Pablo Fetter

In this episode of the Judgment Call Podcast Pablo and I talk about:

  • How travel and new languages shape you and the way you think.
  • How Venture Capital has changed and what’s the future of VC (incl. the Middle East).
  • Why Dubai took off and how it can be replicated in another place?
  • Why Private Education has grown all over the world so quickly.
  • What is the future of K-12 education and the degrees needed?
  • How memories are stored in our brain and how reliable are they?
  • Did evolution give us consciousness?
  • Why globalization is reversing.
  • Will there be a US / Chinese conflict in the next 10 years?

Pablo is an engineer, turned investment professional (in Venture Capital, Private Equity and public equities), turned education entrepreneur. In a career spanning over a quarter century Pablo has been fortunate to live and work in seven countries in Europe, South America, Asia and the Middle East and to become proficient in four languages along the way.

You can reach Pablo on LinkedIn.

You can find the episode’s transcript here.



Hello, everyone. Welcome to another episode of Judgment Call, podcasts where I talk to risk takers, adventurers, travelers, entrepreneurs, and simply mind partners. My name is Thorsten Jakoby and I’m your host. This episode of Judgment Call is sponsored by Mighty Travels Premium. Full disclosure, this is my business. Mighty Travels Premium finds the travel deals that you really want, and it finds them as they happen. Between 450,000 offers every day, they give you the best deals in economy, premium economy, business, and first class. We also make recommendations for four and five star hotels all over the planet when they are much cheaper than they usually are. Thousands of subscribers have saved more than 95% on their effort tickets and have flown to business class, life led, transcontinental, using our deals. In case you didn’t know, Americans, Europeans, and many other nationalities can now travel to more than 80 destinations again. Give it a shot and try out Mighty Travels Premium for free for 30 days today. You can sign up at slash mtp of everyone who’s troubled with all these characters. Go to mtp4u, that’s just five characters,, and sign up for your 30 day free trial. I’m excited today. I have Pablo Feller here on the Judgment Call podcast. Pablo has been helping to build businesses and change lives on three continents, first as an engineer, then as an investor, now as an entrepreneur. Building private education businesses in the Middle East. Hey, Pablo, how are you? Hey, Torsten, I’m doing great and very happy to be here. That’s great to have you. My first question, the first time we met, you told me you grew up in Argentina, but we actually met in Germany, and now you work in Bahrain and Dubai. So the obvious question for everyone is, so what are you running from? Is it the authorities? Or is it a lifestyle? Here’s the thing, I always get that question when I tell people where I come from, and especially when I go back to Germany, and they’re serious with that. So there is no joking in that question. So I want to give you an answer. How do you get around to answering that question? I think I have left every country that I’ve left a clean track record, and what’s always motivated me to move from place to place was kind of the mystery and the adventure of going to, living in a new country. And as you said, I was born in Argentina, grew up in Argentina, went to Germany for my education, studied there, worked in Germany for… Actually, I lived in Germany for a longer period of time than in Argentina, as it turns. Oh, wow. And then I was always fascinated by travel, and I got lucky to actually find suckers that paid for my travel, basically. And so I moved around for work, lived in India, lived in Brazil, came to the Middle East, first in Dubai, and then went to Bahrain for a couple of years, and now I’m back in Dubai. So it’s been rather the adventure and the mystery of living in a different culture and to, in a way, find yourself. Because, you know, there is this… I read a book by Alain de Botton called On Love. And there was one thing that… That sounds very French already. Yeah, yeah. Well, I think he’s British and Swiss or something, but it’s kind of a modern philosopher, and he’s got plenty of books. I read a couple, you know, great writer. And there is this image that he wrote about that stuck with me over the years, which is that we human beings are like jellyfish, or I think he says like amoebas. And we kind of… We don’t have a shape of our own, but we are shaped by our environment. And I was always fascinated by that concept of, you know, when you move to another place and live in a different culture, you end up changing yourself, because the environment shapes you as well, right? And so that is something that I’m sure you can relate to as well, you know, having been born in Germany and now living in the U.S. and being basically a, you know, a global author. A homeless person, you could say that. That’s okay. We can be honest here. No, I totally understand that concept, and that’s absolutely true. We are… And that’s hard to define where we get these intrinsic notions of ourselves from, you know, I see this with my children, they’re definitely born with a personality that they didn’t have to say over, I didn’t have to say over. So there’s a lot of personality that’s burned into our genetics, and that expresses itself over time that we can’t control. We feel it’s us, but there’s a lot of biology underneath our neocortex that defines us. We just take it as a given. We never really think about it until we’re like 40, and then, you know, in the old days, there weren’t a lot of years left before we died. That is such a great point, Orsoni, because I, you know, when growing up in Argentina, I thought that I was, you know, an individual person, that I was, so to say, my own creation and my own choice, and I was, you know, way 100% Pablo. And when I moved to Germany, I discovered that that is not the case. That the, you know, the cultural influences that I carried with me were so large, so that actually it was perhaps only 10% Pablo, and the rest were things that I didn’t choose for myself, but were given to me by my genetics, by my culture, the culture where I grew up, right? And that is one great thing about living in different places, that you can, you know, it becomes conscious to you, right? It goes from being a habit, from being something that is, I don’t know, deep in our lizard brains, to becoming something conscious in the neocortex, where you say, you know, is this something that I actually want? You know, let’s say a behavioral pattern or something like that. Am I doing this because I want to do it? Am I doing this because I am just, you know, a product of my culture, a product of my genes? And, you know, I’m just reacting in a way that I’ve never thought that I could actually react in a different way. And when you go to a culture and see people behaving in different ways, you say, well, actually there’s a different response to these stimulus, right? Absolutely, and it’s maybe flattering for some, in some moments, but it’s very unsettling. You kind of spend a lot of time thinking, oh, what could have been if I would have had this inside when I was 20 or when I was 12 or six years old? And some of them we absorb all these things around us and kind of we unconsciously define ourselves like this. So it gets really tricky in terms of what, where is this free will, where is this whole consciousness, because we absorb so many things around us, as you say. And then we have a hard time deciphering what is actually things that we influence with some kinds of consciousness or things that we just absorbed into that. But one thing that really inspired me being in different places and living somewhere else, I always felt the lifestyle that I had, I’m not losing it, which might be a little bit of a deception, but wherever you show up, and I think you can relate to that, is you keep kind of the lifestyle and you can always go back and you kind of feel like you belong to it in a certain sense, not fully, you never really eat the same insider anymore, you’re always being treated as an outsider, but you always gain a newer experience and that old experience is still there and you can be like, I can go back to Germany and be German. I would literally change my behavior, I would change my everyday habits, I would change my, not just the language itself, but also the tonage and you kind of become a different person once you go back to a different language. I can do the same thing with Russian, they’ve never really lived longer than six months there. And I could feel home there and I would think like, the average Russian a little more than I do now. But it doesn’t go away, I can always go back to this personality and can kind of transport myself into that and say, oh, what would someone with that mindset like myself in that timeframe would have thought about that? And that is something that people I think are worried about if they go somewhere else, the idea is that they lose something forever and they can never go back, like there’s literally no ship back and you’re going to be lost on a different continent. I never had that. So I think that’s a personality trait that enables us to do that. Yeah, I think, you know, I fully agree with you and it’s like what one set of experiences comes on top of the other, right? And it’s very, very connected. You mentioned language, right? You go back to Germany, you speak German. You know, when I moved to Germany and I had to learn German, I had learned a little bit of German before in the Goethe Institute in Córdoba where I was living back then. Argentina, Córdoba, Argentina, not Córdoba, Spain. And when I moved to Germany, I basically had to learn German from scratch and that was, you know, a great experience for me too. First of all, obviously learning German is very difficult for, you know… It must be terrifying, isn’t it? German is not very accepting of little issues in their language. They think it’s terrible. I mean, I think it’s emotionally… It’s not that they want to be mean to other people, they just… They feel… If they hear improper German, they feel bad. And it’s not… It’s like an immediate pain that they have. It’s like an emotional pain that they can’t shake. Right. So I, you know, I put a lot of effort in learning German and, you know, I became very good at it. And by doing it, basically you learn a different way of thinking, right? And there is all this research about the relationship between language and cognition, right? And which one is the chicken and which one is the egg? I’m not an expert on that, but there is… I mean, in my experience, certainly that is something that you learn to think in a different way, right? And there is this… I don’t know if you watch this fantastic movie called Arrival about, you know, aliens coming to Earth. And basically this scientist, the main character in the movie, learns the language of the aliens. And by learning that language, she basically starts to see the future because of some characteristics of that language that made her, you know, give her that ability, right? And that is so… I found that so fascinating because that indeed is the way… So if you start thinking in a different way because you’re using a different language, that completely changes your ability, right? And German, as you… Perhaps that’s something that you don’t even know because that’s your mother tongue, right? But because oftentimes in secondary sentences, you put the verb at the end, right? So basically you have to plan the entire sentence in your head before you start talking about it because it’s not like you start with the verb and then you… So it actually changes the way you think. And for me, that was fascinating, so… Yeah, it’s very similar in Russian. So if you speak proper Russian, it’s like playing chess. You’re not just planning out the sentence, you’re planning out the whole paragraph before you even start with the first word. And they all have to be in perfect sync and six tenses. And it’s… I don’t know how many conjugations, like 11 or 12, it’s a nightmare in terms of grammar. But if you know how to do it properly, it’s like math. Like there’s a lot of… It’s like almost like AI, you predict where something is going to be in the next paragraph and then you change your language. So it’s not… And I think German is somewhere along those lines. It’s often more specific in… I think it’s a very great specific language. It’s a great engineering language. So if you’re an engineer, then German is awesome because you can just combine these words and it works perfectly. But if you want to think about the big picture, it’s not that great because you’re losing that amount of specificity when you think about the future, which often doesn’t have words yet. So it’s not great for that, I always felt. Maybe the alien language would be better. You have to decide for this, maybe some Klingon. So if you compare… If you take two magazines, say, I don’t know, Der Spiegel in Germany and The Economist in the UK, and you take basically the same article, they would both address the same issue about politics or economy or whatever. And typically, that would serve over and over and over again. The Economist would be one page, and Der Spiegel would be two pages. It is more or both. Yeah, it is more or both, the same as French, right? But I think most of the English languages are terms… Excuse me. …really geared towards a certain purpose. So they give you an idea of what do you use this for in order to change the future, so to speak, right? But German doesn’t have that. It’s more like, where does it come from? What is the most specific word we can combine, like six nouns into one? You know, the Landschaftschutz, because that goes further. It goes further. I’m bad at this. I’ve lost most of it, anyway. But you have… One thing that I noticed, the typical entrepreneurship career is you come out of a big company, then you start your own business, then this business eventually becomes big, if you’re lucky enough, or if you’re good enough, and then you become a VC, an entrepreneur in residence, become a VC, eventually retire, and then maybe start a podcast or write a book. You did it in a slightly different way, right? You started with Daimler, then you went to become a VC, then you became a private equity investor, and now you’re an entrepreneur managing the company you own a good amount of shares in, right? Yes. So I had the fortune of having kind of different careers in the course of my life, and I think for our generation, my generation, our generation, that is rather the exception than the rule, but I think that that is something that my son’s generation that will become the rule. And for me, it was… I started as an engineer, I have a PhD in engineering, computer science, and I worked for technology, developing technology with Mercedes Benz and Airbus. And then, during the boom, the tech boom in the late 90s, more by accident than design, I started to get interested in the venture capital world, and I found it so fascinating and I understood… I thought that coming from the technology world I realized how much finance plays a role in influencing the direction in which technology evolves, right? It moves, because you had, at the end of the 90s, all these venture capital funds investing in new technologies, mobile technologies, internet, and so on and so forth, and in that way, giving them… giving young companies the financial means to basically unfold their business plans and ultimately some of them ended up changing the world, right? So I found that very fascinating and started reading about venture capital. To be honest, I had no clue about finance. So I was a typical engineer, I knew how to program, I knew technologies, but I didn’t really understand finance. So I started reading and buying books about venture capital, private equity, finance, how to read a balance sheet and stuff like that. And I did that as a hobby, basically, because I was so fascinated by it. And at some point, I started thinking, well, actually, if I like this so much, and in my spare time, I read about these new startups and so on, why not try to work for venture capital? And I got lucky with the timing, because it was 1998, 1999. A lot of people were… A lot of funds were looking for candidates that had a technology background. And I had a strong technology background, and I just tried my luck. And I started sending CVs to different funds and ended up, to my surprise, getting multiple offers and joined a VC fund in Hamburg, Germany. And that’s how we got to know each other, right? Because you were looking for funds for one of your startups. I pitched you somewhat unsuccessfully. I think you were happy with it, but the rest of the firm didn’t like it as much, right? If I remember it correctly. That was the case. I was fascinated because of my… Travelling has always been one of my passions. So… And obviously, your business idea was related to travel. And so I found it fascinating. But I could not convince my partners to invest in your startup. They were tough. They were tough. I remember those meetings. They were fun. They were like very skeptical. It’s… That’s a good comparison. It’s just a tough audience. Kind of like a YouTube audience, where you get like a ton of dislikes and a ton of comments that where you’re like filled. Well… But I think they were smart. They had the right questions. They just came from a very different point of view. The VC industry itself in Germany hasn’t… I think it disappeared, right? Kind of when you left in 2010, most of the VC funds in Germany closed up shop. And maybe that’s because of you. And they never said you left. But I felt like the biggest problem… And we see this in the US now, so maybe Germany was just ahead. We saw this in fundraising for most VC funds, which was from what I’ve seen, you know, better, was very sluggish. And it’s just the general expectation of what do you do with these startups? Where will they go? There wasn’t any public market anymore, because that kind of faltered in the early 2000s or the mid 2000s. And there wasn’t like a blueprint that we had here in the US for quite some time. There was a 10 year fund that had a certain awry and that worked with a bunch of venture firms, not just a few. And I’m not sure this model… I kind of feel like the VC model itself is broken in the US, because what happened is we have these unicorn exits that I always feel is kind of an insider deal between a couple of VCs here, SoftBank, which uses money from the Japanese post system that has been printed by the central bank, props those up kind of as a pipeline deal. And then they go IPO, they rip off the shareholders, and then they kind of disappear these companies. I always feel that it’s a little… Well, it maybe sounds a little cynical, but what I felt is missing, and the question you could ask the question, is it ever sustainable? But I think what’s happening with Nassim Taleb is describing his entrepreneurship. So literally the individual entrepreneur who puts up his own money, who puts up his own knowledge and his own reputation, puts that against the business plan, because for some reason the person wants to believe in this or does believe in it, and executes for a couple of years and then these things take off. Some of them go IPO, some of them go nowhere, probably most of them go nowhere, but it’s a very different risk profile and way to handle a business, like a family business, you can say the Chinese style family business, that eventually moves into an IPO one day, not the state controlled Chinese enterprises, but the traditional Chinese way of investing. I think there’s a lot to it. It grounds people into reality, it has a lot of societal impact, so I think it’s really positive. And I think we’ve lost this, and we’ve lost this especially in the VC market that maybe never wanted this, but for a while I think was part of that market. Do you feel the same or do you think VC is still really going strong? You touched on many things there, and I think that first and foremost, the model of the entrepreneur, building a company and building new businesses, disrupting the sector in which they work, creating new opportunities and creating jobs, is clearly a success model. And the countries or the regions, the areas that have been good at creating a good environment for entrepreneurs have become successful. So I think that that is very, very clear. That’s a forgotten lesson to do. That doesn’t show up in any mainstream discussion for the last 10 years anymore, strangely enough. That seems obvious, right? But I feel it’s behind closed doors, people still say that, but that’s not happening. I don’t want to say the world mainstream media, but say a lot of media wouldn’t touch that notion anymore. Yeah, I mean, if you think of the great successes of the last decade or so, I mean, Facebook was, you know, I think they started in 2006 or something like that, and 14 years hence is one of the largest companies in the world. Whether it’s, you know, they’ve done something good for humanity or not is very debated at the moment. But, you know, at least at the beginning, you know, this thing of connecting people was clearly something very positive. So, and then there’s been the developments of the, you know, that you mentioned, the Vision Fund by SoftBank, which have distorted valuations and created expectations where, you know, that alignment of interest, that skin in the game that you referred to earlier, Nassim Nikola Stadeb, from Stadeb’s, right? has been, in a way, distorted. And the fiasco of WeWork, this portfolio company from SoftBank or Vision Fund, has basically made the point, right, that they have taken the whole thing too far, and the basic advantages of startups and entrepreneur driven companies has been lost along the way because of, you know, the insetting schemes moved away from, you know, the way it should be. So… Yeah, the whole system has become very fragile. That’s kind of his latest notion, kind of saying the same thing. But the monopolies that have started out, and I think, you know, Peter Thiel’s thesis that you want to start a monopoly or you shouldn’t start a business, I think it doesn’t just sound cool. I think it makes a lot of sense from an entrepreneurial perspective. But typically, these monopolies are on a timer. So they go on, you build them, initially you don’t have one, then you’re going to create one, and then they go away. But some of these, the internet monopolies, they get bigger by the day, they don’t go away. This seems to be the opposite happening. The same is true for Intel. Well, do they have a little more competition these days? But for 30, 40 years, there wasn’t any. That’s kind of a strange phenomenon. You would feel that the amount of change that we see and the time frame of progress that has sped up, you should see monopolies coming up, yes, but they should also falter as quickly as they came around. But that doesn’t seem to happen, and I think that really bothers people. Yes, and that is a very strong discussion we’re having at the moment in terms of whether those companies should be broken up, right, that have become de facto monopolies. And whether antitrust should be forced in a more, in a way that protects the consumer as they should. I feel the market should take care of this. I mean, antitrust might be a good idea, but it’s going to be messy and very bureaucratic, and I’m not sure people get it right the first time or the first couple of times they do it. But I’m surprised that these market forces haven’t taken care of this. And I’m trying to find a way to see, and this is kind of where I’m at, is that the notion and the drive to create entrepreneurship, that’s kind of being eradicated or has dropped so much. Obviously, there was a euphoria in the 90s, and that was not sustainable. But the demand for entrepreneurs, I think, is as low now as ever in society as a whole, I put it this way. And that’s kind of true globally. I mean, obviously, there’s places in the world that are still very entrepreneurial. But then I wouldn’t blame this on COVID. COVID is more like a symptom of this whole thing than it is on the cost. I mean, I think that you’re referring to the fact that because of the market power of these big tech giants, that has created a disincentive for entrepreneurs. Is that what you’re referring to? Because otherwise, I think that the… Innovation has slowed down because of the monopoly power. So the big argument is always, well, you cannot be unhappy with Google because everything is free for pretty much everyone. So they give us new stuff and it’s free, and you cannot be unhappy about this because you can’t make it any cheaper. But what people don’t realize is that advertising is so expensive and unaffordable for most startups. So we’ve been seeing out a lot of stuff that should have come out the last 20 years, the last 10 years especially, that never made it to the user because nobody has the money Uber had access to where he could literally give everyone on the planet $100 and free rides. And then they still have 100 billion left or 50 billion left. And that’s been a huge barrier of entry. It’s primarily the way that you can reach for very low cost, obviously for a limited time, you can reach out to potential customers. And there has always been a marketing innovation. I think in the 90s, it was just simply media hype. And then we got cheap SEO and cheap SEM. And then that was followed by social media and Facebook, which actually helped get the word out because all these startups, as you said earlier, it’s kind of useless to have good technology if you don’t have the financial power. And I think even more importantly, the marketing power to get to your customers, they’re completely useless. They will never know and they have no chance of knowing about you. And I feel this is where, from my perspective, the crux lies is that the marketing power is unaffordable to most entrepreneurial ventures. But I mean, there are lots of niches which are left behind by the tech giants that can be taken advantage by entrepreneurs, such as yourself, right? Take a look at your company, Mighty Troubles. I’m a subscriber there. I think that you’re doing a great job addressing the niche of people that are looking to travel in style on a budget, right? And you’ll find fantastic offers. And that is something that obviously I can go and check Google’s flights as well. But the way you pack it and the way you search for those great deals is unique. And you have created a very nice niche for yourself, which is, I think, sustainable. And Google is not going to come up to you there, right? So… No, I don’t think so. But the question is, how do we get to… Netflix has 200 million subscribers, or at least registered users. I don’t know how many actually pay. And you want to get to a few million relatively quickly. And this is like a societal rollout. It’s like all these things we heard about in the 90s. Some of them we finally have now, like video conferencing, a podcast. But as a technology, they’ve been around for 20 years. And we still work with the same terminals. It’s very similar to the late 80s of technology. But the rollout through society, I think, is lagging. And that could be societal adoption, people are just lazy. Or it could be that marketing has been harder than before. So I’m not saying it’s impossible. I just feel technology could make a much quicker rollout than what we see right now. And that’s kind of the big stagnation that predates that. That’s from the 70s, where we don’t have the productivity growth. We should see with this acceleration of technology that’s clearly there. There is a piece of technology that’s doubling every 18 months of semiconductor power that drives so many core innovations. But societal impact has been relatively slow outside of the core semiconductor software and finance industry, which is odd. And I’m still trying to find out why that is. I don’t have an answer either. I think nobody has. But the lack of niche entrepreneurship of things that happen in the year area of expertise and that you push forward is something that should be much bigger. And some countries do better. Some countries have trouble with that. Yeah. We… So do you feel venture capital will come back? We talked about it a little bit. But do you think venture capital as a model of financing these ventures will make a comeback? Or will it kind of go the other way? I have the sense that there’s a lot of new hotspots which are coming up in different parts of the world. Whilst 10 years ago, 15 years ago, venture capital was a thing of mostly the US and to a much lesser extent Europe. In the meantime, you have a lot of venture capital funds which are focused on their particular market. For instance, here in Dubai, we’re unbased. When I moved to Dubai 12 years ago or so, there was nothing that would resemble an ecosystem of venture capital. There were no venture capital investors. There were barely any startups that you could consider startups in the tech space or… Obviously, you have a lot of entrepreneurs here and a lot of trade taking place and so on, but not the type of companies that venture capital funds would like to invest in. And also, there were no exits, right? So no funds, no startups, no targets, and no exits. This is 12 years ago. Meantime, we have a… I would say a couple of handful of funds which are small funds but are quite active. We have a very buzzing startup scene. Dubai has become, in the Middle East, the place to be. If you want to start a company, kind of a techie type of company, mobile, internet, services, products, these kind of things, you would typically come to Dubai to do it. And we’ve had a couple of large exits, right? For instance, the local Middle Eastern Uber, called Karim, was acquired by Uber for a couple of billion dollars. The local Amazon, so to say, called, also bought by Amazon. And there were a couple of very, very high profile exits in the region. So that ecosystem that didn’t exist 10 years ago clearly exists today. And I hear that same thing at a much larger scale is going on in India, is going on in China. And at the smaller scale is also going on in smaller markets, say Bangladesh or Sri Lanka, or the Stans. You have a VC community which has come up over the course of the last 10 years. So that is something that is actually very promising. Yeah, that sounds really exciting. That’s something you won’t hear so much about. I don’t have any exposure to it, personally, I have to say. Do you think Dubai is a city development, but also as a societal development or as an experiment? I would say we still don’t know how it’s going to play out. Do you feel we could use it as a blueprint somewhere else? You know, the idea of creating, obviously, well funded, but there is an overhang of money in many countries, Japan, Germany, the US, China, lots of savings that are not, somehow not being reinvested, or are less reinvested, then let’s put it this way, then maybe in the 70s, isn’t there a future model where we say, we built this model of charter cities, we go into places for whatever reason, maybe it’s the culture, it’s your restriction, it’s the laws, it’s climate, whatever it was, development hasn’t really taken hold. And we create a place like Dubai, kind of like, you could say it’s a Singaporean model also, you create something in the middle of nowhere and have a certain vision combined or set aside that comes along with it, that obviously is different than the environment has been. So far, Dubai is very different than Saudi Arabia and it’s similar, but it’s very different in terms of how liberal it is and how it drives development on a large scale and then reinvests in those. Do you think that’s a model that can be taken, not just a venture capital, but just as a city development or as a development of a new jurisdiction and taken to different countries or there can only be one Dubai in the Middle East and one Singapore in Asia? I think it’s the latter, Torsten, because basically the model is to be, in a way, a safe haven. The model is to be what Switzerland is for Europe, what Panama has become for Central America, what Uruguay, to a less extent, is for South America, what Hong Kong is for China, what Singapore is for South Asia. So a place where it has a stable government, a respectful rule of law and a tradition to respect the rule of law, a place that is business friendly and in the case of Dubai, that doesn’t apply to or to apply differently in the other examples that I mentioned before, but in the case of Dubai, to a large extent tax free, at least when it comes to income taxes. We don’t have income taxes here. We have other kind of taxes, corporate taxes and fees for a number of things, but otherwise no income taxes. So that creates, that is a huge magnet for entrepreneurial spirit. If you can’t come to a place where you have a respectful rule of law, it’s predictable, there is an ease of doing business and the money that you make ends up in your pocket, as opposed to in the government’s pockets, that is an extremely attractive proposition. I can see immigration also, perhaps, right? Yeah, yeah, yeah. That is part of the ease of doing business and I’ll tell you a story to that in a second, but what you also need is to be surrounded by other countries which don’t have that, right? And that creates, so to say, that uniqueness, because if everybody else would be Dubai, nobody would come here, right? And this country is, I mean, Dubai is not a country, the country is the United Arab Emirates and Dubai is an emerald within one of the seven emeralds that make up the UAE. And so Dubai has around about 3 million people, has a reputation that clearly punches above its weight. You have in China, I don’t know how many, perhaps 100 cities which are bigger than Dubai, but nobody has ever heard of them, at least on the left side of the world, so to say. Well, we know about Wuhan now. And what did we do? I went to Wuhan in May last year and I thought it’s a stunning city. It’s something futuristic that people don’t seem to appreciate at any point now or before or past the pandemic. It has the hypermodern tunnels, it has these futuristic bridges, it has highways snaking around skyscrapers, there’s hundreds of skyscrapers, and they’re all bright new, they all literally didn’t exist three years ago. And I thought I was stunned by well developed, many parts of Wuhan where, and I think it’s 15, 20 million people, it’s a ginormous city, it’s like New York City that no one has ever heard of. It doesn’t have a huge service economy, which is generally the issue in most of China, but otherwise those are magnificent cities. Amazing, so you’re just giving me a tip when I have time, that’s something that I’m looking forward to do. And my wife and I would love to do is to travel through China, we’ve been to China a couple of times, but you end up going to, say, Shanghai and Beijing and that’s it. And the country is so large and diverse that I would love to take the time to travel through China. And I guess that Wuhan would be a fantastic destination in the sense, especially in the next year or so, to get value for money there, because I bet there won’t be many tourists. Yes, I don’t think so either, no. I mean, it’s kind of like going to Chernobyl, right? You go to the epicenter, it’s like the dark tourism, and you want to see the lava coming out of that volcano. Right, right, right. It’s an odd beast, right? For a traveler, it’s a tough place to be. It’s just not very welcoming, let’s put it this way. It’s brand new and it’s often, it’s a very modern place, but it’s not welcoming to anyone. I think this is not a buck, this is a feature. Yeah, exactly, yeah. Well, so, coming back to the story of Dubai and the fact that it’s become a safe haven, right, if you are, say, an entrepreneur or a wealthy person in the country surrounding, say, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Yemen, all the way to Russia, the Stans, even India, and Pakistan, you know, probably you could count 30, 40 countries in our vicinity, oh, I completely forgot, Africa, if you take, you know, the entire North Africa or East Africa, you know, say a couple of hours flights from Dubai. There’s a lot of economies which are very unstable, right, which have had a history of booms and busts and political instability and lack of respect for private property and volatility in terms of their legal system. So if you come from one of those countries and you have made money there, you would be crazy to keep your entire wealth in that country because, you know, things go wrong, right, and what you need to have if you come from one of those countries is you need to have a plan B. You need to have, you know, ideally part of your wealth somewhere else. And historically, that has been the role of, say, Switzerland for many Arab countries because of the traditional links, historical links with the United Kingdom. Many people would say, you know, would want to buy a flat in London and have a bank account in London and in the UK and, you know, have their money there. Some other countries have a bigger affinity to the US. They would go to, you know, wealthy people would take their money to the US and have their bank accounts in the US or property in the US. That changed significantly after 9 11, where the banking system, first in the US and then in Europe as well in the UK, became very weary of international money, money going around. You know, might have been legal money, but, you know, all the KYC regulations that were introduced and so on and so forth, and also culturally, right? If, let’s say you are an Arab and you would traditionally have either bought property in the US or in the UK, and all of a sudden, you’re not welcome anymore. You know, I’m perhaps exaggerating and putting it in black and white, and that’s not the case in most cases, but you don’t feel welcome anymore after 9 11. So what do you do, right? What is the alternative? And Dubai has become the alternative. So that instead of buying your properties in London, now you buy a property in Dubai and you take your money to Dubai, right? I agree with you, but isn’t that a bit of a secondary effect? So, you know, something that is like 9 11, we might have a similar event with China in the next 10 years, where you say you can’t predict it, but it might be 30 years until that happens or it might never happen, might be China is going to be everyone’s best buddy again. In 10 years from now. So what I was hoping and I mean, Dubai’s success is, you’re absolutely right. It seems to happen over time in pretty much any sector they touch. And you were saying earlier that it can only be a success because the other countries are pretty crappy, or they are at least more crappy than Dubai. The question is, but that’s very relative, right? So if you think about Hong Kong 100 years ago, it was probably a crappy place, but it was less crappy than China. And there is a differential, certainly, that you need in order to pull this off, but it’s a moving target. So is there is there room? And you said earlier, kind of, no, but I was feeling there is more room for, you know, Rwanda that kind of tries to get to the same place now in Africa. And it might be in the Ghana that actually gets there too. So relatively small places, but they, I don’t know, maybe it’s locked, maybe it’s just sheer determination, get into a similar vibe. And I think the money that Dubai had to beforehand to put at this, I think, helps. But often the conviction of people who are steering this place, the respect for the rule of law, the way they support entrepreneurship, this is actually more important. So you, what I’m trying to say is you could pull this off into Congo if you have the right mindset, without a ton of capital. Definitely. And I didn’t want to imply that this is it, right? That, you know, in 50 years time, we look back and, you know, there won’t be any other stories like this. What I wanted to imply is that, obviously, you know, let’s say there are 200 countries in the world, you can’t have 200 device. You can only have a handful or two handfuls of those kind of safe havens because that, per definition, it is required in order to be a safe haven, you require to have, you know, a vicinity neighbors, which are less attractive than you are, right? But that’s a bit of a zero sum game. I feel like we can grow that pie, you know, the world has come a long way since Malthusian made this argument that if you have more people, everyone’s going to die because we’re just going to clean the trees and eat all the leaves. That didn’t happen because we have this huge boom in productivity. And that is driven in my mind by the family style entrepreneur, not necessarily only, but this is a big contribution. It’s this idea of everyone wants to be an entrepreneur and sees this as a big contribution to a society or a small contribution, but it becomes a big contribution over time because it raises up productivity. And then the development model, I felt that Dubai has a special interest. I don’t think it needs to be that all the other countries around it make it special. It’s just, and that special sense of it allows where we’re way less freedoms than you would expect for a liberal place, coming from Europe or the US these days, but it reduces your personal freedoms like Singapore did, outlines away. How much is it through for 20 years and then hope it works? It’s somehow stable, something that you can’t say about the US anymore. Well, at least not on a superficial level. Right. It’s an interesting debate. And I heard one of your previous podcasts, I think it was with Chris, where you touch upon that tension that you have between development on the one hand and freedom on the other and, you know, to what extent, you know, if you don’t have development, so if people are poor, to what extent that ends up limiting the freedom, right? So it’s a very interesting debate. And, you know, I feel, obviously, the definition of freedom is, I guess, personal. And what is important for you might not be important for me. And so I… There is a fascinating thesis that some people came up with, and they said the total amount of freedom everywhere you go in the world is basically the same. And I was like, are you crazy? You go to China? It just can’t be true. But, you know, if you go and look at the average life of most Chinese, they’re not as limited as you might think they are. Yes, they can’t have open criticism of their political system, but there’s a lot of, you know, under the carpet criticism and a lot of local criticism that you can easily voice. There’s a ton of freedom in more personal aspects of their life that you can’t enjoy in the US. There’s, for instance, you can smoke wherever you want. I mean, I’m not a smoker, I don’t like smoking, but there is a ton of freedom allowed in places you wouldn’t expect it. So it kind of grows on me as an argument that the total amount of freedom is very similar wherever you go, because it’s something built into the deep parts of the brain. You search for this freedom. If you don’t get it in certain avenues, say political or say economic, you find it in others. Now, this might not actually grow the company economically, but it still gives you a life you’re happy with. Well, 100%, that’s a fascinating discussion, and, you know… Exclusion needs it, right? Exactly, yeah, yeah, yeah. So if I… Just to give you a stupid example from today, this morning I went to the beach, right? And I live in Dubai, we have a beautiful beach here, and so we have probably the best infrastructure in the world, at least that I’m aware of in a city. So, you know, I can jump into my car, and within a couple of minutes, I am right at the beach. If I lived in a country with a very bad infrastructure, I might be not far away from the beach as I am, but I wouldn’t be able to get there, right? So I would have… Even if it’s not forbidden to go to the beach, right? But the fact that we have a great infrastructure here enhances my freedom, right? And that is something that, you know, has to be counted some way, and yes, you know, here the UAE is a monarchy, and, you know, whilst we have, by and large, freedom, there are certain topics that, you know, are not welcomed, that people discuss in public, right? So as long as you adhere to that, you’re fine, and then you can enjoy the fact that, you know, we have a fantastic infrastructure which enhances my freedom, right? So it’s indeed a complicated equation, and ultimately, it’s, you know, the weightings in each one of these thousand factors that flow into that equation are very personal. Yeah, yeah, I mean, the US obviously has a strong focus on political freedom and the freedom of speech, which I think are great values, but you pay the price in other avenues that the US just hasn’t delivered a lot of freedom. Do it has got more free, I feel. So I think the general direction of most countries is the same. They allow more freedom, which is only good because if you have more variability in this, people can develop in a way that it’s useful to society or useful to someone around them. So there is no, hopefully, there is no way back into the dark ages that people now predict with COVID. That’s, you know, a lot of personal freedoms have been extremely restrictive. In California, you can’t go out after 10 p.m. and for a while, we couldn’t go anywhere, and all the, most of the businesses that involve any kind of social interaction have been closed for a long time. That is a very strict policy, very similar to what happened in Melbourne. We’re very similar, we’re a little less enforcement here because nothing is really enforced. But it is something where you feel like this keeps going, this whole place is going to be in trouble. And, you know, it’s always 15 days and these 15 days turn into 15 months and then they turn into 15 years. That’s kind of the fear that people have that might not be true, but it would be a striking reversal to this policy of like everything’s getting a little more free over time. Right. Let’s hope it doesn’t happen. Well, one more thing that we’re struggling with here in the U.S., and I know you might have an answer there, is education. We have this policy in the U.S. especially in the coastal states and cities, is that we throw a lot of money in education. And I looked up the numbers, New York is now at $26,000 per year per student. That includes kindergarten, so this is not necessarily high school. This is kindergarten and K to 5 up to high school. That’s an average. I’m stunned by that figure. It’s a little lower here on the West Coast, somewhere around $15,000 per year per student. I find this a crazy number, it’s given how effective, especially primary education, can be at a low level, at least I feel, at a low level of investment. And just having good teachers, having good values in the education system, and having a way for people to evolve out of, like putting up challenges, not underestimating what even younger kids are able to do. What do you think is the future of private education? How does that work for your startup? Well, first of all, I think that it is a clear trend in many, many different countries in the world, notably emerging markets, but all over the world, you have a very strong trend whereby the private sector is gaining market share from the state sponsored education sector. So, I looked at multiple countries, and I’ve worked in multiple countries in private education, and the picture has been pretty much, it’s very similar in many countries, in many countries in Africa, many countries in Asia, Latin America as well, where, if you look at the pie of education schools in that country, and many of those countries that I looked into, the pie 20 years ago was 99% of students would be attending state schools, and 1% would go to private schools. And you look at it 10 years later, 10 years ago, and that 1% grew to, say, 5%, and you look at it last year, and that 5% would have grown to 10%. So, basically, over the course of, say, 20 years or so, the market share went up 10x. And that is on the back of the sad fact that state sponsored education in many, many countries has been a disaster. And that, typically, in turn, is connected with the fact that schools, or the education sector in general, but specifically schools, has become a kind of a political playground for politicians to get votes and give favors to either direct it to people or through unions. And when you have unions that are strongly involved in the education space, you inevitably, unfortunately, that is the case. This is not a judgment call on the merits of unions, but I’m just looking at the reality, at the outcomes. What you end up with is that in the equation between the interest taking into, you have different stakeholders, obviously, as in every other sector, and you have the teachers, you have the students, you have the parents, and society at large, and you end up, the question is, is the student the ultimate objective and the focus of the efforts of the entire sector and the outcomes of the students? Or is the sector ending up as a job production machinery for teachers, which are protected by the unions and are not being made accountable to the outcomes of students? So that situation has been, I’ve seen it in country after country after country, and obviously parents realize that and they see that the outcomes are suffering, so that the future of the children is compromised because of the entire system prioritized the interest of the teachers instead of the interest of the students. And that has led to parents voting with their feet and their pockets and saying, you know what, I’d rather send my child to a private school that will prioritize the educational outcomes of my son or daughter, as opposed to those from other stakeholders in the system. So that is basically the trend in many, many countries, you could almost say worldwide, and that has led to a strong trend, a strong growth of private education and private schools. And that, you know, when you think of private schools in, say in Europe, sometimes I guess in the US, you typically, you get the sense of, or you get the aftertaste of that being something for elites, something which is very expensive. But it doesn’t have to be like that. In fact, there’s been, in Africa and Asia, there’s been a gigantic trend for low cost private education. And you have, you know, in many places, schools that cost, you know, say a dollar a day, right? So this is very, very basic schools. It’s not the school that would have a swimming pool or a great sports hall, but it would be just the basic, very basic. But parents are actually paying for those schools, as opposed to sending them to the free state sponsor schools, because those schools are getting better outcomes. So, yeah. So I guess that is something that is very, very interesting. When you create a sense of accountability, then outcomes go up, right? And when there is no accountability, outcomes suffer. So… I fully agree. I mean, I fully agree with the sentiment. The obvious issue that I always find, and I hope you have a metric to solve this, is that schools, especially in the U.S., have been, maybe not just in the U.S. everywhere. Education is measured as an input. It’s very difficult to measure the output. And we had standardized tests, which kind of helped that along a little bit to give you an idea about what is the output in a specific field. The problem is that these tests are developed, and then they’re going to linger around for 20, 30 years. The skills that is measured in these tests have been important 20 years ago, but are not important anymore, at least from what we now anticipate the future is. So it’s not a very flexible model in that sense that you… And I think schools in general, state run schools, are not a very flexible model because they give you a certain curriculum that was true when the baby boomers were around. And these baby boomers had a very secure career path. You would go to high school, you would go to college, you would send out a couple of CVs, start an entry level position, you do a decent job, not a terrible job, and you have a house, three children, and two cars. And that was kind of guaranteed, as long as you could screw up and become a criminal in the meantime. But if you don’t screw up completely, this was not… This was the average outcome of 90% of the people. That isn’t true anymore, as we know. The whole boomer society model might come back, but it’s kind of gone, nobody can afford houses anymore, and most developed markets. It’s maybe still true in developing markets, like India, but in the developed markets, this is over, because simply there’s not enough productivity growth. You have less money than your parents for most young people, and that’s going to be true until at least 40 or 45. So maybe it’s because we live so much longer. But what I think is the problem is the measuring of output. Universities were a little bit better, because they could obviously, on average, our graduates make that much money, and if you graduate from this college, you’ve got to make that much money, too. There was little bogus in the first place, and it’s kind of falling apart now, but it’s a little bit better, a measure of output. So I’m curious what measure of output you would apply to private schools, especially. Yeah, that’s a great question. And there is no… no perfect answer to that, to my knowledge. And in terms of standardized testing, the… obviously, the standardized tests have their flaws. And it’s difficult to measure things such as creativity out of a standardized test. And things like creativity, as you alluded to, are going to play a more and more important role going forward, when AI and robots will not… in the not too distant future, start taking over more and more areas of the economy, right? And so that everything that is repeatable and can be learned by an algorithm will soon or later be replaced by a machine. And creativity is something that, you know… at least not in the near future, will not be able to be replicated by a machine. So I’ve had some experience in looking at the different… the way different countries approach the curricula, what is taught to children. And I’m actually a big fan of the International Baccalaureate, which is a curriculum that was developed in the 60s by an international organization called the IBO, the International Baccalaureate Organization, originally for sons and daughters of diplomats that would move from country to country, taking their children with them, and they would want to have a standard curriculum where if they move from one country to the other, ideally they can attend an IP school in the new country and they could seamlessly transfer from one school to the other. As opposed to when you go to, say, a French school and then move to a German school or the other way around, you know, it’s very difficult. There’s always a kind of… a friction in each one of those transfers that ends up being detrimental for the students. So that was created with that concept and has developed a very… you know, a curriculum which stimulates the… what I think are skills of the future and fosters those skills, which… so instead of learning by heart as, you know, old school, literally old schools would do, and, you know, in the times past, when basically the access to information was difficult, right? So information was scarce and because of that, you needed to press as much knowledge into your head because you needed to have that information handy to potentially take decisions in the future. So that led to all this national education curricula focused on the acquisition and the storage of information. And that obviously has radically changed over the course of the last, in particular, 20 years, right? Where today, basically, information is readily available from anywhere in a very easy way. Could be… certainly could be further improved, but it’s fantastic that today you can ask Siri about pretty much any question that you have and you’re likely to find a response somewhere in the internet. So that the access to information is no longer the main issue. But rather, the A, the judgment whether the information that you’re receiving comes from reliable sources, whether that information is tainted by some agendas, and whether there are different points of views that need to be considered as part of the same question that you have, right? So that kind of checking of sources and determining different vantage points for the same question are basically part of the core of what you’re teaching children. You’re not teaching children what was the year of the French Revolution or teaching them, giving them information, but you’re teaching them how to find information, how to make judgment calls about the quality of the information, how to find different perspectives, and then to take a decision out of that process, basically. So you’re teaching them how to make decisions, how to be creative, how to confront the situation for the first time, and then be able to look for information that you need to take a decision in that particular context. So that is something that the International Baccalaureate curriculum does very well. I know it because I am in the field of education, but I also saw it in my own son who attended an IP school, and that is something that I find is the curriculum of the future. I feel like that’s definitely the challenge for a lot of students these days. I see it with my kids that have access to information and they can’t fathom reading any kind of source material. I think it’s been going on for the last 30 years, and you write that the amount of information that’s out there kind of replaces, if you can get it bias free, it replaces your own research. The only, I think this is the way to go for 99% of our future, but there is 1% left, and I think this is the 1% where you can become a true innovator and contribute to the society, is where you understand everything. So you’ve read all the source codes that are available. You’ve gone down to the atom of this problem, and you came up with something that is a unique solution. I have made this example now because I’ve been reading the source code and reading the Bible and related materials when reading the Quran, the New Testament, and I felt like everything I knew about religion, just reading this book, there’s a little bit of commentary to it, but mainly just reading the original text gave me an insight I would have never gotten otherwise. You can say, yeah, of course, you spend more time with it to get a better view, but I feel like there is a different connection that you get once you read the source material. And it’s many, many entrepreneurs and many of the most important scholars in the beginning of the 20th century, most of them were polymath, so they had a very deep experience, not just in one field or another, they looked really deep down into, and they knew all the facts, right? They did have memorized tons of facts. That’s probably where this idea came from, that we need to put so many facts in our brain, and they spent a lot of time in a couple of different fields, and then they put those things together and made a real impact. And I feel once the trouble is, and I understand that it’s impossible to digest all this information, but if as more we specialize, as more we give children just the ability to skim the headlines and then realize is this important or not, to kind of make a judgment call, make almost like a gut feeling call, should I know more about this or not? And most of the time it’s usually not, at least for my kids, they’re like, I can watch a YouTube video next week, and I know more than this whole book, because I don’t have to read, so leave me alone. And there is an argument to this, it’s much more efficient, but the trouble is you lose this ability to truly innovate if you don’t get down to the sources, and that requires a lot of brute learning, kind of like AI learns, where people don’t know that, but if you launch an AI like GPT3, what it does is it takes all the knowledge, all the data in its main memory, and then it computes it. That’s why there’s a memory and compute hungry. You can’t run an AI model with just half the dataset. Like it’s impossible, you need to put all the data in there and it needs to run in one main process, you can’t even paralyze it. Once the model is built, it’s very quick, it’s like an index, but while you’re learning, there’s no shortcut to the brute facts. I feel this is tough, and maybe there’s no other alternative, but most students today have no experience with ever going down to the source and then becoming an expert in that field, but not just in that field. I think it’s what real innovation is driven by, knowing a couple of different fields pretty well, and then you can make an impact because you just take it from one field to another and just use this piece of technology and help society adopt it. And that’s getting harder if you don’t know anything deeply down anymore. Yes, I 100% agree with you, and I totally, I don’t know if this is something… I haven’t read any statistics about the subject, but I totally have the feeling that because of the social networks and internet and the pervasiveness of all sorts of information, quote, unquote, or sources of destruction, that has led to, in particular, a younger generation say, our children’s generation to read much less than what our generation read, because we didn’t have so many distractions, if you will, right? And we didn’t have all these opportunities and options to find, say, kind of a reader’s digest in YouTube, in internet, in social networks where you don’t need to read the book anymore, you can just get a snippet of it, you know, the entire book in 10 minutes, and the main idea is given to you in a succinct way, right? And indeed, you lose, at the very least, all the nuances of the book, but in the worst case scenario, you lose the main learnings, because sometimes, or I guess that’s how the brain works, right? You need to make the effort to acquire the knowledge in a meaningful way so that you will be able to use it in the future. If you just watch a video, the level of engagement that you have is so low that you will probably lose that knowledge very fast. Yeah, our brain, I think, works just like in AI in that sense. It takes a ton of information that is very granular, that doesn’t have a meaning, and it kind of miles it through until you come up with a model where you feel like, oh, I’ve understood this. So when you read a long book, you don’t remember the text, you only remember three, four, five main points, it’s kind of the essence you take out of this, and that’s kind of what in AI does too, right? The model, once it’s built, it’s very quick and can reply immediately to a query. And what people realize is that building a model is quite a skill, like a brain needs to train that ability to build models. So brute force learning is crazy as it sounds. It gives you the need to come up with a model because you will just, well, at least eventually, because otherwise you just can’t function anymore. So you’ve got to come up with a way to compress this and come to a higher and higher level of abstraction using anecdotal evidence, using any kind of random data that you use to build this model in your mind. And that’s very similar to machine learning right now, and I guess this will only get better. But if we are just using the learning, so we could say, oh, we just make a model, a meta model. So we use different models from different people, just use them as kind of individual source of knowledge. I think that would work too. I think this is what’s probably the future, what it’s going to be. But in between, the trouble is, if you don’t realize that all the models look the same and nobody has ever seen the source, you get very quickly lost. It’s kind of like you have this culture, the Holy Roman Empire in the 9th century, and you’ve lost all the text from the original New Testament, and you lost all the text from the Greeks, and you’re like, hmm, we don’t know how we got here, but it’s better be right because that’s the only thing we know. I kind of feel like we are at the same level now, strangely enough, although we have so much information, it prevents us from figuring out these things that are important enough to go back to the source. And we end up with this one directional monoculture that is not helping to create the things we need, which is variability. We need a lot of people working on different things, so eventually the things that some of them will come through and make a huge impact. It’s a fascinating topic. And one story that I wanted to mention, which is tangentially connected to what we’re talking about, is there’s been a lot of progress in the last 10 years in particular in our understanding on how the brain actually works. With the aid of technology and imaging, computer imaging, at the very granular level of the brain, molecular level, there is, I mean, we are at the very beginning of that journey of understanding how the brain works, but it seems that we are getting snippets of revelations, which are absolutely fascinating. And I was reading recently about something called flash bulb memories. Have you heard of that? No, I haven’t. What’s that? Right, so a flash bulb memory is a memory created in an event that was kind of a shocking event, right? And that could be for you as a person, let’s say, the death of some close relative or an accident or something like that, or there are kind of societal, and those are particularly interesting because they can be analyzed in a kind of scientific way, societal flash bulb events. And these are things like, for instance, 911 or the explosion of the Challenger or the death of Lady Di or things that everybody remembers, right? If you were alive… Well, if you have Twitter, you won’t remember any of those, but yes, okay, I know where you’re coming from. Right, so basically, I’m sure if I ask you, do you remember where you were when you first heard what happened on 911? I’m sure you will still remember today, right, even though it’s almost 20 years ago. And you would remember probably you will have a detailed picture of what you did, how you reacted, how you felt when 911 was unfolding, right? And that’s basically… Everybody feels the same, and everybody has the sense that those memories are very accurate. And we tend to think of our memories as something like a hard drive. Our brain is a hard drive where a memory is stored for later retrieval in a kind of uncorrupted way. And in particular for 911, for other flash bulb events, they did it as well, but in particular for 911, they did this gigantic social experiment where basically immediately after 911, within a week or so, I don’t remember exactly, but immediately after, they got these testimonies from thousands and thousands of people asking questions such as, where were you, how did you find out, what did you do, how did you feel, things like that, right? And then they repeated the same questionnaire with the same people after a year, after two years, and after 10 years, and they keep on doing it. And listen to this. Roundabout… I don’t remember exactly the number, but let’s call it half of the memories were wrong. Initially, or just as an over time, as a progressive? Over time, in particular after the first year. And there were cases such as people that had written, hadn’t written the responses the first time around immediately after 911. And a year later, two years later, they would basically give a completely different response, and when confronted with their own handwriting from immediately after 911, they would look at it and say, I don’t know, yeah, this is my handwriting, but I don’t know why I wrote that. I must have lied, because I remember exactly what happened. Yeah, yeah. And so when I read about it, I mean, I kind of got goose skin, because I thought, oh my God, that means basically that most of my memories are actually corrupted. And what happens in the brain is that every time you retrieve, it’s not a hard drive, it’s not a digital device, that you read it, and then that doesn’t change, because it’s written in a stable substrate. It’s not like that. It is a little bit like Shorting and Scat, that once you observe it, once you read it, you bring it back from your memory into your conscious mind, and that apparently during our dreams, the function of dreams is to put memories in the long term memory, so to say, to transfer from short term memory to long term memory. And that process is corrupted by other experiences that you’ve had in that time. So when you recall a memory, and especially those traumatic memories are things that you recall very often, they come back to the present, and they get corrupted by the present. I think it’s called time slicing, where you end up confusing the chronology of the events, and you mix things from the present into that memory. And then the brain tries to smoothen things up and make a kind of a cohesive, coherent story out of it. And you end up with something that is your memory, and you might be highly confident about that being what happened, but that doesn’t have anything to do with what actually happened. Well, they say that when the Paul accident, or victims, people who have observed an accident, and then the victims, or while the investigation is going on, the Paul witnesses, and some most of the accounts, they say, are completely unreliable. And the problem is that the brain didn’t know that this isn’t an important thing that’s going on, saying a car accident is not important until the accident happens. Everything that went on before it is like everyday life and gets not memorized, gets completely filtered out. But as you realize later on that this was actually important, the brain tries to come up with a story that led to it, and that usually has to make sense, or it has to be coherent, that needs to be something that from your experience is something that could happen like this, because, I don’t know, people with that look like a race car, they drive too fast, and they drive recklessly. So if a race car is in a crash, you would assume it was too fast and ran into someone else, but you actually don’t know, but as a witness, because you always feel like it is an important event, and I want to help out, you have this strange desire, you make up stories that led up to the event, and maybe even after that, because suddenly this is important, and you feel like you know, but actually it wasn’t. And that is scary, I mean, I totally agree with you, the reliance on memory is shaky at best. And as it gets older, I fully agree, these memories, they also change in the way we perceive them emotionally. There might be a negative memory, but 20 years later, we feel like, oh, that wasn’t so bad, it was actually fun. And most of the really negative memories just disappear. There’s a lot going on that we don’t have a lot of control over, and someone put all these mechanisms in our brain, right? Someone designed all this, and we seem to be the only one on this planet who have that. No other animals seem, at least we can’t communicate if they have that same system. I find that strange that all the other apes and all the other mammals around us, none of them is even close to consciousness. I mean, some make some progress, they can use tools, but the level of consciousness that we have acquired in the last 30,000 years, they seem at least a few million years away from that. That’s really spooky when you think about it. You’re like, someone else helped that process a lot quite a bit, probably, or maybe it was just one big accident. Yeah. It works too well, right? The system is too well designed in genetically the last 30,000 years, since we have the first cave drawings. Maybe it’s 50,000 years ago, but I think the last time I saw the research was around 30,000 years ago, so that’s a clear sign of consciousness art. It’s not long enough to really change the genetic makeup that we have. It must have been the same more or less 30,000 years ago. This whole fine tuning of the brain, 30,000 years is not enough to put it in our DNA. It’s enough for knowledge that comes up, like cloud knowledge, culture, these things definitely shape us, but these core functions of the brain, they must have been there for a long, long time, and strangely enough, no other animal has it. That makes me really suspicious what happened there. It makes no sense. If we are so animalistic, why wouldn’t the animals have the same thing more or less now? Well, according to books such as a great book called Spark, from the author, John Rayty, or also there is another book called Born to Run by Christopher McDowell, and they both talk about the importance in evolution of, we are the only species that can run in two legs, and we are the only species that can run really long distances. And apparently, one of the keys to our survival and apparently sometimes, if you look at the genetic pool of mankind, apparently we go back to only very few individuals, right? Yeah, it’s one couple, so I did the DNA test, and they said there was one person, 27,500 years ago, and that is your mother and everyone else’s mother, and I’m like, okay, thank you very much. That’s not what I wanted to know, right? It makes you feel really weird. Yeah, and so apparently there was kind of a near extension event for Homo sapiens, and one of the things that helped us to survive was the fact that we could actually outrun a game, right? So there’s a lot of animals which can run much faster than what we can for short distances, but we are the only animal that can run a marathon, right? And apparently that has been a significant advantage in evolution, and in order to be able to run long distances, you need two things. You need a very complicated coordination machinery so that you’re able to keep the balance on one leg at a time and moving the way we move when we run, and so for that you need a lot of computational ability, i.e. a strong big brain, and second, you need a brain that is able to have a spatial orientation in a way that goes beyond long distances. So in the savannah, you would need to walk for long distances and then be able to, after a couple of days, come back to you where your tribe is with whatever you manage to hunt, and in order to have that spatial orientation and the ability to kind of map your environment in your head, you need significant computational abilities as well. So these two things combined apparently had led to an evolutionary advantage which would justify the cost of having such a costly brain that consumes a third or something like a quarter to a third of your daily calories, and that has all sorts of issues that the infant mortality is large because our brains are so big that the birth canal is too narrow for our heads and so on and so forth. So all these things generated a significant evolutionary advantage and had the great side effect that you can use the same instrument to do math. And so that ended up being, in a way, an accident of evolution that we ended up being these animals that can do math and can develop language and hence create memories that can be passed from generation to generation and in that way, significant. That’s a big step, saying because there’s a lot of other animals, they obviously don’t run as fast or don’t run as long, but there’s a lot of animals in the savanna that can almost do the same as running a marathon on forelegs, but they might only do 10 miles or 15 miles, but they know the territory, like lions, they know where they have to be in positioning to all the other lions in the area. And, you know, I mean, this is definitely an advantage, but saying that this pure, it’s quite a step to say, the ability to develop a spatial intelligence and move to consciousness, I think that’s, for me, that doesn’t add up, but I mean, we don’t know the story, there’s tons of other factors probably left. What I’m trying to refer to is Zechariah Sitchin, so I don’t know if you ever read him. It’s a fascinating book. Well, he obviously comes up with a science fiction story, but it sounds, when you look at it, it sounds much more plausible than the declarations we have to go through in the evolution of thinking that Marx’s big step, because it doesn’t seem like it would predict it. I suppose it would actually happen. Right, right. And the beautiful movie 2001 and Space Odyssey basically hints at that, right, that there is an intelligence, superior intelligence that goes from planet to planet, so to say, trying to nudge the evolution at just the right time and give that little push in the right direction for evolution to occur and to run its course into this higher way. So that’s indeed something that we probably will never know, how it actually happened. Yeah, hopefully our kids will figure out, one day there will be one of the things they teach you in primary school. One more thing, and that’s obviously one of the judgment calls, one of the hardest judgment calls to make, but I know you always had a great intuition for what comes next. What do you think is, as a business, but also as for the next 10 years, what do you think is the next big thing? What are stuff that we should all watch that are either undervalued or just so big that they’re going to take off in a way that we don’t anticipate right now? Oh, that’s a mean question. You got at this, you got at this. I have to say, I mean… You’re a capitalist, excellent capitalist. Clearly the pace of change is accelerating, right? And our ability to, because we have brains which have been kind of hard coded to linearly extrapolate, exponential processes are completely unnatural and unintuitive for us, right? So if you calculate compounded interest over a lifetime and you ask a normal person how much you think an interest rate of X will take you to in 50 years, the answers are completely off, typically, because you don’t have an intuitive understanding of compounding. And if you believe, I tend to like those frames of thoughts of people like Ray Kurzweil that says that we are approaching the point of singularity, where, you know, that acceleration that we’ve had through Moore’s law and through other, you know, positive feedback loops over the basically since the beginning of technology, right? But in particular in the last couple of decades, the ability to forecast how things actually turn out will become less and less effective, actually. So we have to be very humble about this and recognize that we are intrinsically unable to look far into the future, right? So, I mean, if you look at projections from, say, 50 years ago or so, or if you look at things… You better not look. That’s really the problem. Because we should have had flying cars and, well, you know, if I tell this to my kids, they’re like, what? They think the world without an iPad is stone age, but they realize that we had all these projections in the 70s and they were very linear, right? Because it changed so much in the 50s and 60s and then nothing happened since then outside of a few core industries. So that’s really depressing. So I better not look into those. I myself, right? I have to recognize… I was sitting right at the heart of it. I had my first email address in 1992. I was working in a research lab at the very beginnings of internet when Netscape became a worst thing. And I was right in the middle of it, right? And if you would have asked me back then, you know, that we can have a handheld device that basically has all the knowledge in the world accessible to it, I wouldn’t have been able to predict it, right? So it’s humbling. It is something that is, at the same time, so intellectually stimulating and interesting, but also so prone to errors that, you know, you can only say, I just need to keep an open mind and try to recognize things as they evolve, but be mindful that I simply won’t be able to get a good to hit ratio because these things are developing so fast, right? So that said, I think that what is going to happen, this is, you know, not only related to technology, but also a little bit of geopolitics. Clearly over the last couple of years, we’ve had a kind of a tech war going on in the world between mostly, you know, China and the US, but there’s been a side battle there with Europe as well, where, you know, the Europeans are looking at those tech giants and they are a legit invasion of privacy, personal privacy and so on, and the Europeans have clearly a completely different attitude to those things as the Americans, right? So, and you have in, we have lived in a world which clearly has benefited hugely from globalization and specialization, and basically we have become accustomed that things get created and produced in the place where it is most, you know, effective to do it or efficient to do it, and then parts cross borders from one place to the other and get assembled here, get another piece, get added here, and then the border gets crossed again and yet again and so on and so forth. And I think that this is clearly, this is a trend that is in a way reversing. The trend of globalization, with this trade war that we had pre COVID between the US and China, and the fact that technology is becoming more and more a geopolitical weapon. And if you look at the situation of China, China, you know, clearly, that is the Xi Jinping has mentioned that as one of the main priorities of the country for the next decade or five years, you know, they have these five year plans, and they want to become self sufficient in semiconductors, which is basically the only component where, so they have become, people say, through stealing intellectual property, extremely, you know, from being a nobody in the world, they seem to be right up there in different areas of technology, but right up there with the main technological powers of the world. And the one thing that they don’t have is a semiconductor industry. And I think that, I’ve never been to Taiwan, but I guess that’s been, when I noticed that this thing is coming up, right? I thought to myself, I need to go to Taiwan as soon as possible, because who knows how long I will be able to go to Taiwan, because it’s just a matter of time before China will take over Taiwan, because Taiwan is the country of semiconductors, and that is the one possible piece that they don’t have in their technological landscape. And, you know, developing a homegrown semiconductor industry is something that takes decades, and they are in a rush, clearly, to become self efficient, in terms of technological self sufficient, and they don’t have semiconductors. So I agree with that. I think the geopolitical landscape is definitely moving towards that. I don’t know if you read Peter Sihan, he kind of predicts that retreat of Americans global interest, which have been, you know, supreme for the last 50, 60, 70 years, and this will create a lot of problems and the reordering of this global system. And he actually predicts that China will aggressively, as you say, not just restore an economic self sufficiency, but try to use external politics, foreign policy, to kind of misdirect what’s going to happen, because the Chinese economy is extremely reliant on external suppliers, not just for food, but for tons of things, that they now use raw materials, and then all their buyers are usually outside of even Asia, out there in Europe and the US, so they’re extremely reliant on these value chains. And if America recedes, then someone has to maintain these supply chains, and this is going to be tricky, who’s going to take that over? And the idea seems that China will find a way to do this in a more aggressive way, which will spark a lot of pushback on a foreign policy. So there’s less and less, I agree with you, there’s less and less open trade, less and less other countries being able to sell their products wherever they want, which is kind of the case right now, right? Currently, this global market, protected by mostly the British system, held up by the Americans, helps everyone to take part in this, but if this falls apart and the shipping lanes are not being controlled anymore, and it’s like pirates everywhere, a lot of countries will be in big trouble. Well, so there is this great book called Clash of Empires by Louis Vistangat, and he talks about basically that the world will, coming from what used to be called the Pax Americana, where you have one global hegemon, one global power, the US, which basically was completely alone in its international power projection, and was basically the police of the entire world, and there was no alternative, so to say. Francis Bukujama wrote that book called The End of History, where basically said that we ended up with a world that has liberal democracies and capitalism, and that’s it, that’s the end of history, there isn’t anything else. And it turned out not to be the case, and what we are going into now is this, as explained in the book that I mentioned just now, is a multipolar world where you have an area of influence by the US, and then an area of influence by China, and also you have the European Union and an area of influence, to a lesser extent, kind of a rivalry between these three big empires, and each one of them have their own big currencies, you have the US with the US dollar, which has historically been the trade currency and the number one currency in the world, but the emergence of both the euro and the renminbi in China, in particular for their regions, and China dominating Asia and certain other countries that are suppliers of raw materials, which they need for their industrial machinery, right? So that will lead in the tech world in turn, will lead to a world which is less integrated than what we were. So today we have our mobile phone, we simply assume that you travel anywhere, and you will be able to use your mobile phone because there is the technological standards, GPS, or CDMA are international standards, and you will be able to simply use the same technology in one country or the other. And if you look at the saga of Huawei, which has been basically, apparently they have the best 5G technology in the world at the moment, and in spite of that, they’ve been banned from certainly the US, and pretty much most Western countries, meanwhile, because allegedly the Chinese are kind of spying on us, right? So we shouldn’t install Huawei equipment. And then you have things like the daughter of the founder of Huawei being kept in Canada as kind of a proxy for, or as a retaliation for the fact that they did businesses with Iran, and Iran is the blacklist of the US, and they did it completely outside of the jurisdiction of the US, but the US says, you actually did business in… Lovely jurisdiction, generally, if we want to push it. And you used the US dollar, so you sold and got paid in US dollars, US dollar happens to be our currency, so our currency, our jurisdiction, right? So these are the first skirmishes of what’s going to become clearly a technological rivalry, because the US does not want to lose the leadership in the world of tech, right? And China has come a long way to the extent that now the US has woken up and says, we can’t allow this to happen. And then you had the TikTok saga over the last couple of months as well, and it just started, right? So we will end up in 10 years time in a world where potentially you won’t be able to use your devices when you go to China, right? Because the technology will have diverted completely from one place to the other, and that will lead to, again, a world which, remember back in the days, 10, 20 years ago, when you couldn’t go from one country to the other so easily with your mobile, because the standards would be different, right? And in the meantime, we have just one world, the world is just one place with the same standards and interoperability everywhere, but we’re going to move away from that. Yeah, I think I’m fully agree with you, and maybe this is the opportunity to reign in on some of the monopolies, because you kind of create a space outside those monopolies, but you allow innovation to flourish, and then eventually, once it’s mature enough, and this can be, in the case of TikTok, just a few months or like two years, through TikTok has raised a lot of money without that, they wouldn’t even be close to this, but it would be a way to maybe break some of those monopolies. So that’s something that I feel is a good news about that. The obvious problem is less trade generally makes everyone worse off, and there’s a little escaping from this fact. This generally is obviously the way we’ve integrated China into the global value chain, made a lot of individuals worse off in the US and Europe, but the country itself and many other people often, not necessarily the same people, are much better off given the impact of China and the deflation and pressure that they put on the economies, and well, we don’t want deflation, it’s better than crazy inflation. So the risk is that if everyone is just shutting themselves out of global markets forever, it’s not going to be any better for anyone involved. And the question you can then say, oh, it’s always relative, who’s going to lose most out of this? I think everyone’s losing a little bit. Maybe some countries will only lose a few percent as GDP over the next 10 years, but for some it might be zero growth for quite some time. So the system we had, there’s probably better systems, but it seemed to hold this promise. And maybe we are repeating the 1930s, after this big boom years, it might be just in a 90 year cycle after these big boom years of the 20s, it went pretty dark for the 30s to 40s. Well, I forgot who was it that said that, probably Rothschild, or actually I don’t remember, but a very upper post, when goods don’t cross borders, armies do. Yeah. So you have had a significant kind of escalation of military spending over the course of the last couple of years, where before you had the US and then nobody, nobody, nobody, nobody, nobody, and then the country number two in the world at some point, it was Israel or Russia, but the US would be three, four, five times higher than the second one. And in the meantime, everywhere, there’s been a significant ramp up in military spending, and that is not a good sign. Now, I feel the same. There’s a huge, and I think there’s a huge demand as it was in the 1920s, not consciously, but subconsciously for armed conflict. And you see this in lots of places in the world. And California has that too, from a very different perspective. And there’s not going to be, I think, sadly, the chances for an armed conflict, even inside the US is a civil war that’s spreading into a wider conflict, or maybe a wider conflict spreads into a civil war. And I think the chances for this are very high in the next 10 to 15 years. And it’s most likely going to be China and a bunch of other countries that will be on the other side of that, that quandary. What I think is great, and you’re right in the middle of this, is that the whole threat of countries going the way of Afghanistan, of Somalia in Yemen, that seemed to have died down. It’s less on the minds of people, and there’s to be less of an imminent danger of Islamic terrorism growing much wider. And now that the UAE has official relationships with Israel, I don’t know how this happened, but 20 years ago, I mean, you couldn’t even say the word Israel, right? And you would basically have trouble. You couldn’t, for the longest time, say you’re traveling on a Jewish passport, even if you could go to the UAE for quite some time. This is amazing to me, and that’s an extremely positive story. It is indeed amazing. It is amazing. And I, you know, my dad, he, my late dad, he, you know, at some point I asked him, when he was still alive, you know, is there a trip that he would like to do? And he, you know, he said, yes, I would love to go to Jerusalem. And so I was living here in the East, and, you know, in order to get to go to Jerusalem, we had to fly to Jordan, to Amman, and then from there, across the border by, you know, the land border. That was an experience in itself. And now, you know, we have flights. We have direct flights from Dubai to Tel Aviv, right? So, Alal is flying to Dubai, and flight Dubai is going to Tel Aviv, and soon, I guess, Emirates will fly to Tel Aviv as well. So that is amazing, fantastic. Yeah, it’s incredible development, given, I mean, how similar both countries were for a long time, and I always felt like Dubai is kind of like an American suburb. It could be Houston, just with more surveillance. And, you know, Tel Aviv, if you go out to the old city, it’s been very much the same, too, so the idea of a very American lifestyle, but, you know, in a different spirit, has been around. And I always felt like these countries, they’re so similar. And, you know, that should happen, but that wasn’t even worth the debate. And then it just happened. I’m amazed how quickly, then, you know, all the dominoes fall is basically about, you know, it doesn’t matter, our countries will consider signing up to the same deal. Yeah, yeah. Well, hopefully that becomes an example for the other conflicts that are still, you know, old conflicts that are still surviving all over the world, and… Yeah, sometimes, but I’m sometimes not sure if war is necessarily the worst thing that could happen. It’s kind of a longer debate, we don’t have time for this, but I think that it’s not every war is terrible. Let’s put it this way. Most of them are, but not generally all of them are, which is a tough position, and there’s a lot of negativity in this. But sometimes wars save lives, that would be my position, but 90% of them don’t, 90% of them are some of the most terrible things that can happen to anyone. Yeah. On that positive note, thanks Pablo for giving me so much time. I think we had some really amazing things we covered here. It was an amazing input that you gave me, I’m really happy we could make this work. Thank you, Thorsten, it’s been my pleasure and really an amazing conversation. And you also gave me a few ideas and I had to get the… You know, when I listened to this, I would love to note the books that you mentioned because I would like to go up to that as well. Again, Pablo, thanks for doing this. You’re most welcome, Thorsten. It’s been a great pleasure.

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