Unfortunately yesterday while on a road bike ride in Miami, I crashed. It wasn’t awful. I will be fine soon. But today I have pain in different parts of my body and stayed in bed. The last time I fell off my bike was in 1997. Back then all I could do while in bed was to read a book, speak on the phone and watch TV. 19 years later, in bed, I realize that a tremendous amount of technological effort has been invested in building what could be called the “life in bed” economy. And recovering from a bike accident is a world of choice.
-want to eat in bed? Seamless, GrubHub, Uber eats, and many others will make sure your recently cooked and warm food is home delivered.
-want to socialize in bed? Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp, Messenger, Twitter, Skype, LinkedIn and many others will make that very easy.
-want to be entertained in bed? Netflix, Amazon Prime, Youtube, Showtime, HBO and many other digital services will give you all the movies and tv shows ever made on your iPad.
-want to shop in bed? there are so many services that will get you whatever you want while in bed! the most obvious ones Amazon, eBay, Apple.
-want to study in bed? Udacity and many other purely online or also online universities will help you get your in bed degree.
-want to read in bed? Kindle and the Kindle app will make that easy.
-want people to come home and give you a massage, manicure, or any other services while at home? TaskRabbit ThumbTack and all their competitors will basically get you any kind of service at home you can dream of.
-want to listen to music? no need to reach out for a CD anymore, Spotify, Soundcloud and others will give you all the music ever made at the touch of your smartphone.
As I recover I wonder if this life in bed economy is actually good for us. Not convinced. Certainly not good for social, for being fit, for socializing in the real world. Can’t wait to get out in the real world again.
Here’s an idea I had to stop rising sea level. This plan assumes that we will fail at stopping emissions and that rising sea level will be a reality. It is estimated that sea level has already risen 15cm from 100 years ago and that currently sea level is rising around 1cm every 4 years. So the question here is what could make sea level fall 1cm every 4 years and my idea is to use nuclear power to pump water on to the Antartic continent and accumulate it there to compensate for the 25mm or so that sea level is rising every year. Now in order to calculate if this is feasible first we need to know what is the sea level surface around the world and that is 510 million km2. Then we need to calculate the area of Antartica that is above 500m, as you know for every 500m you go up temperature drops 3C and so far global warming has been .85C in the last 100 years. The area of Antartica is around 14 million Km2. This means that the ratio of oceans to Antartica is around 30 to 1. That means that for every cm we take out of the ocean we need to accumulate 30cm in Antartica. Sounds doable. So if we pumped water above 500m that is the same of 500 years of global warming at current rates and it is safe to say that way before then will have stopped burning fossil fuels so it is very unlikely that the earth will warm more than 3C. So any ice that is now ice at whatever altitude it is it will be ice at 500m higher. But it turns out that Antartica is surprisingly a very high continent. The average height of Antartica is 2500m which means that the average Antartic temperature is 9C lower than at sea level so it is extremely likely that any water pumped over Antartica will freeze there for millions of years.
So now that we know all these the next thing we have to calculate is how much water is there in 25 mm multiplied by 510 million km2 because that is the amount of water than the ice melting is currently pouring in the oceans. And the plan here is that whatever water we are losing at sea level we pump to an altitude where it will stay frozen forever somewhere in Antartica. After that we need to calculate the energy we need to pump that water 500m up. And then we need to build a number of power stations which in my view should be molten salt nuclear reactors because they are much cheaper to build and also use very commonly available fuel. This video shows what China is doing with them and explains there advantages.
So using Wolfram Alpha I came up that there is around 1250km3 of water melting from the ice cap per year in the world. This doesn’t seem to be an impossible volume of water to pump up in Antartica to a level where it will stay frozen forever. If you´d like to please help me complete this calculation, I need to find out the energy that is needed to pump this amount of water up 500m over one year.
The war on terror has been brutal, inhumane, extremely costly and ineffective. But as opposed to what many argue, it is not Western brutality that gave rise to ISIS. European democracies are the kindest social systems around the world. With free health care and education for all, EU nations are more caring than US. And in terms of military interventions in the Middle East US has led in presence and arguably in inhumanity. Yet an estimated 4000 ISIS terrorists were raised in this kind Europe and went to the Middle East to behead Christians, Gays, to enslave women, to destroy history, to kill Shias, to send thousands of families to their death and millions into exile. Some of these terrorists are going back to Europe to bring their terror. We saw that twice in the horrible attacks in Paris, in Brussels, Copenhagen, Toulouse. Am I in favor of Western responses like Guantanamo or drone attacks? No. But not because closing Guantanamo or stopping drone attacks would end terrorism, but because becoming terrorists ourselves is not who we are nor what we stand for. But the brand of terrorism we are experiencing now is growing, not because of what we do, but because of its appeal to many. Jihadism has an evil logic of its own that is unrelated to our actions. Because of our colonial past we tend to believe that everything that happens around the world is because of our policies. But those days are over. ISIS is a movement similar to Nazism, an incredibly powerful ideology that draws people to it for its simple logic, clear explanations, black and white world, quick answers for everything. I would also love to think that if we were only nicer so would be ISIS. But I don’t think we have evidence that that is the case. ISIS hates us not for what we do, but for who we are. Because in Western democracies we promote the very uncertainties that they think they have eliminated. They don’t hate our actions, they hate our presence. Germany has been the kindest country in the world to Muslim refugees. I think we can all agree that there is no guarantee ISIS won’t attack there. No, we did not create ISIS.
Here is a list that explains how technology is disrupting my life.
-newspapers: Twitter,Facebook,newspaper online apps, news apps.
-magazines:Medium, Tumblr, magazine apps.
-my car: Uber, Lyft
-my desk: iPad lying in the couch.
-cable TV: fiber optic internet.
-linear TV: Netflix, Amazon Video, Hulu.
-fix line telephones: smartphones.
-CD holders: Spotify
-movie theaters: large TV displays with video on demand.
-hard drives: cloud
-paper agendas and calendars: apps
-intercoms: whatsapp from downstairs.
-shopping malls: Amazon
-credit cards: Apple pay, CC inside smartphone
-printed photography: looking at photographs on iPad
-travel guides: Yelp, Google, Tripadvisor.
-pens, pencils, markers, handwriting: glass keyboards.
-printers: iPad, QR codes.
-alarm clocks: clock app.
-dumb watches: smart watches
-maps and asking for directions: google maps.
-phone calls and texting: whatsapp, viber, Messenger.
-GPS devices like Garmin: google maps, sports apps.
-Microsoft Office: Google docs.
-reading on airplanes: WiFi on airplanes.
-travel agents: travel app.
-in person learning: online tutorials, Youtube, Udacity.
-taxis: Uber, Lyft
I am a father to three girls and three boys. But this post is only about the father son relationship. More precisely it is about father son communication, or lack of it. First my experience: as a dad it is easy to speak with boys until they are around 8, then there’s a ten year silence and communications restarts after they are 18. From 8 to 18 it is extremely hard for dads to have normal conversations with their boys, or at least that’s been my experience. With Tom, I am still getting over the car rides we took alone on skiing trips when he was 13, we would say one sentence every 100km. Now I am spending a weekend in Menorca alone with Leo (9) and getting a conversation out of him, getting him out of his books, his games, his movies is like getting a splinter out from his foot. And while I hope it’s not the case, I fear the same will be true of Davidi when he turns 8. Now at 2 he does talk a lot to me, in broken English, German or Spanish but because of what I lived through with the older boys he must think it weird when I hug him with gratitude. He doesn’t know what I know, that this hug is a slow good bye to the time in which I will be unable to get him to look up from his iPad. These days I thank him for whatever broken language I get. Davidi go dad pool? Yes Davidi, go pool!! Let`s go swimming. With Mia (4) instead I don’t worry. I know ours will be an uninterrupted conversation.
Women, and by that I mean sisters and moms, do find ways to talk to boys. Like Nina Varsavsky does get Leo to speak. And she was able to get Tom to speak when he went through his 10 year silence. Women know how to play men along, somehow be interested in their obsession of the week. But dads, we just don’t know what to say to them. Men you know, we are not great conversationistas. And when a game obsessed boy meets a work obsessed dad conversation is not easy. Because as a dad to start a conversation with your 12 year old, either you totally get into whatever weird game he´s into at the moment, or whatever book that has 350 characters in 150 moods each (a book that your dad brain would never be able to keep up with but he knows all possible combinations)….or well, they just won’t talk. As opposed to girls don’t expect them to start a conversation. So you stay quiet and they go back to their book, iPad, or as in the case of Leo, Kindle book in the iPad.
I understand girls who are 14 and fall in love with a 14 year old boy only to cry over the fact that they just won’t talk to them. Hey girls, you are not alone. That boy can’t talk to his own father! But there is hope. Now Tom and I meet and have the most awesome conversations, yes he´s 21 but dads, be patient. The silence cracks, it just takes a decade
I celebrated 18 Thanksgivings in the USA, then moved to Europe for 19 years and now I am back in the US celebrating Thanksgiving again. Thanksgiving is a US holiday, that as opposed to Halloween, can’t be exported. Because Thanksgiving is mainly about being American. But I have another take on Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is the American holiday that is most about being with your family, which in a career driven society in which family is many times second priority to professional objectives, turns out to be quite uncommon. Thanksgiving is the weekend that makes up for Americans mostly not seeing their family the rest of the year. I don’t have stats on this, but most likely, Europeans, Latin Americans and Asians, see their families much more than Americans do. Therefore they don’t need a holiday whose main purpose is to see their family. Now because Americans see their families much less, my social media is full of stories, some actually very funny, about how awkward it is to see your family. Which makes sense. When you rarely see them, it does become awkward. I see posts that give tips on how to “put up” with loved ones. How to go through Thanksgiving without conflict, how to emerge from the holiday unhurt. But as funny as some of these stories are (and Americans make the best movies about awkward families), there is a real sadness to them. As a husband and father of 6, as someone who adores parenting, I would hope that when my family members see me, they don’t feel like the Thanksgiving stories on my newsfeed. I love to see my older kids , I love to be with Nina Varsavsky and the little ones. To me, family is the most important daily celebration. I sincerely hope there will never be anything awkward about us being together. I like Thanksgiving, but I like Thanksgiving every day.
Recently quite a few people have been using the term WWIII to speak about the new escalation of global terrorism. This is wrong. If the comparison relates the number of victims, we are not anywhere near WWIII. 80 million people died in WWII and the world had 2.5bn people then, if WWIII means something of similar magnitude, 240 million people would have to die in this war today, I think the chances of something like that are incredibly small. The world is safer than it’s ever been. The probability of any of us dying in an armed conflict or victims of terrorism is insignificant. Yes, there are and there will be global terrorists, before it was Al Qaeda, now ISIS, and yes they maybe will kill around 1000 people per year in the USA and EU during the next decade. I am not denying terrorism, nor saying that it will go away. But terrorist attack like Paris are not WWIII. There’s no way that 3% of the world’s population will be killed by a few people with Kalashnikovs and explosives. Now in the Middle East, there have been many more victims than in EU/USA from terrorism and regional wars. Over 1 million Muslims have died, mostly killed by other Muslims, in the Iran-Iraq war, the Lebanese civil war, the Algerian civil war, the Syrian civil war, the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, the Libyan civil war and the confrontations involving Muslims vs Christians in Africa. And this wars will probably go on, but these are local conflicts, not WWIII. It would be surprising to know that even in the Israeli Palestinian conflict over the last 30 less than 15,000 people have died while every day in the world around 150,000 people die of natural causes. So while we will have regional wars and conflicts, and we will have terrorism, the vast majority of humanity will wake up and go to sleep day after day without anything violent ever happening to them. And the proportion of violent deaths to total deaths keep shrinking decade after decade.
As I work on financing Prelude Fertility, the venture that will change the way people start families, a new company that lies in between a private equity investment and a VC investment, I am finding out that there is a real animosity between these two types of firms. For me they are just investors, but they see each other as rivals. And I understand why. PE firms would like for the world to stay the same. VCs invest in change. PE firms bet on the status quo. VCs invest in blowing it up. When PE firms buy a chain of restaurants, they want people to keep buying food the same way, they buy a chain of drug stores, they want people to buy drugs the same way, they buy a car part maker they want people to buy and drive cars the same way. PE firms just want a growing, predictable economy, but what they don’t want is what entrepreneurs and VCs are doing to them: changing the world as they know it. For every PE model there is a VC disruptor. For PE firms who own restaurants, there is Seamless, GrubHub and others delivering food without the real estate or companies like Soylent changing what we eat. For PE firms investing in the car industry there is now Uber/Lyft and driverless coming to disrupt car transportation. For PE firms who invest in hotels there is AirBnB, for PE firms who invest in media, there is Google and Facebook destroying their traditional revenue sources, for PE firms who invest in the banking industry there is now Square, Lending Club, Bitcoin VC backed ventures and others coming to desintermediate them. For PE firms investing in commercial real estate there is WeWork and all the other coworking start ups making a much more efficient use of office space and Amazon, Ebay and all e commerce destroying retail. And in this war the VC firms, like Sequoia, Andreessen Horowitz, Accel Partners, Index Ventures, Atomico are more likely to earn better returns in the end, because the world is changing, and is changing fast. In terms of investing it is becoming clear to me that the future belongs to VC firms who are large enough to do growth rounds or PE firms who are willing to invest in transformations.
I was reading this article in the New York Times about the many people who had children via IVF, are done with their parenting, and have leftover embryos. In the US alone there are 400,000 leftover embryos so around the world this figure must be in the millions. This means that probably over $200 million is spent annually in storage fees for these unused embryos. The article explains that parents in that situation have the following alternatives: donating them to other parents, discarding them or donating them to science. Science makes sense to many parents except that nobody really knows what donating them to science means, there are no obvious scientific projects to support. So I was thinking of ways to massively donate embryos to science that may make sense to enough people to make the experiment worthwhile. And I came up with three ideas that I will share with you.
Use them to recover humanity after WWIII
The first and easiest to execute idea is guarding them in a safe place in case WWIII, a nuclear world war, happens. Something similar to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault but for embryos. Why would we want to do this? Well some of you may be too young to remember the Cold War but when I was growing up there was constant fear of global nuclear warfare. Now this possibility is not over, nuclear arsenals are as dangerous as they ever were, and if there was nuclear war, the whole planet would be what is now Chernobyl, an inhospitable place for those who survive. And moreover those who do survive would probably have unsafe level of radiation and damaged gametes. In that case, having half a million of healthy embryos that can be obtained and adopted by surviving humans who are unable to safely have their own children could be pretty useful.
Use them to colonize Mars
A second scientific project would be to send some of the embryos to Mars. These embryos represent human diversity and if we do want to colonize Mars as an extension of humanity having surrogacy makes more sense over having 20 people have their own children extend their own genes all over Mars. It is a way to bring diversity to Mars without having to fly so many people over. Here’s a summary of the best 5 reasons on why going to Mars.
Use them to colonize other planetary systems
The third scientific project is way more radical and for now science fiction. But not for long. It involves sending thousands of frozen embryos in a spacecraft equipped with AI that is sent outside of the solar system. AI of the kind we use in driverless cars but trained to travel around the universe and find exoplanets that may be suitable for human life. Then to land there and start a human colony. In this case we would not face time constraints as embryos can be frozen for millions of years in space. Our spacecraft with AI have sensors capable of identifying planets that are friendly to life and go there. Once one is found the key challenges will be: Landing there, terraforming it it, and once that is accomplished, grow the embryos into babies, educate them and start a colony. Currently we can freeze embryos for thousands of years but we need a mother at the other end to turn them into babies and humans. But eventually we can imagine robot mothers being created not only to provide an artificial womb like environment, but to feel like a real mother to a newborn until socialization happens more via her siblings. It is not impossible to conceive of an AI mother that educates a living child. As we know, in 6 billion years the Sun will extinguish itself so humanity as we know it will end sooner or later. Yes 6 billion years is a long time away, but I do see many ways in which humans can destroy earth, or earth as we know it be destroyed by a space object of significant size impacting on earth. The famous meteorite that wiped out the dinosaurs. And it is very likely that way before the end of the Sun we will suffer more of those impacts. What is good about embryos and space is that travel in space takes very little energy, in whatever way you enter space you will continue moving at the same speed and direction until you meet another gravitational field, and that embryos once frozen their is no limit to how long they last. And same with AI, once the spacecraft is going whether it takes 10 years or 100,000 years it makes no difference.
The challenge with architecture is that it’s like fashion but frozen in time. Imagine you were walking around NYC and you saw people dressed exactly as they used to in the 20s, 60s, 70s, 80s. You would think you are time traveling. But architecture really is as if somebody had dressed up, say in the 80s, and just wore the same outfit forever. And as it happens with fashion, some outfits are very dated, think Cindy Lauper or its architectural equivalent in NYC, the Trump Tower, or the outfits of Audrey Hepburn, and their architectural equivalent, the Seagram’s building, one forever ugly, the other forever beautiful. Some buildings survive the test of time, most don’t. Maybe towers should be designed, permits submitted and then approved…20 years later.