it’s …

Well, it was pretty hard.

No, so no, I get that, but they did a challenge that was relative to something that was manageable, correct?

Well, they called it a grand challenge …

I know it’s hard, you smart people, but you know what I’m talking about.

Well honestly at the time it wasn’t obvious that it was doable, right? Nobody had done it before and in fact, people thought that it was not solvable, at least in the year and a half or year or whatever it was that we had. And it turns out they were right. We had a bunch of graduate students and undergraduates and we took a Humvee and tore it apart and put lasers and radars and stuff on it.

So robot car, not a robot driving a car.

A robot car.

Right, right, okay. Because that’s creepy, a robot driving a car.

It could be pretty cute. Have you seen the little Asimo robots?

No I’m thinking Terminator, but go ahead.

Yeah, that would be creepy, yeah. So we got this thing, we got it out to the desert, we tested it a bunch. Turns out 10 days before the race we rolled over during testing so that was disappointing.

Wow, did you roll it over? Or did it roll itself over?

It rolled itself over. This was … we wanted to do a 150-mile test and we were going to do it at 30 mph and take five hours. We said, “Well, why don’t we do it at 50 mph because that would take three hours. That seems better than taking five hours.” That was a bad decision.

Too fast.

Yeah, a little too fast. It ended up getting off the road and rolling. We got it put back together, we took it to the competition. It was kind of like robot Woodstock, right? There was all kinds of different things there, from something inspired by centipedes to little ATVs to our big Humvee and everything in between. Most of them didn’t work that well, ours ended up working the best. We got it out to the race course, set off in the morning and it was just magnificent, right? We’d been working on this for a year and a half and this was kind of the first time we let it loose in the desert.

Was someone in the car?

No. It was completely by itself. Somebody from the government was chasing it in a pickup truck and they had just one button that could basically kill.

Blow it up? No, no …

There was some rumor that they had people that were out in case one of them went crazy, but no, they just had a little remote e-stop for it. And so this thing, you know, we’re stood off to the side and off it goes charging into the desert and it had this giant fin on the top for no real good reason. It looked cool and that was all you could see as it went into the sagebrush. So it charges off into the desert and that was all we knew until a little later in the day, seven and a half miles into the 150-mile course, basically it burst into flames.

Oh, all right. That’s an issue.

It got off the side of the road and high-centered. It was trying really hard to move forward, it didn’t realize it was stuck so it spun the wheels harder and harder and the tires melted and big clouds of smoke.

Oh. Did anybody win?

No, not that year. We went the furthest. We drove through, I don’t know, three fence posts on the way. The guys who went behind us had a much smaller vehicle and so it was really good for them that we took the fence posts out because they were riding our tire tracks and would’ve driven right into the fence posts and probably not broken them. So this was the end of the first challenge.

This is how great inventions are made.

Right. A lot failure, right?

So have you been interested in this as a kid? Or were you just going to go into regular computing?

I didn’t know what I wanted to do. When I went to college, up until the last minute I was debating between going into medicine and engineering. At some point, I realized I really didn’t like the sight of blood and that seemed kind of gross. And then I was like, “Hm, maybe I should do engineering.”

And you like the sight of metals, so you’re fine with that.

It’s okay with metal, it’s not …

But have you thought about … robotics was not … just a regular computing career, correct? Engineering.

Yeah, I went into computer engineering. It seemed like the thing to do. At the time, Nortel Networks was a big thing in Canada and it was hiring and it seemed like that could be fun. And then, like I said, this poster just caught my attention and I was like, “That’s cool.”

So a lot of people do start in robotics. They do start before they’re doing this. What moved you into cars, because you did this car because you did this — it was just that DARPA had this challenge — that entranced you.

It just seemed really cool. Right? The idea that you could actually have a robot do something meaningful. There had been … robotics had made it into manufacturing and obviously there were space exploration robots, but there wasn’t really robots in people’s everyday life and there wasn’t a way they could have an impact. I wouldn’t claim that at the time could see the future and see what’s transpiring now in the industry, but at the time it was very much, this is a way to help the military, right, and get young men and women out of harm’s way, particularly moving supplies to the front line, which is a big part of their job.

Yeah, so that’s what you were thinking. Had you thought about other robotic uses in the home, of the actual servants or those kind of things, or not? Driving got you because why?

Because it, again, it just poignantly seemed cool and that’s really all the backstory right there. Having spent time walking very slowly behind a robot in the desert in Chile, the idea that you could have a robot instead of moving at walking speed, move faster than I could run and drive through a desert, that just was mesmerizing.

This was a nascent area of doing this, of doing automated cars, essentially. Although in science fiction it’s certainly, that’s all there is. That’s how people have imagined it and things like that. How did you stay in the area? So you started doing it at Carnegie Mellon and then what?

Yeah. So there was that first challenge where no one won. The second challenge happened and a number of vehicles actually finished and this was a year later. There was a third challenge, which this time was at an air base and it was driving on roads and it was much closer to what we’re doing today. No pedestrians, no cyclists, no traffic lights, but the basics of it and that was in 2007. That was the last of the DARPA challenges. It was exciting and fun, that one, the team I was tech for ended up winning.

And what did you do in that one, in the third one?

So the third one, it was 60 miles driving around on roads.

60 mph.

No, 60 miles of distance. It ended up … it was probably between 30 and 40 mph, that sort of thing. It had to deal with other traffic. So the ones across the desert, they made sure that nothing was moving near the vehicles. This last one, the urban challenge, they had stunt drivers out there bringing traffic into it and following the vehicles around and the vehicles themselves had to interact with one another, so if two of them came to a four-way intersection with stop signs, they had to stop and take turns and if you squinted, you could kind of see the future, right? This was very cool. And then DARPA basically said …

Any big mishaps during …

No huge mishaps, there was some entertaining things. One of the vehicles literally drove into a building.

Oh fun.

Yeah. It was a big truck, it was one of these big military trucks and it drove into the building.

And they had given you the trucks they wanted you to …

No, everybody got to bring their own. There was another one where a car didn’t see one of these foldover gates and drove into it and basically the gate decapitated these Velodyne lasers, you know the spinning Kentucky Fried Chicken things. Right, it just drove into it and off the things flew.

Gone it went, which makes them get around, essentially.

Yeah, that was kind of the end of that for them. Then the cars from Cornell and MIT were in the competition. They both did incredibly well but they had the first robot-robot crash on course. So, that was …

Did they crash into each other? One wouldn’t give way for the other?

They were both moving at about three miles per hour and it was kind of like a super-slow-speed train wreck.

So they were like, “Nooooooo.”

“Nooooo.” It was very Austin Powers. Yeah. But then, you know, three, five, six vehicles finished that challenge.

So when you were doing these … These are all fun. I mean, I’ve seen, I’ve been to some of these events: Is it how things get created? Is these challenges and people try to do the contest … there’s bunches of space contests, all kind of different things. So you were doing this at Carnegie Mellon, how did you get to Google? This was what year you were doing these?

So this wound up in 2007, basically 10 years ago almost, yeah. It was quite early. I spent a couple years still at the university. I worked with Caterpillar and there we were moving, automating these big house-sized dump trucks, which was … imagine 400 tons with nobody in it moving 40 mph.

Yeah, I would imagine that would be scary.

Cool and scary, but yeah. So spent some time on that and then I … Sebastian Thrun and I had been talking about doing something together. We had been competing against one another in the challenges and thought it would be great to work together and we had a lot of respect for one another. The teams we had led finished one and two.

He was where?

He was at Stanford at the time. And then he had just sold View Tool to Google, which is what became Street View over time. So he was now mostly at Google and partly at Stanford. So we were talking about starting something, and at some point it came out that the right thing to do was actually just do it at Google. So in the beginning of 2009, I went on leave for my faculty position at Carnegie Mellon and moved my family, we moved out here. My wife was incredibly understanding; we had all our network of friends and relationships in Pittsburgh and things were feeling pretty good. It was this risk to move out to crazy California where everyone wears Birkenstocks and, you know, whatever. In retrospect, best decision we ever made.

Sure. So you came … and what was the promise? Did you meet with … who was most interested, Larry or Sergey? Both of them have been long interested in that.

Yeah. I think both of them have been long interested in it. When I came out, I chatted with Sebastian, chatted with some of the early team members and then we decided, “Yeah, let’s do this.”

But where does the impetus come at Google, from the top? They wanted to do … what was the idea at the beginning?

So the idea at the very beginning was to find out if this could actually be done and it really did come from the top. I credit Larry and Sergey for having the vision to go and try this before anyone else, right? In 2009. When we started talking about this 2010, it was kind of a joke, right? “Google’s doing self-driving cars, that’s such …” Effectively, “Why are they wasting money on this? That’s never going to work.”

But they saw this back in 2009, right? And they said it really came from a place of they have amazing technology, they have an incredible ability to harness engineering talent, and transportation is such an important problem to work on.

They had been working on a lot of different things, Fiber, all kinds of different schemes and stuff like that. They had some barge in San Francisco Bay that they were working on. This is an area of great interest to them, for some reason, I’m not sure why particularly. But they were the first, they were the first of the companies that set off the interest in it. At Carnegie Mellon, you were doing it mostly theoretically, correct? That the idea that who would … except for Caterpillar, I’m thinking, or the military.

Yeah, the military, Caterpillar, we had sponsorship from General Motors. They had set up a research lab. Volkswagen had a lab out here with Stanford. So but it was still in the, “Hey, this is 20 to 30 years out” kind of mindset, not the committed, concentrated effort that we saw at Google.

So what were you trying to do there initially at Google when you were starting?

So the goal initially was just to show, prove to ourselves that this could actually become a technology that works. So we had basically two milestones. One was to drive 100,000 miles on public roads, which was ten times more than anyone had done before. And then the other was to drive a 1,000 miles of really interesting roads.

What’s an interesting road?

So driving down the Pacific Coast Highway between San Francisco effectively and LA, or driving all the Bay bridges and dealing with all of the interchanges. And if you remember when 92 and 680 was all dug up, so we’re driving through that at the time, or driving through the Presidio where there’s these windy roads and in fact, this one place where there’s a road that’s only one lane wide but traffic goes both directions on it. We drove Lombard Street.

Oh, the crookedest street in the world. And those goals were because just to show … to have hype around it or have proof that you could do these things?

The two goals were slightly different. The 100,000 miles goal was really to kind of get statistical data, right. To say, we’re not just kind of driving anything once. This is an interesting data set we can learn something from.

Right, to teach the cars, that’s what you’re trying to do, presumably.

To teach and understand, teach the engineering team, too. It wasn’t just data gathering, it was like, “Oh I never really thought about how retro-reflective signs are or how difficult it is to understand the behavior of an articulated truck.” And then the 1,000 miles …

But humans do by themselves, for the most part, successfully.

Yeah. It’s very humbling as somebody working in this space, how easy some of these tasks are for people to do and how hard they are to actually get software and technology to solve.

So you were doing that there and you created both cars that were outfitted? Like those Priuses you talked about and then the car itself, the koala car.

Thank you.

No problem, it looks like a clown. But talk about why the different efforts, because one is semi-autonomous, correct?

No, they were all on the path to being fully automated. Yeah.

Why go in those two directions at Google at the time? Which everyone followed, really.

First, it was expedient. So when we started with the Priuses we were trying to understand whether this was even interesting or viable and so we wanted to get on the road as quickly as we could, safely of course but quickly. So, that meant using a vehicle. We then moved to the Lexus and it was the same thing, we were augmenting the Lexuses with our sensors and getting them out on the road, but again it was towards fully self-driving vehicles.

When we started the koala car, that was to now starting thinking more about what this looks like as a product. So we’ve spent a lot of time learning about the technology and we’re getting closer to having it ready to deploy. What’s the first vehicle we’d like where somebody might see it on the road with nobody behind the wheel? How do we, as we start to think about partnerships with car companies, how do we become a better educated partner so that as we work with them and they say something about the flux capacitor, we have some inclination about what a flux capacitor is, right?

Yeah. You’re making a reference from a movie. Anyway when we get back with Chris Urmson, we’re going to talk more about what are the challenges they faced at Google and why he started his startup Aurora.


We’re here with Chris Urmson, who was the first CTO of the Google car effort and now has his own self-driving car startup, Aurora.

So you were at Google doing these things trying essentially to proof of concept, would that be the right way to put it? Or really wanted to make products. You, I know, wanted to make a car on the road, correct?

Yeah. The company really wants to make a product. I believe that deeply. There’s very little value in working on technology if you don’t get it out there and get it helping people.

Right. What was the path to do that? Because everyone suddenly jumped in from Apple, Tesla, everybody else was jumping in, Uber and others. Talk about that environment when suddenly everybody gets excited about something that you were one of the few companies doing.

Yeah, I think on the one hand, you’d like to be able to be the one company doing this and pushing it forward, and on the other, it’s awesome. Because you know a — what is it? — a rising sea floats all boats. And so if you think about the social values of the increased safety on the road, the better access to mobility for people, we want to see this happen, right? I think it’s really important for society, and so as more companies get involved, there’s a broader ecosystem, there’s more likelihood that one of them succeeds. So I think that’s fantastic, right? That’s very desirable.

Right, and so everybody rushed in, including creating companies. Why did you leave Google? What was the … what happened?

So at the end of the day, I just … I wasn’t having as much fun, right? And we had a tremendous team and it’s an amazing company. I owed it to the team and I owed it to the company that I was at my best. It just didn’t seem like that was where I was, and you know they had tremendous leaders there, Dmitri Dolgov is a very close friend of mine and he’s just fantastic. He’s stepped up and leading the technology development; with John coming in they have an experienced automotive person there. It seemed like a good time to step aside, and honestly, when I left, I didn’t know what I was going to do. It wasn’t like, “I’m out of here. I’m going to go make a self-driving car company.” It was …

What did you want to do different that you couldn’t do with the giant sums of money Google throws at people at all times of day?

I just didn’t know what I wanted to do. I talked to a couple companies, actually. This is hard to say, I was talking to a couple of different companies that were working on flying cars.

Flying cars, okay.

Blows my mind that I can say that today.

All owned by Larry Page, anyway, go ahead. I know he has one of them.

They were in fact … I talked to a number of car companies. I talked to … I was just genuinely, “Hey, I’ve spent the last decade-plus working on this.”

“I know a thing or two about self-driving cars,” just when everybody is suddenly very interested in it.

Well, that was part of … you know like certainly people … it was very flattering, right? When I left there was a lot of interest in talking to me about it, but I was not convinced that this was the next thing I should be doing, right? It was an amazing ride at Google and it was time to like, “Okay, let’s see what else is out there.”

Were you worried they weren’t going to make a car, like actually produce a car, or …

No, I don’t think that’s necessarily the right path, for Google to make a car. I think Google is very good at the technology side of this, the self-driving technology …

So as they did in phones. They didn’t make the phones, they made ….

Right, well, that was recently. But no, I think they were very good at the self-driving technology, and there’s people who are very good at making cars and it seems clear that the right path is to marry those up or marry a few of them together. From what I can tell from the outside at this point, it seems like they’re making progress for that. Seems like Fiat Chrysler and them are working well together. I read something in the press about Honda potentially or not, it’s hard to say.

Let’s talk a little — quickly, before we talk about your startup — about the big car companies in this, very slow to it initially but now GM bought up Cruise, everybody’s trying to get a piece of it. Talk about their roles, because they’re the obvious …

At one point I had one car person saying, “Oh it’s trivial to build a car.” I was like, “No, it’s not. No, it’s not.” Yeah, you’re shaking your head. And I was sort of … that’s so arrogant of Silicon Valley. I mean, obviously the software is incredibly difficult, but car building is incredibly hard at the same time. And yet they’ve been pretty slow. Why is that, from your perspective?

So I think it’s really important to understand the context, right? And I think the biggest thing that’s lacking — honestly, on both sides — is mutual respect. Because I think it’s very easy for Silicon Valley to look at the car companies and say, “Oh my goodness, they’re so slow.”

“We’re going to disrupt them.”

They’re going to disrupt them, right? And then it’s very easy for the car companies to say, “Oh my goodness, look at those Silicon Valley guys, they’re so seat-of-their-pants,” right? “How can they actually ever do anything big and complicated?” Obviously both of those statements are completely false.

What you have when you look at the car companies, you have to realize they’ve been at this for 100 years, they work in this incredibly regulated industry and they kind of make a miracle happen like every two minutes. They basically put a car on the road that’s going to work for the next 15 years, that’s got explosions going off inside it, right, and it just works. You’re safe, right? If you get in a car crash, more likely than not …

Most cars you’re safe in, yeah. No, they’re very safe comparatively.

Comparatively. Certainly in the U.S. right? You’re going to do pretty well. So there’s so much constraints on their ecosystem that they’ve developed management processes and they’ve developed business processes that allow them to execute within those constraints. It takes two billion dollars to make a new car. If you could imagine, if to launch any web app you had to spend two billion dollars, the process that we put in place and the way we’d invest in them would be very different.

And so my view is that, the key is to get … find a way to have a trusting and respectful relationship on both sides, where because of all of those great processes they have in place to allow them to ship cars, they’re not particularly good at kind of innovative software development, right? Those processes are great for the engineering cycles they need, but they’re not really compatible with the top-flight Silicon Valley software engineers.

So this is where we thought that Aurora could maybe fit, is that we do have people who understand — you know, not nearly with the depth that the folks in the automotive space have — but respect how complicated what they do is and at the same time we actually pretty deeply understand the complexity of developing the self-driving car systems and how to do that and how to motivate the team and how to build the team that needs to do that. So that’s the goal for Aurora, is to get self-driving cars on the road as quickly as possible and do that safely and thoughtfully and do it through partnership with the folks that can help us.

Right, which is the carmakers.

It’s carmakers, it’s a broader ecosystem than that.

What meaning?

Meaning that, transportation as a service — you know, whether it be Uber, Lyft or Didi, right? That’s going to be an important part of how this technology comes to market. The car company … you have to have a car to have a self-driving car. There’s folks who actually … so I think I understand a little bit about lasers, a little bit about radar, can probably contribute to the design of those, but I don’t really know how to make it so that it can submerge in a salt bath and drive on your car for the next 15 years. So there’s a whole collection of tier-one automotive suppliers who know how to do that part really well. And it would be silly for me to try and do that or for even our team even to do that.

Right, but it requires the coordination of a lot of people and that I think is why it’s so difficult.


What’s interesting is that carmakers themselves, though seen as slow, it’s sort of eating into their current business. I mean, every time they can ship a Ford 150 or whatever, the trucks and things like that, there’s that. Like who’s thinking of it at these car companies?

They’re looking at companies like Uber, Didi and Lyft and they’re seeing that something is happening.

Meaning nobody wants to drive.

Well, not just nobody wants to drive, but there’s an immense amount of value — at least on paper being credited. And if you look at, say, the market cap of Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler, the U.S. big three, and you look at the market cap of Uber, Didi and Lyft, they’re basically the same. I think it may actually be …

And Tesla is all of them together or something like that.

Well, I don’t know about all of them together, but it’s bigger than one or two of the U.S. guys. I think that the market cap of the ride-sharing companies is probably going to double in the next few years.

Why is that, given that … they sell millions of cars and make lots of money, this group doesn’t?

I think that part of it is the opportunity to capture kind of the usage of the car in a way that they can’t do as a car company. So when you buy a car, you know you probably use it … I don’t know if you own a car or not.

Yeah, I do.

You probably use it an hour, maybe two hours a day at most. If you’re in the ride-sharing business and you operate it effectively, you might be operating that car 16, 18 hours a day. And so you get much higher utilization so there’s much higher value you create out of that vehicle.

So the carmakers, the danger they had … they have been worried about is becoming the dumb pipes, essentially, the way the cable operators were.

Yeah and often the metaphor they use is they don’t want to be the handset provider, actually. And part of that is because what they do is complicated and valuable and so they don’t want that to be devalued.

So how do they stop being that way?

Well, they’re trying. You see almost all of them at this point running a different set of experiments, whether it be Ford with the ride-sharing bicycles around town and Chariot, or General Motors with the Lyft investment and purchasing Cruise, or VW with the experiments they’re running as well. So they are trying to make the leap and they’re trying to be innovative, and I hope some of them succeed. I just think it’s going to be difficult for them given how they’ve operated historically.

Right, so what do they have to do? Buy things or just … move or what?

So I believe they need to work with partners, right? I get that that’s kind of my thesis.

So let’s move then to the tech companies that are working on it. Apple which seems to have pulled out somewhat, Google, Tesla, Uber, all of them. What’s their problem? What challenges do they face?


They don’t make cars, one.

Well, except Tesla, Tesla makes cars, and so on paper I think Tesla is positioned pretty strongly in this space. I think the biggest challenge with Tesla is that the approach they’re taking is not maybe connected with reality on what it takes to actually make the car drive itself.

Meaning what?

Meaning, I think they’re underestimating the complexity of actually getting to a fully self-driving car.

Right. Theirs is semi-autonomous.

Yeah. And I think it’s potentially a great feature, what they’re developing, and Elon has a very complicated space that he’s fighting in and he needs to have feature parity with the luxury cars. So some of what he’s doing really makes a ton of sense, but it’s hard for me to believe that with that just cameras that they’re going to, in any time in the near future, get to the level of reliability you really need to launch a car where you can kind of go to sleep in it and let it take you where you want to go.

Right, we’ll talk about it in the next section. And then, the regulatory environment, you know that’s another thing and then humanity is one of the biggest issues. But talk about the regulatory environment first.

And this is what actually makes this space so exciting, right? It’s the technology is really interesting and cool, the business cases are pretty exciting and then there’s this incredible opportunity for social good, but you have to communicate that. You have to work with the regulatory bodies, whether it be at the state, city or federal level. Right now, I think in general the tone is relatively optimistic.

The federal government set guidance last year that you know was basically as attractive as they could make it, I think, reasonably be expected to make it. A number of states are trying to jump in to support and to kind of encourage the technology coming to their state. The challenge with that is that we don’t really need them to do a whole lot, and the worst thing would be for there to be 50 different sets of rules because then you’re in your self-driving car and you get to the border, and now it’s not legal in a new state.

How does the government do that? Is this federal government equipped to do that?

They’re working hard to be. What’s … and maybe this is nuanced, but the way regulation works is at the federal level they regulate the safety of the car and at the state level they regulate the safe operation of the car. So the driver … and so what’s fascinating about self-driving cars is you’re now making a virtual driver and so there’s a little bit of state-federal power grab for who gets to make the rules around that.

Right, right. Where do you think it ends up?

In the interest of my sanity and other people’s work in the space, we wanted the federal so there’s kind of one regulation nationally.

Right, which is something, everything is regulated by the state, DMV, almost everything that touches the user.

Yeah. Anything that’s operating the vehicle, like which roads you can run it on, which speed limits you can drive at, who’s appropriate to drive, that’s all kind of state level.

Are there any states that are really fast forward? I’m guessing California.

So California, through Senator Bhatia’s leadership, ended up putting out regulation … Nevada actually had regulation out before them. Florida had some guidelines out early. They were really well intentioned, but what we’re seeing is in some cases a little bit of the regulation was there before we were really ready for it. And for the most part it’s not been an issue, but it’s … you look at some of it now and you say, “Oh, hm. Maybe that wasn’t quite what …”

What’s the biggest problem?

Oh I don’t have a great example off the top of my head.

But there’s …

There’s just like little things. There’s no huge problems.

Cart before horse.

Yeah a little bit.

Or car, so to speak. No more horses.

Yeah. So to speak.

And what about internationally?

So internationally, it’s interesting. So in Europe they’re generally more conservative and the law there … in the U.S. the law is generally permissive: You know, if we don’t say you can’t do it then do it and if somebody gets offended they’re going to sue you. In Europe, they’re much more strict at delineating what it is you’re allowed to do and what you’re not. So I think the law in Europe historically has been relatively protectionist. So as the European auto manufacturers get to the point where technology is ready and the law obviously moves along with it.

Along with the car manufacturers.


And there’s no big tech firm there that really is out in front of this.

Well again, they would argue that a Volkswagen or a Daimler is a big … yeah, but you’re right, there isn’t outside of that. But those two companies are investing heavily in this space.

Yes, they are. I’ve been in some other cars. So last thing, humans. The idea of humans doing … I mean obviously Tesla got a lot of press when that man died. That was just in a semi-autonomous car, but the idea of sleeping or doing something else or watching a movie or doing anything else. When I was in the car I was like, “Where’s the bar?” kind of thing, “I think I’ll text,” and things like that, but that was because I was in a parking lot at Google and I felt totally comfortable doing that. How do you switch humanity into that mode? I think they’ll do it really fast.

I do too. And we’ve seen this.

Because I felt comfortable pretty quickly.

Yeah. It’s amazing how quickly people go from, “Oh my goodness, how could it possible work?” to “Oh, all it does it drive?” Right? And they do that in a matter of minutes to hours. And I think this is one of the biggest challenges for some of the semi-autonomous features, is that …

The grab for the thing.

Well, it’s not even that they grab for it, it’s that they experience it for a while and it works, right? And maybe it works perfectly every day for a month. The next day it may not work, but their experience now is, “Oh this works,” and so they’re not prepared to take over and so their ability to kind of save it and monitor it decays with time.

But when we think about the rate at which bad things happen, they’re very low. So you know in America, somebody dies in a car accident about 1.15 times per 100 million miles. That’s like 10,000 years of an average person’s driving. So, let’s say the technology is pretty good but not that good. You know, someone dies once every 50 million miles. We’re going to have twice as many accidents and fatalities on the roads on average, but for any one individual they could go a lifetime, many lifetimes before they ever see that. So that experience with the technology and kind of becoming falsely comfortable with the safety of it is one of the challenges they face.

Also, liking to drive, how do you beat that? What’s your argument?

So, people like to drive some of the time, right? There’s an awful lot of driving that people do that they really hate. Road rage would not be a thing if people truly liked driving.

So enjoyable this traffic jam, we’re looking right now at the Bay Bridge.

I’m really enjoying 101 today.

I hate the Bay Bridge.

Yeah. And so, I think what this can do is, so much of getting around is just mundane. Let’s make that pleasurable, right? People are on their phone, people are wanting to do other things in the car. Like instead of kind of continuing prohibition, once this technology is out there we now allow people to do what they want. And while they do that, they’ll still be safe in the vehicle. Then for people who want to enjoy driving, go and drive in your spare time, like go drive on Sunday afternoon when the roads aren’t bad and you enjoy it.

Sure, like a horse.

Yeah. I think over time that’s kind of … that’s going to be the experience.

Even that whole idea of Americans love their cars … I don’t think they do.

I think a lot of Americans do. I think they take pride in it, I think they do spend an hour or two a day in it, and the … you know, people buy a car because what it says about them, right? It’s kind of their avatar on the road.

I have a Ford Fiesta, I don’t know what that says since I don’t care about cars.

You’re like, “I wish I had a self-driving car right now. This is so awful.”

It’s a stick shift. But I only got it because it was the cheapest smallest car that was fast.

You could get a small cheap car with an automatic transmission.

That’s true, but I like my stick shift.

Yeah. Exactly, so there’s part of driving you enjoy.

That’s true. So finishing up this section, so how much money have you guys raised for what you’re doing? What precisely does Aurora do?

Yeah. So we aren’t talking about how much money we’ve raised …

I’m assuming a buttload because everybody’s … everyone and their mother is raising money.

We’ve been fortunate in our ability to raise money. So far we’ve just taken a little bit of money from some folks who helped me and my other co-founders think about how to start up a company and just grow.

And your idea is to help … be the software layer, presumably.

Yeah. We’d like to be the system. So we’re going to work on the software and we’re going to build a reference architecture that we’ll share with automotive partners that’ll include: These are the sensors you should have, these are roughly where you should have them on the vehicle and this is the computation you should have. We’ll be designing our software to work with that reference architecture and then hopefully …

If it’s a current car that already has a wheel or if it doesn’t, if it moves to the other part.

So we’ll be agnostic. Our intent is to build the self-driving vehicle capability. There’s a lot of companies, all the tier-one automotive suppliers are developing the driver system, so things where you’re still driving but it’s keeping you in lane or doing adaptive cruise control. We want to work on the part that comes after that.

Right, fully self-driving.

Fully self-driving.

All right, we’re with Chris Urmson, we’re talking about self-driving cars and where they’re going. We’re going to talk next about the future and what the future actually looks like when we get back.


We’re here with Chris Urmson of Aurora. Chris used to be the CTO of Google’s self-driving efforts. Talk a little bit about where we’re going. First, I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask, you were at Google during the Anthony Levandowski era, you’ve been sucked up into Waymo. It’s called Waymo now, Google’s self-driving unit. Where is that name from? Don’t tell me, you don’t know either. I don’t know.

No, I don’t know.

What’s going to happen there, this fight with Uber … I’m guessing you’re being deposed and etc. so you can’t say much.

Yeah, so in fact I was deposed yesterday, so there’s not much I can say. The good news is I don’t know a whole lot, right? I obviously had some experience with Anthony and spent a lot of time with the team, but don’t know what they’ve found and what the true meat of the case is.

Right, but I think at the center of this there’s going to be a lot of fighting over this stuff because everybody wants to sort of have the edge going forward. So let’s talk about how quickly that edge is coming because there’s lots of money going in, every week there’s a different self-driving car unit gets sold or there’s some aspect of it. Let’s talk about what it looks like, where does it come first? Like Levandowski had Otto, which was the trucks. You were talking about working with Caterpillar long ago, military … where do the first ones really emerge that are useful and not completely accident-proof but pretty close?

Sure. So we’re already seeing this technology come to market today. There are mines where you can go to where they have big haul trucks they call them, big dump trucks driving around with nobody in them. So, in those kind of closed-course environments you can see …

Sure, where they’re on tracks.

They’re not literally on tracks, they’re on roads and they’re using GPS and figuring out where they are, but it’s mostly a closed site. You can go and see that today. I don’t know exactly where they are, but I’m sure some folks at Caterpillar would be able to tell you.

And you’re starting to see some of the really high-end driver system features, where I think Audi just announced that their 2019 or 2018 model you’ll be able to go on a freeway, on a divided highway at less than 35 mph it’ll stay in the lane and not bump into the cars around you and you can read a book or whatever for however long the traffic jam lasts. So you’re starting to see that today.

I think within the next five years, you’re going to see transportation services, fleets, vehicles where in kind of some limited environments they’ll be on the road and you’ll be able to get a ride in one.

And this is without a driver in them.

I think without a driver, yeah.

You’ll just get in. What’s limited? What do you mean by limited? Like around a university, where there’s no other humans or …

No it’ll …

No driving cars. I think the issue is that they’re humans is the problem. If everything was self-driving presumably they could start really talking to each other.

It would be much easier. That is what makes my job hard … yeah let’s not ….

Me. I’m the problem.

It also undercuts some of the value, right? People move around. It’ll be in environments where it’s relatively benign. So nice wide roads, maybe not as many people using them, I think that’s part of the reason why somewhere like Arizona is appealing, right? It’s a relatively modern city, it’s so darn hot that you don’t have a whole lot of people enjoying the outdoors.

So you can’t run them over. That’s your point.

Yes. You know, and again, the safety arguments here really all come down to statistics. It’s a statistical argument that the rate at which bad things will happen is lower with the automation than it is with people. And so, wherever you can find advantages to push the statistics in the right direction, then you know that’s the way to think about this as an engineer.

So you would, say, have a car come and pick you up, no driver in it, in these places like Palm Springs, for example.

Somewhere like that, yeah. And I imagine that happening within the next five years. Then, once you kind of are able to let that proverbial genie out of the bottle, at that point it becomes incremental to make it work in slightly more difficult places. The big delta will be when you have a partner that can allow you to scale the technology because making 100 of something or making even 1,000 of something is manageable. But when we want to get to the point where the technology is proven and you want to scale it to the point where it can service a whole city or hopefully many cities, then you need somebody who knows how to make vehicles and you need somebody who knows how to make sensors that’ll last and can do that repeatedly.

Where is the problem? Is it the sensor problem? Or where is … humans, I’m guessing, is the biggest one. People, other people, when you have that moment of mixing … probably when you mixed horses with cars was probably one of the more dangerous moments of car introduction.

Hence the person walking in front of the car with the flags. I don’t know if you’ve heard this story.

No, no, tell me.

Yeah, so apparently, I can’t remember which state it was, it was somewhere east. When the first cars came out there was a law in the books that you had to have somebody walk in front of your car with a red flag so that you wouldn’t startle the horses, which somewhat undercuts, again, the value of the car. Obviously we don’t do that today.

Right. So there has to be a transition period. Do you imagine cities getting rid of cars completely and then using only self-driving units? That could be something …

I think in the distant future, yeah. I think there’s going to be a long period of crossover where there’s going to be people driving cars and self-driving cars together on the roads and that’ll be the most difficult time. And then once the technology starts to prove out, the opportunities again for safety, for low-cost mobility, for mobility for people who can’t see or can’t otherwise drive, reducing congestion and all this stuff, cities will want … because we’re only seeing … in the U.S. we’re seeing urbanization. In China, they’re seeing urbanization in a way that I can’t comprehend and so what we need to find is a way to provide the same mobility that you and I take for granted, but that can scale to a much denser population. I think that’s one of the promises this technology has.

What role does …. so people would not own cars, right? Presumably they would hire. This is why Uber and Didi and all these companies have such big valuations because they’re the reservation system essentially for these things that you wouldn’t own a car.

I think you wouldn’t need to.


Right, so for someone like yourself who professes to hate driving, you only own a car because you need the convenience of it. If somebody were offering you the same service but it would show up, you wouldn’t have to worry about driving and you knew it was going to be there and it was going to work and it was as expensive or less than your current thing, then you would take it. And I think you see this in New York today, where a vast majority of people don’t own cars because it’s much more convenient to use …

Like cabs, public transportation.

Right, which was transportation as a service at the time.

What happens to public transportation during all this?

So I think this ends up becoming public transportation.


You know, buses are fantastic when they’re loaded, right? That’s one of the best ways that you can actually move people.

But on certain paths only, right?

Right. On certain paths, but most of the time they’re not.

Or they don’t go where you want.

Or they don’t go where you want and the whole system of where do we set the routes is a very political process that maybe is not the best that it could be. If instead over time we keep the buses for the core routes and treat them almost like trains, but then we either serve to them or go point to point with much smaller vehicles that really stop at your house, stop at my house, I don’t know where you live but if we live close to each other. That would be a really bad routing. But on the way, and really they … it looks like public transportation on demand and it’s actually, when you look at some of the numbers on this, you can probably operate that at a lower cost per mile to the transit authority than the bus system.

There wouldn’t even be a transit authority, save money, make money for someone else.

I think there’s some things that should be public good over time and it feels like … over time this might be something that becomes part of the utility of the city.

The utility of the city. What are some of the weirder transportation modes that you know? Vertical lift and take off, Uber was thinking about that. I don’t know, they’ve got some issues right now to deal with separately, but talk about like where the craziest transportation schemes are coming, from your perspective. You like robots coming out of volcanoes, I’m assuming vertical lift and take off …

That seems pretty cool.

Yeah. That’s where you say you’re here in San Francisco and you want to get to Berkeley and not go over that horrible Bay bridge, you just get in a … it’s not a helicopter, it’s something else.

It’s like a giant drone that flies you over there, right? That actually sounds pretty neat to me. One of the neat things that’s happened with drone technology is you solve reliability. The nice thing about being up in the sky is there’s not a whole lot to hit, right?


Yet. But even then, there’s so much more space than there is on the ground. We’re stuck on the surface. Once you get up there you can segment: All the eastbound traffic could be at one elevation, all the westbound at another, north and south, and so you don’t end up with a whole lot.

You don’t have to build roads where we’re going. There’s no need.

There’s no need for roads. Thank you, Doc Brown. Yeah.

Speaking of that, so vertical lift and take off, flying cars …


Which is an adjunct, a to-the-side adjacency, correct?


When are those coming?

I don’t know.

They’re working on it.

They’re working on it.


Why? I think because there is … you know, again, I think it’s this density and congestion problem and that there’s just so much resource available up there in terms of space that if we can tap into that maybe it makes it more livable. I worry a little bit about the sound.

They’re noisy.

Maybe this is a little too nimby, but you know there’s going to be a lot of noise.

Well I don’t want someone taking off a car in my neighborhood, you’re right. Like why would you want it? What about jetpacks? C’mon.

I don’t know much about jetpacks. I haven’t seen that.

Okay, you’re not working on those.

Personally I’m not working on flying cars either.

What is the craziest thing that you … well, a teleporter.

A teleporter would be fantastic. That would solve the commute problem, put me out a job. That would be great. I haven’t seen a whole lot … the Boring Company stuff, the idea of digging giant tunnels seems on the one hand, I remember looking at …

This is Elon Musk’s …

Tunnel boring. Yeah. So on the one hand I remember reading books about the future and it was all going to be vacuum pods moving underground …


Yeah, they didn’t call it that at the time. I think he coined that later. So on the one hand that would be … it would make the future happen, at least the 1970-something future happen. On the other hand, it seems like there’s other ways that we can … digging holes seems hard.

Yeah. I think he just likes to fuck with us all the time. Like he’ll say something crazy. “Next I will be invisible.” “Oh yes. Yay Elon!” Do you know what I mean?

I know what you mean.

You know what I mean? Well good, I’m glad someone’s doing that. I really admire him for putting out.

And what Tesla and SpaceX …

It’s better than a photo app, let’s just say.

Yeah. You know what Tesla and SpaceX, their mission is just tremendous. Right? I’ve got to believe for the folks that’s incredibly motivating.

So to finish up, give me the timeline. When is this going to be like done?

It’s never going to be done.

No I know, but like right now cars are done. There’s no more horses around.

Oh the transition? I think it’s going to take at least 30 years.

30 years.

At least. Just part of that is it takes about 15 years for a car to cycle through the American, what we call the car park, right? The cars on the road. Part of it is the technology’s not ready yet and there’s going to be continued development on it over time to get it to the point where it can really be deployed. Part of it is that, unlike a web app or a mobile app, there’s actually investment you have to make to adopt it and so it’s going to have a slower roll out.

There certainly is a lot of money going towards it.

There’s a lot of money going towards it, but even a lot of money when you start thinking about buying cars, it starts to get factored down pretty quickly.

I want to finish up on the social concept of it, which we talked to a lot of Silicon Valley people about, is if you’re going to make all these cars, self-driving cars and autonomous vehicles, do you have a responsibility to those who lose their jobs? Do you think about that as an inventor?

Yeah, no, this is actually something I do think about a fair bit. It’s a real challenge and this ends up being a trade-off in social goods. So on the one hand, there’s people who drive for a living today.

Not just at parking lots, insurance companies, like you could iterate and iterate and iterate.

There’s a lot of scale in this business, and a lot of ecosystem. On the other hand, you have the opportunity to make people safer on the road and save tens of thousands of lives.

Save energy.

Save energy, which is good for the environment, good for the planet. You can decrease congestion, give everybody back more time. You can give access to people, probably a commensurate number of people that can’t drive today as those who drive for a living, and then you give them the freedom now to go and contribute to the economy, have a job and work in a way they may not otherwise be able to. So it’s difficult, right? No matter what you do, whether … you know if I go buy lunch at Subway or Jack in the Box, you know that has some implication in it. I don’t mean to be trite about this, but how you put your finger on the social scale here is a really tough question. I don’t have a good answer.

Well, who’s responsible then? I think one of the things that Silicon Valley is, it’s not responsible, and very similar to a lot of companies that make things and change things. But who? Is it the government? Is it … because then you could lead to you know we’re right in the middle of a populist political situation, could get worse.

I’m not … in no way am I trying to abdicate the responsibility of …

I get that, but wondering who you think … I’m not blaming you.

No, no, I appreciate that. I think we all are and I think that this is one of the saddest things for me about what’s happening in the political world right now is, we are faced with a variety of challenges, right? It started early with factory automation. It started with globalization. And these are things that have been good, much like self-driving technology. It’s hard to argue, I think, on an Earth-wide perspective that globalization was a bad thing. I think it tied countries together, it raised the economies in parts of the world that wouldn’t otherwise have. Yeah, it made us interdependent in a way that prevents war, and so there was some clear social good from that, but it wasn’t distributed uniformly. Like any change is not distributed uniformly.

It’s part of our community, part of our political leadership, part of our social activism, is finding the right way to bring society, all of society, along with that. I think we’ve fallen short. It’s clear that we’ve fallen short. I don’t think we would be in the political situation we are today if we had not fallen short. I would love to be able to tell you, like, this is my vision, this is the answer. Honestly, it hurts a little bit not to be able to do that because I recognize the implications of what we’re doing. I just, I’m not smart enough and I think we need to attack it together.

Interesting. I had Marc Andreessen onstage talking about this and he was like, “Well, there were blacksmiths.” I’m like, “Yeah, but what about the blacksmith families? What happened to them?” What happened to … you don’t even know what happened to them. They went away, certainly. They died eventually, but it’s a really interesting question that Silicon Valley abdicates its responsibility for … and this is a big one. To me, this a really … like the biggest.

I think this is, yeah …

You know, they’ve ruined media, but that’s okay we’ll be fine, but you know what I mean, like it’s sort of …

It’s important and it’s not … this is a broader challenge that we’re facing that isn’t just self-driving cars. I think the automation is going to kick in more broadly. I think it’s going to be on a … kind of the net it’s going to be a good thing. I think in general the advance of technology has been a good thing, but it requires us to be thoughtful and it requires us to come together and figure out how do we help those that are displaced. How do we move them into new roles? How do we even think about that? It is something I worry about. Unfortunately it’s in the state of academic worry.

One concrete way to think about this — and we talked earlier about public transit. You could imagine like bus drivers lose their jobs. That’s certainly one way that the pendulum could swing. An alternative is, we put the bus drivers on the core routes that are driving the buses, we don’t hire any more bus drivers, but we phase this technology in over time and we support it with the self-driving cars. The self-driving cars, if we get reasonable occupancy on them and they really are a public transit, then today we subsidize public transit, about 90 percent of it is subsidized by taxes. We instead will no longer have to subsidize it and then we have this extra money that’s sat around in city and transport authority coffers that we can use in different ways.

Yeah, yeah, you have to be. It’s interesting, I was just in Kentucky and talking to some coal miners. They’re like, “They’re going to bring back jobs.” The minute they can automate you, my friend, they’re going to automate your work and they probably already have in lots of ways, which is interesting. It’s definitely an interesting question for all of us, I think. And I’m so glad someone as thoughtful as you is thinking about it. You’re more thoughtful than most people. Most people are like, “Eh, let’s invent it. Who cares?”

No, I think that’s dangerous.

Yup, I agree with you. Chris it was great talking to you. Thanks for coming on the show.

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