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ABC Fora with Tony Jones -

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This program is not subtitled THEME MUSIC I'm Tony Jones. Hello and welcome to ABC Fora. to help the environment - We all know what we could be doing or drive hybrid cars we could install solar panels or use fewer plastic bags. what we know we should do There's often a big gap between and how we actually behave. at the Melbourne Festival Of Ideas, Delivering this keynote address it is the role of artists and writers novelist Kate Grenville argues that important issues like climate change. to inspire and move people to act on I was once a smoker. Like many of you here probably, that has to confess to that? Or am I the only person in this room Mine was not a heavy habit, I couldn't seem to break. but it was one about lung cancer, The thing was I knew all the stuff and I believed it, I knew all the information I knew the scientists were right, but it couldn't stop me smoking.

intellect, information, In other words, the smart part of the brain, to stop me lighting up. was not enough I'm glad to say I don't smoke now. So something obviously changed the moment at which it happened. and I can actually remember that I rather fancied - It was, of course, about a young man a bit of a hippie, a bit of a health fanatic. until one day, We were getting on famously I lit up in front of him absentmindedly, the look on his face - and I can still see utter shock,

bewilderment and disgust. recalibrating his idea of me He took a step back and I watched him his list of possible girlfriends. and I might add, crossing me off What happened in those few seconds of me watching his face, to make me do something was powerful enough had made me do. that no amount of cleverness the packet of Drum That afternoon I chucked away instead of smoking. and I started running

but at least I don't smoke. I'm ashamed to say I don't still run, in that moment So, what was it that happened change my behaviour, that let me do something,

It was something to do with emotion in a way that I couldn't before?

the emotional response of empathy. and specifically I watched myself through his eyes. I felt myself as disgusting because I felt his disgust as my own. the walls of resistance That broke through to the idea of quitting. that I had developed I would guess, I probably built those walls using, calibration and over confidence bias, just at a guess. a new perspective That empathy gave me but an emotional one. which was not a cognitive one has in fact given us another way, So what I think is that nature another mechanism,

from experience one besides the learning for making us change. has something to do with emotion. And the way that mechanism works Nature really is amazing. about Gaia at the moment, I'm reading James Lovelock's book which is quite... I don't know if anyone has read it. of the interlockedness It is awe-inspiring in its depiction of the chemical basis for life. So nature is clever harnessing that emotional response and she has given us a tool for and she has provided people just that kind of tool. who happen to be experts at building As you would probably guess, I think that tool is art at building that tool are artists. and those people skilled A while ago I was in Canberra by the lake walking around one of the parks I could see it in a distance, and I came across, obviously some kind of artwork -

of different heights. a series of white poles told me that it was a memorial I came closer and I read a sign that Illegal Entry Vehicle X. to the Siev, that is Suspected the sign told me, When SievX sank it took with it, and 65 fathers, 146 mothers, 142 children all of whom drowned. And the sign proclaimed that, "Our message in making this memorial is stronger than fear." is that kindness and a powerful bit of artwork. It was a powerful sign "Very worthy. Very true. How sad." 'Yes', I thought, somehow doubled back on themselves Then I walked closer and the poles to enclose a little bit of grass to read a second sign and to get close enough that little enclosed space. I actually went into And the second sign told me this - "The SievX vessel was 20 m long. by these 42 poles." The exact dimensions are outlined I glanced to the right, where the curving row of poles met where they met at the other end and to the left in the middle of a boat and realised that I was standing contained 399 other people, that had somehow, along with me, all but 47 of whom had drowned. in that second? How can I tell you what I felt remembering that moment. Which I'm feeling even now like terror, grief, Rather than give it words sadness, outrage, etcetera, what happened to me physically. let me tell you My throat closed, that I could go on breathing. so that I wasn't sure Something happened around my middle, in the stomach feeling, a kind of butterflies and frantic. something sort of tremulous My eyes seemed to darken where bleached into black and white. so that the colours of the morning I felt my face lengthen, and my jaw sagged. as all the muscles let go but I was suddenly very cold. The sun was still shining

and roll into a ball and howl. All I wanted to do was to lie-down Now all this happened without my choosing. of the numbers had not achieved, It was an effect that the reading about kindness. nor had the worthy words of Canberra grass, As I stood on that patch beyond my control. I went through an experience when art takes us into a place So, what's going on in that moment

is suspended? where all normal thinking What it feels like is that the brain to another, is turning from one kind of mode

as if a switch is thrown. is finding another path, And understanding not the path of cognition

more obscure, but another more concealed, less articulatable one. I learnt recently what neuroscience is discovering about how we learn to read.

You see, I have become a neuroscience bore. Apparently we're hardwired for language,

that's embedded in our brains. But we're not hardwired for reading. So when we're first confronted with the challenge of reading, our brain has no readymade path for it as it apparently does for language.

What the brain apparently does is run around. I picture a little gnome in there running around grabbing useful bits from all the other bits of the brain - the bit that's to do with seeing, the bit that's to do with visualising, all these bits of existing circuitry which are made for other purposes. And that clever little goblin cobbles together those functions and combines them in a new way and that is how it makes a new tool, if you like,

to do this thing called reading. Once we've learnt to read, we no longer have to do that hard work. We don't have to run around every time because once we've learnt to read,

all those little bits and pieces get cobbled together into a permanent new pathway - a shortcut that's labelled reading, for reading enter here. So it seems that in the most literal way, learning to read actually creates new brain circuitry. It creates a new tool in the neurones. Now the neuroscientist I was reading did not extrapolate that idea to the art experience, but I am boldly prepared to. Confronted with a rich piece of art, oblique, original, surprising, perhaps even obscure, the brain has no readymade circuitry to process it. So, as it did with the challenge of learning to read, the brain will run around and put a whole lot of pre-existing circuitry together in new ways. If I'm right,

experiencing art can literally create new circuits. New circuits are new ways of thinking, new tools that the brain can then apply to other purposes. So that feeling that we have that a work of art has flipped the switch over to some new kind of thinking, appears to be literally true. Art is that powerful it can change the brain. Any neuroscientists in this audience may tell me later that I've got the neuroscience all wrong, but I think there is a truth in this and I have only to say that Kafka got to it before I did and he's probably smarter than I was. Now, he was a man with an urve. And Kafka said, "A book is an axe for the frozen sea within us." Now, if that's not a description of setting up new brain circuitry I don't know what is. This is a tiny bit from the novel called Housekeeping

by Marilynne Robinson. "She had married the silent Methodist Edmund, who wore a necktie and suspenders even to hunt wild flowers and who remembered just where they grew from year to year and who dipped his handkerchief in a puddle to wrap the stems

and who put out his elbow to help her over the steep and stony places with a wordless and impersonal curtsey. The rising of the springs stirred a serious mystical excitement in him and made him forgetful of her. He would pick up eggshells, a bird's wing, a jaw bone, the ashy fragment of a wasp's nest. He would peer at each of them with the most absolute attention and then put them in his pockets where he kept his jackknife and his loose change.

He would peer at them as if he could read them and pocket as if he could own them. This is death in my hand. This is ruin in my breast pocket where I keep my reading glasses. At such times, he was as forgetful of her as he was of his suspenders and his Methodism.

But all the same, it was then that she loved him best - as a soul all unaccompanied like her own." For some you that passage would've been just words and not specially interesting ones at that. For others, it might've touched some string within

and set it resonating as it did with me. And that's one of the things about art, people disagree about it. You could almost say, if it doesn't make people argue it's not art. And it's not just because it's ambiguous.

There's something else going on as well, I think. And that is that each of us brings our own experiences, our prejudices, our memories, to a work of art. Each of us looks at that through that unique lens. So we all heard the same words when I read that bit of Housekeeping,

but we all saw different things in our mind's eye. In that sense the work is made freshly by each reader and each reader is enriched in a way specific to them. Now far from being a weakness with art, I think that's one of its great sources of power.

Each time the work of art enters a new consciousness, it shifts its shape to engage with what is already in that consciousness. To use another scientific analogy that will probably horrify any biochemists here, I might as well have a clean sweep having probably horrified the neuroscientists. My theory is you can liken the artwork to a virus. Now a virus has an interesting quality, it has no DNA of its own. It can't replicate itself on its own. What it has to do is get into a cell and actually hijack the DNA in the cell and it can then start its evil process

of producing more swine flu. Now, I think art... This is a good analogy for art. Art enters the host,

and to use the words of a biochemical book,

it multiplies by pirating the metabolic machinery

of the host's cell. One of the things that that means is that it has the effect of fooling the body's response to a foreign body

because once it starts to replicate it doesn't feel like a foreign body. It's using your own DNA. It feels like part of your self and therefore it won't be rejected. Although, hopefully swine flu is at some point. I didn't get that far in the book. But with art, I mean that's exactly how it feels, isn't it? When you make a work of art, when you really feel deeply about a work of art, it feels as if you've made it yourself and in a way, you did. Um... In a way, the artwork, you can say, "I have made that artwork mine." But actually, I think it's the other way round. IT has made us ITS. Orden put it much more deftly, he said, "A real book is not one that we read but one that reads us." So let's go back to this idea of resisting change. It begins to look as though art might have a couple of unique qualities that could be relevant to that. One - it can change brains, and two - once it has broken through and changed the brains, that new way of thinking doesn't feel like something that has come from the outside. So that means that perhaps we do, after all, have tools that can break through the icepack of hindsight bias, confirmation bias, scope neglect and the need for closure bias. You might say this puts a pretty heavy responsibility on artists. Does this mean that we should all be writing books about putting on another jumper and sonnets about turning the hall light off? Well, sure, if that's the way our creative impulses direct us but I don't think that art can be done to order. The most powerful art, in my opinion, comes from somewhere other than a conscious desire to persuade. Our job is to break the icepack, to create a different kind of response, one that is beyond the, sort of, oppositional positions of the intellect, the "yes, it is", "no, it isn't" kind of debate. That was the novelist Kate Grenville

delivering one of the keynote addresses at the Melbourne Festival Of Ideas. If you'd like to hear that lecture in full, join me next Thursday evening at 5:35 for Fora Extended Mix. Well, we're a year into the global financial crisis and so far, Australia seems to be fairing much better than most OECD countries, but even here, more and more people are struggling to survive on greatly reduced circumstances. At a recent seminar, hosted by the Whitlam Institute at the University Of Western Sydney, the former Northern Territory Chief Minister, Claire Martin, looked at the impact of the GFC on our long-term unemployed. There are some stark realities about what has taken place and what is going to take place in our economy. And I want to focus on jobs because there's no doubt and here, representing ACOSS,

a job is the difference between whether you're going to live in poverty or not live in poverty. That is the starkest test of what is going to happen. In the last 12 months, unemployment has grown by 200,000 Australians to 650,000 Australians out of work, with the prediction that the number could grow to a million by the end of next year. The growth has been in male unemployment, with 100,000 jobs held by men, that's full-time jobs, disappearing in the last six months. Now, they've mostly been in manufacturing and in mining, and that's an enormous number of jobs lost. Interestingly, at the same time, jobs traditionally held by women have increased by 60,000, mainly in the areas that are dominated by women - that's in the health and community services areas, although, mostly, those jobs are not particularly well-paid.

Now, I could break these figures down further but I think this afternoon, more usefully, I should introduce you to an Australian who doesn't have work and is finding it tough just to survive. I want you to meet Bill. Bill is just over 50, he is single and he's currently unemployed. His fortnightly income, and he gets some rent assistance along with his Newstart Allowance, is roughly about $550. That's for a fortnight. Or $275 a week. Now, that's made up of $227 of his Newstart Allowance,

his unemployment benefit and some rent assistance. After paying his rent, he has $110 to live on for the fortnight. It's not much. Not surprisingly, he doesn't have a car, he doesn't drink alcohol and he doesn't smoke, and when he has met his other commitments, he has about $20 a week to live on for food. And he has discovered Aldi and he says to me that he spends most of it on baked beans. Bill also has a small bank loan which he his repaying. He is very frugal with his money but despite that, often at the end of a quarter, he doesn't have enough to pay his power bills,

so he'll go along to one of the community organisations that actually hands out emergency relief vouchers to get that additional funds to pay his power bill. Now, Bill used to work for the railways.

His job disappeared and his case manager at his employment service thinks he's having a lot of difficulty finding new work because of his age. Now, for anyone here in the audience, being just over 50, Bill is not very old. I feel that too. While he looks for work, Bill gets almost enough money to survive and Bill is pretty well stuck on his Newstart Allowance until he finds full-time work, which is going to be very difficult as is unemployment, as the recession grows. Now, Bill became unemployed when unemployment was at a record low. When it was at 3.9%. He has been out of the workforce now for over 12 months and if his prospects for finding work weren't good 12 months ago, they're certainly worse now. As other Australians newly retrenched join the job queues, harder to get work, someone like Bill will find it and the newly unemployed jobs harder to find

most certainly ahead of him to the employment queues. when it comes of the recession, Based on the experience in the early '90s, which Rajah talked about he may very well not find work again. An enormous number of men like Bill in that recession of the '90s, the disability support pension. simply moved on to his outlook is not bright. So for Bill, is that he totally missed out And what makes it worse, of the stimulus packages, on the cash payments from either and the one that came down this year. the one that came down last October politically It was obviously too difficult to give $1,400, which was the sum in the first stimulus package, or even $900, which was the sum in the second, to someone like Bill.

The unemployed, despite being among the poorest people in Australia, didn't make it across that threshold for getting the cash stimulus but I bet if Bill had got the cash, he would have done the right thing with it. Don't forget that the Prime Minister said with that cash at the end of last year, that the government handed out spend it." he said, "Don't save this money, I can almost confidently say, And someone like Bill, would have spent it. he's looking for jobs, You know, his income is so low that new shoes, he would have gone and bought maybe new shirt to go to his job interviews that if he had got it, and I hope for Bill's sake to add something to his diet he might have been able rather than baked beans. how those cash payments, It's actually very interesting how they were spent, and how they were spent. who they went to made it very clear in his direction, As I said, the Prime Minister those dollars, he didn't want people to save he wanted them spent, he wanted them into the economy, he wanted an injection of cash in the economy. So there was lots of speculation, you probably remember it, mostly in the media about how many plasma televisions would exit Harvey Norman from that cash stimulus, or how much of the payments would go on poker machines.

bonanzas There was comment about Christmas very little left to show and that there would be after the new year. from the cash payment who speculated I think there was one politician left over from toys made in China. about piles of packaging But do you know, it wasn't the case. spent on the pokies Yes, there was a spike in dollars slightly higher spike but it was only a higher, than the previous December

did do well over Christmas and yes, Harvey Norman that of the $8.7 billion but access economics' figures showed payments at the end of last year that was handed out in cash stimulus Australians, and distributed to low income 80% of it...80% of it was saved. a spending spree. Australians didn't go on Overall, they were very cautious with that bonus. But let's go back to Bill. As I said, Bill missed out on both the stimulus payments - $1,400 and $900 - and now what is even more disheartening for Bill is that in the recent Federal Budget he has missed out yet again. Most of Australia's pensioners got a rise, which came down in May. an historic rise in the Budget That was $32.50 additional a week. disability support pensioners, It went to age pensioners, carers and veteran affairs pensioners which is great, it's terrific. And they certainly needed it to better manage financially now and they'll be in a position term started. than they were when the economic down But what about Bill? unemployment is growing, Bill is unemployed, what did he get in the Budget? If he needs or can do some training, while that training takes place he'll get an additional payment but essentially, that's all. employment focus The federal government's into the economy is on the cash injections for nation building and job creation, the things I talked about before, for schools, for clean energy, for roads, solar, hot water... for housing and ventilation, targeting of dollars. Which again, is really terrific is also on training. The employment focus training places have been created. Tens of thousands of new productivity Again, most positive initiative. one of those places. Maybe Bill will get and I certainly hope he does. Maybe he'll find a training place a single Newstart payment But right now, he is left on plus some rent assistance. of $227 a week, that the Newstart Allowance, The government argues which is why they didn't increase it, is only a temporary payment, is only temporary, it's short-term. which says that unemployment hundreds of thousands of Australians, Sadly, however, for thousands, being out of work is not short-term. of Australians unemployed, As I said earlier, the number it's now at 650,000, recently unemployed. and with just about half of those And it really is very instructive providers to talk to employment service Australians. about those newly unemployed out of work before Many have never been at an employment service, and when they arrive which is what they have to do, about losing their job they're pretty angry about having to be on and they're even angrier a Centrelink payment. what they're terming as welfare, anger about losing their job, And what's worse is, so they've got about being on a payment, they've got anger for a job for such a long time and they haven't had to apply about how you apply for a job now. that they haven't a clue that whole process So they've got to go through for a job online of learning about applying and everything that that takes. of the newly unemployed. So that's a kind of idea they don't want They're struggling with a reality and they don't like, and they're certainly hoping view of unemployment, that in line with the government's that it will be only short-term. But of those 650,000 unemployed, about half a long-term unemployed, for over a year, they've been out of work out of work for two years or more. with about 150,000 of those short-term, So to call a Newstart Allowance flies in the face of the facts. The long-term unemployed are often the ones who get the "dole bludger" tags but if you sit down and talk with some of them,

they either want a job and simply just can't get lucky or there are some serious issues preventing most of them doing so. Mental illness is a very big one, about 30% of the long-term unemployed of a mental health issue. have some form

Where they live is another - or in regional or remote Australia - often in outer suburban areas appropriate skills, and many of them lack of the long-term unemployed and yes, there is a section who simply don't want to work, to the employment services. and they are a constant challenge But there were no specific programs unemployed in the last Federal Budget or targeting of the long-term and there should have been because as I said before, recession in the early '90s, the experience of the last major of those who came unemployed showed definitively that many during that time, never worked again. Someone like Bill wants a job, he's a man in his middle years, he doesn't want a pension. unemployed Australians like Bill, ACOSS is advocating that for program introduced. that there be a paid work experience A paid work experience program with a government supported wage that is about twice the Newstart Allowance. Such a program would assist Bill into a workplace for up to six months. That workplace would mostly be some level of government or maybe the not-for-profit sector, it would put him back into a work environment, allow him to develop appropriate on-the-job skills, and, importantly, give him current work experience and a reference from his employer. I outlined our paid work experience proposal to a group of long-term unemployed, mostly women,

at an outer Sydney employment service, and they loved it. One woman told me her story. She'd raised two kids, her marriage broke up, she needed work, she'd done some basic training, basic office training through the employment service, but she didn't have that critical piece of paper that outlined her recent work experience, so she just couldn't get an interview. No recent work history.

Yet, as she argued, she had the experience of raising a family, managing that family, she said she'd be reliable, she wouldn't go out on drunken nights, bingeing, and she said she'd treat those she worked with very well. But she just couldn't get a job. So she liked the idea of six months into a workplace. Another woman gave me a more disheartening story. She had qualifications that included, interestingly enough, child care and forklift driving, but prospective employers lost interest in her because she had two young teenagers, and they told her she'd be always taking off time to look after them, either sickness or school obligations, something like that. So, there are real challenges ahead of us, and the biggest one, I mean, there's many challenges in a recession, but tackling the challenge of the long-term unemployed

is probably the biggest issue of this recession, and ACOSS and other organisations will continue to work with the Federal Government on making sure that what we experienced in the recession,

particularly of the '90s, doesn't become what happens in this recession of 2009. Thank you. APPLAUSE

That was Clare Martin, considering the lives of some of our most vulnerable and disadvantaged.

And if you'd like to see the rest of that event, including presentations by other experts in the field, head to our website, at - Well, next up, every now and then, someone has a really good idea, and sometimes, an enormous corporation decides to support that idea, and then something great can be created. This was the case with Google Maps, the now ubiquitous online navigation system. It was created by two brothers, Lars and Jens Rasmussen at a time when the technology required to deliver their ideas was still being developed. But, with Google's support, they built an extraordinary website. Delivering the annual Warren Centre Innovation Lecture, Lars Rasmussen describes how it all came to be. This is Google Maps in April, 2005. We started out... LAUGHTER We launched Maps in February just with North America, and in April, we added the United Kingdom, and we thought we would put it in the geographically correct location, relative, and then put a bunch of blue as a promise of maps to come. We got a lot of fun emails from this,

this was in the very beginning of George Bush's second term, and a lot of our users... LAUGHTER

..and a lot of users thought we were trying to predict what the world would look like at the end of his term, but that's not at all true.

was this guy, in all caps, One of our favourite emails he wrote "YOU FORGOT POLAND." LAUGHTER And, uh, and so, and so we added Poland. and I bring this up We now have Poland,

words about where Maps is at now, because Robert asked me to say a few since we launched it's been five years and Jens and I left the team has it stabilised? two and half years ago, And the answer is very much no, of innovation going on, there's an incredible amount incredible engineers. it's a big team now, When we go hang out with them, just getting started the sense is that they're on this mission of mapping the world, information geographically, or rather, of organising the world's which is what Maps is all about. And the way it works, of course, you want to launch Maps in a new country, you find a source of mapping data, you evaluate it, you learn how addresses work, and then we have Maps in a new country. The problem is, most countries of the world, there are no digital mapping databases like there is here, we can just go and license, so I want to tell you a little story, Maps looked like my previous screen, when we launched, when engineers, in Bangalore, India, a team of engineers, Google wanted to have Maps for India, they couldn't just find a database and they quickly learned "Let's just build something, to license, so they said, so that volunteers can input maps." and they set out to do it. and we said, "Sure," hadn't actually produced anything, A year and a half later, they

what we had built was so young and partly it was because those kinds of features, it couldn't really handle I was the big, bad manager, and at the time, to tell them to stop, I actually travelled to India it was too much distraction for us, "Sure, fine, whatever, we'll stop." and my Indian colleagues said, To their credit, they kept going, LAUGHTER they launched this thing, and sometime later, which you won't know about, called Google Mapmaker, it's an application which lets volunteers, I won't show you because I don't know how it actually works but it lets volunteers input maps, around the world, we have it running in 164 countries that are still developing, and it let's us do maps for countries not pronounced Bulawayo here's a city almost certainly in Zimbabwe, the maps are here, and you can see how detailed through the satellite images. and how well they track because of this team in India. And this is all done by volunteers, that I want to draw out, And this is lesson number one in entrepreneurship, the importance of passion and these guys in India, they had passion because they were solving a problem they cared deeply about, namely, having digital maps available for this part of the world. I'll show you a little fun video that they put together, if I can find it, of how it looks if you do a... I'll time stop the video here, this is volunteers building maps for Karachi. Sorry I didn't preload this. Here it looks like, just over a few weeks, a bunch of volunteers got together to map, this is Karachi, Pakistan, but this is going on in lots and lots of places around the world and this work will never stop. There's always more detailed maps, more countries to map, and there's always and well in the mapping world. and, yes, things are alive the history of Maps. Now, back to this, of my tenure in Silicon Valley, This is a little timeline is a NASDAQ composite index the beautiful blue graph here that tracks technology stocks, you can see how much fun we had, joined a start up, I graduated with a PhD around here, we were able to raise $45 million, very, very, very rich, we were going to be we spent it all, and here we got laid off. with failure as well, Like I said, we are familiar actually to be laid off. and it was really painful, in disguise, a very good disguise, Turned out to be a blessing but this was how Maps started. Um, so Jens, who was much smarter than me, get laid off three months earlier than I did, and by the time I got my very predictable pink slip, Jens had already worked out what we were going to work on, this is how Maps started, he said, "Look, mapping..." and you guys will remember this, this is in 2003, 2002, I forget, were very simple, maps on the internet keyed in an address, you got a map, they were popular but simple, you you got driving directions, if you keyed in two addresses, down in the corner a few sites on the web had maps next to a bunch of text, if you made the map big enough and Jens argued that and dynamic and interactive enough, and pretty enough a platform for all of these services you could actually use the map as of how you would look at a map and he described this wonderful demo you would key in the name of a movie and, we were both movie buffs, on the map showed that movie, and it would show you which theatres hovering over the map, you would click on, see the billboard your ticket right there. and you could go buy And I was sold immediately, a couple of hours, Jens claims that it took I like my version better. At the time, I was in Australia, I had moved here, my girlfriend, who's now my wife, and with us tonight, she's Cuban, and we couldn't be together in California, the US is not very hospitable to Cubans, so we had moved here, but now started this little musical continent thing,

visa, just been laid off, Jens was in California with work,

he moved in with Mum, had to move back to Denmark, he hates when I tell people that, LAUGHTER moved into his apartment, I left my girlfriend here, really trying to lower our budget, and we were like, prototyping his ideas, and then we started more people involved, and we tried getting in California, we knew a lot of engineers and we tried to get them involved, in our non-existent company, we were going to pay them with shares and they all had the same reason, but they all turned us down, we heard many, many times and this was a reason

in the course of building Maps, you can't make money from maps." which is, "Look, This was sort of the well known thing, everyone had tried and failed. No-one argued about our technology not being interesting, "But you can't make money from maps," we heard this over and over, and at the time, it was sort of disheartening, but now that I am a seasoned innovator, these are real grey hair here, when people tell me I've come to actually really enjoy that it can't be done, the second lesson of tonight, and this is sort of that if no-one tells you that I've come to form this theory or shouldn't be done, that something can't be done ambitious enough, you're probably not being on some innovative track, and you're probably not I go and actually seek out and so now, people I can get the more experienced and smarter the better I feel. to tell me I'm crazy,

budding entrepreneurs in the room, And, in fact, if there are any young, to threads, for a small fee, I'm happy to rip your idea I'm of course kidding. We did have one breakthrough, we crashed an alumni event of Carnegie Mellon, to, um, to see, there was a speaker, Frank Marshall, who was a prolific angel investor in California and he'd been on the board of the company that had laid us off, we wanted to get him interested in helping, and it worked.

He liked our ideas, and he opened a bunch of doors for us, with venture capital firms in Silicon Valley, five to be exact, to see what these guys have," and when Frank said, "Hey, you've got

with two partners, each of them gave us one hour they would all end the same way, we would show them a demo, "Don't call us, we'll call you," actually ever called us, and very few of them

we were running out of money, none of them were interested, I was missing my girlfriend, to just go get a real job. it was really quite tempting to lesson number three, And this leads me you can't have a lesson about innovation not to give up. without showing this picture, in fact, didn't give up And I'd like to say that we, because we have steel in our bellies like this frog here, I think, in honesty, the fact that there were no real jobs to be had at the time might have had something to do with it, but we didn't give up. So we didn't give up, I went to Australia in a sort of last ditch effort, and I had a good friend in Noel Gordon,

another good friend Stephen Marr,

they'd both been laid off as well during the tech wreck and they liked our Maps. Don't tell me the spirit of innovation is not alive in Australia, they joined us, Jens flew down here,

we spent a lot more time on our prototype, and it started looking pretty good towards the end of 2003, at which point we ran out of visa, in particular, my girlfriend had to go back to Cuba, we got married three days before she left, in a hurry, which in my opinion is the best way to get married and then we played this musical continents again, she went back to Cuba, Jens went back to Denmark, I went back to California, we hooked back up with Frank, and he opened some more doors for us, and these were actually better doors, I'm supposed to stay over here, these were actually bigger doors. I think Frank deliberately lined up the big VCs towards the end to make sure we didn't make complete fools of ourselves before he took us there, and the last one he took us to, it was like 11 or so, was Sequoia Capital, which are, I don't know if you know them, they are the big dog in Silicon Valley, they helped start Apple and Cisco and Google and Yahoo, and they liked our Maps, which was a wonderful thing, and they called us back, they invited us back, we gave the demo once and twice and three times, and all of a sudden, there were numbers involved, they were going to, I almost said donate there, I mean, they were going to invest X millions of dollars

in return for X percent of the company. We tried, we tried negotiating, they pointed out that we were right here in the history of Silicon Valley, and there was no negotiating, it wasn't a bad deal. We got a lawyer in the Valley, it's easy to find a lawyer who'll work for free for you and they get paid if they get an investment, in part with shares in your company, which is a great system, And we negotiated a term sheet and we felt sort of like this. SCATTERED LAUGHTER In the seventh heaven. It was wonderful. I often talk about how if you want to do entrepreneurship you have to, if not enjoy, then at least be able to survive rollercoaster rides. The Monday that we were supposed to come sign the term sheet,

Yahoo, which had the second most popular map site in the United States, launched a fairly significant change to their map site.

It wasn't anything like what we were planning, but it was enough to spook the investor. And instead of getting a call with a time to come sign that morning, I got a call starting with, "Lars, we gotta talk." And that was the end of the deal. Don't ever call me and start with those words, please. That was the end of the deal. They completely cancelled it. They said there's no going back. It felt very much like this. LAUGHTER And I gotta tell you, I don't know what number lesson we're getting to, but it looks like this again. And this is a very tempting time to give up. But we didn't. We had developed a little steel in our bellies, I guess. We spent three days getting over it, taking great care not to drive any motor vehicles. LAUGHTER And then we identified the three most bullish people that we knew. Frank, of course, the guy at Sequoia that liked our technology the most,

and then the third guy we called, his name was Rhome Sharome. He was going to be our business guy. Since we were all techies, he was gonna invest a little, work for us a day a week. sit on our board, he liked it, We'd shown him the demo, on Google's board. and he happened to sit It's a good person to know. And he suggested the following - was a very interesting idea. this, I think, Yahoo does not want to invest..." He said, "Look, the exact reason that Excuse me. does not want to invest in you "The exact reason that Sequoia interested in buying you. is going to make Google what you've done. Because they have also seen They don't have anything in maps. You should go talk to them, in front of Larry Page in a week." and I can have you And we were a little nervous - 2,000-person company back then, Google was this ginormous and a prototype. and we were just four guys

And Rhome guaranteed us that we would be treated very nicely, which held true. And I've learned as many many times over this thing about not being evil is actually taken very seriously. And it is safe to be a very small company negotiating with Google. and we showed our maps to Larry. We went there And actually, I should say, like it is today, at the time it wasn't a website you would download and install, it was C++ application he liked the philosophy of it, and Larry, he liked the speed of it,

that loved maps. he liked having people his parting words were, And so he spent an hour with us, "This is really interesting, we're really a web company. but you know What can you guys do on the web?" And it was interesting, for the longest time we had actually thought was just not powerful enough that the web to do the kind of things we wanted to do with maps. But in this, shall we say, heightened state of motivation... LAUGHTER ..we were out of options, out of money. There's a thing about Sequoia, and when you get offered, it's called the curse of Sequoia, if you get offered an investment and then they changed their mind, no-one will touch you in the investment community in Silicon Valley.

And so we were really getting quite desperate. waiting for Larry to call us back. And so we spent the next three weeks the most creative times of our lives, It was the most, I think, into a website, we turned a C++ application that is was possible. amazing ourselves and showed it to Larry and his staff We went back a little bit later and they were very impressed. of most scary times. And then started several months See, this was 2004 now,

and as you might remember their multi-billion dollar IPO. this was a year Google did I have yet to understand, And for some reason, thought that more important their business people and their prototype. than the four guys waiting for these guys to decide And so we spent a long time that they were actually gonna buy us. Every day I'm thinking I'm gonna get a call from someone at Google saying, "Lars, we gotta talk."

But it didn't happen. They bought us in the end. By the time we got our first paycheck from Google in mid-2004,

Jens and I had $16, US dollars I should say, between us. We had used our severance pay, we had done several contracting gigs, we had maxed out our credit cards, Jens had cashed in a pension. entrepreneurial lifestyle to you all. I am here to recommend the LAUGHTER Lars Rasmussen That was Google Maps co-inventor of being an entrepreneur. talking about the highs and lows in full on our website. And you can watch that event

traditional methods of agriculture Well, finally today, in most developed countries environmental concerns. have long ignored water shortage, Factors such as soil erosion, on bio-systems and the impact of chemicals in favour of massive crop yields have been overlooked and cheaper food. on our health and our environment? But what impact does all this have in San Francisco, Speaking at The Long Now Foundation that the agricultural industry writer Michael Pollan argues needs urgent reformation. I want to start out with a little quiz. I'm gonna read you a quote and you tell me or try to tell me which well-known critic of the American food system said this. Here's how it goes. "Our entire agricultural system is built on cheap oil. As a consequence, out agriculture sector actually is contributing than our transportation sector. more greenhouse gases it's creating monocultures And in the meantime to national security threats, that are vulnerable to sky-high food prices that are also now vulnerable or crashes in food prices, huge swings in commodity prices, explosion in our healthcare costs and are partly responsible for the to type-2 diabetes, because they're contributing stroke and heart disease, obesity, huge explosion in healthcare costs." all the things that are driving our

CROWD MURMURS Any idea who said that? Yeah, President Obama said that. APPLAUSE Isn't that kind of amazing? is that we have a president What that tells us and we know he's a supreme dot connector, right, in many ways, but he's a very good dot connector in the food system. And that he has made the links between the way we grow our food and the healthcare crisis on the one hand, and the energy and climate change crisis on the other. That's a very big connection to draw, and it has tremendous implications. So we have a president who understands these issues. a secretary of agriculture, We actually have charged with the mandate for reform. Tom Vilsack, who appears to be that's gonna go, We don't know how far although we do know his number two, a woman named Kathleen Merrigan, with writing the organic rules, who's very closely identified and is a devoted reformer, the Department of Agriculture, is running that's kind of mind-blowing. we have Michelle Obama And then of course the most important thing of all, who so far may be doing talking about real food, which is to say planting a garden,

the media was an organic garden - a garden she took pains to tell that extra step - she didn't have to take and it really pissed off the crop protection industry, as they currently like to call themselves... LAUGHTER They wrote her a letter, actually, it was polite but pointed, about, "We really think by making this garden organic

you have cast dispersions on conventional food in our industry, and we really hope you will consider buying and using some of our wonderful crop protection products." LAUGHTER

Anyway, so all that is very exciting. to the movement It's given a huge boost, I think, and indeed to home gardening. If you've tried to buy garden seeds - centre and you will find holes, you know, you go to your garden in that great wall of seed packets. missing teeth

But the question still remains - is there a mandate for real change? his considerable political capital Is Obama prepared to use on this issue? that will take us from where we are Do we have a path to where want to be? Obama certainly did not run food and agriculture, on a platform of reforming is that sooner or later, yet my argument tonight or more likely second term, first term, he will find himself forced to deal with the food system because he will have a lot of trouble, he will discover, making significant progress on healthcare costs or climate change or energy independence, without tackling the food system, because it is the shadow problem over all those three other problems and the way we're feeding ourselves is at the heart of all three issues. Consider these couple of stats. as that quote indicated, The food system, and this news has reached Obama, but the food system as a whole, and food processing, that's agriculture about 20% of the total, uses more fossil fuel, more greenhouse gases, and contributes and nitrous oxide from fertiliser, not just CO2 but methane than any other industry. to the atmosphere an none of them are reliable, Somewhere, depending on the studies,

traceable to the way we're eating. between 17-34% of greenhouse gases, of American agriculture The industrialisation

over the past 50 years has transformed it from a system two calories of food energy that used to produce of fossil fuel energy... for every one calorie Because calories aren't just energy, right? You can have food calories, you can have fossil fuel calories. So, you would get two calories of food for every calorie of fossil fuel you put into the system, to a system where today it takes ten calories of fossil fuel energy to produce one calorie of food. When we use this word 'unsustainable',

often misused, which is a vexed, complicated word, a pretty good case I think that that's for an unsustainable industry, given what we know about the future of fossil fuel. And then there are many worst cases than that. Feedlot beef, your McDonalds hamburger, if it's fed from corn that's been fed from fossil fuel, is even worse - 55 calories of fossil fuel energy to bring one calorie of food to the table. So when we eat from the modern industrial food system, and this is the key point, we are eating oil and spewing greenhouse gas. Which is kind of crazy when you recall that every calorie we eat

is ultimately the product of photosynthesis. That is the only way to get food energy off of this planet, is sunlight feeding plants, plants turning that light, a couple of simple minerals and carbon dioxide into edible calories. It's the only way to do it. And if you're eating meat, you're eating the result of photosynthesis in the feed, and if you're eating fish, you're eating the result of photosynthesis in the algae at the bottom of that food chain. So it's the only way to do it. Food is the original solar technology, and there is, I think, enormous hope in that simple fact. Now, let's turn our attention briefly to healthcare crisis. Since 1960, when I was a boy, spending on healthcare in this country has risen from 5% of national income to 18%. We won't be able to insure everyone in this country unless we get those costs under control. Now, there are many reasons for high healthcare costs but one of the biggest, and perhaps THE biggest if you listen to the CDC, is the cost of preventable Four of the top ten killers are chronic diseases linked to diet. Two-thirds of heart disease 40% of cancer can be traced to diet. Most of type-2 diabetes. Most of obesity, obviously. CDC estimates that of the $2 trillion we're spending on healthcare today, $1.5 trillion, three-quarters, goes to treat preventable chronic disease. And this doesn't even include the cost of antibiotic resistant diseases that are coming off of our feedlots or the effects of agricultural pollution. Now, is it just a coincidence that in these years that healthcare costs were soaring from 5% of national income to 18%, it's between 17-18%, the cost, the percentage of our personal income we spent on food, plummeted from 18% to 9.5%. So, you see, as we have spent less on food, we have spent more on healthcare. Which suggests that cheap food perhaps has some hidden costs. So that's the bad news. Our food system is broken.

We probably CAN afford to keep on eating this way. Cheap food has cost us dearly.

And our agricultural policies are largely responsible. That was Michael Pollan talking at The Long Now Foundation in San Francisco. And that's all for today. Hope you enjoyed the show and I'll see you again next Thursday evening at 5:35 for Fora: Extended Mix, where we'll be bringing you the rest of Kate Grenville's keynote address from the Melbourne Festival of Ideas. And in the meantime visit our website at: There you can find the full versions of everything you've seen on tonight's show, along with hundreds of other talks and debates. I'm Tony Jones. Enjoy your evening. Closed Captions by CSI

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