[FULL TRANSCRIPT BELOW] “We buy things with money, but we really pay for them with our time. And so, that says that there's really two prices: there's the money price, but there's also a time price. Money prices are expressed in dollars and cents, but time prices are expressed in hours and minutes.”
Gale Pooley is a former professor of business management at Brigham Young University in Hawaii, and the co-author of “Superabundance: The Story of Population Growth, Innovation, and Human Flourishing on an Infinitely Bountiful Planet.”
“The economic underlying numbers of our fundamental basic commodities … that really give us these kinds of lives that we enjoy—those are all becoming much, much more abundant,” says Mr. Pooley.
Contrary to the belief that the world is overpopulated and humans are a burden on our planet, Mr. Pooley argues there’s actually a positive correlation between population and resources.
“As [economist Julian Simon] began to look at the price of things that were non-renewable—copper, chromium, iron—he noticed that these prices have all been decreasing, not increasing. So, with that data, he developed this theory about how things become more abundant,” says Mr. Pooley.
We discuss the flow of resources, wealth as a form of knowledge, and what Mr. Pooley calls the “original sins of economics.”
“The first original sin is that we conflated, or we equated, resources with atoms,” says Mr. Pooley.
FULL TRANSCRIPTJan Jekielek: Gale Pooley, such a pleasure to have you on American Thought Leaders.
Gale Pooley: Thank you for the opportunity to be here.
Mr. Jekielek: Gale, I've had a really amazing time speaking with you over the last few days. I've learned a lot about abundance, and of course, Superabundance, your now famous book. This is a completely different way of looking at the world that isn't necessarily intuitive. But the moment that you learn about it, you become curious. That's what I noticed, and then you start thinking about it. It's a way to change your view of the world in a very positive way. Let's dive in here. Where did this whole idea of superabundance come from?
Mr. Pooley: First of all, I want to recognize my co-author, Dr. Marian Tupy of the Cato Institute. I met him over Twitter, and we began this discussion. In the 1980s there was a bet between Julian Simon and Paul Ehrlich. If you remember, Paul Ehrlich had written this book in 1968 about the population bomb, and said everything was going to blow up. Julian Simon, an obscure economist, read the book and initially thought, “The theory seems reasonable.”
But he said, "Maybe I should look at the historical facts of what the relationship has been between population and resources." As economists, we count things, but the price of things really contains much more information than the quantity of things. He began to look at the price of things that were non-renewable like copper, chromium, and iron. He noticed that these prices had all been decreasing, not increasing.
With that data, he developed this theory about how things become more abundant. It's because we've been increasing knowledge at a much faster rate. In economics, we've discovered lots of really useful things, but we made a couple of fundamental errors. The first errors were the original sins of economics. The first original sin is that we conflated or we equated resources with atoms. We made the Thanos mistake.
We recognized that there are a fixed number of atoms on the planet. But in order for atoms to become a resource, you've got to add knowledge to atoms. It's knowledge that makes atoms valuable resources. Our wealth is really knowledge. It's not these physical atoms. That's the first mistake that we think was made. There's really no limit to the ability for us to discover valuable new knowledge, and it's knowledge that we should be thinking about.
Then the question is, “Where does knowledge come from?” Economic growth is learning. When people have the opportunity to learn and cooperate with each other and share their new knowledge, that's how this value gets created and shared. The second sin was that we measured things in economics with money. There are seven units of measurement in science, and six of those units rely on time. Instead of using money, we should have used time to measure things. Time has all these features that make it much more valuable as a unit of measurement.
Mr. Jekielek: The first part is easy to grasp. The second part isn't necessarily obvious.
Mr. Pooley: Think about this. We buy things with money, but we really pay for them with our time. That says there are really two prices. There's the money price, but there's also a time price. Money prices are expressed in dollars and cents, but time prices are expressed in hours and minutes, and it's pretty simple to calculate a time price. Take the money price, and then divide that by your hourly income.
If pizza costs $20, and I'm earning $20 an hour, the time price of that pizza is one hour or 60 minutes. Then the question becomes, as you look at the time price of things in your life, “How does that compare to the time price of that item 10 years ago? What did your parents pay for that thing? Not the money price, but the time price.” That was really what Marian and I began to explore—the time price of all of these different commodities.
We were really asking this question, “If Julian Simon was alive today, would he win that bet today?” Two criticisms of the bet were that it only covered five items. Simon let Ehrlich pick the five items, and he picked chromium, copper, nickel, tin, and tungsten. The bet was over a 10-year period, from 1980 to 1990. They put a thousand dollars on the table and the loser was going to have to pay the winner the percentage change in the real inflation-adjusted prices.
In 1990, Paul Ehrlich wrote a check to Julian Simon for $576.07. The real price of these five commodities had fallen by an average of 36 percent. How could that have happened? That decade was the decade that had the largest increase of human beings on the planet. Over 850 million people were added to the planet. You increase population, but this abundance of resources is increasing at a faster rate. How could that happen?
Mr. Jekielek: Again, that's not necessarily obvious. But please jump in here. Yes, the price went down, but that doesn't mean there's more resources.
Mr. Pooley: With biologists, engineers, and accountants, when you ask them how much do you have, they will go out and count the thing and divide it by your consumption rate and say, "You've got 10 items here and you're consuming two a year, so you've got five years left." Economists don't think like that. Quantities are important, but prices are much more important because it's the price of something that tells you its relative scarcity. It's the price that contains all that information. From everybody who's buying and selling, this represents how scarce or how abundant this particular item is.
We look at prices. Prices have much more information, and consequently, they are a much better indicator of what people sense is happening to this flow of resources. It's not the stock that counts, it's the flow. How much can you produce tomorrow? It's not how much you have, it's how much you can create tomorrow, and that shows up in an economy in the form of prices. We think in prices instead of quantities. That's the first step.
Then the second step is what price should you use? Should you use the money price? Time has a number of advantages over money. The first thing is that when you have an innovation, when you have new knowledge, it shows up both in the price, but it also shows up in people's hourly income. A time price is looking at both those numbers and looking at the relationship between those two numbers.
We get CPI [Consumer Price Index] numbers that say, “The inflation rate has gone up.” That tells you how much more expensive that item has become, but it doesn't tell you about affordability. You've got to ask this other fundamental economic question, “Compared to what?” The price went up 10 percent, but if your income went up 15 percent, actually the time price is going down. Your life is becoming more abundant because it takes you less time to have this thing.
Scarcity is really about what we want. Abundance is about what we have. Scarcity is a function of wants, and they're actually infinite. We live in this scarce world compared to what I would love to have. But abundance looks at what you have today. How much time did it take you to earn the money to buy that thing, compared to how much time it took you yesterday. The second advantage is time prices transcend all of this contention and subjectivity with the CPI. You don't have to worry about that. You can go around that completely and not worry about trying to make all of these adjustments.
The third advantage of a time price is you can go to any country at any time and look at any product or service and calculate the time price. I can go to Paris in 1850, and figure out what the time price was for a loaf of bread. It lets you make these comparisons across time and across products. You don't have to worry about making currency adjustments. You just ask, “What was the money price and what was hourly income?”
The next benefit is that time is a universal constant. Of the seven measurements that we use in science, six of them are a function of time. Economics needs to be like the rest of science and use time to measure things. It's constant, but it has a flow and every one of us on the planet have this sense of what an hour is.
The last benefit is that we have this perfect quality of time. We all get 24 hours a day. Instead of measuring people's inequality of income, measure people's inequality of time. What do you get to do with your 24 hours and what do I get to do? If you do that, you realize that we are much more equal in terms of what we get to enjoy with our time.
Mr. Jekielek: I'm going to ask for some examples of that. In the book, Superabundance, you did an incredible amount of research looking across different areas to assess these time prices, and how those time prices have changed over time. Were you already expecting to find a certain answer at the beginning, or were you surprised along the way?
Mr. Pooley: We were shocked, quite frankly. Initially, we said, “Simon made this bet in 1980, so let's go back to 1980.” One of the criticisms was that it was only five items and it was only for 10 years. We said, “Why don't we do 50 items?” We looked at energy; oil, gas, and coal. We looked at food; coffee, tea, bananas, chicken and beef. The World Bank actually keeps track of all of these commodity prices, and every month they produce this nice report. We had all this data from the World Bank.
They had all this data, so we analyzed it. We also looked at materials like lumber and cotton. Then we looked at metals again; iron, aluminum, gold, and silver. We expected to find one of these 50 that had become more time expensive. To our surprise, not a single one had become more expensive. In fact, when we did the first study that covered 1980 to 2018, a 38-year period, the average time price of these 50 basic commodities had fallen by 72 percent.
That means when I walk into the store, everything is 72 percent off. On the average, I can get almost three times more of all of these commodities than I did in 1980. Once again, this occurred at the same time the population had increased about 72 percent. We noticed that every time you increase population by 1 percent, this abundance would increase by two, three, or four percent.
Remember, as the price goes down, that's suggesting that the abundance goes up. It's actually a geometric, exponential relationship. Think about this. What if the price goes down by 50 percent? That means I get two for one. What happens if it goes down by 75 percent? What do you get? You get four for one. At 80 percent, you get five for one. At 90 percent, you get 10 for one. You're getting this exponential effect in this abundance factor.
We did these 50 items and we wrote this paper about it. Some people said, "You should take your time price framework and the way you analyze things, and you should write a book about this." We said, “Okay, we'll go look at some other things.” We went back to 1960. This is cool. Can we go back to 1960 and see what happened there?
The problem is that as you go back further in time, the data becomes thinner and thinner. But we were able to look at 37 of these commodities back to 1960. It was the same thing. We've got these market fluctuations that happen, but this underlying trend of increasing abundance is just as solid as could be with all of these things that we looked at.
Then we said, “Let's go back to 1920. Let's go back 100 years and see what it looks like. It was the same thing. We went back to 1850 and we looked at 42 basic commodities that a professor up in Canada had been tracking, and it was the same thing. In that case, with these commodities, many of them had dropped by 90 to 95 percent, which means today you get 10 for the price of one, or 20 for the price of one.
Then we thought, “We've looked at these commodities, why don't we look at some consumer goods?” We pulled out a Sears & Roebuck catalog from 1919 and started looking through items from Sears & Roebuck. We found a bicycle that cost $12.95. Okay, that's pretty interesting. This seems pretty cheap. Today you can go to Walmart and buy one for around $100. The money price looks like it has gone up.
But when we compared it to people's hourly income, for the time it took a person to earn the money to buy a bicycle in 1920, you can get 22 bicycles today. It's like we're having all this bicycle abundance. Then we go up to 1979. These Sears & Roebuck catalogs are great because they have all of these items, and many of them really haven't changed; bicycles, microwaves, blenders, toasters, and clothing items. All of these items have a decrease in time price, which means we're having this increase in abundance. We ended up looking at 18 different data sets of all kinds of things, and that's what we do in the book.
Mr. Jekielek: It's still difficult for me to conceptualize why you can be so sure that abundance is reflected in the price.
Mr. Pooley: Okay. Let's talk about copper for a minute. Why did copper become valuable? It became valuable really because we had this telephone system that required copper wires to be able to transmit the signal. As more and more people wanted telephones, we needed more and more copper wires, so you have this pressure on the price of copper.
As that price goes up, it's sending signals to people. This thing is becoming more and more costly. You should either use less of it or try to figure out how to make more of it or recycle it, or you should maybe think about a substitute. What did we substitute for copper? We substituted fiber optic cables that were made out of sand.
Suddenly you have this huge new abundance of the ability to communicate, but you're not using copper anymore. What you're doing is you're replacing copper with new knowledge. Today, you're using your iPhone, and you're not hooked up to anything.
How did you do that? We discovered this new knowledge of how we could transmit signals to each other through the air. We're not using copper or fiber at all. We're using knowledge to create this wealth and this value that we enjoy. The historical trend is people will have additional measures of freedom.
If they're not hungry, you tend to have more time. You have more time, and you're not hungry, you can devote your time to this discovery process. You're going to find something, and then when you share it with somebody else, that knowledge doubles. If I have a Snickers bar and I give half of it to you, we each have a half. But if I have a piece of knowledge, and I give it to you, that knowledge has doubled.
Jordan Peterson makes this interesting observation. He says, "If you can figure out how to make as much in half the time, you're twice as smart. You've doubled your knowledge." That's a feature knowledge has that atoms don't have. Knowledge has an ability to grow, and it's not rivalrous. I can share my knowledge with you and I haven't lost it.
The subtitle of our book is about resources on an infinitely bountiful planet. People ask, “How could it be infinite?” It is because our ability to discover new valuable knowledge really doesn't have a limit, other than our will and our desire and our permission to encourage everyone on the planet to get into learning curves and discover some new knowledge.
If we were all doing this for one another, and then creating the products, having markets, and having the freedom to innovate, we could continue this path of superabundance. We define this as resources increasing at a faster rate than our population.
Mr. Jekielek: I have a series of thoughts. I'm going to quickly articulate them and we'll see which ones you want to handle first. Let's say you're living in a community and you're noticing that crime is increasing, like in New York City and in Washington DC. There is a decrease in the quality of life there. Over that same time period, the time price of resources may have gone down. How does quality of life figure into your measurements?
Mr. Pooley: Quality of life is a challenge to measure. At the same time, there are some fundamental measurements that we can always look at and say, “Are we getting better at that level?” Think about Maslow's hierarchy of needs. We have this basic level of physical needs. What has happened to the price of food? What has happened to shelter? What has happened to clothing? All of those prices have been doing this.
Mr. Jekielek: Sure, but I could also argue that with the quality of the food, in many cases, the nutritional value has gone down. The price has gone down partially because the quality has gone down, whether it comes to food or clothing. That's measurable.
Mr. Pooley: That's true. In our initial study, when we looked at these basic commodities, we were just looking at the cost of a bushel of wheat today vs. the cost 40 years ago. Those really haven't changed. Now, what we're using to create our food has clearly changed in that time period. One of the little analyses we did was to look at the amount of time that a person has to spend just to earn the money to buy their daily food.
You can go back to 1960 in India, and it took about eight hours of work to earn the money to eat that day. They were living on subsistence. If you didn't work, you didn't eat. Today, because these time prices have fallen for wheat, rice, and corn by 90 percent since 1960, it means that somebody in India that was spending eight hours a day, now spends less than an hour a day to earn the money to buy their food.
Now they have another six or seven hours a day to devote to going to school or pursuing something. That time inequality, that difference between someone in the U.S. and someone in India, has collapsed dramatically. Now we enjoy that in the U.S. too. We spend less and less time working to earn the money to buy our food. We could argue about whether it's healthy or not, but clearly we spend less and less time to buy our food.
This has given the poorest on the planet, the least advantaged, this opportunity now to have much more time to devote to other activities. In that sense, we think it's been a great benefit for those individuals. When we think about crime today and cities and those kinds of challenges, they may not be economic challenges. There may be something else that's going on. It’s a political or a social issue, and not because these people are hungry.
Mr. Jekielek: Which is often the case. You're imagining a somewhat functioning market economy where basically the market determines prices. Whereas, there are a lot of economies out there which are not market economies, but are planned economies. Does this work across all types of economies?
Mr. Pooley: It does. Abundance is a function of population and the freedom to innovate. You can have a lot of people, but they don't have the freedom to innovate. Your abundance is going to be stuck where China was in the 1960s and 1970s. But I would also say that the composition of families can also have an effect on this factor.
This is part of the study that we're working on right now. If you have an increasing fertility rate, you tend to grow your economy. If that fertility rate goes down or decreases, your economic growth also decreases. I would say part of this crime thing might be not the economic growth, but the fact that we are not forming families like we have historically. If you've got a fatherless family, and if you've got other things that are going on, that's social poverty, not economic poverty.
Mr. Jekielek: Given that this abundance has increased in free societies, you would think that governments would be trying to explain this to their populations. They would obviously have much better approval ratings, wouldn't they? If people understood that because of this amazing system, the abundance has increased, you would think everybody would be rushing to say, “Look what I've accomplished in these few years.”
Mr. Pooley: It's this human psychology that has challenges sometimes. You have to remember that the political power and political status in many cases is driven by scarcity. It's scarcity that lets me offer a solution. If I can make you believe that you live in this world of scarcity, and I'm the one that can divide things up fairly and make your life better because you're not getting your fair share of this scarcity that we have here, it can yield a political dividend.
Now people believe they're challenged economically when they really aren't, because they're not looking at the underlying facts about what is happening. If they did, they might realize, “If I can go out and create my own wealth instead of depending on you for my sustenance, I'm not depending on you any longer.”
We tend to have this bias of scarcity to begin with, just because people that were worried about things tended to survive. I hear a noise in the bush and it could be a rabbit or it could be a rattlesnake. If I run away and it was a rabbit, I'm still alive. If I think that it's a rabbit, but it's really a rattlesnake, then I die and I don't survive. We have a survival bias towards being pessimistic and worried about things. It’s very hard to overcome that because that has allowed us to survive.
We've got these human nature biases and they can be exploited by people who want to achieve political power. Think about whether you agree or disagree with what's happening with the climate debate. You have to acknowledge that there's a lot of fear that's generated from this climate discussion now.
Mr. Jekielek: Yes, it is alarmism.
Mr. Pooley: Right. We're going to run out. We're causing these problems and too much of this, and we've got to limit.
Mr. Jekielek: We've got seven years until it's over.
Mr. Pooley: We're going to have these problems. There is a lot of human psychology going on, and a lot of political things. But with the basic, fundamental commodities that give us the kind of life that we enjoy, those are all becoming much more abundant.
Mr. Jekielek: This is a very positive view of the world. I don't know if I'm ready to accept it in its entirety, but I can accept that this is a very positive vision of the world. It's a fair way of looking at the world, because I trust your analysis. It's probably very valuable for people to be thinking this way about their lives. At some level, a positive mindset manifests positive things, and a negative mindset can manifest negative things, even in one's body.
Mr. Pooley: Where we now have more abundance, at the same time, we have a greater pessimism about the future from young people. Is it okay to have children? Is time running out? We only have 10 years left. I say, “What are you talking about? What facts are you talking about that would lead to that conclusion? Find us something that we're truly running out of, and that the price is really increasing.”
Other than a few products that are highly regulated by the government or the supply is regulated by the government, these time prices have continually decreased. Jordan Peterson said it's a profoundly optimistic book, and I tend to say, “It's a profoundly factual book, with the facts that we looked at and all the data that we looked at.”
We continue to look at where we can find something that has become more scarce or less abundant? It's been very, very difficult to find something that has become more time expensive, other than these products or services that have a high degree of government involvement.
Mr. Jekielek: What would be an example of those?
Mr. Pooley: Higher education. You've got the supply and the demand that are both being affected. The supply is affected because of accreditation and licensing and all of these things that reduce the supply. The demand is being affected because the government is providing grants and loans. If I give you a check for $20,000 to buy a car, what do you think the car dealer is going to do if they know you are going to walk into the door with this check for $20,000? You could expect these prices to go up.
You don't have a true market where two people are negotiating. You've got a third-party involved that is affecting the supply and demand of higher education and healthcare. Why are healthcare prices going so high? There is a high degree of government involvement in healthcare, both on the supply side and the demand side. You would predict these prices to increase if you've got that third-party involvement by the government.
The third big one is housing. Housing tends to have had this increase, and it depends on where you're at. If you're in certain parts of the country, you don't have an increase in housing. But where you do, if you dig deeper, you will discover that the government is involved in restricting the supply of housing through zoning and through other limits on the supply side.
Mr. Jekielek: These three items can cause many of our social ills and impact human flourishing, obviously. These are things that you hear people talking about constantly. Is the reason because of your findings that the government has been intervening?
Mr. Pooley: We were looking at services and we were trying to find a service that we could analyze. There are some medical procedures that are actually market-driven, like laser surgery for your eyes, and also cosmetic surgery. You say, “I want to go in and get some things done.” The prices of those elective market-driven healthcare items have been going down. They haven’t gone up.
Mr. Jekielek: Just like everything else has .
Mr. Pooley: Just like everything else has, because they're subject to market pressure and there's no third-party involved in either subsidizing demand or limiting supply. You've got these market forces that are working, and they're not this government-influenced market or restricted market. You can see this abundance appear in those markets. We want everybody to have an education. We want them to have healthcare. We want them to have housing. But maybe inviting the government to come into those markets has actually not been a good thing.
Mr. Jekielek: Because these are such important things to human beings, it's almost like these areas have almost been weaponized. These would be the things where we would want to see precisely the opposite trends. Yet, because of our particular interest in making these available to all, the time price has actually increased. That is an absolutely incredible finding.
Mr. Pooley: Let's think about higher education. That's the area that I came from. We see these prices go up two to five to eight percent every year, much faster than the rate of inflation.
Mr. Jekielek: No wonder there is this student debt.
Mr. Pooley: That's part of it. It's like, look, we're going to give these people these loans. If I walk into the car dealer with a $50,000 loan that someone's going to give to me, I will say, “Now, what am I going to buy?” The dealer will think, "I know what the demand looks like. I know that they have this subsidy to buy this thing. I'm going to capture that subsidy." Just like they will give you this higher education, but they are really not accountable for it.
Think of anything that you buy today that costs $50,000 or $100,000 that you don't get some kind of a warranty for, or that represents some kind of collateral. If I'm 18-years-old and I want to start a small business, and I go to the government, they're not going to loan me anything.
But if I say, “I need $100,000 to go to college,” they'll say, "Okay, sign here. We'll give you that." We've had this huge distortion on the demand side for higher education and the suppliers have grabbed all of that subsidy, and it's tragic. But at the same time, we also have these markets that are appearing like the internet, for example. If you really want knowledge, what does it actually cost to acquire that today?
In my view, higher education has become this prestige, status product that people are buying. You just need books and knowledge, and you can get that for free. But if you want to have that label, that brand of a Harvard degree or an Ivy League degree is going to be really expensive. You notice Harvard does not expand the number of seats.
They're not a global campus. If you had that kind of demand, what would Apple do? Would they limit their iPhone sales to just people in California? No, they would try to sell this product throughout the planet. Today, you also have this kind of status thing going on with higher education.
Some people are just looking for the equivalent of a four-year degree, just the knowledge and the learning. These traditional colleges are doing something else, primarily because you're not really buying an education. there. You're buying this brand and the status that degree represents. That's my view.
Mr. Jekielek: You've mentioned Jordan Peterson a couple of times. He has become very interested in your superabundance model view of the world. You will actually be teaching a course at the Peterson Academy.
Mr. Pooley: Jordan is challenging the traditional higher education market by saying, “We've got all these technologies today, with the ability to record once and then to play it over and over again. With the cost you pay for it once, the marginal cost gets very low.” He has invited a number of professors to come in and create these courses that he is offering, and he's invited us to come in and do an eight-hour course on our book Superabundance.
We're going to go to Miami next week to record that, and he's trying to publish it sometime early next year. You're seeing these institutions emerge like Coursera that recognize they can create this knowledge in the form of courses. Once we've done that, we can actually distribute it on the internet and then everyone has access to this knowledge that has historically been very expensive.
It's really expensive to go to a four-year school and live there for four years and give up four years of time. But you can circumvent that and say, “What I really want is to get the knowledge.” Today, we can do that very inexpensively, and there is a lot of innovation happening in higher education. If they have a smartphone, anyone on the planet can access this knowledge that once took four years and $100,000 to buy.
This is an opportunity for everybody to get on learning curves, to get this education, to get this knowledge, and then turn around and become a contributor. Wealth is knowledge, and it changes this paradigm. Instead of being competitors over a fixed number of atoms, we now become collaborators in this discovery of new knowledge. It changes our relationship with each other. That's also really an important thing to recognize and understand. We now can create value for one another. We are not competitors, but we are collaborators in this process.
Mr. Jekielek: But I always found that the in-person learning with the instructor and with that interaction in class was absolutely the most valuable. I did most of my learning that way. I would get these big textbooks, and I would read what I had to. There's also an isolation with this new information ecosystem. Of course, you can reach across the internet, and that facilitates something.
What we saw during the pandemic was a lot of kids not being able to do in-person learning, and that actually dramatically limited their learning. I'm a little bit suspicious of internet learning becoming the dominant form of learning. But I also welcome the abundance of opportunity there.
Mr. Pooley: One of the old sayings is the best way to learn is sitting on a log with Socrates at the other end of the log where you can have these dialogues with people that really have the knowledge and the time. But it's really, really expensive to do that. What we're trying to figure out is how can we take the very best teachers on the planet and leverage their ability?
We went through Covid and we tried to do the Zoom thing. The paradigm going forward isasking, “How do I identify the best teacher for you and use this AI ability to create your personal teacher, adding personality and emotion in such a way that you now become engaged?” Because there are students in classrooms that are really bored with a live teacher.
What I noticed over Zoom is that I had students that were really bored in my class that really became engaged with Zoom. It was an interesting kind of change. What I recognized is if this student was able to have this one-on-one conversation with a teacher that really understood their needs, was very patient and knowledgeable, that has the potential to really increase their knowledge productivity or their ability to learn much faster.
This is one of the great hopes of AI. It's going to allow us to offer a more personalized and productive ability for every individual to learn much faster. It also could help you teach much better. If you really had an AI that could help you as a teacher to understand what the needs were for each and every student, you could formulate your lectures and your content that would really be able to help them understand much better and faster.
The question really is how much knowledge per hour can we create? Knowledge per hour. We call it KPH [Knowledge Per Hour]. What is the KPH that we're going to be able to move to? Can we use technology? Can we use freedom? Can we use markets? Can we use these things to help people to discover knowledge and share knowledge? Because that's really what wealth is ultimately going to be.
Mr. Jekielek: I'm actually quite concerned about the first version where AI becomes the teacher. The real powerful way would be your second option, which is where AI is used to augment the distribution of the actual teaching of a very effective professor. I'm getting a feeling that you have been one.
Mr. Pooley: Some of my students think so, and others that would disagree. You think about the very best teacher you had in your life. If you could have that teacher teach you these other subjects, would your life be different if that teacher who I think really probably loved you and also loved the subject, was able to teach you with infinite patience and also had this knowledge that they could put in an order and be able to continually determine whether or not you're learning before they try to go to the next idea? If you had that ability where people could tap into that powerful teacher, it could be profound.
Some of these young boys are just not thriving in a classroom. Why not? We better get serious about exploring new ways that we can use our resources and new ways that we can really tap into what's happening. What would we have to change that would allow them to be much more engaged in the material?
You could ask them, “Why aren't you interested in this? Is it because you're just too young? You don't have the desire to learn? Is it a maturity issue? What is it?” The AI things that we're working on could give us great insight as to what we could do to help this rising generation have a much greater opportunity to learn and contribute.
Mr. Jekielek: Gale, this has been a fascinating conversation for me, and you've given me a lot of food for thought. Any final thoughts as we finish?
Mr. Pooley: Part of what we came to understand is every human being on this planet has this potential to discover valuable new knowledge. We don't know who the next Steve Jobs, Mozart, Thomas Edison or Elon Musk will be. We know that they're probably out there somewhere. Steve Jobs’ biological father was from Syria. Imagine if Steve had grown up in Syria instead of San Jose. Do you think his life would be different? Do you think our lives would be different?
He was fortunate in that he was in a place where he was able to flourish, where he had the freedom, and where he had the right people around him. He had all of these things that allowed him to really flourish and really start to explore what his potential was. The question is, “How many Steve Jobs are in Syria today or all over the planet?”
If we genuinely seek to extend opportunity and the freedom to innovate for as many people as we can on this planet, it's going to benefit all of us. We have this moral view that the abundance we're enjoying today is because people had the time to discover new knowledge, and then they shared it with the rest of us.
By the way, they lived lives that were much less abundant than our lives. Think of your grandparents and what their life was like. They had a much lower standard of living than you and I did. They devoted a portion of their resources to investing in this knowledge discovery process. We're all benefiting from that today.
Mr. Jekielek: I'll make one comment as we finish. While our forefathers may have had less abundance, they might have had more meaning in their life. Everyone will say there is a crisis of meaning today. Your model also provides for a rekindling of that meaning.
Mr. Pooley: I'll hit you one more time on this one. Jordan Peterson talks about how we find meaning in our suffering, and that's true. We can find meaning in suffering, but we can also find meaning in our creativity. We have these ideas that come to us all the time. If we are living in a place that encourages us to be creative-friendly, and entrepreneurial-friendly, those places tend to produce all of this fruit that the rest of us on the planet are able to enjoy. Let's extend these environments to as much of the population as possible, and then we can lift one another out of our condition.
Mr. Jekielek: Gale Pooley, it's such a pleasure to have you on the show.
Mr. Pooley: Thank you very much.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.