Random Thoughts: A Few Reflections on Evil

So many evils in this world are banal. That random, short and curly blonde driver contributing to the holocaust from a far side, an ordinary husband with two kids, it’s not his fault and responsibility, he’s just another brick in the wall. He doesn’t know what is driving, he doesn’t even care. He’s in love. He’s not a killer, he doesn’t have a gun, or a knife in his pocket, he doesn’t carry a sadistic smile, he’s just driving, from point A to point B, to be able to feed his kiddies and surprise his wife with a rose. When working, he’s on autopilot. Otherwise, the whole neighborhood adores him because he’s a great pal, always there to help however he cans. If you are not already familiar with Hannah Arendt’s work on the banality of evil, I believe you should take a look. One of my favorite books, “A Philosophy of Evil” by Lars Svendsen, delves into many different kinds of evil. If you don’t want to read the whole book, which I would definitely recommend, you can read this summary article on four types of evil. He argues, for example, that there are no demonic evils, evils for their own sake. Terrorists don’t enjoy it when babies or uncles cry. It doesn’t make them horny. They do it for the cause. 


I am strictly interested in evils that are banal here and now. It’s so sad that people act evil even though they’re not evil per se (whatever that might mean), not even willful in doing X. How to minimize those behaviors, and downplay evils themselves?

People too often don’t think about others, that’s obvious. For a variety of reasons. Let’s imagine an extreme case: heroin addict(s). Addiction is so strong that literally nothing else matters. “Nothing else matters”. Quite literally. Not that I have a personal experience, but that’s what I’ve managed to learn reading and listening. Mum’s TV, or fathers hearth treatment, or sisters rent, or life-long friends in need…  They’re not on the radar. The whole abandonment  “process” is extremely dehumanizing, on so many levels.  

Ego. I rewatched “Revolver” a few weeks ago, one of the most wicked, and many would argue the weakest of Guy Richie’s movies. With a movie comes a video afterthought on ego and some aspects of it.

People’s need to protect their own egos knows no boundaries. They will lie, cheat, steal, kill, do whatever it takes, to maintain what we call the “ego boundaries”.

Self-defense. Ego self-defense. Response to humiliation and shame.

Pause and think about the video for a second.

Or, take for example misinformation campaigns, which we falsely think are just today’s problem. Propaganda machines are in full speed, kind of forever, much before social media. There is obviously an intention to make a mess, but oftentimes there’s no direct orchestration. Triggering, as in the most sophisticated nudge theories, leads to violence and death. Collateral damage can be counted in thousands, hundreds, even millions of evils that spread like the Coronavirus pandemic.

How to minimize banal evils in this world? 

Mechanisms of evil can be quite bizarre and advanced, at the same time. Tyrants “outsource” them. They, say, spread disgusting and dangerous narratives and lies and people kill each other, or in some “more polite” cases just hurt each other, for their absolute, installed interest. They’re not doing it directly. Some other folks are on the court. They’re above it. Drinking expensive whiskeys and smoking cigars, to paint the scenery better, while people are massacring each other. Sometimes, though, they construct narratives so strong that they believe them. Or that’s always the case, as Svensen would probably argue.

Bureaucracies can be the worst instruments of evil, in both clear and “banal” ways. Their nature is neutral, they follow and execute orders, not think about them, many theories of state and governance would point out. I had so many experiences with Serbian bureaucracy that I could classify as some sort of evil, exactly the banal type. Administrators playing nonsense games, not aware of emerging stupidies, which sometimes become evil. These stupidities can sometimes even lead to death. Procedural priority, however stupid, over reason and empathy. Repeat function can go on, forever. 

An “evil designer” could, thus, construct pyramids and the whole architecture of evil. They remain evil geniuses, above, others do the harm. Nasty. The sad part is that there are a lot of professionals in this area. Think of PR people, spin masters, and others who engineer psyches. So-called “dark arts”. It’s an economy. 

Or playing on fear. You frighten people to death, thousands of ways to do that, and incentivize them psychologically to hurt each other. Yet again, tyrannical and despotic environments. And some sort of design. And nudge. Instrumental or cause motivations –  injections – and a widespread that becomes banal when masses join.                                                                


A bit offtopic, or maybe not. I heard this sad story several months ago. A local restaurant owner, in a small rural place in Serbia, is bullied into paying mob tax every month. He’s blackmailed, they would hurt his family, unfortunately, a classical story. I mean, it’s a self-evident act of evil. Guy agrees to pay them after a while and invites them to give them the cash. Instead, he kills them both with a shotgun. Kept me wondering about the narrative playing in the minds of those mobsters? They somehow thought it was their right to take the money from the poor, unprotected guy. What’s happening in their heads? Were they afraid of their boss, prioritizing their personal debts? Were they blackmailed too? Is it just mimicking what others are doing, and is therefore OK?

How to tackle this? What are the most efficient strategies societies can take? I don’t see any approaches that aren’t centered around emphasizing personal responsibility and highlighting a set of virtues around it. Education matters, not just education that is learned in schools, but even more importantly peer-to-peer education that happens in our everyday interactions with others. Awareness also matters so much. It’s incredible how dangerously ignorant we are as a whole. Empathy is a collective superpower.

Random Thoughts: Manic Episodes & Venture Capital Industry Rabbit Hole

When I was a second to third-year political science student, I got this unexpected and funky idea. I forgot how I ended up there exactly, but I do remember, however, I was extremely interested in political communication and campaigning at that time – I would become a film director sometime in the future. I would study film and dramatic arts when I was done with political science studies; was a night owl then, loved learning when everyone was sleeping, at peace, no phone calls or any other distractions. Stillness, from which you can advance to truly magnificent zones of extreme focus. 

So, what I did: I prepared myself a list of 60 directors to explore, a random number, everything from Kubrick to Gaspar Noe and Michale Haneke. Downloaded Blu-Ray versions of everything I could find, student works included. Went in methodologically, like a surgeon. I had this notebook in which I would keep track of all the small tricks directors used to design narratives and generate magical and transformative experiences. A few random favorite gems: Gaspar Noe’s “I stand alone” and Haneke’s “The Seventh Continent”. If you want to experience real violence on the screen, the one that shakes you existentially, not in a primitive and cheap way, trust me, check those too.

I did not become a film director, and I probably won’t. A few years later, I was trying to assess the practical value of those long winter nights, a self-imposed movie hype that lasted for almost five months. Maybe I gained a unique communication skill? Or was I sharpening my analytics skill? Would it be valuable in my later life, and how? I enjoyed it though, which should be enough I guess.

The latest manic attack that I am experiencing is the venture capital industry. How did I get there?

I probably started asking myself about the financial roots and origins of what’s happening around. All this crazy and experimental stuff that is being built, someone needs to fund it. How does it work? All this impact costs – who funds it, why, and how? It’s like a background, a backstage of reality we encounter every day. I was interested, so I started thinking and learning.  

It’s also that I want to build. I need to know the funding logic and procedures because I am still far away from serious bootstrapping capabilities.

It’s also so cool: imagine, you are in your late fifties or sixties, and young brilliant folks are pitching to you? It’s like a fountain of youth. You are supporting, financially and otherwise, the creations of something wow.

Something clicked, and I was hooked.

In almost a year-long journey, I have collected more than 1100 learning resources so far. Everything is there: 200 youtube/podcast videos, books, scientific papers, long reads, high-quality articles, encyclopedia-type writings, interviews etc. Legal, finance, entrepreneurship, and so on. I’ve tried to cover all the possible aspects of the industry: its roots and origins, prehistory, history, the most significant and illustrative case studies, mechanics, math, trends, uses of different technologies in the process. All that I could think of and all that I’ve stumbled upon. It’s incredible how much you can learn from Youtube videos if you listen carefully. Casual conversations are the best because friendly talks go places formal formats don’t. I watched almost all “This week in startups” videos. JCal, you’re a legend!

By the way, one of the things that I’ve figured out along the way: love reading the most because it’s the fastest knowledge acquisition technique, at least in my case.

What would be interesting to share?

Let’s start before it has actually started, with true silicon pioneers. Rober Noyce, Intel founder, and his fella are starting a company. At that time, the money floats from the East to the West.  Noyce and his partner create a short document, a few pages, with so many typos and incorporate it soon after. That’s how it was done in the earliest days. Please watch this great documentary. You won’t regret it if you’re even remotely interested in any of this. 

One of the naughtiest, Sean Parker. This is a great read. Peter Thiel now runs one of the most prestigious VC companies. He was the first Facebook investor, which made him a fortune and allowed him to continue with venturing endeavors. Sean was the one to introduce, first seeing a behemoth Facebook will become. Many claim that he saw it even before Zuckerberg himself.

Facebook fundraising is very interesting, from a historical perspective. Sean had a clinch with Sequia, probably the number one all-time VC firm. So Mark did a prank showing late at the meeting and dressed funny.  This surreal episode, claims JCal in this great interview, had a great impact. It will become much more about founders, hence the “Founders Fund”. A structural shift in founders <> VCs governance relations. It was so common for investors to just throw founders under the bus prior to that change. Zuckerberg’s position, thanks to Sean, was so strong that even today he rules the company, with his power not diluting, uncommon in the Valley.

Speaking of Sequoia, after legendary Don Valentine, two immigrants were put in charge. What’s interesting is that one is a journalist from Wales and the second one is a salesperson, an Italian immigrant. No finance people nor even tech people, and a journalist as one of the most successful VCs in history. I would recommend these two conversations: Michel Moritz and Doug Leone.

Unlike Sequoia, Kleiner Perkins, who was top of the class, losing its position. How does that happen? John Doerr is still the wealthiest VC I think. While still prestigious, Kleiner is not what it used to be.

I also liked this crazy Bulgarian guy, Delian Asparouhov, who wears sneakers of different colors. You should watch this interview, or this one. I love the people whose minds just don’t stop. Interesting reasoning. Like his space passion, and how, contrary to a classical founder route (build (decades) > cash (found/invest), as a VC he can contribute to space explorations immediatly. Many interesting points about space in both interviews. Strongly recommend them. It’s incredible how practical space is, even for what’s happening here, on planet Earth. 

And then, the “Tiger phenomenon”, magnificently explained in this article. In short, private markets, and Tiger Global just pumping huge amounts of money in, in record times, say weeks, doing deals almost every other day, without requesting any control in return. Meaning, public investors moving to private markets, hot markets, and so many other things. Consequences? So many. Read the above article. And crazy, aggressive  Masa Son (SoftBank/Vision Fund) playing with hundreds of billions.

I must admit that I am enjoying this journey so far!

What shall I do with all of this?

Daily Random Thoughts #8 – Relationships #1: “Ethical Relationships” (13/11/20)

I think a lot about something I call “ethical relationships” (the concept probably already exists?) recently.

What are “ethical relationships”? Let’s try to play with the concept.

1) Benefit of the Other

They are sum-sum games where both sides sincerely care about it each other. They both, whether lovers or friends, proactively do things that they think will benefit the Other. If one side feels better, the other feels laughter. Wins are shared.

2) Growth

Both sides grow as a consequence of the relationship. They become better.

Those relationships are brave, on an intimate level, in the sense that they step outside usual boundaries, which makes both parties stronger.

3) Transparency

I am fascinated with transparency as a principle. In the case of human relationships, it would mean that honesty has the highest value and that intentions are communicated clearly. Feelings are not hidden but shared. It makes everything (more) flawless. And faster. 

4) Good for the World

Besides being beneficial for both actors, they are also great for the World. People who appreciate and trust each other are good for their human environment. Energy spreads.

Daily Random Thoughts #7: Why Everyone Should Start an NGO as Early as Possible (11/11/20)

You will learn a ton and earn things money can’t buy.

What is an NGO? An organization working for a specific cause. Fighting for the cause is always a good thing. Learning about organizing (and people in general) is one of the most rewarding experiences because organizations are everywhere, and everything is an organization.  

This is a (unfinished!) list of the things you will learn: legal and taxes; fundraising; management; project management; human resources; strategic communications; marketing; accounting; public relations; public speaking; networking; leadership; sales; community organizing.

Sounds like a mini MBA? 

How to do it? List things you care about. May it be pets, astronomy (was my case in high school!), sport, startups, elders… Refugees, digital government, peace, or clean water. So many things that aren’t right and can be improved! Find those who care about the same thing(s). You’re not alone. You’re never alone. And just start. Learn along the way.

You’ll meet new friends, the most meaningful kind: those who share your values. From a strict investment perspective, you will benefit greatly. Up to a few times bigger income, if you decide to shift to business years later. Skills and relationships are probably the two most important things for any professional.

It’s important to found/co-found because then you need to do everything.  Also, the feeling when you realize that you have actually built something that matters from scratch. Phenomenal!

It’s a social capital game; personal gains are truly exponential, but it’s also great for society. People, together, becoming relevant and influencing society in positive ways.

I think I will write an in-depth essay on this!

Daily Random Thoughts #6: Changing – And Even Inventing – The Past (13/10/20)

I was so fascinated with the possibility of changing the Past that I wanted to do an MA on the subject once, 5 years ago. My angle would be propaganda focused on changing the past, and how operations like that influence behavior and the future.

Past should be – done? Fixed? Wrong. On both “historical” and personal level, the Past can change.

On a personal level.

I read “The Schopenhauer Cure” by Irvin D. Yalom in a day. It was my personal reading record back then, 400 pages in a day. At some point within a story, a very powerful Nietzsche’s thought is introduced.

“To change ‘it was’ into ‘thus I willed it’—that alone shall I call redemption.”

You are probably familiar with the genius music video for Massive Attack’s “Angel”?

It’s something like a revolution when things change like that. Past changes, as it’s only and always an interpretation, so the future becomes different. That past-future relationship is very interesting!

On a historical level.

I remember one particular lecture on the history of Serbian political thought while attending political science classes in Belgrade. Professor was naming early 19th-century Serbian philanthropists and explaining their contributions, a lot of them. After a while, he curiously asked us: “Do you feel better now? Did you know that these men were your fellows from the past?”. It was intriguing. We did not know any of them. And we did feel better.

How we understand ourselves, collectively, influence not just how we feel, but also how we will act in the future. That’s for example one of the functions of myths, right?

On a philosophical level.

Past is always “in relation to us”? Hence it’s always facts plus interpretation, and that interpretation is what matters the most. It opens so many questions about truth, but that’s a whole other ground.

Daily Random Thoughts #5: Abraham Lincoln And The Rabbit Hole (12/10/20)

Did you know that you can be a lawyer without even going to law school? Abraham was one of them. And did you know that you get a PhD even without a BA? And not just by founding a future trillion-dollar company, like Zuck of Bill.

That night I was interested in Abraham Lincoln, one of the most cherished US presidents. I love getting to know interesting, influential historical people, deeply. Abraham was such a masterful politician. He hacked his way to the Presidency and did so many splendid things. I watched this documentary as a first introduction and I will definitely dig more on him in the future. It was an inspiring night, I fell into a deep rabbit hall.

I did not know that Republicans were the ones against slavery and that Democrats were largely OK with it. A short video on the white supremacy legacy of the Democratic party. A short video on how the Republican party went from Lincoln to Trump. It’s interesting how things radically change over time. Lincoln was huge.

Then I was interested in Abraham’s (formal) education. You should read this incredible article about how to become a lawyer without going to law school. Lincoln was self-thought. So were many others. When you try to catch the bigger picture, you find so many great self taught individuals, and realize that it’s actually a very strong tradition, especially in the US.

In that regard, it’s interesting to think about what Peter Thiel is doing with his Thiel Fellowship. For those not familiar, it’s $100,000 to drop out, even from high-school. It does make sense: “Build new things instead of sitting in a classroom.” It’s at least 10x learning. Yet again, Peter Thiel, with whom I would not agree on so many points, claiming that higher education is an insurance policy, a bad one, actually. Google it, few very interesting hypotheses. 

Then I ended up reading about PhDs without MA – possible in the US –  and found out that you can even get a Doctorate of Philosophy without finishing undergraduate studies. Great ones are always an exemption, Ludwing Wittengetsin comes to my mind as first, but it’s possible even for “mortals”. For example, you can start digging here. It’s kind of obvious though, PhD should just be your authentic scientific contribution to the world; Why would anyone care if you paid a lot of cash and spent 3 years preparing for it? Have a great scientific contribution? And 3 professors and an institution to assess it, a procedure? Great: Thanks for your contribution, you’re PhD.

Then I stumbled upon an example of former MIT Media Lab Director, Joi Ito, who later resigned because of the tie with Jeffrey Epstein. He led one of the most interesting academic institutions in the world, well, at least without any significant formal academic credentials. Interesting bio. 

I love rabbit holes. You can get inspired and learn so much.

Daily Random Thoughts #4: What If You Could Clone And Multiply Yourself? (11/10/2020)

So, we’re in Croatia, on the dance floor. Hunee is playing trancy ambiental and obscure disco music. It’s lovely. I have this nasty habit of thinking while dancing. A close friend even said to me once: “People go out to get drunk and make a mess; you go out to dance and think!”

The music was still catching heights when I got lost in thinking about how wonderful it would be to clone yourself. Selling your time for cash, that’s frustratingly limited. What if there was a way to multiply it, several, even unlimited times, all in parallel?

Think about it. If all your work generates a digital output (design / code / writing / even voice), it wouldn’t matter if it was done by a machine, computer, instead of you. Let’s just say it’s on your behalf. If what’s truly you, skill-wise, and what you can do, could be learned and easily reproduced in novel contexts, that would be such a game-changer.

Ok, Something, an advanced AI system, would need to scan a) all of your past works and b) your current processes to be able to produce output as yours. For the past output, if it’s already digital – there’s enough data for the algorithm to be trained. Your style can be mastered. For the second one, would it be possible without brain-computer interfaces? Can your unique skills, as in the unique process behind them, be learned by a machine?

Then I got lost fantasizing how it would be so rad if it was possible. If possible:

It would be such empowerment for all those selling their digital time: Instead of, say, a few dollars an hour, it could be much more. More equality, and opportunities, as a consequence.

From the perspective of the whole economy: What a productivity boost that would be! All the great and necessary things could infinitely accelerate.

Elon Musk is a big-league psycho, in a good, even magnificent way. Neuralink – this is obviously an afterthought because Neuralink wasn’t born when that dance happened – might be the part of the solution here. Or something similar. General AI technologies like GPT-3 or some future GPT-9 might be part of the alchemic equation.

I concluded that it will be possible in the future in one way or another and that it will be mega exciting, and continued to dance.

Daily Random Thoughts #3: Superskills and Sales In Particular (10/10/2020)

My dear friend Lav surprised me with “The Last Safe Investment”, a book on contemporary life, a few years ago. One of the most interesting things in it is the exploration of so-called superskills. Those are skills that are universally applicable and can bring exponential returns. One of them is particularly interesting: sales.

It’s one of the most rewarding ones. Everyone should learn it. It’s a colossal investment.

First of all, it’s quite universal. The world will always need salespeople because sales is what makes the economy work. Any industry needs it. Any business needs it. Market cries for skilled salespeople. You can practice in your streets, selling candies. I am not kidding 🙂 Great salespeople can become really wealthy. If that’s your goal.

You don’t have to be a salesperson, it doesn’t have to be your career choice. It can be stressful, and it doesn’t fit the character of many. Sales skill is probably the greatest multiplier of all the skills. No matter what you are good at and what your passion is, add a sales superskill to it and everything will be multiplied. Academic? Publish your Ph.D. work in top media publications and that’s a few thousand $$ more. Programmer? How about earning 3 times more? It’s sales. Student? Get that prestige scholarship and paid internship. Entrepreneurship is mostly about sales. Sales get you better hires and media hype. 

What is sales? Action that leads to the desired transaction. And, if you think about it more deeply, everything is a transaction. Date,  your salary, any pitch, no matter how naive or big.

For more on superskills you should read the book. I would definitely recommend it.

Daily Random Thoughts #2: Luck is More Accessible Than Ever (09/10/20)

Some people are in the right place at the right time, and just that, sometimes even literally, makes them millionaires. Some are lucky in a sense that they never experience poverty or anything close to it, or because they’re born athletic, with an IQ of 180, or because they were loved by both parents, or that they had parents around them at all. Just a random thing like country of birth matters a hell lot. 

I don’t believe that what we are given as a starting point can’t be totally, and I mean totally, changed. Even luck-wise. Nietzsche was my favorite philosopher for a while, I did graduate work on his philosophy in high school. I deeply believe in so-called “voluntarism”, Will being the mightiest force in the universe. If we can decide to be luckier, how do we do it?

I believe that the keyword is “network”. And exactly that’s why I think we live in an age when luck is more accessible than ever before. 

What is luck after all? A random, largely unexpected major win? If you’re exposed more, it can hit you more often. It’s a probability thing. If it’s a probability thing than the Internet and all of its products are the best thing ever. And if it’s mostly about networks, then our conscious, decisive plays can make a significant change. It can become some sort of a personal revolution.

The Universe, World, God, Life, or whatever you believe in, can be atrocious to you. Still, I do believe, you can, proactively and directly influence the level of your Luck. You first need to be (self)conscious about it. 

All the opportunities (luck being one of them) float through networks, as information. That fabulous, life-changing opportunity, someone serving you a 10x or 100x wizardry in a second, it’s there, somewhere within the network. Those networks are primarily made of people. People talk to each other, people share, people love and enjoy to give. Many get lucky along the way, without a conscious intention. So many Lucks occur as consequences of random interactions.

Let’s focus on the “right person in the right place at the right time” for a bit. Ok, it’s about location, and that’s highly relative, in a sense that borders often act as the evil cages. Then migrate. As more places where things actually happen move online (FB groups, Discord or Slack channels, forums, email lists and so on), it’s easier than ever before to be where the magic happens. Luck strikes in magical places. You can find them.

Why are some people luckier? The first reason is that they are there. The second, obvious one, is that they have access to people other mortals don’t. Think of alumni networks, rich parents, friends of parents, homies from the hood, kindergarten bros and sis. Hence the keyword is “network”. You can’t compete with that. You probably won’t be the luckiest person in the world. But you can, I am 100% sure of it, decide to be luckier, and act upon it.

What can one for example do to become luckier?

Learn to network. Do it all the time.

I believe this is the most important. It’s all about relationships. That is what makes some privileged, right? The truth is: anyone can do it. Invest in people. Find your tribe. The world is composed of tribes. Find yours. And then, on some random day, someone will casually mention something that will change your life forever and you’ll be lucky.

Even highly introverted people are not that shy online. You don’t have to speak in front of the 500 people you don’t know. You can use hashtags on twitter. Or Instagram. Or LinkedIn. Whatever one’s passions and interests are, there’s probably a very high probability that there are hundreds of others around the planet who share them. That fit is natural and it’s really powerful. Welcome to your network!

Be more open.

Some people see things others don’t and act when they smell Luck. They’re luckier because they’re more open. Be aware of your environment and the world around you. Listen. Watch. Many people don’t see at all and it’s such a shame. Say YES and “why not?” more often. Anyone can become more open. It’s super easy. Drives Luck as well.


I love the content on the Internet. It’s the most egalitarian thing in the world: it doesn’t matter if you have a Ferrari in your garage or Prada shoes on your feet. It’s cheap to produce. The magnificent ways content can lead to Luck are nuts. One morning you can receive a life-changing message because someone has stumbled upon you accidentally and, oh, you’re lucky!

Learn to be more proactive.

I guess it takes a while, but it’s achievable. It’s a prerequisite for so many great things in life. The gym is one of the little hacks. There are so many of them.

Seriously, what are you doing today to be luckier tomorrow? The world with luckier people would be a much happier place to live in. Everyone should try to learn to be luckier.

Daily Random Thoughts #1: What If It’s Just Nonsense? (08/10/2020)

“Conspiracy theories” are not always just paranoia and overdramatizing. People do try to conspire when then can. The history of secret diplomacy would be one instance, where countries agree on borders and other important stuff behind the back of the rest of the world. Or when business leaders illegally draft secret masterplans over coffee in a random hotel bar. It’s natural, and rational, sometimes even legitimate.

What’s much more interesting though, on the opposite side of the spectrum, is where the reason for X is pure stupidity. Quite often, I assume, unexpected personal reasons demolish countries, too. Sometimes it’s just nonsense.

One of my favorite movies is “I Stand Alone”, written and directed by Gaspar Noé. In short: a series of misunderstandings ruins a guy’s life. It kept me wondering a lot.

A few days ago I heard a very interesting story about one surreal almost existential risk episode. Some civilian rebels in Pakistan, I was told, captured a building without knowing that the nuke was inside. Shit happens for no particular reason.

It might not be anybody’s intention, a plan, but rather “just nonsense”.