Showing posts from June, 2018

18. The fascinating story of the discovery of Neptune

The history of science is full of great stories of human endeavour and ingenuity. One of my favourites is the story of the discovery of Neptune, the eight planet of our Solar System. If you don’t know the story, you should read it. The position of Neptune was independently deduced by JC Adams in England and U Leverrier in France by observing anomalies in the precession of Uranus and, based on them, deducing the position where Neptune should be. Incredible use of meticulous observation and complex mathematics, confirmed by Galle by pointing the Fraunhofer telescope in Berlin to the point where the maths predicted a new planet should be. The story makes you realise how much humans can accomplish with time and determination. The observations must have been truly painstaking with the technology of the day, and the calculations hugely complex. An amazing achievement 

17. The smile of Mona Lisa

The most famous and valuable art work in the World is probably Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa. This is difficult to understand, when considering it coldly. It is technically excellent, but so are many others. However, there is no point in considering art coldly, that its not its purpose or meaning. It appeals to the heart, more than to reason. Mona Lisa, in fact, appeals to both. It is, without doubt, one of my favourites. Because it represents Leonardo, intellectual giant of his time, truly unique man in his curiosity, his endeavour, his uncompromising pursuit of excellence. A man I admire. It is also beautiful and, very importantly, the only painted smile of its age. Nobody had painted a smile before it. It is the first smile in art. The power of the smile, domesticated by the first time by an artist. The symbolism of this fact is so significant that it justifies any value one could ever put on Mona Lisa. It is unique, ground breaking, completely original and rebelliously happy 

16. How can politicians solve the Spanish tech start up challenge?

Whilst smart investment capital wakes up to the opportunities in countries like Spain, a big question is what local politicians can do to accelerate business growth. Current policies are misguided, as they are based on the belief that they need to create skills and entrepreneurship, providing endless coaching and tech transfer training and initiatives, backed up by insufficient capital. Once local politicians understand that the biggest challenge is access to seed and early round capital, this would  change their strategy for fostering entrepreneurship. The assignment is to get traditionally earned capital to invest in new technology, which at present, with some exceptions, it is not doing. How do we get a property or textile tycoon to invest in speculative biotech? Simple. We get their tax advisor to tell them to. They may not understand technology, but they understand taxation. Change the taxation enough, and you will change the dynamics of tech investment in your country, at a stro

15. The opportunity of investing in Spanish tech

The challenge I referred to in my previous post represents and excellent opportunity for the cunning mid or small size investor. A Spanish tech start up, based on the same idea as a US tech start up, and with a team of the same quality, will be valued 20 to 30 times cheaper than its US alter ego. This is a simple consequence of the law of supply and demand, with seed and early round capital being in short supply in Spain. This means that your investment dollars will buy you 20 to 30 times more equity in Spain, and therefore, if the business succeeds, you will make many times more money. Importantly also, moderate success will still reward you heavily, which it would not in the US, due to inflated seed and early round valuations. I think the smart money will soon start to spread to Spain and similarly under invested markets. Talent and entrepreneurship are global, tech seed capital, not yet. 

14. What is wrong with Spanish technology entrepreneurship

Why does US have a much greater number of tech start ups than Spain? Some commonly cited reasons are skills and entrepreneurial spirit. This is the myth of Silicon Valley. It no longer holds true. Spain has many high quality, highly educated individuals, and many have entrepreneurial spirit. After years of international ‘entrepreneuring’, I have concluded that the biggest difference is access to capital. US is full of family offices, angel investors and venture capitalists who will fund tech start ups. In Spain, there are very few. And funding is critical to both the success and dimension of any new business. A great Spanish idea with a hugely entrepreneurial founder will most likely not reach the mass needed to succeed globally due to lack of finance. This, I think, is because US is full of people who have made fortunes in technology. They understand tech and that investing in tech is highly profitable. In Spain, money has been made differently, and that understanding is lacking

13. A snapshot of technology entrepreneurship in Europe

Attending the @SMEInstrument event, I have been fascinated by the variety of really cool ideas and innovations which are being turned into businesses by people in every corner of Europe. I hear that this program has funded projects from 2,500 technology start ups. This is quite something, when you think about it. It will create many jobs, but also, it will give Europe a lot of commercially exploitable IP. Some of these start ups will grow big and really thrive, potentially creating and buying other businesses. I also have to hope that the entrepreneurs that found them, if they succeed, will go on to fund other start ups, since it is natural for people who have made their money in technology to invest in technology (this is one of the fundamental basis of the success of areas like Silicon Valley, or Cambridge, MA). This is an investment not only in technology and entrepreneurship, but also in young people. And the energy is amazing. It is great to be part of it 

12. Should you focus on your talents?

I attended a very good talk by @jurgen_ingels at a #H2020SME #SMEInstrument event today. Many points I agree with. One was that today, average is no longer good enough. We are competing globally and only the best will survive. We really need to focus on our talents, on what we are really good at. Do not put energy on improving where you are weak, but on working on your strengths, to become exceptional at something. Our schools today do not do this. They work towards the average and spend most time talking to students about their failures and patching their weaknesses, lifting to average, and not on what they are good at and building on it. This change of focus would have the added benefit that the experience would be more motivating and inspiring for students. It may, however, result in individuals with not rounded enough knowledge about other things, and this is a risk. Although, of course, technology can take care of the knowledge and information side of things (more on that later) 

11. The moving line between philosophy, theology and science

Just seen a talk, at @HayFestival, by the incredibly informing and entertaining Marcus du Sautoy, presenting his ‘What we cannot know’ book (a must read, BTW). Listening to him, I cannot fail to realise the connection between the idea of God and our lack of knowledge in certain areas, only to hear from Marcus that the British Theologian, Herbert McCabe, already stated, centuries ago, that ‘To assert the existence of God is to claim that there is an unanswered question about the Universe’. After reminding us of the perhaps unjustly infamous known/unknown classification by Donald Rumsfeld, another jewel was unearthed, Roger Penrose’s ‘The Emperor’s New Mind’. It is fascinating to see how the problems which were traditionally believed to belong in the realm of philosophy and theology are now coming within the reach of science, as humankind slowly evolves towards God-like traits (more on this claim later) 

10. On God and evolution

Inspired by attending an interview with Prof. Richard Dawkins at Hay Festival, on 1st June 2018 Listening to Prof. Richard Dawkins today, talking about creationism, and religion in general, a thought strikes me. Many religions put God at the beginning of history, as the Creator. Chronologically, therefore, the first step of evolution, the very first entity in the Universe, who, for unknown reasons, chose to set off an evolutionary process from scratch, with single cell organisms. Of course, God is not seen in evolutionary terms.  I wondered today, however, whether the idea of God is not better placed, if anywhere, at the very end of evolution. The evolutionary step that supersedes humanity. Maybe, a combination of the whole of humanity, fully communicated, in communion with Superhuman Artificial Intelligence, wielding nanotechnology and genetic modification to control nature. This construct would be as close to the all-knowing, all-seeing, omnipotent being that religions call God.

9. Internet access... everywhere

My previous article on UK internet access raises a serious point on essential services for quality of life in the future. Internet access will be one. We should not dismiss it as an inconvenience for consumers of not so critical information. Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and IoT will mean that many basic activities in coming years will need continuous, reliable connectivity. The navigation of driverless cars, real time monitoring of community patients and the collection of all sorts of metrics of application in traffic management, emergency service resource optimisation, worker remote access to workplace and anytime access to expertise are only a few of them that come to mind. Fast, robust internet infrastructure is the foundation of this new economy, and this new way of life. Short term decisions taken today could hinder our capabilities forever. Do our politicians have the foresight to understand the implications? Answers on a postcard (WhatsApp message may not make it i

8. Internet access? in the UK

I travel a lot. A running joke between my European friends is that they can deduce I am in UK by the observation that I get cut off when attempting stunts such as phone, Skype or WhatsApp calls from my mobile. After the call drops for the 2 nd time, my interlocutor enquires, knowingly: ‘Are you in UK?’. It seems funny, but it is not.  Internet access is basic to productivity in a modern society, and its lack seriously damages the prosperity and competitiveness of the UK economy. Remote places in every corner of the World have better internet access than Heathrow T5 C gates, South Gloucestershire or West Berkshire. I wonder whether this is a consequence of UK planning permission rules and the fact that we all want mobile internet access, but nobody wants mobile masts near their home, a real problem given population density especially in England. This British approach to collective issues is similar to wanting a health service without paying tax, or EU benefits without membership

7. From Hay Festival - What did Marx have to say about inequality?

At Hay Festival today, was reminded by the excellent Terry Eagleton, a true scholar on Karl Marx, of one of the conditions that Marx set as critical for so called socialist systems to succeed. Wealth. A revision of Marx indeed confirms him stating that, and I paraphrase: ‘…instituting a socialist system in poverty would result in generalized scarcity…’. This, indeed, is what happened in all cases in which Socialism has been tried as a system so far (USSR, Cuba, Mao’s China,…), with the outcome anticipated by Marx.  It should also be remembered that Marx did at no point propose the completely equal distribution of income and goods among the population, but, rather, he identified the tendency of capitalism to foster growing inequality. In this prediction he has also been vindicated.  It is in some ways curious that Marx has been so maligned and his work so undermined by the capitalist system by misrepresenting both his predictions and his recommendations (of which he did not make many

6. More on equality (or the lack of it)

This is in response to Mark Littlewood, director general at the Institute of Economic Affairs: “Oxfam is promoting a race to the bottom. Richer people are already highly taxed people – reducing their wealth beyond a certain point won’t lead to redistribution, it will destroy it to the benefit of no one. Higher minimum wages would also likely lead to disappearing jobs, harming the very people Oxfam intend to help. Oxfam ignore the many who have risen out of poverty” What an opportunity for prescient naming was missed when Mark Littlewood was not called Mark Littlemind instead! Although of course, his agenda is clear, and he may consider himself a big mind, as a result of lack of in depth analysis. Very rich people are not heavily taxed, in fact, they are still able to pay NO TAX, a fact he conveniently ignores. And why would further taxation not lead to redistribution? It surely will, given the right redistribution policies, only possible when there is enough to redistribute. It

5. On equality, or the lack of it

Written in response to this article One has to wonder how much more unequal the World has to get before this issue becomes really important and global populations demand action from their political leaders. At present, the opposite is happening, Trump’s presidency will only worsen the problem, just look at his bank account to understand where his alignment might be. Most of this wealth is dead money, no human can enjoy or even utilise $40Bn. Globalised wealth requires a global taxation system and a global policy of redistribution and of underpinning the income of those earning the least, with policies of minimum global wages propped to minimum guaranteed incomes. Would make no practical difference to the richest. Reading Jason Hickel ‘The Great Divide’ and Rutger Bregman’s ‘Utopia for realists’ can give significant understanding of the issues, and anyone who thinks wealth distribution is important in society should do so (others should not belong in society and, in fact, don’t, even

4. Beyond Twitter

The real intention of this work is to propose the development and subsequent spread of an alternative version to Twitter, with longer posts, which we could call, say, Twitteretter, as this is a longer version of the word. This has a great ring to it, and has the added benefit of being logically rounded in Spanish, as it could be simplified to something resembling Titiritero. Titiriteros are those who command títeres, wooden figures which act at fairs despite having no voice or mind of their own, and therefore fulfil the defining characteristics of a large percentage of Twitter users

3. The limited Universe of Twitteretter

Should you find yourself in the unfortunate position of having to read this blog, despite your best desires otherwise, maybe because of a lost bet, or for some other equally serious reason, there are some good news. They are that, as I guess will be completely obvious to you, the total length of this blog is (a little bit in the same way as happens with cryptocurrency) fundamentally and technically limited, by its own design manifest, to a total of 1,002,001 characters. This means that at an average reading speed of 120 wpm, and with an average length of English words of 5.6, the total amount of time you may have to waste on this exercise should not exceed 24.85 hours. For this imposition I apologise profusely, at least on my behalf, if not on behalf of the bet winner

2. What?

The chapters in this blog are like Padron peppers. Some are written in response to specific tweets, that got under my wig (probably a more common occurrence than you might imagine). Others are spontaneous thoughts (again, a much more common occurrence than you might imagine if you spend most of your time plugged onto devices that tell you what your thoughts ought to be, instead of generating them yourself). Anyway, if you did not grow up in Galicia (and I am referring to the Spanish one, rather than the Polish one), then you probably will not get the Padron pepper simile. For that, I can offer 2 solutions: Travel back in time and convince your parents to bring you up in Galicia (the Spanish one, definitely do not attempt the Polish one if you were born before 1989) or, more realistically, search (oh, pray forgive my blasphemy, I mean google) are Padron peppers spicy? As a commercial disclaimer, other pepper DOCs are available, although they tend to be less entertaining than Padron’s 

1. Why?

I have come to the inescapable conclusion that I was born far too early. I think that Twitter should allow 1001 characters in posts, and this is probably a function of the fact that I did not start communicating when only 140 were possible. I can imagine that anyone who started communicating when 140 characters was indeed the maximum limit (and since Twitter and even shorter version social media are now the common ways to communicate) is probably absolutely delighted by the largesse shown by the Californian media company in extending the limit to 275. However, to someone who, like me, has been around long enough to have used emails, phone calls, faxes and even letters, the current limit can at times seem far too short. And this is the reason why I have decided to write this blog. To illustrate my strongly held belief that Twitter should allow posts of 1001 characters, and I will do that by writing 1001 posts of 1001 characters or less, written in English rather than Twitterish.