Al Gore says the future holds severe environmental damage, major displacement in global power and farm animal/arachnid hybrids—but is confident the United States can provide the leadership the world needs “more than ever.”
The former vice president spoke at South by Southwest Interactive about his latest book, “The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change.” Gore’s book tackles issues facing the world that present both “peril and opportunity.” Walter Mossberg, technology columnist for the Wall Street Journal, moderated the discussion and set the tone when he described the book as “scary.”
“Our country is in very serious trouble,” Gore said. “But that does not mean I am not optimistic.”
Gore targeted the United States government and repeatedly emphasized “our democracy has been hacked.” He said recent changes in political, economic and military power are significant, and the U.S. is losing its leadership position in the world. These power relationships need to be re-sorted and in the meantime are making governance difficult.
“The Congress today is utterly incapable of passing any reform of any significance unless they first get the permission they need from special interests,” Gore said.
For example, Gore said the National Rifle Association is a “complete fraud” because it is financed by gun manufacturers.
One “driver of global change” Gore touched on was the new stage of economic globalization the world has entered, which has much tighter interconnectedness across all borders. This globalization will affect labor, capital and natural resources. He said outsourcing and “robosourcing” will continue to accelerate, and the Luddite fallacy—the idea technological advancements can destroy more jobs than they create—could prove to be true.
The current revolution in genetics and biology was a common theme throughout Gore’s session.
“We are now acquiring the ability to change the fabric of nature and makeup of all solid matters on an atomic basis,” Gore said.
For example, engineers have taken the genes from orb-weaving spiders and spliced them into goat DNA, forming “spider goats,” Gore said. Spider goats look like normal goats, except they secrete spider silk from their udders along with milk.
Gore said there are other “less creepy” strides toward scientific advancement being made in things like 3D printing and bone replacements. However, the distinction between the “miraculous beneficial things” from the creepy ones, like spider goats, will only be made if people can come to an agreement about human values.
The environmental activist spoke about global warming during the entirety of his panel. Gore said humans are using the atmosphere as a sewer and have filled the atmosphere with enough pollution to trap heat equal to the energy released by 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs every day.
“Every global national academy of science” agrees with Gore’s sentiment, he said. There are some contrarians, but even they are changing their minds. Gore reminded the audience Mother Nature ultimately has the most powerful voice in the debate.