clock menu more-arrow no yes

Full transcript: Crowdpac co-founder and CEO Steve Hilton on Recode Decode

“Money, I think, underpins a huge proportion of what’s wrong with politics.”

Policy Exchange

On this episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher, Steve Hilton, the former senior adviser to a British prime minister, explained why he is now the founder of a tech startup in Silicon Valley. Crowdpac aims to get more people involved in the political process by making activities like fundraising for a campaign simpler.

You can read some of the highlights from the interview at that link, or listen to it in the audio player below. We’ve also provided a lightly edited complete transcript of their conversation.

If you like this, be sure to subscribe to Recode Decode on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, TuneInor Stitcher.


Kara Swisher: Today in the red chair is Steve Hilton, one of my favorite people in Silicon Valley because he’s funny. The CEO and co-founder of Crowdpac, a platform that tries to make it easier to learn about and get involved in politics. Steve was previously a senior adviser to British Prime Minister David Cameron and he’s apparently the bad boy of British politics. Last year he signed on to become a contributor at Fox News, my least favorite network, where he is working on a show called “The Next Revolution.” We have so much to talk about. Steve, welcome to Recode Decode. Brave for you to come here.

Steve Hilton: Thank you very much. Yeah, I’m excited about all that. Where do you want to start with all that menu of interesting things?

A menu of options. There’s so many things we can talk about. Do we mention you’re British? Let’s talk about your background.

Yeah, I can do that. British, British, British.

Very snotty.

British.

All right. Let’s talk about your background before you got here, because you’ve been living in Silicon Valley for a while, and we’ll explain why and various reasons. Explain your background. Someone called you the Karl Rove of British politics, which I don’t think is a compliment. I’m not clear. You’ve been involved in British politics for most of your career.

Yeah, in terms of background, that word makes me think I need to correct something very important which is, in terms of being a citizen, I am British. I’m actually Hungarian. That’s a very important thing. That probably informs a lot. Both my parents are Hungarian. They were refugees. Arrived in England. That’s where I was born.

It’s true that that comparison, that Karl Rove comparison, has been made. I think the difference is that the person I worked for was David Cameron and he worked both when he was leader of the opposition in the U.K. and then later on in government, and I think the difference is that although I definitely got involved in things like planning a campaign and the strategy and communications and all the things you’d expect, my real focus was policy. In Downing Street, I really was basically head of domestic policy. I was running the implementation ...

To actually governing?

Well, trying to. Exactly. Although, there’s a whole story about how frustrating I found that and how that informed what I now ... You know, leaving and reflecting on what went wrong.

Right. Let’s give people your background. You went to school where?

Oxford.

Oxford. Of course. You had been interested in politics your whole life? What got you?

It’s interesting. I clearly was, because the course that I took was called “Philosophy, Politics and Economics.” It was called PPE. That’s how they talk about it in the U.K.. There’s a great piece in the Guardian recently about how disgustingly pervasive that degree is amongst ...

All the ruling class.

Basically. Exactly. I did that, and prior to that I guess I must have been interested ... I do remember taking an interest, and I think actually the Hungarian background does come into it to a certain extent. I remember visiting our family in Hungary. All our family is there. My parents were, as I say, they came to the U.K. and I was born there, and my stepfather also was Hungarian. He was a refugee, fled across the borders, he went back to see the family, and a lot of that conversation was about the difference between life under communism and the life we’re experiencing in the west and that kind of thing. I guess from an early age I was exposed to that kind of discussion.

Then ... I’m just trying to remember, actually. My first job out of university was in fact in politics. I worked at the headquarters of the Conservative Party in the U.K.

Okay. Why the Conservative Party? What moved you?

I think it was partly that ...

You look like a Democrat. That’s why.

Well, there you go. I’ve had that a lot. When my book came out in the U.K. — I wrote a book a couple of years ago called “More Human” — and it was right in the middle of the leadership election for the British Labour party. It was actually won by Jeremy Corbyn, who many have compared to the Bernie Sanders of the U.K.

During that period my book came out and quite a fair proportion of the reviews suggested that on the basis of what I’d written in the book I ought to run for the leadership of the Labour party.

Right, right. Exactly.

I do tend to confound these categories. I think that it was a combination ... Why the Conservatives? Right at the beginning, I think, partly it was because of this really general philosophical association that the left is bad because the left is, very roughly speaking, what my family were experiencing in Hungary. Of course, there’s no comparison between the left in the west, at the time, and communism. Nevertheless, there’s a sense that the left is worse than the right.

Big government. Too much meddling.

I think really it was much more personal and direct than that. My stepfather worked in construction. He actually fled across the border as a refugee in Hungary in 1956 when the Soviets invaded. He and a couple of his friends literally ran across the fields and climbed over barbed wire fences and ended up as refugees.

He was from a small village in Hungary and hadn’t had much of an education at all. He ended up in England at a refugee camp and didn’t speak English, got a job on a construction site and made his career as a builder working in construction.

I remember really clearly all the way through the 1980s when Mrs. Thatcher was the prime minister this pretty kind of constant drumbeat that she’s for us because she’s for working people. The Conservatives are for working people and the Labour Party are for people who don’t want to work and get welfare. I think, growing up, that’s just something ...

Although she was pretty tough on them. Workers.

That’s right. That’s a really interesting discussion. I think highly relevant to where we are in American politics today, actually.

Which we’re going to get to.

I think that kind of ...

That formed you?

I think so.

The idea. You immediately worked for a Conservative politician? What did you do?

It’s a much smaller country, much more centralized. It’s a little bit, I guess, like getting an internship for a member of Congress. Something like that. Except this was the party headquarters, and in the very centralized U.K. system, that was the heart of things. It was kind of amazing.

It was in between my second and third year at university. I got a summer internship and ended up, for example, preparing the weekend reading for the prime minister. For Mrs. Thatcher. She liked to read things over the weekend that were not particularly political. Articles about science and whatever. That was one of the jobs I had. I literally, at age 18, had to cut out these pieces, in the days of the photocopier and whatever, cut it out, put it together, and then literally physically walk it over to 10 Downing Street and deliver it. It’s like an amazing experience.

I had a job in Congress working for Senator S.I. Hayakawa, who happened to be a Republican, oddly enough. I’m not. I would keep him awake during briefings. I know that kind of job.

It was amazing.

It was fun.

At the end of that summer they said to me, “What are you planning to do after you graduate? Would you be interested in working here? Why don’t you apply?” It was kind of random. That’s how it happened.

In fact, even before that, the whole thing was random, because the reason I got the internship was that I remember seeing a political ... In the U.K., you don’t have political ads that you can pay for, as you do here. You have this allocated time on all the channels. They’re called Party Political Broadcasts. I remember randomly watching one or seeing one before the news and at the end of it, I remember really clearly. It must have been quite formative. This was now like 40-odd years ago. The guy who was the chairman of the party, very plummy, British accent, saying, “Everyone will agree with us. Write to me. Peter Brook at Conservative Party headquarters.”

I really remember that, and I thought, “Yeah, actually. I will. I will write. Maybe they have summer jobs” that were more interesting than the incredibly boring washing up in restaurants that I had been doing to earn a bit of money in previous vacations. I thought, “Let’s try and do something interesting. Maybe they got a job.” I wrote them a letter. That’s how I got into it.

You started doing what? You started doing basic politics learning?

Yeah. Well, then they got me back and I did an interview and I got a job. Then that was, I guess, 1990. It was the last year of Margaret Thatcher being prime minister. There’s a bunch of us that were there working together.

This is where the disgusting ruling elite incestuousness argument comes from, that I rail against in so much of what I say, because in that group of us working there in 1990 there was David Cameron who became prime minister, George Osborne who became the treasury secretary, Edward Llewellyn who became the prime minister’s chief of staff, Rachel Whetstone who is now my wife. There’s a whole bunch of us that worked together and then went off and did different things and then ended up coming together around David Cameron’s leadership campaign.

Sure, so you were Young Turks then, or whatever they call them?

I’m afraid they literally called us that.

Oh, they did? Oh God.

I think there’s some terrible piece somewhere that you’ll probably find a really embarrassing picture of me.

Right, right. What was your goal? Was it to run a campaign? What was the trajectory?

No, I just found it interesting. I was just 20, out of university, I was really ... It was exciting.

What did you want to do? Change government?

Yeah, well, I wanted to help the people that I thought were doing good. At that time. I particularly was inspired by the guy that came after Margaret Thatcher, who was Prime Minister John Major. Although, I now subsequently disagree with him on a whole lot of things.

At the time, I thought his story was really cool. He had an incredibly humble background, a very interesting, unexpected background, and rose through the ranks to become prime minister. It was just a great story of social mobility. The way he kind of, a little bit like I think the intention — I don’t know of the reality — of the first President Bush, after Reagan, trying to soften the contours of what the right stood for. I really loved that, actually. I remember I found it really inspiring.

Right, and then Tony Blair.

Yeah, that’s right. Of course, that turned into a big disaster.

Right. That’s what John Major was.

John Major was a total disaster.

Right, same thing with George Bush.

Exactly.

To Bill Clinton.

Then I can’t remember what ... I’m just trying to piece together the story. There was a big formative thing that, just again, pretty randomly, the role that I was assigned in the first election campaign that I was there for was to be the kind of connection between the party research office and the policy team and the ad agency that did the campaign, which was a company called Saatchi & Saatchi.

Which is still around today in one form but certainly not the company that it was then. It was still a company run by the founders, Morris and Charles Saatchi. An American audience won’t know them that well but they’re incredibly well known in the U.K. because they really associated with electing Margaret Thatcher three times in a row and doing some of the biggest, most famous ad campaigns. British Airways, creating these amazing brands. The heyday of British advertising.

By that time, they were sitting on top of a really big company, a global company, and hardly got involved in client work on a day-to-day basis, but because this was the election and it was the prime minister they were really involved. I had, again, this incredible opportunity to meet them and literally sit and work with them every day. These incredible people. Both of them actually in different ways. I just found it incredibly inspiring and I just learned so much being with them. At the end of that experience, they offered me a job at Saatchi & Saatchi. I went off to do that.

So you learned the dark arts of advertising.

Exactly. Part of my time I actually literally worked on the British Airways account and learned the basics of — right at the bottom of the ladder in the company — learning how to make ads and do marketing strategies and all of that. The other reason they hired me was to take that experience of running election campaigns in the U.K. and try and leverage that through their international agency network and bring the kind of expert from the U.K. to other countries.

They set up this division with this hysterically grand title. I think it was called Saatchi & Saatchi Government Communications Worldwide, which is basically me. Like, some 20-year-old kid.

You advised people on how ...

Yes, and it was amazing. We went around the world and did elections, including most of the countries in Europe. It was a very exciting time because the fall of communism and so we worked in most of the countries in Eastern Europe, including Hungary, which was a thrill for me. I’d go back ... My family down in a small town in the south of Hungary couldn’t believe that I was now having meetings with ...

I think you’re like the Sandra Bullock character in “Our Brand Is Crisis,” right?

A little bit like that. I enjoyed that. I can’t remember what aspects ...

You weren’t in some crazy South American country?

Exactly. The kind of characteristics ...

How many dictators you got elected.

No, but we did work for Boris Yeltsin.

Oh, wow.

In Russia.

Yikes.

We did the first democratic election in Russia.

He was a huge success. That didn’t work out so well.

That was great. Exactly. It was amazing fun.

Other than that, other than Boris Yeltsin.

No actual dictators.

No, not yet. Not yet.

There’s always time.

You then got hooked up with Cameron.

Well, actually, no. Before that there was an intervening thing. I’ll try and do it quickly. Basically, I was there at Saatchi and they gave me all the weird stuff that wasn’t commercial. One of them was to work for the Commission of Racial Equality on an anti-racism campaign. I was working with them on that.

During that process of thinking about how we combat racism through marketing, I came to this view that we could do a nice campaign and they could spend money on putting it up on TV and billboards and whatever. Really, that issue of fighting racism was so much deeper than a few ads would ever be able to tackle. I just came to the view that one of the ways we might go about that would be not just ...

In fact, what it was, we were trying to get some of the Saatchi clients to donate airtime and all that kind of stuff. Then I thought, “Okay, that’s fine” and a perfectly nice thing to do, but what really would do much more good was if we actually got into the heart of all those big clients and got them to change their behavior, their hiring practices, the way they make their own ads, the leadership they had. There’s so many ways in which these brands touch culture and society. Just giving a few bits of airtime or even money to an anti-racism campaign ...

It’s not the same thing.

It’s not the same thing. That really took me to my next move ... I left Saatchi and with a colleague and a good friend now from there we created a company designed to try and work with brands to make them vehicles for social change. We started a little company called Good Business. That’s what I did for the next seven or eight years. Naturally, I kind of stumbled into this field that was then emerging of corporate responsibility.

Corporate responsibility and using social media and everything else.

Exactly. We were doing that in the early ’90s, mid-’90s, through until David Cameron’s decision to run for leadership. That was really what I spent most of my time with. That intersection between business, social issues, philanthropy and all of that. Again, really interesting.

Then you worked on the campaign?

Yes, but before that, one other thing we did was start a restaurant, because we had this obsession, which I think a lot of entrepreneur people have who perhaps work in agencies, which is, “Well, it’s all very nice to do this stuff which is working for other companies.” And we were making decent money.

You want to own your own thing.

We want to do our own business. We had this notion of a brand called Good that would ... The comparison we had was with Virgin. Like Good this, Good ... We’re going to do Good Books and Good Work and all of them would be obviously socially and environmentally responsible but also really be campaigners for social change.

Sure.

Through everything that they did. That was our big idea.

Now I can see how Crowdpac. This is interesting.

Then what was so ridiculous about that is that, completely randomly, the first thing that we did was the most stupid possible thing you can do, which is open a restaurant. Everyone said, “Are you crazy?” Most of these restaurants ...

Fail.

Exactly. It’s complicated. We were literally running a consulting firm with big clients like Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Nike and whatever, at the same time as a restaurant in west London that was trying to source organic, sustainable food. We had a job-training program for local kids. We gave them literacy training and all this kind of stuff. It was going to be cheap so that it wasn’t exclusive just for the rich people. The incredible burdens we put on ourselves.

You’re not really conservative. You’re almost like a lesbian.

Anyway, I’m not going to get into that.

You’re a San Francisco lesbian. Just so you know. Then you worked for David Cameron.

Yeah, then during that whole time that I described ...

I got to get you to James ... David Cameron.

Yeah, well, James Cameron, there’s a whole other collection I don’t even know about. David Cameron, during that period, was working his way up in politics. He got elected to Parliament. The Conservatives continued to lose elections. Tony Blair. Then by the time of 2005, which was the third or fourth time that they lost, David Cameron had got quite senior and after the election it was that moment of, “Let’s rethink this,” and he ran on a really aggressive platform of changing the Conservative Party.

Changing it to what? What was the thinking?

Not by us, but it was described as modernization and ...

So they were hip conservatives?

Well, to me, that was like me and him and George Osborne really did that all together. Right at the beginning when we hardly had a team and it was just in the actual election to become the leader and it was about ...

Look, the position of the British Conservatives at that time was very similar to what people might think the Republicans are like now. Basically seen as the party of old, white people, the party of the rich, the party that doesn’t understand the modern world. Hostile to environmental causes, to gender equality, to ... completely backward-looking on sexuality, to all those things, applied to the British conservatism. We basically tried to get rid of that baggage and present a new ...

Modern ...

Modern. That everybody would apply our conservative principles of trusting people, sharing responsibility, decentralizing power, all of the philosophical bases of conservatism today, we can apply that to the things that are problems for the people of today. For example, work/life balance, dealing with the causes of poverty, etc. That was what we were trying to do.

What you were trying to do. Then you stayed there for how long?

You had the parliamentary system — so he was elected leader of the opposition basically in the end of 2005 and the next election was 2010 so you have four years ... It’s very different to here. You have four years, which is actually a really good time to really think through your strategy, your platform, the policy agenda. So we spent four years doing that and then the election was 2010. Then he’s prime minister and I’m in Downing Street as senior adviser.

What did you do there? I can’t believe that you were running a government, but all right.

Well, I wasn’t. In a way, that’s the problem. For me, anyway, because one of the things I learned about myself looking back on it was that I’m not particularly ... I had very strong views and I thought that the platform that we had crafted together was what we were intending to do.

Right. Oh. Oh, Steve.

There you go. Your face tells the story. If only people could see. There you are. I just found that period ... Of course, it was amazing to be right at the heart of power and have the chance to do things. There were certain things that we got going, programs we got going. I’m not going to list them all but there’s one just really simple thing ... Well, not simple. Very complicated, actually, but we got going something called National Citizen Service, which is basically non-military national service for all 16-year-olds. I spent a lot of time designing and piloting — and actually, in Silicon Valley terms, we would describe it as prototyping — before we even got into power. That now exists as a real thing that hundreds of thousands of British youngsters are doing every year.

That’s just a small example of like, “Wow. You can really make incredible things happen.” Of course, it was great from that point of view. I found it unbelievably frustrating because in the end, as an adviser you’re not making the decisions.

You don’t get to pick.

Right, and that’s fair enough because you’re not the one who’s elected. I’ve got no complaints about it. It’s just that I found it very, very frustrating.

[ad]

We’re here with Steve Hilton, who is the founder of Crowdpac, and we’ve been talking about his fascinating history in politics and in Britain. He came here to Silicon Valley. You came with Rachel, correct?

Yes.

She got the enviable job of running communications for all of Google.

Government relations.

You’re the husband of Rachel Whetstone. That’s how I know you.

Quite right, and so should everyone. My favorite example of that quite correct hierarchy was when Google brought out their ... I don’t even know what it’s called. I’m so un-tech. The voice thing.

Well, you run a tech company. Don’t say that.

Yes, but you know what I mean? Personally.

Yeah, you could care less.

I don’t have a phone. That’s the reason I don’t know how to explain these phone-related things.

You’re going to have to get to that in a minute but go on.

Anyway, they just brought out the phone. We were with friends and she was showing off this great new thing. You could talk to the phone and it gives you an answer. She said, “Okay, Google. Who is Steve Hilton?” Then the answer came back, “Steve Hilton is married to Rachel Whetstone who is the head of ...” There you are. I know my place.

You know your place.

You’re trying to make something of yourself with this new company. Explain. So you came here and you did a bunch of things. You went around and went on a ...

Thanks to Rachel — the whole thing is thanks to Rachel. First of all, in the sense that the reason we moved here was because of my job in the government and Downing Street, Rachel when she was promoted to global head of PR and government relations at Google, she was doing that job from London. That involved not just a lot of travel to Mountain View and the team was there but actually she was ... The hours, the time difference.

It’s crazy.

When she started that, we had one child, and then we got a second. She was like in the office in London until 10 pm, 11 pm every night to make the time difference work. That just got unsustainable and so we decided to move. That was just the beginning, for me, of an incredible transformation. That is the right word to use, having had a pretty stressful, miserable, frustrating time working in government.

Which you could have stayed in and continued to be successful in.

Exactly. But actually, coming here was just so amazing. I hadn’t really gotten a plan as to what I would do next. Through various conversations, got to the point of saying, “Well, there’s this place called Stanford University and maybe there’s something that I can do there.”

This place. Yeah.

I had no idea, and I’m not a particularly academic person. I literally went to university but I’m not academic in any way. I remember there was someone I had worked with in the Obama administration, a guy who had been part of Samantha Power’s national security team, and we had worked on something called the Open Government Partnership, which was an idea to promote open data as a tool for transparency and fighting corruption around the world. We worked on that.

I remember when we launched it at the UN General Assembly, there was a party afterwards and I’m talking to this guy and I remember him saying, “Oh, after this I’m going back to Stanford.” He was an academic. I thought, “Well, hang on. Wasn’t there that guy I met? At Stanford? Maybe he can help.”

I literally got a hold of him and said, “I don’t even know what I’m really asking, but we’re moving over there and is there anything I can do at Stanford? I don’t know what I mean by that question.” He said, “Oh, yeah, yeah. We get people like you all the time.”

Night and day.

Exactly. It was amazing. He set it up for me and a few weeks later, two days of meeting everyone around the campus, and it was like a matchmaking thing. Did we like each other? I ended up, as a result of all that, doing two things when we moved, one of which was teaching in the public policy department, a straightforward class on how to make change happen in government and how government works. That sort of practical aspect of government. The really amazing thing was that Jeremy connected me with the d.school.

Which is the famous d.school.

It is a famous institute. Let’s give it its proper name and acknowledge the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford. That place is incredible. For those listening who aren’t familiar with it. it’s just such an incredible unique ... Well, it’s not literally unique because it’s been copied a lot.

Right, absolutely, but a lot of big internet entrepreneurs come out of there.

Yeah, and basically what the d.school does, for those that don’t know, is really apply the methodology which will be incredibly familiar for anyone who works in tech, that basic process of really understanding users, rapid prototyping, testing, iterating around a product idea. What the d.school does is teach that approach and the methodology in its purest academic form and apply it to different contexts and different settings.

Each class at the d.school takes that design thinking or human-centered design, whatever you want to call it, that methodology, and says, “Right, let’s apply that to redesigning our lunch” or whatever it may be, or how we think about health care. They’ve never really done anything connecting that to public policy so they’re excited about working with me on that and we put together a class.

In order to teach that, obviously, I had to learn it. I went through the process of learning about design thinking and that was the moment I think that I realized this is what I want to do next and I want to apply this to the field that I’m experienced in and have knowledge on, which is politics and government. And that really took me ...

And you’re in the center of Silicon Valley.

Of course. Here I am, as a total cliché, but what am I going to do if I don’t do a startup I’m like a complete jerk.

Right, right. You have to.

What’s it called? What’s the phrase?

You’re hanging out with Larry Page and people like that, right? They’re like, “What do you do?”

Exactly. If you can’t say, “I run a startup” then you’re just ...

You’re nobody. Nobody. Explain the idea behind Crowdpac.

I was thinking, what problem in the way politics works could tech maybe do something about? After thinking about that a bit and actually reflecting on what had gone wrong in my view in terms of my experience in government, I actually got to the point of money in politics.

Money, I think, underpins a huge proportion of what’s wrong with politics. In the sense that the need to raise money, whether that’s huge amounts of money, as is needed in the U.S. to run for federal office, or even small amounts at the state level, or smaller amounts as in the U.K., because there are caps on spending. You’ve got to raise money to do your basic campaign. Typically, that forces you to do things and say things ...

Yes, unnatural acts.

Right, exactly. They’re not necessarily what you believe but it really keeps in place these structures of politics, whether that’s the traditional parties or an obligation to the donors, whether that’s businesses and billionaires ...

Right. It sort of suggests corruption right from the start.

Yeah, and it’s not a partisan thing. It’s the same with the influence of the public sector unions on the left. Whatever you look at it, it’s forcing candidates ... By the time they get to positions of elected office and power, they’re so constrained in what they can do.

Right. They’re compromised.

Exactly. I thought, "Let’s try and do something about that." My very first notion was, what if we could create a crowdfunding platform for politics? That would mean that candidates could raise money from a much broader group so they’re not dependent on the same old donors. Actually create some kind of political marketplace so that citizens could find candidates that match their priorities and actually support them and get involved that way. Also, somewhere that would really help outsider candidates. People who are not part of the old system, not the insiders, going to run for office ...

Which you were talking about earlier when we were originally talking about this. Pre-Trump.

Very much so. This was like 2013 when I was trying to figure all this out. Then in the way that happens here — this slightly magic way — I met someone from NEA, the venture firm [New Enterprise Associates], and we got talking. He said, “That’s very interesting. Why don’t you come and ...”

Pitch?

Well, no, before that. It was actually work on it here. There was an EIR [entrepreneur in residence] available at NEA, which was brilliant. It was just an incredible ... This could never have happened in the U.K..

Yeah, why not?

Because you just don’t have that ecosystem, the attitude, the whole thing. I remember working in the U.K. government trying to boost the U.K. as a center for tech and we did all this technical stuff like entrepreneur visas and tax breaks for early-stage investment. All that kind of stuff.

Open government.

All that. Exactly. Data. Exactly. All those things. Even the role of Stanford, we’re trying to copy that. UCL in London. It’s this culture, this helping each other culture. I know that Silicon Valley gets a bad rap and you know this better than anyone but honestly it was just this incredible thing where ...

It’s different.

People want to help you. I understand that that’s also to a certain extent keeps it the way it is because they help people who are like them. I totally get that and I think we need to broaden that up. However, I really benefited from that, had this amazing opportunity, got together, found a co-founder, Gisel Kordestani, who leads on the business side.

Worked at Google.

Exactly. That’s how we met, because she was a colleague of Rachel’s. Adam Bonica at Stanford, who is the leading US expert on political data and campaign finance. We put it all together.

What are you doing now? What does it do? Explain. You have a lot of data.

The way I tell the story is that we launched in 2014 for the midterm elections. As you’d want to see happen with a tech firm, and as I learned at the d.school, we did a bunch of experiments. We tried out different things, including a focus on data and giving people objective data on candidates and helping them figure out who to vote for. We created crowdfunding platforms. We tried out various things to see what users would respond to.

Basically, over that cycle, over the last two years, we got to the point where now we’re really clear about what we think Crowdpac is and the potential it has. The way I describe it now is we really see Crowdpac as the future of political organizing and fundraising. It’s the place where you would go to take political action, to organize a community behind any kind of political or issue-based ...

It’s not just candidates?

It’s not. That’s a really important distinction.

You were doing that a little bit from your earlier stuff.

That’s right. You could go to Crowdpac right now and you’ll see there ... We just launched, for example, this week with Arnold Schwarzenegger. He was our launch user for our new communities product, which is all based around the issue of gerrymandering. He’s not running for office himself but he wants to lead an effort to get redistricting on the ballot in the 37 states where you can do that and then to fund legal challenges to gerrymandered districts.

Get that funded?

Get that funded and organize right across the country. That is all held in this ... He’s created a community.

In the platform? In the platform.

Called Terminate Gerrymandering. Literally, we created one for you. It’s such a good example. On diversity in tech. It’s a perfect example of how the tool can be used. You can put together in one place, you can show content, you can raise money, you can call your representative, you can organize events. It’s an open platform. That’s a big difference with what else is out there.

Right. There’s a been a lot that’s changed. There’s lots of different ways to ...

What we’ve tried to do is look at what users are saying about what they’re looking for and what works and what doesn’t. I think one of the most important things is something that’s really simple and easy to use and does all the things that organizers want. That’s really what we’ve tried to build, but this is the very first version.

Two things, politics and health care have been just ... They do not respond to the internet until Trump, really, with the Twitter stuff, which we’ll talk about in the next section. What is the problem with politics? It’s still so retail. I don’t know how else to put it. It’s still so analog.

Totally. I think that maybe one of the things is that there’s a political establishment, which includes the people who have been involved in campaigns and so on. Those are very East Coast-based. It’s just been old-fashioned.

Buy an ad on TV.

That kind of thing. Now there have been efforts coming out of here and elsewhere to try and, I hate the overused term, but disrupt politics and how it works. I think the problem is that, many of them, they haven’t quite got to the heart of how we affect the actual political system.

Politics and government, there is something called the Constitution. It defines how it works. There is a certain set of things that you have to really understand. That’s why I wanted to build something that would enable people to participate but through the system that we have, which in the end it’s democracy and there are elections and there are ballots.

You’ve got to understand how that all works rather than pretend that you can completely make that go away and invent some whole new thing through tech that replaces this system. I think we’ve tried very hard to work within the system. I don’t know. We’ll see. We’re having an amazing response right now. We’ve got incredible stories.

Like just recently ,one of the things that remember I said I really cared about, trying to create something to make it easier for outsiders to run for office to make it simple, to take that first step. One of the tools that we’ve really focused on there is Start Running. As its name suggests, literally anyone listening to this can start running now without actually thinking of all the off-putting barriers of do I have to hire a campaign manager? Do I need a website? Do I have to register with whoever the hell? Etc.

No, you don’t have to do any of that. You can go to Crowdpac.com/Start-Running and you can create a page in minutes that is your fundraising page. You can start collecting pledges. People can pledge to your campaign. Their cards are only charged if you run. It’s just a brilliant way for people to take the first step, if they’ve never done it before, just to see if they have the support.

We had an amazing story of that this year which was Kathy Allen from Utah. She went on the Women’s March. She got really inspired and mobilized. At some event she had seen a presentation about Crowdpac. Never gotten involved in politics before. She’s a doctor in Utah, in Jason Chaffetz’s district.

Ooh, let’s get him.

Well, there you are. She had done a few things, actually. She literally sent a Change.org petition about health care or something. Went to the town hall meeting he was at and got a bad reaction. She didn’t really feel that she was getting anywhere. She said, “I heard about this Crowdpac thing. I’m going to go for it. I’m going to see if I can start running.”

She creates a page, gets quite a good little boost of donations just from her network. We help her with some press for the local media. It goes out. She’s raising quite a bit of money. About $20,000. Then Jason Chaffetz makes his remark about ... Do you remember he said this thing about if you can’t afford health care maybe don’t buy another smartphone?

She’s in his district. That gets her a big boost. Mic.com do a piece on it. She’s up to about $80,000. Never done politics before. Then she says, “You know what? I’m going for it.” She sees she’s got this support. It gives her that confidence. Then she converts her Crowdpac from pledges to “I’m in, I’m running.” All that money then turns instantly into a donation. She’s sitting on a pot of money.

It’s done correctly?

Yes, we do all the back-end and the reporting and all that kind of stuff. We have advisory opinions from the FEC. That’s another ... We’ve done all that fiddly work that needs to be done. Then Rachel Maddow does a segment on it. This woman who has never done politics before, the last time I looked she’s just burst through $500,000. She’s at half a million dollars. She’s running against ...

Right. She’s got the money part.

She’s got the money and she’s raised more money in a short space of time than most people who run for Congress. Look, there’s some unique circumstances around that. I’m not pretending anyone who starts a Crowdpac page is going to get to half a million dollars. However, it shows you you can do it.

You can see that through the indie funding. How do you make money?

We can do it for you.

Oh, I’m signing up.

Well, we’ve done it already. You can go to Crowdpac.com/kara and there you are. Literally, everyone listening can pledge now.

Oh my God. All right. I didn’t even know that.

It’s just been done.

All right. Well, thank you. I’m sure it’s totally illegal.

It really isn’t.

Yeah, I’m hoping to go to jail someday on all this stuff.

That’s once you get there, you can do all the stuff that takes you to jail.

Right. Yes, of course, I plan on it. I plan to go down in flames. I’m going to rise and then fall.

It looks like you might have a good role model for that.

I’ll be like 80 by then and so it’ll be just tragic and fantastic. Fantastic political story. How do you make money then?

It’s through a percentage on transactions.

I see. You have to pay for the privilege of raising money via you guys.

That’s right, 100 percent of the money goes to the candidate. It’s actually voluntary. It’s a tip model.

Oh, a tip model. Interesting. Do you expect to add things to it? Political consulting? That’s really where it gets confusing.

No, no. We are a platform for participation. It’s really, we’re nonpartisan, completely open. It’s just for everyone to get involved. Not just in the U.S. We’ve launched in a small way in the U.K. and in France. They have an exciting election going on right now.

Your conceptual idea is you want more people to run? You don’t like the people that are in politics on either side.

Yeah, remember ... for example, let’s just take the U.S. Everyone focused on the presidential and so on. Actually, mayoral races get a little bit of attention. One of the most important bits of the political system that gets hardly any attention is state legislatures.

Actually, for everyone listening, if you think what affects their life in terms of health services and education, a lot of that is done at the state legislative level. I think it’s like 60 odd percent of state legislative seats are uncontested. No one is running. That’s where you get these duffers, these useless people who just get reelected by default year after year.

Another great example is that guy that did the Stanford rape case. Persky. That got quite a lot of attention quite rightly last year. That guy, that judge, that’s an elected position. He’s been, as it were, elected unopposed I think four times in a row.

No longer.

No one knew. There’s no attention on this stuff.

There’s not. Americans have the privilege of ignoring their whole electoral system.

That’s why, with a combination of data and these simple tools, we really genuinely want more people to get involved.

Do you want more young people to be involved?

Yes.

This is the whole point is to get them ... They do hashtag-ivism. There’s all the jokes around that but getting people to be involved is super hard.

It’s honestly a real focus of, what we’re doing from a design point of view is, we don’t want to minimize it. We don’t want to make it so simplistic that it’s not real. We are trying to make it simple and easy and work on your phone and all that stuff. Just to understand how people think about it. Actually, the truth is that people really are engaged. They do care about issues. They care about issues probably more ...

They do, people have been more engaged than ever around this election and kids, all they do is talk politics. Almost continually. It’s fascinating. We’re going to talk about where that’s all going. You also have a show on Fox. Tell me about this.

That’s totally ...

You’re a big Trump supporter, aren’t you?

Well, here’s how I used to put it in the election.

All right. Tell me. Which makes you a unicorn in Silicon Valley.

I support Trump supporters.

Oh, all right.

That’s the way I describe it.

Even the really awful ones? Okay, go ahead.

Even the deplorable ones.

Okay, the deplorable ones.

You’ve got to ... Come on.

I know. There’s deplorables on all sides.

There you go. I think we can agree about that. Okay, this is what happened. Brexit happened last year.

Right. You thought that was going to happen.

I did. I wanted it to happen. I went back to the U.K. and campaigned for Brexit and it was part of my book that came out in the U.K. That put me on the other side of it from David Cameron. That was interesting in itself, but there we are. I worked with him, he was my close friend ...

You were for it, because?

Because I’ve always believed that I just hate the centralization of power. I think one of the big things that’s gone wrong over the last few decades is the centralization of power.

I found, even working in government — for one example, the one thing ... Every single day, there was something we were trying to do that was blocked by EU regulation. I think a lot of people in the U.S., they think of the EU as another European version of NAFTA. It’s just a trade ...

We’re used to the states. That’s why.

Yeah, but a state within the U.S. ...

Is not a nation.

A state within the U.S. actually has much more policy autonomy than a member state of the EU. For example, employment law, there’s all sorts of examples of that. I remember being really shocked ... One of the things I really ... Family policy is a big deal, I care about it a lot. I think it’s the foundation of a lot of things that have gone wrong in terms of poverty and inequality is family policy not being done right.

One of the things I was trying to argue for and make happen in the U.K. was shared parenting. Specifically, shared parental leave. We had a completely distorted parental leave system where you basically had a year for mothers and two weeks for fathers. I know some people say, “Well, at least that’s something. In the U.S. there’s nothing.” That was really distorted and actually very unhelpful for women in the sense that an employer would say, “Well, if I hire you and you’re going to have a kid that’s a year. I’ll just take the guy because it’s only two weeks.”

I really wanted to equalize that and have totally the same expectation for a man and a woman on the grounds of gender equality. That was something that was blocked by EU regulation. Why? What’s it got to do?

Right, so you were pro-Brexit.

Anyway, for the first time, actually, I had come out from behind the scenes. I was actually on TV making arguments, running around and being this shadowy weird adviser that went around on a bike.

No shoes.

No shoes. All that stuff.

Is that real?

Yes.

They’re off. I see.

Actually, I thought, “I like this. I like making my own arguments and saying what I think rather than just being behind the scenes.”

Right. Get out in front of it. Stop whispering.

This is a very long-winded way of answering your Fox question, which is that then they were quite interested in Brexit. I did a few things with Fox around the time my book came out here. Just did more with Fox.

What do you mean by “The Next Revolution”?

Well, “The Next Revolution” is the name of the show.

Right. I got that.

It starts in a couple of weeks.

What do you mean by it? Or is it just a catchy name?

Well, I hope it’s catchy. The idea is to focus on ... I’ve thought really hard about how to define what I want to argue for. The phrase I’ve got to is “positive populism.” I know that the word populism, many they hear that and think, “That is just horrible. That’s bad. Everything we hate.”

Yeah. A lot of goose stepping.

There you go. I think there’s a lot of elements of ... Actually, this is not just a Trump thing. It’s also Bernie Sanders. I’ve had a lot of time for his message.

I remember when he declared. A lot of people mocked him, “Oh, this ridiculous guy.” An old man standing on the steps. Whatever. I remember watching him on the steps of Congress doing his announcement. “How amateur. He’s not got a chance.” I remember watching him that first Sunday. He was on the George Stephanopoulos show and I just thought, “Wow. That message is absolutely brilliant. You’re going to do swell.”

I really liked a lot of his message. The overlap, I guess, between Sanders and Trump, which you might describe as a focus on working people and that is not the elite and the rich. Concerned about the way that the political system is being captured by big donors. Focused on the sort of economic crisis that’s affecting so many people.

That, I think, should be the focus of this administration. I would describe that as positive populism. Just doing things that help working people.

What about the negative part? There seems to be quite a bit of it.

Right. That’s why I want to argue for positive populism.

How do you avoid that?

Well, by focusing on the positive.

We’ve got the Woody Guthrie populism, which is always lovely to hear those songs. It does degenerate into ugliness around immigration, around ... This is something that Silicon Valley ... I’d love to get your thoughts on why that happens. And then what does a place like Silicon Valley, which is the coastal elites, 100 percent defined, do about that? They’re not simple people, these people.

Okay, the core question is ... This is a really big question. The trends in the economy, automation and so on, is like what do we do to improve the productive capacity of everyone so that they are of value to an employer or have the tools to start their own businesses? I do think tech companies and clever people around here can help with that.

I think some of that already is happening in terms of rethinking the school system, rethinking how training is being delivered. Companies like Udacity and others. I just think there’s a lot you can contribute. That’s the real question. It’s not about what do we think about H-1B visas? Or whatever. That’s like trivial in comparison to the reality that you’ve got a huge proportion of Americans who are really screwed ...

Untrained.

By their inability to be productive. That is the heart. Now the causes of that are multiple and include, like we were talking about earlier, family, breakdown of the way kids are raised, parenting. There’s a lot there that I think businesses can contribute to, going right back to what we were talking about when I was at Good Business and when I ran this company Good Business and started that to try and harness the social power of brands to do good.

A lot of this is very deep and has been going on for decades. Particularly in relation to raising children. All the evidence now about how what happens in the early years before they get to school ...

Early childhood experiences.

Right. All of that. I write about all of that. This is my real passion, actually. That’s what I really, really focus on and I think that business can make a big contribution there, especially from around here where technology can ...

Is it their responsibility? Somebody is saying you should move an Apple factory into Kansas or Kentucky or whatever or they build it here or they build it wherever. Are they really responsible just because they created innovation to ... I don’t feel like it’s Silicon Valley’s fault that Detroit failed. You know what I mean?

I agree with you.

Do they have to move to Detroit? Or can they, “Look, this is where we created promise”?

It’s a question of policy and the incentives ... For example, Apple, they worked I think it was in Brazil and India, both said, “Unless you build your factories here, unless you tell Foxconn to build the factories here, we’re going to put a 100 percent tariff on your products.” They did. In Brazil, for example, when you had all the iPhones coming in, gray market through Miami, or whatever the hell was going on, then finally they relented and said, “Okay, we’ll build the damn factory there.” That pressure worked.

Do you think that’s important for tech companies to do that? From a political point of view?

No, I think it’s the responsibility of the political system to determine ...

What can the political system do? Tech, No. 1, is one of our greatest industries in this country. It’s the one that’s actually successful. That seems to be continuing to be successful despite encouragements from China and other countries.

If you’re the political adviser to tech, they were super slow off the mark with Trump. Then they looked acquiescent. Then they got mad. Then there’s all these people now from Mark Pincus with his WTF Organization and you’ve got Sam Altman doing a bunch of stuff. Every day I meet with some other dot-com billionaire who wants to start their own PAC. It seems somewhat dissipated and very soft.

I think the real answer lies in how you started the question, which is like actually it’s a really successful industry. It’s just that the success is located in a very particular place. I’m going to spread it. I think one of the things I’ve seen that I like the most is Steve Case’s thing.

I agree with you. The third wave. “The Rise of the Rest.”

Right. I think that’s very cool. He’s hired JD Vance to go and spot opportunities ... JD Vance who is part of the ...

“Hillbilly Elegy.”

He is going to Ohio to see if we can ...

Where he’s from.

To see if we can bring some of that there, for example. Other places. I think that’s an example and there are others. There’s been really interesting research about college towns. There’s this image we have of everywhere in the middle of America is a total disaster and you’ve got this booming coast. It’s really overstated. Within the center of the country, you’ve got lots of pockets of actually really interesting stuff happening.

One piece of research I saw that was really interesting on that was where you’ve got a college town ... Not some famous university but just a college, an institution of learning, and then a mayor, or a local government, that understands how the world works, putting that together with a local employee to create modern manufacturing, 3-D printing. Actually, there’s really cool stuff happening.

I think that is the answer, is actually sustainable job creation and innovation outside of these places where everything is booming.

Except that a lot of the new stuff is all pointing to joblessness. Self-driving cars, automation.

Yeah, but I don’t buy that argument. I mean, yes, that’s true of certain kinds. I think that equally new jobs are being created and I believe in that cycle. I think innovation will lead to new better jobs.

Is it Silicon Valley’s responsibility to do that?

No, not in that sense, but I think its responsibility ... I thought a lot about this when my business was corporate responsibility. I think it’s got a responsibility to do the things it does in a responsible, ethical way. It’s not its responsibility to solve all the problems of the world, but I think that that’s where government can be smart in terms of incentives and creating a regulatory framework that makes it easier for companies to start. I think the new jobs will ... A lot of the jobs that are disappearing, you want them to disappear. They’re not great jobs. Why do we want to hang onto ...

Coal miners.

Some of these menial jobs that actually the people that do them — obviously they appreciate the money — but actually, if we can, try and think about the future as jobs that people really want to do and they’re rewarding.

The other thing I think is really interesting to look at here is entrepreneurialism.

Right. You can’t teach that. Can you? That’s the issue.

You definitely can. You can. That’s what we’re seeing. Again, I write about this in my book. Sal Khan who started the Khan Lab School where my kids go to school, that’s a brilliant example of that, where he’s really rethinking the whole model of the school.

I think if you’re not entrepreneurial you’re not going to make ... If we don’t teach entrepreneurialism into everybody. Like the idea of being entrepreneurial or having responsibility. I think the most effective part of JD Vance’s book was his time in the military. I thought that was really interesting. He never learned responsibility, he never learned how to wear a suit, he never learned ... Instead, he disdained it, rather than understood that it was part of a social compact that you had to learn certain behaviors and not just pick up butter with your hand or whatever he was talking about. He was insulting a butter knife until he was like, “Oh, okay.” His first move was attack, which is really interesting.

How do you assess the Trump administration? What they could do now? How do you assess the first 100 days?

Well, the reason that I in the end came down on his side in the election — not that I could vote, I’m still on a green card so I don’t vote — but in the end I thought I can’t just duck out of this. I had this very strong view that whilst I didn’t recognize in what he was saying an agenda of the kind that I would want to see implemented in terms of positive populism, dealing with some of these things. On a very basic level, I thought it was more likely if he was elected that we’d get faster economic growth and at the very least that would start to light people up who are in real economic crisis.

What could he do? He’s not a friend of Silicon Valley at this point. Although maybe that might change.

The only thing that really matters is that he takes action that gets the economy moving. In just a broad brush way, he raises the growth rate. I think that the components of that are basically that the things that are being discussed but look like they’re nowhere on the horizon which is tax reform and infrastructure. Actually, that’s another example. That is something where you could get bipartisan consensus in Washington but they don’t seem to be ...

No. What’s gone wrong so far?

I think the choices they’ve made up until now have made that less likely.

Why are they making these choices?

I don’t know. I truly don’t know. No connection with him. I had this view that, maybe it was a naïve hope, that actually he really would arrive there and be a completely different kind of leader than we’ve seen before. Not Republican or Democrat. Like a populist but a positive kind that would be able to unite not everyone but a vast bulk of the Republicans and Democrats behind an agenda with one focus, which is jobs and the economy. That’s the big crisis. Let’s just focus on that. Let’s not worry about everything else for the time being. Let’s just do stuff that gets the economy moving. I think he’s just about still got a chance to do that. It’s diminishing.

Right. The narcissism is so massive.

It’s diminishing the chance to actually do that positive change.

I think it’s the massive narcissism is just so vast. It’s vast. It never ends. What do you think of the tweeting? Would you allow any of your candidates to do stuff like that? Do you think it’s effective or just crazy at this point?

I think that there are elements of it ...

Are brilliant. No question.

Well, also, that sometimes it is useful to say, “This is what’s going on.” I think you’ve got to be much more judicious about how you use it.

Right, right.

I wouldn’t stop doing it, but I would focus it on productive ends to advance policy. Well, that’s it, really. That’s what he’s there to do.

Not to yell at Arnold Schwarzenegger, in other words.

Well, I’m very pro-Arnold at the moment because he very kindly ...

Well, Donald is not.

Used our Crowdpac communities to launch his Terminate Gerrymandering campaign. We’re big Arnold fans.

Right. Terminate, you must. He has to do that the rest of his life, doesn’t he?

I know. He does. We’re big Arnold fans.

What would you do? If you’re Silicon Valley, how do you interface with the Trump administration? You have Elon Musk on one hand where he thinks he can influence him for the better around climate change and all kinds of important issues to Elon.

Then you have others that are like, “No way. We’re not joining this American invasion. We’re going to oppose on immigration.” The employee base of Silicon Valley is very Bernie Sanders around immigration, around these issues. Even transgender bathrooms. Silicon Valley has gone out on a lot of these social issues and it’s one after the next that they seem at cross purposes. At the same time, they need the FDA that’s more progressive, they need a business environment that pushes self-driving cars and infrastructure that will help that, and around health. All kinds of things.

I don’t know. Look, each company will have it’s own strategy around lobby ... As with any administration, both federal and state level. There’s particular things connected with their business they’ll want to argue for and that will just go on.

As an industry, funnily enough, I think what would be really cool would be to see if they could actually get together around infrastructure. That’s the one I think that would be ...

I agree.

That term is used as, “We love infrastructure.” Of course, who is against infrastructure? Actually, it’s not just roads and bridges.

It’s sensors in roads for self-driving cars.

Right. Exactly. Communications networks and not just rebuilding LaGuardia, whatever is happening anyway. I think that ... how do we make America this absolutely world-beating 21st century ...

World?

That is incredibly exciting. Elon and co., that’s what they know. I think if they could come together to really put something together that is exciting, I think that’s exactly the kind of thing the president likes. Here’s a really cool positive thing that will make a difference. Rather than just constantly yelling and complaining.

What does Trump have to do, do you think?

On that question?

Yeah, on the opposite version.

I’ll tell you one thing. I think what he really needs to do is ignore the Republicans in Congress. I think that’s one of the things that’s gone wrong is that he was elected as a different kind of politician. Basically, an Independent, not Republican at all. I think very quickly the tentacles of the Republicans in Congress with all their ideological obsessions and infighting have got hold of the administration. That’s what clearly went wrong with the health care thing. He’s got to ignore them.

Now the Democrats don’t want to play with him because he’s been such an ass. Why would they help him? They get what they want.

Well, in the end there’s a deal to be done. I think he needs to do it and not think that it can happen with Paul Ryan and his gang.

Do you think Bannon is on his way out?

I don’t know.

What do you think of him? I’m curious.

I think he’s a really interesting character. When I read some of the things he said and looked, I found myself in real agreement over some of them where he’s talking ... It very much echoes what I argued in my book. He used this phrase The Party of Davos.

I think he’s onto something there, which is this sense that for the last 30 years or so the world has been run by ... Regardless of who gets elected, you’ve had the same people in charge. It’s bankers and bureaucrats and accountants and they’ve got a technocratic agenda which is pro-globalization, pro-centralization, we’re all okay with big mergers and automation. There is an agenda there. It is uncritical of any of those components. Globalization and centralization and so on, and really casual about the human impact of all those policies.

I think that’s the good part of what he represents. I wish that that would be the whole of it.

No, because all the other stuff hangs off of that. The conspiracy theory, the deep state, the global council of Jewish people who are out to get us. That all hangs off of it all the time. They never disengage from those people, which is, I think, interesting. Unless you enjoy them too. I don’t suspect you do.

Not so much.

Not so much. Last question. One of the things I think about is that a lot of what is happening is, there is a group of people who love the future and have benefited from it. There’s a group of people that love the future but haven’t benefited and are a little scared of what it’s going to do to them. Then there’s a group of people that just hate the future, have gotten badly impacted from it. It’s a third, a third, a third in this country.

It’s the people in the middle who we have to talk to because the ones on the end, they’re just not going to go along. Or maybe they have to be pulled along. How do you mend the gaps? Europe, everywhere, it seems just a choice between ... It feels like a choice between Nazis and communists. I don’t know how else ...

No, I get it. Again, not to be too repetitive, but I think this is a very basic thing of faster economic growth will help a lot of these things. The problem is for a lot of those people that you describe, what you’ve seen is for them a total collapse of economic security.

When you’re just anxious about money the whole time, you can’t really do anything. Actually, you literally can’t pay a bill if you have to pay it. Even if you get a job you can’t live on it. That’s why you have to work all hours and you can’t see your kids. The whole thing is a nightmare. That’s true for a lot of people. I think the basic economic growth is a good start.

I think the other thing that’s collapsed apart from the economic security is this sense of people having control over the things that matter to them. This is where it gets to the structure of capitalism and companies getting too big as well as government getting too centralized. It feels like everything is just so bureaucratic and some people making decisions about your community, with the shops that get built, what happens to the environment around you, and you have no way of influencing it.

I think that decentralization of power, putting power back in people’s hands, decentralizing power to local government, really taking a stand against companies that just get too big, trying to localize the economy. I think that all of this is part of it.

Giving them tools like Crowdpac, for example.

That’s part of it. That really is. That’s the bit that we can do something about, which is in the political system. I think the reform agenda is much bigger than that. I think if you do that you start to repair the social fabric that has really broken down in a lot of these places. In the U.K. we tried to do a bit of this.

There are mechanisms you can use that get people together, working together. It literally is control of the local park rather than some distant bureaucratic authority. If you transfer ownership and they’re responsible and they can get involved. It’s a stupid example but there are so many things like that that you can do to give people power and control and then that is a way of bringing together the social interactions that build community.

Very last question — briefly, because we’ve got to get going. Mark Zuckerberg has written about the idea of this collapsed community and the need to ... Part of what he has done is created the collapse. Can online really help return that? Or does it just create more isolation?

It’s not a substitute for it. I think it can help by, what we’re trying to do, give people information and tools to get involved. Then they need to meet in the real world. That’s what I’d like to see happen. The tools are there but in the end ... The book that I wrote was called “More Human: Designing a World Where People Come First.” The reason I called it “More Human” was because I think the world needs to become more human.

No, you’re going to be a cyborg. I’m sorry. You don’t have a phone. You really don’t?

I don’t.

Why?

We haven’t got time for that. I wrote about it in the Guardian and you can look it up.

I will look it up. You just don’t have one. I love you for that in a weird way but hate you at the same time.

Thank you so much.

No problem. Thank you, Steve Hilton. You’re a riveting person to talk to. You should run for office, by the way. Oh, you can’t.

Well, one day. I’ve started a campaign to draft Kara Swisher for mayor of San Francisco. One day you can ...

I will. I’ll appoint you. Oh, I’m hiring you. I’m not stupid. I want you to be weird and strange and then go to jail with me. All right, Steve, it was great talking to you. Thanks for coming by.


This article originally appeared on Recode.net.

Sign up for the newsletter The Weeds

Understand how policy impacts people. Delivered Fridays.