Thursday, September 18, 2008

Parallel Worlds

Coming back to Germany always feels weird. These first some days I will turn around after people thinking “Hey, they speak German!” I search for German translations of English words waving my arms wildly, I forget to order water with dinner, and make right turns at red. Speaking of driving, how can somebody possibly make sense of this mess of street signs? Heck, I've grown up here and don't know what to do. Worse, why do streets constantly end unexpectedly, or turn into one-way-streets, and either way just never get you to where you wanted to go? So much about charming old city centers. I don't even want to start with the Autobahn. These Germans, they drive like nuts, change three lanes without a signal to make the next exit.

I step into a plane and swap my circle of friends. Yesterday I was busy organizing a conference, today I am searching for a wedding present. Yesterday I was cursing the late-summer humidity in Ontario, today night temperatures drop to freezing point. Yesterday I was trying to get a grip on cosmological perturbation theory, today I’m sitting in a group of people discussing the mortage crisis.

The workshop I’m currently at - excuse me, the “symposium” - is a different world. I’m surrounded by men in suits and a noticeable fraction of elegantly dressed women. We all have name signs on our tables, and more than half of the speakers read their talk off notes, sitting on the front table. One has to get used to the melody being different from talking freely, but it is much easier to follow the line of thought than trying to follow somebody stuttering incoherently his way though a powerpoint presentation. Nobody in the whole room uses a laptop during other people’s talk. I make a weak attempt to work on a draft while somebody speaks about the similarity of Gorillas to CEOs and feel like my typing hangs in the air like I’d just burped. So that’s why blogging is slow. One can only burp so much among suits.

A British guy in his sixties named Charles tells me he will mention the LHC in his talk and asks what Bose’s first name is. “I’m bad with names,” I say, “I’d ask Google.” – “Who?” Somebody else inquires what I do if I’m not working, and I mention I’m writing a blog - “What?” The guy next to me works on the emergence of musical trends, specifically that of the Hip-Hop wave in Germany and Italy and asks what I’m working on. Good question I think. Cosmology is what I say. He finds that complicated. I am sure the emergence of music trends is far more complicated than Einstein’s Field Equations. I think I’m the only one here with a background in the natural sciences.

“Learning Organizations” is the topic of this workshop – excuse me, symposium. I know nobody of the speakers, I know hardly anything about the topics, but it seems most of the other participants don’t know each other as well, except for the locals from Heidelberg. I would really like to know how can we adapt the institutions that we use to organize our lives to the challenges we are presently facing and that will become more pressing in the future. How can we upgrade our outdated systems so we can make fast decisions about complex problems when we have no time for trial and error? How can we efficiently incorporate expert’s knowledge? How can we break out of our fixed organizational structures and enable a more flexible handling of the way we reach decisions and implement them? I am hoping to learn something about that here.

So far, I am not sure admittedly what to make out of all these talks. I miss the lingo I am used to. Everybody seems to have a different perspective and a different point of view, and everybody is politely and nicely contributing and trying to find similarities. But what I’d want to hear is: hypothesis, model, assumptions, data, test, limits, uncertainties, conclusion. I’m wondering where the applications are, I’m wondering where the suggestions are, I’m wondering where the vision is. What I hear is how Gorillas are like CEOs. Here is why: A male Gorilla subject of aggression of a female Gorilla can’t afford to hit the female because he would lose his status in the group. Instead he will direct his aggression at the next male Gorilla in his vicinity, a risk for his status as well, because he will have to win the fight or again lose his status in the group. What that has to do with CEOs? It’s supposed to tell us something: emotions come before strategical thinking. It can result in an instant reaction with a random target and a suboptimal outcome.

The topic of the mortgage crisis keeps coming back. I don’t know nothing about economy so I should probably keep my mouth shut. Mpfgprrrrrrpfh. Ah. Okay, I tried. So here is my crisis explanation: Lacking negative feedback upon the emergence of nonsense. Too many people according to whose self-interests it made sense to carry on with what macroscopically didn’t make any sense at all. Too many people who believed they'd be smarter than all the other people. But most importantly: no place where the knowledge of that nonsense could have been directed to, lacking negative feedback, growing bubbles that had to burst. That combined with the different timescales the economical and the political system work on. The former enormously fast, and the latter lagging behind.

I offer this explanation when the discussion comes up again. A women remarks it’s more a question of power than of timescales. I can’t agree on that: There were many people who were not surprised by this crisis at all, some warned of it before, without effect. Had there been enough time, reason would have prevailed. Hey, Science is a Worldview! But so we had a system that wasn’t able to learn fast enough, institutions that were not able to adapt. And no, I don’t think that’s the end of the story.

Coffee break. You know what’s really scary is that people listen to me.

63 comments:

Uncle Al said...

How can we upgrade our outdated systems so we can make fast decisions about complex problems when we have no time for trial and error?

Competence plus objective reality. (US honored in the breach.) If yer stooopid without a computer yer still stooopid with one - but faster (Wincrap Vista is slow stooopidity). Centralized complex decisions all fail. It is mathematically inescapable.

Matt said...

Funny you're saying that, I'm also trying to get a grip on cosmological perturbation theory ... are you reading a book or a review on the arxiv ?

Arun said...

Parallel worlds, but in a non-Euclidean universe :)

Amitabha said...

They ought to put your name in the list of participants.

Anonymous said...

What I hear is how Gorillas are like COEs.

Did you mean CEO's? :)

Best

Bee said...

Hi Anonymous,

Thanks, I've fixed the typo. Best,

B.

Bee said...

Hi Amitaba,

I think the people named on the website are only the speakers and I'm not giving a talk. There are many more people here than the ones on that list. Best,

B.

Bee said...

Hi Uncle,

I tend to agree with you. Problem is that centralizing complex decisions often seems to happen when time runs out. What do you suggest?

Best,

B.

Bee said...

Hi Matt,

I first tried some reviews. However, the only one I've so far looked at is astro-ph/0101009 which I didn't find too useful. If you have any recommendations, let me know. I'd need a hands-on approach, if I have a modification of LCDM how do I make contact with data and how much of that can be done analytically? Best,

B.

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

“It’s supposed to tell us something: emotions come before strategical thinking. It can result in an instant reaction with a random target and a suboptimal outcome.”

Although I’m not a CEO, I must admit that I and many who are decision makers are similarly vulnerable. I would be interested if there was any solution offered, beyond the obvious of incorporating more self control, as to counting to ten or some such thing? Was there any thought as to the engineering of the overall environment and or culture, as to what that might be or how it might be instituted? It is one thing to be able to detect problems, yet much more difficult to find solutions? I’ve often wondered how fruitful such symposiums are in this regard.

Best,

Phil

Matt said...

Hi Bee,

Thanks for the link.

I've been reading : http://arxiv.org/abs/hep-th/0406011
but I doubt this could help you for what you want, you might have a quick look anyway (if you haven't already).

"if I have a modification of LCDM how do I make contact with data and how much of that can be done analytically?"

Why, afraid of the numerical work ?

Bee said...

Hi Matt,

Thanks, that one is on my reading list as well. It's hard these days to do numerical work from scratch that's able to compete with what's already out there. I'm not particularly keen on spending time with that. Either way, the structure formation simulation needs initial data from perturbation theory... Best,

B.

Bee said...

Hi Phil,

Yes, I'm wondering the same thing. So far there's much talk, most of it incredibly vague, and no solutions offered whatsoever. I'm kind of sorry that this sounds fairly negative because it's really a nice and interesting crowd of people, but that's exactly one of the problems I have with most of this kind of 'research': it's nonconstructive. I don't want somebody to explain it's bad if CEOs can't see farther than the tip of their nose, I want then to find a way to improve the situation and then go out and do it. Being here, I can't even remotely detect anything that goes into this direction. Best,

B.

Anonymous said...

bee wrote:
"if I have a modification of LCDM how do I make contact with data..."

Have you tried CMBFAST? See:

http://cfa-www.harvard.edu
/~mzaldarr/CMBFAST/cmbfast.html

Andrei Kirilyuk said...

Bee said: “I would really like to know how can we adapt the institutions that we use to organize our lives to the challenges we are presently facing and that will become more pressing in the future. How can we upgrade our outdated systems so we can make fast decisions about complex problems when we have no time for trial and error?... So far, I am not sure admittedly what to make out of all these talks.”

So according to this and other descriptions in your post neither you, nor other participants of this luxurious conference have no idea of how a real change for better of “our outdated systems” could be initiated, even though that is the unique purpose of the conference. After which the same “scientists” look for economical crisis reasons finding that major actors acted irresponsibly, despite multiple warnings of more responsible ones. But what about your own activity revealing the same kind of irresponsible, parasitic behaviour (negative efficiency), despite smaller but clearly heard voices warning that our knowledge content and organisation is in crisis and enters into yet bigger catastrophe? Rigorously specified answers to those your “difficult” questions exist, but they can naturally be obtained only within a qualitatively extended kind of knowledge, rather than by idle talk multiplication. Reliable analysis and governance of complex systems needs consistent and realistic, provably universal description of their unreduced complexity, what else? And if over-simplified “models” of official science cannot provide that, they should be replaced by another, suitably extended approach and kind of knowledge. Unfortunately, it's not such kind of knowledge that can profit from sufficient support, conferences and application possibilities, but those idle talk groups that cannot propose anything constructive at all, even in theory! How can one avoid growing “crises” in a world dominated by such “intellectual elites”? Let's try to be honest and critical in our estimates of our own results and not only those of other people in different activities, the more so that much more efficient kind of knowledge now indeed emerges as the only real possibility to avoid catastrophic problems and have sustainable progress instead.

Fortunately, however, there is an emerging global community in science that has properly, responsibly understood the situation and now actively looks for a practical possibility of its result development and application to real problem solution, provably efficient solution. Outdated science is as useless here as outdated governance systems providing generous support for its provably inefficient activity. An essential upgrade of knowledge is needed and we can provide it, except that practically all the resources and attention are consumed by that outdated, negative-efficiency “science”. In any case, all interested and suitably oriented researchers and efficient knowledge supporters are invited to join the forthcoming conference and related activity within such “science of change” (necessary information and contacts can be found on those pages). Here we intend to provide answers to those “difficult” questions and solve real, fundamental and practical problems, not only play on words, useless abstractions and give empty promises.

Bee said: “That combined with the different timescales the economical and the political system work on. The former enormously fast, and the latter lagging behind.”

Sorry, meine Dame, but that is obviously wrong. Only “revolutionary” political changes need longer time, usual political decisions are as fast as efforts needed to gather a few people. By contrast, market economy is necessarily slower because it involves a big number of interacting participants. What you probably want to say is that “progress of political thinking is slow”, but that is the same as to say “human intelligence progress is slow”. Indeed, nothing has essentially changed since ancient civilisations knowing, in particular, all modern political regimes and problems... But now it may indeed be necessary to change something more essentially. However, exceptional change needs exceptional upgrade and efforts.

Bee said: “Hey, Science is a Worldview! But so we had a system that wasn’t able to learn fast enough, institutions that were not able to adapt.”

Sorry again, but although science is a worldview, you are two levels below the scientific analysis of the situation, where allegedly the most “advanced” physical science had actually been applied to economy, but appeared to be still so insufficient with respect to real-system complexity that its persistent application itself could have been one of major causes of the current crash!

Let me tell you, finally, that this post reveals your definite journalistic talents. One feels that this is your true emploi, rather than properly “scientific” judgements and I guess even science management ideas. It puts me on philosophical rails: maybe the ultimate origin of all human problems is in too many improperly chosen places in life (starting from profession), too often based on chance, custom, fashion, or superficial ambitions (science, science...), while the absolutely optimal solution is to be exactly at one's natural place always existing and determined by the maximum efficiency (and least harm!) of one's activity (which also means one's maximum pleasure, but people tend to be often misled by their subjective, incorrect ideas about the latter). Sorry for a purely philosophical digression; becoming old, probably... In any case, science needs very much genuine, qualified, active and critical science journalists (who often become also writers), especially in today's epoch of change and growing internet facilities. So anybody who feels a bent for something like that (e.g. intense blog posting...), don't stick to those outdated and useless abstractions, life is more exciting than that! And then, journalists can be real communication leaders and “global souls”, without abusing anyone's tax contributions...

Bee said...

Hi Andrei,

You have a truly unique ability to make every comment of yours into an insult of my person and people I am talking to. Does it occcur to you that this does not increase my desire to communicate with you?

usual political decisions are as fast as efforts needed to gather a few people [...] By contrast, market economy is necessarily slower because it involves a big number of interacting participants.

Gathering people doesn't suffice for them to reach a decision. Political negotiations can take decades without any sensible outcome. Besides this, it neglects the problem of getting the right people with the right knowledge together. The number of people in economy isn't the deciding factor for how fast the system reacts, it's how fast the feedback works. Look at the daily fluctiations at the stock market, compare to the time it takes a party to fomulate, negotiate and pass a law or a regulation.

I don't know what your reference to complexity is supposed to say and how it relates to what I wrote.

I also don't know what your reference to taxes and 'luxurios' conferences is supposed to mean. The conference is funded by the Klaus Tschira foundation, Tschira is one of the founders of SAP.

Best,

B.

Bee said...

Hi Anonymous,

Thanks for the advice! Yes, it has been mentioned to me before, but I haven't tried it. At the moment I was wondering about structure formation, but the CMB background I will have to look into as well sooner or later. Best,

B.

Andrei Kirilyuk said...

Bee said: “You have a truly unique ability to make every comment of yours into an insult of my person and people I am talking to. Does it occcur to you that this does not increase my desire to communicate with you?”

You are confusing personal insult, especially unexplained one (e.g. calling somebody “paranoid”, etc.) and a negative, but properly explained and therefore ethically correct opinion. We still remain scientists I hope or at least “educated people”, which implies that “truth is more important” for us, theoretically even more than friends. If I find your concrete statement wrong, scientifically, do you think I should try to hide it or say the reverse, just in order “not to spoil the pleasure”? I hope you don't think so. We are living in a very “contradictory”, changing and therefore painful world (even in its deceptively “soft” parts where you reside, although it's true that there it's much nicer, but you're a “global soul”, aren't you, attentive to various planetary conditions?). And you tend to discuss its most burning issues, without particular limitations (contrary e.g. to an eat-lover or wine-lover blog). That's good, it makes your blog popular, but then be ready to see opposite, negative opinions without negative emotions. It's elementary, for a future science journalist (joking, joking). Even your formally insulting, unexplained “paranoid”, “nonsensical”, etc. in my address are slightly disappointing but not really “killing” (sorry if you hoped for the opposite). As I once said here, a truly open (but actually quite normal) attitude should be that any writing author hits (or favours) mainly himself in any his “special” opinions, while being always artificially “nice” (complaisant) or “neutral”, is it really interesting and informative? When I disagree with you, it's a chance for progress, hopefully for both of us, and this is the main purpose of a blog. Or which is yours, by the way? Maybe it's again something “confidential” and not evident to us average voters...

And then, there are many other people around, the whole world is listening, are you aware of that enormous importance, masking completely one's small, subjective emotions? No, you're not, you prefer your emotions. OK, no problem, everything is permitted and well in our best of all possible worlds. (Say now that I'm not positive!)

So you say, Mr. Klaus Tschira, a big and successful entrepreneur (or his Foundation), prefers idle talks as the main object of his philanthropic investment? OK, he's the boss, no problem. But the choice is still a little strange because with that digree of efficiency he could hardly become successful in his main activity. But maybe he just wants to have a rest of that efficiency demand here? That could explain it. Anyway, I like idle talks, me too, as well as the old good Germany, with those old-style villas... So, what is their way to choose the happy participants, apart from ability to maintain idle talks (it's not too special I guess)? Note, it's all about scientific institutions, their best operation, etc. Conference that never ends, alias life...

Bee said...

Hi Andrei,

I have no problem with disagreement, but besides the points that I picked out I am not able to extract any meaningful statement out of what you say, your writing is extremely unclear to me. Also, possibly you are not aware of it, but many things of what you say I perceive as insulting and inappropriately aggressive, e.g. to be accused of 'parasitic' behaviour as was the case here. I would appreciate if you could maybe stick to the point you are tying to make, e.g. what your suggestion is to avoid another economical crisis, and drop the rest. Best,

B.

Bee said...

Btw, I find it pretty cool that Tschira founds such a series of events, the foundation also supports other interesting projects, e.g. the MotionMountan physics textbook. Philantrophy of that sort might be more common in the US, but privately funded scientific research in Germany is still rare to find. I certainly appreciate the initiative.

Plato said...

Hi,

My contribution was the COE comment.

"Hide my Ass" actually sets the comment to anon even though I used my pseudonym. This is necessary when using a different portal. It does not matter who I am. Is there a greater message here? Yes of course you do know me by my pseudonym, which is great. We can live in the world and go about freely.

To actually seek a greater comprehension to the Gorilla is a good lesson on the "primitive in our facial features" as well as, tribal influences. The uneducated in the structure of that social context.

Our exuberance "resounds" as a facial expression according to the circumstance. We wear the emotive content on our sleeve.

Just no way around it. Other then, to educate oneself, and still this becomes the life struggle( examine every recollection of the day and you relive the "emotive content").

Alan Watts once called it the "ball on the ocean" or if you like, from another, monkeys flirting from tree to tree. No centralization of the focus of being.

I point to this article presented by Phil much earlier again for consideration. As well, the basis of my post on The Primitive Aspects of Being.


So I got up and I jumped onto my cardio glider, which is a full-body exercise machine. And I'm jamming away on this thing, and I'm realizing that my hands looked like primitive claws grasping onto the bar. I thought "that's very peculiar" and I looked down at my body and I thought, "whoa, I'm a weird-looking thing." And it was as though my consciousness had shifted away from my normal perception of reality, where I'm the person on the machine having the experience, to some esoteric space where I'm witnessing myself having this experience.Stroke of insight: Jill Bolte Taylor

We, from a "right position in mind" recognize what manifests in terms of "the ancient" in the body home.

We seek to rise above the emotive struggle of our societies and their reactionary modes, to seek a governance that is above the issues that tie us to this body home. There is not one person alive who is not confronting these issues this day.

To recognize the trends in the societies "projective nature" is the lesson on determining the direction society wants to go? A simple lesson on "causation" and the seeking to define this in oneself.

The "Ingenuity Gap" seeks the integration of the scientist from such a state referred to earlier, and by feeling "naked in the open forum" with out one's credentials is the lesson of seeing self left to the uneducated part of our reason contained in the emotive rise of expression from that ancient place.

The evolution of the brain is preceded by the expression of our mental controls, to become better human beings? The brain is encased so?

Best,

Andrei Kirilyuk said...

Bee said: "I would appreciate if you could maybe stick to the point you are tying to make, e.g. what your suggestion is to avoid another economical crisis, and drop the rest."

In that part of the day I am particularly obedient to woman's desires. So my suggestion to avoid economic crisis (and simultaneously make science qualitatively more efficient) is to get rid of parasites (laughing, laughing). Now you'll ask how to do that, taking into account their numbers. There are, of course, "confidential" details in such "sensible" affair, but in general, one should strongly move towards a qualitatively new, intrinsically creative knowledge content and organisation (see references in my comment above). Are you ready to go?! Yeah!!! (the crowd)

As to "ethical" issues, in this part of the day I can only agree with you, it's all totally linguistic issues. When you said that conference is not constructive (and described it all with horrible details), what do you thing you were saying?! But of course, that (almost) all conference participants are ... what? Yes, just that "unpleasant" word, but it's the exact synonym of what you said and described, I have added nothing. As a future science journalist (je suis paranoiaque, d'accord), you should make difference between words and their (objective) meaning and certainly appreciate the latter first of all. In general, Sabine, educating a good science journalist is very noble task (there are so few of them) and I count on your cooperation with it.

That's also why it's also better to pay less attention to any personal "style" at all, accepting it as secondary details. Do you think your own style is really that smooth? No, really?! Ask Phenomenologist, he knows better... But believe me, it's all OK, all those small "attacks", as opposed to "non-constructive" activity results. Styles fade away, results remain.

When you "don't understand" me, you are so sincerely sure that it's completely my fault... This is also your style, but it's not bad, it's even touching... You really cannot imagine any other possibility, can you?

And finally, I am still forced to disagree with you, if you imply that any philanthropic activity in favour of science is unconditionally good. For example, that one which favours "non-constructive" activity acts automatically against constructive one, just because everything is finite and limited in this world... Sorry for another hard truth...

Bee said...

Hi Andrei,

I did not say, not assume, and not think that the reason for our diffucilties in understanding are your fault. I also did not say, not assume, and not think that any philantrophic activity in favour of science is 'unconditionally good'. Here as always I would want to see money as well as human and time resources put to a most efficient use. Best,

B.

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Andrei,

civ-i-li-za-tion (noun)
An advanced state of intellectual, cultural, and material development in human society, marked by progress in the arts and sciences, the extensive use of record-keeping, including writing, and the appearance of complex
political and social institutions.

civ-il (adjective)
Adequate in courtesy and politeness : mannerly [a civil question]

If nothing else you do indeed form to be an interesting enigma, as I would have thought that someone so familiar and concerned about the noun, would also have understood that the adjective is connected as to be inspired by it.

Regards,

Phil

Plato said...

True enough. But before Obama can purge Washington of the scourge of Friedmanism, he has some ideological housecleaning of his own to do.Obama's Chicago Boys

Can you imagine the privatization of your Social security under McCain? The current condition of the stock market? I apologize to the residents of the United States for my interest as a "non resident."

Looking past the individual themselves is always the work in progress. Ask yourself, what it means to have the bailouts. To bring stability to the market.

What hangs in the balance, that these institutions do not collapse regardless? Government makes a quick buck on AGI using borrowed money(?) and seeking the profit from the return from the difference.

The mortgage collapse from a "loose system" which did not keep it's checks and balances, while giving money away like Christmas, had finally come to those who had not known what it was like to really own a beautiful home.

It is always the effort to keep one's own house in order let alone the house that capitalism vows to give you to become a friend of profit. Now your bailing them out? Free market?

Well, do you remember Kuhn's paradigmatic changes? How "revolutions precede new social structures" change?

"Disaster Capitalism" is a scourge on the the social structure of many a good people who want only to reconstruct their lives, do face a new capitalist agenda for profit.

Think about gasoline prices and the current weather related price surges?:)

Watch out!

Best,

kay zum felde said...

Hi Bee,

your comment: 'The topic of the mortgage crisis keeps coming back. I don’t know nothing about economy so I should probably keep my mouth shut. Mpfgprrrrrrpfh. Ah. Okay, I tried. So here is my crisis explanation: Lacking negative feedback upon the emergence of nonsense. Too many people according to whose self-interests it made sense to carry on with what macroscopically didn’t make any sense at all. Too many people who believed they'd be smarter than all the other people. But most importantly: no place where the knowledge of that nonsense could have been directed to, lacking negative feedback, growing bubbles that had to burst. That combined with the different timescales the economical and the political system work on. The former enormously fast, and the latter lagging behind.'

seems to describe the situation correctly ;-)

Kay

Anonymous said...

The subprime mortgage meltdown is a direct consequence of the interaction of the following two variables:1)hedge fund/wall street greed and the passage of the 1965 immigration reform act.

It is no big secret anymore that post- 1965 US immigration policy is causing the US population to grow very rapidly and causing a massive demographic shift in the US population(there was heated debate about the potential of the 1965 immigration refrom act to change the demographics of the US when the this was debaated back in 1965. It was not seen as a good thing).

By causing a massive population increase and dempgraphic change-hispanic variety-huge demand for housing was created thereby by creating a market that wall street could tap into into. The very "clever" hedge fund/wall street mathematicians and rocket scientists came up with incomprehensible finacial instruments that could be traded with very little regulation.
Without the massive housing demand that the passage of the 1965 immigration reform act created, the probability of the impending US economic meltdown occuring would be very low.

By the way,if the 1965 immigration reformm act had not been passed the US population would have stabilized at 250 million. Thanks to the passage of the 1965 immigration refrom act, massive demographic momentum has been built into the US demographic structure. Growthamania is the problem. The subprime crisis may be much more of a physics problem than an economics problem.

Joshua Chamberlain

Phil Warnell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Phil Warnell said...

Hi Joshua,

As I alluded to Bee earlier that as in the case of crisis, such as for example this subprime mortgage one, there emerges always two types of people. The first being the finger pointers and the second being the problem solvers. I would maintain that crisis continues to occur because the finger pointers, who are the many, often point wrongly and too late, leaving the problem solvers not able to keep up since there are always too few.

Best,

Phil

Anonymous said...

Whether or not a social-economic-political problem can be solved depends upon the scale of the problem. Increasing the scale of the problems is a bluprint for making these problems unsolvable,nagging and chronic. Various bad policies increase the scale of these problems. And in some cases these problems wouldn't even exist if bad policies had not been foolishly implemented.

The America Civil War was a direct consequence of half-assed policies,political compromises and denial. Bad polices can rip a society apart.

Rather than thinking about bad policies, Ameicans consume sports entertainment as if it were cocaine. American society is going to be whacked really hard. It is going to be very very painfull Tragically, the pain could have been avoided.

Joshua Chamberlain

Plato said...

In every crisis there is a leavening that takes place and while one may point to whether it's this or that, an outcome materializes. What is the result and this defines some history and by example, a causation that is transformed.

Repeatability is the lesson then that on reflection, one adjusts, and while recognizing the mistake, moves forward and encounters this new problem and deals with it in new ways.

If you knew in advance the forces that operate on "parallel worlds," then who is it that is speaking about one issue, and is dealing with it on another level?

Would you look at John McCain or who is behind him? Would you look at Obama or what is behind him?

You had to already know that "one action" has a consequence and from it a historical standpoint. There is much that with the hopes of a society asks, that it go this way or that. Yet it resides in every person.

One may speak of immigration and other factors as a problem, but it is more the recognition that this society has come to depend on imports for all it's need, while discharging the incentive to creation within it's own borders.

The grassroots policies in this extend require an ideal and it's transformation back to the independence that any society moves forward with, as a recognition of that independence within self which seeks to be in control of it's own destiny.

The "home" becomes a model then of every facet of the ideal of that society. Because it is more deeply ingrained in the unconscious as to promises of a brighter future, had one been dealing with it all along.

Best,

Thomas D said...

At least your fellow symposiasts call it the right name: Mortgage crisis, not just 'banking' or 'financial' crisis...

Read about the 'NINJA' mortgage ('No income, no job or assets'), find out who made it possible, stop them having anything at all to do with the financial system ever again. It would be a start.

Widespread greed and stupidity, strangely enough, are not to blame - since any system that doesn't take account of people's natural greed and stupidity is bound to fail. The problem was specific and localized stupidity among people who made decisions about how mortgages and financial markets/institutions are allowed to function.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2007/sep/30/5

Plato said...

Shock therapy (economics)

(Bold for emphasis and italicized added by me.)

In economics, shock therapy refers to the sudden release of price and currency controls, withdrawal of state subsidies, and immediate trade liberalization within a country, usually also including large scale privatization of previously public owned assets. Prominent economist Jeffrey Sachs was among the foremost proponent of shock therapy for several emerging economies although others have traced the concept back even further[1]. Occasionally the term is used to refer to any significant program of pro-market reforms, such as those instituted in Chile in 1975.

See, that is the question, as to "who" is operating on a parallel world.

Kay zum Felde said...

Hi,

http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/wordpress/

Peter Woit's ideas on the origin of the Bank crisis.

Kay

Bee said...

Hi Thomas,

The problem was specific and localized stupidity among people who made decisions about how mortgages and financial markets/institutions are allowed to function

As far as I know the USA is still a democracy (at least technically seen) and the mere existance of a 'group of people who made decisions' is endorsed by everybody eligible to vote. There are many nations working with systems that are errorprone and not able to cope with complex problems like this, but these systems are supported by everybody who fails to improve the situation. This is not a failure localized in a small group of people, it's a large scale system failure indicating that our societies possibly lack the ability to make this adaption to rapidly changing circumstances.

The problem should have been realized and the institutions should have been updated, yet that didn't happen. It will likely happen now, but why does it take a crisis of this extend to initiate learning?

On sees the same problem in many other institutions, lacking adaption to changing circumstances can cause major problems.

What else can one add besides the fittest will survive?

Best,

B.

Arun said...

Dear Bee,

IMO, when there is a longstanding problem in an institution, there may likely be at least the following four causes:

1. Hitting against a genuine limitation - humans have some definite if vaguely defined capacity of information processing and the organization might have hit that limit.

2. The real incentives in the organization do not match the stated incentives. (e.g., does the organization actually reward the behavior it claims to encourage).

3. The organization has incentives to disregard reality (e.g., because of ideology, or because, e.g., reality says its model of business is not sustainable and so they want to ignore it.)

4. Entrenched resistance to change - e.g., imagine a telco where 80% of the revenue is from traditional voice service, and along comes a disruptive technology, like voice over IP. The people who command the 80% revenue stream will spend a inordinate amount of energy trying to defend (in the market) this obsolete technology and will likely miss being the industry leader in the new technology.

Maybe some others can be tacked on to this, but these are four I think I've encountered.

Bee said...

Dear Arun,

An interesting summary that is very to the point. Could one say these four cases all reflect different aspects of why the organization fails to learn and to adapt to changing circumstances?

Best,

B.

Andrei Kirilyuk said...

Bee said: "What else can one add besides the fittest will survive?"

One can add that this entire system and especially its "financial" subsystem in question is already the result of the long-term (for the USA practically "eternal") process of the survival of the fittest, usually just proud of its highest possible efficiency, "despite the victims". But now it seems that inevitable "victims" (those who are not "the fittest") are not the only problem and that even the expected gain of efficiency of the whole system is not the case any more (e.g. because the "inefficient" state system is finally forced to massively reanimate the dead "efficient" system). And this means, unfortunately, that if the "fittest" give rise to such "survival" indistinguishable from death, then the main advantage, progress by survival of the fittest, is lost and replaced by degradation of "the fittest". In other words, the whole system looks compromised now, rather than simply its one or another "locally" unpleasant moment.

Another view of the same situation is that evolution by survival of the fittest is known to proceed by both survival by complexification and survival by simplification (with respect to starting condition). But while it's OK for our big Mother Nature (complexification here, simplification there), in a much smaller world of human economy, its emerging global simplification means degradation of the quality of life, everywhere. So, even if the fittest will survive, the question is at which price. Impressive examples can be found in countries of "new capitalism", where exactly that mode of the survival of the simplest (a particular case of the fittest) takes place at a great scale and absolutely dominates. The result is known: it's quite another quality of life, way of development and kind of "democracy" (let me omit the horrible details with the hope that you may know them a little, hopefully, at a distance!) So looking at the processes in "rich" countries of "old" democracy, whether the impression is not that they also gradually move to the "survival-of-the-simplest" case, while the progress to the survival-of-the-complex mode in "young" countries is slow or absent?

That's why your vision looks quite sad, also when you say "our societies possibly lack the ability to make this adaption to rapidly changing circumstances." If this is the resulting conclusion, then how can one expect that "our societies", already decadent and corrupt as they are, would develop a much better ability in question, taking into account their long previous development?

But a problem without a solution is similar to Hollywood blockbuster without happy (or at least "promising") end: it's strange and terribly incomplete. If the film end is not happy, there will be a sequel. So, what's the sequel to the black comedy called Humanity 1.0? Humanity 2.0 is an appealing, but too easy answer. How would it emerge and why?

Everything still seems to show that a greater change is to be expected. In the "default" and pessimistic version, it's a continuing degradation with a series of explicit catastrophes. In a less evident happy-end version, a transition to a superior-wisdom system and behaviour is still enforced and then things change not only for better, but dramatically, not gradually (the now dominating Western paradigm). In particular, the seemingly "eternal" and irreplaceable (all attempts failed) social development by "survival of the fittest" will be replaced in this case by something like "programmed/conscious creation of the fittest", insuring both fitness (the weak point of all conventional social Utopias) and general "sustainability" of the process, without big "crises" (only temporal, expected and justified "slowdown" is possible). One can check my rigorous complexity science for details, which I omit here. The essential point not to miss is that a "revolutionary" big, qualitative change is inevitable, one can only choose between its descending (current) and ascending branch.

But what will happen, one may ask, in the "happy-end" case with those currently inefficient institutions (scientific even more than financial, of course)? They evidently disappear in their current, "rigid" version and will be replaced by very soft, "umbrella" kind of structures playing not "governing" but rather certain "logistic" (and sometimes maybe "cultural") role. It's basically a world of constructively interacting individual creators, in all spheres, qualitatively transformed "governance" including. No more scientific and other kolkhoz monsters.

And all that is needed to switch from hell to paradise is to give a chance to a new, provably more efficient (problem solving) kind of knowledge. Positive?

Arun said...

Dear Bee,

My list is what I think lies behind dysfunctional or very sub-optimal organizations. Presumably an organization with the ability to learn at an organizational level can overcome these.

But I do not think this is in any way a complete list.

-Arun

Arun said...

Dear Bee,

On National Public Radio, I heard a story by a Shankar Vedantam, that briefly goes like this. Consider the proposition "reducing taxes increases government revenues". A bunch of (American) conservatives was polled, 35% believed in this proposition. They were then told that the Bush Administration believes in this proposition, and were given refutations of this proposition by economists from all across the political spectrum, including former members of the Bush Administration. After this they were polled again; now 65% of them believed in the proposition.

I think this is one of the things that anyone who would engineer human organizations has to contend with!

kay zum Felde said...

Hi,

I think a major problem is the non-exisistence of any proper regularization by means of some institution. That means, if there are no proper restrictions on freedom how to act in the finance world, the next crisis will be happen in some years or so. (Remember the dot.com crisis in 2001)

Regards

Kay

Bee said...

Hi Kay,

a major problem is the non-exisistence of any proper regularization by means of some institution.

We have plenty of institutions that are meant to make sure competition is fair and free and doesn't potentially result in an existential crisis for millions of people. In Germany the respective institutions are the Bankenaufsicht and the Bundeskartellamt, in the European Union the respective regulations are the competition laws, in the USA it's the antitrust law and the bank regulation which fulfil similar purposes - theoretically. Practically, as we can see once again, they are completely unable to deal with the actual problems. It's not a matter of lacking institutions or a non-awareness of the danger, but the inability of these institutions to react appropriately within the given timeframe. I suspect though the actual reason is the in the USA widespread believe in the 'invisible hand' and that less regulation is better regulation. That combined with irresponsibility. Best,

B.

Victor said...

One can only burp so much among suits.

Best line I've read all day! It has a certain Vonnegutian quality to it...

Arun said...

Dear Bee,

On Peter Woit's blog you wrote a post including "In fact, what’s happening right now is that necessary learning process taking place, just that a major crisis was necessary to draw attention to the shortcomings...."

What is scary is that the major crisis that took place where the key learnings were made happened in the 1930s. The last decade has seen however the total dismantling of all the mechanisms those hard-won learnings put in place. It was not done in the spirit of how do we improve our marketplace; but rather out of ideological conviction that predetermined the answer.

That is, imagine we're driving cars with the 1930s design of brakes; and the answer is supposed to be that we don't require brakes, rather than redesigning the brakes.

Best,
-Arun

Bee said...

Indeed, Arun, I agree on what you say. What stuns me is the amount of irresponsibility in this process. A working economical system is necessary for the well-being of billions of people on the planet but its organization is based on faith and rethoric instead of being based on science and historical knowledge. Under such circumstances, why is a disaster like this surprising? Even I with my peripheral knowledge about economy "predicted" a major crisis, it doesn't take much if you live in the USA for a while to see that the biggest part of the money games going on there are nonsensical if one thinks of the big picture and to a large extend entangled with psychological tricks. To add another doomsday prediction: this isn't the end of the story. Given that the US system has been faithbased it will suffer a major blow because that faith is now crumbling. There are millions of people in that country who are living close to the poverty level and who at some point will come to realize that there are nations who have better social, educational and medical systems, and that they've fooled themselves into believing in their superiority. Whoever will become the next president will have to face a country full of people who are seriously pissed off by bad management and furious at all and everything around them. Sounds like fun, doesn't it?

Anonymous said...

Bee

What collapsed was ponzi scheme. This ponzi scheme was a conspiracy of Wall Street,Hedge funds,the banking system and the Republican and Democratic parties.

And when Americans become financially destitiute, how will they afford to eat?

One of the things that I find disgusting on the math and physics blogs is the incessant worshipping of Renassaince Technology CEO Jim Simons as if he was a great man. Simons has used his enormous mathematical talent to enrich himself and a small number of rich people-trust fund types,hollywood big shots for example-who have enormous control of the very bipartisan Republican-Democratic political consesus that allowed this ponzi scheme meltdown and its bailout to take place.

Hedge funds and the wealthy CEOs-Jim Simons are parasites who create wealth for a small number of people at the expense of greater humanity. There is no productive investment or capital formation going here. It is nothing but parasitic wealth creation. The cost of catastrophes created by their greed are always socialized of course. Gotta make sure Marylynn Simons can maintain her demi-god life style.

Joshua Chamberlain

Arun said...

Dear Bee,

http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/taleb08/taleb08_index.html on the limits of statistics. Very important, IMO.

Best,
-Arun

Kay zum Felde said...

Hi Bee,

I think, all are jumping around the problem. How to describe such a system in a simple model ? Non-linear response theory.

I don't believe I can present here the solution, but my idea is something to think about. Obviously the whole system contains several time scales. If one is able to identify (at least some of) the different time scales, this would be a big step.

If I read some of the posts here and also on Peter Woit's blog, I think stuck into details will take people into bottlenecks. One needs to start on a higher level.

I believe you are completely right the idea of the invisible hand is definitely outdated. Moreover to trust the invisible hand is also too naive too.

I don't know if the upcoming idea is already somewhere pointed out: I can speak of my own experience with the dot.com crisis in 2001/02. I had some money in the stock market in 2001/02. Because of some personal crisis in 2001/02, which coincided with the crisis in some way, my bank account balance get within a month or so below zero. Although the bank always said that I get no credit anymore if the account become zero, it did not work because of latency time frames.

I know that banks have their tresholds points where they stop to buy or sell a.s.o. but every system has its latency time frames. Combining latency time frames is yielding, globally, to something like a wave packet of time scales that has somewhere maximas and minimas.

Regards

Kay

bellamy said...

Well, if they're actually listening to you with the intent of comprehension, then good.

1. Yes, most humans use crude metaphorical tools to try - TRY - to understand things.

2. Yes, humans are like fuckin gorillas. As Greg Bear says, even the doing of math is a biological function. The issue is for the range of function allowed by biology to not be so base as gorilla behavior. But people are so emotionally attached. (There's your hint, Phil.)


Incidentally, I'm great in a spontaneous situation. It's rather when I'm reading off something that I may stutter (though not horribly, and I have a great reading voice, otherwise) because my mind may not be in sync with the text. Slow down, relax, yes.

And, just a trifle:

[i]So I got up and I jumped onto my cardio glider, which is a full-body exercise machine.[/i]

Um, your body is a full-body exercise machine....if you but know how to use it.

Bee said...

Hi Kay,

I never said it was easy. But do you really think there is enough effort invested into the question? My suggestion is: if you don't understand the system, make it simpler. The economical system is not god-given, we make it ourselves. It is supposed to help us, not to scare us. The problem is that there are too many people pushing it towards more and more efficiency, increasing the risk of disastrous breakdowns. You can call that the edge of chaos if you like. And yes, maybe that's indeed a way to faster GROWTH, but is it worth the risk? We are talking about the circumstances of living of billions of people. See why I talk about irresponsibility? Can we deal with the spirits that we called? No, evidently we can't. Can we learn from our mistakes?

However, with somewhat more effort I believe it would be possible to get a better grip on the combination of the economy and the political system. And yes, I agree with you, better understanding the difference in time-scales on which these operate would already be a step forward, we'd know how long it would take us to judge on the potential risks of some change and negotiate possible solutions, and to figure out ways to implement it better. There will always be problems nobody anticipated that need emergency plans, but at least one can try to avoid these situations. Best,

B.

Bee said...

Hi Bellamy,

I found it quite interesting to read that research shows simply reminding people to be rational does indeed improve rational decisions. Similarly I am convinced educating people in what their economical system is good for, how it works, and what they should pay attention to could significantly improve the situation. For example it is a mystery to me why millions of people accept that advertisements deliberately influence their decisions which eventually causes a giant waste of resources (but hey, consume is good for the economy, and thus it must be good for us). Similarly, it is a mystery to me why people stoically defend a 'free market' believing it will result in the best possible distribution of goods, even though we've known since a century this doesn't work. I simply want people to trust themselves and if they see nonsense not to shrug shoulders and say "that's the system" and to excuse their own behavior by saying "you must understand...". I want them to trust themselves and to say clearly: that's nonsense, do something about it. I am perfectly convinced that many people consciously or unconsciously notice that their consume-driven live does not make sense, that they are unhappy living in a society that is build on people distrusting each other, and where one constantly has to be afraid to be ripped off. They just can't target the problem. It suffices for them to realize the "system" does not have to be accepted - as long as they live in a democracy change is up to them.

Best,

B.

Kay zum Felde said...

Hi Bee,

yes, I guess you are right, that politics should communicate with scienctists of all color and with society. This would definitely improve the 'system' economy. May be some blogs are already 'under construction', which are devoted to this issue.

Like you I do believe, that one has to simplify the problem properly. We know that physicists usually do (or at least try) this always.

I just tried to contribute with something I believe is important and I still believe it is important.

From the technical side latency time frames are always existing, because a system response today (except in non-local quantum mechanics) is always delayed. Quantum computers should improve this in the (near ? how far is near ?) future.

Regards

Kay

bellamy said...

Bee, I'll be a little more specific. I don't assume free will, but rather feel that we operate in ways we may be aware of, and that generally these ways have variable likeness in cases, and varible compatibility in other cases.

It's really a matter of emotional capability of an entity to absorb and incorporate data (sensory, conceptual, etc) they encountre. It may be in any certain case, and possibly in a general context, depending, that some are below a critical threshold and are negligible.

Bee said...

Hi Bellamy,

I agree with you on that. That's why I was talking about simplification. See, the whole strength of the free market in contrast to a planned economy is that it operates with something enormously simple: individuals looking for profit, no need to make predictions over several years that will inevitably turn out wrong. That idea however only works properly if the individual interests in the long run actually lead to an optimization, thus the system needs to be set up appropriately. E.g. we have all kinds of laws that are supposed to guarantee fairness, but we also have some cut-off mechanisms if things get really bad (declare bankruptcy, rely on social help). Problem is if you make the system more complicated by introducing funny new ways of trading you have to check very carefully what it does and if it is compatible with your long term goals. I really wonder, those guys who sue CERN because they doubt the risk-assessment, where are they now? The whole global economy is a high-risk experiment whose behaviour is essentially ununderstood, a game with the well-being of billions of people. I wasn't saying make humans more intelligent, but if you can't make them more intelligent ensure the system works with the amount of stupidity that is present. Best,

B.

Bee said...

Hi Kay,

Yeah, as I like to say, the scientific revolution is unfinished. The natural sciences have made a tremendous amount of progress in the last four hundred years and are pretty well incorporated into our daily lives (think e.g. of drug tests, architecture, airtravel etc and how many concepts of the natural sciences are necessary to make them safe and useful). Not so with the social sciences, they are too detached. It is a gap that is now slowly closing, I believe this is to a large extend because raising and dealing with large amounts of data has become feasible only recently. But probably more importantly its because until recently it just wasn't necessary: trial and error has worked pretty well for our social and political systems for literally thousands of years. It is only now that questions are becoming incredibly complex that we don't have the time any more to proceed that way, thus we need some more scientific approach. (If I were to write a book that would be the title: Finishing the Scientific Revolution).

I think though you slightly misunderstood what I meant above. I agree of course that finding an appropriate simplified description is always part of model building, but I actually did not mean if you don't understand it, simplify the model, but if you can't understand it, simplify the real system. As I said previously, it's a system we make ourselves, it's supposed to work for us. Setting it up and just hoping it will work without understanding and properly evaluating the risks is irresponsible. Best,

B.

Arun said...

On pushing science into the social studies:

http://colonial.consciousness.googlepages.com/%22...weshallnotceasefromexploration...%22

Long, but worth reading, I think.

Kay zum Felde said...

Hi Bee,

I got it. That's logical. Indeed simplyfing the system is quite a very good idea.

However as you might already encountered that means you have to find very good basic rules. And this means there is a lot to do. Frank Tipler writes in his book: "The physics of immortality", that science will have no end... I guess he's write and I believe too what also writes: Life will have no end

Best

Kay

Kay zum Felde said...

Hi Bee,

I actually got an ansatz how set up the laws of economy. This sounds like I am a bit grandeur. But I don't think so. But may be it's better to do this at least initially not on your blog.

Can I write you an email ? If yes, I should be able to look it up on perimeterinstute.ca, right ?

Regards

Kay

Bee said...

Hi Kay,

Not sure I'm the right person for that, but yes, my email is sabine at perimeterinstitute dot ca. Best,

B.

bellamy said...

Back at you, Bee:

I'm indicating that since behavior is (at least largely) non-conscious, then a system must be 'realised' that is simpler, yes, but also autonomic.

Simpler, in dispensing with emotional attachment to things, dispensing with culture, etc. Or, more aptly, transcending both culture and gender.

These would enable a lack of interest in (perpetuating) pop culture, and obviate social pretense. Most importantly, there would be no secondary system of arbitariness (morality) to confuse things. People would 'need' less, would want less, use less, yet be enabled to more greatly expand psychically (or whatever perhaps ridiculous term one wants to use...).

Of course, this is based in a concept of leisure that is my own (though something basically similar exists in Iain M. Banks Culture novels).

I'm an embodiment of this so it is more than probable.

Plato said...

[i]I'm indicating that since behavior is (at least largely) non-conscious, then a system must be 'realised' that is simpler, yes, but also autonomic.[/i]

........your body is a full-body exercise machine heh heh:)

What's "out of date" twice now, I'll have to record this. "Blank slate.....Hmmmm.

In computer science, tabula rasa refers to the development of autonomous agents which are provided with a mechanism to reason and plan toward their goal, but no "built-in" knowledge-base of their environment. They are thus truly a "blank slate".

" and the suppose parallel world of people who might be called ....um....profiteers? WTO is recognize in some aspects as existing apart from the "roots of its citizens," and as an "overseer of financial administration for all."

No "boogie men" that I can see, but the agenda is larger then the "soul perspective" of a few science people.:)

Nothing inherently wrong with making a business plan that is successful, just that, when you are trying to "capture the market," banks eating up banks, it does reduce competitiveness. But like Bee said there are institutions for this.

Sort of like the Nelson and William Hunt way back when. Or Microsoft and Netscape.

How would you know if this was not the case where "two banks" going from "investment banking" to "retail" may see an opportunity here, and with a "bail out" to boot? I thought when I heard a senator speak up and question what the government will be doing for people who had lost their jobs and could not afford their mortgages, I wondered too?

Best,

Plato said...

Trade Flows and the Bail out?

Not much more can be said here in this regard. I offer the question in mind of one seeking and declaring "independence again" which I perceive was exhibited in the growth and historical drama of that countries democratic birth.

Of course, not all will share my point of view. That's okay

Best,

Kaleberg said...

If it's any comfort, Isaac Newton took a bath in the South Sea bubble. He actually sold out at a profit, but then reinvested when the shares kept rising in value. Then, the bubble burst. Luckily, he had his day job at the royal treasury.

In the short run, economic systems run exponentially, but as in many systems, there is always something being consumed to drive the exponential behavior. Eventually the fuel or substrate burns out. The hard part for an investor is to tell when.

The institutional response to the South Sea bubble in England was to not charter any limited liability companies for the next hundred years or so. That's why Lloyd's, the big insurance house, was a partnership for so long, and individual "names", as the partners were called, had unlimited liability.