Prabhu Guptara (Hinduism, India, the world’s monetary system)

  • 00:10:12 Why Europe chooses to be a late adopter (rather than an early adopter)?
  • 00:16:19 Are cryptocurrencies and the blockchain a threat to traditional banks?
  • 00:22:46 What impact will cheap/free education have on the world?
  • 00:30:12 Why India seems to be eternally high on potential but low on promises kept.
  • 00:38:02 The role of Hinduism and the caste system in India.
  • 00:57:15 What is the impact of the Bengali Renaissance on India and the world?
  • 01:10:03 What is the best way to protect minorities in a democracy?
  • 01:13:19 Do zero percent interest rates mean we have given up on economic growth?

You may watch this episode on Youtube – #71 Prabhu Guptara (Hinduism, India, the world’s monetary system).

Prabhu Guptara was for many years Executive Director at WOLFSBERG – The Platform for Executive and Business Development (a subsidiary of UBS). Prabhu Guptara specializes in exploring the impact which technology has on business companies as well as on societies around the world.


Welcome to the Judgment Call Podcast, a podcast where I bring together some of the most curious minds on the planet. Risk takers, adventurers, travelers, investors, entrepreneurs and simply mindbogglers. To find all episodes of this show, simply go to Spotify, iTunes or YouTube or go to our website If you like this show, please consider leaving a review on iTunes or subscribe to us on YouTube. This episode of the Judgment Call Podcast is sponsored by Mighty Travels Premium. Full disclosure, this is my business. We do at Mighty Travels Premium is to find the airfare deals that you really want. Thousands of subscribers have saved up to 95% in the airfare. Those include $150 round trip tickets to Hawaii for many cities in the US or $600 life let tickets in business class from the US to Asia or $100 business class life let tickets from Africa round trip all the way to Asia. In case you didn’t know, about half the world is open for business again and accepts travelers. Most of those countries are in South America, Africa and Eastern Europe. To try out Mighty Travels Premium, go to slash MTP or if that’s too many letters for you, simply go to MTP, the number four and the letter U dot com to sign up for your 30 day free trial. Prabhu, thanks a lot for coming on the Judgment Call Podcast. Really appreciate it. Thank you. I noticed your role and you do something very particular, a UBS, big Swiss bank and you’re kind of their futurist in residence. You look at developments in technology and how this rolls out in society, share this knowledge as much as you can also externally. How did you get drawn to this in the first place? How did you start to get started? Well, there was a long period of preparation obviously, but I was quite flummoxed, quite surprised, quite astonished when UBS basically offered me the job on a plate. I had done two assignments for the bank as an external consultant and so they knew me, members of the board knew me, but they then turned around and offered me this job. So I had to choose between being a consultant and being an employee. What really persuaded me was they said, well, look, you can continue being chairman of your little company. I had a very small number of consultants, eight. You can continue being chairman of your company, but you just need to move from being executive chairman to being non executive chairman and you can keep your shares and everything, no problem. So that really made the transition very easy for me, but I was tempted to do the job because it was absolutely my ideal job. It was a very, well, at that stage, the world’s largest bank by assets under management and there was absolutely out of the world location, overlooking Lake Constance, 18th century manor house, as we would say in English, Chateau in French, absolutely stunningly beautiful place to work. And of course, you had the responsibility of somehow, in some small way, influencing the world’s largest bank. I mean, what could be better? And so of course, I jumped at the opportunity when it came with some hesitation and some questions and all that, but I did internally jump at the opportunity and suddenly enjoyed my 15 years with the bank. In fact, I retired from the bank. Yes, it is. It doesn’t happen normally. I mean, normally a job is advertised, no advertisement, normally there are competitors, lots of people are interviewed, nothing. I was just handed the job on a plate. It was really something divine, something miraculous, really out of the world. Yeah. So you asked me earlier why, what’s really the focus of this podcast? And I think listeners to an extent already noticed, but what I’m really focused on, and that’s why I found your views so interesting and so mesmerizing. What I think hasn’t gotten the attention in the last 20 years enough is the story of risk takers, people who intentionally take risk, calculated risk, they go from one society to another. They’re kind of the shamans, so to speak, right? They know the languages of different places. You went from India, you went to Switzerland, you integrated yourself from a small organization into a huge organization. And figuring out doing this process, how the world actually works, and then coming out on the other side and sharing this knowledge and making the world a better place. Now, this sounds really rosy, right? And this, it’s definitely a wide variety of people that I had on the podcast so far. But there is this amazing opportunity for society to learn from these heroes, from these risk takers, and take the best of what they’ve learned. Heroes, not in the sense that they are, they’ve achieved something, but in the sense that they’ve taken the risk and they’ve tried, right? And the stories I’ve heard, so that I’ve heard on the podcast so far, the people who’ve been on, they were, there was always something really surprising while we talked. It wasn’t what you would experience when you read a headline about the particular person. There’s always something that they, they figured out over the course of their life. It’s just very surprising to me. And I hope we get there in our conversation today, as we go along, reacts to when we are exposed to different challenges. And I know your role is pretty particular and the way you came from a different background. And I know Switzerland, you know, I’ve lived, I grew up in Europe. I know Switzerland as not, how do I say that, not the easiest place to get started, to get started all over. Switzerland was very interesting because had we lived in a big city like Zurich, I think my response would have been exactly like your response. But because we went and lived in a little village, population 8,000 at the time we got there, we had the choice of integrating, in which case we had to learn the local language or not integrating. And of course, we wanted to integrate, so we learned the language. And of course, the moment you’d learned the language, the first question the Swiss asked us when we got to this village was, how long are you here for? The assumption being, you’re a foreigner, you’ll be here a year or two, you’ll move on, you know. You know, we are here for the rest of our lives. This is a pension job, you know. Oh, okay, that’s fine then. So one, you were there forever, two, you were not a bird of passage, because that’s very important to the Swiss. And secondly, you were prepared to learn the language, you were prepared to adjust to the culture, you’re prepared to make friends and be outgoing. And we had absolutely no problem, we made friends, we had a thoroughly enjoyable time. And two of my children are still settled in Switzerland. Yeah, that’s amazing to hear. I felt growing up in Germany, which isn’t Switzerland, but they share, especially the German speaking part of Switzerland share a lot of commonalities. I felt just moving 100 miles in Germany is like, like going to a different country, a different slide of language, there’s a different set of behavior, often maybe you go to a slightly different interpretation of Christianity. A lot of things change, even all the chains used to be different. Now it’s a little more similar. Now it’s like just moving 100 miles in Germany is a big undertaking. It’s often easier to just moving to the US and back. Definitely. In Switzerland, you only need to travel 20 minutes by car, I mean, or by train. And you have the same the same issue, the dialect changes, the cuisine changes, the behaviors change. Yes. You have to speak French, right? In some parts of Switzerland, you have to speak Italian or Romance. Yeah, that makes it much easier. Yes, exactly. When you look at UBS and the position that it’s in right now, what do you feel is the strength for such a global bank for being headquartered in Europe? Is that something useful or is that a problem? Well, every location has its advantages and disadvantages, of course. And the advantage of being based in Europe is that it is a conservative culture. That means people don’t jump at every new invention and every new idea and every new fashion. And so on the one hand, you move, you lose the early mover advantage. On the other hand, you also lose the possibility of tripping over very obvious problems, which come with new technologies or new fashions or new fads or whatever it is. And so you move slowly, but you move carefully. And as a result of moving slowly and carefully, you grow, of course, much more slowly, but you grow, I think, more solidly. If you look just at interest rates in the United States versus interest rates in Switzerland, take something very easy for people to relate to. Interest rates in the US have been known to go up to 12 percent and higher. It’s not unusual. In Switzerland, it is astonishing if the interest rate goes up to 6 percent. And that just sums up the difference between the two cultures. So Switzerland is a steady growth culture. Look at real estate prices, they grow very slowly, but very solidly. US real estate prices, whoa, wow, the world’s wonderful, crash. So that’s the difference between the two cultures. Huge opportunities, great openness, great risks in America. And what protects you, of course, is the possibility of making a complete disaster of your business and starting again. Very difficult in Europe. Once you’ve made a disaster, you can recover nowadays, but it is difficult. Yeah, that’s the question I always get when I tell people I’ve been an entrepreneur in Europe, then in Asia, and then over here. And they obviously ask me, so what are you running from? What is the big bankruptcy? Whose money? People who come after you are running from. I’m like, no, no, that wasn’t really the case. But easily it could be. It would be very understandable. And Europe is still, and I know the case from Germany, it’s still a backwater in terms of venture capital. And I think it wants to stay that way. It’s a cultural decision. It has no intention of being an early adopter on any stage of that financial as well as like the population wise technology. There will be a late adopter and they’re good with that. And there’s a reason for it. And the reason is these are old traditional societies with not much space to move. And the costs of making a wrong decision are so high in social terms in places like Germany and Switzerland, unlike the United States, where if you make a disaster, well, you know, you can make a disaster as an individual or as a political system, and you can recover from it. Because everybody’s used to bearing the costs of it. And because everybody’s used to bearing the costs of it and getting up, dusting themselves down, getting up and going on again, you can tolerate that kind of risk taking and disasters in the United States, which you cannot in more traditional, more state and more stable societies like Europe. I mean, just to give you a very simple example, in this little village of Weinfelden, the 8,000 population when we got there, hardly anybody lived, had lived outside, had lived for any length of time outside Weinfelden. So they would go off to the States two years, three years, five years, go off to Australia two years, five years, come back, marry locally, breed locally as it were. And three generations would be living within walking distance of each other. It was unthinkable for them to travel more than 20 minutes to work. Why? Well, life is too valuable to waste on travel. So you can see the attitudes are completely different. Yeah, that’s described kind of my family. They all live in the 20 mile radius, and that’s it. They don’t want to know anything else. They’re comfortable environment, and they’re happy with this, and they improve it every day a little bit. Your efficiency is high, but it’s not a society that wants to look beyond that. And I think the Swiss are way better than the Germans. The Germans are probably the worst in that in Europe. Who are the defenders? Well, let’s look at banks for a second. And I think being in a think tank and working on ideas about the future, this must be a big topic for you guys, the impact of decentralized finance. So we have the blockchain, we have Ethereum. When we look at all this technology that comes up, it seems like banking is basically completely digitized already, and it’s easy to be picked up by other startups. At least we’ll be considered traditional banking. We put our money somewhere, we maybe apply for a loan, we get a credit card. That seems to be one big algorithm where no humans or any branches are involved anymore. Is that true? Is that a scenario you guys are working on? Well, let’s take a step back. You know, being Europeans, we take a long view of history and being Indian, I take a long view of history. I go back to Bill Gates, who once said banking is essential, banks are not. How long ago was that? 30 years ago? Yeah, 25, 30 years ago, a long time ago. And banks are still there, banks are still making money, no problem. So the issue is what we have now with decentralized currencies, various kinds of blockchain based currencies, is the latest version, is the latest manifestation of what Bill Gates was talking about really a generation ago. And that didn’t shift banking. And the issue is, will this kind of decentralized finance shift banking? And I think most people who are in banking, their assessment is no, it won’t. And the reason it won’t is because most of these Ethereum, et cetera type currencies are not sovereign currencies. And because they’re not sovereign currencies, they will never have the status of official legal tender. They may function as some kind of, if I may put it rudely, air miles, or luncheon vouchers, or something like that. Of course, you can use all these alternative currencies anytime you want in sufficient quantity of people are prepared to accept them. Why not? But does that displace banking? It does not. And the reason it does not displace banking is because banking is really about risk assessment at a substantial level. And when you are able to deploy vast amounts of money in a risk assessed way, that is a function which is completely different from simply having different kinds of currencies and being able to trade in them and so on. Now, it’s quite possible that digitized currencies will become national currencies as well, sovereign currencies as well. So the Chinese banks, of course, have gone into a digitized currency. The Chinese national bank has gone into digitized currencies of its own. Other countries are experimenting, central banks are experimenting with digitized currencies. So it could easily be that we go into a system where the normal dollar, as it were, is replaced by a blockchain based dollar. Okay, so what? Will that… I don’t think that’s what people associate with it, right? What they associate with that is really that when we see this with a bunch of startups in the US, who basically do lending just based on the blockchain. So their risk assessment, their whole algorithm, they use not a credit score, they use a different way to assess risk and then the whole lending and the interest rate that they set is all attended by the blockchain universe, so to speak. So there’s a startup, I think it’s called BlockFi and you get 6% interest rate. Just putting Bitcoin or any kind, most currencies that they support, they are all blockchain based. You get pretty high interest rates. So you get just for putting the money in and obviously it is volatile, but not all of these currencies are volatile. There is a US dollar coin that’s literally packed to the US dollar. So it’s always going to be the same worth at the same value as a dollar, well, at least in theory. And it gives you 6%, 7% interest rate on whatever you put in for just holding that coin. And that is quite a threat to traditional banks, no? Well, it could develop into a threat for traditional banks, I agree. But the thing to remember is that a promise is only as good as the promise maker. So if somebody says this particular token currency is going to be pegged to the US dollar, who is the person saying that? And we always say in banking there are two things you have to look at when you’re looking at the credit worthiness of somebody, one, of course, what credit worthiness do they have? Are they actually able to pay when it comes to the crunch? Two, are they willing to pay? Are they able to pay and are they willing to pay? Now, that has not been tested in many of these kinds of situations, many of these kinds of companies. And there are cases where the willingness has not been there or the ability has not been there. And it’s quite possible that these will grow into alternative financial systems where that is demonstrably true, that they are capable of paying and they’re willing to pay and they are at a sufficient scale to matter. That’s quite possible. But the question is, as always, if you think of a different area, if you look at pharmacies, for example, the pharma industry, for example, the big pharma companies tend to do very little innovation themselves. It’s the smaller companies that are going around doing the innovation. And then as soon as they become of a certain size, they just get snatched up. And I reckon that’s what’s going to happen with banking, that once blockchain based currencies and these sovereign blockchain currencies, the scene becomes a bit more clear, then banks will move into the space, banks will adapt, they’ve always done it. Yeah, I think the whole idea of a blockchain is that you trust the system more than any other counterparty. Right now, banking is mostly because of the counterparty and you don’t know what the counterparty is up to. That’s why we have all these steps in between and that’s why we have the branch. Because you have this counterparty risk. With blockchain, the idea is you don’t need that anymore because the algorithm is kind of the counterparty. Well, this is shaky at some point in the century, but that’s at least the idea. Yeah, but the point is, is the system trustworthy? That’s the basic question. Since you don’t understand, no, no, it issues this. I can deal with you, Torsten, because I can assess you on the basis of your history, your credit record, your bank balances, your collateral and so on. I can assess you, I may be wrong, but I’ve got a way of assessing you. I have no way of assessing a system. Most people have no idea of how to assess the reliability of these systems. You’re depending on the expertise of an expert, but you don’t know whether this expert is reliable. It’s a new kind of high priest. In the old days, you had high priests, the Roman Catholic Church had priests and so on. You’re dependent on the priests. So this is just a new class of priests that’s come along. And all you can do is trust them, your faith in them. This is a new kind of religion. Yeah, it is. The other new high priests are machine learning experts, people who are experts in AI. They can kind of give us their opinions as a fact, and we don’t really know the difference. They seem the same to us. Is AI a topic UBS is really worried about? Is that something that I realize decentralized finance might not be something you really worry about right now, but is AI something that UBS and what do you guys feel? No, don’t get me wrong. If you’re a senior executive in any bank today, you are concerned about these issues. You are concerned about machine learning. You are concerned about blockchain and other developments that are coming up technologically. And you keep an eye on them. But to be concerned about them and to have an eye on them is not the same as being worried about them, meaning you’re going to change your business model straight away just because something has come up on the horizon. So weak signals are very important in strategic planning and thinking. And obviously any senior manager is looking at what’s happening and what’s coming at them and how fast it’s coming at them and what sort of gaps there may be, trenches there may be into which these things may fall before they get to you. But you’re watching all these things with great interest. But that’s not the same as saying, so you can be concerned about things and you can be aware of them and you can be watching them without being worried about them. And I think that’s the state of the banking industry at the moment that the banking industry is not worried about it, but it is watching it with great interest and trying to prepare for it as best as it can. And my assessment is that banks will respond to this, these developments, whether it’s machine learning, whether it’s decentralized currencies, in the same way as they do with all business opportunities and threats, which is they will coopt them. I want to hit you with one more of those big topics, but it’s more related to India, I guess, than it is to Europe right now. And it is the impact of really low cost free education. So literally the YouTube phenomenon, they are intentionally made more or less as kind of a byproduct of human creativity of artists, people who are bored at home, they just want to build a community, it’s vanity, whatever the reason is, lots of this is available globally now. And I know for my children, this is their primary education tool is YouTube. Well, it’s also the primary entertainment tool, it’s hard to draw that line. What do you think is that impact of this massive amount of free education that’s never really been available, that’s suddenly available to all developing countries for free? Well, I think it’s wonderful because it means that the prisons in which people have been locked by social forces, religious ideas, technological barriers, logistical problems and all the rest of it are being short circuited. And people who would have had no opportunity to get educated at all, forget about educated in things relating to the sorts of things we are talking about, are having the opportunity to get educated. I’ll give you a very simple example. A friend’s driver who is completely illiterate and is sort of middle age, 50s, never going to go to school, obviously, because he’s working very hard to bring up his family, has learned to read. How has he learned to read? Because on his phone, you know, one, two, three, four, it’s very easy to learn. And then you see A, D, C, D, and he, you know, he went to an award. What is this? What is other stuff? And on the basis of that, he learned the alphabet. And once he learned the alphabet, he started putting them together. Oh, yes. Hello. Oh, hello. It’s spelled like that. Oh, I see. Goodbye. Oh, goodbye. Spell like that. So the chap has taught himself to read. So these are wonderful liberating technologies or the effect of this technology is wonderfully liberating. The issue is beyond liberation, beyond liberation, what next? And I think what next is really that it makes a lot of people employable who would not have been employable, because their skills in technological areas can develop very quickly if they have that kind of talent. And they can be assessed objectively. So you can tell whether I can actually write an algorithm or not, whether I can code or not, this is objectively measurable. And there are standardized tests by which this can be done on the basis of which I can be employed. Great stuff. The problem is looking at it long term, whether we are simply raising a new generation of slaves, because this kind of education is very narrow, this kind of training I choose based not really education is very narrow. And people can get completely stalled on it and have their lives completely devoted to it and never look beyond it. Education is meant to liberate us, not just in the sense of providing us a job, but it’s meant to liberate us in terms of understanding the world in which we live, learning what it means to live as human beings as individuals, and as families and as societies and as countries and as a globe. And these kinds of issues are being pushed more and more to the margins by the education system as we have, whether it’s formal or informal. So you can now go as a reasonably well educated person right through university and even acquire a PhD without knowing anything more than technology. Yeah, there’s a lot of people that have a PhD, they can barely spell. And it’s maybe not necessary, right? And actually, no, but and actually barely think beyond their area, they can barely think. Yes, yes. That’s the term, that’s some kind. Yeah, exactly. And the challenge is not for them, they can have a perfectly decent life as long as the rest of societies is kind of stable. But the problem is when when COVID comes and hits you, you have no way of making sense of it. You can you can only cry and you can only you kind of begin to think, so what kind of new global systems do we need to prevent future COVIDs from hitting us? And the dialogue and the discussion becomes just completely another world from them. And they isolate themselves from those. And the result is that we are finding people who are highly educated with people with PhDs and all that very wealthy because they’ve made tons of money from all this, but who are absolutely useless as citizens. They cannot contribute to society, they cannot contribute to the debate, they cannot build a better society. And that’s a huge disaster. Yeah, common sense hasn’t been in big demand. Let’s put it this way in the last 15 years. And we are going into as you say into these rabbit holes of knowledge that are available for free and they are rich, right? They are a lot of fun to learn about, but they don’t really help us make us a better person. On the other hand, I see a lot of people who suddenly get interested in philosophy. I can see so many people who suddenly pick up a book of Socrates and say, oh my gosh, what would this guy wrote down or Plato wrote down for him? Those are similar problems that vex me, people who suddenly read religious literature. They didn’t have the time before they didn’t have the interest, they didn’t really raise that question why the world is the way it is. That’s relatively new phenomenon. And this I think mediates a little bit what we see from people running into the rabbit holes because they know it’s this huge anxiety because they just don’t know how the world works. It creates enormous anxiety. And as you say, they get, you know, it’s very digital. They get their fear, it gets raised one day. And then the next day, they’re fearful about something else by social media, but they don’t really know why. And a year later, they wake up and they are like, well, what just happened to me? I think we’re in that, in the middle of that transition right now. Yes. But I think the question to ask is, what you say is perfectly true, that people do wake up to philosophy, to music, to art, to history, to literature and so on. But the question to ask is how many of these people do? And whether the numbers are the kinds of numbers there could be and what we can do to encourage people once they have some basic, you know, minimum to live on, and obviously basic education and so on. How can we encourage people to have these bigger debates, these bigger interests and take more responsibility for themselves and for their families and for their societies and they’re taking at the moment? I mean, we now have a generation of parents who are actually parentally illiterate. So we have always had that problem. But now for the first time, we are having that problem with people in the middle class who were traditionally the bedrock of society. So we had rich people who were irresponsible and we were poor people who were too poor to be responsible. But the middle class was the bourgeoisie, was the respectable bit of society which actually glued and held society together. Now for the first time, we have an irresponsible middle class and an parentally illiterate middle class. So we are running into new social problems as a result of it. It’s very interesting to look at this. I feel what we need to do, and that’s kind of an intermediary, is give people free time and with that free time our hope can only be they use it to educate themselves. They probably won’t initially, right? They will go to an ox, they will go to entertainment, but at least gives them the option. That’s all you can do. You can’t oppress people with philosophy. I mean, you can, but then becomes an oppression. You Friedrich Hayek would return in his grave because he knows that you optimal you from his point of view, you reach with enough freedom and freedom from coercion. India is a country that eternally seems to be having a ton of potential and we all are very excited about India and I think we’re still very excited. India since the 90s when it opened up more market driven reforms, you had the big outsourcing boom. We have a lot of knowledge that’s being generated. There’s a lot of smart people in India. Yet it seems it’s never reaching its full potentials not blooming through the masses as much as we would hope and China seems to do this. Is that something that will change very soon? I hope so, but there are not many signs of it right now. In fact, the signs are rather to the contrary right now, but one should always be hopeful. So hopeful. The reason why India is being a nation of potential is because of all the resources that are there. So it doesn’t matter whether you’re looking at material resources, social resources, intellectual resources. India is a huge country and it’s got all of them. It doesn’t matter whether you’re looking at rare earths. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking at gold or platinum or iron or steel or coal or what natural resource you’re looking at. We’ve got it and it also has social resources because we have a society that is very personally oriented and relationally oriented or at least it has been through recently and it still has that to a certain extent, but not as much as it was earlier. But socially we are a very rich country and people who go there are so struck by the depth and richness of family relationships and friendships and so on, large families and all that sort of thing and intellectual resources. I mean, there’s no doubt that Indians are not more stupid than most other nations and most other nationals. So what is the reason why India doesn’t break through? Well, there are two main reasons. One is corruption and corruption is of course related to the kind of culture we have which has historically had this problem and the second is that the elite which has developed has not been, has not accepted the responsibility of reforming society strongly enough. There was a group of people who took this responsibility from about the 1880s, 1890s onwards, still independence and then very soon after independence, the elite stopped taking the responsibility to reform our culture and to reform our society and that’s been really the basis of the basic problem in the country. Everything else is an expression of these two problems, the corruption of the country and the lack of responsibility being accepted by the elite. What kind of responsibility would the elite need to accept? Well, they would need to accept things like really making sure that the caste system disappeared from the country. Why? Because the caste system guarantees that intellectual work is done by the top caste and therefore once you get educated, let’s say to a PhD level or a master’s level, you aspire to become like the top caste and the top caste doesn’t do any work. The top caste only thinks and does the religious rituals. The second caste has the power. So this is the military and ruler caste. Their job is to rule the country and administer the country. They’re the administrators but they don’t do any work beyond that. They don’t do any productive work. The third caste is my caste, the business caste but we are not really businessmen in the sense of entrepreneurial wealth generators. We are traders and traders are important and traders do add value. There’s no doubt about that but they’re not what we are talking about in an entrepreneurial society. They, meaning my caste, don’t do any work either. So in traditional Indian society, the work was done by the more than 50% of the population that were treated, that were described by the word Shudra. Shudra means down there. So if you’re a productive kind of person, you actually belong down there. It’s the nonproductive people who belonged up here and the trouble was you could not change that situation by merit because you were born into your caste and you were stuck with your caste for the rest of your life. And if you were atishudra, that means really, really downtrodden, the bellets, the untouchables, then of course there was no chance for you at all. It didn’t matter how clever you were, how hardworking you were, what your character was, totally irrelevant. So by this means, traditional society disabled, socially disabled, 85% of the population. So whatever progress we’ve made in India since independence has been on the strength of the, let’s say, 15% of the country. Just imagine how much progress India would make if you were able to tap the talents and the energies and the initiative and the entrepreneurialism of, okay, not 100%, 30% of the population. It would double the speed at which the country is going. But that requires much deeper reform of the system. Is that something that could come from the top? Is that something where you feel like a prime minister or a head of parliament could do that? Or it is something that you can only do through a lifelong education, through a bottom up process where you open up people to new ideas and tell them this is different in the rest of the world. Normally, people don’t know that, right? They’re born into this day alliterate. They don’t have a chance to educate themselves. But once they realize, well, there is another reality, an alternate reality out there, is that the way to change that. Well, both things are happening and have happened. So technology, as we were saying, mass communications and so on, has been opening things up as people travel, roads come in, so people can travel, they meet different worlds. And so that has also contributed to loosening some of these social rigidities, caste system, religion, rigidities, people can move. They can physically move from one place to the other, especially if they’re educated, but not only, even if they’re illiterate, people have moved and settled in cities thousands of miles away. All those things have social liberation, which is a great thing. But really, for fundamental change to happen, not for individuals here and there or small groups here and there, or even large groups here and there, but in the Indian context, very small, to benefit from these things, for real system change to happen, it really needs to be driven from the top. And this is what was realized and recognized by the reformers of India at the end of the 19th century, who really gave rise to the independence movement and who then pioneered the constitution of India, which embedded these new humane values in it as distinct from the inhumane values of our traditional cultures. And so the constitution and the new mechanisms of parliamentary elections and so on worked to loosen the bonds of these traditional the traditional bonds in our society. But over the last few years, the process has stopped and even been reversed, because there is no political commitment to continuing that process. In fact, there’s a political commitment to reversing that process and going in a completely different direction. So we are at a very interesting stage in Indian history, in terms of the cultural direction of the country. When you look into the role of religion, I mean, you see this reflected in India and in discrepancy also to Pakistan, right, a country that’s mostly driven, the biggest part of the population is Muslim, which seems to do better, my assumption, with the caste system, it seems to be something they had an easier time to remedy. Do you think Hinduism is related to this or it’s just an accident? No, I mean, the culture is the culture. We have a Hindu culture, and as we have a Hindu culture, caste is inevitably and, you know, inescapably a part of it. So if you believe in reincarnation, most Hindus believe in reincarnation. And then, of course, the question is, when you come back next time, what do you come back as? Well, you can, of course, come back as a worm or something like that or an elephant or something, but you can also come back as a Dalit, as an untouchable. So your status in life is tied to your, the concept of your past deeds and misdeeds. And if you take the caste system seriously, then, of course, you should not be educating these people who are after all only suffering the just consequences of their sins in their past life. And so you shouldn’t be building hospitals, you shouldn’t be building schools, you should not be building roads to their colonies, you know, the areas where they live, you should just leave them to rot because this is divine justice being meted out on them. And this may seem a strange sort of statement to make, but that is actually the attitude that a lot of people have had and sadly still have. I mean, I was teaching at the top college in the country, and this is not biased in my part, this is actually the case by all the surveys and everything. And one of my colleagues shouted at me in public, because I had restarted the social service league in the college, the college had had a social service league, a small one, and it had kind of gone defunct and I had restarted it. And he shouted at me in public that this was not the morally acceptable thing to do, to have a social service league to help poor people. That’s crazy. What you see in many Abrahamic religions is this drive to constant self improvement. Some have it more, some have it less. And it’s this idea that everyone is kind of equal, different than the caste system. It doesn’t turn out that way. It’s not that all these societies are perfect meritocracies, but I think that’s the idea that they aspire to, that depending on what you and your life, you’re going to make things right with God. However, that works out later on. When I always find the pictures, let’s assume we have this caste system in place and there’s a certain part of population, as you described, that we shouldn’t put too many resources at that group. But why wouldn’t the group rebel? Why wouldn’t the group rise up? Why wouldn’t the group just run away, apply all kinds of defensive mechanisms to basically change their life and just say, well, that’s all nonsense. We can do it, we can rise up, we can be the smartest people in the country, we can build our own wealth and everyone will be jealous. So why doesn’t this self defense kick in? It has kicked in, but it has kicked in only in very small ways. So there have been rebellions against the system, including armed rebellions from time to time. But of course, they don’t have the resources, they’re poor. So the state resources, the wealth and the power is with the rich and the upper castes. And so the lower castes, there may be larger in number, cannot actually rise against these upper castes because of the fact that the wealth is not with them and the institutions of power, you know, simply said guns are not with them. But if you go to Pakistan or to the US somewhere else, right, they could run away, make money and then we contribute that money to the rise of other rebellions, so to speak. Well, this is of course happening. But it also happens the other way, because most of the people who emigrate from India tend to be from the upper castes. And of course, they are the people who are financing the counter revolution that is happening in India at the moment, because they are financing the upper castes to make sure that the upper castes can keep their old. So two can play this game, it’s not really the poor who can play this game, nor the lower cast who can play this game. No, but the one main reason is that the lower castes have accepted this idea that they are suffering for their sins in the past life. So once you accept this as your faith, as your religion, as your belief, then that militates against you rising up against it. A few people may do it because of whatever reasons they’re desperate or they’re infected by foreign ideas. But most people won’t rebel for that reason. On the other hand, there has been a slow loosening. So if you go to the cities, and they are of course now more than 50% of the population, there the bonds of caste are not as strong as they would be in a village. But you only need to travel 30 or 40 kilometers outside a city, and you will find very traditional societies still there. And the real problem is that you cannot break free of the system, because the system has its economic stranglehold on you. You can leave your father’s house and go to a city, but where will you spend the night? You can only spend the night with relatives or friends, and they are of course part of the system. You can get a job, yes, but it has to be a rich enough job for you to be able to afford to be independent. And then if you are independent, the issue is immediately, are you going to help your brother? Are you going to help your sister? Are you going to help your aged parents? Are you going to help your aged uncle, who was so kind to you when you were little? And so even if you were actually able financially to be independent, it’s very difficult to be because all these relationships mean that you feel obliged to continue to support them. And so you’re part of the system. So any kind of change is very slow, but it has been happening. And remember the change started in India in the 6th century BC, with the founding of the religions of journalism and Buddhism. They were anti caste religions. But of course, the system struck back and hammered them down. And then, you know, Islam came along and Islam was a great equalizer, as we were mentioning with Pakistan. But of course, Islam was a minority religion. And now the current rulers of the country are trying very hard to beat it down. And then of course, Christianity came along in the first century AD, but really from the 18th century AD onwards. And that was part of what led to the Bengal Renaissance and the reform movement in the country. So there have been various attempts to reform this. And very slowly, I think thanks to technology today, we are on a good track. And I think we can foresee the end of this prison of caste as the founder of the Indian Constitution put it. Once that happens, or to the extent that it happens, we will find India becoming more and more a country that does, in fact, its potential. One thing that I keep asking on this podcast is the utility of a religion. And obviously, from an anthropological perspective, we have the increased trust. People who have similar religion, then you trust them more, more trust leads to higher specialization and typical leads to higher productivity, which in turn makes your country better off, right? Makes everyone better off. And you can be worse, so to speak. So that seems to be something we can easily logically explain. But there is a utility of religion. And any surviving religion these days has been better than the alternative. So at least in that regional geographic area, it competed against all the other religions and it won no loss. Otherwise, we wouldn’t know about it anymore. It would be forgotten. There are tons of religions that nobody ever talks about anymore, or at least interpretations of that religion. Things have morphed over time. So Hinduism seems to be, even before the Bengali Renaissance, it’s, and still, it seems to offer enough competitive advantage to be around, even though it has these issues, right? That it excludes certain parts of the population. But this sounds like a great idea, because you never know what the next genius is. It might be just that person. You just exclude it. And then you would be, well, you will be really sorry if you didn’t foster help foster that genius. What do you think is that the competitive advantage of Hinduism? Well, I should say, first of all, that there is, in fact, no such thing as Hinduism. There are many Hinduisms. And there are Hindus. So Hinduism is basically a Western invention. And Westerners looked at India, didn’t understand it, and then worked out some kind of way of hanging it together. But it’s really a Western invention. There are branches of Hindu thought and lifestyle and so on that are atheistic. There are branches of Hindu thought and practice, which are agnostic. There are branches of Hinduism or Hindu thought and practice that believe in many gods, that believe in one God, that believe in many gods, but one God is supreme. Even though there are many gods, one God is kind of like the God, chief God, if you like. Sort of, exactly. Very parallel. So there are many varieties of Hinduism. There are not just Hindus who believe in caste. There are Hindus who are anti caste. So, you know, there is no such thing as Hinduism. There are many varieties of Hinduism. And that’s the first thing I think you have to recognize. The second thing to recognize is that the Hindu social system is really what we’re talking about. And the strength of the Hindu social system has been that people march in step with each other. And when people march in step with each other, there is a certain longevity to it. There is, of course, a slowness to it. You know, the old statement, if you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go a long distance, go with a friend or go in company. And that applies absolutely to India. India has survived as a society because of its strength, because of the strength of its society. And the negative of the caste system is also the positive that it has both held the society together and enabled it slowly to progress over the years. Coming back to your question about religion, I find that when people talk about religion, it’s always a, it immediately becomes a kind of biased discussion and a biased discussion which is looking at certain phenomenon, but not at other phenomenon, which are actually, in principle, the same. So when people talk about religion, what are they really talking about? They’re talking about your beliefs and your lifestyle, which comes, if you’re sensible and consistent, then, of course, follows from those beliefs. But if you look at any kind of textbook on religion, it will give you the sixth main religions and all this sort of thing. But these main religions are not the real religion of modern civilization. The real religion of modern civilization is knowledge, is power, is money, and is me. This is the real religion of modern civilization. So you can be a Muslim, I can be a Hindu, she can be a Buddhist, you know, somebody else can be something else. But these are only tokens from our past. Our real religions for all of us today tend to be money, power, knowledge, and me, me, me, and me. And this new religion tends not to be studied and tends not to be looked at as a belief system, which is worth studying, investigating, critiquing in the same ways we can critique, you know, Hindu thought or Muslim thought or Christian thought or Jewish thought or whatever else. But to my mind, this is the most important religion for us to come to terms with. And the pluses and minuses of this modern new religion, this giant religion of our civilization is really worth taking seriously. I like how you put this. It’s really this, this paganism, right? It’s everything that, that most religions, centralized religions, they argue against. That’s what they don’t want to be or that it’s kind of like these things they want to regulate. It’s how society works when we all just, we are free of any, any conscience. This is what we see on social media, for instance, where we kind of feel it’s this, this unregulated, unfettered, commerce and the Olympic brain takes over. And then the religion is obviously a regulator who, who kind of helps us to mediate that and then get it right long term because certain of these things don’t seem to be so successful. At least it seems that way because we still have these big religions, centralized religions around. Yes. Oh, absolutely. And there are more around than we, than we realize and we think, but they’re very much around. You’re right. I think the issue with modern civilization is, is the issue of how we handle freedom. And the issue with handling freedom is that you can either have internally generated limits and guidelines, or you have to have externally imposed limits and guidelines on free society if you’re not to have a completely chaotic and self destructive society. Now, till now, the old religions and religions and others have contributed to conscience as a result of which there have been the internal policemen that have enabled society keep to keep going so far. But these old, these old influences are becoming less and less or have become so far less and less important as a result of which the internal policemen have declined in number. And as the internal policemen have declined, we are looking more and more to the state to provide the external policemen to police society. And so we’re moving towards a tyrannical society rather than a free society. This is always the challenge. You can move from very rigid societies to free societies. But when you move to a free society, how free can you be without being completely chaotic and self destructive. And so if you don’t have the conscience that is given to you by religion or philosophy or your own good sense or whatever it is, humane values, and then you end up with a totalitarian society all over again. Yeah, it seems there’s a lot of proponents for they call it anarcho capitalism. So something that is the extreme version of libertarianism, where you basically don’t have any rules, a lot, a lot of enforced rules, just a few, everyone just kind of enforces their own rules, which kind of easily end up in tyranny. On the other hand, you just need one warlord who amasses a little bit of more power and then you’re good. He doesn’t have any restrictions. So it’s, I think these forces are always at, they always work against each other. And we will see probably something that is more, we already see the, you know, the eco movement, the way to be closer to earth, to not pollute the planet. I think this is this kind of self regulation that we would use to get out of an Abrahamic or other religions, where we kind of look into what is actually right, not just how much can I consume, but what should I do on this planet? It’s kind of an outgrowth of this. I don’t know if it’s going to survive. And it’s very hard to predict. And a lot of people say there is going to be a new set of global religion, like a meta religion, that we all can kind of describe to that is more egalitarian, maybe that, and we kind of have that already with certain ideas come out of the technology space, but we don’t have anything that converts people like wildfire. When we go back to the early days of Christianity or Islam, they basically took over the world in 10, 20 years, very short time frame, where they converted everyone who’s ever seen this thing, because it was so interesting, it was so appealing. I don’t think we have that right now, but I feel like there is something calming that could sell that well. I think the issue is, you’re right, when the teachings of Jesus first appeared, they just swept through the, not the elite, but everybody else, Islam the same. And the reason for that was, of course, the society was in a terrible situation and people looking for answers. At the moment in our society, there are still enough people not looking for answers, perfectly comfortable as they are. Thank you very much. Don’t disturb me. Don’t, don’t challenge me. Don’t challenge my thinking. You know, I have got a good lifestyle. Let me just enjoy it. That’s because you’re Switzerland, probably. No, I’m not actually, I’m at the moment in England, which is not an ideal society. Switzerland may be much more ideal, but no, but it’s not just here. I mean, you know, most people who have the power to change things tend to be the middle class. And the middle class for the first time in history is a middle class that I tried to begin describing earlier, which is very selfish, very self oriented, comfort oriented, and not really taking responsibility for the situation that the world is in and the disasters towards which we are headed if we don’t take things seriously, ecologically and socially, as we’ve discussed in terms of potential tyrannies coming upon us and all that. So the opportunity is there to create a wonderful new society because technology offers us almost unlimited potential. But the challenge is we are not harnessing it adequately. Technology is never neutral. Technology is always an amplifier. People forget that the technology is an amplifier. So in an unequal society, if you introduce technology, it’s going to increase the inequalities. But if you introduce it in that society, and the people who benefit from it, then use it to reduce inequalities, that is absolutely magic. That’s what we want. But that involves a certain degree of thinking, a certain degree of selflessness, a certain degree of organization. And that’s what we’re lacking at the moment. It’s coming, but it’s coming in very small ways, not fast enough, fast enough, and not strong enough. A lot of those renaissance, so to speak, a lot of sudden discoveries of knowledge and changes in the world, they seem to also create a bunch of tunes, something we relate back to many years later, that really, they put a new paradigm in the world. And one of those is the Bengali renaissance. Not a lot of people know about it, including me, until a couple of weeks ago. But what is the biggest takeaway from the Bengali renaissance, and why is it so important? Reform had come in Indian society from people on the margins. And these people on the margins started social movements like Buddhism, Jainism. Islam, of course, came from foreigners, and therefore, in that sense, they were marginals. They ruled the country, but they were, of course, marginal to society. The British came and they unleashed certain things. They were rulers, yes, but they were foreigners, you know, like Muslims had been foreigners, of course, before they came to us. So the social change had always been unleashed by outsiders or by marginal people. The Bengali renaissance for the first time was a group of Brahmins and other upper caste people who did precisely what I was talking about a moment ago, which is they realized that they were in a position to transform society, and they started putting their personal time, energy, money, intellectual resources, and organizing ability into beginning to impact society. And because they were insiders, not only were the insiders, they were the leaders that came from the group of leaders of the elite of this society, they had the impact which the others historically did not have or could not have. Moreover, they were helped by the fact that technological and sociological changes were coming in as a result of British rule. So for the first time, traditional society was being broken up by large scale migration into cities. The thing you must understand about Indian villages is people from different castes actually live in different parts of the village. It’s a kind of informal zoning system. You don’t go outside your caste area except for good reasons. And you have your own water supply, you have your own temple, you know, you’re really self contained ghettos in a village. But once you had the opportunity moving to a city, nobody knew you, nobody knew your caste. Nobody knew who was sitting next to you in modern society in a bus or a train. Nobody knew who your neighbor was. You don’t know the antecedents of this guy where he really comes from. He can lie, he can say I come from village X, whereas actually he comes from village Y. He can say I’m caste A, whereas actually he’s caste C or D or E. So there was an opportunity for people to move into these new societies, acquire new identities. And because of the social change that was taking place, the turmoil that was happening, there was an openness to new ideas. And there was a possibility of adopting new ideas that these people spoke into. And because they spoke into them, the Bengal Renaissance really began the actual contemporary transformation of India. So that has had an unbroken line of transformation up to today. Now, people are trying to reverse it, but that’s, you know, remains to be seen what happens to it. But up to today, the line of transformation has continued from the Bengal Renaissance onwards. That’s a very quick part of history. I could go into all kinds of details, but probably not that interesting right now. I’m fascinated by it. And it’s a revolution in that sense that, and you refer to it many times, it’s more like speaking to the conscience of people in India. It’s more a poetic response. It’s more how should you live your life response than it was a scientific Renaissance, right? When we think of the Renaissance that happened in Europe in the 13th century, we, maybe for bad reasons or good reasons, we associated with mostly scientific discoveries that came out of that time, or at least that’s the one we remember. So, sorry, just to take a step backward, it’s not actually accurate to say that it was the Renaissance that created that. It was actually the Reformation that created that. So if you look at the Renaissance, the Renaissance took place throughout Europe, but it was an elite movement. And it’s the elite scientists and so on that we think about when we think about the Renaissance. But when you look at the Reformation, the difference between the Renaissance and the Reformation lay specifically in the fact that the Reformation liberated people to be able to read. They said, everybody must read. Why should everybody read? What should everybody read? Of course, everybody should read the Bible. Why should everybody read the Bible? Because without reading the Bible, you cannot understand what God wants from you. You have to depend on the Bible. These priests and so on. We don’t want to depend on priests and popes and all the rest of it. You need to have a direct relationship with God. You need to read the Bible. You need to understand. You need to think about it. You need to make up your own mind where you stand on issues. So the mental and intellectual revolution that took place as a result of the Reformation created the first societies in the world, I would say, where the massive people were free to think for themselves and were free to engage with the world and therefore were free to come up with inventions and discoveries and were free to accumulate wealth. Remember, wealth accumulation is not something that everybody is allowed to do in most societies. In most societies, it’s only the elite who are allowed to accumulate wealth. So the beginnings of a middle class, which was able to think for itself, which was able to earn money and accumulate money, which was able to come up with new inventions and discoveries and go to the market with them. Now there was a real market. You were not dependent on royal patrons. You could go to your peers, your friends and neighbors and say, look, I’ve come up with this new invention. Do you want to help support me so that I can take it places? And so you had a middle class that was able to finance the beginnings of the industrial revolution. And people forget the titanic impact of the Reformation. And they keep talking bittering on about the Renaissance, but the Renaissance had really a marginal effect on unleashing creativity, mass creativity. The first society that had mass creativity and mass invention was Reformation Society. And that is the reason why even till I didn’t understand this till I went to Switzerland, by the way. And it was in Switzerland that I realized that it is the Protestant areas of Northern Europe, which were able to go through this social transformation and come up with wealth for everybody. So you had Catholic cantons, states or districts or whatever you want to call them in our language, English, and you had Protestant cantons. And the Protestant cantons tended to be better educated, tended to be wealthier, tended to have more inventions and discoveries than the Catholic ones side by side in the same country. You looked at this and you said, why is this? So if you look at the history of the development of Switzerland, you say, what are the big cities? The big cities are Geneva, Bern, Basel, Zurich, etc. Right? But if you go back in history, they were the same size villages as all the other villages around. Why did these villages grow into towns and cities, whereas others did not? Because these cities, these villages were reformed. And as they were reformed, they went through this revolution. And as they went through the revolution, these places became cities, became the biggest cities. It’s quite astonishing the impact of all that. And I am astonished that even Protestants don’t understand this. I, as a Hindu, have to educate Protestants in their own history and their own heritage. Well, that’s a good example for Switzerland. I feel like Germany is the opposite. You have the Protestant states that are usually much poorer than the Catholic ones. And there isn’t that many. They are predominantly Catholic. But I guess they both had, they were shocked into what happened with the printing press, what can be done with the printing press, and how to react to it. And in that sense, you’re absolutely right. The Reformation, obviously, took more advantage of this innovation. And the Catholic Church, who probably would have been happy if it would have never been invented. They wouldn’t have changed the thing, right? But they changed also, but more reluctant than that branch that went off into the Reformation. Yes, but if you look at the Catholic countries, their real Reformation happened very much, hundreds of years later. So if you look at Spain, you look at Portugal, you look at Italy, you could argue that modernization has really actually started reaching into those countries only at the beginning of the 20th century. It was not the beginning of the 20th century, it began to be modernized. Well, Spain and Portugal had this amazing drive of entrepreneurship and innovation in the 15th century, literally just the adventurers, right? Going through the explorers, going through other continents, kind of doing whatever they were doing, taking 200 men and just subjugating a whole continent. As bad as what they did and how many people died. I find this an amazing feat, the sheer small amount of pioneers that basically were able to be so successful, extracting gold, whatever they were doing, they were murderers probably too. But the sheer amount of what happened and how did they change the world, this is just incredible for a few hundred men. Yes. Well, if you look at India, I mean, obviously what you’re saying about Latin America is perfectly true. But if you look at India, most people don’t realize that the number of white soldiers in India never exceeded 10,000. Yeah. And what was the population of India at the time, 250? Oh, well, at the time of independence, we had 330 million people in the country. And obviously, population grew a lot between the end of the 19th century and the middle of the 20th century. But even if there were only 100 million people, to think that 10,000 soldiers could keep 100 million people in check in control is unbelievable. How did they do it? Did they do it by sheer brutality? Was it violence? Did they do it because they were kind of welcome? Was it that they were seen as Godlike? It just happened in some places that they were seen as gods and nobody would… Oh, no, no, they were not seen as God. They were seen as outcasts. They were seen as outcasts. And white, you see, is not a good color in India. White is the color of leprosy. White is the color associated with death. So if you look at all these corpses that are being lined up for, you know, for cremation in India, you will see they’re all covered with white or saffron, if they’re holy men, they’re covered with saffron. If they’re ordinary citizens, they’re covered with white. White is the color of death. White is the color of leprosy in our society. So we didn’t treat the white people as gods at all. No, no, they were welcomed because they were traders and they came to buy things that were available. And then when they acquired a little bit of a foothold in the country, they were able, because of alliance with the trading costs, to have access to the ruling class. And as they had access to the ruling class, they were able to ask for permissions to do more and more. And gradually they were able to consolidate their power. And then they got to a position where they were able to broker relationships between kings in India. So they became king makers. And of course, there was a lot of brutality that went with it. Once they rose to positions of power and had their own armies and went to war with the Indian armies and so on and so forth. Obviously, war is brutal. And any, any ruler is brutal. Otherwise, he or she can’t keep their position, as Machiavelli told us many centuries ago. Yeah, you read so much Machiavelli. That’s, that’s reality. That’s reality. Any colonial power is going to be brutal. And any ruler is going to be brutal. Otherwise, his or her rule is not going to last long. Because rulership embodies exploitation. And the exploited are not going to stand it for very long unless you’re brutal with them. What about the problem we have the self rule right now? So we have democracies and the, the ruler is selected, depending on the democracy, and about 51% or 50 plus something percentage. So there’s a large minority that didn’t elect the current government that hates them or just doesn’t agree with them. We, we still have that problem that we kind of, we, we select a certain way a country should develop the economic policies, the policies for how we, we socially operate. And there’s a large proportion of society that isn’t represented in the current government that might win the next election. So things can change, obviously. But isn’t that, do you feel we’re dealing with it in the best possible way? Or is there a better way to, to protect those minorities, so to speak? Well, historically, I’m talking before the 1980s, certainly, and maybe before the 1960s, anybody who was elected to power thought of herself for himself as the prime minister, we are talking of obviously democratic countries, thought of herself for himself as representing the whole nation, not as representing a party, but as representing a nation. And therefore, thought it their duty to make sure that all parts of society were looked after. Obviously, they look more after their own. But it was not a zero sum game. My men and women, my party might corner, you know, more share of the benefits than obviously the guys who lost. But there was a kind of fatherly or motherly attitude to the people who lost. These are also my children. So these are not my favorite children. You know, that was the kind of attitude. Whereas now the attitude is these guys are enemies. You know, get rid of them if you can, disadvantage them as much as you can, give 100% to my people if you can. Obviously, I can’t in a democratic side, but that’s the attempt. So there’s been a sea change, there’s been a fundamental change in attitude since the 1960s in terms of the duties and responsibilities that the elected leaders take upon themselves and the kind of conscience that people have. So the conscience has changed, the concept of duties and responsibilities has changed. And of course, the whole business of campaign finance has changed. So in the old days, it didn’t take a lot of money to be elected. And now it takes a huge amount of money to be elected. And the people who finance my election obviously expect to return on their investment. And the return they’re expecting on their investment is not 6%. If they were expecting 6%, they put their money in a bank, but they’re not expecting 6%, which is why they put it into political parties. And they’re getting a 100% return, a 1000% return. I mean, India is a classic example of this. You’ve got a major businessman in Adani and Ambani, and these guys financed Modi’s election and look at the returns they’re getting. They’re fantastic returns. So the best kind of investment today is to invest in a political leader whom you think is going to get into position. And then you make a killing of that guy. And whether it’s Trump or whether it’s Modi or whether it’s Xi or whether it’s, we’re in the same situation. It’s a sad story if that’s the best investment. But there’s something strange going on with all these 0% interest rates in most developed countries. There is no good investment left, right? So we used to have 20% interest rates, and the whole country still worked. But it has a lot of different implications. It seems like once you reach 0%, something is completely rotten, or you kind of have given up. Because if there’s no good investments around what’s going on in your country, I think we are not really asking ourselves, at least in the US and in Europe, this question enough. Because something seems to be deeply broken. We cannot have negative interest rates 10 years out. That seems ridiculous. And the real question people say, well, how do I adjust to this? What do I do in terms of my investments? I understand that. But it’s not the right question to ask, is what’s actually broken? What can be fixed to have a somewhat useful market driven interest rate? Does it need to be 10%, 15% or 5%? It’s a good question, but 0% or minus cannot be good. It doesn’t make sense, yes. I think you’ve got to go back to the root of the issue. And the root of the issue is we’ve been printing too much money. Or, I mean, that’s obviously the limit. But then we should apply interest rates, right? We’re printing not enough money. That seems to be the answer. Because why would you give someone your money to get 0.111% interest rates if you expect inflation? You wouldn’t. That’s the consequence. But the reason why money was printed, or the money was made available through the national systems that we have, is because between politicians and central bankers, there was only one way to avoid disaster and that was to print more money. National disaster was avoided by printing more money. So if you look at the COVID crisis right now and you look at the amount of money that is being made available, it is unbelievable around the world. And we are following a track, following a route, following a pattern, following a way of thinking that we exercised earlier at the start of the big crisis that came to us a few years ago. And then if you go back to the 1980s and you look at the crisis that came to us then, we did exactly the same thing. If you go back to the Vietnam War in America, the Americans did exactly the same thing. So this is a pattern that has developed starting with the United States and the Vietnam War. It’s a pattern that’s developed and being globalized. Every time there’s a crisis, you get out of it by printing more money and making more money available. Where does all this money go? How can we print so much money and still end up with low and lower interest rates? Should be the opposite, right? We should be at 20% because inflation is out of bounds. Inflation is not happening because of course there is very little demand in comparison to supply. We were talking about the great advantages of technology, but one of the great disadvantages of technology is that once you have moved from a craft production system to a machine production system, you multiply productivity, you multiply availability. And as long as incomes are rising and people are interested in your products, that’s great. And you move from manufacture to automated manufacture, and of course you are multiplying productivity even more. So you have now the possibility, we have now the possibility of creating unlimited product in any field, shirts, trousers, watches, spectacles, computers, doesn’t matter what it is. We can produce unlimited quantities of these things if obviously we can look after the waste and so on. It’s a downstream issue. So the problem is, if you can produce an unlimited quantity of computers, but you don’t have an unlimited quantity of buyers, the price of that computer is going to drop to zero. It’s obvious. It doesn’t seem to happen. We sell more and more semiconductor related products. I have now a phone, I have an iPad, I have a laptop, and I renew these now every 12 months. It used to be every three years and now it’s 12 months. So with these kinds of products, of course, but how often do you renew your house? How often do you change your house? How often do you change the white goods in your house? Yeah. It doesn’t happen anymore. Yeah. So this is the issue. You see that you can have rapid productivity rises and rapid consumption rises that keep more or less in line with that. That’s great. In those sectors of the economy, that’s great. If you look at all the other sectors of the economy, you don’t have that phenomenon. So consumption growth has not caught up with productivity growth, because income growth has not caught up with productivity growth. But the productivity numbers, sorry, let me just complete that, because income growth has been disproportionately distributed so that 0.1% of the population has actually had more of the wealth than most of us. And if I belong to 0.1%, I’m not actually consuming that much. I’m probably not consuming more computers than you’re consuming. I’m sorry. I’m assuming you’re not in the 0.1%. And maybe I should assume that. That’s fine. I’m not. But if I’m in the 0.1% and you’re not in the 0.1%, our consumption of computing is going to be roughly the same. So my increased consumption capacity doesn’t match actual consumption. I like where you’re going with this. But there’s some quantities that nobody really can answer for me. One is, we have clearly seemingly access to more information. Our productivity is up. I think we all can agree we feel this. But if you read productivity numbers that we actually get, it’s not. So the obvious solution is, well, we don’t consume as much. So we consume more information, but that obviously doesn’t go into the productivity numbers. But it still boggles my mind where all this money goes. The US printed now 30% of all dollars I reprinted. I think we’re printing the last 12 months. And there seems to be a big black hole and it all disappears. This is singularity, not that technology is coming, but the singularity of money destroying is going on somewhere. I don’t know where it’s going. And Switzerland is now buying Netflix and Google shares just to have an asset they feel correlates with where the world is going and they can keep the Swiss currency aligned with the euro. And it’s not hardening too much. This is really odd to me. I can’t wrap my mind around it. A lot of people say, well, I had Jim Rogers on and he’s basically saying, well, the next crash is coming. There’s always another crash. And he said, well, this is the biggest crash. I were probably also true because we never printed that much money. But still, given from all we know from economic theory, this is what we see right now should never happen. Just let me take you back a moment. When you say inflation is not happening, what we’re talking about is inflation is not happening in consumer goods. There’s huge inflation happening outside of, yeah, asset price inflation is happening. And I would argue that even there’s inflation happening in company stock values, which is disproportionate and not justified by the actual earnings potential of these companies. In some cases, obviously, yes, but in many cases, no. So inflation is happening, but it’s happening outside consumer areas. Because demand for those assets and goods and services continues to increase. And therefore, you can keep those prices up. But consumption is a direct function of income plus population. And since that is not going up, then consumption demand is not going up. And therefore, consumption inflation is not going up. Yeah, I mean, asset price bubbles are going on. I feel like they have been going on for a long time, but we see this massive amount of money that’s coming in. We should see the assets going up even more, but they’ve been more or less still bubbling away the same way they’ve been doing over the last 20 years. So definitely this is where money goes. But something else is going on. I don’t know, maybe I don’t think that’s the only answer that just starts. Yes, it’s happening. But also the current season, I was debating this with Peter Barker. We basically agreed that we shouldn’t set an interest rate. We shouldn’t do that. Because it’s harmful. It’s very Soviet style. Why do we set interest rates? It’s ridiculous. But if everyone else in especially countries in Europe, they set their interest rate artificially to low, we are in trouble. The dollar is in trouble and the whole economy is in trouble. So we all went into these artificially low interest rates set by central banks and then became the self fulfilling belief, which should lead to hyperinflation. For some reason it doesn’t. And gold and silver go down. I find it mesmerizing. I think we have to go back to the fundamental issue. And the fundamental issue is fiat currencies. As long as you’ve got fiat currencies, you’re going to have these kinds of problems and challenges. And there is something to be said going back to non or going on to non fiat currencies, where the value of a currency is related to its GDP on a rolling basis. Let’s say if you adopted 1980, 1950, you can debate which is the best year to use as your base year. You could say 2021 doesn’t matter which base year you take. But once you agree globally on a base year, then your currency’s value should be the value of the GDP of that country on a rolling basis every three years, every five years. Shouldn’t be less than that because too volatile. But once you adopt a system like that, you then begin to get to the root of these problems and you begin to get at a situation which is much more manageable than the kinds of situations we have at the moment where we are clearly stoking up huge inflationary pressures ahead, even though we don’t have the inflationary pressures right now. Wherever the money is hiding, the moment the economy starts coming to any kind of development, begins to grow again in any kind of way, money will start chasing these assets because at the moment money has nowhere to chase these assets. And the moment that starts happening, obviously inflation will grow and the next challenge for our civilization is going to be how do we keep inflation under control when that happens? Because you’ve never been in that kind of situation before where so much money is going to change chase so little growth. I agree. I can’t believe that it hasn’t happened yet during the last 20 years because keep on printing money and we can think about the asset price bubbles. For the last two years, of course, it hasn’t happened because of COVID and it hasn’t happened for the previous year. And for the last 10 years, it hasn’t happened because of the global economic crisis that we’ve been into. If you go back another 10 years, there was another global economic crisis in the 1990s. So those things have helped to keep these inflationary pressures under control. But can we expect that to continue indefinitely? No. Therefore, we should be thinking ahead of time, how do we manage the inflationary challenges when they come? And I think the way to go ahead with that is to look at alternative currencies. And these alternative currencies should be side by side with the fiat currencies. And we should be reducing fiat currencies over time. And we should be increasing our alternative currencies which are value based over time so that they can be gradually move over from fiat currencies with all the problems that they have at the moment to soundly based currencies because they will eliminate these kinds of problems that we have right now. So these new currencies, this could be a blockchain currency that grows with the GDP. Exactly. We put that extra money in the system. Yeah, that’s right. So that would be a very good way forward. I think that nobody ever convinced me of and maybe you know the answer because I think it relates to that a lot. The modern monetary theory why can’t the non inflating currency, say like at least plant or gold or silver, they inflate a little but it’s relatively small percentage, half a percent, one percent. What is it such for running a global economy? Why do we have to inflate more? Well, we don’t have to but the trouble with modern industrial society is of course that you are dealing with information coming to you a bit late, not very late but a bit late and so you’re responding to the changing situation as strongly and as effectively as you can. You only have two levers, one is a supply of money and the other is interest rate. What is the third lever you have as a central bank or as prime minister or president, whoever you are? Zilch, nothing. You have only these two rather primitive levers to influence your growth rate and to make sure that you’re growing but not growing too fast and not going too slow and I think the move over to more solidly based currencies helps us because it means that the value of the currency can’t be manipulated in the same way and the effect of that will be that we will get to a healthy growth rate and a healthy inflation rate. A healthy growth rate is about 3%, historically if you look back, go into the mathematics of it, when societies have grown healthy they’ve grown at about 3% and therefore the healthy inflation rate should be about 3% in order to match that and when you get out of sync of 3% growth rate and 3% inflation rate you get into the kinds of problems that we’re getting into, social disruption, unpredictable vulnerabilities in financial systems and all the rest of it and a 3% growth rate and inflation rate will also begin to address the wider issue that we’ve not touched upon which is of course climate change and the climate related disasters that are already upon us in some ways and we can foresee much more strongly coming upon us, much faster than we had thought even five years ago. So we need a complete transformation in the way we are living if we want to avoid ecological disaster but not zero growth, I mean some people argue we need a zero growth rate, a zero growth rate would be unsustainable and not possible, you know, nature doesn’t grow at 0%, human beings don’t grow at 0%, zero growth rate is not growth. So, you know, growth is natural, growth is embedded in the nature of the universe so we need to grow but if something grows too quickly we call it cancer. So there is an… I think we need human ingenuity for this problem. I’m sorry. Well, we need human ingenuity, we can solve our carbon emissions sooner or later, maybe not next 10 years, maybe it will take longer but we will have to employ human ingenuity because that’s what helped us in all the millennia. So we overcame crazy struggles before and I think we will overcome this one too, it might take a bit longer but we’re not that far away, I feel from it, but abandoning growth is not a good idea. No, it’s not a good idea and it’s not possible and it’s not natural but the issue is technological solutions are great solutions but technological solutions have to be embedded in a wider system of understanding and a wider system of organization so that we get the right impact of these technologies because the issue with technology is always who owns it and this is what we forget. There’s both dates and ideas that we put so many particles in the atmosphere that we end up with a global winter, that’s probably not a good idea. But it can be done relatively easily, it’s not expensive but you never know if we might be able to ever be able to grow crops again because it might be in the clear winter that’s coming. So people are putting forward new models for global governance and new models for looking at how to harness technologies in the most effective way for the most effective purposes because that’s a challenge with technology, you know, how do you prevent it going berserk, how do you prevent it having the wrong impacts and I think that problem will only be solved as more of us ask the question why am I here, what is the purpose of my life, what is a good life anyway and what is a good society and what is my, what is a small contribution that I can make towards building a good society and because not enough of us are asking these questions we are not getting the right kind of social consequences and global consequences. People say to me when I grew up people of my generation say to me when I grew up we were so optimistic we thought everything was going to go well and look at the mess the world is in. Well of course the mess is there but the world is also in a better place in many areas and the problem is that of course what we don’t want is the mess, we want all the advantages of technological change, modernity and so on but we don’t want the mess from it and so the issue is what can I contribute to reducing the mess, how can I encourage the system as a whole to be such that we systematically reduce the mess not just by individual acts of philanthropy and kindness which are all very good and very necessary and very essential but how can we contribute to a global system which maintains freedoms and which nevertheless enables us to minimize the kinds of challenges that we’ve been talking about both ecologically, climate change and all that but also socially and economically and in terms of relations between nations. I mean one of the great problems that we have is that starting in the 50s and 60s one of the reasons why we were optimistic was because we were overcoming challenges like the nuclear bomb and we were getting to a place where for the first time in history we had 40, 50, 60, 70 years of no major wars but now you look at the world and you think my goodness could we have a major war? Well yes we could have a major war sadly and so we move from this optimism about war to a kind of well may not be pessimism but certainly caution about war and it feels very negative and that’s a direct consequence of the kind of system that we have built because when you have over productivity then nationalism kicks in and when you don’t have enough consumption rising then nationalism will kick in and as nationalism rises then of course the question is whose national system is going to dominate and this is the trap in which we are right now and unless we can go beyond it and build a better system for the world as a whole we will have clashes sadly and we will have disasters so we have both the possibility of an immensely productive very bright future given to us by technology but the same technology also presents to us the challenge of avoiding really global disasters whether by war or by ecological problems by social revolutions and all the rest of it so I think we are really in a way at the crux of history and there are things that I’ve been talking about so in UBS I used to talk about them and people thought I was either idealistic or naive but I am idealistic and I am naive in some ways but I think the things that I was talking about at UBS three years ago or 30 years sorry maybe you’re just curious but those are those are the exactly the right questions um I can’t believe we I didn’t ask you those in the beginning I think I think we need a new episode for this exactly that’s a question these set of questions have been vexing me for quite some time what is this new place and I think this is is an old theme the Greeks had the same idea right so the what is a better system what is a better regime to make the world a better place and certainly what we’ve been doing for the last 50 years isn’t ideal but it was as good as we could get it to work before but maybe just something better around the corner let me give you let me give you one word and the word is relational okay there’s the the thing to watch is the area of relational thinking which is coming up and relationalism and relational thinking is I think the way forward we can you know discuss it obviously in another episode you know if that fits your time table in mind but I just want to give that one word as a kind of key word to look out for and I think you will find a lot of very interesting thinking coming out of that economically politically socially technologically relational thinking never heard of it but I will look it up probably thank you so much that was awesome thanks for sharing your insight very much thank you appreciate it great pleasure thank you for asking me I’m looking forward to the next time god willing cheers for now have a good day cheers bye for now

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