Five Popular Posts Of The Month

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Is The Cat Worth Be Saved? or A Curious Case of a Risky Entrepreneur.

=>>click HERE for the full list of posts on this blog

Is The Cat Worth Be Saved? or 
A Curious Case of a Risky Entrepreneur.
This post has two parts:
1. An email to Dr. Ito;
2. A discussion on the correlation between curiosity and take-risking. 
The parts are not really related :) the first one was just a spark for thoughts leading to the second.
Part I

Dear Yuko Kobayashi Barnaby,
please, consider to forward this short letter to Dr. Ito,
Thank you.
Valentin Voroshilov

Dear Dr. Voroshilov,

Thank you for your letter to Joi. I'm sorry to hear that one of our associates never got back to you. We have been receiving overwhelming letters, calls, and emails after the 60 mins episode. 
I passed your letter to Joi. He's also been extremely busy but he'll read your letter. 
Thanks again, and have a nice evening!

Yuko Barnaby
Assistant to the Director
MIT Media Lab
75 Amherst St. E14-245
Cambridge, MA 02142

To Mr. Joichi Ito
Director; M.I.T. Media Lab
MIT Media Lab
77 Massachusetts Ave, E14 - 245
Cambridge, MA 02139 

Dear Prof. Ito,
First, I would like to note that one of your employees seems has no sense of curiosity J .
The other day I watched a video about the Media Lab, where I learned that in order to get developed in the Lab an idea needs to be crazy enough.
I sent a short invitation to one of your associates asking for a short meeting where I could describe a crazy idea. I said that I would not ask for following involvement in the development of the idea (if it would be deemed as crazy enough, which it would) because it is outside of the area of my direct professional interests. The idea is just a byproduct of the function brain, but its applications may be of the use in the areas which the Media Lab explores, and it would be just sad to see the idea dead.
Time passed by I had no response.
I understand the possible suspicion toward an unsolicited suggestion which came from someone unknown.
But I represented my credentials, and a curious person could quickly check me out and see that I am a successful professional with a diverse experience (I always include a link with the full description of all my professional experience:
I would not waste somebody’s time and would not contact if I would not be sure that our meeting would be interesting for both who met.
However, there is even more important reason to me reaching out to you than just “complain” on someone.
I believe that the Media Lab can add one more innovation to its list.
It can demonstrate the power of matchmaking in the field of venture capital.
Currently, in order to just have a meeting with a potential investor a start-up has to walk a long path from the original idea to the team building, developing a prototype, having initial testing, even having already some clients.
Of course, this approach decreases the risk of losing money.
But it also increases the risk of missing out on an idea with a great potential.
The problem with a strong intention to avoid any risk is that eventually people forget how a risk looks like, and when that happens, they can't avoid it anymore because they simply do not recognize it anymore; so they step right into it. Hundreds of years ago Louis Pasteur realized that in order to cure a disease, one needs to inject that disease in the body - maybe not as much and not as strong, but still. Trying to completely remove any risk of a disease eventually only increases the probability of having it.
No one expects that a screenwriter would also be a talent agent, a director, a producer, and an executive producer, not to mention all other important “hats” required to make a movie.
The separation of duties is natural in many areas, even in science (the idea of a laser came from the work of Albert Einstein, but a laser was invented by T. H. Maiman).
But everyone expects that an author of an idea of a device would also be the engineer, the manager, the promoter, etc.
An idea is a seed.
It is only a seed, but without that seed there will be no tree.
Not everyone who has a good idea can grow it up.
Not everyone who has a good idea wants to plant and grow it up.
But what if everyone who has a good idea could share it with some matchmaking entity (“ideas bank”), which would be able to find for that idea a group of professionals (MBA grad students?) who would be interested in walking the whole path from an idea to the product and beyond?
Maybe the M.I.T. Media Lab could pave the path to the realization of this approach?

It would add to the Lab’s architecture of layers a new layer of interoperability and increase its competition, cooperation, generativity, and flexibility.

I hope your executive assistant Yuko Barnaby found this letter interesting enough to pass it to you.


Dr. Valentin Voroshilov
BU, Physics Department
  "I hated physics before taking this course, and now after taking both 105 and 106 with Mr. V, I actually really enjoy it. He is one of the best teachers I've ever had. Thank you" (
  "In order to be able to think you have to risk being offensive." Jordan B Peterson:

Part II

Dear Prof. Ito,
Evidently, your curiosity is also not strong enough to risk 10-15 minutes of your time.
And I understand that, I do.
Dr. Valentin Voroshilov

Some ideas, which I didn't mean to discuss but could have been of interest, too.

"Free business ideas from Dr. Voroshilov: part 1"

"Free business ideas from Dr. Voroshilov: part 2"

The idea I wanted to offer to MIT is not presented in the videos, and remains to be "undercover". It is a very specific technical project that can increase the surviving abilities of special forces agents. I hope that one day someone will take interest in t it.

And the comment.

The word goes “Curiosity killed the cat”.
Although, to be completely clear, the full version of the proverb is “Curiosity killed the cat, but the satisfaction brought it back” (having 9 lives helps).
From a psychological point of view, curiosity is the manifestation of either absent-mindedness (e.g. children, or adults who behave like children), or of an ability to take a risk.
I like sentence: "In order to be able to think you have to risk being offensive" by Jordan B. Peterson, because ability to take risk is correlated with curiosity: only curious people are capable of taking risk; people who play it safe have no curiosity; only truly curios people who are not afraid of making a mistake ask "What if I'm wrong?".
Interestingly, in Russian there are two different words which represent two different types of curiosity:

The type-one curiosity: любопытсво /lyubopytsvo/ = “love of trying, poking your nose into things” = absent-minded curiosity.



The type-two curiosity: любознательность /lyuboznatel|nost|/ = “love of knowledge” = the manifestation of the ability to take a risk to learn something new.
For children, the “type-one” curiosity is the locomotive of their exploration.
Later in life, depending on the quality of their education, when growing up, childish curiosity may (or may not) transfer into the “love of learning new things beyond the things which seem normal/natural”. People with the type-two curiosity represent the bulk of scientists; however, working in a scientific field does not automatically mean being a curios person.
Consciously following the feeling of curiosity takes guts to take some risk.
“This does not look to me like anything I would consider normal, but there is something in it making me take a risk and spend some time on learning more about it”.
That is the “scientific curiosity”, the “type-two” curiosity, the curiosity of risk-takers.
Because, deliberately using your time for something which may give no real benefits is risky.
“Time is money” – remember?
When we chose for what our time to use, we are investing our time into something we hope will bring back something good, beneficial to us.
Some people simply have no money to invest.
Some people invest only in a low risk entities with an (almost) guaranteed return.
Some people divide their money between high and low risk investments (in some proportion of their choice, based on their feeling “what is safe/risky enough”).
And some people are willing to put all their money into one risky endeavor (“all or nothing”).
And exactly same behavior people use when they decide what to do with their time.
But usually with a much less consideration.
There is another human feeling which also motivates people to do things and often is confused with curiosity – fascination.
Fascination is being attracted to something.
Risk or no risk, that is not even under a consideration; “I do it because I want it”.
“I could invest my money into a salad/health, but I want that burger, so I just want to spend my money to buy it.”
Curiosity is one of the strongest motives for inventors and discoverers.
An entrepreneur often starts from being fascinated by something.
The stories of Apple (Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak) or McDonald's (brothers McDonald and Ray Kroc) illuminate the difference between being an inventor and being an
Fascination, not curiosity, motivates entrepreneurs to initiate their project to fulfill their entrepreneurial impulses.
There is a common misunderstanding that an enterprise is always risky.
An enterprise may be difficult and may require effort, but not necessary have to be risky.
“Effort” and “riskiness” belong to two different dimensions of human practice.
Of course, when an entrepreneur initiates a start-up, no one can predict that it will lead to a multi-million enterprise. But it does not necessary mean that the entrepreneur is risking his or her life or well-being. Sometimes it may, but in the last 20 to 30 years most commonly it is not.
For example, take a look at the bulk of successful tech entrepreneurs.

There is one feature they all (or at least the vast majority of them) share.
They came from families which were able to give them good education.
For many – good enough to get accepted into a top university (and drop it when they felt the strong fascination by the object of their entrepreneurial dreams).
But what would happen if their enterprise failed?
Most probably, they would start another one, and another one (and some did).
But it is very unlikely that they would ended up somewhere in an alley, starving and shoving the needles in the body.
The worst-case scenario is they would not get as rich and famous as they have.
The biggest risk they had to take is the risk of not becoming rich. But if their enterprise would fail, they would still enjoy a rather comfortable life.
That explains why the most of entrepreneurs have no developed sense of curiosity.
They simply follow their fascination, even if it means spending their own money on another “burger” (feels good, though).
Curiosity would require deliberately set aside a time for things or people who do not look fit into their perception of normality. But time is money. The more one has, the less one wants to lose it.
The most important quality of every successful entrepreneur is not his or her knowledge, technical skills, or even intelligence, but communicability – an ability to convince people in their ideas (Appendix I of this post gives some insight on why).
There is one – and only one (!) – difference between a con man and an entrepreneur.
That difference is (wait for it!) – intention.
A con man wants to convince people in something a con man knows is false.
An entrepreneur wants to convince people in something an entrepreneur believes is true.
And the living proof of this statement is the 45th President of the United States.
There is one interesting effect caused by the fact that the most important quality of a successful entrepreneur is communicability, which is a very common fascination by a “90-second elevator pitch”.
By some reason (would be an interesting investigation – why) the common entrepreneurial culture assumes that if an idea cannot be clearly expressed within 90-second time interval, that is not a good idea. I, for example, doubt very much that John Davison Rockefeller’s pitch to potential partners and investors to create Standard Oil was 90 seconds.
Every year an army of fresh entrepreneurs storm VC (who also always minimize their risks) with their 90-second pitches. Eventually, the good luck of being at the right place at the right time selects one of them to become the next peak of the Dirac delta-function of the financial success (the rest keeps on living, though). Which is great! He or she is getting rewarded for not giving up, for keeping moving forward. But should we always celebrate someone for merely walking the path in the right direction? If someone walks, we don't cheer merely for moving one foot ahead of another. If it is a child learning how to walk, or a person recovering after a car incident, cheering is appropriate. But otherwise? When thousands of gold diggers randomly selected patches, and one found a gold nugget, is it really his or her personal achievement or simply a good fortune?
There is also a common expectation that an entrepreneur has to know and do everything, from book-keeping, to product design, to advertisement.
I think that is a very limited point of view, which may have been true 20 or 30 years ago.
I’ll write again, that no one expects that a screenwriter would also be a talent agent, a director, a producer, and an executive producer, not to mention all other important “hats” required to make a movie. But everyone expects that an entrepreneur was an author of an idea, an engineer, a manager, a promoter, and an accountant, with a working prototype, with a stable audience of customers. And even that maybe too risky to invest in.
And no one ever wants to invest in an idea (the seed of any invention). Way too risky.
How many good ideas may have died because the author could not or did not want to become an entrepreneur (Should everyone be an entrepreneur? And people who aren’t – automatically of lower human quality? => Appendix I)?
If time is money, investing time may be as beneficial as investing money.
Everybody knows that.
Investments are risky.
Everybody knows that.
However, some risks are known, predictable in their unpredictability, allow making several possible interpolations into the future, permit the analysis of various scenaria. The mitigation of the possible negative consequences of those risks depends on the experience of the managers. We should not really call such a risk “a risk”, but use a different term, like an “uncertainty”, or a “decision making hesitation”.
Other risks – actual risks – are there simply because there is nothing to compare it with.
Nothing like that had happened in the professional history of the person who has to make a decision to take the risk, or not to take the risk (the former CEO of Blockbuster?).
Taking such a risk means breaking your own rules/routine, which is “risk squared”.
And that requires curiosity; people with no curiosity do not risk.
Another effect of the absence of curiosity is arrogance.
"Nah, there is nothing he/she can tell me I wouldn't already know or couldn't easily figure out".
And then the Barbarians take over Rome.
Or the Chinese take over AI (at least according to the Forbes).

I want to thank Dr. Ito for his inaction which initiated the internal discussion leading to this impractical piece.
BTW: does "he is extremely busy" implies that we all are not? Business/Busyness is about how we distribute our time, not about having or not a lot of free time. 
Since the existence of a social hierarchy, people at the bottom of the pyramid tried to reach out to the people at the top (for many reasons). It has never been easy, and the technologies have not made it easier. On the contrary, the easy access to multiple media resources makes the streams of the bottom-to-top letters with pleads, ideas, requests overwhelming. Of course, that is what an assistant is for. But even for an assistant the incoming informational flow is way too much (BTW: an opportunity for an AI assistant; in my case, though, my letter when through an assistant to the boss). However, the most important reason for a "bottle neck" is the reason an assistant is an assistant. He or she simply does not have such skills, or abilities, or intuition, or visions, or good luck, the assistant's boss has - otherwise the assistant would not be an assistant. That leaves a boss to make a decision: either make deliberate attempts to step out the usual circle and level of communication, or not. The former, although very rare, but yet was observed, predominantly in politics (e.g. Henry V, at least according to Shakespeare). The latter is ubiquitous (like the "bugs" in PC/Mac/Android software, if only someone could write un-bugged/bugless AI, because bugged AI is pronged to the same mistakes/bugs people make when writing/thinking a code).

=>>click HERE for the full list of posts on this blog

Appendix I
A piece on curiosity in hiring.
A piece on curiosity in VC.
A discussion on the role of luck in business.
"The best luck one can get is growing up in a nice family and attending a nice school. The next depends greatly on meeting the right people. I like to say "you can be the strongest magnet, but if you are surrounded by wood, you cannot attract much of attention"."

Appendix II
Statement "Everyone can be an entrepreneur"  is simply a lie. I explore a similar lie in post "The Biggest Lie of The Humanity".

Here I present an extraction from a long piece on a political matter, but it is related to the question "Should everyone be an entrepreneur?”

“Saying that ALL people have to be entrepreneurs is just wrong. It is a huge exaggeration of the fact that in realty only about 10 % of the population run some kind of an enterprise (; or
Entrepreneurs represent a very important part of a society; they are responsible for the change (hopefully to the better, a.k.a. progress). But it does not make them any better than the rest of the people. The remaining 90 % of the population is at least equally important; those are the people who let (or don’t let) entrepreneurs make the changes they want to make.
Eliminate all the entrepreneurs, and the society will run into a stagnation (until new entrepreneurs will be born), but it will survive.
Eliminate all the regular folks, and the society will cease to exists (contradictory to the book of a Russian born writer Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosendbuam, also known as Ayn Rand, who wrote “Atlas Shrugged” - a beloved fantasy of every conservative, a fine book, but still is a fantasy:
A normally functioning society needs a certain number of entrepreneurs, but they just can’t form the bulk of the society. To make a society stable, to keep it away from chaos and anarchy, the bulk of a society has to be built from steady functioning individuals.
Checks and balances are important not just in politics; they are also important in economy.
Everyone who is not an entrepreneur needs to ask himself or herself a question: “I am not an entrepreneur. Does it make me less important individual?”
If you say “Yes” – congratulations, the Republicans brainwashed you well.
If you say “No” – congratulations, you have a potential to change the American political landscape.
If you said “No”, follow up by saying “I am an individual who lets our leaders to lead until they keep their end of our social bargain. I am ready to work hard. I will learn what I need. I will do what I have to do. In return, I need to have a stable income letting me and my family to live well above a surviving limit.”
The social bargain between those people who make the society stable (90 % of the population, let’s call them “doers”), and those people who make the society move (10% of the population, let’s call them “movers”) should be very simple:
- first, the “doers” get the resources sufficient for them to live well above a surviving limit;
- then, the “movers” can have the rest of the wealth.”
BTW: everything we currently observe in politics is just a tip an iceberg. It is just an indication of how deep the process of deterioration went in all social and economic areas, including education, science, healthcare, infrastructure, media. Why? Well, that is a completely different discussion.

A copy of a note from the main page.

am not an idiot or a reckless person. The reason I can allow myself writing what I think, even if that is perpendicular to commonly adopted and conventional views, is that my financial situation is sufficient and stable. Of course, as a normal person, I wouldn't mind making more money, or being involved in more interesting projects (as described in my generic resume). But I do not have to pretend to be someone I'm not to make my living. 

No comments:

Post a Comment