1 Big Idea to Think About

  • Prioritization is a reality of life. We can either choose to prioritize our life by design or by default.

2 Ways You Can Apply This

  • Make a shortlist of areas, activities, projects, etc., you want to prioritize in your life. Explore the trade-offs and costs of prioritizing each item.
  • Prioritize areas where you can do the most good with the least effort.

3 Questions to Ask

  • What do I want to prioritize in my life?
  • Which of these things do I have direct control over?
  • What actions can I take to support and prioritize these things?

Key Moments from the Show 

  • How do you prioritize the world’s greatest problems? (1:23)
  • The reality of prioritization and trade-offs (6:50)
  • The structure of decision making (17:03)
  • The world problems we should try and solve (26:54)
  • World problems with surprising low return on investment (31:30)
  • Three principles of prioritization (43:18)
  • Applying the three principles of prioritization in your life (46:18)
  • The importance of disciplined decision making (55:00)
  • The value of being a little bit smarter and a little less wrong (1:02:26)

Links You’ll Love From the Episode

The Copenhagen Consensus

Connect with Dr. Bjorn Lomborg

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Greg McKeown [00:00:00] Come with me on an exploration of self-discovery on this podcast, we decipher what really matters as we unravel the chaos of day to day work to learn how to build an essential life. Today, I have on the What’s Essential podcast. Bjorn Lomborg, let me. Loosely speaking, he’s a genius. He’s a he’s a political scientist. He heads the Copenhagen Consensus, which has done something really rare and certainly grabbed my attention the moment I became aware of it. He has gone through a process of prioritizing the world’s greatest problems global warming, poverty, disease based on how effective our solutions might be. So there’s a lot more that beyond has done professionally and in his educational pursuits, his academic work. But this is the focus of today’s conversation. It is with great pleasure that I welcome you to the What’s Essential podcast. 


Bjorn Lomborg [00:01:14] Greg, it’s great to be here. 


Greg McKeown [00:01:16] Can you give us some context for setting up the Copenhagen Consensus and the process you followed to prioritization? Because this is, to me, a non-trivial achievement. Let me say, by way of a little further context, I have spent a decent amount of time at the World Economic Forum in Davos, in various venues. I have talked to people who organized the United Nations Development Goals, whether the millennial goals or the replacement to those. As an essentialist, I’ve advocated pretty strongly for prioritized lists. And despite all of that, I have, let’s say, failed in my efforts because when they came out with the the replacement Millennium Development Goals, the West, as I recall, 17 of them not prioritized as any in any sense. And so it’s just a list, and I’m not arguing that they aren’t important items, but they there’s just so many of them. What do you do? And so we’re acting as if there aren’t tradeoffs, and this has ramifications. You took a different approach. 


Bjorn Lomborg [00:02:27] Go. Well, thank you, Greg. And I’ve got to say we share something very important in common. We clearly both failed to get most people and certainly at the U.N. to to to listen to prioritization. So, you know, fundamentally, privatization is an obvious thing, something you do every day, something you do as a person. You know, you don’t have enough time, you don’t have enough resources, you have to choose to do some things over other things. It’s not that you wouldn’t like to do everything, it’s simply that you can’t. And we do this as organizations. We certainly do this if we run companies and politicians do this for the countries as well. So we always prioritize. And the trick, of course, is even if we don’t talk about prioritization, we end up prioritizing because we can’t do everything. So really, what I tried to do with the Copenhagen Consensus in the start it back in in the early 2000s was to say, How come we don’t have a good sense of where can you spend a dollar and do a lot of good? And where can you spend a dollar and do less good? Basically get a sense of where would you do the most good for every dollar spent? Because if you had that, it would be a lot easier to make good priorities. Now, obviously, this is not the only issue that matters. You know, if you know somebody, you’re certainly going to prioritize them over people you don’t know. You might also like people from your country rather than from other countries. Most people seem to at least implicitly have that party. And there are many, many other things you would take into consideration. But at least we should have a conversation about where can we do the most good first? And that’s both incredibly important. But at the same time, and that’s of course, why you probably experience it, certainly why we experience it with the UN, that it is also uncomfortable to prioritize because it inevitably means selecting away some really nice and good stuff. And since most people want to be really nice and good people, they tend to want to say, rather, let’s do everything. And then of course, later on realized you didn’t quite actually manage to do that. So take what you just mentioned of the the the follow on from the Millennium Development Goals, these so-called sustainable development goals, they’re the UN’s and hence the world’s goals for 2016 to thirty. We worked with 50 or actually more than 50 teams of economists across all of these different areas to look at where can you spend a dollar and do the most good? And we tried to tell you, and please, please, please don’t just promise everything to everyone. Not only can’t you do it, but it’s also going to be phenomenally disappointing when people realize this. And of course, it’s going to lead to very inefficient helping because you’re just going to spread all the all the available resources thinly across all of these areas. And very clearly, they didn’t actually do that. They ended up exactly promising everything to everyone, everywhere, all the time. And while that sounds really good, it doesn’t help you decide where should you spend your resources? What should we actually do? So we work with 50 teams of economists to look at what are smart things to do in the world? What are less smart things to do? And of course, the smart things everybody loves and they’re like, Wow, yeah, we should do more of that. But then you also say, this is not quite a smart. And then people get all offended and say, Well, shouldn’t we also do that? And the answer is yes. In a perfect world, we should do everything. But in a real world, we should do the smartest things first. And I think that’s both why this is incredibly important and why we don’t normally talk about this because it also offends people. It makes us feel like but but shouldn’t we also do this and this and this and this? But that’s the whole point. Prioritization do a few really smart things first, then do all the pretty good things and then do the not so good things until you’ve run out of money. 


Greg McKeown [00:06:33] So let’s just have a meeting of the minds on this as well. The The Great. And I suppose in some ways, unfortunate reality of life is that there are vastly more things expected of us asked of us hoped for by us than we can possibly do with the time and the resources that we have. So that prioritization is necessary is an incumbent reality, that there is nothing to be done about that. The only question and anybody listening to this knows that’s true. I mean, they know that because they’re listening to What’s Essential podcast anyway. So so they you know, we we come in with that understanding. But but also they just know it because today they have more things than they can fit into their schedule because when they set goals, they are going to tend towards setting more than they can accomplish. And I struggle with this. Still, even many years into this journey, because to a non-essential list, to an overachiever, you want to do it all. You know, you want to do everything for everyone. It’s not essentialism fault. It’s not, you know, it’s not Bjorn’s fault. That prioritization requires facing tradeoffs. We’re dealing with that all the time. There’s only the question of how do you allow the trade to be manifest? Do you allow them to be manifest after the fact where everyone’s disappointed and you’ve made a mm progress in a million different directions and you haven’t really made substantial progress in the things that you could really do something about that sort of option one or option to you. And I think it’s really the only alternative is that you come at it with an essentialist framework and you try to approach the dilemma of tradeoffs in a disciplined, thoughtful way so that you can maximize your contribution. You can make the biggest difference. And of course, you’re saying that with this very simple but clever test of what’s the maximum good I can do with a dollar? I mean, that’s a very essentialist question. You know, what’s the maximum good I can do with the dollar? Let’s not pretend that I can do everything with a dollar. What’s the best I can do with it? What’s the best use of it? So you have these 50 teams of economists? Well, first of all, let’s just address 


Bjorn Lomborg [00:09:01] why economists and again, I think there’s two important caveats. First, economists certainly shouldn’t be ruling the world. So this is not sort of an attempt to take over the world or anything, but they tell you something very important about exactly the trade offs they tell you. What can you get for this dollar? So that’s what you know, that’s their bread and butter. Obviously, if you talk to a health economists, they look at tuberculosis, they work with tuberculosis experts, but they have they have all the models from tuberculosis. But they are able to say, how much will it cost to save an extra, say, 100000 people? How much good will that do, not only just in sort of an ideal setting, but what do we actually think you can get out of it? The second thing, of course, to remember with economists is that spending a dollar is not the only thing that we’re trying to do. We’re also spending time with spending effort. We’re certainly spending, you know, our cognitive energy and many other things. But spending money is an essential part of this equation, and we’re addressing that part. So you could say very simply, the world is spending about $150 billion in development aid. How would you spend that? We’re spending much more both on. Peacekeeping forces and and climate policy and many other things where we spent a lot of research, where we’re spending it on the good of humanity. But, you know, so we’re spending probably somewhere between half and a trillion dollars every year on trying to do good in the world. Let’s talk about how we can spend that. Remember, I’m not talking about how you should spend the other 99 trillion dollars that we typically spend on hospitals and and and operas and and transfer money for to poor people and infrastructure and all the other stuff. So this is a limited conversation. And in that limited conversation, economists can really help. 


Greg McKeown [00:10:56] Every intellectual tradition emphasizes certain parts of the complex world in which we live. They’re all trying to to understand it from different places. One of the advantages of the mindset of an economist is the inherent reality of tradeoffs it’s built into the models. This is sort of at the very heart of the matter. If you supply more of this, you’re going to supply less of that is sort of built into the assumptions of the training of of economists. So you’re not saying they have more insight than everybody else? No, they have an insight into a particular part of the decision making process, and that’s why you chose them. So 50 teams. And what did you do with them? 


Bjorn Lomborg [00:11:43] We were running concurrently with the SDGs, so sustainable development goals. So we actually asked them to look at the precursor, which was the high level panel that talked about all these different things that eventually turned out to be the SDGs. Ask them to say or within each one of these, what do we know? So again, there are some things we don’t know how to fix. You know, very obviously, if you were to say, what’s the biggest problem in the world? You could argue that it’s that we all die. But, you know, economists would say we have a severe undersupply of immortality, but we don’t know quite how to fix that. So we’re not talking about stuff we don’t know how to fix. And perhaps more importantly, there are a lot of problems out there in the world that we just don’t have enough information about. We don’t know what the cost. We don’t know how well they work. But that’s not so. That was not what we looked at. We looked at all the things we do know how to fix. So we do know how to fix climate change or air pollution. We know how to make coral reefs better, but also we know how to deal with all the infectious diseases from malaria, HIV, tuberculosis to neglected tropical diseases. We know how to deal with malnutrition. We also know how to deal with problems like free trade or family planning. We know less well how to deal with corruption and the lack of understanding of where the money go. You know, basically that that a lot of companies shift money around the world, but we know a lot about all of these things. So we asked economist in each one of these areas. So we worked, for instance, and corruption. We work with Mary Hildebrand of Harvard University, who has done a lot of work on corruption, together with Susan Rose Ackerman from Yale, who did the original corruption course. The world’s a trillion dollars. We work with them on what are the smart things you can do on corruption? How much will it cost? How much good will it do? And we did the same thing with infectious disease economists on, for instance, how can we tackle tuberculosis and nutrition to small children and all the other challenges and all the other solutions? What is smart? And this is really the sort of crux of the of what comes out of working together with economists? Does they have a neat trick to bring everything to the same denominator? Remember, it’s hard to compare what is the value of having, you know, a million more well fed children compared to 100000 dads not dying from tuberculosis, compared to 16? Coral reefs not dying. How do you compare that? Well, typically we do that with money, so we do that by saying, what is the value that people are willing to pay for these kinds of things? Remember, you do that all the time when you go to the supermarket, not buy it. Coral reefs or our kids not dying. But you decide between very, very different things like oranges and apples, but also, you know, laundry detergent and handkerchiefs and everything else. You make these decisions because all of them have a price that basically allow you to decide, well, how much is my value of one thing versus another? And that’s essentially what we try to do. We try to compare all of the costs, which are typically in dollars, not all of them and all of the benefits which are typically in people surviving people being better off for the planet, being better off. If we can manage to do this well, economists have been making a lot of work on that. We can basically make this very simple point. If you spend $1, for instance, on tuberculosis, you will generate $43 social good for the world by investing in tuberculosis. That’s a great deal. That’s a wonderful deal. We would do this in a blink of an eye if if this was a private money. Of course, this is not something you can get rich off of because you can’t actually monitor rises. Otherwise, you know, they’d already be billionaires doing this. But the trick is you can actually know how much good you will do for every dollar, and that’s what drives the ability to make very simple comparisons across all of these areas. 


Greg McKeown [00:15:52] You’ve said a couple of things here by way of the structure of the decision making. The first is don’t take on everything. Just because something is a problem doesn’t mean you can do something about it. So know one prioritization lens is. What can I do something about that seems to be one of the important points you’ve made. And then the second is to be able to gather data to be able to really, I suppose, put all of those potential solutions into a comparable list, which is, you know, at some point I I want to try and extrapolate how we can take the process. You followed into our own prioritization efforts in our lives and our teams and our organizations and so on. So maybe we’ll just get back to that. But I’m curious about the steps you took in the process. You know, actually having two or three measurements that you could compare all of the solutions to clearly important parts of the process. And then with that data, with that information, you go to these teams and what what 


Bjorn Lomborg [00:17:04] then you don’t actually go to these teams or we don’t. Because if you ask a tuberculosis economist, what’s one of the most important things in the world, he or she is going to be just like everyone else and tell you, Oh, you should do tuberculosis. You know, if you work with something you inevitably think that’s one of the most important things in the world. So we actually go to as so we had a team of top economists, including two Nobel laureates, who looked across all of these areas and said, given all the evidence, given everything we’ve seen, what do we believe should be the top priorities informed by the cost benefit, but also aware that this is, you know, this is not the only thing we should be looking at some things we actually have pretty poor data on and maybe we should still be focusing on them. So let me give you a couple of examples of things that work out, the things that don’t work out, things that are obvious, things that are less obvious. So, for instance, on corruption, everyone will tell you corruption is huge, but most people will also tell you, but we don’t know how to fix it. It’s very hard to throw money at corruption and be successful. There’s a few ways you can do this. One is to make sure that you get better procurement. This sounds incredibly boring, but actually a third of all development world spending goes to procurement, so you know anything from Post-it notes to roads and obviously because roads are much more expensive. This is, you know, infrastructure of the kind of things that really are very, very corrupt. So one of the things we found, for instance, when we work with Bangladesh and the Bangladeshi government was that if you make essentially an eBay out of this, so you let people bid online, you put the bids up online. It makes it harder to be corrupt. In Bangladesh, it’s actually such that, you know, typically it used to be that the ruling people in the local area would have already decided who gets the bid, and they would simply put up goons outside the office where you hand in your sealed bid so you physically couldn’t get in and deliver your bid by making this electronically. It becomes a little harder to keep away the lower bids. It also becomes a little easier for the really good ones. The ones who are very effective maybe don’t come from the region to deliver their goods. We did a study of about four percent of the spending of Bangladesh and transferred it into e-procurement, basically so that you could procure it in the most effective way. Turns out, you can reduce spending about 12 percent and the quality probably increases. This is a fantastic opportunity for very little money. You have to, you know, retool the bidding process. You have to get about and twenty five thousand government employees apprenticed into this project and you need to build the computer system. You can save about $750 million every year in Bangladesh of taxpayer money. You have suddenly 750 million dollars you can spend on other important things. This is such an obvious thing you should definitely do it now. A lot of countries are also doing this because it is a really good idea, but there are lots of other ways you can’t fix corruption. So again, we say fix the stuff, you know? But if you don’t know how to fix it, there are plenty of other things. So I mentioned one other thing. Tuberculosis, it turns out pretty regularly to be one of the best investments, and one of the reasons, I think, is because it’s a disease we’ve had for millennia. Remember, over the last 200 years, tuberculosis probably killed about a billion people. So it’s been a really, really big killer used to kill lots and lots of people in the developed world as well. That was why people would go to sanatorium. And, you know, we’d be really, really scared about the consumption we used to call it. That’s all fixed in the rich world. We know how to fix tuberculosis. It’s, you know, it’s mainly a matter of getting people diagnosed and get them problem medication. So. Stop being a concern for rich people in the rich world, we’ve stopped talking about it. It’s old hat, it’s boring problem. That’s why we don’t really focus on it. So it’s apart maybe from COVID. It’s the world’s single leading infectious disease killer kills about one and a half million people every year, and we just don’t really care about it. And that’s why we find that you can spend money here and do an incredible amount of good. So this is an obvious thing, but basically one that’s overlooked because it’s it’s it’s not sexy, if you will. And that gets me, you know, to the to the sort of sexy but not very good interventions are lots and lots of those. So, you know, one turns out to be and again, this drives people up the wrong way. One turns out to be water and sanitation. So water and sanitation obviously huge issues. Lots of people, you know, so more than a billion people don’t have access to clean water. More than a two and a half billion people don’t have access to sanitation leads to a lot of waste in spending time to get your water in, to get somewhere to pee or defecate. It also cost a lot of disease. For women, it means that they’re more risk of being raped, for instance. So there are lots of great things and reasons why you should do something about it. It turns out, however, that it’s also very, very costly, especially, for instance, on sanitation. We had a long conversation when we worked together with India. This was, of course, not very politically correct to say because Modi of the PM in India has decided this is one of his very, very top priorities. But the problem with getting good sanitation is it’s actually very, very expensive. So turns out, unless you make the toilets, you know good and you also keep them clean, people won’t use them. So it turns out that you have to spend a lot of resources. You do get paybacks. So, you know, we typically see that you do about three dollars worth of good for every dollar spent so that it’s good. It’s certainly better than just, you know, spending your money, not getting anything out of it. It’s not that it’s a bad idea. It’s just that it’s not all that great compared to, you know, say, 43 back on tuberculosis. So again, the point here is there are some things that are phenomenal. There are some things that are just so-so. And then of course, there are lots of things that are just not really worth the money where we spend it because it looks good. It makes us all feel good, but it actually ends up helping very little. 


Greg McKeown [00:23:47] And now let’s just take a moment for an outbreak. And now back to our conversation. Taking is now to the other side of the continuum of the items. There’s a list of things that you’re saying you can spend an enormous amount and get either. No return on your investment or or a poor return on your investment. What what surprises you in that list? 


Bjorn Lomborg [00:24:16] So I think one of the things is obviously climate change. Climate change is a real issue. It’s a real problem. It will create problems for the world, although it’s probably vastly overblown in much of the media. You know, economic estimates indicate there will be, if we do nothing about climate change. This is the UN climate panel. Reports will be, say, somewhere between two point six and five percent less well off by the end of the century than we otherwise would have been remembered by then will be many hundreds of percent better off. So it’s a it’s a problem. It’s not the end of the world, and it’s certainly something that we should also be focused on. But many of the solutions that are being proposed are fairly expensive ways to help very little and typically far into the future. So, for instance, you know, it’s very common. It’s one of the Sustainable Development Goals, but remember, everything is a sustainable development goal. But one of them is double renewable energy. So doubling renewable energy obviously feels good, especially in a first world context. It also helps in developing countries. You know, the difference from not having any electricity to having a solar panel that actually enables you to have a light on where maybe a fan running can be really quite useful? It’s not nearly as transformational as we used to think when you look at it. It makes people a little better off. They say they’re a little happier. But for instance, it doesn’t actually increase schooling outcomes or incomes. And that’s mostly because most of the things that make us better off are not just a single solar panel or even a few of them, because it’s very intimate and it’s fairly low quality power. It’s something that you can’t really run, for instance, a machine or a pump that will drain your your agriculture or a machine that’ll that’ll run some industry. If you think about what made most countries rich, it was actually that they got lots and lots of energy. Not just a little bit, which is nice, but it’s a lot of energy. So, you know, basically think the industrial revolution. It’s the fact that we’ve gone from mostly being dependent on our own work and maybe work a few draft animals and some wind turbines to make flour from wheat. But it’s actually going from that position where we mostly relied on our own power to, you know, having machines, being able to do 10 times the work that what we do. And that’s what developing countries need as well. So what we found was if you double renewable energy, it will probably lead to and again, I’m just cutting through all of the calculations. It’ll probably lead to benefits worth about $480 billion a year for the work. That’s great. This is a lot of people being better off or being more happy, being able to do more things late in the evening, you know, being able to stay up, maybe have a TV power by their solar panel and the battery, but the cost will be about five hundred and eighty billion dollars. Or to put it very bluntly, for every dollar you spend, you will only deliver about 80 cents of benefits. That includes the climate benefit, but also includes all the other benefits like you have more energy and so on. That’s a pretty bad investment. Spending a dollar and only consuming 80 cents, it feels good. It’s part of the sort of standard argument of our value. We should be doing all this, these things, but it doesn’t actually deliver very much. We know for it in the same sort of vein, if you focus, for instance, on a Paris agreement kind of approach. So the Paris agreement that we promised to cut our carbon emissions, both the US and Europe and many others, it’ll have a distinct cost. It’ll also have benefits, mostly in cutting future temperature rises towards the end of the century and beyond. If you try to estimate the costs through and there’s a vast number of different models to try to do that. And if you also try to estimate the benefit, those are also lots of models to try and do that of of reduced damages from climate change in the late 21st century and onwards. It turns out that for every dollar spent, you will probably avoid about 10 cents of climate damage. Again, pretty poor investment. It does not mean that they’re not great things to do in energy as well. You know, so we found, for instance, if you if you focus on spending a lot more research and development into green energy, so basically focus on innovating the next set of technologies that will become so cheap that everyone will want to use them. If you do that, every dollar will. Probably deliver about $11 of avoided climate damage, which is a much better approach, but also much less sexy, it doesn’t. It doesn’t sort of strike the same chord with Fridays for the Future and everybody else that we’re doing something right now. But it’s more about saying this is the way that we’ve solved all problems, that we solve them through innovation, not by telling people to do with less. So again, we show some things in some of these areas that are not very comfortable, but that we need to know because it turns out that if we spend, then on the sexy things, the things that everybody talks about, some of that money is going to be spent really well. But some of it is going to be spent pretty ineffectively. 


Greg McKeown [00:29:48] If I had to sort of summarize what we’re talking about here, I would agree, first of all, that nothing we’ve talked about feels like rocket science. You know, as you break it down, you go, OK, well, that that’s sort of what I would describe as discipline decision making. I’m quite quite known. You know, there’s this sort of 18 or 19 studies that I’m aware of that have studied the decision making process, comparing, let’s say, gut based decision making to formal decision making in the way that we’ve just described it. Using criteria, evaluating those criteria and so on. And all of them have found that it is superior, right? Like it does produce better outcomes than just shooting from the hip. And and so that’s really what you’re advocating. Of course, you’re advocating at that particular sphere, but you’re still advocating for a decent let’s think this through rather than let’s just make this decision kind of emotionally in the in the in the first instance, let’s think it through that doesn’t mean that we have now no place for for intuition in the journey. No, no place for in the end, when you’re trying to choose between these things or they could be something beyond your analysis that that you that ends up trumping your decisions. But let’s at least have the data. Let’s at least have it. And I think that that is supportive of the sort of fundamental idea of essentialism as I see it, which is on the one side, you have the undisciplined pursuit of more with an emphasis on undisciplined here versus a disciplined pursuit of less professor. You know, again, focus on the disciplined that you’d need a disciplined process for making your prioritization decisions. And if you don’t have that, you will default to an undisciplined approach where it can be your criteria. Your unnamed criteria can be any number of things, including all who speaks loudest or whose most emotional about it. Or or what is the you know for your work? What is the media’s really emphasizing the most right now, whipping people up about it? And so your your actual unnamed criteria can be can be really awful. Somebody criteria can be just, you know, what’s the latest thing in their inbox that might have nothing whatsoever to do with the most important work in their lives? I mean, it literally might have nothing whatsoever to do with what the most important things are in their life or where the best use of their time energy resources is. And yet, because it’s pressured, approximate suddenly it gets the attention or social media. You’re on social media. I mean, these things can be the criteria for making decision making that just really undisciplined. I think there’s a connection point here between this approach that you’ve taken at these high level strategic prioritization challenges and a very everyday challenges that people are having. And I wonder now that I’m making that point, whether it’s it’s not more than who incidentally connected in the sense that every every leader, whatever, whether they’re working in the UK government, the US government, the UN, the EU know they’re all people too. So they all have the same, the same risk of falling into an undisciplined decision-making process just like anybody else does. 


Bjorn Lomborg [00:33:32] I think this, and I think this is very interesting, and I think you’re absolutely right that we need to realize that will probably be able to get a lot more mileage out of life if we’re more disciplined and if we think about the costs and benefits and acknowledge that they’re there. Search through the the possible solutions. I think the one big difference that I see and that I think is is necessary to mention is that there’s different incentive structures for private people using this for their own lives and for politicians. Using this for nations or, you know, government officials in the U.N. doing this for the world. Please explain for for private people if you make this decision, if you make this analysis and try to optimize your own life, you have to live with the decision. Not so for most politicians, you know, most politicians will make a promise that by 2030, you know, in the for the Sustainable Development Goals 2030, we have to have reached all of these goals. I’m not going to be a politician in 2030. I’ll be out of the game. So in reality, what a lot of politicians manage to do is to make all the promises, get all the applause and then leave the hard bits for someone else. And that’s, of course, why a lot of politicians will say, yes, we should prioritize. And then a little bit later, they’ll turn around and say, I’m going to promise you everything. And you know, my experience back in New York in twenty fourteen fifteen, when we work with the U.N. on on doing this, I actually met with about a third of all the U.N. ambassadors who were doing this. So about 30 40 U.N. ambassadors individually in New York, and they all loved the concept. You know, they just like, we have this great conversation. There are, oh yes, I really want to know what our cost and benefits and what really works and such. But when it came down to it, of course, you know, the Norwegian ambassador’s goal was not to make these the best targets in the world. It was to get Norway’s four targets in there. And the Brazilian U.N. ambassador, whose goal was not, you know, the best target there was to get Brazil’s five targets in there. And that’s why we ended up with one hundred and sixty nine targets. So, so in. Is that true? 


Greg McKeown [00:35:57] Was there? I think sixty nine is. 


Bjorn Lomborg [00:36:00] There’s 169. And remember, there used to be 211 and they felt, Oh, that’s a little mini. So they actually rewrote it. So it became, you know, they kept the same number of words, but they just concatenate a lot of sentences. So it was only a hundred and sixty. There is, you know, there’s literally almost every Parma’s in there. You know, stop war, stop poverty, stop global warming, get parks for handicapped people and everything in between. And you know, it’s not that they’re all nice and good sounding things. But again, you need to have a sense of if we can’t do everything, what should we do first? And so the second bit of what I at least try to practice, and I think this will also be relevant in a in a personal matter is we’ll never succeed. We will never get everyone to prioritize everything smartly, rationally. There’s just not enough time. There’s not enough willingness. And certainly from politicians, there’s a lot of upside for just one week during this and promising everything. But what we can do is by making these analyzes, by making it more clear that some things are phenomenal and some things are not quite as phenomenal. We make it a little easier to do the really smart stuff and a little harder to do the dumb stuff. And so our, you know, so sort of our working principle here at Copenhagen Consensus, my think tank is not to get everything right. It’s about getting things slightly less wrong. If we can manage to get the world to do slightly less wrong, we’ve really, really helped the world along. So, you know, a humble goal, I think is also well worth having. You know, just like you, you start out saying, I’m now, I’m going to prioritize everything. I’m going to be smart about everything, and you’re going to be disappointed with yourself at the end of the day, if you manage to make it a little smarter, if you manage to make your surroundings a little smarter, your boss a little reorganization, a little better. You’ve done great work. That’s I think the real challenge here is to recognize that by being insisting on smartness, insisting on, you know, we have to prioritize, we have to find what are the possible solutions and then evaluate their costs and benefits. If we do those three principles as you outline and if we just do them sometimes, and even if people often will not listen, if we can just make it a little better, that’s great. 


Greg McKeown [00:38:37] And that’s a beautiful way for us to end to. Let’s be a little less wrong. And you can, if you can help people to consistently over time your little, that’s wrong. You, you know, that’s better than just making yourself feel good about not having transformed the prioritization superstructure of the world. It’s also just going. It’s also just saying, yeah, that actually matters. It can make a big impact. There’s a lot there’s a lot to be gained by being a little less wrong over time. Beyond, it’s been an absolute pleasure to talk to you. I thoroughly enjoy the way that you’ve approached this, the disciplined approach that you’ve taken to it and the way that really you are challenging the, let’s call it, the emotional norms of the non-essential norms of let’s just do everything now. That is a that is a human challenge in every part of the human system. As far as I’m concerned, it is. It is. It is true for every person listening to this. They all work in some sort of matrix organization or in a situation where people just have competing priorities. And so it’s a reasonable goal for them to to be able to try and help the people they work with, the people around them and themselves to deal with what’s wrong. Thank you so much for being on the water. 


Bjorn Lomborg [00:40:09] Sure thing Greg was great talking to you.