Like all poor countries, Brazil's lack of money and scientific culture severely limit its ability to make technological and scientific advances.
While this sounds obvious, Ciro Santilli has felt it first hand since he moved from Brazil to Europe, and it is just shocking.
In the city of Santos for example, despite being a dream place from the natural point of view, it would be completely impossible to achieve any deep tech technical advance that impacts the world. In Europe however, there are several several places where this can happen.
This is obviously the most efficient investment any non-English speaking country must do, because you need to know English to be able to learn from rich countries and innovate.
As Ciro has rambled infinitely at Section "University", the school system is hugely inefficient and a waste of time for everyone involved.
Instead, just use Section "" instead.
Poor countries don't have a lot of money.
Therefore, you have to pick a few key the next big thing deep tech bets, and invest on those enough.
These have to be few, because your country is poor, and so you can't invest on everything.
Therefore, the bets have to be well selected, because it is useless to make several insufficient investments: you have to pick a few ones, and put enough time and money into each one of them for them to stand any chance. These bets should be made and reevaluated on 5/10 year horizons.
The key things that you have to select are:
  • which poor students you will bet on educating. Since you can't give amazing education to everyone, you have to select the most promising poor students somehow, and give those free amazing learning conditions: free gifted education
  • which ares to focus on. Ciro believes that molecular biology technologies and quantum computing would be good bets. Focusing on the previous next big things, e.g. classic computers, is always a losing bet on average
And then you only tax those companies heavily when the start to bring in real money. These are startups remember! You only need 5 unicorns a year to call it a success. And countries should not be greedy and invest through equity, but rather recoup their investment through taxation alone.
Ciro's second removed uncle, who was a physicist at the University of Campinas, one of the best universities in the country, told him an anecdote. He had moved from fusion energy research to solar cell research. At some point, there was a research lab that needed 10 million to buy a machinery critical for their experiment. They asked and asked, and finally the government gave them only 2 million. So in the end they spent those 2 million in random ways, but of course did not achieve their research goal and no money came out of it.
He also explained how as a result of the insufficient investments, he felt clearly that some of the semiconductor production facilities related to solar power he saw simply were not able to control the production process adequately to produce consistent silicon. As a result, everything failed sooner or later as people found more and more bugs that they did not have the time to solve.
Another key investment is enticing back experienced exchange-students who have learnt new techniques to be heads of laboratory/founders to back in your country.
A fantastic initiative from Brazil for example is BRASA, which aims to put together Brazilian exchange students to make a difference back in Brazil.
Do not try to forbid external companies from selling in your country. Instead, fund your own companies to be able to fight the external market off. And if they can't, let them die and pick a different bet. Video "How Taiwan Created TSMC by Asianometry (2020)" has a good mention. Protectionism is something that Brazil notably tried to do, and look at what it led, not a single international success.
Many of the student exchange programs Ciro witnessed in the 2010's in Brazil were inefficient because they were requiring students to come back immediately after university or PhD in fear that those students will never come back.
This is useless, because you don't learn anything unique during university: the truly valuable knowledge is obtained when you work for several years as a postdoc in a world class research laboratory or as an engineer in a world class company.
Therefore, Brazil should learn from the Chinese exchange system, which lets students go do whatever they want, and once they are Gods of the domain, entices them back with great positions and pay as heads of laboratory back in China. Just don't do fraudulent stuff like this like China did, or else you will get a bad rep.
To help this university collaboration happen, we should create communication channels between exchange students and professors of the origin country who work on the same domain so that they can discuss the subject. For example, once Ciro Santilli wanted to contact some of his former teachers at the University of São Paulo about "advanced" topics he had been exposed to as part of his job. However, they didn't even reply to his email, and Ciro didn't know who else to contact. This must never happen. We need a way to informally contact several professors of a given domain informally, to increase the chances that at least one might be interested. It is pointless to just let students loose abroad and hope that they will bring things back to their home country: a more cohesive infrastructure is needed to nurture that.
There is basically one sane way to achieve these goals: the exchange programs must be organized at a national level, not in an ad-hoc per-university manner.
Another good idea is to have taxes that depend on your nationality alone and which only start collecting when you reach a very high amount of net worth. So e.g. if someone leaves the country and makes it big, then and only then does the Government starts clawing back the benefits of its investments in the person. Furthermore, such taxes could be reduced if the person brings some of the business back to the country. And mandatory taxes should be charged if the person decides to drop their nationality at some point.
The above points would also be greatly eased by having a national-level exchange program. E.g. in Brazil in the 2010's which Ciro experience, every university had different terms and conditions, which made everything a mess. Exchange programs must be treated as a unified federal policy.
Ciro actually had to return for just six months from the École Polytechnique to the University of São Paulo, to finish a course he had only done the generic Maths/Physics introduction to. Students from other Brazilian universities were forced to return for up to 3 years even to get their Brazilian diplomas! Ciro was lucky that his teachers understood the situation, and allowed him to develop online learning projects instead of his supposed control engineering projects, which hopefully will have led to changing the world with motivation one day. And for this, Ciro is eternally thankful.
This shows the complete and total lack of any Brazilian strategy to send its students abroad to really learn valuable things and then come back. There is no strategy at all. Things have just reached an equilibrium point of bureaucracies, Brazilian universities trying to bring students back to validate useless diploma pieces of paper, and foreign universities no caring about that, and just wanting the students to say abroad forever.
Ciro was once talking about why so few Brazilians go study abroad compared to the Chinese. Besides the likely true "there are a lot of Chinese" argument, his wife made another: good point Brazil is not so bad to live in, because you have good food and freedom, while China only has good food.
But Ciro still fells bad that so few of his University of São Paulo colleagues, who learnt automation and control engineering, are doing deep tech. Nor physical engineering. They have all basically become computer people like Ciro.
This is not their fault. They basically don't have a choice: all physical science and technology is done in rich countries.
Yes, someone has to implement the newest tech to improve local country efficiency in projects that will never spread abroad.
But who will be left then for the next big thing problems that would really make Brazil richer? 6 out of 30 person class ended up working on a gaming company at one point, even though they were not crazy passionate about the field! What could possibly be a worst investment for society?
This lack of technological innovation can also be clearly seen when you research investment options available in Brazil. Huge emphasis is put on fixed return financial products (often inflation adjusted) linked to base non-tech business such as housing market and agriculture. And when you look to the returns of the stock market on s&P 500-analogue backed exchange-traded funds, they do not seem obviously better, especially considering inflation and taxation benefits that exist for some of the other investment possibilities.
When the companies of a country are not clearly the best investment, you know that something is wrong. They are highly specialized money making machines, remember! And housing and agriculture are not such innovative markets where people can hugely influence efficiency.
When it is best to send students is a good question. Undergrad studies could be easily reproduced in poor countries if they had any intelligence at all, since even in rich countries laboratory usage is always limited. Masters and PhD are generally more valuable moments to send people out. The question is if the students will actually have a fighting chance without having been out, in particular in terms of language skills. Ciro feels that Masters are a good focus point for entry, as that is where PhD links are more actively done.
In 2020 Brazil for example, you are not allowed in theory to obtain a double nationality which you were not allowed to have as a birth right.
This means that Brazilian students e.g. in France, many of whom could easily obtain the French citizenship had to either chose between:
  • giving up their Brazilian citizenship. Who the fuck would do that? Brazilians love their country despite all!
  • not getting French citizenship. This meant in France having to come 6 AM once a year to some police station on some suburbia to stamp a piece of paper, plus having your VISA completely dependant on your employer for several years until you could obtain a permanent VISA, making it very hard to change jobs, and putting you in a constantly precarious position
  • keeping both citizenships, ignoring Brazilian law, which is extremely unlikely to sue you anyways for this bullshit law, and just hope for the best
Can you guess which option Brazilian students would usually pick?
As a poor country, you have to allow people to obtain multiple citizenship. Students are not going to go back because they don't have the foreign citizenship. They are just going to have to ensure shittier jobs for a few years, thus diminishing the chances that they will actually lean anything useful to bring back to your country later on.

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