Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

Don't be a silly quant!

by Sven Triloqvist Mon Nov 26th, 2007 at 03:34:58 PM EST

There I was reading a BBC business item about the role of mathematicians in market mayhem, and learning how much these quantitative analyst types make from their little models, when blow me down, there was this...

When I telephoned one fund to ask if we could interview some of their quants, the receptionist told me that I was unlikely to get permission, partly because of the secretive, commercially sensitive nature of their work but also, because many of them in that fund are autistic.

A strange destinationless journey below the fold...


Now a good friend of mine has an autistic child, so I am well aware of both the tragedy and the consequences for the family. But for those who may not, here is the wiki link.

Autism is a brain development disorder that impairs social interaction and communication, and causes restricted and repetitive behavior, all starting before a child is three years old. This set of signs distinguishes autism from milder autism spectrum disorders (ASD) such as Asperger syndrome.

Now a rare occurrence in autistic people is savantism - having a very narrow, but remarkable intelligence that can manifest itself, for instance, as an amazing ability to do arithmetic calculations. This however is not so in the case of my friend's child.

An autistic savant (historically described as idiot savant) is a person with both autism and savant syndrome. Savant syndrome describes a person having a severe developmental or mental handicap with extraordinary mental abilities not found in most people. This means a lower than average general intelligence (IQ) but very high narrow intelligence in one or more fields. Savant syndrome skills involve striking feats of memory and arithmetic calculation and sometimes include unusual abilities in art or music. Savant syndrome is sometimes abbreviated as "savantism", and individuals with the syndrome are often nicknamed savants. This can be a source of confusion since a savanter is a person of learning, especially one of great knowledge in a particular subject.

The origins of autism are not fully understood - but there are some clues, and genetics plays a major part. There appears to be a connection between OCD (Obsessive Compulsion Disorder), pathological gambling and autism. Normally disorders are divided into 3 neurobiological categories: Dysmorphism (a preoccupation with body as seen eg in anorexia), neurological disorders (autism, Tourette syndrome) and repetitive behaviours (driven by pleasure or arousal, such as sexual obsessions, kleptomania, pathological gambling).

A couple of day ago a new piece of the jigsaw was added: Brain scans 'may detect OCD risk'

These brain changes appear to run in families and may represent a genetic risk factor.

This was associated with decreases of grey matter in brain regions important in suppressing responses and habits - the orbitofrontal and right inferior frontal regions.

Researcher Lara Menzies said: "Impaired brain function in the areas of the brain associated with stopping motor responses may contribute to the compulsive and repetitive behaviours that are characteristic of OCD.

Coincidentally, increased metabolic activity in the orbitofrontal regions appears to be associated with anorexia. And families producing autism also have a high instance of OCD ie the genetic component.

Medical trials have also identified the inhibition of serotonin uptake as a possible treatment. A genetic inability to produce sufficient quantities of GABA will also affect suppression of repetitive behaviour. GABA is the biochemical that drives the inhibitory neurons that clamp down on neurons that are firing repeatedly. (GABA runs out during the day and has to be replenished at night, as we sleep).

I have also commented on the opioidergic system before, though for the life of me I cannot search them out at the moment. Sorry. In brief, the release of hormones, semi-hormones and neurotransmitters into the interstitial brain metaprogram the functioning of the neural networks. The effect of these releases is usually temporary (ie noradrenalin in response to perceived danger), but many of these `metaprograms' have long term consequences: for instance, endorphins that are released as a consequence of alcohol drinking, enter a receptor and promote in the firing neurons that they attach to the creation of more connections between other neighbouring neurons that are firing at the same time. That is how alcoholism gets hard-wired.

Now we get into more speculative territory...

Two things seem to be going on:

1.    Genetics will decide the relative capabilities of the `manufacturing centres' in the brain. That is, how much (if at all) of these hormones, semi-hormones and neurotransmitters will be produced, and then removed by uptake. These might be described as the rules for a self-organizing system. You knew I`d get to that at some point ;-)

But 2. The `triggers' for the release of these metaprogramming biochemicals  can be inherent or LEARNED in the process of self-organization of neural networks. The inherent ones are those essentially more basic triggers for eating and sleeping, for instance, that involve internal feedback from the presence of `gradients' of chemicals. Hunger is a gradient. The longer the trigger is present, the less likely it can be consciously suppressed. However, in the case of anorexia, there appears to be a recursive suppression of the trigger: if your metabolism is skewed to being thinner, not a finite quality of `thin', then it will be recursive.

This recursiveness seems to be a feature of brains out of balance. The more you drink alcohol, the more you are likely to drink alcohol in the future - etc.

Recursiveness can be seen in the apparent connection between low self-esteem and overeating disorders. The more you eat, the lower your self-esteem, the more you eat.

These are Learned Behaviour Disorders. They are a function of the metaprogramming. Sometimes metaprogramming totally fucks up. Here is the case of a swan in love with a paddle boat. Of course we'd never be so stupid ;-) (says the man who has been divorced twice)

Somehow I still have to get back to the autistic quants. Bear with me.

Firstly though to reiterate: in a self-organizing system like the brain, there are `rules' that govern the biochemical microcosm at the cellular level and the molecular level. The `actions' of the brain (stimulus/response) are `controlled' by these rules from the very beginning of life and its confrontation with the massive undifferentiated noise of stimuli.

The lifelong process of differentiation - getting signals out of the noise - is similarly controlled by these rules. BUT the experience of life can change the trigger mechanisms for the metaprogramming. Or can it? Is the thrill seeker addicted to noradrenalin because he/she produces more of it naturally in response to the trigger?

And so to quants. A hedge fund, or indeed the whole industry of financial legerdemain, is a system that is now bionic. It quantifies risk by the output of mathematical models run on computer systems. The computing system itself can trigger trading activity, or rather the model can. In fact whether the system does the trading or whether a human does the trading is partly irrelevant: it is driven by the results that the model spits out. What do the humans do? Well they obviously spend a lot of time creating the rules that `control' the system to ensure that it interfaces with the law. And they also have to sell their skills (and their model) to investors. But are they involved in trading decisions, or just in the construction of (il)legal packaging? Some professional will no doubt fill us in here.

To me, though, the interesting thing is that the moral aspects of trading seem to have been subsumed into the model-makers and their models. Neither of which, if we are to believe the existence of these autistic quantifiers and their modeling, are fully connected to ideal social behaviour. Don't get me wrong - I am happy that these savants are employed, but their disconnects from social behaviour are well documented. I just think their unique and narrow skills should be better employed, especially when their current employers show a variety of OCD disorders - including pathological gambling.

Display:
Of course we'd never be so stupid ;-) (says the man who has been divorced twice)

Was the pope ok with you divorcing that last paddleboat?

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Mon Nov 26th, 2007 at 04:38:04 PM EST
Well he offered to find me a kosher firm for fibreglass repairs and mumbled on about Papal Impaddlebility quite a bit, but then he swanned off down the chapel, leaving yours truly holding the folding.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Mon Nov 26th, 2007 at 04:57:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And there was me seeing him with the papal megaphone saying "Come in number Seven your time is up.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Mon Nov 26th, 2007 at 05:00:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually he was calling "come in number 96...er.....er, number 69, do you need any help?"

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Mon Nov 26th, 2007 at 05:07:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So did you get help with that 69? did he send you an angel to help out?

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Mon Nov 26th, 2007 at 05:11:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes he did. Several. Though I didn't fancy the one called Enoch.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Mon Nov 26th, 2007 at 05:14:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
well the "Rivers of Blood" speech cant have helped.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Mon Nov 26th, 2007 at 05:33:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know what's worse: the receptionist claiming mathematicians are autistic, the journalist printing it, or you believing it and running with it.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Nov 26th, 2007 at 05:58:19 PM EST
to hang a coat of many colours on. As I said clearly 'if we are to believe....'

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Mon Nov 26th, 2007 at 06:01:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
At least you could have talked about Asperger's. I don't think many people with true autism can really be successful in life. A company with a department full of them is a fanciful thought.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Nov 26th, 2007 at 06:04:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
They usually end up in engineering departments.

However - chicken <-> egg.

Markets are based on moral imbecility because the people who worked hard to define the ideology are vicious spoilt children. Naturally, their ethics reflect this - qv Bush who is the mushroom-like excrescence on top of a fungoid crap-fed culture of white-bread privilege that has infected the US body politic.

If Aspergers types find economic favour, it's a symptom of that fact, not a cause of it.

Marketista ideology is a direct result of a handful of rich crazies in the US deciding to create a shift rightward. It's been one of the most successful social engineering projects in the whole of history, because they've effectively created a huge propaganda edifice made of many bricks, all different, all apparently unrelated, pushing the same party line to create a compelling illusion of unanimity.

Traders have been happy to play along because the results benefit them directly.

But the fish rots from the head down. The savants and indeed many of the traders are useful idiots, not instigators. They'd be just as happy doing something useful, if something useful could possibly be found for them.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Nov 26th, 2007 at 06:33:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And I think there is probably plenty in the literature about psychopaths being well qualified for CEO posts....

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson
by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Mon Nov 26th, 2007 at 06:51:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You need communication skills in the engineering world with extremely few exceptions. Someone with Aspergers is not going to be employed in the tech sector outside of a handful of programmers that can work from home and communicate by email.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Mon Nov 26th, 2007 at 07:22:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
None of the engineers I did my degree with were noticeably blessed with communications skills - to the extent that for one of our projects the tutor was surprised that I could actually write English fluently, because most of the write-ups he received were barely literate.

But aside from that - corporate communication skills (and here comes the PowerPoint...) are very different to real world comnunication skills.

There's a natural tendency among engineers, mathematicians and physicists to treat everything as an exercise in 'Hunt the Algorithm' - followed by a tendency to assume that reality is whichever algorithm has been invented.

This causes no end of problems socially and especially economically, because it makes it difficult to promote a more organic and less controlled world view.

All of the foundational nonsense that we're cursed with - simple one-dimensional metrics like GDP, unemployment, exchange rates, stock prices, and the rest of it - are rooted in this abstracted arms-length algorithmic way of relating to the world.

The corollary of algorithmic abstraction of social transactions is that other kinds of interactions become invisible.

So this isn't about communication skills, because if you're communicating the same old abstracted nonsense, it's still nonsense - no matter how popular it is with your boss, and no matter how well you're doing at getting the socially-approved high score with your trading model.

It's still being treated a video game, and not as something with real-world consequences which matter to people outside of the office.

And that in turn is still a form of social autism, albeit an institutionalised and culture-wide one.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Nov 26th, 2007 at 10:35:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I get the impression you've never met someone with Aspergers or Autism. It's nothing like the social malady you're describing.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Mon Nov 26th, 2007 at 11:47:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
From what you're saying it sounds like "autism" meaning "incapacity to relate [emotionally or in complex fashion?] with other humans" (or variant thereof) is separating itself linguistically from "autism" meaning "specific mental health condition"...have I got that about right?

It'd be nice to have correct(er) terms if possible.  I know a young girl who has been diagnosed with Aspergers; the most I know about autism (medically diagnosable condition) is that there was a book written about it (where an example of autism was the narrator's inability to recognise the emotions described with simply "smiley" type faces), and there was a television programme about a woman who seemed to have five autistic kids (maybe I've got that wrong), and one of them seemed very clued up--his main problem was that he had endless energy he needed to vent so he became just uncontrollable, leaping over things (I may have remembered that wrong.)

Is it useful now to make a distinction between the kind of people ThatBritGuy is describing (might be called people who would score low on an EQ test--I'm not sure...the shorthand word most used seems to be "autistic"--so...er....I think it's a useful distinction to make if such a distinction can be made--I'm saying...if autism is a "scale of social inability" then...hmmm...could you expand on "it's nothing like the social malady you're describing"?

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Tue Nov 27th, 2007 at 06:39:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
RG, there are useful descriptions under my wiki links. But one of the points I was trying, but obviously failed to make, was that there are few neat compartments in the functions of the brain that can be labelled.

Until you are brain dead - all brains 'work'. Even an alcoholic's brain work's, though it may be devoted to finding the next drink, and to the virtual exclusion of all other social behaviour.

What I am saying is that the genetic gift you get when you are conceived is a whole complex of specialized factories for the production of biochemical modifiers. And it should not be surprising that the rates of production differ in different people. It seems though that one could define upper and lower limits for production within which people 'seem' to be normal. But outside these limits people appear (to others) abnormal.

We can medically intervene in some of these 'imbalances' and we can also self-administer to affect the balance. As we both know. However we are a long way from really understanding how blockers and inhibitors and all the rest really work. In the meantime we have these crude labels which you rightly question.

The mindblowing drug flood that puberty releases or that passionate love releases (or is caused by) would be considered catastrophic system failure if it were not for the side effects ;-)

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Tue Nov 27th, 2007 at 08:23:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Can you suggest any links for printers/publishers of books in small volumes (low hundreds?).  I'm looking for a rough idea of costs, that's all...

(I was imagining book covers--again--"Journalism" looked good, the book itself maybe a plain yellow, Journalism in, what, dark green?  Inside broken down into "Reporting" (Far Easterner, Nomad, Stormy Present, DoDo, nanne, etc..); "Deconstruction" (Jerome, Migeru, Colman, etc..); "What's Missing?" (Various comments showing what specific areas journalists miss--[not sure about this one...getting their magnitudes wrong...sales to...hmmm...undergraduate journalist students...heh...]...heh...

Yam Mei Bi Wei Ov

*8"%7)

(Emoticon saluting the imbalances in an effort to maintain them in some form of crazy balance)

</OT>

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Tue Nov 27th, 2007 at 08:43:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't have any contacts in the UK. I can check Finnish prices.

But I think you should look at order-driven digital printing ie the book is not printed till it is ordered. The Finnish Post Office offers this kind of printing service and of course they distribute by mail according to address lists, and will handle COD etc. The whole supply chain is subcontracted.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Tue Nov 27th, 2007 at 09:51:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If you go for print-on-demand, try Lulu. No entry costs, price (and design etc.) can be freely chosen, you just give them 20% of your profit (mafia-sytle).

"If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles." Sun Tzu
by Turambar (sersguenda at hotmail com) on Tue Nov 27th, 2007 at 10:13:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
heh!  I just created a book.

COMPOSITION-RHETORIC

                                 BY

                          STRATTON D. BROOKS
               Superintendent of Schools, Boston, Mass.

                                AND

                           MARIETTA HUBBARD
      Formerly English Department, High School La Salle, Illinois

[Taken from www.gutenberg.net a while back, the .txt was on my local drive, I followed the site's instructions and produced...

http://www.lulu.com/content/1533479

£6.81 a book, but I think the euro and dollar sets come out less.  So, setting up book packages...three books would be £20, some of which would come back via profits from sales, so £20 or less for three books...

Plus any random or directed online sales.  Hmmmm....seems too easy...(but so does photocopying--to me--compared to pre-photocopying technologies, so...)

Thanks for the link!

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Tue Nov 27th, 2007 at 11:07:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No problem. It's a great way to publish one's stuff and I have no idea why almost nobody seems to know about it. My first novel is actually on the bestseller list for German sci-fi with only 40 copies sold.

"If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles." Sun Tzu
by Turambar (sersguenda at hotmail com) on Tue Nov 27th, 2007 at 12:12:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How far down it?


Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Tue Nov 27th, 2007 at 12:17:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry, I don't give away my name in web forums (as a general rule), not even here. But it's in the Top 10.

"If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles." Sun Tzu
by Turambar (sersguenda at hotmail com) on Tue Nov 27th, 2007 at 12:33:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh I wasn't asking for anything specific, just was sitting thinking that you could be 15,375th on the bestseller list and still say I'm on the bestseller list ;-)

Still it depends how often you sell that 40 books whether you can make a living or not.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Tue Nov 27th, 2007 at 12:38:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ah, okay. Make a living on writing novels? Sounds great, but I don't think I'll ever be good enough.
If I was to write something that's really good sometime, I will go to a publisher and try it the proper way.

/estimated hourly wage so far: 3.8 cent.

"If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles." Sun Tzu

by Turambar (sersguenda at hotmail com) on Tue Nov 27th, 2007 at 12:51:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's the same attitude as my girlfriend, the selection of teaching books she's written always end up with her saying "If I knew when I started how little per hour I'd earn..."

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Tue Nov 27th, 2007 at 12:58:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I know a publishing house for books to primary schools, it was a one-woman operation (she wrote the books) which over a twenty to thirty year period  made her quite a few pennies.  She died a while back but the operation is on-going and still making money.  If your gf's books are in that area and if her copyright isn't owned by another company (MMM LLP sets forth) you could send me a copy of a couple, I'll pass them on(1).  

(1)I have no say in editorial decisions --and so far the company only produces the woman's books.

(you could slip a CD into that package, too.(2))

((2)I only type that to encourage your inner and outer artist.(3))

(((3) If you can get it to me before, say, the end of the second week of Christmas I can send it on to another person who (I think) will be interested.(4)))

((((4) When I say "I think will be interested" I mean that I am supposed to be sending him something and I'm thinking that he might be interested in the combination)))

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Tue Nov 27th, 2007 at 01:13:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think it's different with novels, because you know you're actually writing them for yourself and it always pays off in this regard. What I wanted to say is that there's no way to make much money out of Lulu, publishing there is only good to get physical copies of something you've written or recorded (and psychologically, to finally be done with it).

I certainly wouldn't write teaching books if I wasn't able to get a fair compensation for the work, but there probably are people out there who think of that as a fun thing to do.

/really?

"If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles." Sun Tzu

by Turambar (sersguenda at hotmail com) on Tue Nov 27th, 2007 at 01:21:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well it's a cheque that turns up every six months and pays for a couple of nights out.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Tue Nov 27th, 2007 at 01:54:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Publishing is a marketing problem, not a printing problem.

Quite a lot of professionally published work isn't terribly good, so it's not as if professional publishers are effective gatekeepers. But their output sells (to the extent that it does) because they have the distribution networks needed to get books into bookshops, and the PR network needed to create a buzz.

So Lulu is not the answer. Self-publishing is a waste of time unless you have some way to do effective promotion. And in fact, people trust bookshops to offer them something which is better than average. It's almost impossible to create that experience on Lulu.

The people who do well out of self-publishing are the scammish 'get rich quick' '100 top seduction secrets' 'essential ways to wipe out bad credit' artists who sell PDFs direct from a website. There's usually a SPECIAL LOW PRICE TODAY ONLY!!!! tag somewhere near the bottom, the hardest of hard sell further up, and regular spam reminders afterwards.

It's rather vile and seedy content-wise, but it's much better at making money for the people who do it than publishing on Lulu. The overheads are much lower - the hosting cost of a few PDFs and a website is negligible - and with clever Google-fixing people come to the site, so a PR operation is unnecessary.

Obviously this model wouldn't work for ET-ish books.

ET-ish books could only be sold with an established name - ET Think Lab, etc.

Once the name is recognised, book sales become a natural development.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Nov 28th, 2007 at 07:38:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think this is simple enough:

For very few copies a service such as Lulu is quick and easy.

Example: I am in the process of producing an "ET Christmas Present" to myself.  (It seems to be coming in around 25,000 words, and then there are lots of pics.)  Once I have it ready (and once/if I get permission from the writer to publish), then I will buy the writer a copy, buy one for myself, sort of a "Here's a piece of ET to remind me for when the web (or ET) has moved on".

So, that's two copies.  I'll tell people about it here, maybe that generates two more copies.

But...if there are X people (and what is X?) interested, then I would contact people such as Cambridge Publishing (or A.N. Other as recommended by anyone here) to see what rates I could get for larger print runs.

This proposed book is built from ET content.  I would expect to publish it via MMM LLP (whatever that might mean or entail--I'll give a copy of the book to Paul, I doubt he read the original articles, so that's three copies ;)  The marketing is a problem or an opportunity for any person or people who wish to see the book more widely distributed, or just get a copy for themselves.

Well, that's my take anyway.

For proposed publication runs in the thousands, then yes you will need some form of marketing team to identify and then adevertise the product a thousand (or say 500 for break even?) potential buyers.

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Wed Nov 28th, 2007 at 09:27:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm working on the basis that there's not much point in putting ET-type books together unless a fair few people - i.e. 1000 and upwards - are going to read them. Ideally some media interest would be a good thing too.

Giving stuff away for free only works online. I know someone who has given away >100,000 copies of a book about the music business. It's a good book, and it's been very influential as a free download.

As a paper project, he might have sold 10-100 copies.

Online, people find you. In physical print, you need to find them, which seems to be rather harder.

If you want to print for friends+family+a few left over, that's usually called vanity publishing, and is a different animal again.

Getting even a small print run of 500 is a major operation. 500 books is a big slab of wood pulp, and  takes up a lot of space. In hardback it's heavy enough to significantly stress a domestic floor.

You really wouldn't want it in your home. Which is why publishers usually pay distributors to handle the physical logistics of moving that much dead wood around.

You can certainly self-publish at that scale, and people do - sometimes successfully, sometimes not.

But it needs a bit of forethought to make sure you can still get into your home after you've had the books delivered.

If we want to sell books it seems much easier to upload them as PDFs, set up a paypal account with voluntary donations and/or a fixed price, and point people at a print on demand service if (and only if) they want a hard copy.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Nov 28th, 2007 at 09:30:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for the reply.  My idea is a bit hazy but it might be worth teasing out separate strands (might as well do it here as anywhere)

  1. Setting up in business, with the question on "busy".  A lot of the critiquing here is about business methods and practices.  One of the easiest criticisms from the right is: "Yeah, and which business did you set up today?"  If we can agree that new forms of business need to be developed then I think it an interesting project for ET to ponder business models.  The example that came to mind yesterday was "setting up an electrical system."  To generate a lot of power is complex, but to see how the basic circuits work, to try out different energy sources etc. you can start with a basic circuit of some kind.  I'd like to get my paws on a "real existing" business (no matter how small) just to see how (e.g.) the tax laws work.  I think, also, that a "we work together" model (a business?) can be as ad-hoc and informal as one likes when the "we" is less than ten people.  Above ten, though, it seems that there are economies of scale and/or new methods and/or dangers and/or etc... that I enjoy thinking about in the abstract but would also enjoy testing in the...material...in the less abstract...An experiment, then, in new forms of business (=economics).

  2. Creating a physical book.  Okay, let's call it a "Vanity Publishing" project.  If it quacks like a duck etc.  Because I'm planning on publishing other person or people's writing (only with his, her, their permision of course), then the "vanity" part is maybe not so vain, but let's go with the phrase.  What I'd really like is a "non computer" element of ET, maybe in the same way that ETers enjoy gathering away from their computer screens (in various combinations and for various reasons.)  Now that books can be created "on demand"--a new technology--then...what I'm thinking is that idea 1 can be incorporated with this: what is the best model for publishing "extended-word-projects".  Is it .pdf?  (The only one I've really read, I have to admit, was RAW's Prometheus Rising, which I printed out--100 pages of .pdf is too much for my eyeballs--may just be me.)

  3. Examining (recycle, reuse!) the ET archive.  The search facilities on scoop (I may have got this all wrong and would be very happy to be enlightened) are limited.  I can search by one criterion, and I can choose one of two time periods (this month/everything).  I'd like to be able to do more complex searches.  I think the ET wiki idea has aspects of this, but it doesn't seem to be a well-used resource (again, I may be wrong on this, I haven't checked numbers.)  A collation of ideas, so that people can refer to the "growing knowledge base"...something like that.

  4. An ETer mentioned the sitemeter stats to me the other day.  Here are the latest:

PAGE VIEWS

      Total    6,047,023     
      Average Per Day    4,660     
      Average Per Visit    4.2     
      Last Hour    354     
      Today    3,231     
      This Week    32,622     

http://www.sitemeter.com/?a=stats&s=s21jerome

I can't work out how many "readers who don't post" that makes, but that silent (and hopefully enjoying themselves) audience somehow connect to 1), 2) and 3) above.

It's early days, maybe this idea (these ideas) of mine are just....pfff...but I like ideas and I like testing them against realities of various kinds...

Am I making any sense?

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Thu Nov 29th, 2007 at 05:33:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You are making much sense, and it does sound interesting. Experience is gained by doing and if the doing is worthwhile in itself then it is clearly worth it.

PDF + print on demand as TBG suggests sounds like the best way to publish, but getting the discussions into publishing shape is another thing. On that note, it is good to note that google can be used to search any site with the simple site:eurotrib.com included in the search terms.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Sun Dec 2nd, 2007 at 01:32:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Have you got your hands on a paperback?  If so, what's the printing quality?  (I was thinking of buying one (1) copy of a book to see the quality of the paper, binding, etc.)

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Tue Nov 27th, 2007 at 12:33:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Printing and paper quality are standard, it looks 100% like the PDF you get when you publish it. Binding is not too good, I wouldn't recommend publishing a book with more than 400 pages. And the colors of the cover can be a little off. Anything else is just what you expect a book to be.

"If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles." Sun Tzu
by Turambar (sersguenda at hotmail com) on Tue Nov 27th, 2007 at 12:40:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm thinking about 100 pages (lots of small print, maybe!  Or okay, up to 200) so that should be okay.  Have you seen any books with photos or drawings (not on the cover I mean)?

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Tue Nov 27th, 2007 at 12:47:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
this is the idea (in case you missed it); a book of photos by ETers might be a good physical product--if the printing quality is okay. 100 pages is @ 90 photos (ten each for nine photographers?  One each for 90?), there could be a series...etc...  (full colour would cost more than £6-£7, I expect.)

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Tue Nov 27th, 2007 at 12:54:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Only as PDF. I'll send you one in a minute.

"If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles." Sun Tzu
by Turambar (sersguenda at hotmail com) on Tue Nov 27th, 2007 at 12:56:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Whgat's it about and why would we want to read it?

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Tue Nov 27th, 2007 at 12:41:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
there are few neat compartments in the functions of the brain that can be labelled.

Autism is a pretty distinct disorder. Aspergers less so, which definitely exists in a gray area, but at the "darker" end it's pretty clear that it isn't something that is taught. Somebody here posted a youtube link to a woman talking about what it's like to have autism a while back. Her experience was definitely not something you can teach, such as the way some people are taught to live without emotions or ethics that britguy was referring to.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Tue Nov 27th, 2007 at 12:22:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I posted that.  She has Asperger's, and she says (accurately) that it's "different for everyone who has it; there's no one defining quality."

I have known several families with autistic children.  Children who are diagnosed autistic are evaluated on "a spectrum," which attempts to measure the degree of autism.  The most severely autistic cannot speak or function independently, while people with the mildest cases can hold down jobs and lead somewhat normal lives.  But even two people who are at roughly equal points on the spectrum might have very different manifestations of their autism.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Tue Nov 27th, 2007 at 12:44:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Markets are based on moral imbecility because the people who worked hard to define the ideology are vicious spoilt children. Naturally, their ethics reflect this - qv Bush who is the mushroom-like excrescence on top of a fungoid crap-fed culture of white-bread privilege that has infected the US body politic.

If Aspergers types find economic favour, it's a symptom of that fact, not a cause of it.

Marketista ideology is a direct result of a handful of rich crazies in the US deciding to create a shift rightward. It's been one of the most successful social engineering projects in the whole of history, because they've effectively created a huge propaganda edifice made of many bricks, all different, all apparently unrelated, pushing the same party line to create a compelling illusion of unanimity.


The institutional pathology of a corporation, which drives people to engage in amoral behaviour vis-a-vis the outside is highly dependant upon socialisation within the firm. This is the same principle that governs armies, etc. In fact if you look at the Bush admin you'll see a (too) tightly knit social group. There's a lot of social capital right there.

The amorality of these groups is based upon a simple us vs. them distinction universal to all social animals. There is nothing pathological about that.

It follows that having a social disorder like aspergers that makes it practically impossible to socialise will always be an obstacle to operating well within that setting. People with such disorders will only be hired when they can compensate for that failing with some kind of specially marketable skill.

Now the picture of businesses hiring swathes of people with severe social disorders seems to me to be based upon popular myths spread by hollywood. I'd give 10 to 1 odds that the mathemeticians this receptionist was talking about are at most 'freaks' with no more certifiable social disorders than not fitting into her ideas about corporate representativeness.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Tue Nov 27th, 2007 at 05:53:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The amorality appears because the pathological types - I mean the crazies, not the followers - define the culture.

I'd guess most followers will do what they're told, within reasonable limits. If this were a formal theocracy they'd be doing theocratic things instead of sitting in offices doing salesandmarketing or product design or corporate law.

The crazies have additional leverage because they control access to basic resources - if you don't work for them, you don't eat and you have nowhere to live.

So it's a combination of physical enforcement (mediated by the illusion of money, and access to it) and passive compliance, with rewards for those who acquiesce without thinking too hard about what they're doing and why.

A limited focus on specific problem solving without any awareness of context is more of a help than a hindrance in this kind of environment.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Nov 27th, 2007 at 07:56:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I feel kind of odd here defending the morality of our capitalist overlords, but this 'crazy' or 'psychopath' angle might also be overplayed. At least we should not disregard the systemic angle. The way a manager behaves is also defined by things like 'success' (getting a good severance package) and 'belonging' (being able to host a party on one's yacht for the old boys). Of course it can be that these people really lack every last trace of empathy. But it can also be that they're just good at compartmentalising. The only judgement they'll really be confronted with is that of their family and friends, after all. And they are usually on the same yacht.

As for limited problem solving, people in companies are also more effective when they work in a team and to work in a team you need to be able to at least fake being a 'team player'. A sociopath can do that, an autist can't.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Tue Nov 27th, 2007 at 08:39:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
By crazies I specifically mean the Scaifes and other trust-fund brats, who have been funding the neo-lib counter-revolution for the last thirty years.

Many of them seem - at best - to have personality disorders and/or substance abuse issues. The Bush family seems to be part of that group, and displays all of the delightful traits that make them so distinctive as a group.

These are highly toxic and confused people, and we're all paying for their illnesses now.

But beyond that - management probably attracts authoritarian types, but I don't think all management is bad by definition.

The problem - as you say - is which behaviours are rewarded. And with the crazies in charge, they won't be the right ones.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Nov 27th, 2007 at 12:48:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]

It's just a hook (none / 0)
to hang a coat of many colours on. As I said clearly 'if we are to believe....'

If somebody said: "The world is flat" would you say "if we are to believe" etc. ? :-)

If the hook is no good the coat's colours could get dirty on the floor.

Isn't it just part of the wider problem of specialisation in academia and business and pressure for results with little time to see the bigger picture ?

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Mon Nov 26th, 2007 at 07:21:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
this is a sore point, with me.

In order to get funding the researcher has to (1) be able to point at past work in a specific field and (2) be able to state what the research is supposed to find out.

Think about that one for a second!

Admittedly funders look askance, and rightfully so, at a proposal that, when you down to it, says, "Please give me and my chums a million dollars so we can screw around for a couple of years."  But, in the US, the more likely it is that your research is not research the greater the chances of being funded as research.  

Except if your field, e.g., nuclear physics, opens the way for the US military to kill large numbers of people.  

There's lots of money for that.


She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Tue Nov 27th, 2007 at 08:23:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]

 But, in the US, the more likely it is that your research is not research the greater the chances of being funded as research.  
Except if your field, e.g., nuclear physics, opens the way for the US military to kill large numbers of people.

To be fair to the military ( shock, horror :-)) - some senior militay staff are  more reluctant to go to war than politicians who've managed to avoid it - like Bush. They also sometimes fund a surprising range of research - even Chomsky -). The Pentagon funded a study of the likely consequences of climate change and released it to the media - though they did pack-peddle when, predictably, given the source, it got a lot of publicity :

Indeed, widespread public alarm, particularly in Europe, was the predictable response to the Pentagon's October 2003 report, An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and its Implications for United States National Security, once it became available early this year.1 In an attempt to quiet these fears Defense Department officials and the authors of the report quickly came forward to say that the entire exercise was speculative and "intentionally extreme"; that the whole thing had been misconstrued and overblown in certain press accounts.

http://www.monthlyreview.org/0504editors.htm



Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Wed Nov 28th, 2007 at 04:46:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Glad you said this first Migeru :-)

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Mon Nov 26th, 2007 at 07:15:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I would rather it didn't need to be said.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Nov 26th, 2007 at 07:39:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Brilliant diary, Sven.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Tue Nov 27th, 2007 at 05:23:25 AM EST
Thank you Drew - (hope I'm not missing some latent snark ;-))

I try to find illuminating connections between things. However it all keeps coming back to how the brain works.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Tue Nov 27th, 2007 at 07:40:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I would agree that there is no sanrk....

except that small thing about inherent learning.... I know it is difficult to differentiate between big structures  which are strongly protein related (genes if you will) and then the connectivity which is basically celular communciation (no genes involved)..

but if you do separate both (and I agree at first order they can be separated as far as we know)..then you have to separate it completely... neuronal connections- both stablishing hte conenctions and sending signals through it- are neurons talking to each other... so inherent learning will be basically externally generated input where biochemichals act as carriers of external information... in that approxiamtion hormones and GABA and AMPA and NMDA and the chemotaxis biochemicals are there just to trasnmit enviromental signals so that neurons can talk to each other and decide how to connect or how strongly or in which clusters or..., not to generate the general brain structure, not to specify the connectivity.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Tue Nov 27th, 2007 at 08:25:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, it is of course the connectivity, but I am thinking more of the data structure, which is commonly a specific set of inputs at certain frequencies that excite the neuron and cause it to fire a single shot down and out through the possibly few thousand connections to other neighbouring neurons (well I say, neighbouring, but some axonic connections can travel 4 cms in between different layers (for instance) of the cortex, and all these interconnections form a 'structure' that has, overall, multiple terminations.

It is this basic data structure, chattering away, in a simple stimulus/response manner that can then be modified by the release of biochemicals. The biochemicals not only affect the functioning of the neuron firing structure temporarily, but can also alter it permanently.

But the trigger for the biochemical modification often comes from the data structure itself (sees naked person, gets erection). There is thus a feedback relationship between the two systems. So I have to disagree.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Tue Nov 27th, 2007 at 09:45:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
yes we strongly disagree.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Tue Nov 27th, 2007 at 10:51:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sven, you know very well I'm not sharp enough to come up with a snark that subtle. ;)

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Tue Nov 27th, 2007 at 07:13:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I try to find illuminating connections between things. However it all keeps coming back to how the brain works.

that's because it's really hard to have higher cognitive functions with no brain.  (Interestingly, there have been babies born with only one hemisphere.  They normally die round about 2 years old.)  But it is possible to draw lines, and thank heavens, otherwise nobody would get anything done.  It's when those arbitrary lines, draw for convenience, become fixed borders problems arise.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Tue Nov 27th, 2007 at 07:57:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
<coughs>
Just googled semi-hormones and found only four links and two of them are  connected with ET (two others linked with free porn movies or summat)

Fame at last! Well done, brit
:)

by lana on Tue Nov 27th, 2007 at 09:47:36 AM EST
It's a translation from a Finnish researcher - hormones are cell to cell messengers, and they come in 3 basic varieties - amine-derived, peptide and Lipid. I think the semi-hormone name is given to the derivatives of amino acids - but I am way out of my depth here.

Endorphins are polypeptides. Serotonin is a amino-derived neurotransmitter. Dopamine is both a hormone and a neurotransmitter. So it's all very confusing ;-) But that researcher always told me to make the distinction. Just following orders, sah!

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Tue Nov 27th, 2007 at 10:03:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Your 'Finnish researcher' is free to call them whatever he feels like, even them little fookers. Especially if he/she one of those genetics who will decide the relative capabilities of the 'manufacturing centres' in the brain. That is, how much (if at all) of these hormones, semi-hormones and neurotransmitters will be produced. I mean, to manage to put endocrine glands producing hormones (such as, say, the thyroid gland)  right into the brain, probably next to the pituitary! That seems sensible indeed, if they do belong to one endocrine system, they just have to be situated in one place - in the brain, where else! But such experiments probably don't work properly at first and that is why such unique chemical substances as semi-hormones appear which, as it clear from their name work only part-time as hormones and the rest of time are just fucking around.
:)
by lana on Tue Nov 27th, 2007 at 10:53:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Dopamine is a hormone and a neurotransmitter. Half of one, half of the other. I guess that might make it a semi-hormone.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Tue Nov 27th, 2007 at 12:02:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
nah, that might not. But you may notice that almost all (if not all) neurotransmitters are hormones but not all hormones are neurotransmitters. Say, the hormone oxitocin which releases birth pain is a neurotransmitter while such hormone as estrogen is not. However your 'Finnish researcher' may try to turn it into neurotransmitter too -  he/she first should put ovaries into the brain ot dunno, glue them to the spinal cord and see what happen
:)
Have you ever thought about writing a book of comics called Semi-hormones or how our brain works?
:)
and publish it on the Lulu site (which is the best place for people struggling with graphomania and has, i believe, just been mentioned in this thread?)
by lana on Tue Nov 27th, 2007 at 05:58:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
graphomania

Excellent!  I can see the book cover.  But who would (or already has) writ()te(n) it?  I can see Dostoyevsky's beard (my fantasy image....hmmm...)

Maybe this image on the cover.



Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Tue Nov 27th, 2007 at 07:54:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What about Eakin's The Gross Clinic

(I love that painting.)

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Tue Nov 27th, 2007 at 08:59:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
and publish it on the Lulu site

Imagine the vanity press money!

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Tue Nov 27th, 2007 at 08:03:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Biotic entities are conservative.  They tend to latch onto something, such as Dopamine-as-hormone, and since the stuff is floating around - note the technical terminology!  ;-) - it gets used for other things.  Dopamine in its homeostasic role had to precede its use as a neuro-transmitter -- since it's hard for a species to evolve a Central Nervous System if all the individual members of that species are dead.  

I note the thalamus has been around far longer than higher brain functioning.

Thus there may have been co-evolution going on with D-as-H (body side) promoting D-as-NT (brain side) being used by the thalamus - the lazy sod - to keep things simple.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Tue Nov 27th, 2007 at 07:43:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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