Paul X McCarthy on Australia’s Promising Startup Landscape and How Technology Has Rewritten the Laws of Economics
Interview with Paul X McCarthy
Paul X McCarthy is a technology consultant, speaker and author. His company, Online Gravity Consulting, is a global digital consulting firm. He is also the co-founder of League of Scholars, an enterprise looking at analytics in the research and innovation space.
On this episode, we discuss one of Paul’s greatest passions: the Australian startup sphere. He explains his particular interest in the next generation of computational linguistics, and the emergence of conversational artificial intelligence.
Paul also provides insight into why he believes technology has rewritten the laws of economics, as he has concluded in his book, Online Gravity.
Douglas Nicol: Hello, and welcome to Smart Dust, the regular little podcast that helps you stay in touch with the debates and the discussions in the world of technology, data, and innovation. As always, I’m joined by the venerable and really quite tech savvy, Mr. Nick Abrahams.
Nick Abrahams: Douglas. Hello, everyone, and thank you for that quite tech savvy, damned by faint praise. I appreciate it. Certainly, I couldn’t connect your printer but otherwise I can talk about things.
Douglas Nicol: In this episode we are very lucky to be joined by Professor Paul X. McCarthy who’s an author, speaker, and technology consultant. His company Online Gravity is a global digital consulting firm focused on a whole range of things from strategy to innovation to investment advisory services, and he has written a fantastic book called Online Gravity that we shall come to shortly. But I think one of the most interesting things that you’re involved in is the tech startup world. Yeah, Paul. Hi, welcome to Smart Dust.
Paul X McCarthy: Thanks, Nick, and thanks Douglas for having me on your show.
Nick Abrahams: Great to have you here. Paul, I’ve known you for years, and even before you became a publishing superstar across the globe, and you’ve always held a tremendous passion, and I guess curiosity for technology. We’ll get to the book lighter as Douglas said, but can you just talk about what you’re up to right at the moment? We’ve got two things. The first, I think, came from a Marvel Comics idea, it’s called League of Scholars. You’re the co-founder and CEO of League of Scholars. What is this superhero collection about?
Paul X McCarthy: Yeah, thanks, Nick. Yeah, League of Scholars, it’s inspired I guess by the precursor to the United Nations, the title, but one hopes it’s a bit more successful. League of Scholars is an enterprise we set up, a colleague and I set up, about four years ago now, and it’s looking at analytics in the research and innovation space. It came out of our understanding of a particular problem around talent discovery, particularly in early and mid career researchers. There’s this kind of chasm for anyone who works in research. They’ll know this between doing your PhD and going into postdocs, and then later getting a tenured position. That can be typically 10 to 15 years in the wilderness.
Paul X McCarthy: It’s a very challenging time for a lot of individuals and on the flip side, universities, and research organizations who want to secure a talent pipeline, and increasingly companies too, they need to tap into this talent pool at this really vital time. I think it’s very difficult to find a way to uncover where the best talent is in this early stage of people’s careers.
Nick Abrahams: Yeah, I think one of the things that only came clear to me recently is it’s actually a very brutal life as a researcher. I mean once you get through and you get your PhD, it’s sort of the start of what is a real grind, it’s this constant requirement to publish or be damned effectively. If you’re not coming out with something decent every year or thereabout, then your ability to secure grants and so forth becomes very difficult. So, it seems like an incredible challenge. I’m just interested because I think CSIRO, who you’re involved with, as I understand, I think they’ve removed the requirement to publish as one of the KPIs and so forth. Are you able to talk a bit about that?
Paul X McCarthy: Yeah, I think some organizations like CSIRO, and I guess commercial research organizations, two, they obviously have dual imperatives and not simply the advancement of knowledge, but also the application of that knowledge. So, there’s a kind of a dual imperative. Publishing is very important, of course, but taking that to the world and making an impact is also part of the work at CSIRO. One of the things I’m involved in there is advising around a careers platform for people transitioning from university to their careers, and working in career related roles. It’s called Ribit. Yeah, it’s an area that they’re focused on.
Nick Abrahams: You’ve worked with a number of the big US tech companies over the years, and there seems to be a fungibility between the academic sector in the US and business. And so, if you’re talking to Stanford professors, often they will be, they’ve got their startups on the side, or they’re talking about, you know what? The share prices of their spin-out and so forth. Do you see, I guess, Australia headed in that direction where we are going to get more academics being able to make the leap?
Paul X McCarthy: I think so, Nick, and I think calling on and getting advice from the best minds in academia is increasingly, I don’t think that every academic needs to be an entrepreneur nor do I think that all corporations need to be deeply enmeshed in academia. But I think that there’s certainly an important link between those, and we need to broaden and strengthen those links, and we are seeing that in Australia now, yeah.
Douglas Nicol: You’re also chairman at the studio of Global Credit Fund media tech innovation hub. Tell us about that. What kind of work is happening there? What kind of new businesses are evolving?
Paul X McCarthy: Yeah, thank you. The studio is very exciting. The studio is a new media tech incubator. It was launched last year by Scott Morrison. It’s part of the Sydney Startup Hub, which is, for those not in Australia, it’s modeled on Station F in Paris. It’s a very large deco building. It’s probably the most awarded building after the Sydney Opera House in Australia won both the Sulman Medal and the Rural British Architecture Award in the ’30s. The whole building has been dedicated to startups. It’s now home to the four largest incubators in the startup space in Australia.
Paul X McCarthy: The studio in media and technology, communications technologies, Stone & Chalk in fintech, of course. There’s Fishburners, which has a strong connection to the university sector, and, of course, Tank Stream Labs, a commercial facility.
Paul X McCarthy: So, we’ve got this critical mass, and I think it was based on this idea of a collision, building a critical mass of entrepreneurs and innovators in one space. You’ve got about eight floors of startups and scale-ups. And so the studio is particularly focused on media and communications technologies. That’s the brainchild of [Chantal Obuchi 00:07:00]. She is, and it comes out of her research. She did a master’s at Australian Film and Television Radio School, and is a seasoned global film producer.
Paul X McCarthy: And understood that there was a need at this interface between technology and media. That’s always been a long passion of mine. Having worked in Australia at IBM for 10 years, helping establish their very early media production facilities and then ultimately that was launched as the regional center for digital media production in the ’90s.
Douglas Nicol: So, with your view across many different startups, what do you see as the real hot areas at the moment? Who are the startups getting the funding? Where’s the action?
Paul X McCarthy: Yeah, there’s about five startups within, so it’s about 50 media tech startups within the studio, about five close to Series A. There’s one called ooVoo, which is an amazing video distribute global video distribution platform that uses artificial intelligence from Watson and to connect publishers and broadcasters globally to news stories that are relevant dynamically, and it monetizes that. It’s a next generation Reuters network, in the way that Reuters was a global news wire, and this is the same for digital video distribution.
Paul X McCarthy: There’s a lot happening in AR and VR, but one of the areas that I’m personally particularly passionate about is the next generation of computational linguistics, particularly real time and voice. This area, which is emerging called Conversational AI. This is an area where Australia in particular has some deep research strengths. There’s a startup at the studio in this space around called Curious Thing, it’s led by David McKeague, who’s a seasoned [crosstalk 00:09:02]-
Nick Abrahams: Absolutely. Yeah, David has spent many years in the valley, and very successfully.
Paul X McCarthy: Yeah, so he’s also our expert in residence at the studio, and as you, Nick, he’s been around the block and had a few exits. He’s got this very exciting early stage startup around Conversational AI and it’s a real time symmetric.
Nick Abrahams: Yeah.
Douglas Nicol: Is that an assistant or is that [crosstalk 00:09:26]-?
Paul X McCarthy: Yeah, he’s experimenting in the field of recruitment, so they’re doing this idea of sort of screening. But one of the exciting things for me is the potential to give feedback. I guess the potential for at-scale feedback for increasingly complex interactions. We’re seeing this in the home market, I guess with the smart speaker, and that space is evolving very quickly. But I feel that there’s a new wave of innovation happening in this space, and I can see that, media tech more broadly, I feel as if like fintech a few years ago, which was buoyed by the TransferWise deal.
Paul X McCarthy: I trace back the invention of fintech in its current incarnation to the Andreessen Horowitz deal, and the move to London and the TransferWise deal. I think 2015 you can trace when … Because fintech has been around for a long time. Bloomberg’s been around for a long time, but in 2015 I think the world lit to the idea that the web and traditional financial services, the scale of the opportunity, and the scale of potential for some of these companies, and that deal was the turning point, if you like.
Paul X McCarthy: I think last year the investment, so I think this combination of foreign capital, so in the case of Andreessen Horowitz, it was US capital going to the UK and investing. When money comes from overseas, it’s a very special message. I think we saw that last year with Canvas Series A, and I think that media tech could be in this new phase where we’re seeing a new renewable in interest in media tech.
Douglas Nicol: So, that’s what’s looking hot. What are the over-hyped technologies and startups? Where are you cynical?
Nick Abrahams: To fit with Douglass’s general cynicism about people who are putting their lives on the line to try to make a better world for people, let’s put some daggers in here. Sorry, that’s just the subtext. Sometimes our guests don’t understand where Douglas is coming from.
Paul X McCarthy: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, I think, yeah, I don’t know, I’ve trouble highlighting anyone. I mean-
Nick Abrahams: What about-?
Paul X McCarthy: … I’ve got one. Here we go, crypto is a particular one of mine. I mean I’m-
Nick Abrahams: We’ve lost half our audience there.
Paul X McCarthy: Yeah, sorry, sorry about that, but make sure-
Nick Abrahams: Are they particularly bothered, the crypto people?
Paul X McCarthy: Yeah, yeah. I guess I’m a crypto skeptic, you might say. I’m not skeptical about the technology. Blockchain is a fabulous distributed, another sort of distributed technology in a wave of centralization and distribution. That’s the way technology works, and same in management. You all huddle together and then you all distribute, and decentralizing government as well. It’s a wonderful technology, but I think that there’s a naive conceit around the idea of, it’s kind of like a version of fear, but in the private sector, and I’m, of course, a skeptic. So, it’s skepticism about general monetary policy around the world today.
Paul X McCarthy: I think there’s going to be some really interesting things obviously happening with the Facebook stuff, but I think the Facebook Libra stuff is going to be very much like the Napster, or it’s kind of like the precursor to something very exciting.
Nick Abrahams: Right.
Douglas Nicol: Yeah. And particularly once the central banks and so forth start to issue their own electronic currencies, then you know that’s potentially a game changer. Just on the media stuff, getting back to your wheelhouse there, what about augmented reality? Because I am interested in particularly seeing augmented reality using construction and design and so forth. Do you see those opportunities?
Paul X McCarthy: Absolutely. Australia in particular has a lot of companies in the building, information management space. I guess we have deep strengths in construction and we have a few global companies in that area, and around the CAD space. Also, I guess that in film and television, there’s that deep strengthening sort of visual effects which is related to that. Animal Logic is one of the founding partners in the studio for example. There’s audio as well, which is another aspect of people’s experience, and Dolby, as you know, sort of work in this space.
Douglas Nicol: Congrats on the book.
Paul X McCarthy: Thank you.
Douglas Nicol: Clearly getting a lot of accolades. I’ve got to read one of the accolades, because it’s pretty damn impressive. On the cover of the book, there’s a quote from Dr. Terry Percival, which everyone knows he’s the co-inventor of Wi-Fi, so pretty, pretty impressive person. He said that this book delivers extraordinary insight as to how the digital revolution is changing our lives forever. That’s pretty good, but-
Nick Abrahams: Yeah, I mean what’s next? Oprah’s Book Club? You can only be a couple of moments away from that. That is fantastic.
Douglas Nicol: Excitingly, this book is now published not just in English, but Russian and Chinese I understand. That’s incredible.
Paul X McCarthy: Yeah, that’s right, Douglas. Yeah. Yeah, and it was a delight to have it published in Chinese last year, and I had the great honor of being invited to China to speak alongside Jack Ma, Pony Ma, Robin Li at that huge International Data Analytics Conference. It’s been a great honor to work with the publishers, both in the UK, Australia, and now China, Russia.
Paul X McCarthy: Yeah, so the book is about, it’s about how it comes from my understanding is working in the technology sector and just understanding how I feel that technology has rewritten the laws of economics. I guess I felt that technology insiders have known this for some time. A lot of people working in the tech sector know these things and take these things, some things for granted, but I think they’re not, as technology increasingly has diffused throughout the entire economy, and we’ve seen industries be digitized and networked, it’s only in the last 20 years. That’s really since 2000.
Paul X McCarthy: The effects of this new economics are now playing out across all industries, and I think it was really just I felt that there was an opportunity because I felt I understood this from a firsthand perspective to be able to share this with other people. Other people in business, other people, but also other people who are just interested in understanding the way things work, and they want to get on in the world. They want to help themselves with education opportunities. They want to help the kids and that sort of thing. So, I wanted to write a book that explained some of these things, and hopefully gave some pointers.
Douglas Nicol: So, what would an example be of something that would impact one’s own plan for scaling up in certain areas in the coming years? What is an example from the playbook?
Paul X McCarthy: Yeah, well, I guess we’re living in a really special time, I feel. I’m very optimistic. I think that it’s an autodidact’s paradise. If you wanted to learn something now, whether it’s practical or theoretical, there’s never been a better time in history really. I give you an example. I bought this a while ago, I was as getting back into analog, a sort of a retro thing, but I was getting into analog cameras. You can buy, because no one wants them anymore. There’s this enormous amount of beautiful lenses out there that are just on-
Nick Abrahams: Online classified ads, right.
Paul X McCarthy: Yeah. So, I got this camera, and I was playing around with it and it broke. I took it into the CBD camera store, and they told me it was $400 to get a quote. I was kind of like, “Okay, well.” So, I took it home, and that sort of thing. I looked it up, and then I found a video, of course, online that showed me how to, with methylated spirit and a cotton bud to fix this systemic problem, which was a known problem with this camera. I just fixed it, and I just said, “This is fabulous.” There’s lots of things. There’s these other examples I give in the book around personal health from my own personal experience, where I’ve helped friends and family and myself with illnesses and ailments, not life-threatening ones, but serious annoyances that are the big, turn out to be. It’s all there. A lot of it is there.
Douglas Nicol: My observation is that appears to be a certain age, possibly early 40s, where people stop being curious and actually almost surrender to technology, and almost surrender to wanting to understand how technology works, how social media works. For me, that always seems very strange, but is there a way you can actually retrain to become curious again and keep learning through your 40s and 50s?
Paul X McCarthy: Yeah, I think perhaps if it’s a habit that you, and you get benefit. It’s like anything, if you get a little bit of benefit, and I think if it’s interest-led, I think the research has shown that in terms of getting people engaged and online, the way to do it is to start with their interests. If they’re into cars or footy or whatever it is, get them onto the website that helps them draw out their interests. It’s like everything in life, but I think there is this incredible, unbelievable resources out there now.
Nick Abrahams: I love that idea that we need to teach people based on their interests, and there was the Israelis have no problems getting women or girls into STEM and so forth. But they don’t call it STEM. The subjects like cybersecurity. And so, in a country that’s fixated on that for good reasons, the women flock to that. I think it’s the way we try to sell STEM to kids nowadays is selling it as data analytics is not a great idea necessarily, but if you sell it as, “Well, here’s how you’ll improve your Instagram following, or your YouTube traffic.” Is that a way to look at it?
Paul X McCarthy: This is music to my ears, Nick, because basically you’re conceding that brand is everything. Packaging, brand, and creativity [crosstalk 00:20:21]-
Nick Abrahams: That’s exactly right. As superficial as your life’s work has been, it is critical to the world order. In terms of just, Paul, briefly with Online Gravity, can you just summarize …? Conceptually, what you’re saying is that these companies have to become massive and then they develop their own gravitational pull and so forth. So, does that mean there’s nowhere for other players to operate? Like if you’re not part of the big game, is there no other game or how do you operate?
Paul X McCarthy: This is a good question, Nick, because after talking around the world about this book, I get asked to speak at lots of places. Some people come to the conclusion so to say, so the general theory of the book is I guess that there’s a new kind of model for evolution in new markets under the influence of Online Gravity. The metaphor is in the way that our solar system was formed out of billions of pieces of dusts, smart dusts, perhaps.
Nick Abrahams: Yeah, nice work.
Paul X McCarthy: That came coalesced into planets ultimately through the force of traditional gravity. One of the things you notice about our solar system is that there’s a lot of white space and eight distinct planets. There’s no dual planets. There are in some solar systems, but in the brand world that we’re most familiar with, the brand world is the big four, the big six, every category of product and service in the world traditionally, historically has been around this Coke-Pepsi model. If you look at the market share of Coke and Pepsi over a hundred years, it hasn’t moved. It’s kind of like it’s a straight line, and you think there’s billions of dollars at stake here. Why is it that Pepsi hasn’t encroached and vice versa?
Paul X McCarthy: The answer is, I think, a combination of traditional economics has got built in barriers to monopoly. There’s this phenomenon known as decreasing returns in economics. That means to steal share from competitors is expensive, as you know working in brands. People are very brand loyal and with good reason. It’s like some of them are multigenerational brands that have been ahead on a XYZ car family.
Nick Abrahams: Sure.
Paul X McCarthy: But in the online world, what’s happened is the utility often trumps brand. It doesn’t matter how much you liked Myspace. If you loved Myspace, the utility of being on Myspace when no one else was there is not so good. Similarly, the efficiencies at scale with companies like Amazon and Google just make a lot of sense, because there’s a lot of benefit credit out of these giant companies.
Paul X McCarthy: But coming back to your question, Nick, the answer is I think you can use this understanding to your advantage. To give you an example, WhatsApp, for example, built a company, $17 billion of value, five years with 50 staff. It’s never been done before in history. The way they did it is they used the gravitation of another planet, Apple, the largest planet in our digital solar system. They used it in the way that NASA use the gravity of Jupiter to get their satellites outside our system so that they can’t carry enough fuel. The Voyager probe, for example, can’t carry enough fuel to get it out.
Paul X McCarthy: So, what they used is they used this gravity assistance slingshot sort of things. They used the gravity of Jupiter to their advantage. I think this is where individual companies can really benefit because you can leverage these enormous global distribution channels like never before. Even though there’s no room anymore for me, two brands that are at scale in the same way that the sub caption for the book is There’s No Pepsi In Cyberspace. Because there’s no … What happens is you get new markets emerge. You get a title fight like a gladiatorial tournament match, if you like, between, and social, it was famously Myspace and Facebook, and Google, it was AltaVista and Google.
Paul X McCarthy: You can trace every one of these. There’s always been a title fight, and the winner of that, that people know the riches are huge, but the opportunity to create niche businesses that are satellites, if you like, that or moons, fabulous.
Nick Abrahams: Cool.
Douglas Nicol: It’s interesting because in the US at the moment we’ve got these, what you describe as planet-like super businesses like Amazon and Google, but in fact you’ve got Elizabeth Warren presidential candidate currently running number two in terms of popularity, and she wants to break up these super businesses. She’s like the black hole actually entering this sort of gravitational field. Where do you stand on her idea of breaking up the tech giants because they’ve become too big, and they’re exploiting their market power?
Paul X McCarthy: Yeah. Yeah, I feel, yeah, when I started writing this book, tech could do no evil, and they were the new saviors. I think that the rhetoric was overblown, and now the pendulum swung the other way. I think that, again, I suspect the rhetoric was overblown that they’re not these evil implies that some would have them be. The other thing I would say, which I get reassurance from, is that while, yes, they do have incredible powers, they don’t have such powers that they can dominate new functional niches.
Paul X McCarthy: I think that fortunately, it seems to me that there’s another feature of Online Gravity that has a built in protection against dominating multiple markets. For example, Google’s and Facebook’s rivalry over the years, Facebook has known that search is very valuable business and they’ve invested in it heavily, and they’ve got nowhere. Conversely, Google has known that social is a fabulous business, and we all know what happened to Google+. It’s not as if they’re just short of talent or capital. I think you can look at their efforts to try and enter into these markets, and you sort of say, “Well, I’m not …”
Paul X McCarthy: So, that to me is a reassurance that this kind of … I sort of think, and I also think there’s a lot of actual benefit that’s created by these companies. There’s a lot of, we all benefit from the massively.
Nick Abrahams: Yeah. Just one thing, we’ve got Elizabeth Warren, her talk about breaking it up, but also I see the bigger existential crisis is probably concepts like splinter nets, and the notion that you look at what the EU is trying to do now in terms of competition investigations into the big technology companies. We’re doing it here in Australia with the ACCC. I think countries are starting to realize that they’re actually playing second fiddle to these giant technology organizations, and so the regulators are rising up. I see that as being a real issue, and we’ve seen China effectively operates its own internet. Russia has now tried taking the entire country off the open web and seeing if it can run and so forth. So, they are comfortable they can do that.
Nick Abrahams: How do you see the regulators globally, I guess? Do you think that’s a big issue? Is that a trend that’s going to continue, or do you think the giants are so good at what they do, they’ll calm everyone down, and there’ll be the talk?
Paul X McCarthy: Yeah, it’s a really good question, Nick. I think one of the things that I’ve reflected on after writing the book was the big lesson I think is that governments haven’t globalized, and that seems to me that technology is enabled. We’ve had global companies since the Dutch East India Company. So, the transfer of private pricing and various other types of ways of running companies to one’s advantage are not new. But what is new is this idea of a stateless or almost born global company with the intent that they intend to serve customers everywhere, and not necessarily be loyal to any jurisdiction.
Paul X McCarthy: Whereas governments although that we do have various supranational bodies, notably the UN, of course. They haven’t necessarily fulfilled their potential yet, and I think there’s a lot more opportunity. You’re seeing this in the text discussions between various countries at the moment also around privacy insecurity. And so, I think we’re going to see, it provides competition, I think, for the public sector to step up and say, “We are living in a global world now, how do we respond to that in an effective way?”
Nick Abrahams: Yeah. Yeah.
Douglas Nicol: We, we might move onto another area, because in your work over the years observed quite a few digital transformations, or attempted digital transformations of organizations. We see this all over the place where the digital transformation plan. I was reading the other day that 80% of them actually fail. This idea that it’s easy, I think, is quickly evaporating. From your point of view, where do organizations go wrong in planting digital smart innovation, those kinds of skillsets? Where’s it all going wrong?
Paul X McCarthy: Yeah, that’s a really good question. I think organizations everywhere are looking at how do we deal with digital transformation? As you say, most struggle. I think part of it is autonomy. It seems to me that one of the … In the book I talk about seven different strategies that corporations can and do follow that have been successful. The one that I come back to, that’s one of the key ones, is autonomy. It seems to me that, if you look at IBM’s history, a company that’s been through multiple ice age style transitions, at various stages of computing in the original mainframe business, it was in the northeast of the US and they build everything from the ground up starting with the physics and ending up with the customer. It was very high margin, very high capital-intensive business.
Paul X McCarthy: And then there was a mute frame, mid range computing business, which was in another location, totally autonomous. But by the time I was on the scene, we were in the PC era, and that was set up in Miami. It was deliberately set up in a different geography, and they had different economics. So, by this stage they are buying third party parts from other companies in Hong Kong, and assembling in Florida. But this idea of autonomy, so the business units would run autonomously. It’s a bit like a lot of professional services firms and investment banks that work effectively.
Paul X McCarthy: They have these teams that run autonomously, and effectively compete with one another like large families and siblings. They give them what they need to flourish, and I know sometimes working within these organizations that are successful, I’m thinking in Australia, Macquarie Bank and IBM, often they would have internal teams that compete with one another on bids. This idea of creating internal competition is not a new idea. I understand that’s why one of Australia’s biggest retailers started at rivals, because there was no competition.
Paul X McCarthy: And so, it seems to me that autonomy, and I would suggest that, I know that in Australia one of the most successful internally incubated businesses was CommSec. Paul Ricard did an amazing job, and it was largely due to the … He was given enough rope. I think one of the success factors was he was … It was in the very early days when no one was really thinking, “Well, we’re going to trade stocks online.” He had enough resources and enough smart people to walk behind him, but more importantly, he didn’t have people breathing down his neck saying, “What are you doing with that thing?”
Nick Abrahams: Yeah. The problem, of course, in large organizations is giving people autonomy also means being comfortable when they fail. In many organizations that’s not the way up the tree to have a failure on the CV. I think, yeah, it’s a great idea if you can give people enough rope to be able to build what they want.
Douglas Nicol: Well, what about inspiring and motivating the millennial generation in these organizations? Because quite often they have a very different philosophy, very different motivations, but quite often they could be the thing that unlocks that change, and that they certainly have a desire for autonomy. Do you have a particular philosophy about how you manage millennials?
Paul X McCarthy: Not particularly millennials. I tend to think of them as young people, and I think we were all in that. We were all millennials once, I think. And I think they need to be nurtured, and certainly it’s investing in the future of any company or country. It is our future, so I think we need to nurture and respect them and look for ideas, but also, I guess, trying to connect their enthusiasm and interest to the existing known knowhow that we all sort of live and breathe in.
Nick Abrahams: I think based on the research it seems that if you’ve got diversity across innovation teams, be the diversity of gender but also age, that’s incredibly helpful to have that youthful enthusiasm. But often with the millennials the reason why they are amazing is they don’t see those invisible barriers that the rest of us put up around our careers, and that can be great, but needs to be brought into line with them some gray here.
Douglas Nicol: Out of interest, what do you read? Like what are your sources of inspiration and information?
Paul X McCarthy: That’s a good question. Yeah, I read economics, I guess. I enjoy the literature in machine learning. I’m reading a lot of stuff around machine learning. At the moment, I’m reading a book by Andrew Leigh, an Australian politician who is also an economist, and one of my colleagues that we’re going to meet. It’s a terrific side. So, looking at the years, it’s called Randomistas, and it’s about the use of randomized controlled trials in evaluating social policy. So, outside of medical and health, the randomized control trial, of course, is you have a control group and a treatment group where one person gets a medicine, and the other doesn’t. And very importantly, you follow both groups to see their progress.
Paul X McCarthy: A lot of social policy traditionally is not relied on that approach, but increasingly there’s interest around doing that and trying to understand the true efficacy of different types of health and social policy. So, I’m finding it fascinating, yeah.
Douglas Nicol: Wow, and what do you read for fun then?
Nick Abrahams: I think that was for fun.
Douglas Nicol: That was the light stuff.
Paul X McCarthy: That was it. That was the fun.
Nick Abrahams: We’ve known each other over the years, and I’ve never asked this question, but I’ve always wondered it, what does the X stand for?
Paul X McCarthy: I can’t tell you that.
Nick Abrahams: My gosh, I was getting there, we came full circle back to the Marvel, but really good scholars.
Paul X McCarthy: I’ll it down, and then I’ll tell you [crosstalk 00:36:15] as you see there.
Nick Abrahams: Okay, we’ll tell people later on.
Paul X McCarthy: Okay.
Douglas Nicol: Paul, thank you so much for joining us today on Smart Dust. The book Online Gravity really is an indispensable read and it really explains how you can harness the forces of Online Gravity to improve your career, your health, and your wealth, which is a pretty big promise and I think the book really meets that promise. Paul, thank you so much for your time and insights.
Paul X McCarthy: Thanks, Paul.
Nick Abrahams: Thank you.
Douglas Nicol: That wraps it up for this episode. As usual, there are some links and notes to peruse for this episode in the iTunes program notes. If you’ve enjoyed the episode, please rate us on your podcast platform of choice, and indeed subscribe to Smart Dust. So, from me, Douglas Nicol-
Nick Abrahams: And Nick Abraham, goodbye. Thanks.