Knowledge Institute Podcasts
Jamie Metzl on Global Interdependence
Jamie Metzl explains the Declaration of Interdependence, which calls for all countries and individuals to act beyond their unique interests, but for a shared interest that requires the free and open exchange of ideas and a sense of mutual responsibility toward the whole.
Hosted by Jeff Kavanaugh, VP and Head of the Infosys Knowledge Institute.
“The only way that I believe that we're going to solve these big common challenges is by recognizing that we all live in an interconnected world and that we have mutual responsibilities connected to our interdependence.”
- Jamie Metzl
Jamie Metzl, you are the founder and OneShared.World. And in a time of unprecedented disruption, why is your Declaration of Interdependence especially relevant now?
Jeff introduces Jamie
What inspired you to pursue this path and how did you get here?
(paraphrased) As an executive who cares about the planet and cares about broader issues, what is a way to get the ball rolling with interdependence within your own sphere?
What are some concrete steps an executive can take to move towards this shared understanding and this interdependence, and yet not abandon their day to day responsibilities?
How do we generate more critical thinking and sharing of ideas in that capacity where we're digging at the problem and not so much at the people.
How about Artificial Intelligence, pulling all this data in… how is it going to help us be better critical thinkers and make better decisions? And what are some examples you're seeing of that and what are some things to guard against?
Can you share one or two [lessons from nature] that you find especially interesting about how nature adapts or solves these problems or their approach to it, and maybe new lessons for us?
You recently said on COVID-19 that this is not a 2001 moment, 9/11 , this is something much bigger. I think of this as a 1941 moment. What did you mean by this?
Jamie discusses how worthwhile goals should seem impossible
What are books or people that stand out as significant influences and maybe books that you might recommend for others?
If we could swap seats and you could be across interviewing someone, for example, like on this podcast, who would be your dream candidate?
Jamie shares details about how to connect with him and to join the conversation
Jeff Kavanaugh: Jamie Metzl, you are the founder and OneShared.World. And in a time of unprecedented disruption, why is your Declaration of Interdependence especially relevant now?
Jamie Metzl: So Jeff we are living at this crazy, crazy time, and if you didn't have any perspective on the world around us, you would say, the problem is that we're facing this terrible COVID-19 pandemic and we are, and so many people are suffering. But if you ask this question, as I did in the very early stages of why are we suffering from this pandemic? You'd say, "Well, we weren't prepared for this." And then if you take a step back, you'd say, "We weren't prepared for the broad category of pandemics." And why couldn't we with all these decades of reports and warnings, and so many centuries of experience of pandemics, why weren't we prepared? And when I asked that question, that led me to ask the question, well, why aren't we prepared and why aren't we responsibly dealing with any of these big global challenges that we face and whether it's climate change, ecosystem destruction, the proliferation of weapons of mass murder and any of these big existential global threats, we're not prepared for any of them.
Jamie Metzl: And so for me, my whole life, the way I've imagined solving problems is you have to ask, if to travel up the river and say, "What's the source of this river?" And I certainly believe that the source of this river is the global collective action problem, that while our problems are increasingly global in nature, we are still predominantly organized nationally. And so there's a mismatch between global problems and predominantly national solutions. And yes, we have the United Nations, but it has never been able to function as we would hope it would because of the role that nation states play. And the only way that I believe that we're going to solve these big common challenges is by recognizing that we all live in an interconnected world and that we have mutual responsibilities connected to our interdependence.
Jamie Metzl: And so the Declaration of Interdependence, which first I drafted on my own, but then hundreds of people from around the world all came together to redraft is the anthem to the mutual responsibilities of that interdependence. And once we accept that, then the next step is to create a global constituency that's representing our common aspirations as humans to have our greatest common needs met. And that is what OneShared.World is all about.
Jeff Kavanaugh: And Global Interdependence is what we'll explore in today's conversation. Welcome to the Knowledge Institute Podcast, where we talk with experts on business and global trends, deconstruct main ideas and share their insights. I'm Jeff Kavanaugh, head of the Infosys Knowledge Institute. And today we're here with Jamie Metzl founder and chair of OneShared.World. In a world of increasing complexity and specialization, Jamie is a variety of things, the true polymath, futurist, geopolitical expert, science fiction novelist, and media commentator. Jamie is a Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council and has served in the White House, State Department and United Nations. He was also Deputy Staff Director of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee under Joe Biden.
Jeff Kavanaugh: In February 2019, Jamie was appointed to the World Health Organization, expert advisory committee on developing global standards for the governance and oversight of human genome editing. And like Jerry Maguire, Jamie stayed up all night in March of 2020 to write and post his Declaration of Global Interdependence, evolving the blog to a global movement in only 44 days. Was launched in May, 2020, OneShared.World is a long term strategy for global systemic change. Jamie's Magna Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Brown. Holds a PhD in Southeast Asian history from Oxford University and a JD from Harvard Law School.
Jeff Kavanaugh: And lastly, a whole lot of iron man triathlons and marathons. And in addition, there's a few books to highlight, Hacking Darwin, which is about genetic enhancement, the future of humanity, and a history of the Cambodian genocide and historical novel, The Depths of The Sea. And a couple of genetic sci-fi thrillers. As Jamie writes, "From this point onward, our mutation will not be random. It will be self designed. And from this point onward, our selection won't be natural. It will be self directed." Jamie, thanks so much for joining us.
Jamie Metzl: I'm really happy to be here Jeff.
Jeff Kavanaugh: I went to that long bio, partly because it was a good homage. And also because it seems to inform this interdependence and what might appear to be separate. The background with Cambodia, the Southeast Asia, the human genome and these other big problems. They all seem to come back to these common interests. Before we get too much into that, what inspired you to pursue this path and how did you get here?
Jamie Metzl: So this path of life and maybe I'll give a little bit of this path of OneShared.World, so, because they're connected. In this path of life, it's very important for me and for who I am and what I stand for that I am the son of a refugee. Certainly there are a lot of issues about refugees and immigration in the United States right now, but my father and grandparents came to the United States when my father was 13 in 1948, as refugees from Nazism in the aftermath of the war. So that certainly, was, and still is a very, very important part of my life and who I am and what I stand for.
Jamie Metzl: And when I was a freshman at Brown, I met a classmate of mine, Arn Chorn-Pond, who had been a survivor of the Cambodian killing fields. And I was so moved and inspired by his just incredible story that I went to the Brown library, I checked out every book. In those days we used to check out books. And I read everything I could on Cambodia that summer. I was 18, I quit my summer job in Kansas City, on the first day, had a garage sale of all the junk in my parents’ house, bought a ticket to Thailand, made my way to a refugee camp and had a life changing experience, volunteering, working with Cambodian and Hmong Hill tribe refugees. And that really, it really woke me up. It really showed me that we are all part of this interconnected world and that these problems, as I mentioned before, they all have a source.
Jamie Metzl: And if we're working at the tail end of problems, like refugee flows, it's really important work. But if we could spend 5,000 lifetimes on refugee flows if we're not addressing the problems that create refugees, we won't do what needs to be done. And now that was what led me to my work in government because governments making smart decisions are the key to solving a lot of problems. So that's when I worked on the National Security Council. And when I was there, I worked with a legendary government leader and still a close friend of mine, Richard Clarke, who was the person who essentially predicted 9/11, but was kind of powerless to do enough as much about it as he wanted. And Dick always used to say that the key to effectiveness in life is to foresee problems and to solve them. Try to solve them before they emerge, or as soon as possible.
Jamie Metzl: And that lead me to thinking about the big challenges that our world was facing. This was very early days with the rise of genetics, the increased power for more powerful uses of genetics and biotech tools to basically rewrite the code of life. And so it became very, very involved in that work. I've written, as you've mentioned, multiple books, and I'm now working with the World Health Organization on these issues. But the problems that we face in this world are global and systemic. And it certainly in the beginning of this pandemic, I came to the conclusion that this was ultimately a global problem, a structural, a systemic problem. And unless we had a structural and systemic response, we were just going to be out of the frying pan and into the fire again and again and again. And that's the origin of OneShared.World.
Jeff Kavanaugh: So many paths to take this on. One reminders we're going along here, I think we're toggling in two levels, maybe three levels. One is global big picture, which can be daunting. It should be daunting for anyone to talk about. There's also, especially, for the most of those listeners who are executives or leaders in a company, enterprises. So well, they've got big thorny issues. Sometimes they don't think at that level and day to day, how do you address global systemic problems at your company or your supply chain or your network of trading partners?
Jeff Kavanaugh: And then finally the third level is of course the self, we all have our own set of issues. And so if we can think about those three levels, as we're talking, as an executive, let's say, who cares about the planet and cares about these broader issues and yet has a remit, maybe a sphere of influence that's for a factory, for a company, or maybe as a tier one part of a supply chain or value network who can influence your suppliers, what is a way to think about a problem that you've probably identified and maybe even relate to this, it could be about being more sustainable or quality and get the ball rolling with the interdependence within your own sphere.
Jamie Metzl: One of the important things that I think we all need to understand when thinking about these big problems, they're almost so big that they become impersonal, depersonalized like climate change. People think, "Well, I could do a little bit, but if I use a plastic straw or don't use a plastic straw, the world is still in peril." And so I think one piece that's important is that we all have a role to play wherever we are. And I think that's really essential. But for people who are running businesses, normally for a lot of our lives, and certainly in many industries, we live on cruise control. The parameters of the world around us are relatively fixed and we know what we need to do. And it's very difficult and very challenging, and there's lots of ups and downs, but the super structure of the world remains constant. Certainly here in the United States, in many other countries, we've been blessed by a period of historic levels of stability.
Jamie Metzl: But imagine you're somebody who was working as a dentist in Syria before the Arab Spring and the Uprising, you probably thought you lived in that kind of world because there had been decades where the environment around you was just the same. And then sometimes there are these kinds of revolutionary moments like we're in now where we're no longer in this cruise control world and suddenly all of the foundations are at play. And that world requires a much greater level of situational awareness. You don't just need to understand your particular industry, whatever it is, you really need to understand the world around you. You really need to factor in a number of different factors and influences that maybe weren't all that relevant to you, or maybe even to any of us, and just a short number of months ago.
Jamie Metzl: And then that leads to the second question. And that is, what's the role? Let's say that anybody who's running a company or some kind of enterprise and logical response would see, wow, interdependence is a really big concept. What does that possibly mean to my industry? I'm running a software company, I'm running a business process, outsourcing company, whatever that is, and for that, I would break it down a little bit. So the Business Roundtable and others working with Larry Fink and other business leaders last year, had a really important initiative where they, a number of companies, essentially said that Milton Friedman, Chicago Principle of Economics, said the responsibility of companies are to its shareholders. And that certainly is true. But through the statement that they put out, they recognize that the responsibility of companies is also to stakeholders in addition to shareholders. And that's really, really important.
Jamie Metzl: And what we're talking about, the mutual responsibilities of interdependence, that's a next step in that progression. Because we're all living in this interdependent world. So if I am leading, for example, an energy company, I need to recognize that I have responsibilities to my shareholders, to the immediate stakeholders and as a citizen of the world, we all have responsibilities to making sure that we are making smart decisions for the benefit of all of humans and our planet. And it seems self-evident, but it's not. Because there's a lot of pressure on companies in highly competitive environments to maximize profits. If I'm I Chinese fishing company and then there's a lot of pressures on me as the leader of that company to basically just get as much fish as I possibly can, wherever I can find it, that's a lot of pressure.
Jamie Metzl: And we all have a lot of people who are relying on us for their livelihoods, countries that are depending on us to keep GDP growing and all of these kinds of measures that are actually very important. So how do we make that change? And the idea is that what we need to do is a little bit to learn from the virus. If I'm a carnivore, achieving your objective as a carnivore is actually really difficult. You have to grow until you're big and strong, then you need to... let's say, we're like a lion or a cheetah, you need to identify the zebra that looks like the right one for you. Then you need to chase it down. Then you need to tackle it. And that's actually, you can and get injured and then you need to... It's really hard. If you're a virus, it's a much easier strategy. You basically insert yourself into the host and then let the host do its work for you. And this all sounds very sinister because right now we are facing a deadly pathogen, but we remember that humans are 8% viral DNA.
Jamie Metzl: 8% of our genome is the result of viruses that have merged into us. And what we would like to do, in a positive way is to infect the world with a positive virus of an appreciation of the mutual responsibilities of our interdependence. And if all companies and all countries and all civil society organizations, and others can just recognize that, and it doesn't mean change everything, but it means when making decisions think about what are the interests of my shareholders, my stakeholders, and humanity as a whole and our shared home, if we can get that right balance, we think our world can be a much better and safer place.
Jeff Kavanaugh: We're here in a fascinating discussion with Jamie Metzl, expert on global interdependence and resilience. If we could go a little deeper with that, the skeptic, and say, who will pay for all of this? Because as a company, those pressures are real and you can also rationalize by saying, "If I spend all my money going green." Let's just say, "All my money doing something else. I may have to lay off people." Or I may not pay the taxes and some of the things you mentioned, what are some concrete steps an executive can take to move towards this shared understanding and this interdependence, and yet not abandon their day to day responsibilities?
Jamie Metzl: That's why balance is so important. If you're running a company, you have a lot of responsibilities to a lot of people. First and foremost, in many ways, your employees. And so you need to be successful in the business that you're doing, not just for you, but a capitalist society requires competitive companies. And that's why it's really difficult. I mean, it's great when companies and other organizations move to do this sort of thing on their own. And there are examples of companies that are taking steps towards doing the right thing. And it turns out, surprise, surprise that it's sometimes more profitable, but it would be facetious just to say, "Oh yeah, if you just reorient your company toward the wellbeing of humanity and our planet, you're just going to be more profitable." Because the truth of the matter is some companies will be more profitable and some companies will be less profitable.
Jamie Metzl: I mean, there are some companies, and I talked about these, some of the Chinese fishing industries, their entire business model is dependent on that kind of extraction. There are certainly natural resource companies whose entire model is dependent on that type of extraction. And that's why two things need to happen. One, it needs to be best practices within a, not just a company, but an industry. And we need to come together other and make these kinds of decisions collectively. We need to make sure that we aren't externalizing costs, which is why we need to think from a societal level perspective. Because let's just say that I'm a forestry company. So it's in my interest as a forestry company, if I can go and go to a national park and just cut down all the trees, that's in my interest, because the costs are externalized on to somebody else, in this case, broader society.
Jamie Metzl: So we need to think about how do we change whole industries? How do we change regulatory environments? And how do we create a world together where doing the right thing is incentivized and isn't seen as a drain on profitability. And there are some industries, frankly, where this is easier. Some of the digital industries, some of the extractive industries, which we need. I mean, I don't want to be a utopian to say, "We don't need to extract resources from nature." We do. And so many people are dependent on protein from fish, from meat, from other things. And that is how our species, at least for now, operates. We just need to be mindful. We need to think systemic change so then no one person, no one company has all of this on their shoulders. Because there isn't a framework for thinking about the mutual responsibilities of interdependence. The first step is to create that framework. The first step is create an environment where it's easy for industries to come together. And so we applaud the work that the Business Roundtable has done bringing businesses together. And then we've seen incredible progress. Now I'm an advisor to Advisory Committee in Walmart. Walmart has taken such big steps.
Jamie Metzl: Going from a company that wasn't particularly environmentally friendly to one that's actually doing a lot. From a company that wasn't thinking about sustainability and other issues and its supply chain to a company that's in many ways, setting a gold standard and along the way, Walmart has become even more profitable. And so we need to highlight those models. We need to make doing the right thing easier. And everybody likes heroes, but it's hard to be a renegade and a hero when there are so many pressures. And we need to understand that, we need to respect that, we need to build alliances across the board between businesses, governments, civil society organizations. We're really all in this together. And that's the whole point of OneShared.World. It's not us versus them. It's us and us. And how do we build that world?
Jeff Kavanaugh: You mentioned, you think in great frameworks and being a disciple or devotee of critical thinking and certainly in the classes that I teach on it, it just seems that either because it's hard and because it can be controversial, that I'm not saying critical thinking has died, but certainly it's come under pressure. It sounds like interdependence will flourish with ideas we share, whether it's at a company level or even broader, but to even just how do we generate more critical thinking and sharing of ideas in that capacity where we're digging at the problem and not so much at the people.
Jamie Metzl: Jeff, it's such an essential question. And I need to give just a little bit of background of how I positioned myself. I very much think of myself as a child of the enlightenment. I'm a devotee of liberal thinking about the importance of an open society. And so I agree that we need to create an environment where people are… we have a free and open and inclusive and diverse exchange of ideas because that's how we learn and grow as people. And in our American society, those ideals are very much at threat. And they're at threat from both sides of the ideological spectrum. On one side of the spectrum, we have people who are saying, "Well, I'm not going to wear a face mask because I think all of this is a hoax and I don't have any responsibility to the whole, to protect others from this deadly pandemic."
Jamie Metzl: On the other side of this spectrum, we see people who are saying, "Well, if somebody is expressing their views, those views are making me feel unsafe. And that person should not be allowed to express their views." Or because I don't like this particular statue, I'm to take personal responsibility for just pulling it down on my own. We need to recognize that we live in a community and communities to flourish require a civic culture. And for civic cultures to flourish, they require a free and open exchange of ideas and a sense of mutual responsibility toward the whole. And that demands open dialogue and compromise. And leaders of all organizations are under tremendous threat right now because the space for that kind of open dialogue is shrinking.
Jamie Metzl: This is not easy, but we need to make sure those of us who believe in the principles of the enlightenment as certainly I do and certainly America, my home country, has many, many flaws and warts and shortcomings and the crimes against the Native Americans, the crime of slavery cannot be and should never be forgotten. And we still have a lot of work to do. But we need to engage in this kind of open dialogue, because if we can only speak to people who we completely agree with, we're going to end up making bad decisions. We're not going to be able to see the whole. So critical thinking is so essential. It's under threat, but I believe it's all of our responsibilities to defend it. And that means defending the right of people to speak with whom we may not agree. And that's essential for building the kind of open society that I think is in all of our benefit.
Jeff Kavanaugh: And from reading it sounds like that's what the interdependence initiative is trying to accomplish as well. Having a space that people can share ideas. How about Artificial Intelligence, pulling all this data in, and whether it's the privacy aspect, which you don't want to really go there too much, but just by getting all this data and information, how is it going to help us be better critical thinkers and make better decisions? And what are some examples you're seeing of that and what are some things to guard against?
Jamie Metzl: So we are living in a big data world, as a matter of fact, as I think you know Jeff, from my book, we are data, our genome is a data source. And although humans, I believe are massively complex, we are not infinitely complex. So we are increasingly knowable, will we ever be fully known? Probably not, but we are increasingly knowable. And we're increasingly able to analyze patterns, not just of who and what we are, but how the world is functioning around us. And that creates an incredible opportunity to do analyses that will help us have all kinds of processes, be made more efficient to just to understand ourselves so that we can have better healthcare to predict and prevent problems in a way that we never have before. And it's really exciting and it's really positive.
Jamie Metzl: But every technology is agnostic in itself. Our technologies don't come with a built in value system. It's up to us to insert, to weave those values into our applications of these technologies. So these same AI and Big Data Analytics tools that can be used to help us can also be used to harm us. And certainly we're seeing that with the abuse of Big Data Analytics and genetic information in places like Xinjiang in China, but not just there really all around the world. And that's why we need to be having a much deeper, more meaningful, more public, more engaged dialogue on how these technologies can best be used in the service of humanity. You mentioned AI, and there is a community of people who are working on AI issues and how we can have an ethics framework woven in to the development of AI tools. And that's really, really important because our technologies are advancing at an exponential rate. But our ability to use those technologies wisely is not necessarily growing as fast.
Jamie Metzl: So there's a mismatch and we have a lot of work to do. And to do that, we've got to really roll up our sleeves and not just have this be the work of a small number of experts but the inclusive work of many, many people, really all of us across the spectrum and around the world.
Jeff Kavanaugh: We've been doing a fair amount of research on, of course with company resilience and how to adapt to change. And that's why one of the reasons, many reasons, that your book on genetics is so interesting. One of the things you've also done is a fair amount of bio-mimicry and looking for lessons from nature. Can you share one or two that you find especially interesting about how nature adapts or solves these problems or their approach to it, and maybe new lessons for us?
Jamie Metzl: We have to have a lot of respect for nature. I mean, if somebody came to our best scientists and said, "All right, here's the strategy, can you have a single cell organism? And then over X period of time, have it grow into the diversity of all of life on earth?" People would have absolutely no clue how to even think about that, other than to say, "Well, I guess nature did it, what can we learn?" And so nature is the ultimate adaptive ecosystem. And nature, it doesn't have a direction, certainly evolution doesn't have any kind of direction, but it's always learning. It's always what we call iterating in the startup world. And when we talk about genetic mutation, for example, that is a form of iteration. Our survival strategy, and every species’ survival strategy is to have this Classic Darwinism, random mutation and natural selection, is to have some different versions and then to figure out, or not even figure out, just one version of us or of an animal is able to out-compete the others within a given environment.
Jamie Metzl: And I think that's really the challenge for all of us, is so what's required is one to be constantly iterating that everything that you're doing could be done a little bit differently. And so every day for everything we're doing say, "Well, what is that change? What are a few different mutations, so to speak, that we can try?" And then coming back to your point on critical thinking, how are we doing that analysis? Because we don't have millions of years when you're in a business, you don't have millions of years to say, "Well, which iteration is working better than something else." So we have to have that kind of critical thinking. We have to use these AI and other tools to measure success, and then we need to filter those lessons back into our workflows. It happens naturally in nature, and it has to happen consciously in our work.
Jamie Metzl: And that brings me back to what I was saying earlier, how in normal times we are all on cruise control, but now these selective pressures are greater than ever before. And so what we're seeing, and certainly in the time of COVID is that trends that would otherwise have taken years or decades to play out, are showing up in weeks and months. And so these processes that could have played out in a slower and more deliberate way are now happening very, very quickly. And that puts a tremendous strain on leaders to have these kinds of continuous growth learning feedback loops in order to make smart decisions. Because there are a lot of, not just companies, a lot of whole industries are very likely going to go under as a result of these tremendous pressures from COVID, certainly, here in the United States.
Jamie Metzl: And not being one of those requires a level of adaptation that happens in nature. When the great asteroid hit the Yucatán Peninsula, the dinosaurs and others went away, but there were other creatures that survived and mutated, and including our ancestors, and grew. And we have to mimic that in our thinking.
Jeff Kavanaugh: It's interesting on January 23rd, 2020, this year, the same day that COVID-19 sent Wuhan to lockdown, the folks in Davos were meeting to discuss stakeholder capitalism, in fact this manifesto, in fact, as luck would have it, you and I saw each other randomly on the street that day as I was leaving the hotel where the Chinese delegation was staying. So all kinds of crazy serendipity there. You recently said on COVID-19 that this is not a 2001 moment, 9/11 , this is something much bigger. I think of this as a 1941 moment. What did you mean by this?
Jamie Metzl: For many people, certainly of our generation, we think of what are these traumatic moments of change? And 9/11 is certainly a big one. But our world before and after 9/11 was different, but it wasn't deeply and fundamentally different. But the world between, let's make it broader, between 1935 and 1950 was a fundamentally different world. Because of the experience of the second world war. And in 1941 was the year certainly that the United States entered the war and the war had already begun in Europe and in Asia. But it was clear that that old world was broken, that the old world wasn't going to come back. And that there was a major, major fight ahead, which we had with the four remaining years of the second world war. But in that year, in 1941, great leaders like FDR and Churchill came together and articulated a positive vision for what they wanted the world to look like at the end of the war.
Jamie Metzl: They articulated a vision of what we were fighting for, and those principles were part of FDR’s Four Freedoms and the Atlantic Charter. And that was the anthem around which we all rallied first to win the war and second to rebuild the world. We are in one of those moments now, but we don't have an FDR to lead us. We don't have a Winston Churchill. And that's what OneShared.World is all about, that we need to divide that job among ourselves. And the Declaration of Interdependence is our equivalent of the 1941 Atlantic Charter. It's the principles around which we think our broken world can be rebuilt. When we look back at history, I think we will say that 1648, the Treaty of Westphalia, was the beginning of the modern nation state.
Jamie Metzl: And then we had our two World Wars that recognized that this balance of power, world of jockeying nation states was inherently unstable. And so we needed to have an overlay of the international system, including the United Nations. And that vision never was fully realized because the United Nations and other institutions were created, funded and controlled by nation states that retained their sovereign rights. For all the reasons that nations retain their sovereign rights and certainly the United States and others, but primarily the United States played an important role in safeguarding, creating a safe space for the world to have the greatest period of growth and innovation and stability and security probably in world history.
Jamie Metzl: And now that's breaking down, and I think that we're going to see 2020 as the end of that postwar world from 1945 until 1920. And the game is on now to figure out what happens next. And I would love for 50 years from now, a hundred years from now, for people to say that 2020 was the beginning of the age of interdependence. Where humans finally recognized in our globalized world, we had to find a way to come together for the common good. And as hard and as audacious and as crazy as that sounds, we actually did it. And so that's what OneShared.World is all about. But it will only work if these principles become integrated into the platforms of every political party, every government, the mission statement of every civil society organization, every business around the world.
Jamie Metzl: And then we all are part of that complex balancing between the various interests. And nobody can be a fully interdependent person. Nobody can be fully only be focusing on the global common good and not about their own common good. Because we all have families and responsibilities in the circles around us. We just need to be aware that we're all part of these different groups, we're part of our families, we're part of our, in some cases, our companies, we're part of our countries and we're part of our world. And we have responsibilities to each of those. And we need to balance those responsibilities to find the right way of not just helping ourselves or our companies or countries, but also helping our world.
Jeff Kavanaugh: You know, we have to work on getting used to bigger goals.
Jamie Metzl: No, it's very funny. You mentioned that I do these Ironmans. And so there's like that nervous feeling. And I know that you do competitive sports as well Jeff. There's that nervous feeling where you just kind of in the water, waiting for the gun to sound and you know you have long, 11, 12 hours ahead of you. And you're kind of excited and you're kind of nervous. And I was just talking, we have of all these amazing young people who have volunteered and working their hearts out as part of OneShared.World. And I said, if you're starting on a journey and you're not scared to death and thinking of it could fail, or even that it probably will fail, you haven't set your sights hard enough. So we totally get and I totally get, this is a somewhere between audacious and quixotic.
Jamie Metzl: But it's also necessary. Our world of everyone for themselves, it works in a lot of different ways, but ultimately it doesn't work. Our world is failing not because of our national leaders are not doing their jobs. They're just doing the jobs we've hired them to do to well. They are defending our narrow interests at the expense of our common interests. And for sure, we need to defend our narrow interest but we just need to balance it with our common. So it's a crazy audacious goal. It was crazy when Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman imagined what became the European Union. It was crazy when FDR and others, Eleanor Roosevelt, came together to imagine building the United Nations after the League of Nations had so spectacularly failed.
Jamie Metzl: And so sometimes we need audacious ideas. And once in a while, there's an intersection of an idea, people, technology, and a moment in history that makes seemingly impossible things possible. I don't know whether this is one of those moments, but I think we have to try to see if it can be.
Jeff Kavanaugh: What are books or people that stand out as significant influences and maybe books that you might recommend for others?
Jamie Metzl: Jorge Luis Borges, Argentinian writer, I just absolutely love. His book Ficciones, is one of the most important books for me. The real lesson of it, if you read it carefully is just seeing, understanding our world as so many different narratives happening simultaneously and bringing our imagination into our process of understanding reality, because our reality is not fixed. It may not even be real. It's our perspective. And when we see that in a meaningful, thoughtful way, I think that makes us bigger.
Jamie Metzl: Primo Levi, Italian writer and chemist, who survived the Holocaust in Auschwitz has some just really incredible books, including The Drowned and the Saved, that talk about the challenges of survival. And we all have these idealistic visions of what it means to be a hero, what it means to champion something. It's not always possible. We need to recognize that we live in very, very challenging times and he understood that in Auschwitz. And so when you balance Primo Levi, The Drowned and the Saved with Viktor Frankl, who was also in Auschwitz, his very optimistic book, Man's Search for Meaning, there's some truth there that I think is really relevant. And then I'll betray my American roots, Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Essays of Emerson have always been very, very important for me.
Jamie Metzl: And my key takeaway, certainly from his essay Self-Reliance is that we all exist in societies and we need to be mindful of those societies. We all have to find a truth within ourselves, and it's easier said than done because there are so many pressures on all of us to do one thing or another and to conform. And sometimes conforming is a good thing to do. That's how we live in complex societies. We need to challenge ourselves every day about how do we stay on our best and truest path? I could go on forever. But those are three quick starts.
Jeff Kavanaugh: If we could swap seats and you could be across interviewing someone, for example, like on this podcast, who would be your dream candidate?
Jamie Metzl: So I know that good answer would be to think of who is a great scientist, a great world leader. And I’d love to give that answer, but what I would love is to do a real in depth interview with somebody who's in a Rohingya Refugee Camp in Bangladesh. Somebody who is really just on the whole other side of life's opportunities than you or I are, and to really dig deep in understanding who that person is and their life experiences and the challenges that they face. So many of us, we interact with people who are kind of like us, people... you and I we've already confessed that we were in Davos together. And there are a lot of amazing people who are in those places. And I don't apologize for going because there's so much learning and power is important. If you want to change things in the world, power is really relevant.
Jamie Metzl: But for too many of us, these numbers of people, when we hear the numbers of 3 billion people living in abject poverty or one in four people don't have access to safe drinking water, it becomes in many ways an abstraction. And I think that if we can use these kinds of platforms to interview the kind of amazing people, like Bill Gates, who's doing so much good for the world right now, but also bringing new perspectives out that are unheard perspectives that I think could be really great.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Well said. Lastly, how can people find you online?
Jamie Metzl: Funny you should ask. So first on my website, jamiemetzl.com. And people are invited to sign up for my newsletter, if they'd like to hear more. If you'd like to learn more about Hacking Darwin, there's a hackingdarwin.com website, or you can read the book and I should add the book has a conversation guide. So what I really want is people to read the book and then lead conversations among your friends, your family, your colleagues, about these really complex issues, because we all need to be part of the process. And finally, I'd love for people to go to the OneShared.World website where they can read the Declaration of Interdependence, now in 19 languages, we just added Zulu, Xhosa, Swahili, Armenian, and Tibetan. So there's something for everybody and we're adding languages all the time, to sign the Pledge of Interdependence and join our movement.
Jamie Metzl: This moment of the pandemic, this is really an all hands on deck moment for all of us. Our world is being recast and it can be recast worse, or it can be recast better. For those of us who want to make sure that our world is getting better, we all have a role to play. And that's why these conversations are so important. And that's why I invite everybody to join the fight, to build a better world for everyone.
Jeff Kavanaugh: You can find details for everything we discussed in what Jamie referred to on our show notes and transcripts at infosys.com/iki in our podcast section. Jamie, thank you very much for your time in a highly interesting, underscore and bold face, highly interesting discussion. Thanks again. Everyone, you've been listening to the Knowledge Institute where we talk with experts on business trends, deconstruct main ideas and share their insights. Thanks to our producer, Catherine Burdette, Kerry Taylor, and the entire Knowledge Institute team. Until next time, keep learning and keep sharing.
About Jamie Metzl
Jamie Metzl is a technology and healthcare futurist, geopolitical expert, novelist, entrepreneur, media commentator, Senior Fellow of the Atlantic Council, Singularity University faculty member, and the Founder and Chair of OneShared.World. In 2019, he was appointed to the World Health Organization expert advisory committee on human genome editing. Jamie previously served in the U.S. National Security Council, State Department, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and as a Human Rights Officer for the United Nations in Cambodia. He serves on the Advisory Council to Walmart’s Future of Retail Policy Lab and has been an election monitor in Afghanistan and the Philippines and advised the government of North Korea on the establishment of Special Economic Zones.
A founder and Co-Chair of the national security organization Partnership for a Secure America, Jamie is a board member of the International Center for Transitional Justice, the American University in Mongolia, and Parsons Dance, and a member of the Advisory Board of the Brandeis International Center for Ethics, Justice, and Public Life. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a former White House Fellow and Aspen Institute Crown Fellow. Jamie holds a Ph.D. from Oxford, a JD from Harvard Law School, and is a magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Brown University.
- Watch Jamie’s national and international media appearances
- Read articles published
- Read about OneShared.World
- Read Jamie’s Declaration of Global Interdependence
- Sign up for receive Jamie’s newsletter
- Join the Hacking Darwin conversation
Selected links from the episode
Connect with Jamie
- Atlantic Council
- Senate Foreign Relations Committee
- World Health Organization Expert Advisory Committee on Human Genome editing
- Arn Chorn-Pond
- National Security Council
- Richard Clarke
- Business Roundtable
- Larry Fink
- “Milton Friedman and the Social Responsibility of Business” – GreenBiz
- FDR’s Four Freedoms
- 1941 Atlantic Charter
- Treaty of Westphalia, 1648
- History of the European Union
- History of the United Nations
- “5 Things to Know About the League of Nations” – Time
Mentioned in the podcast
Books by Jamie Metzl