Friday, February 5, 2010

Harvard, value and quality I

Moral: Wherein we look at a current situation and argue that the best let us down.


How exactly did these people let us down? What are we to do about it?

Well, we can look at the issues. To do so means that we are going to have to go back to the beginning, 1636, and come forward. But, let's set the stage first. Subsequent posts will carry the discussion forward.

--- Foreword:

In an earlier post, while talking about how Adam Smith's ideas (we need a relook) seem to lead to gravy trains and salivation (definition of a politico being, he/she who salivates when a buck is passed beneath the nose), we mentioned Naisbitt's book in which he uses early USA history to characterize some of China's future. Say what?

So, that conceptual view out of Harvard motivated a long-needed look at what went down here (on this side) with the onset of emigres from across the pond coming over. And, where else is there more opinion offered about the foundations of the USA than that related to New England?

Well, folks, it turns out that we have a 'real' example to offer, namely an oft-overlooked Old Planter. But, we'll be getting to that later.

You see, Harvard is right across the river(s) from where the earlier actions took place, and, when one considers the (d)evolution of Harvard (say, as captured here by wiki editors -- see Remarks, 08/13/2011), the institution is archetypal, and much more, in very many ways; some of these are very much apropos to the discussions that will be needed (future posts).

As well, Harvard has stressed elitism (see wiki), at times, which may be natural given its start as God's favorite. Now, is not hubris one characteristic of the elite? And, does not any engineer (yes, as in MIT) worth his or her salt know that nature rules us not the other way around?

We are at a time when the wheels (economically, politically, ...) seem to be spinning. Where is the grip going to come from? Ah, the lessons of New England have the answer to that, as we hope to show (perhaps, we can even use some of that learned from Salem's tribulations to which, by the way, Harvardites contributed early).

Now, to show that we have to deal with finance too, let's continue with Harvard. During the times that elitism took control, the school was rich by any standard. For one thing, 'rich' referred to things dealing with lucre rather than, say, 'rich in spirit' as one would expect given all those Church of England brilliant lights who were involved with the institution's start. Yes, we have to ask, was Harvard a 'city on the hill' that was of unparalleled benefit to humankind?

Well, those things were 150 years ago (see Remarks, 08/13/2011). What about now? Just a couple of years ago, Harvard bragged about their bounty's (what's it called? endowment?) increases from playing financial games and the consequential immense proportions. In fact, they paid some dude outrageous sums for his efforts (ignoring the possible besmirching of the reputation). Then, it wasn't long, and we saw Harvard (and many other schools) crying poor (toxic shockandawe). Who, of a mature mind, would not ask, did not 'you idiots' get what you deserved?

Then, about the same time, the students (bless their hearts) were arguing with the big pockets about the fact that lowly Harvard workers could not sustain themselves decently with their wages.

We could go on but will not. However, consider this: the old guy mentioned above may be more of the 'backbone' of this country than any glib scholar and spewer of words (God, the verbosity in those messages to/fro London - the Church must have selected for this trait in their upper class) that grabs glory and pockets of bucks. It is this backbone, as infrastructure, that we have caused to be 'out-housed' and hollowed out, for the sole benefit of lining the pockets of the few, mostly the elite.

--- Word:

And so, we find that we will have to deal these concepts, namely value, quality, and near-zero.

A couple of days ago, in relation to Toyota's dilemma, a professor (UChi) said that Toyota may have gone too far after value while allowing quality less focus. You see, some think that these have some type of reciprocal relationship.

Ah? Was not the professor talking some notion of 'value' that most likely goes back to the Harvard Business School? How did this happen? That it did is one of the arguments for bringing 'near-zero' into play in discussing how to resolve these issues. You see, 'quality' is of value to all parties concerned, especially when one looks at the commonweal.

Oh, what is the commonweal? Well, those at Harvard ought not have to ask that question. That some may do so ought to give us pause (as ought a whole bunch of things). And, whose 'commonweal' are we to consider?

Well, in the case of Toyota, it would be global. However, it would include all sorts of parties, even pedestrians who may unluckily get in front of an auto that has a stuck accelerator.

Aside: That remark refers to those people who while using their feet increasingly meet up with autos that are running on our streets with no 'mind' in charge, rather we have a zombie sitting where a human ought to be.

Does it not look as if we need to have another go around about value, especially when we consider the various roles and responsibilities involved? That is one intention here, yet the problems of determining value, no matter the type, will remain, especially given that the genie is out of the bottle (in many ways).

Again, pointing to Harvard, the operational stance that we need, with its scientific and technological basis, will require some type of practical support out of the academic framework.

What will this be? Do we know? Good questions, for another day.

There are some major themes to bring up: innumeracy does not equate idiocy (very important), ungrounded genius is more stupid than well-founded normality, ... (it could be a long list, however let's, again, cut it short).

--- Afterword:

As we look at operational issues related to the themes here, one assessment of quality applies to people, their talents, and the potentials. Oh, we know, there are many open issues involved here, yet we will need human talent to control the genie.

Why bring up the old guy who was successful in bringing in, and raising, a family despite the inherent troubles and all of the dangers (natural, social, political)? We expect that we'll be addressing some things like the absence of the lordly prince syndrome among other things. That is, there is a certain effectiveness which accompanies success.

And, running off after abstracted chimeras as we have seen the past decade, or so, is not effective for the commonweal. Perhaps, someone in Harvard has already figured this out. Do I see shades of Cotton Mather here (kidding, of course)?

You see, the first 150 years of Harvard were in support of spreading the Christian faith (within a certain type of framework) across the land and elsewhere (again, see wiki's description). During the 1700s, the class size was such that thousands graduated with an flavored academic experience.

After secularization showed up, perhaps, graduates were more productive, meaning being able to play roles beyond those that are scarce in number. In fact, a point of pride for the institution is the number of graduates who have been recognized (43 Nobel laureates).

Again, one might ask why Harvard? Well, a few reasons were given above. Consider this, though. Is it not out of Harvard Business School that we got the emphasis on securitization, short-term profit focus, globalization/colonization, and more (we can build a real long list - perhaps should)? Oh, business schools, in general, one might say. Well, where is the leadership toward the better (please, not more rational, unless you mean non-insane) side of things that one might expect of Harvard?

So many questions, but we'll persist. Hasta la vista.


06/14/2014 -- Cognitive elitism. Will be getting back to this.

08/15/2013 -- Nice viewpoint. Farce, indeed (chimera). Buyers and sellers are Investors (sometimes). Many elites see their gifts as carte blanche to screw over those less gifted (in essence, a main cause of the continual strife that humans face -- Harvard, at one time, may have had an ethical edge - can it get it back?). Who is the fairest of the elite, so to speak? For sustainability to come about, those of the highest quality need to be of the service mentality (yes, perhaps we could find someone at Harvard Divinity to explain this to the gifted in their neighborhood). Service? Try military without being of the O-series, for instance. But, a national service would allow many types of contributions. Foreigners? Yes, they would have to do it to boot.

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

05/14/2013 -- Still the second most-read article (post). Ought to bring this up to date. As we see with Gauss' view of things, there is a spread around what might be termed the mean. Depending upon the domain, we'll be able to put people into categories according to this way of looking at things (remember, it's not intrinsically based, okay?). If we're looking at accumulations (depth of asset base or a myriad of other ways),    we have to have those on either side of the mean. No one, of the embodied type, wants to know the left most (however, the Creator does). The rightmost? Most aspire to this. Not all (and, Harvard types could talk to this old guy about that -- we'll go back to the beginning and before). Most will only dream of being on that side of things. Those there, mostly, think it's due them (ah, yes). ... Let's stop that and turn the table a little. One characteristic of those enjoying admittance is scoring highly on tests which is indicative of various abilities that we seem to think of as important. Yes, some correlation does come about. Are there failures of those types (yes, indeed, the problem is that many times they bring down a whole bunch of lesser folk into their turmoil - ah, the way of the world?). Too, the testing stresses, many time, numeric abilities. You know, such insights (many times, not wise at all) has led us (mankind, okay?) down perdition-laden paths where we overlay that viewpoint (yes, thanks to Carl Friedrich and many more) on our being (Harvard-ites ought to know of this; I would bet that many do not) to the extent of suffocation and worse. ... So, we're May, 2013. Ben has a 15K DOW as an accomplishment (congratulations are in order). But, he has not much about unwinding (except for thinking), though we've asked for this for years now. Guess what? We're back to the heavy leveraging idiocy.

01/23/2013 -- Things are looking up: Read free or die.

10/16/2011 -- Harvard is 375 this year. That, one might say, will precipitate a closer look, soon.

09/21/2011 -- On Wealth and the CEO MVP.

08/13/2011 -- See the Feb 2010 version of the page in order to see the referenced section which disappeared on 12 May 2010. The missing section (Elitism) had been added on 24 Jan 2010. It consisted of earlier material, but the newer, historic organization made the text stand out. The missing text does relate that huge 'endowment' stature was almost expected.

08/13/2011 -- See Cambridge non-commoners.

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

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

01/19/2011 -- For the most, things are dire, not by necessity.

11/11/2010 -- Harvard II, Ca-ital-sino, Adam again

07/02/2010 -- Anyone at Harvard with the sense of justice like Perelman's?

05/25/2010 -- Who will (or can) lead out of the morass?

02/19/2010 -- As said earlier, there will be coming posts related to this theme. In the meantime, start to look at the New England experience and what it means now. Of course, we already know the themes, such as computation's genie and control of this force, mathematization's diminution of mankind, the necessity for Harvard to step up to its role, and much more.

02/10/2010 -- We could probably use the auto (and recent events) as a way to characterize the concepts of the blog. Of course, we have the value versus quality mis-think as part of the problem. Business Week reports that Toyota was asking suppliers for a 10% cut. Well, such scrimping would have an effect, even if it was only in looks. However, cutting into the life of a system may appear smart but, actually, relies on the same unstable basis as does a lot of economic thinking.

02/09/2010 -- We need to retrain the driving brain.

02/06/2010 -- Let's see, we can start to count the ways. Take term limits, for instance, which definitely are an issue. In some cases, we have 'lordly princes' who get into office and sit there, for their own glorification (and the regal perks). Then, they're more influenced by lobbyists throwing around money (causing salivation) than by their own constituents.

Now, you have to give these people some credit. They do flummox the public into a continued vote. So, to go into that phenomenon is a whole other story.

Of course, these dynamics (independence/freedom versus cronyism - you see, there is probably a better way to characterize this, as it's a framework that adjusts by whatever basis it sits on) go way back, as said above (all the way to Plimouth and Cape Ann). It's natural that Harvard ought to be the center for a more full understanding of these issues (which would mean that money would be of less 'value' to you guys/gals than is truth). Where is such a study?

On a similar note, academic institutions breed something similar. How? What is there for support of the autodidact, in the sense of not being mentored? Of course, in this case, as we see in general, we have to maintain (after first attaining) a balance between the individual and the public good. How would an autodidact be rated? Institutions have their credentials and certifications. Why bring it up?

The whole notion of innumeracy not being idiocy needs to be looked at. Of course, Harvard, via Howard Gardner, may have already started to address these issues (and their conflicts).

Too, no one but John Galt is mentor-less. The issue is more, who does one select as mentor? For most people, parents are generally the first. There are other involuntary, for the autodidact, mentors throughout one's life. The problem is, as we see from early New England, can a social setting allow autodidacts? Actually, we have to ask if allowing autodidacts is, by necessity, disruptive?

The thing of the web is that expression can be offered, within legal limits, that is not under some mark of approval (imprimatur).

Modified: 06/14/2014

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