Krzysztof, could you introduce yourself and tell us what you do for a living?
Hi everyone, hi listeners. Hi Dominik, Piotr. Krzysztof Wojewodzic, President of Escola S.A. What’s interesting to add about myself is that in addition to being an entrepreneur, I’m also an active scientist. That is, I’m in three projects mainly related to artificial intelligence, with machine processing I’m involved.
Super, thank you for the introduction. You bought Escola from Rafal Zaorski when it was a 5 person software house. Could you tell in a few sentences how it came about? What is Escola and also what products do you produce?
This pulled me deep into the past because now Rafal has his 5 minutes, and I heard, I saw on the Internet that he managed to island a few million on the stock market. But yes Rafal and I have known each other for at least a decade. And he just called me six years ago and said – Krzysztof, I have such a great company for you – Escola. Maybe you would like to buy because I would like to focus on speculation. On those there trading. I didn’t know too much about what kind of company Escola was at the time, because in fact, it was a 5-person, small software house, although with a good history and good credentials from large insurers – Getin Bank, publishers such as PWN and WSIP, and the main reason for the purchase was precisely this desire to acquire these credentials, which Escola had at its disposal intellectual value in the form of an e-learning platform. And in fact, Rafal successfully sold it to various financial institutions. Also to law firms, to insurers. The entire Vienna Insurance Group was a customer of ours. And I thought it was a pretty good idea to get back into the business.
I was working at the university at the time. Well, and the story is that I bought Escole from Rafal and went to say goodbye to my then boss, the rector of the university, Professor Witold Orlowski, quite a famous economist. And he was my first investor. i.e. I told him that I was going to set up such a company, that we were going to do such a small crowdfunding campaign, we were going to raise 400 thousand zlotys and he put in 100 thousand zlotys first and to this day he is the head of our board of directors and an investor. He still bought some shares in subsequent rounds. Also, these two stories of business and science intertwine quite a bit in my life.
I assume you have no regrets, especially since the company has grown from 5 to more than 100 people since then. It is one of the fastest-growing IT companies in Poland. To what extent has acquisition, i.e. taking over other companies, contributed to this growth, and to what extent has it been organic growth?
This is a good question. I would say half and half. That is, the majority of actual people we hired to Escola, or maybe a minority, maybe a split of 60 we hired to Escola, and about 40 people joined Escola through the acquisition route. On the other hand, I think that for us as Escola, this way of the acquisition was something wonderful, because we gained not only a nice, motivated team, we gained customers, we gained references and this opened up foreign sales, for example, when we merged with Qunabu from Gdansk, they did a lot of contracts in Norway, a little bit in England, Actually, they didn’t do Polish contracts at all. And what’s more Monika, the co-owner became our head of projects, and Mateusz became our CTO, and to this day this is the situation.
I’d like to ask you a bit more about the growth or development of this team and recruitment. In your opinion, what do programmers most often pay attention to when changing jobs, besides salaries and remote work opportunities? Does the prestige of the company as defined, for example, by winning industry awards like the Mobile Trends Awards make a difference here?
You know what, it would be best to ask the developers themselves, our staff, what they paid attention to. I can tell you about some of the listenings I’ve had because I know that indeed a few people have joined us because of the podcast I run. I run such an industry podcast. Escola Mobile, which centers around mobile technology, but also the intersection of business and IT, and a few of our staff. These are people who are our listeners, and they felt that this is valuable knowledge, that this company is just distinguished by sharing knowledge because this is part of our philosophy, our DNA. I believe that if I give you knowledge, you now give me knowledge, you give me knowledge, we exchange knowledge among ourselves, and none of us loses. Everyone gains.
On the contrary, if you have a computer and give me a computer, well, you no longer have a computer. It cannot be miraculously multiplied. If you have a car and I don’t, and you give me a car, then I have a car and you no longer have a car. On the other hand, the thing with knowledge is that if you give me a certain knowledge, then perhaps you will even overbuild your knowledge because by giving it to me you will rethink something else, you will supplement it, you will structure it. And this is the magic that makes this very IT industry of ours grow so much. We have different open-source software, we have different libraries. I’m going to talk about it later in mobile technologies, that Apple is pulling very hard from Google. Of course, it does it wisely, without violating copyrights, but it makes this knowledge of our IT grow extremely fast.
In one of your interviews, you mentioned that the most important thing for you is the team, and I would like to ask how do you invest in a good atmosphere.
I so observed that such very good managers, whom I observe and respect, always say team and team. And over time I’ve learned that this is actually the case, that it is the team that pulls the company. These are two things, to have a team and to build a team. That is the first thing. It’s to get it right, and that’s a very complex process. Certainly, there are great, great recruiters who can be interviewed on how to find that perfect employee whether a programmer or a project manager, or a UX designer. In my opinion, what is worth looking at is how we are interviewed. Because if it feels like there’s no chemistry at the beginning, it probably won’t continue. It’s a bit like bonding with someone privately, whether it’s a fiancée or girlfriend, or boyfriend. If it doesn’t go at the beginning, it’s unlikely to go later either. Usually, there is great chemistry in the beginning and it deteriorates a little bit and you have to take care of that relationship in the long run. And it’s the same with employees. I.e. If there is no chemistry at the beginning well then it is unlikely to get much better, so you have to look at it and pay attention to it if there are any warning signs. I say this from my own mistakes because a couple of times I happened to ignore such signals, saying, after all, this person has such excellent competence, such an excellent resume, and then after three to six months, we had to part in great pains. Because we didn’t like each other, we didn’t like each other. I’m not saying it was a bad person, but we just didn’t like each other. And we have a rule that we don’t work with people we don’t like. If someone poisons the atmosphere very much, he should have no place in our company.
Of course, conflicts do happen. It’s not like there are only flowers growing everywhere in Escola’s meadow and unicorns running around and everyone is nice to each other. There are difficult situations, and conflicts that have to be resolved, there are internal problems, problems with customers, and problems at the interfaces of departments. On the other hand, it is very important what kind of approach we have to this. For example, does anyone accept criticism? If I say to someone, well listen, well here you let me down, because I couldn’t deliver this because of the situation you caused, and someone completely tries to blame it on someone else yet or doesn’t accept this criticism, well that’s a very bad sign. As I say, just like in a relationship, I think that this selection of people is very important, although I want to point out that I’m a bit of a person here who demeans the importance of soft skills, that they are supposedly the most important. Such a slogan can be found everywhere, soft skills are the most important. Well, if that were the case, I graduated from pedagogy, and it would be my colleagues from pedagogy who would be the best-paid employees on the market, not programmers. And the opposite is true. These soft skills people sometimes understand as only empathy, such skills as feeling for the other person, and compassion. And this is a much broader range of qualities. And such qualities include, for example, perseverance, which is essential in the programming profession.
If you want to find the answer. Some questions to solve some algorithms. You have to be extremely persistent and not give up. Such a skill is the ability to learn. If there is a new technology, there is Eric Swift. SwiftUI in iOS. You need to know how to learn it and patiently excel at it. And in 2 years there will be another technology again and you have to learn it. And that too is a range of soft skills, not just empathy. So here it is a bit misunderstood. This still comes from the 1990s, when people were graduating from various managerial studies, and there was talk about the need for soft skills in Poland because in fact, many bosses had such an imprint from communism that you have to order, be firm and authoritarian. And democratic management was emerging more and talking about soft skills. But as far as I’m concerned, this is already common knowledge. I think everyone already knows that you don’t yell at employees. I think everyone knows that you have to consult your decisions. And there is no need to repeat those platitudes about soft skills, narrowly defined as empathy and a non-exclusively authoritarian management style. I hope this knowledge is already common or at least becoming more common.
Lately, we’ve been hearing that it’s common, but it’s often the case that skills, those soft skills are perceived, that it’s such an extrovert, that if someone talks a lot, communicates easily, that’s it. This is not entirely true.
Here you are right. A lot of my unsuccessful recruitments, because I also had a lot of unsuccessful recruitments, whether in Escola or in earlier companies were just people who did great at the interview. Because as you said, Piotr, they had a good talk, well, but then it turns out that you have to analyze some complicated data for a whole day and these people were not able to do it. They had a great desire and need to talk. What’s more, they often prevented others from doing very important data analysis. This is worth keeping in mind. I used to employ myself. At the very beginning of Escola, we just created such a rule that there must always be at least two people at the interview and that there should be at least two interviews – with a different person during the other interview. That is, it can not be the same set of people, to avoid some such halo effect, such an effect of admiration of a person. I at one time actively practiced triathlon. And even now I’m recruiting for a CFO, and the candidate apparently sensed this, or it coincidentally happened that way, and immediately started talking to me a lot about triathlon. Well, we are already great colleagues. It doesn’t matter anymore if he knows the tables there or not. Well, but we are both triathletes well he will definitely be a great candidate. It’s just that exactly two people who were with me are not involved and not interested in triathlon and had a different opinion about this person. And I then got so sober. No no, actually. We are not looking for an amateur triathlete, we are looking for a financial director. So it’s about situations like this.
And tell me more, because you mentioned that it’s also important to have that persistence and ability, willingness to learn new things. Do you have any way to check such people, such competencies in people? Where to get such people?
You know what yes. There’s a set of questions that I ask, but sometimes it shows from the course of the interview or the course of the person’s career. Just recently I hired such a programmer, just an iOS programmer, who I don’t think was even strictly computer science by training but graduated from some electronics or other engineering major. And he has been getting up at 5 a.m. for the last three years, including the period when he had a small child, and for the first two hours of the day he was learning iOS. Well, I don’t have to ask him if he’s motivated to grow, because he’s shown that for the last three years, day in and day out he got up. And even though on paper he was relatively inexperienced, he had three years of experience, we threw him into a fairly complex project and he’s doing great there. And it’s not a coincidence. He is highly praised by our boss. Acct of the iOS department that you can see in him the determination to solve these difficult problems, and the ability to search.
So of course you’re right here, Dominik, that these are not questions to ask, do you have the determination? Everyone will say: “Yes I do.” Are you persistent? “Of course I’m persistent.” But by asking some specific questions about the regularity of learning, about the frequency of doing certain tasks, you can immediately see if someone has that determination. Another example is our sales manager. She has been learning for 1,500 days, which is almost 3 years, 5 years sorry, almost 5 years. She learns several foreign languages every day and speaks fluent Italian, German, and Russian, not to mention English of course. And this didn’t come by chance. It took sheer determination, and it is in Chinese she speaks. Not fluently, of course, but he understands the basics of Chinese. It didn’t take by chance, it took from tremendous consistency. And now when I have to have someone systematically complete a CRM system, to systematically do campaigns whether mailing or some other, I dare say that there is a correlation between systematic 5 years of daily language learning and that someone will systematically get customers for the company.
I would still like to ask you about the current market situation. You took the role of Escola’s CEO in 2017, looking at what’s happening in the software development market today, do you think it would be easier or harder for you to grow the company if you bought it today?
I think it’s more difficult, because – maybe I’ll answer – because it’s two questions in one. The first is how the market has changed from 2017 to 2022. First of all, the market was, is, and will be increasingly competitive. I mean, software development in Poland is such a determinant for us, and if we go further back in history, Professor Janusz Filipiak, the founder of Comarch, said that his competitive advantage in the 1990s-2000s, when he founded the company, was that he had great software engineers at 150 euros a day. And it was an extraordinary competitive advantage that he could. Sorry, 150 euros a month he paid for them.
Did he use some such term that it was just unbeatably cheap, and these were great engineers? I am able to imagine, twenty-odd years ago before inflation this is realistic, and also at that time, there was no such fashion for high salaries, for high wages in IT. At the moment, Poland still has a little cheaper engineers, IT specialists than Spain or Germany or Sweden, but it’s already a little it can be, depending on whether it’s Spain or whether it’s Sweden, it’s going to be 10 to 40%, and this difference is why these foreign companies, especially after the pandemic, began to open directly their representative offices here like Nike outsources programmers in Gdansk, or Capgemini, a huge such IT moloch, a big software house already has offices probably in most of the big cities in Poland, or Intel in Gdansk employs probably two thousand engineers, but also smaller companies and start-ups, instead of using the intermediation of software houses like Escola, started to hire engineers directly. That is, if the price of an hour for an Escola programmer is 60 euros or 6400 euros for 160 hours, then you can pay 4000 euros instead and hire someone directly.
Of course, this doesn’t give us some kind of transferability, and they then have to know how the Polish market works, to do fairly complex recruitment. So they are still happy to use software that houses foreign clients, but if they want to build a certain team and have recruiting competence, they often prefer to hire such a person directly, reducing their margins. And this is also a certain novelty in the current situation, which is that foreign companies, whether American, German, or Swedish, have already learned to recruit in Poland. They know what the NoFluffJobs or JustJoinIT portal is, how to put an ad there, recruit, it’s all remote, they don’t need to have offices. Most of these developers invoice, and while they wouldn’t want to have an employment contract and all this complex stuff in the case of two or three people, it’s relatively easy to invoice. And that seems to me to be something that affects competitiveness right now in the IT industry, contract software development.
The other thing that has changed for the better is the steady supply of these engineers. I mean there is a huge competition, nevertheless, there is a mass of programming schools, boot camps, and various courses where you can actually learn to program. And it seems to me that Poles still care a lot about education, about education, about better jobs. Comparing more to Spaniards or Germans, where this person will go to work at Starbucks or McDonald’s or somewhere else and also earn decent money giving a decent life. It’s not like that in our country, so you have to do something more. And finally, there is another positive thing for us, which is the possibility of building startups in Poland. Before, it was tough to get capital, and we really have few examples of these unicorns, these unicorns, and great venture capital in Poland. The founders of Onet, like Piotrek Wilam and Marek Kapturkiewicz, simply started creating funds to scale them to foreign markets. And it’s something great that right now you can already set up an outstanding startup in Poland. He will, of course, very quickly be exported to the States with capital, but you are able to develop it on a spectacular scale. Such an example is the company Booksy, which employs 1,000 people. Not so long ago such a company was LiveChat. I grew up just down the street from the neighborhood where LiveChat started. I remember that as a junior high school students we laughed a little or in high school. What kind of company is this? In a garage, they sit some and do chat on the site well, but then they caught a contact with Microsoft, they already moved out of that garage from the neighborhood well and they did a little better than it seemed. Well, these people are able to invest that capital and also show the way how to do it. Moreover, in business in general, and especially in Silicon Valley, the credibility of that founder or whoever is recommending them is also very important. So if you are recommended by the founder of LiveChat, Onet, or other phenomenal online businesses, it means that there is something in your business. That is, it works both ways. On the one hand, he knows how to guide you, and on the other hand, he knows how to find suitable people to invest in your business. So I think this is a good time for startups. If someone has a really global idea, but also a local idea, if they have a suitable market, they are able to get financing for it and develop it, and have good mentoring. Also, I think there is more and more competition, but also opportunities are still very, very abundant.
You mention foreign countries a lot, and just at Escola, in addition to having customers in Poland, you also create products for foreign companies. What do you think encourages these companies to enter into cooperation with a Polish company? Other than the fact that it’s a little bit cheaper?
Yes, but what else is important? Escola is such a company that is known for its mobile applications, even though we had the Mobile Trends Awards ourselves, and now we are actually presenting because we bought the rights to this gala earlier this year. And we are certainly one of the top companies that develop mobile applications in Poland. There are also some very good companies that we meet with in the finals of tenders like there is some big app to be made. Escola, on the other hand, also has its own specialization. We are very good at educational applications and mobile and web applications. As the name suggests Escola from Portuguese means “school”. And when we are already standing for tenders, for example, to make a mobile or mobile-web application for education, there are actually maybe 100 companies in the world that know how to do it well and have really done some of it, so we are already really in such a world leader. There is no ranking of the best companies developing mobile apps for education, but if there was, I’m sure Escola would be very high in it. I think it could even be at the TOP10 of the world, for the reason that we have made more than a dozen apps for universities. We integrate with practically every API here of Polish university systems whether USOS or University 11 or any other. We know how these systems work. We also know how to integrate with various e-learning systems, big ones, and smaller ones, such as Black Bolt or Team. Now we are doing such a big integration with plug-ins of various kinds. This is some knowledge that can’t be learned overnight, that takes several years to acquire, to learn the environment. And this makes it possible for us to enter the global market without any complexes, that OK, there is a company that is also called Escola, it’s a Swiss company and they also do educational solutions. They are a slightly smaller company than us. For the rest, I watched as we outgrew them. They are the ones who focus on the environment of these German, German-speaking very specialized solutions, and we focus on English-speaking solutions, of which there are a few more. This makes it possible for us to enter without complexes, to surpass our colleagues from Switzerland. Anyway, we cooperate with one company in Switzerland, which makes software for FIFA, and UEFA. All actually those organizations related to basketball, rugby, etc. It is very successful cooperation. They, of course, have a suitable markup for that, for creating the design there and coming up with concepts that are very complex for these federations. We are their IT arm, so we also got into such close relationships and arrangements over time, because we showed that we were delivering. This is the kind of word that is overused at my company because it’s such a slang word a bit.
What do we mean by commanding? But in practice, as I’ve thought about it, the point is that we often do something that doesn’t even necessarily pay us directly, that we’re already out of budget on a project, for example, but we still want to satisfy the customer. And this is not a common approach at all. In IT now, in software delivery, the time-material approach dominates, we settle for programmer hours, and most of these big Polish IT companies especially offer something that is the lowest risk and the simplest kind of service, that is, we will provide you with programmers. Companies like C, and 7N are actually providing mainly, they are so-called contracting companies, which mainly provide programmers with some kind of margin of a dozen to a small few tens of percent. They don’t actually know them, they just deal with recruiting them and putting them on a project. This is a great value in the sense that they provide continuity of work for these programmers, and that’s why they often want to be in such a contracting house, for the reason that if one project ends, they will be redeployed to another company on the other side that outsources such services, well they want scalability, now they need an additional 20 programmers, this company will provide them to us.
Escola, on the other hand, never had a vision of being such a company. Rather, we want to be a company that provides solutions – solutions, that is, an application that is supposed to improve the management of the university. An app to make you can easily handle an event, some kind of event, an app to make you can increase loyalty and increase sales in your store. An app that will be, for example, a digital card of your four-legged cat or dog, and so on. And that, of course, means a much higher risk of it failing, but a much higher margin if it succeeds, because we provide you more than the programmers you have to direct. We will direct them. Often we’ll even help the partner’s client come up with the idea. And so in many areas, we have that specialization. We have, knowing what applications we have implemented, we can take some of that knowledge and import it into the next project.
I would still like to ask you about developers. What technology stack is most in demand for Mobile Developers right now, and right away I’d also like to ask you if you see any disparity among Mobile Developers between the availability of Android Developers and iOS Developers?
Maybe I’ll start with the second question. Coding in Android is still based on Java. Java is a widely used language, probably with 40% of all software in the world is Java, so it is easier to switch from Java to Android. Then to become an iOS Developer, because iOS, on the other hand, is based on C#. That is, I’m simplifying, of course, but I’m explaining where there’s a greater chance of becoming an Android Developer, or a greater opportunity to recruit. Also, many Android Developers have a certain versatility in themselves, that is, they can write code in Java and at the same time in Kotlin because now there is a valid Kotlin language. On the other hand, I have very few people who write in C# on a daily basis, it is a language that is used a bit in games, while much less popular, for such common use. And its successor is Swift, which is, as Apple puts it, a language in its own right. At least that’s what they create it to be. And that’s why I actually think that for an iOS programmer it’s a more hermetic language, which also requires special hardware, of course, because writing an application on an Android can be, on a PC can be on a Macintosh. Whereas writing an app for Apple, of course, can only be on a Macintosh.
Yes, so it is such an additional hardware complication, which, of course, nabs sales. And of course, it can only be tested on an iPhone. And that makes it so that if you’ve been doing this kind of language for many years, you’re likely to go in hermetically, into these solutions, into this environment. And that gives you a little bit less flexibility, but it also makes you, if only because of the cost of the hardware, the latest MacBook with some 32 GB of RAM in there, if you want to put that in there, and that’s what you would have to have as a developer, we’re getting into amounts of several thousand zlotys nets. So it’s not cheap hardware. On top of that, you add an iPhone and suddenly you may find that you’ve spent 20 thousand on the hardware itself, which you have to replace every two years because you can’t test on not the latest iPhones. So this is also added some small limitation that affects the fact that iOS app development costs tend to be a tad more expensive. From our perspective.
On the other hand, what I want to say about these languages, namely Kotlin for Android and Swift for iOS, they are becoming more and more like you. It’s so funny that, too, as we look at the next iterations on our phones, if we use the iPhone, now we have iOS 16, then suddenly Apple discovered that you can have custom this home screen and that you will be able to have several screens and change icons. This is a real revolution for Apple, which is very hermetic. And in Android, we have had this for many versions. This is nothing new. And similarly, Android is now finishing work on making it possible to move between different screens on tablets or phones, between computers. And it’s getting a little tired of that because it doesn’t have that air tightness.
But also in a while, this functionality will come in, which has been on iOS for a couple of versions, and they are stealing from each other in such a very creative way, and also the way of how you code on both these languages is becoming more and more similar, it is very object-oriented, it is just so relatively simplified. I say relatively simplified in the sense that there are a lot of ready-made libraries, and I think the question our listeners are asking themselves is. Well, but after all, Christopher, there is Flutter, there are different languages, such as Native, that make one language support two platforms, and that’s right. These languages are developing a lot.
I, since 2017, as I’ve been dealing with mobile apps, have watched various ups and downs. Some of these languages are already lying in the graveyard and no one is using them, and apps written in them are being rewritten at the moment. And in fact, we also write apps in these languages. In particular, we think that React Native is a very good effective language here. On the other hand, they will never replace native languages when it comes to such reception. This kind of user experience, this so-called UI/UX. There are also very few ready-made libraries. There are more and more of them, but they will always only follow, only follow after. And that’s why iOS is developed by Apple and why Kotlin is developed by Google so that always the latest libraries are only in native languages. And this is a huge advantage for security, the speed of the application, for the user experience. That’s why still 80% of the applications that Escola develops are created in native languages.
We’re talking a lot about technology right now, and I’d like to ask you what you think is the most effective way when it comes to verifying technical competence in programmers.
There are several methods, but you probably have your favorite. My favorite method of verification is conversation. Because I’ll give you the simplest example. You ask a developer how you take care of application security. Any inexperienced developer who has either done it on their own or has not dealt with much doesn’t care about application security in any way, because they’ve never dealt with a large-scale application, with a lot of complexity, with a lot of integrations, so they’ve never had to care about it. If, on the other hand, he was doing a large-scale application that had a lot of integrations, they had to do different gateways, different ways of authentication, public keys, private keys – it will tell you a lot about it. And that is, of course, you can on a piece of paper have someone code something and that will show you the speed of development. Very often on a piece of paper or on a computer to solve some task, that will show you if someone has solved a task quickly if they know how to use tutorials. This is also an important competence.
On the other hand, in my opinion, it is best to ask the kind of questions that immediately indicate whether someone has faced difficult problems, such as Continuous Development, Continuous Integration. If someone hasn’t faced this in his life, then unfortunately he may be at best a very fast developer, but not a complex problem solver. If he knows how to talk about it, it means that he probably had to deal with it, because it’s hard to read it from books or feel immediately whether someone answers from books or not. And if he even answers well from books, it means he also understands, and that gives hope. Right? So I think an aptly chosen set of questions that our technology heads have is a sufficient way to verify. We, unfortunately, do not give homework assignments, nor do we give competency tests. I think that when a company is recruiting, a very large number of people actually have a wide recruitment funnel, and competency tests are a great idea. On the other hand, we very much select candidates at the first stage, that is, looking at their experience, at their resume, looking at whether they apply to us.
I’d still like to ask you about apps. Because according to the Digital 2022 report, every day we spend on average almost 5 hours on our smartphones. 92.5% of that time is spent using mobile apps. Using TikTok or Instagram as an example, we can see how endless scrolling style solutions affect how long we stay in an app. Do you know of any other techniques that keep users in the app?
Maybe I will answer two things. The first thing, in terms of this time spent on applications, I read these reports every year and they show a higher number every year. In the pandemic, it was already something amazing. Each of us should take a look, do an examination of conscience, and think about how much we used our phones during the pandemic and for what. And it’s worth asking ourselves whether that time spent on social media is valuable to us because it can be valuable if we set ourselves up with suitable people to watch. If they will be people who provide us with valuable content and in an accessible way. There are people I follow, such as Artur Kurasinski, and Bartek Pucek, to who I am happy to subscribe and I also pay them for paid content as they have a newsletter, and I certainly wouldn’t have discovered them, or Michal Szafranski, if it weren’t for the fact that they have just been active on social media.
On the other hand, we very often spend in these applications, time that can hardly be considered qualitative, and what is more, it is extremely tiring for our brain. I.e. We assimilate by scrolling through huge amounts of information that we do not always need. I, for example, have probably 4,000 friends on Facebook.
If I had to know where who was on vacation now for the vacations, actually nothing else I think I could do, just look at where who was on vacation. With 4,000 people, 10 people a day have birthdays, so I could wish everyone well, etc. We are able to have a deeper close relationship according to scientific theory with 150 people. And probably everyone has thought about it, then counting family, friends, just how many people a large wedding is going to be somewhere with 150 people. And that’s it. And we simply don’t have time for more, if we want it to be such a valuable relationship. That’s why I wrote a course called Digital Wellbeing, digitalwellbeing.co.uk with Kamil Sliwowski, who is an expert in this field. And the opposite. As you ask me if I know techniques on how to do endless scroll and others. Of course, I know, but I don’t want to show them. I don’t want to install them.
I want, to teach people how to defend themselves against them. Because I assure you and the listeners that the best artificial intelligence specialists, unfortunately, are not necessarily concerned with how to find a cure for cancer, how to make us fight the poisoning of our planet, they are concerned with how to make people spend more time on Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook. These two are great examples of this because this is an app actually based mainly on AI. To profile our attention. And it’s effective very much so.
More effective than hashtags on Instagram and other things. And in this course, we describe how to just turn off all these things to yourself because most of them are turned off. This is, of course, hidden very much by Facebook and TikTok. How to disable even Auto-play? Almost all of these social media apps are YouTube, Facebook, and Netflix. When one episode is over it clicks on the next one by itself. We don’t have to click anything, how convenient is that, right? And then we end up watching dorky videos on a vertical screen and after fifteen minutes we wonder what I actually got out of it for myself. Fatigue. The enormity of the information.
I saw someone laying bricks super fast, someone pouring water brilliantly, someone jumping beautifully. People I don’t know at all don’t matter to me. It was very interesting and delightful for that brief moment, but does it have any effect on my life? Yes, such it has, that you are very tired, and by the way, you saw an ad for a new T-shirt, new shoes or a new motorcycle. What you happen to be interested in, that’s what these people have taken great care of. And I think it’s important not to give up. There are already known solutions for this. I think this should be taught in school as part of media education. And just that there is a subject like a history and the present, then in this part of the present it should be about how to precisely guard against excessive use of social media. Because this is one of the biggest dangers for young people. That is, how to turn off auto-play, how to delete continue scroll. How from watching people effectively, because of course many of us come to this conclusion at some point I have to, I have to uninstall Facebook. On the other hand, most, after uninstalling, come back after 20 days.
And here I will surprise you Facebook continues to remember you and doesn’t delete your account at all, it just lets you magically restore everything for up to 30 days and people delete, then come back, because actually, it’s like quitting cigarettes or alcohol overnight. It’s a very painful process. Suddenly we have a lot of free time and we kind of don’t know what to do with it. Not sure what to do in the waiting room at the dentist, no. If not scroll, then what? Well, then it is a difficult road. I’m going through it myself, I have various limits set on apps, I rather try to listen to podcasts. When I’m in the waiting room for the dentist, instead of scrolling I’d rather listen to something that will stay with me for a longer period of time, whether entertaining because I like to listen to some travel or mountain broadcasts, or something that is interesting to me in the field of professional development, rather than necessarily knowing that a colleague I studied with and haven’t seen for 10 years was on vacation in Italy and is just showing her legs in the pool.
You mentioned a little bit about artificial intelligence and I would like to ask you what impact this artificial intelligence has had on the development of mobile applications and what impact it will have in the future. What do you think?
I mean I’ll say maybe that what’s going on right now in artificial intelligence is something amazing to me, in terms of me as a person who is a little bit into it scientifically. I am a manager in two projects one of the applications, is to individualize our English learning. At the moment, if we take typical apps like Duolingo or Busuu it remains to say “like a string” through a sequence of lessons and learn a certain set of vocabulary. On the other hand, I find it annoying in Duolingo to have to learn vocabulary words like nail sharpener, or some such related to the beauty category, because I probably won’t use those words, because it doesn’t interest me, and I really like the very ones related to ordering, to phrases, to travel, to online reality. That is, however, everyone has their own language needs, and this Miami English application in a game situation, because it is a role-playing game in a’la cyberpunk world, but what happens on the other background is that the language is individually tailored to our needs. If I’m an IT specialist, I need a different set of vocabulary, if I’m a carpenter, I need a different set. I’m a traveler, I need perhaps a different set of words, and this can be matched through machine learning algorithms to an individual path.
The second Pomelody application is even more complex because a huge problem now is the autism spectrum in children. One in ten children has autism right now, and we can help these children a bit by detecting it earlier. On the other hand, the earliest we can detect autism is at the age of four through such clinical methods. On the other hand, many users of this app are music apps. They report that they can see by their children’s reactions whether that child has an autism spectrum. And we decided to do a study to correlate this by using suitable facial responses to the sounds of these children. An extremely difficult task, because in order for it to be effective we need a very large battery of data through which we already know that they have autism spectrum and are sort of diagnosed early. So ideally we would have access to a TikTok or Facebook like this, where someone uploads full videos on their own, and when the child is as young as 12, we can see that they already had certain behaviors at the age of two that correlate with the autism spectrum, and we could detect that earlier.
That’s why these social media platforms are developing so effectively we are able to watch huge batteries of data over time. And at the moment, when it comes to. artificial intelligence. It’s just a real arms race. What I think the Daly project from Google shows is that we are able to do amazing things, but also that it requires gigantic computing power. Sometimes operation one to build a model. Artificial intelligence is that the program writes itself so that it is no longer written by a human, but de facto, as a result of statistical operations, the computer itself recognizes certain patterns. With autonomous cars, it’s apparent that they just drive around learning where there’s a sign, where there’s a road, where there’s some danger, and where someone jumps out into the street unexpectedly. And that’s why autonomous cars have huge problems in such non-standard situations, where a person has suddenly run out into the street or is about to run out and you somewhere out of the corner of your eye see it, you are able to react. Tesla is learning this, but still, a human can sometimes be more effective at times and can take responsibility for it.
And getting back to that, there are already occurring models that cost several million dollars just to build because of the amount of data, for billions of data. The computing power and heat generated, the electricity consumed by these machines to build one model. That is, the de facto writing of one program, that is, machines writing a program. That’s how much it costs, and that’s what companies like Google or Chinese corporations can really afford. Of course, scientifically you can create various models there and think about it, and they are already quite well described, de facto since the 70-80s there are already quite a lot of models described, while now to run them, of course, you can leave a MacBook or a PC there all night and it will build something there, some model, but to really process a gigantic amount of data going into billions and that, for example. data from 4K cameras, where it de facto has to be processed with a suitable engine, but this is a gigantic amount of data, well, let’s not kid ourselves, for this you just need a farm of computers. That’s the direction it’s going. So I expect that, like Web3, we expect that it will be so very autonomous and some interesting things will be created kind to people, but in practice it is mainly used to harness our attention, to build models that are not necessarily always good for humanity. And secondly, unfortunately, often the biggest ones benefit the most from it.
Well done, Krzysztof. Super! Thank you very much for the mega cool and interesting interview. What to wish you in the near future?
I think you could wish me that the products that Escola makes, because we have our own e-learning product and our own e-commerce product, that they are successful and that they find a lot of customers.
And this is what we wish you. We keep our fingers crossed, may you succeed. You will definitely succeed because, with the kind of enthusiasm you have in you, I think another success is certain. Thank you.