logo
Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: codename-duchess
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2016-03-15 16:53
Who Gets What — and Why: The New Economics of Matchmaking and Market Design
Who Gets What — and Why: The New Economics of Matchmaking and Market Design - Alvin E. Roth

[Preface/Warning: This is a long-ago unfinished review, but, in light of Lloyd Shapley's recent death, I figure it's time for me to just let it fly free as is.]

 

And let the review begin:

Well guys, I think I've discovered a real up and comer in the field of behavioral economics. Wait— what's that? He already won the Nobel Prize in Economics?!? Ok, so maybe I'm not the first to catch on to the brilliance of Alvin E. Roth (damn those Swedes for always being one step ahead of me).

 

However, the greatness of Who Gets What — and Why: The New Economics of Matchmaking and Market Design, Roth's first foray into “popular science” writing, isn't all about sheer intellectual horsepower. Roth (below, L) takes something complex, the economics of matching markets (markets in which price isn't the only determinant of who gets what”), and manages to make the ideas accessible without losing nuance or oversimplifying.*

Roth and Shapley by Jac Depczyk

Roth's fellow laureate, Lloyd Shapley (above, R), co-wrote a seminal paper on similar tricky transactions (those involving “indivisible” goods, without the use of money) in a 1974 issue of the Journal of Mathematical Economics with Herbert Scarf. The Scarf Shapley paper established a set of cyclical trades called “top trading cycles” in which all parties are ideally matched. I'm sure the paper is totally brilliant, but before you jump up to find a copy, just remember that, for most of us, it's…well, I'll let GOB tell you. 

 

GOB Half in English half in squiggly

So what's all the fuss about market design?

Markets are everywhere, and the role of market design is to “helps solve problems that existing marketplaces haven’t been able to solve naturally.” 

 

Kidney Swapping Fun

Roth, being the clever guy he is, starts out with a “market” in which proper matches are a matter of life and death— kidney transplants. When tasked with creating a sort of “clearinghouse” for kidney exchanges (now known as the New England Program for Kidney Exchange or NEPKE), there were several salient factors that Roth and co. had to take into account:

1. Kidneys are “indivisible goods” (you can't just give four people quarter-kidneys and tell them to go on their merry ways)

2. At least in the U.S., money can't be involved (buying kidneys falls into the category known as “repugnant transactions”)

3. There are “paired” patients and donors (people willing to donate a kidney for a relative, or friend, but whose kidneys weren't biological matches for said person)

4. Whenever humans (donors, recipients, doctors, hospital administrators) are involved, there's the possibility of “gaming the system”

kidney exchange chain

Avoiding a level of detail that I will, undoubtedly, misconstrue, I'll just tell you that Roth adeptly describes the intricacy of creating kidney swap

“‘top trading cycles,’ with the property that no group of patients and donors could go off on their own and find a cycle of trades that they liked better.”

Even if kidneys are the last thing on your mind, the challenges overcome in order to make the market: thick (by attracting lots of buyers and sellers), quick (time is of the essence, and congestion is to be avoided), and safe/secure are fairly universal.  

 

Sounds easy enough…

Ok, let's try this new knowledge on for size. Perhaps in a case that's not so far to one side of the commodities—matching market spectrum. 

Archer How Hard Could It Be

You've got your product (say, a metric tonne of it, meaning 1,000 kilos), which means you're looking for someone who wants what you have (supply, demand, nothing fancy here). 

 

What problems could a marketplace possibly have? Well, kind of a lot. In order for things to run smoothly, you have to have the right amounts of: thickness (players at the table), speed, security, and simplicity.

 

Humans, the unpredictable sneaky lot of us, pose a wide array of challenges to marketplaces and market designers. For one, there's the trust factor (security). Even with kidney swapping, they had to deal with scheduling “simultaneous” surgeries, for fear that, once a donor's patient partner had received a kidney, the donor might later renege on the offer. Though this fear turned out to be pretty unwarranted, the point is that you can't just take people at their word (or palabra, if you will). 

 

Archer palabra oc

 

Speaking of trust, how does one know that what one is buying is legit? Parties on either side of a transaction need to have “enough information in order to make an optimal decision.

With “commodities” this often takes place by way of quality control.  In fact, without quality control (think grading of flour, or maple syrup) commodities markets would have to be "matching markets," which would be highly inefficient.

 

Pseudo-conclusion:

So, yeah. This review isn't done. There are so many more Archer gifs, and so many more ideas to communicate. But, seriously, just read the book…

_________________________________

* I'm sure my review with be chock full of oversimplifications, but, then again, I'm no Nobel Laureate

† For his purposes, Roth defines these as “transactions that some people want to engage in and that are objected to by people who may not themselves experience any direct harm.”

back to top

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2015-08-26 15:02
Future Crimes: Everything Is Connected, Everyone Is Vulnerable, and What We Can Do About It
Future Crimes: Everything Is Connected, Everyone Is Vulnerable, and What We Can Do About It - Marc Goodman

I don't usually read books (non-fiction or otherwise) over extended periods of time. And, if not for the limitations of library-lending, I might have inched through this one at an even slower pace (giving myself ample opportunity to rock quietly in the corner in terror). 

 

Things didn't start out this way. I tore into the first several chapters of Future Crimes: Everything Is Connected, Everyone Is Vulnerable, and What We Can Do About It with my usual aplomb. But there's only so much risk one can absorb before declaring defeat. Author and former cybercrime cop, Marc Goodman, can't be faulted for the breadth of threats out there. However, by the time I got to the What We Can Do About It sections (the last 50 pages or so), I felt decidedly worn down. So, take this review with a grain of salt, because it's a good book with a whole boatload of information that's often ignored.

 

The Future Is Now

Goodman starts off by stating that he is well aware of and for the wonders of modern technology— and I'm with him on that (as noted in my review of Nation of Enemies). It's not about a showdown, but we need to face the changing techno-landscape with an attitude akin to that of Hawaiians regarding the ocean; one of respect and awareness that, while beautiful, it's more powerful than you can imagine, and can have brutal consequences.   

 

Malory Archer Krieger Girlfriend Staredown

 

Furthermore, we need to be thinking about Moore's Outlaws* now (and also yesterday, and the day before that), which will require effort, since we're not used to thinking in exponential terms. Also, said outlaws (and their corporate equivalent, which he refers to as “Crime Inc.”) are already outpacing us in a serious way (the whole Silk Road affair is barely a sneak peek). 

 

Archer Asymmetric Onion Router Cryptocurrency

 

Opening Pandora's Virtualbox*

Things get overwhelming quickly. As nefarious as the DarkNet may be, cryptocurrency and onion routers seem like reasonable precautions once Goodman starts discussing just how little privacy we have, given the digital exhaust we produce just tooling around the regular old interwebs on the daily. With the Internet of Things, we invite more and more connected devices into our home, all of which are apparently quite hackable (though I'm not really ready to start worrying about pedophiles storing illicit images on my Nest just yet). 

 

Thermostat Becoming Sentient

 

‘Bots & ‘Borgs

First things first — robots. Though no definition of the term satisfies all parties involved, robots are basically machines that can be programmed to carry out tasks (with varying levels of autonomy). The world is already chock full of ‘em, though not necessarily in a “rise of the machines” kind of way. However, just because the machines aren't thinking on their own, doesn't mean they're not dangerous. Malware and malicious actors aside, the human error and our “in screen we trust” attitude has been and will continue to be a problem. There are plenty of examples, but I think the recent Robot Grabs, Crushes Man To Death incident at a German Volkswagen factory sums it up pretty well.

 

Cheryl Tunt Chokebot

 

My only beef with the Goodman's treatment of industrial robots is that he kind of neglects Bayesian counterfactuals. It's been awhile since I've read The Jungle, but I'm pretty sure that factory safety was a problem long before Roomba came along. But, the remote threat is new(ish), and, as robots become increasingly autonomous, we've got some serious thinking about Asimov's Laws ahead of us. 

   

Cyborg is another somewhat ill-defined term, though I'll go with the definition that doesn't include glasses and/or peg-legs. Goodman's bionics section, “Hackable You,” does discuss the advantages and opportunities presented by these technologies. The problem, as suggested by the title, is that these computers inside of us aren't all that secure— a problem compounded by the fact that updating the hardware involves cutting people open. 

 

Barry Dylan Is Sy-Berg

 

And then, of course, there are the big fears that could potentially make “Surviving Progress” a tricky feat. Whether we're talking 'bots or 'borgs, a lack of foresight could doom us all. 

 

Barry Cyorg Spine

 

The Final Frontier

I can't blame you if your first inclination is to throw your hands in the air and declare defeat. Goodman suggests practicing better “cyber hygiene”— a public health approach that actually makes quite a bit of sense. After all, you can't unilaterally protect your information if your friends are running around giving Candy Crush access to their address book, while posting and tagging photos of you on facebook willy nilly (though my advice would be to ditch that friend).

 

This book's probably better than I'm giving it credit for, an easy 7/10 stars, and maybe more once I wrap my head around it all. But the look on Krieger's face, below, pretty much captures my feelings upon finishing.

 

Krieger Dancing Bear_________________________________

* Goodman's super into wordplay, so brace yourself for that. 

back to top

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2015-08-21 11:48
Nation of Enemies: A Thriller
Nation of Enemies: A Thriller - H.A. Raynes

Full disclosure: I know the author. (Yeah, I'm kind of a big deal.) However, my persistent resistance against the forces of starflation (not a word, but should be), combined with the fact that I'm simply not that nice of a person (there's a reason no one shows me baby pictures anymore) should restore some faith in my reviewer-ly credibility.

 

Social Engineering & (Not-So-Distant-) Future Crimes

I don't know much about the book biz (I assume it takes more than, say, six-weeks to write, edit, and publish a novel), but I do know a thing or two about Moore's Law and exponential growth. So, I'm pretty confident that there are quite a few elements of Nation of Enemies that were much more “futuristic” at the book's inception than they are now. “House, play acoustic channel” is a real thing that real people say, courtesy of various Internet of Things (IoT) contraptions. I'm no technophobe.* However, innovation is almost always accompanied by risk. That risk, of course, usually comes in the form of other people.

Singularity Graphic

Such is the case in the year 2032– modern day technologies and policies (electronic health records, “embryo profiling,” geolocation etc.) are taken to their extremes, and mixed with a hearty dose of a Brave New World-style caste system, leaving citizens' lives all but dictated by MedID numbers (conveniently implanted into their forearms). Oh, and also, it's an election year. So, as you might imagine, the surveillance state is in full swing.

 

Conway Stern Hand

 

Cast o' Characters

One of my favorite things about this book is that it's not a clear-cut case of good versus evil. The tension between liberty and security doesn't grow out of malice. Don't get me wrong, you've got some decidedly villainous players skulking around, but it's a world of tradeoffs— decisions have consequences, and there's a selfish side to everyone involved. That being said, certain individuals piqued my interest more than others.

 

Taylor Hensley is a single mother, graffiti artist, and daughter of the Boston Brahmin-esque presidential candidate. Basically, it would be as though Shepard Fairey (of HOPE poster fame) was Mitt Romney's son. Plus, she skedaddles about rooftops using suction cups, which is just so badass.

 

Lana suction climbing

 

It's actually incredibly difficult to give my two-cents on almost any character without giving something away. Between the layers of deception (there are a lot of them), and my own fickle nature, I ran hot and cold with almost everyone.

 

So…

What separates this book from its catch-me-if-you-can kin is its tolerance for moral ambiguity. In a world of limited resources, wicked problems exist, and these problems have no definitive answers. At one point, a character reflects “How could we have brought another child into this world? What have we done?” And I found myself thinking, yeah— what were you thinking?!? (And not just for the same reasons that I found Baby Hater so gosh darn enjoyable). The story ends, but it doesn't feel like the conversation's over—and I like that. 

_________________________________

* I'm literally a member of Data Analysts for Social Good. And not just because that makes such great pick-up line.

† Pick up a copy of Future Crimes, if you're in the mood to thoroughly terrify yourself with some non-fiction insight into these emerging vulnerabilities.

‡ Though, in this case, said forearms don't seem to feature vanadium bones.

back to top

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2015-08-09 13:21
Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood
Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood - William Mann

Self-righteous parents blaming the media for society's moral decay; young starlets vying for the attention of the same man; a once-beloved comedic icon falling from grace following revelations about his sordid past; celebrities suspected of committing murders most foul; stints in rehab being kept on the DL; overbearing stage mothers; and a news-hungry public with“sanity and sympathy” in short supply watching as it all unfolds. Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood has all the makings of an issue of US Weekly (though William J. Mann's writing is, I would argue, of a superior quality).

 

Unbeknownst to me, the 1922 case around which the book is centered has been famous for quite some time, with a dedicated following of armchair sleuths obsessed with each and every aspect of Taylorology (yes, that's a thing).

Who Killed William Desmond Taylor

As the headlines suggest, the victim in this case was none other than Hollywood director William Desmond Taylor

William Desmond Taylor young and as in 1922

Of course, none of this would be half so intriguing without a lineup of suspected celebrity murderesses, namely: Mabel Normand, Margaret “Gibby” Gibson, and Mary Miles Minter.

Mabel Gibby and Mary

Each character has a story all their own– secrets, sordid pasts, weaknesses for an illicit substance or two. Like poor little Gibby, who was driven by a promise made to her mother that someday that would “have nice things.” But, it would seem, that (at least as far as “the Church Ladies” were concerned) all of this was pretty par for the course for young starlets in the den of sin known as Tinseltown. After all, they couldn't risk being cast aside for a newer, younger model by gentlemen of loose morals. 

 

This is Why I Cant Have Nice Things OC

 

All of this indignation ties into the larger story of the fight for the very survival of Hollywood, and the men (yes, they were pretty much all men) involved. For me, these pioneering movie moguls (primarily Adolph Zukor and Marcus Loew) weren't all that compelling. However, my heart did go out to poor Will Hays, who was charged with the near-impossible task of “cleansing” the movies of their corrupting content to the satisfaction of producers and censorship advocates alike. 

Will Hays disinfecting movie business 1922

As a Serial fan, I found myself impressed by just how much information has been compiled and assembled about the case over the years (see the map of the who, what and where in Alvarado Court the night of the murder, below), all done without the luxury of a single pinging cell phone tower.

Alvarado Court Taylor Murder Map

A lack of time precludes my giving a more comprehensive tour of all the intrigue involved, but suffice it to say, that if “the Dawn of Hollywood” piques your interest, you won't be disappointed.

 

Bonus Archer gif:

Archer Burt Reynolds Back to Tinseltown OC

 

 

[Sidenote: This belongs in a series of what I will refer to as “half-baked reviews.” There are more than I care to admit (some from so long ago that I barely remember where I was going with them), but, at this rate, by the time I actually finish them, books probably won't even be “a thing” anymore.]

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2015-05-17 21:07
The Running Man
The Running Man - Stephen King,Richard Bachman

Halt! If you have yet to read this Stephen King as Richard Bachman book, let it be known that the introduction should be cordoned off with ‘spoiler warning’ tape…but it's not. I would chalk it up to King's beef with the outing of Bachman (which I totally respect), but the same thing happened to me with Pet Sematary, so that theory's a bust. (Shoutout to Richard for attempting to save me from myself after that first debacle.)

 

Wasn't my favorite King or Bachman adventure, perhaps because these “dystopias” are starting to feel all too familiar (and, an argument could kind of be made that we're already there). Nevertheless, like all of Uncle Stevie's work, it's well-worth the read. And, just in case you have yet to figure out that the story doesn't center on the early-90s dance move, I'll leave you with this little hint. 

 

Archer Most Dangerous Game

More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?