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President Obama, speaking at an Obama Foundation event last month. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

"We need to stop believing that more and bigger is better. We are chasing the wrong things," former president Barack Obama told a Silicon Valley audience Thursday.

Why it matters: Obama's warning has an added layer of meaning here, where the tech industry has grown powerful and rich by mastering the art of "scaling up."

The big picture: Speaking at Salesforce's Dreamforce conference, Obama traced many of the problems in today's society to uncertainty fueled by globalization and automation, along with an underlying misconception of what it takes to be satisfied.

  • "What I also see is just this sense of anxiety and rootlessness and uncertainty in so many people some of which is fed by globalization and technology," he said. "So much of the political turmoil we are seeing right now has to do with people feeling materially insecure."

The bigger picture: Technology and globalization have "turbocharged" the anxiety, and we need to deal with the social issues that has created, he said.

  • "Part of the goal of solving big problems is not just a matter of finding the right technical solution," he said. "Part of it is also finding out how do we restore some sense of our common values."
  • "We're chasing after the wrong things," he said, adding that climate change tops his list of concerns. "There's such a thing as being too late."

Yes, but: Obama argued that we're hampered by lack of a common experience, which he said was easier when there were only three channels on TV. At that time, he said, everyone was watching Walter Cronkite or David Brinkley whether they were conservative or liberal.

  • "If you watch Fox News you live in a different reality than if you read the New York Times," Obama said. The internet had the potential to help people better understand one another, he said — and perhaps still does — but right now it is splintering us.

Go deeper

1 hour ago - Science

COVID time warp

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The start of the COVID-19 pandemic seems like a lifetime ago to some, and just yesterday to others. Scientists are beginning to unpack the way people processed the passage of time amidst the stress, uncertainty and isolation of the 1 year, 8 months and 21 days since WHO declared a pandemic.

Why it matters: The pandemic's global effects on how people experience time could provide new insights into the brain's ability to perceive and predict time — a fundamental feature of life.

Mitt Romney calls Ray Dalio's China investments a "sad moral lapse"

Sen. Mitt Romney walks to a Senate Republican caucus meeting at the Capitol on Oct. 7. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) on Thursday criticized billionaire Ray Dalio's investments in China, writing in a tweet that "his feigned ignorance of China's horrific abuses and rationalization of complicit investments there is a sad moral lapse."

Driving the news: Romney's comments come after Dalio's firm, Bridgewater Associates, the largest hedge fund in the world, raised $1.3 billion in November for a new private fund in China, Bloomberg reports.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: First known U.S. case of Omicron variant identified in California — America probably won't lead the effort to understand Omicron — CDC prepares tougher testing rules for international travelers.
  2. Politics: Omicron travel bans are sign of what's to come — Meta removes accounts linked to COVID disinformation effort by China.
  3. Vaccines: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters — Moderna loses patent battles tied to COVID vaccine.
  4. World: Germany approves new restrictions for unvaccinated people — Omicron variant detected in more countriesWHO advises people 60 or older to postpone travel due to Omicron
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.