Finance, medicine, search, digital and killers

I’ve been exploring the idea that we have misaligned our incentives, with regards to pushing our finest brains into valuable pursuits, for a little while now. Its something that I wrote about, here,  earlier this year. Recently I came across this piece, entitled ‘telling people to leave finance‘. Its reassuring to know that I’m not the only only one to feel such misappropriation is foolish. When pondering the fate of ‘punished’ bankers (if such a thing were ever to come to pass) we should be reassured that such clever people, for they are most certainly, in the main, clever people, will almost certainly be re-employed in societal positive sum pursuits. I also found a very interesting piece that comes across as an interview, but is actually more deliberately constructed, by David Potter, the man behind Psion and who also served at the Bank of England. He points out, amongst other things, that part of what went wrong in 2008 was a derivative of the previous 20 years and the belief, held by those in power (from the right and the left), that we had ‘solved’ economics. Its easier in hindsight to be derisive, but I still feel this was a mistake that could have been avoided.
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Someone at the British Medical Journal has a sense of humour (its actually funny, for real). There is no need to subscribe to see what they are getting at, all the fun in is in the abstract before the firewall. There are 2 serious points here. The first is that there is still some quite considerable opposition to the idea of evidence based medicine, which is natural I suppose, although I wish we could move more quickly to the operational optimal mixture of the old and new schools. The second point is that there most certainly is a limit to the whole philosophy. Taking the discussion out of the field of medicine, the 2nd link, from my current favourite blog Ribbonfarm, decrys an over reliance on statistical analysis to the detriment of good old fashioned HARD thinking. He is exaggerating some to make his point, good statistics used well are clearly useful, nonetheless I do find myself agreeing that some simple mental sweats combined with a proper set of balls to trust our thinking is not easy enough to find in today’s business world.     

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One of the big issues that is still a long way from being settled in this new digital world is how we pay the content creators, both the independents and the networks (publishers). A side show in that substantial debate is the role of search engines, and most importantly Google. Its a relationship that seems most fraught with regard to journalism, and particularly the bigger more established newsgroups. Murdoch has famously waged a PR war against Google for years, although it is instructive that he doesn’t de-list his titles, which is incredibly easy to do via the addition of a simple piece of code. Google are pretty sanguine about this, as they have seen titles de-list regularly, only to reconnect when their traffic falls. Here we have 2 sides of the issue playing out in South America and France. In South America titles are refusing to be available in the google reader (which means eyeballs are not arriving at their own real estate), which at least has some cogency although probably not the ideal solution. In France, in response to a ridiculous move to enforce Google to pay for content, Google are simply threatening to de-list the titles from the main search results.
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This is an interesting piece about the Tumblr blog, The New Aesthetic. I had picked it up earlier this year and was disappointed when it stopped shortly after I had found it. Its now up and running again, and worth a regular look. This article explains what happened, and adds some extra explanation about what the original blog was looking to achieve. On face value it simply provided a home for people to submit images of the digital as they interposed with the analogue. However, that last sentence feels woefully inadequate. As well as highlighting these modern juxtapositions it was also showing the new relationship between the watchtower, and those being watched, the oldest of all power relationships, and as such is inherently political.
There is another interesting observation. As a result of publicity, generated by one famous blogger writing an essay about it, James Bridle, the blog author, closed the Tumblr as, “it rendered my social networks almost unusable. I couldn’t continue to talk about it because anything I said about it was lost in that mass.”
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This is a fantastical story about Sweden’s most notorious serial killer. Who, it turns out, didn’t actually kill anyone at all. Thomas Quick, now known as Sture Bergwall, is clearly a disturbed individual. He realised he was gay at the age of 14, but felt obliged to hide that fact from his Pentecostal parents, started using drugs at 19 and was accused of molesting boys shortly after. He was eventually incarcerated for robbing a bank dressed as Santa Claus. Whilst in hospital he realised that the more extreme his confessions, the more attention was paid to him and a strange history began which ultimately led to the confession of 30 murders, all of which it is now assumed were committed by other people. None of whom have been brought to justice.
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