Paul Miller

Partner at Bethnal Green Ventures helping technology startups working on stuff that matters.

A confused sense of history

There’s an exhibition at Moma at the moment called The Forever Now. It’s hooked on William Gibson’s idea of ‘atemporality’ – or the feeling of being in more than one time at once. It’s the strange sense you get from many of his books and to be honest in life – you’re never quite sure whether you’re in the past, present or future. Bruce Sterling explains the idea more in this talk he gave in 2010. As this Guardian review says, the show doesn’t really work, mainly because painting is very temporal. It is almost always of the moment which ...(Read More)

Thiel on Rand

I’d always assumed Peter Thiel would be part of the Silicon Valley Ayn Rand fan club. But I’ve been reading Zero to One (more on this later) and he’s actually pretty damning, albeit with feint praise. “That we need individual founders in all their peculiarity does not mean that we are called to worship Ayn Randian “prime movers” who claim to be independent of everybody around them. In this respect Rand was a merely half-great writer: her villains were real, but her heroes were fake.” I don’t think I’d even give her ‘half-great’ to be honest. Still amazes me that ...(Read More)

My economy is bigger than yours. So what?

I know this is probably very naive of me but when I was reading Sam Altman’s piece the other day about the battle for economic supremacy between China and the US, I couldn’t help thinking ‘does it really matter?’. I started wondering why we get so het up about the competitiveness of different countries. I probably shouldn’t be saying this at the moment as I’m on a ‘trade mission’ as we speak – a trip organised by the UK government to promote social investment in the UK to New York investors. But I don’t think of that as a competitive ...(Read More)

Proper weather

I’m off to New York today and it looks like there’s some proper weather over there. I’m going to have to get used to zero being very different in Fahrenheit to Celsius and I’m not really sure I have enough warm clothes for below -10 in real numbers. Apparently there have been some upsides though. The city is too cold for murder and for the first time in modern history went 12 days without a homicide earlier this week.    

The Internet’s Own Boy

John Naughton is right – ‘The Internet’s Own Boy‘ on Storyville at the moment is very good. I knew some of the Aaron Swartz story but still learned a lot. He was a technical genius helping to create RSS, Reddit and the technology behind Creative Commons. The way he saw it, programming was a super power: “If you had magical powers, would you use them for good or to make you mountains of cash?” But he was also deeply political and clashed with any form of authority that he saw as unjust or illogical. Swartz was trying to make the system ...(Read More)

A hundred sorts of democracy

I went along to Change: How? yesterday – an afternoon of 100 speakers talking about democracy and politics 100 (ish) days from out UK general election. I had a few thoughts: Unsexy democratic reform is happening slowly and surely. My friend Peter Macleod told how they’ve been introducing citizen panels and juries in Canada and finding that they work. They don’t make the headlines though. The interesting stuff in the UK is happening outside mainstream political parties. Richard Wilson and James Smith are both proposing interesting ways of being elected members of parliament – far more novel than any of the ...(Read More)

Tax doesn’t have to be taxing

Amidst all the UK debate about businesses paying (or avoiding) tax, it was the 50th anniversary of Warren Buffett taking over as manager of Berkshire Hathaway. I was reminded of this quote from the 1998/99 annual letter to  shareholders: “Writing checks to the IRS that include strings of zeros does not bother Charlie or me. Berkshire as a corporation, and we as individuals, have prospered in America as would in no other country. Indeed, if we lived in some other part of the world and completely escaped taxes, I’m sure we be worse off financially (and in many other ways as ...(Read More)

Kenny’s birthday

900 people in a cold, dark church on a Monday night listening to a grumpy Scot called Kenny (better known as King Creosote) play beautiful music on his birthday. Then you head off down the rabbit hole of exploring everything by the Fence Collective, its forebears and descendants. It never ends – in a wonderful way.  

Impact investment warms up

David Brooks wrote a great op-ed in the New York Times this week about impact investment. I think he’s right that it’s one of the most interesting and exciting sectors to work in at the moment. He contrasts it with working in finance or government: “The big debate during the 20th century was about the relationship between the market and the state. Both those institutions are now tarnished. The market is prone to devastating crashes and seems to be producing widening inequality. Government is gridlocked, sclerotic or captured by special interests. Government is an ever more rigid and ineffective tool to address ...(Read More)

SitRep

I’m not doing brilliantly on my resolutions. Dry January lasted until the 16th, almost all lunch places seem to think vegetarian must equal cow cheese (which I can’t eat) and I’ve missed a few days of blogging. I have stuck with the standing desk though. That’s been great.