Monday, February 28, 2011

Made-off, again

Moral: Bernie has some lessons for us.

What are these? Well, there are several that Bernie wants us to know.

To recap, this post (By necessity, Ponzi) is dated 12/15/2008. We even proposed that Made-offbe used rather than the name of that guy from the olden times.

Remember those times, a couple of years ago? Even after the new day, things appeared to be dire. They still are, for most folks, despite the shining chimera.

We'll have to re-look at this since our monetary basis is a 'gab standard' that is weak. How can we make it real? Not an easy subject, folks. The motivation? Look at Minsky's (7oops7, Truth Engineering, FEDaerated) take on the matter.

As further refreshing of memory, here is 'Made-off' in the three blogs.
Bernie exploited our unstable computational ontology, meaning, of course, more than just the platforms, technology, and mathematics. He was able to 'pull the wool' for a very long time. And, he did this on very smart people.

Much to learn there. Three articles from the WSJ site.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

People matters

Moral: Wherein we continue our divergence from the slow trek for a few reflections.


People do matter (but, too, what is the matter with people?): basics thereof, issues thereon, ...


Won't mention names, but there is some controversy about a large organization (see 'The Apostate' - well-known publication, 02/14/2011) that apparently enslaves some types of people while playing up to the 'talking heads', 'writers', 'role players', and such (called celebrities) as if they are a special breed.

No doubt, some of these roles are important. But, even engineering is not the end-all; science can be stale; service can stink; and so forth.

In short, any type of work ought to be respected, even that in which King Alan partook.


Ever notice? Capitalists, and market types, like to talk the 'law' (yes, I saw it referenced that way -- it's not even a theory, folks) of comparative advantage as an important idea. And, we all know how this concept condones the races to the bottom (of the moral pit). As if, those who can colonize are the breed to which the smart (ought to) aspire (the question is still open about whether a big wallet denotes being smarter).


We'll add something about this to the on-going list of preferred characteristics (technology, knowledge, imperatives) for capitalism (if we can continue to use that term without barfing). That is, people are (ought to be) at the core of any free, and democratic, economy and its supporting society.

The discussion goes something like this:
  • If you assume equally capable players (there are many ways to address this, but think specialization in medicine -- holding off, for the moment, arguments about manual dexterity that may influence a decision to be a surgeon, then we have choices about how one's energies are spent related more to preference than any comparative ability. In fact, if someone wants to garden their own vegies, more power to them.
  • So, the issue becomes who wants to do what. In fact, some type of enlightened workplace would allow bidding, or whatever, where needed. Otherwise, people could just choose from some list of things that need to be done, or they could just do as they like (as long as there is some benefit, except during downtime -- this relates to the old notion of the idle rich).
  • As an aside, thoughtful companies spend some effort in getting people to work on projects that they want. This type of thing is possible within the framework of providing value. Yes. There is a spectrum from those doing mindless tasks (motion, etc.) under a relentless clock and beneath a whip-bearing overseer (bully, essentially -- think Chaplin's hapless guy) all the way to those whose freedom in the work environment seems to be unbounded (think IEEEs yearly survey of 'cool' jobs - or, how's this? what Harvard grads expect - by the way, is that a type of entitlement?). In the former, we can find the mostly male jobs where the workers put their lives at danger many times or the mostly female tedious small work as we see with building circuit boards. There are many examples. In the latter, look at an article (recent) about women taking over the workplace (oh yes, desk types -- who is going to do the hard, manual labor - do I need to remind everyone about where that which is on their plate came from and who did the actual work? -- twas not the middle people).
  • That spectrum of job needs does make use of differing abilities (which says something about the assumption of the first bullet) in people. Yet, working and slaving are too different things. Show us that this is not true: off-shoring allows exploitation of lower-waged workers who have few hopes of workplace improvements (stories abound around this theme). Have we not also seen that several iterations of this have been witnessed in the past 1/2 century and that jobs have moved between countries in a never-ending (seemingly) quest for more exploitees? That was because of comparative advantage?
  • Given that we could have universal, implying mutual, respect for those who labor (see classism's hold on the monied), all tasks fulfilled would reap some reward, even rewards of the psyche-enhancing type (oh, not talking commune here, rather the ultimate 'green' approach that would preserve life and the planet and more). And, service? All of the youngsters would spend some time doing something useful for the commonweal.
  • The current thrust toward entrepreneurship is partly on course (too much emphasis on hitting the big time and bucks, one might think). Yet, basic science cannot use that. Nor can engineering (think the costs of developing a new plane, for instance). No, it belongs to that realm (nebulous, and having less value than many believe) of finance, computing, and such that are now exhibiting way out-of-proportion gains (assuming that the term applies).
  • ...
Incomplete list, by design. As, discussing an economic model of n-dimensional folks (way beyond mere rational agents) in a multi-colored world will be formidable, indeed. Yet, it's worth the effort to get the notion some attention.


04/04/2011 -- Boston U's opinion.

02/27/2011 -- Rick Bookstaber's thoughts on the premise of rational agency.

Modified: 04/04/2011

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Profits are what? Or, Gravy train II

Moral: Wherein we diverge, a minute, from the slow trek toward a position that is reasonable, and well-founded (knowledge, imperatives) with regard to that which everyone would hope is fair and just, and that honors Adam Smith and other thinkers; we pause just to ponder a few things.


Such as profits and other illusions associated with the cap-ital-sino and its gravy trains.

Why ask about profits? A recent Vanity Fair article discussed how the Irish are paying more through the nose than are the Americans (though, it is debatable when you think of the largess of Big Ben to business (hey, guy, some of the supposed little folk are as capable and mindful than are those who are milking the land of honey -- one difference, 'tude!) and of the mountains of debt being pushed out to the future generations), for the dumb (outright stupid, okay?) actions of those who were handling the monies (and who have no sense of 'on the behalf of"). Yet, the Irish are not complaining about their huge burden or about their stalled economy. Well, in the article, some old banker is asking a hot-shot about expected returns which were in the double digits (of course, before the fall and bail out). The old guy said, how is that? Meaning, of course, that long-term, sustained returns for a good bank would be not far above 5%.

Anything above is suspicious, non-sustainable, and downright anti-human. Yes.


Gosh, any saver can tell you what it is like to be sacked, thanks to Big Ben.


What are reasonable profits? Mind you, before you answer, many occurrences of large returns may be accompanied by luck (hence, not repeatable), malfeasance (Made-off is only one example, cooking the books has many connotations), and other deleterious characteristics. Show me an honest firm, working within the constraints of near-zero, who has sustainable success beyond a mere generation or two?


But, other things go into obtaining profits, such as outhousing and the like. Too, we have pushing the boundaries of cutting (see Toyota, as an example) so as to reap returns. Many times, such reduction methods can push toward a serious reduction in quality.

Why is this of interest? Well, a recent experience, involving a Sealy sham, brings this to the fore. Does diminishing of repute mean anything? At some point, one would think that good will would get chewed down to the bone.

It seems that jumping from a defensive mode to that of attacking the consumer is the preferred approach. In a sense, turn a blind eye to problems. At the same time, institute insurmountable obstacles for rectifying failed items.


But, as we know, generally, out-sized returns happen daily. From where I sit, many of these are being pulled in by those who run things. Is that not crappy or what? Gravy train? Or, those involved have some special situation (as in, the global elite) that allows the money to flow like a huge river.

Perhaps, some type of balance is obtained if those with the dough turn around and offer a benefactor's hand to the less fortunate. I wonder if Buffett could take time to discuss, and look at, a sustainable economy (I don't mean more for your pocket, Warren)?


It is obvious that some type of insight goes along with the luck. Can that be taught? Well, plenty seem to think so (there are many buying the training, many offering the training). Too, the reward may go to the risk, yet there is risk and risk. What we have seen, more than necessary, is risk spilling over to others, of late. In fact, what risks can be associated with our mortgaging the financial lives of those to come?


07/22/2015 -- Some of these are, now, poster boys.

05/17/2011 -- Golden sacks (leftmost mug of the rogue table), by Rolling Stone and Daily Ticker.

04/20/2011 -- Simple living (see Remarks 04/15/2011 - game theory), as opposed to greediness.

03/23/2011 -- The hopes spring, again, forgetting, of course, near-zero, all because of M&M. See the real story. But, Big Ben ought to know better.

03/16/2011 -- On the rise of the professional politician (will there ever be the citizen polico? that is, those who do not salivate when a buck is passed beneath the nose) toward robber barony. The M & Ms are apropos. As well, need to bring in Schervish's viewpoint.

02/24/2011 -- People matter.

02/16/2011 -- Ah, yes. The morning's paper has a couple of stories that we'll have to expand upon. We did miss the 'nationalization' chance two years ago. Too bad.
  • NYSE's moves -- as the thing says, computers run (rule) the realm. Which means, essentially, the fat cats, and their techie wizards, collect their fees (huge sucking machine).
  • Golden sacks -- speaking of fees, and windfalls (Gravy train?).
  • Middle class -- disappearing act
Both of these are only a small sampling of many things that ought to be looked at.

Modified: 07/22/2015

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The real basis for capitalism, III -- technology

Moral: Wherein we continue the slow trek toward a position that is reasonable, and well-founded (knowledge, imperatives) with regard to that which everyone would hope is fair and just; we do this in order to honor Adam Smith and other thinkers.


As with knowledge, there is much to look at with respect to technology and economics. Going from an assumption that capitalism and democratic principles have an almost visceral connection to human nature will give a very broad basis indeed for us to work with.


However, for starters, let's look at a list, albeit seemingly disjoint, of topics of interest to the topic.
  • We all know what has happened since the US DOD let TCP/IP loose upon the world in terms of an explosive growth toward ubiquitous communicating and computing, with one recently emergent player (relatively - in time) now having hundreds of millions of registered users. The success of that realm, related to virtual spaces, helped spawn outhousing, new ideas, idiotic notions that lead toward zombies (those to whom cyberspace is more real than their own butts), and much more. That metric properties would be interesting ought to have been foreseen. Such numbered looks have a life of their own, somewhat. But, they can be more fun than that hype which the market information (these tell us little about value, see Remarks 02/01/2011) systems spin out daily. Even with its huge user base, Facebook is not number one. Yet. Right now, Google accounts for several Top Sites entries.
  • Now, we have users, and we have developers. Many in the former camp (for the latter, see next bullet) have no clue about what is going on under the hood; nor, is there any apparent way to generate any interest (surmised by usage patterns of the many). Yet, 'code as reality' (and this is from an old guy here who has done computational mathematics for a few decades upon the ever-changing technical frameworks that evolved during the period) suggests that some modicum of interest will be required (truth engineering). That is why educational efforts will (ought to) be of interest. Phil Greenspun's report on his database class is an example. Besides the technical issues, Phil considers related matters, such as the NoSQL concept (mentioned solely for the fact that no technical topic is without some type of controversy - ah, human nature, again). And, Phil's ideas about economic problems will be used to add to the discussion.
  • Now, for the second class (developers), not all are out for finding the 'killer app' or for oodles of monies (frankly, simple living, mentioned here before, needs some attention), though effort ought to have some reward that is measurable renumeration'ly. So, who are developers? At one time, they were nerds mainly. That has changed (and can further). So, we have many types. But, let's take Quants (please do) who are they who help 'fat cat' old guys screw the public (yes, let's discuss that, you guys and gals). Now, this old guy has taken some comfort in the fact that undecidable (via the difficulties related to entailment in the real world) walls are not possible to climb. But, from time to time, there are steps forward, such as Karmarkar's work. Yet, those with huge problems still had to be creative in trying to find efficient methods. Then, there is the SOS approach that looks to overcome a whole lot of problems involved with complexity. Of course, the wall hasn't tumbled (unlike the one at Berlin, this is wall is not of human origin). But, hopefully, this work can be used to improve the outlook for both the user and the developer.
  • Using Phil again, and applying some metaphoric link twixt planes and economies, we have this argument related to software flying planes. In case you haven't heard, boys and girls, the capitalists want to have lights out everywhere (factory, cockpit, ...). What are we mere humans to do to support ourselves, be consumers, have a family, etc.? Or, to put it bluntly, the economy is really our's, not their's. Anyway, planes fly by control. People usually make the decisions about those controls in order to effect some purpose. And, planes, while being a system of complicated pieces and not for the novice (lots of training and practice required), are less complex than an economy (or even pieces of an economy). We try to control things economic; how well does that work, Big Ben? Too, though, with things economic we have seat-of-the-pants operations (or is it fly-by-night?) to complicate matters. Where can there be any scientific, and engineering, effort (consider this rhetorical, but please try to think about sandboxes and their necessity)?
  • ... 

07/30/2013 -- The future: economy and technology.

06/11/2013 -- CDOs and tranching, once again.

06/05/2013 -- Singularities (understanding how and why these arise, how to manage) will be of extreme importance. Hint: related to computability but concerned more with what might be termed "vertigo" (subtle, yet not).

05/28/2013 -- Discussion will continue under cosmology of business. This has been a popular post, of late. It is an open subject that will be looked at again and again.  

11/15/2012 -- SumZero, and more.

04/20/2011 -- Simple living (see Remarks 04/15/2011 - game theory), as opposed to greediness.

04/03/2011 -- Need to look at some background. Too, tranche and trash.

02/26/2011 -- Technology will be important. But, for the benefit of people.

02/01/2011 -- Note, we'll get to comparative advantage (See Comments at Phil's post on Ford's giddy investors), to boot. Here is an on-line book about theory of trade.

Modified: 07/30/2013