In this conversation, I talk to Marcelo Lima who is the CEO of Heller House Capital management about how we should open up in the aftermath of coronavirus.
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Transcript and Episode summary here:
Marcelo on flipping the economy switch to “On” (05:28)
Tracking the COVID-19 trends (6:38)
Tapping into the Twittersphere (13:40)
Comparing Washington State to European countries (15:10)
Thoughts on managing the risk and reopening society (16:51)
Marinating on Winston Churchill’s adversity and resiliency (30:27)
Marcelo on the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect (31:44)
Promoting the examination and acceptance of alternative viewpoints (32:28)
Episode Summary by Katherine Pierce
Marcelo Lima, founder and managing member of Miami-based Heller House, and Guy Spier carved time out of their busy schedules to engage in an interesting dialogue. Virtually, of course. Even though Marcelo manages an investment fund, the topic of high-return opportunities was not discussed. Instead, Guy asked his friend of 20 years to share his thoughts on reopening the economy – and give an overview of how he leverages technology to separate facts from fears. Marcelo has an impressive Twitter following: nearly 7,000. Each one is well aware that he is a proponent of flipping the economy’s switch from ‘closed’ to ‘open’ very soon. (5:28)
Since the pandemic brought the economy to a screeching halt, Marcelo has had his eyes trained on a different set of charts. Lately, he’s tracking Coronavirus trends. He follows mortality rates, and also keeps current with what’s happening in the realms of science and medicine – including therapeutic treatments, ongoing testing, and a possible vaccine. (6:38)
Like a growing number of people, Marcelo admitted he is highly skeptical of the mainstream media’s narrative. He believes they tend to preach the hardline lockdown approach. In search of facts – not opinions – Marcelo tapped into the Twittersphere to cut through the noise. He even created a separate group of 85 epidemiologists. Marcelo admits he is agitated because they will not respond to direct questions. Instead, they share generalities. According to Marcelo, these doctors generally embrace a one-dimensional view: safety is paramount. And with people stuck at home, the economic engine of growth will remain idle. (13:40)
Marcelo is a vocal proponent of independent thinking. Most people, he believes, tend to view the coronavirus response through their political filters. He said, “I don’t like to think in terms of politics, but in terms of science-based facts.” He’s quick to state that he is frustrated because politicians take very rigid views based on political lies rather than science-based decisions.
While the tentacles of the pandemic have penetrated most countries across the globe, one set of reopening guidelines shouldn’t apply equally to each one. “We were having a discussion on Twitter about the governor of Washington state,” Marcelo explained. “Their pandemic curve seems to be on a consistent decline, resembling many European countries; in fact, Denmark is the first country to exit lockdown mode and has reopened its schools. Austria is opening its borders with the Czech Republic. So why hasn’t Washington state been talking more forcefully about rolling back restrictions?” (15:10)
Marcelo welcomes the chance to exchange Tweets with people who have a multidimensional view of Coronavirus and the economy. Most people see the choices – a lockdown or saving lives – as a tradeoff. Marcelo said that most of those who banter with him on Twitter agree that the world must manage this risk and reopen society. “We can’t remain in this panic state forever,” he said. (16:51)
A student of history, Marcelo shared some fascinating nuggets about Winston Churchill’s character in a biography he’s reading. “This leader had his share of adversity. And I think that we should all learn from those who have dealt with adversity and try to build more resiliency into our lives; we should learn to deal with huge unexpected tragedies like Coronavirus. These pandemics have occurred across the planet throughout the history of mankind,” he said. (30:27)
In summarizing his thoughts, Marcello added, “Try to analyze as much raw data as you can; don’t rely on the narrative that’s being fed to you by the media. I am reminded of author Michael Crichton, who coined the term – Gell-Mann Amnesia effect. Let’s say Murray is a physicist who opens up the newspaper and reads an article on this topic. As he reads, he is exasperated to see that it is packed with errors. Murray completely disagrees with the reporter. And then Murray turns the page and reads another story, on a topic about which he knows nothing – such as Palestine. His outlook is completely different. He thinks the piece is so thoughtful and well-articulated.” (31:44)
Marcelo adds, “I had this amnesia effect on a topic in which I’m an expert. I know instantly what content is very wrong. But on the topic that I’m not an expert in, I naturally assume it’s very right.”
In the case of the coronavirus, I think we should all be much more skeptical about what we read in mainstream media. I am now more inclined to really analyze the source documents – the original data. I want to examine alternative viewpoints because I think that’s important in our society.”
Thanks Marcelo for coming on the line with me. Before we dive into Coronavirus, why don’t you tell us very briefly a little bit about yourself, where you are, who you are.
Thank you Guy. Thanks for having me on your show. I hope this becomes a show. I am in Miami, Florida and very excited too to talk to you about the coronavirus and other topics.
Guy Spier: (0:23)
Yeah. But just for the, so most of those being he’s being reticent masato bronze and investment partnership. Uh, I got to know Marcelo 20 years ago after a mutual friend introduced us. And it’s been really interesting following your progress milestones. And I would like to add that I’ve noticed that you are the most sophisticated Twitter user I’ve ever seen. And I’m actually really curious also to know how your understanding of the technology world has grown coming from a value investing perspective, where all one looks at is hard assets. I have a strong sense that you have a very good understanding of some of the newer kind of assets, like the value of cloud computing or the value of networks and different kinds of network effects. But that’s not what we’re going to get into right now. You’ve become increasingly strident in the Twittersphere on how we’re responding to the coronavirus. And I just want to give you a chance to just tell it like it is.
Marcelo Lima: (1:29)
Yeah, I fondly remember the first time I met you and we paced alongside Central Park and you took me to your house for dinner. So I should preface by saying I am not an epidemiologist, but I have been following the data extraordinarily closely. And I think that there is a lot of misunderstanding and misinformation because if you look at the mainstream media, and I’m a subscriber to all the major newspapers in a big consumer of the mainstream media, you see very selective reporting. They will blow up and say, we have so many new cases today, death rate at all-time highs. Whereas that is really not very helpful. What’s really helpful is to track the trend over several days to see what the curves are doing and really get an understanding of how can you look at disease on a more nuanced basis.
Marcelo Lima: (2:27)
By looking at the mortality by age group and determining who’s more at risk, who’s less at risk, what is the true case fatality rate, which we still don’t know, but we have good estimates for. And what are some thoughtful ways that we eventually go back to work. Because I think something that you and I agree on is that we cannot remain in lockdown forever. And once we exit the lockdown, the virus is not going to go away; it’ll be with us. So knowing that, what do we do? I think that’s the question. (2:27)
Guy Spier: (2:57)
Yeah. So, I might in agreement with you Marcelo, but I have no problem taking the other side. And so, you know, uh, so let me give you the other side and then you can perhaps argue against it, which is to say, look, this thing is deadly. This thing is killing even people in their teens, every now and then, people in their 20s and 30s, and even those who are in great health. We’ve both received emails from friends, someone who’s a marathon runner who was taken out. So the idea that this is just the flu is extraordinarily naïve. We must work to save lives and that means staying at home. So what is this nonsense about managing risks and going to work and lifting lockdowns, which is just some right wing Republican garbage to get Donald Trump reelected. How did they do?
Marcelo Lima: (3:48)
That’s fantastic. And look, I don’t think you’re allowed to argue a point of view unless you can argue the opposite point of view just, as well. Right. So I appreciate that. And I’ve, as you know, we’ve, we’ve both thought through this. So that is a very good point. Uh, people are getting sick, people are dying regardless of age. But I think what we’re doing here with this very argument is, is we’re, we’re engaged in narrow framing. If we widened the aperture a little bit, what we find out is that throughout hundreds of years since the industrial revolution, we have engaged in a series of tradeoffs in order to get a functioning society and a functioning economy. And, uh, just to give one example, but before you deported, the listener has this knee jerk reaction that this is a dumb analogy. Please stick with me for a little bit.
Marcelo Lima: (4:37)
But yeah, about a million people die every year from car accidents. And that’s not even counting how many people become incapacitated main door, uh, or hurt in, in permanent ways. Uh, that’s 34,000 in the U S alone. And there’s a number of other deaths that we contend with from pollution, carcinogens in our environment that are a result of, of the prosperity that we enjoy and all the material things that we’ve surrounded ourselves with. So given that this Coronavirus is not going away and there are four other Coronaviruses that are endemic to the population and they circulate every year, this will probably become the fifth one. This is sort of, I’ve heard this from every epidemiologist that I follow. I haven’t heard a single epidemiologist say otherwise. Then this seems to me like it’ll be just another risk that we will have to manage the same way that we wear seatbelts.
Marcelo Lima: (5:28)
For example, we will have to wear masks and we will have to wash our hands and we will have to practice a measure of social distancing for the foreseeable future. So it seems to me that we will have to face this reality that we cannot remain in lockdown forever and we cannot remain in a shutdown economy or a big parts of the economy shut down forever. So my contention is let’s come up with creative ideas instead on how we can manage the risk because we don’t have a marketplace of ideas right now for managing the risk right now. We are all panicked. We are all in this government mandated lockdown and you cannot come up with creative solutions for this problem unless we started really coming out of this panic mode and experimenting.
Guy Spier: (6:16)
Yeah. And, uh, so I’ve received this response, so I’ll give it to you. Oh, you kind of as human being milestone, how can you, uh, play dice with human lives? These people are our grandmothers and grandfathers. These are members of our societies. And you just want to put their lives at risk by allowing people to go back to work. How can you do that?
Marcelo Lima: (6:38)
Yeah. And there’s also the, uh, additional, a version of that, which is Marcelo, you are privileged and you get to work from home. Why don’t you go work, uh, as a nurse or as a grocery store, a worker, and then tell me how you feel about going back to work. And yeah, I’m very sensitive to that. And let me tell you, I would be more than willing to expose myself in, in those scenarios because I, I think that we have to have courage as a society and face this problem. I don’t think it’s going to go away at any point. People are hanging their hats on two things. A therapeutic and a vaccine. Yeah. If you listen to the folks working on therapeutics and vaccines, they both seem, yeah, they’re going to take at least several months for a therapeutic. At best, we may never get one.
Marcelo Lima: (7:25)
And for a vaccine it’ll take at least a year and a half, maybe two. And again, we may never get a vaccine. So I’m curious for those advocating a continued lockdown or a lockdown forever, at what point? Like what is the delimiting line? What would you need to be able to feel comfortable? And so a lot of people tell me testing, uh, and so we just passed the bill in the United States, 400, I think it’s $480 billion and 25 billion of that is for testing. Now assuming that a test costs $200, which I think is a lot, uh, between a hundred bucks for the lab technician and a hundred dollars for the cost of the test, which again, I think is, is way overstated. That gets us about 125 million tests. That’s a good start right now in the U S for context, we’re doing about a million tests a week.
Marcelo Lima: (8:11)
I think a little bit more right now. Maybe 1.5 million tests a week is the current run rate. And so, but you know, as far as exposing the grandparents, which was the initial point that you made? No, my mother is 70 years old. I have a four-year old boy. She loves to see him and I told her mom, be very careful. Uh, this disease is pretty bad for people over 50. Uh, it’s not very bad for people under 50 who don’t have any comorbidities. Right. Uh, in terms of diabetes and, uh, it will be seeded, that sort of thing. And she said, I totally understand the risk. I’m willing to take the risk because for me the cost benefit analysis is I’d rather see my, my grandson, I’m going crazy here by myself at home and I, I’d rather see my grandson. So there’s an element of personal responsibility here unless you’ve been under a rock.
Marcelo Lima: (8:56)
Uh, I think everybody at this point knows that it’s risky. But again, we all have to live with tradeoffs. When, I’ll tell you a funny story, Guy. I’m a big fan of thinking in terms of base rate probabilities. I was on an airplane a few years ago and when we landed, the guy next to me did the sign of the cross because he was very thankful that we didn’t die in the airplane, right? So he’s like, Oh, thank God we landed, we’re safe. And I thought to myself, I wonder if he does the sign of the cross every time he drives because when he drives, he has this illusion of control. But it turns out driving, as you know, is many orders of magnitude riskier than flying. And so we tend not to understand these risks very well. Uh, and the probability of these risks. And I feel that in many cases we are panicked to an extreme with this new risk that has just faced this, this alien invasion of this virus, if you will. And I think that we have to think a little bit more mathematically and analytically and really take obvious precautions, like wearing a mask, not touching your face, washing your hands, et cetera, but get on with life in many situations and in many cases because we cannot remain locked down forever.
Guy Spier: (9:59)
Yeah. So I can’t help seeing how it plays into, uh, predisposed motions of, um, well I guess you said it possible responsibility. So there is a view of the world, which I would say is kind of like the socialist view that the state is responsible for taking care of you. Uh, nothing that happens is really to a very large degree, your own responsibility. And if things go wrong, then it’s up to the state to help. And if you think of your average union worker in Las Vegas or New York city, they’re just waiting for the statements from their leaders as to what to do. And so it plays into the hands of someone like the governor of, uh, New York state to take enormous powers and to really use it to strengthen that political hand. Uh, the other side for some reason up to now has not been given much play is been presented in American politics I think is, is of the thoughts of some crazy right wing always Trump supporters, which is, you know, Lee as you put it, I guess I find myself wanting to restate it, which is that life is risky.
Guy Spier: (11:09)
You know, who said we can get through our lives without a certain amount of personal courage without a certain amount of possible responsibility. I think that your point is when you cross the road, you take certain amounts of parcel responsibilities that are not going to step in front of a car. You also take pastoral response, you take the risk that a car comes out of nowhere and still runs over you cause they drive onto the sidewalk or something like that. But nobody seems to be advocating that point of view yet. And I guess, uh, so that was a statement, but here’s the question. It seems to me that we have ruled by doctors right now where all they care about is this concept of maximum safety from the virus and then not playing the tradeoffs. But for some reason the politicians aren’t really expressing the trade offs
Marcelo Lima: (11:54)
Why is that? Yeah, there’s a lot in there and that, that’s a very good question. I created a list of about 85 epidemiologists on Twitter so that I could gather information from the best and I tried engaging with them on some of these tradeoffs. And the only response I got was, Oh, you’re talking about the trolley problem, uh, which is this classic problem in ethics where you have a trolley coming down, uh, a set of tracks and on the tracks split into, on the left you have five people on the right, you have one person and you are in charge of switching, which track the trolley goes onto. And if you pull the lever, the trolley diverts from killing five people instead and only kills one person. Should you pull the lever. And if you pull the lever, you’re sort of guilty of murdering one person.
Marcelo Lima: (12:43)
If you do not pull the lever, you are not guilty of murdering five people because the trolley was going to go there anyway. So it’s a very, uh, it’s a very tough problem. But I think that that’s exactly what we’re dealing with here is to put it in very crude terms, right? Very, very crude terms. And I apologize if this is offensive, but let’s think again, very rationally. Uh, if the case fatality rate for this virus is, let’s call it 0.5% and that seems to be an upper bound on what this is. Yeah, that’s five times worse than the seasonal flu, but it’s 0.5%. Are we saving 0.5% with this severe lockdown potentially, which we’re not, because that’s what we’re getting right now is we’re still seeing these people die despite the lockdown. And are we then damaging an economy and the other 99.5% so there is a real trade off here, and again, we have chosen in society to have many tradeoffs.
Marcelo Lima: (13:40)
Now, the doctors, you’re right, they are, uh, the man with the hammer. They seem to have this very one dimensional view. And I’m talking more about the epidemiologists where they’re in sort of a one trick pony. Their response to everything is let’s shut it down because that is what I learned in epidemiology school and that’s how we get the reproductive rate of the virus to below one, et cetera. The people who I think are more thoughtful about this are the people who straddle these multiple disciplines. They are epidemiologists or doctors perhaps, but they’re also politicians. So Dr. Scott Gottlieb is one of them. And Dr. Fauci is another one. They seem to have a much more a helpful message, which is, listen, we have to stratify by risk. And it’s unfortunate that very few people actually watch the Coronavirus task force press conferences every day.
Marcelo Lima: (14:31)
I get it that it’s not pleasant to watch, uh, Trump speak. Uh, I don’t like it either, but I just fast forward to Fauci and I listened to Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx. Fauci has had a very consistent message all along, which is we cannot treat Nebraska similar to how we treat New York. We’re not going to open up everything at the same time. We’re going to do it very slowly and carefully. Yes, virus is going to stay around. Uh, I guarantee you that it’s going to come back in the fall. We’re going to have to manage this risk, et cetera. And Scott Gottlieb at the same time it has, has had the same message. So, uh, as far as the politicians, I think you’ll agree with this guy that, uh, Governor Cuomo has done a great job so far. I think he’s now going a little bit too far.
Marcelo Lima: (15:10)
And same thing. We were having this discussion on Twitter about the governor of Washington state where their pandemic curve seems to be coming down consistently and it looks very much like European countries that have chosen to reopen. Like Denmark for example, has already reopened at schools much earlier in the curve. Austria has reopened the Czech Republic, et cetera. Why is Washington state, for example, not talking more forcefully about this? And is it just politics? Right? Is it just because he’s a democratic governor trying to earn political points and trying to perhaps a hurt a, the Trump reelection, a potential reelection, which I, by the way, I have no stake in this game whatsoever. I’m not a Trump supporter at all. I, and I don’t, I don’t like to think in terms of politics, like to think in terms of, uh, science-based facts. So, but why is that? Right? Why are these politicians taking these very strident views based on political lies rather than science-based decisions? And that’s something that I find very frustrating.
Guy Spier: (16:07)
Yeah. And it, I mean, I think a challenge is a whole bunch of people to actually start thinking independently, whereas for a large part of the last, God knows how many years, you didn’t have to think independently. You could just take a knee jerk reaction. I mean some of a couple of people who all thinking independently, I just want you to address briefly, um, Mike Burry, uh, who we both know is both a doctor and highly successful investor. The subject of The Big Short, he kind of did not a Twitter storm, but like a type a two week, a two week sort of flourish on Twitter and he’s just said goodbye. He said everything has got to say. And the other is Eric Weinstein. Maybe you can address those too, but also well address those two. Then I have another question for you.
Marcelo Lima: (16:51)
You know, I, I saw a little bit of what Mike Burry wrote. I didn’t follow it very closely, so I don’t think I’m in a good position to apply there. What I find interesting, but I think generally we agree, uh, that we do have to manage this risk and reopen society and we can’t remain in this panic state forever as far as Eric Weinstein, you know, he has this very interesting idea of, uh, idea suppression that there are certain things that are taboo to talk about. So I, what I find very interesting about him is he’s willing to have a porn star on his show. Uh, he’s willing to have to engage in conversations that are very much taboo. And I think we’ve lost a lot of that in society. It’s become, and by the way, this is back to your earlier point guy, we’ve become, uh, snowflakes.
Marcelo Lima: (17:37)
I think we’ve become coddled. We’ve become very, very fragile because probably I think we’ve been in a state of a peaceful prosperity for many decades, right? We haven’t had pestilence, famines, Wars, all these types of, of tragedies that past generations have to deal with. I’m reading a biography of Winston Churchill right now. [inaudible] it is just absolutely shocking how different life was back then. It was absolutely normal to, for him to get into a boat and spend five days going to South Africa and yeah, going into a war and having bullets fired at him and take out his sword and gut the enemy and see the guts spill out and write books about it and then travel to another war zone. And this was all sort of part and parcel of being at the head of the British empire back then. And we’ve, uh, I’m glad we don’t live in that world anymore. I’m glad we live in a peaceful prosperity. But how do we retain the ability to engage in these difficult conversations, engage in controversial topics and deal with adversity and have personal responsibility and have independent thinking when we have been in this peaceful prosperity for such a long time. And, and to your point, have had the quote unquote authorities just telling us our opinions, right. Instead of coming up with our opinions, uh, ourselves. (30:27)
Guy Spier: (19:01)
Yeah. And you know, there was a meme that was going around at the beginning of the acceleration in the US which said, our forefathers were called to go to war for us. All we have to do is sit on the couch. We can do this. And actually that’s not the right meme because it’s not sitting on the couch. It’s getting up off the couch and saying, Hey, I’m going to take a tram. I’m going to go to the shops I’m going to. And taking those risks is actually what we’re required to do now to get on with our lives. It’s worth saying that people say, but you’re in a position where you can advocate for people taking risks. But I think it’s a, we’re in the lucky place where we can, can continue our work even though we’re cooped up at home, but people like us attending people who cannot do their work, people who are getting, losing their jobs at restaurants, losing their jobs and all sorts of service industries that hotels and the light, uh, with turning them to stay at home and not do their jobs for everyone.
Guy Spier: (19:59)
Safety while we continue to do ours. I think that’s an enormous injustice and another injustice. By the way, just forgive me for getting onto the same bandwagon that you’re on. You know, I find it obscene that the state will tell an elderly person what risks they can and can’t take. Uh, an elderly person might be in their mid-eighties. They might already have a degenerative disease and they might say, I’m happy to take every risk of seeing my grandchildren. Cause I’d rather see my grandchildren play with them, hold them in my arms and take the risk of dying from this disease. Then perhaps never seeing them again. And that is something for each individual to decide. It’s what I tweeted out was that so long as we have hotel special capacity, it’s an individual decision. Not something that should be mandated. But let me get onto one question.
Guy Spier: (20:47)
Ready cause we wanted to keep this short and we’re already at like 20 minutes or so, which is you’ve been a, it seems to me a really effective user of Twitter. And so the listeners, uh, interest at Marcelo P Lima is Maslow’s Twitter account, which is well worth following. And Marcella will even engage with you few if you say intelligent things to him. And if you are a good enough user of Twitter, you can actually pull up Marcelo’s lists or you just take that address and you do Ford specialists. I’m lost. Tyler has lists on Zen desk, on wicks, on graphing the PD to epidemiology, uh, and various other topics which are well worth following. I have not yet followed any but, um, Marcelo, tell me, I asked about your use of Twitter, how and why you use it, whether you think you’re using effectively and how you’re using it in the discussion over Coronavirus. (20:47)
Marcelo Lima: (21:45)
Yup. Guy. So I’d love to answer that. Just one little thing before that. I love what you said before about this hurting the small person, the small businessman, the solo entrepreneur and I, that is something that worries me a lot. We spent a decade after the last great financial crisis, uh, with very slow recovery in terms of employment, very low wage growth. Some people were just about getting back on the, on their legs right after the great financial crisis, and then they get whacked with this again. And so now we were printing trillions of dollars. The stock market is bizarrely resilient despite the fact that we’re facing this incredible recession with tens of millions of people unemployed. And we are literally mandating that people not work and not be able to earn a living. There was a story of a lady in California. Okay. I just decided to open up her, uh, her hair salon and she said, look, I’m pregnant, I have to support several kids, aye, but was unable to get any stimulus money cause I didn’t qualify.
Marcelo Lima: (22:53)
And, and so at some point people will revolt. And I think frankly, rightly so because there is a big element here of personal responsibility. And let me figure out a way to do this responsibly. And again, if you are very risk averse, you can choose to remain quarantined. I’m not advocating that people expose themselves if they don’t feel comfortable with it. But to move on to the Twitter question, I got into Twitter because a mutual friend of ours mentioned beyond Twitter many years ago. And for about a year I didn’t say anything cause I didn’t know what to say and I couldn’t really find a voice. And I started just observing. Uh, and then I started following really interesting people. And what I discovered is, you know, I think Bill Gurley from Benchmark, the venture capitalist said, “You know, some of the top, experts in their fields are on Twitter and it’s one of best interest groups, ever.”
Marcelo Lima: (23:47)
So it’s sort of like a chess club, if you will, but for any type of interest, not just chess, and you can choose whatever interest or sets of interest are interested in and you can find some of the best people being very articulate on Twitter. So it is, I think a superpower to be able to use it effectively and, uh, interact with people. Because for me, it’s been a huge accelerant of learning. It’s been a huge accelerant of meeting interesting people. I think at this point I’ve met more interesting people through Twitter than just about anywhere else. So yeah, it’s truly phenomenal.
Guy Spier: (24:20)
How, how does that work? How, how do you meet people on Twitter? What was the, what is the difference between the people who use Twitter really well and the people who dumped? And so what is it, what are the kind of, um, is it got to do with what you post as it got to do with responding to other people’s posts? Do you respond to people who you don’t know and you just met through Twitter or do you only respond to people you’ve masked in real buys? And how did you develop the persona on Twitter that manages to do all of that?
Marcelo Lima: (24:50)
I frankly just do what I like to do and so I’ll respond to anyone I’ll and engage with anyone. And a lot of people don’t engage back. Uh, I’m very frustrated. Like I said, the epidemiologists don’t seem to engage. Uh, and I’m asking them very, I think normal, regular, intelligent questions. And, and they, they just don’t respond. And I don’t know why, but a lot of people do. And I’ll give you an example. A couple of years ago I traveled to a city and I got on Twitter, Hey, I’m traveling here and I would love to meet some people. And I got several responses and I had lunch with a very interesting person. I had breakfast with another very interesting person and I made some friends that way and that’s, I’ve done that several times. And so I just think it’s a great place to meet people with common interests. Now I, I do feel that more people should be on Twitter and more people because a lot of people have intelligent things to say who are not on Twitter. And that I think is kind of frustrating. But hopefully, uh, I’ve seen a lot of new users and I know that their, uh, their user growth has, has accelerated recently, so hopefully the community continues to grow. (24:50)
Guy Spier: (25:59)
I think that of all the social media, I find Twitter to be the most honest platform. It doesn’t pretend, for example, I think many of us felt duped by Facebook in that it pretended to give us privacy that wasn’t actually there. And it pretended to give us a sense that we were just sharing something with small groups of our friends. And it turned out that depended very much on your privacy settings. And a lot of us left Facebook and went on to messaging platforms like WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook anyway, but it’s a different sense of privacy and Twitter doesn’t do that. It kind of pretty much says up front, you’re sharing with the general public. And I kind of like that, but I’m hoping that you can give me a look. I’m curious to know what you think of, of the following. So I have actually, the ads that Twitter shows me annoying me. If I see an ad that annoys me, I block the user. Cause I think that that’s a kind of an interruption that I don’t appreciate. Another thing that I’ve started doing is if somebody puts up things, gifts of a reaction, which, so anybody who in a certain way is polluting, is not adding signal and information and they’ve just creating noise. I block them. How do you deal with that?
Marcelo Lima: (27:14)
Well, I have a different set of, uh, problems with Twitter, I guess. But I agree with you that one of the most effective ways is to either mute people or block people that, uh, or just not engaging in intelligent conversation. In some of these recent tweets that I made, I had, you know, very few, but I had a few people say, Oh, you’re completely stupid and you’re a moron, obviously, blah, blah, blah. And that’s, you know, uh, maybe I am a moron, but that’s not a very helpful way to engage in conversation. So what I would prefer is if somebody said, listen, this is why I think you’re wrong. Let me show you some data as to why you’re wrong. And that is extremely helpful. There’s nothing that I like more then to be proven wrong because that’s how I move forward. I love to have my best ideas destroyed and my best constructs challenged because that to me is very interesting. It’s very interesting when, when there is an idea that I’ve, okay, come to behold and think that it’s a good idea. It turns out it’s a bad idea. I find that very, actually very interesting.
Guy Spier: (28:16)
Yeah. So two things. One is that, um, the Rabbis from the Talmud loved it when people change their minds. Cause when you change your mind, it means that you’re growing. And just to your prior point, ad hominem attacks – attacking the individual rather than their ideas is just, it’s just not productive. And again, I actually wish that Twitter had some tools where you could just identify all the people who engage in that ad hominem attacks and suppress them for two or three months and just basically say, look, if you engage in certain kinds of behavior, I’m not going to shut you out cause I don’t want to create an echo chamber but you’re going to be muted for three months and then you’ll come online. Perhaps your behavior would have changed. Yeah. So just in terms of, and I guess this is my closing question to you, you know, when do you, do you keep Twitter open all day? Do you go to at certain times of the day, uh, is there a danger that you’re spending too much time on it? How do you manage that?
Marcelo Lima: (29:13)
I try to, uh, have blocks of, of deep work where I turn, I leave my phone on do not disturb. I don’t check my email, I don’t check anything else and I’m just reading a lot of times, uh, or listening to something or watching something and Twitter is very sporadic. Uh, so it’s, uh, I do it a few times a day, tend to do it in, in chunks. So yeah, I don’t find it very productive to leave it on all the time because that’s not be productive for me. Right. For me, being productive is, uh, right now for example, we’re an earning season. So, uh, what I’m doing is I’m following the earnings of every company out there, whether I own it or not, whether I have an interest in it or not, just because I want to get a sense of what’s happening in the real economy and what companies are saying. And so that’s sort of my date. Uh, nowadays. And I’ll open Twitter every once in a while if I need a break. And frequently it’s like, as you know, guy, it’s like drinking from a fire hose because if you have a very good curated list of people that you follow, a very intelligent people, you open Twitter and it’s a lot of signal and it’s very little noise. And that’s what I would, that’s what I like about it.
Guy Spier: (30:20)
Yeah. That’s fascinating. Marcelo, I just want to rewind the book on Churchill, Winston Churchill. Which biography were you talking about?
Marcelo Lima: (30:27)
So I’m reading the, the recent one by Andrew Roberts. I do not recommend it. And the reason I do not recommend that is I think he goes into a much more detail than I would have liked. So he’ll say things like Winston Churchill’s weekly dinners with his cabinet and what was on the menu. And I’m like, okay, you know, but I, what I really want to know is sort of the big picture. Uh, so it’s a very, very big book. It’s a, it’s very long, but I’m plowing through it and I just find that Churchill is an absolutely fascinating character. Uh, dealt with a lot of adversity, dealt with a lot of problems. I’m not done with the biography yet, but that is, that is something that’s known about this character. And I think that we should all learn from people who have dealt with adversity and issues like that and try to build more resiliency into, into our lives and learn to deal with, with these huge unexpected tragedies like this Coronavirus, which is something that has happened throughout the history of mankind.
Guy Spier: (31:27)
Yeah. there’s so much more we could discuss. We want to keep this down. Uh, I’m going to give you the chance for a closing thought and I’ve already shared how to get in touch with you, but any, any thoughts about how to engage with Marcelo Lima in the world and closing thoughts for the listener?
Marcelo Lima: (31:44)
Well, closing thoughts. I, I would say try to analyze as much raw data as you can. Don’t rely on the narrative that’s being fed to you by the media. As much as I love the mainstream media, I think there’s an idea out there. Michael Crichton, the author who came up with this thing he calls the Murray Gell-Man amnesia effect. Murray Gell-Man is a physicist and it was because Murray Gell-Man is a specialist and he opens up the newspaper and he says, you know, when I’d read a story in the newspaper about something that I’m, uh, very much an expert in I, completely disagree with the reporter. I read the story and I’m like, I can’t believe this guy’s getting it so wrong. And then I turned the page and it’s a topic about which I know nothing. Let’s say it’s like Palestine or something.
Marcelo Lima: (32:28)
And I read the article with intense interest and I’m like, wow, this is so thoughtful and well-articulated. And so I had this amnesia effect where the topic that I’m an expert in, I know is very wrong. And the topic that I’m not an expert in, I assume it’s very right. And so I think we should all be much more skeptical about what were we, we read it in mainstream media because having developed, um, a little bit of expertise in a few topics, I became much more skeptical in recent years and much more inclined to really, uh, analyze as much, uh, the source documents, the original data, you know, look at alternative viewpoints because I think that that’s, uh, an important as a member of society.
Guy Spier: (33:11)
Yeah. And we’re in a world right now where many of those authority figures are actually wrong. It’s amazing because things are changing so fast and we need so much new insights and information authority figures standing up and saying things that turn out to be complete Capiche in a certain way. It’s never been a better time for independent thinking because, and some people are coming to the fore and I would, are you the Eric Weinstein is one and Marcelo Lima is another, you’re certainly an independent thinker and it’s really fun. It’s actually don’t, what I’d say is Twitter has brought us closer because I can see what’s on your mind. That’s really, really fun. Even though we’re separated by time and distance. So thank you so much for joining. It’s been a real pleasure.
Marcelo Lima: (33:54)
Thank you so much, Guy. It’s a super pleasure. Thank you very much.