From Belgrade to Barcelona

PETAR RADOJKOVIC Every Friday afternoon on El Punt Avui TV Nicole has a chat with an English-speaking expat. Here is her interview with Serbian computer architect, Petar Radojkovic.
You are from Serbia and speak perfect English. How did Barcelona become your home?
It's funny, when I think of that question. It only became my home when I made my family here. But how I ended up in Barcelona... It was the last year of my degree in Belgrade, and a friend asked me what I was going to do next. I thought I would just get a job but he suggested a Masters in Barcelona! He said a research centre there was looking for people and that I should send my CV. So, a couple of days later I sent in my CV.
Had you been here before?
No. I had studied for two months in Spain before but had never visited Barcelona. But the mentality of people is more or less the same.
So you sent your CV…
Yes, I sent my CV, and after a few days with no reply I thought they can't be interested. Then I got an email from the HR department of the company with me copied in, that was titled 'help Petar come to Barcelona'.
So they liked your CV!
Well, I thought: “Right, I will go for it, I have nothing to lose and I can always come back.” Which is not true.
You can't? I've moved around and thought the same as you: I can always go back.
A friend of mine told me an amazing thing. He said: “You will hate yourself less if you try and fail than if you don't even try. And you will always wonder, 'what if'.”
Well, it worked out for the best: you have a family here. Did you meet your wife here?
My wife was the HR who sent the email!
No way! The one who emailed asking for help to get you to Barcelona?!
So she hunted you down!
Yes, that was her plan from the beginning! I remember thinking the HR department was full of older, angry ladies! Then I was waiting for her on the first day, she was late to work. When she walked in and I was introduced, I thought: “Oh my goodness, this is her! I need to be more funny in my emails!”
Was it love at first sight?
I think so, the relationship moved fast!
When you came to Barcelona you didn't speak Catalan or Spanish but you had a good level of English?
I started to learn Catalan in Belgrade after I sent my CV. I had a native Catalan professor; he was so passionate, he was great. I loved it. Then when I came here it was all a bit of a mess as they were teaching Catalan in Spanish. But I didn't speak Spanish! I really tried but it was a waste of time. At some point I decided to switch to Spanish, I find it easier. I don't want to insult anyone...
How often do you go back to visit your family in Serbia?
Twice a year, once in the summer and Christmas or New Year. They come over here, too.
What are the differences between Barcelona and Belrade?
There are a lot of similarities. There are similarities everywhere that we just don't see. Basic things: we are people, we are born, we love, we cry, we hate our work, we love our work. The climate is continental in Belgrade, people from Spain would probably hate winter in Belgrade. It is cold and dark. I love winter in Barcelona. This is maybe the biggest difference.
You describe yourself as a Computer Architect. What does a computer architect do?
The same thing as designing your house but with computers. It is our job to understand which kind of processor you will need, which kind of computational engine, which kind of memory, which kind of interconnection.
Does a super computer affect our lives today in ways that we have no idea of?
Well, maybe the first thing is to ask, what is a super computer? The joke in my family is that I already have a super computer: I have a MAC, and it is super! Super computers are a lot of clusters, meaning a lot of them working together. There is something called Laplace demon. If you know a system, imagine your body. If you know all the laws about how this system works and if you know just one point in time then you can see, you can compute the state of this system at any point. So you can see the future, you are able to predict things, you can see the past. And the thing is we do know a lot about the world around us, and the only thing that we need is tremendous computing power to crunch those numbers. So supercomputers really try to predict something. We are talking about chemistry, we talk about weather and weather forecasts; this is what those computers do.
What is your view on artifical intelligence? Is it a reality?
It is; there are books about it. The computer beat someone at chess a long time ago. So it does exist.
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