Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

# CategoryEconomics

## Will Ordinary Human Intelligence Become the New “Oil”?

At one time, the tech craze was for outsourcing jobs. Maybe it’s time to look at “insourcing” instead

Outsourcing is the silver bullet of the IT age. Everything can be made more cheaply and more profitably by sourcing the work from places with a lower cost of living. But do those places always have to be overseas? Not necessarily. The perils of overseas outsourcing are well known, ranging from communication through cultural or time zone incompatibilities. What if there were a way to eliminate those incompatibilities while still retaining the benefits of workers who live in an area with a lower cost of living? This is possible through “insourcing.” There are regions of the United States where the cost of living is quite low, allowing companies to have their cake and eat it too. Work can be done…

## Bubble, Bubble, Toil and Trouble: Here We Go Again

Trouble brews when inexperienced traders try their hand at the stock market

The extraordinary investor and statesman Bernard Baruch once warned that, When beggars and shoeshine boys, barbers and beauticians can tell you how to get rich, it is time to remind yourself that there is no more dangerous illusion than the belief that one can get something for nothing. Over and over and over again, the unwary fall for money-for-nothing illusions — Dutch tulip bulbs, South Sea stocks, Japanese real estate, dot-com stocks, and bitcoin, not to mention baseball cards, beanie babies, and other so-called collectibles. Now we have a torrent of Reddit chatter inspiring the gullible to gobble up shares of GameStop, AMC, and whatever catches the crowd’s collective attention. Many Reddit-pumped buyers claim that they are part of a noble battle to punish…

## Who Is Allowed in the Smoke-Filled Rooms of Investment?

How the stock market is manipulated, using the GameStop episode as an example

Full disclosure: I continue to maintain positions in some of the stocks mentioned in this article. But, as you will see, my goal here is neither to promote stock or dissuade from it, but rather to ask a deeper question about who is allowed to do what about a stock. For those who are unaware, the last two weeks in the stock market have gone crazy. GameStop (GME), a company that continues to lose money, skyrocketed from $18/share to, as of the time I’m writing, just about$450 per share. That’s right the stock soared over 20 times in value over the period of a few weeks. Several other stocks have also skyrocketed, including AMC Entertainment (AMC) and Koss Corporation…

## What If Many People Ditched Government Currencies for Bitcoin?

Are cryptocurrencies our best bet for a fair global currency system?

Picture a world racked by economic issues like coronavirus, where people begin ditching government (fiat) currencies for Bitcoin. Small changes are are underway: The chief economist did not mention that a growing number of jurisdictions are already embracing bitcoin for tax payments. For example, the canton of Zug in Switzerland announced that it will start accepting bitcoin for tax payments this year. Several other local governments in Switzerland have made a similar announcement, such as Zermatt. Recently, the mayor of Miami said that he is working on allowing payments for city services in bitcoin. Furthermore, a growing number of stores are accepting bitcoin payments. Payments giant Paypal, for example, is planning to allow people to use cryptocurrency to pay for…

## Will Mediocrity Triumph? The Fallacy That Will Not Die

Economist claims: It is a fundamental economic truth that businesses converge to mediocrity. Is he right?

Nearly 100 years ago, a famous economist named Horace Secrist wrote a book with the provocative title, The Triumph of Mediocrity in Business. He had spent ten years collecting and analyzing data on the success of dozens of companies in dozens of industries during the years 1920 to 1930. For each measure of success, he used the 1920 data to divide the companies in each industry into quartiles: the top 25%, second 25%, third 25%, and bottom 25%. He then calculated the average value of the success metric for the 1920 top-quartile companies every year from 1920 to 1930. He did the same for the other three quartiles. In every case, the companies in both the top two quartiles and the bottom two…

## Bitcoin: What’s Good, What’s Bad and What’s the Future?

Bitcoins are currently bouncing in the range of $30,000 to$40,000 each

Bitcoin has been having quite the wild ride over the last several months, and especially the last several weeks. During 2020, the price of a single bitcoin dipped below $5,000, then soared past$20,000 in December. It is currently bouncing in the range of $30,000 to$40,000.So what is the attraction of the digital currency Bitcoin? Why is the value of a bitcoin so high and what are people doing with it? To begin with, keep in mind that a “single bitcoin” is a bit of a misnomer. While a single bitcoin is indeed expensive, coins can be split. The smallest unit in Bitcoin is known as a satoshi, which is 0.00000001 bitcoin. While the quoted price is always given…

## Why Are 38 American States Suing Google?

Better question: What search engine results do you NEVER see?

The current lawsuit was announced by Colorado’s Attorney General Phil Weiser but 38 states are signatories. The big issue is alleged suppression of competition. First, a bit of background: This is not the first big time lawsuit. That one would be from the U.S. Department of Justice in October: In October, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Google, owned by Alphabet, for violating antitrust laws and actively enabling a monopoly in search engines and search advertising. The announcement followed a year’s worth of investigation by prosecutors, who “have spoken with Google’s rivals in technology and media, collecting information and documents that could be used to build a case.” The suit focuses on the tech giant’s illegal actions…

## How Do We Know Financial Transactions Are Honest?

Let’s look at the steps we can take to find out

Recently, we’ve been asking readers to think about Alice and Bob, the famous pair in physics used to demonstrate propositions, for example, as if as if they were running for office. At Expensivity, a blog about that expensive and unpleasant subject, money, Bernard Fickser asks about better ways of preventing financial fraud: We focus on financial Alice (the situation with financial Bob is parallel). Alice wants the record of deposits and disbursements in her ledger to reflect deposits that she has knowingly and willingly received as well as disbursements that she has authorized to go to the intended parties. If this is the case, the record of deposits and disbursements in her ledger as well as the running totals will…

## How Can We Prevent Financial or Election Fraud?

Both contexts come down to an accounting problem, keeping track of money or votes over time.

Here’s an idea from Expensivity, a blog about money and a lot of other things. Let’s take two people, the famous Alice and Bob, used to demonstrate many propositions in math and science: In an electoral context, we think of Alice and Bob as candidates running against each other for the same office. Alice’s ledger indicates votes that have been added or subtracted over time (with dates and times of the additions and subtractions), as well as her current vote total. Similarly for Bob. The vote total in each ledger starts at zero and can never drop below zero. If only legitimate votes are added to Alice’s ledger, there should be no need for votes ever to be subtracted from…

## How Toxic Bias Infiltrates Computer Code

A look at the dark underbelly of modern algorithms

The newly released documentary Coded Bias from Shalini Kantayya takes the viewer on a tour of the way modern algorithms can undermine justice and society and are actively subverting justice at the present moment. Coded Bias highlights many under-discussed issues regarding data and its usage by governments and corporations. While its prescriptions for government usage of data are well considered, the issue of corporate use of data involves many additional issues that the film skirts entirely. As the film points out, we are presented these algorithms as if they were a form of intelligence. But they are actually just math—and this math can be used to, intentionally or unintentionally, encode biases. In fact, as Bradley Center fellows Robert J. Marks…

## The Wisdom of Crowds: Are Crowds Really Wiser Than Individuals?

According to the theory, with a large number of guessers, the median number is very likely to be close to the true value

Statistician Sir Francis Galton went to a country fair in 1907 where a prize was to be awarded to the person who made the most accurate guess of the butchered weight of an ox that was on display. Galton collected and analyzed the 787 guesses and, not surprisingly, found that some guesses were far too high and others were much too low. However, the average guess (1,197 pounds) was only 1 pound lower than the actual weight (1,198 pounds). The average was more accurate than the guesses of the vast majority of both the amateurs and the experts. In the 1980s, a finance professor named Jack Treynor (1930–2016) performed a similar, and now legendary, experiment with jelly beans. Professor Treynor…

## Could Carbon Computing Make Computers More Environment Friendly?

As a key component of life forms, carbon is abundant and energy efficient

Carbon, a very abundant chemical element, is one of the building blocks of life, partly on account of its stability. It is a minimalist element, compared to the silicon used in computing today: … carbon dioxide is is a small gaseous molecule consisting of two oxygens both forming a double bond with a single carbon while silicon dioxide is a massive behemoth of a molecule made of huge numbers of alternating oxygen and silicon atoms and is more commonly known as sand. S. E. Gould, “Shine on you crazy diamond: why humans are carbon-based lifeforms” at Scientific American (November 11, 2012) But there’s something else about carbon. As George Gilder puts it, carbon-based life forms, like humans, consume very little…

## What Real Advantage Do Self-Driving Cars Provide?

It’s time for a hard-headed look at the costs and benefits of the pursuit of fully self-driving cars

More and more people are realizing that autonomous (self-driving) vehicles are not a road to automotive prosperity. To recap, Level 5 self-driving is what most people think of when they hear the term “self-driving.” You type in an address and the car takes you where you want to go while you sleep in the back. That car is not going to hit the road anytime soon. Level 4 self-driving is similar but only works within well-defined areas or situations. In practice, Level 4 essentially relies on either intelligent infrastructure or a territory that is so predictable and well-mapped that it obviates the need for intelligent infrastructure. Huge amounts have been invested in self-driving vehicles. The Information estimated that \$16 billion…

## Computer Science Explains Why Communism Can’t Work

Successful communism is not only morally and practically flawed, it is mathematically impossible

Communism has been the target of many criticisms. The strongest deal with the mismatch between central planning and individuals’ desires for their lives and with the horrific human rights record of communist nations. Some scholars place the toll in human life due to communism at above 100 million in the 20th century. Those are criticisms of the practicality and ethics of communism. But is it also intrinsically flawed at a fundamental mathematical level? It turns out that the answer is yes. The basic idea behind central planning is this: If the central government makes most decisions that, in a freer society, individuals or small communities would make for themselves, more efficiency will follow—and, as a result, more prosperity. It doesn’t…