“I am strategically an optimist.” That was one of the first statements former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich made while speaking to the assembled crowd of investors at the Altegris Strategic Investment Conference (SIC) 2014. This isn’t to say that he’s completely optimistic.
“Tactically I worry. Now, strategically, I don’t worry.”
Speaker Gingrich insisted that the world is rapidly changing and that’s going to drive forward innovation in ways we can’t currently understand. One example he used was the ease with which one can pull cash out of an ATM in Kazakhstan.
“How many of you have gotten money from an ATM outside the United States? … So you walk up to an anonymous machine, you put in a plastic card, the machine lights up and offers you six or eight or 10 languages, you pick one of the ones you’re really good at,” he said to SIC on Thursday. “You put in a four number code. In Kazakhstan you’re reaching out through 10 time zones to my bank. My bank validates that I have an account, verifies that I have enough money, offers me Kazakh money… Takes about 11 seconds.”
Long story short? The world is changing and changing rapidly.
“I looked at the Gallup world poll before I went to Kazakhstan,” he said. “Ninety-nine percent have a television, 74 percent have a cell phone. So this is a world that isn’t even the world of ten years ago, and things are evolving and changing at a remarkable rate.”
And in this new world, Gingrich sees two important groups defining what direction we head in, which he outlined in his 2013 book Breakout: Pioneers of the Future, Prison Guards of the Past and the Epic Battle That Will Decide America’s Fate.
“…you have these pioneers of the future,” Gingrich said Thursday. “Now the challenge, for us, is that they are offset by the prison guards of the past. So someone comes up with a great new idea over here and somebody over here wants to kill it. Now, the easiest analogy is that if we had the current system in 1840, the stagecoach association would have hired a lobbyist to pass a law to make it illegal for railroads to go faster than a horse. Because it’ll be unfair competition. So what we’ve done is built layers of law and bureaucracy and structures that make it very hard to breakout.”
Prison guards rely on the current, imperfect system for doing things, so they want to prevent change. For them, there’s no good that can come from dismantling the current inefficient system. It’s what they rely on.
And to really let the explosion of technological achievement do its work, we need to listen to the pioneers and push past the prison guards trying to keep us from working towards the future. The FDA, for instance, represents just such a prison guard to Gingrich, citing the story behind Dallas Buyers Club as an example of how bureaucracy can stand between pioneers of real change and the American people.
In Gingrich’s eyes, though, the short-term issues are “tactical” problems. He worries about them, but not in a way that clouds his optimism about long-term “strategy.” In his eyes, the tremendous capacity for technology to unlock the potential of the human race should ultimately overwhelm the prison guards who don’t want to see any change.
“How many of you have a smart phone?” He asked the crowd. “Facebook (FB) says it’s now about 74 percent penetration. We don’t actually have language to explain this. Because the hardware itself, in this device, is about a 2004 laptop. But that’s a total misnomer. This [smart phone] is the entry point to all of the knowledge on the planet, increasingly organized into aps for your convenience."
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