Note to recruiters

Note to recruiters: We are quite aware that recruiters, interviewers, VCs and other professionals generally perform a Google Search before they interview someone, take a pitch from someone, et cetera. Please keep in mind that not everything put on the Internet must align directly to one's future career and/or one's future product portfolio. Sometimes, people do put things on the Internet just because. Just because. It may be out of their personal interests, which may have nothing to do with their professional interests. Or it may be for some other reason. Recruiters seem to have this wrong-headed notion that if somebody is not signalling their interests in a certain area online, then that means that they are not interested in that area at all. It is worth pointing out that economics pretty much underlies the areas of marketing, strategy, operations and finance. And this blog is about economics. With metta, let us. by all means, be reflective about this whole business of business. Also, see our post on "The Multi-faceted Identity Problem".

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Comment : comment to Prof. Sieg Hecker

Here are some comments I sent to Prof. Sieg Hecker, a world expert on nuclear weapons.


In the case of India, I have been surprised that India continues to adopt what I would term an 'underdog' stance. India talks about nuclear 'have's and 'have-not's and justifies its own nuclear own program on this basis. I believe this to be a mistake. I think it would be better for India to adopt a policy of 'persistent ambiguity' (or, if you prefer, 'calculated ambiguity'). 

A policy of 'persistent ambiguity' for a country X which already possesses nuclear weapons means that the country refuses to divulge the nature and extent of the development of its nuclear technology and capability (that is, decides to be ambiguous) based on its past record of non-proliferation (this record must be excellent and would include a cap on the extent of its weapons development program (say, to be limited to less than 400 nuclear weapons)), and it will persist this policy more or less indefinitely (that is, it indicates its intent to not change this policy). Adopting such a policy would imply that it can offer guidance to other countries – both in terms of policy and in terms of materials - in regards to what they should do to minimize the threat of nuclear non-proliferation. It could, for instance, take a stance against allowing nuclear technology to come under the control of groups who are known to have sympathies with international terrorist organizations and against countries cheating by using the development of civilian nuclear power as an excuse to develop nuclear weapons.

Such a policy has the following features :
    • It does not, in any way, shape or form, alter either strategy or operations for Country X. Country X does not have to do anything differently. It needs to simply change its official stance. The cost would be almost negligible.
    • The benefit to the world community at large seems to be significant. By not declaring their own nuclear capability, Country X's position cannot be used by other countries to justify their own stance. You had cited the example of North Korea in that North Korea used the exception made to India to justify its own program (This information is, I believe, in the public space). If a policy of 'persistent ambiguity' were followed, then other countries could not use the instance of India to justify their own stance. The problem is that while India has had a good record in the matter of nuclear non-proliferation given that it is a democracy and will probably continue to have a good record, other countries may not have well developed institutions that will permit them to be so. Indeed, they may already have intentions to use a nuclear threat against its rivals or even pass on nuclear technologies to whoever is willing to pay (e.g. terrorist organizations).
    • A simple decision tree diagram would be sufficient to illustrate the benefits of such a policy. The diagram looks as follows.

--------------------------------------> DO NOTHING, MAINTAIN STATUS QUO
| [0, RISK: HIGH]
-----------------------------------> PURSUE A POLICY OF 'PERSISTENT AMBIGUITY'
[0, RISK : LOW]

The values in the parentheses indicate the following : the first value indicates what the payoff (the cost or the benefit) to the country is and the second value indicates the payoff to the world at large (measured in terms of the risk of other countries using country X as an example to justify their own behavior). There is more than one country that is marching towards nuclear weapon technology today and we need to make the international community's argument water-tight. It is clear, when framed in these terms, that a policy of 'persistent ambiguity' is superior to the status quo.

Given both the vast dangers posed by nuclear technology to the world at large and the nature and scope of possible proliferation to terrorist entities, national nuclear policy is a matter of great import. Given the low cost to India (almost zero) and the significant benefit to the world at large, I think India's stance on nuclear non-proliferation needs to change. This is a highly ethical way of doing business and clearly better than what we have now.


Note that having a nuclear weapons arsenal that runs into four digits is a waste for any country. So a cap of 400 is not a major concession to anyone.

Update (Nov 11): Note that there are now only four countries in the world that are non-parties to the treaty. So the old arguments - often rhetorical - no longer apply since the large numbers of non-parties that previously existed no longer exist. The world's non-proliferation committee can now focus on what can be done about just the four (or maybe five or six) that remain.

It hardly needs to be mentioned that it is to the credit of international non-proliferation organizations and peacemakers everywhere that we now live in a world where there are only 4-6 non-parties to a treaty that is expected to be in force indefinitely given that - at the outset - it was only supposed to last 25 years and given that it was expected that as many as 25 countries would eventually acquire nuclear weapons. There is something to be said for peaceful diplomacy.