Interview: Wonders and Challenges of Synthetic Futures (We’re Already In) / Henry Ajder

Many of the dystopian visions of the future have “the reality problem”, where digital beings and realities are everywhere, indistinguishable from “the real world”.  Advanced technologies built today make many of these fantasies (and nightmares) – closer, if not already here. Are digital, synthetic human-like creatures going to conquer our social lives? What is synthetic media, why is it revolutionary, and are so-called deepfakes a threat to national security and our sanity and wellbeing? How – and who – is “protecting us”? I spoke with Henry Ajder who is one of the leading researchers on the topic of synthetic media, magical tech that is transforming both our understanding of ourselves and our social lives, to find out more.  

AI technologies are just kicking in. And we’re still far from the digital-first world

The AI field itself is just several decades old and has gone through different cycles over time, made of hypes, winters, high hopes, new winters, then all over again, and many new approaches and techniques emerging along the way. It is constantly evolving, and one technique, in particular, so-called deep learning, is the most responsible for recent breakthroughs. And one of the most thought-provoking, but also consequential applications of AI tech is generative media, where machines and algorithms create media and “things” that don’t exist but seem and act as real. A simple face swap today, the banal use case, can become true madness just around the corner. Things are getting pretty messy even today.

Many extremely smart people suspect that the invention of super-advanced AI will be the single most important event in human history, so much that some assume even further proclaiming it to be the number one existential risk for humanity. Something so strong and intelligent beyond human apprehension, with its own will, might not be controlled by us mortals, and we might lose and suffer, in silly ways. Utopians see AGI, artificial general intelligence, that’s when machine intelligence surpasses ours in all areas, as the most beneficial discovery ever;  that’s when flourishing will be unstoppable, and unimaginable possibilities will be popping up everywhere. Solving the biggest problems, the creation of wealth for all, so the world can exponentially leap forward. No one knows how and when, but we’re moving towards it, fast. 

And then, rather unexpectedly it feels, Facebook rebrands to Meta, trying to lead the deeper transformation in which we collectively start living our lives in a setting that is digital-first. They call it metaverse, although no one has the perfect definition yet, trying to brand what might become the next computational paradigm. Instead of using our fingers and staring at pocket devices, it will be so much more immersive. Black Mirror stuff. How exactly? Well, no one knows.

We are still very early in all of this. Software is running our contemporary lives, but most of the software is still dumb in many ways and instances, and so many of our life experiences are not digital-first. There are too many frictions. And the whole metaverse pitch is also confusing. There is this atypical understanding of it though, which puts the focus on time. Maybe we are there already? Same as cyborgs, more or less. Can you imagine living without a phone – and Google –  as your mind extension? It’s just that all of this will be thousands of times better in the next 50 years.

Wait: what is real?

“What is real?” is one of the most frequent questions philosophers have been kicking their heads with from the dawn of philosophy as the discipline of thinking about the world, us, and nature. Up until recently, our eyes, for example, were enough to do a basic tell. 

These people, for example, are not real. They look nice, don’t they? Their faces look cute, even familiar, definitely real, but are made by computers, algorithms. Now imagine having a Zoom call with some of them, if they could speak intelligently. Could you fall in love, or make a deal and wire 1000 bucks? Have you seen A, B, or C? We’re not there yet, but we are getting closer. If it’s possible to literally create people, many strange things can happen. 

Disinformation is the first to come to mind. Just the ability to create content that looks real, whether video, photo, or audio, and the power to impersonate someone saying or doing something that hasn’t happened, creates threats that can lead to deaths, chaos, or even wars. Imagine a fake video in which Trump says something really nasty about an Arab leader, or a video of someone pressing the nuclear red button. Wicked.  

The treat is real. The possibilities are miraculous!


What’s actually happening? Where is this generative media tech applied today, what are folks building? How is it regulated, if there’s a need? How can we be sure that what we see on Youtube isn’t false?

Henry Ajder is one of the leading researchers and thinkers in this exciting field, regularly contributing to global media outlets and consulting the most important stakeholders in the world, including governments, businesses, and international organizations. He’s currently part of the Metaphysic where he leads Strategy and Partnerships. Previously, he was Head of Research Analysis at the world’s first deepfakes detection company an Emerging Technologies Researcher at the London-based innovation think tank, Nesta. The topic is massive, so we’ve tried to focus just on some of the most interesting aspects, primarily to inspire further attention, thinking and research. 


The obvious question first: what is synthetic media? I mean, deepfakes sound so frightening. Can we start with a few definitions?

I’d say deepfakes are a form of synthetic media, but not all synthetic media necessarily is a deepfake. The phrase deepfake emerged in a very kind of natural way, in the community, online. And as such, it wasn’t coined in a scientific or academic context, and so its meaning is still quite fluid. It was used initially exclusively to refer to the swapping of celebrity faces in pornographic footage, but now people use it to refer to different kinds of face manipulation and video. They refer to non-pornographic videos. They refer to voice audio as deepfakes, as the term doesn’t really have a fixed meaning. I typically use it to describe malicious uses of synthetic media, which are intentionally designed to harm or deceive. But that is by no means a universally agreed definition. Some people don’t use it in that way. S the term that I try to use, where possible, is synthetic media, and synthetic media refers to a broad range of forms of media, which are generated entirely or partially by using artificial intelligence, specifically types of deep learning and neural networks. That could be things like voice audio, that could be music, that could be swapping entire faces, or things like lip movements. That could be photos of nonexistent people or even non-existent entities. That could be areas such as the kind of interactive media technologies, kind of things akin to metaverse technologies, like AR and VR. And then it could also technically be something like GPT-3 or large language models. A wide range of tech, obviously things like Jurassic Park AI, or like early forms of VFX still in some sense, all synthetic media. If you want to be really specific, you can talk about AI-generated synthetic media, but typically most people just say synthetic media. 

How did you end up in all of this, what’s your personal story and why do you think it’s so important that you’ve decided to dedicate your career to it?

So I started off in my academic background as a philosopher or philosophy student, where I was focused primarily on metaphysics and the philosophy of perception. That’s a really interesting area for me because you kind of see this collision of philosophical traditions in philosophy perception around things like phenomenology, the nature of conscious experience, and trying to fit that into kind of models of understanding and how certain experiences impact the way you see the world, yourself, and other people. I was also very interested in the issues around AI and things like Superintelligence. I saw a lot of emerging technologies, in a sense, bankrupting existing moral frameworks to an extent and requiring new ways of thinking about new problems to account sufficiently for harms and benefits. And so with those two kinds of focus areas, with deepfakes first emerging in late 2017, I came across the subreddit post on a group about futurism, about future technologies. And it immediately struck me, this technology. And seeing this as an entirely new category, an entirely new form of creation and also perception. How this will change the way that we interact with each other, both organically and synthetically was really quite profound to me, and looking both at those kinds of interesting creative uses around art and things like this, but then also the quite wide range of malicious uses, too. I came into this by researching the topic in think tanks and then working for the world’s first deepfake detection company as a researcher looking into the different kinds of deepfakes out there. That’s the rough sketch of my journey. 

The company you’re working with now, Metaphysic, is creating software and synthetic media solutions for others, as a service. Can you tell me more about it? What are some of the most interesting applications that are over already delivered, or in production? 

In Metaphysic it’s about developing the technologies to make hyper-real synthetic media better and to an extent, more accessible, but with the caveat of doing that in a way that is responsible and ethically driven. The company was co-founded by Chris Ume, the world-leading deepfake artist behind the deep Tom Cruise project, and many other really impressive kinds of hyper-real deepfakes. The idea is that the company is going to be trying to develop the tools. That means more people don’t necessarily need to have that very specific, highly rarefied expertise that Chris has and can use the technology in creative and exciting ways. We’re not going to have this in the hands of anyone, but it could be that, for example, someone in the VFX space who has no background in deepfakes can now use this to create certain effects for films or for adverts, or for pieces of art. The basic premise behind it is to provide the engine for hyper-real synthetic media of the future. Tom Cruise project really got people to pay attention. What’s really interesting that I’ve noticed is people recognize that Tom Cruise is a character, which is not the same as Tom Cruise. A lot of people love this kind of character that you build around him in the kind of funny situations you put them in. I think that’s really interesting and we’re seeing kind of deepfake satire and parody becoming a really kind of prominent area, but also film, entertainment, and more generally, the speculative area of the metaverse. The idea is that as the technology becomes more accessible, becomes more kind of embedded in day-to-day life, that we can all have hyper-real avatars of ourselves that we could then use. You can play with your synthetic version of yourself in the many different applications, which soon will be kind of a part of everyday life in that kind of world of the metaverse and sort of the Web3 era of communication. We recognize that it needs to be done right. There’s a lot of the classic Spider-Man. Great power, great responsibility. Got to make sure that the technology we’re developing doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. 

I believe you can share some data and insights? A number of deepfakes that are online, number of registered misuses, categories of misuses, adoption rates, as in people creating synthetic media content with their phones, numbers that can tell what’s happening and how is it progressing? 

The most important piece of research I did was the world’s first mapping of the deepfake landscape back in 2019, in a report called The State of Deepfakes. And at the time, we found that the number of deepfake videos online was just under 15000, and that represented an almost doubling in the space in just under a year. Fast forward to today, the landscape has changed dramatically. The biggest driver of that again is being synthetic media or deepfake applications becoming increasingly accessible to the everyday person. It’s no longer something that you need proficiency in programming or expensive computer hardware, nor the time to learn. Face swapping is super accessible through friendly apps on iPhone App Store or on the Android Store, and you typically need just one image that takes seconds to generate. One of the biggest apps in the space for that kind of usage could Reface. I think it was July they announced that they’d had over three billion Facebook videos generated on their app in another app working in a similar kind of space. Wombo, which is another novelty kind of app like lip-synching and kind of media, is a very friendly app. They recently announced that they’d passed 1 billion “wombos” being generated. You can see that the emergence of these apps has fundamentally changed the nature of the landscape. The malicious users are still very much prominent, and particularly in the gendered image abuse context, commonly referred to as deepfake pornography. It’s a phrase I try not to use, but that is a space which again, as these other apps have become more accessible, so have the malicious tools become more accessible. I’ve done research on these tools becoming increasingly user-friendly over the last couple of years, identifying new tools that are emerging that give people more powerful capabilities for things like synthetically stripping still images to face swapping, again one click into a library of adult material. These spaces are growing massively. Some of these forums the biggest form for this content have over a million members. You know some of the most popular tools for generating this content. Although the landscape may have shifted away from like that being a small number of videos and the vast majority of those being pornographic in terms of malicious deepfakes, the vast majority remain this form of image abuse targeting women. We are starting to see cyber security threats, in particular fraud and impersonation via audio increasing in frequency, and we’re also seeing the concept of deepfakes alone destabilizing democratic processes. People think  deepfakes are the thing causing the problem for democracies and people causing people not to trust what they see. Or is actually if the idea itself now allows people to dismiss real things as fake as well? And that has caused in Gabon, in Africa, in Myanmar, those two countries in particular serious, serious democratic issues where people believe that real videos were fake and that’s had serious consequences. That’s a kind of rough lay of the landscape right now, at least on the malicious side. There are plenty of creative and commercial uses, which are super interesting around film, new forms of communication, particularly for younger generations, around digital fashion,  and around avatars. The malicious side of things is certainly equally as important, if not more so. 

You worked for a company that does deepfake detection. How hard is it to detect a deepfake? How does the process work? Is it possible for something not to be recognized as a deepfake?  

It depends on what you mean by deepfake detection. If you’re talking about the automated process – yes. If you’re talking about training machine learning systems or algorithms to identify deepfakes with the aim for that to be more reliable than the human eye, the short answer is it’s incredibly, incredibly difficult because these models are being updated all the time for generating deepfakes. Because this is adversarial, the dynamic, between people who are looking to fool detection systems and building them. The people who form the systems are always going to be on the front foot because they get to fool the system, at which point the people then have to scramble to fix that. Facebook did a deepfake detection challenge, the results were published back in January last year. The best accuracy level was 65 percent. Can you imagine, let’s say there’s a law case or a trial where someone is being accused of murder, and the video is the defining piece of evidence. Would you trust the 65 percent accuracy-based model for that? You probably wouldn’t in many other critical contexts as well. The current accuracy and reliability of these tools are just not good enough to be deployed and based on that adversarial dynamic, I think it’s highly unlikely that we will ever see deepfake detection alone being used to decide whether something is real or not, or if we do that, to me is a sign of a pretty shady system for authentication. 

What do you do then? The other thirty-five percent

I mean, I think the thing is, it’s not the other 35 percent, it’s all of it. If it’s only 60 percent, that’s slightly better than the guess. Would you trust it? I don’t think I would. And this is a real challenge. This is a really significant issue. Detection may get really good, it is possible if there’s a lot of resources going into it and it’s constantly being invested in and there are some breakthrough techniques, maybe detection really could do the job, on maybe it could do a really good job on the vast majority of content. Maybe it’s like one layer of the process. Ultimately, it’s a real challenge if synthetic media gets to the point, which I think it will, which is just hyper-realistic content that is is very pervasive. Definitively proving whether something is real or not is like you can be very difficult to do after the fact. What I think is probably the most promising solution approach is going for authentication at the source. There are several initiatives and technology approaches going on here, which are kind of controlled capture or content authentication protocols, which are basically deploying where images were captured or a video is recorded on the chip in the device, you’re getting encrypted metadata, which is then attributed and you know that ledger is then filed on the blockchain, right? So that more bottom-up approach is much easier for a lifespan of a piece of media to deal with than trying to authenticate things from a more top-down perspective. Obviously, it comes with its own issues, the labeling. Maybe you can or can’t afford these new cutting-edge technologies that have this software. Maybe if you use it in human rights context, for example, they don’t want to give away their metadata or reveal their identity. And so there are issues around creating media hierarchies. I think, on the whole, that is a much more promising approach to authenticating media in a critical context than detection. Even if I think detection still has some role to play, it will be more limited than some people think. 

On the other side, let’s think of tech for good applications for a second. For example, loneliness or mental health issues, extremely big ones. I can fantasize about education as well, where every kid has a personal mentor of some sort, a virtual person. Are there any startups already building any of this stuff? 

I think that there are lots of really interesting and exciting uses of synthetic media, as you said, for things like bringing education to life, like having someone tell you about, you know, a historical figure, tell you about their life in an engaging way or like having that person as your mentor. A lot of work is being done looking at whether synthetic media could help people recover from addiction. Could maybe synthetically recreating someone’s voice or their likeness help someone process the loss of that person? On the flip side, it could also ruin process. This is why it needs to be carefully developed and studied. And I think one of the areas that is worth mentioning here, which I’m excited about, is accessibility. One kind of often cited project is called Project Revoice, which is about synthetically recreating people’s voices who have lost the ability to speak. So if you think of Stephen Hawking who was given the robotic voice, it was just there was no technology to clone the real one. Chances are he would get a really nice, personalized voice to speak with now, which I think is hugely valuable to people who rightly see the voice as an extension of their identity. And then also in a space like gaming, transgender gamers being able to perhaps speak with a voice that better reflects how they identify, help people, or using voice masking if they don’t want to share their own voice online. There are loads of that, this is just scratching the surface. We are Metaphysic are also working on some really interesting projects, which I can’t say much about, but we’re working on some really cool stuff that is really trying to showcase the kind of good that synthetic media can do. And I see a lot of avatars and education. And there are some like Réplica, for example, which are about creating chatbots and friends like avatars that could be your friends. But there are some questions about is that the right way to fix loneliness in society? Can a chatbot or a synthetic personality ever replace a real person? And at the same time, a new generation, a new relationship with technology? Maybe that is the future. There are lots of startups really interested in using it in a positive way. 

That’s absolutely mind-blowing

The tech really is astonishing. If you’re interested, look up Codec avatars by Facebook. That’s that like embodied VR chat avatars and they are unbelievable. They are unbelievably realistic. And so if you imagine that within a decade, that’s going to be in the hands of everyone, and we’ll be able to have a conversation like this, but embodied in VR with synthetic versions of ourselves. It’s going to be an incredibly disruptive technology, in both positive and negative way. 

To cite US Congress: “potential to be used to undermine national security, erode public trust in our democracy and other nefarious reasons”. If you could summarize what regulators and governments around the world are doing now, how can government approach any of this? 

The way that governments have been approaching it so far has been kind of quite polarized. On one side, you have a lot of people who are really parroting quite sensational lines around it. It’s going to cause World War III by someone playing a video of Trump pressing the button back when Trump was president, or this is going to mean we can’t trust anything we see anymore. There’s a lack of nuance, and understandably so to an extent. The media coverage is fixated on the malicious users typically, and those malicious uses are serious and need to be taken seriously. One thing that I find slightly difficult somewhat sometimes is people suggesting criminalizing the usage of tech based on its malicious or deceptive potential. How do you define deceptive, when is something intentionally deceptive? Does it matter or not? Is something as a Snapchat filter that you’re using on your Tinder profile, deceptive to the person you’re about to go on a date with? Then computational photography and the chips in all of our smartphones are going to be banned because that effectively processes all of the images you take on that phone. Governments are working on certain fronts in ways I think are really positive. For example, explicit laws around banning intimate image abuse, using deepfakes, I think are good. One way I don’t like is the more kind of sticky stuff. For example, say like banning deepfakes 30 days before an election, unless clearly fake or satire. How do you define what satire is? You know, 30 days seems quite arbitrary. Why not 14, or 45? Why 30 days? The governments around the world, from South Korea to Taiwan to India to the US and UK are actively looking to legislate, and I think that’s good on certain fronts. But without recognizing the nuances that are required with such a broad technology that might cause issues that I’m keen to avoid. 

You already mentioned Facebook. Big Tech and big social media platforms play an important role here because that’s the distribution channel and how content becomes viral. Besides the challenge you already mentioned organized by Facebook, what else is happening? Especially because “algorithmic moderation” isn’t perfect – it’s not working. Do these companies have dedicated teams that are looking into this? 

I guess there’s a difference I’d say between like the big social media platforms, in a sense, and Big Tech. It’s quite clear that Facebook’s whole statement of intent with becoming Meta. Microsoft is working on a lot of metaverse synthetic media technologies, as Amazon, as Google, as Tencent and Baidu. And all of these big technology companies have research labs that are focusing on synthetic media and also on its applications. Also Twitter and Facebook, all those platforms. You’re right, algorithmic moderation not very robust, but ultimately is the best they can do without literally bankrupting their business model. They would never be able to hire the moderators required to ever not use algorithmic moderation. Having said that, they have got policies coming in that to have varying efficacy around synthetic media. For example, Facebook is banning deepfakes, like A.I. generated or manipulated deceptive stuff, but they haven’t banned more crude forms of media manipulation, such as what we call shallow fakes. Twitter has policy explicitly again forbidding malicious or deceptive uses of synthetic media or manipulated media in general. It comes back to the question when the hypothetical causes this problem. They can’t stop it being uploaded to the platform, at least not right now. And it will take time for it to be like blocked or banned at that point. Chances are the damage has already been done. Big Tech is investing a lot of money into this. The social media platforms in particular, are very much buying into this kind of vision of the future of communication. But the problems that come with deepfakes are the same kinds of problems that we’ve seen with other forms of racial abuse and media manipulation. It’s not like an entirely new problem, it’s just a new way of expressing existing issues, and it’ll be very interesting to see how the platforms deal with it. 

I have two more questions. One is from the conference you’ve organized recently, and the second one is more sci-fi-ish. I really liked the idea of “media provenance”, where you as a reader or viewer can see the history of how certain content was made. How would that like look in practice? Would it be like tags, would it be something on the side of a viewer, for example, on YouTube or when you’re scrolling the News Feed? Are there any initiatives there that are already in place? 

People are dating “robots” even today. If we can hypothetically create virtual, digital beings that are indistinguishable from reality, do you see the future where are life companions might be virtual? Living “happily ever after”, in metaverse?

On the first one on provenance, the best place to look right now is Adobe’s Content Authenticity Initiative. And specifically, the C2PA  standard, which is one of those open standards for content provenance akin to, say, PDF. t’s an open standard that is used and is accessible to anyone. It has Twitter signed up to it, the New York Times signed up it, BBC, Intel, Arm. It’s got that whole journey right from the chip on the phone to the social media platforms, to the news platforms. Metaphysic is a member of the Content Authenticity Initiative as well. The process is that you try and get that metadata from the image where it was taken, when it was taken. The kind of rearrangement of the pixels fundamentally is right. And then you have a button maybe to press. Maybe like a watermark, or some kind of accessible metadata for certain applications where you can then access it. For example, right now, Twitter, if something’s misleading, they have the little icon saying “this is misleading”, maybe in the future they have something that says “to see image metadata, press here”. If it’s been edited, that tells you when it’s been edited and how and then on other applications, I imagine it would be a very similar story is that, you know, news organizations is in the interest to be very transparent with this stuff. Adobe, again, obviously evangelizes their own sort of technologies very heavily in terms of the kind of embedding this into their own products and their own tools. It’s still not 100 percent solidified, and it will vary depending on platform to platform, But I think that the ideal end goal is that we reflexively look for metadata in the same way that maybe we look for like a corresponding headline from the BBC or the New York Times about a news story that seems suspicious. So you really trying to build in that reflexive attitude towards it. 

On the second question, the kind of the Brave New World aspect of this. I mean, if you think about Alexa as a tool and when that was released,  a lot of people, including myself, felt uncomfortable with that in the house. It felt weird. It felt kind of alien, at first. And now it’s an accepted part of most people, or a lot of Western people in particular, and they would reflexively ask, “What’s the weather like today?”. And I think you’ll see a similar shift coming with synthetic media and more sophisticated and realistic forms around avatars and things like this. I mean, we’re already seeing virtual influencers being some of these popular influencers on Instagram, getting probably million-dollar deals to advertise.

Hypothetically, it’s possible to have, like immortal whatever, like synthetic version your parents them,  they can live forever. If there virtual beings that have their movements, or voice, and everything in between?

It’s almost like some imprint of them. It’s just getting very sci-fi, but like being able to import your identity entirely in some respect, like basically uploading your brain into a synthetic avatar. And then there are questions about is there such thing as static identity, identity over time? You know, you’re always learning. Are you in a state of flux? And is that like an extra capturing of your final moment, your final stage before you die? Does that mean that you’re already like an identity if you’re not constantly in flux and learning and growing? Or could you continue to evolve? I mean, again, these are super abstract, hypothetical questions. What I do think is going to become more frequent and more likely is that people form attractions of many different forms to synthetic versions of themselves, real people, or non-existent people. We already see that with people fancing animated characters. Or like people using Snapchat filters and wanting to get surgery to look like the filters. And we all are in this weird point of like like reality imitating fiction in a weird sense. And I think that a lot of kind of interesting philosophical and ethical questions that surround that, but no doubt what seems alien and weird today in a decade, I think will be much more part of day-to-day life. It will bring many questions that we need to think about now so that we’re not being reactive to problems that emerge, but proactive in trying to figure out how to best use and implement these technologies. 

#random: “What needs to be done that no one else is doing?”

What needs to be done that no one else is working on? It’s such a great question to ask when thinking about what to focus on.

Personal is limitless

“What needs to be done” part is, it seems to me, a well-thought intuition.

We wander around, scrolling our personalized news feeds of life, and experience so many things that frustrate us. Frustrations build, sometimes for years and decades. Even if we don’t decide to step aside and sketch it on a piece of paper, thought processes run in the background of our minds. It’s personal, deeply disturbing, and continuous. “Why the f*** no one has solved this s***?!” 

“What needs to be done” is a question that is always answered with our hearts and stomachs. Something is so wrong that it hurts. Think about the last seven days of your life. What about the world hurts the most? We are humans, a universal kind, so if something hurts us, there’s a high probability that it hurts others as well. Sometimes these others are massive groups of people, our fellows.

Hello, WHY. WHY is grand. In business, it does fundraising and secures great hires. In politics, it fuels movements and leads to votes. All the WHYs in the world are personal and therefore emotional, so they resonate.

“What needs to be done” is urgent too, the most important aspect of any sales. 

The world full of failures 

The world, as it is, is always –  failed. At least: unfinished. There’s always something rotten that needs to be fixed. Solving old problems always leads to new challenges and so on. That’s life. A neverending story. Camus still imagines Sisyphus as happy though. What is life without challenges and trills?

This is the rational aspect of the initial question. 

If a problem, a cause, (potentially) resonates with the large population, it’s a perfect combination. If the answer to the second part of the question is that no one else is working on it – it’s an immediate opportunity. It’s anchored in reality and it requires a rational assessment of the real world. It starts with the world as it is. 

Where personal meets the real needs

I like to think about this question as to the bridge between personal cause, even ethics, and the market. That’s good for everyone.

If no one else is working on it, and it’s spread, your work is important, and others will understand and support you, either by joining or “buying”. Working on it, whatever it might be, keeps us the most productive because we are intrinsically passionate – it’s personal. It just feels right. It’s our mission.

Random Thoughts: A Few Thoughts on Entrepreneurial Activism

I was involved in organizing a conference in Paris once. It was about technology and refugees. At some point, a refugee entrepreneur on the main stage, a Syrian tech entrepreneur, tried to explain how starting a business was the act of heroic activism for both him and his companions.

The audience from the Western world was first in shock, a positive, empathetic one. Contexts are so different. Building companies in societies ripped by the war is truly noble and so important and consequential for the society.

A few perspectives to think about

First, all businesses pay taxes. Taxes are then being redistributed. That’s the money that goes for homeless people, single moms etc. It’s better to have a bigger budget, which is a consequence of entrepreneurial and business activities. More money for any important cause.

Second, businesses employ people. Salaries pay for new skills and homes, sports for kids, and everything in between. Also taxed and put back into the economy and society.

Third, financially empowered people, both owners and employees can care about others. Close ones first, family and friends, but society at large as well.

Unintended consequences are so beautiful. 

The most frightening comment section that I ever read through was one on Startit’s website, the national portal for IT entrepreneurship in Serbia. The article debated whether programmers who earn several times more money than the rest of the Serbian proletariat, choose long-term career development plans over pure cash, arguing for the former.

The author was fiercely attacked in the comments section. Why? Some programmers in the heated texting arguments shared their personal stories. The situation is so awful amongst their loved ones that many (!) of them are actually funding 3-6 other people, namely old parents, unemployed brothers and sisters, aunts.. Every penny counts.

Fourth, all businesses solve problems, that’s why they exist. That’s a value for society. Entrepreneurship is a problem-solving discipline. Want to get rich? Solve the problem the most people have. The more pressing the problem, the bigger the reward. That’s ok!

From a macro perspective, indeed, a better economy equals better everything. 

Also, people tend to donate. If they can, meaning either create something or are paid well. It’s actually a pretty loved hobby. The world is horrible, but it isn’t that bad.

The opposition between entrepreneurship/business and activism is false so many times.

Random Thoughts: “Work it out mate, we’re in the wrong F**** Game”

Maybe it’s better to ask what is the game you’re playing instead of other questions when meeting a new person?

One of the coolest movie openings, “Layer Cake”:

Do not worry, this post isn’t about drugs and the drug business. 

Different Games, different everything

It’s impossible to know the future, but it’s highly recommended to imagine it from time to time and base life decisions on that. The prices are too high.

Let’s play around with imaginary Jason fella for a bit.

If he marries Jenny, he will become a mayor, and then Senator, and then a Presidential candidate. It’s because Jenny is understanding, supportive, and believes in him. They are both driven by meaningful societal change.

If he moved to Florida with his best student mate John when he was 21, he would run a successful business at a 20 million annual run rate in just 3 years. That’s because John was his business soul mate. 

If he stopped hanging out with those jerks when he was 16, he would finish university and wouldn’t overdose before he turned 30.

All of the potential scenarios above – his life, actually – are the consequences of decisions he has or hasn’t made. And all of them could have happened if he had chosen differently. 

I’ll do a short reflection on my 2 months long political career. It wasn’t a plan, although I was always political, in a sense that I cared and thought about society a lot.

How did I end up in that game? I rented an apartment in Belgrade city center with a few friends because we wanted to experiment with different business ideas. We wanted to have a nest for it. 

A little more context: a different political candidate emerges. He talks about the venture capital industry because he was a venture-backed startup CEO. He sounds and acts reasonable, has European experience, some level of success in Canada and the USA, American pragmatism. A different persona compared to the others in Serbian politics.

Anyway, the apartment we decided to rent was one of the first places where signatures for his candidacy were being collected. I didn’t know that would happen, it was so fast. A renting pal decided to help with candidacy literally the day before. I was surprised to see so many random people in the apartment that evening.

I soon realized that all the people who were there signing the necessary support documents were so decent. I had casual chats about psychedelic rock music and stuff like that. I was amazed! Look like my tribe?

At some point, I was asked: “Hey, would you help with getting signatures in Pancevo?”

Sure, why not. 

I gathered 30 people in my hometown of Pancevo. Candidacy approved, so let’s campaign. It was such an incredible and valuable experience, but let’s leave that for some other time.

The campaign was over, so I decided to conduct some serious thinking. 

First, I was sick of all the people from other political parties I ran across during the campaign. Bad people. Second, I have realized that serious politics – it’s immoral to do it any other way – is a 24/7 type of deal. No time to learn, grow or do any other meaningful things.

The main reason why I’ve decided to proactively step down and not continue was the realization that it would eventually make me a worse person and that I would need to sacrifice my whole current life for it. It’s not that I cared that much. Plus, that would keep me localized, which felt claustrophobic.

Let’s take a look at an entrepreneurship example.

Nikola thinks of starting something of his own.

Option #1 is starting a little cafe. It’s a small town, the market is tiny. Option #2 is a service-oriented web business conducted online, utilizing his ability to gather quality people and his decent web development skills. Option #3 is playing as a one-man band, as a premium freelancer.

How might have those unfolded?

He didn’t do the math. He chose option #1 and made a mistake. He didn’t envision all the little annoyances, including constant inspections and managing so many people, and he definitely hasn’t done any substantial financial projections.

Had he gone with option 3 he would have earned 5 times more a month than he made with his cafe in profits.

How to think about the Game(s) (of Life)

You don’t know, as I don’t know, and as no one actually can know. We need to do the research, talk with people, learn from them, think about it deeply and experience it first-hand.

Choosing which game to play, meaning where to invest time and energy is one the most important things in life.

Have in mind that the whole life, as in the number of waking hours and minutes, in most cases, is mostly two things: work and love/partnership. Would that mean that those two are the most important things in life? If you spend that much time working, then choose wisely where to work. And, first of all, the work itself. 

Anyway, are there any frameworks and techniques for this? 

I really liked Julian’s article on how to choose what you should be working on.  It’s my favorite article on this topic. I would highly recommend it.

Analyzing and proper research always go far. Think about possible options, through the lens of the people who are already there. How do their days look? How much do they earn? Talk with them. Online. Does it sound inspiring? Luckily, all of this is on the Web.

I also really liked this article

“So, instead of thinking through what we wanted our perfect day to look like, we thought about the worst day imaginable and how to avoid it. We inverted and came up with what we call Anti-Goals.”

Interesting approach. 

It’s incredible how we forget to do the most logical thing in the world, which is to step back and look at the bigger picture. “Take a step back and look at the bigger picture.”

Regular assessments, by all means, help. This works in career, love, any type of relationship. “Does it feel right? Why not? What should I change?”Self-awareness rocks!

I often opt for rationalism and objectivism although I do not fully agree with the philosophy developed by Ayn Rand.

Random Thoughts: Internet and AI Equality

Imagine that you are a CEO or a hiring manager of a company named XYU. You are about to choose from two candidates.

The first one is an Ivy League computer science graduate, with a recent machine learning doctorate. The second one is a random kid from Romania, a self-starter with just a high school diploma. The first spent the last five years working on the latest AI technology in MIT’s lab. The second spent the last 3 doing the same but on its own research agenda, starting from scratch while spending 8 hours every day working a random daily job to feed his family. The first was solely focused on his thesis. The second did all the advanced work while renting 8 hours of his life 5 days a week. Surprisingly, Romanian self-started has a better portfolio and demonstrates more innovative thinking in the interview.

Both PhD-s. The first was stamped by the prestigious institution. The second? “Poor, hungry and determined”.

That’s the Internet.

Internet and Equality

The Internet made the world the most equal ever.

The most obvious recent big thing:

“Permanently divorcing physical location from economic opportunity gives us a real shot at radically expanding the number of good jobs in the world while also dramatically improving quality of life for millions, or billions, of people.” 

The world is still insanely inequal. Thankfully, so many great people are working on it. Hopefully, the world will be a much better place soon. Technology is what makes the world more equal. 

AI and Equality

We are still early in the AI game. It’s interesting to think about what advanced AI can do for equality building on the top of the world wide web.

I like this theory that we already are some sort of cyborgs. We use Google in so many gorgeous ways, so extensively that it is part of our core, almost physical beings. We are always connected to the Internet and enhance our abilities by it, intuitively. Google knows what to give us, and it does it so fast. Some kind of intelligence, right, that has so deeply become part of our instincts.

Let’s imagine an even brighter future.

Education. The Internet made it free. For the first time in human history, almost any knowledge is free of charge. Learning with others and mentors is more effective though. Imagine personalized AI tutors. What if we can build conversational AIs that can teach us things we would like to learn, and guide us along the whole way? What if that’s the most effective way to learn? Imagine every kid having a personalized AI mentor.

Life itself. We might extend our lifespan soon. Also, and more importantly, we might end a lot of chronic and other diseases, saving lives of millions every year, particularly of those in marginalized communities and positions. There’s a very high probability that some kind of AI will charge these breakthrough, life-saving and life extension achievements, directly or indirectly.

AI guardian angels”. I like this notion. Take for example the epidemic of loneliness and the cost of psychological help. AI beings might be there to provide help when there’s no one else. 

Paths. Life used to be so confusing for the vast majority of the worldwide population, so – inequal. Access to knowledge and routes to XYZ were hidden in closed networks. Class societies. The open Internet democratized it, revolutionizing societies at scale. Now imagine an AI layer on top of it. A personal assistant that can sketch your different paths, and how and where they lead. 

Language. If you know English well you are a few years ahead. Real-time translation can break down many barriers, access and learning being one of the first serious use cases. 

Rule of Law. We are equal on paper, but in reality, there are racisms in this world, ethnic and other discriminations, violence, biases, corruption… All of these affect the underprivileged much more. AI might. Who’s building “AI for Justice“? Things like “algorithmic bias patrol”, ” corruption AI officers” and things like that?

Random Thoughts: How Deep is Their Propaganda? A Few Experiences from Serbia

Propaganda is a serious and dangerous phenomenon. It’s arguably even natural to a certain point, but engineering people’s realities, ruthlessly, at scale, is the source of so many evils.  

Propaganda, dissemination of information—facts, arguments, rumours, half-truths, or lies—to influence public opinion.

Serbia in the 1990s

Slobodan Milošević was in charge of Serbia in the late 20th century. Adored by contemporaries and regional leaders for his intelligence although in battles with them, his country was bleeding and suffering.

We were in wars, experienced hyperinflations, we were poor with no bread and electricity, and we were bombed when millions were dancing for freedom on the streets of Berlin, and so many other terrible things, but the vast majority of people still truly loved him. Why? How is that even possible?

How deep was his propaganda? 

I would argue deeper than most of the lovers connect. It’s a one on one relationship of the highest grade, for a decade. Almost impossible to break up. 

Imagine having the same face and voice 10, 20, 30 times a day, relentlessly repeating the same story over and over again.  All the political others are portrayed as thieves, rapists, drug dealers, national traitors.. you know what’s in that folder. Repeated millions of times. Non-stop.

At some point he wasn’t a political option, that’s a separate debate.

In an interesting thought experiment, and I would argue that it’s true, people would still vote for him. That’s so sad. It’s so deep and profound.

It’s also interesting to think about potential moments of personal revelations of those previously brainwashed to the maximum. I believe it’s hard to admit to yourself that you were so naive. Like Fox Mulder, “you want to believe”. Egos are so fragile. 

Anyway, the propaganda-intimacy connection with millions of people, especially older ones who are staring at TV screens the whole day is: forever. Yep, they would probably vote for him whatever happens. Until they die. He was so deep in their minds, hearts, unconsciousness, bones, atoms, and kidneys.

So sad.


Serbia today

Today, Serbia is ruled by Aleksandar Vučić who sets and controls the narrative and messes with the minds of millions of people, every day, all day.

Methodology and tactics are the same. Let me brainwash you every day, meaning every morning, lunchtime, evening and before going to bed, and in between, whenever you forget about me and my heroic but intimate story. 

It’s a different era, so social media is part of the operation too.

Human bots are spreading the narrative. They control the news feed!

How do those bot networks work? They’re not programmed. They are people, thousands of them. Don’t want to share it? You’re fired! They coordinate and track their actions using advanced software solutions and military-style organization.

I was shocked to find out that some of my random acquaintances are also part of the human bot network. Some of them would do what is requested and then delete their posts because they were ashamed. Good, some shame, and hence humanity, is still there. I accidentally spotted this several times. 

Is there a way out?

Holy cow, I can’t even start to analyze North Korea for example.

How to get out? Seriously, how?

Random Thoughts: Personal Geography and Similar Boundaries

Act 1: Birth and Growing Up

You’re born at a very specific location, we can reasonably assume in the closest local hospital, in a random village or city. It’s random, in a sense that you haven’t chosen your parents, nor the location. Lottery. That’s how your life begins. That’s how all of us start.  Hello, world!

Your parents, and perhaps their parents, in some cases nannies and other close family members or parent’s dear friends, are your whole world for a while. You breathe, cry, learn to walk, always with and around them. Your life space is very tight!

You first start playing in someone’s arms, then in your little crib, and then in the whole house. Then yard if your family has it. Life space increases gradually. 

Your first friends are those who live nearby, a few neighborhood houses and streets. Your hood. You expand, both geographically and socially. First, it was counted in meters, but now it’s kilometers. There’s still a strong parental oversight.

If you are not homeschooled, which probably isn’t the case if you’re not born in the US, or constantly moved around by hyper-traveling parents, you start to genuinely socialize in kindergarten and primary school. Usually, it’s the nearest one. Your circle grows! 

And then when you grow up a little more, you choose a high school. Some decisions start to emerge. Is it the general type of the school, or a more focused one? Still kilometers, maybe tens of them, with occasional visits to other cities and casual outer world impressions. 

It’s not about your personality, interests, or anything about yourself. It’s about the location. The location has a colossal, crucial effect on life and acts as one of the key determinants of your being.  

If wealthy or talented, or just informed early enough, this is still mostly about your parents’ thinking though, you might end up in a high school that is abroad. In most cases, however, it’s a given. Whatever the schooling system algorithm decides. It’s about location. 

You slowly start to wander around.  

Act 2: Expansions

And then, you decide (what) to study. This is more about you, or if you are unlucky and caged by your parents’ (unfulfilled) ambitions, your parents’ choice. But still, your geography of life changes dramatically.

In this expansion phase, you encounter plenty of new people from different walks of life, cultures, diverse accents…  and different geographies. You are with like-minded people, for the first time in your life, it’s about interests and passions. And geographies merge. 

This is the most common scenario, it’s definitely not everybody’s route. Let’s stick with it for the sake of the argument. 

Your network broadens. You might even move to another city, which is especially interesting if you are coming from a small town.

The world is made of networks.  All you know, you hear from someone, either in physical reality or online. All the opportunities spread through networks as well. Also, unconscious mimicry is a serious thing. You mimic those you spend time with.

Your network of people, places and experiences, continues to flourish. 

It’s probably smart to start working and be as socially (pro)active as early as possible. Understanding of the world, and yourself consequently, happens earlier. 

Getting out of the familiar social topology is enhancing.

Act 3: Broadening the Network (and Horizons)

I was so fascinated with it a year or two ago. Let me explain.

I started analyzing some of my friends and the ways they “end”/“close” their lives at some point, too early. Nothing against it, just an observation, and how I want to go against it. People marry people from their cities, the ones they met 20 years ago, without thinking of stepping outside. The pool of possible options, if you think about it, is very small. Friendships are also closed, strong like concrete. There’s certainly some beauty in it. Life-long friends are romantic, but it’s also a cage in this context if the birth lottery isn’t ever questioned. It’s claustrophobic!

Anyway, why stop? If life is gradually unfolding in new territories, why not go further?

I write “Internet” with a capital “I” because I believe it’s literally the best thing ever. 

Imagine the earliest internet users for a second, when you needed to go through never-ending sound terror before connecting online. Imagine Alpha geeks. And their revelations when they figured out that space/time can be easily overcome and that they aren’t so freaky and alone after all. Word of wonders. Human beings, sharing whatever passion you might have.

Research on how the Internet is changing dating and societies blew my mind a few years ago. This is the link.

I did Corona Love Stories when Covid-19 hit, a special publishing side-project for people in long-distance relationships. We published countless stories about long-distance couples, how they met, fought travel bans and anxiety, and everything in between. Some of the experiences were so fascinating. 

Act 4: What do you want to do with your life?

You’re kind of set up. You hopefully have at least 50 or more years to do whatever you want. Why stop? Why settle down? Why put chips down when it’s finally your turn?

This is the most interesting and productive phase. You’re experienced and wise enough, independent, and all the other crucial necessities.

Maybe I am hardcore here or I am just tripping, but it would be so sad not to explore every corner of the world. Or at least as much money/time allows.

What will our grand-grand-children find the silliest about us?

Just 200 or so years ago, a widely unquestionable fact (in the Western world) was that women have smaller brains, it was a “scientific fact”, so they weren’t allowed to decide on the future as men and vote. Slavery also used to be perfectly fine not that long ago. More in the past and humans are massively knifing each other, blood on their hands, literally. We find it absurd from our today’s ethical standards. Riding on that rationale, it’s reasonable to ask ourselves: what will our grand-grand-children find the silliest about us?

Times, They Are Changing…

It’s kind of obvious, isn’t it? We change over time, as species, civilization, and societies, and the whole history is that wavy series of consecutive transformations. In some abstract terms, we all get it, it’s logical – the change is constant – but I don’t think we really get it. Or at least how profound this underlying truth is, and how far-reaching and empowering consequences are when it’s taken as one of the first assumptions about the world.

I fell deep into this thinking spiral in 2012 when I attended year-long feminism studies. The program was composed of four mini-courses. The most interesting of them was the one on Love. Love is always THE theme, and this course approached it in a very interesting way. It was questioning it from the historical perspective, exploring how probably the most familiar thing in the world has been changing over time. It meant different things in different eras. Romantic love, for example, didn’t exist in the far past. In Ancient Greece, the ultimate love relationship was between two men, one older and one younger. Kinky! Marriage, a monogamous one, an association that pops up as the first association to most today, is the product of a specific historical environment. It’s not the institution that was here forever. Just like Love, all the other most important concepts don’t transcend history. Everything was different and will probably be different in the future, even the core things. It was a big discovery for me and it has inspired thinking about many different phenomena from that perspective.

Then I read this great book, written by one of the directors of the aforementioned studies and found out how, and why, the political role of women has been changing over time. I was definitely hooked on that approach to reality!

Few Constructs to Think About As a Start

Let’s take a look at a few things that seem eternal to most at first. They look as if they’re here forever whilst they are just constructs, things that will eventually notoriously change in the future.

Nations. The world is made of nations, they’re sovereign, run territories, and still act as primary elements of the World Order. National leaders decide the future of the world through institutions such as the UN and other international formations, and bilaterally. Nations have nukes. They control war and peace. Just a hundred years long jump into the past and four great empires implode after World War I.

The most interesting detail in this framework of nations I accidentally stumbled upon was the fact that the early French republic had a very silly issue to resolve: no unified, standardized, common language. France is one of the big nations, isn’t it? French are protecting their language whenever they can, airports being just one front of the battle for its great nation. The public education system, which did not exist before, we are talking about centuries ago, contributed essentially to the creation of Frenchness. This proud nation was such a mess from nationalist perspective early on. 

Learning. I mean spread and acquisition of knowledge. Not so long ago, before the printing press, you could learn only by speaking to another human being. You couldn’t fly to another country, or take the bus or the rail, the travel industry almost did not exist, and the world was mostly static. Schools were not mandatory, people did not know how to read. Now you use Google, you don’t even have to click, you can speak, machines are starting to understand voice and the web is becoming much more than text. Is the future Matrix style, where you just decide to “install” a ton of knowledge or skills directly into your brain? 

What’s OK and what isn’t. One of the most brilliants minds ever, the guy who started the field of artificial intelligence, and computer science, was queer. The same guy, named Alan Turing, the story goes, also contributed to victory in World War II outsmarting the enemy with his mathematical genius. That didn’t save him from his own government; he killed himself because of the hormonal therapy pressure he was forced to take but couldn’t handle. It’s nicely portrayed in The Imitation Game. That’s just slightly more than 50 years ago, in the United Kingdom, one of today’s most liberal and open societies. It was “forbidden” to be queer, there was a rule, a procedure even, to change it. Speaking of London, one of the books that got me thinking a lot about how shitty the world was is “Down and Out in Paris and London”, by George Orwell. You don’t have anywhere to sleep? No, you can’t even sit here. Keep walking… Underage kids working 18 hours a day, you can read Emil Zola. Human rights?

Time. It’s 2020 AD. AD, meaning after Christ, the most influential historical (and fictional at the same!) figure in history. Clearly, people were not understanding the concept of time in the same way before Jesus. Is our time accounting system in place the best one? Can we improve it? What if “hours” are a stupid way to measure time? Days seem logical though, do they follow the natural cycles and the sun?

Times, They Are Accelerating…

Times, it seems, are changing. It seems that they are also accelerating. And all of what we see today indicates that the 21st century is going to be the wildest of all the centuries so far. The pace of change is – accelerating.

The strongest force for the explosion of change, many historians would point out, is the Scientific Revolution which led to the Industrial Age and exponential wealth. Without machines and technological innovations, one person could solely produce with their time and resources.

People massively move to cities. They live longer and they start to dress differently. A century or two later, they are listening to weird computer sounds, taking pills, and dancing all night. On their way to the school or work, to the fancy designed office space instead of the factory, they stare at their pocket devices and exchange emotional and operational signals with other human beings on other continents, all in parallel. 

In this century we are exploring space further, bioengineering our bodies, that longevity optimism has some truth to it, and we are building artificial agents and algorithms that are improving large parts of our lives. Machines have never been smarter. And there has never been more scientists – those who seek truths, as a profession, paid to question, explore and improve everything around us.

Everyone, even countries that aren’t that innovation savvy traditionally, understand the business – and political advantage – of innovations, hence the funding is skyrocketing as well. Everything accelerates as a consequence.

This illustration is also interesting:

Just a Few Candidates To Think About First

Let’s go back to our initial question. What will our grand-grand-children find the silliest about us?

I don’t have the answers and am not a prophet, and the point of this writing is just to inflame thinking and, hopefully, inspire some productive imagination. I’ll try to sketch a few examples focusing on a) things that I think about the most and b) things that have been transformed the most in the last few centuries or more. You can, and should, continue the list. What would you like to investigate? 


It’s a Greek thing. There weren’t any democracies before, we were told at our political science studies, they were no free men, and definitely no free women. You add two greek words – demos + kratos – and you get a very interesting conceptual framework to think about how to organize and govern societies.

The first versions of it were not for all; far from it. Do you know how much of the general population –  “free men” – meant in version 1.0 of democracy in Greece? Did you know that women were first granted the right to vote in New Zealand in 1897? Or that you couldn’t vote if you were not earning more than a certain threshold for a very long time? Did you know that some people of color de facto didn’t have the right to vote in the US, the home of democracy and its biggest and most vocal global advocate, just fifty or so years ago?

As population and generations change and digital technologies become even more imminent, we can expect radical changes in the way we govern ourselves. What if AI takes over? If you knew for sure that algorithm could be better than your mortal city fellow, would you decide it should be in charge? Would it be rational? What if democracy was just a bulshit matra, a totally ineffective way to organize ourselves collectively? Because it leads to World War 3 and human extinction? On the other hand, it’s total nonsense to just have a say (vote) just once in 4 years. While it was rational, complicated and costly to organize in the early days of representative democracy, times, they are changing. We have the necessary technologies as of this moment, or we will have them soon. Why not be more active, at least with issues you care about most and ones that directly affect you? We have those supercomputers in our pockets, why not make collective decisions in ways that are more rational?

Office and how we work

This one is easy because it’s already happening. Facebook: remote forever. Coinbase: remote forever. Twitter: remote forever. Covid-19 hit hard and the whole world went remote. Any knowledge work, it’s official, can be done online.

It’s about space and time constraints. If we take the location out of the equation, equality and opportunities spread worldwide. Companies can hire top talent from a much bigger, global pool. Individuals from all over the world can overcome their impossible small markets and work with the best in the world, or with those who are a much better fit. The overall consequence is that the whole world economy becomes much better optimized leading to better outcomes for society.  

Let’s think about the office for a second.

First, be quiet. Don’t move. Others are trying to focus. And dress accordingly!

You wake up groggy a few hours before work because you can’t afford to live in the city center, put on your office clothes, walk to station number one, and then to the second one. Then another one. Then walk. Oh, finally!  

The total of 2-3 hours of commute every day is both unnecessary and unreasonable. Plus, it’s not just a commute. Some preparation is always required, and when it’s done and you open the door of your house, you can’t just shift to a peaceful state of mind. Too much time is wasted. It’s silly.

I love to stand, walk and sometimes even lay in the bed while I work. After 5 remote years, I am still searching for the best personal productivity setting. I also love to walk and discuss. The hack was to kill the video when in meetings. You both better hear because your focus is the bigger and better focus if that’s your thing. Some people might be more productive in offices. Some aren’t. 

Also, “9 to 5” might also be a stupid arrangement, flexible work is much more natural. Due to technology, everything can be flexible. I would argue, humane as well.

Fast forward 10, 20 or 30 years in the future.

Estonian experiments of “e-Residency” are a common thing. International cooperation and interoperability make digital flows lightning fast.

Traveling around the world should be much faster. You should be probably able to just hop across the ocean. Virtual experiences and advanced virtual tools might make the meetings in person obsolete. Bye-bye space restraints!

All of this is liberating. Globalization, as it should be. Legal will probably follow. A change is one essential aspect of life – work –  drives so many changes, namely legal, migrations, architecture, equality… Did you know that spending more time in nature extends life? Would people move to Meditation? Asia? Would they prefer to spend 6 months at the seaside? Which countries will benefit the most? 

Countries are even now adjusting their immigration policies to welcome digital nomads. You can get a self-employed or freelancing visa anywhere in Europe even now. The bureaucratic procedures to get them will be streamlined in the future. I assume the whole process could be done in minutes instead of heaving months of headaches. Blockchain global infrastructures in the background? 

Jobs of the future are a whole another discussion. A very important one for policy-makers, builders and all of us, individually. 

Let’s Embrace – and Nudge/Create – the Future

Some things, a lot of them, are given, and that’s Reality. However, as everything written above shows, the change is not just possible, it’s inevitable. That means that we can influence the future, as many of our brave ancestors already did. It’s just much easier for us today. Thousands of times easier.

Let’s take a look at one very interesting – and inspiring – personal revelation:


This perspective is highly empowering.

It’s OK and even recommended to think from long-term perspectives, to be brave and trust in a brighter future by trying to create it. All the changes start with lunatics and blurry dreams.

I will close this writing with one short post, to boost morale even further.  Stripe founder, Patrick Collison, wrote this inspiring short article on magnificent projects that were built really fast. 

Random Thoughts: Optimization Problem or How to Get Whatever you Want

I think a lot about “optimization” recently. How much (and fast) can you optimize your life and make your personal reality closer to what you desire? 

Desires and formulas that work

For example, how can you optimize something like this:

                REMOTE (ability to be wherever you want anytime you want) 


 > 5-10K/month

If you’re nailing your skill (any knowledge work), it actually shouldn’t be that hard. Let’s go through it together?

The initial set of questions:

How many skills pay more than 5k and can be sold online?
How many jobs are there? Trends for the next 2, 3, and 5 years?

The second set of questions: 

Who are those people earning?
How can they be contacted?

Voila. Enough for a start. Reverse engineer the process, an approach that I am fond of recently. If X worked for thousands of Y, there’s a very high probability it might work for you too.  

The case that is extremely popular these days: how can you optimize (engineer) your financial independence? Think about it: it’s a generational thing. If you have or plan to have children, this is also for them. Being truly antifragile.

The same method works for literally anything.

The World Wide Web!

It’s so cool. Today we (can) have all the information we need. We can find out whatever we want and need –  for free. Even if it’s not already online, people are. And people are not that bad after all. They respond to cold emails and messages. Anyone who has ever tried knows that. Google! Google makes us superhumans. It’s ridiculous how much of everything we need is a search problem. It’s so wonderful how much there is on random blogs, forums, podcasts, and all the Reddits of the world. Interested in any big tech position? Probably already told in an efficient way on some obscure Youtube channel. Search is a superskill.

If the path is easy to find, analyze and understand, and then learn from it and replicate in an authentic, remixed manner, then the main question is,  “What do you want, and are you ready to get there?”

If all the paths are there, transparent as blue sky, what is the problem?

Asking yourself what you want and then defining the personal route to get there based on research isn’t easy.  Of course, putting in the work consistently for months and years is even harder. Want to live desired reality? That’s the price. You can always choose the ride you enjoy though. 

Bias to action is good!

Random Thoughts: “Get the Fucking Money” / Chamath

Random Thoughts: “Get the Fucking Money” / Chamat 

Money is one of the most consequential inventions. It makes the world go round; It’s used to fund space exploration, do fundamental scientific research, and build brave products that change the world. Sure, it’s directly connected to so many shitstorms at the same time, being the driver of so many “instrumental evils” when people will do nasty stuff to acquire it. They would also use it as an antidote to moral rules and civil behavior, to buy themselves justice, privilege, and other exemptions.

It is the instrument with the capital “i”. Like any other technology, it’s mostly about how it’s used.  By having it more, you can either solve a big problem you care about deeply, or become a terrible, corrupted person.

From the government and citizens’ perspective, it enables prosperity. More money means more taxes, a more vibrant economy and dynamic markets, more innovations, better science, and countless other things.

Wealthier people live longer and happier lives. Check this famous graph: 

It can’t buy happiness and friends and it would be wrong to center everything around it – it’s a tool – but it can change the world and solve so many problems. r.  

Not having it? Some research suggests it even lowers the IQ! This is an interesting talk:

Poverty reduction, thus, should be one of the key priorities of our civilization.

Effective Altruism

I stumbled upon effective altruism a few years ago. Effective altruism is all about using reason to produce the best for the world. What should you focus on if you care about the world?

If searching for a new job or thinking about transitioning, check their career section, “jobs that are tackling the world’s most pressing problems”.

My immediate response when I first encountered it was, naturally, to think about myself and my actions and decisions. I consider myself an activist, trying to make the world a better place. Are my approaches wrong?

Let’s get hypothetical. 

So X decides to influence Serbian/Algerian/Korean society as much as he or she can. He/she decides to put it all on paper, to visualize it, and think it through. Let’s say that he/she cares about X the most. It doesn’t matter why X cares about Y, it’s probably very personal.

After some deep thinking, X realizes that it would be the most effective to earn 7 figures, become a multi-millionaire, and put that money in the work for cause Y in this way or another.

While the probability might be low, if he/she does even 20% of it, it’s still a better use of time than struggling to promote the Y cause directly.  It’s just a 10-15 year-long hack.

Have you ever tried to anyhow measure your impact? It’s an interesting exercise.

What I truly love about this sort of thinking is that you can count a lot. You, as an individual, can influence the world directly.

Some other girl, let’s call her Z, is a writer. She does more with words, touching hearts in a beautiful way than she can do with money. So she writes. 

Chamat P

Chamath Palihapitiya is one of the most prominent people in Silicon Valley at this point.

His story, in short, if I understood correctly:

  • A refugee (Sri Lanka) in Canada
  • United States of America, tech: Winamp 
  • AOL, product (youngest VP)
  • The first senior person in FB in charge of growth (up to almost a billion users). Fat equity and “billion-dollar club”
  • Venture capitalist
  • Some of the investments, private + fund: Bitcoin (100 thousand pieces), Tesla (almost 10 times growth), Amazon (almost 10 times growth), Slack (10% of the company -> $2.8 billion), Golden State Warriors (4-5 x) etc.

This is a great article with many great anecdotes.

And this is the main video reference:

What is the assumption?

If money is important as the instrument for < whatever >, it’s about in which direction it flows. If it’s to be made anyway, it’s much better and effective to decide on where it goes. The world is an open playground, with constant power dynamics, and money is what makes the difference. Get it. It’s OK, you as well should become the “capital allocator”. Care about refugees or homeless people? Fund the cause. Advocate for different policies, but add some money on the top.

I am amazed how financially illiterate most of the population is and how financial skills are not evenly distributed. It should be taught from kindergarten. Inequality is often a consequence! I am talking from personal experience. Of course, it’s also about empowerment. No matter where you start – you can fly.  

A bigger picture?

I also loved the idea of giving a certain percentage of your monthly income to what you believe needs to be done. I am considering it, although I wouldn’t say that I am rich. I am thinking of establishing this as a regular practice. Sure, you pay taxes, and that surely does a thing. But you can do much more, proactively. It doesn’t have to be much. Even 3-5 percent can work. What do you care about the most? You don’t have to volunteer for the cause and donate your time. Money is also fine.

Instead of a conclusion: “get the fucking money” is a call to action to think about it as an instrument for desired change, whatever it might be.