IMG_0038Nearly 20 years ago, President Bill Clinton took over as leader of the United States.
In 1993, an average cell phone weighed five pounds.
Only 50 websites made up the Internet.
And Clinton sent a total of two emails as president.
“It’s all different now,” Clinton told more than 5,000 people gathered for Dell World in Austin. He gave the afternoon keynote address on Wednesday.
“In a world that seems to be full of zero sum games and conflict models that try to hold on to the past, the future belongs to network collaborators,” Clinton said.
Today, the world is more interdependent than at any time in the history of humanity, Clinton said.
“We cannot shut each other out,” Clinton said.
In this interconnected world, defense budgets still matter and so does security, but not as much as they used to, Clinton said. To solve the world’s problems, people need to build inclusive communities and focus on non-zero sum games, he said.
“We like zero sum games,” Clinton said. “But non-zero sum games are making sure you win by making sure everyone else wins. If we want the world to work we have to have more non-zero sum games.”
IMG_0037Non-zero sum games ultimately benefit everyone, Clinton said. For example, during his presidency, Clinton spent $3 billion of taxpayer money to support research to develop the Human Genome. That has led to remarkable new treatments for children’s cancer and an open sharing of information. A genome test now costs $5,000 and will decrease to $1,500 next year, Clinton said.
“Networks of creative collaboration,” have made the advancements in finding cures for cancer possible, Clinton said.
The Hubble telescope and space exploration technology led to the identification of more than ten planets in the solar system that are able to support life, Clinton said.
Clinton said he’s an optimist and he sees “a lot of good things about this world.”
But the world has three huge problems.
“First of all it’s too unequal,” he said.
Nearly half the world’s population lives on less than $2 a day, nearly 1 billion people are illiterate and 1 billion do not have safe water, according to United Nations statistics. And 100 million kids don’t go to school.
“Within America and around the world, we have to create ways to share prosperity and reduce inequality,” Clinton said.
IMG_0039Some inequality and some instability are good for the economy, he said. But extremes shut things down and make people entirely too risk averse, he said. The economy needs sufficient instability with the chance to fail as well as the chance to succeed, he said.
Another problem is the world is unsustainable because of the way we consume energy, Clinton said. Climate change is real and the U.S. must consume less energy and do things differently, he said. People need to deal with the problem and not debate whether it exists, he said.
Twenty years ago, Sweden imposed a carbon tax on its business. Swedes are inherently responsible, Clinton said. The government gave the tax money back and told the companies they just wanted them to know how their actions would impact the future. The companies invested more money on reducing energy consumption by putting in more efficient lighting and cooling systems and other infrastructure changes. Between 1997 and 2010, Sweden’s economy grew by 50 percent and it reduced its greenhouse gases by 7 percent mostly through efficiencies, Clinton said.
“That’s the sort of debate we ought to be having,” he said.
Lastly, Clinton is focused on fighting childhood obesity through the “Alliance for a Healthier Generation.”
“Poor, overweight kids were getting more than half their calories from sodas,” Clinton said.
If that trend continued, the soda manufacturers wouldn’t have any customers because they would die an early death from diseases like diabetes. And the children would have their lives cut short. Instead, Clinton worked with the soda manufacturers to create a different future in which everyone makes money in a different way. And in the last five years, there has been a 90 percent reduction in total calories sold to students in 98 percent of schools, Clinton said. Through “a creative network of collaboration” they were able to solve a huge problem, he said. Michael and Susan Dell’s son, Zach, serves on the board of the Alliance for a Healthier Nation, Clinton said. Some of the best ideas they get are from kids, he said.
People also need to become more tolerant of our differences and learn to live together regardless of political or other beliefs.
“If we can get back into the tomorrow business and do it together we’ll be just fine,” he said.
Following his keynote address, Clinton, who wore orange and white Texas Longhorn cowboy boots, sat down with Michael Dell to answer a few questions about the economy. He said the government needs to spend more on research and development and that will help the U.S. remain competitive globally. He pointed out that countries like Singapore are spending $5 billion to become the world’s biotechnology leader. The U.S. faces stiff competition and the government should never let research and development spending fall below three percent of the nation’s gross domestic product. It’s currently in jeopardy of doing so, he said.