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My planet hopping book project 100.000 Miles brought me to New York, where I had the tremendous pleasure to talk to John. John C. Havens is the Executive Director of the IEEE Global Initiative on Ethics of Autonomous and Intelligent Systems. He was at the very beginning of podcasting, and was one of the first to see the potential of augmented reality. A former actor and Broadway artist, he devotes his many talents now on ethics and well-being. John is a dear friend. His views are mind opening, and the vision he shared here with me, his own. His passion is beyond contagious.

GDP is not it. At all.

John points out how the World’s economy is built on GDP (Gross domestic product), first developed by Simon Kuznets in 1934.  It’s often forgotten that Kuznets warned against the use of GDP as a measure of welfare. But after the Bretton Woods conference in 1944, and against Kuznets very stern warnings, GDP became the de facto measure of a country’s economy.  Havens passionately sketches how GDP alone is useless, as you clearly have to measure at least two other factors: the impact on the planet (environmental impact) and the impact on people (workforce and societal impact).  You simply cannot measure progress, wealth and well-being without considering these triple bottom-line metrics together. John is convinced that the biggest metric of value used by every country in the world needs to evolve, before it is too late.

We’re losing the generation that needs to save the planet.

A couple of years ago, Bertrand Picard told me that that the young, upcoming generation will save the planet… or not. But John Havens also points out that this young generation is clearly not well off, its suicidal rate is at an all-time high, making it a top three death cause, up there with cardio vascular diseases and accidents. Why is the pressure so high? Who is behind this rat race? Where is the balance?

Half of the world hunting for exponential growth, and hockey-stick revenue powered by automation, autonomous systems and AI is going to have a massive impact on society. Is it ethical or viable to keep humans employed when you can implement AI? Is it ethical or viable to implement AI, when you can deploy humans?  What will be the impact on people? Society? Morale?

How do we define the beacons of well-being?

It would be childish to think humanity will compromise on comfort levels, mobility and way of living. We need innovation to adapt the technology to fit the people and the planet’s needs. Not the other way around. We need to dare to innovate, and invent sources of energy and commodities that will support human life as we know it. Simply put, the next generation will have to save us, and the planet. Or not. Either way, nature won’t care ”. Bertrand Piccard

Get MAD!

John Havens is on a crusade for people not only to have full access to their data: he wants them to have complete control over their data, and be very serious about it.  Think medical records, and it very quickly becomes a life and death issue beyond concerns regarding one’s very own preferences regarding “privacy.” Havens thinks Europe’s GDPR is a great incentive for business and governments to reorient human data away from a simple, steal-able commodity. But, John thinks that we need to go beyond the you can and cannot do of the law. He wants people, politicians and businesses to take an ethical stance. What is the right thing to do.

Listen to the man.

Writing up what John has to say is unfair. He’s an eloquent visionary that passionately paints his viewpoints.  A vision stooled on an iron compass for well-being, and fairness. Enjoy the video, it’s time invested in humanity. Those are big words, I know.

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