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Solving Global Warming with Nathan Myhrvold

Aired December 20, 2009 - 13:00   ET


FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST: This is GPS, the GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Fareed Zakaria.

We have a fascinating show for you today, a conversation with an extraordinary man about an important topic. I'm speaking with Nathan Myhrvold about his revolutionary idea to solve global warming.

Who is Nathan Myhrvold? Well, one way to describe him would be the former chief technology officer of Microsoft, the scientific brains of that company for 14 years.

I think Nathan qualifies for the term "boy genius." He began college at age 14, studied geophysics at UCLA, got a master's in mathematical economics at Princeton, and then simultaneously worked on a Ph.D. in physics at the same university -- all done by the age of 23.

He then spent a year working with Stephen Hawking, who many regard as the greatest theoretical physicist alive. He left the academy at that point and started his own company.

After leaving Microsoft, he has used his considerable fortune to fund scientific research of all kinds -- archaeological excavations, a radio telescope, a difference engine.

He has a company that funds inventors and buys their inventions and patents. His company holds more than 20,000 patents. And every year, the company files 500 patent applications.

What we discussed was his approach to, and solutions for, global warming. I am fascinated by his work, because I believe that global warming is real, but I just can't see the world coming together to reduce CO2 emissions to the levels that will actually stop it.

I can't see China or India doing it, which, in and of itself would doom the project. And I really can't see Western countries making the kinds of drastic changes that would be required to cut CO2 emissions. And if we did, there is still lots of CO2 up in the atmosphere right now, and it will cause global warming anyway.

All of which made me want to know, are there other approaches? Are there other strategies we might pursue?

In that spirit and in the wake of the Copenhagen Summit, here is a fascinating conversation, a fascinating set of ideas, concrete ideas, to solve the problem of global warming and energy without going down the Copenhagen-Kyoto route -- or in addition to going down the Copenhagen-Kyoto route -- Nathan Myhrvold.


ZAKARIA: And I am joined by Nathan Myhrvold.

Now, I've already introduced you, but you have an unusual, unique way of introducing yourself. I saw you do it at the TED Conference. So, tell us this story about penguins.

NATHAN MYHRVOLD, CEO, INTELLECTUAL VENTURES: So, I went to Patagonia and the Falkland Islands to photograph wildlife. I was sitting in a hotel lobby in Patagonia trying to get Internet reception, and editing my pictures in PhotoShop.

And this woman came up to me, and I had this picture up that I was editing. And she said, "Oh, that's beautiful. Is that Jackson Pollock?"

I said, "No, it's penguin guano."

ZAKARIA: Penguin...

MYHRVOLD: Guano. And she said, "Excuse me?"

I said, "No, really."

And then I clicked, and I showed her the next picture, which kind of made it very obvious that, in fact, this is what it is. Penguins, it turns out, have amazing sphincter muscles. And they are able to project like there is no tomorrow.

Well, once I got the Internet connection, I got curious about this, so I started looking online. And, in fact, I found that there was a scientific paper on exactly this.

And, in fact, it's the -- "Pressures Produced when Penguins Poo," is the title of the paper -- where these guys went through and they did a bunch of mathematical modeling to understand, in fact, how much velocity it would require to shoot that stream out as far as it does.

ZAKARIA: And at this point she says?


MYHRVOLD: She backs away, and she's shaking her head like, oh, my God, who is this?

ZAKARIA: Now, you've been spending a lot of your time doing something a little bit more serious recently. You've been looking into the issue of global warming, and you've brought all your expertise.

I mean, you're a trained physicist. You've spent years as the chief technology officer at Microsoft. So, you understand the science, the economics.

What is it that you think when you look at what is going on, what was going on, in Copenhagen?

MYHRVOLD: Now, here's the real problem, or one of the many aspects of the problem.

When you emit CO2, a good fraction of it -- at least 20 percent, maybe even a little more -- will stay for thousands of years. So, it's not like it goes up, and then it can go away after a little bit.

As we continue to emit CO2, it continues to make the problem worse. And then, even if we stopped cold turkey, it'll be there for a long period of time.

If you wanted a problem that was almost perfectly designed to be difficult for us to grapple with, this would be it, because the cost is very high, the solution is going to require a lot of sacrifice, but the benefit is diffuse and global and way out in the future. And that's the kind of problem humans are bad at.

ZAKARIA: And that's why you have a fundamental problem with the idea, the whole approach of limiting carbon emissions as the solution to global warming.

MYHRVOLD: Well, I think that you have to be an incredible optimist, or you have to believe that it's not a severe problem, to think that that's the only solution we should investigate right now.

This building has fire extinguishers and a fire system, but it's probably unlikely there'll be a fire today. It's a low probability event. But it's important enough that we really have to have all of this infrastructure and alarms and firemen that will race up here, and so forth, because, although it's low probability, it's severe.

In this case, we don't even know what the probability is of how severe it can be without there being very severe consequences. We also don't know when we're going to get around to getting serious.

So, it seems to me that we need to have a plan B. We need to have a way to buy ourselves some time, if it starts getting serious quickly.

Now, what else could you do? And the answer is a topic called geoengineering, which says, can we directly try to intervene?

So, to use an analogy, we all know we're supposed to eat right and exercise a lot. And if we did that, we would -- a lot of heart disease, diabetes, tons of other diseases -- we'd be better off.

It turns out that's hard for people to do. And as a result, you also have interventions that you would do, like heart surgery, that you might do to get a stent put in or to have a bypass operation, because if you neglect the problem long enough, that's what you have to do. Well, the equivalent of that surgery, in this case, are means to directly intervene. Now, one approach is to take the CO2 and suck it out of the atmosphere. Now, how do you do that?

We turn, actually, to Benjamin Franklin. In 1783, there's a volcano called Laki in Iceland -- and I've been there to visit it -- that erupted, causing a tremendous winter in 1784 in the Northern Hemisphere. So, Benjamin Franklin gives a paper. He says it was the volcano.

Well, we know today, through lots of...

ZAKARIA: How did he figure that out?

MYHRVOLD: He has a great -- it's a wonderful thing. I wish I had the text to read here, because it's in this sort of quaint English of that era, where he says that it blocked the many rays of the sun. And, so far as we know today, Ben was right.

And we know this, because in 1991, Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines exploded. And there's been lots of volcanoes since then. But a very large volcano that's got a tremendous amount of power will put a lot of gases and particles into the very upper atmosphere, the stratosphere.

Mount Pinatubo did. It caused global temperatures to drop by about one degree Fahrenheit for about a year, year-and-a-half afterwards. Now, that's interesting, because that's about the amount of global warming that we have today.

ZAKARIA: So, if you could just have a Mount Pinatubo every year...

MYHRVOLD: Yes, a Mount Pinatubo on demand would do it.

ZAKARIA: And what is it doing? What is the chemical process? It's spewing sulfur dioxide into the upper atmosphere. Why is that...

MYHRVOLD: So, when you have small aerosol particles, light will scatter off of them. That scattering is why -- one range of that scattering is why the sky is blue. Another range of that scattering is why milk is white, actually.

So, it turns out that sulfur dioxide is very good at scattering light. And if you have sulfur dioxide -- it's what gives the rotten egg smell in part, or that and hydrogen sulfides at Yellowstone or other places you have geysers -- enough of those particles will scatter light.

If you had a system for delivering sulfur dioxide into the upper atmosphere, you could easily dim the sun by one percent, and even do it in a way that wouldn't be visible.

ZAKARIA: So, how do you pump sulfur dioxide into the upper atmosphere on demand?

MYHRVOLD: The first things that you think of, like, oh, let's load it into 747s and carry it up, are way too expensive. So, you need a cheap way to get a lot of stuff up there.

So we set out to invent something like that, and we've come up with, actually, a couple of ways to do it, but I'll tell you the simplest one, which is, you run a hose to the sky. It sounds nuts, but you take a hose, you suspend it on a series of balloons, helium balloons. You want to run it 25 kilometers up, because that takes you up into the stratosphere.

ZAKARIA: A 25-kilometer garden hose.

MYHRVOLD: Now, that's the interesting part. If you go through a calculation of how much you need, in our best scheme, it's like a fat garden hose. The total amount of rate that you're pumping is about 30 gallons a minute. That's less than a swimming pool pump. So, it's actually a very manageable-sized problem, once you come up with this idea that you put the stuff up there.

The best place to put it is in very high latitudes -- that's very far north, or in the Southern Hemisphere, very far south -- so, northern Canada, Russia, someplace like that, that's up 60, 70 degrees north.

ZAKARIA: So, run one of these garden hoses at the North Pole, basically, one at the South Pole, turn them on every year, and you've solved the problem of global warming?

MYHRVOLD: Well, we've done a series of computer simulations that tell us exactly that. One of these units at 60 to 70 North, with a set of assumptions about you put the aerosol up there, would negate global warming as we have it today. And by putting it up there, it would particularly protect the Arctic.

And once you protect the Arctic, you shut off a bunch of these potential tipping point mechanisms. Once you cool the Arctic, our simulations show that, in fact, you draw enough heat from the rest of the hemisphere that you bring the rest of the hemisphere into line. And you don't have any severe dislocations of the weather.

ZAKARIA: And it's worth pointing out, your stuff is all computer simulations. But, of course, so are the predictions that the IPCC model uses to predict very bad stuff happening. So, if we believe those computer simulations, there's no reason to assume yours are wrong.

MYHRVOLD: Well, I think -- yes, we use the same kind of computer simulations, the same sort of software, with the same sort of assumptions. Now, neither one of them is perfect. But it gives us confidence, and at least as much confidence as we would have in the other directions.

Now, of course, before you really deploy it, you'd want to run some more simulations, and you'd want to do some small-scale experiments. There's a lot of things to do to sort of responsibly build the full case. But from what we can tell, this is an idea that has incredible promise.

ZAKARIA: Now, are people -- are governments knocking on your doors?

MYHRVOLD: So, not so far.


ZAKARIA: And we will be back with Nathan Myhrvold, more on global warming, the future of energy and a way to power the whole world.



MYHRVOLD: What are we going to do?

And while we're spending -- or talking about spending -- hundreds of billions and trillions, even, of dollars trying to attack the problem one way, shouldn't we do some research in having a backup plan?

Do you build this wonderful big building and forget the fire sprinklers? It'd be kind of silly.



ZAKARIA: And we are back with Nathan Myhrvold, the former chief technology officer of Microsoft, who has a plan to solve global warming and our energy crisis.


ZAKARIA: Some of this has already happened. There's enough CO2, methane that's put up in the atmosphere, that there's going to be some global warming, even if we were to just shut down every economy today.

MYHRVOLD: India, China and the developing world is where a huge fraction of the emissions going forward are going to be coming from.

They have a variety of arguments as to why they shouldn't bear the brunt of this, that, you know, we emitted for all this period of time, and until their standard of living is up at ours, we shouldn't complain.

Regardless of whether you agree with that philosophically or disagree, the fact is it's their country, and it's their things to do. And unless you go and do something by force, which would be insane, the fact is we're not making progress.

Now, if we don't make progress, but the problem isn't really all that severe, and we're at the low end of that range, so it's only a degree or a degree-and-a-half, then maybe you don't need geoengineering.

But if the temperature starts climbing, and some of these tipping point things start occurring -- you know, the Gulf Stream stops, or the Greenland ice sheet collapses, or these methane clathrates erupt, or permasoft in the Arctic releases methane, that's another one of these things -- if any of those things occur, what are we going to do?

And while we're spending -- or talking about spending -- hundreds of billions and trillions, even, of dollars trying to attack the problem one way, shouldn't we do some research in having a backup plan?

Do you build this wonderful big building and forget the fire sprinklers? It would be kind of silly.

ZAKARIA: But you think some part of the opposition to doing geoengineering is it doesn't force us to kind of make the painful adjustments?

There is a sort of Calvinist feeling that we need to suffer. And what you're providing us with is a way to have our cake and eat it too.

MYHRVOLD: So I think there's a segment of the environmental community that has a pre-existing ideology. They're anti-consumer, they have that Calvinist approach.

There's another set that are anti-technology. They say, hey, technology's how we got -- listening to guys like Nathan on technology, that's how we got into this mess. And if we were really this close, maybe they'd have an argument.

But I don't think that suppressing a potential solution, particularly the only solution that could get us out of a real pickle. The reason I say that is, cutting emissions to zero tomorrow won't help us. And we couldn't do it. We absolutely couldn't do it without totally wrenching changes to everyone's life -- and, frankly, killing lots of people.

You know, in the United States, we could cut back on our energy use a fair amount, and we'd be OK. But you really can't tell starving people to cut back. And there's no way to cut back without it affecting starving people.

Another one of the things that I think some of the folks in this debate don't get is, it's one economy. You know, we've seen that in the course of this last year, where some guys trading mortgage bonds wound up almost causing a worldwide depression, because we're all interlinked.

If we drastically cut back the economy in the developed world by going to zero tomorrow, there's no way that doesn't affect the developing world, and no way that doesn't kill a lot of people. That's just the blunt truth of it.

Now, there's people who say, oh, we don't have to cut to zero tomorrow. Well, OK. Just show me the first year where we've decreased at all, because so far we're continuing to increase and increase and increase. I did a calculation recently that, in order to have CO2 peak in 40 years -- which is the timeframe that many people say we need to -- we would need to cut emissions by about 5.5, 6 percent a year, every year for the next 40 years.

Well, that means we have to do it at least once. So, as soon as we've had one year over 6 percent down, oh, hey, maybe we've started.

ZAKARIA: Or even 1 percent down.

MYHRVOLD: Because currently, we're just increasing -- increasing, increasing, increasing.

So, until you can tell me that we really are on a path to this, I think it's crazy not to explore these other alternatives. But the controversy around it is actually one of the reasons that I'm bothering to talk to you.

This is an area where I think geoengineering has to be part of the debate. In a society of ideas, in a society that is a democracy, in a world where we're trying to persuade people to do things, we have to examine all these different approaches.

And if, after lots of examining, we discover it's not a good idea for some reason? What if there's an unintended consequence?

I say, well, OK, but what if we have runaway warming? What if we get to the nine degrees Fahrenheit? Then what do we do?

You know, the trouble is, you can't rule these things out prematurely. But for many climate scientists, for many others that would be interested in this, it's kind of a third-rail issue. The reaction is so strong and so negative, that it requires a tremendous about of chutzpah, or a very thick skin, in order to talk about it publicly.

ZAKARIA: Were you surprised by the whole "climategate" controversy? Is it a tempest in a teapot? What was your reaction to it?

MYHRVOLD: I don't know that it was a conspiracy. I don't know that there was anything wrong done. But it sure as hell is a blow to how people view the reliability of the field.

And what it's going to mean is that climate scientists everywhere, I think, are going to have to approach this reproducible results thing. They're going to have to go the extra mile to be transparent, because the world's a little bit dubious now.

ZAKARIA: And we will be back with Nathan Myhrvold in a moment.



MYHRVOLD: By making venture capital easy, we created companies that have changed the way we've lived.

ZAKARIA: And what -- so, what...

MYHRVOLD: But for inventions, no one does that. OK? There's no one that funds inventors.




ZAKARIA: And I am back with Nathan Myhrvold, the former chief technology officer of Microsoft, and one of America's great scientist- inventors.

One of the things I've been worried about over the last few months is looking at new studies of innovation. A lot of the studies about innovation and where it's happening, I discovered, were surveys based on, you know, asking CEOs, or asking scientists, where do you think the best place is for innovation.

And then, there were some new studies out with hard data. And the data suggests that, while the United States is clearly at the top of the field, the gap is closing, that there are more places, even in Europe and certainly now in China, South Korea, Singapore.

When you look at this field, where you do see innovation happening?

MYHRVOLD: Well, first is, I think there's no question that India and China and the developing world has made enormous strides. So, there's all these statistics about how many engineers are being graduated in India or China.

Now, it used to be, when those engineers graduated, the first thing they wanted to do was come to the United States...

ZAKARIA: Probably work for you at Microsoft.

MYHRVOLD: And, in fact, one of the first things I did at Microsoft is I went on a recruiting trip to India, and I hired a bunch of people. And we ultimately started a research lab in India.

Increasingly, as those countries develop, they don't come to the U.S. to do their graduate work, or to really start their companies. They stay home. And so, yes, the U.S. is clearly not going to have the preeminent position it used to have.

Now, some people view that with great alarm. The way I view that is to say, look, we ought to continue to do better. We have to make sure we don't kill the goose that's laying the golden egg.

But I can't say it's a bad thing that China and India develop. You know, there is some kid who's in a molecular biology class in China or India right now, who 20 years from now may discover the drug that saves my life. How bad should I feel about that?

You know, the thing we've learned in the course of the last 20 or 30 years is that the pace of technology increases the pace of technology, that the more you have good, smart people doing things, the faster everything moves along.

ZAKARIA: Explain what your company does. Because you have been very sleek, caricatured as being a patent troll, sitting around buying and accumulating every scientific patent you can.

What are some of the neatest inventions you guys are coming up with, or that you have acquired?

MYHRVOLD: Well, our company has a basic idea, which is, we want to invest in invention. And we think that, if the world invested in invention, you'd get a lot more inventions, which means as a subset of that, a lot more good inventions.

And we like to use venture capital as an analogy. You know, over the course of the last 30 years, venture capital has grown enormously -- you know, a factor of 50 to 100, depending on how you measure it.

So, if you went back 50 years ago and you said, well, where's the venture capitalist, you would have discovered there weren't any. But people would have said, well, we don't need them. We seem to have plenty of companies. Why do we need venture capital?

And the answer is that it was too hard for smart people with a new idea to develop a new company.

The venture capital world has changed everything. Imagine a world without Apple and Microsoft and Cisco and Intel. Those were all venture-backed companies. By making venture capital easy, we've created companies that have changed the way we've lived.

ZAKARIA: And what -- so, what is...

MYHRVOLD: But for inventions, no one does that. OK? There's no one that funds inventors.

The invention is sort of the poor stepchild to all of technology. People sort of assume, oh yes, they'll have an invention, then they go to the venture capitalist.

If you go to a venture capitalist and say, "Look, I don't have any idea yet," they'll say, "Well, that's very nice, sir," and show you the door, because we have this whole lobby full of guys that already have an idea. But that doesn't mean they have great ideas.

So our company is about investing in inventions. Sometimes we invest in inventions we create ourselves, sometimes we invest in existing inventions.

We think, if we can create a business model where we're successful doing this, there will be a category of folks called "invention capitalists" -- that's what we call ourselves -- that will give increasing amounts of money -- and not because someone in Congress voted to do that.

The reason the venture capital world has grown so much, is because people want to make a buck. They have an incentive to do it.

And not just the venture capitalist, but the pension fund guy, who is thinking about how he tries to make a return. He's willing to risk some capital.

And that dynamic has created the technology economy we have today. We think we need to take it to the next level by investing directly in invention.

ZAKARIA: Nathan Myhrvold, a pleasure to have you on.

MYHRVOLD: Thank you.

ZAKARIA: And we will be right back.


ZAKARIA: Now, for our "What in the World?" segment.

What got my attention this week was this photograph, which inspired this one. And this one. And this one. And this one, and perhaps thousands more.

Why are all of these men dressed like women?

The first photograph you saw is of Majid Tavakoli, a student protester in Iran. And last week, as part of a national day of protest against the Iranian regime, he gave this rousing speech, urging his fellow students to reject tyranny and stand up against what he called a dictatorship.

Shortly thereafter, he was arrested. And shortly after that, Iranian news agencies, which are all tied to the regime, released these pictures of Tavakoli, wearing a traditional women's head covering.

The news reports said Tavakoli tried to escape arrest by dressing like a woman. Tavakoli's fellow opposition members say, nonsense. They claimed that the Iranian police dressed Mr. Tavakoli in a particular way and released pictures to feminize him and ridicule him, and thus, embarrass the entire protest movement.

In solidarity with Tavakoli, men from across Iran and around the world have been dressing themselves the same way, taking pictures and uploading them to the Internet.

Technology has been a great friend of Iran's Green Revolution. It allows us, the world, to know and see what is happening inside the country. It allows us to even join in on protests in cases like these.

The U.S. government has now recognized this, too. And this week, the Obama administration notified Congress that it has begun the process to remove sanctions currently in place that prohibit people in Iran from downloading American-made software for instant messaging, chat, e-mail and social networking.

But the Basij, Iran's government-controlled militia, is trying to stay one step ahead. They are greatly beefing up their operations, putting in a division of cyber police to keep an ever more vigilant watch on what is said, done and transmitted from Iran. As one Iran watcher I know put it, Iran has been investing in repression.

When the opposition tries to march in the streets, it is literally beaten back. When they speak out, as we have seen here, they are silenced by arrest. When they try to organize, they are thwarted.

That's why I think that, while the protests and protests like this one gather great goodwill for the Green Movement around the world, I wonder whether they will ultimately be effective internally, whether they are achieving their goal of unseating President Ahmadinejad.

I spoke recently with Farhad Khosrokhavar, a Frenchman of Iranian origin, who is now a very distinguished professor in Paris. And he told me that he holds the Green Movement in great esteem. It is the first large-scale democratic movement in the Muslim world. But, he said, it lacks leadership.

And let's remember, leadership can make all the difference here, turning a protest movement into a revolution. Think of Gandhi, King, Mandela.

Meanwhile, there are reports that Majid Tavakoli is now in solitary confinement in Iran's notorious Evin Prison.

We will be right back.


VALI NASR: The Muslims will change the way they look at religious values, at social values, at political values, if they are integrated in the same manner into the global economy that Brazilians or Indians are.



ZAKARIA: From the chaos in Afghanistan to the never-ending Middle East peace process, most of what we hear about the Muslim world involves radicalism and violence.

But there is a much wider Muslim world out there. And in his new book, Vali Nasr argues that mainstream Muslims are increasingly fighting extremists with a new tool -- capitalism.

Vali is an esteemed scholar of Islam and the Middle East, an adviser to the Obama administration on Pakistan, and a frequent guest on this program.

His new book is called "Forces of Fortune: The Rise of the New Muslim Middle Class and What It Will Mean for our World." We recommended it a couple of weeks ago.

Welcome, Vali.


ZAKARIA: So, one of the things, perhaps the central point you're trying to make in your book is, if you think about the world that we all live in, a world of increasingly globalization, structures of governance, there is a kind of value system underlaying it, and that lots of people feel that the Islamic world doesn't seem to share the values of the West or the advanced world or the industrialized world.

And why do you think that this is true? Why is there this divide?

NASR: What is very important about the Muslim world is that large parts of it are not included in the global economy in any real way. In other words, they are not part of the supply chain of globalization, production, investment.

And the farther away they are from it, the more they're shielded from these global values. And we tend to see more tendency towards extremism, fundamentalism and conservative elements (ph).

So, in some ways, the Muslims have not been subjected to the kinds of pressures that market forces bring to bear on people to change their values and world view, so that they can live in harmony with global markets, with the mainstream of global politics and culture.

ZAKARIA: Now, what's interesting is, in your view, this is not -- a lot of people say, the way you should change the Muslim world is, you know, we need to have debates between theologians, you need the moderates to stand up, or we need an Islamic reformation.

Why is that the -- why is that not at the heart of the issue?

NASR: Well, because ideas only get traction if people have vested interests in them. I don't think that we are going to change the Muslim world by one side winning a debating contest, or us convincing them that they have to have a better sense of different things and change their values.

I think, you know, where we've seen positive developments in the Muslim world -- for instance, in Turkey, in Malaysia, in Indonesia, which, since the Bali bombings is becoming increasingly more moderate and anti-extremist as a country -- is where people are developing interest in more moderate values, in values that...

ZAKARIA: Where there's an incentive, there's almost money to be made, to put it crudely, in being moderate, in being modern and being mainstream. NASR: Absolutely. And in fact, that's the way it happened in the West. The Reformation was a very puritanical event. I mean, the early Reformation leaders were more like the Taliban than the sort of liberal values we have with Protestantism today.

So, what transformed that early Reformation into the modern West was what the markets did; it was the rise of capitalism. As David Hume said, commerce smoothes the edges.

And when you look at the world, whether you look at China, India, the West, there is a shared belief and vested interest in the global economy working and benefiting everybody. And a large part of the Muslim world just doesn't have a vested interest in the global economy.

ZAKARIA: But, now, when I go to Saudi Arabia, there seems to be a lot of Western products, you know, their malls. They have all the Western technology. Why is that not -- aren't they, in a sense, part of the globalized world?

NASR: Well, not in the right way, because in Saudi Arabia, you don't have a private sector and an entrepreneurial class, and a middle class that is actually generating the wealth the way they are in Turkey.

In Saudi Arabia, the wealth comes from oil. It's in the hands of the government. It is not produced by markets. It's produced by government. And then, it's handed down through entitlements or business contracts to the population.

So, an average Saudi businessman is not producing things that you and I would buy at Wal-Mart, as opposed to the Turkish or Mexican or Indonesian entrepreneurs are.

So, there is not vested interest, if you would, in changing your values that they would be in harmony with the rest of the world.

You do see that in Indonesia and Turkey, because the impetus for change is not become we are preaching to them, or it's not coming from the government, but it comes from that whole capitalist mechanism.

ZAKARIA: So, the places you see real change -- Turkey, Malaysia, Indonesia. Where else?

NASR: Well, Dubai, I think, is also a fascinating case, not because Dubai is typical of everywhere else, but because Dubai created a new regulatory framework, and changed its laws, and changed the way it did business, to allow Muslims from everywhere else to go to Dubai to act as free marketeers and entrepreneurs, but also as middle classes that want to consume the results of their wealth -- in other words, on vacations, shopping, having a good life.

And it showed that, you know, the Muslims will change the way they look at religious values, at social values, at political values -- if they are integrated in the same manner into the global economy that Brazilians or Indians are. I mean, what made Dubai such a popular place for Muslims -- where a majority would love to visit there, or would love to live there other than their own country -- is not because it has got a lot of Islamic law or mosques, but because it's a cross between Disneyland and Las Vegas.

So, when the Muslims come from below -- the wealth comes from below, you have a middle class -- their consumption preferences are very much like everybody else.

ZAKARIA: But you make a point in the book where I think you quote a Dubai businessman who says, you know, what I love about Dubai is that I can have first-class meals and first-class hotels, but then I can go into an air-conditioned mosque and be -- you know, even pray in luxury.

So, there is -- it accommodates religion and religiosity, while at the same time accommodating modernity and Las Vegas and Disneyland.

NASR: Right. And the religiosity is different. If we look at Turkey, for instance, the up-and-coming middle class and entrepreneur class -- the so-called "Anatolian tigers" -- which have been behind the growth of Turkish economy and also are the backbone of the ruling, moderately Muslim AKP Party, you could see they're very religious. But they're interested in religion as values, not as political action.

Their religiosity is a lot more like the religiosity of middle America, where you have a mix of capitalism and evangelism, but it is not directed at revolution and war and social action, but is much more about personal piety. And it's a kind of piety that is pro-capitalism rather than pro-social justice.

And you see that also happening in the Muslim world. So, we're not going to see secularism as a consequence of capitalism. We're going to see a different kind of Islam as a consequence of capitalism.

ZAKARIA: So, this is all sounding very hopeful. Should we -- what do you make of all these people, you know, kind of neoconservatives who say, Europe is turning into Eurabia, the rising tide of Islamic fundamentalism is still on the march, the veil is very dangerous.

I mean, are they really not seeing the real Muslim world?

NASR: No. They're not seeing the entire gamut of things happening in the Muslim world. They're only looking at one trend, which, as dangerous and negative as it is, it's not the only trend. And they're not looking at how other trends in the Muslim world, including the rise of capitalism, can actually defeat fundamentalism.

I think, you know, the neocons believe in capitalism. They also believe in, you know, changing the Muslim world. But they've got their process backward. They think the Muslim world should first give up on religion, then it will modernize. Whereas, I think the lesson of the West is that you first modernize, and modernity will change all of your values. So, even if they want the Muslim world to have a different kind of Islam, or less Islam, or watered-down Islam, whatever it is, it's not going to happen unless you have the same force that changed the West also is unleashed in the Muslim world.

ZAKARIA: The book is optimistic. Are you optimistic?

NASR: I'm optimistic, because I fundamentally think that things about the Muslim world are not immutable or unchangeable. I think the problem is that the right kind of dynamics doesn't exist in the Muslim world.

And I think we've got it wrong by thinking that the problem is cultural and religious. The problem is economic; the consequence is cultural and religious. And if we get this right, there is no reason that larger parts of the Muslim world cannot be like Latin America or Southeast Asia.

ZAKARIA: Vali Nasr, a pleasure, as always. The book is "Forces of Fortune." A great read. Everybody should buy it.

NASR: Thank you.

ZAKARIA: And we will be right back.


ZAKARIA: Now, for our question.

Last week I asked you about the climategate controversy, those e- mails indicating British scientists may have discounted some evidence against global warming. I asked you if the scandal had made you doubt whether the planet was actually getting warmer.

The vast majority of you said you still believe global warming is happening.

Like many others, Nancy Nolan of Lexington, Mass, pointed to the science. Calling it indisputable, she wrote, "I often wonder how climate scientists stay sane in the face of so many attacks."

Lisa Turner of El Paso, Texas, believes that climate is a vast, complex system that cannot be altered in a single generation, and she questions why so many have jumped on the global warming bandwagon.

She writes, "Good science does not need a huge propaganda program to support it."

Now, for this week, I will not be asking you a question, because I think we should all observe the holiday by resting our brains. But I would like to recommend a book that you might want to read over the holidays.

It's called, "In Other Rooms, Other Wonders." It's a book of short stories written by a Pakistani author named Daniyal Mueenuddin. The stories are beautiful tales set in rural southern Pakistan. All of them take place among the people who work and live on a farm there.

The writing is lovely, the characters are charming. It reminded me of the writing of Dzhun Phalahiri (ph), only it's set in Pakistan instead of India.

If you want a window into Pakistan that's beyond policy, war, the Taliban, this will give you a very vivid feel for Pakistani society and the changes and ferment that are going on in it.

Now, don't forget, GPS has joined the social networking revolution. Go to to find out how to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week.