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February 1, 2005

The American Man in Europe: Mending Fences, the U.S. Farmer, Iraq and the Rise of China

By Kathryn M. Welling

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Dean LeBaron, techie, quant, futurist, international investor, author. A full introduction of the founder of Batterymarch Financial, would fill pages. He's retired, but still very active. Dean splits his time now between a lake home in Switzerland and one in New Hampshire, where I caught up with him recently only a couple weeks after his return from Europe. Attitudes towards the U.S. there,and in the rest of world were still very much on Dean's mind. His analysis, sobering.

It must be hard to leave Switzerland, just as the skiing season begins-Wow, it's great weather there. I like Switzerland very much. I've been going there for 15-20 years and I'm officially a Swiss resident - mostly because I'm there six months a year and so should be paying for their services, which I do. But you see the world differently, or at least I do, from Europe than you do from here. And that's always good. I try to read the European newspapers even when I am here, which you can of course now do online. Switzerland is a good place and it works.

You obviously started going there well before you "retired." I'll use quotes because even a quick glance at provides ample evidence that you are probably as busy now as you ever were at Batterymarch.

That's right. But it is different now; all my time is my own.

I'm envious. Your Website indicates you're still steeped in everything from the future of finance to explorations of complexity.

The computer has evolved into a facility that makes so much knowledge available at a click and a way for so many people to stay in touch. About 25,000 people come to my Website every week - and most of them are people I've known

You've never lost your enthusiasm for computers-

Not at all. It's wonderful that Google is formalizing this knowledge exchange by putting a library online. Consider this: The goal of the new Alexandria Bibliotheca in Egypt is to have 8 million volumes. But that collection will pale in comparison to what is being contributed to Google. The University of Michigan is contributing six million volumes of its own. I think Google will have 80 million or more volumes online and available for anyone at their home. That is fantastic. It's as fantastic as the fact that MIT has each of its courses available online for free.

I detect that there are any number of issues on which you feel the U.S. is losing its way.