Jane McGonigal (@avantgame) is a futurist who specializes in designing games that challenge players to tackle real-world problems, and is the bestselling author of Reality is Broken and SuperBetter. Her latest book is Imaginable: How to See the Future Coming and Feel Ready for Anything ― Even Things That Seem Impossible Today.
What We Discuss with Jane McGonigal:
- Why it is more important to be imaginative and insightful than to be 100 percent right when trying to predict what the future has in store for us.
- How do we embrace problem scenarios and their solutions ahead of actual emergencies with an attitude of motivation and hope rather than dread?
- The imaginative value of scheduling personal and professional plans on your calendar 10 years in advance.
- How you can train yourself to spot signals of change that give you an edge on foresight (without falling down conspiracy theory rabbit holes), and imagine the ways anything can be different in the future.
- The First 5 Minutes of the Future: a game Jane developed that helps you consider what to do when the next “unthinkable” change happens.
- And much more…
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In his 1970 book Future Shock, Alvin Toffler told us, “in dealing with the future … it is more important to be imaginative and insightful than to be 100 percent right.” That is, we may not be able to predict the future with unfailing accuracy, but we can anticipate potential problems and imagine numerous ways to solve them before they arrive. “There are going to be surprises. There are going to be unanticipated consequences. But if you’re thinking in this more flexible, more resilient way, it doesn’t really matter what the specifics of the change, disruption, or crisis are, because you’ve been preparing yourself mentally to be agile, adaptable, flexible, and resilient,” says Jane McGonigal, returning guest and author of Imaginable: How to See the Future Coming and Feel Ready for Anything ― Even Things That Seem Impossible Today.
On this episode, Jane joins us to discuss how we can wrap our minds around an uncertain future and develop the ability to be prepared for whatever comes our way. Here, we examine ways to imagine our way out of possible future problems without becoming too wrapped up in doom and gloom, learn how to train ourselves to spot signals of change that give us an edge on foresight, and put a few practicals in our toolkit that allow us to really get a glimpse into how weird and wonderful the future could be — and find our place in it. Listen, learn, and enjoy!
Please Scroll Down for Featured Resources and Transcript!
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Miss the show where we interviewed Google’s Eric Schmidt? Catch up by listening to episode 201: Eric Schmidt | How a Coach Can Bring out the Best in You here!
Thanks, Jane McGonigal!
If you enjoyed this session with Jane McGonigal, let her know by clicking on the link below and sending her a quick shout out at Twitter:
And if you want us to answer your questions on one of our upcoming weekly Feedback Friday episodes, drop us a line at email@example.com.
Resources from This Episode:
- Imaginable: How to See the Future Coming and Feel Ready for Anything ― Even Things That Seem Impossible Today by Jane McGonigal | Amazon
- SuperBetter: A Revolutionary Approach to Getting Stronger, Happier, Braver, and More Resilient — Powered by the Science of Games by Jane McGonigal | Amazon
- Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World by Jane McGonigal | Amazon
- Jane McGonigal | Gaming Your Way to Health and Happiness | Jordan Harbinger
- Jane McGonigal | Website
- Jane McGonigal | Facebook
- Jane McGonigal | Twitter
- Jane McGonigal | TED Talks
- Futures Thinking Specialization with Jane McGonigal | Coursera
- Aging and Unstable, the Nation’s Electrical Grid Is ‘The Weakest Link’ | NPR
- Upton Sinclair | Wikiquote
- Bill Gates Archives | FactCheck.org
- The Supply Chain Crisis Is About to Get a Lot Worse | Wired
- Future Shock by Alvin Toffler | Amazon
- Shanna Swan | The Reproduction Crisis and Humanity’s Future | Jordan Harbinger
- EVOKE: An Online Alternate Reality Game Supporting Social Innovation among Young People around the World | World Bank
- During a Pandemic, We Urgently Need to Stretch Our Imagination by Jane McGonigal | Institute for the Future
- Bridging Psychological Distance | Harvard Business Review
- Thomas Kostigen | Hacking Planet Earth | Jordan Harbinger
- Kelly McGonigal | The Upside of Stress | Jordan Harbinger
- The Rich Are Preparing for the Apocalypse Better Than You | Vice
- Boing Boing Video: Jane McGonigal on Emotion, Gaming, and Dance. | Boing Boing
- Taiwan: World’s Semiconductor Factory | Global Economics
- Why Tech Workers Have Been Leaving Belarus Behind | | ZDNet
- Signals of Change Habit Worksheet | IFTF
- 100 Ways Anything Could Be Different in the Future | IFTF
- The Future of Cryptocurrency | The Motley Fool
- The First 5 Minutes of the Future | IFTF
- If The Internet Shut Down For a Day, What Would Happen? | Allconnect
- 7 Best Offline Messaging Apps for Android and iPhone | Beebom
- The Frozen Calm of Normalcy Bias | Gizmodo
- August 1914 and the End of Unrestricted Mass Migration | VoxEU
- Gene Editing and Genetic Testing Is Set to Change How We Have Children | Axios
- The Slow March Toward the First Same-Sex Couple to Have a Baby | Discover Magazine
- Dator’s Four Futures | The Foresight Guide
- Megatrends: Ten New Directions Transforming Our Lives by John Naisbitt | Amazon
- Meet the Polar Bear of Tomorrow | Sierra Club
- Acquired Red Meat Allergy | Virginia Department of Health
- Dennis Carroll | Planning an End to the Pandemic Era | Jordan Harbinger
- The Iron Men of Rock and Roll | Twisted Sister
- The Future of Privacy | Pew Research Center
- Nina Schick | Deepfakes and the Coming Infocalypse | Jordan Harbinger
- Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) | Investopedia
- Dan Heath | Solving Problems from Upstream | Jordan Harbinger
690: Jane McGonigal | How to See the Future and Be Ready for Anything
[00:00:00] Jordan Harbinger: Special thanks to the new Starbucks Baya Energy drink for sponsoring this episode. With caffeine naturally found in coffee fruit, it's energy that's good.
[00:00:07] Coming up next on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:00:10] Jane McGonigal: When people ask me, what's the big skill I should learn for the next decade, is it certain type of programming or CRISPR genetic modification? What do I need to do to be ready? I'm like, you know, we need to learn how to be welcoming and how to feel comfortable with people who we perceive is different from ourselves. Because if we don't learn how to do that, we are looking at decades of unprecedented social division and suffering. Because we're definitely going to be packed in tighter. That's for sure going to happen.
[00:00:45] Jordan Harbinger: Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. On The Jordan Harbinger Show, we decode the stories, secrets, and skills of the world's most fascinating people. We have in-depth conversations with scientists and entrepreneurs, spies and psychologists, even the occasional organized crime figure, legendary Hollywood director, war correspondent, or hostage negotiator. And each episode turns our guests' wisdom into practical advice that you can use to build a deeper understanding of how the world works and become a better thinker.
[00:01:12] If you're new to the show, or you're looking for a handy way to tell your friends about it, I suggest our episode starter packs. These are collections of our favorite episodes, organized by topic to help new listeners get a taste of everything that we do here on the show — topics like disinformation and cyber warfare, persuasion and influence, crime and cults, abnormal psychology, and more. Just visit jordanharbinger.com/start or search for us in your Spotify app to get started.
[00:01:38] Today, we're talking with futurist Jane McGonigal. This episode is a lot of fun. We talk about predicting the future, future technologies that may change the entire world and certainly life as we know it. This isn't some lazy daydreaming either. Jane predicted the pandemic we're just crawling out of now, as well as the power grid issues we saw last year around the country and other slightly less deadly events as well. In other words, she is great at this. So good, in fact, that companies hire her to help them predict the future for them and their industries. That's a good gig if you can get it. Not only do we talk future trends here, but Jane will show us how to start looking for clues ourselves, so we can make predictions based on our own observations. Join in the fun and be better prepared for the future, both the good and the bad. All right, here we go with Jane McGonigal.
[00:02:29] Well, you forecasted the pandemic in a way, power grid issues, which apparently on the one hand, all the people that needed to know about this kind of thing seemingly didn't know that it was going to happen. And all these other people that really had almost no business in power grid stability were like, "Hey, that could happen to you." And I want to know, one, how you did that and why it seems like all the wrong people — and I mean that facetiously, but all the wrong people predict all these things and all the people who should be predicting these things are like, "La-la, I can't hear you. I don't see it coming."
[00:03:02] Jane McGonigal: Mmm. Yes. The "La-la, I can't hear you" thing is real.
[00:03:08] Jordan Harbinger: I'm psychic.
[00:03:09] Jane McGonigal: I actually think — actually I'm psych.
[00:03:11] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:03:12] Jane McGonigal: You know, I think it's easier to predict the future than many people believe. The problem is that when you are predicting difficult futures—
[00:03:22] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:03:22] Jane McGonigal: —challenging futures. Futures that would require us to adapt change the normal way of doing business. Then you run into all sorts of entrenched interests and bureaucracies that don't want to change.
[00:03:37] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:03:37] Jane McGonigal: And so you might be correct in thinking a certain type of pandemic is looming on the horizon. Or certain type of infrastructure brittleness is going to kick us in the butt in the next decade, but you can see that coming clearly and still people will refuse to think about it. They will choose not to imagine it because it would require a kind of mental flexibility or adaptation that we just — if we can get away with it, we don't want to have to do.
[00:04:11] Jordan Harbinger: What's that Upton Sinclair quote, like it's very hard to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on him not understanding it. Or did I get—? I always mess this one up, but it's something like, "Huh? Stability of the power grid, well, that's kind of my job. It's a really tall order. My boss and the higher ups aren't going to like it. So I'm just going to go with it, it'll be fine because it's been fine in the past," right?
[00:04:30] Jane McGonigal: Yeah.
[00:04:31] Jordan Harbinger: And then when it happens, the person's like, "Well, we couldn't have predicted this." And all these other people are going, "Actually, I wrote about it in this article, Jane McGonigal tweeted about it." This other person at another power company was like, "Hey, your grid is not stable. This was a concern when you separate from the national power grid 20 years ago," or whatever it was. I'm talking about the Austin thing, right? There was like, so many people were like, this was documented. This was like the main issue people were talking about when you made these decisions and you still decided not to do it. And when you dig deep enough, it's kind of enough to make you buy a tin foil hat overnight on Amazon, right? Because you're like, oh, these people just wanted to make more money. So they basically said, "Screw it. It'll be fine." And then when it wasn't a bunch of people died, but then the other ones were like, "I'm fine. So it's okay because I'm rich or whatever."
[00:05:15] Jane McGonigal: Mmm.
[00:05:16] Jordan Harbinger: And looking at guys like Bill Gates — and we'll get to the conspiracy thinking stuff in a bit, but like looking at a guy like Bill Gates who predicted pandemics in general. It's like, then COVID hits and it's dot, dot, dot Bill Gates is profiting from this and putting microchips in the vaccine because look, he saw this coming and no one else did. And it's like, well, not no one else. Actually, a bunch of people that he hired and also a bunch of people that he didn't hire have all been predicting a pandemic, whether they said it was a coronavirus or influenza is kind of irrelevant. But since he went on the forefront of trying to publicize it, it suddenly became he caused it.
[00:05:52] Jane McGonigal: Mmm. Yes. I mean, it's so hard to think clearly when we're facing a shock. And I think one thing that we've all just lived through is that sort of fog of uncertainty. If we've never lived through this type of event before, we don't know what to make of what's happening. We don't have enough information. Then suddenly all of our thinking can get fuzzy and confused and we become prone to buying into conspiracy theories.
[00:06:17] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:06:17] Because we're just, we're so desperate for clarity or certainty. When in reality, during these kinds of unprecedented crises, we can't have clarity. We can't have certainty. We're thinking our way through it. We're making sense of it as we live through it. I will say, you know, I've been working as a futurist for more than 15 years. I used to do a lot more work for government and for corporations—
[00:06:42] Jane McGonigal: But—
[00:06:42] —who would ask — yeah, but — who would ask, you know, "Well, can you help us anticipate maybe some of the unintended harms of this new technology—
[00:06:51] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:06:52] Jane McGonigal: —if it reaches the scale of a billion users?
[00:06:54] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:06:54] Jane McGonigal: Or can you help us predict risks if we get into this type of situation, what should we be ready for? And I kind of have moved away from that because of exactly what we were just talking about. It's really hard to get people empowered, to change what they're doing.
[00:07:11] So I do more work now, directly interfacing with the public. You can read my future scenarios. You can play my public simulations and prepare yourself because it is hard for us to change the future in ways that are outside our control.
[00:07:28] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:07:29] Jane McGonigal: But we can ready ourselves. We can make smarter choices about where we want to live and what we want to own and what technologies do we want to get good at. We can all do that individually. At some point, there's a tipping point where enough individuals are engaging with reality, looking clearly at risk ahead. Then it's easier for the government to respond.
[00:07:51] You know, if we had all been simulating pandemics back in 2009, 2010, when we were doing it in the Institute for the future, people might have demanded more readiness.
[00:08:00] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:08:01] Jane McGonigal: It might have been quicker to ask for certain kinds of investments or policies. So it's partly we need to build the movements, the momentum, and just ordinary people knowing what's coming.
[00:08:12] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:08:12] Jane McGonigal: And then eventually corporations, governments, they're not going to be able to hold us back from being ready for the future.
[00:08:20] Jordan Harbinger: You call this sort of thing, future shock, right? And you say it's more important to be insightful than a hundred percent correct, which totally makes sense. What scares me now is when people let's say that work in transnational shipping, whether it's trucking or boats or logistics of any kind, when they say, "Man, our supply chain is even more fragile than people realize, and it's probably going to get worse because of the war in Ukraine. And there's all these knock-on effects." And everyone goes, "I don't know. I mean, my grocery store seems fine." And that's kind of the end of the discussion. And people that I know who work in these shipping things are like flying to Taiwan and China and all over Europe. And they're like frantically traveling, trying to figure out, I don't know, alternative logistics roots and things like that. And can this deep water port handle our containers and ships?
[00:09:07] And I'm thinking, this is the canary in the coal mine. If these guys who are — this is what they do at this multibillion-dollar company. And they're like, "Oh gosh, I'm not going to sleep tonight." You know, if that is happening over and over and over, it needs to trickle down from those people, into people like you. And even just the general public where we go, "So it's really obvious we're going to run out of PPE again when we have another pandemic. So who's making it here?" And everyone's like, "Well, not really because it's hard and it's expensive and they can't get this. And then you need a license for that. And you can't do it in Texas and California for these reasons." It's like if we had the public going, "This is ridiculous. We're going to need ventilators. What the hell is wrong with all of you?" They're going to figure out a way — the next guy or gal who gets voted in is going to be like, "My thing is to make sure that we can build ventilators in California. It's going to start working," instead of after the fact when we're like, "Can anybody build a ventilator out of a spray can and foot pump?" Which is kind of where we were at during COVID, right?
[00:10:05] Jane McGonigal: So what you're describing, you're hearing from people you know, people in a different entity from you, these sort of signals of what's coming next, right? That's like the raw material for professional futurists. We listen for these clues about the future. We try to find these signals of change when people who are experts in a certain area are saying, "Uh something weird is happening."
[00:10:28] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:10:29] Jane McGonigal: "We haven't seen this before. Something new is going on." This is the problem we're all worried about that nobody knows about yet. You know, that's our job as professional futurists. And it's what I try to teach people to do unimaginable is to figure out how do you get your ear to the ground? How do you build your network of information? So that you are somebody who is hearing these signals of change early enough, that you can think about them and adapt and eat supply chains. It's just at a very fundamental level answering the question — how are you going to get what you need? How are you going to get what your family needs in the future?
[00:11:02] Just a very simple fact of reality is it will probably be harder to get many things. We are moving out of, I think, an era of peak abundance and sort of peak speed of just getting whatever you want—
[00:11:17] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:11:17] Jane McGonigal: —whenever you want it. So we're probably not going to have that same luxury to that level. And so just thinking about slowly changing your habits, changing your behavior so that you give yourself more time to get what you need, or maybe you need less than you thought you needed. It's just a way of building resilience in your own life. But we can't predict exactly, you know, what will happen there if there's — one of the scenarios in the book I talk about, what if we need to start preserving more biological material, right? There are these biobanks that are saving specimens from all kinds of endangered species. What if we start biobanking human, you know, fertility specimens?
[00:11:56] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:11:57] Jane McGonigal: That's going to take a certain amount of freezing. And that might mean we don't have as many materials to freeze food.
[00:12:04] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, interesting.
[00:12:05] Jane McGonigal: So that might change how we need to eat. We need to eat more fresh food, less frozen food. How is food shipped and moved? So we don't know. We can't predict exactly what we'll run out of as we adapt to different crises, but just having that built-in flexibility, that makes you resilient. That's why we say, as you quoted, it's more important to be imaginative than to be right—
[00:12:25] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:12:25] Jane McGonigal: —when thinking about the future, because really there's going to be surprises. There's going to be unanticipated consequences. But if you're thinking in this more flexible way, this more resilient way, it doesn't really matter what the specifics of the change or disruption or crisis are because you've been preparing yourself mentally to be agile and adaptable and flexible and resilient.
[00:12:48] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. It's hard to imagine we'd run out of something that would freeze other things. But then again, during COVID we ran out of oxygen for people in hospitals and it's like, the atmosphere is full of this. There's obviously, you know, it wasn't the element that we were short of. It was something else. The tanks are the, who knows, the filtration, whatever it is. But like, if we're freezing, let's say healthy biological material. I just spoke with Dr. Shanna Swan and she was saying like, fertility is going way down. And it's like, what if we need people who are healthy, we need to freeze their sperm because new babies are suddenly being born with super low, you know, fertility. And we don't find out for 20 years because we're not testing baby. Well, babies don't have this, right? So it's like, uh-oh, so then we're going retroactive. And we're like, "Okay, healthy males, we need all you can get because we don't know how we're going to solve this." And then we run out of, I don't know, liquid nitrogen or whatever they use to freeze sperm. And it's like, now we can't freeze dry things. And we can't use refrigeration trucks as much as we used to because the stuff that goes in there is gone. So if it's not in the truck now you can't get it. And then it's like, "Oh, I hope you're growing vegetables on your balcony." Like they were in Shanghai for some of the people who couldn't get food during the Chinese lockdown.
[00:14:01] My Chinese teacher was literally showing me that the people who are doing well — there's a magazine article that we read in our Chinese class, my Chinese lesson, where she's like, "People who are doing well in Shanghai are growing fruit on their balcony." And a balcony in Shanghai, China is small. Okay. That's like telling New Yorkers, "Be ready to grow your own food." And people are going, "I live in a walk-in closet. Where am I going to grow food?"
[00:14:23] Jane McGonigal: Well, it's really interesting if you look back at the evoke simulation, which was the future forecasting game that I created for the world bank in 2010.
[00:14:31] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:14:31] Jane McGonigal: One of the challenges that we asked people to address was how they would deal with a respiratory pandemic and misinformation on social media about it.
[00:14:39] Jordan Harbinger: Wow.
[00:14:39] Jane McGonigal: But another aspect of that is we were looking at people growing their own food on their apartment rooftops and on their balconies. We were depicting that in Japan.
[00:14:49] Jordan Harbinger: I mean, you missed it by like a body of water. You know, that's crazy.
[00:14:53] Jane McGonigal: Yeah. But what's interesting is right. That was available to our imagination as a strategy for resilience, you know, more than a decade ago.
[00:15:02] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:15:02] Jane McGonigal: And it's just evidenced that. We don't have to be shocked by what's happening in the world or by what's expected of us. We have so much time. This is like my favorite thing about being a futurist. In fact, we have years, we have a decade or more to experiment and play and try these different behaviors before we might actually wake up in a world where it's required of us.
[00:15:26] And what is, I think, so challenging and for many people sort of anxiety-producing about the times we're living in now is we're just like reacting to everything as it happens.
[00:15:34] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:15:35] Jane McGonigal: And it feels like we never get a chance to stop and catch our breath. And we're white-knuckling our way through everything. You know, one of the pleasures and benefits of thinking about future scenarios, you know, it's 10 years out. And so we don't have to just react in an instant. We don't have that future shock or whiplash. We have this leisurely amount of time—
[00:15:57] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:15:57] Jane McGonigal: —to really be creative, build our confidence experiment. We need to do more of that. It'll help us move us out of this era of shock and anxiety that we're living in and people can feel more confident and more prepared.
[00:16:12] Jordan Harbinger: You would think that — look, defining worries and risks would help many people feel more hopeful. Although I kind of almost feel like it might do the opposite, right? Gaming things worked out well for me in business, but I also had to get rid of this catastrophic thinking and think about positive outcomes and not only negative outcomes. That was hard for me. It's actually still hard for me to go, "The best case scenario might happen or this medium case scenario." What usually happens is, "Well, I'm doing well right now, but what if all of these horrible things happen?" And then I'm, you know, dot, dot, dot, living on the street. That's where my brain goes.
[00:16:45] Jane McGonigal: Well, that's my area of expertise is figuring out how do we think about these scenarios that should be painful or anxiety-producing to think about how do we embrace and engage with them—
[00:16:59] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:16:59] Jane McGonigal: —in ways that actually produce hope or produce confidence or produce extreme motivation to do something new that where that really matters. And that's fortunately where I've had my background as a game designer to draw on. Because, you know, if you think about our favorite video games, those are also set in, you know, often apocalyptic worlds—
[00:17:21] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:17:21] Jane McGonigal: —these difficult futures. And we are totally fine with imagining ourselves and projecting ourselves into these worlds because, well, they're not real.
[00:17:30] The same is true for the future. When we imagine worst-case scenarios or challenging futures, they are technically as unreal as a video game or a novel, a movie. We can bring that calmness that willingness to engage because we don't actually know what the future will be. We don't have to bring anxiety to it. We can bring that same willingness to engage, especially if we're imagining futures that are a little more fantastic or, you know, a little more out there. It's why the scenarios unimaginable, are so extreme, right? You know, we're talking about an emergency sperm drive, right?
[00:18:09] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:18:09] Jane McGonigal: When we were talking about that particular topic, you know, what if there's a national or global drive to get young men to donate sperm? And it sounds very fantastical and wild and that's good. We want to be thinking — it's like you have to tweak it so that not only is it challenging, but it's also like so challenging, it's almost fun, right?
[00:18:29] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:18:30] Jane McGonigal: That's my future scenarios are just, we often call them ridiculous at first. They really seem more like a Hollywood blockbuster movie than a government report of like, here's what's coming.
[00:18:40] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:18:40] Jane McGonigal: You have to get ready. We try to make it fun and playful and imaginative so that we allow our mind to confront real risks and challenges, but in a context that feels more free from the negative thinking and the catastrophic thinking and more like, "Yeah, whoa, what an idea. Like this is so wild."
[00:19:00] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:19:00] Jane McGonigal: It's actually fun to imagine.
[00:19:02] Jordan Harbinger: You're right. I think also you mentioned this in the book, when we imagine the future, we switch from first-person to third-person perspective. What does this do? I mean, it certainly makes things easier when I'm like, "Well, that's a problem for future Jordan and I don't envy that guy," right? I can kind of let that go. I don't usually think that way, of course, but I guess it's easier for me to look at that and go, "That's not me, at least not me right now."
[00:19:28] Jane McGonigal: Mmm.
[00:19:28] Jordan Harbinger: And so that makes it like a lighter lift maybe.
[00:19:30] Jane McGonigal: Yeah. Temporal distance, so how far we are away from a future event also creates mental distance where we don't feel so attached—
[00:19:42] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:19:42] Jane McGonigal: —to our current beliefs, our current behaviors, our current worldview. We give ourselves just, it's like kind of zooming out. Almost, I would think of it like a drone aerial—
[00:19:54] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:19:55] Jane McGonigal: —video footage. You know, when you thinking about the far future, you do kind of get out of your own body and out of your own mind and you zoom out. And so it allows you to just have that slight detachment that again, makes it less scary to really put yourself through. What would I do? What would I feel? How could I help? How would I adapt? Because it's almost like an avatar that you're controlling in a video game rather than being right in it yourself.
[00:20:23] Jordan Harbinger: You mentioned that it would be a good exercise to put something on your calendar 10 years out.
[00:20:27] Jane McGonigal: Mmm.
[00:20:28] Jordan Harbinger: That sounds a little ridiculous. So I'm wondering what that does, because first of all, I don't even put things on my calendar, like in December, right? So 10 years out, there's got to be some rhyme or reason to that as opposed to just going — is it just again that space that's there? It's like anything can go in there.
[00:20:45] Jane McGonigal: So there are two important things. So the first important thing is that when we think about what we might want to do 10 years from now, we tend to come up with ideas that are more closely linked to our deepest values, our core essential self. Like the kind of hopes and dreams that would make us feel like we were living a life that was really authentic and true to ourselves. And that's because nothing's on your calendar for 10 years from now.
[00:21:13] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:21:13] Jane McGonigal: Your boss doesn't have a meeting scheduled with you. You don't have chores on your list. Like you can do anything. It's a completely blank canvas. So when I ask you, Jordan, to open up Apple Calendar, Google Calendar, and scroll forward — and you know, for people who don't know, you can literally schedule decades in advance on these initial calendars. It's really cool. It's really easy to just go forward, see 10 years from now, nothing's on your schedule. So what would you like to put on your schedule?
[00:21:42] I do this with companies. I have employees. Imagine you're still working at your company 10 years from now, which for people today, that's actually quite hard to imagine.
[00:21:50] Jordan Harbinger: Right, sure.
[00:21:50] Jane McGonigal: People move so much. What would you need to be doing at your job 10 years from now that would make you excited to still be working for this company or in this industry, right? So people put meetings and events and project launches for 10 years out that describe what they would really like to be doing.
[00:22:09] Now, that can trickle back. You invite somebody to that meeting, invite a colleague, invite your manager, right? Invite your team to this event, 10 years in the future and start a conversation about what really drives you, what you hope for. What would the biggest epic win you could imagine for 10 years from now be we start conversations? You can do that with your family. I've invited my husband to calendar events for 10 years in the future. I talked to my kids about it.
[00:22:33] Jordan Harbinger: Oh man, the opera. Come on. No.
[00:22:35] Jane McGonigal: You don't know. In fact, I have for May 2032, I actually have something on my calendar that I added recently thinking about my kids. I have seven-year-old twin daughters, so they'll be like seniors in high school if traditional high school is still a thing in a decade.
[00:22:53] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:22:53] Jane McGonigal: And I was just sort of thinking about what might we be doing together. And so I imagined this. Instead of a traditional science fair, it's a drone aerial surveillance fair where kids are sending drones out and they're trying to collect information about the world and there's, you know, art and journalism and science and nature. And I just imagined us going out there with our drones doing that because I actually just brought them their first drones because I want them to grow up comfortable with that technology.
[00:23:22] Jordan Harbinger: Now you get a drone thing going on.
[00:23:24] Jane McGonigal: I have a drone thing.
[00:23:25] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:23:25] Jane McGonigal: Drones are like very — I think, this is a terrible pun. I think they're flying under the radar for a lot of people—
[00:23:31] Jordan Harbinger: That is a bad pun, but I like it.
[00:23:33] Jane McGonigal: —in terms of how much a part of our daily lives they're going to be. I mean, if drones are ubiquitous as mobile phones, you know, what does that look like? But yeah, so they have that and I'm like what we might be doing with it in 10 years. I mean, it's on the calendar. 2032 might roll around such as science fair might not exist, but also maybe I will start that science fair.
[00:23:55] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, you can start it, especially where you live now. I mean, you send out an email and it's going to be sold out.
[00:24:01] Jane McGonigal: I often say it's like, we give ourselves space to think 10 years out because we don't shoot down our own ideas. We don't say, "Nah, that'll never work. Or that's impossible," when we're imagining 10 years out. We just set our mind. It literally shifts into a different mode of thinking and processing where instead of being so reliant on the facts of today and trying to draw on patterns of the past, it goes into default mode, which is generative, imaginative, creative. It can produce ideas that it has no historical record to draw on. We can create things that don't exist and then use that as a way to navigate forward. We don't have to wait 10 years. We could try these experiments today. And in fact, a lot of my own projects have been sparked. By weird things I imagined doing a decade from now. And then I just couldn't stop thinking about them. And I was like, "Hmm, how can I do something like this now? There must be something I can try."
[00:24:54] Jordan Harbinger: I really do like this because I think a lot of us are like, "Well, in two years, there's no way I'll have enough money to do X," or, "I'll still be living here because this project is still going to be going on." Or, "I'm why would I be already out of the law when I'm only in my third year of law school." It just says there's little tentacles reaching out in your imagination that reach out and grab time. And I've found just through my own life, that those tentacles that you think are going out four years are like four months out a lot of the time—
[00:25:20] Jane McGonigal: Mm-hmm.
[00:25:21] Jordan Harbinger: —or are ridiculous. When I started working in law, I was like, "Well, I'll do this for like four or five years and I'll move on to something else." And I didn't even make it two years in law, but I'd already started my business in the third year of law school, just in case. And also because I liked it. And that turned out to be luck as opposed to like episodic future thinking. But it sure looked a lot. Like I did it on purpose in hindsight.
[00:25:45] Jane McGonigal: Mmm.
[00:25:45] Jordan Harbinger: And it worked out.
[00:25:46] Jane McGonigal: And part of it is just believing that we can change from our current path. You know, another reason why I think people feel so much more optimistic when they think about these far-future scenarios—
[00:25:59] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:25:59] Jane McGonigal: —is that by imagining yourself doing something different, even if it's as weird as adapting to a geoengineering crisis. Like, "Whoops, we accidentally injected too much sulfate particles into the atmosphere. And instead of cooling the planet, by one degree, we cooled it by like 20 degrees. So it's a 10-year winter. Okay. Well, how are we going to live through this?"
[00:26:19] Jordan Harbinger: Ugh.
[00:26:19] Jane McGonigal: Now that will almost certainly not happen, right?
[00:26:22] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:26:22] Jane McGonigal: I got lucky. I predicted a bunch of things that actually happened, but the point of these scenarios is not to say, "Oh God, get ready for the 10-year winter." It's when you imagine yourself adapting to a climate that's 20 degrees cooler and all of the weird things that might happen with that, you build neurological pathways that help you think about doing things differently. And then you bring that skill back. You bring those strengthened pathways back to normal life. So you could be thinking about a different career or a different habit.
[00:26:57] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:26:57] Jane McGonigal: We can make change more easily today because we've imagined ourselves so vividly, so plausibly doing wild, amazingly different things, then that just suddenly becomes a part of how we think. And it's why I say mental flexibility is the biggest, best outcome that we get from thinking about weird futures is we just don't get stuck in all ways of doing things.
[00:27:21] Jordan Harbinger: You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Jane McGonigal. We'll be right back.
[00:27:26] This episode is sponsored in part by MUD\WTR. MUD\WTR is a coffee alternative with four adaptogenic mushrooms and ayurvedic herbs, lions mane, chaga, and Cordyceps, all the fancy hipster stuff that offers a wide range of benefits. It's got one-seventh of the caffeine of a premium cup of coffee. So you get energy and focus without the crash, without the anxiety and the jitters. Whenever I have caffeine, I usually have trouble sleeping. So I take MUD\WTR in the afternoon when I'm craving a cup of coffee, but I don't want to be up until freaking 4:00 a.m. scrubbing the bathroom tiles with a toothbrush. MUD\WTR comes in powder form like hot cocoa. The best way to prepare it in my humble opinion is to mix a scoop of MUD\WTR with steamed vanilla oat milk. So you keep the hipster them going. It's delicious with a tiny drop of liquid vanilla Stevia. Add a little sweetness in there as well.
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[00:29:24] Jordan Harbinger: Quick reminder about our course. It is free. It's our networking course where I teach you how to build your own circle of important folks around you. It's the same skills I use to book all the authors, thinkers, and creators every single week on the show. Again, the course is free. It's over at jordanharbinger.com/course. It's about improving your networking skills and your connection skills, as well as inspiring other people to develop a personal and professional relationship with you. It'll make you a better networker, of course, but mostly a better connector and a better thinker. That's jordanharbinger.com/course. And most of the people on our show, they subscribe and contribute to that same course. Come join us, you'll be in smart company where you belong.
[00:30:02] Now, back to Jane McGonigal.
[00:30:06] When you imagine the 20-year winter — where was like the California of that? I mean, I would imagine you were like, "Oh, now, I need to go get a villa in like Djibouti, right? Because it's going to be 75 degrees there instead of 105 degrees there.
[00:30:19] Jane McGonigal: I mean, it's funny, there is a lot of like climate forecasting in the book, where might it be a good place to live if this certain change happens?
[00:30:26] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:30:27] Jane McGonigal: But of course, then there's migration laws that would make it challenging. Like, oh, we're all going to go live in Djibouti now. Like, how is that going to work? Or do they have open borders now? So, this is interesting in that it makes you start to think about a whole other area of possible change, right? If we do need to move around the planet, how are we going to help people do that safely, equitably, legally, you know, with economic opportunity on the other side?
[00:30:55] And this is also just one of the fun things about playing with these wild scenarios is it's like, a labyrinth. Like you think you're thinking about geoengineering.
[00:31:04] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:31:05] Jane McGonigal: But now suddenly you're thinking about open borders and now suddenly you're thinking about high-density urban environments. What if we were living in cities, you know, 10 times as dense as New York City?
[00:31:16] Jordan Harbinger: Ugh.
[00:31:16] Jane McGonigal: And what would that be like for dating and for festivals and for work and whatever you're interested in?
[00:31:22] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, you got to set your Bumble radius for 30 feet.
[00:31:25] Jane McGonigal: Right. I mean, that could be fun.
[00:31:28] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:31:28] Jane McGonigal: But it's this, these twisting turns and I'm always saying, you just follow the clues, follow the clues, what's interesting to you, what grabs your curiosity and imagination. And then suddenly, you're becoming an expert on things totally outside your domain. You're meeting people who are passionate about things you didn't know, you were passionate about before. It really expands your worldview and what you are exposed to in a way.
[00:31:52] Like my own twin sister, I have an identical twin sister, Kelly, who's very smart. She teaches at Stanford. She has her PhD too. She writes books.
[00:32:00] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:32:00] Jane McGonigal: She read Imaginable and she was like, "How do you know all this stuff? Like, I don't even understand where did you get this information?" I'm like, "I don't know. That's just what being a futurist is, it's you hear about weird stuff and then you follow up on the clues and then they lead you." In a way, it's like, I see this as, it's almost like the positive, healthy, factually based version of conspiracy theory.
[00:32:22] Jordan Harbinger: Yes. Yeah.
[00:32:23] Jane McGonigal: You do get to try to follow the breadcrumbs and do your own research, but you're exposing yourself to cool facts and science and new social movements and trends in other countries. So it has the kind of psychological wheel of a conspiracy theory, but it's real and it actually helps you prepare.
[00:32:42] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. It's like an opportunity detection mechanism. It's like, "Yes, there's a 20-year winter, but the good news is you can finally afford property in Vancouver," or, you know, I don't know, you can wait it out. There are a lot of opportunities I would imagine that come as a result of this because you would just think, okay, yeah, if there's these kinds of open borders or like countries that need to resist in open-border policy because everyone's leaving and then there's going to be brain drained. So where are they going to go? Maybe these inhabitable or better, more habitable areas. Okay. What's there right now. Not much. All right, well, you can hedge. If this were a real, more realistic maybe scenario than an accidental geoengineering event. I'm sure you give probabilities to some of these things, right? You can then find like, "Oh actually we probably are going to see this actual rise in temperature. So are we going to have beachfront property in Las Vegas or nearby?" Like we just don't know. And you can kind of hedge based on that. If you're a company looking to do that, I don't know if people need to go out and buy desert property for this kind of thing and take action on it. But there are other scenarios that make more sense to do that.
[00:33:45] Jane McGonigal: Yeah. I mean, high wealthy individuals are definitely buying real estate in areas that are predicted to be more climate-resilient, like areas that are not as popular today. And companies are looking at what if we had to relocate our workforce. That's actually a topic that I've been tapped a lot on in the past couple of years—
[00:34:04] Jordan Harbinger: I bet.
[00:34:04] Jane McGonigal: —thinking about climate migration for an entire workforce. You know, there may be parts of the world where extreme heat, even if we get climate change under control, which I'm optimistic that we will because I see the clues that we can solve this problem.
[00:34:20] Jordan Harbinger: Great.
[00:34:20] Jane McGonigal: But there may be a decade or two where while we're getting it under control, certain areas of the earth, there's just, nobody's going to wanna be there. So if you have to move, you know, a hundred million people, how are we going to do that? And again, that opens all those, there's so many complex aspects. You have to think about the whole system of cultures moving and welcoming people who are different from you. How are we going to get people ready to welcome others?
[00:34:46] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:34:46] Jane McGonigal: We don't do a good job of that right now in how we treat people who move from places that we feel are different from ourselves. You follow your interests and you find those opportunities. Your opportunity might be in real estate. Your opportunity might be in language instruction or cross-cultural cooking. You follow what interests you.
[00:35:07] And it's why before I have anybody play with these wild scenarios, we do something called "pack your bags for the future," where without knowing where you're going, you make a list of your core strengths, your skills, your values, the things you know about, care about, do more than almost anybody you know, that goes into your bag for the future. So when you show up, it doesn't matter what the world is, what strange new things are happening, you use your passion for making art or songwriting, or you use your skills at diffusing conflict. Whatever you're good at, you care about food, you bring that to the future and you look for ways to help.
[00:35:46] And you know, when I first started this work and I'm started my training as a futurist, it was just answering the question — what kind of games would we need in this future? What kind of games do people want to play? And when I started forecasting pandemic consequences, you know, I was thinking, well, what kind of video games are going to help people isolate and quarantine while staying socially engaged? What kind of games will make it easier for people to do what is in the interest of public health and in their own health? We're going to have to make things, you know, more social, maybe add more voice, add more video. This is in the two thousands—
[00:36:20] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:36:20] Jane McGonigal: —before it was as commonplace. And it's just that everybody has their own unique set of bags that they pack for the future. But you'll find your place in the future by looking to connect those skills and values and passions. And I would say like after I went and imagined making games for a pandemic, I came back and made them—
[00:36:38] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:36:38] Jane McGonigal: —in real life, like my favorite idea was for this, we're going to all dance at home. Like these are kinds of virtual dance parties and dance clubs. And I wound up creating a game called Top Secret Dance Off that I think is like my most beloved game I've ever made. People were obsessed with it. I was obsessed with it, but it was literally just thinking about what kind of game would I make in a pandemic. And I made it in 2009 instead of 2020. And so again, we don't have to wait for the future to show up for us to benefit from thinking about it.
[00:37:07] Jordan Harbinger: It's funny that you mentioned what if we have to move an entire workforce because before the invasion of Ukraine. I was thinking, well, if this goes done in four days, then Taiwan is getting invaded, which means we're going to have a semiconductor shortage because Taiwan, semiconductor corporation is like really central to the world's semiconductors. And a lot of people know that, or maybe not, but if the CCP gets in there, they're going to say, "You can't export these anymore. We need them, all of them." And I wasn't the only person thinking about this. Thankfully, now they're building a location, I think in like Arizona or something of this company.
[00:37:40] Jane McGonigal: Mm-hmm.
[00:37:40] Jordan Harbinger: And I don't have any information about this, but it would not surprise me at all if there were big old jumbo jets that had enough room for all of, at least their key manufacturing staff and those people's families ready to fly from Taipei to Phoenix, land, go into apartments that are maybe already there and schools that are already there. Because even if you build a factory, it's like, well, who's going to run it. It wouldn't surprise me if they just up and take the whole workforce. And there's some government program that says here's 700 or I don't know, 7,000 visas for these people that are like our little reserve tank because we need these semi-conductors bad enough that this is like critical infrastructure. Because the last thing you want is for a country like that has an autocratic or authoritarian regime to say, "Hey, we now have a stranglehold on all of the advanced semiconductors in the entire planet." Pretty much.
[00:38:35] Jane McGonigal: Yes. And there are companies that specialize in this. I had a chance to consult last year with a company that specializes in moving talent around the globe. And they've been doing that under sort of ordinary business as usual circumstances.
[00:38:50] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:38:50] Jane McGonigal: But now they're thinking, well, there may be more extreme versions of this in the future where people are moving much faster under duress. So yeah, there will be experts in this. There will be best practices established. And I think we are seeing those clues. Those signals have changed even just in how technology companies were moving people out of Russia.
[00:39:13] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:39:13] Jane McGonigal: And in Ukraine during this war.
[00:39:15] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. I think we got a sneak preview with Belarus and Google being like, "All right, everybody who can program, and is at this level, apply yesterday and we're going to—" they pop to the top of the line in some of these tech companies, because they weren't sure if they're going to be able to leave after that. You mentioned looking for clues and you say like, look, Tuesday clues-day, pick something out that is a sign of the future happening. And to your point about conspiracy theories, how do we know that we're not just engaging in confirmation bias by looking at everything as evidence that's something we expect to happen is already happening. Because that is what conspiracy theorists do, right? They'll say, "Oh, well, Bezos and Musk are interested in space, and Branson. So they're planning to go to Mars, which means they're destroying the earth and planning their exit." Lots of ridiculous logical leaps are in there.
[00:40:03] Jane McGonigal: Yeah.
[00:40:03] Jordan Harbinger: It's like Tuesday clues-day. It's like, well kind of tinfoil hat Tuesday could be right around the corner if that's what we end up doing.
[00:40:09] Jane McGonigal: I would hope not but that's a great point, right? How do you separate out looking for clues from convincing yourself that you've just discovered—
[00:40:19] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:40:19] Jane McGonigal: —the one true theory of everything. I mean, one thing is that you start to develop sort of reputable sources for signals of change. There might be roundups of scientific journal publications that are translated for ordinary people to understand.
[00:40:36] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:40:36] Jane McGonigal: It might be a trusted peer group. You know, at the Institute for the Future, all of our researchers contribute signals of change to a database, and then we can evaluate them for the strength of the signal. We can interview people to follow up. Is this really happening? Why are you doing this? But for me, just as a practical thing, like how do you find a signal change? You can just go to a search engine and type future of something that you're interested in.
[00:41:01] Jordan Harbinger: Hmm.
[00:41:02] Jane McGonigal: And see if you can find a news story describing something you haven't heard about before. And it's kind of like you can almost just spin a wheel, like randomize it for yourself to expose yourself to things that you're not already looking for can be helpful. So like, how do you avoid the confirmation bias or going so deep down a single rabbit hole that you're not even, you know, what am I looking at? Just kind of picking words at random and be like future of cake.
[00:41:28] I think I write about this in one of the chapters. I'm like today, I'm going to look up future of pets, future of cake and future of Mars or Mars travel or something like that. And then just see what you can find. What are real startup companies working on? What real scientific labs are creating? What social movements are popping up in a country that you had never heard of before? I guess it does require all of the same sorts of digital literacy, citizenship skills of making sense of information online.
[00:41:58] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:41:59] Jane McGonigal: So that you're trying to find the trustworthy signals.
[00:42:01] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:42:02] Jane McGonigal: But it can be maybe using that sort of randomizing element to just ensure that you're seeing things that go beyond what you're expecting.
[00:42:12] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. That makes sense. I like that because otherwise it's like all the currency is going away and we're only going to use Bitcoin. And it's like, well, you work at a Bitcoin startup where everyone is talking about this nonstop because if that happens, you're all going to be billionaires. So maybe you're not the most impartial source for this particular line of thought. And I think it was you who pointed this out — the more that we imagine future events, no matter how unlikely they are, we tend to rate them as having higher probability in our minds. So that's where things get dangerous, right? Because if we're constantly imagining this future where X, Y, Z happens, because that's in our favor or something that we've been thinking about a lot, now it seems like it's inevitable when really it's maybe not even a 10th of a coin flip in terms of probability.
[00:42:57] Jane McGonigal: That's right. And that's why one of the easiest to adopt futurist habits that I always recommend people do, it's called "100 ways anything could be different in the future."
[00:43:07] Jordan Harbinger: Mmm.
[00:43:07] Jane McGonigal: You write down 100 things that you believe to be true about how the world works or what you expect to happen next. And then you rewrite each one so that the opposite is now true. And then you go look for evidence that those completely upside-down worlds, those alternate realities to what you expect could be true. You go look for signals of change specifically to counter your own assumptions—
[00:43:31] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, interesting.
[00:43:31] Jane McGonigal: —and biases. So I'm working right now with a lot of folks involved in cryptocurrencies and FinTech.
[00:43:37] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:43:38] Jane McGonigal: And definitely trying to get people to pay more attention to what's happening in the area of central bank digital currencies versus the sort of wild west of mint your own tokens because as far as I can tell that is a space that is definitely going to happen and governments are going to crack down on cryptocurrencies. And we are definitely going to see digital money and programmable money replace cash. I mean, literally, every country that has a sovereign currency is experimenting with this now and has a roadmap over the next 10, 20 years to do this.
[00:44:15] Jordan Harbinger: Wow.
[00:44:15] Jane McGonigal: And it's ex exactly what you're describing, I'm seeing happen in certain communities where you believe that the vision of the future that you want is inevitable. That we're going to decentralize money. We're going to decentralize currency. It's not going to be running through governments and corporations. I mean, you want that future so much that you don't see the signals of change that are counter to it. So you have to have a rigorous practice. You have to write down everything you hope or think will be true.
[00:44:47] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:44:47] Jane McGonigal: And then flip them upside down and go find that counter-evidence. It's how you avoid, I guess, drinking your own Kool-Aid.
[00:44:55] Jordan Harbinger: Kool-Aid, yeah.
[00:44:56] Jane McGonigal: Now, it doesn't mean that your vision of the future can't happen, just because there are clues suggesting the other version might happen, but this is — we call this realistic hope. You're trying to balance your positive imagination, what you hope will happen with the shadow imagination, maybe the futures you don't want to wake up in, and you're paying attention to everything that's happening on both sides of the possibility spectrum. So that you start to learn where are the levers that are getting pulled or the buttons I can press to make a future more likely or less likely. You have to be disciplined. Otherwise, you definitely could just convince yourself that whatever you've imagined is what's going to happen.
[00:45:36] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. I can see the danger in this. It is kind of a delicate balance. You do a really good job in the book of explaining how intense this visualization really is, right? It's where exactly am I in my future. Like who is here? What's around? What's true in this version of reality that's not true today? What do I want in this future moment? What are my feelings? Because we can get clues from our feelings, right? That the emotions that we have in our future are kind of as real as emotions in our presence. So if it's like, "I'm running my business. Why am I miserable right now? Why am I feeling like it's too hectic? Why do I resent not having kids?" Or whatever it is. And it's like, "Well, maybe I shouldn't be running a hundred-million-dollar business. Maybe I should actually just have kids because in the future where I had all of these things, I thought I wanted, I was actually not as happy as I thought I would be." Right? Like, how do I feel now that I'm here? I think it's the last question that I forgot to mention.
[00:46:26] Jane McGonigal: I mean, that's one of the weirdest things that happened to me when I started playing future games, future simulations, as I realized I wanted to have kids, which I was completely convinced I did not want to have kids. And then I'm imagining all these—
[00:46:38] Jordan Harbinger: Wow.
[00:46:38] Jane McGonigal: —future worlds. And I was already married at the time, but we were like, "Not having kids, definitely not going to start a family." And then, I was imagining ourselves living through all these changes and disruptions. I was like, "Ah, I need a kid to like, I don't know, bring meaning and purpose and excitement and adventure. I don't want to be like, just same old Jane in 10 years."
[00:46:58] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:46:58] Jane McGonigal: Like I think if I become a mom, like if she's going to be more interesting and fun. That was the experience I wanted and we can get very unexpected. Aha, if we think we're imagining a pandemic, but we're actually realizing we want to have kids.
[00:47:11] Jordan Harbinger: Your husband then went 10 years ahead in his calendar and starts deleting like trip to Ibiza. Not happening. Buy a boat. Nope, can't afford that anymore.
[00:47:20] Jane McGonigal: Right. That's hilarious. You know, in terms of visualizing concretely, I mean, a lot of the work that I do is to help people move from thinking abstractly about the future. Like, "Oh, in the future, maybe cars are banned in certain cities." Like that's definitely something we're seeing signals that could happen.
[00:47:38] Jordan Harbinger: Please do that, yeah.
[00:47:39] Jane McGonigal: You know, instead of just thinking about that as a fact, we can try to take a mental time trip to that future and look around. So where am I living now? Let's say there were no cars here anymore. How do I get to school? How do I get to work? How do I get food? And we start to think about either, maybe do I want to be thinking about living somewhere differently or more fit so that I can walk up and down this hill. I'm going to start a different, you know, exercise routine, or maybe I'm thinking about other technologies for movement, electric bikes, and whatever. You start to imagine in greater specificity, what you would really need for this future to be happy and livable and amazing. And that vividness of detail is what changes our behavior today or what—
[00:48:27] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:48:28] Jane McGonigal: —drives us to experiment today. And we could do like a really quick example—
[00:48:32] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:48:33] Jane McGonigal: —right now.
[00:48:33] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:48:34] Jane McGonigal: So I found in working with people that it's actually challenging to come up with a whole plan for how I would adapt to a futurist scenario.
[00:48:44] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:48:44] Jane McGonigal: It's like, you almost want to just — what is the smallest plan I can make the most micro-bite-sized thing I can imagine. So I invented this game called the "first five minutes of the future," where I throw at you a very strange, shocking future. And then you spend five minutes free writing, so you'd be typing, handwriting. You could talk into a voice app. Five minutes only, thinking out loud, writing just in real time, what you would do in the first five minutes after this future happened.
[00:49:18] So one of the futures, I think we should be getting ready for our government-mandated Internet shutdowns.
[00:49:23] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. This is freaking me out already just hearing about it. Like a guy who has a business on the Internet. I'm like, note to self, think about how I would handle that.
[00:49:31] Jane McGonigal: Yeah. They're happening all over the world. Not just in authoritarian countries, but in democracies as well. Governments turn off the Internet. It is constitutionally legal in the United States if our president wanted to turn off the Internet, legal experts have said he has the authority to do that as long as there's some kind of emergency. And as we see new kinds of cyber emergencies where we're having our electrical grid is being attacked or they can literally essentially change the chemical composition of our water supplies.
[00:50:02] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:50:02] Jane McGonigal: That is poisonous. And there's so many things that might require something as dramatic as turning off the Internet. Also, you know, if government wants to slow social protests and they might not be for such a benevolent reason that we would see these. So we could do a first five minutes of the future around, you know, you wake up one day, you get an emergency message on your phone. It says, "Okay, Internet's going to be shut down for a minimum of two weeks, starting at noon today." And noon is like, you know, in an hour.
[00:50:34] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:50:34] Jane McGonigal: What do you do in the first five minutes after you get this message and maybe folks who are listening to this podcast could pause and actually play with this.
[00:50:44] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:50:45] Jane McGonigal: You know, you've got an hour of Internet left, mobile phone service is going down too. You're not going to be able to use your cell phone to call people. What do you do in that hour and imagine yourself just the first five minutes? Who do you call? What do you download? What actions are you putting in place? Literally, just imagining the first five minutes of response completely transforms how our brain reacts to information about this scenario. So if you actually take the five minutes to do this, you are essentially setting, it's like an alert notification in your brain. Your brain's going to pump out dopamine. Anytime you notice a news headline or something on social media, you're hearing somebody talking about government-mandated Internet shutdowns. Your brain is primed for it. It's hungry, it's ready. You've increased the salience. And so there are all these scenarios that you can play these first five minutes of the future game with that essentially turns you into this. Like, this is how you get your ear to the ground to spot the signals. You're training your brain to get excited and feel like, "Ah, now this is something I need to pay attention to."
[00:51:48] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. I thought a little bit about this one because this was in the book and it's like, first of all, I put some stuff in the show notes, but like get fire chat and signal offline messenger which creates these almost like text message networks. We use these at music festivals, like raves and stuff. because like the service never works and there's always too many people on there and it's like, you got to meet your friends somewhere. How do you communicate? You get fire chat. It works because it uses other people's phones to jump around. Apple could create and build these mesh network capabilities right into iOS. I think that's possibly something that could happen, because imagine you could use your cell phone in a disaster area with no Internet because it would use whatever they used to do Find my Phone and it would just communicate text messages and possibly even calls depending on how well your transmitters and 5G and whatever are working on your phone.
[00:52:35] Although I think what I would end up doing is I would go to the airport immediately and I'd be like, which countries have Internet tomorrow and then go to the airport and book the tickets right then online with my last hour of Internet.
[00:52:47] Jane McGonigal: Yeah, you better be booking the tickets like while you're — now will flights take off.
[00:52:52] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:52:53] Jane McGonigal: When those systems go down, how does air traffic control operate nowadays without—
[00:52:57] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:52:58] Jane McGonigal: They're complicated, but you know what? Go satisfy your curiosity. Look up. Can planes take off if there's an Internet shutdown? Like find out this stuff. If nothing else, you have satisfied some curiosity, you know something cool. You never know when it will be useful.
[00:53:14] I mean, you know Amazon got in trouble about a year ago when they announced that they were going to — unless you opted out of it, essentially turn on this mesh network capacity if you had a smart speaker from Amazon to connect to your neighbor's Internet. So Amazon was basically saying like, "Unless you opt-out, we're actually building a mesh network." That they said would essentially make their network more robust and resilient if there's like bandwidth issues. Like, "We'll just borrow your Internet." The headlines were like, "Oh, it's a privacy nightmare, blah, blah, blah." But in fact, if Amazon did this, then we would have total backup Internet.
[00:53:55] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, yeah.
[00:53:56] Jane McGonigal: That the government couldn't turn off the Internet because Amazon would say, you know, not so fast. Here we have a completely functional mesh network with a hundred million homes connected that can now talk to each other, communicate to each other. It's interesting and then that makes you wonder. We are already seeing technology companies essentially use to serve so much of what used to be government functions or public services. Once you start exposing yourself to these future scenarios, you start to realize there's—
[00:54:28] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:54:28] Jane McGonigal: There's a lot going on already that is going to impact the future that people are weirdly not paying enough attention to.
[00:54:37] Jordan Harbinger: This is The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Jane McGonigal. We'll be right back.
[00:54:42] This episode is sponsored in part by Zapier. Zapier is a really powerful tool that automates routine tasks or workflows that you'd normally have to do manually, easily create automations without any coding knowledge. A Zap example is if X happens, do Y. And X and Y could be practically any app like Google Sheets, Slack MailChimp, Google Drive, ActiveCampaign. Zapier has over 4,000 app integrations. So if you use it, Zapier almost certainly has it. We use Zapier to automate social media sharing tasks. So when a YouTube video gets posted, it automatically shares to Facebook, to Twitter, so a few other things going on behind the scenes there. Another example of what a Zap could be is, let's say run an e-commerce, whenever a customer places, an order, it automatically creates an invoice in QuickBooks, sends the customer a calendar invite. They can schedule a Zoom call, something along those lines. These automations save a ton of time. No wonder over 1.8 million people and businesses are using Zapier to streamline their work and find more time for what matters most.
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[00:55:53] Jordan Harbinger: This episode is sponsored by Starbucks. The new Starbucks Baya Energy drink is crafted from caffeine naturally found in coffee fruit. It includes antioxidant vitamin C. So it's a great beverage to bring to the beach, picnic at the park, golf games. Starbucks Baya Energy drink comes in three delicious fruity flavors, mango guava, raspberry lime, my personal favorite these days, pineapple passion fruit. Pretty fancy, maybe it requires my pinky out when I drink it. It's a perfect pick-me-up when you're out and about on a summer day, dying from the heat. Pack of Starbucks Baya Energy drink when you take your kids basically anywhere. Jayden just dropped his nap, so I need my Starbucks Baya Energy drink to keep up with him. Each 12-ounce 90-calorie can contains 160 milligrams of caffeine. It'll give you a refreshing fruit-flavored boost to feel-good energy in a way only Starbucks can deliver.
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[00:58:13] Now for the rest of my conversation with Jane McGonigal.
[00:58:19] The mobile phone service thing sounds scary because I don't know anybody with a landline now. And it's like, well, what is this? The Purge. Like, I can't call anyone. Well, that's just a signal. I mean maybe you can still call 911, but that's it or something, you know, who knows? But it's like, well that's kind of terrifying and totally possible. Look, if people think, oh, that's not going to happen even if it's legal. Burma, no Internet for, I think, two years. India, technically a democracy, the world's largest in fact, but leaning a little more authoritarian with Modi. Okay. Fine. Let's not split hairs. This could certainly happen in the US. And they would say, "Okay, you can use your mobile phone to call emergency numbers." But then like, what if the Internet shuts down or telecom providers can't provide certain apps the ability to function, and those apps are anything that allows you to send a message that's not an email or, you know, who knows, or even including email.
[00:59:10] And then my business would be completely screwed, which is why I chose to go on a vacation overseas at that point in time and that's just my personal issue. There's a lot more terrifying things that could happen.
[00:59:22] And so visualizing these sorts of unusual events can help break what would be called the normalcy bias, right? Where we sort of—
[00:59:29] Jane McGonigal: Mm-hmm.
[00:59:29] Jordan Harbinger: —the human tendency to predict that things will be largely the same as they are now in 10 years, which is not ever the case. Smartphones went from, nobody's going to use this to everyone has one pretty much within 10 or 15 years, was it? And that was maybe slower than usual.
[00:59:45] Jane McGonigal: Mmm. Yes. And political change and social change and legal change. And just what is considered acceptable or popular culture can change. The problem with normalcy bias is that normally it serves us to expect that things will continue the same way because otherwise, we'd be living in this existential crisis constantly. Like, what is real, how does this work? It would be overwhelming. We'd be exhausted. We'd be burned out. We want to assume some level of normalcy, but if our brain gets too comfortable with these patterns, then we don't notice the new signals. We dismiss them because the patterns are so deeply entrenched or we get stuck in all ways of doing things. We refuse to believe that change is possible.
[01:00:29] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:00:30] Jane McGonigal: So there's an element also of, you know, it's not just about preparing for disruptions or crises. It's also about being able to imagine that transformative change we want is possible. And this is really relevant to political movements, to social movements. If you're trying to create a change that other people say, "Well, that's impossible." Like the Universal Basic Income movement has really picked up some credibility. I think more people believe that some version of UBI is possible now—
[01:01:00] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[01:01:00] Jane McGonigal: —than a decade ago, but a decade ago it was like, what are you talking about? Giving people money for nothing. It will never happen. How does this work? Blah, blah, blah. If you want to believe that you can make the world better, it also helps to be able to combat this normalcy bias. And the border situation and migration is a great example of this. You know, we say at the Institute for the future that you need to look back at least twice as far as you're trying to look forward to see what else has changed in the past.
[01:01:30] Jordan Harbinger: Mmm.
[01:01:30] Jane McGonigal: And maybe find examples of how quickly things can change and how dramatically they can change in order to just build your belief that change is possible, especially if we're trying to make change on purpose intentionally.
[01:01:43] And I was really ignorant. I didn't realize — to me, it seemed like border enforcement and migration laws.
[01:01:50] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:01:51] Jane McGonigal: Like that's just natural order. It's like a law of physics.
[01:01:54] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[01:01:54] Jane McGonigal: But, of course, you keep people out of spaces. And I had to learn that before World War I, there was no border enforcement. You could get there. You could live there.
[01:02:04] Jordan Harbinger: Really? That's surprising, but I guess it makes sense because who the heck was traveling overseas anyway, like a few weird rich adventurous people.
[01:02:13] Jane McGonigal: Right. So there was more limitations on who could travel freely, but also it was literally this new type of war that made people clamp down and then we just never unclamped. But it doesn't have to be this way. And as we face the challenges of the future where people may really want to move, whether it's for economic opportunity or climate security, whatever it is, we should go back and look at all the changes that have happened to remind ourselves that change is possible. We don't have to go back to totally open borders, but we can realize that we have accepted as normal something that was not always normal and has only been true for the teeniest tiniest fraction of human history.
[01:02:57] Jordan Harbinger: Because of wars, conflict, inequality, like things that are root causes that could be addressed as well. So yeah, go back twice as far as you want to go forward is probably a good rule. Probabilities or I should say possibilities that seem impossible today are the hardest ones to adapt to in the future. So a good exercise from your book is to think of something that's impossible, air quotes, impossible, and look for evidence of it happening today. Can you give us an example of what that is? I know we probably went over one, but I'm drawing a blank.
[01:03:25] Jane McGonigal: No. Well, let's think about having a baby. You're talking about becoming parents in the future. I often play this game when I teach future syncing at Stanford. On the first day of class, I'll have everybody make a list of things they believe will not change.
[01:03:39] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[01:03:39] Jane McGonigal: It's going to be true for decades to come and the most common submission I was getting was, well, you need genetic material from a man and a woman to make a baby.
[01:03:49] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[01:03:49] Jane McGonigal: Even with IVF, even with surrogacy, whatever it is like, there's always going to be two parents. That's how baby-making works. It's been true for all of evolutionary history. It will definitely be true for at least another 10 years. When I started getting these facts, these unchangeable facts, I did not know how they might change. I just do what any futurist does. I go to Google and start typing things like future of human reproduction or my favorite thing to do is you just literally type the opposite in. So same-sex parents are like babies with two biological moms.
[01:04:26] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:04:26] Jane McGonigal: Just type in whatever you think is impossible into Google. And you will more likely than not find that what you thought was impossible. There are people working on it, doing it, living it. And I discovered whole strains of research that I was completely ignorant of. Researchers who are working on creating human embryos, using genetic material from two same-sex parents. So you can literally have a biological child, two women, two men, they've done it in mice. It totally works. And it might not be relevant for everyone. But when I think about the future of family, when I think about my own daughters—
[01:05:05] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:05:06] Jane McGonigal: —what would it mean if in the future you could co-parent with anyone, take sexuality, sexual orientation out of the question. What if you might be heterosexual and that's who you want to have sex with, but maybe you want to parent with someone of your same sex.
[01:05:25] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, totally possible. That's quite the mental exercise.
[01:05:28] Jane McGonigal: It could change, literally change everything—
[01:05:30] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:05:31] Jane McGonigal: —if we can choose to parent with anyone. And, you know, obviously the first, the first-order effects—
[01:05:39] Jordan Harbinger: Cults are going to use that. Like, "You can only parent with someone in the cult, but yeah, bang, whoever you want, whatever. Just don't make any kids."
[01:05:46] Jane McGonigal: I mean, like the first-order effects will be, obviously, people in the LGBTQ community—
[01:05:52] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[01:05:52] Jane McGonigal: —who have never been able to have babies together in that way. That will be the first-order effect but you know, you can let your imagination run wild, right? Try to keep up with it, see where it takes you. Even if we don't wake up in a future that is that transformed. Even for me to open my mind about how my kids might choose to become parents, it's such a good exercise for me, because even as a parent, you think you're going to control—
[01:06:16] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[01:06:16] Jane McGonigal: —so much. You're going to teach your kids this. You're going to help them realize this is the right way of living or the best way to do things. And when you realize that your kids might choose to go live on Mars or have babies with other women, because that's the parenting — try that or do that or try to. Like suddenly the other choices that they make that you would normally argue with them about. Like, it just seems so much less extreme.
[01:06:39] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[01:06:39] Jane McGonigal: And you're really much more comfortable with being supportive.
[01:06:43] Jordan Harbinger: Fine. You can have a skateboard.
[01:06:44] Jane McGonigal: Yeah.
[01:06:45] Jordan Harbinger: This is the least of our concerns, Tim. Yeah, this is interesting. What's that? There's a law — I typed it, but I think it autocorrected. It says darter, but it's probably not darter. Any credible prediction of the future should at first be seen as ridiculous.
[01:06:58] Jane McGonigal: Yes. Dator's law.
[01:07:00] Jordan Harbinger: Dator.
[01:07:00] Jane McGonigal: Jim Dator, who is one of the founding figures of the field. He really formalized a lot of the professional methodologies of foresight work, futurist thinking. He has this great methodology where you try to predict four versions of any future that you're imagining.
[01:07:18] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:07:18] Jane McGonigal: To kind of keep flexible in your mindset, not just a worst case and a best case, but you've got a weird case and an upside-down case.
[01:07:25] And so Dator's law, his first law of futurist thinking is that the most useful ideas will be the most easily dismissed, right? It's the kinds of ideas that make people instinctively say, like, why would I even bother thinking about that? It will never happen.
[01:07:43] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[01:07:44] Jane McGonigal: Those are the futures that wind up being the most disruptive when they happen, or they blindside the most people. They take us by surprise. And so those are the most useful futures to think about. I mean, we don't really need to think about futures that are similar to today or continuations of the norm because our brains are already ready for those futures. Our organizations are already ready for those futures. Our governments are ready for those futures. It's the weird stuff that we need to spend time thinking about and imagining.
[01:08:15] Jordan Harbinger: In high school, my freshman year, we read a book that I think was called Megatrends or something like that. Have you heard of this?
[01:08:21] Jane McGonigal: Mm-hmm.
[01:08:21] Jordan Harbinger: I think they're doing an updated version, like right now. One of the ideas was telecommuting and it was, "People are going to be using the phones and fax machines to work from home." And our teacher was like, "This to me, doesn't make any sense." And I was like, "This is such an obvious future being an Internet kid in high school, and the class was kind of split. And sure telecommuting is definitely a thing, but now it's like, "So do you get it, Mr. Spitzgo. It's a thing." And it seemed impossible for him because one, he was a teacher. He is like, how would I teach remotely over the phone. It's like, well, Zoom, which doesn't exist. But all us sort of Internet dorks were like, there will be a time when you are talking to us and we are all at home and maybe you're in the classroom with video gear. We don't have to be here. You know, you could be in another country. And I remember it was funny because our class was sort of educating this teacher on how this was just such an obvious change that was going to happen, whether it was going to happen in the '90s, which they predicted or later, which—
[01:09:20] Jane McGonigal: Mm-hmm.
[01:09:21] Jordan Harbinger: I mean, it's been an obvious, but slow evolution. What we didn't think about was commercial real estate markets crashing because nobody really needs an office anymore, which is like a thing that's happening now. There are actually a lot of signals of change that I would love to get through before we close because these are so interesting. Like what is it? Pizzly bears. Was that what they were called?
[01:09:41] Jane McGonigal: Oh yeah, yeah.
[01:09:42] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Tell me about that.
[01:09:43] Jane McGonigal: So there's like this new species that has emerged in the wild. Cross-breeding between polar bears and grizzly bears, and it's happening because of climate change. These two species that normally live in different environments and never encounter each other are getting smushed into the same climate band. The grizzly bears have so many genetic advantages over the polar bears that they were out-competing them for food. The polar bears are starving. The polar bears started mating with the grizzly bears. That was the only way for them to survive was to breed with the stronger, more powerful species. And now there's this new bear called the Pizzly bear, and they're showing up more frequently now and in more areas of the world. To me, most of us will never encounter a pizzly bear in a wild.
[01:10:37] Jordan Harbinger: You better hope you don't because polar bears are super aggressive and if they've made it with a grizzly, they're going to be strong, fast, aggressive — and yeah, you're screwed if you meet one in the wild.
[01:10:47] Jane McGonigal: Right? But it's like, why should I pay attention to the signal of change? Well, you know what? Humans are going to probably be compressed into smaller climate bands in the future, whether it's due to sea levels rising. So we're moving inland or extreme heat that is making certain latitudes are no longer going to be compatible with human life. I mean, that is a very clear forecast that we're seeing. It doesn't mean we can't fix it. Geoengineering might help getting to a hundred percent. Clean energy will help. There are things we can do, but we're probably going to be smushed together, like the polar bears and the grizzly bears.
[01:11:23] And looking at how we handle refugee crises and migration patterns, like we're really bad at it now. We're not a particularly welcoming world for people who have been displaced. And so it plants a seed for me, seeing that pizzly bear species emerge, wondering like, well, what's the more resilient version of humanity where we do learn to live maybe in higher-density cities. In these more compressed climate bands, how are we going to be ready for that?
[01:11:56] And when people ask me, what's the big skill I should learn for the next decade, is it certain type of programming or CRISPR genetic modification? What do I need to do to be ready? I'm like, you know, we need to learn how to be welcoming and how to feel comfortable with people who we perceive is different from ourselves. Because if we don't learn how to do that, we are looking at decades of unprecedented social division and suffering because we're definitely going to be packed in tighter. That's for sure going to happen.
[01:12:29] Jordan Harbinger: Speaking of future trends here, what's this about us all becoming allergic to red meat in the near future possibly. This sounded like complete nonsense and I started researching and I was like, oh, this is totally a thing. That's real. I thought like, how can you suddenly become allergic to meat?
[01:12:43] Jane McGonigal: It is totally a thing that is real and growing faster than many people predicted. So there are a certain number of tick species that can make humans allergic to meat. What happens is they are injecting us with sugar molecules that they get from eating in the wild, like they're biting deers or whatever that gets into our bloodstream when they bite us. And then because it's in our blood, our body overreacts and thinks it's like a dangerous virus.
[01:13:16] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[01:13:16] Jane McGonigal: It's a deadly intruder. I need to build an entire immune defense against the sugar molecule. Again, the body's not expecting to be injected like that and that molecule shows up in all kinds of animal products, like red meat, gelatin, and our bodies get so sensitized to it by building up this hyper-immune response that we can go into anaphylactic shock, literally just by using toilet paper that has gelatin in it.
[01:13:44] Jordan Harbinger: No, goodness, no.
[01:13:45] Jane McGonigal: There is meat in so many things. There is meat in many brands of toothpaste. There's like you wouldn't even to make things like soft or cushy.
[01:13:53] Jordan Harbinger: I did not know that. First of all, the fact that you can wipe your butt with something and go into shock is just pure nightmare fuel.
[01:13:59] Jane McGonigal: We're definitely imagining futures where people are like packing their own. Like you need your like toilet paper carry on.
[01:14:06] Jordan Harbinger: Oh my gosh.
[01:14:07] Jane McGonigal: You don't want that one to happen.
[01:14:07] Jordan Harbinger: Can't risk it. Oh my God.
[01:14:09] Jane McGonigal: But like, this is a real disease that exists. People have it today. It's called Alpha-gal syndrome after the molecule alpha-galactose three. The thing that made me want to write a scenario about this becoming more common is that scientists have started doing random blood testing of different populations around the world to try to get a sense of how many people have been bitten by this tick and are in the process of being sensitized. Now, some people, especially if you eat a lot of red meat already—
[01:14:39] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:14:39] Jane McGonigal: —one bite is enough. You start to develop the allergy because every time you expose your body to that allergen again, then it heightens the immune response. So it's in the same way that, you know, if you're allergic to peanuts, every exposure will make you more and more allergic, right? So you have to avoid it completely. So some people, if they don't need a lot of meat, they don't notice the symptoms the first time they're bit. They have found that in the United States, in the Southeast, a third of people have already started the process—
[01:15:09] Jordan Harbinger: Wow.
[01:15:09] Jane McGonigal: —of being sensitized. So if they continue to eat a lot of red meat or they get a second or third tick bite, now suddenly you have one in three people with a deadly allergy to red meat. What does it do in the south? You know, in terms of culture, in terms of community, in terms of, of how we live our lives. There are other regions in the world where the rates are even higher. So, you know, it sounds ridiculous—
[01:15:33] Jordan Harbinger: It does.
[01:15:34] Jane McGonigal: —that we might be living in a world where a third of people suddenly completely transform their diets and what they consume. But on the other hand, It's actually already happening. I mean, it is undeniably—
[01:15:47] Jordan Harbinger: Wow.
[01:15:48] Jane McGonigal: —already underway. Now it doesn't mean it will be a terrible future because scientists are working on treatments and they're developing ways to give people like a 24-hour free pass.
[01:16:01] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:16:01] Jane McGonigal: Where your body is primed, like one day a year, you have your, all-you-can-eat barbecue, whatever. There will be ways to live with it and manage it. We're learning about controlling tick populations, but it's certainly worth imagining these types of situations. So if nothing else, you start to notice the headlines and the changes. And I've already started getting emails and direct messages from people who are reading Imaginable and they get to that scenario in the book. And then like a week later, they're like, "What the hell? I had never heard of this before."
[01:16:31] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[01:16:31] Jane McGonigal: "And I just saw an article about like, these ticks are in the town where I live."
[01:16:36] Jordan Harbinger: Oh gosh.
[01:16:36] Jane McGonigal: And if they hadn't already been imagining it, their eyes would've skimmed right over that headline.
[01:16:42] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[01:16:42] Jane McGonigal: But because you plant the seed of imagination, now you do notice and you're not going to be blindsided. You're going to be ready.
[01:16:48] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. People who study pandemics, see these things coming. We did an episode on a possible flu pandemic, like two months before COVID it was episode 320, and people were like, "Ah, you got that wrong. It's not the flu." And I was like, "Hello? The guy predicted a global pandemic that was from wet markets and animals and it was like in January. Two months later, we have a pandemic and you're splitting hairs over the type of virus. Come on."
[01:17:12] So you don't have to be a genius to see these things coming. You kind of just have to trust and pay attention to, well, one, science and two, the people that study these things. And like you said, three, maybe those headlines will sink in a little bit.
[01:17:24] Before we go through facial recognition, right? I pay a lot of attention to China. They'll catch a jaywalker with facial recognition. And then, there's these big billboards that shame them. Have you seen this?
[01:17:34] Jane McGonigal: Yeah, oh yeah.
[01:17:35] Jordan Harbinger: Where post your ID and your name?
[01:17:36] Jane McGonigal: Mm-hmm.
[01:17:36] Jordan Harbinger: And it's like this person jaywalked. Here's a video. What I didn't realize was that the software and the database is like 99.9 percent accurate even if you have a mask on.
[01:17:47] Jane McGonigal: Yes.
[01:17:47] Jordan Harbinger: Which is shocking to me.
[01:17:49] Jane McGonigal: It's an unanticipated consequence of the pandemic is that all these companies that they've optimized their algorithms through facial recognition. Now, everyone's covering half their face with masks to stay safe. So these companies had to learn how to reoptimize for just your eyes. And so, I mean, on one hand, you could imagine a future where everybody's walking around with sunglasses and masks on, and it has nothing to do with the pandemic is because we're trying to live our lives.
[01:18:20] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[01:18:20] Jane McGonigal: Not under quite so much surveillance. And then we might imagine, you know, what does it feel like to live in that world? In the same way that we've all lived through what it feels like to take off your mask, imagine having that feeling for taking off your sunglasses and actually being able to see somebody.
[01:18:35] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:18:35] Jane McGonigal: And look them in the eyes and how intimate it might feel to look someone in the eyes in the future. We can really have aha moments of like just viscerally getting that sense of intuition about how different things could be. We might be inspired to learn different tricks. I was inspired learning about facial recognition to like, "Well, what can I do if I maybe want to opt-out of this?" Well, there's adversarial makeup techniques where you can put like these colorful shapes on your face. It looks kind of like '80s, the triangles, the geometric—
[01:19:06] Jordan Harbinger: Right, yeah.
[01:19:06] Jane McGonigal: —shapes. You can put the makeup on to try to confuse algorithms. And then maybe you try this today and you go outside wearing your adversarial makeup, and someone asks you, "What is that?"
[01:19:19] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[01:19:19] Jane McGonigal: Is that the new TikTok trend, what's going on?
[01:19:21] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:19:21] Jane McGonigal: And you're like, "Well, no, this is going to confuse facial recognition, which by the way, did you know, facial recognition is like happening in this space that we're in." So you can essentially become your own signal of change, informing people around you, like advocating for futures or actions that you think we should take. It all starts by imagining these scenarios, listening to the clues, and then suddenly, you find yourself ready and changing things.
[01:19:48] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. We're all — it's going to look like. We're cosplaying Twisted Sister. Are you old enough to remember who that is?
[01:19:53] Jane McGonigal: Yeah.
[01:19:54] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, like the crazy facial makeup. I'm waiting for it to be built into iPhone 20 slash Facebook and Instagram. You talk about this in the book, like someone raises their phone up and you're like, "Are they taking a photo of me?" That's what we would think now. But in 10 years or whatever, maybe it's like, "No, this guy is scanning me because he wants to see how many followers I have, what my social status is or whatever, what kind of, whatever metrics—"
[01:20:20] Jane McGonigal: What political party are you registered for? What vaccinations have you had?
[01:20:25] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, the company that I work for, all this data is going to be built in there and they can do it without your consent. And they would do it all the time. It's not like what you're at, it's going to be just like, zing, "Oh, damn, she's married." You know, it's going to be that kind of thing. There's going to be all-new status games that all these influencers use to look positive or that — I shouldn't even say influencers, single people especially are going to use. It's like, "Well, if I get scanned, I want this photo to show up first." And that it's going to be like SEO for businesses now, except for dating in the future where it's like you got to hire someone to look at your Tinder profile and make sure your pictures look good. It's going to be that but for facial recognition and like, "Well, I want to say that I work at Google even though I don't work there anymore because that looks better." It's just crazy.
[01:21:10] Jane McGonigal: No, SEO for your face.
[01:21:12] Jordan Harbinger: Yes.
[01:21:12] Jane McGonigal: That sounds exactly right to me. And it's also a world where like, maybe even the idea of a stranger doesn't exist anymore because a stranger is someone you don't know. And if we can just quickly, you know, maybe our smartphone would just like swoosh, and then in this simple gesture, we have all this information about anybody. What does it mean when there are no strangers and what do we replace that with in terms of social relations?
[01:21:39] Sometimes I just go to these worlds to just, I don't muse, you know?
[01:21:44] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:21:44] Jane McGonigal: Because things will almost certainly be weirder than we can imagine. So it's probably good to give ourselves a little bit of time and space. You know, next time you're bored instead of scrolling through social media, imagine yourself living in this world of facial recognition, where there are no strangers and just how that changes things that you do and love. If we did this like once a week, I think we would all find that we were really fired up for the future.
[01:22:13] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, I think you're probably right. I mean, again, it's easier for me to imagine dark things like you've seen AI blending faces together. Well, like what if we combine that with advertising or political messages or disinformation? Right. So instead of disinformation coming from some kooky weirdo, that's kind of not relatable because I'm not a kooky weirdo like this person, tinfoil hat kind of guy. So I'm not into like QAnon stuff obviously for various reasons, but one of them is none of the influencers who pedal this crap are relatable, in addition to paying attention to Renee DiResta and other folks have had on the show. But what if the information, the disinformation is coming from somebody that is an amalgamation of my wife, my mom, and my dad.
[01:22:58] Jane McGonigal: Mm-hmm.
[01:22:58] Jordan Harbinger: And it's an AI deepfake person, or it's your mother, brother, spouse, right? Your trust for them would go through the roof.
[01:23:05] Jane McGonigal: Yes, absolutely. And marketing companies are working on this and political operatives are trying to figure out how they can get ahold of this technology to do this and we're making this future today. Every time, you know, I do a podcast episode that is more information for these AI of the future to know what I sound like. So they can call my kids in the future and give them a political message or a marketing message. It sounds like their mom.
[01:23:34] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:23:34] Jane McGonigal: And if I friend them on social media, when they're old enough to have accounts, then they're going to be able to use that information, to know who these kids' mom or let's go find all the audio files of her on the Internet so that we can make this message sound like their mom. That's happening. That's for sure going to happen. What do we want to do about it? How do we want to be ready for it? I don't have all the answers to this. I know that if we start thinking about it now before it's commonplace, we're going to be in a better situation. And maybe some of the folks listening to this episode will be the people to figure out what do we do to get ready for this, to stop it, to make it fair, to make it actually like, what's the good, what's the positive version of this. Maybe we could imagine the same technology being used for good. Let's try to focus on that. People listening, we have, we have a, wow. We have at least a decade. So maybe this can become a new calling or career path for them.
[01:24:27] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Yeah. I like the idea of somebody who specializes in countering this a little bit. Good thing, there are no audio files of me available on the Internet, right? I'm safe from that particular threat.
[01:24:38] Jane McGonigal: Truly podcast hosts have a unique risk that it's good to raise awareness of you. You all will be the first audio deepfakes.
[01:24:44] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:24:45] Jane McGonigal: For sure. You are the frontline of this future.
[01:24:47] Jordan Harbinger: Definitely like if you look and you go, "Jordan Harbinger, 1500 hours, Joe Rogan, probably 2000 hours." It's going to be the prototypes of this are going to have people like him or me or Tim Ferriss or whoever as the prototype because they can just get all of it for free in WAV or MP3 format and use that to test their machine. And there's like, nothing we can do about it, right?
[01:25:07] Jane McGonigal: Right. The most advanced audio deepfake is actually chained on Joe Rogan.
[01:25:10] Jordan Harbinger: That makes sense.
[01:25:11] Jane McGonigal: That is a fact.
[01:25:12] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Perfect. And I'm sure, the video is right behind it. Leave us with something optimistic for the future, right? Because right now we got authoritarian surveillance, state disinfo, climate change, communication, lockdown, Illuminati, planetary Exodus — sounds great.
[01:25:25] Jane McGonigal: Mmm. I mean, look, the things that make me most optimistic for the future are ideas related to abundance, modern monetary theory. There are limitations on what we can do to solve problems.
[01:25:40] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:25:40] Jane McGonigal: That were limited by material resources and by how much work we can actually do how many people we can find to do the work, but money is not a limited resource. Governments can make it, we can mint it. We can have universal basic income. We can have cash stimulus. We can pay people to do frontline climate work. We can pay people to care for each other. And I think when I'm like, what is the world I want to wake up and what am I excited for myself and my kids. It's a world where we have to truly realize that money is an abstract phenomenon. There is no actual physical, like the laws of reality limitation on it, and that we can create money and we can use it to help people have economic security, abundant lives and to pay for the work that we need to do, whether it's securing our climate or helping people feel loved and cared for all of that stuff, we can pay for it. Money, actually, there are no limits on it. And those are scenarios that make me optimistic, that we will find a way to pay for the things that we need to do and that we want to do. And that unsticking of our mind—
[01:26:56] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:26:56] Jane McGonigal: —is a process that will happen in the coming years. But I feel very optimistic that we're going to have a lot more money in circulation and people will be paid to do things that they're not paid to do today. And that will lift us out of poverty if we're in poverty. We'll create economic security, we'll create a sense of abundance and wellness. And that we can do the things we need to do, whether it's geoengineering or building new cities or whatever work needs to be done, we can pay for it. We can do it. And we can use that work to make a better world.
[01:27:24] Jordan Harbinger: And in 10 years, maybe that won't sound like science fiction, right?
[01:27:28] Jane McGonigal: Mm-hmm. Exactly. I'll see you in 10 — well, but that's what you should put on the calendar.
[01:27:33] Jordan Harbinger: The next interview with you is in a decade. Yeah.
[01:27:35] Jane McGonigal: Yeah. Uh-huh.
[01:27:35] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. We'll see. We'll see. Jane, thank you so much. This is always so interesting. And I really appreciate your time. Your book is quite a read, but it's full of stuff just like this. So if people are interested in this conversation, then the book is a logical next step. And I hope the launch is going well. It's really interesting. You can tell you put a lot of work into it. It's also extremely long. So that's the other clue that you put a lot of work into it.
[01:27:57] Jane McGonigal: Is it extremely long? You know, technically it's shorter than my first two books if you can believe that.
[01:28:00] Jordan Harbinger: That's true. That's true. It is like twice as long as a regular book, but since it's an interesting read, it goes by three times as fast.
[01:28:07] Jane McGonigal: Thank you. And by the way, you've had some like, totally amazing episodes lately.
[01:28:12] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, thanks. I saw your tweet.
[01:28:14] Jane McGonigal: I mean, you're just doing so much with your show and platform and it keeps getting better, which is amazing because the last time we did a show, you were already amazing.
[01:28:24] Jordan Harbinger: Really? You're just pushing all the right buttons now, Jane McGonigal.
[01:28:28] Jane McGonigal: No, no, no, no, no.
[01:28:31] Jordan Harbinger: If you're looking for another episode of The Jordan Harbinger Show to sink your teeth into here's a trailer for another episode that I think you might enjoy.
[01:28:39] I've heard that you actually got to Google and didn't think the company was up too much, but it was the argument that you got into with Larry and Sergey that really won you over.
[01:28:48] Eric Schmidt: Uh, you know, I heard about a search engine. Search engines don't matter too much, but fine. You know, it's always try to say yes.
[01:28:54] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:28:55] Eric Schmidt: So I walked into a building down the street and here's Larry and Sergey in an office and they have my bio projected on the wall and they proceed to grill me on what I'm doing at Novell, which they thought were a terrible idea. And I remember as I left that I hadn't had that good, an argument in years. And that's the thing that started the process.
[01:29:18] Jordan Harbinger: In a meeting, once someone asked you about the dress code at Google, and I think your response was, "Well, you have to wear something."
[01:29:24] Eric Schmidt: That rule is still in place.
[01:29:26] Jordan Harbinger: Yes.
[01:29:26] Eric Schmidt: Still you have to actually wear something here at work.
[01:29:29] They hired super capable people and they always wanted people who did something interesting. So if you were a salesperson, it was really good if you were also an Olympian, we hired a couple of rocket scientists. Now we weren't doing rocketry. We had a series of medical doctors who we were just impressed with, even though they weren't doing medicine.
[01:29:48] The conversations at the table were very interesting, but there really wasn't a lot of structure. And I knew I was in the right place because the potential was enormous. And I said, "Well, aren't there any schedules?" No, it just sort of happens.
[01:30:04] Jordan Harbinger: If you want to hear more from Eric Schmidt and learn what role AI will take in our lives and how ideas are fostered inside a corporate beast like Google check out episode 201 of The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[01:30:18] I've got a lot here in the show, close from the book. You're going to want to hear if you're interested in future trends and predictions here. Now, the book itself is loaded with practical exercises. It covers the benefits of future thinking, how to do it. Jane is fond of saying foresight is a human right. If we forecast challenges, we can start solving problems today rather than waiting to be blindsided by a catastrophe.
[01:30:40] I mean, a lot of people — I did a show before the pandemic about how there's going to be a pandemic. It was like a month before the pandemic actually kicked off. They thought it was going to be about influenza. And what that says since it was COVID is that we're still waiting for the influenza pandemic. That is inevitable. We just happen to get blindsided by a totally different one.
[01:31:00] So predicting the future has very big time uses. It's like solving problems upstream. We did a whole episode about that with Dan Heath, episode 350. By the way, the episode about the pandemic that was about to start of the influenza pandemic that we're still waiting for. That was episode 320, so 320 and 350 are good places to go right after this episode. Now people tend to think in decades, Jane mentioned that during the show. So the future kind of starts in 10 years from now, right? When we say the future in air quotes. It took 10 years for the Internet to go from zero to a billion users, more or less, it took 10 years for smartphones to become a thing that everybody uses.
[01:31:39] So things that start off basically as experiments, they can become world-changing inside this timeline. Now that is incredibly fast, right? That is pretty much unbelievable, but we can be ready for those kinds of changes. If we start to look for the clues, a couple of practicals here, one imagination training, ask yourself, do you think things will mostly change or mostly stay the same? Am I optimistic or pessimistic?
[01:32:03] Another one, imagine waking up tomorrow versus one year from now. What about five years from now, 10 years from now, what is different? Write these things down. There's a lot of exercises like this in the book, by the way. Kids can do this as well. It's a lot of fun. Kids can do this starting at about ages four or five. I think that would be really fun. My kids are too young for that, but I would love to do this kind of thing with them.
[01:32:24] What predicting the future does is it allows us to make long-term plans and stick with them because we can imagine a future based on the choices we make today. Also, we get a little motivation boost by pre-feeling the emotions we get or will get in the future.
[01:32:38] I also asked Jane, off-air, what do I do if my brain naturally resists these future scenarios? For example, I used to imagine all these future scenarios that were really nice. And then my anxiety brain would kick in and be like, "Hey, dummy, that's never going to work for you. Just knock it off." This actually is normal. And so there's a lot that can be done about that. If you're really anxious, you go to therapy, but just don't beat yourself up over this. This is very, very normal.
[01:33:00] Future scenarios need only be plausible. They don't need to be probable, which actually helps take some of the pressure off. An example would be yeah, flying cars, plausible, but not flying people with wings or whatever, right? That's not virtually impossible. Maybe on a multi-hundred-year, multi-century timeline. We could figure out how to do that, but that's not really in our sphere, right? Also while you can do this alone in your bedroom while trying to fall asleep, you can actually do this with a partner. A lot of times when we do future projection with somebody else, we get to see the world through their eyes and see what's most important to them. So actually, it's quite a good idea to try this with somebody else, like your partner, a close friend, etcetera. And this type of thinking really does help with big ideas.
[01:33:45] Maybe you're thinking of what if we go to Mars, right? We need genetically engineered humans who don't smell. They need less food and oxygen. That's important if we're sending people to Mars to colonize it, right? We need to be able to use less on the trip there. And then of course, once they land and resources are extremely limited. Also speaking of pandemics and power grid issues, willful exposure to future tragedy or extreme events, it can almost be like a vaccine against future shock, right? We can game out events. We can mitigate trauma. We can lower the level of surprise when something happens, allowing us to move faster, kind of like martial arts training in the Matrix where Neo sees things coming in, slow motion. We can also train our brains to not only deal with the event but also to pay attention to what's happening in real life. Maybe spotting the lead-up to these events a little bit more accurately.
[01:34:32] The idea here isn't to predict what the future will be but to ask questions about what the future could be. We learned to spot signals of change and seeing something coming is quite empowering. Again, there's a lot of exercises in the book like journaling in the future, or writing a letter from the future. And these exercises will help you develop an anti-fragile practice and an attitude for the future. And if you're into that, then this is the book for you.
[01:34:59] Big thanks to Jane McGonigal. Links to all things Jane will be on our website in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com. Please use our website links if you buy the books from any guest, it does help support the show. Transcripts are in the show notes. Videos are up on YouTube. Our advertisers, our deals, our discount codes, those are all at jordanharbinger.com/deals. Again, please consider supporting those who make this show possible. I'm at @JordanHarbinger on both Twitter and Instagram. You can also connect with me on LinkedIn.
[01:35:28] I'm teaching you how to connect with great people and manage relationships using systems, software, tiny habits, the stuff I use every single day. That's our Six Minute Networking course. The course is free over at jordanharbinger.com/course. Dig that well before you get thirsty, folks. Most of the guests you hear on the show, they subscribe and contribute to that course. Come join us, you'll be in smart company where you belong.
[01:35:49] This show is created in association with PodcastOne. My team is Jen Harbinger, Jase Sanderson, Robert Fogarty, Millie Ocampo, Ian Baird, Josh Ballard, and Gabriel Mizrahi. Remember, we rise by lifting others. The fee for this show is that you share it with friends when you find something useful or interesting. If you know somebody who's interested in the future, predicting the future, future tech, share this episode with them. They'll probably dig it. The greatest compliment you can give us is to share the show with those you care about. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show, so you can live what you listen, and we'll see you in the future.
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