Matthew King On Creating Space for Connected & Compassionate Capitalism

Dr. Matthew King

Here’s what I don’t think works: An economic system that was founded in the 16th century and another that was founded in the 19th century. I’m tired of this discussion of capitalism and socialism; we live in the 21st century; we need an economic system that has democracy as its underpinnings and an ethical code.
- Michael Moore

Like most life experiences, deep academic work can have dramatically different effects on various personalities. For some, life gets very narrow. A particular area of interest might result in a very myopic worldview and set of experiences. For others, going down the rabbit hole of one subject pulls back the veil in front of a dozen more. Instead of becoming Uber-specialized, their deep work finds hooks into big-picture thinking and a curiosity of how it all fits together.

The latter trajectory is how I would describe Dr. Matthew King. I first met Matthew as a fellow “insurgent” — which the COMMON organization calls the members of the task forces they assemble to help solve complex business problems. We hopped into a cab after landing in Oslo, Norway, and within ten minutes of conversation with Matthew, it became apparent that this guy was intimidatingly smart. What made Matthew different than many of the other very intimidatingly intelligent people I’ve met was a thick layer of empathy and an overwhelming sense of gratitude. I would later learn that Matthew is a cancer survivor. More specifically, he was given what most would interpret as a death sentence and managed to come out the other side of it with a renewed passion for living. This experience fire tested his long-standing Buddhism practice and only solidified his worldview of undeniable connectivity to everyone else and the planet we live on.

Dr. Matthew King is an American writer, international consultant, and futurist residing in Boulder, Colorado. He has over two decades of experience conducting research and development, leading projects, writing, and delivering strategies in environmental security and governance, conservation, sustainable development, and social entrepreneurship.

He’s worked for the government, universities, non-profits, and the private sector. He consults and advises leaders worldwide through King’s Consulting and serves as President and Chairman of the COMMON Foundation (a sister entity to the organization we originally met through).

Matthew has been to every Continent on Earth except for Antarctica, completed expeditions to over 35 countries, lived in five, and studied and conducted research in four — completing his Ph.D. at the University of Cambridge. He has published academic and popular literature for the BBC, Journal of Biological Conservation, Marine Policy Journal, Mongabay, Earth Island Journal, World Watch Institute, Environmental Law Institute, U.N. Environment Program, U.N. Peacebuilding Commission, One Earth Future Foundation, Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation, Sidney + Phyllis Krystal Foundation, U.S. Department of State, NOAA Research, Boulder Magazine, Boulder Daily Camera, among others, and he has given talks around the world.

Matthew was 1/365 authors selected to contribute to Global Chorus: 365 Voices on the Future of the Planet alongside Dr. Jane Goodall, Nelson Mandela, The 14th Dalai Lama, Stephen Hawking, Maya Angelou, Justin Trudeau, and others. Not bad company.

Just before our interview, the BBC published a piece of his titled, “Why the Next Stage of Capitalism is Coming.” The article opens with the following paragraph: “early 250 years ago, the economist and philosopher Adam Smith wrote The Wealth of Nations, in which he described the birth of a new form of human activity: industrial capitalism. It would lead to the accumulation of wealth beyond anything that he and his contemporaries could have imagined,” and follows it with the stat “In one 2020 survey by the marketing and public relations firm Edelman, 57% of people worldwide said that “capitalism as it exists today does more harm than good in the world”.

This article on the current state of capitalism is a good primer on much of the ground that Matthew and I cover in our chat, which includes Buddhist philosophy, gene editing, brain mapping, feudalism, wealth inequality, bioethics, climate change, carbon credits, and blockchain technology. Listen to our conversation on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and many others. Check out links and show notes here.

Elijah Szasz