FTP044 - David Orban on Entrepreneurship in the 21st Century
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Mike: David, thanks for joining us on the podcast. We met in the [00:03:30] D10E conference a few months ago in Bucharest, and we had some interesting conversations there that I’d really like to continue, namely your experience in entrepreneurship and your perception of how entrepreneurship will change with the exponential change of technology in society. So, maybe can you just give us your perspective on how entrepreneurship will be different in the near future.

David: Entrepreneurship is about risk taking. So, it reflects society’s understanding of what kind of risk [00:04:00] and reward balance it can allow individuals to bear. In the past, it used to be the case that the punishment for certain risks was basically death. Either because you were not a good hunter, or you went too far and you were not able to then take advantage of the eventual prey that you were following, or, let’s say in the Middle Ages, you started a whatever kind of business but you went bankrupt [00:04:30] and the debtors prison was basically equivalent to a death penalty in terms of conditions, and you would never be able to recover from that kind of mistake.

This definitely but a damper on the enthusiasm of people who wanted to explore interesting ideas and see how they could apply to benefitting themselves, their families, and their community. So, the [00:05:00] important change in the 20th century was that risk taking in exploring applicability of ideas was not anymore fatal, but it was possible to start out and then say, whether a few months or a few years, “Wow, this really is not working out.” And then start over. So, today in the 21st century, at the beginning [00:05:30] of the 21st century, at least in certain parts of the world, this trend increased further. Both the cost of failing at the exploration, implantation, and understanding of an idea decreased, and the speed with which an idea can be analysed is increased very much.

To the point that in certain parts of the world, for example, in Silicon Valley, it is [00:06:00] quite a common assumption by definition either you are 17, 18 years old and you haven’t had the time of having failed yet. Or, if you are in your 20s or 30s and you want to call yourself an entrepreneur, by definition you should have failed already. Because if you haven’t, it means that you were not creative enough, you didn’t come up with ideas that [00:06:30] could evolve into successful ones, but that is only possible after having been unsuccessful, discarding the statistical extremes of somebody having started with his or her first idea and having been successful right away after, you know, being very young when it was tried.

But, on average, it is almost impossible. So, going forward with this [00:07:00] trend, it is possible today to already see that the cost of trying out new ideas is going to further increase and the speed with which we can iterate to search for sustainability, to whatever definition of sustainability we want to test, is going to increase. If 20 years ago to build an internet company you needed 10s of millions of dollars, and that is what Netscape [00:07:30] had to have in order to pay for database licenses, for internet connectivity and everything else.

Today, an internet company can be started for very, very little money or almost zero, because everything is now a variable cost. You are able to set everything up and then add costs progressively as your userbase increases, and then you find what is the right [00:08:00] product market match in order to arrive to the level of breakeven, or in order to understand how you can grow your userbase further. And then eventually you only get additional money from outside sources, such as venture capitaling investors like Network Society Ventures that I founded and I am a managing partner of, as you need to accelerate [00:08:30] the growth of your idea further. Those are a couple of parameters that I see strengthening both in terms of how they already work, but also going broader all over the world where more and more people will recognize and leverage this possibility.

Euvie: That’s an interesting way to think about it, entrepreneurship as risk, and also entrepreneurship as kind of a series of testing assumptions or testing ideas. We have a lot of friends who are online entrepreneurs, [00:09:00] and most of them bootstrap their companies. I mean it’s very common to kind of start a business or test an idea, you know, in an afternoon or a weekend. Sometimes people just go through 100s of ideas, you know, in a matter of a month and just test, test, test. And it’s so interesting, because, yeah, I think people who are not entrepreneurs don’t realize that that’s how it works now. My question for you is how are technologies like artificial intelligence and big data processing [00:09:30] changing this and accelerating it even further? Because some things that had to be done manually in the past now no longer have to be done manually.

David: Even before going into AI, and I will be happy to comment on that, as well, a new component that emerged recently around what can be tested directly is that not only software can be tested but hardware can be tested, too. Which wasn’t the case. In terms of product and market research, [00:10:00] Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns are nothing but having proof of the validity of your hardware idea before having to produce a large number of them. The maker space is like [inaudible 0:10:17.0]. The on-demand production facilities like Flex that allow you in the first case to make a few dozen maybe, or maybe 100 units [00:10:30] and dinitrate. In the second case, you are able to do a few thousand or 10 thousand to fulfil the orders of your successful campaign are incomparably more flexible than not what you needed previously, where your channel was Walmart, your suppliers who are the Chinese, and neither would start talking to you unless you were able to fulfil an order of 100,000 or a million units.

[00:11:00] So, just as we have seen flourishing of extremely nimble entrepreneurship around software before, now we are seeing the same in hardware thanks to these innovations in product research and production processes. Back to your question, in terms of artificial intelligence and big data, the data collection and data analysis that we see is getting integrated [00:11:30] more and more, and better and better. Whether these advertising campaigns, or on social media, or Google AdWords that we can use to test the market. Whether it is the capacity to target extremely well researched markets that would have been impossible to find before. Or, whether these are actually markets that self-select out of the background noise of the behaviour of a billion people because they, on [00:12:00] Facebook or Google or other platforms, find their own niche and they are able to recognize in a kind of pattern matching, the niche that emerges from that kind of behaviour.

These are old things that are now possible thanks to the platforms that are aggregating and curating for you the data collection and data analysis. Now, leading towards [00:12:30] AI applications, of course, what will happen is that whether in terms of pure marketing or applied to entrepreneurship, i.e. in the search of products and services that the market needs and wants, we will have our human pattern matching strongly complimented by the pattern matching capabilities of machine learning, deep learning approaches. So, [00:13:00] rather than having to spend our own time and our own ingenuity for the phases that proceed the design and conception of the products and the services, we will be aided by new platforms that are going to be born out of the pattern recognition capabilities of these new or great tools.

I look to think of AI as very rapidly evolving [00:13:30] and going further than not what we can see today. And the way I see that is not for more and more functions, we will have an AI core processor riding alongside our human creativity and ingenuity and helping us perform activities where we can demand more and more, recognizing that they are mechanical, they do not require the higher functions [00:14:00] of our own to these AI core processors. In running a start up, so much of the entrepreneur’s energy is taken up by functions that are necessary. They are the nit and grit of running a business, whether small or medium or large, and these activities are going to definitely be executed by more and more automated systems in the near future.

Euvie: In one of our earlier podcast episodes, we talked [00:14:30] with Aric Dromi and he brought up the idea that AI will merge with us, maybe not in the same sense as what Ray Kurzweil talks about where we will upload ourselves, but it will be more like a layer of processing that we seamlessly plug into our brain that we can, you know, the same way that we Google something using our hands or using our voice, we can just think something and an answer will come.

David: So, definitely our perception of reality [00:15:00] is going to include our ability to access the answer machine that the internet is. And that is why Kevin Kelly recently highlighted the fact that our ability to ask questions is going to be extremely valuable, because the speed and the depth of the answers is going to be supported by the [00:15:30] availability and accessibility of these AI core processors and whether we have to type the question or we can think the question may be qualitatively different. So, it is not that it does not matter, but our ability to ask the right questions is going to be the differentiating factor between those who use the AI core processor for things that, at the end of the day, are not necessarily productive or they are not conducive to wealth creation in their community. [00:16:00] And those who are able to leverage the availability of these new tools to come up with incredibly exciting new types of initiatives.

Euvie: Right, this is something that you talk about knowing how to ask the right questions.

David: Yes, I am extremely pleased both Elon Musk and Kevin Kelly, and many, many others, are indeed highlighting in a serendipitously converging manner that, as we explore the universe [00:16:30] and we collect more and more pieces of data and theories, these become building blocks that allow us to ask ever smarter questions. And, in some ways, entrepreneurship is the ability to asking these questions. You ask a question about the piece of matter and you morph it into a tangible product. You ask a question about the process you and morph it into [00:17:00] a valuable service. You ask a question about the market and you gain customers and suppliers in a change and a work flow that persists like a pattern in the flow of a river. So, you can only build successful entrepreneurial initiatives if these questions make sense and are a novel, because it is in their novelty that you find new kinds of answers [00:17:30] from the universe that you start knowing better and better.

Mike: How do you see entrepreneurship changing with things like potentially a basic income coming on the scene, because of job automation and this sort of thing? Can we be as efficient and aggressive and competitive if the main incentive for entrepreneurship is not necessarily related to profit?

David: So, we, of course, are starting to ask ourselves very important questions around the changing balance in our social contract. [00:18:00] And the fact itself, that we are recognizing that the social contract needs to evolve towards the new dynamic equilibrium, is extremely hopeful is very positive because if we don’t, but it still does, then the kind of body revolutions that we had in the past that would resolve the excessive tension between what we suppose the social contract should be and what it [00:18:30] in reality can be, will reassert itself. And in a world of tens of thousands of nuclear warheads, we cannot afford the extremely destructive but so convenient solution of war, where anybody who lost was wrong, because they were dead, and the winner’s created a new world according to their own world view and solutions.

So, to go back to you question, individual [00:19:00] behaviour is definitely going to change, the balance of risk be a different kind of balance if we don’t have to struggle for day to day survival when it will be natural to assume that somebody who lives will be able to feed him or herself and shelter and health taken care of etcetera. [00:19:30] To believe that a large number or maybe the majority of people will relax excessively in that they will stop struggling because struggle will not be a question of survivable I think is both inhumane and misguided, and also maybe unnecessary. Inhumane because to impose existential level suffering [00:20:00] in terms of guiding a certain social dynamic, is extremely bad in my view. It is as if we said, “Well, we have certain procedures available and our infant care could be improved, but why don’t we stay at the level where six out of eight children die, because if not, mothers will actually will not be driven to give as many births [00:20:30] as otherwise they would. So, it is better for those children to die, it’s better for those mothers to lose all those children.” Right?

So, I don’t think that is the answer that most of the societies will give. The assumption that too many people will relax assumes that everybody should be an entrepreneur, this hasn’t been the case. What is the right proportion of entrepreneurs in a given society [00:21:00] I don’t know whether there’s just one answer, I pretty much think that the answer is not 100 percent. Or, it is not even as many as possible. Every society has a given right number that emerges from a balance of, as we said, risk taking, but also curiosity and drive and maximizing that number is a goal that a given society can put [00:21:30] itself, but many societies will not maximize that. We’ll maximize other things, for example, compatibility with a certain balance with the environment, or achieving a certain degree of fulfilment or purpose in the lives of the individuals of that given society.

And the third reason why universal days of income is not going to diminish [00:22:00] the drive of those who want to explore is because the reason people are entrepreneurial is often endogenous, it is not exogenous. It doesn’t come from their environment, it comes from their own passionate and creativity, desire to better themselves, but also desire to learn, desire to be useful to themselves, to their families, to their societies, desire to explore [00:22:30] what is possible and we will not run out of things to do and things to learn just because society upgrades itself to a given level of services that include something such as universal basic income.

Euvie: Yeah, that’s a good point. I think that there are a couple of things that I’d like to add as having a basic needs taken care of doesn’t necessarily take away your drive for having an upside. And if you’re an entrepreneur, even if you’re just [00:23:00] motivated by making money, even if there is a basic income still your upside can be so huge that you would motivated by that rather than meeting some sort of survival needs. The more upside, the more you open your possibilities and the more you can have more upside. Basically, the more you make, the more you can make with that money. And the other thing is that in the real-life trials of basic income that I’ve seen, it has shown that it actually increases entrepreneurship when [00:23:30] you have basic income. Maybe because people feel more comfortable taking a risk because they think that it won’t impact them as negatively.

David: Definitely. I totally agree with both of those points. To go back to the remark that I made with regards to not running out of things to do, this is true both from a mathematical and scientific point of view, i.e. Google’s theorem on the incompleteness of formal systems can be seen in the reverse. [00:24:00] Any way we describe the universe includes things that we can only start to understand if we extend our theory that describes the universe. We will never have a complete theory of the universe. And in terms of literal exploration, our desire to achieve is always relative to our horizon of possibilities. [00:24:30] So, if I live in the African Savannah and I am in a civilization of relatively lower technological level, whoever is the wealthiest in my civilization I will compare myself to that person.

If I am living in a space fearing civilization in my level of wealth and possibilities are 1,000 or 10,000 times larger than [00:25:00] the wealthiest person of the previous example, but I have the opportunity of comparing myself to do the wealthiest person’s opportunities in my own society, then that is what I will be doing. I will not go back to see, “I should be doing nothing because I’m so much wealthier anyway than the wealthiest guy in the African Savannah.” What I will say is, “Oh my God, I have so much more than I could be doing now that I am on this level.” [00:25:30] And this will represent itself at any scale, and it is going to keep the drive for human exploration basically in unbounded ways.

Mike: Right. It’s interesting people’s assumption that without the profit motive that there’s not going to be an incentive for innovation and creation in entrepreneurship.

David: I don’t think that I explicitly discarded the profit motive, the question is how are we measuring profit and how are we [00:26:00] deploying the consequences of profit, right? If humanity is wanted to create a colony on the moon we could do it. If we wanted to create a colony on mars we could probably barely do it. If we wanted to build an interstellar spaceship we would not only have no idea how to do it from a technological point of view, from an engineering point of view, [00:26:30] but very simply the energy budget, regardless of the type of technology that this is based on of that kind of endeavour would exceed by orders of magnitude, the entire energy budget of human civilization today.

So, as we grow our economy, as we grow our population, as we grow our knowledge, we will be able to enter new phases of what is possible. [00:27:00] And then what we call profit, if that is what we want to call it, will be used in order to allocate resources to address those challenges that are unimaginable today in a practical way, and will become part of the lives of the individuals that will live at that point.

Euvie: This actually relates what Mike and I were talking about just about an hour ago. We were talking about how, you know, when we look out onto the [00:27:30] possibilities of the world we see what is possible based on what we can currently observe. But a lot of creative people and a lot of people who create innovations that are remembered for centuries after they think outside of that. They actually extrapolate what could be possible outside of what we currently know that would, kind of, be the missing link. If I have this idea in my head, but it’s not possible in the current reality, what are the things that I need to create or discover in order to make that picture [00:28:00] complete, and to bring it into reality?

David: Yes, and it is important that our ability to design, implement, and pursue certain important transformations, it self evolves. So, before the invention of writing, it was extremely difficult to construct and then to promote in a persistent matter a set of ideas [00:28:30] that would aggregate a large number of people around those ideas for sufficient amounts of time. That is what religions did. Religions were a strong enough set of ideas that even in absence of writing they had a strong enough grip on people and groups of people to persist.

Today we are able to use not only books written on parchment or paper, [00:29:00] but electronic collaboration in order to rapidly spread ideas and rapidly select people who resonate with those ideas and then coordinate in a fashion that was utterly impossible before, in order to test, implement, and then keep the ideas working if they make sense entrepreneurially. And this trend is going to accelerate. I could vey well see, as we are seeing today [00:29:30] already the beginnings, equity crowd funding or ICOs or blockchain based resource allocation processors to become more and more sophisticated. Where, you know, space machines, or fusion reactors, or cures for cancer, or deflecting getting [inaudible 0:29:50.8] destroyed. All of these things could be funded in novel ways and solutions could be found out [00:30:00] in novel ways to these challenges through decentralized platforms of discovery, coordination and implementation.

Mike: For you, what does entrepreneurship and innovation look like in a decentralized society?

David: The centralized society needed because a belief in absence of a centralized society individuals would be unable to make decision for themselves to dictate as [00:30:30] many facets of the lives of an individual as possible, from where to live to what to study to what options in terms of employment or entrepreneurial opportunities would be available, to what kind of partners to pair with in order to promote the same type of society for the next generation. So, it was extremely precisely designed and pre-set [00:31:00] with very little mobility and very little alternatives available for individuals. As an illustration of this the fairy tales always tell the story of the seventh son leaving the village and then finding incredible adventures of positive outcome, with the maximum ambition being of slaying the dragon and marrying the princess.

[00:31:30] Where in reality, yes, the seventh son would indeed leave the village because there would be no food for him, and he would die of hunger if he stayed in the village. And then a mile out of the village he would be killed either by the feudal lord because indentured people were not allowed to leave the land, or he would be killed by bandits and the likes of eventually slaying the dragon and marrying the princess was practically zero. [00:32:00] So, similarly to religions where a better life is achievable only in the afterlife, these fairy tales sublimated the desire to find a better life outside of the realm of the possibility of practical possibilities.

So, contrary to what feudal societies and what Industrial Age, and even today’s economy, is assumed to be the case, [00:32:30] in the network society people will have larger degrees of freedom for defining the parameters of all of the things that I listed: where to live, what to study, how to apply their skills current and future, what kind of people to paid up with and how and under what conditions, and in general how to pursue the goals that these individuals establish [00:33:00] with networks that they belong to simultaneously and non-exclusively. Very importantly, while the geographical confines of traditional societies typically require an exclusivity, if I am in a given village I cannot be in another village, network societies are non-exclusive. I can absolutely belong to many different networks at the same time and apply [00:33:30] my time and attention and value creation in a differentiated manner to the different projects, to the different outcomes depending on factors, but where I am free to decide what to do from moment to moment.

Mike: Like we have different optionality with joining online communities and being part of groups, like you said, we have the same kind of optionality when it comes to entrepreneurship and choosing our jobs if it’s in the same kind of online space.

David: [00:34:00] Absolutely, and society will evolve progressively more and more sophisticated ways of making sure that we can do that and that we can flexibly opt in or opt out, depending on various conditions, from these processes. So, that relatively more frenetic and more intense ways that will be required in a network society don’t burn us up. And that is where the availability [00:34:30] of AI core processes helping our cognition and helping us to keep up is going to be essential. The speed with which we acquire new skills, or our ability to use new tools, our ability to be an effective member of new networks is going to be enhanced by the availability of these engines of cognition that we will have access to.

Mike: So, in your perception of younger [00:35:00] entrepreneurs, what do you think their blind spots are when taking into account how the future is changing and how artificial intelligence will play a role in society and entrepreneurship.

David: I am very optimistic in terms of seeing really great examples of passion and creativity, not only in young people, there are now opportunities of grants and fellowships that are definitely designed to appeal to people in their 20s [00:35:30] or even in their late teens. But there are other opportunities of funding, or grants, or contests, or challenges that are available actually at any age. So, resonating with some new possibility is now something that a lot of people are pursuing regardless of whether they are biologically younger or older. And I think that is great. We can leverage [00:36:00] larger freedoms of a younger age where not having a family or children allows you different kinds of risks.

We can leverage more experience from people who have had failures and successors in their past and can learn from those experiences to be better next time around. In terms of blind spots, I think that an insufficient number of hours every day is spent by [00:36:30] too many people in learning new things. Too many are working under the belief or operating under the belief that they should apply current knowledge to solve the problems that they are seeing in order to take steps ahead. And they are discarding the possibility that dedicating time of acquiring new skills or the use of new tools they would be able to leap [00:37:00] frog instead. So, I think that it will be the case that more and more people realize that they should dedicate, you know, whether just an hour a day or two to learn new things that will be beneficial.

The original freedom of Google engineers of applying 20 percent of their time to work on their project and their passion comes from this kind of understanding, that new ideas come [00:37:30] maybe in a serendipitous manner, and if you are excessively disciplined and you apply 100 percent of your time to known things then the benefit of surprises will never be gained and you will never be able to leverage what you couldn’t plan for.

Euvie: That’s a really interesting way to put it. Sometimes when you read books about entrepreneurship, it has been written from the perspective of looking at what [00:38:00] successful people have done and trying to replicate it. But I think that that’s not actually how success happens. It’s people who are, you know, exploring possibilities outside of what is known and come up with something, like you said, serendipitously, and there are very few business books that talk about that.

David: Well, business books are great for people who need to be reassured that there is a path towards success because, yes, almost all of them are written by [00:38:30] an incredibly strong selection bias, where you are pretending that picking out winners and looking at the path that they have taken is going to be a replicable exercise. While it almost never is. That doesn’t mean that 100 percent of the business books are to be discarded. But the recipe with which they are designed [00:39:00] contains too many of these logical fallacies.

Euvie: Yeah, it’s interesting. I was reading an article recently about Gary Vaynerchuk, who’s quite a popular entrepreneur these days, and he actually boasts that he never reads books because he gets more value from learning the tools and the skills that he needs on the spot, rather than going into a whole book.

David: As we are recording this interview, I am sitting in my library with about I would six, [00:39:30] seven thousand books around me. So, I would definitely not be boasting about not reading books. For me, books are a wonderful tool. What I would recommend is to create a personalized information diet that is compatible with your cognitive metabolism so that you are properly training your thought processes, [00:40:00] you are feeding yourself new tools and new ways of decoding the possibilities, that you are acquiring applicable knowledge, but also that you are stimulating your creativity and you are opening your horizons.

I, for example, always recommend reading science fiction. That has been a great inspiration for generations to engineers at NASA to explorers of [00:40:30] entrepreneurship, and designing new ways of living because with accelerating change science fiction has become a way of designing not our far future but our proximate future. And it is definitely, for me, a wonderful way of simulating entrepreneurial thoughts, as well. If you are passionate about decentralized systems [00:41:00] and you have never bought or used Bitcoin, then it is not only useless but ridiculous that you go out and buy a book and read a two, three-hundred-page book about the promise of Bitcoin and the blockchain and whatever else.

Absolutely, you sign up on whatever online service, for example, Coinbase, and 10 minutes later you have Bitcoin [00:41:30], you Google some e-commerce website that accepts Bitcoin or generates a coupon that gives you a better deal on Amazon that otherwise you have by using dollars or euros, and then you use Bitcoin. And maybe you sign up for a cloud mining service and you spend a few 10s of dollars to experience that. You sign up for an exchange and you trade a few 10s of dollars [00:42:00] buying some alt coins in order to understand how that works, and put your Bitcoins to use via that system. So, these are things where the barriers to entry to gain the knowledge and getting your hands dirty is literally zero. So, I absolutely agree with the fact that it is worthless to sit on the couch reading a book when you can immediately spring to action and experience it firsthand.

Euvie: Yeah, I think it’s super [00:42:30] valuable to be reading books that support what you’re already doing and help you expand what you’re already doing rather than to help you figure out what you’re going to do.

David: There is definitely a difference between things that need inspiration and things that open up new frontiers that you didn’t think about, but so many things are immediately accessible today: 3D printing, hydroponics, personalized health, [00:43:00] blockchain [inaudible [0:43:01].4], decentralized security. These are all areas where you can literally touch with your hands the future that is coming, being on the edge where you are differentiating yourself from 99.9 percent of the human population and still you can do it half an hour after listening to this podcast. Because, per definition, if you listen to this podcast, then you are living [00:43:30] in a society and in an environment where all those things that I just listed are available.

And to learn about them passively is ridiculous, it’s worthless. You have to be able and you should be able to learn about them immediately, concretely applying yourself to it and then gain insight from the direct experience.

Euvie: Both Mike and I, we read a lot of books. What are some of your favourite books that you find are [00:44:00] maybe most mind expanding, or most inspirational?

David: So, just a couple recent ones that I either bought or were given, one is fiction and the other is non-fiction even though it talks about an as of today still fictional future. So, I want to mention Walkaway by Corey Doctorow. Corey is a science fiction writer, a very successful one. He was also the [00:44:30] international ambassador for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. And his latest book that just very recently came out talks about the possibility of establishing novel societies through the practice of walking away, where technology supports the people, the walkaways, to come up with their own rules while still not reducing themselves to [00:45:00] traditional low technology nomadic lifestyles.

And it is very interesting and very exciting because what this book describes is actually the type of initiative that, as an investor, network society ventures might fund, funds and catalyses in terms of changing what is possible. The second book that I want to mention is Robyn Hanson’s [00:45:30] The Age of Em. Robyn and I spoke at a conference just a few weeks ago, and so he was very kind in giving me a copy that he autographed. And The Age of Em talks about a future society where uploading is not only feasible but commonplace, so that whether through robotic bodies or just totally simulated virtual existence, billions of people live in a society where [00:46:00] the rules of the game are rather different. And the book describes in a very analytical fashion, starting from economic considerations, how this society regulates competition, identity, relations, death, life, reproduction, wealth, inequality in extremely lucid and analysis both parallels but also strong differences with respect of how our societies today.

Mike: We actually had [00:46:30] Robyn Hanson on our podcast a few months ago and it was, for our listeners, futurethinkers.org/30 if you want to check out that interview.

David: Wonderful, so I’m glad that this is resonating, because certainly it has resonated with me.

Mike: A question we ask most of the guests that we have on our show is what gives you optimism and excitement about the future?

David: Certainly, I see the fact that billions of individuals [00:47:00] are starting to get connected in a global matter where they wake up to their common passion and possibilities. And that we are driven by our curiosity and recognizing how much we can learn about the universe. Our entrepreneurial drive, our desire to better ourselves and our communities, [00:47:30] and the mathematical and scientific basis to the fact that this kind of exploration is never going to end. I also believe that it is through the evolving technological platforms that we give rise to novel, moral ambitions, that we then incorporate in our social contract. So, I also believe that the kind of conflict [00:48:00] and limitations that we see today are contingent to our current technological level, and as we discover and apply new principles, new findings, but also engineer new products, new services, we will be able to dream more just and more inclusive societies where individuals and groups of individuals have larger degrees of freedom to explore their possibilities. [00:48:30] And I’m very excited about seeing that and exploring that together with everybody else who joins the journey.

Euvie: Great. I wanted to bring you back to your point about asking better questions. What are some tips for people to learn to do that?

David: The question itself, you know, my slogan, my motto is what is the question that I should be asking? That is the seed, that is itself the starting point, [00:49:00] right? We are able to roleplay so well and those are the things that we learn as we are very young, as children. Whatever, you know, family situation or professional situation or adventure that we play, at that age we are actually able to have a mental checklist of why we can correctly, according to our understanding, representation that role. [00:49:30] So, in adulthood, we can do the same. If I were the best CEO I can be, what are the things that I would be doing? And then start a list of things, and then ask yourself, “Okay, what are the things that I may have forgotten? Who can I ask? If this list is complete, what are the things that are missing from the list and what can I do better?” And this is a very enjoyable exercise, because [00:50:00] in first instance it allows you to be more self-aware.

And in second, it allows you to compare yourself with peers but also with mentors and advisors who, through their experience, can allow you to make steps forward. So, roleplaying, being more self-aware, and creating networks of human connections that allow you to progress [00:50:30] are the tricks and the starting points that this simple question, what is the question that I should be asking, enables you to do.

Mike: Being that we’re interviewers, we’re always trying to think of the questions that are most relevant to our interviewees and sometimes you just can’t possible predict that. So, from your position of expertise, what question do you wish you would get more often?

David: I like the questions that are open ended. When I am asked the question, I don’t necessarily give an answer. [00:51:00] I often answer with types of, you know, word plays that appear to be answers but in reality, they are questions themselves or they are ways for the people who listen to me to explore those avenues of knowledge by themselves. I do feel that conversations are fruitful when they exercise the minds of both bodies the most. And so, [00:51:30] rather than gaining an infinity of answers, a little more Socratically to keep the conversation partner asking questions about the things that they are asking questions, expecting answers from me, is entertaining and useful both.

Euvie: More questions open up more possibilities, if you give an answer it actually closes the field of possibilities.

David: That is perfectly true. And I think that, [00:52:00] going back to the beginning of our conversation, people should allow themselves to explore and to be curious and to take risks to degrees that increase in a sustainable matter, so they don’t increase at a degree that exceeds at any point what they can bear. But at the same time, through conversations, through getting their hands dirty and [00:52:30] getting into the game, they can acquire the taste for the entrepreneurship and the kind of adventure that so many of us enjoy.

Euvie: Great, I think that’s a good place to end this. Thank you so much for coming on our podcast. I think we explored some pretty interesting ideas and hopefully gave people some more possibilities for what they can do with their lives, in entrepreneurship or otherwise.

David: Thank you very much, it was fun and I’m looking forward to listening [00:53:00] to it as well as sharing it to my networks.

Euvie: Thanks for joining us.

David: Bye-bye.

Euvie: Bye-bye.

David Orban

David Orban

David Orban is an entrepreneur, investor and a thought leader in disruptive technologies. He is a member of faculty & an advisor at the Singularity University and the founder & managing partner at Network Society Ventures which is an investment firm for disruptive startups.

Entrepreneurship in The Past vs. Present

Starting an enterprise in the past required taking huge risks and up-front costs. But with the rise of new technologies, the cost of entrepreneurship is decreasing. Whereas it previously took millions of dollars to build a company just to test your hypothesis, today it can be done almost for free. Online platforms and tools let us to test and discard ideas rapidly. And once we find something that works, we can scale it using variable cost services depending on our budget.

Entrepreneurship and Basic Income

Promising entrepreneurs can get their funding in a number of ways, from grants, contests, and fellowships to angel investors, venture capitalists and most recently, ICOs (initial coin offerings). For the entrepreneurs of the 21st century, the opportunities are many.

The question arising then is whether basic income can have a negative impact on entrepreneurship. To answer it, David Orban examines the motivations and drives of an entrepreneur.

Entrepreneurship is about risk taking. Click To Tweet

Entrepreneurship and The Network Society

The conversation with David Orban continues to the human need for problem-solving, and the unending stream of things to fix in the age of network societies. He talks about the importance of establishing a personalized information diet: reading books, aggregating ideas, asking the right questions, and predicting the future.

We entrepreneurs are driven by our curiosity. Click To Tweet

In This Episode of Future Thinkers Podcast:

  • Entrepreneurship in the past vs. future
  • Artificial Intelligence and Big Data
  • Can basic income disrupt entrepreneurship?
  • Are entrepreneurs running out of things to do?
  • Aggregating ideas & predicting the future
  • Entrepreneurship in Decentralized Societies
  • A Personalized Information Diet
  • What gives David Orban optimism for the future?


“The important change in the 20th century was that risk-taking and exploring the applicability of ideas was no longer fatal.” – David Orban


“As we discover and apply new principles, new findings, but also engineer new products & services, we will be able to dream more just and more inclusive societies where individuals and groups have larger degrees of freedom to explore their possibilities.” – David Orban

Mentions and Resources:

Recommended Books:

More From Future Thinkers:

  • Robin Hanson on Whole Brain Emulation (FTP030)
  • Scott Santens on What Happens When We Give People Basic Income (FTP031)
  • Vitalik Buterin on Ethereum and the Decentralized Future (FTP016)
  • David Brin on Building Future Societies with Transparency and Freedom (FTP024)
  • Vince Meens on Blockchain: Building Blocks for a New Society (FTP033)

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