In this exclusive series of interviews, we speak to Javed Abidi (Chair, Disabled People’s International DPI), Sir Philip Craven MBE (President, International Paralympic Committee IPC) and Professor Hugh Herr (Head of the Biomechatronics research group at MIT Media Lab and Founder of BiOM Inc). We discuss the human rights and social injustices faced by the those living with impairments and disabilities around the world, look at issues ranging from economics and politics to culture and sport and discuss opportunities for the future and whether technology could even end disability.
Money is a strange phenomenon. Our modern notion of it mean that (in essence) it is intrinsically useless apart from as a medium of exchange. Our government, regulators, law and communities agree that phenomena (whether a physical banknote or an electronic ledger such as a bank account) have certain value, in certain units and certain denominations.
From a cultural perspective however, things are not quite so clear. As society advances (technologically and socially) we find that many things which were thought of as fiat can change. Examples can be found all around us… In linguistics, it’s not uncommon for words which (previously) existed as slang to be adopted and accepted into mainstream language. This is both a move of progression (the expansion of culture) and efficiency (helping to communicate the zeitgeist more accurately). Interestingly, with language- as with money- it is often only when the ‘regulator‘ (for example, the dictionary producer) agrees that a word is now accepted, that it is made so!
The Language of Money
Crypto-currency is an interesting phenomenon. It is a system of exchange which exists as fiat in nature, but which also has security. Traditional currency is secured by the notional protection of the central bank from where it is issued- whilst crypto-currency is secured by the integrity of the system itself. Subverting a traditional currency is made impossible due to the supranational power of the issuer, and subverting a crypto-currency is (theoretically) impossible due to the mathematics of breaking the encryption.
In recent years, novel entrants to the market such as BitCoin have moved crypto-currency from the fringes (where they were akin to linguistic slang) to the mainstream- where multi-billion dollar business are now accepting BTC’s as legitimate payment for goods and services.
So, could BitCoin disrupt money? Continue reading
In this exclusive series of interviews, we speak to four world experts on religion and science. Fr. José G. Funes (Director of the Vatican Observatory), Prof. Alister McGrath (Director, Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion at Oxford University), Dr. Deborah Haarsma (President of the BioLogos Foundation) and Prof. Justin Barrett (Director, Thrive Centre – Fuller’s Graduate School of Psychology). We discuss the fundamental roles of religion and science in society together with their roles in shaping our history, and our future.
Many of recent history’s most significant market events have manifest in what was (previously) the extreme of the market. These “bubbles” and “crashes” follow power laws, meaning that (in theory) they could reach any size and fundamentally threaten the functionality of the entire financial system.
Typical central-bank and policy responses to these financial avalanches (or cascades) have been to create or constrain liquidity in the market, and the terms of that liquidity; thus creating an artificial ceiling or cushion- in the hope of managing the event.
In an interesting paper entitled ‘Stopping Financial Avalanches By Random Trading,’ a group of academics from Italy and Switzerland propose an innovative intervention that could work to proactively prevent these events, rather than simply responding to their fall-out.
The basic premise is rather simple. In the same way that the chatter of customers in a bar can stop you from listening to the music, they hope to insert ‘noise’ into the market in the hope to stop participants from hearing the music of the herd. Continue reading
It’s quite conceivable that the grandparents (or even parents) of the future will be made to feel even more archaic as the young of that generation look at them quizzically and state “…are you serious? You used to use bits of paper as money?!”
Money is a cultural abstract. It is the social, cultural and legal consensus of what a given society- at a given time- considers as being money. When economies are working well- this tends to be the most efficient form of value-exchange (which for most of recent history has been banknotes) but in less stable-times, communities have used everything from checkerboard pieces to playing cards and even pieces of wood as being their chosen mode of exchange. You may laugh, but in the digital-era we unanimously agree that imperceptible bits of data, held in the ether, are a suitable way for us to store and exchange the oxygen of our modern lives.
What is money now?
In the post-digital era, it may seem perhaps a legacy of bygone times that we still use aesthetically pleasing pieces of pulped-tree, metal or plastic as our medium of exchange, but as Kenneth Rogoff states,“Despite advances in transactions technologies, paper currency still constitutes a notable percentage of the money supply in most countries. For example, it constitutes roughly 10% of the US Federal Reserve’s main monetary aggregate, M2.” (Costs and Benefits to Phasing Out Paper Currency, NBER Working Paper 20126, May 2014).
In his paper, Rogoff makes a balanced case for and against the elimination of paper money from circulation. Continue reading
In these exclusive interviews, we speak to Dr. Julio Frenk (Dean of the Harvard School of Public Health, and former Minister of Health of Mexico), Sir Richard Thompson (President of the Royal College of Physicians), Baron Peter Piot (Director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine) and Dame Sally Davies (The United Kingdom’s Chief Medical Officer). We talk about the concept of public health, the most important health challenges the world currently faces, and opportunities for the future.
The perception that we learn from our mistakes is just one in a long-list of cognitive and behavioural biases that exist in the human mind.
As WIRED reported in 2009, “Researchers from MIT have shown that the brain learns more after a success than a failure. This study indicates, contrary to previous research, that neurons in the brain are able to keep a memory of recent success and failures during learning and performed better after doing it right than after doing it wrong. The researchers found that after monkeys did something correctly, there were prolonged neural signals, which continued to fire until the next action, therefore affecting subsequent neural response. But after a wrong action there was less neural activity and no improvement in further attempts.“
In essence, we are hard wired (understandably) to do more of what works, and less of what doesn’t… and the ‘memory‘ of the things that work move between generations through learning (hence why humanity exhibits gradual improvements in technology, language, capability and so forth) while the ‘memory‘ of what doesn’t can be forgotten. It is this latter phenomenon, our selective-memory (combined with our innate overconfidence) means that time and time again humanity repeats mistakes and behaviours causing (amongst other things) the repeated cycles of economic boom, bubble and bust manifesting in market catastrophes such as Tulip Mania, The South Sea Bubble, The Panic of 1907, The Wall St Crash of 1929 and the myriad of crises that have marred the world from the 1990′s to present day.
The impact of these events was severe enough within the ‘walled‘ economies of bygone times, but in the modern day connected and globalised world; economic crises and panics have far more severe consequences.
In this exclusive series of interviews, we speak to four world experts on theatre and performance. Sir Howard Panter (Founder of the Ambassador Theatre Group Ltd, Chairman of Rambert Dance Company), Gilles Ste-Croix (co-founder of Cirque du Soleil), Joanna Read (Principal of the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art – LAMDA) and James Houghton (Director of the Drama Division of The Juilliard School, and Director of New York’s Signature Theatre Company). We discuss the role of theatre and performance in culture, look at the secrets of the performing arts and discuss the future of theatre in the modern world.
In this exclusive series of interviews, we speak to four world experts on inequality. Professor David Hulme (Founder and Executive Director of the Brooks World Poverty Institute at the University of Manchester) , Prof. Sir Michael Marmot (Director of the Institute of Health Equity, University College London), Baroness Onora O’Neill (Chair of the Equality and Human rights Commission) and Prof. Richard Wilkinson (Co-Founder of the Equality Trust). We discuss the fundamental question of why inequality exists in our society, the impact it has on our world, and what we can do to fight it.
Vikas Shah, November 2013
Originally Published in Entrepreneur Country
It’s curious how we treat the market as a phenomenon that exists outside us; akin to climate. Our forecasts describe the oscillations and undulations of this entity with the accuracy we would expect from weather forecasts. Tens of thousands of businesses, traders and other participants go-out, take-cover or make decisions on the basis of these words. For longer than most market-participants would care to admit, the ‘invisible hand’ was seen as being the arbitrator of the economy, but in more recent times- we have started seeing things a lot more clearly.
A market economy is not an entity that exists outside us, but rather… it is ‘us’. Markets are an amalgamation of the interactions of entrepreneurs (in all their forms), governments, and financial infrastructure providers (such as banks). Whilst we tend to describe these as entities, institutions or so forth- the truth is, they are comprised of people who; while communicating using the universal language of data; in truth, are highly emotional – psychological – beings.
To really understand how economies behave, we must therefore understand the psychology of entrepreneurs and other key market participants. To learn more, I spoke with Professor Daniel Kahneman, who is widely regarded as being the world’s most influential living psychologist. In 2002 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics “for having integrated insights from psychological research into economic science, especially concerning human judgment and decision-making under uncertainty”, work he undertook with the late Amos Tversky. Kahneman is a Senior Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton.