E315: Peter Diamandis, Chairman and CEO, X PRIZE Foundation -TWiST



about this episode

Never miss an episode! Subscribe in iTunes: Audio (http://bit.ly/TwiStA) || Video (http://bit.ly/TwiStV)

Get up to 2,000 subscribers and send up to 12,000 emails per month for free with MailChimp. There’s no contract, no trial, and the free plan is always free — visit http://www.mailchimp.com.

Visit http://www.sourcebits.com to begin your web app development journey. Take a meeting with Sourcebits and you’ll also get a 15-minute meeting with Jason Calacanis! Email sourcebits@thisweekin.com for more info.


On today’s episode @jason chats with Peter Diamandis, founder of the XPrize Foundation and Singularity University. The two debate what are some of the world’s biggest problems. Topics include illiteracy, cancer, alzheimer’s, and renewable energy. Peter explains the roots of his fascination with space and breaks down the requirements for acceptance into his Singularity University.

Read the full transcript

0:25 Hey guys on the show today, it’s Peter Diamandis. This is going to be the UPLIFTING episode
2:05 Go get Peter’s new book Abundance
2:25 Thanks to our friend’s at SourceBits. Parker Holcomb actually had his app made by Parker and he’ll be talking about his app, eHighlighter
4:10 How are you transcribing the highlights?
4:30 You can check this application out in the app store under eHighlighter
4:50 So can you share all of your highlights?
5:40 Email sourcebits@thisweekin.com for more information to get your app on TWiST like Parker
6:25 How did you come to the concept of XPrize?
9:00 Who were putting up prize money for aviation?
10:00 Why did these prizes stop for a while?
11:25 What is your theory on innovation?
12:25 Can you unpack the idea, “People are afraid to fail publically?”
16:45 What was the first XPrize? How did it go?
18:05 How does XPrize define winning?
19:40 If someone gave you $100 million, what prize would you put it on?
20:40 Other than illiteracy, what else?
23:00 Is there a global conspiracy against cancer research because it would change the drug industry?
25:50 Thanks to MailChimp for sponsoring our program.
30:00 Take us through your thinking of the most important problems you could survive
32:00 Jason’s pitch to end illiteracy
33:00 How would you judge the best way to end illiteracy ?
34:10 Is there value in getting 10-15 years out of people who would otherwise have alzheimers?
36:10 What is stopping some of the world’s richest people to sponsoring projects that could solve some of the biggest problems in the world?
38:20 Why do people panic about things being unsolvable when we consistently survive and thrive?
41:30 What is the problem with modern news?
44:50 What is the role of government in all of this large scale problem solving?
45:45 Should we be ignoring government in all of this?
47:30 Have you thought of an XPrize, “To get rid of a dictator”
48:25 What do you think of China? Could there be a civil war there?
49:30 What is Singularity University?
52:30 So how is it different from something like YCombinator?
52:15 Are these type of people the ones who would normally go to graduate school?
55:15 What is the goal of the univeristy long term?
55:55 Have you thought about an XPrize about with gun control?
57:10 If a country was bankrupt could they break off and make 10 different companies?
57:45 What is the basis for being a new country?
58:45 What is the most dangerous XPrize that you had to turn down?
60:15 Let’s talk about human trials
62:50 What is the organ generation XPrize?
63:25 How can normal folks support the XPrize?
65:00 This was a great episode, thanks to Peter Diamandis, MailChamp, SourceBits and everyone else who makes this show possible.


Full Transcript

Distribution provided by CoudSigma. The cloud that adapts to you. Visit CloudSigma.com/This WeekIn, for a free $200 credit.Today’s episode of, ThisWeekIn Startups, is brought to you by, Sourcebits. Visit: www.Sourcebits.com, to begging your mobile app development journey.

And, by MailChimp. Manage lists with up to 2,000 subscribers and send up to 12,000 emails per month, for free, with MailChimp.

Jason: Hey, everybody. Today, on ThisWeekIn Startups, Peter Diamandis, is here. He is the co-founder of Singularity University, the founder of X-Prize, the author of, Abundance, and, a brilliant guy. Who, I’ve gotten to know, over the last couple of years. A real visionary. We’re going to talk about, how awesome the future is going to be. Yes. This, is the positivity episode. It’s not, the end of days. It’s, the beginning of the greatest revolution. Everything’s going to be fine. You don’t have to worry about it. This, is the positive, emotionally uplifting episode. Stick, with us.

TWiST title sequence.

Jason: Hey, everybody. Today, is going to be an amazing episode of ThisWeekIn Startups, because, Peter Diamandis, is here, with us. He’s just a brilliant guy, who… you know, there are some of those people, who, when I get invited to a dinner and I see, Peter’s going to be there, I go. I try to get the seat, next to him. When, I talk to him, it just makes me feel better. He talks to everybody. He’s a great thinker. He’s done some many amazing things, in his career. He’s one of those people, you leave the conversation feeling like you’ve been intellectually stimulated, but also, that the world’s going to be in a good place. His new book, Abundance, is amazing. Go, buy it. While, I read the ad. Seriously, it’s amazing. Go, get it. I’ve just started it. It’s, really well done. Listen. A lot going on. The Launch Conference, is coming up, March 4th, 5th, and 6th. Make sure you go, check that out, at Launch.co. Thank you, to our friends, at Sourcebits. For, supporting this program. Also, making the app for the live crowdfunding stuff, we’ll be doing, at the event. These guys are a great group. Today, we have with us, Peter Holcomb. Who, actually, had his app made by them. Instead of me just reading an ad, for Sourcebits, here’s, somebody who actually had their app built, by Sourcebits. Parker, are you there?

Parker: I’m here, Jason. Thank you, for having me on. A pleasure, to be here.

Jason: Of, course. Of, course. You had your app built, by them. You had a good experience, I take it?

Parker: Yeah. I had a great experience. It was the first app, that I’ve built out. It turned out to be a professional grade, high quality. It’s, been robust. They put out a stability release, for me. It’s been, well received, so far.

Jason: Awesome. I see the app, here. Pretty clever app. You made this app, because, you were looking… as you told me, earlier, to make an app to do annotations of things: from books, you were reading, from school. So, if you pull up my iPad, you’ll see how it works. It’s pretty neat. Press, “Add A Highlight.” You take a picture of the book. I’ll just pull a picture, from my photo album, here. Then, we’re going to add a highlight, here. The way that works is, you highlight the photo. As, you can see, in the video that I’m playing. Then, the system transcribes, from the book. So, if you don’t have the ebook, that’s OK. You can take a picture, of your book. In a library, at a bookstore, wherever you happen to be. Your friend’s book. Your book. So, here, I’m going to add a highlight. Boom, boom. What a great idea, this is. I hit “Save”. I say, what page number, that was. I save it. Then, it goes and it annotates it and it transcribes it. You, actually, get the transcription of that. Are you doing that transcription through mechanical turk? Or, is that like, OCR?

Parker: I have an advisor, on the company, who started his own image processing company, Bill Byther. He runs a company, called, ItaliSoft. We were able to leverage, some of his image processing, and OCR technology, to use in the product. That’s all done, server side.

Jason: You can check out Parker’s application, which, is called, eHighlighter. In, the iOS Store. It’s very neat. If, you’re a student or you’re just a book nerd. You wanted to take Peter’s book. Let’s say, you just wanted to take some pictures, from it, and quote some stuff. You can do that. I’m assuming, I can share that stuff, then?

Parker: Absolutely.

Jason: I can tag it. Organize it?

Parker: Absolutely. You can sort it. You can tag it. You can make it comments. You can put it into your Evernote. You can email it to, yourself or to a friend. You can also, review your highlights, on eHighlighter.com. There’s plenty of social sharing features.

Jason: I love it. It shouldn’t be limited to books. I could do this in a newspaper, too. Would it be possible, almost? It depends, on the print size?

Parker: Yep. Can use it in magazines, newspapers, clippings off of a sign. Anywhere, where, you wanted to remember, those certain 12 words. Instead of 500 words, off of an entire page.

Jason: I love it. It’s a great idea, Parker. Thanks, so much, for coming on the program. Everybody, check out, eHighlighter. Thank you, to Sourcebits, for of course, for building it for Parker. Sponsoring independent media, like this, is not easy to produce. It costs money. They’ve been a great partner, for us. If, you’d like to build your own app, with Sourcebits… you’d be able to demo here. Live, on TWiST. LIke, Parker just did. Go, email, sourcebits@thisweekin.com, for more information. So, Peter, you founded, the X-Prize?

Peter: By the way, Sourcebits, really cool. I’ve got a whole bunch of app ideas. I’m…

Jason: Making some notes?

Peter: I’m going to be their customer.

Jason: There you go. Everybody, is behind the eight ball, when, it comes to apps.

Peter: Yeah.

Jason: It’s just not a lot of talent, out there. When, you find a talented group, to help you… I appreciate the support, there. On the ad. You founded X-Prize?

Peter: I did.

Jason: Co-founded, Singularity University.

Peter: I did.

Jason: Now, you’ve written the book. We’ve got so many places to start, here.

Peter: There’s a whole side of space exploration and space tourism and the dozen companies, there. But, we don’t have to go there.

Jason: X-Prize is a good place to start. I would like you to tell us, what you were doing before, X-Prize. How did you come to the concept, of X-Prize? What were you doing? How were you making a living, before X-Prize? When, was that?

Peter: I grew up, in New York. Born in The Bronx. Both, my parents from a small island of Lezvos, in Greece.

Jason: OK. Oopah.

Peter: Oopah.

Jason: I’m from, Brooklyn. It’s interesting to…

Peter: Two New Yorkers.

Jason: They grew up, though, in Greece?

Peter: They were born, there. They came over here. My mom, in high school. My dad, after medical school.

Jason: What was that, the 20s, they came in? Ellis island?

Peter: No. This was the 50s.

Jason: Oh. The 50s. Wow.

Peter: Anyway. Long story short: my passion… on the heels of Apollo, Star Trek, and the 70s… was space. I became a huge space enthusiast. My mission… if, people describe they have a mission, a God, a calling, in life… mine is, getting off this rock and taking many people with me. My parents, always, thought I’d be a doctor. It was, sort of, which, do I do? I ended up going and getting a medical degree and a six pack of engineering degrees. To make my mom happy. Also…

Jason: A six pack of engineering degrees?

Peter: I know. A bunch. To, go and become an astronaut. I wasn’t a fighter pilot.

Jason: Right.

Peter: The next best thing was, being a physician. And, being all those things. I started becoming a serial entrepreneur, in the space arena. I had started a group, called, Students for the Exploration, Development of Space, SEDS. Which, was the largest college space organization. Jeff Bezos, ran the first chapter of SEDS, at Princeton.

Jason: Wow.

Peter: Which, is where I first connected, with him. Then, I started something called, International Space University. A company, called, MicroSpace Launch Systems. It was a launcher company. A satellite communications company. A zero gravity corporation.

Jason: Wow.

Peter: These were a whole slew of companies, space adventures, that were focused on opening up space.

Jason: Right.

Peter: Then, one day I read that, Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic, in 1927, to win a prize. I thought, he woke up one day, and just decided to fly across the Atlantic.

Jason: To see, if it could be done.

Peter: To see, if it could be done. It was, actually, a $25,000 prize. That drove 9 teams, who, spent $400,000, to win $25,000. Ultimately, that idea stuck with me. I said, “Can I create a prize to catalyze private space flight?” That’s where X-Prize came from.

Jason: So, you say, “We’re going to start an organization, X-prize, that will bring back whatever was happening in the 40s or 50s? That prize was?

Peter: It was the Teens, 20s, and 30s. Just, prior to World War I.

Jason: Who were the crazy people, who put the prize money up, then? Bored, rich people?

Peter: It was mainly… Actually, it was the media companies.

Jason: Ah. Fascinating.

Peter: It was the startups. It was the Daily Mail. It was the Globe and Mail. They wanted to create good news stories.

Jason: Got it.

Peter: They wanted to have heroes. They put up these crazy prizes for, crossing the English Chanel or, crossing whatever. Then, it was individuals. Ramon Orteg, was an entrepreneur, who moved from Paris to New York, penniless. Worked his way up, as a busboy, eventually to buying the Hotel Lafayette. He saw the potential of aviation and offered up, this crazy prize, for flying from New York to Paris, non-stop. Connecting his homeland, with his new home. Anyway, I took a page, from that book.

Jason: But, they stopped, for decades. People stopped doing it. Why did it stop?

Peter: It stopped, because, the government started paying, a large amount of money. Here’s the prize world. The prize world is, “Here is a large amount of money, for the first person, to do this.” Lots of teams can compete. I have no idea when, it’s going to happen. World War II, comes along. The government, said, “Here’s a…” Can I say a four-letter word, on this program?

Jason: You can. It costs ten bucks. Swear Jar. Think about it.

Peter: I was wondering what that was.

Jason: Swear Jar, baby. You can use a “sugar.” You can say, a “sugar” ton of money. By the way, this goes to the kegger, for the staff. Don’t feel bad, if you do use a curse word.

Peter: OK. So, the government says, “Here, is a ton of money.” I don’t have any cash, on me. “Here, is a ton of money.” And, starts paying the prime contractors. “Here’s money.” They were trying to buy time and buy performance, to fight the Nazi war machine.

Jason: Right.

Peter: So, the idea of, letting someone do it, on their own schedule, went out the window. The industrial military complex, got spoiled. Cost plus contracts, came into existence. The whole prize ideas, went away.

Jason: You can get things done faster. Certainly, not more efficiently, with that model.

Peter: Nor, with as much innovation.

Jason: Ah. Why is that?

Peter: Well, here’s my theory of innovation that’s come out of the X-Prize work. It really holds true. The day before something is really a break through, it’s a crazy idea.

Jason: The day before?

Peter: The day before. If, it wasn’t a crazy idea, the day before, it wouldn’t be a break through. It’d be an incremental improvement. Like, a faster computer, a smaller phone, is not a break through. But, going from vacuum tubes to IC circuits, was a break through. What happens is, if you ask people to achieve a goal, most people are lazy. If, you give them all the time, all the money, all the resources. They’ll take the time. They’ll take the money. Cause, people don’t like to fail, publicly. So, people end up siting on the government dole for a long period of time. Then, if you say to them, “Listen. You have one hundredth, the money. You have one tenth, the time. You don’t have a thousand people, you have ten people.” You don’t go to thinking out of the box. You go for a really small box. What happens? Most people say, “It can’t be done,” and, they give up. They just ignore it. The majority of the people. The rest of the people say, “I’ll give it a try.” What they say is, “The same ‘ol way of doing it, before, isn’t gong to work. I’m going to toss that out. I’m going to try something, radically, different. I’m going to try a crazy idea.”

Jason: A.K.A., innovation.

Peter: A.K.A., innovation. What happens is, 99% of the people fail, in a competition. But, the one person, who pulls it off, has driven a break through. That’s the model, if you would, for incentive prizes: audacious, high value proposition, very constrained box. The government teams, the large corporate teams, don’t play. Most are going to fail. They don’t want egg on their face. It’s the startup guys. It’s the guys who have nothing to lose. It’s guys driven by their passion. That will do anything, to try and take a shot at it.

Jason: Something stood out to me. You said, “The fear of public failure, keeps people from trying.” Unpack that, a little bit. What role does the fear of failure play, in all of this?

Peter: I speak about this often, with passion, that we’re living in a very risk adverse society. This risk adverseness, is literally, destroying us. I remember when I was talking about the original, Ansari X-Prize. Before, this one. It was like 2002. I was in Congress. I was giving testimony about the future of the space program. A congress person stood up, and basically said, “Dr. Diamandis, aren’t you in fact, asking our teams to risk their lives? Might we not have loss of life, on this $10M junket?” I was really taken aback. I’d heard this question, before. I was ready. I said, “I’m kind of shocked, by this. Because, isn’t it true that, 500 years ago, thousands of people gave their lives, to cross the Atlantic and open up America? Then, 200 years ago, they gave their lives, again, to open the American West. Isn’t risking your life, for something you believe in, the american way?” They withdrew their question.

Jason: I withdraw the question. Wow.

Peter: But, it’s true. Taking risk, is extraordinarily important.

Jason: It seems like it’s been lost. It’s crazy, cause, there is so little down side, today. We live in a time of vast resources. More venture capital. More wealth than could ever be invested. Sitting in gold bricks, sitting in banks, sitting in bonds. Nobody knows what to do, with the money. Yet, people are afraid to try and to fail. Is it, just, the stigma for failure? It seems, like in The United States, it’s the most-forgiving. Forget about, Europe.

Peter: The reason we have an extraordinary entrepreneurial culture is, because, we tolerate failure. In fact, at least in Silicon Valley, you celebrate failure. To say, “I have had three failures, but I’ve learned a ton. I’m going for it, here.” I failed, a number of times. You probably haven’t, ever, ever, but, that’s OK.

Jason: No. I have. Trust me. The haters, the Jaters, they write very long blog posts about it.

Peter: But, the fact of the matter is, if you’re not failing, you’re not swinging for the fences.

Jason: Correct.

Peter: Ultimately, I think what’s happened is, we’ve become a very litigious society. Enter, 20 lawyer jokes, right here.

Jason: Yup.

Peter: Ultimately, it’s unfortunate. Because, it used to be that, if something went wrong, “Too bad.” Now…

Jason: Try again.

Peter: You’ve got to find someone to blame.

Jason: Finger pointing.

Peter: For example, the government has the Solyndra failure, at the Department of Energy. “Oh, my God. This company went bankrupt.” So what.

Jason: It’s $5M, who cares? What is that? Like, one bomb in Afghanistan?

Peter: Take some more risk. Let’s have ten failures, so we have at least, two break through ideas.

Jason: Absolutely. Fisker, failed obviously. Our friend, Elon Musk, had Tesla succeed. Now, we have superchargers, that could go across the country. Free driving, for life.

Peter: Amazing. Amazing. At the end of the day, I think the government should be taking much bigger risks. I think, large corporations should be taking bigger risks. What happens is, you’ve got, on a quarterly, profitable, public basis…

Jason: The public market. It’s impossible.

Peter: It destroys you. Congressional investigations: literally, this democratic/republican struggle. Someone’s always there, to point the finger. The question is, “Where does innovation take place?”

Jason: That is X-Prize. What was the first X-Prize? How did it go?

Peter: The first X-Prize, came from very selfish, “I want to go to space,” reasons. It was, I launched it in 1996, under the Arch, in St. Louis. I didn’t have $10M. I didn’t have any teams. What I did was, I created the impression, of launching this… what I like to call… above the line of super credibility. I had, basically, 20 astronauts on stage. The Lindberg family. The head of N.A.S.A.. The head of F.A.A. No one asked, “Do you have any money?” Which, I didn’t. “Do you have any teams?” I did not. I set out to go and raise that money. It took me six years.

Jason: Six years.

Peter: Six years, to find the $10M, cause… I went and say down, with Fred Smith, with Richard Branson, with150 CEOs and CMOs.

Jason: Wow.

Peter: Basically, pitching them on this idea. Ultimately, the Ansari family, said, “Yes.” God bless them. An amazing entrepreneurial company. They’d built three serial telecom companies. Their last one, for $1B, sold to Sonos Networks. At the end of the day, that $10M prize had 26 different teams, who spent $100M, to win the $10M prize. They explored every possible combination of getting into space. The winning team was Burt Rutan, Scaled Composites. Backed, by Paul Allen, won in 2004.

Jason: What was winning? How did you define winning? That is a key element of doing a prize.

Peter: Absolutely. Having very clear objective measurable, that the rest of the world can see. Winning was, build a private spaceship. You had to demonstrate 90% or more, of private financing. I didn’t want the government of China, coming in and winning, this thing. It had to be able to carry three adults, into space. So, at the end of the competition you had a viable vehicle, with a pilot and two paying passengers. Or, an auto-pilot and three very brave passengers. Then, you had to fly to 100km altitude and land safely. Then, with the same ship, within two weeks, do the trip again.

Jason: Oh. So, renewable? Reusable?

Peter: Reusable. That meant that the cost for each subsequent flight, was the fuel and the touch labor. It kept the cost affordable. At the end of the day, Rutan, won it. Richard Branson, came in and licensed the winning technology. After turning me down twice, to fund it. Smart guy. Really, I was thrilled.

Jason: As, Jeff Bezos, said, “Smart people, change their mind often.”

Peter: Yes.

Jason: They change their position.

Peter: Richard’s a friend. I’m thrilled, because, ultimately, he turned it, from a historic event, into an industry. Which, was our goal in the first place.

Jason: Now, you have that Virgin… what do they call it?

Peter: Virgin Galactic.

Jason: Where, they’re going to be taking people to space.

Peter: They have close to a 1,000 paid customers. Virgin, has the potential, to make more astronauts, in the first year or two of operations, than the last 50 years of space flight history.

Jason: What prize should we be doing now? If, somebody, would give you $100M, right now. You could place that chip only, on one prize. No splitting into four prizes.

Peter: That’s a great question.

Jason: Which prize do you put it on? Which one, does Peter put it on?

Peter: Can I give you my list, then, down select from there?

Jason: Absolutely. Yeah. Let’s go backwards. We’ll narrow it down.

Peter: Global literacy, is on my radar. How do you reinvent… there are 880M illiterate people, on the planet.

Jason: Interesting.

Peter: 10% of those, are kids. 80M illiterate kids. How do you create a mechanism that is scalable, that doesn’t require building schools, teaching teachers? That, really, drives literacy. That’s one big thing.

Jason: It’s amazing. You say this stuff and my mind, immediately… that’s one of the great, inspirational things, about this. The mind, immediately starts thinking of solutions.

Peter: Exactly. We have lots of smart people, on the planet.

Jason: Keep going.

Peter: Alzheimer’s. $100M will be a great dent. Alzheimer’s will bankrupt, this nation. 50% of the people over the age of 85, will come down with Alzheimer’s.

Jason: We’re living longer.

Peter: We’re living longer.

Jason: So, we’re going to live poorly, sadly. If, we don’t solve that problem.

Peter: It’s like, polio. My friend, Ken Dychtwald, talks about, we used to solve polio with iron lungs. Literally, stadiums filled with iron lungs. Then, we created the polio vaccination and we solved that problem. There’s no problem we cannot solve.

Jason: You, actually, believe that.

Peter: I do. I know that. There is no problem, we cannot solve.

Jason: Really. Global warming?

Peter: Yeah.

Jason: Totally solvable?

Peter: Listen.

Jason: Life on other planets? Solvable?

Peter: It’s there.

Jason: No. That’s our ability to be on other planets.

Peter: Of course. If, nothing else, Elon, will get us there, in the next ten years.

Jason: Absolutely.

Peter: Nothing’s easy, but, we’re living during an extraordinary time. Where, the amount of capital, intelligence, technology, to take these things on. It’s the will, that’s the scarcest commodity. To continue, on my list. Earthquake prediction. I think, that will be a huge item.

Jason: Fascinating. You do have a lot of deaths, because of that?

Peter: You do.

Jason: Having, just, a few minutes warning…

Peter: Would save countless lives.

Jason: Countless lives. If, all of a sudden, an alarm went off right now and we just had 60 seconds. A global alarm system, that was controlled by it’s own frequency. If, we knew there was that tsunami was coming. So many lives could be saved.

Peter: Cancer. I’m, literally, speechless that we have not been able to get enough concerted effort, on a cancer X-Prize. The amount of capital, out there… maybe, I’m a really poor salesman, but, at the end of the day, even, an X-Prize for early detection of certain cancers, that, if you catch them early, are curable.

Jason: Or manageable.

Peter: That isn’t in place. One of the prizes, I’m working on, but should be a $100M prize, is a series of battery X-Prizes. Talk about, revolutionizing the power industry.

Jason: The storage of electricity, is the issue. Not, the generation of electricity.

Peter: Exactly. We have 5,000 times more energy that hits the earth’s surface, from the sun, than we consume as a species, in a year. It’s storing it. It’s being able to time shift it.

Jason: It’s a challenge.

Peter: Batteries that are 500% better.

Jason: 5X would be extraordinary.

Peter: It would change the global economy, in an amazing way. Those are… now, where’s my one chip?

Jason: Wait. Before, you answer it. I’m going to let you think about it a little. We’re going to go to commercial. Then, I’ll let you answer it, after the commercial. Before, you answer it. Is your process, so dangerous, that you feel there are people working against it? Is there, a global conspiracy against a $100M cancer prize, because, it would fly in the face of drug, you know… When, I hear you talk about it, I feel like this is, a Michael Crichton novel, sometimes. That, they’re going to whack you.

Peter: I don’t think so.

Jason: It seems so dangerous.

Peter: Did you see my bodyguards, out there?

Jason: Exactly. Would Pfizer, ever put $100M up, for a cancer early detection? When, they know they’re going to make… I don’t know. I’m just pulling Pfizer, there. I’m sure, it’s great people, there. But, the fact is, sometimes having those problems in society, sometimes become very profitable for the same people who control the money in our society. That, would then, solve the problem for all of humanity.

Peter: Honestly. I know, a lot of the senior execs, at the pharma companies, including Pfizer. I really don’t buy the conspiracy theory. I think, it’s large companies. This is the kind of prize that a philanthropist needs to take on. The pharma companies have their own set of problems. They’re heading towards a brick wall, at 1,000 MPH. They know it. They have no way of reinventing their business.

Jason: So, self-interest is now working against, the human species. It’s, driven us this far. Is it possible, that our self-interest, the pharma companies working in their preservation mode, governments, states, all hitting the wall with taxes, burden, and debt?

Peter: It’s called revolution.

Jason: But, if everybody’s acting out of personal interest, and, cannot put the small amount of resources necessary, how on earth do we solve these big long problems, that you are thinking about, everyday? You’re like a lone wolf, out there.

Peter: I do believe, we’re living in a world, where, the world’s biggest problems are the world’s biggest market opportunities. Entrepreneurship: the guy or gal, who’s got an idea, is what really will slay that. The large companies, the large government entities… I’d rather focus on the individual and the philanthropist.

Jason: When, we get back, we’re going to figure out, which one of these… I think it was four: I’m going to remember them. We had Alzheimer’s, literacy, battery storage, cancer.

Peter: And earthquake.

Jason: And, earthquake. Those are five.

Peter: A good five.

Jason: This is interesting. Let me borrow that pen, for a second. I’m going to write down, what I think your two are.

Peter: I’ll go from 5 to 3 to 1. How’s that?

Jason: Just give me the 3 to 1. 3, 2, 1.

Peter: OK.

Jason: Hey, listen. This is an amazing episode.

Peter: By the way, if you want to vote, with your pocketbooks, peter@xprize.org. Send over the check and we’ll launch’em.

Jason: Absolutely. This guy… there’s a lot of rich people, who listen to this program. Seriously, put up a prize. Thanks, to my friends, at MailChimp. EEEeeeEEe. What a great company. I use MailChimp, of course, for all my… I just had somebody email me, today. Who’s a very powerful person, say, “I know you were talking about MailChimp. How much money are they making?” He’s like a very powerful investor. “Can you introduce me? I think, I may want to invest in that company. Everybody loves it. I keep hearing about, MailChimp, MailChimp, MailChimp.” I was like, “I tried to angel invest, in MailChimp, three years, ago.” Ben, was like, “We don’t need money.” At least, I can use the product. He goes, “Better than you investing in my company, I want to invest, in thisWeekIn Startups and sponsor at Launch.” Boy, MailChimp, has been a tireless supporter. I’ve been using their product, tirelessly, for 3 or 4 years. It’s so elegant. It’s so simple. It’s free, if you have 2,000 subscribers, or less and send less than 12,000 emails, per month. It’s a great product. It’s easy to use. It’s mobile friendly templates. Drag and drop file uploading. The free plan is always, free. I use it constantly. The Launch Ticker, you guys know. A lot of you guys get that information, on Launch. It’s flawless and people love it. Fast. All those spam problems: getting to people’s spam folder. They just figure it out. Once, in a while, every couple of months, somebody emails me, “I didn’t get my newsletter.” I just CC, one of the support people, at MailChimp, they are on it. They work tirelessly. Then, I hear, “Oh, Jason. By the way.” 72 hours, later. “We figured it out. The person had this problem. We talked to their mail provider.” It’s like some obscure mail provider, that didn’t update their thing. They are on it. You’ll never be on it, like they are, because, they are focused on their problem. Which is, getting into people’s email boxes. People’s email stays the same, for life. Peter’s email. My email. It’s going to be, for the rest of our lives. We’re going to live forever. With, this Ray Kurzweil stuff and the singularity coming. We’re going to get to Singularity University, right after this. We’re living forever. So, MailChimp’s going to have that email forever. Everything is going to be just fine. Everything’s going to be good. Everybody thank, @mailchimp, for our eternal long existence and emails, for life. Thank you. It’s a personal thank you. From me, to them. For, supporting the show. Alright.

Peter: Go, MailChimp.

Jason: Go, MailChimp. I’m going to verbalize. I’m going to do my thought process, here. Cancer, it’s interesting. I feel like, we’re on a pretty good trajectory, there. But, I don’t feel like that will be in the top 3. I don’t think. Literacy to me, feels like, if 15% or 20%… If it’s 800M people and there’s 5B people, on the planet? How many is that, now?

Peter: Seven.

Jason: Seven. That’s more than 15%, of the population. If, you get 15% more firepower, that can lead to better things. It could lead to less wars. It could lead to more democracy.

Peter: Very smart thinking.

Jason: There’s a lot of unintended consequence. That one seems like a very simple one. It has the most… curing people, who are dying of cancer, is noble. But, those people becoming participants in democracy, can have profound, profound impacts.

Peter: You’re a smart guy.

Jason: But, let me… I’m narrowing in. This is what greeks do, right? They sit around and they think things through. We’ll take two half sweets. Two half sweet turkish coffee. Give us the greek coffee. Bring us, two orders of Saganaki. I gotta think about the battery storage. I feel like that one is going to happen, with or without the incentive, because it’s so pressing. It would be better if, we did it successfully. Alzheimer’s would give an extra 10-15 years of intelligence, to the most intelligent, wise people on the planet. If, we think about 15% more, of the best, of the most intelligent people, who have the most experience. That, to me, compliments, very nicely, the 15% boost in literacy, that’s dragging us down. I like both of those ideas. They can have a residual effect. Earthquakes, I love it. It’s clever. I think, it’s a minor, compared to those two. I’m going to make my one and two: literacy, Alzheimer’s, battery. Because, it would create so much wealth. What are yours?

Peter: You nailed it.

Jason: NO!

Peter: Exactly, the same.

Jason: No. Wow. Take me through your thinking.

Peter: We are going from 2 billion people, connected online, in 2010. To 5 billion, connected online, by 2020.

Jason: Because, of smart phones?

Peter: Because, of smart phones.

Jason: $40 tablets, in India. It’s unbelievable.

Peter: Eventually, tablets will be free. Right? I’m going to give you a tablet, because, I can’t sell you anything, unless you have a digital connection.

Jason: GooglePlay. iOS Store. Amazon.

Peter: People, who are more literate, are going to be healthier and educated. That’s the means, for them. You have increased… you’ll have tens of trillions of dollars, flowing into the global economy. It’s the same calculus, that you did. This is, where, we will literally have the Mozarts. and Galileos and De Vinci’s that we would never have tapped into.

Jason: You’re gong to have more Michael Jordans, if, people have more basketballs and basketball courts. To make it simple.

Peter: Global literacy is something we can, actually, nail now. I think, there can be very novel, very powerful, very viral mechanisms, to spread literacy around the world. Whether, it’s gamification. Whether, it’s using YouTube. I don’t know what the answer is.

Jason: Clearly, Khan has made this dramatic impact. If, it there was gamification and if there was a prize, and, it was micro-prizes. For each of those 880M, if they got to keep the tablet, for becoming literate, I’m going to submit that. Here’s my submission:

Peter: You, actually, have to do it.

Jason: I’ll do it. I’ll make a $50 tablet. What happens is, if you can successfully can read, by using the tablet, at a location, then, you get to leave with the tablet. I win. Hands down, I win.

Peter: That’s a damned good idea.

Jason: That’s the only way you get the tablet. What do you think, people want? They want a goddamned tablet.

Peter: Yep.

Jason: What do I put on? I’ll put the Avengers, on there. You get the tablet, with Angry Birds. How do you define winning, for that? You haven’t, yet.

Peter: We haven’t. We’re in the middle of designing it, right now. It may well be… one of the concepts, right now, is… I’ve just raised some capital, to do the design. We’re going to look for global sponsor, for this. That’s really going to be known, world-wide, for having wiped out illiteracy, on the planet.

Jason: How about this? The ability in under 30 days, for under $100, to make somebody literate. Would that be a good way to phrase it? Cause, with an unlimited amount of money, you’ll say, “I’ll open up schools.”

Peter: Here’s one of the approaches, we’re looking at. We’re saying, a team will be given 200 illiterate kids. Ages 6-9. Something, like that. 100 in Africa. 100 in India. Is where, we’re looking at. The team that’s able to bring those 200 students to a stage 3 english literacy, the fastest and in the most scalable fashion, will win. Whatever, your solution, it’s about scalability and it’s about speed. Ultimately, training teachers and building buildings, isn’t going to be scalable.

Jason: Nonsense.

Peter: It’s going to be about student to student teaching.

Jason: What language?

Peter: We’re base-lining english, because, it’s the lingua franca. I love saying that. English is lingua franca.

Jason: It’s ironic.

Peter: It’s ironic.

Jason: No. It’s paradox.

Peter: That too.

Jason: Yea. Give us two orders of the lingua franca, al dente. Keep going. I love that lingua franca.

Peter: Alzheimer’s. I have a great friend, Ken Dychtwald. He’s the author of, and the creator of, Age Wave. He really talks about the fact that, this is the epic issue, of our generation. My dad’s 85. He’s starting to come down with Alzheimer’s. It’s tough.

Jason: It’s so sad. My grandmother, it’s terrible. Dementia.

Peter: It is growing, globally. At a fast rate. It will cost this nation… it can bankrupt, this nation. Ultimately, the challenge is, there’s not enough radical thinking being done, like that. So, we’re looking at, what can we do, there?

Jason: Is my thinking, about getting that extra ten years of wisdom, at the tail end of a life, is that correct? Or, is that not the reason? Is it the bankrupting reason. I kind of think, those people who are getting old, they seem to get more and more clarity, as to what’s important, in life. If, we could squeeze and extra 20 years of being lucid, out of an Einstein. Out of a Shakespeare. Out of a Peter or an Elon Musk. If we could get another 20 years, out of Elon Musk, what would that mean, for humanity? Those might be his 20 best years.

Peter: Or an Einstein.

Jason: Or, Einstein. When, you say Einstein and Elon Musk, we’re pretty much talking about the same thing, there. As far as I’m concerned.

Peter: At the end of the day, I think, your thinking is extraordinary and smart, there. It’s not the equation, that most people look at. It’s, really, financially we have more and more folks going into old age homes. Then, mental, so… Batteries, I think, is about unleashing an era, of abundance. I just put a plug in, for the book.

Jason: Absolutely. We’re going to dive in, next.

Peter: Basically, at the end of the day, if you have energy, you have clean water. If, you have clean water, you have health. If, you’ve got health and energy and clean water, you’ve got food. Ultimately, it really is, about creating a life of possibility, for people. Versus, a life of luxury. These are all intermingled. They’re all, what we call, the grand challenges of humanity. My message is, people who have been able to collect hundreds of millions of dollars, or billions of dollars, let’s stop building buildings. Let’s start slaying diseases.

Jason: Yeah. Bill Gates, has taken that approach.

Peter: Absolutely.

Jason: God bless, him. Where is Larry Ellison, in all of this? I’m not going to point out, Larry Ellison. I don’t know what his personal finances are. You did have, Steve Jobs, not giving any money to anything. What is up, with some of these billionaires, where, they just don’t seem to be able to shoot the goddamned lock off of their wallets. To do something big and extraordinary. They’re so self…

Peter: I think, it’s the Forbes List, man. They don’t want to drop down, a couple of notches.

Jason: You know what they should do, on the Forbes List?

Peter: Forbes List, has gamified, being a billionaire.

Jason: That’s so dumb. Forbes should say, “We give $2, to your net worth. For, every dollar, you give away.” On the list.

Peter: Steve Forbes, is a friend. As is, Rich Karlgaard, the publisher. I’m going to, actually, have that conversation, with them. I do believe, people don’t… When, you have $2B versus, $2.5B…

Jason: Who cares?

Peter: Who gives a shit? Ding.

Jason: I got ya. Being 90 versus 110. Maybe, these guys, actually it matters. This is a message, to Steve Forbes. I know, Steve. He’s a nice guy. Give everybody $2, for every $1 they give away. They have to actively, give it away. Not, this BS, “I die. I give away majority.”

Peter: Let’s talk about the other part of this. Which is, the giving pledge, that Gates…

Jason: It’s non-sense.

Peter: It is non-sense. Total nonsense.

Jason: I don’t mean to call out charity, but, it’s non-sense. The world’s problems are not on a 30 year timeline, from now. What if, we have a goddamned tsunami, that buries Manhattan or Hawaii? Go ahead. You tell me, why it’s BS.

Peter: From my standpoint, it shouldn’t be a giving pledge.

Jason: Gave.

Peter: I am committed to wiping out this disease. Solving this problem. It should, literally, be, “I am committing my philanthropy to attack this problem and actively doing it.” It should be a commitment to solve a problem.

Jason: Like, Bill Gates, is doing. He’s actively, doing it.

Peter: He is. Perfect example.

Jason: He’s gotta be blowing out $1B, a year.

Peter: Easily.

Jason: Easily. He’s got $50B. He’s got 25 years, left here on the planet. Might as well blow it out. Have fun. It’s more fun. What, do you do give it to your kids? It’s a disaster. Let’s talk about the book.

Peter: OK.

Jason: People love the book, obviously. You take an approach… we sort of delved into it, a little bit… which is, every problem is solvable. Everybody else is panicking. Everybody else is “S”ing the bed. To not give myself a $10 penalty. Why does everybody panic, about everything being unsolvable, when, we consistently, some how manage to get the resources. There it is.

Peter: Do you have some change?

Jason: Yeah. We’ll make change. Put this, here. Boom. We’re on target.

Peter: I may have to…

Jason: You may have to open an account. You got four more, on account. So, everybody seems to be, so, playing on their heels. Everybody’s panicking about everything. But, we always seem, as the human species, to figure out solutions, to stuff. It’s been that way forever. Whether, it’s Hitler. Whether, it’s nuclear disarmament. Which, we haven’t solved, but, we have seemed to have contained. Whether, it Al-Queda. I’m talking about wars. All this kind of stuff. Or, polio. Or, plagues. We always seem to survive and thrive.

Peter: We do. Maybe, there’s a pattern, here. The challenges, when, I talk about creating a world of abundance, as I do, in the book. Not, a world of luxury. A world of possibility. People have their basic needs met. I get a lot of cynicism. I get a lot of people, who’s saying, “That’s ridiculous. How can you, possibly, believe that? Haven’t you heard about terrorism, here? The economic fall, there? These problems and that problems?” One of the things, that hit me, we’re living in a day and age where, most… not you… most of the news media are drug pushers.

Jason: Absolutely, they are.

Peter: Negative news is their drug. Right?

Jason: Yes.

Peter: On every device you have: on your tablet, on your smart phone, on your newspaper, radio, television. 24 hours, a day. 7 days, a week. You’re getting pumped negative news. It’s the same story over, and over, and over, and over, and over, again. It’s like, Holy Cow.

Jason: It’s causing mental illness, I’ll bet.

Peter: It’s causing this cynicism.

Jason: Depression, mood, cynicism. It must be causing some people to get depressed.

Peter: I’m sure, it is.

Jason: Like, people who are border line. They could be happy. It sends them over the anxiety cliff.

Peter: What happens? Why does this happen? It turns out, that there is a physiological and a very strong reason for this. You see, as we were evolving, as humans, on the planes and savannas, of Africa, hundreds of thousands of years, ago, if you missed a piece of good news, well, that’s too bad. You missed it.

Jason: There’s some berries, on that tree.

Peter: Exactly. You didn’t happen to see. You missed a piece of negative news, like, a snake in the grass. Or, a rustle in the weeds, is actually not the wind, it’s a tiger. You’re dead. Your genes are out of the gene pool.

Jason: There, we go. Darwin.

Peter: Darwin’s alive and well. Literally, a piece of our temporal lobe, called the amygdala, evolved. That scans everything we see or hear.

Jason: Fight or flight.

Peter: Fight or flight. We are scanning for negative news. When, we hear a piece of negative news, we go, “Oh, my God. What was that?”

Jason: Right. The reptilian brain.

Peter: We are full focused. It goes on full alert.

Jason: Yeah.

Peter: So, the news media, knows that. Our politicians, know that.

Jason: Just, press that button, over again.

Peter: It’s, if it bleeds, it leads. Over and over, again.

Jason: Then, 9/11. If, the government wants to increase it’s ability to spy on it’s citizens, the best way to do it, is to hit that panic button, over and over, again. Now, you’re scared to death. You’d much rather have people reading your email, listen to your phone call, than, be blown up in a terrorist attack.

Peter: But, if you look at the facts of what’s, really, happened over the last 100 years. The human lifespan is more than doubled.

Jason: Much more.

Peter: Much more, than doubled. The per capita income, for every nation on this planet, has more than tripled. The cost of food has come down, thirteen-fold. Energy, twenty-fold. Communication, a thousand-fold.

Jason: Yeah.

Peter: Amazing break throughs. Steven Pinker, at Harvard. Who, just wrote this amazing book.

Jason: Right. Sure.

Peter: Shows us that we’re living in the most peaceful times.

Jason: Are Better Angels.

Peter: Exactly. We’re living during the most peaceful time, ever, in human history.

Jason: You would not know it. A person, living in the middle ages, who saw people get murdered, at a tavern, every couple of months, would feel a better sense of tranquility, than us. Because, on a global basis, whatever, the worst disaster is: child massacre, God forbid. Terrorist attack. Tsunami. We get to experience it, in real time. We watched those poor people die, in the tsunami.

Peter: Over and over and over, again. 24/7.

Jason: 9/11. That’s why, I stopped watching that 9/11 footage. I had PTSD.

Peter: Exactly.

Jason: I, literally, had it.

Peter: I stopped watching the news. What I do is, I will selectively look at tech shows, science shows. engineering shows.

Jason: Absolutely.

Peter: The stuff that matters, to me. If, something is happening, in the world, believe me, I’m going to find out about it. 6PM. 7PM. 8PM, every night. Over and over, again.

Jason: But, yet, people do that. They turn on CNN. They hear, Anderson Cooper. I like, Anderson. He looks good in a t-shirt. Very nice. He always has those nice shirts, and everything. I think, he’s a great guy. But, when, he repeats himself, over and over again, about how bad the situation, in Haiti, is. We get it. After, an hour, we get it. We don’t need to be on Haiti, for two weeks. It’s just, psychologically, not good for people.

Peter: Yeah. Agreed.

Jason: So, now, you’re trying, at least, to let people know. Through the book, Abundance. Get it, now. Audiobook, too. Yeah?

Peter: We hit number one, on Amazon. Number two, on New York Times, for nine weeks. I’m very proud of it. In the back of the book, is about, 100 charts. The data, that backs the book up, in detail. I hit the top, of Bill Gates’ reading list.

Jason: Wow.

Peter: He takes a number of books and reads them over…

Jason: Yeah. That one week thing, where, he goes away.

Peter: I’m proud, of that. Fortune named it, one of the Top 5 Books, of the year. For me, it tells, by the way, the story of X-Prize and the story of Singularity University, in there. It really is a mind shift. What you believe the future to be, affects everything in your life. As, an entrepreneur. As, an investor.

Jason: How?

Peter: Because, if, you think the world is going to hell, in a hand-basket, you’re not investing. You’re not taking a pro-active stance. If, you believe, the world is getting better, and, there’s opportunities, left and right…

Jason: You’re going to angel invest. You’re going to build new things.

Peter: The notion is, the world’s biggest problems, solve: hunger, water, energy, education, health care. You help billions of people and become a billionaire, in the process. What an amazing alignment, that exists during our time. Today, more than, ever before, as you well know. You have amazing people on your show. It doesn’t take an army. It takes a few, smart people.

Jason: A couple of dozen people. A dozen people.

Peter: You touch a billion people’s lives.

Jason: It happens, all the time. It happens, regularly. What’s the role of government, in all of this? We’re looking at this stalemate, in our own country. Getting back to the media. I’m watching CNBC, they put the fiscal cliff countdown, on their… I told them, I just did a tweet, “Kill yourself.” Which, is sort of my catch phrase, for when, I don’t like people’s behavior. I’m like, “Kill, yourself, CNBC.” For putting a 20-day clock. I was like, “Oh, my God. The fiscal cliff, is tonight?” Cause, I see 20. No. That’s 20 days, 14 hours, 42 minutes. I’m like, “Are you trying to panic the populace? Over this, stupid… “We’re going to run out of money.” Which is, obviously, not going to happen. It’s an arbitrary number, that they pick, the fiscal cliff.

Peter: I totally ignore it.

Jason: I turned it off. It’s no credibility. What is the role of government, in all this? When, you look at problems: gun control, budgets, debts.

Peter: Let’s not start on that one.

Jason: Yeah.

Peter: I don’t, honestly, know. Government is about providing stability. Humans love waking up, the next day, knowing that the world is the same as the night before. Most places. Most cases.

Jason: Yeah. There’s, no lion, in the bush.

Peter: Stability’s a very important part. I look at, very few, issue voters. Government should be taking big risk.

Jason: Have you gone to them and said, “Hey, Government. Hey, Obama. Let’s get rid of one F-16 fighter, a year. Whatever, they cost. Give me one F-16, a year. One less F-16.”

Peter: Let’s do some amazing prizes.

Jason: Let’s do some amazing prizes.

Peter: This administration is doing some prize work.

Jason: Some challenge work.

Peter: Working with, Tom Khalil. Kristen Diorgolo. The challenge becomes, the best the government’s been doing, are small sub-million dollar prizes. The government should be doing a billion dollar prize, on AIDS. A billion dollars, on cancer.

Jason: Absolutely. It pays for itself.

Peter: You’re, absolutely, right about that. The money’s gonna go to the company… No. The money should go to the researcher, that comes up with the innovation. How many researchers would change, where they’re spending their time. Dream time. Right?

Jason: No doubt.

Peter: You’re right. Literally, we spent… we did the calculation. $20B, a year, in AIDS related work. $100B, over five years. Imagine if, we had $1B prize and you saved $99B, over the course of five years. Insane. Here’s the challenge. If, I put up a prize, I can’t control, which congressional district, it goes to.

Jason: Ah. There, it is.

Peter: We might be able to control, which country it goes to. But, who should care? That’s not the way, we’re thinking about this.

Jason: How about an X-Prize, to get rid of a dictator. Has that come up?

Peter: It has come up. We’ve talked about X-Prizes…

Jason: Who came up… Can you say, who brought that up?

Peter: Well, besides you?

Jason: Yeah. I never heard that it came up. It would make sense to me, that someone would say, “How the hell do we get Kim Jung Il, out of power?”

Peter: “There, actually, is an X-Prize. I’m blanking. I’m trying to recall. There’s a $5M prize, that, was put up by one of the african cell phone CEOs. I’m totally blanking, on this. It was money given to a dictator, who steps down and transitions his company to a democracy.

Jason: His country to a democracy. Country, company, it’s the same thing, these days, Peter.

Peter: That has, actually, been a pre-existed… the problems, we’re talking $5M, for a dictator is nothing.

Jason: $1M, an hour, they’re taking out of their countries. What do you think of China? When, you look at that incredible, opening up of China democracy. Some people think, it’s going to be a complete civil war, at some point. With what’s going on, there? It’s chaos.

Peter: I heard a stat, yesterday, which blew my mind. I wonder if, you’ve heard this, that in 2013, a million chinese companies will go public, on the Chinese Stock Exchange.

Jason: No. Can’t be. Impossible.

Peter: It was a CMO of a Fortune 100 company, that was telling me this.

Jason: That’d be one for every 2,000 people.

Peter: OK. I literally wrote it down, in my notebook. I’ll have to verify this.

Jason: They got a lot of pink sheets, there.

Peter: China has it’s own issues. Which is, demographics. It’s rapidly aging demographic. A result of their one child policy. It’s interesting, I spent a lot of time, at Singularity University, focusing on where technology is taking us. It’s extraordinary change.

Jason: What is Singularity University? For, those listeners, who don’t know.

Peter: I’ll come back in one sec. The other thing that’s going on is, demographics are destiny. The aging of populations, around the world, are very predictable, are going to transform countries. Singularity University, Ray Kurzweil, Bill Gates’ named him as the most brilliant person, in artificial intelligence. I think, 19 honorary doctorates. Honored by three standing presidents. My partner, in founding, Singularity University. He just wrote a book, How to Create A Mind. He’s got some extraordinary break throughs, in AI. How the human brain works. He’d written a book, seven years ago, called, The Singularity Is Near. The Singularity, is a concept, it says, the rate of technical innovation is, growing so fast, and break throughs allow us to create more break throughs and more break throughs, that the rate is going to change to a point where, it’s unpredictable, what’s going to be happening next. We’re, effectively, approaching a black hole event horizon, of change.

Jason: Unknown unknowns.

Peter: Right. Rate of change. He, Vernor Vinge, a science fiction author, called that, a technological singularity. It’s when, AI becomes so smart, it starts programming itself. When, humans start downloading their brains. Whatever, it might be, it doesn’t matter. The name of the university, took it’s name from that book. But, it’s not about that. It’s not about The Singularity.

Jason: So, it’s not like a cult. We’re all going to be downloaded into computers? Let me get that out of the way.

Peter: The university is, actually, partnered with, Google is our major partner, AutoDesk, Genentech, Cisco, Nokia, N.A.S.A., and Kauffman Foundation. We run a university, that, has two major programs, with 80 graduate students. Who come in, out of thousands of applicants. To become a graduate student, at SU, you have to be top in your class, you have to be a proven entrepreneur, and, interested in the world’s biggest problems. Solving the world’s biggest problems. You come in… our facilities are in Silicon Valley… for five weeks. We bring in the top faculty, from the labs, the companies, in AI, robotics, nano materials, synthetic biology, digital medicine, 3D printing, computers, networks, security systems, and you really understand, what’s in the lab, and what’s coming to market. In two, five, to ten years. The next five weeks, your goal is to build a startup. That can use these technologies to positively impact the lives of a billion people. Call it 10 to the ninth plus, companies. We’ve spun out about 22 companies, so far. We’re just literally, now, in the submission phase for applications. If you’re a…

Jason: What class is this, now? The fifth?

Peter: 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, this will be the fifth class. I had to use my fingers, it’s good. It’s five. If someone’s interested, SingularityU.org, submit your application. It’s really an off the charts experience.

Jason: Eighty people are going. It’s different than, Y Combinator in that, you’re going to the school, everyday. Hearing from people and collaborating with other like-minded people. You don’t come in there with, “I’m going to make this new server optimization monitoring platform.” That’s software as a service. You’re coming in saying, “I want to change the world. I want to put a dent in the universe.”

Peter: I want to put a dent in the universe. I’m going to take on water, food, health, whatever, it might be. Some extraordinary companies. Transformative thinking. The capital’s there, to launch you. The connection’s there, to launch you. A lot of our top companies, go and present at Google. They’re plugged into an ecosystem.

Jason: Are the people who go an do that, in the world, the type of people would go to a graduate school, to begin with? Or, are they people who would be getting out of it? Is there a selection problem, here?

Peter: No.

Jason: That would be, when you were forming the university. That, must have been a discussion.

Peter: We don’t. We have out clauses. If, someone is brilliant, an amazing entrepreneur, and skipped out at high school, they’re welcome to submit an application.

Jason: So, you don’t have to be out of Harvard, to get in?

Peter: No. Though, we do have amazing people… I’m not going to go, there. The other thing we do is, we…

Jason: You have amazing people, from Harvard.

Peter: We have amazing people, from around the world.

Jason: Right.

Peter: The other thing we do is, we have executive programs. We run, 8 one-week executive programs, per year. They’re incredible. We have the executive teams, from top Fortune 50 companies, coming in. In a week, we’re showing them, here’s these technologies that’ll either put you out of business or that you’ll leapfrog the competition. Depending on your point of view. You need to know, what AI is going to do to your industry, or, what robotics is going to do. At, any one time, in the room, we have probably, a quarter of the people have done a $100M exit. They’re looking, “Where do I invest, next?” About a quarter are hedge fund VCs. A quarter are CEOs, CTOs. The last group are entrepreneurs, philanthropists. It’s not cheap. It’s $12K, for a week. But, they’re extraordinary people. Ricardo Salinas, worth $8B, from Mexico. Ashton Kutcher. Jim Gianopulos, Chairman, of Fox. John Sculley, came to the program. We have an amazing group of folks.

Jason: Interesting. What is the goal of the university, long term? If, we’re looking back on it, twenty years, from now, what would you be able to say is true?

Peter: A couple of things. Number 1: The goal is, it’s the flip side of X-Prize. X-Prize is about setting the grand challenges, that are incentivizing people, to go after it. SU is about giving people the tools, to go and solve those grand challenges. There’s, very, much an alignment. Both organizations are about solving the world’s biggest problems. The other thing is, SU is about, incubating those technologies. Access to the most powerful tools, in the world. We’re getting ready to build up our online SU curriculum. We just built, a SynBio incubator. We’re going to be setting up our SU labs. In AI, robotics, and synthetic biology. It’s trying to create the coolest place on the planet, to be.

Jason: We didn’t want to talk about gun control, before. Have you thought about an X-Prize, for gun control?

Peter: I tweeted, this morning, “The right to bare arms was created, when, there was a single bullet musket.

Jason: Yeah, and, it like about 3 minutes, to load it. It was to have a militia. Was it not, to have a militia and protect yourself, against the Ku Klux Klan?

Peter: We never anticipated automatic weapons or nuclear bombs. If, you want to have parody with government, we should all have nukes.

Jason: Absolutely.

Peter: I want my nuke.

Jason: Yeah. Hellfire missiles, BlackHawks.

Peter: Come on. For, God’s sake. I don’t know. Half of the reason for me wanting to do my whole space arena is go and a startup.

Startup Society. (together)

Jason: What do you think of these guys doing this At Sea one? People doing that Sea Org, kind of doing.

Peter: It’s cool. I think, we’re going to see experimentation, in new government. The challenge is, there’s no place you can go, right now. “Let’s plant a flag and start, again.” It’s all taken. We can create, Seasteading, it’s called. Creating a country, at sea. Virtual countries. We’re going to go create virtual worlds, online. Ultimately, we’ve got a big cosmos, out there.

Jason: If, a country was, sort of, bankrupt or having financial problems, they could divvy it up. Make ten countries out of some particularly struggling country and sell them off, one tenth, at a time.

Peter: Yes. Spinoffs.

Jason: Spinoffs. Why don’t somebody, who’s got a bunch of islands, start selling them. The greeks, could do it. They have a bunch of islands. Like, here’s new country, Spetzaz. The country of, Spetzaz. Here we go. They got a new country.

Peter: It’s interesting. Actually, it was a brilliant man, who’s a friend of mine, David Whineman. We sat down, one day, and we said, “What would be the basis, for creating a new country?” We, actually, came up with an amazing business plan. Want to hear it?

Jason: Yes.

Peter: Here, is the concept. First, of all. Being a country, really means, how well you can defend yourself. Who cares, if anyone can come over and take you over, right away.

Jason: Is that like sovereignty, or something like that?

Peter: It’s basically, you’re only as independent as, your ability to defend yourself or be defended by your neighbor.

Jason: Oh. Aah. OK. Sure.

Peter: Here, was our business plan, for this country. We were going to create the country and it was going to be the top medical technology, in the world. We were basically, going to bring in, buy the best researchers and doctors, move them there and create the rules and regulations, for what’s allowed.

Jason: Stem cell research.

Peter: Whatever research you want, you got it.

Jason: Human trials, let’s go.

Peter: The presidents and kings and queens, of every country, would come there for medical problems, when they had them, because, it was the best.

Jason: No defense problems.

Peter: No one would take you over. “I want that country to be available, when, I need my medical service.”

Jason: David Aegis Island.

Peter: You got it. NIce short-hand.

Jason: Oh, really. Did I figure it out? Dr. Aegis Island, here we go. What’s the most dangerous X-Prize idea, that’s come up? That you, just said, “Would love to do it, but, it would create too much heat.” Or, “the world’s not ready for it.” There must have been prizes that, you said, “Gee. Gosh. I would love to do that prize, but”… Ousting a dictator, I thought, would be… it gets, towards assassination. $5M. I like the voluntary, “I’ll give it up, for $5M.” But, I kind of prefer, the “Let’s whack a guy, for $5M.”

Peter: I think, the prizes that have, potential, difficulty are the ones that are going to be bio-medical. Where, if you allow them to be global, there would be… in order to win it, you would have to be in a country that doesn’t have, sort of, NIH or FDA oversight. The only way you could do the prize, quick enough is, in a country where human trials…

Jason: They don’t have trials.

Peter: Yeah.

Jason: Let’s talk about that human trials. Then, I’ll let you go. I know you gotta go. Human trials. This, is a big part of what’s limiting…

Peter: Well, bureaucracy, right? I’ll give you two concepts, here. One, we just announced, this year, The QualComm Tri-corder X-Prize.

Jason: This is brilliant.

Peter: It is a great…

Jason: How did you, possibly, get the rights to say, “tri-corder”, from Paramount?

Peter: Jim Gianopulos, who’s the Chairman, of Fox, is on our board. He called the head of Paramount and negotiated. Thank you, Jim. So, I’m having lunch with, Paul Jacobs, the chairman and CEO, of QualComm. Amazing company.

Jason: Yeah. Sure.

Peter: They provide the chips for everybody.

Jason: Yep. A lot of patents, over there.

Peter: I know, he happens to be a Trekkie, as well. I pitched him on the idea of, let’s create the Tri-corder. Let’s create an X-Prize to create the Tri-corder. We, literally, shook hands on it, right then. He’s been an amazing partner. His entire team. The QualComm Foundation and Qualcomm, put up $20M.

Jason: How do you define what the Tri-corder did? That was a science fiction device.

Peter: We spent about the next six months, defining what it was. Announcing it, in January. I was on stage at the opening, of CES, in Las Vegas, with Paul. Announcing, the Qualcomm Tri-corder X-Prize. It has to be a device, that any mom can use at 2 o’clock in the morning. Not a doctor. Not a nurse. That you can talk to, cough on, do a finger blood prick, and, diagnose you better than a team of board certified doctors. For, an initial set of 15 diseases. Eventually, we’ll go beyond that. My point is, Peggy Hamburg, who’s the head of the FDA, a friend. Actually, a brilliant, amazing, can-do woman. My question to her is, “When, my iPhone is my doctor for diagnosis, are you regulating it?” The answer is, “Yes.”

Jason: What?

Peter: The FDA would be regulating the phone. The challenge becomes, how in the world, do you allow for this technology to ever get into business, if it’s going to be regulated to hell and back? The answer is, it doesn’t happen, here, in The United States. It happens, some place else.

Jason: This country is so FUBARed, sometimes. The Roddenberry’s were involved in this, too?

Peter: Rod and Heidi Roddenberry, are great friends. They’re benefactors. Unfortunately, I wish they controlled their father’s estate. They don’t.

Jason: I know they were involved.

Peter: They are. They’ve been a spokesperson. Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek, what a phenomenally brilliant man.

Jason: Boy, did he hit it. He nailed it.

Peter: I’ll give you this one last thing. We talk about human trials happening. What’s happening, what we’re on the verge of, right now… Imagine us, being able to take a stem cell, from you. To grow, a little bit, of your liver and, actually, see if this drug has a negative reaction, to your liver. Or, to your kidney. We begin to test these things, for you.

Jason: Before, it goes in. For me. Customized.

Peter: Customized, for you. Trial of one. If it works, fantastic. If it doesn’t…

Jason: God doesn’t want you creating replicas of me, Peter.

Peter: Awww.

Jason: I talked to, God, last night, in my prayers. God said, “Please. Don’t make any extra Jasons.”

Peter: I forgot, one of my favorite X-Prizes. It’s called, The Organ Genesis X-Prize. We’re going to go, this decade, this next ten years, my prediction: from a skin cell to, a pluripotent stem cell to, growing everyone, who can initially afford it, an extra set of organs. Imagine, having on storage: heart, liver, lung, kidney.

Jason: Backup.

Peter: Backup, baby.

Jason: Then, that just travels, with you. “I’m going to Hawaii, for Christmas. Send my organs. In case anything happens. Get a seat for my organs.” It’s basically, getting to that point.

Peter: We’re getting there.

Jason: Fascinating. What a world, you live in, Peter. We could talk for hours and hours. How can people support the X-Prize? Obviously, not everyone can put up a $10M, $20M prize, like Qualcomm. I wonder, if…

Peter: I’ll give you a couple of things, if I may. First of all, I tweet about my adventures. I’m @peterdiamandis. First name, last name. Please, follow me. We’d love for your folks to… I share what we’re doing, all the time.

Jason: You’re so very available, to interact.

Peter: I do. I care about what people think and what they’re doing. I do listen. The second thing is, I’m writing my next book. The follow onto, Abundance. It’s called, Bold. I’m, actually, blogging twice a week, as I’m interviewing the top billionaires, CEOs, all the, crowdsource, crowdfunding, do-it yourself leaders, out there. If, you go to diamandis.com, which is my website, you can sign up for my video blog and my written blog. Nowhere near, as extraordinary as, what you do, pal.

Jason: Anytime. You can have the studio, anytime you like.

Peter: Alright. Go to xprize.org. One of our goals, this year, is to make X-Prize much more interactive. People watching can give us ideas, vote on what ideas they want to do.

Jason: Yeah. Love it.

Peter: It’s really important.

Jason: To me, I would love it if, we could get a demand X-Prize going. Where, let’s say you got something dangerous. Like, the liver, backup your organs, kind of thing. Yeah, I would put a thousand dollars, into that. On a flyer. I know, there’s some people, on Reddit, would put 100 bucks, put 50 bucks. Maybe, an X-Prize kickstarter, would be pretty interesting. I don’t know, if you’ve ever considered it. But, hey. Anything’s possible, right?

Peter: You got it, pal.

Jason: I would love to crowd fund a new liver. Everybody, get the book, Abundance. It’s amazing. Everybody, of course, follow Peter. Peter Diamandis. Diamandis, I’m pronouncing it, correct.

Peter: Diamandis.

Jason: Diamandis. You can Google it. It’ll correct your spelling, if you get it wrong. I’m assuming, you’re @xprize, too, on Twitter?

Peter: We are.

Jason: Awesome. Apply for the… I have a lot of entrepreneurs, in the group. Apply for the Singularity University. What an amazing organization. Thank you, MailChimp. Thank you, Sourcebits. Thanks, to the crew: Kirin, Jesse, Brandis, Krute, Bryce. Everybody, who makes the show possible. Thanks, for another flawless episode. We will see all of you, next time. On, ThisWeekIn Startups.

Follow On Twitter

Jason: @jason
Peter: @peterdiamandis
MailChimp: @mailchimp
Sourcebits: @sourcebits

Special thanks to the members of the TWiST Backchannel Program!

Executive Producers


Associate Producers

  • Brad Pineau
  • Kat Ganesan
  • Nicholas Christian
  • Mau Frontier
  • Kyle Braatz
  • Serena Ehrlich
  • JD
  • Alex Lotoczko
  • James Kennedy
  • Benoit Curdy
  • Asher Nevins
  • Mike Kaltschnee
  • William Doom
  • David Lee
  • Jake Kerber
  • Sarp Coskun
  • Giuseppe Taibi
  • Tyrone Rubin
  • Keno Vigil
  • Paul Peters
  • Jamal Waring
  • Nick Ostroff
  • Alex Binkley
  • John MP Knox
  • Bryan McCormick
  • Marcos Trinidad
  • Allen Cordrey
  • Daniel Mich
  • Joshua Rosen
  • Grant Carlile
  • James Smith
  • Christopher Rill
  • Elliot Myhre
  • Nihon Giga
  • Nathan Gielis
  • Greg Meadows
  • Rick Cartwright
  • Jacques Struwig
  • Robert Ward
  • Adam Gering
  • Shelley Gaskin
  • Jim Shute


  • Ryan Hoover
  • Michael Cranston
  • Josiah Thomas
  • João Fernandes
  • Petrus Theron
  • Michael Wild
  • Dale Emmons
  • Tim de Jardine
  • Alejandro Vasquez
  • Milan Babuskov
  • Chris Rowe
  • Nelson Melo
  • James Dawson
  • Toddy Mladenov
  • Daniel Torres
  • Chris Macke
  • Piotr Zuralski
  • Armand Konan
  • Brian Vogel
  • Paul D
  • Jennifer Sun
  • David Kolb
  • Sue Marrone
  • Eugene Granovksy
  • Will Blackton
  • Ryan Dodds
  • Brett Arp
  • Jason Cresswell
  • Edwin Orange
  • Daniel Bradley
  • Shawn Daniel
  • Priidu Kull
  • Patrick Desroches
  • Alex Lam
  • Paul Secor
  • Ryan Urabe
  • Madhu R.
  • Paul Ardeleanu
  • Ian Thomas
  • Manny Alarcon
  • Charlie Osmond
  • Christopher Smitley
  • Roshan H.
  • Barcy Cordrey
  • Matt Beaubien
  • Matthew Smith
  • Oscar Bueno
  • Tim Hoyt
  • Ian Gerstel
  • Taphon Maddison
  • John Bradley
  • Luigi Armogida
  • Dave Ferrara
  • Janus Lindau
  • Chris Mancil
  • TR Ludwig
  • Giles Thomas
  • Jason Cartwright
  • Michael Del Borrello
  • Joshua Rosen
  • David Karlberg
  • Marcus Schappi
  • Justin Furniss
  • Mike Hauck
  • Jess Bachman
  • Isaac Hill
  • Robert Haydock
  • Dan Sfera
  • Flaviu Simihaian
  • Kiko Cherman
  • Chandra Siva
  • Kasper Andkjaer
  • Zach Woodward
  • Chris Galasso
  • Chad Olsen
  • Michael Grabham
  • John Shiple
  • Gregory Hoffman
  • Chris Rickard
  • Eskil Steenberg
  • Jay Moran
  • Karim Sarkis
  • Michael Davidovich
  • Petru Marchidan
  • Sam Drzymala


more episodes