Hampus Jakobsson – TALKS WITH PETRI
Hampus Jakobsson talks about living in the moment, the biggest challenges for humanity, who are the most interesting people and why hearing is important while cooking.
Hampus Jakobsson is an investor focused on climate. Earlier he was at Blueyard, and before that he co-founded Brisk (folded) and TAT (acquired by Blackberry). He has angel invested in 100+ companies and blogs at www.hajak.se.
(NOTE: The text may contain errors, misconceptions and even comical unintended contexts. Please use it only as a reference to the actual audio conversation from where it has been transcribed.)
Petri: Hello Hampus, how’s Sweden?
Hampus: Sweden is super crazy. Sweden is usually a very non-controversial country in the world. Gretta Thunberg made it a bit controversial for some people, but I think that 2020 is the year when Sweden is also controversial on health topics like COVID. And I think it’s rare to be in a country that everybody in the world seems to have so strong opinions about.
Otherwise, it’s good. I feel it’s okay. But it’s the craziest thing is how many people ask me about specific stuff and about Sweden and COVID-19 and I just have to remind them that I’m neither an immunologist nor a health expert.
Petri: Are you still walking by standing by your desk?
Hampus: Yes, I am. But I haven’t done it. I didn’t bring that to my home office. I used to have this amazing belt that I could have as walking when I was on long meetings and I was helping me quite a lot to focus on the meetings. I think if I was born later, I’m born 1979, and I think I was born 10 years later, I probably would have been in the group that got some discussion about if I had ADHD and if you have whatever I have ADD or something.
I think that if I move part of my body and use my muscles, then somehow my brain is much more relaxed on focusing. So for me, I’m the guy that has had like shaky leg syndrome or walking while I’m talking and life is so much easier to think. I used to love that when I had meetings and now because I didn’t build it up in my home office because now I’m working from home. I have to cope with this sort of new life of not walking and talking, but it works.
I think I’m adapting.
Petri: What was your record? How many kilometres you were walking just by doing your work?
Hampus: I didn’t record it. I just walked, I didn’t think about measuring it. I have this thing when I start doing something, I usually start going in by writing a lot, also reading a lot of things about it and being very curious about it and trying to figure out a good way of getting a good kind of “attack vector”.
So, I know how I should start. And then when I start doing that, I start to measure it somehow. Like if it’s running: distance and speed and steps and stuff like that. Or if it’s baking: how much flour and whatever. But then usually I try to get to a point when I stop measuring because I find a lot of times that measuring takes over after a while and it becomes the goal of everything else.
I want to measure to a point when the measurements become part of my practice without thinking about it. I had a period when I measured my sleep. I measure everything about my sleep: temperature and hours, deep sleep, REM-sleep, time in bed, hours in bed, time up.
Every single data point you could with three different sensors etc. I have some of those installed still, but I’m never looking at the data anymore. I think the reason is because in the beginning I was trying to run those experiments with like weighted blankets, cooled mattresses, a pin cushion carpets when I went to bed, cold showers, all of these things.
Then I found some things that I felt that I really liked and I stuck to those and I felt that there’s no point in me measuring it. I think the reason for that is that there’s a natural variance on a day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute basis, depending on what to do.
If you’re measuring it constantly and staring at the metrics. Either these tend to feel like: Oh, tonight I did something wrong, but I should look at a weighted average over weeks or something like that. For example, now when I’m staying at home, I am moving a lot less than I’ve otherwise done.
I’ve seen on my sleep curves that are averaged on a week-by-week basis. I see that I’m actually sleeping slightly worse, but it’s not data that I would like to look at on a daily basis because then I think it would be very hard because then it depends on if I had alcohol, if I ate food late, or if I worked late, or if I watched a movie or anything else.
It’s much more interesting to look at a weighted average over time because then I can see a trend that I’m starting to lose sleep over the last weeks. Then I can think what’s the biggest difference between these four weeks and the weeks before? What’s the biggest difference?
I’m not commuting to work. I’m not walking to a restaurant at lunch. Huh. And then I checked my distance data and I saw, Oh, that’s actually decreased quite significantly. Oh, okay. So maybe those are correlated. Maybe there’s causation. Maybe there’s a correlation, but at least like I can see that and I could then try to measure that.
But I think that look at them on a daily basis. I think that then I get hysterical about it.
Petri: Where does your curiosity come from?
Hampus: That’s a great question. I really wish I knew. This is something I’ve been thinking about massively. I am still looking a book about how to become curious. There are a lot of people in the world that I’ve discussed creativity in the last 10 years.
There’s like 10 different books about creativity and topics like that. And I think that’s a very interesting topic. It’s a very debated topic. It’s like creativity doesn’t mean really anything for some people. And for other people that means utter genius. And for some people, it means that you can draw. And for some people, it just means you can think laterally, so many definitions. There’s been quite a lot of good writing about that topic. There’s been fairly little writing about ambition and about curiosity. And I find that ambition and curiosity being two very interesting drivers. For a certain group of people the most important thing for them is being…it’s like they should be 70% ambitious and 20% curious. And I think certain people should be 80% curious and 20% ambitious. I mean more ambitious than average. And that’s something I wonder a lot. If I would choose, I wish my kids were more, I mean, I would want them to be curious.
I think ambitious for me isn’t as important, but I think curious is very important. I have actually tried to figure it out. I’ve read some books and but there’s nothing written about it. I have no clue why I’m curious.
Petri: Do you think we born the way we are or can you learn to be curious or have more ambition?
Hampus: On nature vs. nurture for me, I think there’s a mix. I think there’re certain things which obviously are in our genes and DNA. It’s almost impossible to say differently, but I think that there’re certain things which I can see how it affected me massively that I’m the fourth child.
The three older brothers, they’re so much older than I am. They’re ten and nine and eight years older than I am. That changes massively how I was brought up. I was brought up with jokingly saying by five parents. I think that changed a lot how I behave.
That was such a massive part of my upbringing. Another part of my upbringing is the fact that my parents, having three older brothers, my parents were rather lax about just how I did stuff. Because I was the fourth child. Can I climb up a tree and jump it down and shoot the BB gun?
I think they were just like, why are you asking? I can definitely see that if you’re the oldest child your parents are going to be checking everything you do and worrying a lot. Is this normal, is this weight curve normal, one of the eyes it’s not the same colour as the other eyes. That’s deadly and like that.
When you have multiple children, after a while, you just look at them, and like: probably fine. That affects the children quite a lot. I can definitely see it with people who are the oldest child. I think that they’re more kind of grown-up in a sense.
They behave more responsibly, but they also worry quite a lot more. And I think the reason is because they were, when they were young, they were exposed through their parents’ worries. If they scratch their knee, the parents like disinfected it then looked at it then talk to them about what happened and could they help them. If you’re the third child and then scratched a knee, your parents look at it, it’s like, okay, whatever.
And I think that sort of teaches you when you’re the third, or in my case, the fourth child that it’s probably going to be fine. And I think that affects me. I think that affected me massively because I can really see how I grew up in this kind of strange greenhouse environment because I’m the fourth child and it’s such a big difference in age.
In one sense, I am the blend of the last child and the first child because I’m obviously the fourth. My parents were rather relaxed about everything I did, but also because there’s such a big age difference. My parents, they had kind of the thing you have when you have a new child.
I think that even if it was their fourth child, it’s not that they’re different parents, but I think they were much more like they had decided to get a fourth child after a very long time. And I think that then they had the things you had about a first child, the same things that you find extremely cute. Then you have the time to spend with them because there was no competition on time between me and my brothers and that sense because my brother’s problems were high school’s problems and my problems were like you’re a kind of five-year-old walking around and being cute.
So I think that I got all the love things as a child, I’m getting all the attention, but I didn’t get any of the: “Oh no, he hurt his knee. You have to watch out!” I think I got this strange combo of all the benefits of being the oldest child of the love and the attention, but none of the negatives as in over attention and the worry and stuff like that.
And I think that affected me massively. And if I look at my three brothers, I can see that we, of course, have rather similar DNA. I see certain things that are very similar among us. I think that we’re rather analytical and we’re rather risk-taking as people. And I think we’re also rather ambitious.
I think we’re rather curious, all of us, but I think that I see the differences between us at how we look at risk, what kind of risk we’re fine with. And if we worry, do we try to optimize for a maximum outcome or do we try to optimize for a minimal downside.
And that’s very different among us. And how aware are we of risks versus how much do we calculate the risks? And that is very different among us. I see bigger similarities between others if I compare myself as the youngest sibling to another family’s younger sibling or my oldest brother with someone else’s oldest brother.
I see more similarities in certain aspects. And then ,of course, I find some similarities stronger intra-family. We have three cousins that are similar ages that my three brothers are, and their family is very different than my family. But you can definitely see the same different as interests, but you can definitely see the same thing about the oldest versus the oldest, the youngest versus the youngest in that family.
Then you see that their family is much more skewed towards arts and creativity, whereas my family was much more skewed towards STEM and analytics. It’s very interesting to see that some are intra-family and I think some are just “hierarchical”.
And then they’re just random stuff that if your parents separated when you were young or if your parents travelled a lot or, or moved around different countries, I think that affects you massively.
Petri: You’ve been doing quite many angel investments. Looking back at your portfolio and data as you said you love it. Has your investment criteria changed? When you had your first one and then you had your last one now, what are the attributes?
Hampus: Absolutely. I think they’ve changed in many aspects. I think that I’ve had themes over the years, which I’ve been into, and I’ve had themes, for example, local startups that I wanted to support the local ecosystem.
I had a theme when I wanted to mostly work with female founders. I had a theme when I wanted to work with things that I was very curious about the topic in and by itself. If it was anything from mental health to gut biome to whatever topic I was into at the moment. Then purpose is like how important the topic was for the world is something that I think has sort of definitely changed.
Those are all properties of the startups. There’s another thing that’s changed, and as you meet more companies you start to index over a broader and broader range. If you meet five companies, you can invest in the best.
That’s probably not the best startup you should invest in. But if you’ve met hundreds of startups, you invest in the best that’s a much more probable to be a very good startup. I think that’s changed over the years. But in the beginning, I hadn’t met that many startups and because in the beginning, I worked mostly because I wanted to support the local ecosystem.
Then you get a Venn diagram of rather few companies that were a walking distance from where we were, and because I’m not in San Francisco and because I was not into the certain topic then I got a distribution that was return-wise not the best distribution as in financial return. I think as in relationship return and me building friends and really enjoying working with the local community was an amazing return.
When I started broadening my distribution and work more globally I thought that I got a lot of different random startups, and then I started to figure out which ones are the ones I want to work with. And then I started picking marbles out of different urns.
When you start picking marbles out of different urns, I felt that I learned a lot by doing that. That’s something I would encourage anybody to do whether you’re buying an apartment or you’re dating to meet somebody or you’re reading books or you’re investing in startups.
I think a very common problem is that if you only buy books that are written in your local tongue and language, and are from books where the first three pages make you excited then I think that you’re going to pick from one distribution. And I think that if you start by saying, okay, I want to pick from another distribution, now you’re going to find very different things.
I did something very similar with books. I had a period when I only tried to read or mostly tried to read science-fiction books that were about culture changes. Majority of them were written by female authors, and the majority of them were written the last five years. That broadened my horizons quite massively about the 21st-century science fiction, which I actually hadn’t read that much about.
I had read quite a lot the 20th-century science fiction, but not that lot the new science-fiction. That has been really enjoyable to try to pick out of other urns.
Petri: You started to do a podcast about books. What was the reason behind that?
Hampus: It started when I started reading this 21st-century science-fiction about culture change. When I started reading those, I felt that I had this view previously that most science-fiction books are concept books that they try concept like very much like Isaac Asimov is. They are asking themselves, what if the world is run by robots? And the robots have these three rules, what happens? Rather philosophical ideas.
When I started reading these books, I found that they were super interesting cause they asked much more questions about hierarchy and status as those questions were very different and less atomic and more intrapersonal. It was less about like how great is the laser sword and more about what happens when we don’t care about gender, which are very different questions.
Then I started looking at these books and I started realizing that when you’re a science-fiction author and you write conceptual books that are more about bigger concepts, not about laser swords, but about democracy then you have to construct and design a very big, broad world. Then you’ve built this whole big world. So think about like you’re building this big landscape, and then now you’re taking a torchlight and you’re walking the reader through a path in that. You’re following the hero/heroes through this landscape, and the headache for you as an author is that you’re shining the torchlight through a very small part of the whole world you designed.
Because you had thought about like how does money work. Is tourism still a thing? Which countries do exist? Thinking of your science-fiction author, how much time you’ve invested in designing this new world?
We as readers only get the glimpse, a small snapshots of it. And you as the author only gets to show a snapshot. Then I asked myself, wouldn’t it be interesting to talk to these authors about the world they built and not the story. I don’t care about the characters. I don’t care about the story because I can just pick up the book and read.
I would like to understand social status, gender hierarchies and economics in their world. And that was a very interesting mission. I really enjoyed talking to many of these authors. Some of them had cared enough to really thought about it. Some of them were writing more or less fantasy biographies about themselves in their dream world.
Some of them had these very intricate worlds that they had designed that asked very big and broad questions. It was very interesting to hear the writing process, which was actually part of why I also wanted to talk to them. I wasn’t thinking about writing a book, but I was thinking about how is it to write a book.
I was more curious about how do these people do it. The other thing was that I just wanted to talk to them as like, what did you actually think about in this world? What’s happening? And some of them were just extraordinary. Ada Palmer’s books, Terra Ignota -series…I think I’ve never read a book… those extraordinary big anthropological questions about how the world could be without nation-states and without gender or nuclear families. It’s very hard to imagine that world. But if you read the book, the nice thing about fiction books is that you get teleported into the person, you become a person for between 200 and 800 pages.
That can be hours and hours and being that person for multiple hours. That is much more salient experience than reading a three-paragraph thing about what if we don’t have nation-states? When you read like what could Bitcoin do for currencies across the world? Yeah, that peaks my mind.
But if you read a book when somebody actually did that and it feels really real and you’re the eye in that book. Then you start realising what does that mean? Not for how currencies are, but what does it mean for trust? What does it mean for tax? What does it mean for social welfare? That I really liked. I started the podcast because I just wanted the talk to these people.
I was very pleased with how happy they were to talk to me about it. I think it was because of this pent-up thing that they had thought so much about the world but hadn’t been able to communicate it to anybody.
Petri: Did you find out that some of these authors who were really thinking a long time and doing extensive research that they have worlds that they can come up with as a lot of books. Is there a correlation to how much work you’ve put into the research and thinking and creating the world before you write it or it’s just like there’s a different style for everyone?
Hampus: It was very much the latter. And that was the absurd part of it. How certain authors’ concept had come by. Ada Palmer, she’s a historic and she studied medieval Japan. She took a lot of the things that she thought about medieval Japan and then brought it to today, and then took a lot of the things that we are talking about, stuff like gender, our nuclear families, nation-states.
But medieval Japan had some of these concepts but not completely. Then she just dotted the line out to the future and wrote the book. She had thought so much about the book. That was the thing that it felt Shakespearean to the language level, which made it very hard to read sometimes, but also very fascinating that her ideas are so deep.
If you then take, for example, Ann Leckie, who I think is an amazing author, and one of my favourite science-fiction authors. One of her concepts actually came by mistake. She wrote the book and then send it to that editor and forgot to change a thing. And then her editor commented on it in a very strange way.
Then Ann Leckie felt that, oh no, that was not a mistake. She just changed her mind. It’s not a mistake, I’m going to stick to this thing. And that was very strange. And then you have, Dennis E Taylor wrote the Bobiverse Series. He doesn’t think about it that much, but that was very fascinating how he was just writing a book and essentially just coming up with things he thought about in the moment. And that’s very fascinating.
Then you have, for example, other extremists like Hannu Rajaniemi. He is very much thinking along with the most extreme kind of trends and topics in San Francisco about quantum computing and mind uploading.
He takes these concepts, people talk a lot about at dinners, and cool ideas. Then he just asked, okay, what if I implement these in a book? He came from a fourth angle. That’s very fascinating how these books are written. That’s also the difference I find so fascinating about science-fiction.
Science-fiction allows people to imagine new worlds. The 21st-century science-fiction do that in a way that the 20th-century science-fiction didn’t do at all. There are a couple of fantasy writers that are doing this now, but I think it’s rather rare in fantasy.
Fantasy tends to be more archetypical characters. It’s more what you’re going to get feeling. You start reading the book and you’re like, Oh, so that’s the little cunning one. This is going to be the story about him growing up and becoming a wise person or a powerful person.
That’s the strong and stupid one. And it’s a bit archetypical. Some of these books I’ve been able to weave in absolutely amazing other side stories or concepts. But I find them to be a much more shallow usually on a perspective. They tend to not give like new ways of thinking.
A lot of historical fiction is very interesting cause that that’s a whole other problem. How do you teleport somebody back 1000 years ago in England? If you read Ken Follett’s book The Pillars of Earth, which is about constructions of cathedrals.
And that’s crazy because he had to do crazy amounts of research and figuring out how do people build cathedrals. He couldn’t make stuff up. People build cathedrals in a certain way. It’s very interesting to see how all these authors fight with these questions.
Petri: One of your investment themes has been climate change and its impact on the world and our societies. Can you elaborate a bit your thinking and findings on the matter?
Hampus: Climate is very central to many things, and I think a lot of people stare at the temperature increase, for example. If you take one level up and let’s say that we get 2-4 per cent degrees Celsius increase on the planet, I think the effects of that are not only that it’s going to be easier to grow grapes in Finland.
There are other things that are going to change. One of the things people look at then is a sea-level rise. Okay. So then people immediately start to Google where their house is and how close it to the sea. And what happens if the sea level rises one meter, three feet, and then it’s, Oh, we’re safe.
They are looking at these first-order effects and when we start to look at the second-order effects instead, is that you see that when the sea level rises, what happens with increased storms because one of the headaches with increased temperature is increased storms.
Storms are created by a difference in temperatures. Then suddenly you have a lot of water that’s going to be slushing up into land when you have a strong wind. Which affiliate, again, if you live in most of the Nordics there’s going to be some wind. And your basement is going to have a problem that’s just an insurance cost.
But if you live in Vietnam or Bangladesh, that means that you’re going to get saltwater in your rice patties. If you have saltwater in your rice patties, you lost your harvest. It also means they’re going to have a lot of water around. A lot of water is going to lead to a lot of parasites, which leads to a lot of diseases.
Suddenly you have a land where you have not that much food and in fact a lot of diseases. That creates a lot of civil unrest. Civil unrest means both migration and the risk of “strong men” taking power, which leads to war, and that’s the problem with climate. A lot of people look at it and they ask themselves, why should I care?
If’s slightly increased temperature we would be fine, but they don’t realize that it doesn’t stop with a couple of degrees increase in temperature. It means that we’re going to have civil unrest, we’re going to have famine, we’re going to have war. One of the headaches with these things also is that, let’s say you imagine a world where there’s going to be more war.
War is such a complicated political term because what is actually a war? There are super interesting questions about how to declare war, which I think is very fascinating. It’s like what’s the actual reason to declare war, which has a term of by itself, which is interesting.
When I was a kid, I just thought like when you have war, you just say: I’ll attack you, right? But there is casus belli. And casus belli is the reason to make war, and it’s very pretty well defined that you can’t just say we’re going to war. You have to have casus belli. And I think that’s fascinating by itself.
But then the degree underneath, when you just have civil unrest. We have civil unrest that causes a problem. Let’s imagine just like take this fictional world right now where let’s say you have a country where a lot of people live in the countryside, some of them in cities, and it’s a pretty hot country and you have an increased temperature and you have a bad year, bad crops.
A lot of people are gonna lose their harvest. What they’re going to do then they’re going to move into the city because if they live in the countryside, the rural, they probably live off the land more so moving to the city. We have a massive influx of people into the cities, like a massive influx, and you also have a loss of food.
What happens is you got to live with a lot of civil unrest. Let’s imagine this is a rather religious country. There is all already an infrastructure for strong leadership. It’s pretty easy to pick up a thread and say, well, we believe this is happening. And those are the enemies that those are the good ones.
That’s slightly more complicated to do in a very secular country, but it’s very easy to do in a highly, it doesn’t need to be a religious country, like just like a country that has this strong -ism. Anything from capitalism to like a religion, of course. Let’s say you have that and when you suddenly have Syria with a lot of famine.
And you have Shia and Sunni Muslims. And then they say, part of this is the other factions fault. Part of it is the United States of America’s fault. Bam. You have death, you have ISIS. And that creates something where most people care about. Most people care about the war in the Gulf states. It means unpredictable oil prices. It means floods of refugees to the rest of Europe.
And that changed the local economies when you have an influx of refugees. It means that states are closing. Even if like when Hungary says we’re going to close our border that means that other countries in Europe start to say that Hungary might be doing the wrong thing.
That means the trade decreases with Hungary and like you see this ripple effect. That just ripple, ripple upwards to essentially a state of distrust. When people are isolated, when people just believe that there’s a clear enemy, and that is a world that nobody wants to live. The only people who want to live in a world where there’s a clear us and them are the people who are the leaders of us or the leaders of them. The people who are them, who are us, they don’t enjoy it at all.
Nobody enjoys fighting someone else. Everybody enjoys, most people at least, enjoy peace. The only thing people enjoy having them is that you have a stronger sense of purpose. I think that the world, we live in today 2020 before COVID, is that we had a world where there were so many thems.
The US was pointing fingers as Muslims, the US was pointing fingers at China partly. You had this really scary world. And then on top of that, you suddenly have a pandemic and part of that pandemic has created this flourishing of an us that you see scientists collaborating in the world, which is amazing.
Then you’ve also had a very much strengthened them. You have countries look at other countries and saying, why are you closing schools, opening schools? What are you doing? But also, where did this virus originate from? Is it like a Kung flu? Is it the China virus? Is it a US lab? It creates so much unrest and that unrest is so dangerous for the stability of the world.
Humanity is just probabilistically, we have a high risk of having complete extinction of our species, or like a heavy reduction from anything from nuclear war to asteroid impacts to irreversible, rampant climate change with feedback loops. We have to realise that we have to work together to stop these massive things.
And the problem is if we are bickering about small things we are like kids in the kindergarten fighting about who’s got the soccer ball, and that means that we’re all gonna die. It’s so horrible to see that we have a world where we’re not collaborating about the big topics. And I am very happy to see that, at least in the science world, a lot of the scientists, they are trying, trying heavily to collaborate around COVID-19 and figuring out how to make sure that things aren’t going the wrong way.
Petri: What are the problems worth solving?
Hampus: All problems are worth solving more or less. If you feel that you wish there was a way for you to watch YouTube with friends, I mean, yeah, go solve it. You’re scratching somebody’s itch. Somebody is frustrated about this.
The things I am really afraid about, the things I’m thinking a lot about are the systemic problems that create instabilities that make it hard for us to collaborate. When people say that extinction X risks are really important. I agree, of course. But that is kind of like saying we should stop death.
It’s very hard to stop death. What can be done is that stopping the issues of what are the effects of ageing. When people say that we are working on extinction risks, sure, but let’s instead look at the reasons that we could get extinctions or extinction.
Those three systemic for me that I’m really afraid about is climate change as we talked about. Climate change has a massive effect that it’s very dangerous. Another one, which I am really worried about, is inequality. I’m not saying just inequality as in like gender inequality, which is a very popular topic in the West.
I’m also really afraid about like income inequality. North of the globe, South of the globe inequality. There are lots of inequalities that make the world pretty unstable. I’m not after a world where everybody is perfectly equal because I don’t believe that to be a very good system.
But I want a world where we have both a veil of ignorance when laws and things are designed not with a certain target group in mind to make their already good life better, but a world where everybody imagined themselves in the worst position and thinking about what we want to do then. Inequality creates a lot of instability, which is very dangerous.
So for me, inequality is really super important problem. It’s a very hard problem because you get in this kind of in the American perspective left-wing vs. right-wing. Where you can ask yourself is, do you want to help people who actually are ambitious and lazy, which is more of the rights view to inequality.
Of course, that can happen. But the way I view the government’s role is to distribute luck or make sure that luck isn’t unevenly distributed. If you’re born in a country where it’s harder to get an education, or if you’re born in a body with too much melatonin or wrong gender or something else, I mean, wrong.
I mean, not of course objectively wrong, but wrong is that you’re playing life at a harder level. Then I think that that is something the state should think about. How do you make sure, or you’re born in a family which is abusive, or you’re born with a physical or mental handicap you’re born with.
Essentially, the way I view it with a computer game analogy when you start the game of life, you don’t get to select your level, but somebody selects the level and sometimes you play it on basic, and sometimes you play it on immortal. And sometimes you sadly put the game at deity and now you are playing at super, super hard.
And that is what the life lottery is. If you’re born as a black woman in the US which I think that some parts of the lottery, you’re born in a really great country, but you’re born in a country where some people will look down on you. And that is making it much harder than being a born a white man in that country.
That’s the part of the state. How do we make sure that we’re not distributing luck or unluck in a world which is very randomly distributed and I don’t like that at all. Inequality is a very important topic to look into. The third one for me, which I find also very important is info wars and truth. It’s really scary and you see it so strongly now in a world of COVID where I really hate when you can’t trust information. I really hate that. When you can weaponise information or turn truths to correlate to partisanship.
I really hate that. I really hate that when you listen to a debate and American debate, and people start by saying, I’m a Republican. So, I’m sceptical to climate change. I have no problem with people being sceptical of this climate change in and by itself. I have a problem when people choose their opinions depending on the colour of their party because I think that’s the wrong way. I think it’s okay to choose your party or whatever affiliation dependent on your beliefs, but it’s very strange to do it differently. If you believe in something then you can say like, Oh, so maybe I should hang around with these people either because they think differently and I’m going to learn or because they think similarly and then we have the power in numbers.
It’s such a stupid thing to do to say that I have these attributes, so therefore my beliefs are X. And I think it’s because I am such a big believer in learning and truth and I think that just that feels that just doesn’t drive the world forward. It’s like if you’re looking for group think that’s another thing. But the groupthink is a transient thing. If you live in the 21st century and you’re hanging out with your people and you’re having a great time and you’re believing a thing because of that. For people in the 22nd century or 23rd century, you didn’t progress humanity at all.
You actually brought it maybe backwards or made it more unstable. But if we all try to think about how we bring knowledge forward and try to make a better infrastructure for the whole planet, then we’re thinking about the guardian, the future of humanity. And it’s so easy to just shrug at that thing, but we have to remember that there are more people going to be born in the future than ever has been born.
And of course, more people are going to be born and living than are alive today. And the people in the future, they have absolutely no vote. But everybody today, we have a vote, and we’re not voting thinking about people in the future. Climate change is one of those topics where if you’re like a 50-year-old person today, it’s very unlikely that you’re going to suffer from the really bad effects of climate change.
But I’m telling you, there’s going to be millions and millions and millions of people in the future that’s going to suffer greatly, and you’re now discounting their votes to zero. And that is very strange. Cause, why would you discount? It’s like if you had Adam and Eve, and I don’t think there were an Adam and Eve, but if you conceptually see Adam and Eve, and Adam shot himself in the head then there wouldn’t be a future.
There wouldn’t be people at all. It’s just such an extremely stupid thing to do, to believe that you, the person on the planet now that you’re so important that you have an infinitely higher right than everybody whoever will be born. So I think that for me it’s like I’m very much a system builder and I think if we address climate change inequality and info wars, I think we’re going to build a better system together that’s going to be able to solve whatever problem we need to solve. May that be how we watch YouTube together or something way more important.
Petri: You’ve been talking about opportunity liquidity. What does that mean?
Hampus: That question came up because people started talking about the future of the university. Which I think is a very popular topic to talk about, and it’s been around since MOOCs came out. It’s been like 10-15 years when people started saying is education worth it? You can just go online and learn anything online.
Why would you ever go to school? I think that the thing I started thinking about is like, what is the purpose of tying yourself to the mast and forcing yourself to do something for five years. And I think that has benefits, but it’s also disadvantages. Then I started thinking what are the things you’re weighing against each other?
I view education, or any kind of focused learning for that sake is that there are three parameters. It’s like a three-pointed triangle where the three corners have different values. One corner is credibility. If you just graduated from Harvard, yeah. You have amazing credibility almost independently of subject or grades or anything. You survived Harvard.
The other one is knowledge like you actually know stuff. And that has not that much to do with which university you went to. Of course, it has some strong correlations, but it very much depends on how you behave and how you spent your time at the university.
But then the other one is if you tie yourself to the mast and spend your time, then you cannot do anything else. If you look at that triangle now, you can put a dot in that triangle and ask yourself where you are and the year before you joined the university, when you were in college or something, you now have the opportunity to go university for, let’s say four years, which means you have no opportunity to do anything else.
You can do some things right, but you’re going to lower your possible palette quite a lot for four years. That means your opportunity liquidity goes down gradually, but your credibility is going to go up quite a lot because after the university you have graduated from the university and your knowledge has increased quite a lot because you have hopefully learned something at the university.
Whereas if you don’t go to the university, but instead travel the world and meet new people, then your opportunity liquidy is extremely high. You have the opportunity to do anything at any moment. You can meet somebody and decide that you’re going to live in Nepal. And then when you’re in Nepal, you can decide in a whim to go to Thailand and become a monk, which is extraordinary opportunity liquidity, but it might decrease your learnings and absolutely decrease your credibility.
I wouldn’t say it absolutely decreases your credibility. I would say that if you want to minimize the risk if you optimize for the downside. Going to the university is a really good option because if you go to university and there’s a very low risk that you’re going to have horrible credibility, you’ve graduated.
It probably gives you pretty good learning, but it costs you four years of opportunity liquidity. But if you instead travel the world and meet people and hang out with Dalai Lama, you’re putting your credibility at risk, a lot. You’re putting your learnings at risk as well. You gain that by having higher opportunity liquidity, which means that you now must be a much stronger sovereign individual.
You now have to think so much more about your everyday choices. You have to have a much higher discipline and you have to really have a good decision system if to go to Nepal or not if to join this monastery in Thailand. That is a challenge that most people really don’t understand how hard it is because I think we’re brought up not having that many options.
We live in an age where, well, not now, not 2020 May, but almost before that. We live in an age when we can do almost anything we want with our lives. There are many limits, but look a hundred years back, or even more than, it’s like you have very few options. If you were the son of the cobbler, you were the son of the cobbler. That’s it.
Now, you can really change your life, but I think that’s a very hard thing to do. If you ask anybody who’s 19 now, what are you gonna do with your life? People either just say I don’t know. I’m going to university, I’m going to study computer science.
Why? Because my oldest brother did. So, okay. You’re not thinking about it, or you’re challenging yourself constantly and trying to pick the best options and that hurts. That hurts because now you’re challenging your identity. You’re asking yourself who you are. Are you the person who’s going to be a doctor.
Are you the person that volunteers with Doctors without borders? Are you the person that stays with your childhood girlfriend or boyfriend that you grew up with? And those are so horrible challenges. So sometimes outsourcing that to another institution saying: Oh, I’m going to Stanford, so I’m going to live somewhere there and I’m going to hang out with them.
That just makes life so much more practical and easier for a couple of years. That’s something I think that generally, we should think about. If you start a job, join a company, your opportunity liquidity goes down and you should just realize that you are doing that.
Petri: What makes you happy?
Hampus: I think a couple of things, but I think that one thing that makes me really happy is I really enjoy learning. I’ve thought about that sentence. I enjoy learning because it’s complicated cause, I don’t…
Petri: You love the learning process?
Hampus: Yeah. I don’t know why. I don’t know why actually.
When I started to analyse that, I found it so complicated. I don’t know what I enjoy about it because I think like everybody else when you’re sitting there scratching your head, not understanding the math problem or reading a book in the middle of the night and almost falling asleep because it’s too hard.
Of course, I don’t enjoy it. I’m not a monster, but I love the feeling of…this is a post hoc justification and construction, but I think that because I was brought up as the fourth child that, I’m getting back to that and my brothers are so much older than I am.
I also used to, as a kid, not understanding what was happening around me. You’re sitting around the kitchen table and somebody is talking about college math or whatever. If you’re in your eighth years old or something, you’re not following. There’s no way I can follow it.
And I somehow enjoy just picking up parts and trying to construct my image of what they were saying and build the world inside my head. Oh, I think I’m understanding it, Oh no, I’m not, Oh, maybe I’m following it now. And then trying it out and saying, is this true? And they were like, stop. Please be quiet.
We’re talking and Oh, but it’s actually not that bad. And I was like, wow, okay. Interesting. It’s like building a puzzle or like a big Lego construction without a drawing or without instruction and just trying to understand how it fits or it’s like knitting without a pattern.
There’s something beautiful about just trying to construct something and I think that’s what I enjoy about learning. If there’s something about that, which also means that I don’t enjoy learning 50 new French words because I’m not constructing a Lego model. I’m just like pointing at a Lego-model and saying, that’s red.
That’s blue. That’s green. That has eight dots, that has two dots, and that for me is like tabular knowledge. I don’t know enjoy that at all. I hated learning the kings in Sweden back to the umpteenth century. I hated that because I just felt like I can’t construct the model about this in my brain.
But I always loved building this strange four-dimensional puzzles and trying to understand it and that process has so much love. And that could be really anything. I do enjoy when I’m designing something in my head, this ball of yarn that I don’t understand. When that becomes a platform upon which I can stand.
For example, if I understand how Henry the Second in England reasoned, I’m not gonna be able to use that for much. Like it’s going to be more enjoyable to read the next book maybe, but it is so interesting to just understand how chlorophyll works or something. Cause that is something I feel that I can sort of stand up on that shoulder of giants are and just go, Oh wow.
I think I understand the next thing now. And then construct an even bigger four-dimensional puzzle that contains this proto-puzzle inside it, which is this small piece that I’m standing upon. I don’t know why I enjoy that, but I think it’s partly because I think that I was given that opportunity to build these four-dimensional puzzles in my head when I was a kid, and I just liked it.
The strange thing is I don’t necessarily like knowing these things. One of the more common sentences I said in college, I think was that I had an idea and I realized, Oh, I have a really cool idea. I didn’t want to say I have an idea or I’ve thought about this cause that made me sound like I was something and I didn’t like that at all.
I always said stuff like, Oh, I read somewhere, or something like that. And because then I outsourced the validity of the idea. And not because I was afraid about being wrong, more than I was actually afraid about people saying, wow, okay, are you trying to pretend you’re a genius?
Instead of saying, I’ve read this somewhere, and then people are like, Oh, that’s a really good idea. I think because I was brought up with your older siblings, it also meant that when I was in college or even younger, most of my friends were slightly older than I was.
So that meant that I was always on my toes trying to keep the pace, which meant often I had to kind of come up with things that even if you can’t run as fast or throw us far, you have to kind of add other value. And I think that I’ve always been that person and I think that really enjoyed trying to just stay alive in that sense.
I really enjoyed that. And I think nowadays there are many other things I enjoy. I think that that love of learning and building these four-dimensional puzzles, it’s a very egoistic thing. It’s like I’m knitting a thing inside my head and no one else benefits from it.
Nowadays I just enjoy massively helping people to figure out what they want to do with their lives. It’s also super frustrating cause I always find that I shouldn’t do this because it takes a lot of time. It takes massive amounts of my time and I absolutely don’t want an influx of people who ask me if I want to be their mentor or coach or anything else.
I don’t want that at all. There’re so many other things I want to do in my life. But the thing is, when I do it with friends or people I worked with, I just get this immense joy. I just like it’s so much. I talked to a previous colleague just this week and reasoned with her about what she’s going to do with her life a bit, and she, at the end of it said, Oh, thank you very much. This has been amazing.
And I just felt like thank you, I really enjoyed this. And I was like no, no. I’m serious, listen to me. I really enjoyed this. Like, I really, really think this is really enjoyable.
That is something I really enjoy and I think it’s the delight of seeing other people grow somehow and just seeing them challenged enough.
I have three kids. I really enjoy seeing my kids being happy about something or learning something. It’s such a fascinating thing just to see them crack something. Some of it is a biological thing in me. The joys, the fact, that they’re my kids. Some DNA in me says, Hey, preserve your genes.
But I think a big part of me is just, I just joy the innocence of children and seeing them grow, whether they’re my children or someone else’s child. It’s so amazing that you have these things that are created into the world and they like sponges and they learn everything and they can become anything. There are tabula rasas as in many aspects, not genetically, and not how they are brought up, but they have so many opportunities. And I think that’s so fascinating.
I am very bad at saying no to opportunities. That’s one of my biggest weaknesses. Just being able to say, no, I’m not going to go skiing in Chamonix with this amazing group of people and get to know them.
That was the thing I decided. I think it was two years ago, that I would decline 10 amazing opportunities every year. And it hurt so much, the first one, which was a ski trip to Chamonix many with amazing people. I was like, Nope, I’m not going to come. And that’s why, and I said, like, I have said that I’m going to decline 10 amazing opportunities, and it’s January the second and this is like so easy to tick one off.
And then I feel already I’m on the way. And they were like the strangest reason I’ve ever heard not to join this trip. And I was like, yeah, but you know, someone’s going to be the first, right.
Petri: So that was a real joy of missing out?
Hampus: I think it was not so much. Mentioning it now, it’s two years later, right? So there’s part of me that said, maybe I should’ve gone to that trip, but I think that every time you do something, it’s something else you don’t do.
It’s so hard for me to remember how much I love reading an amazing book of fiction with a glass of wine at 11:00 PM in the evening and just sitting there and nothing else is happening. Because your phone is blinking, your computer is saying these TV series, somebody saying, should we do this? It’s so easy to jump on this train and go to Chamonix. There’s escapism in finding luck and joy somewhere else.
Most of us live in believing that we should try to spend our time optimizing the next moment. The problem is that when you’re only spending your time optimizing the next moment, you’re never living in the moment when you get there.
Because when you’re living in that moment, you’re thinking about how to optimize the next moment. I absolutely have not mastered this cause I am as lousy as anyone else in the world at this. I am very far from a perfect Buddhist monk and mindfulness zen master. I just try to remind myself sometimes it’s like when I go to that trip in Chamonix, either I’m going to sit there and feel, shit this is it, right. This is what I’m doing. This is as good as it gets or I’m going to sit and think, Oh shit, that’s a super amazing person. That’s super interesting. I got to figure out a way to talk to her about this topic cause she’s so great at that. And I’m just going to try to be super anxious about like getting the opportunity to talk to her about it.
When I get the opportunity to talk about it, I’m going to be like the teenage guys dating the first time. I’m gonna be stuttering and I’m like, Oh shit. I made a fool out of myself. I should just stop speaking now as quickly as possible. And then when I have asked my questions, she’s answered, and I’m going to run away as quickly as possible because I don’t want to have the stupid question.
Secondly. Whereas the times when I have by mistake been stuck with that person on a flight or on a train or somewhere else. We’ve had an amazing time because it wasn’t designed. I was stuck one time in New York at Christmas in 1999. I’ve separated from my then-girlfriend.
And separated sounds for heavy. We weren’t married. We had broken up and I was in New York with my oldest brother who lived there and celebrated Christmas with them. And I think I just want to get away from everything for a while. And then on the plane back, I got onto the plane back after Christmas, flying back to Sweden.
I got into the plane and I just want it to be alone and I got a seat all by myself. I was amazing. You’re flying coach and you’ve got two seats next to each other. It felt so great. And then in final boarding dah, dah, dah, crosschecking report. And when they’re saying that, I realized there’s one person walking down the aisle towards my seat and like, no s***t, she’s going to take the seat and not only is she going to take the seat next to me, it’s the goddamn she and I feel like I don’t need women around me right now.
I feel like it’s great to not cause like. They’re all crap as everybody believes when they just broke up with somebody. And, she has the seat at like the window seat. I have the aisle seat so I also have to stand up. So I’m like when I am about to stand up. I say should I jump in or do you want the window seats?
That was the first sentence. And 11 hours later we landed and we had not talked for 15 minutes when both of us went to the bathroom and otherwise, we had talked and talked completely. She was a professional clown named Emily, and we had an amazing time. I didn’t know her last name, I didn’t know where she lived.
But we had talked about so many interesting things. We didn’t exchange email addresses. I’ve never met her again. I have no clue who she is. I’m never going to find her online. But it was an amazing experience that came out of complete serendipity that I could have never have designed. I have to remind myself sometimes that even if I believe that we should be thinking about the future, you should think about your career, you should think about your learning curricular and everything. They’re just things in life. It’s like you can go to that trip in Chamonix. And that might be the best thing ever. Or you can just like not, sometimes just like doing something else is okay because I think the grass is so rarely green or the other side, and we just believe that.
I think we have this really stupid thing, which I sometimes get really frustrated about and that we believe that there’s this hierarchy of interestingness among people. If you’re whatever Prad Pitt or Larry Page or Elon Musk or whatever a super top core title of amazing celebrity within something. We just believe that person to be like thousand times more interesting than the person next in the hierarchy of amazingness.
Then that person is a thousand times more interesting than the person below them. And just to believe that and when you actually get to sit next to the person who’s top of that amazing hierarchy, you usually realised that yes, there are very impressive people. They have their crazy flaws and they put their pants on one leg at a time just like the rest of us.
And I think that’s been one of the biggest, both disappointments, but also reliefs of my life. I have met a lot of very amazing people and almost every time I have been first very impressed by the area that they’re amazing in. And then I’ve been very shocked by the areas that they are sub-normally good at. Some of these people who are utter geniuses but are just socially so inept or completely, amazingly charismatic, but they don’t know anything about anything.
It’s taught me that sometimes that wild goose chase of hanging out with the elites of the elites is going to make me so disappointed because not only am I going to find out that the elites of elites in any subject are… yes, they’re interesting in their thing, but they’re also not very interesting in other things, but also it’s going to make me feel that I’m always on the chase.
I can never sit down and read that book because there’s someone just going to be just in front of me. It was much more interesting and it’s going to disappear in ten minutes. That trip in Chamonix is never going to come back, but the book can never come back. That means you can never pause.
That’s both a disappointment, but it’s also a relief. I have found some of the most interesting people in my life by doing stuff like podcasts, or by randomly serendipitously meeting people like that are professional clowns on airplanes or arranging conferences and events about niche topics that are very curious about. Meeting those people, having dinner with these people that I select that I wanted to meet, and actually spending time with them in a non- transactional matter has been such an amazing experience of meeting these fascinating people.
That’s also one of the things I found. I find that almost every person of the planet has something extremely interesting about them. them If you can see what’s interesting about them either you are not listening well enough or they are wearing an armour and don’t want to seem vulnerable and expose who they are and it’s maybe because of something you’re doing.
That’s what I feel when I meet all these people and the armour is down and I’m actually listening. I find that every single person is so interesting in some shape or form. I’ve been in so many customer calls for startups I’ve invested in or other things. We’re in the call. We ended up talking about another thing and then randomly like when the call is over because we talked about another thing and the topic, I just asked them, Oh, by the way, Emily, we’re hanging up now, or James, whenever it is, I’m talking to like, what’s your favourite author?
Then we end up talking like 30 minutes about authors and I find fine book tips and I end up reading books I’ve never read before. And I think there are the most amazing books. And I was like, wow, this James or Emily, whoever. Wow. That was a great serendipitous thing, right? I was in a call just the other day with a professor of science writing at MIT, and we started talking about the topic super seriously because it was COVID.
He was sitting in a weird place and I was sitting in a weird place, so we started talking about kids. We started with other things. We realized that he had small kids. We started talking about board games and from board games we started talking about computer games. We realised that we were both in love with the same computer game.
We talked plenty about that computer game, and then we started talking about books. Then we were like, remind yourself that, sorry, we have to get back to the topic. And that talk was scheduled for 45 minutes and we ended up talking in two and a half hours. And we have talked twice since.
It’s crazy how that was about supposed to be a meeting about one topic. And I think because we were both able to see the interesting aspects and facets about the other person, we not only built the relationship, but we also found so many other interesting things about each other. And, that’s the thing we often forget.
And the other thing that I often find is everybody who is achieving something personally or professionally, they almost always have sacrificed something. And, everybody thinks that, Oh, yeah, okay, Michael Jordan never had friends or whatever. I think one of the things we should be much more transparent to each other in about is what are we sacrificing.
Cause I think that it’s a very interesting conversation to have with people. I find just asking like what’s your worldview? Where are you now in life generally and what have you sacrificed? It’s a super interesting conversation cause you find people like, I’m doing this and of course I had to sacrifice this thing and sometimes.
You think that the things that you can come up with a list of five things that you expect people to answer: I never had kids, or I never got this crazy high salary, or I never got that degree, or I never did my internship at this place, or whatever. Or I never know I was the first umpteenth company X, but then I left so I never got the stock options.
That’s so common to think, but people say so many things that you just go, Oh, interesting. I’ve never thought about that. But of course, that’s a huge sacrifice.
Petri: What is your favourite word?
Hampus: That question is so tricky because I think part of me wants to say a word that is like a beautiful word that is a word that has a poetic sound and part of me wants to say a word that has a certain meaning. If I would say a word for the sound and the kind of the history of that word.
One of the more fascinating words, if I would pick one word that I use most often, not for its meaning, but by the word itself, it’s the word butterfly. And the word butterfly I find extremely fascinating because when you look at words, take the word gold or the word wheel or the word wheat.
You can see how some of these inventions came from somebody or somewhere and then they travelled from that place. A lot of the world had a very similar word for gold. And then it splits up in the Latin version. There are two stems now and you can look and see how that world travelled and you see that in the world gold.
That word has massive implications because you use that word for trade, so you want to be able to trade. The other kinds are the invention where it’s like the word wheel. Somewhere somebody came up with a wheel and then that word transported itself to other places. And you can see how in some places people would maybe come up with it on their own and then they have a separate word.
But you can definitely see how that invention travelled. And then you have words that are neither. They’re not transactional words like gold or silver where you need to count, then you need to be able to measure it. They’re not invention words where it’s travelled because the idea travelled. They’re words that just have no meaning for anybody externally, and butterfly is such a word.
Butterfly is called so many different things in different languages. You have butterfly in English, you have sommerfugl, summer bird, in Danish. Summer bird like butterfly and similar but not the same. You have Schmetterling in German, which is like a very unique word.
You have fjÃ¤ril in Swedish, which doesn’t look like many other Swedish words, but it’s a very ancient word. You have perhonen in Finnish, which is again a word that doesn’t look like many other words. And I think that’s what I find so interesting about word butterfly. It shows us that you don’t need to have a conversation about them with other people.
The word you need to be able to point at something and say that thing. It would be super strange if people in Portugal couldn’t point at something and say borboleta because it’s strange. There’s something that’s flying. You need to be able to point it. But a Portuguese person doesn’t need to tell that to an English person. They don’t talk about butterflies.
That’s why I think the word butterfly is a very fascinating word cause it not only shows how that word in and itself is unique. But I think the other thing it shows is that words can show how society grew from over centuries. It shows how words are much more than what we think they are.
Petri: What is your least favourite word?
Hampus: I don’t think I have a least favourite. No, I don’t think so. I have no problem when people like misuse words.
I believe that words even misspelt or mispronounced or anything. It’s very interesting. I can see a lot of people going frustrated…that’s the very modern way of using that word. Don’t use it. It’s supposed to be this, but words they change.
They change because societies develop. And I think somebody can say that the gender-neutral pronoun, they get frustrated cause like, Hey, why are you using this strange word? And I think it’s fine. It’s like whatever, if it is against your philosophy or how your life works, you just have to realise that you’re not going to be the last person on this planet.
Language evolves. I somebody uses a slang word or a swear word, come on. I think that so many times people fuzz about and try to correct other people’s talk. What we say is just like how we dress. I think it’s super important to realise that in certain situations, showing social intelligence and showing that you understand that if we’re meeting the king and the queen, please dress up and please speak properly.
Because if you don’t, you show that you’re either somehow an idiot. Either you don’t get the social context or you just believe yourself to be so goddamn important that you put yourself above everyone else. And it’s not like you don’t need to be a royalist and believe in the king, but you realize there are many people who love the king and queen and you are talking to them in a nasty way.
Addressing badly is insulting for a lot of people. Why do you want to insult them? The only reason you wouldn’t like to insult them is you believe yourself to be so important. And so I oftentimes feel like there’s an elegance in fitting in. It’s like you can disagree without being disagreeable. I don’t think I have any word that I dislike.
And the same thing when people mispronounce the word. I read this amazing quote which is when people mispronounce a word that’s also a sign of intelligence. They learned that word while reading. Because if people hear the word, they can pronounce it again because they’ve heard the word.
If somebody mispronounces a word that means they have read it. Reading is definitely harder than talking. It shows that these people are trying to learn. That’s something we rarely think about. We think that people mispronouncing things are stupid, but it’s because they read more than you.
Petri: What turns you on creatively, spiritually, or emotionally?
Hampus: Sadly, I am very turned on by progress, which is something I’m slightly fighting to be so turned on by. So many times enjoy seeing like a progress bar. And I don’t mean like a progress bar. I hate when you reinstalled the computer on like see the progress bar.
I like the feeling of progress. Even when I’m reading an amazing book, just the feeling that I’m coming to the end of the chapter. It’s just like there’s a good feeling about it. And I think that when you play a computer game and feel like you levelled up or something, there’s a good feeling about it.
Or whenever my kids learn how to bike or graduate or whatever, it’s like there’s a good feeling about it. It’s something I’m partly fighting because I think that there are certain things where you cannot see progress. And seeing the progress means that it blinds me for the things that maybe I should be looking at, but that can’t be measured.
It’s hard. Progress turns me on but progress in and by itself is not a good thing. Growth is not a good thing by itself. And I think that’s the problem. When we measure progress and growth, we’re very one dimensional. There are many things that we destroy.
If you measure a country’s value or worth or whatever with the GDP, then the gross national product doesn’t really tell you anything about how happy the people are in the country. And it also doesn’t mean how well they’re handling their environment. It probably means the inverse because when you’re shipping a lot of boxes here and there or building a lot of stuff, then you’re increasing your GDP and that sounds like a good thing.
And the other extent, Oh, let’s say we’re going for happiness instead. If you just hand out cannabis to everyone and allow them to play computer games and give them a free Netflix account, and give them a minimum of universal basic income. I think the majority of people would be much happier.
You would bring up the average quite well. Any kind of one-dimensional progress is very dangerous and all of us want a very simple world. We want to compare apples to apples and we want to see does the US has more nuclear arms than Russia?
We really want to measure it on the same scale. Like all of the good things in life can’t be measured on one scale. That’s why I’m a bit ambivalent about progress, but the problem is I’m built to want it, so I’m sort of avoiding loving it too much.
Petri: What turns you off?
Hampus: Entropy turns me off massively. I get really frustrated when people increase entropy. When people increase the disorder in the world. I think that makes me really frustrated. If people destroy books. If people pollute, if people interrupt intelligent people when they’re supposed to talk because you don’t believe that the other person has something interesting to say.
It frustrates me when you see entropy increasing. Entropy increases in and by itself. It’s something that happens. It’s, it’s how the universe is working. But I think it’s part of the things…it’s time.
Maybe the progress I’m after is decreasing the entropy. Can we just get things more structurally in order? Can we decrease climate change? Can we decrease inequality? Can we decrease info wars? Those three really decrease entropy if we were able to do it.
Increased entropy is something that really turns me off.
Petri: What is your favourite curse word?
Hampus: I don’t think I have a favourite curse word. I think I use a lot of different curse words. I think when I speak in English, I tend to use pretty lame curse words. I feel that sometimes I use them in a very threatening way, which I actually tried to stop doing a bit. Cause I think that’s a friend of mine told me after a couple of years ago when I was on stage, he kind of said afterwards, you were swearing quite a lot on stage. And I realise I am swearing quite a lot on stage.
When I talk to people, I think that I feel a lot of times that you’re not supposed to swear on stage. So when you’re swearing on stage, you’re kind of showing that all bets are off and they can’t expect what’s coming next. And I kind of feel that makes the whole conversation more interesting.
But at the same time, I think it also dumbifies the conversation a bit. I’m generally against both dumbifying conversations, but I’m also very against over intellectualising conversation. I’m very much a proponent of infinite games and making sure that things are played and that we can together construct things.
If we try to exclude people by using superintelligent words or slang, I think it becomes more complicated. At the same time, these things are identity tables, so it helps people to go and figure out if they’re just listening to the right people right now, or if they should walk away. It’s complicated, but I don’t have any favourite curse words.
Petri: What sound or noise do your love?
Hampus: I really like the sounds of cooking. I cook a lot and I’ve found that any time I’ve listened to a podcast or been on the phone or lost my sense of smell, for some reason, my cooking really like goes downhill quickly. I didn’t think about it, but I use both my sense of smell and hearing quite a lot while I cook.
For example, if I’m frying onions, you can actually hear the onions like what you want to do with them right now. Or like the bubbling of a stew. When the bottom starts to stick to the pan, the bubbles are much bigger and you can hear the bloop, bloop.
And then you’re realizing that, Oh no, it’s like more water and stir. So, I really like the sounds of cooking, cause I think those sounds they put me in some kind of harmony. I think they put me in the now because I think that those sounds or those smells are our vital meters for me to make this dish what I want it to be.
For example, cutting an onion is very fascinating. if you’re cutting and onion and trying not to look at it. It’s impossible. You cannot cut an onion without seeing it. If you cut an onion and can’t hear, it actually is quite a lot of harder.
Cause there’s a special sound when you slice an onion and when the knife hit the cutting board so that you’re all down so you’re not going to get like a tail that sticks. Sometimes cooking forces me to the now in a way that I very much enjoy. And, when I cook, I often do many things at the same time. But often when I cook, I find it’s very hard to do other things.
I can be on the phone with somebody, but it’s almost impossible for me to do anything else. I can listen to music, I can listen to music or I can be on the phone. But that usually makes the cooking slightly worse. But, the sounds of cooking I think are definitely some of my favourite sounds.
Petri: What sound or noise do you hate?
Hampus: I hate the sound of children crying. When you see a small child crying, I think that I don’t have a problem with that small child crying. You’re on an airport or a train or like in an airplane and you’re sitting there and you have a child crying. Of course, a child crying it’s not a wonderful sound. It’s a very high pitched sound and it’s an emotional sound that is hurting everybody who’s not completely emotionally blind. One of the headaches I find with children crying is that not the child itself, because a lot of times children are not crying because they are in a very bad state.
But the thing that hurts with the children crying is actually the responsibility and the feeling in the parents that most parents are in absolute pain when their children are crying. Many times they’re in pain for things that they don’t need to be in pain for. They’re in pain because they believe their child to be in pain and the child is probably not in pain.
They’re very much in pain because it’d be everybody on the train or wherever they are is now hating them massively. Anybody who’s ever travelled with a child, their own child in particular, on a plane or train or whatever, and had their child crying then remembers the time when they’re on a train or a plane and another child is crying.
Whenever that happens to me, I get this both a sense of joy, not because someone else’s child is crying, but I get the sense of joy that knowing that I’m not like, you know, contribute to this problem, but also the fact that, my children are not crying right now. And I think that sometimes I feel like I’m in pain when I hear children crying because I know that the parents are now in massive pain for things they don’t need to be in pain for. And it’s so hard to tell the parents like, Hey, it doesn’t matter. Because the parents are gonna be fussed up. And there are people on the train or plane that thinks this is horrible because they’re now trying to listen to opera on this Airbus.
Petri: What profession other than your own, would you like to attempt?
Hampus: I have attempted a lot of professions. Not that I have the degree but I’ve tried being a coach. I’ve tried being a therapist for a while and I do it partly, and career counselling as we talked about previously.
I’ve been a programmer. I’ve partly been a user interface designer. I’ve been a manager, a CEO. I’ve been a salesperson. I’ve been a strategist. I’ve been on the stage presenter, a public speaker. I think there are many things.
I’ve tried many professions and tested them and then there’re professions I just feel like there’s no reason for me to try and usually also there’s like a high credibility bar to get into them. So I haven’t even tried them.
I had this year when I was doing a lot of coaching with people and it was very rewarding, but it’s also felt that it’s something I had a hard time doing over the long term.
It was a very good year, but I felt at the end of the year that I was very happy that it was over. I would love to test almost any profession, which is intellectually stimulating and I was going to meet a lot of different people. I think that would be great, but I think being stuck in any profession is something I wouldn’t want to do, almost any profession.
If somebody said, choose any profession, stick with this now for 30 years, I think would be like, no, I don’t think I can do that. But being an investor it’s not really a profession one way because it’s so many different things.
So I feel like being an investor is one of the few “professions” that allows me to change my hat multiple times every day and force myself to learn new things.
Petri: What profession would you not like to do?
Hampus: If I index across any profession there are many professions that I absolutely don’t want to do. If I look at professional that somebody would say, Oh, maybe a person like you would like to do this kind of profession.
There are certain professions that I absolutely don’t want to do. I don’t think I would ever want to become a doctor. And I think the main reason I don’t really become a doctor is that I am very obsessed by progress and I think that my fear, if I would be a doctor, is that, first of all, you’re kind of fighting something bigger than yourself.
You’re fighting like an infection or you’re fighting ageing or something and you will eventually lose. You might win this battle, but you’re going to lose the war. The horrible thing is also that I very much like building systems and scaling things and being a doctor is very much about being, it’s a service profession in many ways.
Like you meet people and if you’re not there, you can’t really help them. Your output is very tied to your time, your synchronous time. And that’s something I don’t like. I live very much like asynchronicity in what I work. I like to build something, this four-dimensional idea.
And then try to apply that so I can apply and scale that so I can get more use of my time. Maybe it’s because I’m a program originally it’s like building snippets of code that I can reuse as libraries is always a good thing. As a doctor would make me really scared cause I think that then I wouldn’t be able to scale my time in a good way.
I would feel very trapped and I wouldn’t prefer to feel trapped. It’s 11:00 PM in the evening and somebody calls me and says, you’ve got to come into the hospital now because we have this case that you’re so good at. Then you can rescue this person. I would feel that now I’m choosing between my own private egoistic reason for finishing this stand up comedy on Netflix with my wife or go and rescue a person, which is dying. Of course, I need to quit this TV series, and go and rescue this dying person. But that it also means that my life has absolutely no value and I’m living for other people. And it means every moment that I’m sitting, and having a bar of chocolate or walking in the park is a time when people are dying on my watch. I think that’s something I would have a very hard time handling.
Petri: If you could be a co-founder of any startup in any era, which one would you choose?
Hampus: If it was now, I don’t think I want to be a co-founder of any startup in an era right now. The two startups I’ve started, I started reluctantly.
I’ve started them more or less against my will, but I couldn’t stop myself from doing them with other people. Running a startup brings forth the best sides of me. But it also brings forth the worst sides of me. The problem is that running a startup is something I’m very good at, but it makes me intrinsically unhappy. It’s so hard for me because I want to do it because I feel like I can do this really well.
But then I realized when I’m starting to do it that I actually hate things cause I don’t like the person I am and I don’t like how I’m spending my time, but because I’m really good at it, I feel appreciation. I feel of course progress. I feel enjoyment in it and I think it’s very hard. It’s very hard for myself, too.
It was a very hard process for myself, learning and understanding that I am not the person I want to be when I’m in a startup, even if I’m good at it.