I sense a morbid fear behind our catastrophizing about androids, which I reckon is to do with a loss of autonomy. It’s true that for periods in history tribes and people have assumed they have no autonomy, life being driven by the fates or by a predetermined design or creator, so this could be a particularly modern malady in an era that luxuriates in free will. But concern about the creep of cyborgism through the increasing use of technology in and around our bodies seems to produce a frisson of existential dread that I have been struggling to diagnose. Technology has always attracted its naysayers, from the early saboteurs to the Luddites and the Swing Rioters, and all the movements that opposed the Industrial Revolution, but this feels less about livelihoods and more about personhood. Read More
Ethics is often seen to be a luxury, or a nice-to-have; if deployed suitably publicly, it might enhance an organisation’s licence to operate, or give their brand a virtuous glow. The business case for ethics is, however, less cynical and more strategic: it’s not so much about brand personality than it is about risk.
I have just attended a most interesting consultation on ethical finance at St George’s House Windsor, co-run with Ridley Hall in Cambridge. One topic that came up in our discussions was about information. There was a feeling that the money to made from information asymmetries, coupled with concern over anti-competitive behaviour, made financial services as a sector reluctant to co-operate. This was seen to be a stumbling block to any co-operative attempt to agree self-regulatory regimes that would obviate the need for more potentially draconian regulatory intervention. This got me to musing – again – about Nash equilibria. Read More
So what went wrong? Liquidity. Why? Exposure to sub-prime assets through complex financial instruments designed to reduce risk made banks chary of lending to each other. The knock-on effect of this was a collapse in confidence, as signalled through stock market indices. Self-righteous hindsight bemoans capital adequacy – which might have increased liquidity – and the hubris that led to over confidence in secularisation. But schadenfreude won’t restore confidence. Read More
Currently I am addicted to The Wire. When I last saw Dominic West in action, he was Edward Voysey in Barker’s The Voysey Inheritance at The National. Both are essentially about economics. The Voysey Inheritance is the story of a son finding out that his father, a much-respected solicitor, has been speculating with his clients’ capital, paying them an ordinary rate of interest and pocketing the difference. Written in Home Counties 1905, the world it portrays is vastly different from the world of The Wire, which is about drugs and corruption in modern-day Baltimore. Read More