Brett King is an International Bestselling Author whose books have been released in over a dozen languages, achieving bestseller status in 20 countries. Brett hosts the world’s first and #1 ranked radio show on FinTech called “Breaking Banks” (180 countries, 7 million listeners). He is a media personality who covers the future of business, banking, technology, and society, and has appeared as a commentator on CNN, CNBC, BBC, ABC, Fox, and Bloomberg.
Brett advised the Obama administration on Fintech policy, advises regulators and bank boards around the world on technology transformation, and has spoken in over 50 countries. He is the Founder and Executive Chairman of Moven, a successful mobile start-up, which has raised over US$47 million to date, with the world’s first mobile, downloadable bank account, available all over the world. Brett was named the “Godfather of Fintech” by The Australian, voted American Banker’s Innovator of the Year, and voted the world’s #1 Financial Services Influencer by The Financial Brand.
His fifth book, Augmented: Life in the Smart Lane, was an international bestseller, top 10 in North America and China, and the book remained in the top-10 on Amazon for 2 years. Bank 4.0, which followed, spent 2 years on the Amazon bestsellers list for Banking books. His coming book for the post-Coronavirus world is entitled The Rise of Technosocialism and is due out November 21, 2021.
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Brett King: The Godfather Of Fintech On The Rise Of Technosocialism
Joining us is Brett King, an internationally bestselling author whose books have been released in over a dozen languages and he has achieved bestseller status in twenty countries. Brett hosts the world’s first and number one ranked radio show on fintech called Breaking Banks, 180 countries with 7 million listeners. He is a media personality who covers the future of business, banking, technology, and society. He has appeared as a commentator on CNN, CNBC, BBC, ABC, Fox, and Bloomberg.
Brent has spoken in over 50 countries and previously advised the Obama administration on fintech policy. He advises regulators and bank boards around the world on technology transformation. He is the Founder and Executive of Moven, a successful mobile startup that has raised over $47 million with the world’s first mobile downloadable bank account available all over the world. Brett was named the Godfather of Fintech by The Australian, voted American Banker’s Innovator of the Year, and voted the world’s number one Financial Services Influencer by The Financial Brand.
His fifth book, Augmented: Life in the Smart Lane, was an international bestseller and a top ten in North America and China. The book remained in the top ten for Amazon for two years. Bank 4.0, which followed, spent two years on the Amazon bestsellers list for banking books. His coming book for the post-Coronavirus world is entitled The Rise of Technosocialism. It’s due out in 2021 on November 21. Please join me now with Brett King.
Brett King, thank you for joining me here on the show. How are you doing?
I’m doing very well, Chris. Thanks for having me on the show.
It’s great to have you. A lot of people know who you are and have read a lot of your books. I know you’ve had multiple books come out and some bestsellers. You’re very excited about a new one coming out and I look forward to talking about that. You’re somebody who talks a lot about the future, fintech, and banking. It seems like those are the main areas that people need to know you as a thought leader and speaker. What’s the background that got you into finance and banking essentially as your main area of expertise?
It was accidental in that I was a technologist in the past. I did work on technology for banks. At the same time, I worked in a range of different industries, but over time, I seemed to specialize. When the dot-com boom happened, it was one industry that was particularly resistant to digital change. I was working at that time for organizations like HSBC, Citibank, Standard Chartered, American Express and others.The times when we create the greatest advancements for humankind is when we come together collectively. Click To Tweet
I was trying to define the digital strategy for these guys and there was a huge amount of resistance to this internally. They were like, “It’s always the way we’ve done business. We don’t need this. It’s never going to disrupt us.” The reaction you get in most industries when a new technology comes along is destructive. They’re very dismissive of it.
In the banking sector, because it’s a regulated industry, we’re often able to see the regulations twisted. It supports the conventional or traditional way of doing business. It wasn’t until the smartphone came out that we started to see the emergence of these new players. All throughout that period of dot-com, I was a frustrated technologist trying to get digital transformation happening and butting up against this apathy of indifference at these organizations.
I had the epiphany or realization, “There must be hundreds, thousands, or millions of people like me going through the same thing. How could I be a voice for these innovators and leaders in technology fields and help them get the job done?” My first book, Bank 2.0, I finished writing on Christmas Day 2009. It was out in April 2010. It was translated into a dozen languages and a bestseller in eighteen countries.
That kicked me off in this new direction, but before that, I was a technologist. I worked in a lot of areas. I worked in technology infrastructure, but I always had the ability to translate business requirements to technology people and vice versa, which seems still to be quite a valuable skill these days, being able to work between those two groups. That always served me quite well and moved me from being a pure developer to being a consultant in the technology space.
I know you’re very excited about your newest book coming out. Your area of thought and the writings that you’ve done are coming to a real apex as far as this is all happening. There are so many things happening with technology and now cryptocurrency is coming into it. Your new book, The Rise of Technosocialism, is coming out soon. Is that correct?
Yes. On November 21, 2021, it will be out. It has been a project that I’ve been working on for a number of years. Where it started to me was, artificial intelligence is something that, when we talk about in terms of its potential for disruption, particularly of the workforce, is very high. We’re not doing a lot of planning for that disruption.
We know that AI is going to change the way we work and we talk about it, but there’s not a lot of planning in terms of, “How do we retrain people whose jobs are going to be replaced? Are we investing in the right skills in schools and universities right now to make sure that we have a workforce ready for these newer jobs that are coming?” The same goes for climate change. There has been resistance to the idea of climate change in some quarters, but we now see these 100-year flood events occurring every few years and droughts. What are we doing to prepare for the inevitable disruptive elements of that?
I realized there’s a whole lot of things going on that we see coming down the pipe, but as humans, we wait until it’s the worst impact that can possibly be and then we go, “Why didn’t we do something about this earlier?” I wanted to ride on these rolling crises like the pandemic that we’re still in the midst of experiencing and other things that have the ability to create a huge amount of uncertainty for our future and why we don’t resolve that uncertainty earlier and why we let it fester.
Isn’t it about the money? Isn’t it the railing on the freeway that should be there because there’s a cliff? They don’t build it until a car goes off that cliff and somebody dies. Now, we have to spend the money for that family’s sake and for everybody else’s safety. Isn’t it about there’s no profit in preparedness?
Part of it is the fact that we have to justify the costs of basic elements like that. Capitalism doesn’t have the incentives to fix those problems before they are big problems. For example, in the 1970s and 1980s, we knew that air pollution and water quality were major issues for society. We knew that 7 to 9 million people a year were dying because of air quality and air pollution-related issues.
We didn’t say, “If we focus on technology that could improve energy production and not rely on fossil fuels as much, we could fix this problem,” but instead, we’re saying, “Look at the stock price of Exxon. It’s huge right now. Do you want to mess with that right now? Look at how much money the market is making from this.” There are these perverse incentives in capitalism with respect to that.
One of the things we have to fix is when we look at the function of the economy, we have to ask this very pertinent question, “What should the economy accomplish for the citizens of our nation? What is the purpose of an economy? Is the purpose of the economy to increase the share price and make corporations and shareholders richer or to look after the needs of citizens and then whatever else it can do?” We’ve lost our way with that and that’s part of the motivation in writing this.
Nowadays, the empowerment and voice of the consumer and employee has certainly become rapidly much more prevalent and listened to. Is it now the responsibility of the corporation, bank, government, or small businesses to make these changes for the benefit of the people who are underneath their umbrella?
That’s all part of it. Having the right purpose for what we’re doing and looking at sustainability and renewability, all of these things are going to be themes that we would see reoccurring over the years, but it’s more fundamental than that. If you look at what is going to give humanity as a whole the best chance of success at creating what I call sustainable prosperity where everyone is looked after, happy, and healthy, then you have to look at the basis of the way we innovate and generate ideas.
Now, we compete against each other at a market and national level. At certain points in history, that has been beneficial, but the times when we create the greatest advancements for humankind is when we come together collectively. Think about the moon program. You could put the Great Wall of China in there. You could talk about our response to the pandemic. It appears as if we’ve got this the wrong way around because competing against each other often frustrates innovation and makes us very inefficient at creating better mechanisms.
The Human Genome Project is an example. Scientists from all around the world had to come together to make that work. The Apollo program, at any one time, 400,000 Americans were employed in that pursuit. When we work collectively, not competing against each other but competing for each other, we seem to be much more efficient at creating leaps and bounds.
Is this only a discussion for the government or is this a discussion that leaders of companies and people can use for the good of the people who buy their products or work for them? Is this not something that they should be focusing on?
For the first time during the pandemic, we’re going to see it in relation to climate and other things as well. We’re seeing companies being held to a slightly different standard than just the market, as you’ve said, so diversity and inclusion efforts and the use of sustainable goods. In the banking sector, we’ve seen protests by groups in the UK, for example, outside of banks like HSBC and Barclays, because they’re still supporting fossil fuel or coal plant projects.Competing against each other often frustrates innovation and makes us very inefficient at creating better mechanisms. Click To Tweet
You now have these brands. They’re having to make a decision where their customers are putting pressure on them and saying, “We don’t think this is ethical anymore. Given what we know about what is happening here, we want you to change your behavior.” Some organizations respond very well to that. If you look at Apple, for example, Apple has now produced a 2030 doctrine or policy statement for Apple about high sustainability and high renewability. They know as a corporate citizen that they’re going to get called out on this stuff unless they have a plan to attack that.
Corporations that are smart and want to get that groundswell of support are looking at these issues that are making people concerned to sit up and talk about this. They’re saying, “How can we better strategize on this as a corporation in terms of our voice that we have in respect to this, whether that be inclusion or sustainability?”
What excites you the most about the opportunities now for people in business? What’s the purpose of the book, The Rise of Technosocialism?
We identified a number of potential stressors economically in terms of economic uncertainty. Part of that is the pandemic. A core problem in the United States and other nations around the world is inequality and that has been worsened by the pandemic. You have artificial intelligence and its potential for disruption of the employment space and you have climate change.
They’re the big four crises we talked about in the book, but they’ve evidenced themselves as economic uncertainty, people uncertain about the future. One little stat that’s interesting came out of our research. In the first twenty years of this century compared with the last 50 years of the twentieth century, protests have increased 200% in terms of the frequency of protests. You look at that and say, “That’s interesting,” but they’ve increased 1,000% in terms of participation. That’s a huge thing.
You see a lot more people being a lot more vocal about their concerns, but this is a global phenomenon. Whether you’re a young person living in Hong Kong or someone living here in the US, you’ve got concerns now about the future. In the 1960s and 1970s, the American economy was beating the entire world. It was the most successful economic formula we’ve seen in the history of modern man, at least, if not men historically.
Part of the reason the post-Second World War US economy was so successful is that it had an equal distribution of wealth. The bell curve of distribution was strong. You had a growing middle-class. That middle-class consumed. All of those things led to this intense economic activity. In the 1960s, the US accounted for 40% of total global output, which is a phenomenal figure when you think about it. Since the 1980s, with the attack on trade unions and deregulation of the financial services industry, we’ve seen real wage growth flatten out and the gap rise.
These are things that fundamentally we’re going to have to address. On the other hand, we’re coming into a time where technologically, we’re going to have so many new tools at our disposal. We’ll be able to remove diseases from the genome through gene therapy. We’ll have artificial intelligence that will allow us to manage resources in a much more efficient manner and solve problems that have been intractable for us for many years.
We’ll have autonomous systems such as robots that drive us around in self-driving cars that allow us to not have to work as much as we did in the past or give us more choices and certainly reduce the cost of living. Solar tech is about 1/8 the price of coal-based electricity in the United States. It’s reducing over time. You track that out about 10 or 15 years if we invest in this technology. Essentially, energy is going to be free.
We’ve got Elon Musk putting satellites in orbit so 98% of the planet will have internet access. We’ve got these incredible technological advances that are coming down the pike that we’ll be able to utilize to make life so much better for so many people. However, that has to be motivated by something different than a corporation making a profit. We have to have different goals and objectives as species.
One thing I wanted to ask you that you reminded me of with the autonomous vehicles coming down the pike maybe a little slower than we would have thought or hoped, but maybe at the right pace?
It’s a little slower until it happens all at once. That’s normally how it works with tech.
I’m sure you’ve heard this very interesting stat. I haven’t been able to ask anybody why this is or what they think about it, so I want to ask you. You seem appropriate for this. Everybody was worried about the trucking industry because the trucks were all going to be autonomous. All these truckers were going to lose their jobs and, “Woe is me. What were we going to do?”
However, whenever I talk to people in the trucking industry, they say, “We have so many job openings. There are not enough truckers. There are 50,000 jobs available for truckers in this country.” Why is that? Isn’t that the opposite of what everybody was afraid of? How did that happen? Is that going to happen in other industries as well, where people are upset or worried about their jobs being taken over by robots?
The first thing to recognize out of this is, in the last 250 years, when we’ve seen technology disruptions like this, the number of industries who have successfully resisted technological change amount to zero. “Resistance is futile,” as they say in Star Trek in respect to this technology adoption stuff. I live here in New York. You look around New York and it was only 100 years ago that people were still delivering ice in ice trucks to homes.
You had coach and buggy drivers, the horse and cart. You had people delivering ice blocks. If you had said, “We’re going to have refrigerators and it’s going to get rid of your jobs,” people would have been concerned about that, but other jobs were created by that. One of the patterns we see is these new industries also create new jobs. For every job that the internet destroyed, it created 1.6 new jobs. That’s a positive number to put against this.
The problem with the whole automation thing is that automation at the level we’re talking about in the 2030s, in particular, is talking about taking the human process out of a whole lot of industries. It’s probably more akin to the Industrial Age, where we all came out of agriculture and started working in factories rather than something like the internet as an example. What we do know is that there is going to be disruption of some jobs that are going to be replaced or destroyed. It doesn’t happen overnight. It will be progressive.
Truck drivers will still have to sit in the truck, observe the self-driving truck, and take loads on for a period of time. There will be a mix of automated and non-automated trucks on the road. At some point, certainly by the end of the next decade, for example, you had mentioned most of these vehicles would be automated. What do we do with the truck drivers? We’ve got eighteen years to think about a solution. We’re retraining them, giving them new work, letting some retire out others, and giving them new roles. The question is whether or not we take that time and invest in retraining those people.
The biggest problem for the whole AI automation thing is we are going to both have technology-based unemployment because automation is removing jobs, but we’re also going to have job shortages because we’re not training the right people for the AI 21st century world. In the United States, we don’t have nearly enough STEM graduates to compete. China has 3 to 1 STEM PhD graduates in the STEM disciplines compared with the United States. In the United States, 70% of the STEM PhD candidates are foreign students. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. We need to be changing the way we school and educate our kids to have their skills ready for the 21st century.
I was reminded of this because my daughter went back to school. The classroom is itself an artifact of the Industrial Revolution, where we were training students to be compliant factory drones to do what they’re told. “Sit and be quiet. Don’t raise your hand unless you’re asked a question and we’ll go on the production line. You do your Science, Math, reading and writing.” It was a production line. That’s the way we thought about public education, but there are some interesting developments coming out in respect to new ways of thinking about educating our children.The core problem in the United States and other nations around the world right now is inequality. Click To Tweet
That’s a perfect segue for me to ask you. You sound like you’re an optimistic guy. I know you are and that’s why people like you like reading your stuff. What most excites you that maybe not enough people are paying attention to? Is it cryptocurrency? Is it the government starting to look at things that they didn’t before? What is it that to you is the most exciting, not just part of your new book but also hopefully coming out of the other end of this pandemic in 2022?
There’s a lot. If we highly automate society, we can reduce the cost of so many things that we think are too expensive and we call socialist. That’s the reason we chose the topic that we did for the book. To give you an example, if you take the US healthcare system, there’s a lot of discussion and argument about this. In terms of outcomes, the US has the most expensive healthcare system of the G20 of the top twenty industrialized nations and often gets poor outcomes.
Here’s the thing. We talk about universal healthcare. It’s often a red flag to many, but if we applied automation in a number of areas in healthcare, so diagnostics. About 40% of the time, the diagnosis is incorrect. That’s why you always ask for a second opinion. About 40% of our medical costs when we’re in a hospital are administrative costs, which we could make more efficient. You’ve got gene therapy, personalized medicine, and therapeutics. You’ve got biometric sensors that you’ll be able to wear or ingest, plus gene sequencing, gene therapy, and all of that.
If we combine all of those technologies, we could provide healthcare for free to every American in the country at a 70% cost reduction of what we pay for healthcare by applying all of those technologies. The dream of small government is finally possible with this level of automation, but it requires us to completely re-engineer the way we think about healthcare. Healthcare now becomes a preventative measure rather than, “You’re sick. Go to the doctor and get prescribed something.” Now, we can track your health in real-time and your smartphone would know when you’re sick before you do, as an example.
That’s one area and that leads to another development. If you look at the longevity space, there’s a lot of talk about longevity now. Aubrey de Grey is one of the specialists in this area who talks about 2036 being the point where we reach escape velocity for longevity, which means if you’re using the right tech and taking the right supplements, by 2036, you’ll be able to stop aging. You won’t be able to be getting younger at that point. You’ll be able to stop aging and getting older. Think about the implications of that.
You’ve got how our work might change in the future. If we’ve got a highly automated society where a lot of the service industries that we have are now automated with robots and these other techs, drones flying to deliver us pizza, then maybe we have to work less hours. Maybe we have a 4-day or 3.5-day working week. Would that be so bad? We can eliminate the homeless. We can 3D-print a new home for someone that’s homeless for $3,000 using this new technology.
There are so many areas where we could enhance society. Look at the pandemic and how it changed the way kids received an education. We’re even calling them Zoomers now because of this. We could now deliver high-quality ubiquitous education without the need for this massive education infrastructure that we’ve had in the past, but we have to commit to a different type of learning. There are so many areas here where we could make our quality of life as a whole so much better by the application of this, but it’s going to burn a lot of sacred cows to the ground.
I’m sure there are people reading this that are laughing at some of these things you said. I remember years ago hearing people like Michio Kaku say things were coming that seemed laughable and seemed like, “That’s never going to affect me.” People don’t think enough about beyond today and tomorrow. They don’t see that 5 to 10-year result, where futurists, technologists, programmers, and people in technology and innovation are always thinking even decades.
I’m always thinking of 20 to 30 years out. That seems to be the sweet spot.
That’s hard for the average person to do.
It’s also the fact that we think linearly. Computing power is an example and the technology behind that. We tend to think of this line going up like this in terms of the increasing capacity of microchips, but it actually tends to go like a J-curve. You’ve now got your average smartphone. It’s something like five million times more powerful than the computer that took Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins to the moon. I don’t have an app for it on the phone yet, but I can assure you in terms of processing power, that’s the case.
The same is happening in areas like genetics, where we’re seeing incredible advancements in these fields made because of the underlying computing technology we’re able to apply to that. People generally can’t think in exponential terms. They think very linearly. You see what’s happening right now and you say, “If this continues at the same rate in ten years, that’s not going to be that much different.” What happens in the space of those ten years is you get these exponential leaps and sudden dramatic improvements.
For example, if you look at Tesla and their full self-driving model or the technology they have, they’ve made some incredible advances in artificial intelligence and imaging and building virtual world recognition that they demonstrated their AI Day. That’s blowing a lot of people away because it’s a real leap that we haven’t had any way to process or visualize the world around us in that way. Think about the impact something like that might have if we can build the world in 3D in virtual ways. You’ve got computers, drones, and robots that can navigate that world now because they can see that world.
A lot of the building blocks are being put in place now, but you just have to look at the internet now. Imagine being in the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic and having the lockdowns and restrictions that we’ve had during this pandemic and not having access to the internet. In terms of our ability to cope with that, even to order groceries or meals, the internet was a game-changer and yet the internet is not that old in real-world terms in terms of technology.
It’s an exciting time to be alive.
There was a good quote, “We are closer to 2050 today than we are to 1980.” 2050, when I was growing up as a kid, seemed like science fiction. When people look at this and they’re skeptical about this, my answer to that is, as humanity, we have a choice. We could do these mind-blowing amazing things. We just have to commit to it.
Some people like to think about things not changing so much because change is disruption and I get that. Also, we know that technology can be used for good as well as for bad, as we’ve seen as well. There needs to be some ethical grounding. That means that when these changes take place in society, they do end up doing more good than harm. That has been a bit trickier.
My last question for you is an important one because you know a lot about the banking world. What’s the deal with banks? Are banks going to be here? Are they going away? Is there no need for a bank anymore? Are there a lot of other options now? What are the Wells Fargos of the world thinking?
You talked about crypto before. When we talk about cryptocurrency, most people are familiar now with Bitcoin or they’ve at least heard of Bitcoin even if they don’t own any. The first Bitcoin white paper was produced in 2008. Now, the Bitcoin and crypto industry is worth over $1 trillion down. It has made some big progress in recent times.
If you look historically at the way we’ve used money and the way value exchange has occurred, it’s a natural evolution of money when you talk about a digital 21st-century economy that you need digital money. Whether it’s a cryptocurrency, which is the free market version, or whether it’s a Central Bank Digital Currency, which is the regulated Central Bank created version, digital money is going to be a part of the solution.
Digital money such as CBDC might be part of the ways we fund things like universal basic income and elements like that. It has programmability to it so you could give, for example, people welfare payments that they could only buy or spend on Staples. It’s programmed money with purpose. There are various design questions we have there.
In terms of the banks overall, banking hasn’t changed that much since the time of the Medici, which they recognized the first bankers. In the thirteenth century, even the word banking comes from those days in Italy, the bancos, the bench sitters because banco was the bench. What’s interesting that has happened in recent times is we’re having a lot of non-banking organizations get into the banking space. We call them fintech or tech-fins.
In 2017, mobile wallets surpassed plastic card payments globally for the first time. In 2020, two Chinese mobile wallet players, Alipay and Tencent’s WeChat Pay, generated $52 trillion of volume through their mobile payments network. If you take all of the plastic cards in the world, Visa cards, Master, Amex, Diners, Discover, gift cards, and debit cards, all of them together accounted for about $26.5 trillion.
Already, more people are using a mobile wallet for day-to-day spending than they are a bank account. We start to see things like buy now, pay later, credit experiences and other things like this. TransferWise or Wise, as they’re known now, doing international offshore transfers more efficiently than banks. These pure players that have injected technology into banking are demonstrating the way a bank account of the 21st century should work.
The interesting thing will be, in a few years’ time, your bank account will also be your money coach. It will be able to help you manage your money. It will tell you, “You’ve got this bill coming up. Your car insurance is due in four weeks. At your current rate of spending, you’re not going to have enough cash to pay your car insurance. These are your options.”Technology can be used for good as well as for bad. As humans, we have a choice with what we could do with these mind-blowing things. Click To Tweet
When you walk into a grocery store and you don’t have enough cash, your smart glasses or smartphone will say, “It looks like you normally spend $600 or $500 when you go shopping here and you’ve only got $100 in your account today. Here’s a line of credit to solve this problem.” You won’t have to get to the checkout, swipe your card, and have it declined because your mortgage payment came out or your salary and hasn’t hit the account. It will give you creative options in terms of how to manage that as well as helping you make smart spending decisions along the way.
This era of the smart bank account is coming, but the fintechs and the players like Apple, Google, and others may be better placed because they’ve got better data around their behavior, what we buy, when we buy, where we are, when we do it, than the banks. The banks are going to have a tough time. Banks will still be here in 50 years’ time, but they’ll be more of the plumbing rather than the interface.
Most of the experience layer will become clearly technology-based. It’s embedded in the world around us. You’ll be able to ask your car, smart speaker, Amazon Echo, or whatever at home and say, “Can I afford to go out for dinner tonight or over the weekend with friends? Can I afford to go to a football game on the weekend?” I don’t know the answer to that question. That whole concept of financial literacy and financial education will disappear as we get these tools that act as our money coach and personality.
Brett, this is a lot of stuff. I’m going to have to go back and read this one more time because there’s a lot of information. I look forward to getting a copy of the book so I can read it when it comes out. I’m sure it will do well. Good luck to you with that. Thank you so much for coming to the show. You are a wealth of knowledge.
Thank you very much. It has been great as always. For everyone, stay positive and healthy.
Thank you, Brett. I’ll talk to you soon. Take care.
- Breaking Banks
- Augmented: Life in the Smart Lane
- Bank 4.0
- The Rise of Technosocialism
- Brett King
- The Rise of Technosocialism
About Brett King
Brett King is the creator of Breaking Banks, the first globally recognized fintech podcast, and the founder of Provoke.fm Media. He is a futurist, an Amazon bestselling author, an award winning speaker, and is the founder of Moven, a $200m mobile bank, with the world’s first smart bank account, used around the globe with over a million users. In his spare time enjoys flying as an IFR pilot, scuba diving, motor racing, gaming (mostly FPS) and Sci-Fi.