Months of Obsession, years of neglect
Published by MartinVarsavsky.net in General with
Is it me or lately progressives are going from one obsession to another one leaving a path of neglected issues behind?
Just in the last few months:
First there was end of the world as we know it, an obsession with climate change as represented by Greta Thunberg. All the conversation centered around her every move, including the crossing of the Atlantic in a catamaran to avoid air travel. Then Covid came and we forgot about her, Greta was gone into the backdrop of social media, and we were all about the world coming to an end because of Covid. For two months it was Covid, Covid, Covid, Covid. Nothing else mattered. And then BANG, Blacks Lives Matter. BLM became more important than climate change, than Covid, it monopolized the conversation and that is what we hear about today on social media. Everybody is declaring a holiday.
Now, don’t get me wrong. All three issues need action, climate change, pandemics, and racism. But why can’t we deal with more of one of them at a time and more profoundly? Why go from social media obsession to social media obsession leaving a trail of substantive change neglect behind us? Because most likely, a month from now Black Lives will not matter much anymore. Something new will be all over social media. And in the meantime we have done nothing much about climate change, the pandemic keeps killing thousands, and endemic racism won’t go away either.
Should we stop and think for a while about how to really change what is wrong with the world for more than a few months?
Second time entrepreneurs wanted!
Published by MartinVarsavsky.net in General with
While mainly I am an entrepreneur I am also been an active angel investor over the last 15 years and have had a chance to back a few unicorns. While others just invest, I do a combination of investing and mentoring. If you are interested in having me as an investor and especially if you are a second time entrepreneur and are doing a round please write to me at email@example.com I invest in companies whose products I use, in founders that I get along with and at valuations that I find reasonable. I also co-invest with funds. The companies I invest in are mostly in the USA and Northern Europe, a few also in Spain and Latam. But wherever the companies are, their ambition needs to be global!
Being a liberal is getting harder
Published by MartinVarsavsky.net in General with
All my life I have considered myself a liberal in the USA and a centrist in Spain (a country to the left of the USA). In the USA I always voted democrat. But lately I find myself drifting away from the liberal dogma. Here are some examples:
On transgender people:
Studies show that around 1 person in 300 are transgender. This is an extremely small group compared to the general population. I am fine with calling transgender people the sex they want to be called. But I am not fine with all of us being unable to say that a person who is XY, does not menstruate, does not have a uterus is indistinguishable from a person who is XX, who menstruates, has a uterus and can carry a baby. The main reason why I am not fine with calling both individuals the same is because I work in assisted fertility. When it gets to help people have babies a transgender person has very different needs. But in the liberal world you say this and you get attacked.
On Blacks Lives Matter:
I am a big believer that there is systemic racism in the USA and most of the world. I am also a big believer that police systematically discriminates against black people. The data is clear. US police kills around 1000 people a year of which 220 are black but blacks are only 13% of the population, so there is 110 excess black deaths to population percentage. Having said this if you want to truly save black lives here is the sad truth. There are around 16K murders in the USA and young black men commit around 8200 murders or over half of all the murders in the USA. And 92% of those murdered by blacks are other blacks. So police kills around 110 blacks a year and other blacks kill around 7800 blacks a year. You could eliminate the police and you would do away with a tiny fraction of young black men deaths. Eliminating black deaths requires changes in the police yes, but it mostly requires establishing a world of educational opportunities for young black men so they can make better choices. But if you say this in the liberal world you get attacked.
On women in tech:
I have worked in tech and I work now in biotech. Let’s call the first one silicon based tech and the second one carbon based tech. What I have seen in these two areas is that women are very differently represented. When I built Fon, we had around 20% women engineers. Achieving gender parity in finding women interested in programming WiFi routers would have been close to impossible. But now that I am running Overture, a company that is building a robot to automate the embryology lab and make human embryos we find many talented women biologists, embryologists, engineers, who want to join our ranks. And in general in the life sciences it is much easier to find women. Indeed at Prelude now we find more women who become MDs in reproductive endocrinology than men. And overall way more women graduate in the life sciences. But if you say that there are gender preferences in career choices in tech in the liberal world you get attacked.
On climate change:
I have no doubt that humans are changing climate by having an uncontrolled level of carbon emissions. What I question is the extent of the damage. It’s been two decades since Al Gore and others have been forecasting the end of the world as we know it. Greta has brought the message home every day until Covid. Having said this humans are much more able to escape catastrophic weather events than for example pandemics. And all catastrophic weather events put together, kill around 11K people a year. I did say in January in Facebook that pandemics were much more dangerous for humanity than climate change and I was ridiculed. But it turned out to be true. If you say that climate change is a threat, but there is a green revolution going on that will fix it, that solar and wind energy are reaching grid parity, that affordable storage is coming, and that we have a bright energy future ahead of us in the liberal world you get attacked.
On how to deal with Covid
At the beginning of the pandemic I was terrified of Covid. Covid seemed to kill 10% of those infected. But after the Spanish government asked me to co lead the development of an app to diagnose Covid by digital means and we launched it I discovered that Covid was way less lethal than what I thought. At least 800K were diagnosed as positive by the app. So not only Covid turned out to be much more common and less lethal than what we thought but also we found out that when Covid action is taken early and is combined with social distancing (no gatherings of more than 50 people, etc) it kills around the number of people that is killing in Sweden or one in 2000 and of those 90% are over 65. So Sweden turned out to be a good country to study because they applied social distancing measures but not strict lockdowns (schools, restaurants, always open) and they got as many deaths per million as Belgium, Netherlands and France with strict lockdowns. Yes, they still got more than Denmark and Norway who applied strict lockdowns as well but they let people decide best policies for themselves which I find admirable. So I still believe that Sweden had and has the best balance between freedom and prevention. I believe this because I don’t think it is the role of governments to prohibit deaths, if they did they would permanently ban smoking that still kills way more people than Covid does and every year. But governments, in spite of smoking and second hand smoke killing so many, choose to tax, not eliminate tobacco sales. Still, supporting Sweden has turned me into an unwanted person among my liberal friends who all love to use New Zealand as their success case. Yes, I agree with New Zealand policies, for New Zealand! If you are a distant island in the middle of the South Pacific with one port of entry, and by nature ISOLATED, you can eliminate Covid. And so far they did. So did we in the island of Menorca where we have been since February and there is no tourism allowed yet. But if you are a freedom loving European who lives in a heavily interconnected continental country, as all EU countries, Sweden has the most balanced approach. The proof is that, in the end, all countries are going the way of Sweden and Sweden continues to not do a lockdown. Moreover, daily deaths in Sweden are coming in sync with most other countries. Among liberals, until recently, Sweden could do no wrong, but now with Covid, if you support their Covid strategy these days, in the liberal world, you get attacked.
On Nuclear Energy.
I believe there is such thing as radiophobia and that radiophobia affects some nations, like Germany, more than others, France. And I believe radiophobia like all other phobias has some basis in reality but little compared to the actual damage of the thing feared. Under any measure nuclear energy is the safest form of energy generation. Google “death per terawatt” and you will see that burning fossil fuels kills people in the production of the fuel and then via pollution by over 1000 times the people who have ever died from radiation. Moreover I believe that unfortunately many of the countries who are energy exporters are also countries whose views are hardly democratic. So not only nuclear energy is safe, but it is also carbon neutral, no emissions, and we have found good ways of disposing of nuclear waste, among them other reactors that could use them. And I say all this as a co founder of Eolia Renovables that we sold for over a billion last year. I have been a significant developer of wind and solar energy and green energy is phenomenal, but at times the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine. Nuclear works 24 hours. But the liberal world if you stand for nuclear energy you get attacked.
Oh yes, and let me tell you, I hate Trump as much as most of you do, and I hope he loses against Biden who is not a great leader but became one when the alternative is four more years of lies.
And I do believe in health care for all, progressive taxation, gay marriage, police reform, less military spending, free college tuition to all who can’t afford it, minimum income if no income can be earned, fair pensions.
But I also believe in everything I just said.
Everything I have in life I have because I think differently from most others. That is where the competitive advantage of the tech entrepreneur lies. So excuse me, but I will go on thinking my way and will not change my mind until data proves me wrong.