Mesut!

Don’t care what the pundits say – Özil’s slide-rule pass for Alexis’ goal was sublime. Watch at the 1’57″ minute mark:

Behavioral Approaches to Education


Education is transformative – it elevates our understanding of the world, allowing us to interact with it on a higher plane. It is also practically useful in creating opportunities for a better life.

In the past few decades, we’ve seen an explosion in the nature of knowledge – it is abundant and newly accessible to anyone with an internet connection. A child in Africa can stream quality lessons on almost any subject from respected institutions like MIT and Stanford. However, an incredibly small percentage of the population accesses these resources, and an incredibly small percentage of those people stay with those courses through the end.

When educational resources are abundant, why are so few people taking advantage of them?

The answer is simple: because we are humans. Our motivation, time and willpower are finite. As the Germans say, our inner “Schweinhund” prevents us from making useful investments in our education which can have a potentially large payoff over time.

In many respects, the contemporary challenge in education is entirely different from that of previous generations. It is no longer a question of scarcity, but of taking advantage of abundance through delivery and interaction. How do we defeat the Schweinhund?

Ideally, we’d be able to plug into a machine and download skills or knowledge. But until then, there has to be a better way.

At UnlockYourBrain, we believe in designing and delivering education for people with their humanity in mind. Rather than disrupt their daily routines and force them to tax their limited willpower in order to learn, UnlockYourBrain integrates learning into everyday life. We’ve found that micro-learning – learning in small chunks over a period of time – can actually be superior to traditional forms of learning. Over time, we hope to integrate learning into life so seamlessly that it becomes imperceptible and effortless – defeating the inner Schweinhund.

Our current product is an app that puts a two-second question on the lock screen of your smartphone. Every time you access your phone, you answer a math problem or vocabulary question in order to learn another language. You can skip if you’re in a hurry, but we found that most people don’t. In a couple weeks time, we will launch a marketplace with content from many subject areas, as well as a tool with which users can create their own custom content.

This is only the first attempt at delivering education that is behaviorally in-sync with our quirks and limitations as a species. It isn’t perfect. But it is a major step. Moving forward, we’d like to extend UnlockYourBrain to multiple platforms across mobile and web, as well as implement new pedagogical methods to teach as well as train. It won’t be easy, but we are convinced this is a fundamental challenge in education and we are determined to surmount it.

Great birthday!

For me, my birthday and New Year’s Eve are two of the highest-pressure days of the year. Everyone wants to ring in the New Year doing something memorable or special, the pressure of having all eyes on you during a birthday celebration can be a bit intense.

But this year, I managed to get the birthday right! I threw a little birthday picnic at the Weinbergsweg Park in Berlin Mitte. I got there early with a blanket, some prosecco and snacks, and friends dropped by at various points through the day. The weather couldn’t have been better, and my only regret was that many friends were traveling for Easter, a weekend bookended by public holidays here in Germany.

All in all, a wonderful birthday. Looking forward to the year ahead!

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Moderating Berlin Demography Forum panel on Inequality with fmr. Italian Labor Minister Elsa Fornero

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A great experience for me – moderating a panel in front of a packed auditorium with a top political figure, Dr. Elsa Fornero. She was an excellent speaker and was very kind to me (although she dodged most of my questions with a politician’s characteristic agility).

I met a lot of fantastic people I wouldn’t have otherwise known – Mi Seon from South Korea, Anastasie Dutel from France and Monika Kokstaite from Lithuania. I’m particularly excited about meeting Faruk Tuncer – a native Berliner working on merging Turkish Muslim identity into the narrative of German democracy in a progressive way. I think he’ll be a fantastic leader in the years to come.

It’s taken me a while to figure it out, but I really thrive on performance; from playing lead lawyer in high school mock trial, acting in college, and presenting in business school to moderating a topical panel in front of hundreds of people. I am constantly reminded of the huge favor my parents did for me when they pushed my siblings and I to do our best in youth speech and essay competitions. I’ve really benefitted from the practice.

You know what would be awesome?

An on-board automotive diagnostic tool that automatically senses faults, identifies a list of possible problems, proactively notifies the service department and pre-orders replacement parts. Now that would be amazing service and would probably add little marginal cost to each vehicle. Especially in the case of high-end cars, the inconvenience of getting the vehicle serviced is often greater than the costs of repair.