The Saylor Series | Episode 1 | The Rise of Man through The Stone and Iron Ages
Intro [Michael Saylor]: Technologies that are dominating today, they’re dominating because they’re able to deliver force faster, harder, stronger, smarter. So if we ask the question, What is money? Money is the highest form of energy that human beings can channel! Bitcoin is channeling human ingenuity into making it better, and every commodity is channeling human energy into making it worse. The lowbrow or the historic, colloquial term would be HODL, Hold On for Dear Life, or save or whatever, and the highbrow term would be, Adopt as a treasury reserve asset!
Robert Breedlove: Hey everyone! Welcome to Episode 1 of the “What is Money?” Show! I’m your host, Robert Breedlove, and our purpose in this show in general is the pursuit of truth. We’re gonna explore many topics in depth, and many of them will take us down to the proverbial Bitcoin rabbit hole, by pursuing what I call is the rabbit! And the rabbit is that question — that all-important question — “What is Money?” And this question is a seemingly inexhaustible generator of answers that have continuously reshaped my perspectives on the world. And I think they will for you as well. Our first episode is part of a long series with Michael Saylor. He’s the CEO of Microstrategy. Michael is the latest and arguably the greatest proponent of Bitcoin, and an ally of this space in its battle for truth and freedom in the world. And Microstrategy is a NASDAQ-listed business intelligence firm, so Michael has very deep experience in the fields of technology, network architecture — things like this. And in fact, he was actually educated in the domain of scientific paradigm shifts and the impact of technology on civilization. And ten years ago, Michael actually wrote a book called The Mobile Wave, that depicted many of the impacts that he saw FAANG stocks would have on the world: Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google. He had laid out a case — an investment case, largely — for these companies, and their dominance in the global marketplace. And clearly over the past ten years—as we sit down in 2020 — those stocks have been stand-out performers and have become in many ways the new dominant monopolies in the world today. So Michael has a very deep understanding of these topics that I think actually predisposed him to gaining a rapid understanding of Bitcoin. And as you’ll see — or as you may have heard in other interviews — he really entered the Bitcoin space in 2020 and got very deep into the rabbit hole very quickly, in the wake of the COVID global lockdown situation! So Michael’s a very intelligent guy, very high energy, very hard working, and I think his acceleration into the Bitcoin rabbit hole also demonstrates that a lot of this trail has been blazed for him. So a lot of Bitcoin maximalists have laid the foundation for others to gain a more rapid and clear understanding of the impact of Bitcoin. In the wake of that as you all probably know — you may have not heard — Michael’s firm, Microstrategy, actually named Bitcoin as its primary treasury reserve asset. They initially invested $425 Million into Bitcoin, and that Michael personally disclosed that he holds about 17,000 Bitcoin himself, so he’s got a lot of skin in the game to say the least! And I think you’ll see why as we go through some of this! So in this, what we’re calling The Saylor Series, we’re gonna start from the first principles of energy, of anthropology, of technology, and really build a solid foundation for really gaining a deep understanding of Bitcoin’s potential impact on the world. And Michael and I, to craft this series, we iterated on its discussion framework, and we finally arrived at his overarching thesis — which he was kind enough to lay out in very sophisticated form — and he goes very deep on the topics we’ve laid out here, which starts very early, like Stone Age, and we go all the way into modernity! So this is a long narrative arc that’s super fascinating, very interesting stuff, and clearly, it takes us some time to build up to Bitcoin, but the journey itself is purposeful and it’s well worth it! So we divided the content itself into time-stamped chapters and sub-chapters which we’ve chopped into a bunch of episodes. Each episode is comprised of chapters, and then two of those chapters are sub-chapters. We’ll have time-stamps available both in the video bar and in the description to the video. And the early episodes will include a lot of Michael talking — so a lot of him speaking solo about his bedrock thesis on energy, anthropology, technology, things like this! And then as we build into modernity and to Bitcoin, it will become much more of a dialogue conversation as we go back and forth about Bitcoin and things of that nature. So I realize this is really long form content, but I assure you, I can promise you, you’re gonna find it deeply meaningful! I myself found the feeling of chills at times, there were various epiphanies I had going through this which I’ll articulate in some of the outros to the episodes. But this was just dynamite content! And I think it’s a great view into the mind of Michael Saylor, and it makes a very powerful case for Bitcoin and how much it’s going to reshape the world. So I promise you that you’ll find — despite the time it may take you — you’re gonna find this extremely intellectually satisfying, perhaps even philosophically satisfying. We go really deep on a lot of topics! So I hope you enjoy it! And I firmly believe the insights that come out of this will actually reshape your worldview! So if this is the kind of content you’re interested in, and you’re really interested in going deep and getting to truth, I think you’re in the right place today! So with that, let’s jump into Episode 1 of the Saylor Series here on the “What is Money?” Show!
Robert Breedlove [07:36]: Michael Saylor! Thank you for joining me!
Michael Saylor: Well happy to be here, Robert! Thanks for inviting me!
Robert Breedlove: So for a man that runs a company named Microstrategy, you may have just executed the most brilliant macro economic strategy there has ever been! How does it feel?
Michael Saylor: It’s been a busy quarter I would say! Really busy. It’s been a busy year. January 1st of this year, the year started out one way, and then it became something altogether different in March, and it became something altogether different again by June! And now we’re in September! I look back on it, and certainly there’s a lot of things I didn’t expect. I joke with people, If I’d gotten what I’d wanted, I wouldn’t have gotten what I needed. I wouldn’t have been nearly as successful if at any point in time I’d got what I wanted! I’m sure this is not what I wanted when I started the year, and for a while I thought it wasn’t terribly a good thing, but now as we move toward the end of the year, I see the silver lining here and I’m glad these things happened, which is fascinating!
Robert Breedlove [09:06]: Yeah so it sounds like the world in a lot of ways got a wake-up call this year, right? On a lot of different levels. And for you particularly it was the melting ice you were sitting on, that maybe started to melt a little bit faster!
Michael Saylor: You know there’s quotes from Lenin’s era. There’s Trotsky’s quote: You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you! And this year we launched one war on COVID, and another war on currency. And so we were caught up in kind of two wars, in two dimensions. And then there’s Lenin’s quote: There are decades when nothing happens, and there are weeks when decades happen. And this was that year in both of those ways! I’m grateful that our company is an enterprise software company — our value proposition is we ship software to large enterprises to help them think better! And the value proposition is intact, even improved, by all of the changes this year. And our cost structure and our operational systems — the way we operate — were dramatically impacted, and we had to adjust. But I would say, this was the year that digital transformation went from being a bromide or a dalliance, to being something that you really had to internalize! This was the year that digital transformation really did transform you at the core of your being. I mean, it transformed my ideas about: money, sales, marketing and services, what product offering we should deliver to the market, the marketplace in the future in general. And it’s been thrown around, it’s been a buzzword for a decade — maybe for two or three decades! But this is the year when you got it viscerally in your bones, if you had been dragging your feet the least amount!
Robert Breedlove [11:32]: Great points there! As if the world wasn’t changing quickly enough — as we’ve progressed further into this digital age — it’s as if COVID was just a massive accelerant on the entire process! So not only are things transforming much more quickly now, moving to digital much more quickly, but are likely to change even more quickly, exponentially so, into the future! With that, the theme of this conversation today is deep conversations! And I know you’re a deep thinker, and I really appreciate the media work that you’re doing, and the voice that you brought to the Bitcoin community. I’d like to jump in, kind of like a first principles look at history, and what got us to today? What got us to this digital age that’s changing so quickly? And where do we see it going? And I know you’ve thought deeply about this, and maybe we could start just at the beginning, so to speak, with the story of technology?
Michael Saylor [12:45]: Okay! Well I mean the phrase that runs through my head is, There has never been such a thing as a fair fight! Humans have been struggling for millions of years, right? In order to rise, first to become the apex predator in nature, but if you look at our struggle against nature, there’s never been such a thing as a fair fight! I remember seeing eagles fly along a mountainside that’ll hone in on a goat, and it focuses on a baby goat, not the parent goat — catches it from behind, grabs its foot, and drags it off a cliff, and then backs off and waits while the goat goes bang, bang, bang, and hits rocks every fifty feet and is smashed to death five-hundred feet below, where the eagle circles down, lands on the goat, eats it — leisurely! Nothing fair about it! You know, you feel sorry for the goat, and then you realize, this is not a human being! This is nature! It’s not fair! Then you see lions — and it’s not like one lion chases down one gazelle — it’s eight lions chase sixty-seven gazelles into a channel with three other lions waiting! And one gazelle is forced to take the right side because it gets crowded out by the other sixty gazelle, and that one—bam! — it’s dead for no reason other than that it just happened to be on the right side of the herd, and there’s nothing fair about it! Nature’s not fair, and when you think about the plight of Man the amazing thing is we actually evolved to be the apex creature on this planet! Now because a single individual, on their own, has almost no chance! There’s that scene in Jurassic Park, and there’s the bully, and he just is mean to the little dinosaur creature, some kind of small raptor, and he’s like the size of a little dog and he kicks it around, and he’s a bully and a sadist! And there’s this part where he gets trapped in the park—he’s walking and he sees that little creature, and it nips at its legs and he kicks it, and then he turns around and he sees its got a friend and there’s two of ‘em! And he looks around again and there’s four of ‘em! And then they jump on him and he knocks them off and there’s sixteen of ‘em! And then they all jump on him and he fights them off and he gets up and he runs and now there’s thirty-two of them! The human being—the modern American that lives in their world of shopping centers and cars and air-conditioned houses and locked doors and 911 and policemen they can call and feeling safety — they look at nature through a zoo! And they look through the bars and that’s nature! Or it’s in paintings and it’s all just so romantic! Right? They don’t have this view of nature! The view when there’s sixty-four of those things — and the horrifying realization that that guy is as sure as dead! He’s a dead man walking — he’s gonna die! There’s not a damn thing he can do, it doesn’t matter if he has a bazooka, it doesn’t matter if he has a machine gun! It doesn’t matter — he’s going to die! At some point, in the next 48 hours, he’s going to fall asleep and they’re going to eat him! And that’s the human condition! So when you think about that 3 million years ago the first question is, How did we even make it here? It’s pretty obvious that, in that circumstance, if you’re alone — you’re dead. You’re gonna have to have someone guard your back. And my heart goes out to that Adam and Eve wherever they were — you needed two, three four — you needed a tribe. You needed someone to watch, because when you fall asleep, something is going to eat you! Watch a pack of wolves hunt! The one that kills you? Isn’t attacking from the front! You’re not going to get to fight it off! It’s gonna be an asymmetric attack from the rear, while you’re asleep! And so, the importance of human beings using their brains and thinking is incredibly important! And you start to think about — how do we survive in a hostile universe? We have to figure out how we can get harder, smarter, faster, and stronger! And that takes us to the beginning of Man, so if I look back at Stone Age technology and you ask, How do we even emerge from this incredible, terrifying scrum? There’s just key technologies that you decide you kind of like in a hurry! One of them is fire. One of them is missiles. One of them is hydraulics. There’s a lot more that we could talk about, but if we start with fire: fire is like the prime energy network of the human race! It all started for us with channeling energy. Fire’s a chain reaction where we’re releasing a latent energy in matter — we’re converting matter into energy.
Robert Breedlove [18:52]: Which is like the stored sunlight that we’re releasing, right?
Michael Saylor: Yeah stored sunlight—you’re that human being, and you want to rise above the tigers and the packs of wolves and the other creatures and the snakes in the jungle. How are you gonna do that? You’re going to have to tap into and channel energy! And that’s why Prometheus has such an incredible mythic place. Prometheus is to Satoshi as fire is to Bitcoin! Bitcoin’s a fire! It’s a fire in cyberspace! And most people don’t realize it, but it has its antecedents, right? And fire came along first, and when you think about what it means — and most people don’t necessarily think very hard about it , you always had it — if you’re an individual, what can you do with fire? Well, you can start by starting a fire so you don’t freeze to death! That’s pretty useful! The fire will scare away the animals. So I start the fire, I can sleep around it, I can not freeze. I can also put it around my camp and maybe like a snake that would’ve slithered in and eaten me will go away. I can scare away insects and smoke away insects with it — that’s useful! I can hunt with it! I can start a fire, and I can drive the prey away from the fire. And if I’m smart, I drive the prey from fire off the cliff! I wait for them to trip, I go to the bottom of the cliff, I find one that broke its neck. You ever get in a fight with a horse? Or a fight with a hippopotamus? Or an elephant? It’s not gonna end well! This idea of heroic hand-to-hand combat is a great idea in the movies! It’s an awful idea in reality! And if you went back a million years, you would find that your great-great-great-great-great-grandparent thought you were pretty frickin’ stupid to fight hand-on-hand with anything or anyone! So I hunt with it — I cook with it! There’s a lot of biologists and the paleotheorists that make a very compelling argument that human anatomy actually evolved because we mastered fire. And when you’re cooking something, you’re pre-digesting it. And if you pre-digest something, not only do you increase the scope of the foods that you can consume, you also accelerate and you also increase the efficiency with which you can convert that food into calories by a factor of 10:1 or 20:1! And if you can actually metabolize the food 10x more efficiently, your digestive tract shortens, and the energy that your body expends in order to digest food can be redirected — probably to your brain! Right? Animals that don’t cook food have small brains! A human being that can cook food can have a very short digestive tract, can eat anything—we’re omnivores — we can go anywhere, we can metabolize calories that are very efficient. It only takes us 10 or 15 minutes a day to get all the calories we need! There are animals that have to graze all day to get the calories they need! So fire is critical for that. It’s critical for seeing! You channel your fire and you can light up a cave, a camp, a tent, you can light up anywhere. And with seeing comes communicating. You ever travel through the ancient world you see they have all these watchtowers! The Romans built watchtowers! You put a fire in the tower, you can see it for miles and miles away! You create a signal system! A certain presumptive arrogance or ignorance among modern men — we think kind of everything worth doing was done in the past 2,000 years or 3,000 years. I kind of figure 100,000 years ago, people were doing all of this stuff! We might not have the writings of it, but they were pretty smart! So I’m gonna use the fire for all of those things and eventually for communicating, but once I figure that out, I can use it for hardening, right? I can cook things, I can harden the tip of a spear, I can use it to work metals — eventually we used it to work metals, and that ushered us from the Stone Age to the Bronze Age to the Iron Age. Fire is intrinsic to all sorts of manufacturing processes. And of course — I give you 1,000 acres of forest, Robert — how are you gonna clear it?
Robert Breedlove [24:06]: Sounds like fire would be the easiest way!
Michael Saylor: Tractor, in 100,000 B.C.? Fire! You’re gonna burn it! I see these discussions, Oh! Well paleo-man, they’re all hunter-gatherers and they’re all just like walking around chasing after things that are running away from them! I doubt it! Like if I dropped you into 100,000 B.C., I don’t think you would’ve — solo — chase after a bunch of stuff with four legs! I think you would start by finding a canyon and start a fire on one end and dig a trench on the other end and let a mastodon trip on it and break its neck!
Robert Breedlove [24:52]: It’s sort of life’s way to take the most energy-efficient strategy, right? That’s why the eagle drags the goat off a cliff and lets gravity do its work. Instead of trying to fight it out! And it’s interesting that you bring up fire and it’s almost as if we were using it to energize our strategies in the world. I think as you put it earlier, channeling energy through our intellect. I think the one piece that maybe we didn’t hit on as much is the intellect itself developed through trade and interaction. That’s how we are more than the sum of our parts is through our cooperation. And that’s at the kernel of all economics, right? We have these ideas, we swap them, they become better over time, and we get to energize better and better strategies.
Michael Saylor [25:43]: The phrase, You’re playing with fire — be careful you might get burned? And what makes human beings unique is, as far as I can see, they’re the only animal that plays with fire! And from the point we started to play with fire, we started to evolve at a very rapid rate. Genetically, intellectually, sociologically we evolved. And we talk about the fire of truth and the fire of faith. It’s like the keeper of the flame. The keeper of the flame really means something when you have a city, a village, a civilization, a tribe, and you’ve got a fire and it goes out, you might very well die! You don’t want that fire to go out, at all! Bitcoin and the Bitcoin blockchain is a fire! We don’t want it to go out either! We talk about feeding the fire of Bitcoin and we talk about feeding the fire of faith and simply being the keeper of the flame. It was an old idea thousands and thousands of years ago. I suspect it’s the difference between life and death for humanity for a million years! You’ve started the fire—it’s all good! But now once you go back 100,000 years you’d be running around in 42 degree temperature while it’s raining on you! Or what happens when it goes to 20 degrees? If it’s cold and you’re wet and the fire goes out, you’re going to die! It’s not an academic thing — it’s a serious thing! So human beings harnessed fire and it made all the difference, and then along comes the next set of thoughts. If you can harness fire, maybe you can develop a brain, and maybe you’ll live long enough to use it. The next observation is: you ever wrestle around with a lion or a tiger or a bear? Pick any animal that you wish to kill — you ever wrestle with a dog that weighs 80 lbs? Not easy! Would you like to fight with one? How do you feel about fighting with ten? How do you feel about trying to run one of these things down? I read about in Runner’s World, runners want to tell you about how humans were always made to run, because ancient mankind chased its prey and it could run 20–30 miles a day, and we just run them down until they get tired! Okay well that’s one idea, and maybe we did. But you ever try to catch something that’s running away from you while you’re hungry around dinner time? I don’t really want to run for 20 hours straight until I tire it to death — I have a better idea, which is hit it with a missle! And by the way I literally mean missles! I mean a primitive sling or an arrow, and I think they found arrowheads that go back 100,000 years! They’re old! Most people think of the slightshot and they think about the kid’s slingshot with the rubber band and the [leg] that kids play with.
Robert Breedlove [29:16]: This is more like David and Goliath’s sling, right?
Michael Saylor: Yeah if you study Roman history and you go back 1,000 years before Rome, they had slingers. I mean the Balearic Islands like Ibiza they were very famous for slingers. And if you read about them what they’ll say in the ancient texts is, the natives of the Balaeric Islands were raised from age 3. Before they could speak they were raised to operate a sling. The sling is about 6–8 feet long, it’s made of animal fiber, and you know, you don’t throw a baseball — and you’ve seen highlights, right? — if I increase the lever at the end, if your arm was 12 feet long, you’d generate some serious leverage. A whip action! So those slings give the average person the equivalent of a 10-foot long arm, and they practice with those for years, from age 3! You can imagine after 15 years of practicing, you get pretty good! And they weren’t slinging little light stones or the shit that you pick up on the seashore. They’re actually forming lead bullets! Everybody thinks, Oh yeah! Bullets are from guns! Well they’re not! I mean, people invented bullets thousands of years before guns! Guns were just the latest idea putting bullets together with gunpowder! The lead bullets probably came along 10,000 B.C. And maybe more, maybe 100,000 B.C.! This is a straightforward idea — if your life depended upon it, you would figure it out. And the figuring out is, you get yourself a very condensed bullet, you put it in the sling. You ever see a good pitcher? A good pitcher can place the ball 90 feet away plus or minus 4 inches? Can a good pitcher hit you in the head if you’re standing at the plate? Now imagine someone that’s pitching a 1–1.5 inch lead bullet from 50 yards away that can hit you on the head every time! Because the Romans said they could! So now think about — and this is how bad it is, right? We’ll talk about this in a bit, but to make the point, these guys could stand 100–200 meters off, and from 200 meters off they could actually hit an animal on the head, or another human being in the head. I mean it didn’t matter if they hit you on the head — if they hit you on the torso they’re gonna rupture your ribs and you may have organ failure! There’s even stories — Livy, when he writes about the Second Punic War, he writes about Roman slingers, and they sling so many of these things that they pretty much break all the bones of the Gauls beneath their armor! They’re wearing leather armor — their ribs are broken. And if they’re not wearing leather armor and they get hit, just like getting hit with a bullet in your helmet it may still give you a concussion. It was never a fair fight! Try taking your 8-foot long spear and having a fair fight with a wolf or a pack of wolves? No. A bear? No. Humanity wouldn’t be here if we hunted or defended ourselves using spears or using — these close quarter swords and clubs — they’re all very romantic and they film well in Hollywood movies, in gladatorial combat because you’ve got the two adversaries that are in the same frame, but if you go back a million years, the adversaries were never in the same frame! If you made it this far and you were a human being, you mastered the art of death from above! I mean, killed from a distance and nobody knew that you were there! Not a modern invention. Not only would you stand back 50 meters or 100 meters, you would stand up — and by the way, you would be up at the top of the hill where you have gravity working for you — that gives you more range. You would be back. If you were really smart, Robert, if I told you there’s a bunch of whatever creature on the plain and any one of them can eat or trample you, wouldn’t you like to stand up 20 feet on a cliff that they cannot run up? Stand up 20 feet above them, wait for them to come by, blast them either with a sling or use a bow and arrow, and if you miss — what happens if you miss?
Robert Breedlove [34:37]: Load up and try again, right?
Michael Saylor: How many chances do you get? Till you run out of bullets. Now what happens if you walk down on the plain with your beautiful spear and sword with all of your buddies standing next to you and fight it out?
Robert Breedlove: Risk of ruin! You can never take that on. I think this is very interesting and it also highlights another difference that we have from animals. I know that humans are one of the few animals that rely on visual acuity as their primary sense. I think it’s humans and predatory birds. And that also comes down to our dexterity, right? Our ability to handle and manipulate bow and arrows, slings, these types of missile weapons. It just highlights the difference with us and everyone else. And those two things too are both intimately related with speech and thought and other tool-making, so I think that’s very interesting!
Michael Saylor [35:36]: You think of the idea of missiles — I need my eyes, my brain, I need to set up the kill zone. Oh by the way I left off one other observation: it’s 500,000 years ago — you want to kill something, you’re downwind from it, the sun is to your back, you’re above it, and you have a missile. And hopefully you have a chance! It’s like, you really want to live, you’re gonna go find that spot! You’re gonna say, At this point in the day, the sun is gonna be to my back, the prevailing winds are going to be blowing in my face, I’m going to be 20 feet up, oh there’s a path up here but guess what, I’m gonna block that path because I don’t want the bear running up to eat me once I start [shooting]. Then I’ve got a hundred missiles, and again, it’s not a fair fight. There’s only two types of human beings: there’s the type that figured that out and that’s your grandparents, and there’s the type that were a bit sloppy about one of those things and they didn’t make it! They’re gone!
Robert Breedlove [36:53]: This all calls to mind Sun Tzu, author of The Art of War. I’m gonna paraphrase here but he said, Terrain is the most important aspect of any battle. It’s almost like the smart general only goes into battle essentially knowing that he’s won based on these preparations that you’re describing, right? The sun at your back, wind at your back, high on the hill, undercover, plenty of missiles.
Michael Saylor [37:18]: Technologies that are dominating today, they’re dominating because they’re able to deliver force faster, harder, stronger, smarter! If you’re going to dominate, how do you deliver force harder, faster, stronger, smarter? And I could think of a hundred examples in history and they all — you tend to see those things, so if it’s got the characteristic that it can be made harder, smarter, stronger, faster, there’s something compelling about it! That’s why digital gold is thousands of times better than gold! Because you’ve got all those dimensions to work on! That’s why the natural creature — gold is a rock, a bear is a bear, a mastodon is a mastodon. They’re not getting harder, faster, stronger, smarter, they’re just doing what they do! Human beings are! But only because of innovation! So missiles are just a tool but they’re illustrative. Fire is an energy network and an energy source! It’s a battery. An energy source and you can deliver it in a certain way. And then that takes us to hydraulics, which is power from water, and water is a network. And we talk about elemental forces: fire and water. Well, you ever look at the ocean, and what the ocean does — wave action is incredible energy. But another source of energy is buoyancy. You every try to pick up a 2,000 lb weight and carry it on your back, up a hill? Or just across! Put a 2,000 lb weight on a carriage, put it on the back of a donkey, drag it onto skids — problem, right? And this particular case can’t be solved with fire, we can’t easily burn it! On the other hand, if you needed to move 2,000 lbs you put it on a barge, you put it in the water, and the water pushes back 2,000 lbs, and I can push it with one hand! And the mastery of hydraulics is fascinating! I went to MIT. MIT’s mascot is a beaver! And we have rings that have the beaver on ’em, and we talk about, Why have you got a beaver? The answer is, the beaver is nature’s engineer! And the beaver is this near-sighted, short, waddling creature. It shows up, looks around, sees the water flowing. It can just be what, bobcat bait or whatever, their dinner, or it can do something about it! And what the beaver does it just pretty unbelievable! The beaver starts chopping down trees! First the beaver figures out where to chop down the trees, then the beaver chops down the trees, then the beaver turns the tree into a dam, then the beaver channels the river into the dam, creates a pond, floods the pond. It’s like it’s reading the terrain! After it’s got the pond it creates a lodge in the middle of the pond with an entrance underwater, and then it creates its life in that lodge. That pond-water — water is elemental to life, and that pond creates a vibrant ecosystem and in that ecosystem lots of things grow. And lots of creatures benefit, I mean the ecological diversity improves, and it’s good for all the plant life, the wildlife — people lament the loss if the beaver screws up forests, and the beaver is just doing its thing and if there’s a storm and the dam gets messed up, the beaver swims out in the middle of the thunderstorm or hurricane or whatever it is and fixes the dam! It’s a very industrious creature! And you just sit back and you’re in awe. You think, Huh? How did a creature figure that out? And then what does that mean to humanity? Of course, it means a lot to humanity! I’ve been all over the world, and I’ve been to the desert, I’ve been to Riyadh, I’ve been to UAE, I’ve been to Singapore, I’ve been to Miami Beach. People think oil is money! They think oil is power! And let me tell you: oil is not really power, it’s not wealth. Water is wealth! Water is the key to life! If I gave you $10 Billion and as much land as you wanted in the desert, you can’t create life! The cost for you to create a pond in the desert, the cost for you to actually create a park with oak trees — if I gave you $10 Billion and you lived in the desert, Robert, what would you do with the money? What’s the first thing you would do?
Robert Breedlove [43:13]: Buy Bitcoin and exit the desert?
Michael Saylor: Spoken like a progressive! So let’s parse that: what if you didn’t know about Bitcoin and I gave you the $10 Billion and you lived in the desert?
Robert Breedlove: I guess you’d be looking for trading partners with water.
Michael Saylor: You’d exit the desert, right? So what do they do? You buy yourself a jet, you buy yourself a villa in the south of France. You buy yourself a yacht that floats in the Med. And then you figure out how to live your life, because the cost to grow a palm tree in the desert is $20,000 a year! You want 100 palm trees — it’s $2 Million a year to have 100 palm trees! You want 4 acres of grass in the desert? You have $100 Million a year? For 10 acres of grass? By the way, you still can’t have it! Even if you spent $100 Million a year to put 10 acres of grass in the desert, the sandstorm comes! And it wipes you out! Water is elemental to life. We underestimate how important it is! Until you start paying to create it. Yeah you can stay alive in the desert, but a person making $50,000 a year that lives in a city that has parks and rainfall and a nice temperature lives better than a billionaire in the desert! It’s just that powerful. Now coming back to hydraulics. Hydraulics will generate power, right? I can harness running water running down a hill and create a turbine, then I can create a mill with that — that’s interesting. Again back to the hunter-gatherer thing. If you dropped me 100,000 years ago and you said, Okay well Mike, use your brain! Go hunt and gather! I’d be like, Screw that! What would I do? I would go find a stream with a little bit of elevation, maybe a mountain stream that had fresh water — you can drink it. And I’d find a big enough one that had fish in it, and then I would find a point where I could divert the stream to create a pond — I mean if the beaver can do it, I can probably do it! I would do some digging, I would divert the stream, I would create a lock, and at that point in the year when the salmon or whatever are running I might just flip that lock and I would actually divert the stream into my pond and create myself — maybe it’s a 100-foot wide pond, maybe it’s a 20-foot wide pond, maybe it’s a 300-foot wide pond. Maybe I would waste a lot of the water — I don’t care! And I would let 500 of those little fishies get trapped in my pond! I’m not chasing after them with the stick like in Blue Lagoon! There’s no such thing as a fair fight! I’m not fishing with the hook! My idea of fishing is with dynamite! I’m gonna blow up everything in the lagoon, and I’m gonna walk and pick up the fish. But in the absence of dynamite, I’m just gonna divert the water. What’s the flow rate of water? How many fish swim by you? I want them all! Put them in the pond, then what do you think I’m gonna do? I’m gonna go pull out one a day! And I’m gonna let the other fishies swim around, and if the winter comes and the pond freezes over, that’s okay! I’m gonna chip a little hole in the pond and I’m gonna walk out every day and I’m gonna reach in and grab my fish and I’m gonna eat my fish and I’m not chasing after stuff! When you chase after stuff you twist your ankle and if you break your ankle you’re dying! Right? If you chase after stuff and then a wolf pack catches you from behind, or you piss off an angry mastodon. So hydraulic power, it’s the water, it’s gonna bring you something to drink, it’s gonna bring you something to eat. Maybe if I’m worried about the little creepy crawly creatures or whatever, I’m going to dig a trench around where I live, and they’re gonna have to cross the water to get to me. Maybe I use water — a moat. If I live on the seashore, I’m gonna find a natural tidal basin. And in that tidal basin, I’m gonna let creatures crawl in! I went to Maine once. You ever watch lobstermen?
Robert Breedlove [48:21]: I’ve seen it on TV, never in person though!
Michael Saylor: So if you don’t know anything about lobstermen, you’d think, Oh well these are guys out hunting lobsters with the trap! When you go watch the lobstermen operating, you realize, they’re not hunting lobster, they’re not catching lobster — they’re farming lobster! Big difference! They’ll create a trap, they’ll put some kind of herring or something in the trap that the lobster wants to eat, they’ll drop it, they’ll put 10 of those cages down, and then they wait! Lobsters are lazy, lobsters crawl into the cage, they grab the food, they get stuck in the cage. They pull the trap up, they find a big lobster, they keep that one. They find little lobsters, they throw them back in because they need them to keep growing. They’re creating agriculture to feed the lobster, the lobsters living in happy lobster hotels their entire life — it’s not so bad, Robert! If I said to you, I’m gonna give you free room and board to age 70 and then I’m gonna eat you! Well, not so compelling! But if I said to you, Robert, I’m gonna give you free room and board until you’re 750 years old, and then your life is gonna end, or, you can make it on your own and you’ll suffer a horrific death being eaten up by a barracuda at age 35, you might think it’s not so bad living in your lobster hotel 10 times longer than you live naturally! It’s not like these lobsters would’ve made it very far! They’re liking it! They’re domesticated lobsters!
Robert Breedlove [50:15]: Nature tends to pursue the most energy-efficient strategy available to it, right? You’re the eagle dragging the baby goat off a cliff or the lobster enjoying the lobster hotel, or you’re the man diverting the stream to capture a bunch of salmon — you have a tendency to want to do the least but achieve the most, right? That’s kind of the nature of productivity itself.
Michael Saylor: I’m channeling energy!
Robert Breedlove: Yeah! And not wasting any of the process! Channeling it as efficiently and as usefully as possible!
Michael Saylor [50:50]: The Pyramids got built 2,000 years before Cleopatra and Caesar. How’d they haul it up there? And some of the most fascinating videos I’ve seen on YouTube are those YouTube videos that show how they built hydraulic elevators to move the 2-ton or 4-ton stone up by floating it up the channel to the side of the pyramid! And I totally believe that’s how they did it! They actually used hydraulics to construct the pyramids, it makes so much sense!
Robert Breedlove: I haven’t seen that actually! I’ve only seen the rolling them along the logs! How are the hydraulics constructed?
Michael Saylor: You have a tube of water. If I put something in the bottom of the tube that’s lighter than water with a float attached to it — I’d put a rock with a float, maybe you’d take animal skins and you blow them up with air, it will float up the tube and pop out the back! So what you do, is have the tube be able to hold the integrity. I can’t do it for 1,000 feet, but I can do it for 20 feet. It’s like the way a lock works in a canal, like I’m going into a lock, I close the gate, I flood the lock, it lifts the barge, I open the other lock, and I got out! So imagine a series of locks that I use to actually life 100,000 tons of stone using water! Very interesting! I think that that’s how it was done in my opinion. But water can be used for farming, for fishing, it can be used for security. It can be used for sanitation! In fact, without understanding water and the dynamics of water, there is no cradle of civilization in the Aegean or anywhere! I’ll give you another interesting vignette. I go to Santorini, and Santorini’s built out on this caldera looking down —
Robert Breedlove: It’s a white city, right?
Michael Saylor: Yeah it’s a beautiful city! Well in the 20th century you can take the elevator up from the port and the city is 500 feet above from the port. And then on the way back I see donkey rides and you can take a donkey up to Santorini from the port or take a donkey down! I was in my fitness craze and I’m like, Well I’m not riding a donkey down, but I think I’ll just walk down! I mean I think I can just walk — I don’t need to take the sissy elevator! So I start walking down these steps and the steps aren’t terribly difficult. What do you think I see as I’m walking down the donkey steps?
Robert Breedlove [53:55]: Donkey doo?
Michael Saylor: How much of it do you think I see?
Robert Breedlove: Probably more than you wanted to.
Michael Saylor: A river? A river of donkey excrement. Mind you, this is like 3–4 tourish donkeys taking down the occasional tourist. A river, of donkey excrement. And you can hardly avoid it, you’re hopping this way and that way, and then my brain starts working, and I start thinking, Hm? What happens if there’s 100x as many donkeys and what happens if they’re walking through a city? And what happens if it doesn’t — how to you clear this stuff? It’s not like they had hydraulic hoses and they could just clean — by the way, they’re not cleaning it in the 21st century in Greece! It’s a river of donkey crap! I mean, they haven’t figured out how to clear it 3,000 years later! So let’s go back 3,000 years and let’s do the thought experiment: what’s it like to live in the city using animal power to move stuff around?
Robert Breedlove: It’d be the place to live.
Michael Saylor: Awful. But also unsanitary! I mean, fly-invested typhoid-infested, germ-infested. And when it gets dry and this stuff desiccates and it blows through the air, you’re going to be breathing it, smelling it, it’s just going to be awful! So, you want to drink it and eat it? I mean, this is not just a matter of creature comfort — you’re gonna die! You can’t actually bring together a bunch of human beings unless you work out the sanitation problem! And it was then and there that it dawned on me very viscerally, there’s a reason why all the streets in Mykonos are so narrow that you can’t get a horse or a cart through them! They’re walking cities! There’s a reason that the equestrian class were the Roman knights. The knights were the equestrian class, and what it meant in Ancient Rome was the top 1%, or the top 0.1%. The nobles of Rome were the equestrian class. What it meant to be rich and powerful was: you had the right to bring a horse into the city. Nobody else could! The problem was not that they couldn’t afford the horses. The problem is if they allowed anybody to bring a horse into the city, it would be so unsanitary as to render the city uninhabitable! So most ancient cities, if you wanted them to work, you would have to have them human-powered, and now you’ve got this dilemma of how do you move goods around? Tell me, how do I move things around cleanly? I need a clean energy source that is not going to foul my sanitary system, that it’s not gonna actually kill me! And of course it’s a boat! What do you want? You want 25 cities with ports on an inland sea with at least a season 6–9 months a year where you can cross from one point to another point without being bashed and killed on the rocks. So you need a fairly mild sea, but you have to have water, because if you have the same 25 cities on land and you’re gonna use horse or animal power in order to move goods and services back and forth, it’s just so dirty, so unsanitary, that your civilization’s probably not gonna get off the ground!
Robert Breedlove [58:04]: So the Mediterranean was ideal for this it sounds like!
Michael Saylor: The Mediterranean is the perfect ocean, because you can oftentimes navigate without leaving the sight of land. It’s hard to get too lost. There’s a lot of ports.
Robert Breedlove: Very placid, relatively.
Michael Saylor: And there’s a lot of stops. If you look at all of these empires: the Phoenician empire, the Roman empire, the Venetian empire, the British empire, if you actually tour all the great ports in the Mediterranean — all the really good ones — the story goes something like this. Maybe you go to Bonifacio in Corsica. Well in 1,000 A.D. this was the Phoenician port. And then the Greek empire came along and it was an Athenian port, 500 A.D. And then the Carthaginians kicked them out and it was a Carthaginian port. And then the Romans kicked them out and there was a Roman port. And then after the Romans stole them the Venetians took this over it was a Venetian port. And then eventually it became a British port, you know? That’s the story of Malta, that’s the story of Corfu, that’s the story of lots of different ports in the Mediterranean. And the reason why is, if you want to dominate the Mediterranean, you need to have a port within one or two days’ sail that you can hide in whenever the mistrals blow. And if you control that network of ports when the weather goes bad, you go into the port and your ship doesn’t get sunk! And if you don’t and you’re like a week away from a port that’s friendly and the weather gets bad, you get dashed against the rocks and you just die! And that’s the end of it. So these are all nautical networks and they’re all based upon terrain. And the Mediterranean was a good crucible for the beginning of a civilization. And when you put together the incredible power of hydraulic transportation and then you consider the consequences of not having it, you realize: you can’t really develop the economic density. We haven’t touched much on agriculture. We could but the general theme is the same: when I drop you and you find a fruit tree, you’re not gonna go, Oh duh! There’s a fruit tree in this clearing! I’m gonna walk 18 miles to the place where I can find a different fruit bush. And then I’m gonna walk 5 miles back to the place where the fish are! You’re gonna actually pick up a fruit tree and plant like 100 fruit trees next to your fishing pond! You’re not stupid! Like, paleolithic man there’s every reason to believe they were smarter, stronger, and tougher than we were!
Robert Breedlove: I think it’s a great point that all of these inventions were leading towards increasing economic or energetic density, and that’s what actually provided the bedrock on which to build a civilization. So I was trying to get a quick overview and feel free to jump in if I’m missing anything, but: it started out with, We can’t handle an animal one-on-one. It’s kind of our wits that make us who we are! Through our wits, we’re able to communicate and coordinate with one another. One thing we didn’t get into is the Yuval Harari Sapiens thesis where he says that, Man came to dominate the world because we can tell and believe stories! Like we’re actually able to abstract and represent reality in symbols, and that’s what gives us the ability to make tools, and so on and so forth. So with those strategies that are often cooperative, we’ve energized them with fire as our base — I guess we’re harnessing the energy of the world and ancient sunlight through using fire — and then the other interesting thing about fire is that it actually accelerated our own evolution, right? Our cognitive development was increased because we’re able to liberate more calories from food and whatnot. It also gave us the ability to make harder, stronger, better tools in terms of metalworking. I think that’s a great point too, is that mankind actually changes his own course of evolution through the conscious decisions we make, like the tools we make in turn make us! Which I think is a really interesting point to touch on later as well with money. And then we had missiles, so we could actually take advantage of our visual acuity, which is something unique to people — and our dexterity — and actually hunt animals at a distance, and hunt them on a terrain that’s advantageous to us. Then we had to tap into water, because we are water first of all — humans are 70% water — we have to consume a lot of water very frequently. I think that’s the quickest way to die! It’s like oxygen first — we have to have that most frequently — water second —
Michael Saylor: 3 minutes without air, 3 days without water, 3 months without food.
Robert Breedlove: Exactly! And I’ve read too that people going without water actually cry tears of blood — it’s actually one of the symptoms — it makes your eyes bleed. So not only is water clearly this life-giving substance that we have to have access to fresh water and be able to implement into our agricultural systems and whatnot, but it’s also a tool for overcoming gravity, so we can actually construct larger-scale structures and conduct commerce at scale! So I think that’s a great first principles view on what makes us unique!
Michael Saylor: And we gotta do all of that to get to the Iron Age! And we come back to this issue being harder and stronger. We harness that fire and we start to work metals and we move into bronze and we move into iron, and I think the Roman Empire is a great model for the way that human beings interact with technology and the way that they interact with a competitive world and become both antifragile and get harder, smarter, faster, and stronger! This same thing was going on in other parts of the world, but I’ll focus upon Romans for a bit! You go read Livy’s History of Rome and he writes about the Roman republic had 700 good years! 700 years before even it went to empire! And we started with this idea of Roman politics. You’ve heard the phrase, Beware the Ides of March, in Julius Caesar, and people think of it as, Oh, well that’s when someone’s gonna kill Caesar, but it’s really referring to the fact that for 700 years, the Romans got together on March 15th and had an election, every year! The Romans were the most organized of all of the civilizations we can find in the ancient world and that’s how they grew to dominate — they were just organized! One of their forms of organization is — and this is a thing of beauty — they’re running a process where every year, Marh 15th they have their election. They appoint two consuls, they appoint all of their officers. The consuls then, they conduct about 2 weeks worth of religious ceremonies. They all worship, they appease the gods, they’re getting psyched up. They’re reminding themselves that they’re unique — they’re celebrating! Simultaneously they raise an army. They train the army! We go from March 15th all the way through to May 1st — 6 weeks. In those 6 weeks they get organized, celebrate, get excited, wait for a good omen, and they’re really getting ready, and then the campaigning season starts May 1st. Everybody that knows anything about Europe and the Mediterranean knows that the weather gets good on May 1st! The problem before May 1st? It rains, there’s storms, if you set out to sea or you set out across terrain before that time period, if the cold doesn’t get you, the storm’s gonna get you or your ship’s gonna sink or something! Ultimately, in the history of all of these wars, more people die from natural causes than they die from bullets from the enemy! So the number one danger is: nature’s gonna kill you! So they were all basically doing these summer campaigns. So May 1st they started to campaign. That goes through June, July, August, September — all good months. If they’re still fighting something, maybe around October they wrap it up. They go into winter quarters by November. November, December, January, maybe they’re having November, but certainly December, January, February — that’s winter! They’re not doing anything because the elements are a much bigger threat than the enemy is! And if you know anything about the Med, you can’t navigate the Med in the winter! Even in the modern day, no one would want to go yachting in the Med in the winter — it’s just not comfortable, you get storms, weather is very uncertain! So all this time, they’re rest, they’re recuperating, they’re regrouping, they’re politicking—you can imagine! They’re discussing with each other who’s most suited. That guy’s long in the tooth, that guy’s lost his step, this is the up-and-comer — you support me, I’ll support you. They’re working through that consensus back in Rome, and they’re remembering what it’s like to be a Roman! And then along comes March, and then they decide who’s gonna do what — you’re gonna be a tribune, you’re gonna be a consul, you’re gonna be a governor — let’s put in place an administration. And they’re always rotating and they go and they do it again! And if they send off the best and the brightest and the guy takes an arrow in the back, well next year there’s another guy! Scipio Africanus, one of the most famous Roman generals of all time, he rose to power in his early 20s after all of his uncles and his father died in the Second Punic War. His entire family is getting wiped out, but there’s always another Roman! Always another one! From a very early age! And so the political system had a certain elegance to it because it was tied to the calendar — it was tied to nature! It was a natural cycle, and it took into account the need of human beings to celebrate each others’ successes. I go campaign, I come back, I get a triumph! It took into account their need to have a common faith. The faith is critical! If we’re not all Romans and we don’t all believe the same things, why are we gonna die for each other? Faith mattered! But the weather mattered! And you know, people don’t realize they did it every year on March 15th, because if I told you the weather’s gonna get good on May 1st and you need an army, when would you start? They’re pretty smart — 700 years of it — that’s the Roman way! And then they also took into account human motivation, which is: everybody’s got an ego. Everybody needs their turn. Nobody can hog all the power, so even if you were the greatest general this year, you’ve gotta give it up to someone else next year! And as long as they kept turning — and if I’m the second-most powerful family, you’re from the most powerful family, maybe I’ll support you for consul with the understanding that it’s my turn next year! And then maybe my family will fight and die for you! Because we have a chance at glory next year! But at the point where you take over and you tell me, Well you think you’re gonna keep the job for the next 62 years — at that point, the fabric of the civilization starts to break down, because that equity and that citizenship and that sense that ,We’re protecting the Roman way of life, starts to degrade to, We’re just protecting someone’s dynasty — screw them!
Robert Breedlove: So the dynamism of the hierarchy keeps it revivified and fresh, and they’re harmonized with nature! That’s very interesting!
Michael Saylor: Antifragile! Romans are antifragile. They’re always going off to fight, always, always, always! It’s just a history of war after war after war after war. You know, a typical CEO, you could be in your job 10 years, 20 years. I’m 55, I’ve been in my job for quite a while! But it’s not uncommon for someone in modern day America to be doing a job and become CEO somewhere between the age 40 and age 65. Not uncommon! In fact, the captain of a yacht will oftentimes be 40 and they’ll stay as captain until they’re 65. You might do the same job for 20–25 years! I once took a tour of the US military, and I was treated like a Senator! It was an orientation tour, and they would take to an army base, a navy base, an air force base, a marine base, Camp Lejeune, Fort Hood, etc. And one of the things they did is they took us onto an aircraft carrier, the John Stennis. And so I landed on an aircraft carrier and then I got to tour the carrier, and then I got to meet the captain. The average age of the soldiers on the aircraft carrier is 19! Average age! There’s 5,000 people on an aircraft carrier — 19! The officers are in their 20s, some in their early 30s. Do you know? The oldest man or woman on the carrier, Robert? The oldest? The old man is 41! So I start talking to ’em. And the #2 is 38! If you’re the #2 Head of Operations, it’s an 18-month gig, and if you’re the captain, it might be 36 months! And so I start talking — and this is a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier! These guys can start a war! It’s like 1/12 of the firepower of the US Navy. It could take down all but like 3 countries in a heartbeat. Maybe you could take down any country in a heartbeat! It’s a pretty important job, Robert, wouldn’t you say?
Robert Breedlove: Absolutely!
Michael Saylor: So I said to him, So tell me the path to get here? And he goes, Well I went to the naval academy and I did this for a few years, and every 1–3 years I move to a different command, and I finally made it as an XO, #2 officer, 2 years ago, and I got promoted 6 months ago and I’ll have this command for 24 months or something! And I said, Well let me get this: so there’s only like 12 of you, right? So if you’re 1 of the top-12 most talented officers in the entire navy! Like how many people are in the navy? Hundreds of thousands of people in the military! There’s just 1 of the 12 most important jobs in the US military, bar none! I’m like, So, in like, 12 more months you’re leaving? He said, Yeah, I’m leaving! I’m like, Why wouldn’t they want you to do this job for 20 years? Like, you could start World War III! Why would you take the risk of changing and putting someone else on the job? What if they screw it up, you know? By the way, Robert, we don’t do that in any other part of our economy! We don’t actually put 40-year olds—with term limits of 36 months — in charge of cities, states, countries, companies. We don’t even put ’em in charge of yachts! If you had a 100-foot pleasure craft, you wouldn’t do it. I’d be like, I’d find one captain — I’m keeping the guy for 20 years! I’m not changing him! You wouldn’t actually do that with a person that cooks your food, or mows your lawn! So, why do you think this guy’s gotta go after 36 months? Any guesses? Because the answer’s gonna blow your mind!
Robert Breedlove: What jumps to mind is if he were to get paid off or corrupted or something? But I really don’t know!
Michael Saylor [1:16:53]: That’s not a bad idea! That’s like the forest ranger principle. We rotate the forest rangers in order to keep anybody from bribing or corrupting the forest rangers so they don’t misuse public national park resources. Brilliant idea, right? A better-off forestry service and a great anti-corruption technique! But that’s not why! I’m standing on the deck of this aircraft carrier talking to this guy whom a lot of people would think like he’s just a junior executive, maybe we’re ready to give him a whatever. And I said, So tell me again? Why you’ve gotta leave this job even though you’re the best guy in the navy to do it? You’re obviously hyper-talented? He goes, Well Michael, there’s a lot of really really good people coming out of the academy every year! And everybody needs their turn! Everybody needs their turn. You’re talking about a 21-year old lieutenant coming out of the naval academy saying, These people signed up to commit their life and their career and potentially sacrifice their life to be a navy officer! And at the pinnacle is their hope that they can be the captain and have their own command, and at the pinnacle of that is captain of an aircraft carrier! And if you want people to love and fight and die and cherish your institution, you’ve gotta get out of the way and give ’em their chance! Everybody needs their turn! And you start thinking, Maybe we overestimate ourselves!—right? This is why, again, these decentralized organisms like Bitcoin are superior to a company, because as Charles de Gaulle said, Graveyards are full of tombstones of indispensable men!
Robert Breedlove [1:19:00]: 100%! This makes me think too of, as a kid, there was this notion that anyone—I grew up in Tennessee—anyone could be the American president! Now that’s maybe kind of silly and not actually the case, but that notion seemed to give people, at least kids, this motivation to really want to be patriotic and part and parcel for their country! So it seems like something about the possibility of achieving the highest level within an organism or an organization sort of gives people maximum motivation or something like that!
Michael Saylor [1:19:40]: There’s a certain pride of being a naval officer. When the head of a carrier looks at you — when you’ve started your career — and says, You know, one day you’ll have your turn at this! You and I are comrades! You’re as good as me! You’re the future of the navy! That’s what will cause people to lay down and die for you!
Robert Breedlove: That’s inspiration!
Michael Saylor: That respect! And that’s what the Romans had in those 700 years — the height of the republic! It’s, You’re a Roman first! This year, maybe you’re under the command of your family’s #1 adversary, but next year that’ll be your command! And that’s the Roman way! And there’s a certain submission to nature and the organism is greater than any one individual and any one family. It’s continually refreshing itself! We have to have a constant flow of new talent, new leadership. Someone drops the baton, someone else picks up the baton! That’s what made the Romans great! They suffered no kings among them! You look at the Second Punic War and then maybe it was the Second Macedonian War? Eventually the Romans went to fight against Philip of Macedon. He was a king! And he had an awful son, and his one son got fighting with his other son, and convinced the father to murder the second son, and then the father realized that he’d made a mistake because his first son lied to him! And the father was a nutcase crazy guy, and the son was kind of crazy, and it corrupted the entire society, and the Roman consul was just the most talented general and he knew that — the way it worked was, his officers were from every other competing family in Rome! If that general was lazy, drunk, cowardly, or stupid, it got reported back by the officer corps to Rome and to the Senate! And so they were slightly gossipy, but the point is, when you know that everybody’s watching you and that you can be replaced and will be replaced next year and your future is uncertain, it brings out a higher degree of professionalism, and that’s the competition in the market! You’re a miner, and they cut off your electricity, well your mining rig stops and the mining shifts somewhere else!
Robert Breedlove [1:22:32]: Absolutely! That’s the reason entrepreneurs in the free market are accountable to the preferences of their customers, right? Because they constantly face the existential threat of customers going elsewhere! Whereas the opposite would be true in a monopoly! The monopolist doesn’t have to give two shits about his customer’s preferences, because they have no other choice! So I think it’s really interesting!
Michael Saylor [1:22:53]: So the Roman political system, it bred harder, stronger, faster, smarter individuals! No apologies about it, from age 3, this is the way it is! And Rome comes first, and everybody else’s interests are subjugated! And when you look at that, they started with that system — a good system! — I mean people forget about it! 700 years as a republic! Find me another republic that lasted 700 years [inaudible]. Then you’ve got the Roman army, and that tells a different story. The Roman army takes us back to this issue of, There was never such thing as a fair fight. The Romans weren’t fighting fair! They would’ve laughed at you! The Roman approach to this was to take my illustration of the slinger on the cliff and take it to a whole new level! The Romans manufactured ballistas, catapults, every sword and shield to be the same length, every soldier took the same step the same length, everything was the same! You could be an 8-foot tall goliath, and the Roman 5' 10" tall normal dude is gonna beat the crap out of you because you’re not gonna get within 12 feet of him because you’re gonna take a spear in the gut from the 12 guys standing to his left and his right as you charge! In all of these time periods, all of these wars, and you read Livy and he describes them very in depth, over and over again: hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of battles, and they always consisted of the Romans maneuvered to get the high ground, the Romans maneuvered to get the enemy out on the plain, the Romans unleashed the artillery onto the enemy while they stood and obliterated 10% of them. Then the Romans unleashed some more artillery! There’s one story where the Roman army cornered the Gauls. The Gauls are on a mountaintop, on a hillside, and the Romans are below — they just surround them, they stop, they start to pummel them, and they rain down hell from above — bullets, boulders, napalm, and Livy writes, Before a Roman even took a step toward the enemy line, half of the Gauls were dead and 80% of them had been maimed or incapacitated from the bullets. And then the Romans start to move up and do something! It’s like, there’s none of this, Let’s just charge into battle and fight it out with our sword, right? Never happened that way! It was always going to be: find a way to get an advantage. And by the way, the technology is very critical! The Romans had a military industrial complex. There’s a way to do it, you’re gonna do it in a certain way. They had an entire body language, and entire system of how you’re going to act. If you want something which is eye-opening, there’s this story of the Roman navy from the First Punic War. The Carthaginians dominate the Mediterranean, the Romans are a land power. The Romans don’t know anything about naval power — but it tells you a lot about the Roman psyche and intellect. The Romans are getting beat up by the Carthaginians because the Carthaginians control the ports and they have the fleet. The Romans have no fleet! One day, a storm kicks up, and the storm drives a Carthaginian naval ship into a Roman port — it’s blown into the port by a bad mistral. The Romans capture it! They take it apart to try to figure out how the Carthaginians make their ships. You can’t make this up! This is the most amazing thing in history! They find out that the Carthaginians make their ships from a kit from reusable standardized parts, and not only are all the parts standardized, the Carthaginians have labeled each part with the instructions with where it fits and the number of the part. The Romans deconstruct the entire thing, steal the entire blueprint. 9 days later they made 150 ships! You think these guys were screwing around? They’re not screwing around! It’s like, everything’s, Oh you know, I’m gonna take my time to figure this stuff out. No! War has a way! War has a way of quickening your activity! Bam! I’m losing? I find a ship, that’s the DNA, that’s the formula of the ship — 150 ships. To make a long story short, the Romans win the First Punic War and they vanquish the Carthaginians and they become the naval power! Of course, it’s not that the Romans invented everything, it’s just that the Romans stole every good idea from every civilization from the Greeks, from the Carthaginians, from the whatever that they crushed! And because they lasted, we’re able to read their histories! It kind of blows your minds that in 500 years — by the way, you think the Carthaginians invented that? Maybe they stole it from the Phoenicians! 500 B.C., if you want to win wars, you don’t just make ships. And you don’t just train hard. And you don’t just make wagons, right? Roman roads. The Romans had standardized parts, a standardized gauge for a wagon wheel — every Roman wagon rolling on the road is carving ruts in the road. That gauge has to be standardized, you can’t just make any wagon, you have to make it exactly the same! For all those people that recoil at standardization, well that Roman wagon gauge eventually became the standard width of a railroad track in Europe. And then the standard width of a railroad track everywhere! So if you want to know how wide a Roman chariot was, or a war chariot or any chariot, just go stand on a railroad anywhere on Earth — the Roman’s gave that to you! And the reason why they did it that way is because, if you build wagons with different gauges, they fall in the rut, they snap the axle, and that’s death! So it’s like, Henry Ford said, You can have it any color as long as it’s black! No! You can’t have it any way you want it! It’s not that every civilization figured this out. It’s just that every civilization which insisted upon doing it a different way with different bells and whistles got crushed to death! There’s an analogy with this in the Bitcoin world too! When you come up with a different feature it’s like, It would just be 10% better, you know, if you made your wagon 10% wider: it would hold 20% more and you would need 10% less and your transaction costs would be less!
Robert Breedlove [1:31:21]: It points towards path dependence too. The fact that a technology already took a certain path, it kind of has an inertia that’s carried the width of the gauge of the wagon wheel to the width of the modern rail! I thought it was interesting too you pointed to the civilizations that won out, the Romans over the Carthaginians, are the ones that studied their history! So they’re actually gleaning insights from civilizations that had come before them, which again hearkens back to that Yuval Harari concept of our ability to abstract our learnings into symbols like language or whatnot, and then pass them from generation to generation such that the most successful strategies take advantage of the collective learnings up until that point! Versus trying to just do something from scratch on your own. Like we all stand on the shoulders of giants, so to speak.
Michael Saylor [1:32:16]: Yeah those roads were the logistics network of the Roman empire, and if you can move goods and services, if you can move armies faster inside your borders than your enemies can move inside their borders, then you’re gonna win! Well you’ve got a major major advantage! If everybody lays down a railroad track that’s a certain width and you come up with an idea for a car that’s got a different width — who are you gonna sell it to? People talk about protocols being important, right? Well TCP/IP wasn’t the first protocol! Roman roads probably weren’t the first protocol either, but the point is, protocols matter, and it’s arrogant — by the way, I’m sure that the Egyptians had protocols to build those pyramids! Standard sizes, widths, weights and measures. Those protocols matter a heck of a lot! And if you don’t have them, it’s impossible for people to cooperate! So we’ve talked about money a lot as being essential for civilization to cooperate and allowing us to specialize, but all these other logistics protocols or military protocols are in their own way equally important! I’ll make one last point on Roman engineering on aqueducts. The Romans understood the importance of hydraulics, and they took it to a new level. They actually created aqueducts that would bring water from up to 70 miles away to a given city. There are a lot of coastal cities on the Med that are uninhabitable — the natural economic density is really a function of the amount of water per year, so if the amount of water per year is based on rainwater, maybe you can have 500 people live in the city. And if you bring the aqueduct it goes to 5,000 or 50,000. And so the economic density requires the hydraulic flow for sanitation and just to keep everybody alive! So engineering the roads, the aqueducts, it’s the rails upon which the entire Iron Age civilization was built! And Romans — if anything — they’re engineers! And they elevated engineering, above all! What is engineering? I am an engineer. I think engineering is an incredible honorable, ethical life-affirming profession. The basic credo of the engineer is, I look at nature, and I look at the circumstances that I’m surrounded by, and I use my intellect and every material and technique at hand in order to construct a better world for everyone and everything that I love! That’s the credo! I’m not going to be a victim of circumstance! I’m going to actually change my circumstances with my intellect and that might mean build a bridge. It might mean build an aqueduct, build a road, build a ship — whatever it is, just like the beaver builds the dam, the engineer builds the world! Look at any city where you take the bridge down, and try to figure out how life changes! And it’s pretty consequential! I’ll leave you one more vignette on Rome and then we’ll move on I think to the Dark Ages. I have a holding company, it’s called Alcantara. And Alcantara is based upon something I saw in Alcantara, Spain. It’s a Roman bridge — it stood for 2,000 years! And if you go underneath that bridge you’ll find a Roman inscription in Latin, where the Roman Engineer whose name is Julius Locker said, This bridge will stand for all time. They took their engineering seriously!
Robert Breedlove [1:37:09]: I recall from Taleb’s writing that the architects of the Roman aqueducts — to give the architects skin in the game, so to speak — he would be required himself or even with his family at times, to stand beneath the aqueduct as the scaffolding was removed. So he knew it was his life and possibly his family’s life on the line, should his architectural abilities be incompetent! Again it’s a protocol! It’s a protocol and an incentive or a disincentive to malperformance for that architect, to take his profession very seriously! Another thing that came to mind, Rome as being incipient too all these civilizational technologies and protocols we use — what ultimately led to their downfall was their monetary protocol being compromised! It was the debasement of the coin, I think it started with Nero, and eventually led to the forking into the East Roman empire —
Michael Saylor [1:38:20]: And their political protocols compromised! A series of civil wars — Caesar’s being the most famous, but a series of civil wars where the political protocols broke down, even before the monetary protocols broke down. You can see they’re all related and at some point the integrity of the society broke down, and when they lost their integrity across all of these areas, the collapse of the political system begat the collapse of the military system. The religion — how do you maintain your patriotism in Rome when one Roman army is fighting another Roman army?
Robert Breedlove: Right! Was there an inflection point that you recall, that led to all these protocols being compromised?
Michael Saylor: Around 50 B.C. it all started going bad! There’s a whole series of wars in Julius Caesar’s youth, and the rise of a series of strong men and the weakening of the Roman republic. Taleb I think makes great points in his books about how it’s the death penalty in Babylon if you screwed with weights and measures! Or if you’re a builder and your house collapses, your own family dies. There are definitely skin in the game points, and they just remind you that in a society that respects natural law, nature is not going to pity you and she’s not listening for excuses! I know this is not quite relevant but I can’t help but state it: The richest man in China a year or two years ago was out on summer vacation in the South of France. The guy’s worth $20–$30 Billion. And he decided to take a selfie or get a photo, and he stood up on a rock wall at some ancient ruin in the South of France, and while they were taking the photo, he slipped and fell off the side of the wall and plunged 50 feet to his death! Again, somewhat emblematic of the point — it doesn’t matter if you have an army of lawyers and $1 Billion of clout — in that last 2 seconds of his life, he was punished by violating the law of gravity with a death sentence! You know, gravity doesn’t care who you are! Nature doesn’t care! The richest man in China, out of a billion people, and he was sentenced to immediate death — no appeal, in a split second, for being careless! And when society forms all of these appeals and excuses and they let everybody off the hook, it’s like, Well, if you make a market in accepting excuses and lawsuits, you’re gonna get a lot of lawsuits and a lot of excuses!
Robert Breedlove [1:42:05]: And then Too Big to Fail institutions were interrupting the evolutionary impulse! We’re not learning at a business and civilizational level when we preserve institutions artificially!
Michael Saylor: I’m very persuaded by all of the points made by Taleb and also by the Paleotheorists about the importance of pain in life! Pain is a natural feature, and you can learn a lot of things by pain, right? You try to pick up a chair the wrong way, you do something in the wrong fashion, the pain is a feedback and it’s information. And when you try to cut off the pain flow through anesthetics or steroid shots or cortisone —
Robert Breedlove: Or QE!
Michael Saylor: Or QE, or an appeal, or a lawyer, or a bribe, or whatever it is you avoid paying the price or the consequences for your misstep. Try to suspend gravity? Well good luck with that! If you could’ve suspended gravity for $1 Billion in that one second, how much other screwy stuff would’ve happened everywhere else in the world while gravity was suspended for that one guy? The damage would’ve been maybe a million times worse! Gravity is key.
Robert Breedlove [1:43:41]: There’s a good reason you can’t compromise nature’s protocols, and we should mirror that through natural law!
Michael Saylor: That would be the healthy approach! That’s the Paleotheory! That’s the theory of antifragility! That’s the theory of Austrian economics and capitalism properly understood, and Darwinian evolution and natural equilibrium.
Robert Breedlove [1:44:16]: So how awesome was that! Michael’s incredible, he’s very deeply knowledgeable about all things: history, tech, energy. I hope you found that conversation as fascinating as I did! And I got a lot of fresh insights talking to Michael, and I love the initial introduction of, There’s never been such thing as a fair fight! So it’s as if everything in nature is always trying to sharpen its strategy to figure out a better, faster, cheaper way of doing things. Namely, getting food, reproducing, things like that. So I thought that was really interesting, and there’s a nice corollary there between ecological strategies an animal might use and a business strategy! It’s the nature of innovation as well. So I came to see evolution and innovation as things that are very closely connected! Evolution being kind of the organic form of innovation, or innovation being the inorganic form of evolution, which I thought was super fascinating! It’s fascinating to me that thinking is what makes us the apex predator! It’s our ability to run these simulations of future action — we can actually spin up avatars and other elements of the situation and think through them before we actually execute, and we can also communicate about it with one another, so we can out-coordinate other animals, right? So even though we may not have the most vicious physical appendages in the world, it’s our wits that make us men, that allow us to out-compete and be dominate, frankly. The dominant species in the world. On that same vein, another change of my own worldview was how Michael describes that human beings — as far as he could tell — are the only animal that play with fire. And by harnessing fire, harnessing energy, we’re actually channeling energy across our intellect — that’s another way to think about it, is that we create these idea structures in the world, and the visualization I have in my mind is almost like a magnetic field, if you’ve ever seen a diagram of a magnetic field, there are these field lines that emanate out and circle back in the north pole and the south pole. It’s almost as if we could project these intellectual magnetic field lines into the world, and actually channel energy through them to create things and do things! These are the weapons we use, these are the structures we build. Say a boat — we’ve figured out how to reconstruct the raw materials of nature in accordance with an established intellectual pattern such that that boat now has buoyancy, and we can move ourselves without friction across water! So just a super interesting new way to look at the world! He went into the three primal technologies that helped us build everything around us: fire, missiles, and hydraulics. Fire serves as the prime energy network for humanity. And one thing I’ve long thought about is that it’s common for us to think of energy in different forms. We think of gravitational energy versus kinetic versus heat energy, all of these different forms of energy, but if you really zoom out, I think every bit of energy that we harness on the planet is essentially solar energy, right? So even hydrocarbons, which are very popular today: oil, natural gas — we’re combusting these hydrocarbons, but what the hydrocarbons actually are is ancient sunlight that’s fallen on the Earth. It fed and formed this biological matter: plants, plants that fed the herbivores, herbivores fed the omnivores and carnivores, and all this energy capture basically dies and decomposes, and that’s what becomes these sedimented layers of hydrocarbons — of oil and whatnot. So in a way, any form of energy we tap — even if we think it’s gravitational energy — I mean I guess the Earth does exert its own gravitational energy to some degree, but a lot of it is coming from its rotation around the sun. So most of the energy, if not all that we harness in the world is actually a form of solar energy! The sun is truly our divine father, if you want to call it that. Our cosmic father. And I guess the one other category would be starlight — it contributes a small amount of energy into the world. [1:49:45] For all intents and purposes, all energy is solar! And I think that was a really interesting way to look at things. And when we harness fire, we have this force that is a self-generating form of energy. So once we figure out how to spark a fire and control it, we have a form of energy that can expand and produce and generate itself and we use this for a lot of purposes! How he described clearing a forest with fire, I thought that was a super-efficient way to clear a path of predators, of obstacles. Fire is really good at that! Also, it improved visibility for us at night, because night was our worst enemy before fire. When darkness fell, we were essentially neutered. We’re visual creatures — humans rely on their visual acuity as their primary sense, and under the cover of darkness we’ve lost this primary sense organ! And fire allowed us to re-establish that. We could actually use it to ward off predators, set up camp, it just improved visibility for us in more hours of the day. And it’s a great example too of how our conscious decisions and what we construct and the things we use can actually shape us! We can actually co-evolve with our conscious decisions! An example of this would be — specific to fire — is candlelight. Before we could harness fire reliably, we didn’t really have illumination after the sun went down. So candlelight gave us all this new-found time to stay up late, reading, studying, planning — all these things that help make us more intelligent over time, it created this feedback loop where we discovered fire and all of a sudden fire gave us all this found time or discovered time to continually expand our intellectual horizons even further! Another thing was cooking. Cooking’s so fascinating! Harnessing fire to cook, we’re actually predigesting our food. So we liberated nutrients more easily. We reduced the metabolic load on the body to break down food, and by doing that we freed up resources internally that were reallocated to cognitive development. So by figuring out fire we were able to break down food more easily, predigested, and then we freed up energy to become smarter. To figure out more ways to channel that energy across our intellect. So that was just like mind-blowing! And then finally the fire-based signaling systems he referred to with watchtowers flashing signal fires and whatnot, that’s like the original telecommunication network, where we could project our intellect farther and faster into the world. We further increased that core human capability for collaboration, because now we didn’t need to be within earshot of each other, we could be at long distance! Just to be able to see a signal fire from even miles away, we could communicate certain information, especially when we developed codes like a Morse code we could use by signal fire, allowed us to send information at the speed of light essentially over a relatively long distance! And then the second Stone Age technology that was really impactful were missiles. I thought that this was super-cool because I’d never even thought of missiles on the same level as fire or water, but it’s such a great point because again, back to that original point of there’s never been a fair fight in the universe — so the way humans can out-compete in nature is by engaging in predetermined unfair fights! We need to engage in conflict that we know we have an asymmetric advantage so we can preserve ourselves and we can obtain the most food energy for the lowest energy expenditure. So like his analogy, Do you want to go wrestle with a lion or a bear, or do you want to hit it with a sling or an arrow from a hundred yards away! There’s much less energy exerted for a much higher outcome of energy consumption in the form of food. And the slings and arrows giving us the power to deliver force faster, harder, and stronger, it’s super interesting stuff! And then giving us the ability to really develop the element of surprise in battle! The advantage to be able to select from where we’re going to just start the engagement — from high ground, ideally, with the sun at our back, with the wind in our face, downwind — whatever it may be, it gave human beings the optionality to select when and where they would engage their prey! Back to the whole Sun Tzu thing of terrain being the primary element in any battle. So a bear is probably the most dominant terrestrial creature, whereas in the ocean, say it’s a great white shark or something. The bear is gonna whip the shark on land, and the shark’s gonna destroy the bear in the water, so it’s all about the terrain. The terrain is the first order consideration in any battle. And by using missile technology, it lets the aggressor choose the terrain. The third one, we talked about hydraulics. And I thought a lot about water and how clearly influential and impactful it is on our development. We are water, we’re constituted of 70% water. The old adage 3 minutes without oxygen, 3 days without water, 3 months without food — you’re dead. So water is very important! But other than boats and buoyancy in general, I hadn’t really thought about the use of hydraulics and channeling gravitational energy, and I thought it was really cool how he brought up the Great Pyramids at least being partially constructed using hydraulics. That they would drill these long tubes or trenches and use the buoyancy of water, its polarity acting as a resistant to gravity and they would use that to overcome gravity and move these giant blocks that they otherwise couldn’t! And that led to the construction of the Great Pyramids and these other monumental constructions that we simply could not have completed using raw human power! We again had to use our intellect and channel energy across it to accomplish greater feats than we could using just our God-given capabilities, our physical capabilities. And I love the analogy, the beaver being nature’s engineer. It’s just so fascinating that like humans do have this ability to channel energy [inaudible] across at the highest order of it — clearly, but there’s something in nature too where the beaver’s a great example, that he’s actually eating these trees, that’s his food, and also he’s constructing an environment for himself that’s conducive to reproduction. He builds his little fort, blocks the river, creates an entrance under the water, and he has a safe place to mate and raise children. It’s as if nature has this impulse to become smarter. So although there is this big distinction between man and animal, there’s also a continuum. I think of a squirrel that buries nuts for the winter — he’s kind of engaging in a form of delayed gratification. He’s not necessarily behaving like an economist per se, but he’s a little bit closer than a purely predatory animal that maybe just eats whatever it can! Or a bird that builds a nest — all these things that nature really is making best use of the gifts that Earth bears. But I think on that continuum, Man is just so far in and that’s why we’re so dominant! I love the example too talking about the moat waters, an effective defensive technology. This points to a lot of history, when America forked off of Great Britain, it was the moat of water — the Atlantic Ocean — that made it so difficult for England to continue to project its dominion onto America, and that’s what led to the Revolutionary War, and led to American independence. There’s been a lot of writing! I read a book called The Next 100 Years that made a pretty emphatic case for North America’s geographic situation where we have the Atlantic on one side, Pacific on the other, all of this coastal access makes us a great trading partner with the East and West. It gives us a massive military advantage in that we can deploy military assets into both moats if you will very easily. When he got into the discussion of the Mediterranean a little bit, how it was actually the cities around the Mediterranean because it was the perfect trading ground, a place to move goods and services across water with super low energy. The description of trying to push a block by hand versus putting it on a boat, you can push it with one hand. Once we gained the frictionless or near-frictionlessness of water, the utility of energy becomes super-high. We can accomplish great results with very small effort. So these cities that dotted the inside of the Mediterranean, this created a super energy-efficient network of trade. And that’s what became the cradle of civilization! That’s where civilization first picked up, because there was so much economic density resulted from the low-energy requirements of trade within the Mediterranean! Again back to the terrain being primary to any battle, even if it’s an economic battle, right? Then we got into Romans and how they conquered the Western world, and the insight for me there was that because of the civilizing force of trade and inter-dependency they had, the Romans actually became dominant due to their self-organization. They were the most organized group of humans up to that point in history. And that’s why they became so wealthy, and they became so imperial. They created so much wealth and civilization in and around that cradle that they actually started to expand outwards, and they developed methods of doing this in accordance with the seasons. So they would go out on a military campaign in the Summer and they would come back, have their election processes in the Winter or whatever the timing was, and then they would repeat the whole thing again in the following year. And they also adapted this seasonal ebb and flow into their political structure, so they were giving everyone their chance to make sure that the hierarchy that constituted their civilization was being constantly revivified with the most competent people! So they would shed off this leader and let someone else be elected. And all of that thought and political structure is what underpins Western civilization today! That is the origin of the democratic process as we know it today. So just so fascinating to me how deeply connected we are to history. The other thing that came out to me was it was the ancient Romans that realized the value of establishing a common protocol. Protocol being a means of interaction or a form of interaction or a mode of interaction like a language or a rule set that we both abide by. And when those rules are consensually adopted and firm, it gives us the ability to make a lot of things irrelevant. We can kind of both trust the rule set, trust that we’re gonna play by the rules, then we can just focus on playing the game. Whereas if the rules are messy and we don’t know if this person is gonna follow the rules next year or not, or are the rules gonna change next year or not, we can’t plan, we don’t gain that ability to have a deeper time horizon or a lower time preference, because the rules are mushy! We can’t trust one another as well, so there’s a connection there between the firmness of the rule set, and the development of inter-personal trust, and the proliferation of civilization, which if you think of civilization as essentially being a lower aggregate time preference for the civilization! The lower their time preference becomes, the more civilized they are, and these things find their peak expression in arts and culture and morals — all of these things! Really interesting to me how all of that just built itself in layers. From the energy efficiency and economic density afforded by the Mediterranean built into this civilization, built into this political structure, built into this military structure, it just really changing the way I saw all of that — such a history lesson for me! These common protocols—he told this story of the gentleman on the aircraft carrier that the potential for everyone needs their turn, it’s an amazingly potent motivational force for everyone in the civilization! How I relate to that is as a kid there was this notion that anyone could become president in school. And maybe that was just a silly — it is a silly thing, but maybe just the thought of that as a kid seemed to be motivational! Kids are like, Oh! Yeah I’ll be president one day and so I’ll get good grades, try hard at sports, be good, eat my vegetables, whatever it is! Because there’s this incredibly high aspirational goal, you are incentivized intrinsically — it’s an extrinsic motivation — but I think through that you find an intrinsic motivation to be your best and highest and most competent self. I thought it was really interesting that the Romans zeroed in on that so long ago! And then too, he told a story of the Romans discovering the wrecked ship, and then they reverse engineered it, and then a few months later they built a whole fleet of these things. So it goes back to the concept of to never be shameful to emulate. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. But in a more pragmatic sense, if there is a solution out there that works better than what you have, you can’t really be afraid to copy it and reproduce it. I mean that’s sort of what the market’s designed to do, right? Which gets into why things like intellectual property are bogus! Because you can’t own an idea necessarily! You can satisfy wants to the highest degree or at the lowest cost and that’s how you’ll be successful in the marketplace, but the idea of owning an idea gets us really on that slippery slope towards totalitarianism where things like numbers can be made illegal, certain words can be owned. It just doesn’t make sense! So I thought it was interesting that the Romans really pressed their military advantage by readily copying ideas from either their enemies or from their forebearers! The other thing there about protocol is he mentioned they laid out these political protocols, but it’s as if by standardizing — the width of the wheel which has actually been carried over to the width of the track today — by standardizing these common structural protocols, political protocols, again firm rule sets, they were able to increase their productivity tremendously. Again their productivity and output just exploded, and you can think about this even with home construction. By standardizing the one type of screw or a few types of screws for different purposes, you can produce all of these things at a huge economy of scale. So you can produce these screws at very low cost, which would increase the total output of new homes, the one that you’re constructing with these screws. Versus, if everyone did their own custom screw, nothing would be interchangeable, it would be hard to do anything at scale, it would localize the economy for screws which would drastically restrict productivity. So I love this interesting connection between protocol standardization and economic output and prosperity. And this one really blew me away: the credo of the engineer that Saylor referred to as someone that looks at their surroundings and makes use of their intellect and all of the materials available to them to construct a better world! I mean how beautiful is that? It’s poetic! I think he said at one point, To engineer is divine. It’s so interesting to me that that’s what we are! We are creative creatures by definition! As an example, ask yourself, What is the purpose of your hand? It’s a really hard question to answer, because the hand is by definition multi-purpose! It can do so many different things! It can grip, grab, punch, we can write, type, think, I mean all these different things — we can signal to one another — the hand itself, we’re equipped with these ultra multi-purpose tools, and I think in terms of humanity trying to channel energy across the intellect, that the hand is kind of the primary output of that intent, which I thought was really a different way to see things for me! Finally, he got into natural law. Which we could define as the right to liberty, property, and life, So the right to be free, to freely experiment and explore so long as you do not tread on the freedom of others. The right to property, which is — property is not the asset itself. Property is the relationship between the individual that spends time investing and recreating or making an asset, and that asset. So if I go out and spend my time building a boat, a system with sound property rights would say that I have exclusive rights to that boat. The area that I invested my time and energy — the thing that I spend my time and energy to create — I have exclusive rights to that object that I can then trade those rights with other self-sovereign people. And that’s the flywheel of economic activity! So we can each specialize in a craft, but we can reliably go into the market and obtain other things of value — we can trade our own craft for other things and satisfy all of our wants, but still have a narrow scope of specialization that allows us to become super-adept in that particular area. But that adeptness benefits everyone because we’re trading into the marketplace. So making the point that societies that deeply respect natural law tend to succeed, they tend to out-compete, because they are voluntary games! If we respect natural law, if we respect people’s right to life, to liberty, and to property, then all of a sudden they willingly embrace that society, they’ll work for it, they’ll die for it. The principles that America was founded upon are these principles, essentially! Clearly we’ve drifted a lot since, but that’s at the bedrock of Western civilization! And then at the opposite end of the spectrum — as I was saying, America is much closer to today — when you make a market for appeals and excuses, you’re likely to get a lot more of both. As Cicero put it really succinctly, The more laws, the less justice. So I think it’s beautiful how the Romans embraced natural law, implemented it into their society, their culture. I think that became the heritage that’s pouring forth to us! And forming the sediment of Western civilization. And I think it’s incumbent upon us to study this, and see how far we’ve drifted from say when America was founded in 1776 to where we are today. How much the state has actually become antithetical to this entire process. We have this super over-regulated environment, a vast proliferation of complex laws, and a commensurate downfall in justice worldwide! So I hope you guys enjoyed this episode. I thought it was mind-blowing and we’re just getting started, so I’ll see you guys at the next one!