Divine Neutrality, Blog. Science, Philosophy

Bubbles

December 15th, 2015

Irrational Exuberance


In a lovely talk to the Concept Exchange Society, economist Daniel Friedman told us about financial markets. He said that a financial market is a “marketplace where promises are bought and sold by strangers”. I like that image. A bond is such a promise; a promise to pay interest at fixed intervals and to repay its principal, the loan amount. A mortgage, or a package of them, is also such a promise.

Dan discussed the history of recurrent fluctuations in market prices. They undergo inflation then deflation and back again. He mentioned such a balloon event that culminated in 1720 England; the escapade of the South-Sea Company and its scheme to buy the National Debt. Here is my understanding of the scheme. It may be flawed.

In economics parlance when you ‘buy debt‘ you don’t acquire the debt itself – the owing of money – but rather you acquire the right to collect the debt. You buy from the creditor his ownership of the promissory note. If the note stipulates periodic interest payments, you are buying yourself an income stream.

The debt involved in the South-Sea Company scheme was the British Government’s promissory notes. They paid regular interest and were held by a large number of the public. Held, say, by people who had put their life’s savings into something that would pay them a modest income on which to live. An income stream from Government secured notes.

The notes had been issued by various Departments of the British Government. At that time each Deparment of Government made its own financial arrangements. Each had its own accounting section which issued and managed these debt accounts. With such a system in place it was easy to argue for consolidation of the debt; all loans into one grand account. And to be issued by one single agency of Government; the Treasury.

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Thanksgiving

November 30th, 2015

thanksgiving2015

Remarkably there is a non-denominational holiday devoted to gratitude; Thanksgiving. This year I have been blessed to celebrate it with all four of my children, all of my four grandchildren plus my sister and their families. Here is the picture.

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Robots’ Feelings

October 13th, 2015

Emotion algorithms

To answer the question whether robots have feelings or not we must have some notion about the nature of feelings. What are feelings? Or emotions? Are they to be accounted for purely physically; the expression of electrochemical processes that take place within one’s body? Our psyche’s perception of the physiological activity taking place in our bodies when we are feeling that emotion?

In this view emotion is what we experience when we are carrying out the imperatives of nature. Emotion IS physiology. That was the view of William James. His idea is explored in the posting, Sense of Volition. Suppose we accept this mechanistic view. Then robots might have feelings!

Consider a game playing robot. It ‘decides’ which move to make in order to win. “Because I like to win, I play thusly,” the robot appears to declare as it makes its move. It seems ‘to know success.’ It appreciates winning. Within the computer program is embedded a ‘want-to-win.’ A desire.    (more…)

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