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".

Saturday, August 31, 2013

SCIENCE: Dominic Pettman on "Plant-Thinking"

IN APRIL OF 2000, Michael Moore launched a campaign to help elect a ficus plant to the Congressional seat in New Jersey’s 11th District. The joke was that a ficus is more intelligent and dynamic than any of the highly partisan and corrupt official candidates. After reading Michael Marder’s new book Plant-Thinking: A Philosophy of Vegetal Life you may be convinced that plants are smarter than all of us. Theoretical work in the humanities has been branching out for several years now (if you’ll pardon the arborial pun), striving to go beyond the traditional human subject in order to account for other types of existence and experience, including animals and autonomous machines. A new field has emerged, loosely labeled “the posthumanities,” which attempts to fill in the millennia-long blind spots caused by our own narcissism. Such scholars are united in their efforts to expose or deconstruct ongoing “anthropocentrism.” The latest off-shoot of such thinking — known as Speculative Realism — goes so far as to consider objects like cameras, stones, pillows, cartoon characters, or electricity grids as “agents” in their own right. 
It is interesting then that plants have, on the whole, been ignored in this intellectual rush to lobby on behalf of non-human existence. And while Marder’s book is not the first to broach the subject (Jeffrey Jerome Cohen’s recent edited collection Animal, Vegetable, Mineral [2012] is of special note, as is Francis HallĂ©’s In Praise of Plants [2011]), it is possibly the most sustained study yet to emerge from the rather esoteric world of Continental philosophy. Marder wants to forge an encounter with vegetal life, all the while respecting the alien ontology of floral ways of being. For while a shrub may not consciously “experience” the world in which it grows, this does not, for Marder, mean that it is not thinking and doing in profound philosophical, and even ethical, ways. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

INNOVATION: University of St Andrews scientists create 'fastest man-made spinning object'

From the BBC:
A team of researchers claims to have created the world's fastest spinning man-made object. 
They were able to levitate and spin a microscopic sphere at speeds of up to 600 million revolutions per minute. 
This spin speed is half a million times faster than a domestic washing machine and more than a thousand times faster than a dental drill. 
The work by the University of St Andrews scientists is published in Nature Communications.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

TECHNOLOGY: LG puts buttons on back of G2 smartphone

Via the BBC:
LG is hoping to shake up smartphone design by placing the only physical buttons of its new flagship model on the rear of the handset. 
The firm says the G2 addresses the problem that mobiles become harder to control the bigger they get. 
The South Korean company recently reported its strongest ever mobile phone figures.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

ECONOMICS: A philosopher's skepticism on Prospect Theory (and its refinements)

So, I sent an email to Tyler Cowen who was kind enough to offer an explanation of what he thinks might be going on with Prospect Theory. I am still extremely skeptical about Prospect Theory being much more than a descriptive theory of what may be going on. 

Now: One may not be able to prove in a give situation whether Prospect Theory is operating. This much is already known. What I am arguing here is different. I am arguing that it may never be possible to know if Prospect Theory is happening in a given situation. 

I am raising the following epistemological question related to Prospect Theory (and its refinements) : how do we know that Prospect Theory is a true theory in the sense that is falsifiable AND one with provable predictive power? All I am asking is for Prospect Theory to meet a few basic requirements. How do we know that Prospect Theory is a true theory of human behavior in markets if it does not meet even the basic requirements?

The easiest thing to do would be to start off with an example. Let us first ask ourselves the following question. Prospect Theory adherents claim that Prospect Theory can provide an explanation for the fact that riskier investments don't always have greater returns than less risky one. We need to answer the following questions first. Why is there a reason to believe that there should be an explanation for the fact that riskier investments don't always have greater returns than less risky investments? Why not a plethora of explanations? 

Let us think about companies a bit. With companies, people have only a partial idea of what is actually going on within companies, that is, they don't have perfect iformation. Their aggregate guesses could be off with some non-zero probability p. Now given this (and here is the logical leap where Kahneman screws up), you can apply any number of "bias"-based theories to explain the exact same phenomena that Prospect Theory claims to explain. The "overconfidence effect" is as good as any. The "anchoring bias" could be used to explain the exact same thing. In fact, in the place of Prospect Theory (and its refinements), you could substitute many different theories (Theory X1, X2, ..., Xn).

Thursday, August 15, 2013

MISCELLANEOUS: Interview with Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is the uber-chillin’ philosophical physicist who investigates how the preposterous universe works at a deep level, who thinks spats between physics and philosophy are silly, who thinks a wise philosopher will always be willing to learn from discoveries of science, who asks how we are to live if there is no God, who is comfortable with naturalism and physicalism, who thinks emergentism central, that freewill is a crucial part of our best higher-level vocabulary, that there aren’t multiple levels of reality, which is quantum based not relativity based, is a cheerful realist, disagrees with Tim Maudlin about wave functions and Craig Callender about multiverses, worries about pseudo-scientific ideas and that the notion of ‘domains of applicability’ is lamentably under-appreciated. Stellar! 
3am: You’re a physicist with philosophical interests and skill. How did this begin? 
Sean Carroll: My own interests in physics and philosophy certainly stem from a common origin – I’m curious about how the world works at a deep level. I got interested in physics at a fairly young age, reading books from the local public library about relativity and particle physics. I didn’t discover philosophy in any serious way until I went to college. It was a good Catholic school (Villanova), at which every arts & sciences major was required to take three semesters of philosophy (as well as three semesters of religious studies, which could be fairly philosophical if you took the right courses). I really enjoyed it and ended up getting a philosophy minor. As a grad student in astrophysics at Harvard, I sat in on courses with John Rawls and Robert Nozick. Rawls in particular was a great person to talk to, although we almost never discussed philosophy because he had so many questions about physics and cosmology.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

INNOVATION: Tycoon unveils 'Hyperloop' transit idea

Via the BBC:
US-based entrepreneur Elon Musk has unveiled his proposed supersonic "Hyperloop" transport concept to link Los Angeles and San Francisco. 
The SpaceX, Tesla and Paypal founder envisions using magnets and fans to shoot capsules floating on a cushion of air through a long tube. 
If it is ever built, a Hyperloop trip between the two California cities would last about 30 minutes, he said.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

TECHNOLOGY: Cybersecurity Pros in High Demand, Highly Paid and Highly Selective

Experts in cybersecurity are among the most sought-after professionals in the tech sector, with demand for workers in that field outpacing other IT jobs by a wide margin. 
A new survey by Semper Secure, a public-private partnership in Virginia formed to advance the cybersecurity profession, offers a fresh glimpse at what security workers earn, what they look for in an employer and where the hubs of innovation are located. 
Cybersecurity professionals report an average salary of $116,000, or approximately $55.77 per hour. That's nearly three times the national median income for full-time wage and salary workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 
But it's more than just the money. Cybersecurity professionals say that they actively seek employers with strong reputations for integrity and those that are recognized as leaders in their field.

Monday, August 12, 2013

TECHNOLOGY: How Jon Oringer became Silicon Alley's first billionaire

Via the BBC:
Jon Oringer, 39, founded 10 companies before he hit on the idea for Shutterstock, the successful stock-photo website that has made him Silicon Alley's first billionaire. 
"I'd failed a whole bunch of times before that and I was willing to fail again," says Mr Oringer of his decision to go into the photography business, something he knew nothing about. 
Now, after a successful stock market debut in October 2012 and with more than 28 million photos, videos and illustrations in its vast database, shares in Mr Oringer's Shutterstock are soaring. 
With an ownership stake estimated at more than 55% of the company, Mr Oringer has become the first billionaire to come out of Silicon Alley - New York's thriving tech sector - with an estimated net wealth of $1.05bn (£682m).

Sunday, August 11, 2013

TECHNOLOGY: Shift in privacy versus security debate

Via San Mateo's Daily Journal:
President Barack Obama’s national security team acknowledged for the first time Wednesday that, when investigating one suspected terrorist, it can read and store the phone records of millions of Americans. 
Since it was revealed recently that the National Security Agency puts the phone records of every American into a database, the Obama administration has assured the nation that such records are rarely searched and, when they are, officials target only suspected international terrorists.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

TECHNOLOGY: Whatsapp upgrade adds voice messages to chat app

Via the BBC:
Whatsapp is adding the ability to record and send voice messages to its smartphone chat software. 
The move will help it compete against Facebook Messenger, WeChat, Voxer and BBM which already offer the function. 
California-based Whatsapp has said 300 million people now use its app at least once a month.

Friday, August 9, 2013

MATHEMATICS: eHow : How to build a math model in your spare time

Who are you?
You are a professional who would like to build a mathematical model in your spare time.

You have spare time, don't you? Yes, the time between arriving at the bus stop and getting on to the bus. And the time between getting to the train station and actually boarding the train. And also the time between getting to the shuttle stop and actually boarding the shuttle. Well, this is your opportunity to use your spare time for practical purposes. This post will outline how you can build a mathematical model in all that spare time that you have. This spare time would otherwise be used up making pointless Facebook posts. Well, now you have options. No, not stock options. You have to do actual work for that.

This post is inspired by Hal Varian's remarkable paper "How to build an economic model in your spare time". Like the author of that paper, we believe that it is the simple lack of the availability of a post such as this one that has made it difficult for people to develop mathematical solutions to hard problems. Please note that, as is obvious, extensive research on mathematical work done in far-flung countries like Russia and Japan has been done as part of background reading for this post.

For those new to building mathematical models, this post will provide you some practical tips and expert guidance on the steps you can follow to build a math model - all in just your spare time. Which, after reading this little piece, you will have none left of. Because you will be so busy either solving mathematical problems - like Prof. Shankar - or resting on your laurels - like Prof. Manikutty - knowing that you don't have to do any more research. But remember that Prof. Manikutty knows that, in Japan, he is already a "prominent person". Prominent because he is the tallest person around for miles and miles.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

TECHNOLOGY: Help us stop cyber-bullies, or why the Rattlesnake is a gentleman

Ponder this : why is the Rattlesnake a gentleman? People can walk and chew gum at the same time and you, dear reader, can do more than that. You can think about a puzzle or a riddle, and read my post at the same time.

So. That brings me to the point of this post. The point of this post is to clarify the spirit in which I made two previous posts. I had made two posts on the Thunderdome theme : (1) I am the King Kong of the Internet; (2) I am the Bruce Lee of the Internet. I made these posts for the benefit of my Facebook page readers because I am seeing some comments there, sometimes from people I have just been introduced to, and I don't think they realize that I intend for the Facebook page to be an extension of my blog. So I wanted to put the Thunderdome posts out there by way of fair warning.

I have made sure that all conversations on my Facebook page are civil. I have, thus far, been able to manage each and every issue that has arisen. There has not been a single exception to this. I have put in a process to ensure that I get good quality comments and I am willing to share with people what I did to make this mini-zone of a cyber-bullying-free Internet mini-zone possible. Just call me during office hours.

Let us stop cyber-bullies. Really.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

LINGUISTICS: Proposal to ultra-modernize the Tamil language script

I have decided to rename the proposal "The proposal to ultra-modernize the Tamil language script". Because we are that cool.

I have made the Tamil language proposal even more user-friendly than before. It is now neatly arranged as a series of links over to the right hand side of this blog.

The proposal is the same as the one discussed before. With zero changes. It does have a new name. Think of it as marketing. :)

Remember the Tamil language is already extremely modern. This one takes it to the point of ultra-modern. Yes, we are that cool.


Proposal to modernize the Tamil language script (yes, we*are* that cool)

Monday, August 5, 2013

TECHNOLOGY: Facebook passes $38 IPO price

This news is about 2 weeks old but posting it anyway. Via San Mateo's Daily Journal:
Facebook has found redemption in the form of a soaring stock price. 
On Wednesday, the share price of the world’s most populous social network —and human data repository— briefly crept past $38 for the first time since its rocky public debut last May. In doing so, Facebook cleared a symbolic hurdle that has eluded the company for more than a year. 
Facebook’s ill-fated first trading day on May 18, 2012 was marred by technological glitches on the Nasdaq stock market. The stock closed with a disappointing 23-cent gain. And its performance didn’t improve, hitting a low of $17.55 last September. 
“I think Facebook in general and Zuckerberg in particular felt that they let everybody down,” said Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter of Facebook Inc.’s 29-year-old founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg. “And by everybody I mean all their employees who had stock, all their early private investors who had stock.”

Thursday, August 1, 2013

DIET: Dean Ornish on healing through diet

A very interesting talk by Dr. Dean Ornish on healing through diet :

TECHNOLOGY: Struggling Zynga sues Bang app

From San Mateo's Daily Journal:
The once mighty Zynga is suing online app maker Bang With Friends for trademark infringement, saying the casual sex tool is marring its family-friendly brand of wholesome games such as Words With Friends. 
The suit was filed in San Francisco Tuesday and accuses the “Red Bull and vodka-fueled” makers of BWF of deliberately trying to trade on Zynga’s “With Friends” family of trademarks to get noticed quickly in the area of Internet applications, according to the complaint. 
BWF was just launched in recent months, developed out of an incubator in downtown San Mateo called Boost VC, co-founded by Adam Draper. The app has taken off quickly, however, with more than a million users signed up already.