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Interview with Johns Hopkins Hospital Trauma Surgeon and Gun Violence Prevention Activist Dr. Joseph Sakran; Interview with "Greenlights" Author and Actor Matthew McConaughey; Interview with The Verge Deputy Editor Alex Heath; Interview with "Secret of the Whales" Executive Director and "Aliens" Director James Cameron. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired December 23, 2022 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SARA SIDNER, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello and welcome to "Amanpour." Here is what is coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. JOSEPH. V. SAKRAN, TRAUMA SURGEON, JOHNS HOPKINS HOSPITAL AND GUN VIOLENCE PREVENTION ACTIVIST: We come face to face with the horrific
reality of, you know, the everyday toll of gun violence.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: At 17, he survived a gunshot wound to the throat, and became a trauma surgeon and one of America's most violent cities. My conversation
with Dr. Joseph Sakran about America's gun epidemic and the efforts to stop it. Then --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY, ACTOR AND AUTHOR, "GREENLIGHTS": This should not be a partisan issue. There is not a Democratic or Republican value in one single
act of these shooters.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: After the Uvalde School shooting, Matthew McConaughey also pushed for stricter gun laws. We look back at Christiane's interview with the
Oscar award-winning actor about his storied career and bestselling memoir, "Greenlights." Plus --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALEX HEATH, DEPUTY EDITOR, THE VERGE: Will crypto actually be something that every day people want to use, that's the open question in 2023.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: From crypto to Elon Musk's Twitter implosion, Alex Heath from The Verge joins Hari Sreenivasan to review a turbulent year in tech. And --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: -- as "Avatar 2" hits the big screen, we deep back into the archive from Christiane's conversation with blockbuster director James Cameron.
Welcome to the program. I'm Sara Sidner in New York sitting in for Christiane Amanpour.
2022 will go down as the second highest year for mass shootings in the United States on record. That means, more than 600 mass killings in the
past 12 months alone, according to data, compiled by the Non-Governmental Organization, Gun Violence Archive.
The shootings come at a disturbing pace, often too fast to grasp. People going about their day suddenly gunned down in schools, supermarkets,
nightclubs, movie theaters, in the streets, you name it. It's senseless bloodshed that raises this question every single time. Are these tragedies
preventable? And why can't we stop this uniquely American problem?
Joseph Sakran was 17 when a stray bullet went through his throat and struck him and his left shoulder. He survived, and that experience ended up
altering the course of his life. He is now a trauma surgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, a city that continues to be plagued by gun
violence. I spoke to Dr. Sakran about dealing with that reality firsthand and trying to put an end to it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: Dr. Joseph Sakran, you are trauma surgeon at John Hopkins Hospital and you have gone through and survived gun violence yourself. Can you first
tell us the story of what you experienced?
DR. JOSEPH. V. SAKRAN, TRAUMA SURGEON, JOHNS HOPKINS HOSPITAL AND GUN VIOLENCE PREVENTION ACTIVIST: Yes, absolutely, Sara. And thanks again for
having me. It is great to be with you. You know, I come to the conversation as a survivor. After nearly being killed at the age of 17, when I was shot
in the throat with a .38 caliber bullet.
And, you know, you might imagine that as someone who is the son of immigrants, who had parents that, you know, came to this country, you know,
with the hopes and dreams of a better life, this was never in the cards. And so, it was a pretty devastating incident. But one that also really
changed the trajectory of my life because it really inspired me to go into medicine. Inspired me to become a trauma surgeon, and really now has me
working at this intersection of medicine, public health, and public policy.
SIDNER: You go and become a surgeon. Can you give me some sense, because you experienced this trauma, can you give me some sense of what it is like
now in emergency rooms? Are you seeing people go through this same kind of trauma, and how often?
DR. SAKRAN: Yes -- I mean, look, it's horrific. I would say, as a trauma surgeon and even as health care professionals that care for these injured
patients, we come face to face with the horrific reality of, you know, the everyday toll of gun violence.
You know, we have to operate on children who are barely clinging to life because of guns that are not stored safely. We have to deliver babies from
dead mothers who were gunned down while sitting in their own car. And we have to care for high school students were bleeding to death with
pulverized bone and a mangled extremities.
And you might imagine that, you know, this takes a mental and emotional toll on us as health care professionals. Not just because we are having to
care for these, you know, people every day, but we are also having to talk to the families. And to explain to these moms and dads that their child
that left that morning is never coming home again. And every time I have to do that, a piece of me dies, Sara. It is literally the worst part of my
SIDNER: Yes, I mean -- and to hear you talk about mothers who are -- have already perished and their children are born without a mother because of
gun violence, you also mentioned children. And I think we have to mention that, since 2020, gun violence has been the number one killer of children.
What is going on in our country?
DR. SAKRAN: Yes, I mean, think about that for a second, right? It's not, you know, motor vehicle crashes, it's not poisonings, it's not cancer. It's
gun related injury. You know, that's the number one cause of death in children and adolescents.
And you know what's heartbreaking? Is the fact that, you know, in America today, we have children being slaughtered in schools. And children, who, in
every attempt to survive, will take the blood off of a dead classmate and smeared all over themselves in hopes that if the gunman returns, they will
think they're dead. And those children that do survive, they're left with a lifetime of mental and emotional trauma. It is about time that we put the
safety of our children first, Sara.
SIDNER: You know, according to Gun Violence Archive, more than 600 mass shootings in the U.S. this year, and you mentioned those of schools. We saw
the devastating shooting in Uvalde at a school. And you've really traveled the world and -- with your work. And you know, this is a uniquely American
But there has been a bit of progress this year. And I want to, sort of, go down a few of the things and see what your take is on them. There is a
bipartisan effort that saw the passage of the Safe Communities Act which brings tougher background checks, it closes a so-called boyfriend loop
loophole by blocking gun sales to those who are convicted of abusing their partners, unmarried partners, and more funding to mental health. Is that
DR. SAKRAN: Yes, so, just a couple things to add. I think the point about the mass shootings is so critical because that does capture a lot of media
attention. I think, Sara, it is also important to remember that that is less than two percent of the overall public health problem.
And, in fact, every day in cities like Baltimore, and Philadelphia, and Chicago, we have young brown and black men that are being slaughtered on
our streets. And so, we have, I think, the responsibility to tell those stories and invest in that type of change.
Now, as you allude to, there has been progress this year with the bipartisan Safer Communities Act. The way that we look at that is, it is a
tremendous and historic first step. But is it enough? No. There is no one, you know, solution to this public health problem. It requires a
multifaceted approach. It requires us to really think about all the different things that need to be done to tailor the different aspects of
gun related injuries.
And I will also add that, you know, this year in addition to, you know, that passage, we also had the appointment and confirmation of Steve
Dettelbach to the ATF. Which, again, is so critical as we think about the number of license dealers that are not being investigated. So, there's a
variety of things that happened.
And then the last piece is, the fact that there has been a shift in the political, you know, momentum of what's happening over the past 10 years.
The culture of America is so much different than where we were 10 years ago at Sandy Hook where, Americans are no longer willing to, kind of, sit on
the sidelines of history as people continue to be injured and killed. And I think that is one of the reasons that we saw 15 Republican senators,
including those like Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn, vote in favor of that bipartisan bill. But there is still so much more that we need to do.
SIDNER: Yes, we've just passed the 10-year anniversary of Sandy Hook, and it was the moment in time when everyone thought that gun control reforms
would be put in place.
And yet, frankly, very little, most people can agree, has been done but there has been some movement. I do want to ask you, you and a couple dozen
other physicians went to Washington and had some conversations. Can you tell me what you went to do and who you talked to and the response that you
DR. SAKRAN: Yes. So, in early December, Brady United, as well as This is Our Lane, which are group of health care professionals, teamed up with
March 4th and over 50 physicians to really implore the U.S. Senate to vote on assault weapons ban before the end of the current session. As you know,
the assault weapons ban was passed by the House of Representatives in July, but the U.S. Senate has yet to take it up.
And so, we went there to really speak with both Republican and Democratic senators to really push them to pass us. And the reason this is so
important is this is one of the many solutions to tackle this public health problem. We know that assault weapons are uniquely lethal because of the
rapid rate of fire, and the high muzzle velocity.
And in fact, when you look at shootings where assault weapons are high- capacity magazines are used, 155 percent more people are shot, and 47 percent more people are killed. So, we really want them to get this done
and get it done before the current session ends. And that is what we went there to do.
SIDNER: What kind of response to gene receive? Because we have not seen that ban. Although when there was a ban, the numbers show that the number
of people who died from gun violence did go down.
DR. SAKRAN: Yes, that is correct. I will tell you that, I think both on, you know, the Democratic side and the Republican side, no one wants to see
children being killed. We had very positive responses. And we think that this is an opportunity right now for the U.S. Senate to be able to act to
ensure that we finally start putting the safety of our children first.
The reality is is that, you know, this is, you know, one part of many different things that need to happen. But it is a critical part and we saw
that 10-year ban actually make a difference when -- and so, we need to reinstate it.
SIDNER: Can I ask you, do you think that the surgeon general should act and call this a public health emergency? Since, as we just talked about, this
is the number one killer of children, gun violence.
DR. SAKRAN: Yes, that's such an important point, Sara. Look, we have called on the surgeon general to put together a report on gun violence prevention
and name it as a public health crisis. We know, historically, when we have seen other different reports, such as the tobacco report and so forth, this
action does make a difference and it's so critical to call it what it is.
And so, this is an opportunity again to really have, you know, the office of the surgeon general, right, come out front and use the bully pulpit to
talk about the similar to how we talk about opioids and, you know, mental health, you know, crisis and loneliness. All of those aspects are
important, but so is gun violence prevention.
SIDNER: People in many other nations do not understand what is happening here when it comes to gun violence and when it comes to the lack of gun
control in comparison to what things -- how things stand in other nations. What is the problem? I know that you have a mantra. It is, this is not a
Democratic problem, this is not a Republican problem, this is an American problem.
What do you see going forward when you are going to have a Democratic Senate and a Republican House? Do you see there's any possibility of
further movement to try to safeguard children from firearms?
DR. SAKRAN: Yes. So, look, when you look at our country, you are right, this is a uniquely American problem. And, you know, with 400 million, you
know, plus guns in America, the reality is that what we are looking for and searching for is for responsible gun ownership. And to ensure that children
can go to school without the fear being shot. That people can go to places of worship without worrying that they are going to be gunned down.
And when you think about what is at the center of this problem, it is access to firearms. And when you look at access to firearms and you combine
it with, you know, access plus hate, access plus impulsivity, and you can keep going down the list, right. It ends up in deadly circumstances.
And so, we have been really, you know, pushing our elected officials to have the moral courage to do the right thing. And what we have seen is that
the gun violence prevention champions that have run even in states, you know, that are toss-up states or toss-up elections have been winning.
This is a critically important issue to Americans. So, I think, it is going to be difficult with the change in the House, but I think we have to
continue to push on. And, the last thing I'll say about this is that most governing in America happens at the local and state level.
DR. SAKRAN: And that's one of the reasons that over the past 10 years, you know, we have seen over 500 pieces of common sense legislation that have
been passed in cities and states across this country. And that allowed us to change the culture and the temperature where we have a president that
ran as a central part of the platform, gun violence prevention.
So, I think all of this is heading us in the right direction but it is not fast enough. Because every day, we as health care professionals are seeing
the daily toll of gun violence. And so, we are imploring, you know, folks to really have the moral courage to act and to act now.
SIDNER: I want to speak from the side of those who are very much into having guns and using guns, whether it be for hunting or for sport. And
what you hear oftentimes from them is, guns don't kill people, people killed people. How do you respond to that?
DR. SAKRAN: Yes, I mean, I think that is a common, you know, just -- you know, rhetoric that we continue to hear. The reality is, is what we focus
on, right, is about responsible gun ownership is about gun safety. And we know when you look at the different types of gun related injury that exist,
there is so much opportunity for us to move that needle forward.
By doing things that expand the Brady background check, which 97 plus percent of Americans agree upon. By ensuring that we prevent guns from
being trafficked into communities. By investing in communities to break the generational cycle of violence. By ensuring that we incentivize states to
require safe storage of firearms. And, like we've talked, about by reinstating the ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
So, that is, like, going to be so critical and that is a piece that allows us to really take a public health approach to this problem. Similar to what
we have done, Sara, with so many other public health issues.
SIDNER: It's clear you are very clear in saying this. This really is a public health emergency. Dr. Joseph Sakran, thank you so much for your
time. I appreciate you coming on and talking about this extremely important issue that is particularly affecting Americans.
DR. SAKRAN: Thank you so much, Sara, for having me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: Gun violence is an American problem, not a Democratic or Republican problem. It's a point that megastar Matthew McConaughey also made after the
school shooting in his home town of Uvalde, Texas that left 21 people, mostly young children, dead in May. In the aftermath, he made an emotional
plea while visiting the White House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY, ACTOR: This should not be a partisan issue. There is not a Democratic or Republican value in one single act of these shooters.
There's not. But people in power have failed to act. So, we are asking you, and I'm asking you, will you please ask yourselves. Can both sides rise
above? Can both sides see beyond the political problem at hand, and admit that we have a life preservation problem on our hands?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: A passionate speech there. Next, we are going to return to a thoughtful conversation with the Oscar winning actor producer, who rose to
Hollywood stardom in romantic comedies before pivoting to heftier roles. His memoir, "Greenlights" for which he dug up 35 years worth of personal
diaries became a major bestseller. And he spoke to Christiane Amanpour about his life, love, and career.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: I listened in preparation for this interview to one of your commencement speeches and you
said that you had five main objectives and important rules in life. And the first one was fatherhood and husbandhood. And then it went on to
friendships and faith and the rest.
So, talk to me about fatherhood, and what that means to you in the context of, you know, of your life today, yourself as a son and yourself as a
MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY, ACTOR AND AUTHOR, "GREENLIGHTS": Yes. Well, you know, when we have children we literally become immortal. And there is great
humility in that and we get more courageous, I know I have. I'm -- you know, you have children, you start making -- for me, I start making legacy
choices. Choices that I can spend my time, you know, where I can maybe give my talent to things that are going to outlive me.
To things that are immortal finish lines or, I think, are the things that we start to see when we become a parent, or things I know that I've started
to see and try to live for.
Legacy things that I can leave behind. They are going to be the truest extension of me and their mother in the world after we are gone, hopefully.
So, what things can I build no? What kind of man can I be now that will live on through my children long after me, and hopefully generations after
AMANPOUR: You've been thinking a lot about that, and your book is very clear about many of those issues. And, you know, it starts with your
parents and their love through their fighting and what you learned. So, I am interested in that because when you basically said -- and they had sort
of knocked down, drag out fights, but they were desperately love. They got married and divorced a couple of times. And yet you said --
MCCONAUGHEY: To each other.
AMANPOUR: -- that you learned about love not from -- to each other, is what I meant, sorry. You learned about love from them but not necessarily from
the hugs but from the fighting. And I'm interested in that.
AMANPOUR: What did you learn from the fighting? Why did that give you hope?
MCCONAUGHEY: Yes, it's a great question. And I've been asked many times because when I talk about the love that our family had, the love stories I
tell are the ones that I shared in the book. There is violence. There are fights. Knives were pulled. Blood was dripped.
And why do you tell those stories? And I've given it a lot of thought. And I believe it is this, those are the times when the love was so literally
challenged. You thought, you hear those stories. I saw the fact to those stories and you look -- oh, this is where it all breaks out. This is where
the story does not end well. This is where the love falls and falters.
No. It never had a chance of faltering. Like I said, the metaphor would be my mom and dad divorcing twice but marrying three times. Well, in the end
love one, three to two. But it was violently challenged often but it never had a chance of getting beat.
And in talking about parenting, there is one thing that us -- my two brothers and I knew, was nonnegotiable, was that we were loved. We heard it
all the time. Hey, I love you, I just don't like you right now. If we were out of line or got in trouble. But the love was never in question. And it
was a hard love. They were definitely more hugs than hits in my family, make no doubt about it. I just happen to tell those stories about sometimes
when the hits were there because that's when the love was challenged but it never had a chance of being beaten.
AMANPOUR: And so, let's -- you know, obviously, talk about your incredible career. Look -- I mean, you know, you sort of give the impression of being
kind of, you know, laid back and let's say fair, and dazed and confused, if I could coin a term. But your career was anything but. I mean, you really
did really focus on getting those parts. They didn't just fall out of, you know, like mana from heaven. You weren't just suddenly an overnight
success. You went after it. So, tell us about that.
MCCONAUGHEY: Well, I think I am much more intentional than I think people perceive stereotypically me to be. I can find a way I intentionally chase
something down with every role I ever got. I hustled in both senses of the world word throughout my career. I took advantage of things when I could,
and opportunities, and places, and people.
Yes, some great fortune fell onto my lap, hopefully I did everything I could with it when it did. I also -- a big hinge point in my career was
about 15 years ago after I was such a successful romantic comedy lead. I've been so successful in the romantic comedies that the dramas I wanted to do
were not being offered to me because Hollywood and -- was saying no, you stay in your zone, Matthew McConaughey. You're a rom-com guy.
So, when I couldn't do what I wanted to do, I stopped doing what I had been doing, which was the rom-com. Now, that was me buying a one-way ticket into
limbo and maybe never work in Hollywood again. And -- but I chose to make the sacrifice and it was a sacrifice. I didn't get work. I didn't work for
over two years. Hollywood forgot me.
Now, what happened when Hollywood finally forgot me, when they didn't see me in a rom-com or the theater or in their living room, or didn't see me
shirtless on the beach for two straight years, it was all of a sudden, I found some anonymity again. I had unbranded.
And all the sudden Hollywood called again and said, you know it would be a novel good idea. For "Mud", "Killer Joe", "Paperboy", "Magic Mike", "True
Detective" "Dallas Buyers Club" bring in Matthew McConaughey. Those were the dramas that I wanted. And, boy, when they came, I just -- I latched on
to them with long fangs and then got after it.
AMANPOUR: Can I play a little clip --
MCCONAUGHEY: But it took that -- like a rebrand.
AMANPOUR: Yes, and that's an intentional and quite brave thing to do, frankly. I want to play a little clip from "Wolf of Wall Street" because it
MCCONAUGHEY: Come on. What's the common denominator? Keep it up on me. The CEO. And the money comes in.
AMANPOUR: So, you're doing it now is we're watching the clip. That wasn't scripted, was it? Just what happened? How did that get into the film?
MCCONAUGHEY: So, look, banging on my chest to some tune, I have music and rhythms for every scene that I am in, for every character that I play in
every movie. They're different for each scene. That was a rhythm for Mark Hanna, that character that I'll do before the scene. It is to get out of my
mind, to relax, to bring my voice down, to find my musical meter with the character in the scene because I think in musical terms a lot.
Now, I'm doing that before the scene, and then actions called, I stop, and we begin the scene. Well, we did about four takes that didn't have that in
it. But before each take, I was doing that in it and we had it. I was happy, Martin Scorsese was happy, Leonardo was happy. We were moving on.
Wrap. That's it. You got it.
While Leonardo raises his hand and says, hang on a second, Martin. And leans over and he goes, what's that thing you're doing before each take?
And I told him what I just told you. And he goes, what if you put that in the scene? I was like, great. And what you see there is the next take.
And so, I started off in the scene and I did it. And then I went into my dialogue and -- with Leonardo's character, and then we got to the end of
the dialogue and I figured I'd pick the beat back up which would, sort of, bookend the rhythm and it would be like, OK. Does the young man understand
if he can get on frequency with Mark Hanna as my rhythm here again, that means he gets it. And it was sort of an act -- the last -- doing it at the
end of the scene or, sort of, the affirmation of the confirmation that I'm getting from the character that Leonardo was playing that he understood my
AMANPOUR: Well, it's a marvelous story and very indicative of how you work and who you are. And, thank you for being with us. Matthew McConaughey, now
author of "Greenlights."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: Matthew McConaughey there with Christiane Amanpour.
Now, we turn to a year-end conversation about the world of tech, from Elon Musk's Twitter saga to Mark Zuckerberg's Meta. Just two of many tech giants
who recently laid off thousands of employees. As deputy editor of The Verge, Alex Heath, has been keeping track of it all and he joins our Hari
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Sara, thanks. Alex Heath, thanks for joining us.
First, let's start with perhaps the story that has consumed a lot of ink year, which is Elon Musk's takeover of Twitter, and I should, say it is
perilous to have a conversation about Elon Musk because while we are talking right now, he could be tweeting something completely opposite of
what we think is the reality.
But as of Tuesday, he said that he was going to step down based on -- well, maybe based on polling that he had found from Twitter of people who didn't
want him to be CEO anymore. But when he said he was going to step down, he said, I am still going to run the servers and software which is kind of
like saying, yes, you can drive a car but I will control the engine and the wheels.
ALEX HEATH, DEPUTY EDITOR, THE VERGE: Yes, or it's like me leaving The Verge and saying I'm still going to control journalism. Elon has shown that
he has this obsession with Twitter. He's Twitters -- I don't think people, maybe, realize this, he's Twitters most important user even before he
bought the company. He is the most active with the most followers. And he uses it as his personal megaphone. And it's very clear that it's so deeply
intertwined with, not only has business interest, but his personal interest that he can't seem to let it go.
SREENIVASAN: You know, he has an ability that I would say is similar to the former president, which is to figure out ways to stay in the headlines
every two to three days. And, you know, for people who are not journalists, who are not using Twitter that often, maybe we kind of step back a second
and say, why is his ownership of this particular software platform such a big deal?
HEATH: Yes, Twitter is a relatively small social platform, much smaller than Facebook, even much smaller than Snapchat which people think of as
being really small. Twitter has this outside influence in the way that news and politics is disseminated around the world.
They have a very small user base. But a portion of that user base, which is mostly people in the media, politicians, people in business who produce
most of the content must be in the prime example. And here you have, you know, the world's richest, if not one of the richest men, with business
ties in places like China, who's getting involved in geopolitical issues in Ukraine, who now owns this incredibly vital news sources around the world.
And so, I think that's where a lot of the scrutiny is being focused. And also, just because it's distracting him from Tesla and SpaceX. And we've
seen that in recent weeks that those investors are starting to be fed up with the time that he spent on Twitter.
SREENIVASAN: Right, because he's technically the CEO of those companies as well, right? I mean -- the and Tesla shares have not done very well -- I
mean, the market as a whole has not done well. But when you look at the, maybe the point of when he announced these intentions to buy Twitter all
the way down, the Tesla shares have really tanked?
HEATH: And the issue also is that he keeps selling Tesla stock. He sold billions upon billions since he announced that he was buying Twitter to
fund the acquisition. Because even though he is technically one of, if not the richest man in the world, he is not cash rich. So, he had to sell Tesla
stock, that's where most of his net worth is tied up in to fund his Twitter acquisition which is a total, like, $44 billion.
And that's been weighing on Tesla stock because Elon has said repeatedly, I will be the last person out of Tesla as a stock. I will be in it until the
very end. You can count on. And he hasn't been doing that. He's, selling.
HEATH: And so, if you are in this market and you're looking at the founder who is so inextricably tied in the company doing that, you have concerns.
SREENIVASAN: Going from one billionaire to another that's been in the news this year, Sam Bankman-Fried, who was the head of FTX. He, in the early
part of the year, was making headlines for his philanthropic donations. He's, sort of, a billionaire wunderkind. He really seems to be for crypto
regulation as he went on Capitol Hill and told members of Congress, we need kind of these safety and guardrails.
And at the end of the year, he was in the headlines for a completely different set of reasons. At this point, as we're having this conversation,
he's supposed to be extradited to the United States. He's been in the Bahamas. He is going to be under arrest and charged with a lot of different
things including conspiracy to defraud people of billions and billions of dollars.
HEATH: Yes, and you can say that this is a crypto story because of the way that FTX was propping itself up with the synthetic crypto token that turned
out to be utterly worthless. Really, at its core, FTX is a financial fraud story, right. You have basically at the highest level, them using customer
funds for something they shouldn't have. And then it all came tumbling down as the crypto market, more broadly, came tumbling down this year.
And because of the amount of capital lost, the celebrities that were -- like Tom Brady doing Super Bowl commercials for FTX. Just the sheer culture
penetration that FTX had because of the way it was advertising in the way that Sam Bankman-Fried, like you said, was donating to politicians, it's
really stained the crypto as an industry. And so, we have this question now and tack of, can crypto survive? Can it come out stronger or will forever
be weaker as a result? And I think with the jury still out on that.
SREENIVASAN: Moving on to my third billionaire, Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook this year. Meta came into '22, rebranding their entire company,
calling it -- instead of Facebook, calling it meta. And I wonder is the metaverse losing steam?
HEATH: I interviewed him about this this year and he told me that, you know, he is preparing to go into this trough of disillusionment period with
the metaverse where people got really excited. And now, it's kind of a wait and see to wait for what will actually become. You know, they released this
high-end expensive headset called a Quest Pro today. you know, our side at The Verge, we didn't give it a good review. It's not a good product. They
had to lay off about, you know, 20 percent of its workforce.
And so, you just have this really huge reckoning that they have had to go through. And, you know, showing that the metaverse is not really here yet
and we don't really know what it will be. Because the devices that you need to access with these headsets, they're just not ready for everyday people
yet. They are really still niche toys.
SREENIVASAN: How does this impact what was supposed to be kind of one of the futures of the web? This idea of web three, of -- you know, these
tokens. A different way of, kind of, the internet of digital coming into the real world when it comes to how you can start ascribing actual value to
digital art and how you can start to transmit documents, kind of, more securely and with value-added?
HEATH: I think what it shows is that there are hills and valley to all of this intact. And we are in a really deep valley right now. But you could
look at things like Fortnite, Roblox, these virtual worlds that young people especially are spending a lot of time in, and you can see how that
translates to when headsets get good enough. Those experiences being compelling.
And I do think that, you know, you can't totally write that off. Because of the way that teenagers especially are so used to just hanging out as
avatars with their friends, either playing games or socializing as they really are doing in these games. And that, to me, is the strongest signal
that this whole metaverse idea of living in a virtual world may actually be here to stay. This may take longer than we think.
SREENIVASAN: Speaking of networks that are not losing consumers, TikTok had been in the news all year this year, not just for its meteoric growth. I
mean, I don't know the exact numbers, but there are more people -- or I should say there are more minutes of TikTok watched than there are minutes
of pretty much anything else or everything else combined, it seems.
And at the same time, TikTok has also been under a lot of scrutiny from state and federal regulators. Taking a look at whether or not this is a
national security threat. What happens to this company?
HEATH: It's a big question in Washington right now, right? As we speak, Congress is trying to push through a law that would ban the use of TikTok
on government phones. And I think that just goes to show the amount of fear and uncertainty that has corrupt into the averment in U.S. politics about
TikTok Chinese ownership.
They are owned by a China tech conglomerate called ByteDance. And I do think we'll see some kind of separation. I don't think, necessarily, a
complete spinoff but a pretty strict separation from TikTok and its parent company in 2023. I think we'll have to given the rhetoric, especially on
the Republican side that is out there against TikTok.
And that's because, what you said, you know, "The Washington Post" had a great headline about how TikTok basically ate the internet this year. It
has become where culture is created. It is where young people are flocking to.
And there's concern that, you know, that is giving the Chinese government either valuable data about us, or allowing them to potentially influence
what people see through TikTok's, you know, powerful algorithm. Because when you're on TikTok, you're really at the mercy of the algorithm. There
is no -- you can follow people but is not the main experience. And there is just a lot of mystiques around that. I don't think it's necessarily as
nefarious as people may assume it is, but there's definitely a need for transparency that is not there.
SREENIVASAN: You know, the combination of these, not just stories that we've talked about, but the market correction that we have been in and
maybe coming off the pandemic. Some of the companies that were maybe a little bit overvalued deciding to cut back. We have seen lots and lots and
lots of layoffs. I mean, tens of thousands of people in just -- whether it's Facebook, or Amazon, or Twitter for different kinds of reasons have
been laid off. Are there more layoffs coming?
HEATH: I think so. A lot of it depends on interest rates, what the Federal Reserve does in the new year. A lot of business leaders, CEOs that I hear
from in tech are expecting a pretty severe recession. Unclear how long will last, but that seems to be the consensus among the -- you can say, techno
elite class. Elon Musk has been tweeting about it openly for example.
This was the big reckoning for tech in the sense of all of these CEOs thought that the pandemic and the trends in the pandemic, whether that was
online shopping, streaming video, social media, how we are all glued to our devices because we didn't have any else to go. That somehow that behavior
would extend past lockdowns lifting.
It turns out, that wasn't the case. People are going back to movie theaters. People are traveling again. People are buying things in the real
world. And so, a lot of hiring that these companies did because their stock prices were so inflated and cash was so available, it -- they're not
feeling the pain of that because now that the market is saying, we want to see profits. We don't really necessarily see just growth.
And so, that's why everyone is adjusting. Companies like you mentioned, all making cuts. And, yes, if the economy continues to go the direction it is,
I think we will see more cuts.
SREENIVASAN: You mentioned streaming services. Has the golden age of streaming media kind of behind us? Is it an a between stage?
HEATH: Yes, we are entering the age of rebundling which is something media goes through over the -- over decades. This has been the history media. It
unbundles and it rebundles. In the last several years, we were experiencing the unbundling, right? And you now have seven different streaming services.
So, if you're like me, you have seven different streaming services you pay for. You're not really sure which one you actually need or what show is on
which service anymore.
And so, now the next phase is kind of re-aggregating all that into these super streaming apps, right. So, that's what Warner Discovery is trying to
do with their merger. Apple is going that route. Amazon. Everyone is jacking (ph) to be, can we be that one or two tile that you have to have to
access all your shows? And I think we're going to go back to a place where people are paying cable level praises for a bundle of channels, right. And
it's just -- the difference is that they're streaming and they're not over cable.
And that's -- just kind of that history of media cycle that we see over it over again. And if you say the golden age was the unbundling, then you are
right. We are leaving that way. I do think shows are still -- really good shows are still getting made. And the internet has allowed for more diverse
voices in that sense. But in terms of what consumers are paying, it is definitely trending back to what it was pre-streaming.
SREENIVASAN: You know, as we wrap up here, what are -- late in the year we had several instances of artificial intelligence entering a much more
accessible format for end consumers. They didn't have to know anything about this crazy stuff that was happening at the back end and all the
computational power and all the magic. They just had to take a selfie and all of a sudden, they could import themselves into some other phase, or
some other -- they could create images from nothing. They could have paragraphs written for them.
What are you seeing in how fast that space is evolving. What are we going to start seeing in terms of the types of used cases for these different
HEATH: This is one of the most interesting, fast-moving spaces in an all of tech right now. I would call it, and others would call it, generative A.I.
A.I. that can make things for you. And so, yes, we saw -- the company that exemplifies this is a startup called OpenAI that Elon Musk actually co-
founded to bring this all full circle. He's -- happens to be in everything, it seems.
And people, kids even, or teenagers are using OpenAI's chatbot called GPT- 3, that's A.I. where you can just give it a prompt and it spits out paragraphs of texts for you. To literally write exams in classes. So, this
is already happening. And this thing was released less than two or three months ago, I think.
So, we're already seeing how this could affect society. And I think in 2023, it will be -- I wouldn't be surprised to see Senate hearings about
this eventually because what it's going to do to the labor market, what it is going to do to whole classes of jobs. It's going to be transformational
because all a sudden, you can just have this A.I. spit this thing out for you.
So, we're definitely heading a very interesting sci-fi direction with that. And there's a lot of unknowns. And all the big tech companies like Google
are working on this as well. And so, we could see this interest things like Google search, which would be really interesting.
SREENIVASAN: So, what do you and your editors, when you've get together virtually or possibly in person at the end of this year, what are you
looking forward to in 2023 from kind of the different beats that you guys all cover.
HEATH: There's this really -- I mean, the biggest story is Twitter and Elon Musk, and I think -- and what happens there. Not just because of what it
means for Twitter but because what it means for Elon and the rest of his companies and kind of how we look at who is considered to be in kind of the
greatest tech innovator of our day right now and how he handles this company.
I would say, you know, what we touched on, you know, the metaverse. What is it actually going to be? Can we actually tangibly experience it? Have we
put the cart before the horse there? I think the answer is probably yes, but like we'll see the ramifications of that in the new year, I think.
And this generative A.I. thing that seems to be taking the industry by storm. What are the copyright ethical when it -- implications of this? When
an A.I. spits out an answer in like a it was as a search results, it says - - it does it confidently, but as it right? Is it -- is what it saying true?
And, you know, are people all of a sudden going to be basing, you know, what they know off of things like this and it may not be totally accurate
because it's A.I. You know, this isn't perfect, and OpenAI, the company says this.
So, just kind of reckoning with these trends and then with crypto, it's like can there actually be utility here beyond this kind of speculative
financial Ponzi schemes that FTX and others kind of were exemplifying.
So, will crypto actually be something that everyday people want to use? That's still an open question in 2023.
SREENIVASAN: Alex Heath of The Verge, thanks so much.
HEATH: Thanks for having me.
(END VIDEO CLIP
SIDNER: So, we can look forward to all those developments. But next, we want to look back at another one of Christiane's conversations. This one
with arguably the most successful film director of all-time. Oscar winning director, James Cameron, has made billions at the box office with his
thrilling take on cinema.
Right now, he's trying to do it once again with "Avatar: The Way of Water." But his enthusiasm for the ocean and the environment stretches far beyond
"Avatar." And Christiane spoke with Cameron about this passion as he released his documentary, "Secrets of the Whales." A series that inspired
the giant, underwater life in "Avatar." Here's their conversation.
AMANPOUR: James Cameron, welcome back to our program. I want to know where you are, because you look like you are in, I don't know, underwater. I
don't know where you are.
CAMERON: Well, you are visiting me on the planet Pandora right now. I'm in my cutting room working on the "Avatar" sequel films. And so, thanks for
dropping in to my habitat.
AMANPOUR: By the way, a great pleasure. And people, obviously, viewers are desperate for your "Avatar" film. But, in the meantime, you know, you know
how to put, let's say, in the English word, bums on seats. And I want to know what you were thinking when you took on this new project about whales
for Nat Geographic and Disney+?
CAMERON: Well, I think a number of things. First of all, Disney has acquired the National Geographic brand. And they are really leaning into
it. They really love it. It has got, you know, sort of great alignment with their mission statements around, you know, helping people understand the
planet and each other and so on. So, that was a real, you know, plus going into it.
Also, you know, I knew I wasn't going to be able to do the diving myself. So, what could I offer? I figured I can work on the narrative with the
people that are out in the ocean doing the hard yards over three years. It took them three years to shoot this, 24 locations around the world, lots
and lots and lots of hours spent underwater and at the surface, as you can imagine, waiting for the whales to show up and, you know, do something
And I think the challenge was, what are we showing people that they haven't seen before? Everybody has seen beautiful images of whales, slow motion and
leaping out of the water and things like that. We all know it. It stirs our soul, for some reason. We love these animals. What can we show people that
they haven't seen before or maybe teach them? I thought I knew a lot about whales. Turns out I'd only scratched the surface, so to speak.
AMANPOUR: You have done one of the episodes on ghost whales. I had never even heard of it. But we're going to play this clip right now.
NARRATOR: There's only one true white whale, like a ghost and just as mysterious. Beluga whales smile, show emotion with facial expressions. They
have one of the largest vocabularies in the ocean.
AMANPOUR: That must have been an amazing thing for a director like yourself to see and to try to, you know, put into a story which is being released on
Earth Day, these animals that seem almost human.
CAMERON: Well, right. I mean, certainly, our anthropocentric perspective is to ascribe human characteristics to the whales. Maybe we're just more like
them than we thought previously.
You know, what's the common through line? These are intelligent animals. They're emotive. You could see that with the belugas in particular. They
have complex speech. The belugas especially have complex speech, but so do the -- so do all the other species as well. And they have familial bonds
that are generation to generation. They have matrilineal societies. They respect their mom and their grandma and do what they're told, you know, and
do what they're taught. They have culture, which is passed down from generation to generation.
And we were actually able to film, you know, mothers and grandmothers teaching their sons and their daughters how to survive in very particular
You know, when a deer is born, it's just sort of born with the programming that it needs to survive. Whales aren't like that. They're operating on a
higher level, like we are. And their education is important. They grieve. They have emotions like ours. They will mourn their dead. You know, we were
able to image an orca mother pushing its dead calf with it around for a long period of time. It was several days. And it was in that grieving
process of letting go that we understand us as human beings.
AMANPOUR: That's just such a remarkable description. I want to ask you the other important stuff about whales, which is their unbelievable
contribution to carbon capture. I couldn't believe when I read that saving whales is much, much exponentially more powerful for, you know, a carbon-
free atmosphere than even saving the Amazon rain forest. In other words, whales capture even more carbon. Did that come up? I mean, do you know
about that? Did that come up in the film?
CAMERON: Sure. And so, if you think about what a whale does, you know, it eats the animals that eat lower on the food chain. So, a lot of carbon
dioxide gets taken out of the atmosphere into phytoplankton. It's the base of the food web. The whales come along and just kind of snorkel it all up.
And then, when they die, their bodies sink into the deep, where it's sequestered, where it's basically put deep in the ocean, won't come out for
tens of thousands of years.
So, they perform a service for us every single day, keeping us from experiencing droughts and all the, you know, horrible weather, violent
storms, wildland fires, and things like that, that are in our future, getting worse and worse. So, we need to protect them, because they're
actually doing something for us. That's called symbiosis. We're all in the same spaceship Earth here together, and they're part of the crew too.
AMANPOUR: And yet, this series is not overtly about the climate and about climate change, is it?
AMANPOUR: I mean, you don't really at all go into that.
AMANPOUR: And I wonder why. What was the thinking going -- given your background and your interest?
CAMERON: Yes, well, I think you have to put the cart before the horse. You have to remind people what we love about these animals. It's not just that
they're -- they speak to us kind of almost spiritually, meaning that they evoke that awe of nature.
When we get to know them, we sort of get to know them in this series as people. We get to know them as characters. You could almost name them. They
have individual personality traits, their emotionality and so on. We're not going to protect what we don't love and what we don't respect.
So, you don't lead with the gloom and doom, and you don't beat people over the head. You draw them in. You say, you know, come on, on this journey.
Let's meet some friends. Let's meet some interesting people.
Now, when you have engendered that love and that respect, now the next question for people coming out the end of the series should be, what can I
do about it? What can I do, as an individual, to make life better for these sojourners with me on this planet, these fellow beings that think like I do
and feel like I do and have families like I do?
AMANPOUR: Yes, that's a great way to put it. And, of course, you reunite with Sigourney Weaver. And she's also helping tell this story and introduce
us to, you know, these ocean family members. What was it like -- she's doing the narration? What was it like reuniting with her on this?
CAMERON: Well, Sig and I reunited many times over the years on different projects. And she's very active as a conservationist and as a spokesperson
and activist for sustainability. So, she was a natural choice. And it was really one phone call, because she's fascinated by whales. She wanted to
learn more. She knew she would.
She tells a very funny story that she kept stopping, because her mouth would sort of drop open while she was watching the footage. And she'd
forget to narrate.
AMANPOUR: You know, she's a formidable woman in every single way.
AMANPOUR: And I read, you know, you did "Aliens," and she was obviously in "Aliens." What was your first impression? Was she a bit intimidating?
CAMERON: I think I was more intimidated before the fact. You know, she's tall. She's, you know, so intelligent. She's got that ferocity on screen.
But when you meet her, she's kind of not what you expect. She's kind of fun. She loves comedy. She's playful.
So, we really hit it off on that film. And she pushed back. She had a lot of challenges for me, as a director. I had to defend my position. I think
we got through that phase of learning to work together. And then it was just joyful, everything that I have worked with her on since then, you
know, which is really now four "Avatar" films, because we did the first one and then, we did three sequels, which are all in the can now.
AMANPOUR: So, there are three new "Avatars" in the can? Is that right? Is that what you're doing over there?
CAMERON: Yes, this is my cutting room. You're dropping in on my editing room here. And I will turn around and go back to Pandora when we're done
talking about Earth and its amazing creatures.
AMANPOUR: So, I'm going to leave you to turn around and get back to your editing. Thank you, James Cameron.
CAMERON: Great conversation. Thanks, Christiane. Always a pleasure.
AMANPOUR: Thank you.
SIDNEY: And "Avatar: The Way of Water" is in cinemas now. It's easy to see how the whales here on Earth have influenced that film.
That is it for now. You can always catch us online, on our podcast and across social media. Thank you so much for watching and goodbye from New