Battle of the Quants

Working with Bartt Kellermann and Selvie Shaqiri to help bring their very successful US format here to the UK.  Very interesting session today discussing this brief title – “ From the Ephemeral Quant to the Eternal Coin: Short Term vs. Long Term Considerations when Allocating to Quantitative Based Strategies”.  Thankfully, some of our thoughts on Long Finance really rang a bell, and folks seemed to be interested in Asymmettric Gain-Loss Recognition, Performance Policy Bonds, Confidence Accounting, Irreversible Time, Unburnable Carbon, Internal Growth Rate as a key regulatory pension metric, and Volatility = Sustainability.  Wow.  Great crowd.

Eternal Coin Treadmill

Battle of the Quants

Working hard to get elected and already finding that the number of speaking engagements is climbing sharply.  I’m speaking next week at Battle of the Quants.  This is a very popular New York event format which is coming to London a second time.  I’ve been given a succinct title – ” From the Ephemeral Quant to the Eternal Coin: Short Term vs. Long Term Considerations when Allocating to Quantitative Based Strategies”.  We’ll see how well this audience takes to Long Finance‘s thoughts on the long term.

Coin

Ribbon Cutting Practice

Goodacre - Systems in the City Awards v1.1

An aspiring politician also needs to practice ribbon cutting and award ceremonies.  Never one to shirk a dinner and aspiring to be a good Alderman, this event looms next week:

Systems in the City Awards 2013

Prof. Michael Mainelli and Dr Iain Saville to Announce Winners

The 2013 Systems in the City Award Winners will be announced on 19th June 2013 by Professor Michael Mainelli and Dr Iain Saville OBE

 The presentation dinner will be held at The Grand Connaught Rooms and includes a champagne reception sponsored by Cofunds, a 4 course dinner and evening entertainment

With only one week to go there are only a few places left.

To make sure you do not miss out email events@goodacreuk.com or call +44 (0)20 7422 0063.

Dr Aleks Krotoski Asks: Do Social Media Make The World More Boring?

Real Time Club, 23 November 2010

This event garnered a significantly higher than average attendance, just squeezing into the National Liberal Club room we had. Higher attendance meant more demanding acoustics and our guest of honour did her very best to speak without a proper sound system for such a number.  That said, she rose above the obstacles to set out some excellent arguments and lead a vibrant debate with the audience.

3-princes

Three Princes Of Serendip

Aleks opened with some points about the original intentions behind the internet community and the culture of the web being broken.  Perhaps foremost amongst the original intentions was serendipity, meeting and exchanging virtually with strangers.  Recognising that one can view the web as an agnostic series of tubes – just communications technology – Dr Krotoski noted that that was not the founding ethos.  The founders of the web had ideals, principles and emotion. Without quite claiming the web is broken, she pointed out that simply “finding” things undermines the ethos of the web.  The webs was supposed to establish relationships. These relationships were meant to be about sharing and co-creating information.  As people developed information together there would emerge positive feedback and credibility.  These are people “like us”. From this credibility emerges Dr Krotoski’s area of research, “social influence” as exhibited on the internet.

Dr Krotoski noted the similarities between online and offline influence.  She discussed intra-community influence (influence “us”) and extra-community influence (“leaders”).  She noted, with a tinge of regret, that technology is reinforcing patterns perhaps more than creating new ones.  “We are all our demographic”.  She elaborated about the effect on self-actualisation of “living in public”. The more people realise they are living in public the more it affects their decisions about what they choose to do and who they become.  She concluded with the thought for discussion that it might be a good thing if we stop getting what we want on the internet and instead seek to inject more serendipity, more randomness into our encounters.

For a mixed group of internet, let alone web, oldies and more recent technology converts, the idea that effective functionality had a negative trade-off with serendipity aroused some intriguing thought and remarks.  Among them:

  • Do we need more Luddites in the internet communities? Does advertising reinforce our views?
  • Where do ideas come from? Is serendipity an ideas generator or just wasted time?
  • An interesting question, which Dr Krotoski sparked, about how many people press “I’m feeling lucky” button to seek serendipity.  In actuality the button is ridiculously simple: it takes you to the number one site for the given search term or keyword. No randomization, just the top match.
  • Some discussion about privacy, fictitious online identities and a number of members getting close to revealing some gender jarring mismatches.
  • A ponder about whether the loss of serendipity was actually harking back to a non-age as the law of large numbers comes into effect with the success of the internet. Perhaps it’s just a numbers game and we should expect people to match their demographic in large numbers.
  • Was Aleks really discussing the reason that “walled gardens” of content, e.g. Apple or the long-defunct AOL, might work, or was that model ultimately broken?
  • Have we stepped one step away from reality and the increased disassociation is affecting our reactions?
  • A discussion on whether games are socialisation and whether there is quite a bit of serendipity within them.
  • A question about how one might measure degrees of serendipity between online and offline, but a further remark that perhaps the interaction of online and offline had decreased free will slightly. Story too about a godson who deliberately seeks more diverse views online – “chatting with fascists”.
  • A most intriguing suggestion from Aleks – “follow three people you hate on Facebook for a week”.

For those interested in the next next big idea, it would seem that ways of injecting serendipity and randomness into online communities, without undue frustration, could be a great business area.  Aleks at one point noted that one “should never meet your heroes, meet strangers”, but the many who came that Tuesday evening wouldn’t have agreed with her about herself.

The Eternal Coin: Physical Endurance or Digital Failure

On 15 June 2010, the Real Time Club evening’s proposition for discussion was that new technology will move beyond a facsimile of current exchange to new means of exchange that are better for society as a whole.  Future e-money synthetic currencies for speculative fiction writers shouldn’t be, “that will be ten galactic credits, thank you”, but rather, “you owe me a return trip to Uranus and a kilogram of platinum for delivery in 12 months”.  Well, that’s what our payments autodroid bots (i.e., mobile phones) will agree amongst themselves.  Dave sets out his stall: “When you digitise something, you have the opportunity to re-engineer it.  So it is with money.  As money has changed from barter to bullion, from paper to PayPal, it has changed the markets and societies that depend on it.  Where next?

The Eternal Coin

The Eternal Coin

Dave Birch opened in front of about 40 members with a reminder that Hayek always believed that money was too important to be left to governments.   Dave argued that we ideally needed many units of account for many things but that multiple currencies increased the cost of transactions markedly – how could the cash register be large enough.  He pointed out though that in border areas people seemed able to handle concepts of multiple currencies easily.  This led to a quick reminder of the many new currencies emerging online, e.g. QQ in China, but Dave emphasised the crucial role of the mobile phone, e.g. M-Pesa in Africa.  Finally, Dave touched on new currencies related more closely to real value, e.g. based on commodities, such as people in Norway using future kwHs of electricity as currency.

The core of the argument was that:

1 – we have reached a time of great change in the nature or money

2 – the mobile phone is the most important technological part of the change

3 – some of the nascent currencies will transform our view of money

Dave concluded by musing on what these changes might mean for definitions of communities and community values across space rather than being confined by geography.

Malcolm Cooper opened his reply by asserting that the mobile phone is a transient technology, witness the iPad.  He believed that Dave confused the communications device with the technology.  Malcolm, drawing from some of the themes in his book, “In Search of the Eternal Coin: A Long Finance View of History”, felt the aberration over history was currency.  The norm is trading and storing value in a multiplicity of ways.  As an example Malcolm pointed to the extent of the Carthaginian trading empire and its relatively low use of coinage.

The discussion was, as ever with the Real Time Club, quite vibrant and funny.  Some comments and ripostes included:

  • shouldn’t we conclude from Dave’s arguments that Nokia ought to be a bank? This led to a further reminder of the 1994 paper by Edward de Bono  published by the Centre for the Study of Financial Innovation, “The IBM Dollar”;
  • would Carthage have been better off or stronger with currency?
  • Michael King of WDX (commercial interest) spoke of his firm’s Wocu (World Currency Unit), a basket of top 20 nations by GDP, weighted by GDP;
  • Michael Mainelli raised a point about trading currencies versus stores of value (reserve currencies) and pointed out other initiatives directed at that, e.g. the UTU;
  • wasn’t the deeper problem removing swings in markets, or was it perhaps that swings in markets were exacerbated by our reliance on currency?
  • the use of the quote from Dostoevsky, “money is coined liberty” (House of the Dead, part 1, chapter 2) led to a ponder as to whether we are at our most vulnerable when everything is cash;
  • people were reminded that fiat currency is fiat because the government only accepts the currency for tax purposes, giving government other opportunities to tax through debasement and devaluation and inflation;
  • was the importance of the mobile phone the global connective power and little else, followed by a comment that these days a mobile phone was hardly that, rather a computer with a phone attached;
  • a discussion kicked off on the importance of anonymity to money, including the withdrawal of cheques in the UK, and of course the Real Time Club’s interest in many things cryptographic.

The evening closed with a poem, “Liquidity”, composed on the night and read by long-standing member Andy Low:

The lake of commerce gives life its pace,

For on its smooth and shiny face,

Ripples form, surge forth and race.

(What do I want, what can I get)

They cross, connect and intersect.

The lives of people who’ve never met.

About the speakers

Dave Birch is a Director of Consult Hyperion, the IT management consultancy that specialises in electronic transactions.  Here he provides specialist consultancy support to clients around the world, including all of the leading payment brands, major telecommunications providers, governments bodies and international organisations including the OECD.  Before helping to found Consult Hyperion in 1986, he spent several years working as a consultant in Europe, the Far East and North America.  He graduated from the University of Southampton with a BSc (Hons) in Physics.

Described by The Telegraph as “one of the world’s leading experts on digital money”, by The Independent as a “grade-A geek”, by the Centre for the Study of Financial Innovation as “one of the most user-friendly of the UK’s uber-techies” and by Financial World as “mad”, Dave is a member of the editorial board of the E-Finance & Payments Law and Policy Journal, a columnist for SPEED and well-known for his blogs on Digital Money and Digital Identity.  He has lectured to MBA level on the impact of new information and communications technologies, contributed to publications ranging from the Parliamentary IT Review to Prospect and wrote a Guardian column for many years.  He is a media commentator on electronic business issues and has appeared on BBC television and radio, Sky and other channels around the world.  For much more, see www.dgwbirch.com
Dr Malcolm Cooper holds a First Class Bachelor of Arts in History from Dalhousie University, a Master of Arts in History from the University of Western Ontario, and a Doctorate of Philosophy in Modern History from Oxford University.  His thesis on the formation of the Royal Air Force was subsequently developed into a book, The Birth of Independent Air Power, and published in 1986.  His career has included a Research Fellowship at Downing College, Cambridge, management of the research programme of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, equity research management with three different investment banks (none of which, alas, exist today under their original name), and a five year spell as Head of Research for the City of London Corporation.  His most recent post was as Head of research for the independent public policy think tank Centre for Cities.

Malcolm was the first foreigner to take up coverage of the Istanbul and Athens stock markets and spent most of his investment banking career in European emerging markets, his last post being as Head of EMEA Equity Research for ABN-AMRO (a job he gave up in 2000 – not because he could see the dot.com crash coming, but because he decided he really didn’t want to be on the Central Line at 6.30 in the morning any more).  Most of his recent work has been in the UK public policy field but be retains an active interest in the more challenging parts of the world, and is still inordinately proud of having a letter published in The Times pointing out some of the more obvious problems with the UK’s current military commitments in Afghanistan.  He has also published several pieces on Turkey, including an article in International Affairs, a written submission to the Commons Select Committee and a contribution to a Chatham House forecast of likely regional scenarios following the second Iraq war.

Thinking About Thinking: Introducing The Real Time Club Brain, Mind & Computing Forum

Real TIme Club at the National Liberal Club, Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Some 60 guests assembled to hear Professor John Stein of Oxford, the eminent physiologist, help members of the Real Time Club better understand the weaknesses of the brain/mind to hardware/software analogy.

brain-mind

The afternoon event began with Chairman Professor Michael Mainelli welcoming the guests, followed by Vice-Chairman Maury Shenk outlining the Real Time Club’s continuing development and the role of the Brain, Mind & Computing Forum.  Maury handed over to past Chairman Charles Ross who then provided a background to the Forum and the idea of creating the key 21 questions that matter about the brain and mind in order to structure research.  Charles drew parallels with David Hilbert’s metamathematics programme of the 1900’s.  Interestingly, Michael Mainelli began a metacommerce programme under the Long Finance www.longfinance.net initiative for economics and business.  Maury then introduced Professor John Stein.

Professor Stein began by positing the question, “Is the brain a digital computer?”.  Giving the end game away quickly, “No”.  First, the brain doesn’t look like a digital computer, more like a blancmange.  Second, the process is completely different. Axonal process outputs may seem digital, but even just describing the ionic flows shows one how different things are.  The chemical transmitters are barely analogous to computer circuitry with their inherent inhibitors and their plasticity.  Third, the brain modifies its own structure.  Fourth, the brain is complex. There are probably some 10^20! combinations of axons and states.

Yet, things are more subtle. Professor Stein explored John Searle’s “Chinese Room” thought experiment on symbology and understanding – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_room. Professor Stein warned the Forum to avoid the homunculus fallacy http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homunculus_argument.  He then proceeded to wonder where we go from here.  Elucidating some thoughts from his own research and experience he explored representation, location mapping and the role of prediction in both the function of the brain and body, as well as consciousness.  He gave the example of the feedback interactions between the eye and the hand.  These feedback interactions are intimately connected with the brains ability to predict.  For example, as we reach for something we count on prediction of future location to time stopping the hand.  If we waited for our hand to give us feedback about the time to stop moving we would proceed through the desired location.

Professor Stein concluded by sharing some of his thoughts on how timing problems relate to dementia, depression or Parkinson’s disease.  He pointed out that, in his opinion, dyslexic problems and advantages are inter-related with concepts of time, specifically that dyslexics appear to have a weaker sense of time (provoking this writer to muse on whether Britain had become more dyslexic over the years, while the Italians have always been dyslexic).  Professor Stein held out hope that better understanding of these areas was leading to potential avenues for treatment or cure, e.g. experiments he has been involved with on tremors and oscillation signals.  Professor Stein concluded with support for the Forum exploring these issues in an inter-disciplinary manner.  The audience reaction was enthusiastic and there were numerous questions touching on subjects such as humour, the soul and various treatments.

PRESS RELEASE ON EVENT
“21 questions cognitive neuroscience needs to address in the 21st century”

The BrainMindForum, in conjunction with the Mind, Brain and Computing Caucus of the Real Time Club, launched its latest initiative, “21 key questions cognitive neuroscience needs to address in the 21st century” with a luncheon meeting at the National Liberal Club on Wednesday, 12th May. The project has been modelled on David Hilbert’s list of 23 unsolved problems in mathematics, posed in 1900, which provided a focus for mathematical endeavour for the early decades of the last century, and led to the invention of computers.

By introducing the new ‘21 questions’, project leader Charles Ross, co-author of Biological Systems of the Brain and chairman of the Brain Mind Forum, hopes to make use of the Real Time Club Member’s long experience of understanding complex systems to stimulate widespread thinking and debate to solve many of the outstanding puzzles about how the brain works and how we can use that knowledge to improve our quality of life.

Attendees at the project launch heard Mr John Stein, Professor of Physiology at Oxford University, talk about his work on neurophysiology and cognition, following which there was a lively debate about movement control, dyslexia, antisocial behaviour and computing-related issues.

The BrainMindForum was set up to provide a cross disciplinary platform for ideas, information, research and publications about the brain, in order to stimulate the creation of new ideas and promote further research into unlocking the secrets of the most important organ in our bodies

The Real Time Club (www.realtimeclub.org) is believed to be the oldest IT dining club in the world, and has had considerable influence over the years on the development of the computing industry and the use of computing in Britain. Recognising that modern digital computing techniques will be crucial to research on the linkages of neurophysiology and cognition, the Real Time Club has established the Brain, Mind and Computing Forum to focus on driving awareness and research in this important area.

Dude – Where Is My Identity?

On 19 January 2010, the Real Time Club met at its normal venue, The National Liberal Club, with me as the Chairman.  The theme of the evening was “Dude – Where is my Identity”. Some 55 Members and Guests were in attendance.

Michael Mainelli, Chairman, opened the evening, welcomed new members and guests and introduced the speaker, Liam Maxwell, Head of Computing at Eton College.  He also welcomed a number of students from Eton and the Oratory.

Liam started by introducing the Eton and Oratory students. He posed the question – “How do students deal with things like Facebook” . He quoted Eric Blair, an Old Etonian – the enemy of clear language is insincerity. He also introduced some new jargon –

Student Multislacking Eating tea, downloading music, and game playing.
Dejamoo Bullshit I heard before but can’t place where.

He then went on to the subject of what is identity in the context of a talk to his students going back over 20 years to the fall of the Berlin Wall.  Did East Germans have identity?  Not one that they owned.  It is therefore necessary to identify the difference between how we see ourselves, and how others see us.  The internet has enabled people to create an identity.  The young man creates an image of himself in a low lit area surrounded by girls in low cut tops.

dude-identity

So what is identity? Is it:
Your credit rating
Your insurance rating
Your identity number
Your driving Licence number
Your NHS number
Your passport number
Etc. etc. etc.

We have many identities as seen by government.  But for a person under 18, there is a different perspective of identity.  For example, it’s on Facebook complete with address and phone numbers. This is seen as normal by that generation.  Some 1% of our economy is spent on paper pushing by government.  This is a worrying sum when you need to save money and change.  But how, in a post bureaucracy, do you run systems without an admin. package.

We own our personal data, its ours, and we should control the interaction with government. The government is heading from a policy view, to one of control, and being able to monitor opinions and feelings. Should we have government by Facebook? By electronic voting?

Liam concluded by stating that identity is a core part of government – and that therefore a critical issue has to be – who owns it.  Discussion was then opened to the meeting.  A large number of points were raised by members and guests including:

  • It is important to ensure that information held on line is incorrect.
  • Facebook has a lot of other peoples views of you, including friends photos of you – but you can neither control or correct it.
  • The over 25s have a different perspective between online and off line relationships, whereas the under 25s use Facebook as a tool to communicate, with their identity being a by-product.. They do not make the same differentiation, because they have no concern about the differences.
  • People don’t build their Ids – but over time others build it up. “You have no friends” is a generation accusation, and your identity online develops without trying.
  • 123people – links all known information for a specific name. You cannot stop the identity on line whether you like it or not.
  • Facebook has become a mod of university student communication.
  • The issue is how is it used – with a CV you try to give the best impression – this is the same with an Internet identity.
  • People can have multiple Ids – at the meeting over 40 people had more than 1 ID. I can now choose who I want to be!
  • What will people think in 20 years looking back at today’s Facebook entries. Will potential employers use it as a form of reference? DO young people realise the historical trace ability.
    One of our student guests replied – Yes – it terrifies me!
  • A lot of scare stories are not true – for example there is no evidence that you cannot get into university because of a Facebook entry.
  • Some schools control access by age.
  • Part of growing up is negotiating the past.
  • An equivalent to Facebook exists in the House of Commons – “Launchpad”.
  • Facebook includes remarks about how a particular school is handling a specific drug problem.
  • Other people can add data – so the question is between control and security.
  • The simple answer – don’t let stuff go on Facebook, otherwise the students see what colleagues think.
  • When does representation become misrepresentation?
  • Facebook is seeking controversy – the rules for this are buried in the small print.
  • How will history look at us?
  • Internet is bad at forgiveness.
  • There is a split between identity, and the entitlement as to how to use it – trust is implicit but not well placed.
  • Year 1 University students use Facebook to attract friends – Year 3 to attract employers.

At that point the Chairman asked Liam to summarise.  He said that the digital age is about forgetting, not remembering.  We have to be selective in remembering.  And most importantly, if you want to say something – talk about it. Don’t hide behind IT.

The meeting closed at 9.35 with the Chairman thanking Liam for setting the theme for the evening, and for encouraging such a lively debate.